Creatures of the camp site

For my final holiday post I thought I would include some of the many creatures which call the camp site and farm their home. When I stayed there two years ago, aside from a large flock of sheep, 24,000 chickens and two dogs, the farm’s animal collection consisted of four pygmy goats, a small collection of hand reared/captive-bred birds in large aviaries and a few ponies which I never saw, however several changes since then have seen the addition of more birds, a couple of rheas, some alpacas and several rabbits.
The aviaries were set back in a pleasant area behind the facilities block, some of them having information plaques attached, while the ponies were in the field in front of my tent and the alpacas and rheas in paddocks to the side. A wide gravel track ran between the paddocks and down at the bottom were the goats, while the rabbits were in an enclosure at the corner of the farm track. It was all a very well thought out set up and reminded me a bit of a small-scale version of a wildlife park.
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Of course I couldn’t forget my own two camp site creatures, Snowy and Poppie. It was Snowy’s first holiday and while Poppie preferred to lie in the shade under the table Snowy liked to stand on  the table so she could see what was going on around us, though she wasn’t happy about having to stay in her travel crate while I took the tent down on going home day.
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A quiet early morning
The golden glow of evening
River view near the site
After having lovely sunny weather for most of the holiday going home day was cloudy and grey. The rain arrived just after I left the site and it lasted until I was halfway home then the clouds cleared and the sunshine and blue sky returned, staying with me for the rest of the day – it was a perfect end to a lovely holiday. 

Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket

After my brief visit to the pharmacy in Cockermouth and a look round the hardware shop and heritage museum I returned to the campsite to decide on the next part of my day. The first antihistamine tablet, which I’d taken as soon as I came out of the pharmacy, was already working its magic as the swelling in my arm had gone down considerably, and the previously purchased painkillers had seen off most of the pain in my foot. Not wanting to aggravate it any more than I needed to I decided to drive out to Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket; both places seemed to be fairly small so I shouldn’t have too much walking to do.
The villages had previously been suggested to me by my blogging friend Jayne and though I didn’t remember it at the time Caldbeck was actually featured in my ‘111 Places’ book. The village’s history can be traced back to before medieval times and since the Lake District was designated a National Park in 1951 Caldbeck, being very close to its northern boundary, is classed as being the last (or first) village within the Park. Looking at the photo in the book and reading the details it sounded like it was quite a picturesque little place so with sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds I was looking forward to seeing it.
From the camp site there were two different ways to get to Caldbeck so I decided to go clockwise, one way there and the other way back. My route from the site took me onto the A595 then several miles north to the B5299 heading roughly east. The narrow road seemed to go on and on and I thought at one point my usually good sense of direction had failed me and I’d somehow taken a wrong turn somewhere but eventually I arrived at Caldbeck and a sign directed me to the village car park where I was able to leave the van in the shade of some trees.
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The road to Caldbeck – not far to go

