Tag Archives: Flora and Fauna

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – GRIT AND GROUSE.

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Most of this afternoon there were voices in the air telling me to ‘gobackgoback‘.  I was on the doorstep of the Duke of Westminster’s (check him and his family out on Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster – Wikipedia) back garden, his vast acreage of grouse shooting moorland. I’m not sure that I had been this particular way. When I started exploring this area the CRoW act of 2000 hadn’t been passed and so this piece of land would have been no go, not that I always took any notice of those restrictions.

I get to muse on grouse shooting. If the red grouse is a native bird to the UK then surely it should be protected, along with other birds, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. In view of this how do the aristocracy and landed gentry get away with the annual massacre for ‘sport’ on their estates? The two don’t seem to go hand in hand. But life is never fair, certainly not if you are a grouse. I’m anti shooting and hunting, so I declare my bias, but somewhere I found this, worth considering…

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No doubt the Duke gets financial recompense for some of his land being ‘open access’. The worst aspect of this on these moors is the ‘Unregulated tracks and roads’. A minor road has been created, without the usual planning restraints, right through the centre of what should be a wild area, we are short of those. See my picture later in the post.

Anyhow, I’ve had my grouse about shooting, so back to my walk. Walk 3 of Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide to walks in Lancashire, Clougha Pike and Grit Fell. The Rigg Lane car park has a notice that it is locked in the evenings, though no time is stated. That makes me nervous from the start. And my start is late, delayed till midday after a morning of frequent heavy showers.

As I said I’ve never knowingly used this approach to Clougha Pike, although I’ve been up there many times. It is a pleasant way through a wooded glade with a tumbling stream as an accompaniment. I struggle to understand the geology, all landslips and jumbles of gritstone boulders. Steadily upwards, actually quite steeply in parts through the gritstone outcrops. Once onto the open fell the way is well trodden, rough in places, most footsteps are heading to the Pike.DSC03130

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The guide mentions a right-hand ladder stile, a wooden gate and a kissing gate on the way and these are crucial to finding the correct way.

By now you are on the summit ridge and there is an easier walk up gritstone slabs to the Trig point and stone shelters of Clougha Pike, 413 m. Previous visits have given me wonderful views over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay. Today all was a little hazy. It was even more hazy ahead on the way along the ridge to Grit Fell, 467 m, with its modest cairn. ‘Gobackgoback’.DSC03157DSC03159DSC03163

That incongruous estate road is reached and followed back on itself.  A minor diversion to an old quarry used for roofing stones, the grit here splits in the best way for flat roofing shingles. But there is something else here Andy Goldsworthy’s three stone pods. I’m alone, so the usual photo opportunity goes missing.P1000719 (2)

Back on that road for a short stretch to a rocky outcrop on the right, not left as in the guide, where a narrow path heads downhill through the heather due north. Its origins become plain soon as old abandoned grouse butts are passed. The modern shooter has posh new butts closer to the road, so they don’t have to walk too far. One of the butts makes a good base for some lunch, it is nearly 3pm. All around is murky. ‘gobackgoback‘ is the constant cry as grouse take to the wing, far too rapidly for me to shoot – with my camera.DSC03180DSC03181

The path deteriorates in boggy ground but then suddenly brings you to the edge of the deep and delightful Littledale with the infant Conder River dropping on the left. I possibly went wrong here and managed to climb back up onto the moor on an inviting green track instead of following the valley base. No matter they both meet up on the road, particularly ugly and out of place here, which drops into Otter Geer Clough.

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The path disappears…

 

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… before dropping into Littledale.

 

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The infant Conder.

 

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Back up again.

 

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I told you it was ugly.

It’s along here I have my close encounter with a Red Grouse, probably protecting its breeding territory.DSC03238DSC03243DSC03247

I’m soon at the bridge carrying the Thirlmere Aqueduct which passes within half a mile of my house on its way to Heaton Park in Manchester. The water is gravity fed, an outstanding feat of Victorian engineering, and takes just over a day from source to destination. There is a varied long distance walk that follows close to its course. Whilst here I can’t resist a quick look into the nearby quarry where I helped my friend Pete develop some climbing routes maybe 30 years or so ago.DSC03253DSC03254

Being close to the car park there are more people about, and I drop into conversation with an elderly gent. Delightfully old-fashioned and attired in cobbled together clothes with several safety pins holding it all together. We chat about this and that, him advocating the benefits of regular exercise and making the effort to get out whatever the weather. He leaves me and sets off to try and discover a way up the rocky fell above us. a true character.DSC03259

It’s a pleasant stroll back through the gorse reaching the car just as darkness descends, thankfully the gate is still open.DSC03261

I’ve done variations of this walk before here and there, but I think this one from the Cicerone book gives the best route. Top class scenery and all round interest. Last words from the grouse, ‘gobackgoback‘.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TREES.

