Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Friday 19 October 2007

Sunday 14 October 2007 - The Calderdale Mountain Bike Marathon

This is the sixth time I have participated in this event since 2000.

This year, as last, I met up at the 9 am start with my old pal from UMIST, Robert.  Robert has a ‘hybrid’ bike but this year has just returned from a cycling holiday and is equipped with proper shoes that seem to integrate with his pedals; and he proudly displays shiny new kevlon lined tyres. I should have been better prepared than last year, when I only just made the start, after arriving from San Francisco at 6.30 and only left Manchester Airport at 7.30 am.  But then the bike was all ready for action, whilst today I had a hangover and I had opened the shed door to discover a flat tyre. So I set off nervously having deployed my only spare inner tube before the start, in the knowledge that it had only been repaired, with difficulty, a few days earlier.

Robert showed his superior fitness and with his skinny tyres shot off into the distance, so it was something of a surprise when he overtook me shortly after the first support point. This comes soon after a sharp rocky descent where many people dismount. I’d overtaken lots of folk here, but hadn’t noticed Robert – concentration and care is required. This section has frustrated me in the past as with the onset of suspension and disc brakes there should be no need to walk down here (though I do excuse Robert, who has neither of those gadgets nor a proper mountain bike). But today, as last year, those walking stepped aside pretty quickly and graciously.

The weather was excellent and the slithery trails mixed with a few road sections gave a varied and interesting trip. The 27 mile route is mainly off-road, sometimes quite ‘technical’, and includes about 1350 metres of ascent. There are usually 200 to 300 participants and each year we see more serious racers – the event must have got onto a mountain bike race calendar. Last year’s winner took just over two hours. This year I finished in 3 hours 15 minutes, 7 minutes behind Robert. Very satisfactory, as we’d both done our best times and felt good, despite a few things (speedo, water bottle) dropping off my bike. Our suspension-less machines looked rather out of place amongst all the fancy equipment on view. But these people probably race every weekend, whilst it’s our only mountain bike event of the year.

(The picture was taken at a support point in 2003 – we didn’t take cameras this year.)

Saturday 13 October 2007 - Lathkill Dale

Sue and I ventured out to Middleton by Youlgreave to meet four of our ex-Johannesburg Hiking Club friends, up from the south to participate in an LDWA walk tomorrow. Despite the overcast day the turning colours were lovely. We enjoyed a classic 17 km stroll down Bradford Dale past Youlgreave to Alport, then turning up Lathkill Dale, before leaving shortly before reaching Monyash. Cutting across to One Ash Grange Farm, whilst admiring the friendly pig (and taking a photo for a caption contest!), we encountered people known to the JHC members of our group. This resulted in a hasty departure, unlike our last visit to this spot earlier in the year, when there had been no ‘dark past’ involving the people we met on that occasion. It was a pleasant walk back to Middleton, where we enjoyed copious mugs of tea in Sue and David’s rented cottage, before adjourning home via the little picture gallery, for a ‘Carry On Up the Vanoise’ reunion meal.
Having left my boots in the porch at home today, I was obliged to walk in open sandals today. As we seem to be in a dry season this presented no difficulties whatever and was actually very pleasant, even if I do need a clean pair of socks tomorrow.
I’ll report on some of today’s wildlife on a quiet day next week.

Friday 12 October 2007 - Autumn Colours

This may be a familiar theme for the next couple of weeks. Despite it being an overcast day the colours in the garden and by the Bridgewater Canal are at their best yet. I’m also noticing more Black-headed Gulls in residence, which perhaps indicates the onset of Autumn, despite the t-shirt weather.

Thursday 11 October 2007 - TGO Challenge Memories

Last night, Sue and Nick and I managed a quick turnaround before tripping off to Stockport to renew acquaintance with Andy Howell, who was giving Stockport Walking and Outdoor Group a talk/slide show on the TGO Challenge. About 20 people attended Andy’s well balanced and beautifully illustrated presentation, and it was great to chat to him afterwards and discuss our respective plans for next year’s TGO Challenge and other trips.
I wonder whether this ‘bridge’ that I crossed last year at the Linn of Avon (it’s a bemused workman posing, not me) will have been widened by then?

