Monthly Archives: February 2017

THE GARDEN IN FEBRUARY.

I must say that it was a slow start to the month with cold weather holding things up, only by the middle of the month did the temperature reach double figures and then came the wind. Even this morning we had a light snow shower. Normally I’m walking or climbing abroad this month but due to procrastinating I’m still suffering the British weather – I have however make good progress with pruning and shredding, neglected lately, so a large area of the borders now has a decent mulch. Accompanying me has been the sound of birdsong – it becomes louder as the month progresses, reminding me to provide some more nesting boxes.  All around in Longridge the fields are being eaten up with new developments, now that planning control has become meaningless, so I’m glad I have my own bit of countryside no matter how small.

The usual bulbs have pushed through and started flowering – snowdrops, crocuses, narcissi, scilla and anemone blanda – Featured ImageA few early herbaceous plants are flowering – a primula variety,   bergenia and pulmonaria officinalis. I have a young prunus ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ which struggles to show a few blossoms, I hope it will improve with age.This exercise of showing a month by month diary of my garden is beneficial in that it is highlighting gaps which I hope to fill. I notice my yellow witch hazel [Hamamelis] has disappeared and needs replacing. Within the last couple of days my pieris japonicas are just coming into flower – the aptly named ‘lily-of-the-valley shrub’.What will March have to offer?

BROCKHALL – OLD AND NEW.

Last week I attended the annual Chris Mayo Memorial Lecture hosted by our Bowland Pennine MRT, for whom Chris had been a doctor; always a sad occasion for me. I worked with Chris and he was a good friend. At the end of January 1993 I did a long walk in the Bowland Hills with Chris as part of my preparation for climbing Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro in the next month. Whilst I was abroad, and totally unknown to me, 45year old Chris, his 15yr old son Matthew, both from Longridge, and his 40 yr old brother from Edinburgh were killed in a tragic accident in Coire an Lochan in the Cairngorms. Long shall we remember them.
I am worn out from lots of tree felling and pruning in the garden and too many sessions at the climbing walls, its too wet and wild for anything else. So I needed a short relaxing walk at the weekend. Deciding to stay low and sheltered Mike and I headed for Old Langho in the Ribble Valley to explore the area around Brockhall Village. We parked next to the 16th century St. Leonard’s Church.This little sandstone chapel built  c1557 with stones coming from the recently dissolved Whalley Abbey, on the outside are several carved features from the abbey. We were lucky that the church was open, it no longer hosts services but is maintained by the charitable Churches Conservation Trust, so were able to investigate the inside features. Walking past the entrance to Brockhall Village, more of this later, we crossed fields outside Hacking Wood to reach the lane leading to Hacking Hall a grade1 listed early 17th century property. We had distant views of the massive hall with its mullioned windows and prominent garderobe. Closer at hand was Hacking Barn an interesting early Cruck  structure. The exterior has been much modified but the interior cruck trusses are impressive, the agricultural surrounds are a mess.

St.Leonards.

St.Leonard’s.

Hacking Hall.

Hacking Hall.

Cruck barn.

Cruck barn.

We next went down to the River Ribble just where the Calder joins from the south. The path downstream was washed away in parts and even today a large volume of water was charging down to Preston. A couple of canoeists were thoroughly enjoying their rapid transit. It was near here that there was a historic 17thcentury ferry and I believe an old wooden boat was in Clitheroe Museum. The house across the river was apparently occupied by the ferryman up to the 1950s.

Ribble/Calder confluence.

Ribble/Calder confluence.

Hacking Boat House, Kemple end behind.

Hacking Boat House, Kemple End behind.

