Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Wednesday 9 April 2014 – Plodders invade Bollington

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Some troops landed late. Military activities in Hale Barns and Wilmslow were blamed. Others landed early, but in the wrong place. The Vale Inn’s car park had appealed to them more than the nearby Middlewood Way car park and its attendant facilities and information board.

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So in true ‘JJ LDWA’ fashion we set off on this little stroll at about 10.50am, proceeding across a park where the mowers and rollers were optimistically preparing for the cricket season, and far underneath an impressive aqueduct carrying the Macclesfield Canal.

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Then began the relentless ascent up to White Nancy, the folly built around 1817 to commemorate victory at Waterloo, nowadays sometimes utilised to commemorate things like Jubilees and the Olympics. It was a blank white today as having slithered impressively up the hill, we posed in front of a reluctant passer-by for a team photo (see above).

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Two Johns, an Alan, another Allan and a Martin made up today’s select gathering.

I’d been on a more or less identical walk with Andrew on 1 March 2013 so I’ll not say much about the route, other than it was easy to follow and there’s a map below.

Recently arrived Chiffchaffs, heard but not easily seen, serenaded us as we rose to the folly, and they accompanied us for most of the day. After visiting the 313 metre summit of Kerridge Hill and descending down to and back out of the outskirts of Rainow, a halt was called on the Gritstone Trail path near Hordern Farm. A little late for elevenses, but it’s never too late for cake with this lot.

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There was a fine view towards Shining Tor.

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Refreshed from our long break, we continued on to the fleshpots of Tegg’s Nose and another long break in the shelter of the old quarry workings, where Allan instructed Alan on some engineering niceties.

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After the tutorial, Alan took his position and attempted to rearrange the display.

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Whilst it was a nice day, there was a cool breeze on the exposed heights of this walk, so the enclosed nature of our lunch spot was ideal. Children played enthusiastically on the old cranes whilst we enjoyed fine views towards Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe, and down to the Langley Reservoirs.

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We wandered off, meeting one of Rick’s daughters as we approached the steep path down to Langley, where Mallards and Tufted ducks seemed to have taken possession of the overflowing reservoir.

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Saint Dunstans Inn was closed as it usually is on mid-week afternoons. Across the road the sad remains of a 142 year old mill works contrasted with a nearby impressive pile. See below for another picture of Langley Mill.

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We walked past the latter, on our way beside various spring flowers* such as this gorse.

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A very muddy track that traversed high above Macclesfield, before the surface relented and an excellent path drew us gently past a classic Ford Capri to the Macclesfield Canal and the easy climax to the day’s stroll.

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Sadly my planned ‘afternoon tea bench’ was occupied, so we had to make do with the grassy canalside for our final break for tea and the last pieces of cake.

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Near here a Mallard with just one surviving chick was being stalked by a plump heron. JJ did his best to distract the heron, but I fear the mallard will have to rely on a second brood. I don’t think mallards are on the endangered species list, but the chances of this youngster surviving seem remote.

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It’s an area of beautifully proportioned canal bridges, such as this one on the approach to Bollington.

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A steep descent took us back down to the recreation ground and car park by around 4.30pm.

A most enjoyable day out in fine company, was followed by a speedy and uneventful journey home.

Here’s our route – 19km, 450 metres ascent, taking 5.75 hours.

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My full set of 44 images is here.

* Birds-eye Speedwell
Butterbur
Lesser Celandine
Daisies and Dandelions
Bright Yellow Gorse
and many more

Since I posted this entry, Alan R has kindly sent me the following picture of Langley Mill, which dates from 1872, in Slightly Happier Days, though I’m sure its history extends to Much Happier Days.

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Alan R has also recorded the walk here, with a little additional information together with his usual sprinkling of humour. Well done, Alan.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Alpine Flowers – A Cicerone Guide by Gillian Price

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This pocket guide was published by Cicerone earlier this year.

