View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Staffordshire stuff


A few pics from today's Outdoors Magic walk around The Roaches. Sorry about the very poor quality, they were taken on my phone and it was set to horribly low resolution so there was half a chance of being able to post using mobile internet..
A fuller report will follow in a bit.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

My brilliant Akto…

….has suffered a bit of damage.

Over the last year I’ve noticed that my Hilleberg Akto has suffered from a leaky groundsheet. It coped okay on TGOC 2012 but on subsequent trips I’ve seen dampness, and more recently wetness becoming evident under my sleeping mat in the mornings. I suppose the groundsheet of a one person tent isn’t designed to take THAT much hammer. Having said that, I know of many Akto groundsheets that have survived much more abuse for far longer than mine. I was probably just careless in pitching the tent – it only takes a prickly field.
There wasn’t any one point where moisture was getting in, it seemed as though the groundsheet was developing porosity over a substantial proportion of it’s area. Unfortunately this was the actual sleeping area. In spite of this leakage problem I still rate the Akto as a brilliant all-round backpacking tent. There are lighter tents – cheaper ones too, but the Akto is still the dog’s wotsits. In bad conditions I’m glad to have my Akto, it’s far more stable than my other backpacking tents.
imageAn Akto or two, pitched in the Geldie
Anyroadup, I contacted Hilleberg who in turn put me in touch with Scottish Mountain Gear in, er, Scotland. Scottish Mountain Gear are Hilleberg partners and as such are able to carry out repairs to Hilleberg kit to their quite exacting standards.
Two weeks and £50 later, my Akto was returned to me with a new groundsheet. To be honest it’s impossible to tell that a repair has been carried out – apart from the fact that it doesn’t have a leaking groundsheet anymore.
I can’t speak highly enough of Scottish Mountain Gear. Their repairs are carried out quickly, to a very high standard, and at a sensible price. Nuff said.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Tuesday 25th June, Lewis Carroll woz ‘ere.

Avid readers of this blog (all three of you) may remember that last August, the long suffering Rick and I tried out a route with a view to him using it as a social walk for the LDWA. Details of what we did are here.
Rick was pleased with his route, so pleased that he’s changed it. It’s now longer. And it now goes anti-clockwise rather than the clockwise direction of the original route. So it’s almost the same. Just different. Today’s walk was a recce for the real thing - the proper walk is next Wednesday….you can come if you want, details are here on the LDWA website.
Leaving the car at Walton, we set off along the Bridgewater Canal towpath on a section of the Cheshire Ring in the direction of Moore.
P1020426
The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the pollen was making me sneeze and my eyes itch...the bees were happy though:
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P1020427 The advance party speeding along the Bridgewater Canal towpath: Long Suffering Rick, Fast Pike, and Even Faster Blackshaw
The last time I was on this section of the canal was August last year when Jon and I did a very pleasant bike-packing trip to Chester.
P1020440Leaving the canal just to the west of the world-famous Daresbury Labs (looking like something from Quatermass) we climbed up through  Daresbury Firs, a wood on the west face of Keckwick Hill. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but the first up of the day is always a bit of a tug.
Much of this section of the route follows part of the Mersey Valley Trail, a well signed path 22 mile route that is easily completed in a day.
Daresbury is also famous as the birthplace of Lewis Carroll. The church stained-glass windows pay tribute to the lad:
P1020446If you look REALLY hard you may just be able to identify some Lewis Carroll figures. Alternatively, have a gander at this:
P1020446a
Leaving Daresbury by Daresbury Lane and Hall Lane, these signs made us feel very welcome…not.
P1020453In fairness to farmers, dogs CAN cause a huge amount of damage to sheep and lambs. And bulls can cause serious damage to walkers. We didn’t detect any sign of bulls, sheep or lambs. Or dogs.
Stomachs were starting to rumble, lunch was needed. Rick’s a hard taskmaster and he marched us on through gentle countryside, through nettle fields and paths to walk alongside Appleton Reservoir:
P1020455
Our intended lunch stop was overlooking the graveyard on Hill Cliffe. As we scoffed our butties in the hot sunshine, we enjoyed a cracking view of Warrington and over to Winter Hill:
P1020461The substantial red-brick building is the old Greenhall’s Wilderspool brewery. Look hard and you might see Norman waving from Rivington Pike.
The next mile or so was on tarmac, but apart from having to cross the busy A49, we were on fairly quiet roads. Still on the Mersey Valley Trail, we left the tarmac to follow The Dingle, the shallow valley of Dipping Brook. A couple of east-ish miles took us back to the Bridgewater Canal towpath, just to the south of Grappenhall.
P1020463Rick and friend
P1020464 
Fast Blackshaw at rest
Rick was a bit worried about there being too much canal towpath walking on this route, but at this time of year it’s delightful: canal boats chugging up and down the cut, plenty of greenery to look at, all sorts of birdies in abundance – really lovely. I think his worries are unfounded.
An hour later we arrived back in Walton, very close to our start point. There was just the Walton Arms to contend with:
P1020425Unfortunately the proper ale was rather vinegar-like…..it meant all we had was lager. Oh well, I suppose every silver lining must have it’s cloud.

