Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Monday, 30 December 2013

A New Canon G16 Camera, and ‘Nerves of Steel’

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In 2008 I replaced my broken Canon Powershot S70 with a G10, which entered these pages in a blaze of publicity, here, here, and here.

The G10’s lens sadly failed whilst on Leagag on 25 September 2011.

That was replaced with the G12, which expired recently after just a shade over two years’ hard use.

I’m a sucker for punishment, so I chose the devil I knew, and ordered a G16, the latest in this series, to replace the G12, in which the lens had disintegrated internally.

Meanwhile, Sue has gone through a G9 (still functional but she scratched the lens) and is now on the G15, which was an option for me, but it would be too confusing for us to have identical cameras.

The G16 has a new sensor, and Wi-fi, so the box contents have shrunk greatly from S70/G10 days – there are no CDs, all instructions being on-line, and no leads other than the battery charger’s, which unfortunately is rather bulky.

I ordered the camera from a company called Simply Electronics, for a remarkably good price.  They took my money but nothing happened.  Queries were acknowledged and received standard, unhelpful, replies. Internet research revealed that I wasn’t the only person having problems, and I regretted not doing this research before I placed the order.

‘You need nerves of steel to deal with this company’ seemed to be the consensus.

I’d paid by credit card, so referred the problem – failure to deliver in the time scale indicated – to my bank’s Retailer Disputes Team, who were helpful.

Then, unexpectedly, the camera arrived, three weeks later than the advertised delivery time.  A pleasant surprise!  Not quite the end of the story, though, as the box didn’t contain a warranty card.  However, I’m assured by Canon that this won’t be needed if the camera does fail within twelve months.  I hope I don’t have to test that assurance.

I haven’t used the camera yet, as I’m finding my waterproof Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4 to be a good performer in the showery weather.

We are still waiting for our ‘Good Customers’ award from Canon!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Sunday 22 December 2013 – Knowle Locks

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Whilst visiting Sue’s family in Solihull, we managed a short walk along the Grand Union Canal towpath with Helen and Jacob, on one of the lovely sunny mornings that have been interspersed between short bouts of wet and windy weather of late.

I have to say that the southerly wind is so much warmer than the cold easterlies that we suffered from at length earlier in the year, that in my book it’s well worth the occasional accompanying shower.

Here are a few images from the 5 km stroll past Knowle Locks to Bakers Lane and back.

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Originally Knowle Locks were a series of six narrow locks, but one lock was removed and the remaining five were modernised into wide locks during the 1930 Grand Union Canal Improvement. The remains of the old narrow locks are still evident. Knowle Locks are the northernmost wide locks on the Grand Union Canal - from here going north into Birmingham, all of the Grand Union Canal Locks are narrow.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone

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Sue and I hope you are enjoying a lovely day – or more likely, we hope that when you browse this brief message in due course you will be able to reflect on ‘Good Times’.

Have fun!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Saturday 21 December 2013 – Wythenshawe Parkrun (Christmas Edition)

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Sue and I joined 158 others for Wythenshawe Parkrun number 118.  Parkruns have developed a tradition whereby on the Saturday before Christmas the finely honed athletes who take part week in, week out, dress up in the spirit of the occasion. 

Thus, on Saturday, I knew I was carrying an injury, hamstring I think, as well as not being recovered from my recent muscle problem, so I felt it appropriate to disguise myself as a slow moving Christmas tree.  Next year I’ll adorn it with lights and baubles … perhaps!  Anyway, despite worsening my injuries I managed to limp around the 5 kilometre course, encouraged by a vocal and supportive crowd. 

The fairy on the right of the above picture really did upset a few of the more serious runners by coming home in sixth place (not that it’s a race) in a very respectable 19.07.  Later, he proudly exclaimed that he thought that was a record for a fairy at Wythenshawe – a target for someone to beat next year!

Pictured below is our little group comprising me, Sue, Diana, Joe, Andrew and Alastair, after the rather muddy run.  My tree roots got quite badly trampled in the mud and nearly tripped me a few times.  And it’s hot in a tree costume.

