Posted in Fitness challenges, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Preston Guild Wheel: Part 3

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Walking along the River Ribble, towards Avenham Park

Day one of the Guild Wheel, seven or eight miles of it, was relatively easy, certainly compared to the 14-mile stretch which faced me today.

From the Tickled Trout Hotel, I walked on along the River Ribble towards Preston city centre. Some ways into Preston are less than beautiful, but the three miles along the Guild Wheel takes one along the scenic river route and into Avenham Park, what must be Preston’s hidden treasure. If you ever visit Preston, seek it out. It’s down the side streets but well worth the detour.

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One time I walked this way – via the River Ribble – with Mum (just to the city centre, not the whole Guild Wheel route). There was a nervous moment when we came across a herd of cows but there were no calves and they ignored the strange two-leggeds. This time the bovine beauties were safely in a field, enjoying their grass.

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I had a little tea break at the cafe in Avenham Park and then set off again.

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Past the New Continental Pub, a popular entertainments venue, into Broadgate and here I continued along the river.

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Eventually this took me to Preston Docks. Now it has pubs, cinema, shops and residential waterfront living but it was once a major industrial point, which opened in 1892. Cotton, timber, oil, coal and fruit were among the products imported and there was even a ferry service to Northern Ireland. By the 1970s though, the Docks started to decline until it eventually became today’s leisure and residential centre.

This was where I thought I would get lost but the trail is so well signposted, with clear markings on the road itself and on signs, that it was remarkably easy to find my way.

The Guild Wheel also passes a railway track – the train sets off from the Ribble Steam Railway Museum.

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Circling the Docks, I found myself next to a main road. For the first time, I doubted my map-reading skills. And for the first time, the signs seemed a little lacking compared to before. The road section is a tad boring but then I found a sign and realised, thankfully, I was on the right track!

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After crossing a bridge over a dual carriageway, my river and dock stroll turned into a canal ramble, along Lancaster Canal.

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And then it was past the university sports hall, and into the world of suburbia and new housing developments.

And at 3pm on Sunday, I reached home. A full circle that was 21 miles long and took about 28 hours (with a night’s sleep in between).

And if I wasn’t tired on the Saturday after 8 miles, I was definitely ready for a sit down and a cup of tea after my 14-mile stretch on the Sunday!

Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Preston Guild Wheel: Part 2

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It was raining, my friend was too ill to join me on my Preston Guild Wheel walk, I was alone and wondering if I would get bored and then…

I saw a deer (pictured below). Of course, with my rather average camera phone, it doesn’t look like one unless you enlarge it and then you might see a little blob. But it really was a deer and I saw it with my own eyes. This part of the walk is suburbia but a path leads onto a large open space of green that has been left for people and dogs to enjoy, and wildlife to live. The Woodland Trust looks after part of it.

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This curiosity (below), and others like it, can be found in the parkland. I think it’s an ‘insect hotel’ for bees etc to live.

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The Guild Wheel took me through both a natural and industrial landscape.

Sometimes it was a path with railings on either side, hiding behind were factories and offices.

Other times it took me on a detour of beautiful greenery – despite a motorway just minutes away.

Along the way, I entered the exterior of Preston Crematorium, a peaceful place, and continued along a tree-lined path which took me to Brockholes Nature Reserve.

But first I encountered the now disused site of Courtaulds, a manufacturer of rayon. Built in 1939 and closed in 1979, it was the largest site in Britain to produce rayon (according to Wikipedia). At its peak, 4,000 people were employed there and when it closed in 1979, 2,800 jobs were lost (Keith Johnson, Cherished Memories of Old Mansion and Rise of Industry, https://www.lep.co.uk ).

There also used to be an old mansion in this area but alas, it is no more.

It always surprises me how brown belt land often seems to be reclaimed by nature.

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The trail continues towards Boilton Wood, neighboured by Nab, Redcar and Tunbrook Woodlands. Boilton Wood is a site of special scientific interest and forms part of the biggest stretch of ancient woodland in Lancashire (information from Visit Preston website).

When I reached Brockholes Nature Reserve, I spotted this delightful fellow.

