Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 16 October 2009

SWCP – Torcross to Exeter

We have, over several years, walked most of the coast path from Minehead.  Last year’s journey from Plymouth to Torcross was recorded on these pages, the index for which entries is here

This year’s daily reports can be viewed by clicking on the following links:

Day 1 – Torcross to Dartmouth
Day 2 – Dartmouth to Paignton
Day 3 – Paignton to Teignmouth
Day 4 – Teignmouth to Exeter

Here are a few further images and additional observations and links, to supplement the postings made during the trip.

I would reiterate that anyone planning to walk on the South West Coast Path (SWCP) would benefit from the SWCP Association's Guide Book. This is updated every year.

Sadly, having made it all the way from Minehead to Torcross on previous visits, Sue was not fit enough to come this year, my only companion on this trip being Andrew.

DAY 1 – Torcross to Dartmouth

Here’s our route – 15 km, 550 metres ascent, 4.5 hours including 20 mins stops:

Day 1 route

After being waylaid at the start by a café in Torcross, and distracted by the relics of Operation Tiger, we made our way through Strete and along the recently re-routed (to avoid roads) path to Stoke Fleming, before descending to Blackpool Sands in dull weather.

Blackpool Sands

Continuing around to Combe Point, the sunlit sea drew our eyes all the way back to Start Point.

The Devon coast - Start Point from Combe Point

The previously deserted path gradually acquired walkers and fishermen as we rounded a corner to reach Dartmouth Castle, before the pleasant stroll around Warfleet Creek to Dartmouth.

Dartmouth Harbour

Taylor’s Restaurant provided a superb meal at a reasonable price, and our B&B at Brook House, 6 Market Street was clean and efficient, with a good breakfast.

DAY 2 – Dartmouth to Paignton

Here’s our route – 28 km, 1400 metres ascent, 9.5 hours including 1 hr stops:

Day 2 route

The ferry to Kingswear got us off to a good start, then we progressed through Warren Woods to the old Battery Buildings at Froward Point, where National Coastguard Institution volunteers keep an eye on the vessels coming in and out of the Dart Estuary.  On then to Pudcombe Cove, with grey seals in the bay and the delights of the café at the National Trust gardens at Coleton Fishacre.  Undulations continued to make progress relatively slow as we continued above Ivy Cove to Scabbacombe Head, then to Scabbacombe Sands, Long Sands, and Man Sands for lunch.

Andrew refreshed himself sufficiently to storm up Southdown Cliff, nearly keeping pace with some errant mountain bikers.

Andrew hauls his vast bulk out of Man Sands

It was easier going now, to Sharkham Point and thence to Berry Head, where a strange man who had earlier requested advice on walking boots very publicly offered his new mate (Andrew) a Twix bar.  We escaped to the lighthouse to finish off my flask of tea before ambling into Brixham.

From the pleasant harbour of Brixham, where a replica of the Golden Hind reclines by the quay, it’s an easy walk (unless you get misplaced in Grove Woods) around the coast to Broadsands, and the start of many miles of intermittent beach huts.

Beach huts at Broadsands

Goodrington is dominated by some green spaghetti water slides, then after rounding Roundham Head and passing Paignton Harbour - there is no shortage of accommodation in Paignton – we stayed at the friendly and adequate Ambassador Guest House.  We failed to find decent food in the town centre and resorted to the Harbour Light Restaurant.

DAY 3 – Paignton to Teignmouth

Here’s our route – 23 km, 1170 metres ascent, 8 hours including 45 mins stops:

Day 3 route

On a drizzly morning, I ambled along the sea front at high tide, largely on tarmac as far as Torbay.

Paignton

Around Thatcher Point some old signs point the way.  This marks the end of the ‘beach hut zone’ and the start of the ‘memorial bench zone’ of Torquay‘Fawlty Towers’ was inspired by Monty Python’s Flying Circus’s visit to a nearby hotel run by an eccentric.

Signpost on the SWCP

Dropping down to Oddicombe Beach the path then crosses underneath a Cliff Railway then inland to pass a Model Village, where Andrew and I lunched on a bench.  The old coast path is seriously eroded hereabouts, and unfortunately the SWCP has been re-routed inland.

