Overnight at Glasson Dock – 1

Back in early July, which seems ages ago now, the warm sunny weather and long hours of daylight prompted me to take myself off on a bit of a weekend adventure, staying overnight completely off-grid at Glasson Dock on the Lune estuary. Now I’ve stayed at a few quite basic sites over the twenty five years I’ve been camping but this wasn’t even a site, it was a lay-by at the side of a lane, though I’d previously been assured by someone ‘in the know’ that it would be okay to stay there overnight.
The lay-by was apparently quite a popular spot for people to park up and go for a walk or just sit and chill out so several cars were already there when I arrived just after 2pm, however I found a place towards the bottom end and with a brew made on the camping stove I spent some time taking in the views in front of me. Across the estuary and over to my left was Sunderland Point with its rows of old cottages facing the water and in the distance the huge bulk of Heysham power station, while in front of me was Bazil Point, an area I’d walked round in May.
Sunderland Point
Bazil Point
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Back in the early years Glasson was just a very small farming and fishing community known as Old Glasson but because of the increasing difficulty for ships navigating up the Lune to Lancaster docks the Lancaster Port Commission decided to build a new dock on a sheltered bend in the river and closer to the sea. Land at Glasson was purchased in 1780 and construction was started, with the dock finally being completed and opened in 1787, and with the need to house the many workers building it an adjacent village began to grow. The dock was a well equipped place capable of holding up to 25 merchant ships, and following its completion a small lighthouse was built on the east side; currently used for storage there seems to be very little information about it but it became Grade ll listed in March 1985.
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Before the growth of the village there were originally only two buildings in the dock area itself. One was Pier Hall, owned by a Mr Salisbury and which eventually became an inn, and the other was The Old Ship House, the beached hulk of an old West Indiaman merchant sailing ship with holes for doors cut into the bulwarks and rooms built inside. The Old Ship House was an inn from around 1783 until 1790 and was the predecessor to the Victoria Inn, built around 1800 and which still stands on roughly the same site. Fast forward to today’s modern times and the Victoria closed down in 2015 due to lack of business; various plans to revamp the once attractive historic building have so far come to nothing and sadly it remains empty and derelict.
The Victoria Hotel
With the construction of the Lancaster Canal between 1792 and 1800 thought was given to making a connection between it and the sea, although the original plans weren’t actioned. Those plans were revived in 1819 and after additional finance was raised construction of a canal branch, later known as the Glasson Arm, was started in 1823 and opened in 1826, with a large canal basin behind the dock. Over its two-and-a-half mile length from Galgate to Glasson the branch canal dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal had been built lock-free for the whole of its 42-mile length the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin, with a seventh lock between the basin and the dock itself.
In 1834 a shipyard and Customs House were built at the dock, followed by a watch house in 1836 and a dry dock in 1841. The quay was connected by a branch line to the railway network in 1883, operating passenger services until 1930 then continuing with goods services until its final closure in 1964. The shipyards, which had been mainly concerned with ship repair rather than ship building, eventually closed in 1968 with the dry dock being filled in a year later. A limited amount of commercial shipping still uses the dock to this day, with outgoing shipments including coal for the Isle of Man and Scotland’s Western Isles and incoming cargoes of fertiliser and animal feeds.
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Since the shipyards closed in the late 1960s the canal basin has developed over the years into a large marina for pleasure craft, currently with a wide range of boating services and mooring facilities for 220 boats, and in more recent years the trackbed of the disused railway line has become a very pleasant pedestrian path and cycleway which is part of the Lune Estuary Footpath and also one end of the 81-mile Bay Cycleway established in 2015.
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Down the hill from my parking place was a small industrial area behind the dock and set back in a corner was the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse factory shop. Originally established on the quay at Lancaster around 50 years ago the family run business moved to Glasson in 2008 and still uses many of the traditional methods of preparing and curing fish, meats and cheeses of all kinds.
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Passing the back of the nearby Dalton Arms pub a narrow street of terraced stone cottages took me to the road through the village, with the marina at the far side. Across the swing bridge and on the corner was the Lock Keeper’s Rest, a large former static caravan turned into a snack bar/takeaway popular with bikers, walkers and cyclists, and on a small raised cobbled area was the Bi-Centenary Anchor, placed there in May 1987 to celebrate the bi-centenary of the dock’s opening. At one time that corner was nothing much to write home about but it seems to have undergone a fairly recent transformation with a greatly extended seating area and plenty of picnic tables – overlooking the marina and with lots of greenery and colourful plants in tubs it certainly looked a lot more attractive than it once did.
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Across the road was the bowling green with the start of the cycleway at the far side, which was also the start of the circular walk I’d planned to do. The level path ran between the road and the estuary for quite a distance then veered off on a raised bank across the saltmarsh before a bridge took me over the little River Conder, a tributary of the Lune, to the small hamlet of Conder Green. There was nothing really there only a dozen houses, some farm buildings and The Stork pub; my intention had been to take a photo of The Stork but the late afternoon sun was in the wrong direction and the building was in shade so I headed off along the road back towards Glasson.
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Mosaic set in a garden wall
I’d walked for quite a distance when I saw something obviously very dead lying in the middle of the road. At first I thought it was a baby squirrel but on closer inspection it turned out to be a weasel, and going off its small size it was still quite a young one. Externally there wasn’t a mark on it so not wanting it to get squashed by the next car which came along I picked it up to leave it somewhere out of the way, but never having seen a weasel before other than in books or on the tv I took a quick photo before dropping it into the long grass over the other side of the roadside crash barrier, where hopefully it would be out of the way of anything which might see it and peck it to bits.
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Continuing along the road I passed a static caravan park, a couple of houses and a group of farm buildings then turned left for a short distance to a slope which took me off the road and down onto the canal towpath. A short way along was Christ Church, designed by Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe and built in 1839-40. The churchyard, which contains the war graves of two soldiers from WWl and one from WWll, was extended in 1905 when land was granted on provision that a burial plot was available in perpetuity for members of the Dalton family who owned most of the land in the area, though only two male members of the family have ever been buried there, with the female members laid to rest at Lancaster Cemetery.
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Walking along the side of the marina I couldn’t miss the brightly painted canal boat moored at one of the pontoons. With my liking for multi-coloured abstract street art it was just my ‘thing’ and I couldn’t help wondering if the owners were also street art fans or if they had painted the boat like that just to be different. Back across the swing bridge I called in at the shop to get some cake for a treat later on then made my way back to the lay-by and my ‘pitch’ for the night, finding when I got there that anyone else previously parked there had gone and I now had the place to myself.
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After a simple meal, a brew and a couple of slices of cake I whiled away the time with a few chapters of my book then with the late evening light fading I took Snowy and Poppie for their last walk of the day. Down at the marina various lights had come on in different places and with the stiff breeze of earlier on having dropped the now calm water produced some nice reflections.
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Sunset over the estuary
Being completely alone in the lay-by overnight didn’t worry me, in fact I rather enjoyed the solitary peace and quiet, and as I settled down to sleep I had my fingers metaphorically crossed that I would wake the following morning to some more of the lovely weather I’d had that day.

