Capers in the Carrs
20 May, 2018
Unlike last year's lot, the minor dieties responsible for the weather on Sunday were obviously dog lovers. It was a day of bright light in the sky and stars in the ring. But really, it's all about the atmosphere, which, as in the last 5 years, was one of good humour and intense competitiveness hidden under sportsman-like smiles. The only slight hitch was an excess of entrants in the Prettiest Bitch round (16!), about which once upon a time a mildly satirical quip could be made - alas, no longer.
We had a brand-new Agility Course this year, supplied and run by Alex, and it proved to be very popular, if rather arduous for some. Owners didn't hesitate to lower themselves to rank bribery, throwing treats into the tunnel to lure the recalcitrant in. It had little effect, except on one enterprising hound who vanished into the fearful place and did not re-emerge until he'd cleaned up every treat there.
Once again, our tireless John organised the whole affair and did himself and all of us proud. Thank you, sir. Thanks as well to Styal National Trust, whose representatives, Stuart and Lawrence, brought along gazebos and fencing, as well as expertise and good will, and managed the fierce contest in the Agility Ring. The Vets' Place, as they do every year, provided the rosettes and certificates for the winners. And, just before they went defunct, Barker's of Wilmslow donated the prizes. Our judges were Ian and Phil, and they did an outstanding job.
Finally, a big thanks to Emma V and Ann, who looked after the Registration stall, to Emma V and Chris who made some wonderful cakes and Emma H, who sold them.
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Signs of Spring 4
24 April, 2018
Now that's what it's all about, this spring thing! Though if we take it to heart as exemplary behaviour, it is what can only be called intimidating in its fecundity. I mean, thirteen (13)! The thought is enough to reduce me to a gibbering wreck.
Madam, I am awestruck.
Keep the dogs off them, please. Make the Carrs safe for ducklings, for the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes! And another one.
Signs of Spring 3
28 February, 2018
If you were paying any attention at all, you will have noticed that our Signs of Spring series has been as quiet and colourful as snow for quite some time. Nature turned and exposed us as precipitous and reckless in announcing that the time of Venus had arrived. We feel duly penitent.
Although our best hopes have been dashed before, we nonetheless continue with that optimism that characterises the blessed and the idiotic, and resume our celebration of the rebirth of the year.
Signs of Spring 2
1 March, 2018
The snowdrops below fearlessly defy The Beast from the East, though, truth be told, it doesn't really look so beastly here.
The best clumps are to be found on the other side of the river where the feet of the real beasts cannot tread on them.
Signs of Spring 1
28 February, 2018
The first in our series is on the right. Questionable whether it can count as a sign of spring. Nonetheless, some tribute should be paid to our resident heron, and this is as good a time as any. Mark that intent and predatory gaze. It bodes ill for something small and slippery.
The photographer tells me that the bird's name is Henry, but doesn't recount how introductions were made. He has also established a line of communication with the creature and reports that it is muttering, "Here I am all done up in my smart new feathers and ready to go, but where's Spring?" What function would these smart new feathers have in the scheme of things? Are they there to catch the eye of others of the same feather? To what purpose? Return soon for further updates.
Bags of Help for the Carrs
3 December, 2017
You may remember that last year we won some money in Tesco's Bags of Help scheme. Well, that money has been put to good use down by the Twinney's Car Park where we now have a new picnic area as well as improved habitats along that stretch of the river. We've planted wild flowers in their hundreds and endangered species of trees as well as controlling the Japanese Knotweed on the whole park.
Immense thanks must go to Emma Houghton and John Booth for making the application and then managing the implementation of the plan. The outcome is there for all to us to enjoy and we are all the beneficiaries.
Wilmslow cleans up (the awards)
2 November, 2017
Every year, the RHS hands out It's Your Neighbourhood awards. FOTC has scored well a few times already, but now for the second year running, FOTC has received the top award, an "Outstanding" grading, from the judges at a presentation ceremony in Southport.
This special award for community projects based on gardens, allotments and parks was in recognition of the maintenance and development of aspects of the Carrs, such as the planters, the wild flower areas, the picnic areas and the river banks, for the benefit of the many visitors to the park. The judges commented particularly on the cleanliness and lack of litter in the park and the river.
Chair of FOTC Ian Baillie said, "We are delighted to receive this award, which is a great recognition of all the hard work all our team have put in over the year and of the support we have had from the users of the park. We hope we can maintain the standard over the next twelve months."
It doesn't stop there. Not only did the town's In Bloom team win four awards, but Transition Wilmslow and a Chapel Lane group also got in on the act and deserve our heartiest congratulations. A town is as good as the people in it, and this town has a lot of good people.
