What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!
Rather than continuing to tease or even bore readers with what is to be found on this outpost of mine by listing outstanding trip reports in blog posts, I am collecting a list of outings here as they happen. It should ensure that I never forget to say more about any walks or cycles that I have done that deserve it. Naturally, such a list should be ever-changing and I need to not be so tardy with sharing where I have been either. Such is my way of life at the moment, they have been piling up so the proverbial lead needs to be got out for these.
It has been in my head for a while now to walk among Shropshire hills near Church Stretton while taking in The Port Way and the Stiperstones. An opportunity to do this as a linear came and I made use of it. Skies were grey and gloomy as I left Church Stretton and there was a hint of drizzle in the air too as I made my way uphill from Carding Mill Valley. Others were going the same way but I soon lost these once I was on a bridleway that took me north to where I would meet with The Port Way under breaking cloud cover and occasional sunshine.
Navigation was relatively facile from there to near Thresholds though someone added a road sign to ensure that walkers went through the right gate at one point. Between Thresholds and New Leasowes Farm, navigation got tricky but I got past that after a fashion. My course then took me on a byway around by way of Leasowes Farm that got me on a road near The Hollies. While I had intended to go through that farmyard, it did not look so welcoming so I stuck with going around by road instead, marvelling at how many larger vehicles were travelling along the one linking Stedment and Stiperstones.
Still, good progress was made and fascination turned to the size of tractors these days on seeing one putting feed out to the otherwise grazing sheep. Spells of sunshine had been growing more frequent all the while and I enjoyed views over the surrounding countryside too. Overlooking the path up from the car park, I kept going along the lane in search of part of the Shropshire Way. Nearing my objective, I encountered a family whose father asked about a good way to the Stipestones for kids with trainers. Perhaps incompletely, I directed them along the road. Seeing where I was going, that might have been best because I was shod for dealing with mud.
The way to Manstone Rock was quiet for much of the way and I again met with humanity. They would have come up from the car park and their way looked better for trainer travel even if an uneven stony surface would have been their lot. A mother was having her patience tested by young lads around the trig point on Manstone Rock as I continued north to quieter parts.
Beyond the Devil’s Chair, that proved to be the case and I relished this in the evening sunshine. A large rambling group lay ahead of me though and I fancied getting far enough ahead of them to retain a sense of solitude, even if I veered off the trail that I fancied following. It made me wonder if we sometimes traipse through the countryside in groups that were too large because chatter replaces observation of one’s surroundings. Once I reached Snailbeach, I saw the minibus that was awaiting them for this was an organised outing. They reached it while I was awaiting my bus to Shrewsbury and one said to me that they thought I knew my way down. In reality, I only was finding my way as with so many things in life. Rain arrived before the bus did but this was no dampener on my spirits given the day that I had enjoyed.
After the previous weekend saw me head to Edinburgh for a day spent around Cramond and the city centre, I was lured to Barmouth for an afternoon of warm weather strolling that took me as far as the Cerrig Arthur stone circle before returning via the Panorama Walk. Like the preceding Scottish outing, any shaded spots were relished all the more keenly given the heat of the day. Still, it knocked nothing out of me and I got to see a previously visited part of Wales in bright sunshine.
July’s trip to Wales planned in my mind an idea for another. This time I was bound for Pwllheli from where I ventured to Llithfaen for an ascent of Yr Eifl. Again, the afternoon was warm and I abandoned notions of walking back to Pwllheli afterwards in favour of the same bus service that conveyed me from there. The walk may have been shorter than intended but it was none the worse for that with the mix of views of sea, coast and mountain scenery.
2018-08-16 to 2018-08-21
After years of reproaching myself for not doing so, I finally set aside some time for unfettered personal exploration of the country of my birth and upbringing. The part that I chose was not one that I frequented since I based myself in Galway and ventured here and there on back-to-back day trips. The first took me to the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin on the coast of County Clare. The day may have been damp but a satisfying walk along part of the Burren Way was enjoyed nonetheless. Drier ramblings around Recess and Clifden in Connemara occupied me for the next day though low cloud scuppered any thoughts of reaching the top of a hill. Hiking from Maam Cross to Oughterard using the route of the Western Way occupied the day of the All Ireland Hurling Final with the accompaniment of occasional sunshine as I traipsed over multi-kilometre stretches of duck boarding, shadowed the shore of Lough Corrib and made a side trip to Lough Seecon. The last full day of my stay saw me head to Inishmore of the Aran Islands where I enjoyed a circuit in improving weather that allowed for a visit to Dun Aonghasa. Sunshine was in limited supply throughout the trip though with heavy grey skies dominant at times while I got to explore new places and address a need that lay unmet for far too long.
A route included in a recently read edition of The Great Outdoors magazine inspired me to walk west from North Berwick to Seton Sands. Initially, I had considered following the John Muir Way for the whole hike but I was drawn to the coast and walked along beaches and over rocky outcrops and dunes until the Peffer Burn caused me to change tack. Concerns about the possibility of an incoming tide made me undertake a river crossing that made me more than a little wet in the process. Once in Aberlady, I set off along the John Muir Way with my trousers drying as I shortened the remaining distance to Seton Sands. The sunshine that added so much to the scenes that lay about me earlier in the day was ended by the advancing cloud cover that brought a passing rain shower. After that, the dying light of day and the sight of a waiting bus convinced me to halt my stravaig and head back to my hotel for the night.
The appearance of a sunny weekend was enough to get me plotting a ramble. Saturday was to fail to get me out of doors but that stiffened my resolve for Sunday so I took myself off to Hathersage to commence a moorland stroll into Sheffield. This took me north via Green’s House and Dennis Knoll, from where I reversed steps from a year before until I picked up a tempting track from then that took me to Redmires Reservoirs via Stanedge Pole.
