Building Ships

One song that struck a chord* with me during one of the concerts that took place during the Celtic Connections festival was Building Ships, performed by Glasgow based singer Findlay Napier. While mourning the passing of a once great industry. It pays tribute to the workers who built the mighty ships for which Glasgow was renowned.

On his Bandcamp site, the singer tells us that

From a conversation about reopening Scotland’s shipyards with my Dad. He was a marine engineer and occasional builder of ships. It became clear to me that without a long plan, agreed on by all political parties, we’ll never see industry like that in Glasgow again.

Glasgow Shipyard- Shipbuilding in Wartime, 1944 Imperial War Museum (IWM Non Commercial Licence) via Wikipedia

Given my line of work, these lines particularly resonate with me

There’s ten guys in the hospital, four men in the ground
And everyone worked there breathed that dust into their lungs
And everyone worked there breathed that dust into their lungs

“That dust” would have been asbestos, which was used for insulation and fire protection throughout ships built before July 2002. Consequently many shipbuilders contracted serious, usually fatal, lung diseases – asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma (a particularly nasty cancer of the outer lining of the lung).

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Asbestos insulation photographed during a visit to HMS Belfast in London

There were other health hazards too – noise, damaging hand-arm vibration and exposure to welding fume (another lung carcinogen)

Asbestos hasn’t been used in ships since the end of 2010 – but there’s plenty of vessels out there on the sea that contain lots of it. And there’s a particular risk of high exposure at the end of their life when they’re broken up.

Oh aye, as Findlay sings

Everyone among them should get fair and equal pay

A walk to Worthington Lakes

Last week I managed to take a day away from the computer when the weather forecast looked reasonable. Time to get out for a walk! I’m still restricting myself to local walks from the doorstep, mainly up through the Plantations or nearby lanes. I fancied a longer route so had a think about where I might go and decided to head up to Worthington Lakes, a chain of small reservoirs. It’s always good to include an amble beside a stretch of water during a walk.

It stayed dry throughout the walk, with some sunny spells, but it was largely a grey day and the light was very flat and not so good for photos. Still,it was good to get out for a long stretch of the old legs.

The first part of my route took me along the Dougie and then through the Lower Plantations

I took the steps up to the Alms Houses

across the field

down Hall Lane and on to Wingates Road

before walking up Sennicar Lane towards the canal – it was starting to cloud over now.

Reaching the canal, I decided to carry up the track

as far School Lane

and then walk back down Pendlebury Lane towards the canal. On a fine day, looking over the fields, you can see as far as the Lake District Fells, but not today.

Just before the canal I truned right and took the path towards Red Rock. I crossed the road and then took the track heading north beside the old house

It’s dated 1734, but has clearly been extended a few times.

Following the narrow Lane I reached an isolated terrace of old cottages

where I stopped for a brief chat with one of the residents – making sure we kept our distance, of course. The small houses were originally miners cottages and, although there’s no evidence of it now in what is a very pleasnt rural area, there were a number of mines around here in the past.

I took a narrow path beside the end cottage and, after a short distance, reached the canal where there was a quay where coal from the nearby pits was loaded onto barges

The path carried on along the canal, crossing a bridge over the disused Whelley Loop Line (now a cyle path) and on through pleasant woodland

I crossed over Arley Bridge

Which took me to Wigan Golf Club – a path crosses the course over to Arley Woods, passing the moated Gothic Revival style house which is now the Clubhouse

Despite a plaque above the elaborate doorway proclaiming a date of 1367, the present house is mainly a Victorian reconstruction. But there has been a house on the site since the 14th Century and the site, with it’s moat, has been designated as a Scheduled Monument.

There were ducks and Black Swans swimming on the water – I took a snap but it didn’t come out that good as I was zooming in with my phone camera

Black Swans are native to South West Australia not South West Lancashire, so they’re clearly not native. But they’ve had Black Swans here for as long as I can remember.

I crossed the course – no need to worry about getting hit with a flying golf ball as it’s closed due to the Lockdown – and entered Arley Wood.

The path down the hill to the Dougie was steep and slippery but I managed to keep my feet

I crossed over the bridge on to the other side of the Dougie, and then it was a short walk up a muddy path to the Reservoirs

The string of three small reservoirs are known as Worthington Lakes and the area is a Country Park. They were constructed between 1860 and 1867 to provide drinking water for Wigan. the water is taken from the River Douglas, although the river itself runs underneath the reservoirs through a tunnel.

