View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tuesday 26th June, Summertime in Timperley

Well, Tuesday morning to be more precise….it rained in the afternoon.

The day dawned bright, sunny ….. and warm! There could be no excuse not to get out for a trundle….so a quick email and phone call to the long suffering Rick and we were away from JJ Towers at 9.30am.

The last few years I have begun to explore and enjoy local footpaths – those close enough to home that I can walk from my front door. Today we decided on a walk of a couple of hours to enjoy the summer. Now that it had finally arrived we wanted to take full advantage of the rays – who knows how long the bright orangey-yellow disc in the sky would stick around for.

Walking alongside Beechfield and then to Brooklands roundabout we were soon on Brooks Drive. Brooks Drive got its name from that of its creator Samuel Brooks, a Victorian banker and property developer.

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He bought up a strip of land between Hale Barns and a new Station his bank had commissioned on the railway line from Altrincham to Manchester which became known as Brooklands station. The drive had fallen into disrepair and would have remained so had it not been for the considerable efforts of Reg Temple (1934 – 2001), a local lad who’s fame was only equalled by the late Frank Sidebottom.

Timperley Superhero, Frank Sidebottom

Brooks Drive is now a well maintained, green track used by runners, walkers, cyclists, and horseriders.

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Enough of this history lark, on with the walk.

The sun shone warmly and brightly on the righteous…as the righteous got slightly, er, misplaced in the green fields of Timperley. Fortunately we are masters of navigation and the correct map had been brought out with us so it didn’t take toooo long to get back on track.

A bit of faffing and avoiding wild animals (sheep) that inhabit the locality had us on tarmac for just a short distance. This bit was intentional, really. We wanted to be on the tarmac for this bit. Honest.

Calling in to see Steve and Viv on their allotment, Rick liberated 3 fine examples of curly kale that had only been slightly ravaged by slugs. He planned to replant the curly kale in his back garden so he could have slugs too.

More wanderings across fields and along footpaths had us back on Brooks Drive for the last leg of the return journey. Retracing our steps alongside Beechfields we were back at JJ Towers by around midday.

Surprisingly for an urban-ish walk, we were off tarmac for a vast majority of the route, and most of that was very quiet.

Full advantage should be taken of summer sun. It rained in the afternoon.

Vital statistics: 7-ish miles with 150ft of upness.

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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bikepacking the Cheshire Ring, A Plan




The Cheshire Ring is a 97 mile route on the canals (and towpaths) of north Cheshire. What's convenient for me is that the Bridgewater Canal runs through Timperley - 1/2 mile from JJ Towers. I've walked sections of the ring over the years but now fancy a leisurely 2 day bikepacking trip around the full route.

Minimal kit will be needed, it will only be an overnight trip - so just tent, sleeping bag etc, brew kit and so on. Food will be readily available en-route - there are pubs and shops a-plenty.

I'll probably travel clockwise, to get city-center Manchester out of the way. Not too sure where to camp yet, but probably around Congleton - it's close enough to half-way round and I know there are spots where I'll be able to hide the Akto...perhaps near a pub.

I'll likely use my Dawes Hybrid for the trip, it's comfortable and quite bombproof.

All I need now is a window of half decent weather - hopefully preceded by some dryness so the towpath has chance to dry out.

 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Saturday, 23rd June. Clogging

A panic email from Les in Chorlton, who is currently Les in Camargue, popped into my Inbox yesterday: The Cloggies who meet regularly at the Beech in Chorlton were to be without a musician for this week’s Saturday morning ‘clog’ – was I available?

Well the answer had to be ‘yes’ and at 10am I was sat in the pub (tsk) as it filled up with clog-wearing dancers.

imageDancing clogs (photo nicked from MEN article) 

These Saturday morning sessions were actually lessons aimed at dancers of all abilities. The teachers, Liz Calderbank and her mum, Rachel, were tremendous. They encouraged newcomers and experienced dancers alike, yet pushed them along where needed.

