After what seems like weeks of constantly dull grey days and interminably wet weather culminating in storm whatever-it-was-called and a couple of days of (fortunately very short-lived) snow showers, Thursday two days ago was absolutely glorious. Now the dogs are like me, they hate wet weather and their recent walks have been relegated to ’round the block’ or even just ’round the garden’ if it’s been really bad, so Thursday’s sunshine and blue sky was a good opportunity to finally get out for a decent local walk.
Across the nearby park was Smithills Open Farm with the two farm dogs sunning themselves behind some newly installed railings, then along the lane I came to the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall, although with no leaves on the trees it isn’t exactly hidden just now. In a corner of the lawns Little Bess’s grave contained the remains of just one artificial plant and across the far side two ladies, both wearing red coats, were sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine.
There’s only one thing wrong with taking the camera on a local walk which I’ve done several times previously – the photos I take are almost the same as the ones I took before and the ones before that, but it was such a lovely day I hadn’t wanted to leave the camera behind. The path alongside what had been the old garden centre boundary wall was covered in russet coloured leaves, soggy from all the recent rain, and at the far end of the nearby field two ponies, one rugged up against the cold weather, mooched about quietly minding their own business.
Beyond the field the path crossed a narrow brook and joined up with three other paths; from there I could see across 16 miles to the city centre high rises of Manchester, including the ugly Beetham Tower, and I could even make out the red and white Printworks sign. The shortest route from there would have been straight on but I took the path on the right which meandered down and round the edge of a small area of woodland before joining up with the far end of one of the other paths.
From there it was just a 5-minute walk through the nearby farm yard and down a short lane to the main road then ten minutes down the hill and I was back in my own street. It had been good to get out into the fresh air and though it was cold the sunshine and blue sky had made it a very enjoyable walk.
After a bit of a misty start it turned into a beautiful sunny morning and for the last full day of the holiday I was going to somewhere I hadn’t previously been. Ennerdale Water is the most westerly of all the lakes and according to various sources is the least visited – with my preference for quieter places I was looking forward to a good dog walk where hopefully I wouldn’t meet too many people.
It was a nice easy drive from Cockermouth down the A5086 then round the country lanes and through Ennerdale Bridge village. With a choice of two car parks I went to Bowness Knott on the north side of the lake first but didn’t stay long. The car park itself was set among tall conifers at the edge of a large forest on the narrower part of the lake; with the sun behind the higher fells to the south quite a bit of the area was in shade so I only took a short walk before driving to the other car park, making a couple of brief photo stops on the way.
The second car park, Bleach Green, was at the south western corner of the lake where a short walk through a wooded area and along a wide pleasant path took me to the widest and more open part. A small weir allowed water from the lake to feed the River Ehen and the views down the lake itself were stunning.
When I’d first thought about going to Ennerdale I’d also thought about walking all the way round the lake – at only two-and-a-half miles long and less than a mile wide at its widest point it certainly sounded doable – but that was before I’d read some information about the area on a ‘Lakes walking’ website. It seemed that a certain section of the path on the south side involved a fair bit of scrambling and ‘hands on rock’ – not a good idea with two dogs in tow so for safety and sanity I stuck to the western end of the lake.
A path close to the weir took me through an area of small trees and bracken before emerging close to the lakeside and several times I went down to the water’s edge to let Snowy and Poppie have a paddle. At one point I came across a couple of backpacks and a coolbag on the ground and just down below the path two ladies were having a lakeside picnic; they had chosen a great spot and it looked like they were having a nice time.
As I got round to the north side of the lake the path veered away from the water and took me through an area of scrubland; a little way ahead was a gate so I used that as my turn-round point and retraced my steps. About halfway along I saw something I hadn’t noticed before as I was too busy looking at the views over the lake. In a grassy clearing set back off the path was a bench and what appeared to be a good view over the nearby fields but the bench was occupied by a couple with an off-lead dog bigger than my two so I didn’t go for a closer look.
Back at the weir I found that corner of the lake was occupied by an older teenager/young man about to set off on a stand-up paddle board. I watched him for a while as he paddled further out across the water; he was obviously on his own and with no life jacket so I hoped he would be okay if he fell in, especially as there was a “Danger – deep water – No swimming” sign close to where he’d left his things.
