Sunset over Smithills Moor

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.
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View of Dean Mills from the west
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Eastern corner
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A hazy view to Scout Moor wind farm 15 miles away
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View towards Manchester city centre

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. 
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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.
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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.
 

The Singing Ringing Tree

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Early morning in Queen’s Park

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.

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The Pie Crust from down below

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

 

A walk to Fleetwood wrecks

Searching the internet for something a couple of weeks ago I found out about some old wrecked boats which were abandoned many years ago on Fleetwood marshes. They were nothing to do with what I was originally searching for but they seemed to offer several photo opportunities so I found their exact location and how to get there and in hot sunny weather a few days ago I set out on a mission to find them.
My walk started from the very pleasant free car park at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve. The site originally started out as salt marsh then after the building of Fleetwood docks in 1860 it came into industrial use. Between 1912 and 1932 what is now the pond area was used for storing timber from a timber yard on the nearby docks, then in 1956 a coal fired power station was opened and coal was stored on part of the site. The power station closed down in the 1980s and during the following years the site suffered greatly from neglect and misuse, then in 2003 Lancashire County Council obtained a grant from the North West Development Agency to develop the area into what is now the nature reserve.
The reserve lies between the marshes and a very modern housing estate, with several paths criss-crossing the open grassland and with the large pond in the centre, separated into two distinct parts by a long low wooden bridge. One side of the pond was edged with reed beds and was inaccessible to the public while the other side had a path all the way round and a couple of shingle beaches ideal for picnics or just chilling out. With ducks, swans and various other wildlife it all looked really nice so I spent fifteen minutes or so wandering round there before going to find the wrecks.
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At the far side of the reserve was a very attractive archway over the path with the path itself continuing past the edge of the housing estate, and just off to the right a short track led through the bushes and down onto a path running along the edge of the marsh where I got my first sight of the wrecks in the distance. A couple of minutes walking got me to a wide grassy track leading from the path out to the wrecks and though the track itself was fine I had to watch where I was putting my feet when I got closer to the wrecks as there were several deep, narrow and muddy channels hidden under the longer grass.
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The history of the Fleetwood wrecks is quite surprising and ultimately not a very good story. At its height the town was a major British fishing port and in the 1960s it boasted more than 200 fishing boats with about half the adult population employed in the fishing industry itself and other industries connected to it. In the latter years of that decade the second of the so-called Cod Wars broke out, initially between Britain and Iceland but then including other European fishing nations; Iceland extended its territorial waters claim to another 200 miles and Britain did likewise, extending its own territorial waters claim, then the European government in Brussels decided they wanted a piece of the action.
In the early 1970s pressure was put on the then Heath administration to allow EU trawlers unrestricted access to Britain’s fishing waters. Heath himself was so desperate for Britain to join what was then called the Common Market that he agreed to Brussels’ demands, then because far more boats were now fishing British waters the EU brought in the much hated quota system in an attempt to protect the very fish stocks their own actions had put at risk. British waters held 90% of the EU’s fish but British fishermen were only allowed to catch 14% of them and the quotas weren’t enough to make a decent living.
The EU eventually brought in the decommissioning scheme where fishermen were given a substantial cash incentive from Brussels to give up their fishing licences and scrap their trawlers, but under the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy they had to destroy their fishing vessels so comprehensively there was absolutely no chance of them ever being recovered or re-used. All around the country dozens and dozens of boats were wrecked by their owners for the money they could get and the rusting, rotting wrecks on Fleetwood marshes are just a small handful.
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These wrecks were all within a few yards of each other with another one a couple of hundred yards farther along the marshes upriver but unfortunately I couldn’t get to it. It was closer to the water’s edge and the marsh was split by a deep channel which was long, wide, very muddy and impossible for me to cross, so seeing some smaller boats anchored on the sand in the other direction I went to take a look.
The sand/mud combination was mainly quite firm to walk on but every so often I had to stride or jump over a soft sided narrow channel running from the marsh down into the river; I crossed them all without problem though and walked along until my way was barred by a wide river inlet leading to the marina. Apart from one small dinghy filled with water none of the smaller boats along there were wrecks, they seemed to be well maintained and with Knott End in the background across the river I got some very colourful shots before I headed back past the wrecks to the nature reserve and my van.
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Crossing the bridge over the pond at the reserve my attention was caught by the sound of constant squeaking coming from the nearby reeds so I stopped and waited and eventually a baby coot appeared. Still with its baby fluff and scruffy bright orange-red face and head it was a peculiar looking little thing though I thought it was quite cute; it must have been looking for its mum and was being quite vocal about it, though as soon as an adult coot appeared from under the bridge the squeaking stopped.
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My last visit to Fleetwood had been ten years previously and I hadn’t known about the nature reserve or the wrecks then so the couple of hours I’d just spent exploring somewhere new had been very enjoyable, and apart from various butterflies flitting around and birds flying overhead the wildlife seen on my walk had been several ducks, swans and adult coots, the baby coot, two jellyfish and a dead crab. As for the wrecks, it would be interesting to see them again in a year or so’s time so I may very well make a return visit in the not-too-distant future.