It’s a very pleasant afternoon’s walk to Shaldon, above which there are splendid views to Teignmouth.  On dropping down to Shaldon, I half expected Weird Darren to emerge from this teepee, uttering words like “Hi Martin, do you like my new tarp?”

Hub cap sculpture

The small ferry to Teignmouth was still operating (until dusk), and we were soon installed in Devonia House B&B.

As in Paignton, there’s a dearth of good restaurants, but we struck lucky again, finding a superb Indian meal, though officially there has been no foreign invasion of the town since 1690, when it was the most recent place in England to be invaded by a foreign power (France).

DAY 4 – Teignmouth to Exeter

Here’s our route – 20 km, 310 metres ascent, 5.3 hours including 40 mins stops:

Day 4 route

It was high tide again as we set off in light rain, so we had to head inland on predominantly hard surfaces, much to Andrew’s chagrin.  The tide was too high to follow the breakwater at Dawlish, so up and over we went, to Dawlish Warren and an abortive hunt for a tea shop.  Luckily, as we left the village we grasped the whiff of fresh coffee and were soon able to relax with doughnut and coffee outside an excellent little coffee shop.

The road to Starcross made further demands on Andrew’s delicate feet as we pottered slowly around the harbour at Cockwood.

Cockwood Harbour

He was simply unable to continue beyond The Atmospheric Railway, and pointed to a nearby ferry to Exmouth.  “That’s my Coast Path route”, he exclaimed.

The Atmospheric Railway

As Andrew bussed himself back to Exeter, leaving Exmouth until next year, I continued on along the SWCP as far as the Topsham Ferry, from where I headed across Exminster Marshes to pick up a bus to Exeter from the Swan’s Nest Roundabout.

It had been a pretty route, past Powderham Castle and its deer park, before an easy path beside the Exe Estuary to Turf (lunch) and the final amble beside Exeter Ship Canal towards Exeter.

Fallow Deer Stag

A slide show (about 50 images) can be viewed here, if you have the stamina!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Tuesday 13 October 2009 – Around Latchford

This evening’s walk exploring some of our local industrial heritage was not accompanied by a camera, so the images are ‘some I took earlier’.

Andrew, Sue and I congregated at 7.30 pm on a fine, warm evening on the ferro-concreted Kingsway Bridge (SJ 625 880 – easy parking in nearby side streets), which in 1934 provided Warrington with its second road crossing of the River Mersey.

Kingsway Bridge, Warrington

Poking out from under the arch, the soaring 281ft spire of St Elfin’s parish church dominates Warrington, though it is only just visible in the picture above.  Added to the ancient church in 1860, it’s apparently the seventh tallest church spire in England.

Our walk started from the east of the road (furthest away from Warrington), where we went down the ramp to the south (left) bank of the river, then left under the bridge, from where the illuminated spire stood out much better across the amber river, lit by the night sky over the town, than it did in the daylight below.

The River Mersey by Kingsway Bridge

It’s nice to see swans and other bird life here in the lower reaches of the once polluted River Mersey, where there must also be lots of aquatic life, judging by the carefully gouged positions that have been created for fishermen.

Almost immediately, we headed left into Black Bear Park, and down the tarmac lane down which the once busy but now filled-in Runcorn to Latchford canal has been transformed into a wildlife haven.

Passing under Knutsford Road, signs like the one below indicated that we were in the Trans Pennine Trail area, where there’s a proliferation of these delightful waymarks in this neighbourhood.

Typical sign in the Warrington district

Continuing along the well lit path, albeit night had fallen, we passed under a railway bridge and then under Loushers Lane, continuing straight on until reaching the substantial barrier that is the 36-mile long  Manchester Ship Canal, opened in 1894 to give the city of Manchester direct access to the sea, at a cost of about £15 million (£1.22 billion as of 2009).  In its day it was the largest navigation canal in the world; today it’s no longer considered to be an important shipping route, but it still carries about several million tonnes of freight each year.

