Martin

Martin

Friday, 28 November 2014

Wednesday 26 November 2014 – “In Search of White Bears”

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This walk had been in my diary for many months. John Bullen had asked me to lead a walk for East Lancs LDWA. I’d offered a variety of venues and he chose one in the heartland of ‘East Lancashire’, which is not exactly my home ground of South Manchester.

So whilst I was nominally ‘leader’, most of the folk who turned up were more familiar than me with this area. But luckily I’d carried out a recce a week earlier, and by pointing Phil in random directions we managed to complete the walk without getting too badly lost, any mishaps being entirely due to Phil’s losses of concentration (he’s getting on a bit, you know).

So the pictures (and some commentary) of this walk may occasionally drift back to a sunny day last week.

Ten of us started on a dull but dry day at 10 am prompt from Yarrow Valley Country Park, escaping from a robin who’d been pecking hopefully at our feet.

A honking car notified us of a latecomer, who caught up with us just in time for the above group photo - L to R: Martin, Peter, Phil, Don, Paul, Chris, Bernard, Dave, Alma, Ken and Heather.

Tufted ducks, coots and great crested grebes foraged in the small lake as we tramped over a thick bed of beech leaves to reach a weir.

When Birkacre Weir was constructed over 100 years ago it blocked the way for sea trout and salmon to reach their traditional spawning grounds in the Pennine foothills. The recent construction of a Fish Pass has enabled sea trout to reach those foothills once more, and recently salmon have also been spotted here for the first time since the weir blocked their route.

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Herb Robert is still in flower hereabouts, and whilst the woods in the Yarrow Valley are still showing late signs of autumn, it'll soon be winter here.

In the low light, everyone seemed to be moving quickly!

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After a while we escaped from the muddy riverside path to a dryer route through fields where mustard is still in flower.

Pigeons suddenly rose in a bout of collective alarm, and much later in the day a large flock of starlings was seen gathering before heading off to roost. 

A grassy lane led past a pond to reach Highfield Farm, where last week Christmas music was blasting from a barn.

Stiles with slippery steps were a feature of the walk at this stage. Later we were to realise that the steps were a bonus.

At Holt Farm we passed a smart dressage area before passing the White Crow PH. Sir Bradley Wiggins flew past on a training ride as we entered Wigan, which Bernard announced proudly was further honoured by way of being his own birthplace.

Thrushes, sparrows and a flapping buzzard ignored us as we struggled over the now stepless stiles.

"Reg would be writing to the footpath officer about these stiles" Don commented. 

"The footpath officers have all been sacked" remarked Phil during an athletic vault.

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Soon it was time for elevenses on a large stone bench erected in 2011 in memory of Gerald, Joe and Sam Ainscough.

We missed the black swans at Wrennalls Hall due to a characteristic lapse of concentration from Phil.

Worthington Lakes were the next landmark on my itinerary, and luckily we found them. Here some useful stepping stones guided us along a muddy path.

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"What sort of walking route do you call this?" enquired Bernard.

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Phil was awarded full responsibility as we crossed the River Douglas and headed up through a lovely silver birch wood to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

"Come and look at this" - Phil had spotted a budgerigar (see slideshow).

Field mushrooms beside the towpath of this lovely stretch of canal could have provided an appetising supper.

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Ancient gateposts lead to Crawshaw Hall. Mute swans, Canadian geese, crows and black-headed gulls were all busy in (or over) the water.

The approach to Adlington goes through an area of lovely open water that looks like a lake when it’s windy. Bathing mallards and fussing moorhens hold the attention around here.

We didn’t see many people on today’s paths, but here we met a huge party of very wrinkly walkers – more Stumblers than Plodders. I’m sure we all hope they got back safely and managed to avoid any trips into the canal.

Eventually, the rather obvious name for this walk was sussed, as we gained sight of a ‘White Bear’ in the distance.

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Fishermen, warblers and canal boats of all shapes and sizes now lined the waterway for some distance.

