Winter Hill fire – a week in pictures

The wildfire which has devastated several square miles of local moorland not far from my home over the last sixteen days is now mostly out and resources are being scaled back with the number of fire crews reduced to nine, but there are still several hotspots in the peat which are being tracked by a Lancashire Fire Service thermal imaging drone and dealt with by the crews stationed at strategic points around the moorland. Over the last eight days, while out and about during my daily life, I’ve stopped off at a couple of places where I’ve been able to get some photos of the east side of the moors, although due to the long range involved and the smoky atmosphere the quality of some of them isn’t the best.
The following five shots were all taken in the afternoon of Friday July 6th from fields at the Last Drop Village at Bromley Cross –
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The next six were taken from the same location on the morning of Tuesday July 10th – smoke still rising but greatly reduced
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Burnt moorland close to the tv mast
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Burnt moorland above Scout Road
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The next couple of shots were taken at lunch time on Thursday July 12th from the road between the Egerton area and Belmont Village. Although the smoke was going less I could see one area where it was actually creeping down the hill – I did take a couple of shots of it but it was too far away to make even a half-decent photo.
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Fire crew stationed next to Springs Reservoir on the main road to Belmont
Late that afternoon the sky clouded over somewhat and by 6pm it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs though it only lasted for about half an hour. The rest of the evening was fine, though when I got up on Friday morning I could see that it had rained overnight – probably nowhere near as much as was needed to put the fire out completely but at least it would help. The day was dull and cooler than previously and again we had a downpour during the late afternoon but it didn’t last long and the evening turned out to be quite pleasant. Yesterday, to counteract the assumption that the fire is now out completely, the Lancashire Fire Service staff from Bacup fire station posted a photo taken at 5am that morning of flames breaking out in a hotspot.
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Hotspot photo from Lancashire FRS
With the very brief damp spell over the weather yesterday was back to being hot and sunny, and no longer having any smell of smoke in the atmosphere that morning I decided to take the dogs for a walk to see if I could get any closer-up photos of some of the burnt moorland. The main A675 road up to Belmont Village is still closed so I drove up as far as the boss’s house, which was as far as I could go, left the van there and walked up through the nearby farm and the fields onto Scout Road, which is also still closed off. With no immediate sign of the fire it was hard to believe that the currently quiet road had probably been chaos not long ago, and the only tell-tale sign was the long fire hose made up of many sections coupled together and stretching the whole length of the road.
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Fire hose stretching along Scout Road
As I walked along I began to see signs of the fire; a field on my left, where a couple of horses were quietly grazing, was backed by a steep bank covered in scorched and blackened earth, and as I got close to the top of the bad bend in the road more blackened land came into view. The road at that point had acted as a natural fire break and all the fire had been contained on one side, but I was quite surprised to see a burnt area on the opposite side, at the top of the path leading down to the quarry where I walked only a few weeks ago. It wasn’t a very big area though so I’m assuming that the wind had blown some sparks across from the main fire and this one was extinguished fairly quickly.
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The minor fire was in the foreground – the road runs between there and the mound behind
With a fire engine and crew down towards the bottom of the road, and not wanting to go too far down in case I shouldn’t really have been there, I turned round there and retraced my steps along the road and through the fields back to where I’d left the van. From there I drove the long way round to Belmont Village, parked near my friend’s house then went to see what I could see from that side of the moorland. In actual fact there wasn’t really much to  see from the village as the bulk of the fire had been over the top of the hill and more on the Smithills and Rivington side so I went back to the main road and walked down and up the hill to the San Marino restaurant, which wasn’t far. There was a fire crew based in the car park there so after I’d taken a couple of photos I got talking to them – one of them was quite taken with Sophie and Poppie and he even gave them a drink of bottled water.
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Parts of the burnt moorland seen from San Marino
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The dogs get a drink from a fireman
Thanking him for the drink I walked back to the van and made my way back home via the road from Belmont to Egerton, stopping just once in a lay-by to take another couple of photos, and looking over at the moorland from there it was possible to see pockets of smoke still rising from a few hotspots on the hillside. The firemen had told me that the crews will probably remain on duty until the end of the week continually dampening down the ground, and only once they are sure that the fire is completely out everywhere will they leave.
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Hard to see on here but smoke is still rising from parts of the hillside
Those were my last shots of the day and back at home I made a coffee and downloaded my photos onto the pc. I’d been out for three-and-a-half hours and done a fair bit of walking, and though I still had some shopping to do I was going to relax for a while first – and hopefully it won’t be long before I read an update to say the the Winter Hill fire is out completely and the battle has finally been won.
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Red – enclosed area affected by fire, approx 5 square miles   Blue – roads/lanes closed to traffic   White – footpaths closed   Yellow – tv mast and buildings   Orange – Rivington Pike tower   Green – where I took the photos from
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A special day out – the Coronation St. Tour

