Scavenger photo hunt – April

The six prompts for this month’s photo hunt are – swirl, rock, wood, letter, balance, and my own choice. I must admit my mind went blank over the first one, I couldn’t think of anything except swirling water and none of my many ‘water’ photos were suitable, however Michael came up with a couple of ideas so here’s one of them – and as I gave up eating cake almost twelve months ago he did the honours instead!
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Swirl – a slice of Swiss Roll
It was a recent tv programme which gave me the idea for the second one. Brimham Rocks near Pately Bridge in North Yorkshire is a large area of weird and wonderful natural rock formations sculpted over centuries by wind, rain and erosion. Many of them have rocks balancing on other rocks at such precarious angles that they look like one breath would make them fall, and many of them have names though a bit of imagination is needed for some of them. In the care of the National Trust the dog friendly area has an on-site refreshment kiosk and shop, is great for walking, climbing and wildlife spotting and is free to explore all year round, although non-NT members do have to pay to park. I went there a few years ago while camping near Skipton and got some amazing photos.
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Rock – one of the many formations at Brimham Rocks
Searching the photo archives for the next one I came across a shot of the wooden toll bridge across the Mawddach river at Penmaenpool in Snowdonia. Built in 1879 to replace the original ferry the Grade ll listed bridge has a toll booth and 2-bedroom keeper’s cottage (now a self-catering holiday let) at one end and boasts stunning views over the river and nearby hills and forests.
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Wood – Penmaenpool toll bridge, Snowdonia
The next one didn’t really take much thinking about. The place where I work three mornings each week manufactures several different types of corporate signage and has many high-end clients with several in the retail fashion business, so there was no better place to find a letter or two. It just so happened that two experimental illuminated letters had been set up on a bench and in the darkness of the workshop before everyone else arrived I got a great shot.
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Letter – the ‘R’ for Kurt Geiger and the ‘K’ for Ted Baker
The next one didn’t take much thinking about either. I recently got a new bathroom scale and as there was nothing wrong with the old one I donated it to the animal sanctuary last weekend, though I did remember to take a quick photo of it before I put it in the van.
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Balance – my old bathroom scale
And finally, sticking with the dog theme of the last three months I couldn’t resist this photo of Sam who came to live with me when my ex partner died suddenly almost three years ago. I’ve got many photos of Sam but this one, taken while on holiday ten years ago, is one of the best. Sadly Sam was only with me for six months before I lost him to old age and a heart murmur but his memory lives on, and this photo of him is my most favourite.
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My own choice – Sam
Well those are the photos I’ve found for this month, I hope you like them. Time to hop over to Kate’s blog now to see what the other photo hunters have come up with.

I’ve started a new blog

For the want of something better to do in the evenings I’ve recently started a new blog. I originally started it last October as something to keep me occupied during the winter non-camping months but after several attempts and being rather dissatisfied with my first post I abandoned it, however I’ve recently taken it up again and so far I think it’s shaping up quite well.
Called ‘A bench with a view’, each page consists of just one photo (taken on my various travels) of a bench set in a place with a great view, with a few brief details of where the bench is and what’s in the locality. I’ve kept the blog private so far but now I’ve written ten posts I feel it’s time to go public so here it is –  As the blog is still very much in its infancy I may make one or two minor changes but I’m happy with it so far. It’ll take me a while to catch up with the benches and views I’ve already got but I’ll add more as I discover them – it’ll give me a good excuse for further exploration when I’m out and about with the dogs! At the moment I’m not sure if there’s anything else I should consider including so do please have a read, post me a comment or two, and tell me what you think.


