A walk from Kirkby Lonsdale

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I had a week in Ireland this week cancelled and as I hadn’t anything particularly urgent that needed doing, I thought that, weather permitting, we might get out for a walk one day. Checking the forecast, Monday looked the best bet as it was expected to be a decent day, so that clinched it. Where to go? Given the limited hours of light in December we decided not to go to far and stick to a low level route, limiting the mileage. We’d not been to Kirkby Lonsdale before, even though it’s not so far away (just over an hour’s drive, M6 willing!), so after a little research decided on a route starting from there.

Kirkby Lonsdale is a picturesque market town in Cumbria, close to the boundaries of both Lancashire and North Yorkshire and just inside  the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s noted for it’s olde worlde town centre, a viewpoint beloved of Ruskin and Turner and an old bridge. 

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There’s plenty of free parking on the edge of town, either side of the “Devil’s Bridge” but when we arrived on a Monday morning in December, I was surprised to see how many cars were parked up. However, there were a few spaces left so we parked up and donned our boots ready for a walk. I was expecting it to be muddy so we’d brought our gaiters and a couple of walking poles – it turned out that this was a good move!

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Before setting off we had a look at the Devil’s Bridge which was built in the 12th or 13th century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument.  At one time it was the only bridge over the Lune for miles around.

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There are quite a few Devil’s Bridges around the country, all built around the same period and all have a story associated with them explaining the name.  At Kirkby Lonsdale the tale goes that one night a cow belonging to an old woman strayed across the river and as there was no crossing point on the wide, fast flowing river, she couldn’t get it back. The devil then appeared and offered to build a bridge overnight t if he could have the soul of the first one across. However, the old woman fooled him by sending her dog across first. The devil was so angry he disappeared in a cloud of smoke never to return. 

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The bridge is a popular spot over the River Lune for “tombstoning”, which involves leaping from height into water. Over the years a number people have been killed here and there’s a local bye-law forbidding the practice, but, apparently, this doesn’t stop some foolish thrill seekers. So perhaps the Devil has had the last laugh.

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We set off , crossing the main road and then heading off south through the fields. There was a good view over to the Kentmere horseshoe.

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Passing a small group of cottages we followed the track which led towards Sellet Mill. 
The narrow footpath passed between two stonewalls and was clearly an old right of way which looked like it had been cobbled at one time. About a third of the way down a stream came in from the left and the path continued alongside it. “I wonder if it ever gets flooded?” We soon found out. Not much further on the path was covered with a fast running stream. Should we turn back or chance it and continue? We took the latter option. We almost regretted this decision as the water was quite deep in places and  it wasn’t easy to avoid getting our boots submerged or slipping and falling over. The walking poles now came in very handy and we managed to stay upright and not get too wet thanks to the gaiters. After what seemed a long way the path re-emerged on the right hand bank and we were able to continue on dry land until we reached Sellet Mill. 

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From here we took the path heading west through the fields until we reached the road and then followed a narrow minor road towards Whittington, a pleasant old village. There were good views over the fields across to Ingleborough and other hills in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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and we passed some interesting old buildings.

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Reaching the old church, which stands on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle, we decided to stop and have a bite to eat. We had a quick look inside the church. The oldest part is the tower, which dates from the early 16th century. The rest was largely rebuilt in 1875 in the usual Victorian Gothic revival style. 

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There was some rather nice stained glass.

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Afterwards we found a bench in the graveyard and sat down to eat our pork pies, taking in the view on a pleasant, sunny, afternoon.

Well nourished we resumed our walk, taking the road through the village and then followed a path that cut eastwards across the fields towards the River Lune.

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After recent heavy rains, the river was deep and flowing fast and the banks were muddy and slippy. In a few places it was close to the river and we were once again glad I’d put our walking poles in the boot of the car that morning.

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We followed the river bank back to Devil’s Bridge and then continued on the riverside path as we wanted to have a look around the small town and also to visit the viewpoint known as “Ruskin’s View”.

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After about a mile we reached the “Radical Steps” that would take us up to the viewpoint. The steps were built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, a local Liberal. The locals came to call them the Radical Steps on account of his political leanings. There are allegedly 86 stone steps, although we didn’t count them. They were rather steep and uneven and probably easier to go up than down.

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At the top of the steps we reached the edge of the churchyard and were able to take in “Ruskin’s View”. Painted by Turner, in 1875, John Ruskin described the panorama as ‘one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world’.

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Even though the river valley was now in the shade, it was certainly a lovely view, but I think Ruskin was rather overstating it.

After taking in the view we walked through the church yard and had a quick look around inside St Mary’s church

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and then wandered into town where we found a cafe to have a brew before heading back to the car for the drive home. It was only 5 o’clock but the winter sun having already set it felt much later. But we’d had a good day out.

