Wednesday 31 March 2010

Journey's end

As we neared the end of our circuit, the land once again became open, with wide expanses of field bordered by hedges and trees. We were entering the Wortley Hall estate.

Although the hall itself was only glimpsed from a distance, the old houses, which we assume to be the gatekeepers cottages, were along our route...

...and our final approach to the village was along one of the estate roads; The Flats.

It was a lovely end to a delightful walk!

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Stile 2

I have always viewed the stile as a humble, but interesting, structure; a basic means for the walker to pass over a barrier from one place to another. I had no idea that they had become so complicated!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a STILE as:
an arrangement of steps allowing people, but not animals, to climb over a fence or wall

...which, in it's simplest form, just about sums it up.

In my ignorance, I imagined that most stiles were built on the spot, either by the landowner or by a group/organisation such as BTCV, National Trust or the National Park Ranger Service. (In fact, my eldest son spent his Y10 work experience week with BTCV, constructing a kissing gate stile on a path by the Trent - and jolly hard work he said it was too). What I didn't know was that stiles can now also be bought 'off the peg' and that all constructions are meant to conform to a new British Standard (the penalty for non conformity being prosecution of the landowner by the Highways Agency).

I wonder if this one conforms!

Erm... :)

Monday 29 March 2010

Equine antics

On most walks, the bulk of animals spotted tend to be cows or sheep. While we certainly spotted some of both, far and away the predominant livestock seen was equine. There were horses in fields, horses in stables, horses being ridden and, far and away the best for the "Ahhh" factor - little rough haired ponies. Unfortunately, none of the little rough haired ponies were interesting in coming close enough to be photographed. This chappie was quite obliging though, wandering over to say "Hello. Have you got anything for me to eat?" as we walked down Old Mill Lane.

I remembered the horses from when we scouted the walk back in October. At one particular point, we had crossed a field towards a farm gate and were studying the map, when my friend suddenly looked up, gave an exclamation of surprise and took a distinct step backwards. As I turned round, I understood why. A rather large horse had decided to investigate these unannounced humans hanging around in his field. Being keen to greet us before we escaped through the (tightly fastened) gate, he was coming at quite a speed! We were both somewhat relieved when he skidded to halt with about six feet to spare; after which he proved relatively friendly :)

A brief scan of the web showed me that there are a number of liveries and stables in the area as well as a good number of bridleways.

It also turned up this little gem from the minutes of the meeting of Thurgoland Parish Council...


Councillor Rowley advised the meeting that she has been approached by residents of Old Mill Lane who are concerned at the amount of horse droppings being deposited along the lane. After discussion it was agreed that the Clerk write to Environmental Services to ask for their advice on this matter, and to ask if Old Mill Lane can be swept more frequently.
...followed up the next month with this response...

The Clerk advised the meeting that she has received correspondence from Regulatory Services advising that there are no laws concerning horse droppings, and that an inspection of Old Mill Lane found only a small amount of droppings. However, the comments made have been passed to Neighbourhood Services and Highways who will deal with the issue of road sweeping.
Awww...and he looks so sweet from the front end!

Sunday 28 March 2010

Following the course

Isn't it interesting, the way the same small stretch of river can look so different depending on the direction from which it is viewed?

Standing on the footbridge, this is the view looking north west:

But, personally, I much prefer the view to the south east...

...with the sunlight shining through the still-bare branches and reflecting off the surface of the seemingly still water.

Whichever way it is viewed, this is the fledgling river Don, which rises as a series of small rivers in the Pennines, around Grains Moss, on the borders of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. These converge to form the source of the Don proper, which almost immediately feeds into Winscar reservoir; one of Yorkshire Water's larger reservoirs situated near Dunford Bridge.

From here, the Don winds it's way east through Penistone, and then in a southward loop under the bridge where we were stood and on to Sheffield and Rotherham. Leaving the conurbation, it turns north-eastwards towards Doncaster (not surprising considering the name) before finally mingling its waters with the Yorkshire Ouse at Goole. Originally, the Don was a tributary of the Trent (which also joins the Ouse, 10 miles further downstream) but in 1627 it's route was changed by the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden, for the purpose of making it navigable for coal barges. Although navigable rivers have largely been superseded by railways and motorways, the Don can still be travelled from Goole as far as Sheffield.

