Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 23 March 2012

Friday 23 March 2012 - Meall na Fearna (in a cloud)

With a dinner appointment in Manchester, today was always going to be a bit of a rush. Added to that, I woke feeling queasy. Then cold sweats hit me on the drive to Lochearnhead, and I soon realised that Ellie and Maggie had passed on the stomach bug that has inflicted them this week.

It was foggy, but my main requirement was well satisfied by the thankfully open and well stocked conveniences in Comrie and Lochearnhead.

I didn't feel like driving much further, so went round to Ardvorlich House and set off optimistically up Glen Vorlich. Tea stops kept me going, but by the time I reached the boggy watershed extreme weariness had set in - Dunkeld Hilton Lassitude, I suspect.

The route up Meall na Fearna doubles back a bit before rising steeply over rough ground to the summit. At 600 metres I pressed on into a cloud, forgetting the guide book's advice that "the high undulating ground above 600m may cause route finding problems in misty weather". Correct!

The Garmin gadget was switched on so it'll be interesting to see where my half hour's wanderings took me. But despite feeling unwell I eventually made it to the summit. I even found time to take a picture (above) which captures the ambience. I'd thought the fog would clear, but despite an optimistic comment from Louise, it didn't. Never mind.

The route down, on which I paid a little more attention to the map, was easy enough. But given that frequent stops were necessary and I'd resigned myself to a foodless day, the dinner appointment that I'd been looking forward to was aborted. Shame - it was with Sue's highly efficient PCT team that's being disbanded next week.

So I pottered back to Timperley after three excellent if fairly modest forays on which I didn't see a single other walker.

Tomorrow will be different.

In due course I may get around to an entry with some routes and a slide show - most of the pictures being from yesterday's wonderful outing on Creag Uchdag.  The routes are now with the slideshow - here.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Thursday 22 March 2012 - Creag Uchdag (and the arrival of Spring)

Blue skies greeted us this lovely Spring morning, but I heard nothing from Maggie, Ellie or Milo as I warmed my croissant before setting off from Dunkeld's Hilton.

Today's objective, Creag Uchdag, involved driving up picturesque Glen Lednock, past a lone lady mountain biker - the only person seen 'on the hill' today - from the pretty village of Comrie. It's then a half hour walk up the road from the car park to the dam. On the way up there are good views of an extensive waterfall spreadeagled over some rocks below the dam.

The reservoir was less than full, and is overlooked by a well positioned bench dedicated to the memory of Charles G Robertson, who was involved in the dam's construction. Tea break number one was taken here, once the resident Oyster Catchers had adjourned to a safe position.

A further couple of hours saw me scurrying over the minor summit of Meall Dubh Mòr and up to the trig point pictured above. From this highest vantage point (879 metres) for miles around, the panoramic views were outstanding.

After lingering on the top for some time, a fairly quick descent - avoiding the slurpy bits - had me back down at the bench for tea break number three pretty quickly, though I paused for a while to watch some Golden Plovers, and also a pair of birds of prey, which I took to be Buzzards. There were also some smaller mouse hunting birds that I failed to identify.

Then it was back to base for a pleasant afternoon with my hosts, who are enjoying a very 'chilled out' week.

Sadly, this fine day on the hill was rather overshadowed by the receipt of some very bad news concerning the health of a good friend from University days.

And I'd like to wish Alan R a speedy recovery from his much less serious - albeit terrifying - trip to the 'doc'; thanks also go to my 'secretary', who has succeeded in unlocking the Salford slide show from the grasp of Google.

Slideshow now here.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wednesday 21 March 2012 - Choinneachain Hill


Apologies to those who tried and failed to view yesterday's Salford Trail slide show. Sadly I've been unable to 'read' a barrage of 'Googlies' and I keep getting stumped. However, the link should now work. Enjoy!
I can't re-insert the link here due to my further lack of competence, in this case it's the dreaded Blackberry that I've failed to master.

Today's picture of Choinneachain Hill (on the right) was taken from the dam on Loch Turret Reservoir, just outside Crieff. It was a fine day for a hill walk, albeit a bit noisy with seriously vocal gulls. No people at all though, until I met a farmer feeding his sheep at the end of the 14km walk.

