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.

A local walk in the sunshine

After weeks of interminably wet and often cold weather the last few days locally have been dry and gloriously sunny so I’ve finally been able to take advantage of it and get out with the dogs for a decent local walk. A two-and-a-half mile drive north took me to the Last Drop Village – under normal circumstances I would walk all the way from home but my recent bout of Aussie flu has been detrimental to my energy levels so I didn’t want to tire myself out too much. Leaving the van in the car park behind the village I set off across the nearby fields; way over on my left was Winter Hill with its tall tv mast and on my right, separated from the field by a line of trees and a footpath, was the edge of Turton Golf Club.
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Looking across to Winter Hill
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At the far side of the field a kissing gate took me onto a rough path through an area of scrubland which in turn led onto a tarmac lane which ran past the old Cox Green quarry. The quarry was used from 1840 to provide sandstone to build houses for local mill workers, and though I remember it still being operational when I was a child (we could hear the blasting from where we lived) I can find no information on when it actually closed down. The tarmac lane was originally used by quarry vehicles but with the closure of the quarry it was blocked off and eventually pedestrianised, making a very pleasant walk along its length. Although the quarry itself is fenced off the place has seen a few tragedies over the years as there’s more than one body been found at the bottom of the 60ft drop. In recent years the quarry and its surrounding land have been sold – who by and who to isn’t known but the steep rock faces are now used by various clubs for rock climbing.
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Eventually the lane turned into a country road with modern houses on one side, fields on the other, and I took a path which skirted round the forested edge of the quarry. A narrow stream, overgrown with vegetation, ran between the path and the fields but with all the recent wet weather it had overflowed in a couple of places and spread itself right across the path; fortunately I had my wellies on but looking at all that water I would probably have been better with a wetsuit and flippers. Sophie wasn’t too keen on paddling all the way through it but we got to the end eventually and had the choice of left or right – I went left along the edge of the sheep field then turned onto the path through the golf course.
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I’ve always enjoyed taking that particular route and it was nice to see that in spite of all the recent cold wet weather the gorse was already coming into flower in the sunnier parts of the golf course. Eventually I came to the pond and found that too had overflowed onto the path at one point, although it wasn’t a great lot and it was easy enough to walk round the puddle. A right turn took me gradually downhill past various greens to where a stream ran under the path and at the top of the next incline was the club house and its car park with far reaching views over the countryside.
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Across the cattle grid at the entrance to the club car park and a little way along the lane a stile took me into a field bordering another part of the golf course. A couple of ponies were grazing peacefully, taking no notice of us as we passed them and not even looking up when I stopped to take their photo, then across the field a kissing gate took me onto the path leading back to the Last Drop village.
Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family. In 1930 a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm was sold. The new owner was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal the owner’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and is also a very popular wedding venue.
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The Last Drop Village
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With the last few shots taken I briefly thought about getting a much needed coffee from the tea shop but I couldn’t take the dogs in with me and in spite of the sunshine it was too chilly to sit outside so I made my way back to the van and headed for home instead. It had been a very enjoyable walk, far enough to give Sophie and Poppie some decent exercise but not so far that I got tired, so I can safely say that all three of us were happy.
My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday Walk this week where there are some wonderful views from high up on the walls of the castle in Serpa, Portugal. Time to put the kettle on now and see where the other ‘Monday walkers’ have been exploring.

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.

Scavenger photo hunt – January

Due to all the cold wet weather and miserable grey days over the last few weeks my dog walking has been kept to a minimum and I haven’t been out with the camera at all, so for something a bit different, and suggested by Jayne, I thought I would join in with the scavenger photo hunt hosted by Kate. I’m not quite sure what the rules are, if indeed there are any, other than having to find photos which correspond this month to these six prompts – yellow, starts with ‘O’, light, found, colourful, own choice – so here goes, and I hope I’ve got it right.
Starting off with something silly, this is Pineapple Pooh from my Japanese Pooh collection. These were made specially for the Disney Store in Japan; they differ in facial style and colour to those on the UK and American markets and are highly collectable. Each one is dressed as something else – dog, cat, unicorn, kangaroo, reindeer, the list is quite extensive and I have well over forty in my collection which I started about eleven years ago.
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Apologies for the not-very-good quality of the next photo but it was taken with a simple point-and-shoot 35mm camera before I managed to drag myself into the 21st century and go digital. This was me preparing to ride an ostrich at the Cango Ostrich Farm in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. It ran like the clappers round the compound and I almost fell off at the end but the keeper grabbed me just in time – it was quite a hilarious and never-to-be-forgotten experience!
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This cute little lamp was given to me by a friend a while ago. She isn’t a particularly practical person so if something goes wrong or doesn’t work she’ll throw it out rather than try to fix it; the lamp had its cap missing from the top and was destined for the bin until I said it was too nice to throw away, so she gave it to me instead. So far I haven’t found anything suitable to replace the cap but it doesn’t stop the lamp from working and I keep it on the unit in my bedroom.
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While I was at my friend’s a few days ago, and during a very brief break in the rain, she asked me if I would take her dog for a quick walk round the block. On the corner of the street there was a large white van parked right on the pavement meaning that I had to step into the road to go round it – and there on the tarmac was this £2 coin. I’m not sure if the owner of the van had dropped it but not knowing who or where he was I’m afraid it became ‘finders keepers’.
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On a sunny day in May a couple of years ago a visit to Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens on Anglesey had the camera working overtime and I took a total of eighty photos while wandering round the many paths and terraces. The rhododendrons and azaleas were in full bloom and there was colour everywhere – this photo is one of my favourites and I had it set as my desktop background for quite a while.
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And finally, what better way to finish this photo hunt than with a shot of Sophie and Poppie taking it easy while on an Anglesey camping trip. They do have a bed each but nine times out of ten I’ll find them sharing the big one.
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So there you have it, my photos for this month, and I do hope I’ve got everything right. Hopefully I’ll be able to take part each month but if lack of time, commitment or suitable photos prevents me at any time then I’m not going to beat myself up about it – I must admit that ‘begins with ‘O’ took some thinking about but fortunately the ostrich came up trumps!