DSC02663I have never been a fan of Tolkien’s works. I dutifully read The Hobbit way back then but never progressed to The Rings Trilogy. My imagination doesn’t go along with his. Yet here on my doorstep we have a landscape which possibly influenced his writings – the Ribble Valley. He visited Hurst Green and Stonyhurst College where his son was boarding. Hence, a tourist devised Tolkien Trail, wooded valleys and secret riverbanks, has taken shape and become very popular.

I was here today for a short walk mainly to check that past storms haven’t affected an old oak tree by the River Ribble on part of that ‘Tolkien Trail’.

It’s a short day, late up after Xmas day festivities and rain scheduled by noon. I park by that bus stop shelter if you know it above Lower Hodder Bridge. The path to Winkley Hall used to be a boggy affair, but no more. It has been upgraded somehow with stone chippings across the field, an advantage of the popularity of Tolkien.

Through the farm, suitably decorated with Xmas trees, and I’m at the junction of the Hodder and the Ribble in Middle Earth. Here stands a favourite tree of mine, yet another one you may say. The Winkley Oak with its majestic lower bole. How old? Maybe100, 200 or more years. What history has it seen in these parts? It is in good shape I’m glad to see.

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Blessings given I carried on my way to the next river junction where the River Calder joins in the fun. There used to be a ferry here and the old boat house is nearby. The river rushed on past Jumbles. A few dog walkers appeared coming from Hurst Green. Another tree took my attention with its skeletal winter outline against the grey sky.

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I left the trail and followed a lane to Fox Fields, a curious conglomeration of industrial units, and then I was in all things Hobbity. The Winkley Estate has done up some of its cottages and built a large ‘Wedding Venue’ complete with those ubiquitous pods in the woods. Everywhere are Tolkien references.DSC02686DSC02659

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I was soon back at the car, mission accomplished. We need more trees in our lives.

I will need longer outings than today’s three miles to walk off the Xmas excesses.

***

Capture Tolkien.

MIST OVER LONGRIDGE.

DSC02485One never knows when there could be a cloud inversion up on the fell. Last year I experienced a couple of almost perfect days up there.

The gloom down here is all-pervading. I struggle to do the daily Wordle, drinking coffee in bed. The morning is slipping away. My lane is closed to traffic at the moment for a new gas pipeline. So all peace and quiet until the gas people start drilling away outside my house. One can’t switch off easily to pneumatic drilling, so I have to get up, the rest of the week I hadn’t bothered. High pressures at this time of year gives dry and windless days but once the cloud is down it stays that way forever.

I should have taken my bike to Halton and cycled the usual way through Morecambe along the bay. But somehow I hadn’t the motivation. Taking the easy way out I decided to head up the fell. The short drive up there in mist didn’t bode well for views. I must avoid as much as possible long drives for walks next year, for the planet and my purse. It’s always next year. Parked up I was surprised by the number of cars already there.

My short walk to the summit and back was punctuated by several conversations with fellow walkers.

There were the dog walkers, lots of them, with energetic spaniels. Hardly stopping for a sniff at me, the dogs I mean, but all enthusiastic to be out whatever the weather. All very friendly. The weather was actually better than expected, no wind and almost a decent cloud inversion over Chipping Vale. Not good enough for photos.DSC02498

A couple were steaming up behind me, they recognised me, I struggled to place them initially. Friends from my lad’s school days, played in my garden and remembered me climbing up my house walls. It was great to catch up and how lovely to see how mature and pleasant people are, we are a friendly lot in Longridge, but all is changing. That gas pipe is for the hundreds of houses being built in our once tight-knit community.

The next encounter was with the fell ponies which sometimes appear. Sturdy equines milling around the trig point.DSC02487DSC02494

DSC02493The fairy or is it an angel has appeared on the fell Christmas tree, it needs a few more baubles.

