Tag Archives: Flora and Fauna

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.

 

.

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  This was established in 1993 to make art accessible to all whilst enjoying the walks in the park. Artists liaised with the local community to produce works relating to the specific environment. I had previously passed a few of them on the riverside walk, part of The Ribble Way through Brungerley Park. There have been many newer installations, so why not follow the whole trail today?   Download your own leaflet here.

The first sculpture is one of several by Halima Cassell,  a flower head of  Great Burnet, 2009. Made up of many ceramic bricks it displays strong  patterns reflecting her Islamic heritage which you will recognise in her other works.

To start with the path was very close to the industry on the left, but one soon lost oneself in the greenery. I diverted to see the Tawny Owl Seat, 2018, created out of sandstone by the prosaic Ribble Valley Stonemasonry. I wasn’t impressed, but it did have a good view of the Ribble and distant misty Bowland.

There was a good showing of Cowslips in the meadowland here, but I realised I was probably a month too soon for the orchids and butterflies, although I did spot a solitary male Orange Tip.

Back on the peripheral path were a stunning pair of Sika Deer, 2007, by Clare Bigger. These life-sized minimalistic animals sprang out of the woodland in a flury of movement.

A little farther and there was another of Halima Cassell‘s geometric ceramics – Fir Cone.  Very grand and distinctive.

In contrast, was the diminutive stainless steel Butterflies, 2007, the first of three waymarks by David Appleyard. He developed these in collaboration with local schools.  The symbolic nature of the cutouts demand a much closer attention.

A little farther is another of his installations – Ivy, 2007.

The higher path led into the more formalised Brungerley Park. A workman was busy blowing the leaves off the paths, work I always think of as lazy and ultimately unproductive when the next winds blow. Here was the strangest of sculptures in the park. The Cook House, 2000, Helen Calaghan.  Apparently depicting a pan of boiling  tripe, is there a history of this in the quarry?  She has incorporated fossils, as found locally, into the goo.  Very strange.

Back to the more familiar at the gate – Common Comfrey, Halima Cassell, 2009.

I left the park through the ornate gates with a Latin inscription beyond me…

…only to re-enter the park lower down near Brungerley Bridge.

Again a comforting installation from Halima Cassell welcomed me back – Alder Cone, 2009.

This path now was closer to the river. The garden blower was still at work but had time to explain to me how at one time there was a landing stage for pleasure boats here and long before the bridge was built hipping stones across the shallows, with links to Henry VI’s capture in the C15th.

Disappointedly I couldn’t make much of Tom Dagnall‘s  Two Heads in an elm tree from 1993. I know the artist but couldn’t see one head never mind two. I think they must be on the other side or have rotted away.

Down some steps to the riverside I found Fish Mobile, 2007, by Julie Ann Seaman. Depending on where you stand the fish either swim in the Ribble or leap above the water. Mine did neither.

Onwards I retraced my steps on the outbound route and then dropped to the river again where I found another of David Appleyard‘s steel waymarks, Brook, 2007. Symbolic of flowing water.

Down here was also As the Crow Flies a compass feature in wood by David Halford from 1994.  Wooden sculptures don’t seem to last long in the damp NW. The next ceramic mosaic was inspired by Victorian shop doorways in Clitheroe,  Wildlife,  from Louise Worrell,  2000. It looked more  Roman than Lancastrian.

Another Halima Cassell brick creation Lords and Ladies, 2009. Nearby were the real flowers.

Alongside the riverside track were three Mosaic Waymarkers created by Paul Smith in collaboration with Clitheroe primary schools in 2005. They depicted wildlife found in the area with glass and ceramic mosaics.



My side trip into the quarry was not a great success, I forgot to look for Thomas Dagnall’s Footprints as I examined the slanting strata of the limestone. I was too soon for most flowers, though the delph was alive with birdsong.

Where the Ribble Way leaves the park to follow the river there was a striking sculpture of an Otter in white limestone, Fiona Bowley, 2007. I don’t know why, but it reminded me of the Little Mermaid on the waterfront in wonderful Copenhagen. I have yet to see an otter on the Ribble.

