After being unable to download the most recent photos from my camera to the computer and going through a process of elimination I came to the conclusion that somehow the camera card had become corrupted, so a week ago I got a new card and took the camera to work the following morning to test it on my walk home. It was gradually coming daylight as I got near to work and the sun was brightening the sky with a bit of colour so as I walked down the lane I took a couple of shots through the trees.
All the time I was at work the sun was shining from a lovely blue sky but by the time I left the blue had gone and the sky was grey with a decidedly very weak and watery sun just about shining through, not really what I wanted for my photos but even if they looked dull I was determined to retake the ones I took a few weeks previously and which I couldn’t get off my other camera card.
From the top of the lane five minutes of road walking took me to another short lane and past a farm entrance to where a gate took me to a woodland path. It was bitterly cold and locally it was the first morning with a proper frost, giving the open fields beyond the fence and tree line a crisp white covering.
At the end of the fence a narrow path went down to the right ; I’d never been along there before and I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere so I decided to check it out. It was steep, with rocks, bricks and tree roots hidden under the fallen leaves but I managed to pick my way carefully down without slipping. Almost at the bottom was a very peculiar structure ; from the top of the path it looked like part of a small building but it was actually just a single stone wall with an opening partially covered by a rusty iron gate. With no evidence that there had ever been any other walls attached to it and no clue as to its purpose it seemed very strange.
Beyond the wall the path levelled out and followed the river on the left. On my right was a steep bank covered in undergrowth and with a field at the top ; as I walked along a movement caught my eye and I turned just in time to catch the fleeting sight of two deer which ran along the edge of the field just above me, disappearing into the trees then running up the main path. I’d obviously disturbed them, and though I would have loved to get a photo they were gone so fast that I didn’t even have time to put my hand on the camera.
I could only walk so far before the path and field were bisected by a deep gully with a stream at the bottom ; it wasn’t very wide and under normal circumstances I would have jumped across but I didn’t want to risk slipping on the frosty ground so I turned round there and headed back to the main path. A bit further down was the remains of another fallen tree ; this must have toppled from the steep hillside a while ago, obviously across the path as someone, presumably the nearby farmer, had cut most of the branches off to clear a way through.
Past the fallen tree the path levelled out and I was walking alongside the river, back to a normal level now after being quite a fast flowing torrent from all the recent rain. Ahead of me was the bridge I would cross but first I wanted to check out somewhere else. A few weeks ago, while in conversation with an older friend, she had asked me if there was still a small lake hidden in the trees up the hillside above the bridge as she remembered it from her younger years ; although I’ve walked along the riverside many times over the years, both with dogs and without, I never knew there was a lake in the area so it was time for a bit of exploration.
A rough steep path on the left of the main path took me up through the trees then levelled out, and a distance along it there was indeed a lake. Now it may very well look quite attractive on a sunny day in spring and summer but on a dull autumn morning with bare trees and no wildlife it didn’t exactly have the ‘wow’ factor, but at least I’d found it and could confirm to my friend that it was still there.
Back down at the riverside I took a shot from the bridge then crossed over to what I call the ‘home’ side of the river. It wasn’t far from there to the end of the path which emerged at the bottom of a cobbled lane ; on the right was a small gated yard with three stables where three horses looked out over the doors. The nearest one was Eden and the middle one was Honey but I couldn’t see the name of the one on the left as there was a rug draped over the stable door. The top of the lane brought me out onto the road round a large modern housing estate ; fifteen minutes of meandering from there round minor avenues and I was finally home.
With the exception of the detour to find the lake I walk that route three times a week and from work to home normally takes me 35 minutes ; this time it took me almost an hour and a half but I’d managed to get some reasonable photos, and when I downloaded them onto the computer with no problems later on it proved that there was nothing wrong with either the camera or the computer, and confirmed my assumption that the previous camera card was faulty. At least it had been easily and cheaply replaced, and just in time for another forthcoming trip back to Ireland.
