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.

Autumn round the Jumbles

This week’s Monday walk is a local one which I did a couple of weeks ago after I left work one morning. After what seemed like weeks of interminable rain with only the odd bit of sunshine here and there I came out of work to a sunny morning and blue sky so I decided to leave the van there and take a walk round the nearby Jumbles reservoir to catch what was left of the autumn colour before it all disappeared.
Unfortunately the blue sky didn’t stay as clear as I would have liked and by the time I got to Ousel Nest Meadows banks of grey/white clouds were gathering. I briefly thought about abandoning my walk but decided not to, and though it wasn’t one of the better walks I’ve done round there I still got several reasonably good photos when the sky turned blue again.

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Cottages on the lane to the Jumbles

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A splash of colour in someone’s garden

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Ousel Nest Meadows

Heading down the hill towards the reservoir dam I could hear the water before I saw it; when I was last round there in late May it was flowing normally from the overflow pipe but this time it was positively gushing out as a result of all the recent rain.
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By the time I’d got to the top of the long steep incline at the far side of the dam the blue sky was back and it stayed with me until I got to the far side of the bridge at the end of the reservoir, although the sunshine itself wasn’t exactly bright. Leaving the reservoir briefly I walked a short way along the riverside path to the waterfall where I came across a couple of people fishing, then back on the bridge I took a couple of shots of the old quarry. Unlike late May, when several weeks of warm sunny weather had rendered the quarry so dry I could walk along the bottom of it, this time it was completely full and looked totally different.
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Across the bridge the trees were more dense in spite of having lost their leaves; the path veered away from the water so open views were few, and with the sun having disappeared again things looked a lot less interesting than when I’d been there earlier in the year.
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Walking through the nearby stable yard I came across a pretty shrub, presumably evergreen but a lot of the leaves were red, and the steep bank at the side of the lane was a carpet of russet coloured leaves. A squirrel darted across the lane just ahead of me and ran up a tree but he disappeared too quickly for me to get a photo of him.
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Farther along the lane were a couple of open fields where horses usually graze and in the corner of one of them, shaded by the bare branches of two trees, was a small pond. Across from the fields were the gateways and enclosed gardens of four large detached houses and my last shot was taken looking back down the lane before heading back to collect my van from work.
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I’ve walked round the Jumbles many times over the years and always enjoyed it but this time it wasn’t as good as usual. Maybe it was because the sky kept clouding over, or maybe the lack of leaves on the trees reminded me that winter, a season I don’t particularly like, wasn’t far off. Whatever the reason, next time I do that walk it will be in summer on a warm day with wall-to-wall blue sky and sunshine.