I set off and circumnavigated the reservoirs along the lakeside path.

The sun even emerged for a while

The top end of the top lake has been designated as a Nature Reserve, so access is restricted.

have done a full circuit of the lakes I went back into Arley Wood

and then took the path up to the path heading north through fields

with a view over to Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and Anglezarke

After passing a renovated farmhouse and a group of expensive houses, I turned down a path that wound back down to the Dougie

I crossed over the bridge and then took a steep, muddy and slippery path up to the canal

I took the towpath back to Arley bridge and then decided to get off the muddy path and take a diversion down the tarmaced road through the Golf Course

passing Arley Hall again

I followed the road through the course and eventually emerged by the canal at Red Rock. I rejoined the towpath, walking past the boats and narrowboats moored up on the canal bank.

looking backwards along the towpath

At the end of the moorings I carried on along the towpath which was extremely muddy, so I left the canal bank at the next bridge and headed down Pendlebury Lane.

Joining Wingates Road, I passed Brockmill Cottages which were built in 1821 and are Listed Buildings

Just after the cottages I turned right and crossed over the Dougie (yet again!) and took the path up Brock Mill Lane. I reckon this old, partially cobbled path would have been used by workers walking to and from the forge at Brock Mill and Haigh Foundry that used to be located further down Wingates Road.

At the top of the Lane I reached the main road. I walked along past the Cherry Gardens

and then on to the Entrance to the old Haigh Hall estate (now Haigh Woodland Park)

down the drive

and then on along the path above the Dougie through the woods back towards home.

It had been a fair walk – 15 miles in total – through pleasant countryside and with some local industrial history.

Celtic Connections

I’ve been absent from WordPress for a few weeks – neither writing or keeping up with reading blogs I follow as I’ve been busy with work ever since Christmas. And after being glued to Zoom all day for meetings and delivering training, I’ve been less keen on spending more time in front of a computer screen during my free time. But work pressures are easing off a little so it’s time for a catch up 😉

It’s getting on to close to a year now since life has been disrupted by the pandemic. We’ve been in and out of lockdown and although I’ve been restricted to local walks for substantial periods I was able to get out to the Lakes and Anglesey during the summer. We haven’t been able to get out to concerts, the theatre, galleries and exhibitions since last March, though and I’ve certainly missed all that. I have sustained a semblance of cultural activity though, as some organisations have managed to run events on-line. So I’ve been able “attend” three virtual folk festivals, Kate Ruby’s Christmas concert and watch a few National Theatre productions . I’ve also been able to “visit” the Hay Festival, the Wigtown Book Festival, the Orkney Science Festival and the Kendal Mountain Festival all of which were run online – events I’d always wanted to visit but have never had the opportunity. Watching on screen isn’t the same as being there, of course. It’s too easy to be distracted when you’re in front of the TV and you miss the excitement of being somewhere different and mixing with other people. But, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to attend most, if not all, of these events if they hadn’t been run on-line.

Another annual event I’ve always fancied attending is the Celtic Connections Festival that’s run every January up in Glasgow. The festival focuses on traditional Scottish music international folk, roots and world music artists with concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops too. It always seems like a good way of cheering up the rather dark and dismal days that follow on from Christmas.

Last December I got a tip off from Anabel , the Glasgow Gallivanter that the festival was going on-line and that early bird tickets were available for a very reasonable price of £30 that allowed access to all the concerts. So I snapped one up and was able to keep myself entertained during the dark January evenings.

There were plenty of traditional Scottish and Gaelic bands, playing jaunty music with fiddles, pipes and the like. I was able to watch concerts featuring some familiar musicians like Karine Polwart, Rachel Newton and Julie Fowlis.

The Transatlantic sessions is a project that brings traditional musicians together from, as the name suggests, both sides of the Atlantic – from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the USA in particular. I’ve watched some programmes on the BBC over a number of years, so it was good to see them performing “live” – with a number of performers on stage in Glasgow with video links to musicians over the other side of the water.

