Scavenger photo hunt – March

The scavenger photo hunt has come round once again and this month’s six topics are – flat, wheel, swing, ragged, pot, and my own choice. I must admit that ‘ragged’ got me thinking and at first I was going to use Poppie’s rather-worse-for-wear purple monkey which is one of the toys she came with when I first got her, but while I was searching my photo archives for something completely unrelated to the challenge I came across a perfect example. So here’s my choice of photos for this month –
The inspiration for my first photo came while I was walking the dogs round one of the parks near home and thinking what a shame it is that council cutbacks have meant that the bowling greens are now overgrown and no longer used. Well under normal circumstances bowling greens are usually flat so a few days later I went to another local park and got a photo of one of the bowling greens there.
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Flat – bowling green at a local park
A photo of one of my van wheels would have been a bit too obvious for the next one so another search of my photo files produced this one, a very colourful shot of the big wheel at Elvaston Steam Rally a couple of years ago. It’s an annual event, held on the first full weekend in July, and all the fairground rides are steam driven – it’s a great weekend with something for everyone and the opportunity to camp there from Friday to the following Monday. I started going in 2010 and apart from last year, when I went on the Coronation Street tour that same weekend, I’ve been every year since then and really enjoy it.
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Wheel – the steam driven big wheel at Elvaston Steam Rally
Back to the local park for the next one, a ‘big kids’ swing, and as it was still reasonably early on a dull and chilly morning there was no-one around so I was able to set the thing swinging and get my photo without being interrupted – and if I hadn’t got the dogs with me I probably would have been tempted to indulge my inner child and have a go!
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Swing – in the ‘big kids’ play area at the local park
The next topic really got me thinking but when I came across this photo from a few years ago it seemed to be a perfect example of ‘ragged’. It was rigged up on the beach just a few yards from my tent at the camp site I stayed at on the Scottish Highlands coast. It must have been lovely to relax in the sunshine just above the water but looking at the ragged state the hammock was in it obviously hadn’t been used for quite a while, and probably wouldn’t be used again.
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Ragged – a hammock with a view

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As I have no fancy looking plant pots or drink tea from a tea pot I decided to photograph my favourite mug instead – well it’s ceramic so can be classed as ‘pot’. I actually got it back in 2003 when a place where I worked at the time was relocating to other offices ; they were having a clear out prior to moving and several surplus mugs were destined for the bin. I really liked this one and it was too nice to throw away so I brought it home and it’s been in daily use ever since. The design goes all the way round the mug without being repeated, hence the three photos.
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Pot – my favourite mug
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And finally, my own choice just had to be this one of Sophie. A couple of years ago the zip on the cover of her soft bed broke, meaning it didn’t zip up all the way across although the bed was still perfectly usable. At one point she went through a phase of crawling through the opening and curling up in the bed but under the cover, which was okay by me, but one morning I got up to find that for some reason only known to herself she had decided to dig out all the filling and completely trash the bed. And there she was, in the middle of the big bed and surrounded by all the bits of filling from the soft bed – and it’s surprising just how far this stuff spreads when a determined little dog has been digging, it was all over the place. The look on her face told me that she knew she was in trouble but she looked so cute that I didn’t have the heart to tell her off ; the mess was cleared up and the bed replaced, and up to now she hasn’t done that again.
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Sophie and the trashed bed
Well that’s just about it for my choices this month, as always I’m joining in with Kate’s link-up party to see what photos and stories others have chosen – I’m sure all the selections will be very different and very interesting, and thanks to Kate for organising the hunt.