The sound of raucous gulls was soon replaced by the melodic trill of a curlew, as I sauntered along a pleasant track laden with frogs and their spawn. Then the 400 metre ascent was by way of a thin path, not marked on my map, beside a burn to the south of Ton Eich. After that a short heather bash took me to the hill's cairn laden summit.

There was very little snow up there at just under 800 metres. The hares, still in the pure white of their winter raiment, provided a rather amusing sight as they stopped and started in unison. To be fair, when stationary they probably looked like rocks from above.

Good views towards Ben Chonzie were enjoyed as I strolled across to Auchnafree Hill, which seems to me to be of diminutive stature compared with Choinneachain Hill despite the protestations of the Ordnance Survey.

Auchnafree Hill does however take first prize on the peat hag front. Some bog dodging was necessary.

But it was warmer and calmer than expected - hat and gloves were not required, the old Vapour Rise fleece proving ideal for the 'early Spring' conditions.

Meadow pipits tweeted high above me, but there was no sign yet of the wheatears having returned from their holidays.

An easy descent with fine views across Loch Turret Reservoir soon had me back at the car and emptying the dregs from my flask before setting off to tonight's Bothy, where a good dose of Chardonnay can be blamed for any unintelligibility within these scribblings.

Slideshow now here.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Thursday 15 March 2012 – The Salford Trail – Part 1 – Salford Quays to Clifton (nearly)

Reflections from tower blocks across the Irwell in Manchester
Last year the ‘Plodders’ section of East Lancs LDWA systematically walked the Salford Trail, breaking it into five stages.  I missed the first of those walks, not actually being a member at the time, so Reg kindly agreed to keep me company for today’s re-enactment.
He turned up on time outside the Lowry Centre, with Anne and Nancy, and off we went, to be joined after a few seconds by Roy Bullock, whose brainchild the Salford Trail represents.
A cold grey blanket was sprawled over Salford, brightened in Salford Quays by a variety of stainless steel plaques embedded into the walkways by the canal, with statements like “Lasses took on men’s work for less than skivvy pay and when the war was over they were shunted outta way”.
Detritus littering a corner of the canal basin offered a prelude of what was to come – rather more litter than we expected, but it’s clearly difficult to control, and there’s been much progress from the days 100 years ago when the place would have been strewn with dead dogs and other less savoury items than those we could see today.
Staff at Salford City Council got wind of our feelings about some of the litter before this posting was drafted.  It’s to their great credit that they are expressing concern regarding known issues and are looking for solutions even before I’ve said a word about it. 
Good luck to them, it must be a tremendously difficult task to control litter in the urban environment, especially in an era when schools aren’t interested in educating the children on such non academic matters.
As Roy Bullock has pointed out after reading this entry:
’I remember some time ago in response to a litter problem a council
spokesperson saying "We employ hundreds of people and machines to
clean up other peoples litter it is not our policy to create litter" I
thought that those few words spoke a lot about the problem and I
really do sympathise with them over it.
Regarding the rubbish in the canal, as I said on the day of the walk,
Salford being at the thick end of the river Irwell gets everybody
else's rubbish. The rivers Croal, Roch, Irk, Medlock and Tib all empty their unwanted flotsam into the Irwell, which finds its way to Salford Quays, so it is an unending problem.  Yesterday's lolly stick in Bolton could be in Salford Quays tomorrow.’