The concert of Quebecois music – Quebecfest – featuring Vent du Nord, De Temps Antan and Grosse Ille was another highlight

But there were new discoveries too – from other traditions and musical genres

Xabier Diaz from the Gallicia region of Spain, backed by a group of female singers playing what must be a rectangular Gallician version of the bodhrán 

Fergus McCreadie, a talented young Scottish jazz pianist who plays “an innovative blend of jazz and Scottish traditional music”. Many of his compositions are inspired by the Scottish landscapes, with titles such as Cairn, North, Across Flatlands, Mull and The Stones of Brodgar

Dreamer’s Circus, a Danish / Swedish trio with a contemporary take on traditional Nordic music

I didn’t watch every concert – there were too many, and there workshops too (not included in the festival ticket, though) – but certainly enjoyed the experience. It would have been better to have been there and savour the atmosphere, but that wasn’t possible. But I probably wouldn’t have been able to go up to Glasgow this January anyway so watching on my TV at home allowed me to get a taster. And it’s made me determined to get up there next year when (hopefully!) it will return to being a live event. And an opportunity to meet up with a bloggy friend too, perhaps 😉.

The Wigan Mining Monument

WordPress blogger Wednesday’s Child has been very quiet in recent months. Not suprising given that she’s a doctor working in a hospital in Manchester. I hope she’s keeping safe and healthy.

I enjoy reading her posts and particularly like one of her themes – statues and monuments in Manchester, Glasgow and other locations. Wigan, being a bit of a cultural backwater, has rather a dearth of public art works, but in recent years the local council and other organisations have made some effort to install some sculpture and monuments in and around the town centre. The most recent, installed last year celebrates the mining heritage of Wiagn.

Despite Wigan once being the “capital” of the Lancashire coalfield, there was nothing to mark that and celebrate the heritage of an industry that used to dominate the town. It took a group of volunteers -the Wigan Heritage and Mining Monument group, WHAMM – a registered charity formed by two local women Anne Catterall and Sheila Ramsdale, which raised the funds to provide a statue in a prominent location in Wigan town centre.

The project came to fruition last year but, unfortunately, the planned unveiling ceremony couldn’t go ahead due to you know what.

The statue, created by sculptor Steve Winterburn, depicts a man, woman and child, probably a family, all of who worked in the pits. They’re wearing the traditional footwear – wooden clogs with clog irons and as the sculpture doesn’t have base or plinth so that they appear to be walking on the cobbled street.

The woman, carrying a sieve or screen, would have been a “Pit Brow Lass“, one of the women who worked on the surface (women being forbidden to work underground by the Mines and Collieries Act 1842) at the coal screens on the pit bank (or brow) picking stones from the coal after it was hauled to the surface or loading wagons.

Coal has been mined in Wigan from at least the 16th century, and the industry grew to dominate the town, peaking around the end of the nineteenth century. According to local history records, in the 1840’s there were over 1000 pit shafts within a 5 mile radius of Wigan town centre. 

Source: Wigan World

The Northern Mining Research Society has compiled a list of colleries in the area that were opened in the 19 Century. There aren’t any left now – the last pits in the Borough and Lancashire coalfield closed after the big strike of 1984.

Over three centuries, more than 750 million tons of coal were mined from the vast Wigan coalfields, which over time had over 1000 pits, large and small. It would be difficult to overestimate the contribution of the town to the industrial revolution and the wealth it brought to Britain. However, this was achieved at great cost to local people. Hundreds of people died in accidents, and countless thousands were maimed or left with diseases caused by the working conditions. Two huge mining disasters are still remembered and commemorated more than a century after they occurred. In 1908, 75 men lost their lives in the Maypole pit near Abram.

WHAMM Crowdfunder website
Unemployed Wigan miner in the 1930’s Source: Wigan World

There are few traces of the industry around the town these days. So the monument is a very welcome addition to the town to remind us of a proud heritage and tradition, and, more importantly as a tribute to the thousands of local people – men women and children – who laboured in awful conditions in the pits

Winter – In and around the Plantations

So, for the last few months it’s been difficult to get out and about so my walking has largely been restricted to the Plantations and the nearby country lanes. Last Monday we had our first snow fall of the winter and we’ve had a few more since, the last one yesterday. it’s not so cold, so there’s a partial thaw which then freezes overnight and so when the next lot of snow arrives it tends to fall onto ice, which together with ice formed due to compacted snow on the footpaths, can make it a little treacherous underfoot. Care is needed!