Animal sanctuary spring open day

Yesterday I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the Bleakholt spring open day, and even Michael came along with us too, something which he’s never done before. After the last few gloriously sunny days my heart sank when I got up in the morning to find it dull and raining – the last three open days have been blighted by bad weather at some point – however by the time we were setting out at lunch time it had brightened up and the sun was shining.
The open day runs from 12 noon until 4pm, we arrived at 12.45 and already the place was swarming with visitors;  Lin and Dee headed straight for Dee’s favourite place, the book shop, and after telling Michael where everything was I left him to wander off on his own while I went to look at the stalls in the barn. From there I went to look at the donkeys but they must have been out in the field somewhere, however near their enclosure a couple of kiddies rides had been set up and I got a great shot of the little train as it went round and round on its track. After that came the owl rescue stall with its birds sitting quietly on their perches or on the gloved hands of various visitors – two of them were only tiny but I couldn’t get a decent photo of either of them as so many people wanted to stroke them.
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Indian Scops Owl
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Not a clue what this one is!
Next came a look round the dog section, and if I hadn’t already got Sophie and Poppie I would have been adopting Disney – a 4-year old Yorkie/Shihtzu crossbreed he was the cutest little thing I’ve seen in a while. A few kennels further along was Sasha, a 10-year old Lurcher crossbreed, rehomed once but returned for being over protective in the home – she was a lovely looking dog and quite happy to pose for me while I took her photo.
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From there I went to the cat section where I saw what looked like the scruffiest cat ever. She was sitting so close to the wire that I couldn’t get her full body in the shot but she looked like she’d just been through the worst grooming session possible. Her fur was stuck out in various places and at the lower end of her back she had three tufts sticking up like little wings – she was a lovely colour though and in spite of her scruffiness she was beautiful and would have been my choice if I’d been adopting one. The kitten section was so full of visitors that I couldn’t get near any of the little ones so I took myself off to the oldies room and spent some time with them instead.
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Amy in the oldies room
When I finally got back outside I found that the sunshine had gone and it had clouded over considerably but it wasn’t enough to put people off, and with visitors still coming in the place was the busiest I’ve seen it for a long while. I met up with Michael while I was wandering round so we went in the cafe for a brew and something to eat; we had corned beef hash with beetroot and red cabbage and it was so filling that neither of us wanted anything else when we finally got back home.
Just as we left the cafe we bumped into Lin and Dee, it was trying to rain by then but it didn’t amount to anything, so we had one last look round the stalls, where I managed to get a brand new pair of beach sandals for just 50p, then made our way over to the motorbike display near the car park. The bikes belonged to The Cogheads, a local motorbike club, and on one Sunday every year they do a charity petfood run, collecting donations of pet food, pet supplies and money and ending up at Bleakholt. This time their run just happened to coincide with the sanctuary’s open day so there was the added attraction of 29 bikes and 4 trikes all lined up on display.
Bleakholt bikes
Once we’d looked round the bikes I left the other three near the cafe and went to get the van. Between us all we had a fair amount of stuff to donate and because of the narrow lanes and one way system in operation on open days I’d had to park quite a distance away, which was too far to carry everything, so it made sense to wait until the crowds started to thin out then I could drive down to the donations shed. When I got there I found Lin and Dee had disappeared – Michael said they’d gone to the office and when I caught up with them I found Dee in the process of sponsoring Chesney, a dog she fell in love with a while ago but one which currently can’t be rehomed because of behavioural issues. When that was all sorted out, and with all our donated items unloaded from the van and everything Dee had bought loaded in their place, we finally headed for home. In spite of the sunshine disappearing it had been a good afternoon with what seemed to be a record number of visitors – the afternoon’s final takings will be the amount they will be trying to beat at the next open day in July, so fingers crossed the weather will behave and it will be another really good day.

