My Monday walk this week is one I did right at the beginning of the month when most of the trees still had quite a way to go before they acquired any decent greenery. At the far side of the nearby park is Smithills Forest, part of the vast Smithills Estate owned by the Woodland Trust; being close to home it’s a good place for a dog walk in decent weather though with all the rain of the winter months I hadn’t been that way for a while.
The path from the bottom end of the local park enters the forest about halfway along the east side and the first thing I saw was what had once been a lovely old tree, now drastically cut down with all its branches lying in sections on the ground. I hate to see trees cut down but presumably it had been a victim of February’s storms and had become dangerous. Following the path alongside the stream I eventually came to the ornamental stone bridge and the path leading up to Smithills Hall’s hidden lake; in spite of all the rain over winter it was looking quite dried up in parts but I got one shot then went for a wander round the rest of the grounds.
Walking along by the outside of the Hall I noticed something I hadn’t seen before even though I’ve been there many times over the years. High up on an outside wall was a stone engraving with two initials and a partially unrecognisable date; research when I got back home told me that the initials were R B and the date was 1579. Between 1485 and 1659 Smithills Hall was owned by the Barton family and in 1579 Robert Barton rebuilt the Great Hall in stone. He also added a stone gabled west wing to the building so the initials were obviously his; it’s amazing to think that they have been there for so long.
Wandering round the grounds I came to the 1873 grave of Little Bess. Unlike my previous two visits when it had been decorated with ribbons and several pots of artificial flowers there was now just one flower in a pot, and knowing that the grave isn’t tended by anyone in an official capacity the addition or replacement of various flowers is a bit of a mystery.
Leaving the Hall behind I walked along the lane past what was once Smithills Coaching House restaurant and the quaint little square gatehouse and crossed the road to a footpath running between the high hedges and fences of several residential properties. This eventually led down through a wooded area and brought me out close to the 260ft tall Barrow Bridge chimney where a short walk along the road took me to the top end of Moss Bank Park.
From the daffodil covered slopes at the top of the park I made my way down past the deserted play area and closed-up café to the rock garden and the walled garden. Both were closed and the gated and wire-fenced entrance to the rock garden meant that I couldn’t see anything at all from the outside, however the fancy railings set into the wall of the walled garden had plenty of spaces which allowed me to see the garden and get several uninterrupted shots.
Strolling through the far end of the park and across the grass took me back to the chimney and from there I retraced my steps to Smithills Hall but instead of going back through the forest I went along the lane and through the nearby yard at Smithills Open Farm. I’ve never actually been into the farm itself as I refuse to pay what I consider to be quite an expensive entrance charge, therefore I didn’t know of the existence of the llamas so I was quite surprised to see two adults and two young ones in the paddock next to the lane.
With the final four shots taken I made my way past the farmhouse and through the local park to home, where I finished off my afternoon walk relaxing with a good mug of coffee and a slice of cake.