Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Graffiti from the Southern Half (19)


All quiet in Timperley today, but we are reminded of our South American trip as we are due to give another presentation to SWOG on 19 October.

It won’t all be graffiti, I promise!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Jessica’s Third Birthday


We enjoyed a lovely birthday party on Saturday. The pictures speak for themselves.


Big brother snook in for a ‘blow job’.


All the cousins had a go at blowing out the candles on Jessica’s giant cake (which she later gobbled down in its entirety).


Meanwhile, mummy was looking after Oscar the sausage dog (he ate all the sausages) restraining him from snaffling the cakes.


What a lovely party, and the Coronation Chicken and the Trifle both managed to survive Oscar’s attention.

Thanks to Kate and Simon for hosting it.

An Elephant for Sale!


Various wild animals seem to be roaming the streets of Sale. This elephant was seen last Thursday, trotting past Vao Restaurant before we popped into the Waterside Arts Centre for a Karen Matheson (of Capercaillie fame) concert, supported by Fara, a girl band from Orkney.

An enjoyable evening of Celtic music.

We walked there and back along the canal towpath, dodging the cycling commuters on the way there, and observing numerous resident bird life, which at present can be summarised as follows:

Lots of Mallards and Canada Geese
Occasional flocks of Black-headed Gulls
A family of Mute Swans
The Timperley Heron
Mandy the Mandarin Duck (resident here for 4 years)
Grey Wagtails near the bridges
Feral and Wood Pigeons
A lone young Moorhen
A Cormorant on tour
Blackbirds, Magpies and Carrion Crows on the towpath
Lots of Sparrows chattering in the hawthorn hedges lining the towpath

How many of these can you spot between Dane Road and Timperley Bridge? And what have I missed? (I know there are more, such as roaming Goldfinches, and tits in the hedgerows.)

And where are all the other animals?

Monday, 26 September 2016

Wednesday 21 September 2016 – Four Lancashire Hills


I was planning on joining the LDWA Plodders for a short walk near Settle, but a glance at Region 36 of The Relative Hills of Britain book sold to me by Alan Dawson a few years ago revealed four hills that I hadn’t recently (or in some cases ‘ever’) been up.

This would provide a bit more exercise than the ‘plod’. A quick check on AA driving times and Naismith formula walking times revealed that the round trip should take about 10.5 hours.

Freeholds Top (454 metres)


An 8.30 start from Timperley took me around a surprisingly quiet M60 motorway and up the M66 to Bacup. The parking spot at Trough Gate was an ideal starting point. A high road to Shawforth afforded goods views across to my objective on the right of the skyline in the above picture. It was warm but overcast, breezy above 300 metres, and it stayed that way all day. So the walks could be done in trainers, carrying just a windproof jacket as a precaution. It wasn’t needed.

The farmer at Winterbutt Lee helpfully guided me through his farmyard. “There are footpaths through all the farms in the area except that one”, he said, pointing across the valley towards Cowm Top. But the footpaths are poorly marked in this area, and I soon found myself the wrong side of the wall after Middle Trough. The path was soon regained and led easily to the summit, where a trig point lurked behind a pond.


I followed the crest of the ridge for a while, heading towards Limer’s Gate and past one of the many wind farms that have sprung up in this area.


I planned to drop down to Dry Corner Farm and descend to Britannia via Higher Hogshead. Dry Corner Farm was a mess. Luckily I’m not afraid of dogs. A sign warned that they might bite me. A resident disappeared inside the dilapidated hovel. The dogs were noisy but friendly. I couldn’t find the path, so I made a quick exit down a driveway. There was lots of debris, as indicated below. Can you see the remains of a boat, stranded high on the moor!?


I took the easy option and headed on down past some private roads. Suddenly, things looked familiar. I was on Tong Lane. This is where I take Oscar for a walk when visiting my daughter. I passed a few metres from her house!

A gentle jog took me through the posh houses of Britannia and back to Trough Gate for a welcome cuppa, happily ahead of schedule despite the longer than expected route - 9 km, with 240 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 40 minutes.


Boulsworth Hill – Lad Law (517 metres)

Parking at the roadside next to the Coldwell Reservoirs set me up for an easy stroll along the Pendle Way/Pennine Bridleway footpaths, past a couple of elderly ladies as far as Will Moor Clough. A stone marker point with a faded cap, pictured below, signified the start of a permissive path to the summit.


It was boggy. Difficult to keep feet dry in trainers, but I managed it, hopping past two elderly gents on the way. They seemed to have lost the knack of crossing peaty groughs whilst maintaining dry feet. There was a discernible path to the 517 metre summit, marked again by a trig point.


Despite the overcast day, the views were reasonable. Some nearby rocks, shown below, looked higher, so I visited them. They were lower.


A self timed picture was attempted. Unlike Gayle, who also gets up to this sort of caper, I don’t have a selfie stick. The wind blew my camera off the trig point, so I propped it up at the bottom of the plinth. First attempt: headless, second attempt: legless, third attempt: try sitting down, that’s better!


I continued along the crest of the ridge for a while, with good views across to Pendle Hill, before attempting to find the permissive path leading down to Lumb Laithe Farm. This proved tricky, and I never really located it. The tussocky descent was undertaken with great care; this was ‘knee wrecking’ country.


Once back on the bridleway, a speedy return to the car past various groups of walkers ensured that I was still well ahead of schedule and could pause for a while to enjoy lunch and another cuppa.

This little stroll covered 8.5 km, with 350 metres ascent, and took 1 hour 30 minutes.


Easington Fell (396 metres)

A roundabout route via Slaidburn exposed the inefficiencies of doing this sort of trip with just a 1:250000 road map and a 1:25000 map on the phone. Eventually I reached a lay-by opposite a quarry at Butts Gray Stones on the B6478.

