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: Weather

Wellington boot wandering

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Over the past two months, we appear to have got unseasonably mild weather with a succession of storms and heavy rain. The only exception was the past week of cold weather with frost and spells of snow that have affected Macclesfield’s hill country more than its nearest town. Buxton , being higher up than Macclesfield also got its coating of snow as did parts of the Derbyshire Dales like Litton. In the case of the latter, this was short lived.

When it comes to the torrents of rain that have been coming our way, Macclesfield again fares better than parts of Cumbria, Lancashire or Yorkshire. The River Bollin has dug its own valley and that thankfully most homes in the area unthreatened during its states of spate. Seeing one of these conjured up images using the adjective molten and I must admit to catching myself questioning such an impression.

What is beyond question is that the countryside is saturated after all that has come our way. That conclusion was unavoidable after two muddy walks on what I now call my home patch. One was a circuit on Christmas Eve that went around by Prestbury and another followed on the Tuesday following Christmas Day when I trotted around by Tegg’s Nose, Rainow and Kerridge. That last stravaig took me along part of the Gritstone Trail too and I could have done with the walking poles that I left at home on steep slippery muddy inclines, especially downhill ones not so far from Gulshaw Hollow. The fact that I made use of the only sunny day between Christmas and New Year easily made up for such obstacles and the need for boot cleaning afterwards.

Still, the muddy state of footwear caused me to make use of wellington boots that I acquired nearly a year ago in wet snow on the same Prestbury circuit that made use of the sunny afternoon that we were gifted on Christmas Eve. There also was some testing of a new GPS receiver too and more remains to be said about that in the fullness of time.

The first such circuit took along the course of the River Bollin until a change of direction near Prestbury took me towards Heybridge Lane (but not as far as that) and across the golf course at Tytherington Club, the latter of which being too wet to be playable. Then, a meandering though well known route took me around the outskirts of Tytherington to reach the Middlewood Way that took me most of the way home again.

The second excursion was more soggy with a hike along the banks of the Macclesfield Canal preceding a yomp through Dane Moss Nature Reserve that reminded me of the possibility of exploring more around there using the duckboards that have been set in place. From there, I crossed some very soggy fields before emerging on tarmac again. The latter made me pay for the lack of cushioning in wellington boots so they are best left for soft ground. Even so, I still fancy the idea of having them with me on a walk for when conditions are likely to overwhelm normal walking boots and gaiters. That unhelpfully assumes that the said soft ground is not likely to obstruct any change of footwear and that cannot be forgotten either in the spirit of being realistic.

Hopefully, things will start to dry up soon and that will need a dry month of March and even April too. Before then though, there looks to be no let up at the time of writing and those previous hopes are there to be dashed too. Such is the way with our maritime climate that it is best not to puff up one’s aspirations lest they lead to despair should they be vanquished. 2015 may have spoilt us and 2016 has a lot to come yet so let us have patience for now.

Hot weather escapades with views of Ben Nevis

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Some may adore sunshine holidays in destinations where scorching temperatures are commonplace but that is not my preference. Childhood memories of the summers of 1983 and 1984 feature sweaty journeys across fields on afternoons with sweltering temperatures and this was Ireland’s southwestern corner. Strangely, the higher temperatures of around 30° C experienced around Saint Malo on a school trip in 1989 have no such associations in my memory and I am left to wonder if the coastal location with its sea breezes had anything to do with it. Nevertheless, it is those sultry inland days that have  convinced me earlier that cooler days were more to be my liking.

In spite of that thinking, there are times when the desire to go for a walk with summer sunshine gets the better of me; there was a time when a heatwave was a time when I scotched the idea of embarking on a walking excursion. Much of the time, this has me out in temperatures hovering around 20° C but there are times when those in excess of this are overlooked. The trouble with physical activity on warm days is that staying well hydrated becomes more of a concern. It is all too easy to let yourself go to the point that headaches and other symptoms start to strike so you never can be too careful.

The summers of 2013 and 2014 brought a good share of warm sunny weather to Britain after winters that were either long and cold (2013) or wet and stormy (2014). In some ways, they were not so unlike those from thirty years earlier. Even so, I so needed a getaway after the events of springtime 2013 that I booked in an extended weekend during July that I used to head to Fort William. It was one of those “come what may” bookings and it was hot sunny weather that I got.

Sgùrr a' Mhàim, Glen Nevis, Fort William, Lochaber, Scotland

Travel days were Friday and Monday so Saturday and Sunday were available for spots of exploration. Friday was so hot that train and coach air conditioning could not be but relished. The stifling heat around Glasgow was all the more unmissable as I trotted from Glasgow Central train station to Glasgow Buchanan bus station and Fort William felt similar. Things must have a cooled a little for I wandered out on an after dinner stroll before retiring to bed for the night.

