View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Friday, 29 March 2013

Sunday 24th March, A walk to the Wilmslow Half

I last ran the Wilmslow Half Marathon around 4 years ago, when my knees were in rather better nick. A couple of Tally-Ho! lads were running this year so a walk out to Mobberley to watch the race seemed like a good idea.
Rather than walk all the way from JJ Towers I drove to Ashley, just south of Altrincham, and dumped the car there. It was a freezing cold morning and I was glad to be walking and not running.
I walked a path just to the west of Mobberley Brook, easy enough to follow but one or two wobbly stiles (with added barbed wire to add to the excitement) were annoying to say the least.
P1010578 Dangerous stile adorned with barbed wire
I arrived at Four Lane Ends, my chosen vantage point, in time to see the front runners flying through:
P1010579  The race leaders
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20 minutes later the bulk of the runners were coming through
P1010583The Flying Bananas
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Somebody talking sense!
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Tally-Ho!
After the excitement of the race it was time to move off – apart from anything else I was getting cold. My Buffalo is a great garment in cold wind but even that struggled to keep me warm in this biting easterly wind.
Walking east (east is….well, you know) to skirt the south end of Manchester Airport’s Runway Two entailed walking over exposed ground, the easterly wind was strong and absolutely freezing and I needed to don over-mitts and over-trousers to keep warm.
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The airport was extremely busy, both East Midlands and Leeds Bradford airports were closed due to snow and flights were being diverted to Manchester.
The shelter offered by the River Bollin culvert was very welcome – but I started to get too warm, I needed to open the vents on my Buffalo.
P1010601 River Bollin under Runway Two
Next, Runway One:
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Ready for take-off
Leaving the airport behind, the walk back to my car at Ashley was mainly over quiet tarmac – in warm sunshine.
Even routes on tarmac can be entertaining if you keep your eyes open:
P1010606What the well-dressed horse should be wearing this season
After the previous day’s abortive trip, this walk was just what the doctor ordered. Not too far at all, easy going, and plenty of interest. It would make a good run. Now there’s a thought.

Around 8 miles and flat as a pancake:

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More pitchers yur.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Privatised Search & Rescue Helicopter Service

Just heard on the BBC Radio 4-type wireless midnight news that American group, Bristows, have won the contract to run the UK Search & Rescue helicopter service from 2015.

The service has been provided by the Royal Navy and the RAF for the last 70 years and currently use rather old Sea King helicopters. The service was formed to rescue downed aircrews during WW2.

Having experienced other privatised services, formerly run very effectively by government departments,  I find this more than a little worrying.

Will the aircrews of the new service be paid by results?
Just how much confidence can 'we' have in a privatised service?
Is this the thin end of the wedge - is compulsory insurance going to be needed by hill-walkers?
Does this mean Prince William is to be made redundant?

What do The People think?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saturday 23rd March, ...And Snow on Northern Hills

18 (fool)hardy runners gathered at the Lantern Pike in Little Hayfield for the day’s Tally-Ho! trail run. A few feet of snow and the odd snowdrift wasn’t going to deter this lot. Good company and a good run over testing ground were promised…..it would be rude to turn down such an enticing offer.

I was supposed to be camping at Little Stretton in Shropshire for an O.M. meet this weekend but I had to pull out, I had too much going on. To be honest, although I like my camping, the idea of a weekend under canvas in these weather conditions didn’t float my boat too well.

Anyway, back to Tally-Ho!
Tales of derring-do were exchanged even before the run began – some of the journeys to the pub were quite eventful. Whitworth, Shipley and Whalley relied on a snow-plough ahead of them, clearing the road to enable the Whitworth-mobile to get through. Whitehead couldn’t even escape his hometown of Buxton, such was the depth of snow. Even the journey from Timperley had it’s problems – my idea of getting to Hayfield via the A57 was thwarted by snow-blocked roads.
P1010576 The tops from Birch Vale
John Wilson had set out early to lay trail, he did a superb job of laying a shorter route than normal, around 6 miles, a sensible move considering the weather conditions.
P1010548 The Taylor vs Murray pre-run fancy hat contest
As I left the pub to follow the sawdust trail I met Whitworth, Shipley and Whalley running back to the pub. They had been turned back by impassable snowdrifts and hooley-driven snow on the climb up Middle Moor. This wasn’t looking promising. Although I was equipped with map and compass in case I missed the sawdust trail, they wouldn’t help me if I got bogged down in deep snow.