The dances, influenced and in some cases written by the late and great Sam Sherry, are very popular with clog-dancers in Lancashire and beyond. 

image Liz Calderbank (red hair) teaching the advanced class – The Clever Clogs

I felt more than a little inadequate, playing for a class of clog-dancers is no easy task. Tunes need to be played very slowly but with absolutely spot-on timing – something I found very difficult. The sound of clattering clogs played havoc with my on-board clock. I’ll bring a metronome next time.

image Rachel demonstrating a shuffle

I really enjoyed playing for these enthusiastic cloggies – it was good fun. Perhaps it was good that the bar wasn’t open.

imageRachel teaching

  Now then, where can I find an old fashioned metronome?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Thursday, 21st June: A Longish Day

Well there HAD been a plan, but just did the curry walk instead.

My original idea had been to nip up Alderley Edge with the tent last night so as to be ready for sunrise at 4.40am. The sandstone cliffs of Alderley Edge are quite magical – legend has it that King Arthur and his knights sleep in a cave beneath the cliffs, ready to leap to the defence of England in time of peril.

The only peril last night was the rain. So I stayed put at home.

But that was only the first half of The Plan. The next bit of the plan was to meet up with the long-suffering Rick again, and Jon, sometime lightweight TGO Challenger. Not that Jon does his Challenges in a wimpish manner, oh no. Jon goes lightweight – cuben fibre rucksack, tarp, uber-lightweight cooking gear…you get the picture.

We met at Timperley Metrolink Station at 10am, then followed the steps down to the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal. Up until fairly recently the towpath was a muddy mess, but investment by Sustrans has transformed the path northwards into a well surfaced track, suitable for walkers, runners and cyclists. Unfortunately the southbound towpath from Timperley hasn’t had the benefit of this treatment and is still a mess, particularly in wet weather.

The morning was overcast but dry as we set off north. Our fingers and other bits were firmly crossed that the rain would stay away. We didn’t do too badly considering the poor weather forecast but within half an hour we felt the first drops of the wet stuff.

We went north, through Brooklands, Sale…imageThe Bridgewater Canal at Brooklands Station Bridge

image Under the M60 towards Stretford

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Some of the wild-life

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Canal boat graveyard in Stretford

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Marina in Stretford

Although I’ve walked this route a number of times, I always find it interesting. Seeing Manchester from it’s backdoor is a privilege that is available to most, yet few seem to take advantage of it. Many of the old mills have been converted into swish flats or offices. Others, derelict, are still awaiting conversion – or demolition.

These derelict areas surprise with all manner of plants growing wild:

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Just across the way from Manchester United’s Old Trafford:

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What started as light rain had now turned into big lumps of water falling from the sky and overtrousers were pulled on – Goretex Paclite is as useful on an urban walk as it is in the hills. Rick and I stayed dry, Jon wasn’t so lucky – he hadn’t brought his wetlegs with him.

image      At Throstle’s Nest Bridge, Old Trafford

As we got closer to Manchester City Centre the views opened out – so much of industrial Manchester has been flattened.

image One of the many new buildings on Salford Quays, built on the old Salford Docks.          This is a block of fashionable and very popular flats overlooking the now clean Manchester Ship Canal. My No2 son lives in one of them. He’s got more money that his Dad….who doesn’t do fashionable!

 

Closing in on Manchester we passed through Castlefield, once a bit of a dirty hole, but it has been cleaned up nicely. It’s a shame that the cloud and rain doesn’t show the area off to it’s best :

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image  Wild-life in the city centre

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Des-res for the wild-life

Leaving the canal towpath, and now following Rick – because I’m clueless in the city centre, we head through the back streets towards Shude Hill. This area of Manchester was once home to sweatshops producing everything from ladies knickers to, er, other stuff. There are still lots of Asian-owned clothing wholesalers in the area.

Our target for today’s walk was ‘This and That’, a wonderful curry house situated in Soap Street, a grotty back alley. It’s more of a canteen than a restaurant, and I gather it used to provide meals for the Asian employees of the various factories that were once so prolific in the area. Today it’s very popular with workers wanting a decent lunch for not a lot of money.

imageThe appearance of ‘This and That’ belies the quality of it’s food                        image image

Rick and Jon getting stuck in

The food served here is excellent. Although the place doesn’t look at all inviting, the Food Standards Agency has awarded it 4 stars out of a maximum of 5. After eating our fill it was time to head for the tram to take us home…well you didn’t think we were going to walk back as well did you??

