Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Martiflette (2 servings)


This is a dish based on the traditional 'Tartiflette' that we enjoyed with French friends earlier in 2015. When I told Chantal that I included mushrooms in my recipe, and that I didn't use Reblochon cheese, she said "That's not Tartiflette, you can't call it Tartiflette". So this is my take on this traditional Alpine dish, perhaps also suitable for a cold March day in Timperley.


350 gm potatoes (waxy/red are good) - thinly sliced
250 gm bacon (smoked is good) - get two hand-cut slices from the butcher and cut into small squares (or buy lardons)
4 shallots or a small red onion - sliced
2 cloves garlic - crushed
150 gm chestnut mushrooms - sliced
200 ml double cream
250 gm Linset Chaorce cheese
White wine

Salad ingredients of your choice


1 Heat oven to 200 degrees C.

2 Boil the potatoes in salted water until they soften (6-7 minutes).

3 Drain and cool the potatoes.

4 Fry the bacon, garlic and onion/shallots with a dash of olive oil for 5-6 minutes until they soften, then add the sliced mushrooms and continue frying for 4-5 minutes.

5 De-glaze the pan with white wine.

6 Put the bacon mixture in a buttered gratin dish, then layer the sliced potatoes on top.

7 Pour the double cream evenly over the top of the potatoes.

8 Season with salt and pepper.

9 Overlay with slices of Chaorce cheese. This is more readily available in the UK than Reblochon, which can also be used, as can other soft, melty cheeses.

10 Bake in the oven at 200C until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Enjoy with some green, or more elaborate, salad.


Based on a Tartiflette recipe from Robert, the Solitary Walker. Thanks Robert.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Saturday 28 March 2015 – Wythenshawe parkrun


I did my 70th Wythenshawe parkrun (I’ve now learnt that it is all one word, with a lower case p) on Saturday and was nabbed afterwards by Andy to write the weekly report. He chose the right moment, as I’ll only be able to get to the event one more time before the end of May. You’ll gather from the report that is duplicated below that there weren’t many, if any, photos taken on Saturday, so I’ve pulled some from the 27 December 2014 archive, showing the Park, Oliver, and a different Run Director, Paul M, giving a rather longer briefing than we ‘enjoyed’ on Saturday.

I won’t go on any more, other than to emphasise the enjoyment and camaraderie generated by parkruns all over the UK. Go on, get your barcode, and then use it!

Here’s my report.

Event number 180 – 28th March 2015

Posted on March 29, 2015 by wythenshaweoffice

Well, what an honour! I've been asked to pen this week's report. Was that a hint of desperation I detected in Andy's voice when he asked me?

I had planned to bring 'cake' to celebrate my 70th Wythenshawe parkrun, but having looked at the forecast I decided against being remembered as the person who brought the soggiest cake! What a contrast to last week's conditions.

Cycling from Timperley was not actually unpleasant, but by 8.45 even Oliver had deployed his brolly and was enjoying a chuckle whilst 197 masochists assembled under the large trees next to the 16th century hall that his mate Captain Adams had laid siege to some 370 years earlier. "I'm glad I wasn't there" pondered Oliver,  recalling that Adams had got his head blown off in the fracas.

Anyway, the rain thickened and 9am came and went. Technical problems with the timing device were skilfully 'patched' and today's Run Director, Paul L, piped up and led his victims to the start line. It's a requirement to provide a briefing at this point, so the dogs were gagged whilst Paul quickly welcomed tourists, explained the route, briefed the first timers, explained that we don't have sole use of the park, asserted that children must stay with and look after their parents, reminded Andy that 'it's not a race', encouraged everyone to follow the signs ("but not the yellow ones, they are for a different event"), etc, etc.

To Paul's eternal credit he managed all this, and a countdown to the start, in about ten seconds.

It was crowded and wet. I'm sure Matteo was pleased to have his new Sealskinz waterproof socks. I was certainly glad of mine, but very soon my feet were the only dry bits of my body.

The 'mud splash' was just that - a bit like the water splash in a steeplechase, but 20 times as long and full of mud. Great fun!

Slithering around the football pitches was, well, a slither. But the fast descent to the far bridge was (relatively speaking) a pure delight, especially for 'it's not a race' Holloway who managed to sprint ahead of a youthful rival.