The photo on the right was taken at the awards ceremony and shows our very own Ian Baillie (second from left) among other worthy winners.
1 November, 2017
The Carrs is doubly improved. Not only the toilet block, but a cafe inside it. And random observation indicates that it is popular and well-used. Long may it prosper.
In the photo below, Robert serves a capuccino.
Attack on the Killer Plants
The Battle of Balsam resumed on Sunday, the forces ranged against each other along the Bollin below the second bridge, the locals heavily outnumbered but reinforced.
The reinforcements were Viv (impressive because she'd been once, and yet returned) and a wonderful family from Wythenshawe, Sean and Janet with all four (4) children, Lojska, Peter, Robbie and Joseph. They are experienced campaigners, heavily involved in Wythenshawe Park and Sale Water Park. It doesn't end there. Ian, by fair means or foul, persuaded his grandson, Ben, to lend the power of his right arm (or at least his smile, see right) to the battle. We are very grateful for their fantastic help. A heroic and very effective platoon we all made.
Gym pops up on the Carrs
30 June, 2017
The new RotaGym was installed in the Carrs on Friday, 30 June, thanks to the generosity of Wilmslow Rotary and Cheshire East Council. The team were just clearing up when the first "gymnasts" arrived, eager to try out the new equipment and confirm that it all worked well - they left feeling fitter already. By Saturday, it was a full house in the Gym. Use of the RotaGym is free, and the equipment is intended for anyone over the age of 14. Instructions are given on each item.
Nothing caps the capers in the Carrs
14 May, 2017
Things were a little slow at first, perhaps because of the uncertainty about the weather. But they soon warmed up. There would be no repeat of last year's ice-breaking huddle out of the rain and under the discomfortingly cosy shelter of the gazebos. Events succeeded each other with the military-like precision you have come to expect from FOTC occasions, all the while accompanied by exemplary judging, good humour and cakes. Dogs paraded. Owners preened. Cakes and sausage rolls were grabbed and consumed.
Thanks are due firstly to John, who not only organised this grand affair starting several months ago, but even built the agility course and delivered and removed a car and trailer-load of material, not to mention 80 sausage rolls. Thanks as well to Styal National Trust, whose representatives, Craig and Charlotte, brought along gazebos and fencing, as well as expertise and lots of good will. An honourable mention must also go to our new judge, Phil, who did an excellent job.
Barker's of Wilmslow very generously provided the prizes for our nine winners. The Animal Sanctuary, as always, brought along Teabag, who never fails to capture the attention of the children (and some dogs). The Vets' Place were just as kind as in previous years and provided the rosettes and certificates for the winners. New boys and girls on the block, Ohana, of Handforth, did some dog pampering and made a donation to FOTC.
Finally, a big thanks to Emma and Ann, who (wo)manned the Registration stall, to Barbara and Chris who made some wonderful cakes and sold them, to Polly, who extracted money out of children for the tombola, and Ian, whose artistry created the portraits of the winners you see below.
A Busy Weekend in the Carrs
13 May, 2017
On Saturday May 13th, Mockbeggar Morris from the Wirral visited the Carrs Park in Wilmslow to perform one of their northwest-style clog dances. To celebrate their 25th anniversary, they were touring the Cheshire and Greater Manchester area to visit some of the places after which their dances are named. One of the dances is called "Bollin" and as the river Bollin runs through the Carrs they chose to start their tour here.
Whomping the willow
30 April, 2017
FOTC Chairman, Ian Baillie, has a little list. Well, actually, it's quite a long one as it contains all the jobs we keep asking to be done. But since age does not wither it, nor custom stale it, we loaded the barrows with implements of war and set to.
Two main jobs. A willow bough had fallen in the river just after the weir, and that needed to be removed. Secondly, the willow we planted a couple of years ago to hold firm the banks against the ravages of the Bollin in spate has not only done that job wonderfully, but has flourished so as to hide the river entirely - it was in for a severe pruning, just downriver from the picnic area and beyond Red Rock.
Apart from the usual suspects, Park Runners came along to help. Amanda joined the crack willow team while Gary, Anne, Alice and Jane scoured the Twinnies car park for litter, most of which turned out to be dutifully bagged, and then abandoned, dog poo. Why do people do this? (Answers on a postcard, please, and mailed to Prince Philip, who would know how to deal with them.)
28 April, 2017
See below for evidence that the Carrs gets better day by day, one loo at a time, and that the pessimists don't always carry the day.
04 April, 2017
Led by Emma Houghton and our redoubtable chairman (see right), a crack team limbered up and got down to earth by the river near the Twinnies car park to plant some bank-hugging trees. These, it is hoped, will slow the erosion of the friable and already steep riverbank much loved by the local breed of flying dog. And no, we are not trying to ruin their fun (entirely).
