Month: September 2018
A sad and emotional day
Today has been such an emotional day that there’s no way I feel like sorting out photos and writing a Monday Walk page – sadly my friend Janet had to have her lovely dog Aphra put to sleep at the animal hospital and as she was in no fit state emotionally to drive herself there I took her and stayed with her.
Aphra was a Bearded Collie and only six years old but for the last couple of years has been beset by one medical problem after another, with visits to the vet’s every few months and being on an almost constant supply of various forms of medication for whatever was wrong at the time. A few weeks ago she started with what we thought could be a urinary tract infection – a course of antibiotics failed to clear it so she was booked in for tests and scans and it was found that her bladder wasn’t functioning properly. Janet had to take her every day for a week for a particular injection and tests at the end showed that things had improved quite well, however she then developed a bacterial gut infection for which she had yet more medication.
Last Wednesday evening Janet phoned me to tell me she wouldn’t be in when I went to do her cleaning the following day and also said that Aphra had become very listless and didn’t want to eat or go out – indeed when I went up there the dog was very quiet instead of being her usual bouncy self, and though I did manage to take her for a short walk she just trailed miserably along behind me. Late on Friday afternoon I got a very distressed call from Janet to say that she had taken Aphra to the vet’s earlier and they were transferring her to the animal hospital nine miles away as she was so ill, then yesterday the vet at the animal hospital rang Janet to say that Aphra’s kidneys were damaged to the point of shutting down, and though they would make one last ditch attempt to stabilise her she would probably have to be put to sleep.
This morning Janet rang me in tears again to say that the vet had phoned and told her Aphra was no better but they were willing to give her until 3pm to see if there was any positive change – unfortunately there wasn’t, Aphra was now suffering so it was time to say goodbye, although Janet asked them to wait until she could get there. With a heavy heart I picked her up from home and she was in tears all the way to the hospital – we were taken into the family room, and though I expected to see Aphra lying semi-comatose in a cage she was brought out to us, and to see her it was hard to believe anything was wrong. Although she wasn’t her usual lively self she was happy and her tail was wagging, and she made a big fuss of both of us, although she tired very quickly and went to lie on the blanket provided for her.
The vet made us a coffee and said we could take as much time as we liked to say our goodbyes – Janet was too upset to make any rational decisions for afterwards so with my guidance she asked for Aphra to be kept at the hospital and arrangements would be made direct with the pet crematorium tomorrow for her collection and individual cremation, then when she was ready she signed the consent form and sat on the blanket with Aphra, holding her and stroking her while she went to sleep for the last time. We were then given as much time as we wanted to sit with her until Janet felt ready to leave – there was a big white board on one wall of the room with a glue stick and a supply of leaf-shaped post-it notes for people to leave memorial messages, so I wrote one for Aphra and stuck it on the board before we left.
Janet has asked me to make the arrangements with the pet crematorium as, according to her, “I know what I’m doing” so that will be my first job tomorrow morning, although it’s not something I’m looking forward to as it seems so final. Although Aphra wasn’t my dog I’ve become quite fond of her over the years so today hasn’t been the easiest – and though I mainly managed to keep my emotions in check at the animal hospital I’ve cried since I got back home. Although some people might say that Aphra was ‘only a dog’ she was Janet’s friend and constant companion – mine too when I looked after her during the times Janet was away – and she will be very much missed in many ways.
RIP Aphra – always loved and always remembered xx
An unexpected free meal
Last Sunday Michael and I went out for a meal at the Black Dog pub/restaurant in Belmont village just over three miles from home – it’s somewhere we go to regularly and though there are places to eat a bit closer to home we like that one as we are guaranteed to get a good meal at a reasonable price. After a quick study of the menu Michael opted for braised beef with melting onions and I chose the chicken and ham pie, which is home made and came with mash, vegetables and gravy – I’ve had that a few times before and it’s always been very nice, however….
Our meals were served in the few minutes it took me to go to the loo and when I sat back at the table it struck me that the crimped edge of the pie crust looked more well done than usual, though it was only when I cut into the pie – or tried to – that I realised it wasn’t just well done, it was positively burnt, and not just the top edge either. The side was also overdone and both that and the top were so hard that I couldn’t cut into them – flipping the pie upside down the bottom was okay so I cut into that, dug out all the filling and ate the meal, clearing the plate except for the burnt parts of the pie crust. Of course when the waitress came to clear the plates away she asked if everything was okay so I said I’d had better and pointed out the burnt pie crust – she immediately apologised and said she would have a word with the kitchen staff.
