Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Prologue


Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Prologue
In 2004 I left my job and Sue took a six month sabbatical. I'd already walked the central section of the Haute Route Pyrenées (HRP) in three separate trips, from Lescun to Andorra, in 1990, 1993 and 1994. My ambition was to walk the entire route, which follows the border between France and Spain in the High Pyrenees between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, in one trip. It would take us about eight weeks; flights were booked, leaving home on 24 July and returning on 21 September. Julie Brown was organised to join us for the section from Gavarnie.

Whilst my subsequent
GR10 (France) and GR11 (Spain) traverses of the Pyrenees were recorded on these pages, the HRP trip preceded 'Postcard from Timperley'. We did however record our passage by way of a rudimentary sort of 'blog'. That involved sending a daily text message to my daughter Kate, who periodically entered the text into a spreadsheet that was published on topwalks.com. That spreadsheet is still on the website, as is the summary of the trip that was transcribed from the postcards we sent whenever we had the opportunity.

No charger was taken for the Nokia phone, and the battery was still going strong at the end of the trip!

This year, 2019, we have no 'big trip' planned, so I'm hoping to enjoy re-living the 2004 trip, which was the first time I'd been away  from home for more than four weeks, and only the second time I'd been away for more than two weeks - so recollections of that four week trip - in the mid 1970s - is another project.

So for the next few weeks or months, diary entries for our current activities may be interspersed with recollections under a 'Pyrenees 2004' label. You don't have to read them, and some of the entries may be a little tedious, but you are most welcome to share in my indulgence.

I'll be trying to insert some pictures - this was a pre-digital trip so we have negatives and CDs that we got at the time the Fujifilm was processed. I'll also add some route maps using more recently acquired Anquet and Viewranger software.


The picture shown above is of the Georges Véron definitive guide book published by West Col Publications in 1991, our 'bible' for this trip.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Monday 24 June 2019 - A Bike Ride - TPT/Cheshire Ring Circuit

 
Monday morning: = a bike ride.
 
With none of my usual companions available I chose the 60km Trans Pennine Trail/Cheshire Ring circuit, leaving soon after 8 am in order to avoid the rain that arrived just as I returned home at midday. It's over six months since I last took this route - on 5 November last year - though the shorter Fallowfield Loopline route has been taken a few times since then, one of them being recorded here.
 
Of note, from the towpath, was a huge barge named Pauline, pictured above crossing the River Mersey in Stretford, with the M60 motorway in the background and the Metrolink tram line to the left. If you wait for a while at this bridge you should spot the seemingly unlikely sight of Kingfishers in this urban environment.
 
Attempts to converse with the skipper drew a smile but no voice - perhaps English wasn't his native language. Some sections of the Bridgewater Canal might be a bit tight for this vessel. I wonder where it is now? In the Irish sea?

 
I was pleased to find the towpath closures in the Ashton area were no longer an obstacle to progress, though the Canal & River Trust have closed the path in the centre of Manchester near lock number 89, so a short road section was needed to get from there to the Castlefield Basin. Not really a problem, and only a very small proportion, maybe 3km, of this 60km route is on roads. Most of this is near Stockport town centre, where I have yet to discover a good off-road route. I'm sure there is one.

 
Here's today's route - on this occasion I took the path beside the Mersey rather than go into Didsbury on the TPT. With just one tea and banana break at Haughton Green shortly before the route joins the Peak Forest Canal, it took me a little under four hours as I eschewed the attractions of the Velodrome café in favour of avoiding the rain.


Monday, 24 June 2019

Saturday 22 June 2019 (and Sunday) - The Canal Crew Visit Stratford

 
After the excitement of the family picnic, Sue and I moved on to track down 'The Canal Crew', who this year were pootling about on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, which seems to stray into the River Avon.
 
We found them near some locks at Bishopton, just north of Stratford. Sue embarked on the difficult choice between Pimms, beer or both, while I tried to identify an orchid. I settled for an Early Purple - that's the orchid, not the drink.
 
