Thursday 30 September 2010


This ancient packhorse bridge is a short stroll across a few fields (and a hairy slither down a steep bankside) from Alstonefield. It spans the River Dove at Milldale, a hamlet of stone cottages lying between Dovedale gorge to the south and Wolfscote dale to the north.

Once, Milldale was a busy industrial centre with a corn mill and ochre mill by the river, and Lode Mill, which prepared lead ore for smelting. Now it is visited mainly by walkers; lots and lots of walkers, who come to enjoy the natural beauty of the dales.

The bridge is generally known as Viator's Bridge; a viator being a traveller or wayfarer from the Latin viāre, to travel. It is thought to have gained this name when Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler (1653) first saw the bridge and exclaimed "Why! A mouse can hardly go over it; 'tis not twelve fingers broad."

His reaction was prompted by the narrowness of the bridge, made particularly noticable by the lack of any kind of wall. In the days of the packhorse routes, bridges were built with low parapets in order for the paniers to cross without interference. The higher parapets were added to this bridge at a later date.

The addendum to the 1676 edition of The Compleat Angler introduced the reader to two characters, one of whom was based on Izaac Walton and called Viator. Hence the name by which the bridge came to be known.

I'm pleased to say that Viator Bridge is listed as an ancient monument.

I wonder what other students have chosen as their B project over at Jenny Matlock's..

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Yard sale

On Sunday, a group from our church homegroup took ourselves out into the Peak District for a walk. It wasn't a gloriously sunny day, but it didn't rain, and we went well prepared for the cooler temperatures which have suddenly arrived.

Our starting point was the small village of Alstonefield, just north of Fenny Bentley (of Leatherbritches real ale fame). Normally, Alstonefield is a quiet pace, but we hit it on the day of a yard sale held to raise money to have mains water put into the village church; St Peter's.

It wasn't long before we were tempted in by a stall full of books. Sure enough, purchases were made and there was a speedy return trip to the car to stow them away (except for Bryan, who held onto his newly aquired World Atlas, just in case Bob got us lost!).

The rest of us meandered slowly on, but stopped short to smile at this fellow...

Meet Milton!

Milton was keeping a watchful eye on proceedings around this stall full of bric a brac. Apparently, there had been a fair few offers made for Milton himself, but he was staying firmly put and helping the village to their very respectable total of £820.

Meanwhile, we had a footpath waiting!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Lock down

Did you notice the boats waiting by the left bank?

Room for two! Going down!

Looking the other way now; in their direction of travel.

I've often wondered how it must feel to sink down into the narrow lock chamber.

Notice the white house on the left. Once, it was the lock keepers cottage, then empty for years, now a cafe.

These are the lower gates. Believe it or not, they are pretty new, having only been replaced in February 2002. The previous replacement was 1990 and before that, 1947. As the gates rot, leakage becomes an increasing problem, until the amount of water escaping is too great to be ignored. 

Remember that I said the top gates are lightweight at 950kg? These guys are a hefty 2 920kg! (even without the foliage)

The boats aren't quite at full depth yet...

...but I'm going to nip down to beyond the narrow road bridge in time to watch the gates opening.

I imagine it would be quite a relief to see the first chick of light and know that escape from the narrow confines of the lock was imminent!

You get a more accurate sense of the depth of the lock here.

And away!

Monday 27 September 2010

Lock up

First the pub meal, then the after dinner entertainment.

Apparently, at 12' 2" (3.7m), the Stenson Bubble (as the lock is named - you can see why) is one of the deepest locks on the inland waterway system. Stenson is the last of six wide locks on the Trent and Mersey, being 14' (4.2m) wide and 72 feet (21.9m) long, big enough to accomodate two boats at once. Narrow locks are half the width.

There are two boats in here at the moment, even though only one nosed into the picture.

So... time to sit back and enjoy the whole process of passing up through the locks... (You'll have to imagine the sound effects)

Already about a third filled here.

The paddles on the upper gate open to allow the water to fill the central section of the lock. (You can see the upper paddles, but there is also a pair of sluice gates below normal water level.) The lip over which the water is gushing is called the cill and makes a buffer for the upper gates, creating a watertight seal. There is a cill on the lower gates too, but you can't usually see it because it is around four feet underwater.

