A mixed up, muddled up weekend

Last weekend it was my birthday – Sunday to be exact – and as Michael was originally to be off work that day we had planned on having a day out somewhere and maybe stopping off at a car boot sale, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. When he got his shift rota for the week he was down to work that day and because of some stupid football match on Saturday no-one would swap shifts with him as they all wanted to go to the pub, watch it on tv and no doubt drink enough beer to render themselves unfit for work the following day. After working a 12-hour night shift on Friday Saturday was supposed to be his sleeping day but he said if I woke him at lunch time we could go out then instead of Sunday and he would catch up on his sleep later on.
So that’s what we did and we had a drive out to St. Annes as I wanted to go back to Ashton Gardens to take some more photos now the trees are in full leaf, except the weather was so dismally dull and grey that the photos I did take aren’t worth bothering with – most of them will be deleted and certainly none of them will make it into a blog post. After a meal in our usual café we just came straight back home, but because our trip out was something we would normally do on a Sunday I had the confusing feeling that it was  Sunday, although to be honest I felt like I’d only gone out for the sake of going out.
On Sunday itself, to make up for missing a proper day out with Michael, I planned on taking myself and the dogs out somewhere, however the weather wasn’t the best so with a cash gift from Michael I decided to go in search of a new folding camp bed, something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a while. The Blackburn branch of Go Outdoors is an easy drive away and not far from there is Witton Country Park so I could kill two birds with one stone – a look round Go Outdoors first then a dog walk round the country park afterwards.
I found the camp bed I wanted in the store but the one on display was the only one they had and there was a slight fault with the mechanism so they wouldn’t sell it to me, however the very helpful assistant phoned the Preston store to see if they had any – they had, so they put one aside for me to collect later on. Unfortunately when I came out of the Blackburn store it was raining hard – a walk round the country park was out of the question so I just drove straight over to the Preston store and picked up the camp bed from there. With the on/off rain and no umbrella there was no point going anywhere else so I just came straight back home and the dogs never got their walk after all.
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The camp bed – it’s a single but extra-wide as I like a lot of space (photo from the internet)
Michael arrived home from work at 5.30pm that day and we went to our usual eaterie, the Black Dog at Belmont, for a proper birthday meal. I don’t usually have a dessert but this time I did – salted caramel and vanilla ice creams with fresh cream, chocolate sauce and crushed Maltesers ; it was divine. Back at home I spent the rest of the evening reading a book which I’d recently got as a birthday present to myself. It had been an odd sort of day – well an odd sort of weekend really – but that was then, and I’m now looking forward to a nice long camping holiday coming up in a couple of weeks time.

 

 

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A local walk round Belmont village