Wednesday 10 October 2007 - Lud's Church

My old friend from our days at UMIST, Nick, currently in charge of Nike’s hat manufacturing in Taipei, is over for a few days. So today Sue took a day off and the three of us recced a Christmas walk that neither Sue nor Nick can come on. It proved to be a lovely day, the mist clearing from The Roaches as we arrived at the parking place near Upper Hulme. We set off with a gaggle of young school kids who were being taught how to climb. They were having a great time – how much better than being forced to play rugby like I was at their age! We soon left them after passing the Don Whillans Memorial Hut. Our morning route was over the Roaches to Roach End, and on to The Ship at Wincle via lovely woodland, Lud’s Church (where today’s photo was taken), and the beautiful Dane Valley - simply wonderful. The ‘sandwiches’ at The Ship range from £4.50 to £7.50 – which some may consider a little pricey. But these efforts come with a knife and fork, chips and salad, and fine real ale to wash down the ‘fresh cut granary bloomer bread’. Superb.

So after a happy hour in the pub (actually, we should have sat outside on this day fit for t-shirts and shorts) we ambled off up to Hanging Stone, which on our evening walks here we usually by-pass. But today we ascended the 40 metres up to the stone, and its memorials, and admired the views towards the Roaches and down to Tittesworth Reservoir. Then a lower, level afternoon route took us easily to Clough Head. But the path through the farm at Buxton Brow was inundated with slurry, so ‘proceed with care’ was the order of the day. There was a way around it; boots remained pristine, and after a tea break we found the nice path leading to Greenhouse. Our return to the car from here was blighted by an overgrown path that was impossible to follow. Clearly marked by a sign, it disappeared into a thicket of bramble and nettles. Thanks to Sue’s pioneering exploits we got through to the road, but not by the correct route.

The Christmas walk will take a different line!

Tuesday 9 October 2007 - A Friendly Heron

Managed a short break from work for exercise by the canal, where a heron was studiously fishing. The bird looked in fine fettle. I know this because I studied it carefully from a distance of 2 metres. It looked up from its fishing, wary of someone so close, but continued as soon as I moved on. It was ignoring cyclists as well as walkers, but would no doubt shortly be ‘moved on’ by someone’s dog.

Monday 8 October 2007 - Roclites and Sealskinz – a good combination

Well, no time for a proper blog today as a work deadline has intervened. However, I should mention that to my delight the Roclites were comfy yesterday with Sealskinz waterproof socks, so that will be good for occasions when I want to use them in wet conditions, such as those in today’s photo, taken on 28 October last year, at Yockenthwaite in Langstrothdale. Aren’t we so lucky with the weather to have to go back that far for a truly wet day!

Thursday 18 October 2007

Sunday 7 October 2007 - Autumn Skies

Today a clear blue sky encouraged us to wash down our chocolate croissants with a local stroll. So off we went to Alderley Edge for a familiar two hour round from the Drum and Monkey. There were lots of people out – dog walkers, families, groups of young walkers, pensioners – folk of all sorts. As we supped our flask of tea on a log near Edge House Farm we contemplated the view towards the Peak District. I thought about Jim Perrin’s comments in November’s TGO mag. Wind farms, reservoirs, landfill sites, the 4x4 brigade, etc, are getting him down. Sitting here on the edge of suburbia, but for people’s clothing it could be 100 years ago – no sign of the conspicuous consumption and the other stuff that seems to depress Jim, and cheery hellos from everyone taking advantage of the lovely morning to get a bit of fresh air.
And after discussion with Sue, we decide to try the ‘crap taster blog’ offered by Fasthosts. There seems nothing to lose, so I’ll give it a shot. Now!
Later (A Lot Later!)
Experiments with 'Blogware' failed. Then I made a further exploration into 'Blogspot' and am giving that my best shot. I'll catch up with the entries as soon as I can.....