 

Morecambe promenade – south to north

Although I’ve been to Morecambe many times over the years I’ve never actually walked the whole length of the promenade in one go, I’ve only been to various parts of it on different occasions. Walking the length of it was something I thought about doing a while ago but never got round to it, however the opportunity finally presented itself on a sunny day a week ago and I arrived in Morecambe just before 11am.
Of course wherever I parked meant that I would have to walk the promenade twice so rather than park at one end and walk straight to the other end and back I parked near the Festival Market, not far from the Midland Hotel and roughly in the centre of the main part of the promenade, then walked south to start my promenade walk by the Beach Cafe close to Sandylands promenade leading to Heysham village.
Close to the cafe was a play park then West End Gardens a bit farther along, and though I expected to see some colour in the flower beds bordering the road I was disappointed to see that they looked rather unloved and uncared for. Farther along still the retreating tide had left a long shallow lagoon across the beach, and while the promenade itself has been given a very attractive makeover in the last few years the same can’t be said for across the road.
Once past the guest houses and B & Bs several closed and shuttered up shops and the long-derelict land where the theme park once was gave the seafront a general air of shabbiness and neglect. Past the derelict land and a recently built Aldi supermarket was The Platform, once the promenade railway station building but now a music and arts venue, and on the promenade itself I was approaching the art deco Midland Hotel and the Stone Jetty which, to me at least, signified the start of the more interesting part of the seafront.

Beach cafe Morecambe
The Beach Cafe

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Across the bay to south Cumbria

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West End beach

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View to the Stone Jetty

The Stone Jetty was built between 1853 and 1855 for the ‘Little’ North Western Railway Company as a wharf and rail terminal for both passenger and cargo transport to and from the Isle of Man and Ireland, though these services ended with the opening of Heysham Harbour in 1904. At what was once the end of the jetty is a long-disused lighthouse and the old railway station building, now a cafe; in 1994/95 the jetty was rebuilt and extended as part of Morecambe’s coastal defence works and was later resurfaced in patterned coloured concrete, with the addition of new seating, lamp standards and seabird sculptures. High on a stone plinth not far from the cafe was one of the ugliest sculptures I’ve ever seen, so ugly I almost didn’t take a photo of it but then decided it should still be included.

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The ugliest sculpture I’ve ever seen