Flowers are pretty; toilets are not
21 March, 2017
Nonetheless, what is pretty does not always serve. And it has long been noted that what serves even less is what is not there. Which is to say, toilets. Caught short is caught out and ruins the picnic. Help is at hand. See left. Photographic evidence of work being done on your behalf and for your benefit.
Bollin Valley - Past and Present
30 January, 2017
Not exactly news, but nonetheless worth shouting about. Keith Warrender has written many fine books about Manchester from his corporate HQ in Macclesfield, but has not neglected his back yard. My favourite (though, I hasten to add, not my only) Christmas present in 2013 was Bollin Valley: From Macclesfield to the Ship Canal, a book that does what it says on the cover, and quite a journey it is, too. Any journey worth its while asks more questions than it answers. Keith Warrender has answered them in Bollin Valley: Past and Present, which was my favourite present (of countless) this last Christmas. Both are beautifully illustrated with many historical photos in addition to those taken by the author, have what so many history/geography books cry out for, clear and helpful maps, and collect and present a wealth of information that would be very difficult to pick up otherwise. Both are available at Waterstone's in Wilmslow or at that online place. Highly recommended.
9 November, 2016
There are men, and then there's the real thing. He saw the problem; he fixed it. 'It' being the dog sign, flat on the grass like a sick dog. 'He' being our John. All hail the hero of the month!
3 November, 2016
With every future mention of FOTC, please be aware that the epithet 'award-winning' is now obligatory.
At a Royal Horticultural Society ceremony in Southport on Thursday October 27th the Friends of the Carrs received the RHS It's Your Neighbourhood top award of a Level 5 "Outstanding" certificate for their work in looking after the Carrs. Chair of the Friends Ian Baillie said, "We were delighted to go even one better than last year's achievement of a level 4 certificate, and we see this as a great reward for all our efforts over the year and a recognition of what a valuable resource the Carrs Country Park is for Wilmslow. When the RHS judges visited us in July, the sun was shining, the grass was freshly cut, families were picnicking, children were playing in the play areas and in the sparklingly clean river, and the benches were occupied by people of all ages just enjoying being there. And there wasn't a speck of litter to be seen!"
PS. On the Friday, Wilmslow won Gold in the North West in Bloom ceremony. Not a bad week, wouldn't you say?,
Flora sprinkles her (delayed) magic
16 October, 2016
Flora may not have appeared in person, but her acolytes were out in force on Sunday, after enduring the AGM, to plant the seeds of beauty for next spring.
The soft earth of the Carrs welcomed over 200 wild flower plug plants and 100 snake's head fritillary bulbs, some in the wet areas and others in the community orchard. If only a few come to flower, it will mean a nectar boost for the bees and butterflies all through next year.
26 June, 2016
On a weekend of high drama, of alliances fracturing and governements tottering, FOTC were in the thick of it. Expertly avoiding all discussion of Next - no, that's not it ... Becks - no, try again - brecks? breakfast? ... of breck something or other, and in a spirit of cameraderie that seems to have been wanting recently, they gloved up and got down to business. It was great to see some new faces, even if they were sweaty ones.
The photo below shows them at work. Yes, it is mostly a vision of backs and bottoms, but the real work is happening at the other end.
Don't worry if you missed out. There's another one in less than 2 weeks, on Sunday, the 10th. Come along!
Dog Day Delight
22 May, 2016
Contestants were signing up even before the official opening at noon. The sunshine crackled with anticipation and the contained tension that precedes a great sporting contest. Prettiest Bitch, Most Handsome, Best Trick, ... Sign me up! Sign me up! But there was room for the dogs, too. And a new competition for them - the Agility Course run by Daniel Riley, which proved the most popular of all (though perhaps not with the lady who had to crawl through the last tunnel with her spaniel).
Five contests decided and everything proceeding with the military precision you have all come to expect from FOTC when the sky darkens, the temperature plummets and the wind turns flesh blue. It rains. The arena empties.
What might have spelt the end in fact called forth the spirit of the Blitz and, throwing English people into a huddle of a most unaccustomed intimacy under the gazebos, it enlivened conversation and caused the sale of sausage rolls to spike. No one left. We waited.
Before a single defeatist thought had been uttered, the judges (Craig and Vicky from Style NT with Ian Baillie of FOTC), nothing daunted by the downpour, marched out and called the competitors to order. The malevolent minor deities of the upper air sensed the implacability of their determination, retreated and took the rain with them. The announcement of Best Overall was greeted with rapturous applause in weak but growing sunshine and the party broke up with smiles all around.
