1983 January till December

January 14th
The sky is grey. I’ve seen I’d say about 400 Starlings in the Lane Fields, whirling and twisting. A large group stopped by the fence, busily pecking the ground and did not fly away when the car went past.

The above excepted, only a few weeks of 1983’s journals survive.

5th November
It has drizzled and rained with fog and low grey clouds throughout the day. In Andrew Lane Park the large orange berries on the stark Norwegian Whitebeams, are as big as marbles. Walking up Belmont Road I was amazed to see how many flowers were still out in November. Nasturtiums, Dahlias, Antirrhinums, Chrysanthemums, Pansies, Stock – the list is long. It is probably because of the mild weather we have been having with only one slight frost so far this Autumn!

November 7th
I wish somebody loved me. Saturday night, seven minutes past ten. I’m in the house alone. Not quite: Truffle, Tufty, Dusty and Cindy, are here as well.

I took Cindy and the puppies round the Tip Field. Tufty got left behind in the rushes near the Ash tree and four naughty Carrion Crows came to mob him. They sneaked up when I was far enough away not to be able to rescue him.

November 8th
I was walking to Entwistle Reservoir with a grey sky and watery sun above me. It was cold, but guess what? George stopped, and Jane gave me a lift. The walk round the Reservoir was lovely. I saw a large flock of Mallard on the rippling waters and a Great Black Backed Seagull with pure white head and breast, strong yellow beak, dark grey back feathers and white tail. How I enjoyed that walk. Because of the lift it only took me three hours.

On the return journey I had a wonderful surprise. Round the bad bend I noted a bare tree heavily laden with red berries. Most of the Mountain Ashes have lost theirs by now so I thought I would look through my binoculars to check. Behind the Mountain Ash, perched on an Alder were three magnificent male Bullfinches. I was overjoyed to see them as I have never seen this beautiful bird before, except in Scotland.

The bend in the road is a very bad one but I watched them for as long as I could. The jet black caps, wings and tail with very distinct soft grey backs and deep pink breasts. Like a Jay they have a conspicuous white rump. What beautiful birds. It is a shame there were no female Bullfinches there, as I would have loved to see some. Maybe they live in segregated flocks for the Winter. What a King among birds and surely a prince amongst Finches. It is the first time I have seen a Bullfinch in England. Behind the Bullfinches a flock of Fieldfares were mulling around.

As I walked towards the New Farm the sun peeped through. Sally, the Doberman Pincher came to say hello to Cindy. They touched noses so are probably friends. The boy was quite polite and apologised saying she only wanted to play. I told him it was alright. I bet Fisher’s thinking hard where I’ve been, because I said it was a secret. He was gathering sheep by the plantation when I returned so that might make his nose itch.

The Carrion Crows seemed happy today, chasing, cavorting, acrobatics and courting! They were fun to watch. I thought, “It must be nice to be a Carrion Crow in love”. On a tree on the East side of the Reservoir, there was a picture of a brown Wolf pinned to a tree with a message beneath it that read “Just for you.” I like Wolves; purely love and instinct. Though loners, they can be very sociable and dear friends to their own kind.

November 11th
Walking down to the first stream I must have met about twenty Blackbirds; some I saw eating Hawthorn berries. There were purple droppings on the railway bridge containing Blackberry seeds, probably left by a Blackbird. On Belmont Reservoir I saw many seagulls lined up along the pier and at least 300 swimming around in the water. I love birds

Me and Debby (we know it’s Debby and I) went to the Spread Eagle for a celebration meal. She drove the car very competently but, could not see the choke in the pitch dark. It stopped at the AA box, so we pushed it around to stop it blocking the road. We both had pizzas and ice cream, and lots of Sangria. There were some nice lads in the Railway later, in particularly one who looked in my direction. Could have been the girl behind me, or at the side. He was nice though. In Edgeworth we went in the White Horse, and saw four teachers! Shucks.

This morning in town I watched many Pigeons congregate together; two Sparrows in love; and a dark grey male Pigeon who puffed out his neck feathers to court a less-grey, female. I thought “I wonder if these birds are happy with their life?” I suppose they are.

Waiting at the bus terminus this morning the sky was clear with a blustery wind. Within about eight minutes of each other, two flocks of Geese flew overhead. I would say between thirty and fifty birds in each group. They made the traditional arrow, going southwest to northeast.

November 12th
The geese must have had a premonition of weather to come. A very strong north-easterly wind has blown all day. It battered the trees. Winter’s arrived, wrapping the trees and their leaves, leaving them old, bare and dark. The boughs of the Pines were bent so much I’m surprised they never broke. I felt as though the wind was driving me, but I enjoyed the might of the gale. At times torrential rain fell and the rivers swelled with splashing thuds. The waterfalls roared.