Doffcocker Lodge and some local history

My Monday walk this week was a relatively short one of barely a mile, round the local nature reserve of Doffcocker Lodge. The Doffcocker area is a mainly residential suburb about three-and-a-half miles north west of the town centre ; the history of the name isn’t certain but it’s believed to originate from two ancient Celtic words meaning ‘dark winding stream’. The lodge was created in 1874 as a mill lodge although the mill disappeared many many years ago ; the area round the lodge has long been a popular place for dog walkers but in 1992 it became designated as the town’s first local nature reserve and in the years since then improvements have been made to the land and the pathways and a small free car park has been created.
A hundred yards or so down the road from the car park entrance is the red brick Doffcocker Inn pub/restaurant, known locally as ‘The Doffy’. Built in 1901 on the site of a much older and smaller pub of the same name the outer structure was erected around the original pub before that was demolished ; the whole process was completed without closing the original pub so the landlord didn’t have to apply for a new licence. The current building is a rare example of a calendar pub, with 4 floors, one for each season, and each floor having seven rooms, one for each day of the week. The cellar has 12 rooms for the months of the year, there are 52 doors and 365 window panes – quirky it may be but I wouldn’t like to clean all those windows.
Deciding to go anti-clockwise round the lodge my walk started from the car park by the dam at the bottom end, with the path passing a couple of coppices and the long back gardens of some nearby houses before emerging into a meadow which would be a pleasant place for a picnic in nice weather. At the far side of the meadow the path crossed the end of the lodge and took me to a second meadow where several benches set beside the path were well placed to take in the views over the water.
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Looking across the end of the lodge
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View across the lodge with Winter Hill tv mast in the distance
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At one point the shape of the land formed a little bay in the water and a great cacophony of bird shrieks and squawks was coming from the vicinity ; when I got round there I found seagulls flying all over the place in great excitement while the various ducks and geese added their voices from down in the water – someone had thrown in several slices of bread and they were all trying to get their share.
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The path took me past the back gardens of a row of bungalows set sideways on to the lodge and just past there a tree lined bank separated the path from a pleasant looking residential avenue. The end bungalow had a garden filled with different coloured heathers and other plants and it looked so pretty I thought it was worth a photo or two. It wasn’t far from there to the end of the lodge and as I got near to the dam I stopped for a few minutes to watch the antics of a Domestic Greylag goose in a shallow part of the water.
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Canada goose and seagull
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Domestic Greylag goose
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Those were to be my last photos of the afternoon – although there had been some blue sky and a bit of sunshine earlier on it had soon turned to grey and by the time I got back to the van it looked like rain wasn’t far away. Although the walk hadn’t been a long one Sophie and Poppie were happy enough so it was time to head for home and put the kettle on for a welcome mug of coffee.

When all else fails, turn the bucket upside down and sit on it!

During the thirty years I’ve worked as an office cleaner various mishaps have befallen me on odd occasions, fortunately none of them too serious and most of them quite amusing when thinking about them afterwards, and one such incident happened to me last Saturday. While on an errand in town I decided to do my Monday morning’s cleaning while I was there as the offices are close to the town centre, so following my usual procedure I parked at the back of the building then because the gate has a padlock which is difficult to deal with I walked round and let myself in by the front door.
With all the cleaning eventually done my last task was to mop the kitchen floor, pour the mop water down the front steps – with a bit of bleach in the water it helps to keep the steps clean – then return the bucket to the kitchen. Except on Saturday things didn’t quite work out like that. Normally the inner front door sticks and never closes properly but as I poured the mop water down the steps a huge gust of wind blew in and slammed it shut behind me – and not only was it closed but it was also very firmly locked.
So there I was, stuck in the 4ft square front porch with my jacket, bag, office keys, van key, money and home door key all on the other side of the locked door, and unable to go outside as it was pouring with very heavy rain. At least I had my phone in my trouser pocket so I turned the bucket upside down and used it as a seat while I pondered how to get myself out of the situation I was now in. With no windows open anywhere I couldn’t go out and climb back in somewhere, there was no point phoning the boss as he was on holiday abroad somewhere and I didn’t have anyone else’s number, neither could I ring Michael and ask him to bring me the spare van key from home as he was at work. Just on the off-chance though I phoned Richard, the painter and decorator who had been painting the offices last summer and was a good friend of the boss, to see if he still had the door keys – he hadn’t, but he did have the number of the boss’s son so he phoned him and told him of my predicament then phoned me back to tell me the guy was on his way to unlock the inner door for me.
It was about half an hour later when the boss’s son arrived, he knew I would be behind the front door but I don’t think he expected to see me sitting on an upturned mop bucket! He couldn’t stay as he had his child in the car so he just unlocked the inner door for me, and once I was back inside properly it only took a few minutes to gather my belongings together, set the alarm and lock the front door as I left the building. Thinking back on the experience it’s a good thing I had my phone with me and could contact someone, otherwise I would have been sitting on that upturned mop bucket until the rain stopped, and that could have been quite a long while!

