Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 14 March 2014

Wednesday 12 March 2014 – Eccles, The Bridgewater Canal, and Worsley Woods – A Plod

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Last week I volunteered to lead an East Lancs LDWA plodders walk at short notice. I could choose my own route, so for convenience I chose Eccles Metrolink Station as the start point. The platform is visible from Morrison’s cafe, so that’s a good place to wait.

Only Allan R turned up. However, soon after setting off, we came across Alan R emerging from his first wild camp of the year.

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“This tent is rubbish” he was heard to remark.

We soon passed Monton lighthouse, from where shipping on the Manchester Ship Canal can be warned about fog (or more usually bandits) approaching from Liverpool. Queen Victoria’s replica barge is just out of picture, if you care to believe me.

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The two AlRed heartans (my keyboard interprets an ‘l’ in brackets in rather a strange way!) then marched off towards Worsley whilst I sought a coffee bush. This was no TGO Challenge training walk – a cracking pace was set.

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Alan professed to know some of the residents of these new houses, planted on the fields of his youth and owned by Mr and Mrs F Wallet.

He even admitted that in those elevated circles he is known as Mr B Itch…

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Marching on towards old Worsley, a focus of the Duke of Bridgewater’s empire, where barges were used to bring coal out of the many tunnels of coal mines, everything looked very serene in the sunshine on this otherwise foul winter’s day.

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Eventually we forsook the canal towpath and headed across a bone dry field. Next to us, someone had apparently transported a section of the Burnley Way.

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We reflected on the Plodders’ reasoning for abandoning its attempt to walk the Burnley Way, whilst enjoying elevenses with some golfers who seemed to be using us for target practice. The AlRed heartans appeased them with some ribald banter. Cake was consumed.

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Once the deluge had cleared, the sky went blue again and blossom blossomed, as it does.

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“Those look tastier than my breakfast”, admitted our resident wild camper, spotting some bracket fungus. He found the red variety (not pictured) particularly mouth watering. He will no doubt be able to offer his TGO Challenge companions invaluable foraging advice when they run out off provisions in May.

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After wandering along the old Roe Green railway loopline for a while, we paused for lunch on some steps, as it was 1pm. A bench would have been handy, but we didn’t realise that such facilities would occur at 100 metre intervals for the rest of the walk. Alan found one dedicated to me, but even as we proceeded down the track I perceived a man with a squeezebox breaking it up for firewood.

A planned diversion from the loopline took us through Worsley Woods. A delightful area full of wild flowers such as this unseasonably early Cow Parsley.

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The path wound round to Worsley Dam, and some particularly attractive old buildings.

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A tunnel beneath the A572 road avoided conflict with traffic, which was just as well as the AlRed heartans seemed to be involved in a vigorous debate/love-in.

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Back on the loopline, Allan chatted up a young lady with a smiling infant for a while, passing the time profitably before reaching civilisation in the form of Monton’s Unitarian church.

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The grade II* listed Unitarian Church was built between 1873 and 1875 and replaced the original Monton Chapel built in 1697. The tower and steeple are separate from the main body of the church - this is because they were an afterthought and not part of the original plan. They now house the bell from the original chapel which was retained in memory of the earlier building. The lychgate was erected in 1895 in memory of Henry Leigh.

There’s an Institute of Physics blue plaque on the side of the church which reads 'John Henry Poynting FRS 1852-1914 Physicist, born in Monton, discovered the Poynting vector and weighed the earth. Attended this church until 1878.' John Henry Poynting was the son of the vicar of the church and was born in a cottage on Monton Road where Prince's apartments now stand. Craters on Mars and the Moon are named after this famous Monton son who was professor of physics at Birmingham University from 1880 to 1914.

Alan then took charge of navigation, as he used to live nearby, and he miraculously negotiated a route down Monton’s high street, past a rather dilapidated former museum, into Eccles where the sad remains of the Cross Keys, and some other-worldly gargoyles greeted The Three Amigos.

