With lots to do ahead of the coming Easter break I didn’t really have time to go too far on my dog walks over the weekend so my Monday walk this week is just a local one round Belmont village, only three miles up the road from home. Leaving the van outside my friend’s house in a quiet square at the bottom end of the village I first headed off across the main road and up the hill past the Black Dog pub. The pub has two signs outside, one at the car park entrance and the other on the side wall of the pub itself and strangely they are both very different ; the one on the wall is a mosaic picture and reminds me very much of a dog my friend once had.
Past the church I came to Ward’s Reservoir, though it’s always been known locally as the Blue Lagoon. The reservoir was built in the 19th century to supply water to the bleach and dye works down the hill, though over the years it’s become a well known local beauty spot. The Belmont Bleaching and Dyeing Company opened in 1878 and for many years was one of the country’s major dyers and cotton bleaching specialists, then in much later years it became one of the few companies in the UK capable of manufacturing a range of flame-retardant textiles.
The company finally closed down in 2004 with the buildings eventually being split into individual industrial and commercial units, though the reservoir and land around it began falling into disrepair. An independent study and report concluded that it needed at least £40,000 spending on it to bring it up to the standard legally required by the Environment Agency but the owner, a local man, was unwilling to spend money on something which no longer had any commercial value, so in 2010 he ‘pulled the plug’ and the reservoir was drained. It was eventually sold to a local consortium based a few miles away, repairs were undertaken and it was allowed to fill up again although every so often, especially after periods of heavy rain, a certain amount of water is released to prevent it becoming too full.
From the Blue Lagoon I headed across the nearby playing field and through a couple of pleasant residential streets to the top end of the village and the larger Belmont Reservoir. Built in 1826 by Bolton Waterworks to supply water to the rapidly expanding town it’s now owned by United Utilities, and not only is it home to Bolton Sailing Club it’s also an important base for wintering wildfowl. It’s not often that I see anyone sailing when I’m walking near there but this time the dinghies were out in force in spite of the very chilly wind which was blowing.
Across the dam and along the traffic-free lane I decided that instead of walking all the way along to the top of the road which would take me back to the village I would make a short cut down a public footpath past a small farm, and I was glad I did as I was rewarded with seeing a field full of sheep with their young ones.
The path eventually brought me out about halfway down the road back to the village ; it’s not an easy road to walk, especially with two dogs, as it’s narrow with no pavements and is a very popular short cut for traffic going to and from Belmont and another area of the town, but fortunately it wasn’t busy and I didn’t have to walk too far before it widened out by the former bleach works buildings. Ages ago I was told by someone – and I can’t remember who – that round the back of those buildings was a fishing place called Ornamental Lake ; it was one of those places that you wouldn’t know was there unless someone told you about it so I decided to check it out and was quite pleasantly surprised.
Eagley Brook, a combination of the outflow from Belmont Reservoir and the Blue Lagoon, flowed under the road and behind the buildings, emptying into the lake. Across a short bridge a path ran through the trees near the edge of the lake and in a clearing I came across a couple of small timber shacks, obviously for the use of anyone fishing there. Looking at the land it was obvious that I couldn’t walk all the way round the lake so I just snapped a few photos then made my way back to the road.
A short traffic-free lane took me steeply uphill to where I’d left the van and my last photo was of the water monument at the corner of the square. Erected in 1907 by Edward Deakin, mill owner and patron of the local church, it was to commemorate a clause having been successfully fought for in the UK parliament and inserted into the Bolton Corporation Act of 1905 to protect the flow of water into Eagley Brook from Belmont Reservoir.
