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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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
Smithills Coaching House
Photo from the Internet
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The courtyard as it looks now
Further along the lane, and past where I’d come out of the woods, is Smithills Open Farm, a working dairy farm open to the public with lots of different animals to see, hold and feed. With various activities including donkey rides, tractor rides and bouncy castles it’s a very popular place and with no time limit once in there it presumably makes a good few hours out, but when I saw the admission prices I was just glad that I don’t have any young kids!
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Smithills Open Farm
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Through the farm and past the car park I reached the top end of the park I’d walked through earlier; I’m not sure if it’s the local council’s way of saving money or if it’s supposed to be like that but a lot of the land had been left to grow wild, with large clumps of spiky grass growing all over the place. From the path nearest the farm the view down the park was quite extensive, and when I got down to where the playground used to be at the bottom of the slope I turned round to call Sophie and there was my old friend the Winter Hill tv mast, standing tall on top of the nearby moors.
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View down the park
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Overlooked by the tv mast
That was to be my last photo of the day; the rest of my route was all road walking though it didn’t take long to get home from there, and the first thing the three of us did was have a long cold drink! My damaged foot had done well on the walk and had given me no pain at all but I’d gone far enough and it was time to rest it now, so that’s just what I would be doing for the remainder of the afternoon.
Linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week she takes us on a visit to some lovely gardens and an intriguing piece of Northumberland landscaping with great views and lots of photo opportunities. Follow the link to find out more and to see where other Monday walkers have been to this time.

Hornby Castle Gardens

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

Bank holiday walk round Barrow Bridge

As I hadn’t gone camping for the bank holiday weekend I took myself and the dogs on a Monday walk round the Barrow Bridge area north of the town and just a few minutes drive from home. Under normal circumstances I would have walked all the way but on the last minute decided I would go further than I originally intended so I changed my starting point and drove there instead.
My walk started at the top car park in Moss Bank Park, much shadier than the car park near the entrance and overlooked by the 262ft tall Barrow Bridge chimney. The chimney was built in 1863 as part of the power system for the nearby Halliwell Bleach Works, originally founded in 1739 by Peter Ainsworth. The bleach works stayed in the Ainsworth family through several generations but was eventually sold and the building taken over in 1968 by Brytallium Castings. In the grounds behind the works was a holy well which gave the Halliwell area its name, though this was filled in and covered over many years ago. Brytallium closed in the late 1970s and the works were eventually demolished and the land flattened; a small estate of modern houses was built there but the chimney was saved and is now a listed building and local landmark.
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Barrow Bridge chimney
Several yards away from the car park entrance and across the road is a long row of large detached and semi-detached houses facing one side of the park. The end house is set in a large lawned and terraced garden and with a small lake at the back; with all the new growth on the trees and shrubs it looked so attractive that I couldn’t resist leaning over the wall and getting a photo of it.
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Private garden at Barrow Bridge
Barrow Bridge village itself starts just beyond the row of houses; it’s now a conservation area but was originally created during the Industrial Revolution as a community village for the workers of the mills which were there at the time. The workers’ cottages are set in rows up the hill from the road and accessed by a flight of 35 wide shallow steps; called (not very imaginatively) First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets, the front of one row faces the back of the next with a row of small gardens in between.
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First Street
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Back Third Street
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Steps down to the road
Back down at road level and a bit further along is a bus terminus with a stream, Dean Brook, separating it from the road itself. This was the site of one of the original mills which was sold in 1861 but after the new owner’s death it went out of business, deteriorated and was demolished in 1913. The road narrows at that point and becomes only just wide enough for two cars to pass with care; the first building along there is the now modernised Barrow Bridge Mission belonging to St. Peter’s Parish Church, Halliwell, and this is followed by a small row of very pretty cottages across the brook.
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A bit further along still, and on the left, is a large open area which was, at one time, a mill pond but in later years became a very popular boating lake with kiosks, a cafe and childrens’ rides including a carousel and swing boats. I can remember the lake being there in the mid 1960s but due to potential flooding it was eventually filled in and is now a car park and picnic area. Just past there and back across the road are what were once the mill managers’ houses, all with pretty gardens and each accessed by its own bridge across the brook.
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Barrow Bridge cottages
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Just past the cottages the road took a sharp right turn and went uphill but I turned off there and followed a path alongside the brook, past a shallow waterfall where a child and a dog played and along to the village’s famous ’63 steps’. These stone steps (and yes, there are 63 of them) lead up in the direction of Smithills Moor and would have been used by mill workers to get to and from work in the village and by miners living in the village and working in the coal mines up on the moors
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63 steps going up….
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….and looking back down from the top
At the top of the steps a narrow tree-shaded path headed a short distance before emerging into open countryside where I could see across the fields to the Winter Hill tv mast up on the moors. After negotiating a stile, which Sophie went through via a hole at the bottom and Poppie climbed over, the path narrowed again and followed a small brook before passing a few farm buildings and emerging onto a B road. A few yards further along I came across a piece of ‘roadside art’ set back in the angle of a wall – there was nothing on it or near it to say what it was or why it was there and no amount of Googling since then has given me an answer so it will have to remain a mystery for now.
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Looking across to Smithills Moor and Winter Hill
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Roadside art? I think the gate behind it spoils the view
From there it was all road walking but the views were good so it was no hardship, and there was at least a pavement of sorts on one side of the road. A distance along, and just before a very sharp bend which also went down and up hill, was a barn which had been converted into a house back in the 60s – the black American singer Lovelace Watkins, who was very popular in Lancashire and northern England during the late 60s and early 70s, lived there for a time and I remembered seeing him in the garden when I walked past many years ago. I don’t know who lives there now but whoever they are they have a lovely garden, and the section bordering the road was well worth a photo. To the left of the bend a large area of open land had been planted with lots of tree saplings as part of the 25-year Northern Forest project – it would be interesting to see what that land looks like in twenty five years’ time.
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Heading north east
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As I got round the bend the road started going uphill on a steady incline; a cyclist passed me on the way up and it struck me that on such a warm day and wearing all that lycra she must have been absolutely sweltering – I know I would have been. Eventually I got to Colliers Row, two rows of cottages a couple of hundred yards apart built by the Ainsworth family when they owned Smithills Hall a distance away. The first cottages, Old Colliers Row, are built up off the road, are separated from it by a high stone wall and have no real gardens at the front while the second cottages, New Colliers Row, are at road level and have small but pretty gardens. Just past New Colliers Row is the primary school built in 1885; it finally closed its doors as a school in 1971 and is now a private house.
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Looking back
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Old Colliers Row
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New Colliers Row
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A colourful cottage garden
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The old primary school, now a house
Opposite the old school was a tree-lined lane which would take me back to Barrow Bridge village; I could take that or walk further along the road then take a right and head down the hill into civilisation but that was a really  long way round so I chose the lane. It was still quite a distance but eventually I reached the path leading to 63 steps, so all I had to do then was retrace my steps back through the village and past the edge of the park – and as the Barrow Bridge chimney came into view once more I knew I would soon be back at the van.
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Heading back to Barrow Bridge
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My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
I’m joining in again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s on a fascinating walk round an excavated Roman fort in Northumberland – follow the link and join her for a walk through time and some great photos.