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Then we all jumped on a tram and headed home. Even Alan seems to have made it back to somewhere safe, as he has been able to find time to record his (probably largely fictional) version of events littered with points of historical interest here.

Our route is shown below - 16 km with minimal ascent, in a little over 4 hours.

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Thanks for your company, AlRed heartans, it was a good day out.

There’s a slideshow here, with some wonderful commentary from the AlRed heartans.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Alison Philip

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It was with great sadness that we received the news last week that Alison had lost her seven year battle against cancer.

She will be remembered with fondness.

Alison and Bill have been friends for some years, following our encounters with the BP Hillwalking Club, now called the XXL Hillwalking Club, based in Aberdeen, in the late 1990s.

They provided welcome company and accommodation at their home in Drumoak during our 2012 TGO Challenge, and proved fantastic hosts in Cairo before Bill’s retirement. This trip in 2008 was memorable in many ways, in particular for the wonderful hospitality, and for the ‘Dakar Rally’ sort of desert trip we enjoyed with Bill and Alison and several of Bill’s colleagues, in their local transport and a Mitsubishi Pajero that they kindly lent us.

The above picture shows Alison instructing Bill on how to extract their Land Cruiser from the sand.

The sharks’ teeth we found in the desert are a daily window sill reminder of a great trip, and will now also remind us of Alison – always generous and caring, a lovely person who will be sadly missed.

Our condolences go to all Alison’s family and friends.

Saturday 8 March 2014 – TGO Challengers’ Reunion at the Snake Inn (aka Graham Brookes’ Wrecked Aircraft Tour)

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Friday’s late afternoon sunshine in the Peak District, and early Saturday morning sunshine in Timperley, with a sunny day forecast, didn’t quite turn out that way.

By the time I’d picked up Alistair P from Stockport and pootled over to the Snake Inn, the day had become overcast, with clouds engulfing the summit of Snake Pass.

Nevertheless, it was dry and not too cold as we milled about in the car park, with Alan Hardy looking on as 22 miscellaneous aspirant or experienced Challengers gathered for Graham Brookes’ tour of aircraft wrecks.

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After a long period of faffing, and goodbyes to those whose conditions (old age, broken limbs, etc) curtailed their day’s activities, the eager 22 set out from the car park and chatted their way along the A57 ‘motorway’.

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Luckily, a path was soon found that poured us into Woodlands Valley and thence to Lady Clough. Two courteous chaps waited patiently for all 22 of us to climb a stile at one point. By this time our esteemed co-ordinator had fallen to the rear, where recently fallen trees were hampering our progress. The lead group hopped over a wall to the road, whilst the stalwart off-roaders managed to dodge the streams, discarded hub caps and beer cans, not to mention the odd *** bottle, to climb the wall opposite Doctor’s Gate Culvert.

The reconvened group now forsook the thrills of the A57 and headed onwards to Doctor’s Gate. Only Alan H made any effort to keep pace with the leader.

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Half way down Doctor’s Gate, Graham veered abruptly off the path, and down to a small amphitheatre below Ashton Clough, where he called a halt for tea and cake. Jane positioned herself to give an impromptu address to the gathered assembly, but she suddenly became lost for words!

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It was then a touch of off-piste as we headed up the clough to our first wreckage site.

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The dog (Rowan, named after a comedian, archbishop or even a tree?) found it first. The first evidence of the theme of this walk – Peak District aircraft crash sites. This one was a C47 Skytrain (Dakota), which came down in July 1945.

The aircraft was being flown on a transport flight from airfield B.44 at Poix, to the SW of Amiens in France, to Renfrew. It had stopped at Leicester East and took off from there during the morning of the 24th July and failed to arrive at its destination. On the 26th July the wreckage was discovered by a member of the RAF, who was on leave, when he and his girlfriend were walking on Bleaklow. The crash site was attended by the Mountain Rescue Team from No.28 MU at Harpur Hill.