If anyone reading this doesn’t regularly watch Coronation St. then you probably won’t have a clue who or what I’m writing about, but on Saturday I went on the official tour of the soap’s new outdoor set. The tours started at the end of May this year and are only on selected Saturdays – booking opened at 8am on May 3rd, and having previously asked my ex’s sister-in-law Louise if she fancied going (she’s an avid watcher of the show) and decided on a mutually convenient date, I got online just after 8am that morning and booked Saturday’s 2pm slot for both of us. Our day started at 11am after I’d driven over to Louise’s house between here and Bury; I left my van there and after a quick coffee she drove us to the nearest tram station for the tram into Manchester city centre where we transferred to another tram which would take us to MediaCity and the ITV studios.
With half an hour to kill when we got there we had a wander through the nearby gardens and along the waterfront then went to Dock 10 of the ITV buildings to check in. Looking upwards the whole of the length of the foyer ceiling was awash with open umbrellas – the Umbrella Project launched just over a week ago on June 28th as part of an initiative to raise awareness of ADHD and autism and it certainly made a bright splash of colour on the foyer ceiling.
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The Umbrella Project at MediaCity

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At the check-in desk we were each given a tour pass and a map of the Coronation Street set then we congregated in a small group near a mock-up of the Rovers Return frontage. Our tour guide was called Tiffany, and given her quite young age she was very knowledgeable about the programme and its characters right from when it first started back in 1960 to the present day. Following a 10-minute introduction she led us out of the building, across the bridge over the river and round to the outdoor set – we had to go through two closed-in turnstiles manned by a couple of burly security guards then we entered the set on ‘Viaduct Street’ and close to Dev’s corner shop. After giving us some more information we were free to wander round and take photos before meeting up again round the corner outside ‘Underworld’.
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The sign on the outside of the studio building
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The bistro (owned by Michelle and Robert) on Viaduct Street
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Kevin Webster’s second garage, burnt out in January 2017
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Corner shop flat currently occupied by Adam, Daniel, Sinead and Flora
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Dev’s corner shop and Kevin’s house
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The Kabin newsagent’s
Tiffany explained that it took two years to build the new set and although all the houses are almost full-scale they aren’t set up to be lived in, but for continuity the areas immediately behind the front doors are exactly the same as the studio lots where the indoor scenes are filmed, and we were free to look through any letterboxes and take shots if we could get them. The jars of sweets in The Kabin are apparently real, although they’ve been there so long you wouldn’t want to eat them, and the Underworld factory is actually set up with some sewing machines.
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Kevin and Tyrone’s garage
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Inside Underworld’s entrance
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The Platt’s house
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Chesney’s house
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Ken Barlow’s house
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Norris’s house
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Looking through the door blind at Audrey’s salon
Unfortunately when we got to the end of Coronation Street itself I found it impossible to take a decent shot of the Rovers Return as that’s where the official photos were being taken so there was always someone in my view, but saying that Louise and I joined the queue and had our photo taken together in the pub doorway. At first we thought that having an official photo would be the money-making catch of the tour so we were surprised when Tiffany said that there was no obligation to buy and also we could hand her our own cameras and she would be quite happy to take snaps using those – it was a great idea but not knowing if she would be familiar with my own camera settings I decided to give that one a miss.
After having some time to wander along ‘Rosamund Street’ and the alley behind the houses (where Louise and I got an unexpected surprise) we gathered at the junction of ‘Rosamund Street’ and ‘Victoria Street’ to hear some more interesting facts and figures from Tiffany, then after a lot more photo taking we moved on to the far end of the street and the newest parts of the set, some of which haven’t yet featured in the programmes. Going into the alley behind the pub we were surprised to find the back yard beer garden exactly as it appears in the programmes – it was a ‘dressed set’ and there was, understandably, a gate across saying ‘no access’ though it wasn’t very high and we could easily take photos from outside it.
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The Rovers’ beer garden
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A little way down the alley, and painted on a back yard wall, was the mural done by Craig Tinker and his then girlfriend Caitlin Ryan in early 2016 as a memorial to Maddie Heath who died after being caught up in an explosion at the builder’s yard – I’ve no idea who painted it in real life but it’s very pretty. The alley turned a corner there and a few yards along was another ‘no access – dressed set’ gate and we were looking down the alley behind the rest of the Coronation Street houses. With rough brick walls, back gates and wheelie bins it looked and felt more like a real-life back alley than part of an outdoor set for a tv programme.
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Maddie’s memorial
