Having spent my entire life living in the North of England (well, sometimes it felt like I was living in a succession of Premier Inns during the later part of my working life), I’ve always been a bit mystified that some people, especially Southern people, regard August as High Summer.
For me, August is very much “back end”, everything we’ve managed to get to flower in the garden has done it’s thing and the blooms are now decaying and distinctly past their best. The endless evening light of June and July is a vanishing vision in the rear view mirror of another year passing. The warmth has gone from the morning and evening sun and when we wake in the morning, it’s still only half-light.
Thus it was this morning, the moon was still high and very visible in the sky when one of us poked a head out of the bedroom window. The valley floor below us was filled with a grey mist. There was the unmistakable smell of autumn on the still air …..and it was chilly. Very chilly! But it was also dry and the sky was promising some sunshine.
So it was, a good 4.5 mile walk after breakfast, followed by a litter-pick and down to Leek to get some food shopping done. The air warmed up nicely and it was a lovely day.
After unpacking the bags and stuffing the fridge, we decided to have a wander round Buxton Country Park for the last bit of the afternoon.
As I was ambling up to Solomon’s Temple, thinking deep thoughts and reflecting on the meaning of life, Scout was whizzing back and forth in the undergrowth either side the track – as she always is.
Then I noticed that she’d taken on a strange green, lumpy appearance. At first, I thought it was the dappled light coming through the trees, but no, she really had become green all over and not at all the sleek spaniel I’d come out with.
She was absolutely “caked” with bindweed seeds. Thousands and thousands of them, tangled deeply into her ginger coat and clumped like hedgehogs in her flappy ears.
As we walked, all those people who normally show signs of affection for this affable spaniel, stared and recoiled in horror as this hideous green, hairy lump shambled towards them.
It took a full hour with the wire grooming brushes (which oddly were in the back of the car), to tease out these hideous things. So, if you arrive on the car park at Pooles Cavern anytime soon and spot what looks like a circular brown/green doormat-like object on the floor, well, now you know……
After 8 days of seeing the fire tenders and water tankers trundling past Roachside, the fire is now out. Around 200 acres of our beautiful North Staffordshire moorland habitat reduced to charcoal and ash. Countless scores of small mammals, millions of insects and grubs destroyed and the moorland predator birds which depend on them displaced.
There will be several day’s work yet for the fire crews; recovering miles of hosepipe, remote pump skids and dismantling the many prefabricated tanks which have been situated strategically for the water tankers to offload into and for the pump units and helicopter to draw out of.
Thousands of man-hours of effort. Countless gallons of diesel fuel, movement of fire crews around three counties to cover the stations of the fire tenders tied up at this one incident.
Hundreds of hours for the Staffordshire Wildlife volunteers who have been intercepting and diverting walkers and would-be sightseers and maintaining the road closures to allow unrestricted access to the emergency vehicles.
All for the sake of a camp fire.
Quite possibly a camp fire lit by two young chaps who called here for water on the Wednesday evening, before the fire was spotted on Thursday morning, and who were warned to not light fires, use barbecues or smoke in the woods or on the moor.
If those two young men would like to come forward and eliminate themselves from the inquiry, I’d be so happy. I really would.
I suspect that they won’t.
The powerful and evocative Weeping Window exhibition reached Stoke-on-Trent this week.
This is an extension of the stunning “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” installation by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, which was the centrepiece of the Great War Centenary at the Tower of London in 2014 and which has been touring the nation since.
The Weeping Window has been set up on one of the few remaining “bottle ovens” in Stoke-on-Trent at the world famous Burleigh Pottery factory in Middleport – just down the road from the factory where almost a million poppies were made specially for the project.
We went along to visit as soon as it opened. It’s very impressive & very moving.
It was good to see how well attended it was and to see how both the volunteers and staff from the Burleigh Factory have become so enthusiastically involved.
Even without the poppies, the factory is a great day out – preserved largely in the way my own grandfather would have recognised - and still manufacturing pottery ware.
All in all, a “must do” if you are in the area before 16th September.
It’s uncannily quiet here at Roachside just at the moment. The rumble of the fire tenders and emergency water tankers passing every few minutes through the last couple of days has stopped. There is no helicopter buzzing back and forth with water bag trailing beneath it and there are no cars parked along the road here, no visitors to The Roaches this weekend.
Where the ice cream van normally sells refreshment to thirsty walkers, there are a couple of fire engines parked and locked-up, their crews out on foot with beating poles and spades following the snow-tractor along the still smouldering edge of the moorland fire.
The view down from the trig point this morning, towards Shawside, was like looking into some post-apocalyptic battlefield, shrouded in smoke. The woodland above The Five Clouds is still burning – albeit now controlled and contained.
All of this is waiting for a decent downpour of rain. Man’s efforts, valiant as each fire fighter may be, impressive though the deployment of clever equipment is in controlling fire, are truly feeble in comparison to what a change in the weather can do.
Just as the hot, dry weather has much magnified the stupidity of a single person in creating such destruction.
Our sincere thanks go to the Firefighters of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Services who have worked so well together to control and contain this blaze.
Thursday lunchtime and the fire has taken hold in the woods behind Roachside