Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 8 April 2011

Friday 8 April 2011 – Summer arrives in Alderley Edge

Sunlit tree on Alderley Edge
A walk had been planned for Mike and Anne, but their new kitchen intervened and forbade their attendance, so a closer venue was chosen, and a few folk were circulated with details at very short notice.

So it was something of a surprise that nine people and a dog turned up at the Wizard car park at 9.30 am for a morning stroll in the Cheshire countryside.

It really was the best weather imaginable – pleasantly warm with very little breeze – and the company was also excellent, with Steph and Ruby joining us for the first time and Graeme making his first appearance for many years, having relinquished the need to visit his workplace every day!

Thanks for coming, everyone, it was a morning to remember.

I’m not going to recount every detail of this walk, but I have uploaded a few photos here – not very good I’m afraid, I was distracted by the need to ‘micro navigate’ which I appreciate I wasn’t to hot on either!

Here we are on ‘The Edge’ shortly after setting off.

Early morning on Alderley Edge

It was a pleasure to walk through the Cheshire countryside today, though I was glad of the waterproof liner sported by my new trail shoes.  Others found the dew to be somewhat penetrating…

Tramping through the Cheshire countryside

Wood Anemones and Marsh Marigolds were in full bloom in the woodland glades, together with Lesser Celandine (pictured below), whilst the Butterbur that lined the banks of the River Bollin looked distinctly ‘past it’.

Lesser Celandine

At Goose Green Farm a swallow was busy hunting for flies – a resident told us that the first swallows arrived here about a week ago.  Buzzards floated high above us in the distance, below a crescent moon that was hardly visible in the bright blue sky.

We found this lovely spot for elevenses after a minor mis-navigational incident.  CCS was supplied all round, and nobody seemed to be complaining.

Elevenses

All too soon, we found ourselves back at The Wizard at 1.40 pm, where some went straight home and the rest of us had a minor battle to get some bowls of soup that they seemed reluctant to serve that late in the day.  Ridiculous but true.  The beer was nice.

Here’s the route – the blue line should enable a reader to follow this walk on Explorer map No 268 (OS 1:25000), which is recommended as the 1:50000 scale map is a little short on detail.  Note that the direct path between points 5 and 6, along the west bank of the River Bollin, is currently closed due to the river bank having collapsed near Mill Farm.  Don’t be put off by the fact that you pass a sewage works – it’s next to a very pleasant wooded section of the Bollin valley.

The walk is about 14 km (9 miles) with around 230 metres of ascent.  We took just over 4 hours at a very leisurely pace.

A circuit from Alderley Edge - 14 km, 230 metres ascent, 3-4 hours

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Dower House – Heaton Park

The Dower House - Heaton Park

By way of a taster for next Tuesday’s evening stroll from Heaton Park, here’s a bit about the Dower House.

The building is a plain 18th century brick building that was transformed into an attractive feature or ‘eyecatcher’ around 1803, when the decorative front was added.

Old maps of the park show that in 1844 it was called ‘Poultry House’, and in 1893 it was called ‘The Cottage’.

The low brick wall in front of the house is bigger than it looks.  It’s a ha-ha – there’s a ditch in front of it to stop cattle in the meadow from grazing on the formal lawn.  The wall forms a barrier unseen from the house, which is now the home of the Manchester Bee Keepers Association and has an exhibition of different hives on view.

We will pass near here on Tuesday evening (12 April) - meet at 7.30 pm at Heaton Park Metrolink station, for a 10 km walk to Whitefield Metrolink station via the northern part of Heaton Park and the villages of Simister and Unsworth. Not forgetting refreshments at the Same Yet Inn.  All welcome.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sunday 3 April 2011 – A Haigh Hall Stroll (aka ‘A Day Out With R Norman’)

Walkers purposefully march towards The Siege of Haigh Hall

This walk appeared to be taking place one day earlier than it actually took place, according to the LDWA publicity machine, but somebody got confused and some folk thought it was today.  So they arranged a walk on both days.

To further confuse the punters, a 10 o’ clock start was brought forward to 9.30, but only half those who had shown interest were told!

The moral of this story is that you should perhaps endeavour to arrive either a day late or 30 minutes early, for an LDWA walk!  In this case both.

After much milling around in the car park at Haigh Hall, an officious looking chap calling himself ‘R Norman’ gave a quick lecture to which nobody paid any attention, then scurried off in the direction of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

He failed to escape, and 28 innocent souls followed him along the towpath then up past Winstanleys to the lavish estate of Bawk House.

Outside Bawk House, near Red Rock

“You’ll need over £3 million for this” announced our leader, giving the impression that he was a salesman from Savills.