A black and white Duck flew off the lodge. I’m very happy. It is my first Goldeneye this Winter. I saw the cheeky white eye patch as it flew away. Goodness knows how it managed to climb to such a height over the lodge, and fly away. I don’t. Do you?

In the evening, about four o’clock, I took Cindy over the moor. The storm clouds had gone but the wind remained. The sky was light blue with white and purple- grey clouds. Some cumulous clouds, some cirrus ships. To the west it was very bright. Anglezarke Reservoir shone silver but, to the west it was darkening fast. As the wind blew me home deep pink tinted the clouds. Winter’s come at last. I hope it won’t be lonely. Cindy loves the wind as I do. It cleans your soul. Well she loves the smells it brings to her nose.

My dad brought home a pair of Red-legged Partridges which a man had shot. I do not condone the killing of such a beautiful bird.

November 12th
The air has been freezing cold but very calm; ponds along Rivington track were like perfect mirrors, reflecting the clouds. The grass below on our moor was that beautiful sandy gold colour. The dark, black, figures of trees, showed up really well above it. I could hear the hounds yelling over the moor and saw some hunters. I prayed no Foxes would die this day.

Further afield were bright green fields; what a contrast with these pale-green fields, where grass is dying off and the shapes of cows could be seen. Peace and stillness hung around, but roaring traffic and yelling hounds competed for sound. Gushing waterfalls have a delightful sound that clears the mind.

On the wall by my side, light green Lichen and Moss added a splash of colour. Many stones, slate and granite, had collected behind the fence as the slope is steep. As I passed the sun came out from the clouds again. Lower down a young sheep with black face and stockings, horns and a grey woolly coat, stopped to talk to me. Many small birds flew about in the trees of “no one’s field”.

When I set off up the back this morning there was a small flock of Finches amongst the oaks. On a young Sycamore, I was amazed to see some enormous Fungi with greyish blue tops and orangey white gills. The largest was about 25cm long 15 high and to me seemed incredibly big. They must belong to the same family as those on the Beech.

The sky is lovely and clear tonight, pitch black with twinkling diamonds. The Dolphin can clearly be seen, and I think I have spotted Andromeda, the Winged Horse and the Great Bear.

November 14th
I awoke to clear blue sky, except for some faint purple cirrus clouds to the east. The frost covered the ground making the grass crisp and the larch needles stiff. On the pavement the ice made pretty patterns like ferns and waves. The roads were treacherously slippery.

At about half past eleven from my Geography class window I could see white dots in waves to the north, cirrostratus clouds. Later purple cumulous clouds glided in from the west. My teacher thinks the next depression will follow them. Well, it’s half eleven at night, and it’s chucking it down.

A sweet Robin sang to me and Alison down a back street today. We were philosophising and eating pasties. The Sparrows were just as nosy as the people.

November 16th
This morning I woke early. It was freezing outside and very fresh. A lovely whiff in the air. The sun was an enormous warm, orange ball. The light rays beamed in every direction. As I walked through the field it chucked it down. The hailstones pricked my flesh as they thundered down. A grey band of cloud moved over the sun behind us. Columns of swirling hail marched across the land: they seemed to move from SW to NE, as though the clouds had grown legs.

This has been a fabulous day, absolutely incredible. I walked to Mrs Meadows, had a chat, and caught the bus. My sister took me shopping and, amongst other things, thanks to Grandma, I bought the skirt of my dreams. It’s straight, pleated, fashionable, chique - heather and bilberry shades! Perfection in wool!

Later I dressed up for a surprise journey. Wonderful. A gallery full of beautiful paintings (and some “trash”). Robert Bateman is really terrific, but then Roger McPhail is a good artist to me, and a nice sort of chap. The painting of the Trumpeter Swans, Two Polar Bears, Little eared Owl, Mergansers, Cheetah, Leopard, Herring Gulls, were all too wonderful for words. The scene of a Spaniel in a field with Pheasants overhead was maybe the most beautiful picture I’ve ever seen. It really moved me.

There was a simple blue, green, white and black picture of trees by the Waterside and the moon. It was simple but effective. Shepherd’s paintings were ok and his Orchids were artificial but gorgeous – like a blonde, big-boobed, small-waisted, heavily painted beauty queen. George’s battery was flat, so Aaron lent us his car. He is a good friend - I think I like all his clan.

The young lady with checked dress and blonde shortish straight hair was very sweet. I wonder if she’d take that as a compliment. The white wine was good. We arrived home at quarter past one! Thank you Lord for a wizard life. “Is that girl walking round slowly looking at the pictures still at school?” Yes, I've got big ears you know. The teachers would think I was going crazy if I told them the events of the last 24 hrs.

November 20th
A very strong wind has blown, though it slackened from time to time. It has been very cold with heavy rain showers. At the lodge, the water is over the bridge but Cindy and me managed to cross it.

