Treat Yourself To A Mini Adventure.

I like train stations, and traveling on the train. My mother used to take my sister and I to visit family in Plymouth when we were younger. It was always a mini adventure within a holiday. We would take a packed lunch, colouring books, reading books and a few toys to entertain us. The thrill of a sudden tunnel plunging everything into darkness, the landscape opening up and revealing the beauty of the English country side. There is nothing quite like it and those memories are some of my most dear. So I find myself with a fondness not of trains or stations in particular, but of the memories they evoke in me.

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They are not the place in which our journeys begin, nor are they where they end. They are transitional points. A pause or a breathing space. So I find myself sat here, noting down ideas in the cold November morning, one train having been cancelled. Everyone bustles about, places to go and things to do. There is no such rush for me today. Today I am on a mini adventure. The bag is packed and the boots are on. The destination is Silverdale, a truly wonderful place teeming with wildlife and wild country.

Already in my journey I am betrayed by my boots, or my socks, the true culprit will likely remain unknown. A blister causes me to change socks on the train ( I keep a spare pair as I tend to end up with wet feet due to misadventures) The train rolls through the scenes and I change quickly at Lancaster, some bustle on my part here. Carnforth comes up quickly, one window revealing a station you would not wish to be caught in come night, the other a literal white picket fence. Almost there.

Silverdale is a small station, two rows of tracks one running north the other south. The air is chill and I am dressed for winter in a thick outer fleece and several layers. Directly ahead lies the village of Silverdale, the right leads to Arnside, beautiful in its own right, and the left to a small bridge and my first stop.

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The area is home to an RSPB wildlife reserve called Leighton Moss, a massive expanse of wetlands and reed beds. I won’t claim to be an authority on the wildlife here, there being dozens of species to be found, I simply enjoy seeing them. There are numerous species of small bird, nuthatches, finches, tits and robins all with their own distinct personalities. Nuthatches tend to bully the smaller birds whilst robins are bold and unafraid.

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There are of course mice and voles of varying kinds, though these are seldom seen. Several hides give good views of the wetlands and the reed beds, views of all manner of water foul, and maybe the occasional Marsh Harrier, though most of these have flown for the season. Deer too populate the area but I have only seen them once in my visits and if you are very lucky the otters may grace you with a glimpse of their play. A Sky Tower gives a fantastic panorama of the reserve though today I find no peace there. Today the reserve is packed full of noisy children and shuffling coffin dodgers. Not the most PC way to put it but I came here for the peace and wildlife, not to be stuck behind a gaggle of greys whilst a little gargoyle shrieks behind me. I decide my peace of mind will be better suited to Trowbarrow to the north.

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A small lane leads to a permissive path which gives way into a sheltered walk between trees and stone. It is like stepping back in time, the world falls away and you are left with tree and stone and yourself, a wonderful feeling. The short walk to Trowbarrow holds a stone face in the rock, perhaps the remains of a giant, a story waiting to be unearthed.

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Trowbarrow itself is deserted, there isn’t another living soul in sight. The covered walk thins and the trees open up to an abandoned quarry. A natural hall of grass and enormous stone walls rise before me. The sense of scale can dizzy you, especially if you are not all too fond of heights. Massive boulders litter the ground, a fantastic place to stop for a spot of lunch and a brew. Out comes the notebook as I watch a murder of crows on the opposite side swoop and dart against the quarry wall. The shadows they cast hide their numbers and I never get an accurate count.

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A silence made from the absence of human noise is perhaps my favourite thing to experience out in the country. Strip away all the distractions and just sit a while in your own company.

Lunch hits the spot and the brew, as always, was most welcome. I’m warm now so I pack away my fleece and put away my things. There is another reserve further north that I have never been to, seems like an ideal destination for my little adventure. I continue on.

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Gait Barrows is based around Hawes Water, a small lake, again with lush reed beds that wildlife thrives in. Here I find all manner of dragon fly and mushroom. The birds are few, skittish in response to the dog walkers. I stop and remove another layer, November seems to be very confused. Fungi blankets the undergrowth.

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In the peace of the day I have forgotten to keep an eye to the time, I may not have anywhere in particular to be but I am a fair way from home and the trains will not wait for me. I have enough time to complete my circuit of Hawes Water. My bearings get a little skewed so I ask a local dog walker if I am on the right path to take me back to Silverdale station. I am, he informs me, just take the permissive path through the pony field. Miriam is the ponies name, or at least the dog walkers name for the pony. His blue eyed brown and white collie seems to want to join me despite my protests, the owners offer of treats seems to swing it in his favour and I continue on without my brief four legged companion. I find a curious mushroom in the undergrowth, one I have never seen before. I believe it to be an Ink Cap of some sort.

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I read some species of Ink Cap are edible but as it has a rather sinister appearance I decide to leave it well enough alone. Don’t mess about with unknown fungus, even if they look delicious.

Miriam’s field cuts a large corner from my circuit so I amble over the stone sty, sweating somewhat in the scorching November sun, seriously November, have a word with yourself. Miriam is a pony, and my equestrian identification probably isn’t what it should be but to me she appears to be a Shetland Pony, I’m probably wrong but she’s got stumpy legs and looks like she would be suited to a Hobbit rider.

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Miriam it appears does not take kindly to interlopers in her field. This is my interpretation of events, though I will begrudgingly admit it is just as likely she was simply curious. Having had bad experiences with geese, swans, cows and horses before when I saw Miriam begin to approach I naturally picked up my pace. She followed suit, her short legs breaking into a quick canter. Not feeling particularly brave I ran for the gate, thanking evolution for opposable thumbs as I click it shut behind me. I flip off the four legged tormentor and head back to the station. Miriam glares daggers into my retreating back, at least that is how I saw the situation.

A short walk along the quiet road leads me back to the station, with minutes to spare my train rolls quietly in. Weary and a little sore (looking at you boots) I sink into the bus shaped train seat, choosing the wrong side of carriage and missing the full view of a beautiful and unobstructed sunset over Morecambe Bay. A day well spent on a mini adventure.

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