A concessionary path took me to Fulwood Lane where I found a path leading down to Porter Brook. Shadowing that watercourse got me most of the rest of the way into Sheffield though I headed along city streets for the last part, mainly because of declining daylight but also because a trail would have ended at Endcliffe Park in any case. Doing that part in fuller daylight appeals so a Grindleford start to another station-to-station walk might be in the offing.
That is not to say that was no satisfaction in the first rendition of the same for there was plenty of sunshine at times with sights like clag collection at Stanage Edge to detain attention in a piercingly cold east wind. Others were out and about and surely must have been drawn out by the same prospects and it amazed me how many city dwellers were pottering about unlit trails in the hours of dusk and darkness. The attraction of more natural surroundings defies any lack of light for them.
There were other things to do in advance of Christmas but an interlude of sunny weather after some dreaming ensured that I was out among hills again. This was another walk into Sheffield, albeit from Grindleford train station. From there, I continued through Padley Gorge where others were out strolling too. North of the A6187, my surroundings were quieter as I rounded Burbage with views of Carl Mark Fort and Higger Tor. Those were left behind me to reach Houndkirk Road, a busy byway with all sorts of traffic on there: walkers, runners, cyclists and off-roaders. The sight of the last of these may have irked me a little but such things were left after me to get to Ringinglow. From there, I dropped down to Clogh Lane and my trot into Sheffield by the course of Porter Brook began. This time around, I was to have daylight to Endcliffe Park so there was no retreat onto city streets before I met with the A625. Tiring limbs did nothing to halt a meandering course to the city’s main train station that took in the city centre for the second time in two days. The preceding day had seen a shopping excursion in inclement weather and I was to meet with rain on my arrival in Macclesfield. In short, I had snatched a better spell in the middle of an otherwise unsettled run of weather.
2018-12-29 to 2019-01-03
Having not had a real overseas getaway during the summer of 2018 meant that my mind turned to such prospects for a mid-winter escape to somewhere warmer and sunnier. Tenerife became the destination where I saw out one year and saw in another, the first time that I had done such a thing outside of Britain or Ireland. A nighttime arrival in Santa Cruz meant that any exploring needed to await the next day when I also spent some time around Puerto de la Cruz. New Year’s Eve was when I pottered out into local hills for a walk which impressed on me just how steep-sided they can be. Even so, I was back within the hours of daylight and got my first taste of the arid terrain that is home to numerous cacti.
Going to Igueste de San Andrés on New Year’s Day not only got me away from anyone recovering after all-night partying but also got me an adventure that I had not expected. The terrain was similar to what I frequented the previous day apart from a scary crossing of steep slopes beside the sea near Antequera. With that challenge surmounted, it was a matter of dealing with punishing gradients to get back to civilisation where I awaited a bus back to Santa Cruz.
After postponing the idea in favour of more acclimatisation to the constant warm temperatures and getting to know the place better, I finally got to Parque National del Teide for my penultimate day on the island. An early start was needed so it helped that breakfast was served from 07:00 though I still had little time for catching a bus to Puerto de la Cruz where I caught another for the rest of the way. Making sure I got back again was another consideration so I kept my wandering under control even if I veered off course at one point and wilder surroundings made me wonder if I was on my way back to the Paradores where I need to catch a return bus connection. Altitude was another consideration but all worked out as I had hoped so there was enough time to get some food and drink for the journey to Puerto de la Cruz.
Having made use of a shuttle bus on arrival, I wondered if the public bus system really served the airport but I still gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised. The only confusion of the day happened at the airport while ordering food and that was caused by my lack of Spanish, something that needs addressing before I go again to such places. The trip had been a good one without any major upsets and proves that a winter sunshine getaway does not cause illness like what I suffered in Mallorca in 2016. Tenerife still offers more scope for other visits too.
After having passed the place many times since my last visit, a walking trip to Settle felt long overdue in many ways. This one even took in Malham Tarn, Malham Cove and Malham village as well as the intended crags around Attermire Scar. Sadly, the predicted sunshine was scarcely aside from multiple appearances around Malham.
The lack of sunshine during my March trip to Settle and Malham brought forward a repeat encounter. The route taken shared some elements with its predecessor though their arrangement differed. The environs of Attermire Scar got sightings early and late in the hike with Malham Cove and Malham Tarn also featuring. Except for Malham Cove, I was fortunate enough to get pleasing photographic results from the rest of my ambling. All in all, it was a pleasant outing and the prospect of a walk from Malham to Skipton has been planted in my mind as a possible way to get satisfying photos of Malham Cove should such an opportunity present itself. A reason to return has been invented.
2019-04-18 to 2019-04-23
In 2017, I had plans for an Easter weekend spent in Edinburgh disrupted by other matters so the possibility re-entered my mind for 2019. This time around, plans became real in a way for which I never could have hoped. After all, the weekend remained sunny most of the time despite any lingering haze.
This allowed me to potter about the city while revisiting old haunts like Calton Hill, Dean Village, Holyrood Park, Bruntsfield Links, The Meadows and Craigmillar Castle. A crossing to Cramond Island even got featured as well as two visits to Linlithgow. Photography was a major consideration yet I have spotted some oversights that could cause me to return to Scotland’s capital again and some attempts could do with betterment as well.
Hill wandering ensued around the Pentland Hills and near Peebles. The first of these took me from Flotterstone to Balerno by way of such summits as Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, South Black Hill, East Kip and West Kip. Undeterred by the up and down nature of the previous day’s walking, I then embarked on a round of Glen Sax near Peebles that included such eminences as Kailze Hill, Kirkhope Law, Birkscairn Hill, Stake Law, Dun Rig, Middle Hill, Scawd Law and Deadside. This was a venture that I had failed to complete on several occasions with lack of time or visibility being the main culprits. It was good to complete the deed in the end.
The weekend gave me so much that it could have meant that a future trip to Edinburgh could have been a good while away but there are further reasons to return to my old stomping ground. Photography is among them and there is an argument in favour of slowing down while in the place to imbibe more of the ambience of the place that I so relish. My stay had me behaving like something of a tourist but I also like to recall how it was as a resident. That may be the next stage for me.