Exploring on the doorstep

After a gloriously warm sunny day on Saturday, which unfortunately I couldn’t take full advantage of, yesterday turned out to be dull and grey but it was fine so in the afternoon I took the dogs out for a local walk. I didn’t want to go too far as Michael and I were going out for a meal so I stayed fairly close to home, driving just a mile or so up the road to where I started my walk. Parking the van in a convenient place just off the main road I went a couple of hundred yards further on to where a path led up into the old Wilton quarry, a place I hadn’t been to since I was in my mid teens.
The path led up between two hillsides and was extremely narrow and ankle-twistingly rocky with water running down the middle, but eventually it took me to a large open area with a fallen tree and the rock face in front of me.  This was Wilton 1, the first of four quarries which were originally used to provide sandstone for local buildings and street flagstones; the quarries were abandoned some time during the 1930s to 40s and got very overgrown, but because of their steep sides are now used by various climbing clubs.
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The view from the start of the walk
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The path into the quarry
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Wilton 1 quarry
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The highest section of the quarry was The Prow, a 2-sided promontory with an outside face of 60ft. One section of the path took me towards the inside face of it but the ground was so boggy underfoot I didn’t go very far before turning back; I may have been wearing wellies but I had no wish to get stuck in something I could find it difficult to get out of. Back on the main path it led me out of the far end of the quarry and diagonally across the hillside above the main road I’d just come from to Scout Road, a ‘B’ road which skirted the lower slopes of the moorland.
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Scout Road is well known locally for having a really bad bend at the top of the hill; over the years several vehicles have come off the road there and landed somewhere down the hill or in the quarry, with people being seriously injured and even killed. As well as the crash barrier there’s now a speed sign but some people still take the bend at a rate of knots. Further along the road is a car park and on a clear day it’s possible to see beyond Manchester to the airport and even to the Jodrell Bank main telescope in Cheshire, which is the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. I couldn’t see very far this time though as it was so grey and cloudy and it had also started to rain a bit by then. Close to the car park, and near to the start of the path which would eventually take me back to the van, a large area of daffodils was growing in one section of the field – a very colourful and welcome sight on such a grey day.
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Scout Road – approaching the bend
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Looking back
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Close to the car park
The path from the car park took me across fields and past an area of pine trees before heading towards a farm, and just before the farm gate I came across something which seemed to have no rhyme nor reason – a large pyramid-shaped stone surrounded by a circle of daffodils. It looked like a memorial stone but there was no plaque on it or near it to say what it was; I didn’t see anyone at the nearby farm who I could ask and an extensive internet search since then has produced nothing, so it will have to remain a mystery for now.
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The path ended in a track which took me through part of the farm yard and up ahead a splash of pink colour caught my eye – it turned out to be a clump of hyacinths growing on top of the grass bank near a barn wall and they were such a pretty colour I couldn’t resist taking a quick photo.  The end of the track opened out into a tarmac lane and a small hamlet of houses which were once farm buildings – I had a choice of left or right but as they both ended up back at the van I took the right as that was the shorter one, and my last photo of the day was of a white-walled cottage set back in what will, in summer, be a very pretty garden.
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By the time I got back to the van it was raining properly so I was glad the walk hadn’t been any longer. It had been interesting going back to the old quarry after all this time and seeing it as it is now but the route through it had been very wet and sloppy underfoot, so if I do that one again it will definitely be on a dry sunny day.
My walk, anti-clockwise from yellow spot
I’m linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this time she’s back in England and exploring the delights of Knaresborough – it looks like a very quirky and interesting place. Time to put the kettle on now and read about where all the other Monday walkers have been this week.

