I can’t believe I’ve just done this….

At 8.30 this morning I did something which is totally unheard of for me – I phoned the camp site I was booked in at and cancelled my weekend. Bank holidays are important to me as good opportunities to get away from home and work for a few days, and in the twenty years I’ve been camping I’ve very rarely missed one so this wasn’t an easy decision. Normally I really look forward to a long weekend away camping but for several reasons I’ve been having niggling doubts about this one since Thursday.
It was only on Wednesday that I realised the bank holiday was this weekend – I was actually thinking it wasn’t until next weekend so it felt like it had suddenly jumped up and hit me in the face, especially as it was only just over a week since I got back from the Easter break and I was still writing about that one on my other blog.
Then there’s been my work; the boss who I clean the house for is in the process of moving, and over the Easter weekend he rang me and asked if I could do some extra hours for him, cleaning the place he’s moving into as well as the one he’s currently living in. So last Wednesday, after doing my usual morning job, I cleaned his current house; on Thursday I spent five hours cleaning his new house and on Saturday I did my friend’s house clean which I would normally have done on the Thursday. If I’d been a cat I would have been chasing my own tail.
This week I’ve been able to spread things out a bit more but if I went away this weekend I would just end up playing catch-up again next week. The van is still packed up from Easter so this weekend’s preparations would have been minimal, but after doing a lunchtime job and two evenings jobs yesterday I was so tired when I finally got home that I was in no mood to do anything at all. My final decision not to go away was based on the late night weather forecast; although there was to be some sun there would also be a fair amount of cloud and as the photos I wanted to take relied on good sunshine I didn’t want to base my trip on ‘maybes’. The places I wanted to go to will still be there next year and for many years to come so I’ll be able to get the photos I want eventually, it’ll just take a little while longer – and if the weather here at home turns out to be really nice I’ll be able to enjoy some good walks with the dogs so the weekend won’t be completely wasted.
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I have no words….

I’m deeply shocked and saddened to have just read this in today’s local paper –
                                                                            SLAUGHTERED
A GANG of youths are believed to have shot and killed a swan at a Bolton canal. The RSPCA and police are investigating the incident, which is said to have taken place on Tuesday afternoon in Little Lever.
Kayleigh Taylor arrived at the scene at around 2.30pm and talked to an eyewitness who had seen the group shoot the bird. Miss Taylor, aged 20, said: “I spoke to a man who had seen a group of youths shoot the swan for fun at 2pm then walk off. They were aged between 16 and 18. “Hopefully someone will know the vile group.”
She added that she had been left ‘devastated’ and said that the male swan and its partner, which was sitting on a nest, had lived on the canal for at least 15 years. Swans mate for life and Miss Taylor said the female has been left ‘very distressed’.
Little Lever swan
Photo taken from local news online
Miss Taylor, from Radcliffe, said: “The people who did this haven’t just killed one swan, they have potentially wiped out an entire family as it will be extremely difficult for the female to hatch her clutch of eggs alone.” She urged people to be extra vigilant along the canal and report anybody carrying guns or acting suspiciously.
Miss Taylor said the eyewitness believed the bird was shot with an air rifle.
The RSPCA confirmed that it was called to the incident. A spokesman said: “A woman contacted us on Tuesday afternoon to report the death of a swan in Little Lever. We understand the swan was shot and we will be looking into this incident further. “We would be really concerned if this beautiful bird had been killed deliberately and would like to remind members of the public that it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and, if prosecuted, offenders can face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six months imprisonment.”
A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said that they were called on Tuesday afternoon to reports of youths shouting. Around 10 youths aged between 16 and 18 had gathered around the banks of the canal and when police arrived they discovered the dead swan.
None of the youths were still in the area when police arrived.
I’ve seen this pair of swans myself several times over the last few years when I’ve been walking the dogs along the canal, in fact I got a lovely photo of the two of them while on my New Year walk in early January this year. Without writing something totally unladylike and unprintable there are no words to describe what I think of the callous low-life(s) who did this. Instead I can only cry – cry for the dead swan, cry for his mate, and cry for the possible loss of any potential young ones. Sometimes people can be so cruel.
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Back after Easter

