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: Trip Reports

Getting to know Norway: Part 1

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

Another post has related what has distracted me over the last few months and that is set to continue for a little while yet. This is a venture that needs a little more set up time and some added oversight compared with previous working arrangements that I have had in the U.K. That means that thoughts of overseas explorations have been put on hold though the ongoing sunny weather is certain to lure me out and about from time to time.

Nonetheless, I am not ruling out any chance of such excursions this summer even if my current reading is more about research for possible opportunities about possibilities for further into the future. The Canadian Rockies and the Atlantic Canada have been of particular interest though these would be more expensive trips than the ones around Europe that I have enjoyed in recent years. Despite this, it is good to have some idea of where to start with what is a very big country.

The subject of this post takes back to the summers of 2016 and 2017 when Norwegian encounters came to pass. The allure of Norway had lain with me for a few years before that though, even when actual trips to the country were an impossibility due to personal circumstances. They were enough for me to collate an article on the place for future reference.

After trips to Iceland and Switzerland, thoughts of a trip to Oslo surfaced in November when I was left with annual leave to use after holding the days over in case ongoing legal works in Ireland required my presence over there. However, the short hours of daylight proved a deterrent even if relaxing a book of an evening would have had its benefits and explorations under street lights would have been a possibility.

Nevertheless, visiting when hours of daylight were longer brought their rewards on my first trip in August 2016. That was an extended weekend trip that left me wanting more and I returned in June 2016 for a longer stay. Between these, I got to explore around Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger even these only scratched the surface of what is to be found. This is a long country with lots more like the Jotunheimen National Park, the Lofoten Islands and Troms√ł. Even around those areas that I did base myself, there remain plenty of unsampled sights. Repeat visits would be rewarded and I am left wondering if Norway could become an alternative to Scotland in some ways. Given that involves quieter corners away the frenzy of everyday life, that may be no bad thing.

Given the perceived limitations of my previous encounters, there was a temptation to put it all together into a single post but looking back over previous ones about Scottish trips reminded my that I have split up such things in the past and it may help readability so I am doing the same here. There will be a mix of more leisurely strolling and boat trips to go with some longer hikes. Since this might become a longer outdoors exploration project, initial walking locations might be busier than what I otherwise would seek but such things need to start somewhere and I have spotted other options near them that could have their uses. It is not as if all opportunities in the featured areas have been exhausted.

Imputation

Monday, June 18th, 2018

It is not often that you will see a statistical term as the heading for an entry on here but the cause is that, around twenty years ago, I took my first steps into online publishing. The exact date is lost to me but I am settling on the middle of June and that is the cause of the title. After all, this is an educated guess when accurate recollection has faded.

Back then, I was a university student unsure of what the future might hold. There was the act of writing up a thesis and having it examined before I found a way into a life of work that continuously conveyed me until last August when a much needed career break began. That ended last month with my starting out as a freelance consultant. Another adventure has begun and it brings its delights and agonies but the hope is that any added sense of autonomy, flexibility and space for managing my affairs would outweigh and any episodes of irritation. There is much to learn and that is its own motivation.

That changeover was not distracted by all the fine weather over the last few weeks. Priorities were such that a trip to Ireland in May brought more in the way of exploring than otherwise was the case. The city of Kilkenny was explored as was Castletown House near Celbridge in County Kildare. Various walks and cycles around my home in Cheshire have been complimented by episodes of website enhancement. The visible changes have been subtle but things should load faster now.

What has not been forgotten that there are trip reports outstanding and that recent round of website tinkering reminded me that I used to split some trip reports in several parts. That was opportune for those relating my Norwegian wanderings will follow that scheme. There will be one each for the 2016 and 2017 trips and there may be an introductory one too. Chances for such things this summer may be limited by the need to build up some savings again after a period of reduced earnings but time may bring its own surprises yet.

