Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Saturday 9 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 2 - Plan -Allt a Choire Odhair to a High Lochan near Sgurr na Ciche

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Wild camp
2 Summit at 839 metres
3 Bealach
4 Summit at 942 metres
5 Meall Buidhe (M)
4 Summit at 942 metres
6 Mam Meadail
7 Carnoch
8 Sourlies
9 Sgurr na Ciche (M)
10 Feadan na Ciche col
11 Wild camp at high lochan at NM 906 963 (approx 900 metres)

Statistics
14 km
1700 metres ascent
8.0 hours
(2 Munros)

tgo09map02

Our full route is here.

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Friday, 8 May 2009

TGO Challenge - Day 1 - Time for a Cheese and Wine Party!

We offer our apologies for absence, but we do hope you find our contribution. It may be a little peaty by now!

0801cheese

Enjoy your crossing, Alan, et al.

Hic.

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Friday 8 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 1 - Plan - Inverie to Allt a Choire Odhair

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Inverie – via the boat from Mallaig
2 Torcuileainn
3 Point at 275 metres at NG 847 016
4 Mam Barrisdale
5 Luinne Bheinn (M)
6 Wild camp at head of Allt a Choire Odhair at NG 871 001 (approx 680 metres)

Statistics
13 km
1100 metres ascent
6.5 hours
(1 Munro)

tgo09map01

Our full route is here.

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Thursday, 7 May 2009

TGO Challenge 2009 - 2nd Prologue - Dreiched in Mallaig

The warm waiting room at Montrose station saw us released into backpacking mode, with all other encumbrances left outside Jim and Eileen's house nearby. Such occasions mark the start of 'simple living' for a while, and are always happy.

The 9.18 train, with a chatty 13 year old telling us jokes, gave us a good hour in Glasgow before we sped off at 12.21 to Mallaig, reaching there on time at 17.43.

Blue skies had clouded over, but as the weather deteriorated the day was taken up with meeting new friends and renewing old friendships. Far too many to mention them all by name, but it was good to see Markus (the only Austrian eccentric), as well as a number of the Outdoor Bloggers.

See if you can spot a few 'ole regulars':

The 8 hour journey passed all to quickly, and by the end of it just a handful of us found ourselves staring at the white horses being whipped up by the wind in Mallaig's harbour.

We soon installed ourselves in friendly Springbank B+B, a sort of upmarket version of Cougie, with tortoises in the living room rather than an iguana in the airing cupboard. Alison and Deborah joined us whilst we searched for a weather forecast.

By the time we set off for the Cornerhouse - a de luxe purveyor of haddock and chips - the rain was lashing down. Following our delicious meal, I found the mountain weather forecast, and Nightbird's helpful comments.

Tomorrow: 'gusting to 90 mph' ... 'wind chill up to -17C'. This sort of tied in with Nightbird's interpretation, but as she points out, our presence usually has a favourable effect.

We start tomorrow with a ferry to Inverie. The 'gusts' may put paid to that. Wow - a day off before we even start?!

Adjourning to the West Highland Hotel, we enjoyed some beers with John and Sue, and Geoff and Chris, under a conservatory that seemed to amplify the crashing of the rain on the roof. J + S adjourned smugly to their room in the hotel, whilst the rest of us splashed our way home along the dreich (drenched) streets.

It's extremely wet and windy here, but we are now warm and happy and safely tucked up.

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TGO Challenge 2009 - 1st Prologue - A Wet Trip to Sunny Montrose

Let the journey commence.

A shopping trip en route to Montrose may have alleviated the likelihood of Sue getting blisters and me getting cold hands.

Thanks must go to Josie and Hugh of 'Alpenstock' in Stockport for their last minute assistance regarding our kit. They have the same knowledgable and caring approach as the legendary Bob and Rose.

It was drizzling in Manchester, but once across the border the heavens opened and aquaplaning became a distinct risk.

On the way we were somewhat surprised to see 'Morayshire' pull gently into Lancaster services. The bizarre illusion of this green liveried steam engine pulling into a motorway service station was somewhat dispelled when its trailer came into view, but it was still a highlight of our soggy journey past lush green fields with pink cherry blossom and piebald cows.

Anyway, the old car won its battle against the elements and over 6 hours after leaving Alpenstock we thankfully pulled into Charlie and Fiona's driveway in Inverbervie.

Montrose was visited en route, the town grinning under a blue sky and a wide rainbow.

