Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Thursday 30 December 2010

The Ferry at Sale Cruising Club

This little passenger operated ferry across the Bridgewater Canal continued to function for most of December, during the whole month of which the canal has to some extent been frozen.

These pictures were taken on 19 December, but by Christmas the ferry had been abandoned in favour of simply strolling across the ice.

The thaw has now put paid to that method of crossing, but some ice still lingers on.

The ferry at Sale Cruising Club on 19/12/10

The ferry at Sale Cruising Club on 19/12/10

Saturday 18 December 2010 – In and Around Timperley

Evening light by the Bridgewater Canal near Brooklands

I’m catching up with a few entries whilst it’s damp and grey outside and I’m ensconced in a decorating assignment.

A walk along the Bridgewater Canal on a dull afternoon was enlivened by the glint of the late sun as it appeared briefly from behind the cloud to illuminate the snow that had lingered all day on the tree branches (just for you, Mark A!)

Meanwhile, Sue enjoyed lunch in Knutsford then a potter around Tatton Park with some good friends of ours, who may enjoy a few more (incorrectly copyrighted – never mind) photos – to be found here.

A Trip to Tatton Park

Sunday 26 December 2010

Christmas Day

A view - Dunham Town

A lovely day.

After a gentle start, R + J joined us for a stroll around Dunham Massey.  Sadly Dot was a bit poorly and confined to barracks.  We set off as the sun tried to bore through the early mist, but it was still very cold in the park.

The canal was solid, even under the bridges, and a small area had been cleared of hoar frost to permit skating.

We had to return home, both to escape the cold and to prepare a meal for seven, plus Oscar, seen below trying to unpack his lunch.

Oscar tackles his lunch pack

The rest of the day vanished in a bit of a haze, but there’s a slide show of what may be one of our last frosty days before a thaw, here.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Brussels sprouts gratin with bacon, cream and almonds

“Dad, if we are coming to yours for Christmas Dinner, we must have ‘The Sprouts’.”

“Or we may not come!”

My dear daughter can be quite forceful at times.

Christmas dinner in recent years has been graced (inter alia) by ‘The Sprouts’ side dish, which everyone loves.  It’s a Sophie Grigson recipe for 8, but don’t bank on there being any left over even if you have fewer than that number for dinner.

It’s delicious.  The quantities shown below are pretty flexible – you may like to halve some of them, but leave the topping the same, to give it a bit more substance.

The picture shows a portion for two.

A small quantity of 'The Sprouts', for sharing between me and Sue


  • 900g/2lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 20g/¾oz butter
  • 4 tsp sunflower oil
  • 150g/5oz bacon lardons (or rindless back bacon, cut into short fat strips)
  • 20g/¾oz flaked almonds
  • 400ml/14fl oz double cream
  • 2½ tsp lemon juice
  • 5½ tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

  2. Place the sprouts into a saucepan of simmering salted water and cook for 4-5 minutes, until almost, but not quite, cooked. Drain thoroughly, allow to cool slightly, then cut in half.

  3. Place the butter and oil into a wide frying pan over a medium heat. Add the bacon lardons and almonds and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned.

  4. Add the sprouts and sauté for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

  5. Add the cream and bring the mixture to the boil. Boil for 2-4 minutes, until the cream has reduced to a rich sauce. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  6. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and spoon into an ovenproof gratin dish.

  7. Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese together in a bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the sprout mixture.

  8. Place into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and the cream visibly boiling.

  9. Remove from the oven and serve in the gratin dish (when the dish has cooled slightly).


For a winter supper you can add mushrooms and/or left over veg at stage 4 to make a sort of Brussels sprouts pie, garnished with rocket leaves, or even a fried egg or two.


Friday 17 December 2010

The Temperature Drops Again

The mercury fell from 6C to 2C over a 30 minute period yesterday lunch time.

It froze hard last night.

Captain Beefheart sadly failed to make it through the day.  It’s a long time since we saw him in Manchester, but he’s fondly remembered.

The ice is re-forming on the canal.