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Here’s another set of stalwarts of this event - The Barbers of Wythenshawe Parkrun - Greg, Paul, Jeanette and beautiful Isabella, posing briefly before we all adjourned for tea and bacon butties.  Heavily costumed Jeanette is to be congratulated on pushing Isabella around the course in a shade over 30 minutes.  Greg was one of those unable to match the pace of the flying fairy.

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Great fun!

Good luck to Joe on Christmas Day, when he’ll be running his 50th Parkrun.  Sadly, injuries have forced me out of that one.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Tuesday 17 December 2013 – An Evening Walk up Shutlingsloe

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This was what has become a ‘traditional’ pre Christmas romp up to the summit of Shutlingsloe, which is usually a bit breezy on top, but not sufficient to deter us from supping some hot drinks and handing round some cake before heading back down to Trentabank, and thence to the Leathers Smithy for a beer.

Tonight was one of the best we have had, both turnout and weather wise. Thirteen of us on a lovely moonlit night, so torches were completely superfluous.  Views from the summit extended over the whole of Greater Manchester to Winter Hill.  Children who used to whinge a little sprinted ahead, separating the group on descent as only the fittest could keep up with them. Well done, Andrew, Kate and Joe, and it was good to see my nephew Toby turn up from near Nantwich, and Graham B’s granddaughter was also most welcome.  I hope she enjoyed it.

Altogether a very enjoyable and sociable little excursion, and there’s not much more to say, but below the photos which follow, by popular request, I’ve added a summary of the walks which have led to this minor event becoming a ‘tradition’ amongst a small group of family and friends. It’s interesting to see that people have only started to turn up in good numbers since I upset them by changing a venue that they had got used to seeing on the programme but until then hadn’t bothered to come along. The first of these evening walks up Shutlingsloe was in 2006, when Sue and I were joined by Andrew and Sheila. Only Andrew and I have attended all eight of the walks, and I’m amazed by the short period of time required to create a so-called ‘tradition’.

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This lower picture shows my nephew in his best walking gear, about to slither down the hillside, with Greater Manchester’s backdrop of lights just coming out at the top of the picture.  Extremely inexpert night photography on my part as usual.

17/12/2013 – 13 attendees, clear, calm and cool at Trentabank, ground frost higher up making the rocks and grass a little slithery.

18/12/2012 – 12 attendees, calm, misty on the summit.

20/12/2011 – 17 attendees, calm, cool and misty on the summit.  I’d tried to break tradition by changing the venue to White Nancy, on 9/12/2011, when only three of us had attended, and a rebellious element had insisted on going up Shutlingsloe ‘as usual’.  I was chastised for breaking with tradition, but it did give me a chance to write about the history of White Nancy.

20/12/2010 – 3 attendees, calm, moonlit, cold and snowy.  We also went up on New Year’s Day.

3/12/2009 – 2 attendees, cold, icy on top.

10/12/2008 – 3 attendees, calm, clear and cold.

19/12/2007 – 3 attendees, calm, clear and icy.

5/12/2006 – 4 attendees, moonlit, calm.

[Hover mouse over the type in black, and click, for the links to reports.]

Monday 16 December 2013 – Eagley Jazz Club

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Mike and I enjoyed a lovely night out as guests of Reg Kingston (of ‘Plodder’ fame) at Eagley Jazz Club in Bolton, where the night’s attraction was the Tame Valley Stompers, led by iconic trombone player Terry Brunt. 
They put on a great show, and I commend a visit to the very friendly Jazz Club (a thirty minute drive from Timperley) or to any venue where this excellent band may be playing their mid-20th century jazz numbers.
Great stuff!  Thank you, Reg, for looking after us so well.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wednesday 11 December 2013 – The Thirlmere Way – Horwich to Wheelton

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This outing was kindly arranged by Plodding Supremo, Reg, for those who had not joined him previously on this section of the Thirlmere Way.

We started, in true septuagenarian style, from Reg's house in Adlington.

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A bus took us to Horwich, whence we wandered down Crown Lane in rather dull and uninspiring weather. Soon we found a rusty old gate.  It was locked.