Back on the towpath, there were some great reflections to admire on the glassy surface of the canal, despite the overcast day.

Beside the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Red Rock

Wigan Golf Club, with its ancient Club House, was soon behind us, and after dodging through a slippery woodland dell we emerged at the end of a lake.  R Norman (55) announced that we were at ‘Worthington Lakes’, though only one lake seemed to be visible, and he went on to explain about the history of the place.  I suspect this was the home of a giant waterwheel.

R Norman lectures the group at the end of Worthington Lakes

We proceeded along the side of the main lake, which is actually a reservoir built following the unlikely but true event of a population explosion in Wigan in the mid 1800s!

Worthington Lakes - a reservoir

Wisely deciding to by-pass the fleshpots of Standish, Norman’s route led us back past a pause for elevenses (with extras) to the canal towpath for a chatty section with few photos, before crossing bridge number 60 to regain the confines of Haigh Country Park.

There was a burst of pace (see header image) which I thought was a rush for the ice cream van, but I was duly reprimanded for buying an ice cream and delaying progress towards the much needed Public Conveniences.

Haigh Hall is impressive.  Previously the home of the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, it’s a listed building dating back to 1850.

Haigh Hall

We headed past budding trees and rampant daffodils to the ‘servants quarters’, a rather pleasant stables courtyard equipped with luncheon benches.

Daffodils by Haigh Hall

“Can I serve you, Ladies and Gentleman” announced the waiter, none other than the ubiquitous ‘R Norman’.

'R Norman' our esteemed leader, and part-time waiter

Sadly, the flesh may have been willing, but his tray was empty, so we made do with cheese sandwiches and JJ’s excellent cake, produced exclusively for the strong contingent of Timperley Trotters & Tipplers who attended this event.

A light shower dampened the early afternoon, when we set off again, past a sign indicating that only ‘AA’ members were permitted entry, to have a look at Haigh Windmill.  It’s currently (fairly obviously, I know!) being restored, having been built in 1845 to pump water from two ponds to the reservoir at Haigh Brewery, higher up the hill.

Haigh Windmill on 3 April 2011

The brewery was a large one, in extensive grounds behind the Balcarres Arms.  It’s gone now.  A potted history of Haigh can be found here

R Norman nipped in for a quick one whilst waiting for stragglers.  “I’ve been talking too much” he was heard to explain, “I need to lubricate my voice.”

Illicit refuelling at the Balcarres Arms

Beyond the village of Haigh, our path led through pleasant countryside and farmland, eventually arriving at the long dismantled trackbed of a railway that linked the Bolton to Preston line with that between Manchester and Wigan.  On the way we passed a chicken farm, where apparently some 26,000 chickens roam around to their hearts content.  I don’t envy the auditor who has to do a stock check!  Some llamas, bred here for their wool, were in evidence at the same farm.

LDWA East Lancs walkers in a field near Aspull

Norman has (apparently) walked this route before, but he was aided on this occasion by temporary signs placed in honour of his bad record for remembering routes (or so I was told).

A sign to help Norman

The path through Borsdane Wood was delightful.  It was just like being in Cheshire and caused several of the Timperley Trotters and Tipplers to be overcome by a bout of homesickness.

Strolling through the delightful Borsdane Wood

These woods are a haven for Bluebells in a month or two, but at present they are garlanded with swathes of Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa).

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Beyond the woods another golf course was encountered at Hindley Hall, and we managed to find a bench long enough for almost the entire party to sit side by side.

The Long Bench

From this final ‘brew stop’ (my flask was already empty, unfortunately – I’m not used to so many rest stops on an LDWA walk!) it was an easy stroll back to Haigh Hall.

A sign was passed, by a locked gate, stating:

LOCK THE GATE
IF YOU CAN’T BE ARSED
DON’T WORRY
AN EIGHTY YEAR OLD
MAN WILL WALK
DOWN TO DO IT FOR
YOU!

Nothing about getting his wife to do it, then?

There seems to be a penchant for miniature horses around here.  Some of them were quite cute.

Shetland ponies near Haigh

Eventually we returned to the confines of Haigh Country Park, where R Norman held a final audience, pointing out the site of the glass houses he used to visit as a child in the 1960s.  They’ve long gone, and to see where they once stood you’ll have to view the slide show for today’s ramble – 50 images – here.

Just as we got back to the hall, after a day of sunshine and showers, with a bit of overcastness, the sky briefly cleared and the sun came out.

“Let go t’ pub” enthused R Norman, “I’ve done a recce!”