With the final couple of shots taken I headed back to the van for the return drive to the camp site – it had been a lovely few hours out and I’d been very impressed by the views around Ennerdale. Since getting back home I’ve found out that there’s a cafe in the nearby village so with the possibility of being able to get a coffee and a snack that area is now on my ‘must return’ list of places.
A day in which I climb a mountain the hard way….
It was another lovely morning full of sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, with the nearby fells so clear they seemed to be within touching distance so I knew just what I was going to do with my day. Distance-wise, this time I was only driving the 11 miles to Keswick but making a photo stop on the way.
There aren’t many places on Bassenthwaite Lake where you can actually get to the water but the north west corner is one of them and it was on my route from the camp site to Keswick. Leaving the van in the first of two small parking areas set back off the lane I went down through the trees and walked along the lakeside until I could go no further without getting very wet feet. Heading south down the A66 a while later the views across the lake were so lovely that I pulled up briefly in a lay-by to get another couple of shots before continuing on to Keswick.
A couple of days before the start of the holiday a suggestion had been made via email that if I wanted (quote) “a nice fell walk that doesn’t involve mountaineering but gives stupendous views” I might like to consider Latrigg, so having checked it out on Google maps that’s where I was headed. Parking was on a residential road on the outskirts of Keswick where an unadopted lane ran for quite a distance, taking me over the A66 to the start of the footpath up the fell. An information board showed the various paths and bridleways around and up the fell and as the main path in front of me seemed to be quite steep and uneven I decided to take a level path through the woods instead.
All went well for quite a distance and it was a very pleasant walk but then I hit a big problem – a huge area of woodland extending almost to the top of the hillside had been felled and ripped out by machinery and any semblance of a footpath had completely disappeared. With nothing but piles of dried out branches and vegetation and the remains of tree trunks sticking up everywhere it looked like the aftermath of the apocalypse. So I had two choices – retrace my steps to the main path or try to find a way up the hillside. I suppose I should really have turned back but dogged determination made me continue, using the machinery tracks as a path.
The first hundred yards or so weren’t too bad but then the machinery tracks went vertically up the extremely steep hillside. To make matters worse some of them held pools of stinky, muddy stagnant water and I often had to walk along the top of the banked up earth in the centre – negotiating tree stumps and dead vegetation and trying not to let myself or the dogs slip into muddy water was certainly a challenge. I should really have taken a photo to show just how steep the hillside was but concentrating on getting up to the top without doing myself a mischief meant I wasn’t really in the mood to use the camera.
Just over halfway up and over to my right was a barbed wire fence and a wooden gate leading to a very pleasant looking grassy part of the hillside – if I could get to it the rest of the climb might be a bit easier. There was only one thing wrong – running down the hillside in a dip between me and the gate was a stream which needed to be crossed. Carefully picking my way down into the dip I found a very narrow bit of the stream where I could step across via a couple of flat stones then up the other side of the dip I finally reached the gate.
Unfortunately it was fastened shut but that was no problem, I just posted the dogs through the bottom of it then climbed over – and what a difference there was in the terrain. A narrow but smooth and level grassy track led through an area of russet coloured bracken, the few small trees dotted about sported their autumn berries and the views to the south and east were opening up in front of me – it all looked rather lovely. It wasn’t long though before I had to start climbing again; the hillside was just as steep as before but at least the grassy track made things a bit easier.
Finally, just over an hour after I started my epic climb, I reached the top of the hillside and the gate which took me onto the ridge of the fell. It was a joy to see some reasonably flat land and after such a steep and strenuous climb I felt like I should have planted a flag there to celebrate conquering the mountain. My climb hadn’t been without incident though – several times I’d been attacked by bits of dried out tree lying on the ground and the back of my legs had sustained several scratches which still haven’t completely disappeared.
I hadn’t been on top of the fell for long when four RAF jets came out of nowhere and flew at speed one after the other right over my head. They were very loud and very low, so low that they only just skimmed the top of the fell and the earsplitting noise terrified Snowy but fortunately they were gone in seconds, disappearing out of sight up Bassenthwaite Lake.
After spending some time taking in the views and recovering from my climb I set off on the downward journey, this time on the path that I should really have gone up. It was a fairly easy-to-walk zig-zag route which gave me some more lovely views over other nearby fells, with the last few hundred yards of the path being the steep bit which I should have gone up at the start. Eventually I was back on the unadopted lane crossing over the A66 and my last shot of the day was taken just before I reached the road where I’d left the van.
