Sunset over Smithills Moor

During my two-week ‘stay-cation’ last month I had a day out which, for once, didn’t include Poppie. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have left her behind but I was going to somewhere I couldn’t take her (that’s for a future post) however as soon as I got home, and with the sun getting low in the sky, I took her for a walk on Smithills moor to hopefully catch one or two sunset shots.
It was a very clear early evening and once I’d parked at the side of the lane near the Trespass Stone I took a shot of the view over to Manchester before setting off up the path heading towards the lower slopes of Winter Hill; not wanting to go too far my destination was Dean Mills reservoir, less than a 15-minute walk from where I’d left the van.
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View of Dean Mills from the west
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Eastern corner
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A hazy view to Scout Moor wind farm 15 miles away
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View towards Manchester city centre

It seemed to take ages for the sun to go down and I couldn’t walk all the way round the reservoir while I was waiting; in spite of the previous warmth of the day it was quite chilly up on that exposed part of the moor so I continually walked backwards and forwards along the eastern end, glad I was up there on my own as anyone else would probably have thought I’d lost the plot. Eventually though conditions were just right and while the sunset itself wasn’t as stunningly beautiful as some I’ve seen, with the tall Winter Hill mast and its smaller neighbours in the background it was good enough to give me several half-decent shots. 
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Not wanting to run out of daylight before I got back to the van I set off as soon as the sun had completely disappeared. I needn’t have worried though, as I got towards the end of the path near the Trespass Stone there was still a reasonable amount of light left.
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Back at home I made a brew and downloaded the days photos to the pc. It had seemed strange not having Poppie with me on my day out but hopefully I made up for it by taking her for a walk on Smithills Moor, and I got some sunset shots as well so I think we were both happy that night.
 

Lancaster Canal – Moons Bridge to Guy’s Thatched Hamlet

My Monday walk this week was done in mid September and just four days after my canal walk from Garstang. My original plan was to walk from Moons Bridge Marina to Blackleach Marina just a couple of miles away in the Preston direction, however things didn’t quite work out like that. Moons Bridge Marina is situated off a narrow country lane with very few places to park safely and from where I left the van I had to walk up and over the bridge then down to the towpath on the far side – and that’s where, for once, my normally excellent sense of direction and the in-built satnav in my brain deserted me.
Moons Bridge Marina was developed from a canal-side farmer’s field over twenty years ago and has been owned and run by the same family ever since. After taking a few photos round the marina itself I headed along the lane and over the bridge to the canal towpath but that’s where I went wrong – instead of going ‘sort of’ southwest I went under the bridge and ‘sort of’ northeast and I only realised I’d gone wrong when I kept seeing the Bowland fells in the distance ahead of me. There was no point turning back and starting again though, and I knew where I would eventually get to anyway, so I decided to carry on.
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One thing which did surprise me as I walked along were the large stretches of surface weed on the water, something which I’ve only ever associated with ponds and other still waters; even when a boat travelled through it the weed would only momentarily disperse before covering the surface again. Another thing I noticed was the amount of pylons and power lines crossing the countryside; I know these things are essential in rural areas but I’ve never seen as many as that on any of my other walks.
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Although the sun kept disappearing behind a bank of white clouds it was still very warm and the light tracksuit top I was wearing was eventually taken off and tied round my waist. Being a weekday I had the canal to myself and I didn’t see anyone until I got to White Horse Bridge where I encountered a group of students and their teacher; they seemed to be doing some sort of field studies so I assumed they were probably from the agricultural college a couple of miles away. They were quite spread out across the narrow path so to give them chance to move on I went up onto the bridge to take a couple of shots looking over the canal and the surrounding countryside.
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From White Horse Bridge it was only just over a mile to Guy’s Thatched Hamlet; I was making that my turn around point and it wasn’t long before I started to see signs of civilisation and boats moored alongside the towpath. Going up onto the road passing Guy’s I took a couple of shots from the bridge before having a wander round the hamlet itself. When I was there in late May the whole placed had been closed and it had seemed strange with no-one around – now it was partially open and several people were enjoying drinks at outside tables but it still felt weird.
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While I’d been wandering round Guy’s the clouds had gradually been clearing away so the walk back to Moons Bridge was much sunnier and I was able to retake some of the shots I got earlier on. As I got near to the marina I realised something – throughout the whole of the walk I hadn’t heard any birdsong. Even though trees had lined the canal path in several places there hadn’t been a tweet or a chirp anywhere which I thought was very strange. Back at the marina I took my final two shots from the bridge and the lane then made my way back to the van to head for home.
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Although the walk had started out as a mistake and had covered more than twice the distance originally planned it had nevertheless been very enjoyable, and as I’d always planned to do that section of the canal at some point anyway, probably next year, it meant I could now tick it off my list a bit sooner than I intended.