I arrived home at 3.45pm this afternoon after quite a mixed weekend in more ways than one. Weather-wise things could have been better; the days were mainly dull, grey and cloudy with rain showers, heavy at times and prolonged during the nights, though there was a reasonable amount of sunshine on Saturday but a bitterly cold wind to go with it. Then of course Sod’s Law decreed that today, when I had to pack everything up and come home, it turned out to be glorious all day.
The changeable weather didn’t stop me from getting out and about though and with the exception of an intended canal-side walk I did everything I wanted to do and more besides, including going on a llama trek high up in the Berwyn mountains. I also suffered a few minor irritations, one of which was an unexpected and upsetting encounter with the most obnoxious, verbally aggressive and rude woman I’ve ever met, though fortunately neither that nor any of the other things spoiled the weekend for me.
I’ve taken a total of 223 photos over the four days, though some of those are duplicates so once I start sorting them out that number will be whittled down somewhat. As this isn’t a camping blog I’m only putting a couple of them on here, the best of the rest will find their way onto my other blog once I start writing about the weekend. So here’s a taster of things to come – eventually – over on my ‘tigermousetales’ blog, although the llama trek, which I did yesterday, may possibly feature on here as a Monday walk.
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Felin Uchaf camp site
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Bala lake
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Eddie and Kubera

A walk in two parts and some more local history

A few days of gloriously sunny and warm weather just recently has seen me out and about again with the dogs and the camera, and for the second time in three weeks I parked in the San Marino restaurant car park three miles from home and walked up the rough steep path to the top of Winter Hill. Since my previous walk up there I’d found out about a couple of cairns which I thought might be worth a photo or two so I was on a mission to find them, but first I wanted to find the trig point on the highest part of the hill.
Just beyond the stone gate posts at the top of the path a tarmac lane on the right took me past a handful of single storey buildings belonging to the tv transmission station; the lane ended abruptly with another single storey building but just before it I spotted the trig point on my right about fifty yards from the lane itself. I had to negotiate a grass bank and a fair bit of sloppy ground to get to it – the whole area is, after all, mainly peat bog – then with a couple of shots taken and a few minutes spent taking in the views I returned to the lane and headed back towards the tv station.
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Looking north east
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The highest point of Winter Hill – 1,496ft above sea level
The expanse of moorland stretching from Winter Hill itself has several summits which are classed as hills in their own right and the cairns I was looking for were on Crooked Edge Hill towards the south west of the moor. I’d walked quite a way down the road past the tall tv mast before I saw the cairns on top of the hill in the distance; they looked like they were miles away but in reality they were probably less than a mile from the mast so it didn’t take long to reach them, though I was rather disappointed when I got there as they looked nothing like I thought they would.
The cairns are actually known as The Two Lads, though just to confuse the issue for some reason there are three of them. I’d seen pictures of them on a couple of websites and they seemed to be well built with a good shape to them but in reality they were just three heaps of stone which looked like a builder’s wagon had dumped a load of rubble, although the larger one did still retain some of its shape. Presumably they have fallen down over time because people climb on them. Details of them were recorded in 1776 and 1883 and a local historian at the time described the two smaller ones as marking the graves of two orphaned children of a Saxon king who was killed in battle near there, but another story says they are the graves of two young boys who got lost in a snowstorm on the moor and died of exposure. No-one seems to know which story, if either, is true.
Concrete facts about the cairns are very hazy and seem to differ depending on who has written about them, and there seems to be little or no knowledge as to why there are three when they are known as ‘Two Lads’, but back in the late 1980s the larger one was the subject of a ‘battle’ between local people and the authorities. Over the years it had gradually collapsed and was in ruins but in 1988 a ‘mystery man’ started to rebuild it. This task was taken over by an amateur historian who restored it to its former glory and also added 4ft to its height, but the council claimed it was dangerous and pulled it down. Local people were up in arms about it and rebuilt it in 1989 but the council promptly pulled it down again, and thereafter it became known locally as ‘the Yo-Yo Cairn’.
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The Two Lads, looking south west
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Looking back to Winter Hill
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The ‘Yo-Yo’ cairn still showing some of its original shape