It was while Michael was at the bar getting us another drink that the waitress came back and put some money on the table, saying it was a refund for my meal and that she was sorry I was disappointed with it. Now I could have understood being given a refund if I’d sent the meal back as inedible after only a couple of mouthfuls, but apart from the burnt pie crust I’d eaten the lot. Presumably it had been left in the oven a bit too long and it was just a one-off mistake so I was happy just knowing that she would point it out to whoever was in the kitchen – I certainly didn’t ask for, or expect, a full refund. Needless to say, when Michael came back from the bar he was just as surprised as I was.
As we were on our way out later on I saw the waitress standing near the bar so I went over to thank her for the refund and she was really nice, apologising again for the meal not being up to normal standards. Now of all the times Michael and I have eaten there that’s the first time anything has been wrong with the food – it wasn’t exactly a major disaster anyway and it certainly wouldn’t put us off eating there again, so I think the waitress, and the establishment, deserve a big ‘Well done’ for dealing with things so promptly and efficiently.
An attic tour and a bit of bell ringing
Following on from my look round Hall ‘i th’ Wood back in May I found out that special tours of the normally out-of-bounds attic were being held on Saturday as part of the Heritage Open Days over the weekend, and as the attic was significant in part of Samuel Crompton’s life it was something I was interested in checking out, so on a very rainy day I arrived at the Hall in plenty of time for the first tour at 12.15pm. The tour guide was a friendly and very knowledgeable young lady called Sophia and starting off in the Great Hall she took the small group through all the rooms on the way up to the attic, pointing out and talking about various items of interest on the way, but though I really wanted to photograph several things which I missed on my previous visit I found it quite difficult as there was often someone else in my way.
I must admit to being surprised when we got to the attic – I was expecting to see just one space but it was so extensive that there was a rabbit warren of several rooms, though it wasn’t possible to walk in all of them as the floors had been excavated and were very fragile. The one where Samuel Crompton hid his dismantled Spinning Mule had a walkway down the centre though, and ducking under a very low beam it was possible to walk to the far end to see the space where the Mule had been hidden, then back in the main upstairs part of the building we went through the three rooms where Crompton and his family had lived before gradually making our way back downstairs.
The tour took just over an hour and ended where it began, back in the Great Hall, and though I would have loved to go round the place again at my own leisure to photograph the things I’d missed I wanted to get to the next place I was visiting in plenty of time for the last tour of the day, as numbers were limited to a maximum of twenty people and I didn’t want to miss out. So it was off into town to the Parish Church for a tour of the bell tower and a chance to try a bit of bell ringing.
As I very rarely go to the part of town where the Parish Church is situated I’d never been in there before and I have to say I was quite impressed. It was built between 1867 and 1871 in the Gothic Revival style and at 156ft long and 67ft wide with an interior height of 82ft it was a big place. There were many stained glass windows and a great view down the central nave to the High Altar, and the Chancel ceiling was ornately beautiful. With so many things to see and photograph I needed to spend a serious amount of time in there but I didn’t want to miss the start of the tour so I didn’t stray too far from the meeting point.
When everyone was assembled for the tour we set off up the bell tower and I have to say that the climb isn’t for the faint hearted. At 180ft high the tower is the highest church tower in the historic county of Lancashire and the roof is accessed by 190 steps of a steep and narrow spiral stone staircase. The first 54 steps up to the ringing room were relatively easy and once there we were given a short talk on the number of bells and their history then we were treated to a demonstration of change ringing by the bell ringers.
After that we were given the opportunity to have a go ourselves, and though most people didn’t bother I wasn’t missing out on the chance. Having been shown how to hold the rope and being guided by the leader I rang a single bell several times, and was told afterwards that I have good hand/eye co-ordination and rhythm – maybe that could become a new hobby! From the ringing room we went up another fifty or so steps to a walkway above the bells where we could see one working, then after telling us to cover our ears if we didn’t like loud noises the lady leading the tour shouted down to another bell ringer who pulled the rope – and she wasn’t wrong, this thing was seriously loud!
From there we climbed the rest of the steps up to the roof, and the higher we got the steeper and narrower the steps became – even for someone reasonably fit it was quite an effort and I was glad when I finally emerged into the fresh air. Fortunately the rain of earlier on had stopped and even with the cloudy grey sky the views all round the town were good. It was interesting trying to locate and recognise various buildings and I got several good shots, including one of the place where I work in the evenings – it was so close that with the wind behind me I could have jumped off the tower and landed in the works car park.
When everyone had done enough photo taking it was time to make our way back down the tower, not an easy task given how narrow the steps were, however I negotiated all 190 of them without mishap and made it safely to the bottom, then after thanking the lady who had been our guide I made my way back to the van as I still had some shopping to do. All in all the two very different tours had made a very interesting afternoon, and even though the church tower climb wasn’t easy it’s definitely one I’ll do again next year if the opportunity arises and the weather is better.