Eagley Brook, along with water from the Blue Lagoon, provided an essential water supply to the bleach and dye works and there was a danger that taking too much water from Belmont Reservoir to supply Bolton’s homes and businesses would have a detrimental affect on the business and employment at the bleach works. The clause on the monument states that as compensation for taking water for Bolton the Corporation had to ensure a continuous flow down Eagley Brook between 5am and 5pm every day except Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
With that final photo I returned to the van and headed for home for a much needed brew ; although the sun had been shining for most of the walk the wind definitely had the chill factor so a mug of hot coffee was most welcome. There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I won’t be here – I’m off exploring pastures new so fingers crossed that the weather will be good and I’ll come back with lots of different places to write about.
First of all I have to admit that I don’t normally take much notice of war memorials – if I see one and it looks nice or enhances the view then I’ll take a photo but I don’t stand there reading the inscriptions as the names mean nothing to me. However the one I saw recently in Ashton Gardens at St. Annes is so impressive and so movingly detailed it literally stopped me in my tracks and I just had to take some time to study it properly and photograph the many different aspects of it.
In the aftermath of the First World War, which had claimed many thousands of British lives, a huge wave of public commemoration resulted in tens of thousands of war memorials being erected across England, and one of these stands in Ashton Gardens as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by those members of the local community who had lost their lives during the war. Financed by a gift of £10,000 from Lord Ashton and unveiled in October 1924 the cenotaph itself was designed by prominent Scottish architect Thomas Smith Tait and constructed in white granite, with the bronze sculptural work carried out by notable Lancashire-born sculptor Walter Marsden who had himself served during the war and had been awarded a Military Cross.
The very top of the memorial pylon features a globe on which stands a female figure dressed in a long gown, with arms raised and looking to the sky, but it’s the pedestal which carries the most detail. A series of bronze plaques in relief show a succession of scenes depicting various aspects of the war, from a soldier saying an emotional goodbye to his wife while their small child tugs at her shawl, to a tired and weary group returning from the battlefield. The front face of the pedestal has a rectangular bronze panel inscribed ‘1914 : NAMES OF THE FALLEN : 1918’ with 170 names listed, and this is flanked on the left by the relief figures of an airman and a seaman and on the right by the figures of two infantrymen. The panels wrap round the sides of the pedestal and depict various other figures, while the rear face has a panel showing returning soldiers including stretcher-bearers and men carrying their wounded comrades ; in every panel the dress, weapons and other equipment are all shown in great detail. The front and rear faces of the pylon also each have a plaque inscribed ‘IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO FELL 1939 – 1945’ with 64 names on each, and a further plaque commemorates those who lost their lives in later conflicts.
On top of the pedestal, above the plaques and at either side of the pylon, are two of the most detailed, poignant and emotionally haunting sculptures I’ve ever seen. On the left, a shell-shocked soldier with his face showing the nervous strain and tension brought about by the ever-present feeling of danger, and on the right a young woman sitting gazing ahead in shock and sorrow at her husband’s death, not realising that her baby is looking to her for a mother’s love. I’d approached the war memorial from the sunken garden on the left so the sculpture of the soldier was the first thing I saw, and it was that which made me stop as it’s so detailed and life-like.
The sculptures and the panels express many of the emotions associated with wars and conflicts and as a centrepiece of Ashton Gardens the memorial is certainly very impressive. In February 1993 it was given a Grade ll listing, then in June 2017 the listing was upgraded from Grade ll to Grade ll* for its architectural and sculptural interest, design and historic interest, and rarity. To my mind that’s a very well-deserved listing, and at the next opportunity I’ll certainly go back to Ashton Gardens and pay the memorial another visit.
This week’s Monday walk features a place I was never aware of until someone at work told me about it just a few days ago. Yesterday was the first of Michael’s days off work and though the morning started off rather dull it had brightened up considerably by early lunchtime so we decided to drive over to the coast for a mooch and a meal. Leaving the van in the car park of our usual cafe at St. Annes we went for a coffee first then Michael went off to mooch round on his own while I took Sophie and Poppie on my discovery walk.
