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: Cheshire

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.

New boots

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

When someone thinks of Mallorca, wet and muddy surfaces could be very far from their expectations. Yet, I carried my well travelled pair of Meindl Burmas with me. Having heavy duty footwear covered all eventualities and I did meet with muddy patches and steep paved pathways so it was just as well.

The day before I left for my Mediterranean escapade is known in Britain as Boxing Day and is called St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland. It was bright and sunny so I was lured out on a local stroll that took in Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Not long after I had left home, I discovered that the three year old Regatta Crossland Mid boots that I have for such things were starting to show external signs of coming to pieces. There may be a bit of life in them yet but the start of the post-Christmas sales put the idea of acquiring a replacement into my mind, especially when there might be price reductions.

While I was tempted by cheaper offerings from Hi Tec, I ended choosing something from Berghaus that I got delivered to my local Millets store. That collection was a painless affair on a busy Saturday afternoon and I tried out my new Expeditor AQ Trek boots around the house to see how they fared for comfort and fit. They passed on both counts and I am awaiting drier days before testing them further.

Like the aforementioned Regattas, these too are fabric boots with a waterproof membrane. Though testing on local walks has not happened yet, thoughts of using them for walks in places with dry climates have entered my head. These are not so serious that my Meindls might stop reaching sunny places in southern Europe but something with suede uppers could suit such an outing.

After a year of unfinished business

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

2016 turned out to be a dramatic year in world affairs and it was set to be a busy one for me too so I could have done without the other developments. That work looking after my late father’s affairs is tailing off into more of a steady state and I hope that things become more manageable as the year progresses. There even might be time for a sabbatical from my day job.

The way that I feel at the moment is that such a thing would be well needed and I fancy a period of rest after all the upheaval of the last few years. It has sapped my spirit so a spot of renewal is in order. Overseas trips became a way to tide myself until a longer break becomes a reality.

In 2016, I got to three new countries: Austria, Norway and Spain. With my visits to the first two of these taking the form of extended weekends, I left feeling that there was more to see. It usually is not a bad thing but an extra day or two added to each would have allowed a bit more exploration. My Spanish escapade took me to Mallorca between Christmas and New Year and that brought what the other trips did not bring. There was a feeling of leaving the cares of life after me that was much needed.

In a way, it worked too well and a cold that I had caught somewhere began to make its effects plain enough that the return journey had more than a little dash of limp home mode about it. It took a week or two before I finally recovered and some extra time away from work was in order.

Before that took hold, there was ample time in the near constant sunshine as I explored the island from my Palma base. Port de Pollença was my first port of call with a little strolling about the place. A day trip to Sóller allowed for a chance to sample part of the GR 221, a long distance trail extending along the Serra de Tramuntana. After that, there was a trot about Port d’Andratx that was supposed to take me to Saint Elm but granted me a view of the place instead when I failed to find the path needed to get me from one track to another. Given that I was feeling less than my full self, it was just as well. The last day of my trip saw me lazing about Palma next to its impressive cathedral, helping sightseers with photos when asked to do so. There was ample time during my stay to make photos of my own too.

Despite the fever, I got a lot from my time in Mallorca and it offered the feeling of satisfying and more complete explorations. It also did me another favour. During December, I fell into a search for closure that I do not understand fully and even walks around Macclesfield over the Christmas did little to dissipate the feeling. It probably was grief that hit me but going away somewhere else fractured that unwanted continuity.

December saw me return to the Lake District for a walk between Great Langdale and Grasmere on a crisp winter’s day. The dawdling along the way was restorative and taught me that such experiences can be readily available in Britain. There also was a amble between Burbage and Whaley Bridge that revisited the Goyt Valley. Being denied much in the way of sunshine was no irritation and it also offers encouragement for a return sometime.

There were other longer walks during the year too with one returning me home from Leek by way of the Roaches. Thinking about that now recalls how soothing a largely solitary saunter it was. Another took me along the White to Dark Trail between Tideswell and Hathersage.