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And another colourful resident can be seen here…

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Brockholes is a fabulous and unusual 250-acre nature reserve, owned by the Wildlife Trust. It’s such a peaceful natural haven that you wouldn’t think it is so near to the M6 but it is. The former gravel quarry actually supplied materials to build the motorway and only opened in 2011, after being bought by the trust in 2007.

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‘Village in the Reeds’ Photograph by Jim Beattie. Courtesy of The Lancashire Wildlife Trust. http://www.brockholes.org

It’s located on a flood plain of the River Ribble so has a unique floating visitor village!

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After a delightful and filling leek and potato soup at the cafe, I continued the last mile along the River Ribble to the Tickled Trout Hotel in Samlesbury. I was lucky enough to have a lovely pastoral river view from the room window, and was able to watch the cows munching the grass alongside the River Ribble.

I was glad I embarked on this journey after all!

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Part 3 coming soon..

(For more information about Brockholes, visit https://www.brockholes.org)

 

Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Preston Guild Wheel: Part One

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Near me is a 21-mile cycle route called the Preston Guild Wheel. Although I don’t ride a bike, I think it is a marvellous route, connecting the outer ‘green ways’ of the city, courtesy of founder and keen cyclist Peter Ward. Happily for me, it is an inclusive path and cyclists, families, dog walkers,  canines and intrepid ramblers can co-exist as we explore the natural highlights of the city.

As a dog walker, I have walked a little of this circular pathway several times. I have also rambled a stretch of it with Simon, family and friends on various occasions to the fabulous Brockholes Nature Reserve and back. But this year, a friend and I thought we would walk the whole route.

All 21 miles of it.

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Courtesy of Google Maps

It is possible to do it all in one day but we thought we would make a weekend of it and stop off at a hotel en route. A new swanky hotel was due to open in the city centre and we thought we might be able to splash out a little for one night. But alas, it turned out it would not be open by the time of our adventure so we opted for The Tickled Trout Hotel instead, three miles out of the city and overlooking the River Ribble.

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The start of my Preston Guild Wheel walk

The date was set – June 1. Maps were printed off. We agreed to meet near a point of the wheel and either walk 8 miles the first day and 13 miles on the Sunday, or vice versa.

But sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

The afternoon before, my friend texted. She was feeling ill and didn’t think she would be able to make it. She hoped she would but was alerting me that, just in case, she might not be up to it tomorrow.

I felt a sense of disappointment and, if I’m honest, was tempted to cancel the whole endeavour and snuggle down on the sofa with a good book.

It may have been June but the weather wasn’t very summery.

But the hotel was booked and, as it was so much short-notice, I would have lost the money.

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The start of my Preston Guild Wheel walk

So that decided the matter.

Ever the trooper, the next day, when I received confirmation that C was too poorly to do the walk, I put on my walking boots, lifted my rucksack onto my back (including a paperback thriller which I swear got heavier and heavier with each step) and left my house, heading to the start of the Guild Wheel, a mere 10 minutes walk away.

Now, I love spending time by myself on walks. However, these are usually for shortish periods of time, and rambling, ruminating, musing and daydreaming for an hour or so is very pleasant but a whole weekend of listening to my own thoughts? Will I bore myself?!

And to match my mood, it was raining, a miserable drizzle….

But I will persevere… Preston Guild Wheel, I have arrived and I will explore all 21 miles of you. The adventure begins now! ☺️

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See Part 2 coming soon ….

 

Posted in Environment, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A wander around the RSPB’s Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve

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The West Midlands, especially around Birmingham, has a reputation of being a built-up, urbanised sprawl – but there are some rather idyllic parts here too.

One such peaceful haven is Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve. I was lucky enough to visit here one sunny October day and here are some of the beautiful views I saw…

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As well as the beautiful scenery, wildlife we spotted today (mostly at the hide overlooking the lake) included heron, swans, coots, cormorants, lapwings and gulls.

My godchildren especially enjoyed the mud kitchen, making mudpies (yum, delicious!), the bat trail and a nearby children’s playground.

Even where there are large cities – this site is close to Birmingham after all – there is always natural beauty nearby.

