Saturday, 12 January 2013

12/1/13 - Astle is the King

Distance - 5.25 Miles
Geocaches - 7 Found, 3 Not Found
Walk from - 100 Walks in Warwickshire and West Midlands


This is the very definition of a varied walk.  We have had woodland, canals, coal mining, clay pits, high rise towers and housing estates.  A couple of nicely received surprises on the way around as well.

The walk starts to the right of Merry Hell.  Instead of turning to the shopper's paradise, we turn into the bowels of Netherton and park at Saltwell Country Park. 

The initial walking is woodland, uphill and after a failed cache find, we arrive at Lodge Farm Reservoir, just as the scuba divers are getting into their rubber suits.

Lodge Farm Resevoir
Church bells were ringing
We then pick up the canal.  Not sure I can claim cache two as a find, as this is all we found.

Dont think I am allowed a find
All that remains
No joy at all at the next cache but then we do have our first surprise of the day.  I have read about this bridge and then find myself here by accident.  As a lifelong Albion fan, Sonia thought I was getting all emotional, but I blamed the cold winds making my eyes water.

King Bridge
From Below
King Bridge
From Above (Lifted from the Web)
Sonia is hoping for a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea.  The next surprise of the day is stumbling upon Bumble Hole cafe, in an area that is the most picturesque part of the canal walk.  Dogs allowed, so we enter.  I ask if they do bacon sarnies and my enquiry is met with a blank.  We settle for cups of tea and mini chocolate digestives, which with a thoughtful touch, are delivered with doggie biscuits.
Now Molly is well known for her fussiness and after helping me polish of the choccy biscuits, I put hers into the packet.  This attempt to fool her is thwarted when she unceremoniously spits it out.  I didn't even know that dogs could spit.
Bumble Hole
Bumble Hole, Cobbs Engine House behind

Bumble Hole
We cross the canal, and at the forth time of asking, find a cache at last.  Well Sonia does.  The walking takes a turn for the worse as we cross some very rough ground.  Molly finds something to use as perfume, which we notice as we take the tunnel under the road and then we walk past high rises around Baptist End, before picking up Saltwells Country Park again.

Four caches in here which we do find.  The terrain turns to unexpected heathland, before picking up the canal again.

Yes, we are in Dudley
The canal drops us down into a council estate, before picking up the final couple of caches of the day in very nice woodlands, that bring us back to the carpark, where I make a new friend.

New Friend
A surprisingly varied walk, with some real nature spots amongst the industrial heritage.  I am sure I will be here again - I can drop off Ellie for shopping, whilst I do something more interesting.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

6/1/13 - The Seat of Learning

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 11
Walk from - Country Walking Magazine - Spring 2011
Christmas is now officially over and Ellie needs to be returned to Manchester for her 2nd term at university.  The boot is fuller than on her journey down, so I can only assume that Santa was very kind to her.

It was nice of her to keep me company until we hit the straight bits on the motorway.  The last sound I heard before pulling into Hulme Asda at 10:50am was "How do you make these seats go down?".

The supermarket doesn't open till 11am.  It felt like queuing for the Boxing day sales.  She does the big shop and then I drop her off at her flat and get a glimpse of what the next generation "Captains of Industry" are learning whilst they rack up 9K per year in student debts.

Bloody Students

If you can zoom in closely to the top right of the charts, there is some lovely animation.  And Chloe has a reputation.
The great thing about my hobby is that I can combine long haul taxi services with walking and geocaching.  But where to go in the big city?  From the amount of people I see on this walk, Mancs love nothing better than a nice walk around some water.

Country Walking magazine provides a perfect little five miler and a bonus is that there are a lot of Geocaches.  Park up at the visitor centre, and make friends with a terrier puppy with very sharp teeth.
The walking is very straightforward and water is never out of sight.  First off, its a circumvention of Sale Water Park.

