Scavenger photo hunt – August

Once again the scavenger photo hunt has arrived and the six topics for this month are – tea/tee, thyme/time, aisle/isle, fairy/ferry, flour/flower, and my own choice. Having the option of two words for each topic this time made things relatively easy until it came to my own choice, and I have so many photos which would be suitable that it was hard to decide which one to use. I was rather spoiled for choice for some of the topics so I’ve posted two photos for each of them – and here’s my selection for this month –
Quite coincidentally, while I was sorting through the photos to use for this post, Michael called in our local Asda store on his way home from work, and though I hadn’t asked him to he brought back a large box of tea bags. As neither of us drink a lot of tea at home it was a larger box than I would have bought so it should keep us going for quite a while, and it arrived just at the right time for a photograph.
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Tea – the tea bags Michael brought home
Several months ago my friend Janet was looking for a new clock to go on her living room wall – the hands on her existing one were loose and kept falling down so the time was permanently on 6.30, and no matter how much we tried to tighten them up they would just fall down again, so she looked through various catalogues and eventually ordered another one. I was there the day it arrived, and I have to say that this thing was seriously huge, more than twice the size of her old one, and though initially I didn’t like it I had to admit that it looked better once it was up on the wall. Since then though she’s managed to have her old one fixed and she gave me the replacement to donate to charity – and having put it up on my white wall just to take a photo of it I thought it looked so good that I’m now in two minds whether to take it to the animal sanctuary next time I go or keep it myself.
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Time – my friend’s ‘old’ clock
One of the things I like to do when I’m away camping is visit old churches to photograph the stained glass windows, and one which I went to three years ago was St. Nicholas Parish Church in Great Yarmouth, known as Great Yarmouth Minster since 2011. I’d never been in that one before and I was well impressed – the building was big and the inside was beautiful, with three different areas for worship, wonderful stone arches throughout and a huge and very ornate organ. I haven’t been in there since then but looking through my photos I think a return visit will be on the cards soon. The second photo was taken last December at St. Mary’s of the Rosary in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary while on a day out from Roscrea where I was staying. Another lovely church and again it had three different areas for worship – the walls, ceilings and windows were beautiful and it’s definitely another place to return to soon.
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Aisle – the main aisle at Great Yarmouth Minster
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Aisle – the central aisle at St. Mary’s of the Rosary, Nenagh
A couple of years ago, while mooching round Holyhead on Anglesey, I noticed a Stena Line ferry in the port but couldn’t get a good photo of it from where I was so I went in search of a better vantage point, eventually finding a large open field with a good view of the ferry from the bottom corner – and I was so close that if I’d had a trampoline I could probably have bounced across the water and straight onto the ship. The second photo was taken in June this year while I was on the cliff top at Holyhead’s Breakwater Country Park. I’d heard the noise of the engines before the ferry came into view so as soon as it was close enough I snapped the shot. Michael has been over to Ireland and back by ferry many times on the Irish Ferries’ Ulysses but has only ever seen the Dublin Swift in port so I snapped this one mainly for him.
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Ferry – the Stena Superfast X in Holyhead port
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Ferry – the Dublin Swift on its way to Ireland
While camping on Anglesey a couple of years ago I visited Plas Cadnant hidden gardens and found some lovely flowers which looked like fluffy round balls – I hadn’t a clue what they were but the pink colour was lovely so I took a couple of close-up shots. One of them looked so good that I had it made up into a canvas print for my bedroom – and thanks to a recent post on Jayne’s blog I now know that these things are alliums. The second shot was taken last September at East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, on one of the very few nice days I had while camping in Norfolk. I don’t know what the flowers were but they looked very pretty anyway.
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Flower – close-up of an allium
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Flower – not a clue what they were but I liked the colour
I hadn’t originally intended using the last photo for this challenge as I was saving it, along with a couple of others, for one of my future ‘Monday walks’ posts, but to be honest I think it’s far too nice not to be used. It was taken from the roadside a mile-and-a-half from home, close to where the lowest part of the massive Winter Hill fire had been and just over two weeks after the start of it. Considering how much smoke there was when the fire was at its worst the atmosphere and the views on this particular day were so clear it was unbelievable, and though it may not be easy to see on this small version the full size shot is by far the best I’ve ever taken of that particular view.
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My own choice – the view above the A675 looking north east
Well that just about wraps up the challenge for this month so I hope you like the shots I’ve chosen. I’m now linking up to Kate’s blog and heading over to see what photos other people have featured for the various topics this time round.
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Firwood Fold’s hidden lake

