Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Saturday 29 March 2008 - TGO Challenge – Chocolate Caramel Shortbread (CCS) Stops

We appreciate this hardly competes with Alan and Lord Elphus’s cheese and wine parties, but we are pleased to announce the following venues where Nallo Lady’s CCS will be available:
Friday 9 May – 9.00 to 9.30 – Kintail Lodge Hotel – a bit of extra fuel before departure.
Sunday 11 May – lunchtime at Alltbeithe Youth Hostel.
Wednesday 14 May – lunchtime on the Corrieyairack Pass (or a little later on Corrieyairack Hill summit).
Friday 16 May – lunchtime around Baileguish – NN 82 98.
Monday 19 May – 9.30 to 10.00 – Lochcallater Lodge - fuel for those ascending Lochnagar.
We hope to meet a few challengers in these places, or beyond them, until the supplies are exhausted.
Bon appetit!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Friday 28 March 2008 - Maurizio joins the TGO Challenge Fraternity

Today turns out to be a TGO Challenge day.
We arranged to meet J and V for lunch at the Giobrio restaurant in Sale.
J is doing the Challenge. After we had enjoyed a fine selection of Maurizio’s risotto, pizza and tagliatelle, he produced a bag full of 1:50000 maps of Scotland. Comparing routes, we worked out that we should catch him up at Tarfside, and can give him a lift home later. We discussed food drops – his route is similar to ours so we may be able to do some drops for him on a trip to Scotland several weeks before the Challenge.
We also discussed Nallo Lady’s charitable donations of her signature dish – chocolate caramel shortbread – the subject of a separate posting later. We should be able to carry plenty as our simple route with four re-supply points means we (NL that is) only have to carry a maximum of two days’ provisions at any one time.
Back to Maurizio. We discussed the state of his business…”so so” – cheese has recently doubled in price, flour for pizza making likewise, and lots more. But has he increased his prices? The pizza was £3.50, risottos were £3.99, so perhaps not. However, that was all academic, as this fine fellow joined in the true spirit of the Challenge and absolutely refused to let us pay him anything at all, drinks and all!
NL and I will be back. The ‘Talk Italian’ package has arrived from Waterstones and NL wants to practice on Maurizio, even though he told us that the area we are visiting in July and August sports a strong local dialect.
So we were a very happy pair as we strolled back home past the King’s Ransom (see photo – Giobrio has fine food but its frontage lacks photogenicity).

Thursday 27 March 2008 - Rescued by Scallies

As I write, gravity has finally got the better of our faltering TV aerial. Switching to the alternative ‘gravitas’ of Radio 4’s Today programme, we are just in time to hear the first known recording of a human voice – allegedly a recording of a woman singing Clair de Lune in 1860. It’s a hilariously bad recording and the usually formal voice of Sarah Montague falters as she tries in vain to continue with a serious item of news. It brings back vivid memories of one of Brian Johnston’s legendary cricket commentaries. Jim Naughtie’s faltering voice slowly brings things back to normal…
Perhaps we shouldn't replace the TV aerial – the VHF one is solid as a rock and a conduit for great entertainment!

Last night we enjoyed the last of this winter’s ‘Pitch Black’ walks, as Sheila calls them. Due to certain folk being afraid of the dark it was the select trio of Notchy, Nallo Lady and I that set off at 7.30 from Dane Road Metro Station. The last rays of the spring sunshine had been displaced by chilly evening air, but the route was virtually flat and the ambient light in the Mersey Valley near the centre of Manchester meant that torches weren’t needed.
We followed the route shown on this ‘flier’, soon leaving the canal towpath by an old sign which rigorously regulates tonnages allowed on the ‘weak’ bridge.