This is where we went. Sort of.

imageAround 14 miles with a surprising 800’ of up and down. 

More photos here.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sunday 23rd June, A Buglawton Bimble

I’ve been following Conrad’s blog for some time now and when I saw that he was backpacking the Cheshire Ring, a 100 mile canal towpath walk, it seemed an opportunity had presented itself to meet the famous man for the first time AND to get out for a walk.
I’d not seen Mick & Gayle for a while, and knowing that they’re ALWAYS up for a walk, I sent an email suggesting we all meet up.
At 8am (the one in the morning) I met up with M&G outside the G.R. Ming Salon in Wheelock. A strange name for an establishment.
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Anyroadup, we piled into my car to drive to the wonderfully named Buglawton, close to Congleton. After my failed attempts to confuse my passengers by multiple roundabouts orbits, we eventually found Conrad waiting for us in the rain. He’d camped at a small campsite around the back of the Church House in Buglawton – a Robbies house with a rather nice sign:
P1020253Greetings exchanged, we headed off to join the Macclesfield Canal towpath and splosh our merry way south -ish.
North-West Englandshire has enjoyed good weather of late, but not today. It was quite cold and showery, but what the hell – if you wait around for good weather you won’t go anywhere!
Conrad had been told there was a canal-side tea / coffee shop marina thingy a short distance up the canal. We either all blinked a very long blink or we were walking in the wrong direction, but we didn’t find it. Mick was gagging for a bacon butty, and poor Conrad had only had a cup of tea that morning.
P1020234  Gayle (note her immaculate hair), and the hungry Mick and Conrad
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3 1/4 miles to Hall Green…but still no bacon butties
The peace and quiet of the towpath (and of Conrad’s walk) was well and truly shattered by our group chattering away. Four people with common interests always have plenty to say to one another. Much talk was of Mick and Gayle’s plans and my plans for next year’s TGO Challenge and other planned trips.
P1020238   Ramsdell Hall, a rather nice little house on the banks of the cut
Approaching Kidsgrove and a change of canal to the Trent & Mersey, we found ourselves directly behind a group of walkers – probably out on a sponsored walk. I felt quite sorry for them, the weather wasn’t too good and they were nearly all ill-clad. We managed to get past them, I think they were rather surprised to find there were others out walking in the rain!
P1020241Red Bull Services appeared…but still no coffee shop. We ended up sheltering from the rain under a bridge carrying the A34 in Kidsgrove. Butties, cake and drinks fuelled us for the next section.
Ducklets and swanlets were a common sight on the canals today – this lot were lurking alongside a narrowboat as it’s crew were trying to moor up:
P1020244
A few short miles later we spotted a pub which enabled us to have a decent sit-down and a cuppa – courtesy of Conrad. Thanks Conrad!
Before going in, Gayle thought it important to show off her new hairstyle, we all thought it very trendy:
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P1020242 That will be 29 miles to Preston Brook then.
Canal walks can be fascinating journeys through history. Those who designed and built the canals were brilliant engineers, the lock systems and bridges are testament to that, but expecting cows to read is pushing it:
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We left the pub as the weather improved….well it wasn’t QUITE as wet as earlier. Wheelock and Sandback Sandbatch Sandbach soon came into view.
P1020248 On final approach to Wheelock
P1020250 All about Wheelock
It was time to leave Conrad to continue another 2-3 miles to his campsite at Elworth. I gather from Conrad’s blog that the campsite leaves rather a lot to be desired – but at least there’s an adjacent pub that does food.
P1020251 Conrad continuing on his merry way
It had been a cracking day out – good to meet Conrad for the first time, and also to catch up with Mick and Gayle whom I’d not seen since last year’s Challenge.
You can’t get much better than a decent walk in good company….even if we didn’t find bacon butties.

