The Circle closes

Warning:

This post contains frank and robust language, if you are easily offended (you big snowflake) then you’d be best flouncing off now!

 

I’m fairly sure that I’ve pinched that header from Stephen King’s epic pandemic-themed “The Stand”, kind of poignant given the state of things.

So, what’s been going on?

  1. The world turned to shit – sorry, did you miss that bit?

2. The flat sale fell through, either as a direct result of point “1”, or because one of the below was a complete incompetent:

  • a. The potential buyer, who was a bit soft in the head and for a thirty-something year-old really should learn to speak up for himself.
  • b. Our Solicitors’ “Conveyancer & Team Leader” was at best, a dick!
  • The buyer’s solicitor got fired…or at least that’s what we were told. Personally I think the buyer’s control- freak of a father put that one out there as a delaying tactic to try and get the price down! Never admit you’ve got a purchase lined up folks – some twats will use the possibility of you losing your purchase as a bargaining tool!

3. Both Chris and I have been working from home…and enjoying it, well it’s hard to feel bad about a three-second commute!

There’s no two ways about it, working at / from home is a completely different experience, you get to have the TV or radio on – we’ve chosen to alternate as too much TV can be really quite boring and each mainstream internet radio station has a playlist of about thirty songs, and there’s just only so much Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa to which you can be subjected!

Now, it’s hard to deny that we are right on the border of comfortable working, the flat is too small for two people to live let alone set up an Argos table and two chairs and two monitors and two laptops every day…but we manage. And I drink a lot of coffee!

Of course I’ve still had to get out and about, whereas some people took every instruction and guideline from our wonky government as gospel…no matter how much we tried to get it mixed up, they said we could do an hour’s exercise, then someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about said – there was no time limit…I was never going to stick to any time limit anyway and on V.E. Day (to which I still strongly object) I walked close to twelve miles…not in an hour!

I am lucky to live near “The Moss”, a large tract of agricultural land punctuated by the odd road, which only Southport cyclists seem to find worth venturing upon! Thus this leaves most of the area free for me to walk with limited fear of catching Covid 19 off someone hyperventilating, even I have to agree that I couldn’t say the same about a potential walk to either of my two local haunts, the West Pennines and Pendle. In essence, this is a compromise, however, it doesn’t feel one when you’re pounding the pavement on route to Longmeaneygate – yes, that’s really the name of a street, admiring the Cow Parsley and Ragwort, and by God has there been a lot of those aforementioned flowering weeds in bloom this year! In addition I’ve started to ‘Covert! – ‘oh really?’ I hear you wonder, no, nothing sinister, I plucked up the courage to walk through a small wooded area, purely out of curiosity really and its name is Pitts House Covert…I found this vaguely amusing. This little micro-forest has quickly become a favourite and when Chris joins me, even she likes it there, the Photo’s to follow.

So although I’ve not exactly being stomping all over the county (country?) I have been getting in the odd mindful walk to counteract the effects of otherwise being stuck in the flat for almost 24 hours per day, some days.

On a related note, hasn’t it been sodding hot this spring / summer. I’m not against that, but as we live in a first floor flat, lugging 15 litres of water down to hydrate the flowers etc does get to be something of a chore which is why I’ve practically basked in the odd fleeting shower – again photos to come, of the flowers – not me basking!

The lockdown in itself has been good for me. There, I’ve said it. There was no denying that January’s and February’s (God I fucking hate this laptop’s tiny keyboard!) stress over the flat sale and subsequent fail took its toll on me in terms of stress, the lockdown purely and simply took that away. No, I would not have wanted tens of thousands of my fellow countrymen and millions of people across the world to die just so I could destress, that would be ridiculous and inhumane. I’m just saying that for me, it’s worked out, by and large, to be quite therapeutic. I’ve even enjoyed shopping, albeit at the height of the “key workers are angels” phase it was obnoxious being treated as fodder by store workers – hey treat me as you would want me to treat you is all that I would want.

We’ve put the flat back on the market, and up to now: 16/6/2020 we have had three viewers. I was suckered in by the first one who was oh so positive about the place that I thought he was going to put in a bid there are then – I’ve learned, this means ‘I’m too embarrassed to tell you how much I don’t want this place!’ I don’t expect we’ll get any real interest until lockdown is well and truly over and even then it might not be until after Christmas, so we’ll just have to deal with living life as it is and not get stressed. I don’t like stress – it smells metallic, yes it does!

Ultimately with regards to the year thus far, I do find myself harking back to the Amble in February walking along Catherine Edge with the brilliant “Everything I wanted” by Billie Eilish going through my head and just contrasting how different everything was then compared to now.

And as I am ready to click publish, we have just accepted an offer on the Flat – one circle closes…

 

 

 

 

Introducing the Walk of freedom

Coming soon, but only after lockdown, Saturday 5th September, 2020

What’s your motivation for this walk?

Well, this is an easy one, I’ve not been on a walk of over five miles since February when I did the 17-miles version of the Anglezarke Amble. I miss my time out on the moors immensely. I am a member of the Facebook group “I belong to Bolton “ where during the lockdown there have been numerous posts related to the magnificent scenery which makes a fantastic backdrop to most Bolton scenes. This walk will be a celebration 🥳 a huge and resounding sigh of relief of having made it through this terrible virus 🦠

Route map for Walk Of Freedom by Mark Wild on plotaroute.com

For those requiring a text description, I’ll add a printable pdf at some point but for now, here goes:

We start off at the smallest two car parks at Rivington near to the Rivington Hall Barn. We head west for a couple of hundred feet before taking a right hand turn. This bears right and for a few minutes we’ll be heading in the opposite direction to which we just came from, fear not, all too soon we will be on the main bridal way to lead up to all the attractions. We’re now going uphill!

After several hundred metres, the path splits, we are going to take the left hand route, the right hand one will lead you back to the Japanese gardens should you so desire. The path steepens a little but then levels out. There are numerous left hand turn-offs but essentially we are keeping to the same track until next to the disused toilet block, a lovely feature of the route.

Now, we are going to take the obvious route up to the Pike via the steps. These can be a bit of a nightmare so if you want to take the slightly more circuitous route which branches off to the left hand side then go for it, we’ll see you at the top! For the rest of us it’s a short, sharp ascent of the huge steps before puffing, panting and swearing at me and then we are at the top of the first climb.

Have a breather (please), take some selfies and enjoy the view. Yes that really wide path does lead up to Winter Hill, no, it is in no way as easy as it looks, but it’s brilliant in snow!

Okay, lazy bones, the next part is really easy as we head south and fall off the pike towards the unremarkable Brown hill. Mind your footing here, gravity is not your friend on this descent. When we’re sick of watching our own feet, turn left and onto the broad track. This is a bumpy road but it’s very easy to follow and makes for a lovely distraction before we turn…yes, left again just after the Rivington dog hotel. This starts off steep but does get progressively easier in time. After the major climb you’ll notice a yellow marked finger post, keep to the right of this, just for fun, I’ve thrown in Two Lads! Its proper name is Crooked Edge Hill, Two Lads refers to the gigantic cairns at its summit, sometimes there are two cairns and other times there can be up to five.

Again, have a breather, take some photos and recall happier times when that big stadium you can see used to play host to a premiership team 🤦‍♂️ We’ll head off slightly east before joining the road which (eventually) leads us past the main television antenna. Once at the apex of the road we’ll be turning left and off up the service road before leaving the road in order to tap the o/s column at the highest point of the walk, with regret, it’s usually the muddiest too! Congratulations, we are now at the apex of the walk.

So, there is some more observing of the feet to be done once we set off through the muddy gate (you’ll see!) but believe me this is where this walk starts to get all kinds of beautiful as we drop hundreds of feet to Hampsons Pasture. We walk along a collapsed wall and cross a race track! We are now in the land of the river Yarrow and once we start to climb up to Will Narr you’ll even see a plaque dedicated to that body of water courtesy of “The friends of the Yarrow”.

By now, (September) the path should have reapaired itself from the damage inflicted upon it by the hordes of mountain bikers who frequent the area. Or, if it’s raining then we’ll be back to a bit of uphill slip and sliding, it isn’t that bad and the path we are taking is not at all hard to follow, look dead ahead and the tiny bump which seems to keep growing bit by bit is Great Hill and is our next destination summit. I say that but in all honesty we have to surmount the peaks of first Spitlers Edge then Redmonds Edge, good luck finding them as there are no ciarns or trig points and all of the summit plains look the same height from up close. Soon enough we hit the slabs. These are apparently the broken up millstone floors of, well former mills I guess. Where there are pools of water they can contain all sorts of colours and there is only the odd one which tips up and soaks your feet when you stand on it!

Throughout this walk I’d recommend that you watch your footing, not that it is so bad but nobody wants to twist an anle on this moor – we are now on the best of them – Anglezarke and we’d need to call Mountain Rescue if you injured yourself as no ambulance could ever deal with this terrain. Look! We’ve got closer to Great Hill it’s just over this stile, then up that tiny slope.

