The wrong mail again – and I’m fuming!

Okay, so this is a moan – a big one – but it’s my blog so if I want to have a moan I will! To put you in the picture, the four avenues where I live are all cul-de-sacs; I live in a block of four semis with eight other houses across the road, and at the end of the street is a big field with a modern single storey children’s centre in the corner nearest to me. As far as I know the centre has no actual number although the name of it is on a big board facing the street, but for the last twelve months or so, every so often, I’ve been getting mail addressed to the centre but with my house number on it. Now at first I didn’t mind and was quite happy to walk along the street to the centre and hand the mail to the manager, but this has happened so many times that I’m now seriously fed up with it.
At one time I would scribble out my house number, write ‘Please deliver to correct address’ on the envelope and put it in the post box which I pass every day on my way to work, and for a while I had no more unwanted mail. Then a few weeks ago it started again though I’ve continued to put it back in the post box, but today was the straw which broke the camel’s back and I let my feelings be known in no uncertain terms on both the front and the back of the envelope before putting it back in the post box.
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The centre at the end of the street
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Message to the centre staff
Obviously I don’t know if the letter will be redelivered but if it is I hope the centre staff take heed of my message – I have an office shredder here at home so I anything which isn’t mine or Michael’s will  be shredded. If the mail came from the same person/business all the time I could say that person had obviously mistaken the number, but the letters and packages come from many different people which leads me to think that someone at the centre has wrongly given my number.  And the thing which really gets my goat is that my house and the centre are obviously two very different buildings so any postman should realise that, and regardless of any number which happens to be on the envelope, deliver the post to the correct place.
I know it may seem like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill but getting the wrong post has happened so many times that it’s now gone beyond a joke and is very annoying. Yes, I know I could walk a couple of hundred yards along the street and take the mail myself but I don’t see why I should do the postman’s job for him – unless of course Royal Mail want to pay me his wages for doing it!
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A local walk to Smithills Hall

