Saturday, 19 April 2014

Good Friday 2014 - Lakes - Day 1

The cupboards full of hiking gear were ransacked yesterday,  and supermarket shelves were raided, resulting in a rather tubby rucksack. 

This accompanied me on the very pleasant journey to Silecroft, where Alan and Sheila performed a touching 'meet and greet' ceremony with their friends Alan and Tina.

And so it was that a little after noon on a perfect summer's day, our intrepid trio embarked on its Lakeland perambulation. There were a few folk about as we ascended Black Combe, but it was a Bank Holiday after all. 

The lunch stop was welcome. We were joined by Freddie as we lounged in the sunshine. He assiduously licked out the remains of the sauce in my tuna salad's container. 

We missed the turn to the south top, distracted by a couple of quad bikes, so Sheila guarded the rucksacks whilst Alan and I bagged the Birkett.

The bikes phutted off when we reached the 600 metre trig point - our high point for the day. From then on we enjoyed the peaceful surroundings of these quiet coastal hills.

Stoupdale Head was easily reached after a lengthy descent (pictured) and a meagre 30 metres of ascent. From there we headed down to White Combe accompanied by views of the Duddon estuary and across to Black Coombe. A couple seemed bemused by our planned itinerary. They watched with puzzled expressions as we descended further to White Hall Knott, after we'd told them we were heading for Harter Fell. 

White Hall Knott, diminutive in stature at around 300 metres, turned out to be a lovely little hill with more brilliant views.

We had planned to camp in the valley, by Horse Back, but it was still only mid afternoon, and whilst a sheltered spot, which looked good from above, was planned, it would have lost the sun early. So we lugged our huge packs (Alan and Sheila may dispute the adjective) back up to Stoupdale Head then down the fence line towards Stoneside Hill. Arriving near a sping emanating from the Black Dub area near Charity Chair at 4.40pm, a wide expanse of flat ground on the watershed, with fine views both east and west, meant that the decision to camp required only a smidging of brain power.

Our camp site is shown. We've enjoyed a memorable afternoon and evening in perfect conditions. Lots of goodies have been consumed, and the slight haze has cleared to reveal a large island to our west. A lovely sunset rounded of this fine afternoon in the hills.

We walked about 12.5km, and ascended about 750 metres during the four and a half hours since leaving Silecroft. 

Sent from the English Lake District

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Summer arrives in Trafford


This time last year we were having to cancel trips because of snow. The trees hadn’t started to show any greenery. This year is quite different. The good weather (warm, if a bit wet at times) has brought everything on apace, as shown by these pictures taken on one of my regular outings, usually by bike, that links the Bridgewater Canal with the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT).

From Timperley, the canal towpath through Altrincham soon leads to the Bay Malton and the TPT. From there a short road section takes you past our recycling centre and various pony trekking stables, to a good path through woodland along the border between Carrington Moss and the housing of Sale.


After crossing the Mersey and the M60 motorway, the TPT goes under the A56 in Stretford, shortly after which we re-join the Bridgewater Canal towpath where the TPT heads off towards Chorlton. It’s then a pleasant route back over the Mersey and under the M60 to Sale, where canal barges and throngs of customers descend on the King’s Ransom for food and ale.


On the other side of the water, the towpath proceeds straight as an arrow all the way back to Timperley.

It’s a nice route to have on the doorstep – about 18km (11 miles), taking a little less than an hour on a bike.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Tuesday 15 April 2014 - Hanging Stone and Lud’s Church


This year’s first ‘daylight’ evening walk covered familiar ground that has featured in other reports – here you will find out much more about the highlights of tonight’s walk.

We’ve had many happy visits to the Ship Inn at Wincle, and whilst the beer was ok tonight the welcome was, well, not very welcoming. There’s a small bar where the barman was chatting to his mates. Either side were large and very empty rooms. We chose the one next to the bar. “You can’t go there, that’s for diners” we were then told, after parking ourselves at an unlaid table for what would obviously be a very brief visit before our walk. So we went to the other large empty room. I wonder why these rooms are all so empty?

