Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

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.