Before we set off, though, I must say how much I have appreciated all your feedback both through the blog and on social media on the Yarndale Sock Line post telling you where all the socks have gone. I'm also very grateful to everyone who's made a donation towards the cost of the postage too - thank you! Quite a few people have commented that it's taken time and effort to organise the Sock Line and this is quite true - but as I've been able to do it a few hours at a time in my warm, comfortable home with a cup of tea in my hand, it's not really been much hardship - and it's definitely worth it to know that the socks have gone to good homes! Bring on next year's Yarndale Sock Line!
So, are you ready? Have you got your coat on? It's mild but not terribly warm this morning although the weather this week has been changeable - from damp to frost and back again. I've got my hat on but not my mitts - I had my hair cut yesterday and anyone with short hair will tell you that it takes a day or two to get used to the draught! J
We're going to walk in the Sankey Valley Park starting from Callands, which is a good place for me to leave the car. Winwick is a great place to live but it's not so great if you have a dog that can't be trusted near roads as there are lots of them, so we very often walk around here where there are lots of green spaces and woodlands that are well-spaced between the roads and houses. Let's take this path between the houses into Sankey Valley Park.
It might seem like a bit of a dismal day but there's always colour if you look for it. Just by the railings are these flowers from a spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus). I've got one of these in my garden but it's never flowered - it's probably in the wrong place.
Here too are bright yellow beech leaves with glossy dark green holly. Nature is very clever at putting colours together.
Shiny brown toadstools - they look like they're suffering after the recent frosts and I'm quite happy that the dog has no interest in them. He doesn't turn his nose up at much but luckily fungi of any description is not on his menu!
There's a good mix of tree and shrub varieties in the Park as Warrington Council were always very good at landscaping. It does make me smile to see just a few leaves on the path ...
and a few steps later the path has disappeared!
The sun is doing it's best to come out and it might brighten up later. Come on, we're going to walk quite quickly as it's not warm enough to hang about. I'm glad I don't have to sleep right up there in one of those nests.
They belong to magpies, large black and white birds that belong to the crow family. I'm never quite sure how I feel about magpies. They remind me of little old men in suits with their black, green and white feathers, and they are the subject of more than a few superstitious rhymes so I always say hello to them, but they're not really very nice birds; they steal other birds' young and attack inquisitive cats and dogs that are brave enough to pick a fight with them (ask me how I know that!). Here are the nests a bit closer - they're very messy but seem to do the job as I imagine that strong winds will feel even stronger that high up in the trees and the last thing you want in a strong wind is for your nest to collapse!
Here's our first glimpse of how well the landscaping works in the Park. Different varieties of tree, all different colours but working so well together.
Those splashes of red that you can see here are Dogwood (Cornus alba) which don't look like much during the spring and summer but really come into their own once their leaves have fallen. They're grown for their red stems and the Council's landscaping team make sure that they look their best.
More red. There are lots of berries on the trees still - the ones in our garden are long gone so it's nice to see them. There's an old wives' tale that lots of berries, and particularly holly berries, mean that there's a hard winter coming:
"Holly berries shining red
Mean a long winter, 'tis said"
although it's generally assumed these days that the profusion of berries - or not - is down to the weather earlier in the year. Having said that, I've got a feeling we're in for a cold one this year.
Let's go down this path. It's looking quite a lot barer today than it did a couple of weeks ago, and the leaves are quite mushy on the ground too which makes the path quite slippy, so watch your step.
Every now and again, there's a jewel in amongst the leaves.
It is indeed the end of the cycle route - it's disappeared! J
This is Sankey Brook which was once part of the Sankey Canal. It's looking very full today and I'm never keen for the dog to go in for a dip when it's as full as this. The area surrounding the brook looks quite bare as the plants along the water's edge have been cleared away for the winter. Recently, the banks have been full of Himalayan balsam which is an invasive weed so the Council have cleared it all to try to stop it spreading.
This particular point is the place where dogs can get in and out easily - it's even been cleared to make it easier for them - and my dog does like to get his feet wet! Mind out - he really doesn't bother to move away when he shakes himself!
Further up the path is a huge clump of comfrey which grows wild here. My Dad used to grow comfrey in his garden for making compost tea with, and I can remember my Mum mashing up the leaves to make a poultice once when I'd cut myself quite badly. It's traditionally known as "knitbone" as it allegedly helps to repair broken bones and speeds up healing, although I'd recommend that you took advice from someone who knows what they're doing before you used it. Comfrey is another invasive plant which is why I don't have any in my garden - it spreads pretty rapidly and has peculiar furry leaves which are quite spiky to touch. It's a big plant too although it doesn't look it here - these are new growth leaves after it's been cut down after the summer.
The path has brought us to Bewsey Meadows, a former tip which was closed in the 1980s and is now a haven for wildlife and wild flowers, although there aren't many flowers to be seen at this time of year. You might have noticed that we've been followed by a robin - or perhaps several robins as they're very territorial. Whether it's one robin or many, it's keeping a close eye on us and staying just out of camera shot. We're going to take the path that sweeps round the meadows and back towards the way we came.
This is the only sign of frost that I've seen - I hadn't realised it was that cold last night.
Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum). I had an abundance of these in my vegetable patch last year which is not the place for them to be growing! They're tall plants, taller than me, and spiky too. The goldfinches love their seeds but they're best out here where there's plenty of space!
There are plenty of seed heads to see today, skeletons of flowers past that still have a stark beauty of their own.
In the midst of it all, gorse flowers. November has been a strange month, not quite making up it's mind whether it wants to be wintery or not. There are still roses growing in my garden so I'm not surprised to see these cheery yellow blooms.
One last look out across the meadows and we'll head for home. I don't know about you but I'm getting ready for a brew!
Look there - through the trees! Cygnets! I haven't seen much of them this year and they've grown so much. They'll be gone in a couple of months - I think it was January this year that the last brood left to start nests of their own.
I'm tempted to go down this path, but it takes us out of our way so we'll save that walk for another day. This wood leads towards Bewsey Old Hall, a 13th Century building complete with ghosts that is now luxury apartments. My husband and I went on a tour of the building many years ago when it was owned by the Council and they would have open evenings led by the ranger who lived on site. We didn't see anything untoward but there's a definite atmosphere about the place and the ranger who lived there had a lot of interesting stories to tell. We felt quite spooked by the time we left and walked back home in the gathering gloom; I'm not sure how I'd feel about living there!
Come on, we'll take the much less dramatic cycle path back towards Callands. Mind those leaves aren't slippy, and mind the dog doesn't knock you over as he heads off towards another stream. He can't resist muddy puddles!
I love the shine on these ivy leaves. Even on the dullest days there's still something to see if you just look out for it.
We're nearly back now. Look, the sun has come out and you can see the vibrant colours of the leaves. We're very lucky to have this space pretty much on our doorstep.
We've been out for about an hour and the weather has changed completely from drab to sunny, and the air is warmer too (though I'm not going to take my hat off!). It's been great to have your company - I hope your feet aren't too muddy and you didn't get too wet when the dog shook himself. We'll have to do this again sometime soon!