In total, the course of the Don is 70 miles, making it 20 miles longer than Derby's River Derwent which also rises within a few miles of Winscar Reservoir, but on the more southerly slopes of the Pennines.

I find it interesting that the two rivers rise so close together and both end up in the North Sea via the Humber, yet follow such different courses during their 'lives'. I'm sure that there is an analogy there somewhere.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Making tracks

I think that one of the most attractive parts of our walk was after we had dropped down the steep hillside from the stile opposite the church on Chapel Lane.

We descended to a track which wound its way along the valley bottom. The noise from the main road was long behind us, semi-industrial Stocksbridge was out of sight and the air was quite balmy as we swung along in the dappled sunlight. Through the gaps in the trees we could see clear views down the valley and over to our right, glimpse the river which we would soon be crossing and the quiet country lane which would form the next short section of our route.

Not spectacular, but refreshingly peaceful and beautifully rural.

Friday 26 March 2010


A little further along our walk, we came across this sturdy looking chapel.


I wonder who made the error, the signwriter or the person who placed the order. 

I certainly can't claim that my spelling is always perfect (especially when I'm typing - I assure people that it's my keyboard that has the dyslexia), but this did make me smile.

I did, however, decide that I should paint out the minister's phone number! I'm not wanting to embarrass...

Thursday 25 March 2010

Of stocks and sarnies

Over the hill from the farm, leaving the industrial landscape of Stocksbridge behind us, we dropped down through an old quarry into the small village of Green Moor. Almost immediately opposite the end of the footpath, was this set of old stocks.

According to the inscribed stone, they were originally elsewhere, but re-erected in this location to commemorate the crowning of King George 6th on May 12th, 1937.

Over the wall behind them, is a small public garden, created in 2000 as part of the community's Millennium celebrations. Along the far wall of the garden is a picnic table and a row of 3 benches, set to look outward, over the wall to the view of the valley beyond.

It was only 11:40a.m., but the lure was too great.

With a view like this, who wouldn't want to stop for lunch?

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Contemplating cows

Safely through the woodland, we passed a farm.

Over the years, I've been on a few school trips where that distinctive 'countryside smell' has wafted around and the immediate reaction from the children has always been a nose screwing up "Eeeugh! Pong!" The reaction always makes me laugh because, for me, the smell of cows instantly brings back very good childhood memories of times on my aunt and uncle's farm.

I remember rides on the backs of various bits of farm machinery: the tractor to fetch in the cows for milking, the baler to release the tightly bound bales of hay into small mounds waiting for collection, the dray when those bales were being collected and, even better, lying on top of a 5 deep stack of bales on top of the dray as it slowly swayed it's way back to the barn to be unloaded and the bales stored for winter fodder!

I remember hide and seek in that same hay barn, where it was possible to wriggle down the crack where four bales met, pull over a bit of loose straw and stay hidden almost indefinitely; except for the time my cousin's foot came down that same crack right on top of my head! :)

Then there was the rhythmic suction sound of the milking machines, attached to udders belonging to cows standing in patient lines, pulling on feed from the troughs and shuffling occasionally. I even remember making myself useful and hosing out after milking was done.

And one of my proudest memories has to be the day my cousin and I fetched the cows in down the lane. Even in those days of fewer cars, we had built up quite a tail of vehicles by the time we turned into the field! The shared power of a pair of 10 year olds ambling long behind a meandering mass of warm, steamy, black and white bodies, followed by a crawl of helpless drivers. HA!

Tuesday 23 March 2010


When the new Carsington Reservoir was constructed in the early 1990s, the small 'island' near the visitor centre was laid with a spiral path along which were placed a number of standing stones. Each stone had a peephole cut through, somewhere near the top, and each hole was designed to frame a different view across the reservoir or surrounding countryside. The sculptures are a fantastic way of removing the whole in order to focus on the specific and they make the viewer appreciate the detail of what is seen. It works in much the same way as when an artist will sometimes 'frame' a view to visualise a painting.

This post, just above the stepping stone bridge of yesterdays (rewritten) blog, reminded me of those standing stones, and I could not resist darting off the path to take a snapshot through the hole.

