Thursday, 21 August 2014

Friday 15 to Sunday 17 August 2014 – A Weekend in Borrowdale


A ‘gang of six’, pictured above L-R: Hazel, Andrew, Kate, Alastair, Sue and me, had the pleasure of a visit to Borrowdale Youth Hostel.

After pottering up the M6, we found Friday evening in Keswick to be very pleasant.


Behind the Moot Hall, an excellent fish and chip shop satisfied all our needs, before we adjourned to the Youth Hostel, which is between Rosthwaite and Seatoller. It proved to be friendly and well run, and although it was very busy everyone seemed to have enough space. Self cooking facilities were perhaps a little cramped, but the hostel catering that we took advantage of was very good.

Saturday - Hazel and I went for a walk from Honister Hause whilst the others tried the Honister slate mines Via Ferrata.

Waterproofs were soon required as we marched to the summit of Black Star on Honister Crag (633 metres). From there it was an easy passage to Fleetwith Pike (648 metres), where Hazel is pictured with Haystacks and Pillar leaning on her right shoulder. “Much quicker than the Via Ferrata route” we agreed.


The slopes were purple with the Ling variety of heather - that's Kirk Fell in the background behind Haystacks.


The mist cleared from Pillar as we descended past the disused quarry between Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks to the top of Warnscale Beck, where we enjoyed good views towards Buttermere and Crummock Water.


We continued on to Grey Knotts (697 metres) in deteriorating weather, before descending to Honister Hause for lunch in the Mines café. The others were expected back at 11.30 but as a result of one of the group suffering from vertigo they were 45 minutes later than estimated, so Hazel and I could have gone up Brandreth as well…

Our route - 9 km with 550 metres ascent, took about 3 hours.


Meanwhile, Sue, Al, Andrew and Kate had enrolled for the Via Ferrata. Kate was raring to go.


Yellow Mountain Saxifrage grows here.


There were gullies, rock traverses and numerous stempled ascents.


Scary cliffs preceded a wire bridge. (Not good for the lady with vertigo!)


An iron platform was followed by a large blue net that is clearly visible from the road far below.


There were lots of information boards, which feature in the slide show (see link at foot of posting), and there is more on the history of Honister, where it is believed that the first slate was probably mined in the Roman era (although it is quite possible that it began in a more haphazard way in prehistoric times), here.

We all met for lunch back at Honister Hause, where a lone Baguley locomotive sits outside. This is a diesel loco, built to look like a steam one and judged by aficionados to be ‘fake’. There is doubt as to whether it ever worked in the slate mine, one correspondent believing it to have arrived from the Butlin's Camp Railway in Filey where he thinks it ran from 1953 to 1975.


Driving down to Gatesgarth, we stopped to look up to Fleetwith Pike and spot the helmets of the punters on the Via Ferrata, and the large blue net.

The six of us decided to walk around Buttermere, soon reaching Comb Beck in the rain, with High Stile hidden by mist.


A good path through the woods led to a beach where Kate and Andrew fought over the possession of a small island, whilst the rest of us tried to skim stones on the lake.


At the village end of the lake the rain thickened and Andrew built an impressive stack of slates from which he nearly fell into the lake.


Back at Gatesgarth...

"We are on holiday in the middle of summer. You will eat your ice creams."


Here’s our route, starting from Gatesgarth - 7 km with 150 metres ascent, taking rather less than 2 hours.


That left plenty of time for R & R and a few games back at the ‘open all day’ youth hostel, which also has a café/bar that is open to the public.

Sundaythe rainy morning of 17 August found us heading along the chain aided path from the hostel to Folly Bridge.


Folly Bridge (no picture – it was raining heavily and my waterproof camera was at home), cost £25 to build and is a Grade II listed building. Next to the bridge is an inscribed stone with the text as shown below.

This Bridge was built at the Expence of John Braithwaite of Seatoller in the Year of our Lord 1781 By Thomas Hayton and Richard Bowness
I count this folly you have done
As you have neither Wife nor Son
Daughter I have God give her grace
And Heaven for her Resting place

It was raining hard as we tramped over the bridge and across the field to the row of cottages called Mountain View.


A circular walk over five minor summits in the direction of Glaramara was planned.