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The art deco Midland Hotel occupies the site of a previous smaller building, the North Western Hotel, built by the ‘Little’ North Western Railway Company and opened in 1848; this was renamed the Midland in 1871 when the Midland Railway Company took over the North Western Railway and the hotel. By the late 1920s the old Midland had become inadequate for the changing times so the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, which was now responsible for the hotel, decided to replace it with a larger and more modern structure. Work started in 1932 with the new Midland being built on the lawns in front of the old Midland which was then demolished, with the new art deco hotel opening in July 1933.
Immediately after opening the new Midland rapidly became the  place to stay but its heyday came to an end with the start of WW2 in 1939. With valuable items put into storage and the interior converted the hotel was used as a military hospital until almost the end of the war then in 1946 it was finally handed back to the LMS railway company, and after extensive repairs and renovations it was re-opened to the public in July 1948. In 1951 the Midland was sold to a private buyer and it prospered throughout the 50s and most of the 60s but by the early 70s it had lost its popularity, and after being bought and sold several times over the years it closed for good in 1998 and fell into a state of decline and disrepair. It was eventually bought by a Manchester-based development company and after an extensive renovation programme started in spring 2005 to restore the many art deco features the Midland finally re-opened its doors in June 2008.
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Across the road from the Midland was Rita’s Cafe, a cheap and cheerful place which I’ve been to several times before, and as my early breakfast had long since worn off it was time to get something to eat. On such a nice day the place was quite busy but there was a small table for two vacant and forgoing my usual coffee and cake I opted for an equally unhealthy meal of steak pie, chips, peas and gravy with the coffee. At one point I heard someone at another table say “Aww, look at that little dog” and when I looked down Poppie was curled up in a little ball though as soon as I picked up the camera to take a photo she got up. Now I know human food is bad for dogs and normally I wouldn’t give it but she had been such a good little thing while I was having my meal that she deserved the last couple of chips as a treat.
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A hundred yards or so from the the cafe was the Winter Gardens, a theatre and events venue built in 1897. Originally the Victoria Pavilion Theatre it was part of a complex dating from 1878 which included sea water baths, bars and a ballroom though these have long since been demolished, leaving the theatre building as it is today. Over the years the stage played host to many famous personalities including George Formby, Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn and the Rolling Stones, though declining profits led to the theatre’s eventual closure in 1977. It became Grade ll* listed the same year then in the mid 1980s the Friends of the Winter Gardens were formed to campaign for its restoration and preservation.
In 2008 the building was featured on the ghost hunting tv show Most Haunted then in 2009 it was re-opened to the public for eight consecutive nights of Most Haunted Live! broadcasts. Although all shows and events for this year have so far been cancelled the theatre is open at weekends for limited pre-booked guided and self-guided tours.
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Back across the road the Central Gardens were looking very attractive with their bright flower beds which more than made up for the unkempt appearance of the West End Gardens. Farther along I came to the iconic Eric Morecambe statue, and though I did like Morecambe and Wise back in the day I wasn’t really interested in taking a close-up shot of it as most people do so I kept it in the background and concentrated more on the colourful surroundings instead.
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Past the statue and a small children’s play area I came to the clock tower. In 1902 Morecambe Council approached philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for a grant to finance the building of a technical school and Free Library but though the grant itself was refused an offer of £4000 was made towards the cost on condition that the council would produce £300 per year to keep the library stocked. Unfortunately the council couldn’t, or wouldn’t, agree to find the finances so the offer was withdrawn, then in 1905 it was announced that the mayor had expressed a desire to present a clock tower to the town in place of the Free Library. The foundation stone was laid in June that year and the tower was built by a John Edmonson, while Rhodes of Lancaster made the clock itself, which featured four dials, struck the hours and was illuminated at night.
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Not far from the clock tower was the Lakeland Panorama, a long curving sculpture created in 2004 by sculptor Russ Coleman. Depicting the view of the Lake District fells across the bay and made from the same steel as the Angel of the North in Gateshead the panorama is constructed of four separate pieces which have rusted over time to a reddish-brown finish, with the largest piece being 8ft high at its highest point.
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Central beach looking towards the Midland Hotel

Round a slight bend in the promenade and quite a distance farther on I came to the Town Hall set back in its own attractive gardens across the road. Commissioned to replace an old 19th century town centre building which had originally been built for the local Board of Health, the foundation stone was laid in August 1931 and the neo-classical style building was officially opened in June 1932; it was registered as Grade ll listed in November 2001 after a campaign by local historians.
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Back on the promenade was another play area and the race watch tower belonging to Morecambe Sailing Club, originally started in 1936 by local fishermen who liked to race their boats. Round another bend I walked quite a bit farther on but with just hotels and guest houses stretching into the distance there was nothing else of interest to see unless I went all the way up to Happy Mount Park, which I visited back in May, so I turned round and retraced my steps, snapping photos here and there as I headed back south.

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The quirky RNLI gift shop

Just after passing the back of the Eric Morecambe statue I heard music and a few yards farther on was a Michael Jackson lookalike dancing to the sounds of Billie Jean and Thriller coming from a stand-alone sound system. He was good and he’d attracted quite an audience so I watched him for quite a while, even filming him at one point, before I moved on.

Round the back of what was once Bubbles open air pool were modern railings adorned with several different types of seabirds and the land itself, where usually there’s a small fairground, was now a temporary home to the huge bright red marquee of the touring Big Kid Circus along with its many equally bright red vans and circus wagons. Not far away was the RNLI lifeboat station and slipway with the Midland Hotel close by, and finding a couple of pretty bright orange flowers tucked in a corner I took my last shot of the day.

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RNLI Lifeboat Station and gift shop

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Back across the road from the hotel I made a second visit to Rita’s Cafe for a coffee before returning to the van in the nearby car park and setting off for home. Weather-wise the day had been perfect, and even though grey clouds had appeared over the sea at various times the sun had kept shining. Checking my pedometer my promenade walk since leaving the van and getting back to it had covered six miles and almost 21,000 steps but it had been very interesting and enjoyable and was now one I could tick off my ‘walks to do’ list.

