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

Cuckoo Way: Chesterfield Canal Day 1

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The start of our Cuckoo Way walk at West Stockwith

Day One

9am. We started off at West Stockwith, where the picturesque canal basin connects with the River Trent. It was once a boat building centre where the Chesterfield Canal narrow boats – nicknamed cuckoos – were built.

I had a sense of high optimism about today’s journey, yes, it would be about 20 miles (actually it was 26!) but it was on the flat. No hills, no mountains. I could walk for ages on the flat, yes?

Hmm, let’s see.

We passed boats and dog walkers and attractive housing overlooking the canal. Our first locks – upper and lower –  were at Misterton. Both bridges and locks had numbers which, when I got tired, I counted to keep my morale up. There were also milestones too but some seemed to be absent.

The time we embarked on our journey coincided with Duckling Season. We came across many mallards, one had 10 youngsters close by while another sadly only had one. I told myself the others were hiding.

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We passed a former brickyard and wharfs, quiet farmland, Gringley-on-the-Hill – probably the only hill we saw on our walk, and Drakeholes tunnel, pictured below, (unfortunately the nearby 1700s pub, The White Swan, closed some time ago, despite its ideal location. Hopefully it will reopen one day). We also passed an ornamental bridge – with an age-worn face on either side – at Wiseton estate.

Clayworth was our first rest stop, it appeared to be a haven for moored boats on either side. Sitting at an outside bench, our cheese sandwiches and water tasted good.

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Alas, time ticked on. It was after noon and we were behind schedule – the plan was to stop off at Retford for lunch but at this rate it would be 2pm.

Keep striding ahead, don’t think too much of the time, as long as we get to Worksop before it dark…

My previous ‘dilly-dallying’ became more purposeful, although I kept feeling as if I had a blister on my foot. Our scenery was delightfully quiet and rural and we passed a quirky-named lock called Whitsunday Pie Lock. A strange and slightly eerie sight from across the water greeted us – of what seemed like tombstones dotted around…

We spoke of Eddie Izzard, a British celebrity, he ran 26 marathons in 26 days!! (How is that even possible?!) Well, if he can do that, I can surely walk 26 miles along a canal in one day…

… And 20 miles the next day.

Retford was supposed to be our half way point but it turned out it was actually two-thirds of the way. This cheered me up at the time but little did I know how weary my legs would feel after leaving this stop. That, although we had walked 15 miles to reach this point, the next 10 miles would feel even more of an endurance.

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For time and tiredness reasons, we opted to just get a drink in the nearest pub or cafe to the canal rather than venture into town. This turned out to be The Packet Inn (the inn was named after the passenger boats arriving on market days). The landlord of this down-to-earth pub was surprised to be asked for a cup of tea and two lemonades.

‘A cup of tea?!’

‘Lemonade?!’

But he served those drinks and very reasonably priced they were too. It was just what was needed. The lemonade was heavenly.

Back on track, we checked my feet, no apparent blisters could be seen.

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We saw swathes of hawthorn, a few swan nests along the way and a highlight was a kestrel swooping down into a nearby field for his/her dinner.

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The terrain varied, I had concerns that this would be a unvaried walk, one that may possibly bore Simon but we were spoilt with different scenery, woodland, farmland, industrial…

Our next main village was Ranby, it must only have been about five or so miles on from Retford but my legs said differently. My feet, once again, insisted they were covered in blisters.

I was tempted to enter a village pub and order a taxi straight to the B&B. But there was no village pub within easy reach of the canal even though we could see the A1.

We carried on.

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At Osberton, we walked past several fields with horses, an equestrian centre or some kind.

We reached another bridge. I had been counting the numbers of bridges, locks and milestones but had long stopped. I was merely focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

But this bridge was different. An elderly man, out for a walk with his dog,  was looking over it. We hadn’t come across many fellow travellers in the last few miles.

Simon raced ahead to ask this gentleman a very important question, ‘how far is it to Worksop?’

‘A mile and a half’, he replied. It was music to my ears.

True, it felt longer as we trudged on into an ever-increasing urban environment. Even when I saw the big b&q store or warehouse (never, did I think I would be happy to see such ugly industrial and retail buildings!) Worksop did not seem much nearer.

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Eventually we reached the right bridge, it took us to a main road, on which was a restaurant Simon had mentioned as being ‘not too far from the guesthouse’. I think it took us 20 minutes from the canal to the accommodation.

We finally arrived at 7.30pm. Such a relief to lie down on a bed! We ordered a pizza takeaway, my legs were now officially on strike. Oh, and the blisters – all four of them – had developed on my feet.

The pizza tasted stodgy. The garlic bread had no flavour, no garlic. Baywatch will never win an Oscar, but to lie down eating and watching TV was simply blissful.

The only question is: would I be able to walk tomorrow?

Coming on Saturday: Cuckoo Way – Day Two

 

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

The Cuckoo Way

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One evening in January, while having an evening meal in a pleasant pub along Lancaster Canal, Simon and I discussed having a semi-long distance canal walking adventure.

