Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 6 March 2015

Wednesday 4 March 2015 – Plodders Visit Silverdale

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I emerged from the RSPB café at Leighton Moss to find lots of people milling about in the car park. ‘There must be another group walking from here today’ I thought. Wrong. They were all there for my East Lancs LDWA ‘Plodders’ walk around Silverdale. There were 19 of us plus Millie (not to be confused with the other Millie, who joined us on Sunday).

We set off bang on time up Storrs Lane before turning confidently into Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, down a narrow lane fringed with reeds. Norman reckoned we’d see bitterns. We didn’t, of course.

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Luckily, the public hide was big enough to accommodate all 19 of us, plus some rather shocked passers-by. We observed gulls and ducks and swans. Norman gleefully pointed out an otter (we’d been told they had been seen this morning). On closer inspection it revealed itself as a coot. [Had he been looking in a mirror?]

We left the twitchers to their peace and quiet and continued along the path, emerging at Grisedale, with views towards the snow capped peaks of the Lake District.

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We passed Leighton Hall, which apparently is the stately home of the Gillow part of the Waring and Gillow furniture clan. Norman waxed lyrical about it being a fine place to visit. Apparently he got lost in the maze, and one of the birds of prey that they exhibit mistook him for a coot.

Alan and John, ‘The Calendar Boys’, happily brought up the rear as we plodded up the hill towards Yealand Conyers.

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This was the steepest slope (the only slope) of the day, and warranted a long rest at the benches on the summit.

There were 19 of us, plus Millie, including Peter Balshaw, who came cunningly disguised as an anonymous hill walker.

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We then wandered across a small plateau from which all the stones seemed to have been piled into a rocky mound in past millennia. There’s no photo of that mound. I was standing on it.

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It was then a slithery descent towards Yealand Conyers, from where there were fine views towards Ingleborough.

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Peter Lane kiln supplied lime for a variety of uses for hundreds of years. Now it has been restored for admiration by ramblers.

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A cunningly concealed waymark fooled me into a considerable diversion past an errant lamb to a spot for elevenses with a fine view. After plying everyone with cake (thanks to Alan R’s penknife that facilitated a ‘loaves and fishes’ event) I admitted that I hadn’t the foggiest idea where we were.

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The Chief Scout was therefore enrolled to head a recovery operation to extricate us from the unscheduled meadow and return us, aided by Alan R’s Satmap gadget, to the known world, aka Crag Foot.

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Hugely indebted to said ‘Chief Scout’ (doesn’t he look smug?) we soon found ourselves on a marked route with good views across the reed beds of the Moss.

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We passed Moss House Farm and a smelting chimney before arriving at the coast road at Crag Foot.

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The Lancashire Coastal Path then led us inexorably towards Jenny Brown's Point for lunch beside the old smelting chimney.

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After a pleasurable half hour in the sunshine, we wandered off into the area around Jack Scout, where we came across another renovated lime kiln.

Past the Wolf House Gallery, we descended on a pleasant path to Woodwell, which used to provide Silverdale’s water supply.

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Still dizzy from the glory of rescuing the entire group from the black hole of Warton Crag, Norman embarked on 'Shallow Water Adventure'...

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After dragging him out and rubbing him down, we guided the bedraggled Chief Scout to Red Rake, at the edge of Morecambe Bay, where he narrowly avoided a mishap with the quicksand.

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Grange-over-Sands is in the distance, but we wouldn't be walking further than The Cave today.

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This is the view of Red Rake from The Cave, on a sunny March afternoon.

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Leaving the coast, the road to Elmslack revealed some residents who were ideally equipped for cold weather.

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Below King William's Hill, we didn't venture up to the Pepper Pot, instead taking the pleasant path beside more evidence of Silverdale's historic water storage issues (concrete water tanks), to Waterslack, where the concerns of any parched residents were assuaged as it started to rain.

After a rainy circuit of Hawes Water, we came across a locked gate on a ‘permissive path’. We took the gate off its hinges and went through, but then doubts about the ongoing path led us to reverse the exercise and set off down the road towards Silverdale. An alternative route then appeared, and we strolled down to what appeared to be a very dangerous railway crossing.

We didn’t expect to be rushed, but Norman nearly got crushed. Many of our elderly group are a little hard of hearing and simply followed me across without realising they were about to be run over! It was a close miss, but the ‘Massacre of Red Bridge’ was narrowly averted.

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We joined the public footpath about twenty metres away from the previously mentioned locked gate….!

We were told there is a Facebook page relating to the closed footpath/locked gate, but I can’t find it. I think the issue relates to the use of the path by the public over a long period, and certainly a number of those present had been using it for up to thirty years, so perhaps it should be designated as ‘public’ rather than ‘permissive’ (aka ‘closed’). *

By now the rain had stopped, so we enjoyed a pheasant amble over the greener than green golf course to rejoin Storrs Lane and wander back to the RSPB Visitor Centre, where some of the 19 Plodders breathed sighs of relief at having managed to complete the circuit in spite of my navigational blunders, and zoomed off. Meanwhile, the Elite Plodders enjoyed some welcome pots of tea before heading home.

