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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.