As it seems that the long hot summer is well and truly over and many of us in the UK have now experienced two weeks of dull, grey and often rainy weather, my Monday walk this week brings back the blue sky and sunshine from the end of June. After my walk round the hamlet of Firwood Fold back in March – the first time I’d ever been there in spite of it being less than two miles from home – I was impressed enough to want to go back during the summer months, and since March I’d found out about a lake which was ‘hidden’ round the back of the place so the day after my Rivington ramble the dogs and I made a return visit to Firwood Fold.
Back in March I’d noticed that several of the cottages had rather bare-looking window boxes outside which presumably would be filled with flowers during the summer months, however if I’d been hoping to see the place full of pretty colour I was destined to be disappointed. Apart from the greenery of the surrounding trees and various shrubs there was very little colour anywhere, although with it being the football World Cup season two of the cottages had their front walls ‘defaced’ by two huge England flags hanging from the upstairs windows – certainly not something I wanted to take a photo of.
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Down the lane to Firwood Fold
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Samuel Crompton’s birthplace
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At the bottom end of the hamlet was a tarmac lane, the only way into Firwood Fold for vehicles – turning left just led to a dead end and some garages but just before the dead end a footpath on the right took me through the trees and down to the lake hidden behind the hamlet, although there was no signpost or anything to say it was there. The lake, known as The Bunk, had actually once been the reservoir belonging to Firwood Bleach Works which was established in 1803, but with the bleach works long since gone the lake and its surrounding area has been left to thrive and support a good diversity of plant species and wildlife.
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The Bunk – Firwood Fold’s hidden lake
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The lake wasn’t all that big so it didn’t take long to walk all the way round it, then back at the bottom of Firwood Fold I took a path off the left of the tarmac lane and down a dirt track where a right turn took me to a couple of fishing lakes which I’d been to back in March. Both lakes seemed to have a lot of yellow-green weed floating on the surface of the water but there was quite a lot of wildlife around with plenty of ducks, geese and coots, and a family of swans with three young gygnets which came gliding up to say hello. The parents weren’t impressed with the dogs though and they did quite a lot of hissing to warn us off.
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The path to the fishing lakes
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Retracing my steps back towards the hamlet, and just out of curiosity, I took another path which led me across a bridge over the nearby Bradshaw Brook and onto the end of an open field. At the far end the land went up a slope so I decided to see what was up there – it was another big field with trees on each side so with my curiosity growing with each step I walked on and came to another field. In the distance I could see yet another field and behind the tree lines were even more fields, one with grass mown so well that it looked more like a golf course than an open field, and with no fences or boundaries anywhere one open space just led into the next. This place was both beautiful and amazing – and to think I’ve lived in this town all my life and never knew it was there!
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My good sense of direction gave me a fair idea of where I would end up if I continued walking straight on, which would be a good distance from where I’d left the van, so reluctantly I turned and headed back towards Firwood Fold. Those were to be my last shots of the walk, which had turned out to be more surprising and interesting than I’d expected, and I headed back towards home having made the decision that sooner or later I would return to that area to do some further exploration.
Linking up with Jo’s Monday walk which this week takes in some wonderful views over the North York Moors – the photos really make me want to go there but it’s raining again so I’ll settle for a brew and a good read over breakfast instead.