 
Lurking in his bedroom (aka the galley) we finally managed to locate one of the invisible trio who had successfully evaded us during the recent TGO Challenge walk. Roger was rather coy about his invisibility, which he hoped would continue on this trip when breakfast took place whilst he sleeps off the previous night's excesses.

 
I left him watching Louise concoct an experimental meal, and returned to the back of the boat, which was moored next to a house that had recently spent £1.5 million on redecoration (there must be a rich decorator nearby!) and was warming up for a party.
 
As usual, Robert was complaining about the lack of headroom, but at least there was a hatch that allowed him to stand up, albeit in just one position.

 
It was a lovely evening, and we were sad to have to return to Sue's parents' house whilst the Canal Crew tested Louise's culinary experiment. The barge didn't move much while we were there, but I think they floated it away from the noisy party a bit later.
 
Next day we parked at a convenient spot in Stratford and wandered beside the River Avon to the point on the canal where the Canal Crew were engaged in relieving themselves.
 
There are lots of swans, Canada geese, mallards, greylag geese and Aylesbury ducks in the Stratford Basin.
 

 
We found the Canal Crew near the lock shown below. The toilets had got blocked and a machine was being used to evacuate them. It was a smelly operation. Sue and I wondered whether the culprit was Louise's experimental meal.
 
After taking on yet more water - they had spent ages doing that last night - the barge was at last on the move, down a series of locks to join the River Avon in Stratford Basin.

 
Being near the centre of Stratford, there were lots of people around, including many tourists who, one assumes from their conduct, had never seen a barge before.
 
Gerry and Stuart were on their best behaviour and failed to lasso any tourists, most of whom were very small, with slitty eyes.

 
Here, a moment of relaxation before the final descent to the river.

 
The entry lock to the basin took two boats - there was a very smart 25 year old privately owned barge just behind us.

 
Once on the river, there was loads of space for everyone and the fleshpots of Stratford soon disappeared in our wake as Robert and Chris steered us towards some rapids.

 
Robert suffered a wardrobe mishap. I made more coffee. We all ate Stuart's millionaire's shortbread. Large pieces of it.

 
Suddenly the boat swerved to the left, sending kitchenware flying, as we took evasive action to avoid  getting stuck on a weir. Chris had spotted a convenient lock, and luckily the boat was low enough to fit into the steel cage provided, though Robert had to take care not to bash his head again.

 
Senior Management looked up with relief.

 
Very Senior Management played with one of the lassos that seemed to be strewn around the boat.

 
Gerry confirmed that she is bidding for promotion from Senior Management, to Official Photographer and Lassoist.

 
Sue and I could see that being a Contentious Issue, so we decided to abandon ship.
 
A group photo was taken, the success or failure of which could have a bearing on Gerry's promotion. I'll add that to this posting if the current Official Photographer decides to place it on general release.
 
Here it is - thanks, Chris.
 
 
And so, we left the seven mariners to float on in the peaceful surroundings of the River Avon, then I dropped Sue off at a Spa for a couple of days and returned home to sunny Timperley.

 
The map below shows our movements on Sunday, which tot up to over 10 km, and the boat icon shows where we joined the Canal Crew at Bishopton on Saturday.


Thanks go to the Canal Crew for having us along, and I hope the poetic licence taken in the above narrative doesn't cause any untoward upset - we wouldn't want any more toilet blockages...

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Saturday 22 June 2019 - Another Family Picnic

 
 
Anyway, about thirty of Sue's vast family turned up for a very pleasant afternoon of sunshine and chat. It was good to see everyone, but a little disturbing to realise that most of the babies and small children who were present when Sue started to organise these family gatherings are now away at universities. Time really does fly past.
 

 
The park is next to the River Avon. I went to the bridge to look for some friends who we knew were somewhere nearby. There was no sign of them, but there was an impressive castle that we should visit sometime.

 
This bug took a liking to Sue.

 
Some huge bubbles were blown, and frisbees (out of shot) were thrown.