Exploring on the doorstep

After a gloriously warm sunny day on Saturday, which unfortunately I couldn’t take full advantage of, yesterday turned out to be dull and grey but it was fine so in the afternoon I took the dogs out for a local walk. I didn’t want to go too far as Michael and I were going out for a meal so I stayed fairly close to home, driving just a mile or so up the road to where I started my walk. Parking the van in a convenient place just off the main road I went a couple of hundred yards further on to where a path led up into the old Wilton quarry, a place I hadn’t been to since I was in my mid teens.
The path led up between two hillsides and was extremely narrow and ankle-twistingly rocky with water running down the middle, but eventually it took me to a large open area with a fallen tree and the rock face in front of me.  This was Wilton 1, the first of four quarries which were originally used to provide sandstone for local buildings and street flagstones; the quarries were abandoned some time during the 1930s to 40s and got very overgrown, but because of their steep sides are now used by various climbing clubs.
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The view from the start of the walk
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The path into the quarry
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Wilton 1 quarry
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Missing an ‘s’ in a couple of places but it made me smile
The highest section of the quarry was The Prow, a 2-sided promontory with an outside face of 60ft. One section of the path took me towards the inside face of it but the ground was so boggy underfoot I didn’t go very far before turning back; I may have been wearing wellies but I had no wish to get stuck in something I could find it difficult to get out of. Back on the main path it led me out of the far end of the quarry and diagonally across the hillside above the main road I’d just come from to Scout Road, a ‘B’ road which skirted the lower slopes of the moorland.
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Scout Road is well known locally for having a really bad bend at the top of the hill; over the years several vehicles have come off the road there and landed somewhere down the hill or in the quarry, with people being seriously injured and even killed. As well as the crash barrier there’s now a speed sign but some people still take the bend at a rate of knots. Further along the road is a car park and on a clear day it’s possible to see beyond Manchester to the airport and even to the Jodrell Bank main telescope in Cheshire, which is the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. I couldn’t see very far this time though as it was so grey and cloudy and it had also started to rain a bit by then. Close to the car park, and near to the start of the path which would eventually take me back to the van, a large area of daffodils was growing in one section of the field – a very colourful and welcome sight on such a grey day.
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Scout Road – approaching the bend
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Looking back
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Close to the car park
The path from the car park took me across fields and past an area of pine trees before heading towards a farm, and just before the farm gate I came across something which seemed to have no rhyme nor reason – a large pyramid-shaped stone surrounded by a circle of daffodils. It looked like a memorial stone but there was no plaque on it or near it to say what it was; I didn’t see anyone at the nearby farm who I could ask and an extensive internet search since then has produced nothing, so it will have to remain a mystery for now.
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The path ended in a track which took me through part of the farm yard and up ahead a splash of pink colour caught my eye – it turned out to be a clump of hyacinths growing on top of the grass bank near a barn wall and they were such a pretty colour I couldn’t resist taking a quick photo.  The end of the track opened out into a tarmac lane and a small hamlet of houses which were once farm buildings – I had a choice of left or right but as they both ended up back at the van I took the right as that was the shorter one, and my last photo of the day was of a white-walled cottage set back in what will, in summer, be a very pretty garden.
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By the time I got back to the van it was raining properly so I was glad the walk hadn’t been any longer. It had been interesting going back to the old quarry after all this time and seeing it as it is now but the route through it had been very wet and sloppy underfoot, so if I do that one again it will definitely be on a dry sunny day.
My walk, anti-clockwise from yellow spot
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s back in England and exploring the delights of Knaresborough – it looks like a very quirky and interesting place. Time to put the kettle on now and read about where all the other Monday walkers have been this week.

Locked in and an ‘alarming’ experience

Although the ‘locked in’ bit didn’t happen to me but I still had to deal with the aftermath.
Being a key holder at my evening job, and the last to leave the premises, means it’s my responsibility to make sure that the building is locked up in the evenings and all security measures are in place. This evening the boss and another guy were both working late in the boss’s upstairs office and five minutes before I was due to leave I went to give them a gentle reminder; they soon packed up and went downstairs and a few minutes later I saw the boss’s car leaving the car park. With his office locked up I went through the building turning off all the lights then set the alarm and locked the front door on my way out – only to see the other guy’s car still in the car park.
At first I thought that for some reason he’d gone with the boss in his  car but then the alarm went off – somehow he was locked in the building. I unlocked the door again and there he was; it seemed he’d gone to the loo on his way out without informing me, was in there longer than he meant to be, and with his own office light out and no noise from anywhere I’d assumed he’d gone out and I’d locked the door accordingly – and his walking through the building had activated the alarm. Unfortunately for me though, it isn’t simply a matter of inputting my code number and stopping the alarm, I have a whole load of rigmarole to go through when it’s been activated.
The premises are monitored by a security company who will alert the police if the alarm goes off – if the police attend and it turns out to be a false alarm the company get charged, so to stop that happening I have to ring the security company, give them a password and tell them what’s happened so they don’t take any further action. Then  I have to ring the firm who installed the alarm system to get an alarm reset, which involves me standing in front of the panel while I’m on the phone and putting in various numbers as instructed. On the odd occasion when the alarm has gone off before it’s been a reasonably straightforward process but this evening it wasn’t.
For some strange reason the guy at the security company said that neither of my passwords were recognised, which was odd as I’d used both of them before with no problem – and without the right password he couldn’t not  take action, though he gave me a few minutes grace to see if I could find an alternative. I ended up phoning the boss’s pa – who was in the middle of a keep fit class! – and getting an old emergency password which fortunately worked when I rang the security company back. With no action taken on the alarm I was able to get a reset from the installation firm and eventually, half an hour later than usual, I finally left the premises and came home. And all that because someone went to the loo without telling me!

