Monday, December 31, 2007

Haskayne, Clieves Hill (Ormskirk) and the Canal

Back to normal! Today we walked 6.2 miles close to home.

Clieves Hill, just outside Ormskirk, is one of a line of low hills that look west across the Lancashire Plain and have much more distant views than you would expect. The Welsh Hills are frequently in sight, as are the Lake District, Trough of Bowland and Winter Hill. The walk was about one-third arable field-paths, one-third quiet lanes and one-third canal towpath. The walk starts near the Ship Inn at Haskayne, which is easily accessible and has a very attractive setting. Chris and I have frequented this establishment on a number of Wednesday nights after shopping. Good food and local beer. Highlights of the walk, those that made me get out the camera, included a 17th Century House, three horses who were expecting mints, apples or carrots (none of which we had) a minature set of standing stones and the first snowdrops!
All of which I've included in the collage below.
Collage from the walk
Nature seems confused to say the least, rooks are starting to nest and spring flowers out before the end of the year.
Further research tells me that Haskayne (origin, the village where hazel trees grow) has several cruck-framed thatched cottages, a post office-cum-store and a furniture manufacturer, plus its two pubs. Of these, the Ship is reputed to be the oldest on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, since this section was the first to be constructed in 1770. It is the longest canal in Britain at 127 miles and remains the only navigable canal across the Pennines.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas at Keldy

We were together again! Ben back from the USA, Melanie, Mandy, Dave, Chris an I spent Christmas together in Keldy Cabins.
The cabin and table tennis
It is only when you produce collages, like the one above and the one below, that you realise that ther are no photographs of yourself.
Our Cabin and surroundings
The 'Hot Tub' was a big hit and various members of the family were found in it at various time throughout the day and night.
Rub a dub dub
Ben, I think, spent most time in it but on one occasion we were all in it together; plus glasses of champagne of course!
I can only talk for myself but the few days we spent together were precious from dawn...
Sun Rising over the ridge
...until dusk...
Setting sun
We had many visitors, of wildlife, including squirrels, pheasants, robins, rabbits, tits of various types, tree-creepers, nuthatches to name but a few. Ben was exceptionally lucky when he saw, and photographed a Roe Deer.
Roe Deer
We did hear the deer barking, yes I did say barking, when we went on a dusk/evening walk with the Site Ranger. An informative and pleasant walk. Chris an I completed the Blue and Red Walks and Melanie joined us for the walk to the Bird Hide.
Ben, Mandy and Dave completed the white cycle ride and managed to cover themselves in mud.
Chris, Melanie and I drove to Whitby one afternoon and Chris and I climbed the steps to the Abbey...
Looking back towards the harbour
...walked out along the harbour wall...
North Harbour Wall
and took many more pictures than I've included in this blog. If you want to see more, including the steam bus, polar bear and seagull then go to
and view the slide show.
A meal in the local pub, on the final evening, finished off what was a complete break for us all.
It will take us a long time to forget Ben, chief fire officer, blowing at regular intervals on the logs, the many games of Quiddler and the visits of wildlife throughout our stay.
I wonder where we will all be next Christmas?

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Kingsley, Dutton Locks and the River Weaver

(better late than never)
This walk allowed Chris and I to explore the peaceful countryside along the terraces above the River Weaver and beside the river itself. There were good views up to the sandstone ridge on one side and the Pennines on the other. Very wet in some places, we encountered a herd of Long-horn cattle while making our way through a particularly muddy patch.
Long Horn Cow
Chris liked the way their horns were on upside down! She was also pleased they watched rather than come closer to see why we were behaving in such an odd way.
The next encounter was that of monkeys!
No puzzle for these monkeys
Someone was having a laugh! The 'monkey puzzle tree' had many residents like the one in the image above.

As the valley was approached, the massive Dutton Viaduct came in sight and trains were seen crossing it every few minutes.
Dutton Viaduct
We walked past the lock before...
Dutton Locks
...the chance to admire the scale of the viaduct as the path passed directly under it. Following a brief encounter with human habitation, the route passes through the most remote part of the lower Weaver Valley.
Apparently, the River Weaver was a working river thirty years ago, with 1,000-ton coasters plying between Liverpool and the former ICI works at Winnington and Wallerscote near Northwich. Salt came by river from the works at Winsford to be transshipped at Liverpool to West Africa and other deep-water destinations. Canalisation of the Weaver in the early 18th Century reduced transport costs and thus enabled Cheshire salt to dominate the UK market for this essential commodity. Further information on Dutton Locks and the Weaver as a working river can be found at

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Monday, December 03, 2007

And the rain came tumbling down!

