Only in Ireland…..

Early on Monday evening Michael left here for a holiday in Ireland to coincide with his birthday which is tomorrow (Thursday). He travelled overnight by coach and ferry, arriving in Dublin at 6am yesterday morning and getting a coach to Roscrea almost immediately, finally getting to the family home just before 9am. He’d already had a breakfast on the ferry so Nellie made him a brew and being tired from the long journey he took himself off to bed, finally waking up at 4.30pm in time for a cooked tea.
At lunch time today he phoned me to let me know he was okay and to tell me a couple of rather funny stories. When he’d got on the coach at Dublin yesterday and said he wanted a ticket to Roscrea the driver asked him if he knew where he was going – well obviously he did, he’d just asked for a ticket for there! However what the driver really meant was did Michael know the way to where he was going – it seems it was the driver’s first time on his own on that route and he wasn’t sure which way to go or where the stops were, and he actually stood up at the front of the coach and made an announcement to the other passengers to say that if anyone knew he was going wrong along the way then to shout out and put him right. Luckily it’s a direct route with not many stops so with Michael sitting in the seat directly behind the driver ‘just in case’ they eventually got to Roscrea – the final destination was Limerick so hopefully the driver eventually ended up there.
The second funny story concerned Michael himself. He’d taken a packet of bagels with him which he’d brought from work specially to give to Nellie when he arrived yesterday, and he took great pains to tell her that they weren’t just any old bagels, they’d been made personally by him during the course of his previous day’s shift at work and they were specially for her. So this morning he got up and went downstairs for breakfast, only to find that along with scrambled eggs Nellie had done him…..three bagels! Now if that isn’t very much like taking coals to Newcastle I don’t know what is! Of course he wouldn’t upset Nellie by not eating them but he impressed on her that she really must have the other three herself as that’s why he’d taken them. It just seems so funny that he’d gone all the way from here to Roscrea and ended up eating his own bagels, but as we said of both stories – only in Ireland…..!

