After months of searching both on the internet and in various camping stores I’ve finally ordered a new tent in readiness for my forthcoming Easter break. Finding a tent exactly the same as my old one has proved impossible so I’ve gone for the next best thing; it’s a Kampa Burnham 4 in blue (my preferred colour) and although brand new it’s theoretically three years old as that model came out in 2015 – it’s since been discontinued but it’s the only one I could find which matched my criteria and is similar to my previous tent.
The most important ‘must haves’ for me were a good head height, a bedroom at each side and a fully integrated groundsheet, and although my searches have found several of the right style they’ve all been lacking in one of the most important points, usually the integrated groundsheet. After my very wet experience last September with the tent given to me by a friend, and which doesn’t have an integrated groundsheet, I would never now consider camping in a tent without one, but although I’ve been able to find tents 6-berth or larger with integrated groundsheets it seems that, with the exception of the Kampa Burnham, smaller tents of that style don’t have them.
So the Kampa Burnham has been ordered and all being well should arrive sometime next week. I got a good deal on it too – the price on the store’s website had already been reduced by £50 but I found a voucher code giving £15 off orders over £150 so that brought the price down below my budget. And with free delivery thrown in I really feel like I’m on a winner here.
With panorama windows (with blinds), interior storage pockets and a wet weather canopy it has a couple of ‘extras’ which my previous tent didn’t have so I’m really looking forward to trying it out – and I just hope I get to love it as much as I loved my old one.
After a promising sunny start early this morning the sky had turned grey by 10am so as I didn’t consider it nice enough to take the dogs for a long countryside walk I decided to go on a local voyage of discovery instead, to a place less than two miles from home and where, even though I’ve lived in this town all my life, I’ve never previously been to.
Firwood Fold is a small hamlet tucked away down a quiet cobbled lane behind one of the main roads on the north east outskirts of the town. It was the town’s very first conservation area but is best known for being the birthplace of Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule and probably Bolton’s most famous son. The hamlet consists of former farmworkers’ dwellings and outbuildings, with the earliest ones dating back to the 16th century and other buildings added in the 17th and 18th centuries. Number 15 was built using the cruck construction method and with wattle and daub walls; it was later clad in stone but the original oak truss can still be seen and it’s believed to be the oldest inhabited building in Bolton. Number 5 originally served as the school and had two entrances, one for the school itself and the other for the teacher’s house, while number 6 was originally a pig house but is now a residential building. Unfortunately photograph taking round the hamlet was rather limited as several cars were parked in various places and I didn’t want them in the shots.
Samuel Crompton was born at Number 10 in 1753 and lived there with his family until they moved to Hall i’ th’ Wood five years later. A stone plaque on the front wall of the cottage commemorates Crompton’s birth and the cottage itself is the only building in Bolton with a thatched roof, although looking at the current state of the thatch I would hope it’s in better condition than it actually appears to be.
At the bottom of Firwood Fold itself a short flagged path took me down to a dirt track with a signpost pointing to some fishing lakes – water meant possible photos so I decided to explore a bit further, however I hadn’t anticipated part of the track being muddy and my white trainers were soon rather black. Of course if I’d thought that might happen I would have worn my wellies but I hadn’t originally set out with the intention of going down any dirt tracks.
The first pond I came to reminded me of an Amazonian swamp with trees growing out of the water at all angles but just beyond it were two other lakes which were far more open. Ducks, geese and coots were very much in evidence and on the smaller lake a couple of mute swans came gliding up to say hello, though they weren’t impressed by the dogs and both of them literally had a hissy fit.
At the far side of the lakes was a vast area of open land which I knew to be part of Seven Acres Country Park; that was another area which I’d never explored but I would leave that for another time as there was somewhere else I wanted to see. Retracing my steps back through Firwood Fold I retrieved the van from where I’d parked it at the top of the lane and drove to Hall i’ th’ Wood less than a mile away.