The view beyond, lacks the depth of Carsington Water, but I love the textures in this photo and I find the overall effect somewhat pleasing.

Sunday 21 March 2010


This stone, memorial to the 70 victims of the Fauld explosion, was erected on 25th November 1990. According to a the information board close by, the fine white granite used to make the memorial was a gift organised by the Commandante of the Italian Air Force Supply Depot at Novara, which is twinned with No 16 MU RAF Stafford.

It is fitting to have Italian granite, as the facility was partly staffed by Italian prisoners of war, many of whom lost their lives alongisde the RAF personnel. The other victims were workers in the neighbouring plaster factory and people from the local farms and villages.

The first 18 names on the plaque are those whose bodies were never found and for whom this crater is, as the stone says, their final resting place.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Strictly no admittance

At a first viewing, this looks like a fairly ordinary, if somewhat neglected, patch of countryside. If, however, I tell you that this whole area is fenced off and surrounded with notices like these... may begin to feel slightly more intrigued.

The crater is not a natural occurance, but the result of the largest explosion to happen in this country during either of the world wars.

This area, just outside the village of Hanbury, Staffordshire, was once riddled with gypsum  mines. By the time of the first rumblings of  WW2, the mines had ceased to be productive and so, in 1937, 450,000 sq ft of land was purchased by the Air Ministry for use as a storage facility for bombs; known as RAF Fauld. The bombs were stocked in 90' deep bunkers with concreted corridors 12' high x 20' wide, which had space for trucks. The air was breathable and the temperature was a constant 55 degrees Farenheit.

At 11:11a.m. on November 27th 1944, the whole facility blew up. Why, is unclear! People have theories as to the cause, but it was officially recorded as an accident.

Almost 4,000 tons of bombs exploded, blasting out a crater 100 feet deep and 1/2 a mile across. A mushroom cloud of debris was formed, which stretched about 50 yards wide and included rocks up to a ton in weight, adding to the already considerable amount of damage to buildings in the area. The local pub had to be rebuilt while a nearby farm (complete with buildings, livestock and 6 occupants) disappeared totally.

The sound of the blast was heard as far south as Daventry, 19 miles south of Coventry and the shock waves were recorded by seismographs as far away as Casablanca. Afterwards, the ground was coated with a layer of dust up to 4" thick.

 In total, 70 people lost their lives, with 18 bodies never being recovered.

Friday 19 March 2010

Answers on a postcard...

British pub names can be fascinating; especially those which have a connection to a particular locality or historic event. The way the pub names are displayed or represented can also be intriguing.

I photographed this at the pub which Dad and I visited on Wednesday lunch time. It isn't the main pub sign, but it does represent the name.

Any guesses?

Thursday 18 March 2010

Freedom of the Dales

It isn't everyday that we empty our school to line the streets of Ashbourne and wave Union flags at a regiment of Her Majesty's armed forces, but that is exactly what happened today.

Formed on 1st September 2007, when the Cheshire Regiment merged with the Staffordshire Regiment and the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, the Mercian is a light infantry battalion which can be deployed anywhere in the world and has recently returned from a tour of duty in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The 2nd Battalion - The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) are mainly drawn from the English counties of Worcestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire - and Derby itself has a long association with the Foresters; their regimental headquarters having once been located at Normanton Barracks, within a couple of miles of where I grew up. I don't remember the soldiers, the barracks having closed in 1963, but I do remember the buildings, which remained until they were demolished in 1981.

In January of this year, the Mercian Regiment was granted the freedom of the Derbyshire Dales by the Derbyshire Dales District Council. One of the privileges of such an honour is that the regiment is now able to march with bayonets fixed, colours flying and band playing. There were no bayonets in evidence today, but the band played and the soldiers marched behind their colours, while the children waved the Union Flags and cheered them on.

Whatever our opinions of the rights and wrongs of war, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere around the world, our soldiers risk their lives to defend our country and I was happy to be there with the children to honour their bravery.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Today is St Patrick's Day; Lá Fhéile Pádraig. I've not yet had the opportunity to visit Ireland, but didn't want to allow the occasion to slide by unmarked, so a few facts St Patrick!

Saint Patrick is widely recognised as the patron saint of Ireland, and his day is a public holiday on both sides of the border, in addition to being celebrated by Irish communities around the world.

