Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 24 March 2017

Thursday 23 March 2017 – Dunham Massey Winter Garden

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It’s a couple of weeks since our last visit to the Winter Garden, so Helen’s arrival from Ottawa provided a good excuse for another visit.

Everything has come on. Leaves are spouting and new flowers are in bloom. Here’s a small selection.

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The glamorous red shoots of this Cornus have now become obscured by the shrub’s bright green leaves.

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As before, I didn’t make a note of the names, some of which may appear on the board below.

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I hope readers enjoy this splash of colour – a mixture of my pictures and Sue’s rather more skilful ones.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Tuesday 21 March 2017 – A Bike Ride from Marple

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Parkrunners Paul and Andy joined me for a morning jaunt in a break from the current showery weather.

Paul’s roomy Espace took us to the end of the Middlewood Way in Marple for a 9.30 am start. 

The Middlewood Way is a ten-mile (16 km) "linear park" between Macclesfield  and Rose Hill, Marple, that was opened on 30 May 1985 by Dr David Bellamy. It follows the route of the former Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple railway, which had operated between 1869 and 1970.

We enjoyed a 6 km warm up along the track bed, skilfully dodging dog walkers and joggers, as far as Poynton Coppice, where a couple of birdlike sculptures marked our departure down Shrigley Road.

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We met a chap known to Paul, who we encountered again at West Park Gate (he had taken a short cut), where we started the first proper climb of the day, into Lyme Park. I paused to record the pretty woodland – Andy was far ahead and Paul is just visible in this scene.

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There’s a gate leading from Hase Bank Wood to the tarmac of the park’s roads and a test for mountain bikers, the ascent and descent of a little hill called Knott. My still sore shoulder discouraged me from going over Knott today, and Andy’s wimpishness ruled him out. Paul failed to ride up the hill due to a lack of traction in the mud, despite his gleaming new bike with its knobbly 27½ inch tyres.

However, he excelled himself by riding down the steep east side of the hill without (despite our encouragement) falling off. It’s steeper than it looks and braking on the slippery surface is totally ineffectual.

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“Well, that was fun.”

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The tarmac saw us reach Lyme Hall and enjoy a cuppa at the picnic tables next to the National Trust office. Andy had thoughtfully brought enough cake to keep us going all morning. Then we continued up past the hall, the largest house in Cheshire, towards the gate at the East Lodge.

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There are good views from up here, past The Cage – originally a hunting lodge and later put to various uses including that of a prison – and on to Greater Manchester. The parkrun route that we completed last August passes The Cage after a long ascent.

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The red deer gave Andy a threatening growl, so Paul came to his rescue and shooed them away.

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Beyond the boundary of the park there were some ‘interesting’ rocky, muddy, stony paths including this boardwalk diversion around a crumbling bridge. Here Paul realised again that the very wide handlebars on his new bike are something of an encumbrance.

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After the excitement of a long rocky descent to the A6 road (and a long wait for Andy to walk down the hill) we were happy to join the easy towpath along the Peak Forest Canal at bridge number 27.

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The canal offered a respite that we all enjoyed before resuming the rigours of this particular route.

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We could have returned to Marple via the easy towpath, or by a low level route from Strines via Roman Lakes. But we chose to descend to Strines and ride (walk, in Andy’s case) a steep circuit via the Fox Inn. The inn wasn’t open but its picnic benches provided a good venue for more tea and cake.

Back at Strines, where Andy might as well have left his bike earlier, we set off steeply again towards the golf course, above which we passed before taking the long and enjoyable descent down Linnet Clough to Bottom’s Bridge. Here are Paul and Andy at the bottom of the rocky descent (which is actually out of shot to the right), with just a short ride along roads to return us to the car park at Rose Hill.

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More coffee and cake from Jeanette, on return to base, rounded off a most enjoyable outing of about 26 km with 800 metres ascent, taking a leisurely 3 hours.

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We must do more of these!

NB For the record, I was on my 1990 Shogun bike today – a bit bumpy over the rocks, but it was already filthy, and meant I only had one bike to clean when I got home…

Monday, 20 March 2017

Rentahostel at Hawkshead – 17 to 19 March 2017

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This was our annual ‘rentahostel’ weekend with 24 or so assorted friends based on Sue’s old university hillwalking club.

