Sunday, 1 February 2015

Saturday 31 January 2015 – The National Gallery of Canada


Here’s Sue’s take on Saturday’s journey:

“Waking to a white world at 5.15am we thought we were in for a tough day travelling to Ottawa, particularly after yesterday's chaos at Manchester airport. The taxi, booked for 5.45, arrived at 6.15, due to slow road conditions. Our seats, booked on the 8.50 shuttle to Heathrow, were changed to the 7.55 shuttle, which was already there. All good we thought. Boarding saw us on the plane at 7.45 and ready to go. The pilot had other information (thick snow on the wings was a bit of a give away!) and soon explained that we needed de-icing before leaving, and that we were in the queue for the one de-icing vehicle. We eventually took off at 9.45 for the 35-minute flight, fairly confident that we'd make our 12.05 connection to Ottawa.

Others weren't so lucky, and the 8.50 flight was cancelled.

A lengthy journey between terminals 5 and 2 on a bus, lifts, escalators and travelators got us to the gate at 11.30, just as an announcement was made that the plane had a water leak and there would be at least a 1.5 hour delay! We finally took off in a replacement plane at 2.05pm and were transported 'over the pond' (and the beautiful, snowy southern tip of Greenland) in 8 hours, arriving in Ottawa just as the sun was setting, at 5pm. Unfortunately, our wait at the luggage carousel was unproductive - our luggage was still at Heathrow (despite over 3 hours having been available during which to transfer it). Clutching our consolation Air Canada toilet bags, we jumped into the waiting car, disappointed that skiing would be postponed until at least Sunday. Helen did make us feel better by telling us that, with wind chill, the temperature on Saturday was forecast to be minus 34C, perhaps a little too cold for skiing anyway!

So, we're now at Ken and Helen’s home in Ottawa, refreshed from a good night's sleep, considering what to do today....”

Amazingly, we had slept until 7.45, despite the five hour time difference that makes that 12.45 in Timperley. It was a lovely sunny day, but cold outside. Ken left for a 40 km training ski (he’s doing the Canadian Ski Marathon next weekend) from P7 to the Fire Tower beyond McKinstry cabin, leaving me, Sue and Helen to enjoy a lazy morning before tripping into town to the art gallery, where Sue and Helen are pictured above underneath the Maman near the gallery’s entrance.

The gallery is housed in a magnificent building, with views up to the Parliament buildings.


From level two you look down on this quadrangle which looks as if it might have been designed by Escher.


The gallery’s current special attraction is an M C Escher exhibition. Brilliant.

Here’s one of Escher’s most famous works, Relativity (1953), a poster of which I remember being displayed in our house for many years. It was good to see the original on display,albeit it seemed smaller than our poster.


There’s much else to see in the gallery, and a good cafe for lunch, so we managed to spend our day with no luggage satisfactorily productively, before driving home past thousands of skaters on the Rideau Canal.


However, whilst our luggage arrived in Ottawa at around 3pm, and we are only ten minutes from the airport, Air Canada say they have given it to delivery agents and have no idea when that delivery will be made. Until the luggage arrives, we have no means of transferring photos to this computer, so this and the previous posting will be sent after it eventually arrives.

Meanwhile, I suppose I should start composing my letters of complaint to both British Airways and Air Canada.


Here’s a picture taken by Sue on Friday afternoon from our temporary living room window. It was a lovely sunny day, if a bit chilly outside.


But we didn’t venture out!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Rare Sight in Timperley


We woke today to a rainy morning, but long after Sue had departed for work, the darkness subsided and so apparently did the temperature.

The rain turned to snow, giving me this rare view from the study window.


I couldn’t go out as I was waiting for a Special Delivery, but once that had arrived, and the snow had stopped, I ventured out – making the mistake of wearing trainers, which soon became waterlogged in the slush.


After slithering up to the canal towpath, I wondered whether it may have been better to travel by bike today, as the snow was melting fast.


However, the sky was clearing and the temperature was dropping. The slush was very cold as I trotted past Walton Park.


Here’s the view from Marsland Bridge. When I get time I’ll have to play with this image and make it black and white and green.


Whilst I was out, many trams passed me on their way to and fro from Altrincham. Quite a surprise as the slightest bit of bad weather often halts them (or am I being cynical?).