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An autumn day at the YSP

A few photos taken during our visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last Saturday.

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Black Mound (2013) by David Nash
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Large Two Forms by Henry Moore, in the distance
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Wilsis (2016) by Jaume Plensa
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Square with Two Circles  by Barbara Hepworth
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Albero folgorato by Giuseppe Penone
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A new work by Peter Randall Page Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo) 2017
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Square with Two Circles at sunset

Sean Scully: Inside Out at the YSP

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Last Saturday we drove over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It was our third visit this year but we wanted to see the Sean Scully exhibition that had recently opened in the Longside Gallery, with some additional works outdoors. We’d seen them starting to install one of the latter during our visit during the summer.

Sean Scully was born in Dublin, grew up in London and currently lives in the USA and Ireland. He’s best known for his abstract paintings made up of coloured stripes, rectangles and squares and we’ve seen many of his works in various galleries we’ve visited. I wasn’t aware that he also produced sculptures, so I was particularly interested to see the examples included in the YSP exhibition.

We arrived around 11 and after a brew and a cake set off over the park heading over to the Longside Gallery, which is at the far end of the park, about a mile or so walk from the main Visitor centre and car park.

There were four of his large sculptures outdoors in the park and we encountered the first of these just before we reached the lake.

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Crate of Air (2018) is a large construction made of Corten steel. Unprotected from the elements it’s surface covered with red iron oxide, it’s appearance will change over time as the metal is affected by the elements and also by the light conditions, the red colour particularly standing out in the sunshine. It looks rather like an unfinished industrial structure, the sort of think that I often see during visits to some of my clients.

Carrying on down the slope we crossed the dam at the end of the Lower Lake, following the path and climbing up David Nash’s Seventy One Steps

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and then walked the woods along the top of the hill, past several works of art by artists including Andy Goldsworthy. 

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Descending down towards the Longside Gallery we passed a group of locals who were curious to have a look at us too

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Outside the Longside Gallery there was another Corten steel sculpture, Moor Shadow Stack

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We entered the gallery where there were four more sculptures together with a large selection of paintings, works on paper and photographs.

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Coin Stack (2018) is inspired by Scully’s  childhood when his father, a barber, would bring home his tips and count them in stacks on the kitchen table. There was a sketch of the stack together with a poem which explained its origin

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The other three sculptures were also stacks, but of rectangular rather than round slabs – one of wood, one of painted metal

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and the third of unpainted metal, neatly stacked

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The exhibition guide tells us that

Their stacked format retains the simplicity of Scully’s reduced visual language. He describes a job he did as a student, stacking flattened cardboard boxes from a supermarket into a lorry – hard, filthy work, with protruding staples lacerating his skin – but aware all the time of creating teetering sculptural forms that gradually filled the vehicle’s void with mass.

The paintings were very representative of his work – coloured strips and squares

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There was also a series of photographs of dry stone walls. My immediate reaction was that they reminded me of those I’d seen during my several brief visits to Galway, and which are very different from the ones we see in the English countryside, so I wasn’t surprised to find that they’d been taken in the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, where Scully is a regular visitor

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Looking at the photos it was clear that these structures, together with the horizontal patterns produced by the landscape and sky, influenced the style of Scully’s work.

After spending a good hour looking around the gallery we set off back down the hill towards the other side of the park, taking the alternate route back through the fields. At the bottom of the slope, just before the bridge between the two lakes, we saw the third of the outdoor sculptures, Dale Stone Stack, which is constructed of local stone.

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The final open air work was in the lower park on the other side of the lake. Wall Dale Cubed is a massive structure also made of Yorkshire stone

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My first thought was that it looked like something from the Flintstones! The Yorkshire Post compares it to 

Stonehenge-style prehistoric architecture or even an ancient Inca temple.

Like his paintings it’s made up of rectangular blocks in different orientations. Lit up by the autumn sunshine, there were different colours evident (although of a more limited range than his paintings) and variations in texture. There was plenty of interest and, like the other outdoor works, it’s appearance will change over time and also with the light.

We’d seen the main exhibition in the Underground Gallery a couple of times now, so spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the grounds, looking at the outdoor sculptures, having a brew in the Visitor Centre cafe and also taking the opportunity to have a look at the exhibition of prints by Norman Ackroyd. Enough scope for another post, I think.

A walk on the Far Eastern Fells

After a good meal in the Brotherswater Inn on Sunday evening I settled down with a good book before bed. I woke to a beautiful, sunny, if frosty, morning. Down to a hearty breakfast with a great view over the fells.

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After checking out I drove the short distance to the car park at the end of Hartsop village. There were already a few vehicles parked up but the overnight stay meant I was able to get a decent start (and a car parking space) without setting off from home at an early hour and enduring the traffic on the M61 and M6 where the rush hour starts around 6 o’clock! The plan was to head up Hayeswater Gill and climb up towards High Street and take in the Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike and High Raise.

