Category Archives: Lancashire.

THE GARDEN IN SEPTEMBER.

I’ve been away most of September and the garden is looking neglected, but to continue my year’s diary…

Hedges need trimming and plants cutting back. Not a lot has changed since the end of last month and we are now slowly drifting into Autumn.

Sedums come into their own at this time of year.

As do Michaelmas Daisies [asters]The Monkshood [Aconitum carmichaelii] seem to have grown taller this year, they are probably the most poisonous plant in the garden.Cimicifuga simplex racemona brightens up a shady cornerand a late flowering Phlox paniculata Norah Leigh does the sameThe less showy Physostegia virginiana, the Obedient Plant named because it will stay in any position you twist it to, makes an effort to flower.

Otherwise it is seeds and berries.

The Cornus kousa fruit soon goes off but apparently can be used for making wine – next year.The birds love the Cotoneaster berriesand my Monkey Puzzle tree has started producing ‘cones’

But really we are heading into Autumn

 

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 BREATH OF FRESH AIR.

I’ve spent a couple of rather fraught days planning and booking up and coming trips and this afternoon I felt the need to break free and walk up the fell. The weather since I’ve returned from France has been atrocious but today there are blue skies in between the showers.

I park up at Cardwell House on Jeffrey Hill. The signpost at the fell gate says ‘concessionary path’ but is clearly marked on the OS map as a public footpath. My mind immediately goes into conspiracy theory mode made worse by the newly erected grouse shooting butts nearby.  Anyhow the path, concessionary or not, leads up the fell. Fields in the Vale of Chipping below are flooded. Ahead clear visibility shows Penyghent and later Ingleborough.

The best of the heather colour has gone and the ground is wet, I’ve seen worse but not necessarily in September. There is a lot of water flowing from the little spring passed on the way.

The air is fresh, north westerly. As I walk up to the trig point views open up in all directions. What a great sense of freedom up here, why don’t I do this every evening? At one time when my resolve was stronger I did.

Walking back down a different way I was pleased with new forest clearings and planting of some deciduous trees making the area more attractive.

The car park on return was quite busy yet I saw no one on the fell, strange. Less than an hour’s stroll but all that fresh air has put me in a far more positive mood. Tomorrow evening.

THE GARDEN IN AUGUST.

I’m not going to mention the weather. To be honest the garden doesn’t look a lot different this August from July but there are some interesting additions.

Many of the flowers from July are still showing, the Japanese anemones have a long flowering period…

 

 

 

 

 

… the Hemerocallis, Day Lily, has only a short one – as its name implies.One of the shrubs essential to any garden is Buddleia davidii not only for its fragrant blooms in late summer but for the butterflies it attracts.

Three more unusual plants in my side border are Crinum powelli,  Clematis heracleifolia and Cautleya spicata ‘Robusta’ [Himalayan Ginger]

Far less showy but giving good ground cover in rough shady areas is Persicaria campanulatum. The humble Montbretia has many varieties, all a little invasive, one particular favourite of mine is Crocosomia solfatareI have other varieties of this easy plant 

In my boggy area I grow this interesting plant, Kirengeshoma palmata, which is just coming into flower.

A small uncommon tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum, at this time of year develops strange fragrant flowers.  

The Fuchsia papoose is showing its colourful bells  and who knows with a little more sun plants like Helianthus Lemon Queen will brighten up the end of the month.

Anyhow back to cutting the privet hedge.

NO PARTICULAR PLACE TO GO.

Three of the blogs I follow all had ‘Adventure’ in their titles today, that’s the last thing that can be said about mine.

After lunch when the sun finally came out I needed a walk; didn’t want to drive anywhere, didn’t want to go in the wet fields so a local road circuit was ideal. This circuit of just over 4½ miles used to be one of my regular winter runs. I never did get below 35minutes. Today I was happy to see what was of interest on the way – no particular place to go.