At the end of Brockhall Wood, above the turbulent water of Jumbles Rocks,  we turned ‘inland’ towards the farm and former site of Brockhall Hospital. From 1904 to 1992 this functioned as one of Europe’s largest mental institutions. On its closure [care in the community!] a property developer Gerald Hitman bought the lease and developed a gated village of 400 properties. Blackburn Rovers have their extensive training grounds here, Mr Hitman also built his own contemporary home in extensive gardens, The Old Zoo. We skirted around the youth football fields and at the first road walked up into the village. On our left was the well secured Old Zoo but we spotted a lake, a few sculptures and a beech hedge maze, it would be fascinating to look around the grounds but I don’t know who now owns the property. The streets wandered through a variety of properties, a few adapted from the hospital buildings, many newish apartments and a scattering of architect designed detached mansions. There didn’t seem to be much soul to the village, no obvious shop or pub, commuting hell or heaven? On the way out through the permanently manned barriers, to keep out the riff raff, we passed an upmarket restaurant next to the modern Rover’s training facilities.

How times have changed here.

Hospital conversion.

Hospital conversion.

Hospital cottage.

Hospital cottage.

More upmarket.

More upmarket.

Oh! for a peek.

Oh! for a peek.

Rusty Rover.

Rusty Rover.

SIMON’S SEAT.

Bolton Abbey Estate riverside car park Tuesday 10am.

£8 please.

Eight?!

Yes it’s half term. But if you had come last week it would have been £4.

It has been in the news this week about airport carparks doubling their charges for school holidays so this is just another example of greedy businesses taking advantage of families. Rip off Briton.

The ‘pieman’ and I set off on today’s walk in a grumpy mood. We had chosen today to climb Simon’s Seat as there was sunshine forecast. Way back this was a regular winter walk for us, then we would extend the route to include the moors above Appletreewick [an interesting name] and Trollers Gill. A straightforward 9mile circuit was planned for today. The paths seemed to have changed now that the land is open access, I seem to remember sneaking in to some of these areas. At one time we also had a major offensive on the climbing routes on the summit rocks of Simon’s Seat – an atmospheric place to be on a summer’s evening. Stand out routes were Arete Direct VS and Turret Crack HVS. See later photos of crag.

The path into the estate passed by some ancient oak trees which must have been several centuries old. The Valley of Desolation was entered and the stream and woods followed upwards – the name derives from a storm in 1826 when most of the vegetation was destroyed but not the oaks obviously. A hidden waterfall was glimpsed through the trees. Once onto the open moor a cold wind kept us on the move. All the surrounding fells had rocky outcrops but we were heading for the highest group of gritstone, 485m, Simon’s Seat itself. The land rover track passed the shooters lunch stone. Scrambling up the summit boulders was tricky with slippy snow scattered on the rocks, it was still winter up here. Goback called the grouse. dsc05552

Below the crag we found a convenient lunch stone of our own, out of the wind, with views over to Perceval Hall and beyond. Classic Dales scenery. Reminisces of shared past trips kept us humoured, the Pyrenees, Greece, Turkey, Dolomites, France, La Gomera, Spain. Above we could trace routes on the rocks. We have been lucky.

Our lunchstone.

Our lunchstone.

The classic arete on the left of the crag.

A paved track cum water course took us steeply down into the valley where we joined the Dales Way, another old favourite. We now met people strolling the river bank commenting on the lovely weather – no idea what it was like up on the tops. We kept to the left bank path on the Wharfe which proved ‘undulating’. Good views down to the deadly Strid though.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCSUmwP02T8

The car park was full of £8 vehicles when we arrived back at the busy Pavilion. Coffee at the pieman’s was the most economical option before driving home.

A BLEASDALE BLAST.

Bleasdale.

Bleasdale.

The forecast was dire – strong easterlies and minimal temperatures.

Enjoying a Sunday lie in listening to the radio I was disturbed by a phone call at about 10am from Mike wondering if I fancied a walk in the prevailing conditions. He had cancelled sailing in Yorkshire [even worse weather – not suitable for rigging up]. Glad of the prompt I suggested a couple of venues and arranged to pick him up at 11am. Quick breakfast.

We plumped for Bleasdale – lowish lying and good tracks. I’ve done this walk many times in all seasons – ie.  But something new always crops up.

