Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Saturday 3 August 2019

Friday 2 August 2019 - Lamaload Reservoir and Shining Tor

Paul S and I took to some busier than usual minor roads, to reach the car park at Lamaload Reservoir, from which we set off walking at 10 am. This isn't far from Toddbrook Reservoir, above Whaley Bridge, which has succumbed to rain damage resulting in the evacuation of Whaley Bridge's town centre and the closure of many roads, hence the extra traffic - mainly white vans striving to make deliveries.
We followed the route suggested in Jen Darling's 'More Pub Walks in Cheshire and the Wirral' book, starting with a walk around the reservoir, from the western side of which is the view to Shining Tor pictured above. Our route headed up to the left of the wood in the centre of the picture, before curving to the right before the final ascent to the summit.
Unusually, the 'pub' suggested for this walk is a little off route. A visit to The Stanley would involve a short drive to the south. We took our own refreshments on this occasion.
The local footpath society does install some impressive signs!

After almost circumnavigating the reservoir (the dam looked fine) we passed by a copse with a stream running through it, before ascending steeply up towards Andrew's Edge.
Soon we could look down on the wood and the reservoir that we'd walked around only a short time earlier.
From more or less the same place, the view ahead shows a fairly level path before the final pull up to Shining Tor. It must have looked a lot different up here in the past. Recent rain has cleared the atmosphere, providing us with excellent views today.
The 559 metre summit of Shining Tor is the highest point in Cheshire. Paul and I dutifully (for this publication) took turns in posing on the summit next to a bag placed in preparation for an orienteering event.
We sat on a wooden bench with our flasks of tea/coffee and other snacks. Here we met the only other people seen on the entire walk - an elderly couple with a dog, and a group of four, also with dogs.
We could see and hear the Chinook helicopter ferrying stone to shore up the damaged dam wall in Whaley Bridge, but as soon as we descended to the west, retracing our steps for nearly a kilometre, we were in a different, very peaceful, valley. There were good views across to Shutlingsloe, a much more shapely hill than Shining Tor.
We spotted a number of kestrels during this walk, and there were lots of smaller birds around. Flowers were dominated by harebells, tormentil, foxgloves and various thistles. I must remember to carry my Lumix camera that has a much better macro facility than the Samsung phone that I currently use for most of my photos, then I can bore readers with pictures of flowers! There were also bilberries, but not in any great quantity.
There WAS evidence of the extreme weather they have had around here. Whilst everything was pretty dry, there was lots of evidence of inundation. Just by way of example, the next picture shows a wide area of grass, flattened by a recent flash flood. No wonder the reservoir overflowed.
A little further on, we passed the abandoned ruin of Thursbitch.  Paul tells me Alan Garner wrote a novel called Thursbitch, set on a remote moor, the novel being entirely in dialect.
A steep pull up to Redmoor Brow saw us nearly all the way round this pleasant circuit, leaving just a meander through deep grass and a walk down Hooleyhey Lane to retrieve the car and return home for lunch.
It's a little over 10 km, with a good 400 metres of ascent, and it took us rather less than three hours.
PS I forgot to mention in my recent 'Bells of Peover' posting, my find towards the end of that walk. Beside the path were two fine Horse Mushrooms, pictured below on our decent sized bread board.
They weighed in at over a kilo and provided for me and Sue a breakfast of mushrooms on toast, a lunch of mushrooms on toast, and four bowls of soup with which to start two evening meals. Brilliant!

