Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Saturday 13 November 2010

Wednesday 10 November 2010 – Darwen Tower and White Nancy

The landscape of Darwen Moor
Last Wednesday JJ’s finely honed team of runners dragged me up Darwen Tower on a 14km recce for a fell running trip over Darwen Moor for which they are laying the trail next Saturday.

It was a lovely day.  We climbed to the top of the tower.
 On the trig point by Darwen Tower
I don’t think they’ll be doing that on the fell run, not least because the top of the tower blew away on Thursday!

We had a bit of trouble with rickety stiles and barbed wire fences – great care was needed, Steve and JJ will bring wire cutters, hammer and nails when they lay the trail for the runners.

A tricky fence

It was wonderfully clear, with the peaks of Snowdonia standing clear some 80 miles to the south west, and the snow laden summits of the Lake District looking much closer than 50 miles distant to the north.

Sunset over Snowdonia

There’s a slide show (31 images) here.

And the route (roughly) is shown below:

Our route - 14km, 460 metres of ascent, 4.5 hours
It took us over four and a half hours for the 14km.  Perhaps the runners will go faster!

As for White Nancy – Sue and I were joined by JJ and another John at the Vale Inn in Bollington.  Richard E also turned up – it was good to see him after a long hiatus.  He’s been working hard – with one press of a button his new car’s boot flew open and the door handles all lit up – amazing…

It was dark by the time we set off, on a lovely clear evening, to negotiate a 7km circuit with fine views over Greater Manchester.

Oh, and we found White Nancy, pictured here in the background.

By White Nancy, admiring the views over Greater Manchester

Friday 12 November 2010

Tuesday 9 November – South African Memories

A cloud inversion near Franschoek, in the Winelands, with Table Mountain in the distance

On 28 April, Sue and I enjoyed giving a little slide show to the Stockport Walking Group.  It covered trips to the Drakensberg and the Cape regions of South Africa.

Tonight we were booked for a second delivery of the same slide show, with Sue in charge and me as projectionist.  This time the willing victims were Tim and Kate Wood’s local church group in Southport.

A more welcoming group could not be imagined.  We enjoyed giving the approx 45 minute show to about 15 folk, some of whom had been to places that were in the show.  Happy memories all round.

Tim and Kate are TGO Challengers.  Their hospitality is second to none, and we were treated to a superb dinner before the meeting.  Their house is full of cards – Tim’s 75th birthday, 54th wedding anniversary cards, and get well cards for Kate.  We do hope that she can overcome her health problems, and that we’ll be seeing the familiar profiles of ‘Little and Large’ on next year’s TGO Challenge.

The photo (I’ve not really mastered the art of scanning slides, I’m afraid) shows Sue above a cloud inversion in the Winelands, with the flat summit of Table Mountain visible in the far distance.

Tuesday 9 November 2010 - An Important Announcement and an Expectant Grandad

Simon and Kate
Here they are on 24 July 2009.

Since then, Simon and Kate have been busy. 

A sproglet is due to arrive on 17 May 2011.


I’ll have to hurry back from Montrose on 27 May after the TGO Challenge.  I won’t be needed before then.  Given that Kate’s mum and I both re-married some time ago, the little blighter darling will have three sets of attentive Grandparents.

That could be confusing.

Apart from some minor dietary quirks, Kate’s condition doesn’t seem to have caused her any inconvenience so far.  Long may that continue.

So there’s a fair chance that during next year this blog will wander off into ‘Mark Alvarez territory’.  Mark’s is still a walking blog, but these days it is also a fanzine for ‘Sweet B’.  I’ll enjoy re-reading it, Mark, you’ll be an ideal role model!

Thursday 11 November 2010

Sunday 7 November 2010 – Elite Karting

There's an aggressive glint in No 4's eyes as he readies himself for the green light in the final
My son in law, Simon (more about him in the next posting) kindly organised a trip to Elite Karting in Wigan.

It took me over an hour to complete the 30 minute journey to this venue, and my performance in the kart mirrored that effort.  I never did work out the racing line, and when I got close to it someone always seemed to bash me out of the way!

There were 33 of us in the Grand Prix, including rather too many testosterone/adrenaline fuelled men with Alonso/Webber/Vettel masks.