Down by the river was the jolly The Ribble King an imaginative piece created by Matthew Roby, 2007, from recycled materials. At least I often see Kingfishers on the Ribble.

Fittingly, as her geometric representative floral statues composed of multiple ceramic bricks have been a highlight of the trail, my last as I left the reserve was Halima Cassell’s Thistle. Again this had been installed in  the relative recent 2009 which explains why I had not seen them on my infrequent visits.

An eclectic collection of statues all having some relevance to the Ribble Valley environment. I like the way schools have been involved in some installations but from a purely visual impact the more professional statues had the most impact on my limited appreciative sensibilities. My favourite has to be the Sika Deer.

I appreciated the bench in the park and the sentiment.

Back at the car and looking at the map there was another disused quarry on the other side of the road with a green public right of way around it. I couldn’t resist it, but unfortunately the quarry has been in filled and the path is fenced in most of the way, so there was little to see. At least I tried.

Salthill Geological trail will have to wait for another day, perhaps in early June when those rare orchids may appear.

*****

CLITHEROE – A SURPRISE IN PRIMROSE NATURE RESERVE.

Clitheroe is just down the road from my home and at the back of my mind was an excellent  post from Shazza regarding a nature reserve in town. Three in particular I wanted to visit; Primrose, Crosshill Quarry and Salthill. 

I got away at lunchtime and eventually found somewhere to park adjacent to the newish Primrose Nature Reserve. I remember the excellent Primrose Nursery which used to trade across the road – now an Aldi. There is a bridge above the lodge dam and below is the new fish ladder allowing fish and eel access to Mearley Brook. The mill buildings are being converted to apartment living spaces. Work has been carried out to improve the water environment and access to it. Community And Wildlife | Primrose Nature Reserve | Clitheroe (primrosecommunitynaturetrust.org)

The lodge was created to supply Primrose Mill, opened for cotton spinning in 1787, the  arrival of the Industrial Revolution in Clitheroe Subsequently the mill was used for calico printing and later became a paper mill. The paper mill at Primrose had a relatively short life until1890, but the lodge continued to feed a Lower Mill which ultimately became a bleaching and dying works and continued to operate until 1963. The lodge became silted up. 

I stood at the bridge for some time intrigued whether the heron was real or not, it didn’t move an inch.  

I found a way into the reserve and down to a viewing platform – a few ducks only. The path through the reserve strip was followed with Blackbirds and Chiffchaff noisy in the canopy somewhere. I stopped at the ‘Manet’ bridge to view some water sluices when along came along a black Labrador which I thought I recognised from Shazza’s posts – Hugo. Of course, he was with Shazza herself, so I bravely introduced myself. What an amazing meeting of bloggers. She was as charming as her posts, and it was a joy to meet her.

I let her carry on with Hugo’s exercise as I left the reserve on to the main Whalley Road. The trustees and volunteers have created a vital green space in the centre of Clitheroe which will only improve as it matures.

Ahead of me was St. James Church looking almost as an L S Lowry painting in its starkness.

I walked back along the road and on crossing the lodge bridge once more I saw that the heron had changed its stance proving its existence.

 

  I next went to explore Crosshill Quarry Reserve but became distracted by the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail, so I think I will leave that to another post.

A RARE VISITOR.

In the absence of any serious walking I often pop up in the car to the small reservoir at the top of Longridge. There are a pair of Great Crested Grebes usually in evidence, diving into the depths. They apparently have a splendid mating dance but so far have not displayed it to me.

But today who should wander into my garden but this splendid Garganey drake. A rare visitor indeed.

JUST FOR THE RECORD.

The weather this weekend has been dry and sunny, just the ticket to bring Craig Y Longridge into condition. I made a tentative step with my bouldering mat for the first time this year. A few others were doing the same, a good family venue, so there was the chance for some chat between the attempts to test our fitness. Mine is sadly lacking, not having climbed for 6 months, the others had been enjoying the delights of indoor walls over winter which makes a big difference. I played about for an hour or so, more putting some chalk on the holds rather than climbing them.

I made my retreat across the road for some bird watching on the small reservoir. Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe.

The weather is set fair…

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Rufford and Mere Sands.