MV Carrier – a ship on the rocks

Situated on the hillside high above the A55 Expressway at Llanddulas, to the north of Colwyn Bay in North Wales, is the limestone-producing Raynes Quarry. Stone from the quarry is transported by conveyor belts crossing above the nearby railway line and under the A55 to Raynes Jetty where it’s loaded into coastal freighters for taking to other parts of the British Isles.
On the evening of Tuesday April 3rd 2012 the Bahamas registered 269ft long cargo ship MV Carrier, having collected about 1,700 tons of limestone from the quarry, was hit by force-9 winds and five-metre swells and ran aground on the rocks and concrete sea defences near the jetty, breaching its hull in three places. In an operation involving two helicopters and two lifeboats launched into a full gale and rough seas all seven uninjured Polish crew were rescued, with police closing a section of the A55 for public safety and to allow the helicopters to land and take off.
A few days later it was the Easter weekend and while camping at a lovely site less than three miles north of Llanddulas I drove down the A55 on a day out from the site. I could see the tops of the ship’s masts as I went past its location but that’s all I could see so I decided that on the way back I would try to find it and get some photos. It wasn’t an easy task as I had to park up and walk quite a distance along the coastal cycle path, also a 100-metre exclusion zone had been placed round the ship’s immediate area and police and officials were everywhere, but by walking up to the top of a steep grassy outcrop and down the far side I managed to bypass the barriers and the blue-and-white ‘Police Crime Scene’ tape and get to a spot where I had a good view of the ship.
After an inspection of the ship and a structural assessment revealed severe damage the German shipping company who owned and managed it declared it ‘a constructive total loss’. Salvage crews were called in to remove 24,000 litres of fuel, work which had already started when I shot my photos, then the Carrier was to be cut up on site into manageable sections which would be taken by road to a designated scrap yard.
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Keeping off the A55 I headed back to the camp site along a road which took me past Raynes Quarry on the hillside and on the spur of the moment I decided to try and see the Carrier from up above. Unfortunately the roadside wall was too high for me to see over but a short walk through a nearby small housing estate led me to a spot on the hillside almost directly above the ship. My view was partially obscured by the branches of various shrubs and bushes but I was still able to take a reasonable photo. 
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The fuel removal operation was completed on April 9th and demolition of the ship started immediately afterwards with the work expected to take about six weeks depending on various safety and weather conditions. Unfortunately I was unable to revisit the area for any more photo opportunities so I’ve pinched a couple of superb shots of the Carrier during demolition from another blog I read.
Twelve months after the ship’s grounding a critical report by the Marine Accident Investigation Board raised questions about the experience and guidance of the quarry’s jetty operators, adding that staff allowed the Carrier to continue loading in spite of the bad weather conditions. The ship’s owners also criticised the quarry operators for not giving the crew appropriate advice, and following the report the company no longer sends ships to Raynes Jetty.


A wander round Fleetwood

Following the very pleasant couple of hours I recently spent at Fleetwood Nature Reserve and the marshes I drove the short distance into Fleetwood itself to have a wander round there. Parking spaces along the seafront were all occupied so I went along to the large car park near the Marine Hall expecting to pay and was quite surprised to find it was free; leaving the van there I went through to the traffic free promenade and walked back in the opposite direction, eventually ending up back on the main seafront road.

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Painted pebbles along the beach wall

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Set back in a corner of the esplanade was the Beach Lighthouse, also known as the Lower Lighthouse. Commissioned by Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the landowner, developer and MP who founded the town, it was designed in 1839 by Decimus Burton, one of the foremost English architects and urban designers of the 19th century. Built of sandstone and 44ft tall its style is neoclassical with a square colonnaded base, square tower, and octagonal lantern gallery. First illuminated on December 1st 1840 it was originally run off the town’s gas supply before later being converted to electricity. It was designated a Grade ll listed building in April 1950.
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A bit farther along the promenade was ‘Welcome Home’, a bronze life size sculpture of a mother with her baby, daughter and family dog designed as a tribute to the families who would welcome back the ships bringing their loved ones home after several weeks of deep sea fishing. Sculpted by artist Anita Lafford it was sponsored by the Lofthouse Company, makers of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, and unveiled in 1997. Unfortunately shooting directly into the sun meant that my photo wasn’t as good as it could have been.

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A few yards along from there was the Fishing Community Memorial and farther on still was the Helicopter Crash Memorial. On December 27th 2006 a helicopter with two crew was ferrying five gas rig workers between platforms beyond Morecambe Bay when it crashed into the sea, killing everyone on board. Rescue efforts recovered the bodies of six men, including the two pilots, and they were brought back to shore at Fleetwood by RNLI lifeboat crew. The body of the seventh victim was never recovered.
An investigation into the crash started the same night as the accident and the subsequent formal report stated that ‘human factors’ were the cause of the crash. Sandra Potton, wife of the pilot Steve Potton, chose the spot near Fleetwood lifeboat station for the lectern-style memorial and met the cost of it herself.

