Posts Tagged ‘bowland’

Mellor Knoll

A glimpse at the news this morning reveals the media’s sudden interest in a man’s shoes. The man in question is one of the contestants in the game show to become prime minister. He seems to be getting a kicking over the trappings of his personal wealth, which I find an odd line of attack, him being of the party of the rich, and what else does one expect? I have no wish to defend the man, no horse in that race, so to speak, but I wouldn’t expect him to be buying his shoes from the same place I buy mine. It’s a peculiar start to the day, but one that has already raised a smile. I think we’re on to a winner!

And speaking of shoes, it’s looking like a day of intermittent and lively showers, wet underfoot on the fell, even after such a long period of dry – and my best boots are occasionally leaky! We shall have to see how we go. The fell in question, or rather the hill, is Mellor Knoll. I attempted a circuit of this attractive Bowland peak, back in May, but ran foul of motorcycles from an adventure centre, in the woodland above New Hay Barn. They threw me off course, got me lost, and ruined the walk. It’s been a bit of a monkey on my back ever since, and today I intend putting it to rest by completing the route, without a hitch.

We come at Bowland by snaking around Longridge fell, through Hurst Green, Mitton, and Whitewell, then along the valley of the Hodder to Dunsop Bridge. There’s a fast changing light, bright sunshine backed by glowering curtains of rain that sweep down through the nick of the Trough. They deposit a great, glittering soaking, then move on, leaving the wet to steam in the sun. It’s waterproof trousers from the start then, which isn’t the most optimistic way to commence a walk, but the forecast is for a window of drier weather later.

Since I last did this route up from Dunsop, the season has matured, and the hills have taken on a deeper green, as the bracken swells. Last week I was struck by the emptiness of the Stocks’ reservoir, signs of serious drought everywhere, and still talk of rationing this morning. Now we’re climbing towards Middle knoll with a wind to our backs, and driving rain. The grasses are tall, the path little used and, in most places, no more than a faint impression across the steep meadow. Bowland is quiet today, the car park in Dunsop Bridge was empty, and I’ve seen not another soul on the route.

On Mellor Knoll

Instead, our ascent is observed by poker-faced cattle. They turn a blind eye, as we temporarily lose the path and find ourselves on the summit of the Knoll. This is technically a trespass, but it looks like a popular one. Even the cows have been up here to admire the view, if their copious doings are anything to go by. Like before, I claim navigational error, and no intention of taking up residence.

From up here, we can see an opening in the weather coming our way. The views stretch forever, a vast swathe of North Lancashire as it blends seamlessly into Yorkshire, all of it green and beautiful, and blinking in and out as the light moves, and the showers sweep it. We also have a good view of enemy territory, this being the patch of woodland where we were routed by armoured riders last time. A quick sweep with binoculars from our summit vantage reveals no riders today, so we gird our loins and make our descent, ready for battle.

It’s easy to go wrong with navigation. You think you know where you’re going, where you are. Then something happens. It could be an up-welling of thick fog that disorientates you, a sudden squall on a mountain that takes you off the path, or it’s an unmarked way, and you meander into a bog, or it’s motorcycles leaping around you in a forest where there should be only pedestrians. At such times, the brain stops working, and you no longer know which way round the map’s supposed to go. The instinct is to keep moving, even though the sensible thing is to be still a moment and think, to take a breath, re-orientate yourself, find north,…

The line of the path through the woods above New Hay Barn is still obliterated by scores of bike tracks, leading off in all directions, cutting up the land. But without the bikes around, I’m able to locate a shy marker post in the midst of the battlefield. With its help, we trace the line of the path and muddle through. Last time, I would have been mown down.

Totridge Fell

The footpath network is often derided by the landowning community. I’m sure they would sooner it was dissolved as an anachronism, and an impediment to progress. But it’s of great importance, granting us all a fine laced network of access to the countryside, one that’s the envy of other nations. Although we are clearly intended by our maker to live in the world, at least for a time, we are not fully of the world, and it’s the quiet places, the green spaces, the fells, the riversides, the forests that remind us of this all important, non-material side of our natures. Without that reminder, we are lost. We become machines.

For our part we ramblers keep the bargain by using the footpath network as it is intended – on foot, respectful of nature, and the ways of the countryside – and in return we expect the landed to respect our ways, and keep them open. We do not expect scurrilous, unofficial re-routing, down featureless ginnels, nor intimidation by aggressive signage, nor, on occasion, misuse by motorcycles.

