Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Monday, 31 December 2018

Saturday 29 December 2018 – Christmas at Dunham Massey

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Saturday brought a visit from J and J, whose parents sadly both had to work. That gave Sue and me the opportunity to visit ‘Christmas at Dunham Massey’ that folk have been raving about. It comprises an after dark visit to the Winter Garden, where an illuminated route took us an hour to negotiate.

It came up to expectations, starting with a long illuminated archway past puzzled daffodils. I forgot to turn on the flash setting – I still have to learn the camera settings on the S9 phone, but it does seem to perform ok in conditions of low light.

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It was hard to capture the ambience, as the colours kept changing.

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We have many daylight pictures of the ‘shiny bark’ silver birch trees pictured below.

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The route was spiced with numerous interesting lighting effects.

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Jacob was required, in order to obtain a badge at the end, to take a selfie with Dasher. All Santa’s reindeer could be found at some point in the garden.

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There were some giant reindeer scattered amongst the life-size ones. Below, you can see people passing through the legs of the animal in the middle of the picture.

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A bubble machine combined with imaginative lighting provided fun for all.

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The large lawn was festooned with lights that changed colour to the sound of Christmas music.

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This is Jessica’s ‘selfie’ with Dancer. “Wifi selfie” she said, “… I have an implant.”

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The rose garden was nicely lit, with the cash tills of vendors of gourmet marshmallows ringing merrily. There were plenty of toasting coals, and the fare was delicious. If you wanted to, you could bring your own marshmallows.

Returning towards the hall, we passed through an area of dangling baubles that constantly changed colour.

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I wonder what the resident swans think of all this?

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After exiting the Winter Garden, we passed the front of the hall, where a white bearded gent was frantically distributing some late presents.

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The hour in the garden was followed by an hour on some children’s rides. Jacob zipped up and down the Helter Skelter.

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They both enjoyed the bucking bronco ride.

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At the exit, a waterfall danced to the sound of Christmas music. I have a two minute video of this that I haven’t worked out how to download from the phone. Probably just as well – this posting is quite cheesy enough without that video!

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I think everyone enjoyed their evening out – the lighting effects were certainly well up to expectation.

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Saturday, 29 December 2018

Saturday 29 December 2018 – Wythenshawe parkrun number 371

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“Is nobody else taking this seriously?” quipped Paul, displaying his brand new (lack of) hair style!

Meanwhile, Jenn perched on the ‘Run Director’s Bollard’ to deliver the usual briefing to today’s 236 participants.

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Waiting at the finish line, stalwart volunteers Norma and Jane. The event couldn’t run without people like these to scan barcodes and carry out a number of other duties. (I won’t divulge their nickname!)

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Here’s an unusual snap, as I’m normally the one with the camera. Thanks go to another volunteer, Jan, for this picture taken at the end of the first lap. Despite the impression of motion, this is the point at which I discover that I’ve gone too fast. Today was no exception; most of those pictured behind me had passed me by the time I got to this point, about 20 metres from the finish, on the second lap.

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Today’s full results are here, but it was primarily a social occasion, with a good chat with some regulars in the café afterwards.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Friday 28 December 2018 – Appleton

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After a break due to other commitments, I managed at last to check out another of Jen Darling’s ‘Pub Walks in Cheshire’ routes.

This one, around Appleton, was excellent.

I parked near the London Bridge Inn in Appleton, after a 30 minute drive from Timperley. The walk starts by crossing the road, then the bridge, and dropping down to the Bridgewater Canal by Thorn Marine.

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I doubled back under the bridge, passing ‘The Cheshire Cat’, a rental barge.

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A short stroll along the canal in the direction of Lymm led to Lumb Brook Bridge, which dates from 1770. I left the canal for good here.

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Heading under the bridge, this walk enjoys the scenery and wildlife of the Lumb Brook Valley, an area of woodland and wildflower meadows.

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A few early catkins were in evidence, as were woodpeckers, nuthatches, bullfinches and grey wagtails, together with numerous robins and other small birds.

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The valley is divided into three sections, first the Millennium Green with its wildflower meadows, then The Dingle, and finally Ford’s Rough, where the picture below was taken.

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Ford’s Rough ends at this bridge.

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With Dipping Brook to my right, I then headed up a field path to a small pond.

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Further along the route, I was intrigued to see the house that was built by an Admiral, who fitted it out as if it were a ship. It used to comprise the whole building shown below, but it now appears to have been divided.

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Here’s an extract from ‘The Roads from Warrington’.

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Later, this picture dating from around 1890 shows the farm with duck pond, and farm servants including milk maids in traditional dress.

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Note a small sandstone pillar to the left of the two maids in the above picture. It’s the same pillar as shown below, today, in the same grassy triangle. It is reputed to have been placed there to mark the spot where Cromwell’s horse was buried after being killed nearby in a skirmish in 1648, long before the current housing was built.

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From here, a short walk downhill along Park Lane leads to a right turn along a delightful path to Hillcliffe, along which views over the Warrington area open up. Not brilliant in today’s heavily overcast and dull conditions. Hopefully we’ll enjoy a little more vibrancy of colours when we walk this route again on a Friday morning in springtime.

A huge cemetery, Fox Covert Cemetery is reached. I’d never been there before.

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At the top of the cemetery is a black and white lychgate, marking the entrance to the ancient burial ground of Hillcliffe Baptist Church.

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From there, a series of beech bordered ginnels through modern housing trace the route of an old footpath known as the ‘Rabbit Run’, a reminder of the grassy slopes on which rabbits used to frolic.