And everyone though the sun shone out of somewhere else!

Here’s our route for the day - the northern circuit in the morning and the southern circuit after lunch - 24 km, 350 metres ascent, taking around 6 hours including breaks.

Our route - the northern circuit then the southern circuit - 24 km, 350 metres ascent, 6 hours

All very enjoyable.  Thank you Norman, other members of East Lancs LDWA, Bury Ramblers, Timperley Tipplers, etc, for a lovely day out, and please accept my apologies in advance for any minor factual inaccuracies that may have slipped in to the above posting.

The ‘official report’ on this walk is here.  (The second entry down the page.)

Monday, 4 April 2011

Thursday 31 March 2011 – An Evening Stroll around Parkgate and Neston

Sue, Andrew, Judith  and two Johns, after dusk at Denhall Quay

Six of us assembled at the Boat House in Parkgate for a pleasurable 8 km stroll.  Having postponed this walk from last week, we had the benefit of an hour of daylight, though our torches were never needed, even after dusk.

The usual trio of Sue and Andrew and me were joined tonight by Judith, who lives nearby, and the two Johns – JMcN having again succumbed to JJ’s powers of persuasion!

Apparently there has been an inn here since 1613, known at different times as the Beerhouse or Ferry House, and later as the Pengwern Arms.  There were large store houses for goods to be shipped to Ireland.  During the 1800s it was the arrival and departure point for ferries to Bagillt and Flint, across the estuary in North Wales.  Horse drawn carriages took passengers on to Liverpool and Chester.

The Boat House - rendezvous point

Parkgate promenade comprises a good kilometre of seafront, with cafés, pubs and shops crowding together for the view over the Dee estuary.

Ice cream shops feature heavily.

One of Parkgate's ice cream parlours

For those wishing to watch the sea lapping up to the edge of the promenade, you are out of luck.  The Dee used to be navigable up to Chester back in the fifteenth century, but the estuary has been silting up since the Middle Ages, so what used to be the Port of Chester gradually moved down the estuary to Shotwick, then Burton, then Denhall, then Neston, and finally to Parkgate.  That lasted for around 200 years, until the early 1700s, but the silt finally encroached on Parkgate.  A new channel was then cut on the Welsh side of the estuary from Chester to Connor’s Quay.

I can recommend the ice cream.

Ice cream on the promenade

At the far end of the promenade we passed the splendid black and white Mostyn House School – ‘An independent day school for children aged 4 to 18’.  It opened in 1855 and shut in 2010, its contents having recently been auctioned by Bonhams.

Mostyn House School

Beyond the promenade, planners have allowed housing to encroach upon the saltmarsh.  We passed in front of these houses on a boggy route through high reeds and grasses, before reaching the pleasant footpath that leads to Little Neston.  We were hoping to see short-eared owls, but had to be satisfied with a lone heron.  I’d seen egrets here on a recent visit.

The shore path to Neston Old Quay

I think the others would have walked past Neston Old Quay without noticing it, had I not pointed it out.  It doesn’t look much from the landward side, but the two metre (or more) wall you can see below stretches for a couple of hundred metres down the edge of the estuary from here.

Neston Old Quay

Continuing on in fading light (have you spotted that only the header image is contemporaneous?) we passed the site of a colliery and reached the far point of the walk – Denhall Quay, built in the 1760s to load Neston coal for export, mainly to Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Denhall Quay

The estuary had silted up hereabouts sufficient to stop the coal barges, by 1850, without which cheap transport the collieries were not really viable until the railway arrived in 1866.  The quay is also known as Lawton’s Quay, after a well-known wildfowler and punt builder who built his home on the derelict quay.  It’s a good viewpoint, with Moel Famau showing clearly behind the Welsh coastline across the estuary.  On a clear day, that is!

Denhall Quay

I don’t know how I’d managed to get the others past the Harp Inn on the way to Denhall Quay.  There had been a few moans, but not even Judith had managed to summon the effort to climb the sea wall to access the pub!

Anyway, they weren’t disappointed for two long, and we were soon enjoying the ale and the ambience of this old pub.  It was originally called the ‘Welch Harp’ and then the ‘Old Harp Inn’, and was a favorite watering hole for both wildfowlers and the Welsh, Lancashire and Staffordshire miners brought in to work at Neston Colliery.

The Harp Inn

The mines were first sunk around 1760.  At one time there were 90 pits hereabouts producing poor quality coal.  The levels ran up to 3 km out under the estuary and were often half flooded, with incredibly harsh conditions for the miners.  They finally closed in 1926, and there’s a photo in the Harp of miners coming off their final shift.

