Heysham – a walk in three parts

My Monday walk this week was done just five days ago – June 24th – on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year so far. I don’t usually watch weather forecasts but I’d heard that the weekend was probably going to be very wet so I decided to take advantage of the midweek sunshine and explore a couple of places I hadn’t been to before.
Driving up the M6 I took the turn-off for Lancaster and headed along the A683 which bypassed the city itself and led straight to Heysham port, though on the spur of the moment I took a minor road down to the River Lune to check out a particular spot which – I’d been told by someone ages ago – was quite nice and had good views over the river. I didn’t have to go far before I came to a pleasant looking static caravan site and next to it The Golden Ball Hotel set several feet higher than the road.
According to local history there’s been an inn on that site since the mid 1600s; the main part of the existing inn, known locally as Snatchems, was built in 1710 and an extension was added in 1790. Fast forward to the early 20th century and in 1910 William Mitchell bought the inn and it became a tenanted pub with Mitchells of Lancaster being the landlords. In early 2010 the last tenants left and with no-one to run it the pub was closed and put up for sale by Mitchells, eventually being bought in 2011 by the current owner and further extended.
There are a few stories of how the pub’s nickname Snatchems originated though the most interesting and widely accepted explanation stems from when the River Lune was used as a shipping channel. When any tall ship was about to sail out on the high tide the captain would check how many men were on board and if the numbers were short a boat would be sent over to the inn, where the crew would ‘snatch’ any men who were intoxicated – and by the time they sobered up they would be well on the way to a foreign country!
Parking at the roadside near the pub I had a very short walk in each direction and other than a handful of passing cars I had the place to myself. Round a bend just west of the pub the road went over a deep drainage ditch while a hundred yards or so to the east the grass riverbank widened out to quite a pleasant area. The Golden Ball itself was temporarily closed up, with its entrances at road level surrounded by high steel barriers, and coupled with obviously overgrown gardens the place had a distinct air of abandonment about it.
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Looking west
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Looking east, with a hazy Ingleborough in the far distance
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Lythe Bridge
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The Golden Ball Hotel
With my curiosity satisfied I drove back to the main road and headed to my first ‘official’ destination, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Heysham Nature Reserve. At the point where the road led into the docks and the power station a lane on the left took me to the track leading to the reserve; unfortunately there was a barrier across the track with a ‘car park closed’ notice on it but I was able to squeeze the van into a suitable space just off the lane and I set off to see what I could find. The first disappointment came when I got to the far side of the car park and found a notice on the gate saying dogs weren’t allowed in that part of the reserve, however there was no way I could leave Poppie in the van on such a hot day and there was no-one around anyway so I took a chance and went through.
The second disappointment came just a few yards farther on when I found a large part of the reserve completely closed off by a high steel fence and a locked gate with a ‘No Entry’ sign attached to it. That was one area I definitely couldn’t  get into so I followed the path down a series of steps and found myself on the road to the power station – this couldn’t be right, there had to be more to the reserve than that. Across the road was a grassy area at the entrance to the large EDF Energy place and at the far side I spotted a rabbit so I snatched a quick long distance photo before it moved then went back up the steps into the reserve.
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Not far from the top of the steps I found another path which meandered between hedgerows alive with birdsong, and past a quiet little tree shaded pond I came to a large meadow which, ignoring the constant hum and crackle from the power lines above, was quite a pleasant place in the sunshine. The path eventually brought me out not far from where I’d left the van and across the track was another path with a notice on the gate saying this area was where dogs could be walked and could also be allowed off lead, not that Poppie ever is.
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In the shade just inside the gate was a metal box with a lid and a dog bowl at the side – a notice on the fence said ‘Dog water – please refill’ and in the box were several 2-litre milk containers full of fresh water, with a couple of empty ones left at the side. Quite a handy provision for thirsty dogs, presumably supplied by a local member of the Trust, and once Poppie had a quick drink we set off on some further exploration. The path was long and straight, bordered by trees on one side and open grassy areas on the other, and a distance along was a pond with hundreds of fish, possibly chub, swarming about close to the edge.
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Eventually the path crossed an access lane to part of the power station and I came to an open picnic area with benches here and there; it was overlooked by the huge Heysham 2 nuclear reactor but plenty of surrounding trees did help to screen the building from view. Heysham 2 seems to dominate the horizon from miles away and from a distance looks quite ugly but close up, with its red, blue and green colours, I thought it looked strangely attractive. At the end of the picnic area the path ran for a short distance past the power station’s perimeter fence with its ‘keep out’ notices at intervals; with the continuous loops of razor wire on top of the fence I felt almost like I was passing the grounds of a prison and I certainly couldn’t imagine anyone trying to get in there.
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I finally emerged onto a very rocky shore at Red Nab rocks, an area of Permo-triassic rocks of red and white sandstone. A long concrete promenade ran past the power station perimeter towards the port entrance and halfway along was a closed off short pier with the surface of the sea in a turmoil underneath it, which was presumably something to do with the power station; according to the notice on the fence this was the Heysham Sea Bass Nursery Area managed by the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and public fishing wasn’t allowed.
A bit farther along were the remains of an old wooden pier and at the end of the promenade was the old south pier lighthouse at the port entrance. Built from cast iron in 1904 and almost 30ft high the base had originally been red and the lantern gallery white, though it now looks sorely in need of a coat of paint. Information tells me that in spite of its derelict looks it’s still active with a 6-second on/1.5-second off green light, though I’m not sure how correct that information is.