Anyway, Graham arrived and we decided that although we’d planned to visit the pub again after our walk, our cars would probably not be welcome in the pub car park whilst we were away, so we left the place, thinking that we could find somewhere more appreciative of our business later.

Graham and I got some good sunset views as we strolled up towards Hanging Stone, whilst Sue and Andrew dawdled just out of sight of the dipping orb. We assembled at the standing stone below Hangingstone Farm – Hanging Stone is in the background.


As we closed in on Hanging Stone, it was silhouetted nicely in the dusk, whilst Sue and Andrew were a blur in the foreground against the Roaches and Hen Cloud as they tore up the path.


From Hanging Stone there are good views towards Shutlingsloe. This is not the best such image that has appeared on these pages, but it does reflect the loveliness of this particular evening. The colour of the sky is ‘dusk blue’, albeit it might appear grey!


By the time we reached the post-glacial cleft of Lud’s Church it was nearly dark. Looking up from the depths of the cleft, the air was thick with bats, some of which are visible here at the top of the picture.


After exploring the cleft we returned through the forest to the entrance, then headed briefly towards Gradbach before hitting the Dane Valley path back to Wincle. A pleasant path, thankfully dry after all the fine weather we’ve been enjoying. Torches were needed in the latter stages through woodland during the post dusk, pre full moon period. A shrew* scurried ahead of us, stopping for a while, frozen to the spot in the light of my Petzl (torch).

On arrival at the cars after 8km with 300 metres ascent in a little over two hours, the worker in our midst decided an early night was needed so no further pub visit was made. We drove home with a blazing yellow moon in our mirrors, passing the Fools Nook in Gawsworth that I’d thought would be a good alternative to the Ship. Sadly the Fools Nook turned out to be closed and up for sale.

A lovely evening in perfect weather. Summer has arrived.

[I forgot my camera, hence the rather poor ‘phone’ pictures. Graham’s should be better.]

*I think it was a shrew as it was only a couple of cm long, with a tail more than twice the length of the body. But it didn’t appear to have a particularly long nose…

PS After reading this entry, Graham kindly provided a further two images, taken whilst we watched the lovely sunset from the standing stone below Hangingstone Farm:


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saturday 12 April 2014 – The Calderdale Hike


This is the fourth report I’ve written on the Calderdale Hike, since starting this blog in 2007.

In 2009 I walked a slightly longer course with Robert, in seven and a half hours, winning the ‘fastest veteran walker’ trophy some ten years after I first got it.

In 2011 I walked with Robert again, in a team of four with Alastair and Steven. We finished the same 27 mile route in just over seven and a half hours, winning the team trophy.

In 2012 I walked the current course with a complete stranger, Richard Green, finishing with him in 7 hours 11 minutes. He got the fastest man trophy (and kept it in 2013), but there was a quicker veteran (over 50 years old) than me. This year Richard, now a veteran, was absent due to an Achilles problem – I hope you recover soon.

Yesterday I fancied a lie in, so I entered as a runner. Runners start at 9am, whereas walkers start at 7am (long 37 mile route) and 8am (short 26 mile route). My plan was to walk the route, jogging some downhill bits so as to use different muscles and be fresher at the end compared with walking all the way. [Walkers are not allowed to run.]

You can see from the pictures taken at the start that, dressed as a hiker, I looked a little out of place amongst the runners, many of whom were competing as a result of the event being on the ultramarathon running event programme.


In the foreground of the above picture is Howard, from Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, with whom I walked the last third of the walk.

This year there were more running than walking entries amongst the 230 or so participants. It was just twenty minutes from the off to the first checkpoint at Nab End. The vast majority of ‘runners’ had zoomed off into the distance and had already had their tallies clipped by the time I went through, just ahead of the final stragglers pictured below.


Soon the familiar sight of Stoodley Pike Monument* came into view, and much to my surprise I came across the trio of Rebecca, Carly and Neil, in whose company I’d spent much of the recent Two Crosses walk. We seem to travel at a similar pace.