It would have been good to experience some nice crisp creaky snow, rather than the slush which is currently in the process of freezing. Perhaps we’ll have to go elsewhere to find that…

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Monday 26 January 2015 – A Rivington Ramble


It had been a while since I’d seen Alan R, so it was good to meet up at short notice in Rivington. Viv and Neil had spotted the ‘short notice’ event and it was good to have their company as well. Alan has had a bad knee for some time, so this amble was intended as part of his recuperation. I think it worked.

Viv and I had a very easy drive from Timperley, leaving us with a leisurely forty minutes to enjoy coffees at the Lower Barn. Travelling similar distances from north Manchester, and setting off from home at the same time as we did, Neil and Alan had less success with the heavy traffic. Anyway, there was no hurry, and by 10.45 we were heading off to the Upper Barn and along the rising track to the ‘Pigeon Tower’.

Built in 1910, and with Lady Leverhulme's sewing room on the top floor, it was renovated in 1974 and re-roofed in 2005. (That’s at least the third time I’ve written those words on these pages – one day perhaps I’ll be able to actually remember these facts!)

On the pleasant but overcast January morning we continued on to Rivington Pike Tower, situated on a knoll at 363 metres, a hunting lodge built in 1733. Unfortunately, access to the interior of the lodge and its spacious cellar is not available to plebs. The steps are well constructed and convenient, though Alan’s knee preferred the grass.


The high point around here, familiar to all who use the M61 motorway, is Winter Hill and the array of masts that adorn its summit. It wasn’t on today’s itinerary, but as you can see below, there’s a well worn and rather boggy route from the Tower to the 456 metre Hill. The first mast was put up in the 1950s, and they have been replaced and added to since then. The hill is also the site of Bronze Age burials (1600 to 1400BC), the graves of two sons of King Edgar (1097 – 1107) [it was formerly known as Edgar Hill], an 1838 murder, and several air crashes and UFO sightings. More here.


A cool wind at the Tower didn’t stop us noshing some cake, before ambling back down to the woodland of Lever Park, a designed landscape between the open moorland and the chain reservoirs which incorporates the village and buildings of Rivington into the overall design and is "one of the largest and most impressive examples of landscape design in Edwardian England". It is of national importance and historical significance but has been neglected and has deteriorated. Situated on the east bank of the Lower Rivington reservoir, the park is named after William Lever, Lord Leverhulme, who bought the estate in 1900 and donated 364 acres  of land to the people of his native Bolton as a public park. Lever was allowed to continue with plans to lay out Lever Park at his own expense, and he maintained it during his lifetime. The park opened in 1904 and contained a boating lake, a zoo, tree-lined avenues and a network of footpaths. Rivington Castle, a folly, was built as a scale replica of Liverpool Castle at Coblowe Hillock near the Lower Rivington Reservoir. There’s not so much as a bench on which to enjoy your cuppa.


The castle overlooks the Lower Rivington Reservoir. Wikipedia reports that Rivington was dramatically changed by the construction of the Anglezarke, Upper Rivington, Lower Rivington and Yarrow reservoirs which were built to provide Liverpool with a safe, clean water supply. Nine properties in the valley were demolished before construction work began. The Rivington Pike Scheme, still in use today, was undertaken between 1850 and 1857. The scheme was to construct five reservoirs and a water treatment works at the south end of Lower Rivington with a 17-mile (27 km) pipeline to storage reservoirs at Prescot. Water from two higher level reservoirs, Rake Brook and Lower Ruddlesworth, was carried south in The Goit, a man-made channel connecting them to the lower reservoirs. The scheme was expanded in 1856, to include High Bullough Reservoir, built in 1850 to supply water to Chorley. The scheme was further expanded by the construction of the Upper Roddlesworth Reservoir in 1867–75 . Work on Yarrow Reservoir began in 1867.

In 1900 Liverpool Corporation attempted to acquire the entire area to safeguard its water supply, and proposed to demolish the entire village. Some buildings were protected and others left vulnerable in an Act of Parliament known as the Liverpool Corporation Act 1902. This allowed the corporation to acquire by compulsory purchase properties in the west of the village, including the Black-a-Moors Head public house and the New Hall, which were demolished between 1902 and 1905. The result was the small settlement that has remained largely unchanged since then.

