February mini break – day 3

After two really lovely days the weather decided to let me down on the last morning. Grey sky and fine drizzly rain which showed no sign of clearing up meant that the dog walk down by the beach was kept fairly short and my plans to explore somewhere new on the way home were completely screwed up; it did mean, however, that I was able to spend a bit longer with Eileen and her hubby on my second visit.
I’d previously mentioned that I would like to see Jasmine, the horse which lives in a local field and which Eileen regularly visits while walking Tilly, so armed with a couple of carrots we set out on the short walk with Snowy and Poppie, though Tilly wasn’t happy at being left behind. At the far side of one small field a couple of Jacob sheep were taking it easy while in the field across the lane were a couple of ponies and a black and white cow just beyond the wire fence.
Jasmine was on her own at the far side of another small field but she came over when Eileen called; she looked a bit scruffy but at least she was well rugged up against the winter weather. We gave her the carrots, though Snowy wasn’t impressed as she thought she was missing out on something, then we meandered back to Eileen’s by a slightly different route.
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It was still raining when I left Eileen’s later on so as there was no point driving along the coast road I headed straight for the A55 which was the quickest way home, and the further north I got the more it was raining. It was a shame the weather had let me down on the third day but I couldn’t really complain – I’d had two really lovely days, discovered some new places, revisited others, visited some lovely friends and got some good photos, so in the words of the Meatloaf song ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.

A wet walk in the city

I must have been mad. Totally, absolutely, stark raving bonkers. Walking round Manchester in the wind and rain just to get some photos of something I thought could be interesting, but this time it wasn’t street art.
The city’s Chinese New Year celebrations started on Tuesday last week. Several streets were decorated with red lanterns, there was a funfair, food stalls and various events in Chinatown, and a huge tiger sculpture in St. Ann’s Square; if I was going to photograph anything it had to be yesterday as the celebrations ended that evening.
Unfortunately the day didn’t get off to the best of starts. The rail line between here and Manchester was closed for maintenance work, with replacement buses running between stations (which, unlike my attempt to get to Blackburn last summer, I was aware of) and though I assumed that the bus would pick up from my nearest local station at the same time as I would normally get the train that just didn’t happen. I got there ten minutes ahead of schedule and though I waited for twenty minutes there was no bus – it had either gone very early or didn’t turn up at all so all I could do was get the next local bus to the main station in town then get the next available replacement bus to Manchester from there, finally arriving nearly two hours after I would normally have got there.
Dodging the brief rain showers my first stop was St. Ann’s Square to see the tiger sculpture. Commissioned by Manchester BID and created by Decordia Events the tiger was made from wood and recycled plastic and was supposed to give the illusion of being made of paper. It was very cleverly constructed and I liked it but to me it looked just like what it was, a model made of wood.
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Unfortunately the bit of sunshine and blue sky which appeared while I was walking round the square was all too brief and within six minutes the sky had clouded over again and the rain was back – and this time it didn’t stop. Heading up to Chinatown my umbrella blew inside out more than once and I had to keep the camera well tucked into my bag to stop it getting wet.
The programme of events in Chinatown started at 11am and under normal circumstances I would have been able to get the photos I wanted well before the place started to get busy but my late arrival meant that things were well under way when I got there. The place was absolutely packed and the only way I could get any reasonable shots of the ornate Chinese arch across the street was to stand on a bench at the edge of the car park.
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A constant drum beat was coming from the stage at the far side of the car park and people were holding up phones and photographing something I hadn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of seeing so I managed to weave my way through the crowd to get near the side of the stage. I still couldn’t really see anything as a bank of large speakers was obstructing the view but every so often a couple of dragons would appear above the heads of the crowd in front so with the camera in continuous shooting mode and standing on the bottom of a barrier I was able to get a couple of reasonable shots.
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Fortunately for the camera the rain had stopped briefly but it soon started again and with too many people around for me to use my umbrella I decided to cut my losses and head back to Victoria Station for the next available replacement bus. I had fifty minutes to wait though so to keep out of the wind and rain I found a nearby cafe and whiled away some time over a mug of coffee.
With no reason to stop at the two intermediate stations between Manchester and here the bus journey was actually quite pleasant and didn’t take much longer than the normal train journey would have done. Just a couple of minutes wait for the local bus from town and I was back home seven-and-a-half hours after I first set out, and vowing that the next time it’s raining when I want to go to Manchester I’m staying in bed instead!

