Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Friday, 23 August 2019

Wednesday 21 August 2019 - The Middlewood Way with SWOG

 
On the penultimate outing of SWOG's evening walk season (don't they just fly past), 23 assorted folk assembled outside the Rising Sun in Torkington, before heading through the carefully researched ginnels of a housing estate to reach Hazel Grove Golf Course, where the entire group slewed to a halt in order to avoid a 'golf ball' confrontation.
 
A couple of fields, with stiles to string the group out, led to the good surface of the Middlewood Way, where the light was fading sufficient to give the impression that the strollers pictured below might actually be running!
 
 
 
A walk along the resurfaced track led to High Lane Station, with its long disused platforms.
 
 
 
We continued along the disused railway line for a while before taking a delightful woodland path to Norbury Hollow and thence back to the Rising Sun for refreshments.
 
 
My memory of this walk will be the lovely Norbury Hollow path, which we didn't follow as far as we could have done, due to diminishing light, and the smell of the Himalayan Balsam that dominates the plant life in places at this time of year. It's an exotic pest, but I'm told the bees love it.
 
Here's our route - 7 km in an hour and a half or so.
 

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The London Marathon - 26 April 2020

 
Well, I've been competing with about half a million other people, without success, for a place in the ballot for the last few years, but this time - thanks to perfect weather in Manchester on 7 April this year, I've managed to get in!
 
£39 later, and my place is confirmed. Now to find somewhere to stay for the weekend in London...
 

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 19

 
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
 
Day 19 - Friday 13 August 2004 - Stage 16

Postcard Summary 
Crowded but friendly campsite to Lac des Oulettes d’Estom Soubiran
Superb 1500 metre ascent of Valley du Lutour – 7.5 hours, 13 km, 1500m ascent

Here, beside the lake with the long name, it’s a gorgeous evening.  We are alone, miles from anywhere, with only my slightly sulphuric farts for entertainment.  We’ve had watercress soup, salmon and pasta with a mushroom sauce, and lots of mint tea.  The fish are jumping in the lake up here at 2360m, and the swifts are hoovering up the insects.  We spent the whole day climbing out of Cauterets, including a mid-afternoon stop beside a beautiful lake with a Refuge which marked the end of the ‘day walk’ zone.  We enjoyed our favourite lunch today – goats cheese and tomato on fresh bread.  It’s chilly now, and as it’s after 9pm, time to turn in.

 
 
Diary Entry (by Martin)
Not an unlucky day! We discovered that camping in the proximity of GR10ers doesn't stimulate an early start! I stifled both our alarms and we slept in until about 8 am. First up amongst the backpackers, yogurt and bananas for breakfast, socializing and packing, a phone call to Julie, whose texting skills lack the ability to actually 'send' her replies to our earlier messages, packing away and sending off used maps, lending one to Brett and Freddie, phone call to Sue's mum, etc etc - and away we went at 10 am.
 
We liked Cauterets, with its Victorian thermal springs, spa resort atmosphere. And so we continued our trek, on the belvedere path to the east of Cauterets, with fine views of the town through the trees.
 
 
People zoomed past with day sacs. We ambled on, secure in the knowledge that we don't need to come down today. The shady woods gave way to sunny glades with the rush of streams nearby as we passed above la Raillère and beyond.
 
 
12 to 12:30 - hot chocolate at La Fruitière - hotel/restaurant/water available, etc. There's a car park here, so after this we saw many day walkers, babies, dogs, etc, out for a stroll up to the beautiful Lac d'Estom in this picture postcard - Lutour Valley - area.
 
 
We lunched in an idyllic spot at 1485 metres below a waterfall. Baguette, goats cheese, tomatoes, delicious. The sun beat down on our sun tan creamed bodies, but up ahead the upper slopes of some of the mountain were shrouded in cloud, but summits were clear.
 