Another day, another walk. I was liable to miss the best of this sunny day as I procrastinated in bed with coffee and news feeds on the Ukraine disaster. I feel ashamed to be British as we turn away refugees at our border, Priti Patel is not my favourite politician. I would be all too happy to offer up a couple of my rooms for the most needy, as have done hundreds of Germans. Bugger Brexit and Boris and Putin.

To salvage the day and my mental state, I pick up that volume of Lancashire Walks published by Cicerone. What about 6 miles from Rufford, visiting a nature reserve I had no knowledge of despite being a supporter of Lancs Wildlife Trust.

I park up next to Rufford St. Mary’s Church, which is open to the public today. When I was last here, I learnt of the choir in the past accompanied by musical instruments, including a bassoon played by a Richard Alty. Apparently, the said bassoon is preserved in a case in the church. I was disappointed that I could not find it.

My next disappointment is that I did not visit the NT Rufford Old Hall; instead, as the day was slipping by, I set off along the Leeds Liverpool Canal and looked across to the hall which had a fantastic display of purple blue crocuses in their grounds.

I stretched my legs along the busy towpath, with flat fields all around. To the east, Winter Hill and Great Hill were prominent, but Longridge Fell looked a long way off. Soon I was heading inland and along Sandy Lane. All straight lines and winter fields.

In a yard of lorries, the owner talks of high fuel prices and a lack of drivers. Boris, Brexit and Putin again. He has an awful lot of money tied up in those vehicles.

My entry into Mere Sands Reserve was by the back door over a little footbridge. I hung my binoculars around my neck to look professional. In Medieval times, the whole area was part of Martin Mere. Attempts to drain it commenced in the C17th, and it was planted up as woodland as part of the Rufford Hall Estate. In 1958, it was sold for sand extraction which created the lakes and in 1982 sold to Lancashire Wildlife Trust for a nominal fee, thus creating the reserve we see today. The path winds around the back of the mere, where a hide looks out onto the waters. There are ducks and geese in the distance. Farther on, I came across a couple hand feeding the robins. Coots are diving. All part of a busy little reserve. The café was too busy for my patience, so I carried on to the far end of the reserve. My only criticism is that there were not many places where you get near enough to the water. Oh, and the adjoining roads sound like Silverstone with all the Sunday racers, very distracting.

The abandoned observation post above is of unknown vintage. I found a path alongside a dyke which leads me through the fringes of Rufford, somehow Venice came to mind. And then I’m back on the canal, which has been drained for this stretch, along past the Marina, and I was back into the village. The Hall had already closed, some other time.

What a pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. Another thumbs up to my new Cicerone guide.

NEWS FROM LONGRIDGE FELL.

*****

The last four days I’ve been up on Longridge Fell, four short walks. Today, the weather is too bad to contemplate going outdoors. Looking out of my window, I can now just see the lower slopes of the fell above the roofs of the ghastly building site. In the fields opposite, soon all will be brick.

Saturday, I was feeling stiff from our excursions on Crookrise the day before. But the afternoon was too good to miss, so I thought I would have another look at the tree damage on the ridge path through the forest. Nothing much has changed, and it is still difficult and awkward to follow. In one or two places, a chain saw, person unknown, has been in action to cut a way through.

I met a chap and his energetic Springer Spaniel walking far quicker than I over the fell, a  quick hello was all I managed before he sped into the trees. On the return journey, a recognisable Springer appeared at my heals and yes, looking behind was his master rapidly gaining ground. To cut a long story short, after some pleasant conversation, with the chap not the dog, it turned out he’d suffered a heart attack several years ago and following bypass surgery in Blackpool made a good recovery. His daily heart physio was a brisk walk on the fell, I applauded him on his fitness and expect to bump into him again if I can keep up. A positive lesson to us all.

Boundless.

Sunday came and almost went before I roused myself and suggested to Mike an afternoon stroll around the Cowley Brook Plantation on the edge of the fell. We caught up on our goings-on and enjoyed the warmth of the weak sunshine. We used some firebreaks through the conifers to the lower water intake and then followed the lively stream back up the hill. All very pleasant in this United Utilities land recently opened up for public access.