From here it’s all lovely…okay there are some muddy patches in between the ruins of Drinkwaters farm and the turn off near the trail shafts at another Brown Hill (notice how these are nearly always muddy, what does clean brown look like?). Just look at the views, someone might need to nudge me if I’m gawping at Pendle Hill…I do that! The slabs lead us away from Great Hill’s summit – wasn’t that cruciform shelter handy for avoiding the wind, also wasn’t it hard to stand up after being sat at the shelter? We head quite swiftly downhill. A number of times the path stops looking quite so engineered and y’know neat, but it is easy to follow. Stop for a few minutes at Drinkwaters farm (ruin), don’t drop any litter (anywhere, ever) but especially not here, you’ll kill the peaceful vibe this place has in spates!

And so we take the turn off left – or end up in Brinscall and I don’t think history shows anyone ever really meaning to go to Brinscall! So take the left with the dodgy looking handrail (if it is up on the day), use it at your peril because it isn’t attached to anything so, y’know, good luck! The path really drops its pretentions of being a path here, so you’ll have to either follow the millions of footprints or wait for me! Soon enough we run into a little bit of a boulder track, it’s easy to fall over here but it is just as easy to stay on your feet, just slow down a bit…I find no problem at all in doing that! We gingerly snake our way down this ever-narrowing rock path and notice that by now water has started to trickle onto the track. One last severe drop and we are on the final few metres to White Coppice Cricket Ground. I hate cricket with a passion but we will wait for a while for people to take photographs of Lancashire’s most picturesque ground. Once relaxed and refreshed we pick up the trail again and head off along quite a wide track which undulates as it passes the notorious Stronstrey Bank – I gathter it’s quite well regarded by crag rats and the like. There are lots of sheep around but these are quite easily spooked and shouldn’t bother us.

Onwards and through the gate as we cross over Moor Road, watch out for cyclists as this is an adrenalin drop of a slope and they don’t take prisoners who have dawdled in their way! Gape in awe at the sign informing you that this patch of land(?) belongs to Southport Angling Society (well we only have the Sluice and that’s devoid of all fish!), as we drop down a bit then up a bit and onto a really narrow path punctuated by the occasional weird bridges which are no more than eight inches elevated and have a welcome mudbath at either side! I don’t know who “Alice” is but she seems to have graffited herself onto every gate and stile from now until the end (and you’ll be pleased to hear that this is now less than three miles away!). We pass along a sheeptrod which can be really slippy or a breeze to walk upon depending on recent weather. And then it’s a big drop, not very far but it’ll have you watching your feet for definite!

Now we go uphill for a little stretch – more metres than miles I’m glad to say and at its summit we turn left to pass by the empty High Bullough Reservoir. Through the gate with the big heavy lead counter weight (don’t bother trying to steal it, you’ll die of either Lead poisoning or exaustion before you get two miles!) and then we are up to another major drop. Seriously, you would not want to expose bare skin to this  surface which looks like a cross between tarmac and millstone grit, I imagine this would sting like a ******* so don’t fall!

We make it to the bottom of that gigantic drop and corner (what do you mean it was only about twenty feet?), and now it’s time for some lovely ambling as we gently pass the magnificent Anglezarke reservoir on our right hand side…and some interesting moss on our left – it’s absolutely lovely here.  After what feels like two miles, it isn’t, we hit the road which in effect is the other side of Moor Road which we passed ages ago. Cross carefully, you’ve been warned, there’s a killer of a blind corner here. We turn right (aha!) and then cross to eventually wind our way up the Chute! This is another impressive spectacle when it’s in spate. Uphill some more and ultimately we reach the green wall which is the western slope of the Yarrow reservoir, turn right. This path is very straight forward and if we’d only done a mile or so then it would be a breeze to walk on, however, by this time we have walked close to ten and the attention is not quite what it should be, it’s hilarious to watch others stumbling but when it happens to us… The views to Winter Hill, Dovecote and Rivy Pike open up remarakably here, go on…bask, you really have earned it.

At the gate which has seen better days, turn …left, then after less than 20 metres, turn right and go through another kissing gate, then we walk carefully alongside a stream which never gets a name in any publication I’ve read. Ultimately, just as we are thinking ‘oh this is all very civil’, we are confronted with a flight of steps. They are far easier than they look and after that it really is all plain sailing all the way to the final kissing gate where the skinny amongst us won’t struggle, but the rest of us will have to take off our backpacks, it’s a tight squeeze.

And then we fall out and onto Sheephouse Lane, god willing we won’t get mowed down by passing traffic. take a left here – hey it’s far safer than going right, and we will head uphill for a few hundred feet until a side entrance can be seen on the right. Take that and it will bring us back onto the long track back to the car park.

There, I’ve got us all around Rivington and Anglezarke, anyone fancy signing up for the 24-miles version of the West Lancs LDWA Anglezarke Amble in February, I’ve blatantly pinched about five miles of their route for this one?

 

 

 

Preparing the battleground

At last! An ‘Office Garden’ post!

Yep, it’s been a while, so long in fact that I simply cannot remember the last one.

In the light of the recent viral outbreaks – what? You think there’s only one? I thought it wise to do my usual thing and see if a cleaner lifestyle or just environment might yield better immunity against Covid 19. Okay, so I read an article on how houseplants can aid in health, from general well-being and mindfulness to more scientifically proven theories.  Amongst the houeplant growing community the NASA research of 1993 and subsequent book in 1995 is undoubtedly, folklore. Perhaps, mis-guidedly so, in that the sheer volume of plants to square footage required is just not practical for the home or work environment. However, that does not mean that we can’t borrow from the studies . Indeed we don’t actually want totally clean air for one very startlingly obvious reason:

It would reduce the efficiency of our immunity systems and ultimately we’d go the way of the martians from H.G. Wells’ – War of the Worlds. Yes I know the book is a work of fiction but it has science at its heart.

Photo of a very weakened Crassula
Come on Crassie, have a bit of fight in you…

Anyway, now that I’ve finished being pseudo-pedantic, the obvious place to me to ‘green up’ was my desk at work – seeing as I spend most time awake there and (sorry guys) there are statistically more pathogens around for me to absorb! It’s no secret that I like a good plant. Sadly, it’s no secret that I’m not so adept at keeping the poor buggers alive and in the last year have lost a fair few from my desk (owing to dehydrating and conversely over-hydrating), even now an unknown variety of Crassula is fighting for its life (c’mon Crassie, keep on in there!). But I have to try, my mother did have green fingers – I just don’t seem to have inherrited them and I am more of learn by experience kind of guy as far as all things horticultural are concerned.

 

Prior to today I had a desktop collection of:

  1. One Ficus Benjamina (in a 3″ pot)
  2. One Ficus Benjamina being trained as a bonsai
  3. Two Spider plants that were gifted to me by family
  4. A lemon and lime Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans) again this is not doing so well.
  5. A pretty poorly looking Christmas Cactus
  6. An Aldi Easter cactus which rewarded me with one flower…which promptly fell off!
  7. A Peperomia Obtusifolia which always looks like it’s struggling but has this year grown two new leaves (alas, one died back)
  8. A Calathea Rufibarba with leaves which look desert-touched, even though the soil is always moist!
  9. One Fiddle-leaved fig that did look really poorly but has now grown two big leaves and is looking happier
  10. A Fittonia (unknown variety) which was looking great until dehydrating here at Christmas and now looks like it is battling at best!
  11. A lovely Ficus Elastica which is growing really slowly but looks okay at the moment
  12. A weird air-plant
  13. A Peace lily which has been such a wilting snowflake but does get a really nice white flower
  14. One Dracaena deremensis Warneckii (yeah, we’re gonna need a common name for that some time soon!)
  15. A Madagascar Dracaena which seems to think it’s a type of grass as it will not grow in the vertical plane!

As well as other plants taking over our home (the golden Pothos is not so golden, yet it is amazing).

And that’s it…until you factor in this morning’s additions:

Photo of a newly purchased phlebosia
See the bunny?
Photo of a newly purchaesed Maidenhair Fern
What a stunner, set off by the blue background

Phlebosia – species as of yet not known, I’ve only just got it and it will take a while finding out. This was something of an impulse buy from Tesco for £2.50.I won’t lie, I did forget that some fern plant roots can end up looking downright creepy and what one botanist refers to as “Rabbit’s Foot” can look a lot more like “Tarantula’s Leg”. This little star already has a couple of furry apendages sprouting out of the soil, so we’ll just have to see what it transforms into and whether or not this is going to freak out me and the entire office! Adiantum – one of 250 known varieties referred to as “Maidenhair Fern” and isn’t she a super looking little bundle of joy? This was only £2.50 from Tesco.  I look at her and think ‘awww, isn’t she pretty?’ These plants have something of a reputation of being divas – well she’s gonna fit right in next that always-looking near death Calathea Rufibarba then! But it appears that the reputation they have is not earned and as long as the soil is always a bit on the moist side and the light is alright (it is, one thing we do get right here is the light is nice and ubiquitous!) then she should thrive away…not too fast I hope as I only have limited desk room and to be totally fair-minded, it is supposed to be an office and not my own personal fernary! But wouldn’t that be great?

Photograph of a newly purchased Polystichum Biaristatum
Ignore the monkey, feast your eyes on the Fern.

Anyway, one last purchase to feature and it is a weird sounding one. Polystichum Biaristatum for £5.00 from Morrisons. Yes, I’ve never heard of them either but a common name for it is Upright Shield -Fern, which returns no practical results at all from Google . It was with a ceramic pot which I have inadvertantly left in the car! This appears to be something of a newcomer to the houseplant world as there are just not many sites featuring it, I may have to contact Summer Rayne Oakes about this as what she doesn’t know about plants is not worth knowing!