Having completed my quest to find and photograph the cairns I made my way back across the rough ground to the lane and headed back towards the tv mast and the path back down to the van. I’d read somewhere that if you look up at the mast while walking past it looks like it’s actually falling down – I tried it but it didn’t move an inch!
The second part of my walk was a trek up to the top of Rivington Pike, another of the hill summits to the south west of the moors. I could have left the van in the restaurant car park and just walked right across the top of the moors but it was quite a long way there and back so I took the easy way out and drove part of the way via the moorland road from Belmont village to Rivington village. About half a mile from Rivington itself a short lane took me to a car park on the lower slope of the hill and from there I had a choice of two paths. Looking up at the top of the hill the left hand path seemed to be the more direct one but it wasn’t long before I began to wish I’d maybe taken the other one.
If I’d thought the path up the side of Winter Hill was rough this one, although a lot wider, was much worse. It was steep and winding, strewn with ankle-twisting rocks across its width and had high banks on each side, and it looked more like the course of a river rather than a public footpath. It didn’t seem to put off any cyclists though and a few of them went past me on their way back down. After quite a lot of climbing the path finally came to an end and joined a lane which crossed the side of the hill on the level, offering a welcome respite before I tackled the steepest part of the hill.
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Looking back down the path
A short distance along the lane was the Dovecote Tower, known locally as the Pigeon Tower, which was built in 1910 by Lord Leverhulme as part of his extensive Rivington estate. A 3-storey building, with each storey being just one single room, the floors were linked by a solid stone spiral staircase running up the spine of the building; the first two storeys housed ornamental doves and pigeons while the top floor was Lady Lever’s sitting room/music room. This had windows on two sides giving views over a nearby boating lake, and an ornate fireplace with Lord and Lady Lever’s initials engraved in a circular pattern above the family motto.
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The Pigeon Tower
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Looking north west with the Fylde coast on the left horizon
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Another view north west with Preston on the centre horizon
When I got to the steepest part of the hill I was happy to see that as well as the stone steps going straight up there was also a wide path winding its way to the top so that’s the way I went. The summit of Rivington Pike is 1,191ft above sea level, giving far reaching views in most directions, and the Pike tower is Grade ll listed. Built in the early 1700s as a hunting lodge it’s 16ft square and 20ft high with three windows and a door, though these have been blocked up to prevent vandalism. The single room originally had wood panelled walls, a cellar underneath its stone flagged floor, and a fireplace and chimney, and although the chimney no longer exists the fireplace is still there.
Lord Leverhulme originally gifted the land and the tower to the local townspeople but it was later transferred to Liverpool Corporation as part of an agreement for water supplies. Unfortunately the tower was neglected and the corporation planned to demolish it in 1967 but after a public outcry and legal action the land was transferred to Chorley Council and the tower was restored in 1973, with further work being completed in the 1990s. The land, currently owned by United Utilities, is a very popular place for walkers and many local people still continue the old Easter tradition of walking up to the tower on Good Friday.
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The route to the tower
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On the way up via the easy route
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Rivington Pike tower
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Looking across to Winter Hill
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Rivington and Anglezarke reservoirs
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Looking south with Manchester on the left just below the horizon
It was lovely on top of the hill in the warm sunshine and I could have stayed there for ages just looking at the views but time was getting on and I still had some shopping to do so reluctantly I had to go. The rocky path back down to the car park was no easier going down than it had been going up and I had to pick my way carefully in several places; it took a while but at least I got back to the van without twisting or breaking anything. Back at home the dogs curled up in their beds as soon as we got in and I didn’t hear a peep out of either of them for several hours – and I must admit that after all that walking about I slept well that night too.
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My walks – part 1 on the right, 2 on the left with the driven route in blue
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s been enjoying some lovely spring weather on one of my favourite places, Anglesey – and her great photos are urging me to go back there myself soon.