**Two days later, when I stopped to say hello to the horses while on my way home from work, a younger woman was in the process of filling up their hay nets – and she turned out to be someone I’d worked closely with several years ago, and though she lives not far from me we’d lost touch when we both moved on to other jobs. It was good to have a catch-up, during which she told me the third horse is called Archie, and remembering that I once worked with horses myself she said I could go down any time to see her three – and I might just do that.
As October seems to have been constantly wet and miserable, weather which now looks like it’s continuing into November, I thought I’d brighten things up a bit by posting a Monday walk which I did on a warm and sunny day in early August. Having been to Garstang only a couple of weeks previously I decided this time to go a bit further afield and have a wander round Glasson Dock, a little place on the River Lune estuary which I hadn’t been to for several years.
Back in the early years, before becoming a dock, Glasson was just a small farming and fishing community but because of the increasing difficulty of navigation up the Lune to Lancaster docks the Lancaster port authorities decided to build a dock there. Land at Glasson was purchased in 1780 and construction was started, with the dock finally being completed and opened in 1787 ; it was a well equipped place and could hold up to 25 merchant ships.
Construction of the Lancaster Canal was started in 1792 and finished in 1800 and during that time 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. Over its two-and-a-half mile length from Galgate to Glasson the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its 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 foodstuffs. Since the shipyards closed in the late 1960s the canal basin has developed over the years into a marina for pleasure craft, with mooring facilities for 220 boats and a wide range of boating services, and in more recent years the trackbed of the disused railway line has become a very pleasant linear park and cycleway.
The road into Glasson runs alongside the salt marshes of the estuary, with a large rough-surfaced car park overlooking the canal basin and marina. At the end of the car park and set back off the road was the Lock Keepers Rest, a permanently sited large caravan-type fast food place with tables outside, and across the corner was the white walled Victoria Inn. The last time I was at Glasson Dock the Victoria was open but due to lack of business it closed four years ago – a shame really as it looked like it would have been a nice place for a meal and a drink.
The Victoria Inn
The road past the Victoria Inn led to a small car park at the beginning of the east side of the dock and across the far side a crane was unloading something from a cargo ship. Up ahead I could see a small white building with an odd-shaped tower at one end of its roof. Intrigued I went to take a look but was told by a guy in a nearby portacabin that members of the public weren’t allowed along the dock side – so I asked nicely and he said I could go and take a couple of photos if I was quick about it. The little building, apparently now used for storage, had originally been a lighthouse built round about the same time as the dock ; there seems to be very little information about it but it was classed as Grade ll listed in 1985.
Back past the lock gates which separated the dock from the canal basin I decided to take a walk along the canal, something I’d never done on any previous visits to Glasson. Close to the car park was a permanently moored ‘live-aboard’ narrow boat looking quite attractive with its bright pots of flowers on its roof, then a bit further along and in complete contrast was a sunken wreck with just its cabin sticking up out of the water. I think I remember seeing that boat years ago when it was complete and being lived on ; information tells me that it was called Kikobo and was an ex-fishing boat. During high winds in December 2013 it was repeatedly struck against the dock side until a damaged plank sprung a leak and it went down, although not as far as it is now. Because of bad weather it couldn’t be salvaged at the time and for whatever reason it was just left to sink even lower – a shame really that it’s ended up like that.
A hundred yards or so past the beginning of the canal was Christ Church, designed by Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe and built in 1839-40. The east window has a modern design dating from 1979 while the other windows all date from the 19th century, and the churchyard contains the war graves of two soldiers from World War l and one soldier from World War ll.
Unfortunately being hampered by the restraints of work later on I had to keep my canal walk reasonably short as I wanted to make time for coffee and a snack at the cafe near the dock, so I only walked as far as the third bridge before turning round and retracing my steps. It was a nice walk though, and once I’d got away from the canal basin and past the first bridge the scenery was lovely.
Back in the village I crossed the end of the canal by the swing bridge and went to the café on the far side of the dock, ordering a ham and cheese toastie and a can of Coke as it was really too warm for coffee. It was really pleasant sitting out in the sunshine but all too soon it was time to have another wander round before I made tracks for home. Just along from the café was the Dalton Arms pub set back in a large car park on the west side of the dock, and just by the entrance was a long planter with a very pretty flower display which I thought was worth a photo.