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Soon we came upon a sign for the ‘Adlington Circular’, a 6 mile stroll that would be suitable for a half day or evening walk.

"So we weren't in Lancashire!" - some folk were puzzled when we arrived at this sign on a road bridge over the canal.

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Frederick's Ice Cream parlour was reached after 12.6km - at bridge 73.

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It was time for lunch at the generously provided picnic tables, but the others ran off after Phil before I could record the occasion!

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About a third of the walk (5 miles) enjoyed the benefits of the firm canal towpath.

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A slipway on the approach to Chorley struck us as being most unusual. Perhaps there is/was a boatyard nearby.

Sparrows chattered in the hedgerows and Hogweed was still in flower in sunny Chorley.

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Despite Phil’s desire to continue on towards Leeds, we left the canal and found a way through Chorley.

"I want a new caravan" was what I thought I heard Bernard say. "No" he corrected me "a new car" - we were in the wrong place. Anyway, after an urban stroll past hundreds of caravans we emerged by a nice looking church.

Some wag had arranged to meet Norman at Chorley's premier hostelry, but he'd apparently got trapped inside – The Swan with Two Necks – ‘Pub of the Season’. He’d been there for some time.

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Just next to a predator's office is the splendid entrance to Astley Park, the jewel of Chorley.

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We whizzed past the War Memorial, and a Sensory Garden which at this time of year is perhaps not at its best.

Time for Afternoon Tea, an essential element of any LDWA walk. Nobody is sitting down - the bench is wet. But the last drops of tea were strained from our flasks, and the last crumbs of brownie were extracted from my cake tin.

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Astley hall and its large fountain came and went, as did the boarded up gatehouse at the Ackhurst Lodge exit. Surely a good use could be found for that.

Himalayan balsam was still in flower at the park exit.

Beyond the firm paths through Astley Park lay the sting in the tail of this walk - the fields around Yarrow Farm.

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Memorable mud!

Three ladies happy in mud and slurry!

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As usual, Phil led the way - I was a superfluous leader, he knew the route like the back of Norman's hand.

After all that mud, the grass of Yarrow Valley Golf Course looked enticing, but the delights of the fairway were strictly out of bounds to us plebs, as we were directed down a narrow pathway whose previous visitor had been a cow with diarrhoea.

By mid afternoon light was getting low for a bit of final slithering through woods and alongside the River Yarrow, which finally came in very handy for cleaning the mud off our boots.

AlanR would have enjoyed this walk, though he might have cried at the sight of this sad looking tractor.

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We eventually drifted in to the Yarrow Valley car park behind Phil at a very respectable 3.47 pm, after a most enjoyable and very jolly outing on which Norman may have been present ‘in spirit’. “Remember me?” he whispered.

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Here’s our route - 24km (14 miles), with 300 metres ascent, taking 5.75 hours.

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There’s a full (89 picture!) slideshow here.

Thanks for coming along, everyone, I enjoyed a lovely day out – I hope you did too.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Bridgewater Canal Towpath in Timperley

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The top picture was taken this week, the bottom one was taken in January 2012, since when the surface of the towpath had deteriorated further.

As you can see, the inconvenient closure of the towpath for a while has enabled it to morph into a nicely surfaced dry route for walkers and cyclists. The loose surface will slowly bed down onto the tarmac base and will be safe to use on frosty days.

This means that Timperley residents can cycle to work in the environs of Trafford Park along the well surfaced towpath that runs for 10 km from Timperley Bridge to the Barton Swing Bridge.

Alternatively the route is available to those who simply want some exercise without the hassle and danger of traffic. But cyclists who like me live in fear of traffic must realise their ‘role reversal’ on the towpath, where pedestrians and children can live in fear of speeding cyclists. Please be considerate, use your bell, and slow down where appropriate.

In the other direction, the resurfacing work as far as Broadheath is in its final ‘finishing off’ phase, so the new surface now extends to Altrincham.