A puddle strewn track took us past a cemetery and over Chorlton Brook to join the high embankment of the River Mersey.
At Jackson’s Boat we eschewed the short cut to the pub, continuing on around Chorlton Water Park, opened in September 1978 after gravel extraction during the construction of the M63 motorway had left a large pit.
It’s a wildlife sanctuary, with many ducks and geese, but we actually saw more birds tonight settling down at the edge of the river on the stretch back to Jackson’s Boat. Kingfishers can be seen around here, but not tonight. No one else was about, and we were accompanied only by the quack of the ducks, the rumble of the motorway and the drone of descending aircraft.
Nallo Lady yearned to be back in the tranquillity of New Zealand.
The footbridge across the River Mersey at Jackson’s Boat was originally erected in 1816 and at that time there was a halfpenny toll to cross it. The bridge was built to replace a local farmer Jackson and his boat, who had provided a ferry service across the river. The boat was hauled from bank to bank by a chain fastened to posts on either side, much like the chain operated ferries which still provide a similar service on the Bridgewater Canal.
Jackson’s Boat pub has undergone many changes during my time in Manchester. It now sells Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlords’ bitter, which set us up well for our stroll back to the start.
A pleasant path led towards Sale Water Park, another converted gravel pit, past the Visitor Centre that in years past provided many happy hours for my children, then over stepping stones to reach a familiar giant pylon and the car park at Deckers Restaurant.
This was my first visit for several years, and it had changed. The motorway has been widened and is now spanned by a footbridge. Unsure as to whether the old underpass had survived, we headed over this well constructed, wheelchair accessible, bridge. It’s a long one, spanning 11 lanes of motorway!

A right turn signed ‘Bridleway’ took us in the direction of the old underpass, but that had gone. After walking further than intended down this path, the railway and canal came into view, so we doubled back along a good track to complete our circuit. On reaching Dane Road, our objective, we found ourselves on the wrong side of a huge pair of locked steel gates. So we turned around, in search of an alternative.
To our surprise, two figures emerged from a nearby tent…these two scallies seemed most relieved to discover that we were not the local constabulary, just 3 idiots trapped within the confines of the Mersey Valley. Whilst guiding us back to the steel gate and trying to conceal the fumes on their breath, they chatted about this being their practice for a Duke of Edinburgh silver award expedition next week around Keswick. [Tall story of the week?]
The lads helpfully directed us to a weakness in the walled ramparts beside the steel gate that allowed us to clamber out and make our escape, though Notchy made a fine impression of a bluebottle in a jam jar before easing his aching body over the wall to freedom.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Wednesday 26 March 2008 - In Search of the Dunham Ripper

It’s many years since I was a member of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA), but when I received an email last night from John about one of their walks today I decided to take advantage of a bit of exercise whilst the DP was busy at work, especially as it was only a 10 minute drive to the start.

Despite wet weather it was a jolly bunch of 17 walkers that set out soon after 10am from Dunham Massey under Peter’s brisk leadership.
He assured us that the Dunham Ripper would indeed be found.
The group turned out to be dominated by early retirees who get very regular exercise – the pace was certainly more than reasonable (if reputedly much slower than on their longer weekend walks).
The forecast of worsening weather proved inaccurate; it was one of those days when overtrousers donned at the start stayed on, but those left in bags stayed in, if you can follow that. (The weather actually improved significantly during the course of the day.)

We zoomed off past a herd of fallow deer before crossing an area of lush green grass and randomly placed sand dunes where we were sternly paused by some gaudily dressed gents chasing a small white object.

Soon afterwards Peter wanted to show us an ancient school but was foiled by the adjacent roadworks; John wanted to visit the nearby micro-brewery to sample the ‘Deer Beer’ but was foiled by Peter’s feigned deafness.

John and I seemed to be lagging behind by the time we reached the Bridgewater Canal for the second time, at Agden Bridge.

Bombing on at a rapid pace we left the canal at the bridge at Oughtrington and headed through woods then suburban streets to reach the centre of Lymm, where one of the group demanded to be placed in custody as he was feeling a bit tired.

After marking down the leader for going too fast, the throng proceeded to lunch at 12.15 (a bit early?!) by the well fed Mallard population of Lymm Dam. 20 minutes was all we got, before rushing off down ‘The Bongs’, by the waters of Lymm Dam where a cormorant was enjoying a thorough wash, in a southerly direction, to be halted only by the thick blue line of the M56 motorway.
Luckily Peter had reccied the route and managed to avoid the ankle deep slurry in which the track past Broad Heyes Farm immerses unwary victims.
Having lost more points due to the bogginess of his route (rather unfair, I thought, as the slurry had been cleverly by-passed), Peter then imposed a ‘single file’ restriction at frequent intervals during the walk across fields which returned us to a selection of canalside hostelries, all of which were ignored.