With extra restrictions likely because of the arrival of a new global pandemic, I thought it best to make use of the sunshine on Mother’s Day 2020. Public transport use was to be avoided voluntarily for health reasons so my stroll started and ended on my doorstep. It took me around by the Saddle of Kerridge, Lamaload Reservoir and Macclesfield Forest. Because many places were closed because of restrictions then already in place, more were gathered around what usually were quieter places. Macclesfield Forest was among these but other places had families frequenting them too. Not having been out on such a long hike for months, the escapade took its toll on me so the later stages were not as enjoyable as the earlier ones. Still, it was great to get out before a tough April brought an excess of tension that needed a recovery period extending over weeks following discussions with clinicians.
The Spring Bank Holiday weekend got extended with two extra days away from work and the break did me a load of good. On the first of those, I embarked on a long walk from my doorstep that followed the Middlewood Way until I was past Bollington. Because so many had similar ideas, it was with relief that I left it to continue to Pott Shrigley before skirting Bollington on the way to Rainow from where I pieced together a quieter route to Tegg’s Nose. After that, I started along the final stretch of my journey home. The hike had its quieter parts and those outweighed the concerns of places where more were about than was ideal.
The forecast was a little mixed and I got some spots of rain in the afternoon, this was a day for restorative walking through many a quiet location. The fact that I really could relax in such places was a real help for my subsequent state of mind. This was to be a tension buster, especially around Higher Sutton, Croker Hill, Bosley and North Rode.
The route took me from home to Langley and Higher Sutton on the way to the top of a blustery Croker Hill. From there, I dropped down to Bosley Reservoir before continuing to Bosley, North Rode and Gawsworth on the way back home again. Parts of the Gritstone Trail, the Dane Valley Way and the Macclesfield Canal were included along with other rights of way. There was much to relish although paths were a little busier around Gawsworth. These did not take much from the general restorative nature of the walk and I was left much more relaxed afterwards.
A walk featuring Lamaload Reservoir was extended as I got lured as far as Shining Tor before dropping down to the Cat and Fiddle Inn and then continuing home, passing Widlboarclough, Shutlingsloe and Higher Sutton on the way. Predictably, more folk were encountered around Shining Tor and the Cat and Fiddle Inn (currently trading as a shop) but there was plenty of space to wear off any grumbles about lack of social distancing. An ascent of Shutlingsloe will need to wait because it is a small honeypot in these times and might have been too much for tiring legs in any case. The day had its warm sunny moments as well as cloudier wind-chilled ones but its staying dry was more than enough to keep me happy. As an out-and-back excursion from my house, it felt a little ambitious but the only cost was fatigued limbs that a little rest allowed me to recover.
The human yearning for freedom caused me to journey to Buxton by bus before walking back to Macclesfield. That hike took me through Buxton’s Spring Gardens and its Country Park under largely grey skies. The intrusion of dog walkers unconcerned about social distancing was left behind me as I followed the Dane Valley Way to an over Axe Edge with many solitary interludes. The boggy ground around Dane Head was left behind me as I ventured by Orchard Common and passed both Reeve-Edge and Danebower quarries near the A54. Though not walking along that road, its proximity increased the human presence as families parked cars and followed nearby trails. These were left behind me as I continued towards Holt where I again found groups heading for Three Shire Heads, confirming the wisdom of my not going that way. Instead, I headed towards Clough House and that car park added to the number of people but passing that got me into quieter surroundings even if it meant following the narrow road to Wildboarclough. Pausing there in the sunshine was a must since it was the first time that I had seen the village under anything other than cloudy skies. After that, I passed more groups at a safe distance as I rounded Shutlingsloe on the way past Greenway Bridge and Oakenclough to reach the road dropping down through Higher Sutton. It was there that the heat of the day and strong sunshine caught so I flagged a little but I was not so far from home by then. Tolerating slowing legs paid off and I was at home in good time and with much satisfaction gained from a day with an unpromising start.
When Tatton Park re-opened in June, thoughts of visiting it led to designs on cycling there and back. They never came to anything so a one-way bus ride with a long stroll home became the alternative means. Tatton Park itself was rather busy and I seemed to have picked a more peopled way than I might have desired. Still, there was plenty of room for everyone once I got out into the parkland itself. From there, I ventured to Rostherne and discovered that it was a place worth revisiting. Sadly, the day remained largely cloudy so photographic endeavours were curtailed by lack of success.
A mixture of road and path walking got me home. Along the way, I passed near Ashley, Mobberley and Manchester Airport where I met with the River Bollin. Shadowing that watercourse took me past Styal where things again grew just a little too busy before I went through Wilmslow where I topped up my energy reserves. From there to Macclesfield, it was soothingly quiet though there was much passage along overgrown paths. Even around Prestbury and Riverside Park, things remained likewise so it was a pleasing end to a long day out on foot.
Having not been on a train for a while and there being no other way to get from Macclesfield to Congleton on a Sunday during these unusual times, I embarked on the seven-minute journey so I could do another of my “Back to Macc” hikes. This one took me along part of the Macclesfield Canal before making for a crossing of the Cloud. Both were busier than I might have liked but there was a quiet section of path between them and this was where I encountered the most people. From the Cloud, the Gritstone Trail conveyed me most of the way to Langley on an ever-warming sunny day.
That was not the original plan since I originally had designs on an easier route via North Rode and Gawsworth after a long stroll from Knutsford to Macclesfield the day before. However, I was not feeling overly tired so my actual route became more adventurous with many quiet sections. The River Dane was shadowed for a while before turning north to reach the top of Croker Hill. Beyond there, my legs grew ever more tired and so needed more coaxing for the rest of the way. Still, I was able to summon the energy to go via Birch Knoll on the way back to Macclesfield and patient progress was enough for me to reach home again.