Hall i’ th’ Wood (literally meaning ‘hall in the wood’) is a large timber-framed house set in several acres of park land and dating back to the first half of the sixteenth century. One of the most important buildings in Bolton it was originally the residence of a family of wealthy merchants but is best known as the home of Samuel Crompton and it was where, in 1779, he devised the spinning mule, an invention which had a profound impact on the fortunes of Bolton and North West England.
Crompton eventually moved out of Hall i’ th’ Wood and in the late 19th century the building fell into disrepair, though it was rescued from ruin by Lord Leverhulme, a local businessman and founder of the company now known as Unilever. After carrying out extensive renovations he presented the building to Bolton Council in 1902 and it now functions as a museum exploring the life and works of Samuel Crompton. Unfortunately greatly reduced opening times don’t include Sundays so being unable to access the building or its immediate grounds I had to be content with a few shots from the lane, though after looking it up on the internet it seems like a place which is interesting enough to go back to on a nicer day and when the building is open.
The lane past the hall ran down through woodland to a river and though I was tempted to continue my walk in that direction I suspected it may very well be muddy so I decided to save that one for another time. It was time for a coffee anyway so with one final shot of some snowdrops sheltering in the angle of a stone wall I returned to the van and drove back home. Firwood Fold had proved to be a very quaint and attractive little place and judging from the window boxes in various places I can imagine it will be very pretty in summer, so a return visit on a sunny day is definitely on my list.
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she’s finding churches, chocolates and chickens over in Portugal, with a whole heap of photos added for good measure – time to make a brew now and settle in for a good read.
After the snow that we had last week had disappeared I rather hoped that was the end of it for this winter but when I got up for work this morning I found it was snowing again, big flakes which were coming down quite heavily. The trees and bushes down in the back garden were looking quite pretty with their snow-laden branches so before I went out I grabbed the camera and took a few shots from the upstairs windows.
Now although it was snowing where I live it was a completely different matter when I got to work three miles away – it was raining and there was very little snow to be seen, but when I came out of work two hours later things had been reversed. It was snowing heavily there but by the time I got back home it was raining and the earlier snow was rapidly disappearing – and an hour later, when I set out to go to my friend’s in Belmont Village, it had all completely gone.
I know I’ve probably mentioned it before at some point but Belmont Village is just three-and-a half miles directly up the road from me. From the end of my street the main road climbs steadily uphill for half a mile before levelling out; at the top of the hill is a small shop and about fifty yards further on is the start of the countryside and moorland. And this is where the weather got decidedly weird – all the way up the hill to the shop there was no snow at all but beyond the shop it was like driving into a completely different world. Fields, trees and moorland were all covered in a thick white blanket, it was just as if I’d gone through the back of a wardrobe and landed in Narnia. Of course it was Sod’s Law that I hadn’t got my camera – with all the snow gone from home I’d assumed there was none up the road either so I’d have no need for the camera, which was a shame as I could have got some really nice photos.
A bit further along the road it started to get misty and by the time I’d reached the village the mist had turned into more of a fog; the snow was a good six to eight inches deep and with my friend’s street being on a slope (and a car already stuck on its way up) there was no way I was attempting to drive down it so I parked up on the main road and walked down. The fog cleared while I was at my friend’s and by the time I was ready for leaving after three hours the sun was shining, the grey sky was blue, and the snow was disappearing from the street – and driving back down the main road I was surprised to find that it had all completely gone. The fields and moorland were back to being green again and it was just as if the snow had never happened; the rest of the afternoon was glorious and a sunset of the most amazing colours gave a rather weird day a rather lovely ending.
Last spring I was delighted to find that a family of sparrows was using the outside window sill, less than 3ft from where I sit when using my pc, as a regular perch, and my times spent on computer-related activities were often accompanied by various flutterings, tweets, chirps and squabbles coming from outside. More than once I tried to snatch a photo of some of them but the minute they saw me close to the window they would take off into the trees down the garden so I never managed to catch them at close quarters.