There was snowfall yesterday afternoon and this morning it was sunny, cold and frosty, so I wrapped up and set out for a wander.

Drive the Cold Winter Away

I heard this song on Sunday’s Radcliffe and Maconie show on BBC 6 Music.

A duo comprising Nicola Kearey & Ian Carter, Stick in the Wheel, are a “Folk” band from East London who

….. bring a contemporary approach to folk music with raw minimalism, setting vocals to simple accompaniments and handclaps

Wikipedia

For this old Christmas song, of Elizabethan origin, they’re singing to a modern arrangement using synths rather than traditional instruments and with the singer’s voice electronically distorted. I rather like it.

The song is about putting aside differences, forgetting old wrongs, and singing, dancing, eating , drinking and playing together. Although this arrangement is much less jolly. More like a lament for activities that aren’t allowed at the moment. Very apt for our times, I think.

Here’s the lyrics if you want to sing along.

Stay safe and try to enjoy our Covid Christmas

Happy Hollyday

Way back in 2012 we went to see Kate Rusby’s concert at Warrington’s Parr hall during her annual Christmas tour around the UK. Since then we’ve been to see her perform several times, usually at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall when we would combine the concert with an afternoon looking round the Christmas market and a bite to eat. None of that was possible this year due to you know what. It’s been a difficult time for musicians with no venues open but there have been some imaginative initiatives where artists have ben able to perform over the Internet.

We’ve always enjoyed Kate’s concert’s immensely. For someone who isn’t so tall (!) she has a big stage presence and twinkling eyes and a smile almost as wide as the stage. She chats away between the songs and really does seem to be enjoy the Christmas celebrations. And combined with the Christmas market her concert has felt like the start of Christmas for us, so I was delighted to find out that she was arranging to stream a concert from Doncaster with a limited live audience (of family and close friends, I guess) so we signed up to watch the performance which was broadcast last Saturday.

Her Christmas concert is based around old traditional versions of carols as performed around the pubs in South Yorkshire . Some of the songs were well known carols but sung to a different tune with other traditional songs sung to more familiar tunes. She was accompanied by her band of folk musicians and also by a brass quintet, which makes the performance particularly Christmassy for me.

Of course, watching a concert from your own living room isn’t the same as being in the midst of a crowd in a concert hall, but we made the best of it, streaming onto our main TV. We’d put the tree up during the afternoon and we even arranged to have our own version of Christmas market food with German sausage hot dogs with mustard and (well we like it!) a helping of saurkraut (or choucroute if you want to be French). The concert though was pure Northern English entertainment and accents (listen her pronounce “come” and “choir”) – I’ll always forgive Kate for being from the wrong side of the Pennines!

It was the first time my daughter, who has moved back in with us for the time being, has seen Kate perform but, just like us, enjoyed the performance.

So there we are – our Covid Christmas has started. And next year, hopefully all this mess will be in the past and we’ll be able to see her perform live to kickstart the Christmas celebrations.

So I hope everyone reading this has a great Christmas break – but make sure you take care so that all your loved ones have a good chance to be around to celebrate properly in 2021.

The Plantations in Autumn

It’s been a while since I’ve put a post up on here. Since our holiday in Anglesey back at the beginning of October I’ve not had much opportunity to stray far from home, except for my walk in the Westmoreland Dales. This has been due to a combination of factors. We’ve been back in lock down in England for the past month, which has limited my horizons for walking and has continued to prevent us from getting out and about, visiting museums and galleries etc., and on top of that work has been very busy. This has also meant that I’ve not been keeping up with the posts on the blogs I follow – something I’ll try and remedy in the near future as work goes a little quieter after this week.

The nights drawing in – it’s getting dark now by half past four – has also limited opportunities to get out for a walk after I’ve finished work for the day. Despite this I’ve managed to keep myself from going completely stir crazy by getting out for a wander in the plantations and the country lanes to the north of the town whenever I can.

