When I wrote in my third Manchester Flower Show post that I’d been very disappointed with the ‘towers of flowers’ installation on Deansgate Square I didn’t say that was the second time I’d been to look for it. The flower show website had given its location as Deansgate Square, Owen Street and a look on Google maps showed me where Owen Street was. With the photo I wanted to recreate firmly in my mind I went there on my first visit to the show but looking for the floral installation was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Finding Owen Street was no problem, what was a problem was finding what I was actually looking for. The three high rise towers in the internet photo were over on the left but the whole street for quite a distance along was just one massive great sectioned off building site surrounded by huge hoardings advertising ‘Deansgate Square Phase 1’ or 2 or 3 etc. I even asked a couple of builders where this flower thing was but they hadn’t a clue so after wandering further along the street and still not finding it I gave up and headed back towards the city centre – and that’s when I had a lovely and very unexpected surprise.
The Castlefield goslings have been the subject of several Instagram posts and comments over the last few weeks. Along with a couple of adult geese they (presumably) live in and around the Castlefield Basin but for some unknown reason like to commute to the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed by now but traffic does seem to stop for them.
As I crossed the end of a side street behind Deansgate I looked to my right and walking down the middle of the street were several fluffy yellow goslings, two older ones and a couple of adult geese. The little ones ran onto a patch of spare land and spent a good five minutes pecking at the weeds growing round the edge, watched over by one of the adults before they all set off in a line down the street towards Deansgate.
With hindsight I should really have gone to the main road to get a shot of them crossing it but some street art caught my attention and by the time I did get round to Deansgate they had disappeared. I finally found the flower installation a few days later after asking someone who posted a photo on Instagram – the flower show organisers really should have put proper details of its location on their website as it was in such an obscure place. It was while I was in that area for the second time that I went to explore the Castlefield Basin and saw the goose family in the Bridgewater Canal.
Mentally counting the goslings I found the same number as I’d seen a few days previously so at least none of them had become victims of the Deansgate traffic. No doubt by the time I make another visit to Castlefield the goslings will be all grown up so seeing them walking down the street a few days previously had been a lovely surprise which I’ll remember for quite some time.
Thanks to the vagaries of the UK weather my first walk of this year was actually done in two parts. A damp grey Christmas was followed just before New Year with leaden skies and just enough snow to make things look pretty but in spite of some cloud on Saturday morning the sun and blue sky put in appearance later on so I decided to take myself off for my first walk of the year, from home to Moss Bank Park and back, passing Smithills Hall en route.
Across the far side of the nearby park I took a shot looking back then followed the path into Smithills forest and from there into the grounds of Smithills Hall, though I got quite a surprise when I got there – although the Hall itself is closed the grounds were full of people. Families, dog walkers, a bride and groom on a professional photo shoot (she must have been freezing in her flimsy sleeveless dress) people with maps and walking poles – there were more people there than I’ve ever seen on a warm summer’s day.
Taking any photos of my own was out of the question as there were just too many people to get in my way, and I’ve taken more than enough shots round the grounds in previous years anyway so I had a look through the windows into a couple of downstairs rooms in the Hall then wandered over to the grave of Little Bess, where I was surprised and pleased to see that someone has recently left a new and very pretty decoration there.
Unfortunately the bank of cloud which had been hovering over the park earlier on had finally chased the sun away and by the time I reached the hidden lake the day had gone quite dull. I had to negotiate an unofficial path through the shrubbery to get to there and as I emerged through the rhododendrons a slight movement caught my eye and I spotted a heron standing at the far side of the lake. It took flight after a couple of minutes but didn’t go far so I was able to get it in close up further down the lake.
With the afternoon getting greyer by the minute I decided to cut my walk short and head for home. I hadn’t gone far before it started sleeting and by the time I was walking back across the park it was snowing quite heavily so it seemed I’d made the right decision, although the snow did stop after an hour or so.
Yesterday morning turned out to be nice again and by lunch time there was full-on blue sky so I decided to risk doing the walk again but with a change of route. This time I went across the top end of the park and through the open farm where I was lucky enough to see the llamas in their paddock near the lane, then when I reached the main gates to Smithills Hall I took the path on the right across the lane instead of carrying on to Moss Bank Park.
Past the high perimeter wall bordering the land where the old garden centre once was the trees started to thin out and eventually I came to the gate and the track leading across open farm land. At the top of the track a couple of Shetland ponies picked at the grass in the field on one side while on the other side another pony, well rugged up against the cold, stood near the fence.
Just like the previous day at Smithills Hall it seemed as if the world and his wife and kids were out for a walk and I had to exercise a lot of patience to get the shots I wanted without other people getting in the way. Just past the ponies the track took me through a small wooded area and up a slope to more open land where several paths converged so in an effort to get the peace and quiet I know that area can provide I took the less popular path.
Taking that path proved to be a good decision as the only sound was the birds in the trees and I saw no-one until I got to the point where the far end of the path met two other paths close to the nearby farm where I saw the small herd of deer last Easter. Through the farm yard, down a short lane and I was on the main road where I got my final two shots before heading for home, just ten minutes away down the hill.
After abandoning my walk the previous day I’d been half expecting to do the same again if the weather changed but it hadn’t, it had stayed sunny and I’d got some decent photos. It had been a good start to the new year so fingers crossed I’ll be taking many more walks and photos over the next twelve months.
