Granvilles, April 13th 2002Lucky Thirteen
Our second anniversary provided the perfect reason for a celebration meal - any excuse for a party ! With fourteen people booked, one no-show and noting the date, the superstitious amongst us were feeling decidedly uneasy, but their fears turned out be be groundless.
Unusually for the group, the airwaves seemed quiet as everyone managed to find the restaurant successfully. One message did come through, though "I'll have to miss the starter because I'm walking the dog" must rank as one of the best excuses ever.
All palates were well lubricated before the meal, causing the usual lively discussions when we should have been concentrating on selecting from the menu. Granvilles provided a sumptuous repast, and only a handful of people managed to make it all the way through to dessert.
After the meal we continued to make our contribution to the bar profits. Somewhere in the background a band was playing, but no one seemed to take much notice, preferring to concentrate on more important matters i.e. talking and drinking. A convivial atmosphere ensued until closing time. Everyone seemed to leave feeling merry, especially the half dozen souls who returned to Stoke in a rattly old minibus.
Sandon, 21st April 2002Spring Sunshine
After a somewhat dismal start ( weatherwise ) the morning brightened giving sunny spells and a decent enough temperature to warrant springtime walking at its best. Not a single hat in sight, and one very brave female member reminded us what legs really look like.
Crossing a patchwork of neatly mown sheep fields, we encountered new born lambs, pheasants, an old black labrador ( who too wanted to join us ) and very few, if any, people or cars. With a good turn-out and several new faces, a very pleasant walk was enjoyed by all.
Capel Curig Weekend, April 26th - 28th 2002Wild Weather in Wales
After a stormy Friday night, we drove a few miles down the Ogwen Valley to start a circular route over the Carneddau Mountains. A steady ascent, interrupted only by several photo stops, soon saw us on the blustery summit of Pen Yr Ole Wen. With the clouds being chased clear of the hills, we enjoyed some fine views over the mountains and coast as we completed our round of five summits. We returned along the valley, with man-trapping bogs only claiming one victim before we arrived back at the cars.
The Bryn Tyrch provided a selection of fine victuals and some quality ales for Saturday night. The range of malts behind the bar proved too tempting for most, providing a warm glow to round off the evening.
Sunday dawned with a similar brooding atmosphere, but several souls decided to brave an ascent of Moel Siabod. More bog zig-zagging and a sharp ascent were followed by a rapid descent off the summit, as we were blasted by severe hail storms before reaching the shelter of the forest. Needless to say the weather cleared as we finished the walk, leaving us to admire the views from the cafe window before departing for home.
Casa Loco, May 10th 2002A hot spring evening, with spicy people and warm food (or something along those lines).
It was a balmy spring evening on which fourteen members of the group met in the newly opened Wetherspoons in Stone. After waiting an age to be served, a round buying mix up meant that I ended up with twice the drink I was expecting. It was therefore, a slightly tipsy organiser, who made his way to Casa Loco Mexican restaurant.
Once inside group members were overwhelmed by the choice of dishes available (and no Doritos in sight). Roland asked what the difference was between Fajitas and Tortillas; to which I replied, "It just depends on how they're folded". With this piece of wisdom aired, dining decisions were swiftly made and general merrymaking continued. Roland seized upon this opportunity to try and make people pay up for his fast approaching weekend away, but was universally ignored (sigh, the trials of being an organiser). Everyone enjoyed their meal, with only minor refolding required when some members received the wrong order.
Upon arrival of the bill, it became apparent that no one was capable of working out what their meal cost. After some rough accounting by Nigel and Mick, it was discovered that we had a considerable surplus of cash. My suggestion that the organiser should eat for free fell on deaf ears. Instead, it was decided that a generous tip and a round of drinks was the best way of disposing of said cash. A number of members, including myself, called it a night at this point, so I'm not sure what happened to the aforementioned sum. An investigation is under way…
Beresford Dale, May 12th 2002Beverages and Buffaloes
It was a sunny morn as the group made its way to the rendezvous point at Beresford Dale. It was a tortuous route, including a diversion via Hartington. This was in response to a distress phone call, interrupted by continual drifting in and out of poor reception areas. In fact, as we made our way in convoy to the start point, mobile signals died altogether. “Thank goodness for that” thought our footpaths secretary.
