Martin

Martin

Friday, 23 September 2016

Sunday 18 September 2016 – A Bike Ride to Phoenix Park (Runcorn)

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At last Saturday morning’s parkrun Andy Wright suggested an alternative Sunday morning bike ride route. I’d been planning the usual anti-clockwise Trans Pennine Trail (TPT)/Cheshire Ring circuit (most recently described here), but the attractions of a mid ride café swung my decision in favour of a ride based on Andy’s suggestion.

An 8.30 start saw me heading along a misty Bridgewater Canal towards Lymm.

The nice new towpath ends beyond the Bay Malton at Oldfield Brow, with officious looking signage requesting cyclists to dismount. That’s not really necessary in dry conditions, but after a lot of rain the towpath does get very muddy and is perhaps best avoided until a few miles beyond Lymm. So this is a ‘summer’ route.

Nobody complained about me staying astride the bike. Courtesy plays a part in achieving that result.

At Little Bollington, in view of The Swan With Two Nicks, somebody had pulled a plug and let the bathwater in.

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The sun came out.

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Approaching Lymm, several barges were under way, enjoying another lovely summery morning.

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Looking back, the mist seemed to want to chase me all the way to Runcorn.

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At Thelwall the M6 is very close by (it passes overhead) but there are some magical sections of the canal.

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Rather than stick to the towpath all the way to my planned departure point at Red Brow Lane, I left it at London Road, by Thorn Marine in Stockton Heath. This pleasant option is shown on the map below, returning to the towpath at Acton Grange Bridge.

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Soon afterwards, at Keckwick Lane, Norton Water Tower came into view. It’s a useful landmark as my route was to pass very close to the tower.

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Leaving the canal at Red Brow Lane as planned, it was an easy ride along quiet roads, past the Water Tower, to Phoenix Park and the delights of the Urban Café.

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I sat outside with a couple whose children were playing in the extensive and comprehensive play zone. They told me the area had been rejuvenated following the demolition of some tower blocks and their replacement with low-rise, low-cost housing. The café is certainly a great facility. I must have looked hungry, as their cake portion control went a bit awry! The racks in front of me are for bicycles.

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Suddenly there was a huge commotion. A load of bikes arrived. Most of them seemed to be out of control. I spotted Andy Wright (grinning inanely!) in their midst before he got carted off to hospital….

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Phew!

After the wreckage had been cleared and the ambulances had been despatched to wait in queues outside a variety of hospitals, I pedalled off through the park and soon reached the canal towpath again.

It was summer. Seriously hot.

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I left the towpath at the first bridge, near Windmill Hill, and made my way to the Trans Pennine Trail. Minor roads led me to cross the Expressway at Pitts Heath. Immediately after that I saw an off-road turning to the left. I should have taken it; I’m sure it would have by-passed the road that loops through Moore before heading to the Ship Canal. The following picture shows my route to the TPT.

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This really was a pretty simple route, as once the TPT had been reached it was simply a question of following the signposts along a route with which I was already familiar. The Manchester Ship Canal was crossed and then re-crossed at Latchford Locks, where I could look back to the Latchford Viaduct, the cost of maintenance of which finally laid the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway to rest in 1985 after 132 years. I was heading for the trackbed of that railway.

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In the other direction, traffic could be seen on the M60 bridge in Salford.

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The pace quickened as I headed under the late summer tree canopy along the trackbed all the way to Broadheath. The picture below is deceptive – there were lots of people about on the summery morning.

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A short road section led me home. Dairyhouse Lane has a right angle bend around which somebody failed to make it last night.

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Here’s the route – 62 km with up to 500 metres ascent. Allow two hours each way to and from the café, and enjoy a half hour break there…

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Thanks for the suggestion, Andy.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Saturday 17 September 2016 – Wythenshawe parkrun, and a marathon in prospect

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A rare Saturday spent in Timperley meant that Sue and I could pop down to Wythenshawe Park for the ritual of a 5km ‘parkrun’, my 98th at Wythenshawe.

I arrived quite early, just ahead of The Invisible Cyclist, on a beautiful sunny morning. Here’s my ‘update picture’ of the Hall, which looks much as it did  back on 23 July.

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Run Director Andy was in good form, briefing various batches of First Timers then balancing on a pedestal to address the 280 participants. Unfortunately he omitted to mention one or two ‘etiquette’ items about which some runners needed perhaps to be reminded. (eg “It’s not a race – be courteous when passing slower runners.”)

You’ll have to blow up the next picture to identify the keenies getting ready to zoom off at great speed.

