Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Friday 27 March 2009 - A Short Walk around Kettleshulme

Spring is coming on apace at home in Timperley, with a bit more colour every day, and trees and leaves gradually coming into bud.

Our 45 minute drive into the Peak District passed swathes of daffodils waving in the breeze.  Even the traffic lights were waving in the breeze today!

Kettleshulme was shut.  The Bulls Head doesn't open on weekday lunchtimes, and we didn't get as far as the Swan Inn, which is just down the road. 

2701bullshead

Starting after 2pm from outside the Bulls Head we followed a route described in detail here.

A cool breeze made for excellent walking weather as we headed quickly up to Taxal Edge... and wandered briefly off our route to gaze down to the Goyt valley and beyond.

2702goytvalley

Our route then headed south along the border between Cheshire and Derbyshire, with Windgather Rocks lurking ahead of us under a big black cloud that spat stinging white pellets at us.

Tracks and a minor road took us on to Dunge Farm, whose gardens are heavily advertised hereabouts.  But today, though Spring is coming on apace in Timperley, these parts - only a few miles away - have a distinctly wintery look and feel.  Here's Dunge Farm and the view from the path - we'll try to visit again later in the year when there's a bit more colour on display and the tea room is open.

2703Dunge

Beyond here, we ambled up a path past this tree...

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...which looks rather different from the other direction, with Windgather Rocks and their ever present crown of black cloud behind the sunlit grass, which really is this brown at present.

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There was very little wildlife in evidence today.  The most obvious was the striking white faces of rooks wheeling above Kettleshulme, together with the ubiquitous carrion crows and the unmistakable flapping lapwings that seem to be a much commoner sight these days.

Some properties are messy and run down; others are immaculate.  This isolated house and its renovated barn beyond Green Stack tend towards the latter category, but you would need to enjoy a lonely windswept landscape to live here.

2706house

Continuing along the route, we paused shortly before Saltersford Hall in the shelter of a wall, to enjoy a welcome flask of tea and a respite from the cool breeze.  (Actually, Sue was seriously overdressed - she's obviously not been eating enough recently - a fleece was all that was necessary!  Or was it that she couldn't be bothered to carry a bag?)

Saltersford Hall, in the background, was built in 1595 by the Stopford family of Macclesfield.  It was occupied by the Turner family, whose Richard Turner, who died aged 60 in 1748, was the first person to be buried in nearby Jenkin's Chapel.

2707tea

Soon she was off again, striding purposefully towards another immaculate house, this one - Burton Springs Farm - in a sheltered valley.

2708toBurtonSprings

Beyond here the route continued up a steep bridleway to a high point with fine views towards Greater Manchester, beyond which on this clear day the tall masts on Winter Hill looked much closer than their 50 km distance from us.  Down to the south west, 80 km away, the Welsh mountains looked enticing.  We were envious of Alan, and Gayle and Mick, who despite the cool, blustery weather should be relishing clear views from the Carneddau hills this weekend.

Beyond the busy B5470 artery linking Macclesfield with Whaley Bridge, we found our way along an ancient green lane, now not even a bridleway - indeed, a rather poorly drained and ill-defined footpath - and gradually rose to re-cross the road at Charles Head.  What seemed to be the scent of a BBQ hung in the air.  We were puzzled, it wasn't BBQ weather!  Nearing the end of our stroll, we could see Kettleshulme in the valley below, with the hills of Kinder Scout clearly defined in the background.

2709kettleshulme

Charles Head Farm dates from 1764, when it was built by Robert Pott.  Apparently a leather-bound version of the Bible, known as the Charleshead Bible, is kept inside.  The farm now sports some attractive 'barn conversions' and a couple of interesting post boxes:

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There's a great contrast between the new conversions and the old barns that serve as shelters for sheep or storage areas, etc.  This one, by the path leading to Todd Brook, is next to some impressive gate posts.  It must have been quite a different scene when it was first built.

2712barn

After crossing an extremely marshy field we reached the farm track that led all the way back to Kettleshulme.  A buzzard hovered overhead whilst two teenagers accosted us. 

"Where have you been?" they interrogated.  We showed them the map, and explained that we had been able to see deep into Wales.  "I know" said one of them "I've been on that walk...and you can see nearly as far from the top of the tree we've just been in".  We chatted for a while - friendly country kids.

It had been a lovely walk, despite the paucity of spring colours.  In fact Spring seems further advanced in Torridon than it does here, several hundred miles to the south - perhaps due to the Gulf Stream.  Anyway, I did eventually find this rare example of a south facing gorse bush where the flowers are just about in bloom.

2713gorse

There was still a bit of tea in the flask, so we enjoyed it from the comfort of this bench before tootling off home.

2714bench

The route card is here, but as most readers won't be interested in that, here's our 13 km route.  It involved about 550 metres of ascent and took 3 hours, plus breaks totalling 10 minutes.