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Perched on the railing to the left of the old light tower were several cormorants

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The old light house was the one thing I’d wanted to see so once I’d taken a couple of photos I retraced my steps along the promenade. By then the tide had come in and the turmoil of water under the sea bass nursery pier had levelled out, with dozens of seagulls in the channel – presumably at some point there would be a lot of fish in evidence just there. Walking back along the path through the nature reserve I was momentarily surprised when a bird flew out of a tree and landed right in front of me; it could possibly have been a thrush but without seeing the front of it I couldn’t be sure.
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Back at the van I gave Poppie a drink even though she had some from her travel bottle while we were walking, then I drove the short distance to the next place on my itinerary, Half Moon Bay which was just at the other side of the port and another place I’d never been to. There was nothing there really, just a large rough-surfaced car park, a beach and a small café, closed of course; ignoring the ever-present power station building it wasn’t a bad little place but I wasn’t sure about the crooked sign attached to a crooked pole.
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Half Moon Bay beach
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On the grass just off the end of the short promenade was a sculpture commissioned by the Morecambe Bay Partnership in 2019. It was just called ‘Ship’ and is supposed to reflect the importance of Morecambe Bay’s maritime heritage, with one figure facing ‘the new’ of Heysham’s nuclear power station and the other facing ‘the old’ of the ancient ruins of St. Patrick’s chapel on the cliffs farther along, and though I quite liked it I failed to see the significance of the holes through the figures’ upper bodies.
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With nothing else to see at Half Moon Bay I returned to the van and took the road leading into Heysham village; I hadn’t intended going there but I wanted to find a cold drink from somewhere. Across from the village car park the side window of the Curiosity Corner cafe was open for takeaway drinks and snacks so I went to get something from there and was charged £1.20 for a can of Tango – sheesh, these places certainly know how to charge over the odds for something! I was glad that at least I’d taken my own slab of fruit cake as to buy some cake from there would probably have cost an arm and several legs.
Suitably refreshed I took a walk along to the end of the village’s main street and was delighted to find that the church was open to visitors. I’d wanted to go in there when I visited the village last year but it was closed then so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity this time as I wanted to photograph the carved Viking hogback tombstone which dates from the 10th century. Unfortunately I couldn’t get proper shots of the stained glass windows as much of the church was blocked off but photographing the tombstone was no problem as it was close to the open side door.
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Back outside I took a wander round Glebe Garden as due to the palaver of rescuing an injured hedgehog last year I hadn’t seen much of the place at the time. It wasn’t a big garden but it was very pretty and as I walked round I discovered many delightful miniature houses and tiny animals set among the foliage and on cut down tree stumps.
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Walking back through the village I shot my last couple of photos and returned to the van; it was still only mid afternoon but I had to go to work later on and it was an hour’s drive back home, plus I wanted to make a brief stop on the way back.
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Driving back through Half Moon Bay I reversed the route from there back to the Golden Ball on the River Lune as I wanted to see if the area looked any different now that the tide was in. It certainly did, and far from there being no-one around when I was there earlier there were several cars and trailers parked along the road and a few people out on jet skis, with a couple of families sitting on the grass while their kids and dogs played at the water’s edge.
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With my day out finishing exactly where it began I did the journey home with no problems and arrived back with just enough time to get changed before going to work. All in all it had been a good day out, and though I had no wish to return to the nature reserve or Half Moon Bay it had been good to visit them both just to see what they were like – and with the healthy dose of sea air for myself and Poppie we both slept well that night.