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I stop once again for a conversation with an ascending hiker  “I’m only 85 he declares” The fell is for everybody as he disappears into the mist. Let’s hope I’m still coming up here in the next decade and the younger walkers will stop and encourage me onwards.DSC02501

It’s time I did my irregular litter pick up here, there were lots of doggy poo bags and discarded tissues to remove. Maybe tomorrow if this depressing cloud persists. it must be better than the world football on TV.

A rather sad reminder of how we all did lock down. Or is it an omen for our fractured society?DSC02502

It is still foggy down in Longridge, and they are still digging up the road. I drag my rusty exercise bike from the garage to the kitchen though I doubt it will be my salvation.

ALMOST FORGOTTEN PATHS.

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I have not pulled my boots on for a month or so. Today was too windy for cycling, so a short local walk was in order. Do you remember those days of lockdown when only short excursions were allowed – I stuck to the rules. I walked through the fields to Gill Bridge, on through Ferraris country hotel (doing takeaways only) and back along the almost empty road. I repeated the same walk or variations many times, using hand sanitiser after every gate latch or stile. Others had the same idea and the footpaths became well trodden and easy to follow.

We are two years on from there, most of us have had Covid and thankfully survived and life is moving on. We are however faced with another batch of problems, but let’s not dwell on those today. It’s time for some fresh air and exercise.

I repeat that same four mile route from my house. It does not look as though many others are walking the paths. They are overgrown and unloved. No need for hand sanitiser any more, did it ever do any good? The views have not changed, and I’m surrounded by the Bowland Fells and Longridge Fell. The clouds blow through in the blustery winds with odd bursts of sunshine.

I find chestnuts, ‘conkers’, where I hadn’t realised there were chestnut trees. A handful go into my pocket for planting later and while I’m at it collect some oak nuts, acorns. Beech nuts are in profusion along the roadside. Unidentified fungi are seen in the fields. Hawthorn berries add a touch of rouge to the hedgerows.

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Into the outdoors.

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Becoming neglected.

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Autumn’s fruitfulness is our bonus for this splendid short rural walk on my doorstep. My spirits are lifted, and our other problems put in their place.

I mustn’t leave it so long before I next tread these paths, they don’t deserve to be forgotten.

LITTER ON THE FELL.

 

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             Longridge Fell looking across the green Chipping Vale towards the Trough of Bowland.

 

At the risk of raising the blood pressure of my, environmentally sensitive, readers – read on.

Following on from my brush with Covid I  have not kept up with the walks featured in the Lancashire Cicerone Guide book. I hope to resume them shortly. Today I needed a gentle leg stretcher – Longridge Fell always has something to offer. I’ve not done a ‘litter pick’ up there for several weeks so that became the object of the morning’s stroll. 

Parking up I was immediately confronted with discarded pizza boxes and drink bottles , also strangely two plastic motor oil containers. There is a litter bin 10 metres away, though admittedly it is usually full to overflowing. Not a good start to the day. P1090074

I set off on my walk intending to clear this mess up when I return, it won’t all go in my bag. Longridge Fell was bone dry making for easy walking though the threats of moorland fires must be high. I noticed the bilberries were very small perhaps a reflection of our lack of rainfall this June and July. The other thing that struck me was that the heather was already blooming – I seem to have missed some seasons this year.

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A sad finding on the ridge was a recently dead Kestrel. I could see no signs of it being shot, but I did wonder afterwards about possible poisoning. Should I have picked it up and sent to the RSPB or police for toxicology tests?

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Up to the trig point and back in a circle I half filled my bag with the usual doggy poo bags, drinks cartons and food wrappers. The short stretch on the road at the end provided an equal amount of rubbish dumped out of passing cars. All I had to do was pick up the rest of that rubbish in the car park. 

This is a local beauty spot with a fine view of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills so there are always cars parked here. In lock-down it was a free for all with all the verges taken over, things are back to normal now. Today I noticed two artists busy painting the scene. I wandered over to have a chat and admire their work. One was using watercolours and the other acrylic, they both complained about the high temperature affecting their paints. What a talent to be able to capture that view with a few brushstrokes. I wish I had asked them to email me a copy of their finished paintings.  That reminds me, I have on my study wall a watercolour of the very same scene done for me by a Mr. A Long, an artist who lived in Longridge 40 odd years ago.  

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Mr Long’s painting.

What a contrast from two gents fully appreciating their environment to the louts who drive up here with their takeaways and don’t take them away.