Many thanks are due. Vicky and Craig of the National Trust, Styal, provided most of the equipment as well as judging with impeccable disinterestedness. Damian Riley set up and managed the Agility Course. The Vets' Place provided the rosettes and certificates for the winners. The Animal Sanctuary brought Teabag along to delight the children. Barkers of Wilmslow provided the prize goody bags. But the biggest thanks must go to John Booth, who not only organised the show, but set it up, begged and bought material, not to mention cooking and heating up the sausage rolls. The inestimable ladies of FOTC made the cakes.
Apologies to Scooby, a Jack Russell belonging to Jane Hill of Wilmslow, who won Best Trick. We have somehow managed to lose the photo of the winning couple. Sorry, Jane. Sorry, Scooby.
Dolling up the Carrs for summer
Look at those men on the right. What are they doing? They're wearing hi-vis jackets so it must be important, mustn't it? The one with the uncombed hair (well, what would be the point?) - what's he holding? Could they help the police, or anyone else for that matter, with their enquiries?
What those two layabouts were doing had nothing to do with what they were supposed to be doing; indeed, they were gazing gormlessly at a huge fallen fir tree and reflecting on mortality (as well they might, by the look of them). What they were supposed to be doing was in fact being done by their less philosophical, but vastly more useful, companions, who had set to some hours previously to prune with commendable vigour the willow on the river bank.
We planted this willow just a couple of years ago to grip and keep hold of the friable banks of the Bollin. This job it has done superbly, but willow grows like rabbits breed and, throwing up its arms to heaven in questionable ecstacy, blocks the view of the river to ordinary mortals. So the select group you see below gathered to restore that view and, in two spots, succeeded admirably.
But that is only half the story. Earlier the Wilmslow Clean Team had flown in from ... Wilmslow to bend their backs picking up, and enrich their imagination wondering about, the litter left in the Carrs by their fellow citizens.
A big thank you to them and to all those who came to help.
Fly tipping outrage
On Thursday, the 17th of March, at about 9am, your under-cover reporter approached Twinnies car park disguised as a dog-walker and was taken aback to find a lady adding to an immense pile of rubbish by the already overflowing bins. The scene was so incongruous that questions had to be asked and duly were. After intense interrogation, the story came out.
This visitor from Southport was going to meet a friend in Wilmslow at 9. Scarred by previous experience of peak-hour on Styal Road, she had come at 7 for a walk in the Carrs. It was a walk she was never to take. No sooner had she stepped out of her car than she noticed a baby's carry-chair sitting forlornly by the bridge. As she approached, more and more rubbish came into view, strewn down the bank to the river. Filled with righteous indignation, but with no guilty party in sight, she set to on the clean-up. Two hours later, she was still at it.
Your correspondent could not help digging a little deeper. And the findings throw a very different light on the incident. Two in particular. Prescription medicine, a name on the packet, most of the tablets still in their wrapping. A credit card in good condition, with a different name. Could it be that this was not your usual idiot? That what we were looking at was an after-crime scene, the detritus of two or more burglaries?
Pausing only for essential business (throwing the ball for the dog - the disguise must be maintained no matter what the circumstances), your reporter rushed home to phone the police, who were straight on the job*. Cheshire East were likewise informed and agreed that, yes, this could be a significant find.
And the bin men cleared the crime scene.
And so this drama ended.
Saps and saplings
FOTC is 'thriving'
29th October, 2015
Though we are not entirely sure what it means; we are quite certain that it is a good thing. Friends of the Carrs stalwarts, Colin Shepherd, Ian Baillie and John Booth (photo) risked life and limb travelling to Southport for the Royal Horticultural Society presentation ceremony, where they picked up an 'It's Your Neighbourhood' Level 4 award entitled 'Thriving'. Despite the fog of confusion hovering before their eyes, all three made it back to Wilmslow with the certificate and were able to raise a smile at their narrow escape from Lancashire.
Party in the Park (fourth edition)
11/12th July, 2015
The weather looked decidedly ropey on the Saturday, drizzle for most the morning and early afternoon. It did not bode well for the open-air cinema showing of Mamma Mia. And yet, so I'm told, over 1000 people turned up and not a wet bum among them. Perhaps they can thank the 80-strong Magic Voices choir who warmed up the evening and blew away the clouds.
The Party was similarly blessed. There were about 1500 visitors to this fourth edition, with live music from local entertainers and many very popular food stalls. Well done, Wilmslow Council - you're on to a winner.
Balsam Bash Ep. 1
28th June, 2015
A rather disappointing turn-out, but no lack of enthusiasm from first-timer Andrew and son Sam, as well as the rest of us. We worked mainly beyond the second bridge.