Facts of the Day

1. RSPB Sandwell Valley was once used by the nearby colliery.

2. There are a variety of habitats including wildflower meadows, woodland, scrub, wildlife garden, ponds and lake.

3. The site is based around Forge Mill Lake and is part of Sandwell Valley Country Park.

4. The address is: RSPB Sandwell Valley, Tanhouse Ave, Great Barr, West Bromwich, Birmingham B43 5AG.

5. For more information on the RSPB, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/

 

 

Posted in Environment, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A Day on the Dunes

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Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes, near Louth in Lincolnshire, is a very peaceful seaside spot. Instead of sandcastles, ice cream and sunbathers, there are mudflats and ponds, salt marshes, wildflowers and sand dunes.

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Natural England manages the 556-hectare National Nature Reserve section, while Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust manages the remainder of the area.

When we first entered the reserve, we walked along a path through wildflower-rich grassland, encountering ponds en route. This walkway took us to the dunes and saltmarsh.

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It is an important site for wildlife. We didn’t see any Natterjack toads but did come across many insects, including grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies.

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By holding out a stragically placed stick, Simon rescued a struggling dragonfly who was in danger of drowning in one of the ponds.

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We also came across two discarded dragonfly larval cases – they weren’t dead, they were skins of two nymphs (juvenile). Once the juvenile is ready to become an adult, they cast off their old skin. They are well prepared for this life-changing event, with a new skin underneath.

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As well as nature’s dramas, the remnants of military history can be found on this reserve, in particular the beach… Today we can still see a corroded Comet tank and a ruined pillbox, dating from the Second World War.

 

The Air Ministry bought the site in the 1930s and old vehicles, that had been driven onto the beach, were used as targets. The dunes were mined and pillbox built during the Second World War as an anti-invasion defence.

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Being here reveals how the landscape changes over time. It is thought that the dunes began forming in the 1200s after large storms blew sand and shingle and, even now, the tides and wind is changing the landscape slowly but surely. New saltmarsh and dunes are still being created today and Simon told me he saw a difference from the last time he was there.

At certain times of the year, seals can be found with their pups along the coast. The adult seals don’t look as cute as you might think, being big and clumsy and even a little violent with each other (the males at least). The babies are very cute but, of course, it is advisable not to go near and disturb them.

In July though, there are no seals but we did come across this poignant sight… A seal’s skull.

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A purple orchid

It is a lovely quiet area, I even came across a comment on an internet beach forum saying it was an ideal place to go for a naked walk and skinny dipping!

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For more information on The Wildlife Trusts, visit http://wildlifetrusts.org

Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Bow Fell and the Good Samaritans

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Back in October 2012, I have an entry in my diary saying ‘Lake District Mountain’ and ‘sunny’. Wainwright would have been horrified at such scant details. Thankfully at a later point, I had penned the name of this mystery mountain in a different colour of ink.

Bow Fell. My first ‘proper’ mountain (excluding Pen y Gwent in the Yorkshire Dales) and my first ever Wainwright. I actually can’t remember my first time that well, maybe I was too focused on breathing while going steadily upwards! I seem to remember a river while going down though…

So it is now May 2019, with about 12 Wainwrights completed, Snowdon, the three Yorkshire peaks (not all at once), Mam Tor and Kinder Scout, I may be a few years older but surely more experienced at hill walking?

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Sundew spotted en route to Bow Fell

Bow Fell Part 2 must surely be easier than Part 1…

No.

It was a bad start when we realised that we didn’t have the map we actually needed. It was left in the house and instead we had an older, less defined map which would just have to do.

There were a few flattened out plateaus, but it felt mostly uphill and heavy going. Strangely, for a bank holiday, there were not many hikers until nearer the top.

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We passed three tarns and walked and scrambled up many peaks, each time I thought, is this it?

And each time my hopes were shattered. We finally reached the top and decided, instead of going back the way we came, we would take a shortcut down and walk along the river. We followed the river the last time so it must be the right route.

By this time, the rain had got heavier and it was getting more difficult to see with the increasing mist.

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Wearing glasses ironically makes it even harder to see when the water lashes down onto the lenses and smears the vision.

