Homeward bound

So I decided to walk home from work once more. As it happens this was the fifth time in more or less twelve months working out at roughly once per season – which was by design, not chance.

In late summer I had extended the route by around three miles and I had plans to further lengthen the mileage…but not today, I swore to leave such energetic hi-jinks until the summer, or the spring at least! All the same my colleague did give me that ‘rolling eyes, he’s crazy’ look when i revealed that I was to set off home in the opposite direction. I love Ruff Wood and decided to afford myself the chance of adding this to the walk.

“an eerie creep through a twilight forest is only entertaining at Halloween!”

And to be honest it was a very welcome addition, even though autumn had stripped most of the leaves from the trees, this bearing of the canopy led to a more illuminated amble which was a definite enhancement, an eerie creep through a twilight forest is only entertaining at Halloween! Within a few minutes it was time to leave the enchanted forest (I may be over estimating the appeal of Ruff Wood, but don’t care!) and set off along the path which dissects the twin fields of rapeseed.

“I just wanted to stay dry and had thus far done so”

Mud…and then some!

This proved to be an adventure all on its own as the recent rain had left something of a slippery and arduous trek over to Crosshall Brow. I spoke to one fellow ambler attempting to keep her footing whilst traversing the mud-path who was elated to have remembered to adorn her wellies! I was glad to have worn my walking boots. On reflection, I reckon that I must have spent ten minutes trekking from the edge of Ruff Wood to Crosshall Brow but speed was not to be a concern today…I just wanted to stay dry and had thus far done so.I crossed the A570 and headed off towards Ormskirk town centre…over a mile away. Oddly enough progress was really swift and this was a surprise to me for my right knee (well; just around the back of my right knee) had been giving me some real grief lately, today, so far, not a single of spasm of pain.

The beautiful church at the heart of Ormskirk
The beautiful church at the heart of Ormskirk

Before long I was in the town centre and attempting to weave my way passed people who seemed to have forgotten where they were heading! One person even asked me for directions to the bus station – I failed miserably, Ormskirk is a bloody strange town to plot a route through! I made my way along the main road (ordinarily I turn right on to Burscough Road) but kept on going and passing by the infamous parish church, a stunning building.

Within ten minutes my hitherto suppressed O.C.D. was to characteristically rise up, whilst trying to cross the busy A59. I am by nature quite patient about most things, one of these things is waiting for the traffic lights to change so that I can cross an A-road without getting myself squashed. However, what got to me on this day was an Alsatian dog at the opposite side of the junction. The poor thing kept lunging forward and its dutiful master kept having to pull the excitable hound back and yell at it as part of the process. I couldn’t watch! I’m really pleased to report that nothing horrid happened. But oh my, was this painful to watch, I was in cringe-overflow, bordering on meltdown!

Anticipating bloom!

Eventually we all (Alsatian included), crossed the road and now it was time to tick off my urban walking bucket list the entire length of Southport Road – no, seriously, the whole thing! Outside the Five Ways pub I paused at the moment to check out their impressive Wallflower beds…and was relieved to see that they too (like mine) are yet to come into bloom.By the time I had reached the goose farm at Blind Man’s Lane (where they have the cutest Alpacas!) I had noticed that aside from the time in and around Ruff Wood, there had been precious few quiet times. This is not normally an issue when I came home via Burscough Road and Scarisbrick, but today it seemed like there was just more traffic out and about, which left me wondering that maybe last year (in 2017) I had done this ‘end of term’ walk on a thursday after all. (Update: I just check and did indeed do the same walk on Friday 22nd of December, 2017.)