A COUNTRY LANE.

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I used to be able to recognise and name most of the wayside flowers. As part of my A Level Botany course we had to present a collection of pressed and dried flowers to the external examiner for an intensive viva. I’m talking of 60 years ago, I suspect the modern day student will not of heard of external examiners and vivas. Being the sad git that I am, I still have my folder of dried flowers, about 200 species all classified and labelled precisely. I may fish them out and show you my diligence.

Time passes by and one’s interests widen, but I have always tried to put a name to plants as I pass by, but I admit to becoming a bit rusty on those once familiar names. At my age one starts to worry about dementia but all my friends struggle too. Annoyingly that elusive name will often surface at a later time. Anyhow, to brush up on my plant recognition skills I decided to upload an app onto my phone that would help me on those I had forgotten. I know I’m behind the times with this technology.

There were several to choose from, and eventually I chose one. I pointed it at an Ox Eye Daisy and it only told me that it was from the Asteraceae (daisy) family. That didn’t seem to be good enough, so I tried a few more. None were particularly accurate or quick to respond, maybe it’s my ageing Android phone. I searched ‘best plant apps’ and eventually settled on iNaturalist. Time to put it to the test.

A local walk I often do involves a pleasant almost traffic free lane. They call it Mile Lane despite the fact that it only measures half a mile. My mission today was to try and photograph and identify every flower seen on this short rural stretch of Lancashire. Last time I was out I was solely on the trail of the Bee Orchid – today I would be content with a Thistle or Dandelion.

That half mile took me far longer than usual as I searched the verges and hedges for as many plants as possible. Rather disappointedly I only counted 25 different species. (Grasses weren’t included, that would have been a step too far.) I recognised the majority of them but was stumped by one which my app told me was a Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica. I wasn’t aware of its pungent smell, next time I come across it I’ll check that out. Its common name suggests it was used for dressing wounds, no doubt having some antiseptic properties.

I was not impressed with the iNaturalist. It took a long time to register the plant and often gave a rather vague identification. I admit my phone is not the best for photography which may have a bearing on the results. If any of you have a suggestion for a favourite plant identification app I would be very grateful for your advice, I’ll try it out on a different lane.

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 Hedge Woundwort.

TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE.

Last year I bought a recommended book ‘Dancing with Bees’ by Brigit Howard, though fascinated by the subject I didn’t get past the first few chapters. It remained on my bedside table along with other must read volumes. I’ve caught up on about a dozen books whilst laid low with a vicious Covid visitation. Brigit’s book is as much about reconnecting with nature as it is about bees and I have been stimulated to learn more. I took advantage of a hot sunny day and went outside to watch the bees visiting a particularly scented clump of purple Astrantia. It was overload with so many bees buzzing around, several species were noted but as for identifying them that was a different matter. Taking photos was as frustrating as with butterflies. This isn’t going to be easy. Defeated I await the arrival of a bee identification book before I try again.

***

Meanwhile, I am aware of Bee Orchids growing in our local limestone quarries. I have never seen one. A chance comment from Shazza (all things nature and Clitheroe) mentioned she had spotted Bee Orchids at Crosshill Quarry, that’s all I needed. A flower Bee should be easier to observe than a flying one.

It wasn’t that easy. I parked up in Pimlico on the edge of the industrial sites of Clitheroe and headed into Crosshill Quarry nature reserve. A meadow off to the right was all a meadow was supposed to be, abundant grasses and flowers. I felt like Sherlock Holmes combing through the foliage for evidence. Purple orchids, trefoil, vetch, etc but no Bee Orchids.

I continued on to the small Quarry within the site where Shazza had reported  Bee Orchids. I searched diligently across the open quarry floor, ideal limestone habitat for a Bee Orchid, but to no avail, wishing I had asked her for a more precise location. There was a myriad of other species, marjoram, bedstraw, twayblade and other orchids.

The last time I was here on the Sculpture Trail I failed to spot the Footprints in the rock face by Tom Dagnall – I made sure I didn’t miss them today.  They were so effective, how did he carve them into the limestone? 

