Another year has drawn to a close and it’s time for me to look back on some of the things which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months, though in some ways 2021 has been rather an uneventful year so this time I’m concentrating more on the places I’ve been to.
The beginning of January brought just enough snow to make things look pretty and my first walk of the year gave me the sighting of a heron at the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall and the llamas at the nearby open farm. More snow fell later in the month and during a walk through a local quarry and fields not far from home I was drenched from head to foot in a wave of slushy snow and water when a 4 x 4 driver deliberately drove at speed through a huge puddle at the side of the road. Only a mile from home I could quite easily have gone back to get changed but I decided to carry on and the climb up through the quarry and brisk walk through the fields stopped me from getting cold.
Early February brought a couple more light overnight snow falls and the 9th was the first anniversary of losing sweet little Sophie so in her memory I took the dogs for a snowy walk round the Belmont area, a walk which Sophie had done with me several times over the years. In one of the fields I met a sheep with extremely curly horns and found that the Blue Lake was almost completely frozen over with ice and snow. The following day I took a walk round the Jumbles Reservoir and got some more lovely snowy photos.
Early March saw me making two visits to a reservoir which, although fairly local, is in the middle of nowhere and too far to walk from home. The first visit failed however as the traffic and parking situation was a nightmare and after an hour and twenty minutes without ever getting out of the van I ended up right back where I’d started from, at my own front gate. The second visit was much more successful though and I had a lovely walk round the reservoir where I found much of the south side looking more open after the felling of quite a lot of trees. Also that month I made three visits to Manchester and on each occasion came back with a whole host of street art photos.
Early April saw me seemingly being inundated with chocolate. On the spur of the moment Michael bought me two bars of white chocolate from the corner shop, his girlfriend sent me a lovely bunch of flowers and some chocolates and I won a pack of Cadbury’s creme eggs in an online Easter competition. Later that month I had a ridiculous conversation with Michael when he couldn’t think whether that particular day was Wednesday or Thursday and only a week later I had almost the same conversation with the boss’s son at work when he couldn’t remember if the day was Wednesday or Thursday. As well as local walks with the dogs I also made another two trips to Manchester and made a spring revisit to Corporation Park in Blackburn.
Early May was blighted by a fair amount of cloud and rain so there were no trips out and local walks were kept to a minimum. Another couple of photography trips to Manchester were made and when the weather came nice later in the month I got some lovely colorful shots of different shrubs and trees in various gardens which I passed on one of my walks with Snowy and Poppie.
The Manchester Flower Show was held in lovely weather during the first week of June and I made two trips to find and photograph the many floral displays and installations situated in various locations around the city centre. Also that month I discovered the delightful area of the Castlefield Basin where the Rochdale Canal and Bridgewater Canal meet and I was lucky enough to see the Castlefield Goslings who commute between the canal basin and the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed but traffic does seem to stop for them.
The highlight of July was my 10-day holiday in the Lake District, and though it started with a sore foot, a fault with the tent, a leaky loo and a swollen arm all four problems were soon resolved and with mainly good weather I went on to have a lovely time away. During the ten days I went to the delightful little village of Caldbeck, met up with blogging friend Jayne who took me on a lovely walk round Ravenglass, visited the Lake District wildlife Park and discovered several new-to-me places including Harrington harbour.
August was the month when Michael and I twice went for a curry meal at a local pub/restaurant and each time there was something missing from our order. The first time the mango chutney was missing so was substituted with mint yogurt, then the second time there was no mango chutney, no mint yogurt and no rice so we ended up with chips instead. Luckily we both saw the funny side of it and assumed that the lack of some foods was caused by various disruptions in the supply chain at the time. During the bank holiday weekend I had a nice walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank, a place I’d never been to before, and also visited Arnside and Jenny Brown’s Point near Silverdale, then the following day went to Morecambe.
The middle Sunday of September was the start of my second 10-day Lake District holiday and though the first couple of days were grey and cloudy the weather came good and I was able to revisit some places I’d previously been to and explore others which I hadn’t, including Workington harbour, Bowness-on-Solway and Port Carlisle. I also walked by Bassenthwaite Lake and climbed Latrigg Fell the hard way (almost vertically) when the path ran out due to a large area of trees being felled, but it was worth the effort as the views from the top were fabulous. The highlight of the holiday though was without a doubt my visit to Ennerdale Water which offered fabulous views and gave me lots of great photos. The 25th of the month was Snowy’s first anniversary, a full year since she came to live in my little family at the age of 8 months.