Since damaging my foot a week ago I’ve been resting it as much as possible, meaning the dogs haven’t been out properly for several days, however yesterday’s hot and sunny weather was just too good to resist so I decided to take them to somewhere local and almost on the doorstep – far enough to give them a good walk but not far enough to aggravate my foot. Smithills Hall was my choice so I set off across the field at the end of the street, through the nearby housing estate and into the bottom end of the park closest to home. And to say that it’s a bank holiday weekend there was hardly anyone around so I had the place almost to myself.
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The edge of the park
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From the park I went into the nearby woods – the last time I’d been in there the leaves were falling off the trees and things were looking rather bare but now there was green everywhere I looked, with the added bonus of several colourful rhododendron bushes appearing here and there. A tall tree had fallen across the stream from the opposite side and when I looked over I could see where the bank had come away with the movement of the roots as the tree fell. Further on is an old stone bridge and the stream at that point was little more than a trickle so Sophie had great fun running across and back along the bridge.
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Not far past the bridge the path turned uphill for a short distance and wound its way through the trees and bushes, emerging onto the tarmac lane leading to Smithills Hall, a Grade l listed manor house and one of the oldest in the north west of England. With the oldest parts dating from the 15th century it has a lot of history behind it and I did indeed go in to look round, but I ended up with so many photos that I’m keeping them for another post and concentrating on the outside instead.
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The lane to Smithills Hall
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Pedestrian entrance to the gardens
As I emerged round the back of the building and onto the terrace my vision was assaulted by a view which I thought was truly beautiful – a huge expanse of lawn bordered by colourful flowers and shrubs, surrounded by trees and rhododendrons and with benches dotted here and there. With very few people around the place was very quiet so with no-one to get in my way I wandered round at leisure and got several good shots of the building and gardens.
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Smithills Hall gardens
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Overgrown scented garden, east wing
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Garden, east wing and chapel
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Monument and gardens
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Entrance to tea room in Victorian west wing
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Rear of the west wing
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Colourful rhododendrons near the exit
Back on the lane I retraced my steps, this time passing what was once Smithills Coaching House. Originally built in the 17th century as a stable block for Smithills Hall it was converted to a restaurant in 1966 by two local brothers, Alan and Donald Clarke. The brothers, two of three triplets, were born in 1931 – Donald became a trained chef and between them they co-owned Percival’s catering firm originally set up by their father in 1939. Percival’s had a wonderful cafe in the old town centre Market Hall and I remember going in there many times for a meal when I was a kid. Alan Clarke was the local mayor from 1972 to 1973 and died in 1979 at the relatively young age of only 48; Donald was Bolton’s mayor from 1977 to 1978 and died in 2005 at the age of 74.
A four-sided building with an attractive central courtyard, Smithills Coaching House operated successfully as a restaurant for 46 years before finally closing down in August 2012 – in spite of many local objections it was eventually sold to a developer and is now several luxury houses and apartments, with a dozen or so modern town houses built on what was once the restaurant car park. The courtyard entrance is now private, protected by huge double gates operated by key pad, but I was able to get the camera lens far enough through the bars to take a quick snap of what it looks like now the place has been modernised.
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Part of the original building, now a house
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The restaurant courtyard as it was – photo from the Internet
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The courtyard as it looks now
Further along the lane, and past where I’d come out of the woods, is Smithills Open Farm, a working dairy farm open to the public with lots of different animals to see, hold and feed. With various activities including donkey rides, tractor rides and bouncy castles it’s a very popular place and with no time limit once in there it presumably makes a good few hours out, but when I saw the admission prices I was just glad that I don’t have any young kids!
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Smithills Open Farm
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Through the farm and past the car park I reached the top end of the park I’d walked through earlier; I’m not sure if it’s the local council’s way of saving money or if it’s supposed to be like that but a lot of the land had been left to grow wild, with large clumps of spiky grass growing all over the place. From the path nearest the farm the view down the park was quite extensive, and when I got down to where the playground used to be at the bottom of the slope I turned round to call Sophie and there was my old friend the Winter Hill tv mast, standing tall on top of the nearby moors.
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View down the park
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Overlooked by the tv mast
That was to be my last photo of the day; the rest of my route was all road walking though it didn’t take long to get home from there, and the first thing the three of us did was have a long cold drink! My damaged foot had done well on the walk and had given me no pain at all but I’d gone far enough and it was time to rest it now, so that’s just what I would be doing for the remainder of the afternoon.
Linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she takes us on a visit to some lovely gardens and an intriguing piece of Northumberland landscaping with great views and lots of photo opportunities. Follow the link to find out more and to see where other Monday walkers have been to this time.

Scavenger photo hunt – May

I’ve been so busy just recently that I’d almost forgotten about this, even though I knew which photos I would use as soon as the list was published. The prompts for this month are cool, disaster, movement, fence/fencing, spiky/prickly, and my own choice, so here goes –
The first one is my electric cool box which I use for camping. I’ve had it on permanent loan for four years from John, a camping friend who lives in Norwich. He’d bought it from his local Aldi store and never used it so passed it on to me when my camping fridge at the time gave up the ghost. We usually meet up a couple of times each year and I always ask if he wants it back but he says ‘no’ – meanwhile, it comes with me on all my camping trips and is also in permanent use as an ‘add-on’ to my small kitchen fridge. I don’t know how old it is, and even John can’t remember exactly when he got it, but for something which was very reasonably priced compared to more well-known makes it really does keep things well-chilled and is an excellent piece of kit.
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Cool – my camping cool box
There was no question which photo I would use for ‘disaster’ – the one of my brand new tent which collapsed under the weight of an unexpected overnight fall of snow while I was camping at Easter a couple of months ago. Luckily the dogs and I were sleeping in the van so it didn’t come down on top of us, but two of the poles were snapped in the process – I managed to get those fixed once I got home though I haven’t had the opportunity to use the tent since so hopefully it will fare better next time round!
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Disaster – my collapsed tent at Easter
On an afternoon at St. Annes during the last bank holiday I took a walk through the very attractive promenade gardens; the path on one side passes through the rocks where the waterfall flows over the top into the pond, and though the water wasn’t running when I went that way it suddenly started up while I was across the other side. I went back to take a snap of it and hopefully captured the movement of the water as it fell off the rocks into the pond below.
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Movement – the waterfall at St. Annes promenade gardens
I didn’t have to go far to photograph the next topic as it was only three doors away. My neighbours at the corner house have recently had their old timber fence replaced so I snapped a quick shot of their new fencing with the workmens’ orange barrier fencing still in place. They’ve done a good job and it looks so much better than the old fence.
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Fence/fencing – the new-look fence on the corner
The next topic was also fairly easy. On the unit in the kitchen at one of the houses I clean is a collection of small cacti; they could really do with being put into larger pots as they’ve grown top heavy and fall over easily, which explains the bits of soil on the shelf. And it doesn’t matter how gently I move them, they still fall over, though at least I got them to stay still for the photo!
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Spiky/prickly – cacti in the boss’s kitchen
Moving away from the dog-related theme of the last few months my own choice this time is a colourful shot taken a couple of years ago during a private visit to a secret garden on Anglesey. The garden was, at one time, open to the public on just one weekend each year but because of an issue with the change of ownership of the land it was closed indefinitely. It’s in a fairly remote location and I was just lucky that on the day I went to find it, not knowing that it was actually closed, the couple who still looked after the place were there doing some gardening and I was invited in for a look round. Although a bit overgrown in a few areas it was a beautiful place, very quiet and peaceful, and I felt really privileged to be allowed to wander round and get the shots I wanted. A far as I know the garden is still closed, which is a shame as it really is a lovely place.
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My own choice – a secret garden somewhere on Anglesey
So there you have it, my photos for this month, and once again I’m linking up with Kate’s blog – follow the link to see what interesting shots the other photo scavengers have found this time. I’m off to do the same now while I have a brew!