The Bridgewater Canal in Sale

The previous ice hadn’t fully melted, despite a few relatively warm days, a couple of inches remaining under the surface water.

As usual, it was warmer under the bridges, and it’ll be a day or two before we can ignore the bridge when walking to the King’s Ransom!

The King's Ransom

“Quack” said Marjorie.


Sale Ferry had been in use, but will shortly be iced up again.


Sale Ferry

It’s snowing now, so tomorrow’s views will be different.

Welcome back, JJ.  You made it!  Sue and I have a small assignment for you when you’ve unpacked!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Sunday 12 December 2010 – A Stroll from Wettonmill

Mick and Colin on the path around Wetton Hill

The previous Sunday, the Manifold Valley had been engulfed in snow, with temperatures lower than –10C.  During the week a slow thaw had freed up access, but early arrivals for this walk were still able to enjoy driving down the ‘toboggan run’ from Butterton and recover from the ordeal with coffee in the café.

Then our Health and Safety officer, Notchy, arrived to put a stop to such frivolity.  Our car duly turned round and took the easy route through the long single track tunnel to the south of Warslow.

Luckily the large lay-by at Wettonmill was free enough of snow to permit parking.  We duly filled it with cars, some 24 folk having turned up for this annual event, including a few who either hadn’t been on a walk with us before, or hadn’t appeared for rather a long time.  It was great to see you all; thank you for coming.

It’s a fairly short walk from Wettonmill, down the Manifold Valley to the climb up to Thor’s Cave, where the assembled masses could explore the magnificent cavern and enjoy a choice of CCS or fudge brownies, or indeed both, with their elevenses.

Viewers of BBC’s Countryfile programme will have benefitted from the comprehensive analysis of this area by a sheep farmer in the previous week’s episode.  It still seems amazing that this huge cavern, high above the valley, was formed by a river, millions of years ago.

Sue hands out the CCS at the entrance to Thor's Cave

The place has a rich history.  Some 20,000 years ago bears and red deer would have sought refuge in the cave, but by the end of the 19th century it had become a tourist destination.  It was served by a railway station on the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway some 80 metres below, between 1904 and 1934, and in 1988 a memorable film, The Lair of the White Worm, directed by Ken Russell, was shot on location here.

We trotted back down to the valley path, and emerged into bright sunshine near Weags Bridge.

After this, all bar two of the assembled mass met the challenge of the steep path through vibrant gorse bushes that short-cuts a hairpin on the road.  Well done!

Below Wetton Low, a slithery path contours beautifully above the Manifold Valley, with fine views back up the valley, and also to the south east towards Ilam, former home of the Watts-Russell family.

After a while we turned into a biting breeze towards Hopedale, prior to which a freshly muck-spread field gooed up our boots.  So instead of heading straight for the pub (we were surprisingly early anyway), a convoluted route was chosen that enabled us to reach the warmth of the Watts-Russell Arms a little before our planned 1pm target.

Phil (the 25th member of our party – feeling ill, but not poorly enough to miss out on a pub meal) had been in residence for some time.  Our group basically took over the pub and enjoyed Chris and Bruce’s beer and food.  It’s always a bit of a concern, taking 25 people to an untried venue, but I think everyone enjoyed their meal.

After nearly two hours in this pleasant spot, chatting about important matters like TGO Challenge routes (Mick and Gayle are reserves – their route is fully planned; I have decided to start with novice Mike from Oban and have a rough plan in mind; Graham hasn’t decided on a start point for his 21st crossing), and inserting comedic answers to a little quiz that I had set, as well as catching up with all those we hadn’t seen for some time, we set off again, in the direction of Ecton Hill.

It was a pleasant afternoon, though the light soon started to fade, and by the time we were approaching Top of Ecton a small splinter group, perhaps afraid of the dark, had formed.  So these seven miscreants headed off back to Wettonmill via Sugarloaf, whilst the rest of us continued on as planned up to the 369 metre summit of Ecton Hill, reached by the time the light was beginning to fade at 4pm.