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Not having run for a month or so, I jogged off slowly and used one of the ‘Legends’ as a pacer. Ken is much older than me, but when I started doing parkruns I couldn’t get anywhere near him. Now he’s in his mid 70’s and has had some health issues, so he’s a bit easier to keep up with. He tells me that he ran the 5km in 20.29 one month before his 70th birthday. He really is a Legend.

Anyway, we all ambled round the unusually fast, dry course. The results are here, and Andy’s excellent report is here.

After cake provided by Jenn (thanks Jenn), many of us settled down in the Courtyard Tea Room for coffees and a good long chat. Parkrun camaraderie. The sun took a while to reach our tables but we waited patiently on what may be our last sunlit outdoor parkrun coffee morning of the year.

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If you’ve got this far, have you also noticed some temporary changes to the sidebar of this blog? This week I entered my first ever marathon, and I’m going to Toulouse to run (maybe walk!) 26 miles or so on Sunday 23 October. I’m raising money, as usual, for the Levana School Partnership that supports pupils at Levana Primary School which is in a deprived area of Cape Town. I know that every penny raised goes to this worthy cause. Clicking on the image below should also take you to the JustGiving page. You’ll see that I also have some ‘printed in error’ copies of my ‘Another Pyrenean Adventure’ book that I’m trying to dispose of in return for small donations. Let me know if you would like a copy (email: martin@topwalks.com).

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Thursday 15 September 2016 – A Circuit from Great Hucklow with SWOG

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This, believe it or not, was my first daytime walk with Stockport Walking and Outdoor Group (SWOG). The continuing brilliant weather drew me into the Peak District after being encouraged by Nigel and Chris during the previous night’s presentation of ‘Images of Snowdonia’ by Martin Block at Hazel Grove Civic Centre. (These Wednesday evening sessions are excellent – do feel free to attend – 8 pm – cost is just £1.)

The seven of us pictured above on Abney Moor met at Great Hucklow on another hot, sweaty, September morning. From L to R – Martin, Tracy, Alison, Chris, Sue, Pete and leader for the day Nigel.

We wandered up to Hucklow Edge through pleasantly shady woodland, at the entrance to which is this highly informative sign about a complex lead mining area. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

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The area is now mainly agricultural, but the village was formerly a centre of the Derbyshire lead mining industry. The lead vein or rake outcrops to the surface to the west of the village and dives under the rocks of Hucklow Edge on the western side of the village where an adit, known as Milldam Mine, has recently been reopened by Glebe Mines Ltd and connects the various deep mines that had formerly been dug along the edge. This mine is being worked for fluorspar, which is frequently found associated with lead in the vein.

It was relatively cool under the cover of the trees.

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We joined a lane that offers access to the nearby gliding club where aircraft were being catapulted into the sky. The World Gliding Championships were held here in 1954, and on 9 August 2011 the UK's longest ever paraglider flight apparently began here, ending over 250 km away in Suffolk.

Currently the road is blocked by giant Lego bricks being used to repair a landslide.

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Chris established that they weren’t blocks of white chocolate, whilst Pete looked on, baffled by his mate’s extraordinary efforts to supplement his breakfast.

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Somehow we found the energy to climb onto the plateau of Abney Moor, where a long break for self-timed photos and elevenses was much needed in the stifling heat.

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A few metres further on was a conveniently shady bench (at SK 184 801). Duh!

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After the ‘I didn’t think of continuing to the bench’ debacle, Nigel led us on to a promontory overlooking Bradwell and the nearby massive quarry.

“I wonder where we are now?” he pondered, scrutinising his map with a magnifying glass.

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The answer was clear when everyone decided to turn around and re-join Sue and Alison, who had declined this part of the walk. “Rebellion Knoll.” (Check the map below!)

Soon we were back on a path towards Abney.

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Not long afterwards we gained the shelter of woodland in Abney Clough, where Chris and Tracy found some welcome shade and demanded “lunch”.

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After a lengthy break, we stumbled on towards another section of woodland that we hoped would protect us from the burning sun and the mewing buzzards.

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Taken just a few minutes later, the picture below gives the impression that the season has changed in a matter of minutes!

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At the foot of Abney Clough there’s a complex path junction where we turned sharp right to ascend slowly up Bretton Clough in a desperate bid to return to Great Hucklow before anybody expired.

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Near the top of the hill an enticing lawn-like area induced a break for … “afternoon tea, anyone?”

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It may be September, but there are still quite a few flowers for the insects to enjoy. I’ve already photographed most of them this summer, so I left the thistles to themselves today, but I couldn’t resist this Meadow Crane’s-bill.

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We emerged at an old stone building with a viewpoint over the escarpment. There’s an orientation point that suggests to visitors what they may be able to see.