Born in Kilpatrick, Scotland around 387AD, Patrick was son to a Roman couple in charge of the colony. He is believed to have been kidnapped at age around 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He lived there in captivity for around 4 years, during which time he learned the language and customs of the people; but also began to explore the Christian faith. He eventually escaped, boarded a ship back to Britain and then travelled on to Gaul (France) where he studied to be a priest. In 432, he returned to Ireland as a bishop, with the intention of bringing Christianity to the populace. He died on 17th March 461 and is believed to have been buried in Downpatrick.

His day is celebrated with parades and festivities. The predominant colour is green and the shamrock is worn in memory of the legend that St Patrick used it as a visual aid to help explain the concept of the Trinity; God in three persons, but nevertheless one God.

To end, I have pinched a copy of his prayer from a friends blog (EdenhouseUpdate):

St Patricks Day Prayer

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, and in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Wake up call

My weekday alarm is set for 6:20a.m. Not so long ago, I would open my eyes to pitch blackness. It is so much easier to start the day when there is a glint of sunlight peeping in through the crack between the curtains.

I am fortunate in that the back of my house faces South so, although I don't easily see the sun setting, I do ocasionally catch a glorious sunrise. So it was today!

My first ever blog post was of another sunrise, photographed back in November Comparing the two, I find it interesting to see how the position of the sunrise has changed. In November, the sun was directly behind the silhouetted leylandii, with the majority of the light shining out to the right of it. Now, in March, the sun is clearly visible to the left. I'm sure there must be a lesson waiting to be taught from that sometime.

Monday 15 March 2010

Tower Windmill

In 1964, the River Dove Water Board created Staunton Harold Reservoir to provide the city of  Leicester with drinking water. Now managed by Severn Trent Water, it is set in an area of pleasant countryside and boasts three sites of Special Scientific Interest.

It also boasts this tower.

As its name suggests, Tower Windmill was once a working mill. Dating from 1798, the windmill was built by the first Lord Melbourne at a cost of £250 to grind local grain. This style of windmill was developed in the C18th and featured a domed top to which the sails were attached. The dome was designed to revolve, in order to take advantage of the wind irrespective of the direction from which it was blowing. The turning of the sail powered a series of gears, which in turn drove the millstones which ground the grain.

Grain continued to be milled here until the late C19th, when the windmill became disused and gradually fell into disrepair. When the new reservoir was constructed, it was planned to convert the tower into a viewing platform overlooking the water, but the building was found to be unsuitable and the conversion was never completed.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Last two

Tomorrow, I'm changing topic, but, before I do, I wanted to post a couple more photos from our walk; simply because I like them.

I wasn't sure how this first photo would turn out, but I'm delighted with the effect; especially the contrast between the dark silhouetted foreground and the sunlit green beyond. It's almost as if the path is inviting me to walk on out of the darkness and into the light.

And then there is this one, which is the very last photo I took before we loaded into the car and drove the short distance home:

By now, you may have gathered that I am ready for the Spring; especially if it is accompanied (as it has been over the past week) by a bit of bright sunshine! Easter is only a few short weeks away and new life is springing all around. Oh Yes!

PS: Anyone identify the blossom please?

Saturday 13 March 2010

For whom the bell doth toll

The golf course at Breedon on the Hill is neatly bisected by a public footpath. Of course, it's not uncommon to have footpaths running through, round or alongside golf courses (I can think of three more examples without even trying), but it's always struck me as a rather dicey business; walking in the vicinity of small, hard balls, generally travelling at high velocity. Those actually playing the game, have the distinct advantage of knowing the whereabouts of the other players before and behind them on the course; whereas the unsuspecting walker drops into the middle of the playing field without warning.

And that, we think, is where this comes in:

You certainly wouldn't describe it as pretty or ornate - functional might be the more appropriate adjective - but this bell hangs alongside the end of the line of trees, just where the footpath emerges to run downhill across the course. It seems a very sensible precaution to have a warning bell for the emerging walker as, at this point, the tee is out of sight over the brow of the hill and the path heads straight across the fairway.

Just one problem; we weren't walking downhill!

It seemed a bit late to bother ringing the warning bell after we'd risked life and limb to reach the sanctuary of the tree line.