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Round two. There is a geological trail nearby, Salthill Quarry, which I had never visited, All was unfriendly industrial units and articulated lorries. I eventually found somewhere safe to park the car and set off more in hope than expectation. The main purpose of the trail was to highlight the rock faces and bedding planes of an old limestone quarry. Crinoid fossils predominated. I was itching to climb the shorter walls but thought better of it. The path was too enclosed for Bee Orchid habitat, I needed open spaces. Following the trail round, it could do with better interpretation boards, I came into more open ground with Pendle Hill lording above us. A fossil bench has been constructed with images of ‘sea lilies’, animals on the sea bed, that became crinoid fossils all those years ago. Backwards and forwards I combed the hillside for the elusive bee. I was by now almost back to where I had started, and I took a diversion to look at an isolated rock face on the edge of the industrial complex. Some other purple orchids took my attention and there suddenly was a Bee Orchid. It couldn’t be mistaken and then there were a couple more. By now I was down on my knees trying to zoom in for the best shot. And to think I was only 40 metres from where my car was parked inside the quarry.

***


Ironically the bee mimicked by this orchid is not present in the UK, so the plant is self pollinating after all. Why is it here in the first place?

BACK IN THE SADDLE – Morecambe bay and beyond, continued.

Crawling out from under my rock I wonder where a week has gone. It went in a haze of Covid fever, headache, cough and abdominal pains which laid me lower than expected. I could hardly read others posts never mind complete my own. I’m not at my best.

***

June 14th. 2022.

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Parking up at Halton Station in preparation for a cycle ride around Morecambe Bay. Post coffee I’m off, so good to be out again feeling free as a bird. Into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and out to Morecambe. I take a bit of detour past the football ground to arrive at the coast in the West End near the site of a former pier. The view out over the bay is clear, but everything seems at a great distance. I soon pass the Midland Hotel, one day I will call in for tea, and continue up the promenade without stopping at the various attractions.

West End Sculpture.

I’ve been this way so many times before, I even know the way from the end of the prom to reach the Lancaster Canal. Normally I turn south here but today to vary my route I head north alongside the canal. This is a delightful stretch with the canal elevated above the surrounding countryside. Below are Hest Bank and Bolton-le-Sands, and father out are the treacherous sands of the 2004 cockling disaster when 21 illegal Chinese immigrants lost their lives. We still don’t know how to manage the flow of immigrants into our country.

I have to be careful to leave the towpath at the correct spot, not signed, to pick up the 700 cycle route which could eventually take me, if I wished, all the way around Morecambe Bay to Ulverston and Walney Island, Barrow. Today I only went as far as the River Keer and its eponymous bridge. Whenever I’m here I can’t help thinking of The Bridge on the River Kwai and start whistling Colonel Bogey. Obviously the name of the bridge and its wooden structure set my mind into action. So much so that I paused my writing here a couple of hours ago to watch the 1957 film starring William Holden, Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins on Vimeo. I had forgotten how good it was, building up the tension and reflecting on the British character and psychology in times of war. Directed by David Lean, arguably his best film was a few years later – Lawrence of Arabia. We will shortly come across his name once more. It is worth your time to watch again and revaluate    https://ok.ru/video/2090020047523

The Bridge on the River Keer.

***

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Coming alongside the diminutive River Keer into the railway town of Carnforth. The railway station is on the main west coast line with branches to the Cumbrian Coast and inland to Skipton, a busy junction. Most of the main line expresses cruise through at speeds unimaginable at the time of the fictional ‘Milford Junction’ just pre-WWII. It was here that David Lean directed much of the romance of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter. Carnforth has capitalised on the ongoing success of the film and a Heritage Centre has been created on the platform – all things railway and cinema. Here I go again – diverted to watching a tormented Celia Johnson and a rather wooden Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter on the computer. I’m now an emotional mess, must have been  the Rachmaninoff. I’ll never finish this post.

***

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Enjoying a cup of tea at the famous waiting room. I had time to drift back in time as the pot of tea took an age to arrive. On my way again I now followed the 90 (Lancashire Cycleway) up to sleepy Nether Kellet now high in this range of unnamed low hills.  Views back to the Bay with the Lakeland Hills behind and ahead over Lancaster and the Bowland Hills. Whizzing down I missed my turn and ended up alongside a military training centre above the Lune. All barbed wire, locked gates and grey paint. Halton village had some old properties previously related to a now demolished Halton Hall, worth a more detailed visit. Back over the Lune I was the last car in the car park and drove home tired but contented not knowing what was ahead.

More variations and suggestions on cycling Morecambe Bay, very satisfying.

