Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 21 March 2008

Friday 21 March 2008 - Good Friday

After a bit of exercise beside an unusually choppy waterway, Nallo Lady and I enjoyed the afternoon on this Fine Spring Day with two of our Best Friends, Andrew and Kate.

One of the Lovely Things about coming home after a Long Trip, as I think I may already have commented, is the pleasure of catching up with your close friends. Kate even lent me her bike for a while - luckily I retained possession of the camera!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Thursday 20 March 2008 - A Short Walk (or two) Around Marple Bridge

This is yesterday’s walk in the sunshine with no working camera, actually repeated today in light drizzle but with a camera (my archive footage was buried far too deep to be located).
At just 5.5km, the walk is a reminder of the days when I stumbled around here with one child in a papoose and another in a push chair.
I parked in Brabyn’s Brow CP next to the Midland, now a Bistro pub (actually very reasonable food), then strolled up the road, turning right down a footpath immediately after crossing the railway bridge by Marple Railway Station. [NB This walk is easily accessible by rail.]
Yesterday I’d forgotten that I was back in the UK, on a morning that had been frosty, so a brisk pace was needed to counteract the fact that I was wearing just two thin layers! I soon found a patch of mud that sort of justified using the Asolo boots for the first time since the Tongariro Northern Circuit walk.
The path skirts around a tennis club and heads up to cross a dirt lane before reaching the Peak Forest Canal at lock number 7. This is half way down a flight of 16 locks that allow the canal to descend 65 metres, originally built for the purpose of transporting limestone from the quarries of the Peak District. The canal is now tranquil, with the railway system and the A6 road being used instead to transport the ever desired limestone from the quarries.

The woodland was full of sound, with Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Sparrows and Wood Pigeons all noisily going about their business – lovely.

I saw no canal boats; maybe the locks are closed – there was certainly a problem at number 2 lock, where a large tree (sadly sprouting a fine set of buds) had been blown into the water near the entrance to the lock.
It was very tranquil on the pond before number 1 lock, where a solitary Mallard and a solitary Moorhen had the canal basin to themselves and a Blue Tit chirped noisily in the background. (They were still there 24 hours later!)
Here the towpath crosses over the canal and proceeds under a railway bridge to reach a splendid aqueduct, opened in 1800 to span the River Goyt far below.
This is part of the ‘Cheshire Ring’ waterway system – an amazing feat of engineering over 200 years old that has stood the test of time. These days the aqueduct has a fine view of the nearby railway viaduct – another fine old structure that is still in use.

Across the viaduct the towpath heads towards Romiley Tunnel, whilst I headed steeply down a footpath to the left, turning left on reaching the river. Looking up, I spotted that the 200 year old aqueduct had been stapled together to maintain its integrity!

Passing under both bridges and up a grassy, sometimes boggy, path through three fields I emerged at a lane. Yesterday here, I met three finely attired gents who could have been auditioning for ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. Today I saw nobody on these paths. There’s a fine view of the railway viaduct.

Leaving some Carrion Crows to rummage in the horse manure, I turned right down a lane with fine views of the hillsides around Marple (yesterday they were fine – today it was a case of Peakland mizzle, so no image here), past a house, to reach a farm. A faded sign pointed me straight on through the farmyard, along the Midshires Way.
Pied Wagtails fluttered nearby as I strolled on, pleased to see that there was none of the oft-encountered slurry here today. I bore left, over a stile to a footpath that leads on past a small sewage farm to rejoin the River Goyt.
It’s a delightful woodland section now to Compstall. At present the bright yellow flowers of freshly sprouted Lesser Celandine are a delight, and Chaffinches are particularly active in this area. Today a male Pintail floated serenely down the river.
Beyond a weir, the main road at Compstall is reached all too soon.
A right turn over the bridge took me past The George (Robinsons, but too early to take advantage…).
A lane to the right is signposted to Brabyn’s Park and normally I would complete the circuit by walking through the park. But a sign indicates that the ancient iron bridge over the Goyt is being renovated and the path will be closed until 30 May. A stroll down the lane confirmed this – it would be an enterprising fellow who could get past the renovators’ barricades.

So I returned, past a field of newly born lambs,
happy to spend the last 15 minutes strolling along the road past the Northumberland Arms, The Spring Gardens, The Windsor Castle, the Ludworth and Mellor WI (and here I was, thinking I was in Marple Bridge!) and the Norfolk Arms, before skirting the Midland and reaching the car after this 1 hour 15 minute excursion, ideal for a short stroll, and for small children, subject to access to Brabyn’s Park being restored.

Here's a map - the route goes clockwise and given the above description, is easy to follow:

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Wednesday 19 March 2008 - Riley's Reprieve

Another bright and sunny day, so I enjoyed a short walk from Marple Bridge. Sadly, whilst I have recharged all spare holiday batteries, the one in the camera was dead, so no photos I’m afraid from today. Instead, a holiday snap – sunset on 26 February from the Mangatepopo Hut, in the shadow of ‘Mount Doom’.
Sadly the DP couldn’t join me as she had a meeting at the local PCT (Primary Care Trust) office re possible part time contract work. So I dropped her off at 10am, expecting to see her in the early afternoon (it’s a short walk away) after I’d returned from my stroll.
But it seems that when it needs to, the NHS can actually do things quite quickly, and that is indeed my experience on the medical front.
It was nevertheless something of a surprise to return to find an email from the DP, indicating that she was ‘at work’ and would be back tonight.
Brilliant – so I can resume my ‘Life of Riley’!?
I do recall immediately re-employing someone a few years ago when she appeared in our reception after unexpectedly returning from abroad, but even then it took a day to sort out her contract. Sue seems to have been set up on the PCT’s email system and put to work ‘within the hour’. Amazing! But she has to finish early tomorrow as I am actually doing a bit of work myself in the afternoon (for Rodney and Christine – met on the plane from Singapore to Christchurch when Sue and I couldn’t get seats together – it’s a small world, I had met them before, 10 years ago); she needs to come with me as ‘payment’ is by way of a meal for both of us.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Tuesday 18 March 2008 - In Search of Silkbody