North Wales mini break – Day 2

After a very comfortable and quiet night I woke the following morning to grey clouds which were gradually being replaced by blue skies and the promise of a nice day. The first dog walk of the day was to be an exploration of the nearby beach; from the site entrance it was just a 3-minute walk down the hill but if there was any sand at all it was completely covered by the high tide which came right up to the sea defences. Two rough surfaced car parks were situated between the sea defences and the North Wales Coast Path and the River Dulas came from somewhere inland and ran parallel to the path for a distance before curving round and emptying itself into the sea. Admittedly this wasn’t the prettiest of places but it did give us a good dog walk before we went back to the site for breakfast.
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Across the bay – Rhos-on-Sea in the sunshine
My main aim of the day was a visit to Conwy, somewhere I hadn’t been for a few years, though I was stopping off at Rhos-on-Sea on the way. Now although I left the site in brilliant sunshine the same couldn’t be said for arriving in Rhos – less than six miles along the coast the sun had almost disappeared and the sky was clouding over rapidly. Leaving the van in a roadside parking place on West Promenade I walked along the seafront, passing Combermere Gardens and the harbour and making my turn around point the tiny St. Trillo’s Chapel on the lower promenade at Marine Drive.
Combermere Gardens is a small but attractive raised paved area overlooking the sea and incorporating a few benches and planted flower beds. In Victorian times, before the promenade linking Rhos-on-Sea to Colwyn Bay was constructed, this site was the grounds of a house known as Combermere Lodge, sometimes referred to as Combermere Cottage. The house was demolished in the early 1900s as a result of either constructing or widening that section of the promenade and the owners of the nearby Cayley Arms Hotel made a contribution towards the cost of demolishing the other buildings between there and the sea, presumably to improve the hotel’s own view.
In 1909 suggestions were made in the local press as to the best use for the site of the demolished Combermere Lodge. Some locals wanted it used for public conveniences, some for public gardens, and there was also an application made to the council to rent the land for a ‘café chantant’ which would have provided refreshments, musical entertainments, dancing and lights at night. Although this had a lot of support it also had a lot of objections and the idea was eventually abandoned.
It’s unclear what decisions were taken at the time but underground public conveniences were erected at some point, along with a basic bandstand with a small canopy, and the site was given the official name of Combermere Square, though by the advent of the Second World War the local nickname had become ‘Lavatory Square’. These public conveniences were demolished sometime after the war and curved enclosing walls with coloured glass inserts were erected around the square. These in turn were demolished in the 1990s and the current attractive raised gardens and seating were built in their place giving good views across the bay.
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Barely 7ft tall at its apex and seating just six people the tiny St. Trillo’s Chapel is thought to be the smallest church in the British Isles. It was named after St. Trillo, a 6th century saint who built his cell there, though having been heavily repaired several times over the centuries its true age is unknown. St. Trillo’s original cell was probably made of wood and wattle although he may have built a wall of stones gathered from the beach to protect the structure from winds. His decision to build his cell on that particular spot would probably have been influenced by a natural spring which provided him with drinking water; the chapel was later built around the well and for centuries this well supplied the water for baptisms across the extensive medieval parish of Llandrillo. It also had a long tradition of being a healing well and it can still be seen in front of and below the altar.
A locked wrought iron gate across the chapel entrance stopped me from going inside but the place was so small I had no difficulty in taking a couple of shots through the bars. There was a very pretty Christmas wreath attached to the gate and on the surrounding wall was a pretty Christmas plant and a collection of painted pebbles and stones left in memory of various loved ones. The chapel is still used for an Anglican Eucharist every Wednesday and though I admit to not being particularly religious, with no-one around just then it was nice to sit on the bench and spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation.
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Walking back along the promenade I came across Rhos-on-Sea’s very own version of ‘street art’, a Welsh dragon painted on the garden wall of the Cayley Flyer pub/restaurant. The pub, formerly the Cayley Arms but renamed after refurbishment in 2017, was named after the Cayley family who were once prominent landowners in the area, and several other local place names mark this influence including the Cayley Promenade with its distinctive steep grass bank on the landward side of the road.
One member of the family, Sir George Cayley, was an eminent inventor and in 1853, fifty years before the Wright brothers, he designed and built a flying machine which could carry the weight of a man. This glider, the “Cayley Flier”, flew for about 275 metres across Brompton Dale in Yorkshire before crash-landing. Sir George, who was 80 years old at the time, hadn’t wanted to risk flying the plane himself so he had ordered his coachman, John Daley, to fly it for him – after the alarming experience of the crash-landing the coachman promptly resigned. This was the first recorded flight in history in a fixed-wing aircraft and it paved the way for the Wright brothers first powered flight in 1903, though the brothers did acknowledge Sir George Cayley as being the true inventor of the aeroplane.
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I’d just got past the Cayley Flyer when it started to rain, just spits and spots at first but becoming heavier after a few minutes. With no umbrella and quite a distance still to walk to the van I dodged into a promenade shelter in the hope that the rain would soon stop, and that’s where I made what must be the silliest find of the year – left on the bench in the shelter was a bag of Tesco potatoes.
It was a bit of a mystery where they had come from as there is no Tesco in Rhos, and even though I sat in the shelter for a while no-one came to claim them. With no ‘best before’ date on the bag there was no way of knowing how long they could have been there but they looked okay so when I finally made my way back to the van I took them with me; I didn’t want them for myself but I knew someone who might be able to use them. Unfortunately it seems that when they were opened they had a funny smell so they were relegated to the bin, but it’s still a mystery as to how, when or why they came to be left in that shelter in Rhos-on-Sea.
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With no sign of any improvement in the weather it crossed my mind to go back to the camp site but there was a shop in Conwy which I particularly wanted to visit so I continued with my day out, driving round to Conwy and finding a space in a car park on the edge of the town centre. The shop I wanted to go to is featured on the Quest tv programme Salvage Hunters and I’d been in there not long after it first opened a few years ago. It would be nice to have another look round but I was destined to be disappointed as not only was the place now ‘by appointment only’ it was also closed for the Christmas and New Year period, though I did manage to get a couple of photos looking through the windows.
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Having window-shopped my way round the town, which didn’t take long as it isn’t a big place, I went to take some photos near the castle. Unfortunately the suspension bridge, designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826, was closed with railings and a locked gate barring my way; in the care of the National Trust it’s been open to pedestrians only for many years but it seems that every time I’ve been to Conwy it’s been closed so I’ve never yet managed to walk across it.