After a while we reached the first of many brightly painted bridges, the Trafford Road swing bridge.  It no longer swings, but the giant cog wheels by which the bridge used to be turned using hydraulic power remain in situ.
Our walk was now free of roads for some distance as it followed the waterway known as the Erie Basin, with Manchester's Beetham Tower merging into the cloud just a few hundred metres away from us, whilst cormorants, swans and a variety of ducks were active on the waterway.
Some impressive new signs and information boards are being installed.  We hope there is also a follow up budget for removing the inevitable graffiti.
We passed the former Colgate Palmolive plant in the heart of Salford Quays.  'Soapworks', is apparently "set to become an iconic building within the North West Office market".
A lot of effort has been and is being put in to develop the area in a tasteful manner, whilst retaining and renovating some original features.
We entered an area of 'uncontrolled graffiti' where not even the scrapyard had escaped!  Then a section of ‘supervised’ graffiti saying nice things and mentioning councillors… (have a look at the slide show, and form your own opinion).
Woden Street footbridge is known locally as Mark Addy's Bridge, after the man who saved more than 50 people from drowning in the heavily polluted River Irwell, before his own death as a result of swallowing some of the polluted water whilst carrying out his final rescue.
Shortly beyond the spot where the River Medlock finds its way into the Irwell on the other side of the river, there’s a narrow stone bridge which we approached on tiptoe, as the quiet basin behind it is a haunt of kingfishers.  Sadly they they evaded us today. The basin was used by Salford Corporation Cleansing Department, before the days of flush toilets. Collections of 'night-soil' were brought here to be mixed with road sweepings and fine cinders before being transported along the river to farms on Irlam and Barton Mosses.
Soon we were pausing for a while to admire the stalactites.  Yes, on a bridge in Salford!
A canal used to run from here to Bolton and Bury. Great efforts are being made to reopen this canal, but a lot of work is still needed.  We passed a plaque in memory of Margaret Fletcher (1949-2006) a driving force behind the project.
Across the river/canal, the Beetham Tower glances down on a short lived link with the Bridgewater Canal, constructed as part of a 'toll war'.  Special permission is now required to explore that section of canal, which came out in the basin next to where the Bridgewater Hall now stands.
The section of waterway bordering with central Manchester was fairly littered. With bridges as well as rubbish.
A visit to the Mark Addy pub (he's pictured at the entrance with his bravery medals) saw us enjoying coffee, with toast and beef dripping - a speciality of the house.  Those of us who had it were left with the taste of beef dripping for much of the day, but we didn’t run out of energy!
Just beyond the Mark Addy, we came upon the resplendently refurbished statue of Joseph Brotherton (1783-1857), the first Salford MP, whose wife was the author of the first vegetarian cookbook.  It has recently been rescued from the 'heathens across the river' and now stands proud at the end of New Bailey Street, where our route left the waterway (although a waterway path is under construction, and according to Roy Bullock on 25 March has now been opened).
Joseph Brotherton statue
“Salford must employ an army of bridge painters!”  That was a fairly unanimous comment as we passed the beautifully painted bridge parapets by Salford Central railway station.
Spaw Street is run down at present but must once have been a vibrant spot – it’s named after the place nearby where Salford once had a cold water mineral bath, or spa. The bath was fed by a natural spring and people took its water at a time when they believed it to be a cure for all ills.
Sacred Trinity Church, Salford's oldest, dates back to 1635. It stands behind the world's first gas lit street.  That was in the early 1800s.
Here they are - Reg, Anne, Nancy and Roy - on the site of the former Gravel Lane Bible Christian Church where the inappropriately named Rev William Cowherd developed the idea of food without meat, leading eventually to the formation of the Vegetarian Society by Joseph Brotherton on the principles set by Cowherd.
Reg, Anne, Nancy and Roy re-live the birth of vegetarianism
Returning to the banks of the Irwell, the bank was littered with piles of old stones from the mills that used to grace its banks. Here, amongst the litter, some of those old stones have been reclaimed and re-laid.
Greengate Mills stone slabs
We continued on along the left hand bank as far as Adelphi footbridge, with its view of the Adelphi weir, beyond which there's a large meadow with a pond.  We paused here on well built benches for lunch and brownies, before circumnavigating the meadow, which is surrounded by University buildings.
The Willow was blossoming.
Catkins
Another smartly painted bridge took us into Peel Park, perhaps the world's first inner city park. Named after Robert Peel, it dates from 1846 and was the first of three parks opened on the same day.
Tufted ducks frolicked in the river below the Frederick Road bridge - scene of a proud mayor!
Mayoral plaque on Frederick Road Bridge
Frederick Road Bridge
Plaques on each end of each parapet proclaim the importance of Mayor Robinson.
Back on the left hand side of the river, having crossed the footbridge that collapsed in 1831 when crossed by soldiers walking in step – the vibrations caused the suspension to fail, and they were all catapulted into the river, we strolled amiably along a new pathway.
After crossing Gt Cheetham Street by Cromwell Bridge, and fame for another mayor of Salford, R Husband, we continued along a steel fenced path past student accommodation under a verandah of blossom.
Across the meadow land that was once Castle Irwell Racecourse, we came to a humped back footbridge that looks over to a block of flats called the Peninsula Building. It was here that CAMRA was conceived.
Now we embarked upon an interesting two mile loop, first across the site of an old Manchester Golf Course, past mounds that used to be bunkers. Bulrushes have taken hold in places, and deer can apparently be seen in these parts.  A return to ‘wild land’.  In the middle of Salford!
We moved on up to an area with long views down to the racecourse. This is The Cliff, known locally as the Landslide. The last landslide was in 1927 and it took with it part of the main road that carried the tramlines – that’s the cobbled street pictured below.

