Category Archives: Family

THE LOT. A HOLIDAY DIARY.

Puy L’Eveque on the Lot River.

I’ve just returned from three weeks staying in my friend’s house in the Lot Valley, France.  The weather as you can imagine, in August, was hot and sunny.

The first week was shared with the owners and their family, the second two weeks one of my sons came out with his family.

Here is a snapshot of daily life.

Day 1.  Hot air balloon. Awoke this morning to see across the vineyards a hot air balloon landing through the mist over towards Vire. They must have had a fantastic flight in the clear morning air. I don’t know where they launch from, an unusual start to the holiday.

Day 2. Men in orange. It turns out that this Thursday is a French Bank Holiday, we get caught out with the shops being closed.  This explains why the hunters are out in the combe, dogs try to flush out deer or wild boar into the open. Not a good time to go walking. Thankfully there were no shots heard this morning.

Day 3. Full moon. I seem to often visit whilst there is a full moon which shines brightly over the back of the house and garden whilst we are finishing supper.

Day 4. In the pool. The two young children make the most of the pool as the temperature sores into the 30s.

Children, father and grandma.

Day 5. BMF training. Saturday back home in Leeds is BMF training session in Roundhay Park so the exercises were recreated on the lawn. It all looked very energetic and powerful from my viewpoint on a lounger.

Day 6. French walkers. Each day I get out for a short walk, often before breakfast. My favourite is up the garden into the woods and then back down The Combe de Filhol. Today I extend my walk around the Orienteering Course in the woods across the way. I come across a group of French walkers, holidaying in the area, marching along with a map. Normally I see no one but today as I zigzag about I bump into the same group several times, they look a little uneasy as I keep appearing from the undergrowth.

Day 7. Hints of autumn.  On my walks I started noticing fungi pushing through the undergrowth. Unfortunately they looked poisonous, On the other hand, the mirabelles, small plums, were prolific and once stewed provided many delicious desserts with yoghurt or ice cream.

Day 8. All change. I take mine hosts back to the airport and await the arrival of my family group. They are quickly through passport control, how will this be next year after Brexit?   I drive them back with a short coffee break in Isseagac, a charming Bastide town.

Day 9. Garden games. A lot of time was taken up with games in the garden. Boules, table tennis, french cricket, croquet etc. The competitive spirit was well demonstrated in croquet where some most unfriendly manoeuvers were taken.

Day 10. On the bike. For some of my longer excursions, I took one of the bikes with me but ended up walking as much as riding due to the terrain and the bike’s gears’ obstinacy. One of my favourite trips which I hadn’t made for some time was over the hills to St. Martin le Redon in the Theze valley. Firstly over to Touzac then over the river Lot on a splendid metal bridge. Near here is a good swimming spot in the slow running river, popular in the heatwave, One of the GR routes is joined to go over another group of hills down into the Theze valley. St. Martin is a sleepy village but has gained a little cafe since I was last here; a welcome addition. In the valley is a string of limestone cliffs which I often climbed on in happier times. Hilly tracks take me over to Duravel and slowly back to the house.

Day 11. More exercise. As if last weeks exercises hadn’t been enough my own family started on more each day. Matthew and Lou’s seemed fairly casual but Sam was into serious workouts in between fast runs.

Day 12. Shush! there’s a deer in the garden. The orchard higher up the garden has numerous apple trees which drop their fruit at this time of year. It is a regular event for deer to visit the garden for this fruit and Alex spotted one tonight, well done; they don’t hang around long.

Day 13. Off to market. Sunday is market day at the nearby town of Montcuq.  There is a market somewhere every day but this one is very popular with locals and tourists. Every sort of stall [produce, clothing, antiques etc.] street entertainment and an interesting village to explore.

Day 14. The Poolman cometh. An ageing hippy drives up in his Morris Minor van, he has a collection of them, and cleans the pool.

Day 15. Snakes and glow worms.

