Bulb & Black Poplar Planting - 6/13 Dec 2023

On Wednesday, 13 December, we had 60 very well-behaved children from Lacey Green school helping us plant 2,000 daffodil and crocus bulbs at entrances to the Park and within the "blossom circle".

Last week saw the planting of five large Black Poplar trees, grown by Chester Zoo as a part of a species recovery programme. FOTC volunteers, Mersey Rivers Trust and the BVP planted them in some of the wetter areas in the Carrs on a beautiful frosty morning.

Working Party - 9 Aug 2023

We had a great turnout of 12 people, including the United Utilities river rangers, so we were able to get a couple of important jobs done. We trimmed back the vegetation at the entrance to the Twinneys car park so the sight lines are now clear for cars turning out of the car park.

We also had a good go at one of the patches of willow alongside the river. About ten years ago we undertook some major bank stabilisation with the Environment Agency whereby we strengthened the bank with a variety of natural materials including willow. The Willow was very successful but unfortunately needs pruning regularly so the roots further strengthen the banks and to clear the view of the river.

Click the image on the left for a larger version.

Wildflower Meadow - 17 June 2023

Have you seen the Cheshire Wildlife Trust meadow recently? It's blossomed out into a magnificent mass of dog daisies on a bed of Yorkshire Fog.

If you don't know it, it's visible from the path just after Red Rock as you are working towards the Styal end. But best to cross the river at the second bridge, walk up the slope and, just after the Red Rock bend, you'll walk along its top.

Click the image on the right for a larger version.

Working Party - 10 May 2023

A fine collection of volunteers tackled the large bramble patch in the jubilee wood on Wednesday, 10 May. They managed to uncover some small trees and some wildflowers that were being swamped. When the trees get a little bigger, they can cope with competition from the especially aggressive bramble but for now they need all the help they can get, and they got it.

Click the image left for a larger version.

Working Party - 8 March 2023

Work on the woodland path continues with a hard-working crew spending Wednesday (8 March) clearing the mud and branches from a very boggy section. The before and after photos give some idea, though don't tell you that around one foot of debris was removed to reveal a flagged path.

The next jobs will be to repair the wooden bridges and replace handrails. (The dog, though there for the whole session, did little useful work - questions were asked of his commitment to the work party and its mission.)

The prize! Paving is revealed

The Zone of Operation is scouted before the heavies move in

Memorial - 12 Jan 2023

Two oaks to commemorate the lives of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip have been planted on the Carrs.

Emma Houghton of the Bollin Valley Trust and Ian Baillie, Chairman of FOTC got their hands dirty and backs sore for England on Thursday, 12 January. The trees are both sessile oak, a lovely slow-growing majestic tree. They were bought with a grant from the Wilmslow Town Council. The plan is to get a couple of small plaques to complete the memorial.

Plug The Carrs - 29 Nov 2022

Sixty young botanists from Lacey Green Primary School descended to The Carrs to bring you a spring of fresh, bright colour.

They planted 900 wild flower plants that were provided by a grant from Wilmslow Town Council. Emma Houghton of the Bollin Valley Trust, who led mass planting, reports that "The children were brilliant, really hard working, and managed to plant the lot in about an hour, giving us time to go on a nature walk through the park."

"We have plans to plant a further 300 plants in the spring and hope that the children will join us again."

Click the image right for a larger version.

Evidence of ancient trolls - 11 October 2022

Our working party on this last Wednesday (12th October) set themselves to dig out the path up to St Olaf's. It's a permissive path and so not maintained by Public Rights of Way. It has been little used recently and has become overgrown, which of course makes it even less likely to be used.

Emma, Roger and Ian cut, chopped, straightened and excavated, and came up with evidence (see image left) of trolls, long suspected by those given to such suspicions of having occupied The Carrs until quite recently. (Refer to The Hobbit, chapter 2, for ethnographic information.) The evidence takes the form of what seems to be a stone toilet. Those of a more prosaic imagination may assume it to be a fragment of St Olaf's, tossed there by vandals (or by trolls), but we shall make no definitive statements until the forensic reports are in.

Click the image on the left for a larger version.