The sparrows stayed around all through spring and summer and probably into September, and though I didn’t really notice exactly when they disappeared the realisation dawned on me one day that although there was plenty of activity in the trees they hadn’t perched on the window sill for quite a while. It’s been quiet ever since but this afternoon while I was checking my emails I heard the familiar chirps and flutterings and looked out to see three sparrows just the other side of the glass. The same family or different ones? I don’t know, but if they want to take up residence on the window sill that’s fine by me. I did try to take some photos of them but again they took off, though I did manage to get a few through-the-window shots of them in the trees down in the garden.
After the bitter cold of last week the snow finally disappeared over the weekend and today has been quite mild in comparison to recent temperatures so I’d like to think that the return of the sparrows means that spring is finally on its way. They are cute little creatures and it’s lovely having them just a couple of feet away so I do hope they stick around for a while.
After weeks of interminably wet and often cold weather the last few days locally have been dry and gloriously sunny so I’ve finally been able to take advantage of it and get out with the dogs for a decent local walk. A two-and-a-half mile drive north took me to the Last Drop Village – under normal circumstances I would walk all the way from home but my recent bout of Aussie flu has been detrimental to my energy levels so I didn’t want to tire myself out too much. Leaving the van in the car park behind the village I set off across the nearby fields; way over on my left was Winter Hill with its tall tv mast and on my right, separated from the field by a line of trees and a footpath, was the edge of Turton Golf Club.
At the far side of the field a kissing gate took me onto a rough path through an area of scrubland which in turn led onto a tarmac lane which ran past the old Cox Green quarry. The quarry was used from 1840 to provide sandstone to build houses for local mill workers, and though I remember it still being operational when I was a child (we could hear the blasting from where we lived) I can find no information on when it actually closed down. The tarmac lane was originally used by quarry vehicles but with the closure of the quarry it was blocked off and eventually pedestrianised, making a very pleasant walk along its length. Although the quarry itself is fenced off the place has seen a few tragedies over the years as there’s more than one body been found at the bottom of the 60ft drop. In recent years the quarry and its surrounding land have been sold – who by and who to isn’t known but the steep rock faces are now used by various clubs for rock climbing.
Eventually the lane turned into a country road with modern houses on one side, fields on the other, and I took a path which skirted round the forested edge of the quarry. A narrow stream, overgrown with vegetation, ran between the path and the fields but with all the recent wet weather it had overflowed in a couple of places and spread itself right across the path; fortunately I had my wellies on but looking at all that water I would probably have been better with a wetsuit and flippers. Sophie wasn’t too keen on paddling all the way through it but we got to the end eventually and had the choice of left or right – I went left along the edge of the sheep field then turned onto the path through the golf course.
I’ve always enjoyed taking that particular route and it was nice to see that in spite of all the recent cold wet weather the gorse was already coming into flower in the sunnier parts of the golf course. Eventually I came to the pond and found that too had overflowed onto the path at one point, although it wasn’t a great lot and it was easy enough to walk round the puddle. A right turn took me gradually downhill past various greens to where a stream ran under the path and at the top of the next incline was the club house and its car park with far reaching views over the countryside.
Across the cattle grid at the entrance to the club car park and a little way along the lane a stile took me into a field bordering another part of the golf course. A couple of ponies were grazing peacefully, taking no notice of us as we passed them and not even looking up when I stopped to take their photo, then across the field a kissing gate took me onto the path leading back to the Last Drop village.
Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family. In 1930 a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm was sold. The new owner was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal the owner’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and is also a very popular wedding venue.
With the last few shots taken I briefly thought about getting a much needed coffee from the tea shop but I couldn’t take the dogs in with me and in spite of the sunshine it was too chilly to sit outside so I made my way back to the van and headed for home instead. It had been a very enjoyable walk, far enough to give Sophie and Poppie some decent exercise but not so far that I got tired, so I can safely say that all three of us were happy.