Memory Map reckons we covered 15.25 nominally downhill miles:

Buglawton to Wheelock routeWe were walking this section of the Ring in a clockwise direction, ie Right to Left.
Oh, Conrad – you really should consider doing the TGO Challenge – you’re made of the right stuff!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Florida summer...


....and how to deal with it.


Dehydration is to be avoided. Enhancing water seems to be the way Floridians do it.

To be fair, the Florida water is safe to drink but it tastes pretty awful.

I brought a packet of Yorkshire Tea (for hard water) over with me. When made with bottled drinking water the resultant brew is acceptable. Not brilliant, but it does the job.

I've been so busy that I've not had time to visit the local brewery tap in Dunedin, 5 - 6 miles from here. Cans of lager have had to suffice.

I was hoping to get out with the local Hash House Harriers, but apart from time constraints, the weather has been either far too hot to run or it's been too wet. This is the storm season, we've recently been battered by Tropical Storm Andrea - even wetter than a wet Sunday afternoon in Timperley. Now THAT'S wet.

It's now 4.30pm (the one in the afternoon) and the clouds are gathering. By 5pm it will be hammering down once again. Good tropical stuff - happens most afternoons at this time.

The good news is that I've achieved more than I'd intended on this trip.
For those who don't know, I've been renovating an apartment that my father and I own. The plan is to let the place out to make it self-financing. There's no point in trying to flog it, the property market over here is in a worse state than in the UK.

Anyroadup, as it's going to hiss it down I might as well get on with some decorating.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A post from The Colonies

From time-to-time I need to cross the pond to ensure that things are going satisfactorily.
90degF and all that goes with it doesn’t really do it for me, I’d much rather be somewhere wild and remote. But there you go, it’s a family duty thing and it has to be done.
Whenever I do pay a visit to our colonial brothers and sisters I’m always tempted to correct their spelling, grammar and vocalburary vocabliary vocabulary. This is one reason why I don’t buy books from here, I can’t abide poor spelling…..not that mine is brilliant. The Americans, to their great credit, don’t seem to misuse the apostrophe half as much as we British do.
I was delighted to see that the Publix supermarket chain (think Tesco, but with service) are in the good company of our very own Booth’s supermarkets: they offer an express till service for customers with ‘10 items or fewer’.
P1020200Whilst on the subject of niceties and stuff, have you noticed that our very own National Trust don’t have toilets? Oh dear me no, they have Lavatories. Much more English, don’t you think?
As well as being separated by a common language, our dress sense is rather different:
P1020197This delightful lady’s hat is probably not at all unusual on the left-hand side of the pond, in Timperley it may stand out slightly. 
The high temperatures of this part of the USA cause all manner of insect problems. Floridians take these things in their stride:
P1020199An former squatter 
I’ve now pretty well sorted the insect invasion problem. Whenever I leave for UK I put down a good number of ‘Roach Baits’….they’re like rat poison but for cockroaches. Probably wouldn’t do rats much good either. Come to think of it, I’ve not seen any rats here…..so it MUST work on rats too. Anyway, when I open up the building I just go around with a dustpan and brush and sweep up all the dead bodies. Then I bleach everywhere.
This visit is much busier than previous visits, I’m preparing the place for letting – there’s TONS to do. Whilst clearing out a load of old tat I came across a completely useless lightbulb – well it was completely useless as a lightbulb:
P1020391You don’t get these in Timperley
With the very high temperatures comes a rainy season. This last couple of weeks has already seen loss of life due to hurricanes & tornadoes. Fortunately this area is just out the tornado alley. That doesn’t mean we don’t get rain though:
P1020412 P1020421 A couple of photos taken from the back door this evening.
The evening’s donner & blitzen stuff is bad for a chap’s nerves. Now I know why the flight tickets were so cheap….no bugger wants to come here at this time of the year.
Anyroadup, tomorrow’s an easy day. The morning will be spent working on the apartment, whilst the afternoon will be at a local folk club sing-thing. The evening will be spent at the Dunedin Brewery. A chap has to have SOME fun…doesn’t he?