Back across the car park and behind the Victoria Inn I got a photo of the view over the estuary looking towards Overton village, then with shots from the nearby bowling green and cycleway I headed back to the van. As I drove away from the village I stopped at the side of the road for one final shot of the view over the inner estuary then I headed for home without stopping again.
It had been nice to spend a couple of hours or so at Glasson Dock after not having been there for quite a while, and since then I’ve discovered details of a circular walk in the area which takes in a few points of interest so no doubt I’ll be making a return visit sometime next summer.
In which I explore a lovely little lakeside village and get thrown out of a quarry for trespassing…
After our visit to Leap Castle Laura drove us 30 miles west to the small village of Dromineer, six miles from Nenagh and on the east shore of Lough Derg. While in Roscrea a couple of years back I’d picked up an information leaflet about Lough Derg ; it was the nearest lake to Roscrea and finding out that Dromineer wasn’t too far from Nenagh I’d explored the possibility of going there last December. It’s not on a bus route though and the only way I could do it without my own transport would be to take a taxi from Nenagh, so that idea was put on hold for sometime in the future. Previous to the start of this holiday though, Michael had mentioned to Laura my wish to go to Dromineer and she said she was quite willing to take me, so a drive out there formed the second part of my day out.
Lough Derg is the third biggest lake in Ireland and the southernmost of the three lakes on the Shannon river, and in the 19th century it was in important artery of the waterways between Dublin port and Limerick. Navigable over its full 24-mile length it’s very popular with cruisers and other pleasure craft as well as for fishing, general sailing and other water sports. Dromineer itself is home to the RNLI’s Lough Derg lifeboat, its station being the first inland lifeboat station in the Republic of Ireland. It’s also home to Nenagh Boat Club, Shannon Sailing Club and the Lough Derg Yacht Club which was founded in 1835 ; Dromineer Quay and Canal Store both date from around 1845.
Overlooking the public marina is the ruined Dromineer Castle which started life in the 13th century as a two-storey hall house built by followers of Thomas Butler Esq, the 7th Earl of Ormond, and tenanted by the Cantwell family. In the late 15th century the building fell into the hands of the O’Kennedys, also of Ormond, and was remodelled into a four-storey tower house/castle, then in the late 16th century it was re-captured by the Butlers and the Cantwell family returned as tenants until the mid 17th century. In 1650 the castle was seized by Cromwell but was eventually returned to the 12th Earl of Ormond, James Butler, and it was occupied until 1688 after which it fell into ruin, finally being sold by the then Earl of Ormond in the late 19th century.
The road through Dromineer village headed towards the lakeside and when I saw the view I had one of those ‘wow’ moments. On the left, a handful of nice-looking bungalows with well-kept gardens while on the right was a white-walled thatched cottage, well-kept grassy areas, a small playground, a marina with several boats moored up and at the bottom of the road the lake itself with a shingle beach – this little place looked beautiful and I couldn’t wait to explore. The lakeside road ended in a large car park close to the private marina of Shannon Sailing Club and that’s where we left the car, so join me on my Monday walk as I stroll round and take in the delights of Dromineer.
Of course time spent in a lovely little place like this just wouldn’t be right without having coffee and cake so we made our way round to the Lake Café, sitting at an outside table as we had Laura’s two little dogs with us. The cake we had (with cream) was delicious, and after sitting for a while in the sun we continued our wander. Just along the lane from the café was the little thatched-roof cottage ; approaching from the back I thought at first it was just someone’s home but it turned out to be the studio-cum-craft shop of an Italian/Irish ceramic artist called Marina – a very apt name as the cottage isn’t far from the water. She said we were welcome to look round and during our conversation told us that apart from the plastic garden chairs everything in the garden had been recycled, reused or repainted, which I thought was a great idea. She seemed to be a bit eccentric and the studio was a complete jumble of all sorts of things but looking round there and the garden was a pleasant way to pass a bit of time.