Glenfinnan from Loch Shiel, Lochaber, Scotland

With that in mind, I am not surprised that I went for light strolling around Glenfinnan on the Sunday. Then, I walked a little of the shore of Loch Shiel to reprise a walk that I had done of a Saturday in January 2011. Skies were clearer the second time around and enjoyed the views before taking a break from the sun in the cafe at the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre. After that, I went up the small hill behind it and lingered so as to take in what I could see from the vantage point. That was not all for I stumbled on a walk that dropped from Glenfinnan’s train station down under the scenic railway viaduct that features in many photos and in the Harry Potter films too. Temperatures must have cooled because I only have pleasant memories of these and others were out savouring the surroundings too.

Beinn a' Chrùlaiste and Buachaille Etive Mor, Glen Coe, Scotland

Stob Coire Easain and Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin, Spean Bridge, Lochaber, Scotland

It was the preceding Saturday that saw me being more adventurous. It is something that I ponder with amazement now but the idea of walking from Kingshouse Hotel to Kinlochleven with a diversion to the top of Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste somehow trumped what now looks like my better reason. Thankfully, there was a cooling breeze assisting the ascent and views opened up all around me. What also became apparent was the amount of heat haze that abounded on more distant hills. The Mamores and the White Corries were most affected and I have been experimenting with the Neutralhazer plugin in Photoshop to see what it can do for me. Of course, a day with less challenging lighting would be better and Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste is such a place that a return is worthwhile.

Stob Dearg, Stob a' Ghlais Choire and Meall a' Bhùiridh, Glen Coe, Scotland

On the day, the hill forestalled my plans to go all the way to Kinlochleven. That is not to say that I did not try myself out before going the way of reason. Now that I think of it, the lost golden evening may not have got me much more than I had anyway. The day have been a good one and looking over things now opens up more possible escapades like walking from Rannoch train station to Kingshouse Hotel or even an out and back hike from Glencoe village to the top of Meall Ligiche. The more modest height of the latter could afford some stirring views of higher eminences too so the TGO route idea could be a goer. Repeating sections of the West Highland Way north of Bridge of Orchy also tempts me so Glen Coe may not be see me deserting the place just yet when there is so much more to see.

What I have not done either is say all that I can do about those walks for what was intended to be a single entry has turned into a three part series. Next up is the piece on Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste with that on Glenfinnan set to follow that. Hopefully, those should not be the last you hear of my exploring these areas. After all, there is much left to savour since I barely have scratched the surface and that is after numerous visits over the years.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Glasgow and return Scottish Citylink coach journey between there and Fort William. Return Scottish Citylink coach journey between Fort William and Glen Coe. Return train journey between Fort William and Glenfinnan.

An eighth birthday

Monday, May 5th, 2014

This bank holiday weekend is being a quiet affair for me. With a cold to weather, it certainly has not been one for grand designs and the weather has not been sunny all the while either. Saturday was sunny around Macclesfield though and I got out for a local evening walk around by Prestbury.

Yesterday saw me head to Alderley Edge for a walk around by Hare Hill. I may have followed the course in an anticlockwise direction instead of the intended clockwise one but I was not along in doing so and I left the best for the return section from Hare Hill. It really is very pleasant with a multitude of bluebells putting on a pretty display. A cantankerous Jack Russell terrier slightly spoilt things by giving me a nip around my left ankle but that will fade in the fullness of time. A stop at the Wizard Tea Rooms for a bacon barm and a pot of tea made amends and I chose a more off-road course back to the village to catch my bus home.

This blog is entering its ninth year and things have changed over the years. When I started it, hill wandering was something for which I had more time than I do today. Nevertheless, I still enjoy getting out and about so there are trip reports to file. My last hill outing was near Llangollen in January so it’s well after time for another. If only life events offered a clearance, who knows where my mind may roam.

Currently, I am catching up with unread issues of The Great Outdoors and Outdoor Photography so the ideas shelf could get to see more on there. There are places like the Yorkshire Dales where I have not been for a while and Cumbria’s Lake District calls too. Summoning the energy to devise a scheme ahead of some alluring weather could produce results so there are rewards for any display of courage regarding an immediate future.

Sudden stratospheric what?