Mere mortals stood no chance, so having made it into the last eighteen, together with Bernie (Simon’s dad), Simon and I thought we’d done quite well.  The top two from each semi progressed to the final (pictured).  Simon (especially) and I were therefore gutted to be thumped by illegal manoeuvres into third place in our respective semis, but at least he managed one of the fastest laps.

A very small (4 images) album is here.

Next time Simon will be inviting a party of schoolchildren.  That may allow us a better chance of success!

PS Should anyone else who attended this event read this, I do apologise for the smidging of poetic licence employed within this report.  A special apology goes to the young lad who suffered at least twice as a result of the violent and uncontrollable antics of my kart. 

Saturday 6 November 2010 – A Sunny Saturday Morning at Dunham Massey

It’s a bit like April weather just now in the Timperley area.  Sunshine and showers.

On Saturday Sue and I enjoyed a short visit to Dunham Massey.  The low sun illuminated the house, gardens and park beautifully.

I took just a handful of snaps, in my effort to get a few more images of leafy trees before the frost and wind finally release the remaining foliage to the ravages of gravity.

I wonder whether the gardening staff will continue to wash the trunks  of these birch trees during the winter months.  I expect they will…

Silver birch trees in the Winter Garden

The short slide show from today is here.

All my Dunham Massey postings can be seen here.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Friday 5 November 2010 – The Bridgewater Way

A typical 'Bridgewater Way' information board

I frequently stroll down the section of the canal that runs between  Timperley and Sale.  Today, a gang of Polish workmen was installing numerous signposts and this information board.  As you can see below, the towpath at this point has been restored to a pristine condition.  Unfortunately, beyond Marsland Bridge – seen here in the distance – the section of the towpath from Brooklands, through Timperley and Altrincham to Lymm, is in places a quagmire at this time of year.

It’s a shame that the funding for the elaborate signposts doesn’t extend to a bit of hard core (even as a temporary measure) on the towpath, which is on the whole in good condition.

The Bridgewater Canal at Urban Road, Sale

There’s lots more about the Bridgewater Canal and the Bridgewater Way here.

Maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh.  This press release indicates that the whole of the 40 mile Bridgewater Way project may take some time.  We can perhaps expect some local towpath closures.

It does seem crazy though that there don’t seem to be plans to improve the narrow section of towpath between Stretford and Deansgate (Manchester City Centre).  That would encourage more people to cycle to work in preference to crowding onto the inadequate rush hour trams.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Thursday 4 November 2010 - Shutlingsloe

The summit of Shutlingsloe

Is it really January since I was last up here?

Today I revisited that walk in the snow with JJ and Graham Brookes, this time on my own, with the object of further walking-in my new winter boots.  They had been comfy on the flat; how would they fare on some steepish slopes?

The route is shown below and is also described in my reports on previous visits here and here, though on those occasions we went clockwise around the reservoir at the end of the walk.

All recent visits to Shutlingsloe are described here – it’s a regular venue.

Rain was forecast – that’s becoming a habit – but it never appeared despite the low cloud and general dampness.

I was on my own today; the only others out walking were a few dog walkers and two noisy men (I’ve no idea why they were exchanging uncouth shouts) who reached the top of Shutlingsloe whilst I was enjoying my elevenses below the hill’s steep eastern flanks.  I was glad they returned the way they’d come.

The ground soon levels out below those eastern flanks and reaches a tarmac lane that leads down to the Crag Inn.  The brilliant chef of bygone years has long since departed, but this hostelry remains welcoming and friendly, with good pub food.

The Crag Inn

Beyond The Crag, field paths lead to another tarmac lane that is accessed via an ancient stile that the farmer seems paranoid about walkers not using.  Why anyone should wish to climb a high stone wall in preference to using this fine old stile is beyond me, but the farmer is certainly concerned (click link to slide show below for more).

The lane is soon left to climb steeply, whilst we take a gentle and well marked path from the valley floor to Oakenclough, near where a youth allowed his young labrador to bathe in the stream and then ‘mug’ me.

Hey, it was no laughing matter!

This is a lovely route.  Shutlingsloe slowly reveals itself behind you, whilst the flatlands of Greater Manchester and the Cheshire plain are suddenly revealed at the top of the sunken lane that runs down to The Hanging Gate.

That path can be boggy, so a pause to regain breath and drain the flask is always welcome before the ascent.  A visit to the pub is optional, it’s not off route as the path runs through its garden before dropping down to join the Gritstone Trail, which is followed most of the way back to Ridgegate Reservoir.