Ashton Gardens are located just a couple of streets behind the promenade and right on the edge of the town centre. Originally a rectangular plot of land the gardens were established in 1874 by the Land and Building Company and were named St. Georges Gardens ; they remained unchanged until 1914 when Lord Ashton gave a donation to acquire the gardens and an adjacent strip of land for the people of St. Annes. Later that year the council ran a competition to redesign the gardens, it was won by a local man and the gardens were redesigned to incorporate a greater diversity of spaces, although the original undulating nature of the land was retained. Renamed Ashton Gardens in honour of Lord Ashton they were formally opened on July 1st 1916 ; in 2010 a major refurbishment was undertaken thanks to a grant of almost £1.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund plus additional funding from other sources.
My walk started at the main entrance closest to the town centre and right from the start I found something to photograph. Turning right just inside the gates a short path and a few stone steps took me down to a couple of bowling greens where various games of bowls were in progress, then beyond the second green and down a few more steps I came to what appeared to be a rose garden. Although nothing was actually in flower I can imagine it would be really lovely when everything is blooming.
Beyond the rose garden, and lying in undulating ground, were two ponds connected by a narrow meandering waterway which was crossed at various points by stepping stones and a hump-back bridge, and sitting on top of a small island of rocks in the middle of the smaller pond was a young seagull who obligingly stayed put while I took his photo. Even with the still-bare trees this place was delightful and I got far too many photos to put them all on here.
Back towards the centre of the park was a circular sunken garden, and though some of the flower beds were still bare or very sparsely planted the others were full of deep purple hyacinths which gave off the most gorgeous perfume. In the centre of the wide main pathway was the war memorial – and it was so impressive and so movingly detailed that it really deserves a post of its own. At the end of the pathway I came to the second main entrance with its fancy double gates and with a final shot of the modern crest set in one of the gates I left Ashton Gardens and made my way to meet Michael back at the cafe.
Across the road from the entrance to the gardens some building work was in progress on a large corner plot ; according to the hoarding all round it the new building was going to be an apart-hotel and pictures showed some of the intended facilities. I couldn’t tell if the place will be dog friendly but one of the pictures showed an adorable little dog snuggled in some bedding – it reminded me very much of a little dog I once looked after on a regular basis, and it looked so cute I just had to get a photo of it.
Back on the sea front I made my way through the promenade gardens and round by the beach huts to the cafe where Michael was waiting for me at an outside table. Of course no visit to St. Annes would be complete without a walk on the beach so once we’d had our meal we took a short walk along the sand before returning to the van and making our way back home.
It had been a lovely afternoon out and I’d been very impressed with Ashton Gardens ; I was really glad the guy at work had told me about the place as otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it, but now I do know I’ll make sure to pay a return visit for some more photos when the leaves are on the trees and hopefully the flower beds will be planted up. And if anyone reading this is ever in that area then do go and have a look round, it’s a lovely little place.
Will You Love Me? by Barby Keel is an emotional true story of the deep bond which can exist between a human and a dog and shows how, in rescuing others, we can also help ourselves. The first two chapters are written as if being related by the dog, an ex racing greyhound fallen into the wrong hands. Permanently chained to a wooden post and with no shelter, beaten, kicked, scarred and bleeding from cigarette burns all over his body, terrified of humans and so weak from starvation he can hardly stand, he’s almost at death’s door when he’s dumped in the dark and rain at the gates of the Barby Keel Animal Sanctuary in East Sussex.
The story is continued by Barby herself and tells of the hours, days and nights she spends nursing the dog, which she names Bailey, back to health and helping him to overcome his nervousness and fear of humans. It’s a wonderful moment for her when Bailey finally gets his first taste of freedom in an off-lead run round an enclosed paddock. She also has to deal with the daily comings and goings of various animals and the financially devastating effects of two burglaries at the sanctuary’s town centre charity shop, and all this while undergoing a debilitating course of radiotherapy treatment after getting breast cancer for the second time. The book also gives an insight into Barby’s early life and how she started the sanctuary, the money-raising events, hard work and great expense involved in the day-to-day running of it and the care of all the animals living there, which wouldn’t be possible without the help of a few official staff and a band of very willing volunteers.
