View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Warburton Souling 2020, Covid-19 edition

The Warburton Souling Play, one of many traditional ritual plays performed up and down the country, was revived in the late 1970s after break of over 40 years.

Setting off for the first night's performance - pre-Covid-19 days

Our Play is performed over a period of 2 weeks, kicking off on the 1st November each year – unless that date falls on a Sunday, in such cases we start the following day. We never perform on a Sunday.

You can read more about our Play here. 

We perform mainly in pubs (tsk) during the two week season….and we, er, rarely go thirsty.


Beelzebub, thirst quenched

We’re determined that our local tradition doesn’t die out as so many other plays have. Continuity is important but Covid-19 posed a threat to this year’s tour.

The Enterer

Turkish Champion


Enter Zoom.

In order for the Play to be performed safely it was agreed that the Play should be performed remotely from our respective homes using technology. A bit of clever editing has resulted in this:


If all goes to plan we should be hitting the road again next November – I certainly hope so, this year has been a disaster for many. To quote a certain ex-Prime Minister, ‘things can only get better’… can’t they?

The show must go on…as somebody else once (probably) said.


Soul Cakes - made by the lovely Honor. Last year. Obv.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Gear Test: Sleeping mat pumps

An alternative to lung power was needed in order to keep the dreaded moisture from making a mess of the inside of my expensive sleeping mat, so….

Left to Right:  
FlextailGear, Thermarest Mini-Pump, Thermarest Poly Bag Pump


Thermarest Polythene Bag Pump

The was first option I explored. The pump consists of a short section of very flexible tubing that has a large open-ended polythene bag on one end, whilst t’other end is pushed over the inlet valve of the sleeping mat.

The idea is that the poly bag is opened up to it’s max, then with the open end of the bag scrunched closed, the air is squeezed out, thus inflating the sleeping mat.

It’s good, it works, it’s lightweight, and the batteries never go flat. I paid around £10 for mine 6-7 years ago, quite expensive for a bit of tubing and a poly bag – but it does work well. I store mine in an old sleeping bag liner stuff sack, total weight is 68gms.

6-8 squeezes are enough to fully inflate my full-size NeoAir, taking a couple of minutes.

The bad news is that I don’t think it’s available any more having been replaced by Thermarest’s Blockerlite Pump Sack – a similar idea, but rather than a poly bag, it uses a stuff sack. Price is around £34.

Thermarest NeoAir Mini-Pump

I bought this on the recommendation of my friend Beryl the Peril (aka Margaret) who was, and still is, delighted with her pump.

The gentle buzz emanating from her tent as she enjoyed a brew and her sleeping mat inflated (whilst I was going cross-eyed trying to inflate mine with lung power) was enough to convince me to buy one!

This is an electric pump, powered by 2 AAA cells. Thermarest recommend using Lithium cells, presumably for longer life and maybe (?) their ability to provide higher current. I only had a quick look around but I couldn’t find the capacity of these cells. I store it in a small poly bag, total weight is 80gms.

I power mine with 2 Energizer alkaline cells, they seem to work well enough. The pump draws around 300mA, so batteries will be taking a bit of a hammering.

The pump is operated by opening an end flap that conceals a flexible rubber nozzle which should be connected to the sleeping mat air valve. The pump starts to run when the flap is opened.

Mine developed a fault earlier this year, it was only minor but it stopped it working. I repaired it at home (it was just a corroded battery connector) but it wouldn’t be repairable in the field. I stripped it, cleaned it, and soldered a copper connector in as a replacement.

I paid £32 for mine, a recent advert I spotted has them priced at £40.

It took 3 mins 40 secs to fully inflate my Neoair, not quick.

FlextailGear pump

I’ve only very recently bought this pump so haven’t had time to try it out in the field. Yet.

It’s larger, and at 159gms, twice the weight of the Thermarest Mini-Pump. It’s powered by an internal rechargeable Lithium Ion cell, presumably 3.6v. Capacity, according to the ‘manual’ and markings on the pump case, is 3600mAh. The electrical power rating of the pump is published at 15W. Charging is via a mini usb charger, not supplied – although a short lead is supplied. It comes with a stuff sack, plus a selection of adapters to suit different-sized valves.  The pump has an one / off slide switch on it’s side.

