Tracks and Tea Ladies

I’m always surprised how urban and industrial areas have corridors of greenery as well as fields and parkland that can make walking through them an interesting and pleasurable experience. Obviously canals and disused railway lines are good examples of ‘green corridors’ but there are quite a lot of ancient footpaths and public rights-of-way hidden away in our cities and towns.

These old routes need using though; some of the tracks I traveled on today have clearly been forgotten and are overgrown and neglected. A book I read recently (I can’t remember which one) suggested that we should set out to walk all of the rights-of-way within 3 miles of our houses. What a great idea – we would keep the paths open and learn a lot about our locality

Unused path
a rather unused path

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After a reasonable start this morning the temperature dropped, the wind raised and the rain/hail hit so hard it stung. I wandered into Atherton as soggy as a soaked sponge and spotted a coffee morning sign on the local church. There is a rule in the Graham King walking manual (yet to be written) that it is illegal to pass a tea shop without partaking of a brew – I think a church coffee morning falls under the same category so in I trotted.and I was welcomed like an old friend. Within minutes I had a steaming mug of good strong tea and a hot, toasted tea cake. The lovely ladies directed me to the seat nearest the heater so that I could start drying out and they could not have been more friendly. Thank you ladies, you are doing a great job. If you are passing through Atherton and see the coffee morning sign – pop for a cuppa and give them my regards.


I have spoken to loads of people today, all charming and friendly and many amused at my appearance- l look like an Arctic explorer who has lost his skies.
Negotiating the wilder footpaths below Horwich turned into a nightmare this afternoon. My track got narrower and wetter until I was forced (by a boot full of water) to make the decision to retrace my tracks for a mile or so. Eventually I found a higher, drier track that ran parallel with the official one but all-in-all in cost me an hour or two. Never mind. I learned this lesson when walking the Compostela – if it’s not right you must have the guts to turn around and go back but it is still difficult to walk in what seems to be the wrong direction.

Glad I wasn't out in this
Glad I wasn’t out in this

I have booked in to a hotel again as the weather is so cold and wet. I’m enjoying the hot baths but as Kerriann is not here there will be no more bubbly photos of my good self to excite your screen!

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Rainy End To My 500 Mile Point

I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more. 

Yes today I have walked a total of 506.8 miles according to my trusty old Garmin Dakota GPS. Most of those miles must have been in the right direction as I am noticing that the beer here is served with a ridiculously frothy head and people have funny accents – I must be up North. I think it hit me when I walked over the bridge crossing the Manchester Ship Canal. ‘Crumbs’, I thought that sounds a long way from Cornwall!

I enjoyed the lovely flat towpath walking and the rural Glazebrook trail which was wonderfully well way-marked (see Cheshire it can be done) and had some lovely new kissing gates that were big enough to cope with a man and his backpack (many are too small and require some interesting contortions to negotiate).

 Well done Lancashire but can you please sort out your weather! This afternoon, after my lovely pub lunch which included minty mushy peas ( see I really am up North), the skies opened and it rained and rained and rained. The lovely paths were turned into slippery mud baths and slithered all over the place and I started getting depressed. I’m trying to be gentle on my slightly injured feet and sliding around in mud is no good for them or any other part of my anatomy for that matter. So I’ve booked into the nearest accommodation – The Greyhound Hotel in Leigh.

My apologies for the lack of photographs today but I didn’t want to get my phone wet.

I called in the little village Post Office in Glazebrook to get some batteries and it turned out that the post master had walked from John O’Groats to Land’s End a few years ago. He did it in 33 days but without carrying anything other that a small knapsack. ‘It nearly killed me’, he said, ‘took me six months to recover’. ‘I couldn’t have done it with one of those’, he said pointing at my backpack. He also confirmed my thoughts that working my way up the country rather that down is the more sensible option, ‘you don’t get the wind in your face’, he said.

