Upside down

After reading a recent post on Jayne’s blog, in which I commented that a certain photo looked like it was upside down, she followed that with another post with some ‘upside down’ photos specially for me. Well that got me thinking – I knew that somewhere in my archives I had some photos which could be turned upside down and I’ve spent some time over the last few days searching for them so in the absence of a Monday walk and just for a bit of fun here they are, including one with some gravity-defying rocks. And just so certain people don’t have to stand on their heads to make sense of them I’ve also included the ‘right way up’ ones.
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One thing I’ve realised while doing this – if you look at certain ones long enough you end up not knowing which are the upside down ones and which are the right way up. I wonder if Jayne realises just what she started?…..
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2018 – Looking back

As 2018 draws to a close I thought I would recall just some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. On January 3rd, after making an official complaint at the local hospital three weeks previously about the apparent misdiagnosis and lack of proper treatment of his broken ankle, Michael finally got to see the relevant specialist and was put on the emergency list for an operation asap. That took place just three days later when he had a bone graft and a plate and a couple of screws inserted to bring the broken bits together, followed by six weeks in plaster. His recovery was long, and certainly very painful in the early stages, but he finally went back to work ten-and-a-half months after he first broke the ankle.
Early February saw me succumbing to the much-talked-about-at-the-time Aussie flu virus and taking two weeks off work ; it was the first time in my life I’ve ever had flu of any sort and I’d never felt so ill before. The up side though, if you can call it that, was the opportunity to catch up on some reading and I got through several books in the time I was off work. Late in the month my washing machine gave up the ghost and after trying in vain to get someone to repair it I ended up getting a second-hand-but-almost-new one from a local shop ; it was in absolutely mint condition and is still working well. After several weeks of wet and often cold weather the last few days of February turned out dry and gloriously sunny so the end of the month saw me taking the dogs for a walk along one of my favourite routes through a local golf course and the Last Drop Village. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable walk and just rounded off the month nicely.
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The golf course pond
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The Last Drop Village
Early March saw the return of the sparrows which, the year before, had taken to perching on the outside window sill of the spare bedroom. I hadn’t expected them to come back so it was lovely to look through the glass and see them less than 3ft from where I sit when using my pc. In mid March, after several months of searching on the internet and in various camping stores, I finally ordered a new tent to replace my much-loved previous one which had sustained an irreparable tear in its roof the previous year. It wasn’t quite the same as my old one but it was near enough, it satisfied all my criteria and came at a good price with free delivery so I was more than happy. One evening late in the month saw part of my street turned into a river when a main water pipe burst and sent a substantial amount of water flooding across the road – it took two days for United Utilities to fix the problem but not before many gallons of fresh water had gone to waste down the drains. The end of the month saw the start of the Easter weekend and my 4-day break in North Wales, a break which wasn’t the best for many reasons and one in which the word ‘break’ could be taken literally.
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One of my feathered friends down in the garden
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My new tent
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A river in the street
The month of April certainly didn’t get off to a very good start for me. It rained on and off for most of the Easter weekend and put the kibosh on many of my plans, and on the Monday I woke to find that during an unexpected overnight snow shower which had turned to ice my brand new tent had collapsed on top of my belongings ; two of the three poles had broken completely and the end where I would have been sleeping had been totally flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van. Fortunately the two broken poles were the only damages my new tent suffered and back at home a few days later I took them to my nearest camping store to get the broken sections replaced. The rest of April passed fairly uneventfully with the only other highlight being a visit to the animal sanctuary spring open day later in the month, and with Michael still being off work he came too – the first time he’d ever been there and he quite enjoyed it.
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My brand new tent – what a disaster!
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Disney at Bleakholt sanctuary
The beginning of May saw Michael finally going back to work on a phased return just over ten months since he first broke his ankle in June last year. It also saw a dramatic change in the weather with the rain of the previous months gone and the start of what was to be a very long and very hot summer. The first bank holiday weekend of the month saw me suggesting (very unwisely) that we go to a car boot sale on the Sunday and then on to St. Annes – the weather was extremely warm, the world and his wife were out on the roads and we ended up getting stuck in nose-to-tail traffic, going miles out of our way and missing the car boot sale completely. It took ages to find somewhere to park at St. Annes but once we did we had a very enjoyable afternoon with a good meal and a couple of dog walks along the beach. On the middle Saturday of the month I went to Hornby Castle gardens, somewhere I’d never been before and where I got some lovely photos, then the following day I managed to burn my foot with scalding water from a recently-boiled kettle. Silicone dressings prescribed by the doctor helped to ease the pain and promote healing, and after resting it as much as possible for a week I couldn’t ignore the continuing good weather any longer so the final weekend of the month saw me taking the dogs for a local walk to Smithills Hall and gardens.
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St. Annes promenade gardens