 

Heapey to White Coppice

A few days after my unplanned walk to White Coppice I found out that there was a chain of three lakes in the vicinity of the hamlet; they seemed easy to get to and would probably make a good dog walk so a very warm and sunny Sunday morning a week ago saw me setting off from home to explore pastures new. My original intention was to start the walk from White Coppice but the plan was scuppered when I came to the turn off for the hamlet and encountered problem No.1, a large wagon taking up the whole of the narrow lane and a board saying there was a 15-minute delay. Okay, I could live with that, so I reversed into the end of a nearby farm track and waited…and waited…and waited.
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I couldn’t see what was going on behind the wagon but even after almost half an hour there was no sign of it moving so I gave up waiting and drove on to what would have been the turn around point of the walk, the third lake in the Heapey area – and that’s when I found problem No.2. There was a car park adjacent to the lake but as I drove in I saw the sign – ‘Wigan & District Angling Association – Car park for anglers use only – non anglers will be clamped’. That may or may not have been true, I certainly didn’t see anyone walking round checking the cars already there, but I didn’t want to take any risks so I drove out again and managed to find a safe parking spot a short distance along the road.
Back at the car park steps took me down to the end of Lake 1 where I had the choice of a path along the dam or one to the right; I chose right first but I hadn’t gone far when I met with a large and extremely wet and muddy patch right across the path. It was too long and wide to negotiate without wellies, Poppie would have got filthy, and trying to get round the side of it could have ended up with the pair of us tumbling down the steep bank into the water so I retraced my steps and went along the dam instead. I could only go so far though before the outflow channel stopped me so with just a few shots taken I headed back to the car park and the gate to the next lake.
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Lakes 1 and 2 were separated by a second dam with a very pleasant wide grassy area overlooking Lake 2 and a footpath leading to the far side, but once again I came up against another obstacle blocking the path at the end of the dam. This time it was a semblance of a low dry stone wall topped by strands of a wire fence with a gap at one end and a notice saying ‘Access for anglers only’ – so back I went and continued the walk along the main path, getting a few lake view shots as I went.
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Past the end of another dam which carried a track from the fields up to a farm across the other side I came to Lake 3. It was narrower, darker and more overshadowed by trees than Lake 2 meaning decent photo opportunities were few so I headed on towards White Coppice. Near the end of the lake a wooden footbridge crossed a narrow brook almost hidden in a deep ditch then a boardwalk ran along the edge of a field to another wooden footbridge which came out at a pleasant grassy lay-by on the main lane through the hamlet.
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Across the lane were the cottages set at an angle which I’d photographed on my previous visit and growing above and behind the large driveway gate of the end house was a profusion of bright red flowers which seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere – I was sure they hadn’t been there before as they were so bright I could hardly have missed them. Along the lane the ford had a bit more water running across it than before; Poppie enjoyed a little paddle and while I was there I took a few more shots of the cottages and gardens across the stream.
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On the corner by the ford was a footpath sign pointing up the steep narrow lane so I decided to walk up the hill to see what was up there. The answer was not much; after a few hundred yards and three bends the tree shaded lane ended in the driveway to a couple of cottages and several farm buildings. Walking back down to the main lane a movement at the top of the bank on my right caught my eye; a dark bay horse was standing by the fence and a few yards farther on an inquisitive donkey was staring at me from up above.
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Back down on the main lane I took a couple of shots of the pretty garden with the stream flowing through it then headed back to the lay-by where the wooden footbridge would take me back towards the three lakes; there was no point walking up to the village green and cricket pitch as nothing would have changed within the last two-and-a-half weeks.
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Walking along through the field near Lake 3 I was suddenly surprised by a flash of bright turquoise blue flying up from the grass right in front of me and landing just a few feet away. It was a damsel fly, something I’ve never photographed before, so hoping it wouldn’t suddenly take off again I lay flat on the grass to get a couple of close-ups – and it was only when I got back home and put the photos on the pc that I realised I hadn’t photographed just one damsel fly, I’d got two and they were in the process of mating.
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I must have looked a bit odd lying flat on the grass like that so I was glad there was no-one around just then to see me. The damsel fly (and presumably its partner) flew off after a few minutes so I got back on my feet and continued the walk back to the van, with my final shot being another one overlooking the end of Lake 2.
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The walk hadn’t been a long one – time-wise less than two hours including stops to take photos. Being almost level for most of the way it had been an easy and very enjoyable walk, and seeing the two damsel flies had certainly been a very unexpected and delightful bonus.

