Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Saturday 4 January 2020

The TGO Challenge - Vetting Days (1)

Following the sad demise of Bernie Marshall last year, I offered to help the organisers - knowing that he was supposed to be on Challenge Control at the Park Hotel in Montrose.

"We have that covered, but Bernie was a vetter, and he will be sorely missed from that role" was the gist of the response.

I can't fill Bernie's size 14s, but I did agree to vet some routes. Around 300 routes are submitted each year from TGO Challenge entrants. A team of nearly twenty people vets these routes, to ensure that they are sensible, manageable and, as far as possible, safe.

January is the busiest month for vetting, as many participants prepare their routes during the Christmas holidays, and the deadlines for submission become imminent.

I'm enjoying the vetting, but it is time consuming, so I'll have less time to compose items for this blog for a few weeks. I've therefore decided to post random pictures from the TGO Challenges that I've been taking part in since 2007.

I'm currently looking at a first timer's route that passes through Knoydart and then up beside the Finiskaig River. He plans to camp at NM891943, but I'll be able to suggest that if he cares to continue for another 1.5 km, he may find an idyllic spot at NM906947, where Sue is pictured next to our tent in 2009.

PS We did take part in Wythenshawe parkrun this morning, with Sue walking with Jeanette as both are injured. There was a huge turnout of 401 people, on a fine morning. Everything went smoothly but I took no pictures. We spent the usual hour + in the tea room afterwards. Full results, just for the record, are here.

Friday 3 January 2020

Friday 3 January 2020 - A Middlewood Way/Macclesfield Canal Circuit

2020's Friday morning walks got off to a start this morning. Billy No Mates turned up on time at Rose Hill in Marple and enjoyed a 13 km stroll in more of the lovely weather that seems to have draped itself over the North West since the change of decade.
It won't last!
Well, those who might have come but didn't missed a nice route (detailed below), starting along the Middlewood Way in the company of cyclists, dog walkers and runners. A busy place despite the impression given by today's header photo.
After a while, I turned into a less muddy field than Tally-Ho would savour, and made my way past Windlehurst to the Macclesfield Canal.
Joining the towpath at bridge number 8, I discovered this to be another busy thoroughfare.
I wasn't going to Hall Green, so luckily didn't need to know how far away that was!
High Lane crosses the canal by the Bull's Head, which I gave a miss today.
A little further south, this old bridge gives access to a sizeable mooring basin.
These mallards seemed to be taunting the cat... "Come and get us if you can!"
The low sun was blinding as I moved gently south.
There's a bridge where the Ladybrook Valley Interest Trail crosses the canal. I took this trail, alongside the canal, then heading east across Bollinhurst Brook.

A rare 'Northern' train passed by just as I reached a pedestrian crossing.
Coppiceside Farm is a muddy mess. Some day it may look rather different... with a bell tower and manicured lawns?
After a short section of quiet lanes, I left the road near Wybersley Hall, then encountered a lot of mud and dodgy stiles around Lomber Hey Farm.
Hunters Park Farm was much cleaner, with good views over the sunny fields, and an easy track back to the canal towpath.
At Hawk Green, near a massive old mill building, a left turn along the Cown Edge Way footpath took me through a busy golf course then along a lovely woodland path to re-join the Middlewood Way just south of Rose Hill.
A pleasant little jaunt in perfect weather - 13 km, taking a little under two hours at a brisk pace - here's the route.
Next Friday, 10 January, I'll be walking 'off road' from Stockport to Ashton, again. And I may be on my own. Again! Here's the flier... all welcome.
Stockport to Ashton - a 21 km walk from Stockport Railway Station to Audenshaw Metrolink. Off road all the way. Meet at 10.20 am at the frog outside Stockport Station, to cater for 10 am train from Altrincham.

Thursday 2 January 2020

The Salt Path - Raynor Winn

Sue and I have both enjoyed reading this book about a homeless couple, one of whom is terminally ill, walking the South West Coast Path with inferior equipment and a budget of about £30 a week.

It's rather a contrast to Simon Armitage's contemporaneous story (also an entertaining read - I wrote about it here), if rather amusing when Mole, Raynor's husband, is mistaken for Mr Armitage.

When homelessness is forced upon this hapless couple, they embark on a long walk. Raynor must have kept some sort of diary, or how else could she have written so vividly about her experiences on the coast path? In authoring this book it must soon have become apparent that she's a talented writer, and no doubt she is now making some sort of living by employing that new found talent.

Raynor and Mole certainly have my admiration.