A very muddy Monday walk

A week of high winds, heavy rain and anything else that storm whatever-it-was-called sent down had effectively stopped me from going for a decent walk but by yesterday it had calmed down considerably so during a fine but dull period in the afternoon I took my chances and went out for a short local walk.  My quest was to find a hidden pond which I hadn’t been to for at least twenty years but as I suspected that the location and route to it would be very muddy at this time of year I left Sophie and Poppie behind for once.
The first fifteen minutes of the walk took me across a nearby main road and along a couple of residential roads with detached and semi-detached houses with pleasant gardens. Many of the gardens were showing signs of spring but the first thing that caught my eye was the mass of bright red berries and green leaves growing up the wall and over the front door of someone’s house – as red is my favourite colour I just had to get a photo of that one. A few gardens away was a large bush with yellow flowers (possibly forsythia) and in the garden next to that was (I think) a large camellia bush with a lot of its flowers lying on the ground, which I can only assume is the result of the recent high winds.
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Along the next road was Bank Top community garden backed by the attractive black-and-white building which was once a tennis club but is now the home of Bank Top micro-brewery, and in a secluded corner some recently placed cut flowers and a small memorial plaque set in the ground. Fastened to the side railings was an ornamental lizard which I don’t remember seeing on my walk down there last year – it was very colourful but I wouldn’t like to come across a real one in the undergrowth.
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Bank Top community garden
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At the end of the road a cobbled lane took me down past the stables where I once worked and into the woods with a wide path alongside the river and a bridge up ahead, and though I would normally cross the bridge and take the path at the far side this time I followed the left hand path which eventually took me up a steep bank above the river. It wasn’t too bad to start with but as I got further along it became more and more muddy, and being close to the edge of a steep unprotected drop down into the fast flowing water I was glad I hadn’t got the dogs with me.
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Eagley Brook
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Before it got really muddy
Eventually the path widened out and emerged into open land on the left, and though I had a fair idea that the hidden pond was somewhere in that vicinity there was no way of searching for it without scrambling under a barbed wire fence and getting myself thoroughly dirty in the process, so that one will have to wait until there’s been a period of warm and dry weather. Following the path took me downhill into what, according to a nearby signpost, was Eagley Valley nature reserve, and not far from the riverside was a tree bursting into life with yellow and white buds. The white ones looked like what I’ve always known as pussy willow but the yellow ones looked more like fat hairy caterpillars – it would be interesting to see what it looks like when it’s fully in bloom.
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The hidden pond is up on the left somewhere
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Eagley Valley nature reserve
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Strange buds on the tree
A distance past the tree the path branched left and right ; left would take me up to a large modern housing estate so I went right and crossed a bridge to a long and wide stretch of open land, locally known as Eagley Meadows, where I could see Brook Mill in the distance. As the land opened out I could see what seemed to be a large pond with a thicket of trees growing in the middle of it – I didn’t remember there ever being a pond there before but a lot could have changed in the years since I was last there, however on closer inspection it turned out to be an area of very waterlogged land with the water looking quite deep round the trees.
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The pond that isn’t a pond
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Strange sky over the meadows
The waterlogged land encroached on the path at one point so I found myself walking through yet another patch of mud but once I was beyond that the going underfoot was good for the rest of the walk. At the riverside I saw the big black duck which I’d seen three weeks previously, he was swimming in the water but the current was flowing so fast that it carried him down the river before I could get another photo of him. Recent information from a duck expert has told me that he’s a cross between a domestic large Cayuga duck and a mallard ; Cayuga ducks originate from the Cayuga Lake region of New York State and will often breed with mallards, producing a large bird with the black/green feathers of the Cayuga and the yellow bill and orange feet of the mallard.
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The Cayuga/Mallard – photo from three weeks ago
The path from the riverside emerged close to Brook Mill and from there it was all road walking in the direction of home, with my final photo of the day being another camellia bush in someone’s front garden, though unlike the previous bush this one seemed to have retained all its flowers.
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Even though the gloomy afternoon hadn’t been the best it had been good to get out for an hour or so, though looking at the muddy state of my wellies when I got back home I was glad I hadn’t taken the dogs with me!