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After Reg’s lecture on ‘The Life and Times of a Waterworks Gate’, suddenly Phil exclaimed, "Look, there's another gate". We explained to him that two gateposts don’t constitute a ‘gate’, and he wandered off, disconsolate.

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Then we came across some inspection covers, marked ‘MCWW’ ‘TA’.  “These initials are a clue” enthused Reg, “has anyone got a divining rod?”

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This gate was locked, but not in terribly good condition.

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Back on the main Bolton Road, Rivington Reservoir looked less than inviting. Curiously, the Thirlmere Aqueduct’s huge pipes seemed to emerge from under the reservoir.

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Reg set a cracking pace as we headed relentlessly north towards Thirlmere through the M61 woods.

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"Ooh!" exclaimed Phil, as he spotted another locked gate.

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By and by we reached Chez Reg, where an array of picnic tables and tasty banana fritters awaited our arrival.

Luckily, cake was also available.

Suitably fortified, we continued for a while along Reg’s ‘Fish ‘n Chip Walk’ route, with a number of river crossings taking place, luckily made easy as a result of artificial aids.

The pipeline neatly avoids Chorley Town Centre, and winter sunshine now provided lovely mellow lighting, albeit the paths were a little muddy at times, unlike Chorley Town Centre.

Buried deep on either side, the Thirlmere pipes were briefly exposed in this secret location where Norman, the magician plumber, surprised us all by popping out of a nearby inspection chamber, waving maniacally, and disappearing again.

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Near Healey, the path steepened as we flew through a few fields in the bright afternoon sunshine.

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More mud was encountered, and luckily, aid was provided for this river crossing by Higher Healey.

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The last of the sun guided us relentlessly towards the North Pole.

Then the orb disappeared behind Chorley's religious turrets and the hills started to take their toll.  We wouldn't be reaching the North Pole, or even Thirlmere, today despite Bernard's aspirations, as several aged Plodders were heard to mutter “slow down, this is a Plod, not a Bimble”.

We lined up to record the identity of this select group.  Despite his gaudy jacket, Reg had earlier managed to mislay his entire party when they chose their own alternative route on the wrong side of the M61 motorway.

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Approaching Wheelton, a small village, we passed a large church, then "one last waterworks gate for today", announced Reg.

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"Oh dear, it's locked" complained Bernard, still satiated with wonder as to how and why we kept coming across these magnificent artefacts. 

Then we caught a couple of buses back to Adlington.

Here's our route - roughly 18km with 220 metres ascent, in about 5 hours.

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There are a few more photos in this slideshow.

Thanks again, Reg, for organising this mini adventure.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Sunday 8 December 2013 – A Christmas Walk to Monsal Head

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Here’s a slightly belated entry, but never mind.

A crack team of 25 plus James assembled in Tideswell Dale.  Cards were exchanged before the ritual of our Christmas Walk commenced exactly on time at 10.15 (Colin and Helen weren’t lost somewhere this year – they were in fancy dress on a 10K run in Tatton Park).

We soon passed a sleepy water vole and headed into the Wye Valley, to cross the river at Litton Mill.

A gentle spell along an unusually quiet Monsal Trail offered relaxation before the steep pull up to Priestcliffe Lees.

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We enjoyed elevenses, with Sue’s excellent shortbread, outside a barn with a nice roof where I thought I heard Graham announce that he was going to convert the magnificent barn into a bunkhouse. 

The nice holiday cottages at Brushfield were passed without incident and all 25 seemed still to be in attendance as they strolled on along path towards Putwell Hill.

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A small contingent intent on taking the Putwell Hill short cut were discouraged from cheating, so we all endured the slithery descent to Monsal Dale via Brushfield Hough.

The River Wye was re-crossed just below the weir.

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We paused here – not wanting to reach our lunch venue too early!

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The Monsal Head Hotel proved to be an excellent venue. Lunch arrived on time, the food was more than adequate and very tasty, and Sue W even summoned enough energy reserves to win the quiz that I’d devised the previous evening.