A tale of two kitties

Just over four weeks ago, on the Monday of that week, I got a text from my friend Lin just after I got to work at 4.45pm – “Could you possibly pick us up from the vet’s when you finish work please?” Thinking there was something wrong with their little dog Oscar I rang her straight back, only to be told that she and Dee were on the way to the vet’s by bus and it was a long story – fortunately the vet’s isn’t far from my evening job so it was no trouble for me to meet them there after I’d finished work. They were still waiting to be seen when I got there and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t Oscar they had with them but four very tiny kittens in a cardboard cat carrier, and that’s when I got the full story.
Apparently Dee had been walking home from work early that afternoon when she heard the faint sound of a kitten crying; at first she couldn’t see anything but tracked the sound to some nearby bushes where she found the litter of kittens underneath, very tiny and obviously very dirty, cold and weak in spite of the warm weather, and with no sign of a mother cat. So she rang Lin who went down to meet her with a towel to wrap them in and they went back to the nearby pet store where Dee works to get the cat carrier, then went to the vet’s along the road to get them checked over, coming out with formula milk, syringes and feeding bottles and with instructions to feed the kittens every two hours.
Unfortunately the smallest kitten, a girl, wasn’t doing very well so a couple of hours later they rang their own vet’s, which is where I met them, and were told to take them in straight away. The other three kittens were boys and for the sake of the vet’s records the four were named Smokey, Sebastian, Tiger and Hope; the vet estimated them to be no more then ten days old but unfortunately Hope was the smallest and weakest and riddled with maggots inside – nothing could be done for her so sadly she had to be put to sleep. Dee bravely cuddled her while she drifted off, which took only seconds, and even I cried although she wasn’t mine. To be on the safe side Lin booked the other three in for overnight care and when we collected them the following day we came out with antibiotics which had to be given by syringe before feeding them.
Unfortunately though, things weren’t exactly straightforward, and at 7.30 that evening Dee came round to ask if I could take them back to the vet’s asap as Sebastian wasn’t doing well. As soon as we got there he was taken away and put on oxygen but he was failing rapidly and turning blue so sadly he had to be put to sleep too, though the vet said the other two were responding well to the medicine so with lots of TLC they should be okay. We weren’t taking anything for granted though so every day they survived was a bonus, and every evening for a couple of weeks I would call round after work to see how they were getting on. They progressed very well and their feeds went from every two hours to every three, then every four, and now they are sleeping longer they just get fed whenever they wake up – and their progress has come on in leaps and bounds.
Going off the day when the kittens were found and the vet’s estimation of their age at the time they will be six weeks old tomorrow. They are now at the weaning stage and even though they are a bit smaller than they should be, thanks to Lin and Dee’s constant care they have grown from the tiny pathetic little scraps that Dee found into lively and playful little kittens, so playful in fact that when I was trying to take photos of them they wouldn’t keep still and the only way I could get them was for Lin to hold them individually with both hands.
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Tiger
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Smokey
I’ve also had an occasional hand in feeding them and though they are both absolutely adorable my favourite just has to be little Tiger, who also happens to be Lin’s favourite. I’m not even remotely thinking about having another cat as I’m quite happy with the three I’ve got, but even if I did want one there’s no way Lin would let me have Tiger – and Dee wouldn’t let me have Smokey either so I’m happy to just be an honorary ‘auntie’ and cuddle them whenever I call round there. It’s so sad that we lost Sebastian and little Hope but we console ourselves with the thought that at least for a few hours they had some care and affection and didn’t die cold, hungry and unloved under the bush where they were found. I haven’t written about them before now as we weren’t sure if or how long Smokey and Tiger would survive but thanks to Lin and Dee they are coming on in leaps and bounds, so in view of the condition the four were in when Dee found them I think a 50% success rate is good – and for these two little bundles of fur things can only get better from now on.