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Along ‘Rosamund Street’ there was the chippy and medical centre set back up a slope, then Tracy’s flower shop on the corner – when I looked through the window I could see it was actually set up as a proper florist’s shop but unfortunately the interior was too dark to get a decent photo. Across the street and round the corner at the ‘dead end’ part of ‘Victoria Street’ was the taxi office and on the opposite corner was Prima Doner takeaway, and looking through the letterbox I could see it was set up as a proper takeaway. Unfortunately I completely forgot to have a look through the letterbox at Roy’s Rolls but I did have a look through the community centre one and it certainly looked like a place where a playgroup and other activities could be held.
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The chippy and the medical centre
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Tracy Barlow’s flower shop
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Streetcars cab office
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Prima Doner takeaway, Roy’s cafe and the community centre
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Inside Prima Doner
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Inside the community centre
Diagonally across from the community centre was the scruffy and untidy-looking builder’s yard now run by Gary Windass then back across the street was the ultra-modern Victoria Court apartment building, looking rather incongruous set among the older properties and what were once old warehouses. After a large space set aside for ‘residents-only parking’ for the apartments we came to Speed Daal, the restaurant set up by Zeedan Nazir and now managed by Sophie Webster after both the character and the actor playing him left the show; peering in through the fancy glass in the door I managed to get a shot of the sign on the inside foyer wall.
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The builder’s yard
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Victoria Court apartments
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Speed Daal restaurant
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From there we came to the new extension of the set, officially unveiled in March this year and which includes a tram station, Costa Coffee shop, a Co-op food store and a community garden on the corner. Although the tram station exterior has briefly been seen in the background of a couple of episodes and the community garden has featured several times in recent story lines none of the other businesses have yet been referred to or featured, though some characters have occasionally been seen carrying takeaway Costa Coffee cups. The community garden was quite pretty in a scruffy-looking way and though it looked like it needed a good tidy-up it does feature a memorial bench which was specially commissioned to pay tribute to the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017.
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Tattoo shop and snooker hall (not yet featured)
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Tram station exterior
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Costa Coffee (not yet featured)
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Co-op food store (not yet featured)
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Inside the Co-op
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Victoria St. community garden
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Community garden memorial bench
The tour ended there and with a final few snippets of information from Tiffany we were free to make our way round the outside of the set and the studios and back across the bridge to the main building, where we could collect our official photos and any Coronation Street merchandise we wanted to buy. And this is where Louise and I got an unexpected bargain – the photos were priced at £7.50 each or two for £10 so we said we would have two and split the cost, however the girl on the desk said we were entitled to one free anyway so we decided we would just have one extra instead of two. So we paid the £7.50 for one but when the girl handed them over in a bag we found she’d given us three, meaning we had one each plus an extra one – and neither Louise nor I could figure how she’d worked that one out but we weren’t complaining. And we even got to keep our tour passes, which I fully expected that we would have had to hand in at the end of the tour.
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The outside of the photo folder
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Our official photo – I’m the blonde having a bad hair day!
From there we had another wander along by the waterfront and the gardens where I was able to take quite a few photos – with several places to eat and drink and the pleasant gardens to sit and relax in it was a lovely area and I was impressed enough to want to go back on my own just to spend time exploring. After our wander we got the tram back into Manchester centre, found somewhere to have a snack and a drink and had a wander through part of the huge Arndale shopping centre before getting the tram back to Radcliffe where Louise had left her car.
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Over the bridge to Coronation Street
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The Imperial War Museum North
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Looking down the River Irwell
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The Lowry is along there somewhere
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Gardens outside ITV and BBC buildings
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Along the waterfront – North Bay
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Huron Basin
Back at Louise’s we had a coffee and talked over our trip, when we both agreed that we’d had a great time, then I finally arrived back home at 7pm. The tour had cost £35 each which wasn’t exactly cheap, but we’d both said that it was definitely value for money and much better than we’d expected – Michael had actually paid for mine as a birthday present. Tiffany had been a great tour guide, not only imparting various facts and information but also interacting well with us as individuals and as a group in spite of her relatively young age. It had surprised us too that apart from the obvious ‘no-go’ areas there was no restriction on us taking photos anywhere, in fact we’d been positively encouraged to take as many as we wanted, and there was no pressure on us to buy an official one either. All in all it had been a great tour and I’d certainly go again if only to take photos of the things I missed this time – looking at the website it seems to be fully booked for the rest of this season so all I can say is roll on next year!

