PHIL CALVERT: Making the most of some dry weather

ON July 9th, water company bosses imposed a hosepipe ban.

Monday, 15th November 2010, 1:45 pm

Almost immediately, the heavens opened with 180% of average monthly rainfall being recorded in the last two weeks of July and 75% of average monthly rainfall being recorded during the first two weeks in August. Such was the deluge that, by August 19th, the hospipe ban was lifted.

With the ground permanently sodden, when Wifey and I were looking for a route for one of our regular outings, an over-riding consideration was the nature of the paths we were likely to encounter. Anywhere there was a chance of glutinous mud was avoided like the plague. With little Monty in attendence, so too were pastures where we were unlikely to be confronted by cattle.

Consequently, when we went out walking, we followed tried and tested routes across high moorland, along the shores of lakes, on the towpaths of canals, or perhaps along disused railway lines. There comes a point where you seem to have covered all the obvious local routes and you have to go further afield.

Our recent torrential rain mean this policy of a dry underfoot route finding has continued unabated. A week last Thursday was particularly dreadful and Friday little better. Overnight, however, the skies cleared and Saturday morning dawned, after a sharp frost, with wall-to-wall blue skies: classic walking weather.

Sadly, however, I felt under pressure to take the opportunity to get outside into the garden to clear the generous mulch of fallen leaves that completely covered the driveway, before they started to break down into a muddy mess. Pleading eyes from little Monty swung it in favour of a walk, though any ambitions of a major expedition were vetoed by Wifey’s determination to get the greenhouse cleared out and disinfected prior to the onset of winter. Something local was called for, with minimal travelling time, good quality paths, decent views and maybe even a chance of a quick pint before spending the afternoon in the garden.

In the end we popped over to Turton and Entwistle Reservoir, just south of Darwen, off the ominously named A666, near Egerton. It is one of a pair of reservoirs that straddle the railway line between Blackburn and Bolton. It is an enchanting spot. With nearby woodland and good surfaces throughout, and the main path hugs the “lake side” throughout.

In the shadow of the trees, and still early, after the overnight frost it was bitterly cold and it was necessary to maintain a brisk pace. No sign of drought now, the reservoir was at capacity and still thousands of gallons of water poured in off the nearby moors, at some points the water lapping over the edges of the path. Crossing the beck at the halfway point we entered a world of warm sunshine, sparkling waters and a vista of dark evergreen trees punctuated by the bright yellow and gold of larch and beech.

We eased up the pace a little to enjoy the moment and it was with some sadness that we completed the circuit and returned to the car, the whole walk taking little more than an hour. Casting covetous glances at the paths leading to the lower reservoir of Wayoh, we drove back via Edgworth and then – purely for the purpose of reconnaisance you understand – to The Strawbury Duck, near Entwistle Station. Having turned into the pub car park it would have been unforgiveably rude not to pop inside for at least one, which we did. A fitting end to an excellent morning.

Back home the sun was still shining and the leaves were still laying in deep drifts. Not a time to be languishing indoors. I spent the afternoon, leaf-blowing and gathering-up leaves into the two massive compost bins we have in the paddock, whilst Wifey cleaned and tidied the greenhouse, making life all together more pleasant next spring when the growing season returns with the lengthening of the days.

Her work complete, and with a job well done, in the fading light Wifey retreated indoors to get the tea on, whilst I pottered around in falling temperatures, until darkness fell. With a fire roaring in the grate and with dinner safely tucked away, I reflected on a day when we had taken advantage of the dry weather, had an excellent walk in beautiful surroundings, had a pint and still managed to get out into the garden. All in all a brilliant day.

As bedtime drew near, I went out with Monty, and looked up at clear starlit skies. “Another cold one tonight, little lad,” I murmured. As I stood an endless rain of leaves fell on the driveway and over the roof of the car. The last load from the sycamore for another year. Just a few left on the old beech tree...until next year!

I was looking forward to Sunday. No rain forecast, just autumn sunshine. Another day and more decisions on how to spend our time. Similar to today, I thought, and so a similar game plan: half a day of walking and half a day in the garden, before the return of the deluge on Monday. A case of make hay while the sun shines.