Well here we are again, for the third Christmas in four years, Scout and I are "sans automobile".
A few days before Christmas 2016 our Volvo 4x4 "AbbaWaggen", parked off the road near to a friend's house, was hit by a brand new car (just 21 miles on the clock!), driven by a one-legged bloke unfamiliar with his new vehicle and trying to round an ice-covered bend at high speed in the dark. The damage was immense and, of course, the insurance company delivered us an ordinary 2-wheel drive car while the repairs were done. The work lasted over a month and on several occasions we were unable to venture out from our home 1100 feet above sea level at the top of a 1:3 hill.
In 2017, after returning from the hospital in thick fog on the night before Christmas Eve, we had to pull over to the roadside and stop as a pair of headlamps careered towards us. A moment after stopping, there was an almighty crunch as an already partially wrecked hatchback, loaded with 100 cans of larger and two big boxes of gin, ploughed into the offside and continued on it's way for a couple of hundred yards before mounting the footpath and stopping. (We later learned that she'd hit a bus and immobilised it before hitting our car) The driver absconded from the scene, despite my attempt to grab her. When she was tracked down an hour later, she assaulted a Police Officer while resisting arrest. She was later sentenced to a years imprisonment suspended for 2 years and ordered to undergo treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. The car was off the road only a couple of weeks this time, but it coincided with intense cold and snow - so we were marooned again.
Yesterday morning, Christmas Day, driving out of the driveway, the alternator drive belt broke - hence we have no electric power, no power steering & no powered brakes.
Ever tried hiring a van on Christmas Day?
Now I admit to being one of those people who regard the mid-winter festive season with an element of "Bah Humbug" - I have my own very good reasons for this, but I do recognise that for most other people, Christmas is a really special time of the year.
So, to ensure that our guests through the Christmas and New Year period feel cossetted in a warm, Christmassy glow, we've been digging out the decorations and scavenging our garden for boughs of holly and pine bristles.
I can't say that Scout and I have any special talent for arranging baubles & lights, but the place looks pretty seasonal to me. In fact, I almost felt the Christmas spirit myself when we switched out the main lights & placed another log on the fire!
When we'd done, it was off to the Trout for dinner, where we got talking to the chaps from the Swythamley Shoot. These chaps keep the spirit of the old Swythamly Estate going by stocking the area with pheasants during the year and then hunting them down with dog & gun, dressed in their traditional tweeds, white collars and ties.
They take great pride in their tradition and could have stepped straight out of one of the sepia photographs of the shoots hosted by Sir Phillip & his brother Henry in the earliest days of the 20th century. A long day blazing away at the low flying birds starts with a hearty breakfast at the pub & a glass of something warming and ends with a dinner and drinks after the sun has dropped below the western horizon.
I can see the appeal - it's all very "Edwardian Gentlemen" and it helps keep the rural economy buoyant.
Scout seemed a little concerned that they may not have left too many pheasants in the hedgerows for her to chase......they'd taken 63 birds with 9 guns!
Many of our visitors here at Roachside, particularly those staying more than just a couple of nights, make the short hop over to Shuttlingsloe (that’s the tall distinctive hill you can see going northwards along the Roaches Ridge beyond the trig point) and have a good days walking in the Macclesfield Forest.
The Macc, as it’s known hereabouts, is a system of high steep valleys with upland streams draining the peat bogs of the valley sides. These all converge in a series of reservoirs at Langley, providing the water supply to Macclesfield and surrounding areas. Over a hundred years ago, the slopes were planted with plantations of fir trees, partly to stabilised the fragile valley slopes and prevent rapid silting of the reservoirs and partly for timber to supply Britain’s growing industrial expansion.
Many paths and tracks criss-cross the forest. Large sections of timber have been cleared in the last few years (they thought long-term a hundred years ago!) and opened up broad views across the catchment area. It’s a grand place for an active Working Cocker like Scout and we walk there often.
That’s what we did today in intermittent drizzle and with a ripping wind “up top”. We saw only a handful of folk in the space of three hours. A couple of families with very young children wrapped up like arctic explorers and a group of iridescent lycra-clad mountain bikers, whose white beards gave away their obviously great age.
Along the path from Forest Chapel to Teggs Nose there is an empty shell of a tiny stone cottage set on a small level patch of treeless ground with a tiny memorial to Walter Bullock DCM.
Walter and his 7 siblings were born and grew up here, before the plantations were planted, when it was a small hill farm. That was until 1896 when their father died at the age of just 41 and the family emigrated to New Zealand (not Australia as it says on the memorial) to seek a new life in a colony where there were opportunities for newcomers. Walter was just 14 years old.
At the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted in the ANZACS (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps), fought at Gallipoli, The Battle of the Somme and finally at Passchendaele, where he led his unit in an attack on enemy fortifications resulting in the capture more than 100 prisoners. He was killed later the same day. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (one step below the Victoria Cross) for his part in the raid. Walter was just 34 years old. He is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, along with 11,964 of his comrades.
Testament to how life was so much harder then.
After weeks of driving rain, drizzle and heavy cloud, the weather has turned.
This weekend, the sky cleared, the temperature dropped like a stone and the sun came out for a long anticipated appearance.
As we plodded alongside Rudyard Lake this morning, just after dawn, the air was still as can be and the surface of the lake was like the proverbial mill-pond. A good opportunity to take a few snaps of the lakeside houses sitting atop their reflections.
The Lady of the Lake is an extraordinary place. It sits four-square in deep water and is accessed over it's own footbridge. Aside from the obvious appeal of a house sitting in a picturesque lake, amongst mature woodland etc., it has some features which are only known to those who have been inside it or have had opportunity to slowly drift past in a boat or kayak.
For instance, it's downstairs bedroom has a window into the boat dock which is fashioned in the manner of the stern "captains cabin" window of a sailing ship. Tilted outwards at an angle, this window allows the reflected light from the water's surface to dance and play across the timber paneled ceiling. Imagine waking up to that on a spring morning!
This was where my father came in the late 1940's with his Scouting friends, long before I was born, to plan their expeditions in Arctic Norway, Finland and in the Pyrenees. They held their reunion weekends here also, well into the 1960's.
It came on the market a couple of years ago, just a few weeks after I bought Roachside Cottage. Had it been for sale just a few weeks earlier, Scout and I might now be plundering the remains of our life savings in a never-ending battle with rising damp, condensation, black mold and dry rot - on a scale we have yet to encounter with our cottage!
Of course, with the hard frost on the ground, today was a perfect day for the farmers to get out muck-spreading.
Fortunately, the high-definition camera on my phone records only pixels of colour, light and shade.......not molecules of pong!
We see cloud inversions all the year round from The Roaches, but we see them much more frequently in the autumn.
As a warm air front rolls in, sometimes it "squashes" the cold air beneath it. The moisture in the cold air body condenses into droplets and forms fog or mist at ground level and frequently displays a very distinct dividing line between the lower cold air and the upper warmer layer. It's effectively just a cloud bank at ground level - a sort of upside down sky!
When watched for a lengthy period, the mist can appear to "slide" down valleys or "pour over" small hills, a bit like cream over strawberries!
This photo was taken on Gun Hill with Bosley Cloud sitting to the left in a sea of mist and the white ellipse of the great Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank out in the distance on the Cheshire Plain.