Thursday, 30 April 2009

March/April review

Seeing as I'm still not riding (consultant still not letting me) it seemed silly to do a review at the end of March and thought I'd combine March's review with that of April. So here goes -

Cycling: 0 miles
Walking:24.56 miles over 4 walks

Rather short and sweet. Hopefully the next review will include some riding time in it.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Destination Stoodley

I arranged a walk with Joe to head up to Stoodley Pike up on the moors above Todmorden - I'd got approximately a third of the way to it on a previous outing, but the icy wind, snow and pea-soup of a mist kinda hampered things, so this time I was determined to get all the way there.

After leaving the car at the small car park off Halifax Rd on Blackstone Edge - most people attempt this walk from Hebden Bridge on the far side of the moor, unlike Joe and I - we set off up the road to the edge of Blackstone Edge reservoir and the start of the Pennine Way. After the fun of a squeeze gate with a stuffed rucksac (involved a fair amount of ducking down for me, seeing as I'm so tall and it was easier than faffing about taking the rucksac off and putting it back on again) we began the walk on a pathway set slightly lower than the level of the reservoir.
This path initially takes you along Cow Head Drain and Cow Head itself with good views over to the Windmill farms above Bury, the sun glinting on the blades as they whoomp their way round.

After about a mile the first of the huge reservoirs up here comes into view - Light Hazzles reservoir with White Holme attached by a narrow inlet-type section. Warland reservoir begins close to 2 miles into the walk. When we reached the little bridge over the overflow drain, we decided now would be a good time to shelter from the tailwind and have a snack and a brew while admiring the view over the valley to Walsden on Rochdale Rd (leads to Todmorden). After a 15 minute breather, we set off again. this time the route became a little harder as the path (which then became a track by the side of Warland reservoir) becomes narrower, curves round the end of the reservoir and becomes rather boggy as it entered the heather and peat bog moorland top and followed the side of the drain as it began to snake its way over to Withins Clough reservoir.

Usually this part of the walk is a boot-sucking squelch of a section; this time it wasn't too bad - maybe it had something to do with us wearing gaitors and a little bit of sod's law? Once the squelching is over (about 3.5 miles) we can see Stoodley Pike in the distance.

Now the walk becomes a little drier as the path has been protected with huge slabs of limestone having been laid to prevent any more erosion on the protected moors and the route takes us north towards Mytholm. After crossing the Calderdale Way (another long distance walking route) the route gets a little harder again, only this time it becomes undulating and scree covered (when the route isn't sandy). After scrambling down the first of the undulations the first of the cairns is seen. Once up the other side the remaining cairns are seen lining the pathway like markers. Maybe they are there to prevent people from straying of the path and falling over the edge? Not much is known about them.

Soon we were on the bluff leading out to the Pike with the wind buffeting us all over. Once at the Pike the inscription on the stone above the doorway is barely legible -
Knowing it was possible to climb up the tower and knowing how dark it is inside (39 steps and no light entering through windows as there aren't any), headtorches were donned and the precarius spiral staircase was climbed. Boy was I glad we did - the views all around were simply amazing: the wilds of the heather covered moors!

Another breather was called for after descending the stairs again. The breather was certainly needed as the wind on the way back became much stronger and a headwind - always fun when you're feeling a little tired! The return journey was made more fun by trying to avoid the sheep that had wandered over to this part of the moor, and who were rather curious of these strange 2-legged creatures wandering along but not eating any heather. We even joked that we'd kidnap the next one that walked close to us and call him Mint Sauce!

Eventually we were back on the main path along Warland reservoir and Light Hazzles before the long walk back alongside Cow Head Drain. This part of the walk always feels horrendously long, most likely due to the view not really changing much and there's not really anything to aim for that gives the impression of travelling anywhere.

Alongside Light Hazzles the wind dropped enough to get a few shots in of the reservoir and the moors behind it which lead over to where we'd been hours before.

All in all it was a walk of 10.55 miles.
The route can be seen on mapmyfitness.
See Live Search view of the locale.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Good news!

I was dreading my appointment at the fracture clinic in the MRI on Friday as I was expecting to be told my pelvis isn't healing properly - that's what happened when I fractured my tibial plateau years ago.