It was a glorious morning as I set off on the steady climb up Hayeswater Gill. There were great views back towards Fairfield, Helvelyn and the neighbouring fells.
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But I could see thick cloud gathering over in the west.

On the way up the gill I passed this curious shepherd’s building with a moss covered roof.

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I reached the bridge that crosses the beck just before Hayeswater and stopped to take a photograph back down the valley

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I crossed the bridge and took the path up the side of the hill. It was rather boggy in places.

Looking down to Hayeswater as I climbed

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and another shot of the fells to the west

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The path climbed until it reached the track from Angle Tarn which is part of the Coast to Coast route. Consequently it had been “engineered” and much drier underfoot. Turning along this path I continued to climb heading up towards the Knott. I bypassed the summit (but would climb it on the way down), carrying on to the ridge known as the Straights of Riggendale.

Reaching the top of the ridge I forked off left heading towards my first summit of the day Kidsey Pike.

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The end of Haweswater, the most easterly of the Lakes, also came into view.
The lake is actually a reservoir, constructed by the Manchester Corporation back in the 1920’s and 30’s. This was highly controversial at the time as the remote Mardale was considered one of England’s most beautiful valleys. Originally there were two smaller lakes – High and Low Water – which were engulfed along with the village of Mardale Green by the rising waters after the dam was constructed at the end of the valley. This summer the long dry spell led to the waters falling and remains of buildings in the drowned village including the Dun Bull Inn, the Public School, Riggindale Farm became visible, attracting curious visitors.

This was the view to the east from the summit

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and over towards High Street

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To the south west I could see Raise, my next objective

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The cloud I’d seen earlier during my walk over to the west had finally blown over and the sky was now overcast and grey.

It was a relatively easy walk over good ground to the summit of Raise,

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where I stopped for a while to grab a bite to eat, taking in the views over towards Martindale and Ullswater.

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I set off to head along the ridge towards Rampsgill Head and on to High Street. Doing so I would be treading in the footsteps of the Romans who’d built a road, High Street, over the fells between their forts at Penrith and Ambleside, which is how the fell known as High Street got it’s name.

The summit of Raise is covered with loose rocks and as I was starting off towards Rampsgill Head I lost my footing. I couldn’t regain my balance and fell over, somehow cracking my mouth on a rock. As I regained my feet I realised that as well as a few minor cuts and scrapes on my hands and shin, a cut just below my mouth was bleeding quite heavily. I managed to staunch the bleeding with a tissue but decided my little accident wasn’t serious enough to warrant abandoning my trek (it was a long way back to Hartsop in any case) so I carried on, continuing to soak up the blood from the cut below my mouth with a series of tissues until it eventually eased. Anyone who saw me must have thought I’d been in a scrap! I guess I was lucky as a fall up on the fells can be much more serious.

Despite my little incident, I was still able to enjoy the views down Martindale from Rampsgill Head

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Traversing the ridge towards High Street and looking down Riggendale towards Haweswater

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and view over Rough Crag towards Harter Fell and Branstree

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Looking back down to Hayeswater from the route of the Roman road.

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High Street is a long, broad ridge without a clear summit, but OI made my way to the trig point at the highest point of the fell

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Heading back, I decided to more or less retrace my route down to Hartsop, but followed the wall along the top of of High Street rather than taking the route of the Roman road. Walking along the ridge over the Straits of Riggendale I diverted slightly for the modest climb to the summit of the Knott. This was the view back over to High Street.

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It was downhill all the way now back down to Hayeswater Gill and the car park in Hartsop

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A walk around Brothers Water

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A couple of weeks ago I managed to take a very short break up in the Lakes – just a Sunday afternoon and a Monday, stopping overnight on Sunday in the Brothers Water Inn on the Kirkstone Pass, a few miles south of Patterdale and Ullswater.

I set off around midday. It was raining but as I drove north up the M6 the rain eased off and it was a pleasant, clear afternoon by the time I arrived and checked into the small hotel around 3 p.m. It was the weekend before the end of British Summertime so the sunset was just after 6 p.m. so, after checking in and unloading the car I had time for a short walk. The obvious route was to circumnavigate Brothers Water – which can be considered to be either one of the Lake District’s smallest lakes or one of its largest tarns. The lake was once known as Broad Water but was renamed in the 19th century, apparently after two brothers drowned there.

Leaving the hotel a walk through the campsite and fields and past Hartsop Hall, an old farmhouse dating back to the 16th century, took me to the path on the west side of the lake. I followed it through pleasant woodland to the end of the lake, then took a diversion into Hartsop and part way up Hayeswater Gill. After retracing my steps back to the village I cut back towards the lake and following the path along the east shore back to the Inn.