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The walled garden at Hornby Castle
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Smithills Hall gardens
My planned 11-day holiday on Anglesey at the beginning of June was shortened by several days due to circumstances beyond my control but I managed to get six days out of the eleven and with the continuing good weather I really made the most of them by exploring as many places as I could in the time that I had. The highlight of the week just had to be finding and photographing the old abandoned brick works at Porth Wen – it was difficult to get to and involved a long walk with a couple of hairy moments but it was an amazing place and well worth the effort for the photos I got. The rest of the month was fairly uneventful but then the 28th saw the start of a wildfire up on the moors not far from home, a fire which would eventually cover more than five square miles, mean the closure of several local roads including the one running past the end of my street, and would involve more than 30 fire crews while it was at it worst.
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Porth Wen old brick works
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Porth Wen sea arch
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Part of the Winter Hill fire on the west side
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Part of the fire on the east side
At the start of July Michael and I had a lovely day out in Southport then for his birthday in the middle of the month he went over to Ireland for a few days, where he encountered a coach driver who didn’t know the route from Dublin airport to Roscrea and had to be directed a couple of times. The highlight of the month though just had to be the tour of the new outdoor Coronation Street tv set ; with great weather, a very knowledgeable tour guide and the freedom to take as many photos as we wanted it was a great tour and one I would certainly do again.
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Southport promenade
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Lord Street gardens, Southport
Rovers return
This needs no explanation
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Our official photo
Although most of the Winter Hill fire had been extinguished by the middle of July and the number of fire crews reduced there were many hot spots still burning under the surface so it wasn’t until early August that it was officially declared to be completely out after a total of 41 days. On the 9th of the month I took my first walk up there the day after the land was reopened to the public and was shocked and saddened to see the large scale devastation the fire had caused. Two days later the highlight of the month came when, at the town’s central fire station open day, I got the opportunity to go up in the air on a fire engine hydraulic platform – from 100ft up the extensive views all round the town were brilliant and I got some great photos.
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Fire ravaged land on Winter Hill
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The hydraulic platform going up
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On the way up
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Winter Hill from 100ft in the air
The highlight of September came early on in the month when, during a Heritage Open Day, I got the opportunity to climb the 180ft bell tower at the local parish church and also try a bit of bell ringing. Although the weather wasn’t the best – the long hot summer had finally ended locally the day after my fire station visit – I still got some good photos from the tower roof and the bell ringing was quite an interesting experience. A very sad time came in the middle of the month when I accompanied my friend Janet on the day she had her dog Aphra put to sleep, then later in the month I had my second short holiday on Anglesey, with an impromptu visit to my blogging friend Eileen on the way there. The weather wasn’t the best to start with but it got better as the days went on so I still got out and about and had plenty of sunshine for my photos.
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A view from the parish church tower roof
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Aphra
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Benllech beach, Anglesey
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A Llanddwyn Island beach looking towards the Snowdonia mountains
Apart from when Storm Callum hit the UK towards the middle of the month October was really nice weather-wise and still quite warm for the time of year so I went on long walks with the dogs as often as I could, both to local places I’ve often been to and some I hadn’t even known about. In the process the lovely autumn colours gave me lots of great photos and I even had one featured in an online edition of the local evening paper.
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Farnworth park
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Firwood Fold’s hidden lake
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Close Park, Radcliffe
A dull day in early November saw me taking a photography trip to Preston Dock (now known as Preston Marina) after reading the very interesting history about it, then on brighter days I continued my autumn dog walks in the local area. The highlight of the month though was a dazzling light display which lit up the front of the local town hall on two consecutive evenings – unfortunately it was very poorly advertised and I think I may have missed some of it on both occasions but what I did see was amazing and I still got some reasonably good photos.
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Preston marina
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The town hall light display
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My short holiday in Ireland at the beginning of this month was very enjoyable and a day of exploration round Dublin city centre was so interesting that it left me determined to go back in the future and for much longer, as there’s so much to see that it can’t be done in just one day. Just over a week ago I developed a nasty sore throat, cough and cold which came from nowhere and robbed me of my appetite so Christmas in the Mouse House was rather a non-event, although as there was only me and Michael anyway it didn’t matter too much. I’m feeling much better now though and tonight we’ll probably drive up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over town.
So there it is, just some of the highlights of my year, and all that remains now is to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – cheers!

