Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

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.