The pump has inlet and outlet ports, so as well as inflating it can be used to FULLY deflate a sleeping mat – saves struggling to get every last bit of air out prior to trying to squeeze it into it’s stuff bag.

Where this pump scores is the time it takes to inflate my NeoAir: 40 seconds – rather quicker than the Thermarest Mini-Pump.

Assuming the power source is a single 3.6v Lithium Ion cell, and that the 3600mAh capacity is correct, the claimed 15W power rating = a current draw of around 4.2 Amps.

I don’t know much about the characteristics of Lithium Ion cells, but the sums, guesstimation, (and a smattering of experience of discharge rates) suggest a theoretical total pumping time of around 40 minutes.

Price: £24.99


Each pump has it’s own merits. Although it’s a great performer, I’m not sure whether I’d take the FlextailGear on long trips – weight and the non-replaceable battery being the main drawbacks. I’d be happy taking it on shorter trips of 2 – 4 days though.

The Neoair Mini-Pump is slow and fairly lightweight - but batteries are replaceable. I’m not 100% sure on reliabilty though.

The NeoAir Poly Bag pump is lightest, the batteries last forever, and it has no moving parts – although it’s a bit of a faff to use. For longer trips this is the one to go for.


Thursday, 5 November 2020

Alderley Edge Autumn Colours

I’ve been reading Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and the Moon of Gomrath – what better excuse to get out for a  wander up to Alderley Edge to get some fresh air and to re-explore the mysterious landscape. 

The autumn colours were just lovely.

 My mate Steve Mills singing Pete Coe's The Wizard of Alderley Edge:

Steve, apart from being an all round good egg (Well he's not REALLY round), has an encylopedic knowledge of the Edge, it's legends, it's history, and, as an active member of Derbyshire Caving Club, of what goes on underground....which happens to be rather a lot.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Tegg’s Nose 16th Oct 2020

An email popped into my inbox inviting me to join Martin & Sue on their Friday walks, the first walk being from Tegg’s Nose, situated in one of the lumpier bits of Cheshire.

It wasn’t a very warm nor bright morning but it was good and dry.

I’d left home in good time but a Road Closed sign upset my plans although after much re-routing I eventually arrived at the visitor centre car park to be greeted by a party of 5, all waiting (fairly) patiently for me.

I’d chosen to walk in and old pair of North Face Hedgehog shoes that had long since ceased to be waterproof – but they are comfortable.

Martin, being the man with the map, set off at a leisurely pace and we all trouped after him.

Looking NW towards Manchester

 Martin & Sue, Paul and Graeme I’d met before, but not Cary – although our paths have almost certainly crossed at a Park Run – where he’d have shot past me. 

First stop was to examine the old quarry machinery that had benefitted from a coat of paint since my last visit – it’s colourful appearance brought to mind a child’s playground.

Sue toying with the idea of a ropeless abseil

On a clear day the views from Tegg’s Nose are expansive. Good too. Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, in all it’s bright-white glory, was prominent on the Cheshire Plain.

Martin, our glorious leader - the man with the map

For Alan R. And Dawn


Time for Tiffin, Shortbread...and some peculiar tea

Martin led us steeply downhill toward Langley and a tour of three reservoirs: Tegg’s Nose, Bottoms, and Ridgegate – where we stopped for sit down, coffee, (slightly) milk flavoured washing-up water, and goodies to eat: Sue’s highly addictive shortbread, and my contribution, home-made Tiffin.

This building that was once home to a Walter Whiston Bullock who fought at Gallipoli and the Somme, before finally meeting his end at Passchendaele after leading a successful attack to capure a German concrete shelter where 100 prisoners were taken and eight machine guns captured. Walter was killed later that same day. He was 34 and was subsequently awared the Distinguished Conduct Medal.


No idea

Suitably refreshed and refuelled we headed North-east(ish)into Macclesfield Forest, reputed to be frequented by Nastrond, Selina Place and Grimnir. I read about it in a book so it must be true.

