Lancaster Canal – Garstang to Catterall

My Monday walk this week is the on-foot version of a cycle ride I did ten years ago. Back then I was camping at Bridge House Marina by the canal on the far side of Garstang so my cycle ride had started from there, however this time my walk was starting from Garstang itself, at Bridge No.62 near Th’Owd Tithe Barn pub/restaurant.
Set back off the canal and next to the restaurant was The Moorings Basin with several colourful narrowboats moored up, then a couple of hundred yards away was the Wyre Aqueduct designed by John Rennie and built in 1797; at 110ft long it carries the canal 34ft above the River Wyre. At the far side of the aqueduct a set of steep wooden steps led down to the riverside where I was able to photograph the structure from down below.
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Back up on the canal I passed a long stretch of modern houses and went under three bridges before I left civilisation behind, and apart from the sound of birds in the trees and an occasional passing boat it was very quiet and peaceful. Round a wide bend I could see the old Garstang castle, or what remains of it, standing on high ground in the distance at the far side of the canal; photographing it from nearby is something else on my ever-lengthening ‘to do’ list.
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Greenhalgh Castle was built in 1490 by Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and the land on which it was built was said to be a gift to Stanley from his stepson Henry Tudor for his assistance in defeating Richard lll at the Battle of Bosworth. Constructed of rubble and sandstone it stood on a small area of raised ground and was rectangular with towers 24 yards square at each corner.
During the English Civil War the castle was garrisoned by James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, in support of Charles l and it was one of the last two Royalist strongholds in Lancashire to succumb following a siege by Cromwell’s forces in 1644/45. The garrison eventually surrendered in 1645 on provision that the men were allowed to return to their homes unharmed, then demolition teams partially destroyed the castle to make sure it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.
After the castle’s destruction many of the local farmhouses, including the nearby Castle Farm, incorporated some of the stones into their buildings; following its continued deterioration over the centuries the only remaining part is the lower section of one of the four original towers and as it stands on private land it’s inaccessible to the public although it can be seen fairly close up from a nearby lane.
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Approaching the next bridge I was quite surprised to see a couple of cows across the other side of the canal, standing well over knee deep in the water and slurping copious amounts from between the weeds and water lilies. Eventually I came to a marker post telling me it was 16 miles to Preston – I didn’t think it was as far as that but if it was then I was glad I wasn’t going there.
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My goal on this walk was the Calder Aqueduct, again designed by John Rennie and built in 1797 but shorter than the Wyre Aqueduct. Carrying the canal over the River Calder in the Catterall area the aqueduct has an adjoining weir on the upstream side, built to lower the bed of the river under the canal with the river itself being channelled beneath the canal through a single elliptical arch. The riverbank on the downstream side was wide and grassy with a steep path down from the canal and ten years ago I’d stopped there for a picnic before cycling back to the camp site.
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Heading back to Garstang I spotted something up ahead on the far side of the canal and getting closer I found it was a heron. It hadn’t been there earlier so I watched for several minutes, and unlike the statue-like one I’d seen on another stretch of the canal back in June this one did actually move. Eventually I came to the marker post which told me it was a mile back to Garstang although to get to there from the town earlier on had seemed to be more than a mile.
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Approaching civilisation there was a small inset on the far side of the canal with three colourful narrowboats moored up and it wasn’t long before I began to see boats moored on my side. I’ve often wondered where some canal boats get their quirky names from and I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of them. One of the last in the row had some small brightly decorated barrels fastened to its roof and they looked so pretty I thought they deserved to be photographed.
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Back across the Wyre Aqueduct, past the Moorings Basin and Th’Owd Tithe Barn and I was back at my starting point, Bridge No. 62 where my van was waiting for me just a few yards down the road. The walk was one I’d been wanting to do for a while, I’d really enjoyed revisiting a part of the canal I first went to ten years ago and it was another completed section to tick off my list.

Queen’s Park squirrels

Walking through Queen’s Park the other day I took several photos of the squirrel I saw, a couple of which I included in my previous post, but as he looked so cute I thought he deserved a post of his own. I actually took a photo of another squirrel when I was in the same park last year so I’ve included him too.
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Although the squirrel I saw last year very quickly scampered up the tree the second one wasn’t in too much of a hurry so I was able to watch him from a respectable distance for several minutes. I know grey squirrels are classed as vermin but to me it doesn’t matter what colour they are, they are all cute and this one certainly was.