Our main ascent was up the slopes of Sheen Hill, where I had intended to reach the trig point, however, complaints from tea pot Eve forced too many refreshment stops to allow time for this. Very civilised though, turning up with separate tea bags and hot water. I was only surprised that no Twinings packet tea was in evidence.
We continued our merry way, refreshed.
Amongst the gorgeous Staffordshire/Derbyshire countryside, we encountered a few oddities, including a buffalo that had apparently been in a tangle with the White Witch and had subsequently been turned to stone. Several members of our party were forced to climb on the back of it for a photo opportunity.
Towards the end, we stopped off at the “Wellington”, in Alstonefield. However, it turned out to be called the “George”. Well, I knew it was something to do with the Napoleonic era (although a motif of a noble knight doing in a dragon had been included in the pub sign décor thus implying a more saintly demeanour).
A happy day’s walk in all, thank you all for turning up.
Bakewell Challenge, May 18th 2002Scotch Eggs and Scones
Saturday, May 18th, 08:30, outside the Famous Army Stores,Bakewell, revved and raring to go gathered those who dared to brave the very unpredictable Peak weather conditions. Armed with extra butties and goodies we headed upwards across fields and tracks to picturesque Monsal Head where some of us stripped off to shorts and others put on waterproofs !
After a quick coffee and chocolate fix we continued climbing toward the hamlet of Priestcliffe and over the A6 to join the Limestone Way. Here the views are usually breathtaking, but today sadly we had to use our imagination as the mist and low cloud swirled around us. The little stone bus shelter at Flagg made an excellent lunch stop (pork pies and scotch eggs !) before continuing on to Monyash and once again joining the Limestone Way and field paths down to beautiful Bradford Dale. Here the rainbow trout entertained us, basking in a quick take of Maysunshine.
We decided the tea shop in Youlgreave required some business and here we ate vast quantities of jam and cream and scones - highly recommended - and gooey chocolate cakes, all washed down with mugs of hot stuff ! On to our final section along to Alport and climbing up through Bluebell Woods to fields high above Bakewell. With our finish in sight we all had second wind and cruised easily and thankfully back to our start point
The walk, though a challenge in distance, was walked with both vigour and ease, taking in many lonely hamlets and places of interest, and despite the varied weather pattern we all thoroughly enjoyed it !
Yorkshire Dales, 1st - 3rd June 2002Stepping Stones and Soccer
Nightmare on the M6 ! What should have been a two hour jaunt up to Linton turned into a four hour marathon in crawling traffic. I blame the Queen for giving everybody an extra-long weekend ! We arrived at the appointed rendezvous no less than two hours late. The Burton contingent, faring somewhat better by using the M1, had long since given up hope of us appearing and had set off to enjoy an afternoon's walk.
After a stressed driver was calmed down by a relaxing pint on the village green, we decided that we still had time to do the planned walk anyway. We had not allowed for the perils of the River Wharfe ! "SteppingStones" said the map, and yes, they were there. What the map didn't point out was that most of them were many inches under water. An initial attempt in bare feet was aborted due to slippery rocks. Just then a local, wader-clad fisherman appeared and romped across. Not to be out done, it wassocks off, boots back on and a successful if cautious crossing to the other side. Attempts at helping each other seemed to be more to do with saving cameras than a concern that anyone should fall in ! We completed the walk with much squelching of soggy boots and feet.
We decided to climb Buckden Pike from Kettlewell on Sunday.The peace and quiet of the Dales was disturbed for a while as Radio Five Live kept us in touch with important events on the far side of the world. First-half smiles were replaced with long faces as Sweden equalised. When we stopped for a break, a party of Germans passed us and politely inquired about the score. We resisted the temptation to reply "5 - 1".
