Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Wednesday 17 January 2018 – Dream


Dream, installed in 2009, is a sculpture and a piece of public art by Jaume Plensa in Sutton, St Helens, Merseyside. Costing approximately £1.8m, it was funded through The Big Art Project in coordination with the Arts Council England, The Art Fund and Channel 4.

In 2008 St Helens took part in Channel 4's "The Big Art Project" along with several other sites. The project culminated in the unveiling of Dream, a 20 metre high sculpture located on the old Sutton Manor Colliery site.

St Helens retains strong cultural ties to the coal industry and has several monuments including the wrought iron gates of Sutton Manor Colliery, as well as the 1995 town centre installation by Thompson Dagnall known as "The Landings" (depicting individuals working a coal seam) and Arthur Fleischmann's Anderton Shearer monument (a piece of machinery first used at the Ravenhead Mine).

The council and local residents (including approximately 15 former miners from the colliery) were involved in the consultation and commission process through which Dream was selected. The plans involved a full landscaping of the surrounding area on land previously allowed to go wild after the closure of the pit.

Dream consists of an elongated white structure weighing 500 tonnes, which has been cast to resemble the head and neck of a young woman with her eyes closed in meditation. The structure is coated in sparkling white Spanish dolomite, as a contrast to the coal which used to be mined here.

Jaume Plensa himself stated "When I first came to the site I immediately thought something coming out of the earth was needed. I decided to do a head of a nine-year-old girl which is representing this idea of the future. It's unique."

The original design of the sculpture called for a skyward beam of light from the top of the head, and the sculpture's working title was Ex Terra Lucem ("From the ground, light"), a reference to St Helens' previous motto. Due to objections from the Highways Agency, the sculpture was not lit, but in 2010 a new planning application was submitted to St Helens Council for it to be floodlit.

The Dream sculpture is built out of moulded and cast unique concrete shapes, 90 pieces in all contributing to over 14 tiers (54 individual elements for the head, each weighing 9 tonnes (8.9 long tons; 9.9 short tons)). Dolomite was utilised as a concrete aggregate in order to provide the brilliant white finish. Additionally titanium dioxide was added to the mix in order to provide a self-cleaning mechanism. The construction required the construction of individual moulds for each piece and took a total of 60 days to cast.

The foundations of the sculpture extend 125 feet (38 m) into the ground with 8 piles driven in to secure it.

The sculpture is sited on an old spoil tip of Sutton Manor Colliery which closed in 1991 and it overlooks the M62 motorway.

I’ve borrowed all that from Wikipedia. The Dream sculpture was the focal point of this week’s mid-week stroll, kindly arranged by Keith on this occasion. I’d not been to the Dream before, and it was installed after my frequent trips to and from Liverpool via the M62 had come to an end.

Here’s today’s ‘selfie’.


After a bit of urban walking from our parking spot at the end of Norland’s Lane, a good path led to the track bed of the St Helens and Runcorn-Gap Railway that operated from 1833 to 1982.


A well used path then led to the summit of the knoll, actually an old spoil tip, on which the sculpture is situated. We lingered for some time as the sun dodged in and out of some black clouds.


Eventually a large group of walkers arrived to admire the sculpture, which is looking a little tired after nine years of strong westerly wind and rain. So we left, in what was the brightest weather of the morning.


The only flowers in evidence were the bright yellow of some gorse, but there were also lots of these teasel seed heads.


We continued along the pleasant route devised by Keith, pausing to admire a hunting kestrel and a majestic buzzard. Bird watchers would find plenty of interest hereabouts.

The walk ended a little beyond Pex Hill, a small nature reserve and magnet for dog walkers, which incorporates an old quarry that might provide the youth of Merseyside with their first experiences of rock climbing.


Here’s our route, from the good parking spot at the end of Norland’s Lane – 12 km with about 100 metres ascent. It took us 2.5 hours plus breaks.


Thanks to Keith for organising this, my first proper exercise since New Year’s Day, thanks to an annoying cold and subsequent chest infection.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Keen Men’s Targhee II Walking Shoes – Long Term Review


My first acquaintance with this shoe was in April 2011, when I was supplied with a pair for review back in the days when a few retailers felt that reviews from outdoor bloggers, in return for FOC products, might help their sales.

I duly earned my crust by writing a comprehensive review of these shoes, which together with all the relevant technical data, can be found here.

Since then, I have updated the original review and I am now on my third pair of Targhee II shoes. Unusually, Keen seem to have stuck with this product without ‘developing’ it, which must be some sort of tribute, in my mind.

The first three pictures in this posting are of this third pair, bought recently on-line from Mastershoe in Trowbridge for £89.


Meanwhile, the original pair that was reviewed back in 2011 was ‘replaced’ in 2015 by a new pair bought at MEC in Ottawa (when exchange rates were more favourable than they are today). Those shoes, pictured below, were bought for the purpose of trekking 900 km across the Pyrenees on GR11 (the Spanish route).