 

Keeping it local – Doffcocker Lodge

My Monday walk this week is a relatively short one done at the end of May on a weekday when the constraints of work meant that I didn’t have a lot of time. A very short drive from home is Doffcocker Lodge, originally a mill pond dating from 1874 but with the mill long since gone and the area being a popular spot for local dog walkers it was designated as the town’s first local nature reserve in 1992.
My walk started from the small car park by the dam at the bottom end of the lake and heading in my usual anti-clockwise direction the path took me past a couple of small coppices and the long back gardens of a few houses on the nearby main road. Low bushes and several wide gaps in the trees on the left gave me good views over the lake until the path eventually veered away from the water and led across a wide meadow enclosed by tall trees.
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At the far side of the meadow I went through a small wooded area then the path passed between the end of the main lake and a smaller lake where a young coot was swimming with one of its parents; still with a lot of its ‘baby fluff’ it was a scruffy looking little thing but also quite cute and was actually the first young coot I’ve ever seen.
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After passing the end of the lake the path led into a second meadow, more open this time and where several benches were set at well placed intervals to take in the views across the main lake. A bit farther on a tree shaded grass bank separated the path from a row of pleasant looking houses and from there it wasn’t much farther to the bridge across the outflow channel and the dam at the end of the lake.
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The walk round the lake had been barely a mile but in the warm sunshine it had been very enjoyable so Poppie and I were both happy. Last year I did that walk in early springtime when the trees were still bare so I’m now thinking of repeating it in a few months time – it might be nice when the trees are in their autumn colours.

 

Brinscall to White Coppice walk

My Monday walk this week was done the day after my Heysham visit and on the second extremely hot day of the week, and though not immediately local the start of the walk was only just a 20-minute drive from home. During a conversation with a friend a few days previously she had told me about a lake she and her partner had stopped at briefly while on an afternoon out round the countryside; it sounded nice for a walk round without going too far so after checking out the location on Google maps off I went.
At the far side of Belmont moors a left turn took me another couple of miles to Brinscall village and the lake which was situated behind the swimming pool building and had a small free car park. At the end of the car park was a pleasant looking small park area with a playground and benches overlooking the lake but looking down the lake itself I could see it wasn’t as big as I first thought and it wouldn’t take me long to walk round it.

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View from the far end of the lake

The lake was bordered on one side by a densely wooded area and as I set off along the path I came to a signpost for the hamlet of White Coppice, just one-and-a-half miles away. I hadn’t been there for easily twenty years and as I had plenty of time I decided to abandon my round-the-lake walk and head for there instead. A short boardwalk took me over a bit of a boggy area then from there a long almost straight path followed a shallow river, with the trees opening out occasionally to give views of the surrounding hillsides.
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The path seemed to go on for ever but eventually I caught a glimpse through the trees of a couple of buildings and soon a slope led me down to a rough track and I emerged at the side of White Coppice village green and cricket pitch with its pretty cottages over the far side. Benches were set at intervals around the edge of the green and though there was no cricket match to watch several people were taking advantage of the sunshine and nice views. On a corner down the lane from the village green was a very pretty lake but it seemed to be private, belonging to one of the houses set just up the hill off the lane, so unable to walk round it I had to be happy with just one shot from over the wall.
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A bit farther on a shallow brook ran parallel to the lane for a short distance, creating a ford across a minor lane and skirting the edge of a very pretty garden before disappearing under the road, and at the far side of the brook an attractive row of cottages was accessed by wooden footbridges over the water.
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A little way on, and round a bend, I came to the last row of cottages, set at an angle to the lane and with the garden wall of the end one covered in pretty red and yellow flowers and lots of foliage. Back at the ford Poppie decided she wanted to cool off a bit so I spent several minutes with my feet just about on dry land while she paddled about at the end of her lead.
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Heading back to the village green I came to the gated entrance to what was obviously a fishing lake; I wasn’t sure if I could go in to take some photos but there was a young guy repairing the fence just inside the gate so I asked him and he said it was okay. The lake was only accessible on that one side and at the far end of the bank was just one lone person sitting peacefully fishing.
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With the last shot of the lake I made my way back to the footpath beyond the village green and as I headed back to Brinscall the cooling shade of the trees made a welcome change from the heat of the afternoon sun. When I got to the bottom end of Brinscall lake I continued with my original plan to walk all the way round it and went along the far side back to the car park. This side was more open than the other side, with a road bordered by a wide well kept grass verge with benches set at intervals, views across the lake and nice looking houses and bungalows with attractive gardens, and just by the last bench before the car park I came across a Muscovy duck pecking about on the grass.
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Although the visit to White Coppice had been totally unplanned the walk there and back had been very enjoyable and it had been nice to see the hamlet again after so many years, but now it was time to go back home and relax for a while with a much needed long cold drink.

