A Postcard from Wigan

Last week, we found ourselves in Wigan for a very special family wedding. We had a lovely time and made some very happy memories. We spent the night of the wedding in a hotel in Standish, near Wigan and awoke to enjoy a gloriously sunny morning ahead of our flight back home to Gibraltar. The hotel was set in beautiful landscaped grounds so we headed out for a wander after breakfast.

Regular readers to this blog will know I have a bit of a thing for trees, especially the mature deciduous varieties and there were plenty for me to enjoy (and a rather fetching evergreen too).

At the very edge of the grounds was a footpath leading to Worthington Lakes, a series of lakes maintained by North West Water. Do you fancy joining us for a walk by the water?

How luscious and green… Those moss covered rocks are so inviting to touch, just like green velvet.

At the end of the path, we caught our first glimpse of the water through the trees.

The rhododendrons were looking stunning in the late spring sunshine.

I’m not a huge fan of rhododendrons to be honest, but their blooms were very pretty in the dappled morning sunlight.

The woodland path lead us along the edge of the lake. I think the Little Postcards enjoyed it as much as I did, going on a woodland adventure – it’s not something we get to do unless we are over visiting family in England. We really should seek out some woodland and countryside near to us in Spain.

The path brought us to a raised bank which divided the body of water into two. To the right there were yellow iris growing in the marshy banks.

To the left, there were fishermen enjoying the peace and quiet.

Oh, and there were some ducks too…

Across the grassy divide and we were back in amongst the trees again.


Did I mention, that I like trees? 😉

These hawthorn blossoms are a lovely shade of coral pink aren’t they?

The lake we were walking around appeared to be the central one of three. We could hear a waterfall not too far away through the trees, but we didn’t want to venture too far off the beaten track though as we had a plane to catch and I didn’t want to be having to change muddy clothes at the last minute!

The lake at the other end was completely different and had a bountiful show of water lily pads. You may just be able to make out the yellow buds of the lily flowers almost ready to burst open. I bet this will look glorious in a week or two.

There was much excitement when a heron was spotted sitting in a tree surveying the water.

We passed this water course with little brick bridges over it – do you know what they’re for? I have no idea.

We were then back on the bank of the central lake which would bring us back to the hotel.

We spotted a few trees with horseshoes nailed to them – perhaps this is a bridle path…

A highlight for my little botanist was the sighting of this grey squirrel in the branches overhead.

This rather fat fish was basking in the sunny shallows at the opposite side of the lake from the fishermen!

Just look at that blue sky!

And we were back at our hotel and it was time to head off to the airport… Goodbye Wigan, and thank you – it’s been lovely! 

A postcard from Formby Point

Back in August, when we were in the north of England visiting my family, we took a day trip to the Lancashire coast and visited Formby Point National Trust site. It’s a place I’d visited many years ago as a child, but couldn’t remember very much about. It is also home to on of Middle Postcard’s favourite animals – squirrels!!

Formby Point is a really interesting site. It’s right on the coast and includes beautiful dunes and a long stretch of beach but also encompasses a large pine forest which has winding paths through it and plenty of spots for a quiet picnic and adventures for little people. It’s home to a colony of red squirrels and if you are very lucky, you may be able to see one or two bouncing about on the branches overhead.


Our trip began with a rendezvous with my brother and ‘Funcle’ to the Little Postcards. He lives not too far away in Lancashire and was keen to join us on our squirrel hunt. He’s a very keen and talented photographer so relished the opportunity to take some snaps while we were on our walk. We met up with him the carpark just behind the dunes and climbed over them to see the beach.


As we reached the summit, the wind hit us. It was so gusty, you could feel the sand stinging the back of your legs through your trousers!!! We took a quick look along the beach but I was so scared of getting the flying sand into my camera that I just took a couple of quick snaps on my phone before heading to the shelter of the pine forest.

 

There were a few brave souls out on the beach, some even in short sleeves and shorts (we all had our hoods up and were zipped right up as far as it would go to reduce the pain of the stinging sand!!! We hung about long enough to be able to just make out The BIG One and Blackpool Tower in the distance before running for cover.

It’s hard to believe that these photos were taken on the same day – just moments apart. Once under the cover of the trees, the sun broke through the clouds above and we walked along the bouncy pine needle strewn path through gentle dappled shade. It’s such a tranquil place, the only sound being the wind blowing through the branches above and the dulcet sounds of Little Postcards bickering in the background. 😉

Being a National Trust venue, there were plenty of volunteer guides on site to help with any questions and dish out maps of the area. With just one aim in mind for the day (apart from having fun and enjoying a picnic lunch) we set off on our quest to find some red squirrels – it can’t be that hard can it?