Houses by The Cliff
You can still see the iron rails laid between the cobbles and the street paving. These were to enable horse drawn vehicles to brake against the rails as they descended the steep slope.
Wandering on, past the Bishop of Manchester’s house, and having touched upon the district of Higher Broughton, we moved on to Kersal, and St Paul's Church.
St Paul's Church, Kersal
A tour of the churchyard revealed much of interest.  It houses the vaults of the Holt brewing family, and their relatives the Kershaws who now own the brewery.  Edwin Waugh (1817-1890), the Lancashire Dialect poet, is also buried here.
Moving on, we strolled over Kersal Moor whilst Roy continued to educate us on all matters Salford – apparently this moor was the site of the first racecourse in Salford in the 1680s, before racing was transferred to the Castle Irwell course. There was a Great Chartist meeting here in 1838, with around 300,000 people in attendance, and before that, in 1804, a duel was fought, between Major Philips and Private Jones. Up there, we were at the dizzying height of 260 feet, on the very summit of the City of Salford.
"Take the rising path on the left next to the nursery school" says Roy in his route description.  It will have to be edited. Unless they build another school there.  Mind, you could just about make out the playground, and the sign for the school was still in place.
Back at the River Irwell, via a housing estate, we were joined at Jubilee footbridge by a young lad who was visiting a friend after work. "Not me" he says, agreeing with us about the sad state of Salford's litter problem. Just after this we meet two lads carting a load of wire and tubing along on a bike. I think we were all too gob-smacked to react.
A 'stadium' sculpture on the east bank of the Irwell apparently cost a fortune. Opposite, on our side of the river, is the point where in 1944 a Lancaster bomber crashed into the end houses of Regatta Street, killing the airmen and destroying several houses.
A few metres further on, from behind the Hercules Powder Company, appeared this rather unpleasant looking effluent.  I promised to report it.  I have done.
Effluent by Hercules Powder Company
Next, we passed the 'stand' from where the regatta could be watched. I don't think they have the regatta here any more, but Goosanders were busy flying up and down the 'straight'.
The riverside path passes the huge expanse that is Agecroft Cemetery. We noted a memorial with the black rosette in front of it as being that of Peter Lobengula, the 'Black Prince', who came to Salford with the Savage Africa Show in the late 1800s. He stayed behind and settled in Salford, claiming later that he was the son of King Lobengula of Matabeleland.
We'd planned to go to Clifton, but the scenic delights of this walk had distracted us sufficiently to need to call time at the boundary of Agecroft Cemetery, and walk up Agecroft Road to catch the number 8 bus at the A666 in Pendlebury. But not before studying the pipework of the Thirlmere Aqueduct - two huge pipes and the ornamental ironwork of the Water Works bridge that dates from 1832.
Manchester Corporation Water Works bridge - 1832
A little further up the road the aqueduct seemed to have sprouted a third pipe! I'll leave that for Reg to explain…
Here’s our route for the day – about 21km with very little ascent.
Salford Trail Part 1 - a route
That leaves me with Agecroft to Clifton to complete the whole walk – that’s about 2 miles, on which I’ll report in due course, together with an index covering all my Salford Trail walks.
Meanwhile, there’s a slideshow of today’s walk here.  It’s a long but worthwhile set of images, for those who may be interested.
All my Salford Trail postings can be found here, in reverse order, and most importantly, Roy Bullock’s labour of love, with a host of fascinating additional information, is here.
Enjoy the Salford Trail, everyone.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Wednesday 14 March 2012 – The Cloud and Gun Hill

Orientation Point on The Cloud - 1126 ft

Last Wednesday saw me heading over to Buxton for a session with my old workmate, Chris, who is now at the Health & Safety Executive’s head office.

