Big Bird in Biggin Dale

Feathered Behemoth of Thrice Dale

Deep in the depths of the Peak District lies a small village called Hartington. It is said by some that, many years ago, the town was visited by a wealthy squire from a far-off land. Nobody knew exactly where he came from or why, but he was generous with coin and compliment and, when he decided to stay, the villagers were glad and all was happy with the world.

The squire liked to party. He also liked the hotel he was staying in. So he bought it. And from then on, every night at The Charles Cotton Hotel, the squire would host a massive get-together, open to all villagers. The nights would be spent singing and carousing. And that’s when the screaming started…

Some said it was a rogue ostrich. Others, an angry emu. But whatever it was that burst into the Hotel that first night, it brought death and destruction amidst a flurry of blood and feathers.

Undeterred, the squire continued to hold his nightly parties, and every night the feathered creature returned, always going first for the musicians with beak and talons. It was suggested that it might not like the music (like our friend Ken), that perhaps they should “play it down a bit” but the squire wasn’t one for being threatened. As he put it, “If the bird dunna like to bop then it needs stuffin!”

But you can’t stuff a giant bird. Especially an angry one. Especially a giant one.

The nightly attacks continued unabated. Until one fateful night when the feathered monstrosity stuck its beak into a wedge of Stilton cheese. Upon doing so, it gave out a painful screech. Seeing this, the local cobbler, Denton Flatley, screamed, “It’s the cheese! It’s allergic to cheese!” Upon which, all the villagers in the hotel, grabbed the cheese off their laden crackers and threw it violently at the ostrich emu bird. With haste, the beaked beast scampered out of the hall beneath a hail of cheesy wedges.

And to this day it has never returned.

It was decided at the next village meeting that, in order to prevent the giant bird returning to Hartington, a cheese factory should be built. And so it was. And whilst Hartington village was imbued with the heady aroma of Stilton wafting throughout its streets and side-alleys, the villagers could sleep soundly knowing that the feathered monstrosity would not return.

Was it dead? Surely not. Some passing travellers brought tales of being chased through the nearby dales of Biggin, Wolfscote and Beresford by a hideous, winged creature, only to find that the pursuer would turn away upon smelling the aroma of Stilton wafting from the village of Hartington.

And on still nights, when the cheesy smell lingers only within the village, some say they hear peculiar screeching sounds from the surrounding dales, as the demon bird tries to infiltrate Hartington’s Stilton defences…

‘Get packing Ruthie!’ I shouted, slamming shut my copy of The Beast Bird of Hartington, ‘We’re going to the Peak District!’

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Brecon Beacons National Park

The Ancient Briton and Henrhyd Falls Part 2

We were rambling along the stunning Nant Llech Valley in Powys, South Wales, just a mile away from Henrhyd Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Britain. The valley was warm and humid, as we ambled betwixt lush ferns and rushing waters dappled in late summer sunlight.

We were in popular twitcher territory but I searched for a different quarry. Papier mâché boulders. The final scene for Batman The Dark Knight Rises was filmed here – Henrhyd Falls was used as the exterior for the Batcave. They were bound to have left some lying about, perhaps having rolled into a pile of existing rocks after being leant on by an unsuspecting extra. You see, I’d been to a film set before – they love papier mâché boulders (that was the time when I’d out-stared The Master in the back of a Ford Cortina).

And so, as we journeyed towards the tumbling waters, Ruthie’s anxiety at having to face her fear of waterfalls was distracted by my sporadic attempts to try and lift any boulder bigger than I…

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Henrhyd Falls

The Ancient Briton and Henrhyd Falls Part 1

Stan (the father-in-law, not the cat) turned on our TV  whilst waiting for tea to be served and sighed.

‘Pearl! [the mother-in-law], Pearl, I hope you’re recording this! Oh no! We’re missing it!’

‘Missing what?’ Pearl chirped back.

Stan shook the remote control at the TV as if to prompt recollection. ‘This!’ he cried.

‘It’s fine. I’ve apped it on iPlayer,’ Pearl replied reassuringly.

‘Yes! Good job! Will the apped version work on a… what d’you call it Sean?’

‘App,’ I replied.

‘That’s it. Have you apped it then?’


Technology is hard to keep up with isn’t it? Only the other day, somebody asked me if I’d watched a certain program on telly and I’d replied, “No, but I’ve taped it.” Before you know it, even “downloading” will be as archaic as “taping the Top 40 off the radio.”

But you can’t keep chasing forever. Sometimes you need to stop and take a breather. When your quarry is the latest technology, you’ll need to take a lot of them, and the best way to do this is to clear off to Wales and become a Luddite for a couple of days. If you can combine this with some exposure therapy for any irrational fears you may be harbouring then it’s a win-win situation…

‘You’re not too keen on waterfalls are you Ruthie?’ I asked over tea.

‘No I’m not. Why?’

‘Nothing really. Just wondering.’

Ruthie pointed a fork at me aggressively. ‘If you think we’re going traipsing half way around the country just so you can have a laugh at me trembling with fear then you can… well… frick off! You didn’t like it when I made you walk across Barmouth Bridge did you? Remember what happened there, dear?’

My grip tightened around my cutlery. I was doing a Uri Geller but with muscle, not mind. Yes I bloody well did remember going across Barmouth Bridge.

‘I was perfectly fine! Until I saw the ground between the slats. But look, how often does one have to go over a bridge?’

Ruthie sighed.

‘See? If you don’t confront your fear of waterfalls you’ll never be able to go anywhere near a river ever again.’

I placed my knife and fork down as if to complete my argument. Ruthie said nothing. Sometimes you just can’t argue with good old-fashioned logic…

Anyway, I’d already decided. We were to go and see the largest waterfall in the British Isles – Henrhyd Falls in Pen-y-cae, Wales.

I asked Ruthie to organise the details.

‘For therapy,’ I explained.

Ruthie remained silent. Some moods can last a bloody long time can’t they?
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Harvest Time at High Offley

Harvest Time at High Offley

August! Time for the Harvest – and a musical shindig at The Anchor Inn, High Offley with Canal Mal…

Here we were back where it all began. The field where we met a Bohemian looking guy with a sharp knife and a penchant for lopsided hats. The guy who bought his Mazda Bongo on ebay. The guy who told us to do so too. The guy who changed our life (because we did as we were told).

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St. Bartholomew at Richard's Castle

Nature’s Fury at Richard’s Castle

Just over 5 miles south of the historic town of Ludlow lies the peculiar village of Richard’s Castle, straddling the border between Shropshire and Herefordshire. The actual castle is no longer there – the only remains being a bit of a wall and some foundations…

Richard's Castle remains

We’d stopped off here on the way to Ludlow, after having spent a great weekend camping at Home Farm in the nearby village of Bircher. But not to see the castle. We came to see the Norman Church of St. Bartholomew, some parts dating back to the 12th Century… Continue reading