Just ordered a new tent

After months of searching both on the internet and in various camping stores I’ve finally ordered a new tent in readiness for my forthcoming Easter break. Finding a tent exactly the same as my old one has proved impossible so I’ve gone for the next best thing; it’s a Kampa Burnham 4 in blue (my preferred colour) and although brand new it’s theoretically three years old as that model came out in 2015 – it’s since been discontinued but it’s the only one I could find which matched my criteria and is similar to my previous tent.
The most important ‘must haves’ for me were a good head height, a bedroom at each side and a fully integrated groundsheet, and although my searches have found several of the right style they’ve all been lacking in one of the most important points, usually the integrated groundsheet. After my very wet experience last September with the tent given to me by a friend, and which doesn’t have an integrated groundsheet, I would never now consider camping in a tent without one, but although I’ve been able to find tents 6-berth or larger with integrated groundsheets it seems that, with the exception of the Kampa Burnham, smaller tents of that style don’t have them.
So the Kampa Burnham has been ordered and all being well should arrive sometime next week. I got a good deal on it too – the price on the store’s website had already been reduced by £50 but I found a voucher code giving £15 off orders over £150 so that brought the price down below my budget. And with free delivery thrown in I really feel like I’m on a winner here.
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Kampa Burnham 4, photo from the internet
With panorama windows (with blinds), interior storage pockets and a wet weather canopy it has a couple of ‘extras’ which my previous tent didn’t have so I’m really looking forward to trying it out – and I just hope I get to love it as much as I loved my old one.

A local discovery walk

After a promising sunny start early this morning the sky had turned grey by 10am so as I didn’t consider it nice enough to take the dogs for a long countryside walk I decided to go on a local voyage of discovery instead, to a place less than two miles from home and where, even though I’ve lived in this town all my life, I’ve never previously been to.
Firwood Fold is a small hamlet tucked away down a quiet cobbled lane behind one of the main roads on the north east outskirts of the town. It was the town’s very first conservation area but is best known for being the birthplace of Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule and probably Bolton’s most famous son. The hamlet consists of former farmworkers’ dwellings and outbuildings, with the earliest ones dating back to the 16th century and other buildings added in the 17th and 18th centuries. Number 15 was built using the cruck construction method and with wattle and daub walls; it was later clad in stone but the original oak truss can still be seen and it’s believed to be the oldest inhabited building in Bolton. Number 5 originally served as the school and had two entrances, one for the school itself and the other for the teacher’s house, while number 6 was originally a pig house but is now a residential building. Unfortunately photograph taking round the hamlet was rather limited as several cars were parked in various places and I didn’t want them in the shots.
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Firwood Fold
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No. 5 Firwood Fold, The School House
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Samuel Crompton was born at Number 10 in 1753 and lived there with his family until they moved to Hall i’ th’ Wood five years later. A stone plaque on the front wall of the cottage commemorates Crompton’s birth and the cottage itself is the only building in Bolton with a thatched roof, although looking at the current state of the thatch I would hope it’s in better condition than it actually appears to be.
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No. 10, Samuel Crompton’s birthplace
At the bottom of Firwood Fold itself a short flagged path took me down to a dirt track with a signpost pointing to some fishing lakes – water meant possible photos so I decided to explore a bit further, however I hadn’t anticipated part of the track being muddy and my white trainers were soon rather black. Of course if I’d thought that might happen I would have worn my wellies but I hadn’t originally set out with the intention of going down any dirt tracks.
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The first pond I came to reminded me of an Amazonian swamp with trees growing out of the water at all angles but just beyond it were two other lakes which were far more open. Ducks, geese and coots were very much in evidence and on the smaller lake a couple of mute swans came gliding up to say hello, though they weren’t impressed by the dogs and both of them literally had a hissy fit.
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At the far side of the lakes was a vast area of open land which I knew to be part of Seven Acres Country Park; that was another area which I’d never explored but I would leave that for another time as there was somewhere else I wanted to see. Retracing my steps back through Firwood Fold I retrieved the van from where I’d parked it at the top of the lane and drove to Hall i’ th’ Wood less than a mile away.
Hall i’ th’ Wood (literally meaning ‘hall in the wood’) is a large timber-framed house set in several acres of park land and dating back to the first half of the sixteenth century. One of the most important buildings in Bolton it was originally the residence of a family of wealthy merchants but is best known as the home of Samuel Crompton and it was where, in 1779, he devised the spinning mule, an invention which had a profound impact on the fortunes of Bolton and North West England.
Crompton eventually moved out of Hall i’ th’ Wood and in the late 19th century the building fell into disrepair, though it was rescued from ruin by Lord Leverhulme, a local businessman and founder of the company now known as Unilever. After carrying out extensive renovations he presented the building to Bolton Council in 1902 and it now functions as a museum exploring the life and works of Samuel Crompton. Unfortunately greatly reduced opening times don’t include Sundays so being unable to access the building or its immediate grounds I had to be content with a few shots from the lane, though after looking it up on the internet it seems like a place which is interesting enough to go back to on a nicer day and when the building is open.
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Hall ‘i th’ Wood museum
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Snowdrops in a sheltered corner
The lane past the hall ran down through woodland to a river and though I was tempted to continue my walk in that direction I suspected it may very well be muddy so I decided to save that one for another time. It was time for a coffee anyway so with one final shot of some snowdrops sheltering in the angle of a stone wall I returned to the van and drove back home. Firwood Fold had proved to be a very quaint and attractive little place and judging from the window boxes in various places I can imagine it will be very pretty in summer, so a return visit on a sunny day is definitely on my list.
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she’s finding churches, chocolates and chickens over in Portugal, with a whole heap of photos added for good measure – time to make a brew now and settle in for a good read.