At 1,207ft Latrigg is one of the smaller fells – I’d climbed up it, walked down it, got some good photos in the process and the dogs had a good walk, now it was time to go back to the camp site and relax for the rest of the day.
While writing this post I came across a photo on the internet which I’m including here. The screen capture from Google maps shows the hillside before the Forestry Commission got their machines on it – the blue line is where I walked through the woods, the yellow shows the area of trees which have been felled and the red is my route up the hillside. The photo shows the steepness of the hillside – although the bottom of the hill is obscured the red line shows part of my route to the top, with the white spot denoting the gate I climbed over.
Would I go up Latrigg Fell again? At the moment the jury’s out on that one but I won’t deny that the views were certainly ‘stupendous’ so if I’m on another camping holiday in Cumbria and the weather is right then maybe – although if I do I’ll make sure I use the proper path to get there.
I hadn’t originally intended to post this walk as there’s nothing special about it and it’s also one I featured in 2018, however with the recent constantly cloudy and rainy weather keeping me close to home I haven’t really taken the dogs anywhere worth photographing or writing about.
I walked this route for the first time this year on a lovely sunny day during the Easter weekend then did the same walk again yesterday to get some contrasting photos now the trees have fully come to life, although this time the sky was also contrasting. Clear blue in one direction but grey and cloudy in another it certainly gave me some different shots, though several times I had to contend with the sun disappearing just at the wrong moment.
Ten minutes walk through the avenues close to home brought me to the playing fields at the secondary school where I once worked as a supervisor, and close to one corner was a tree which, for some unknown reason, I’ve had a particular liking for over the years. Another few minutes brought me to the garden at the side of the Grade ll listed pavilion, once the home of a local tennis club established in 1923 but now owned by a local micro brewery since 1995, then round the corner was the top of Yew Tree Lane and an enclosed area of spare land housing what I can only describe as a large Hobbit house. Shed, garage, workshop? – whatever its purpose it was almost completely covered in trees, with only the door being visible.
At the bottom of the lane was Yew Tree Cottage, now hardly visible through the leafy tree branches, and a footpath leading past the cottage’s extensive garden to a bridge over Eagley Brook. At the far side of the bridge I went down to the riverside yesterday, the first time I’ve ever been down there, although I couldn’t go very far before I had to go back to the path.
Back above the river the path took me steeply uphill to the cobbled lane leading past the side of Hall i’th Wood museum, and fastening the dog leads to the museum gates at Easter I was able to get a shot of Snowy and Poppie together, although it took several attempts as Snowy wouldn’t stand still. Going round to what was once the front of the museum I took a few shots in the parkland, though in a huge contrast to Easter the sky yesterday looked ominously dark over the distant Winter Hill.
Back on the cobbled lane I followed it down past the boundary wall of a local business premises partially hidden by the trees then along a short path above the river to another bridge and a second cobbled lane leading up to the main road. At the top of the lane and set back off the road was a small triangle of land which displayed some lovely daffodils at Easter, then just beyond it was Watermillock, once a gentleman’s country mansion house set in extensive grounds.
Constructed between 1882 and 1886 for Thomas Thwaites, one half of Eden and Thwaites bleachworks owners, it was subsequently inhabited by local mill owner T M Hesketh and his family, then after ending its days as a private residence it became a military hospital in WW1, run by the Red Cross for pilots with horrific burns and other serious injuries. In 1937 the house was used as a hostel for refugee children evacuated from Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War, though they only stayed for about a year before going back home to Spain.
In subsequent years Watermillock became an old people’s home and also acted as a subsidiary to the local hospitals’ laundry; it stayed as an old people’s home into the 1990s when it was finally closed, and eventually it was converted by Banks’s Brewery into a restaurant with function rooms, though for the last few years it’s been a Toby Carvery.
From Watermillock it was all road walking to get back home though zig-zagging though various avenues on both days gave me the opportunity to photograph several colourful shrubs and trees in different gardens along the way.
So there you have it, the same walk on two different days, it’s just a shame that yesterday’s blue sky was interrupted by varying degrees of cloud though the dogs enjoyed the walk anyway. Fingers crossed there will soon be lots of blue sky and sunshine to come and we will be able to explore other places not quite so close to home.