Monday morning, after arriving back from shopping, JD was on the phone stating confidently that there was a two-hour break in the rain and proposing a walk on the fell. He is not usually that optimistic. A quick change and we were leaving his house for a well-used walk along the northern base of the fell. The fields were decidedly boggy, and we often seemed to go astray on occasions linking up the farms. In the past, we have had trouble through the pheasant shooting woods where fences seem to cut through the rights of way, today was no exception with the odd fallen tree also blocking our way.

But what was to follow was unbelievable. The path goes steeply up the hillside through the woods to reach the golf course. We found the majority of the trees snapped or uprooted, a scene of complete devastation. I was too shocked to take my camera out. We battled on to find even worse, with a new sign saying the way was closed due to the tree damage. It was too late to go back, so a wall and fence were carefully climbed and then the worst of the devastation avoided reaching the empty golf course closed due to waterlogging. Of course, where we exited was a notice saying the way was closed. Too true. By then, our two-hour slot was over, the rain followed us all the way back to town. We were thoroughly soaked by then, and I just wanted to get home for a hot bath.

Tuesday and the sun appeared again. My lunchtime walk up the fell was accompanied by the sounds of joyful skylarks, a sure sign of spring. I had the trig point on Spire Hill to myself, which is unusual these days. As well as the Bowland Fells across Chipping Vale, the more distant Yorkshire three peaks were hazily visible on the horizon. I framed a photo of the trig point for a new desktop background. My usual ‘secret’ path back through the forest was also disrupted by fallen trees, It will be years before many of the damaged trees up here will be cleared. The car park at Cardwell House was filling as I arrived back.

Counting Crookrise on the Friday, that’s five out of five.  Not bad for this time of year. Today I’m content just to walk up to the supermarket.

Go careful up there.

AN INTERESTING AFTERNOON STROLL FROM CHIPPING.

There is a lot of bad weather about. Heavy rain most of the weekend and this morning, with storms forecast for the rest of the week. But there was a glimpse of sun this afternoon and I had something in mind. A post by Eunice (more of her later) and a comment from Sharon reminded me that it was snowdrop season, as if I didn’t know – having included a picture of a clump in one of my recent posts. Snowdrops are one of the first Spring flowers to bloom, helping us out of the winter gloom with shiny white petals.  I wanted to view a larger expanse such as at Lytham Hall or Bank Hall, Bretherton, but I knew of a ‘secret’ place nearby.

Leagram Hall sits on the hillside above our lovely local village of Chipping, originally a lodge for the Medieval Deer Park. It was replaced by stone structures in the C18-19th when the Weld family inherited  the estate from the Shireburns (of Stonyhurst). The present house was built in 1965 by the Weld-Blundell family. I’ve never visited the house but often walk past on a bridleway through the ancient deer park. I knew of a walled dell within their grounds which is renowned for snowdrops at this time of year. I was heading there today.

The elusive Leagram Hall.

In the parkland there were signs of tree damage from the storms of last year. An ancient oak was lying on the ground. How the mighty are fallen.

Farther up the lane and over the wall I had my first glimpse of the snowdrop spread. I was keen to get a closer look and even thought about climbing over the wall. Just then a woman appeared from the direction of the house. After a greeting and comments on the weather I asked her if she lived here. Yes she did. (She must be one of the Weld-Blundells!)  I stated I had come to see and photograph the snowdrop display and wondered whether there was any chance of getting closer. She explained the gardens were private but then proceeded to show me a hidden entrance, said be careful and left me to explore.

Over the wall.

Inside the sanctuary.

I could have finished there but as the weather was improving I decided to continue my walk up the lane towards the Bowland Hills. Laund Farm, (laund was a grassy area in a deer park)  home to a large herd of Blue Faced Leicester sheep. They pride themselves in the quality of the sheep milk cheese they produce. There was a new batch of lambs to boost the flock.

Pendle and Longridge Fell across the ‘laund’

Since I was last this way a new sign has been erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, along with its dedication to some local footpath activist. I’m always pleased to see these classy additions to the countryside and at one time considered tracking them all down – a mammoth task, no doubt completed by someone.