I went to listen to the sound of the waterfalls today. At the Blue Lagoon me and Cindy saw a man walk down with an Alsatian! (Cindy went all weak at the knees). Water cascaded down the hill in a white froth to enter the tranquil Blue Lagoon with few waves. The wind had dropped, the moor looked desolate. Stone walls cut through it like lines of black ink. The fields looked lush green after the rain, and the brown of the rushes showed up clearly.

On the way home I must have seen at least forty Mallard flying over to the reservoir. I saw a small group on the reservoir earlier on. The drakes look very handsome. There was a pair of courting crows at the bottom of the lane. They glided straight into a rising air current; good fun I bet!

November 22nd
The day started with a golden ball, blue sky, cold with clouds approaching. In the trees by the river there was a large flock of Blue and Great Tits and I saw a pair of Chaffinch. Walking home at the foot of Andrew Lane another group of tiny birds awaited me. There were many Chaffinches, at least five female and two males.

The great Tits were really sweet and strikingly handsome. White cheeks, black caps, olive backs and a black line down the belly. The female Chaffinches were easily spotted by the white lines on their wings, really showing up against the brown feathers.

In Sweetlove’s Park I saw a group of Song Thrushes busily chatting and hopping about the trees. A very smart Song Thrush stopped in a tree outside Mrs Lee’s. I tell them from other Thrushes as they have larger black mottles on the breast compared to Mistle Thrushes, and also an orange patch in the corner of the wing.

I saw a handsome Robin singing perkily with the Titmice above the steps. Yesterday I noticed that on the bare Pussy Willow branches there were one or two tiny white tufts, coming out of the buds? “If you’re sane, you have to be insane to live and cope with an insane world.”

November 23rd
This Morning a bird of prey, dark brown which looked to be holding something in its clawed feet, got up from the rushes and flew into the plantation. It was bitterly cold this morning with a strong wind but by half ten pm it was quite mild and the wind had dropped and I think changed direction.

I picked a fern from the wall behind the houses above the waterfall. I love ferns, they’re so natural. Unless broken you can never tell that they’ve been touched.

November 24th
This morning it was calm for a change, cold with a few clouds. The clouds soon cleared to reveal brilliant blue sky overhead. A rare sight at this season. The bird of prey, dark brown with pointed wings that I saw yesterday is probably the Kestrel reported missing on Manchester Radio, which, it was said had Jesses on - the things ‘held in its feet’. I’ll try and trace the owner.

November 26th
The day began, dreary with fog and “air dew”, which is when you walk along in the fog; and your hair becomes covered in water droplets although it is not raining. It was freezing cold with frost like chilled, damp, white dust, scattered over the walls.

Along Queens Avenue there were two Carrion Crows on the Chimney pots who appeared to be “going out with each other.” One sat head back fanning out its tail feathers, then as its mate settled on the chimney pot next door it proceeded to puff out its belly, caw, fan its tail out and shuffle around on the spot. This was quite an impressive display. The other one, supposedly the one to be impressed, played hard to get, did nothing and flew away

Last night the sky was pitch black. Almost all the visible constellations could be seen. The Great Bear, Little Bear, Cassiopeia and the Dolphin to name but a few. The clear sky may help explain the black ice on the road this morning.

Beneath the trees several birds chirruped and I met the Robin again, singing his little heart out and holding out his chest in an important manner. His little beak could not stop moving he was chirruping that much.

One of the most amusing events of the morning was six Magpies playing a game. Three sat on chimneys on the west side of the street facing one on a steeple, higher than the chimneys on the east side of the street. The other two perched where they could below the steeple or flew around waiting to swoop with the one on the chimney. The object of the game seemed to be to become King of the Steeple. A challenger would fly from his chimney to be the one on the steeple who if overcome would fly back to the chimney.

It was hilarious to watch them and I thought what a fool I’d look if I tripped now with my head stuck in the air. I believe in my sister’s half tamed philosophy wholly - that if you concentrate on something harmless hard enough then anything harmful can not harm you. I do it all the time.

The moon is very bright tonight; it looked very picturesque surrounded by dark blue sky and silky grey clouds. When they had passed, the brilliance of the moon was quite hypnotizing in a sense.

27th November
Scattered hail showers have fallen throughout the day, which began dismally. I would have walked to Edgeworth but fog entrenched the land. This disappointed me, but the sun shone through the fast moving clouds like a silver plate.

Then at the river, below the gatehouse, a wonderful surprise. There was to my delight were three Bullfinches and a Tree Creeper. Two of the Bullfinches were female which is pleasing, as I have never seen any before in England. Their tummies were a “purple-chocolate” colour, and the backs brown with black cap, tail and wings as in the male. They also had the characteristic white rump and wing bar.