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Across the road and down on the quayside a handful of fishing boats were moored up and several jumbles of fishing baskets were piled here and there. Most were heaped in a somewhat haphazard fashion but one lot of rectangular baskets had been stacked neatly in a way similar to building a brick wall and they provided me with quite a colourful abstract-type shot.
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Further along the quay was the Smallest House in Great Britain, originally created in the 16th century to fill a gap between two previously built rows of cottages. With the side wall of each end cottage and the back wall being part of the town wall’s central tower an enterprising builder realised all that was needed to create another house was the front wall and a roof. Over the years the house was home to many different people including a painter, a widow, a master mariner and his wife, a coachman and a fisherman and in 1891 it was bought for £20 by Robert Jones, a land owner who lived further along the quay. A copy of the conveyance hangs on a wall in the house, showing that for that price he not only bought the house but also acquired a sitting tenant with it, another Robert Jones. Robert Jones (the tenant) was 6ft 3ins tall but somehow continued to live in the Smallest House until 1900 when the local Corporation inspector declared it and the cottages to the left of it unfit for habitation.
Unhappy about the potential loss of rental income from the Smallest House Robert Jones (the owner) and his friend Roger Dawson, editor of the North Wales Weekly News, took a tour of the UK to measure other small houses in an effort to declare the Conwy house the smallest in Great Britain and thus save it from being demolished. Having established that it was indeed the smallest the Corporation agreed that it could be saved from demolition and opened instead as a tourist attraction. The Guinness Book of Records confirmed its status as the Smallest House in Great Britain in the early 1920s.
Measuring just 6ft across, 10ft deep and 10ft 2ins high the house has a single cramped bedroom upstairs and a downstairs living area with a water tap, an open coal fire and very basic cooking facilities. It has remained in the ownership of Robert Jones’ family ever since Jones himself bought it and is currently owned by his great, great granddaughter. It’s open to visitors daily from early spring until late autumn, with a lady in Welsh national dress standing outside, but due to structural instability the upstairs can only be viewed from a step ladder.
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While I’d been looking round the shops earlier on I’d also been looking for a cafe where I could get a coffee and a simple snack but most places didn’t seem to offer what I was looking for, however I did find one where I would be able to get a toasted sandwich. It wasn’t to be though as no sooner had I got through the door than I was told rather abruptly by the young woman behind the counter “Sorry, we’re full!” even though there were several empty tables in evidence. So after photographing the Smallest House I got fish and peas from a nearby chippy and took them back to the van.
As I was on my way back there I came across a window display which somehow I’d missed before. It was the most adorable nativity scene made up of felt mice and a few other little animals, so cute that I just had to take a photo looking through the glass. That was my last shot of the day and after demolishing my fish and peas, which were very good, I set off back to the camp site.
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It was unfortunate that the promising sunshine of the morning had been replaced by grey clouds and rain but I’d still enjoyed my day even though my photos at Conwy had to be taken from under the shelter of my umbrella – and seeing the mouse nativity scene just ended my day out nicely.