It’s time to report on our efforts to obtain Silkbody products in New Zealand.
Foolishly, we left it until the last minute, though we didn’t notice any Silkbody products until our last day, when we spent a couple of hours in the shops of Auckland.
The stocks were limited. Icebreaker goods had been seen frequently, and they certainly have a strong presence and a solid reputation in New Zealand, where the poorly paid locals are happy to pay the equivalent of £50 for a long-sleeved crew base layer.
Similar Silkbody products were selling for £35, but we wanted a sleeveless product, and could only find it in white, the wrong colour. We also discovered that Silkbody was based far away in Dunedin in the South Island and that it has only five employees.
So when we entered ‘Living Simply’, one of the listed stockists, we were not optimistic of success. Sadly our fears were well founded, and we received confirmation that we would be unable to get what we wanted that day in Auckland. However, the good news is that standing next to the Silkbody stand was a warmly attired (with the new range of products) lady who introduced herself as ‘Silkbody’. Yes, really, she said ‘I am Silkbody’! She explained that she was Ruth Peddie, Silkbody’s National Sales Manager. We discussed our (Ian’s) requirements and after establishing that the stocks in Auckland could probably not satisfy them, we agreed that Ruth could be contacted directly by email ruth@silkbody.co.nz or phone (+64 3 474 0425 or +64 21 366019) from the UK and would arrange for the desired goods to be supplied by post.
On return home, I discovered that Ellis Brigham and others have joined Backpackinglight.co.uk in supplying Silkbody products, but so far as I can see they all seem to be concentrating on the long-sleeved thermal base layers. EB in Manchester had very little stock when I visited them last week (and even fewer people with a desire to sell any of that stock).
UK prices are the same as those in NZ, but I’m not sure of the VAT/duty implications. Ruth said she would be happy for anyone with an interest to contact her direct, and I would hope that there would only be a nominal (if any) postage charge.
So I commend you to contact Ruth by clicking on the link: ruth@silkbody.co.nz – you do need to be careful with the sizing of what you buy, as it will shrink a little.
Just for the record, it is this review by Andy Howell that has helped to stimulate this (albeit limited) interest in Silkbody.
And the very best of luck – I hope you enjoy your purchases.

Postscript
As at 8 April 2008 I know of at least one person who has successfully, and very efficiently, obtained a Silkbody product not currently available in the UK, direct from Silkbody.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Monday 17 March 2008 - Back to Normal

Here we are. Back to normal by the Bridgewater Canal with the old exercise bike and the Bay Malton in the distance. A chilly wind from the north hastened me on today, and it was starting to cloud over by the time I got to this point. Despite the wintry feel, it was nice to see the green sheen of fresh growth in the trees and hedges. The birds are getting frisky – today I watched a couple of kestrels frolicking in the breeze.

Saturday 15 March 2008 - The Outdoors Show

Thanks to the offer of a free ticket and an absence of jet lag, the Dishy Pharmacist and I pootled down to the NEC for our first ever visit to The Outdoors Show.
Others have expressed disappointment, but to me it seemed that there should be something for everyone here. We perused a plethora of gear as we sought a shot of caffeine (what was that about jet lag!) before ambling across to the Cumberland Arms.

Here there was a gathering of vaguely familiar faces, most of whom we had never met before. They were all ‘UK Outdoors Bloggers’, and this was an informal annual gathering. Great to meet you, folks.
We had met Andy Howell (The Blogfather) before and were soon nailed by him for an interview on our recent trip to NZ. This definitely does not afford us celebrity status – so far as I could see Andy was attempting to interview most of those attending the show.
We were also pleased to see Colin and Helen from Stockport Walking and Outdoor Group. Hopefully we will see more of them, and they may give us the chance to relive our Pyrenees HRP trip (two wonderful months in 2003) at one of their evening meetings later this year.

Nervy due to our temporary lack of income and the astonishing rises in prices in the UK during our 7 week absence, we abstained from significant purchases, though I found a fabulous map (IGN Chambeyron val Maira 1:25000 - £2) and the DP bought some socks but then got cold feet when it came to the rather more pricey waterproof housing for her new camera.

It was particularly good to see Darren and Alan again, and to meet Alan’s aristocratic walking companion and erstwhile saviour of Darren, Lord Elphus. I thought he might have set up Julia Bradbury (who was posing nearby) as his daughter Sophie, but no such luck.

Three-o-clock arrived – the duly appointed time for a ‘Petition Meeting’ concerning the attempt to legalise wild camping in England and Wales. I’ll comment elsewhere on this issue, the meeting on which took place in a ‘Void’ next to the WD-40 Bike Arena.
Sadly the arena commentator had a very loud and very proximate loudspeaker, possibly orchestrated by John Hee to keep his audience awake (several of them had very much enjoyed the splendid Cumberland Ale). Luckily the void was not quite a void, it contained some huge mattresses. John must have soon cottoned on to this and I can only assume that it was his triumph of telepathy that resulted in their removal and recovered the attention of the recumbent forms. The purpose of the meeting was thereby achieved…

[Some poetic licence here, as I now see that John is one of the recumbent forms!]

The DP and I then spent some time admiring the wonderful display of underwater photographs, and regretted we had not made better use of all the activities going on in the NEC’s theatres – numerous enticing talks and films – we missed most of them!

It had been a long day, so temporary lodgings in Solihull were much appreciated.