Combe Gill looked full as we ascended briskly in the direction of Thornythwaite Fell.


Shortbread (CCS) was issued in the rain in an attempt to maintain spirits, and despite the heavy rain where we were, there were occasional flashes of sunshine as we looked back towards Derwent Water. Castle Crag is visible, just off centre.


A necklace of streams graced the slopes of Glaramara.


We continued bravely on and upwards and yesterday's Via Ferrata team were impressed when they looked across to the near sheer face of Fleetwith Pike to which they had been fastened.


We’d had enough by the time we got up to about 550 metres, as we were being drenched by violent rain egged on by a 50mph wind. A quick look at the GPS revealed that we’d almost reached our first target, so four of us crawled up to the 574 metre summit that lay just next to the path on the long undulating ridge.

I whipped out the camera to record the unpleasantness of Thornythwaite Fell on a summer’s day.


The Really Foul Weather drew a unanimous decision. We turned tail and returned quickly to Borrowdale, where the river levels had risen significantly.

The weather wasn't really conducive to photography, or walking, so we went to a tea shop in Grange for lunch, then we went home.

Here's our 'there and back' route - 8 km, 500 metres ascent, 2.5 hours.


Despite the weather, this was a really excellent trip, in the best of company, and highly enjoyable throughout. Thanks go to our good friends for inviting us along.

There’s a slide show (58 pictures) here.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

HMP3 in the Pyrenees


I’m receiving occasional messages from TGO Challenger Humphrey Weightman, who is enjoying himself in the Pyrenees. He should currently be in the vicinity of Pic de Crabère (2629 metres), where hopefully he will be greeted by views like this one. I lingered, as you can see, here at length with Graham, Pierre and Yolaine on 19 July last year.

Happy Days…

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A Family on Holiday (again)


Date: 15 August 2014

Place: Center Parcs (Sherwood Forest)

Holidaymakers (L to R): Martin, Kate, Jessica (Jessie-Moo), Oscar, Jacob, Simon and Sue

My diary records:

Drove to Center Parcs after the rush hour on Monday morning, 11 August, arriving around 1.00pm.

Spent the next four days enjoying the facilities from our dog friendly chalet with its own sauna (which the dog didn’t use).


We didn’t go for a pedal on the lake this time, but we did play on the beach.


Lots of games were contested. I managed to lose at table tennis, American pool, ten pin bowling, whist, tennis and much more.

Some of us went for a bike ride in the pool - that was quite interesting, and we enjoyed the rapids and the slides. Jacob took his own bike and used it to complete the junior nature trail.


He also found lots of playgrounds.


Bugs and owls featured highly on his itinerary…


…as did breakfast.


Meanwhile, Jessica, known on this trip as ‘Jessie-Moo’, didn’t need any toys as she was perfectly happy to play with whatever came to hand – in this case a box of nappies.


“She’ll eat anything” said Kate, whose favourite food at the same age was a mouthful of sand. Jessie-Moo found this slice of lemon a tasty (if a bit sharp) challenge.


She persisted until all but the peel had been eaten – she wouldn’t let go. Other food was made available to her but was largely rejected during the ‘lemon challenge’.


Happy Days….

Monday, 11 August 2014

A Family on Holiday


Date: 14 August 1982

Place: Abereiddy

Holidaymakers (L to R): Robert, Dot, Kate, Martin, John

My diary records:

Drove down to Middle Mill after work on 13 August, arriving 11.30pm.

After a good night’s sleep on a not so rough blanket (I forgot to bring a sheet), we arose and I walked to Solva and back with Kate on a bright, sunny day with a pleasant breeze.

Left Metro at Abereiddy and we all went to Whitesand Bay to commence a coastal walk. R’s bladder in difficulties as usual, and he was also accompanied by a portable stereo cassette unit with expensive looking headset. Dot performed her ‘lost grockle’ act and confused some Americans.

Bright yellows and reds – mainly from gorse and heather.

Lunch at Carreg-yr-afr (or thereabouts). R absent (doing a Laurie)[Laurie is an old friend who was notorious for random disappearances – he was often abandoned in remote spots, but that’s another story]. Kate hungry – ate sand. Seal seen, but lunchtime was converted to a dolphin observation session.