When the Covid situation first arose, I was worried that I might find it boring wandering around the same territory, but I’ve enjoyed watching the changes taking place as we move through the seasons. I can also vary my route to some extent and have worked out circular routes of between 3 and 8 miles leaving from the front door, mainly keeping to paths through the woods and quiet tracks through the fields. The wet Autumn weather has caused the quieter paths through the woods to get very wet and muddy underfoot which has restricted my options a little of late – time to get some wellies once the shops open up again after Tuesday!

I’ve been snapping photos on my phone during my walks – they illustrate changes over the past couple of months. Here’s a few 🙂

Early October
Mid October on the Leeds Liverpool Canal
Mid October on the Leeds Liverpool Canal
Early November in the Plantations
A few days after Halloween
Early November in the Plantations
A sunny day early November
Mid November – not many leaves left on the trees
View over the fields from Senicar Lane, mid November
View over the fields from Pennington Lane, late afternoon on a fine November day
Late November – the trees are bare now.
A grey late November day on the Leeds Liverpool canal
A foggy Sunday afternoon in the Plantations at the end of November

We come out of lockdown on Tuesday (or is it Wednesday?). Doesn’t really matter as we’re going to be Tier 3 in Greater Manchester and most of Lancashire so I’m going to have to stay local for a while – no wandering up to the Lakes for a walk for a while by the looks of things. I’ll have to keep making the most of the Plantations.

A walk in the Westmorland dales

A couple of weeks ago I drove up the M6 to the Westmorland Dales near to Orton, which I’d last visited back in June. I fancied a walk somewhere relatively quiet and I knew this area in the north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (despite being in Cumbria) would fit the bill. It was forecast to be a fine day and I knew that the Lakes and the more popular parts of the Dales were likely to be busy. It’s not far off the motorway and only just over an hour’s drive from home – at least when the traffic isn’t so heavy on the M6.  The terrain is different from most of the lakes too – it’s limestone country. I parked up in a small rough parking area a couple of miles north of Orton village, donned my boots and set off. I had a route in mind, longer than during my last visit, treading over some of the same ground.

It was a fine, bright morning – a little chilly after a cloud free night in autumn. Looking over to the Pennines in the distance there was cloud over Cross Fell (the highest point in England outside of the Lake District), Great Dun Fell and High Cup Nick.

I walked over the moor and turning south and made my way over the limestone pavement towards the monument on Beacon Hill.

There was a small group of cyclists sitting by the monument. I sat down a few metres away from them and had a coffee from my flask.

Looking back over the limstone pavement towards the Pennines

and over to the North Lakes – there’s Blencathra with its distinctive “saddeback” in the distance

I carried on down towards the extensive limestone pavement of Grat Asby Scar

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There were very few people about.

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Quite a few sheep, mind

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After a while the path turned into a track and then joined a minor road. I continued along the tarmac about half a kilometre then turned south along a path through the fields. I watched a couple of shepherds herding a small flock into the back of their trailer. There were more sheep further on and some cattle too.

Looking over farmland towards the Pennines

At the end of the fourth field my I turned right beside the drystone wall heading south west. Last time I was up here there were cattle in the field close to the path that were eying me up. I’d felt a little nervous. There were cattle here again, with their calves, but further back from the path. One of them was making quite a bit of noise so I made my way briskly to the gate into the next field. I carried on eventually reaching more limestone pavement. Reaching a junction I turned south down the route of the long distance trail, the Dales High Way – a path I hadn’t followed during previous visits.

I carried on down the Dales High Way, through fields

passing stunted trees

heading towards Sunbiggin tarn, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

with views of the Howgill Fells in the distance

Time to stop for a little while to eat my packed lunch and drink another coffee. It’s quite a lonely place, off the beaten track. There were a couple of horse riders just up the hill and a couple of cars parked up on the road, but their owners must have been off on a walk.

I retraced my steps for about a kilometre and then turned west towards the small settlement of Sunbiggin

I was now on the route of the Coast to Coast path and passed a few walkers heading in the opposite direction, at least some of them following the long distance route.

I walked on a short section of tarmac before turning west across more fields.

I spotted these unusual spotted sheep in a field from the road

I’d never seen sheep like them before and a little research on the Internet revealed them to be Dutch Spotted Sheep. An unusual breed in the UK.

There were good views over to the Howgills

Back onto softer ground which was muddy in places, especially by the gates, following some recent heavy rain.