The dog bed didn’t get me but the kettle did!

Maybe a strange title for a blog post so I’d better explain. Bear in mind that I don’t watch a lot of tv – when I’m not walking the dogs I spend most of my free time on my pc in the spare bedroom, so to save having to go down to the kitchen every time I want a brew I have tea, coffee, sugar and a kettle on a small unit. Also in the same room is my cross-trainer – it came out of a commercial gym so is quite a sizeable piece of equipment. Last Saturday evening I washed a dog bed and because my pc is on from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed the room is always warm, so I draped the dog bed over the cross-trainer console to dry out.
Early on Sunday morning, with my pc switched on, I made myself a brew then checked my emails and blog notifications, and I was just about to go for a shower when it happened – for some unknown reason, and with no-one near it, the dog bed decided to slide off the cross-trainer onto the floor. Now had it gone one way it would probably have caught my computer chair on its way down but it went the other way and caught the kettle – which promptly overturned and sent scalding hot water all over the top of my foot and the carpet. Luckily I had my slippers on so that minimised the damage but it was still enough to be excruciatingly painful.
So I hopped into the bathroom, stuck my leg in the bath and turned the cold water onto my foot for as long as I could stand it. It did ease the pain so as we were going out for the day I swallowed a couple of painkillers and stuck a gauze dressing over the burn, held on by a cotton sock, and with my most comfortable trainers on it felt fine all day. Then as I was driving home I remarked to Michael that my foot felt wet, and when I took my sock off later on I found out why – the skin had blistered and the blister had burst with the friction from my trainer, and when I peeled off the sock and the dressing the skin came off with it, leaving a large red-raw patch even more painful than before.
There was no way I could go to bed with my foot like that as anything touching it would send me through the roof, and I didn’t fancy spending hours waiting to be treated in A&E at the hospital, so I wrapped it in clingfilm, covered it with another sock, and went to the doctor’s first thing on Monday morning. He prescribed some ointment and some silicone dressings to be used once each day, but actually getting the stuff proved to be a total nightmare as it seems that no pharmacies actually stock these things, they have to be ordered – and a 2 to 3 day wait just isn’t on when I’m burnt and I need them NOW! The last pharmacy I tried did prove to be more helpful though and the guy there said that if he ordered the stuff there and then I would be able to collect it later that same day – and he even went one better than that and had it delivered to me.
To be honest I’ve only used the ointment twice since then as it seems to produce more pain and stinging than I can stand, but the silicone dressings are brilliant and are really helping to alleviate the pain. It’ll be a while before my foot heals but at least I can get about even though I’m supposed to take it easy. I should have gone camping this coming weekend but I’m staying home instead, though I’ll probably find somewhere nice to take the dogs – it’s not long off my proper holiday anyway so hopefully my foot will be well on the way to being better by then. And the one thing I’ve learned from all this? – next time I dry a dog bed over the cross-trainer I’ll move the kettle first!