***

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Further to some comments below on this post, here are a couple of phone photos taken by my son on the canal in Stretford. Bee Orchids.

***

GREBE UPDATE.

Following my post about a week ago I have kept visiting the Upper Dilworth Reservoir in Longridge to check on the progress of our Great Crested Grebes and their two chicks. I am glad to report that the chicks are doing well and swimming independently of their mother, no longer hiding on her back. I was slightly concerned that there was no sign of the male today.

June 3rd. Happy family.

June 6th. Where’s dad?

Where did mum go?

I BELONG TO GLASGOW – Part 2.

*****

The Burrell Collection.

A good buffet breakfast set us up for a full day. The bus took us south of the Clyde  alighting at the entrance to Pollock Park. A pleasant walk through the grounds and we were  outside the Burrell Collection building, reopened in March after a major refurbishment. It originally opened in 1983 to house the vast collection of the Burrell family, gifted to Glasgow in 1944. Sir William Burrell, (1861–1958) a wealthy shipping merchant, devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing one of the world’s greatest personal art collections, renowned for its quality of Chinese art, exquisite stained-glass and intricate tapestries, as well as its breadth of fine art. The galleries are built with a warm sandstone and lots of glass, situated in the middle of all the greenery of Pollock Park.

We were in for a bumper day. 9000 objects from 5000 years.

Burrell collected just about everything from all over the world and the first we noticed were the many medieval doorways from monasteries and country houses, they have been carefully incorporated into the building giving access between the galleries. The interior is a pleasing blend of stone, wooden beams and glass giving a beautiful light for the visitors.

In the covered courtyard is the Warwick Vase. It was found in the C18th in fragments in the villa of the Roman Emperor Hadrian outside Rome. It was restored and given to the Earl of Warwick. The Vase stood in the courtyard of Warwick Castle for almost two centuries until it was purchased for The Burrell Collection in 1979. A large marble sculpture in the form of a two-handled drinking cup, with motifs to the Roman God of wine Bacchus. So one of the star exhibits was not actually collected by the Burrells.

Off we went around the ground floor outer galleries with exhibits scattered throughout the rooms. Burrell started collecting Chinese antiques around 1910, Jades, porcelain and furniture from all dynasties. 

 

Egyptian artefacts were well represented, and I was particularly pleased to see the lion head of the goddess Sekhmet, 1390BC. My cat Seth is named after this goddess, the name change when the vet pointed out his sex. 

 

Suits of armour were everywhere,  I was amazed at their intricate artistry and the fact that somehow they had survived intact from the C16th.

 

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The museum is home to more than 700 ecclesiastical stained-glass panels from across Europe, and the outer galleries are ideal for displaying them with natural light.

You will all recognise this bronze Rodin statue.

Time for a coffee from the pop-up café in the entrance.

Now we delved into the inner galleries where pictures were protected from the outside light. I thought that the fantastic collection of master painters, Degas, Rembrandt, Manet etc needed more space to show them at their best.

There was an informative section on carpets, mainly Islamic designs.   The  C17th  Garden Carpet from Iran was displayed with its animated video representation bringing  it to life, showing how far museums have become more interactive and accessible

Upstairs were several galleries delving into the secrets of creating the masterpieces. Printing, lace making, woodcarving, metalwork, glassblowing, bronze casting etc etc. We should have left more time for these fascinating insights, but we were coming to the end of our visit and a restorative tea and cake in their café was called for.

I think we missed far more than we saw, and a return visit would be warranted. Once outside we decided to have a walk around Pollock Country Park and see the house where the National Trust for Scotland was started. We did not know what to expect but were surprised at the Georgian grandeur of the house. It had closed for the day, so we only admired it from the courtyard which was full of colourful azaleas. Walking through the stables we found a path following the river, White Cart Water, and skirting the gardens, with a view of the house frontage. The gardens were resplendent with blooming rhododendrons. We wandered back past the estate sawmills, closed for refurbishment, a cricket pitch and Highland cattle in the fields.

 

Back in town we enjoyed a pint in one of the oldest inns in Glasgow. The Scotia Bar established 1792. A friendly place with a good selection of ales – we had the session Belhaven. All around were pictures of old Glasgow and you could imagine the sailors of the past from the nearby docks sipping their pints in here. The subsequent Turkish restaurant was unfortunately a let-down.

A good night’s sleep is needed before tomorrow’s excursions.

NATURE NOTES.

