Forgive us our trespasses


This week I am handing over the first item to JEREMY CRAIG-WESTON.

LIKE many other people living and growing up in Oldham, in the foothills of the Pennines in Lancashire, I’ve been roaming the local countryside without accident or incident or altercation with anyone for over 50 years and am by now reasonably familiar with the area, with the people who live here and with the terrain.

So I was extremely surprised recently to be sworn at and threatened by a landowner after I’d taken a shortcut that I’d used since my youth up to the war memorial at Pots and Pans in Saddleworth. [Editor’s note: I will write about this memorial on another occasion.]

My experience of farmers and of most landowners has always been that they’re generally sensible, pragmatic and hard-working businessmen, people with whom I’ve never come into conflict. Their livestock are not pets but valuable financial assets of their businesses; something that perhaps some new visitors to the area may not fully understand.

Obviously the owners of livestock (cattle, horses, sheep, alpacas, goats, etc) will always have legitimate concerns regarding the public access to their land, although in my own experience such concerns are often exaggerated. However it’s worth noting that where such concerns are genuine (for example, the owners of thoroughbred horses where possible injury or theft is a real and serious concern) and an entire area has needed to be fenced off, the existing footpaths and Public Rights of Way are preserved at no small cost to the landowner. This picture shows an example of a path going through private land at the stables above Upper Strinesdale Reservoir.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This is of great importance to people like me who regularly use those footpaths and want access to the wider network of footpaths and bridleways that extend far beyond that immediate vicinity.

Trespass can sometimes be a pitfall of using the footpaths, particularly if neither a Right of Way nor Private Land are clearly signposted. Sometimes the only indication of a footpath can be the line of sight between two stiles or gates although almost all footpaths are also visible as more or less well trodden tracks.

Trespass to land is a common law tort that is committed when an individual intentionally enters the land of another without a lawful excuse. Trespass to land is actionable per se. This means that the party whose land is entered may sue even if no harm is done.

As far as that goes it’s something for walkers to be aware of, and a strong argument for better signposting of Rights of Way, but mostly just for some common sense which is what in my own experience most walkers and most land owners generally exercise. Trespass is not in fact something that I have ever lost any sleep over, because even with the law on your side, suing someone will always be an expensive, frustrating and uncertain exercise and one that any sensible person would choose to avoid.

There will inevitably always be some tension between the many people who regularly use the Public Rights of Way, footpaths etc and the personal and commercial interests of the people who live there and in some instances who own the land, but once again my own experience has always been that such friction is generally slight and that courtesy, friendliness and regard for other people and for their rights and or their property is generally order of the day.

Obviously your best plan is to have a comprehensive map of the area’s paths. As far as Saddleworth is concerned, Oldham Council produce details of the extensive, intricate and complicated network of footpaths, bridleways and public rights of way that criss-cross the hills and beyond.

I’m informed (although I don’t have a smartphone) that an app is available from the Ordnance Survey with all the footpaths and PRoWs on it.


Back to me: On the fell with my husband Alan, our young labrador Teddy was most put out to come across a strange object a few yards from the path. It was a roofless steel cage containing a blue bell-shaped object about 2ft across. If it was an alien craft, the inhabitants must have been deaf because Teddy gave them a severe barking-to.

There were three more such devices at 100-yard intervals, the third of which was surrounded by nailed-together wooden pallets rather than a cage. And thus was the mystery solved. Alan lifted the bell to find beneath it a dish of mixed grain. It was clearly a feeding station for the game birds, mainly grouse and pheasant, which inhabit the fell. The blue plastic cover was to keep out the rain, never in short supply in these parts.


Fowl of the Week

AFTER my first Fowl of the Week, in November, commenter ‘johnthebridge’ wrote:  ‘Bantams sometime? Having owned many over the years, I’ve a special affection for the Rhode Island Red.’ Later he added: RIR, both standard and bantam.’

Always happy to oblige, so here is a Rhode Island Red cockerel:

and here is a hen:

Before the days of refrigeration, ships on long voyages carried livestock including poultry so that the sailors could have fresh food. Thus it was that in 1854 a sea captain by the name of William Tripp bought a Malay rooster from a fellow sailor. He took it home to Rhode Island, America’s smallest state, and introduced it to his own chickens.

