After a couple of days of short walks and lots of loitering, The Dog was demanding a good 2 hour walk. So we did.
We headed to the Bull Beck car park, east of Caton in Lancashire. We’ve done this walk many times, especially during winter as you’re guaranteed not to get blathered in mud and The Dog doesn’t need a shower when we get back.
We crossed the road and dropped down on the Millennium Path which runs into the centre of Lancaster. The path is carpeted with leaves as a gentle breeze relieves the trees of their golden foliage. Many trees still hang on grimly, defying the finger of winter. The Dog and I enjoyed the final beauty of autumn along this pretty path.
It’s a pleasant walk, despite The Dog deciding that she knows better than me and decides to develop Selective Hearing Syndrome. A couple of tracks pass over the path and though I’ve only seen one vehicle on them, I always make The Dog stop. That takes a lot of “wait” “here” and “you bloody dog” for her to finally stop completely (she does slow down, but ambles for you to catch up, rather than wait). However, it’s been a life long unbreakable habit of hers to defy you in very subtle ways. When she eventually waits and you’re beside her, one paw will gradually move forward and then really pushing the boundaries, the other paw will follow. She just can’t help herself. Crossly, I shout at her “Well, don’t complain to me when you get run over” as if she’ll ever take that onboard. We then end up in a battle of wills which to a passing onlooker, looks very hilarious. Me, spluttering and spitting feathers, The Dog watching me with indifference, waiting for me to shut up. She kind of concedes briefly, but the cycle soon repeats.
Finally, we manage to cross these tracks, with me giving The Dog a lengthy lecture on “if only you’d do the first time………..” while she’s more interested in looking out for squirrels. It looks like I’m berating myself. We walk past Woody’s, a little kiosk that serves stonking bacon sarnies and mugs of steaming hot tea if you’re that way inclined and continued to the village of Halton. As we near where we turn right to cross the bridge, we come across the old station building (above). The path lies on the old train line, cruelly lopped by Dr Beeching in the 1960s, when many railways lines were decommissioned and lost. Many have been turned into walking and cycling paths and many of the stations remain standing, usually as private houses. I’ve always fancied buying this one and converting it into a cafe and restaurant, as it’s in a perfect spot, but alas, the lack of funds and no experience in the catering industry keeps it as an outlandish dream. As we walk past, an ancient car with canoes lashed to its roof pulls up and burps out 4 youths. One of them, brandishing keys opens the door of the building and goes inside and I hear a garage door being opened on the side. It’s obviously a storage place. In a way, I’m pleased it’s being used and not being neglected, but I still think it would make a cracking little cafe…….
We cross the narrow iron bridge across the River Lune, a third of it marked out for pedestrians and the other two thirds allows a single car to cross it, so you have to take turns crossing it. One car passes us with confidence, but a following car creeps across, making me and The Dog stare. A little old lady, her nose almost touching the windscreen, gingerly steers her vehicle with a terrified look on her face. It’s a touch worrying that she’s still driving – she didn’t fill me with confidence at all. She was driving so slowly that The Dog and I nearly made a race out of it.
Halton is a funny place. Separated from Lancaster by the nearby M6, it’s a commuter village, with a pretty centre of old cottages and houses, but it’s periphery is a complete haphazard of development. It seems to be split in two – the old centre, then a gap of greenery and then a 1960’s housing estate stuck out on the edge. Now the town planners are busy filling in the green middle bit, but badly in my view. There’s a modern housing estate by the river that looks like it’s been plonked there (it’s a very nice estate, don’t get me wrong) but the fields surrounding it, look earmarked (and ideal) for further building. But alas, another development has started, but on the edge of the village instead of the middle. I just despair for Halton and its residents. They seem to be always fighting developments. I imagine from the air, the village looks like a splat. Not compact and tidy, but stretched and messy. You can imagine them inviting the planning bureaucrats of this country to seminars here titled “How not to develop a village” or “How to make a complete dog’s dinner of a pretty hamlet”, it’s so haphazard. The town planners and other faceless governmental penpushers have a lot to answer for here.
Leaving Halton behind, we walk along the rivers edge and enter a woodland before approaching the road again. The Dog is eager for a swim, but it’s cold today and the river is flowing fast. I can imagine her being swept away to Lancaster. She concedes to paddling and wading in up to her chest, under the guise of requiring a drink.
We cross the road and enter the sheep field, where I put The Dog’s lead on. As you know, she’s part Collie so I never let her roam the fields if there’s livestock nearby and with the mood she’s in today, well it’s not worth thinking about. Strangely she chooses to ignore most of them, though she does lunge at a couple who dare to gallop in front of her. In between she contents herself with snacking on their poo, a disgusting habit which many fellow dog owners must frown upon – though better than rolling in it. Apparently I read somewhere that it’s actually good for their digestive systems – something to do with proteins. Personally I prefer snacking on scones with lashings of cream and jam, washed down with a large mug of tea.
We drop down by Woody’s (I didn’t take the opportunity to snack here as I had stupidly left my purse at home) and instead of following the Millennium Path back to the car, dropped back down to the river (much to my dog’s delight) and wandered through the fields. It had been quite overcast and I had my waterproof on. Of course it didn’t rain and the sun weakly tried to push through the clouds, it’s summer power lost for the year. But it was bright and pleasant enough.
Towards the end of the walk, with the car about 10 minutes away, we came across a group of bulls chewing cud by the gate that we needed to walk through. I didn’t fancy retracing my steps to avoid them as it was a very long way back. With The Dog on a very short lead, I boldly walked towards them, hoping that they found grass more interesting than me. My back up plan was to unleash The Dog and leg it if they did. Thankfully they ignored us and let us pass unmolested. Sighing with relief, we then came across a gang of sheep blocking the farm track. Of course, they were all nervous and then one ran past us and then rest followed on masse. The Dog got all excited, I got all flustered and the sheep got all skittish. It was all happening here. With a final defiant bark at their disappearing backsides, The Dog regained her composure and normal service was resumed. We strolled back to the car without incident, except The Dog did her reluctant “I’m not jumping in the boot” act for a couple of minutes before we headed back for a warming cuppa and a blazing fire.