And so that’s it for this minor update. On my next Saturday when I am here I may well take photos of all of the plants individually, plus some other other bigger ones that we have here, it’s all getting a bit more green and well that in itself gives the illusion of being happier and healthier. For those of you who are interested here are some links to give more in-depth details of NASA’s 1993 findings:

 

2020 going forward

I had an entire section on here entitled “The Move”. This was a names-amended narrative on our house-move, with a bit of humour thrown in. I’ve taken this down, I might think I’m funny, others may just be a tad offended, and yet others have access to lawyers at discount prices…

So, I have to concentrate on what I can alter / amend / create in my life. That’s this blog folks…and its sister. You didn’t know it had a sister? Well, I guess I can keep secrets after all. (Or not!)

Endorse Thyself.

It isn’t ready yet so I’ll save you a wasted journey.

What?

A Psycho in the making…

Wow you’re very direct today! Okay so this is an itch which got scratched, then started to bleed, then morphed into another itch, which (at the moment) looks very much like the previous itch. So now you’re sat at your desk, or on the bus, (if you’re driving then put the damn phone down, pillock!) scratching away at the itch I’ve just NLP’d onto you and at the same time wondering just wtf this guy is banging on about! Linked-in, to be honest I still perceive it as another arrow in the stalker’s quiver!

 

On LI you can, if you so desire, endorse people. That’s kinda nice isn’t it? You can say that you went to uni with this person who was such a hard worker and was meticulous and so on…Or you can say that when Sandra Smith worked at your company customer service was at an all-time high and you rue the day you let her get away for a meagre 10% pay rise. Like I say, that’s nice.

Say no to manipulators trying to get a free endorsement!

However, not quite so nice is meeting people at a sales event or conference, harvesting their name and email address and then tracking them down on LI purely for the sake of asking them to endorse you…or just as bad, promising you that they’ll endorse you if you do the same back. That’s kinda manipulative, and that’s coming from someone who can push the envelope on the Machiavellianism scale!

“So this is my tape I’m sending you…” sorry, got all Eminem then! So, this is my response (actually this is referrenced on my LI profile), essentially a website (WordPress-based) which will be geared towards you being you, not being driven by what others will think or say about you, or promise to say about you.  Of course you have to take the orientation of the author into account, (I mean walking, not some kind of Shetland Ponies in high-heels obsession). I’m aiming to make this into a challenge-walk, sign-up portal, with actual information about what I’m attempting to organise and why. Examples are: Gathering a bunch of people together in order to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks – for charity, or doing the Anglezarke Amble (the big route) and further afield, walks like the Helm Wind walk or even the Lake District 10 which I imagine is going to be incredibly hard!

 


What else?

HIC.. that’ll do nicceeleee
Okay, so this one might just kill me

In other news. I really should start to get into a more healthy shape. As such I am going carb-min and cutting out a large chunk of the simple carbs that I would normally cram-in from pies and take-a-ways and even the odd (daily) muffin, I may still have one of those per week – surely that won’t kill me? The stress over the flat sale might not necessarily have turned me into an alcoholic…but I think they’d let me into their parties! Crikey what fun parties they’d be! But it’s fair to say that I have knocked back a fiar bit of booze this year and it’s only…Marchuary (hic). I am aiming to just have one bottle of wine per weekend. History has highlighted to me that I don’t sleep well on Sunday nights, throw wine into the mix and that sleep is an idea, a great but distant dream, spot the ironic twist there! Obviously then the wiser path would be to open a bottle on Friday night- ‘cos y’know watching Gogglebox completely sober is just pointless, then save the other half a bottle until Saturday evening, when let’s be honest you need some help to get through the dreadful t.v. schedule!

Already this year I’ve been to the gym five times, I even went knowing that it would be open! I do need to work much harder on turning that number into those numbers but now is not the time to be beating myself up about that! We’ll see how that pans out but I would be very happy to make three visits per week the norm.

¿Y más?

The best way to learn a language

I’ve decided to pick-up where I left off with Duolingo. It had me down as being fluent in both Spanish and Italian at one time, now for some reason I’m just an intermediate in Spanish, ¿Por que? ¡Lo siento, pero no se! It’s not widely known on the web, ‘cos I’m British and traditionally we don’t excel at learning new languages, that I am something of a polyglot . I’m one of those people who can hear languages and start to pick them up. It’s not a very rare thing, my brother-in-law has the same thing. I’d like to be able to hold an in-depth conversation with a Spanish or Italian (or Romanian) and discuss more than the weather, so I’ll be spending some quality time with the earphones on then immersing myself in either Spanish, Italian and the odd bout of Polish – just because!

Writing

Whilst I’m not trying to make this post sound like ‘see what I can do’ bragging blog – that does sound kinda catchy, dunnit, I have always harboured a desire to write a book …or five! the first one that I ever started, had a good theme but I kind of wandered so far away from the original idea that I just burried in until later…and took the title “Something Inside” with me. It was the next one “The Calling” which, after close to thirty years, has been the one to which I always return, I think I’ve added-to and edited-from this enough times to have rewritten the thing from start to finish at least twice. However, I do plan on giving this a final push towards publishing at some point in the next 12-months! My good friend Becky has already read this (cos y’know you ask someone to read it and they just don’t ahem Cerys, ahem Joanna, ahem Hannah!) and didn’t come in to work pointing a finger at me and suggesting I try another medium (say for example, interpretive dance) so maybe…But, a recent encounter (or two) with a certain feisty person has left in me the desire to rewrite another one from the past: The Dark Places (working title, cos y’know, it’s pants!). And no, I am not going to do anything nasty to name withheld…well apart from make her one of two adopted twins who starts to have gory visions of a crazed serial killer…I’ve said too much!

So, a little bit to be getting on with then…ciao, adios, noroc, por ahora!


The 2020 Anglezarke Amble (shorter route)

Warning, this post does contain emphatic / robust language. If you’re easily offended I’d **** off now if I were you!

Oh how I hate to refer to this as the shorter route, as it is, in my opinion, in no way less challenging than the longer route, just less milage and ‘shorter’ kind of demeans this!

If there are worse kept secrets than my desire to complete the West Lancs hosted Anglezarke Amble each year, then I don’t want to know them! I bang on about this event incessantly so when the time came to actually take part in this year’s epic slog, solo, I was chomping at the bit (there is no verb – to champ so will everyone please stop saying otherwise). Besides a damn good walk in very muddy country this would give me a chance to have a minor respite away from the house-moving saga which seems set to last until April at least (although which April I’m not sure!).

So, as you might expect, I was at the start (08:00) by 07:25 as I am just not a last minute type of person (oh how I wish this was different). Registrations complete, I was back outside and ready for the off by 07:38 and decided all I could do was loiter. 08:00 arrived and we all headed north…well kind of north. I don’t like being in mass walks when stiles and gates are factored in so I kind of made my own way, appending some of the route so as to avoid getting stuck behind / being a burden, on the last stepped section leading up to Rivington Pike. In total this would have added around a five-hundred feet to the route but that’s not really salient. I did get chatting to someone on route who informed me that there was no requirement to actually go to the top of the pike, as that’s what the runners do, skip it altogether. Well for me, the Amble just isn’t the Amble without touching the tower atop the pike, hmph!

Photo of The Yellow Army...ascending!
The Yellow Army…ascending!

Next came the (I always feel) uneasy descent passing Brown Hill and onto Belmont Road before turning off to head up Crooked Edge Hill, often referred to as “Two Lads”…these were the two huge stone cairns at the top of the hill, now there is one enormous one…and about three to seven children cairns depenedent on what time of year one ascends the summit of this ‘little toughie” of a hill.  The route detours before CEH’s summit to a rather boggy and muddy track which then leads to Winter Hill – the road. Yes folks, not only have ‘they’ named a hill Winter Hill, but also the TV station antenna is known as ‘Winter Hill’ and so is the road up to it! It was around this time, nearly close to ten past nine when I was passed on the road by…mostly everyone to be honest. On long walks such as this, I don’t get my second wind until waaaaayyyyy after everyone else gets theirs! The group I remember the most was the “Yellow Army” who appeared to be a mostly female (I mean most of them were ladies, not they were all transitioning!) group adorned in the most illuminated yellow tops that I’ve ever seen, honestly, you could not lose these people in fog…especially going off the noise they were summoning! All good spirits…the cheerful sods!

So now, having passed by my first checkpoint (Winter Hill) we began the long drop down the north-east face of Winter hill. It’s a good enough path, some mud but otherwise okay, but the type of route that I like to do on my own as there are parts where I’d have preferred to take my foot off the methaphorical gas pedal. There is no ambling around on the Amble and the added pressure of not wanting to hold others up sometimes does drag one’s spirits down a tad! I did nearly fall over on two occasions but I thought that I would save the genuine falls until later in the walk! The crossing of Belmont Road (A675) is always something to focus one’s concentration as the cars passing by are doing at least 50 mph. Next step was my least favoured part of the entire route: Green Bastard Hill!