On the summit of Ecton Hill after dusk

Everyone seemed very happy, and Sue found a patch of deepish snow in which to play.  It’s a good viewpoint, but photos were difficult in the low light.

We knew that Impending darkness would not be a problem, as it’s an easy descent to rejoin the Manifold Valley at Ecton, then a leisurely stroll back to Wettonmill via the course of the old railway as far as the tunnel by The Lee, before a final half hour or so on the good path above the east bank of the river.

Despite the dim light, no torches were needed and we all arrived safely at Wettonmill at 5pm after our five hour stroll plus two hours in the pub – 18km (11 miles) with 780 metres of ascent, as shown below.

The 18km route, with 780 metres ascent took 5 hours (plus a couple in the pub)

Only a few pictures were taken on the day, so I’ve added the set from our recce walk two months earlier to this slide show.  It’s amazing how quickly summer changes into winter, though the conditions for our walk were much less wintry than they would have been a week earlier…

I wasn’t the only blogger in attendance.  Gayle has posted her usual eloquent résumé, which quite neatly complements this version, here.  We are glad that you enjoyed your day out, Gayle.

Monday 13 December 2010

Sunday 5 December 2010 – A Day out to Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest

Stuart's Victory March

An early start saw Sue and I negotiate icy roads to reach Center Parcs by 9.30 for our annual visit organised by Robert and Lyn, who were joined for the whole weekend by Roger, Stuart, Louise, Jim, Peggy and Chris.  Our other Center Parc postings can be viewed here.

Badminton, Table Tennis, Wildlife Photography, Squash, Watercolour Art, swimming under the big dome, and Pool in our private games room, preceded an in-house sauna (for some) followed by a steamy roll in the snow. 

At some point, we enjoyed a fireworks display, recorded very amateurishly on my cheap digital camera:

After an excellent meal prepared by Chris, our ‘Walking in South Africa’ slide show concluded the evening.  (Well, the traditional long walk back to our car with all the slide show gear actually concluded it – very cold!)

An excellent day out, after which a short drive to snowy Mansfield took us to a spacious Travelodge room hired for the princely sum of £10.

This meant that instead of a late night drive home in the dark, we could enjoy a tasty croissant before a scenic drive home through the Peak District in temperatures down to minus 13C in mid-morning.  The hoar frost was thick and pretty – it was a truly beautiful journey.

Returning home - hoar frost near Chesterfield 
Those who attended the Center Parcs trip may gain some amusement from viewing this photo album….?

I don’t know what happened to the Table Tennis photos; it’s a mystery.

Wednesday 8 December 2010


The Bridgewater Canal near Altrincham in a snowstorm on 1 December 2010

It’s not that I’ve run out of steam.  It’s just that sometimes there are lots of tasks that need to be done in priority to blogging.

I’m temporarily stuck, like the barge in the snowstorm on 1 December 2010, pictured above.

So once I’ve recovered from the chastising I’m receiving (from myself) for not getting out for a walk on this beautiful sunny day, I’ll get back into gear and report on a lovely day at Center Parcs, some books that I’ve been reading, perhaps the odd bit of gear, and even a TGO Challenge route or two (this year’s pictures still needing to be ‘processed’).

I do try to keep up with quite a few other blogs, through Google Reader, and these had built up to over 300 unread entries in no time at all, partly thanks to the extremely prolific Jeremy Burrows.  I skimmed through these this morning and was sorry to hear of the demise of Darren and John’s dogs.  Commiserations both…

I also noticed that James is about to receive some gear for review from Webtogs, which organisation has received a good review itself from Louise.  I’m still waiting for the call, Gareth!

There was lots of other good stuff on ‘Reader’, causing my morning read to stray into the afternoon.  This wasn’t aided by meeting Carol during a brief excursion to the shops.  I hadn’t seen Carol for many years.  She was the leader of a small team who had the thankless task of converting my and others’ scribblings into meaningful typed documents before the days of word processors.  Not that long ago, really.  Great to see you, Carol.  I’ve found some photos.  They are rather old.  I’ll spare us all the embarrassment!