At long last, a decent dog walk

After what seems like weeks of constantly dull grey days and interminably wet weather culminating in storm whatever-it-was-called and a couple of days of (fortunately very short-lived) snow showers, Thursday two days ago was absolutely glorious. Now the dogs are like me, they hate wet weather and their recent walks have been relegated to ’round the block’ or even just ’round the garden’ if it’s been really bad, so Thursday’s sunshine and blue sky was a good opportunity to finally get out for a decent local walk.
Across the nearby park was Smithills Open Farm with the two farm dogs sunning themselves behind some newly installed railings, then along the lane I came to the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall, although with no leaves on the trees it isn’t exactly hidden just now. In a corner of the lawns Little Bess’s grave contained the remains of just one artificial plant and across the far side two ladies, both wearing red coats, were sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine.
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There’s only one thing wrong with taking the camera on a local walk which I’ve done several times previously – the photos I take are almost the same as the ones I took before and the ones before that, but it was such a lovely day I hadn’t wanted to leave the camera behind. The path alongside what had been the old garden centre boundary wall was covered in russet coloured leaves, soggy from all the recent rain, and at the far end of the nearby field two ponies, one rugged up against the cold weather, mooched about quietly minding their own business.
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Beyond the field the path crossed a narrow brook and joined up with three other paths; from there I could see across 16 miles to the city centre high rises of Manchester, including the ugly Beetham Tower, and I could even make out the red and white Printworks sign. The shortest route from there would have been straight on but I took the path on the right which meandered down and round the edge of a small area of woodland before joining up with the far end of one of the other paths.
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From there it was just a 5-minute walk through the nearby farm yard and down a short lane to the main road then ten minutes down the hill and I was back in my own street. It had been good to get out into the fresh air and though it was cold the sunshine and blue sky had made it a very enjoyable walk.

Mooching round Morecambe

The morning after my bank holiday visit to Hest Bank and various points north I was back on the M6 again with plans to visit Morecambe and Heysham, however the weather gods decided in their wisdom that they would screw things up for me. I’d looked on the live webcams before leaving home and seen cloudless blue sky and sunshine but in the hour it took me to get there a fair amount of fluffy white clouds had appeared though it was still sunny.
Parking right at the north end of the promenade my first port of call was Happy Mount Park, though first I wanted to look at the nearby Venus and Cupid sculpture. I’d previously seen photos of it on other blogs and personally thought it looked ugly so I wanted to see it ‘in the flesh’. Sculpted by Shane A Johnstone it was originally intended to be sited at St. Georges Quay in Lancaster but was erected at Scalestone Point, Morecambe, in 2005.
In 2011 the artist threatened to destroy the sculpture as the local council was unwilling to pay for its insurance and upkeep so in 2012 the Venus & Cupid Arts Trust was formed to raise money for its purchase. Thanks to public donations enough money was raised in three years to cover the cost and in September 2015 it was taken over by the Trust. During the winter of 2017/2018 frost caused some of the mosaic tiles to fall off so in November 2018 it was moved temporarily into Morecambe’s Arndale Centre for repairs; the sculptor replaced the missing tiles with gold leaf to accentuate the repairs rather than hide them and the sculpture was returned to the sea front in June 2019.
Seeing the sculpture up close did little to change my opinion. I still thought it was ugly, and the name Venus & Cupid seems to bear no relation to what it actually is, however the colours did look quite attractive and my photo of it seemed to make it look better than in real life.
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Looking south from Scalestone Point

Across the road and a couple of hundred yards away was the entrance to Happy Mount Park and straight away I could see things had changed from when I visited last September. Back then most of the flower beds were unkempt and untidy but now laid out with summer plants they looked really colourful, and wandering round the park it seemed as though most of it, especially the children’s areas, had undergone a fairly recent makeover. Unfortunately after a while the weather decided to make a change and the fluffy white clouds joined together to obliterate the sun, resulting in what I call ‘the dreaded white sky’, so I decided to return to the van.
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Abandoning my plan to go to Heysham I drove down to the car park near the Midland Hotel and had a mooch round the stalls in the Festival Market then went to Rita’s Cafe nearby for a snack lunch, hoping that the day would soon brighten up again. Unfortunately it didn’t, and though there was still some blue sky over the bay the sun stayed stubbornly behind the clouds, making my photos very dull, so I had a wander round by the fairground and the gardens then cut my losses and set off for home.
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I did actually take a lot more photos along the promenade but they deserve a post of their own so I’m saving them for another time. Tomorrow I’m off on my travels again for another ten days at the quiet camp site in Cumbria where I stayed not long ago – no internet access means no blog posts so there’ll be lots to come when I get back.