Ecology Walk - 19 June 2022

We are blessed in Wilmslow, not only in having spaces such as Lindow Common and the Carrs, but in having the people who can 'interpret' them for us; that is, explain clearly why they are special and how best to look after them. No one does this better than John Handley. Anyone who has had a chance to hear him speak about the habitats of Wilmslow has felt the pleasurable surge of knowledge, and with it, greater affection and attachment.

So too on this occasion. On Saturday, 11 June, a round score of people walked the length of the Carrs while John scattered the stardust of illumination on sward, copse and fen. Just a couple of the revelations. The land stretching from the river up towards Broad Walk, just before the second bridge, displays to the instructed eye the contours of ridge and furrow agriculture that probably date back to before the Black Death (1348). And secondly, the current Norwegian pronunciation of kjarr would be 'share'. But there was much, much more.

The walking tour was arranged by Emma Houghton of the Bollin Valley Trust, and she has promised to persuade John to repeat the experience next year. Do come. You won't regret it.

Click the image right for a larger version.

Wilmslow Flower Show - 30 April 2022

The Carrs is dressed for Carnival. The mowing regime (or no mowing regime!) is paying dividends and there are sheets of colour - buttercups, daisies, dandelion clocks, speedwell, ladies smock and pignuts everywhere. Over on the field by Twinnies Bridge (Grange Meadow), there are clumps of grass with the most beautiful purple plumes. Does anyone know what it's called?

More good news. Cheshire East have contributed £7400 to the Wetland crowdfunding! It still needs a lot more contributions though. Can you help?

Click the image left for a larger version.

Working Party - 18 May 2022

We had a great group of volunteers turn up despite the shocking weather and we continued to maintain the river bank reinforcement by cutting back the willow to strengthen the roots and bolster the defences against the power of the river. We like to let the river 'do its thing' but not when a footpath is in danger of being washed away. Let that just be a warning.

Letting the willow know who's boss

Rugged volunteers smiling through the rain

Magic circle - 22 April 2022

A circle of crab apple trees has been planted by ANSA near the picnic area and is now in full bloom. This was inspired by the National Trust's project to plant blossom tree circles. During the pandemic, they noticed how the sight of spring blossom, beautiful but fleeting, brought pleasure and reassurance, reminding us that the rhythm of the natural world continued even though all other aspects of our lives had changed. During the next 5 years, they are aiming to plant circles of blossom trees in cities throughout the UK. We are delighted that ANSA have followed their example and planted a blossom tree circle for the people of Wilmslow.

The photo to the right shows Ruth Morgan from ANSA on one of her regular inspection visits to The Carrs accompanied by Ian Baillie, Chairman of Friends of The Carrs, and Emma Houghton (left), Community Projects Officer from Bollin Valley Partnership, and Tilly the dog. Click the image for a larger version.

Incontinance of Old Man Bollin - 21 February 2022

The view of the path down from Kings Road.

Do we still nurture little Nelsons? If so, the Carrs is the place for them today. On this February day, it is not a park for the walker, but a swirling maelstrom for the navigator.

Autumn - 14 November 2021

As I'm sure I don't need to tell you, the Carrs is special this time of year. As the light dies from the sky, it flares for a brief, sacrificial moment in the trees before they too are bare and grey and quiet.

Click on the images for larger versions.

Looking towards the river from the Hawthorn Lane path

At the middle bridge looking towards Wilmslow

Burnt sugar, fairgrounds and bonfire night - 3 Oct 2021

Has anyone else noticed that in autumn the path down from Hawthorn Lane begins to smell like a candy floss stall? You're not imagining it! It's due to two Katsura trees aka the Burnt Sugar or Candyfloss tree. They look rather like beech trees, but on closer inspection the leaves are heart shaped. It's in Autumn that the trees reach their full magnificence when their leaves turn a beautiful butter yellow and begin to emit a delightful fragrance - a smell of fairgrounds and bonfire night. Strangely if you pick a leaf and sniff you'll be disappointed. It smells of nothing, but take a step back and you're enveloped in a cloud of caramelised sugar. (Chris T)

Willow crowd control - 12 May 2021

As someone of great perspicacity once said, "Willow grows like rabbits breed". So it does; loving the Carrs as much as we do, it takes every square inch of the riverbank it can get to. Consequently, the need for carefully-selected cull teams, armed operatives tasked with willow crowd control. Two of them are seen on the right. Approach them with care.

They've been at work this week to trim the willow and open up the view of the river - the willow itself will thicken as a result and be even more effective in holding the riverbank firm.

