I am lucky to live not far from the West Lancashire Moors, recently given SSI status by the powers that be. A very good thing which should, hopefully, protect it from fracking should it come our way, which I fear it will if the government's energy policy continues unabated and local authorities are overruled. Beneath the Moor lies the small town where I live and my avenue is built upon the gradual hillside which signals the end of the Lancashire/Cheshire plane and starts the upward ascent to the moors. Behind the neighbouring avenue is a small clough, known locally as Nellies' Clough, home to Hawthorn, various spruce, the odd sliver birch and a culverted stream which finds its way into the River Douglas and beyond. This is where I like to walk when I have been couped up at home too long.
Not just Sunday but New Year's Day; today the paths were very quiet, a handful of people walking or exercising their dogs. The sun sends a golden glow across the land, as I walk up the hill, up the wooden steps out on to the narrow path. Turning around I see below me quite a steep ravine, to the spot where the culvert crosses the path and the fields open out. I imagine this is an old place, an old path, a way where medieval carts came down from places like Belmont on their way to West Lancashire.When I reach a certain point, now bracketed on one side by 1970s houses and a wooden fence, I feel the expanse of the plane opening up before me.
It looks as though there are some changes to the broken down old barn, where I wish for, but never see, the owls that are rumoured to roost there. The ivy has been removed from the windows and the wall rebuilt. It is no longer possible to push through the low bramble to the old iron gate that faces towards Bolton. This is as far as I will go. As I walk back down the sun is softly blinding.
Now alone in my tiny office, the sky has turned a transparent yellow rising into an almost sapphire blue as evening takes hold.
(photo taken 1.1.17)