Day 6 – Afternoon at Bodnant Gardens

After a bit of a detour to get out of Conwy due to major roadworks at a crucial junction a short drive along the A55 got me to the A470 which took me to Bodnant Gardens. My last visit there was seven years ago and back then I’d had to leave my dogs Sophie and Sugar in the van but this time my visit was on one of the ‘dogs allowed’ days, although I still found a parking space in the shade of some trees.
The Bodnant estate was first established in 1792 when a Colonel Forbes built Bodnant Hall, a large mansion house which replaced an earlier house on the same land. Early records show that Bodnant, which in Welsh means ‘dwelling by a stream’, had been home to the Lloyd family from the reign of James I, passing by marriage to the Forbes family in the mid 1700s. With the building of the mansion Colonel Forbes then went on to develop the parkland around it in the English Landscape style.
On Colonel Forbes’ death in 1820 the estate passed by marriage to William Hanmer of Bettisfield Park in Flintshire and over the following years he made his own improvements, including building the present Old Mill between 1828 and 1837 and extending the garden around the mansion house. When Victorian industrialist Henry Davis Pochin bought Bodnant for £62,500 at auction in 1874 it was an estate with several farms, a walled garden, woods and plantations though it was his grand vision to turn it into something much greater.
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Henry Pochin was born in Leicestershire in 1824 into a 200-year-old family firm. He trained as an industrial chemist and made his fortune from two big ideas, one of which was inventing a process which turned soap from the traditional brown into white. Living and working in Manchester he became an MP, Mayor of Salford, and the director of 22 companies, and also owned Haulfre Gardens in Llandudno between 1871 and 1876. After purchasing Bodnant Hall in 1874 he set about remodelling the house and enlisted the skills of well known landscape designer Edward Milner to redesign the land and the gardens around it.
Together they relandscaped the hillside and valley, planting American and Asian conifers on the banks of the river running through the land to create a woodland and water garden. Apple trees were taken from Haulfre Gardens and replanted at Bodnant, glasshouses were built in the upper garden to house exotic plants and 48 laburnums were planted to create the 180ft long Laburnum Arch, now believed to be the longest and oldest in the UK although today’s laburnums are from different stock. In 1883 the POEM (Place Of Eternal Memory) mausoleum was built in The Dell in memory of four of Henry’s children who had died in infancy, later becoming the resting place of Henry himself and other family members.
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As a local landowner Henry Pochin was no less active, building cottages on the Bodnant estate and improving farming practices on the land. He also bought land at Prestatyn on the coast, where he supplied the seaside town with clean water and gas, built flood defences and developed a foreshore and promenade. He remained active in business throughout the 1880s but was overcome by ill health and died aged 71 in 1895, passing on the Bodnant estate and garden to his daughter Laura McLaren, married to Charles McLaren, 1st Baron Aberconway. A keen horticulturalist, she had already designed many gardens by the time her father died.
At the turn of the century Laura developed the wild garden at the ‘Far End’ and as a lover of herbaceous plants she also developed the upper formal gardens in the newly emerging Edwardian style with billowing flower borders. In 1901 she entrusted the care of the garden to her son Henry McLaren on his coming of age but maintained a keen interest and together they created the Skating Pond at the Far End and the stunning Italianate Terraces, built by hand using local labour in two phases, 1905-06 and 1912-14.
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Using as a guide the highly popular book ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making’ by Thomas Mawson other major developments continued, including the Lower Rose Terrace and the Lily Pool Terrace which was influenced by the Earl of Crawford from Fife, with Henry McLaren later adding several classical statues including the stone sphinxes on the Lower Rose Terrace.
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As well as overseeing the major developments of the gardens Henry, who had become an industrialist and a barrister and later 2nd Baron Aberconway, also sponsored the expeditions of plant hunters such as Ernest Wilson and George Forrest who brought back to Bodnant ‘exotic’ new Asian plants, notably magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons, and with his head gardener Frederick Puddle Henry himself bred many unique Bodnant hybrid rhododendrons.
In 1939 the Pin Mill, which dates from 1730, was rescued from decay by Henry who bought it for an undisclosed sum, had it dismantled and brought from Woodchester in Gloucestershire to Bodnant, and as a grand finishing touch to the terraces it was rebuilt brick by brick at the end of the Canal Terrace, where it remains the most recognised and photographed feature of the gardens.
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In 1949 Henry, who had been president of the Royal Horticultural Society since 1931, handed over care of the gardens, but not the house, to the National Trust. It was the second estate to be acquired by the NT (the first being Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire) as Henry hadn’t wanted to be accused of using his position to have Bodnant become the first. After his death in 1953 his son Charles McLaren (3rd Baron Aberconway) continued to develop Bodnant Gardens with the NT by making further improvements, opening new vistas and adding new plants, and in 1961 he became president of the RHS.
After Charles’ death in 2003 his younger son Michael McLaren, a practising London barrister, inherited the Bodnant estate. He still remains keenly involved and as garden manager and director he maintains the family’s historic and creative links to Bodnant with new developments which, since 2012, have brought about the opening of previously private areas.
View over the Lily Pool Terrace
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The Lily Pool
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A very old tree by the Lily Pool
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The rose trellis
Lower Rose Terrace, Canal Terrace and the Pin Mill
The Old Mill in The Dell
Canal Terrace and the Pin Mill
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After my long morning walk to Conwy marina and back, a couple of hours looking round the castle and climbing four towers, plus almost the same length of time wandering round the main parts of the gardens I didn’t really feel like climbing down the steep paths and steps to the bottom of the valley and walking all the way up to the Skating Pond. It was inevitable that if I climbed down I would have to climb back up so I decided to give any features in that area a miss, get a coffee from the Pavilion tea room then head back to the camp site, though as I drove along the A55 I had no idea what awaited me when I got there.
What had originally started out as a pleasant breeze that morning had gained in strength during the course of the day until it was blowing an absolute hooley – something akin to Gale Force 109 if there is such a thing – and I arrived back at the site to find that one side of the tent had blown inwards and everything inside was upside down on the floor. Fortunately the tent itself was securely anchored so it couldn’t actually blow down but the central pole had bent out of shape a bit – thank goodness for carbon fibre flexibility, at least it hadn’t snapped. Luckily nothing inside the tent was broken and it was all easily picked up and put back in place, then after I’d checked all the guy lines and pegging points I was free to relax for the rest of the day.
**From October 1st to the end of March dogs (on leads) are welcome in the gardens every day, then from April 1st to September 30th on special ‘dog days’ – all day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and between 5pm and 8pm on Wednesdays.