Eventually Bailey, although still a bit underweight, is considered confident and well enough to be rehomed, and though it breaks Barby’s heart to let him go a new forever home is found for him with Mary and Ron, a lovely couple who already have two rescue greyhounds. After several meetings to make sure that Bailey and his new owners are right for each other the final papers are signed, and as he walks out of the gate to a new life with Mary and Ron and their other two dogs it’s as though he’s always been with his forever family. There’s a welcome surprise for Barby a few weeks later though when Mary and Ron bring Bailey back to visit her on the day of the sanctuary’s summer fete.
This book is the third in a series of three, though it can be read without reading the other two first as each one is a different story in its own right. Although Michael had bought me the previous book several months ago I hadn’t got round to reading it before I spotted this one in my local Asda store ; as a long-time lover of animal stories, especially real life ones, it was the photo on the front cover which attracted me. One look at the sad face of the pictured dog and it was a no-brainer – I bought the book.
I read it in its entirety last Sunday morning and right from the first chapter there were several times when the story brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes, though thankfully the unhappy times are outweighed by the happier ones. It’s a story of sadness, hope, triumph over adversity, and the love humans and animals can have for each other – for anyone who loves animals it makes an interesting and very moving read, and unless you’re extremely hard-hearted there’s every chance that at some point it will make you cry.
My Monday walk this week is an exploration of a large local Victorian park right on the edge of the town centre, a park which I haven’t been to for over 40 years. I remember my parents taking me there when I was a child – with nothing but acres of green space, a duck pond and a rather rubbish playground tucked in the bottom corner I thought it was the most boring of all the local parks. Fast forward to 1977 and when I worked at the far side of town I would often walk home through the park although I didn’t take much notice of my surroundings and have never been there since, but with a grant of over £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009 the place has undergone several improvements over the last few years so on a recent lovely sunny morning I took the dogs and went to check it out.
Queen’s Park, an area of roughly 22 acres, was created on pasture land purchased from the Earl of Bradford, and lies on sloping ground just out of the town centre. Originally called Bolton Park it was opened in 1866 by the Earl of Bradford himself, then in 1897 it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Features included an ornate bandstand surrounded by water and flower beds and with amphitheatre-style terraces for seating, a pavilion building, an ornamental fountain, a large paddling pool and the Chadwick Museum which opened in 1884. The bandstand and its lake, the pavilion and the fountain were all gone long before I was born, the paddling pool disappeared not long afterwards and the museum was demolished in 1957 after the exhibits were transferred to the new town centre museum in the main library building – maybe if these things had still been there when I was a child I would have found the park a lot more interesting than I did at the time.
The park does have a couple of claims to fame though – in 1969 outdoor scenes for the Bolton-based film Spring and Port Wine, starring James Mason, were shot there, and in August that same year a little-known singer named Freddie Mercury performed with a band called Ibex in front of 500 enthusiastic teenagers at the town’s first open-air rock concert. He formed his own band Queen the following year and went on to become a global superstar.
There are several minor entrances to the park and two main entrances, one being at the bottom end close to the town centre and the other at the top on the wide main road which eventually leads to Chorley. My stroll started from this top entrance and straight away I got my first few photos, then as I walked down the wide main path a squirrel ran across in front of me to the bottom of a tree, staying there just long enough for me to snatch a photo of him.
A few yards along I came to the large circular formal sunken garden surrounded by trees, shrubs and bushes ; the flower beds were bare but I did see my first rhododendron shrub of the season in full flower. A little way along the path from there, and set in an elevated position, was an informal garden with modern seating and views over the lower end of the park and towards the town centre.