The summit of Easington Fell looked quite close. It’s just to the left of the trees…


An easy path led to the summit in just a few minutes. Looking back, nearby Waddington Fell looked higher. I’m assured that it isn’t (until Jon Metcalf and Alan Dawson do a ‘heightings survey’ anyway) but if I’d known it was so close I’d have gone up Waddington Fell as well.


I propped the camera on the rocks and took another self-timed picture. A jogger ran past. It looks as if I’m trying to hitch a lift with him.


I made this walk into a circular route by following the jogger down a path to the north of the parish boundary that was marked with engraved stones like this one.


Here’s the route – a very easy hill – 3.5 km, with 70 metres ascent, taking a shade over 30 minutes.


The drive towards Longridge took me unexpectedly past a fleshpot – Bashall Barn – I drove past then thought “I can’t do that” and returned for refreshments and some fish cakes for supper…


Longridge Fell (350 metres)

From the parking place by Cardwell House, there’s a view to the corner of a wood. When you reach that you know you are half way to Spire Hill, the highest point on Longridge Fell.


A group of runners was leaving the parking spot at the same time as me. They took a slightly different route, their local knowledge favouring a ‘dry line’ whilst I was bog-hopping again. They kept stopping to wait for their slowest member. That enabled me to keep up and enjoy a chat at the summit. The guy on the right is a teacher, taking his students on a Wednesday afternoon run. They were enjoying being out on the fells.


To make this a circular route, I continued along the skyline path to High Beacon, where a right turn then another unmarked right turn took me down a sort of fire break, pictured below, towards some fallen trees and a very rough section.


The skyline path was regained and followed all the way back to the road, where a final short climb led over a rise and down to the car, where all remaining ‘edibles’ (apart from supper) were stomached, and the flask was drained.

This final stroll of the day amounted to 5 km, with 110 metres ascent, and took a shade under 50 minutes.


So, by the time I was home before 6 o’clock, the day’s outing had taken 9.5 hours and I’d walked about 26 km with 770 metres ascent, taking 4 hours 30 minutes.

An excellent day out.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Sunday 18 September 2016 – A Bike Ride to Phoenix Park (Runcorn)


At last Saturday morning’s parkrun Andy Wright suggested an alternative Sunday morning bike ride route. I’d been planning the usual anti-clockwise Trans Pennine Trail (TPT)/Cheshire Ring circuit (most recently described here), but the attractions of a mid ride café swung my decision in favour of a ride based on Andy’s suggestion.

An 8.30 start saw me heading along a misty Bridgewater Canal towards Lymm.

The nice new towpath ends beyond the Bay Malton at Oldfield Brow, with officious looking signage requesting cyclists to dismount. That’s not really necessary in dry conditions, but after a lot of rain the towpath does get very muddy and is perhaps best avoided until a few miles beyond Lymm. So this is a ‘summer’ route.

Nobody complained about me staying astride the bike. Courtesy plays a part in achieving that result.

At Little Bollington, in view of The Swan With Two Nicks, somebody had pulled a plug and let the bathwater in.


The sun came out.


Approaching Lymm, several barges were under way, enjoying another lovely summery morning.


Looking back, the mist seemed to want to chase me all the way to Runcorn.


At Thelwall the M6 is very close by (it passes overhead) but there are some magical sections of the canal.


Rather than stick to the towpath all the way to my planned departure point at Red Brow Lane, I left it at London Road, by Thorn Marine in Stockton Heath. This pleasant option is shown on the map below, returning to the towpath at Acton Grange Bridge.


Soon afterwards, at Keckwick Lane, Norton Water Tower came into view. It’s a useful landmark as my route was to pass very close to the tower.


Leaving the canal at Red Brow Lane as planned, it was an easy ride along quiet roads, past the Water Tower, to Phoenix Park and the delights of the Urban Café.


I sat outside with a couple whose children were playing in the extensive and comprehensive play zone. They told me the area had been rejuvenated following the demolition of some tower blocks and their replacement with low-rise, low-cost housing. The café is certainly a great facility. I must have looked hungry, as their cake portion control went a bit awry! The racks in front of me are for bicycles.


Suddenly there was a huge commotion. A load of bikes arrived. Most of them seemed to be out of control. I spotted Andy Wright (grinning inanely!) in their midst before he got carted off to hospital….



After the wreckage had been cleared and the ambulances had been despatched to wait in queues outside a variety of hospitals, I pedalled off through the park and soon reached the canal towpath again.

It was summer. Seriously hot.


I left the towpath at the first bridge, near Windmill Hill, and made my way to the Trans Pennine Trail. Minor roads led me to cross the Expressway at Pitts Heath. Immediately after that I saw an off-road turning to the left. I should have taken it; I’m sure it would have by-passed the road that loops through Moore before heading to the Ship Canal. The following picture shows my route to the TPT.


This really was a pretty simple route, as once the TPT had been reached it was simply a question of following the signposts along a route with which I was already familiar. The Manchester Ship Canal was crossed and then re-crossed at Latchford Locks, where I could look back to the Latchford Viaduct, the cost of maintenance of which finally laid the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway to rest in 1985 after 132 years. I was heading for the trackbed of that railway.


In the other direction, traffic could be seen on the M60 bridge in Salford.


The pace quickened as I headed under the late summer tree canopy along the trackbed all the way to Broadheath. The picture below is deceptive – there were lots of people about on the summery morning.


A short road section led me home. Dairyhouse Lane has a right angle bend around which somebody failed to make it last night.


Here’s the route – 62 km with up to 500 metres ascent. Allow two hours each way to and from the café, and enjoy a half hour break there…


Thanks for the suggestion, Andy.