Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Photography

Incidental ambles

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The start of a new year can be a useful time to take stock of life. January can be a month that some find too quiet but it has its uses as I am finding out for myself. A current career break means that I have added occasion to think over what I would like to do for a living. After five years of family bereavements followed by responsibilities added through inheritance, there is plenty of reason for this. What had not been obvious to me is that my last job was not a match and the experience left its mark, one that needs to be overcome.

Throughout all of this, I am not forgetting that I am an explorer at heart. There has been time to catch up on reading and I now have my fill of travel writing so I will not be lured into book purchases as easily as before. More discernment could be the way of things for me and that cannot be so bad when finances need to be kept in check during times like this hiatus from work.

Also, I have been travelling around England and Wales collecting ideas for walking trips like Roseberry Topping and Pumlumon Fawr. Surveying the countryside about the latter brought me the added benefit of a short if muddy stroll around Llangurig. Visiting nearby Rhayader is another thought and a short stay in Aberystwyth could facilitate more than initially had come to mind. Other parts of the Welsh River Wye are ripe for exploring too and the hills of the Black Mountain in the western side of the Brecon Beacons could be another tempting idea.

City visits to Edinburgh and Cardiff have come to pass. In the middle of the latter, the banks of the River Taff offered an oasis of calm with Llandaff Cathedral feeling as if it is in a country rather than where it is. Bute Park was another delight that makes me wonder why it took so long for me to make an independent visit to the place and there is Cardiff Castle if I wanted to include that as part of a return visit. There is plenty there for cyclists too and I am not surprised that bicycle hire is available.

Those city wanderings remind me that there have been times during the last few years when energy for more strenuous outings has not been as readily available. Edinburgh has featured quite a few times and there are regular haunts nearer my home in Macclesfield. Knutsford’s Tatton Park, Disley’s Lyme Park together with Macclesfield’s Tegg’s Nose Country Park and Dane’s Moss Nature Reserve all have been places where quick visits offered respite from life’s tumult when enthusiasm for longer trips was not to be found. The same could be said for more urban spots like Buxton, Chester, Sheffield and even Manchester. Anywhere where a coffee can be enjoyed away home has had its uses.

Strolls on my own doorstep like circuits taking in Prestbury all had their uses when my head needed clearing, like on Christmas Eve during my first ever Christmas spent in Macclesfield. That was a stormy affair, as much in my mind as it was out of doors. When a brighter interlude offered, it did not need much persuasion for me to head out on a longer round that linked Tegg’s Nose, the Saddle of Kerridge and the White Nancy. It became just the breather that I needed at the time.

The last few months have been as much about exorcising hurtful memories as anything else. That included the past Christmas and New Year period when it felt more normal than others. Trips to Tatton Park, Manchester and Lincoln all broke up the flow and I also got learning that camping stoves should be used out of doors too, a misadventure that I have no relish for repeating.

Getting past that was like everything else in life in recent times. 2017 became a year when I lightened some of life’s load so I need to think ahead now. Getting an enjoyable and fulfilling work life is one thing and my zest for exploring countryside continues. Overseas excursions could restart yet since I am making my way through Kev Reynolds’ Walking in the Alps at the moment and there is his The Swiss Alps, The Pyrenees and Trekking in the Alps after that. That lot should keep me going for a while yet and I am not overlook what hill country is nearer to hand either.

A walk that itself recalled numerous trots around Shutlingsloe

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Last week, I left my house to go for a day walk that threaded its way around Macclesfield’s nearby hills. Regular readers may be aware that this is something that I often do and that I manage to vary routes thanks to the number of rights of way around these parts. There are times that I set out without a map too, such is my knowledge of the area. Otherwise, I would not risk such a thing or advise anyone else to do the same.

Still, I set off mapless and with the intention of summoning directions from memory with a little help from my general sense of direction and any existing waymarkers when confirmation was needed. Thankfully, the day remained largely sunny aside from times when clouds got in the way.

Buxton Old Road lay at the start of my route but I fancied using it as little as possible because more folk drive along it than is ideal given how narrow it is. It is not a recipe to relaxing carefree strolling. so I instead deviated away from the road to go around near Higher Blakelow Farm and chose Teggsnose Lane as part of the way to Tegg’s Nose Country Park. From then on, quite lanes and public rights of way were to be my lot.

Looking back towards Tegg's Nose, Langley, Cheshire, England

From Tegg’s Nose, the hike followed the general line of a route that I walked in April 2006 after a week spent in Delaware on a business trip. Jet lag had not gone away but there was a day off in lieu of my arriving in Manchester Airport on Saturday and that extra free time saw me head out to make use of the spring sunshine. There were digital photos captured with a Canon EOS 10D too but fumbling during autumnal computer maintenance meant that these have been lost so repeat visits have been needed to create some near replacements.