Late trains may have attempted to stymie the possibility but I did manage to embark on a hike from Disley to Macclesfield as planned. That took me along the Gritstone Trail through Lyme Park before I left it near Bollington to skirt Rainow on the way to Lamaload Reservoir. From there, I headed to Walker Barn and passed Tegg’s Nose Country Park on the way back to Macclesfield. It was a delightful mix of moorland walking with sufficient unpeopled stretches to allow the attendant solitude to work its magic.
The prospect of a non-working break with some sunshine allowed me to spend some time around Kinder Scout as I went from Hayfield to Edale. That there were peaceful unpeopled stretches to savour too made added greatly to the experience. The chosen route took me via William Clough on the way to Kinder Scout with some passage along part of the Pennine Way. That was left for the moorland path leading past a variety of rocky outcrops to Grindsbrook Clough. Descending into that clough involved a little hands-on interaction with rocky slabs before the path became less wild and ever more bucolic as I got nearer to Edale. If it were not for a hole in the train timetable, I might have left for home earlier but the extra time was used to rest a little while taking on some refreshments.
The weather forecast may not have been so promising but that was not going to stop me from embarking on a walk from Whaley Bridge to Macclesfield anyway. Things were looking promising on the way out of Whaley Bridge though I knew there were showers about that morning; I was hoping only to meet light ones. From the railway station, I passed through a park beneath the dam of Toddbrook Reservoir and next to the River Goyt. The reservoir had met with structural problems that year before so work was ongoing to remedy these while it remained drained. It was no threat by this time so I continued to Macclesfield Road and went up that thoroughfare to join the Midshires Way to get to Taxal where I lingered by its church in some sunshine.
That long-distance trail was left soon enough to cross fields on the way to Taxal Moor Road. The quietness of the morning air struck me though a walking group was to be heard behind me at times. They were left behind me as I continued to the top of Taxal Moor before dropping down to a lane at the Cheshire side.
While making my way to Taxal Edge, the rain caught me and it was of the “soft Irish day” variety: light and steady but not too wetting. Unfortunately, it was going to get heavier so I got a good wetting while around Windgather Rocks. When the slow-moving shower passed, I got to dry out and hiked to Pym Chair as I did so.
From there, I continued to Cats Tor and Shining Tor on a quiet morning on the tops and relished the freedom to travel along the track at my own pace without the need for much thought about social distancing. After reaching the trig point on Shining Tor, I retraced my steps and started my descent to Lamaload Reservoir after accommodating mothers with children by giving them some space.
The day was not just dry by this point but the cloud cover was breaking and I was well dry too. Temperatures rose in the sunshine too as I shortened the distance along the service lane leading to Rainow and then after that to my home in Macclesfield. It had been a morning and afternoon of real release from the oppressive reality of living through a global pandemic.
After the wetting that I got around Windgather Rocks the previous Monday, my mind was set on passing that way again and in better weather. On the second Saturday in August, I got my wish so I returned to Whaley Bridge again. The route from there to Taxal Moor was reprised but I took advantage of the Open Access Land up there to reach Taxal Edge and Windgather Rocks by a different route. The weekend timing and enticing sunshine drew out others but it was easy to keep apart as needed in contemporary times. Some even let me pass to feel as if their time was their own and I was happy to oblige.
With photos made, I continued to Pym Chair and Cats Tor as before while stepping away from the path to let others pass. When you have had something to yourself once, it becomes easier to share with others. Then, Shining Tor was passed as I dropped down to the A537 by way of Stake Farm. Crossing the road, I followed a permissive path to the access land around Cuckoo Rocks. They were not a destination for me though so I followed another permissive path to join a public footpath to get to Bottom-of-the-Oven, a small place with a curious name, before heading up to Forest Chapel along a byway.
Making use of another byway, I reached Charity Lane. Along the way, I overheard a comment from a passing family group about not realising what is on one’s doorstep. That probably is a story of this year given its lockdown and my finding people in places where I never encountered them before. On reaching Walker Barn, I went towards Tegg’s Nose Country Park along Old Buxton Road but left it for a byway leading to Back Eddisbury Lane. The latter took me onto Buxton Road under clouded skies and I was on the home straight to my house. The reprise had been worth the effort with plenty of quieter moments as recompense for making more space for others where this was needed.
My last trip to Shropshire was in early 2018 so even an ongoing pandemic was not going to stop me from returning there for another day trip on a sunny Saturday. This time, I was going to explore hills not walked since November 2010. That was an afternoon amble so time was shortened by available hours of daylight and that left incomplete business suitable for another visit.
The latest outing was to feature a lot of summit bagging around Church Stretton. It started with the tops of Hope Bowdler Hill and I found them quiet too, which made doing this even better. The round also featured Willstone Hill too and I also was bound for both Caer Caradoc Hill and Little Caradoc before continuing to The Lawley. The last of these turned out to be surprisingly busy though there still were plenty of quiet interludes despite all the attention.
The way back to Church Stretton was along the lower flanks of The Lawley, Little Caradoc and Caer Caradoc Hill so I hoped for easier walking to complete the intended route. However, there was a sting in the tail with the final sections of the path being unclear and a steep drop down to a footbridge that I needed to cross before gradients became more merciful again. All the ascent and descent of the day had taken its toll on my legs but there still was some time for a little refuelling before I commenced my journey home.
Going from Leek to Buxton on foot had lain at the back of my mind for quite a while but it never became a reality until I fancied visiting Ramshaw Rocks. The hike took over seven hours to complete as I made my way around Tittesworth Reservoir (passing Meerbrook and Upper Hulme) by following parts of the Staffordshire Moorlands Walks and Churnet Way routes to reach the aforementioned rocky outcrops before striking out across waterlogged terrain on the way to the village of Flash from where I continued to my destination using extra tarmac travel than usual to keep tiring limbs moving. The last stages took me past Dove Head, Brand Side, Stanley Moor and Grinlow Tower with some ascents that I managed to complete so that I reached my destination in ample time for the next bus that started me on my way home. There was plenty of social distancing even if dallying in Hanley Park during the outbound could have scuppered things but for my taking a chance to get the bus to Leek as it was leaving. The day was largely dull too but that took little away from the experience of both peace and quiet.