Repeating a Rivington ramble

A gloriously hot sunny day towards the end of June saw me taking the dogs for a walk round Upper Rivington Reservoir, repeating a route I’d taken in August last year but on that occasion the blue sky had turned decidedly grey and cloudy and my photos were rather dull. Just like last time I parked up on the road separating Upper Rivington and Lower Rivington reservoirs and walked a short distance back to the gate and footpath opposite the village green. The path led through a rather overgrown meadow bordered on one side by several clumps of bright pink foxgloves, then at the far end a set of steep steps took me down to a wooded area at the bottom, where a stream ran alongside the path.
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The path was quite narrow in places and I had to step to one side a few times to allow several walkers through – I wasn’t sure if they were one big group spread out or more than one group but there was a lot of them. Eventually I arrived at a much wider path and having previously looked at the area on Google maps I knew that turning immediate right would lead me to a dead end and someone’s house so I went left and then right and followed the rough track up towards Yarrow reservoir.
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The track to Yarrow reservoir
At the bottom of the reservoir embankment was a wooden gate which I’d climbed over last year, however this time it was rather different – the whole of the gate on the outside had been covered in welded wire mesh to stop people climbing over but some of the mesh had been cut away and part of the wooden cross member removed, creating a hole just big enough for a reasonably slim person to get through. It looked like a proper job rather than an act of vandalism though so maybe it was United Utilities way of saying “People aren’t supposed to come up here but we know they do so we may as well make it a bit easier for them”. So I put the dogs through the hole then holding onto the top of the gate I put my legs through first and slid the rest of my body through after – trying to climb through one leg at a time or head first just wouldn’t have worked.
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At the top of the embankment I was rewarded with fantastically clear views the length and breadth of the reservoir and over to Winter Hill with its tall tv mast – and as I took the photos I didn’t know it then but just four days later would see the start of the huge and devastating wildfire which would surround the mast and cover over five square miles of moorland. To the north the reservoir went round a bit of a corner and as the water level was a lot lower than it would normally be I took the opportunity to go down and walk close to the water’s edge to see what was round there. The answer was “not much”, just another embankment with trees and a field beyond it, so I retraced my steps and passed what would be the reservoir overflow taking any excess water from Yarrow down to Anglezarke reservoir via a succession of wide shallow steps creating a series of waterfalls, though it was obvious that there hadn’t been any water flowing down there for quite a while.
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Looking east to Winter Hill
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Looking north
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Looking west
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Alance bridge in the north west corner
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Yarrow overflow with Anglezarke in the distance
Back through the hole in the gate I rejoined the path and went down through another wooded area to Knowsley Embankment, the road which separated Upper Rivington reservoir from its much larger neighbour, Anglezarke. Over the wall on the Anglezarke side several people were whiling away the time fishing and no doubt getting a good suntan, then at the far end of the embankment I turned off the road onto the tree-lined private lane I’d gone down last year. It took me away from the water for quite a distance and past the big house known as The Street before emerging onto more open land with fields belonging to a farm on one side and scrubland on the other with occasional glimpses of the water through the trees.
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The south end of Anglezarke
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Flowers set in the wall outside The Street
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Eventually the lane ran close to the reservoir again and several notices set at intervals along the wall told me that section of water was used for private fishing by members of a Southport angling club. Strangely there was no-one taking advantage of the good weather and actually fishing there, though I had to wonder why anyone would want to come all the way from Southport on the coast when surely there must be some fishing places much closer to there – but then I’ve long since held the opinion that people who fish are a strange lot. In the distance, across the water and above the trees, I could see Rivington Pike tower and the Pigeon Tower on the edge of the Terraced Gardens – the Pigeon Tower was surrounded by scaffold so was presumably undergoing some major refurbishment.
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The Pigeon Tower surrounded by scaffold
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Rivington Pike tower
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Barrier protecting the overflow channel
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Looking south towards the embankment road
A short distance through another wooded area led me back onto the embankment road between the two Rivington reservoirs and at the far end, set up from the road and not far from where I’d left the van, was The Rivington, formerly a private members’ bowling club but now open to the public and incorporating a tea room open daily until 4pm. With such good weather the place was heaving and a car park full of cars didn’t make for a particularly good photo so I shot one of the attractive board at the entrance instead. Maybe next time I’m round that way on a nice day I’ll go in for a soft drink as I’m sure I could get some good photos of the reservoirs from there.
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Looking back along the embankment road, Lower Rivington reservoir on the left, Upper Rivington on the right
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That was the end of my actual walk and back at the van I gave the dogs a good drink before setting off for home. I went back along the moorland road between Rivington village and Belmont and as I passed the Blue Lagoon reservoir just before Belmont village itself I just had to stop to take a few photos. The continuing hot dry weather had reduced the reservoir to less than half what it would normally be and I’d hadn’t seen the water level so low for a long time.
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The Blue Lagoon – there should be water in here
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Those were the last shots of the day and I drove the final four miles back home with no further stops. I remember that last year I hadn’t been too impressed with the walk round Upper Rivington reservoir as much of it is away from the water and also the afternoon had turned very cloudy and grey, but the hot sunny weather this time and the good views over Yarrow reservoir had made all the difference. At only two-and-a-half miles all the way round it was a short and easy walk so one I may very well do again sometime in the future.
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday walk where this week she’s back in Knaresborough exploring the delights of Mother Shipton’s Cave and the petrifying well. Time to settle down with a brew now and check out where the other Monday walkers have been this week.