 
Lac d'Estom was a lovely tranquil spot despite lots of people dotted about. We lingered here for 40 minutes and chatted to two lads from Brittany we had seen at Wallon. They are going down, but worry about getting to Lourdes due to a papal visit. We try to warn Julie but the mobile has no reception.
 
 
 
Beyond Estom there are very few people and we are back with the red and white paint and an indistinct path. Proper HRP country. We meet people coming down: "Bon courage - steep and difficile - there is an easier way". The easier way isn't marked on our old map, so we continue up steeply to the second high lake - Lac des Oulettes d'Estom Soubiran. A bit of scrambling but ok. So we've risen from 900 to 2360 metres in the day. Very leisurely. No wind, swifts hoovering the insects, and a sandpiper or dotterel pair going "tweeweewee". Mint tea precedes a fine pasta and soup (not in that order) at this fine spot in the sun, where we cook and laze outside until the sun goes down at 8.30 and diary/ postcard chores follow.
 
 
Stats and route (Viewranger):
14 km, 1550 metres ascent, 7.5 hours
 
 
 

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 18

  Is that a table mat that Martin's using for navigation? Yes!
 
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
 
Day 18 - Thursday 12 August 2004 - Stage 15 continued

Postcard Summary (on yesterday's card)
Warm flat camp to Cauterets
Lovely morning walk down beautiful valley – 4.3 hours, 13 km, 50m ascent
A stroll past many scenic waterfalls into Cauterets for a re-stocking and washing afternoon.  So we are now very clean and will not be thrown out of the nice Les Estives restaurant for being smelly. 

Diary Entry (by Martin)
A rest day. Turned over after the alarm and didn't make tea until 7.40 today.  

The mountain tops were in cloud when we left Refuge Wallon at 8.50, our destination Cauterets, a morning stroll (10 miles) away. 
 
It was a lovely walk, always accompanied by the sound of rushing water from the river rushing down the Vallée du Marcadau. In shade to begin with, the sun soon rose.  

A fisherman tested his luck, but got his line caught and used his waders in the still deep section to retrieve it. The valley was level in many places, giving wide green spaces. 

 
A path runs either side of the river. In the pines, goldcrests twitter. Civilisation was getting closer. At 11am, we reached Pont d'Espagne, a spot where two rivers meet and a very large waterfall cascaded down, dominating the spot.  
 
 
Drank hot chocolate in the sun, and decided to walk the rest of the way to Cauterets (it would have been possible to get a bus down the road) along a wooded path on the opposite bank of the river to the road. It wasn't possible to hear the road at all due to the roar of the water.
 
The path led to la Raillère, a conglomeration of buildings at a road junction, the biggest of which was the Centre du Rhumatologie. We are in a thermal spring area now, and this was the first sign of that. Rested and had an ice cream before continuing along the path, which brought us right into Cauterets town centre! The shops were shutting, so a quick purchase of baguette and pâté was made - now to find a campsite.
 
Martin had spotted tents on the hill, so we made off in that direction, joining two other backpackers with the same aim. The reception of the Mamelon Vert campsite was shut until 2.15, so we and Brett and Freddy sat on the grass and ate lunch, ours with a brew. Since our dried milk ran out, tea has been black as we decided not to purchase tubes of condensed milk. After testing tea with Brett's tube we decided our decision had been correct. Too sweet.
 
Our pitch, shared with Brett and Freddy, was soon strewn with gear. It overlooked the town, beyond which were mountains up the valley. A whole pile of washing was done, and a walking pole was used to construct a washing line that lasted well, until the wind got up!
 
After showers, shopping for three days' food, that wasn't so successful as at El Bozo in Candanchu, small as it was. After depositing food at the campsite, we went back into town for a beer on the square before dinner.
   
 
 
As amazing as it seems, who should stroll across in front of us, but Didier! He was a accosted and sat down for a beer, and proceeded to give us more advice on the route, with interest also in what we'd done since we last saw him. Remarkably, of the six campsites in Cauterets, his campervan is at le Mamelon Vert!
 