Day16. More pool activities.  The weather was perfect for relaxing in the pool. One of the challenges was to do a length on the banana,

Day 17. Orienteering. In the woods I’ve set up a simple orienteering course. The family were keen to try it and being competitive split into two groups, I’ll call them the tortoises and the hares. They disappeared for an hour or so and needless to say the more careful tortoises came in first. This proved the hardest to find in a pile of stones in the middle of the trees…

Day 18. Eating in and out. We have mainly eaten at the house, two vegans to feed plus two picky ‘enfants’. Despite that, the family have eaten out at several local restaurants. Chips and salad is the best option for vegans in France. For a special occasion, I specifically booked the nearest place we could walk to. Le Caillau is a lovely courtyard restaurant with a reputation for good food. They told me they could cater for Vegans. My family appreciated the atmosphere and the food but I thought they could have been a little more creative with the seasonable vegetables, What have I missed out – wine tasting, Martignac with its Medieval church, lavoir and cazelle, Buzzards, Bastide towns, castles, mosquitos, kayaking and LOTS  more.

Day 19. Chez mois.  Je suis de retour a la maison maintenant, c’est l’Automne.   Que fait Boris?

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Beacon Fell.

Beacon Fell, Brock Bottoms and Kemple End.

It’s the summer holidays and I’m entertaining my youngest grandson for a couple of days, that’s all he has in his busy diary. I think of some local walks that will keep him interested and not be overdemanding. When I was his age, 11years, I could cover 20 miles no problem across rough moorland, alone and while smoking a few Woodbines.  Maybe not, but I think the generations have softened the Human Spirit. While he stays with me there is an unplugged mentality regarding mobile devices, I try to explain that nothing will happen whilst he is off line. He is not convinced.

He arrives with his stepmother, both keen to explore the local countryside. I’ve devised a route up onto Beacon Fell that is interesting, short and easy. They seem happy with it as we arrive at the cafe in time for lunch. On the way we passed Barnsfold Reservoir where his great grandad used to fish and paint piscatorial images for the fellow fishermen. I’ve often wondered what happened to those skilled canvases.  We marvelled at the size of two Buzzards wheeling overhead and we wondered about unusual tree fungi, a white bracket on a beech tree which I’ve been unable to identify.

We walked past a farm where the family have diversified into a hair salon what was previously a cowshed, good on them.

We passed more fishing lakes this time part of a recreational complex with holiday chalets. The original farm, Wood Fold, is grade II listed but has been submerged by ancillary housing.  I never realised how much-hidden developments there were in the area.  There was only a minor footpath diversion through this development.

Onwards, with grandson navigating, we followed my route of the other day through Crombleholme Fold and up the fields and into the woods to the honey spot of Beacon Fell.

All smiles.

We were probably the only people that had walked here, all be it only a  couple of miles. A trio of elderly cyclists arrived and clattered into the cafe, they had come through the hills from Lancaster. We enjoyed soup and sandwiches. On our way back we had time for an attempt at climbing the new snake from tail to head and then we were out of the woods and back at the car. There were some new wood carvings of leafy Green men, a pre-Christian symbol. Incidentally, there is a Green Man Pub in nearby Inglewwhite.

I hope that a few navigational skills have been absorbed.

The afternoon was spent pruning bushes in my garden and the more exciting shredding of those branches which provided lots of laughs. A competitive game of boules anticipated our imminent family trip to France.

Refreshed by Thursday morning our next jaunt was to Brock Bottoms just below Beacon Fell. We were one of the first cars parked up in the popular picnic spot.  It is years since I’ve been along this stretch of the River Brock. Memories of early forages with my own young children keep coming back. The river is low, we see no kingfishers or dippers which I was hoping for.

The highlight of this walk was going to be Brock Mill but alas time has taken its toll on the ruins of the mill. Where there had been substantial buildings there were only stones with little evidence of the mill race, waterwheel or the mill itself.

Brock Mill was once a thriving water-driven cotton spinning mill with up to twenty cottages in the valley for the workers.  The mill was probably built in the 1790s. After a chequered history and two reincarnations as a roller making factory, and then a file making factory the mill finally closed in the 1930s. For some time the ground floor of the mill operated as a café, whilst the top floor was used for dancing on Saturday nights!

It took some imagination to see the ruins of the cottages.

Slightly disappointed we retraced our steps. Having given my grandson a lecture on watermills I drove back via Chipping where there is a water wheel attached to a house, a former corn mill and then converted to a restaurant with the wheel turning.

