The private family home of Hornby Castle is situated in north Lancashire, almost on the edge of the Lake District and the border with the Yorkshire Dales. Set on a hill in its own grounds by the River Wenning the house overlooks Hornby village and the Lune Valley; the central Keep tower dates back to 1512 but the house was rebuilt round about 1820 in an early Victorian style with ornate ceilings and carved wood panelling. Although the house itself isn’t open to the public it does have a B&B apartment to rent and is occasionally available for private functions and special events. The extensive gardens are open to the public on just a few special weekends each year, and it was through reading someone else’s blog several weeks ago that I found out about it. I’d already missed one open weekend by then but I made a note of the next one – this weekend, and with the current glorious weather it was an opportunity not to be missed, especially as dogs were welcome in the grounds so I could take Sophie and Poppie with me.
Exactly an hour’s drive from home got me to Hornby village where I left the van in a small car park just off the main road and by the river. The bridge over the river gave me a lovely view looking west across to the hills on the far side of the Lune valley, and on the other side of the bridge looking east I got my first view of the castle beyond the trees.
Just inside the big double gates a lady sitting in the shade of a gazebo took my £4 admission fee and gave me a copy of a hand drawn map showing where things were then I was left to wander at will. A long tree-lined driveway led up a continual incline and I had a choice of left or right – I chose right first and went to have a look round in the vicinity of the castle and the gardens nearest to it.
Across from the steps leading to the castle lawn a woodland walk took me down to a large open area and the walled garden but a sign for the ponds and azaleas caught my attention so I decided to look round there first. The larger pond was well shaded by trees, with a rhododendron bush making a splash of dark pink colour against all the green, and though much of the pond surface was covered in a layer of green weed there was enough clear water to make some good reflections. There was an island in the middle accessed by an extremely narrow, only just about 2ft wide, bridge with a rail just on one side – making sure that the dogs stayed behind me I went across but there was nothing there except a rickety wooden bench, although the whole place was really quiet and peaceful. I must admit to being disappointed with the (lack of) azaleas though; I’d expected to see a riot of colour from lots of different shrubs but there were only an odd few dotted here and there along with a couple of rhododendrons – certainly not what I’d hoped to see, and a bit of a let-down to be honest.
From the ponds I went to have a look round the walled garden; it was quite a large place but at least half of it was given over to several bare-looking sections and cold frames where various things were being grown – the lawned area was nice though with plenty of colour along the paths and side wall, and there was a small tea room with outside tables in one corner though I wasn’t tempted to go in. From there I went over to the riverside walk and wandered along until a fence and a ‘private’ sign stopped me from going any further then I turned round and retraced my steps.
Once I was sure I’d seen everything there was to see I made my way back down the long driveway and across the road to the car park. Once there I squeezed through the narrow gap in the corner of the wall and onto the riverside path; it didn’t go very far under the bridge but it was far enough for me to get a couple of shots from right next to the weir, in fact if I’d been any closer to it at one point I would have had two very wet feet.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a much-needed drink, although they’d had one from the bowl provided in the walled garden, then set off for home, although I did make a brief stop after I left the village. As I drove past an open field I caught sight of a very tiny and very cute pony standing by the field gate – an opportunity not to be missed so I pulled up where I could and walked back to take a photo of him. It wasn’t easy as he was very friendly and insisted on standing so close to the gate but I managed to get my head and the camera through the bars and take a sideways shot of him.
That was to be my last shot of the day, and with no more interruptions or delays on the motorway I was back home before 4pm. It had seemed a bit of a long way to go just to look round a garden but I’d had a nice few hours out in good weather, photographed somewhere I’d not been to before and rounded the whole thing off with an adorable little pony, so it had definitely all been worth it.
I’m joining in with Jo’s Monday Walk again where this week she’s been wandering round a couple of gardens next door to each other – follow the link and enjoy the beauty of the gorgeous rhododendrons she found while there.
Last Sunday evening I went round the corner to visit my friends Lin and Dee, only to find that even after three attempts an hour apart they weren’t in, so it was Monday evening after work when I finally caught up with them. Apparently another friend of theirs , Nick, had invited them over his place for a barbecue and they hadn’t got home until later than intended – and the reason was in their bath!