Friday 2 August 2019

Thursday 1 August 2019 - An Evening Walk from The Bells of Peover

Richard and Jenny and I met Andrew for one of his 'Deepest Cheshire' evening walks.
Whilst Andrew and I enjoyed liquid refreshments outside the pub on the warm evening, R & J wrestled with their SatNav, which took them to the Whipping Stocks. Never mind, we were in no hurry.
Our pleasant route took us along Ullard Hall Lane, then along a path to Ullardhall Farm. The sun was low as we strode along the driveway, where the first three pictures were taken.
The cereal crop had taken quite a bashing from recent weather and was flattened in places.
This is where Jenny likes her cows - securely fenced in.
Not like this frisky lot, who needed a good talking to from the Cow Whisperer in order to take their minds off 'The Frightened One'.
After just over an hour and a half, we were back at the pub for more liquid refreshment, before heading off home, or in my case to pick up Sue from Rachel's leaving do at Albert's in Didsbury.
Our route was about 6 km (4 miles), with minimal ascent, taking little more than an hour and a half at a gentle pace.
An excellent evening - thanks go to Andrew for organising it.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Smart watches and GPS trackers

Gayle asked why was I using two GPS gadgets recently?
GPS gadgets come in several forms. For serious navigation there are numerous hand held gadgets, some of them with maps. I've gone through a few of these - Satmap, Garmin etrex Vista, etc. I've now sold them all on ebay apart from the fairly basic Garmin etrex10 that only gets occasional use. The Anquet and Viewranger maps on my mobile phone (with power pack), with back up paper maps and compass seem to meet my current needs.
Whilst I rarely need to know precisely where I am, I do find it useful to know where I've been, so a gadget that records my route that can later be downloaded as a .gpx file to the maps I have on the computer at home, is very useful. It's also good to be able to view 'splits' of times per kilometre when running.
The recent such 'watches' I've used are shown above. They were preceded by a wonderful watch called the Suunto Altimax. I used this on our Pyrenees HRP crossing in 2004 and the height information it provided was extremely useful. It's a regular sort of barometric watch with no GPS, and the battery lasts for several years. I wrote about it here. The one I used in 2004 wore out and I bought a new one that I've hardly used. It's due to be ebayed. That's because I have the maps on my phone, and am using one or more of the GPS enabled watches shown above.
I bought my first GPS watch, the Garmin 310XT pictured in the middle above, in April 2011, for the above-mentioned purpose - tracking routes so that they could be downloaded later. I've also found the data given on the big screen useful when running. I didn't use the gadget as a watch, simply taking it off after each use and re-charging the battery for next time. The battery lasts for about 12 hours.
Meanwhile, Fitbit came on the scene with its sophisticated GPS watches that link to mobile phones using an 'app'. This appealed to me and in 2016 I bought a 'Surge'. The strap broke in 2017 and the whole unit was replaced under warranty. Earlier this year the strap on that one broke - out of warranty. I bought a new 'fit it yourself' strap that lasted a few months, then another one that is pictured on the watch shown above on the far left. Shortly after fitting that, I realised that one of the screw threads in the watch had reached the end of its life - the one on the bottom right shown below, so this repair could only be temporary. 
So whilst the above watch still functions, the strap problem means that it's a candidate for the recycling bin.
So I've replaced the Surge with, second from the left above, the Ionic, which should last longer as it has a replaceable strap. In fact, it comes with two straps! It has more features than the Surge, and seems like a really nice watch. It has a GPS tracking capability, but that drains the battery in a few hours ('up to 10', but I suspect rather less). So I'm happy to use it as a watch - recharging it every few days - leaving the GPS function for occasional use as a back up for the Garmin, which was becoming increasingly unreliable. The Ionic is a really nice watch, and much more - I still have to learn its full capabilities.
Back to the Garmin 310XT, another product with strap problems, albeit - at a price - replacement straps are available. However, once the rubber surround gives way, any water ingress gives rise to steaming up and erratic readings. My first 310XT lasted five years - it's the one on the left shown below. It still works, but the strap was transferred to its replacement, an identical model bought in 2016, when the strap on that one broke. As you can see - it's the one on the right below, not only the strap has broken. The rubber surround has given way by the on/off switch, which is now operated with the blunt end of a key. The gadget still works, and I've been using it alongside its replacement, but in future it'll be kept as a back up only, in a dry bag.
My research into a replacement, the 310XT no longer being available, led me to the £250 Garmin 245. I bought one at a discount and tried to set it up and get to grips with the plethora of settings. After a good two hours, and after trying for ages to turn it off, and failing, I boxed it up and sent it back for a refund. A shame, as it looks a really good piece of kit if you can master its workings.
Then I chose the much cheaper (£100) Garmin 35, pictured far right above. With the help of some youtube videos I've been able to (just about) get to grips with this. It provides lots of data that downloads in the background via Bluetooth to the Garmin Connect app where all my trips data is stored. Whilst it could be regarded as unnecessary duplication with the Fitbit Ionic, I'll be using the Garmin 35 only when I'm running/walking/cycling - re-charging it after every use. The battery life in GPS mode is said to be 13 hours. I doubt that's correct, but hopefully it'll be adequate, especially with the Ionic or one of the 310XT watches as back up on a long day out. I will have to get used to having only three bits of data on the screen, compared with the four that I'm used to seeing, and there are other aspects of the Garmin 35 that may take a bit of getting used to. But at least it's easy to turn on and off!
Update - 3 September 2020, when the Garmin 35 is still going strong but the Fitbit Ionic has had to be replaced.