My walk started from the far end of the car park where a path led up a slope between the rear gardens of two houses and curious to know what was up there I went, coming out by an extensive village green with a large duck pond. Unfortunately I couldn’t walk all the way round the pond as the green was bisected by a couple of deep drainage gulleys with water running down them. They were only narrow but still too wide to jump across with two dogs so I had to walk quite a distance along the nearby track before I could cross the green, where I came out onto the road opposite the attractive Cornerstone Methodist Church.
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Down the road and across from the car park entrance was Friar Row, a pleasant lane with a handful of detached houses on one side and stone cottages on the other. Eventually the lane turned into a track across a field and my way was barred by a field gate; it seemed to be private land from there so I retraced my steps to the bridge over the beck.
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Across the bridge I skirted the rear wall of the church grounds and came out at Priest’s Mill, a restored early 18th century water mill originally built by the village rector at the time. Initially used for grinding corn, from 1933 it was used as a sawmill and joiner’s workshop until floods destroyed the mill dam in 1965. The mill was eventually restored, with the work being completed in 1985, and it now houses a couple of craft and gift shops, a cafe and a tea garden, and there’s a picnic area beside the river. The only machinery left is the 14ft diameter water wheel which has been restored to working order, and though I didn’t go inside anywhere the wheel pit area apparently displays a local collection of old rural implements.DSCF9377 - CopyPriest's Mill, Caldbeck
A short walk up the track past Priest’s Mill brought me to a row of attractive cottages set sideways on to the road and a few yards along was the gate to St. Kentigern’s Church, also known as St. Mungo’s. Built on the site of a previous church dating from the 6th century the earliest parts of the current church date from the 12th and 13th centuries, with alterations made in 1512 and again in 1727 when the height of the tower was increased. In 1880 the building was restored by Carlisle architect C J Ferguson and a further restoration was carried out in 1932 by J F Martindale.
Close to the church is St. Mungo’s Well, a holy well where Christians were baptised in the 6th century, and in the churchyard is the grave of John Peel, a well known local huntsman who became the subject of the song D’ye ken John Peel?  written by his friend John Woodcock. Also buried in the churchyard is Mary Robinson who became known as The Maid of Buttermere.
Mary was born in 1778, the daughter of the landlord of the Fish Hotel in Buttermere. At the age of 15 she caught the eye of Joseph Budworth, a soldier and writer who described her beauty in great detail in his light-hearted ramblers’ guide to the lakes and as a consequence she became quite a sensation. Five years later she married the Honourable Alexander Hope, MP for Linlithgowshire, and her wedding was reported in the London Morning Post by Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge, though several people expressed their doubts about it. It turned out that they were right and the man was an imposter by the name of John Hatfield, a forger and swindler who was already married; convicted of his crimes he was hanged a year later leaving Mary heartbroken. Her popularity had grown though and she became the subject of many theatre plays, novels and poems. She went on to marry Richard Harrison, a local farmer, and they had four children together; she died in 1837 at the age of 59.
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Along the road from the church I found the village store and a row of cottages with pretty gardens, and set in a triangle between three lanes was the local pub, the Oddfellows Arms. Heading back to the car park I passed another couple of rows of cottages and some more very pretty gardens separated from the road by Gill Beck, then a hundred yards or so further on I was back at the car park.
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With my circuit of Caldbeck completed I headed the mile-and-a-half along the road to the neighbouring village of Hesket Newmarket and I have to admit to being totally underwhelmed. Although there wasn’t a great lot at Caldbeck it did have several interesting features and it was a very pretty place but there was hardly anything at Hesket Newmarket. Just a pub, a small chapel and a very small shop tucked away in a corner but other than that, zilch, nada, nothing, and no pretty gardens anywhere. Its one saving grace, for me at least, was the attractive view down the village green with the fields beyond, and with just one photo taken I returned to the van.
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My route back to the camp site took me back through Caldbeck and towards Bassenthwaite, passing through the hamlet of Uldale before eventually reaching the A591 where a couple of miles north I reached the turn off which would take me close to the site. I’d previously only been along that particular lane just once, on my way to the site on my first day, and I hadn’t taken much notice of the surroundings but this time I did and the views were lovely.
At one point I could see Bassenthwaite Lake, which wasn’t really all that far away, so I stopped the van in a convenient place and got out to take a couple of photos. Unfortunately no amount of editing has been able to get rid of the overhead electricity cable very visible in the zoom shot but in reality it didn’t spoil the view at all.
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Thinking about my afternoon out, if Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket hadn’t been suggested by Jayne, with Caldbeck also being featured in the ‘111 Places’ book, I would probably never have known about either of them or even gone there. Being a bit off the beaten track they certainly weren’t touristy places, in fact Hesket could best be described as ‘sleepy’, and though I wasn’t particularly impressed with the place I did like Caldbeck, so maybe some day in the future I’ll make a return visit.