Now to put you in the picture, Dee works in a local pet store, they both love animals, and anything they can possibly rescue they’ll take – they already have seven rescued bearded dragons and a rescued dog, and only a couple of weeks ago Dee was thinking about taking on a couple of rats which needed a new home until she realised that it wasn’t a wise idea with having Oscar, who’s a terrier. So during the course of the barbecue Nicks mother ‘just happened’ to let it slip that someone she knew was looking for a home for two young ducks, one of which (the female) is supposed to be partially paralysed on one leg – and if they weren’t gone within a couple of days then they would be destroyed. Well of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen so Lin and Dee said they would take the ducks – Nick drove them over to collect them and the ducks ended up in Lin’s bath with a large carrying cage for shelter until an alternative could be found for them.
When I went round again yesterday I found the ducks in the temporary shelter of a large 2-tier rabbit hutch and with a pre-formed garden pond for them to swim in, both given to Dee by someone she works with at the pet store. Now although the larger duck is plain brown and looks very much like a female Mallard they’ve been told it’s a male, and no amount of Googling on my part has come up with any other possible breed, anyway they’ve called it Jeremy – and the smaller duck, which is more or less all white apart from her head, has been called Jemima. It’s obvious that she’s still quite young as she still has a bit of yellow baby fluff on the back of her neck, but she’s really cute and she sat in my hands for ages, squeaking rather than actually quacking. As for the ‘partially paralysed’ bit, well she does have a slight limp but other than that she walks quite well, and the pair of them swim like – well, ducks!
It’s lucky that Dee works where she does as she’ll be able to get any food and anything else they need at discount cost, and Nick is coming over at the weekend to section off part of the garden to make a dog-free duck area. I know the two of them will be well cared for so I hope they get to live long and happy lives.
Yesterday I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the Bleakholt spring open day, and even Michael came along with us too, something which he’s never done before. After the last few gloriously sunny days my heart sank when I got up in the morning to find it dull and raining – the last three open days have been blighted by bad weather at some point – however by the time we were setting out at lunch time it had brightened up and the sun was shining.
The open day runs from 12 noon until 4pm, we arrived at 12.45 and already the place was swarming with visitors; Lin and Dee headed straight for Dee’s favourite place, the book shop, and after telling Michael where everything was I left him to wander off on his own while I went to look at the stalls in the barn. From there I went to look at the donkeys but they must have been out in the field somewhere, however near their enclosure a couple of kiddies rides had been set up and I got a great shot of the little train as it went round and round on its track. After that came the owl rescue stall with its birds sitting quietly on their perches or on the gloved hands of various visitors – two of them were only tiny but I couldn’t get a decent photo of either of them as so many people wanted to stroke them.
Next came a look round the dog section, and if I hadn’t already got Sophie and Poppie I would have been adopting Disney – a 4-year old Yorkie/Shihtzu crossbreed he was the cutest little thing I’ve seen in a while. A few kennels further along was Sasha, a 10-year old Lurcher crossbreed, rehomed once but returned for being over protective in the home – she was a lovely looking dog and quite happy to pose for me while I took her photo.
From there I went to the cat section where I saw what looked like the scruffiest cat ever. She was sitting so close to the wire that I couldn’t get her full body in the shot but she looked like she’d just been through the worst grooming session possible. Her fur was stuck out in various places and at the lower end of her back she had three tufts sticking up like little wings – she was a lovely colour though and in spite of her scruffiness she was beautiful and would have been my choice if I’d been adopting one. The kitten section was so full of visitors that I couldn’t get near any of the little ones so I took myself off to the oldies room and spent some time with them instead.
When I finally got back outside I found that the sunshine had gone and it had clouded over considerably but it wasn’t enough to put people off, and with visitors still coming in the place was the busiest I’ve seen it for a long while. I met up with Michael while I was wandering round so we went in the cafe for a brew and something to eat; we had corned beef hash with beetroot and red cabbage and it was so filling that neither of us wanted anything else when we finally got back home.
Just as we left the cafe we bumped into Lin and Dee, it was trying to rain by then but it didn’t amount to anything, so we had one last look round the stalls, where I managed to get a brand new pair of beach sandals for just 50p, then made our way over to the motorbike display near the car park. The bikes belonged to The Cogheads, a local motorbike club, and on one Sunday every year they do a charity petfood run, collecting donations of pet food, pet supplies and money and ending up at Bleakholt. This time their run just happened to coincide with the sanctuary’s open day so there was the added attraction of 29 bikes and 4 trikes all lined up on display.