You won’t find Green Hill (this one) on ordnance survey maps. It really is not that relevant to most people except for the ones who decided at some point to stick a farm on it named…Greenhill Farm. After one has summounted the rather high stile one descends into lots and lots and lots of mud…and the odd occasional cow pat! I hate this part of the route as it is so CROW – a path in theory as opposed to a real one! I ended up walking sideways down moss and reeds as the main trampled path – where the other 300+ people in the last twenty minutes had been, resembled one slippery cattle wade. I hate this part of the route. Another slip and slide as we head towards an unnamed stream and then it was up a steep and slippery climb to Egerton Road and then onto checkpoint two (Belmont) – I had made it to the cut-off point with a good twenty five minutes to spare! But, I still hate that part of the route!

By this time I had a right old case of jelly legs and decided to take on some carbs in the form of a SIS energy gel, which did the trick, and prompted a comment from someone “time for a sis already eh?”. Well yeah!

The next section would mark the departure from the main ‘long’ route but first I had the first half of Longworth Moor with which to contend. Longworth Moor, in its entirity is sodding wet! By now, lots of people were coming together – there are drier ways of making it to this point of the landscape, via cheating (I know because I had considered it) and by now most of us muddy ones were looking a bit caked in it around the shin area! Nevertheless it was with an enormous deal of delight that I spied the sign on the nearing horizon which indicated “Short and Long”. I’m 5’6″ so I went for short! Charley’s pole is actually not a pole,  there is a sign there, I think it’s owned by the national trust or even ordnance survey, if it is owned by Charley” then nobody knows who he is / was / will be. All the same, it was a fantastic feeling to have made it six miles into the route, safe in the knowledge of:

  1. It all gets quite a lot easier for a good few miles from here on in.
  2. It all gets quite a lot quieter (sorry Yellow Army) and you get to look forward most of the time (instead of over your shoulder to look out for would be overtakers).
  3. It’s a fair bit drier, but there is still standing water so let’s not get carried away, (carpet slippers it is not!).
  4. There are no two ways about it, the less time that you spend walking next to Turton Heights the better, it’s a shithole!

So, we’re on Catherine Edge – that’s a place not a person (apparently there is only me in the entire world who finds that funny!). And although there is a fair bit of water I am ecstatic (or as happy as us reserved Ainsworth / Sandgrounder types get) to be able to go at my own pace…and that I’m able to relax. The views of neighbouring hills (Spitlers Edge, Redmonds Edge and a distant peek at Great Hill) lift my spirit, this is country walking. Occasionally I met with other none-Amblers who are walking towards me. All is well. It isn’t until gone eleven a.m. that I come across the farm which I refer to as Big dog farm. Aptly named as they have a Caucasian Shepherd Dog here which is the size of a semi-detached house! I noticed they have now adopted two Tibetan Mastifs which does make me wonder what the hell they are protecting? I consider taking a photo of Big Dog but he barks and I can almost feel my phone being pulled out of my hand each time the leviathan breathes in! Big dog is a handsome dog, I just think he could kill you in a heartbeat if he so desired!

After a lovely eon I arrived at the gate whereby for some reason, those who designed the route thought it might be fun to send us up a slope then down the other side. I’m happy enough to do this and just as happy to direct the group of three women walkers in front of me (who are just about to venture on to Crooksfield Road for no reason). To open the gate requires a doctoral thesis to be submitted or a pint of unicorn blood, a kick also works! The gradient is quite quickly reached but does leave me puffing and panting for a while and this impacts upon my ability to answer the ladies next question on how to progress? I try telling them that it’s just a question of through the gate, walk along the road then turn right to get to Slipper Lowe but, not for the first time, I cannot recall what Slipper Lowe is called and can only think of Teanlowe – which was a Burtons pie shop in Pulton-le-Fylde! So we all cross the road then spend ten minutes descending only to re-ascend the slope and ultimately ‘luck-into’ the checkpoint (Slipper Lowe every body, if you see me next year for the love of God tell me it’s called Slipper Lowe).

At last I am relieved to use the Nescafé cup that I’ve been seemingly carrying pointlessly for the last ten miles! I even recognise the odd face or two – a gorgeous girl from the start – believe me, you’d recognise her too as her face is nothing short of beautiful, even her partner is a bit of a babe…then I remember, I need carbs and all of a sudden, everyone appears normal again! Finally, I am at a place where I am able to sit down. I text Chris to let her know my progress, I’ve abandoned way before now on two occasions and her encouraging responses are all that I need to finish my drink and set off again. I try to keep up with the three women – they are about to take a wrong turning and head off towards Blackburn, then again near the path to Hollinshead Hall they’re doing the same thing. Walkers’ curse I call it, the overwhelming desire to turn left before one needs to do so. Honestly, if it was not for me they would have done some serious milage. Thankfully, I then run into walking friends Sue and Karl and some other woman to whom I am not  introduced. This is brilliant as I hadv’t seen them for almost a year and I could quite easily spend the next hour just catching up. Ultimately it’s Sue who declares that they don’t want to hold me up, which is kind and thoughtful and I dejectedly make my way towards the A675 again, Great Hill is waiting for me, only me, he has it in for me today! Great Hill is a whaleback, all whaleback hills are male!

It takes me virtuallty no time at all to get to the road. Unlike previously when Mark and I completed, we were so far behind that we only ever saw stragglers. Today i got to engage with the faster of those doing the longer route, you’d think this would make me take a down-spiral in mood…

Great Hill’s path is sticky and wet and muddy and energy zapping in the extreme. Many people overtake me and I do not care. Gorgeous and her other half pass me by whilst I am kneeling on the floor having mis-timed a jump over a minor mud-stream. We exchange comments about me admiring the view, for the next thirty minutes or so and she counters that she knows just how I feel. She must be hiding it well then as they both look like they have just stepped out of their car! In the grand scheme of all things, Great Hill is an easy, 1,250′ little hill. On the Amble day, it’s a complete and utter git (and that’s being diplomatic). The gradient just seems to rise severely very near to the top so that what you think is a summit is in fact an outlying peat hag! Karl and Sue had warned me (because they’d already been here today) that the summit was on the blustery side today, I am glad of it. The breeze is soothing and I am over-joyed to have a few solitary seconds at the top to think and bask in the knowledge that it is all downhill for a good few miles from here.

But these are not just any miles, these are Great Hill miles and you’ve always got to be aware of the next step on Great Hill. I don’t fall, not even stumble (unlike the last time a fortnight earlier) and I fondly look forward to grabbing another few moments of rest at Drinkwaters Farm ruins, this has become my place. Soon enough I start off again, feeling better after more gel and water and more confident. It even appears to me that my stride is increasing. I always take my time with the last few steps down Great Hill, as they are bloody steep! Believe me, going up this way is cause for a sanity check! All the same I must look far different from how I feel. At the White Coppice checkpoint (where I fell over on my first ever Amble) I’m told that I don’t look like I’m enjoying myself…I counter that it is just because I’d heard this was the place to get some new knees, and ankles and hips… Instead I get a coffee and a surprise, I’ve caught up to the gorgeous couple!

My drink goes cold before I have a chance to drink it, the water from which it was made must have been quite cool by now. So I empty my mug as quickly as possible, no desire to cherish every drop – it’s nearly stone colde. I set off again. Before long I have caught up to the beautiful people again and although I had intended to slow down and have a chat…I speed up! I can almost hear them saying, “that was a bit ignorant”. But that’s the voices in my head, my personal, overly-self-aware demons trying to bring me down, I won’t let them, I’m on a mission. I want to finish this route before three o’clock, even though I have forecast four p.m. to Karl and Sue and anonymous woman. The rest of this route is easy, I practised well just two weeks ago, just a couple of muddy sections to go.

Over Moor Road I go and off to a minor uphill section, there is more mud than I remember from my last outing here, keep going, just be careful of each step, I have no wish to fall- over here, or anywhere for that matter. More people are on route now but these do not have the crazed look of Amblers in flight, they take their time, admire the scenery, don’t give way quite as easily. I’m now on the sheep-trod which proved so interesting two weeks ago, but I learned my lesson then and leave the comfort of the path that I know will turn in to one slippery little fucker in the next hundred metres, I’m on the slope of the hill itself, going horizontally. But no matter how ridiculous my plan looks in practice – it works. After I pass the mega-puddle I rejoin the sheep-trod and it’s over the next bridge and through the gate. Now its the first major downhill section with which I have to contend. Just a short drop of less than two hundred lateral metres and I practice my skill at using the moss-covered oaks and sycamores for support. It works wonderfully, not even any wormy hitchhikers like last time, I feel all kinds of Bear-Grillsish! I pass a couple, the man is an awesome size, must be close to seven-feet tall, we exchange greetings, they are going too slow, no sense of urgency, they are not Amblers.

At High Bullough reservoir I take a few seconds respite, it’s not as stunning as the first few times that I have passed it. the reservoir has been drained – there is an information board which everyone seems to take turns in reading, I’ve read it before, crack on! And now I’m making progress along the side of the ressie that was. I must be hitting four miles per hour now, for me, in my current cuddly condition, that’s awesome! Next step the gigantic downhill corner and the scenery takes a change for the beautiful as the Anglezarke Reservoir comes into view, it’s spectacular, it says home to me. I don’t have time to admire the moss-scape on my left but the knowledge that it is there lifts my spirits even higher. A couple of tall, tall female runners pass me, good on ’em! For the first time, I believe that I am going to get back to the registration church hall for 15:15, maybe even earlier. I pick up speed once more but still keep looking to my right and basking in the reflective tranquil beauty of the Anglezarke reservoir, it’s like I’m doing this in her honour, all bodies of water are female!