JJ, that esteemed resident of Timperley, has bunked off to Florida, but not before circulating this delightful little video:

JJ tells me he is working on his own version of this, “in Manchester Craft Market, the Saturday before Christmas”.  That could be fun!

Meanwhile, Old Mortality was also circulating stuff, so by way of contrast, here is one of his delicately illustrated offerings:

I’m told that somebody appears to have plucked some of the spiders’ legs!  You may wish to check that out….

Thursday 2 December 2010

Moving House

Barney moves his house

Our friendly neighbours, Barney and Carmen, have moved house.

House removal in progress

They took it with them!

Barney moves house

Good luck in your new home, Barney, Carmen, C and A.  We’ll be round with the shortbread soon.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

XXL Hillwalking Club – Annual Dinner Meet, 2010

Ascending the Corbett - Creag nan Gabhar

This entry is by way of a reprise of the past few days’ activities.

A slideshow is here

Click on each Day heading for the posting for that day.

Day 1

320 miles from Timperley to Braemar in 7 hours, via Tebay (pictured below) and Stirling.  A very easy journey in lovely sunny weather, despite warnings of snow. 

The A93 road over the Devil’s Elbow to Glenshee had a bit of snow on it, and Braemar had a fair amount – the edge of the bad weather must be around here (for the time being).

I enjoyed an evening at the Fife Arms with 20-30 XXLers and also with TGO Challengers Doug Bruce and Richard Baker.

Friday 26 November - Tebay Services

Day 2

Given that driving anywhere from Braemar was inadvisable (if not impossible) after further snow, various easy walks from Braemar were planned.  Given the distance I’d travelled I chose the longest outing available, a trip up the Corbett, Creag nan Gabhar (834 metres) which I last went up on 4 January 2005.

Eight of us walked past the golf course, to a photo call on the A93 at Auchallater.

Setting off up Creag nan Gabhar from the closed A93 - Martin, Dave, Mark, Ian, Gus, Margriet and Jerry

Through deepening snow, we rose above Glen Callater before pausing for elevenses.


Paul (as planned) and later Gus (stressed by calls from someone called Jane) peeled off and left the rest of us to slog our way through a sunny snowstorm to the summit of Creag nan Gabhar.

Snow shoes, left in our spare bedroom in Timperley, would have been of benefit at this point, though to be fair the going could have been more difficult.

The summit cone of Creag nan Gabhar

Several false summits led eventually, four hours from Braemar, to the summit cairn.  A further cairn looked higher.  But it wasn’t.

We dallied there for luncheon.  At minus 7C, plus a little wind-chill, it was the coldest point of the day.

Lunch by the summit of Creag nan Gabhar

Mark’s hands got cold.  He lost all feeling in them!

We decided to return the same way, and just about managed to follow the upward footprints back to Glen Callater.  The snow storm had eased, and the sun was glimpsed.

There was a lovely sunset.


Laden with fresh snow, the trees in Glen Callater looked beautiful in the fading light.

Trees in Glen Callater

We followed some cross country skiers across the golf course and arrived back at the Fife around 4.30pm.  We had been out for just 6.5 hours on this 18km walk with 650 metres ascent.

Here’s the route.

Our route - 18km, 650 metres ascent, 6.5 hours

The annual dinner was great fun.  The Mistress of Ceremonies (below) was in excellent form, as were several other speakers, who were followed by a slideshow from the ‘House of Scoular Production Team’, and a raffle in which, bizarrely, the first three tickets drawn were consecutive numbers!

XXL Hillwalking Club - Chairperson!

Day 3

A planned trip to Poolewe having been abandoned, I was to return home today.  But it had snowed again and there was no chance of the A93 to Blairgowrie being opened due to the snow ploughs efforts being concentrated into keeping the route to Aberdeen open.

Sunday morning - outside the Fife Arms

Having escaped from Braemar – thanks go to various people who helped with shoveling, it was much appreciated – the drive to Aberdeen in a snowstorm was slow but enjoyable.  Except when baulked by very slow vehicles – with worn front tyres, my vehicle needed momentum!