As they flew between low branches, a male with smart rosy pink breast, hung precariously from an Elder branch over the fast flowing river. He seemed oblivious to the might of the river and only interested in feeding himself. Many small birds, Sparrows, Chaffinches Great and Blue Tits were busy singing, while flitting from bough to bough in search of food. There seems to be good numbers of Great Tits around compared to previous years.

When I saw the tiny, narrow bird with brown, black streaked plumage and pure white belly I could hardly control myself. I was so excited to have seen a Tree Creeper: the first in my life. Many years ago I saw a small brown bird crawling jerkily about a tree trunk on the farm. I thought it may be a Tree Creeper but do not remember a white breast. The Tree Creeper was very sweet; much lovelier than the picture portrays.

In the field on the right down Longworth Lane a Rabbit ran into cover. Rabbits seem scarce recently, and I’ve not seen a Fox for ages.

November 28th
The morning was sunny with blue sky, but by one o’clock grey clouds had rolled over. It snowed, for the first time this Winter! Large flakes but the ground was too sodden for it to stick. The wind this evening was bitterly cold, with sleet to further freeze my hands and feet.

November 29th
When I arrived home at 4.15 the sky to the east was dark blue with a large cream moon. To the west it was clear pale blue, with pink clouds that looked as though they had been liberally painted over the horizon. One particular stretch, thicker than the rest, appeared like pink powder scattered across the heavens: probably the course an aeroplane had taken. As the sun sank lower the faint clouds turned mauve then purple as the pink was exhausted.

One night, on Friday I think, a Lapwing got up from by the pond, flying haphazardly around, shrieking into the dark. I must have startled it. A few days earlier I’d seen three Lapwings at dusk. This surprised me as I only expect the Peewit call in Spring and Summer. In Winter the plovers leave to rest in warmer quarters but obviously some are still loyal to this area, even with this Winter’s chill.

November 30th
On Monday I noticed the Bracken in the field above the gate house. It was dark ginger-brown, twisted wrecked and defeated after a battle with time and frost. The long grass was creamy white, brittle, dying of age. I could feel the cells snap underfoot. Some small grasses with feathery heads decked in frost looked like limp maidens draped in lace.

Many small birds flew through the woods. I wish now that I could feed them all. One Blue Tit in the back lane looked wash-coloured, as though this was a sign of weakness. I hope he receives bread, so he is able to survive the Winter. If they could, would the birds fight those cats that eat food from the bird table? For if so, the birds might be eaten by the cats as well as the food). Well, wouldn’t we fight aliens if we met any? Without reasoning? Understanding? Choice? Or design?

If everyone had to be judged by one law only - by themselves - how would you judge yourself? Is this important? We often judge others before we know the facts. I’ve often done this myself. Tonight the moon was golden, mysterious at half past five. By half past ten it seemed smaller, higher and brilliant white.

The lads in bottom domestic science group of the first year are every bit as important as the top sixth form scientists; if not more so. It is the youth of today who will model the earth of tomorrow. If we think of them first then hopefully when older, they will think of their young first and so may the human race be saved.

November 31st
This has been a lovely day; an opportunity I grabbed by the horns. The ground was frozen, the sky blue, the sunshine bright as I set off for Edgeworth. The ice took many forms: some very slippery black ice I could not see, some opaque slab ice I could. Cindy and I had to be careful. Few cars past us on the first leg of our journey.

Along the path I noticed the green of the pines against the blue of the sky. The sandstone rock face looked impressive and imposing. I saw some of the first icicles of the Winter. They were small, say six inches, narrow, appearing wet on the outside. Behind a group of pines a patch of ground, hidden from the sun, lay white and frozen. The beauty of the place amazes me.

The level of water has risen. I feared me and Cindy might fall from the precarious path so I linked us with a lead. If we were to fall then we would go together. Tall Spruces, small Hawthorns all looked magnificent. A small Wren tweeted an alarm; then crept through the bracken like a mouse. Out of sight but not out of mind.

On the way back Cindy met Sally. Sally wants to play. They don’t want her to play. Poor Sally, I hope they don’t break her spirit. A strange man was testing the water with “potions” and a gentlemen rambler said “good morning.” On the way back a large flock of seagulls was meandering lazily up the valley. Maybe valleys are roads to seagulls and their destination - the reservoirs?

December 3rd
There were hundreds of Gulls on the Reservoir, Black-headed, Herring, Lesser- and Greater-Blackbacked and Common Gulls too maybe? Anyway there were loads. The large brown gulls I took to be juvenile Black-backed. They are magnificent birds. Strong clean, pure and graceful. They feed off garbage besides natural food, like we do but you cannot compare a gull to yourself can you?

Still the birds were touchy and left the shore waters when I passed. There was one half cast Mallard whose wing may in fact have been a genetic mistake. It was pinkish brown, maybe a hybrid Mallard and Domestic Duck. There was even a Pheasant eating below a wall.

Continued 1984