A wander by the Wyre

My Monday walk this week was done just yesterday and was actually Plan B when Plan A didn’t work out. I started off mid morning at the big car boot sale near the village of St Michael’s on Wyre; normally held every weekend from May bank holiday until the end of September it was the first time this year that it was on and I’d been looking forward to it.
My original intention, once I’d looked round all the stalls twice, was to drive over to Garstang and walk along a section of the Lancaster canal but when I came to take the first couple of photos at the car boot my camera told me that all images would be stored on the internal memory, which I thought was rather odd until I found the media card was missing – I’d transferred it to my card reader a few days previously and forgotten to put it back in the camera.

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View from the car boot field
Not knowing how many photos I could take using the camera’s internal memory – I suspected not very many – and with a lot of grey clouds around anyway there was no point going all the way to Garstang so I decided to have a short walk along a section of the River Wyre instead. Driving into the village I parked near the primary school then walked the hundred yards or so along the main road and over the bridge to the riverside path and the start of the walk; it’s a walk I’m familiar with as I camped a few times at a lovely little site nearby several years ago.
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River Wyre from the bridge

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While the river meandered round and doubled back on itself the path carried straight on, first through a tree shaded area close to a small field of sheep then along the high bank of the river itself with a couple of pleasant meadows on my left below the bank. At the next bend there was just one lone person sitting fishing; the river wound back on itself again there, skirting the edge of another meadow and effectively making it a dead end so I knew I would end up retracing my steps.
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Continuing to follow the river round the edge of the meadow I came to the junction of a narrow brook and I remembered that on the next bend there should be a small sandy beach. I was right, the beach was still there, so I went down off the bank and let Poppie have a few minutes paddle before I continued round the edge of the meadow. Eventually I could go no farther as my way was blocked by a fence and gate leading to a small development of waterside holiday lodges so I cut diagonally back across the meadow and rejoined the main riverside path along the top of the bank.
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The Bowland fells in the distance

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Heading back to the road I almost stood on a toad in the middle of the stony path. At first I thought it may be injured but it hopped a couple of paces when I touched it; up ahead I could see a couple coming towards me with a big dog so to save the possibility of the toad being snapped at I picked it up and put it gently in the foliage off the path.
Back at the bridge I crossed the road to the riverbank at the other side with the intention of walking along for a mile or so – another route I’ve done before – but there was a small herd of cows up ahead with a couple of mean looking ones right in the middle of the path. I had no intention of getting into an argument with those two so I gave up on that idea and decided to call it a day and make tracks for home.
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Passing St. Michael’s Church I found it was open to visitors for ‘private prayer’ – not that I’m religious – so finding somewhere suitable to leave Poppie for a few minutes I went to take a look and found I was the only person in there. A church has occupied that site from at least the 13th century; the present church was probably built in the 15th century with alterations being made in the 17th century. The chapel at the north of the church dates from 1480, it was repaired in 1797 and restored in 1854. The tower is said to date from 1549 and houses a ring of three bells hung in a timber frame. Inscribed with Gothic script the treble bell was originally cast in 1458 and was given to the church by a French lady; the second bell was cast in 1663 by Geoffrey Scott of Wigan while the third bell dates from 1742 and was cast by Abel Rudhall of Gloucestershire.
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The colourful corner in the angle of the church wall was my final shot, the camera’s internal memory was full, so there was nothing else I could do other than return to the van and head for home. My day hadn’t worked out as I’d originally planned but I’d made the best of it, Poppie had a paddle and I actually got more photos than I thought I would so I suppose it was still a success even though it was a minor one.

 

Heapey to White Coppice

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

 

Keeping it local – Doffcocker Lodge

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

 

A surprise in the garden

A couple of weeks ago while I was strimming the back garden a moth suddenly fluttered out of a clump of long grass and landed near my feet. I hadn’t seen one like that before so as it was a pretty colour I caught it and took it indoors to snatch a quick photo of it before setting it free again. Unfortunately it seemed as though I’d taken a slight nick out of its wing with the strimmer line but it didn’t seem to have affected it and it fluttered away quite happily once back in the garden.
A quick Google later on told me it was an Elephant Hawk moth and though I’d never seen one before they are apparently quite common. I only managed to get one shot of it though without risking it flying off into an inaccessible corner of the room so I’ve sourced the second photo from the internet.
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Elephant hawk moth
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Finding the moth actually encouraged me to be a bit lazy where cutting down the grass was concerned. I’d originally intended to cut the whole lot but having also discovered some hollyhocks and a few other flowers I’ve never had before – and I’ve no idea how they got there – I decided to leave a large uncut patch to act as a wildlife garden for any creatures who wish to visit. I don’t really ‘do’ gardening anyway – cutting the grass and trimming the fuchsias is just about my limit so encouraging wildlife by doing a bit less has got to be a win-win situation.

