Somehow Sunday mornings never give us a lie in – body clocks are strange things and with 5.30am starts the rest of the week we are both wide awake and ready to go very, very early! We’ve taken to rising and breakfasting early and then taking the cameras out to catch sunrises, misty mornings and peace and quiet at usually busy spots. As we move towards summer (this sounds so wrong when the weather is still so cold!) the sun is rising just a little bit too early for us - so where to go?
This week we had some new camera kit to try including a Fujinon XF 10-24mm‘ landscape’ lens. What would be a perfect spot to try the landscape lens – somewhere high up? That’s what we thought!
So time to take a 20 minute drive up to a landmark which is visible from most of Greater Manchester and provides much of the area with television and radio signals and now includes mobile phone masts – the Winter Hill transmitting station. Lancashire constabulary was one of the first to use the site for a base station and it is rumoured that they even built the road! It is a very narrow road but still has a white line separating it into two lanes! We both found it hard to believe you could actually fit two cars on it!
First mistake of the morning was looking at the weather, but not actually looking what the forecast was! Glorious sunshine, beautiful blue skies, but an icy chilly wind which cut right through you - especially anyone stupid enough to have left their hats and gloves at home (didn’t someone say it was Spring now?!). Second mistake was blindly following the SATNAV to try a new parking place – as is the case with SATNAV’s off we went on the ‘quickest’ route up a tiny single track road which appeared at one point to go through someones drive!
We finally made it to the ‘summit’ just after 8am and what a view! It was mostly clear skies with just small pockets of hazy mist, with views from Southport to Wigan to Liverpool to Manchester to Bolton plus everywhere in between. You could see the wind farm at Formby, Fiddlers Ferry cooling towers, the Irish Sea, Blackpool Tower, the DW Stadium in Wigan and the Macron Stadium in Bolton plus shrouded in hazy mist the ‘city’ skyline of Manchester.
Two hours later, when we could barely move our fingers they were so cold, we had memory cards full of new images, and had done our exercise for the day and all before 10am! The route we chose was a steep climb up but we were passed by many a runner and cyclist making their way to the summit and some very enthusiastic dogs!
The landscape lens took some getting used to but we did both improve. It offers a very strange view – it is almost like what you see with your eyes expands through the lens, we seem to have mastered finding the water bottle left behind by someone in the grass and even our own shadows but we did take some photos that really love and were treated to spectacular views.
Plants wither at the thought of coming to live with us – greenfingers are definitely lacking in this house! We share a love of spring flowers, tulips and daffodils, snowdrops and crocus and as summer approaches look forward to receiving sweet peas from better gardeners. When we found out Fothergills were selling sweet pea seeds to support the Royal Chelsea Hospital Appeal we decided to have a go at growing our own (at this point it is probably best to confess that we have had other unsuccessful attempts – many other unsuccessful attempts!).
We both feel that The Royal Chelsea Hospital – home of the world famous Chelsea pensioners – is a worthy charity to support. The pensioners are all retired soldiers of the British Army and since 1692 the hospital has offered them a home with care and comradeship to recognise the service they have given our country. They march proudly in their red uniforms and are a familiar sight.
Perhaps you imagine these veterans to be survivors of the two world wars but the 300 current residents served in much more modern campaigns from the Falklands Islands to Northern Ireland. The charity encourages retired soldiers who would otherwise be living alone to apply to live at the hospital and relies on donations to ensure they are able to support them.
Whilst the 25p donated from our packet of seeds might seem very small every penny helps the charity and we will have the fun of attempting to grow our very own sweet peas. Progress seems good at the moment but the transfer to our garden shortly may be the last time we see this batch of plants!
After what seems to have been a very long winter, with parts of the country being deluged with snowfall and bad weather (as is common in our little part of the UK we seem to always miss the worst extremes of the weather - possibly due to being on the sheltered side of the Pennines) towards the end of April saw the sun finally make an appearance with the hottest April temperature in 70 years, 29.1C (84.4F), being recorded in London.
We usually go out and about with our cameras every weekend and when we have time during the week, evenings too. Everywhere has looked very bleak with bare trees, spring flowers only just beginning to appear and grey skies, but all this changed almost overnight last week.
As the sun came out the skies turned blue, leaves began to appear on the trees and we even spotted a bluebell poking its head above the soil! (early for April?). Sadly, the sun and the heat seemed to have a detrimental effect on the rows of very late yellow daffodils, which appeared to have wilted and died almost overnight.
A morning mid week walk on the #warmestdayoftheyear (don’t forget the hashtag!) with the sunshine casting glorious shadows in the woodlands and on fences and buildings - followed by a Saturday afternoon walk, which saw blue skies and a temperature of 22C (almost 72F) plus a few complaints about how hot we were! The fields and paths were full of walkers and dogs, teenagers playing music and spending time together in the woods and even a tractor ploughing his dusty fields. Fields of yellow rapeseed and the sounds of cricketers playing in the sunshine. It definitely felt like summer!
Fingers crossed that these idyllic few days are not summer 2018 and that there is plenty more to come!
Social media is full of people demonstrating their ‘wanderlust’ – 50 countries - 12 months, bucket lists of jaw dropping locations, I gave up my job to travel the world… We gaze at their photographs of visits to places most people can only dream of and envy their courage to ‘up sticks’ and travel the world.
Sadly, for most of us life is much more mundane consisting of mortgage repayments, a job that you’ve stayed in too long and of course (let’s not forget!) supporting your kids as they travel through life. Is it possible to achieve ‘wanderlust’ with all of this against you?
Long distance travel to experience different cultures and visit remarkable places is something most of us can only dream of doing, but how many people look at what their local area has to offer? Do you visit your local areas? Research your local history? Take the time to explore what is in and around where you live.
We constantly look for different places to photograph and despite living in and around this area for many, many years we have during the past 12 months discovered all sorts of hidden gems of places to visit – many of which can be visited for nothing!
Although the Parbold Bottle may not inspire you with the same level of excitement as the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China - the view from the top of Parbold Hill is stunning stretching out to the Lancashire coastline across a remarkably flat landscape. The walk up to watch the sun go down should be on everyone’s bucket lists – if you are lucky you might even find an ice cream van there!
Despite Standish rapidly disappearing beneath new housing estates, there are still areas of outstanding natural beauty. The walk past the cricket club down to Elnup Woods gives you waterfalls, old buildings, bridges, benches (to rest for a while!) and even a spectacular ravine.
Worthington Lakes is another hidden gem – United Utilities reservoirs offering a 3km walk all the way round with birds and woodland and, if you feel like getting up early, amazing views of the sun rising above nearby Winter Hill.
Wigan itself is steeped in history from our world famous pier to Uncle Joe’s famous mintballs, unbelievable sportsmen and women and even a statue with a lucky foot! I wonder how many people just pass these wonderful places on their way to somewhere else.
So maybe we should all start our quest to achieve ‘wanderlust’ closer to home. Who knows where it may eventually lead?
Life and other