 

Scavenger photo hunt – June

Not having taken part in the photo challenge for the last couple of months, and almost forgetting about it this time, I’ve just managed to sort out a hastily put-together selection of shots for this months topics which are – my garden, flowers, insects, sunset/sunrise, something wild, and my own choice – so here goes.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a gardener, never have been, never will be, and my idea of gardening is ‘plant it, leave it, and if it survives then great’, so any work I do outdoors is limited to cutting the grass and trimming the shrubs. While I was strimming the back garden a couple of weeks ago a very pretty moth fluttered out of the long grass – I’d never seen one like that before and as I also discovered several foxgloves and a few other flowers I’ve never had before I decided to leave a large patch of grass uncut to encourage any wild creatures who wish to visit. To a serious gardener some of these things may very well be classed as weeds, but then a weed is only a wild flower growing in the wrong place and in my garden it doesn’t matter.
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My garden – one of the ‘wild’ bits
Just over a week ago I called in at my local Aldi on my way home from work and found some lovely little flowering plants for just 99p. I’ve seen these things in various gardens but never known what they are called so I just refer to them as ‘fluffy flowers’ though they are actually Celosia. There were a few different colours so I picked a red one – the primulas I put on Sophie’s little patch of garden in February died off in April when the weather became warm so I got this as a replacement. I chose red as not only is it my favourite colour but Sophie’s collar was red too.
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Flowers – the new plant for Sophie’s patch
I’ve taken a few photos of butterflies just recently but I wanted something a bit different for the next topic so a search of the archives came up with a couple of exotic creatures at Pili Palas butterfly house on Anglesey. To be honest I wasn’t particularly impressed with the place at the time, it promised ‘hundreds of butterflies flying all around you’ but all the ones I saw were completely docile and were either feeding on fruit or appeared to be asleep – I did get a few good photos though.

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Insects – an exotic butterfly feeding on fruit
The next shot was taken during the Easter weekend in April last year when I was camping at a small out-of-the-way campsite in Cumbria. I’d wakened very early one morning and looked out to see the deep colours of a lovely sunrise over the fells beyond the site – it was a photo worth taking so I grabbed the camera, went out to stand in front of the van and snatched a couple of shots before the sky became light enough to lose all its colour.
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Sunrise/sunset – Sunrise over the fells somewhere in Cumbria
My next shot was taken just a couple of days ago while out on a walk with Poppie. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a movement on the grass across a road and managed to grab the shot but I won’t say where I was as it will be included in my next Monday walk post.
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Something wild – rabbit or hare? I can’t decide
My final shot was taken while on a camping holiday during the long hot summer of 2018. It’s a great example of social isolation as it’s not a very well known place and I was the only person there at the time – and looking at the photo I’m wishing I was there now.
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My own choice – Portobello Beach, Anglesey
Well that just about wraps up my selections for this month’s challenge so I’ll be hopping over to Kate’s blog soon to see what photos others have chosen this time.

 

Lancaster Canal – Glasson Branch

The Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal was built to connect the main canal at Galgate to the River Lune estuary at Glasson Dock, with construction starting in 1820 and the branch opening in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its 42 miles the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin.
I’d walked along a short section of the canal one day last summer but this time I intended to explore the whole two-and-a-half mile length, which I did just eight days ago. Starting from Glasson Basin it was only a short distance to the first bridge, which was technically the last one as the locks and bridges are numbered from the junction with the main canal. The footpath was wide and grassy, bordered by hedges on the left, open fields across the canal and with the Bowland Fells in the distance. At the far side of the hedge near the second bridge was Glasson Marina Holiday Park, a medium-sized static caravan site, and once I was past there I was away from any form of civilisation until I got past the third bridge.
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View from the first bridge – Bridge 8
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View from Bridge 7
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View from Bridge 6
A short distance past Bridge 6 was Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green, a canalside hotel, bar and restaurant, currently closed but under normal circumstances probably a popular place to stop off for a drink on a warm sunny day. Bypassing the far side of the lock was a canal overflow channel and standing as still as a statue in the bottom end was a heron; I watched it for several minutes but it never moved an inch.
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Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green
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Just past Lock 6 was a short mooring platform then the canal curved round to the right and in less than ten minutes I was at Lock 5. Nearby a mother swan and her two young ones glided silently through the water and the bottom of the hedgerows were interspersed with large patches of oxeye daisies growing just a few feet from the path.

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Lock 5

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A hundred yards or so past the lock and its mooring platform, and close to Bridge 5, was a gap in the hedge and a gate where I could see over the fields beyond. A herd of cows mooched peacefully about in the nearest field and a bit farther along the path was a second gate with a notice warning off anyone who might think of going in there for whatever reason. I’ve often wondered if such notices are just the farmers’ way of discouraging people from trespassing on their land but this time it was true – there was a bull in the field, a very handsome red beast, but he disappeared down a dip in the land before I could get a photo of him.
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Another few minutes walking got me to Bridge 4 and Lock 4 and beyond the lock itself the land really opened out. The nearby hedges were low enough to see over and there were great views across the fields on both sides of the canal. Cows grazed peacefully by the waterside, some actually standing in the water itself; the field of cows changed to a field of sheep which then became a field of both cows and sheep, and there was no sound at all other than the various little birds as they flew about from one hedge to another.
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Bridge 4
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Lock 4