It was a desire to go walking in the sea air that encouraged me to go to Llandudno. My mother was big into this kind of thing and that resulted in so many journeys to the Irish coast that I eventually lost interest in inland hill country being more to my taste. Nevertheless, I have done many coastal walks over the years and such was the state of 2020 that I thought that there may be just one occasion when I got to do that during the year.
The stroll started from Llandudno Junction train station and took me past Deganwy and the western side of Llandudno before following the Marine Drive around the Great Orme. That was extended along Llandudno’s promenade too before I went to its train station to start on my way home. Others were encountered along the way but social distancing was mostly possible and there was some sun at times too. Sea breezes made the experience all the more pleasant as well so there might be a return to this section of the North Wales Path and the Wales Coast Path yet. There is more to see around Llandudno too.
The lack of sun on my previous trot from Leek to Buxton provided enough motivation to ensure a partial reprise. There were route deviations through the trot. One took me over a saddle between Hen Cloud and The Roaches instead of going around by Upper Hulme. Thankfully, Ramshaw Rocks were better lit by the sun too so I achieved the main objective of the day and there were fewer people around there too than on the preceding visit. Most were strolling around Hen Cloud and The Roaches, it seemed.
It was after leaving Black Brook Nature Reserve that the next change of route occurred and it was to mean embarking on a different way to Buxton. Flash village was forsaken for going across the A53 earlier and going by a few watersheds on paths and tracks selected from a copious network that included the Manifold Trail. There even was a glimpse of Chrome Hill too to go with earlier views of Croker Hill and Shutlingsloe. This became a day when much variety was seen.
Eventually, I passed into limestone country and hence onto some drier ground to pass Thrikelow Rocks and Diamond Hill on the approach to Buxton. There was pleasant evening sunshine to light much of my way before advancing cloud cover and the lowering of the sun in the sky meant that the show was over for me. After all that I had savoured, that was no deprival and I was in good time to start my train journey home.
The day was forecast to have a cloudy start before brightening up later and that proved to be the way that things went. The sun began to appear earlier than I might have expected. By then, I had committed myself to follow the Midshires Way south from Whaley Bridge for a hike through the Goyt Valley though less cloud could have sent the route in another direction. In the event, the higher route was right for the conditions and took me to places that I had not passed for nearly two decades in much better weather than the original showery afternoon that I endured.
Though I had benefited from views being opened up by forestry clear-felling I still wanted to see more of Fernilee and Errwood reservoirs so I left the trail to do just that. It was by the shores of the latter of these that I continued on my way back to Macclesfield. That took me over Wild Moor where pathfinding was tricky but things got much easier after reaching Goyt’s Moss.
There may have been more uphill travel on the way by Stake Clough but I missed out on Shining Tor in favour of reaching Stake Farm before a crossing of the A537. From there, a concessionary path conveyed me towards Torgate where I used public rights of way to get to the surprisingly named Bottom-of-the-Oven. With tired legs, the way up to Forest Chapel was taken slowly before more height was gained to reach Macclesfield Forest through which I passed in preference to continuing towards Charity Lane.
Hacked Way Lane was my next passing point after leaving the forest before I made my way to Walker Barn via Warrilowhead Farm. There was more uphill travel than was in favour at this point in the day but it all passed without much hardship. From Walker Barn, it was mainly downhill strolling back to Macclesfield once I got onto a byway near Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Back Eddisbury Road and Buxton Road featured next on the way home. Limbs may have been fatigued but the day among the hills was once to relish and savour.
After what was a relatively warm month, the drop in temperatures at the end of September 2020 came as a big surprise. Even so, I still headed to Hayfield to start a hike that would take me to Chapel-en-le-Frith. The day was predicted to cloud over but the bright sunny morning suggested otherwise so I endeavoured to make the most of it.
From Hayfield, I made for Stubbs Farm after which I returned to Pennine Bridleway after a deviation motivate by the possibility of quieter surroundings. Those hopes were met and largely continued as I made my way around Mount Famine and South Head when cloud settled in for the rest of the hike. That, my other designs and the cold stalled any ascents of those hills though I was to reproach myself for going around South Head for much of the rest of the walk. Still, I had the satisfaction of reaching the trig point on Brown Knoll, not far from the source of the River Sett, before wondering at the paving of paths that are not even public rights of way as I made my way to the Chapel Gate track.
The way from there to Chapel-en-le-Frith was both quieter and shorter than expected. Maybe the imagined length had played on my mind around South Head, which remained in view. That was lost as I made my way across fields to Sparrowpit where I met the lane that would take me towards my destination. At its end, there was some more road walking before I found a bus stop just before the next service to Buxton arrived. The day had its share of satisfaction and any unfinished business only will draw me back to the area again for it always is good to have new walking ideas.
This was a trot from Marsden to Hadfield that retraced steps not taken since 2002 when I was only starting hill wandering and a dull day heavily limited photographic efforts even if it brightened up near the end of the day. The reprise saw brighter sunnier weather albeit with a bracing aspect in the form of a stiff chilling easterly wind. Even so, I enjoyed my stroll along the Kirklees Way as it rounded Wessenden Moor and passed numerous reservoirs. Eventually, I passed onto the Pennine Way that conveyed me across the A635, over Black Hill and down into Longdendale. There was an intrusion in the form of an American hiker with two dogs who asked for a photo while my mouth was full of food but that passed and it was the edge above Crowden Great Brook that really held my attention.