Saturday 6 October 2007 - A Dilemma

After a deal of wrestling with stuff I don’t really understand, I think I’ve transferred the old u-net (mountainview) web pages – all 120 of them – to the Fasthosts hosted site, and I’ve managed to install an automatic redirect for most of the pages. The Outlook Express address list has also been tidied up and categorised so that I can inform people of the email changes in manageable chunks.
So then I turned my efforts to uploading these jottings. I’ve collected useful notes on installing Wordpress – ‘The Ultimate Blog’. But now I find our Fasthosts package would need to be substantially upgraded in order to cope with the Wordpress software. Fasthosts offer a ‘taster’ blog service for no charge, but it looks crap. So should I just use a new web page, or a link to a pdf file, change from Fasthosts, or forget the whole idea? I look at a number of outdoor blogs: the ‘stayers’ seem to use Wordpress, Blogspot or specially constructed pages. I’ll sleep on it…..dreaming of sunny climes.

Friday 5 October 2007 - Private Lives

Tonight we enjoyed a hilarious performance of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, at Manchester’s Library Theatre. A most enjoyable way to end the week. The theatre was full, and whilst the management had missed a trick by running out of programmes (tomorrow is the last night), it’s nice to know that good performances are recognised by better attendances than expected.

If I had the text I’d reproduce more than just these two of the wonderful one-liners:
“Very flat, Norfolk”
“Don’t quibble, Sibyl”

Here’s a review from The Manchester Evening News:

Private Lives @ Library Theatre
Kevin Bourke - 12/ 9/2007

BRILLIANTLY barbed and extravagantly enjoyable, Chris Honer’s elegant new production of the Noel Coward classic has teeth and claws as well as heart and soul.
Despite the popular image of Coward as thoroughly superficial, Honer’s perceptive production throws the spotlight on the language of the play.
In its precision and barely-controlled fury, it devastatingly reveals how thin is the veneer of civilization, he argues, prefiguring Pinter and even David Mamet.
Yet, and just as importantly, the play is hilariously funny and this spot-on production has the audience falling around with laughter, with the cast, especially Phillipa Peak who plays Amanda, all demonstrating tremendous comic talent.
Five years before the play opens on a hotel balcony in the luxury French resort of Deauville, Amanda and Elyot (James Wallace) had been married before their very passion tore them apart.

Married again
Now both of them have married again – he to Sybil (Isla Carter), she to Victor (Philip Rham) – and, to their mutual dismay, find themselves about to start their honeymoons in adjoining rooms.
Amidst the verbal skirmishing, love once more rears its beguiling head and the pair high-tail it off to Amanda’s secret flat in Paris, carelessly abandoning their respective spouses without a word. But back in Paris, old tensions violently reveal themselves even before Sybil and Victor track them down.
Years of inferior rep productions and dull, uninspired but high-profile revivals have somewhat taken the lustre off Private Lives. But this exhilarating, production fairly fizzes with life, love, pain and laughter.

The photo shows Phillipa Peak (Amanda), Philip Rham (Victor), and Isla Carter (Sibyl).

Thursday 4 October 2007 - Inspiration

Today's entry was to be about the man whose writings helped inspire my Alpine backpacking trips in the early 1980's. I'll leave it to a later date, but in the meantime here's Sue on top of Snowdon on 14 September, with the mountain our 'hero' reputedly climbed 879 times in the background.

Wednesday 3 October 2007 - Fugitives and Roclites

Back in June, after the TGO Challenge had finally finished off my old Karrimor KSB3 boots, and the soles of my even older and comfier Trezetas had parted company from the uppers in the Dolomites, I was forced into going shopping for replacement boots, and also for ‘trail shoes’, given that my newish Salomon shoes had disintegrated.

I went into Manchester and toured the usual shops – Cotswold, Blacks, Brighams, Milletts…. In each one I strolled up to the poorly stocked boot section, browsed and left after a couple of minutes. Nobody in any of those shops perceived me to be a potential customer. So I got in the car and went to Hathersage, arriving at Outside at lunch time. As I strolled into the boot section I was asked whether I would like any help. What a break through! Would the trip be worthwhile? Of course! After much careful measuring, and serious apologies for the fact that of the four different boots they insisted on me trying on, one was not in stock in my size, the Asolo Fugitives felt ideal. And on to the trail shoes….the same story, and Innov8 Roclites were added to my ‘basket’. All this took at least an hour, and given the standard of attention and service I decided not to ask for a discount. These purchases were important, especially the Fugitives which were to be taken immediately to the Dolomites and then on to the Berlinerweg (Mayrhofen). They performed so well on those trips that a thank you card was sent to Outside. Perfect for the job, especially for the steep scree slopes of the Dolomites, where I find ankle support is helpful. They have certainly performed well over their first demanding 400 km of use. And the Roclites. They were half a size smaller and are deliberately on the ‘snug’ side and have rubbed my heel. In fact their first longish walk was earlier this week on the 31 km ‘Altrincham Circular’. Albeit I had protected my heels, they were extremely comfy. The only time I noticed them was on marshy ground, where the water ingress was as if I was wearing sandals. But they dried out very quickly, a huge contrast to the KSBs, whose uppers had turned to the consistency of blotting paper on the TGO Challenge.