 

** After yesterday’s problem of my comment facility disappearing for this post it seems like I’ve managed to rectify the matter, so if anyone has tried to leave a comment and couldn’t then please try again as you should now be able to. Anyway, I’d love to know what people think of my day out!  🙂

Scavenger photo hunt – June

The six prompts for this month’s photo hunt are – yellow, starts with ‘T’, lilac, starts with ‘G’, silver, and my own choice. Admittedly I needed to think hard about a couple of the categories, especially ‘silver’, but I got there in the end and came up with these –
Kicking things off is a wild iris (well at least that’s what I think it is), one of a large patch of flowers growing at the side of the Cefni reservoir on Anglesey, at the creek where the angling club moor their dinghies – I thought their bright yellow colour was really pretty.
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Yellow – wild iris
I must admit that apart from the obvious things like ‘tent’ and a mug of ‘tea’ my brain refused to come up with anything for ‘T’, however it was Michael who came to the rescue by suggesting something he’d just brought home from work – a packet of teacakes, although not made by him this time as he wasn’t working on that section when they were made.
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Starts with ‘T’ – teacakes
For my third photo I finally chose this one of a large patch of lilac coloured flowers growing in a small cliffside garden above Cemaes bay on Anglesey, taken while I was on my recent camping holiday there.
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Lilac – flowers in a cliffside garden
For the next category I just had to include my own photo of this one, first brought to my attention a couple of years ago by my blogging friend Eileen.  As far as I can tell, with the hedge being so high there’s no way of knowing whether this is a full-sized giraffe or just a head and neck on a long pole, but with his head gear changing with the seasons he’s certainly amusing to look at. At the moment he’s also wearing a sun hat to protect his horns!
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Starts with ‘G’ – Giraffe
I had to rack my brains to come up with the next one as I don’t wear silver jewellery and I can’t think of anything silver which I may have in the house, anyway I finally thought of this one – my International Dance Teachers Association silver President’s Award for disco dancing, which I gained in 1986. After going through bronze, silver and gold exams, gaining three gold bars, three gold stars and a couple of other medals, all of which I had percentage marks in the high 90s, getting the President’s Award was really something – I’d already previously got the bronze one and I went on to get the gold one a few months later.
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Silver – my IDTA President’s Award
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And finally, thinking back to a really long and strenuous walk I recently did while on Anglesey, and a comment made on my blog about the dogs being totally cream crackered afterwards, I couldn’t resist posting this photo of the two of them having a well-earned rest after a long walk while camping on Anglesey a couple of years ago –
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My own choice – Sophie and Poppie after a very long walk
So there you have it, my photos for this month’s challenge – I hope you like them. I’m linking up with Kate once again so I’m off now to see how others have interpreted the categories this time  🙂

