Sunday, 4 October 2015

Friday 2 October 2015 – A Walk – Manchester to Bury


This was a ‘curry walk’. With no curry! A curry-free curry walk.

Most of us met at Deansgate Metro Station, where security for the Conservative Party Conference was getting into position. Phil arrived later, on the approach to Radcliffe.

We first headed down to the River Irwell where it morphs into the Manchester Ship Canal. Here, there’s a statue of Joseph Brotherton (1783 to 1857). He was Salford’s first MP, a vegetarian, and opposer of slavery and of the death penalty.


Across the road, Manchester city centre continues to ring the changes.


Across the border in Salford, times are hard. The Church Inn is one of several derelict hostelries that line Chapel Street.


St Philip's Church does provide an iconic bright spot, as well as other buildings in Salford.


Our route left the streets before Salford University, and we headed through Peel Park - one of Brotherton's heirlooms.


Some of the trees are just starting to turn. This is the start of the Irwell Sculpture Trail, which we followed all morning.

There are numerous footbridges and road bridges across the River Irwell. Some sport decorations that wouldn’t be found on more modern constructions.


In the vicinity of this weir there were many swans, as well as Goosanders, Little Grebes, Great Crested Grebes and Mallards.


Michaelmas Daisies are in flower just now.


This bridge at Agecroft, erected in 1832, carries the Thirlmere Aqueduct to the storage facility in Heaton Park.


Here’s our team for this sunny stroll - Martin, Sue, JJ, John B, Rick and Rob (we were later joined by Phil).


A nearby disused viaduct carried the link line between Clifton and Radcliffe. Our path led to the old railway track, past Himalayan Balsam, whose invasion goes unchecked around here.


We passed a short tunnel leading to Philips Park in Prestwich.

Soon afterwards, a footbridge led us over the M60, after which we followed the course of the old link line that had led over the tunnel.

Cake and a tea break proved most welcome, albeit a bit late to be described as ‘elevenses’.

This is the first sculpture we noticed - Trinity, which focuses on the period the railway line was constructed, the deaths of many of the 'navvies' involved in the digging of the Outwood cutting, and the pre-railway history of the site. The flowers' names hint at the loss of these unknown workers and are a memorial to them and reflect the woodlands that surround the site. Harebell = Grief, Snowdrop = Consolation, Rosemary = Remembrance.


After a long spell of dry weather, even normally muddy paths were dry, but Sue and I still got sore ankles as we were both trying to walk in new boots.

On the site of the former Outwood Colliery, Ulrich Rückriem has created one of his largest stone settings to date. It is composed of ten large stone pieces set over a number of locations; one column marks each of the two main entrances, a group of seven tall slabs are installed on a flat plateau, and the largest slab, 25 feet (7.6 m) in height (below), marks the former railway track. These stones are split horizontally and/or vertically into several parts then reassembled into their original forms.


Before reaching Radcliffe, we left the disused railway to the cyclists, who were becoming a bit of a nuisance (why don’t people buy bells!), and joined the now defunct Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal for the walk into Bury

There were coots …


... and a lone male Mandarin Duck (he should get together with Timperley's lone female).


The lazy Mallards were failing spectacularly to clear the weed. Perhaps they were pondering the reflection of an old chimney.


This wicker work is the centrepiece of a wonderful garden next to the canal in Radcliffe.


Another ‘sculpture’: 'Water Made It Wet' This text work by New York-based artist Lawrence Weiner is located on an old railway bridge over the Bolton Bury canal in Radcliffe and represents the artist's attempt to understand the nature of water itself.*


There were small and large fish, including a pike, in the canal. Here, on the last stretch to Bury, the team is tracking a pike.


Even though the canal is disused, the towpath is in excellent condition, and it led us gently into Bury, past several churches and a fine library building.


Lunch was taken at Katsouris – excellent value and a good substitute for the usual curry, then we went home.


Here’s our route – 21 km, with 200 metres ascent, taking 4.75 hours, which is exactly what Naismith would have taken.


There’s a slideshow with a few more pictures, here. Click on the first image, then click ‘slideshow’.

Sue and I both felt a little weary after this walk, despite eschewing a session at the pub. Something of a surprise to me then, when I managed the 5km parkrun at a good pace the following morning! Under 22 minutes for the first time in over a year.