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Staggering out of the hotel after lunch, we admired the view along Upperdale

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Down on the Monsal Trail, Paul posed by Headstone Tunnel, fairly recently reopened after being closed for many years, whilst we waited for the disabled members of the group.  The most disabled was, I realised, myself, as I’d forgotten that Gayle had left at lunchtime and I worried for some time about who had gone missing, despite reassurances that everybody was ‘in position’!

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Cressbrook Mill was viewed from the entrance to the next tunnel – I was at the back at this point, so unable to influence the route, which I’d intended to be along the riverside path from Cressbrook.

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In fading light the Monsal Trail path was very quiet by 4pm, but the tunnels are well lit until dusk.

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We emerged to a stunning sunset before descending back down to Litton Mill and along the pleasant path up Tideswell Dale as the last vestiges of daylight dissipated.

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Here's our route - 16km, 360 metres ascent taking about 6 hours (3 hours walking time).

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Thanks for your company, everyone, and have a Very Merry Christmas. We look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Meanwhile, there’s a slideshow here for those who care to view a few more of the photos I took.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Ghyll Head – 1 to 5 December 2013

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This was the second time Sue and I have had the pleasure of attending Reg’s Ghyll Head Bungalow ‘meet’. Last year’s visit is described here.

We were sorry to hear that ‘Little Ann’ was unable to join us, and Cathy was no doubt working; otherwise it was a similar team to last year’s.

Having arrived on Sunday afternoon, we spent the first two days in dull but warmish weather.

Monday involved a well attended walk to Staveley and back, described very briefly at the time, here.

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Another picture from this walk is shown above.  We enjoyed a fairly lavish lunch at Wilf’s Café in Staveley, before following Peter Haslam’s request to turn on our heels and head back to Ghyll Head, initially along the Dales Way, bringing back memories of my 2009 walk from Windermere to Ripponden.

A very chilled evening at Ghyll Head concluded proceedings – I seem to have found very little time to record much detail of the walk, but more photos were taken – see slideshow link below.  And thanks to Peter for leading this bimble.

We walked about 25 km, with 600 metres ascent, in 6.5 hours.

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On Tuesday, Reg led a crack team along a section of the Thirlmere Way, which the Plodders have been ‘plodding’ since leaving Heaton Park on a sunny day in April.

Meanwhile, Sue and I were joined by Barbara for a round of Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Great Rigg and Stone Arthur from Grasmere.

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Garry joined us for lunch.  He was ravenous.

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I wrote a short piece on the day at the time – here.  I suppose that was marginally more than on the previous day!  The slideshow reveals more…(see link below).

Here’s our route – 13 km with 950 metres ascent, in about 5 hours.

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Wednesday was a brighter day.  The rest of the team went off to explore more of the Thirlmere Way, but Sue and I didn’t want to be valley bound, so we headed up Longsleddale to Sadgill.  From there we enjoyed the gentle ascent to Tarn Crag.  I wrote about that here.

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It turned out to be a lovely day for this 11 km, 500 metre ascent, excursion taking about 3.5 hours, after which we had a very leisurely afternoon at Ghyll Head whilst the others struggled on along the Thirlmere Way in the dark (or so it seemed to us).

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Thursday dawned powerless and stormy at Ghyll Head.

Others copped out of their concluding section of the Thirlmere Way, but Roger and Barbara bravely joined me and Sue for a wander around Stang Hill, Arnsbarrow Hill and the 335 metre summit of Top O’Selside.  I wrote about it here.

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The weather actually cheered up quite a bit as we descended back to Nibthwaite with fine views across Coniston Water to the Coniston Fells.

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Here’s our 7 km route.  Ascent was about 300 metres, and it took us 2.3 hours.  An excellent blow of fresh air.

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Later, as John had been sent home due to serious misbehaviour in the dormitory*, Allan was obliged to co-opt Neil as his replacement assistant ‘chef du jour’.  He seemed happy enough with the arrangement and got on with the cooking whilst Allan chatted.

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There’s a slideshow covering the whole trip – here.

Thanks go to Reg for organising the trip.  We hope to see you all again next year, and we hope John and Don and whoever else has been afflicted with ‘John’s Lurgy’, are recovered by Christmas.

* John’s nasal cords are legendary, and very vocal.