And now I’m at the far end of the reservoir, I cross the road early so as to avoid crossing on the deadly hairpin bend. All I’m looking at now is the tarmac (or whatever road surface it is) dead ahead of me which is festooned with ample amounts of horse manure, I believe that will not only stink to high heaven once its crust is penetrated, it’ll be slippery as hell and today – I’m all about avoiding the slippy! Moments pass, the memories of my first Amble flood my mind, it was dusk when I traversed this road then, now it’s golden sunshine. My coat is giving me more heat than I could possibly ever need but at some point soon I’m going to take that off, and it’ll be awesome! I ascend the rough path at the side of the Yarrow water chute and believe that I’m in my last two miles. I want to spend a minute or so simply drinking in the scenery, it’s some time since I last saw the chute in spate and it’s truly an impressive sight! Two more slopes to go! At the apex of the next slope lies the great green wall of the Yarrow reservoir.

I’m on the sometimes rough, sometimes cobbled path heading south. I have no competition, no other walkers are near me to spur me on, it’s all too easy to slow down and appreciate the day. I have to be tough on myself and think back to past triumphs – and failures. Scafell Pike, that was one hard son of a bitch, my legs ached for ages after that, the failure of last summer’s Y3P and how this walk, today, will be an excellent way to build more confidence for that arduous but wonderful task which lies in wait for me. The songs going through my head are again the theme music from Sonic the Hedgehog and I have no objection to this…apart from it’s pushed Billie Eilish’s “Everything I wanted” to the back burner, I can listen to that on the way home. And now I’m at the gate at the southern most tip of the Yarrow. Anyone who uses the kissing gate here has more time than they deserve – through the gap in the wall, you could get a panda through that, I’d love to see that to be fair! A sharp left turn, downhill and I almost bump into a family who know what I am, what I’m doing…

“Not far to go now, almost there” reports the patriarch. He knows I’m an Ambler and I smile, it’s like I’ve lost all of my verbal social skills.

Around a corner and through the millionth kissing gate, honestly, if you did kiss at each of these; you’d be well dehydrated by now! And now I’m recalling the Great Galleymore’s 2013 Anglezarke Amble (which got me in to this thing originally) and how he advises to watch your footing here for all of the divets! Walking back alongside the Dean Brook and I’m feeling on top of the world…okay, my hands are a bit numb? My feet are hot, my upper body feels like it’s been in a sauna for way too long and my thighs are chafing like a, like a…like two thighs which are chafing I suppose. And there are the steps to lead up to the paddock. I can hear voices, hurried, female voices behind me, it’s the bloody Yellow Army again, they’ve caught me up! I now feel compelled to take the last few steps a lot quicker. I pause at the top of the steps if only to ask the seemingly head motivator of the Yellow Army about their campaign – mission statesment – just what they are and what are they doing! She’s really positive (like a running version of an 80’s Bonnie Langford – but nicer looking) and she fills me in on what a great day this is. Even better she assumes I’ve done the 24-miler like they all have! I’m just too honest to let that go.

Twenty seconds or so later and they fly off into the distance with an illegal amount of energy still residual! I’m practically walking sidewards by now owing to the chafing thighs. But we are so close to the finish now that I can swear I can hear voices – real voices of people laughing and joking, regailing stories of the day. I’m forced to remove my backpack as we can both get through this last kissing gate – just not attached to one-another. Now I’m on the road, I turn right and in front of me lies the tiny entrance to the church hall, and once inside (for a change) you can keep your filthy boots on as you register your finishing time:

six hours and fifty-two minutes!

Epilogue:

I never had anything to eat back at the hall, few and far between are the times when I can consume anything after a good walk, and how good this walk had been! I sipped my coffee, texted Chris my finishing time and a photo of my certificate and simply basked in the encapsulating joy of having completed the Anglezarke Amble again. Yes, I do moan a lot when my backpack is trying to push me to a muddy death when dropping off Great Hill. Yes I probably did look a real dick when I fell to my knees on the way up the bugger, I just don’t care. These are experiences, future anecdotes things you just don’t get playing Candy Crush Saga at home on the warm and dry sofa! I simply had to do this walk, to build momentum for what is turning out to be a challenging year on personal, work and home fronts. There’s no doubt that this episode of my walking life will put me in better position to complete September’s Yorkshire three peaks, it’ll help me do April’s Sefton Coastal Path walk too! But it’s more than that, success breeds success (and how quickly I am learning to hate typing that word!), any kind of success gives us the positive mindset to strive for more, we even begin to welcome the odd obstacle and take the tougher way! I’ve quoted him before but the afore mentioned Mr Gallimore is perfectly right when he describes the Anglezarke Amble as “Depicted as probably the hardest challenge on Planet Earth.” – I guess it kind of depends on just who is doing the depicting! To me, this is every bit as hard as the Yorkshire Three Peaks without the lofty summits and glory. With the Amble you get caked in mud – even if you’re doing it right. These days, doing the Y3P is a largely dry affair now that the ‘Mosses’ have been bypassed. I want to do the twenty-four miles version next year, do it proper! I’ll probably do it unaccompanied, there is less pressure that way and as I have seen today, less chance of someone getting you to turn left before you have to!

Songs of the walk: Billie Elilish – Everything I wanted, Joanne Koziel and Kris Nahony – I need to forget, themes from Sonic the Hedgehog: Greenhill and Marble zones.

  • 07:24 and the Upper Rivington Reservoir looks stunning.

Sefton…it’s over to you!

 

 

 

Sloshing over the Edges

I bet you can tell the theme behind this post already.

With the Anglezarke Amble fast approaching (I’m doing the 16-miles version this time around), it was pressing on me that I really needed to get in some practice, especially after New Year’s Day’s early bail-out.

A first glimpse of Rivington Pike’s tower.

So, off I headed back to Rivington with the intention of taking in at least Rivington Pike and Great Hill. I set off on what has become my usual route – around the back of the Barn and headed for the straight-up bridal path which is the first real hard slog of the ‘Amble. It wasn’t as painful as I feared it might be, this was not me underestimating my fitness, just overestimating how steep this can be! By the time I had got to the major track which traverses most of the face of Winter Hill I couldn’t help but notice that the view to Winter Hill was inabsentia – gone, swallowed up by the mist. This left me in a bit of a quandary, I have no qualms about mist walking in most of the year, however, walking in the mist in wet weather down a hill with a notoriously slippery descent gave me shudders! I decided to forgo any thoughts of climbing up Witner Hill but took in the Pike regardless. After this, I rejoined the wide track and headed in a westerly direction until just past Pigeon tower where I took the northen path – that winds in a north-east direction, which would ultimately convey me over to Rivington Road. The clues relating to the state of the terrain, for now and later; were all around, mist and water, a lot of water. This is a straight forward track and is hardly ever really dry but today the puddles were in the ascendancy!

The track to Rivington Road.

This track is long, 1.57 miles long according to Bing Maps, but for me the prospect of being away from the myriads back at the Pike and on route was nothing short of a blessing. I basked in the emptyness afforded by the seclusion, the mist and the wetness under foot. This was like a hilly Moss, actually, it was nothing like the Moss as my feet would testify days later, I’d been softened by too many comfortable pavements, country walking is notably harder on the feet than its rural brother! In time I reached the culmination of this solitary wandering around an absent corner of Winter Hill and reached the racetrack of Rivington Road. Perhaps because of the mist, cars were thinner on the ground today, but still enough to deter one from absentmindedly ambling across the road. Will Narr was my next destination.

I’d noticed this short climb of a hill getting steadily closer for the last half-a-mile or so, it always looks much more severe than it really is and I’d estimate that I was up to the summit plateau within ten minutes of leaving the road. Here the mist was less prevalent, maybe the water had scared it off for I had never seen the snaking path which stretches out across Anglezarke Moor look quite so wet in my previous crossings. I commented to myself and the owner of a friendly Great Dane that the visiting mountain bikers had left one almighty mess behind as when the stone slabs receded the path bordered on treacherous, this was like walking on wet clay. Spitlers Edge will never be known as an arid location, and today it was in soggy exaltation. I reached what I thought was the apex of the walk, in loftiness terms, only to realise that I was not, as of yet, even on Redmonds Edge – the true high point!

Looking across the moors.

I think the damp atmosphere was affecting me. This was further reinforced when the lavalier microphone which I had been using to add comments to my video, took a full-on nose dive into a puddle. I believe it’ll work again but for now I wasn’t risking it and pocketed the poor soggy device. Within roughly twenty minutes I had almost matched the microphone for wetness as my left leg went knee-deep in between the joining of two slabs and my Iphone 6 (upon which I’d been filming the day’s events) went slamming to the ground. The sky was gray, the air was blue as I vented my colouful descriptionof this incident! I assert it was probably around this time that I cursed my decision to not bring a single gramme of carbohydrates with me, chocolate often brings you up when you are down but instead I just shrugged my shoulders and reassured myself that at some point in the near future I’d be grinning at this minor turn of events (I was right).