Spring will bloom (or Social distancing and conflict resolution) - 18 Oct 2020

There was a plan, and a select few to execute the plan. The plan did not survive the first contact with reality, but spring will bloom in the Carrs all the same.

The plan was to plant bulbs and wild flower plugs in suitable locations in the Carrs. Wild daffodils and narcissi would go in the orchard. The wild flower area would get fritillaries for their early nectar, meadow cranesbill (wild geranium) and devil's-bit scabious for additional colour and diversity. Crocus would brighten up the Hawthorn Lane entrance.

And this indeed is what came to pass. Mostly. Someone, who for legal reasons must remain unnamed, displayed a characteristic lack of discipline and planted all the crocus in the orchard.

Social distancing prevented the use of traditional methods of conflict resolution and a more pragmatic method was adopted - the plan was retrospectively accommodated to the facts on the ground. Peace was restored and will be celebrated with bunches of narcissi at the Hawthorn Lane entrance over the coming weeks.

Pinchpoint earthworks - 16 July 2020

As you are walking from Wilmslow towards Twinnies Bridge, about 50 yards past the second bridge, you will come to a stretch that has called for a great deal of love and care over the years. On the Hawthorn Lane side of the path is one of the wet areas that make the Carrs special. On the other side is the River Bollin, a restless creature at the best of times, always carving and cutting at its banks. This is the pinchpoint.

As you will have noticed, one of the prime characteristics of wet areas is that they are ... wet. Water is gregarious and seeks more water, which indeed is at hand, just through the drain under the path. You may not have noticed the drain, but you will have noticed what happens when it is blocked - the water sloshes around your high heels.

The Bollin here swings around to the right and takes out chunks of the banks as it goes. Our Iron Men (aka Colin, Ian and John) have spent many hours trying to reinforce the bank, but have always been stymied in their efforts by their wives' refusal to allow the purchase of earthmoving equipment. The pinchpoint has become ever more pinched.

CEC/ANSA have no such limits and have been hard at work over that last couple of weeks to stabilise the pinchpoint. Big thanks to them and to Ruth Morgan at ANSA for organising it.

Angels against balsam - 6 July 2020

An old-style fire'n'brimstone preacher would have found a fitting analogy for sin if he'd fixed his gimlet eye on the banks of the River Bollin. He would have found balsam.

Like sin, balsam flourishes while your attention is elsewhere. Like sin, if you let it go, it runs rampant and cannot be restrained. Like sin, it requires an enormous effort of the will, and the willing hands of the well-intentioned (the Bollin angels of our nature), to bring it back under control.

On Sunday, the angels went to work. Yvonne and Tom were at work near the first bridge, a corner that had been restored to health just a few years ago. Down past the second bridge, the ever-stalwart angels were Colin, Ian, Eileen and Polly. They laboured mightily and shall have their reward.

Thank you - June 2020

A glimpse of the sunlight through the slightly ajar doors of the lockdown brought a rush of blood to Wilmslow heads and many Wilmslow feet down to the river in droves. For the most part, they were well-behaved droves, who came, enjoyed and left behind nothing but the whisp of a memory in the clear air.

Some few left behind the all-too-solid detritus of their enjoyment, which, but for the efforts of many of you would have made the Carrs look like an abandoned squat.

So, a big thank you to every one of you who has helped remove the cans, bottles, packages, clothes, shoes, dirty nappies ... you name it (actually, don't)... and to ANSA for carting it all away on an almost daily basis. And a special thanks to Steve from Barking Buddies who has litter picked every day and filled many a bin!

Carrs carparks re-open - May 2020

With the blossoms, the Carrs car parks are opening once again, let's hope, for good.

And almost as important, Paul C has said that cafe Azul will, all being well, be open by the weekend.

It's not a free-for-all yet, though. Please be careful and follow the rules to keep everyone safe.

Carrs carparks closed - April 2020

The Parish Hall, Twinnies Bridge and Lindow Common car parks are now officially closed. Barriers have been put up and should not be removed. CEC are concerned about the number of people in the park and the number of vehicles coming to Wilmslow from out of the area.