Back at the lakeside we sat for a while on one of the benches, just taking in the view and enjoying the warm sunshine. Further along the grass it looked like a family were having a picnic – I couldn’t see them properly as there was a bush in my line of vision but I did see their cute little dog. It was looking my way so I zoomed in a bit and got a quick shot of it to show my friend Lin as it looked very much like her little dog Oscar.
With the exploration of Dromineer over we made our way back to the car but it was still only early afternoon, too early to go straight back to Roscrea when we could enjoy more of the good weather, so Laura suggested driving to a quarry where people went scuba diving and which she had been told was good for photo taking. That sounded okay to me so off we went round the country lanes and half an hour later pulled up at the bottom of the rough track leading to the quarry.
We hadn’t walked far when we came to a high steel fence and big double gates with a notice which said NO TRESPASSING ; the gates were open though so I figured out that we may as well take a look as we had gone far enough to get there. The track went up a slope for a couple of hundred yards then levelled out ; there was a large parking area on the right with a couple of portacabins and straight ahead was another sloping track leading a short distance down to the quarry.
The view from the bottom of the track looked great but just as I was about to take the first photo there was a shout from the top of the track and a guy in a wetsuit was standing there, telling us in no uncertain terms that this was PRIVATE PROPERTY and we had to LEAVE NOW! I did shout back that we were only taking photos but he insisted that we leave so I just snatched one shot and we made our way back up the track and headed back to the car ; it was a shame I couldn’t have got any more photos as it really did look nice.
Back at the car we had a few minutes to take in the view over the countryside then we set off back to Roscrea ; Laura had invited me round to hers for a meal so she dropped me at Nellie’s first and I went round an hour or so later. Her friend Nicole had arrived too and as there was a Chinese takeaway right across the road we all decided to get something from there. It was a lovely meal, although there was far more than I could eat, and after spending a very pleasant couple of hours with Laura and Nicole I took myself off back to Nellie’s for a reasonably early night. Thanks to Laura I’d had a really lovely day and my visit to Dromineer had whetted my appetite for seeing more of Lough Derg – hopefully that will be something I can do in the not-too-distant future.
In which Laura takes me for a day out and we start by exploring a haunted castle…
Leap Castle (pronounced Lep) is situated deep in the countryside just over six miles or so from Roscrea and over the border from Co. Tipperary into Co. Offaly. Back in December 2016, from a shop in Roscrea, I’d picked up a hand drawn map with written directions to the castle ; some of my regular readers may remember the post I wrote about my longwalk to get there and my failure to find the place at the time. It was further away than the directions said and I came to the conclusion that Irish miles are longer than English miles. Following that walk I realised that if I were ever to visit this castle at all then I would have to somehow drive myself there, however Michael’s girlfriend Laura had recently said she was willing to take me there and also to another place I’d previously said I’d like to go to so I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity.
Leap Castle has a very violent and bloody history and is said to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, possibly even Europe. Built sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries by the O’Bannon clan it was eventually taken over by the ruling O’Carroll clan but it was a clan divided by bitter leadership struggles throughout most of the 16th century, with one brother against another. The chapel above the Great Hall became known as the Bloody Chapel after one O’Carroll killed his brother, a priest who was conducting a mass at the time – he died on the altar in front of his family. In one corner of the chapel was a small chamber with a trapdoor in the floor ; prisoners and unfortunates were thrown down there into the dungeon, often landing on sharp spikes, and if that didn’t kill them they were literally forgotten about and left there to die of starvation and their injuries. When the dungeon was cleaned out by much later owners it was reported that three cartloads of skeletons were removed.
In the mid 17th century the castle came into the possession of the Darby family. It had originally been a tower house but in the 18th century was extended by the Darbys who added the north and south wings and gave it a Gothic restyling ; it stayed in the Darby family through the years until 1922 when it was set on fire during the Irish Civil War after which it was left dormant for many years. In 1974 the castle was bought by Australian historian Peter Bartlett, a descendant of the O’Bannons, who undertook extensive repairs and renovations until his death in 1989 ; in 1991 the place was bought by musician Sean Ryan and his wife Anne to be their own private residence and they have continued Peter Bartlett’s restoration work over the years since then.