With lots to do ahead of the coming Easter break I didn’t really have time to go too far on my dog walks over the weekend so my Monday walk this week is just a local one round Belmont village, only three miles up the road from home. Leaving the van outside my friend’s house in a quiet square at the bottom end of the village I first headed off across the main road and up the hill past the Black Dog pub. The pub has two signs outside, one at the car park entrance and the other on the side wall of the pub itself and strangely they are both very different ; the one on the wall is a mosaic picture and reminds me very much of a dog my friend once had.
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The sign in the car park
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Mosaic picture on the wall
Past the church I came to Ward’s Reservoir, though it’s always been known locally as the Blue Lagoon. The reservoir was built in the 19th century to supply water to the bleach and dye works down the hill, though over the years it’s become a well known local beauty spot. The Belmont Bleaching and Dyeing Company opened in 1878 and for many years was one of the country’s major dyers and cotton bleaching specialists, then in much later years it became one of the few companies in the UK capable of manufacturing a range of flame-retardant textiles.
The company finally closed down in 2004 with the buildings eventually being split into individual industrial and commercial units, though the reservoir and land around it began falling into disrepair. An independent study and report concluded that it needed at least £40,000 spending on it to bring it up to the standard legally required by the Environment Agency but the owner, a local man, was unwilling to spend money on something which no longer had any commercial value, so in 2010 he ‘pulled the plug’ and the reservoir was drained. It was eventually sold to a local consortium based a few miles away, repairs were undertaken and it was allowed to fill up again although every so often, especially after periods of heavy rain, a certain amount of water is released to prevent it becoming too full.
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Gathering cloud over the Blue Lagoon
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The outflow channel and St. Peter’s Church
From the Blue Lagoon I headed across the nearby playing field and through a couple of pleasant residential streets to the top end of the village and the larger Belmont Reservoir. Built in 1826 by Bolton Waterworks to supply water to the rapidly expanding town it’s now owned by United Utilities, and not only is it home to Bolton Sailing Club it’s also an important base for wintering wildfowl. It’s not often that I see anyone sailing when I’m walking near there but this time the dinghies were out in force in spite of the very chilly wind which was blowing.
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Sailing on Belmont Reservoir
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Across the dam and along the traffic-free lane I decided that instead of walking all the way along to the top of the road which would take me back to the village I would make a short cut down a public footpath past a small farm, and I was glad I did as I was rewarded with seeing a field full of sheep with their young ones.
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And this is why I don’t eat lamb
The path eventually brought me out about halfway down the road back to the village ; it’s not an easy road to walk, especially with two dogs, as it’s narrow with no pavements and is a very popular short cut for traffic going to and from Belmont and another area of the town, but fortunately it wasn’t busy and I didn’t have to walk too far before it widened out by the former bleach works buildings. Ages ago I was told by someone – and I can’t remember who – that round the back of those buildings was a fishing place called Ornamental Lake ; it was one of those places that you wouldn’t know was there unless someone told you about it so I decided to check it out and was quite pleasantly surprised.
Eagley Brook, a combination of the outflow from Belmont Reservoir and the Blue Lagoon, flowed under the road and behind the buildings, emptying into the lake. Across a short bridge a path ran through the trees near the edge of the lake and in a clearing I came across a couple of small timber shacks, obviously for the use of anyone fishing there. Looking at the land it was obvious that I couldn’t walk all the way round the lake so I just snapped a few photos then made my way back to the road.
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Ornamental Lake
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A short traffic-free lane took me steeply uphill to where I’d left the van and my last photo was of the water monument at the corner of the square. Erected in 1907 by Edward Deakin, mill owner and patron of the local church, it was to commemorate a clause having been successfully fought for in the UK parliament and inserted into the Bolton Corporation Act of 1905 to protect the flow of water into Eagley Brook from Belmont Reservoir.
Eagley Brook, along with water from the Blue Lagoon, provided an essential water supply to the bleach and dye works and there was a danger that taking too much water from Belmont Reservoir to supply Bolton’s homes and businesses would have a detrimental affect on the business and employment at the bleach works. The clause on the monument states that as compensation for taking water for Bolton the Corporation had to ensure a continuous flow down Eagley Brook between 5am and 5pm every day except Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
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The water monument
With that final photo I returned to the van and headed for home for a much needed brew ; although the sun had been shining for most of the walk the wind definitely had the chill factor so a mug of hot coffee was most welcome. There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I won’t be here – I’m off exploring pastures new so fingers crossed that the weather will be good and I’ll come back with lots of different places to write about.