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Tortoiseshell butterfly
At Lock 3 the landscape changed again with the far side of the canal now being shaded by more trees. Farther on a solitary cow paddled and grazed at the water’s edge and in a field on my side of the canal an old Massey Ferguson tractor trundled along, turning the previously mown grass with its motorised hay rake. With the wrong wheels and half its bonnet missing it looked a bit of a mess but it was certainly doing its job.
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View from Lock 3

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At Lock 2 the canal widened out a bit near its mooring platform then narrowed again as it got closer to Lock 1. About halfway between the two locks were a pair of swans with the female busy rearranging the nest, and on a wooden post closer to Lock 1 I photographed my second butterfly of the afternoon.
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View from Lock 2

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Red Admiral butterfly
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Lock 1, Bridge 1
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Bridge 1

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At Bridge 1 I was at the junction with the main canal and my turn around point, Galgate Marina, was less than a quarter of a mile to the north. I hadn’t gone far when I started to see boats moored alongside the far bank and in the marina itself, in front of a narrowboat, was a swan with nine young ones. I’d just taken a photo of them when a lady in one of the boats shouted across that they all belonged to that one swan and her mate, which quite surprised me as I’ve never before seen one swan with so many young ones.
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Leaving the swans behind I set off back to Glasson Basin; I hadn’t started my walk until gone 3pm and time was now getting on so I walked back without stopping, though I did pause briefly by The Mill at Conder Green. The stork was still in the canal overflow channel, in exactly the same place as two hours previously – it hadn’t moved, and I was just beginning to think that it was a lifelike replica left there for some reason when it suddenly turned and looked like it was about to take off. I was glad it moved when it did or I would have wondered for a long while if it was real.
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Just before I reached Glasson Basin I passed a shrub with some pretty pink blooms and with one final shot I returned to the van. Although the walk had only been a total of five miles it had somehow seemed longer so it was now time to head for home and chill out for the rest of the evening.

 

A surprise in the garden

A couple of weeks ago while I was strimming the back garden a moth suddenly fluttered out of a clump of long grass and landed near my feet. I hadn’t seen one like that before so as it was a pretty colour I caught it and took it indoors to snatch a quick photo of it before setting it free again. Unfortunately it seemed as though I’d taken a slight nick out of its wing with the strimmer line but it didn’t seem to have affected it and it fluttered away quite happily once back in the garden.
A quick Google later on told me it was an Elephant Hawk moth and though I’d never seen one before they are apparently quite common. I only managed to get one shot of it though without risking it flying off into an inaccessible corner of the room so I’ve sourced the second photo from the internet.
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Elephant hawk moth
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Finding the moth actually encouraged me to be a bit lazy where cutting down the grass was concerned. I’d originally intended to cut the whole lot but having also discovered some hollyhocks and a few other flowers I’ve never had before – and I’ve no idea how they got there – I decided to leave a large uncut patch to act as a wildlife garden for any creatures who wish to visit. I don’t really ‘do’ gardening anyway – cutting the grass and trimming the fuchsias is just about my limit so encouraging wildlife by doing a bit less has got to be a win-win situation.

 

River Lune walk at Caton

My Monday walk this week was done on the last day of May and started from Bull Beck picnic site/car park just to the east of Caton village on the A683. Across from the car park and away from the road was a long tarmac footpath/cycle path, originally part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway which once ran between Lancaster and Leeds. The path ran through a tree shaded area for quite a distance first before opening out to fields then passing the back gardens of several Caton village houses before arriving at the pedestrian bridge over the River Lune.

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Stone carving showing the cycle path as the old railway line

