Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sunday 30th June 2013.

It was a touch cold, when setting-out this morning, but, by the time the circuit was done, the sun was out and it was getting warm. But now the wind’s getting-up and it’s gone dull again – low cloud and the far hills are in thick mist.
Such is summer around here!
But, undaunted, the circuit this morning was so devised to take-in the Radcliffe equivalent of shopping at, say, Harrods. The location, a field, wasn’t far and within minutes I was looking across at the sales-area. There were, maybe, six cars – possibly eight.
A few years ago, when this sort of thing was my regular Sunday ‘outing’, the whole sales-floor would have been packed with cars. Rather sadly I pedalled straight past, but did notice the glut of two-wheeled ‘investments’ seemingly rife by the decorator’s tables. Mmmm. Manna.
But no. These days I was bootless; just had a bike. And besides, look what ‘the recession’ was doing to trade. Eight cars tops. Frightening!
So the side-streets were pedalled to the main-road and, eventually, the Town Hall and a left-turn. Along here is a soon to close school and, lo and behold, the car-park there was full of sales activity! Again, two-wheeled buys were evident and, it seems, slow-movers (to pedal a pun.).
Double-booking, it’s always a problem, and the pitchers nearly always prefer ‘hard-standing’ (tarmac). So most were here rather than at the ‘football-pitch’.
From there the circuit was continued; confidence, in the Private way of life, greatly enlivened. Returning, homeward, along the canal, itself a very Private construction, modes of suitable ‘boot’ were contemplated. Volvo, Ford, Rolls (actually the best for this type of endeavour) or, sensibly, a multi-purpose van. While thus thinking, along the tow-path, the picture, of horses without much to do, was taken.
How much grass do they do – to the mile?

Saturday 29th June 2013.

A bit on the dull side for morning exercise but the bike, with its better adjusted rear-wheel cone-nuts, was taken-out for an early spin. Sadly, at Warth, my prime Hogweed example has been trashed; you can hardly see the remains. This won’t, of course, eradicate the nationwide infestation and the sap-filled remains are simply harder to spot. I don’t know if the seed-heads were removed and so I might, indeed, be a (unwilling?) spreader.
The only way to avoid casual spreading would be to ban all folk: dog-walkers, walkers, cyclists, Archimedes Screw Engineers, Refuse Collectors, Water Board Workers, twitchers, fishermen, farmers, from around countryside tracks and lanes, Parks and, in Radcliffe, from at least one area of the town-centre!
Luckily, this town-centre area is just across the road from the all-new, shiny and expensive BURY Health Service erm…cafe? on the corner of Bridgefield Street. (Itself once, for years, a great, derelict, Hogweed site!) They may or may not be able to attend to Hogweed burns, but they do do a cup of tea – if you can afford it. So, as ever, the powers that be, rather than solve the problem, (costly eradication) simply treat the symptoms. (A week of antibiotics and re-dress-it-daily-yourself! See Hogweed Page.)
But the Giant Hogweeds from Bury are now seeding. Soon the plants will die-off; the matter (?) forgotten for another year, as the Himalayan Balsam takes-over the local countryside. This is harmless; indeed parts are edible. But best say nothing about that lest Meals-On-Wheels latch onto it with ‘Pensioners Balsam Pies’, subsidised by the council of course.
The final picture today looks like a Hay-Field. It’s the un-mown playing-fields at, soon to close, Coney Green High School.
With no new school even planned, Derby High must be the alternative for most of Radcliffe’s future secondary pupils. To get there many will (have to?) walk the canal path and/or the country lanes…unseen and patiently, the Hogweed seeds are waiting…

Friday 28th June 2013.

