View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Donald Trump University

A discussion on Mudcat enlightened me to the fact that a certain well known desecrator of wild places has found a new way of extracting cash from the public.

The lovely Karine Polwart has even written a song written about him and his venture in the north-east of Scotland.

I mentioned this chappy earlier this year.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

21st August, Kit review: La Sportiva Raptors

A posting on the TGO Challenge Message Board a couple of months ago alerted me to Snow and Rock’s half price offer on La Sportiva Raptors.

I’m currently doing the groundwork for my Home to John O’Groats via the TGO Challenge Walk (HTJOGVTTGOCW….easier to remember that way) which I have pencilled in for next year. Kit choice is an important part of this groundwork.

Now it just so happened that I’d been chatting to Alan about his choice of LEJOG footwear and Raptors were mentioned… I legged it over to our local Snow and Rock shop to be disappointed to find they only had Size 10.5 in stock and I really need Size 11. Not deterred, I tried a pair on….and the fit was perfect. Disappointment evaporated.

P1020674My Raptors….and yes, I know I need to mop the floor – a chap only has so much spare time for doing domestic stuff. 
A couple of days later I tried the Raptors out on the Long Suffering Rick’s LDWA walk around Walton, a flat 14-15 miler. The shoes were excellent, so excellent that I went back to Snow and Rock to grab the only other pair of Size 10.5 Raptors they had in stock.

I’ve done around 150 miles in the Raptors so far, Gritstone Trail, a curry walk :-), various LDWA walks and a few brain-straightening solo walks. I’ve even done a bit of trail running.

Raptors aren’t waterproof, and on Alan’s recommendation I bought a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks but I’ve not had the opportunity to try the combination out yet. It’s summer y’see and I’m told it doesn’t rain in Timperley. And I’m gullible, but you know that.

The shoe has a solid feel with plenty of support. Unlike some fell / trail running shoes the Raptors feel solid enough to offer good protection against bashing into rocks.

The laces are good, staying tied up nice and tight after a full day out. There’s nothing more irritating than having to stop every now and then to re-do loosening laces!

The sole is very grippy, inspiring confidence on muddy descents….and I’m not good at decents. The La Sportiva website lists a number of approved resolers, unfortunately none are in the UK. The importers, Lyon Equipment in Cumbria, may be able to help, I’ve found them to be helpful in the past.

Overall I’m delighted with the Raptors. For £45 they’re an extremely good deal. Not so sure whether I’d have been quite so happy paying £90, at the end of the day they’re a glorified pair of trainers. They’re comfortable over distance and carrying a medium-weight pack although I’ve yet to try them with a heavy pack over distance. Looking at the quality of build, which is good, I expect these shoes to last me a long while – so even at £90 they’re still a good buy.

Now the bad news. Retailers flog stuff off cheap for a very few reasons. The reason for this particular flog-off is because La Sportiva appear to have brought out a newer design. Having said that, the new design looks to be very similar to the old design and on that basis I have no reason to believe the newer design will be any less comfortable or hard wearing.

The acid test….
Q: Would I buy another pair?
A: Yes, even at 90 quid.

11th August, Last week was the week that was…

Just some pics:


P1020437 Shame about the focus on this one

Oh dear x2:


A fine example of a flying kettle, aka Suzuki GT750 2 stroke triple:

P1020504 I’m fairly certain that’s a non-standard seat

Lymm Rushbearing:

(Anyone spot the Long Suffering Rick?)
Lymm Morris

Marmalade in Manchester:

And in my spare time…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sunday 18th August, Wandering around The Wirral


The phone rang last week, it was John B, walks coordinator of the East Lancs LDWA. John was calling to check I was still coming on his walk around The Wirral. ‘Of course’….although I must admit that up until this call I’d had no idea he was leading a walk. Oh well. John always turns out on the Timperley Walkers And Tipplers walks so supporting his walk was the least I could do.

‘Don’t worry, it’s an easy walk, 18 miles and quite flat.’ I’ve heard that one before…..but I’m gullible.