Of course a place can’t be said to be haunted unless it has a ghost or two and Leap Castle is supposed to have several. Emily and Charlotte were two little girls said to have lived on the estate during the 17th century ; Emily died after falling from the tower and it’s said that there are still sightings of a little girl falling from its great height only to disappear before hitting the ground. The ghost of a woman murdered by the O’Carrolls in the 16th century wanders about wearing very little clothing ; she screams twice before disappearing into thin air. The Governess, also known as the nanny, is often seen alongside Emily and Charlotte, and an old man has been spotted sitting in a comfy chair by the side of the main hall’s grand fireplace.
The Red Lady is tall and slim with long brown hair, she wears a red dress and is always seen carrying a dagger in her raised hand. The story says that she was captured by the O’Carrolls and raped ; she fell pregnant and when the baby was born it was taken from her and killed with a dagger. She was so distraught that she killed herself with the same dagger used to murder her infant, and the one her spirit holds is the very one which killed her baby. The Elemental, otherwise known as ‘it’, is described as being about the size of a sheep with a shadowy half-human face and sunken eyes ; it gives off the smell of a decomposing corpse though its menacing and sinister presence only makes itself known to those who provoke it.
The castle is said to allow visitors from 10am until 5pm and various sources of information, including the written directions I got back in 2016, all said that it was advisable to phone or email to arrange a visit, but even though Laura tried several times to ring there was no answer so we decided to go there anyway on the off-chance that we would be able to go in. At first knocking on the door produced no response and we were about to give up and leave when I suggested trying once more and this time the owner, Sean Ryan, came to the door – and in typical contrary Irish fashion, when I mentioned that we had tried to phone ahead as advised he said he didn’t know why I would have been given that information as we only needed to knock! However, he welcomed us in and led us over to a huge fireplace, which he’d built himself, and we sat in front of a lovely fire while he told us all about the history of the castle and the spirits (he doesn’t call them ghosts) which live there.
After our ‘history lesson’ Sean took us through to the back of the hall and showed us the conservatory, a long narrow room looking out over the land below and beyond the castle and filled with a hotchpotch of plants, garden ornaments and various things hanging in various places, then he gave us a torch, showed us where the stairs were, and we were free to explore the upper rooms at our leisure.
Halfway up the first spiral staircase was a cubby hole with a small wooden door set in the wall then at the top of the stairs was the Great Hall with its collection of furniture, artefacts and various objects, some very old, others not so much, which Sean had collected while on his travels. On the floor in a window recess I found a sweet little surprise, though it was Laura who noticed it first – behind the leg of a dining chair was a tiny little bat. Knowing that they are nocturnal I thought it must be asleep, although if it was then it had chosen a very odd place for a snooze, but unfortunately this poor little creature was dead – maybe it had flown in somewhere and couldn’t get out again. Never having seen a bat at close quarters before I picked it up gently and put it on the chair to take a photo then laid it back where we found it ; it was tiny, barely two inches long, and its fur was incredibly soft.
Above the Great Hall was a small mezzanine level and the next flight of stairs had a door leading into it, with four steps down onto the mezzanine itself. Most of the space was taken up by a double bed which I thought was rather odd but Sean told us later that it’s where he puts any family or friends when they come to stay. The spiral staircase, which got narrower as we went further up, took us to the Bloody Chapel, a vast space with a rough floor and which, apart from a tin roof to keep out the worst of the elements, was still unrestored. There was a doorway in one corner with a staircase going down but it was dark so not knowing what I was getting myself into I didn’t risk it. With no windows in the chapel taking photos of the landscape was easy though it would have been a long way to fall if I’d leaned out too far.
On the way back down the stairs we revisited the Great Hall to see if there was anything we’d missed then continued back to ground level where we handed the torch back to Sean. After another chat, during which he told us that everything in the castle had either been restored, recycled or built by him and his wife, we thanked him for letting us look round, said our goodbyes and left just as some other visitors were arriving. Sean plays the fiddle and the Irish whistle and if we’d asked he would have given us a tune or two but to be honest I’m not really a lover of traditional Irish music.