Rain over the Hogweeds this morning and those particular Hogweeds – some must be twelve feet high as they flower and make seed – are of course in Bury. But the seeds will fall into the river and be transported, by the flow, into Radcliffe. Once there these monsters compete with the council Pansies along the main roads. (No!? Try Church Street West.)
The thing is: councils, and those governmental, are trying to cut the NHS costs by keeping folk, especially expensive, old, retired folk, fit. To do this they tell folk to e.g., walk around the countryside. Or cycle. A few areas for this type of recreation have been designated and they are, being away from roads, reasonably healthy areas in which to walk or cycle. Enter Giant Hogweed from the river banks. Its sap is, when exposed to normal sunlight, able to chemically burn our skin. To exactly what extent is unclear but some nasty cases have been reported – one or two photographed. So, be careful if out walking, especially by the local river banks. (See the Giant Hogweed Page) Also on the governmental list of invasive plants are Himalayan Balsam – harmless but speedily invasive, as is Japanese Knotweed. Get this in your gardens and it decimates the value of your property overnight as it’s extremely difficult to get rid of.
In the conventional local press these invasive plants rarely get a mention, lest would-be keep-fitters are put off, but they are there.
There is a canal cutting right through Radcliffe and, so far, only the Himalayan Balsam seems to be growing around it and along the tow-paths. The canal, unlike the River Irwell, doesn’t really ‘flow’, so seeds of (say) Hogweed don’t get a free ride along its route. There are, as yet, no major Hogweed clumps along the canal, until you get to the Little Lever end, which is quite close, in parts, to the river. There Hogweed is everywhere. H. Balsam seeds explode (oh yes!) from the parent plants and are wind or beak transported. Hence the fast travel all over the place.
Meanwhile, the native grasses, reeds and nettles are waist high, (Pic 2 today) or more, along the canal, making it a very green walk or ride. Even in the rain.

Thursday 27th June 2013.

Cloudy, early-on, so the morning Tour de Radcliffe was done along empty, quiet, roads. Mainly. Around the City…erm, Town…erm, Hamlet Centre the council-planted flower displays are both attractive and colourful.
But the crowds go to see the Hogweeds, now six feet high, (modest!) beside the old, redundant, Jobcentre. (Radcliffe Times building) Or, look down from the old, almost redundant, Radcliffe Bridge, on (the old, redundant,) Boar’s Head side, and some reasonable examples are on the banking to your right.
Of course the really big stuff is in Bury – naturally – below the (old, redundant,) Wellington Street Viaduct.
From the saddle of an old, redundant, twentieth-century bike that’s able to travel both the smooth, but possibly slightly muddy, off-road rural tracks, and/or the rutted, pot-holed and dangerous main-road system, the hordes of Hogweed sites are easily located, and doing-so is exercise indeed for one also old and (several times!) redundant.
To be fashionable an Expenditure Review has been undertaken here. But the possibility of using a uni-cycle, rather than the present two-wheeled transport, has been shelved as a nearby uni-cycle user is constantly shelling-out for parts replacements due to non-stop falling-off. You never get anywhere doing that. Literally.
Not that it’s a worry. Apparently Expenditure Review changes need only be implemented years into the future. And by then the blotchy red-stemmed Hogweeds might have taken over…or the wishy-washy pink flowered Himalayan Balsam…

Wednesday 26th June 2013.

Dull and cloudy this morning but there are one or two bright spots now appearing in the sky. At Warth Giant Hogweeds are just that. A small forest of them – now inches away from the poshest, most trendy Garden Centre locally. And it only takes a beak-dropped or wind-blown seed or two and the magnificent Hogweeds will easily make a take-over bid! Oh! All that prime compost lying about! And, heaven! a bed of tasty Petunia’s to invade! I can easily count say, twenty-six plants just in the locality, each one carries, counting all of its seed-heads, oh, maybe a million seeds…
So there’s a potential possibility of about 26,000,000, new, Giant Hogweed plants, invading our space next year. The Garden Centre will be toast.
Mind you, after seeding the Hogweeds simply die-off, leaving three-inch thick stems, like small lamp-posts, rotting away all over the place. (You could easily film Primeval here at stem-rotting time.) As these die-back the Himalayan Balsam takes over – nowadays in a big way. It is everywhere. A floral ocean of wishy-washy pink flowers five or six-feet tall all over the place. My pictures of a few (endangered ?) Daisies (?) will be worth fortunes very soon.
But, from the massive seed-pods and skin-dissolving-sap filled stems of the Hogweeds the canal, and its swans and cygnets, is nearby.
That’s six cygnets. Oops, sorry, last night there were five…and, today, there’s only four…?
I’ve seen this before.
A natural predator (Fox?) will leave feathers all over the place – maybe most of a corpse – feet and bones. The cygnets too, by now, are a bit on the big side for a six-inch Mink, or a Heron, to cart off. (No feathers. No feet.)
So the magical countryside maybe just that: Magical; large, plump (?) cygnets just vanish overnight. Such is Nature I thought, as I looked across at the menace of Giant Hogweeds, their bulging seed-pods nodding gently in the morning breeze. Were they secretly smiling? Did one of them actually burp??
For a moment, I knew just how a Daisy feels.

