Bowling stones history at the Coldwell Inn

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THIS week our column takes a look at a place that was once known as a notorious late-night drinking den, a place where, on the sweeping roads all around, huge sums of money would change hands on the infamous sport of bowling stones; these hand-carved stones are truly a work of art.

Back in 1981, when the legendary broadcaster, Brian Johnston, came to our Lancaster Street home to record my interview for the "Down Your Way" programme, he was most taken with my collection of around a dozen, rare, bowling stones. After our piece was in the can (at least half-an-hour lost due to both of us laughing so much!), I presented Brian with two of my prize bowling stones; he was overjoyed, saying they would have pride of place in his study.

So, where was this hostelry of the past where once its walls echoed to the sound of the bowling stones as they sped along the curving country roads? Well, the Coldwell Inn still stands, although today, no stones can be heard, only the wonderful bubbling call of the curlew. Yes indeed, this ancient inn has today, been transformed into the Coldwell Inn Activity Centre and recently, on a hot June morning, my dear wife Ruth and myself set off for lunch at this historic place. All around the venue is splendid countryside with an abundance of flora and fauna.

First an excellent meal, served by most friendly staff, then we both set off for a walk along the high stone-walled country road. Next a look into the once vast Coldwell reservoir, now sadly empty having been drained for renovation work and in a small pond in the centre, a lone Canada goose calls out a plaintive cry.

Now as we walk along in the sun, suddenly above us we hear the onomatopoeic call of the curlew and majestically fly by one, two, then three of these likable, lustrous, long-billed birds of marsh and moorland. As the curlews sweep on high, now we spot two magnificent, hovering kestrels with their distinctive fan-like tail feathers silhouetted against the sun.

Slowly the falcons drop in stages, finally swooping down at great speed onto their prey. Now as they rise and the pair fly past us, we see the larger one has in its talons, a field mouse with its tail blowing in the wind. Then unexpectedly a strange piping call that fills the air and suddenly from out of nowhere, just above us, flies a stunning black and white wide-winged bird with a long orange chisel-like bill and pastel pink legs. The most handsome bird, still calling "Kleeep-Kleeep", now flies to a nearby field as we cross the road to see the rara avis.

Why here standing most stately is the opulent oyster catcher, a bird usually of coast and shore. Why this single whimsical wading bird had flown so far inland, we'll never know, but for Ruth and me, it was a red letter day encounter to remember.

We left our oyster-catcher looking most resplendent in the long, green grass and continued our walk along the winding road; higher up in fields full of buttercups, wheeling lapwings are performing aerial acrobatics, diving and tumbling over their nesting grounds while calling out their shrieking cry, "Wheeeo-Wheep".

Another half-hour walking with bird-song all around and it's time to head home:- curlews, lapwings, kestrels and an oystercatcher, Coldwell, "You've done us proud"!