Winter Hill fire – a week in pictures

The wildfire which has devastated several square miles of local moorland not far from my home over the last sixteen days is now mostly out and resources are being scaled back with the number of fire crews reduced to nine, but there are still several hotspots in the peat which are being tracked by a Lancashire Fire Service thermal imaging drone and dealt with by the crews stationed at strategic points around the moorland. Over the last eight days, while out and about during my daily life, I’ve stopped off at a couple of places where I’ve been able to get some photos of the east side of the moors, although due to the long range involved and the smoky atmosphere the quality of some of them isn’t the best.
The following five shots were all taken in the afternoon of Friday July 6th from fields at the Last Drop Village at Bromley Cross –
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The next six were taken from the same location on the morning of Tuesday July 10th – smoke still rising but greatly reduced
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Burnt moorland close to the tv mast
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Burnt moorland above Scout Road
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The next couple of shots were taken at lunch time on Thursday July 12th from the road between the Egerton area and Belmont Village. Although the smoke was going less I could see one area where it was actually creeping down the hill – I did take a couple of shots of it but it was too far away to make even a half-decent photo.
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Fire crew stationed next to Springs Reservoir on the main road to Belmont
Late that afternoon the sky clouded over somewhat and by 6pm it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs though it only lasted for about half an hour. The rest of the evening was fine, though when I got up on Friday morning I could see that it had rained overnight – probably nowhere near as much as was needed to put the fire out completely but at least it would help. The day was dull and cooler than previously and again we had a downpour during the late afternoon but it didn’t last long and the evening turned out to be quite pleasant. Yesterday, to counteract the assumption that the fire is now out completely, the Lancashire Fire Service staff from Bacup fire station posted a photo taken at 5am that morning of flames breaking out in a hotspot.
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Hotspot photo from Lancashire FRS
With the very brief damp spell over the weather yesterday was back to being hot and sunny, and no longer having any smell of smoke in the atmosphere that morning I decided to take the dogs for a walk to see if I could get any closer-up photos of some of the burnt moorland. The main A675 road up to Belmont Village is still closed so I drove up as far as the boss’s house, which was as far as I could go, left the van there and walked up through the nearby farm and the fields onto Scout Road, which is also still closed off. With no immediate sign of the fire it was hard to believe that the currently quiet road had probably been chaos not long ago, and the only tell-tale sign was the long fire hose made up of many sections coupled together and stretching the whole length of the road.
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Fire hose stretching along Scout Road
As I walked along I began to see signs of the fire; a field on my left, where a couple of horses were quietly grazing, was backed by a steep bank covered in scorched and blackened earth, and as I got close to the top of the bad bend in the road more blackened land came into view. The road at that point had acted as a natural fire break and all the fire had been contained on one side, but I was quite surprised to see a burnt area on the opposite side, at the top of the path leading down to the quarry where I walked only a few weeks ago. It wasn’t a very big area though so I’m assuming that the wind had blown some sparks across from the main fire and this one was extinguished fairly quickly.
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The minor fire was in the foreground – the road runs between there and the mound behind
With a fire engine and crew down towards the bottom of the road, and not wanting to go too far down in case I shouldn’t really have been there, I turned round there and retraced my steps along the road and through the fields back to where I’d left the van. From there I drove the long way round to Belmont Village, parked near my friend’s house then went to see what I could see from that side of the moorland. In actual fact there wasn’t really much to  see from the village as the bulk of the fire had been over the top of the hill and more on the Smithills and Rivington side so I went back to the main road and walked down and up the hill to the San Marino restaurant, which wasn’t far. There was a fire crew based in the car park there so after I’d taken a couple of photos I got talking to them – one of them was quite taken with Sophie and Poppie and he even gave them a drink of bottled water.
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Parts of the burnt moorland seen from San Marino
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The dogs get a drink from a fireman
Thanking him for the drink I walked back to the van and made my way back home via the road from Belmont to Egerton, stopping just once in a lay-by to take another couple of photos, and looking over at the moorland from there it was possible to see pockets of smoke still rising from a few hotspots on the hillside. The firemen had told me that the crews will probably remain on duty until the end of the week continually dampening down the ground, and only once they are sure that the fire is completely out everywhere will they leave.
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Hard to see on here but smoke is still rising from parts of the hillside
Those were my last shots of the day and back at home I made a coffee and downloaded my photos onto the pc. I’d been out for three-and-a-half hours and done a fair bit of walking, and though I still had some shopping to do I was going to relax for a while first – and hopefully it won’t be long before I read an update to say the the Winter Hill fire is out completely and the battle has finally been won.
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Red – enclosed area affected by fire, approx 5 square miles   Blue – roads/lanes closed to traffic   White – footpaths closed   Yellow – tv mast and buildings   Orange – Rivington Pike tower   Green – where I took the photos from

A special day out – the Coronation St. Tour

If anyone reading this doesn’t regularly watch Coronation St. then you probably won’t have a clue who or what I’m writing about, but on Saturday I went on the official tour of the soap’s new outdoor set. The tours started at the end of May this year and are only on selected Saturdays – booking opened at 8am on May 3rd, and having previously asked my ex’s sister-in-law Louise if she fancied going (she’s an avid watcher of the show) and decided on a mutually convenient date, I got online just after 8am that morning and booked Saturday’s 2pm slot for both of us. Our day started at 11am after I’d driven over to Louise’s house between here and Bury; I left my van there and after a quick coffee she drove us to the nearest tram station for the tram into Manchester city centre where we transferred to another tram which would take us to MediaCity and the ITV studios.
With half an hour to kill when we got there we had a wander through the nearby gardens and along the waterfront then went to Dock 10 of the ITV buildings to check in. Looking upwards the whole of the length of the foyer ceiling was awash with open umbrellas – the Umbrella Project launched just over a week ago on June 28th as part of an initiative to raise awareness of ADHD and autism and it certainly made a bright splash of colour on the foyer ceiling.
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The Umbrella Project at MediaCity