A short holiday away

On Tuesday evening this week I arrived back home after a short almost-six-days holiday on Anglesey. I’d actually booked seven days off work and with two weekends I should have had eleven days starting on the first Saturday of the month, but circumstances beyond my control kept me at home for the first few days. I finally set off for Anglesey late last Thursday morning, with the recent good weather staying with me all the way from home, and once at the site, which was very quiet, I was able to set up camp in near enough the same place as last year. Having had no opportunity to open out and dry my new tent, which had been packed away very damp at Easter, I was dreading what I might find so I’d packed my spare green one ‘just in case’ and set up the van to sleep in but I needn’t have worried – although quite a bit of moisture had got trapped between the plastic windows and the blinds the rest of the tent was fine and surprisingly there wasn’t a mark on it anywhere. After a quick wipe over the moisture on the windows soon disappeared in the hot sunshine and the tent served me well over the next few days.
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All dried out
Day 2 arrived sunny and warm again so I decided to have my ‘big day out’ off the island and set off late morning for Llanberis, just over 18 miles away on the mainland. Ages ago a cafe in Llanberis had been recommended to me as a good place to get a meal so I decided to try it and I wasn’t disappointed – I opted for a cheese and onion toastie and it came absolutely oozing with filling and with a salad garnish, and Sophie and Poppie even got a treat of a sausage each. Unfortunately not long afterwards the sky clouded over and the sun played a good game of hide-and-seek but it didn’t spoil the afternoon too much and I still walked right along the lake side to the slate museum and back. When I got back to Anglesey I found the sun and blue sky were just as bright as when I left so with hindsight maybe I should have stayed on the island.
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The cafe where I had lunch
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Llanberis lake side
Day 3 was another hot and sunny one and after starting off at the car boot sale just outside the village I made a return visit to Portobello beach in Dulas Bay, which I first went to last year. This time though I went when the tide was going out and almost at its lowest so there was no danger of getting cut off on the riverside like I did before. From the beach I drove into Llangefni and parked up at Asda then took the dogs for a walk through The Dingle nature reserve and up to Cefni reservoir and back, and it was when I was approaching Asda from the entrance to The Dingle that I noticed an old windmill with a strange top, on a rocky outcrop above and just beyond the store. Of all the times I’ve been to Llangefni I’ve never noticed that before so I just had to find it and photograph it.
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Portobello beach
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Afon Goch (Red River) estuary flowing across the beach
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Bridge over Afon Cefni, The Dingle
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Cefni reservoir
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Llangefni windmill
Day 4 started off at the big car boot sale on the Anglesey show ground then from there I went over to Rhosneigr in search of Sausage Castle. Not actually a castle but a large house with castellated walls – real name Surf Point Villa – it was built next to the beach in the early 1900s by Charles Palethorpe, a member of the famous pork butchery family, and soon became known as Sausage Castle. A short walk along the beach soon found it and from there I continued along the sand to where the Afon Crigyll flowed out across the beach.
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Sausage Castle (Surf Point Villa) from the beach

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Afon Crigyll estuary
From Rhosneigr I drove up to Penrhos Coastal Park and enjoyed a coffee and cheeseburger from Pete’s Burger Bar overlooking Beddmanarch Bay, then went to Breakwater Country Park on the far side of Holyhead. After a walk round the lake I tackled the steep path up Holyhead Mountain but only went up far enough to get a couple of photos overlooking the park and the rest of Holyhead;  it was getting on for 6pm by then so time to make my way back to the camp site.
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The lake at Breakwater Country Park
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View overlooking the park
Day 5 was hot and sunny once again and this time I was on a quest to find and photograph the old abandoned brickworks at Porth Wen, a place I’d been told was very difficult to find and get to, so difficult in fact that many of the locals didn’t even know how to get there. I was put on the right track by a lovely old gentleman I got talking to while wandering round Cemaes harbour but it still proved to be quite a long and challenging walk along part of the Anglesey Coastal Path, with a couple of rather hairy places where the path was within inches of a very steep and unprotected drop down the cliff into the sea. I found the place eventually though and also had the added bonus on the way there of unexpectedly finding the old Llanlleiana Porcelain Works.
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Cemaes harbour
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Difficult to photograph through the hedge but I couldn’t resist this one
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Llanlleiana old porcelain works
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Porth Wen
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Porth Wen old brick works
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Porth Wen stone arch
Day 6 was going home day but it was still hot and sunny so I decided to prolong the day as much as I could. I took my time packing everything away and left the site just before 1pm, but as is my usual custom I took the dogs for a final walk along the beach; it was so nice down there that I decided to stay a while longer and as it was lunch time I made myself a couple of sandwiches from some chicken I had in the cool box and got a takeaway coffee from the nearby kiosk, then sat in the van and had a leisurely lunch with a great view of the beach.
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Benllech beach
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It was getting on for 3pm before I finally managed to tear myself away and set off for home, though I did make three more stops on my way along the coast. The first was at Llanfairfechan, a lovely little place I hadn’t been to for several years, and the second was at Penmaenmawr, smaller than Llanfairfechan and maybe not quite as pretty but still very pleasant. My third and final stop further up the coast was an impromptu visit to my blogging friend Eileen, and we spent a very nice couple of hours having a good natter over a mug of coffee. It was nearly 7.30pm when I finally set off on the last leg of my journey and after a very quick stop at Chester services, where I briefly saw a squirrel near the van, I arrived home at 9.15pm.
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Llanfairfechan
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Penmaenmawr promenade
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Admittedly the holiday hadn’t been near enough as long as I’d originally intended but I’d made the most of the few days I did have and packed as much into each day as I could so I hadn’t missed out on too much. At least I’d found out that the tent was okay after its Easter collapse and subsequent soaking, I’d found and photographed a couple of out-of-the-way places, the weather had been great all the way through and I’d gained a near-enough Mediterranean tan just by walking about and exploring so I can’t complain too much. Now all I have to do is update my camping blog with more details and photos from the last few days – that should keep me occupied for a while!