October was very wet for most of the month but a break in the weather late on saw me going down to North Wales for a 2-night mini camping break and to make a long overdue visit to Eileen, a special blogging friend. During the weekend I met Eileen’s new little dog Tilly, and visited Flint Castle, Rhuddlan Castle and the oddly-named Horton’s Nose nature reserve at the mouth of the River Clwyd.
November for the most part was another rainy month when dog walking was kept to the local avenues or just the back garden if it was really bad but a couple of days of nice weather in the middle of the month gave me the opportunity to have a walk round Rivington Gardens to catch the remains of any autumn colours. Also that month I took the 25-minute train journey to Blackburn to see the Knife Angel, a 27ft tall sculpture made up of over 100,000 knives.
Early December was cold but dry and a lovely sunny day saw me taking the dogs on a local walk round Smithills Hall and through nearby woodlands and fields, then the week before Christmas I made my last visit of the year to Manchester, a late afternoon/early evening one to photograph the light sculptures in the city centre. To round off the year, just four days ago I made an impromptu spur-of-the-moment short trip to North Wales, staying at a new-to-me camp site and also visiting Eileen again. I only got back home late afternoon yesterday so it will be a while before details and photos appear on here.
So there you have it, some of the highlights of my year. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting and leaving comments; if it wasn’t for my readers there wouldn’t be a blog, so I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – have a good one!
The morning of my third day arrived with beautiful blue sky and sunshine so after a leisurely breakfast I took my time have a good wander round the site. With the early closure of the site where I would normally have stayed down in Abergele I’d searched UK Campsite (the website for all things camping related) and found this one. It was a bit further away from where I really wanted to be but only an easy 6-mile drive away from my friend so the previous week I’d phoned up to book – and that’s when my brain started to get confused.
On the UK Campsite listing it was advertised as being a ‘club member only site’ (which usually means that a site is connected to either the Camping & Caravanning Club or the Caravan & Motorhome Club) but when I asked which club (I’m a member of the first but not the second) I was told it’s a private site but as it’s now out of season they are letting non-members stay. The lady I spoke to (Marjorie) sounded friendly enough but didn’t offer any explanation as to what sort of ‘club’ the listing referred to, however she quoted me a very reasonable pitch price which included electricity and the instructions were that on arrival I should park outside the barn and ring her, which I did when I got there.
Expecting to pay cash for my 2-night stay I was quite surprised when she said that her son would come and show me to my pitch (seems she was isolating prior to going into hospital for an operation) and once I got settled in I was to ring her again and she would take my payment over the phone. Her son arrived a couple of minutes later, showed me to my pitch on the camping field and very helpfully directed me as I reversed so the van would be level, then he explained where everything was and that was it – other than ringing Marjorie again to pay for my pitch I was very much on my own.
Apart from the camp site’s reasonable price and its convenient location for visiting my friend the one thing which first stood out was its name – Pet Rescue Fundraising Camp Site. Anything connected to animals, especially rescued ones, attracts my attention and a big banner on the entrance gate said this was the Pet Rescue Welfare Association, but if I’d been expecting to find an animal sanctuary where visitors could walk round and see various rescued pets waiting for adoption I was destined to be disappointed, and though I heard dogs barking on a couple of occasions during my stay there were none in evidence.
Across from the barn where I’d parked on arrival was a portacabin reception office which was closed and a large farm gate, also closed, with a ‘Private’ notice on it. A small ‘visitors parking area’ contained a couple of cars, neither of which had been there the previous day, so I was hoping I could see someone to ask what the ‘club membership’ thing was all about but there was no-one around at all. Outside reception was a small garden overflowing from an old bathtub and containing a couple of cute dog ornaments and on the farm gate was a different take on the usual ‘Beware of the dog’ notice. Hearing a noise from the nearby barn I went to see if there was someone I could speak to but only saw the faces of two curious cows.
The camp site itself consisted of two large fields separated by a stream which originates from a waterfall less than a mile away; one field was a ‘pitch anywhere you like’ rally field while the main field had 20 electric pitches on one side and 20 non-electric on the other, all very generous sizes and separated by ropes and traffic cones, also there were four fully-equipped camping pods with decking and hot tubs. About halfway along the electric side was a small motorhome obviously used as a site office during the season and a catering trailer – closed now – with several picnic benches in a large enclosed gazebo, while in the middle of the field was a large open-sided gazebo.