Almost level. In the photo below, you can see the rack and pinion rod for raising and lowering the paddles. They are worked with a windless or 'lock key' which looks a bit like a large right angled spanner and is carried on board by the boater. (You can see one being used in the very top photo)

Once level, the gates are pushed open. The top gates are easy to move, weighing a mere 950kg each.

Once fully opened, the boats can leave. (If you look carefully, you can spot both boats here)

Sunday 26 September 2010

Above the lock

There was quite a collection of boats near the Bubble Inn above the lock. I remember the days when we would play around here and only see a couple of boats all day. Nowadays, there is a marina, a cafe, the Inn itself; the whole area is a hive of activity.

The marina was developed in 1974 from the narrowboat lay-by at the top of the lock. This was expanded to provide moorings for about a hundred boats. For a while, it was a going concern, but by the mid 1980s most of the hire fleets had pulled out of the area and the marina was losing money.

In 1986, a new owner took over and the focus changed. Stenson became a centre for building and servicing narrowboats, becoming one of the foremost inland boatbuilders in the country, offering both production and bespoke boats as well as doing refitting and steelwork repairs. The marina continues, but the number of berths has been reduced to accomodate around 80 larger boats and facilities have been updated so that all of the expected services are now provided.

The boat in the foreground is the Stenson Belle, a pleasure cruise boat which offers 45 minute trips down the canal towards the village of Willington. Also available at the marina is a private hire boat called Sunray which can booked for day cruises as far as Horninglow Basin near Burton on Trent, just over the county boundary into Staffordshire.

I've never been on a narrowboat. Friends who have, tell me what an enjoyable experience it is; peaceful and slow. Sounds good. :)

Saturday 25 September 2010

The Bubble Inn

Most weeks, my dad, aunt, uncle and I (or any combination of the above), try to go out for a pub lunch together. This week, it was just myself and dad, so we tried out somewhere new and local.

The Bubble Inn was converted from a large 18th Century barn and has retained some of the character which you would associate with that fact. We ate in the dining room, but there is also an upstairs and an area with large comfortable sofas and an open fire in Winter.

I'm not really into beer but, for those who are, there is a selection of real ales from local brewers. The names of these beers always intrigue me. Bridge No. 19 is so called for fairly obvious reasons, but one on offer was called Leatherbritches. What a brilliant name! It comes from the method used by Ale Conners who used to collect taxes for the crown. To test the strength of a beer, they would pour a sample onto a barrel top and sit on it. The stickiness of their britches when they stood up, determined the alcoholic content of the beer and the resulting duty imposed! Apparently worsted wool or cord trousers just didn't do the job, so all ale conners wore leather britches!

Leatherbritches is brewed just outside Ashbourne at a place called Fenny Bentley, in the converted old wash house of the Bentley Brook Hotel.

Personally, I was just content to sit outside with a cup of fresh coffee and enjoy the view of the canal in the warmth of the late summer sunshine.

Friday 24 September 2010

Spikey haircut

Remember that I set out to impose a haircut on my pyracantha, but then got sidetracked? Well, it's still waiting and, with a few strong winds having blown of late, becoming rather more urgent. The problem is that the pyracantha grows across the top of a trellis...

and when the wind catches hold of the lofty new growth, the whole plant sways alarmingly, threatening to tear my trellis clean away from its fairly substantial frame!

Besides, the next door neighbours aren't over-keen on it growing onto their flat roof and so, each autumn, it becomes pyracantha haircut time.

The thick odd-job sweatshirt went on (over two more layers of padding), the leather-fronted gardening gloves were pulled up as far as they would go and, armed with secateurs and loppers, I climbed the stepladder to commence battle.

In the end, I always win. But victory is not without its price. Three days later, most of the scratches have developed fine threads of scabbing, but I am still digging at thorns stubbornly embedded in two of my fingers and my old school sweatshirt has yet another hole amongst the spatters of dried on paint.

But the job is done. The trellis will survive another autumn and the neighbours will stay happy.

The birds will be grateful too. To a hungry blackbird, those bright red berries must be a banquet in waiting.

It does look a lot neater, but I must confess that I quite liked the wild, unkempt look of the untamed mop.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Another new day

I've been feeling a bit restless lately. Mark is safely delivered off to Uni and beginning a whole new exciting chapter of his life. In a sense, I suppose that I've been living the excitement with him. But now he has gone and it's back to the usual daily routine.

