Some people think that owning a holiday cottage is one long holiday!
They forget that the changeover day starts the night before, making up the boxes of towels and bedding. The new day then starts with loading up the car, collecting the Staffordshire Oatcakes in Biddulph, collecting the fresh cheese in Leek, a quick dog walk at Rudyard, then a litter pick along the road for half a mile outside the cottage. Then it's whipping of the bedding and into the laundry bags, cleaning everything right through, making up beds, dressing the bathroom. Hoovering and mopping, dusting and polishing. Setting the log burner ready for lighting, chopping the firewood - the list is almost endless. Then, as we lock up and put the key in the key safe for the incoming guests, it's a mad dash down to town with the laundry.
Sometimes, by the time we leave Roachside Cottage, it's obvious that we're not going to get to the laundry before they close - so we change speed, relax and go for a well earned walk along Roach Road as the sun begins to drop over the western edge of the hills.
Is there any better way of unwinding at the end of a busy day?
The sun descends in the west, silhouetting Bosley Cloud and casting long, long shadows over the upper Meerbrook Valley
As we frequently do, on the way to Roachside to undertake a changeover of guests this morning, we stopped for a Scoutie Scamper at Rudyard Lake.
As we walked along the old railway track, we came across a convoy of white vans parked filling the track. Some were small but most were quite large with loading ramps at the rear. The “crews” of these assembled vehicles were gathered round a chap with a clipboard - like World War 2 bomber crews undergoing a briefing about tonight’s raid. As we got closer, they began to disperse and commenced loading huge “luggage trolleys” with masses of equipment.
Obviously a fishing competition about to commence! We walked as far as The Lady of the Lake & then wandered back. As we did so, even the miniature railway had been pressed into service.
Clearly some seriously challenging fish at Rudyard.
It looked more like an invasion force than a way of escaping from the family for a few hours, sitting motionless & staring at some water.
Now we've written previously on these pages about the "Forbidden Area" of the Upper Hulme Range Complex; a rather dramatic name for what is nothing more than a wide swathe of moorland where chaps in camouflage lob mortar bombs and the suchlike.
When I was very young, there was a permissive path across this moorland and a person could traverse the hillside providing the red flags weren't flying from the many flagpoles around the perimeter. The path was closed off permanently in the 1960s after a lady rambler was killed by an errant grenade which had clearly failed to explode at it's allotted moment.
Nowadays the inner "Target Area" is securely fenced with barbed wire and signs which warn of "military debris which may explode and kill you". All non-military personnel are forbidden to enter - so there is a faint air of mystery to the place.
Just lately, my ornithological friends tell me, there have been several sightings of a Bearded Vulture hereabouts.
I'm not aware of anyone having been posted missing , but I suppose that the presence of a bomb-shredded corpse might have attracted such an animal?
It seems pandemics aren't just for humans!
Our great big Ash tree, the gnarled old veteran which has stood sentry by Roachside Cottage for well over a hundred years, has been diagnosed with Ash Dieback. On a photo of the cottage taken in 1937, it already towered above the rooftop. It features in countless landscape paintings and photographs - indeed, it's clearly visible on the huge David Hunt winter landscape in our hallway at home.
Ash dieback is a terminal condition caused by a fungal infection. It's been ravaging Ash trees across Europe for years now, much like Dutch Elm disease changed our landscape forever in the last century.
Our infection is probably in the early stages at the moment, so death may be a few years away, but it's end is now certain, it's fate sealed.
Time to get the chaps I once hired to cut down trees on a construction site - three Irish chaps whose company was called "Tree Fellas" - yes, really!
Poor old Ash tree, looks like, after all those decades standing strong in wind, rain, snow and hail, you're finally going to move indoors - into the log burner. 😢
Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, indeed!!
This week the sun has come out and the air temperature has zoomed upwards into the mid-30s. That's just too much for a Spaniel who's entire raison d'etre is to crash about in the heather and run full-tilt after any Grouse or Pheasant thus diturbed.
Hence, this morning, nice and early, we took our exercise in Back Forest and came back through Ludschurch Chasm.
Ludschurch is a deep, damp, chilly and eerie place, even on a blistering hot day. Aside from it's association with the "Lollards" and followers of Bishop John Wycliffe, it is also believed to be the setting for the final dramatic act in the Middle English epic story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The writer of the story, who's name has been sadly lost to history, clearly spoke a dialect of Middle English which was local to this area and was quite probably one of the monks at Dieulacres Abbey (near Tittesworth Water). The descriptions of the countryside match places hereabouts he would have known well.
Don't take my word for it; no less a person than Professor Simon Armitage (our current Poet Laureate) has presented TV and radio programmes about it.
Scout just likes the smell and the cool damp atmosphere there!