However, the doc seemed really pleased with how things have progressed and has discharged me. When he asked if I have anything I want to ask him, naturally I only had 1 question - how soon can I ride again? The answer was not quite so good - I have to wait another month before I can ride the lovely Everest again.

As I've been forcing myself out walking on the moors etc, I don't even need to have physio - popped down to see one of the physios at my local sports centre and they've said that whatever I've been doing so far has really helped and I need only go to them if it starts to feel tight/sore etc.

So, hurrah! I'm a (90%) happy bunny!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Dunham Massey

Ah bliss! Lovely and hot with bright clear blue skies and I'm in the best place to savour it - Dunham Massey.

With it's 250 acre deer park home to Fallow Deer (think Bambi) and the stunning Georgian Mansion, Watermill with giant working water wheel, tea rooms in the converted barn and multitude of blissful areas, Dunham is simply breathtaking in this glorious sunshine!
Wandering around between the trees (not all the forested area is accessible) in one section there are wood sculptures created from the fallen trees - this fellow being one of them. The guy who does these is amazing as he uses a chainsaw to create them - one false move and the sculpture is ruined!
Over by the lake where this beautiful, elegant swan was happily munching on the bread being lobbed at it by a little tot, I was asked by a guy if I knew of any fish being in the lake. When I responded that I'd not really been up close to the lake before he pointed out what initially looked like a deflated orange football. It turned out to be a rather large bright orange Koi Carp (he was approx 2-3ft long)!

After a huge sarnie had been snaffled in the new plantation I spotted 4 bucks lazing around by a huge fallen tree and decided to creep over for a closer look. They were so chilled out that I was able to get so close that the only thing between me and the deer was the fallen tree. I got some beautiful shots of one of them as he played with a little branch that was tickling his head.

Before I knew it, 5 hours had passed and it was time to head home.

See LiveSearch Aerial View of this location.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Martin Mere

Waking up with the sun streaming through the windows I knew I'd made the right choice to go to Martin Mere on Tuesday (14/4). By the time I arrived at the centre the sun had been partially hidden by the clouds but it was still lovely and warm and the day had the promise to be a good one.

Located 6 miles north of Ormskirk and at the perfect time of year to see winter visiting birds as they leave to head out to their natural habitat and to see the passing migrating birds, the day passed as I expected it to with a few surprises thrown in.

Wandering in between the meres and through the various country/region-themed areas I was greeted by some of the most beautiful and endangered (not all were endangered) waterfowl I've ever seen.

As is the nature with flying creatures not all birds stayed within their area, so I often found that there were mallards pretty much on every stretch of water; ditto the Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck and several others. The majority of them were pretty well behaved and simply stayed in their regions, so it was easy to see what came from where.

Birds like the Demoiselle Crane (above) had enclosures with high fences to ensure that they stayed in their locale, while the stunningly beautiful Mandarin Duck (below) was free to roam wherever it wanted to.Unlike the crane, the Chilean Flamingo had a low fence around it's enclosure. All the time I was there the Flamingoes rarely had their heads out of the water as they were intent on munching the pellets that they eat in captivity. Again, unlike the crane and the ducks, the flamingoes seem very reluctant to have their picture taken and were constantly walking away from wherever I stood. It became a case of just taking lots of shots while following them around and hoping that some of them came out well. Luckily they did!

The only downside to the day was the number of kids around who weren't supervised very well - being very noisy in the hides, chasing the birds away. One kid even tried to put a paper bag on the head of a goose!

Six hours later I left a very happy chilled out person with a greater understanding of the natural world and the threats that we place onto these beautful animals.

See LiveSearch Aerial view of this location here

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Up, up, up

Phew! I'm not sure how I managed it but I hauled my butt all the way up to Chew reservoir in the Peak District.

I began at the Chew Valley roundabout and turned off towards a small business park where I joined the track at the side of Chew Brook. Following this round to just past the football pitch and a left turn brought me out onto a private road that follows the brook to Bank Lane and the sailing club.

Once past the landed dinghies and onto Chew Road where things turned skywards. Once over the bridge you're already on an average gradient of 8%. Sweeping round the bend with Indian's Head (Whimberry Stones) on the right and the road just seems to go on forever with only the bends giving some visual respite from the thoughts of ascending into heaven.