We called by Vinyl Exchange – a record shop I usually avoid not because I don’t like it, but because I find it almost impossible leave the place without buying at least one CD. Today I made up for my avoidance of recent years – buying 6 CDs, admittedly for only £27. And they are by artists I really like.

Before I had chance to spend any more money we headed straight for Piccadilly, our tram, and home.

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A grand day out Gromit!

Today’s vital statistics:

9.5 miles with 180’ of up.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Kate Wood R.I.P.

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Kate will be greatly missed. A wonderful lady, loved and admired by everyone she came into contact with.

Tuesday, 19th June. To Dunham and back

I’d intended stretching my legs today, but a mixture of parental responsibilities (my parent, not my kids!) and other duties meant that this would be an evening walk.

An emailed enquiry to Rick resulted in a rapid reply – he’d like to go for a walk. And so at just before 7.30pm we met on Park Road in Timperley and made our way to the Bridgewater Canal.

It was a dry evening, if slightly chilly (midsummer in England – what did you expect??) but there were areas of extreme wetness on the canal towpath. Fortunately we managed to keep our footwear relatively mud-free, it was so light we had no problem spotting the claggy bits.

image A still evening on the Bridgewater Canal

Leaving behind the industrial and commercial area of Broadheath we met up with some familiar faces – members of the Cheshire Hash House Harriers, a drinking club with a running problem. They’re a fine bunch that I run with from time-to-time. The CH3 were running from The Bay Malton in Broadheath, a Thwaites pub.

Pleasantries exchanged,we carried on our way in the but it wasn’t many minutes before I heard activity from behind. The cyclist, being a decent sort of chap, had dismounted and was about push on, past us…..when there was a flash of mutual recognition. I clocked this cyclist as yet another Hasher – albeit one who didn’t want to risk his knees and more than he had to, it was John from Knutsford….on his rather nice titanium framed bicycle.

imageJohn from the Hash, his bicycle – and Rick 

John’s a keen cyclist and has a collection of bikes. I was particularly interested in this one as it had belt drive (no chain) and 14 speed hub gear. A really nice bit of kit. But I’ve got enough bicycles, I really can’t justify another one. Can I?

imageThe business bit of John’s bike – note the hub gears and belt drive

We must have spent half-an-hour chatting to John, he set off to get lost on the quiet lanes of north Cheshire, whilst we continued towards Dunham.

imageThe view to the NW from the Bridgewater Canal towpath 

As the sun lowered in the sky it was decision time: should we head for the Vine (Sam Smith’s @ £1.45/pint) or The Swan with Two Nicks that serves 4-5 cask beers from different breweries. The Swan won.

imageThe Swan with Two Nicks

image The selection of beers on offer didn’t disappoint, they also serve TT Landlord

I had a couple of pints of the Coachhouse Brewery’s ale (4.2%), brewed specially for the pub – and very good it was too. Rick, the more abstemious, enjoyed a pint and a half of Greene King Abbot Ale (5%) – he reported that it was good.

A very pleasant hour or so in the pub was spent putting the world to rights, then it was time to leave.

Our route home crossed the River Bollin and then via Dunham Park (NT) and the footpaths across Dunham golf course back into Altrincham.

imageThe Bollin weir at Dunham 

Dunham Park is home to a herd of deer, they’re very tame in the early morning and late evening:

imageThe picture quality’s a bit iffy, I struggled to hold the camera steady, the low light level demanded a slow shutter speed.

imageOne of the deer park buildings

The tracks and paths through the park are easy to follow, especially at this time of year – it was around 11pm and there was still sufficient light. The dense woodland surrounding the golf course wasn’t quite so easy to navigate through…but we survived to emerge on the main Altrincham road near the Devisdale.