The facilities, although spotlessly clean, were rather odd to say the least. At each end of the site were two portaloos and set back in a corner not far from the entrance a timber-framed open-sided gazebo housed a small washing up sink with hot water piped from somewhere via a length of green hose while drinking water came from a yellow hose with a tap. A much smaller sink, similar to those seen at the side of a dentist’s treatment chair, had its pedestal fixed into what appeared to be the waste tank of a caravan cassette toilet and was labelled ‘teeth cleaning only’ while next to it were two showers, one a portaloo-type and the other housed in what could only be described as an 8ft x 6ft plastic garden shed. It was all very basic yet there was everything a no-frills camper would need.
Eventually it was time for me to leave the site and as living and sleeping in the van meant that things had been kept to a minimum it didn’t take long to pack up and get on the road, though before I actually headed home I was making a second visit to Eileen as she had asked me to take some photos of Tilly. It was another couple of hours spent in the company of some lovely friends but all too soon I had to leave as not only did I have to go home, I had to go to work when I got there.
Heading down to the coast road I made a brief stop to snap a photo of the friendly neighbourhood giraffe looking over someone’s hedge and who is sometimes featured by Eileen on her blog. I think maybe he’s reluctant to admit that summer is over as he’s still wearing his sunglasses though it probably won’t be long before he has his Christmas hat on.
When I walked round by the harbour the previous day the tide was on its way out, this time it was high so I made a brief stop just to take a few more photos. My final stop along the coast road was the one I didn’t have time to make two days before, a short walk from the main road to photograph the Duke of Lancaster, a ship taken out of service in 1979 and abandoned several years later. It’s an interesting story and one to be told another time.
With no more stops it wasn’t too long before I was on the motorway and heading north though I got stuck in very slow moving traffic just after I got off the M56 onto the M61. It delayed me by a good half an hour which meant I would be a bit late for work but I got there in the end.
Since getting back home I’ve found out that the pet rescue side of the camp site offers several services to the community including doggy day care, a lifetime pet foster scheme, pet food bank, community vet clinic and lifetime pet care for animals whose owners are deceased. As for the camp site itself, it’s close to a busy main road so I wouldn’t take my tent and stay there for any length of time but in the van I hadn’t heard any noise at all. It may be a bit of an odd place with quirky facilities but it was reasonably priced and nice enough for a couple of days so I may very well be tempted to stay there again another time.
A Saturday morning in late October saw me heading off to North Wales for a 2-night mini camping break though this time I was on a mission, making a long overdue visit to Eileen, a special blogging friend. My usual route into North Wales would be down the A55 but there were a couple of places I wanted to stop off at on the way, the first one being Flint Castle, so I took the A548 coast road instead. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t exactly brilliant, it was dull with some very dark clouds in places though the sun did make a few brief appearances so I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t rain on me while I was looking round the castle.
Flint was the first castle in what would later become known as King Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’, a chain of fortresses designed to encircle North Wales and oppress the Welsh. The site was chosen for its strategic position just one day’s march from the walled English city of Chester, and being on the western shore of the River Dee estuary supplies could be brought to the castle by sea or along the river itself. Building work started in 1277 using millstone grit, ashlar and sandstone then in November 1280 master mason James of St. George, from the Savoy region of France, was brought in to oversee and accelerate the initially very slow construction pace; he remained at Flint for 17 months before moving on to oversee the completion of Rhuddlan Castle in the neighbouring county of Denbighshire.
It took a total of 1,800 labourers and masons nine years to build Flint Castle and when work ended in 1286 it had an inner ward and an outer bailey separated by a tidal moat but connected by a drawbridge and gatehouse. The inner ward had three large towers while a detached keep with walls 23ft thick protected the inner gatehouse and outer bailey, beyond which a plantation town was laid out. The design of the castle was based on medieval French models and as it was never repeated in any other castle built by Edward it remains unique within the British Isles.
During the 1294/95 Welsh revolt against English rule Flint was attacked and the constable of the castle was forced to set fire to the fortress to prevent its capture by the Welsh, though it was eventually repaired and partly rebuilt. In 1399 it became the location of a turning point in history when Edward’s great, great grandson Richard II came face-to-face with his cousin and rival to the crown Henry Bolingbroke. Richard was captured and escorted by Henry to London, where he abdicated the throne and King Henry IV’s reign began. Richard later died in captivity and two centuries on his sad fate was forever immortalised in the words of Shakespeare’s play Richard II.