Look who came to town….

Film star Robert Carlyle, filming for a new political drama series to be aired on Sky TV later in the year.
The former town centre BHS store which has been vacant since it closed down in July 2016 has recently undergone a makeover and has been transformed into a hospital which features in the series. COBRA is set in the heart of the British government during a major national emergency which threatens to engulf the country and Carlyle plays Prime Minister Robert Sutherland. Filming in the ‘hospital’ took place over three days this week and I was lucky enough to catch sight of the actor while I was in town on Tuesday morning.
The old BHS store is situated in Victoria Square which is part of the main shopping precinct, and just round the corner from the square is a small car park ; Carlyle got out of a silver car, along with two big burly minders who shielded him from the rain with a large umbrella, and walked past the row of shops, disappearing into the BHS store. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a photo of him as (a) I didn’t have my camera with me and (b) even if I had it was raining too hard to take get a decent shot anyway.
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Robert Carlyle as Prime Minister Robert Sutherland in COBRA (photo from the internet)
As Gaz in The Full Monty (photo from the internet) – and I know which version of him I prefer!
I have to admit that Hamish Macbeth and The Full Monty (one of my most favourite films) are the only two things I’ve ever seen Robert Carlyle in, although I know he’s been in lots of other things over the years. Although political dramas aren’t really my type of thing I would have watched some of this forthcoming series just to see what the BHS ‘hospital’ looks like and if it shows any more of the town centre, but I don’t have Sky TV so unfortunately viewing-wise COBRA will have to stay out of reach. It was a nice unexpected surprise to see the actor though, even if it was from a few yards away.