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The intense heat haze meant that today’s view was relatively limited.

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Hang on though, it’s only 2.55 pm! The pub closes at 3 pm. We rushed in, much to the dismay of the landlady who wanted to shut early. It was a fine place to rehydrate before tackling the (thankfully downhill) slope back to our starting point.

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It took some persuasion to get everyone back onto their feet, but it didn’t take more than a few hours more to stumble down to Great Hucklow, where the welcoming sign looks as if someone has written something else then scribbled it out.

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After five and a half hours in the heat of the Indian summer, we were all pretty exhausted after 13.5 km and 440 metres ascent. I felt at least as tired as I had done after the previous day’s rather longer stroll!

Here’s the route.

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Thanks to Nigel for leading this excellent stroll, and apologies for any misinterpretations as to what actually happened, in the above ‘report’!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Wednesday 14 September 2016 – An ‘Altrincham Circular’ Walk

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My first entry on these pages relates to a walk called ‘The Altrincham Circular’, devised with the aid of then Timperley resident Benny Rothman in 1987 as a WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) project. The description I gave in October 2007 was very brief as, like today, I was in arrears with my entries – a familiar situation. Slightly more information was given in my report on the walk undertaken on 20 February 2010.

The weather in Timperley was brilliant last week. That’s my excuse for allowing these entries to build up an arrears.

Never mind, it’s an overcast Monday morning, so I’ll take a punt at catching up.

With the ‘Altrincham Circuit’ in mind, I wanted a fairly energetic morning walk from home, so I plotted a route approximating to that shown below and put it on the phone so that I could easily check my progress.

Starting before 8 am I soon realised that despite it being a lovely day, I was going to get scratched and soaked, thanks to rampant brambles and a shower in the night. Our resident heron gave me a rather condescending ‘you must be stupid’ look as I passed by.

I more or less followed Benny’s route through Timperley to Brooks Drive, where I chose a path that follows Fairywell Brook through Roundthorn. Despite being just a few metres from Wythenshawe Hospital, this path proved quite challenging, with soaking foliage laden with thorns blocking the path. Wythenshawe Jungle!

Instead of following Brooks Drive all the way to Hale Barns, I ducked and dived along some field paths with deep, wet grass, finally emerging in more grass beside junction 6 of the M56 motorway. This field path led to a ginnel into housing that led quietly and dryly to this typical ginnel at the junction of Rivermead Avenue and Bank Road.

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My route then skirted Hale Golf Course and led me into the Bollin Valley, where shafts of light beamed through the tree canopy giving the aura of a magical place. Between Warburton Green and Dunham, many miles further on, I encountered only one person – a certain Roy Keane walking his dogs in the Bollin Valley. (Readers who have heard of Mr Keane won’t be surprised at his choice of dog – alsatian.)

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Beyond the Bollin Valley a host of field paths like the one shown below guided me through pleasant Cheshire countryside under a hot sky.

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Some field paths are better marked than others, and a 1:25,000 scale map is a big advantage on this walk. A level crossing at New Mills, near Mobberley Station, led me past some enticing tea rooms to Pepper Street and a path across a dodgy bridge towards Kell House Farm. The picture doesn’t really show it, but this slime coated structure slopes at an alarming angle. People like HMP3 and Mike and Marian Parsons* shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it.

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More field paths led to Arden House. I recognised it; I’d been there before.

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I decided to avoid the extensive area of road works at the A556/M56 junction and headed to Bow Green Road in Bowden, from where I thought a path would lead me past the Home Farm and into the grounds of Dunham Massey. It did, but not until I’d climbed a large, white, securely locked, spiky gate.

Once over that barrier, I started to encounter humans again, as well as ducks on Island Pool and Fallow Deer snoozing outside the big house.

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In Little Bollington the River Bollin was rushing over the weir a little more energetically than usual.

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Dinner was needed, so a short diversion to Little Heath Farm shop was in order, soon after I’d joined the Bridgewater Canal towpath.

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Another diversion to Asda in Broadheath saw me leaving the towpath for a change and making my way back home via a variety of ginnels, side streets and meadows.

This walk could easily be undertaken over the course of a whole day, but for me it was a morning outing at a brisk pace of about 10 minutes for each kilometre (4 mph) – 34 km with 300 metres ascent, in 5.5 hours. The route shows more clearly if you click on the picture, but feel free to design your own…there are many paths to be discovered.

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* These are ‘accident prone’ people from whom squeamish readers should maintain a wide berth, HMP3 being the latest ‘stumbler’ having recently suffered a ‘fibula trip’ in the French Alps.