Formby isn’t just famous for it’s red furry residents, it is also home to the local delicacy of Formby Asparagus. It can be enjoyed during a very short season from early May until the 21st June – sadly we had missed it. For generations, local farmers levelled the local dunes to create perfect growing conditions for the crop. In it’s heyday more 200 acres were cultivated but these days just 10 acres of Formby Asparagus are grown here. This stunning tree carving was created to celebrate the local speciality.

After much wandering through the beautiful pine forest and green fields, our search for red squirels was proving fruitless. Little Postcards and the grown ups were becoming hungry and a picnic spot needed to be found.

At the entrance to a large grassy area – perfect for a picnic, we found this lovely sculpture carved from a tree trunk.


After the sandwiches had been scoffed and the flask of coffee drunk, the grown ups settled down for a doze in the sunshine while the Little Postcards wandered into the woods close by. It was so nice for them to have a bit of freedom to wander knowing that they couldn’t go far. We could hear them – but couldn’t see them. They enjoyed the independence that gave them and for Littlest, it was a great adventure to climb trees and have a woodland adventure with his big brothers.
While on their adventure, they were constantly on the look out for the squirrels – although the noise they were making as they wandered the meandering woodland paths probably sent the squirrels scarpering! A few very jazzy striped caterpillars were satisfactory discoveries though.


After an hour or so at our lovely picnic spot, we decided to head back to the cars so that we could get back home without hitting the rush hour traffic on the motorways back to Manchester. Our walk back through the pine forest was bound to yield a squirrel sighting wasn’t it?

As we got deeper into the forest, we spied a group of people eagerly pointing up into the tree canopy and craning to see movement with their binoculars. Squirrels were in the area! Well they were until just before we arrived. An elderly couple had been sitting on a bench patiently waiting to see some squirrels for quite some time.

Just as a couple of the illusive residents had put in an appearance, a family with young children had come along at just the right moment to see them too. All this had happened just seconds before we arrived, but sadly by then, Squirrel Nutkin and his mate were nowhere to be seen!

So did we achieve success in our quest to see some of the famous Formby Point red squirrels? We only saw this one…

…..he came home with us.

 

…..Oh and there was this one too on the side of an ice cream van!

Never mind – there’s always next time!

 

For more information about Formby Point, have a look at the National Trust Formby website.

 

The Med Steps: a sunny autumn walk

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It’s been a good few months since my trainers saw the light of day and my lax attitude to exercise has resulted in a few extra pounds being gained, so I decided that today was the day I’d set about doing something to rectify the situation. After a few grey and damp starts lately, we woke up to a beautiful day and there’s nothing like a bit of sunshine to lift the spirits and get you moving. This morning, once the rest of the family was ensconced in work and school I headed off on a walk up our lovely Rock of Gibraltar. There are a number of ways to travel to the top (most people opt for car, taxi, bus and cable car) but on two feet you can head up several different routes using paths, roads and steps. My favourite, and definitely the most scenic route I’ve tried, is the footpath known as the ‘Med Steps’. It’s a bit of a misleading name as it isn’t just made up of steps, although there are many, much of the route is over rough ground and rocky paths.

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The start of the route is close to Jews Gate at the entrance to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve where a rather unassuming shady wooded path leads upwards and south around the edge of the Rock. This (apart from the summit) is my favourite part of the walk as it feels so cool and secluded there and you could almost be on a woodland walk in the British Isles (I do still get homesick sometimes). As you continue, you come out of the trees and you’re greeted by this fab view –  the Straits of Gibraltar in all it’s glory with Morocco in the distance. See I told you it was a beautiful morning!

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The temperature rose dramatically once I reached the eastern side of the Rock, the sun was belting down and it’s light was reflected off the Mediterranean below. Perhaps I should have waited to clear the breakfast things and make the beds after the walk rather than before, I don’t think I’ll leave it so late in future to set off on such a trip!

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One of the slightly disheartening things about this route, is that a little way into the walk, once you have climbed to quite a height, you are faced with some downward steps. The thing is, you know that you need to climb to the very top of the Rock, so it seems such a shame to be heading downhill at this point knowing you’ll have to regain the height a little bit further along.

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Quick stop for a sip of water and to take in the view…

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There are plenty of things to see when you are on this walk, there are even caves to explore. Well they don’t got very far back, but a cave’s a cave isn’t it?