 

Heysham – a walk in three parts

My Monday walk this week was done just five days ago – June 24th – on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year so far. I don’t usually watch weather forecasts but I’d heard that the weekend was probably going to be very wet so I decided to take advantage of the midweek sunshine and explore a couple of places I hadn’t been to before.
Driving up the M6 I took the turn-off for Lancaster and headed along the A683 which bypassed the city itself and led straight to Heysham port, though on the spur of the moment I took a minor road down to the River Lune to check out a particular spot which – I’d been told by someone ages ago – was quite nice and had good views over the river. I didn’t have to go far before I came to a pleasant looking static caravan site and next to it The Golden Ball Hotel set several feet higher than the road.
According to local history there’s been an inn on that site since the mid 1600s; the main part of the existing inn, known locally as Snatchems, was built in 1710 and an extension was added in 1790. Fast forward to the early 20th century and in 1910 William Mitchell bought the inn and it became a tenanted pub with Mitchells of Lancaster being the landlords. In early 2010 the last tenants left and with no-one to run it the pub was closed and put up for sale by Mitchells, eventually being bought in 2011 by the current owner and further extended.
There are a few stories of how the pub’s nickname Snatchems originated though the most interesting and widely accepted explanation stems from when the River Lune was used as a shipping channel. When any tall ship was about to sail out on the high tide the captain would check how many men were on board and if the numbers were short a boat would be sent over to the inn, where the crew would ‘snatch’ any men who were intoxicated – and by the time they sobered up they would be well on the way to a foreign country!
Parking at the roadside near the pub I had a very short walk in each direction and other than a handful of passing cars I had the place to myself. Round a bend just west of the pub the road went over a deep drainage ditch while a hundred yards or so to the east the grass riverbank widened out to quite a pleasant area. The Golden Ball itself was temporarily closed up, with its entrances at road level surrounded by high steel barriers, and coupled with obviously overgrown gardens the place had a distinct air of abandonment about it.

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Looking west

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Looking east, with a hazy Ingleborough in the far distance

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Lythe Bridge

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The Golden Ball Hotel

With my curiosity satisfied I drove back to the main road and headed to my first ‘official’ destination, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Heysham Nature Reserve. At the point where the road led into the docks and the power station a lane on the left took me to the track leading to the reserve; unfortunately there was a barrier across the track with a ‘car park closed’ notice on it but I was able to squeeze the van into a suitable space just off the lane and I set off to see what I could find. The first disappointment came when I got to the far side of the car park and found a notice on the gate saying dogs weren’t allowed in that part of the reserve, however there was no way I could leave Poppie in the van on such a hot day and there was no-one around anyway so I took a chance and went through.
The second disappointment came just a few yards farther on when I found a large part of the reserve completely closed off by a high steel fence and a locked gate with a ‘No Entry’ sign attached to it. That was one area I definitely couldn’t  get into so I followed the path down a series of steps and found myself on the road to the power station – this couldn’t be right, there had to be more to the reserve than that. Across the road was a grassy area at the entrance to the large EDF Energy place and at the far side I spotted a rabbit so I snatched a quick long distance photo before it moved then went back up the steps into the reserve.
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Not far from the top of the steps I found another path which meandered between hedgerows alive with birdsong, and past a quiet little tree shaded pond I came to a large meadow which, ignoring the constant hum and crackle from the power lines above, was quite a pleasant place in the sunshine. The path eventually brought me out not far from where I’d left the van and across the track was another path with a notice on the gate saying this area was where dogs could be walked and could also be allowed off lead, not that Poppie ever is.
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In the shade just inside the gate was a metal box with a lid and a dog bowl at the side – a notice on the fence said ‘Dog water – please refill’ and in the box were several 2-litre milk containers full of fresh water, with a couple of empty ones left at the side. Quite a handy provision for thirsty dogs, presumably supplied by a local member of the Trust, and once Poppie had a quick drink we set off on some further exploration. The path was long and straight, bordered by trees on one side and open grassy areas on the other, and a distance along was a pond with hundreds of fish, possibly chub, swarming about close to the edge.
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Eventually the path crossed an access lane to part of the power station and I came to an open picnic area with benches here and there; it was overlooked by the huge Heysham 2 nuclear reactor but plenty of surrounding trees did help to screen the building from view. Heysham 2 seems to dominate the horizon from miles away and from a distance looks quite ugly but close up, with its red, blue and green colours, I thought it looked strangely attractive. At the end of the picnic area the path ran for a short distance past the power station’s perimeter fence with its ‘keep out’ notices at intervals; with the continuous loops of razor wire on top of the fence I felt almost like I was passing the grounds of a prison and I certainly couldn’t imagine anyone trying to get in there.
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I finally emerged onto a very rocky shore at Red Nab rocks, an area of Permo-triassic rocks of red and white sandstone. A long concrete promenade ran past the power station perimeter towards the port entrance and halfway along was a closed off short pier with the surface of the sea in a turmoil underneath it, which was presumably something to do with the power station; according to the notice on the fence this was the Heysham Sea Bass Nursery Area managed by the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and public fishing wasn’t allowed.
A bit farther along were the remains of an old wooden pier and at the end of the promenade was the old south pier lighthouse at the port entrance. Built from cast iron in 1904 and almost 30ft high the base had originally been red and the lantern gallery white, though it now looks sorely in need of a coat of paint. Information tells me that in spite of its derelict looks it’s still active with a 6-second on/1.5-second off green light, though I’m not sure how correct that information is.