Things you don’t see every day

Well you might if you actually live in the countryside but not if you live in a town or the suburbs. Spending the first full day of my holiday on the camp site to rest my painful foot I was able to see things which, even though I only live ten minutes walk from local countryside and moorland, I wouldn’t normally get to see unless I just happened to be in a certain place at the right time.
Driving back from town after picking up some more painkillers I rounded a bend in the lane and had to stop to let a couple of pedestrians cross in front of me. They were in no hurry but then neither was I, and eventually they made it to the other side and disappeared through the nearby farm gate to join their companions.
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Closer to the camp site I had to stop again and this time I got out of the van to take the photos. I’d just snapped the third one when I heard the sound of a car approaching the nearby bend; mother duck and her youngsters were just about to cross the lane so I stepped out and signalled the driver to stop, which fortunately he did, and the little family crossed safely, disappearing through a gate into the garden of a nearby cottage.
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Later that day, sitting in the sun with my foot resting on the door pocket of the open van door, I heard the unmistakable sound of a tractor and looked up to see a John Deere and forage trailer advancing down the field in front of me. This was followed by a Krone BIG 780 forage harvester and three more tractors with trailers, then with one tractor driving alongside the harvester the previously cut grass was scooped up and chopped up for silage by the machine then deposited into the trailer, and as one trailer became full the tractor drove away and the next one took its place.
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It was great watching the farm machinery at work though I have to admit that with my own previous experience of owning and driving vintage tractors I would have loved to get up in one of those modern ones. With the four tractors running in relay the whole operation was completed with no interruptions and it didn’t take long before the whole field was cleared, then once the harvester and tractors had finally gone the camp site became quiet once more and peace remained for the rest of the day.

Going awol

Well not exactly ‘awol’ but I am  disappearing for a while. Later this morning I’m off on a 10-day holiday to Cumbria, staying on a lovely little camp site which is part of a farm. Miles away from anywhere with an on-site wildlife lake, surrounded by fields, overlooked by Skiddaw and its neighbouring fells, and nothing but peace and quiet – it’s a little bit of heaven away from a mad and manic world.
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I stayed there twice two years ago and loved it so I’m really looking forward to this holiday. Hopefully the dogs and I will come back refreshed and relaxed and I’ll have plenty of photos for the blog so I’ll see you all when I get back.

A local walk at Easter

Staying away from Manchester street art for a while, my Monday walk this week is just a local one which takes me not too far from home and which I featured on here a couple of years ago. Along the back lane close to home I came across a large patch of tiny yellow flowers spreading across the grass verge; I don’t know what they are, they may even be weeds but they looked pretty enough for a quick photo.
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The bottom of the lane emerges onto a busy main road and over on the far side is a large and pleasant triangle of green space. Bounded by the main road on one side and by minor roads with big houses on the other two sides it’s not big enough to be called a park but with a couple of benches it’s a nice enough place to sit and while away some time on a sunny day.
At the apex of the triangle a local community group had put up three Easter displays while further along all the larger trees had been decorated with colourful ribbons and there was a childrens’ Easter egg hunt taking place A couple of large white ‘Easter bunnies’ were overseeing the proceedings and a ‘find’ of a painted stone, plastic duck, rabbit or egg could be exchanged for a chick or a rabbit containing a creme egg.
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Following the longest of the minor roads took me to a steep cobbled lane with an even steeper bank on one side, and down at the bottom of the lane was the bridge over Eagley Brook. At the far side of the bridge was Brook Mill, a former cotton mill converted into apartments in 2003, and down in the water was a small group of residents ducks, among them the large black and green Cayuga duck which I’d first seen two years ago. Not having seen him last year it was nice to know that he’s still around.
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A short access road behind Brook Mill took me to a footpath and a distance along was the very overgrown mill pond with its current residents, two mallards and a white duck which seemed to be all on its own. The footpath emerged onto the large expanse of open land belonging to a local sports club and I found that since I went that way last year the land had been separated from the path by high green metal fencing with a proper entrance and access track running between the football and cricket pitches. There was a game of football taking place, presumably between two local amateur teams, but as I have no interest in sport I only stayed long enough to snap a couple of photos.
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A cobbled lane at the far side of the sports ground ran alongside the river and took me back onto the main road where a tarmac lane across the far side led me to a farm track through a wooded area, which in turn took me to a fishing lake and a huge field which was part of a vast expanse of farm land. A gravel footpath close to one side of the lake ran along the edge of the field and up to the main road which eventually runs past the end of my street.
As I got further along the path I came across three teenage lads sitting in the grass and shouting up to a fourth lad who was climbing up a nearby tree. I watched for a couple of minutes as he got higher and higher on some very narrow branches, then decided that I really didn’t want to witness what could possibly be a nasty accident if he put a foot wrong and a branch gave way; you can just see him on the left in the bottom two of the following four photos.
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Leaving the lads behind I continued up the path towards the road and a couple of minutes later was met by a large red tractor and trailer trundling down the hill. I didn’t fancy stepping off the path to get out of its way as the grass along the edges had been churned up, presumably by said tractor, but I needn’t have worried as it went round me. As it neared the bottom of the path it turned off into the field and began muck spreading, and though I couldn’t actually smell anything I was glad I wasn’t still down there.
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At the top of the hill I turned and snapped a photo of the view then set off down the main road. On the bank between the fields and the road a single clump of daffodils nodded their heads in the breeze and bordering the top corner of the end field were three trees bearing what seemed to be silvery white blossom.
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Ten minutes later I was back home and ready for a mid afternoon coffee. Not being a gardener I haven’t a clue what the silvery white trees were but they did make a nice photo to end what had been a very pleasant Easter walk with Snowy and Poppie.