A minor path on the right took me down through the trees to the largest of the two lakes inhabited by various ducks, swans, geese and seagulls, then another path took me back up the slope to a wide and pleasant terraced walk backed by shrubbery where a modern war memorial and three Grade ll listed life-size statues on tall plinths were set back among the greenery.
At the end of the terrace I walked down the grassy slope to a minor path with the aim of getting to the bottom end of the park and working my way round and back up to the top, however a signpost told me that Dobson Bridge was down a path on the left so I decided to go and have a look. Dobson Bridge was erected in 1878 to link the original park with a later extension (now playing fields) on the far side of the River Croal and was officially opened by B A Dobson, Chairman of the local Park Committee. Built of cast iron and on cast iron supports it has ornamental stone pillars at both ends, each with an ornate cast iron plaque featuring the town’s crest. Thinking back to my childhood I remember the bridge to be a grey not-very-nice-looking structure but having been restored and repainted in modern colours it now looks quite attractive.
The path passed the end of Dobson Bridge and a little way along was a small fishing lake backed by a bank of trees and another bridge, plainer this time, which led to a small development of modern business units across the river. There was a path on the far side of the fishing lake so I was able to walk all the way round before making my way back to the lower end of the park.
The next path split into two so I took the lower one which headed in the direction of the playground in the bottom corner of the park, and Sophie being Sophie she found what must have been the only muddy patch in the whole park, though by the time we got to the playground the mess on her paws had disappeared. Not far from the playground a set of wide stone steps and a long path led back up to the terrace with the statues, and at the bottom of the steps was a fountain and a couple of benches. From the playground I took the path past the bottom main entrance and the modern cafe and followed it uphill towards the main road, with my last shot featuring the same as the first – daffodils.
Back at home I checked out the park on Google Maps satellite view and realised there were a few things I hadn’t yet seen. Maybe it was because I’d been looking at the park with fresh adult eyes or maybe the modern improvements had helped, but I’d found it a lot less boring than when I was a child, and having missed a few things this time I’ll certainly be returning later in the year for another exploration and dog walk.
The scavenger photo hunt has come round once again and this month’s six topics are – flat, wheel, swing, ragged, pot, and my own choice. I must admit that ‘ragged’ got me thinking and at first I was going to use Poppie’s rather-worse-for-wear purple monkey which is one of the toys she came with when I first got her, but while I was searching my photo archives for something completely unrelated to the challenge I came across a perfect example. So here’s my choice of photos for this month –
The inspiration for my first photo came while I was walking the dogs round one of the parks near home and thinking what a shame it is that council cutbacks have meant that the bowling greens are now overgrown and no longer used. Well under normal circumstances bowling greens are usually flat so a few days later I went to another local park and got a photo of one of the bowling greens there.
A photo of one of my van wheels would have been a bit too obvious for the next one so another search of my photo files produced this one, a very colourful shot of the big wheel at Elvaston Steam Rally a couple of years ago. It’s an annual event, held on the first full weekend in July, and all the fairground rides are steam driven – it’s a great weekend with something for everyone and the opportunity to camp there from Friday to the following Monday. I started going in 2010 and apart from last year, when I went on the Coronation Street tour that same weekend, I’ve been every year since then and really enjoy it.
Back to the local park for the next one, a ‘big kids’ swing, and as it was still reasonably early on a dull and chilly morning there was no-one around so I was able to set the thing swinging and get my photo without being interrupted – and if I hadn’t got the dogs with me I probably would have been tempted to indulge my inner child and have a go!
The next topic really got me thinking but when I came across this photo from a few years ago it seemed to be a perfect example of ‘ragged’. It was rigged up on the beach just a few yards from my tent at the camp site I stayed at on the Scottish Highlands coast. It must have been lovely to relax in the sunshine just above the water but looking at the ragged state the hammock was in it obviously hadn’t been used for quite a while, and probably wouldn’t be used again.