As well, summer is drawing to a close, so all of those jaunts off to northern latitudes are going to become so much more difficult with the advent of the frost and the fog and the wind and the rain; dark mornings and darker evenings.

But each new day is a new beginning and we make of life what we can...

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.
Psalm 113 v 3

Amble over to Jenny's to see what's going on at the start of a brand new alphabet.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

North Eastern Lakes

Peering down through the briefly separating mist, this is our onward route; Brothers Water, lying tucked away at the foot of Kirkstone Pass, overshadowed by towering fells. At only half a mile long and less than a quarter of a mile wide, Brothers Water is one of the smaller lakes in the National Park. It was described by Dorothy Wordsworth as 'the glittering, lively lake' and it lived up to its name by being bathed in sudden sunlight as we descended the steep road towards it.

Brothers Water is one on which Mark will not be kayaking, as The National Trust, who now own it, have forbidden boating in a bid to preserve its natural beauty.

Two miles further north, however, is Ullswater, a significantly larger body of water which is very likely to see kayak action; especially as it is the closest lake to campus. At 8 miles in length, Ullswater comes second only to Windermere's 10.5 but, in spite of its size, it is significantly quieter. This is a much less commercialised side to the Lake District and all the more beautiful because of it. Although I'm not exactly going to be breathing down Mark's neck, I do look forward to spending some time enjoying this corner of England.

Tuesday 21 September 2010


One favourable by-product of rain is that the becks were full. This one was collecting water from the fell side and somersaulting its way down towards Brothers Water in the distance.

Rain swollen beck sings
Pushes, plunges, churning on
Calm lake is waiting

Monday 20 September 2010

Kirkstone Pass

Early evening over Kirkstone Pass? Erm...No! This was actually yesterday 12.15pm, dinner time!

Today, I'm a little weary! Those familiar with English geography will know that Kirkstone Pass is not exactly on my doorstep, being the road between Windermere and Ullswater in the Lake District. But yesterday was Mark's arrival day at the University of Cumbria, so the three of us piled into the car (along with a huge amount of 'stuff') and headed for the M6.

In theory, we could have stayed on the motorway to within about 3 miles of campus, but we turned off a bit early in search of this pub, the Kirkstone Pass Inn. In spite of the low cloud, we were not disappointed. The Inn is small, friendly, has bags of character and served a good roast dinner followed by a huge wedge of sticky toffee pudding.

The Inn is at an altitude of 1,481 feet above sea level. It isn't the highest in England (Tan Hill, Yorkshire, 1732 feet) or even the second highest (Cat and Fiddle, Derbyshire 1690 feet), but it is impressive! On a clear day, the views from here would be stunning. Yesterday, they were more 'atmospheric'...

Shrouded in mist...

But the outdoor tables show the potential.

PS: Yes, I do know that the Cat and Fiddle is really in Cheshire, but you could stand at the front door of the inn and virtually spit at the Derbyshire county boundary sign, so there!

Sunday 19 September 2010


It didn't take too long to empty, being half drained anyway, but the bottom couple of inches were pretty disgusting; rank, black sludge! I threw in a bit of spare gravel to dry out the last few puddles while I considered whether to leave the liner in place or cut it out.

Decision made.

The rather heavy slabs were the next to be removed. They will be re-used, eventually. Now I just had the problem of what to use to fill this fairly significant hole (I did mention that I originally walked out into the garden intending to attack the pyracantha? I was making this up as I went along - though I do know, ultimately, what I  want to do with the reclaimed space!)

The other problem with this area was this stuff...

I don't know exactly what this grass is called, but it began as a single, modestly sized plant about 6 years ago and has multiplied, spread and overwhelmed everything else in this corner of the garden. It took around two hours of battling to fill the wheelie bin with it, but at least the majority is gone.

Now I need to watch the area like a hawk and deal with any bits that begin to grow back.

It all looks a bit of a mess at the moment. Yes, all right, I admit it... a huge mess... and I can't see matters improving much before spring. Firstly, the stuff filling the 'pond' needs to rot down and be compacted, so that I don't end up with a sink hole. After that, the whole area needs to be levelled and then...

Come early summer next year, I hope to be able to show you what it has become :)

Saturday 18 September 2010

Pond matters

When we lived in Old Trafford in Manchester, we had a small two bedroom terrace in the middle of a street of small two bedroom terraces, surrounded by other streets of small two bedroom terraces. 'Nature' consisted of strips of sky between rooflines, and the oasis of the local park.