During the English Civil War of the mid 17th century Flint Castle was held by the Royalists but was finally captured by the Parliamentarians in 1647 after a three-month siege, then to prevent it being reused in the conflict it was destroyed in accordance with Cromwell’s orders. It was never rebuilt and the ruins are those which remain today.
Most parts of the castle, including the isolated keep, are accessible to the public, and I was quite surprised to see that since my previous visit there four years ago a spiral staircase had been added to the centre of the north east tower. It was just begging to be climbed up but I couldn’t do it with the dogs so I had to leave them back in the van for a short while.
Since 1919 the castle has been managed as a public monument and is maintained by Cadw, the Welsh-government body which protects, conserves and promotes the heritage buildings of Wales. It’s an interesting place and I actually spent longer in there than I intended so I abandoned my plan to go elsewhere and headed straight for Eileen’s. Unfortunately Sod’s Law decreed that I should be delayed for a while by roadworks and single file traffic on the outskirts of Prestatyn but I got there in the end even if I was a bit later than I intended. It was really good to see Eileen, her hubby and new little dog Tilly and I spent well over two hours in their company but eventually it was time to head off to the camp site just a few miles away – and the camp site itself is a story on its own.
Day 4 of my holiday started with the most glorious sunrise over the nearby fells just before 4.30am, a promising start to the day ahead. This was to be my ‘big day out’ and I left the camp site a bit earlier than usual for the drive down to Ravenglass to meet up with Jayne. We had agreed to rendezvous in the village car park and when I arrived I found she had got there just a short while ahead of me. She had reversed her campervan/mobile home into a space in an empty corner of the car park so I drove into the space on its nearside, meaning our side doors were opposite and we could sit and chat easily without being disturbed.
Jayne had previously suggested taking me for a walk, she had in mind a part of Ravenglass she suspected I hadn’t seen before – she was right – so after much chatting and drinking of cool ginger beer and coffee we set off. Through the car park and over the railway line we came to a pretty little garden set behind the signal box, then past the nearby play park and quite a distance along a lane through a pleasant wooded area we came to the ruins of a Roman Bath House.
The Roman fort of Ravenglass was established on land between the lane and the river estuary and is believed to have been occupied from AD 130 to the end of the 4th century. Standing almost 13ft high in places, the remains of the bath house are among the tallest surviving Roman structures in northern Britain. The building was identified as being Roman in the 19th century, although it was initially thought to have been a villa and wasn’t identified as a bath house until the 20th century.
Further along from the bath house the lane turned to the right and led downhill under the railway line to the estuary, where we walked along above the shore line before dropping down onto the sand for the last couple of hundred yards to the village’s main street.
Back at the car park there was much more chatting to be done until it was time for Jayne to leave but it was still only late afternoon, my car park ticket was valid for all day and I had no reason to rush back to the camp site so I decided to stay for a while longer and take myself off for a walk across the railway bridge to the other side of the river.
Back in the village I had another walk along to the end of the main street then took a path between the houses and past the end of the car park where Jayne and I had started our walk. At the far side of the railway line for the second time I dropped down onto the platform for the steam railway and came out onto the main road into the village. Down the road and under the main railway line I was then on a loop back to the car park and my final shot of the day was taken as I passed a very pretty cottage garden.
It was well after 7pm when I finally got back to the camp site, with the good weather having stayed with me all the way back. Meeting up with Jayne had been lovely, I’d had two nice walks and taken lots of photos in the process; it had been a perfect day, now it was time to make a brew and relax for the rest of the evening.
There are three parts to this story but they are all interlinked so bear with me on this.
Part 1 – It’s an established fact that although I may be good at DIY and practical things I just don’t ‘do’ technology. The latest new-fangled smart phones are absolutely beyond me and anyway I have no use for all the features they come with so I just stick to a basic older model Nokia – phone calls and text messages are all I really need from a phone.
Now the phone I’m currently using is the second one of this make and model, the previous one had got rather battered and bruised from use over time and being dropped more than once so I replaced it a while ago but this second one is weird. I’m still using the sim card from my previous phone and if anyone rings me the phone shows the name if it’s in my contacts but for some reason a text message only shows the number, so unless I recognise the last three digits or the gist of the message I have no idea who has messaged me – which links to Part 3 of this post.