Broken ankle update no. 10

Things are finally, at long last, looking up where Michael’s broken ankle is concerned. After having the plaster cast taken off in February he went to see the specialist almost three weeks ago and was told that the ankle had healed well enough for him to go back to work whenever he felt ready. The specialist also said that if the powers-that-be at his workplace were in any doubt he would be quite happy to write a letter confirming that fact. Of course nothing is ever simple is it, and when Michael contacted his works HR department they said they wanted him to go to an independent doctor arranged by them, so he duly went a few days later and this particular guy said he would recommend that Michael doesn’t go back to work until the end of this month.
Meanwhile the HR department contacted the specialist who did the operation and he confirmed what he’d told Michael, then last Saturday Michael got a letter from work asking him to go in for a meeting today and including a copy of the sick note from the specialist, which runs up to the 25th of this month and recommends a phased return to work. At the meeting today it was arranged that when he starts back it will be on days for four hours each time, gradually working up over a period of six weeks to a full shift. Although no definite return date has been set yet he’s confident that it will be on or soon after the 25th – and though he feels a bit apprehensive because he’s been away from work for so long he’s quite looking forward to going back again. And quite coincidentally, the 25th of the month will be exactly ten months since he first broke his ankle on June 25th last year!

I’m giving up on Easter

On Tuesday I arrived back home from my 4-day break in North Wales and to say I wasn’t a happy bunny is an understatement. This has been the third Easter in a row that my break has been blighted by rotten weather, curtailing any planned trips out and ruining the possibility of taking a certain few special photos I wanted to get – add to that the mother of all disasters which happened on Monday and my current frame of mind is that I wouldn’t care if there was never another Easter ever again!
Admittedly the weekend started well enough last Friday morning when I left home in the sunshine; it did cloud over a bit while I was en route but by the time I’d reached the camp site the sun was out again and things were looking very promising. My new tent proved to be exceptionally easy to put up and I found there was more space in the living area than in my previous tent, though I’d decided before I left home that I would actually sleep in the van – which, as it later turned out, was something I was eternally thankful for. The rain started that evening – I’d taken the dogs for their final walk just before it went dark and the first drops appeared as I got back to the van. From then on it was heavy and prolonged showers on and off all night, though at least it would test the new tent for its waterproof-ness.
It was still raining on Saturday morning and by early afternoon I’d had enough of being marooned in the van so I decided to drive into Llangollen for a look round the shops – those shops which I’ve looked round heaven knows how many times before and which never seem to change, but at least it was something to do. Fortunately the rain eased off and it did stay fine for a while so even though it was a very grey day I did manage to snatch a few photos, and I even discovered a nice little church with some lovely stained glass windows.
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Royal Hotel and bridge, Llangollen
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The River Dee – there’s a lot of water flowing down there
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Inside St. Collen’s church
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I’d not been back at the camp site for long when the rain started again, lasting through the evening and well into the night, but when I woke on Sunday morning it was to a cloudless blue sky and sunshine – perfect for going back to Chirk Castle later on and getting the blue sky garden photo I wanted. As I was preparing to leave the site I noticed some little bluetits flitting about and landing in a nearby tree so I grabbed the camera to try and get a couple of shots of them – they were very quick though and I missed most of them but one stayed still just long enough for me to catch it, although it’s not exactly a brilliant shot.
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Now while it may have been lovely and sunny when I left the site at 10am it wasn’t like that a few miles further east; driving along the A5 it started to cloud over and by the time I got to Chirk the sun was only coming through in fits and starts. Not what I really wanted but I was there so I decided to make the best of it; I didn’t bother going in the castle itself as I was only in there last year and nothing will have changed since then so I concentrated on the gardens but I must admit to being very disappointed. There was very little colour anywhere this time, the flower border nearest the castle contained nothing but a few tulips, most of the lawned areas had been roped off because the grass was so wet, and the mass of white daffodils which had featured in my lovely photo last year were no more than clumps of green leaves. Fortunately I did see a bit of blue sky and sunshine through the breaks in the cloud so I managed to get a few shots but still didn’t get the one I really wanted.
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Chirk Castle
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These were just about the brightest in the whole garden
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Overlooking the parkland
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The hawk house and castle
