It's windy, there are still pockets of snow on the hills, but the sun is out and we intend to make the most of it. We've had a long absence due to Easter and family demands, and this will be our last walk together for quite some time, so we want it to be a good one.
Once we're finally ready - it does seem to take us some time - we go down the grassy slope to the reservoir-side path and head south towards the A57. Everything is turning lush and green as though Spring is hurrying to make up for time lost to the overlong Winter
Into the next field we come across more sheep, and once we're through the next gate there are even more, with barely enough
grass to keep them all. Then we see the farmer hovering, clearly unhappy that we are there although we are on the footpath and keeping Mollie under very close control. The sheep don't actually seem too concerned about us.
PC struggles with the gate out of the field, she'd obviously not eaten her Weetabix this morning, so we have to swap dog duties for gate duties. Once through, and the gate secured behind us, the farmer waits at the next gate, opening it for us. He's clearly not very happy and replies to our 'Good Mornings' and 'Thank Yous' with a taciturn 'You should have gone the other way'.
We returned to our route though the fields across the lane from Crookhill Farm, then out onto the access land beneath Crook Hill and our next encounter. Highland Cattle. As you may know, I have a severe aversion to cattle in any shape or form, but PC promised to put herself between them and us. Fortunately, only one relatively small beastie was near us, scratching on a route marker, and giving us only scant attention. I gave him a wide berth as we set off up the bridleway that took us past Crook Hill.
We stay for quite a long time enjoying the sunshine, the chocolate, the mellowing effects of the Ramblers and catching up on all the news, but we must move on so gather our things and set off again into the teeth of the wind. By the time we're walking up the broad grassy slope to the top of Bridge-end pasture we're finding it hard to keep on our feet, and not because of the alcohol. It's gale force up here and we have to hold on tight to our hats.
At Open Hagg we can look down to the A57, then follow its course as it bends along the valley heading for Manchester. We continue along our path then turn right on the Lockerbrook path.
It's wide, easy walking and we're soon passing Lockerbrook Farm. A little way beyond the farm is a path leading downhill towards Fairholmes, and we decide that this is as good as any. There are sheep and cows in the field but they are at the other side of the small stream, so I feel safe.
We're in need of coffee, so we have a cup first before eating our sandwiches. Then we have a mini-orange (healthy) and a chocolate chip & banana cookies (not so healthy) each before having our official buns. One of our favourites today, though we can't get them often enough. Fresh cream strawberry tarts; sweet pastry, creme anglaise, strawberries and cream. Yum! It is almost a shame to have another coffee after them, although the coffee is very good today, too.
Whilst we're eating we are joined by an uninvited guest. No, not an adder this week, but a duck. A female mallard waddles over to us and waits patiently, hopefully, but in vain. Mollie, observant as she is, never even notices the new arrival who eventually waddles away in disgust.
With our late lunch over we go back to the path and through a gate into the woods at Lockerbrook Coppice. The path is very clear, and is probably waymarked from Fairholmes, although you have to look carefully for the signs going downhill. To be fair, it must be quite a pull if you're approaching it from the bottom.
We have a fair few photo opportunities, the reservoir looks very inviting through the trees, but we're travelling downhill quite rapidly and we're soon by the road across from Fairholmes. We cross over to visit the facilities and aren't too surprised to see how many cars are in the car park. It is a lovely day, after all.
Once we've finished at Fairholmes we head back to the road, follow it a little way then veer off to pick up the reservoir-side path. It's quite a long walk back to the cars, but a very pleasant one. PC stops to photograph a clump of miniature daffodils growing at the side of one of the fences, probably planted deliberately as a memorial, and at one point we have to side-step a frog in the middle of the path.
When we reach our cars we have enough time to sit on a bench and enjoy a late-birthday celebration drink along with the last of the Turkish Delight.
It has been an absolutely fantastic day and we have both thoroughly enjoyed it. But we're a bit sad too. PC is off to sail the seven seas (well, maybe not all seven!) and will be away for some time which means our walking, for now, is over. I'll try to keep going out, though it will feel very strange being on my own and until I get used to it I'll feel quite vulnerable too. But I'll continue to post - just to let her know what she's missing!