Anyway, we turned left along the Trans Pennine Trail, heading beside the Ship Canal towards Manchester.  The rustling in the undergrowth was perhaps the scamperings of this little chap.

Grey Squirrel

The high level Cantilever Bridge soon came into view.  To reach it we took the last cut through on the left before Warrington Town’s football ground, past Bethel Baptist Chapel which is said to have been built in 1852 but has 1860 emblazoned on its brickwork.

Bethel Baptist Church

The Cantilever Bridge is easy to find from here.  ‘It’s a bit dilapidated and in need of repair’, I thought, as I passed over it a few days ago.  On the evening walk, we noticed that roadworks were in progress, with single file traffic and a closed pavement.  The bridge is at least 70 ft above the canal, allowing ships to pass underneath it.

The Cantilever Bridge, Warrington

Over the bridge an immediate right turn led us down a ramp to Fairfield Road.  Crossing over the road and heading to the right and under the bridge soon brought us to a footpath to the left, where the road veered right, along which footpath we followed the Ship Canal to Greenbank Road and onwards to the swing bridge at Knutsford Road.

Crossing Knutsford Road onto Thelwall New Road we continued along the canal, under the skew railway bridge that looks in fair condition.  However, the need for heavy repairs to this bridge is said to have been a principal contributing factor to the final closure of the Warrington to Altrincham railway line in 1985, it having been closed to passenger traffic since the Beeching cuts of 1962.

Continuing on beside the canal, we soon reached Latchford Locks.  There’s a well lit footpath across the locks – somewhat necessary due to the large drops, but despite its possible dangers the route remains open at night (no doubt guarded by CCTV!).

Here’s the daytime view west along the Ship Canal to the skew bridge and beyond to the Cantilever Bridge in the distance.  There’s a similar ‘straight line’ view to the east, with the M6 motorway passing over the Thelwall Viaduct in the distance.

View west from Latchford Locks

After crossing the canal, my old map indicates ‘Works’, and a guide book refers to Richmond Works, which started trading opposite the locks in 1906 and by 1947 had produced over a million gas cookers.

On seeing the new building work going on below, I assumed that gas cooker production in Warrington had ceased with all that remains of the ‘Works’ being the new building’s neighbour, an Aluminium Can Recycling plant.  However, further research reveals ‘New World Domestic Appliances Limited’, behind the recycling plant, with the new buildings taking the place of some bowling greens.  So manufacturing in Warrington continues, even if some of the works, and its sports facilities, have been sold off!

New buildings going up on Thelwall Lane

One of the new buildings, thin town houses or flats, I presume, has been finished.  It looks slightly odd, not just because of the wide angle lens, but because the building actually curves – its centre being furthest away from the camera.

Finished buildings on Thelwall Lane

As we walked left down Thelwall Lane after crossing the locks. we passed the above houses and took the second right into Nook Lane, where the factory workers used to, and probably still do live.

Terraced houses in Nook Lane

After bearing left along Marsden Avenue, some playing fields are reached.  We now forsook the tarmac in favour of a walk beside the River Mersey, the banks of which at this time of year sport swathes of Himalayan Balsam.

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)

Our route headed across playing fields to the river, where sufficient ambient light made our torches obsolete on the warm evening, and a pleasant stroll over an inverted ‘V’ in the river took us happily back to Kingsway Bridge.

Here’s our 8 km route.  It’s virtually flat and should take 1½ to 2 hours (it took us 1¾ hours at night time).

Walking route around Latchford (8 km, 5 miles)

This walk is described in Jen Darling’s book - ‘Walks in North Cheshire (Alfresco Books, 1994).

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Sunday 11 October 2009 - The Calderdale Mountain Bike Marathon

Here are Robert and I, clutching our certificates and t-shirts after Sunday’s event.

Robert and Martin after the CMBM

We’ve been doing this annual bike ride, on and off, since 2000.  It’s an excellent route, taking in the sights of Calderdale, with some brilliant off-road sections.

I’ve previously reported on the 2007 ride here, and on the 2008 ride here.