An autumn walk to Smithills Hall

My Monday walk this week was taken the day after my walk through Sunnyhurst Wood but this time actually started direct from home. Across the field at the end of the street, through the bottom end of a nearby large housing estate and across a local park brought me to Smithills Wood, and though there wasn’t as much blue sky as the previous day there was enough sunshine to bring out the colour in the trees and the leaves on the ground. It was very pleasant walking through the wood and I saw no-one and nothing other than a few birds and a couple of squirrels playing ‘chase’ through the trees.
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Smithills Wood
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The path through the woods took me to the lane leading to Smithills Hall in one direction and through Smithills Open Farm and back towards home in the other – I opted for having a wander round the grounds of Smithills Hall so went left. With the autumn leaves and lack of colourful spring and summer flowers and foliage the gardens looked vastly different to when I was there in late May but it was still nice to wander round and in a slightly secluded part of the garden I even discovered something I’d long since forgotten about – the grave of Little Bess.
In 1870 Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth inherited Smithills Hall on the death of his great uncle, and he and his wife Isabella Margaret, usually known as Sally, lived there until 1900 before moving to a smaller house in Northamptonshire. Sally was a kind and gentle person with a great affection for animals and Little Bess was one of her favourite dogs. A small white marble headstone, now rather discoloured with age, marks the burial place of Little Bess, and though some of the words are hard to make out the inscription reads “Multum in Parvo” (meaning Much in Little) “In memory of Little Bess, in whom we lose sagacity, love and fidelity. She was of the rarest beauty and though the smallest of her race was possessed of the most lion hearted courage. January 13th 1873 at the age of 6”. Although a bit overgrown with weeds the grave was decorated with a few pots of artificial flowers and even a plaited dog lead had been left there at some time so maybe it’s tended on odd occasions by members of the Friends of Smithills Hall group.
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The lane to Smithills Hall
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Above the entrance to Poppins tea room in the west wing
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A strange lop-sided old door in the east wing
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The grave of Little Bess
Across the far side of the lawns I spotted a small splash of pink within the green hedge and on closer inspection found it was the remains of (I think) a couple of rhododendron flowers – very late for the time of year and rather an unexpected surprise. Close to there half a dozen steps took me down to a path which meandered a short distance through the trees and I came across something which, although I knew of its existence somewhere on the land, I’d never seen before – a small lake. It seemed to be a bit overgrown in places but with the autumn colours of the trees it still looked quite pretty and was worth a couple of photos.
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From the lake I retraced my steps back along the path and made my way round the back of the hall and out onto the lane. The sunshine seemed to have deserted me by then so with one final shot of the lane itself I headed up to the farm, back through the park and towards home for a much needed coffee.
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There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’ll be somewhere in Ireland with no access to a computer but hopefully I’ll have time to post again before I go on Thursday, and as I still have a few walks in hand I’ll catch up with those once I’m back here and settled back into my normal routine – whatever ‘normal’ is!

A local chainsaw massacre

Monday being a day when I don’t have to go to work until late afternoon/early evening I often treat it as a day of leisure, getting up when I wake up at whatever time that might be, however yesterday I was disturbed soon after 8am by an almighty noise outside in the street and when I looked out I saw various vehicles parked up near the house and part of the street cordoned off. A man with a chainsaw was up the big tree in the garden of the house two doors away cutting the branches off it while another guy down below was feeding them into a tree shredder thing – the noise was horrendous and though I could retreat to the back room and just about live with it I felt sorry for Michael who was trying to sleep after a 12-hour night shift. The noise went on for most of the day but by 4pm the tree had been completely stripped and the men had gone, leaving just the bare trunk standing in the garden.
This morning I got back from work at 9am to find that the men were back – they’d cordoned off the street again and cut the tree trunk off to just a couple of feet above ground level, it was lying across the pavement and halfway across the street and a couple of the guys with chainsaws were cutting it into manageable chunks. Again the noise was horrendous and Michael’s sleep was disturbed for the second time, but fortunately after the guys had a clear up they were gone by 10am and Michael was able to settle down again.
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Following the chainsaw massacre two doors away the guys have moved on to butcher a tree in a garden further round the estate – as I type this I can hear them in the distance but fortunately the noise isn’t loud enough now to be disturbing. I just hope that’s the end of it as far as the trees near here are concerned – Michael is working night shifts all week so he won’t be very happy if his sleep is disturbed again!