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Fishing Community memorial

Helicopter crash memorial

A short distance down a side road off the promenade was the Pharos Lighthouse, otherwise known as the Upper Lighthouse. Also designed by Decimus Burton and with a height of 93ft it was, like the Lower Lighthouse, first illuminated on December 1st 1840 and ran off the town’s gas supply before being converted to electricity. Operating in conjunction with its sister lighthouse it guides shipping safely through the treacherous sandbanks of the Wyre estuary. Unusually for a functioning lighthouse it stands in the middle of a residential street and was once a striking cream and red colour but in the late 1970s the paint was stripped off to expose the original sandstone.
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Back on the seafront I had a wander down by the side of what must be Fleetwood’s one and only amusement arcade just to see what was down there and came to a long concrete path running above the riverside and past several jetties. With nothing of interest to see I didn’t bother walking along but there were some good views across the river to Knott End on the other side.

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Cottages at Knott End

On the seafront once more I crossed the road into Euston Park situated on a corner plot between the esplanade and the large North Euston Hotel. Not really big enough to call a proper park it was more of a large garden but it was a very pleasant place; the obelisk in the centre bears a plaque with the inscription ‘Erected by public subscription to the memory of James Abram and George Greenall who lost their lives in the storm of November 1890 whilst heroically endeavouring to save others’.
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Heading south along the esplanade my next port of call was the boating lake and model yacht pond but I remembered they were quite a distance down so I collected the van and drove down, just managing to find a space in a small car park between the road and the yacht pond. A bridge between the boating lake and the yacht pond took me to the beach and dunes; the view was nice enough but there was nothing else there so with just one shot I retraced my steps for a walk by the side of the yacht pond before going back to the van – it was time to head for home.
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Driving back along the esplanade there was just one more place I wanted to check out before I left Fleetwood completely. About twenty years ago I’d gone with someone else to what was then Freeport Leisure, a large shopping ‘village’ on the outskirts of the town; I hadn’t been there since but I remembered there was a marina there so I went to take a quick look. Apparently the place has undergone a few changes over the years and is now known as Affinity Outlet Lancashire; for some reason it didn’t seem to be as big as I remembered but that could just be my mind playing tricks. It was a pleasant enough place though and I got a handful of shots before I finally set off for home.
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By the time I’d reached the shopping village the sky had clouded over a fair bit but the sun was still shining and it stayed with me all the way back home. It had been an interesting and enjoyable day out but with Poppie now curled up in her bed it was time to grab a chilled can of Coke from the fridge and relax for a while.

Riverdance wreck – a disaster and a tourist attraction

While writing about the Fleetwood wrecks the other day I remembered that somewhere in my archives I had some photos of a much more recent wreck so I looked them out and did some research which proved to be very interesting. Unfortunately due to cloudy weather and safety restrictions at the time my own photos aren’t exactly brilliant so for the purposes of this post I’ve pinched a few from the internet.
Built in 1977 and initially named Mashala the ro-ro (roll on/roll off) cargo ship was registered in Nassau, Bahamas, and operated first in the Mediterranean then in the Caribbean, the North Sea and the Irish Sea. After several name changes over the years and being chartered to different companies it was bought by Seatruck Ferries in 1997 and renamed Riverdance, sailing a regular route to and from Heysham in Lancashire and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.