Judith had foolishly agreed to join the group for part of the walk, she had other arrangements for the rest of the day so couldn’t endure the torture the rest of us had to cope with. She’d driven to Parkgate, and leaving her car there, walked over to Hooton to meet us for the 9am start. Then she walked all the way back again.

She had an ice-cream though. So did I. They were good. I can thoroughly recommend ice-creams from Parkgate. If you go to Parkgate you should try one. Or two, there’s a rather large selection to choose from.

I’m not entirely sure where we walked, but it was 21.9 miles with around 1900’ of ascent. Told you I was gullible. It was a nice walk though.


P1020572That’s Wales in the distance.





Norman surrounded by some of East Lancs finest

P1020583 Walking PAST the pub

P1020587Tea and scones…a bit good!





P1020568 Jack Sparrow in Parkgate’s ice-cream shop


Leaving Parkgate

Those who know the area (Judith) will note that these photographs are slightly (!) out of order. Confusing eh? Well about as confused as I was about the route! All I know is that the route followed a rather rough figure of ‘8’, starting and finishing at Hooton. And going through Parkgate, where they sell rather good ice-creams.

Did I mention the ice-creams before?

More pics here.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

TGOC2014....The Plan so far

Plans are coming together for next year's Challenge.

I try for a Challenge shake-down trip a week or so before the crossing but I rarely manage a really appropriate warm up. A couple of years ago I managed to squeeze the West Highland Way in the week before the Challenge - that was VERY appropriate 'cos it rained quite a lot.

Next year I'm planning a slightly longer pre-Challenge walk.....about 4 - 5 weeks longer.

I've had LEJOG on the backburner for a while but family commitments have made it all but impossible. A change in my circumstances has now given me the chance to, er, get out more.

I reckon that if I walk to John O'Groats from home and incorporate the Challenge into the trip it would make for a reasonable compromise. The longer range Plan is to walk from home to Lands End. (HoLE?) - but that might have to wait until the following year.

So there you have it...well part of it.

The Challenge part of the trip is likely to be from Torridon, incorporating Struy ('cos Terry said I'm not a real Challenger until I go through Struy), the fan-filled Monadhliath, Aviemore....then it goes a bit blurry until Braemar. That will be because of Denis. After Braemar, well it's likely to be a variation of the trade route, finishing at Kinnebar rather than St Cyrus.

Kinnebar, for those who don't know, has the best tea room in the world.

In the meantime here are some pics from my bit of TGOC2013 (Tarfside to Kinnebar) whilst in the company of people that I've only met up with through the Challenge.

They're not just people, they're all friends now.



It's not just a walk, it's the people y'see.

The Challenge isn't just any old backpack, it's a whole separate world for two weeks, two weeks where the 'other' world just doesn't exist.

But if you're a Challenger you already know that.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Wednesday 7th August, Timperley to Northwich

It was Fast Blackshaw’s fault, he fancied walking to Northwich and needed company. I’d walked to Northwich a few years ago, although by a more direct route. Fast Blackshaw has a reputation for adding ‘little loops’ onto his routes – making them rather longer than planned, today’s route, rather unusually, was slightly shorter than originally planned. He must be losing his touch.