So PBs would not feature today, would they? Well, they did! Congratulations to 14 of you who managed just that - Jaya, Jacqueline, Amy, Lindsey, Heather, Jane, Paul, Samantha, Philippa, William, Gareth, Stuart, Adam and Andrew. There were also PBs (obviously) from today's 26 First Timers, only 7 of whom had done parkruns before elsewhere. So well done to those folk for starting their parkrun careers on such a grotty day. Do come again!

First home was Andy 'it's not a race' Holloway, and bringing up the rear today, just beating the tail runner to the tape, was Jill 'I'm going as fast as I can' Holloway. Three more 'Holloways' were amongst the list of finishers, and it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that there were a further 11 Holloways masquerading as 'Unknowns', not forgetting any more Holloways listed amongst today's volunteers.

We all know (especially those of us of a certain age) that Andy 'it's not a race' Holloway is quite right in his assertion. It's all about percentages, of the age-related variety, with a talented lady once again taking the bow. Not many may know this, but our queen of the percentages today is currently rather high in the UK lists for 10km races in her age group. We salute you Jackie Cordingley, for your 'Performance of the Week'.

Percentages are of course important to the OAPs amongst us, and congratulations go to Michael Dunne for being first home, in 29th position, amongst the nine 'over 65s' included in today's soggy participants.

Today's Tourists - they must be seriously addicted to turn out in such vile weather whilst on holiday in Manchester - appear to come from the height and breadth of Greater Manchester, apart from two significant chaps, Ben Barton and Rob Partington, who despite their Northern Names ventured out from the Isle of Wight and Greater London respectively. I hope you enjoyed your visit, and a cuppa at the café before your long journeys home! Well done to all of you, and on behalf of the 'management' I do apologise for the time that it took to scan your barcodes at the finish.

Today's event was plagued by technical problems, with large numbers of soggy barcodes contributing to the delay. I thought everyone was very patient whilst the hard-pressed volunteers refused to panic and eventually de-camped from the dubious shelter of the trees to finish their task in the warmth of the café, albeit the soggy runners still had to wait to get to the head of the queue before gaining shelter from the weather.

Talking of volunteers, as you know, the event couldn't take place without them, and today's team of Run Director Paul Lockett together with his finely honed squad of Beatrice Cordingley, Anthony Harrison, Andy 'it's not a race' Holloway, Richard Kenny, Katharine Lay, Alex Lay, Dorothy Muldoon, Anthony Southworth, Susan Steindorff, Martin Stratton, Margaret Tunney and Emma Willert are to be applauded, together with all the additional folk who stepped in to help move the scanning firstly from in front of the hall to under the trees, and then to the café.

(Well done - I can hear the clapping in Timperley.)

Volunteers are always needed, and I'd encourage you to take your turn - we should all volunteer at least three times a year - by sending an email or a facebook message, or by filling in the sheet on the table at your next parkrun.  There are always plenty of slots available which really do need filling, and it's fun and satisfying.

Almost finally (should that be penultimately?), a word to the 16 under 15s who took part today. I'm really impressed that you ventured out on such a grotty day, but I'm also envious of you all having years and years of PBs in front of you - enjoy that whilst you can.

Finally (post penultimately?), Andy has scripted a message that says  "I may have mentioned it before, but please, please, please Don’t Forget Your Barcode". (You may need to re-print and laminate one if those I saw at the finish are anything to go by.) Andy harbours a dream of one day having a run with no Unknown Athletes in the results table so go on, make him happy!

See you next time



Our Wine List

This is just testing my new phone prior to the next bout of mobile blogging.

(Mine's the Rich Cape Burgundy please, I hope it improves with age!)

Friday, 27 March 2015

Austrian Alpine Club Photo Competition - 2014

Readers may recall a diplomatic incident several years ago when I entered a winning photo in the AAC competition. ‘Butterflyfest’ had actually been taken by Sue!

We judged the competition the following year and submitted our 2013 entry too late. But we recently submitted a fairly random selection of snaps taken in 2014.

It’s not a big contest, and the winners simply receive certificates. This year just 21 members sent in a total of 128 images, including 4 sketches.

The hasty and random selection of the images, coupled with my very average snapping skills, meant I had no expectations of success. Sue and I each submitted 5 entries.

Yesterday the results were announced, with some 20 of the 128 images, taken by 13 of the 21 entrants, receiving awards or commendations.

Sue was pleased to discover that one of her pictures was commended, though on this occasion I missed out.