Once again I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday walk where she continues the castle theme with a visit to Alnwick castle, where even in the rain the gardens still look beautiful and the walk ends with a delicious-looking cream scone with strawberries – time now to make a coffee and have a good read.
Boot sale bargains and a kite festival
Back in the 1970s, in the days when Woolworth’s sold furniture, I bought a small display cabinet/bookcase to house my growing book collection and a few ornaments, and when we moved to this house in 1979 the cabinet came with us. Over the years though, as I began to replace various items of living room furniture, it was relegated to the spare bedroom, still with the books in it, and that’s where it’s stayed. Fast forward through the years and just over eighteen months ago the spare bedroom became Michael’s room when he moved back home, and since then he’s amassed quite a collection of dvds and PS3 games which he needs to find a home for, so a couple of weeks ago he asked if he could box up all my old books and use the cabinet for his own stuff.
Now call it sentimentality or whatever but the books in the cabinet aren’t ones which I want to see boxed up and hidden away in the attic so I said Michael could only have the cabinet if I could find a reasonable alternative for the books. I wasn’t really sure what I had in mind other than it needed to be narrow enough to fit in a certain space in the living room – it was very much a case of “I’ll know it when I see it” and last Sunday I found the very thing.
With the weather being nice we decided to have a ride to the big car boot sale at St. Michael’s near Garstang and on one of the stalls I came across two not-very-wide dvd/video units, the type which swivel so you can put stuff in each side – and they were narrow enough to fit in the space I had in mind. With the swivel bases removed we had a choice, we could either have one each or I could have both and put one on top of the other, which would be more than adequate for the books which needed to be relocated. When I enquired about the price of them I fully expected to be told they were about £10 each, which would have been okay, so I was really surprised and more than happy when the stall holder told me I could have them both for just £5! That really was a bargain, so I rang Michael who was in another part of the field and between us we carried the units back to the van then continued on our mooch round.
It was while I was looking along the next-to-last line of stalls that I picked up my second bargain – a short black leather-look skirt fully lined and with a colourful embroidered front, just the sort of thing that I’ve always liked. It was obviously new too and still had the original shop label attached – unfortunately there was no way I could try it on but I was sure it would fit, and for just 50p it was a no-brainer, I just had to have it. If it was too big I could always have it taken in but when we got home and I tried it on it was a perfect fit – I also tried half a dozen books in one of the units and they fit well too so I was more than happy.
From the car boot sale we headed over to St. Anne’s for a meal in our usual cafe, but even though it had been nice and sunny at the boot sale it had clouded over quite a bit by the time we got to the coast. Driving along Lytham sea front we got held up in slow moving traffic but it wasn’t until we got round onto St. Annes sea front we realised there was something going on somewhere – there were cars parked everywhere and on the approach to the cafe we saw that the nearby green had been turned into a massive car park and in the sky up ahead all sorts of brightly coloured objects were floating about in the breeze. Luckily when we got to the cafe car park someone was just about to leave so I pulled into the space and we went for our meal – it turned out that we’d arrived in the middle of St. Annes Kite Festival and the coloured objects were all kites flying above the beach further along.
After our meal we went for a walk along the promenade – stalls lined each side as far as the pier and there were so many people that it was difficult to walk in a straight line or find a decent space to take some photos. Down on the beach was a funfair, bouncy castles and other attractions, and hundreds of huge colourful kites were flying above the sand at each side of the pier – even with the very grey sky it was worth taking a few shots when I could find a space to get them.
With the possibility of the dogs being accidentally trodden on or tripped over I didn’t want to walk back to the van through all the crowds so I decided to go through the gardens instead – it was much quieter there and in spite of the grey sky I snatched a couple of photos as I walked through. Back at the car park we decided to return to the cafe for another brew then we set off for home at 5.15, arriving back just after 6pm.
Had we known in advance about the kite festival we probably wouldn’t have chosen to go to St. Annes that day as it really was incredibly crowded but if we hadn’t gone to the car boot sale I wouldn’t have got my great bargains so all in all I think I can say that our day out was quite a success.
A walk on Smithills Moor and a bit of local history
A few days after the huge Winter Hill fire was officially declared to be completely out and the moorland was reopened to the public I found out about a ‘hidden’ reservoir high up on Smithills Moor which is part of the lower southern slopes of Winter Hill and not far from home, so never having been to that particular part of the moorland before I was itching to explore. However, since the day after my fire station visit three weeks ago the local weather has been cloudy and grey with several days of rain, which wasn’t good for moorland walking or photo taking, but last Friday morning it was very warm with a cloudless blue sky and lots of sunshine so I grabbed the opportunity, threw the dogs and the camera in the van (not literally!) and off I went.