Lancaster Canal – Garstang to Catterall

My Monday walk this week is the on-foot version of a cycle ride I did ten years ago. Back then I was camping at Bridge House Marina by the canal on the far side of Garstang so my cycle ride had started from there, however this time my walk was starting from Garstang itself, at Bridge No.62 near Th’Owd Tithe Barn pub/restaurant.
Set back off the canal and next to the restaurant was The Moorings Basin with several colourful narrowboats moored up, then a couple of hundred yards away was the Wyre Aqueduct designed by John Rennie and built in 1797; at 110ft long it carries the canal 34ft above the River Wyre. At the far side of the aqueduct a set of steep wooden steps led down to the riverside where I was able to photograph the structure from down below.
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Back up on the canal I passed a long stretch of modern houses and went under three bridges before I left civilisation behind, and apart from the sound of birds in the trees and an occasional passing boat it was very quiet and peaceful. Round a wide bend I could see the old Garstang castle, or what remains of it, standing on high ground in the distance at the far side of the canal; photographing it from nearby is something else on my ever-lengthening ‘to do’ list.
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Greenhalgh Castle was built in 1490 by Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and the land on which it was built was said to be a gift to Stanley from his stepson Henry Tudor for his assistance in defeating Richard lll at the Battle of Bosworth. Constructed of rubble and sandstone it stood on a small area of raised ground and was rectangular with towers 24 yards square at each corner.
During the English Civil War the castle was garrisoned by James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, in support of Charles l and it was one of the last two Royalist strongholds in Lancashire to succumb following a siege by Cromwell’s forces in 1644/45. The garrison eventually surrendered in 1645 on provision that the men were allowed to return to their homes unharmed, then demolition teams partially destroyed the castle to make sure it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.
After the castle’s destruction many of the local farmhouses, including the nearby Castle Farm, incorporated some of the stones into their buildings; following its continued deterioration over the centuries the only remaining part is the lower section of one of the four original towers and as it stands on private land it’s inaccessible to the public although it can be seen fairly close up from a nearby lane.
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Approaching the next bridge I was quite surprised to see a couple of cows across the other side of the canal, standing well over knee deep in the water and slurping copious amounts from between the weeds and water lilies. Eventually I came to a marker post telling me it was 16 miles to Preston – I didn’t think it was as far as that but if it was then I was glad I wasn’t going there.
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My goal on this walk was the Calder Aqueduct, again designed by John Rennie and built in 1797 but shorter than the Wyre Aqueduct. Carrying the canal over the River Calder in the Catterall area the aqueduct has an adjoining weir on the upstream side, built to lower the bed of the river under the canal with the river itself being channelled beneath the canal through a single elliptical arch. The riverbank on the downstream side was wide and grassy with a steep path down from the canal and ten years ago I’d stopped there for a picnic before cycling back to the camp site.
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Heading back to Garstang I spotted something up ahead on the far side of the canal and getting closer I found it was a heron. It hadn’t been there earlier so I watched for several minutes, and unlike the statue-like one I’d seen on another stretch of the canal back in June this one did actually move. Eventually I came to the marker post which told me it was a mile back to Garstang although to get to there from the town earlier on had seemed to be more than a mile.
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Approaching civilisation there was a small inset on the far side of the canal with three colourful narrowboats moored up and it wasn’t long before I began to see boats moored on my side. I’ve often wondered where some canal boats get their quirky names from and I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of them. One of the last in the row had some small brightly decorated barrels fastened to its roof and they looked so pretty I thought they deserved to be photographed.
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Back across the Wyre Aqueduct, past the Moorings Basin and Th’Owd Tithe Barn and I was back at my starting point, Bridge No. 62 where my van was waiting for me just a few yards down the road. The walk was one I’d been wanting to do for a while, I’d really enjoyed revisiting a part of the canal I first went to ten years ago and it was another completed section to tick off my list.