Whilst the colliery workings and spoil heaps were being buried under new housing estates, some of the miners went on to become shepherds, wildfowlers and fishermen – quite a contrast for them!

Reed buntings and reed warblers are to be seen in the various differing types of reed bed around here, but not today.

Estuary rushes

Our route retraced the path to the remains of Neston Old Quay.  It is very old.  Work began on this stone quay at the ‘New Haven’ in 1541, taking some forty years to complete because of the ‘economic situation’ of the time.  Its heyday, when it was known as Neston Quay, was in the 17th century.  The historian William Webb wrote in 1622 that the quay was ‘where our passengers to Ireland do so often lie awaiting the pleasure of the winds, which make many people better acquainted with the place than they desire to be’.

With the decline of the Port of Chester, and the establishment of Liverpool as a port rather than a small fishing creek, business here subsided and Neston Quay is hardly mentioned after the 1690s.

In 1779 the ruins were sold to local landowner Sir Roger Mostyn and much of the stone was used to built the sea wall at Parkgate.  At one time the depth of water off Neston Quay was over ten metres at spring tides; today it’s essentially dry land.

A solitary building once stood here.  An inn, which started before 1599 as a wooden house that later became a prison for smugglers, runaway servants, and religious recusants.  It was rebuilt in brick as the ‘Key House’ inn in the 1680s and was popular with travellers.  There’s no trace of it today, but in 1902 local colliers found a secret hiding place, perhaps used by smugglers, in the ruined chimney.

The Old Quay

Our path led in the dark, but not dark enough for torches, across a footbridge and through a couple of fields to gain the end of Old Quay Lane, that used to provide access to the Quay for passengers travelling between Chester and Ireland.

We left the lane almost immediately, turning right into a field where the residents seemed surprised to witness our nocturnal wanderings.

The horses thankfully showed no more than a mild curiosity, but it was too dark to admire the form of the shapely tree on this occasion.

Horses near Moorside Tree near Moorside

After a couple of fields we reached a wide track where a left turn, back towards Parkgate, was in order.

We had reached the route of the Wirral Way (more details are here), a well signed and surfaced route that leads walkers, cyclists and horse riders along the trackbed of the Hooton to West Kirby railway.  Opened in 1866, this was a branch of the main Chester to Birkenhead line, bringing townsfolk out to Parkgate and the seaside on Cheap Day Excursions.  It also served to supply those same townsfolk with produce from the Wirral – potatoes, milk, coal, etc.  But by 1962 the seaside resorts had silted up, the collieries had closed, and the fertile farmland was being covered by housing.  The line was closed and lay derelict until around 1969, when, as a result of much work, and funds from the Countryside Commission, the old railway line was opened as Wirral Country Park, the first Country Park in Britain.

Railway trackbed - Hooton to West Kirby

These days the sound of birdsong drowns the ghostly echo of steam trains, and wild flowers flourish in the cuttings and embankments.

Daffodils

We soon passed under this solid sandstone bridge; the railway ‘furniture’ remains satisfactorily intact despite its age.

Bridge dating from circa 1866

Modern day signage makes navigation simple hereabouts.

Modern day cycle way signs Wirral Way sign

But it was a little dark as we wandered along the old trackbed – it was 9.30 pm after all, and on crossing the B5134 road I managed to head on down a ginnel rather than along the old railway.

Anyway, after a bit of ducking and diving (no evening walk led by me would be complete without such an incident) we returned to the track, from where there are splendid views across the local fields that have so far survived the relentless march of the ‘developers’. 

View from course of old railway

Despite the wishes of a small splinter group who seemed to want to continue all the way to West Kirby, the desires of the more sedate members of our merry band prevailed, and we left the trackbed at Blackwood Hall Bridge.  A short stroll took us down to Gayton Sands Nature Reserve, and a car park that occupies the high ground above the estuary.  We failed to notice the two machine gun nest (‘pillbox’) beside the parking area that guards the road as it rises from the shore.

The lights of the Boat House beckoned across the marsh, and we were soon back at the start of this most pleasant evening stroll.

Approaching The Boat House from the north

Here’s our route - 8 km, 60 metres ascent, 2.7 hours including stops.

Our route - 8 km, 60 metres ascent, 2.7 hours including stops

Thanks, everyone, for making this a very enjoyable evening, and also to Tony Bowerman, whose book – ‘Walks in Mysterious Cheshire and Wirral’* (ISBN 978 0 9553557 0 7) furnished both the route and many of the words in this posting.

* Tony Bowerman’s books tend to go out of print.  They are true gems – purchase recommended.