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Here's our route - about 20 km with up to 500 metres ascent, taking us 5.5 hours; note the scenic diversion to our elevenses stop!

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There’s a 35 image slideshow with a few different images, here. Click on the first picture, then click slideshow.

Thanks to everyone for attending, and to Norman for pouncing on the frailties of my navigation skills and rescuing the entire group from the Black Hole of Warton Crag.

Alan R also took a few snaps. They are here. Thanks, Alan. No tractors? His excellent blog entry is here.

[There’s nothing like a good ‘plod’ for a bit of fun!]

* – I now see that Alan R has found the Facebook page, here, and I’ve added a comment there.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sunday 1 March 2015 – A Short Circuit from Warslow

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It’s always a pleasure to meet up with our friends from Johannesburg Hiking Club, especially as they generally let me choose my own route for their walks. Today I was aware that a few of the rapidly aging population were struggling with ailments, so a short circuit was in order.

They were staying at Shayside, to the west of Warslow, from where we set off at around 10am along the track to Villa Farm. Pictured above is the full team: Sue, Gill, Kevin (bad knee), Millie, Anita, Sue (bad shoulder), David (bad knee), Colin (bad knees), Gaynor’s shadow (asleep after a hard night), me.

From Villa Farm, on the outskirts of Warslow, we headed along the bridleway towards Grindon. It was undulating.

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And muddy in places. Sue E in particular enjoyed gathering as much mud as she could, for later distribution on the floors of Shayside.

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We turned left at Hoo Brook and headed to the cafe at Wettonmill, where David brought a round of drinks (I think) - it was his birthday. By now, Kevin’s knee was whinging to the extent that he decided to retreat to Shayside along the tarmac provided.

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The cycle track that used to be the Manifold Valley railway line led to a good view of Thor's Cave, high above the valley.

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The cave is along the path to the left in the image below. Everyone had been there before, so we continued up to the village of Wetton, Millie assiduously carrying her lunch.

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Here's the view from Wetton, across the Manifold Valley to Grindon. It was becoming steadily cloudier, following earlier bursts of sunshine on a cool day.

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Anita and Millie posed on a block of stone in Wetton that may once have been used to mount horses.

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Lunch was taken beyond the Wetton hills at a sheltered spot near Back of Ecton.

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Continuing up towards Ecton Hill, past a small reservoir, we came across some very docile 'British White' cattle, completely unfazed by Millie’s benign presence.

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Ecton Hill, 369 metres, provided good, if deteriorating, views from the high point of the walk.

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We descended north to the site of a copper mine. This was a state of the art facility in its day over 200 years ago. Copper was being mined here as long as 4000 years ago, but production peaked between 1760 and 1789, when 400 local workers produced 42,000 tons of ore that was transported by pack horse to a smelter eleven miles away. The copper was used for making brass and for lining the bottoms of naval ships to make them sail faster.

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The mine finally closed in 1889. Today the hill was fringed with camouflaged men armed with rifles, so we tiptoed softly away as it started to rain.

By the time we reached the distinctive copper turreted building that dominates Ecton it was raining quite hard and everyone seemed thankful that a short itinerary had been chosen.

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By 2.30 we were back at Shayside, after a wet and muddy, but nevertheless enjoyable, conclusion to the walk.

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Here’s our route - 14 km, 500 metres ascent, taking 4.5 hours:

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Here’s a link to an album of 24 images.

It was good to see everyone after a longish period, and to enjoy David’s birthday tea and cake selection – all very nice cakes that sent Gaynor to sleep, I didn’t need much supper – and Andrew (even more crocked than those on the walk) even got a whiff of cake from afar and put in an appearance. We hope your knee problem resolves itself, Andrew. And we hope the ham in coco-cola went down well!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Friday 27 February 2015 – Another ‘Curry’ Walk

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I joined JJ and Rick on this ‘Curry Walk’, expecting to find just them and a straightforward stroll along the towpath into town. I was wrong. Firstly, Judith – TGO Challenger and Naval Reservist – was there, having left home on the Wirral at around 7 am to get to our rendezvous point (a minute’s walk from our house) by 10 am. JJ had also put details of the walk on a ‘Meetup’ website, and this attracted Lynn, from Altrincham, for her first walk with this somewhat random and I hope not too cliquish group.

Anyway, you can see from the first two images that it was a tolerably pleasant day, if a bit cool and breezy, and the first of the crocuses were attempting to sprout from the towpath verge in Sale.

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You can see the Watch House Cruising Club’s HQ in the distance in the above picture, taken shortly after crossing under the M60 motorway and over the River Mersey. Affixed to the Cruising Club building is the following sign that presumably refers to Cut Hole Bridge, over which the canal crosses Hawthorn Road, which leads to Stretford Cemetery. The sign is a bit of a puzzle as there’s not really room for a ‘Heavy Motor Car’ on Cut Hole Bridge.

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I wasn’t expecting to go down Hawthorn Road. But Rick’s route took us that way. I’m very familiar with these parts, having used Hawthorn Road as a jogging route for a number of years when I lived in Chorlton. It’s also part of the Trans Pennine Trail along which I still frequently cycle.