 
Sue stayed away from home with her camera, so I may add more pictures to this posting when I find the camera dumped next to this computer.

Saturday 22 June 2019 - Hanley parkrun number 403

 
 
 
 
As we were travelling down to Warwick, Sue and I decided to pause our journey just off the A500 in Hanley for a bit of welcome 5km exercise with 266 other people on a warm day.

The natives were friendly and despite being far from our quickest times, we both managed to come first in our age categories on the hilly course.

A great way to start the weekend. Full results are here.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Friday 21 June 2019 - A Visit to The Old Man of Coniston

 
 
 
 
This week's 'Friday Walk' ventured a bit further afield than usual, in deference to midsummer.

Sadly, despite threats from various likely suspects, only Sue and I made it to the 10.30 starting point at the end of Walna Scar Road, above Coniston. They missed a treat!

We took the easy way up the hill, staying on the foxglove bounded 'road' all the way to the col between White Maiden and Brown Pike. It was a lovely sunny day, with a cool breeze higher up. Just a handful of walkers about, and a couple of polite mountain bikers enjoying the descent before the path got too crowded.

Our elevenses break was taken on a sheltered rock with a fine view down to Coniston Water and Grizedale Forest. Bleeps from a WhatsApp group stuck in traffic on the M6 brought home how lucky we were to be here after a clear run from Manchester punctuated only by cappuccinos at the Swan in Newby Bridge.

After admiring the good views into the Duddon valley and beyond from the col, we trundled up to the top of Brown Pike (top picture, 682 metres) for even better views. Despite the clear views that we were enjoying, we noticed that the higher Scafell summits were cloaked in mist for a while.

The easy stroll along the broad ridge and up to Buck Pike (744 metres) rewarded us with great views from beyond the summit down to Goat's Water and across to 'The Old Man' (second picture).

It's an easy walk along the ridge before a short scramble to the 778 metre top of Dow Crag, where I'm pictured in today's third image. It must be easy!

This section of the walk was cool, with a brisk westerly wind battering us. Sue nearly trod on a man hiding in a crevice with some binoculars. "Out of the wind, here" he teased.

Suitably gloved and hatted, we hastened down to Goat's Hawse, after which the wind dropped and we ambled up to our final summit of the day, The Old Man of Coniston - at 803 metres the highest point of our day. The bottom picture was taken here.

There were other people around, but it was hardly crowded. Lunch was taken and I caught up with the cricket (England v Sri Lanka - England later lost this game).

The route up from Low Water was pretty busy with people slogging and dogs skipping up the steep path. Various mining paraphernalia was passed as we continued to descend, with good views throughout, to the easy track leading back to the car park. 

We were back by 2.30, after nearly 11 km and 750 metres ascent, which had taken us less than four hours.

Then we drove down to Blawith, a ten minute drive away, next to the lake, to spend a couple of hours with Jim and Cathy, old university contemporaries of mine, who we hadn't seen for far too long. It was great to see them, and thanks for the tea and biscuits and the incomparable Paddy End.

We were home by 6.30 after another clear run, and are now getting ready for another mini trip, hence this brief entry. Lots of photos were taken today - I'll post a few more next week if I get round to it.

Have a great mid-summer. 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Happy Days in the Pyrenees

 
On 6 August 2013 I had the pleasure of bumping into Uli (with the beard) whilst I was walking the GR10 route across the Pyrenees. We realised when we parted a few days later that we'd probably never meet again, and that may well be the case.
 
It was something of a surprise, therefore, to receive a message from Uli today. He is starting a Pyrenees HRP walk (that's the high level one that Sue and I walked in 2004) on Monday, heading from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. I do so wish I could go with him, but I'll just have to accept a vicarious trip on this occasion, by following his progress here.
 
Whilst Uli was a faster walker than me, he and another GR10 hiker, Peter, kindly waited for me during the ascent of Pic du Canigou, on a day when the summit was engulfed in cloud and the scrambly route of ascent was rather slippery. We are pictured above on the 2785 metre summit of that iconic mountain. It was close to freezing - a bit of a shock, as t-shirts and shorts had been de rigeur for several weeks by then.
 