Tuesday 25th June 2013.

A much better morning for the bike ride and the roads were pedalled to Warth, where the Giant Hogweeds are now, in the main, flowering. The one pictured, which is fairly close to the footpath, is at least eight feet high, maybe up to ten-feet. The spread is six to eight feet and there are several large seed-heads. For one used to a few common garden border plants and shrubs, the Hogweed is awesome – much bigger ones grow well by the river, just below the massive, yellow, nineteenth-century (York?) stonework of Wellington Street railway viaduct.
From the Warth Hogweeds the path runs below the nineteenth-century ‘Lattice’ Bridge, over the River Irwell, which is a similar ‘build’ but much smaller than the viaduct, and from there the fired-brick canal bridge from Hinds Lane to the nearby farm lanes, and Elton Reservoir, rests upon probably earlier but similar megalithic stonework. Here, rather than the introduced and invasive greenery, a few native biennial Foxgloves survive, in the compost of ages, at the foot of the bridge-path supporting wall, which could be of eighteenth-century origins.
From there, along the canal tow-path back to Radcliffe, is about two miles of similar, eighteenth to nineteenth-century megalithic stonework, that is the canal ‘cut’. The stonework (nowadays) extends a further two to three miles, to the outskirts of Bolton, where modern roads have deemed it be buried – so, it is, theoretically, still there. There is much too, of this industrial archaeology, under the present-day commercial buildings of Bury. Some of the remaining steam railway remnants have been incorporated into the modern tram-line system. A walk or a bike-ride, off the beaten tracks, and stuff is easily found all around the area.
Banana Walk is an old, nineteenth-century, railway line route, albeit somewhat landscaped and planted.
Luckily, in the past, a few folk recorded, using the technology of their particular age, pictures, maps and plans of all this now covered stuff, so that folk coming after could understand it all. For example: When the last Giant Hogweed plant, or old canal bridge, has been eradicated, a photograph of one may, to some folk, be interesting.
One or two folk make a lifetime study of finding, even digging-up old remnants, recording them in such a way to make it all even more interesting – allowing the ‘amatuer’ useful, professional knowledge with which to record, and indeed understand, his own findings.
Sadly, even the great (oh yes!) ‘teachers’ must pass into history. But not without a mention, by those quite happily taught.
R.I.P. Professor Aston, Time Team’s Finder/Recorder extraordinaire.

Monday 24th June 2013.

