Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Saturday 3 October 2009 - South Devon Coast Path - Day 1 - Torcross to Dartmouth

24 hours after leaving home, Andrew and I finally made it to Torcross this morning, finishing our long journey on First's No 93 bus from Kingsbridge.

Admittedly, most of the 'journey' had been spent in the excellent company of Colin, Liz and Simon at our overnight stop in Exeter.

As usual, we set off walking in fine weather. We were followed today by a brisk breeze, with dark scudding clouds overhead.

After 200 metres the call of a tea shop was too great to resist, so it was noon by the time we embarked along Slapton Sands, having admired the nearby relic Sherman tank - in memory of the 'Operation Tiger Tragedy' - which looked only marginally older than the Austin Healey 3000 parked next to it.

And so to Dartmouth. Past a surprising array of wild flowers and butterflies, through the pretty villages of Strete and Stoke Fleming, the varied paths led all of 16 km (10 miles) to our destination. Our 4.30 pm arrival was followed by a long rest in our B & B, then an excellent meal with Chilean Pinot Grigot round the corner at Taylor's Restaurant.

Dartmouth is a lovely town, and we've spent some time 'wandering' both before and after darkness fell and the full moon rose high over the rooftops.

Highlights of the day:

a Slow Worm on a woodland path;


an incongruous tangle with a large group of overdressed wedding guests outside the church at Dartmouth Castle;

and of course the delights of the coast path - a varied route with some fine views, with afternoon sun lighting the River Dart, seen above at Warfleet Creek with Kingswear as a backdrop, shortly before entering Dartmouth.

It may only have been 10 miles, but it has tired us out...

Goodnight all!

Next Day

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Happy Birthday Blog!

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I started these scribblings on 1 October 2007, exactly two years ago, so it is now six years since I was last in full time employment!

Doesn’t time fly!

Whilst the blog is basically my indulgence, it has proved to be a good medium for keeping a diary and recording activities etc on a fairly timely basis.  It has enabled us to keep in touch with family and friends from distant parts.  New friends have also been made, too numerous to mention, as a result of the blog, and also as a consequence of me and Sue continuing to take part in the TGO Challenge annual backpack across Scotland.  The image above is taken from this year’s Challenge, and shows me on the south summit of Gulvain towards the end of our toughest day, on 10 May 2009, with the Nevis peaks in the background.

Scotland can be wonderful in May!

Here’s a picture from last year, with Tim and Kate Wood, on their 10th Challenge, crossing the bridge over the River Spey at Carnachuin.  Sadly, Tim and Kate were unable to take part in this year’s walk, so this may be the last time they crossed this characterful bridge, as it was washed away in this year’s August floods in Scotland.

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Readers may be aware that Sue (Nallo Lady) is out of sorts at present and unable to get out as much as she would like to (she can’t carry more than a small bum bag, and has limited ‘range’).  I shall miss her company whilst she remains incapacitated, and it’s a solo entry that has been made for the 2010 TGO Challenge, so the old Phoenix Phreerunner tent will be accompanying me on that trip.  It astonishes me, when I read so many whinges from backpackers about condensation problems in their tents, that this 25 year old single skin tent seems to have retrospectively skipped beyond the current leading edge of tent technology.  Whilst its old seams need TLC, the tent is, and always has been, free of any condensation.

Anyway, whilst Sue has been grounded, she has made a new friend.  He lives in one of our window boxes:

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She also discovered this pretty little devil in her apple tree; with its bright yellow stripe, red dots and two ‘horns’ it should be quite easy to catalogue, but we have no idea as to its identity.

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Today’s plan had been to enjoy the Snowdon Horseshoe walk, just as I did six years ago to celebrate my new found part time status (I recommend it), but with a four day trip starting imminently I’ve been lazy and stayed at home.  Hopefully Susan from Connecticut will join me on a stroll up Snowdon later this month.

I wrote a year ago about my feelings on this blog and its place in the outdoor blogging community, and those feelings haven’t changed.  I enjoy the process and will continue so long as that is the case, aided by whoever I can get to vary the monotony by way of guest entries.  There’s certainly plenty to read for those with time on their hands – 123,000 words in the past year (1st year: 165,000!), with about 1,200 images (1,200).  The blog is now publicly followed’ by 25 people (4) and has 52 subscribers (17).  This is pretty middle of the road for an established UK outdoors blog, with many bloggers achieving a much larger readership (as a result of their notoriety or charisma or subject matter [gear?] etc), with Lighthiker seemingly leading the way with an astonishing 593 (200) subscribers.

Finally, today the page loads for the blog have hit the 50,000 mark (year 1: 18,000; year 2: 32,000), with some 30,000 unique visitors and 10,000 returning visitors (both roughly having doubled in the second year).  This is all pretty irrelevant, but it is nice to know that some folk appreciate the entries, whether they be regular visitors or have found the blog through a search engine, in which case I hope it has been a useful resource.

Hello to all of you, thank you for visiting, and your comments are as always most welcome.

Now where’s that rucksack?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sunday 27 September 2009 – The Macclesfield Half Marathon

2704start Last week Alastair mentioned that he had entered this local half marathon.