Well done to all involved; despite a few very minor ‘snagging’ issues, it’s great for someone like me to have a 20+ km off-road in the dry ride from my front door.

This is all part of the Bridgewater Way project. Unusually, the website doesn’t seem to have kept up with the actual progress of the work, which is continuing by way of resurfacing work from Stretford (Watersmeet) towards Old Trafford.

PS Currently there’s a good selection of bird life on this section of canal, including Mandy the Mandarin, who thinks she’s a Mallard, Cormorant, Heron, Mute Swans, chattering Sparrows, various Tits, Pied and Grey Wagtails, Black-headed Gulls, too many Canada Geese, and if you keep an eye open as you cross the River Mersey in Stretford you may spot a Kingfisher.

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Christmas Present for AlanR?

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I feel the need for a ‘lighter moment’ after faffing with a final observation on the TGO ‘Outdoor Blogger’ Award, which went to rather a strange ‘entry’. My observations are appended to this posting, with Alan Sloman no doubt providing further comments via the links provided within those notes. All rather unsatisfactory, but I for one am moving on.

AlanR may indeed like this for Christmas. It’s very much suited to the outdoors, but what is it, where is it and how old is it?

November 27 - You'll see from the comments that AlanR is more skilled at identifying tractors than the people who thought they knew what this one was...!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday 23 November 2014 - Cnicht

We managed a leisurely breakfast and cleaned up before leaving Number 55. 

Thanks go to Dave and Maggie for the loan of the house.

The forecast sunshine duly arrived to illuminate another wonderful walk up the relatively small mountain called Cnicht. The man who inspired my early backpacking trips, Showell Styles, lived near here and climbed this hill hundreds of times. Lucky man!

I've recorded previous visits on earlier pages of this blog and in the predecessor diaries, so won't go on at length here. 

The spacious car park at the end the narrow road to Croesor illustrates the popularity of the hill. Today we enjoyed summery weather and busy environs. Not a wilderness experience, but great to see so many people enjoying themselves in this iconic area.

We took the standard route (on which we are pictured near the start) from Croesor directly to the summit, enjoying elevenses and tiffin en route, and keeping as close to the knife edge as possible. 

As we did yesterday, today we saw lots of waxcap mushrooms, but without Heather T-S to guide us we eschewed their culinary delights.

Only Snowdon remained with a cap of cloud, but that didn't really detract from the view over Llyn yr Adar during our lunchtime break at the point where the path towards the Moelwyns turns to the south.

Up at nearly 700 metres in late November, you might expect jackets to be needed. They weren't. 

After lunch we ambled along the contouring path to Clogwyn Brith and down to the old slate quarry, returning to Croesor via the gently descending path from there. A lovely route in the afternoon sunshine. 

Our 3.15 finish after just 11 km gave Sue and me plenty of time to get back to Timperley for supper. We trust the others also had easy journeys home.

Lots of photos were taken today. A slideshow of this most enjoyable four day trip should follow.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Saturday 22 November 2014 - Morfa Nefyn to Porth Towyn

Now we are six. Richard and Jenny arrived last night. 

Despite early sunshine (pictured top in Porthmadog harbour - the view from Number 55) which may have enticed us into Snowdonia, we stuck to our plan of a coastal walk on the Llyn Peninsula.

After leaving a car at Porth Towyn, the six of us started off towards the golf course from a convenient café in Morfa Nefyn.

Luckily, by the time we had started the heavy showers that had suddenly appeared had moved on to Snowdonia. 

We soon reached Porth Dinllaen, with fine views to yesterday's hill - Garn Boduan. The view over Ty Goch Inn and the bay is shown above.

Elevenses on a bench overlooking the bay under a hot sun followed, then we spent ages strolling around the peninsula and beside the golf course. 