A dog walk to Turton Tower

After a beautifully sunny morning I set out at lunch time to take Sophie and Poppie on a long circular walk from the Last Drop Village, stopping off to explore the grounds of Turton Tower en route. The first part of the walk was almost the same as the walk I did a month ago, leaving the Last Drop car park and following the path across the fields and through the golf course, but I hadn’t gone far when Sod’s Law decreed that several grey clouds would appear to intermittently block out the sun and turn many of my photos from bright to dull.
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Turton golf course
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When I got to the pond halfway round the course I turned left this time instead of right and followed the meandering path past various greens to the boundary fence and a farm gate. Beyond the fence was open grazing land and half a dozen sheep were mooching about picking at the short grass; one of them looked up briefly as we walked past but the others ignored us and just continued mooching and munching.
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Eventually I came to another fence and a gate and another choice of left or right; I knew that going left would take me miles out of my way so I went right and followed the lane down and over the castellated railway bridge to Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line through the grounds of Turton Tower ; James Kay, who owned the tower at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and this particular one incorporates a viewing tower.
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Turton Tower railway bridge
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Turton Tower itself is a country manor house, a Grade I listed building and ancient monument ; it was originally built in the early 15th century by William Orrell as a simple two-storey stone tower but it was later significantly altered and timber extensions added, and by the Tudor and early Stuart period it had been transformed from a defensive fortress into a comfortable family home. During the 16th century two cruck framed buildings were added and a later extension at the front of the house created the imposing entrance ; a third storey was added to the tower itself and the original windows were replaced with large mullioned and transomed windows. During the 17th century the cruck buildings were clad in stone and the place then remained unchanged until the 19th century.
After falling into decline during the Georgian era the tower was sold in 1835 to James Kay, the inventor who had developed a successful wet spinning process for flax in 1824. He and his family restored the tower, adding a mock Tudor extension and many Victorian renovations including a Dutch gable facade. In 1903 the tower was bought by Sir Lees Knowles, an MP, and after his death in 1929 his widow gave the house and grounds to what was then Turton Urban District Council to use for the benefit of the public – up until 1974 the place was used as council offices but since then it has been a museum.
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Turton Tower from the main gates

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The dove cote
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The formal garden
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The tower is open from Wednesday to Sunday inclusive and the current admission price for adults is £6 but having the dogs with me meant I couldn’t go in so I’ll save that for a return visit later in the year. The next part of my walk was along the main road for quite a distance past a stretch of open countryside before turning off and heading back towards the Last Drop Village. The grey clouds were breaking up and the sun was putting in a much better appearance so I decided to have a wander round the hotel gardens before going back to the van, and I was surprised and delighted to find a couple of ducks sunning themselves at the side of the garden pond.
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Those were to be my last shots of the day, it was time to head back home for a much needed coffee. Given how glorious the morning had been it was a shame that the clouds had decided to appear while I was out, but it hadn’t interfered with my photo taking too much and at least I’ve now got a good excuse to do it all again another day.
My walk, clockwise from yellow spot
 Linking up again with Jo’s Monday Walk where this week the architectural delights of Portugal’s Jerez are waiting to be explored and more than one serving of cake is waiting to be eaten. Time to put the kettle on now and read where the other Monday walkers have been exploring.