The pictures we submitted are shown in chronological order below. Can you spot Sue’s commended entry?

Wild Camp at Annat

Lochan na h-Earba

Long Flowered Primrose

Round-leaved Saxifrage

Botany Calling

Sassongher Awaits

Crocodile in Badia

Rhaetian Poppy

Mountain Houseleek

Marsh Helleborine

The Austrian Alpine Club has several thousand members. Membership includes some insurance cover and members receive 50% discounts on their accommodation in affiliated mountain huts, so it’s worth joining for no other reason if you are going to spend a week or so in such ‘huts’.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Friday 20 to Sunday 22 March 2015 – Rentahostel in Slaidburn


I’d intended to continue with the mobile postings during this trip, but with Slaidburn not having wifi or a reliable mobile phone signal (not a bad thing), I gave the phone a rest. In fact it may be having a long rest, as it’s overdue an upgrade and I’m fed up with being pestered by call centres.

Back then to Friday morning, the day of the 85% eclipse, of which Sue and I had excellent views whilst driving around the M60 squinting through a bundle of photographic slides when the clouds weren’t shielding our eyes from the sun.

Reaching Sabden at 10.15, we found Ken and Anne and discovered that the antique centre’s café, where we had planned to meet, had been closed for two years. So we plonked ourselves outside the amenable Malkin Pie shop, which also did coffee - very friendly it was too.


Luckily, it wasn’t too cold, as the rest of today’s 14 strong team arrived in dribs and drabs over the next hour or so. Eventually we all set off up Calf Hill on the misty day, along the easy path up Pendle Hill.

Here we are, on track, near Churn Clough Reservoir.


Up into the mist we went, soon taking a path to the right. The wrong path. My incompetent navigation (a ‘Martin’s Meander’) resulted in a joyous yomp across the moor towards Ogden Clough. Keith and I soon found the easy track, but for some reason the others, just visible through the mist, continued their clumsy yomp through peat hags, about 50 metres to our right.

However we were reunited further up Ogden Clough for the final storming of Pendle Hill summit (557 metres), where a much anticipated cloud inversion sadly eluded us.


Lunch was taken 10 metres from the summit in the forlorn hope of sunshine that never arrived. Then we descended north to the wall that heralds the path down to a waymark post that looks ancient but is actually quite new. From there, a path of well laid and well used stone slabs lead down towards Barley.


Black Moss Reservoirs appeared through the haze, and the easy walk into Barley led inexorably to the Barley Mow, where the clientele unfortunately put off some of those disposed to nervousness amongst our number…


... so 9 of them disappeared into the nearby Pendle Inn.

The rest of us continued on beside Lower Ogden Reservoir, on the road – we missed the lower path due to some incompetence from our leader (oops!).

Further on, water cascaded with a degree of symmetry  from the upper reservoir.


We rose from there,with a bleak view down to the reservoir, heading over Driver Height towards Sabden Fold. On the way, Ken found the item he had earlier purchased ‘blind’ from an eBay seller. He joyously took possession of his new caravan. Anne looked on, puzzled.


We returned with no further incident, apart from deep mud, unexpected hills, and shadowy figures bearing broomsticks, to Sabden, and the short but convoluted drive to Slaidburn.

Our walking route, including my faux pas in the mist over Spence Moor, was 19 km with 700 metres ascent, taking 5.5 hours.


During the evening our group of 14 expanded to the weekend’s quota of 25, most of whom enjoyed the Hark to Bounty Inn’s fish night – a choice of about ten different fish dishes, all very good.

Saturday morning, and a fine day outside Slaidburn Youth Hostel saw all 25 of us milling around for some time. In other words, these two, Colin and Tove, were in for a long wait.


Some then went on a drive, leaving 12 of us to set off up the road. Foolishly, someone had appointed me leader again. I had to turn around and call back the vanguard in order to negotiate an unexpected turning into the enticing garlicky aroma of the woods around Tenter Hill.


Mud was encountered near Myttons, then high quality farming equipment adorned the landscape at Lanshaws…


... lots of it.


We headed on past Croasdale House and up to the Roman Road that stretched far ahead of us onto Croasdale Fell – see photo at the top of this posting.

'Elevenses' was soon declared.


Then we came across one of a number of memorial plaques erected in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the execution of the Pendle witches. There’s a website dedicated to the cause, here. A central feature seems to be a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate. This is one of the ‘Tercet’ waymarks that carry stanzas from the poem on the top of the waymark, in this case the sixth tercet, with the whole poem on one side. (A tercet is simply a three-lined stanza or poem, that often contains a rhyme.)