Update - March 2022 - Garmin 35 still fine despite the occasional soft reset. Fitbit Ionic recalled due to a propensity to overheat and cause burns. A refund is promised.

Wednesday 31 July 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 11

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 11 - Thursday 5 August 2004 - Rest Day in La Pierre-St-Martin
Postcard Summary
La Pierre-St-Martin
Well earned rest day in nice refuge
Today’s rest is well earned after over 9 days’ walking.  Shame it’s still not hot and sunny!
Diary Entry (by Martin)
We were overjoyed this morning, after a good night's sleep, no snorers, and tea and toast and jam for breakfast, when Jean produced two CV270 Gaz canisters. This facilitates onward progress without having to hitch 20km to another town.
We are the only people staying on, and after (pictured above) waving goodbye to our new found friends [;] who had a nice trailer load of gear, we did shopping for 2 to 3 days. We then found a laundry to wash all clothes, and (that took all morning) returned to Refuge Jeandel at 1670 metres for a bread, cheese, tomatoes and yoghurt lunch.
Just as well we got the gas. Shop supplies poor but adequate. Turns into a nice day, after a cool start (I was wearing fleece - hot - and swimming trunks - cool - as the only items not needing a wash!) and the sunny afternoon gave good views of Pic d'Anie, 2504 metres, which Didier had been encouraging us to climb today.
It was a good day for walking, but we need the rest. Caught up with this diary and texts to the UK, which don't seem to be being acted upon as yet. Latest news is that Kate has delegated web updating to Mike. We'll see! Kate has all the daily messages.
So we're about 4 hours behind schedule after 10 days, and can catch up tomorrow given an early start and decent weather. We are both fit, apart from Sue's shoe problems - painful boots and disintegrating trainers. We have in fact both worn trainers more than boots so far.
Tent etc all dried outside the refuge this afternoon.

To Date: 
  • lovely walks through wooded, rolling Basque Country, but here we enter Bearn and the limestone 'karst' landscape, so the scenery changes dramatically to rock;  
  • hard to find water en route - should become easier; 
  • very few other HRP people going our way, but some going the other way, and many on GR10.  
  • Sue - 'peut-être' comment still prevails re our arrival at Banyuls. Hopefully that will change if her feet, knee, shoulder, etc problems can be resolved. 
Six English people turn up latish - makes for another convivial evening.