The flashes of lightning and claps of thunder outside my hotel window reassure me that I am better in here than in my tent.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Bridgewater Canal in the Sun and Rain

I’ve been walking along the beautiful Bridgewater Canal in sunshine, snow, rain and hail. Luckily there was more sun than any of the various forms of precipitations!

This canal is over 250 years old and was cut with picks and shovels – a huge engineering project that must have caused massive disruption. But I know that I’m not alone in finding this industrial architecture beautiful as well functional. The Bridgewater is a wide canal. I can’t imagine how many navvies it must have taken to dig it but I for one am glad they did; its tow path is a pleasure to walk.

Bridgewater canal
Bridgewater Canal

 

I don’t appreciates much art but the sweeping curve of the horse bridge or the chunky black and white paddle gear on an old lock takes some beating.

Wild camping in the woods tonight listing to the Folk Awards on Radio 2.

I think it’s going to be a cold one.

 

A Plea to Prestonites

Is there anyone in the Preston area who we would be able to post a box of maps to in the next couple of days? He will be there this weekend and will need some more maps and some medication. It’s a bit far for me to drive especially as it’s a Bank Holiday weekend. Any offers would be appreciated.

He could pick them up at your place or meet in a pub for a drink and a handover of aforementioned maps.

Please email me on kgodwinking@aol.com if anyone  can help.

Much appreciated

Kerriann

From The Shroppie to Mersey

I seem to be sleeping better in my tent than in hostels. The chap that I shared a dorm with last night in Chester Backpackers watched a movie on his laptop in bed. He fell asleep with the bloody thing repeating the film endlessly all night – he needs to get some headphones and some manners/ consideration.

I worked my way out of the roman city via the North Gate in the city walls and after a couple of mistakes was soon back on the Shropshire Union Canal otherwise known as ‘The Shroppie’.  I have noticed before that people near cities are less friendly or more nervous about talking to strangers and they don’t come much stranger that me. I did, however, exchange a few pleasantries  with some of the ‘boaties’ and dog walkers on the tow path.

Good progress was being made until I left ‘the cut’ for the North Cheshire Way when all the usual Cheshire footpath problems re occurred; ploughed paths, no way markings, rotten and dangerous stiles, and a general feeling that nobody around here cares a dam about their ancient rights of way.  What a shame.

At one point I found myself in the middle of a small anti-fracking protest camp. One of the protestors explained that the farmer has sold one field already and is thinking about selling another to a fracking company. The farmer had also parked a large piece of agricultural machinery across the foot path – the nice protestor helped me over a nearby gate and directed me to the public right of way.  Thank you kind sir you are setting a far better example than this local farmer.

I have still covered some 15 miles today and am feeling a little tired so have found a nice little spot for my tent next to some woods. The distant road noise is something I will have to get used to now I am getting into the more industrial regions.

Mapmaster Malcolm’s Stats

Anquet Maps

Latest stats to 22nd April.

Distance: 428 miles

Maximum height: 606 metres

Minimum height: -2.7 metres!

Height ascended: 16542 metres (1.87 Everests)

Height descended: 16495 metres

A fantastic achievement for Graham and his loyal support team – Kerriann and Hugo.

The next few days might be a bit of a shock to the system as Graham has to cross the Liverpool- Manchester conurbation. Ever onwards…

A Challenging Walk to Chester

It rained all night but I slept rather well. Sometimes the sound of the rain on the tent can be quite relaxing…..
I stayed dry and warm but I had to get up at some stage which would involve getting wet. At about 7 AM the rain stopped; I made a quick cup of tea and a hot porridge and enjoyed breakfast in bed.