Anyway, the monkey climbs down off my back, and the route continues where last time it ended in ignominy. We leave the views of Mellor Knoll behind, and enter into a greater acquaintance with the shifting shape of Totridge fell – quite a monster it is, too. We shall have to think of a way up there for another day, one our legs can keep pace with.

The rain eases off, and the sun comes out in celebration. Waterproof trousers go back in the sack, and we make a leisurely return over emerald meadows, along the Hodder from Burnholme Bridge. On the last occasion, I ended the walk having thought I’d lost my wallet on the fell – I’d actually left it at home. It took the edge off the coffee at the Puddleducks café. Today, though, I settle with that coffee, and enjoy every sip. A toasted crumpet is the crowning glory.

You can pay eight hundred and fifty quid for a pair of gentleman’s Prada shoes. I suppose your gentleman might also want them made to measure, which would jack that up a bit. It puts my walking boots into perspective, and I’d be tempted to stop whining, and finally replace them, except, in spite of the soaking earlier on, they’ve kept my feet dry. That’s more than those posh shoes would have done. No, even for eight hundred and fifty quid, they would have made a poor showing on Mellor Knoll, being made for a different kind of world altogether. One wonders, though, where they add the value. Does there not come a point where, beyond a certain level of quality, I mean, in terms of materials and construction, when a shoe is just a shoe, and the rest is a name? And is it possible to judge a person by the name of their shoes, anyway, or does it not tell us more about the person asking the questions?

Totridge Fell

I wonder what my shoes say about me.

Thanks for listening.

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The Stocks Reservoir

I play back the dashcam footage of the hill climb from Waddington, up the fell, past the ancient Walloper Well. For a time, all you can see is the road in front of you, but then it opens out, and the Forest of Bowland is arrayed like a revelation of paradise. There should be music. Vaugh Williams’ – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis would be perfect.

But the disjoint between the all seeing mind’s eye, and that cold, wide-lensed, dashcam evidence, is too great. The hills look distant and underwhelming. I made a movie of it anyway and posted it with some bouncy music that isn’t exactly Vaughn Williams. You have to drive it, really. There’s no other way to appreciate it. If you imagine it, you’ll be closer to the reality. Imagine it in a little blue car, with the top down, and the sky and light, and the scent of the moor, and the sound of birds, and you’ll be closer still.

This is one of the most beautiful roads. It takes you from the roaring ribbon of the Liverpool to York A59, and leads you through some of Lancashire’s most remote and beautiful places. Today it takes us through the still relatively thriving little town of Clitheroe, over the fell, to the Gisburn Forest, and finally the Stock’s reservoir.

Unlike the car, I’m not firing on all cylinders. I’ve had mild stomach cramps for days, also a lack of energy that’s had me nodding off in the afternoons. I’m negative for Covid, which is a plus, but whatever kind of bug it is doesn’t help. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come out but, even when you’re retired, you find some days are taken up by routine, and then you’re watching the weather forecast for the best day. It was today, or put it off until next week, and next week I have other walks planned. So here we are.

The plan is for a simple circuit of the Stocks Reservoir. It’s a popular route. The forest is also a favourite destination for cyclists, there being a multiplicity of trails here, and I did wonder if we’d struggle to park, but we arrive late morning, and all is quiet. I’ve only been able to scrape together sufficient coin for one ticket machine, which is disappointing, as I’d also wanted to park in Slaidburn, later, on the way back, for coffee. We’re in luck, though, the ticket machine here is broken. Coffee is definitely on.

Stocks Reservoir July 2022

That said, it’s not the best of days for visiting. Reservoirs are attractive when they’re swelled up with winter rains, and fully reflective of the light, but by late summer most of that has gone, and you’re left with an ugly tide line, and threats of hose-pipe bans. Judging by how low the Stocks is today, we’re not far from rationing. This is my first time in the Gisburn forest and I have the sense of having missed out. I’ll be back in the autumn, when colours will be awesome.

So, we set the route on the GPS app, and while I’m fiddling with it, Google sends me a message wanting to back up more of my phone to “the cloud”. It assures me it’s doing me a favour, that it makes things easier when you change your phone, which is true, but I’m not stupid. I give it permission anyway. They snoop on our stuff, whether we like it or not.