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Onwards and upwards, these steps look very steep from down here don’t they?

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One big highlight for me this late morning was this short tunnel, I was beginning to regret setting off just before 11am by this point and my water bottle was already nearly half empty, knowing I had a good bit further to walk, I took sanctuary for a few moments in the gorgeous, cool shade of this tunnel. Thank you, who ever built it, it was most welcome today!

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It’s the military who we have to thank for creating this lovely footpath. Much of it is cut out of the side of the Rock itself and dotted along the route are a few little plaques like this one reminding us of it’s history.

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Another reminder of days gone by and the Rock’s role as a fortress are the various military look out points built along the side of the path.

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Isn’t this a stunning view (below)? From this part of the walk, you are facing north and can see the beaches along Gibraltar’s eastern side (Sandy Bay in the forground, Catalan Bay and Eastern Beach), beyond these you can see Spain and the Costa del Sol stretching out into the distance.

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I saw a bit of wildlife on my walk, bugs, birds and a good few lizards making the most of the warm sunshine. All bar one were too fast for me to photograph, but I caught a snap of this little chap before he skittered away into the cover of the plants.

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More steps…

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Nearly there, I’ve just climbed up all of those!

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The final push.

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Made it!

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Now for the descent. With the road underfoot, it’s a lot less arduous on this side of the Rock which is just as well, as the views of the town below can sometimes be a bit of a distraction. No accidents allowed!

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On the descent, I passed through the tourist hotspot of St Michael’s Cave, there were literally dozens of taxis and tour buses parked there bringing tourists up the Rock to take in the view and of course pay a visit to Gibraltar’s most famous, hairy inhabitants.

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As you can see the apes obliged and came out in in large numbers to greet their visitors.

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It’s on mornings like today I feel very lucky to be living in such an interesting and beautiful place as Gibraltar. Less than an hour’s walk from my front door and I’m up the Rock and in amongst the wildlife. As you have seen, the views from the top and on the way up and down are amazing. Add to that the gorgeous weather we have had today – hotter than an English summer’s day I reckon, and it’s easy to get over the twinges of homesickness I get from time to time.

Thank you for stopping by, I do hope you have enjoyed this little walk with me from the comfort of your armchair or wherever in the world you may be!

Daisy chains, buttercups & damsel flies

  

 

We’ve had a great time today doing something I like to do every summer. We drove out into the stunning Cheshire countryside and visited the lovely Marbury Park. There’s wide open green spaces for a picnic and a kick about with a football and a beautiful woodland walk.
  

It’s so nice to be able to share some of the things I previously took for granted with my boys. We don’t get daisies in Gibraltar, nor do we get buttercups. They had never heard of a daisy chain before today – let alone seen one, and as for shining a buttercup under your chin to check whether you like butter? They had no idea such scientific tests were possible!

  

I have to warn you that I adore trees, and green leaves…. There are quite a few photos of trees coming up!

Our woodland walk took us through the mature Northwich Woodlands to the edge of Budworth Mere (below).

   
  

It was quite a nature trail we were on, seeing rabbits and squirrels (including a fast-moving white squirrel which I was too slow to get a photo of). By the water’s edge, on a stretch of greenery was a mass of damsel flies. Their blue bodies stood out brightly against the green leaves.

  
I took so many pictures of the beautiful things we saw, trying to store them away, so that I can remember them when we get back home to Gibraltar. The foxgloves were so pretty.

 
Now it’s time for my green tree appreciation bit… I just LOVE trees!

   
    
 
And I love ferns!

  
    
  

Get a load of those leaves with the sunlight shining through them!

  
  

On the edge of Marbury Park is the Trent and Mersey Canal. It was looking a little murky today but there were a couple of lovely narrow boats moored further along looking pretty.

  
  
Along with the delights of daisy chains and buttercups, my boys were introduced to the delights of ‘sticky willy’ on our woodland adventure today. I spent much of the walk adorned with bits of it stuck to my clothing – much to the delight of the smaller members of the party. I got a few weird looks from passers-by!

  
 After our walk, the best reward for small people with tired legs has to be ice cream. Where better to get one than an ice cream farm? 

 
A short drive from Marbury Park is the Great Budworth Ice Cream Farm. It tasted as good as it looks! We were even able to see the cows responsible for providing the cream and say thank you!
  
For more information about Marbury Country Park & the Great Budworth Ice Cream Farm, click on these links:

Northwich Woodlands
Great Budworth ice cream farm