This year the forecast was good, and the quality of support (very good) a known quantity, so we set off at 9am with minimal kit – just a spare inner tube, tool kit and ‘phone in a waterproof bag.  The cloud we had passed through at the top of the M62 appeared to have cleared.

So it was a bit of a surprise when, after a few minutes on the bikes, it started to rain.  The morning proved to be showery but warm.  We got muddy (hence the change of clothes for the photo).

We had started near the back of what appeared to be a large field of keen mountain bikers (at over 450, the largest field ever, by a considerable margin), so progress was relatively slow on the crowded lanes, and then on the bridleways where overtaking is difficult.  Plenty of time to take in the lovely countryside, then.  When it wasn’t raining.

There’s nothing technical for the first few miles, until after passing the site of a mock Manchester Airport built to fool the Germans in WW2.

The descent to Mytholmroyd is fun, but it’s a great shame that so many participants choose to walk down the narrow, rocky lane.  A minimal amount of bravery does permit overtaking, though, all at a very modest pace.

Robert was well ahead of me by now – his uphill speed is much quicker than my ‘walking pace’ – and I didn’t see him until the end of the ride.

The first support point comes after about 10 miles and is always a welcome sight.  My antique bike was admired by one of the helpers…

“A proper bike, wow!”

Well, I’m not sure about that, but the old steed did get me past numerous broken down hi-tech bits of machinery and round the course without incident, though in the damp conditions I was pretty careful; I’ve recently heard of a few cyclists who have incurred serious injuries in falls.

Luckily, today all those who were falling off around me, particularly on the tricky descent from Midgley Moor, were greeted by soft landings and, after the obligatory “are you ok”, hearty laughter all round.

There’s a short hill soon after this strenuous descent which I find brings on cramp – it must be the sudden change from using one set of muscles to using completely different muscles for the ascent?  I was lucky on this occasion, just staving off the onset of cramp.  “You’ll be ok in five minutes”, I offered comfort to two chaps who were writhing on the ground at the top of the hill next to their bikes.

It’s easy going from here until the final 150 metre (it seems more) final sharp ascent to Sowerby and welcome refreshments at St Peter’s Community Centre.  By the latter stages most people simply maintain their position, some of the walkers even overtaking those of us who cycle up the steep final hill.

Earlier, when I arrived at the finish, bikes were strewn everywhere, but now, some 4 hours after the start, after Robert and I had got changed and enjoyed some soup and tea, most people had gone home, but the stragglers would be dribbling in for some time to come.

St Peters Community Centre

Only geeks – those who enjoy route descriptions and statistics – need read on!

ROUTE DETAILS

Here’s the route – 42 km (26 miles), with 1320 metres of ascent, of which all but a few metres can be managed without dismounting.  On a normal day out I would expect it to take around 4 to 5 hours.

The 26 mile CMBM route

You’ll need Outdoor Leisure map number 21 – South Pennines – to guide yourself around the route, which on ‘CMBM day’ is well signed and marshalled (no map required), but at other times would need care to make all the correct turns.  A GPS may also come in handy as there are numerous paths and side-tracks that may serve to confuse!

1  The official CMBM starts from SE 040 225, down Bowood Lane to the south of Sowerby.  Any other ride could start from Sowerby, where St Peter’s church is a convenient landmark.  From the official start go up a short rise then down to the village of Mill Bank, where a left turn then a sharp right lead you down to the river and steeply up the other side to Soyland Town.  Here take a couple of right turns before going left down Hob Lane until reaching a track on the right, Cote Road.

2  Follow Cote Road past SE 029 200 (point 2), slowly climbing to Flight House Road then the tarmac lane that is Coal Gate Road.  After passing Greave Head, turn left towards Flints Moor, and when a small brick shed is reached turn right along Water Stalls Road.

3  Passing point 3 at SE 013 223, at the end of Water Stalls Road is a short section of tarmac.

4  Point 4, SE 020 235, is passed on this short section before a left turn leads down towards Nab End Quarry.  A sharp right turn along Moor Bottom Lane is followed by a very sharp left turn onto New Lane, which becomes Stake Lane before dropping steeply down a rocky bridleway to the village of Mytholmroyd.  This bit is a little technical in places, but should be rideable with care.  At the bottom take a couple of left turns then go right by the pottery, under the railway and alongside the River Calder on your right.  Past the clog factory on the other side of the river, turn off-road up to the left to re-cross the railway.