We don’t actually need the aid of any fancy navigation tools here. The route is well-marked, along good paths, right from the car-park, so there’s little chance of going astray. Summer is in full flush and bursting with fruit. There are wild raspberries growing in profusion, which slows progress with a little foraging by my companion for the day: number two son. I’m mindful of my naggy stomach, and manage to exercise restraint, though he declares them mouthwatering.

My head is already swimming with the heat, and the humidity. Cloud cover is more or less total, and slow moving, but with dramatic texture, and colour variation. The fells around are rendered flat and green, just the occasional pool of soft light to brighten them. There is no air. Every shot I take with the camera is off somehow. Better just plod my way round while thinking of coffee in Slaidburn, and trying not to think how empty the reservoir is.

It’s tempting to read the emptiness in a metaphorical way, possibly encouraged by my spirits, which are flattened by this bug. A broad splash of sparkling water would certainly add an attractive focus for the day. But everything about it speaks of something tired and drained. The bits of shore we can get near to, are parched, dusty and post apocalyptic. We could pile the metaphors on and say the surrounding fells are timeless, beautiful, the light ethereal, while the reservoir, man-made, is wanting and reflective of the parlous state of Albion’s future. But that’s nihilism, and if I were feeling any better, I’d say we’re all doing our best under trying circumstances, though without competent leadership. It’s possible to still be positive, but requires taking a complex position, one somewhat removed.

In the I Ching or Book of Changes, there’s a hexagram which has the image of a lake, and clouds rising over it, and it says: “the clouds rise, but no rain falls”. It’s about anticipation, and waiting on the rains, waiting for deliverance. In the meantime, there’s nothing you can do. It’s all in the hands of the gods, and we do better to spend time improving ourselves, than beating our chests over what we think is lacking in the external world.

And for me, the biggest lack is energy. At over seven miles for the circuit, I find it a long walk, and I’m very glad to return to the car. Then it’s a short drive, back to Slaidburn for coffee. Slaidburn is one of my happy places. I’d bring the kids here when they were little, and we’d picnic on the green, feed the ducks. Number two son remembers it, but vaguely. To me, it’s clear as yesterday.

We park next to a newer model of the little blue car, and admire its lines. A lady sitting out by the green with coffee says the car is hers, and how she used to have one just like mine, and how much she loved it, but it rotted away, so she got a new one. I’ve had lots of conversations like that over the years, with fellow enthusiasts, though the thought of mine rotting away does not improve my lack of spirits, having just spent a fortune on doing her up, and thinking she was looking pretty good.

Though I’m still tired and off-song, I sense something of a blessing in the afternoon, as I sit out under a now glowering sky. A deep English summer, gloomy holiday weather,… a sense of peace, a sense of anticipation too, perhaps, as the other clientele of the little café chat quietly. One man has come off the M6 at Lancaster and is working his way slowly through Bowland, looking to rejoin the M6 at the Tickled Trout. There was heavy traffic, and hold-ups, he said, and though he’d probably have been quicker sticking to the motorway, he wouldn’t be the first to have taken a detour through Bowland and arrived home late, but all the better for it.

There’s a hint of fine drizzle now, a faint but blessed cooling. There’s a movement of air, a sense of ease, and the coffee tastes like heaven. The lady with the car is moving off, and we return her parting wave. Nice car that. New fangled, of course, and I prefer the spartan technology of my own. I’m glad I did the walk, added it to the map in my head, the one Google doesn’t get to see, but if there’s a moment that drew me into the day, and made it worth the setting out, it’s this right now, sitting by the river, with coffee.

It’s coming up on worker’s home-time, and the roads are busy from Clitheroe. I’m thinking I do well to drive such an old car that’s still reliable enough to get me about, that the arm and a leg I spent on her bodywork was worth it. Then, as if to check my pride, we go hard into a roundabout and there’s a howl from the front nearside wheel. I’ve no idea what that is. It’s a wheel bearing maybe, or something wobbly with the disks. She likes to keep me on my toes, and the garage guessing. Looks like I’ll be leaving her at home next week, while I explore that one.

I’ll leave you with Vaughn Williams. He sums up the day, and all without a single word.

Thanks for listening.

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Mellor Knoll from the Hodder

You know that feeling when you’ve come down off the fells, and you’re looking to pay for coffee, but can’t find your wallet? I would have been embarrassingly short, but I’d found a pound on the trail which, when added to the change in my pocket, just came to the price of the coffee. It was good coffee, but I didn’t enjoy it because I thought I’d lost my wallet. It summed up the day, a mixture of good and bad, and a feeling I’d not got the best out of it, possibly due to my own gormlessness, or possibly not.