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Happy New Year

For the second year running, we've started with a parkrun rather than a walk.
But first we celebrated the entrance of a new decade with our good friends, Chris, Louise, Lyn, Gerry and Robert. A lovely evening with a fine meal and some rather silly games whilst we awaited the witching hour. Worrying days are ahead though, now that we have a 'leader' who you wouldn't trust to post a letter, and who can't be impeached however far his right wing tendencies may reach.
Ho hum, I hope I'm wrong.
From Lyn's house in Adlington it was just a half hour's drive to Ormskirk, where we were joined by about a dozen reprobates from Wythenshawe (no parkrun there today) whilst we sheltered from the cool breeze  and awaited the sun to rise over another decade.
Over 450 people turned up, and it was a slow start for many of us around the perimeter of a running track. This was the 298th parkrun here, and the highest attendance other than NYD 2019. The course record was beaten today, with the first person coming home in 15.28. It's a two lap course, like many parkruns, and the first time I've been lapped except when volunteering as Tail Walker. And I set the third fastest VM70 time on this course - it would have been second fastest had someone else today smashed that record as well.
Considering she claimed to be injured, Sue finished only just behind me in a flurry of bird's nest hair.
The sun was in the wrong place for taking pictures of finishers, excepting their rear view.
Well, that was fun, and a great way to start the year. How about another one?
We weren't the only ones to think that, as a lonely convoy of cars made its way along otherwise empty roads to the centre of Skelmersdale. Not an obvious venue for a parkrun, but the Tawd Valley Park, adjacent to the town centre, offers a single lap over mixed ground, with a few hills, for those locals who want a bit of Saturday morning exercise.
Many of those running at Ormskirk migrated to Southport for their second bout of exercise, but we chose Tawd Valley's 10.30 run as it was on the way home. Sue and I were pleased to find Keith, from Crosby, in attendance today, and running quite impressively. I'd tried to contact him last night but my 'phone rejected his number. He must be psychic!
Only on special days, like New Years Day, do English parkruns take place other than on a Saturday morning at 9 am. I doubt there are many Run Directors who oversee more than one event in a day, but Ormskirk's trusty host had scooted over to Skem to repeat his 'speech', claiming it was his twin brother in action!
Jenn is usually a fair way behind me over 5 km, but after another slow start on a narrow path, I was surprised to catch her up after about 2 km. She explained that she was after 'a strong performance'. Perhaps I should have stayed around to help her, but despite slowing towards the end, she did manage a good sprint, only a little way adrift of me.
She was well ahead of Dan and Amanda, who are to be congratulated on their recent engagement.
Not far behind them, Charley found a fine sprint finish, with both feet at least 6 inches off the ground, to impressively whizz past a man dressed in pink pyjamas
The header picture, and the one below, are courtesy of a stranger with Jenn's 'phone. Thanks Jenn, what a happy looking crowd of tourists, and well done to Andy for two very strong sub 20 minute performances, coming 12th and first respectively in the age graded results.
Ormskirk's full results are here, and Tawd Valley's are here.

A great way to start the year.

Monday 30 December 2019

Sunday 30 December 2019 - Around Rivington

We couldn't resist going out on such a sunny day. Al and Hazel and Andrew kindly picked us up for a trip to Rivington that replicated the one we made on 2 March, earlier this year. My report on that walk is here, and it includes historical references regarding, inter alia, the Tower and the Pigeon Loft, so I won't repeat that information here.
Instead, just click on any of the pictures to luxuriate in Lancashire's winter sunshine.
Distant views were obscured by a haze that restricted the view to around Chorley, whilst on a completely clear day Blackpool Tower comes into view, as well as many more distant hills.
Today, Winter Hill, accessed by an eroded track, seemed very close.
Whilst mountain bikers, runners and walkers enjoyed the bright, warm day, we investigated the Pigeon Tower's recent refurbishment, described on a new information board. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The gaudy new door has now weathered to a more respectable colour!
The tower looked impressive under the cobalt sky.
After about 8 km, and rather less than two hours, we were happy to adjourn to the Great Barn for coffee/hot chocolate, before returning home to try to achieve some of the mundane tasks that have been obscured by the 'Christmas break'.
Buzzards were noticed today, and on the recent Tally-Ho walk, after a cacophony of owls had accompanied us towards the end of our 'Shutlingsloe at Night' walk. We've also been treated to long-tailed tits, goldcrests and blackcaps joining the regulars (great, blue and coal tits, blackbird, robin, etc) in our small suburban garden. What a delight!

Sunday 29 December 2019

Saturday 28 December 2019 - Christmas at Dunham Massey, plus bits

We went last year. Here's the report.
This year J and J came to stay again, enjoying making shortbread before darkness fell and we toddled off to Dunham on a fine, warm evening. Where we were encouraged to ...

To reach the Winter Gardens, the hall, illuminated with an advent calendar projection, was passed.
Beyond the Lily of the Valley, the Dunham Deer presented a posing opportunity
Illuminated Flowers, Cyclamens, the Heart Walk, and a Neon Door, were all encountered.
The Firework Trees were hard to capture on film without a sound channel.
The Sea of Light was followed by some stalls selling crepes.
The Laser Garden was also hard to photograph. I did my best, and J and J had lots of fun here.
After an interlude during which we toasted giant marshmallows, the Vortex Tunnels led to 'Fire on Water', involving projections onto the back of the hall.
Christmas music continued throughout the 'tour', the music being coordinated with the lighting to trigger the constant changes of colours.
Father Christmas and his Elves were there. It looked hard work, you could almost feel the sub text in their voices … "only two more days of this!"

The final thrill was the Cathedral of Light.
Until, that is, the Fairground Rides. Here, Jacob tried hard to get the swing to loop the loop. I used the following picture rather than the one in which he had virtually disappeared out of the top of the frame.
Whilst Jacob had fun on the Helter Skelter, Jess enjoyed a more sedate fairground ride.
Then we had giant burgers and hot dogs, and went home satisfied. Thanks, Dunham Massey, that was a well organised and happy event. As last year, it took about an hour to go round.
After a good night's sleep, the children were enticed away from their iPads to Walton Park, for train rides and a marathon frisbee session during which Jacob only managed to get the frisbee caught in a tree once. Is that a record!
To complete this miscellany, here's Jess with Rocko on Boxing Day at Grandma Whoosh's house, during one of a number of family gatherings, all of which were most pleasurable.