A local walk to Smithills Hall

Since damaging my foot a week ago I’ve been resting it as much as possible, meaning the dogs haven’t been out properly for several days, however yesterday’s hot and sunny weather was just too good to resist so I decided to take them to somewhere local and almost on the doorstep – far enough to give them a good walk but not far enough to aggravate my foot. Smithills Hall was my choice so I set off across the field at the end of the street, through the nearby housing estate and into the bottom end of the park closest to home. And to say that it’s a bank holiday weekend there was hardly anyone around so I had the place almost to myself.
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The edge of the park
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From the park I went into the nearby woods – the last time I’d been in there the leaves were falling off the trees and things were looking rather bare but now there was green everywhere I looked, with the added bonus of several colourful rhododendron bushes appearing here and there. A tall tree had fallen across the stream from the opposite side and when I looked over I could see where the bank had come away with the movement of the roots as the tree fell. Further on is an old stone bridge and the stream at that point was little more than a trickle so Sophie had great fun running across and back along the bridge.
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Not far past the bridge the path turned uphill for a short distance and wound its way through the trees and bushes, emerging onto the tarmac lane leading to Smithills Hall, a Grade l listed manor house and one of the oldest in the north west of England. With the oldest parts dating from the 15th century it has a lot of history behind it and I did indeed go in to look round, but I ended up with so many photos that I’m keeping them for another post and concentrating on the outside instead.
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The lane to Smithills Hall
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Pedestrian entrance to the gardens
As I emerged round the back of the building and onto the terrace my vision was assaulted by a view which I thought was truly beautiful – a huge expanse of lawn bordered by colourful flowers and shrubs, surrounded by trees and rhododendrons and with benches dotted here and there. With very few people around the place was very quiet so with no-one to get in my way I wandered round at leisure and got several good shots of the building and gardens.
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Smithills Hall gardens
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Overgrown scented garden, east wing
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Garden, east wing and chapel
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Monument and gardens
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Entrance to tea room in Victorian west wing
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Rear of the west wing
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Colourful rhododendrons near the exit
Back on the lane I retraced my steps, this time passing what was once Smithills Coaching House. Originally built in the 17th century as a stable block for Smithills Hall it was converted to a restaurant in 1966 by two local brothers, Alan and Donald Clarke. The brothers, two of three triplets, were born in 1931 – Donald became a trained chef and between them they co-owned Percival’s catering firm originally set up by their father in 1939. Percival’s had a wonderful cafe in the old town centre Market Hall and I remember going in there many times for a meal when I was a kid. Alan Clarke was the local mayor from 1972 to 1973 and died in 1979 at the relatively young age of only 48; Donald was Bolton’s mayor from 1977 to 1978 and died in 2005 at the age of 74.
A four-sided building with an attractive central courtyard, Smithills Coaching House operated successfully as a restaurant for 46 years before finally closing down in August 2012 – in spite of many local objections it was eventually sold to a developer and is now several luxury houses and apartments, with a dozen or so modern town houses built on what was once the restaurant car park. The courtyard entrance is now private, protected by huge double gates operated by key pad, but I was able to get the camera lens far enough through the bars to take a quick snap of what it looks like now the place has been modernised.
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Part of the original building, now a house
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The restaurant courtyard as it was – photo from the Internet
Smithills Coaching House
Photo from the Internet
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The courtyard as it looks now
Further along the lane, and past where I’d come out of the woods, is Smithills Open Farm, a working dairy farm open to the public with lots of different animals to see, hold and feed. With various activities including donkey rides, tractor rides and bouncy castles it’s a very popular place and with no time limit once in there it presumably makes a good few hours out, but when I saw the admission prices I was just glad that I don’t have any young kids!
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Smithills Open Farm
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Through the farm and past the car park I reached the top end of the park I’d walked through earlier; I’m not sure if it’s the local council’s way of saving money or if it’s supposed to be like that but a lot of the land had been left to grow wild, with large clumps of spiky grass growing all over the place. From the path nearest the farm the view down the park was quite extensive, and when I got down to where the playground used to be at the bottom of the slope I turned round to call Sophie and there was my old friend the Winter Hill tv mast, standing tall on top of the nearby moors.
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View down the park
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Overlooked by the tv mast
That was to be my last photo of the day; the rest of my route was all road walking though it didn’t take long to get home from there, and the first thing the three of us did was have a long cold drink! My damaged foot had done well on the walk and had given me no pain at all but I’d gone far enough and it was time to rest it now, so that’s just what I would be doing for the remainder of the afternoon.
Linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she takes us on a visit to some lovely gardens and an intriguing piece of Northumberland landscaping with great views and lots of photo opportunities. Follow the link to find out more and to see where other Monday walkers have been to this time.