"Here's a man who holding with a smile
Something that he'd wanted for a while
Clasping tight, to lose it in a day
And the rain came tumbling down."
It is the first time that we have walked near reservoirs and found them "Full"; in fact some of the paths near the edge of the reservoirs were under two to three feet of water.
An still more was being added from surrounding streams.

Apart from the rain and floods, the walk around the Turton & Entwistle and Wayoh Reservoirs was excellent under foot. The now relatively bare hedges and trees make it so much easier to see birds, which in turn adds to the walks enjoyment.
We past the Strawberry Duck twice; yes I did say past! The first time was too early and the second was out of consideration for the landlord/lady; we were very wet! We both remember how we had sat outside in the sunshine when we had walked in this area earlier in the year! Mmmm sunshine!
A number of 'fly-fishermen' were plying their hobby, without any apparent success, as we skirted the reservoirs. At least when walking you can get warm but standing in waders in a reservoir, in the rain, with a cold wind gusting, is not my idea of fun!
As already mentioned, a number of detours had to be made to skirt flooded paths but we made good speed on the excellent pathways passing two "green" celebrations of the Christmas holidays to come.

I wonder if the decorators will return in January (On Plough Monday perhaps) and remove the garlands? I hope so.
Next to one of the decorated Christmas Trees was a wood carving...

Apparently one of a number of carvings to be found in this area. Sadly this was the only one we found. Perhaps another visit is called for when it isn't so cold and wet!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mersey Basin and Bridgewater Canal

Today we were both lucky with the weather and the choice of 'local' walk. Because the forecast wasn't that good this weekend, I looked for a fairly local walk and we chose one near Warrington.
A pleasant walk starting through the not so leafy glades, Autumn has had its effect, of outer Warrington. Past a reservoir we joined a bridleway to eventually climb up to what could have been a stunning vista of the Mersey Basin; if only it had been a clear day! We could just about see Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, 14 miles to the west, the Pennines and Winter Hill twenty miles to the east.
After taking in the view, we descended to a picturesque stretch of the Bridgewater Canal.

We took the opportunity to visit Walton Hall, Chris thought she had been before for a meeting, especially as the guide mentioned a cafe. Coffee, and for Chris Hot Chocolate, plus muffins were consumed beside the canal, before heading past the lake and waterfalls...

...up to Walton Hall.

It was where Chris had been for her meeting, well remembered! Perhaps this could be a venue for one of the RSC's meetings?
The entrance, as can be seen, was very impressive.

Returning to the Bridgewater Canal, we were sidetracked into the small Children's Zoo. A number of comments were made about the residents especially the rabbits...

"Mandy would want to hold him under her chin!"...and the peacock, who was particularly cooperative when I took his photograph...

The colours of his feathers were wonderful!.
The pleasant woodland stroll and the Bridgewater canal were easily appreciated; it provided us with a more balanced view of the local heritage of the area, together with the modern-day amenities available at Walton Hall & Gardens. This plus the final stretch through farmland completed another pleasant walk and all within walking distance of one of the fastest growing towns in the Northwest. A walk to revisit in the spring perhaps.
For those of you who don't know the area, Walton Hall and gardens were originally purchaced in 1812 by the Greenall Family, a famous name in the brewing industry. In 1941 the estate was bought by Warrington Borough Council, becoming parkland in 1945. The woodlands, as we found out, are home to squirrels, and many small birds including the 'Spot of the day' a Goldcrest! Well done Chris!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

69 but Forever Young...

Friday night was music night! Chris and I made our way to the Rose Theatre, at Edge Hill University, to listen to an icon of the 60s; singer song writer, Julie Felix!
A very enjoyable evening listening to, and joining in with, Julie's own original material, classic favourites by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others. Including traditional Mexican folk songs and Native American Indian Chants. If you get the chance to go and see her next year on tour, she will be 70, I suggest you make every effort as to quote her publicity...
"Her performances are always full of inspiration and enthusiasm, passion and humour, wrapped with messages of hope and the belief that the power of music can have a positive effect on our often harsh world."
How true! Thank you Julie for a wonderful evening.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Styal, the Bollin Way and Manchester Airport...

7.5 miles on a day that we were told would be cold and rainy! Well the good old weather forecast was way off again; but to be fair it was cold.
Most of the walk followed the reasonably well-signposted Bollin Way along the river.