Snowstorm on the A93 to Aberdeen

The roads around Aberdeen were fine, but to the south the A90 became gradually more difficult.  Clearly lorries were faltering on the hard packed ice that lay below the top surface that had been slushified by the gritting lorries.

Later, the approach to Dundee (pictured below) became even slower, and the short journey from Dundee to Perth, littered with HGVs that had simply slid off the road, took from 4pm to 10pm.  So no chance of getting home, as I later discovered that all routes south of Perth had been shut since before 2pm.

Later, on the A90 approaching Dundee

Day 4

After a warm and cosy night in the car outside Morrisons car park in Perth, during which I was entertained from Brisbane by the English cricketers scoring 517 for 1 wicket, I headed back to a queue on the A93 to join the A9.  After three and a half hours our patience bore fruit.  The A9 reopened for a while, allowing vehicles to make their way slowly south towards Stirling.

We were still travelling slowly enough to take the following photos through the car windows, but after Stirling things speeded up and south of Glasgow there was only a sprinkling of snow.

The whole day’s journey was very scenic, and actually rather enjoyable.

Monday morning - on the road again - snow laden trees viewed from the car On the A9 near Auchterarder

South of Lancaster, there was no snow at all, and the 420 mile journey was finally completed after more than 30 comfortable hours in the car.  But as I write, there is now snow virtually everywhere in the UK, including Timperley.

I’ve been listening to complaints from people caught up in jams even worse than the ones that I encountered.  I have sympathy with their predicament, but not with their complaints.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that roads clogged by skidding lorries on thick ice are going to be blocked for some time in this weather.  Comparison with situations in other countries that often encounter such conditions is also ‘false’, as drivers in such places almost certainly use winter tyres, which make a vast difference, as those members of the XXL Club who have them will no doubt confirm.  It’s not rocket science to suggest that packing provisions and clothing, etc (including a shovel), sufficient to spend at least one night in a vehicle, should be a prerequisite of virtually any journey in these conditions.

If you missed it above, a slideshow is here.  I enjoyed this trip, despite the disproportionate amount of time spent in the car.  The unpredictability of such a mini adventure is always rather exciting…

Monday 29 November 2010

An Epic Journey - Phase 2

Stuck in a Morrisons car park with only a Test Match for company....

Bored with that, a bit of action with the ice axe and some feverish manoeuvring saw me escape from the clutches of the car park before 7 am (Morrisons didn't open until 8, so I never did discover their coffee shop) to reclaim my position in the car park on the A93 that leads to the closed A9.

Enquiries led me to conclude that there was no sensible alternative to waiting here. If Louise had her way I'd be waiting till spring! I was joined by numerous other vehicles that I recognised from yesterday's first gear adventure between Dundee and Perth.

Apparently traffic had been directed to a 'Rest Centre' (a school) where some 600 people spent the night. The police at the A9 closure point last night didn't tell me that - perhaps it was full, like all the hotels.

I attempted to gain information as to how to escape from Perth by emailing PerthFM. An immediate reply (!) said 'All roads closed. Keep warm'.

By 10am I'd been refreshed by coffee kindly supplied by Tom, whose fiancée Jennifer stayed in their car whilst he fetched provisions from some nearby services. I could have gone with him; nothing moved. Brownies were the currency - Tom refused cash in recognition of all those who had pushed their car along the A90 ice rink yesterday (I may have been one of those people). Tom and Jennifer had managed to find friends in Perth to stay with last night, after establishing that all hotel rooms had been taken by mid afternoon (it seems the roads south had been closed nearly all day).

The blizzard had stopped overnight, to be replaced by cold sunshine this morning.

10.30am: after three and a half hours in the queue (pictured) PerthFM reports 'minor roads blocked by fallen trees, major routes shut - you are going to struggle to get out of Perth today'. That's hopeful then!

[I wrote that at 10.30]

10,31am: Traffic starts to move. The A9 has reopened. It's gentle, single file stuff down to Glasgow, but after that the M74 and M6 are clear, with just a sprinkling of snow in evidence as far as Lancaster and none after that.