Covid-19 message - March 2020

There have been many negative comments on Facebook and on the Wilmslow community page about the number of people congregating in The Carrs and it's clear that, if we can't be sensible, the park will have to close (some London Parks and Country Parks have actually already closed), so please act sensibly. Stay 2 metres apart MINIMUM and keep everyone as safe as possible. We don't want this amazing resource to be unavailable to us in such a horrible time. If we are sensible, there is plenty of safe space for everybody.

Working Party
29 September, 2019

A big thank you to all those who turned out on Sunday. It was good to see so many braving the weather forecast, and we had some new volunteers from the Park Run team, Simon and Gerald, and Jim who has taken over from Sal, and even a boy passing by at the height of the rain who also got his mum involved. They were already soaked through and decided they had nothing to lose. We got a fair amount done but if you were disappointed by not being able to get down on Sunday, don't be because we were thoughtful enough to leave plenty for another time.

You will no doubt see the work we did on the hedges and river bank willow, the lime trees trimmed and the lack of litter. But we still need to prune more willow, finish trimming the hedges and mend the chestnut paling. And the river was in flood, so there may be damage to repair when the water goes down. In addition, we decided not to mow the wild flower area yet as the rain is keeping the plants going longer then we expected, and the balsam seed has set now so any balsam pulling merely encourages the spreading of seeds. Perhaps we can arrange a follow-up Working Party soon.

We enjoyed the morning - sunnier and warmer than forecast - but we were caught out badly in the afternoon by the torrential rain. I hope everyone got back safely! I suffered the indignity of having to be rescued from down at the bottom of the river bank which had become a slithery waterfall.

Click on the images to open a larger version in a new tab

Don't get in the way of an armed man in a helmet.

Does this man mean business? See right.

Colin and Ian fixing it.

The fence needed fixing.

Canine Capers in the Carrs
19 May, 2019

Overwhelming, you might say. 170 entrants, the cake stall denuded of all but boiling water long before Best in Show had been awarded, the crack management team looking skywards for divine help - there is such a thing as too popular, you know.

That is not to complain. Far from it. More can truly be merrier. The keynote of light-hearted competitiveness did not falter; many smiles and only a few frowns (the vanishing cakes - see above), slightly embarrassed celebrations of victory and a carnival of colour on a Sunday afternoon in the park - Merrie Young England.

John, as always, was the deus ex machina who brought it all together. Our old friends from Styal National Trust were there with their equipment and expertise, working hard before and after as well as keeping control of wild spirits in the Agility Ring. The Vets' Place provided the rosettes and certificates for the winners, as they do every year. Ian and Phil passed judgement. Our thanks to all of them.

Finally, acknowledgements and gratitude to Emma V and Ann, who looked after the Registration stall, and to Chris and Emma H, who manned (womanned?) the cake stall, which was under seige from the word go.

Click on the images to open a larger version in a new tab

Most Like Owner: Larry

Waggiest tail: Ruby, who could not be persuaded to look at the camera, and so did not win the Most Obedient prize (awarded by the cameraman)

Golden oldie: Oscar

Cutest Puppy: Anoushka

Best trick: Lenni

Best rescue: Perra

Most handsome: Nelson

Prettiest bitch: Coco

Timed Agility Ring: Tod, a Welsh Collie

Best in Show: Larry owned by A Naden of Wilmslow

Birthday boy
26 February, 2019

The group of dignitaries on the right were in the Carrs on Tuesday for a very mundane task, to plant a tree. But what a tree! One that commemorates 80 years of Manchester Airport. Long may she live (the one in pink wellies, I mean).

The Fisher King?
3 February, 2019

Well, no, but a kingfisher on the Bollin. Something I have never seen.

But Jessica Duncan from our Facebook group has - evidence on the left.

Work Party
30 September, 2018

Good turn-out and lots done. We planted trees, trimmed the lyme trees on the footpath, fixed the fence, planted bulbs, tidied and protected the wildflower area with a new willow fence and trimmed some of the willow spiling done a while ago.

Click on the images to open a larger version in a new tab

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.

Click on the images to open a larger version in a new tab

Most Handsome Dog: Monty with Julia and Dylan; 2nd, Crumpet with Jenny and 3rd, Benji with Lucy and a special commendation for Merlin!

Prettiest Bitch: 1st Poppy with Kim, 2nd Beanie with Nicki and 3rd Treacle with Toni.