Weird weather

After the snow that we had last week had disappeared I rather hoped that was the end of it for this winter but when I got up for work this morning I found it was snowing again, big flakes which were coming down quite heavily. The trees and bushes down in the back garden were looking quite pretty with their snow-laden branches so before I went out I grabbed the camera and took a few shots from the upstairs windows.
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Now although it was snowing where I live it was a completely different matter when I got to work three miles away – it was raining and there was very little snow to be seen, but when I came out of work two hours later things had been reversed. It was snowing heavily there but by the time I got back home it was raining and the earlier snow was rapidly disappearing – and an hour later, when I set out to go to my friend’s in Belmont Village, it had all completely gone.
I know I’ve probably mentioned it before at some point but Belmont Village is just three-and-a half miles directly up the road from me. From the end of my street the main road climbs steadily uphill for half a mile before levelling out; at the top of the hill is a small shop and about fifty yards further on is the start of the countryside and moorland. And this is where the weather got decidedly weird – all the way up the hill to the shop there was no snow at all but beyond the shop it was like driving into a completely different world. Fields, trees and moorland were all covered in a thick white blanket, it was just as if I’d gone through the back of a wardrobe and landed in Narnia. Of course it was Sod’s Law that I hadn’t got my camera – with all the snow gone from home I’d assumed there was none up the road either so I’d have no need for the camera, which was a shame as I could have got some really nice photos.
A bit further along the road it started to get misty and by the time I’d reached the village the mist had turned into more of a fog; the snow was a good six to eight inches deep and with my friend’s street being on a slope (and a car already stuck on its way up) there was no way I was attempting to drive down it so I parked up on the main road and walked down. The fog cleared while I was at my friend’s and by the time I was ready for leaving after three hours the sun was shining, the grey sky was blue, and the snow was disappearing from the street – and driving back down the main road I was surprised to find that it had all completely gone. The fields and moorland were back to being green again and it was just as if the snow had never happened; the rest of the afternoon was glorious and a sunset of the most amazing colours gave a rather weird day a rather lovely ending.