They soon jogged off up the hill, part of a long line of people ascending to the monument….


….but my walking pace is faster than theirs.


We descended to the excellent support point at Lumbutts by different routes, this being a sort of orienteering event in that you choose your own route between checkpoints. Then I selected the off-road path to cross the Rochdale Canal to the east of Todmorden’s centre, and I climbed steeply up to Cross Stones checkpoint. Here the longer route splits from the short route, which doubles back a short way, so I met Neil, Rebecca and Carly as they approached the checkpoint before they headed off on the longer route. “Good luck” was exchanged, and I may never see them again as they hadn’t finished by the time I left for home a few hours later. I hope they enjoyed a good day out.

After helping out some lost scouts, I made my way up to Great Stone, then over to Blackshaw Head and Colden, passing a few folk who had started walking an hour before I’d set off. Luckily, a bit of drizzle came to nothing, but the overcast conditions and lack of companions dulled my enthusiasm for any photography.

The path across Heptonstall Moor was surprisingly dry, though others seemed to have missed this path and were spread all over the moor. After this an easy track leads past Hardcastle Crags and an old mill, with increasing numbers of day trippers, to the excellent support point at New Bridge.


Then I caught up with Howard, the mountain rescue man, and spent the rest of the walk more or less in his company. The longer route rejoined our route at New Bridge, and by the time we reached the finish line five of the ‘ultra athletes’, who we referred to as ‘the professionals’ had passed us despite having travelled eleven miles further.

Midgley Moor was boggy and route finding was tedious. Any chance of finishing within six hours was lost here. Not to worry, we soon reached the lane to Jerusalem Farm, and the descent to Luddenden Foot was hampered only by a long wait at a pelican crossing to negotiate the busy A646 road.

Howard was ahead at this point, but his local knowledge didn’t include familiarity with the walking route back up to Sowerby from the canal. Here, he’s some way ahead of me, consulting his map.


Eventually Howard gave up and waited for me to guide him back to the finish, near where the fifth of the long distance runners passed us and found a short cut that I didn’t know about. Never mind, we finished in a most acceptable 6 hours 11 minutes, and were soon tucking into baked potatoes with a variety of fillings, together with rehydration fluid provided by the barman at the cricket club.

Here’s the short route that we completed, 42 km with 1600 metres ascent. It’s the third time this route has been used, so there will be a new one next year.


Thanks to the organisers for putting on another well organised and brilliantly supported event, and congratulations to all those who took part and finished.

Shame about the veteran’s trophy that I’d have got if I’d entered as a walker and taken a little longer – I think the fastest veteran took well over eight hours to finish. I’d expected Robert to enter in that category, and he’s rather quicker than me these days, but he was busy putting bikes in boxes for a trip to Mallorca! You missed out, Robert. I think that Robert and Richard may vie for the veteran’s trophy in years to come – I’ve missed my last chance… but I did enjoy the chance to do a bit of jogging.

*Stoodley Pike is a 1,300-foot (400 m) hill in the south Pennines, noted for the 121 feet (37 m) Stoodley Pike Monument at its summit, which dominates the moors above Todmorden. The monument was designed in 1854 by local architect James Green, and completed in 1856 at the end of the Crimean War.

The monument replaced an earlier structure, started in 1814 and commemorating the defeat of Napoleon and the surrender of Paris. It was completed in 1815, after the Battle of Waterloo (Napoleonic Wars), but collapsed in 1854 after an earlier lightning strike, and decades of weathering. Its replacement was therefore built slightly further from the edge of the hill. During repair work in 1889 a lightning conductor was added, and although the tower has since been struck by lightning on numerous occasions, no notable structural damage is evident. There is evidence to suggest that some sort of structure existed on the site before even this earlier structure was built.

