Scavenger photo hunt – March

The six prompts for this month’s photo hunt are – hole, making, reading now, black and white, starts with ‘H’ and my own choice. My first thought for ‘hole’ was a hole in the road as there’s one not far from here, but while I was flicking through the tv channels one night recently I caught the back end of a food programme in which they were showing how Warburtons get the holes in their crumpets – and as Michael works at Warburtons I couldn’t think of anything better for my photo.
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Hole – a Warburtons crumpet with lots of them
The next one isn’t so much ‘making’ as ‘putting together’. In the five-and-a-half months since taking up Postcrossing as a hobby I’ve amassed nearly forty postcards so far and the problem of what to do with them. I didn’t want to just put them in a box where they probably wouldn’t see light of day for ages so I got a large A4 file and some see-through plastic pockets, and matching the cards into themes I’m putting them into the pockets so the fronts and the backs can all be seen. Also I’ve printed out and included in the file the details of people I’ve sent cards to and their ‘thank you’ messages when they’ve received them – I think it’s nice to look back and see who I’ve corresponded with.
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Making – my postcard file
My current book of choice, A Play On Words, which is one I’m re-reading, is the penultimate one in the series of seven by Deric Longden, author of  Enough To Make A Cat Laugh.  It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Lost For Words, the tv film based on his book of the same name and the second in the series, and while a lot of the story describes the daily goings-on around the film set the chaos of the author’s private life with his almost-blind wife and assortment of cats continues to provide much amusement.
After previously reading Lost For Words, which concentrates on the author’s mother and her decline into ill health, I had formed my own picture of her in my mind and when I read A Play On Words the first time round I knew that the choice of Dame Thora Hird to play the part of the author’s mother in the film couldn’t have been a better one. This book interested me so much that I bought the dvd of the film – and being almost at the end of the story for the second time I’ve now been prompted to watch the film again.
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Reading now
While camping in North Wales last Easter I visited Chirk Castle and gardens; the National Trust operates a one-way system along the approach road to the castle and through the estate, and what was once the entrance is now the exit with some very ornate white gates and railings. Set back to one side just inside the gates is the old gatekeeper’s lodge, a single storey half-timbered black-and-white building with a red tiled roof. Built in 1888 and set in its own pretty little garden it’s very symmetrical in design with a central arcaded porch and a bay window at either side; I love old black-and-white buildings and this one looked so nice I just had to take a couple of photos of it.
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Black and white
For the next category I momentarily thought that what I’d chosen for ‘hole’ would also do for ‘H’ but then decided that would be cheating so I searched the photo archives and came up with a shot of Rusty, my previous adopted horse. Rusty arrived at Redwings sanctuary in Norfolk in 1983 at the age of eighteen months and I adopted him not long afterwards. He was a very handsome horse and I visited him every year while on holiday in that area but sadly in early 2015 he became ill and died at the age of almost 34. I have another adopted pony now, Cauli, but I’ll never forget Rusty.
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Starts with ‘H’ – my adopted horse Rusty
And finally, I couldn’t end this month’s photo hunt without an animal shot, and as most of us have recently suffered from some snowy weather I thought I would include this shot of my little dog Sugar, taken a few years ago while playing in the snow in the fields near home. Sadly she is no longer with me but she will never be forgotten and the memories of a special little dog will live on in the many photos I have of her.
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My own choice – Sugar
So those are my choices for this month’s photo hunt, I hope you all like them –  I’m off over to Kate’s blog now to see what other photo hunters have found.