Canal walking sounded good to me, a challenge with no hills could be relatively easy in comparison to some of our more difficult hill-walking hikes.

So I thought…

Lancaster Canal, in Lancashire, turned out to be 57 miles in length. Chesterfield Canal, Nottinghamshire, was a ‘mere’ 46 miles in comparison.

Maybe a slightly easier walk then. I liked the idea of an ‘easier’ challenge!

A three-day hike, I said.

Two days at most, Simon replied.

Err, okay, right.

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So, at the start of May, Simon and I embarked on a 46-mile walk along the Chesterfield Canal.

In two days.

I had done some walking (mostly six-mile or less with a few intermittent longer treks of 9 or 8 miles) and two Zumba classes in the last two months.

But was it really enough for a 46-mile trek (in two days!)?

But it would be flat so, I mean, it must be quite easy, right?

We will see…

This walk, from West Stockwith to Chesterfield (or vice versa), is one of wildlife, history, beautiful scenery, geography and industry. It’s called The Cuckoo Way because that was what the old horse-drawn boats were called. No-one knows for certain why.

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A map of the canal (from Chesterfield Canal Visitor Guide 2019)

It starts in the River Rother, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and ends at West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire. Or vice versa, which was the way we did it.

Simon got a cheap Ordnance Survey map early March and the B&B in Worksop was booked on March 19.

On Saturday, May 4, we would get a lift to the start of the walk from Simon’s parents and our adventure would begin….

Coming soon: Cuckoo Way – Day One

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/cuckoo-way-chesterfield-canal-day-1/

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/cuckoo-way-chesterfield-canal-day-2/

Posted in Environment, Walks

Ainsdale Sand Dunes

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I first encountered Ainsdale Sand Dunes a couple of years ago. Simon and I paid a visit to Formby, therein you can see red squirrels, a scarcity in Britain. Near to Formby is Ainsdale and here is another rarity – natterjack toads.

Our walk took us through woodland – where we came across two metal detectorists. They told us about the varying equipment and costs and how it was possible to discover curious finds.

Of course, what they really wanted was to find treasure.

Our journey took us from woodland into the sand dunes. Sometimes the dunes themselves are not the easiest to walk on, having such a soft ground.

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We heard a reed bunting. A flock of black-headed gulls made a racket near a pond, we hoped that they wouldn’t eat any toads that may be around.

Pippets and buff-tailed bumblebees were also spotted.

The dunes took us to the beach. Yet another type of habitat. Unlike many seaside resorts, this beach is incredibly quiet. It can feel as if you are the only one there.

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We saw a boat wreck and wondered at the story behind it… And discovered a starfish sheltering under the wreck.

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Fish egg casings and an array of shells – razor, cockle and so on – were curiosities we came across on the beach.

The biggest discovery was natterjack toad spawn in one large pond.

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The last time we came was a little gloomy in that, while the weather was glorious for us humans, there were signs that the heat and sun was not such good news for our amphibian friends. Yes, we saw many natterjack toads that summer day. Depressingly, they were all dead because there was not enough water in the ponds because of the drought.

And in a way, I guess we did find treasure of a different sort that day, hope for a rare species of toad to survive and thrive in this peaceful wildlife haven. 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Environment, Walks

Masons Wood

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Just over a month ago, I had the delight of exploring a patch of woodland called Masons Wood in Lancashire, England. I used to live five minutes walk away from this little piece of paradise and I truly believe my love of nature as a youngster was sparked by frequent dog rambles in this vicinity. When you wander along the path, it’s easy to forget that suburbia is just a few minutes away.

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The walk took place in April, a good month to gaze upon the bluebells and smell the wild garlic.

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The path took me down to a river where a wonderful sight greeted me. It was a vivid brightness sitting on a tree stump or a rock in the middle of the water. Unfortunately I am no photographer and I don’t have a proper camera – also I was scared to get close in case I scared the vivid blue away – but, in the third picture below, you might, just might, see a tiny bright cobalt-blue shape in the centre. That, I believe, was a kingfisher.

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And this is what a close-up of a kingfisher looks like (picture not my own).

blue and orange bird on brown wooden surface in selective focus photography
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thanks to The Woodland Trust, who help to protect British woodlands, including Masons Wood.

http://www.woodlandtrust.co.uk

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

May 2014 – Tales of Kells

This comes from my earlier blog, written back in 2014 during a six-month sabbatical from work. It was a break which was needed and came at the right time for me. I didn’t write about all my experiences but some I did, and it’s quite nice for me to look back on those memories. I thought I would reblog some of these earlier little adventures. 🙂

clarejk's blog

Photo0185Trudging up the highest hill of County Meath, we knew it would be worth it once we got to the top. It was tougher for my dad, who is in his 70s, than me ( I had once climbed Snowdon). But reaching the Loughcrew Cairns, an ancient burial site located at the top, was worth it. On our way down we encountered a coachload of passengers plodding up the hill. Some were of elder years. I would imagine that, although County Meath is no Snowdonia, they would still have found it hard going. But sometimes a steep difficult journey is worth the reward at the end. Our trip to Ireland started two days earlier. I was chief driver, a Hyundai i10 and ferry was our means of transport, and dad was navigator. Kells was our destination. I have an ambiguous view of Ireland’s roads. The country tracks are riddled with potholes…

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

Major Oak and the Legendary Sherwood Forest

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I may not have met Robin Hood but I did encounter another famous citizen of Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest a few weeks ago – the Major Oak. This elderly and magnificent tree is at least 1,000 years old, has a 10m trunk and a canopy of 28m. It is so large, old and, unfortunately, vulnerable, that it has to be propped up and fenced in. But it is a truly grand sight indeed.