 

At present there is so much housing development in town causing road closures and diversions. All the traffic is now coming down, the normally quiet, Halfpenny Lane at an alarming rate and causing queuing for heavens sake. Traffic becomes one of today’s bugbears, thats a strange expression. It is whizzing dangerously past me at 60mph in a 30 limit as I set off and continues to do so onto the main road, I felt uneasy when I shouldn’t have to. Too many cruising along rapidly with their radios on full blast. At one point the pavement was blocked by an overgrown hedge and stepping into the road was a scary experience. I think I’m going to avoid this stretch from now on, the automobile has taken over. I know I’m an old moaner but what have we allowed to happen to our villages and lanes, I can only see it getting worse. Who wants this hectic life?

Thankfully I entered Back Lane and all was peace and quiet by the cattery, must be a great life.

Other catteries are available – I have used David and Rita’s Champion Kennels nearby for 20 years. Amusingly I was on holiday last year with a couple who use Purrfection and their cat sent them a text message halfway through saying he was OK. I complained to my cat, in Champion, about his lack of thought but got no sympathy.

In the grounds I caught a glimpse of one of those old railway cabins used for storage on many farms and small holdings after their life on the track was over. Where did you buy them from?Along the lane a farmhouse, date-stone 1782, is being renovated and provides a contrast to its more modern extended neighbour. Ashley Lane winds through the fields with distant views of Parlick, Fairsnape and Longridge Fell. Overhead a pair of buzzards are wheeling and crying, there seems to have been an increase in these majestic birds in the last few years around here. My phone is not capable of capturing their image. The afternoon drifts on and I spend time picking and eating blackberries from the hedgerows though I didn’t have the patience to collest enough for a pie.  I spot an Inkcap Mushroom in the verge; these are edible when young, but react badly with alcohol as they contain the Antabuse chemical, I recall from my foraging days when I enjoyed them on toast.The occupant of this house obviously has a tractor obsession. They all looked pristine, there are lots of tractor shows in Lancashire.

I have commented on these pigs before, hog roast tonight?

Now heading home on Inglewhite Road the traffic increases once again and the tranquility of the countryside vanishes. I think tomorrow a fell walk would be preferable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LECK – a day out with Tilley.

Things don’t always work out as planned, today’s walk was one of those.

In the past I have often explored Leck Beck from the village up to Ease Gill and remember the dramatic scenery particularly in Ease Gill Kirk. We would often finish the day with some simple cave exploration on the fell, Short Drop and Lost Johns Caves stand out in my memory. So when the Pieman and his little brother Will [all is relative] suggested a revisit I was keen to join them. Out came Wainwright’s Limestone book with the relative chapter, maybe we could also throw in an ascent of Gragareth.

The day started well as I parked up next to the church and donated them a pound , cheaper than those car parks in the Lakes. We met up promptly but there was an unexpected addition to the team – Tilley the spaniel, Will’s beloved dog. This didn’t seem a problem as she was on a lead and appeared docile enough. Off we went catching up on events in our separate lives and reveling in the lovely weather. Tilley trotted alongside. Only when we into more open country did I realise that Tilley could run Will a merry dance, despite being on one of those retractable leads when she decided to explore off route Will seemed to have to run after her.  Hilarious.

The valley was longer and more beautiful than we remembered. Certainly longer for Will dragged aside by Tilley. By the time we reached the interesting Ease Gill Kirk my plan to drop into it to explore further didn’t resonate with the brothers plus dog and they left me to it. Feeling rather abandoned my visit was only cursory and I didn’t see what I wanted. The whole place seemed overgrown and unreconisable, I’ll have to return without any pressure.