Last Drop circular walk

After most of the month being cloudy and grey with a fair bit of rain we had a few days of sunshine last week so on one of the days I took Snowy and Poppie on the first really good walk of the year. At first I was reluctant to take the camera as it’s a walk I’ve done many times before and featured on here more than once but the day was too nice not to take it.
A short 7-minute drive from home took me to the Last Drop Village and leaving the van in the rear car park I set off across the adjacent fields, with the moorland of Winter Hill in the distance ahead of me. I expected a lot of the ground to be wet and muddy but a few recent very frosty nights and cold days made sure most of it was frozen and dry. The track at the far side of the fields took me through an area of scrubland to the traffic-free lane bypassing the old quarry; at one time I enjoyed wandering round the quarry and would often see rabbits scampering about in the sunshine but now it’s really overgrown and has an oppressive feel to it. Even the once pretty little pond on the top level is so overgrown and choked with weed that the one photo I took was immediately deleted.
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At the end of the lane I turned right along the path running between farmland and the fenced-off forested rear edge of the quarry; if I was going to encounter any wet and muddy patches that’s where I would find them as the narrow drainage ditch running between the path and the fields often overflows in wet weather but again everything was dry. A left turn at the end of the path took me up the side of the first field to the gate onto the golf course and not far along the track I was rewarded with the sight of a small clump of early flowering bright yellow gorse, while further along the iced-over pond looked like it needed some work to clear all the overgrown reeds.
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Just past the pond three golfers pushed their trolleys up a track on the left to the green at the top of the slope and out of sight on my right the sound of a small tractor indicated that some work was being undertaken somewhere. Following the track downhill I eventually came to the fence and gate separating the golf course from open grazing land and I was just about to open the gate when my eye was caught by a movement a distance ahead. Two deer were running across the field but before I could even lift up the camera they had disappeared into the trees at the far side.
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Across the fields a second gate and a cattle grid took me over a small brook to the lane leading across the castellated railway bridge to the grounds of Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line; James Kay, who owned the tower and it’s grounds at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and while the second bridge is just a normal footbridge this one incorporates a viewing tower.
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At the far side of the bridge a path took me through the nearby woods where I wandered along to the formal garden and lawn then round to the front of the building. Back on the lane it was just a couple of hundred yards to the main road then almost a mile-and-a-half of road walking to get back to the Last Drop Village.
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Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family who once lived at Turton Tower. In 1930 William Carr, a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally, bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but over the years the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm and its land were sold.
The new owner, Carlton Walker, was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal Mr Walker’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and it’s also a very popular wedding venue.
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With the sunshine just taking the edge off the coldness of the day and the bonus of seeing the deer running through the fields it had been a very enjoyable walk, now it was time to head for home and an appointment with a mug of coffee.

At long last, a decent dog walk

After what seems like weeks of constantly dull grey days and interminably wet weather culminating in storm whatever-it-was-called and a couple of days of (fortunately very short-lived) snow showers, Thursday two days ago was absolutely glorious. Now the dogs are like me, they hate wet weather and their recent walks have been relegated to ’round the block’ or even just ’round the garden’ if it’s been really bad, so Thursday’s sunshine and blue sky was a good opportunity to finally get out for a decent local walk.
Across the nearby park was Smithills Open Farm with the two farm dogs sunning themselves behind some newly installed railings, then along the lane I came to the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall, although with no leaves on the trees it isn’t exactly hidden just now. In a corner of the lawns Little Bess’s grave contained the remains of just one artificial plant and across the far side two ladies, both wearing red coats, were sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine.
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There’s only one thing wrong with taking the camera on a local walk which I’ve done several times previously – the photos I take are almost the same as the ones I took before and the ones before that, but it was such a lovely day I hadn’t wanted to leave the camera behind. The path alongside what had been the old garden centre boundary wall was covered in russet coloured leaves, soggy from all the recent rain, and at the far end of the nearby field two ponies, one rugged up against the cold weather, mooched about quietly minding their own business.
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Beyond the field the path crossed a narrow brook and joined up with three other paths; from there I could see across 16 miles to the city centre high rises of Manchester, including the ugly Beetham Tower, and I could even make out the red and white Printworks sign. The shortest route from there would have been straight on but I took the path on the right which meandered down and round the edge of a small area of woodland before joining up with the far end of one of the other paths.
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From there it was just a 5-minute walk through the nearby farm yard and down a short lane to the main road then ten minutes down the hill and I was back in my own street. It had been good to get out into the fresh air and though it was cold the sunshine and blue sky had made it a very enjoyable walk.