Of anniversaries and birthdays

Monday, May 7th, 2018

A warm sunny bank holiday weekend may be a rare thing but I have not been lured out and about. In any event, temperatures have risen a little too high for what I call comfortable walking and other preoccupations have overtaken me. Still, they have not been all-consuming so I have not passed the twelfth anniversary of my setting up this blog after a May Day bank holiday trip to Scotland that took in Lochaber, Inverness and highland Perthshire. Sometime in June (the actual date itself is lost to me) marks the twentieth anniversary of my setting up a website for the first time and November is when my public transport website reaches its tenth birthday.

It goes without saying that a lot has happened during these time intervals. Family and work circumstances have changed while my explorations of hill country have become more international; the process of recounting my Norwegian wanderings is an ongoing project. There have been new beginnings and false starts but life has continued in its many ups and downs. The need for constant supply of new and happy memories has been made plain to me as my explorations continue.

Finally, I have got to reading Graham Wilson’s Climbing Down and I have other books by the same author to keep me going after that. Guidebooks to parts of North America as well as New Zealand have been perused in the off chance that my wanderings may become intercontinental. Canada’s western reaches have their scenic allure together with a hint of danger added by the presence of bears and other wild creatures. It is my intention that those readings continue as I rediscover the necessity of reading books from cover to cover in place of dipping in and out of certain sections. Any way that adds an extra overview has its place. They have added thoughts of visiting Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rockies while any prospect of going as far as New Zealand is more of a long shot.

Before all that, there is a possible venture in my working life that will need setting up if it comes to pass. Once such a thing is place and things are more settled, my hope is that my outdoor explorations will continue. After all, May is the best time of year in Britain and Ireland and I hardly want to let that slip by me if I can help it. Longer outdoors outings may not have happened since February for a variety of reasons but there should be more of the year left for such pursuits. Life’s adventure continues.

Wandering around by the Roaches

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

After the preceding post leaping forward to April 2017, this one returns to May 2016 when I walked from Leek to Macclesfield by way of the Roaches. It had been a while since I last explored these parts for there was a circular walk from Leek that took in Hen Cloud of a Sunday in a time when there was a direct Sunday bus service between Leek and Macclesfield (now, you need to travel to Stoke-on-Trent by train before travelling by bus from there). That was followed in 2009 with another Sunday stroll that took me from Leek back to Macclesfield while glimpsing the Roaches from afar. Both inspired the route of the more recent encounter because it linked the two towns of the second outing while taking in more of the hills that featured in the first. Given the lack of a direct Sunday bus service and a point to point walk not being compatible with the use of a car, it may not surprise anyone that this account tells of a Saturday walk instead.

Like its predecessor in May 2009, this hike also had a lunchtime start. With lengthening hours of daylight allowing more time of an evening, that was no issue and there also was a greater chance of seeing surrounding scenery in more flattering light too. That was just as well because the preceding sunny week had been beset with a fragile mindset. There might have been the foreboding prospect of a meeting involving senior management and work life was not going as I had liked either. Given energy, it was a useful time to go for a long walk.

Brough Park, Leek, Staffordshire, England

One thing that gave my spirits a lift was that I got more sunshine than was forecast. Clouds may have got in the way at times but there was enough sunshine to allow the making of memorable photos as I sauntered along. After getting off the bus before it went on a circuitous route around Leek, I started to encounter and enjoy my first spells of sunshine on the way to and across Brough Park on the way towards Haregate.

Tittesworth Reservoir, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

From Haregate, I had planned on following a public footpath that would take me along the eastern side of Tittesworth Reservoir. A seven year absence made its presence felt by sending me along the western side instead. Faded memories and new building in the intervening period cannot have helped my route finding. There was no irritation though and I opted for a visit to the reservoir itself and a stroll all around it on a path then newly constructed by Severn Trent Water. My attire and rucksack must have looked like a case of overkill to any families who were enjoying the amenity but I was en route to other places that were more in keeping with my appearance.