For the next few miles the traffic only seemed to stay constant, once again (like 2017) I was only passed by a solitary 385 bus, given that it would take me almost three hours to get to McDonalds and there should be one per of these buses hour…I should have been passed by two or three. It was with a little remorse that I passed empty produce fields at Mill Brow – I could have sworn that last year these were filled with maturing cabbages or some other brassica vegetable, of course the air was heady with the ever-present aroma of Leeks but still a little variety is often a welcome bonus. This is one of my two favourite sections of the walk, the lovely, gentle descent into Pinfold with the junction of Smithy  and Pinfold Lanes dissecting the A570 (still named Southport Road at this point). True there are not many houses here and just as true…there isn’t much else but it’s always filled me with a certain warm and familiar feeling – even when I used to catch the bus. I continued my amble and passed through Pinfold and over the Leeds and Liverpool canal taking note of the path which leads up steeply from the canalside to the pavement – opportunities here to perhaps approach this section from further east (Heatons Bridge) at some point in the future? That being proposed, I have to admit that I do find canalside walking tedious in the extreme, even the boat to my left decided to abandon the stretch of water and do its own thing!

Boat by the roadside
A slightly grounded punt!

…it ain’t one bit interesting

Next I made my way along the paving pausing only to stop to photograph the entrance to Scarisbrick Hall Schoool…I must wander up that driveway one day when it’s half-term perhaps. The photo I did get was appalling, featuring an everyday lamppost, so I will have to try again some day! This is the single most flattest part of the route and I have to say it ain’t one bit interesting. True, in Summer the canopy is quite a delight at which one can gaze, but for anyone with a sore neck…you’d be better off saving your expectations for another part of the walk as they are not going to get realised here. In a matter of moments I was debating as to whether I should call in for a sneaky shandy (I don’t do beer and walking together anymore) at the Morris Dancers, it’s nicer than it sounds! I decided against the boozer and carried on towards Carr Cross at the other side of Scarisbrick.

..or at least its domestic cousin the common garden L.E.D…

All of a sudden, these things started to pop up on both sides of the road – HOUSES! It was something of a welcome relief, bearing in mind that this was very close to Christmas and I love looking at other peoples’ decorations, for the scenary to change so radically. Practically gone were the distant, partially washed-out rural views of pastures near and far. Now I had neon – or at least its domestic cousin the common garden L.E.D, in superabundance at which to marvel! The thought had occurred to me in planning that if I were to set off later in the day then I would get to witness more intensely the myriad of festive light shows…but that would have meant staying longer at work and although only in its second year, leaving at lunch feels like a tradition to which I should vehemently adhere. In layman’s terms…I like finishing early for Christmas!

I couldn’t help but notice that the traffic to the right of me had come to a standstill, it was still making a racket, but I did revel in passing cars as a pedestrian! Temporary roadworks were in force and I swear I could feel the resentment from each individual driver. I passed the solitary Dawn Redwood – a tree, not a person, who was atypically unadorned with foliage and appearing more than a little bit skeletal. More impressive were the pair of Weeping Willows and at least because this time because there was hardly any accompanying wind I suffered no whip in the face from their pendulous but lightweight branches. I had now reached the boundary of Snape Green and Carr Cross…next stop Southport but the sky appeared to be darkening.

At times the pavement or at least my usage of it was severly hampered by the odd patch of gloopy builders’ sand – a new estate is springing up at Carr Cross, I had on my walking boots but never really fancied coating our hallway carpet with this dirty substance, so I did my best to avoid the stuff. Above the sky was getting more and more dark…and I was getting quite hyngry, the two motivators would combine and see me not passing straight by McDonalds at Kew!

Junk food and calorific beverage consumed I set off on the last two and a half (the half is important!) mile stretch home. I was pleased that the rain backed off although not altogether. I was also pleased that by this day the kids had broken up for Christmas which meant that I could yomp over Norwood Road and Norwood Crescent without getting stuck behind people walking with all the speed of a charging slug!

A little before four o’clock I arrived at home, pausing only to check my plants in the front garden – the bulbs are racing ahead – I think the daffs could be up by the start of February and the Snowdrops and Crocuses before even then! All in all it was great to walk home from work once more – for the fifth time! This walk marks the departure from the simple, uncomplicated and shorter walks from work. In a way the constant traffic noise has helped me to resolve to walk home via differing routes in the future…although the plan to come home via New Cut Lane and Ainsdale / Birkdale still remains to be one of my most ambitious to date! So this walk rounded off my worst walking year for quite some time but fear not, I’ll be back in the new year with a new resolve…