An autumn walk round Rivington Gardens

After all the grey, damp and drizzly weather we had locally during October and early this month we recently had a couple of really nice sunny days so one morning I took the dogs for a walk round Rivington Terraced Gardens, somewhere I hadn’t been to for quite a while.
In 1899 local soap magnate William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme), founder of Lever Brothers (now Unilever) and one of Bolton’s most famous and generous benefactors, bought a large parcel of land below Rivington Pike on the western slopes of Winter Hill with ideas on how it might be developed, and in 1901 a single storey prefabricated timber bungalow supplied by a firm in Manchester was erected on a level section of the hillside. Named Roynton Cottage it was designed by Lever’s old school friend Jonathan Simpson and was intended for weekend visits and shooting parties.
Four years later Lever met landscape architect Thomas Mawson and the two collaborated in the design of the terraced gardens though Lever himself influenced the actual layout and also designed Lever Bridge which crossed the main lane through the gardens. With one large arch crossed by six smaller ones it was based on a bridge Lever had seen during a trip to Nigeria and is now known locally as Seven Arch Bridge. Work on the gardens spanned a 16-year period from 1906 and in 1921 the landscape and architectural firm of James Pulham & Son were responsible for the creation of a steep rocky ravine with waterfalls and a Japanese-style garden with three pagodas, inspired by a visit Lever had made to Japan several years earlier.
In 1913 the bungalow was destroyed in an arson attack by suffragette Edith Rigby. The stone-built replacement was on a much grander scale and was a place for entertaining; along with a dining room, morning room, lounge, library, study, kitchen and servants’ quarters it also incorporated a music gallery, a circular ballroom, glass-roofed pergola and a winter garden. Following Lever’s death in 1925 the house and gardens were purchased by Bolton brewer John Magee then after his death in 1939 the site was acquired by Liverpool Corporation; in 1948 the bungalow and its entrance lodges were demolished and the gardens were opened up to the public. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 the site passed to the North West Water Authority and along with much of the surrounding land is now owned by United Utilities.
After decades of nature being allowed to take its course the gardens gradually became overgrown in many places and in 2014 the site was named by the BBC Countryfile programme as one of Britain’s Best Lost Gardens. In early 2016 the Rivington Heritage Trust secured £3.4million from the Heritage Lottery fund to improve, revitalise and maintain the gardens and their features and a huge repair and conservation project was soon undertaken. With non-native shrubs and self-seeded trees being cleared away, remaining stone buildings being made safe and accessible, and several original paths and stone stairways being uncovered the gardens eventually began to look how they once might have been. When I last went up there three years ago conservation work was very much ongoing, now it seems to have finished and as I walked round the gardens it was a delight to discover features I hadn’t known existed or which had previously been inaccessible.

From the car park to the gardens

View from the path

View along the Seven Arch Bridge

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A recently uncovered stone stairway and arches

Overlooking the Italian Lake

Originally called the Dovecote Tower, the Grade II listed Pigeon Tower as it’s now known was built in 1910 by R Atkinson to a design by Thomas Mawson, commissioned by Lever as a gift to his wife, Elizabeth Ellen. A 4-storey building with a basement entrance, each storey was just one single room with the floors linked by a solid stone spiral staircase running up the spine of the building. The first and second floors housed ornamental doves and pigeons while the top floor was Lady Lever’s sewing room/music room. Above the ornate fireplace was the family motto and a circular emblem with the letters spelling out ‘WHEEL’, the initials of William Hesketh and Elizabeth Ellen Lever.
As part of the recent conservation project the Pigeon Tower has been sympathetically restored and with a new roof and windows, repairs to the stonework, new flooring and an aesthetically-pleasing security door with oak wood surround the building is now completely safe and open to visitors during special events and Open Days, although any doves and pigeons have long since disappeared. Situated on the highest level of the terraced gardens the nearby lane has far reaching views westwards across the Lancashire Plains to the coast and northwards to the hills of the south Lake District, while North Wales can be seen from the top of the tower itself.

The Pigeon Tower

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The site of the bungalow

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The tennis lawn and summer house

Overlooking the Japanese Lake

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It was just after I’d walked round the Japanese Lake that an unfortunate incident occurred. Steps took me down a steep bank from one end of the lake to the path below and as I walked up the path, and right out of the blue, a big dog came running down the bank, fell off the retaining wall, picked itself up and immediately attacked Snowy and Poppie. I’m not sure if it had seen my two from the bank and decided to attack or if it was just running along the bank and went too fast to stop before it fell off the wall but it landed almost at the side of me and so suddenly I had no time to react.
Poppie ran behind me but Snowy had a go back though it was much bigger than her and things almost developed into a full-on fight; although it wasn’t actually a pit bull it looked very much like that type of dog and I really thought Snowy was going to get hurt. There was no sign of the owners but they couldn’t have been far away so I just yelled as loud as I could for someone to call the dog then I heard a man’s voice calling it from the other side of the bank and telling someone to put it on the lead. Fortunately it ran back up the bank and I didn’t see it again, or its owners whoever they were. The whole incident only lasted a minute or two but to be attacked so suddenly like that really shook me up – thankfully Snowy was okay but it won’t have helped her dislike of other dogs.
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Greystoke Village