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 10

Today's only picture - outside Rif Bélagua munching lunch in the rain

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure

Day 10 - Wednesday 4 August 2004 - Stage 9

Postcard Summary (on Day 8 card)
Windswept col to La Pierre-St-Martin
Bad weather foils bid to reach Lescun – 8 hours, 22 km, 500m ascent
For a ski resort in summer this isn’t too bad.  We are sitting in a basement in a laundry waiting for all our clothes to be washed.  (I’m wearing just my swimming trunks.)  Yesterday (Wednesday) was tough as it involved navigating difficult terrain all morning.  We used the compass and the altimeter a lot.  Visibility was 10 metres.  The 2½ hour route took over 4 hours, and the much anticipated hot chocolate at Rif Bélagua didn’t happen as the refuge was closed.  After lunch under the eaves it was 14 km on a road in mist +/- rain.  A better evening as we were in a refuge with other English speakers, wine and a nice meal.

Diary Entry (by Sue)
Today saw poor weather, waterproofs all day, and some navigational difficulties. However this was countered by some high points. Rain woke us before 7, and hammered on the tent. Much as I was snug in the sleeping bag, we got up, managed to brew from the remaining gas, and ate bread and salami for breakfast.

The visibility was poor as we set out at 8.15 on the Spanish side of the col. We contoured round the hill, on muddy paths and grassy hillsides, missing the ascending path to the next col. Some while later, this meant turning around and retracing, locating the rising path after an hour lost.
Navigation continued to be difficult, as the path was described as needing 'improvisation', as there were only faint traces. Poor visibility continued with intermittent rain and the occasional strong wind. Finding the numbered border posts was reassurance that we were where we thought we were (up to post number 255 on the ridge).
Finally, we dropped beneath the cloud for a brief while. This section should have taken 2½ hours from the col to the refuge - we finally arrived at the refuge after just over 4 hours at 12.20. Throughout the morning, we had looked forward to hot chocolates at the refuge, but, somewhat disappointingly, it was temporarily closed.
But, its eaves provided a dry spot for more Tex-Mex tuna and chocolate for lunch, and a think about what to do next. Lescun was the original aim for the day, but it was still a 7 hour walk away, over terrain difficult to navigate in mist. So, a 3½ hour walk up the road was decided upon, to reach the ski resort of La Pierre St-Martin.
The small view we'd had disappeared as the road ascended back into cloud, and tarmac was trodden for ages. Limestone country was entered - glimpses of white rock and pines either side of the road. Also, signs that there were potholes, and a large cave on our left, with a couple of choughs flying at its entrance. Again, rain was intermittent.
In total, we walked about 14 km on the road. Just before the turning to the village, a campervan stopped. Amazingly, it was the same couple that we'd seen at Col d'Ispeguy, and also whilst filling up water bottles at a col in the beech forest. So, out of the mist we went, into a warm campervan, where Didier's wife made us bowls of cocoa and fed us butter biscuits, whilst he made suggestions about our route. (
We muddled through with the language barrier! Buildings could be seen (which were hidden by mist before) when we came out, and it was a short stroll to the buildings of the ski complex. There are apartments here, whilst the hotels are shut, and we are directed to the refuge.
La Pierre St-Martin is not an attractive place, but it has a shop, tabac, restaurant, and coffee shops that are open. The refuge is perched on a promontory at the top of the village and our welcome was warm. From here, the bad day was left behind and we enjoyed the company of Paul, from Hertfordshire, who was walking the GR10 having given up a career in banking (he had walked the Pacific Crest Trail over six months in 2003), and Jonathan and Lisa from Christchurch who were cycle touring, and had made their way from Provence over the past 5 weeks.
After a Basque beer, we had a bottle of red wine to accompany a good dinner - soup then d'aube of beef and spaghetti, and cheese/chocolate pudding. This was cooked and served by Jean, a convivial man who trots around in shorts despite today's weather. Although there are bedrooms, we have a double bed on a landing above the dining room.
Despite the necessity to have a short shower, it was very much needed and enjoyed. Waterproof (Sealskinz) socks and gloves both performed well today - the boots were sodden. At last - now for a rest day after 9 and a bit days walking!
Stats and route (Viewranger):
22 km, 1000 metres ascent, 8 hours