We’re in the pretty little village of Dunsop Bridge today, central hub of the Bowland fells, also the geographical centre of the British Isles, or near enough, at least by some calculations. I have a Christmas card a friend sent me, from the post office here, in December 1992, and which he describes in his book “A Journey Through Lancashire”. It was journey’s end for the book, and he describes in his closing paragraph the bleak view of Mellor Knoll and Totridge fell that day. Here I am now, getting on for thirty years later, and my friend has since departed for a different sort of journey, though, knowing him, he’s already written several guidebooks about it. The fells have an altogether brighter look about them today. There’s a cold wind blowing, but it’s driving the clouds, so the hills are great canvasses for fast moving patches of shadow and light. The freshness is exhilirating.

The plan was for a circuit of Mellor Knoll, a prominent cone-shaped hill, following the route described by fellow blogger and guide to Bowland, BC, here , though I decided to go the other way around and get the steep bit out of the way first. Viewed from Dunsop Bridge, it’s an obvious objective for any hill walker with blood in his veins, but, though a right of way runs by it, the summit itself is technically a trespass.

With a few exceptions, the paths in Bowland generally aren’t as well walked as in other areas, and sometimes the exact line of a marked right of way on the map is more of a general idea than a dead certainty, so you need your wits about you. Options for circular walks tend also to be longer, and over rougher ground. And although access is much better than it was, post CROW 2000, there’s a sense one still has to be careful, especially now trespass has been uplifted into a criminal offence.

Towards Langden Brook

The early part of the route was straightforward, though not heavily walked, so it wasn’t always clear what line to take across open ground. But from Langden Brook, you’re basically aiming for the coll on the shoulder of Mellor Knoll. Totridge fell impressed with altitude, and an attitude of austere bleakness, and we needed little by way of persuasion to save that one for another day. I found shelter from the wind behind the wall on the coll, and watched the farmers gathering sheep in the valley below. Of resident flowering flora, I found only a lone mayflower, flowering more in hope than expectation, amid an otherwise bleak expanse.

The summit of Mellor Knoll is just a short, tantalising detour from here, but if pressed I shall claim my meandering over to the summit was strictly the result of navigational error, therefore unintentional, and, moreover, that I did not intend taking up residence. That said, the views were 360 degrees of stunning. Bowland is, at times, the jewel in Lancashire’s north. At other times, it can be deeply irritating. Speaking of which,…

Mellor Knoll

The way from Mellor Knoll continues plainly enough, but I lost it when entering a patch of woodland to the west of New Hay Barn. I’m still not sure what happened here. A gate led me confidently into the wood, and waymarkers reassured me I was on track. Next thing there were flying motorcycles everywhere, and the line of the route had vanished in a confusion of rutted scars cut by bikes, and the waymarkers had given up on me. There were motorbikes growling everywhere, and first aid boxes perched on poles, suggestive of danger to life and limb.

After a couple of aborted attempts to muddle my way through, I approached a motorcyclist, who had dismounted, and asked him where the path went. Either he misunderstood my meaning, or he hadn’t a clue, or both, but he seemed confident and friendly enough, and he pointed me in a certain direction, so I followed. He meant well, but this turned out to be down the trail used by the leaping bikes, and not the right direction at all.

I was in deep doo-dah now, well off my route, and fearing to carry on, or to go back up the fell to my last known good position. Indeed, I felt like a sitting duck, this lone twit on foot amid a melee of armoured bikers at play, that it was only a matter of time before I’d be needing the contents of one of those first aid boxes. So, I bailed out into a meadow, in some haste, climbing a gate and, putting myself into unknown, and pathless territory. To whom it may concern, apologies for this particular trespass, which was indeed intentional, but I really was in fear of injury. I was lucky in finding just the one electric wire, which I had to duck under, and then I was on a private track down to the road, by Hodder Bank farm, all of which cut a couple of miles from my intended route, and rather soured my mood.

A little road walking brought me to Burnholm Bridge, on the Hodder, where I picked up the remains of the day. From there onwards, it was a very pleasant return to Dunsop Bridge, by the river, which did much to calm my curses. All I needed now was coffee from Puddlducks Cafe, a nice drive home, and all would be well,…

Which brings us back to the beginning of my story, also the end of today’s adventure in the Forest of Bowland. But it was fine. The good luck fairy was looking after me, stumping up change for my coffee, and then arranging it so as I’d left my wallet at home. If I’d lost it on the fell, now, that would really have spoiled my day.