Hornby Castle Gardens

The private family home of Hornby Castle is situated in north Lancashire, almost on the edge of the Lake District and the border with the Yorkshire Dales. Set on a hill in its own grounds by the River Wenning the house overlooks Hornby village and the Lune Valley; the central Keep tower dates back to 1512 but the house was rebuilt round about 1820 in an early Victorian style with ornate ceilings and carved wood panelling. Although the house itself isn’t open to the public it does have a B&B apartment to rent and is occasionally available for private functions and special events. The extensive gardens are open to the public on just a few special weekends each year, and it was through reading someone else’s blog several weeks ago that I found out about it. I’d already missed one open weekend by then but I made a note of the next one – this weekend, and with the current glorious weather it was an opportunity not to be missed, especially as dogs were welcome in the grounds so I could take Sophie and Poppie with me.
Exactly an hour’s drive from home got me to Hornby village where I left the van in a small car park just off the main road and by the river. The bridge over the river gave me a lovely view looking west across to the hills on the far side of the Lune valley, and on the other side of the bridge looking east I got my first view of the castle beyond the trees.
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River Wenning at Hornby, looking west
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View of the castle from the bridge
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Just inside the big double gates a lady sitting in the shade of a gazebo took my £4 admission fee and gave me a copy of a hand drawn map showing where things were then I was left to wander at will. A long tree-lined driveway led up a continual incline and I had a choice of left or right – I chose right first and went to have a look round in the vicinity of the castle and the gardens nearest to it.
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A border near the entrance
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A corner near the lawn
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The castle from the lawn
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Herbaceous border
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The terrace
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The lawn from the terrace
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The rear of the castle
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Across from the steps leading to the castle lawn a woodland walk took me down to a large open area and the walled garden but a sign for the ponds and azaleas caught my attention so I decided to look round there first. The larger pond was well shaded by trees, with a rhododendron bush making a splash of dark pink colour against all the green, and though much of the pond surface was covered in a layer of green weed there was enough clear water to make some good reflections. There was an island in the middle accessed by an extremely narrow, only just about 2ft wide, bridge with a rail just on one side – making sure that the dogs stayed behind me I went across but there was nothing there except a rickety wooden bench, although the whole place was really quiet and peaceful. I must admit to being disappointed with the (lack of) azaleas though; I’d expected to see a riot of colour from lots of different shrubs but there were only an odd few dotted here and there along with a couple of rhododendrons – certainly not what I’d hoped to see, and a bit of a let-down to be honest.
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From the ponds I went to have a look round the walled garden; it was quite a large place but at least half of it was given over to several bare-looking sections and cold frames where various things were being grown – the lawned area was nice though with plenty of colour along the paths and side wall, and there was a small tea room with outside tables in one corner though I wasn’t tempted to go in. From there I went over to the riverside walk and wandered along until a fence and a ‘private’ sign stopped me from going any further then I turned round and retraced my steps.
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The walled garden
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The riverside walk
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Once I was sure I’d seen everything there was to see I made my way back down the long driveway and across the road to the car park. Once there I squeezed through the narrow gap in the corner of the wall and onto the riverside path; it didn’t go very far under the bridge but it was far enough for me to get a couple of shots from right next to the weir, in fact if I’d been any closer to it at one point I would have had two very wet feet.
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Hornby bridge
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Back at the van I gave the dogs a much-needed drink, although they’d had one from the bowl provided in the walled garden, then set off for home, although I did make a brief stop after I left the village. As I drove past an open field I caught sight of a very tiny and very cute pony standing by the field gate – an opportunity not to be missed so I pulled up where I could and walked back to take a photo of him. It wasn’t easy as he was very friendly and insisted on standing so close to the gate but I managed to get my head and the camera through the bars and take a sideways shot of him.
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That was to be my last shot of the day, and with no more interruptions or delays on the motorway I was back home before 4pm. It had seemed a bit of a long way to go just to look round a garden but I’d had a nice few hours out in good weather, photographed somewhere I’d not been to before and rounded the whole thing off with an adorable little pony, so it had definitely all been worth it.
I’m joining in with Jo’s Monday Walk again where this week she’s been wandering round a couple of gardens next door to each other – follow the link and enjoy the beauty of the gorgeous rhododendrons she found while there.