Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Saturday 24 September 2011

A Trip to Bridge of Gaur

We are enjoying a lovely day in the hills. Can you work out where we are just now? (Wuxing Nick - you may recall being here.)

It's a very sociable trip, so a fuller write up won't appear until Tuesday.

Hello Lorna, Fiona, Susan and Ciorsti, and Ann B and Molly, it was a pleasure to meet you all. (Photos to follow.)

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Friday 23 September 2011

Wednesday 21 September 2011 – Around Wilderspool

A stained glass window in St Thomas' church, Stockton Heath 

Sue and I didn’t think anyone would join us on this evening walk, which should have started in ‘just about daylight’ if it hadn’t been raining.  So after a futile rummage in the car park for unlikely participants, the two of us wandered past St Thomas’s church in Stockton Heath, by way of a ‘cut through’ to a swing bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal.

The church was lit from inside, making its stained glass windows very pretty from the graveyard.  Interestingly, we would have recognised the religious scenes from Turan’s descriptions last week of the frescos in Cappadocia, had we not already known the stories behind them.

By the time we started the walk proper, by the swing bridge over the A49, it was more or less dark, at 7.30 – the nights are drawing in!

Swing Bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal at Stockton Heath

The rain had stopped and as we looked west down the arrow of the Ship Canal to the last gleam of light from the sunset, it was evident that the skies were clear over Liverpool.

Manchester Ship Canal at dusk

Over the bridge we turned left along the Trans Pennine Trail, a pleasant footpath that after a while turned away from the Ship Canal and its carousing swans to arrive at a bridge (Chester Road).

After crossing the bridge, we turned right down a path that leads between the River Mersey and the Runcorn to Latchford Canal, dodging puddles and bats in the darkness.

A railway bridge was soon reached, and with it an unlikely (in the dark) pedestrian footbridge over the Mersey, right next to the busy railway line, where we seemed to be cheek by jowl with the remnants of the day’s commuters.

We seemed to leave all trace of civilisation for a while as we turned left again to follow a riverside path through a heavily scented forest of Himalayan Balsam.  Before leaving the river and following the path over waste ground towards a very smart Go-Karting warehouse, we admired Crosfields’ Transporter Bridge, the only bridge of its type built for rail traffic (one truck at a time).  It was the last of its type and operated from 1916 to 1964.

This is very close to the centre of Warrington, but it took us a while to fumble our way past Bank Quay Station and along Slutchers Lane, where we turned left through the first ginnel to reach the ‘Village’ complex, beyond which another bridge over the Mersey led to a roundabout, across which we took a back lane running parallel with the A49, past an old malt kiln with diamond panes. 

Soon a gap in some railings by a community centre led to a green space and an easy stroll through wet grass with starry views, to Gainsborough Road, whence a left and a right took us back to the start of the walk, and this old ‘signpost’.

An 1896 milestone on the A49 road at Stockton Heath

In our haste, and in the dark, we failed to notice the old terraced houses in Greenalls Avenue, built for the workers at the now defunct brewery of the same name.

Here’s our route – a mere 7 km in 1.5 hours, but a very pleasant outing in remarkably rural surroundings considering we were virtually in the centre of a large town.

Our route - 7km in 1.5 hours

Thursday 22 September 2011

Tuesday 20 September 2011 – The Salford Trail (Part 4)

John and Reg sinking into Little Woolden Moss
Reg had kindly offered to join me for a repeat of ‘Part 4’ of the Salford Trail, a ‘Plod’ that I’d missed earlier in the year.  I can’t find a report on the LDWA website – perhaps someone can direct me to it….
Anyway, John came along as well as Reg, on a drizzly September morning.  (I think John had been appointed to mind Reg’s wallet after a recent incident.)  Luckily the 11.00 am starting time coincided nicely with the ending of the drizzle, so soon after setting off from Irlam Station we were able to stash our waterproofs for the rest of the walk and enjoy weather that was as dry as Reg and I had recently enjoyed in Kandersteg and Turkey respectively.
Our route followed the second half of Roy Bullock’s suggested ‘Part 4 – Worsley to Cadishead’ of the ‘Salford Trail’, as described on his website.  I’ve ‘borrowed’ some of Roy’s text in the description below.
From Irlam Station we headed up the road to a church, where a left turn down a lane soon brought us to a footpath to our left through fields.  This continued west, past Rosebank Farm and on to a lane via a stile. 
A turn right along the lane took us past Woolden View Farm and over the M62 Motorway, passing Birch Tree Farm, Little Haven and Ring Pit Farm. 
On the way we passed some fine fields of turf and wondered whether the grass would finish up under footballers’ boots.