The return of the sparrows

Last spring I was delighted to find that a family of sparrows was using the outside window sill, less than 3ft from where I sit when using my pc, as a regular perch, and my times spent on computer-related activities were often accompanied by various flutterings, tweets, chirps and squabbles coming from outside. More than once I tried to snatch a photo of some of them but the minute they saw me close to the window they would take off into the trees down the garden so I never managed to catch them at close quarters.
The sparrows stayed around all through spring and summer and probably into September, and though I didn’t really notice exactly when they disappeared the realisation dawned on me one day that although there was plenty of activity in the trees they hadn’t perched on the window sill for quite a while. It’s been quiet ever since but this afternoon while I was checking my emails I heard the familiar chirps and flutterings and looked out to see three sparrows just the other side of the glass. The same family or different ones? I don’t know, but if they want to take up residence on the window sill that’s fine by me. I did try to take some photos of them but again they took off, though I did manage to get a few through-the-window shots of them in the trees down in the garden.
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After the bitter cold of last week the snow finally disappeared over the weekend and today has been quite mild in comparison to recent temperatures so I’d like to think that the return of the sparrows means that spring is finally on its way. They are cute little creatures and it’s lovely having them just a couple of feet away so I do hope they stick around for a while.

Scavenger photo hunt – February

The six scavenger photo hunt prompts for this month are white, metal/metallic, camouflage, begins with ‘J’, bud, and my own choice, so after much brain-racking and photo archive searching I’ve finally managed to come up with some (hopefully) suitably corresponding shots. The first one was fairly easy, as it’s still winter I chose a shot which I took several years ago while on a dog walk through local woodland after a period of prolonged and heavy snowfall. That was the last proper snowfall we had locally, anything since then has been and gone within twenty four hours.
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The next photo is one I used on this blog about twelve months ago but as it fits the category I thought I may as well use it again. Castell Dinas Bran, otherwise known as Crow Castle, is a medieval ruin which sits in a prominent hilltop position high above Llangollen in North Wales and the footpath to the top of the hill passes through a gate with the metal sculpture of a crow on top of the gate post.
A grey day on Anglesey a couple of years ago saw me visiting Pili Palas Nature World where (apologies if anyone doesn’t like spiders) I found this tarantula in the tropical section, looking very much like the surrounding vegetation in its home.  I quite like tarantulas and at one time, years ago, I did consider having a couple as pets but never actually got round to getting any.
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Having recently been badly affected by Aussie flu I lived for almost two weeks on nothing but water and fruit juice, and thanks to Michael who limped down to our local Asda a couple of times I discovered apple and cherry juice. It’s not something I would have chosen myself but I’d told him to surprise me and that’s what he came back with – and very nice it is too. I tend to find that ‘mixed’ fruit juices always have a dominant flavour but with this one both flavours are distinctive and I liked the first carton so much that I now have a stock of them in the fridge ready for when I want a chilled drink.
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I had to think hard for the next photo but then I remembered one I’d taken almost exactly two years ago on February 26th – the crocuses were on a grass bank which I pass regularly while walking the dogs near home. I don’t know if unopened crocuses can be called buds but that’s what many of them were, with the partially opened ones beginning to look quite pretty in contrast to the green grass.
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My final photo this time just had to be this one of Poppie. It was taken on the evening of the day I got her in October 2014 – her first night in a new home and though she looks very much like a puppy I’d been told that she was actually six years old. She came with her own bed, some food and a bag full of toys and was very timid and shy to start with so she slept at the side of my bed for the first two weeks before joining Sophie and Sugar downstairs. Sadly I lost Sugar to kidney failure less than two months later but Sophie and Poppie have been firm friends ever since.
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My own choice – Poppie on her first night here
So there you are, my photos for this month’s six topics – I’m popping over to Kate’s blog now to see what interesting photos others have found.

Stopped by the police and an ankle update

This morning, while taking Michael to the hospital, I got pulled up by the police at the bottom of the main road. Not that I was doing anything wrong I hasten to add, they were just doing random vehicle checks and the guy who stopped me directed me to pull into a coned-off lay-by round the corner – just what I didn’t  need when Michael had an important appointment so I asked the second policeman if it would take long as we were going to the hospital. Fortunately it didn’t, and after being asked my name and address for a PNC check, and having to put on my indicators and various lights, they checked the tyres, advised me that one just needs a bit of air in it, and I was free to go.
We made it to the designated hospital department with a good five minutes to spare, and we were surprised to find that rather than the full waiting area we were expecting there was no-one there at all, so once Michael had given his name in at reception it wasn’t long before he was called into the plaster room. His plaster cast was cut off and after a couple of x-rays were taken he went in to see the consultant; the good news is that he no longer needs his ankle in plaster but the bad news is that it’s still got a way to go before it’s anything like healed as the new bone is only growing slowly. He’s now been fitted with another supporting boot and has to go back to see the consultant in a month’s time – so any hope he had of getting back to work sooner rather than later has just gone right out of the window.
On a lighter note though, when the consultant said they would give him a supporting boot he purposely didn’t mention that he still has the previous one, so now he’s got a matching pair he can do his own version of Robocop – watch this space for eventual photos!