So there was poor visibility, poor weather, and the steep downhill section had, what looked to me, slippery rocks, ready to trip me up.

Here’s the truth – I’m not scared of heights. I am scared of falling, slipping, sliding and doing myself an injury.

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At the top of Bow Fell

I did it on Skiddaw (skid by name, skid by nature). I ended up with a sprained ankle, not a nice experience but it could have been worse. Much worse.

So our wet, slippery journey down the mountain was not fun. Hence why there are not many photos of this particular walk, I gave up taking photos fairly early on.

Finally we reached the bottom and continued along the river, where we passed a tent, feeling envious of the dry person or persons inside while we traipsed on what seemed a never-ending trail, sogging wet.

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Eventually we got to a farmhouse and a road, not quite a main one, but a road nevertheless.

But it was bad news. We didn’t have a clue where we were. The river was not our river, not the stream we walked along the previous time. This watercourse was some random one that had no connection with where we wanted to be.

We were tempted to ring the bell at the farmhouse. Instead, we looked at the location in the red phone box, tried to locate it on the vague 1972 map, which isn’t much good, and eventually we two luddites tried to get Google directions on our phones.

We hovered at the side of the road, soaking wet and miserable, awaiting unsuspecting passer-bys.

A cyclist came around the corner, he was in no mood to stop but Simon waved him down and asked about directions. The cyclist was annoyed, he was actually in a race but he reluctantly – though helpfully –  told us we were eight miles away from our car park and two miles away from the nearest village in the opposite direction.

This was not good news.

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We grovelled our thanks to the cyclist, feeling bad about interrupting his race, and feeling even worse about our location. If it was not wet, if we were not tired or exhausted, we could walk to the nearest village and hopefully there would be a pub to dry off and a number to ring for a local taxi to take us where we wanted to be.

It was our only option.

Later, Simon told me he didn’t think I would be able to walk those two miles – that even he would have found it hard. It’s amazing to think how little two miles sound when you’re not soaked, exhausted, chilled and hungry.

Despite this, we started to head in the direction of the village despondently.

There may not have been a pub, or even any taxi service nearby. But we will not have been able to walk eight miles, that was for sure.

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And then two angels (that is how it felt for me!) arrived, in the form of a young couple driving a large blue van.

Simon asked about directions again and…

Words to my ears…

‘Do you want a lift back to your car? We’re going in that direction anyway.’

They even apologised about us having to sit down on the floor of their van! They chatted throughout the journey, putting us at our ease and after about 20 minutes or half an hour, we arrived at our car.

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They wouldn’t even take any payment!

There are two ways to see this particular and memorable day.

We should have had a proper map, I shouldn’t be so reliant on Simon, we both should have paid more attention. If I was fitter, I wouldn’t have been so exhausted at a point that could have been more worrying had we not received such kind help.

So a lot of lessons to learn.

On the other hand, it’s when you fall on hard times, even as temporarily as this, that is when you do encounter kind, generous people, such as Phil and his partner, who restore one’s faith in humans.

Thank you.

Posted in Fitness challenges, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Cuckoo Way: Chesterfield Canal, Day 2

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Could I get up this morning after a gruelling 26-mile canal walk? Well, with the help of plasters (three) over blisters on my left foot and a bandage over another foot (the blister was too big for a plaster), it was possible to gingerly climb down the stairs to the breakfast room of our b&b.

It was a bank holiday so, even though Worksop isn’t generally seen as a holiday destination, there were quite a few guests having breakfast at Acorn Lodge. 

After our filling cereal and full English breakfast, we got ready, paid up and headed back to the canal. Acorn Lodge was a good stopping off point for a rest but it was time to move on.

Simon got a text from his dad saying if we wanted a lift back this morning to give him a ring. Tempting (that’s how tired I was) but no, we would continue. 17 miles today, Simon said.

My trusty pole came in handy!

Our walk started off sometime between 9.30 and 10am, later than yesterday.

En route to the canal we came across a fascinating church/former priory, I would have liked to have explored but my legs were determined to conserve as much energy as possible. Simon looked in and took this photo of a very unusual yew door.