 

Unbelievable!

Less than two years after the huge fire which devastated more than five square miles of the Winter Hill moorland not far from my home there’s recently been another fire up there. It broke out last Friday afternoon (March 27th) soon after 2pm in the area close to the car park on the moorland road not far from the Blue Lagoon reservoir at Belmont. With some of the flames reaching a height of 6 metres and burning more than a square mile of moorland the fire was attended by 8 fire engines and 40 firefighters from both Lancashire and Greater Manchester fire services, but thanks to all their hard work it was extinguished completely before 7pm that evening.

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All pictures sourced from the internet
At first it was thought that the fire had been started by a discarded portable barbecue as police had earlier received reports of a group of people having a barbecue near there in spite of recent government directives to stay at home during the current crisis, however it’s now thought to have been started deliberately as a group of teenagers were seen running away from the area and driving off in a red car just before the blaze took hold.
Although it’s understandable that many people would have liked to take advantage of the warm sunny weather of last week and the week before it’s beyond belief that there are those who are thoughtless enough to use disposable barbecues on the currently dry moorland, and even more unbelievable that there are those who are brainless enough to deliberately set the grass on fire, obviously not caring about the damage caused to the moorland and its wildlife. Fortunately this latest fire wasn’t as great as the 2018 one so hopefully, as long as there are no further incidents, that part of the moorland won’t be too long before it shows signs of recovery.

 

The dog ate my mouse!

And I don’t mean a computer mouse either, so if anyone is a bit squeamish then don’t read any further – though it is rather a funny story.
So a few weeks ago I was cleaning at the boss’s house and even though it was raining it was still quite mild so I’d left the back door open for Dylan the cat to wander in and out while I was working. I was just about to get ready to leave when I found a dead mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor – Dylan had brought me a present. Now I read somewhere ages ago that if a cat brings you a present you shouldn’t dispose of it while the cat is there or it will feel very insulted – I don’t know who thought that one up or even if it’s true but I didn’t want Dylan to think I didn’t appreciate his gift so I wrapped it carefully in some kitchen roll and put it in a small takeaway-type plastic carrier bag, to dispose of it when I went out.
Now to be quite honest, being the soft-hearted person that I am where animals are concerned, I felt quite sorry for the little mouse having lost its life to a big fluffy cat ; it didn’t deserve to be just dumped in the bin so I brought it home with the intention of digging a small hole with my trowel and burying it under the fuschia hedge. However, by the time I’d walked the fifteen minutes back home it was raining harder then ever so I popped the mouse, in its bag, in the top of the planter near the door with the intention of burying it once the rain eased off.
So much later on, with the rain having finally stopped and totally forgetting about the mouse, I let Sophie and Poppie out for five minutes in the garden, but when I opened the door to call them back in I found bits of shredded carrier bag all over the path. At first I couldn’t figure out where it had come from but then realisation hit – with the absence of a little furry body it seemed that rather than the mouse going into a hole under the hedge as I’d intended it had gone into one of the dogs instead.
At that point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was no use being cross with Sophie and Poppie as I didn’t know which one had eaten the mouse but I felt a bit upset that the poor little thing had ended up like that. Fortunately neither of the dogs suffered any ill effects afterwards, and I was just glad that the little mouse had actually been dead before it ended up as a dog’s dinner.
Now I realise that anyone reading this will probably have come to the conclusion that I’m completely bonkers, out of my tree, totally insane and needing a visit from the men in white coats but that’s just me, I love animals and hate to see dead ones however they came by their demise, and though it was a sad ending for the little mouse it does make rather an amusing story.