Hornby Castle Gardens

The private family home of Hornby Castle is situated in north Lancashire, almost on the edge of the Lake District and the border with the Yorkshire Dales. Set on a hill in its own grounds by the River Wenning the house overlooks Hornby village and the Lune Valley; the central Keep tower dates back to 1512 but the house was rebuilt round about 1820 in an early Victorian style with ornate ceilings and carved wood panelling. Although the house itself isn’t open to the public it does have a B&B apartment to rent and is occasionally available for private functions and special events. The extensive gardens are open to the public on just a few special weekends each year, and it was through reading someone else’s blog several weeks ago that I found out about it. I’d already missed one open weekend by then but I made a note of the next one – this weekend, and with the current glorious weather it was an opportunity not to be missed, especially as dogs were welcome in the grounds so I could take Sophie and Poppie with me.
Exactly an hour’s drive from home got me to Hornby village where I left the van in a small car park just off the main road and by the river. The bridge over the river gave me a lovely view looking west across to the hills on the far side of the Lune valley, and on the other side of the bridge looking east I got my first view of the castle beyond the trees.
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River Wenning at Hornby, looking west
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View of the castle from the bridge
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Just inside the big double gates a lady sitting in the shade of a gazebo took my £4 admission fee and gave me a copy of a hand drawn map showing where things were then I was left to wander at will. A long tree-lined driveway led up a continual incline and I had a choice of left or right – I chose right first and went to have a look round in the vicinity of the castle and the gardens nearest to it.
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A border near the entrance
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A corner near the lawn
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The castle from the lawn
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Herbaceous border
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The terrace
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The lawn from the terrace
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The rear of the castle
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Across from the steps leading to the castle lawn a woodland walk took me down to a large open area and the walled garden but a sign for the ponds and azaleas caught my attention so I decided to look round there first. The larger pond was well shaded by trees, with a rhododendron bush making a splash of dark pink colour against all the green, and though much of the pond surface was covered in a layer of green weed there was enough clear water to make some good reflections. There was an island in the middle accessed by an extremely narrow, only just about 2ft wide, bridge with a rail just on one side – making sure that the dogs stayed behind me I went across but there was nothing there except a rickety wooden bench, although the whole place was really quiet and peaceful. I must admit to being disappointed with the (lack of) azaleas though; I’d expected to see a riot of colour from lots of different shrubs but there were only an odd few dotted here and there along with a couple of rhododendrons – certainly not what I’d hoped to see, and a bit of a let-down to be honest.
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From the ponds I went to have a look round the walled garden; it was quite a large place but at least half of it was given over to several bare-looking sections and cold frames where various things were being grown – the lawned area was nice though with plenty of colour along the paths and side wall, and there was a small tea room with outside tables in one corner though I wasn’t tempted to go in. From there I went over to the riverside walk and wandered along until a fence and a ‘private’ sign stopped me from going any further then I turned round and retraced my steps.
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The walled garden
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The riverside walk
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Once I was sure I’d seen everything there was to see I made my way back down the long driveway and across the road to the car park. Once there I squeezed through the narrow gap in the corner of the wall and onto the riverside path; it didn’t go very far under the bridge but it was far enough for me to get a couple of shots from right next to the weir, in fact if I’d been any closer to it at one point I would have had two very wet feet.
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Hornby bridge
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Back at the van I gave the dogs a much-needed drink, although they’d had one from the bowl provided in the walled garden, then set off for home, although I did make a brief stop after I left the village. As I drove past an open field I caught sight of a very tiny and very cute pony standing by the field gate – an opportunity not to be missed so I pulled up where I could and walked back to take a photo of him. It wasn’t easy as he was very friendly and insisted on standing so close to the gate but I managed to get my head and the camera through the bars and take a sideways shot of him.
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That was to be my last shot of the day, and with no more interruptions or delays on the motorway I was back home before 4pm. It had seemed a bit of a long way to go just to look round a garden but I’d had a nice few hours out in good weather, photographed somewhere I’d not been to before and rounded the whole thing off with an adorable little pony, so it had definitely all been worth it.
I’m joining in with Jo’s Monday Walk again where this week she’s been wandering round a couple of gardens next door to each other – follow the link and enjoy the beauty of the gorgeous rhododendrons she found while there.