The Singing Ringing Tree

Standing on the moors high above the Lancashire town of Burnley is the Singing Ringing Tree, a wind powered musical sculpture designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu as part of a project for the East Lancashire Environmental Arts Network. Completed in 2006 it’s 10ft tall and built from galvanized steel pipes of varying lengths which form the shape of a tree bent and blown by the wind. 
A total of 322 pieces of steel make up the tree; these are arranged in 21 parallel layers with each layer being supported by rings and everything being welded and bolted together. Although the widest point at the top spans over 13ft the narrowest point at the bottom is less than 4ft wide; computer models were used during the design process to calculate the right amount of rings, bolts and pipes needed to keep the structure upright. Due to the varying length of the pipes and the narrow slits cut into specific ones the tree produces a sound, when the wind blows, which covers several octaves and is described as being discordant, melancholy, and intensely beautiful.
I first found out about the tree quite a while ago but even though it’s only a 35-minute drive from home I’d never managed to get there, however I took advantage of a beautifully sunny early morning just a few days ago and went there straight from work. Just over a mile and a half from the A682 up a steep moorland road I came to a small car park set back off the road itself and I could see the tree down the hill and to the right. A stony path with a left and right turn led from the car park and a ten minute walk got me to the tree.
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Being still reasonably early in the morning I had the place to myself so I was able to wander round and take photos from several different angles without anyone getting in the way. Although not exceptionally windy there was a stiff breeze blowing which was just enough to make the tree ‘sing’ though to be honest I certainly wouldn’t describe the noise as being ‘intensely beautiful’ – it was weird, slightly eerie, and reminded me of the sound you get when blowing across the top of an open glass bottle.
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When I’d got enough photos of the tree I turned my attention to the surroundings and trying to ignore the urban sprawl of Burnley down in the valley I got a few shots of the countryside and the views towards Pendle Hill before making my way back along the path towards the car park.
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Towards the top of the path and just at the other side of a wire fence was a stone built cairn which, since that morning, has given me several hours of frustration and annoyance. The structure itself looks fairly modern, maybe built from the remains of a stone wall, but I couldn’t decide if the worn stone frescoes round its sides were very old or modern ones maybe done by children and made to look old.
Although there’s an information board near the car park which tells how the area got its name there’s no mention at all of the cairn; Google Maps says it’s a ‘decorated cairn/historical landmark’ and though there are many internet sources of information for the Singing Ringing Tree there’s no information anywhere for the cairn – even a phone call to Burnley Tourist Information produced nothing but a ‘this number is not in use’ message so I’m currently none the wiser as to its history, age or significance.
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Not far from the cairn and close to the car park was the very attractive Life for a Life memorial forest planting site established in 2003 and where a native tree can be planted in memory of a loved one. Coming from across the road was the constant bleating of a sheep and when I went to look I saw just one on its own while the other few in the flock were quite a distance away and ignoring it completely. The moorland on that side of the road seemed to be wilder and more desolate and I was glad it was a sunny morning; with one final shot looking down the road I went back to the van and set off for home.
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The walk from the car park to the Singing Ringing Tree and back was only a very short one and I’d only spent an hour in the area but in the warm sunshine it had been a very pleasant hour. Although I wouldn’t purposely go back to the tree I know there are a couple of good walks which can be done from there so maybe next year I’ll go back for a revisit.
** The original Singing Ringing Tree, from which the sculpture partly gets its name, was an East German children’s film made in 1957 and shot in Technicolour. It was bought by the BBC in the 1960s and cut into three parts which were shown as a mini series in late November/early December 1964, being repeated many times over the years until 1980. With its style of story telling similar to the Brothers Grimm it was said to be ‘one of the most frightening things ever shown on children’s television’, and a Radio Times readers’ poll in 2004 voted it the 20th spookiest tv show ever.