A smaller version of Dean Wood near Wigan for much of the walk. Ben would have experienced flash backs to his rugby days as we walked past Withenshaw Rugby Club.
The walk follows the river Bollin as far as a tunnel under the runway of Manchester Airport and then continues along side the runway...

We were expecting 'plane-spotters' but it was obviously too cold for them. One close encounter brought a smile to both Chris' and my face; as we paused to check directions and the map, a Barn Owl flew from the hedge beside us, out across the fields. What a wonderful sight!
Leaving the runway we made our way back across pastoral farmland to Quarry Bank Mill on the Styal Estate

Birds were abundant including the Barn Owl and at least three Sparrow Hawks and a couple of Kestrels.
After refreshments in the Restaurant we used our National Trust Membership Cards to gain access to the Mill. A number of changes since we last visited and well worth a visit if you get time. The power of the water wheel and the engineering involved in transferring this into the machine rooms is worth the visit on its own.

Sadly the steam engines, one from the 1700's, were not working as the boiler needed repairs. Perhaps another visit is needed in 2008. Note Quarry Bank Mill and Styal is one of the most important industrial heritage sites in the world. It is a unique survival from the early part of the industrial revolution, not just the mill itself, but the Apprentice House, the Mill Owners House and the village built for the Mill Workers.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wales and Weddings

Sorry this is late but a busy week, followed by three days walking and a wedding puts everything out of sequence. I've just about caught up with emails and work based learning bid support so its time to catch up with the blog.
Colwyn Bay and the Nant-Glyn Valley was our first walk on the Friday of last week. A beautiful walk which involved an easy climb from the start, just above sea level. On the way up the valley we were surprised to see gorse bushes back in flower.

Hardly what you would expect in November. At the height of the walk there were superb views of the Great and Little Ormes, Anglesey and Puffin Island...

An excellent start to our extended week end and the weather was better than forecast. The Welsh obviously don't make Sloe Gin as the hedgerows were laden with sloes...

Returning to the car, we headed off to the Seiont Manor Hotel which was to be both our base for the next two days and Steve and Ann's Wedding Venue. The natives seemed very friendly but they tended to stare a lot...

Like most populations the were a few 'black sheep' among them. The Hotel, room, food and drinks were excellent as was the swim and sauna! Yes Chris did go in the pool and yes it was warm!
Saturday brought another "better than expected day"! We headed off to Newborough Forest and Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey. Probably the best walk I've been on for a long time. The forest and island form an extensive nature reserve, with forest, ecologically important sand-dunes and wide-open beaches. The northerly shore was being lashed by heavy seas while the southerly shore was calm. The 'island' is barely disconnected from the mainland and has ancient lighthouses, stone crosses and a free museum housed in an old pilot's cottage; quite idyllic and well worth a visit.

The picture below shows one of the lighthouses and the pilot's cottage (museum)

The next picture is of the other lighthouse...

The island is said to have been the home of a religious community founded by Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Legend has it that she fell in love with a local prince, but the marriage was not to be. She prayed to be cured of her love and God appeared to her and gave her a potion to drink. This doused her ardour but also turned the prince into a statue of ice.
After further prayer, God then granted her three wishes. Her first wish was to return the prince to human form, her second to be given the power to grant the wishes of true lovers and her third was never to be inflicted with marriage and love again.
What ever the truth or otherwise of the legends, the island has a captivating atmosphere.
Walking back through the forest we happened upon puff balls...

and disabled perching for the resident gulls...

More swimming and another sauna and then we went and joined the newly married couple... their reception. Let's just say a good time was had by all with lots of food and alcohol!
Sunday morning and after a good breakfast and a walk around the grounds we paid our bill and headed for Beddgelert Forest.
On the way I had a very strange feeling that I was about to come to the Snowden Ranger Youth Hostel (I had stayed there when I was 11-12 years old). It was a cold shiver down the back time when sure enough there it was! Wow! I still don't believe that I remember it from that long ago (about 46 years ago)
We arrived at the forest...

...and apart from a couple of showers, the walk provided some stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

We followed forest tracks; one steep climb was both a narrow path and bed of a stream. We passed Llyn Llywelyn circling round to a picnic site at the edge of the lake before returning to the car and heading home.
All in all three lovely days walking and both Chris an I wish Steve and Ann all the best in their married lives together.
PS I won the most money on the roulette wheel!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

My chest is appatently heading for 500 years old!