 

I continued on past the scattering of buildings at Birchen Lee, all slowly becoming more gentrified. The access lane from there onwards has been recently improved giving easy walking to the road under Saddle Fell, the starting point for one of my favourite ways of climbing onto the Fairsnape-Totridge fells. Today I ignored the heights and strolled down to a junction of interestingly named lanes. Some research needed there.

I didn’t drop down to Wolfen Mill, originally Dewhurst’s spindle and fly works supplying the burgeoning local cotton mills but continued down the steep lane, Saunders Rake.  Heading down to Chipping this passes the site of the Bond’s cotton spinning mill which later became Tweedy’s foundry, now occupied by a cheese factory. Farther on is the millpond for the still standing Kirk Mill, originally a cotton spinning business and later part of the chair making empire. There is a wealth of historical information on Chipping’s industrial past at https://kirkmill.org.uk/

Most of the chair factory across the road has been demolished and there were plans to develop the whole site into a hotel and venue complex. Not much seems to be happening on that front – we are all in for some difficult economic years.

Chipping was sleepy today. The Cobbled Corner Café,  thankfully recently reopened, but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I shall have to have a cycle ride another time for cups of tea and toast. I remembered the last time I came this way and popped into the graveyard to pay my respects to Lizzie Dean’s grave under of the old yew tree.

A good use of a February afternoon and I would recommend this modest circuit, all on tarmac,  for keeping your feet dry at this time of year. There is far more to discover in Chipping than I have mentioned.

But beware storms Dudley and Eunice are on their way…

*****

 

BEACON FELL – Déjà vu.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote of the devastating storm damage in the forests on Longridge Fell, well today I witnessed the same on Beacon Fell. The difference being that here, as it is a public park, the foresters have been busy clearing much of the damage making the place safe for the public. I imagine that at the time of the storms, early December, the public would have been excluded.

I only came up here this afternoon for a short walk, I seem to have been up and down Longridge Fell most days during the holidays – time for a change of scenery.

The sun was trying to make an appearance.

Parked up in the little quarry on the quieter east side of the fell, a modest circuit was completed from there. The little pond was looking particularly attractive in the low light. I wish I could paint. Round the corner piles of cut timber started to appear and it was obvious that there had been a lot of storm damage in amongst the trees. Logging machinery was scattered about, being a Sunday, nobody was working. I expect that when they replant, they will use more sustainable native species. Where there is destruction, there is hope.

Not a word about the virus.

NEW YEAR — OLD TRAILS.

How many Bank Holidays do we need? I’ve eaten all the sprouts. I’m getting bored walking up and down Longridge Fell. The New Year has come and gone, and I have nothing to write about. A quiet news week, as they say. So, I would like to share with you this simple video. Not a lot of explanation is necessary. I have some vague hope for the future of our precious wildlife with people like Chris Packham about.

I’m sure that will have resonated with a few of you. There is now real pressure on landowners to stop trail hunting on their properties and public opinion is swinging that way after Mark Hankinson, the director of the Masters of the Foxhounds Association, was recently found guilty of encouraging others to hide the illegal hunting of live foxes behind a “smokescreen” of trail hunting.  But don’t rely on any help from our Government if this is the attitude of our Prime Minister…

Boris Johnson article describing his ‘semi-sexual’ love of fox hunting resurfaces

Here’s to 2022 whatever it brings.

AFTERMATH OF THOSE STORMS.

If you go up to the woods today, you’re in or a big surprise.

There must have been a lot of trees blown down in our recent storms, Arwen and Barra, I started to notice them as I walk farther along the fell. I haven’t been past the trig point on my tentative walks to see if my Plantar Fasciitis is improving. Today I intended to give it a sterner test, if you can call 6 miles a test.

It was when I met a couple who had turned back because of the difficulties that I questioned my sanity for continuing. Already I’d had minor diversions around fallen trees, but I fought my way through onto one of the obvious forest tracks on the ridge, thinking I had escaped the worst. Even this track was completely obliterated a little farther on as I approached what was named Sam’s View, a panoramic clearing. I had to go well off route to avoid the worst of the fallen timber. I could hear voices in the forest to my left and suddenly a family of four emerged looking rather dishevelled, they had been in there awhile trying to navigate around the damage. The father showed me their tortuous wanderings on his phone, I pointed them to a safer track.