Round more bends and the grad gets steeper, now at around 11 or 12% and at one point you can see the efforts that have been made to stop sections of the hills on the left slipping across the road and down the steepening gully into the river below. 'Decoy' rocks begin to appear, making you think you're getting closer to the top than you are - from the car park below these look like they're on the moor top...but no! They're decoy rocks that first of all elate you, then deflate you as you realise it's only going to get tougher.

Now it's 16% and getting steeper as I began to really pant from the effort and as I begin to get closer to the hillside that still rears up from over my left shoulder, purely because of the steep gully getting closer to the road edge (I'm afraid of heights you see).

One last sweeping bend and the sky gets huge as the hills seem to disappear. I'm near the top!! On my left is what looks like a little cove with cliffs and a dinky lake - perfect spot to stop and eat sandwiches while looking over the valley to the extremely steep, rocky, scree covered hillside across the valley.

After the yummy food I knew I wasn't too far away. Once back on the road directly in front of me is the final hurdle. I can see the reservoir banking and the usual United Utilities 'hut' type thing they put in reservoirs. The hurdle? The final bit of hill to get me onto the very top of these moors is a 19% bugger!

I made it!! The vista from up here is just breathtaking; I don't see another point higher than where I am, the sun is beating down on me and the sky cleared of all cloud and became the most beautiful azure blue i have ever seen.

After climbing 1017 feet it's a great feeling to be on top of the world with not a soul up there with me, other than the mountain bunnies and the birds of prey swooping around during their mating dance.

See LiveSearch Aerial View of this location.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Hartshead Pike

Yesterday I went for a wee wander up to Hartshead Pike and ended up walking pretty much all the way back to Droylsden - not entirely sure how I managed it without too much pain. Maybe the wonderful sun was stopping any pain?
It proved to be a rather interesting walk. I began on Mossley Rd in Mossley and began the upward trek up Broadcarr Rd, round by Lily Lanes and from the tidgy car park up the gravel path past the millstones which is where the original Pike stood to the beauty itself. After drinking in the stunning views on all side and taking hundreds of photos, I set off back down again.
I thought I'd go a slightly more rural route back down along some of the footpaths that are dotted through the farms that lie on the hillside. What fun that turned out to be! It became a 13 and at times 14 degree scramble (and quite often slide) down the hill on what at times was nothing more than a rut a wheelbarrow made. The pathway started off relatively easily, but steeply down Lily Lanes and alongside the border wall of a farm. Then it became fun. Across a skinny stile (do footpath makers think all walkers are super skinny?) and onto the narrowest of pathways, bordered either side with the obligatory bramble bushes that try to not let you past as your clothes snag on them - in my case my little figure snagged on them too and half of it was a trifle torn and very very scratched.
As the rutted centre was quite deep I ended up walking along straddling it (and most likely looking pants!) until, joy of joys, a tree was leaning right across the path and Ilike I'd had an accident in my had to scramble under it.
Then came the best bit. I had to cross a field. That's not too bad you might think. but it was the pathway became a muddy, boot-sucking, squelchy 5 inch deep muddy bog-type thing. After a fair amount of heaving myself through the gloop I reached yet another skinny stile -the kind you have to go through sideways and still get your butt stuck if you're not careful! Splodge!!! T'other side of the stile was the glorious gloop I'd struggled through before; and as I was still descending a steep hillside, it was a big drop to the floor, so yet again it was a case of heaving myself across this bit. Now I was confused as the path seemed to just completely disappear into the air. was in a field with no trace of a path and fence posts that were difficult to make out if anything was between them. As the previous paths were along the edges of the fields you naturally assume this one will be too. But no! This one was right through the middle of the boggiest field I've every seen. Luckily a tractor had been through it at some point and I opted to walk in its tracks which thankfully led to a gate and back to where the path continued. This brought me out onto Twirl Hill Lane and where I wanted to be. Phew!
Once across Lees Rd I set off up/down Alt Lane before veering off to the River Medlock and it's steep sided vally before joining a Sustrans cycleway along a lovely tree-lined avenue that led me through Limehurst farm and out to Riversvale and Daisy Nook. After a welcome rest on a bench on Riversvale Drive, I though I'd clean my boots off in the river before hunting out a bacon butty at the Jown Haworth Centre in Daisy Nook to replenish my energy reserves.