2017 – Looking back

As we come to the end of 2017 I thought I would look back on some of the events in my life over the last year. The first few days of January were very cold and frosty but with clear blue sky and sunshine it was great dog walking weather. My New Year walk was taken along a section of the Bolton to Bury canal which I hadn’t been along for about fifteen years, and it was during this walk that I had the lovely surprise of seeing a beautiful Mandarin duck swimming around in a clear section of water.
It was towards the end of the month that Michael finally called time on a very bad 10-year marriage and came back home; initially I expected him to stay only for a few days like he’d done on many previous occasions but this time he stuck to his guns and he’s been here ever since – and I have to say that although I like living alone it’s been good to have his company.
Early February saw me taking the dogs for a walk along a section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, a walk which turned out to be much longer in distance and time than I remembered it to be. Needless to say, the dogs and I were glad of a rest when we finally got back home! In the middle of the month my bedroom tv finally died a death after eight years of faithful service and it was replaced by a pink model of the same make but a bit larger, then towards the end of the month Storm Doris arrived and caused a fair bit of havoc, though locally the day afterwards was beautifully calm and sunny and I got some nice photos while out on a dog walk.
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Snowdrops after the storm
Locally March turned out to be quite a rainy month so there wasn’t much opportunity for any decent dog walking, but a couple of dry sunny days in the middle of the month gave me the chance to walk up to the top of Winter Hill which, although only three miles from home, is somewhere I hadn’t been for many years. There’s a lot of local history attached to the place and it was good to find and photograph various points of interest. Mother’s Day at the end of the month brought me an unofficial ‘present’ of two packets of hot dog rolls, two packets of teacakes and a packet of sandwich rolls courtesy of Michael’s daft sense of humour, although he did give me some proper presents as well, and as it turned out to be a nice day we drove out to the coast for a meal and walk along the beach.
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Winter Hill
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One of my ‘official’ Mother’s Day presents
The first Sunday in April saw me having a major clear out in Michael’s room to make way for all his clothes and other possessions which had been dumped in my garden one evening, and during the proceedings I managed to get my large gym-spec treadmill wedged in the bedroom doorway with one of its legs part way up the wall, though I freed it eventually and found a new home for it on the landing. The following weekend turned out to be glorious so I did a two-part walk, going up Winter Hill for the second time in three weeks then driving round to Rivington and walking up to the top of Rivington Pike on the far side of the moor – the path wasn’t the easiest and the climb was steep but it was worth it for the views when I finally got there.
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Rivington Pike tower
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View from the Pike
The Easter holiday was spent camping at the lovely quiet and peaceful little site of Felin Uchaf near Corwen in North Wales, and apart from my first full day which was reasonably sunny the weather was mainly cloudy and grey though it didn’t stop me from getting out and about. On a visit to Bala lake I encountered the most difficult stile I’ve ever had to climb over, at Chirk Castle I came across the prettiest garden view I’ve ever seen, and on the way to a llama trek I got shouted at by the most verbally aggressive and awful woman I’ve ever met – not an experience I would want to reapeat.
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Bala lake
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Gardens at Chirk Castle
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Eddie and Kubera
In May my scheduled camping trip on the first bank holiday was reluctantly cancelled as I felt it was too soon after Easter; that was the weekend we heard scratching noises behind the wardrobe in Michael’s room and thought we had an unwanted rodent living there but it turned out to be the neighbours scraping wallpaper off the wall in the adjacent room next door. Weather-wise it was a bit mixed but the sunny days were lovely and I went on several good local walks with the dogs; it was on one of these walks that Sophie went for an unexpected swim when she fell into a stream. Sticking with the ‘animals’ theme it was while I was at work one morning that I found the tiniest little baby frog behind the kitchen bin; it was scooped up to safety and released in the nearby woodland, hopefully to find some friends and live a nice life.
The bank holiday at the end of the month saw me camping again at Felin Uchaf but after several previous days of glorious hot sunshine and blue skies the weather let me down and became very grey and wet, though on a second visit to Chirk Castle I did manage to get some reasonable shots of the many colourful rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.
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The creek where Sophie fell in the stream
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A grey damp day at Chirk Castle gardens