Here’s a view from the Castle.


Returning to the Lower Barn via the woodland path beside the reservoir, a couple of young wood mice were seen scurrying around. This one was clearly lost and disorientated. Alan kindly returned him to the home that had been revealed by his brother.


A pleasant woodland path led back to the Barn, after this pleasant and sociable outing, with shafts of sunlight greeting us at the finish.


There was plenty of time to return home for lunch, though for the forthcoming programme of three further walks, lunch will probably be taken at the end of the walks. (See below.)

There’s lots more about the history of Rivington here, and the route of our 8 km (5 mile) stroll with over 200 metres ascent, taking around 2 hours, is shown below. Alan’s excellent report, with more history from Wikipedia, is here.


Further morning walks on which all are welcome:

Thursday 19 February - The Adlington Circular Walk. Meet in the White Bear Marina cafe (SD 599 130) at 10.30 am for this 10 km (6 mile) dawdle around Adlington.

Thursday 12 March - An Irksome route to This & That. Meet at 10.30 am at Heaton Park Metro Station (SD 823 038) for a 13 km (8 miles - 3 hours) wander beside the River Irk to a curry house in Shudehill.

Thursday 23 April - Suitable for Tortoises. Meet at Bury Metro Station (SD 804 105) at 10.30 am for a muddled (perhaps muddied) route via Greenmount to the Hare and Hounds in Holcombe Brook. Approx 10 km (6 miles).

Full programme here.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Summer Holiday - 2014


I’ve recently spent a happy few hours indexing our summer holiday 2014 photos and uploading slideshows to Picasa. The set is now complete, so those wishing to dip in to our/their memories can now do so with ease from the existing index page here.



Saturday, 24 January 2015

24 January 2015 – Wythenshawe Parkrun Number 171


Sue and I turned out for today’s Parkrun in fairly benign conditions, though in order to avoid further destruction of the northern touchlines, Andy and Co had devised a route to the south of the football pitches. I hope we didn’t do too much damage.

We started in a different place to usual, resulting in a little congestion in ‘Holloway’s Bog’, but nobody got too badly trampled.

As Sue had pulled a muscle in between getting out of bed and being handed her early morning cuppa, she helped to marshall at a distant part of the course, and took the opportunity to snap a few of us – 18 pictures that can be viewed here.

There were just two of us in my age group. I passed Michael on the first lap, accusing him of being an old timer (he’s a couple of weeks older than me), which he told me afterwards had given him the impetus to make an adrenaline fuelled spurt on the second lap which left me for dead. Well done, Michael.

The route, which is probably about 5.1 km (Parkrun ‘wet weather’ routes are always a little longer than the normal routes) was two laps of the course shown below. Everyone seemed quite happy with it, so well done ‘management’ on coming up with this after having to cancel the run last week for fear of damaging the pitches.


Today’s 183 ‘runners’ included 77 females, a good proportion, and everyone finished within an hour, in some cases only just within an hour, which makes me think that they either had a major incident, or did they perhaps walk? “Parkwalk?”

Anyway that made for a very sociable interlude in the cafe whilst the marshalls swept up the last of the runners and collected all the signage. In fact we’ve come to spend more time in the cafe than we do on the run – that’s to some extent the nature of Parkrun.

The results are here.

PS Sunday morning had me puzzling over a photo published on Wythenshawe Parkrun’s Facebook page, taken by volunteer Bea Holloway, one of the younger members of the Holloway dynasty. I couldn’t resist including it below – Wythenshawe Park at its best on a Saturday morning. Well done Bea, I hope you don’t mind me using your little piece of magic.


Friday, 23 January 2015

Wednesday 21 January 2015 – East Lancs LDWA Plodders Visit Manchester


Don’s flier for this walk also included a route description:

A City United by Canals

We will catch the Metrolink Tram to Stretford, where we will join the Bridgewater Canal and walk towards Manchester passing Old Trafford and onwards past Pomona Docks to join the Cheshire Ring through the City Centre and the Gay Village to pick up the Rochdale Canal for a short time and then join the Ashton Canal where we will walk to the Etihad Stadium.