I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday Walk this week where there are some wonderful views from high up on the walls of the castle in Serpa, Portugal. Time to put the kettle on now and see where the other ‘Monday walkers’ have been exploring.
The six scavenger photo hunt prompts for this month are white, metal/metallic, camouflage, begins with ‘J’, bud, and my own choice, so after much brain-racking and photo archive searching I’ve finally managed to come up with some (hopefully) suitably corresponding shots. The first one was fairly easy, as it’s still winter I chose a shot which I took several years ago while on a dog walk through local woodland after a period of prolonged and heavy snowfall. That was the last proper snowfall we had locally, anything since then has been and gone within twenty four hours.
The next photo is one I used on this blog about twelve months ago but as it fits the category I thought I may as well use it again. Castell Dinas Bran, otherwise known as Crow Castle, is a medieval ruin which sits in a prominent hilltop position high above Llangollen in North Wales and the footpath to the top of the hill passes through a gate with the metal sculpture of a crow on top of the gate post.
A grey day on Anglesey a couple of years ago saw me visiting Pili Palas Nature World where (apologies if anyone doesn’t like spiders) I found this tarantula in the tropical section, looking very much like the surrounding vegetation in its home. I quite like tarantulas and at one time, years ago, I did consider having a couple as pets but never actually got round to getting any.
Having recently been badly affected by Aussie flu I lived for almost two weeks on nothing but water and fruit juice, and thanks to Michael who limped down to our local Asda a couple of times I discovered apple and cherry juice. It’s not something I would have chosen myself but I’d told him to surprise me and that’s what he came back with – and very nice it is too. I tend to find that ‘mixed’ fruit juices always have a dominant flavour but with this one both flavours are distinctive and I liked the first carton so much that I now have a stock of them in the fridge ready for when I want a chilled drink.
I had to think hard for the next photo but then I remembered one I’d taken almost exactly two years ago on February 26th – the crocuses were on a grass bank which I pass regularly while walking the dogs near home. I don’t know if unopened crocuses can be called buds but that’s what many of them were, with the partially opened ones beginning to look quite pretty in contrast to the green grass.
My final photo this time just had to be this one of Poppie. It was taken on the evening of the day I got her in October 2014 – her first night in a new home and though she looks very much like a puppy I’d been told that she was actually six years old. She came with her own bed, some food and a bag full of toys and was very timid and shy to start with so she slept at the side of my bed for the first two weeks before joining Sophie and Sugar downstairs. Sadly I lost Sugar to kidney failure less than two months later but Sophie and Poppie have been firm friends ever since.
So there you are, my photos for this month’s six topics – I’m popping over to Kate’s blog now to see what interesting photos others have found.
This morning, while taking Michael to the hospital, I got pulled up by the police at the bottom of the main road. Not that I was doing anything wrong I hasten to add, they were just doing random vehicle checks and the guy who stopped me directed me to pull into a coned-off lay-by round the corner – just what I didn’t need when Michael had an important appointment so I asked the second policeman if it would take long as we were going to the hospital. Fortunately it didn’t, and after being asked my name and address for a PNC check, and having to put on my indicators and various lights, they checked the tyres, advised me that one just needs a bit of air in it, and I was free to go.
We made it to the designated hospital department with a good five minutes to spare, and we were surprised to find that rather than the full waiting area we were expecting there was no-one there at all, so once Michael had given his name in at reception it wasn’t long before he was called into the plaster room. His plaster cast was cut off and after a couple of x-rays were taken he went in to see the consultant; the good news is that he no longer needs his ankle in plaster but the bad news is that it’s still got a way to go before it’s anything like healed as the new bone is only growing slowly. He’s now been fitted with another supporting boot and has to go back to see the consultant in a month’s time – so any hope he had of getting back to work sooner rather than later has just gone right out of the window.
On a lighter note though, when the consultant said they would give him a supporting boot he purposely didn’t mention that he still has the previous one, so now he’s got a matching pair he can do his own version of Robocop – watch this space for eventual photos!