2700route

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Goat's cheese and beetroot salad

2601beetroot With the clocks about to change, and the evenings lengthening, perhaps it's time to reduce the soup intake in favour of something more 'summery'.

This recipe for four is very quick, easy and Seriously Tasty.
It's very suitable for splitting into two (or more) for use as a quick mid-week starter.

We hope you enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS
10 oz/300 gm cooked beetroot - fresh or vacuum packed, not from a jar
8 oz/200 gm log of firm goat's cheese, eg Capricorn or Sainte-Maure de Touraine
4 handfuls small-leaf salad, containing rocket and herbs

FOR THE DRESSING
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp clear honey
4 tbsp walnut oil

1 Thinly slice the beetroot, either with a very sharp knife or on a mandolin if you have one.

2 Arrange overlapping slices over 4 dinner plates.

3 Put all the dressing ingredients into a jar, replace the lid, then shake well to mix.

4 Drizzle a little dressing over the beetroot.

5 Slice the goat's cheese into 12 slices and put 3 slices on top of each serving of beetroot.

6 Toss the salad leaves in a little dressing, then place a small pile of leaves on top of each serving of cheese.

7 Drizzle with the remaining dressing.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tuesday 24 March 2009 - A Stroll around Lymm

With rain forecast later, I enjoyed a short 2 hour stroll from Lymm Dam, just a 15 minute drive from home.

Parking at 10.15 in Crouchley Lane I set off up the main road, away from the Dam, turned left into Grammar School Road, and when St Peter's Church came into view I headed down the path towards its distinctive spire.  This is Oughtrington, on the eastern edge of Lymm, and whilst it is less than 50 metres above sea level it does lie above the surrounding countryside and affords fine (if not very photogenic) views across to Winter Hill, the skyscrapers of Manchester, and the hills of the Dark Peak behind the mass of suburbia.

2402church

Beyond the church, the path continues in an easterly direction through fields, with even more expansive views towards the hills of the Peak District, with aircraft coming in to land at Ringway in the foreground.

Carrion crows cawed in freshly ploughed fields, and two youths tried to control a bunch of unruly dogs - maybe they were dog walkers, enterprising an income rather than walking the streets.  At least the dogs were 'waggy' rather than intimidating...

Fluttering Peewits accompanied me as the path drifted beside field boundaries to eventually turn right onto Warrington Lane, which runs beside the Bridgewater Canal.  (More information here.)

This short route turns first left down Spring Lane, to cross the canal.  The sign is just about visible, ironically soon to be concealed by the shoots of spring.

2403sign

There is an extensive boatyard (Lymm Cruising Club) on the left of the canal, and a firm towpath on the right.  This doubles up as a fast cycle track when there's a strong westerly wind like yesterday's.

2404canal

There's a convenient bench on the towpath by Agden Bridge.

Time for a welcome cup of tea.

Walking along the towpath back towards Lymm, in the face of a fresh breeze, I first encountered a pair of Greylag Geese.

2405geese

Then Mr and Mrs Mute Swan.

2406swans

The grass beside the towpath is full of Butterbur (Petasites hybridus), as well as daisies and dandelions just now.

2407butterbur

I passed a small car park at Spud Wood Woodland Trust (this would be a better place to park, in future).  A sign indicated that this was the start of a 22 mile trail to Runcorn Hill - the Mersey Valley Timberland Trail.  I'd never heard of it!  Full details are here - probably a nice walk - I may report on it sometime soon!

2408sign

The hawthorn is coming into leaf, and the blackthorn is in flower. Cherry blossom also brightened the day.

2409cherry

As did Forsythia.

2410forsythia

Moorhens and mallard seem to infest the canal as it draws into Lymm.  This is where this route heads into the village.

2411lymm

A short climb to cross the main road at Lymm Dam heralds a short final stroll around the small lake.  The woodland is still bare of leaves.

2412woods

The lack of foliage leaves little cover for the birds that live here, not that the cormorants would have hidden in the wood.  This one's mate hid under the water...

2413cormorant

It was full of life, with coots, mallard, moorhens, wood pigeons, wrens, long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits, blackbirds, robins, magpies and great crested grebes all busily ignoring me as I strolled back to the car.

Here's the 9 km route, with about 70 metres ascent - taking about two hours at a steady pace.

2401route

15 to 20 March 2009 - A Trip to Torridon

Dave admires the view from Sgurr Mòr, the 986 metre summit of Beinn Alligin,
and the highest point reached by Dave and me this week

This brief entry wraps up this first Scottish trip of the year. The image below shows the venues of the first four walks enjoyed by Dave O and me, the fifth being further south in Kintail.

To view all the daily entries, to which a few images have been added, (chronologically from the bottom of the page), click here.

There's also a web page here, summarising what we did (72 km, 5470 metres ascent) and providing a few additional panoramic images.

Enjoy...