So I enjoyed the stroll into Chorlton, which can be accomplished by way of numerous different routes. Our route brought us out by the (smartened since I lived nearby) Horse and Jockey pub on Chorlton Green. “Let’s go and look at the church” enthused Rick. “Ok” we agreed, but ‘strange’, I thought – I didn’t remember there being a church, just a collection of grave stones laid where a church had once stood. And that’s what we found.

Wikipedia has quite an extensive entry on Chorlton, including reference to it being in ‘M21’ – the most burgled postcode in the UK in 2014, with 45.2 claims per 1000 of population. I didn’t until today know that cars were manufactured here in the 1920s – Ashby cars appear however to have had a short lifespan.

Regarding ‘The Church’ that Rick was seeking, it appears that ‘A timber-framed chapel dedicated to St Clement provided by the Barlow family in 1512 was used until 1779 when it was replaced by a brick chapel, probably on the same site. Its Grade II listed gatehouse and bell turret remain at Chorlton Green.’ Indeed they do.

Our walk became urban as it progressed along trendy Beech Road (refreshments available) to turn right onto Barlow Moor Road then left into Chorlton Park, following a path on the south side of Chorlton Brook. Rick’s intention had been to follow this path all the way to join the disused railway ‘Loop Line’ near the end of Egerton Road South. But whilst the Metrolink tram line to Manchester Airport is open to trams, pedestrians must wait for landscaping to be finished and paths to be reopened – our way was blocked at Nell Lane. We reluctantly decided not to jump the fence, which was probably just as well as we would have come out at the point shown below, even if we hadn’t been stopped by workmen with heavy machinery.

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Chorlton Brook flows into the River Mersey near where we had been walking along Hawthorn Lane, so we’d been following it for some way. After a pleasant section along the disused railway ‘Loop Line’ – including the sight of PC Plod chasing an errant motor cyclist on his bicycle – we crossed another brook shortly before entering Platt Fields Park. I’d assumed this was Chorlton Brook again, but it appears from the map to be Platt Brook. Perhaps this and other nearby ‘brooks’ flow via a system of culverts into Chorlton Brook and the Mersey. Ornate railings date the infrastructure to a time when ‘things were done properly’.

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This lovely avenue of mature trees drew us towards Platt Fields Park and the start of a lengthy ramble through various types of student accommodation.

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I recall entertaining games of Crown Green Bowls in Birchfields Park, as a student of the 1960s, and strolling along Conyngham Road, we passed St Anselm’s Hall, my first ‘home’ in Manchester, as a student in September 1967. The halls of residence appear to have been well maintained on the whole, though one near the main University buildings was decrepit and empty. But not as decrepit as some of the former student accommodation in parts of Whalley Range; fine old houses left almost derelict through lack of maintenance.

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The large rooms in those buildings made for superb bed-sits or shared houses for students and ‘young professionals’. It’s a great shame to see them in such a mess. On the other hand, The Anchor Coffee House looks quite smart, but JJ and I were equally distressed – this used to be ‘The Whitty’ (Whitworth) where many a boozy gathering was enjoyed. I wonder where students now spend their Friday nights? Surely not in Coffee Houses?

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We continued through Whitworth Park. It hasn’t changed much since the ‘60s, but as we passed through Manchester University’s campus, at one point entering a building through the front door and exiting via the back door as Lynn proudly showed us a short cut, we could see massive changes since the days of the 1960s student. But that’s one side-track too many to describe in this entry.

Before reaching the part of the campus that used to be UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) we passed under the inner city ring road known as the “highway in the sky”, the Mancunian Way, opened in 1967 by Harold Wilson shortly before I arrived as a student. The plaque indicates that it won an award in 1968, but now the whole structure looks pretty tatty.

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The Barnes Wallis Building – UMIST’s Students Union building – was shut for some sort of building work. Refurbishment? – it was new in the 1960s. Where do the students go now?

After passing under the railway line, across which I used to enjoy watching steam trains puff when I was a student, we emerged in front of UMIST’s main building that towers above Granby Row, with a rope sculpture in the foreground. I have happy memories of the main building. It was one of those places, like hospitals and schools, where it’s nice to know your way around but scary if you don’t.

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We hastened on through town to reach This and That by 2 pm. Lynn had to leave for an appointment (see you next time, Lynn) but the rest of us stayed to enjoy a curry….

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…washed down with a beer at a pub around the corner suggested by Alan R, who sadly couldn’t join us today.

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Thanks to JJ for allowing use of the three smaller images above.

Here’s an image that might blow up a bit if you click on it, showing our route from Timperley – one of many ‘green’ routes into Manchester, this one being about 20 km in length and taking around 4 hours.

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Thanks to Rick for providing the route, and to everyone for providing a bit of jollity on this cool February day, on which Judith found one of her ratings at Market Street Metro Station – he amused everyone by addressing her as ‘Ma’am’.

PS JJ’s report is here, and there’s an interesting Wiki entry on the Fallowfield Loop Line here.