Lunch (pictured) was taken beside a flock of starlings at Aber Geirch. Millions of flies above the Fucus serratus and Laminaria digitata were providing a fine feeding zone for these birds. Ken spent a while trying to identify purple sandpipers. They turned out to be Turnstones. Robins asserted their territorial rights and stonechats chattered nearby.

Shadows lengthened as the afternoon progressed and our progress was recorded in the shadows on the beach below. Oyster catchers flew past and Anglesey was clear on the northern horizon. 

Curlews, lapwings and starlings gathered in huge groups towards dusk. Seals were spotted by Sue, Anne and Jenny - forty to fifty of them basking on the rocks. 

Mud was encountered as we continued along the coast to admire a fine sunset from Porth Ysgaden.

I'd mistakenly gone a bit further than planned, and by the time we got to Towyn farm we'd covered about 15 km in quite a few hours.

All six then made it back to the second car and adjourned for one of Sue's Thai banquets at Number 55.

Another excellent day.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday 21 November 2014 - Garn Boduan and Llanbedrog

The day started fine, but forecast rain slowly encroached,  justifying our decision to stick to an easy morning walk.

So we drove to Nefyn for a 9 km stroll around and over the 279 metre summit of Garn Boduan.

Yesterday's brown butterflies were in short supply as we rose up an ancient walled lane (pictured- top) past rampant gorse bushes flanked by red campion, yarrow and trailing tormentil. Harebells and herb robert also lined the path, as views down to Nefyn and across to Garn Boduan (pictured - middle) became more expansive. 

We circled Coed Mynydd Nefyn and at the top of the path a large gathering of partridge and pheasant awaited their imminent doom, as gunshots from Bodfuan Shoot crept ever closer. 

Spots of rain didn't deter us from a tea and cake stop near the B4354, along which road a short section of this walk was forced to travel. Here we encountered the Shoot's unattended Landrover, with swag in the back (including an errant magpie) and a badly smashed windscreen.

Then it was up through forestry to Garn Boduan's rocky summit, with evidence of an Iron Age hill fort and traces of over 100 dwellings over 2000 years old poking out of the bell heather. Apparently between 100 and 400 people would have lived up here. 

Lunch was taken at a point near the summit where I fell into a hole and summersaulted into a position from which I was disinclined to move. 

Our descent on a little used route to some forestry workers with heavy machinery was in the company of snipe and woodcock. Blackbirds and lapwings were also seen hereabouts.

The rough route gave way to a woodland path back to Nefyn, with many different types of fungi on display,  including some Ramaria varieties poking out of the leaf litter.

The drizzle was setting in as persistent rain by the time we regained the car, so we passed the afternoon on a visit to Llanbedrog, in particular to the gallery (pictured - bottom) that started life in 1856 as Lady Love Jones Parry's dower house. In 1896 it became an art gallery and ballroom. A horse-drawn tramway was extended along the sandhills from Pwllheli to the hall's entrance. Until 1927, when the tramway closed, trips by tram to Llanbedrog beach and to the house for dances and afternoon teas, were popular with holidaymakers. Likewise, we enjoyed afternoon tea and cake in the restored hall, but much to Sue's disappointment we gave the dancing a miss.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thursday 20 November 2014 - Gyrn Goch, Gyrn Ddu and Bwlch Mawr

Happy Birthday Kate!

Last night we popped down to join Ken and Anne at 'Number 55' in Porthmadog. 

After a fine South Afican bobotie and a deep sleep we awoke this morning tea and croissants. 

Then, after admiring the view from our street (pictured - top), we embarked on a version of Walk 28 in David Berry's excellent little guide to walks on the Llyn peninsula. 

Clynnog Fawr was reached despite the best efforts of the Welsh road system to foil us, and after dodging some filming outside the Y Beuno hotel, we were soon rising high above the coast road, on the coast path. 