*****

Every day I see a pair of Mallards sitting on my lawn. They were attracted no doubt by my small pond and the bird food I spread on the ground every morning. The fact that they are together suggests that the duck hasn’t laid any eggs yet, I cannot see any sign of a nest.

I made a rough home for a hedgehog out of reeds, twigs and leaves earlier in the year hoping to attract them into my garden. Yesterday at dusk a hedgehog wandered across the lawn. It is probably around when I’m in bed. Let’s hope for a family.  My photograph is not that good,I missed its snout.

The male pheasant who used to come for food has gone elsewhere. There is an abundance of blackbirds, robins, sparrows, starlings, great and blue tits all busy feeding their young scattered in hidden nests around the garden. A pair of magpies are no doubt doing damage to the smaller birds eggs.

These three were less welcome visitors.

Meanwhile, up on the Upper Dilworth Reservoir where I park to go bouldering in Craig Y Longridge there is quite a lot of activity. The Mallards had chicks a while back, not sure how many will survive.

The Canada Geese are showing off their youngsters.

The Tufted Ducks are just swimming around though they have nested on the island in previous years.

But the highlight of this week was watching the pair of Great Crested Grebes on the water. I have been keeping an eye on them for several weeks, I missed their mating dance. I saw them building a nest in the reeds, but the foliage growth had camouflaged it, so I didn’t know if she had laid any eggs.  I can see now that she has two chicks and is carrying them on her back whilst the male goes off diving for fish. They are quite a way out on the water, so my camera struggled to cope. The  two young are virtually invisible on her back from this distance, just a flash of white feathers, but when the male returns their heads pop up, and sometimes they take to the water. He feeds her small fish, and I’m sure he was also giving titbits to the young. What a privilege to be able to watch their family life.

While I’m bouldering in Craig Y I often hear a Wren’s alarm call, and today I saw her fly out from low down in the rock face. On investigating there was the domed mossy nest in a crack. I kept well away for the rest of my session.

Oh! And I thought my garden was looking very green. You can’t see the weeds.

PS. I called in to see some friends today after a walk, they have a rough patch of grass in front of their house, and it was full of orchids –  I’m not sure which variety, but I liked them.

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Cockerham Coast and Canal.

The day was gloomy and so was I – perhaps I overdid the whisky last night. I was still mooching around the house late morning. But I keep trying to push my walking that bit farther. As you know I’m slowly working my way through Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide to Walking in Lancashire. In this I’m mirrored by Phreerunning Martin who always gets an interestingly different take from me, the pleasures of blogging. I needed something not too long and preferably as flat as possible. Walk 15 seemed perfect. I know the Glasson Dock area well and have done several variations of this walk before, probably most recently on my Lancashire Monastic Way. But looking at Mark’s  route I spotted some paths I had never walked. I might struggle to say something original about this walk.

I was a little embarrassed to leave my car in The Stork’s private car park, but the other space was taken by Travellers and their caravans. The channels of the Condor don’t look at their best during low tide. Following the old railway I came into Glasson, busy with people visiting an outdoor market. I couldn’t go past the little shop without buying a coffee, this time to drink as I climbed the minor hill to the viewpoint. The views were disappointing but the coffee good, sorry about the environment polluting cup.

I worked my way around the coast. The tide was out, so Plover lighthouse was accessible, it was previously maintained from the shore before becoming automatic. The incumbent keeper was based at Lighthouse Cottage where there was another light atop a wooden scaffold to line up ships coming into the tricky Lune channel. Across the channel I could see Sunderland Point at one time the major port on the Lune.

A sign talks of plovers nesting on the shoreline, but I wonder about this as the tide comes in fully most days.

Lots of walkers were converging on Cockersand Abbey, of which the only remaining building is the octagonal Chapter House. This has survived because it was used as a mausoleum by the Daltons of Thurnham Hall (see later) during the 18th and 19th centuries. The red sandstone rocks on the shore  line  show where the building blocks of the Abbey originated.

Continuing around the coast on the sea embankment passing several caravan parks which looked very vulnerable to high tides. It will be interesting to view this area in the coming decades as sea levels rise.  Those are the Bowland Hills behind.

Tree of the day.

Small planes kept taking off from somewhere on Cockerham sands, disappearing into the dark clouds only for tiny parachutes to fall from the skies. They were from the Black Knights centre. Was the sign for parachutists that had gone astray on their descent?