This is completely quackers!

Last Sunday evening I went round the corner to visit my friends Lin and Dee, only to find that even after three attempts an hour apart they weren’t in, so it was Monday evening after work when I finally caught up with them. Apparently another friend of theirs , Nick, had invited them over his place for a barbecue and they hadn’t got home until later than intended – and the reason was in their bath!
Now to put you in the picture, Dee works in a local pet store, they both love animals, and anything they can possibly rescue they’ll take – they already have seven rescued bearded dragons and a rescued dog, and only a couple of weeks ago Dee was thinking about taking on a couple of rats which needed a new home until she realised that it wasn’t a wise idea with having Oscar, who’s a terrier. So during the course of the barbecue Nicks mother ‘just happened’ to let it slip that someone she knew was looking for a home for two young ducks, one of which (the female) is supposed to be partially paralysed on one leg – and if they weren’t gone within a couple of days then they would be destroyed. Well of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen so Lin and Dee said they would take the ducks – Nick drove them over to collect them and the ducks ended up in Lin’s bath with a large carrying cage for shelter until an alternative could be found for them.
When I went round again yesterday I found the ducks in the temporary shelter of a large 2-tier rabbit hutch and with a pre-formed garden pond for them to swim in, both given to Dee by someone she works with at the pet store. Now although the larger duck is plain brown and looks very much like a female Mallard they’ve been told it’s a male, and no amount of Googling on my part has come up with any other possible breed, anyway they’ve called it Jeremy – and the smaller duck, which is more or less all white apart from her head, has been called Jemima. It’s obvious that she’s still quite young as she still has a bit of yellow baby fluff on the back of her neck, but she’s really cute and she sat in my hands for ages, squeaking rather than actually quacking. As for the ‘partially paralysed’ bit, well she does have a slight limp but other than that she walks quite well, and the pair of them swim like – well, ducks!
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Jeremy
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Jemima
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Exploring the garden
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In the pond
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It’s lucky that Dee works where she does as she’ll be able to get any food and anything else they need at discount cost, and Nick is coming over at the weekend to section off part of the garden to make a dog-free duck area. I know the two of them will be well cared for so I hope they get to live long and happy lives.