Not the best weather for a camera test

Since getting my new camera a week ago I’ve been itching to use it on a good walk but the weather has been against me every day – grey, chilly, windy and almost constantly raining, a big contrast to the unseasonably warm and sunny weather of just a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday morning we had sleet followed by more rain but by early afternoon it had been fine long enough for me to attempt a short walk ; I needed to pop into our local Asda store for something I forgot to get while shopping there on Saturday so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take a route which would end at the store.
If there’s one thing this town isn’t short of it’s parks and there are two quite close to home though unfortunately the larger one seems to have been a victim of council cutbacks over the last few years. With broken chain link fencing bordering the lane to the nearby farm, the tennis courts long since gone and the bowling greens no longer in existence it looks rather uncared for and scruffy in parts and is really only fit for dog walking, but it’s still quite a pleasant place on a sunny day.
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The shape of this split tree trunk reminds me of two large antlers
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Steps up to the bowling greens
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New spring growth emerging among the trees
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This was once a bowling green
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At the bottom end of the park I crossed the lane and entered the woods but instead of taking the right hand path which would take me in the direction of Smithills Hall I took the left, and with allotments on one side it was much more open than the other path. By this time some of the grey sky had cleared and the sun actually put in an appearance but unfortunately it was only short lived and by the time I got to the end of the path it had clouded over again.
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The moss covered roots of this tree trunk remind me of the clawed foot of a huge green bird
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The path brought me out close to the bottom end of a very pleasant residential road and at the confluence of Raveden Brook and Dean Brook. Raveden Brook, which runs past the grounds of Smithills Hall, is normally only fairly shallow but with all the rain of the last ten days there was a lot more water than usual, and Dean Brook was a really fast flowing torrent which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a white water rafting course.
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Raveden Brook
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Dean Brook and Raveden Brook
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On the riverbank – part of some old machinery or an old bridge?
The end of the residential road emerged onto a busy main road but continued across the other side ; at one time that part of the road led past a fishing lodge to the premises of an industrial sealing and bearing manufacturers but ten years ago the buildings were demolished to make way for Phase 1 of a new housing development. The lodge was eventually drained and filled in and Phase 2 is now underway ; on the gate into the site was a sign which I’ve seen in many places and which always conjures up an image of a huge triffid-like plant in a massive terracotta plant pot making its way across the road.
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Reminds me of my days spent working on a building site many years ago
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A sign which always amuses me
The road ended in a cul-de-sac and a footpath from there took me past the river, emerging onto a partially pedestrianised lane which would take me towards the Asda store. Set back off the lane were two cottages, originally very old but now much modernised, with the first one having a quaint but rather cluttered front garden ; at one time it had a couple of stables attached to it but the ponies have long since gone and the stables now seem to be used for storage.
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It didn’t take long to walk from the cottages to Asda and by the time I got there the sky had cleared and the sun was shining again, however any hopes I had of taking more photos on the way home were dashed when I came out of the store. I’d only been in there ten minutes but in that time the sunshine had disappeared, the blue sky was turning to grey again, and as I walked through the smaller of the two parks close to home I just managed to snatch one last photo before the heavens opened with a heavy shower of hailstones.
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The hailstones lasted until I got home but the sky stayed grey so any further photo taking would have to wait until a nicer day. Although I hadn’t managed to test all the features of my new camera it had performed well while I was out so I was more than happy with it ; it will certainly make an excellent replacement for my other one so now I’m looking forward to using it in much better weather.

A new toy and some random silliness

A short while ago my camera developed a fault, and though it didn’t prevent me from taking photos it became increasingly annoying and frustrating. Initial enquiries at a local well established camera shop told me that to get it repaired probably wouldn’t be cheap and it would also mean that I would be camera-less for a while so as I’ve had it for just over five years I decided to treat myself to a new one. It was ordered on Thursday last week, and arrived on Saturday – apart from having a bigger zoom it’s identical to my old one in looks and features so at least I didn’t need to read through the manual before using it. Unfortunately, since I got it the weather has been abysmal with rain most of the week and I haven’t been able to go out anywhere to try it properly so just to experiment I’ve taken a few random photos of things around the house.
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The new camera
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I got this little bear (shown larger than actual size) to sit on the unit in my bedroom but decided he was too pink so he now sits on the bookshelf in my study 
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This came from the £1 shop in town, I couldn’t resist the cute kitten. At least the camera flash works well, it certainly shows up on the bag
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Anyone remember Zingy, the dancing ‘blob’ in the EDF Energy adverts several years ago? I would have loved a proper one but the official ones were very expensive so this advertising card was the nearest I could get – it’s pinned to the memo board in my study
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This Jack Russell pup was on a page of last year’s calendar – I liked it too much to bin it so it hangs next to this year’s calendar near my pc
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I was given these rabbit slippers by the boss who I clean the house for, he’d got them for his sister who was in the local hospice but sadly she never got to wear them
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And finally something sensible – my coffee of choice and the mug I drink it from
All the photos, except the first two (obviously) were taken with the new camera – it seems to be working well and so far I’m happy with it, now all I need is for the current rain to stop and the weather to come nice again so I can put it through its paces on some outdoor shots round the local area.