On Holy Thursday in 2007, I headed north from Marsden to Littleborough as part of an ongoing Pennine Way project but low cloud intruded on the start of that walk so photos were limited. That made a partial reprise of that hike a possibility so I started from Todmorden on a southbound hike to capture what I had missed. Ultimately, I overdid it and arrived in Marsden in darkness so the compensation had not been gained and it took several returns to the area before photographic possibilities were largely consummated. Still, Calderdale and its nearby moors were kind to me even if their popularity slowed me down at times. From Blackstone Edge, things were much quieter but the day was moving on as I made the most of the available light. Even so, my sightings of the Castleshaw reservoirs left me in doubt as to my misremembrance-enforced tardiness. More was to come in my sightings of Pule Hill and Holme Moor in very much faded light. That was to apply to Redbrook, Black Moss and Swellands reservoirs as well so thoughts of a return were forced into my mind. Eventually light failed and I decided against a steep descent on not finding the path so I went another way that got me to Wessenden Reservoir after an improvised crossing in the absence. Still, the waterfall looked appealing in the night light and it was now easy to stroll back into Marsden in the quietude of the time of day. That did nothing to remediate my mixing up train times so I had a much-delayed train journey back to Macclesfield with a tight connection in Manchester that was aided by the last train to Macclesfield being late. That was just as well since there should have been another only for there being a shortage of train drivers at the time. The day had been eventful and I am not just talking about a momentary standoff with a cyclist around Calderdale either; they seem to be getting everywhere but that is another subject.
Things looked promising as I headed out of Marsden along Waters Road. My good fortune persisted as I continued along the track by Willykay Clough. Unfortunately, it was not to last and I lost out when I wanted the cloud cover to stay away. There also was a biting wind from a northerly direction but that did nothing to keep away the numerous hill runners who were out and about. They went another way so all was quieter again but the sun was in hiding. Scrambler bikes were heard and I wondered what the point of their short rides was with their turning back at a pass to avoid being spotted. It looked a little cheeky to me and I continued on my way on a day full of numerous compensations. One was finding that path that I missed on the previous hike and I was glad that I had not tried it in the dark even if I had a head torch (there has been a scary moment when one did not fall to hand but all was well). The could cover had broken by this point and it have been understandable if I had been wondering at my impatience but the cold would have explained that. By the time that I got back to Marsden, many were outside enjoying what by then was feeling like a warm summer’s day. For me, it was back to the train station for a more timely return home.
Even with the same midday prediction of trouble with cloud cover as the previous encounter with the area, I persisted with another Marsden to Hadfield walking idea. There were variations from where I had gone on previous trots but the walk started similarly to its predecessor. It took a map inquiry from another walker to highlight my slow progress in adjusting to a post-COVID world and I reproached myself for being unforthcoming but I had a long way to go and an appointment with hope. There were bright spots and I made images of the Castleshaw reservoirs that advanced on what went before. The same could be said about Pule Hill and its surroundings because the aftermaths of hail showers bring their recompenses. Other places brought a bit more photographic joy too and a bit of National Trust work made the way to the A635 much easier. Beyond that, navigation and bog trotting became more challenging so getting to Black Hill was slow work. Once there, I did not delay and started the descent to Longdendale by a gentler moorland route that left me with a longer walk to Hadfield and its train station. Even so, the gentle quietude of what is now a heavily industrialised valley laden with reservoirs and pylons prevailed and other walkers shared words with me. Daylight was in short supply as I neared Hadfield but it held long enough for me not to need a head torch. The day had been long and tiring but there was a lot to savour.
2022-04-18 to 2022-04-26
The stay in Limerick city was primarily to deal with pieces of business to which I had planned to attend for several months. However, ideas were put into my head by the availability of better-than-expected weather and the sighting of nearby hills at the end of a day beset with hefty rain downpours.
Thus, a visit to the Clare Glens and a loop around part of the Slieve Felim hills near Newport in Co. Tipperary came to pass as did a wander among the hills to the southwest of Lough Derg on a trip that took in both Killaloe and Ballina on the Clare and Tipperary sides of the Shannon river. The sighting of the expanse of Lough Derg from the top of Feenlea Mountain will remain with me while the possibility of strolling through the Arra Mountains remains another prospect.
In between those, there was a day trip to Killarney that took in the Demesne, Ross Castle and a circuit around Muckross Lake. Sadly, the promised cloud cover dulled enjoyment a little after the promising start to the day so other visits to a well-known and loved spot can materialise.
There also was a cheeky walk out from Limerick city that shadowed the banks of the River Shannon before leaving it to reach the canal dug out to fit the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha and then wending my way back into the city via Parteen. Ideally, I should not have been lured out along the Lough Derg Way because there was another type of business that might have called on me. In the event, my presence was not needed so this was a good use of a warm sunny day.
As I went to and fro, other possibilities were spotted like using Tipperary, Mitchelstown, Caher and Clonmel as access points into their nearby hill country. The list of hills includes the Ballyhoura Mountains, the Galtee Mountains and the Comeragh Mountains. For whatever reason, a sense of liberation appears to be entering my spirit when it comes to exploring what my home country has to offer.
The last Friday of April came free and the weather remained sunny all day so another attempt was made. In many ways, this was a reprise of the third Marsden trip of the year, albeit with many deviations. It also saw me take my time in many ways. The route took me away from Waters Road and past March Haigh Reservoir before I retraced some old steps. Heat haze may have affected views over the Castleshaw reservoirs but what I got was as good as I needed it to be so I was sated. Brun Clough Reservoir saw a visit and I got over the wire fence to rejoin the Pennine Way because my patience did not extend to finding the stile and I often wonder how entry points to access land get so rationed. That made no impact on my mood as I attended to my photographic objectives. Various reservoirs were ticked off a list that also included Wessenden Reservoir and I crossed some rough ground using my access rights to avoid retracing steps. There even was an ascent of Pule Hill so this was a day that was working for me and the evening light was attractive as I returned to Marsden to start my train journey back to Macclesfield. it was now time to look to other places because the moors around Marsden may have seen times when things did not work out for me but they also kept me engaged in so many other ways as well.