GR11 hardly dented the shoes, which I have continued to wear until the recent purchase from Mastershoe. They have now done 2400 km and are still going strong, but will now be used mainly for mountain biking. The waterproof membrane and the lacing system have remained intact, the main source of wear being on the soles and (shown below) the fabric in the heel area. That won’t have been helped by the frequent removal of the Salford insoles that I use. These are a tight fit and need to be removed to air the shoes properly.


The final four pictures – below – are the last you will see of the original shoes from 2011. These have been worn for mountain biking in recent years, but before that they did clock over 2500 km (1560 miles) of use as trail walking shoes. The main source of wear was the fabric lacing system, and extra holes had to be made to thread the laces. This wasn’t really a problem, nor was the wear on the soles, for use as mountain biking shoes.


As you can see from these pictures, and given that these shoes cost me nothing in the first place, the shoes were pretty worn and owed me nothing, so after these pictures were taken they were recycled, albeit with reluctance.

I’ve noticed a comment on my original review, suggesting that the quality of some Keen products has deteriorated since then. In the case of these shoes, the second (newer) pair seem if anything to be more durable than the original pair. Remarkable, in fact, as the GR11 route was demanding on the shoes, and my track record for both Asolo and Scarpa three season walking boots is that they last for about 2000 to 2500 km, if anything less than these trail shoes.


This is my last review of these shoes, and I’m unlikely to review any other trail shoes as I can’t really imagine that I’ll find a better product. So as long as you can get them to fit properly using a suitable insole, heel cup, etc, I wholeheartedly commend this product.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Another European Tractor


Thanks again to Wuxing Nick for another contribution. I wonder what AlanR will make of this tractor, which appears to be the recipient of over fifty awards.

The exhaust system reminds me of my days as a fork lift truck driver. The old diesel engine caused a build up of carbon in the exhaust pipe, resulting, when the engine was powered to its limit in order to push a massive casting from the foundry to the fettling shop, a chimney fire. Not your ordinary chimney fire, as simple adjustment of the accelerator regulated the length of the flame, bringing most of the workforce out of the shop to admire their forklift’s new found flame throwing capability.

Meanwhile, a call to our GP on Monday morning had us armed with the requisite advice and medicine within a couple of hours, with just a five minute wait in the surgery. We are slowly improving, though it’s a shame to be indoors on some lovely sunny days, and the first two weeks of the year will be virtually exercise free.


We are saddened today by news of the death of Dot’s younger sister, my aunt, Margaret, who had been unwell for some time. She had a good life despite recent setbacks, but that’s limited comfort at a time like this.

Take care, Dot.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

An Alpine Winter Tractor


Whilst Sue and I try to get to grips with our horrible coughs, here’s a tractor offering from Wuxing Nick, with a ‘context’ photo below.


We do hope we haven’t passed on our afflictions to anyone else….

Friday, 5 January 2018

Great Grandma reads The BFG


It has been a quiet start to the year, apart from the sounds of our coughs and sneezes.

I received this lovely image the other day from my daughter, on a visit to Great Grandma with Jacob and Jessica. It’s good to see that six year old Jacob is already digging into the box set of Roald Dahl books he got for Christmas, and that Great Grandma seems to be enjoying a short reading, with the aid of her magnifying glass.

Well done Kate and the children, we are proud of you.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Monday 1 January 2018 – Arnside Knott


Whilst others were limbering up in preparation for two parkruns on New Year’s Day, Sue and I were enjoying a banquet and a late night at Lyn’s house in north Manchester.


We were pretty full by the end of the evening, after losing count of the number of courses served up by an assortment of participants.


Delicious. A lovely evening. Thanks go to Lyn and Robert for hosting.


The unfinished ceviche made a fine substitute for marmalade on New Year’s morning, and was finally utilised by Sue and me as a starter later on. Nothing goes to waste in our kitchen.

Sue and I are struggling with heavy colds, so we weren’t inclined to rush off. But when we did, we headed gently up to Conrad’s house in Arnside. The idea was to wish him a happy new year, then enjoy a stroll in the Silverdale/Arnside area.

Conrad is recovering well from a replacement knee operation, albeit unable to join us on a walk. After a long chat, it was afternoon by the time we set off up Arnside Knott.


Occasional squalls didn’t dampen our enthusiasm, and a fair number of folk were encountered. The following view from Arnside Knott across the Kent Estuary shows the Lake District to be engulfed in cloud, so we were happy with our decision to head for a low southern hill.


Here’s a picture from the trig point.


We headed along contouring paths down to Arnside Tower, which is visible to the left of Sue’s head. You can just see a new path that now sensibly skirts the yard of the nearby farm.


The signage in this area is pretty good, but this particular sign appears to have suffered the same fate as our old garden fence!


We continued over Middlebarrow, through Holgates mobile home/campsite to Elmslack, for lunch on a bench at Elmslack Well, upon which a litter bin has been judiciously placed!

A pleasant path then led around to Waterslack, where the railway was crossed and we soon joined a permissive path not marked on the map, past this distinctive tree, to the Hawes Water bridleway.