This year we had use of part of Hawkshead Youth Hostel. The weather was wet and the road between Hawkshead and the Youth Hostel was flooded. So despite an inclination to walk, we drove to the Red Lion on Friday evening.

I’d planned a circuit based on Dow Crag for Saturday. Whilst most people preferred something a bit lower in the inclement weather, ten of us assembled for the drive up to the end of the Walna Scar Road.

Before setting off, two of that number suddenly changed their minds in favour of a low level walk from the hostel. So it was just eight of us who disembarked at the Walna Scar Road terminus.

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It was raining quite hard.

A search for Ken and Anne’s boots proved fruitless, so they were left with little option but to walk back to Hawkshead in their slippers. Bob and Judy, who had come for the day from their home in the Lakes, accompanied them.

So even before we had started, our group of ten had been reduced to me, Sue, Pam and Paul!

We made our way uneventfully up to Goat’s Water, which we could just about see through the mist.

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There were quite a few people coming down the path leading to the gap (Goat’s Hawse) between Dow Crag and The Old Man of Coniston, some sporting rather drenched pairs of jeans. They were the last people we saw before meeting a mountain rescue team several hours later on the Walna Scar Road. We stopped for a cuppa just below the col where it was calm and warm. If wet.

Having ignored one of our ‘back at base’ number’s suggestion that we take the ‘seriously exposed’ climbers’ route up Dow Crag (why would we even know that there was a climbers’ route?!) we encountered no difficulties other than a bit of clambering over slippery rocks on Dow Crag. Then it was an easy walk over Buck Pike and Brown Pike, with occasional views down to diminutive Blind Tarn.

En route, the next two pictures taken from the same spot (it wasn’t a good day for photography in the pouring rain) give an idea of the terrain.

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On reaching the Walna Scar Road, I pointed out the easy shortcut back to the start of the walk, but that option was rapidly discarded in favour of a further four summits.

Good paths led over Walna Scar to White Pike, from where there would normally be a good view, and back beside a wall to White Maiden.

A compass bearing then guided us towards our final summit – High Pike Haw, seen here from near our lunch spot after we’d established that the compass bearing had taken us in the right direction around a few steepish cliffs.

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High Pike Haw is a minor summit with character. From there we headed over Torver High Common in a roughly north east direction, keeping to the left of a boggy area, to eventually re-join the Walna Scar Road at its bridge over Torver Beck, which unlike Ash Gill, crossed en route and pictured top, would not have been an easy ‘hop’ today.

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We finished the walk around 3.30 – here’s the view to Crowberry Haws from the car park.

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Despite the weather, only Pam had wet feet, and we were otherwise nice and dry apart from having wet hands. Waterproof garments had all worked well apart from some of the gloves. In this weather (not too cold) I find that fairly lightweight gloves that can be wrung out frequently keep my hands warmer than my waterproof gloves (Terra Nova Extremities) which were hardly used today.

Here’s our route – about 15 km with 800 metres ascent, taking 5.3 hours.

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That left us plenty of time to relax back at base, where a sumptuous supper was served. There was an assortment of excellent menu items. My contribution of chardonnay chicken with artichoke hearts proved a good choice – it’s really easy to prepare, and went down well with Sue’s baked potatoes.

By Sunday morning the rain hadn’t abated, so most people went home via indoor attractions. Hawkshead hostel is shown below; we were in an annex behind me.

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Sue and I were joined by Andrew at Leighton Moss Bird Reserve, where we eventually escaped from the café. There’s a fairly new ‘Skytower’ that affords a view over the reserve. Can you spot it in the picture below?

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Here’s the view from the Skytower.

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Back down to earth, these Scarlet Elf Cups were abundant. Apparently they are very tasty, but we didn’t pick any.

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We visited several of the hides and got occasional glimpses of Marsh Harriers, as well as seeing the following:

Mute Swan
Greylag Geese
Mallard
Pintail
Teal
Tufted Duck
Pheasant
Cormorant
Little Egret
Great Egret
Coot
Curlew (Saturday)
Wren
Dunnock
Robin
Blackbird
Marsh or Willow Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Chaffinch

Had Ken and Anne been with us, we would no doubt have spotted much more.

