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.

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.

Thank Goodness for the Plantations!

So, we’ve been “locked down”, of a sort, for over a month now. I’ve been able to work at home, only very occasionally straying out to pick something up from the shops and one trip into the office to pick up a proper office chair, to try to avoid back problems, and a few odds and ends. Being stuck indoors is not something I’ve ever been fond of to put it mildly – even when I was very young my mother always used to say I was like a caged lion when I had to stay in the house. But we are allowed out for exercise, so long as we maintain “social distancing”, so, with the weather being so fine for most of the lock down so far, I’ve been out most days for a walk. We’re lucky in that, although we live close to the town centre, just a short walk down to the bottom of our street and I’m down by the river in the valley that forms a “green corridor” bisecting the north end of town and leading to the Plantations and Haigh Woodland Park.

Within 10 minutes I’m in very pleasant woodland of beech trees with a proportion of oak, horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and lime and Scots pine, which stretches a couple of miles up to Haigh Hall. Until the mid 19th Century the area was something of an industrial wasteland, damaged by mining. But in the 1860’s the Plantations were created as a means of providing work for cotton workers who had become unemployed due to the Cotton Famine caused by the American Civil War.

Most days I’ve managed to get out for an hour or so wandering through the woods. I’ve walked around the Plantations for many, many years but to add some variety, and also to keep away from the main driveway and maintain “social distancing” rules I’ve been exploring and have discovered several paths I didn’t know where there!

I was worried that I might find it boring wandering around the same territory, but I’ve managed to vary my route and although woodland might seem very “samey” there’s quite a lot of variation and I’ve enjoyed watching the changes taking place as we move through the Springtime. At the start of the lock down the ground was wet and muddy after all the rain we’d had in February, the trees were bare and there was little vegetation, but over time the ground has dried up, the birds are singing and over the past week I’ve seen the bluebells bloom and the leaves open on the trees. A couple of days ago buttercups appeared and other plants are now starting to bloom.

Build me up Buttercup!

The weather looks like it’s starting to change today and I reckon we’ll see some rain later in the week. I’ll still try to get out, though. I’m stuck at a desk most of the day in my home “office” and getting out for a walk in the early evening is helping to take my mind off all the worries and keep me sane.

I don’t know how long this is going to last – there’s no end in sight at the moment. I’m enjoying getting out and walking through the Plantations, but I’m missing being out on the open moors in the Pennines, the Lakeland fells and the Welsh hills and mountains. I’d planned to take a break in the Lake District in May and a trip to Snowdonia in July. We also had a trip to Ireland planned for late in May too. Currently, though, we have to make the most of whatever’s nearby and with the Plantations on my doorstep I’m luckier than many people stuck in city centres. But when this all ends I’m sure I won’t be the only one dashing off to the Lakes.

Le Tour de Britain

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Last Saturday was the final day of the Tour of Britain professional cycling race and the final stage was in Greater Manchester. Starting in Altrincham the route took it through all of the boroughs in the Metropolitan County, including Wigan, before finishing in a sprint on Deansgate in the centre of Manchester.

For many years I’ve followed the Tour de France, mainly watching it on the TV, but have seen 4 stages live – once in Skipton when it visited Britain and 3 times in France. So given as the British Tour was going to pass just a few miles from my house, I decided I should go up to the other side of Haigh Woodland Park and watch the riders speed past.

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And speed past they did! It was a flat stage and so they were pedalling at at 30 or 40 mph as they rode down School Lane, where I was standing amongst the crowd, heading towards Haigh before carrying on through Aspull, Hindley, Atherton and Tyldsley and then on through Salford towards Deansgate. I tried to get some photos, but not being experienced at sports photography, most of my efforts were rather blurred and poorly framed.

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First of all the Police motorbikes sped past followed by a number of cars. The sound of the TV helicopter heralded the arrival of the riders. A single bike was in the lead followed shortly behind by a large breakaway pursuing group. More police, and team cars followed before the arrival, a few minutes later of the peloton. It was all over in about 5 minutes.

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The Council had arranged a number of activities in the park and had a large screen showing the TV broadcast of the race so I stopped to watch. They were going at some pelt and the race was over with the final sprint about 40 minutes after I’d seen them on Scool Lane. That was some going!

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The stage was won by the Dutch rider, Mathieu van der Poel, who was also the overall winner of the race.

And I will walk 1000 miles

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Last Thursday I had an appointment at the hospital – my annual visit to see the diabetes specialist. It was a beautiful, sunny – if cold! – winter’s morning so I decided to use the opportunity for a walk through the Plantations, there and back. Just 4 miles in total, but my first walk of the year.

UntitledThe “70 Steps” up to Sicklefield

My appointment showed that all was good – but I could do with losing a few kilograms – and I’d promised the consultant that I’d lose at least 2 kg by next year. So perhaps as well that I’ve decided to take up the 1000 mile challenge this year. I did quite a lot of walking in 2018 and although I logged the distances of my country walks I didn’t keep a proper log of total mileage, so I’ll need to do that this year.

I needed to set some ground rules. I’ll not count “everyday” miles like walking into Wigan for shopping. But I’ll count mooching / street haunting around Manchester, Liverpool and other towns and cities. I’ll measure my mileage using my phone app rather than map miles, as that takes account of the distance associated with walking up and down hill.

So that’s my first 4 miles done. A lot more effort needed if I’m to hit the target.

UntitledLooking towards the buildings of the former Haigh Foundry – the Isle of Man’s Laxey Wheel was (allegedly) cast here
UntitledA small working foundry on the site of Haigh Foundry
UntitledRose Cottage on Hall Lane
The Lodge on Hall Lane at the entry to Haigh Woodland Park
Lodge has 2 meanings – a gatehouse to a landed estate (as here) but also a small reservoir for a mill or factory
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UntitledSome woodland management going on
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