The end of September somehow seemed to signify the end of any decent weather, locally at least, and though many October days started off with blue sky and sunshine it was almost a guarantee that by 10am the blue would have been replaced with grey clouds followed by rain. This was particularly frustrating as being at work until 9.30am meant that I missed the best part of each day, however there was a morning in the middle of the month when I wasn’t working and I was able to take advantage of the early blue sky and sunshine to have an autumn dog walk round the local Queen’s Park.
Unable to park near the main entrance as I’d done on my previous visit in August I left the van on a side road and went into the park via one of the two west entrances, following various paths to the west end of the Promenade Terrace and the steps which were halfway along.
At the top of the steps was the Vantage Point Garden; just as in August it looked rather scruffy around the edges but it was still a pleasant place to sit in the sunshine for a few minutes. Wandering round to the sunken garden with its bare flower beds I found a large part of it was still in the shade so I only took one shot before retracing my steps.
Back through the Vantage Point Garden and down the steps I walked along to the east end of the terrace and the semi-circular ‘Pie Crust’ viewing point, then down the hill past the ‘Pie Crust’ and along a path to the left I eventually came to the River Croal, Dobson Bridge and the fishing lake, still with its green surface weed, at the bottom end of the park.
Across Dobson Bridge I headed west past the tree with the teddy bears round its base and on towards the fountain and the nearby curving bed of red and yellow flowers. Following my previous park visit in August I found out that early in the summer the flower bed had formed the top part of a rainbow, with the rest of it and the words ‘Thank You’ painted on the grass in support of the NHS.
From the fountain I headed west towards the cafe then meandered up and along various paths to the big duck pond where various ducks, geese, coots and seagulls congregated; a lot of the geese and ducks came close in the hope of getting some food but unfortunately I had nothing for them.
Following the path round and above the pond I came to a junction; right would take me back in the direction of the sunken garden so I chose left and meandered along until I came to the edge of the park and the entrance/exit which would take me back to where I’d left the van.
As I drove the two-and-a-half miles back home clouds were building up and true to form half an hour later the blue sky and sunshine had gone, to be replaced by grey sky and intermittent showers, so I was rather glad that I’d taken the opportunity to do my Queen’s Park walk early in the day.
My Monday walk this week was done in mid September and just four days after my canal walk from Garstang. My original plan was to walk from Moons Bridge Marina to Blackleach Marina just a couple of miles away in the Preston direction, however things didn’t quite work out like that. Moons Bridge Marina is situated off a narrow country lane with very few places to park safely and from where I left the van I had to walk up and over the bridge then down to the towpath on the far side – and that’s where, for once, my normally excellent sense of direction and the in-built satnav in my brain deserted me.
Moons Bridge Marina was developed from a canal-side farmer’s field over twenty years ago and has been owned and run by the same family ever since. After taking a few photos round the marina itself I headed along the lane and over the bridge to the canal towpath but that’s where I went wrong – instead of going ‘sort of’ southwest I went under the bridge and ‘sort of’ northeast and I only realised I’d gone wrong when I kept seeing the Bowland fells in the distance ahead of me. There was no point turning back and starting again though, and I knew where I would eventually get to anyway, so I decided to carry on.
One thing which did surprise me as I walked along were the large stretches of surface weed on the water, something which I’ve only ever associated with ponds and other still waters; even when a boat travelled through it the weed would only momentarily disperse before covering the surface again. Another thing I noticed was the amount of pylons and power lines crossing the countryside; I know these things are essential in rural areas but I’ve never seen as many as that on any of my other walks.
Although the sun kept disappearing behind a bank of white clouds it was still very warm and the light tracksuit top I was wearing was eventually taken off and tied round my waist. Being a weekday I had the canal to myself and I didn’t see anyone until I got to White Horse Bridge where I encountered a group of students and their teacher; they seemed to be doing some sort of field studies so I assumed they were probably from the agricultural college a couple of miles away. They were quite spread out across the narrow path so to give them chance to move on I went up onto the bridge to take a couple of shots looking over the canal and the surrounding countryside.
From White Horse Bridge it was only just over a mile to Guy’s Thatched Hamlet; I was making that my turn around point and it wasn’t long before I started to see signs of civilisation and boats moored alongside the towpath. Going up onto the road passing Guy’s I took a couple of shots from the bridge before having a wander round the hamlet itself. When I was there in late May the whole placed had been closed and it had seemed strange with no-one around – now it was partially open and several people were enjoying drinks at outside tables but it still felt weird.
While I’d been wandering round Guy’s the clouds had gradually been clearing away so the walk back to Moons Bridge was much sunnier and I was able to retake some of the shots I got earlier on. As I got near to the marina I realised something – throughout the whole of the walk I hadn’t heard any birdsong. Even though trees had lined the canal path in several places there hadn’t been a tweet or a chirp anywhere which I thought was very strange. Back at the marina I took my final two shots from the bridge and the lane then made my way back to the van to head for home.
Although the walk had started out as a mistake and had covered more than twice the distance originally planned it had nevertheless been very enjoyable, and as I’d always planned to do that section of the canal at some point anyway, probably next year, it meant I could now tick it off my list a bit sooner than I intended.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.