So the journey, a bit less epic today, ended in Timperley at around 5pm after over 30 hours in the car.

I think I'll stay at home for a day or two....

I'll write a reprise.

Happy Days!

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday 28 November 2010

An Epic Journey - Phase 1

I knew it wouldn't be easy to get home, but going to Poolewe may have been easier than this.

Thanks go to the XXL Club for a great evening, followed by enthusiastic shoveling that facilitated my escape from Braemar by 10.45am.

The Glenshee road was closed, so a route via Aberdeen was chosen. Aberdeen was Relatively (and I use that word advisedly) free of snow. I was there by 1pm.

Another three hours got me to Dundee. It was stop/start, mainly the former, during one of which today's picture was taken.

Plans of going up Lendrick Hill today, to break the journey to Manchester, proved mildly optimistic.

The journey from Dundee to Perth was blighted by rather poor road conditions and a rash of skidding lorries. It took six hours. Not bad for a journey of little more than 20 miles!

There's no way of getting south of Perth just now (10.30pm on Sunday evening), and with snowdrifts everywhere, finding somewhere safe to park was tricky.

I finally pulled into a Morrisons car park and promptly got stuck. I may be here for some time. Any readers in Perth are welcome to visit me in the campervan disguised as a Peugeot 206.

Ho ho, what fun - I hope Morrisons has a coffee shop!

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Saturday 27 November 2010

Saturday 27 November 2010 - XXL Team Conquers Creag nan Gabhar

I'm here in Braemar for the XXL (Aberdeen/BP Hillwalkers) Club Annual Dinner at the Fife Arms. [Not that I'm currently a member, nor have I ever worked for BP or lived any closer to Aberdeen than Teesside.]

It's traditional for some to arrive a day early and go for a walk - it is a walking club after all.

So after yesterday's driving - those arriving from Aberdeen encountered snow - nearly thirty of us enjoyed an evening in front of the Fife's roaring fire. Until we were elbowed out by the Golf Club.

I also enjoyed a pleasant hour or two chewing over backpacking routes old and new with TGO Challengers Doug and Richard, who braved a snowstorm to reach the Fife from their respective homes.

We woke to more snow this morning. Apparently all roads to Braemar were closed. So why did a couple of buses arrive from Aberdeen whilst we were breakfasting?

Various walks were planned. Nine of us elected for the longest of them, Creag nan Gabhar, a Corbett to the south. Others would tackle closer objectives.

Laurence, sadly, faltered on the starting blocks and was disqualified by virtue of his non-appearance. That left me, Mark, Ian, Gus, Margriet, Paul, Jerry and Dave strolling up the road past the golf course shortly after 10am. The fresh snow glinted under the low sun on the branches of the trees on the walk to Auchallater (top picture).

The going got harder as we ploughed through deep snow to reach the track that leads to Lochcallater Lodge, a haven for TGOers in May (but deserted today). Why did I leave my snow shoes in the spare bedroom at home? They would have been ideal for today's knee to thigh deep snow.

A dark black cloud developed over Braemar, but the sun illuminated our pause for elevenses (bottom picture).

As we left the snowy track to ascend the rough hillside towards Sròn Dubh, Paul peeled off as planned, in favour of an easier outing.

A little further on, as the first flakes of a snow shower dampened his trendy sunglasses, Gus declined to continue, perhaps distracted by the stress of having to guide a timid driver (his bus shy wife) from Aberdeen to Braemar.

That left six of us on the long plod up the ridge in deep snow to the 834 metre cairn that tops Creag nan Gabhar. Mark and Margriet surveyed the surroundings. The rest of us had been there before (four times in Dave's case). It looked to me much as it had done on my previous visit (5 January 2005) - snowy, cold (minus 7C), and with a limited view due to its incumbent snow shower.

It had taken four hours. Time for lunch - in the coldest, highest, most exposed point of the entire walk. My phone rang; too deeply buried to be answered, but I guessed correctly that the next part of this trip had been abandoned.

