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Notes from the Sticks: Sour Charity


WE moved to Lancashire from a bigger house about eight years ago, and thanks to the machinations of our unscrupulous buyers it was done in a horrible rush, about which I still have near-nightmares. Since then I have been engaged intermittently in sorting out (luckily we have a big shed). Things that have been stored in successive lofts for decades, such as wedding presents to my parents in 1936, are still coming to light. The twice-yearly church jumble sales have been my lifeline. I swear the stuff breeds when my back is turned, and every six months I have boxes and boxes waiting to go. However the village hall, where the sales were held, has been requisitioned by Our NHS for the foreseeable future to administer Covid and flu vaccines (I walk past most days and since it was taken over in about May I have not seen one soul enter. What a breeze it must be to have the job of crowd controller with a hi-viz vest to wear and a bench to sit on.) So the jumble sales are on indefinite hold, while the accumulation of items as I continue my endless sort-out is not.

The answer is obviously the charity shop. Although the main street in our nearby market town of Clitheroe is surviving quite well compared with others, there are numerous charity shops. The easiest one to use is the YMCA, which used to be an Iceland and has a large frontage where it is easy to park and unload.

What is it about charity shops? They nearly always treat you as a nuisance, even though without donors they would have a bit of a thin time. The local hospice one in Clitheroe once ticked us off for trying to sneak in books, which we didn’t know they don’t bother with. Anyway having brought several boxes of decent stuff to the YMCA shop (I don’t offload rubbish, honestly, only things that really could have a new life) we carried them through the shop to the back (although we are old folk and staff were clustered idly round the till, no one offered to help). There is a counter with a big sign saying ‘Donations Here’ so we started to put the boxes there. At once a surly man pounced: ‘You have to put it in the cages outside the back door.’ ‘But it says . . .’ ‘I don’t care what it says, put it out there.’ Needless to say we ignored him and left the boxes where they were. Doesn’t it give you a warm glow to think you’ve done a good deed?


Last week I moaned about the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust for failing to reply promptly when I emailed a question about identifying some geese I had seen. The inexplicable excuse was that the Covid situation had resulted in a high level of inquiries.

Eventually I received a charming email from Scott Petrek, a warden at the Slimbridge HQ in Gloucestershire.

He wrote: ‘Thank you for your email regarding the large skein of geese. Given your location I would imagine these geese may be Pink-footed Geese moving between Scotland / Humber Estuary and the Lancashire coast, and possibly our centre at WWT Martin Mere where several thousand geese can be seen. The species arrives from their breeding grounds in Iceland to winter in the UK and are usually found in parts of Scotland, the Humber Estuary, the Lancashire coast and north Norfolk coast. Skeins can regularly be seen moving across the UK between these locations.’

I sent him the picture I took of the geese:

and he replied: ‘What a great photo.  That confirms them as Pink-footed Geese – a classic migration view.’

That made my day! I am still fed up with the WWT for its slavish adherence to the climate change scam, but it is good to know it employs some decent people.

This identification was also made by commenter Charles Atlas. I bet no one kicks sand in his face (you will need to be pretty old to get that reference).

This is what a pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) looks like close up. You can see where it gets its name.


Several commenters have suggested that Notes from the Sticks keeps some kind of log of shortages of insects, birds etc so that anecdotal evidence can be compared year by year to see whether trends are emerging. I am afraid this is too ambitious a project for me, but if anyone would like to take it on, or knows of any outfit already doing such a thing, let me know.


Finally, while the papers are full of autumn-tinted landscapes, I thought this beech hedge was rather splendid in its own way.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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