As another year draws to a close it’s time for me to look back on some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. With dull grey days and almost incessant rain January was very much a ‘nothing’ type of month; good walks and outdoor photography were out of the question and not just because of the weather. Early in the month, and for no apparent reason, little Sophie suffered a debilitating stroke so all my time and attention was devoted to caring for her and helping her to recover in the best way I could.
February was a particularly sad month. In spite of medication and all my care and attention, after almost five weeks of constant nursing and a lovely morning when I really did think Sophie was going to recover she sadly slipped quietly away while sleeping in her bed at the side of mine – the grief and feelings of loss were overwhelming and it hurt like hell that I didn’t get the chance to hold her one last time and tell her how much I loved her. She was buried in a corner of the garden close to Sugar and I always keep a plant of some sort on her little patch. Later that month a break in the weather gave me a sunny Sunday when I was able to visit Hornby Castle to see the snowdrops; under normal circumstances Sophie would have been with me so it was an afternoon out done very much in her memory and after several weeks of not being able to go anywhere it was good to be out for a few hours.
After my sunny afternoon at Hornby Castle the rain was back and my planned visit to see the snowdrops at Lytham Hall didn’t happen until the beginning of March. By then most of the snowdrops were over but it was still an enjoyable visit. Just a week later I spent a very enjoyable time looking round Lark Hill Place, a reconstructed late Victorian street set within Salford Museum & Art Gallery, followed by looking round the museum itself. It was a grey and very chilly day but by the middle of the month the weather turned sunny again and much warmer, and I managed another couple of visits to Lytham before my freedom was curtailed by various restrictions.
The good weather which arrived mid March continued into April, getting warmer all the time, and I discovered a few different local walks which I could take right from my own front door. On my Easter walk I was lucky enough to see a small herd of deer in a field not too far from home, on another local walk which I’ve done many times before I came across two adult llamas with two young ones in a paddock at the open farm near home and a walk round the Jumbles reservoir gave me the unexpected sighting of a jay, the first time I’ve ever seen one.
The first few days of May saw the previously lovely weather turning back to rain but as I was in pain from a pulled muscle in my back I couldn’t go anywhere anyway. Neither the rain nor the pain lasted very long though, the warm sunny weather soon returned and I was back to walking again, both locally and further afield once various restrictions were relaxed. Local walks included Barrow Bridge and a quarry I’d never been to before then during the spring bank holiday I walked along Skippool Creek and a short section of the Lancaster Canal.
The last day of the month, which was probably one of the hottest so far, saw me walking round a gorgeous section of the River Lune at Caton, a place which was completely new to me but which I’ll certainly return to. May was also the month when Poppie slipped her lead on a Jumbles walk and ran into the water after some ducks, giving me several heart-stopping minutes when she wouldn’t come back, and Michael promised to order a pizza for tea one day but gave me a sausage roll instead.
The arrival of June brought more lovely hot weather and my birthday and a few days later, while strimming the long grass in the back garden, I had the lovely surprise of finding an Elephant Hawk moth, something which I’d never seen before and which prompted me to leave an area of the garden uncut to encourage other forms of wildlife to visit. I had a couple of afternoons in Manchester and walks away from home that month were along the Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal and round three different parts of Heysham – the nature reserve and Half Moon Bay, neither of which I’d been to before, plus the village itself. I also went just a short drive from home and walked from the lake at Brinscall to the village of White Coppice.
There was a deterioration in the weather at the beginning of July and the first few days were damp and grey but it didn’t last long and the sunshine was soon back. Early in the month I got wind of a new street art installation on the side of an old mill building in town and the middle of the month saw me returning to White Coppice as part of a walk from Heapey, during which I was lucky enough to see two damsel flies at close quarters. Towards the end of the month I took a drive to Morecambe and walked quite a long distance along the promenade from south to north and back again. July was also the month when Michael decided to rearrange his room and I opened the door to find a scene of utter chaos with furniture and stuff all over the place, though it wasn’t long before everything was tidy again.
The early days of August saw lots of patchy cloud covering the blue skies and though it meant changing my plans a couple of times as I needed clear skies for the photos I wanted to get it didn’t stop me from going out. A look round the big car boot sale at St. Michael’s was followed by a walk along part of the River Wyre and a look in the nearby church then later in the month I had days out to Knott End and Fleetwood, where I went to photograph the old wrecked boats on the marshes before looking round Fleetwood itself. August was also the month when I picked up the wrong sandwich from a shop near work one day and discovered that I definitely don’t like jalapeno mayo.