Friday photo hunt – farm

Starting this week’s photo hunt post with some shots taken at the local open farm which is just a short walk from home. Originally a dairy farm for many years – I remember walking through the farm yard on several occasions when I was a small child and my dad would lift me up to look through the shippon window at the cows being milked – the open farm was established as a visitor attraction in 2001 with various farm animals to see and feed.
Granted a zoo licence in 2009 the different species of animals increased from normal farm animals to include reptiles, owls, meerkats, skunks and llamas to name just a few, and with indoor/outdoor picnic and play areas, bouncy castles, donkey and tractor rides, a cafe, gift shop and ice cream shop, the place is extremely popular and has gone from strength to strength. The admission prices aren’t exactly cheap but there’s no time limit once you’re in there and you can stay as long as you want.
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Travelling up to Cumbria now and a lovely out-of-the-way camp site where I stayed a couple of times in 2019. It was part of a family-owned chicken farm with a huge number of free range chickens used to supply eggs for supermarkets, shops and even McDonald’s, and though with so many birds you would expect the place to be noisy it was actually very quiet.
At the other side of the hedge from my pitch was a large field which had been cut for haylage and on two consecutive days I watched the farm machines at work, baling and wrapping. I found the wrapping process quite fascinating to watch, and with my interest in tractors I would have loved to operate that one. The following morning the bales were all picked up and stacked elsewhere on the farm and the field became available for any campers to exercise their dogs off-lead.
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And finally, I couldn’t end this post without including a bit of cuteness. The farm had three pygmy goats in a small paddock, two were long haired and I liked them all but my favourite was the smallest and youngest of the three.
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Well that’s just about it from me for this week, coffee awaits so with mug at hand I’m off to Astrid’s blog now to see what everyone else has chosen this time.