A Monday walk and a bit of local history

Taking advantage of the recent (unusual for February) warm sunny t-shirt weather, and on a day when it was even warm enough to wear my cycling shorts, I took Sophie and Poppie for a local circular walk which I haven’t done for quite some time. Only a few minutes from home, and along a narrow lane, I got my first photo – a cute little cluster of snowdrops nestling in the partially shaded garden of a large house. The bottom of the lane emerges onto a busy main road and over on the far side is a large and pleasant triangle of green space. Bounded by the main road on one side and by minor roads with big houses on the other two sides it’s not big enough to be called a park but with a couple of benches it’s a nice enough place to sit and while away some time on a sunny day, and dotted here and there on the grass were several clusters of the deepest purple crocuses I’ve ever seen.
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Following the longest of the minor roads I turned onto a track between the houses and emerged onto a wooded bank overlooking the steep cobbled lane I used to ride my bike down many years ago. A path through the trees brought me out at the bottom of the bank close to the bridge over Eagley Brook ; down in the water was the resident large group of ducks and among them was one I hadn’t seen before. I don’t know what sort of duck he was but he was black with a green head and green tinge to his feathers, and was twice the size of the others.
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Across the bridge was Brook Mill, the first of a complex of three former cotton mills built in the late 19th century. Textile mills had existed there since the late 1700s but in the 1820s brothers James and Robert Chadwick began to redevelop the site. After James died in 1829 Robert amalgamated the business with a Manchester company and a model village was built for the mill workers ; this consisted of cottages, a school, a library, cricket pitch, bowling green and a park with a bandstand where the Eagley Mills Band would play.
Brook Mill was built in 1871 and Valley Mill was built ten years later, but after Brook Mill was burned out by fire in 1886 it was rebuilt in 1887 as the present building. The mills were managed at one point by the grandson of Samuel Greg, the founder of Quarry Bank Mill at Styal in Cheshire, then in 1896 Chadwick’s merged into the textile conglomerate of J & P Coats. Production finally ended at Eagley in 1972 and for many years afterwards the mills were used for a variety of commercial and industrial activities. Although the cottages and school (now a private house) still exist the library, bowling green and park have long since disappeared.
In 2001 Valley Mill was converted to residential use with 76 loft-style apartments on three floors, then in 2003 Brook Mill was also converted into 64 apartments on four floors. No. 1 mill, which had originally been built in 1894, was demolished and the land used for a small private estate of modern houses. Although I have no doubt that these mill apartments are very nice inside I personally would have no wish to live in one as to me the buildings have no ‘kerb appeal’ and look just like what they originally were – old mills.
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Brook Mill
A short access road behind Brook Mill took me to a footpath behind Valley Mill and a distance along was the very overgrown mill pond. The footpath emerged onto a large expanse of open land, part of which is used by Eagley Sports Club and has a football pitch, cricket pitch and tennis courts ; a cobbled lane at the far side ran alongside the river and took me back onto the main road and fifty yards or so along, and set back off the road itself, was a small private fishing lake.
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The old mill pond
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Eagley sports club
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The fishing lake
Across the road a narrow tarmac lane took me past another couple of fishing lakes and a field where a group of ponies grazed peacefully in the sunshine, then a farm track through a wooded area took me to yet another fishing lake set on the edge of a vast expanse of farm land. A footpath close to one side of the lake ran along the edge of a field and up to the main road which runs past the end of my street but instead of going that way I went diagonally across the field to a gate and another path which would lead to a short cut home. At the top corner of the field I stopped and looked back at the view – it’s just a ten minute walk from home but no matter how many times I see it I still love it.
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The path from the field took me past a second field on the right and the high hedges and back gardens of a row of modern houses on the left. About halfway along I came across a tree with thin branches which looked like they were doing their best to burst into flower ; the flowers which had already partially appeared were pink and fluffy-looking but were too far above my head for me to distinguish what they were. Early cherry blossom or something else? – I don’t know, but it will be interesting to go back in a while to see the tree in full bloom.
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At the end of the path I crossed the access road leading onto the modern estate and zig-zagged my way home via another couple of footpaths and three very pleasant avenues, and it was down the third avenue where I got my last shot. Partially overhanging someone’s front garden wall was a huge bush covered in bright orange berries, and it was so striking that I couldn’t just walk past and ignore it.
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Not being a gardener I haven’t a clue what the bush was but it was certainly worth a quick photo to end what had been a very pleasant local walk in some unseasonably glorious weather, and back at home the dogs and I finally chilled out with a much deserved cool drink.