The wind was blowing at 30mph when we left the car but we were sheltered by that magnificent beech hedge along the road. Turning right into the estate road at the desirable small lodge views opened up of the Bleasdale circle of fells. We walked through the estate houses and workshops and headed straight into the wind. As you go into a shelter band of trees there is a tall arched bridge across a small stream, I’ve never taken much notice of this before but today clambered down the bank for a better view. On the parapet downstream is a crest with the stonemasons tools highlighted but no date or name. On the open stretch of track the wind was fierce blowing sleet into our faces, we didn’t hang about. The hills disappeared into cloud and we were glad we weren’t up there. We were passed by a girl on an electric mountain bike with the widest tyres I’ve seen on a cycle. Battered by the wind we passed the track to Bleasdale Circle.

Mystic Bleasdale circle.

Mystic Bleasdale circle.

On to the isolated church and school. The wind turbine was hurtling round and no doubt providing electricity to the grid via the community centre. Things have changed here since my last visit – the well insulated parish hall has connected to the turbine and also installed an ecological  wood pellet burning boiler. Quite a step forward for this small community.

All is not necessarily rural idyll in this area –

After 4.5 miles we were glad to be back at the car and home for soup and rugby on TV.

 

A PRESTON PARKS WALK.

Preston was at the forefront of providing Municipal Parks in the 19th century with forward thinking from its Elders, Several of the developments where enhanced by using local unemployed cotton workers  during the Cotton Famine due to the American Civil War in the 1860’s.  In Haslam Park last year I remember noticing a forlorn blaze mark denoting a Preston Seven Parks Walk and I made a mental note for a future winter walk. The forecast was good for Saturday, most of my walking activities are governed by the forecast these days, so Friday night I did some Internet research with little success. The seven parks were mentioned but nowhere was there any detailed route information so out came the 1:25,000. The first thing I noted was that there were nine obvious parks in Preston, although one, Farringdon Park, was in fact a cemetery, so my objective changed and I wanted to also include Fishwick Bottoms, a green area, arguably a tenth.

A clockwise route was devised with hopefully as little street walking as possible taking me to parts of the city I had never explored. Some areas have a bad reputation, rightly or wrongly and I wanted to complete those in the morning rather than potentially in the dusk.

Deepdale Sainsburys was a good parking spot and after a heavy shower I set off at about 10am down the delivery bay of the supermarket – it was going to be one of those walks. Gates took me into Brookfield Linear Park and a path followed a little stream, Eaves Brook, through a narrow green strip in Holme Slack. As a result of being so close to housing the amount of rubbish and burnt out debris was disappointing.

Strange fruit.

Strange fruit.

Familiar roads, Cromwell and Ribbleton, were crossed and a bit of scrambling took me into Grange Park. This was much more extensive and at the far end next to the motorway were remains of formal gardens which were better maintained. The park was developed in the grounds of Ribbleton Hall whose foundations have been restored. From the motorway bridge I could have followed tracks to Brockholes nature reserve and then the Guild Wheel to the central parks but I wanted to visit the next three hereabouts. So turning away from the noisy motorway a stroll down the estate took me to Farringdon Park which is the city’s cemetery. Paths weaved between the gravestones, these paths apparently being laid out as a butterfly only visible from above. Rows and rows of sombre ornate Victorian headstones lined the path,  more arresting was an area given over to children’s graves. These were colourful with mementos of the lost childhoods but very distressing to witness. There are other areas of this park I would like to explore including a Muslim and Jewish burial areas. I emerged onto the road adjacent to Ribbleton Park which is mainly recreational with football pitches, bowls and children play grounds. Crossing over to the Fishwick estate I found a path dropping down to a large open recreational field in Fishwick Bottoms and then skirting the notorious Callon estate following a lane down again to join the Guild Wheel to Walton Bridge. A better way would have been to enter the Fishwick Nature Reserve linking to the same place but I was unaware of its existence, next time.