The reservoir I wanted to find was called Dean Mills, it had been constructed in the late 18th century to provide water power via a waterfall and a series of sluices to a spinning mill of the same name at Barrow Bridge village down in the valley. Someone who lives local to me had suggested (via a home brew forum!) the best way to get to it, which involved driving for about a mile along a narrow lane and taking a footpath off it – I found the start of the path with no problem and was just about able to park the van near the gate on a narrow strip of land at the side of the lane. A sign on the gate told me that this was now part of the Woodland Trust’s Smithills Estate, and just at the other side of the gate was a large carved memorial stone erected in 1996 on the centenary of the Winter Hill Mass Trespass.
In August 1896 local landowner Colonel Richard Ainsworth planned to use the whole area of open moorland for grouse shooting and decided that the lane known as Coal Pit Road was private so he put a gate across the lower end to prevent public access, but two local men who were against the idea decided to organise a mass trespass to reclaim the ancient ‘historical right of way’. On September 6th that year around 1,000 people assembled just to the north of Bolton town centre and set off on the seven mile walk through the Halliwell and Smithills areas and over the top of Winter Hill via the disputed track – as they headed towards Coal Pit Road many more joined the march and by the time the gate was reached there were 10,000 people walking, led by a brass band. Although Colonel Ainsworth’s men and members of the local constabulary made a stand the gate was attacked and demolished and the protesters rushed through onto the disputed land, eventually forming a stately procession over the moor to the summit.
Over the coming three weekends more marches were held but eventually Ainsworth succeeded in getting writs issued to the leaders and the marches stopped while the court case was held. Unfortunately for the leaders the Colonel won the case and proceeded to take it out on them by claiming damages and court fees which bankrupted them – Smithills Moor was finally closed off and the Colonel was able to indulge his love of grouse shooting. By 1938 the moor had passed into the possession of the local council and on the back of the smaller but more famous 1932 mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak District the path was reopened to the public, though it wasn’t until June 1996 that it was finally declared to be an official Right of Way. The first words on the memorial stone are from a short poem written by one of the locals at the time of the mass trespass.
“Will Yo’ come O Sunday Mornin’ Fo a Walk O’er Winter Hill?
Ten thousand went last Sunday But there’s room for thousands still!
O the moors are rare and bonny An’ the heather’s sweet and fine
An’ the road across the hilltops is the public’s — yours and mine.’
A couple of hundred yards from the gate the path curved round to the right for a short distance then crossed a stream via some steps and a short boardwalk and continued uphill across the moor, but my route took me up a small but very steep hill on the right via some very rough and uneven rocky steps. At the top of the hill I was faced with a second steep hill and a rough path up it, though once I got to the top the land levelled out and the path became more grassy. It didn’t take long to reach the reservoir – looking at Google Maps satellite view I’d got the impression it was quite a distance from the gate but it had only taken twelve minutes to walk up there so it was no distance at all really.
The reservoir itself is situated in one of the most exposed and wind swept parts of the moors and is nothing special to look at, but being so high up it gave far reaching views to Manchester and beyond although those views were a little hazy in the warm sunshine. Looking round at the immediate area there was much evidence of the recent fire – huge areas of burnt and blackened moorland, patches of heather which should have been blooming but which were a charred and blackened mess, and over the far side of the reservoir I could see where the fire had burned right down to the water’s edge. Apart from the occasional bleat of a sheep in the distance there was no sound anywhere, and with no other humans around I had the place completely to myself.
Unfortunately I was prevented from walking all the way round the reservoir by a stream and some very boggy land at each end so once I’d got the photos I wanted I retraced my steps along the south side; the views over the nearby countryside and farm land were good and in the distance to the west I could see the small hill with the three cairns of the Two Lads on another part of the moor. Away from the reservoir the patches of burnt land encroached closer to the path and in several places the path itself had been burnt, evidence that the reservoir had at least stopped some of the fire from spreading even further.
After safely negotiating the rough steps back down the steep hill I made my way back to the van and I’d just got through the gate onto the lane when a carriage carrying three people and pulled by two almost identical ponies appeared round the bend in front of me – it had just got past me when it came face-to-face with a car coming the other way. The car driver must have had to reverse quite a long way back to allow the carriage to pass as I’d put the dogs back in the van, reversed and done a difficult 4-point turn in the narrow lane, avoiding the hidden ditch on either side, and got halfway back to the main road before the car appeared behind me.
Back at home I had just enough time to download my photos onto the pc before going to work, and when I came out of there two hours later I found that in spite of the sunshine quite a lot of cloud had gathered so I was glad I’d done the walk that morning. The weather conditions had been perfect, and having found that the walk itself wasn’t as far or as difficult as I’d first thought it’s one I’ll probably do again another time.