I’d never done one, so, being free, I decided during the week to join him.  I’d had ambitions to tick off this particular challenge for a while, but hadn’t wanted to put myself out to do it.

Against my better judgement – I have dodgy knees - I do a bit of jogging just as a way of exercising – a 1.75 mile circuit down the canal a couple of times a week – actually about 12 miles in the last 5 weeks, so I’d done some training.

I’ve never attempted to jog 13 miles without stopping, so it would be unknown territory, and with a deadline of 2 hours 35 minutes I estimated that I’d take about 2¼ hours.

The ticket inspector on the tram gave me a quizzical look as I showed him my concessionary travel card….”going to do a half marathon!” I bragged, pointing to my breakfast (the banana was sticking out of my pocket).

The sports ground gradually filled with around 1000 competitors, and half an hour before the 10 am start many of these started to jog around the track.  Luckily (and I later discovered this was a big advantage) nobody had handed me a handicap card and I didn’t have to run anywhere until the start of the race.

Alastair found time (in between going to the toilet then almost immediately returning to the queue for said toilet) to join these folk despite nobody demanding that he try to tire himself out before the start.

I was glad I’d not drunk much – that toilet queue did look a bit desperate.

As 10 am approached, I said cheerio to Al, who shouldered his way to the front of the pack.  Not wanting to be trampled in the rush, I stayed at the back, expecting to remain there for a good two hours.

A gun sounded in the distance and after a while I shuffled forward, keeping step with the rest of the crowd.  The pace was very gentle.

Very gentle.

Trotting along quite happily, I found I could keep up with most of those around me.  I spent a while chatting to some of them, though they became increasingly reluctant to talk.  “Do you have a plan?” (I was looking for inspiration) “Where have you come from?” “Are you doing this for charity?” “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“Bit steep, this hill!” – no answer….

After three miles lots of people stopped for water – surely if they were thirsty it would have been better to have a drink before the start, I thought.

Anyway, overtaking people became quite fun.  I developed a routine – catch up, chat, move on.

After six miles there was more water.  I took a cup.  I now realise why runners pour such water over their heads – if you try to drink it whilst jogging you choke!  So, not wanting to get wet, I just threw the rest of mine away.

At this point it got a bit hilly.  I’d decided to try to maintain my gentle jogging pace for as long as possible, but many around me slowed down here.  I slowed down myself when I caught sight of Alastair’s distinctive leggings ahead of me, and it was with some embarrassment that I passed him on the next hill.

I have to admit, the hills – there was over 1000 feet of ascent – did get harder as the race progressed, but the weather was excellent, and there were plenty of people to chat to whilst I wasn’t admiring the legs of number 1312, a triathlete who kept re-passing me.  She looked quite fit and I was puzzled that I could keep up with her – perhaps she was saving herself for the bike ride…?

The pictures (borrowed from the web site) show Alastair looking rather determined, my ‘mentor’ for the day - number 1312, and me crossing the finishing line (I speeded up for that!).

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“You’ll never get a PB on this hilly course” commented an old guy at the finish.  “I just have!” I grinned.

Postscript
Some (notably Alastair) may be pleased to hear that I had stiff calves for a while after this sustained bout of exercise.  Luckily, the knees seem to have survived.

Friday 25 September 2009 – Bike Route M4 – Roman Lakes, Rowarth and Mellor

On the road again - as Phil celebrated a day on the open road (see here) with Diana and Miss W, I enjoyed another largely off road pedal from Roman Lakes.

The 10.5 mile route to Rowarth and Mellor is described in the Roman Lakes booklet as ‘a generally dryish route taking in some good off road sections both up and down’, and that’s exactly what it was like today.  There’s a route description here, and in the direction described I found a need to dismount for a total of only around 20 metres.  Experts wouldn’t need to get off at all.

The summer is drawing to a close, but today it was hanging on – overcast, dry, calm and cool – but not cool enough to require more than the one layer, even up at 400 metres in the Peak District.

Passing this wood, I got the feeling that the flowering plants were now spent and that the next bout of colour, probably imminent, would be from the change in leaf colours from their present dull greens.

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The view across New Mills towards Shining Tor was only just worthy of pressing the shutter – I find it hard enough to take a reasonable picture at the best of times, let alone in dull conditions like these!

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The paths were deserted today, apart from the two trail bikers I met coming up a narrow, rocky, restricted byway (clearly signed as restricted to all vehicles including trail bikes).  This chap fell off in front of me and a debate ensued as to whether he should really be there at all, let alone spread right across the path.  I think I was winning the argument until his mate returned and the two of them saw me off by chucking rocks towards me. 

Ah well!

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The fleshpots of Rowarth – notably the Little Mill Inn – were nearby, providing ample opportunity to take a break and regain my composure for the pleasurable run up to Mellor and back down a mixture of quiet roads and green lanes to Roman Lakes.

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The route is shown below for those who haven’t bothered to click on the route description link above.  The 10 miles includes around 500 metres of ascent and took me about an hour and a half.

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