Sign in Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire, England

As I lost height on the way down Sadler’s Way, a permissive path created by prisoners and volunteers, I was retracing these steps. Near Clough House, a sign pointed out a way to Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe so that was to convey me onto the wonderfully named Hacked Way Lane. That too was left for a delightful forestry track that I reckoned would lead towards Forest Chapel. Once I negotiated my way through a four way junction that I last met on a ramble in May 2015, I was en route to Charity Lane and I easily knew which way to go next because I was now following a route last taken on Easter Monday 2015, though I set off from Walker Barn and finished up in Hurdsfield on that occasion.

Forest Chapel, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

Once I got to Forest Chapel, I lingered a while in the sunshine. All was quiet apart from the occasional sounds of a building work. This was evidence that I was out and about on a working day. Even so, there still were folk like myself enjoying the countryside in the sunshine. We were not everywhere but places like Tegg’s Nose, Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe were places that lured more than others.

Road sign passed on Easter Monday 2015, Forest Chapel, Cheshire, England

Looking towards Cat and Fiddle, Forest Chapel, Cheshire, England

Though signed as forest bridleways, metalled lanes were what I plied on my way from Forest Cottage. If I recall correctly, not a car passed so I could linger some abandon and put a recently acquired second hand Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR through its paces and there was plenty of inspiration for any testing. Especially in these days of digital photography, camera behaviour can differ so you really need to spend some time getting to know how your equipment performs if you are to get the best from it.

Looking out over Trentabeck Reservoir, Langley, Cheshire, England

To get to Shutlingsloe, metalled lanes were left behind me for a forestry track that took me ever higher. The gradient never was too taxing but it was enough to allow view to open out around me. Sometimes, photographic efforts were stymied by the leggy remains of dying weeds that remained in sheep pasture from the summer season. Autumnal colour was starting to appear in trees too and there were new views to be savoured though Trentabeck Reservoir was somewhat hidden among its surrounding trees.

Cats Tor and Shining Tor, Cheshire, England

View north from summit of Shutlingsloe, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

Leaving the forestry track for a while, I set off on a path to the top of Shutlingsloe. There was more height gain this time around so wider views were on offer and they caused me to linger on Shutlingsloe while I had it all to myself before another person came along. Naturally, it was less busy that I found on my visit on Easter Monday 2015. Then, I started my descent down Shutlingsloe’s southeastern slopes to drop onto a public footpath that circled the hill before rejoining my more usual route again. This time around, I settle on the more direct approach and I would have an undisturbed descent of the section of step stepped pathway. Maybe the suspected lack of that was why I chose the course I did in 2015 but those thoughts are erased now, possibly by the passages of life’s troubled course since then.

Ridgegate Reservoir, Langely, Cheshire, England

Once back on the forestry track again, I continued towards Langley and eschewed a path descending to Trentabeck Reservoir for a longer course that would drop me at the foot of Ridgegate Reservoir, where I stopped a while. This took me round by Nessit Hill and I noted that more folk were out enjoying the afternoon hereabouts, prompting the thought that they may be doing so after a working day. This was a route first followed in January 2009 and that encounter was a muddy one before the current gravel had been laid and settled.

There was a sign for Langley that would have taken me onto tarmac too soon and keeping away from roads as much as possible was as much a guiding ideal as enjoying my surroundings in the sunshine. Instead, I sought out the Gritstone trail and followed that to the end of Bottoms Reservoir. There were signs advising of a diversion by the dam of Teggsnose Reservoir while work on the dam was in progress. Thankfully, the diversion was not onerous though the car park is closed until all is over later in the year.

From the reservoir, I continued through the village of Langley before I left roadside hiking again. Tiring legs might have preferred a more level course but I still continued up around Birch Knoll before dropping down through Macclesfield Golf Club to reach Macclesfield Canal. That was followed by a shopping stop and a rest in Victoria Park before I continued my return home after a satisfying afternoon full of relaxing walking. In places, you could say that I gambolled and that momentary freedom of spirit was much needed.

Photographic recollections new and old

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

During March, I made a start on two new photo albums to the gallery on here. One is made of photos from a trip timed between Christmas 2016 and New Year 2017 while another collects ones from a trip made in August 2008.  As well as being separated by nearly a decade, they also represent two very different stages of my life.