Today’s route left the ‘G’ Trail in favour of a narrow path to the right, in and out of a small valley, leading to the main ‘drive’ around the reservoir, across which the yellow leaves on the trees certainly brightened the otherwise dull day.

Woodland by Ridgegate Reservoir

And that was it – this time Naismith would have taken 3 hours 10 minutes, a time that I was happy to better by some 20 minutes.  The new boots had remained comfortable throughout; my fears about having to spend some time breaking them in appear to be unfounded.

That left me plenty of time to get to Macclesfield, where coffee and cake and a good old chinwag with Geoffrey and Nick was the highlight of the day.  Geoffrey (hello, sorry this has taken so long to write) is one of very few friends from my former life (ie w**k) who despite his love of trail biking follows this blog; and I still harbour happy memories of weeks of ‘study’ on Donald Rich’s residential courses held in Andover, when Nick and I took our evening medicine in warm surroundings by a pool (table) whilst others remained frozen (literally) to their study manuals except when Bohemian Rhapsody was playing on TOTP. 

It was great to see you both.

As promised, today’s route (enjoy – it’s a good one) is shown below, and there’s a slide show here.

The route - 12 km, 520 metres ascent, around 3 hours

Monday 8 November 2010

Tuesday 2 November 2010 – The Trans Pennine Trail and the Bridgewater Canal

We woke early, due to a loud bang in nearby Irlam.  A row of houses, wrecked by a gas explosion.  Not good.

Rain was forecast, so it seemed unnecessary to drive anywhere when the main point of getting out was to try to break in some new heavy duty boots. 

Setting off at 9.50, I wandered through Newton Park, crossed Washway Road and explored De Quincey Park.  I’d not ventured into it before.  It comes to a dead end, so whilst useful for pushchairs and dog walkers it was pretty useless for someone in search of a through route.  So it was back to Washway Road and across Siddall’s Bridge – not an obvious landmark, but it does date from 1765 – and into Woodheys Park.

Past allotments and beside Sinderland Brook, I headed towards Carrington Moss.  I met a chap assiduously taking photos of the brook and muttering about the inadequacies of the National Trust, who appear to have taken over certain custodial/maintenance functions from the Environment Agency.  He explained that the brook used to run straight through this area, but following the development of a housing estate on National Trust land to the south of the brook, kinks and shrubs have been introduced.  Unfortunately these have resulted in blockages, and the houses to the north of the brook are now in fear of flooding.  This concerns me; a branch of the brook runs past the end of our own road, though I’ve not noticed any problem there.

Anyway, I left this concerned resident and the ugly new houses on the Stamford Brook estate and entered the wastes of Carrington Moss.

Altrincham’s ‘Household Waste Recycling Centre’ was my next landmark, beyond which I was pleased to turn right onto the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT).  There are lots of stables, and a donkey sanctuary, around here.  The quiet path leads north into the Moss.  I was alone with magpies, wood pigeons, carrion crows, chaffinches and moorhens.  Elevenses were taken near Ash Farm, by a bent TPT sign, with some spots of the overdue rain, and cyclists and walkers making use of the track.

From here, the TPT skirts through mixed woodland, neatly planted in rows in the not too distant past, certainly not sufficiently recent for the Ordnance Survey to have noticed them.

The Trans Pennine Trail running beside Carrington Moss

It was extremely gloomy, but somehow the rain held off as I strolled along, separated by a tall hedge from the A6144 ‘Carrington Spur’.  A small footbridge over the River Mersey, home on this occasion to mallards and grebes, led to a short section along that river’s high retaining banks, before the TPT drifted down a surprisingly pleasant path by Kickety Brook that culminates in this fine new footbridge over the ring road.

A new(ish) footbridge over the M60 motorway

An expensive alternative to a pedestrian crossing?

10 lanes, 4 hard shoulders, typical daytime traffic

The berries by the bridge looked very juicy.  No doubt the small birds that were harvesting these berries looked equally tasty to the kestrels that hovered overhead.

Berries beside the M60

Luckily, the busy A56 road is negotiated via an underpass, after some more surprisingly pleasant woodland on the edge of Stretford.  Barges on the Bridgewater Canal were soon in view, but my route didn’t join the canal just yet.  The TPT heads under the canal, past an immense cemetery, and back to the banks of the Mersey.