Today Chris an I went to the recording of the Antique Road Show at St George's Hall in Liverpool.
St George's Hall was reopened this year on St Georges Day (April 23rd 2007) by HRH The Prince of Wales, after a £23m restoration.
It was very interesting so see how the show is filmed and how many people the experts see during the time we were there. The queues outside were very long indeed!
We were two of the lucky ones; we had a pass to 'jump-the-queue'! Chris had wanted to find out more about the 'dough chest' which we had acquired when Bessie (my grandmother) had moved in with my parents. We sent pictures to the BBC and were paid a visit last week (one of of 40 visits in and around Liverpool we were told), with the view of it being included in the show. As a result of the visit, we were given a pass!

The Chest was apparently from the early to mid-1500s. Wow that is much older than we thought!
Having had expert opinion about books, ceramics, and a number of other items we had taken, we headed off for a walk in Calderstones Park.
I've not included a map for this walk as it was nothing more than a "pleasant walk in the park". Liverpool is very lucky with their parks; they are looking so much better now that they are being given more TLC!
Calderstones Park in Allerton is named after the ancient megaliths situated in the park, which are said to be older than Stonehenge.
Calderstones incorporates the Harthill Botanical Gardens, founded in 1802. Almost 4000 species of plants are on show, brought from all over the world by merchants and other travellers.
We visited the Japanese Garden...

...and were impressed by the autumnal colours. From our experience of gardens in Japan we felt sure that the Japanese wouldn't have left so many leaves on the ground. They would have been cleared up very quickly. They wouldn't have had 'duck-weed' on the water either.
There is a lake in the park, where you can feed geese and ducks (if you ever remember to take any with you),

and there is also the Mansion House, which features a cafe and a child-friendly play area. Yes we did pop into the cafe! Toasted sausage and bacon sandwich went down very well!
Autumn seems strange to me this year. Many trees have completely lost all their leaves and others are still very green. This picture I think shows the uneven rate of leaf change.

Another enjoyable day but what a contrast; less than 12 months ago I was told I had the lungs of a 17 year old and today I was told I had a chest that was over 450 years old!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Catch-up: Bulls, Halls & Turner Prize...

Time to catch up with last weeks walk and this weeks revisit. Last week we walked 5.6993 miles across open country from Bretherton to Bank Hall and back to Bretherton. Bretherton is just off the A59 south of Preston and north of Southport.
The day was sunny and what little wind there was, was warmish. Last time we walked in this area the wind had been bitter. "Wide skys", the best way to describe the early part of the walk, and river embankments with the constant sound of shooting from the clay-pigeon shoot near the River Lostock. At Red bridge, painted green for some reason best known to the landowners or council, we left the River Douglas and headed towards the more wooded part, and more interesting part of the walk. (The URL for this route is: We were greeted by a large dog and a useless owner as we joined the road; the owner had little or any control over the dog! He did say sorry, in a very loud voice, and repeated the apology when we 'glowered' at him.
The walk to Bank Hall, with the autumnal colours was very enjoyable. Bank Hall dates from 1608 with extensions from 1832, although there has been a building there since mediaeval times. It was used as a control centre for all troup movements in NW England during WW2. It missed out in the first BBC Restoration series but the 'Action Group' has started things moving.
You can find out more about the hall at
Those of you who know my better half, Chris, will know her feelings about cattle. Well you can imagine her comments, worries etc. when we had to walk within 5 yards of this fine beast!

She was not amused but bravely kept me between her and the Bretherton Bull!
The rest of the walk was enhanced by the thought of a short stop at the 'Corn Mill' for food, drinks and a browse among the antiques.
Yesterday Chris and I went to look at the Turner Prize entries, at the Tate Liverpool. An interesting experience. The four artists who have been shortlisted are Zarina Bhimji, Nathan Coley, Mike Nelson and Mark Wallinger. It is the first time the prize has been held outside of London, at Tate Liverpool, as a curtain-raiser for Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008. The comments made by the public are well worth reading and I wont spoil it for you by typing any here! Chris feels the film of the man dressed as a bear should win! Again I'll say nothing :-)
I did enjoy some of the current exhibits and feel that if any readers get the chance, go and take a look yourself.
Today the day started with heavy rain! However for once the weather forecast was spot on and by 10ish the sun was out. We headed for the main task of the day; collection of sloes for sloe-gin. I wont say where we go to collect sloes as we don't want others to beat us to picking them in future years. All I will say is we have started this years off and look forward to Christmas to sample last years.
Having picked the sloes we headed towards Rivington with the aim of looking at the changes made to the gardens on Rivington Pike. Apparently they have had to clear all the rhododendrons because of some disease. What a difference this has made. The 'ravine' was so much more striking as the tiers of waterfalls cascaded down the hillside. Damn camera batteries! I was unable to capture this spectacular scene as the batteries failed just when I needed them.
Chris and I couldn't get over the 'openness' of the gardens and had mixed feelings about if it was an improvement or not. The buildings and steps were, without a doubt, far more imposing than before, when they were hidden among the now removed foliage.
The URL for our walk today is:

You can read more about Rivington Pike at

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Slaidburn and Newton

'twas with a joyful heart, England were in the final of the 'Rugby Union World Cup', that Chris and I set off on our Sunday walk. The URL for this walk is
Although relatively short, 4.9773 miles, it was relatively undemanding compared to last weeks 'ups-and-downs'! There were superb views over the Bowland fells and Hodder Valley. Both Slaidburn, once the administrative centre of the Forest of Bowland, and Newton are attractive and interesting villages.

Although there were fine views of moorland, ask Chris about 'Moorcocks', most of our walk was over farmland with the company of many sheep...

The photograph shows some of the sheep between Pain Hill and Crawshaw.
As we headed towards Newton, we took a brief detour into the Quaker Burial ground.

Sadly this has been left to become very overgrown. Apparently the Quakers were persecuted during the 18th Century and so they were forced to seek out small and relatively isolated places like Newton.
We eventually reached the river Hodder, and this final stretch was delightful and relaxing (Ratty and Mole would have been at home here and Dunnow Hall looked just like the home Toad would have lived in!)
We stopped briefly before Dunnow Hall, next to Great Dunnow Wood beside a ford.

Heading towards the 15th Century Church at Slaidburn, we turned off to complete the walk beside the Hodder. Fishermen, fly-fishing, were passed and eventually we arrived back at the carpark. Ice cream was purchased and as we consumed them - Poop! Poop! - an MG drivers club arrived on what appeared to be a treasure-hunt!
All in all, a bit of a "wind-in-the-willows" day.
And did I say England were in the final of the World Cup? :-)

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Feck, Feck, Feck, Feck-off...

Father Ted lives on in Red Grouse! Chris was convinced that they were saying "Go Back, Go Back!" but I think I'm closer to their frantic alarm calls. We were walking in the Trough of Bowland, climbing 1,050 feet and walking 5.2835miles over Clougha Pike. The URl for this walk is
For the start of Autumn (Fall), the weather was fine, if anything a bit too warm. Plants and animals alike are confused! I'm sure many of you wont believe it but gorse was coming into flower. Fungi, in the form of ink-caps, reminded us that Autumn is upon us...

...and huge clumps of bright green moss reminded us of all the rain we had had this "summer".

The walk was rewarding with fine views on what was a hazy day. The ground was rough and the 1000 plus foot climb was a little steep at times. The opening stage of the walk took us across a little aqueduct called Ottergear Bridge, and then swung around climbing a little before dropping into a small, sharp-cut valley. The first of a number of channels, some of which cut through the ridge of Clougha.

It was then up onto moorland. Wet patches, marked by rushes, and heather and bilberry the dominant vegetation. Like it or not, these moors are managed because of grouse shooting. It is part of the ecology of these moors. On the way up, a wind farm could be seen over the valley.

We met two men on the way up who had lost their keys and were retracing their steps to try and find them! Thank goodness for pockets with zips! I don't think they had much chance of finding them. We eventually reached the rocky crest of the ridge; after several pauses to take in the view (read catch our breath). Although we were looking forward to "the finest views in the Bowland Fells, possibly in the whole of Lancashire", we had to make do with "quite rewarding views" as the hazy day restricted our view to Lancaster and no further.

The final stretch took us downpast a large cairn, over a "rock-scramble", past "wrinkled rocks" and into Windy Clough. The path through the woods, close to a stream was very nice and the shade welcome. Finally it was through gorse, over duckboards and back to the carpark.

The walk had taken much longer than we expected but I think that was due, in the main, to the 1000 feet plus climb. A quick detour on the way home involved a visit to Bailrigg House to show Chris where I now worked, a visit to the garage for fuel and a stop at the Plough, in Galgate, for food and liquid refreshments. A good day all round and an area I will visit again.

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