Postcards and pictures

The constantly cloudy and rainy weather which has blighted most of this month has ensured that since my last post I haven’t really been anywhere to walk the dogs or take any photos. Yesterday’s plan was a visit to Manchester as I have a theme in mind for a couple of blog posts but to get the best shots I need at least some  blue sky and sunshine and that just wasn’t happening, it rained on and off all day.
Being forced by the weather to stay close to home I’ve spent some of my spare time over the last few days concentrating on my Postcrossing hobby and via the internet I’ve bought several bundles of unused postcards. On Friday I received a bundle of 100 cards featuring pictures of commemorative stamps issued by the Post Office over the years, they are all mint condition/new/unused and include several sets with a common theme. They are all really lovely cards so in the absence of a Monday walk I’ve scanned a few of my favourites to put on here.
The first set of five wildlife cards were reproduced from stamps issued by the Post Office in October 1977, while the second set of five rose cards are from stamps issued by the Royal Mail in July 1991.
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The set of four Food and Farming cards were individually titled ‘Fruit and Vegetables’ ‘Meat’ ‘Dairy Produce’ and ‘Cereals’ and were reproduced from stamps issued by the Royal Mail in March 1989, while the individual card was reproduced from a stamp issued in October 1983 which commemorated the early trade and produce fair British Fairs.
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The next card is my favourite from a set of four, reproduced from the Studio Pottery series of stamps issued in October 1987, while the zebra is a particularly striking card from a bundle of 100 random mint condition/new modern contemporary cards.
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And finally, a painted picture rather than a postcard. A while ago I was en route to somewhere a few miles away when I passed a large warehouse selling both new and refurbished furniture, appliances, household items, bric-a-brac and just about anything else you can think of. It’s one of those places that’s good for a mooch round even if you don’t want anything, and as I’ve been looking for a new treadmill I popped in on the off-chance they might have something. Unfortunately I didn’t find a treadmill but I did find a lovely little painting so bright and colourful I just had to have it, especially as there are some cute little cats in it.
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Obviously I don’t know where the painting originally came from or if the artist is local, and I doubt the guy in the store would know, but it’s exceptionally well done and it looked to be new so I was glad I found it. I haven’t put it up on a wall yet as I haven’t found quite the right place for it but I’ll find a home for it eventually; meanwhile it’s propped up on the unit near my pc so at least I can see it while I’m typing.
 

Wednesday walk – keeping it local

I hadn’t originally intended to post this walk as there’s nothing special about it and it’s also one I featured in 2018, however with the recent constantly cloudy and rainy weather keeping me close to home I haven’t really taken the dogs anywhere worth photographing or writing about.
I walked this route for the first time this year on a lovely sunny day during the Easter weekend then did the same walk again yesterday to get some contrasting photos now the trees have fully come to life, although this time the sky was also contrasting. Clear blue in one direction but grey and cloudy in another it certainly gave me some different shots, though several times I had to contend with the sun disappearing just at the wrong moment.
Ten minutes walk through the avenues close to home brought me to the playing fields at the secondary school where I once worked as a supervisor, and close to one corner was a tree which, for some unknown reason, I’ve had a particular liking for over the years. Another few minutes brought me to the garden at the side of the Grade ll listed pavilion, once the home of a local tennis club established in 1923 but now owned by a local micro brewery since 1995, then round the corner was the top of Yew Tree Lane and an enclosed area of spare land housing what I can only describe as a large Hobbit house. Shed, garage, workshop? – whatever its purpose it was almost completely covered in trees, with only the door being visible.
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At the bottom of the lane was Yew Tree Cottage, now hardly visible through the leafy tree branches, and a footpath leading past the cottage’s extensive garden to a bridge over Eagley Brook. At the far side of the bridge I went down to the riverside yesterday, the first time I’ve ever been down there, although I couldn’t go very far before I had to go back to the path.
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Back above the river the path took me steeply uphill to the cobbled lane leading past the side of Hall i’th Wood museum, and fastening the dog leads to the museum gates at Easter I was able to get a shot of Snowy and Poppie together, although it took several attempts as Snowy wouldn’t stand still. Going round to what was once the front of the museum I took a few shots in the parkland, though in a huge contrast to Easter the sky yesterday looked ominously dark over the distant Winter Hill.
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Back on the cobbled lane I followed it down past the boundary wall of a local business premises partially hidden by the trees then along a short path above the river to another bridge and a second cobbled lane leading up to the main road. At the top of the lane and set back off the road was a small triangle of land which displayed some lovely daffodils at Easter, then just beyond it was Watermillock, once a gentleman’s country mansion house set in extensive grounds.
Constructed between 1882 and 1886 for Thomas Thwaites, one half of Eden and Thwaites bleachworks owners, it was subsequently inhabited by local mill owner T M Hesketh and his family, then after ending its days as a private residence it became a military hospital in WW1, run by the Red Cross for pilots with horrific burns and other serious injuries. In 1937 the house was used as a hostel for refugee children evacuated from Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War, though they only stayed for about a year before going back home to Spain.
In subsequent years Watermillock became an old people’s home and also acted as a subsidiary to the local hospitals’ laundry; it stayed as an old people’s home into the 1990s when it was finally closed, and eventually it was converted by Banks’s Brewery into a restaurant with function rooms, though for the last few years it’s been a Toby Carvery.
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From Watermillock it was all road walking to get back home though zig-zagging though various avenues on both days gave me the opportunity to photograph several colourful shrubs and trees in different gardens along the way.
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So there you have it, the same walk on two different days, it’s just a shame that yesterday’s blue sky was interrupted by varying degrees of cloud though the dogs enjoyed the walk anyway. Fingers crossed there will soon be lots of blue sky and sunshine to come and we will be able to explore other places not quite so close to home.