A dog walk to Turton Tower

After a beautifully sunny morning I set out at lunch time to take Sophie and Poppie on a long circular walk from the Last Drop Village, stopping off to explore the grounds of Turton Tower en route. The first part of the walk was almost the same as the walk I did a month ago, leaving the Last Drop car park and following the path across the fields and through the golf course, but I hadn’t gone far when Sod’s Law decreed that several grey clouds would appear to intermittently block out the sun and turn many of my photos from bright to dull.
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Turton golf course
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When I got to the pond halfway round the course I turned left this time instead of right and followed the meandering path past various greens to the boundary fence and a farm gate. Beyond the fence was open grazing land and half a dozen sheep were mooching about picking at the short grass; one of them looked up briefly as we walked past but the others ignored us and just continued mooching and munching.
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Eventually I came to another fence and a gate and another choice of left or right; I knew that going left would take me miles out of my way so I went right and followed the lane down and over the castellated railway bridge to Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line through the grounds of Turton Tower ; James Kay, who owned the tower at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and this particular one incorporates a viewing tower.
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Turton Tower railway bridge
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Turton Tower itself is a country manor house, a Grade I listed building and ancient monument ; it was originally built in the early 15th century by William Orrell as a simple two-storey stone tower but it was later significantly altered and timber extensions added, and by the Tudor and early Stuart period it had been transformed from a defensive fortress into a comfortable family home. During the 16th century two cruck framed buildings were added and a later extension at the front of the house created the imposing entrance ; a third storey was added to the tower itself and the original windows were replaced with large mullioned and transomed windows. During the 17th century the cruck buildings were clad in stone and the place then remained unchanged until the 19th century.
After falling into decline during the Georgian era the tower was sold in 1835 to James Kay, the inventor who had developed a successful wet spinning process for flax in 1824. He and his family restored the tower, adding a mock Tudor extension and many Victorian renovations including a Dutch gable facade. In 1903 the tower was bought by Sir Lees Knowles, an MP, and after his death in 1929 his widow gave the house and grounds to what was then Turton Urban District Council to use for the benefit of the public – up until 1974 the place was used as council offices but since then it has been a museum.
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Turton Tower from the main gates

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The summer house
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The formal garden
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The tower is open from Wednesday to Sunday inclusive and the current admission price for adults is £6 but having the dogs with me meant I couldn’t go in so I’ll save that for a return visit later in the year. The next part of my walk was along the main road for quite a distance past a stretch of open countryside before turning off and heading back towards the Last Drop Village. The grey clouds were breaking up and the sun was putting in a much better appearance so I decided to have a wander round the hotel gardens before going back to the van, and I was surprised and delighted to find a couple of ducks sunning themselves at the side of the garden pond.
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Those were to be my last shots of the day, it was time to head back home for a much needed coffee. Given how glorious the morning had been it was a shame that the clouds had decided to appear while I was out, but it hadn’t interfered with my photo taking too much and at least I’ve now got a good excuse to do it all again another day.
My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
 Linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week the architectural delights of Portugal’s Jerez are waiting to be explored and more than one serving of cake is waiting to be eaten. Time to put the kettle on now and read where the other Monday walkers have been exploring.

A river in the street

Last night at 7.15pm I went to my friend’s round the corner, it was a dry but cold evening and there was nothing out of the ordinary anywhere, however when I came back round the corner an hour later I found a substantial amount of water running along the gutter past my house and disappearing down the drain a few feet away. Looking along the street I could see that the whole road was awash with water – it hadn’t been like that an hour before so being intrigued I went to see where it was coming from.
Just along the street is an unadopted back lane with a row of five garages set sideways-on to the road and the water was coming out of the ground in three places just in front of the first garage – presumably it was a burst pipe, but whatever it was it was certainly leaking good style. The water was running right across the road, turning the whole of that part of the street into a river before splitting into two, with some of the water running round the next corner and the rest flowing past my house and into the nearby drain.
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I did speak briefly to the husband of one of the neighbours round the corner and he said he’d just phoned United Utilities to report it – I don’t know if it would be classed as an emergency but just before midnight someone finally turned up to fix it. They obviously hadn’t been very successful though – maybe it needed more than two men with a couple of torches and a spade! – as when I went to work at 6.30 this morning the water was still flowing, but at least they’d managed to get it so it was only coming out of the ground in one place and not three.
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No doubt someone else will be along later today to block off half the street, dig a big hole and sort out the problem properly but meanwhile all those gallons of fresh water are just flowing along the street and running straight into the drains – what a waste!

Just ordered a new tent

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.
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Kampa Burnham 4, photo from the internet
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.

A local discovery walk

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.
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Firwood Fold
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No. 5 Firwood Fold, The School House
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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.
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No. 10, Samuel Crompton’s birthplace
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.
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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.
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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.
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Hall ‘i th’ Wood museum
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Snowdrops in a sheltered corner
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.

Weird weather

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.
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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.

The return of the sparrows

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.
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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.