The weather was cloudy but warm. Benign. After a skeletal 'tractor' that AlanR will no doubt identify in seconds, an easy stream crossing,  elevenses and brownies, we turned coastwards (yes!) from the coast path to ascend the two Gyrns. Gyrn Ddu (at 522 metres our high point of the day) is well protected by rocks. Ken and Anne declined its invitation. 

Lovely views in clearing conditions were enjoyed together below the summit boulders over which Sue and I had scampered. Lunchtime - pictured. 

Then a short stroll to an unnamed summit led us back to the coast path, from which we were distracted by a gentle ascent to the 509 metre top of Bwlch Mawr, access to whose trig point was barred by a huge wall.

Views of the sun beaming down on the peninsula towards Bardsea Island were admired at length (a slideshow will follow) before we headed down to a ruined cottage and a stretch of quiet tarmac. There were immaculate views past a high mast to sunlit Snowdonia. 

Robins and wrens vied for the noisiest bird award whikst a sparrowhawk circled menacingly above.

The path got boggy, and perhaps Ken did regret his decision not to wear gaiters. Dusk came and darkness was descending fast by the time we got back to Clynnog Fawr at 5 pm.

At about 16km with up to 800 metres ascent, taking 6.25 hours - this was a fine day out in lovely conditions. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blackpool’s Sticky Rock Jazz Band

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I suppose this is really just a plug for Eagley Jazz Club, whose members either enjoyed or were subjected to Blackpool’s Sticky Rock Jazz Band last night.

I’m not sure whether this fivesome have ever performed together before, or whether they will do again, but with Anthony Mason competing with Mike ‘Lovely’ Lovell for the role of ‘main man’, a distinctly ‘Formbyesque’ atmosphere prevailed.

Alongside banjo playing Mason on the back row, Colin Turner was hidden to most of the audience by his giant tuba, which seemed to me to cover for the absence of a double bass and any percussion. On the front row, Mike was flanked by either ‘in the flesh’ or clones of Andy Henderson and Willy Entwistle (or was that Pete Eddowes?). Judging by the confusion within the band as to who they all were, I suspect that they were clones.

It was a little ‘lighter’ than the usual trad jazz fare on offer here, but quite good fun if you could cope with Anthony’s nasal attempts at humour. In truth, the band were not bad at all, and they were able to comply with a request to play the Temperance Seven’s 1961 hit – ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ (I think!). In fact, several of them claimed to have played with the Temperance Seven, which I’ve noticed over the months is a badge of respect donned by many of the performers at this club.

It would be good to see some of you there sometime….

Monday, 17 November 2014

Autumn Colours

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I haven’t seen too much of the autumn colours this year, but these golden beech leaves overhanging the Leeds & Liverpool Canal couldn’t fail to catch my eye today.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Wythenshawe Parkrun Number 162

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I enjoyed marshalling at “the far bridge” this morning, trying to encourage 216 runners around Wythenshawe Park’s two-lap Parkrun circuit on a warm, muddy morning. The bridge is 900 metres from the start/finish line and it’s very peaceful sitting on the railings waiting for the runners, whilst being entertained by squabbling gulls and foraging jays, not to mention my attempts to convert passing dog walkers into Parkrunners.

The two winners, Allan and Diane – pictured above with third place Roger – even managed a third lap, resulting in puzzled looks from folk who found themselves lapped twice on the two lap course.

I took lots of photos with a camera not really designed for the purpose, so most of my subjects appear as speedy blurs on the dull day, even if they were walking. Anyway, I hope they appreciate that I’ve tried to show them in a ‘fast’ light. The results are here. If you aren’t familiar with ‘Parkrun’, Wythenshawe’s home page is here.

My Picasa album is here, and I’ve also tried to put them in the Parkrun Flickr album, but I’ve struggled with that on a number of fronts – even though I sign in as me, the photos appear to emanate from Sue (who wasn’t there today), and … well, I can’t find the captions or play a slideshow. Perhaps you can!

To view the Picasa album, click on the first image and then click ‘slideshow’ – even I can do that.

