Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 31 March 2017

Friday 31 March 2017 – A Stroll to Dunham

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Well, Helen left us yesterday after her week’s stay. Whilst she was moving on to visit other friends and relatives, her husband Ken was hot on her heels, from Ottawa via Heathrow, arriving in Timperley in time for a meal featuring raw fish (well, ceviche) and a blue cheese tart, neither of which feature on his regular menu.

Helen and Ken could both have stayed at the same time – we have enough beds – but they have differing itineraries. They will finally meet up next week.

Today we enjoyed a gentle 15 km stroll to Dunham Massey, returning via Altrincham. Very slow and relaxing. The next posting will reveal why…

The top picture shows Ken and Sue on the canal towpath near Dunham Town, from where we continued, leaving the canal by the Swan with Two Nicks, to enter the grounds of Dunham Massey via the back entrance near the sawmill, a listed building that dates from 1616.

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After some debate as to where to stop for coffee, we continued past the main building and a variety of statues.

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The Lavender Barn Tea Room was our chosen spot today, and very nice it was too. A group of cyclists from Middleton was also in residence. It was lovely to be able to sit outside with a large piece of cake in the continuing warm weather.

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Then it was through the golf course to Altrincham for a spot of provision replenishment and a short route home via Navigation Road.

They have put a new ‘sign’ up outside the bus station, next to the old clock, which is working again. This probably happened ages ago, but I’ve only just noticed!

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Tuesday 28 March 2017 – A Visit to Styal Mill

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Helen’s treat for the day was a visit to Styal Mill, the history of which – dating from the late 18th Century, can be found here.

We first visited the Apprentice House, where a well informed lady called Jenny gave us a conducted tour of the building in which about 90 children at any one time (60 girls and 30 boys) spent up to ten years of their lives working as apprentices in the mill – 12 hours a day for 6 days a week. The much worse alternative was the workhouse.

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It was unusual in those times for a doctor to be available, but Samuel Greg’s mill employed one. His medicine chest may have included some of the items displayed below.

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Fresh vegetables were available from the garden, but porridge featured heavily in the children’s diets. The spoon is standing up for a reason – the porridge is solid and could be cut into chunks for the apprentices to eat on their way to work – it was more than poor form to be late for that.

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The National Trust, aided by volunteers and charitable donations, are slowly making big improvements and extending the area available to visitors. We hadn’t been in the gardens before. They are very much ‘work-in-progress’, but at least the glass houses have been renovated and the gardens are open to the public.

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Here, Sue and Helen explore the greenhouse on the left of the above picture.

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The gardens are not all as bare as the top garden shown above!

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From the bottom of the gardens the owner’s house provides a backdrop to the River Bollin. Following renovations, that house should soon be open to the public.

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Here’s a view of the mill from the lower gardens.

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And here’s the classic view of the mill, beside the River Bollin, whose waters provide the power. The waterwheel has been renovated and is now the most powerful working waterwheel in Europe. Its width and its diameter are both in the order of 7 metres. It’s massive!

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After lunch we did the full tour of the mill, but I took no further pictures.

If you haven’t been recently, it’s a good day out.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

25 to 27 March 2017 – A Flying Visit to Kilmartin

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Saturday morning saw us zooming up the M6 to Penrith, where – as it was approaching 9 am – the local parkrun beckoned. It’s the third time I’ve done this run and today’s excellent conditions saw me gain an unexpected PB (personal best) for this course. I nearly got a notably symmetric result with position 23 in 23 minutes and 25 seconds – just 2 seconds out! Both Helen and Sue managed PBs, largely because this was their first visit to this parkrun, and in Helen’s case her first parkrun ever. They haven’t reached Ottawa yet. The Penrith results are here.

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By about 4 pm we had reached Kilmartin despite some traffic delays. Tea and cake in Janet and David’s garden in warm sunshine brought back memories of the first day of my TGO Challenge with Sue some five years ago.

Leaving Helen to stay with D and J, Sue and I continued to Ali’s house at Ford, where we were installed for the weekend and were soon tucking into some of Ali’s excellent catering together with the Kilmartin trio. Before that we had savoured the warm evening with a stroll beside Loch Ederline, enabling Ali to reach her 10,000 step target whilst raising funds for cancer research.