A wander by the Wyre

My Monday walk this week was done just yesterday and was actually Plan B when Plan A didn’t work out. I started off mid morning at the big car boot sale near the village of St Michael’s on Wyre; normally held every weekend from May bank holiday until the end of September it was the first time this year that it was on and I’d been looking forward to it.
My original intention, once I’d looked round all the stalls twice, was to drive over to Garstang and walk along a section of the Lancaster canal but when I came to take the first couple of photos at the car boot my camera told me that all images would be stored on the internal memory, which I thought was rather odd until I found the media card was missing – I’d transferred it to my card reader a few days previously and forgotten to put it back in the camera.

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View from the car boot field

Not knowing how many photos I could take using the camera’s internal memory – I suspected not very many – and with a lot of grey clouds around anyway there was no point going all the way to Garstang so I decided to have a short walk along a section of the River Wyre instead. Driving into the village I parked near the primary school then walked the hundred yards or so along the main road and over the bridge to the riverside path and the start of the walk; it’s a walk I’m familiar with as I camped a few times at a lovely little site nearby several years ago.

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River Wyre from the bridge

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While the river meandered round and doubled back on itself the path carried straight on, first through a tree shaded area close to a small field of sheep then along the high bank of the river itself with a couple of pleasant meadows on my left below the bank. At the next bend there was just one lone person sitting fishing; the river wound back on itself again there, skirting the edge of another meadow and effectively making it a dead end so I knew I would end up retracing my steps.
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Continuing to follow the river round the edge of the meadow I came to the junction of a narrow brook and I remembered that on the next bend there should be a small sandy beach. I was right, the beach was still there, so I went down off the bank and let Poppie have a few minutes paddle before I continued round the edge of the meadow. Eventually I could go no farther as my way was blocked by a fence and gate leading to a small development of waterside holiday lodges so I cut diagonally back across the meadow and rejoined the main riverside path along the top of the bank.

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The Bowland fells in the distance

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Heading back to the road I almost stood on a toad in the middle of the stony path. At first I thought it may be injured but it hopped a couple of paces when I touched it; up ahead I could see a couple coming towards me with a big dog so to save the possibility of the toad being snapped at I picked it up and put it gently in the foliage off the path.
Back at the bridge I crossed the road to the riverbank at the other side with the intention of walking along for a mile or so – another route I’ve done before – but there was a small herd of cows up ahead with a couple of mean looking ones right in the middle of the path. I had no intention of getting into an argument with those two so I gave up on that idea and decided to call it a day and make tracks for home.
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Passing St. Michael’s Church I found it was open to visitors for ‘private prayer’ – not that I’m religious – so finding somewhere suitable to leave Poppie for a few minutes I went to take a look and found I was the only person in there. A church has occupied that site from at least the 13th century; the present church was probably built in the 15th century with alterations being made in the 17th century. The chapel at the north of the church dates from 1480, it was repaired in 1797 and restored in 1854. The tower is said to date from 1549 and houses a ring of three bells hung in a timber frame. Inscribed with Gothic script the treble bell was originally cast in 1458 and was given to the church by a French lady; the second bell was cast in 1663 by Geoffrey Scott of Wigan while the third bell dates from 1742 and was cast by Abel Rudhall of Gloucestershire.
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The colourful corner in the angle of the church wall was my final shot, the camera’s internal memory was full, so there was nothing else I could do other than return to the van and head for home. My day hadn’t worked out as I’d originally planned but I’d made the best of it, Poppie had a paddle and I actually got more photos than I thought I would so I suppose it was still a success even though it was a minor one.

 