Leap Castle was a strange place. Compared to the castle at Limerick which has been professionally restored with each room set out as it would have been in the period, Leap was what I would describe as ‘raw’ – with mis-matched furniture from different periods, artefacts and objects from different countries, it was a restoration which didn’t really reflect any one particular period but strangely it worked. The place was unique, even more so because it was actually someone’s home – and to quote Sean’s words “If we’d wanted to live in a modern bungalow we would have bought a modern bungalow”. I’d really enjoyed my visit to the castle, it was certainly different – and as for any ghosts, I didn’t see, hear or feel anything remotely spooky of all the time I was there, but then I don’t believe in ghosts anyway.
My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and takes in the delights of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, a complex of thatched roof buildings sitting alongside the Lancaster Canal and just off the A6 at Bilsborrow, five miles south of Garstang. I’ve passed this place many times over the last few years and often thought how attractive it looks but I’ve never made a point of stopping off there until one sunny day just a few weeks ago.
The history of the hamlet goes back to the 19th century and one Thomas Duell who was born into a working Yorkshire family in 1804. In 1832 he moved across the Pennines to the village of Barton, north of Preston, and later that year was ordained into the church, becoming vicar of St. Lawrence’s Church and living in a small humble vicarage. Unfortunately the vicarage suffered a devastating fire and was burnt down, so while it was being rebuilt Reverend Duell went to Bilsborrow to stay at School House Farm which had been built in 1798, two years before the completion of the Lancaster Canal. While there he helped to tend the orchards and look after the pigs and during his spare time in 1834 he built a Dutch barn to store the crops and shelter the pigs over winter.
Among the items that had been salvaged from the vicarage fire were some sacks of barley ; the sacks had been scorched by the flames and the barley toasted to a dark chocolate colour. Not wanting to waste it Reverend Duell steeped it in water and boiled it up, then noting the colour and aroma of the brew he cooled it, added yeast and made a beer which, due to the scorched barley, was as dark as porter is today. Setting up a small brewery in a corner of the barn he began brewing beers for the farm labourers and his parishioners, with that very first brew at Bilsborrow considered to be a porter.
Fast forward to the present day and the seeds of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet were sown in 1980 when Roy and Irene Wilkinson opened Guy’s Eating Establishment, a restaurant and pizzeria serving authentic Italian food and sited where Reverend Duell had built the Dutch barn all those years previously. In 1986 School House Farm was purchased and extended to become Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern, selling Tetley ales, Castlemaine and Moosehead lagers, with Boddington’s Bitter being added to the range in 1987. One of the farm’s two wells was situated in front of the farmhouse and in 1988 a local man, John Bamber, descended this well ; it was found to be brick lined to a depth of 30ft with a wider sand and gravel bottom 10ft deeper.
In 1990 more land was purchased and Guy’s Lodge was built, creating 26 en-suite lodge-style rooms (though interestingly there is no Room 13) and the name Guy’s Thatched Hamlet was created to encompass Guy’s Eating Establishment, Owd Nell’s Tavern and Guy’s Lodge. In 1991 another six bedrooms were added to the Lodge and three craft shops were completed, along with the cobbled Spout Lane which was built on part of the old original route from Clitheroe to Blackpool. Spout Lane is also the site of the second of the original farm’s two wells.
In 1992 the first Guy’s Oyster Festival took place, run in conjunction with Murphy’s Irish Stout and opened by Bob Kennefick from Murphy’s brewery and boxer Barry McGuigan ; this became an annual charity event with proceeds being donated to Guy’s nominated charities each year. 1993 was the year the cricket ground and thatched cricket pavilion were built and a cricket match was played against a select Lancashire XI which included David Lloyd, while the Guy’s Select XI included Sir Denis Lillie. The following year saw the founding of the Boddington’s Village Cricket League and the addition of another 21 lodge-style rooms.
In 1996 the crown green bowling green was built then in 1997 came the thatched bowling pavilion, staff accommodation and an extension to Durty Nellie’s Snug. Finally in 2002 another twelve en-suite rooms with spa baths were built, bringing the total number of en-suite lodge rooms to sixty five. Today Guy’s Thatched Hamlet is still owned and run by the Wilkinson family and their own porter is brewed using Reverend Duell’s recipe.
