My Monday walk this week was taken the day after my walk through Sunnyhurst Wood but this time actually started direct from home. Across the field at the end of the street, through the bottom end of a nearby large housing estate and across a local park brought me to Smithills Forest, and though there wasn’t as much blue sky as the previous day there was enough sunshine to bring out the colour in the trees and the leaves on the ground. It was very pleasant walking through the wood and I saw no-one and nothing other than a few birds and a couple of squirrels playing ‘chase’ through the trees.
The path through the woods took me to the lane leading to Smithills Hall in one direction and through Smithills Open Farm and back towards home in the other – I opted for having a wander round the grounds of Smithills Hall so went left. With the autumn leaves and lack of colourful spring and summer flowers and foliage the gardens looked vastly different to when I was there in late May but it was still nice to wander round and in a slightly secluded part of the garden I even discovered something I’d long since forgotten about – the grave of Little Bess.
In 1870 Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth inherited Smithills Hall on the death of his great uncle, and he and his wife Isabella Margaret, usually known as Sally, lived there until 1900 before moving to a smaller house in Northamptonshire. Sally was a kind and gentle person with a great affection for animals and Little Bess was one of her favourite dogs. A small white marble headstone, now rather discoloured with age, marks the burial place of Little Bess, and though some of the words are hard to make out the inscription reads “Multum in Parvo” (meaning Much in Little) “In memory of Little Bess, in whom we lose sagacity, love and fidelity. She was of the rarest beauty and though the smallest of her race was possessed of the most lion hearted courage. January 13th 1873 at the age of 6”. Although a bit overgrown with weeds the grave was decorated with a few pots of artificial flowers and even a plaited dog lead had been left there at some time so maybe it’s tended on odd occasions by members of the Friends of Smithills Hall group.
Across the far side of the lawns I spotted a small splash of pink within the green hedge and on closer inspection found it was the remains of (I think) a couple of rhododendron flowers – very late for the time of year and rather an unexpected surprise. Close to there half a dozen steps took me down to a path which meandered a short distance through the trees and I came across something which, although I knew of its existence somewhere on the land, I’d never seen before – a small lake. It seemed to be a bit overgrown in places but with the autumn colours of the trees it still looked quite pretty and was worth a couple of photos.