Manc's Day Off
Whats Mancs do for fun
There are so many people out today, it makes the caching hard.  The first one cannot be attempted as there are a family having a big old chat at GZ.  Cache 2 is found, but is guarded by a hoody with a rottweiler.  A bit of a mexican standoff ensued, as neither of us would move on.  I hope he wasn't taking his dog out cottaging.  Eventually, he's off and I get the cache and the TB.
The next stretch of water is the River Mersey - surprisingly fast flowing and with a choice of an upper of lower path.  There's even a bridge for me to get the cache on the opposite side.
Should have tucked my shirt in
Follow the river upstream.  Two more caches before I cross over at Jackson's Bridge.  There is a cache under here, but too many people around.  Continue on the other side a couple more micros, before hitting the next body of water - Chorton Water Park.
Again, loads of people - on bikes, horses or just walking.  Another four caches around here and then follow the mersey back up to Jackson Bridge and the pub.
Jackons Boat
Great facilities to end the walk - we must be close to Moss Side
And there are less people at the bridge, so I make like a troll and grab it.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

5/1/13 - 11th Day of Christmas

Distance - 7.4 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Walk Inspiration

Every year since 2005, I have completed a Xmas walk from Tintern and the surrounding area.  This year's rain, meant that I nearly missed it.  I'm not driving all this way for a miserable soaking.

Lets stay on the subject of weather.  Two years ago, it was -17 here, with ice flows down the Wye.  Today, it is 12 Degrees, a shift of 29 Degrees.  This country's bizarre weather continues to confound.  I could have done this walk without the soft shell.

With all the rain, and the fact that I was heading into the Wye Valley, I felt it was prudent to check if the roads down were OK.  No problems reported on the Web and no indication of floods.  I set off in confidence.

Battle my way down the M50, which has two long strecthes of 40MPH speed limits and then pick up the Wye Valley at Monmouth.  Get three miles down it and yes, you've guessed it - the road is closed due to flooding.  Come on Wales - the Internet is dynamic - you are meant to update it. With information.

I am forced to take a detour through Newlands and then Clearwell before dropping back down to the Wye at Bigweir Bridge.  Interesting diversion.  Would have been easier in a 4x4.

Park up and more bad news - they have started charging for parking at the Abbey.  From nothing to £3.  An impossible amount of inflation to work out.  However, I have the last laugh.  The machine is broke.  Up yours Parking Pataweyo.

New years resolution - protect trousers with Gaiters.  If only they weren't so fiddly to put on.  Especially when a pleasant middle class lady is trying to determine the breed of your dog.  Achieving Sartorial Elegance, we head off over the bridge to walk downstream of the opposite bank, following the course of an old railway line.

Over the River
This Year - We are east side, downstream
Old Railway Line
This Year, I will be mostly wearing gaiters
I have the path to myself, walking higher than the river with decent paths.  Soon, we are forced to climb uphill to reach Offa's Dyke Path.  Its steep and relentless but mercifully, soon over.  The fallen tree looked too comfy to pass by.

All Uphill
Too Many Mince Pies
Offa's Dyke path has had some work since I last came along, taking you slightly off the ancient monument.  I wanted to come back up here for the views from the Devil's Pulpit and to get the only cache on route.  I had a go at this cache in my first month of geocaching four years ago.  I must have been rubbish then - how could you fail to spot an ammo can under camo, with a perfect hint?  Today it was soon found.
Surprisingly, I have the Devil's pulpit to myself.  This is a small rocky tower, overlooking the abbey and I have the freedom of practicing the legend of trying to convert the monks below away from Christianity.
Devils Pulpit
They would have been happier if I was preaching roofing services.
Sonia has done us proud with sandwiches, and this is the ideal spot for them.  This is the only time Molly wags her trail all route.  O, to have a joyful dog.

Lunch at the Tree Rock
Lunch time at Rock Tree
We leave the pulpit and follows the Dyke around Caswell Wood, before doubling back on ourselves to wind our way downhill.  Back across the bridge and to the car to de-gaiter. 
The Abbey
This Year's Abbey Photo
Just have to consider the way to go home... battle the floods and roadworks?  Then I have a moment of inspiration - Eastbound Severn Bridges are toll free.  If only I could have stopped for a photo.