C + F are brilliant, if somewhat surprised, hosts (our visit was a secret until a few hours ago). Carbo loading is complete, the wine is flowing, and we are well prepared for tomorrow's long journey.

Hic!

PS Thank you to Colin and Helen, Roman (yes, we are looking forward to continuing our Italian Border Route in a few weeks time), Steve, Louise and others for your good wishes. We may need them.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Ready and Waiting

The staff at the Park Hotel are looking forward to hosting some of their favourite customers...

Stocks of whisky are suitably high.

They are looking forward to Roger's imminent arrival, and after a week or so to his mate, aka 'Father Christmas'.

Perhaps we should just hang around here!?

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Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The TGO Challenge 2009 - Nearly Ready

0501shielbridge

Many folk will be starting from the Kintail Lodge Hotel, pictured above before last year's Challenge. It's a brilliant place from which to start.

We head off to Montrose tomorrow to drop off the car and then spend Thursday travelling round to Mallaig to befriend a few strangers (I don't recognise any of the other names starting from there), en route saying hello to a few old friends who we hope to encounter in Glasgow and on the train.

This year's route doesn't cross either of my/our previous routes - we are steadily moving south, and this will be our first encounter with the hordes in Glasgow. Should be fun!

The route has now been penned, and is on view in some detail, together with a kit list, here.

We have no significant new kit this year - just a RAB Drillium jacket for Sue - largely due to having pulled out the gear during the last few hours, leaving no time for replacements. It mostly hasn't been used since last summer's IBR trip. Bob and Rose can expect a bit of business in about 3 weeks' time!

Excluding CCS supplies, we'll each be carrying a maximum of around 14 kg, including two days' food, which should be quite comfy, but we do average 1000 metres ascent each day on our 328 km (205 mile) route. That's if we don't have to resort to our 'Foul Weather Alternative', which given the current state of the weather looks quite likely. CCS may of course be available at obscure and secret locations across Scotland, but as we will be lingering in the west and probably behind most people, we are not advertising any particular supply points. [We may get to eat it all ourselves!!!]

We'll be blogging our way across Scotland (of course) but the 'phone signal will rarely be strong enough to enable images to be transmitted, so they'll be added later. Some days there may be no signal, so bear with us - we'll be doing our best.

Good luck to any readers who are also doing the Challenge. Bon voyage, and see you in Montrose, if not before.

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Egypt, and a six month delay

3105sunset "We'll put a few proper photos together for the next posting" were my final words on 2 November 2008.

Doesn't time just fly past!

Well, today I've spent a few minutes tarting up the entries (in a very minor way) and adding a few images in relation to last year's trip to Egypt, as promised so long ago.

Including this one, there are just 12 postings with the 'Egypt' label. They can be reviewed in reverse order here, or individually by clicking on the relevant posting below:

Thursday 23 October 2008 - Heathrow Terminal 5 - Gateway to the World!

Friday 24 October 2008 - The Step Pyramid of North Saqqara

Saturday 25 October 2008 - Wadi Digla

Sunday 26 October 2008 - Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Monday 27 October 2008 - Pompey's Pillar and The Catacombs of Kom es-Shoqafa and An Egyptian Wedding

Tuesday 28 October 2008 - Egyptian Taxis

Wednesday 29 October 2008 - The Egyptian Antiquities Museum

Thursday 30 October 2008 - Religion and Boats

Friday 31 October and Saturday 1 November 2008 - A Desert Adventure

Sunday 2 November 2008 - Citadel, Mosques and more Pyramids and Good Food

I have very much enjoyed revisiting Egypt today on this wet Spring Bank Holiday in Manchester, not least for the pleasure of re-living the fine desert sunset depicted above. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Saturday 2 May 2009 - The Kindly Farmers of Cheshire - A Stroll from the Stretton Fox

It was a lovely day, but as Sue was working we could only manage a short afternoon stroll.

We'll get plenty of exercise in a week or so!

We decided to experiment. A new route. It's a 20 minute drive to the Stretton Fox.

0201strettonfox

The pub, a converted farmhouse from the mid 1800s known previously as Spark Hall, was heaving with custom.

It's right next to the M56 motorway that has obliterated any trace of the old Roman road. Crossing the bridge over the motorway we soon came to the Ring o' Bells, where a new sign displays an interesting use of apostrophes.

0202ringobells

The pub was closed. It would be open at 7 pm tonight. It must be unable to compete, despite its closer proximity to the village of Stretton.