Dear Mary,
A dry but rather windy ride this morning and rather than the exercise circuit a ride to our local supermarket was done instead. By main road this is a two mile each way ride, but by judicious use of the straighter back-streets, a dangerously steep footpath (cycle-route?) and MacDonalds car-park, this is, when done sensibly like this, just over a mile! Quite a saving in energy of the most natural, basic type, there. In fact just riding across the massive car-park at the supermarket adds quite a bit of distance to the ride. Worryingly, while shopping there, the bike has to be taken into the foyer area and stood by a tiny section of wall that isn’t hidden by shelved or trolley’d piles of produce. Hopefully the lock and chain will deter folk from an easy acquisition. Inside, the huge shopping area is divided into aisles for the differing types of product. Such a store must be a sheer headache of miniscule, trivial, mind-numbing logistics. You can buy things for under a pound or over a hundred pounds easily.
I bought and left and the bike was fine. But, as I crossed Radcliffe to head home, I realised that I’d forgotten something and so, being quite close, I called-in to a High-Street shop for one additional item. The bike was left chained to the railings and in I went. Here, produce is ‘stored’, on pallets, outside the shop on the pavement – it’s not a problem – and inside the walkways are narrow between shelves crammed and jammed high with ‘stuff’. Again, a brain-shredding daily churn of mental arithmetic, common-sense and sheer logistical skill must be used by, here, private owners and staff, just to keep the place open and viable. But I got my item and, oh joy! Here there’s a staff-member on a till to take the money and, if needed, bag your items and give change – a small but very customer friendly point.
Riding home the thought of all that sheer logistical graft and hardship, just to keep us (mainly) in food, was a profound one. Yet shops and stores, especially the private high-street ones, are having a rough time of late with one thing or another; storage and retail floor-space are at a massive premium lately – not to mention the brain-work that’s needed. And then there’s the necessary car-parks…(No one’s invented a bike-park here yet. Not even asda’s!)
But then, I was home and, eventually, online to read the ‘news’ from various web-sites.
Interestingly, I read that Fifty Shades Ltd., has declared a turnover of over £12,000,000.00p with an expected profit-line of about £10,000,000.00p, give or take. Brilliant eh? No car-park, no massively expensive storage-space, and, I elicit from the rumours, brain-work involved wasn’t off the scale either!
Enjoy Mary,

Yours faithfully

ex-shopkeeping Kindle author.

Sunday 23rd June 2013.

A cold-ish and very windy morning with quite a few rain showers. So, a slightly shorter ride was done around Sunday-quiet roads and a very damp canal tow-path. The picture, only one today, is of part of Banana Walk, which used to be where the old railway lines to (I think Bolton?) existed. Long-gone and forgotten now of course.
Transport, for the morning rides, is an old road-bike that was dumpe…erm, given to me for free. A few carefully spent pounds and it is fine for a slow-speed, usually photographic foray, into local things old and/or greenly natural. Or both. Or new. (But that’s not often in Radcliffe.)
Of course the old bike, with its steel frame and chromed-steel 700c wheels, is a bit of a dinosaur bike-wise, and I’m always looking at the far more modern stuff that flashes past at much higher speeds. I’ve only got ten gears – and they operated by the most basic Shimano mechanisms. I’ve no mile or speed clocks. But the bike plods-on solidly; not overly bothered by road pot-holes everywhere or the occasional bit of earthy off-road cycling that’s needed, here on a daily basis, in order to visit the local ooparts and remnants left by recent history and now left for posterity under the (cheaper-than-removal?) guise of ‘Heritage’.
The bike, being old, is relatively simple to service and repair and new parts are relatively cost-effective. The newer stuff can be very expensive. A completely new bike, with a similar specification, would cost quite a bit and would need saving-for for many months. So a ‘new-buy’ decision now would only fructify in the unspecified future and thus would be very difficult to exactly price. The fact that in a few years I may not be physically able to ride a bike is also a consideration – it may be a waste of saving/expenditure.
And, what benefit is there in doing a one hour ride in say forty-five minutes? None really and, to take photographs one has to stop and get off etc. So out and out speed, for its own sake, isn’t really needed. What is vital is reliability and sheer cost-effectiveness.
And a devil you know, when out and about in unfamiliar, often historic and ‘wild’ landscapes, is always less of a problem than one you don’t
So, on balance (vital with cycling) I’ll stick with what I have, which is fine for visiting and photographing Nature (rather than politics or social-welfare) and its wiles, which progresses at a gentle, slow speed.
Unless, of course, I have a bountiful year, and then can delve the realms of High-Speed (travel) Too, without adding to my deficit problems. Often, the unaffordable, rather than really help, ends up long-gone and forgotten, as in the picture.

Saturday 22nd June 2013.