A discovery walk at St. Annes

This week’s Monday walk features a place I was never aware of until someone at work told me about it just a few days ago. Yesterday was the first of Michael’s days off work and though the morning started off rather dull it had brightened up considerably by early lunchtime so we decided to drive over to the coast for a mooch and a meal. Leaving the van in the car park of our usual cafe at St. Annes we went for a coffee first then Michael went off to mooch round on his own while I took Sophie and Poppie on my discovery walk.
Ashton Gardens are located just a couple of streets behind the promenade and right on the edge of the town centre. Originally a rectangular plot of land the gardens were established in 1874 by the Land and Building Company and were named St. Georges Gardens ; they remained unchanged until 1914 when Lord Ashton gave a donation to acquire the gardens and an adjacent strip of land for the people of St. Annes. Later that year the council ran a competition to redesign the gardens, it was won by a local man and the gardens were redesigned to incorporate a greater diversity of spaces, although the original undulating nature of the land was retained. Renamed Ashton Gardens in honour of Lord Ashton they were formally opened on July 1st 1916 ; in 2010 a major refurbishment was undertaken thanks to a grant of almost £1.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund plus additional funding from other sources.
My walk started at the main entrance closest to the town centre and right from the start I found something to photograph. Turning right just inside the gates a short path and a few stone steps took me down to a couple of bowling greens where various games of bowls were in progress, then beyond the second green and down a few more steps I came to what appeared to be a rose garden. Although nothing was actually in flower I can imagine it would be really lovely when everything is blooming.
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St. Georges Road entrance and Pavilion Cafe
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The rose garden
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Beyond the rose garden, and lying in undulating ground, were two ponds connected by a narrow meandering waterway which was crossed at various points by stepping stones and a hump-back bridge, and sitting on top of a small island of rocks in the middle of the smaller pond was a young seagull who obligingly stayed put while I took his photo. Even with the still-bare trees this place was delightful and I got far too many photos to put them all on here.
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Back towards the centre of the park was a circular sunken garden, and though some of the flower beds were still bare or very sparsely planted the others were full of deep purple hyacinths which gave off the most gorgeous perfume. In the centre of the wide main pathway was the war memorial – and it was so impressive and so movingly detailed that it really deserves a post of its own. At the end of the pathway I came to the second main entrance with its fancy double gates and with a final shot of the modern crest set in one of the gates I left Ashton Gardens and made my way to meet Michael back at the cafe.
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The sunken garden
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Sunken garden, pavilion cafe and war memorial
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Looking up the main path from the gates
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Across the road from the entrance to the gardens some building work was in progress on a large corner plot ; according to the hoarding all round it the new building was going to be an apart-hotel and pictures showed some of the intended facilities. I couldn’t tell if the place will be dog friendly but one of the pictures showed an adorable little dog snuggled in some bedding – it reminded me very much of a little dog I once looked after on a regular basis, and it looked so cute I just had to get a photo of it.
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Back on the sea front I made my way through the promenade gardens and round by the beach huts to the cafe where Michael was waiting for me at an outside table. Of course no visit to St. Annes would be complete without a walk on the beach so once we’d had our meal we took a short walk along the sand before returning to the van and making our way back home.
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The promenade gardens
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The new ‘Splash’ water play area made from the old model boating pond
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It had been a lovely afternoon out and I’d been very impressed with Ashton Gardens ; I was really glad the guy at work had told me about the place as otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it, but now I do  know I’ll make sure to pay a return visit for some more photos when the leaves are on the trees and hopefully the flower beds will be planted up. And if anyone reading this is ever in that area then do go and have a look round, it’s a lovely little place.