Heapey to White Coppice

A few days after my unplanned walk to White Coppice I found out that there was a chain of three lakes in the vicinity of the hamlet; they seemed easy to get to and would probably make a good dog walk so a very warm and sunny Sunday morning a week ago saw me setting off from home to explore pastures new. My original intention was to start the walk from White Coppice but the plan was scuppered when I came to the turn off for the hamlet and encountered problem No.1, a large wagon taking up the whole of the narrow lane and a board saying there was a 15-minute delay. Okay, I could live with that, so I reversed into the end of a nearby farm track and waited…and waited…and waited.
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I couldn’t see what was going on behind the wagon but even after almost half an hour there was no sign of it moving so I gave up waiting and drove on to what would have been the turn around point of the walk, the third lake in the Heapey area – and that’s when I found problem No.2. There was a car park adjacent to the lake but as I drove in I saw the sign – ‘Wigan & District Angling Association – Car park for anglers use only – non anglers will be clamped’. That may or may not have been true, I certainly didn’t see anyone walking round checking the cars already there, but I didn’t want to take any risks so I drove out again and managed to find a safe parking spot a short distance along the road.
Back at the car park steps took me down to the end of Lake 1 where I had the choice of a path along the dam or one to the right; I chose right first but I hadn’t gone far when I met with a large and extremely wet and muddy patch right across the path. It was too long and wide to negotiate without wellies, Poppie would have got filthy, and trying to get round the side of it could have ended up with the pair of us tumbling down the steep bank into the water so I retraced my steps and went along the dam instead. I could only go so far though before the outflow channel stopped me so with just a few shots taken I headed back to the car park and the gate to the next lake.
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Lakes 1 and 2 were separated by a second dam with a very pleasant wide grassy area overlooking Lake 2 and a footpath leading to the far side, but once again I came up against another obstacle blocking the path at the end of the dam. This time it was a semblance of a low dry stone wall topped by strands of a wire fence with a gap at one end and a notice saying ‘Access for anglers only’ – so back I went and continued the walk along the main path, getting a few lake view shots as I went.
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Past the end of another dam which carried a track from the fields up to a farm across the other side I came to Lake 3. It was narrower, darker and more overshadowed by trees than Lake 2 meaning decent photo opportunities were few so I headed on towards White Coppice. Near the end of the lake a wooden footbridge crossed a narrow brook almost hidden in a deep ditch then a boardwalk ran along the edge of a field to another wooden footbridge which came out at a pleasant grassy lay-by on the main lane through the hamlet.
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Across the lane were the cottages set at an angle which I’d photographed on my previous visit and growing above and behind the large driveway gate of the end house was a profusion of bright red flowers which seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere – I was sure they hadn’t been there before as they were so bright I could hardly have missed them. Along the lane the ford had a bit more water running across it than before; Poppie enjoyed a little paddle and while I was there I took a few more shots of the cottages and gardens across the stream.
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On the corner by the ford was a footpath sign pointing up the steep narrow lane so I decided to walk up the hill to see what was up there. The answer was not much; after a few hundred yards and three bends the tree shaded lane ended in the driveway to a couple of cottages and several farm buildings. Walking back down to the main lane a movement at the top of the bank on my right caught my eye; a dark bay horse was standing by the fence and a few yards farther on an inquisitive donkey was staring at me from up above.
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Back down on the main lane I took a couple of shots of the pretty garden with the stream flowing through it then headed back to the lay-by where the wooden footbridge would take me back towards the three lakes; there was no point walking up to the village green and cricket pitch as nothing would have changed within the last two-and-a-half weeks.
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Walking along through the field near Lake 3 I was suddenly surprised by a flash of bright turquoise blue flying up from the grass right in front of me and landing just a few feet away. It was a damsel fly, something I’ve never photographed before, so hoping it wouldn’t suddenly take off again I lay flat on the grass to get a couple of close-ups – and it was only when I got back home and put the photos on the pc that I realised I hadn’t photographed just one damsel fly, I’d got two and they were in the process of mating.
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I must have looked a bit odd lying flat on the grass like that so I was glad there was no-one around just then to see me. The damsel fly (and presumably its partner) flew off after a few minutes so I got back on my feet and continued the walk back to the van, with my final shot being another one overlooking the end of Lake 2.
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The walk hadn’t been a long one – time-wise less than two hours including stops to take photos. Being almost level for most of the way it had been an easy and very enjoyable walk, and seeing the two damsel flies had certainly been a very unexpected and delightful bonus.

 

Brinscall to White Coppice walk

My Monday walk this week was done the day after my Heysham visit and on the second extremely hot day of the week, and though not immediately local the start of the walk was only just a 20-minute drive from home. During a conversation with a friend a few days previously she had told me about a lake she and her partner had stopped at briefly while on an afternoon out round the countryside; it sounded nice for a walk round without going too far so after checking out the location on Google maps off I went.
At the far side of Belmont moors a left turn took me another couple of miles to Brinscall village and the lake which was situated behind the swimming pool building and had a small free car park. At the end of the car park was a pleasant looking small park area with a playground and benches overlooking the lake but looking down the lake itself I could see it wasn’t as big as I first thought and it wouldn’t take me long to walk round it.