Rick guided me through Altrincham and then along paths I didn’t know existed – mind you,I’ve only lived in the area for 30 years so I’ve an excuse.

imageNight-time Altrincham 

I think I rolled in at around 11.30pm, relaxed and pleasantly tired. A walk had done it’s magic once again.

Thanks to Rick for his excellent company once again….now where shall we walk this evening?

Vital statistics:

imageAround 9 miles…with not much up and downery. It’s flat around here.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sunday, 17th June: Nelson-Peach + 1 on tour

(Not) much planning went into our little excursion into Altrincham yesterday evening. We decided a visit to the local folk club was in order, and with very cheap beer on offer I didn’t need much persuading.

The sight of four new-ish faces at the door of the folk club (at Altrincham Conservative Club….cheap beer) caused a little alarm but it wasn’t too long before the doorman realised we were quite harmless if left to our own devices.

We were made very welcome and spent a pleasant evening listening to a wide variety of monologues, stories, songs and tunes performed by the club regulars. And drinking Joe Holt’s Best bitter at £1-something a pint.

imageFolk Club regulars in action  

NP+1 were honoured with doing a spot during the first half, and then the closing spot at the end of the evening.

imageNP+1 lulling the audience to sleep…..

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…..before waking them up again.

A very friendly club, with an enthusiastic membership, we’ll be going back.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Saturday 16th June, The White Bear Way

 

The White Bear Way is a circular challenge walk, run by Adlington Scouts on similar lines to LDWA events. There’s a choice of 10 or 21 mile routes, starting and finishing at the scout hut in Adlington. Being rufty-tufty Challengers, Judith and I settled on the 21 mile route.

Judith, a new LDWA member, lives on the Wirral. To save an early Saturday morning faff she drove to Timperley after work on Friday evening to stay at JJ Towers. After a carbo-loading meal we headed off to Costello’s in Altrincham, brewery tap of the Dunham Massey Brewery . I know how to treat a girl! I had arranged to meet up with Rick & Richard of Nelson-Peach folk super-group fame and a pleasant couple of hours were spent in increasing our hydration levels.

Maintaining hydration is just so important.

Next morning we were up bright and early for the drive to Adlington, near Chorley, and the start of the day’s little expedition. Driving up the M61 we saw the top of Winter Hill shrouded in clag, but from experience we knew that it was likely there would be at least some views from the top.

We were supposed to have been joined by other members of the Timperley Walkers And Tipplers but injuries and / or the weather forecast for heavy rain had put them off. As it happened, the weather stayed fine and dry until were en-route to the last checkpoint.

Adlington Scouts were thoughtfully providing tea and toast at the start, and after registering we took full advantage of their kind offer. The 21 mile walkers set off at 8.30am, aiming for the first checkpoint just north of Horwich. Following a section of canal towpath for 2.5km enabled us to get our pace sorted…nice and slow – Pigeon Pace, nice.

image Judith on the canal towpath in Adlington

Footpaths, farm tracks and very quiet country lanes took us across a railway line and then the M61. I always find it strange, when on a walk, to cross a busy motorway – everything seems to be happening so quickly on the roads whilst we plod along quite happily at our pedestrian pace.

imageAnderton Services and the M61

Passing to the north of Horwich I spotted some interesting wildlife:

imageNot very native wildlife 

It was around this point that the first runner flew past us, striding out with apparent ease, whilst we plodged our way through muddy tracks. We were to later learn that the first runner arrived back at the scout hut in well under 3 hours – and he was well ahead of all the other runners.

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The tower at Rivington Pike, SW of Winter Hill

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Walkers approaching Winter Hill

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View from the climb up Winter Hill

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The masts on Winter Hill come into view

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The top of the main TV mast disappearing into the cloud

The route then started to climb over Winter Hill, passing directly by the TV transmitter mast and all the ancillary buildings. At 456m ASL, the summit was still claggy but certainly not bad. There were views to the south, the Peak District and North Wales being quite visible.