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Clougha Pike, Forest of Bowland, Lancashire

I did not intend inspecting the shooting butts. The path just led away from the estate track, and I was tired of that track. As a way up Clougha Pike, it’s convenient, but probably the least interesting, that’s if you don’t count the impressive engineering and humungous cost that must have gone into laying it. The reason for laying it? Fleets of luxury four by fours, carrying unimaginably wealthy, tweeded gentlemen and their guns, from August 12th onwards.

Anyway, the path led off through the heather, and seemed to be going somewhere. But then it petered out among this line of neatly constructed bunkers. I mean, these were the Rolls-Royce of butts, dressed stone, then covered in turfs and heathers for camouflage. They even had attractively coloured gravel on the floor, so the gentlemen wouldn’t get their brogues and plus fours dirty. Believe me, those grouse wouldn’t know what had hit ’em, and with what style!

We’re in the north of Lancashire today, the Forest of Bowland, one of the wildest and most beautiful parts of England, also formerly one of the most forbidden. I grew up on tales of walkers chancing it up here, their scrapes with the keepers, outwitting the dogs sent after them, and avoiding the natives who sought feathers in their caps for grassing them up to the estate managers. It was all a bit – well – feudal. But then the Countryside and Rights of Way act (2000) opened access to certain parts of it, at least for recreation on foot. Clougha Pike’s in the access area, and so long as they’re not shooting, we’re free to roam here. Come after the glorious 12th though, and you could be disappointed.

Cairns approaching Clougha Pike

I’ve seen no one yet, and it’s been well over an hour. There were a few cars down on the little car-park, so I know there are other hikers about, but the moor has swallowed them. It’s my first time in the hills of this northern part of Bowland, so I’m not sure of the lie of the land, and none of the markers make sense yet. There were some elaborate cairns a while back, enticing us away from the track, but I wasn’t sure if they were just for fancy. The plan was to follow the track until the GPS said we were due east of the summit, then just make a bee-line for it. As for wildlife, the moors seem sterile today. No wild birds, nothing with four legs. There were sheep lower down, and all I’ve seen so far up here are grouse, and piles and piles of their droppings in every nook and cranny.

Bowland doesn’t really do tourists, or rather it kettles them into one or two little places, like Dunsop Bridge, and Slaidburn. You can still picnic along the leafy banks of the Langden Brook, but the land itself caters very little for anyone wanting access to the uplands. It’s rough country, and these are big hills. The signs in the valleys proclaim it to be an area of outstanding natural beauty, and they aren’t wrong, but they feature a Hen Harrier as a logo, which, ironically, along with all the other raptors up here, have a very hard time of it.

Clougha Pike Summit, Bowland, Lancashire

Okay, the summit. A short walk across the heather now and,… well. We have a collection of wind-shelters, informally put together from rocks lying about, and the trig-point. And the stunning view: Fylde Coast, Glasson, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales. There’s a path of sorts too. It follows the line of the ridge, looks like it came from as far over as Ward’s Stone. It’ll take us off I think – and looks more interesting than the way we came up.

What drove those walkers to do it? To trespass, I mean. Was it defiance? I suppose that’s one reason, without getting all political and Kinder Scout about it. The guys I knew were working men, unionized, with industrial jobs, but they didn’t wear their socialism on their lapels. Freedom to roam was more the thing. Not all the hills in Bowland have romantic profiles, but some do, and to any walker with the fire in his blood, a hill is there to be experienced, its summit to be gained. Anyone saying you can’t go up there is like a red rag to a bull.

They had the look of dugouts on the Somme, those butts – I mean Hollywood style, ridiculously tidy, where the killing involves no blood, or dismemberment, or evisceration, and where the shooters carry elaborately decorated arms. Upwards of half a million grouse are farmed and killed every year in places like this. When they’re not shooting birds, these gentlemen are out in Africa killing lions. It’s striking, what the really, really rich have in common, is their love of killing.

With that many grouse shot, you’d think it was a national dish or something, but these unfortunate creatures are essentially live “clays” and shot for fun. Rearing so many has a serious impact on the landscape, indeed it shapes the land. The moors as we see them here, wild, desolate, are entirely unnatural, managed specifically for the rearing of this non-native species, at the expense of native creatures, in particular the raptors who barely get a look in and, though protected in law, tend not to thrive in places like this at all – trapped, shot, poisoned.

