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!

Winter wonder walks, night 2

Photograph of Christmas lights in someone's top window on Hawshead Street.
And this is a pretty desperate photo on a night of awful weather and not much content.
Photograph of a Christmas tree in a residential home.
A tastefully decorated tree.

Rain, rain, go away..oh okay you’re not listening to me then.

Very little content for these pages tonight. What was available was washed out by the haze of rain. So, as far as slim pickings go… this was their night! Here’s hoping that future nights will deliver better visibility and an increase in opportunities!

 

 

 

And the winner on the night, mainly because the building is so damn cute:

Photograph of Christmas lights in a hairdresser's.
Photo taken on 25th November, 2019 on Mount Street,

Winter wonder walks

Winter wonder walks, night 1

Same as last year, one nightly walk, take some photos of people’s Christmas decorations and decide which was the nicest…or the most outstanding!

Tonight I had just a short two and a half miles walk and to be honest, I didn’t see that many decorated houses, well it is still November. This left hardly any scope, the competitors to the gawdy image below were at best subtle and my Iphon decided it was going to take truly awful photos with the flash set to auto and ‘on’ as witnessed at either side of this text <<< >>>

 

 

 

Photograph of the gawdy house on Norwood Ave, Southport
Gawdy!

2019 The walking year that never was

The more observant of you (two) will hardly have failed to noticed that I have not really done much walking this year. There are many contributing factors:

  1. Work, I do the odd open day or Welcome Sunday and I get overtime, difficult to turn this down to be honest.
  2. Bad weather, this has been the first year that I can remember when at times it’s just been too damn hot as well as the normal – too damn wet!
  3. Families / Birthdays / bloody Bomfire Night!
  4. Laziness, there are times that I could have got out and about…I mustn’t have wanted to do so badly enough.

So essentially I am writing off 2019 the walking year. It was lovely to do Blencathra with Sue and Karl, it was fantastic to return to Pendle and yes I am embittered to have not gone more often. I loved the walk I did over Anglezarke Moor and the Southport ambles…but there just were not that many walks. I normally average around twenty ‘boots on’ walks but this year….hmmm!

Right, so, plans for next year:

  1. As I have previously posted on Facebook I have signed up to do the 17 (used to be sixteen) mile version of the Anglezarke Amble in February.
  2. In preperation of the next item, I do fancy giving the full 21 miles Sefton Coastal path a go in April.
  3. And then in June…it’s back off to do…the Yorkshire Three Peaks. This should be a surprise to nobody. And this (next) year I do plan on finishing the thing, ‘though it’s likely I’ll be doing it on my own.

Of course there should be others, but we have a major event (hopefully) happening some time in the first three months of the year which has to take precedent over everything (even the Amble!). If I could have my dream walking year then I would do the following in addition to the ones listed above:

  1. Snowdon, via the Ranger path – it looks stunning, quieter than the Llanberris path and not as steep as the Watkins path.
  2. Scafell Pike – any way, I honestly wouldn’t care but if Great End could somehow be factored in then all the better.
  3. Skiddaw, again any route would be lovely but there is just something amazingly airy about going via the Ullock Pike ridge.
  4. The full Pendle featuring Stang Top Moor, Big End and then Fell Wood and Saddlers Height.  I struggle to believe that I haven’t already done this one.
  5. Likewise, the full Seven Peak traverse of Winter Hill and Anglezarke Moor encompassing Redmonds Edge, Spitlers Edge, Will Narr, Winter Hill, Crooked Edge Hill, Rivington Pike and Great Hill. I’ve got very close to completing this but…!
  6. Helvellyn, not via Striding or Swirrel Edge but just any route up this monster of a mountain would be great.
  7. Pillar, it’s been on my to-do list for too long now, time to get it bagged.
  8. Any circular walk featuring Catbells, but if it factors in Maiden Moor and High Spy then all the better!

Of course there should be more, but I don’t want to get all excited about talking about these walks without doing them!

So, only time will tell, wish me luck folks!

 

 

Meandering over the Moss

The walk of Sunday the first of September, 2019.

I had planned on doing another mamoth walk home from work the preceeding Friday but ultimately this never happened owing to a lack of drive on the day. As such I was practically chomping at the bit on Sunday to get out and about for a walk. The weather was looking decidedly inclement with regards to the West Pennines but the outlook for Southport was sunny spells and breeze. This would suffice so by 09:50 I was out the house and en route to the Moss, Churchtown Moss.