Heysham village and Morecambe

Heysham village, just south of Morecambe, is somewhere I hadn’t been to for a number of years but seeing some recent photos of the place prompted me to pay a visit one Sunday in early September. Unfortunately the times of the buses to Heysham didn’t coincide too well with the time I got off the train in Morecambe ; knowing that the distance between the two isn’t really that far I decided I could get there on foot in the time I would spend waiting for a bus, so join me as I walk from Morecambe’s central promenade to Heysham village and back again.
Past the West End, away from the main road and with few people about the pedestrian promenade was very quiet ; weather-wise it was a beautifully clear day and I could see right across the bay to Grange-over-Sands and the coastline and hills of south Cumbria. Eventually the promenade split into two and I took the lower section close to the beach ; steps at the end took me up to join the path above, leading between a handful of cottages to the bottom end of the village where a short lane off the main street ended in a slipway down onto the beach.
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View across the bay to south Cumbria
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View towards Heysham village and cliffs
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Not far up the main street was St. Peter’s Church so I made that my first port of call. A Grade l listed building, with a churchyard sloping down a shallow cliff to the beach and rock pools beyond the wall, it’s believed to have been founded in the 7th or 8th century. The chancel was added on in the mid 14th century, the south aisle in the 15th century and the north aisle in the mid 19th century, with some of the fabric of the original church still remaining in the present church.  As well as stained glass windows I wanted to find and photograph the carved Viking hogback tombstone which dates back to the 10th century ; it’s situated inside the church but unfortunately the place wasn’t open so I had to be happy with a wander round outside instead.
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St. Peter’s Church
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Just off the main path through the churchyard was Glebe Garden, a previously overgrown and neglected area transformed into a peaceful and pretty corner by local volunteer gardeners – and that’s where I found the hedgehog. It was curled up in the sunshine on the gravel path, a strange place and time of day for it to be out and at first I thought it was dead ; I couldn’t just leave it there so fastening the dogs to a nearby bench I went to move it, however it uncurled itself so it was very much alive. It seemed to have trouble moving though and when I looked it was dragging one of its back legs behind it – the poor little thing was obviously injured and couldn’t get a grip on the gravel.
A few yards from the path and in a corner of the garden was a compost heap so I suspected the hedgehog may have come from there but I didn’t want to put it back there as it would probably end up back on the path again and maybe at the mercy of someone’s dog. I thought the best thing to do was take it to a quiet corner of the churchyard where at least it would be better able to move about on the grass but just as I was about to pick it up two young women came down the path – and that’s where things got ever-so-slightly stupid.
They were foreigners, German I think though both spoke very good English, and when they saw the hedgehog one of them insisted that it needed professional attention there and then ; out came her phone and she proceeded to Google various options but with no vet in the village or anywhere nearby she eventually phoned the RSPCA, only to get a recorded message saying it would be fifty minutes before her call was answered. She did find an animal charity shop in Morecambe but somehow couldn’t comprehend the fact that (as I told her) it wouldn’t be open on a Sunday and even if it was they wouldn’t just take in an animal. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take it anywhere herself as she and her friend were on bikes but she spent so much time faffing about on her phone that eventually I lost patience, told her I would sort it myself, and scooped the hedgehog up in my tracksuit top and popped it into my bag.
At first I did think about keeping the little creature in my bag, aborting my day out and bringing it home to take to my own vet the following day but I wasn’t sure if it would survive the walk back to Morecambe and the journey home by train and bus so I did what I intended to do in the first place. Collecting Sophie and Poppie from the bench, and making sure I got out of sight of the two young women, I went to the furthest bottom corner of the churchyard and put it gently on the grass behind a large headstone – I felt guilty for leaving it but without my own transport or anything proper to carry it in there wasn’t much else I could do.
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Glebe Garden
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From the church gates a path led a short distance through a wooded area to the ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel situated on a grassy knoll overlooking the cliffs and the bay. A Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade l listed building, the ruin dates back to the 8th or 9th century, with the 10th century barrow graves cut from the rock only a few yards away. Due to their size and shallow depth it’s thought they held bones rather than bodies, though these days they only hold sea and rain water.
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St. Patrick’s Chapel ruins
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10th century barrow graves
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View of the bay from the cliffs