Major thunderstorms and downpours on Sunday evening gave little hope of enjoying the planned evening stroll in to Grassington. After driving in to the village, even our search for somewhere to eat had to be interrupted as we crammed in to the Post Office doorway to shelter from yet another cloudburst. We found a restaurant providing some excellent gastronomic delights, though the warm lager did not go down quite so well.
On Monday we enjoyed the solitude of Barden Moor before descending to join the crowds around Bolton Abbey. The day was finished off with a relaxing walk back up the River Wharfe, with a traditionally-made ice cream providing a fitting way to round off a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Many thanks to all those who took part.
The Wrekin, 16th June 2002
Once again, we assembled for our latest adventure. This time the objective was - “The Wrekin”. This is, of course, Shropshire’s answer to Mount Vesuvius, except that it has the reassuring status of being “Extinct” with local residents. However, it certainly looks less imposing up close than when viewed as large hump that can be seen as far away as the Staffordshire Moorlands. We were soon to learn that it was a sight more imposing to walk up it, though.
The start point was outside the church in Buildwas, alongside the river Severn. On this was being held a raft-race, which appeared much more interesting, as several teams of people (accountants and executives, no doubt) team-built their way down the river. Their rafts appearing to be “Castaway” type crow’s nests of planks and oil drums. However, getting lost in some fields because the map-reader couldn’t tell the difference between electricity pylons and telegraph poles proved much more alluring.
The footpaths lacked a certain something (eg, signs and stiles), however, we eventually reached the neat rows of trees thoughtfully provided by the forestry commission and started to climb. We reached the summit at 12:30, where a keen wind made sure we kept wrapped up. The views afforded were excellent. It was even possible to see where our walk over the Long Mynd would take place (July 5th, folks).
Coming down the slopes and back through the fields, there was the inevitable café, whose gravitational pull was too strong for some of our party to resist and iced lollies etc were soon chilling our brains. Further on, we were privileged to see a couple of buzzards soaring on the thermals circling over us, watching, waiting………… Well Roland said they were buzzards, and who is a non-ornithologist like the walk leader to disagree.
Our route brought us back to Buildwas, and onto the abbey, where we decided we were not culturally inclined enough to pay to go in. Instead we met up with one woman and her dog at the car park and then carried on our merry way to Ironbridge gorge, where those of a non- vegetarian persuasion partook of “real” pork pies. These were, it has to be said rather nice. They were served by an old chap wearing an apron and his wife (who wasn’t wearing an apron and appeared to be in charge).
Crossing the actual iron bridge, we worked our way through the damp woods surrounding the power station and had chance to gain a true appreciation of the monolithic cooling towers rising up through the undergrowth.
We wended our way back to the car park at about 6:00pm, tired but contented.
Kettleshulme, 23rd June 2002
A different Kettle of fish
The start point was Lamaload reservoir. Several people took the leader’s mobile number, only to find that there was no signal on any network. How nice to be uncontactable for a change. Through the day, the weather remained sunny but with a cool wind, and we were forced to keep fleeces on to fend off the more chilly blasts.
Our route took us up along the hillside below Shining Torr to a garden centre tucked away in the middle of the valley. We refrained from buying any of the varieties stocked there and made off up to Kettleshulme where we preferred to spend our money on more consumable items in the Bull’s Head.
Here we had arranged to meet another of our party, but the leader was having trouble contacting her due to lack of mobile coverage, and was forced to walk half a mile out of the valley in order to make contact. “It’s the only pub in the village”, she was helpfully informed – which it was, apart from the one at the other end of the village.
However, the rendezvous was made and our newly enlarged team walked on through the delights of Lyme park, and up to the tower. Here we were able to climb half-way up before finding that they hadn’t finished it yet, but we could still see Liverpool or so the NT lady told everyone. The writer wasn’t so sure – there were no easyJet planes to be seen for a start.
The end of the walk saw us approach the reservoir from the dam end. This is an impressive structure, and seems a bit of a waste to be holding back a puddle-sized stretch of water. Still, I bet the farmers down stream are glad of it.
All in all, an excellent day’s walking