MS Riverdance – photo from Wikipedia

At 7.30pm on January 31st 2008, while carrying 54 trailers, 19 crew and 4 passengers and sailing through rain, high winds and rough seas en route to Heysham, the Riverdance was broadsided by a huge wave causing the cargo to shift. This in turn made the ferry lean slightly to one side but before it could right itself a second wave slammed into it, the cargo in the trailers became loose and the ship developed a 45 degree lean. After the main port engine failed Riverdance began drifting south; it was only seven miles from the Lancashire coast so at 7.40pm the captain asked Liverpool Coastguard for tug assistance but conditions rapidly worsened; some of the trailers broke free and slid across the deck and with the ship now listing at 60 degrees a mayday call was sent out.
Helicopters from the RAF, Royal Navy and Irish Coast Guard were dispatched, along with lifeboats from Fleetwood and Lytham while two oil rig support vessels and a tanker also made their way there to assist if necessary. Those on board were told they would be evacuated though one of the passengers, a trucker who was bringing his lorry back from its regular run to Northern Ireland, made what he thought then was the final phone call home to his wife to say goodbye.
Before evacuating the engine room one of the crew managed to start the machinery used to steady a listing ship and it reduced the lean to 20 degrees, then starting at 9pm the four passengers and eight non-essential crew were winched to safety by a helicopter crew from Anglesey in some of the hardest flying conditions they had ever experienced. After the second main engine failed Riverdance drifted into shallow water off the Fylde coast and bumped along the seabed, then at 10.50pm during a second winching operation which evacuated six more crew it grounded on Cleveleys beach at right angles to the promenade.
With Riverdance finally settled upright on the sand the remaining nine crew prepared to refloat at the next rising tide but all attempts to get the ship off the beach failed and it came to a stop, listing again and with all power finally lost. After a second mayday call the captain and remaining crew were winched to safety and at 5.15am on February 1st the Riverdance was finally abandoned. Of the 23 people on board no-one was injured although two of them suffered mild hypothermia and were checked over at Blackpool hospital as a precaution, and the trucker who had phoned his wife to say goodbye was able to phone her again to say he was safe.

Riverdance soon after beaching – photo from VisitCleveleys online

The bad weather continued for a while after Riverdance beached and the trailers on board started to spill their contents into the sea. The first thing that came off was a consignment of McVities chocolate digestives, with hundreds of packets of biscuits eventually being washed up onto the beach just north of the wreck; these were followed by long planks of wood, upholstery foam and mattresses, big blue barrells and hundreds of plastic disposable cups which blew everywhere.

Photo from the internet

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Photos taken 24/02/2008 – two trailers are just visible here

A salvage team assessed the ship and prepared to refloat it in mid February but the rescue operation was hampered by more stormy weather during which several trailers fell off, causing Riverdance to shift position and sink into the sand parallel to the shore. After re-evaluating the salvage plan, and with no hope of refloating and towing the ship off the beach the Riverdance was declared a constructive total loss in March and the decision was made to cut it up on site.
A large section of the promenade was closed off and turned into a scrap yard and with rigs and cranes working in conjunction with the tides the remaining cargo and all the fuel was removed, then Riverdance was painstakingly dismantled bit by bit, with lumps of ship being taken away on huge lorry after lorry. Although the estimated completion date for the demolition was the end of June the process took much longer than first thought and the wreck wasn’t reduced to beach level until early October.

Photo from VisitCleveleys online

Unfortunately the complete removal of Riverdance wasn’t the end of all the problems. When the ship beached it landed on the huge United Utilities sewage outfall pipe with the weight damaging a large section which had to be excavated and replaced, so back came rigs, boats and yet more workmen to put things right.
The Riverdance disaster was all over the news and tv and from the moment it beached at Cleveleys it became a tourist sensation with people travelling from all over to see the spectacle of a huge ship marooned on the beach. Roads around the town became instantly gridlocked, car parks were full and the promenade and side streets were solid with parked cars, with many streets having to be closed off when they became impassable. The shops in the town centre did a roaring trade in the best winter season they’d ever had, and it was estimated that 100,000 people flocked to Cleveleys and Blackpool between early February and April that year; even during the months of demolition people were still going to look at it.
Not far from where Riverdance landed the remains of the Abana, wrecked in 1894, can often be seen at low tide with its ribs sticking up out of the sand and many photos were taken of the two wrecks in sight of each other. Now, years later, there’s nothing to see on the part of the beach where Riverdance was wrecked back in early 2008, though it will live on in many photos in albums and on the internet. It’s also listed on the modern shipwreck memorial erected on Cleveleys promenade in 2012, and if you face the memorial you also face in the exact direction to remember the ghosts of those two ships.