I’d intended going as far as Kemple End on the ridge, but the way forward in that direction, a little difficult at the best of times, was wholly choked with fallen trees. I was glad just to return to the main forest road. Lots of families and lots of dogs were promenading this track, it was a Bank Holiday after all. I soon went my own way and traversed the fell back to my car. My heel is certainly improving, providing I stick to soft ground.

It was reassuring that most of the original Scots pines and Beech trees had withstood the storms.

Go careful up there.

ANOTHER LETTER TO YOUR MP.

On a regular basis, I call upon my friends to sign a petition or write to their MP on environmental problems that I become aware of, and I think need public interaction. On the whole, the government pay lip service to these issues and are inclined to take no positive action. Hence the need for the likes of us minnows to show solidarity and complain and object in any way we can. The recent National Trust decision to ban trail hunting on their lands was I’m sure due to the number of members expressing their feelings through petitions and votes.

Your local MP is dependent upon your support and if sufficient numbers of their constituents express concern on a topic they have to listen. This obviously often involves the ‘party line’ and therefore the more ground level public opinion goes against them the more important that this opinion is heard and heeded. Whichever government is in power, they shouldn’t be allowed to ignore this voice. Lets make them work for their salary and Xmas Party.

Yes, you have guessed it, I’m appealing for you to consider another issue ongoing at the time which will have serious consequences for our access to our countryside in the future. People need to connect to nature and the countryside in our increasingly complex world. Take a few minutes to read the Ramblers latest concern on the far-reaching Agriculture Act https://mailchi.mp/ramblers/accessnatureelm?e=4bf1748d16 and if, like me, you are sufficiently engaged to write to your MP using the simple links on the website.

Have a good day.

GOOD NEWS – UPDATE.

https://i0.wp.com/images.ctfassets.net/pjshm78m9jt4/3fD3CNWNPK6wJjRhApr9X0/baa17e612b3fb4db416de421c7a5d8a3/hj.jpg?w=625&ssl=1

Last month I wrote of a vote by National Trust members to ban trail hunting on their land.  Understandably, a few of you raised concerns, as it was non-binding and would depend upon the Board of Trustees ultimate decision. Well, today, the good news is that they have announced in a fairly strong worded letter that they will no longer issue licences for trail hunting.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/press-release/national-trust-says-it-will-no-longer-issue-trail-hunt-licences

I applaud their decision and expect it will send shock waves through the hunting fraternity, as hopefully other landowners will probably follow their example. Watch this space.

GOOD NEWS.

I’ve just switched on my laptop to write up today’s cycle ride and I find this in my notifications

As a long-standing member of the NT I feel vindicated by my membership, which I have sometimes doubted with some of their past decisions. This is good news and I think if it had gone the other way I would not have supported them any longer. Sadly I do wonder who are the 38 thousand against and their mentality. No doubt there will be a barrage of bleating from the hunts to their Tory backers.

This is what the League Against Cruel Sports had to say.

“We’re delighted that the National Trust and its members have finally made the right decision and banned hunting from their land. Following the Hunting Office webinar expose and Mark Hankinson’s conviction they really had little option but to distance themselves from the criminal countryside gangs that hunts have become. The webinars contained blatant admissions of widespread illegal hunting and the use of smokescreens to confuse the public. Any respectable landowner knows their reputation will be forever tarnished if they don’t permanently distance themselves from the hunting community.” “We expect other corporate landowners including Forestry England, United Utilities, the various National Parks and the Ministry of Defence to also permanently ban hunting. The National Trust decision alone will deny the hunts access to 620,000 acres of land and when these other landowners follow suit they will be banned from millions of acres. We expect some hunts will be forced to shut down completely as a result.”

Further to that I have just emailed other major landowners asking them to deny hunting on their lands. It’s easy to do here.

https://takeaction.league.org.uk/page/90210/action/1

I feel that at last public opinion is changing and pressure is being mounted on the hunting fraternity and the establishment that supports them. Let’s keep up that pressure.