The last few days of August sent a storm which put down some quite torrential rain but by the beginning of September the weather had cleared again. Early in the month I took the 35-minute drive to see the Singing Ringing Tree near Burnley and this was followed a few days later by a walk along the Lancaster Canal at Garstang, then the 12th saw the start of a 2-week stay-cation when the weather was so good I was hardly at home. As well as various local walks I also visited two churches (one local and one which I’ve still to write about) walked along another section of the Lancaster Canal, went to Corporation Park in Blackburn to find the Colourfields panopticon, had an afternoon in Southport with Michael, enjoyed a day in Kirkby Lonsdale and had a day out in Morecambe which included a ‘behind the scenes’ tour at the Winter Gardens Theatre.
Towards the end of the month and on what would have been Sophie’s birthday Snowy came to my attention, and two days later she came to live with me. Initially a timid, scared, unsocialised little scrap she gradually came out of her shell and has turned into a funny, affectionate and mischievous little character. Call it fate, coincidence or what you will but as Snowy’s arrival coincided with Sophie’s birthday I sometimes think that she was actually sent by Sophie to help fill the space in my heart and my home which Sophie herself left behind.
The good weather continued into the first couple of days of October and just a week after I got Snowy I took her for her first long walk, four miles along a section of the Leeds/Liverpool Canal. The weather went rapidly downhill straight after that and though most mornings started off with sunshine it was guaranteed to be raining by 9.30am, rain which would last for the rest of each day. Dog walks were kept to a minimum and I only went round the local avenues, with the canal walk being the last proper non-local walk which I did. Also the 9th of the month saw this blog becoming four years old.
The rain continued into November though there was a very brief break one day in the middle of the month and I came out of work that morning to blue sky and sunshine so I left the van there and went for a walk round the nearby Jumbles to try to catch some late autumn colour before it all disappeared.
Unfortunately the sunshine didn’t last and the rain returned the following day, lasting right into this month and almost up to Christmas, though there was just one day early in the month when it did come nice enough to do another local walk and discover somewhere I’d never been before.
I had all my Christmas shopping done and dusted several days beforehand so I didn’t have to dash round Asda at the last minute and Christmas itself was a very quiet affair with just the two of us. Michael only really got one full day though as he was back at work on Boxing Day, whereas I’ve been off from my job since the 23rd and don’t go back until January 4th so I’m enjoying the rest. I still have a handful of this year’s posts to write yet though so if anyone wants me I’ll be in my usual place – here at my pc.
My Monday walk this week features a visit to Kirkby Lonsdale during my stay-cation in September. I’d never previously been any farther east along the A683 than Hornby village but I’d seen a couple of pictures of Kirkby Lonsdale somewhere on the internet and it looked like there might be a chance of getting a few nice photos, so a sunny morning saw me heading up the M6 and across the A683 in that direction.
Having previously looked on Google maps I knew there were several places to park in the vicinity of Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune on the fringes of the town, which was where I wanted to be, but in spite of it being a weekday during term time it seemed like the world and his wife were out and there wasn’t an available parking space anywhere so I headed into the village. Driving through the centre I followed a sign for car parks and found three small ones but again they were all full so I ended up in the car park of Booth’s supermarket where there were plenty of spaces and I could stay all day for £3.50.
Unfortunately by the time I’d sorted out the parking situation the sky had clouded over and the sun was playing hide and seek so I decided to have a look round the village first before going down to the river. Down a short narrow alley between an optician’s and a children’s shoe shop I found a small cobbled courtyard with a cottage at the end, then along a nearby narrow lane was an attractive cottage and a quaintly named cobbled square with its old market cross where, centuries ago, pig sellers would sell their livestock. Fast forward to more modern times and both the cobbled courtyard and the square were used as locations in Double Sin, a 1990 episode of the Poirot tv series. Past the square and a double-fronted house with a very pretty garden the lane went steeply downhill and between the buildings on each side I got a view towards the far side of the river.