Last year’s visit on 2 January yielded a photo taken near here that now glows at us from January’s calendar. Today’s conditions were less sunny, and as we progressed along the footpaths towards Hazelslack they got progressively more muddy. This is ‘before the mud’.


Hazelslack is a farm next to a ruin, much in the same vein as Arnside Tower.


We joined the estuary path to the north of Carr Bank. This had been inundated by the tide when we arrived earlier, but now the water had receded, with views to Arnside beyond the grassy area that has sections of mud where the grass appears to have been mechanically removed. I wonder why?


Having supplied coffee and cake earlier, Conrad (aka ‘Sir Hugh’) was now well disposed to offering tea and (excellent) biscuits before we tootled off home. By coincidence, he was busy exchanging emails with fellow bloggers, Gayle and Mick. He has a very homely spot, with a view to Ingleborough on less cloudy days (subject to an errant chimney pot for which he is still scouring eBay for a bazooka!).


Here’s our route, a very pleasant circuit of 13 km, with 300 metres ascent, taking about three and a half hours at a gentle pace. There are lots of alternatives in this area that is happily stuffed full of picturesque rights of way.


Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Christmas 2017 – A Pictorial Review


I start with some sad news. Yesterday members of Eagley Jazz Club received the following message from Reg Kingston, concerning a stalwart of the club, Jeff Gilpin:

“Jeff passed away yesterday after suffering a heart attack. We who were at the Jazz Dinner will I think always remember his brave Funeral March.”

Somehow I seem to have missed making a diary entry of the splendid evening on 18 December with a Christmas dinner and the excellent Savannah Jazz Band. Towards the end of the evening, Jeff, who didn’t look well, performed the Funeral March. It was brilliant. I’m sure he will be sadly missed by many people.


Moving on to the following Saturday, 23 December, Wythenshawe parkrun attracted a motley bunch for its 319th event. Family Jesus turned up in force.


In addition to the stalwarts pictured above, here are a pair, Paul and Greg, who have over 630 parkruns under their combined belt!


The two equally generous but opposing in stature kings, Syd and Ken, allowed a tree to slip between them, with Jan and Andy drifting into the picture.


It was a slow run, with the tree’s material gathering mud and extra weight all the way round. At least Mike didn’t sprint past me at the finish this year. The bacon and sausage butties at the end were most welcome. There was a great turnout of 310 people.


Christmas Eve found us in Timperley hosting a family gathering. My cameras have been stashed pretty much throughout the Christmas period, so the photos are mainly from other people. I think Sue took this one of the grandchildren. Jessica later had her missing arm sewn back on, but Jacob couldn’t find his dentures.


Christmas lunch was enjoyed in Timperley with Sue’s mum and dad, Richard and Diana. Before that, Sue and I popped down to Platt Fields Park, where 379 parkrunners were starting Christmas Day with a bit of exercise.


Greg was there, as were other Wythenshawe regulars, there not being a Christmas Day run at Wythenshawe.


Joe and Diana joined Sue and started off together.


But Richard (of Richard and Diana number 2) shot off ahead and whizzed around the fast course in well under 20 minutes (I wish!).


Joe speeded up towards the end and left Sue trailing, with Diana nowhere to be seen.


Boxing Day brought a trip to Dunham Massey. I strolled down the towpath whilst the others cheated in the car.


There’s not an awful lot in flower in the winter garden just now, but the Witch Hazel is quite pretty.


The oldies spent an hour or two resting on the reindeer bench, then we went for coffee.


Later on, another family get together provided an image I’ll always remember. I don’t think I’ve seen either of my children washing up before, let alone both at the same time!


I can’t remember much about the following day, perhaps we rested! But on Thursday we had the pleasure of hosting Jacob and Jessica. The soft play was calculated to tire them out. It didn’t.


Cooking followed.


Cup cakes with chocolate icing, and shortbread were produced. Note the technique that avoids their clothing getting clogged up with flour.


Not even the washing and drying up tired them out.


Friday morning had been designated for a walk around Lindow Moss. The rain/sleet stopped just as we were about to set off, and whilst it wasn’t as muddy as last week’s effort, those with wellies chose wisely.


I’ve reported from here many times before. To see pictures, and information about ‘Lindow Man’, type ‘Lindow Moss’ in the search box (top left) and read on…

Today’s walk was just 8 km, on the route shown below. It took us two hours, with a welcome coffee in the Boddington Arms afterwards.


Parkruns come round quickly at this time of year. Yesterday Wythenshawe’s 320th run was overseen by run director Andy. It was Very Muddy, so perhaps just as well that only168 turned up. A good, sociable occasion as always.


Sue and I dashed off to enjoy lunch with Dot at the Royal Oak in Eccleshall, returning for yet another family get together, at which the host decided to disclose a wealth of archive material including photos and schoolwork from past generations…


Having survived the festive period to date, Sue and I will shortly be off to north Manchester to see the New Year in with good friends and lots of good food and wine.

So here’s a final sunset over Timperley from our kitchen window for 2017.


Our very best wishes to everyone for 2018. Have fun!