Going home day arrived with more blue sky and glorious sunshine making me wish I could extend my holiday but unfortunately all good things have to end sometime. After a leisurely breakfast I started on the even more leisurely packing up process and eventually left the site at 2.30pm, though as a final part of the holiday I was stopping off somewhere on the way home.
The village of Greystoke, just five miles west of Penrith, was featured in my ”111 Places” book and it sounded interesting enough for me to want to take a look, though when I got there I was disappointed to find that the castle isn’t open to the public. Surrounding a small green with an ancient market cross dating back to the early 1600s the village was a very pleasant mix of old stone cottages and more modern houses, with a small shop-cum-post office, an outdoor swimming pool, St. Andrew’s Parish Church and the Boot & Shoe public house, while on the outskirts were racehorse trainer Nicky Richards’ racing stables, breeders of two Grand National winners in 1978 and 1984 respectively.
Greystoke Castle began life as a timber pele tower built by Llyulph de Greystoke. After the Norman conquest it was replaced in 1069 with a stone built tower then in 1346 King Edward III gave permission for the building to be castellated, resulting in the creation of the castle proper. In the early 16th century the Greystokes married into the wealthy Dacre family and in the 1560s Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, met and secretly married widow Elizabeth Dacre who had inherited the castle and its land on the death of her husband, 4th Baron Dacre/Baron Greystoke. With Thomas Howard’s three sons marrying Elizabeth’s three daughters the castle and its estate passed into the hands of the Dukes of Norfolk and the subsequent Howard family.
In 1660 the castle was destroyed by Cromwell and lay dormant for a generation, with a small manor house being built on the site from reclaimed stone. The castle was later rebuilt and enlarged in the 1840s to a design by renowned Victorian architect Anthony Salvin and the extensive estate land was converted into a modern farm. In 1868 a disaster occurred when a maid left a lighted candle in a cupboard full of linen, with the resulting fire destroying large parts of the castle. It was then rebuilt by Henry Howard, with Salvin being brought in to oversee the reconstruction using labour and materials from within the estate. Henry even returned some money to his insurance company saying that he had been over-compensated for his losses.
In 1912 author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who was a regular visitor to Greystoke Castle, wrote Tarzan of the Apes using the little-known place as Tarzan’s ancestral home, though the work was purely fiction as all previous 18 generations of the Greystoke family had been accounted for and none of them were ever raised by apes in the jungles of Africa. In 1939 the estate was commandeered by the army and the land became a tank-drivers’ training ground, while the castle itself later became a prisoner-of-war camp largely for Polish men who had been fighting for the Germans, with the prisoners providing labour to run local farms where the men-folk were away fighting.
In 1949 the army decided that it no longer wanted to retain the Greystoke estate but by that time the damage done to the castle and the estate itself was overwhelming and the compensation fund had been exhausted. So began the long slow process of restoration and modernisation, started by Stafford Howard and which has continued in some form ever since. Of course a castle isn’t a castle without an obligatory ghost or two and Greystoke supposedly has nine, including the statutory white lady, a monk who was bricked up within the walls and a butler who likes to play tricks on people down in the wine cellar where he drowned in a huge barrel of the stuff.
Fourteen generations of the Howard family have lived in the castle so far, with the current owner being Neville Howard, and though the place isn’t open to the general public residents of the village are allowed to walk in the parkland and the grounds can be hired for charity events, concerts and off-road driver training, especially for mountain rescue teams, while some of the rooms in the castle can be hired for conferences, civil weddings and receptions.
Under the pretence of being a resident I decided to take a walk up the long driveway to see if I could get within photo distance of the castle, and not too far along was an extensive garden with several colourful beehives dotted about among the trees and bushes. Another couple of minutes and I was within sight of the castle but I could see a couple of people up ahead so not wanting to be noticed I took a quick shot from the safety of some nearby foliage then retreated back down the driveway to the road.
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Across the other side of the village green was The Boot & Shoe Inn, originally an old coach house dating from 1511. According to my ‘111 Places’ book a very informative board describing the history of the village could be found on the way into the pub garden but though I looked all over I couldn’t find it anywhere. The large courtyard garden was very attractive though, with tables and seating on paved terraces and a raised grass area at the end with a couple of 3D murals between the trees.
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Across the road from the pub was the village shop and post office while round the corner was the outdoor pool and small cafe, both now closed, and at the far end of the street St. Andrew’s Church. It was open to visitors so I spent quite a while looking round, though there was so much of interest it deserves a future post of its own.
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Making the church the last stop on my walk round the village I headed back to the car park; time was getting on and I didn’t want to be too late back home. With no traffic delays on the roads it was a good drive back and the sun staying with me all the way made the perfect end to another enjoyable Cumbrian holiday.