A reservoir ramble

This week’s Monday walk is the one I originally set out to do a week ago but didn’t because of the horrendous traffic situation I encountered on the Sunday. The following morning arrived with more blue sky and sunshine so I decided to attempt the walk again, this time going earlier than the previous day; it was a weekday so hopefully there would be fewer cars around and no problem parking.
I arrived at the lane leading down to the reservoir a few minutes after 10am and with no cars parked along the ‘B’ road, which was a far cry from the previous day, I decided to leave the van there to avoid any possible traffic problems along the lane later on. With views over the nearby countryside it was a very pleasant walk down the lane to the reservoir and I was passed by only one car.
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The reservoir itself is mainly surrounded by pine forest reaching right down to the footpath so unless the sun is fairly high in the sky many parts are in deep shade, meaning photography isn’t always the best, however when I rounded the second bend in the path I found that many trees on the south side had been felled and the whole place looked much more open than it once was.
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At the western end of the reservoir Cadshaw Brook came from somewhere on the moors and was crossed by a wooden bridge. More trees had been felled here, opening out the end of the reservoir; on the left was evidence that a new footpath was being made and across the far side a small area of what had once been trees and bushes had been cleared to expose a short wavy dry stone wall which followed the contours of the land.
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None of the trees on the north side of the reservoir had been felled and at one point they came so close to the water’s edge that the path was quite narrow in places, though it did widen out as I got further along. Eventually it veered away from the water and took me a short distance through a wooded area skirting round a reservoir offshoot before taking me back to the waterside, and in the water close to the corner was The Wader, a galvanised welded steel sculpture of a heron. Commissioned by United Utilities it was made by Marjan Wouda, an artist originally from the Netherlands but trained in the UK and living and working in nearby Darwen for the last twenty years.
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Past the sculpture the path was separated from the reservoir by a stone wall with several grassy and rocky areas right by the water but these were used by the members of a private fishing club so there was no access for the general public. At one point the trees became quite sparse and set back a few yards off the path I spotted just one small clump of miniature daffodils, the first I’ve seen so far.
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Another ten minutes walking got me to the eastern end of the reservoir and the dam with its lane leading up to an out-of-the-way gastro-pub and a country ‘request stop’ station on the line to Blackburn. Out in the water was something which, from a distance, looked like a small boat but was actually some sort of circular platform with what appeared to be a large net strung underneath it. A large ‘danger’ notice attached to the railings warned of ‘high voltage’ and ‘rotating parts’ and perched on the top rail were several gulls, while three cormorants sunned themselves on the platform underneath.
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Designed by Thomas Ashworth, a local land surveyor, the dam was built in 1832 for a group of local mill owners who obtained an enabling Act of Parliament to regulate the supply of water in Bradshaw Brook for water power for the finishing of textiles further down the valley. The overflow channel with its distinctive ‘pyramids’ and the nearby valve tower were added by Bolton Corporation Water Works who took over the reservoir in 1864, though it’s now owned and managed by United Utilities and along with another reservoir nearby it provides around 50% of Bolton’s drinking water. The door in the valve tower was quite small in comparison to the size of the tower itself, it reminded me of a hobbit door though the fancy stonework round the edge was quite unusual and attractive.
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With one final shot looking back towards the far end of the reservoir I crossed the dam and as I passed the car park I noticed quite a few cars in there although it was by no means full. Heading up the lane I took the last three shots of the countryside then made my way back to the van parked up on the side of the road. 
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When I got there I found just two other vehicles parked a hundred yards or so further along; it seemed that my decision to return to the reservoir on a weekday and much earlier than before had paid off, and without the aggravation of the previous day’s traffic chaos I’d enjoyed a really nice walk.
Entwistle reservoir walk

Snow round the Jumbles

My Monday walk this week was done the day after my walk round Belmont; another morning of blue sky and sunshine was just too good to miss so as soon as I came out of work I took myself off for a walk round the nearby Jumbles reservoir though this time I was minus the dogs.
The lane leading down to the reservoir was perfectly clear and I didn’t see any sign of snow until I got to the path going down and across Ousel Nest Meadows. There were a couple of icy patches where water had run off the land and down the path a little way but other than that it was fine for walking. At the far side of the bridge near the dam I had a choice of going left up the steps or right up the long zig-zag slope; even without the snow the steps are uneven so I took the slope and got to the car park at the top with no problem.
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At the far side of the car park and looking across the main part of the reservoir I could see a thin layer of ice covering much of the surface while further along by the second bridge the offshoot was almost completely iced over, the ice in turn being covered by a layer of snow. Walking past the wildlife area where the water was only a foot or so below the level of the path I could hear the ice cracking with the movement of the thin trees growing out of the water. A small patch of water caught my eye and I watched for several minutes as the ice formed different patterns whenever the water moved beneath it.  
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Further along I came to the narrowest part of the reservoir and at the far side of the next bridge the water in the old quarry was almost completely covered in a layer of ice and snow. Hoping that the weir on the nearby brook may be frozen and I could get some icicle-type shots I followed the path upstream for a short distance but I was out of luck, I could see before I got there that Bradshaw Brook was flowing normally so I retraced my steps back to the bridge. 
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At the far side of the bridge I went down to the water’s edge on the quarry side, and standing there with the water and ice less than a yard from my feet it was hard to believe that only nine months ago, in May last year, the quarry had got so dry in the continuing warm weather that I actually walked along the bottom of it.
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From the end of the bridge the path took me away from the water and through a tree shaded area for a distance before bringing me out at the small picnic/fishing area near the cottages and just as I got there a real commotion came from the nearby slipway. Someone must have just put some food down for the ducks and along with a few geese they were coming out of the water in droves; there was such a feeding frenzy going on it looked like the whole of the north west’s duck population was there.
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Leaving the ducks behind the path continued over a small creek and past the back of the sailing club premises, meandering through another heavily tree shaded area before reaching private land where it continued past a couple of small paddocks and a stable block and eventually joined the bottom end of the lane which would take me back towards the main road and the lane down to work.
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Walking up the lane I could hear the noise of machinery not far away – it sounded like there may be some road works up ahead, which wouldn’t surprise me as it seems everywhere I go in this town at the moment someone is digging a hole in a road somewhere. It wasn’t road works however, the noise was coming from a generator which was operating the facilities in a horsebox recently converted into a mobile snack bar; serving tea, coffee, hot chocolate and toasted sandwiches it had only opened on the last weekend in January. Apart from the noise of the generator I thought it was a good idea, especially in the recent very cold weather as the only other place walkers can get a hot drink is the cafe right on the other side of the reservoir. 
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I was very tempted to get something as I’d only had a brew at work but even in the sunshine it was far too cold to sit on the nearby wall, so with one final shot of a nearby field I headed back along the lane to collect the van from the works car park – just a ten minute drive and I could have a late breakfast in the warmth of my own home.