Soon after that, I left the TPT, where it went off beside Chorlton Brook whilst I continued along the river bank, past a splendidly decorated brick building that houses the flood gate controls.

The flood gate control building by the River Mersey

The TPT rejoins the river bank near Jackson’s Bridge, but I left it for good here, by crossing the bridge and returning from Lancashire back into Cheshire.

There has been a bridge here since 1816. At that time there was a halfpenny toll to cross it. The bridge was built to replace a local farmer (Jackson) and his boat who had provided a ferry service across the river. The boat was hauled from bank to bank by a chain fastened to posts on either side.

The bridge has recently acquired a two tone appearance, and lunchtime aromas nearly drew me into the old pub. This picture shows the view south into Cheshire, so it's a surprise to discover that the ancient Jackson's Boat pub is in Lancashire, apparently due to changes in the course of the river over the centuries!

Jackson's Boat pub and bridge

From here, a pleasant path leads to Sale Water Park’s Visitor Centre, where I paused for lunch on a bench.  Drizzle that accompanied me for the rest of the walk commenced here. 

Rats, jays, blackbirds and thrushes were all to quick for me in the dim light as I approached reed beds at the end of the man-made lake.  It was a gravel pit until its conversion in the 1970s.  Today there’s a heronry in the Ees beyond the lake, and cormorants stand on the ski jump, drying their wings.

The ‘beach’ is populated by bickering Canadian geese and black-headed gulls, whilst young mallards frolic in the shallows.

Another splendid footbridge leads back across the ring road and into Priory Gardens, where today I disturbed a kestrel with its prey.  A right turn up Dane Road leads to the canal bridge, where there’s access by The Bridge (a pub) to the familiar towpath of the Bridgewater Canal and an easy walk home in thickening rain.

The Bridgewater Canal (again)!

Mr Naismith would have taken 4 hours 10 minutes over this little jaunt; it took me just 10 minutes longer than that for the 21 km circuit.  But I’d had lots of photo stops despite the gloom, and hadn’t really hurried due to the heavy new boots, which luckily remained as comfy as when I’d set out.

The route is shown in blue below, and for anyone who may be interested, the full slide show is here.

My route - 21km, not much ascent, 4 hours 20 mins

TGO Challenge 2011

This is why I use waterproof boots on the Challenge!

A satisfyingly weighty ‘plop’ through the letter box this morning brought the excellent news that Mike and I have been accepted for the 2011 TGO Challenge backpack across Scotland.

I can’t really believe our luck, this being my fifth Challenge entry and the fifth time I have ‘made the cut’.  This year there were 440 applicants for 330 places.  I was disappointed not to find friend and neighbour JJ #3 on the list, nor Mick and Gayle #4, or even the irreverent Reverend (aka David) #1.  Hopefully they are high on the list of reserves.

A number of other bloggers appear to have been successful, so come next May armchair enthusiasts may be able to tune in to Tony, James, Louise, Geoff, Andy, Phil, Laura, Martin, Shirley or even Alan to gauge how well a random selection of participants are managing to potter across Scotland.  Not all of them will have the energy to make postings as they go across – some prefer to write up their experiences later, at leisure, but I know that readers of these particular pages prefer the ‘what’s going to happen next’ uncertainty of daily postings from such trips, so this blog will be posted ‘from the coalface’ so to speak.  It could be interesting as Mike has only backpacked properly for two days in the past 40 years #2.

The picture above was taken on the morning of Day 2 of the 2009 Challenge that I completed with Sue.  We had camped comfortably at NG 871 001, below Luinne Bheinn at the head of Coire Odhar, a much more sheltered spot than Mam Barrisdale, near where Robert Slade had finished up bivvying due to problems getting his Akto tent up in the wind and rain.  He was not too cheerful when we saw him later on Day 2; he was wet.  We had warm, dry feet.  It’s on occasions like this that the decision to wear waterproof boots rather than lighter trail shoes seems to be a ‘no-brainer’!

#1 – reserve number 23, that’s good news, he’ll make it in.
#2 – so his Black’s Good Companion tent, even older than my Phreerunner, may need to be replaced!
#3 – great news – JJ is reserve number 11.  He will be there.
#4 – more good news - M+G are also high on the reserve list.