Hopefully, 2017 will be an easier year for me and it is something of an open book in some ways. Aside maybe from a possible stay in Stockholm, overseas excursions no longer loom as large in my mind now. Scotland could see more of me than that short visit in November that took in Inverness and a rainy Plockton. A spot of mental clearance could see me plodding around England and Wales more often too. Ireland might even see a spot of much needed exploration and I also fancy a stay around Killarney. Given how heavy my spirit feels now, the more important job for the year could be to lift things again for me.

A new GPS receiver

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Most if not all articles written about outdoors gear usually do not contain any mention of life circumstances yet they pervade this one. To me, January 2015 brought a life changing event whose alterations still are ongoing. My father’s passing away last year and that of my mother years nearly two years before then now make for a very changed set of circumstances. Not having to deal with my father’s fear of flying has meant that I can countenance overseas excursions like those that took me to Iceland and Switzerland last year together with Austria a few weeks ago.

Motivation & Opportunity

If it were not for last year’s trip to Iceland, I may never have acquired a GPS receiver. Apart from an abortive attempt to buy a Magellan eXplorist 100, it stubbornly remained on the nice-to-have section of any gear wish list since I never got to spending the outlay. It was exposure to the shortcomings of maps with a 1:100000 (1 cm per 1 km) scale on a walk around Landmannalaugar that finally convinced me to try again. Even with a subsequent trip to Switzerland and perhaps because of what I spent on accommodation, travel and other things, the acquisition that had to wait.

The deed itself was done in circumstances that one might have expected to produce a different set of priorities for it was in the time around last Christmas. My plan was to spend Christmas itself in Britain before heading to Ireland for a few days and returning before New Year’s Day. That didn’t happen for emotions just were too raw and I rearranged the trip for sometime in January. What had added to my melancholy was how things went during Christmas 2014 when a neighbour of my parents went about planning Christmas 2015 when all I wanted to do was get into 2015 and leave 2014 after me. Now Christmas has lost all its child-like allure for me, I tend to want to get past it rather than bringing the next one closer.

Not travelling to Ireland at the end of 2015 meant that I could get past last Christmas and leave it after me to grow smaller in the rear view mirror of life. Doing otherwise would mean lugging too much emotional baggage through 2016 and that was why that 2014 invitation hurt me as much as it did; that Christmas was one that I needed to leave after me. The extra time at home was put to good use too for I embarked on a tidying spree that result in so many bin bags of items for disposal and recycling that it too a few weeks to clear them. Aside from the last Tuesday of the year or the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the weather had not been so enticing anyway and it felt like pathetic fallacy that so much rain fell and the winter generally was a rain-drenched season anyway.

Garmin eTrex Touch 25

Having bailed out of the planned Irish trip on St. Stephen’s Day, or Boxing Day as it is known in the U.K., I decided to book the purchase of the long-windedly titled Garmin eTrex Touch 25 from Go Outdoors’ Manchester branch. Perusal of a newspaper on the way there revealed just how miserable some people’s Christmas had been for they were physically flooded while I was emotionally so; the Calder valley had been very badly hit by the weather and they were not alone.

Early Testing

Time elapsed before I got to testing out the new gadget and there is more I have yet to get it to do even now. That Christmastime Tuesday trot around Macclesfield that took in Tegg’s Nose and part of the Gritstone Trail depended on my local knowledge and a paper map instead. Testing the new acquisition in earnest was take until the second week of 2016 and various opportunities since then have seen it left at home so I am far from developing a dependence on the device. These have included a recent walk from Tideswell to Hathersage via Litton, Foolow and Eyam as well as a subsequent one from Leek to Macclesfield that took in the Roaches as well as Tittesworth Reservoir, Gradbach, Wildboarclough and Higher Sutton.