From there I retraced my steps and just behind the Sun Inn, along the narrow traffic-free and aptly named Church Street, I came to St. Mary’s church. As a Grade l listed building the oldest parts of the church date from Norman times though the oddly-placed clock in the tower is presumed to be a 19th century addition. In the grounds just beyond the building was a stone built octagonal gazebo which had once been in the garden of the vicarage, and just to one side was a peaceful corner with a couple of benches and a very pretty circular flower bed.
Beyond the gazebo and along the path I came to Ruskin’s View, a small pleasant area with three benches set back off the path overlooking the River Lune. The view from there was painted by artist JMW Turner in 1822 and in 1875 the art critic, painter and poet John Ruskin was so impressed with the picture that he described the panorama as ‘one of the loveliest views in England, therefore the world’.
From Ruskin’s View I backtracked through the church grounds and the village to Devil’s Bridge and the river; the clouds had been clearing steadily and the blue sky was increasing so hopefully I would get some of the shots I was looking for. Devil’s Bridge has three spans and dates from around 1370; constructed of fine gritstone ashlar it’s thought to have been built by monks from St. Mary’s Abbey in York.
The roadway across the bridge is only 12ft wide and as vehicle numbers increased over the years it was closed to traffic in 1932 with vehicles being diverted to the newly constructed Stanley bridge 160yds away. The river beneath the bridge is popular with scuba divers due to its deep rock pools and clear visibility, and the bridge itself has long been a popular location for illegal ‘tombstoning’ (bridge diving) which has caused at least one death, that of a 22-year old man in 2012.
A gate near the beginning of the bridge led to a footpath which took me along by the riverside; much of the river itself was obscured by trees but there were a few places where I could get down to the waterside and I got several shots before going back to the path and retracing my steps. At the far end of the bridge was the Devil’s Bridge Snack Bar, a mobile catering trailer; judging by the queue it was a very popular place but there was nowhere to sit so I decided to walk back through the village and search out a dog friendly cafe for some coffee and cake.
Unfortunately my cafe quest proved to be unsuccessful. I found four – one was closed and the other three were small, cramped, and packed with customers, so whether any of them were dog friendly or not I don’t know, I didn’t hang around to find out. Instead I went back to Booth’s supermarket, got an ‘own brand’ Swiss Roll and a carton of Booth’s apple juice – which were a heck of a lot cheaper than coffee and cake in a cafe – and spent half an hour in the comfort of my own van.
After finishing my snack it was still only 3.45pm, too early to think about going home, so hoping I might finally find a parking space near Devil’s Bridge I drove down there with the intention of having another walk by the river. There were no available spaces near the bridge but directly across the A683 and at the end of a short lane there was a parking area with a few vacant spaces so I pulled in there – and ended up going on an unintentional long walk.
Leading from the corner of the parking area was a footpath going uphill through a wooded area so just for curiosity I decided to see where it went. I didn’t go far before the footpath opened out onto a narrow tarmac lane with a pleasant looking static caravan site on the left; still curious I followed the lane for a while with the views over open fields and hills getting better and better. Eventually I came to a tree with an odd looking bulge on one side of its trunk; nearby was a small enclave of cottages which I later learned was the start of the hamlet of High Casterton with cottages strung out here and there for quite a distance along the lane.
I hadn’t a clue where I would end up but the weather was so good and the scenery so nice that I was just enjoying the walk for what it was, however it wasn’t too long before I saw a crossroads up ahead, with another handful of cottages and a signpost which told me that the lane on the left would take me back in the direction of Kirkby Lonsdale.
The lane was only about half a mile long, eventually bringing me out on the A683 by the entrance to Casterton Golf Club – a left turn eventually got me back to the mobile Devil’s Bridge Snack Bar and my last shot was of the National Park sign in the lay-by near the end of the bridge. For some reason I seemed to have walked for miles but when I checked the time I’d only been away from the van for an hour.
Driving back down the M6 in the direction of home I thought back over my day. Apart from the initial difficulty in finding somewhere to park I’d enjoyed myself immensely, and though Kirkby Lonsdale isn’t a big place I know there’s a couple of corners of it I haven’t yet seen so maybe a sunny day sometime next summer will see me making a return visit.
During my two-week ‘stay-cation’ last month I had a day out which, for once, didn’t include Poppie. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have left her behind but I was going to somewhere I couldn’t take her (that’s for a future post) however as soon as I got home, and with the sun getting low in the sky, I took her for a walk on Smithills moor to hopefully catch one or two sunset shots.
