Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Friday 3 August 2018 – A Stroll with Conrad

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Conrad is a good friend who I would never have encountered but for this blog. He met Mick and Gayle on one of their long walks, following which we became aware of each others blogging exploits, enjoyed ‘following’ each other, and eventually met up. Conrad’s extensive blogging records, dating from 2009, are here, though as with most bloggers his most interesting trips may have been much earlier.

On 10 April 2017 Conrad set off on a walk from Berwick-on-Tweed to Castle Carey. It’s quite a long way and has provided considerable challenges.

On catching up with his reports after our return from ‘Summer in the Alps’, I realised that he had passed by Timperley a couple of days earlier. Not an entirely enjoyable experience as he had accidentally left the excellent surface of the Trans Pennine Trail in favour of an obscure sea of mud under the M60 motorway, rather than use the shiny dry footbridge nearby.

He was still close by, staying at Winterley, near Crewe, on Thursday night. So I set off with a view to surprising him on the South Cheshire Way footpath that runs directly south from Winterley. I assumed that as he was moving south, he would take that route. (But, dear reader, you may have noted from the start date of Conrad’s walk that he sometimes moves in mysterious ways!)

Anyway, I parked up in Weston and headed north through the Cheshire countryside, pausing for the occasional snap (see below) and wondering when I would bump into said heroic Long Distance Walker.

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After negotiating my way uneasily through the bunkers of Crewe Golf Club, where hundreds of emaciated old men were driving round in buggies and wielding cartloads of clubs, I realised it was after 10 am and I was approaching Conrad’s departure point. A ‘phone call was needed.

Q. “Where are you, Conrad?”

A: “Alsager.”

I must admit, I hadn’t expected him to head east from his overnight stop.

“Text me with your map reference in an hour’s time.”

I returned to Weston – ‘Walk 1’ below – 11.6 km.

After parking on a grass verge by the A500, I received two messages:

1. ‘SJ 796 595 could be a while’
2. ‘SJ 790 545 In middle of nowhere. Will email emergency point shortly’

Conrad certainly knows how to get misplaced on an obscure route. But with the aid of modern technology I was soon able to ambush him with a cup of tea.

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The next bit of navigation was easy, as I’d come that way. I decided to stay with Conrad along the footpath to Audley. After passing Millend and a pond that served as a reserve for Canada Geese, the footpath proceeded towards a sewage works. Except that at SJ 794 520 the path ceased to exist. We spent quite a few minutes relocating to a minor road, where I abandoned our hero and returned to Polly. Walk 2 – 5.3 km.

Another short walk in Audley relocated Conrad and led up a paved road to some sandwiches that I’d secreted earlier in Polly’s boot. Walk 3 – 1.4 km.

We worked out a sensible route to Madeley Heath, where I was to recce the suitability of a main road to Madeley for a pedestrian like Conrad. So off I went with confidence, carried out the recce, and parked up in Madeley Heath.

Conrad made good progress, and we met at the only two benches, by Bates Wood Nature Reserve, on the route. It was 3.15. We took pictures of each other – see header picture.

The paths hereabouts were good, and from the car (and Conrad’s hill route) you could see hills littered along the horizon to the west. But most of the scenery was as shown below. Lush tree foliage but drought parched grasses.

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Heading past Agger Hill Farm, a beautiful flower proclaimed itself from the top of a rather manky stem.

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After a steep descent we reached the A531 at Madeley Heath Farm, where they maybe don’t have much space as the animals appear to be shrunken versions of the real thing.

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My recce had revealed a negotiable pavement to Madeley, but it was after 4pm and Conrad needed a rest. He likes to be truly ‘on holiday’ after 4pm. So Walk 4 ended after 5.3 km at Madeley Heath, from where Polly transported our legendary Long Distance Walker to near his B&B in Madeley.

“Don’t take me all the way, I want to arrive on foot!”

What a lovely day out, away from all the post-holiday domestic chores, and thanks to the emptiness of the M6 I was able to return home in time to have tea on the table just as her majesty returned home from work.

Here are my ramblings for the day – all there and back, totalling about 24 km, with 150 metres ascent.

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Conrad’s report on the day is here, and I’m pleased to discover that his B&B was excellent and that he enjoyed poached salmon for supper.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 31 - Montreuil-sur-Mer to Timperley

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Another 9 to 5 day in the car. Travelling north. To cooler climes. Only 24°C here.

An uneventful drive, and all is well at home, albeit the lawns are a bit patchy.

There's a gadget on the dashboard of the car that tells us we spent nearly 65 hours in the car over the past month. (Seems quite a lot!) We covered 2753 miles at an average speed of 42 mph, getting 62.2 mpg. I could work out the cost but I'm not going to - it was far less than a long haul flight would cost for just one of us.

We are so lucky to have the wonderful and varied scenery and people of Europe on our doorstep.

Not short of further statistics, I can report that during the month the time we spent walking knocked that car statistic into a cocked hat. During the many hours of our walks we covered around 350 km (220 miles) in distance and about 21,000 metres (13 miles) in height gain. I'll leave the geeks to work out the average gradient!
 
Today's pictures:
From breakfast in Montreuil to a deserted towpath in Timperley

'Summer in the Alps' is taking a short break. 

