Monday, 5 February 2007

Saturday, a day of two halves: second half

Seeing how fed-up I was of being stuck inside V. staged a logistical coup - on top of all the other things she is doing in the house, because I can't do my share - she got me, the dog, and a folding stool ( with a green plastic seat) in the car and out into the beautiful afternoon.

A ten minute drive, north up the A62, left behind suburban Oldham for the Pennine countryside; the cultivated green meadows soon giving way to bracken-brown, and olive hues of moor grass and heather. We drove through the carved 'V' in the sandstone Standedge cutting, beneath which the engineering miracles of the rail tunnel and canal tunnel join Lancashire and Yorkshire. Constructed during the industrial revolution, the building of the canal tunnel brought V's ancestors across the Pennines from Hull; they arrived as labourers and after the tunnel was completed in 1811 settled in the Saddleworth area.

At Marsden we turned and climbed back over the Pennines to park up at the Castleshaw reservoir. I perched on a picnic bench with my leg on the stool while V. and Max walked down to the reservoir. The afternoon was crisp and crystal clear, both refreshing and relaxing. I was happy just to be out with my binoculars; not even the sound of off -road motorcycles from somewhere on the other side of the valley could spoil the moment. Simply by being still I was visited by a Robin, Wren and Dunnock who were completely oblivious to my presence. I reflected on a metaphor of the moment: that we see more if we take time to be still.

I was too far from the actual water to see many birds in detail, but made out a Coot, a Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe together with a flock of mixed gulls.

Before the reservoir existed this site had it's place in history: the remains of a Roman fort still exist, it was an important staging post for Roman traders on route between York and Mancunia (Manchester). Although it was a beautiful afternoon I couldn't help thinking that it is a bleak and desolate place to live - especially if you have to wear a toga. There is a local story of a ghostly Roman centurion who still rides the area; looking down at one of the few houses in the valley, I wonder whether there are other hauntings, the date stone on the house marked 1713.

This morning on one of the other blogs I like, Urban Cowgirl, I read an account of a fabulous wilderness trip she took in New Zealand around the volcanic scenery that Howard Shaw used for Lord of the Rings. I don't think her stunning adventure could have made me any happier than my own Castleshaw expedition.

Take a look at the Urban Cowgirl site if you get chance, there are some fabulous photographs.

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