On the way I enjoyed a stroll up The Cloud from Rushton Spencer, where a Staffordshire Way car park behind The Knot Inn provides a good base for walks in this picturesque part of Staffordshire.

The Knot Inn, and the emblem for the Staffordshire Way

The 92 mile Staffordshire Way passes through here, and the Knot is the emblem of that route.

This walking route utilises the trackbed of the North Staffordshire Railway.  The line was opened in 1849 as part of the Churnet Valley line and remained open until passenger services were withdrawn from the northern end of the Churnet valley line in 1960.  Freight services lasted until 1964 when they too were withdrawn and the track lifted.  Here it is today.

The Staffordshire Way

After about a kilometre my route joined the Gritstone Trail, and also the Dane Valley Way, all three footpaths coinciding at this point where, curiously, a signpost indicates ‘LYME PARK 18ML/30KM’.  I can’t recall seeing many distances marked in kilometres on UK footpaths – perhaps Staffordshire is leading the way.

Signage

The Cloud made its appearance out of the gloom as I strolled along the deserted path, to the fairly constant sound of pot shots at clay pigeons being taken at nearby Cloudside Shooting and Sporting Club.

The Cloud

Towards the summit of The Cloud an array of ten signs awaits those brave enough to tackle the final few metres to the summit (don’t bother if you have a hang glider or a bicycle).

Summit signs on The Cloud

There are views far and wide from up here, as can be seen from the orientation point pictured below, but you can see that ‘The Cloud’ lived up to its name today – the Cheshire plain should have been visible in this photo.  But it wasn’t…

The Cloud - summit - 343 metresThe Cloud - Orientation Point

I could just make out the outline of Mow Cop, five miles away, and whilst the low veneer of mist never really cleared, the sun did try to put in a muted appearance as I made my way around the wood to the south of The Cloud, and returned towards Rushton Spencer via a selection of well-marked field paths.

Near Cloud Side

Saint Lawrence Church has a timber framed church possibly from the 14th century existing within the walls of the late 17th century stone building. The date above the east window is 1690 and above the south doorway is 1713. I came across the church, with its weather-boarded turret, in an isolated position in fields above Rushton village. Anciently, apparently, the church was known as the Chapel in the Wilderness.

Saint Lawrence Church, RushtonStained glass window at Saint Lawrence Church

The grave of Thomas Meakin is in the churchyard. Meakin was thought to have been poisoned by his master, an apothecary, for having fallen for his master’s daughter. After exhumation, Meakin’s body was brought back to his home village of Rushton for burial but it was set apart from others by the fact that it is the only grave to face west.

Here’s the view east, looking down through weak sunshine to the village of Rushton Spencer and the end of this little excursion.

Rushton Spencer from Saint Lawrence Church

The route I took, shown below, was about 11km, with around 300 metres ascent, easily completed within 3 hours.  A good half day amble if you happen to be in the area, and hopefully you’ll choose a day when the ‘Sporting Club’ is closed, though after a while you’ll probably cease to notice the popping of the guns.

A route up The Cloud - 11km, 350 metres ascent, 3 hours

With a few minutes to spare before meeting Chris in Buxton, I nipped up Gun Hill, a fairly nondescript protuberance to the south of Danebridge.  Whilst it was pleasantly sunny, misty cloud still obscured the views.

Gun Hill, Staffordshire

It was good to keep in touch with Chris, and later to meet up with TGO Challenger Andy Howell and others at Stockport Walking Group’s weekly get together, where Andy, apparently commissioned by the tourist boards of Ireland, London, Birmingham and Rio de Janeiro, was showing a few of his photos.

What a pleasant day, even if I was a bit peckish by the time I got home!