Turf near Ring Pit Farm
The surface became less motorable and the path continued through a wooded area.
Reg and John plod on towards Little Woolden Moss
There were plenty of birds around, including a bevy of collared doves.  Reg has seen ‘twitchers’ hereabouts, so it could be home to a variety of species.  We soon emerged onto a large peat bog fringed by heather.
Little Woolden Moss - a peat bog
At the edge of the bog it is clearly signposted showing the pathway as turning to the right and skirting the edge of the bog to a point which is in a direct line ahead, where there is a stile. My maps show the path and right of way as a straight line over the bog, but newer maps show the new route around the outer edge of the bog. Peat extraction has eliminated the original route, and it seems that recent work has also destroyed the new path. Walking over the peat was a little arduous, with the loose ground being soft and springy, and the peat coming up to our ankles (see top picture). At least, despite recent rain, it wasn’t muddy!
Roy reports that there are ‘hares in these parts… living above ground in what is called a ‘form’, which is a small hollow in the ground. The hare digs a shallow resting hollow or "form" out of a moss hummock on the bog, which it lies in during the day. The form is dug out slightly more at one end than the other - the deeper end accommodates the hare's large and powerful hind quarters. The form is usually orientated so that the hare can sit with its back to the wind.’
We saw no hares today*, but  I did spot a certain piece of farm machinery that may be of interest to Alan R, who will no doubt provide a name and serial number (no need for the Latin name, Alan!) in due course.
A rare species of tractor
After slogging our way around the moss, we soon reached a track that passed a number of farms close together. These were Moss Lodge Farm, Red House Farm, and White Gate Farm on the right and Platt House Farm on the left. At the end of the lane a left turn took us past another farm, Moss Side Farm.   Recently planted crops were clearly benefitting from the rich soil hereabouts.
Salford crops - September 2011
After a walk along the road, a signpost points to the right over a metal footbridge and immediately after that another signpost points to the left. This is the extreme edge of Salford at its border with Astley. We took the second path to the left, past Moss House Farm, now finding ourselves on the route of the Glazebrook Timberland Trail, an eleven mile route from Pennington Flash to Irlam, not to be confused with the Mersey Valley Timberland Trail, a 22 mile route from Runcorn to Lymm.
Time for lunch.  We all found small perches in this rather decrepit place… mine was a bit springy!
Lunch on the Salford Trail near Moss House Farm
The Himalayan Balsam was starting to fade in places, but not here.
Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
From this most scenic of lunch spots, we plodded off in a steady southish direction in improving weather, strolling parallel with Glaze Brook, across which a nearby farm had a variety of strange beasts in its garden.
Holcroft Hall
Is this really Salford?
Field near Glaze Brook, Salford John near Glaze Brook, Salford Crops near Glaze Brook, Salford
After a while we passed Little Woolden Hall, which looks rather run down, not the Salford Mansion I’d expected!  Here’s all I can find out about it:

”Little Woolden Hall has a house with a small park and a ruin on the site. It is linked by a system of tracks to brick fields and willow beds. By the late-19th-century the ruin seems to have disappeared and the area around the house was simplified in design. The associated landscape had also been greatly developed as woodland.”
Little Woolden Hall
Soon after that the path re-crossed the M62 motorway and passed Great Woolden Hall Farm, though it doesn’t really look all that ‘great’.  Remarkably, this is by the site of an Iron Age ‘promontory’ fort. (Elsewhere it’s described as a ‘hillfort’, but there is not a hill in sight around here!)  It was apparently occupied in three phases during the period 500 BC to AD 200. During this period it possibly became an enclosed settlement containing stock pens and industrial sites.
Great Woolden Hall Farm
Just beyond here, a friendly horse greeted us in much the same way as on 20 December 2007, but I think it was a different animal this time!

Pony by Great Woolden Hall Farm
Then it was under the railway line and through open land beside the rather substantial waters of Glaze Brook.
Meadow land beside Glaze Brook
The final ginnels leading to the A57 road passed by some fine allotments, from where it was just a short walk back to Irlam Station.
Allotments near Glaze Brook
‘Part 4’ therefore passes through some remarkably ‘countrified’ Salford landscapes, but finishes amongst industrial buildings such as  Lanstar’s waste reclamation plant,
Lanstar waste reclamation plant
and the Royal Arms’ ABA Boxing venue, where certain Hollywood film stars have been immortalised on a small verandah.

Hollywood stars in Salford
Here’s our route – approximately 15km, with 60 metres (if that!) of ascent, which took us a very leisurely 4 hours.