The Major Oak may be King of the Forest, but there are more than 1,000 ancient oaks in this woodland, making them ideal habitats for wildlife. To my eyes, they so looked like works of natural art!

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We saw many hollow oaks, the heartwood is decayed by fungi such as beefsteak fungus and chicken of the woods. These hollow oaks are excellent habitat for wildlife, including insects.

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To age a tree, one needs to count its annual rings. For the old trees of the forests, the Rspb, which manages the nature reserve in a partnership, looks at tree girth or diameter at breast height so the oaks don’t need to be felled. The above tree was over 100 years old, a mere youngster in these environs.

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As for Robin Hood, the most famous man of Nottinghamshire? It is believed he lived in around 1200 – at least, this is when the stories start – at a time when the forest covered 100,000 acres. He is seen as a heroic outlaw, avoiding the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham and robbing from the rich to give the poor. It is hard to tell whether he really existed, whether the character is based on a real man or if there is no basis in fact. Whatever the case, Sherwood Forest definitely exists, even if it feels as if it belongs in a beautiful legend. And the ‘Merry Men (and ladies) are its stunning oaks and accompanying wildlife.

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Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Muker and the highest pub in Britain (528m/1732ft)

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Tan Hill Inn

During our weekend stay in the lovely market town of Richmond, Yorkshire, we embarked on a long trek from the quaint village of Muker to the highest pub in Britain. Alas, I was driving later so I couldn’t have a wine (although on such a walk like this, I tend to have a thirst for water rather than alcohol!)

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Muker is situated in Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales. All Creatures Great and Small vet James Herriot called it, “the most beautiful part of England”.

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The first part of our journey out of the little village is particularly memorable. We stuck to a flagstone path through hay meadows, bordered by dry stone walls, and squeezing past ‘squeeze stiles’. Along the way, bypassing the old-fashioned laithes (cowhouses). The meadows are still managed in a traditional way, which is wonderful for biodiversity. From what I read in my Country Walking magazine, these upland meadows are rare and there are only 1,000 hectares in the North of England.

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Alas, as it was February, we missed out on the vibrancy and colour which it appears to have when the wildflowers are blooming. So, note to self, come back in spring.

The next leg of the journey is by the River Swale. We were lucky to spot Oystercatchers and two dippers and Kisdon Force – the waterfall – is a gorgeous sight.

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We reached a signpost advertising tea and cake, tempting but we had a job to do so we had to decline our invite to Keld and its tasty delicacies … Interestingly, the sign shows we walked some of the Pennine Way and The Swale Trail (not a walk I’m familiar with) crosses here too.

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The river stroll turned into a more swampy moorland trail.

We would look at the map. “Not too far now,” Simon would say in a bid to boost morale. We started to believe we would see the beautiful sight of the pub – like an oasis – at the bottom of every incline.

I ventured, “I hope the pub isn’t too busy and we will find somewhere to sit.”

And then another thought struck us both.

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What if the pub was closed and we would have to eat our cold cheese sandwiches out in the cold?

The pub eventually made its appearance, just when I started to wonder if it had closed down and was demolished or that it was an old wife’s tale told to gullible hikers.

But look, there on the horizon, was the inn. The Tan Hill Inn. A lovely sight. Somewhere to sit, a nice cup of tea, a snack…

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It was busy (it appears popular with bikers) with a long queue but we found a seat, and enjoyed a hot drink and much-anticipated snack.

I would have been quite happy to stay there for a good while longer but it was time to head back.

I realised that the landscape wasn’t as natural as first assumed. All around are the signs of lead mining, spoil heaps from shafts underground.

These days the pub is frequented by bikers, tourists and hikers. Back in the day, it would have been miners who were regulars.

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Later on, I fell in the mud. This tends to happen a lot on my walks!

There are a number of derelict farm buildings. Later I read about Hartland, which is supposedly haunted, and Crackpot Hall, a farmhouse and mine office. I wish I had read about these two features beforehand as now I try to recollect which empty structure was which. This was another curious sight… An old bridge but with possible outbuildings behind?

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Other curiosities included a rusting tractor skeleton and this unusual tree within a tree…

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All in all, we walked about 17 miles in total that day. It was time to go back to the cottage for a warm shower and a pizza takeaway.

Facts of the Day

1. Tan Hill Inn dates back to the 1600s and is Britain’s highest pub at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level. 

2. During the 1700s, it was used by miners. The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929. The pub used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages. These were demolished. 

3. On December 31, 2009, New Year revellers were snowed in and were unable to leave the pub for three days!