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Last night, I saw BBC video clips about the phenomenon that has been behind our cold spell. Apparently, a mixing of air between the troposphere (up 10 km high) and the stratosphere (10-50 km high) in the atmosphere has disrupted the usual polar winter vortex and had an effect on our weather too with the usual Atlantic jet stream getting blocked and winds drawing cold air from Europe over too us. Part of this whole thing is something called sudden stratospheric warming and it gives weather forecasters a hint of what is to come even if it doesn’t become an Arctic spell of wintry weather like what we are getting now.

Macclesfield’s nearby hills have been getting their share of the white stuff but its hold on the town is more tenuous. In fact, there was a semblance of a thaw earlier on today. Many pavements were clear of ice and snow as I popped down the Riverside Park by the river Bollin for a short taste of the winter conditions. There were plenty of folk out and about too and many of them were walking dogs. Not everywhere was coated in white and the river was flowing well too.

The sights of green grass with which I was surrounded could be changed though by what is falling from the sky as I am writing these words. It is nowhere near as heavy as some places though the Met Office is forecasting near constant if light snowfall for tonight and tomorrow so who knows what could build up on us? Still, we are not expecting dumps like what south Wales and southeast England got or what has been predicted for both sides of the Scotland-England border.

Funnily enough, times like these used to have me wondering about seeing hills and they coated in white but the excitement of snowfall appears to have been lost for me for whatever reason. It might have been those cold spells in the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 when I got my fill but there may be other factors. After all, having ageing parents means a certain amount of worry in times like these and there is the obvious nuisance factor of snow and ice too. Or is it the general greyness that seems to be accompanying this cold snap where I live? Still, the mix of white snow and grey skies can be a powerful one in photos so that could liberate me for whatever is jaundicing my outlook right now. It’d be no harm leaving the cares of the world behind me for a while to enjoy something that usually happens to be ephemeral in our climate.

As it so happens, my eyes have been feasting on sunlit greens and not grey whiteness. The cause has been a catch up with trip reports from last summer and autumn. There should be more to come and I may have one from this year in the form of a walk along the Macclesfield Canal from Congleton to home from last Sunday too. The one long walk a month plan remains and I am hoping to be among hills more often too. Of course, that depends on how life goes this year and that is a story yet to told and may have a few unexpected twists and turns too. January, normally a quieter month, has been a roller coaster ride already too so I’m keeping an open mind as to how things will go from here.

Update 2013-01-21: Overnight, Macclesfield (and its nearby hills too since keeping the roads from Buxton to Macclesfield and Congleton is quite an effort) did get quite an accumulation of snow until it stopped around midday. Some of it has melted since but there still is a lot of whitening with snow sticking to trees now too. With the cold week ahead, it looks like it’ll stay a while too so a weekend escapade may come to pass. It’s not likely to be too adventurous and a train journey along the Settle to Carlisle railway line came to mind last week. Making a loop of that outing using the west coast mainline popped into my head too. It’s a far cry from the heights where you’d need an ice axe and some avalanche awareness. Maybe I might get to the foothills yet like I did in previous cold snaps; today’s whitening certainly brightened my day in its own way.


Monday, June 11th, 2012

Not so long ago, the Met Office introduced a major change to its website and I’m not so sure that it’s all that successful. In fact, I still have a link to one of the old pages and they remain live if hidden away from view. One example is the rain radar page.

The new website dispatched niceties like bookmarking local weather forecasts on there that you often visited and even the backward and forward arrows for navigation through weather forecasts and several hours’ worth of weather conditions. The latter is handy when you want to see how fast a rain belt is moving; it’s not where it is that always matters but where it is going and how long it sticks around.

In its favour, the new website has five day forecasts for more locations and each is broken down over the course of a day for all five days too. Previously, we only got that for two days out of five. The old bookmarks are gone but the website remembers the last five locations for which you looked for weather forecasts so that’s a partial concession.

The weather maps are where I feel there to be some degradation even if we now get period by period forecasts for five days at a time. The old site had its moments of unresponsiveness and the new one feels more so. These manifest themselves with five day location forecasts and also with maps too. For example, seeing the progress of a rain belt is less easy now because the loss in smoothness with the new maps. The absence of previous/next buttons is noticeable too. Being able to zoom into the maps is all well and good but it seems to have come at a cost. If it was possible to click on a location’s weather icon to get a five tabular forecast, then that would be something more in return but that opportunity was not taken.

All in all, I am unconvinced by the Met Office website’s redesign. Only time will tell if they have another go and I for one hope that they do. Perhaps, then they could bring back the good features from before in a way that fits in with where they want to go. As things stand, it reminds me of the uninspiring feel of Windows Vista and I’d like to see them make a Windows 7 of it.

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