100ft up on a Simon Snorkel

Last Saturday I went to the open day at Bolton Central Fire Station, the first one of these I’ve ever been to. The open day is an annual event but this one was slightly different in that everything was completely free as a thank you from the fire fighters to the people of Bolton for their support and donations during the Winter Hill fire. The weather was brilliant and there was a good crowd attending, with several stalls and attractions and the opportunity to (among other things) sit in a police car, take a driving test in a driving simulator, operate a JCB to knock balls off traffic cones into buckets and the one thing I really  wanted to do – go up in the air on a fire engine rescue platform. For that I had to get a numbered ticket, mine was 29 so as I would have quite a while to wait I went to look round everything else and take photos of various things.
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The latest fire engine and its contents, only recently come into service – that’s some serious piece of kit
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An older turntable engine
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One of the Greater Manchester Blood Bike fleet
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One thing which did impress me was the chip pan fire demonstration, explained by a young lady fire fighter. A specially set up vehicle contained a lit cooker with an unattended chip pan on top – for a while nothing happened then it began to smoke, with the smoke gradually increasing until the pan burst into flames. Then from the safety of the back of the van the equivalent of a cup of water was thrown on the pan – and the effect was instantly and shockingly spectacular.
A huge sheet of flame shot upwards and outwards towards and above the audience – obviously there was a cordoned off safety area round the van with the audience behind the rope but the flames were so sudden and so hot that everyone instinctively moved back. I was right at the front but unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch a shot of the flames as I was protecting the camera from the heat. The flames were gone again in seconds and young fire fighter explained that the demonstration was set so they would dissipate into the air but if that had been a normal kitchen in a house the flames would have travelled across the ceiling and engulfed the whole room in seconds – it was certainly one heck of a demonstration, and one which makes me glad that I haven’t had a chip pan since the mid 1980s.
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The pan just starting to smoke
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Bursting into flames
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Flames increasing
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The aftermath
After that little lot it was almost time for me to go up in the air so I made my way over to the Simon Snorkel engine – a bit of an odd thing to call a fire engine but seemingly named after the original hydraulic platforms designed by Simon Engineering. After a short wait, during which I shot this thing in action, it was my turn and I was duly fastened into a safety harness, clipped onto the platform safety rail next to the fireman operator and we were off. Up and up we went and once at full height he stopped it long enough for me to take some photos – from 100ft up the views across town were fabulous and I got some great shots before we started going down again.
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Going up….
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….and up
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At full height
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In the distance – Smithills Moor and Winter Hill with the tv mast
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In the distance – Smithills Moor/Horrocks Moor
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In the distance – moorland above Egerton and Bromley Cross   In the foreground – St Paul’s Church with All Souls church tower just behind
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In the distance – Bromley Cross and moorland above Edgworth   In the foreground – Bolton Law Courts
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In the distance – moorland above Edgworth and fields above Harwood   In the foreground – central police station and court building
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In the foreground – the Jobcentre, rear of central library and museum, and the town hall
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Centre – Parish Church   Left foreground – Central library   Centre foreground – Lever Chambers health centre
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Coming down – the fire station yard and part of Bolton 6th form college
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The hydraulic Snorkel arm
Back at ground level I was unclipped from the safety rail and helped out of the harness then after another quick look round to make sure I hadn’t missed anything I set off across town to do a couple of errands before making my way back home. I’d had a really good couple of hours at the fire station and going up in the Simon Snorkel had been a great experience – and if I ever get chance in the future it’s an experience I’ll most definitely repeat.
**It was only once I’d got my photos onto the pc and could see them at full size that I realised – in the centre of the photo above the one with the town hall clock is the side of the bakery where Michael works and an orange Warburtons wagon – it seems there’s no escape, these Warburtons wagons get everywhere!