A quarry walk with a difference

With the continuing glorious weather I’ve been getting out and about a lot with the camera and the dogs, although just recently I’ve not been going too far because of my damaged foot. The day after my walk to Smithills Hall I decided to revisit a local place I’d been to back in mid April – the old quarry just a mile or so up the road from home. Just like last time I parked in a convenient place just off the main road and took the path leading into the quarry but unlike the last time things were vastly different – the water running down the middle of the rocky path had been reduced to a trickle in the continuing dry weather, the path itself was looking rather overgrown and the bare and rather desolate quarry had sprung into life with green everywhere I looked, interspersed with colourful rhododendron bushes here and there.
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The path into the quarry
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As I walked along the bottom of the quarry I could see someone slowly climbing up the sheer rock face ahead – it seemed a bit of a dangerous thing to do but when I got closer I could see it was a girl and she was safely attached to a rope with someone at the top guiding her – definitely not the sort of thing I would do though, even with  a rope and harness! Close to where the climbers were the path started to go steeply upwards and on the next level I came across what I assumed to be a bit of a picnic place probably made by and for various climbers – a three-sided seating area with a large flat-topped ‘table’ in the centre, all cobbled together out of various fallen quarry stones.
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Climbing up ‘The Prow’
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Climbers’ picnic place
The higher I went the better the views became, in one direction looking down the quarry with the countryside north east of the town in the distance and in the other direction overlooking the countryside and moorland to the north. The path was rather overgrown in places and at one point I just managed to miss a clump of prickly thistles in the undergrowth, although the dark blue flowers looked quite nice. A bit higher still and the path eventually brought me out on Scout Road near the top of the very bad bend,  and walking along I saw that where there had been clumps of daffodils in the fields only a few weeks before the grass was now dotted with fluffy-looking clumps of pink flowers. I don’t know what they were – knowing my luck they would be weeds – but they looked quite pretty anyway.
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Looking down the quarry
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Looking north
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As I reached the car park where I would turn onto the path across the fields I decided on the spur of the moment to walk a bit further and see if there was still a lake across the road. Bryan Hey is a large private fishing lake, set back from the road behind a high bank and I remember going with my mum to pick blackberries there when I was 14 years old. The blackberry bushes ran between the roadside and the wall at the bottom of the bank, and while my mum picked the fruit from the roadside I went up on the bank and picked the berries from the top of the bushes. All went well until I put one foot too far over the edge of the wall and fell off the bank right into the middle of the bush – all my mum could see was my feet at the bottom and my head sticking out at the top, the rest of me was in the bush! Once I’d got over my surprise and we’d both finished laughing she somehow managed to get me out, though how I survived without being scratched to ribbons I’ll never know, and the event was a source of amusement for many years.
It turned out that the lake is  still there and so are the blackberry bushes, though I kept myself and the dogs well away from them. A few people were fishing over on the far side of the lake but there was no-one on my side and it was very pleasant walking along on the tree-shaded lakeside path. When I got back down to the roadside I noticed something else which was obviously very new – set inside a private entrance with a colourfully decorated board proclaiming it was NOW OPEN was Skip-a-doo’s dog training area, a large securely-fenced exercise and training field with various items of agility equipment. Backing onto the moorland and with large colourful rhododendron bushes behind it looked like a nice place to train a dog.
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Bryan Hey fishing lake
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Skip-a-doo’s dog training field
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Back across the road I retraced my steps to the car park and took the path across the fields abundant with large patches of the fluffy pink flowers. Following the path past the line of pine trees the grass became dotted with buttercups and in amongst them all I found just one small clump of rather sorry-looking bluebells. A bit further on was the pyramid-shaped stone which had been surrounded by a circle of daffodils just a few weeks before; now the daffodils were gone and the grass and weeds had grown up round the stone so much that I almost walked past it without seeing it. Compared to a few weeks ago it looked a mess and it certainly wasn’t worth taking another photo of it.
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From there I went through the farm yard and onto the tarmac lane by the hamlet of houses, though where I turned right last time I went left instead and just round the bend, set back in the angle of a garden wall, was what presumably had, at some time, been a water spout with a small pool underneath it. It was completely dry and obviously had been for a long while but it was such an unexpected thing to see in that location that it was worth taking a photo of it. As I got to the bottom of the lane I was rewarded with a view of the countryside in front of me;  it’s a view I’ve seen many times before when I’ve been out with the dogs but I never tire of it.
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That was to be my last shot of the afternoon, and I returned to the van which was parked close by and drove back down the hill to home. It had been a good walk and my foot had held up well, fortunately with no real pain in spite of it being so damaged, but now it was time for the three of us to have a long cool drink and a good rest while I contemplated where to go for my next walk.