Though on the cusp of what we now call the Great Recession, the earlier outing took place in simpler times compared to today. My personal circumstances were more straightforward back then too and they facilitated many a trip to Scotland. Included among those was a week long escapade that took in Skye and the Western Isles so it was not before time that photos of the latter made their appearance in their own album.

Though some of the exposure conditions were more challenging, photos of Mallorca took less time to make their appearance in the photo gallery. Meeting strong sunshine somewhere in wintertime made for an unfamiliar experience so the resulting photos are the result of a learning experience in a part of the world that I reckon many find challenging to capture photographically. Blue heat haze was part of the challenge as was the combination of scrubby vegetation and bare limestone rock. Even so, my hope is that a good start has been made.

It was only at the start of the month that I finally got to publishing these new albums on here. Even with an ongoing sabbatical, the need for rest slowed down the processing of image editing and the adding of descriptive text. Even now, I find myself yearning for another sabbatical though financial discipline needs restoring first.

A springtime sabbatical

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Though the output on here may try to belie it, the month of March was one of exhaustion and a longed for sabbatical from work came not a moment too soon at the start of April. Mostly, it was time to rest at home though there were some escapes. My yearning for rest and recuperation had to be countered for these but it is good for anyone’s state of mind to get out and about too.

The second weekend saw me head to the Isle of Man for the first time since July 2011. Though it was a reluctant manoeuvre in the end, it repaid my efforts with sunshine on a circuit from Laxey that took in Snaefell and on an amble around Castletown. Before I started my return, I took in Douglas Head and Summerhill Glen along with some other sights around the island’s capital.

Strife with insuring a car in Ireland partly ruined any peace of mind around Easter such that I shortened a stay in Edinburgh. In truth, I spent more time around Peebles with a rain-soaked walk around Glen Sax on Easter Sunday preceding a trot along the John Buchan Way between Peebles and Broughton in much better weather on Easter Monday. Thankfully, that Irish obstacle was overcome to allow a few more days of quiet rest before it hit me just how fast time was going.

While it felt as if my time away from work was too short, there still was time for walk from Litton to Buxton that took in several of Derbyshire’s dales. The list included Tansley Dale, Cressbrook Dale, Monsal Dale, Miller’s Dale, Wye Dale and Deep Dale. Wintry weather intruded at times and Chee Dale offered plenty of adventure. Still, it was a good day out with my partly making up the route as I went along.

There was a trip to Ireland too and this allowed more time for myself in between visiting family and neighbours as well as attending to business that I have over there. Evening walks took me on circuits around by Springfield and Kilmeedy village. Though the walking was along roads for the most part, it was a case of revisiting haunts that I have not frequented for a few years now.

On returning to work, I have decided to do things differently and that is allowing me more rest time. My mind is turning to future excursion ideas as a sort of tonic though such flights of fancy are tempered my aunt’s health for now. Still, there is no harm in dreaming a little as I assess how things are going for me after all that has happened during the past five years.

A few new photo albums

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

After last year’s overseas excursions, I finally got to internationalising the photo gallery. Photos from two visits to the Isle of Man are in their own album and ones from a business trip to Sweden are in another. My trip to Iceland last July yielded a bumper crop of photos as did that to Switzerland in September.

Stories of my Manx excursions already appear on here because I was following the coastal path around the west and southwest of the island. More urban sights are there to complement the in the gallery. There is not so much of the outdoors on view in the Swedish album since it was a business trip allowing evening walks around Södertälje and Stockholm. Also, I could have done with a better camera too but went without many hopes and with a life change in front of me. The tale of those wanderings is to be found in the travel section of the website so it has not been lost to online posterity.

In contrast, the Icelandic and Swiss escapades came after an even bigger life event. There are plenty of views of Icelandic countryside to go with those of Reykjavik even though the level of outdoor wanderings was not as extensive as those that have taken me around Britain. The Swiss outdoor incursions were more so thanks to the efficient public transport system that got me from Geneva to Zermatt and to Grindelwald, albeit at a cost. The sights that I got to see easily compensated for this though and I hope what is on view shows them at their best. Their stories has yet to be told in full on here and I already have the beginnings of those entries in place.

What I also hope is that more overseas explorations follow these. Norway, Germany and Austria are in mind and, out of curiosity, my mind has taken to explore the prospects of American, Canadian and Kiwi escapades. With what I have ahead of me already this year, I need to temper any soaring ambitions. Once outstanding personal matters are settled, only then can I really begin to dream about heading outside of Britain and Ireland again. In the meantime, the home countries still have a lot to offer me and parts of Ireland as yet unvisited by me may see my footfall. Reining in dreams can be good.

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