PHIL CALVERT: We’ve certainly no drought here in the North West

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IF ever there was a statistic which shouted out a difference between the North-West of England and the South-East then surely it is the declaration of drought in a huge swathe of South-Eastern counties.

Counties such as Berkshire and Oxfordshire have joined the likes of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk as being categorised as at high risk of drought measures including hosepipe bans. It is a bit different around here!

We all know Lancashire is a damp county, and particularly so, the mill town areas, pressed up against the flanks of the West Pennine Moors and the Pennines, here in the east of the county.

Indeed, the reliable access to water helped kick-start the industrial revolution in these parts, and it was the location of choice for manufacturers moving into the infant cotton industry in the days when Burnley and the rest were boom towns. Now those days have gone but we still have our damp climate to contend with.

Many are the times I have been travelling home from sunshine holidays in Wales (in parts even wetter than here) or Cornwall to be met by rain at Haslingden, while a carpet of grey cloud hangs over Accrington. Similarly, leaving Harrogate on the A59, it starts to get a bit dodgy at Blubberhouses, becoming reliably wet this side if Skipton. It is a smilar tale on the M62 coming over from Leeds. As you near Oldham and Rochdale, you switch the windscreen wipers on.

This climatic differential between the South-East and here, means we are likely to be bombarded with the sight of intrepid BBC reporters standing next to near empty reservoirs for months to come, and the words “drought” and “hosepipe ban” will become common currency on news programmes – but it will not mean here.

In fact trying to get jobs done outside between showers has been more of an issue for me. For months, the fields near my home have been sodden. Except when frozen, paths have been consistently muddy, and when out with Monty, finding routes that are firm under foot has been a real issue. Unlike the drought stricken South-East, I have been waiting for gaps between the showers so I can get out and about.

Such a time occurred last week, when mid-morning, realising we were in for a dry day, Wifey and I grabbed the opportunity to pop up to the Lakes for a walk. Time was limited by our late start, and so we opted for the circuit of Elterwater which we did a few months ago. Paths are good almost throughout, route finding a doddle and … err, places of refreshment abundant.

Starting near Skelwith Bridge we followed the well trodden “tourist’ path to Elterwater where we enjoyed a varied liquid lunch. Then along the old track over into Little Langdale, distracted only briefly by the delights of the Three Shires Inn (amazing to think all this, including Coniston, and most of Windermere was once Lancashire) we visited one of my favourite places, the charming little packhorse bridge of Slater Bridge (pictured). From there the path follows an easy route to the magnificent, Colwith Force, then again on excellent paths back to Skelwith Bridge. A delightful and varied route, and though not challenging, is a delight throughout, and pretty much mud free.

We took the ferry back across Windermere, a simple little treat in itself, before stopping off for chips in Bowness. An excellent end to a brilliant day, one which sadly, I will soon have no time to repeat.

The advent of Lent means work commitments start to take over (we re-open at Reedley on March 1st) and so for Lent I give up leisure and it will be July before work pressures ease again. Although occasionally frustrating, however, the joys of springtime in the nursery trade make it a labour of love.

Soon I will be hanging up my walking boots for a while. I just wish it was as easy to give up using an umbrella!