I decided to go through Hesketh Park, there would be virtually no other high points to the route which I had thought out so it made sense to summit the Astronomy hill and its neighbouring peak early on in the day. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a large hill…it’s not even fifty feet in altitude, but it can be a little shock to the system if one has not done any walking for some time.

The summits conquered I now had around three miles of totally urban dominated plodding to do as I meandered through one district, across invisible boundaries and into another. This did make for easy progress with the streets being dry and as always I was afforded the opportunity to peep into other people’s gardens, an activity of which I doubt I shall ever tyre! In time I successfully located the one of the illusive gateways that would transport me from urbanisation and onto the North Marshside Coastal path. Although the very nature of the terrain would notably reduce my speed, the pay-off is the dramatic change in scenary and environment as the Irish sea makes the odd appearance on the far left hand side and a couple of golf courses a bit nearer but also on the left and occasionally on the right – they do like a round of golf in these parts.

After some time, the Marshside section of the Coastal path is considerably longer than what I tend to recall, I crossed the road in order to take on the Fiddlers Ferry / Banks stretch of pathway, which is not a part of the greater Sefton Coastal path. This is less exposed and more green and certainly gets one nearer to the neigbours as you are practically in their back garden! This pathway can go on for some distance but I turned off after half a mile to pick up Banks Road, I now had over a mile of pavement walking ahead of me as I ambled through the tiny and quaint village of Banks. I called in at the Co-op shop in order to get some drinks as I am a bit prone to dehydrating and, well, it’s never fun and gives me a horrible headache.  I saw my partner’s mother in there and we had the briefest of all chats, before she could invite me back for a bacon butty!

I next made my way towards the gigantic bypass which is the A565, the plan being to safely cross this monster and head down Gravel Lane. Crossing this hi-speed road, it’s only a 50mph road but with an average speed checker setup, this makes for some sporadic driving and adrenallin-fuelled traversals. After the insanity of the 565 crossing it was with relief that I was to say farewell to traffic for the next few miles. I was now heading for another stretch of Southport’s “The Moss”. Personally, moss was a plant when I lived in Bolton, however, it transpires that in many parts of this fair country it actually refers to an area of near-deserted farmland…or just a vast patch of wetland as in the Lake District’s various “Mosses”. Whatever, if you are looking for a nice stretch of piece and quiet then head off for your nearest ‘moss’.

Until now the weather had hinted that it could rain. About a mile into the walk across the moss, it did but only for around a minute or so. Further down the road, about two miles I would estimate, the rain came back with a vengence . I put the hood of my coat up…and then decided that the world was a better and more beautiful place with it down again…plus everything sounds rubbish when you have your hood up! By the time I had finally made it to a real road “Moss Lane” which in time would lead me back to Churchtown proper. I felt no need to enter The Spar for refreshments, although by this time a sit down for five minutes would have been great and I have to say, well-deserved! The gaping hole in the surface of the road however, was making traffic back-up and after so long in the fresh air, it was a bit of a let-down, so I simply carried on.

I opted not to do an oft-repeated plod down Roe Lane and thought that I had down enough miles without adding more on by detouring over to Cambridge Road / Preston New Road and instead took a turning own Chester Road, crossed Wennington Road then down Chester Ave. I hopped across Norwood Ave and then down Norwood Cresent before taking the footpath onto the Grange Road estate and before long I had landed on Row Lane once again. then I passed the church and made my way down my home street.  Some five (ish) hours after leaving it.

All things considered this was a really enjoyable and much needed walk in some varied terrains. I only stopped to speak to one person (Chris’s mum) and managed to eat nothing calorific…in fact I ate nothing at all and only had a 250 calorie milkshake at the Co-op. The song I had stuck in my head was: Stereo Love by Edward Maya, Vika Jigulina. 

To be honest this was probably the nicest walk I’ve done in a very lazy year!

Muggy on the moors!

The classic walk on Sunday 21st of July, 2019.

I had planned on doing some Rivington walks in order to build up stamina and speed for next year’s Anglezarke Amble, more on this later. In essence I thought I would start easy and build on that.

I arrived and was finally ready to leave the upper car park at Rivington Hall Barn by 10:04. Having driven up the lane I deduced that there would be a lot of walkers on the hills today and the day was to prove me right in that respect. I decided not to go my usual route up through the shaded paddock and took the ‘Amble’ approach which would flirt with the area that ‘the friends of Rivington Pike’ have been duly turning into “Path World”!

At times the humidity and the slightly foolish pace at which I had set off, forced me to stop for thirty seconds or so and quite often this would give me the chance to change direction if I had been caught up by a group of walkers or if I had inadvertantly merged with one. It’s not that I’m anti social, moreoever I’m incompetantly competitive – I merge with a group and want to be at the front of it walking more quickly than what I would really want. This is something that I have really begun to notice since June’s Y3P attempt.