5 Point 5, SE 001 264, is the site of a CMBM support point on the railway bridge.  Continue left up the lane and turn right at Wood Top to drop back down to the valley.  Go under the railway and past Hebden Bridge station, then left onto the tarmac of the A646.  Take the main road to the right (A6033) for a kilometre before turning left down the road to Hardcastle Crags.

6  The car parks at New Bridge are point 6 on the above route outline (SD 989 291).  Go right, and up past the top car park then laboriously up the steep lane.

7  At point 7 (SD 987 298), another support point, take a left turn and traverse the hill around Shackleton, then on along easy tarmac to Walshaw Hamlet.

8  At Walshaw Hamlet (SD 974 313) turn sharp right to labour across a shallow valley before ascending beside a stone wall up a slope that can be slippery when wet.  Towards the top of the slope the bridleway crosses to the other side of the wall and winds around Shackleton Knoll before turning right down an entertaining lane to Nook, where a left turn leads down a rocky bridleway (quicker for those with suspension), eventually emerging back onto tarmac at Grain Water Bridge (SD 995 324 – point 9), where drinks and snacks await you on the CMBM.

9  Turn right here to head south along an easy lane to rejoin the A6033 for a speedy descent (you may be able to get up to 40 mph!) to Pecket Well.  Slow down for the right hand curve here, then brake before turning very sharply left at SD 997 295 to climb steeply up towards Delf End.  The start of this climb is the steepest of the day, and you are allowed to dismount (briefly) before the slope eases!  Keep on going upwards for 0.7 km until you reach a clear T-junction near Delf End (SE 004 298 – point 10 – more support).

10 For off-road enthusiasts the next section is superb, as the route turns right towards Moor Side, then left, first hugging the edge of the moor then ascending over the moor past Dimmin Dale, over challenging terrain which is rideable in all but the wettest conditions.  The descent of Midgley Moor to Catherine House (SE 024 288) should be approached with care, as there are steep drops to the left, but it’s rideable if you adjust your centre of gravity correctly.  A left and then a right at Catherine House sees the technical difficulties over, and a nice fast track leads down to a clough, from where a short ascent up ‘Cramp Hill’ (try it and you’ll understand) leads to a cruise down Jerusalem Lane past Jerusalem Farm (SE 037 278 – point 11).

11 Beyond Jerusalem the route takes a sharp left turn in Booth, then very soon it turns right and heads down beside the river past a series of water channels built to power the local mills.  Emerging at Luddenden, you are allowed to take a break at the Lord Nelson, if they’ll let you and your mud through their door!  From here, follow the road between the Weavers and the Coach and Horses and head down to turn left and immediately right at the main A646 road in Luddenden Foot.

12 Cross the canal and the river then turn left (SE 036 250 – point 12) along a lane where another left turn takes you under the railway and steeply up Styes Lane, to join Pinfold Lane, with St Peter’s now in view.  A right turn at the top completes the 26 mile circuit at point

13 – Sowerby – SE 042 232.

Well done!  Let me know if you actually try this route.  I hope you appreciate it as much as the people listed in the statistics below have done over the years.

STATISTICS

We first took part in this event in 2000, and I think it may only have started in 1999.  Here’s how we got on:

2000
Winner – 2 hrs 19 min – 226 finishers – slowest 6 hrs 16 min
Craig: 4 hrs 31 min - 185
Martin: 4 hrs 42 min – 195

Don: 4 hrs 45 min – 201

Sue: 4 hrs 46 min – 202


2001

Winner – 2 hrs 19 min – 276 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 12 min
Craig: 4 hrs 32 min – 248

Liz: 5 hrs 12 min – 275

Don: 5 hrs 12 min – 276

Note: Liz did have a bad crash, and they were delayed as a result of Don’s brother, Nigel’s bike being destroyed by a horse – hence he recorded a DNF and was never seen again!