There were sheep in some of the fields I had to cross, which wasn’t a worry. I could see some cattle in adjacent fields, and was hoping I’d be able to avoid them. However, there were a few young beasties along with sheep in the final field I had to cross. It looked like they might have been bullocks and they weren’t so far off the path. Half way across the field I made the mistake of turning my head to check were they were and met the eye of one of them which immediately started to charge directly toward me! Definitely a bullock then. I stared to shout and wave my arms and, fortunately, it veered off a short distance from me. A close shave as I would certainly have sustained some injuries if it had made contact. I didn’t hang around but made my way as quickly as I could across the field, through the mud and over the stile onto the track on the other side of the wall.

My route required a right hand turn now but I made a short diversion. Turning left, in the field to the left of the track there’s the Gamelands stone circle, one of the largest circles in Cumbria.

The last time I was over here, in April 2017 it wasn’t possible to access the stones and we had to peer at them over the wall. However, since then a gate has been installed and it was possible to get in amongst them for a closer look.

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Unfortunately the stones have all been knocked over and some have been removed but the circle was impressive enough and definitely worth my minor detour.

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Back on the track I headed north, passing an old lime kiln

and then making my way through more fields (no cattle this time, only sheep!)

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The cloud had really come in now, killing the bright light from earlier in the day.

Looking west towards the Shap Fells

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I made my way back over Beacon Hill and then took the path across the limestone untoil I reached a gravel track. Turning left, a short walk and I was back at the car.

After changing out of my boots and dumping them along with my rucksack into the boot of the car I set off down the road to Orton. Rather than head straight down to Tebay and the the Motorway Junction I decided to take the minor road towards Shap and joined the Motorway at the junction there. This allowed me to pay a visit to the Tebay services and stock up with some goodies from the farm shop.

The traffic on the M6 was quite heavy from Lancaster down to the M61 Junction, so it took me a little longer to get home than my morning journey up to the start of my walk. But I was still home in good time for my tea!

The weather wasn’t so good last Sunday so I didn’t get out and since then Greater Manchester has joined Lancashire County by having Tier 3 Covid restrictions placed on us. This half baked lockdown means that it looks like it’s going to be local walks for a while.

Last day on Anglesey

The Wednesday of our holiday turned out as forecast – wet and windy. So it was a day for staying in, relaxing, catching up on some reading and, at least for one of us (not me!) watching the French Open tennis on the TV. Thursday was very different – a bright sunny day.

We’d thought of driving off to somewhere else on the island, but instead decided we’d repeat our walk along the coast to Moelfre and see if we could get a bite to eat in the cafe or pub.

After the rain on Wednesday, the path down to the beach across the fields was muddy and slippy inplaces, but we were wearing our boots so that wasn’t a major problem.

When we reached the beach, unlike previous days, the tide was in. And, unlike Saturday, the sea was calm.

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Traeth Lligwy with the tide in

We followed the same route as Saturday but here’s a few pictures, this time with a calmer sea.

Here’s Porth Forllwyd. With the tide in there was water in the little harbour

and there were a couple of fishermen perched precariously on the rocks

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The pebbly beach

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Getting close to Moelfre now. There was a good view across the calm sea to Snowdonia. There was some rain falling over there.

Moelfre is an old fishing community but depends on tourism these days. It’s a small village, with not a lot there, but it does have a cafe, a pub, a chippie and a siop (Welsh spelling!)

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On a sunny day the cafe was quite busy, but we did manage to get a table outside on the terrace and enjoyed a drink and sandwich after logging in and ordering our selection from the menu via a website – a precaution against you know what. It was still possible, however, for staff to take orders.

After finishing our meal we had a stroll around the village, and then set back retracing our steps along the coastal path to LLigwy beach and then back along the quiet lanes to our accommodation.

We had a relaxing evening then it was up early on the Friday morning to pack , tidy up and load our stuff into the car as we had to leave by 9:30. It was a grotty, morning so we decided to set of back for home. Our options for stopping off on the way home were limited, anyway due to restrictions that had been implemented the day before along most of our route through North Wales.

It had been a good week’s break. The weather had been kind to us, with just a couple of grey, wet days and on one of them I was able to get out in the morning. We chose our week well for the the weather but also because just 2 weeks after returning home, as we live in Greater Manchester we aren’t allowed to travel to Wales 😦