Hen Cloud, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

After leaving the reservoir following a call to the visitor centre for some sustenance and to address some ablution needs, there was some road walking before I found the route of the Churnet Way that I should have been using all the while. The road leading to Tittesworth Reservoir is narrow so I was happy to leave it after me because the pleasant afternoon meant that others were driving along it. Having to keep your wits about you all the time on a walk hardly is a recipe for relaxation and I had a better way of reaching Upper Hulme. After that staging post and a short stretch of a quiet lane, I was back threading on grassy ground again and with Hen Cloud in sight.

Having come around its eastern flank, I reached the saddle between Hen Cloud and the rest of the Roaches. Though it was by now late afternoon, the prospect of short up and down visit to Hen Cloud’s summit was too alluring to resist and it showed me just how popular the crags of the Roaches were with climbers for a line of parked cars could not be missed in these wilder surroundings. The ascent route was subject to diversions and the direct route that I followed involved some scrambling before I reached the top where gentler gradients and better paths prevailed. Thankfully, the way down was a gentler affair aside from having knee-testing gradients.

Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

After returning to the saddle, I made for those tops that I had been surveying from the top of Hen Cloud. Though the place is criss-crossed with different paths, I fancied sticking to the public footpath so my line was a less direct one around the eastern side of the Roaches. It meant that any encounter with climbers was delayed as I made my indistinct way uphill over ground that would be soggy if I came at another time. Doing so meant putting any qualms about route finding to one side because I can find myself fussing too much about such things at times. Soon enough, I was brought to the spine of the eminence and climbers were so well scattered as not to present any intrusion. It was becoming a quiet evening stroll and I was surprised by coming across Doxey Pool even if I would have spotted it on a map if I had planned things in more detail beforehand.

Ramshaw Rocks, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

My preference is for keeping plans flexible because hill countries can be different to what you expect and I had been playing with the idea of a circular walk from Leek similar to the one I enjoyed in January 2008. The time of day and the pleasant surroundings decided me so a walk to Macclesfield was to occupy for the rest of any daylight hours. Possibilities for other excursions in the area were presented to me in the form of Ramshaw Rocks, another haven for crag climbers. It might be that a hat-trick of Leek to Macclesfield walks might be completed if I go around by these sometime. The prospect is an appealing one and could have made use of the sunny day on which I am writing these words. Sunnier and warmer weather is forecast for later in the coming week so that could have a use yet.

Trig point and weathered rocky outcrops, The Roaches, Upper Hulme, Staffordshire, England

The northern end of the Roaches is more rounded than other parts and is topped with a trig point that I reached during what was by then a sun-blessed amble. It too has its weathered rocky outcrops though and I was leave this as I lost height, first to reach a lane near Roach End and then to reach the River Dane near Gradbach after passing through Forest Wood where I had rested a while. It all seemed so calm that one could surmised that a piece of heaven had been encountered.

A short stretch of the Dane Valley Way beckoned before I passed a noisy scout troop camped near what once was a YHA hostel. It left me wondering why some felt the need to disturb the wondrous peace of such a location but I soon noted that the old hostel had been turned into an outdoor pursuits centre before a steep uphill climb presented itself after a crossing of the River Dane using a useful bridge.

Roache End as seen from near Allgreave, Cheshire, England

Ramshaw Rocks as seen from near Allgreave, Cheshire, England

One gradients levelled off, there was a lane crossing ahead of me before I started on a track that would convey me to the A54. While there was some disquiet in my mind about passing signs of a working farm, it was here that I also got some wonderful backward glances of where I had been. The added height meant that I could see as far as Roach End and Ramshaw Rocks from well within the county of Cheshire. Staffordshire may have been left for the day but it was not out of sight just yet.

That took a crossing of the A54 after which exploratory route finding was needed to ensure that I was on the right path. It was early evening by then so there was no soul to disturb with my wanderings. Others must come this way to for there was an honesty purvey such items as cartons of orange juice and I was to relish one of these after contributing the appropriate recompense. The village of Wildboarclough was my next landmark after some descent near Berry Bank Farm and getting there needed more attention to navigation.