Once we’d looked round the bikes I left the other three near the cafe and went to get the van. Between us all we had a fair amount of stuff to donate and because of the narrow lanes and one way system in operation on open days I’d had to park quite a distance away, which was too far to carry everything, so it made sense to wait until the crowds started to thin out then I could drive down to the donations shed. When I got there I found Lin and Dee had disappeared – Michael said they’d gone to the office and when I caught up with them I found Dee in the process of sponsoring Chesney, a dog she fell in love with a while ago but one which currently can’t be rehomed because of behavioural issues. When that was all sorted out, and with all our donated items unloaded from the van and everything Dee had bought loaded in their place, we finally headed for home. In spite of the sunshine disappearing it had been a good afternoon with what seemed to be a record number of visitors – the afternoon’s final takings will be the amount they will be trying to beat at the next open day in July, so fingers crossed the weather will behave and it will be another really good day.
While I’ve recently spent the best part of two weeks suffering from the debilitating effects of Aussie flu I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and though I’ve got a couple of recently purchased books waiting for attention I didn’t really feel in the mood for either of them so I decided to re-read one which I knew would cheer me up. Enough To Make A Cat Laugh by Deric Longden is a humourous and true-life look at the ordinary and sometimes extra-ordinary goings-on in the life of the author, his almost-blind wife, and a houseful of cats; it’s actually the fifth book in a series of seven but can easily be read without reading the preceding four first.
I bought the book back in 2009 from a stall at a car boot sale; it was the picture on the front cover which initially attracted me and when I read the synopsis on the back cover I just knew it was the sort of book I would enjoy. The author has a genius for taking the most ordinary and mundane events and transforming them into laugh-out-loud accounts of various aspects of his life, in fact I’d challenge anyone to read without laughing his account of feeding the neighbour’s cat. I first read that part while in the waiting room at the hospital’s eye clinic not long after I bought the book, and I found it so funny that I had to disappear into the nearby loo so I could laugh without everyone else thinking there was something seriously wrong with me.
This is now the third time I’ve re-read the book and I still find it funny – just the thing to cheer me up and relieve the boredom of being unwell and off work. I remember I only paid 50p for it when I got it, the best 50p I’ve ever spent, and I enjoyed it so much the first time that I went on to buy (mostly new) the other six books which I’m now re-reading in chronological order. So if anyone wants a bit of light reading with plenty of giggles along the way then get a copy of this, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Yesterday I went to the festive open day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary; I would normally take my friends Lin and Dee but Lin was full of a cold so didn’t want to go out and Dee was working so I went on my own – and to be honest I don’t know why I bothered as the afternoon turned out to be quite a disappointment in more ways than one.
In previous years the whole place has had a real Christmassy feel to it – coloured lights decorating the buildings, Santa’s grotto, some of the staff dressed as elves, a stall selling mulled wine and mince pies, a reindeer parade with proper reindeer, and lots of other festive things – but this time it’s been completely changed. Next Sunday will be a special Santa’s Workshop day aimed more at kids, with the reindeer and other festive attractions then, so yesterday was more like a normal open day – in fact if it hadn’t been for the Christmas songs being played through the sound system I wouldn’t have known that yesterday had anything to do with Christmas.
Of course the recent bout of bad weather hasn’t helped – it’s rained on and off here every day for a week, periods of sunshine have been few and far between and on Saturday the surrounding hills and moors got a covering of snow. It was raining again yesterday though it had cleared up by late morning and the sun came out, but obviously not soon enough for the sanctuary. Most of the stalls and attractions which would normally have been outside were completely non existent, and with nowhere near as many visitors as there would usually be the whole place seemed to have rather a flat atmosphere about it – even the donkeys looked miserable.
Once I’d looked round the stalls in the barn I did my usual rounds of the kennels and the cattery where I spent some time with the oldies, then with nothing much else to see I made my way back to the van and came home. It’s a shame that the current weather had literally put a dampener on the day so I hope next weekend’s event is more successful – and I hope too that next year they revert to having the sort of festive open day they’ve always had as even disregarding the weather this one was really disappointing.
