It’s been a wood that I drive past fairly regularly and often wondered if it was open to the public. Recently, I’ve passed when there has been a few cars parked on the one or two gravel laybys and thought I would check it out.
So, one sunny spring afternoon, I parked up on the first layby I came to – there was already a car there. Lord’s Lot Wood is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. I let The Dog out of the boot and she bounded down an earth path into the woods. I followed her. The path weaved its way between the trees, alongside a trench full of muddy water. Here and there, the path turned a little boggy – softened mud squashed gently underfoot. There were all sorts of trees – sometimes it got quite dense, the trees growing close together and then it would widen out, so you could see a carpet of brown autumnal leaves covering the ground against a backdrop of silver birch trees.
We followed our noses – there is no way marks or posts, but the earth path was clearly visible and we tracked it until we hit the other side of the wood and a dry stone wall. We followed the side of the wall, with a vast panorama of the Forest of Bowland fells before us, wind turbines turning lazily. (despite it’s name, there are no forests, just moorland – I believe Forest is an old name for royal hunting). Again we came across patches of bogginess, The Dog tripping over them lightly, while I hesitated, looking for the best route across – the feet sunk a little deeper this time, but all was good.
The wood was a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees – beech, red oak and Scot’s pine amongst others. Fallen trees lay everywhere, slowly rotting and returning to the earth – a few times, The Dog and I had to negotiate them as they lay across our paths. It seemed a proper wood, left to its own devices, but quietly overseen.
I was thankful that I had the trusted Ordnance Survey map app on my phone as I tracked our way around. Thinking it was a simple case of following the wall, a couple of times I discovered that I was heading in the wrong direction and had to correct ourselves. Another time, I turned a corner and the path disappeared so we started to hack our way through twigs and branches. We didn’t get far before I gave up – The Dog had actually held back, with a look of “Really??”on her face. She has special looks for me when she knows that I doing something that’s guaranteed to fail – and despite my calling and cajoling, she stood fast and finally, realising the folly of my endeavour, we went back to the path we had just left. It was little further down that the path became truly boggy and unnegotiable so I had a cunning plan, putting my feet in the footprints of previous walkers, in the misguided belief that I would be successful. (It hasn’t rained for a few weeks, so I had expected it to be pretty dry, but obviously there are bogs and underground springs throughout that just never dry out). Alas, I trod confidently on one section, which not only squirted a voluminous amount of gloopy mud up my leg with a vigorous fart, but also swallowed my trainer so that the gloop overflowed into my boot and soaked my foot. I think I swore. The Dog stopped in her tracks and swivelled her head – her own paws and lower legs covered in sticky mud -and gave me a despairing Gromit the Dog stare. She can make you feel so small.
Shaking my foot, we carried on, up gentle slopes and down the other side. We passed an open grassy area, an obvious bog full of grasses and flowers, a little savannah surrounded by trees. A little further on, there was evidence of some form of tree management as tall pine trees stood in regimented rows, with avenues of grass between them. Another different aspect of this fascinating wood. We kept the wall in sight and finally dropped onto a track outside the wood and followed that up and round, keeping the wood to our right. Sheep and their lambs gambolled in their fields, mothers calling their offspring to their sides as we popped out, watching us warily. In the distance, the purple hazy contours of the Lake District fells could be seen. We carried on walking up the gravelly path as it branched right, another open vista on one side and woodland on the other. Vehicles had been up here and as the gravel track ended and turned back into an earth path, the tyres had dug deep and mashed the track into a muddy mess, so there was a lot of picking and skipping my way around the miniature lakes and soggy bits.
As we walked, I noticed that Spring was still reluctant to arrive with the odd bush starting to bud. A hawthorn with its vivid green leaves, bright yellow gorse brightening up the path and clumps of primrose. The trees stood stock still, bare of leaves still thinking it was winter. We have had lots of sunshine, but it’s hardly rained for weeks and we still get cold frosty mornings. Perhaps the trees knew something we didn’t. Perhaps it was self preservation on their part. I love Spring, probably my favourite season. You’re on the edge of a precipice of new beginnings and it’s lovely to see everything gradually burst into life. Perhaps we’re all desperate for warm weather, colour and life after a long winter of lockdown – it just seems to be taking its time this year.