It's an old village, with a narrow pavement beside the busy main road that passes 'Stretton House - 1769-1788', and still going strong!

0203house

We were testing a walk from Jan Darling's book 'More Pub Walks in Cheshire and Wirral', from which I have borrowed some of the historical references. 'Turn right over a stile' was the next advice. Our first encounter with the Kindly Farmers of Cheshire illustrated their loving care and kindness towards the crops that were sprouting lusciously in the field beyond the place where a stile and finger post had once stood. So we went past the new farm shop and dodged under the barbed wire fence that separated us from the stile at the other end of the field where the path had been ploughed up.

Across a cart track a finger post pointed clearly to a gate in the far corner of a second field. This one had not been ploughed. It was full of milk laden cows. A farmer was persuading them towards the milking parlour. All our concentration went into dodging the fresh cowpats. The farmer, being Kindly towards his cows, which were obscuring our correct exit over a stile, studiously ignored us as our incorrect route obliged to clamber over gates and negotiate more barbed wire and a deep ditch.

An overgrown stile by the beautifully named 'Noggin Cottage' led beside fully fledged hedges to one of many concealed ponds that litter this area.

0204pond

Our route led beside another hedge to reach a road at Bentley's Farm. A Kindly Farmer had chosen to block the path with an electric fence and a slurry pit - after all, slurry is essential for crop growth around here. We found a way round and proceeded down the lane to the Birch & Bottle.

0205birch

Saturday afternoon. It was shut.

The 18th century properties beside the lane to Fogg's Farm were mainly in fine condition, with lovely gardens. Beyond Fogg's Farm the path led to Antrobus Golf Course. From afar, it looked as if the golfers were having a picnic, but as we got closer and moved our attention on from a gorgeous chestnut horse we discerned that these were not golfers at. The golf course was full of anglers, with a fine selection of ponds to satisfy their every taste.

There were more fishermen than golfers today.

A mother coot and her newly hatched child were busy in the weeds.

0207coot

The route description through the golf course was quite complicated, but times change. Now a good gravel path leads easily clockwise around the perimeter of the course to an exit onto Reed Lane in the far corner. We paused to look back at the quiet scene.

0208golf

This quiet lane led us below swooping buzzards and past prolific forgetmenots into New Occupation Lane.

0206forgetmenot

Some barns built here in 1940 by the War Agricultural Committee now flourish as private dwellings. A left turn took us along a sort of dyke across Whitley Reed, which provided peat for fuel in Roman times. Much of the area has now been drained and cultivated, but there are still rough areas - reserved for walkers, of whom we saw no others today. Gorse, heather, nettles, reeds and brambles flourish in such 'rough'.

Past more ponds and across a sandy racetrack (racehorses must train here), we drew gradually closer to the roar of the motorway traffic before heading west towards woodland that was once part of Stretton Moss. There are marlpits hereabouts, where in the 19th century the clay and lime mixture was dug out to be used as fertiliser. As we headed along a narrow path beside the wood, a Kindly Farmer of Cheshire roared up in a winged tractor. Reversing beyond the edge of the field the wings were unfurled and we stopped abruptly as a thick spray started to belch into the atmosphere. We paused whilst this farmer, Kindly as ever towards His crops, belted off up the field in a cloud of modern-day fertiliser spray.

We were completely invisible to all the farmers we met today.

The approach to Moss Hall was marred by piles of rubble.

0209rubbish

But once past this blot on the landscape, the sunlit oilseed rape gave a pleasing image enhanced by the backdrop of a darkening sky.

0210oilseed1

From here it was almost an easy walk past a large slurry pit and down a long lane back to the Stretton Fox. It would have been very easy if the Kindly Farmer of Tanyard Farm, who had recently planted his precious crops in a field across which our footpath passed, had not ploughed up the path.

Luckily, closer to home the paths are better walked and some of the Kindly Farmers of Cheshire are a bit better behaved!

Here's our route, should anyone be interested. It's 10 km (6 miles), with virtually no ascent, and it took a little more than two hours. On this dry day, trainers were adequate footwear.

0211route

*¹ In the 19th Century, Liverpool was a leading UK port, handling ship loads of cattle from Argentina and Canada. Dairy farming was dominant in this area, with fresh produce being sent to London to be sold. The farmhouse was built on 'Spark Field', named after a small variety of trout that was found hereabouts. The Stretton Fox stands beside the site of a Roman road that ran from Wilderspool to Northwich, then on to London. The name 'Stretton' meaning 'the town on the street', dates from this time.