Friday 12 March 2010

Light on water

I love water and I love sunlight. Put the two together and the effects can be amazing, so here are a couple of light on water photos; the first close after Breedon Garden Centre and the second on Melbourne Pool.

Here, I particularly enjoyed the way the light emphasised the curve of the brook as it wound its way between the banks; dark with bare trees, dead wood and the slowly decomposing leaves from last year.

 Out of picture, the mood was lightened somewhat by a showing of pure white snowdrops.

And, with the day turning towards late afternoon and the sun beginning to lower in the sky (yes, I do know it's us moving really, not the sun) the path of light traced across the Pool left the far bank beautifully silhouetted.

The tops of the trees remind me a little of fragments of torn spider webs against the sky; but also of something else which I can't quite put my finger on...

But, rats!, I was just too quick to catch the duck in the reflected light. Should have looked more carefully!

Thursday 11 March 2010


They have some really odd things in the fields on the Melbourne estate. From rather large, bright blue Biryani Paste tubs on tripods,, we come to these... designed to benefit birds and the other designed to scare them away (though different kinds of birds). There were four of these 'scarecrows' in this particular field; 3 yellow on red and this one. The backs of them were silver and they could be seen flashing from quite some distance away as they spun round reflecting the sunlight. This is another pic from LC (too far away for my camera to take), but I wouldn't like to tell you how many goes it took to catch the face on the photo! :D

We did also spot some of the birds for which the Biryani Paste tubs were erected. Not pheasants this time, but other smaller game birds. We had a little bit of a debate about what exactly they were, but eventually decided that they were Black Grouse. Our scource for this determination was a piece of highly respected documentation - they look like the picture on the bottle of a certain well-known brand of whisky - only black!

Wednesday 10 March 2010 high places

There is something stimulating about being in a high place; having an open view and big skies. This spot is not especially high, and the day was a tad hazy, giving a slightly blurred view of Melbourne, but it did give me that sense of being on top of things which I experience in all elevated places. Somehow, the whole of life shrinks into perspective, troubles seem that little bit less daunting and, for a short while at least, I feel like I am enormously powerful and absolutely minute both at the same time.

Now, if you don't share my love of high places, you may be thinking that this is a little over the top (sorry, couldn't resist), but I honestly do get a tremendous lift from being high up and drinking in the view; and those who share that love are probably nodding sagely with a slight itching to be out and up.

For those who want to look it up: Habakkuk 3 v 17 - 19

And incidentally, no it wasn't us who left the gate open; in fact, we didn't come through it. But I'm loving the binder twine hinges! A good bit of farmer improvisation :)

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Seasons in the sun

We walked down here last Friday. This is the path that runs through the top section of Breedon Golf Course. As you can see, it's quite a tree tunnel and it has a lovely feel, especially with the birds singing or a bit of a breeze sighing through the branches. But isn't it interesting, to see a place at different times of the day or in different seasons. The same location can have a whole new feel or atmosphere. I imagine that this footpath could be quite creepy in the pitch black, early hours of the morning.

In winter, the bare branches of the trees trace a skeletal pattern against the pale blue sky. All of the joints and forks are clearly visible, and bristle; almost like a giant upturned yard brush. The predominant colours are the silvery browns, greys and greens of the wood, with the contrast of the reddish brown castings from autumn strewn along the side of the footpath.

Contrast this one...

My immediate rection is that I prefer this photo, taken last October, with the richness of the colours of the turning leaves; but when I look more closely, I'm not so sure. What do you think?

Monday 8 March 2010

Waterfowl great and small

Lots of piccies of water fowl today. Some are mine and some were taken by a friend.

This female Mallard was enjoying a paddle along the top of the weir, no doubt looking for anything tasty.

My feeble 3.2x optical zoom was no where near good enough to capture a photo of this Great Crested Grebe. Besides, every time I pointed my camera at him, he upended and resurfaced across the other side of the Pool. He was leading me a merry dance and probably enjoying every second of it!! Thank you LC; 10x zoom and he posed!

This coot was much more obliging, paddling right up to the bank for me to snap. Though I do suspect he was more interested in discovering whether or not we might have anything food-like about our persons. I love the way he swam through the pool of sunlight, sparkling off the water.