Part 2 – At the beginning of the week my friend Lin’s daughter Dee took in what seemed to be a stray cat. Apparently it had been wandering round for a week or so, was obviously elderly and didn’t look to be in the best of health, so Dee and her boyfriend Adam took it to a local vet to get it checked over. The vet said to leave it there and it would be checked for a microchip – if the owners were traced they would be contacted but with no ID it would either go to a rescue place or Dee may be able to adopt it herself, although it would have had to go to Adam’s sister’s as Dee’s dog doesn’t like cats. The following day (Tuesday) just before going to my evening job, I asked Dee if she had any news of the cat but she hadn’t so I told her to let me know if she heard anything – which also links to Part 3.
Part 3 – I hadn’t been at work very long when Tracy, the young woman who is temporarily working with me, shouted to tell me that the sink in the ladies toilet was blocked up. I knew there was a plunger somewhere but not being able to find it anywhere around the offices I went over to the works to see if somehow it had ended up there, and while I was there I got a text message which just said “Got it!”
Now as my phone only showed a number which I didn’t recognise, and thinking it was Dee telling me that she’d got the cat, I sent back the message “Brilliant! Are you taking it to Adam’s sister’s?” This was immediately followed by a phone call from Tracy – “Who the heck is Adam and why would I be taking a plunger to his sister’s??”
The text message had actually come from her to say that she had found the plunger! Cue a fit of giggles at my own misunderstanding and my phone’s inability to show me who’s texting me, but if Tracy had put “Found it” instead of “Got it” I would have known what the message meant. Of course when I got back over to the offices we both had a laugh about it.
I told Michael the tale later on and when he’d finished laughing he said “Mum, don’t ever change your phone, it won’t be half as much fun if you do!” I suppose he’s got a point – a new-fangled smart phone might be able to do everything except sole shoes and make dinner but it wouldn’t create funny situations like this so I think for now I’ll be sticking to my basic little Nokia even if I don’t always know who’s texting me.
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while but somehow I’ve never got round to it until now. Back in January, when I was devoting all my time to nursing Sophie through her illness following a stroke, I had an email from a friend to say she was sending a parcel to me, though she didn’t say what it was. A couple of days later the parcel duly arrived and though I can’t remember now what I’d initially thought it might be I was way off the mark as it was something so unexpected.
Now although I don’t have any particular interest in most of the tv soaps the one I do watch regularly is Coronation Street and a couple of years ago I even went on the official tour of the soap’s new outdoor set at MediaCity in Salford, so I was very surprised to find that the parcel contained several individually wrapped collectors’ pieces which make up the terraced row of Coronation Street houses as they were in the mid 1990s.
Each piece is labelled on the bottom with the house number and the names of the occupants at the time though of course these have changed probably more than once over the years since then, also many of the house fronts bear no resemblance to the ones on today’s new outdoor set, but the collection makes a great piece of memorabilia and it was lovely of my friend to send it to cheer me up when I was going through a difficult time with Sophie.
Not long after losing Sophie in February I started looking for another little Jack Russell, not only for myself but also as another friend for Poppie, but any rescue centres I could get to easily only seemed to have big dogs and any Jack Russells advertised on the internet were going for ridiculously high prices – and still are – so the search goes on. I did however, get a Jack Russell in April thanks to another friend who sent me the surprise gift of a Jack Russell ornament. It may not be alive, and it doesn’t look like Sophie, Poppie, or any of my previous Jack Russells, but it’s very sweet and now lives on the unit next to my computer.
It’s strange to think that if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t have known either of these friends in the first place, so a very belated blog post thank you goes to both of you (you know who you are) for thinking of me and sending me these lovely surprise gifts, they are both very much appreciated.
**Useless information time now – there is actually a real Coronation Street in Salford, probably only about a mile or so away from the new ITV studios at MediaCity, and back in the 1970s a cousin of Michael’s dad lived there, though other than the downstairs bay windows the house fronts bore very little resemblance to the ones in the programme. We visited a few times and I remember it was quite a nice street. The title of the programme isn’t connected to it though – when the soap was first created back in 1960 it was intended to be called Florizel Street until one of the studio cleaners said the name sounded like a disinfectant!