My Monday walk this week, done just two days ago, took me to a part of the countryside which, although only a relatively short distance from home, I’ve never actually explored before. Across the field at the end of the street and through the local park with its weeping willow tree I went along the lane to Smithills Hall where, across from the entrance, was a path I’d never previously walked along. It followed what had once been the lane leading to a local garden centre set in a woodland clearing. The place had closed down in the late 1990s and the buildings had long since been demolished and the land cleared, with the only thing left being the high perimeter wall on one side and the area slowly returning to nature.
A distance along the path was a wooden gate leading to a track across the field on the left; straight on took me to a path following the garden centre wall but in the sunshine the open field looked much nicer so that’s the way I went – and a few minutes later I was to wonder if I’d made the right choice. Halfway along the track there was a sudden movement up ahead and two squirrels darted out of the grass and ran across to a tumbledown stone wall on my right where they played for a couple of minutes before one disappeared into the bushes. The second one, seeming to be carrying something in his mouth, lingered on the wall just long enough for me to snatch a couple of photos before he too disappeared into the undergrowth.
Just beyond where I saw the squirrels the track came to a dead end and I was faced with two choices – retrace my steps to the path by the garden centre wall or find a way across the narrow stream running along the bottom of the wooded valley on my right. Fortunately the stream was only shallow and the bank wasn’t too steep so I climbed down fairly easily and while Poppie paddled through the water I made my way across via some large strategically placed stones.
At the end of the path the trees opened out a bit and I came to a gate leading to a track across open farm land. In the distance up ahead was a high grassy mound and just beyond it I could see what looked to be some cattle, however when I finally got there I found it was actually four horses grazing peacefully in a separate field. None of them would come to me at first but then the smaller grey one decided to come over for a drink of water from one of the large barrels nearby, so without accidentally impaling myself on the barbed wire fence I managed to snatch a quick photo of him.
Past the horses the track took me up a slope though another small wooded area and emerged onto more open land. Set back in the grass a few yards off the path was a clump of pretty pale yellow flowers and it was only when I went to take a closer look I realised that it seemed to be several clumps planted close together in the shape of a cross. In memory of someone who liked walking there or maybe the burial place of a much loved pet? Not far from there a large gap in the trees gave me a wide ranging long distance hazy view over the town to the high rise buildings of Manchester city centre 16 miles away – and looking at all those buildings so close together made me glad that I live where I do, right on the edge of open countryside.
The path continued for quite a distance until it joined up with another path which I’ve actually walked along a few times before. This in turn took me to a nearby farm and I stopped to photograph some young lambs in a field but they were forgotten about when I saw the deer. The end of the field backs onto the garden of my boss’s house with only a low stone wall separating the two, and I’ve seen the deer when I’ve been there cleaning but never had the camera with me. They were some distance away, lying down enjoying the sunshine, so I waited patiently and eventually four of them got up and I was able to get a reasonable shot of them.
Leaving the deer and sheep behind I walked through the farm yard and the nearby hamlet of stone cottages which were once farm outbuildings, then down the lane and out onto the main road where I got my two final shots of the view looking across yet more fields and open countryside. It’s a view which is just a 10-minute walk up the road from home but no matter how many times I see it I never tire of it.
Back at home it was time to relax for a while with some coffee and cake. My circular walk hadn’t been a long one but it had been nice to explore a bit of the nearby countryside I hadn’t been to before, and now I’ve been that way once it’ll no doubt be a walk I’ll do again in the future.