Sunrise through the trees

Just for a change there’s no Monday walk this week but it isn’t for the want of trying. After a very frosty early morning yesterday it was gloriously sunny and with just enough fluffy white cloud to make the blue sky interesting so at lunch time I decided to take the short drive to a fairly local reservoir which I haven’t been to for a while. Now this place is basically in the middle of nowhere with a car park close to the dam, accessed from a ‘B’ road by a lane only just about wide enough for two cars to pass and with a steep bend a couple of hundred yards before the dam – and that’s where I began to wish I hadn’t bothered leaving home.
Just before the bend I ended up at the back of a line of stationary cars with another line of cars trying to squeeze past from the opposite direction. It seemed that the car park was full and people were turning round at the bottom of the hill, creating havoc because the lane was so narrow; added to that someone about four cars behind me had decided to pull into what he thought was an offshoot on the right, which wasn’t, and he was blocking the road so for quite a while no-one was going anywhere.
Eventually two very helpful young men got out of their car and started directing all the other cars round each other to clear the blockage and finally, with the cars in front of me having managed to get down the hill and with nothing else coming up, I had a clear run down to the car park. I’d mentally counted the cars coming up the hill, which were more than the number having gone down in front of me, so I was hopeful I would be able to get a space, however it wasn’t to be.
To get into the car park meant making a sharp right turn on an angle but several cars were parked inconsiderately on the lane opposite the entrance and with other cars coming out there was no way I could get my slightly-larger-than-normal mpv in there, so I carried on across the dam in the hope that I could park on the far side. That was impossible too, cars were parked along the lane for a hundred yards or so and with nowhere to turn round I just had to carry on. The lane ended in a dirt track and a ‘Private road – access only’ sign, however I had a good idea of where I would end up so to hell with it, that’s the way I was going.
The track was full of deep water-filled pot holes so it was a very bumpy ride but eventually I arrived at an out-of-the-way gastro-pub and a proper tarmac lane which took me past a nearby country station and across the top end of a second reservoir to the outskirts of a nearby village. My problems weren’t over however as this was another narrow lane and not far from the main road through the village I encountered another car coming in the opposite direction; with no room to get past and several cars behind me there was nothing I could do. Eventually the other driver decided to reverse back to the main road, as did the two drivers who had arrived behind him, and finally I was free to continue.
Driving back towards home the main road took me past the ‘B’ road to the reservoir I’d originally planned on going to so not being one to give up easily Plan B swung into action and I went back along that road. A second attempt at getting down the narrow lane to the car park would be sheer lunacy so I decided to drive past the lane and park on the road – except I couldn’t. Car after car after car and almost bumper to bumper, they were parked along the road for nearly two miles. It was unbelievable – where had all these cars and people come from? I’ve been round that reservoir and woodland several times in the last few years and even on a sunny weekend in the middle of summer it’s never been that bad. By the time I found a reasonable space I was a long way from where I wanted to be so I gave up completely, turned down a nearby main road and headed for home – an hour and twenty minutes in the van and I’d ended up right back where I started from, at my own front gate.
The dogs did finally get their walk but only round the nearby park which isn’t very exciting so there are no photos of that one. Instead I’m including a few shots I took three weeks ago as I was on my way to work early one morning. The colours of a lovely sunrise were just spreading across the sky as I drove down the lane to the works premises so leaving the van in the car park I walked back for a short distance and took a few shots through the trees. The sunrise promised a lovely day ahead but unfortunately it wasn’t to be; once full daylight arrived the sky turned grey and stayed like that, with just a very watery sun showing briefly and intermittently through the clouds.
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Apart from being resized and sharpened just a touch these shots haven’t been edited in any other way – the colours of the sunrise are just as I took them. Sometimes I think nature paints some wonderful pictures.

A winter walk through Wilton Quarry

After overnight snow on Friday and more of the same on Saturday morning it finally came nice at lunch time so with plenty of blue sky and sunshine I took myself off for a walk. Not wanting to go too far from home I decided to go to Wilton Quarry, just a mile up the road and somewhere I’ve never been in the snow, though knowing it would probably be very wet and muddy up there I left the dogs behind.
Fifteen minutes walk up the road and reaching open fields with one of my favourite views I crossed over to take a couple of snaps and it was soon after that when things went rapidly downhill. Not only did the sun disappear behind a huge bank of cloud but I got the most unexpected and unwelcome surprise when a car driver deliberately – and I mean deliberately – drove his 4 x 4 at speed through a huge puddle by the side of the road and drenched the front of me literally from head to foot in a wave of slushy snow and water; I was soaked.
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The start of the quarry up ahead