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View from the far end of the lake

The lake was bordered on one side by a densely wooded area and as I set off along the path I came to a signpost for the hamlet of White Coppice, just one-and-a-half miles away. I hadn’t been there for easily twenty years and as I had plenty of time I decided to abandon my round-the-lake walk and head for there instead. A short boardwalk took me over a bit of a boggy area then from there a long almost straight path followed a shallow river, with the trees opening out occasionally to give views of the surrounding hillsides.
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The path seemed to go on for ever but eventually I caught a glimpse through the trees of a couple of buildings and soon a slope led me down to a rough track and I emerged at the side of White Coppice village green and cricket pitch with its pretty cottages over the far side. Benches were set at intervals around the edge of the green and though there was no cricket match to watch several people were taking advantage of the sunshine and nice views. On a corner down the lane from the village green was a very pretty lake but it seemed to be private, belonging to one of the houses set just up the hill off the lane, so unable to walk round it I had to be happy with just one shot from over the wall.
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A bit farther on a shallow brook ran parallel to the lane for a short distance, creating a ford across a minor lane and skirting the edge of a very pretty garden before disappearing under the road, and at the far side of the brook an attractive row of cottages was accessed by wooden footbridges over the water.
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A little way on, and round a bend, I came to the last row of cottages, set at an angle to the lane and with the garden wall of the end one covered in pretty red and yellow flowers and lots of foliage. Back at the ford Poppie decided she wanted to cool off a bit so I spent several minutes with my feet just about on dry land while she paddled about at the end of her lead.
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Heading back to the village green I came to the gated entrance to what was obviously a fishing lake; I wasn’t sure if I could go in to take some photos but there was a young guy repairing the fence just inside the gate so I asked him and he said it was okay. The lake was only accessible on that one side and at the far end of the bank was just one lone person sitting peacefully fishing.
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With the last shot of the lake I made my way back to the footpath beyond the village green and as I headed back to Brinscall the cooling shade of the trees made a welcome change from the heat of the afternoon sun. When I got to the bottom end of Brinscall lake I continued with my original plan to walk all the way round it and went along the far side back to the car park. This side was more open than the other side, with a road bordered by a wide well kept grass verge with benches set at intervals, views across the lake and nice looking houses and bungalows with attractive gardens, and just by the last bench before the car park I came across a Muscovy duck pecking about on the grass.
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Although the visit to White Coppice had been totally unplanned the walk there and back had been very enjoyable and it had been nice to see the hamlet again after so many years, but now it was time to go back home and relax for a while with a much needed long cold drink.

 

Lancaster Canal – Glasson Branch

The Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal was built to connect the main canal at Galgate to the River Lune estuary at Glasson Dock, with construction starting in 1820 and the branch opening in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its 42 miles the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin.
I’d walked along a short section of the canal one day last summer but this time I intended to explore the whole two-and-a-half mile length, which I did just eight days ago. Starting from Glasson Basin it was only a short distance to the first bridge, which was technically the last one as the locks and bridges are numbered from the junction with the main canal. The footpath was wide and grassy, bordered by hedges on the left, open fields across the canal and with the Bowland Fells in the distance. At the far side of the hedge near the second bridge was Glasson Marina Holiday Park, a medium-sized static caravan site, and once I was past there I was away from any form of civilisation until I got past the third bridge.

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View from the first bridge – Bridge 8

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View from Bridge 7

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View from Bridge 6

A short distance past Bridge 6 was Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green, a canalside hotel, bar and restaurant, currently closed but under normal circumstances probably a popular place to stop off for a drink on a warm sunny day. Bypassing the far side of the lock was a canal overflow channel and standing as still as a statue in the bottom end was a heron; I watched it for several minutes but it never moved an inch.

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Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green

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Just past Lock 6 was a short mooring platform then the canal curved round to the right and in less than ten minutes I was at Lock 5. Nearby a mother swan and her two young ones glided silently through the water and the bottom of the hedgerows were interspersed with large patches of oxeye daisies growing just a few feet from the path.