Quite cold, this morning, with a strong, icy wind. Rode from Radcliffe to Warth, the Hogweeds are just begining to flower, (pic 3) and then opted for Hinds Lane to see how that looked under summer green.
It looks fine and the path is well overhung with tree-branches and shrubbery. At the Wellington Street end there is an outcrop of Hogweed and, wondering how big it was, I rode up to it. It has been trashed. The seed-heads removed I think.
From there I opted for a ride back via the viaduct route, but first decided on a picture of the river from the concrete footpath. I looked over the footpath wall toward Radcliffe and there, not ten feet away, a whole river-bank-full of ten feet tall Giant Hogweed plants! They are awesome! The stems, like small lamp-posts, carry leaves two feet wide or more and the flower-heads are almost on a level with the footbridge! They are enormous. The problem is: these things are everywhere!
Already, the river-bank below the Hogweeds is bereft of any other greenery – most unlike a normal, British, river-bank – as Hogweed leaves block the sunlight and nothing else, except more Hogweed plants, can grow here. And soon, another batch of seeds will fall. Some will land on the bank, some in the river, and those will be carried, by the water-flow, to pastures new.
Shifting all these, if done en-masse as a one-off job, will cost a fortune. And it won’t be for years that we can be sure they’ve been eradicated.
But, from the wilds of Wellington Street, Bury, it was a roady-ride along the viaduct path and then home via Bolton Road and Ainsworth Road.
Once again a ‘Nature’ rather than political or social-welfare blog. Well, what else looks, initially, as an attractive concept, but then, when you actually get it home and ‘planted’ for a few years, turns-out to be a monster, costly to keep, and just as expensive (probably!) to get rid of?

Friday 21st June 2013.

It soon warmed-up, from a cool start, to a very humid but now sunny morning. There was a little traffic, on the road parts of the ride, but then it was off-road, along by the nearly-seeded Hogweeds at Warth, to the quiet of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. Tow-path grasses and weeds are waist high or more and the Iris and Water-Soldiers are flowering.
Yes. I’ve photographed weeds and grass. The reason being is that yesterday, I read that folk visiting blogs prefer things to do with (say) Nature, and all that, rather than the various ‘wings’ of politics, social-welfare, and all that.
So, Nature it is.
Luckily, this morning, I came across the Swan and Cygnets around Coney Green; near the school.
Earlier in the year the male mate of this swan was killed; the female here has brought-up the five cygnets on her own. This type of swan is The Mute Swan, so named because it has no call, cry or voice. So you never hear a Mute Swan moaning about anything such as the cold, lack of pond-weed, or mouthes to feed. Even single-parent swans. No. Usually they’re up and about early, foraging for pond-weed and, at the same time, teaching the cygnets how to forage along the canal and at the local reservoirs, rain or shine.
This must be particularly difficult for a single-parent swan – but the five cygnets are fine. Of course there are one or two folk about that feed the swans a bit of bread and that, but the swan won’t rely upon this voluntary food-source. (It is entirely voluntary – you don’t give a percentage of your bread, to the swans, under any threat.) The swan will let its cygnets feed upon it of course, but will still teach them how to forage from an early morning start. Later, when the cygnets are fully grown and fit as fiddles, they’ll not have problems getting up and about, and the constant foraging keeps the weight down to just what is needed to paddle and fly.
In dual-parent swan families both adults feed and teach the cygnets how to forage, and both help to safeguard the cygnets from predators etc. In these respects the single-parent has a hard, but not impossible time and the voluntary feeding is a big, but not taken for granted, help. And there are, as the cygnets travel along this long and winding canal, man-made obstacles to the perfectly natural, dumped there by idiots to make their lives easier, yet life more difficult for those that live by day-long foraging.
But you don’t see a swan, especially a single-parent swan, give-up and lie on a couch all day whingeing.
So there’s a Nature blog. At one time school-children would be taken, as a class, to see Nature in action somewhere. Sadly, around Radcliffe that’s going to be difficult. Not because there’s no Nature sites, but because soon, there won’t be a (secondary) school – a problem caused not by Nature (of the natural) but by man-made, un-natural, politics and ‘social-welfare’.