Belmont walkabout

This week’s Monday walk was done just five days ago on what was the first really sunny day for quite a while. Any snowfall in my immediate area over the previous three days had arrived during the evenings as a very thin covering which had disappeared by lunch time the following day, though on higher ground it still lingered in various places. Wednesday arrived with sunshine and a bright blue sky and as I had to drop some shopping off at my friend’s in Belmont village, just three miles up the road from home, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take the dogs for a decent walk while I was up there.
Starting from the Black Dog pub I went up the hill past St. Peter’s church then cut diagonally across the rough grass to the end of the Blue Lagoon. Much of the reservoir’s surface was iced over but in the corner nearest the road 20-odd ducks were gathered in a large patch of clear water. Across the road a kissing gate led onto the village playing field then a narrow path at the far side of the field took me uphill past the local allotments; a bench at the top makes a lovely place to sit for a while and enjoy the view across the moors but it was far too cold for that so I made my way past a row of quaint stone cottages and back to the main road through the village.
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A hundred yards or so up the road a short path took me down to Belmont Reservoir dam; at one time it was possible to drive from Belmont across the dam and along the moorland road to the Egerton area or vice versa but when the wall of the reservoir overflow channel was rebuilt a few years ago barriers were put at each end of the dam and it can now only be used by pedestrians and cyclists, although I was the only one there just then.
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Just past the far end of the dam I had to negotiate a few quite large patches of ice where water had flowed across the road from the fields but once I was past those I had a mile of pleasant traffic free walking with only the sounds of birds and sheep for company. One sheep – or possibly ram – grazing close to the road had the most wonderful curly horns so I just had to get a photo of it. Eventually I came to a crossroads where turning right would take me back to Belmont village but it was such a nice day I decided to extend my walk via the Blue Lake so turned left instead.
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Another half mile of quiet road walking got me to the wide track leading past the Blue Lake with a view of Winter Hill in the distance. With the reflection of the blue sky in the water it would normally have deserved its name but it was now almost completely frozen over with a thin layer of snow covering the ice, so White Lake would have been a better name for it just then.
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The track past the lake and a nearby pine forest took me to the moorland road running between Belmont and Egerton and that’s when I got quite a surprise. Normally that road is a very quiet one with just the odd vehicle every so often and I’d only seen a couple of cars when I turned off at the crossroads to go to the Blue Lake, but now all of a sudden it was like the M6 on a busy day with a constant stream of traffic going in both directions, and I had to continually step onto the snowy grass verge to keep myself and the dogs safe.
Turning left at the crossroads to go back down to the village the road becomes narrow with a couple of bends and barely enough room for two cars to pass each other. I’ve walked down there with dogs, both mine and my friend’s, many times with no problems but now with so much traffic it was a nightmare and I was glad when the road widened out as I got closer to the village; with one last shot of a few sheep on a nearby hillside I finally reached the main road and my van at the start of the walk.
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Back at home, and talking to my next-door neighbour, I found out why there was such an unusually high volume of traffic on that moorland road. At the time I would have been just over halfway through my walk there had been a bad accident on the main A666 running through Egerton to Darwen and Blackburn and a section of the road had been closed in both directions, with traffic being diverted along the moorland road. In spite of it all though I’d still enjoyed my walk and even though it was cold it had been good for all three of us to get out in the fresh air and sunshine.