It was a very clear early evening and once I’d parked at the side of the lane near the Trespass Stone I took a shot of the view over to Manchester before setting off up the path heading towards the lower slopes of Winter Hill; not wanting to go too far my destination was Dean Mills reservoir, less than a 15-minute walk from where I’d left the van.
It seemed to take ages for the sun to go down and I couldn’t walk all the way round the reservoir while I was waiting; in spite of the previous warmth of the day it was quite chilly up on that exposed part of the moor so I continually walked backwards and forwards along the eastern end, glad I was up there on my own as anyone else would probably have thought I’d lost the plot. Eventually though conditions were just right and while the sunset itself wasn’t as stunningly beautiful as some I’ve seen, with the tall Winter Hill mast and its smaller neighbours in the background it was good enough to give me several half-decent shots.
Not wanting to run out of daylight before I got back to the van I set off as soon as the sun had completely disappeared. I needn’t have worried though, as I got towards the end of the path near the Trespass Stone there was still a reasonable amount of light left.
Back at home I made a brew and downloaded the days photos to the pc. It had seemed strange not having Poppie with me on my day out but hopefully I made up for it by taking her for a walk on Smithills Moor, and I got some sunset shots as well so I think we were both happy that night.
Standing on the moors high above the Lancashire town of Burnley is the Singing Ringing Tree, a wind powered musical sculpture designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu as part of a project for the East Lancashire Environmental Arts Network. Completed in 2006 it’s 10ft tall and built from galvanized steel pipes of varying lengths which form the shape of a tree bent and blown by the wind.
A total of 322 pieces of steel make up the tree; these are arranged in 21 parallel layers with each layer being supported by rings and everything being welded and bolted together. Although the widest point at the top spans over 13ft the narrowest point at the bottom is less than 4ft wide; computer models were used during the design process to calculate the right amount of rings, bolts and pipes needed to keep the structure upright. Due to the varying length of the pipes and the narrow slits cut into specific ones the tree produces a sound, when the wind blows, which covers several octaves and is described as being discordant, melancholy, and intensely beautiful.
I first found out about the tree quite a while ago but even though it’s only a 35-minute drive from home I’d never managed to get there, however I took advantage of a beautifully sunny early morning just a few days ago and went there straight from work. Just over a mile and a half from the A682 up a steep moorland road I came to a small car park set back off the road itself and I could see the tree down the hill and to the right. A stony path with a left and right turn led from the car park and a ten minute walk got me to the tree.
Being still reasonably early in the morning I had the place to myself so I was able to wander round and take photos from several different angles without anyone getting in the way. Although not exceptionally windy there was a stiff breeze blowing which was just enough to make the tree ‘sing’ though to be honest I certainly wouldn’t describe the noise as being ‘intensely beautiful’ – it was weird, slightly eerie, and reminded me of the sound you get when blowing across the top of an open glass bottle.
When I’d got enough photos of the tree I turned my attention to the surroundings and trying to ignore the urban sprawl of Burnley down in the valley I got a few shots of the countryside and the views towards Pendle Hill before making my way back along the path towards the car park.
Towards the top of the path and just at the other side of a wire fence was a stone built cairn which, since that morning, has given me several hours of frustration and annoyance. The structure itself looks fairly modern, maybe built from the remains of a stone wall, but I couldn’t decide if the worn stone frescoes round its sides were very old or modern ones maybe done by children and made to look old.
Although there’s an information board near the car park which tells how the area got its name there’s no mention at all of the cairn; Google Maps says it’s a ‘decorated cairn/historical landmark’ and though there are many internet sources of information for the Singing Ringing Tree there’s no information anywhere for the cairn – even a phone call to Burnley Tourist Information produced nothing but a ‘this number is not in use’ message so I’m currently none the wiser as to its history, age or significance.
Not far from the cairn and close to the car park was the very attractive Life for a Life memorial forest planting site established in 2003 and where a native tree can be planted in memory of a loved one. Coming from across the road was the constant bleating of a sheep and when I went to look I saw just one on its own while the other few in the flock were quite a distance away and ignoring it completely. The moorland on that side of the road seemed to be wilder and more desolate and I was glad it was a sunny morning; with one final shot looking down the road I went back to the van and set off for home.