Monday 29 July 2019

Monday 29 July 2019 - Another Bike Ride to Bolton and Bury

Today my 'Monday Morning Bike Ride' was reinstated thanks to Paul B's willingness to join me on the pleasant route up to Bolton, across to Bury, and back home through Salford.
I first rode this on 10 June, the full record of which, including a map, is here.
I took very few pictures this time, although it was a very pleasant day. So good for cycling that we didn't stop much. We again eschewed the attractions of Starbucks in Bolton, preferring a Meccano picnic bench at Nob End for our elevenses break at the half way point.
Paul is munching on a very chewy bar, btw, not puking into my flask!
Those were to be today's only photos, but I felt obliged to take the next one, which shows a small part of the massive flood defence system for the River Irwell in Kersal. It's empty apart from a few puddles.
So why wasn't that area used to protect the Castlefield Basin from flooding when the Irwell escaped from its banks and flooded the Bridgewater Canal in the rain last weekend?
"It's a mystery" offered Paul as we looked down to the Irwell.
A little further on, one of several footbridges over the meandering river was being refurbished. It actually looked as if it is being rebuilt. It always seemed ok to me, but maybe there were structural issues.
This time I found my way through Salford by the correct route, despite the paucity of cycle lanes and signs, which I hope will reappear once the road works in the area have been completed.
We took about four and a quarter hours for the 58 km route. I used two Garmin gadgets, one of which showed ascent of 246 metres, whilst the other showed 335 metres. Hmmm.
The bikes needed a good wash after negotiating the muddy towpath in Salford where it had flooded yesterday. My mudguards were very useful today.
Thanks for your company, Paul. I'm not aware of any enthusiasm from others for Monday morning rides during the holiday season, so I'll be going out on a more ad hoc basis. Let me know if you'd like to come along sometime, or do one of the regular Monday morning routes:
Starting from Seamons Moss Bridge:
Starting from Timperley Bridge:
Bolton and Bury Circuit (today's route) - 58 km

Sunday 28 July 2019

Saturday 27 July 2019 - 'Wythenshawe' visits Armley parkrun

About a dozen Wythenshawe parkrunners and supporters dusted off their passports and went on tour to Armley Park, in the Yorkshire City of Leeds. What a fine set of specimens!
Sue and I arrived in plenty of time and strolled around the park in search of the starting point. A WhatsApp group set up by Jan gradually drew everyone to a satisfactory rendezvous, but not before Sue had admired the flower beds in the park, of which this was one of many.
It's a three lap course, as always over 5 kilometres. Here, Annie is briefing Owen, with whom she will run, and Jan and Sue are raring to go.
Then, all too soon, Jan finished, just a few seconds behind me in a respectable time, considering there were 'hills'. About 20 metres of ascent in total doesn't sound much, but with our old legs...
Jan and I had lapped Owen and Annie, so we joined them for their third lap.
Very pleasant it was too. We had time to pause sufficiently to admire the views over 'Greater Leeds'.
They finished in about 37 minutes and were still moving well, as indicated by the blurred images!
Full results for the 222 participants are here. There are more photos on the Armley parkrun Facebook page, here.
We all adjourned for a welcome breakfast at a nearby pub - The Malt Shovel, I think.
At that point it started to rain. It was still raining this morning (Sunday) when Sue and I drove round to Wythenshawe Park to take part in the 'Great Run Local' 5 km event that provides us with a bit of exercise on otherwise uneventful Sundays.
The picture below was taken from the car, about ten minutes before the start, when normally lots of runners can be seen warming up on the track. If you look carefully you might see one person doing just that.
It was actually raining quite hard. We joined about thirty others under a small shelter before being shooed off to the start by a marshal. It's on days like this when the marshals really do need to be thanked. They stand around directing and encouraging people, whereas the runners can keep warm by running. Today both Sue and I went considerably faster than usual - I suppose we were just trying to stay warm! We finished by chatting to a group of 'hardies' in the rain at the finishing line, before returning, completely sodden, home.