The washing machine saga

A couple of weeks ago my washing machine decided it no longer wanted to work as it should – although it would wash it wouldn’t spin properly and everything was coming out still wringing wet through. Now although it was an older machine (it was given to me by my daughter-in-law when she was clearing out her grandma’s flat eight years ago) it had always worked well so I thought it may be worth repairing – an internet search came up with the names and phone numbers of a few local domestic appliance repair people so I rang the one nearest to home and he called round a couple of hours later. Unfortunately though, his attitude left a lot to be desired – as soon as he stepped through the kitchen door, and without going anywhere near the machine, his words were “I’m not touching that!” When I asked why he said “Too old, can’t get the parts, not worth bothering with!” He then offered to supply a reconditioned machine at a ‘good’ price but knowing that for only £50 more I could get a brand new one from Currys/PC World I was a bit hesitant, and his following words were “To be honest I’m not bothered if you get one from me or not, I’ve got plenty of work to keep me busy so I don’t care one way or the other!” So I said I’d let him know and off he went.
Now it’s not easy to convey in typewritten words just what sort of attitude this guy had but he was abrupt to the point of being downright rude so on principle alone I wouldn’t get a machine off him – I’d rather scrub my washing on a riverbank first! I phoned another local firm and was told they don’t touch anything older than six years so I rang a third one but got no answer so I left a message. It was three days before this guy got back to me and he arranged to call on Monday last week; he was much nicer than the first guy, he did physically have a look at the machine, told me what was likely to be wrong with it and said he would try to get the parts for it – unfortunately though I hadn’t heard anything from him by Friday morning and my phone calls to him just went straight to voicemail.
Michael then told me about shop not too far away which sold reconditioned domestic appliances, apparently during his marriage he’d got a washing machine, tumble drier and fridge-freezer from there and he’d been very happy with them so he said that if I got a cheap-ish machine from there to be going on with he’ll buy me a brand new one once his ankle is okay and he gets back into full time work. That sounded good to me so on Friday afternoon I went over to the shop to see what they had – prices ranged from £60 to £110, delivered, installed and my old one taken away, though there was a £20 delivery charge. I decided on the one I wanted but unfortunately didn’t have enough money with me to leave a deposit so I said I would go back the following day and make arrangements for them to deliver the machine yesterday (Monday), however when I called back on Saturday the shop was closed. Even though the guy there had told me they were open every day except Sunday they were closed again when I went back yesterday – so not knowing when they would  be open I decided to give up and look elsewhere.
A few blocks down the road from there is a shop dealing in good quality second hand furniture and appliances and my luck turned the minute I walked through the door. I found the perfect machine at a really good price and with only a £5 delivery charge I could have it within the hour – okay, I’d have to install it myself and get rid of the old one but neither would be a problem so I left a deposit and my phone number and drove back home. Sure enough, only twenty minutes later I got a phone call to say they were on the way and ten minutes after that they arrived; the machine was brought into the kitchen, I paid the balance and once they’d gone I set about sorting it out. Disconnecting the old one and installing the new one was easy enough and fifteen minutes after it was delivered it was merrily washing my cream jacket. Disposing of the old one was soon sorted out too – I’d intended putting it in the van and taking it to the council tip at the weekend but I was just about to go out with the dogs when the scrap man came round so he took it instead.
Looking at the new machine I don’t think I could have made a better choice, it’s in absolutely mint condition and looks almost brand new so I’m really pleased with it. Before the scrap man took the old one away I noticed a small sticker on the back of it with a date in May 2005 – I don’t know if that would be the date of manufacture or something else but for a machine at least 13 years old it’s done well, so if the new one lasts half as long as that I’ll be more than happy.