The monument contains a spiral staircase of 39 steps, accessed from its north side. During repairs in 1889 a grill was added to the top step, allowing more light in, so that only 6 or 7 steps are in darkness. There are no windows. The entrance to the balcony, the highest point that can be reached, and some 40 feet above ground level, is on the west face.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Wednesday 9 April 2014 – Plodders invade Bollington


Some troops landed late. Military activities in Hale Barns and Wilmslow were blamed. Others landed early, but in the wrong place. The Vale Inn’s car park had appealed to them more than the nearby Middlewood Way car park and its attendant facilities and information board.


So in true ‘JJ LDWA’ fashion we set off on this little stroll at about 10.50am, proceeding across a park where the mowers and rollers were optimistically preparing for the cricket season, and far underneath an impressive aqueduct carrying the Macclesfield Canal.


Then began the relentless ascent up to White Nancy, the folly built around 1817 to commemorate victory at Waterloo, nowadays sometimes utilised to commemorate things like Jubilees and the Olympics. It was a blank white today as having slithered impressively up the hill, we posed in front of a reluctant passer-by for a team photo (see above).


Two Johns, an Alan, another Allan and a Martin made up today’s select gathering.

I’d been on a more or less identical walk with Andrew on 1 March 2013 so I’ll not say much about the route, other than it was easy to follow and there’s a map below.

Recently arrived Chiffchaffs, heard but not easily seen, serenaded us as we rose to the folly, and they accompanied us for most of the day. After visiting the 313 metre summit of Kerridge Hill and descending down to and back out of the outskirts of Rainow, a halt was called on the Gritstone Trail path near Hordern Farm. A little late for elevenses, but it’s never too late for cake with this lot.


There was a fine view towards Shining Tor.


Refreshed from our long break, we continued on to the fleshpots of Tegg’s Nose and another long break in the shelter of the old quarry workings, where Allan instructed Alan on some engineering niceties.


After the tutorial, Alan took his position and attempted to rearrange the display.


Whilst it was a nice day, there was a cool breeze on the exposed heights of this walk, so the enclosed nature of our lunch spot was ideal. Children played enthusiastically on the old cranes whilst we enjoyed fine views towards Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe, and down to the Langley Reservoirs.


We wandered off, meeting one of Rick’s daughters as we approached the steep path down to Langley, where Mallards and Tufted ducks seemed to have taken possession of the overflowing reservoir.


Saint Dunstans Inn was closed as it usually is on mid-week afternoons. Across the road the sad remains of a 142 year old mill works contrasted with a nearby impressive pile. See below for another picture of Langley Mill.


We walked past the latter, on our way beside various spring flowers* such as this gorse.


A very muddy track that traversed high above Macclesfield, before the surface relented and an excellent path drew us gently past a classic Ford Capri to the Macclesfield Canal and the easy climax to the day’s stroll.


Sadly my planned ‘afternoon tea bench’ was occupied, so we had to make do with the grassy canalside for our final break for tea and the last pieces of cake.


Near here a Mallard with just one surviving chick was being stalked by a plump heron. JJ did his best to distract the heron, but I fear the mallard will have to rely on a second brood. I don’t think mallards are on the endangered species list, but the chances of this youngster surviving seem remote.


It’s an area of beautifully proportioned canal bridges, such as this one on the approach to Bollington.


A steep descent took us back down to the recreation ground and car park by around 4.30pm.

A most enjoyable day out in fine company, was followed by a speedy and uneventful journey home.

Here’s our route – 19km, 450 metres ascent, taking 5.75 hours.


My full set of 44 images is here.

* Birds-eye Speedwell
Lesser Celandine
Daisies and Dandelions
Bright Yellow Gorse
and many more

Since I posted this entry, Alan R has kindly sent me the following picture of Langley Mill, which dates from 1872, in Slightly Happier Days, though I’m sure its history extends to Much Happier Days.


Alan R has also recorded the walk here, with a little additional information together with his usual sprinkling of humour. Well done, Alan.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Alpine Flowers – A Cicerone Guide by Gillian Price


This pocket guide was published by Cicerone earlier this year.