The wind strengthened as I climbed up over Middle Moor. Trail was increasingly difficult to follow, wind and snow had done their best to either cover up the sawdust or just blow it away.
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A (successful) attempt at keeping sawdust trail in place.
The going became harder the further I got until it became clear that it would be plain daft to attempt to continue further. Indeed, as a solo runner in these conditions it would have been downright stupid and irresponsible.
P1010553 P1010554I hadn’t even got as far as Kinder Reservoir but at least I’d had a damned good try. Just over an hour after setting out from the pub I arrived back, cold and a little down-hearted. If I’d gone off with a group I’d have almost certainly got round the route. Going off on my own it just wasn’t going to happen.
Back at the pub I changed and had a mug of coffee to defrost my bits – then it was time for a pint in the bar with the other runners who had made it back. Up until this point the only runners back at the pub were those that had been driven back or had thought better of continuing further.
P1010566   The Lantern Pike, Little Hayfield
The few runners that had made it all the way round began arriving back – more tales of derring-do! By 3.30pm everyone was back. The tin bath wasn’t used, everyone just wanted to get out of their wet running gear and into dry clothes so they could warm themselves by the pub’s blazing fire. And have a beer.
P1010571 Burston and Murray on the final run-in
P1010568 Cold and knackered runners back at the pub
An excellent meal of steak & kidney pie and chips followed by apple pie and custard  hit the spot. This pub’s food has certainly improved over the last couple of years. The Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was excellent, it was just a pity I had to drive.

This is where we should have gone:

Lantern Pike route6 miles, with ups, downs and snowdrifts – map courtesy of Eastwood

In better weather this would have been a superb route – especially if it was extended by a couple of miles. Just a shame conditions were as they were.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday 22nd March, Yellow Snow Warning

According to the Beeb, Timperley is once again going to be cut off from the rest of the world by snow. Dianne said so on the box last night.

I can't see it myself, it's 2.40pm - and by this time all should be white outside. It's just cold and a bit windy. I've seen a few snowflakes this morning but that's all.


The woodburner's ticking over, warming my tootsies nicely. Perhaps it's time for a little walk.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Sunday 17th March, The Two Crosses Circuit

The Two Crosses Circuit is an annual challenge event organised by the East Lancashire section of the LDWA. There is a choice of route, 17 miles or 25 miles in 9 hours. I’ve done both routes in recent years and was planning on doing the 25 miles route on this occasion. Bad weather on Saturday night convinced me that the 17 mile option was favourite this time round.
At 8am (the one in the morning) the 300 participants, a mix of runners and walkers, set off from the event centre in Tottington, near Bury – famous for Black Puddings. And a rather good market.
P3170414  Only the British can queue properly
This is primarily a walking event but in common with a lot of LDWA events it’s attracting more and more runners. Runners have a definite advantage in the early stages of this event – they get to the stiles well ahead of the rest of the field – and when there are 299 other participants….well I’m sure you can guess.
Any hopes of staying mud-free on this event were dashed after the first mile – the gloop was, er, very gloopy. And deep.
Our ‘team’, at this point, consisted of just Fast Pike and me.
P3170415  3 miles into the walk and there are still walkers BEHIND me!
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 Gaining just a little height, and the snow is getting thicker.
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 The West Pennine Moors are under threat too
Judith, who had also entered the event, had intended staying over at JJ Towers on the Saturday night so we could travel up to Tottington mob-handed, but she decided that my sense of humour was too much to bear and drove straight to the event on the Sunday morning. I didn’t spot her at the start but a few miles into the walk she caught me up….EVERYONE catches me up – and then they pass me.
Poor Judith had taken a tumble early on in the walk and was ever-so slightly mud-stained. In the interests of not embarrassing her I won’t mention this again. 
More gloop and snow followed until a gentle descent to Turton Tower (famous for Turtons….or Towers) and the first checkpoint…..and Jelly Babies! Our Norman was in charge and he ensured that walkers were dealt with efficiently before packing them off over a relatively good track that would eventually take us to the highlight of the route (for me!): John & Viv’s foodie checkpoint at Turton & Entwistle Reservoir. This checkpoint is a threat to all walkers – I’m sure some must have baled-out at this point, not because of the rest of the walk, but because the food and welcome are just so wonderful.
P3170428  Just some of the East Lancs Catering Corps offerings
I’m sure it wasn’t Judith, that mud-stained world-famous TGO Challenger, who was spotted gleefully demolishing a huge bowl of banana & custard, fruit salad and fruit jelly, whilst happily muttering something about being in party-food heaven. I’m equally sure that it wasn’t me who followed her example.
But it might have been.
It was here that our little party expanded in size yet again, taking on board a lady who’s partner had retired at the foodie checkpoint….some excuse about having a twisted knee. Yeah, yeah….
Dragging ourselves away from the checkpoint, we headed East (which is A Good Thing), passing the Strawbury Duck pub and the north end of Wayoh Reservoir before the climb up to Bull Hill. We didn’t need to climb too much before we were back on snowy ground once again:
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Some of the local residents:
P3170432P3170434 This little piggy found our party fascinating, following us as far as it could – until it came to a gate. I’m quite sure it would have followed us a lot further if it was able to.
The higher we climbed, the deeper it got:
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Approaching Bull Hill
The next checkpoint of note, CP6 a.k.a. ‘The Naughty Corner’, is on the northern slopes of Bull Hill:
P3170443
The Naughty Corner…with some of the refreshments on offer
Turning south (which the more observant of you will note, is NOT east) to cross Holcombe Moor, an army firing range, the path became particularly sludgy and slippy. Staying upright wasn’t a problem, but trying to move at a decent speed certainly was. The ground was so gloopy that too much effort put in to making headway just resulted in feet sliding all over the place.
Peel Tower, above the town of Ramsbottom, must have had castors installed – it just didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
P3170450
Clouds gathering over Peel Tower
Eventually we did get to the tower and we could just about make out the end of our walk, about 4km away as the crow flies: P3170451
Manchester in the distance
Unfortunately we weren’t crows…and we still had the treacherously steep descent through Redisher Woods to contend with. Redisher Woods is famous for muddying bums – and today it lived up to it’s reputation.
P3170454 The already muddy Judith starts to descend through Redisher Woods
image Fast Pike, just ahead of muddied Judith, takes to her bum to descend the slippy slope.
I won’t mention the fact that Judith slid down the muddy slope on her bum….for about 6 –7 feet. It wouldn’t be fair – and I wouldn’t want to embarrass her. Judging by some of the skid-marks on the slope, Judith’s slide was minor – one skid-mark was truly epic in length.
Having safely descended through the woods, we then had our only significant navigational faff of the event. This faff was anticipated, it was a repeat of last year’s faff. And the previous year…
It didn’t matter too much, we had one checkpoint to go and then it was a flat yomp of just a couple of miles to the end.
The last mile of the walk was on a disused railway line – nice and flat with a fairly good surface. We arrived back at the event centre just before 3pm – our finishing time was 6hrs 59mins, half-an-hour longer than last year. The main reason for this slower time was down to the appalling ground conditions, it was only 17 miles but the mud, slush and snow really slowed our pace.
A selection of excellent home-made soups were on offer at the centre – just the job! After eating too much and drinking too much tea, it was time for home.
£7 for a grand walk plus oodles of lovely food…and excellent company = pretty good value!