Here, Judith passes part of the rear fuselage found by Rowan.

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A few minor obstacles had to be negotiated on the way up to the site, and various other bits of wreckage were seen before we levelled out at the top of the climb, just a few paces away from the crash-site itself.  

With the cloud having lifted, there were finally some views to be seen, even if they were a bit muted, as we paused waiting for everyone to regroup. 

The next point of interest on the agenda was the site of a Lancaster which came down in May 1945, but with little wreckage remaining, it is the memorial stone which is most notable at this spot. (See slideshow for images.)

The aircraft was flying from RAF Linton-on-Ouse and had earlier been carrying out bumps and circuits but the crew became tired of this and decided to fly around the local area. As it became dark the crew became disorientated and eventually ended up circling Glossop. The aircraft was observed flying into the hillside at 10:10pm.

The demise of KB993 in May 18th 1945 was one of the first post World War 2 crashes on high ground, ten days after the end of hostilities.

There was no navigator on board because the crew should have been carrying out only circuits, a task in which he would have had no part.

After several partly successful attempts to regroup, our motley gang, staggering gently in the wind, wound its way over to the trig point at Higher Shelf Stones (621 metres), where as you can see, the trig point is positioned a little below the summit.

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A short way from here was the extensive wreckage of a B29 Superfortress which met its end in November 1948.

On the 3rd November 1948 RB-29A 44-61999 was being used for a flight from Scampton near Lincoln to Burtonwood near Warrington, a flight of less than a hour.  Low cloud hung over much of England that day and as such the flight was to be conducted on instruments.  After having flown for the time the crew believed it should have taken them to cross the hill they descended.  However the aircraft was not quite past the hills. It struck the ground near Higher Shelf Stones and was destroyed by fire.

The aircraft was soon reported missing and the local authorities and nearby RAF Mountain Rescue Service team were alerted. At the time the MRT were on a training exercise in the Kinder Scout area, they made their way as quickly as possible to the southern side of Bleaklow to begin a search for the crash site. They arrived at the crash site at around 16:30 finding that there had been no survivors and with light fading left the recovery of the crew until the following morning.

The aircraft had, for at least part of its existence, carried the name 'Over Exposed', it got the name while being used by the 509th Composite Group to photograph atomic weapon tests as part of Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll during 1946. The aircraft may have still had this name at the time of the crash, however it was being flown by a completely different crew and was with a different unit.

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Following the trail of debris for a while, east was our direction to pick up the Pennine Way, enjoying some good Challenge training through peat hags on our way. A hop and a skip took us from there back to Doctor’s Gate, where we had the choice of heading over to Mill Hill or heading straight back via our outward route. Whilst 14 of the 22 chose the latter and spent the extra couple of hours drinking tea and supping beer, the rest of us continued on along the Pennine Way’s flagstones, to Mill Hill, pictured below with a backdrop of Fairbrook Naze.

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Graham then set off down the path towards Glossop to locate the remains of a Liberator plane that crashed here in 1944. This crash story has a happier ending.

The aircraft was being ferried from Burtonwood to Hardwick by a two man ferry crew on the 11th October 1944. The two men took off in the aircraft from Burtonwood near Warrington at 10:32. They set their course and climbed to an indicated altitude of 2800 feet. At approximately 10:45 while in cloud and moderate to severe turbulence, Lt Houpt spotted a small gap in the cloud and saw the ground was only about 150 feet below him. He then applied full power and began to climb, but before they could gain any meaningful height the aircraft struck the ground on Mill Hill some 1.5 miles from the Grouse Inn between Hayfield and Glossop.