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A walk up Rivington and Winter Hill

The other Thursday was a beautiful sunny day. Late morning I received a message asking me to postpone a meting (a telecon, actually, as that’s the way things are done these days!)that was scheduled for the afternoon. No problem, I could reschedule. So that gave me an opportunity to take the afternoon and get out for a walk in the sunshine. It didn’t take long for me to decide that’s what I was going to do!

As dusk was around 6 o’clock, I couldn’t go too far afield so decide to drive over to Rivington and go for a walk up to the Pike and the nearby moors.

I parked up near the Saxon Barn and set out up towards the Pike

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through the woods, with the leaves starting to show their autumnal colours

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I walked up through the terraced gardens

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The summit of the Pike, with it’s tower, came into view

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A short steep climb later and I was on the summit with great views across the Lancashire Plain to the coast

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over the moors

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and Winter Hill with it’s cluster of TV and telecommunications masts.

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There’s been a major fire on Winter Hill earlier this year during the hot, dry summer. Although there was evidence that this had taken place but it was good to see that the grass was recovering.

After a short break I decided to carry on onto Winter Hill, taking the route via Two Lads rather than the more direct, but very boggy, route straight across the moor.

Looking back to the Pike

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Looking towards the summit of Two Lads

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It didn’t take too long to reach the top where I stopped for a break

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Where to next? I decided to carry on to the top of Winter Hill

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I carried on past the TV mast and looked over the moors towards Belmont

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and, in the distance, Pendle Hill

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On a good day it’s possible to see as far as the Lake Distict, Yorkshire Dales and Snowdonia from up on the moors. Alas, although a fine sunny day, long range visibility wasn’t so great. The best time for these views is on a clear sunny day in the winter.

I considered my options. I didn’t fancy squelching through a boggy quagmire, so decided to retrace my steps back towards the Pike.

Looking over the moor I could see evidence of the summer’s fire. Although the grass was recovering well there were scars across the land, which looked like wide paths, where firebreaks had been created

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I bypassed the summit of the Pike and made my way down through the Terraced Gardens

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Rather go straight back to the car I carried on through the woods to Rivington Reservoir and followed the shore to the end of the artificial lake

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I cut up through Rivington Village

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and through the woods up to Rivington Hall Barn

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A short walk, passing Rivington Hall

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and I was back at the car. I changed out of my boots and after a 20 minute drive was back home ready for a brew!

A walk around the Wigan Flashes

Since returning from our short break in Thessaloniki, I’ve managed to find the time to get in a few walks while the weather has been reasonably fine, before the onslaught of winter.  For the first of these wanders I didn’t stray too far from home, but headed down the Leeds Liverpool canal from the town centre to have a wander round the Wigan Flashes.

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The Flashes is an area of wetlands on the edge of town based around 8 shallow lakes formed due to subsidence caused by abandoned mine workings. Today the area has been turned into a Nature Reserve. Something of a peaceful haven only a short distance away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre. (This is going to be ruined to some extent by a road at the north end of the area, linking the M6 and M61 – construction has already started.

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It was a pleasant autumn afternoon as I set out. A little overcast at first but the sun soon started to break through the cloud.

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Skirting the town centre, following the route of the River Douglas, I soon reached the Leeds Liverpool canal and set off down the towpath, turning off down the Leigh branch towards the Flashes.

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Reaching the start of the Nature Reserve, I crossed the canal and followed the path along Pearson’s Flash. This is something of a haven for waterfowl and I could see large numbers of coots and tufted duck as well as mallard and swans. Too far away to catch with my camera, unfortunately.

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but I did manage to snap this fellow

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Then I cut back towards the canal, crossing back over tot he main towpath

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I continued along the canal for a while before cutting back through the woods along the side of Bryn Flash

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and then turning back north, on towards Ochre Flash

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An extensive area of reed bed has been created in an area that was once an industrial wasteland. With an area of 70 hectacres, it’s the second biggest in the Northwest region.

The reeds were starting to die back, so not at their best. But they’re an important habitat for wetland birds including reed warblers, water rails and even bitterns.

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Back towards the canal towpath now and heading north it skirts the eastern edge of the largest of the Flashes – Scotsman’s Flash. The name of this stretch of water is something of a puzzle. One theory I’ve heard is that a couple of Scots drowned in it, but who knows? Today it’s used by the canoe club and sailing club, but no kayaks or yachts were out on the water on an autumn afternoon.

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A pity that the peace along here will soon be shattered by construction of the link road and then the roar of traffic dashing between the motorways.

A couple of narrow boats passed by heading in the opposite directions as I walked towards the town centre

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I carried along the canal and retraced my steps back home. By meandering around the Nature Reserve I’d walked about 8 miles, mainly through pleasant, peaceful wetlands where, if you didn’t know better, you’d never realise you were within shouting distance of housing estates, industrial areas and the town centre.