Still, it has been taken outside a good few times. These mainly have been on trots about Macclesfield that include some soggy ones earlier in the year and drier ones more recently. It also has made it to West Limerick in Ireland, Stirling in Scotland as well as Innsbruck and Zillertal in Austria.

As the word “Touch” in the name suggests, this is a touch-screen device and my attempts to keep the screen reasonably clean mean that I use a stylus with it like I do with a phone or tablet. Starting it up brings you to a screen for one of its numerous modes. So far, I have stuck with the hiking one and there is another customised version of this that I created but there others for various forms of cycling as well as hunting, fishing, climbing and geocaching. It is only the hiking modes that I have tried so far but one of the cycling ones (bike, tour bike and mountain bike) could be a possibility yet.

In my experience, this is not a device for spot reading of where you are but one that tracks where you are going. Given that it shows a map underneath, that does help when you are unsure of things though battery usage then becomes a concern as does remembering to enjoy what surrounds you, which is what gets us out and about in the first place anyway. Going about the place staring at a small screen rather defeats the point of exploring the countryside and could cause an accident. As for battery life, my unit is on probation with disposable batteries until I can be sure that rechargeable ones are not getting discharged too quickly.

Available Maps

By default, the Garmin comes with its own maps for eastern and western Europe. For places without alternative coverage like Iceland, these are a good substitute for the walking maps that are available. In fact, having the gadget with me around Landmannalaugur last year would have been a big help for it shows that trail at higher magnification than the 1:100000 scale map that I was using at the time.

However, there are other maps available with the BirdsEye Select series offering 1:25000 Ordnance Survey data for Great Britain as well as its equivalents for France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (including part of Italy). Holiday destinations like Madeira, the Balearic and Canary Islands together with the Azores see inclusion in this series too. Along with the OS, data come from Kompass, France’s IGN and Germany’s Bundesamt für Kartographie und Geodäsie. The advantage of these offerings is that you choose the area for which you buying maps and no the selection decided for you by a provider. Garmin offers other series and there is a one called BirdsEye that appears to do the same for the U.S.A. and Canada.

To get coverage beyond the aforementioned countries, you need to look at Garmin’s other offerings. These differ from the above in that these are preselected areas rather than self-selected ones from the BirdsEye series and cost more for higher definition maps because of the amount of coverage that is included. For Great Britain, there is the Discoverer series and both TOPO US 24K and TOPO US 100K series just cover the U.S.A. Country coverage for the other mapping series (there is one in the BirdsEye range for satellite imagery but I am less interested in that) is below.

TOPO PRO:
France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech, Finland, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovi­na, Serbia, Kosovo, Monte­negro, Macedonia, Albania, Norway, Sweden, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Reunion, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Denmark.

TOPO:
U.S.A., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Hungary, Mexico, Chile, Norway, Argentina, Bolivia, Morocco, Greenland, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Ceuta, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Melilla, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Réunion, Rwanda, São Tomé und Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Bahrain, Ceuta, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Melilla, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Westbank, Western Sahara and Yemen.

TOPO Light:
U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Belarus, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Romania, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan South, Tanzania, Uganda, Turkey, Romania.

Aside from the BirdsEye range where the Basecamp PC or Mac software is needed, maps can be purchased and downloaded to your device from the website. However, the browser plug-in does not work in the current versions of Firefox or Google Chrome at the time of writing because it has not been digitally signed by Garmin. On Windows PC’s, that leaves Internet Explorer as the only option and I needed to try it more than once to ensure that Basecamp registered the new map. Finding out what happens with Safari is not something that I have got to doing yet but it is a possibility.

Storage

With all the downloadable data, it is just as well that the eTrex Touch 25 takes a microSD card; the default maps and software leave just over 2 GB free out of the 8 GB of internal storage. The slot is in the battery compartment underneath the batteries and I have added a 16 GB one. If needs extend beyond that, a bigger one can be added in its place. It is possible to buy data on SD or microSD from Garmin so there could be the temptation to use one of these in the same slot. A limited number of packages come on DVD and I wonder how they get transferred, even if this is a legacy format nowadays.