* – all a bit deep for me!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Happy Birthdays, and a short report on ‘Three Weeks in Timperley’


Here are Jacob and Jessica, celebrating Jess’s second birthday last weekend. A lovely occasion.

Today is this blog’s eighth birthday! The last three weeks is probably the longest period in that entire time without a fresh entry. That’s because I needed a bit of R&R after going virtually non-stop since Easter. Not that I’ve been totally inactive.

I visited Altrincham to check on how the town centre improvements are getting on. Dyslexic staff who instruct workmen to ‘paint a tree’ when they really mean ‘plant a tree’ have helped to keep the costs down.


I’ve been riding my bike up and down the canal towpath for a bit of exercise. Here’s a view of the Watch House Cruising Club in Stretford.


On a more serious note, we got involved in an incident on a bike ride organised by a business called ‘bike-events’. If any reader plans to take part in an event organised by this lot … beware, you might find the event a shambles, with inadequate route instructions, food points, marshals, and other basic requirements.

It’s nice that Jess seems much more at home in our house and less clingy to her mum. We have some ace toys including this Duplo and some clockwork tin trains.


Meanwhile, I’m trying to de-clutter by selling a load of old computer games from the 1990’s, old phones and old GPS units. All quite time consuming – sometimes I think I should just bin everything.

I’ve enjoyed a 30 km bike circuit a few times, similar to this one, mainly on canal towpaths, from Timperley to Manchester, then through Salford Quays beside the Ship Canal to the Barton swing bridge, returning via the Bridgewater Canal towpath. Here are some images taken on that route.


The weather in Timperley has been glorious. Here are some canoeists enjoying an evening paddle.


Sue and I have done a few Saturday morning parkruns (5 km in Wythenshawe Park) for a bit of exercise and a sociable Saturday morning. Uncle Oliver is getting quite used to these weekly gatherings that block his line of sight to the Hall.


He breathes a big sigh of relief when the runners (290 last Saturday) have dispersed to the nearby cafe and he’s left with this tranquil view.


We live close to the River Mersey, beside which the paths offer the same sort of amenity as the canal towpaths, within the broad band of ‘green belt’ through which the river passes, offering a taste of countryside near the centre of Manchester.


Autumn crocuses are abundant beside the Mersey at this time of year.


That’s enough of my gentle domestic existence for now, as it’s time for some baking, book editing, etc.

Perhaps I’ll go for a walk soon, as I used to do when I started this blogging malarkey!


PS Also during the last three weeks the period for nominations for the 2015 Great Outdoors magazine’s annual awards commenced. After last year’s ‘bloggergate’ fiasco I was delighted to see that there will be no ‘outdoors blogger’ award this year, and that there is no reference to last year’s ‘winner’, voted for by friends despite doubt as to its legitimacy as a genuine ‘outdoors blog’. My postings on the TGO Awards are here. I would have encouraged readers to nominate and vote for either Newtonmore Hostel or Bridge of Gaur Guest House as Accommodation Provider of the Year, but this category also appears to have been discontinued. Alpenstock has my nomination though…

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Alps - Day 23 - Montreuil-sur-Mer (Chambre d'Hote St Justin) to Timperley 

Thursday 10 September 2015

Another cloudless morning for our last day on the road after an excellent breakfast at the B&B.

Then an uneventful drive home. Nothing much has changed. Not even the roadworks at the end of our road.

Wine supplies have been replenished, though at the price we paid the it may all be best used for cooking!

Photos need downloading and sorting, but my first job is to get my front tooth replaced and recover Sue's plants from a couple of 'plant sitters'. 

The towpath is in good shape, with just a hint of autumn in the leaves.

Well, that's the end of 'Summer in the Alps and Pyrenees'.

Life seems momentarily a little empty....

The Alps - Day 22 - Saverne (Hotel National) to Montreuil-sur-Mer (Chambre d'Hote St Justin)

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Another cloudless morning.

We enjoyed croissants and coffees from a boulangerie next door to the hotel, rather than pay lots for a buffet breakfast in a smoke tainted room. It was very pleasant outside.

The 380 mile journey to Montreuil-sur-Mer (a name which always puzzles me as the sea is nowhere to be seen) passed largely uneventfully. Just a very short section of French motorway was followed before we travelled through Germany, Luxembourg (good coffee), Belgium, and back to France for the final stage along 'A' roads and through Arras.