Best Trick: 1st Poppy with Tracey, 2nd Albie with Nicky and 3rd Bernard with Hannah

Best Rescue: 1st Perra with Dave, 2nd Goldie with Pauline and 3rd Wilson with Catherine

Golden Oldie: 1st Henry with Rosie, 2nd Jaz with Jan and 3rd Princess with Michael. Apologies to the 4th placed dog and owner - we didn't manage to get your names.

Cutest Puppy: 1st Tootsie with Angharad, 2nd Alby with Adam and 3rd Poppy with Kim.

Most Like Owner: 1st Alfie with Sam (remarkable likeness!), 2nd Jazz with Chris and 3rd Princess with Bill.

Waggiest tail: 1st Lola with Daisy and Ruthy, 2nd Sisca with Mia and 3rd Jaz with Jan.

In the ring

Best in Show: Beautiful Perra the 2-y-o German Shepherd-Galgo cross who was rescued from Spain, with runner up Monty

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.

Cafe Azul
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.

Winners in the Waggiest Tail contest, Missie with Richard Phillips and Charlie with Will Murfith

Golden Oldies line up, with winner Hugo the Irish Setter belonging to Simone Brook. Those girls look under-age to me

Rescue dogs Rex from Portugal with his owner Terry Norman, and Toby, a retired hearing dog, with Tony Foulds, winners in their class and enjoying life in Wilmslow

Lola and Jessica Roche won the Most Like Its Owner category, which does make you wonder what the criteria are

Prettiest Bitch was fought out by Truffles, Lola and Coco

Best in Show, Bertie

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.)

Colin dealing with what he insisted on calling 'Lulworth Cove', dignifying with that name a small, though curvaceous, dent in the bank down towards Pownall Bridge

The party on the march, smilingly intent on destruction. From left to right: Emma (with barrow), a tramp, Ian, Chris, John and Amanda (with barrow)

To what is this woman's happiness due? To duty fulfilled, of course. Can you say as much?

Two workers and a by-stander, no doubt wondering which way the bar is

Work on the fallen willow bough was intense

The two Emmas, one reflective, the other cutting

Loo landing
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.

Ah, right behind that woman.

Where does he think he's going to park that?

Riparian labour
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.

The Fixer
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!

The sign erect

The sign prone

Award-winning FOTC
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.

Balsam Bash
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).

Olivia Fitton with her Airedale terrier, Arthur, Best Overall. A study in ecstacy and contemplation. These two also won Most like its owner, though I'm struggling with this one

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.

The Cutest Puppy was 14-week-old Phoebe the dachshund, here with her owner Fiona Doorbar from Alderley Edge

An eager queue builds up as show-time approaches

Skye, owned by Tracey Ware of Hazel Grove, won the Golden Oldie category

The Waggiest Tail belonged to Charlie, Kate Taylor of Cheadle's cocker spaniel

The Most Handsome was Eric, Felix McKay's Manchester terrier. Yes, we have asked our photographer where the rest of Eric's head has gone - he was unable to supply it

Coco, Prettiest Bitch with Esmae

FOTC hero, John, who organised the day. He fully realises the impermanence of hero status, so if any of you want to throw yourself at him, please be quick

Tom's Bedlington terrier spent 2 years on the end of a rope in a builder's yard and was a worthy winner of Best Rescue Dog

The bunting points to people finding joy in the unforeseen, getting close up and sharing views on dogs, the weather and dogs

The things that dog puts on Facebook - shameless!

Dolling up the Carrs for summer
April, 2016

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?

Read on.

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.

This woman aroused envy and cupidity for the potency of that implement of hers

He's rarely violent, but sometimes people need to be shown the consequence of their actions.

You remember that piggy that built his house of sticks? Silly piggy. Smile, lupus, smile

It's like A Chorus Line, isn't it? From behind.

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.

For now.

* Elsewhere

This brave FOTC member ventured to the scene of the crime in order to include her silhouette in it

The evidence

Winter's veil
March, 2016

Winter's veil from Friday, 4 March

Saps and saplings
December, 2015

Ol' Man Bollin just keeps on rollin'.

Friends of the Carrs plant for the future.

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.

The cinema crowd on Saturday evening.

Cheshire Constabulary Corps of Drums at the Part on Sunday.

The cinema crowd on Saturday evening.

Adlington Morris Men at the Party on Sunday.

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.