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Perched on the railing to the left of the old light tower were several cormorants

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The old light house was the one thing I’d wanted to see so once I’d taken a couple of photos I retraced my steps along the promenade. By then the tide had come in and the turmoil of water under the sea bass nursery pier had levelled out, with dozens of seagulls in the channel – presumably at some point there would be a lot of fish in evidence just there. Walking back along the path through the nature reserve I was momentarily surprised when a bird flew out of a tree and landed right in front of me; it could possibly have been a thrush but without seeing the front of it I couldn’t be sure.
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Back at the van I gave Poppie a drink even though she had some from her travel bottle while we were walking, then I drove the short distance to the next place on my itinerary, Half Moon Bay which was just at the other side of the port and another place I’d never been to. There was nothing there really, just a large rough-surfaced car park, a beach and a small café, closed of course; ignoring the ever-present power station building it wasn’t a bad little place but I wasn’t sure about the crooked sign attached to a crooked pole.

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Half Moon Bay beach

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On the grass just off the end of the short promenade was a sculpture commissioned by the Morecambe Bay Partnership in 2019. It was just called ‘Ship’ and is supposed to reflect the importance of Morecambe Bay’s maritime heritage, with one figure facing ‘the new’ of Heysham’s nuclear power station and the other facing ‘the old’ of the ancient ruins of St. Patrick’s chapel on the cliffs farther along, and though I quite liked it I failed to see the significance of the holes through the figures’ upper bodies.
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With nothing else to see at Half Moon Bay I returned to the van and took the road leading into Heysham village; I hadn’t intended going there but I wanted to find a cold drink from somewhere. Across from the village car park the side window of the Curiosity Corner cafe was open for takeaway drinks and snacks so I went to get something from there and was charged £1.20 for a can of Tango – sheesh, these places certainly know how to charge over the odds for something! I was glad that at least I’d taken my own slab of fruit cake as to buy some cake from there would probably have cost an arm and several legs.
Suitably refreshed I took a walk along to the end of the village’s main street and was delighted to find that the church was open to visitors. I’d wanted to go in there when I visited the village last year but it was closed then so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity this time as I wanted to photograph the carved Viking hogback tombstone which dates from the 10th century. Unfortunately I couldn’t get proper shots of the stained glass windows as much of the church was blocked off but photographing the tombstone was no problem as it was close to the open side door.
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Back outside I took a wander round Glebe Garden as due to the palaver of rescuing an injured hedgehog last year I hadn’t seen much of the place at the time. It wasn’t a big garden but it was very pretty and as I walked round I discovered many delightful miniature houses and tiny animals set among the foliage and on cut down tree stumps.
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Walking back through the village I shot my last couple of photos and returned to the van; it was still only mid afternoon but I had to go to work later on and it was an hour’s drive back home, plus I wanted to make a brief stop on the way back.
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Driving back through Half Moon Bay I reversed the route from there back to the Golden Ball on the River Lune as I wanted to see if the area looked any different now that the tide was in. It certainly did, and far from there being no-one around when I was there earlier there were several cars and trailers parked along the road and a few people out on jet skis, with a couple of families sitting on the grass while their kids and dogs played at the water’s edge.
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With my day out finishing exactly where it began I did the journey home with no problems and arrived back with just enough time to get changed before going to work. All in all it had been a good day out, and though I had no wish to return to the nature reserve or Half Moon Bay it had been good to visit them both just to see what they were like – and with the healthy dose of sea air for myself and Poppie we both slept well that night.