We debated whether to descend to the road, but by consensus decided to retrace our steps, literally, to Auchallater, from where we would stroll down the road, across the golf course, and back to the Fife for 4.30, just as darkness was falling.

On the way we encountered grouse, deer, and a couple of cross-country skiers (I wish...!).

It was a nice walk despite the absence of much needed snowshoes, a satisfying 20 km with 700 metres ascent in 6.5 hours, featuring Deep Snow.

Now for the annual bash - it's time for cocktails.

Oh, and my trip to Poolewe tomorrow has been abandoned due to snow on the west of Scotland that has foiled a brother and his wife in their bid to reach Poolewe today (that was the lunchtime phone call). A shame, but Sue is pining for her catering staff to return, so it seems I will be welcome at home.

May try to pop up something on the way home tomorrow...

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Friday 26 November 2010

On The Road Again

This morning's warnings of dire traffic conditions would work in my favour, I was sure.

And so it turned out. The wintry cloud over Manchester soon dispersed, to be replaced by bright sunshine as I travelled up the M6, past the frosted Howgills.

Further north, Cross Fell sported a sprinkling of snow on this cold day - the temperature having fluctuated between minus 3C and plus 3C by the time I reached my second refreshment point in Carlisle.

Beyond that, the border posts were deserted and there was virtually no traffic on the M74 motorway (upper picture) as it threaded its way through the much warmer Southern Uplands towards Glasgow.

Roadworks around Cumbernauld permitted a long glance at an impressive silver lady who now graces the western embankment. Quite a distraction really; perhaps the 40mph speed limit should be made permanent?

I'd originally planned to break my journey by nipping up nearby Lendrick Hill or Dumyat, but given the dire warnings and the information that several roads were closed, I pressed on to reach my destination in daylight.

After I'd dodged some kamikaze pheasants, the light began to fade at Blairgowrie. The temperature plummeted and there was evidence of a sprinkling of snow. By the Spittal of Glenshee the snow was deeper, and beyond that the road stretched ahead over the Devil's Elbow (lower picture) like a black thread on a white fleece.

It was blowy up there. Beyond the summit of the pass a thin covering of spindrift rendered that black thread white, well disguised on its white background! Unlike the hundreds of red deer that had assembled near the road. 'Not so easy after dark' I thought, as I pulled up outside Braemar's Fife Arms shortly after 4pm.

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Last Leaves / First Ice

The Bridgewater Canal, Timperley, 25/11/10

The Bridgewater Canal on Thursday.  Sadly I missed both the sunshine and the dancing ducks, but the transition from autumn to winter is clearly taking place.

The full transition may be experienced tomorrow.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Tuesday 23 November 2010 – The Langdale Pikes, The Greater Traverse, including a variant of Great British Ridge Walk, Number 13

Lunch on Pike O' Stickle

I was due to pick Rick up at 7.15.  The alarm rang at 6.30; Sue woke, assumed I had left the bed, and went back to sleep.  I didn’t hear the alarm at all, but woke with a jolt at 6.59.

Somehow I managed to be only 5 minutes late at Rick’s house, and we made it up to our rendezvous point in Lancaster a couple of minutes before Stuart pulled in to collect us for the onward journey.  He had Peter and Richard with him, but the Jeep fitted us all comfortably.

The day’s plan was to walk Bill Birkett’s route ‘LAN5’ – The Greater Traverse of The Langdale Pikes, featuring nine ‘Birketts’ and six ‘Wainwrights’, not to mention seven ‘Lakeland 2000ers’, for those who count such things.

We started up Stickle Ghyll at 9.50am, at something of a sprint that left Richard searching from time to time for more lung capacity.

Approaching Stickle Tarn from Stickle Ghyll

An icy north easterly wind greeted us at Stickle Tarn, but we soldiered on and enjoyed the easy east ridge of Pavey Ark.  As we ascended, the ground became increasingly slithery due to a veneer of grease that could just as well have been ice.  In fact it turned to ice as we neared the summit.