The two men extricated themselves from the shattered cockpit and walked along one of the streams until they reached the Hayfield to Glossop road. A passing lorry driver stopped and picked them up and took them to a nearby pub where Lt Houpt telephoned Burtonwood to report the accident. They were then retrieved by an Ambulance from Burtonwood and their injuries were then treated. These were mainly cuts & bruises but Lt Houpt did unfortunately suffer a broken jaw that confined him briefly to bed.

John, Alistair and I enjoyed a chinwag as we descended the soft ground of Ashop Clough, returning to the Snake Inn well before 6 o’clock, in time for Gayle to serve us tea in Colin the Campervan. Graham had forged on ahead, upset that all his erstwhile companions had vetoed his final ‘site visit’ in favour of ‘beer o’clock’.

Here’s our approximate route – per Anquet it was 21 km with 750 metres ascent, but the Garmin gadget’s readings of 24 km and 600 metres ascent are in my opinion more accurate. The Garmin gadget also reveals that the average pace for our first 12 km was nearly 26 minutes per kilometre, reducing to 13 minutes per kilometre for the next 12 km after the party split when it crossed the Doctor’s Gate path following our last cake stop.

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Thanks go to Graham for planning a such a good route, and to Gayle for providing many of the above words.

Later we were joined by Sue and Lynsey and a number of others, making the party up to 33 for a most pleasant evening at the Inn.

It was great that the TGO Challenge Co-ordinator, John Manning, was able to join us for the event, though slightly distressing to see how the rigours of the job seem to have aged him…

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Nice to see that he still enjoys a good plate of food.

Even if you haven’t clicked on any of the other links in this post, I would recommend that you just take a quick look at the full list of Peak District aircraft crash sites. My mind (and Gayle’s – she wrote this sentence) certainly boggled that there are so many.

There’s a slideshow of my photos here.

Previous Snake reunions reported on these pages:
2013, 2011, 2010, 2009

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Scarpa Mustang GTX Boots

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It’s a while since I bought my Scarpa Infinity GTX boots, one pair of which is still going after over 2,400 kilometres. Since buying those I’ve gone through a pair of Hi-Tec’s top of the range offering.

With the TGO Challenge coming up, and my usual plan to keep my feet dry during that 220 mile walk across Scotland, a new pair of boots was in order. Scarpa have moved on from the Infinity, but Jose and Hugh at Alpenstock in Stockport assured me that the Mustang was their current successor. That was a few months ago, so the Scarpa product range may well have moved on again since then! But at the time of writing this link provides some technical data.

The boots stayed in their box until our recent weekend in Wales, during which they enjoyed 33 km under my new MEC gaiters. I can now put the boots away until that big walk in May (or a Lakes backpack over Easter) as they already fit like slippers, and the old Infinities remain fine for day walks.

I do hope these Mustangs will be as durable as the Infinities. I’ll be using Sidas insoles with them and will report back in due course.

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The boots weigh in at 1480 gm including insoles, marginally lighter than the Infinities. Retail price is about £160, on which at least a 10% discount should be achievable.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Toby and Krystle’s Wedding, and The Cake

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Last Friday we had the pleasure of attending my nephew’s wedding. Toby can be spotted occasionally on these pages, usually on a dark December evening up Shutlingsloe. He and Krystle ventured very close to Shutlingsloe and even closer to White Nancy, for their wedding at Hollin Hall.

A joyous occasion, enjoyed by everyone.

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There’s a short slideshow here that will probably only be of interest to family members.

Sue in particular enjoyed the day, once her cake responsibilities had been fulfilled and she was able to relax. Here’s what she says:

“Here are a few photos of the cake I made for the wedding last Friday.  The top and bottom tiers were fruit, the middle one was madeira sponge.

Thanks to Top Tier cakes in Sale Moor for their excellent advice, and supply of boards, icing, pearls, etc.

As you can see, I chickened out of putting roses in a swirl all the way down the cake (too many vertical surfaces), but Krystle was happy as it was.

Although I say it myself, it tasted super too!”

(Especially the sponge cake, which was my small contribution – Ed.)

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