Nice as the beers were (and Edelweiss in a pot on the table), we paid the price, as the restaurant had nearly filled, and it took ages to order and eat. Nice meal though - goats cheese salad and fruits de mer, steak and chips, cheese (no jam here) and a pudding of 'myrtilles' in custard with floating soft meringue.
 
Crept into our tent at 10.30 pm - a really late night!
 
Stats and route (Viewranger):
14 km, 200 metres ascent, 4.3 hours
 
 
Staple Requirements:
Breakfast: Muesli, tea (dried milk)
Lunch: Tin of fish/tin of pâté/butter/baguette
Other: Mountain mix (nuts, fruit etc), chocolate (1 per day)
Evening: Soup, pasta or couscous, etc, tin to supplement (eg tuna), sauce, choritzo, dried veg if possible, hot chocolate

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Monday, 19 August 2019

Sunday 18 August 2019 - A 20km Bimble from Pym Chair

 
Thirteen of us assembled at Pym Chair (SJ 994 767) for this pleasant circuit via Jenkin Chapel, Lyme Park and Windgather Rocks.
 
It's a steep hill down the lane to Jenkin Chapel. We encountered numerous participants in an 80 mile with 10,000 feet ascent bike race. This hill was certainly sorting out the men from the boys!
 
 
Meanwhile, our serial backmarkers were stumbling along at the rear.
 
 
We soon reached Jenkin Chapel - the lighting wasn't ideal for the following photo.
 
The chapel lies at the junction of three ancient trackways, known as "salters' ways" because they were used by packhorses carrying salt. Later the tracks were used by cattle drovers and sheep dealers. 
 
The chapel was built using local materials in 1733 by local people who also raised money to pay for a minister.
A tower was added in 1755. The appearance of the chapel is more that of a Georgian farmhouse with a chimney stack than a church. It consists of a two-storey nave, a one-storey chapel and vestry, and a three-stage tower with a saddleback roof. The tower has an external staircase, a bell chamber and a porch with stone benches.
 A chimney rises from the middle of the south wall.
There is disagreement about the origin of the name "Jenkin". One theory is that the junction was the trading site for a man called Jenkin, from Ruthin, North Wales. The track-marking stone at this point was known as "Jenkin Cross". Other theories are that Jenkin was the name of a local farming family, or that it was the name of a "fiery Welsh preacher" who preached at the horse fair held here.  
The chapel features in Alan Garner's 2003 novel Thursbitch, mentioned recently on these pages.
 
 
A narrow lane leads up to the tumbledown buildings of Summer Close.
 
 
 
Here, the others went 'off piste' to the top of a hill, whilst I followed the path to Charles Head Farm, beyond which this old post box sits outside Springbank Farm.
 
 
The Gritstone Trail path is soon reached. Shepherds were gathering their sheep, goldfinches were flocking, and kestrels were battling with the wind, as I admired the views.
 
 
The others soon caught up, and we headed north over Sponds Hill, where a trial bike event was taking place using a nine mile circuit through the farmland hereabouts. Hence the gathering of the sheep.
 
 
Rather this than illegal riding on bridleways. Apparently they had to cover as many laps of the nine mile circuit as they could in three hours.
 
 
Meanwhile we took a scenic footpath into Lyme Park.
 
 
Lunch was taken in a pleasant spot in the shelter of Lyme Park's woodland on a windy day.
 
 
Re-opened after recent flooding, the park and hall had lots of visitors today.
 
 
We didn't visit The Cage, a three storey hunting lodge dating from 1737, but it remained in our sights for some time, together with views over Greater Manchester to Winter Hill on this day of clear visibility.
 
 
We continued our clockwise circuit, with more good views over the Peak District hills beyond Whaley Bridge.
 
 
Windgather Rocks lived up to their name, but the high path from there to Pym Chair is fairly sheltered, so not many hats were lost.
 
