Archive for the ‘Local walks’ Category

Winter Greetings everyone


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Steal softly through snow

Unusually for this area we have about a foot of snow. This started falling last night, while we were out with friends for a pre-Christmas meal. We played a game of Desert Island Dinner, taking turns to name and describe favourite songs, which we could not hear – which sounds weird, but worked. The plan now is to make a compilation CD, which will be marvellously varied – a choral harmonised version of The Lord is my Shepherd segueing into Bikini Girls with Machineguns, and new-to-most-of-us things like a version of Lay Lady Lay by Melanie.

Then I got home and read that Captain Beefheart had died. Sudden clear memories of listening to Trout Mask Replica over and over; Steal Softly through Sunlight, Steal Softly through Snow

By the morning the snow looked like this:


I walked over the hill at the back of our house, past a field of sprouts which were being planted when this same walk was part of my recovery from surgery.


This time last year, being out in cold weather was giving me mystery pains. Now, this kind of thing feels great as my bypass-infused heart does its thing. A small warm thing moving through a big cold place.


I ended up in town, which seemed curiously disappointing with its trampled paths, dripping eaves, Santa and normality.


I was glad I had gone out earlier, into the uncanniness of the new drifts.

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Another few snatched miles of local walking – drifting north, away from home, maybe even away from 50…

My ‘no pubs next to stations’ rule is easy to follow at Burscough Junction, as the ‘Junction Hotel’ is derelict, though a notice on the door referring to ‘peaceful re-entry’ by the owners suggests it might soon stir into life. I walked into town, and failed to join the canal at the Waterfront which had a strange, dark, neglected dead-end garden.


I found the path on the other side of the bridge. A large factory was also derelict, rooks flying around the top of its chimney. I wonder what was made here – and when it will become apartments.


Soon I found the Ship Inn, aka the Blood Tub – does anyone know how it got its name? And walked up to Rufford in alternating cloud and sun.


Saw a heron, thought through some vexatious work stuff, and got the train back.

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Aughton Park to Town Green

Just a little local walk today. I had planned to continue the main journey but work and some slight under-the-weatherness have intervened. So I continued my journey between the stations between Ormskirk and Liverpool, starting about a mile from home at Aughton Park, where what looks like small copses on the map seems to be larger-than-usual wooded embankments.


I stopped for a pint in the Dog and Gun, expecting what I have found there before a quiet, rather 1950s pubbiness. Instead, there was what seemed to be an extended family celebration of some kind, with kids in tutus, teenagers and uncle-type men in suits. Baby food was warmed up behind the bar. It was like being a ghost at a family party in a house – just not a public house.


I walked a couple of miles in chilly air that sears my lungs at the moment (must go to quack.) Typical brassica-filled West Lancs views opened out on to brightening skies over Merseyside.



I reached the boundary of Town Green which, like the Village in The Prisoner, is guarded by an unexpected spherical thing.


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Although I don’t go in for New Year resolutions, I have decided to do do more local walking in between the main legs of the trip, which will tend to be less frequent as the start-points get more distant. My first idea is to walk to Liverpool along the Northern Line train route, hiking station to station (which suggests a Bowie soundtrack: ‘Got to keep searching/and searching/oh what will I be believing/and who will connect me with love?’)


There being no time like the present, I ventured out from my front door at 6.30am on January 1st, to walk from Ormskirk to Aughton Park stations.


It was quiet after the midnight firework cannonades and party laughter of a few hours ago. A heavy frost turned objects such as cars into white sculptures of themselves. I crossed the park and walked up to the town centre, passing a couple returning from a party. With their hoodies and quiet talk they made me think of monks on the night stair. Rags of pre-Christmas snow still occupied odd corners, like the remnants of the old decade overlooked in the frantic Cava-fueled cleanup.


The clock tower was surrounded by broken bottles, the compass set in the pavement glistening with glass as well as frost. Ormskirk’s municipal time- and space-equipment had obviously been the site of revelry…


I had a fantasy of stumbling on to the last moments of a party – in Burscough Street I heard music and thought this was coming true, but it was just the muzak of the covered shopping alley, playing cheerily to an absent audience: Prokofiev’s Troika with a calypso beat.


I reached the station. No trains were scheduled until 8.20, removing the temptation to do this walk backwards from Liverpool. I took pictures, under the gaze of the CCTV cameras, vaguely anxious even at this unpeopled hour that someone would object to my photography. Many things have become forbidden or compulsory in the years running up to this new one; frontiers shift and multiply; our bodies and the spaces they move through become contested and unprotected image-taking seems to be on the forbidden list. Can I mix my own data-spoor with a public park? Or was pulling these shapes into my camera some form of transgression?


I walked on, replaying my normal walk back from work, an unwise man going home by a different route. The first bit of terra incognita was a right-of-way alley alongside the railway line.


Here I found the Significant Object of this walk: yards and yards of unspooled videotape, lying in the frost. I traced it to its source and found, of all things, Fantasia: a film that is nearly three-score-and-ten years of age, that I saw over 40 years ago, and that has been through numerous restorations and losses of original elements. Now this particular copy decays into the frozen verge, a magnetic version of Rite of Spring slowly sacrificing itself into the brittle grass, the servants of the Sorceror’s Apprentice coming to rest in the roots.


Back on roads, Black Moss and Long Lanes, I walked around the outskirts of Ormskirk and into Aughton, cold fields to my left.


Birds began to sing. There was a Subway delivery van outside the Baptist chapel. A young woman was dropped off at a house. I walked through a faint cloud of her perfume.


Unexpectedly, I reached Aughton Park station. Someone had tweeted me an excerpt from a poem: later found to be ‘The Gate of the Year’: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

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