Doffcocker Lodge and some local history

My Monday walk this week was a relatively short one of barely a mile, round the local nature reserve of Doffcocker Lodge. The Doffcocker area is a mainly residential suburb about three-and-a-half miles north west of the town centre ; the history of the name isn’t certain but it’s believed to originate from two ancient Celtic words meaning ‘dark winding stream’. The lodge was created in 1874 as a mill lodge although the mill disappeared many many years ago ; the area round the lodge has long been a popular place for dog walkers but in 1992 it became designated as the town’s first local nature reserve and in the years since then improvements have been made to the land and the pathways and a small free car park has been created.
A hundred yards or so down the road from the car park entrance is the red brick Doffcocker Inn pub/restaurant, known locally as ‘The Doffy’. Built in 1901 on the site of a much older and smaller pub of the same name the outer structure was erected around the original pub before that was demolished ; the whole process was completed without closing the original pub so the landlord didn’t have to apply for a new licence. The current building is a rare example of a calendar pub, with 4 floors, one for each season, and each floor having seven rooms, one for each day of the week. The cellar has 12 rooms for the months of the year, there are 52 doors and 365 window panes – quirky it may be but I wouldn’t like to clean all those windows.
Deciding to go anti-clockwise round the lodge my walk started from the car park by the dam at the bottom end, with the path passing a couple of coppices and the long back gardens of some nearby houses before emerging into a meadow which would be a pleasant place for a picnic in nice weather. At the far side of the meadow the path crossed the end of the lodge and took me to a second meadow where several benches set beside the path were well placed to take in the views over the water.
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Looking across the end of the lodge
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View across the lodge with Winter Hill tv mast in the distance
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At one point the shape of the land formed a little bay in the water and a great cacophony of bird shrieks and squawks was coming from the vicinity ; when I got round there I found seagulls flying all over the place in great excitement while the various ducks and geese added their voices from down in the water – someone had thrown in several slices of bread and they were all trying to get their share.
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The path took me past the back gardens of a row of bungalows set sideways on to the lodge and just past there a tree lined bank separated the path from a pleasant looking residential avenue. The end bungalow had a garden filled with different coloured heathers and other plants and it looked so pretty I thought it was worth a photo or two. It wasn’t far from there to the end of the lodge and as I got near to the dam I stopped for a few minutes to watch the antics of a Domestic Greylag goose in a shallow part of the water.
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Canada goose and seagull
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Domestic Greylag goose
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Those were to be my last photos of the afternoon – although there had been some blue sky and a bit of sunshine earlier on it had soon turned to grey and by the time I got back to the van it looked like rain wasn’t far away. Although the walk hadn’t been a long one Sophie and Poppie were happy enough so it was time to head for home and put the kettle on for a welcome mug of coffee.

When all else fails, turn the bucket upside down and sit on it!

During the thirty years I’ve worked as an office cleaner various mishaps have befallen me on odd occasions, fortunately none of them too serious and most of them quite amusing when thinking about them afterwards, and one such incident happened to me last Saturday. While on an errand in town I decided to do my Monday morning’s cleaning while I was there as the offices are close to the town centre, so following my usual procedure I parked at the back of the building then because the gate has a padlock which is difficult to deal with I walked round and let myself in by the front door.
With all the cleaning eventually done my last task was to mop the kitchen floor, pour the mop water down the front steps – with a bit of bleach in the water it helps to keep the steps clean – then return the bucket to the kitchen. Except on Saturday things didn’t quite work out like that. Normally the inner front door sticks and never closes properly but as I poured the mop water down the steps a huge gust of wind blew in and slammed it shut behind me – and not only was it closed but it was also very firmly locked.
So there I was, stuck in the 4ft square front porch with my jacket, bag, office keys, van key, money and home door key all on the other side of the locked door, and unable to go outside as it was pouring with very heavy rain. At least I had my phone in my trouser pocket so I turned the bucket upside down and used it as a seat while I pondered how to get myself out of the situation I was now in. With no windows open anywhere I couldn’t go out and climb back in somewhere, there was no point phoning the boss as he was on holiday abroad somewhere and I didn’t have anyone else’s number, neither could I ring Michael and ask him to bring me the spare van key from home as he was at work. Just on the off-chance though I phoned Richard, the painter and decorator who had been painting the offices last summer and was a good friend of the boss, to see if he still had the door keys – he hadn’t, but he did have the number of the boss’s son so he phoned him and told him of my predicament then phoned me back to tell me the guy was on his way to unlock the inner door for me.
It was about half an hour later when the boss’s son arrived, he knew I would be behind the front door but I don’t think he expected to see me sitting on an upturned mop bucket! He couldn’t stay as he had his child in the car so he just unlocked the inner door for me, and once I was back inside properly it only took a few minutes to gather my belongings together, set the alarm and lock the front door as I left the building. Thinking back on the experience it’s a good thing I had my phone with me and could contact someone, otherwise I would have been sitting on that upturned mop bucket until the rain stopped, and that could have been quite a long while!