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The reed beds have been cleared in places in order to prevent tree growth, and efforts are being made to provide suitable habitats for both Bittern, who like it wet, and Bearded Tits, who like it dry in the reed beds.

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The pheasants seemed pretty comfortable with our presence. This one wasn’t sure whether to regard my orange anorak as friend or foe. Gun shots could be heard in the distance.

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Here’s where we walked – a bit less than 7 km.

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Then we went home.

Thanks to Sue W for organising the weekend but not for providing her customary wet weather.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sunday 5 March 2017 - The Vasaloppet – Shane’s Report

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After we’d skied the Tartu Ski Marathon, on which I’ve previously reported, one of our number, Shane, headed off to ski the much longer Vasaloppet in Sweden. Wikipedia asserts:

"The Vasa Race" is an annual long distance cross-country ski race held on the first Sunday of March. The 90 km (56 mi) course starts in the village of Sälen and ends in the town of Mora in northwestern Dalarna, Sweden. It is the oldest and longest cross-country ski race in the world as well as the one with the highest number of participants.

The race was inspired by a notable journey made by King Gustav Vasa when he was fleeing from Christian II's soldiers in 1520. The modern competition started in 1922 and it has been a part of the Worldloppet events since 1978.

Shane took the trouble to write a report on his experience of competing in the race with a group of Estonians organised by Jüri, so rather than lose that report in the depths of our computer’s hard drive, I’ve decided to reproduce his report by way of a point of reference, with Shane’s approval, here:

I'm at Stockholm airport and my flight is delayed, so plenty of time to write you my "Vasa Report".

As you've read from Andy's mail, I got through it in one piece, though currently am unable to lift my arms above my head (not sure why I'd want to do that anyway).

It was an early start on race day, the bus was to leave at 5.15am for the start, Jüri suggested breakfast at 4am. I woke up at 3.45am  and went down to breakfast to find a couple of the Estonians already eating! We were staying about 20min by bus from the start, but it took an hour or so on race morning due to traffic jams. I got to my pen at 6.30am, 90min before the start and there were already about 20 rows of skis laid out! I was in pen 10, the very last one, which was about 500m from the start line. (The start is pictured above – Ed)

Being in the last pen is a significant disadvantage as there is a major bottleneck up the first hill after about 1km and around 15min had passed before I reached the start line. The first 3km was a slow shuffle, sometimes just standing on the hill for a few minutes at a time. It took me an hour to complete that first 3km; Andy would have hated it!! Jüri, who skis at similar pace to me, started from pen 7 and was at the first checkpoint in 1h 30, it took me 2h. As you can imagine, it's quite hard shuffling up a long, steepish hill, often having to pull poles from under the skis of those behind you and finding a space for your skis with every step. Anyway things got more civilised soon after that.

Conditions were pretty good. It had snowed a bit the day before and was about minus 8°C at the start and not forecast to rise above about minus 3°C. There were some open areas beside lakes when the wind made it feel much colder. The tracks were pretty good and held reasonably well given the number of skiers before me. The course was about 6-8 tracks wide most of the way (the start was about 30 tracks wide!!). Being able to change tracks often to find the best track is a big advantage and not one of my strengths. Between the first checkpoint (at 11km) and the finish I passed over a thousand people; that could have been many more if I was better at track changing. There was more uphill than I had thought from looking at the profile and a couple of tricky downhills. I was involved in a bit of a pile up on one downhill when someone fell just in front of me, not sure how but I didn't hurt anything!

There was a food station about every 10km or so, these were congested and slow to get through (unless you didn't want any food or drink). I only skied through one without stopping. I must have eaten at least 10 "Vasaloppet buns" and drunk as many cups of blueberry soup.

Overall it was great fun, a friendly and brilliantly organised event; I enjoyed every minute (except perhaps the shuffle up the first hill). I guess my goal was to finish in daylight, which would have been sub 10 hours. It got dark when I had about 4-5km to go, but there were floodlights for the last few km, so quite fun really!

Anyway I finished in 10h 25min and no complaints as it was a great experience. No medal though, as only those who finish in under the winning time +50% get one. I would definitely recommend it and I'm sure to return to do it again. Jüri finished in 9h 15, the best of our group was 4h 40 and the winning time was 3h 57 (that’s three hours fifty seven minutes!!).