Another treat was in store before we left Worksop. We expected the canal to be in a much more urban setting than previous. What was not expected was the sight of a kingfisher (my second sighting in a fortnight!) It was standing on a ledge on top of the canal, before swooping in and grabbing a fish breakfast.

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After this great start, we moved onwards. Only once did we nearly get lost when thankfully a resident gardening noticed us ambling along and pointed us in the right direction, over the bridge and across the canal.

An elderly man on an old-fashioned bike told us ‘not too long to get there’, of course, he told us this before he heard where we were going.

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We passed Shireoaks Marina, where many boats were moored, stopping off at the village for painkillers for my feet. The marina was actually built on the site of the colliery basin, used to load boats until 1947. It is surprising how many scenic places have an industrial past.

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We reached Turnerwood, a pleasant little hamlet which looked like it might have a cafe…. But no time for a cup of tea, alas.

Past Turnerwood and we arrive at an engineering fan or canal lover’s dream – the land of double and triple locks. It is also a very scenic, wooded section, on the other side of the tow path is Old Spring Wood and Hawks Wood. 

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The Thorpe flight of locks includes two treble and two double staircases within its 15 locks.

Along with the Turnerwood flight (seven locks), the canal passes through 22 locks in just over a mile. The canal also flows over ‘a three arched aqueduct above the River Ryton which passes from Yorkshire to Nottinghamshire’ (The Chesterfield Canal Guidebook, Chesterfield Canal Trust).

We passed by the site of the wharf where the stone for the Houses of Parliament was loaded. Yes, did you know that the stone used for the famous political arena was transported from Chesterfield Canal all the way to London (via the Trent, Humber, North Sea and Thames)?

While we walked, we decided that, depending on how we would feel after another couple of miles, we might take Simon’s parents up on their offer of a lift back – but not until we reached Norwood Tunnel at the very least.

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Time was ticking on, and although normally we could walk three miles in an hour, possibly more, at this rate we were slowly ambling along at two miles an hour. We might end up getting to the end of the canal in Chesterfield at midnight at this rate!

At Kiveton Park, we carried on to the portal of Norwood Tunnel, where the canal seemingly ends. From here, via Kiveton Waters (the site of the old Kiveton Colliery) we continued above the Norwood Tunnel, going under the M1 at one point. The tunnel was once the equal longest tunnel in England, 12 feet high and 9 feet 3 inches wide. Because of mining subsidence, one part collapsed in the 1800s and closed in 1907.

A couple of stretches of the canal reappears, at one point partly overgrown with plantation. And then it disappears – and we realised that the fenced-in gardens were actually built on the line of the canal.

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From Killamarsh it is possible to walk to the end of the canal – but with a four mile or so non-canal detour. (The Canal Trust is working on restoration).

Earlier we had made the decision to go back once we reached Killamarsh so, at 4pm and 12 miles on, we got a lift back from The Crown pub in Killamarsh.

I didn’t feel as disappointed as I thought I would. Yes, we cut our walk short by about eight miles but we did walk about 12 miles today and 26 yesterday so 38 altogether. Much of the trek was achieved. We also hiked along the most attractive section. Had we continued, we would have trudged another four miles just to get back to the canal at Staveley Town Basin – and then another four or so miles from there to Chesterfield. As Simon said, we walked the full length of the existing canal from West Stockwith to Killamarsh.

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We saw many sights, some of the wildlife I forgot to mention earlier included the migrant chiff chaff, house martin, swallow and goldfinches. We also heard a chaffinch and reed warbler.

It took four days for my legs to get back to normal but I felt happy with my achievement – my first marathon really! And I felt impressed with myself for walking 38 miles in two days.

Here’s to the next challenge…

Facts of the Day

1. Work on the Chesterfield Canal started in 1771 and was completed in 1777.

2. The main trade was coal but stone, iron, corn, timber, lime and lead were also carried.

3. The final commercial cargo was carried in 1956. The canal could have closed if it hadn’t have been for campaigning by the Retford and Worksop Boat Club.

Thanks to their members,  Chesterfield Canal Trust and other volunteers and campaigners, we were able to walk along this beautiful part of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.