After Wildboarclough, fields again were crossed to reach the lane leading to Greenway Bridge and the use of red and green bucket bucket lids to make out the positions of stiles was welcome given how far apart field boundaries were. Fields of suckler cows and calves were negotiated with signs declaring some leniency in the line of the path to be followed, never a bad thing given incidents where cows injure passing walkers though my farm upbringing adds extra experience that others may not possess.

At Greenway Bridge, I could have taken another path around by Oakenclough Farm but decided to stay with the road because of the time of day. That may have had the unintended effect of exposing tired legs to even stepper gradients but steady progress with a few rest stops got me to the road that was to take me down via Higher Sutton. Tarmac travel made for sore feet though but I was glad of the still easier progress as the sun was setting. Daylight stayed long enough for me to meet with street lights after Gurnet and not have to worry about its decline any more. It had been a good simple day out, something much needed after the complexities of the preceding week. The good weather continued for another day but my limbs needed recuperation so I limited myself to less strenuous enjoyment.

Travel Arrangements

Bus service 109 from Macclesfield to Leek.

A day spent sauntering from dale to dale in many weathers

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

After the preceding post about walking from Tideswell to Hathersage during May 2016, this one leaps over several other walking trips and moves forward nearly twelve months into 2017 because of another saunter taken in the same area. That happened during an an unpaid springtime sabbatical taken in an effort rekindle my energy levels after a run of family bereavements and the need to deal with such an aftermath; my preferred method of recuperation was to be rest and relaxation.

Given that the five week break in question happened in April and May, it should come as little surprise that there were some trips away from home. In fact, there were two getaways on successive weekends in spite of a matter in Ireland bringing its share of upset around this time. That happened after a pleasant long weekend spent on the Isle of Man and intruded on an Easter stay in Edinburgh for a spot of hill country exploration around Peebles.

For whatever reason, doubts entered my mind as to whether my spell away from work was going to be enough to achieve my desired aim. In hindsight, more than rest and recuperation was in order. The emotional heavy lifting of recent months is a reminder of that I move towards the next stage of my working life. Learning to deal with unwanted intrusive thoughts and rethinking my career has been part of this, work that takes its share of time.

While I was seeking a way of (temporarily) dealing with what was weighing on my mind, there were some short trips away from home.Two took me to Manchester in search of maps but others had more of an outdoor flavour. There was an evening visit to Buxton in bright sunshine where I got as far as Grinlow Tower and savoured the panoramic views that lay about the eminence while trying out a then newly acquired used Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Tansley Dale, Litton, Derbyshire, England

Another Derbyshire trip followed and that is the subject of this trip report. My starting point was Litton and my final destination for the day was Buxton. Given what was on my mind, I was seeking a quiet stroll but was amazed to see a large party of ramblers out for a walk and I leaving Litton. Any sense of intrusion was assuaged somewhat by breaking cloud cover allowing some sunshine to light up Tansley Dale as I walked through it. By this stage, the rambling group was left behind me and I was keen to keep it that way.

Thankfully, their route either diverged from mine or I diverged from theirs as I followed the concessionary path along the floor of Cressbrook Dale. Until this point, I had been revisiting parts encountered the year before. My southbound lot this time around was to be passage through woodland under greying skies. A public footpath was joined before Ravenstonedale Cottages and I encountered some resting ladies asking where Tansley Dale was. Thinking back to the episode, my directions may have been terse but I hope that they sufficed.

After the cottages, I was following a byway before cutting out some distance using a public footpath and reaching the lane that would take me into Monsal Dale. Another rambling group was spotted about this point but I left them go on their way and stayed on the road until I spotted a right of way that would carrying me across the River Wye to the Monsal Trail. Wintry weather had arrived while all this was happening so I stopped a while in a tunnel under the former railway alignment to see if the precipitation would pass; this also was a chance for lunch stop.

Monsal Dale as seen from Monsal Head, Derbyshire, England

As with all of these things, it took a good while for the shower to leave and then for any sunshine to appear. When it finally did just that, I could not help loitering to see if I could make any photos. After all, this is a beauty that attracts many a day tripper though I had it largely to myself at this time. A midweek visit coincident with wintry weather could have helped my cause.