It is very much a ‘pocket’ guide, measuring 16 cm by 10 cm and weighing just 127 grammes, ie smaller and lighter than most Cicerone guides, and certainly much lighter than the 400+ gramme definitive guide to Alpine Flowers by Christopher Grey-Wilson and Marjorie Blamey, sadly out of print but occasionally available through ebay. ‘Pocket’ does come at a cost – the latter book covers over 1500 species, whereas Gillian's covers just 230 species.

However, only a few of us (I am one) have chosen to lug the definitive guide on backpacking trips around Europe, preferring to ‘Look that up when I get back’. The idea of Gillian’s guide is to act as a lightweight companion in the field, with colour-coded pages to make it easy to consult. The guide focuses on the main flowers likely to be encountered, and it gives readers helpful pointers for distinguishing flowers that might appear the same at first glance.

12 pages of introduction and glossary set the scene for 115 pages of descriptions of the 230 species covered, each supported by a colour photograph. Gillian doesn’t go into complex technical descriptions, but she does add points of interest not covered in the more technical guidebooks, such as the origins of names, toxic or healing qualities, and a variety of other identification points and distinguishing features.

For many people this book will be quite sufficient for all their purposes. Those like me who may wish to identify sub-species etc will also benefit from the lightweight nature of this field guide. It’ll enable us to basically identify most plants, whilst any uncertainties can be photographed digitally and checked in one of the more definitive guides when we get home.

Consequently, whilst the Grey-Wilson/Blamey volume will still accompany me on hutting trips, I’ll be replacing that with this excellent offering from Gillian for backpacking trips.

I commend the book to all those visiting the Alps and Pyrenees who have any interest in the flowers of the region. But as Reginald Farrer so eloquently states in his seminal volume ‘The Dolomites’ (1913) [a ‘must read’ for those with any interest in Alpine flowers] “Those who dislike mountains and are bored with plants need have no dealings with this volume.”

Highly recommended, and available from Cicerone here.

Well done, Gillian.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Silvermoon Quartet at Etruria

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Indifferent weather kept us mostly indoors today, the highlight of which was a visit to Knutsford’s premier Mediterranean Bar and Restaurant, Etruria, where the Silvermoon Quartet played Cool Jazz whilst we enjoyed an excellent lunch.

Well done Hayley, Mike, Pete and Adam, it was indeed cool.

They play there at 1.30pm on the first Sunday of each month (perhaps the second Sunday in May – check in advance).

Highly recommended.

Afterwards Sue and I enjoyed a short walk in nearby Tatton Park.

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We got wet…

Friday 4 April 2014 – A Troutbeck Trot

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Well, more a sort of amble.

It was about 8pm on Thursday night. I was fiddling on the computer with something inconsequential and gravitated into Facebook for a short break.

“Making plans for a hill walk in the Lakes tomorrow” popped up from Alistair. The forecast looked fair so after some exchanges of messages and a phone call I was able to tag onto Alistair’s plan to get a few metres of ascent into his TGO Challenge training schedule.

After a leisurely start and an easy drive to the Church Bridge layby in Troutbeck, we were ready to start by 10.30. The forecast had indicated that the mist would clear by late morning, hence our late start, but we set off in 100% humidity on a warm windless morning on which the water vapour could be clearly seen in the air. During the morning we faffed with various items of clothing, but dampness was the name of the game. I was damp in my t-shirt with a waterproof outer, and Alistair was damp in his t-shirt and fleece.

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The first four kilometres was along a pleasant path to the east of Trout Beck, to the footbridge north of Lowther Brow. We’d expected the 364 metre summit of Troutbeck Tongue, which hill neither of us had previously visited, to be clear of mist, but even though it was only 150 metres above us it was well shrouded. From the footbridge a lovely ascending path drew us slowly to the summit, our first of nine for the day. Photos were taken. Not prize winners! Here Alistair poses on what he claimed was the true summit, a few metres away from the summit cairn that can be seen protruding into the background mist.