Here’s the whole poem:

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars,
feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,
away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave;
only future tourists who might grieve.

Suitably impressed, we continued along the Roman Road, unnoticed by courting birds of prey but viewed with suspicion by their minders. On the moor we saw the usual curlew, lapwings, oyster catchers and skylarks, to name just a few (Ken could I expect provide a long list) as well as birds of prey, the most conspicuous of which was a sparrowhawk.

A gateway indicated the point at which we should leave the track and yomp beside a fence, across peat hags to White Hill.

There's a 'Tower' near the summit. Graham Illing climbed it, perhaps trying, and failing to be first to the summit of the hill.


It was therefore Keith who made it first to the trig point at 544 metres which marks the highest point in the neighbourhood.


Ingleborough was visible in the distance, its summit ringed with the last vestiges of a wintry necklace, but it was only just visible through the haze (though today was by far the clearest day of the week).

It was time for lunch, in a more sheltered spot today, again by the highest point of our outing.


Then a downhill yomp took us back to the Roman Road for another sunbathing break before heading down Whitendale, a pleasant valley where we met just two people - one of whom I recognised as an LDWA member who had been on my recent Curry Walk.

After passing a lady enjoying afternoon tea in her garden, we headed steeply up into a cool breeze towards Dunsop Head.


Once the initial ascent was over we paused to empty our flasks before a final march to the high point, followed by an easy descent on a high path to the south of Dunsop Brook. There are some fine signposts around here!


The skies were clear, offering good views towards Stocks Reservoir before we finished the walk on gentle tarmac past brutally coppiced hawthorn hedges. An excellent day out, the route of which is shown below - 23 km with 800 metres ascent, taking 7.5 hours.


Luckily, we were back shortly before the ‘driving’ contingent who had done a point to point walk using cars to ferry themselves around, so some of us got hot showers before the water went cold and then we adjourned for tea and cake, and later an excellent meal provided by numerous volunteers. Thanks everyone, Sue and I took a break from cooking this year but we know all about the effort that’s required.

Sunday morning - Slaidburn's War Memorial sparkled in the sunshine as we passed to and from the car park opposite the village hall, before Jess, Elaine and Clare set off back to the south coast, and Andrew returned to Cheshire, leaving the remaining 21 of us to drive to beyond Dunsop Bridge, to Langden Brook.

All 21 set off along this fine avenue of trees at around 10 o’clock.


We soon turned off and crossed a bridge, warming up for a long ascent by strolling alongside Langden Brook. Then, while Keith nipped up the minor summit of Mellor Knoll, the rest of us tottered up Totridge, pausing for elevenses en route, at exactly 11 am.


The large group remained vaguely together, despite the efforts of some to drop off the back, and we all reassembled at Totridge’s 496 metre summit, having already completed most of the day’s ascent.

In 2011 there was a major incident when the body of Bill Smith, a famed fellrunner, was found on nearby Saddle Moor. He fell into a bog and wasn’t missed for nearly three weeks. He is remembered by way of a plaque on Totridge's trig point, but that plaque gives no clue as to the feats achieved by this legendary character who wrote a definitive history of fellrunning.

Here’s an extract from Bill’s Wikipedia entry:

The president of the Fell Runners Association, Graham Breeze, published a posthumous encomium and long-belated book review: "Considering the masterpiece that bears his name Bill Smith was a staggeringly modest and unassuming man ... I am privileged to have known him slightly and corresponded with him occasionally ... A few years ago I wrote a short piece about Stud marks on the summits and sent it to Bill for his approval. I wrote that I knew he would hate it but I would like it to appear in The Fellrunner in homage to his masterpiece. As I partly anticipated, he wrote back and asked me not to publish because it would embarrass him. We later talked about the piece at a race and I promised that, since all writers hate to waste material, it would only appear when he could no longer be embarrassed ... Fellrunners come and go, Champions come and go, but no-one will ever be as important to the development and history of fellrunning as the man who died in September on the Bowland fells."

We milled around at the trig point,  impressed by GS’s efforts to climb it (pictured below) before ambling off into the bog.


Neal soon attempted what, given the above story, could perhaps be called a ‘Bill Smith’. Luckily there were friends on hand to pull him out, and others to record the occasion. Mary Berry would not have approved of his ‘soggy bottom’!


