To misquote Laura Kuenssberg. Morning, come with me. I’m not going to go easy on you, but I’ll be fair. Shall we get on with it? Here we go.
If I have an hour to spare for exercise or some time between rain showers I inevitably end up doing a circuit in a nearby woodland. I’ve been up there three times this week, no matter the weather, it’s different every time. Far better than walking around the roads or wet fields. It might be worth your while bringing boots or wellies as at this time of year there are some wet areas, nothing serious. Parking is easy, about 10 minutes out of town, some of you may know it.
Through the gate and a track heads straight on into the new plantation. A way through has been created by dog walkers and perhaps myself. It winds between the newly planted deciduous trees and the regrowth of conifers since part of the wood was felled several years ago. It is good to watch the growth year by year of these trees. I do wonder though, without thinning, the conifers may outstrip the planted oaks, beech, birch, mountain ash and hollies. It is the strong oily odours of the conifers that endure as you push your way through.
The bracken is dying off and the heathers a dull brown too. Autumn colour is just starting in the trees. Flowers are replaced by different varieties of fungi, I wish I could identify more of them. There is always bird song up here but the bees and butterflies have gone for the year.
Onwards the path reaches two isolated, tall, dead trunks from the original forestry. They stand like two sentinels spearing the sky, a good marker for a faint path going right and climbing the hillside, again winding its way between trees. Higher the track is easier to follow now the bracken is dying back and eventually comes out on the rim of a deep quarry, a large hole in the ground, filling up with water at this time of year. Time for a break, look back down over the plantation and the Ribble Valley, check out the quarry for bird life. There are deer up here too.
Heading back down look out for a right branching path traversing through the new plantation below the sombre remaining Spruce. More twist and turns and one comes to a tumble down wall, evidence of fields before the forest was planted by the water board of the time. A wide track/forest break leads straight on into an ever darkening environment. Death pervades the atmosphere. Yes, these forests were a bleak monoculture aimed solely at timber production.
You may find a stone cairn which is the junction for heading back down through the trees, many of which appear dead, to the forest track and greenery. There is a sawn off stump here, and I often place a pebble on it only to find next time it’s gone. ‘Anti cairn’ walkers or some animal in the night.
Take a right and follow the wide track, sharing it with a stream which tends to drain along it halfway. At the end there is light as one emerges into the felled plantation.
A swerve right and then a dink left down the hillside. There are some wet patches along here, but eventually you hop across a ditch and reach the lower path by the brook. This week it has been lively and could be heard long before it was reached.
Walk up the slope alongside the brook, again easier now the bracken is dying back. Another wall is met and a bit of a scramble down to a side stream waterfall where a miniature causeway has appeared in recent years. I always add a stone to it when I pass. The flow of water will probably wash them all away this winter.
For a brief moment you come out onto the open hillside where barn owls quarter at dusk. Higher up alongside the water there has been extensive tree planting. But we don’t go that way, instead we hop across a wall back into the original forest. There are different fungi on this stretch, yellowish ones that are quickly eaten, by slugs? The way onwards is clear but to either side is primeval swamp. The gales of the last couple of years have caused devastation, but it will all rot away given time, wonderful for diversification of the environment. Don’t stray from the path.
And then you are back at the road.
Two kilometres of discovery, reflection and peace.
Take your time and enjoy all it has to offer, it’s good for the soul.
Hope you spot something new and maybe go around the other way next time – it’s different.