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Back on the main street I decided to walk to the far end of the village without stopping then take any photos as I worked my way back towards the church. At the end of the street the road opened out with a row of cottages and small shops on one side and on the other a large almost-circular ’roundabout’ where the buses would turn round. On the corner, and next door to each other, were the Curiosity Corner tea room and The Old Barn café ; by then it was time for coffee and cake so I fastened the dogs close to an outside table at the café (the tea room was full) and went in to order, however when I saw the very OTT price for a tiny square of cake I just asked for a coffee – and that wasn’t particularly brilliant either but it was passable.
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Across the street from the café was one part of the Heritage Centre which is an unusual surviving example of a 17th century longhouse – a cottage and barn combined. Sometime in the 20th century the longhouse was converted into two separate lock-up shops with a cottage between the two ; in 1999 the Heritage Trust for the North West acquired the two shops and with grant aid from various organisations and individuals they were turned into a small Heritage Centre. The centre was opened in 2000 then in 2005 the Heritage Trust acquired the cottage in the middle. In 2010 work began to restore the cottage which had, at one time, been the living quarters for the occupants of the original longhouse ; a new floor was added to the Heritage Centre and it was reopened in 2011, with the cottage being leased on a short-term let.
On the wall of the right hand building was a large plaque, The Spirit of Heysham, carved by a Michael Edwards to depict the village’s historic legacies including St. Peter’s Church and St. Patrick’s Chapel with its hilltop barrow graves. Each year in mid July the village holds a 2-day Viking festival with battle re-enactments, food and craft stalls and a whole range of family activities ; above the Spirit of Heysham plaque, and on the balcony at the top of a fire escape, was a large Viking figure presumably left over from one of the festivals as a bit of an attraction.
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Looking down Main Street
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The Heritage Centre cottage
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Cottage Tea Rooms, Main Street
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With its whitewashed cottages and colourful flowers in tubs and hanging baskets the village’s main street was certainly very pretty. There was one thing I had to do though before I left all this behind and returned to Morecambe – the little hedgehog had been on my mind and I couldn’t leave without going back to the graveyard to see if it was okay. Although I wasn’t sure if I would actually find it I did, quite unexpectedly ; it was on the grass about twenty yards from where I’d left it so it seemed that even with its damaged leg it could still get about. Being out in the daylight wasn’t ideal but if it could find some food and somewhere safe to curl up then maybe it would have a chance – as I reluctantly walked away I really hoped so.
Heading out of the village I took the upper path above the promenade ; at the bottom of the slope was a large field with a handful of friendly ponies who all came to say hello and a sweet little foal who seemed to be quite shy. The ponies seemed to be looking for titbits but unfortunately I didn’t have anything to give them. Back at Morecambe’s West End I checked the time and found I only had an hour until the time of my train home so not wanting to stray too far from the vicinity of the station I only walked as far as the area near the Midland Hotel.
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Heading back to Morecambe
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Morecambe itself is an odd place. The busy seaside resort I remember from my childhood and early teens fell into a decline in the late 1970s and the following years saw the loss of both piers and the eventual closure of the dolphin show (not a bad thing), the open air swimming pool, the Art Deco sea front Midland Hotel and the promenade fairground/theme park. Regeneration and investment, especially of the West End area, began about fifteen years ago ; after a major refurbishment the Midland Hotel reopened in 2008, the former promenade railway station building became an arts venue, there’s a Morrisons supermarket and retail park not far from the seafront and the promenade itself has had a makeover. Even so, the seafront is still shabby in places ; the land where the theme park once was is still derelict and surrounded by hoardings, there are several empty and shuttered-up shops and a few of the bed-and-breakfast places seem to need a bit of an external makeover. In spite of this though the areas along the promenade which have been done up do look really nice ; to be honest I do like Morecambe in spite of its shabbiness.
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The Midland Hotel and central promenade
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The Stone Jetty
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The Time & Tide Bell, installed on Stone Jetty in March 2019
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Midland Hotel from Stone Jetty
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Central promenade gardens
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With one final shot of the promenade gardens I headed for the station, only to find when I got there that my train had been cancelled, however a replacement bus to Lancaster station had been laid on. Unfortunately, because of the one-way system round Lancaster town centre, the bus was on the last minute arriving at the station so I had to run to get my connecting train. I made it with a few seconds to spare though and the rest of the journey home passed quite well.
Although back in Morecambe the blue sky had clouded over somewhat it had been lovely while I was in Heysham and the sunshine had really shown the village off well. It had been my first visit there for many years, I’d really enjoyed my day and I’d got some lovely photos – maybe next time I won’t leave it so long before I return.

Doffcocker Lodge and some local history

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