So if you need new walking boots or shoes, and live within range of Hathersage, here’s my recommendation: ignore the ‘boot guides’ in the well meaning mags and visit the experts at Outside.

They will find something of acceptable quality to suit the shape of your feet.
Good luck!

Postscript - 18 January 2008
The Asolo Fugitive boots remain supremely comfy after 600 km of use, but once they were subjected to very wet conditions (after about 500 km) they started to seep water. They only leak in very wet conditions, but we've had a lot of those recently. The soles are also showing signs of wear. So it's Sealskinz socks to the rescue. These keep my feet beautifully dry, despite any boot leakage.

Postscript - 14 March 2011Believe it or not, the Asolo Fugitives have now done nearly 2250 km, and despite being pretty battered they've outlasted their replacements.  They still 'seep' a little, but one of the GORE-TEX® liners remains more or less intact.

On the other hand, the Roclites proved to be less robust and lasted only 300 km.  See here for more comments.

Tuesday 2 October 2007 - Mute Swans

The Bridgewater Canal, just across the road, has, this year, two families of Mute Swans whose territories overlap where we access the towpath. One is a family of two parents and one youngster, always seen together; the other family has four cygnets, one of which is often in sight of the others but some way away, and one of the parents is rarely seen. They are quiet birds, gently mewing when offered bread. Appropriately named ‘mute’ compared with the quacking Mallards and the bad tempered hissing Canada Geese. And they generally just paddle around, munching grass at the side of the canal. But one day last week I witnessed two of the parents who seemed to have spotted a small child with bread from about half a mile away. Side by side, with their legs running and with laboured but majestically flapping wings as they took off on their short journey, they occupied the whole width of the canal. A most impressive sight.


It seems I need this here to get it into the Profile screen......

Monday 15 October 2007

Monday 1 October 2007 - A Walk from Home - The Altrincham Circular

Today is the fourth anniversary of my leaving full time employment. It is time perhaps for me to try to keep up with this blogging aspect of our technological era, on a more consistent basis than previously adopted in the Pyrenees in 2004 and on the TGO Challenge earlier this year.
In the past I have celebrated this day with a whizz around the Snowdon Horseshoe, but today the weather forecast and transport considerations drew me back to a walk devised in 1987 as a WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) project. It’s a 31 km circular stroll along old byways and footpaths in south Manchester. Its attraction to me is that it passes by the end of our road, so it takes me 2 minutes to join the route, as opposed to 2 hours to get to Pen y Pas. On this second walking of the route (the first was five years ago) I spent a while marking up the guide book for changes that have occurred since the walk was devised some 20 years ago, but time was not an issue. I was also delayed, whilst admiring the unusual clock tower of the C19 Linotype Works by the Bridgewater Canal in Altrincham, by a call from ‘work’ (I still do a bit for them) with a query on something I dealt with in 2001!
I’ve concluded that:
1. Apart from a couple of new housing developments, where the old field paths have been preserved in the form of cinder walkways, the past 20 years have brought very little change really. Some of the big old houses have been redeveloped, and security gates have been added to them, some stiles have rotted away, others have been renewed; rubbish levels are largely unchanged apart from dog manure which most people now seem to dispose of in the receptacles provided – I didn’t notice any on the paths.
2. Golf is a more popular weekday activity than walking. The two courses I passed through were simply heaving with people, whilst on the paths I was walking I encountered just a few of those tidy dog walkers and a lone jogger.