We had decided against tackling Jack’s Rake, and those who did go that way seemed to be taking their time in today’s greasy conditions, so our easier route was a good call.

After stumbling around on the lumpy rocks of Pavey Ark’s broad summit, we headed off to gain Thunacar Knott’s easy summit.  The cloud base had been lurking just above our heads and had indeed obscured some views – mainly those towards Bowfell and the Scafell range – so we were pleased when it lifted a little, gracing us with sunny periods for the rest of the day.

Our highest point of the day, Harrison Stickle, came next.  Its summit rocks sported an icy rime.  We slithered some more before heading off to climb Thorn Crag.

But none of us was sure where Thorn Crag was.  I think we concluded that it was the small lump on the left of the picture below.  If so, we missed it, as we descended directly from Harrison Stickle to the heathery hollow.  Then we traversed the entire ridge from the centre of the picture up to Pike O’ Stickle, from where the picture was taken.  I now think the first of those summits may be Thorn Crag, after which we met a couple who had traversed below it on their way to the loftier summit of Loft Crag, seen here to the right of the picture.

Looking back to Harrison Stickle from Pike O' Stickle

It had taken three hours to reach the top of Pike O’ Stickle, and we were pleased to find a sunny position on the summit (pictured at the head of this posting) that was sheltered from the wind and afforded excellent views.  Rick was particularly happy to have made it – his dickie shoulder had not appreciated the vertical variant route chosen by Peter and Richard!  Our eyes were however particularly drawn to a figure that was half way up the sheer face of Gimmer Crag, pictured below in the distance.  The figure failed to move during our tenure at the top of Pike O’ Stickle, despite much shouting.  We were worried for the person concerned, but saw no evidence of a rescue taking place.  The jets and trainer planes that buzzed us for a while weren’t capable of hovering.

Lunchtime view from Pike O' Stickle, with Windermere and Blea Tarn

As we moved on across Martcrag Moor the low sun cast a lovely light on Allen Crags and Glaramara and beyond to the Skiddaw summits.  It was a glorious afternoon, with innumerable Lakeland peaks laid out before us.

Heading across Martcrag Moor, with Great Gable conspicuous to the left

Whilst the path hereabouts has been improved, there remain boggy sections that tested our footwear.  It passed the test – I don’t think anyone’s feet got wet.  My new Scarpa Mantas, on just their third outing, were superbly comfortable and supportive – just the job for these conditions.

Stuart adopted a classic pose.

Stuart, in his Russian shepherd's outfit

We reached Stake Pass soon after 2pm, so had plenty of time to enjoy the low ridge that leads over Black Crag and Buck Pike to Rossett Pike, the last of today’s summits.  It wasn’t so icy up here, and there were lovely views down Mickleden, with sunlit Pike O’ Stickle standing as a sentinel above the deep glacial valley.

An afternoon view down Mickleden

A group of four men were the last people we encountered, having seen about 20 others on these hills today.  They were bumbling around in the Rossett Pike/Black Crags area, and eventually descended Rossett Gill, way behind us.  I suppose not everyone is as familiar with this terrain as our little group may have been, but those four men did seem to make hard work of getting off the hills!

We were happy to reach the Jeep at 4.50 pm, shortly before darkness took over.  The Stickle Barn was shut, but we managed a fireside pint and post walk banter in the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, before wending our way homewards, deeply satisfied after yet another successful outing.

A full slide show (29 images) is here.

Our 16 km route with 1100 metres of ascent took seven hours and is shown in outline below.  It’s a good one, and would be relatively easy even in winter conditions.

Our route - 16 km, 1100 metres ascent, in a leisurely 7 hours

The header refers to ‘Great British Ridge Walk Number 13.  This is ‘The Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake’.  Variants are allowed.  So, as we climbed all the summits and walked the ridge, I think we can say that walk was accomplished.  Jack’s Rake will however be revisited in dry conditions.  It’s a great route that I haven’t been on since backpacking it with Andrew and Gary on 8 June 2005.  Here they are on the route; happy days…

Gary and Andrew on Jack's Rake - 8 June 2005