Somewhere new – Ennerdale Water

After a bit of a misty start it turned into a beautiful sunny morning and for the last full day of the holiday I was going to somewhere I hadn’t previously been. Ennerdale Water is the most westerly of all the lakes and according to various sources is the least visited – with my preference for quieter places I was looking forward to a good dog walk where hopefully I wouldn’t meet too many people.
It was a nice easy drive from Cockermouth down the A5086 then round the country lanes and through Ennerdale Bridge village. With a choice of two car parks I went to Bowness Knott on the north side of the lake first but didn’t stay long. The car park itself was set among tall conifers at the edge of a large forest on the narrower part of the lake; with the sun behind the higher fells to the south quite a bit of the area was in shade so I only took a short walk before driving to the other car park, making a couple of brief photo stops on the way.
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The second car park, Bleach Green, was at the south western corner of the lake where a short walk through a wooded area and along a wide pleasant path took me to the widest and more open part. A small weir allowed water from the lake to feed the River Ehen and the views down the lake itself were stunning.
When I’d first thought about going to Ennerdale I’d also thought about walking all the way round the lake – at only two-and-a-half miles long and less than a mile wide at its widest point it certainly sounded doable – but that was before I’d read some information about the area on a ‘Lakes walking’ website. It seemed that a certain section of the path on the south side involved a fair bit of scrambling and ‘hands on rock’ – not a good idea with two dogs in tow so for safety and sanity I stuck to the western end of the lake.
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A path close to the weir took me through an area of small trees and bracken before emerging close to the lakeside and several times I went down to the water’s edge to let Snowy and Poppie have a paddle. At one point I came across a couple of backpacks and a coolbag on the ground and just down below the path two ladies were having a lakeside picnic; they had chosen a great spot and it looked like they were having a nice time. 
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As I got round to the north side of the lake the path veered away from the water and took me through an area of scrubland; a little way ahead was a gate so I used that as my turn-round point and retraced my steps. About halfway along I saw something I hadn’t noticed before as I was too busy looking at the views over the lake. In a grassy clearing set back off the path was a bench and what appeared to be a good view over the nearby fields but the bench was occupied by a couple with an off-lead dog bigger than my two so I didn’t go for a closer look.
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Back at the weir I found that corner of the lake was occupied by an older teenager/young man about to set off on a stand-up paddle board. I watched him for a while as he paddled further out across the water; he was obviously on his own and with no life jacket so I hoped he would be okay if he fell in, especially as there was a “Danger – deep water – No swimming” sign close to where he’d left his things.
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With the final couple of shots taken I headed back to the van for the return drive to the camp site – it had been a lovely few hours out and I’d been very impressed by the views around Ennerdale. Since getting back home I’ve found out that there’s a cafe in the nearby village so with the possibility of being able to get a coffee and a snack that area is now on my ‘must return’ list of places.