Guy’s Thatched Hamlet had proved to be quite an intriguing place with far more there than can be seen from the road or canal and I really enjoyed my wander round, but finding any information about the place since then has proved very difficult. However, my thanks must now go to Anne Musella fromGuy’s who very kindly responded to my email enquiry and supplied me with details about the history and development of the Hamlet, enabling me to write this post. And if the weather is nice the next time I’m passing that way I may very well stop off for a coffee and something delightfully indulgent at Owd Nell’s Tavern.
**There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’m off to Ireland on Wednesday for a week. Having some time off work but unable to go camping a short holiday on the Emerald Isle seems a reasonable alternative, so hopefully the weather will be good and I’ll be able to explore one or two new places – I’m looking forward to it.
My Monday walk this week features a section of the Lancaster Canal and the small historical market town of Garstang, both places which I hadn’t been to for several years until recently. Garstang itself lies just to the east of the main A6 about ten miles north of Preston and the same distance south of Lancaster, but my walk started on a country lane just to the west of the A6. Bridge House Marina is situated in a quiet location next to the very scenic Lancaster Canal and a few times in the past I’ve stayed on the caravan park there ; the last time was ten years ago though so with a possible future visit in mind and before the start of my walk I parked in a lay-by on the lane near the entrance and went for a wander round to see if it’s still as nice as it always was (it is) and to pick up a current brochure and price list.
Leaving the van in the lay-by my walk started from the entrance to Bridge House, and a short distance along the lane a hump-back bridge took me over the canal to the towpath on the far side. From there it was an easy and level 15-minute walk into Garstang, and with boats moored up in various places it was nice to see that nothing had really changed in the years since I was last there.
Heading into Garstang the canal wound its way past the outskirts and steps took me up off the towpath to a road bridge leading the short distance into the town itself. Just past the end of the bridge was Pickle Cottage, and with it’s very pretty and colourful garden it was worth a couple of photos. At the end of the road was a mini roundabout with the Farmer’s Arms pub set back on a corner, and going straight on took me into High Street and the main part of the town.
There were lots of interesting independent little shops along both sides of the road, several cafes and other places to eat, and a couple of pleasant weinds (side alleys) with more shops, and it was nice to browse in various windows as I went along. By the time I’d got towards the end of High Street the intermittent and often inconvenient clouds which had previously gathered were beginning to clear and the sun was shining in earnest ; an already warm day was turning into quite a hot one and as I knew of a nice place where I could chill out in the shade for a while I nipped into the nearby One-Stop shop to get a sandwich and a nice cold can of Coke for a mini picnic.
Across the road from the One-Stop shop was a very pretty little remembrance garden set back on a corner and a walkway from there took me past a small car park to a pleasant grassy and tree-shaded area by a bend in the River Wyre. There were plenty of people about, mainly young students, but there was lots of space so I picked a nice spot and settled down to enjoy my mini picnic, then following the river for a while I walked along until the path took me up onto a private lane past a playing field with a view over to the lower slopes of the Bowland Fells.
The lane took me back onto the end of High Street where I cut down one of the weinds to where a short but pleasant precincted area had been created since the last time I was there. At the end nearest the road was a low semi-circular concrete wall with an incorporated seat along its length and set in the ground was a circular mosaic featuring a very intriguing looking lion and an engraved plaque. The writing on the plaque reads “In 1314 a weekly market was granted to Garstang by Edward ll, renewed by Elizabeth l in 1597. The town’s charter was granted by Charles ll in 1680”
Information on the lion is very sketchy but it seems the original crest was designed as an official seal in 1680 by the newly-formed Garstang Corporation ; the mosaic has been designed by a North Lancashire mosaic artist and is based on images found in documents held by Garstang library. The word ‘villa’ has nothing to do with any large dwelling though, it seems to be a corruption of the French word ‘ville’ meaning town, so it can only be assumed that whoever designed the crest back in 1680 wasn’t the world’s best spelling expert!