Only a mile from home I could quite easily have gone back to get changed but in view of the sky clouding over somewhat I knew if I did that I wouldn’t want to set out again so I decided to carry on; the climb up through the quarry and a brisk walk along the road from the top would stop me from getting cold.
The path into the quarry was more of a stream than a path and I was glad I had my wellies on, though as I got further into the quarry itself it did get better. That was until I got up to the next level where I had to pick my way cautiously through clumps of waterlogged muddy grass and several pools of ankle deep water, though the path from there to the top, although steep, was fairly dry and after the most strenuous part of the climb I reached the stone memorial seat known as Aileen’s Bench.
Unfortunately the drenching I’d got down at the roadside hadn’t only affected my clothes and hair. Some bits of slush had also got down into my bag and in spite of keeping the lens cover on the camera I found that somehow the lens itself had spots on it. I had nothing to wipe it with only my wet jacket sleeve so I took my photos as I went along, wiping the lens before each one, and just hoped for the best.
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The view from Aileen’s Bench with mist in the distance

Walking along the road from the top of the quarry I decided to have a look round Bryan Hey fishing lake where I should be able to get some nice snowy shots but when I got there I found that both entrances off the road had been fenced off, so I retraced my steps a couple of hundred yards and set off across the fields towards Horrocks Wood. By that time things had brightened up considerably and I got a reasonable shot of the moon in a bright blue sky.
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As I’d been walking through the fields my left foot had gradually been feeling rather damp and by the time I’d reached the pyramid stone near Horrocks Farm it felt positively wet; the snow from my drenching must have gone further down my wellie than I first thought. Someone must have lost a dog lead recently too as there was an orange one draped over the pyramid stone; with a shot of the stone and a nearby corner just off the path I made my way down through the farm yard and down the lane to the main road where I headed back for home and a much needed change of clothes.
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When I finally came to take my wellies off I realised why my foot had suddenly become so damp and it was nothing to do with the drenching I got. The wellie had split at the back near the ankle and the snow had obviously seeped through the lining and into my sock; fortunately I do have another pair of wellies but I’ll still get some new ones when I can.
As for photos, the ones on here are the best out of a total of 30, and all the shots from the start of the quarry path up to the moon shot have had to be drastically cropped and edited to get rid of the worst of the blurred bits. Strangely though, the moon shot and those following it all came out perfectly clear so maybe, even with a very damp sleeve, my continual lens wiping had eventually helped. I’m just glad though that the camera had been in my bag when I got soaked – if it had been round my neck I could have had a bigger problem than a few spots on the lens.