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Lock 5

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

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Bridge 4

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Lock 4

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Tortoiseshell butterfly

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

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View from Lock 3

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

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View from Lock 2

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Red Admiral butterfly

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Lock 1, Bridge 1

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Bridge 1

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

 

River Lune walk at Caton

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

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Stone carving showing the cycle path as the old railway line

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The bridge was very wide with seats on each side and the cycle path, which would once have been the old railway line, running through the centre. On one side, and only a hundred yards or so away, was the road bridge to Crook O’ Lune picnic site and beyond, and on the other side were extensive views over the river and surrounding countryside.
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Deciding to check out the picnic site first I crossed the bridge and followed another path uphill to the nearby car park. There wasn’t much to the picnic site itself, just a few benches set on a grassy area overlooking the river but the views were good with the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance, and there was another stone carving, this time depicting the view from that particular spot.
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Back down the hill from the car park I took the path heading east along the riverside; I knew that somewhere up ahead was a shallow weir so that was to be my turn round point. With no rain for several weeks the river was quite low, very shallow in places, and there were several stony beaches at intervals just below the riverbank.
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Retracing my steps and passing the picnic site I crossed back over the pedestrian bridge and found a path which took me to a gate where I could cross the road and get down to the river at the far side of the road bridge, then with a couple of shots taken from there I headed back to the gate.
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Taking a slightly different path from the gate I headed back towards the pedestrian bridge and on the grass nearby were two wooden otter sculptures. I wasn’t too keen on the first one, its tail was too long, but the second one was cute – I thought it looked rather like a little dog begging for a treat.
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Away from the wooded area by the bridge the path followed the riverside through open grazing land dotted with occasional trees and various flocks of sheep. Walking eastwards I eventually came to the weir and set back off the path was an odd looking square building set on top of a round concrete pillar and with steps up one side; according to the sign attached to the door this was the Caton Flow Measurement Station.
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A bit farther on I came to Artle Beck which flowed into the Lune from somewhere beyond Caton Village; it wasn’t as wide as the river but it was wide enough to need a decent wooden bridge to cross it. Farther on still was the waterworks bridge which carries four huge pipes taking water from Cumbria down to the Manchester area, and high up on the wall at the end of the bridge was a carved fresco with a Latin inscription. It looked rather worse for wear and the lettering was indistinct but I liked it enough to take a photo.
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Beyond the bridge the land got narrower, turning into a peninsula where the river doubled back on itself. Sheep were all over the place with some sheltering from the heat of the sun under a tree while others wandered about on one of the riverside beaches. A wide rocky beach extended right round the bend in the river and I had a wander down to the water’s edge there so Poppie could have a cooling paddle, in fact as it was such a hot day I was very tempted to do the same.
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Still following the river I headed back west and yet more beaches appeared down below both banks, though with the sun now in my eyes the best shots were taken looking back to the east. Soon the river curved round another wide bend, heading in the direction of Caton village, and it wasn’t too long before the noise of traffic told me that the main road wasn’t too far away.
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After a while the path became a rough track which left the riverside and became a lane running past meadows bordered by sweet smelling hawthorn hedges. Towards the end of the lane was an attractive looking white walled house set on its own in a surrounding garden and just past there I was back on the cycle path not far from the car park at Bull Beck.
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My walk – part 1 in red, part 2 clockwise in blue

Back at the van I decided to go in search of a cold can of something to quench my thirst as I’d used up my water supply on my walk. Unfortunately the Co-op shop in Caton village had a long queue outside it and joining it would have meant leaving Poppie in the hot van so I drove on to Halton village which didn’t seem to have a shop at all. There was however a road signposted to Lancaster so I took that, ending up on the northern outskirts of the city and not far from Morecambe.
It was still only mid afternoon so I took the next turn off for Morecambe itself and just before I arrived at the south end of the promenade I found a corner shop where I was able to get a drink and a snack. Heading north along the promenade I had to go as far as Happy Mount Park before I could find a roadside parking space; I did have a quick walk round the park as I hadn’t been there for many years but with various parts of it closed up and very unkempt it didn’t look particularly attractive so without taking any photos I returned to the van and had my drink and snack with far reaching views across to the hills of south Cumbria.
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I did, for one mad moment, consider walking back along the promenade as far as the clock tower but it was quite a distance and I’d gone far enough on my walk by the Lune, so with one final shot overlooking the bay I turned the van round and headed for home – I could do the promenade walk another time.

 

Lancaster Canal & Guy’s Thatched Hamlet

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