Bilberries were growing in abundance here, readily harvested by Sue and Phil, as we drained our flasks whilst waiting for the back marker.
 
 
A grassy path led back to Pym Chair, and the 45 minute journey home.
 
 
Here's the route I took - 20 km with 600 metres ascent, taking us 6 hours including breaks.
 

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 17

 Camp above Larribet, looking back to our descent route
 
Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
 
Day 17 - Wednesday 11 August 2004 - Stage 15

Postcard Summary
Cold camp to Refuge Wallon
Brilliant clear day, glissade down from high point 2706 metres – 10 hours, 17 km, 1200m ascent
After yesterday’s difficulties, this was a superb day. Clearest day yet, but a breeze kept us cool.  Descended through a lovely valley and brewed up at the bottom, where bilberries were ripe and tasty.  Another long climb took us to a col on the border, then up to our highest point yet – 2706 metres.  There was a brilliant snow slope to glissade down to lakes and pines in the next valley.
 
 
Diary Entry (by Martin)
A superb mountain day. We could tell it was a clear night at around 2200 metres as it was cold. I needed long johns and two T-shirts. Sue was thoroughly zipped into her Rab Quantum 400 for the first time. 
 
We were a foot away from a stream and a couple of yards from the path, so just as well it didn't rain, and we did hear early starters from Larribet Hut passing around 6.30. We breakfasted on black tea and muesli with water (Spanish muesli is good) and opened the tent to high cloud, marmots in the distance, and the prospect of a good day. 

We set off at 7.50 in 8°C. Due to my hot fleece (RAB Vapour Rise), I started in t-shirt and long trousers. Boots all day for both of us again today. We first saw the sun at 8.18, before reaching Larribet Hut, but the hut was in shade and it remained cool for the whole of our descent to 1620 metres for a brew at 10.15 to 45.
 
En route we passed Larribet Hut and successfully abluted. People were coming and going. Then we met masses of people coming up the picturesque valley - today we saw more people than on any other - day hikers and backpackers.
   
 
The day was crisp and clear, with the best visibility yet, and a fresh southerly breeze which kept temperatures to the mid 20s°C or lower. By the time we brewed, Sue had removed her thermals and it was 26°C.  
 


 Brew up in Val Arens
 
Then we ascended another well used path (path maintenance takes place here) up to a plateau of well munched grass, before gentle zigzags took us further up the valley and eventually to Port de la Peyre-St-Martin - 1.05 to 45 - where we enjoyed our last baguette and sardines (S) and oysters (M).
 
 Port de la Peyre-St-Martin
 
By now we had lost most of the 'day trippers' to picnic spots below. It was a breezy 20°C  here, but we found a sheltered spot amongst rocks at 2295 metres. We needn't have been nervous about the alpine ascent to Col de Cambales (2706 metres) -  our highest point yet - it was a straightforward thrutch up a scree slope on a well graded path with a couple of patches of snow to cross. 
 
3 pm - butterflies and Belgians on the col.
 
Above: Col de Cambales
Below: Balaitous from Col de Cambales
 
 
Then a leisurely stroll (Sue very slow) down the other side, including a long snow glissade, to reach the Wallon Refuge at 5.40 pm on a beautiful clear afternoon. We got two cokes and ordered a meal (just in time), after Sue had raved about the smell of the pines on the descent.
 

 
 
 Sheepsbit

 

 
 
 
A minor washing interlude, selves and clothes, was followed by a dash to the hut for the 7 pm meal in the annex, the main hut being full. [I remember watching crossbills pecking at the cement on the walls of this Refuge, during one visit.] The aire de bivouac is good and flat. Meal was wholesome but lacked ambience. Adjourned to main bit of hut which was more vibrant, but emptying due to impending bedtime at 9 to 9.30 pm.
 
Today was a Classic Mountain Walking Day.
 
 
Stats and route (Viewranger):
19 km, 1350 metres ascent, 10 hours