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The bridge was very wide with seats on each side and the cycle path, which would once have been the old railway line, running through the centre. On one side, and only a hundred yards or so away, was the road bridge to Crook O’ Lune picnic site and beyond, and on the other side were extensive views over the river and surrounding countryside.
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Deciding to check out the picnic site first I crossed the bridge and followed another path uphill to the nearby car park. There wasn’t much to the picnic site itself, just a few benches set on a grassy area overlooking the river but the views were good with the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance, and there was another stone carving, this time depicting the view from that particular spot.
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Back down the hill from the car park I took the path heading east along the riverside; I knew that somewhere up ahead was a shallow weir so that was to be my turn round point. With no rain for several weeks the river was quite low, very shallow in places, and there were several stony beaches at intervals just below the riverbank.
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Retracing my steps and passing the picnic site I crossed back over the pedestrian bridge and found a path which took me to a gate where I could cross the road and get down to the river at the far side of the road bridge, then with a couple of shots taken from there I headed back to the gate.
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Taking a slightly different path from the gate I headed back towards the pedestrian bridge and on the grass nearby were two wooden otter sculptures. I wasn’t too keen on the first one, its tail was too long, but the second one was cute – I thought it looked rather like a little dog begging for a treat.
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Away from the wooded area by the bridge the path followed the riverside through open grazing land dotted with occasional trees and various flocks of sheep. Walking eastwards I eventually came to the weir and set back off the path was an odd looking square building set on top of a round concrete pillar and with steps up one side; according to the sign attached to the door this was the Caton Flow Measurement Station.
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A bit farther on I came to Artle Beck which flowed into the Lune from somewhere beyond Caton Village; it wasn’t as wide as the river but it was wide enough to need a decent wooden bridge to cross it. Farther on still was the waterworks bridge which carries four huge pipes taking water from Cumbria down to the Manchester area, and high up on the wall at the end of the bridge was a carved fresco with a Latin inscription. It looked rather worse for wear and the lettering was indistinct but I liked it enough to take a photo.
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Beyond the bridge the land got narrower, turning into a peninsula where the river doubled back on itself. Sheep were all over the place with some sheltering from the heat of the sun under a tree while others wandered about on one of the riverside beaches. A wide rocky beach extended right round the bend in the river and I had a wander down to the water’s edge there so Poppie could have a cooling paddle, in fact as it was such a hot day I was very tempted to do the same.
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Still following the river I headed back west and yet more beaches appeared down below both banks, though with the sun now in my eyes the best shots were taken looking back to the east. Soon the river curved round another wide bend, heading in the direction of Caton village, and it wasn’t too long before the noise of traffic told me that the main road wasn’t too far away.
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After a while the path became a rough track which left the riverside and became a lane running past meadows bordered by sweet smelling hawthorn hedges. Towards the end of the lane was an attractive looking white walled house set on its own in a surrounding garden and just past there I was back on the cycle path not far from the car park at Bull Beck.
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My walk – part 1 in red, part 2 clockwise in blue
Back at the van I decided to go in search of a cold can of something to quench my thirst as I’d used up my water supply on my walk. Unfortunately the Co-op shop in Caton village had a long queue outside it and joining it would have meant leaving Poppie in the hot van so I drove on to Halton village which didn’t seem to have a shop at all. There was however a road signposted to Lancaster so I took that, ending up on the northern outskirts of the city and not far from Morecambe.
It was still only mid afternoon so I took the next turn off for Morecambe itself and just before I arrived at the south end of the promenade I found a corner shop where I was able to get a drink and a snack. Heading north along the promenade I had to go as far as Happy Mount Park before I could find a roadside parking space; I did have a quick walk round the park as I hadn’t been there for many years but with various parts of it closed up and very unkempt it didn’t look particularly attractive so without taking any photos I returned to the van and had my drink and snack with far reaching views across to the hills of south Cumbria.
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I did, for one mad moment, consider walking back along the promenade as far as the clock tower but it was quite a distance and I’d gone far enough on my walk by the Lune, so with one final shot overlooking the bay I turned the van round and headed for home – I could do the promenade walk another time.

 

What goes around….

Comes around, as the saying goes.
Michael came home from work at the beginning of the week and said he didn’t want me to make him anything to eat just then as he’d had something at work, so he would go to the chippy down the road later on. It must have been about 9.30pm when he finally went out but he was back pretty quickly saying the chippy had closed early so he would phone for a takeaway instead.
Now the takeaway place he phoned is one he’s used before but not on a regular basis; apart from a kebab I don’t know what else he ordered but as our local corner shop was closed he’d asked for ‘a can of pop’ (it didn’t matter what sort) to be included with his order. Simple enough you would think, but when his order was delivered he found that instead of a can of pop they had sent…. a poppadom!
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What Michael asked for…
Poppadom isolated on a white background.
And what he actually got (both photos from the Internet)
The look on his face said it all but fortunately he wasn’t particularly bothered about it. I couldn’t help laughing though  – I reckon that was payback for the day a couple of weeks ago when he promised me pizza and brought me a sausage roll instead!

 