Looking back – 2020

As another year draws to a close it’s time for me to look back on some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. With dull grey days and almost incessant rain January was very much a ‘nothing’ type of month; good walks and outdoor photography were out of the question and not just because of the weather. Early in the month, and for no apparent reason, little Sophie suffered a debilitating stroke so all my time and attention was devoted to caring for her and helping her to recover in the best way I could.
February was a particularly sad month. In spite of medication and all my care and attention, after almost five weeks of constant nursing and a lovely morning when I really did think Sophie was going to recover she sadly slipped quietly away while sleeping in her bed at the side of mine – the grief and feelings of loss were overwhelming and it hurt like hell that I didn’t get the chance to hold her one last time and tell her how much I loved her. She was buried in a corner of the garden close to Sugar and I always keep a plant of some sort on her little patch. Later that month a break in the weather gave me a sunny Sunday when I was able to visit Hornby Castle to see the snowdrops; under normal circumstances Sophie would have been with me so it was an afternoon out done very much in her memory and after several weeks of not being able to go anywhere it was good to be out for a few hours.
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After my sunny afternoon at Hornby Castle the rain was back and my planned visit to see the snowdrops at Lytham Hall didn’t happen until the beginning of March. By then most of the snowdrops were over but it was still an enjoyable visit. Just a week later I spent a very enjoyable time looking round Lark Hill Place, a reconstructed late Victorian street set within Salford Museum & Art Gallery, followed by looking round the museum itself. It was a grey and very chilly day but by the middle of the month the weather turned sunny again and much warmer, and I managed another couple of visits to Lytham before my freedom was curtailed by various restrictions.
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The good weather which arrived mid March continued into April, getting warmer all the time, and I discovered a few different local walks which I could take right from my own front door. On my Easter walk I was lucky enough to see a small herd of deer in a field not too far from home, on another local walk which I’ve done many times before I came across two adult llamas with two young ones in a paddock at the open farm near home and a walk round the Jumbles reservoir gave me the unexpected sighting of a jay, the first time I’ve ever seen one.
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The first few days of May saw the previously lovely weather turning back to rain but as I was in pain from a pulled muscle in my back I couldn’t go anywhere anyway. Neither the rain nor the pain lasted very long though, the warm sunny weather soon returned and I was back to walking again, both locally and further afield once various restrictions were relaxed. Local walks included Barrow Bridge and a quarry I’d never been to before then during the spring bank holiday I walked along Skippool Creek and a short section of the Lancaster Canal.
The last day of the month, which was probably one of the hottest so far, saw me walking round a gorgeous section of the River Lune at Caton, a place which was completely new to me but which I’ll certainly return to. May was also the month when Poppie slipped her lead on a Jumbles walk and ran into the water after some ducks, giving me several heart-stopping minutes when she wouldn’t come back, and Michael promised to order a pizza for tea one day but gave me a sausage roll instead.
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The arrival of June brought more lovely hot weather and my birthday and a few days later, while strimming the long grass in the back garden, I had the lovely surprise of finding an Elephant Hawk moth, something which I’d never seen before and which prompted me to leave an area of the garden uncut to encourage other forms of wildlife to visit. I had a couple of afternoons in Manchester and walks away from home that month were along the Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal and round three different parts of Heysham – the nature reserve and Half Moon Bay, neither of which I’d been to before, plus the village itself. I also went just a short drive from home and walked from the lake at Brinscall to the village of White Coppice.
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There was a deterioration in the weather at the beginning of July and the first few days were damp and grey but it didn’t last long and the sunshine was soon back. Early in the month I got wind of a new street art installation on the side of an old mill building in town and the middle of the month saw me returning to White Coppice as part of a walk from Heapey, during which I was lucky enough to see two damsel flies at close quarters. Towards the end of the month I took a drive to Morecambe and walked quite a long distance along the promenade from south to north and back again. July was also the month when Michael decided to rearrange his room and I opened the door to find a scene of utter chaos with furniture and stuff all over the place, though it wasn’t long before everything was tidy again.
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The early days of August saw lots of patchy cloud covering the blue skies and though it meant changing my plans a couple of times as I needed clear skies for the photos I wanted to get it didn’t stop me from going out. A look round the big car boot sale at St. Michael’s was followed by a walk along part of the River Wyre and a look in the nearby church then later in the month I had days out to Knott End and Fleetwood, where I went to photograph the old wrecked boats on the marshes before looking round Fleetwood itself. August was also the month when I picked up the wrong sandwich from a shop near work one day and discovered that I definitely don’t  like jalapeno mayo.
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The last few days of August sent a storm which put down some quite torrential rain but by the beginning of September the weather had cleared again. Early in the month I took the 35-minute drive to see the Singing Ringing Tree near Burnley and this was followed a few days later by a walk along the Lancaster Canal at Garstang, then the 12th saw the start of a 2-week stay-cation when the weather was so good I was hardly at home. As well as various local walks I also visited two churches (one local and one which I’ve still to write about) walked along another section of the Lancaster Canal, went to Corporation Park in Blackburn to find the Colourfields panopticon, had an afternoon in Southport with Michael, enjoyed a day in Kirkby Lonsdale and had a day out in Morecambe which included a ‘behind the scenes’ tour at the Winter Gardens Theatre.
Towards the end of the month and on what would have been Sophie’s birthday Snowy came to my attention, and two days later she came to live with me. Initially a timid, scared, unsocialised little scrap she gradually came out of her shell and has turned into a funny, affectionate and mischievous little character. Call it fate, coincidence or what you will but as Snowy’s arrival coincided with Sophie’s birthday I sometimes think that she was actually sent by Sophie to help fill the space in my heart and my home which Sophie herself left behind.
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The good weather continued into the first couple of days of October and just a week after I got Snowy I took her for her first long walk, four miles along a section of the Leeds/Liverpool Canal. The weather went rapidly downhill straight after that and though most mornings started off with sunshine it was guaranteed to be raining by 9.30am, rain which would last for the rest of each day. Dog walks were kept to a minimum and I only went round the local avenues, with the canal walk being the last proper non-local walk which I did. Also the 9th of the month saw this blog becoming four years old.
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The rain continued into November though there was a very brief break one day in the middle of the month and I came out of work that morning to blue sky and sunshine so I left the van there and went for a walk round the nearby Jumbles to try to catch some late autumn colour before it all disappeared. 
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Unfortunately the sunshine didn’t last and the rain returned the following day, lasting right into this month and almost up to Christmas, though there was just one day early in the month when it did come nice enough to do another local walk and discover somewhere I’d never been before. 
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I had all my Christmas shopping done and dusted several days beforehand so I didn’t have to dash round Asda at the last minute and Christmas itself was a very quiet affair with just the two of us. Michael only really got one full day though as he was back at work on Boxing Day, whereas I’ve been off from my job since the 23rd and don’t go back until January 4th so I’m enjoying the rest. I still have a handful of this year’s posts to write yet though so if anyone wants me I’ll be in my usual place – here at my pc.