Bassenthwaite Lake and Latrigg Fell

A day in which I climb a mountain the hard way….
It was another lovely morning full of sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, with the nearby fells so clear they seemed to be within touching distance so I knew just what I was going to do with my day. Distance-wise, this time I was only driving the 11 miles to Keswick but making a photo stop on the way.
There aren’t many places on Bassenthwaite Lake where you can actually get to the water but the north west corner is one of them and it was on my route from the camp site to Keswick. Leaving the van in the first of two small parking areas set back off the lane I went down through the trees and walked along the lakeside until I could go no further without getting very wet feet. Heading south down the A66 a while later the views across the lake were so lovely that I pulled up briefly in a lay-by to get another couple of shots before continuing on to Keswick.
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A couple of days before the start of the holiday a suggestion had been made via email that if I wanted (quote) “a nice fell walk that doesn’t involve mountaineering  but gives stupendous views” I might like to consider Latrigg, so having checked it out on Google maps that’s where I was headed. Parking was on a residential road on the outskirts of Keswick where an unadopted lane ran for quite a distance, taking me over the A66 to the start of the footpath up the fell. An information board showed the various paths and bridleways around and up the fell and as the main path in front of me seemed to be quite steep and uneven I decided to take a level path through the woods instead.
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All went well for quite a distance and it was a very pleasant walk but then I hit a big problem – a huge area of woodland extending almost to the top of the hillside had been felled and ripped out by machinery and any semblance of a footpath had completely disappeared. With nothing but piles of dried out branches and vegetation and the remains of tree trunks sticking up everywhere it looked like the aftermath of the apocalypse. So I had two choices – retrace my steps to the main path or try to find a way up the hillside. I suppose I should really have turned back but dogged determination made me continue, using the machinery tracks as a path.
The first hundred yards or so weren’t too bad but then the machinery tracks went vertically up the extremely steep hillside. To make matters worse some of them held pools of stinky, muddy stagnant water and I often had to walk along the top of the banked up earth in the centre – negotiating tree stumps and dead vegetation and trying not to let myself or the dogs slip into muddy water was certainly a challenge. I should really have taken a photo to show just how steep the hillside was but concentrating on getting up to the top without doing myself a mischief meant I wasn’t really in the mood to use the camera.
The start of my epic climb
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Looking back
Looking along the fell – a quarter of the way up, still a long way to go
Just over halfway up and over to my right was a barbed wire fence and a wooden gate leading to a very pleasant looking grassy part of the hillside – if I could get to it the rest of the climb might be a bit easier. There was only one thing wrong – running down the hillside in a dip between me and the gate was a stream which needed to be crossed. Carefully picking my way down into the dip I found a very narrow bit of the stream where I could step across via a couple of flat stones then up the other side of the dip I finally reached the gate.
Unfortunately it was fastened shut but that was no problem, I just posted the dogs through the bottom of it then climbed over – and what a difference there was in the terrain. A narrow but smooth and level grassy track led through an area of russet coloured bracken, the few small trees dotted about sported their autumn berries and the views to the south and east were opening up in front of me – it all looked rather lovely. It wasn’t long though before I had to start climbing again; the hillside was just as steep as before but at least the grassy track made things a bit easier.
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Finally, just over an hour after I started my epic climb, I reached the top of the hillside and the gate which took me onto the ridge of the fell. It was a joy to see some reasonably flat land and after such a steep and strenuous climb I felt like I should have planted a flag there to celebrate conquering the mountain. My climb hadn’t been without incident though – several times I’d been attacked by bits of dried out tree lying on the ground and the back of my legs had sustained several scratches which still haven’t completely disappeared. 