A very muddy Monday walk

A week of high winds, heavy rain and anything else that storm whatever-it-was-called sent down had effectively stopped me from going for a decent walk but by yesterday it had calmed down considerably so during a fine but dull period in the afternoon I took my chances and went out for a short local walk.  My quest was to find a hidden pond which I hadn’t been to for at least twenty years but as I suspected that the location and route to it would be very muddy at this time of year I left Sophie and Poppie behind for once.
The first fifteen minutes of the walk took me across a nearby main road and along a couple of residential roads with detached and semi-detached houses with pleasant gardens. Many of the gardens were showing signs of spring but the first thing that caught my eye was the mass of bright red berries and green leaves growing up the wall and over the front door of someone’s house – as red is my favourite colour I just had to get a photo of that one. A few gardens away was a large bush with yellow flowers (possibly forsythia) and in the garden next to that was (I think) a large camellia bush with a lot of its flowers lying on the ground, which I can only assume is the result of the recent high winds.
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Along the next road was Bank Top community garden backed by the attractive black-and-white building which was once a tennis club but is now the home of Bank Top micro-brewery, and in a secluded corner some recently placed cut flowers and a small memorial plaque set in the ground. Fastened to the side railings was an ornamental lizard which I don’t remember seeing on my walk down there last year – it was very colourful but I wouldn’t like to come across a real one in the undergrowth.
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Bank Top community garden
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At the end of the road a cobbled lane took me down past the stables where I once worked and into the woods with a wide path alongside the river and a bridge up ahead, and though I would normally cross the bridge and take the path at the far side this time I followed the left hand path which eventually took me up a steep bank above the river. It wasn’t too bad to start with but as I got further along it became more and more muddy, and being close to the edge of a steep unprotected drop down into the fast flowing water I was glad I hadn’t got the dogs with me.
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Eagley Brook
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Before it got really muddy
Eventually the path widened out and emerged into open land on the left, and though I had a fair idea that the hidden pond was somewhere in that vicinity there was no way of searching for it without scrambling under a barbed wire fence and getting myself thoroughly dirty in the process, so that one will have to wait until there’s been a period of warm and dry weather. Following the path took me downhill into what, according to a nearby signpost, was Eagley Valley nature reserve, and not far from the riverside was a tree bursting into life with yellow and white buds. The white ones looked like what I’ve always known as pussy willow but the yellow ones looked more like fat hairy caterpillars – it would be interesting to see what it looks like when it’s fully in bloom.
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The hidden pond is up on the left somewhere
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Eagley Valley nature reserve
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Strange buds on the tree
A distance past the tree the path branched left and right ; left would take me up to a large modern housing estate so I went right and crossed a bridge to a long and wide stretch of open land, locally known as Eagley Meadows, where I could see Brook Mill in the distance. As the land opened out I could see what seemed to be a large pond with a thicket of trees growing in the middle of it – I didn’t remember there ever being a pond there before but a lot could have changed in the years since I was last there, however on closer inspection it turned out to be an area of very waterlogged land with the water looking quite deep round the trees.
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The pond that isn’t a pond
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Strange sky over the meadows
The waterlogged land encroached on the path at one point so I found myself walking through yet another patch of mud but once I was beyond that the going underfoot was good for the rest of the walk. At the riverside I saw the big black duck which I’d seen three weeks previously, he was swimming in the water but the current was flowing so fast that it carried him down the river before I could get another photo of him. Recent information from a duck expert has told me that he’s a cross between a domestic large Cayuga duck and a mallard ; Cayuga ducks originate from the Cayuga Lake region of New York State and will often breed with mallards, producing a large bird with the black/green feathers of the Cayuga and the yellow bill and orange feet of the mallard.
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The Cayuga/Mallard – photo from three weeks ago
The path from the riverside emerged close to Brook Mill and from there it was all road walking in the direction of home, with my final photo of the day being another camellia bush in someone’s front garden, though unlike the previous bush this one seemed to have retained all its flowers.
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Even though the gloomy afternoon hadn’t been the best it had been good to get out for an hour or so, though looking at the muddy state of my wellies when I got back home I was glad I hadn’t taken the dogs with me!