Long Suffering Rick had foolishly agreed to join the expedition, although with a selection of leg & back injuries to deal with, he’d very sensibly decided to just walk around 8 – 9 miles. P1020492We wandered off through Altrincham in bright sunshine, dodging the poor souls who were heading off to their places of work. Our route took us across The Devisdale and the well-kept Denzell Gardens before dicing with death as we crossed the busy A56 to get to the peace and quiet of Dunham’s golf course. No golfers, just one dog walker this morning.
Dunham Park was similarly quiet, it seems that only deer and dog-walkers were out today.
P1020496 Dunham Hall Deer
Once out of Dunham Park it was time for Rick to return home, he’d decided to walk back to Timperley along the Bridgewater Canal towpath – a pleasant route on such a lovely morning. Rick went north(ish) whilst we continued south(ish) to do battle with forests of sweetcorn:
P1020618The path through 6ft + high sweetcorn was overgrown and we were soon separated. I managed to stay on course by monitoring the position of the sun, whilst Blackshaw & Pike allowed themselves to be led off-course by following the rows of sweetcorn crop. A stile in the middle of the forest provided a high point for me to shout and wave my walking poles so that I could be found. After 3-4 minutes of shouting and pole-waving we were re-united. A quick map & compass check and we were on our way once again – this time taking the trouble to stay in-sight of one another.
Half a mile later Steve realised his hands were emptier than usual – he’d left his poles in the middle of Sweetcorn Forest. We trotted back to find them  (I needed the exercise). Fortunately the poles were found at the stile in the middle of the plantation and we were soon on our way once again.
P1020620 Pole-less Fast Blackshaw
More crop-filled fields followed. It was a very different scene compared to this time last year when the great wetness made all the fields and paths horrible muddy..
Battling through the barley
Lunch #1 was taken on the front lawn of St John’s Church in High Legh. The site has a bit of history, this is the third building in relatively recent times. The two previous structures were destroyed by fire. The present building is around 120 years old and was designed by Edmund Kirby who may have started a lucrative sideline in vacuum cleaners.

I’m guessing that the site pre-dates Christianity (christianity?) – it’s located at the crossing of two ancient routes, is on a high point and there’s a yew tree in the grounds. Yews as a consequence of their Pagan associations and enclosure, were planted in churchyards as Christianity spread - perhaps to placate those whose religion had been superseded by Christianity.

Or perhaps they just liked the look of yews.
P1020623More southness to find a crossing point over the motorway, harder than the map suggests. Eventually, and after a bit of a map faff, a bridge was located and we traipsed on towards Arley Hall where we found a lovely shaded spot for lunch #2.
P1020630 The view from Lunch Spot #2
It’s funny, but we used to be over-run with grey squirrels (my friend Christine describes them as rats with good PR) in north Cheshire, but the last couple of years there have hardly been any. On today’s wander I saw just one squirrel all day. I just hope whatever is causing the lower numbers isn’t damaging the red squirrel population of the country.

Our route was now due south to the very picturesque village of Great Budworth – a very suitable spot for lunch #3. We exhausted our stock of butties and coffee – we were left with the odd manky banana and some corporation pop, quite enough to see us to the end of our journey.
P1020639 Lunch stop #3, Great Budworth churchyard
The view south from our final lunch stop
Leaving the churchyard I spotted a very interesting sight (well I thought it was interesting), a BMW 650 single – with a belt drive. It’s a shame more motorcycle manufacturers don’t use belt drive, they’re clean and virtually maintenance free…..and they outlast conventional drive chains very significantly.
P1020642 Belt-drive BMW
Times must be hard in this part of Cheshire, the local library service seemed to have teamed up with BT. Dual-use buildings make good financial sense…..
Great Budworth has it’s own spring. Notices tell you that the water is tested from time-to-time and has always been found to be fit to drink. I was still carrying half a litre of water so didn’t sample the delights of Cheshire Spring Water. Perhaps it should be bottled and flogged-off to bolster the funds of the local council.
P1020648 That last sentence was tongue-in-cheek by the way….just in case you were wondering.
The Plan had been to walk around to Anderton Boat Lift, a fine piece of engineering. Unfortunately the clock was against us – we had a train to catch. Never mind, we’ll make sure we get there next time.
More southness, now towards the salt-town of Northwich. Our route towards the town took us past the Flashes – bodies of water that appear very quickly (in a ‘flash’) when underground excavations take place. This area of the Flashes is now very much a nature reserve, and very nice it is too.

Leaving the Flashes and nature reserve behind we passed by Northwich’s bike-park:
Next stop was the end of our walk, Northwich Station – and a cheap train-ride back to Altrincham.
I reckon we did around 20 miles. They weren’t all intended…..some of them just cropped up as we found ourselves, er, misplaced. But stuff like that happens when you go for a walk. This had been a cracking route through gentle and pleasant countryside. Even when we got lost misplaced.
Route full

A not very successful exercise in stitching images together.

Socially distanced music session. 24th June 2020

…with cake! Ed kindly offered the use of his back garden to sit and play music whilst maintaining a safe and sensible distance from one...