The short and easy path to the summit of Great Hill soon came into view and within a couple of minutes, after negotiating a break in the walkway, I was triumphantly stiding up to the four-sided summit shelter. I was elated to be the only human around, for a change, however this didn’t last long as a couple shortly appeared on the near horizon. Now it was time for something I had been reluctantly anticipating, the descent of Great Hill on a moisture-bound day, oh joy this was going to get slippery!

I’m not walking through that!
A pretty, bespectacled woman walks with her dog up to the summit of Great Hill.

But I was surprised to discover that I could keep my footing. Setting my stall by the late great Alfred Wainwright’s advice, I abandoned the notion of trying to capture the scenery on file and focussed my eyes only on my own two feet. This served me well for the rest of the walk and to be honest it wasn’t like I was missing out on spectacular views – thanks to the redolent and ubiquitous dampness what was visible could only be described as washed out! Of course, the first half a mile or so when descending Great Hill towards White Coppice, is normally the easiest section. I knew that the terroir of the path would degrade considerably once I had arrived at the turn-off, the rest of the path would take walkers towards Brinscall, a calling to which I’ve never yet been allured.  I met a family at this finger post section whom I thought might shed some light on the path up from White Coppice but as luck would have it these people had arrived here via the Brinscall route – I did consider interrogating them on all things Brincallian…but thought that too weird, even for me, instead I spent a few minutes chatting before heading off towards the quagmyre which lay ahead of me.
There was no doubt this was the thickest, mud-riddled fragment of the whole sloshfest! But I was comforted by the fact that this was bold mud, it made no attempt to hide or scower unseen awaiting to ensnare and attack. This was brave mud which faced up to whomever might be foolhardy enought to traverse its treachery and throw down its peaty gauntlet! The rule of the descent was simple, do not even attempt to look anywhere other than directly in front of your feet, in addition, if it looks black don’t stand on / in it lest you want to go sliding towards a mudstained embarrasment. If you tried hard enough, if you were really, really stupid enough (hello mountain biking fraternity!) to do so, it would be possible to cause yourself a great deal of physical harm. If however, you paid strict heed to Lord Mud’s prescription, you shouldn’t come a cropper…and I didn’t. There was the odd micro-slip where essentially your body moves forward an inch or two without your volition, otherwise, it may have taken quite some time, but i got to White Coppice looking more human than hippo!

It’s true to say that the walk from here to the junction at Moor Road is not really riveting. That being said, if you are not in a rush (Ambling) then it’s nice to take your time here. Ordinarily, there are sheep all around but today they were hiding somewhere. Sheep are terrible conversationalists so I didn’t miss them! It’s surprising how quickly I arrived at Moor Road full of the resolve that I was going to stick to my plan of doing my usual Amble finish – the alternative being to ascend Moor Road purely for the sake of dropping back down the other side to Rivington. This strategy would probably result in a drier and less mud-infused walk, but with the con of it adding a notable amount of time and effort – Moor Road is a favourite haunt for speed-loving cyclists! Nope, my original plan to traverse as if doing the final leg of the Amble would suffice. And if I thought I’d been through mud before…that was nothing!

The Moss-scape near Anglezarke reservoir.

The clue really should be in the fact that there are at least five reservoirs in relatively closse proximity, you don’t get that in the Sahara Desert now do you? All of that water comes from somewhere and on route it washes over somewhere else – here! And having done this, the residue is, thick, rather smelly and certainly slippery, mud. This section was rife with it! On the uphill stages, of which there are hardly any, you don’t really mind, it makes you approach the slope in a more cautious and concerted manner. On descents, the fear of falling over compels you to ‘take your time, watch your footing (litterly)’. No, it’s the flat bits that mess you up! Often times there are simply no visible cues. Every so often the route contains a footbridge which in effect is a slightly elevated plank of wood…even these were caked in various obnoxious substances, each offering its own particular blend of sideways motion! A number of times I had to detour from the well-beaten path in order to avoid doing the splits! It was at this point when the silent assasin that is short wet grass came to the fore and made my crossing of the narrow sheep trod adjacent to the huge Anglezarke Reservoir, an embarrassment. Two runners had even seen fit to take a vertical detour in order to bypass a patch of water and mud and plain old slime, I followed suite – well, in reverse as I was going in the opposite direction but with one major disadvantage, the longer one’s feet touch the ground, the more traction they lose! I fell to my knees and steadied myself by putting my hands in mud, gross!

Anglezarke Reservoir in all its beauty.
Anglezarke Reservoir framed by Silver Birches.

Eventually I made it to the High Bullough Reservoir, overtaken with the belief that its name had been changed very recently (I was now craving carbs at an uncomfortable rate) from Parson’s Bullough Reservoir. A relative quick march along its western flank brought me to the drop that I’d been dreading. This was a close-relative to vertical! Ordinarily, I take my time descending this patch of road / gravel / other, and that’s on a dry day. Today I’d estimate that it took me five minutes to walk around five hundred feet…and several pats of the heads of various dogs who must have been able to smell Pepper (our cat) on me…or fear! The ultimate pay-off for sticking with this route now came into view – the culmination of the Anglezarke Reservoir near Lane Ends ( 53.639357, -2.583288 ). The first time I completed the Amble I promised to myself I would return (one day) to get a photograph or two! I felt that by now i had earned my energy gel, it was delicious, but I would want the Cappucino variety next time! People passed me, I didn’t care, my left foot was beginning to feel less wet than before (after it had been dunked in icy water on Redmond’s Edge!) and my spirits were high because in spite of falling, I was doing it, I would make it around the Amble next month even though this route was five miles shorter and a thousand feet less climbing.  In addition, that view of the reservoir was captivating.

A pretty flower, offset by snowdrops in the background.

And so I carefully crossed over Knowlsley Lane in order to get a photo of yet another body of water and kept on the same side of the road so as to avoid crossing at a blind corner. The Yarrow flow-off at the water chute ( 53.635803, -2.573412 ) was in spate and looking quite spectacular today, I don’t know if I managed to keep the footage, it isn’t to hand at the moment. This didn’t matter, the slope of the chute is not great, even after ten miles it is still manageable, I’ve done it several times and at the top is the reward that for the next 3/4 of a mile, it’s all down a very gentle, if somewhat stony, slope. Wonderful. The weather continued to stay on my side as I exchanged pleasentries with others on the same stretch of land at the side of the blatantly not natural Yarrow reservoir. At the end of this path I saw a couple doggedly circumnavigate a decrepit stile – when my turn came I simply walked through the gap in the fence next to it! A quick turn to the left, ten metres then a turn through another kissing post and I was next to the brook which for want of the proper name I’ll call Dean Wood Brook. Even in winter this is just a gentle trickle of a stream and I was glad of this, I was within the last mile and wanted no drama. Eventually the terrain rose in front of me as I climbed the steps to take me into the final pasture before Sheephouse Lane. The gate at the far end of the field is horribly tight and enforced a walker of my stature to remove the rucksack from their back, I don’t like to do this but there really is no choice. I always feel that this gateway is a little too close for comfort to the road which can at times be chaotic. With this in mind I headed north-east up Sheephouse Lane, leaving Rivington Lane for the more foolhardy and brave. It tool a little while (and a minor panic about having to turn around) before I found the opening in the wall which would lead to my path back up to the car park, again the pay-off was these delightul photos to the left of the flora present. By 16:56 I had made it back to the car, I’d completed my first hill-walk of 2020.

In summing this was a magnificent walk, well they can’t all be dry and offering majestic views of the distant horizons. Sometimes you just have to put more effort in and as such this was most definitely a down and dirty kind of walk. I was so impressed with my performance, including my resilience and not giving up when I met obstacles in the mud and other slime. That being said I do think that the crossing of the edges could be most appreciated in drier (if not completely bone-dry) weather. My fitbit reports that I covered over thirteen miles that day, Google maps comes in around two miles less and both are right in their own way as the fitbit is counting every single footstep…and slide.

And what of song of the walk? There were a few:

Zara Larsen – Don’t Worry ’bout me

Zara Larsen – Symphony – the others escape me now but I did have the themes from the classic arcade Sonic the Hedgehog – Greenhill and Marble zones resounding through my head for the last six miles or so!

 

  • Anglezarke Reservoirframed by Silver Birches.

 

A Rivington Ramble…

…But not with ‘the Ramblers’!

 

The ooze stile
Path to the terraced cottages

With the Amble fast approaching (8/2/2020) I decided I needed some off-road walking practice, and quick! So instead of trying to get parked at Barley car park in order to take on Pendle Hill, which is always stuffed to the seams at New Year (and filthy), I headed off to Rivington. The clue’s in the title really and I soon discovered that the car parks there too, were chockablock! Oh well! Fortunately, people were coming and going all the time so I was lucky enough to grab a convenient space, result! Before I set off I had all sorts of fancyful ideas about which route to take, should I try the arduous trek from Winter Hill (the road) down to the Dean Mills Reservoir and then back up via Counting hill? By contrast I considered a 13 miles romp over the whole of Angelzarke Moor taking in the usual suspects of Will Narr, the ‘Edges and Great Hill. the first walk of the year is always a case of ambition over reality! I decided upon the walk that Chris and I have done a couple of times, passing the Yarrow Reservoir and wandering over what I believe is known as Lead Mines Clough.