We couldn't decide whether this Canada Goose was after food or just wanted to chase us away. He was certainly hissing a bit; though he did pipe down when we hissed back.

And finally...

(Another one from LC)

The Swans were majestic, gliding across the water.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Setting out with stile

This is (I think) a British Standard wooden step stile with 4 rails to provide a higher barrier against livestock! Having said that, the field on the other side of this stile was definitely planted with some kind of crop, though I can't remember what!

I like stiles; all kinds! They always make me think of walks and days out and countryside and holidays and fresh air and boots and friends and rhythm. A gate is a barrier, while a stile is an opportunity; calling to me to come, climb over, set out on a journey, discover what's round the next corner.

I love the analogy of life as a journey. As we travel, new horizons are revealed, circumstances change, people journey with us for greater or shorter distances. Nothing is static for long. Life is much more fluid. My hope is that I will, ultimately, journey in such a way that I can echo the words of Paul the Apostle:
I have run the good race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4 v 7

I must be in a literary mood at the moment, because here is another quote to close. It's really referring to stepping out of your own front door, but I always associate it with stiles and footpaths.

The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R.Tolkein Vol 1: The Fellowship of the Ring - Bilbo's song.

Saturday 6 March 2010


Breedon Hill is south of Derby, just over the border into Leicestershire. It can be seen from miles around; including the M1, various high points in Derby and parts of my house. On top of Breedon Hill is a beacon, obviously positioned here because of its visibility.

Traditionally, beacons were used as a means of warning a populace about times of war or impending danger, but even in history, they have also been used in celebration. Breedon is part of the National Chain of Beacons which are lit to celebrate events considered to be significant to us as a nation. The next beacon to the south is atop the appropriately named Beacon Hill, while to the north it is on Crich Hill, where there is also a famous war memorial; Crich Stand. Both of these beacons can be seen from Breedon on a clear night. The last lighting of the chain was on October 21st 2005, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

This was a great sea battle fought off Cape Trafalgar on the southern Spanish coast. Britain and France had been at war with each other for some time. In 1802 a truce was signed. It didn't last and in 1804 Napoleon set out to invade Britain. The French-Spanish Armada comprising 33 ships was led by Vice-Admiral Villeneuve, under the authority of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was met by the English fleet of 27 ships commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson. The outcome of the battle was a resounding victory for Britain with most of the Armada being captured or destroyed, but it came at the cost of Nelson's life, as a French marksman spotted and shot him.

Nelson's death sparked a period of national mourning (shades of Princess Diana). He was given a state funeral, buried in a tomb in St Paul's Cathedral and the famous 171' column was erected in 1843. The statue of Nelson atop that column is 18' tall, so I guess that he could still be considered to be a figure somewhat larger than life.

I'm sorry to say that I have not seen the Breedon beacon lit, but the concept of a chain of beacons has always been one to bring goose pimples; whether of fear or excitement, I am never quite sure. And so, a few literary references to close:

From Clee to heaven the beacon burns,
The shires have seen it plain,
From north and south the sign returns
And beacons burn again.

Look left, look right, the hills are bright,
The dales are light between,
Because 'tis fifty years to-night
That God has saved the Queen.

1887 A. E. Housman from A Shropshire Lad.
"What is that?" cried Pippin suddenly, clutching at Gandalf's cloak. "Look! Fire, red fire! Are there dragons in this land? Look, there is another!"
For answer Gandalf cried aloud to his horse, "On Shadowfax! We must hasten. Time is short. See! The beacons of Gondor are alight, calling for aid. War is kindled. See, there is fire on Amon Din, and flame on Eilenach; and there they go speeding west: Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and the Halifirien on the borders of Rohan."

From The Lord Of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkein Vol 3 The Return of the King - ch. Minas Tirith

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1 v 5 The Bible: New Living Translation 2007

Friday 5 March 2010

Tangled branches, semi-silhouetted

No work today! Woohoo! Instead, I went for a lovely walk with a couple of friends.We had a great time enjoying the sunshine and the scenery and putting the world to rights.

Part of our walk took us through Breedon golf course. Now it's quite exposed up there, so the whole of the course is edged with ruler-straight lines of poplar trees. There used to be a line of poplars across the road from my house when I was growing up, so they have always been a tree with good associations. Plus, I love the height and shape, especially when they are planted in such neat rows. They take on a certain orderly splendour all of their own. And so, I took a photo.