The expo was massive, loads of gear for sale, food freebies, etc. It was at the finish; we were there on Friday and there was lots going on and a great atmosphere as there was the relay race that day, with quite a crowd watching the finishing straight.

The Estonian group seemed like a nice bunch and though it was a bit difficult to get any conversation to start, I'd chatted to several of them by the end of the trip. (I think some of them spoke very little English), Jüri tried his best to look after me.
Anyway, the in flight wifi has just come on so I will stop waffling, send this now and maybe try and get some sleep.

Best of luck to the Engadineurs of the group next weekend.

Bye for now

Shane

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Well done, Shane, that’s a considerable achievement, and thanks for agreeing to my publishing this. Our French friends, Pierre, Yolaine and Joel, who are good skiers, took 11 hours 41 minutes to do this race in 2016. Here’s their ‘report’:

“To answer to Martin, the only thing that we have taken easy on that journey is the beer at the end of the race. No in fact it was quite hard, because when you are at 30km from the beginning and already skiing for 4 hours, it is very difficult to imagine that you need to ski 60km more. But we have done it. We have skied all 3 together all along the race that was a good point. Curiously, the last 20km were the easiest, because we knew it was possible to finish before the time limitations, because the race profile was better and because we were helped by the Swedish "bravo" all along the track. It has been another marvellous adventure for us.”

I wonder whether Jenny & Co will report back on their ‘Engadine Experience’?

Stop Press: Jenny plus two others from the Tartu trip report succeeded in the Engadine. Jenny comments:

‘It was a great event and we had fantastic weather, a bit busy in some places going up the hills, although Trevor assures me that all I needed to do was double pole up the middle of the herringboning queues!’

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tuesday 14 March 2017 – A Surprise ‘Victory’

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Well, that was a surprise!

After their ‘reserves’ finishing at the bottom of the pile last week, ‘The San Marinos’ found themselves coming about 12th out of 14 teams in last night’s quiz. But much to our surprise we managed to avoid enough pitfalls (including both the quiz master’s and Bev’s assertion that ‘Rubber Soul’ was a Rolling Stones album!) to arrive at the winning square in the ‘Snakes and Ladders’ contest involving the final 25 questions. It was our 13th and last correct answer that got us there.

John dutifully split the winnings between last night’s four team members. We will spend wisely…

Sunday, 12 March 2017

An evening stroll, and a parkrun

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Friday night saw three of us on the last of our current series of evening walks, from the Drum and Monkey pub in Alderley Edge. Despite the full moon I failed to take any pictures that can be reproduced here, and there are already loads of pictures of Alderley Edge on these pages, so I’ll make do with a picture of our short route, above, from which you might notice that I set off in the wrong direction and had to backtrack. Andrew and Sue had wondered about the direction I was taking, but had said nothing, assuming it to be a new route.

There was lots of deep mud and light pollution from highly illuminated properties on the loop to the south of the B5087, but we managed to get round without any further injuries.

Perhaps our next evening walk will be in daylight?…

Saturday morning found us cycling to Wythenshawe parkrun, before heading up to Bacup for an afternoon with Jessica.

My new Salomon Speedcross 4 shoes were the envy of the crowd!

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The shoes performed well, bringing me home just in front of the running legend known as Ken Burgess, who struggled round despite a knee problem.

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Sue managed to finish in a little over 30 minutes, though she couldn’t hold off a determined looking Ron in the finishing straight. Ron’s in training for a marathon, and close to his PB despite the slow course and conditions.

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Here’s the melee at the finish. Can you spot Sue?

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As usual, we adjourned for coffees at the courtyard tea room, where we were joined by an assortment of ‘cripples’. (Jeanette – can’t run but can cycle; Cary – can’t lift settees without damaging his back.)

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Today’s course was a wet weather one that is generally slower, for various reasons, than the normal course. It’s known as the ‘Bowtie’ course. I wonder why.

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Results are here. Thanks to Paul for keeping me company around the first lap before speeding into the distance. My new shoes worked well, and I suffered none of the usual slippage – I’d have gone faster if I didn’t have to hold one arm as if it is in a sling as a result of the shoulder damaged in Estonia; but it is slowly getting better.