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At the check-in desk we were each given a tour pass and a map of the Coronation Street set then we congregated in a small group near a mock-up of the Rovers Return frontage. Our tour guide was called Tiffany, and given her quite young age she was very knowledgeable about the programme and its characters right from when it first started back in 1960 to the present day. Following a 10-minute introduction she led us out of the building, across the bridge over the river and round to the outdoor set – we had to go through two closed-in turnstiles manned by a couple of burly security guards then we entered the set on ‘Viaduct Street’ and close to Dev’s corner shop. After giving us some more information we were free to wander round and take photos before meeting up again round the corner outside ‘Underworld’.
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The sign on the outside of the studio building
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The bistro (owned by Michelle and Robert) on Viaduct Street
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Kevin Webster’s second garage, burnt out in January 2017
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Corner shop flat currently occupied by Adam, Daniel, Sinead and Flora
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Dev’s corner shop and Kevin’s house
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The Kabin newsagent’s
Tiffany explained that it took two years to build the new set and although all the houses are almost full-scale they aren’t set up to be lived in, but for continuity the areas immediately behind the front doors are exactly the same as the studio lots where the indoor scenes are filmed, and we were free to look through any letterboxes and take shots if we could get them. The jars of sweets in The Kabin are apparently real, although they’ve been there so long you wouldn’t want to eat them, and the Underworld factory is actually set up with some sewing machines.
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Kevin and Tyrone’s garage
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Inside Underworld’s entrance
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The Platt’s house
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Chesney’s house
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Ken Barlow’s house
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Norris’s house
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Looking through the door blind at Audrey’s salon
Unfortunately when we got to the end of Coronation Street itself I found it impossible to take a decent shot of the Rovers Return as that’s where the official photos were being taken so there was always someone in my view, but saying that Louise and I joined the queue and had our photo taken together in the pub doorway. At first we thought that having an official photo would be the money-making catch of the tour so we were surprised when Tiffany said that there was no obligation to buy and also we could hand her our own cameras and she would be quite happy to take snaps using those – it was a great idea but not knowing if she would be familiar with my own camera settings I decided to give that one a miss.
After having some time to wander along ‘Rosamund Street’ and the alley behind the houses (where Louise and I got an unexpected surprise) we gathered at the junction of ‘Rosamund Street’ and ‘Victoria Street’ to hear some more interesting facts and figures from Tiffany, then after a lot more photo taking we moved on to the far end of the street and the newest parts of the set, some of which haven’t yet featured in the programmes. Going into the alley behind the pub we were surprised to find the back yard beer garden exactly as it appears in the programmes – it was a ‘dressed set’ and there was, understandably, a gate across saying ‘no access’ though it wasn’t very high and we could easily take photos from outside it.
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The Rovers’ beer garden
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A little way down the alley, and painted on a back yard wall, was the mural done by Craig Tinker and his then girlfriend Caitlin Ryan in early 2016 as a memorial to Maddie Heath who died after being caught up in an explosion at the builder’s yard – I’ve no idea who painted it in real life but it’s very pretty. The alley turned a corner there and a few yards along was another ‘no access – dressed set’ gate and we were looking down the alley behind the rest of the Coronation Street houses. With rough brick walls, back gates and wheelie bins it looked and felt more like a real-life back alley than part of an outdoor set for a tv programme.
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Maddie’s memorial
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Along ‘Rosamund Street’ there was the chippy and medical centre set back up a slope, then Tracy’s flower shop on the corner – when I looked through the window I could see it was actually set up as a proper florist’s shop but unfortunately the interior was too dark to get a decent photo. Across the street and round the corner at the ‘dead end’ part of ‘Victoria Street’ was the taxi office and on the opposite corner was Prima Doner takeaway, and looking through the letterbox I could see it was set up as a proper takeaway. Unfortunately I completely forgot to have a look through the letterbox at Roy’s Rolls but I did have a look through the community centre one and it certainly looked like a place where a playgroup and other activities could be held.
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The chippy and the medical centre
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Tracy Barlow’s flower shop
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Streetcars cab office