Kingfisher trail -Bradshaw Hall to Bradshaw Bridge

The Kingfisher Trail is a scenic 14-mile linear route running from the car park at the south end of Bolton’s Jumbles Reservoir to Philips Park Nature Reserve just north of Manchester. Originally started by the Croal-Irwell Valley Ranger Service in the early 1990s it was taken over and re-established by the Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside branch of the Wildlife Trust after the ranger service was disbanded. Passing through ten different rural areas it includes four natures reserves, two country parks, a site of special scientific interest, an arboretum and a section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal.
In previous years I’ve walked along a few sections of the trail with the dogs without realising they were parts of an official trail and it was only in December that I walked a section of it during my quest to find the preserved front porch of the old Bradshaw Hall. Following that walk I downloaded a trail map and decided that, time and weather permitting, I would walk the rest of the 14-mile trail in convenient sections, starting each section where I finished the last one.
As I set out for work last Thursday morning the early beginnings of a lovely sunrise promised a nice day so I took the camera in preparation for a walk after work. From the works’ car park a narrow path runs down the side of the premises next door to large securely locked and chained cast iron double gates which were once part of the estate belonging to Bradshaw Hall. At the other side of the gates is the path which is part of the Kingfisher trail and the point where I’d turned off on my December walk to find the Bradshaw Hall porch; if I could climb over the gates I could leave the van at work and start my walk from where I previously left the trail.
It was a daunting task given the size of the gates though with trainers on I could have done it, however given that some parts of the trail would probably be very muddy I was wearing wellies so I knew my feet wouldn’t fit through the gaps between the railings – all I could do was drive to what would be the end of my walk, leave the van there and walk by road to my starting point at the other side of the gates.
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Unfortunately by the time I’d left the van in a convenient small car park and walked to where I wanted to be the blue sky had gone and the sun had turned very weak and hazy, only appearing spasmodically from behind a continuous bank of grey-white cloud. With the prospect of getting some very dull photos it was decision time – continue or go home, however I decided to continue, using the walk as a recce for another time when the weather would be brighter and there would be some leaves on the trees.
Passing the gates I’d wanted to climb over and following Bradshaw Brook with the works’ premises on the far side I eventually came to the first of three weirs which had been part of the water management system of Bradshaw Bleachworks established in the 19th century. A sign on a nearby fence said ‘Danger – deep water’ and looking at the turbulence just below the weir I can imagine it really was.
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Past the second weir the river widened out a bit and flowed more quietly. Through the trees up ahead and to the left I could just see a waterfall so I went to take a look; flowing over a man-made structure the waterfall was part of the small brook which ran through the remains of Bradshaw Hall’s original gardens and eventually flowed into the main river. Crossing a bridge over the small brook and back at the riverside I eventually came to the third weir.
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The structure of this weir was obviously different from the other two as the water formed interlocking wavy patterns just before it flowed over the weir itself; I’ve never seen that before and thought it looked quite attractive. Just past the weir the path left the riverside and took me through a wooded area with a small partially overgrown pond before crossing a narrow lane and taking me back to the river.
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Through another small wooded area I came out into a meadow with Bradshaw Cricket Club just across the river on my right. The path ended in a bridge which took me onto the long driveway leading down to the club and I took my last photo from there before heading up to the main road and the nearby car park where I’d left the van.
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It was a shame that what had promised to be a really nice day turned out to be so dull and grey but in spite of that the walk, although not a long one, had been quite enjoyable. I’d discovered somewhere new and got some reasonable photos, and it’s a walk that will certainly be worth repeating later in the year and in much nicer weather.