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 layby’s 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. Lords Lot Wood is owned and managed by 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 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, 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 and the path disappeared so we started to hack our way through twigs and branches. We didn’t get far before I gave up and The Dog had actually held back, looking at me puzzled. She has special looks for me when she knows that I doing something stupid – 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 become truly boggy and I changed tack, putting my feet in other footprints, in the misguided belief that I wouldn’t get stuck. Alas, I trod on one section, which not only squirted gloopy mud up my leg with a viguorous fart, but 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 covered in sticky mud -and gave me a despairing Gromit the dog stare. She can so make you feel small.
Shaking my foot, we carried on, up gentle slopes. We passed an open grassy area, an obvious bog full of grasses and flowers, a little savannah surrounded by trees.We kept the wall in sight and finally dropped onto a track outside the wood and followed that up and round. Sheep and their lambs gambolled in their fields, mothers calling their offspring to their sides as we popped out. 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 turned right, an 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. 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. I love Spring. You’re on the edge of a precipice of new beginnings and it’s lovely to see everything burst into life. We’ve been in lockdown too long and wanting summer. It’s so near!
The muddy churned up bit finished by an outbuilding and we branched slightly right. The path smooth and dry. 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. It opened the woodland up again, allowing the milky sun to warm us up. Again there were allsorts of trees here, a real mixture.
We came across a small plantation of randomly planted Christmas trees, just growing happily. Short and stumpy, a small clump left to grow on their own accord. We wondered why, before wandering along the track, listening to birdsong.
We decided to check out Syphon Well and headed up towards that, hoping to find a well or something of interest. We passed by an area of those horrible conifers, that huddle so closely together that you can’t see more than 10 foot into their interior – totally black and devoid of any vegetation. And to spook you further, the trees gently groan in the wind. 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 list well or anything. It was all covered in leaf litter, broken branches and twigs. It also alternated between hard ground and bogginess. We wandered down the path a little further and came across a series of oversized protruding manholes set across the path in a line. Puzzled by their presence, I did a quick Google and found out that they were part of a Manchester Corporation Water Works pipeline from the Lake District to the city of Manchester. What a long way for water to travel to feed a 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. I just love the J Blakeborough and Sons, the valve makers of Brighouse stamped on the cover for prosperity too.
We headed back to the car. The Dog was growing weary and was dawdling behind me. At one time she dawdled because she didn’t want to go home, but nearing 13 years of age, she just wants short walks and her mat. The only energy she expends these days is to beat you to a gate or a stile, a habit so deep rooted, she can’t help herself.
But we had one final hurdle – we came up to a stream, too wide to jump across and steep sided. The Dog leapt across easily and patiently waited while I dithered and dallied. I think she leapt it three times until I found a place where the sides dropped and I was able to step across with my dignity still intact. I always have a fear that one day I’ll misjudge things like that and end up flat on my back, legs up in the air and soaking wet.
We found the car easily and The Dog leapt in the back. And there was this lovely display of roadside daffodils.