Here’s the route – 10 km with about 100 metres ascent. It took me a couple of hours.

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Thanks to Jen for allowing me the opportunity to check this excellent route. Whilst I’ve suggested a few amendments to her text, there was only one place where I went slightly wrong whilst following her instructions without a map.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Black Vanilla Orchid (Nigritella nigra)

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This denizen of high alpine meadows varies in colour from blackish purple to light pink. It’s a small, distinctive flower with a scent of vanilla with a hint of cocoa. It is said that cows that eat them produce milk with a chocolate flavour.

Whilst it’s abundant in the Alps, I don’t think you are likely to find it in the UK.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Willow leaved Gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea)

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This distinctive gentian is native to central and eastern Europe, primarily in mountain woodland, though it does occur in less wooded open pasture in some areas, perhaps persisting after woodland clearance.

The fairly tall (60-90 cm) plant was abundant this year in woodland near Damüls, where this specimen was seen high above the Rhine valley near Lake Constance.

The plant has medicinal qualities, hence being named after Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Tuesday 25 December 2018 – Christmas Day parkrun at Wilmslow

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Whilst Sue went bellringing and Richard and Diana lingered over breakfast, I popped over to chez Barber, and a lift to Wilmslow parkrun, one of very few ‘running’ in the area today.

The top picture shows our team of four – Laura, Greg, Paul and me, after we had finished in times varying from Greg’s 20.52 to my rather more leisurely 23.29 for the 5 km. Sadly both Sue and Jeanette, who would have loved to have joined us, are both sidelined with injuries. The four of us were able to stay free of such impediments on a warm morning (for the time of year) that was ideal for running.

Here, the Barbers get ready to start.

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Some 349 people took part. It was a bit crowded in the starting area, never mind on the fairly narrow paths of The Carrs, beside the River Bollin.

Here we are milling around before the start, which took place after a most humorous speech from the run director that I wish I’d recorded.

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Paul and I travel in style with our Wythenshawe shirts.

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What a great way to start Christmas Day. Followed by a pleasant interlude for coffee at chez Barber, before I left Jeanette to cater for her eleven strong party and nipped home to prepare lunch for our own guests (R + D) and for Mike, who likes the way I cook the sprouts!

Monday, 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

From Martin and Sue…

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Much of our close family assembled for a very happy Christmas Eve in Timperley, and we wish everyone who knows us, together with Great Grandmas Dot and Katie, and Simon at work, a Very….

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Sunday, 23 December 2018

Saturday 22 December 2018 – Wythenshawe parkrun number 370

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It was a good turn out of 278 for the Christmas parkrun at Wythenshawe, on a rainy day. But the rain just about held off until after the event. Having said that, the course was muddy.

My phone has an app that detects a range of prohibited chemicals. Thus Owen was caught out by this new technology that detected that his jacket was laden with such chemicals. Luckily the run director didn’t spot this.

There were lots of dodgy characters around, including a rare appearance from ‘Nobby No Show’, one of Owen’s suppliers. It’s amazing that his own jacket passed the test. He’s taken precautions. Note the photo bomber, and a man in the background with a carrot up his nose. Strange people, these parkrunners!

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The Cordingley clan arrived in force, and, in the case of The Godfather (who probably supplies ‘No Show’), in disguise.

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This is Wythenshawe parkrun’s ‘Royal (or should that be Royle?) Family’. Numbers would plummet without them. Here, a few members of the family have been infiltrated by ‘Fast Michael’.

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The following three gentlemen arrived in disguise. The well lit tree has leggings that after a while impede the runner’s progress as the soggy bottoms get stuck under the shoes, making forward movement tiresome. The elf in the middle was hampered by the umbrella in his pocket, and on the right is an impersonator of a Royal Family member who is in turn impersonating a topical character.

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After many announcements, run director Dan got the show on the road. The tree managed to lead the field into the first corner (much cheering). It gradually slowed down after that, and was overtaken by 85 less encumbered participants. But not by its sapling, which finished as an unknown runner in 97th position, having forgotten its barcode.

Owen finished a bit later, chased in by Annie, whose pretence at being a tree was arguably questionable.

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Here’s the finishing funnel, staffed most efficiently by Strict Syd and his team of drug testers, one of whom is giving Owen a full scan before despatching him to the Courtyard Dungeon. There are several other familiar faces in this picture.

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Sue strolled home in around 37 minutes, in 246th position, complaining about having to walk due to a damaged muscle.

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The Courtyard Tearoom provided bacon and sausage butties and hot drinks, superbly organised by Kate H, whose dynasty as Royalty of Wythenshawe is surpassed by the Cordingleys only on grounds of the sheer numbers of the latter.

Here, Sue has been joined by Jeanette (injured), Sapling (‘male member of the year at his local gym’), and Sarah – too ill to run but hungry enough to come for a bacon buttie.

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Loads of people were catered for, and the large café was pretty full for a while – a very jolly occasion with much camaraderie.

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Meanwhile, Dan could only find a wifi signal in the rain outside. So the results were processed by an elf, a fairy and a setter dog team, all of whom were slowly getting wetter and colder. They and the other run directors and volunteers are the people who make this popular event happen, and we should all be exceedingly grateful for their unstinting efforts. Thanks in particular to Andy H (The Fairy), who despite his encumbrances finished in the top 20 today. Not that it’s a race, of course.

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To quote Jan (pictured far left in the penultimate picture), “We are lucky to have such a great community on a Saturday, it brings all sorts of people together. I can't imagine Saturday mornings without parkrun anymore.”

Many a tear can be shed, just by reading parkrun stories from across the globe.