Following on from this post which I wrote back in April, this story has just been in my local paper
Swan put down by RSPCA after suffering severe injuries on canal
A swan which survived an attack on a local canal several months ago has had to be put down after it suffered severe injuries in another incident.
In April this year a male swan was shot and killed by a gang of youths on the stretch of Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal in Little Lever, and its partner has now died. The cause of the female swan’s injuries has not yet been discovered but the RSPCA said the bird had not been shot.
The charity went to the canalside to try to catch the bird after a member of the public called to say it had been seen with injuries above its beak. RSPCA animal collection officer, Gina Ratcliff, said: “I was very lucky to catch her at all, someone else had been out the night before, but had no success. She was very wary of me and the water was quite deep where she was so I knew I only had one chance from dry land. I lay down on the canal bank and luckily managed to get hold of her with a swan hook.”
“We don’t know what caused the injuries she had sustained, but they were severe. She was taken to our specialist wildlife centre RSPCA Stapeley Grange in Cheshire but very sadly there was nothing that could be done for her and she had to be put to sleep. It’s always upsetting when things go this way, but more so here because of what previously happened to her mate.”
Patrols along the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal have been stepped up in response to a rise in illegal incidents affecting the bird population in recent months. Anyone with information about what caused the swan’s injuries should call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018.
With no mention of any cygnets I can only assume that any eggs she had at the time her mate was killed didn’t hatch; there’s currently no evidence to suggest that she was targeted by the same youths who killed her mate, but however she came by her injuries the fact remains that a whole family has now been wiped out – and that’s just so, so sad.
No doubt many people will be familiar with the Disney film Homeward Bound, in which two dogs and a cat trek across America to find their family; well this story is in my local paper today and though the journey is nothing like crossing America it’s still impressive for a little dog so I thought I’d share it.
Lost dog Patch’s incredible eight-mile expedition to find his mother
PATCH the Jack Russell has an extraordinary ‘tail’ to tell after he went missing and turned up eight miles away at his mum’s front door.
The little five-year-old was out walking in Hall i’th’ Wood on Sunday evening when he got lost in the woodland. His family desperately searched for him to no avail . . . but the next morning he was found sitting on the doorstep of his mum Bess’s home in Westhoughton.
Patch has lived with Lisa and John Hilton and their children Annabel, aged 15, Oscar, aged 12, and Millie, aged nine, since he was a puppy while Bess, aged 12, lives with Lisa’s father, Edward Horrocks, aged 90. The family, who live in Crompton Way, were shocked and delighted to discover he was safe and sound, but are completely amazed by the unusual journey.
Mrs Hilton, aged 47, said: “It has been a traumatic experience, but we are so glad it’s a happy ending to the story. We have always gone to my dad’s house in a car. Sometimes the windows are open and maybe that’s what led him there. I said to the kids, ‘when you are vulnerable who do you want? It’s your mum’.
“That little dog of ours, we can’t believe he made it all that way and what he might have gone through when you think about all the roads and roundabouts he would have had to cross without getting run over. We don’t know how many miles he ran – he’s absolutely exhausted now but he’s our little hero!”
Patch — who is microchipped — was walking in the woods off-lead with Mr Hilton, aged 53, when he disappeared at around 4pm. Panicked, the family gathered around to hunt for him, handing out numbers to passing dog walkers and posting Patch’s picture on Facebook. Meanwhile it’s believed the dog made his way to Crompton Way and started his journey west.
It is not known exactly what route Patch took, but his family believe he could have travelled along part of MossBank Way and through Johnson Fold before arriving at Landedmans in Westhoughton some time between midnight and 6am, when a neighbour spotted him sitting obediently outside Mr Horrocks’s front door.
That morning, after a sleepless night of worry, Mrs Hilton received a call from her dad. She said: “He asked if I was sitting down and I thought the worst, then he said ‘You’ll never guess who’s sitting next to me!’
“It went from tears to thinking what a clever dog we have got. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked and tired. We are thrilled he’s back home now though and just hope he doesn’t do it again!”
I know the place names won’t mean anything to anyone else but the Hall i’th’ Wood area isn’t far from where I live and I’m familiar with where little Patch ended up – I know it’s quite a trek from one place to the other so it beats me how on earth he managed to find his way. An in-built homing instinct maybe? A desire to find his mum driving him on? Who knows, but whatever it was it just shows that dogs aren’t as ‘dumb’ as many people think they are.