The long section following a fence all the way to Fair Snape Fell’s summit measured 4.5 km as a straight line on my map, but the ‘bog dodging’ requirement of our actual route probably added quite a bit to that. Anyway, by the time we eventually we made it to the 520 metre summit, we were all happy to find a sheltered spot for our third ‘summit lunch’ of the trip – apart from Graham, who decided that in the absence of a trig point, he would impersonate one whilst downing his lunch, which I’m told comprised a can (or two?) of gin and tonic.


Then we set off to the actual trig/view point that overlooks West Lancashire from the lower height of 510 metres. There were paragliders and a proper glider vying for uplift, and whilst the usual landmarks of Blackpool Tower, etc, weren’t visible today, we could see smoke from numerous heather burning operations, and we could watch the paragliders as they attempted to take off from the nearby 432 metre summit of Parlick.

It was a busy spot, especially with our 19 marauding ramblers (Ken and Anne having gone ahead).


Soon it was time to return to the summit of Fair Snape Fell, from where two further kilometres of yomping led us to the narrow but excellent path that leads down Fiendsdale.


We got down to Langden Brook by 3 pm, just in time for a afternoon tea, more brownies and shortbread and various other goodies provided by an assortment of folk – thanks everyone - and a snooze for some.


A leisurely departure across stepping stones saw us on the last lap of the weekend, and we eventually exited from 'access land' and its list of 22 restrictions.

Langden Intake is the site of a water supply for Lancashire, guarded by a nymph - Miranda – she looked a bit tired today, as were the pheasants, who couldn’t be bothered to fly – they just ran ahead, guiding us back to the start of this excellent walk.


Here’s our route - 19 km with 650 metres ascent, taking 6 hours.


The end of a most agreeable little trip.

There’s a slideshow (95 images) here.

Some folk complain about the cost of youth hostels, but this rentahostel weekend cost each of us about £30 for the two nights plus the excellent two full breakfasts and  the Saturday evening meal provided by members of the group. Even adding the ‘fish night’ food (£7) at the local pub on Friday, and the cost of a few drinks, the outlay could be considered modest.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Eleven Hills in Shropshire and Herefordshire


Here are a few pictures and maps to supplement the previous three postings on my recent trip to eleven airy summits. There’s also an annotated slideshow here.

1. Caer Caradoc Hill (459 metres): here’s Martin S on the summit.


Our route was 6.5km, with 300 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 30 minutes.


2. Wapley Hill (329 metres): Martin thinks he’s on the summit.


Our route was 3.7km, with 120 metres ascent, taking 1 hour.


3. Shobdon Hill (326 metres): I think I’m on the summit.


Our route was 4.9km, with 230 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 20 minutes.


4. Bradnor Hill (391 metres): Martin S is definitely standing at the summit cairn!


Our route was 3.7km, with 100 metres ascent, taking 40 minutes.


5. Hergest Ridge (426 metres): I am undisputedly standing on the highest point of the hill.


Our route was 6km, with 170 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 20 minutes.


6. Burton Hill (294 metres): sunlit views guided us to a muddy track.


Martin scrabbled around in dense brambles before declaring this point the summit.


Our route was 8.8km, with 330 metres ascent, taking 2 hours.


7. Titterstone Clee Hill (533 metres): on my own now, with thick fog below the sunlit summit.


My route was 1.7km, with 110 metres ascent, taking 25 minutes.


8. View Edge (321 metres): where the summit is in the middle of a private bluebell wood.


The start and finish of this walk passes by Stokesay Castle.


My route was 6km, with 220 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 45 minutes.


9. Callow Hill (334 metres): if this trig point is the summit, indeed, the highest point on Wenlock Edge, it’s deceptively so.


My route was 2.2km, with 130 metres ascent, taking 40 minutes.


10. Burrow (358 metres): I lunched here on the summit, surrounded by Iron Age ramparts.


My route was 4.5km, with 230 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 15 minutes.


11. Heath Mynd (452 metres): here I am, standing on my final summit cairn of the 48 hour trip, on a lovely sunny afternoon.


My route was 3km, with 160 metres ascent, taking 1 hour.


As mentioned above, there’s an annotated slideshow here…. for the unwary to plough through. I enjoyed compiling it anyway, despite battling with the hazy images.

Happy Days!