The Salford Trail (Part 4) - 15 km, 60 metres ascent, 4 hours
Thanks for returning to this venue, Reg, it was much appreciated.
That just leaves ‘Part 1’ for me to complete.  Links to my other Salford Trail reports are given below:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5
*but last time I was here, I did see ‘rabbits’!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Hell & High Water – from the Mikron Theatre Company

The cast of the Mikron Theatre Company

On Monday evening I had the pleasure of a visit to the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, where the Mikron Theatre Company, pictured above, performed ‘Hell & High Water’, their accomplished portrayal of the early history of the Bridgewater Canal, which is of course the ‘Waterside’ next to Sale.

Their current tour programme (September and October 2011) is here, and if ‘Beer Street’ is anything like as entertaining as ‘Hell & High Water’, that show is also worth a visit.


Great Moments in Life – The Brew

The Brew

17 May 2011 – Elevenses in Rannoch Forest, on Day 5 of the TGO Challenge.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Sunday 18 September 2011 – Exploring the Monsal Trail Tunnels – A Circuit from Taddington

Ascending from Litton Mill towards Taddington

Today some 22 'random' folk assembled in the vicinity of the well hidden church at Taddington for a 10am start on a fine late summer’s day.

Amazingly, everyone who had said they were coming either turned up or excused themselves, and we started early!

With leaves changing colour, autumn seemed imminent, but shorts and t-shirts were still (slightly) in evidence as we set off through a ginnel beside Daybreak Cottage which leads over a stile and into fields.

Leaving Taddington over a series of stiles
Taddington was soon left behind as we
gently ascended to Sough Top.  A poor gate vault, employing the ‘inflated stomach technique’ was used by one of the more eccentric members of the party to ‘bag’ a summit that appeared to be atop an industrial mound.  A trig point (438 metres) was then ‘collected’.

The day was dull, with sunny periods, but warm and very sociable as we chatted our way along the easy path through fields of stubble towards Chelmorton, the descent to which village passed through some woods that provided camouflage for those in need (there are no public toilets in Taddington).

Bank Pit Spring was a highlight of the path to Chelmorton.  Historically the source of the village’s water supply, it was known as the ‘Illy-Willy Water’, and lies at the end of Grove Rake, an important former lead mining site.  The trough is the first of what used to be a series of water supply troughs down the main street of the village.  These were replaced in the late 19th century by  a 10,000 gallon tank which has now itself become redundant.

The 13th century church that we passed on our left stands at a height of over 350 metres and may be the highest parish church in England.

It was a bit too early to take advantage of refreshments at the Church Inn in Chelmorton, despite some enticing smells.

After a right turn along some easy farm tracks, and then along thinner field paths, we found ourselves high above the deep cleft of Deep Dale, into which it’s a steep, slithery descent.

This is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), where mining activities of bygone days have left many relics at the different levels of the mines.  In spring there are banks of orchids to enjoy.  Today, knapweed and scabious were much in evidence, as we looked down Deep Dale towards Topley Pike quarry, a source of limestone aggregate, which dates from 1907.

There's what appears to be a cave to explore at the foot of the steep slope.  This is not in fact a cave but a short mine level that has been driven into a calcite vein. Up until the late 1970's the level was apparently almost full of crystal-clear water giving it the name of Pool Cave. The level was subsequently drained by mine explorers to see if it continued for any distance into the dale side.  In fact the level soon ends at small rubble filled hole in the floor.

Deep Dale is a rough place to walk down, but not a patch on the infamous Monk’s Dale.  Earlier in the year, bloody cranesbill and clustered bellflower would have been in flower here.  They may be still, but I didn’t notice any, nor did we linger to investigate the sites of mining history.  The scarce cistus forester moth may be seen feeding on rock rose that grows in the dale, but we didn’t spot it today.

After escaping from the slithery stones of Deep Dale and crossing the A6, an easy road leads under the railway and into Wye Dale, where a new café heralds the start of the Monsal Trail, which this year has celebrated the re-opening of the tunnels along its course to Bakewell, meaning that cyclists can now enjoy the pleasures of the trail alongside the walkers, who for many years have had to use footpaths to get around the closed tunnel sections.

Elevenses were late – it was after 12.15 when we eventually halted beside the end of the Monsal Trail and set about demolishing a whole batch of Sue’s chocolate caramel shortbread, after discovering that a) only three of our party actually wanted to buy a drink - most had flasks
b) an enticing piece of grass with a picnic bench just across the river was Strictly Private, and
c) there were no toilets.

Never mind, Anne enjoyed herself in a tree house, anyway.

Anne seeks refuge in a tree house

We were now on the disused railway line that used to link Derby with Manchester.  The line was opened in 1863, when some people saw it in the same light as many of us now view wind farms.  For example, Ruskin wrote about it: 'There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe... You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley - you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere'.