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Prima Doner takeaway, Roy’s cafe and the community centre
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Inside Prima Doner
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Inside the community centre
Diagonally across from the community centre was the scruffy and untidy-looking builder’s yard now run by Gary Windass then back across the street was the ultra-modern Victoria Court apartment building, looking rather incongruous set among the older properties and what were once old warehouses. After a large space set aside for ‘residents-only parking’ for the apartments we came to Speed Daal, the restaurant set up by Zeedan Nazir and now managed by Sophie Webster after both the character and the actor playing him left the show; peering in through the fancy glass in the door I managed to get a shot of the sign on the inside foyer wall.
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The builder’s yard
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Victoria Court apartments
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Speed Daal restaurant
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From there we came to the new extension of the set, officially unveiled in March this year and which includes a tram station, Costa Coffee shop, a Co-op food store and a community garden on the corner. Although the tram station exterior has briefly been seen in the background of a couple of episodes and the community garden has featured several times in recent story lines none of the other businesses have yet been referred to or featured, though some characters have occasionally been seen carrying takeaway Costa Coffee cups. The community garden was quite pretty in a scruffy-looking way and though it looked like it needed a good tidy-up it does feature a memorial bench which was specially commissioned to pay tribute to the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017.
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Tattoo shop and snooker hall (not yet featured)
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Tram station exterior
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Costa Coffee (not yet featured)
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Co-op food store (not yet featured)
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Inside the Co-op
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Victoria St. community garden
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Community garden memorial bench
The tour ended there and with a final few snippets of information from Tiffany we were free to make our way round the outside of the set and the studios and back across the bridge to the main building, where we could collect our official photos and any Coronation Street merchandise we wanted to buy. And this is where Louise and I got an unexpected bargain – the photos were priced at £7.50 each or two for £10 so we said we would have two and split the cost, however the girl on the desk said we were entitled to one free anyway so we decided we would just have one extra instead of two. So we paid the £7.50 for one but when the girl handed them over in a bag we found she’d given us three, meaning we had one each plus an extra one – and neither Louise nor I could figure how she’d worked that one out but we weren’t complaining. And we even got to keep our tour passes, which I fully expected that we would have had to hand in at the end of the tour.
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The outside of the photo folder
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Our official photo – I’m the blonde having a bad hair day!
From there we had another wander along by the waterfront and the gardens where I was able to take quite a few photos – with several places to eat and drink and the pleasant gardens to sit and relax in it was a lovely area and I was impressed enough to want to go back on my own just to spend time exploring. After our wander we got the tram back into Manchester centre, found somewhere to have a snack and a drink and had a wander through part of the huge Arndale shopping centre before getting the tram back to Radcliffe where Louise had left her car.
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Over the bridge to Coronation Street
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The Imperial War Museum North
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Looking down the River Irwell
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The Lowry is along there somewhere
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Gardens outside ITV and BBC buildings
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Along the waterfront – North Bay
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Huron Basin
Back at Louise’s we had a coffee and talked over our trip, when we both agreed that we’d had a great time, then I finally arrived back home at 7pm. The tour had cost £35 each which wasn’t exactly cheap, but we’d both said that it was definitely value for money and much better than we’d expected – Michael had actually paid for mine as a birthday present. Tiffany had been a great tour guide, not only imparting various facts and information but also interacting well with us as individuals and as a group in spite of her relatively young age. It had surprised us too that apart from the obvious ‘no-go’ areas there was no restriction on us taking photos anywhere, in fact we’d been positively encouraged to take as many as we wanted, and there was no pressure on us to buy an official one either. All in all it had been a great tour and I’d certainly go again if only to take photos of the things I missed this time – looking at the website it seems to be fully booked for the rest of this season so all I can say is roll on next year!