It is very much a ‘pocket’ guide, measuring 16 cm by 10 cm and weighing just 127 grammes, ie smaller and lighter than most Cicerone guides, and certainly much lighter than the 400+ gramme definitive guide to Alpine Flowers by Christopher Grey-Wilson and Marjorie Blamey, sadly out of print but occasionally available through ebay. ‘Pocket’ does come at a cost – the latter book covers over 1500 species, whereas Gillian's covers just 230 species.

However, only a few of us (I am one) have chosen to lug the definitive guide on backpacking trips around Europe, preferring to ‘Look that up when I get back’. The idea of Gillian’s guide is to act as a lightweight companion in the field, with colour-coded pages to make it easy to consult. The guide focuses on the main flowers likely to be encountered, and it gives readers helpful pointers for distinguishing flowers that might appear the same at first glance.

12 pages of introduction and glossary set the scene for 115 pages of descriptions of the 230 species covered, each supported by a colour photograph. Gillian doesn’t go into complex technical descriptions, but she does add points of interest not covered in the more technical guidebooks, such as the origins of names, toxic or healing qualities, and a variety of other identification points and distinguishing features.

For many people this book will be quite sufficient for all their purposes. Those like me who may wish to identify sub-species etc will also benefit from the lightweight nature of this field guide. It’ll enable us to basically identify most plants, whilst any uncertainties can be photographed digitally and checked in one of the more definitive guides when we get home.

Consequently, whilst the Grey-Wilson/Blamey volume will still accompany me on hutting trips, I’ll be replacing that with this excellent offering from Gillian for backpacking trips.

I commend the book to all those visiting the Alps and Pyrenees who have any interest in the flowers of the region. But as Reginald Farrer so eloquently states in his seminal volume ‘The Dolomites’ (1913) [a ‘must read’ for those with any interest in Alpine flowers] “Those who dislike mountains and are bored with plants need have no dealings with this volume.”

Highly recommended, and available from Cicerone here.

Well done, Gillian.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Silvermoon Quartet at Etruria


Indifferent weather kept us mostly indoors today, the highlight of which was a visit to Knutsford’s premier Mediterranean Bar and Restaurant, Etruria, where the Silvermoon Quartet played Cool Jazz whilst we enjoyed an excellent lunch.

Well done Hayley, Mike, Pete and Adam, it was indeed cool.

They play there at 1.30pm on the first Sunday of each month (perhaps the second Sunday in May – check in advance).

Highly recommended.

Afterwards Sue and I enjoyed a short walk in nearby Tatton Park.


We got wet…

Friday 4 April 2014 – A Troutbeck Trot


Well, more a sort of amble.

It was about 8pm on Thursday night. I was fiddling on the computer with something inconsequential and gravitated into Facebook for a short break.

“Making plans for a hill walk in the Lakes tomorrow” popped up from Alistair. The forecast looked fair so after some exchanges of messages and a phone call I was able to tag onto Alistair’s plan to get a few metres of ascent into his TGO Challenge training schedule.

After a leisurely start and an easy drive to the Church Bridge layby in Troutbeck, we were ready to start by 10.30. The forecast had indicated that the mist would clear by late morning, hence our late start, but we set off in 100% humidity on a warm windless morning on which the water vapour could be clearly seen in the air. During the morning we faffed with various items of clothing, but dampness was the name of the game. I was damp in my t-shirt with a waterproof outer, and Alistair was damp in his t-shirt and fleece.


The first four kilometres was along a pleasant path to the east of Trout Beck, to the footbridge north of Lowther Brow. We’d expected the 364 metre summit of Troutbeck Tongue, which hill neither of us had previously visited, to be clear of mist, but even though it was only 150 metres above us it was well shrouded. From the footbridge a lovely ascending path drew us slowly to the summit, our first of nine for the day. Photos were taken. Not prize winners! Here Alistair poses on what he claimed was the true summit, a few metres away from the summit cairn that can be seen protruding into the background mist.