The muddy churned up path finally finished by an outbuilding and we branched slightly right. The path smooth and dry once again. We climbed a slight incline, where the trees spaced themselves more widely allowing you to peek between their trunks and see open fields and gentle hills beyond. It opened the woodland up again, allowing the milky sun to warm us up. Again there were allsorts of trees here, a real mixture with holly bushes mixed in between. It was quite a pleasant part of the wood and yet another different view. It just kept changing.
We followed the path back up, a gentle pull to the other side of the wood – you could hear the cars travelling on the road above and occasionally see them between the gaps in the trees. Checking my app, we found another path to our right and headed down there, the trees and bushes enclosing on us again. We trotted through, looking around us and then the path forked. The Dog took the left fork and I started to follow her, but it looked a bit of a dead end, with a tree stump to negotiate. I backtracked and decided to go down the right fork, which was definitely a well defined path. We hadn’t walked far when we came across a small plantation of randomly planted Christmas trees, just growing happily on either side of the path. Short and stumpy, there was probably no more than 20 of them and just in an improbable spot. It just had me puzzled and required a photo.
The Dog watched me as I consulted the app to double check I was heading in the right direction, but alas, the little arrow showed I was heading due south rather than east. Shows how easily you can get disorientated and lured into a false sense of security in a wood, by confidently assuming that a well worn path is the right one. I called the hound, retraced our steps back to the fork and took the left one, which my faithful dog had already taken a few minutes earlier. This so called dead end was actually a proper path. The times my dog is correct in her choices is amazing and I should of learnt by now. She just rolled her eyes and scent marked a log.
We were heading this way to check out Syphon Well as marked on the map and honed in towards that, hoping to find a well or something of historical interest. On the way there, the path took us past a plantation of those certain type of conifer trees, that huddle so closely together that you can’t see more than 10 foot into their interior – totally black and devoid of any vegetation, just a mass of blackness – you expect some vile creature to come bounding out. And to spook you further, the trees gently groan in the wind and make other unnatural noises. The Dog and I picked up speed and scuttled by quickly. They are so creepy.
We got to Syphon Well but could not find any evidence of a long lost well or anything to suggest something was there. The ground was covered in leaf litter and other debris, broken branches and twigs. It also alternated between hard ground and bogginess. Disappointed, we wandered down the path a little further and to our delight and puzzlement, came across a series of oversized protruding manholes set across the path all in a line. Amazed by their presence, I did a quick Google, typing in the MCWW from the lid and discovered that they were part of a Manchester Corporation Water Works pipeline from the Lake District to the city of Manchester, feeding water to the city’s population. What a long way for water to travel to one city? It’s the same in the Yorkshire Dales, reservoirs in the middle of nowhere, miles from anywhere, built to deliver water to the cities of Leeds and Bradford. Most of them are Victorian, that busy age of invention and advancement. But to think that many men with just picks and shovels dug the trenches and lowered the pipes, with none of the machinery and technology of today, working for hours in end in atrocious conditions. It made you think of the ingenuity and sacrifice of such projects. I just love the name of J Blakeborough and Sons, the valve makers of Brighouse stamped on the cover for prosperity too.
My Googling burped up this link, not much information, but realised the pipeline crosses the River Lune at Caton, another one of my walks.
I also Googled Syphon Well and didn’t get very far at all on that. On another inspection of the map, there is another Syphon Well marked just outside the woods – maybe it’s something to do with this pipeline.
With the The Dog looking weary and starting to dawdle behind me, I decided to head back to the car. At one time The Dog used to dawdle because she didn’t want to go home, but nearing 13 years of age, she just wants short walks and her mat so she can go to sleep. The only energy she expends these days is to beat you to a gate or a stile, a lifelong habit that we have never been able to train out of her or a possible half hearted run at a squirrel. She’s certainly slowing down.
But we had one final hurdle – we came up to a stream, the main path clearly on the other side. The stream was too wide to jump across and also steep sided. I had images of me misjudging my jump, sliding unceremoniously down the banking and into a messy heap into the water. It wasn’t particular deep either, but clearly our old friend Mud was there, just waiting. To show me up further, The Dog leapt across easily and patiently waited while I dithered and dallied looking for a suitable place. I think she leapt it three times until I found a spot where there was a lower shelf and I was able to step across with my dignity still intact. The Dog shook her head.
The car’s outline appeared between the trees and we tracked up towards it. The Dog leapt thankfully in the boot again and crashed. And to complete this lovely stroll around Lords Lot Wood, there was this lovely display of roadside daffodils, wafting gently in the wind.