Lancaster Canal & Guy’s Thatched Hamlet

This short-ish unplanned walk was done on the same day as my walk along Skippool Creek, featured in my previous post. Driving home from the creek I passed Guy’s Thatched Hamlet and as it was still only mid afternoon I decided on the spur of the moment to stop and have a short walk along the canal. The entrance to the hamlet had been closed off so I parked on the road and took the steps down to the canalside; the hamlet itself was in complete contrast to when I’d been there last summer – back then it had been very busy, now there was no-one around except someone in a moored up boat and a couple of guys fishing from the towpath.
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I decided to have a look round the hamlet first. With several overgrown flower beds, grass which needed mowing and no-one else around it felt very much like a ghost village but at least I was able to wander round and take a few photos without anyone getting in the way. On some of the whitewashed lodge walls I discovered various murals and on the outside walls of a couple of the shops were several old and quirky advertising signs.
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Walking northwards first I passed a line of boats moored at intervals along the opposite bank and the pleasant looking back gardens of the houses and small businesses situated along the nearby main road. On my left was a caravan park and after a distance I came to a narrow road bridge so I made that my turn round point. Steps led up to the road so I went up to take a quick look and get a couple of shots from each direction then headed back towards the hamlet.
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Back past Guy’s I walked under the road bridge and headed south for a while. Here there was nothing but open fields, sweet smelling hawthorn hedges and the pretty canal stretching in front of me, and away from any road noise the only sounds were birdsong and the occasional bleat of a sheep.
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On such a glorious afternoon and in such a lovely location I could have walked for miles but having already covered quite a distance at Skippool Creek I didn’t go too far before I turned round and headed back to the van. This part of the canal was really lovely, and now having checked it out on Google maps it’s a place where I intend to do a much longer walk in the not-too-distant future.

 

Skippool Creek and the River Wyre

With the continuing very warm and sunny weather being too good to miss, mid morning on the Bank Holiday Monday towards the end of May saw me setting off for somewhere I hadn’t been to for almost ten years, a place where Poppie and I could have a good walk and I could get some decent photos.
Skippool Creek, a historic docks area, is situated on the western bank of the River Wyre about three miles south of Fleetwood and Knott End on the coast. In constant use from the end of the Middle Ages it was a major trading port for hundreds of years, with goods arriving from all over the world. Flax was brought in from Ireland and the Baltic, timber came from North America and tallow from Russia, while closer to home limestone and oats were transported from Cumbria and coal from Preston. Eventually though, the popularity of the port waned with the opening of Fleetwood’s port in the 1840s, trading dwindled and the docks gradually fell into disrepair; nowadays the creek is owned by Wyre Council and provides moorings and jetties for a variety of private sailing craft although much of the area is more of a boat graveyard than anything else.
A narrow minor road off the main road to Thornton took me down to the creek. Half a dozen very pleasant large detached and semi detached houses were situated along one side of the road which ended at the premises and slipway of Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club; halfway along was a free car park so my walk started from there. The creek itself ran parallel to the road and quite close to it for a distance before curving round to join the main river, and many of the wooden jetties had boats moored up at the ends.
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Where the creek joined the river the marshy land became much wider with wooden walkways leading across it from the roadside to the jetties and moored up boats. Here the area became a hotch-potch of timber structures, seaworthy fishing and sailing boats, and serviceable trailers mixed in with many abandoned and unloved small wrecks beached on the grass, and there was even a sunken boat fastened by several long ropes to the end of a jetty.
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The most well known wreck just there was the MV Good Hope, a fishing trawler thought to have been built in the 1830s, though other information says it was more than likely built in Scotland just after WW2 as there was a boat of that name registered in Wick at that time. It was launched in 1948 and stayed in Scotland for over twenty years; in 1975 it was recorded as fishing from Fleetwood and owned by a local man, then in 1984 it was decommissioned and subsequently dry-land moored at Skippool Creek. With rotting timbers on what had once been the upper deck, a collapsed wheelhouse and the bow propped up to stop the whole thing from tipping over it was a mess, though strangely there was a pretty little wrought iron gate across the adjacent walkway.
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Crossing the slipway in front of the yacht club premises I could see that a few people were taking advantage of the high tide and indulging in a spot of sailing, with several boats out on the water. I’d left the creek behind and was now alongside the main river with a wide and pleasant tree lined path leading from the slipway and past the many wooden walkways across the marshy grass to the water.
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After a while the path opened out to fields on my left and the farther I got from the sailing club the scruffier everything on the right became. The well kept jetties near the club were replaced by a long row of walkways built just above the grass, many with rotten and missing boards, jetties which were anything but straight, and a mish-mash of wooden sheds and small workshops cobbled together from whatever timber the various owners could get their hands on. Many of the jetties had small sheds built on them and one in particular was so crooked it looked like the slightest breeze would blow the whole thing over.
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Abandoned and derelict boats were everywhere, some of them so far up on the grass it looked like they hadn’t seen water for a long time. The saddest sight for me though was towards the end of the row – an old wooden fishing trawler which had been used as a permanent live-aboard houseboat.
At one time the grass in front of it had been sectioned off into a small well kept private garden with fences and a neat little shed, and on my previous visit to Skippool nine years ago the boat itself had looked quite attractive with its bright paintwork. Now though it was just a broken down wreck with rotten timbers, a collapsed wheelhouse and a huge hole in the side of the hull – such a shame when it had once looked so nice.
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Beyond the row of walkways the path made a U-turn over a narrow drainage channel and continued to follow the river, with more open fields on the left where the fences were interspersed with sections of hedgerow. A gate led to a pleasant looking tree lined lane and the sweet scent of hawthorn was everywhere; I even found something which doesn’t seem to be too common in my local area – pink hawthorn.
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Round the next bend I came across something I didn’t expect to see – a boat sitting slap bang in the middle of the path. There was another one several yards farther along, sitting on the grass just off the path, and though the first one looked like it needed a bit of attention the second one seemed to be in good condition. Assuming that no-one would just dump a couple of boats right there I could only think that maybe they had been washed up in February’s heavy storms, which made me wonder if the storms had also been responsible for the extensive damage to the old houseboat.
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Just past the boats and set back off the path were a couple of benches; the first one was plain but the second was a memorial bench with a lovely carving at each end of the backrest. Past more fields and the path split into three with the lower one continuing along the riverside, the middle one going through a woodland area and the upper one leading up a few steps into a sloping well mown meadow. Just for curiosity I went a little way up the slope; a couple of picnic benches were set to one side and looking back I got a good view of the river.
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Back on the lower path it was another twenty minutes before I reached my goal – a car park, cafe and picnic area close to a slipway used by people with jet skis and speedboats. It was a shame the cafe was closed as it would have been nice to indulge in some cake and a can of Coke but I found a vacant bench overlooking the river and watched for a while as various jet skis zoomed up and down. Sitting in the sun with a great view in front of me was lovely but eventually Poppie started to get restless so it was time to reverse the walk and head back to the van.
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By the time I got back to the creek the tide had gone down far enough to expose part of the mud banks along the side and the farther along the creek I got the less water was in there; it wouldn’t be long until the boats moored near the end would be settled on the mud until the next high tide.
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Leaving the creek I drove round to Hambleton village on the other side of the river and found a Spar shop where I got a chocolate bar and something I’ve not had for many many years – a can of Barrs American Cream Soda. In fact it’s so long since I last had some that I thought it had gone out of production a long while ago. Behind the shop was a small car park with a pleasant view over some nearby fields so I parked up there and whiled away twenty minutes or so with my drink and snack before heading for home.
Thinking about my walk along Skippool Creek and the Wyre nothing much had changed in the nine years since my last visit – the scruffy parts were possibly a bit scruffier but to me that scruffiness gave the place a certain quirky charm. With perfect weather I’d really enjoyed the walk and made a mental note not to leave it so long before I make another visit – and maybe by then the cafe will be open and I can enjoy a drink and some cake.