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A gently descending path then led us north through Troutbeck Park, joining a wider track from where our longest ascent of the day saw us ascending Park Fell in the persistent mist. It remained warm, calm and sweaty. Around 1pm, between 500 and 600 metres, we took time out for lunch, conveniently breaking the ascent to Thornthwaite Beacon (784 metres), the second half of which was undertaken easily by two thoroughly refreshed walkers. Two gents lounged at the beacon, the first of eleven people that we saw during the course of the day. A minute or two later, three more shadows in the mist came and went. We enjoyed a few minutes behind a wall in the lee of the gentle but cool westerly breeze. The beacon was then admired from a small rock that Alistair declared was the true summit.

An easy stroll to High Street (828 metres) took us to our high point for the day, a lady tourist, and a zizz from my GPS as it recorded completion of our eleventh kilometre.

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It was cooler here, so we soon said goodbye to the lingering lady and headed off down Racecourse Hill next to a wall. This was the course of the old Roman Road known as High Street, and after nearly inadvertently returning to Thornthwaite Beacon we recovered our composure on the good path to Froswick (720 metres), where a couple ran past looking as if they were on a city high street. Beyond this mist persisted as we claimed the summits of Ill Bell (757 metres) and Yoke (706 metres).

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After a break to examine my flask (empty, luckily I also had some water) and enjoy some of Alistair’s jelly babies and Lynsey’s excellent flapjack, we headed past a lone, dripping, ascending walker and down towards the Garburn Pass, hopeful that at last we might gain a view. Our hopes were not in vain. At between 500 and 600 metres the breeze stiffened and the cloud base suddenly lifted above us to lurk thereafter at around 800 metres, leaving us with good, if rather dull in terms of light, views along the length of Windermere to Morecambe Bay. We watched the mist lift from our remaining objectives and relaxed in the knowledge that we’d be able to see clearly where we were going for the rest of the day.

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Down at the Garburn Pass two elderly gents were faffing with a tent. “I wouldn’t pitch there” we chorused. Curiously they seemed to be carrying very little equipment other than the tent. Soon we found some red and white tape at our next stile, and realised that the gents must be setting up a checkpoint for some event or other being held this weekend, hence the strange positioning of the tent.

After the company of cawing ravens on the higher summits, the sweet songs of skylarks at the 516 metre summit of Sallows provided delightful entertainment as we enjoyed a further break and admired the views to Langdale in the west and Kentmere to the east. The summits were still in cloud.

A pleasant traverse culminating beside a wall by a small wood marked only on the Harveys map led us to Capple Howe (445 metres), the only one of today’s summits that is not listed as a Wainwright. En route, Alistair rather painfully poured himself over a slippery stile, thankful for a solid post and a lack of barbed wire.

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A short stroll over close cropped grass led to our ninth and final summit of the day, Sour Howes (483 metres), where we ascended a selection of grassy knobbles, all of which appeared to be contenders for the highest point. A nice little hill, though, not previously visited by either of us, with good views like the one at the head of this posting.

From Sour Howes a good path led amiably past meadow pipits and down the slopes of Backstone Barrow on Applethwaite Common, eventually crossing the Garburn Road track by way of dramatic stiles, one of which is shown below.

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A good track then led back to our parking spot at Church Bridge. Robins monitored our progress and we arrived at 6.20pm, after a 24 km outing with around 1200 metres ascent, in a shade less than 8 hours.

Here’s our approximate route, and there are more photos here. I’m sure Alistair will provide a more accurate route map on his blog in due course. The link will be here.

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The journey home was very straightforward, punctured only by a stop at Ings for coffee and Calpol, the former of which made a bid for freedom and flooded Alistair’s driving seat. The coffee/Calpol combination proved hazardous and is not recommended! Alistair slowly recomposed himself and deployed his trusty waterproof Harveys as a temporary ‘nappy in reverse’.

Those eight hours on the hill took their toll. I woke on Saturday feeling rather stiff, so a fast Parkrun wasn’t on the cards. Instead I had the pleasurable company of young Joe Evans (11) who paced me round the 5 km course, beating his own previous personal best (PB) by 19 seconds when he finished ahead of me some 24 minutes 40 seconds later. I will never, I suspect, be able to beat my own PB by that sort of margin…

Well done, Joe.