I can’t believe I was climbing a few days ago in a T shirt as this morning the cold dull weather continues towards Easter. I rouse myself to do a favourite short walk from home to see what is happening in the countryside. Longridge Fell looks broodingly down on the start of my walk into a field full of seagulls, they are unusual so they must be feeding on something – possibly recent muck spreading.
A glance at the 1:25000 map shows many small ponds in these fields, they are the remains of Marl Pits dug in the 19th century to provide lime rich clay for spreading on the fields to improve the soil. They now provide an interesting habitat for wildlife and plants. One near here unfortunately is used by the duck shooting fraternity, today the mallards were paddling happily. A couple of larger ponds used to keep my children happy for hours fishing for god knows what.
I passed a few metal gates which are for access to a line of aqueducts crossing this area, the Thirlmere aqueduct to Manchester and the Hodder aqueduct to Blackpool. Generally the former has black gates whilst the latter green. A useless bit of information.
On the lanes Blackthorn was in flower before its leaves appeared, the reverse of the Hawthorn, May Blossom. The phrase “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” was particularly pertinent today in the cold wind. Better information.
Sheep were with lambs and the cattle were being let out into the fields. I came across a particularly threatening breed of sheep.
Pit Bull sheep.
Since I was last this way a memorial seat has been erected – “he loved this farm” a lovely sentiment.
Passing three popular hostelries …
Ferraris Country Hotel.
… shunning them all I arrived home in under a couple of hours. The weather shows no sign of improving but at least I’ve had some exercise.
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 – A 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?
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.
Helleborus argutifolius. Corsican Hellebore.
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.
Writing this whilst outside is a torrential downpour and distant thunder. The strange summer weather continues. This weekend I’ve managed two contrasting walks.
Saturday. A dull morning but things improved after lunch so I took the opportunity to complete a few more map squares I had signed up to for in the Ramblers ‘Big pathwatch’.
The idea is that every public footpath in England and Wales, all 140,000 miles, should be walked and any problems noted and hopefully duly sorted. I like to do my bit for the local paths around Longridge. No big problems found today – only one electric fence with no safe way through. However it is the height of summer and the height of vegetation is noticeable on lesser walked paths, you certainly need long trousers. So by the end of the walk I had had enough of nettles and brambles, and the Ramblers can’t do anything about that.
Sunday. After yesterday’s field path navigations I felt the need to be free up on the fells. The morning was warm and sunny with the threat of storms later so I was away relatively early to park above Chipping for my usual Saddle Fell, Fairsnape and Parlick circuit. The path goes through the yard of Saddle Fell Farm and steeply up an old peat collectors track. Several WD numbered marker stones are passed – a reminder that these fells were once a tank and firing range back in the 40’s. Saddle Fell also has a tragic past – on a sunny Sunday, 25th March 1962, three teenagers, two brothers [11 and 18] and their sister  set off from Chipping for a walk over to Langden Valley. The weather changed with low cloud and a snow storm moving in, they soon became disorientated and hypothermic. Somewhere on Saddle Fell the boys sort shelter in some rocks but the girl staggered on to raise the alarm at the farm. Both boys were dead when found the next day and this led directly to the establishment of a mountain rescue team in this area. As I climb the fell I pass an old stone shelter and often wonder if this was the site of the brothers last night.There was a very strong Easterly wind and I virtually ran along the ridge. With some local knowledge this route can be achieved without any serious bog trotting. The air was warm and the haze hid any distant views but you do experience a strong sense of wilderness and space up here. Today I was really only interested in putting some miles below my mountain boots and a quick 1000ft of climbing as part of getting a bit fitter for a forthcoming trip in the Austrian Alps. A few pairs of grouse startled me as they flew out of the heather, so they haven’t all been shot since the ‘glorious‘ 12th. Strangely for such a sunny morning there was virtually nobody on the fells and the wind was too strong for the parapenters and gliders. Although I did witness the strange sight of a group carrying the model planes up to fly – it looked as though they were carrying crosses up to Calvary.
I was back at the car in under two hours and will return for some more training with a heavy rucksack next time.