Don't get me wrong, there were lots of great things about living in Old Trafford and so much that we still miss, but I did wish I had a garden a bit bigger than a tablecloth, and so that was high on the hope-list when we moved to Derby. The promise to the boys at that time, was that if we got a garden, they could each have a patch for themselves.

It happened. We bought a house with a garden and the boys each got their patch to do with whatever they wanted. What they wanted...both of them... was a pond with fish! Which is how we ended up with a three-pond garden!

Eight years later, this is Mark's pond.

The problem began with the water hawthorn. It looked a healthy, innocent plant when we bought it but, within a couple of months, we had a serious attack of pond weed, which has been an ongoing battle ever since.

Then there were the cats/crows/foxes. I'm not sure which the guilty party was because I've seen all three 'fishing' for frogs. Over the course of this spring, I saw crows tearing at least five frogs to pieces! Sleek, black and mean, they would sit on top of the line pole, watching and waiting. If chased away, they flew no further than the big sycamore tree at the bottom of my garden and then straight back the second my back was turned! The busily mating frogs didn't stand a chance.

Of course, a by-product of this illicit fishing was that the pond liner was punctured. It's already been emptied and patched twice, but once again, it's sprung a leak!

And so, we were left with a half full hole of slimy green sludge! And it stank! Believe me, it really did!!

In the end, we decided that it was more trouble than it was worth, and so, last Saturday morning, I donned my old clothes and wellies, grabbed a bucket and and went to work.

To be continued...

Friday 17 September 2010

Reflections on Ennerdale Water

This is Ennerdale Water in the Lake District. The protruding rock on the right is Anglers Crag. The total distance around the lake is roughly nine miles; a beautiful walk on a sunny day with the light shimering and reflecting off the surface of the clear, cold water.

On Sunday, my eldest is moving up to the Lakes, to the University of Cumbria. Over the next three years, I expect he will become very familiar with this part of the world. Wish I could go too! I think he's going to love it!

Go explore other samples of 'reflect' at Photo Friday. There are some stunning images!

Thursday 16 September 2010

Spot the rainbow

Do you see it?

Look closer...

There's an extravaganza of rainbows at Jenny's!

Wednesday 15 September 2010


One final photograph from Yorkshire (probably the last for a while).

This is the River Aire and the weir beside Salt's Mill, constucted by order of Sir Titus Salt in order to give a constant supply of water for the wool making process.

Originally, Victoria Road crossed the Aire here, but it was closed in the 1950s and dismantled during the 60's due to the structure being unsafe. The bridge portals can still be seen at both sides of the river.

Now, the Aire is spanned by a metal footbridge which allows access between the village of Saltaire and the newly refurbished Roberts Park.

The first time I saw this view, back in December, the refurbishment was in progress and there were copious quantities of orange fencing. Much nicer now!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Chimney top

Without my friend having pointed it out, I would probably have never realised that Salt's Mill chimney had lost its top, but now, every time I look at it, I think that there is something missing; not quite finished..

What do you think?

One thing is for's still impressive. From any angle!

Monday 13 September 2010


Cricket; a very English game. There really is something heartwarmingly nostalgic about the sound of leather on willow accompanied by frenzied shouts of "How-zat?"

I haven't been to many cricket matches, but two which I remember are in stark contrast with each other.

There was the one from my childhood, on the cricket ground at Parwich, a small Peak District village. I don't remember much about the match itself, but I do remember my uncle's comment that Parwich cricket ground must be one of the few in the country where the ball could be lost inside the boundary (a reference to the length of the grass on the outfield!).

The other was a test match at Old Trafford - England v Australia, 1989. Steve Waugh came out to bat. This Ashes series was where he first began to show the depth of his talent. Via the telly, I'd already watched him scoring a masterful 177 not out at Headingly and I very much wanted to see him in action. I know I should have been rooting for England, but I just enjoyed watching the performance. Needless to say, Australia won. (By nine wickets! Not even the Manchester rain could save us).

It isn't unusual, walking or driving past parks or sports fields on a summer Sunday, to see men in 'whites' standing around a closely mown strip of grass.

Here is another one from my latest trip to Yorkshire...