It took quite a few years but I eventually got to make use of the idea of going over Lingmoor Fell while also going along Loughrigg Terrace to make a better image of Grasmere than I did with camera film that I did not trust. The day hike began in Great Langdale from where I headed to Blea Tarn before ascending Lingmoor Fell via a pathless steep bank with bracken fronds unfurling before picking up an easier path. Even with time constraints on my mind and the effects of the steep ascent in my legs, I still was lured up to the top of Brown How where some more views could be savoured before continuing on my way to Elterwater, catching a glimpse of Little Langdale Tarn on the way. There were occasional views of Elter Water (the lake, that is) but I was committed to seeing Grasmere and crossed the B5343 to begin my way up towards High Close. That meant feeling some punishing heat while chivvying along my wearied legs until the gradient became more lenient and I got off the lane to start my way along Loughrigg Terrace where my progress was stymied by views over Grasmere as well as stopping to allow passage by bikers and fellow walkers. Picking a quieter way with better views over Rydal Water got me away from both groups for a while even if it meant encountering more uphill sections before the final descents of the day. While some were to be seen going along the lane to Ambleside, I made for the bus stop at Rydal to catch one of the last open-top double-deckers of the day to Windermere where I had some time to refuel before commencing my return train journey to Macclesfield.
2022-05-30 to 2022-06-07
Needing to do a few things in Ireland and wanting to get away from the Jubilee celebrations became enough for me to embark on another trip to Ireland. This time, I based myself in Tralee and the mixed weather did nothing to stop me from making use of whatever time was left to me after attending to required actions. First up was a trot along the Dingle Way from Tralee to Camp on a day of superb sunshine. That was followed by a circuit from Dingle that took in Ventry by way of the Dingle Way and Siúlóid Cholmáin on another sunny afternoon, this time with views of Brandon Mountain, Dingle Bay and the Skelligs. The weather turned for the worse at the weekend but Saturday offered some sunshine before the expected rain arrived for the evening and I pottered along the Greenway before picking up the North Kerry Way and swinging back to Tralee along its ship canal with views of Blennerville and its windmill.
Sunday and Monday became a matter of avoiding the worst of the rain. Travelling to Killarney did that on the first of those days even if meant braving a bikers’ weekend in the town. Still, hiking past Muckross Abbey and Muckross House took me into quieter surroundings while on my way to Torc Mountain, where the lack of any views from the top did nothing to stop me from getting up there. It was only when I got back as far as Muckross Road on my return journey that I saw the chaos being caused by Bikerfest and how uncomfortable things were to feel before I left it to go through the Demesne for quietness and to still myself after closer encounters than I would relish with the pandemic still ongoing.
Monday would see a stroll in much less peopled surroundings when I hiked from Dingle to Annascaul on the Dingle Way. There was a damp start that deflected me from a deviation to the Connor Pass where there probably were no views anyway because of the low cloud. The wetting had me daydreaming about Mananan’s nightly shower bed and his being a late riser but conditions grew ever drier after that with sunshine trying to break through the cloud cover at times. Things remained thus until more rain arrived in Annascaul while I awaited the bus back to Tralee.
The photo gallery revisitation earlier this year reminded me of visits to the Ogwen valley so I eventually got to following on this on a warm sunny day. Initially, I had designs on crossing the hills to Pen-y-Pass or Llanberis but the later start and the speed of travel got me returning to the Ogwen valley again. This circuit took me around by Bwlch Tryfan before ascending Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr before descending via Llyn y Cŵn and Llyn Idwal. There was a scary ascent of Glyder Fach while the descent of Glyder Fawr was just as foreboding; someone else went down a lot of the way on their backside but walking poles helped me to avoid that along with making use of my hands at times. The way down to Llyn Idwal was known to me but is well-pitched and caused more trouble for campers coming the other way. The steepness and the heat of the evening meant that some crawled while I moved steadily from rock to rock. The slowness of any descents was concerning in another way: making the last bus to Bangor in time. Even with the terrain having taken its toll on me, I was at the bus stop with minutes to spare and it was a missed connection in Stockport that delayed my journey home because of needing to wait for scarce taxis.
My previous visit to the Lake District made me recall a walk from my film photography days: the Fairfield horseshoe. Though brutal temperatures were forecast for ensuing days and my night’s rest was below par, I still got to Rydal around 10:00. The day was likely warm but I was not deterred. The hefty ascent up to Heron Pike was not as severe as I recalled it but it was not as quiet either. This was nothing that a refreshment stop would not help because steep slopes cause hikers to bunch together. The next fell top was Great Rigg where views of Grisedeale Tarn opened up as much as they did of other surrounding craggy hills. After that, the final approach to Fairfield started and getting up there brought views toward Helvellyn and St. Sunday Crag before I continued to Hart Crag and Dove Crag. Walking poles helped on the steep descents that awaited me and there were views into Patterdale too with Place Fell being easy to identify. Going on by High Pike and Low Pike meant braving knee-challenging descents and I did remember that these were not so easy. Taking things step by step helped, especially when others were passing; no one wants to hold up others. Eventually, I picked my way onto the public footpath after seeing one challenging down-scramble too many. This also left others to hike their hike as I headed for High Sweden Bridge, from where a quiet and relatively gentle descent dropped me the rest of the way to Ambleside where I could start my journey home after a satisfying day accompanied by friendly fellow travellers who occasionally shared their good humour.
2022-08-02 to 2022-08-10
After more than three years, I finally holidayed away from home during the summertime. Having developed a taste of explorations of Ireland during previous visits to the place, it followed that my summer break was spent there and the weather largely obliged me as well. My time was divided between Killarney and Cork for several reasons; one was the cost of accommodation and another was being able to travel to different places.