Photo A lovely meadow on route to the Yarrow Reservoir
A lovely meadow on route to the Yarrow Reservoir

After cuttting off a corner, not something I would do normally, I headed downhill towards the cottages at Rivington Lane but decided (at the last minute) to stick with the green path and joined the road, you can’t call this paving, at Sheephouse Lane.  This is essentially the final stretch of the Amble which I am doing in reverse and I have to say it has become one of my favourite places to walk. In contrast to the car park, where it was teaming, this area was fairly free of walkers, although I did end up with one couple behind me for some distance, the male of which had a cough like a seal, a real hacker!

 

I kept the Yarrow reservoir on my right as opposed to heading off left towards the water chute (the Amble comes up this way), and the views to Winter Hill and Noon Hill duly opened up. This is one of mine and Chris’s favourite routes so navigating is so much of a breeze that I gave it scant attention. At the end of the green path which passes by the Yarrow reservoir there is a combination of a concrete and then multi-surface path, before hitting a road Parson’s Bullough Road and i stayed on this short stretch of road for just a few minutes and turned off left into, well Parson’s Bullough (53°38’30.1″N 2°33’59.7″W if you want to look it up on Bing OS maps).

Photo of a view from the Yarrow Area

 

A gentle slope
The views open out once more.

In the beginning this is a deceptively easy walk, the first few hundred metres are a sheer joy, then come the ascensions. The first one seperates the path into two, the left hand one veers off towards some quite dramatic scenery at both Jepson’s Farm and Jepson’s Gate, both areas of which I have no walking experience. My route heads off to the right andclimbs quite steeply over an area of disused trial shafts – which are not visible, or thankfully… in use. The first area that I am heading towards, after entering a gigantic gate is known as Wilkinson’s Bullough.  I didn’t know what a Bullough is, and thanks to Google Search I can now attest that, I still do not know what a Bullough is! This was nice walking, a gradient that could only be described as a treat, with a path which undulated more in the horizontal plane than in the vertical one. All around were sheep, very timid sheep and fortunately, no cows. It’s not that I detest cows, it’s just that they can be a bit dauting oh and they do kill a handful of walkers each year. One time Chris and I had to turn back from this route as there were enough of the things at the other side of the gate to pose a very real threat. Not today though, and I continued on, at a leisurely pace, my feet just would not speed up!

The path rises a little
A solitary, Hawthorne or Rowan.

The area became a little more wet underfooted as I stuck with the path through the area known as “Simms”, on a geographical (perhaps even geological) perspective there might be a lot here to interest folks, I just observed an unmistakedly rural path with zillions of sheep either side of it. Break-off routes to Great Hill, Redmonds Edge and Spitlers Edge do exist here, but these are easier to see on the map than on the ground and were definitely not part of my day’s itinerary, they can be kind of wet as well!At around three fifths of the way along this path there is a decidely sticky section where the runoff water from the surrounding fields essentially strips the path of any sand and stones it might have had (the paths are repaired every few years) and mud stakes its claim upon the environment. A fast walker would fall over here, so I was safe! Another point to bear in mind is that it’s a completely exposed area, and the wind was certainly blowing today, even though it had seemed negligible thus far into the walk. I was glad for every dry stone wall that I passed for the fleeting cover that they afforded. The cars on the horizon started to get bigger, the horizon itself seemed to be filling up with just one dauting, terrifying vision…the sombre lump of the Winter hill massif. Honestly, if you haven’t been there for a while, Winter hill can appear mountainous.

The path veers to the right.
This path doesn’t look at all dangerous!

My plan had been to turn right at the road and make my way onto the broad dirtrack before turning left and summiting via the north-western converted sheep trod.Several hundred feet into this section I realised something with a certain forehead-slapping dread, I’d taken the wrong turning! This is becoming a habbit! Instead of turning right I should have turned left, DOH! All the same I could simply carry on to the next left hand turn and drop down, over a stream up a little bit of a steep path to Catter Nab and continue from there, good plan. The downfall was that the environment was soaked and mud was in the ascendancy. I was pretty sure that if I made my way down this 30-degree slope I’d end up in the afore mentioned stream, or just knock myself out! This is a route for a dry day, moreover this is a route for a drought! I took the wise but downright disatisfying option to turn around and head once more back to the road. By now I was somewhat demoralised, I really wanted to trudge my way back up to Belmont Road (the track, not road) and scoot off up the north-west face of Winter Hill (I’m sure nobody ever really scooted up Winter Hill) but my feet were boiling and my legs jelly-like, but more importantly I think I had left my resolve in a patch of mud on Angelzarke Moor, it sure as hell was not with me!

The sensible option was to plod back down the road all the way to Moses Cocker ( 53.631373, -2.552180 ) don’t they have some strange names around here?

I should add here that this road is a designated national speed limit and pretty narrow…and has no footpath. So not that sensible really! I followed the highway code directive of walking into oncoming traffic…does that sound like a safe, reassuring practice to anyone else? No, me neither, I’d rather be hit from behind and never really get a glimpse of my potential killer(s)! Eventually I made it back to the crossroads where all manner of different footpaths converge, the traffic was now more or less gridlocked with frustration redolent throughout the air. There aren’t this many people in the area when the Amble is on and that tends to average around 300 walkers! Happy to be making my way to the car (and home) I plodded the rest of the course back via paddocks and crumbling paths back to the car park at the barn. I hadn’t done what I intended to do but I had at least got out and about in the countryside.Distance covered: around five and a half miles with roughly 800 feet of ascension. Still no song of the walk…what’s going on. (photos to follow, I need to catch up!)

Last walk of 2019

Once more to The Moss

Christmas day had been and gone and by now I was roast dinner and mince pied out! I needed to get out into the open air and felt the irresistable pull of the Moss after another successful crossing nine days earlier.

Once again the weather looked set to be kind to me, so it was up and out before 10 a.m. I took a very straight forward route, going from our street to Roe Lane and ultimately onto Moss Lane – no sense in performing yet another tortuous route when ‘The Moss’ was the primary objective. Once on Moss Lane there were a few spots of rain but nothing which took hold and I was minorly elated when I stopped to let an incredibly gorgeous horse rider cross in front of me and she gave me a lovely smile and thank you back, result! In addition another female horse rider left her horse in a paddock and I had a few moments of joy watching it roll around in a mud pool like an elephant on the Savana might do. I wish I’d have got that on video but I have the memory and that’s enough.

Guess what? It’s a horse, in a field!
Photograph of a pair of horses
I think it’s safe to say that ‘The Moss’ plays host to a number of horses

Turning onto Wyke Lane now and once the hair-raising corner was out of the way then I was able to relax and take in the scenery. A very well-mannered jogger overtook me and she bade me a good morning upon passing, again I found this very pleasant. The views on and from ‘The Moss’ today were somewhat spectacular for (it has to be said) a pretty much ordinary day. I had never noticed before just how many horses are stabled across the range of the Moss, my guess is there must be a hundred of them and each time I saw one close enough to get a photograph of them…

Also out and about en mass today where the cyclists. These were the serious kind of cyclists though, not just the ones who got their first bike for Christmas like you would see and almost have to swerve to avoid on the 25th of December, these were; more often than not; in groups. I don’t know the collective noun for this phenomena; peloton, pestilence or swarm? Anyway, there was enough of them for me to take up counting their number (and it is a human number of six-hundred-and-sixty-six!) as they often flooded past me and in one case they even had the audacity to be listening to a radio, stillness shattered – tick!

Photograph of a some trees off Wyke Lane
I believe this collection of trees would be refered to as a Copse…but it could be a wood!
Photograph of a collection of spent corn husks
The eerie sight of spent corn stalks, still gives me the creeps for unknown reasons.

I rounded the single most bumpy corner and caught sight of a really lovely copse / very small forest

and a few moments later some scary corn!

Photograph of some cars
Southport’s quietest road gets some traffic.

It shouldn’t surprise me to see the odd car, and by odd I mean rare, not zany, as the road is an antonym of a ‘rat run’ in that we drive there to get away from other cars knowing full well that it’s going to add three or four miles on to the journey.  The pay-off is of course that most of the road is designated national speed limit. That means the potential for traffic coming along a very undulating, single-track road at sixty miles per hour! But it’s okay, the people who reach 60 on this road only do it once and then learn very quickly that this should not be done as they mis-time a corner and go barrelling off down the ditch and into a field, trashing their beloved jalope as part of the process! Hence the reason why this on-coming procession (the photo on the left) was hutling towards me with all the speed of a charging slug! ‘The Moss’ (and yes I have now tired of typing that in ‘proper case’, has a section that I like to refer to as ‘the long corner’ – owing to the fact that it has a long corner (and therein lies the reason why I don’t write mysteries!) . I first noticed this on my second crossing (‘because everything is so brand new on the first time that a certain perception bypass occurs!) which was a somewhat icy affair. In essence there is a swing to the right, then a straight stretch of no more than a hundred metres, then a swing to the left – we could have just carried straight on really! It’s not that big of a deal really, unless you are driving a car, then the poor fools seem incapable of traversing this corner without reving the guts out of their respective engines and creating all manner of havoc – you have to see it to fully digest the spectacle. If nothing else then this gives the average walker (with a sense of humour) the chance to overtake cars with frustrated drivers in them.

