As it snowed overnight, I thought I’d invite you to join me on a virtual stroll round Sunnyhurst Wood, an early Edwardian park in my home town Darwen, Lancashire.
Snow resists us, helps us live in the moment. As long as you don’t need to get anywhere in a hurry, snow can be a good thing. Of course, here in England, we’re never really prepared for weather like this: roads were blocked, planes at Manchester airport grounded and schools were closed.
But in Sunnyhurst Wood, all that chaos seemed a long way away. My favourite part has always been the paddling pool, with its arched ‘fairy’ bridges. They’re not ideally suited to snowy weather but still passable provided you take a bit of a run at them. Twin bridges are behind, out of shot, with a small, ornamental weir that leads down to a waterfall.
A young dog was having a whale of a time playing in the snow. I can’t think how she’d stayed so clean. If I’d have turned the camera on myself you’d have seen I was a mucky pup myself by this stage, after scrambling up to viewpoints that turned out to be less easy to scramble down from.
The snowy bandstand may seem deserted, but you may have noticed the paths are well trodden. You’ll meet friendly walkers, many exercising their children or their dogs, year round, in all weather, here and on the footpaths that criss-cross the moors above. That’s just part of our Lancashire way of life.
The footpath leads to The Olde England Kiosk, where I’ve enjoyed many a cup of hot chocolate.
I’m grateful for beech leaves in the winter as they provide a pop of colour while the other trees are bare. I spotted two or three trees covered with pale pink blossoms too, but couldn’t get close enough to get a decent picture with my iPhone without risking a tumble down the hillside.
The stream that flows through the steep sided valley, and the water features created by a different age along it, play a big part in the character of Sunnyhurst Wood. Unlike other parks built around the same time, the planting is naturalistic, without island beds lined out with annuals, and I like it the better for that. In spring, many areas are carpeted with wild bluebells.
Ornamental stone bridges cross the river in several places including here by the Visitor Centre. This is one of my favourite walks: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this place.
My route home took me up the path that winds up the hill to the right, then back into town.