From there I headed along the road in the general direction of the canal and just before I got to the mini roundabout near the Farmer’s Arms I came to The Wheatsheaf, made very attractive by the colourful hanging baskets along its front wall. Back on the canal I had another very pleasant walk with a couple of brief photo stops and arrived back at the lane leading to Bridge House Marina fifteen minutes later.
It had been interesting to see that although Garstang itself had undergone a couple of changes since I was last there the section of the Lancaster Canal between Bridge House Marina and the town was still the same – and the walk has prompted me to make another visit soon to start in Garstang and walk along the canal in the other direction. I remember how nice it was ten years ago so it will be interesting to see if that too is still the same.
This post was supposed to feature as a Monday walk but being without a computer of my own for almost two weeks, and having to rely on a borrowed laptop, has meant that I’ve been unable to deal with the many photos I’ve taken during that time. However things have finally been sorted out and I’m back in the blogging world although this pc operating system is vastly different to what I’ve been used to for the last x number of years. Though I’m still using the same photo editing programme things now look (to me at least) different to before – so I’m just hoping the shots in this post look okay although the spacing may be slightly different.
The recent gloriously sunny warm weather has been too good to miss so one day last week I took the reasonably short drive from home to Sunnyhurst Woods, a place I’ve been to several times before. My previous walk round there had been before Easter on a rather dull day with very few leaves on the trees, which didn’t make for particularly good photos, however since then everything has burst into life and completely changed the whole place.
Approaching what’s known as the paddling pool I could hear a lot of barking and when I got there I could see a Labrador dog in the water having fun with a large stick. A young woman with three other dogs was walking along the path continually calling him but he was having too much fun to take any notice – I watched for a while as she walked right round the pool and went out of sight a couple of times in the hope that he would get out of the water and follow her but he stayed put. I’d gone past the pool and reached the bandstand and though the pool was out of sight by then I could still hear the dog barking and it crossed my mind that the only way he would come out of the water was if the young woman went in there to get him.
A distance past the bandstand I came to where two paths met and at the junction was a stone pillar with a simple figure of an owl carved on one side. I took the right hand path which followed the river for a short distance before taking me uphill in the direction of Earnsdale Reservoir. Away from civilisation it was so peaceful walking along with nothing to hear but birdsong ; at one point a robin flew across in front of me and landed on a tree branch above, staying there long enough for me to snatch a couple of photos of him.
At the top of the hill the path opened out and a gate took me onto the road across the reservoir dam. On the right was a field with two lovely chestnut horses grazing from hay nets hung on the field gate ; I’ve seen these horses before, in the distance way up on top of the hill but this was the first time I’ve seen them close up. They were a beautiful colour and if the dogs hadn’t been with me I would have gone to say hello to them.
Across the dam a gate led to a narrow path through the trees at the far side of the reservoir and as I’d never been along there before I decided to check it out, though not knowing just where it would take me I only went so far before retracing my steps. It certainly gave me a different view of the reservoir, which I thought was a much nicer view than looking at it from the other side, and it was worth taking a few shots.
The road across the dam turned into a country lane leading past fields with views over the reservoir and the countryside beyond and with the peace and quiet it was hard to believe that I wasn’t really all that far from civilisation. Approaching one field I saw what I thought at first was a sheep lying in the grass but then looking at its face it definitely wasn’t a sheep. It was very woolly though, and when I saw its companion grazing nearby I came to the conclusion they were alpacas. Not far from the field was a house set in its own garden so presumably they belonged there.
Just past the alpacas’ house the lane turned a corner and a distance along brought me to the Sunnyhurst pub. There was a path directly opposite which I knew would take me up to Darwen Tower but that was a walk I would do another time. Past the pub was an entrance back into Sunnyhurst Wood but I decided to stay on the road and follow it round to where I’d left the van, and my last shot of the day was part of the very pretty garden belonging to a big detached house.
That was the first time I’d walked across the reservoir dam and discovered what was over the other side and I’d found it to be a very pleasant walk, certainly one I’ll do another time. And now I know that the Sunnyhurst pub has a car park next to it I’ll be able to leave the van there when I eventually decide to do the walk up to Darwen tower.