Bank holiday walk round Barrow Bridge

As I hadn’t gone camping for the bank holiday weekend I took myself and the dogs on a Monday walk round the Barrow Bridge area north of the town and just a few minutes drive from home. Under normal circumstances I would have walked all the way but on the last minute decided I would go further than I originally intended so I changed my starting point and drove there instead.
My walk started at the top car park in Moss Bank Park, much shadier than the car park near the entrance and overlooked by the 262ft tall Barrow Bridge chimney. The chimney was built in 1863 as part of the power system for the nearby Halliwell Bleach Works, originally founded in 1739 by Peter Ainsworth. The bleach works stayed in the Ainsworth family through several generations but was eventually sold and the building taken over in 1968 by Brytallium Castings. In the grounds behind the works was a holy well which gave the Halliwell area its name, though this was filled in and covered over many years ago. Brytallium closed in the late 1970s and the works were eventually demolished and the land flattened; a small estate of modern houses was built there but the chimney was saved and is now a listed building and local landmark.
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Barrow Bridge chimney
Several yards away from the car park entrance and across the road is a long row of large detached and semi-detached houses facing one side of the park. The end house is set in a large lawned and terraced garden and with a small lake at the back; with all the new growth on the trees and shrubs it looked so attractive that I couldn’t resist leaning over the wall and getting a photo of it.
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Private garden at Barrow Bridge
Barrow Bridge village itself starts just beyond the row of houses; it’s now a conservation area but was originally created during the Industrial Revolution as a community village for the workers of the mills which were there at the time. The workers’ cottages are set in rows up the hill from the road and accessed by a flight of 35 wide shallow steps; called (not very imaginatively) First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets, the front of one row faces the back of the next with a row of small gardens in between.
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First Street
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Back Third Street
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Steps down to the road
Back down at road level and a bit further along is a bus terminus with a stream, Dean Brook, separating it from the road itself. This was the site of one of the original mills which was sold in 1861 but after the new owner’s death it went out of business, deteriorated and was demolished in 1913. The road narrows at that point and becomes only just wide enough for two cars to pass with care; the first building along there is the now modernised Barrow Bridge Mission belonging to St. Peter’s Parish Church, Halliwell, and this is followed by a small row of very pretty cottages across the brook.
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A bit further along still, and on the left, is a large open area which was, at one time, a mill pond but in later years became a very popular boating lake with kiosks, a cafe and childrens’ rides including a carousel and swing boats. I can remember the lake being there in the mid 1960s but due to potential flooding it was eventually filled in and is now a car park and picnic area. Just past there and back across the road are what were once the mill managers’ houses, all with pretty gardens and each accessed by its own bridge across the brook.
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Barrow Bridge cottages
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Just past the cottages the road took a sharp right turn and went uphill but I turned off there and followed a path alongside the brook, past a shallow waterfall where a child and a dog played and along to the village’s famous ’63 steps’. These stone steps (and yes, there are 63 of them) lead up in the direction of Smithills Moor and would have been used by mill workers to get to and from work in the village and by miners living in the village and working in the coal mines up on the moors
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63 steps going up….
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….and looking back down from the top
At the top of the steps a narrow tree-shaded path headed a short distance before emerging into open countryside where I could see across the fields to the Winter Hill tv mast up on the moors. After negotiating a stile, which Sophie went through via a hole at the bottom and Poppie climbed over, the path narrowed again and followed a small brook before passing a few farm buildings and emerging onto a B road. A few yards further along I came across a piece of ‘roadside art’ set back in the angle of a wall – there was nothing on it or near it to say what it was or why it was there and no amount of Googling since then has given me an answer so it will have to remain a mystery for now.
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Looking across to Smithills Moor and Winter Hill
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Roadside art? I think the gate behind it spoils the view
From there it was all road walking but the views were good so it was no hardship, and there was at least a pavement of sorts on one side of the road. A distance along, and just before a very sharp bend which also went down and up hill, was a barn which had been converted into a house back in the 60s – the black American singer Lovelace Watkins, who was very popular in Lancashire and northern England during the late 60s and early 70s, lived there for a time and I remembered seeing him in the garden when I walked past many years ago. I don’t know who lives there now but whoever they are they have a lovely garden, and the section bordering the road was well worth a photo. To the left of the bend a large area of open land had been planted with lots of tree saplings as part of the 25-year Northern Forest project – it would be interesting to see what that land looks like in twenty five years’ time.
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Heading north east
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As I got round the bend the road started going uphill on a steady incline; a cyclist passed me on the way up and it struck me that on such a warm day and wearing all that lycra she must have been absolutely sweltering – I know I would have been. Eventually I got to Colliers Row, two rows of cottages a couple of hundred yards apart built by the Ainsworth family when they owned Smithills Hall a distance away. The first cottages, Old Colliers Row, are built up off the road, are separated from it by a high stone wall and have no real gardens at the front while the second cottages, New Colliers Row, are at road level and have small but pretty gardens. Just past New Colliers Row is the primary school built in 1885; it finally closed its doors as a school in 1971 and is now a private house.
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Looking back
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Old Colliers Row
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New Colliers Row
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A colourful cottage garden
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The old primary school, now a house
Opposite the old school was a tree-lined lane which would take me back to Barrow Bridge village; I could take that or walk further along the road then take a right and head down the hill into civilisation but that was a really  long way round so I chose the lane. It was still quite a distance but eventually I reached the path leading to 63 steps, so all I had to do then was retrace my steps back through the village and past the edge of the park – and as the Barrow Bridge chimney came into view once more I knew I would soon be back at the van.
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Heading back to Barrow Bridge
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My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
I’m joining in again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s on a fascinating walk round an excavated Roman fort in Northumberland – follow the link and join her for a walk through time and some great photos.