Fishwick fields - not a drug runner in sight.

Fishwick fields – not a drug runner in sight.

The familiar riverside track led into Avenham Park with its open aspect and popular cafe …

Avenham Park

Avenham Park

then Miller Park, more ornate with terracing, statue, bandstand  and fountain. The large brick building towering over Miller Park was formerly a the Midland Hotel serving Preston railway station and now used as council offices. Both these parks have had a lot of money spent on them in the last few years to bring them back to their former glory and in today’s sunshine were extremely popular.

Miller Park - ignore the ugly council block top left.

Miller Park – ignore the ugly council block top left.

To reach my next objective I continued on The Guild Wheel along the river into Preston docks, now marina, stopping off at the welcome cafe. A short section of road walking and I was in  Ashton Park again a more open space surrounding the old hall. The  playground seemed to have an entertaining variety of equipment for young and old.Crossing the busy Blackpool Road a short street gave access under the railway and Tom Benson Way [more of him later]  into Haslam Park. The pasture land for Haslam Park was the gift of Mary, daughter of John Haslam, a local cotton mill owner, the park opened in 1910. As I entered from the south there were acres of parkland with Tulketh Mill in the background, a reminder of the cotton trade which brought so much prosperity to the city and helped establish the parks I’m visiting. The Savick Brook runs through the park which also has a lake and large recreational spaces. The water for the lake cascades down an artificial grotto from the Lancaster Canal above.

Haslam Park with the iconic Tulketh Cotton Mill in the background.

Haslam Park with the iconic Tulketh Cotton Mill in the background.

 

The towpath of the canal helped me cross Preston towards my last park. Chatting to a man tending his canalside garden he alerted me to the presence of a Kingfisher which I later luckily saw rapidly disappearing under Blackpool Road. A few back to back streets and I was entering through the prominent gates into Moor Park which has a long and interesting history detailed  here.  [The observatory has recently been upgraded by the university,] Today the sunshine had brought lots of people into the park. I walked around the lake and past Deepdale Stadium, Preston were playing away today, down Tom Finney Way and into Flintoff Way and my car. The latter two along with Tom Benson [see link above] complete Preston’s sporting heroes trio.

This 12 mile circuit of these parks shows to varying degrees how green spaces enhance the city providing recreational facilities for all as well as suitable animal and plant habitats. My only fear is what will be their condition in a few more years of our cash starved council? I am sure they will not be developing this circuit as a Preston Ten Parks Walk.

 

 

THE GARDEN IN JANUARY.

I have been meaning to follow my garden through the seasons for awhile – January is a good place to start. Due to our topsy-turvy climate this year there are no pretty pictures of fragile blossoms pushing through the snow, though a spell of icy weather has retarded some plants. 

The photo above shows a rather bare garden with my progress in cutting down a 50year old Blue Spruce that lost all its needles a couple of years ago and unfortunately shows no sign of recovery. The best wood will fuel my stove but I’ve decided to shred the brash to use as garden mulch.

January is a difficult month for flowers and I’ve relied on hardy shrubs to bulk up this post. From the start of the year the Mahonia, Jasmine and Virburnum have been in constant bloom. Slowly the Hellebores have come into flower and that’s about it really but I’m hoping things will get going next month. Maybe I should plan ahead for next January with more plantings.

Mahonia Charity

Mahonia Charity

Jasmin nudiflorum.

Jasmin nudiflorum.

 

Viburnum Bodnatense

Viburnum Bodnantense.   

Helleborus argutifolius. Corsican Hellebore.

Helleborus argutifolius. Corsican Hellebore.

Helleborus sternii

Helleborus sternii

Helleborus purpurascens.

Helleborus purpurascens.                                                     

Helleborus niger.

Helleborus niger, Christmas Rose.

I’ve just come in from the garden as the sun sets and starlings congregate in a nearby tree for possibly some murmuration later.