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: Times and Seasons

Not quite the reprise I once thought it was

Friday, September 29th, 2017

A thought recently struck me. There has been a fair amount of melancholy and reminiscence in what has appeared on here during this year. The events of the last few years and the resultant change of circumstances will have been part of this, so much so that I now am taking the time to take stock of things before anything else happens. After all, moving forward to happier prospects would bring happier tales for sharing too.

Depletion of energy reserves has not helped either and even causes me to reprise routes previously followed instead of exploring new ones. That brings its share of reminiscence and there is a bit of that here too, even though I am recalling a route that was varied rather than repeated.

The original hike took place at the end of January 2009 and it now feels like a very different time. After all, that was eight years ago and a lot has happened since then. There was a change of job, bereavements and subsequent inheritance as well as other things that have gone on in the world. It is all too easy to look back to a happier time when work was steady and ageing parents still retained their independence despite their advancing years. What really is needed is to create moments from which new happy memories can be gained.

The account of the more recent walk takes me back to May 2015 when so much was behind me and so much lay ahead of me. Usefully, work then offered a lull that allowed me to make use of a sunny day to revisit a trail that I fancied seeing again in brighter sunshine and with less wind about. The first would allow for the creation of satisfying photos while the second would make for easier walking.

Danethorn Hollow, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

My starting point was the currently closed Cat and Fiddle Inn. From there, my route took me along Whetstone Ridge before descending through Danethorn Hollow along the headwaters of Cumberland Brook. Clouds may have abounded but there was amble sunshine too as I followed a path first spied on a muddy walk in November 2004 that took me as far as Rushton Spencer via Three Shire Heads and the Dane Valley Way.

Cumberland Brook, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

Cumberland Cottage, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

The descent was steep as far as the track linking Clough House with the A54. As I was headed for the former, the descent continued and it passed woodland as I continued to shadow the brook before crossing it at a ford. When I reached the roadside, I decided against a shortcut along a public footpath that appeared to pass through a farmyard in preference to going around by road to reach another one that would get me going towards Shutlingsloe. That passed along the edge of woodland as it shadowed the road below while gaining some useful height.

Crag Hall as seen from Shutlingsloe, Cheshire, England

Eventually, I had to double back on myself for a while as more height was gained until a final turn led me directly to Shutlingsloe’s summit. Dappling of landscape by broken cloud cover was there to be witnessed as I continued my ascent. Care with timing meant that I could control how shaded my surroundings would appear in any photo so it was not as if I was going to lose completely the delights of sunlit landscape.

My route down from Shutlingsloe was a reverse of one followed only last week, albeit with some deviations that I cannot explain. The way down to Macclesfield Forest and the track through there was the same as was that along lanes as far as Forest Chapel. Following Charity Lane brought me to path through more of Macclesfield Forest. It was then that I first met the sign at a cross of four tracks that again met last week. Hacked Way Lane should have featured too but it was after that where I inexplicably turned to field crossings on various public footpaths instead of sticking with the track that ran between them. It is all the more curious given that I was headed for Tegg’s Nose.

Clough House and Shutlingsloe as seen from Tegg's Nose, Langley, Cheshire, England

Ridgegate Reservoir and High Moor, Langley, Cheshire, England

My route also went around another Clough House before picking up Sadler’s Way to reach the visitor centre for Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Sunshine still abounded though my memory would have me believe that everything has clouded over, such are the tricks that can be played on you. The way from Tegg’s Nose back home is one that I have taken that I hardly is worth mentioning. That also may explain how I have so little to say about it because other memories could take over even if it did.

All in all, the day was a satisfying one that produced a good collection of pleasing photos. Dan Kieran may have written in his book “The Idle Traveller” that he trusts the evolution of memories in his mind more than photos when recalling his travels. When your recollections are gap-filled like mine, then photos really come into their own when rebuilding something to recall afterwards. There are those who reckon that they may take from the overall experience but that is not how I feel, especially when looking at them again brings its share of satisfaction after the passage of time. Anything that fuels future happy reminisces has to be good.

Time

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

2017 has at occasions been plagued by the same anxiety: having enough time for dealing with the aftermath of life changing events from the last few years. It is not just the events in question that have given me pause for thought but the also the new responsibilities that are my lot after inheritance. The result is a period of reassessment away from my main work profession after a five week sabbatical did feel long enough for a fuller recuperation.

There also is a need to reflect on how life is going because bereavement can refocus one’s thinking. A busy working life and the presence of deadlines make it too easy to delay the process of grieving and it may be that I have done just that. The combination of keeping a day job going while legal work was ongoing certainly can fill anyone’s mind with a lot to do but the emotional toll remains inescapable. The motivations are different too because you can feel a need to patch up your emotional state to progress whatever needs doing when you just need to allow things to take their own course.

It is that time for emotional healing that I crave and I do not want to rush things in case that causes trouble later. This kind of healing is not something that can be achieved satisfactorily using holiday allocation alone because it is so tempting to fill that with fleeting distractions from everyday living. Over the last few years, it may be that I have tried doing that when slowing down and making more space for myself was in order.

Outdoor activities like walking and cycling help so I hope continue wandering through countryside because those strolls help wherever they are, be it Scandinavia or Scotland. There is something about what is called slow travel that allows the space and time to work through life’s cares and I have been reading Dan Kieran’s “The Idle Traveller”. Kieran observes that many punctuate a working life with short overseas escapes when what you need is deeper immersion where your thoughts can be followed to their own ends without any deadlines or timetables. It is a thought that resonates with me.

There is another side to this apart from slow travel because I am discovering that other quieter interludes are needed too, especially as the speed of everyday life makes it feel you are in an emotional slow lane. That might be telling me that a less intense working life is in order and a fulfilling one would be ideal. It is a thought that I will hold as I navigate a new stage of life’s great adventure.

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.

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.


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