He realised that the offspring of the Malay cockerel and his hens laid more eggs, so he enlisted the help of his friend John Macomber and the two of them began cross-breeding with other varieties. The early results were known as as ‘John Macomber fowls’ or ‘Tripp fowls’.

Isaac Wilbour, a successful poultryman, heard about these birds; he bought some and began his own selection programme, and he is credited with naming the Rhode Island Red (which was elected the State bird in 1954).

It was accepted as a breed by the American Poultry Association in 1904, and the British Rhode Island Red Club was formed in August 1909. It is now one of the most successful chicken breeds, found all over the world.

The RIR was originally a dual-purpose bird, but in the 1940s some keepers started refining the breed to produce more eggs. There are now ‘heritage’ and ‘industrial’ types, the latter being far more common.

The Happy Chicken Coop website (which I suspect is American) says ‘The hens are generally pretty laid back and docile enjoying the company of people and chickens alike [but] the roosters can be aggressive . . .They do very well in a free-range environment. The only problem you might have if you free-range them is to find all those eggs. Hens are sure to find the ideal spot to lay their eggs, and it’s usually not your nesting box.’

Here is a video of RIRs from hatchling to adult. (It says they are RIRs but I think they must be a mixture of breeds from the different colours.)

Now, on to bantams. This is all new to me so I have had to look it up – any experts please forgive me if I have got something wrong.

The original bantams were naturally small species of chickens, but most of today’s are the result of breeding standard varieties with natural bantams to produce small versions. Almost all breeds of chicken have a bantam counterpart, and RIRs are no exception. While I was writing this, I thought I would easily find an illustration of the two sizes side by side, but weirdly no such thing seems to exist. The best I can do is this short video which says a bantam is a quarter to a fifth of the size of the standard version.

The comparative weights are: a large fowl rooster is approximately 8.5lb, with a hen reaching 6.5lb, while bantamweights for a rooster are 2.1lb and a hen at 1.9lb. The video above suggests that bantam eggs are roughly half the size of full-size eggs, and have a higher proportion of yolk to white.

Here is a video of RIR bantams, which I chose for the inquisitive hen peering into the camera, but it doesn’t convey much about their size.

Finally, a crowing contest – a full size rooster first, followed by a bantam.


Wheels of the Week

ANOTHER in the occasional series of pictures taken by TCW contributor Brian Meredith at the 2013 Florence Mille Miglia rally. I wrote about the background here, and this is an extract from the article: ‘The “Mille Miglia” (‘a thousand miles’) was a race which took place on public roads in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957 (thirteen before World War II, eleven from 1947). There were various routes of roughly 1,000 miles. The Mille Miglia was shockingly dangerous. Over the 24 races in 30 years, 56 people died – 24 drivers/co-drivers and 32 spectators. It all ended in 1957 when Spaniard Alphonso de Portago crashed his 4-litre Ferrari 335 S, killing himself, his co-driver and nine spectators, five of whom were children. These days, they hold the Mille Miglia Rally for cars which were registered to take part in the original race.’

This is a 1954 Lincoln Capri, 5.2 litres. It is a 2-door hardtop coupé; other styles were a 2-door convertible and a 4-door sedan. Fuel consumption was about 16.6 mpg, so it must have had to stop umpteen times during the Mille Miglia.

Here are a couple of stock pictures to highlight its enormous length, a tiny bit under 18ft.,_front_right.jpg,_rear_right.jpg

This is from a write-up for a model which was auctioned by Bonhams some years ago:

‘For 1954, Lincoln gave the Capri a minor facelift that mostly consisted of additional or revised trim, the most distinctive aspect of which were two pronounced front bumper guards which the company claimed gave the car “forward thrust”; folklore has it that the automobile trade felt they were more reminiscent of Jennie Lewis’s busty character ‘Dagmar’ on the TV show Broadway Open House and this feature on Lincolns and other similar designs on the period were frequently referred to simply as ‘Dagmars’.  

You can judge the accuracy of the epithet here.

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