17 miles with around 2000ft of ascent.

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More photos are here.

Tuesday 12th March, Timperley at 5.50pm

The ash tree in my back garden, lit by the setting sun:
Timperley sunset Taken with my Lumix DMC-FS40.
By the time I’d grabbed the Lumix G3 – perhaps just 30 seconds later, the sun had gone and the moment had passed.

Monday 11th March, Mobberley – Peover circuit.

The famous local double act, the Blackshaws of Timperley, had planned a re-recce of a route that Steve and I previously walked last June. This was to be a bit different – we were to walk it t’other way round, just for the sake of variety.
P3110359We kicked off from St Wilfrid’s church at around 10.30am – it was more than a bit cold, the ground was frozen hard in places.  The forecast was for the temperature to remain around zero all day and for sporadic snow showers. That forecast was accurate, the first snow shower hit around half an hour into the walk:
P3110369 
Snow-battered bullrushes 
20 minutes later the sun was shining although it was still damned cold:
P3110375P3110377 Peover Hall
At Peover Hall the sound of rumbling stomachs was enough to call a temporary halt to proceedings. We found a suitable spot for hot drinks and a bite to eat. It was Sods Law that, 5 minutes after sitting down to enjoy lunch we were enveloped in another wind-driven snowy squall. No matter, it just meant we spent less time sitting around and more time walking.
P3110379   A little bit of snow…again

20 minutes later, the sun started breaking through – after another 10 minutes I wished I’d put sunglasses in my pack:
P3110382 The Blackshaws of Timperley enjoying the rays
I’ve no idea what this building was used for, but it had a distinctive ‘WW2’ feel about it:
P3110385I’m not sure how many Peovers there are, Lower Peover, Over Peover, Peover Inferior, Peover Superior….oh, and Peover of course. However many there are, they all seem to be populated with the rather well-heeled of Cheshire.
P3110388   
P3110389
Not very superior
The churchyard of St Oswald’s, in one of them-there Peovers, presented itself just in time for another lunch-break. Bits of the church date back to 1269 – so it’s pretty old.  Older than me even.
P1010504P3110392 
St Oswalds
Leaving this particular Peover something-or-other by a short stretch of tarmac we came across this rather sad victim of road traffic:
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Frozen fields followed as we headed towards the outskirts of Knutsford:
P1010510  
Looking East (which is A Good Thing) afforded grand views of the snow-covered Peak District, The Matterhorn Shutlingsloe  was easily identifiable:
P1010513
….well the views were good until another snowy squall appeared on the horizon:
P1010516 Fortunately this squall did nothing other than obliterate the view for a short while - it dumped it's load of white stuff on someone else.
Half an hour later we were back at the car in Mobberley. We had walked around 16 miles with around 450ft of up. And down.
It had been a good day out.

This is where we went:

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Confession time: this is the route Steve and I did in June 2012. It covers the same ground – it was just t’other way around….and I couldn’t be mithered doing a new map - ‘cos it’s late and I want my bed.
More photos here.