** After yesterday’s problem of my comment facility disappearing for this post it seems like I’ve managed to rectify the matter, so if anyone has tried to leave a comment and couldn’t then please try again as you should now be able to. Anyway, I’d love to know what people think of my day out!  🙂

The battle continues

The huge moorland fire which has been burning just a couple of miles up the road from home is now in its ninth day, and though much of it has been extinguished there are still many parts of the moors with peat continuing to burn just under the surface of the ground, evidenced by the large patches of white smoke rising up in many places and the presence of the United Utilities helicopter as it continually drops water to soak the land. Road blocks are still in place and an exclusion zone has now been set up to keep people away from the affected area.
On Wednesday I had to clean at the boss’s house, which is up the main road about halfway between my house and part of the fire, and thinking ahead to going up to my friend’s at Belmont Village I drove past the boss’s place to see how far up the road I could get. The answer was not very far as the rest of the road was blocked off at the junction with Scout Road and it was easy to see why – with the exception of one small corner much of the land above the lower end of Scout Road and along the main road heading towards Belmont was a blackened and charred mess, and with no traffic the normally quite busy road was eerily silent.
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Fire crew near the bottom of Scout Road
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Burnt land above Scout Road
When I’d finished my work at the boss’s house I left the van there and took a walk through the nearby farm and fields to see if I could see anything from a different viewpoint. Birds tweeted and chirped in the nearby trees and hedgerows, and butterflies flitted among the tall grasses and wild flowers – it was an idyllic, if rather hot, summer’s day and it was only the constant noise of the sometimes unseen helicopter which gave a clue to the nearby serious situation. Although the path would eventually take me up onto part of Scout Road I didn’t want to go that far if I wasn’t supposed to be there so I just took a couple of long-distance shots then turned and made my way back to the van.
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A tranquil country scene
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The helicopter hard at work
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Some of the burnt moorland on Winter Hill
Yesterday morning I found out that the country road between Belmont Village and the Egerton/Bromley Cross areas on the northern outskirts of town had been reopened to allow villagers in and out of Belmont without having to go miles out of their way, so when I left work at Bromley Cross I went straight over to my friend Janet’s place. Driving along that road I had a good view over to the moors and Winter Hill so I pulled up in a lay-by to take a few photos; the fire damage was extensive and there was still smoke rising from the ground in many places – and that was just one section of the whole moor.
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Smoke still rising from the burnt areas just below the skyline
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A very smoky view
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The zig-zag path on the right is where I would walk from the road up to the tv mast
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The support by local people for the fire crews and mountain rescue teams working long exhausting hours in the current hot weather has been fantastic. Individuals and schools have donated bottled water, energy drinks, biscuits, crisps, chocolate bars and other snacks as well as sun cream, insect repellent, socks and caps, and a local supermarket has donated a refrigerated vehicle to keep all the food and drink cool. On Wednesday and yesterday a local branch of McDonald’s provided 200 meals for the fire crews and a sports massage place within a town centre fitness studio is offering free massages this weekend to the firefighters and rangers who have worked all week. Also starting today a local micro brewery/pub will have a 50 litre keg of beer available for any firefighters to have a free pint after their shift and it will stay on tap until they finish it.
The children at the primary school just up the road from me have painted some great messages of thanks and encouragement onto flattened cardboard boxes and these have been fastened to the roadside barriers outside the school where the fire crews can see them as they drive up and down the road – I noticed them on Wednesday when I was driving back from the boss’s house and thought they were so touching that I just had to stop and take a photo of them.
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There’s been a couple of unexpected rays of hope in this disaster though. At the beginning of the week a firefighter rescued a small bird which he found among the smouldering grass, and on Tuesday evening a member of the mountain rescue team saw three deer and a few pheasants on the moor, showing that in spite of the large-scale devastation some creatures have managed to escape and are still alive. It will take a long time for the moorland to fully recover from this disaster but for now I can only hope that when the fire is finally extinguished for good and the ground cools down more creatures will find their way back there and continue to live their lives in peace.