 

Poppie’s great adventure

Last Thursday, a week after my previous walk round part of the Jumbles reservoir, I made a return visit to get some more photos of the old quarry as I’d been told by someone at work who goes fishing that it was now completely dry. This time I parked in the car park near the café on the east side of the reservoir and set off from there in my usual anti-clockwise direction.
The water level in the reservoir itself was definitely lower than the previous week and not far from the end of the first bridge after the café I went down onto one of the beaches which had increased in area as the water level dropped. A slight breeze took some of the heat out of the sun and it was so pleasant that I found a flat bit of rock and sat for a while just enjoying the view across the water.
It was when I decided to continue walking that Poppie decided to have her adventure, almost giving me a heart attack in the process. I don’t know how she managed it but with one strong tug she slipped her lead and was off like a shot, down the beach and into the water in pursuit of three ducks swimming nearby. At first they were swimming parallel to the beach but then they decided to head out towards the far side of the reservoir;  I thought Poppie might give up then but she didn’t and no matter how much I called her she just wouldn’t come back – she wanted those ducks and was out to get one.
Of course by then several unpleasant scenarios flashed through my brain at a million miles an hour – it was too dangerous for me to go in and get her, if she reached the other side she would be totally lost and it was a long way for me to run round, if she couldn’t make it to the other side she would probably drown somewhere in the middle….it was my worst nightmare.
Fortunately the ducks eventually turned back towards the beach, then all at once they just took off and flew away – and with nothing to chase Poppie finally gave up and headed back towards me. She was near enough to being exhausted by the time I finally hauled her out of the water so I was glad she came back when she did as the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to the quarry that day. In spite of the very warm weather Poppie was shivering with cold from her adventure so I just went straight back to the van and drove home, where I gave her a warm shower and a good towelling down to dry her off.
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Poppie’s lead is actually meant for a much bigger and stronger dog and it has a very good clip so I don’t know how on earth she managed to get free but I’ll be keeping a firm eye on her in the future whenever we are near any water and ducks.