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
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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.

Scavenger photo hunt – May

I’ve been so busy just recently that I’d almost forgotten about this, even though I knew which photos I would use as soon as the list was published. The prompts for this month are cool, disaster, movement, fence/fencing, spiky/prickly, and my own choice, so here goes –
The first one is my electric cool box which I use for camping. I’ve had it on permanent loan for four years from John, a camping friend who lives in Norwich. He’d bought it from his local Aldi store and never used it so passed it on to me when my camping fridge at the time gave up the ghost. We usually meet up a couple of times each year and I always ask if he wants it back but he says ‘no’ – meanwhile, it comes with me on all my camping trips and is also in permanent use as an ‘add-on’ to my small kitchen fridge. I don’t know how old it is, and even John can’t remember exactly when he got it, but for something which was very reasonably priced compared to more well-known makes it really does keep things well-chilled and is an excellent piece of kit.
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Cool – my camping cool box
There was no question which photo I would use for ‘disaster’ – the one of my brand new tent which collapsed under the weight of an unexpected overnight fall of snow while I was camping at Easter a couple of months ago. Luckily the dogs and I were sleeping in the van so it didn’t come down on top of us, but two of the poles were snapped in the process – I managed to get those fixed once I got home though I haven’t had the opportunity to use the tent since so hopefully it will fare better next time round!
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Disaster – my collapsed tent at Easter
On an afternoon at St. Annes during the last bank holiday I took a walk through the very attractive promenade gardens; the path on one side passes through the rocks where the waterfall flows over the top into the pond, and though the water wasn’t running when I went that way it suddenly started up while I was across the other side. I went back to take a snap of it and hopefully captured the movement of the water as it fell off the rocks into the pond below.
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Movement – the waterfall at St. Annes promenade gardens
I didn’t have to go far to photograph the next topic as it was only three doors away. My neighbours at the corner house have recently had their old timber fence replaced so I snapped a quick shot of their new fencing with the workmens’ orange barrier fencing still in place. They’ve done a good job and it looks so much better than the old fence.
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Fence/fencing – the new-look fence on the corner
The next topic was also fairly easy. On the unit in the kitchen at one of the houses I clean is a collection of small cacti; they could really do with being put into larger pots as they’ve grown top heavy and fall over easily, which explains the bits of soil on the shelf. And it doesn’t matter how gently I move them, they still fall over, though at least I got them to stay still for the photo!
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Spiky/prickly – cacti in the boss’s kitchen
Moving away from the dog-related theme of the last few months my own choice this time is a colourful shot taken a couple of years ago during a private visit to a secret garden on Anglesey. The garden was, at one time, open to the public on just one weekend each year but because of an issue with the change of ownership of the land it was closed indefinitely. It’s in a fairly remote location and I was just lucky that on the day I went to find it, not knowing that it was actually closed, the couple who still looked after the place were there doing some gardening and I was invited in for a look round. Although a bit overgrown in a few areas it was a beautiful place, very quiet and peaceful, and I felt really privileged to be allowed to wander round and get the shots I wanted. A far as I know the garden is still closed, which is a shame as it really is a lovely place.
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My own choice – a secret garden somewhere on Anglesey
So there you have it, my photos for this month, and once again I’m linking up with Kate’s blog – follow the link to see what interesting shots the other photo scavengers have found this time. I’m off to do the same now while I have a brew!