At the Etihad Stadium we shall walk down Joe Mercer Way to Philips Park where we will cross the River Medlock and enter the Jewish Cemetery and then a bit of road walking to re-join the Rochdale Canal at Newton Heath and walk back to the City Centre to catch the Metrolink Tram home from Shudehill.

On a rainy morning the Timperley contingent made the short trip to Stretford, walked there and back to the A56 bridge, then shivered under the bridge next to the ‘Stretford Reach’ sculpture whilst Don and his disciples made their way to these ‘foreign parts’ from their rendezvous point in Radcliffe.

What a rabble! ‘Plodder’ numbers seem to be on the increase, with 16 turning up for this towpath ramble. Much to the annoyance of the cyclists, Canadian Geese and small children in push chairs who got booted into the canal by the unruly hikers. Well, perhaps they would have been if they’d ventured out into the rain to confront this bunch of miscreants.

The newly surfaced towpath now leads past Watersmeet and all the way to the long-standing diversion around some construction work in Old Trafford.

The diversion afforded us the opportunity to admire the two "Skyhook" sculptures that were unveiled in 1995 as part of the regeneration of the Trafford Park Industrial Estate.  "Skyhooks" was commissioned from Brian Fell who actually produced two 17-metres high hooks and chains. The first is pictured below at the entrance to the Park, and the second one, pictured above, is located on the other side of the old Telephone Exchange near Wharf End.


Don’s well researched route passed some convenient picnic benches in Castlefield where the rain eased for a while as we tucked into our jam butties.


Luckily, there were exactly 16 portions of cake, with which to bribe the assembled entourage into a self-timed attendance record.


Soon it was time to leave – heading into the complexity of the canal system at Castlefield. Looking back, that’s the Wharf pub – an excellent place that despite the lack of custom gained from our party graciously allowed the rabble to use their ‘facilities’.


The Beetham Tower loomed in front of us through the gloom of the rainy January day.


Can you spot the bird box? We saw lots today.


Mike needed a hand to cross this lock, but all except one of the party managed to cross without incident.


“We’ve lost one, Don” shouted Ken after a discreet shove had seen off an elite poser.

After rubbing him down (Barbara did that) and sending him home, the rest of us continued to a ‘light blue zone’ that had some members of the party drooling inanely over something like Ardwick Association FC, and others running for cover.


Following the route so adequately provided by Don above, we soon made it to Philips Park, where Don produced his second instalment of jam butties and announced a second lunch break.

It didn’t last very long, as unaware of this ‘Plodder’ tradition, most of us had eaten all we had at the first opportunity in Castlefield.


Not to worry, it was a good spot to pause for a cuppa before heading across the River Medlock and into the Jewish Cemetery.


We soon found ourselves heading back into Manchester along the Rochdale Canal on a route oft described on these pages. In fact, there’s nothing new about any of this walk, apart from some of Don’s clever jinks through Castlefield, hence the introduction of a fictional element. (I can confirm that no children, cyclists or old men were drowned by thugs during this walk.)

Here’s the route which, including our there and back to Stretford stroll at the start, amounted to some 20 km, with minimal ascent, and took a shade over four and a half hours.


Thanks go to Don for organising this and for so charismatically gaining a record turnout in rainy Manchester when anyone with any sense was out playing in the snow that currently graces our surrounding countryside.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sunday 18 January 2015 - A Short Walk from La Croix Fry

Last night's concert at the Salle des Fêtes de Thônes (a nearby village) was excellent. Billed as the 'Concert du Nouvel An' it comprised performances from a number of local orchestras, including at least one of Yolaine's family, a little drummer boy with long hair and a blue shirt. Ginger Baker would have been impressed! Numerous relatives and friends were in attendance (Yolaine has 32 cousins) and we were made to feel part of the family.

Today we rose to a crisp blue sky day that saw La Clusaz and its surroundings full to capacity. With limited time available we drove up to La Croix Fry and enjoyed a walk along the path towards the Beauregard Plateau, admiring the snow laden trees and the views towards Mont Blanc as we went. Sue is pictured on a piste facing the latter, and today's other picture is a parting shot of La Clusaz as we left the village that has been our home for the last week.