I hadn’t been on top of the fell for long when four RAF jets came out of nowhere and flew at speed one after the other right over my head. They were very loud and very low, so low that they only just skimmed the top of the fell and the earsplitting noise terrified Snowy but fortunately they were gone in seconds, disappearing out of sight up Bassenthwaite Lake.
The summit of Latrigg looking east
Looking south east
View north west towards Bassenthwaite Lake
View over Keswick to Derwentwater and beyond
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After spending some time taking in the views and recovering from my climb I set off on the downward journey, this time on the path that I should really have gone up. It was a fairly easy-to-walk zig-zag route which gave me some more lovely views over other nearby fells, with the last few hundred yards of the path being the steep bit which I should have gone up at the start. Eventually I was back on the unadopted lane crossing over the A66 and my last shot of the day was taken just before I reached the road where I’d left the van.
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View along the Vale of Keswick to Bassenthwaite
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At 1,207ft Latrigg is one of the smaller fells – I’d climbed up it, walked down it, got some good photos in the process and the dogs had a good walk, now it was time to go back to the camp site and relax for the rest of the day. 
While writing this post I came across a photo on the internet which I’m including here. The screen capture from Google maps shows the hillside before the Forestry Commission got their machines on it – the blue line is where I walked through the woods, the yellow shows the area of trees which have been felled and the red is my route up the hillside. The photo shows the steepness of the hillside – although the bottom of the hill is obscured the red line shows part of my route to the top, with the white spot denoting the gate I climbed over.
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Photo credit – The Keswick Reminder
Would I go up Latrigg Fell again? At the moment the jury’s out on that one but I won’t deny that the views were certainly ‘stupendous’ so if I’m on another camping holiday in Cumbria and the weather is right then maybe – although if I do I’ll make sure I use the proper path to get there.

September in Cumbria – return to the Lakes

A day in which I meet one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever come across…
The middle Sunday of September saw me leaving home in drizzly rain and grey cloud for my second holiday at the Cumbrian farm site I love so much, though I hadn’t gone too far up the M6 before the rain stopped. By the time I’d got past the turn off for Lancaster and Morecambe the sun was shining, staying with me all the way to the camp site, and with just two caravans and two campervans across from the tent pitches it looked like it would be a quiet week.
Dotted about round the site are several picnic benches available for anyone to take onto their pitch and use while they are there so with the tent up and everything organised inside I’d dragged the nearest one, which was sitting in the middle of the grass at the end of the site, onto my pitch so I could fasten the dogs’ tie-out cables to the legs. There had been no-one around at the time but I was just about to make a brew later on when the guy from the caravan on the pitch diagonally opposite came across – and you’ll just have to imagine his tone of voice, which wasn’t very nice at all.
Pointing to the picnic bench he said “I was going to use that!!” Now to suddenly be spoken to like that by someone I’d never met before rather surprised and shocked me but before I could say anything he pointed to a bench further down the site and said “I suppose I’ll have to go and get that one now!!” and off he went, back into his caravan. I saw him a while later carrying another bench along the track through the site but he dumped it on the next-but-one pitch to mine and when I looked later I saw it was more of a child sized one so obviously not big enough for him.
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Now I could ~ maybe ~ have understood this guy’s attitude if ‘my’ bench had been on or very close to his pitch, in which case I wouldn’t have taken it anyway, but it had been nowhere near his caravan so I didn’t know why he should decide to claim ownership of it and come over and verbally accost me. Needless to say, although I did speak to several other people on site over the course of the next ten days I kept well away from him and didn’t let the encounter spoil my holiday.

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.