A gently descending path then led us north through Troutbeck Park, joining a wider track from where our longest ascent of the day saw us ascending Park Fell in the persistent mist. It remained warm, calm and sweaty. Around 1pm, between 500 and 600 metres, we took time out for lunch, conveniently breaking the ascent to Thornthwaite Beacon (784 metres), the second half of which was undertaken easily by two thoroughly refreshed walkers. Two gents lounged at the beacon, the first of eleven people that we saw during the course of the day. A minute or two later, three more shadows in the mist came and went. We enjoyed a few minutes behind a wall in the lee of the gentle but cool westerly breeze. The beacon was then admired from a small rock that Alistair declared was the true summit.

An easy stroll to High Street (828 metres) took us to our high point for the day, a lady tourist, and a zizz from my GPS as it recorded completion of our eleventh kilometre.


It was cooler here, so we soon said goodbye to the lingering lady and headed off down Racecourse Hill next to a wall. This was the course of the old Roman Road known as High Street, and after nearly inadvertently returning to Thornthwaite Beacon we recovered our composure on the good path to Froswick (720 metres), where a couple ran past looking as if they were on a city high street. Beyond this mist persisted as we claimed the summits of Ill Bell (757 metres) and Yoke (706 metres).


After a break to examine my flask (empty, luckily I also had some water) and enjoy some of Alistair’s jelly babies and Lynsey’s excellent flapjack, we headed past a lone, dripping, ascending walker and down towards the Garburn Pass, hopeful that at last we might gain a view. Our hopes were not in vain. At between 500 and 600 metres the breeze stiffened and the cloud base suddenly lifted above us to lurk thereafter at around 800 metres, leaving us with good, if rather dull in terms of light, views along the length of Windermere to Morecambe Bay. We watched the mist lift from our remaining objectives and relaxed in the knowledge that we’d be able to see clearly where we were going for the rest of the day.


Down at the Garburn Pass two elderly gents were faffing with a tent. “I wouldn’t pitch there” we chorused. Curiously they seemed to be carrying very little equipment other than the tent. Soon we found some red and white tape at our next stile, and realised that the gents must be setting up a checkpoint for some event or other being held this weekend, hence the strange positioning of the tent.

After the company of cawing ravens on the higher summits, the sweet songs of skylarks at the 516 metre summit of Sallows provided delightful entertainment as we enjoyed a further break and admired the views to Langdale in the west and Kentmere to the east. The summits were still in cloud.

A pleasant traverse culminating beside a wall by a small wood marked only on the Harveys map led us to Capple Howe (445 metres), the only one of today’s summits that is not listed as a Wainwright. En route, Alistair rather painfully poured himself over a slippery stile, thankful for a solid post and a lack of barbed wire.


A short stroll over close cropped grass led to our ninth and final summit of the day, Sour Howes (483 metres), where we ascended a selection of grassy knobbles, all of which appeared to be contenders for the highest point. A nice little hill, though, not previously visited by either of us, with good views like the one at the head of this posting.

From Sour Howes a good path led amiably past meadow pipits and down the slopes of Backstone Barrow on Applethwaite Common, eventually crossing the Garburn Road track by way of dramatic stiles, one of which is shown below.


A good track then led back to our parking spot at Church Bridge. Robins monitored our progress and we arrived at 6.20pm, after a 24 km outing with around 1200 metres ascent, in a shade less than 8 hours.

Here’s our approximate route, and there are more photos here. I’m sure Alistair will provide a more accurate route map on his blog in due course. The link will be here.


The journey home was very straightforward, punctured only by a stop at Ings for coffee and Calpol, the former of which made a bid for freedom and flooded Alistair’s driving seat. The coffee/Calpol combination proved hazardous and is not recommended! Alistair slowly recomposed himself and deployed his trusty waterproof Harveys as a temporary ‘nappy in reverse’.

Those eight hours on the hill took their toll. I woke on Saturday feeling rather stiff, so a fast Parkrun wasn’t on the cards. Instead I had the pleasurable company of young Joe Evans (11) who paced me round the 5 km course, beating his own previous personal best (PB) by 19 seconds when he finished ahead of me some 24 minutes 40 seconds later. I will never, I suspect, be able to beat my own PB by that sort of margin…

Well done, Joe.