Many hills have memorials, Winter Hill is no exception:

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A very steep descent to Hordern Stoop and another checkpoint – and it still wasn’t raining! We were slightly off-route at this point, but the descent was one I’d used before on this walk.

imageJudith, smiling (grimacing?) at CP4 

image They expect bad weather around these parts.

Another minor navigational faff was corrected by referring to the map. A map is A Good Thing when walking over moorland, especially when it’s not a map of Wales. We weren’t in Wales and the maps we were carrying proved it. We soon knew where we were. I think.

Tagging on to a group of walkers proved to be helpful to a point, but they decided to miss out part of the route to avoid the memorial to a bomber crew who died nearby in 1943 when their plane crashed. I don’t like to miss out war memorials, nor does Judith who has ‘connections’. Oh yes, you don’t mess with Judith. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but I’d promised Judith good weather for this walk – if it turned bad she’d promised to give me a good kicking.

Anyway, with my fingers crossed for continuing good weather, we did the decent thing and ascended the short but steep climb to the memorial:

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The short-circuit walkers bypassed the climb and the muddy woodland path to take the easier LRT route to Checkpoint 5 where it still wasn’t raining.

Cakes, biscuits, cordial and water were on offer at the checkpoints. This was fine but after a while all the sugary-sweet stuff became a bit too much. Tea and something savoury would have been good, even at only one of the checks. Still, we didn’t go hungry at all so that was okay.

If you hadn’t arrived at CP5 by 3.30pm you would be asked to retire from the walk. If you hadn’t made it by that time you would be most unlikely to be able to arrive at the finish within the 10 hours allowed for the walk. As it was only 1.30pm we were well in time and it still wasn’t raining.

We weren’t rushing, so spent 15 minutes at this checkpoint eating, drinking, stretching, looking at the views. Blackpool Tower was quite visible in the distance. Whilst we chatted to the marshalls a few other walkers came through but we let them get on with it. We weren’t racing.

At just before 2pm the wind got up and heavy rain stopped us in our tracks – time for overtrousers….and for me to watch my back. I mean, I could have been attacked at any time. Fortunately, although It looked like this rain was going to be it for the rest of the day, it wasn’t, 5 minutes later the rain stopped and all was well and I could relax my guard.

Another navigational faff (probably because we were gassing too much to bother looking at the map) had us walking around a lovely little reservoir…one that we shouldn’t have been walking around. Oh well.

image The reservoir we shouldn’t have walked around

A quick about-turn soon had us back on track, heading for the northerly end of Anglezarke Reservoir. We were joined by a couple of lads from the scout group who were very familiar with the route so we didn’t need the maps any more – we just followed them! After being on open moorland for a lot of the day it was an unpleasant shock to be walking alongside the noisy M61.

imageCrossing the M61 

imageThe Wet

By this time the rain had returned and it wasn’t going anywhere fast. Except in a downwards direction. I determined to keep Judith in front of me, if I was going to be on the receiving end of a ferocious attack I wanted to see it coming at least. I can run faster than Judith.

Splodging and paddling through water-sodden paths eventually took us to our final checkpoint at the Black Horse pub in Limbrick – an excellent pub, well known for it’s folk club and good beer.

imageStream…or footpath? 

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The excellent Black Horse at Limbrick

With around 2.5 miles to go we ate some more cakes and drank some more cordial before girding our wotsits and setting off on the last leg of the walk.

The rest of the route was easy-peasy, most of it was on the canal towpath. The two lads from the scout group proved to be very good company and the walk passed quickly.

Back at the scout hut we removed our soggy boots and sat down to excellent hotpot and mugs of tea. Being a healthy eater I only had two helping of the hotpot and left it at that. A certain lady of my acquaintance also had two helpings….but then she snaffled a doughnut too!

image An un-named lady, called Judith, at the scout hut.

We collected our certificates and sew-on badges and thanked the organisers for the day – they had worked very hard to put this event on. It was a shame that the last hour and a half was marred with rain, but what the hell – this is England in June, what do you expect?

A character building day. But we had fun too!

Oh, and I’m not sure whether she forgot or just couldn’t be bothered, but Judith didn’t hit me – not even once.