The three of us stayed more or less together until lunchtime on 9 August. We are pictured below, just outside Arles-sur-Tech, before Uli and Peter headed on to Moulin de la Palette and I headed gently down to Amelie-les-Bains for a welcome rest.

 
Good luck on this year's adventure, Uli, and do take care. We will be with you in spirit.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

A Bike Ride, some Jazz, and a Game of Cricket

 
Monday morning bike rides aren't the same without Paul and Jeanette! This Monday I made my way in light rain to the allotted 8.45am rendezvous at Timperley Bridge, and waited with the familiar view shown above.
 
I was on my own, together with lots of fast, damp commuters. Never mind, I'd planned a shorter route than usual because of other perceived commitments. It was the same route as Richard and I took on 11 March.
 
By the time I'd reached Old Trafford, either it was very misty, or the 'phone camera didn't like being retrieved from my pocket into the muggy atmosphere.

 
I paused for a short rest near the bridge at Barton upon Irwell, near the Trafford Centre.

 
The vegetation on and around the Trans Pennine Trail in Carrington is nothing if not lush just now.

 
The 37 km route took me rather less than two and a quarter hours to pedal gently around. It's a good, mainly off-road, route for a bit of exercise.

 
Monday night found me at Eagley Jazz Club, with the Tame Valley Stompers on stage. I wrote a bit about them here. Sadly Terry Brunt and his trombone were not present tonight as he had to attend the funeral of his long term partner earlier in the day. Whilst his substitute was excellent, the band isn't the same without extrovert Terry.
 
It was great to bump into Bernard (an East Lancs LDWA Plodder) and to spend the evening with him and his brother John.
 
Tuesday was a bad day for Richard's friend Simon - a roofer who couldn't pass over a chance to catch up on his work on a rare fine day. That made it a good day for me, as I could step in at the last minute and enjoy the one day match between England and Afghanistan at Old Trafford with Richard. Thanks for the 'call up', Richard. I had considered getting a ticket, but I'd fallen heavily at the hurdles of the application procedure.
 
So I walked down to M&S in Sale to acquire tasty provisions in the true tradition of my visits to the cricket ground, most of which pre date this journal. On the way I noticed that after many months of inaction, the path to a canal footpath at Brooklands is at last (or so it appears) having its wonky step repaired. What was probably an hour's job for a lone workman seems to have been escalated into a much bigger project! [Only the steps were closed, the footpath being easily accessed from the Metrolink station platform.]

 
We gave ourselves plenty of time as Richard was concerned about the time it would take to get through security. Just a few seconds, as it turned out.
 
With an hour before the start, the English players were engaged in a game of five a side football, whilst the Afghans preferred the non contact sport of frisbee throwing. Interviews were being broadcast, with numerous different broadcasters situated all around the in-field.

 
We were pleased when England won the toss and elected to bat. I optimistically suggested a total of 400 runs from the 50 overs, but soon discounted this when the English made a slow start, giving respect to the skill of the Afghan spinners.
 
Then captain Eoin Morgan came along and scored 148 runs from 71 balls, including 17 sixes, a record for a one-day international innings. We witnessed history (albeit in a relatively small way) being made, with England reaching 397 for 6 wickets in their 50 overs. Brilliant!

 
After meeting up with Keith and Carol during the break between innings, we enjoyed a rather sedate run chase which culminated with the Afghans needing to score about 150 runs off the final over.

 
Needless to say, they didn't manage that, and the game finished at about 6.15, having started at 10.30. It was well attended, with just a few gaps in the more expensive seats. The huge temporary stand in which Keith and Carol had £40 seats was full. Sadly I didn't take a picture of it - it's high to the left of the following image.

 
Here's a panoramic shot taken from our seats.
 


Thanks go to Richard for thinking of me when 'Poor Simon' dropped out at the last minute - it was a great day out.