But then, my friend, being a creative-cookie, suggested I stand at the foot of one of the trees and take a photo looking upward; so I did! And I'm really pleased with the result! I love the tangle of branches, semi-silhouetted against the brightness of the morning sky. Good call! :)

Thursday 4 March 2010

Back of The Pack

The present Scotsmans Pack is not the original. This one dates from around 1900. Around the back is a patio area bordered by a stream which flows over this small waterfall. Although a little chilly for sitting out on the day we were here, I imagine it would be very pleasant of a summers evening.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The Pack

Just over a week ago, I came here to meet a friend for lunch. It had been snowing the previous day, but had cleared just enough to make the journey look interesting without affecting my ability to travel.

This is my friend's local hostelry, and a very good one it is too. The Pack, as it is known locally, is in the village of Hathersage in the Hope Valley towards the north of Derbyshire. It is a beautiful area which is popular with walkers, but also attracts climbers who come to try their skills on the gritstone 'Edges' above the village. This is where the White and Dark Peaks collide.

Hathersage is probably most famous for its association with Little John, who is reputedly buried in the churchyard at St Michael's, but it also has connections with Jane Eyre. After visiting Hathersage in 1845, Charlotte Bronte selected it as the model of her village 'Norton' She also chose the local family name of Eyre for her heroine; and the roof from which Mrs Rochester jumped to her death, crowns the Elizabethan manor house, North Lees Hall.

The Pack itself is situated on one of the old trading tracks which connected Derbyshire to Sheffield and further afield. As such, it was a regular port of call for travellers, and for the Scottish Packmen, who sold their tweeds to local farmers. Hence the name.

If the Packmen were served food as tasty as ours, I would imagine they would trade in the area frequently.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

May contain crocus >:(

This little fella and I had a bit of a falling out earlier!

Now I do like squirrels.   I don't mind when they dig holes in my garden; they are usually very good at filling them in again. I don't mind when they nibble at the fruit on the apple tree in the autumn; there's plenty for all. I don't even mind them trying to break into the bird feeders; mainly because it hasn't worked! BUT, I was rather peeved as I arrived back from Sainsbury's this morning, to see this cheeky little tyke bound up my garden path, break the yellow head off one of my newly opened crocuses, sit bolt upright and begin to tuck in.

He didn't tuck in for long! He took one look at the speed with which I was emerging through the patio door and ran for his life!

Irrepressible as ever though, three hours later, here he is, ears pricked up, twinkle in his eye, helping himself to peanuts as if nothing had happened. And he's welcome!

Meanwhile, I got the wished for bright yellow sunshine and my crocuses have responded beautifully.

Monday 1 March 2010

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant

Y Ddraig Goch - The Red Dragon

Just in case you hadn't realised, today is the Feast of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, so today's blog has a slightly Welsh feel.

David was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who was amongst the first of those to spread the message of Christianity among the pagan tribes of Wales. He was born towards the end of the 5th century (around 100 years after the Roman departure from Britain) in Capel Non on the coast of South West Wales (near the present day city of St David, which grew from the monastery which he founded).

He travelled widely throughout Wales, but is also believed to have visited Cornwall and Brittany. Many miracles are credited to him, the most famous of which is said to have occured in Llanddewi Brefi at a synod to debate his suitability for appointment as Archbishop of Wales. The crowd at the back being unable to hear, he is said to have spread his handkerchief on the ground and stood on it, causing the land to rise into a small hill thereby allowing all to see and hear his message. Not surprisingly, he was made Archbishop very shortly thereafter!

1st March was chosen to celebrate his day because it is believed to be the anniversary of his death in 859.

Before anyone races to educate me (always a good thing!)... Although it is the national flag of Wales, the Red Dragon is not actually the flag of St David. His flag usually appears as a gold cross on a black background and will be widely used during celebrations today. My Red Dragon was snapped flying over the crennellated parapet of the gate tower of Harlech castle (above), which I have seen many times, but actually entered for the first time last summer.

Most of my Welsh wanderings have been northern and to me, the real attraction of Wales is the juxtaposition of the mountains and the sea; much enhanced by dual language signage!


Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!