After traversing the long corner I turned right on to the street that I was meant to take on my last Moss walk – Pool Hey Lane. Again, as you’d expect this is very much a rural road, but it terminates a mile or so later at a junction with the A570, which at most times is the main arterial road of Southport. With this in mind I slowed down as I wanted to make this lovely peace last. Sadly, the Audi hurtling towards me decided that was not in its itinery for the day and I had to swiftly dart to the right so as to avoid the damn thing taking me out! This caused an extremely painful jarring of my ankle – which I have now managed to twist three times in as many months! The sky was already blue, now it was joined by the air as I vented my opinion of this prick! Why is it that all Audi drivers are the most self-entitled, arrogant bunch of ignorant gits on the face of the earth??? Yes, my ankle hurt, a lot. I stayed still for a few seconds wondering whether this was going to abruptly end my walk and would I have to ring for Chris to rescue me (being roughly five miles from home by now). Thankfully I was able to carry on, however, I am really dubious about my ability to walk February’s Amble now as one more twist might just render me immobilised, frigging Audi drivers!

Photograph of a beautifully lit field drain
Whoever thought drains could be so stunning?
Photograph of a two shetland Ponies
What’s better than one Shetland? Two!

All the same, before long I managed to get two more wonderful photographs which further endorsed the walk.  The photo of the stream on the left does its very best to gloss over the fact that this body of water is indeed a field drain. I have to admit that on this (and all other photos featured in the last few posts) I have let the IOS photograph enhancer app do its thing, I am certainly pleased with the end result.  Although I had at least another five miles to walk back to home, I knew that the photo opportunities were now coming to an end, so there was no stopping me when I saw these cuter than cute Shetland ponies >>> As it was the birthday of a friend of mine (Mark),  I decided to give him a call to say happy birthday and spent the next seventeen minutes (yes, I checked!) chatting away about houses and spaniel dogs, like you do! I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hear Mark whilst walking along Southport and Norwood Roads so had to say goodbye once I’d hit the A570.

I made my way a rather straight and clandestine route back along the Norwoods (Road, Avenue, Crescent) back home and celebrated a lovely walk to round off my walking year.

Total distance was around seven and a half miles, height climbed was negligable and as for song of the walk: I don’t remember there being one!

Belated Happy New Year folks, see you in 2020!

 

 

Last walk home from work of 2019

Well I wouldn’t say that I had put in a flurry of walks in 2019 but with the realisation that February and the amble were approaching rather quickly, the impetus was on me to do something.

November had seen me walking home from work twice in two weeks and it has become a tradition of mine to walk home on my last working day of the year, hence the title of this post! I’d been planning a route which would take me from Scarisbrick up to Churchtown, whilst avoiding romping through fields and thus keeping my feet dry. A number of routes eventually emerged that all shared one factor, they were a bit on the huge side, averaging around thirteen miles each! In time I opted to traverse Scarisbrick and take in the tiny village of Bescar, a first for me.

So I left work at around twelve p.m. and parambulated Ruff Lane, Mill Street crossed Wigan Road and Abbotsford, as is a staple for me recently. Then, once near Ormskirk town centre I headed down Railway Approach and onto Station Road, another staple, before crossing the notoriously unpredictable A59 at County Road via Yew Tree Road and ultimately onto Grimshaw Lane.

An unknown flock of birds orbits a field at Woodmoss Lane

By this time the clouds had morphed into a threatening shade of grey and although I did have an umbrella with me, I feared an imminent soaking! It was a hard decision to continue as opposed to go and catch a bus, but later one which I would be very pleased to have made. I passed the Kicking Donkey (an amazingly great name for a pub), and at this point decided that I would turn onto Moorfield Lane and head through Scarisbrick as opposed to staying with the longer route and yomping through Heaton’s Bridge. The price for this would be to effectively double back on myself in order to pick up Smithy Lane before joining Dam Wood Lane and on to take the illusive Bescar Lane. Even I am astounded at just how many “Lanes” are present in this area!

Photo of Bescar Lane Methodist church
Bescar, home of Bescar Lane Methodist church

From here it would be new walking territory for me up until Wood Moss Lane, which I had transited on a sunnier “Moss” walk in late spring. Bescar fits in with the key requirements of the rest of this enormous area colloquially known as “The Moss”, in that essentially, there’s nothing there. When contrasted with the rich and almost overstuffed views presented to hikers of the Lake District, this area, it would seem, has slender pickings with regards to the scenery!

It has to be noted that for the majority of this section I was walking upon single track roads, but as the sky was packed with a myriad of varying clouds this kept away the potential for fog, which offered a modest measure of security. Only a fool, even a well illuminated fool, would try this route any later in the day than three o’clock in Winter, though the prospect of a mist-shrouded crossing of this route does appeal to me.

I took the first turn-off on the left as this would then convey me back down towards much busier environs, an A-road no less at Kew / Meols Cop, the dividing line must be fairly obvious to those in the know but sadly, I am not in this elite group. the road did seem to have more corners than I remembered from September, but I thought this was just my memory playing tricks on me, the Christmas lights coming on almost in waves was a pleasent distraction. After the best side of half an hour I saw a sign which read “Snape Green”. The realisation hit me like a sledgehammer, I had turned-off too early and had not been on Pool Hey Lane at all. In essence I had strayed back a mile or two towards Ormskirk once more! Hence dear readers, I had again fallen victimn to the phenom which sooner or later afflicts all walkers, left-turnitis, the unconscious act of turning left before we need to do so.

Photo of Stickman and son
Love these two characters whom we’ve driven past for most of the year.

Ordinarily, this would fill me with a certain shame and aggravation, today I simply shrugged my shoulders safe in the consulation that I had originally wanted to do a much bigger walk anyway! I turned right on to Southport Road and crossed it. I was a little sad to see the gorgeous Dawn Redwood tree devoid of all its needles but this was alleviated by the spectacle of the enormous Weeping Willow, again leafless but with a lovely display of this years wood growth. The traffic noise was near deafening so accustomed had I grown to an almost absence of sound during my miles through Bescar and the Moss. I had feared that dusk would soon be upon me, but this was not the case as the light continued to hold on like it was a spring, not winter, evening. This severely reduced the impact of the Christmas lights turning on, next year I’ll endeavour to set off a little bit later!  Before long I was passing ‘The Stickies’. The owner of one of the houses on Southport Road is either really lonely or had a wonderful sense of humour as these two characters to the left of this text demonstrate. I had wanted to photograpth ‘The Stickies’ on a number of occasions when I walked past but for some reason always seemed to miss them. So somehow it seemed fated that I had this opportunity virtually shoved down my throat today!

It was a hard decision not to call in at McDonalds at Kew as I neared the junk-foodery! I figured I would be stuffing my face enough over the next ten days as it was and I wanted to get home to see Chris and Pepper. At Kew roundabout I opted to cross over the busy road and make my way home via a route which I knew to be much quieter, Foul Lane and Wennington Road.

Foul Lane is a one-off, a mystery, a maverick and enigma all rolled into one. This is a road which should be put to far better use than it currently is. For now it skirts around the side of B&Q, traverses a roundabout then transforms into a ghost/waste land. I don’t know what was once here, but it’s gone now! Of course there is still a rather delapidated “Park ‘n’ ride” and to be fair; it did look in use…I don’t know what those drivers would have done if this car park had been out of service – those three drivers, who could quite easily have parked at the front of the estate on the now much bigger and emptier car park. The reason for my apparent disdain is that Foul Lane terminates / is blocked off for no good reason whilst the bottlenecks at Meols Cop next to the commercial estate are the stuff of legends, bad legends! It’s madness! An entire new stream of traffic could be taken off the Norwood Road Stretch and diverted here and over towards Cobden Road and….there must be a reason for this state of affairs and if I knew it, I’d probably disagree. The pay-off for me is that whilst all of the central-west traffic attempts to squeeze its way along the Norwoods, my route was so quiet and calming. Admittedly, for the more rural-focussed among us there is not much to see, I crossed over Cobden Road and onto Wennington Road and into my kind of area, hundreds and hundreds of front gardens, and most of them postage-stamp sized!

I filtered my way from one block to another, all the time the sky was just not playing ball, darkness was not descending, it was getting close to four p.m. on the third shortest day of the year damnit, where was the dark? I’d been planning this walk to tie-in with my ill-fated “Winter Wonder Walks” but for that to happen, well the Christmas lights in people’s houses needed to be visible and they just were not. It was fast approaching four o’clock and my feet were getting quite hot by now so I decided not to delay my return by waiting for darkness to fall, especially as that would’ve looked all kinds of creepy!

I made my way to the Spar petrol station in order to top up on beer – alcohol free beer as dry January is just around the corner! I made it home for 15:55, three hours and fifty-five minutes after leaving work (or thereabouts). It was only later, at the beginning of January that I checked the distance walked of my route (my fitbit can be a bit optimistic) and was overjoyed to have my suspicions confirmed, 12.2 miles according to Google Maps > Measure Distance, what a result. This was the second furthest that I had walked all year (sharing the honours with the rather boring and extremely hot walk over Birkdale Cop, many months earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The total distance was an impressive 12.24 miles!