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A gorgeous Sunday morning soon dispelled any fuzziness and the six of us reassembled at Carnassarie Castle.

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The site was explored thoroughly whilst David clocked the first of the 50+ species of birds he saw or heard today. I won’t list them all, but the Stock Dove he heard was a ‘good spot’, and I was pleased to see Chiffchaffs, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and Siskins. Unfortunately the Ospreys had not yet arrived.

We strolled past some of the ancient burial chambers that litter this area, gaining this view to Kilmartin from the Neolithic chamber tomb of Nether Largie South.

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The trees are starting to produce blossom, if not leaves.

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We continued past a selection of the countless antiquities, including this impressive site at Temple Wood. It will be lovely in a few weeks when the bluebells appear.

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Lunch was on the steps outside the once magnificent Poltalloch House. Built in the 1853 from the profits of sugar and slavery, this edifice was abandoned in 1954 after taxation forced ‘hardship’ upon the owners. It must have been a splendid place to visit in its heyday. Just around the corner a small church is kept in good order and is used as a wedding venue.

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I think this edifice dates from later than 1954, but who am I to pass such judgement?

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Nearby Duntrune Castle, built in the 12th Century, has for many years been owned by the same family that owns Poltalloch. The castle was last renovated in 1954, when the Malcolm family moved back there from Poltalloch. It commands a lovely position.

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Making our way slowly towards a small hill called Dunadd, we followed the switchback course of the River Add for a while. David and Janet have enjoyed canoeing down here. There were some curious plants emerging from the sandbanks, which I was told are called Skunks Cabbage.

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We eventually reached our destination of Dunadd, the site of an ancient fort, and a selection of cup marks and other antiquities.

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There were fine views from the summit, encompassing the Paps of Jura on one hand and the snowy summits of Ben Cruachan in the other direction (visible in the picture above).

It was t-shirt and shorts weather, a lovely warm summery day.

Here’s our route – 15 km with about 100 metres ascent, taking us many hours.

There was no rush.

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After a bit of car juggling we all then paid a visit to VIC 32, a ‘Puffer’ steamboat built in 1943, currently based at Crinan, and used for steamboat holidays.

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Ali acts as chef on some of their trips, and was keen to show us around the boat, which is currently full of volunteers painting and engineering its preparation for the coming tourist season. A labour of love from a dedicated team. There was lots of wet paint to avoid.

Later, the Kilmartin Hotel provided a fine meal, for which we also thank David and Janet.

Monday saw us returning to Timperley via the Kelpies at Falkirk.

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Sue and I visited them in 2015. Today they seemed to be undergoing some form of dental treatment. They looked a bit aggressive, so we moved on to enjoy the company of our Bacup grandchildren – thanks go to Kate and Simon for providing dinner…

Phew, that was a brisk 750 mile round trip.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Friday 24 March 2017 - A Trip to Middlewich

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A backlog has built up, so I’ll be brief.

Helen’s visit – she is over here from Ottawa – continued with a trip to Moston, near Middlewich, to visit her cousin Carol. They hadn’t seen each other for many years, so Sue and I left them to it and wandered off to stroll along a short section of the Trent and Mersey Canal. I recalled it as being a slow section on my Cheshire Ring bike ride. Was that really nearly seven years ago?

The walk headed first past Sparrowgrove, pictured above, where angling appeared to be the pastime of the day.

Bridge number 162 seems to be irretrievably weak.

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The Trent and Mersey is a longish stretch of water dating from 1777. It’s 93.5 miles in length with 70 locks and 5 tunnels.

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After passing under bridge 161 we continued to the next bridge before heading west across fields towards Warmingham. The field paths were pleasantly dry and took us efficiently back to chez Carol.

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The hedges were greening up nicely in the warm weather, and various wild flowers are emerging, including these clumps of Lesser Celandine.

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Here’s our route – 7.6 km in an hour and a half.

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We rounded off the trip with fish and chips at the excellent Bear’s Paw in Warmingham, (thank you, Carol) and coffees at Carol’s … a most pleasant and relaxing interlude.

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