June was the month in which I undertook to ‘Walk All Over Cancer’ and raise money for Cancer Research by walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day for the whole month in memory of Michael’s dad who passed away six months previously. With plenty of sunny days and lots of dog walking I exceeded the target every day and at the end of the month I’d done 336,151 steps and walked a total of 66.5 miles. A hot sunny day in the middle of the month saw me going for a longer-than-expected walk round a local reservoir and a couple of days later Sophie went to the vet’s for an operation to remove a small non-cancerous lump from her front right leg. Less than a week later Michael had an accident and broke his left ankle quite badly, ending up with a late night visit to the local hospital.
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View over Anglezarke reservoir
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Sophie post-op
The first weekend in July was spent camping in glorious weather at Elvaston Castle Steam Rally; it was also the weekend when I gained the first tear in my much-loved tent. Just over a week later, on the first day of my Anglesey holiday, the tent finally died a death when it gained a much larger and probably irreparable tear across the roof, though I’d already got a back-up plan in place so it didn’t really spoil the holiday. Weather-wise the days were mixed but there was more sun and blue sky than anything else so I got some good photos on my travels both on and off the island. This was also the holiday when I got cut off by the tide while looking for and photographing an out-of-the-way beach, though fortunately the situation wasn’t too serious and I was able to wade the short distance back to dry land.
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The fairground at Elvaston Castle
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Nefyn beach
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Sunset over the camp site
August was very much hit-and-miss weather-wise with not many sunny days so I didn’t do any really good long dog walks. With Michael being unable to work because of his broken ankle he was spending a lot of time in Ireland and one day in the middle of the month saw me almost losing my patience and the will to live because of a glitch in Ryanair’s online check-in procedure and the apparent  incapability of one of their customer services staff to sort out the problem. The weather improved for the August bank holiday and Michael and I spent a great weekend camping at Manorafon; on the way there we met up with my blogging friend Eileen and her little dog Annie, then over the course of the weekend we visited Gwrych Castle not far from the camp site, Talacre beach and Barkby beach, and Anglesey.
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Manorafon camp site
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Talacre beach
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Parys Mountain, Anglesey
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Benllech beach, Anglesey
September started with the mother of all disasters when a shelf fell out of a kitchen cupboard while I was cleaning at the boss’s house and several items of crockery got broken; it was a complete accident though and luckily the boss was very understanding about it. My camping holiday in Norfolk was full of mishaps and disasters right from the start and it turned out to be the wettest holiday I’ve ever had there – I only had three really nice days out of the ten and one of those was the day I came home. It was so bad that at one point I was really considering giving up and coming back early, though I did manage to get some nice photos on the days when the sun came out.
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Overlooking California beach
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Potter Heigham on the River Thurne
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East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens
A grey start to October saw me attending the autumn Open Day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, then a couple of weeks later Michael and I spent a gloriously sunny afternoon at Southport, a place I hadn’t been to for several years, and where a meal in the lovely old fashioned Westminster Tea rooms made me feel like I’d stepped back into the 1920s. That month also saw me joining Postcrossing and to date I’ve sent 24 postcards and received 24; it’s a great hobby and I’ve had some lovely cards from different people in different parts of the world.
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Some of the Bleakholt residents
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Southport – Marine Lake
A sunny Sunday in early November was a great opportunity for a dog walk along part of the local canal and the last day of the month saw me flying over to Ireland for a memorial mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy on December 2nd. November was also the month when Michael brought me the wrong bread from Asda, not once but twice!
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Bolton – Bury canal
My five days in Ireland at the beginning of this month were very enjoyable and with some good weather I was able to explore a couple of different places and get some good photos. A couple of weeks ago, after looking to make a complaint at the local hospital, Michael finally got an appointment to see a specialist about his still very damaged ankle. At the moment he’s still a touch off colour with the bug he’s had for the last week but he’s getting better slowly and tonight we are driving up to the moorland road not far from here, where we can see all over the town and for miles beyond so we can watch all the fireworks going off in various places.
So there you have it, a round-up of my year, although to be honest this post has turned out to be a lot longer than it was intended to be – I hope I haven’t bored anyone! All that remains now is for me to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year – I hope 2018 is a good year for everyone.