Our apologies go to P and Y for not spending as much time as we should have done cleaning the apartment, I'm sure that given the superb weather you can understand why we left that job to Shawn. Thank you for having us and we hope to see you all again soon.

Sent from The Far North (aka Timperley). 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Saturday 17 January 2015 - Snow in La Clusaz

The snow started last night. A late night move from 'Free Parking' to the multi-storey car park saved us from being sealed into our spot by the first snowplough. 

We woke to less greenery than we've been accustomed to - the view from the apartment is pictured top.

Pierre and Yolaine wisely decided to stay in Annecy rather than meet us for a snowshoe walk, so we enjoyed a lazy morning watching the blizzard from the comfort of our living room. About a foot of snow has fallen. 

My photos from last year's TGO Challenge are now finally indexed thanks to this window of free time.

This afternoon we overcame our lassitude and hopped onto the skibus to Les Confins, where most of the Nordic skiing trails are now open and crowded. There has been a massive influx of people overnight.

In a couple of weeks we should be back on our own skis, so today we gave the rented ones a miss and simply strolled back down a 5 km walking piste to La Clusaz. Views were limited due to the continuing light snow; the bottom two pictures offer a flavour of the experience. I doubt that we were on any footpaths - we just followed the yellow marker posts through the fields. 

P and Y are due for afternoon tea (this French couple prefer tea to coffee) shortly and we may be out after that, so in the interests of being sociable this is all from another day of genuine 'holiday' in La Clusaz.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Friday 16 January 2015 - Tête du Danay

Today's hike took us up to 1734 metres, to a summit so spoilt for views that it has three separate orientation plinths. Whilst modest in height by local standards, it's the highest point between a number of valleys that are otherwise surrounded by high mountains, and is therefore home to some wonderful panoramas even on grey days like this one. 

We started from the apartment, passing an obscenely loud great tit outside the front door and heading through the village and past the swimming pool. At the end of the tarmac a red and white tape with a 'snowshoers only - respect their space' sign barred our way. We ignored it and continued past rummaging blackbirds along the woodland path on which Sue is pictured. 

A booming woman's voice from a ski school across the valley accompanied us for a while as we continued along the path signed to Les Confins. 

Eventually we reached an area of sparse snow and awkward bits of ice. Crampons would have been more help than snowshoes, but we didn't regret having neither. 

There was nobody else around. In fact we met one person all day. Gloves were not needed as we continued to climb snowshoe trail number 12.

At the Mouilles de la Perrière Sue spotted a strange object under a tarpaulin (pictured - centre). "I wonder what that is?" she asked. I hadn't a clue but I bet Sheila doesn't ask such questions! 

A few metres after this we turned sharp left with a view to ascending what would be our first hill of the year. The path rose steadily. I'd noticed a point on the map at 1561 metres that I'd planned to pause at - half way up the 400 metre ascent from the Mouilles. This was going to be the first time this week that we'd regret having forgotten to pack our flask.

Imagine our surprise to discover that the building at point 1561 was in fact 'La Ferme du Danay' a restaurant and buvette where we were able to enjoy a coffee and eat our sandwiches in the company of the tenants, Carinne and Mitch. We spent a happy time with them, chatting about (guess what?) a host of outdoor topics.

Then trail 33 led easily on hard packed snow to the 1734 metre summit of Tête du Danay for the wonderful panoramic views mentioned earlier, one of which is shown in the lower picture. (Remember this was a grey day on which rain was forecast to fall all day - the fact that we got any view at all and stayed perfectly dry was something of a surprise.)

Continuing along the ridge, we soon came across the Bellavarde ski piste that we'd enjoyed on Monday from Les Confins. It was open today, and several people were struggling round a steep corner where I'd taken off my skis on Monday.

Snowshoe trail number 32 then took us north for a couple of hours down packed snow towards the Grand-Bornand valley. An easy and enjoyable descent, despite the gloomy weather and a few sheets of ice lower down before the snow completely disappeared. The Nordic ski tracks at Le Grand-Bornand were mostly 'ice rink' quality and were very decisively marked 'closed' in numerous languages, albeit anyone attempting them would have to be crazy.

A short ride on the free skibus got us back to a rainy La Clusaz shortly after 4 pm, after this 14 km outing with around 700 metres ascent, taking about five hours.