A local chainsaw massacre

Monday being a day when I don’t have to go to work until late afternoon/early evening I often treat it as a day of leisure, getting up when I wake up at whatever time that might be, however yesterday I was disturbed soon after 8am by an almighty noise outside in the street and when I looked out I saw various vehicles parked up near the house and part of the street cordoned off. A man with a chainsaw was up the big tree in the garden of the house two doors away cutting the branches off it while another guy down below was feeding them into a tree shredder thing – the noise was horrendous and though I could retreat to the back room and just about live with it I felt sorry for Michael who was trying to sleep after a 12-hour night shift. The noise went on for most of the day but by 4pm the tree had been completely stripped and the men had gone, leaving just the bare trunk standing in the garden.
This morning I got back from work at 9am to find that the men were back – they’d cordoned off the street again and cut the tree trunk off to just a couple of feet above ground level, it was lying across the pavement and halfway across the street and a couple of the guys with chainsaws were cutting it into manageable chunks. Again the noise was horrendous and Michael’s sleep was disturbed for the second time, but fortunately after the guys had a clear up they were gone by 10am and Michael was able to settle down again.
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Following the chainsaw massacre two doors away the guys have moved on to butcher a tree in a garden further round the estate – as I type this I can hear them in the distance but fortunately the noise isn’t loud enough now to be disturbing. I just hope that’s the end of it as far as the trees near here are concerned – Michael is working night shifts all week so he won’t be very happy if his sleep is disturbed again!

Winter Hill fire – the photos I couldn’t get

Yesterday I went to the annual open day held at the Central Fire Station in town (more of that in a later post) and found several information boards displaying photos taken by members of the fire crews and Mountain Rescue teams during the recent Winter Hill fire. As these were all shots I hadn’t been able to take myself for obvious reasons I asked permission and was able to take photos of the photos; on my recent walk up there and my brief wander in the vicinity of the tv mast, and with new grass growing through in many places, it was impossible to comprehend the sheer scale of the fire and the devastation it caused to the land, so to see some of the photos on display was extremely interesting – they really made an impact and could be a real eye-opener for anyone not living close by and knowing just how the moorland was affected.
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A helicopter flies through the smoke
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The Smithills side of the moor overlooking Scout Road
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Mechanical help to dig trenches and fire breaks
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Fire above the road between Belmont and Rivington
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Close to Rivington Pike and terraced gardens
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Close to the tv mast
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Flying close to the fire
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Rivington Pike tower – the tv mast is somewhere in the far distance beyond the top of the photo
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Close to the A675 showing the path I recently walked up
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Burnt land around the tv mast – the path I walked up is centre left
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Dropping water on a new tree plantation
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Part of the devastated moorland and an area of newly planted saplings killed by the fire (photo from The Woodland Trust)
The Rivington Heritage Trust, working to conserve the Rivington Terraced Gardens and associated structures, had to fell 300 trees as their roots had been damaged by the fire burning under the nearby ground, and the Woodland Trust has had a third of their 1,700 acre Smithills Estate affected by the fire. Nine kilometres of fences have been damaged or destroyed and 2,000 new saplings and a number of mature trees were destroyed – it’s estimated that it will take the planting of 3,500 new saplings to replace what has been lost. Much of the affected Woodland Trust land was used by tenant farmers for grazing but any livestock was moved to safety when the fire started, and thanks to the efforts of the fire crews and mountain rescue teams none of the properties were affected.
There will also have been a big impact on the plant community, with not only the plants themselves being lost but also the insects and other invertebrates which feed and live off the moorland. At least three species of breeding birds were affected by the fire and if any were raising young at the time those chicks and their nests would have perished. Although any adult birds could fly away from the danger many other creatures wouldn’t have been as fortunate and frogs, lizards and other small mammals would have been unable to escape in time. Work is now being done to ensure that the ecosystem will recover as soon as possible though a full recovery could take years, but hopefully animals and other creatures from surrounding areas will gradually recolonise on the moor and help that recovery along.