A permanent ‘lodger’ and a room upside down

Back towards the end of January Michael came back to stay for a few days, but due to certain circumstances the few days turned into several weeks and he’s still here. Then one evening last week, while he was at work and not long after I’d arrived home from my own work, four large boxes and several black bags of his stuff were dumped in my front garden – it looked like his temporary stay here had become permanent. Of course I couldn’t leave everything in the garden so it was all stacked in my living room until he had time to deal with it all.
Now I don’t know about anyone else but when you live mainly alone for eight years in a 3-bedroom house your own stuff tends to breed and accumulate in various places, and the wardrobe in Michael’s room was full my ‘I probably won’t wear it again but it’s too good to throw away and I still like it’ stuff, including all my old dancing gear – leotards, glittery costumes, Latin American dresses, ballroom shoes, ballet shoes, tap shoes, various exotic (and even erotic) outfits from my nightclub dancing days in the 90s, and other accessories I couldn’t house elsewhere, plus access to the wardrobe itself was blocked by my large gym-spec treadmill. So far Michael hadn’t needed or wanted to use the wardrobe but with the arrival of all his stuff it looked like things would have to be re-arranged to make room for everything else.
I started the major sort out last Sunday afternoon, and what an afternoon it turned out to be. Michael’s room isn’t exactly the biggest, it’s an odd shape and there isn’t a lot of floor space, so the sort out wasn’t particularly straightforward. First I had to move a bookcase-sized cabinet to gain enough room to get the treadmill through the door; the cabinet was dragged onto the landing and left outside my own bedroom door, then the treadmill was pulled out. That wasn’t without its problems though; as I pulled the machine through the bedroom doorway I also had to negotiate an awkward corner and at one point it was completely stuck, tilted to one side and with one of its legs part way up the wall. I freed it eventually though and it was put in its new home in a corner of the landing near the bathroom – thank goodness I have a large landing in a square U shape otherwise I don’t know where I would have put it. Next I pulled all my dancing gear out of the wardrobe; there was so much of it that it took ages to sort it all out but finally the wardrobe was empty. With the carpet vacuumed I dragged the cabinet from the landing and put it back in its place in the bedroom then brought the bags of Michael’s stuff from downstairs and dumped them on, and at the side of, his bed for him to sort out later.
Once I’d finished my afternoon’s efforts I sent Michael a text – “The good news is, you can get into your room and the wardrobe is now empty, the bad news is, you can’t get into your bed!” Back came the text – “Not a problem, I can sleep on the floor!” He was actually only joking when he sent that text, but as it turned out that’s exactly what he did. I met him from work at 6pm and we went out for a meal, then when we got back he made a start on sorting out and finding a home for all his stuff, but it wasn’t exactly a simple task. Because everything had obviously been packed very haphazardly he had to open all the bags to find things, and he ended up with so many clothes, shoes and dvds on his bed that it looked like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. He hadn’t a hope in hell of getting everything put away by the time he went to bed so he had a choice – dump it all on the floor and get into his bed (and the following morning risk standing on, and possibly breaking, something that mattered) or leave it all where it was and sleep on the floor. He chose the second option, which seemed to be the easiest, so I found him a very thick king size duvet which he could double over and use as a mattress, a couple of pillows and a warm fleece blanket, and he bedded down in the space between the side of his bed and the chest of drawers.
Believe it or not he slept like that for three nights. After working a full 12-hour shift he’s understandably fairly tired when he gets home so sorting out all his stuff has been a slow process, though it’s finished now and he’s back to sleeping in his bed again. It’s good to have him back home again permanently though, even if I did turn half my life and my house upside down to accommodate him; he may be a bit of a pain sometimes even though he’s an adult, but at the end of the day he’s still my son and I love him to bits.

Sometimes dogs can be so embarrassing

An email ‘conversation’ with my blogging friend Eileen recently triggered the memory of a rather amusing but embarrassing dog-related incident which happened some years ago. It had nothing really to do with the subject of our emails but now having thought about it I can’t seem to unthink it, so I’ve decided to share it instead.
Back in April 2003 my then partner acquired Sam, a 4-month old German Shepherd/Border Collie cross. He was a lovely dog and right from the start he got on well with my dog Sugar, but he was a bit of a clown and not exactly blessed with intelligence, though he was also very loveable and often a great source of amusement with the daft things he did. As he grew older and Mother Nature gave him raging male hormones he would ‘hump’ anything he could get his paws round – chair legs, table legs and gate posts to name but a few, and it caused great hilarity one evening when he tried to hump the wrong end of one of the cats. Needless to say, the cat in question wasn’t best pleased!
Now while his antics may have seemed funny to us while we were indoors they were rather embarrassing if we were ever in company, especially if the people we were with also had a dog, so eventually the decision was made – a trip to the vet’s and Sam came home minus two bits of his anatomy. It did calm him down quite a lot but not completely, and every so often he would still get the urge to hump something if he could get his paws round it.
A couple of years later we were camping in North Wales with my partner’s brother and sister-in-law and their dog Bru; the weather was glorious so one particular day we decided to take a picnic and drive to Bala lake. The car park there is right by the lakeside and in certain parts of it it’s possible to park within a few yards of the water’s edge so we found a suitable place next to a shingle beach and settled in to enjoy the day. The water there was very shallow for quite a distance out and the three dogs really enjoyed themselves racing in and out after sticks and stones thrown for them.
It was while we were setting out our picnic that we realised Sam had gone missing; he couldn’t have been far away but with no response to our calls my partner and I went to look for him. It didn’t take long to find him – he was in the shallow water about fifty yards along the lake shore in the next little bay, and in full view of anyone who may have been looking he was humping a big black dog whose owner didn’t look particularly happy. I wasn’t sure if the black dog also being a male made the whole scenario better or worse but we apologised to his owner, and as I waded out to get Sam I really wanted the ground to open up and swallow the pair of us, especially when my partner then said to the other guy “He couldn’t do any harm anyway, he’s had his nuts off”!
Back at the car though, my partner and I couldn’t keep straight faces as we told Alan and Louise what had just happened and we all had a good laugh about it. Sam did eventually grow out of the humping habit but that day was never forgotten and we laughed about it a few times over the years. Sadly Sam is no longer around but many of his antics will always be remembered, even if they were a source of great embarrassment at the time.
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Sam
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Bala Lake