 

A discovery walk beyond the Jumbles

Just over three weeks after my walk round the Jumbles reservoir in late April I was back again in May to search out somewhere I’d found out about since that walk. On previous occasions, if I’ve driven there instead of walking all the way from home, I’ve either parked at work which is close to the main road to the south of the reservoir or in the car park near the café on the east side but this time I parked just off the main road on the west side. I’d never parked there before and though it’s part of the Jumbles Country Park it was quite a distance from the reservoir itself.
After seeing a mention of it on a website somewhere I was on a mission to find Ousel Nest Quarry which, in spite of its name, was absolutely nowhere near Ousel Nest Meadows where I saw the jay on my previous walk – in fact the two places were separated by two meadows, woodland, a railway line, grazing fields and a long length of the lane leading down to the reservoir. Just off the car park was a timber signpost pointing the way to the quarry; following the path across a meadow I came to an overgrown pond surrounded by trees and with the most peculiar contraption sticking up out of the water. It looked rather like an old fashioned toilet but I can only assume it may have been some sort of a water pump.
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From the pond the path took me down a grassy hillside where carpets of bluebells grew and through a pleasant woodland; it was a hot day so the momentary coolness of the shade was very welcome. Emerging from the woodland I came to a long narrow meadow on my right with a path leading into a larger and wider meadow, and through the trees on the right towards the far end I could see part of a quarry face.
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A short grassy path took me from the main path to a wooden walkway over what would have been a pond and a narrow gulley; I’d read that there was a waterfall at the top end of the quarry but in the continuing warm weather it was non-existent and the pond and gulley had dried up. The quarry itself wasn’t a big place and much of it was overgrown but I got half a dozen photos then retraced my steps through the meadows.
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Eventually I reached a tarmac path running between the back fences of a row of modern houses and the railway line to Blackburn. At the far side of the railway line the path became a rough farm track bisecting a couple of very pleasant fields where several horses grazed peacefully, then finally I reached the lane which would take me to the west side of the reservoir.
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The next part of the walk was a reverse of the previous one – past the bungalow and big house at the end of the lane, past the sailing club grounds, the picnic/fishing area and the stone cottages, and round to the bridge at the north end of the reservoir. As I always walk round the Jumbles anti-clockwise it seemed strange to be going the opposite way but this was only a small section of the walk – the full walk would actually be an anti-clockwise circular one from where I first parked up.
When I reached the reservoir itself it was immediately obvious that the water level had dropped considerably in the three weeks since I was last there. The creeks and inlets had either dried up completely or were well on their way to being so and the anglers were sitting much farther away from the picnic/fishing area than they had been before.
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Beyond the bridge the old quarry was well on the way to becoming a desert, with its usually invisible feeder stream meandering its way through the sandy bottom. Standing down by the stream it was relatively easy to work out how much the water level had dropped – I’m 4ft 11ins tall and the main part of the quarry bottom was almost level with my head, though under normal circumstances it would be under a substantial depth of water.
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Across the bridge I took the path to the waterfall I’d seen three weeks earlier though this time I kept going; I was now in unfamiliar territory though I had a rough idea where I would end up. Through the trees, past pools and shallow parts of the stream and the path eventually brought me out by a row of out-of-the-way stone cottages with very pleasant gardens.
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A short distance past the cottages I crossed a bridge to a pleasant cobbled lane where a couple of small cul-de-sacs of modern houses were mixed in with older houses and more stone cottages. While the modern houses had open plan gardens the older houses all had enclosed gardens and pretty flowers and shrubs were everywhere.
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The cobbled lane took me up onto the main road on the southern outskirts of Edgworth village and from there it was all road walking back to where I’d left the van. Near the junction of the main road and the B road into Chapeltown village was St. Anne’s Church so even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to go in I decided to take a quick look. Set back off the corner was a long private driveway behind double wrought iron gates and just to one side of the gates was an old cast iron water pump in a stone trough; it was only after I’d taken the photos that I realised parts of the pump were decorated with frogs.

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About half a mile along the road from the church was an old World War 2 pill box standing in the corner of a field; it seemed a strange place for something like that and I’ve been able to find out very little about it other than it’s a Type 24, whatever that is, and would have been built in 1940 or 41. Unfortunately any thoughts of looking inside were scuppered by a couple of teenage girls who were already in there but there probably wasn’t much to see anyway.
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The road continued for maybe another mile or so, past open fields and the lane leading to Turton Tower then under a railway bridge, past the currently closed King William pub/restaurant and a row of attractive semis to a row of stone cottages with neat front gardens and great views over open countryside, then across the road and just down the hill was the car park which was the start and end of my walk.
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For once I didn’t have my pedometer with me so I had no idea of the distance I’d covered but checking the time on my phone I’d been roaming round for just over three hours. It had been a good walk and I’d discovered somewhere previously unknown to me but now it was time to drive back home and relax for a while with a cold drink before turning my thoughts to work.