From Chirk I headed back to Llangollen; driving along the A5 I’d noticed snow from a previous occasion lying on top of the highest hills so thought a visit to Horseshoe Pass might get some good snowy shots but once I got up there I found there was only one hillside with a light dusting of snow on it. By then the clouds had rolled in good style and the day had turned very grey but the views were still quite clear so I did at least manage to get a few reasonable shots. My original intention had been to stop off at Valle Crucis Abbey on my way back into Llangollen but the day had turned so grey I didn’t bother and just drove back to Corwen instead.
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View from Horseshoe Pass
Never having explored Corwen properly – it’s only a small place so there’s not really that much of it to explore – I decided to stop for a while and in my wanderings I discovered a waterfall I didn’t know existed and also got a great shot of the lovely little Wesleyan chapel on the main road. Next on the itinerary was Rhug chapel just off the A494 but I found when I got there that it’s only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so I did a quick about turn and headed back to the camp site for the rest of the day.
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Waterfall behind Corwen’s main road
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Wesleyan chapel, Corwen
It was sometime during the night that I half woke up and heard the sound of light rain on the van roof – well that was nothing new, it had been raining for most of the weekend, but I didn’t realise then the disaster which was about to happen. I’d pitched my tent on the nearside of the van and on the next pitch, at the other side of  the tent, was a 4-berth touring caravan; when I woke on Monday morning and looked across the van I could see the side of that caravan through a gap in the van curtains. That was strange, I hadn’t been able to see the caravan before because my tent was between it and me – except it wasn’t. What I’d thought was light rain during the night must have been the beginning of a snow shower which had landed on the tent and frozen, with the weight making the tent collapse. Two of the three poles had snapped and the end where I would have been sleeping, if I’d been in there, was completely flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van otherwise the tent would have come down on top of the three of us.
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A scene of absolute destruction
The worst of it was, most of my belongings were in there under that lot, and it was only the height of the tall larder unit which was stopping the other end from falling down completely. I had to get everything out somehow so I set to clearing all the snow and ice and pulling the poles out, and once they were out of the way I managed to unzip the back door and crawl inside, then item by item I dragged everything out and packed it in the van. And while I was doing all this it was raining steadily so by the time I’d finished there was water inside the tent as well as on it and I was literally soaked through to the skin. There was nothing I could do with the tent just then so I left it where it was while I got changed, had a brew and got warmed up, then a while later a guy from a caravan further down the site came to help me with it and between us we managed to lift it up, get the water out of it and carry it over to the back fence where it was draped along to hopefully dry out if it stopped raining.
In spite of the bad start and the constant rain I was determined not to waste the rest of the day sitting in the van on my pitch so I decided to drive into Bala, and that’s when the second disaster struck – the van wouldn’t start. I’d unthinkingly left the ignition on the evening before and the battery was flatter than flat, so once again it was Paul from the caravan further down who came to my rescue, jump-starting the van with his own trusty Toyota Rav 4. Eventually I got to Bala though it was still raining, so leaving the dogs in the van I went to get some provisions from the Spar shop and had a quick walk along the top end of the lake before heading back to the camp site.
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A grey wet day at Bala lake
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The ‘B’ road back to the site took me through some lovely countryside with great views worth several photos, however the only place I stopped was in a lay-by close to where the road went over a narrow bridge. The normally narrow stream running under the bridge had swollen with all the rain and there was quite a torrent of water running down the gulley and out at the other side of the road – well worth a photo or two before I continued back to the site.
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It was later that evening that Paul came and asked me if I fancied a brew and a chat back at his caravan so I went down and spent several hours in good company, just the thing I needed to round off what had been a very difficult and trying day in more ways than one. In fact I enjoyed myself so much that it was 3am before I went back to my own van.
If I’d been hoping that the tent would dry out before I had to pack it away my hopes were dashed on Tuesday morning – after a fine night for once it was raining again so I had to accept that this thing was being packed away wet. I’d got some wheelie bin-sized liners the previous day so Paul came up to help me and between us we got the tent off the fence, folded up and into a bag, with the wet groundsheet going into another bag – and Sod’s Law decreed that once everything was packed away the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the sun came blazing through, and it stayed like that for the whole of my drive back home. At the moment I feel too tired, fed up and disillusioned to even contemplate any future Easter camping holidays but who knows? In twelve months time I could have quite a different outlook – it remains to be seen.
**Full details of the weekend with more photos can be found on my other blog, starting here.