The tunnels have recently been carefully restored, enabling cyclists as well as walkers to enjoy the 8.5 mile track to Bakewell, so with horses, walkers and cyclists it can get a bit crowded.  However, even on this busy Sunday most of the cyclists were sedate and courteous, with just one bunch of youths bucking that trend.  There were no horses to be seen.

Unlike in the days between the line being closed and the tunnels being shut, now that they have reopened, the tunnels are nicely lit during daylight hours.

We passed above Chee Dale, another SSSI, with many flowers, and butterflies like the dark green fritillary.  Bridget spotted a dipper, but the spotted flycatchers and redstarts mentioned on the information board remained elusive.

East Buxton Lime Kilns were opened in 1880 and were in use until 1944, some giant buttresses having been added in the 1920’s.  They are very spacious inside and produced about 50 tons of rather caustic lime each day.

I chose this spot for lunch.  It was one o’clock after all.  The grass was damp, but most seemed to manage fine.

Lunch by the Monsal Trail

Fran and Stephanie arrived on their bikes - "You know it's only a few minutes walk to a much better place to stop at Miller's Dale Station" she suggested.

"We're happy enough" chirped some voices from the woods.

However, two renegades continued on regardless and found a more comfortable location, equipped with benches, ice cream van and toilets. 

Lunch at Miller's Dale station

Miller’s Dale station was once the largest on the line – situated at an important junction where passengers from Buxton could make connections with the express trains running between London and Manchester.  Whilst the line dates from 1863, it had just two platforms until 1905, when an extra three platforms were added, together with a second viaduct.  The station even had its own Post Office.

After another short break at what should really have been our lunch stop (and a suitable alternative starting point for the walk) we continued on past Miller’s Dale Quarry and The Litton Mill Railway Cutting – both SSSI’s in their own right, the latter being cut into an ancient lava flow front dating from around 330 million years ago.

My brain is starting to hurt with all this technical stuff!

At Litton Mill we left the railway for a while and passed the restored mill building, which looks much better than it did a few years ago.

The sun shone as we passed through Miller’s Dale, with coots, dabchicks and mallard all assuming their customary poses as we passed along the pleasant riverside path at Water-cum-Jolly, heading towards Cressbrook Millpond and its wall of rock.

A mystery duck:  Goosander, Long-tailed duck??Goosanders are common around here, but what's this bird, seen on the millpond? A long-tailed duck?

After crossing back over the river Wye via bridge by the weir at Cressbrook, the views open out as the path ascends back up to the railway line
, with the buildings of Monsal Head on the horizon in the near distance.  For those desiring a slightly longer walk, it would be easy to include Monsal Head on an extended itinerary.  It has good views and facilities.

Looking back towards the smart buildings of Cressbrook, it’s hard to imagine that they date from 1787 – rebuilt by Richard Arkwright junior after Richard Arkwright senior’s original 1779 mill had burnt down in 1785.  The mill’s heyday was in the 19th century, but it continued to produce high quality cotton for the lace making industry until 1965.

Looking back to Cressbrook from the Monsal Trail

Now we turned right, heading up through Cressbrook Tunnel, at 800 metres the longest tunnel on this section of line.  The track emerges into a short section of daylight with excellent panoramic views that some of us haven't enjoyed since the tunnels were closed many years ago.  Then it disappears again, into Litton Tunnel.

Cressbrook Tunnel

Tunnel Rules: Do Not Touch the Sides (you may get dirty!)  Do Not Enter if Unlit (you may get dirty!) Keep Left (or you may be run over!) Horses (may spook you!)

Exiting Litton Tunnel

We left the railway for a second and final time, saying goodbye to Fran and Stephanie, who had been monitoring our progress on their bikes, to ascend Priestcliffe Lees, another SSSI, where pansies, leadwort and orchids are said to abound.  We just found some sheep, happily grazing on the late summer vegetation.

 Ascending from Litton Mill towards Taddington

It was a steep ascent, but everyone seemed happy, and some pleasant field paths then took us across the deep cleft of High Dale and back to Taddington by 4.15.

 On the last lap - across the fields to Taddington

Anyone starting from Miller’s Dale could maybe enjoy a break at the Queens Arms in Taddington, but with Sunday suppers to prepare, our party had dispersed by 4.30.

Our route is shown below – it’s about 20km (12.5 miles) with 450 metres ascent, taking around 6 hours.

Our route - 20km, 450 metres ascent, in around 6 hours

If anyone is interested, the full slide show is here.

For another pleasant six hour walk in this area see here.

Finally, thank you – everyone – for coming along; it was great to see some of you for the first time in ages, and to enjoy the company of such an eclectic mix of people.

Monday 19 September 2011

The Millennium Trilogy – Stieg Larsson

The Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy

They told me “you won’t be able to put them down”.

I like ‘a good thriller’ every now and then.

‘They’ were correct.