Software

Sessions exploring the available computer software followed suit and Garmin’s BaseCamp is what’s needed for managing any data. Exports to GPX files meant that routes could be seen in Mapyx Quo and Anquet’s OMN too.

Not really places for exercising dogs

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

My last post on here got my mind running down memory lane’s more recent reaches and this has turned out be another of those. During the twists and turns of life in recent years, going out for walks close to home has become a fixture. There have been spurts of cycling too with 2015 seeing me rekindle my love of that exploit once road confidence was allowed a chance to re-grow.

Encounters

This piece though is inspired by something that I increasingly encounter while frequenting local parks during lunchtime and evening strolls: the exercising of dogs. It might been life’s other distractions but this is something that I only really started to notice over the past year. In fact, it would appear to be a growing trend but that is a perception rather than statistical reality so this is best treated with care.

Nevertheless, dog excrement appears to be a problem that at least refuses to go away with Macclesfield’s Riverside Park and Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Like with other things in life, it seems that some owners are more diligent about cleaning up after their dogs than others. While the task admittedly is an unpleasant one, spreading diseases that cross species boundaries is not neighbourly either and some of these afflict humanity. It is for that reason that I have seen signs on a playing pitch in Prestbury that advertise a ban on letting dogs on there.

Speaking of the nuisance that dogs can cause, I saw one person allow their two dogs chase a heron about the aforementioned Riverside Park with their not being able to catch being offered as an excuse when I stared at what was happening. It cannot have been good for the bird and it moved away soon afterwards. Would you blame it?

Disconnection

Maybe the latter incident displays a certain detachment from the task of exercising dogs and even the fact that all of our urban centres are surrounded by rural areas. The first of these manifests itself in the use of smartphones while in charge of an animal, giving a very clear hint that the activity possibly is seen as an unattractive chore, hardly a good thing if you want retain control. You even might wonder how folk who walk half a dozen dogs at a time manage yet dog walking services frequent the same parks that the rest of us use and seemingly without incident, though I do wonder if should have some space of your own for such a commercial enterprise.

The second kind of detachment is a more worrying one for it affects wildlife and livestock. The latter especially affects those of us who enjoy trotting through the countryside for attacks on farm animals by dogs hardly enamour us urban types to farmers. It is not for nothing that dogs are not allowed to run loose in many places. Early 2015 saw a spate of these attacks with signs appearing all over the place. A number are reproduced with some being so graphic that I though it best to keep the lot in monochrome.

Sheep worrying sign at Tegg's Nose Country Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Sheep worrying on February 22, Langley, Macclesfield, England

Sheep worrying on March 17, Langley, Macclesfield, England

Cow worrying sign, Hare Hill, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

Garden of Remembrance sign, Crematorium, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

The first sign was seen on a visit to Tegg’s Nose on Easter Sunday 2015 and remains there as I found on a more recent visit of a recent warm sunny Monday evening. Easter Monday 2015 saw me walk from Walker Barn back home via Macclesfield Forest, Shutlingsloe and Langley, which is where the second and third signs were encountered. The attack must have been so appalling that a shocking colour image was added to a poster; to protect the tinder of disposition, all of them are in black and white here. The fourth sign was met on a walk that took in Alderley Edge and Hare Hill, which shows that cattle are not immune from canine harassment. Subsequently, the permissive path was closed for the winter season and it is not hard to see why such a restriction came to pass. There has been criticism but it shows what a careless dog owner can cause us to lose in terms of goodwill. Even now, its opening is restricted to the hours from 10:00 to 17:00 between March 1st and October 30th and that highlights the need to always keep others in mind whatever we are doing, hardly a popular message in these individualistic times. Lastly, you would like that cemeteries and gardens of remembrance would be immune but the above sign sadly is needed. Are we also losing awareness of our own mortality too?