Praying for rain

It’s not often you would ever hear me wish for rain as I can’t stand the stuff, and the current hot sunny weather suits me just fine, but locally there’s been a disaster of such huge proportions that I think many people would welcome a rain storm just now. Soon after 3pm on Thursday last week a wildfire started on Winter Hill not far from the tv mast – about three hours later, as I took the rubbish round to the skip at work, I noticed a big plume of smoke rising up some distance away but couldn’t tell from there where it was coming from. It was only as I was driving home and heading in the right direction that I saw that the smoke was coming from the moorland only a couple of miles up the road from home.
Initially a total of twelve fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze but by nightfall it was covering more than 250 acres with fifteen fire crews trying to stop it from spreading. On Friday a 22-year old man was arrested for arson on suspicion of starting the Winter Hill fire (although later released) but on the same day a second fire started further down the moorland and just above Scout Road where I walked along with the dogs on my quarry walk in early June – it was also just above the path which I walked three times last year to get to the vicinity of the tv mast. This second fire was reported to be one-and-a-quarter miles long and another fifty firefighters were sent there to deal with it, but due to a stiff breeze blowing up on Saturday it merged with the original fire on Winter Hill and a major incident was declared because of possible damage to the tv mast and also the nearby communications systems. Various roads in the area have been closed off, including the one running past the end of my street and going up to Belmont Village and beyond, and at one point, looking between nearby trees and houses, I could see part of the fire from my bedroom window.
On Sunday Michael and I had a drive out to Southport and on the way back we could see part of Winter Hill and the smoke from about twenty miles away, although as most of it now seems to be coming from the back of the hill I can no longer see it from my bedroom window, but with the wind in the right direction I can certainly smell it. As of yesterday the fire has covered more than 3 square miles with as many as 29 fire engines tackling the blaze and helicopters doing more than five runs per hour dropping water on it. With the moorland being made up of mainly peat the ground is burning underneath the surface so as fast as the flames are being extinguished in one place they are starting up again somewhere else – it’s been estimated that it could take another week to extinguish the whole lot completely.
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Smoke from the Winter Hill fire, seen on Sunday while passing Lower Rivington reservoir
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Monday evening sunset over Winter Hill, taken from the bedroom window
The one thing which saddens me about all this is the loss of various forms of flora and fauna. The Woodland Trust owns a 1,700 acre estate in that area, part of which is on some of the affected land, and a large part of that estate has been burnt; it was home to several species of delicate and rare plants, and creatures such as the brown hare, lapwing and common lizard. Breeding and ground-nesting birds will have been affected and the fire has also burnt into the first trees to be planted as part of the Northern Forest project; whole eco systems will have been wiped out and the habitat will take years to recover. I wonder if the person, or persons, who started all this, whether deliberately or carelessly, ever stopped to think what consequences their actions would have for everything and everyone affected? – probably not.
Although the photos above are the only ones I’ve been able to take of part of the fire (the public are being advised to stay away from the area although there are some idiots who are ignoring that advice) there are some excellent and very powerful shots to be seen on here.  A recent weather forecast is for the hot dry days to continue for a while yet so as much as I don’t like rain I really hope we get a prolonged and torrential downpour before too long and the fire is extinguished properly before it does any more damage.

Scavenger photo hunt – June

The six prompts for this month’s photo hunt are – yellow, starts with ‘T’, lilac, starts with ‘G’, silver, and my own choice. Admittedly I needed to think hard about a couple of the categories, especially ‘silver’, but I got there in the end and came up with these –
Kicking things off is a wild iris (well at least that’s what I think it is), one of a large patch of flowers growing at the side of the Cefni reservoir on Anglesey, at the creek where the angling club moor their dinghies – I thought their bright yellow colour was really pretty.
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Yellow – wild iris
I must admit that apart from the obvious things like ‘tent’ and a mug of ‘tea’ my brain refused to come up with anything for ‘T’, however it was Michael who came to the rescue by suggesting something he’d just brought home from work – a packet of teacakes, although not made by him this time as he wasn’t working on that section when they were made.
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Starts with ‘T’ – teacakes
For my third photo I finally chose this one of a large patch of lilac coloured flowers growing in a small cliffside garden above Cemaes bay on Anglesey, taken while I was on my recent camping holiday there.
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Lilac – flowers in a cliffside garden
For the next category I just had to include my own photo of this one, first brought to my attention a couple of years ago by my blogging friend Eileen.  As far as I can tell, with the hedge being so high there’s no way of knowing whether this is a full-sized giraffe or just a head and neck on a long pole, but with his head gear changing with the seasons he’s certainly amusing to look at. At the moment he’s also wearing a sun hat to protect his horns!
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Starts with ‘G’ – Giraffe
I had to rack my brains to come up with the next one as I don’t wear silver jewellery and I can’t think of anything silver which I may have in the house, anyway I finally thought of this one – my International Dance Teachers Association silver President’s Award for disco dancing, which I gained in 1986. After going through bronze, silver and gold exams, gaining three gold bars, three gold stars and a couple of other medals, all of which I had percentage marks in the high 90s, getting the President’s Award was really something – I’d already previously got the bronze one and I went on to get the gold one a few months later.
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Silver – my IDTA President’s Award
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And finally, thinking back to a really long and strenuous walk I recently did while on Anglesey, and a comment made on my blog about the dogs being totally cream crackered afterwards, I couldn’t resist posting this photo of the two of them having a well-earned rest after a long walk while camping on Anglesey a couple of years ago –
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My own choice – Sophie and Poppie after a very long walk
So there you have it, my photos for this month’s challenge – I hope you like them. I’m linking up with Kate once again so I’m off now to see how others have interpreted the categories this time  🙂