I cut the lawn whilst he caught up on ‘social media’, he hates it when I call it ‘antisocial media’

The weather remained sunny and dry and the plan for the afternoon was some bouldering up on Longridge Fell. Again keeping it low key I bypassed the tough Craig Y Longridge and settled for Kemple End. We dropped into the secluded heather bowl that is the old quarry. We were out of the sun and spent a couple of hours trying some of the easier problems. He realised that outdoor climbing is so different to the climbing walls he has been visiting. At the end of the session, I’m not convinced I’ve converted him into a proper climber. I was so busy spotting him that I didn’t take any photos – next time.

I don’t know who was most tired by the time his father came to take him home. See you in France.

EVEN MORE OF DINKLEY ON A GOOD FRIDAY FAMILY WALK.

The successful walk last week along the Ribble must have been at the back of my mind when some of the family pitched up on Good Friday. So after a quick lunch of soup I suggested something similar as the weather was perfect. Parking at the Marles Wood site was tricky but we luckily managed a space as someone drove away. Since last week the bluebells have moved on a touch and the ‘blue carpet’ was making an appearance in the woods.

Sales Wheel.

A steady stream of walkers made their way through the woods to and from the river at Sales Wheel, early picnickers on the banks had been testing the cold water and were now relaxing with beers – typical Brits on holiday, some will have red skin tonight.

We pressed on to the open area along the river and descended to the shingle beach for a prolonged session of enthusiastic stone skimming. Despite the abundance of perfect flat stones none made it to the opposite bank.

After some time simple stone chucking became the order of the day before a drinks stop.

We admired the new bridge and noticed the plaque from the 1951 opening of the original suspension bridge, which I’d missed last time.

Rather than walk the long way back along the opposite bank, protestations from the grandchild, we decided to head uphill to the road on this side. Looking at the 1:25,000 I spotted a track going virtually all the way without too much road walking. Of course this was not a right of way but looked inviting so we went for it. This worked well and we followed tracks of sorts all the way without obstruction except at the end emerging onto the road where the gate was locked with dire warnings to trespassers. I was particularly pleased with the route which gave magnificent views back down to the river and the bridge as well as more distant views of Hurst Green, Longridge Fell and Pendle Hill, and brought us back to the car without too much family stress – we had only covered two miles in two hours.

‘forgive us our trespasses’

 

Back to my place for beers, bagatelle and Ratatouille.

*****

BEWARE OF THE GRUFFALO.

If you go down to the woods today you may be in for a big surprise.

Today was another short walk taking advantage of a sunny afternoon and celebrating the plastic bag man‘s birthday. The real reason was a birthday curry buffet at a favourite restaurant, Bangla Spice in Leyland. One of my sons joined us for the laugh, the day before I’d been on the streets of Stretford following a jumble sale trail with my other son and family.

Cuerden Valley was our venue having never really explored here before. The area was popular with dog walkers and families all enjoying the space and sunshine. We had a rough map of the park and set off along a path that soon had us crossing the busy M6 motorway, not a peaceful start.

But before long we were walking in a strange walled path towards the hall, we imagined the masses walking to work in the past.

The hall itself, not an edifying building, was approached. This is the centre for the Sue Ryder Charity. We found in the stables area of the hall several good charity shops – books, brickabat and clothes – all for a good cause, neurological care and support to local people and their loved ones.

Onwards past hidden housing estates, the offices for Lancashire Wildlife Trust and a walled garden to the woods where a Gruffalo hunt had been underway. Thankfully this was over and the big G had gone home. Plastic bag man still felt a little uneasy, mouse-like, as we entered the mature woodland. There was a wide range of trees planted by the estate a century ago.

Going into an interesting looking nature reserve we were accosted by a volunteer suggesting there was no entry, we didn’t argue [there is always another time to explore unnoticed.] We meekly walked down to the bridge over the River and followed the masses and their dogs.  Another carpark was reached and we crossed the road to continue down valley, it was here we got bored and hungry and decided to retrace our steps. What lies down the valley will have to remain for another visit. The whole area is worthy of further exploration.

Above us on the return was the new visitors’ centre, an impressive Eco-designed building, which will be worth a visit soon. Further on was the fishing lake, an old lodge.

Paths took us back to our carpark and that tasty curry.                                                                                ***

 

 

A LOT OF WORK.