I left the coast and followed bridleways through drained lands up to Thursland Hall where one is corralled into narrow ways to bypass their fishery. Change of scenery.

A kilometre of tedious walking brought me to Thurnham Hall, a C17th country house converted into a spa hotel. It looked very smart and there were plenty of people staying in the attached residential block. Walking through I reflected that my life seems very simple compared to others. Escaping by a gate into a field I was wary of proceeding through the large herd of frisky bullocks, so I resorted to an outflanking manoeuvre bringing me back to an ancient green lane. A bridge gave access to the Glasson branch canal.

Herons are a common sight on waterways, staring motionless into the water. I have never seen one catch a fish, but today I was lucky this heron had just caught an eel and was having difficulty trying to swallow it whole. The highlight of the day.

*****

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Blackburn’s countryside.

                                                                            Glorious May.

Walk no 36 from Mark Sutcliffe’s guide combines the hills of Billinge with the River Darwen.

The River Darwen winds its way through the urban environments of Darwen and Blackburn and then has a glorious run in the countryside to eventually empty into the Ribble. I first met it today as I followed Mark’s route from Pleasington Station into Witton Country Park. Here it flows quietly through the meadows and playing fields. Walking upstream I met lots of families, dog walkers and picnickers in the afternoon sunshine. The park s very popular and well-used by the multinational people of Blackburn.

Billinge Hill above Witton Park.

Butler’s Bridge on the River Darwen.

Soon after leaving the river I was climbing steadily for what seemed ages but was only a mile or so. There are paths everywhere in Billinge Woods, there is even a tunnel, and I do find them confusing, so it was with some surprise that I found myself at the summit without any problem. The instructions in the guide were spot on. The OS map shows this as a viewpoint, but that was long ago before the trees took over. Maybe a bit of forest management by the council is needed. The plaque commemorating a court up here in 1429 is looking worse for wear also.

I headed west to find my way out of the woods and onto the ridge of the Yellow Hills (named after the Gorse that flowers here most of the year) pausing at the toposcope dedicated to Alfred Wainwright who needs no introduction. There were views over the nearby towns, but it was too hazy to see his beloved Lakeland. There are several links to walks to the memorial  For more details.

Paths, now following The Witton Weavers Way, led down through bluebell woods, lush meadows,  inquisitive cattle, newly cut fields, into the wooded gorge to meet the River Darwen once again. This I followed on familiar ways through the old mills at Hoghton Bottoms, under the railway arch and past the weir into meadows alongside the river. The last time I was along here the paths were almost impassable with mud and water, today the ground was bone dry.

Ford through the Darwen, oh there is a footbridge.

I didn’t enjoy the stretch alongside the busy A road and was glad when I turned off on the lane back to Pleasington. A seat in the garden of the parish churcof Feniscowles, Immanuel, was ideal for a break and snack. The River Darwen was crossed for the last time at Walk Mill, and I was back at the station where the local bowls club was in full swing as was the pub opposite.

Remains of Old Feniscowles Hall down by the Darwen.

Immanuel Church Feniscowles.

One for the archives.

I had seen a sign for Pleasington Priory and realising it was just a little farther up the lane went to investigate this Grade I listed Catholic Church. Trees in the grounds prevented a good view of the exterior with its tall front elevation. Above the arched entrance doorway was a prominent rose window. Gargoyles and statues seemed to be everywhere.

A well thought out and varied walk, apart from the short unavoidable A6061 stretch. The day was perfect with the countryside at its late spring best, making me feel truly alive. The modest 7 miles took me nearly four hours against the three suggested in the guide, I wasn’t rushing as I tried to protect my knee ligament and there was a profusion of colourful flowers to photograph.

*****

CLITHEROE – CROSSHILL QUARRY AND THE SCULPTURE TRAIL.

After my pleasant interlude in the Primrose Nature Reserve I drove across town to visit the Cross Hill Nature Reserve, managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

“Colonised by orchids and teaming with butterflies, Cross Hill Quarry is a shining example of how nature reclaims the relics of our industrial past.”

I found parking difficult on the road used by all the lorries visiting the cement works but eventually found a quiet spot on the Pimlico Road.  The area is dominated by the works, limestone Cross Hill Quarry was apparently abandoned in the early 1900s. I entered by the path next to the railway to walk round in a clockwise direction.  What struck me most was the notice board for the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail. in