JJ is a member of an exclusive running club, details of which are provided at the foot of this entry. A key feature of this running club is the requirement to jump into a tin bath full of tepid water at the end of the run. First home gets clean, warm water.
I’m not a member, but I was invited (with a couple of hours notice) to join JJ on a recce of the course he has devised for a forthcoming run. Participants simply follow a list of written instructions, and any sawdust arrows JJ deems fit to put in place, in order to navigate the course, which in this instance will be nearly twenty miles.
I got the tram to Altrincham and strolled down to Bankhall Lane in Hale to meet JJ. This is about two miles into his route, but he was confident about the first section being accurately described. For most of the day I was testing JJ’s four pages of directions, and a few alterations were made in an effort to make them easy to follow for mapless runners whizzing through the countryside. If they lose their place in the instructions they could be well and truly lost. I imagine that is not such a rare occurrence!
The Bollin Valley provides a delightful green corridor between Altrincham and the airport. Bluebells adorn the ancient woodland, and a good path manoeuvres through a mixture of woodland and meadow and golf course.
As well as the bluebells, the garlic scented Ramsons are just coming into flower, creating a white carpet in the shade of the trees.
The River Bollin is very slow and sedate just now, following a spell of dry weather in these parts.
For a while the path leaves the river and proceeds along Castle Mill Lane, passing a rather dirty trig point near the junction with Mill Lane. JJ yearns to paint this relic of surveying, which marks the highest point in the area – 60 metres.
(How about pink, JJ?)
Soon we found our way back down to the river and the magnificent tunnel under Runway 2. An impressive piece of engineering.
Aircraft spotters will enjoy the next section of the walk (run, on the day) alongside the runway, before winding their way through field paths on the outskirts of Mobberley. With vegetation growing fast, some of these paths will be slow and indistinct for the runners.
JJ has already recce’d the route a couple of times, during which the new bridge shown below has replaced a very rickety section of footpath. He has noted lots of minor changes, often involving fencing, over a short period of time, so a further recce will be needed a few days before the event takes place. There are bound to be a few more minor changes.
Here’s the view looking back from that bridge, which doubled as a tripod.
After reaching Knutsford via lunch on a tree trunk next to the North Cheshire Way footpath, we enjoyed a long and easy section, heading through Tatton Park to the east of Tatton Mere. Just beyond the Old Hall, the route heads across parkland towards a WW2 memorial. Here, the fallow deer and the red deer reside in separate herds, lazily enjoying the spring weather before the responsibilities of motherhood come to many of them.
Here’s the Parachute Regiment memorial that slowly comes into view. A tea break just here was most welcome.
A small and distant red sign is the next target for the runners. I wonder how many of them will spot that from afar? Anyway it will lead them towards the main car park, past the mansion that dates from 1716, though what you can see below is more recent. There’s currently a WW1 memorial flame that will sit outside the hall until 2018. The hall was owned by the Egerton family until 1958, when it was donated to the National Trust.
Unlike most NT properties, the car park is not owned, so even for NT members it can be an expensive place to visit, especially as members also have to pay to go round the Home Farm, which we passed after narrowly evading the car park.
Soon we were heading along good paths through brightly coloured fields, due north to the small village of Rostherne.
Whilst Rostherne has no public house, which fact probably helps to preserve its status as a small village in a rural backwater, it does have a water pump, which despite JJ’s renowned plumbing skills, could not be coaxed into action. Where were you, Norman?
There was an easy short-cut to our intended path, but JJ will send his runners ‘around the houses of Rostherne’. A pretty thatched cottage is passed, outside which this owl lurks.
Next up, St Mary’s Church, the grounds of which we enter through a lych gate dating from 1640, claimed by some to be the finest in Cheshire. The yard is full of slabs of grave stones.
Nearby Rostherne Mere is a Nature Reserve, access to which is discouraged.
This is about as close as you can get as an ordinary member of the public. It’s a haven for a wide variety of ducks and other birds, and many other species, including the somewhat unlikely sightings of a mermaid. And there’s no public house in Rostherne!?
When JJ last came this way, the path to Marsh Lane had been completely destroyed by a plough. Thankfully the farmer has now reinstated the path, which passes pleasantly through fields before a kilometre section of unavoidable tarmac that might get JJ sacked as a trail designer.
Some sowing has already taken place. We passed this near Rycroft Farm, after crossing the M60 motorway. Before and after the farm there was lots of fencing work in progress. Hopefully the integrity of all the footpaths will be preserved.
We headed in a loop by way of recce, not quite reaching the final destination – The Swan with Two Nicks in Little Bollington - before returning to JJ’s car and my gentle stroll back to Altrincham.
Our 30+ km route, with minimal ascent, is shown below, JJ having started from the place where the circle is squared, if you know what I mean.
Thanks, JJ, for getting me out for such an enjoyable day.
1. Here’s some of what Wikipedia says about ‘Tally-Ho’:
The phrase tally-ho is a largely British phrase, which originated from the activity of foxhunting, and other forms of hunting with hounds, shouted when a rider or follower sees the fox. Today the term has evolved to have other meanings, most of which relate to 'pointing out' or 'spotting' a 'target'. For example, it is sometimes used as slang in air traffic control to verify a radar contact has been visually confirmed.
Tally-ho dates from around 1772, and is probably derived from the French taïaut, a cry used to excite hounds when hunting deer. According to other sources, the phrase may have originated from the second half of the 13th century, from the concatenation of a two word war cry: taille haut; "taille" being the cutting edge of the sword and "haut" translating to high (or 'raised up'), thus the original meaning of this interjection is something close to "Swords up!".
"Tally-ho" had its first recorded use in the Americas in an 1773 hunting journal. From there, its use spread as more British colonists arrived. However, the phrase fell out of favour following the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).
2. Here’s what the Cheshire club of which JJ is a member has to say:
The Cheshire Tally-Ho Hare and Hounds Club is a traditional running club, founded in 1872. The club holds runs (called trails) from a number of venues around Cheshire and Derbyshire.
A trail consists of the Hounds following a marked trail laid by the Hares in a circular route of about 8 miles. Trails usually start and end at a pub. After the run, members get together and enjoy a meal and a drink in the pub.
The club is essentially non-competitive, and the club’s runs are designed so that groups of runners (packs of hounds) of similar ability set off together at times representing the likely speed of the pack. The trails are cross country, and any time spent on roads, while necessary at times, is looked on as disappointing, and the trail layer is likely to hear some appropriate comments at the finish. The trail layers, the Hares, vary from venue to venue, so that the club members can each participate.
The packs start at various times, the earliest before 14:00. The slow pack leaves at about 14:00, the medium pack 15 minutes later, and the fast pack at 14:30. The run ends around 16:00 or so.
The ablutions vary from the sublime, a leisure centre at Frodsham with showers and sauna, to the ridiculous (normal), namely bathing in a tin bath.
Membership is by election only, and requires two sponsors from the members. If interested in running through cow fields (and other cow things) in all weathers and conditions just for the fun of it please contact the Hon.Sec .