His ‘leader’s score rating’ had now been reduced to nil, so he tried to bribe the throng into recognising that he had some skills by producing a large packet of liquorice allsorts and sundry other goodies. Very nice, but, he was told, only a pot of tea for 17 on his tab at the end of the walk would remedy the position. He responded by threatening to use his ‘delete’ button on any troublemakers, in his role of Membership Secretary of the LDWA.
We continued, in sunny weather, striding on past flapping lapwings to complete the circuit.

And where was the Dunham Ripper?
At least Peter found that, just around the corner from where the walk had started 5 hours earlier; he had the last laugh as it seemed that he had taken us by rather a roundabout route.
Here it is, a frame saw that has been ripping into tree trunks and converting them to planks since around 1860. It’s powered by a waterwheel below, through a series of belts and shafts, and is still in fine working order.

And so we adjourned to the same excellent tea shop that Sue and I enjoyed following our return from New Zealand nearly 2 weeks ago, for more of the same, before admiring the National Trust property and returning homewards.

The route is shown below. It’s 23 km with only 177 metres of ascent, and took us a brisk 5 hours, including stops.

An excellent day out. Thank you John for letting me know about it.

Tuesday 25 March 2008 - The Outdoors Station

It’s high time I provided a link to The Outdoors Station, and you will now find one on the right of the screen under ‘Useful Links’.
This is Bob Cartwright’s ‘hobby’ activity when, together with Rose, he is not busy running backpackinglight.co.uk – the source of high quality lightweight gear and advice.
Together with ‘blogfather’ Andy Howell, ‘Podcast Bob’ (pictured) is a prolific producer of podcasts relating to the outdoors, including a ‘Podzine’ with excellent weekly competition prizes.
There is a recent podcast – ‘Outdoors Show Special – Bloggers!’ in which (about 22 minutes into the podcast) Sue and I are interviewed by Andy. Not exactly ‘fame’, but still something we are not used to happening whilst we enjoy a drink with a few friends!
The podcasts are easy to listen to or download and cover a plethora of subjects.
Enjoy…

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Monday 24 March 2008 - Shutlingsloe

I have written about a previous walk up Shutlingsloe (see here), but today’s stroll was completely different.

It’s a favourite short walk of mine, featuring lovely Peak District scenery after only a short drive to just beyond Macclesfield.

Following yesterday’s more sedentary activities we decided on this excellent 11 km circuit in the Peaks. We parked up in the busy lane by the Leather’s Smithy and set off at 2.30 through throngs of folk too intent on controlling their dogs and children to notice the tufted duck and the dabchick (little grebe) that were busy lunching in the cold water of Ridgegate Reservoir.
Beyond Trentabank we enjoyed the snow laden woodland as the path led us steeply up to disgorge us on the open moor below the 506 metre hill. The picture above shows Nallo Lady striding out towards the summit, reached in fine but blustery weather after just half an hour from the car.

With fine views in all directions, we lingered here whilst others puzzled as to the route down.

It was Bank Holiday Monday, a day when not everyone you see ‘on the hill’ is familiar with the terrain.

The initially steep descent to the east of the hill soon eases and we quickly reached the tarmac lane which leads to the Crag Inn. No time to dally here; just beyond the Inn a field is entered and a good path contours round to join another lane above Lower Nabbs Farm. By now there was a more bitter feel to the sharp wind, and dark clouds were invading the wintry panorama behind us.

Soon after turning right at a minor road, our route carried straight on where the road bore left. We headed on up to Oakenclough, then left over the top to emerge with long views west over the conurbation of Greater Manchester, with Winter Hill’s tall mast prominent in the distance.

Dropping down the boggy ginnel to The Hanging Gate Inn, I noticed that stone chippings had been laid over the wettest places since I was last here. The late diners in the Inn (it was after 4pm) stared blankly as we passed their window just as the bitter weather deteriorated into a snow shower. I was slightly envious of them. Emerging at another narrow lane, we turned left and after a couple of hundred metres found the ‘G’ signs that mark the route of the Gritstone Trail. Turning right onto this descending path we were disappointed to see a killjoy ‘No Sledging’ sign above the enticing slope.

The trail back to the car was an excellent and varied path – the ‘G’ signs being followed all the way, suddenly depositing us at the end of Ridgegate Reservoir, in view of the car, at 4.40, well in time for our appointment with Alan and his large teapot, just 2 minutes down the road in Langley.