Continued along very pleasant coastal path (Pembrokeshire Coast Path). Kate slept. Buzzed by black and white bird. Reached Abereiddy for ice cream and coffee and biscuits on nice grassy slope by beach. [This must be where the picture was taken.] Kate cheered up and ate half a ‘mothers’ biscuit [and probably some more sand]. Trundled back in the Metro to find the Renault at Whitesand Bay.

Happy Days….

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Hard Men of Wythenshawe Parkrun


Sue and I have been doing Saturday morning Parkruns for a while now. We’ve enjoyed encounters with long standing friends, and with others who have become friends. Wythenshawe is our usual venue, and so it was yesterday.

A quick scan of the results for this 5 km ‘jog’ reveals characters not quite as ‘soft’ as the ‘5 km jog’ label may suggest.

First in was ‘Skippy’ an old colleague of Sue’s whose Ironman exploits are recorded here. Skippy is quite fit at present, or so it seems.

Second was Olly, recently returned from the Lavaredo Ultra Trail – a mere 119 km with nearly 6000 metres of Dolomitic ascent – which he completed in 22 hours or so. “Very doable” he comments, modestly.

The Barbers are frequent runners, when not out on their bikes doing time trials or events such as today’s 130 km in the rain over the Welsh hills.

Paul Muldoon is another loony (can you tell from the picture?) who can often be found running marathons or longer, and Richard Evans, down in 9th place today, takes no prisoners on these little jaunts, leaving son Joe to trail far behind as he aims for another Personal Best.

Ken Burgess, in his mid 70’s, is a local running legend and usually far ahead of me despite my age advantage.

I could mention many more – the Holloways for example, and the vast majority are folk not known to me, but all with their own stories. Not everyone dashes over the line in less than 20 minutes – that’s usually the privilege of the top ten – and yesterday’s ‘tail’ time of 46 minutes in position 172 is normal for the event, which draws into its ‘family’ folk from all levels of fitness and all walks of life.

Parkrun – a wonderful institution – no wonder its founder recently received a CBE award for 'services to grass roots sports participation'.

Congratulations to the 50 or so people out of Wythenshawe’s 172 starters who yesterday managed a Personal Best on the 5 km course – well done!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Thursday 7 August 2014 – Swettenham, and the Murky Depths of Deepest Cheshire


For the latest in Notchy’s ‘Deepest Cheshire’ series of evening walks, we convened, just about on time, at the Swettenham Arms, where our leader  confessed to having crocked himself on the recce. “Tricky terrain” he commented.

So he gave me some instructions and legged it back home (insofar as he can ‘leg it’ anywhere these days). That left me and Sue and Richard and Jenny pondering what would happen, as we left The Lavender Meadow, which was lovely in the evening light.

By some sort of fluke we found the prescribed route without too much difficulty as we left the fleshpot – though socialising with the heavily strapped and even more fed up Notchy had delayed our start by 30 minutes, the consequences of which would become apparent later.

Following Notchy's instructions assiduously, we ventured down a country lane and bravely negotiated the River Dane - there would be no way to cross back to 'our' side of the river for several miles...

The footpath was slightly eroded, as we headed west towards Holmes Chapel, with some giant lumps of earth seemingly about to head off towards the river, possibly taking my companions with them.

Jenny gasped in wonder that Notchy had even managed to complete the recce, given the nature of the terrain, which it has to be said was a bit trickier than the norm for ‘Deepest Cheshire’.


After this eroded bank section the map showed a path going in a straight line. I’d been told an easy mistake would be to follow the river too closely. I did the opposite and managed to give some electrocution lessons whilst negotiating the lively fences installed by the local farmer.

We'd strayed a little from the faint path, but everyone seemed happy enough as we marched on beyond Woodhouse Farm, blinded by the dipping sun. We weren't anywhere near half way along Notchy's route, but nobody seemed bothered, other than ‘mole’ who had retired gracefully by turning turtle when faced with yet another muddy barrier.


We lost the sun, but we gained the A535 main road, which delivered us safely back onto the correct bank of the river, beside a fine railway viaduct.