Lovely autumn colours

Continuing north we cross the busy main road at Walker Barn, a check point on the Bullock Smithy Hike, more northerly stuff followed until we hit the Gritstone Trail, where we turned abruptly left, to follow the Way’s signs for the last mile or so back to our cars.

We’d been out for around 3½ hours – which considering our leisurely pace was just about right.

Thanks to Martin for inviting me along and leading the walk – and to Sue, Cary, Graeme and Paul for their good company.

Martin’s rather truer story of the morning’s fun.

Where we went:


Saturday, 10 October 2020

Tally-Ho! from Chinley Sat 10th Oct 2020

The Old Hall in Chinley is rapidly becoming a Club favourite. Located in superb running country, it serves excellent food along with a wide range of well kept, proper beers.


 The Old Hall, Chinley

As with last year’s trail from here, the trail layers were Ade, and the man with the money, Tony.

I opted for an early start but was surprised to find some runners had arrived before me. I set off first, leaving the earlier arrivals to chat and get themselves ready for the rigours of the run.

I headed off west, initially on tarmac following the clumps of sawdust down hill to cross the road bridge over the raging Black Brook. It wasn’t long before Hon Prez Park caught me up, we stuck together for the rest of the run.

Photo nicked from Big Ian, because mine was rubbish,

We left the road to climb, running north along Cracken Edge, keeping to the east of Chinley Churn. It was cloudy but dry and we enjoyed good views all around.


Passing through some old quarry workings, and scaring the living daylights out some sheep, we could clearly see Mount Famine and South Head, hills that we’d soon be ‘running’ up. We descended to Peep-O’-Day which had just come into view. 

The crossing of the busy A624 marked the start of our climb over Mount Famine. We came across a couple of mountain bikers who were cycling the Pennine Bridleway:


Kinder Downfall could be seen doing what Kinder Downfall should: the water was flowing down, not up. We descended the to cross the familiar Pennine Bridleway, and then began a bit of a tug up to the top of South Head, where the wind was very, er, windy.

Summit Cairn, South Head

Heading off South Head


The descent from South Head was magnificent. The ground was dry and it was very runnable.

It was now more or less downhill all the way back – but following the trail was tricky at times – leading us through a garden (it was a P.R.O.W.) and going through various, almost hidden, little snickets and ginnels.

The flooded path alongside the sewage farm caused a little concern…..was this the waste outflow? Worse, could it have been the overflowing intake?

Whatever….we continued west along the old Tramway, now a pleasant path, and on final approach to the Old Hall.

Cracken Edge from the  pub

Covid-19 restrictions meant we couldn’t use the tin bath so runners had to make the best of it. I took a flask of hot water and had a quick wash down at my car in the pub car park, others made their own arrangements for removing the worst of the crud. I wasn't too muddy - mainly thanks to the flooded path we'd just run through:

Not too muddy - thanks to the flooded path we'd just run through

Joe was shielding so wasn’t able to stay for the meal. The Warrington lads were under orders from Boris deWaffle Johnson not to mix with the likes of the rest of the Club so they enjoyed a rehydrating pint or two whilst sat outside the pub before heading off and leaving the rest of the runners to enjoy a very fine dinner of steak pudding followed by, er, pudding. Ade didn’t have the steak pudding. Obv.

Then it was time to go time – but not before the Hon Sec made it known that we had lost another venue, the Crag at Wildboarclough. Plans are in hand to replace it with another venue, but in these difficult times finding a pub that is able to accommodate us is no easy task….even assuming pubs aren’t ordered to close, which right now looks very iffy.

Anyroadup. It was a great day, Joe, as always, proved to be the best of company. The route really couldn’t have been better, and the pub, well….tremendous.

Oh, and nobody overtook us….a first!

 Nothing to do with the run, but I always find these railway arches, on the road into Chinley, to be quite striking - the evening sun illuminated them beautifully:

Warburton Souling 2020, Covid-19 edition

The Warburton Souling Play, one of many traditional ritual plays performed up and down the country, was revived in the late 1970s after brea...