The rain till held off so I went for it. The sleeping bag packed in its bag, the air mattress deflated, rolled and packed in its bag, dirty clothes into the red waterproof (and smell proof) bag, fresh clean clothes out of the blue waterproof bag, tent down and packed (wet), everything loaded into the backpack all within about 10 minutes. A moment later it started raining again.

dodgy bridge
dodgy bridge

It seems that the farmers in this area don’t like footpaths, almost all the way-mark signs have been removed, stiles are in very bad order and often covered in barbed wired. One footpath gate had a new four foot deep ditch on one side with no bridge. So, whilst the ground was level it was often ploughed up and going was difficult.

drying the tent
the joy of a drying tent

At one stage I found myself, accidentally, on the Duke of Westminster’s private estate, luckily I wasn’t caught. It reminded me of an incident many years ago when I was walking The Test Way with my friends Brian and Dave. We decided to take a short cut through The Duke of Norfolk’s estate and were caught by the man himself who was fly fishing with a friend. We apologised profusely, and sang the praises of his estate and within a few minutes we were best of friends. He even got us holding the trout that he had caught and took a picture of us on our camera. He showed us the best way out of the estate and said ‘ if my man sees you, tell him you have spoken to me’. I still have those photos somewhere!

After getting back on the proper footpath the sun came out for a while and I took the opportunity to hang the tent on a tree to dry out which it did in about half an hour. I then continued into the lovely City of Chester and although I had a dry tent I booked into the backpackers hostel as the weather forecast is not good….again.

Thanks Tilley

I returned home from meeting up with Graham in North Wales and was excited to find his replacement Tilley hat waiting for me.You may remember Graham was devastated to lose his Tilley and put out a call across Somerset for someone to find it. Alas it did not appear so a replacement was sent.

Thanks for your friendly efficient service Tilley!

I shall deliver it to him on our next meeting which may be sooner than expected due to a presumed change in the weather. Brrrrrrrrr….Dickie (the van) to the rescue perhaps.

snowy
EEEEEEEEEEK

Pom Pom Man

If you’re planning on losing weight I suggest you walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats. it much a much slimmer Graham who welcomed me in Chirk on the weekend.

pompom man
Pom Pom Man

His head is like a pom pom on a stick!

slimness
lost about 2 inches from his waist

It was great to see him and catch up on the details of his walk. He looks very healthy despite a bit of foot unpleasantness and he’s meeting up with a few lovely people along the way.

Chirk aqueduct_1
Chirk Aqueduct

He’s heading up to Chester today and the weather is looking terrible for the next week. I think he’ll be searching out bunkhouses and hostels over the next few days.

 

 

 

Dee River Scrambling

It was lovely to have a day off with Kerriann yesterday and my body feels better for it too.
Both of my feet still ache a little but that is to be expected I suppose. My right foot has a swelling on the back of the heal that I am keeping an eye on.
Today was meant to be an easy walking day, and it was – apart from an incident this morning; the path disappeared. The track I was on had obviously not been used much and as I progressed it got more and more overgrown. I found myself scrambling over fallen trees and getting hooked up in brambles. I checked on the GPS and I was bang on my red line (my chosen path). Eventually I had to climb a near vertical cliff-face for some 50 feet or so. Not an easy task with a heavy pack on my back.

I think I must have made a mistake when I linked all the paths together to form my final route, either that or the foot path simply hasn’t been walked for 10 years and has returned to nature. It will be interesting to compare the proposed route with my actual route when I extract the data from the GPS and send it to Malcolm the Mapmaster.

The rest of the walk was rather lovely; the river Dee is much larger than I had expected. The path I followed wound its way around the banks, past weirs, mills, and country hamlets. I passed one pub where a customer popped in for lunch in his helicopter. The next one, where I stopped, had a car-park full of posh 4x4s and sports cars. I had two pints of shandy there which cost a fortune, but it was good to sit down and sort out my maps.


The footpaths are strangely quiet, I only met one walker all day; very different to Offa’s Dyke. The chap I did meet, Andy, says that one day he will do what I am doing – well good luck to you Andy and I hope you get as much from it as I am.

As I am getting further from home I am having to carry more maps as Kerriann cannot get up to top up my supplies so often. So I now have 8 OS maps in my rucksack – I should be able to post a couple home by tomorrow evening.


I am camped in the corner of a field near the river, a rather pretty location but am battening down the hatches as rain is forecast.