Farm Dogs

It is all too easy to show disapproval for what others but we do have to look at ourselves too. While I never would own a dog myself now, I grew up on a farm where dogs were allowed to run loose. My first memories are of two Border Collies, an apparently placid mother and her son. However, there were some rumblings about he having had a go at someone walking on the road so all may not have been as well as anyone would hope. Usually though, things were uneventful and they lived until an advanced age (for dogs anyway).

On a less friendly note, a lad working with my father on the farm had an enthusiasm for Alsations and an intrusive one was kept down the farmyard for the sake of security. The creature did not last long though since it was believed to have found either a poisoned rat or some rat poison. Up to that point, it had been a bit of a nuisance so it was not missed like the Border Collies that I think outlived it anyway.

After a few months without any dog in the place, there was something of a female puppy buying binge with three arriving one after the other. The first was another Alsation but this was nothing like its predecessor and showed the type of temperament for which many of the breed are known, albeit with perhaps less in the way of intelligence.

An Old English Sheepdog came afterwards and was anything but what my mother expected. She had wanted another placid Border Collie but instead got a lively hairy affectionate creature that was as daft as a brush and often wished to jump upon us, a right nuisance if we were dressed in better clothes.

Then, there was a cross-bred that was part Labrador Retriever and part Pyrenean Mountain Dog. Even though that one was the most sober of the lot, it still did not save my mother’s washing from being pulled off the line from time to time. The tormentation cannot have made the lady enthusiastic for having any more young dogs about the place.

Sadly, both the Alsation and the Old English Sheepdog meet untimely ends. The latter was knocked over by a car on the road and rat poison or poisoned vermin was the suspected cause of death for the former. That left the Labrador cross-bred so things were quieter though my father, a light sleeper, got enough of all night barking sessions and puppies appeared from time to time too. It will make a dog lover wince to learn that all of these were destroyed and not always in the nicest manner either. After all this, the cross-bred eventually met her end and I seem to recall canine cancer being mentioned as a cause of death in the animal’s older age.

After that, there was no replacement and I reckon that I am inclined to reckon that both of my parents were weary of having dogs by this point. Farm cats became substitutes though their begging at mealtimes grated enough to ensure a porch was added to the back of the house for sake of extra peace. There also was a comical episode when my mother chucked a dustpan brush at cats to disperse them and my brother coming the same way with a mate of his.

Reappraisal

Now that I look back on it, I am amazed by how freely those dogs were allowed to roam and how they largely were left to their own devices. Maybe it was when the three young dogs were about the place that it was realised quite what was involved in having them and the nuisance that could be caused. There might have been Barbara Woodhouse programs on the television along with One Man and his Dog but the world outside the house was far less disciplined.

That is not to say that there were no rules for there was hardly any question of dogs being allowed into the house though the pups were allowed in on their first night. That was the sum total of any such invasion. Even an attempted incursion during a thunder storm was met with a rebuttal.

Since those times, my views have changed to agree with those of our local “DogFather”, who writes in the Macclesfield Express and AlderleyEdge.com. Dogs need training and it was the lack of that that caused my parents so much intrusion. They also need continued discipline or they could be roaming the countryside causing havoc. It was not for nothing that there were ads on Irish television promoting the locking up of dogs by night to cut down on livestock worrying.

Another factor has been my being nipped in the ankles by dogs myself. The first was done by a Border Collie and I returning home on my bike from a visit to my aunt and light failing. More recently, a Jack Russell terrier did much the same while I was on a walk around Alderley Edge. After both incidents, I got my tetanus status checked and updated for very obvious reasons. They also colour my current view of dogs such that I give them a wider berth than during my days growing up in Ireland. That is not to say that I do not appreciate the need for dogs to be exercised and I also feel that those in charge of the creatures need to realise their responsibilities too. Not realising those will bring you the sort of nuisance that blighted my parent’s lives and could affect wildlife, livestock and other people too. It is not for nothing that there is the slogan about a dog being for life and not just for Christmas.


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