Before too long, but after many steps, I had hit the broad track which separates the terraced gardens from ‘The Pike’ – it does more than that but for my purposes, that’s how I refer to it. I didn’t fancy the steps up to the top of the pike as invariably I get stuck behind someone and this has a draining impact on me. Instead I added probably another half-mile on the route by dropping down a few hundred metres only to turn a good nitely-degress in  order to come back on myself and take the less refind, more organic route from the north. This is a route of descent on the ‘Amble’day and can be quite an ordeal if the ground is wet or has snow on it. On a hot day this can be a major slog and today was warming up a bit…I did it in around ten minutes without feeling like a tortoise. All the same I was glad to be atop the pike, I took a photo or two and then dropped down the steep steps which were already adorned with walkers of varying fitness and abilities.

I joined the broad track once more and ambled  behind a young couple up until the turn-off facing Dovecote came along. According to Google maps, this is yet another “Belmont Road”. The man in charge of naming the streets and tracks in this area has been taken away and shot for crimes against the concept of imagination as apparently he really didn’t have any! This track is just short of 1.5 miles in length and more often than not offers some of the most peaceful walking in the area, even today, a relatively busy day, I  recall seeing only another ten people on this stretch. The going was good, there are always patches of water and some mud to navigate – the track divides Noon Hill Slack and Catter Nab and as such has to withstand an enromous amount of overspill when the rain hits Winter Hill, but this was practically dry. At the northernmost point of the track it joins onto Rivington Road (which leads onto…Belmont Road, argh!) but fortunately for me I didn’t have to spend much time dodging the cars which were hurtling on by at 70mph+!

Within a few minutes I turned left in order to face Will Narr. This is not a human as the name might imply, but simply the left hand side of the slope also known as Hordern Pasture – so exactly which point is Spitlers Edge escapes me! All the same it’s generally a nice walk, nicer going up than down as it happens as the rain can make this terrain a little slippery! After turning off Rivington Road I became trapped behind a couple who were in possession of one of the singlemost yappy dogs that it has been my displeasure to endure. Within about thirty seconds I was ready to turn around and find another route, so painful was the screech emanating from this pensive pup! Instead I waited until they had got a decent distance in front of me…two minutes did the job nicely! This was uphill walking, but not the excessive, hard-slog which one encounters on the slopes of much bigger hills and mountains such as Pen-y-Ghent and Blencathra, to name two of the ones I’ve slogged up this year. The reward for very little effort expended is a lovely airy ridge-walk, okay it’s a wide ridge, but as there is the word ‘Edge’ in the name of Redmonds and Spitlers edges then I have to draw the conclusion that they are in fact ridges!

At various points I stopped to have conversations with people, one was a former soldier out for his constitutional (he had a lovely long-haired Alsatian with him) and a middle-aged (I’m being diplomatic here) couple who were just settling down for their lunch. I shared with the couple my belief that rain was due and very shortly at that, but the lady was optimistic that it would pass…within thirty seconds of me leaving them, we were rained on! Fortunately the rain did not last long and I was soon within reach of Great Hill after having another glug of water…I had promised myself that every time I encountered either a gate or a large stile I would stop and have something to drink in order to ward off dehydration headaches. Back at Catter Nab I had calculated that I should be at the top of Great Hill by two o’clock. I had made it to this tiny summit for 13:47 and was pleased with myself as I had spent a good five minutes chatting with people. The hiltop was draped with people and I had no lunch to consume I took another few photos and made my way east and downhill towards White Coppice.

There’s something in the name of the farm “Drinkwaters” which makes one stop and drink some water, which I did. As I spent some moments knocking back water and taking in the view a number of walkers obviously from an organised group; passed on by, some with niceties and others who simply exchanged smiles. I decided to pour my Peach water into the bottle I’d been using so as to avoid having to retrieve it later on in the walk.  On the descent I bumped into another talkative couple, the man of whom decided to rib me a bit “You’re last” he japed. Implying my position in the throng of walkers whom had passed me at Drinkwaters.

“Ah well I’ve news of you…I’m not in their group, so in fact I’m first, and last, in my own!” I retorted back.

He laughed and we spent a few minutes talking about the weather and just how nice a good downpour can be on a day like today. I had been curious as to where the group had come in from today and the gentleman mentioned that his wife was currently in the process of finding out that exact information. Less than a minute later we were enlightened to hear that they were from Poynton, which apparently is in Cheshire.