We'd not stopped in Arras before, but we found a large town not without interest. The town hall is dominated by a tall belfry, and its front door looks out onto a magnificent square (pictured top). We wished we had more time to explore.

Sue had wisely phoned ahead to book a B&B for tonight. It's excellent. We are the only guests. We arrived at 6.30 and enjoyed a cuppa before setting off to stroll around the town walls (bottom picture) and top up our bellies.

The town is preparing for an event at the weekend. Frappadingue are setting up a challenging course under the banner:

'Extreme mud racing for crazy folks' - the sort of thing our good friend Alan Roberts gets up to. We will be home by the time it takes place. What a shame!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Alps - Day 21 -  Chiesa (Hotel la Betulla) to Saverne (Hotel National - but we won't boast about that)

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Another cloudless morning in Chiesa. But as we drove towards Lake Como it clouded over and even drizzled.

Coffee was taken in Porlezza - the view from the café is shown (top), then we headed on to Lugano.

Lugano is a large, ugly town, with dreadful traffic. We got in what appeared to be the right line but was in fact the left (wrong) one and spent a while touring the town despite TomTom's best efforts.

Once on the motorway to Basel everything went smoothly and the sun came out. We whizzed past our final views (middle picture) of the Alps before going underground in the 17 km St Gotthard tunnel.

Our target, Colmar, was reached by 4 pm, so we continued for another hour to Wasselonne. The good value hotel we wandered into had no rooms available. What a contrast to our experiences in Italy, where we were often the only guests.

We were told that all the rooms in the vicinity were booked for tonight.

Q: "Has a cruise ship full of migrants just landed?"

A: "No, a fleet of airliners has arrived with the European Parliament, and they need somewhere to stay."

So we continued to Saverne, a big place - we preferred somewhere smaller. A little further on was Phalsbourg, a nice town with a good looking hotel. Just the one. €160 for a basic room. We were beginning to wish we'd brought a tent.

On the advice of the nice lady in the expensive hotel, we returned to Saverne, where there would be "lots of rooms". The place is pretty quiet but the first two (large) hotels we tried were both full.

Beggars can't be choosers. Hotel National had a room for €58 which is actually a bit better than my room on Day 1 of the trip.

It turns out to be a nice town with a canal (pictured bottom) and a good pizzeria.

We should sleep well. We are 350 miles closer to home than we were this morning. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Alps - Day 20 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 8 - Rifugio Cristina (2233 metres) to Chiesa (Hotel la Betulla)

Monday 7 September 2015

16 km, 200 metres ascent, in 5.7 hours including breaks.

Weather: blue sky with frost that didn't clear in the shade until the afternoon.

Cumulative statistics for the full eight day round trip from Chiesa are as follows:

102 km with 6750 metres ascent.

These figures may be amended when I've downloaded the data from my Garmin Forerunner 310XT which was used throughout the trek.

What a beautiful day on which to conclude a gorgeous mountain walk.

We appreciated the ambience of Rifugio Cristina's fine location before heading off across the frosty alp. There was very little climbing today, the belvedere path leading gently down to the tree line that we were last below on the walk up from Chiareggio several days ago.

It was shorts and t-shirt weather, if a bit chilly in the frosty shade.

The views to Monte Disgrazia and to the Bernina massif were immaculate. The recent rain seems to have cleared the atmosphere and there was no discernable haze to cloud our views. The morning remained cloudless, with wafts of high cloud appearing in the afternoon. (I nearly said 'after lunch' but we didn't really have any as all the shops seem to be shut on Monday afternoon.)

Luckily we'd had a good rifugio breakfast. That and the flask of tea and some biscuits fuelled us sufficiently to see us happily meandering back to the hotel from which we set off eight days ago. They spotted us arriving and the doors opened to welcome us in as the day's only guests.

Then it was a quick sort out for the trip home, beer o'clock, and an excellent meal at the ever friendly Restaurant Malenco, just around the corner, where the waitress spent a year on Jersey (40 years ago) and likes to practice her English. It's a great place in which to finish a trip like this one. We had a pizzocheri for you Gillian, and raised our glasses in appreciation of your encouragement to us to visit this area.

We will come here again.

Today's pictures:
Pizzo Scalino and Sue
Bernina peaks from Alpe Acquanera
A spring/shrine equipped with a ladle
Looking towards the Bernina massif from Alpe Cavaglia
Close up from the same place
Looking down to Caspoggia, with Monte Disgrazia
Chiesa (2)