As I have no fancy looking plant pots or drink tea from a tea pot I decided to photograph my favourite mug instead – well it’s ceramic so can be classed as ‘pot’. I actually got it back in 2003 when a place where I worked at the time was relocating to other offices ; they were having a clear out prior to moving and several surplus mugs were destined for the bin. I really liked this one and it was too nice to throw away so I brought it home and it’s been in daily use ever since. The design goes all the way round the mug without being repeated, hence the three photos.
And finally, my own choice just had to be this one of Sophie. A couple of years ago the zip on the cover of her soft bed broke, meaning it didn’t zip up all the way across although the bed was still perfectly usable. At one point she went through a phase of crawling through the opening and curling up in the bed but under the cover, which was okay by me, but one morning I got up to find that for some reason only known to herself she had decided to dig out all the filling and completely trash the bed. And there she was, in the middle of the big bed and surrounded by all the bits of filling from the soft bed – and it’s surprising just how far this stuff spreads when a determined little dog has been digging, it was all over the place. The look on her face told me that she knew she was in trouble but she looked so cute that I didn’t have the heart to tell her off ; the mess was cleared up and the bed replaced, and up to now she hasn’t done that again.
Well that’s just about it for my choices this month, as always I’m joining in with Kate’s link-up party to see what photos and stories others have chosen – I’m sure all the selections will be very different and very interesting, and thanks to Kate for organising the hunt.
My Monday walk this week was a relatively short one of barely a mile, round the local nature reserve of Doffcocker Lodge. The Doffcocker area is a mainly residential suburb about three-and-a-half miles north west of the town centre ; the history of the name isn’t certain but it’s believed to originate from two ancient Celtic words meaning ‘dark winding stream’. The lodge was created in 1874 as a mill lodge although the mill disappeared many many years ago ; the area round the lodge has long been a popular place for dog walkers but in 1992 it became designated as the town’s first local nature reserve and in the years since then improvements have been made to the land and the pathways and a small free car park has been created.
A hundred yards or so down the road from the car park entrance is the red brick Doffcocker Inn pub/restaurant, known locally as ‘The Doffy’. Built in 1901 on the site of a much older and smaller pub of the same name the outer structure was erected around the original pub before that was demolished ; the whole process was completed without closing the original pub so the landlord didn’t have to apply for a new licence. The current building is a rare example of a calendar pub, with 4 floors, one for each season, and each floor having seven rooms, one for each day of the week. The cellar has 12 rooms for the months of the year, there are 52 doors and 365 window panes – quirky it may be but I wouldn’t like to clean all those windows.
Deciding to go anti-clockwise round the lodge my walk started from the car park by the dam at the bottom end, with the path passing a couple of coppices and the long back gardens of some nearby houses before emerging into a meadow which would be a pleasant place for a picnic in nice weather. At the far side of the meadow the path crossed the end of the lodge and took me to a second meadow where several benches set beside the path were well placed to take in the views over the water.
At one point the shape of the land formed a little bay in the water and a great cacophony of bird shrieks and squawks was coming from the vicinity ; when I got round there I found seagulls flying all over the place in great excitement while the various ducks and geese added their voices from down in the water – someone had thrown in several slices of bread and they were all trying to get their share.
The path took me past the back gardens of a row of bungalows set sideways on to the lodge and just past there a tree lined bank separated the path from a pleasant looking residential avenue. The end bungalow had a garden filled with different coloured heathers and other plants and it looked so pretty I thought it was worth a photo or two. It wasn’t far from there to the end of the lodge and as I got near to the dam I stopped for a few minutes to watch the antics of a Domestic Greylag goose in a shallow part of the water.
Those were to be my last photos of the afternoon – although there had been some blue sky and a bit of sunshine earlier on it had soon turned to grey and by the time I got back to the van it looked like rain wasn’t far away. Although the walk hadn’t been a long one Sophie and Poppie were happy enough so it was time to head for home and put the kettle on for a welcome mug of coffee.