On Clougha Pike, Bowland, Lancashire

I wonder what the land would be like, if we just gave it back to nature. How long would it take to transform this managed wilderness into something more diverse? What breathtaking diversity of species would return then? Pine Martin? Wild Cat? Merlin? Hell, even a fox or two would be a start! But that’s not going to happen any time soon, of course. It took a hundred years of campaigning against the money and the privilege, just for the privilege of my sitting where I’m sitting now. The sun will have burned out long before we’re anywhere near re-wilding the Forest of Bowland, or anywhere else in England for that matter. And all the clever men – not the money men – are telling us time is running out.

I think we’ll drive home through the Trough. It’s ages since we did that, and I’ve yet to do it in the little blue car – one of the finest drives I know.

Trough of Bowland, Lancashire

Thanks for listening.

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Great Hill – West Pennine Moors

There’s so much to do, places to explore. I’m itching to get back on the road, get up to Bowland, to the Dales, the Lakes, get the camera up the fells, have that long weekend at the Buck in Malham I’ve been promising myself since whenever. And now, retiring early I’ve plenty of time for all that creative stuff, all that travelling about. Except of course we’re still riding out the “C” word, and things seemingly getting worse, even with a vaccine on the horizon.

Stay at home, exercise locally. Do you know what that means? Me neither. We’ve been here before. I’ll still be taking the camera for a walk, but it’ll be doorstep to doorstep now. The downside is my shots may start to look like they’re all the same, because they are – just different lights, moods and seasons. But then what we sometimes overlook is the fact that while our local beat might seem monotonous to us, it’s still interesting to others whose own “familiar” is monotonous to them, but to us fascinating, and so on.

Anyway, these first bright, frosty days of 2021, I’ve been doing a lot of miles on foot. I’ve been inspired by my fellow outdoor bloggers to clock up a thousand miles this year. That’s a big number for me but, holding true to my ambitious nature, I’ll be happy with five hundred, which is around ten miles per week, and should be feasible, even locally. I’ve done more than that already, but then the weather’s been good.

Speaking of local, the header shot is of a beguilingly lovely Great Hill, in the West Pennines, under snow just now. I was last up there a month ago, but this is as close as I’ll get until the latest restrictions are lifted. I shot it from the west, around nine miles out, by the river Yarrow, near the village of Eccleston, a short journey for me by Shanks’ pony. There would have been people up there today, regardless of the new restrictions. The little road up to the cricket field at White Coppice, the usual starting point for the climb, would have been nose to tail with vehicles, like it’s been all year, everyone out for a “local” walk. Some will have interpreted that as fine, even though they came from Manchester or Liverpool.

It was pretty much like this before, everyone looking for a loophole. Admittedly, the loopholes are smaller now, so some are flouting the rules due to Covid fatigue, a sense of self-entitlement, ignorance or just sheer bloody mindedness. The danger, I suppose, is when the books are written, the wrong people will be carrying the can for the death toll.

Actually, this string of paths I’m on today is unusual for being little trod. Indeed, for the full hour I’ve been on them, I’ve seen not another soul. I’m after a particular set of shots here: late afternoon sunshine lighting up bare trees. I’m looking for long shadows running across green pastures. I need a long lens, a small aperture for depth of field, so a slow shutter, which requires a tripod. If the paths are busy, I always feel self-conscious with a tripod so rarely bother with one, but not today. Today it’s pleasant to slow right down, and just tinker with the camera. Plus, by the time I get home, I’ve added another four miles to that thousand-mile challenge.

There will be other challenges this year of course, like how to avoid catching Covid in one of the few developed countries where it’s running out of control. Then there’s the matter of how to get my jab when everything else Covid related has been an unmitigated organizational disaster. There’s also the issue of staying sane, continuing to obey the rules while abandoning my beloved Great Hill to insta-incomers, in their four-byes, travelling across tiers for a selfie in the snow. Judging by that last comment, my magnanimity may be on the wane, but no one’s perfect. At least I no longer shout at the Telly, but that’s because I use it mainly for casting You-tube stuff these days. I know, You-tube is a repository for the worst of humanity, but it’s also a place you’ll find some inspirational talent, no matter what your bent. I’ll close with one of my favourite channels, and a trip to Bowland which I’m unlikely to be making in person any time soon.

Henry, you’re an inspiration, mate, and your pictures make mine look like they were shot with a Box Brownie from the back of a galloping horse.

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