Back in the Lot valley for a couple of weeks to ease me into Autumn. When we arrived the air temperature was up in the high 20s and more importantly was the pool temperature. As the days slowly passed the temperatures dropped but I was still swimming on the last day. This was the usual combination holiday of work and pleasure, heavily biased to the latter. My oldest grandson joined us for a week and it was great to reacquaint him with the pleasures of rural France, think food and wine. It was a bus-man’s holiday for him being on lifeguard duty by the pool!  Despite the usual post flight colds we managed a few local walks and cycles incorporating fruit picking, he was on guard as I picked. Bad example to the innocent younger generation. Light relief came from boules, table tennis, crosswords and whist – boring old farts.

Anyhow to get back to the subject of this post there was a lot of work going on at nearby Hauterive Chateau with the plums they grow alongside the vines A machine washed and cleaned the ripe plums, trays of plums are then loaded into ovens to dehydrate them into our breakfast prunes. As well as our boxes of wine we came away with handfuls of plums which provided desserts for many nights. Grape picking occurs later at the end of September.

The fields in the vicinity of the house had been harvested earlier and now they were being ploughed and harrowed. The size of modern machinery is staggering, the tractor turns up with a trailer which then proceeds to unfurl its long wings making quick work of the large fields. The last run must have been seeding as within a few days green shoots of Barley appeared.

One morning I woke to find a man on the roof cleaning the chimney in the traditional way. Apparently one needs an annual certificate of this work being carried out for insurance purposes.

We had our own work repairing the sit on mower but thankfully the helper is an experienced engineer. It did work later.On my daily circuit of the wooded hill and combe I spotted some trees that had their bases tarred and sticks placed against them, not as traps but possibly as markers for any boar or deer movements. The woods are hunted regularly. No one was able to give a satisfactory explanation.

Every night a deer came down the garden to feed on fallen apples so in an attempt to get a closer view I rigged up my hammock and laid in wait but of course I drifted off to sleep, too much wine, so probably missed all the action. There was a full moon which lit up the garden in the early hours.

A pleasant couple of weeks.

EASTER DISTRACTIONS ON THE GUILD WHEEL.

The garage where I bought my car from last year lies on The Guild Wheel circuit. When I phoned to arrange the yearly service I was surprised the appointment, they have become very clinical in garages, was on Easter Monday, so rather than waste the day in went the bike. The receptionist, very clinical, was taken aback by my Lycra and helmet and doubted I would be back within the 2 hours the service would take. I set off on the Wheel in an anticlockwise direction and after a couple of miles I was investigating the lock gates from the Ribble into Preston docks when a familiar voice caught my ear and there was one of my sons and his partner cycling the opposite way. They were visiting from Manchester and doing a quick circuit before dining with family. I was invited to join them and soon was retracing my ride past the garage I had left a short while ago. I meant to mention that this garage is part of a multi motor showroom complex – there are cars and salesmen everywhere.

The day was cool and dry, we made good progress around the northern half of the Wheel. I managed to keep up with their youthful pace but was glad of a coffee stop in, say it quietly, Starbucks.That reminded me of a picture I took in Bethlehem a couple of years ago.

Onwards and down through the woods at Redscar where the bluebells were just colouring up. Now the fact it was Easter Monday hit home as all the way through Brockholes the path was thronged with families enjoying the sunshine. Slow progress. The pace quickened on the stretch by the river and after that my companions took a different route up into Preston. From here the crowds thickened again and I realised it was the famousegg rolling day in Avenham Park so it was simpler and safer to dismount and walk with the crowds. There was a great party atmosphere – egg-rollers, fair goers, music and dance entertainment and general family happiness. I tarried to absorb it all.

Even after leaving the park the route through the docks was thronged with people, the steam train was running. I arrived back at the garage after three hours to collect my car, complete with its clinical diagnostic sheet. I complemented the receptionist on their efficiency and enthused how easily I fitted the cycle into the boot.

Everyone seemed happy on this sunny Easter Monday.

Longridge Fell – then and now.

There is a stream coming off Longridge Fell crossed by a small bridge.  I often walk this way. When my two oldest grand children were young this was an ideal spot for a bit of ‘damn building’ and became a favourite of theirs.

This weekend I had staying my youngest grandchild and he was keen to follow suit.  His father took a picture of us, then remembered back to previous times and low and behold there on his phone was April 2002.

Uncanny coincidence. Wish I had evidence of visits with my boys when they were that young in the 70s.

2002.

2002.

2016.

2016.