“We’re all going on a…summer holiday”

Unfortunately not me personally in spite of my recent holiday on Anglesey being all-too-brief, but Summer Holiday was the latest musical production performed at the local town centre theatre, The Octagon. At almost 51 years old the Octagon Theatre was the brainchild of a local university lecturer (whose son, coincidentally, was in my class at grammar school) and was officially opened in late November 1967 by Princess Margaret. Although the theatre management at the time had been advised that there would be no need to provide any type of ‘comfort facility’ for the royal party they went ahead anyway and installed a very lavish loo with gold plated fittings.  Having only been used by the plumbers who needed to test it, following the official opening of the theatre it was completely stripped out and turned into an office space.
Vastly different from a normal theatre the stage is actually hexagonal in shape with seating on all sides, and both the stage and the seating can be adapted to suit each individual production;  it was given the name of The Octagon to avoid confusion with an existing Hexagon Theatre in Reading. Many well-known performers have appeared at the theatre over the years including Sue Johnston and John McArdle of Brookside fame, Emmerdale regulars Emma Atkins and Jeff Hordley, Michelle Collins, Tim Healey and Matthew Kelly, and local comedian Peter Kay once worked in the ticket office there.
Back in early 1974 one of my cats, Sandy, was used as the family cat in a 4-week production of The Diary of Anne Frank. A taxi would collect me and Sandy from home and take us to the theatre for each performance then take us home again afterwards, I could have a meal in the theatre restaurant each night, I got complimentary tickets for my family to see the play and Sandy got ‘paid’ with a tin of Whiskas cat food every night – all courtesy of the theatre’s director. Fast forward several years and while Michael was at secondary school in the late 1980s he appeared at The Octagon in a school production of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War Of The Worlds.
The production of Summer Holiday was different in that there was a lot of audience participation and it actually started off on the concourse of the local bus station where a large area had been cordoned off and some of the cast were singing and dancing, then to the tune of Summer Holiday all the audience boarded six double-decker buses where the entertainment continued while they drove round to the square in front of the town hall where another part of the show was performed. Unfortunately I missed most of the singing and dancing at the bus station but I got a couple of shots of everyone boarding the buses then walked through town to take up a convenient position by the barriers in the square.
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The guy in blue overalls is the lead actor
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There were six buses in total and once they’d all arrived the audience all got off again to watch the next part of the show. Unfortunately my view of anything at street level was rather obscured by some of the audience who had formed a semi-circle but once the actors started singing and dancing on the town hall steps I was able to get a few shots, although I couldn’t hear what they were actually saying or singing. With that part of the show over the audience all walked to the theatre, which was just round the corner from the town hall, for the rest of the show which finished at 4.30pm.
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The first bus arrives
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The red Mini was part of the show
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One more bus to come
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Although I’ve watched and enjoyed the Cliff Richard film several times over the years I have to admit that this show isn’t one I would have particularly wanted to go to, although it’s had lots of rave reviews in the press. Personally I think a red Routemaster bus would have added a bit more authenticity to the proceedings but then I don’t suppose those things are easy to come by outside of London now.
Tonight’s performance will be the last at The Octagon for quite a while as the theatre is now closing for major expansion and refurbishment and won’t reopen until autumn 2019, though the theatre company will still be performing various shows and plays at other venues within the town. Although I wouldn’t have wanted to see the whole of the Summer Holiday show I’m glad I was able to get photos of the bits I did see – it certainly brightened up a very ordinary Saturday afternoon.