After dodging some commuters, a barking donkey and a tuneful tandem, we escaped from the dangers of the verge of the A535 and followed the DVW - Dane Valley Way - all the way back to Swettenham. This wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds, as the path was a bit tricky to follow through the fields in the dark, so we deviated slightly where it wasn't clear; but at least the moon behaved as a good torch (except under tree cover, which was frequent).

I think Jenny may have preferred the road route given the frisky cows, attentive horses with soft noses, honking ducks and muddy declivities. And Sue’s shorts weren’t the best equipment to avoid the nettles and brambles of the ‘open road’ – ie the bits of the path that weren’t in deep wet grass, through fields of sweetcorn, or through troughs of mud.

The moon, and the signposts, did come in handy on their occasional sightings.


Civilisation, on the edge of Swettenham, greeted us in the form of a large black dog and a recorded message informing us that “Attention – your movements are now being recorded by a security camera”. Some of our group found this a little intimidating, but I suspected it was just one of Notchy’s jokes, so I ignored any danger and carried on.

When others had had been counselled into following, we found a bit of tarmac that led miraculously to St Peter's church, last renovated in 1926, but dating from Norman times.

This was a welcome sight, and my companions were so pleased to have been delivered to mercy from Notchy's muddy adventure into the Murky Depths of Deepest Cheshire, that they bought me a drink! Notchy was of course nowhere to be seen.


The route we followed wasn't quite the green dashes that were intended, but we gave it our best shot - 9.5 km, 90 metres ascent, in a shade over 2 hours.


There’s a slideshow – only 17 pictures – here.

Thanks to Notchy for planning this route, albeit not actually accomplishing it on the night. It was considerably entertaining!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Hyde and Godley


Last night Sue and I enjoyed another summer’s evening outing with SWOG, starting from the Cheshire Ring pub in Hyde. Numbers were down – only 27 tonight – people must be on holiday.

We started off by dashing across the A57 and onto the Peak Forest Canal towpath – a rather muddy section of the Cheshire Ring canal network (but unlike the towpath through Timperley, this one is at least open).

Conditions were lush and warm.


We left the towpath at Apethorn Lane to stroll along a 2.5 km section of disused railway between Apethorn Lane, Hyde and Green Lane, Godley, managed by The Countryside Service.  This is a section of the Trans Pennine Trail, providing a good path for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, even wheelchair users.


The route of the old railway is green corridor with woodland, scrub and grassland creating a local wildlife haven. In the grasslands flowers like knapweed, teasel, and clovers provide colourful displays and food for insects and birds.


The original railway was built in 1866 by the Cheshire Lines Committee, primarily as a freight link to Chester and Liverpool, avoiding Manchester. In 1954 the eastern mainline near Godley was electrified and a large turntable had to be built at that end so that engines could be changed. The pit for this turntable is shown below, with Howard either showing particular interest, being sick in the pit, or dropping his glasses. With the closure of the Woodhead route in the 1970's the line became little used and was closed in 1981. It remained disused until the new Trans Pennine section of trail was created in 2000/01.


After back-tracking a little, Pete and Sue led us through a series of ginnels and into Vincent Park, between Godley and Hyde.


The name "HYDE" is apparently derived from the hide, a measure of land for taxation purposes, taken to be that area of land necessary to support a peasant family. In later times it was taken to be equivalent to 120 acres .

Anyway, a bit further on we came across this folly, under which some members of the party recalled lighting fires back in their youth.


The folly isn’t accessible from the front as it’s in the grounds of a day nursery, but I believe it is in fact a castellated pigsty dating from 1767. The handsome structure, built of local stone and still with many of its original features still intact, is apparently one of a pair. I don’t know where the other one is – perhaps at the bottom of Sandra’s garden? But who is Sandra?

All in all, a very interesting route, on ground that other than the canal section I was not familiar. Thanks Pete and Sue.

Here’s the map – 8 km (5 miles), with 50 metres ascent, taking rather less than 2 hours, and adjourning to the excellent Beartown bitter of The Cheshire Ring.


There’s a ‘Deepest Cheshire’ evening walk on 7 August (today), starting at the Swettenham Arms (SJ 800 672) at 7.30pm. All are welcome, though I can’t guarantee even a fraction of last night’s attendance figures.