 

Lancaster Canal – Glasson Branch

The Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal was built to connect the main canal at Galgate to the River Lune estuary at Glasson Dock, with construction starting in 1820 and the branch opening in 1826. Over its two-and-a-half mile length the branch dropped through 52ft, and while the main canal is lock-free for the whole of its 42 miles the Glasson branch was constructed with six locks between Galgate and the Glasson Basin.
I’d walked along a short section of the canal one day last summer but this time I intended to explore the whole two-and-a-half mile length, which I did just eight days ago. Starting from Glasson Basin it was only a short distance to the first bridge, which was technically the last one as the locks and bridges are numbered from the junction with the main canal. The footpath was wide and grassy, bordered by hedges on the left, open fields across the canal and with the Bowland Fells in the distance. At the far side of the hedge near the second bridge was Glasson Marina Holiday Park, a medium-sized static caravan site, and once I was past there I was away from any form of civilisation until I got past the third bridge.

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View from the first bridge – Bridge 8

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View from Bridge 7

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View from Bridge 6

A short distance past Bridge 6 was Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green, a canalside hotel, bar and restaurant, currently closed but under normal circumstances probably a popular place to stop off for a drink on a warm sunny day. Bypassing the far side of the lock was a canal overflow channel and standing as still as a statue in the bottom end was a heron; I watched it for several minutes but it never moved an inch.

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Lock 6 and The Mill at Conder Green

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Just past Lock 6 was a short mooring platform then the canal curved round to the right and in less than ten minutes I was at Lock 5. Nearby a mother swan and her two young ones glided silently through the water and the bottom of the hedgerows were interspersed with large patches of oxeye daisies growing just a few feet from the path.

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Lock 5

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A hundred yards or so past the lock and its mooring platform, and close to Bridge 5, was a gap in the hedge and a gate where I could see over the fields beyond. A herd of cows mooched peacefully about in the nearest field and a bit farther along the path was a second gate with a notice warning off anyone who might think of going in there for whatever reason. I’ve often wondered if such notices are just the farmers’ way of discouraging people from trespassing on their land but this time it was true – there was a bull in the field, a very handsome red beast, but he disappeared down a dip in the land before I could get a photo of him.
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Another few minutes walking got me to Bridge 4 and Lock 4 and beyond the lock itself the land really opened out. The nearby hedges were low enough to see over and there were great views across the fields on both sides of the canal. Cows grazed peacefully by the waterside, some actually standing in the water itself; the field of cows changed to a field of sheep which then became a field of both cows and sheep, and there was no sound at all other than the various little birds as they flew about from one hedge to another.

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Bridge 4

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Lock 4

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Tortoiseshell butterfly

At Lock 3 the landscape changed again with the far side of the canal now being shaded by more trees. Farther on a solitary cow paddled and grazed at the water’s edge and in a field on my side of the canal an old Massey Ferguson tractor trundled along, turning the previously mown grass with its motorised hay rake. With the wrong wheels and half its bonnet missing it looked a bit of a mess but it was certainly doing its job.

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View from Lock 3

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At Lock 2 the canal widened out a bit near its mooring platform then narrowed again as it got closer to Lock 1. About halfway between the two locks were a pair of swans with the female busy rearranging the nest, and on a wooden post closer to Lock 1 I photographed my second butterfly of the afternoon.

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View from Lock 2

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Red Admiral butterfly

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Lock 1, Bridge 1

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Bridge 1

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At Bridge 1 I was at the junction with the main canal and my turn around point, Galgate Marina, was less than a quarter of a mile to the north. I hadn’t gone far when I started to see boats moored alongside the far bank and in the marina itself, in front of a narrowboat, was a swan with nine young ones. I’d just taken a photo of them when a lady in one of the boats shouted across that they all belonged to that one swan and her mate, which quite surprised me as I’ve never before seen one swan with so many young ones.
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Leaving the swans behind I set off back to Glasson Basin; I hadn’t started my walk until gone 3pm and time was now getting on so I walked back without stopping, though I did pause briefly by The Mill at Conder Green. The stork was still in the canal overflow channel, in exactly the same place as two hours previously – it hadn’t moved, and I was just beginning to think that it was a lifelike replica left there for some reason when it suddenly turned and looked like it was about to take off. I was glad it moved when it did or I would have wondered for a long while if it was real.
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Just before I reached Glasson Basin I passed a shrub with some pretty pink blooms and with one final shot I returned to the van. Although the walk had only been a total of five miles it had somehow seemed longer so it was now time to head for home and chill out for the rest of the evening.