2002
Winner – 2 hrs 7 min – 269 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 24 min
Robert: 3 hrs 41 min – 192

Martin: 3 hrs 46 min – 204

Alastair: 3 hrs 46 min - 205


2003
Winner – 2 hrs 7 min – 259 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 13 min

Robert: 3 hrs 19 min – 151
David: 3 hrs 31 min – 176 (Robert’s brother)
Alastair: 4 hrs 17 min - 235
Sue: 4 hrs 26 min – 240

Martin: 4 hrs 26 min – 241

Craig: 4 hrs 29 min - 244


2004
Winner – 2 hrs 13 min – 229 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 8 min
Robert: 4 hrs 32 min – 213=

David W: 4 hrs 32 min 213=


2005
Winner – 2 hrs 5 min – 174 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 16 min
Martin: 3 hrs 26 min – 95

Robert: 3 hrs 41 min - 116


2006
Winner – 2 hrs 2 min – 203 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 47 min 
Robert: 3 hrs 19 min – 107
Martin: 3 hrs 22 min – 111
(Starting 2 hours after landing from SF)


2007
Winner – 2 hrs 6 min – 253 finishers – slowest 6 hrs 30 min
 
Robert: 3 hrs 7 min – 116
Martin: 3 hrs 15 min - 133

2008
Winner – 2 hrs 11 min – 348 finishers – slowest 6 hrs 40 min 
Robert: 3 hrs 1 min – 109 (impressive new bike!)
Martin: 3 hrs 32 min - 187


2009
Winner – 1 hr 54 min (WOW!) – 426 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 28 min
 
Robert: 3 hrs 10 min – 192
Martin: 3 hrs 29 min – 263

We were both slowed by huge crowds of riders; Martin came 3rd out of only 13 ‘over 60’s’ taking part – it must (sadly, and completely without reason) be a sport for the young!

2010
Winner – 1 hr 58 min – 325 finishers – slowest 6 hrs 3 min
Martin: 3 hrs 18 min – 173

Alastair: 3 hrs 29 min – 201


2011
Winner – 2 hrs 3 min – 317 finishers – slowest 6 hrs 3 min
Robert: 3 hrs 4 min – 88

Martin: 3 hrs 30 min – 146


2012
Winner – 2 hrs 6 min – 332 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 35 min
Robert: 3 hrs 1 min – 88

Martin: 3 hrs 37 min – 183 (still riding the old Shogun Trailbreaker bike that some regard as a ‘classic’)

We were both slowed by deep slurry on the moorland sections; Martin came 2nd out of only 8 ‘over 60’s’ completing the course – it must still be a sport for the young!

2013
Winner – 2 hrs 4 min – 290 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 45 min
Robert: 3 hrs 15 min – 154


2014
Winner – 1 hr 59 min – 312 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 6 min
Robert: 2 hrs 57 min – 114

Martin: 3 hrs 55 min – 260 (still riding the old Shogun Trailbreaker bike)
Paul: 3 hrs 52 min - 247
Greg: 3 hrs 56 min - 262


2015 
Winner – 1 hr 56 min – 285 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 16 min
Robert: 2 hrs 55 min – 125 

Martin: 3 hrs 29 min – 222 (now on Stumpy)
Paul: 3 hrs 44 min - 242
Greg: 3 hrs 47 min - 246


2016 
Winner – 2 hrs 3 min – 226 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 20 min
Robert: 2 hrs 56 min – 97 

Martin: 3 hrs 30 min – 156 (back on Shogun)
Paul: 3 hrs 19 min - 134
Greg: 3 hrs 21 min - 139
Andy W: 4 hrs 00 min - 191


2017  Winner – 1 hr 59 min – 154 finishers – slowest 5 hrs 5 min
Robert: 3 hrs 12 min – 85 

Martin: 4 hrs 20 min – 146 (on Shogun)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Sunset

A beach in San Francisco - 6 October 2006

This picture was taken on the beach in San Francisco, on 6 October 2006, though I suppose it could just as easily have been taken on, say, Crosby beach. 

You’ll just have to believe me!