Cressbrook Mill as seen from the Monsal Trail, Derbyshire, England

Throughout this dallying, I was making up my mind about what direction to take next. The choice was between heading towards Bakwell or going towards Buxton with possible exit points later in the walk. In the event, I chose the latter and the route was to take me past places that I had not seen since an afternoon in July 2001. Back then, all the railway tunnels were closed to us so there were necessary diversions that made cycling the route an impossibility. Within the last decade, that has changed with lights turned on during daytime hours.

Water-cum-Jolly Dale, Cressbrook, Derbyshire, England

Still, I had reservations about spending large sections of my walk inside in tunnels and hardcore surfaces can give feet a batter so I dropped of the current trail to Cressbrook Mill where I picked up the concessionary path that I followed when I last went this way. That had the advantage that it went along by where the River Wye cuts its way through limestone-clad surroundings. The sun may have been playing hide and seek on me at this point but it did not matter and I largely had the place to myself as far as Litton Mill.

Hammerton Hill, Litton, Derbyshire, England

Former railway viaducts, Miller's Dale, Derbyshire, England

After that, I made my way back onto the Monsal Trail again and was noting nature reserve after nature reserve as I shortened the distance to Miller’s Dale station. There was a possibility of ending my walk there but I opted to continue on my way. It was to be a decision in favour of added adventure, especially when I again decided against tunnel travel though skies clouded after Miller’s Dale.

What I had chosen to do is to drop down to the River Wye to try my look along steps and stepping stones made of limestone. This is a slippery rock when wet so resulting thoughts meant that I took extra care on any descents. All of this slowed progress a little though the rock did not deter climbing enthusiasts as found when I encountered a group with a seemingly nonchalant member who apparently did not want to notice my presence. One of the others did apologise so that eased any sense of irritation as I continued on my way. It helped that there were pleasant stretches in between those other more testing sections.

For some reason lost to me now, I decided against rejoining the Monsal Trail in favouring of stay by the riverside and continuing through the narrow Chee Dale; maybe, it looked less testing and avoided some ascent. Wye Dale took a while to reach and that brought the end of the Monsal Trail itself because a still active freight railway and the presiding topography prevents any continuation. Taking me to the A6 was a narrow access road that passed under several railway viaducts, necessitating care in case of on oncoming vehicle. My journey had gone under a few of these and there were a few more to pass in hope of catching a bus.

Seeing the last bus to Buxton for the day pass before I got to using it was not a source of annoyance though. Having to extend the walk all the way to Buxton was no source of tribulation. Crossing the A6, I picked up a public footpath that rounded Topley Pike Quarry with all of its warnings of quicksand. Entering Deep Dale got me away from any proximity to such industrial facilities and a feeling of entering pleasingly more rural surroundings again.

While on the lookout for the Midshires Way that would lead me in Buxton, I encountered a group of tired teenagers and one asked me where they were on the map. Then as much as now, I wondered if they of Duke of Edinburgh challengers. If so, it might have been better if I did not point out their location but I suppose that you can be too officious about these things. In any case, I climbed the side of Deep Dale to commence crossings of fields as I passed King Sterndale and passed through Cowdale and Staden. As I did so, another quarry lurked almost unseen but that was quickly passed with reaching Buxton uppermost in my mind.

At Staden, I passed a lady trying to coax a horse into its stable for the night. Knowing that strangers can disrupt such things, I did not delay and made my way towards and past a caravan park before going under the freight railway leading to Hindlow Quarry. The A515 was near at hand and I was soon to reach it and drop downhill into Buxton where some refreshments were sought before starting my way home. The day had been satisfying and was just the sort of momentary escape from more weighty matters that I needed.

Travel Arrangements

Outbound bus journey from Macclesfield to Litton with a change in Buxton followed by return train journey from Buxton to Macclesfield with a change in Stockport.