Not the best weather for a camera test

Since getting my new camera a week ago I’ve been itching to use it on a good walk but the weather has been against me every day – grey, chilly, windy and almost constantly raining, a big contrast to the unseasonably warm and sunny weather of just a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday morning we had sleet followed by more rain but by early afternoon it had been fine long enough for me to attempt a short walk ; I needed to pop into our local Asda store for something I forgot to get while shopping there on Saturday so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take a route which would end at the store.
If there’s one thing this town isn’t short of it’s parks and there are two quite close to home though unfortunately the larger one seems to have been a victim of council cutbacks over the last few years. With broken chain link fencing bordering the lane to the nearby farm, the tennis courts long since gone and the bowling greens no longer in existence it looks rather uncared for and scruffy in parts and is really only fit for dog walking, but it’s still quite a pleasant place on a sunny day.
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The shape of this split tree trunk reminds me of two large antlers
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Steps up to the bowling greens
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New spring growth emerging among the trees
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This was once a bowling green
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At the bottom end of the park I crossed the lane and entered the woods but instead of taking the right hand path which would take me in the direction of Smithills Hall I took the left, and with allotments on one side it was much more open than the other path. By this time some of the grey sky had cleared and the sun actually put in an appearance but unfortunately it was only short lived and by the time I got to the end of the path it had clouded over again.
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The moss covered roots of this tree trunk remind me of the clawed foot of a huge green bird
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The path brought me out close to the bottom end of a very pleasant residential road and at the confluence of Raveden Brook and Dean Brook. Raveden Brook, which runs past the grounds of Smithills Hall, is normally only fairly shallow but with all the rain of the last ten days there was a lot more water than usual, and Dean Brook was a really fast flowing torrent which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a white water rafting course.
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Raveden Brook
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Dean Brook and Raveden Brook
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On the riverbank – part of some old machinery or an old bridge?
The end of the residential road emerged onto a busy main road but continued across the other side ; at one time that part of the road led past a fishing lodge to the premises of an industrial sealing and bearing manufacturers but ten years ago the buildings were demolished to make way for Phase 1 of a new housing development. The lodge was eventually drained and filled in and Phase 2 is now underway ; on the gate into the site was a sign which I’ve seen in many places and which always conjures up an image of a huge triffid-like plant in a massive terracotta plant pot making its way across the road.
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Reminds me of my days spent working on a building site many years ago
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A sign which always amuses me
The road ended in a cul-de-sac and a footpath from there took me past the river, emerging onto a partially pedestrianised lane which would take me towards the Asda store. Set back off the lane were two cottages, originally very old but now much modernised, with the first one having a quaint but rather cluttered front garden ; at one time it had a couple of stables attached to it but the ponies have long since gone and the stables now seem to be used for storage.
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It didn’t take long to walk from the cottages to Asda and by the time I got there the sky had cleared and the sun was shining again, however any hopes I had of taking more photos on the way home were dashed when I came out of the store. I’d only been in there ten minutes but in that time the sunshine had disappeared, the blue sky was turning to grey again, and as I walked through the smaller of the two parks close to home I just managed to snatch one last photo before the heavens opened with a heavy shower of hailstones.
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The hailstones lasted until I got home but the sky stayed grey so any further photo taking would have to wait until a nicer day. Although I hadn’t managed to test all the features of my new camera it had performed well while I was out so I was more than happy with it ; it will certainly make an excellent replacement for my other one so now I’m looking forward to using it in much better weather.