Hilden Indian Summer and Cassiopeia

Thursday night was so mild that I was able to sit outside and look up at the night sky from my backyard. Directly above was the distinctive little star formation that looks like a ‘W’. For years I have noticed the ‘W’ but never asked for its proper name.

Until this morning that is.

The beautiful ‘W’ in the sky is called Cassiopeia (after a beautiful but vain queen in Greek mythology).
The star at the bottom of the 2nd V in the W shape is over 500 times brighter than the sun and 230 light year away.
Imagine that.
If we had entered a rocket that could travel at the speed of light 230 years ago (the time William Pitt the Younger was entering Parliament) we would be only reaching the star now.

The night sky could simply blow your mind up.

water rail

Well today was a relatively exciting day in terms of canal walks. Coming home from Lisburn, just in front of the old Barbour threads factory at Hilden a bird took flight from the side of the canal and headed low towards me along the canal and  flew back somewhere into the tangle of grass at the side.

It was like no bird I had spotted before. A bit like a snipe, but bigger and with a less impressive beak or frantic wing beat. It was like a woodcock but with a different style of flying, more like a wader or blackbird. The most recognisable feature, or the thing I’m sure I saw a mousey grey on its under carriage.

I traced my foot steps back up the canal and started peering down into the tangle of grass, but saw nothing.

I’m pretty sure it was a water rail These are the moments that you will never capture on a camera because you aren’t really expecting them and so you have to commit them to memory (or blog) and say to yourself ‘I saw a water rail once near the old factory in Hilden’ . Not that water rails are uncommon but the word is ‘secretive’.


I wish I had a River I could Skate away on. And I do.

Walking home along the towpath from Lisburn to Hilden and the muddy brown Lagan was white and bright. It was like walking through a different landscape. Near the Barbour factory I stood under an alder tree while a small flock of goldfinch (redpolls as well?) shook snow dust from the branch on top  of my hat. It was magical, but just an illusion because those little birds are fighting for dear life in these temperatures.
Would you like to spend day and night out in it?

The same goes for the dunnocks pecking at the ice on the path while tufted duck and coot, moorhen and little grebe look for one spot on the river that has free flowing (yet freezing) water .

The willow trees are bowed over with the strain of ice and snow clinging and block parts of the tow path.

Barbour Mill

Passed the old linen thread factory at Hilden. The Barbours Mill was once the largest in the world with over 2000 people working there just over 100yrs ago.
It looks like a proper factory you would see in a LS Lowry painting.
It looks like the sort of factory Bruce Springsteen would write about closing down.
Its derelict now. You pass by, its glory has faded. There is talk in the news about a £100million plan to do it up into houses and flats and offices.

Have been listening to the opening lyrics of a Fionn Regan song ‘Snowy Atlas Mountains’ when thinking about the factory;

‘We came down by the factory
Industrial yarns were my father did work’

Actually, I can’t make out if its yarns or yards. Still both work for me – but maybe I should check. So I’m a gonna.