To be continued. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 30 - Heidelberg to Montreuil-sur-Mer

Tuesday 31 July 2018

The first full day's drive of this trip saw us travelling the 417 miles to Montreuil-sur-Mer between 9am and 5pm. We took a 'toll free' route through Germany,  Luxembourg and Belgium (perhaps passing Mick and Gayle en route), finishing with some French country roads.

An easy journey on a sunny day, and we have a nice but cheap room in the Best Western Hermitage hotel in the centre of town. Thankfully the temperature here in Montreuil is closer to 25°C than the 30+ temperatures that we 'enjoyed' yesterday.

Thanks to the magnificent spread presented to us this morning, we haven't needed to eat all day - until a tasty picnic meal was sourced this evening at the local supermarket. It was great that Thomas was able to delay his journey to work, with Andrea taking the day off, so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast with them and linger over our farewells, during which a large TV that they brought over from Timperley was loaded up for a return to Timperley. Apparently it won't work in Germany without some extra gubbins. Anyone need a TV?

Anyway, your hospitality is very much appreciated, T and A, and it has been great to catch up, and enjoy your company in both Heidelberg and Matrei.

An after dinner stroll around the ramparts concluded the day's activities. There's an equally good walk around the base of the ramparts, but the evening light is better appreciated on top. The walks are both about 3 km in length.

Today: 3.5 km walk around Montreuil's ramparts. We often stay here and enjoy this walk, so I won't reiterate previous reports. We are nearly home, but it feels as if we are still very much on holiday.
 
Today's pictures were all taken in Montreuil-sur-Mer:
The Mairie (Town Hall)
The church, with our hotel in the background to the left
Dinner
The ramparts
Evening in the main square

'Summer in the Alps' Day 29 - Schloss Schwetzingen Gardens

Monday 30 July 2018

Andrea and Thomas kindly loaned us their bikes on another hot day. They went to work early, leaving us to gorge on the contents of their fridge - a fine selection of meats and cheeses.

By 9.30 we were zooming off down the hill to the River Neckar, the reverse of which came rather slow, some hours later.

Cycle paths make Heidelberg very 'bike friendly' though you have to get used to a series of traffic lights specifically for cyclists. Everyone seems compliant.

Through the other side of town, we tried to follow the Schwetzingen signs as best we could, passing fields of sunflowers and wealthy looking suburbs. We managed to lose our way a few times and by the time we reached Schwetzingen we'd clocked up 25 km for the 21 km route.

The gardens were wonderful. We spent the best part of three hours exploring them - shady avenues, flower gardens, lakes and grottos, a bath house with an enormous walk-in bath, a mosque, lots of topiary, Temples of Apollo, Mercury and Minerva, numerous fountains, etc, etc. Great!

Cycling back home in conditions likened to being under a hot hair dryer was a little taxing, especially the final 170 metre steep hill up Wilhelmsfelder Strasse. Luckily we had lots of water and came across some shady benches on which Sue could take a nap.

After the 21.5 km ride, we were back by 4.30. Plenty of time to eat ice cream, shower and catch the number 34 bus to meet Andrea and Thomas at 6pm in Bismarckplatz. Then a stroll to Kulturhausbrauerei restaurant to enjoy an evening of good food, great company, and excellent beer that is brewed on site.

The evening wouldn't have been complete without a run for the bus and (in a separate incident) my tripping over a kerb - thus relegating me to light duties, if any, and an easy chair with some ice.

Today: 4.5 km walk around the gardens, plus 46.5 km bike ride with 300 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Heidelberg - across the Neckar
Sunflowers
Schwetzingen Gardens - entrance
Schwetzingen Gardens - one of very many views
Sue returns across the bridge

Monday, 30 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 28 - Dornbirn  to Heidelberg

Sunday 29 July 2018

Dinner on Friday was at Fetz, and very good it was too. We dined outside under a canopy. Just as well, as it rained. The cool air was very pleasant. The restaurant commands great mountain views, even in the rain - see top picture, and sunset from the same spot features in an earlier posting.

We got a good night's sleep in Markus's flat in Dornbirn, despite the heat. Lemon cake, bread rolls and strong coffee set us up for the easy 212 mile drive to Heidelberg, where Thomas and Andrea welcomed us with refreshing tea, plum cake and custard tarts.

We are now out of the Alps, which vanished remarkably quickly in our rear view mirror as we left Dornbirn and moved into Germany without noticing the border.

The four of us spent the afternoon strolling through the shady woods to Heidelberg's centre from T and A's home on Wilhelmsfelder Strasse, which is about 200 metres above the city. We gained occasional views of the 13th century castle that was sacked in the 1600s during the thirty year war. In the 19th century proposals to restore the entire structure were rejected on the grounds that it would provide a false representation of history. A compromise was reached whereby only a small part was restored. Maintaining the rest of the ruins is proving costly... it's unusual to find as little scaffolding as there was today.

Having enjoyed the walk, culminating in a steep descent past breathless Japanese tourists, we took the number 34 bus back to base, and a most pleasant evening with salads and BBQ in the warmth of Thomas and Andrea's garden.

Cheers!

Today: 8.5 km, 50 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
The view from Fetz restaurant in the rain
Andrea's plum cake
Lunch in Heidelberg
Sue collects dinner
Heidelberg, from above the Philosophenweg