Here’s the route, for which you should allow 3 hours (we were brisk today). It’s 11 km, with about 500 metres of easy ascent.

Sunday 23 March 2008 - Braised Five Hour Lamb

Today we enjoyed one of our easiest and favourite main courses, and are delighted to share it with you…Enjoy!

Braised Five Hour Lamb with wine, veg and all that (to serve 6)

This is a very easy meal, oft repeated as a Sunday dinner.

Ingredients:

1 large leg of lamb
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
6 rashers of thick streaky bacon
3 red onions, peeled and quartered
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 good handfuls of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, bay)
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 large carrots, scrubbed and halved
3 parsnips, scrubbed and halved
1 bottle of white wine

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3. In a large casserole pot or a deep seated roasting tray, fry the well-seasoned lamb in a couple of tbsp of olive oil until brown on all sides. Add the bacon, onions and garlic and continue to fry for 3 more minutes. Add the herbs and veg, pour in the wine and an equivalent amount of water, bring to the boil, and tightly cover with kitchen foil.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5 hours until tender, seasoning the cooking liquor to taste.
To serve, pull away a nice portion of meat, take a selection of veg (you may need to dig deep for the onions and bacon) and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the gravy.

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver's excellent book - 'The Return of the Naked Chef'.

In other words, and with the assistance of a trusty Swiss Army Knife:

Capture one of these:




Using the knife, amputate a leg,
and trim it to look a bit like this:





Put the leg into a big casserole dish with the other ingredients and cook for 5 hours to arrive at this…

Don’t forget to bake some fresh crusty bread to absorb the juices that aren’t shown in the photo due to a minor technical problem.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Saturday 22 March 2008 - Icy Lakeland Fells

Being Easter, it was appropriate that hot cross buns should accompany our coffee at the Apple Pie Cafe in Ambleside, prior to striding off up the hill (the wrong way, in mine and Jenny's case!).

Despite a few initial problems with Andrew's GPS, we were soon warming up, despite a headwind, on the ridge leading north to Red Screes.
A good deal of 'catching up' was being done....

My leisure time has involved some experimental baking recently, so some testing was required. In the shelter of a wall, we tasted a batch of flapjack (not one of my signature recipes), and various comments ensued:

"Not enough glue!"
"Where's the chocolate?"
"I can't see any caramel"
"A lack of shortbread..."

Perhaps next time, a batch of the usual caramel shortbread would be better!

Behind the wall, additional windproof layers were pulled from rucksacks. The forecast indicated severe wind chill, and we were just about to experience the worst of it. Nearly at the summit of Red Screes, the temperature did indeed feel like the estimated minus 18 degrees C, with cold fingers, and even cold teeth.

Some fun was had by Martin and Richard who tested the strength of the ice. Although some cracking was heard, there were fortunately no wet feet.

The views down the Kirkstone Pass to Brothers Water were lovely, with sharp contrasts between sunlit fells and lakes, and those shrouded in grey cloud and snow showers, which were sweeping across frequently.

Our route continued towards Scandale Pass, over snowy grass, then an icy path next to the wall. Jenny managed to lose a leg down a hole, retrieving it with Richard's help.

At the pass, the sun made a very timely appearance as we sheltered on the leeward side of the wall to have lunch.
Dove Crag was our final objective. There were slate grey clouds with sunlit snow in one direction, and in the other, sun on Windermere creating a ribbon of bright water, with another on the distant sea of Morecambe Bay.

The grey clouds finally caught us up, and snow fell heavily for a few minutes, disappearing as fast as it had arrived. With Ambleside in our sights, the descent was slowed only to accommodate Richard's problem ankle and two episodes of cramp for Andrew, the first being on the top of a large stile, from where he couldn't move for some minutes!

Today, I was struck by the significant number of people on the fells in jeans. OK, all precipitation was falling as snow, not rain, but maybe the message isn't getting out as it used to (or less of the population are being well prepared by Scouting!).
The journey back to Manchester was strategically delayed by a visit to the superb Doi Intanon Thai restaurant in Ambleside, where the hot chillies were an ideal antidote to today's chilly wind.

Thank you Andrew for chauffeuring duties.

Here's the route - it was 15km with about 1050 metres of ascent, and took just over 6 hours, including about an hour of stops.