The walk from the car park to the Singing Ringing Tree and back was only a very short one and I’d only spent an hour in the area but in the warm sunshine it had been a very pleasant hour. Although I wouldn’t purposely go back to the tree I know there are a couple of good walks which can be done from there so maybe next year I’ll go back for a revisit.
** The original Singing Ringing Tree, from which the sculpture partly gets its name, was an East German children’s film made in 1957 and shot in Technicolour. It was bought by the BBC in the 1960s and cut into three parts which were shown as a mini series in late November/early December 1964, being repeated many times over the years until 1980. With its style of story telling similar to the Brothers Grimm it was said to be ‘one of the most frightening things ever shown on children’s television’, and a Radio Times readers’ poll in 2004 voted it the 20th spookiest tv show ever.
Following the frequent bouts of torrential rain during last week’s storm whatever-it-was-called the weather here has been quite changeable. The mornings have started off sunny with blue skies promising nice days but by about 9am the clouds have appeared and lingered for most of the day, with the sun only returning in the late afternoons while I’ve been at work and unable to go anywhere. So when I woke to blue sky and sunshine yesterday I decided to forgo my usual leisurely Sunday morning and go out early for a walk round Queen’s Park on the edge of town, just a short drive from home and where I hadn’t been since April last year.
Being so early in the morning most of the areas near the park’s main entrance were still in shade so I went straight to where the park was more open – I could go back to those areas later on. Past the Sunken Garden and the Vantage Point Garden I came to the Promenade Terrace, a wide and pleasant walkway with statues set back in the shrubbery, benches at intervals and a viewpoint at one end; this was surrounded by a semi-circular wall which for some reason is known locally as the Pie Crust.
Down the hill from the terrace, and at the bottom end of the park, I came to the River Croal and a small fishing lake looking rather neglected with its surface covered in green weed. Spanning the river just there was a bridge which looked badly in need of a good coat of paint; the path at the far side split left and right with the left leading towards the town centre, however I went right and crossed back over the river via the much nicer restored and repainted Dobson Bridge.
Up the hill from the bridge and set back off the path was a large collection of teddy bears at the base of a tree. If this was a personal memorial to someone it seemed to be a bit excessive but then I remembered – on Mother’s Day earlier this year a 7-year old little girl, innocently playing while out with her parents, had been stabbed in a random attack by an unknown woman, and in spite of all attempts to save her she died of her injuries; the teddy bears must be for her.
Continuing past the tree I came to what must currently be the brightest part of the park, a long curving bed of red and yellow flowers near the wide stone steps leading back up to the Promenade Terrace. Near the bottom of the steps were a couple of benches and an ornamental fountain which would probably look nice if it was working but it wasn’t.
Past the fountain was the large play area very much in the shade, then in the bottom corner of the park was the attractive stone built gatehouse with the not very attractive modern single storey cafe (which I didn’t take a photo of) situated behind it. Following a path up another hill I eventually came to the two duck ponds, and while there were a few ducks on the smaller pond most of the wildlife seemed to be congregated on the big one.
From the big pond a path up yet another hill took me to the end of the Promenade Terrace and the steps back up to the Vantage Point Garden. An open and informal square with modern seating the garden was surrounded on three sides by low shrubs and flower borders but like several other areas of the park it seemed to be suffering from a fair amount of neglect. The fourth side was completely open and had extensive views across the rest of the park towards town although the sun was unfortunately in the wrong direction for a photo.
Heading back towards the main entrance I found that most of the sunken garden was finally in the sunshine so I was able to get a few shots there though sadly the flower beds, which should have been a riot of colour, were completely bare. Past the sunken garden my eye was caught by a movement up ahead; a squirrel had scampered down from a tree and I watched it for several minutes while it rooted about in the grass then sat there nibbling on whatever it had found for its breakfast.
Once the squirrel had gone back up its tree I continued round the edge of the park to the war memorial then with the last couple of shots taken I made my way back to the van which was parked just across the road from the entrance gates.
It was only 9am when I got back home and as I made my breakfast I was glad I’d gone out when I did; clouds were beginning to gather and just like the last few days less than an hour later the sun had disappeared and the sky was grey. I didn’t mind too much though; I’d had a good walk with Poppie and got some nice photos so to misquote a popular saying – the early photographer catches the sun!