My Killarney trip was a very satisfying affair, if a tiring one, with three whole days spent out on the hoof. The first of these took me through Knockreer Park to Ross Castle and around Ross Island before heading to Muckross and circling Muckross Lake. The last of these afforded me some time around the Meetings of the Waters where waters from Upper Lake, Muckross Lake and Lough Leane all meet. A return to Killarney town completed the whole circuitous ramble. The next day, I headed to Kenmare and walked back to Killarney through the hills using the route of the Kerry Way for much of my hike. A chance to reach the top of Torc Mountain was not passed up even if it delayed my return to Killarney and left me quite tired as a result. The third day was to be easier with an out-and-back stroll between Beaufort Bridge and the Gap of Dunloe. Even though a passing rain shower should have persuaded me not to do so, the sight of a sign marking the Black Valley was enough for me to abandon reason and walk all the way back to Killarney instead. It was no help that I had pondered an even longer hike featuring much of where I was to go before rejecting it for being ridiculous. Thus, I passed through the Black Valley in improving weather as I journeyed to Lord Brandon’s cottage and the sights around the Upper Lake rewarded my foolhardiness. Once across the N71, I was heading for a rethread of steps from the previous day with what I would have considered the wrong footwear: trail shoes instead of heavier boots. There was no visit to the top of Torc Mountain this time around and I spent some time at a quiet cascade that I used as a food stop. Torc waterfall was passed instead as I continued to Muckross where cloud cover again broke to gift me with a wonderful finish to the day with many sights like Muckross Friary to savour in the evening sunlight. Strangely, I felt less tired than the day before after all that and I wonder if the lighter footwear had helped.
The day of travelling to Cork granted me the rest that I needed after the long days in Killarney. Being based in Ireland’s second city allowed for other places to visit. There was a day trip to Bantry and Whiddy Island that was followed by a day spent around the Knockmealdown Mountains near Clogheen in County Tipperary which also allowed for an incursion into County Waterford as well. One more day was spent in different places: my time in Kinsale was longer than I had intended but two old forts were visited as I explored the adjoining coastline before I got to revisit old haunts in Cork and give Cobh a flying visit. Temperatures may have been hotter than they were during my time in Kerry but they did not impede my perambulations.
If my time had been longer, there might have been other places visited. Tomies Wood sounds like a worthwhile example near Killarney and other parts of the Iveragh Peninsula are like that. Getting to them would take more planning and the same applies to those in the Beara Peninsula or Sheep’s Head in West Cork. The Comeragh Mountains near Clonmel are another prospect so Irish wanderings are not over but a very satisfying step forward has been made.
When public transportation does not make matters easy, creativity can be the result. While I fancied some time around Stirling on a first post-pandemic trip to Scotland, train service provision did not help that cause. The result was that I did a stopover in Carlisle that facilitated an ascent of Helvellyn on a warm sunny day. My starting point was Glenridding for a longer ascent from the east. The route took me along Greenside Road, by Glenridding Common and over both Whiteside Bank and Lower Man. Even for a day that drew many out of doors, the walk had its share of quieter moments even if Helvellyn’s summit was well-frequented. The way down to Thirlmere was steep with some sections being brutal on my legs. Patient travel was in order but matters were more challenging for those coming the other way; some were beaten by this ascent. In time, I was down on level ground where my legs could be rested while awaiting a bus to Keswick. There had been pleasing views with many extending into the distance as far as Skiddaw and Blencathra, among other Lakeland fells.
2022-08-28 to 2022-08-31
After my Helvellyn ascent, I continued from Carlisle to Stirling. My objective might have been a walk over the Ochil Hills but I was distracted by thoughts of ascending Ben Ledi. That was how I occupied myself on one of the better days of the trip even if there was some low cloud at times. The way from Callander involved an out-and-back hike along the Rob Roy Way. The out-and-back theme also applied to the ascent itself though I was tempted to go another way only to be blocked by forestry operations. There was some sunshine at times but it was not enough to fully exploit the views with a camera.
If thoughts of returning were not seeded by this, they definitely were by my incursion into the Ochil Hills for these were covered by wettening low cloud. My planned ascent from Tillicoultry was scuppered by a collapsed path section so I doubled back towards Alva. That took me through the Ochil Hills Woodland Park before I turned for Ben Ever. From there, I was in the clouds until I neared Dollar. Good handrails made for confident navigation over Ben Cleuch, Andrew Gannel Hill and King’s Seat Hill. All that gave me a good soaking so I was glad to lose the cloud for clearer views on the way down to Dollar. From there, I continued to Tillicoultry where I got a bus back to Stirling, oblivious of my eyes having been shielded from the sight of wind turbines.
The next morning came sunny so I battled low battery charge to get some sunny photos near Alva before going south to my home again. That got me some satisfaction even if my phone had to be used when the camera battery finally lost power. The possibility of a return was etched into my mind.
2022-09-17 to 2022-09-20
Not being a royalist, my mind was not set on following the royal funeral so I got to scratch the itch left after my previous visit to Stirling. The yomp over the Ochil Hills was reprised in clearer conditions even if clouds got in the way of sunshine too often for my liking. Alva was my starting point this time around and I headed to Ben Buck instead of Ben Ever. After that, the route echoed the earlier one with a greater awareness of the proximity of a wind farm than might have been ideal. There were some sunny periods when I was around King’s Seat Hill so that was a bonus. Otherwise, the prospect of a more sunlit return entices.
The same could be said about my repeat visit to the top of Ben Ledi. This was not a direct repeat either because I followed a circuit from a guidebook that got me to the shore of Loch Lubnaig before I ascended Stank Glen to reach Bealach nan Corp. Sunshine again was in short supply but views were better and I was spared an indignity when I suffered a wardrobe malfunction that needed to be covered with overtrousers. After reaching the top of Ben Ledi, there was a reprisal of the route from the previous encounter.
The next morning, I decided on an earlier departure from Stirling to get home. There remains an element of unfinished business so a return remains a possibility. First, I need to be on the lookout for a good weather window in times with ample hours of daylight. Going somewhere when you are available often means that the weather is not ideal and that was somewhat the case with this year’s trips to Stirling and what lay around it.