As we descended I overtook all of the Poynton group reaching the front runner perhaps two minutes after the main group. We got talking about walking as part of a group and the appalling communications I had endured whilst a member of the Southport Ramblers – a point to which she could relate. We parted company outside the tiny cricket ground at White Coppice and then again after I had stopped to take my coat off again (after another minor rain spell atop Great Hill). From ther on in it was full steam ahead, I was on a mission to get back to the car before three o’clock.

The route passes through various terrains, at one point I was surrounded by trees and vegetation and another had me traversing a verdant paddock on the slimest of all tracks. I passed by Anglezarke Reservoir then High Bullough Reservoir and then some more of the Anglezarke – it really is a large expanse of water. I must admit to preferring the open parts of the walk over the more wooded sections as the humidity by now felt very high, who would ever have thought that the woods near Spen Cobb would be comparable to the Amazon rain forest? I emerged onto Moor Road / Knowlsley Lane and back into car world once more! Most of the roads around this local are national speed limit, and how the drivers like to test that out, crossing the road was somewhat perilous but I made it across to the chute leading up to the Yarrow Reservoir. For the record I had now passed by:

  1. Some Yarrows (plants)
  2. Yarrow head (the beginning of the river Yarrow)
  3. The Yarrow Reservoir.

I did pause for a minute at the water chute ahead of the Yarrow reservoir, the evidence would point to it being a long time since there was any real flow of water in here as there are Ash (Fraxinus) trees and other shrubs emerging from the concrete basin. A young couple had gone ahead of me and I thought it would be really nice of me to leave it a few minutes before setting off behind them…I was kind of hot by now. Eventually, I ascended by the chute and passed the western edge of the reservoir. Aphids were out by the swarm load today and passing through a cloud of them was a minor annoyance, but they were getting on everyone’s nerves so that kind of made it okay! At the end of the reservoir I turned left then right at the edge of Dean Wood and followed the stream which has no name on o/s maps (but I believe might be the Dean Brook) for a little while until I reached the last climb of the walk, a set of steps which a fitter me normally finds no trouble but today I attempted them so swiftly that I was hyperventilating when at the top, where of course the young couple were waiting to descend. Now it was through a grassy paddock which is the end of the Angelzarke Amble (as was everything from the summit of Great Hill and onwards) before a struggle through the route’s slimmest kissing gate and onto Sheep House Lane. This is the hardest part of this walk, trying to not get hit by cars speeding by me whilst avoiding parked cars near the old post office, obviously I survived, but I really think there is a need for some double yellow lines here, this is a popular walking route.

And so, after five hours of walking I turned onto the tarmac road which would lead me ever-so-slightly uphill and back to the car. I made it back by 15:05. My fitbit had managed to clock up an impressive 23000+ steps and 10.83 miles, now that I have measured the route on Google Maps, I actually did more like 11.53 miles and over 2,400 feet of ascent. Given the humidity, which is becomming a genuine thing this summer, i am more than happy with what I managed to achieve. I even managed to control my fluid consumption by actually using up all that I had with me less than half a mile from the end. well there’s no sense in taking it home!

Memories of the walk:

I never used to get Spitlers and Redmonds Edges, I never used to understand who would want to cross Anglezarke Moor so badly that a purpose built footpath was installed. I do now. I love crossing that undulating causeway over the peat and appreciate it more on each occasion. I’ll take the memories of the ex squaddie and his adorable long-haired Alsatian, the optimistic woman who believed we would get no rain and the cheeky chappie who said I was last and file them in the box labelled ‘happy times’. For that’s where they belong and rightly so. Today was the first in a series of four West Pennines walks which should culminate in the full-blown, twenty-four-miles Anglezarke Amble on February 8th next year. Between now and then there are another two to undertake which are in the same area and get progressively harder and longer:

(1)The Seven Summits: One almighty tour (14.5 miles) of these moors should see me take in, Rivington Pike, Crooked Edge Hill, Dean Mills Reservoir, up the Dean Ditch crossing Counting Hill, Winter Hill, Horderns Pasture, Will Narr, Spitlers Edge, Redmonds Edge and Great Hill.
(2)The Half Amble: Sixteen miles through Rivington Pike, Winter Hill, Lower Whittaker, Higher Whittaker, Catherine Edge, Hollinshead Hall, Great Hill, White Coppice, Spen Cob and Parson’s Bullough.

Songs of the walk:

The Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow

The Manic Street Preachers – If you tolerate this then your children will be next

Emmile de Forest – Drunk Tonight