It’s a great way to start the weekend – see you all again soon.

PS – do let me know if you are not happy with any of these images being made public, and I’ll delete them from the album (email: martin@topwalks.com)

Friday, 14 November 2014

Thursday 13 November 2014 – Styal Woods

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Last night a small group of stalwarts assembled in the friendly surroundings of the Ship Inn, Styal, for a short perambulation. Alistair and Sue were clothed as if for a summer evening stroll. The rest of us were too hot in the heat of the November evening.

Why the ‘Ship’? you might ask. The pub actually dates back around 350 years (that’s 120 years before the nearby mill was built) and was once known as the ‘Shippon’, a farm building used to store manure, but became the Ship Inn when the farmer who owned it started brewing for the local people. It’s now known for its much sweeter smelling 260 year old wisteria and the beautiful roses that grow up the front of the building.

A short stroll past some old cottages brings you/us to Styal Cross, about which the following plaque provides a brief history. It’s a good place from which to start a variety of walks, as is Twinnies Bridge on the road to Wilmslow.

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Heading towards the chapel, after a few metres a good path slopes off left into Styal’s northern woods.

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There are lots of different ways through the woods on a network of paths. We chose to cross a side valley by a newish metal bridge, before reaching Chapel Bridge and another side valley.

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This is of course a walk down the Bollin Valley. Badgers can be seen hereabouts, but the intensity of Andrew’s floodlight must have warned them of our presence.

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It’s an area of well maintained paths with a thick bed of beech leaf litter – thankfully the only litter spotted today.

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After an encounter with Oxbow Bridge, and a few up and down steps, we eventually crossed to the north side of the river at Giants Castle Bridge, where Jim Krawiecki was spotted kayaking his way towards the Atlantic Ocean.

(Jim will be returning from this adventure to give an enthralling talk at Hazel Grove Civic Centre next Wednesday evening at 8 pm.) Details here.

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Beyond the Airport Inn, where we finally emerged from the woods, a short walk up the A538 road leads to a field path to the hamlet of Morley, where a lone Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor), which my flower book says flowers between February and May, seemed to have been refreshed by a pile of windfall apples.

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After Morley, a thin path led across a newly sown field which bears memory of a thin path between a huge sweetcorn (or was it sugar beet? or cannabis?) crop, to a stile which introduced us to the beady eyes of a bull named Quantas.

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After hastily falling over the stile at the edge of Quantas’s domain, we meandered back to the A538 and to the turn to Bank House Farm, which we noticed is up for sale. Perhaps after many years of having to put up with the farm’s moat of mud, walkers may in the future be able to reap the benefits of a drier area that hopefully the new owners will maybe prefer for their own sake.

Beyond the farm, the path improves again as it makes its way down to Quarry Bank Mill. There are good views down to the woods near Oxbow Bridge.

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Following the loss of my Merrell Moab GTX shoes in Madeira – they fell apart after 1200 km – my old Keen Targhee II shoes have been brought back into use having long ago been retired to mountain biking duties after 1750 km of use on the hills. [Keen 2 – Merrell 1]

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Walkers on this route may relax at the prospect of ‘no more mud’ when they reach this view of Quarry Bank Mill, the splendid cotton factory founded by Samuel Greg in 1784.

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A short way up the road, a left turn takes the walker directly back to Styal Cross, and on to the fleshpots of Styal.

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Sue and Andrew, having not got enough exercise, decided to take the long route back, but the rest of us followed the route shown below – approximately 7 km with 150 metres ascent. It took us a very leisurely hour and fifty minutes.

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Our next (and only planned at present, so suggestions for next year would be welcome) evening walk is our annual 5 km yomp, starting at 7.30pm from Trentabank car park (SJ 960 711), adjourning for Christmas Ale at the Leather's Smithy in Langley. All are welcome.

PS Are you impressed with my trial of the Lumix special infra-red lens software that brings daylight to moonlit images?