Reunited for lunch we discussed the way on, the dog team won and we climbed up the hillside, now resplendent in purple heather, towards the road near Leck Fell House. This must be one of the loneliest places in Lancashire, yes we are still in an outpost of Lancashire despite the ‘dales’ feel to the area. I didn’t have the heart to inform the other two they were not in their beloved Yorkshire, they might have panicked. Potholes were all now fenced off and I didn’t have the time to find my favourite, Short Drop Cave. I used to enjoy dropping into it, it was only a short drop once you knew it, and going down the water worn passage was easy for some distance.  Apparently the dog was tired so our ascent of Gragareth was dismissed. At least we made a cursory exploration of the area of Lost Johns Cave, a stream entrance was obvious but today there was too much water  and too little enthusiasm for further probing.

Back on the road it was a delightful walk back down to Leck with Tilley showing no further signs of fatigue lead the way. The scenery hereabouts triumphed over my frustrations as we arrived back early at the car.

I would like to make it clear I have no malice towards the lovely Tilley, as they say it’s not the dog’s fault  it’s the owner’s.

A map of where we did and didn’t go…

FAIRY HOLES CAVE – WHITEWELL.

My stereotypical image of prehistoric life is of a family sat eating round a fire, animal bones scattered about, in the mouth of a cave. Hence this morning I found myself sat in a cave entrance high above the River Hodder near Whitewell living the dream. Fairy Holes Cave was excavated in 1946 and more recently in 2013 and has revealed cremated human bones, animal bones and pieces of pottery dated to the early Bronze Age. I had not been here for maybe 35 years when I had come to show my children the virtually unknown site. I remember it took some finding and was on private land – it remains so to this day. Once located there are three caves in a limestone outcrop, the middle one being by far the most extensive. A high entrance leads to a 25m long cave which you need to stoop along until at the furthest point a phreatic tube allows you to stand again. My head torch only allowed a poor view of the features but I was hoping some photos would show more. Having satisfied my speleological desires I clambered up the hillside and continued on my walk through this limestone area of Bowland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The early morning start north of Chipping saw me parked up at the end of a bridleway, now a surfaced lane, leading to a prominent Lime-kiln on Knott Hill, this was used to provide lime for the fields and mortar. Throughout this walk little outcrops and quarries of limestone are discovered.

The tracks onwards to Lickhurst Farm were waterlogged reflecting the amount of rain we’ve experienced this summer. Got chatting to the weathered farmer, whom I knew from a previous life, about these isolated Bowland Hill farms. He is due for retirement soon and is one of the last generation born and bread in the area. So many buildings, farms and barns have been upgraded for a new breed of incomers. The property next to him which seemed derelict a couple of years ago when I passed through now offers luxury accommodation. We speculated, with a smile,  on how they will manage cut off in the next harsh winter – no doubt helicopters will be involved and the TV will report on a survival rescue.

Lickhurst Farm.

The next stretch through more  wet fields passed farmsteads, Dinkling Green and Higher Fence Wood, amidst curious Limestone Knolls surrounded by the Bowland Fells:  a juxtaposition  of grit and lime. Hereabouts I had heard of caves but never found them, I wandered about in vain for awhile and was on the verge of giving up when I spotted a fenced enclosure, a give away really. There it was – an obvious cave opening in an outcrop. It turned out to be a few cave entrances to a system which looked as though it extended down into deeper passages – not for me alone today. Has this cave a name I wonder?

Down the lane and across fields towards a small quarried outcrop which I remember bouldering on years ago and which is now in the definitive Lancashire Bouldering Guide named appropriately Reef Knoll Crag. Anyhow passing quickly onwards I arrive in the farm yard of New Laund where workers are busy sorting sheep. Nobody notices my diversion to Fairy Holes…

 

… my continuation over New Laund Hill gives views back to ‘The Jaws of Bowland’ with Mellor Knoll, Burholme Bridge and the Whitendale Fells prominent. Ahead is the deep wooded valley enclosing The Hodder with the slopes of Longridge Fell behind. Some creative navigation through Fair Oak put me on the right track to Greystonely, another farmstead with converted buildings, the one whose residents I knew were out so no cups of tea! The bridleway over a ford quickly took me back to my car and I was home for lunch.

 

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