Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mersey Basin and Bridgewater Canal

Today we were both lucky with the weather and the choice of 'local' walk. Because the forecast wasn't that good this weekend, I looked for a fairly local walk and we chose one near Warrington.
A pleasant walk starting through the not so leafy glades, Autumn has had its effect, of outer Warrington. Past a reservoir we joined a bridleway to eventually climb up to what could have been a stunning vista of the Mersey Basin; if only it had been a clear day! We could just about see Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, 14 miles to the west, the Pennines and Winter Hill twenty miles to the east.
After taking in the view, we descended to a picturesque stretch of the Bridgewater Canal.

We took the opportunity to visit Walton Hall, Chris thought she had been before for a meeting, especially as the guide mentioned a cafe. Coffee, and for Chris Hot Chocolate, plus muffins were consumed beside the canal, before heading past the lake and waterfalls...

...up to Walton Hall.

It was where Chris had been for her meeting, well remembered! Perhaps this could be a venue for one of the RSC's meetings?
The entrance, as can be seen, was very impressive.

Returning to the Bridgewater Canal, we were sidetracked into the small Children's Zoo. A number of comments were made about the residents especially the rabbits...

"Mandy would want to hold him under her chin!"...and the peacock, who was particularly cooperative when I took his photograph...

The colours of his feathers were wonderful!.
The pleasant woodland stroll and the Bridgewater canal were easily appreciated; it provided us with a more balanced view of the local heritage of the area, together with the modern-day amenities available at Walton Hall & Gardens. This plus the final stretch through farmland completed another pleasant walk and all within walking distance of one of the fastest growing towns in the Northwest. A walk to revisit in the spring perhaps.
For those of you who don't know the area, Walton Hall and gardens were originally purchaced in 1812 by the Greenall Family, a famous name in the brewing industry. In 1941 the estate was bought by Warrington Borough Council, becoming parkland in 1945. The woodlands, as we found out, are home to squirrels, and many small birds including the 'Spot of the day' a Goldcrest! Well done Chris!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

69 but Forever Young...

Friday night was music night! Chris and I made our way to the Rose Theatre, at Edge Hill University, to listen to an icon of the 60s; singer song writer, Julie Felix!
A very enjoyable evening listening to, and joining in with, Julie's own original material, classic favourites by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others. Including traditional Mexican folk songs and Native American Indian Chants. If you get the chance to go and see her next year on tour, she will be 70, I suggest you make every effort as to quote her publicity...
"Her performances are always full of inspiration and enthusiasm, passion and humour, wrapped with messages of hope and the belief that the power of music can have a positive effect on our often harsh world."
How true! Thank you Julie for a wonderful evening.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Styal, the Bollin Way and Manchester Airport...

7.5 miles on a day that we were told would be cold and rainy! Well the good old weather forecast was way off again; but to be fair it was cold.
Most of the walk followed the reasonably well-signposted Bollin Way along the river.

A smaller version of Dean Wood near Wigan for much of the walk. Ben would have experienced flash backs to his rugby days as we walked past Withenshaw Rugby Club.
The walk follows the river Bollin as far as a tunnel under the runway of Manchester Airport and then continues along side the runway...

We were expecting 'plane-spotters' but it was obviously too cold for them. One close encounter brought a smile to both Chris' and my face; as we paused to check directions and the map, a Barn Owl flew from the hedge beside us, out across the fields. What a wonderful sight!
Leaving the runway we made our way back across pastoral farmland to Quarry Bank Mill on the Styal Estate

Birds were abundant including the Barn Owl and at least three Sparrow Hawks and a couple of Kestrels.
After refreshments in the Restaurant we used our National Trust Membership Cards to gain access to the Mill. A number of changes since we last visited and well worth a visit if you get time. The power of the water wheel and the engineering involved in transferring this into the machine rooms is worth the visit on its own.

Sadly the steam engines, one from the 1700's, were not working as the boiler needed repairs. Perhaps another visit is needed in 2008. Note Quarry Bank Mill and Styal is one of the most important industrial heritage sites in the world. It is a unique survival from the early part of the industrial revolution, not just the mill itself, but the Apprentice House, the Mill Owners House and the village built for the Mill Workers.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wales and Weddings

Sorry this is late but a busy week, followed by three days walking and a wedding puts everything out of sequence. I've just about caught up with emails and work based learning bid support so its time to catch up with the blog.
Colwyn Bay and the Nant-Glyn Valley was our first walk on the Friday of last week. A beautiful walk which involved an easy climb from the start, just above sea level. On the way up the valley we were surprised to see gorse bushes back in flower.

Hardly what you would expect in November. At the height of the walk there were superb views of the Great and Little Ormes, Anglesey and Puffin Island...

An excellent start to our extended week end and the weather was better than forecast. The Welsh obviously don't make Sloe Gin as the hedgerows were laden with sloes...

Returning to the car, we headed off to the Seiont Manor Hotel which was to be both our base for the next two days and Steve and Ann's Wedding Venue. The natives seemed very friendly but they tended to stare a lot...

Like most populations the were a few 'black sheep' among them. The Hotel, room, food and drinks were excellent as was the swim and sauna! Yes Chris did go in the pool and yes it was warm!
Saturday brought another "better than expected day"! We headed off to Newborough Forest and Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey. Probably the best walk I've been on for a long time. The forest and island form an extensive nature reserve, with forest, ecologically important sand-dunes and wide-open beaches. The northerly shore was being lashed by heavy seas while the southerly shore was calm. The 'island' is barely disconnected from the mainland and has ancient lighthouses, stone crosses and a free museum housed in an old pilot's cottage; quite idyllic and well worth a visit.

The picture below shows one of the lighthouses and the pilot's cottage (museum)

The next picture is of the other lighthouse...

The island is said to have been the home of a religious community founded by Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Legend has it that she fell in love with a local prince, but the marriage was not to be. She prayed to be cured of her love and God appeared to her and gave her a potion to drink. This doused her ardour but also turned the prince into a statue of ice.
After further prayer, God then granted her three wishes. Her first wish was to return the prince to human form, her second to be given the power to grant the wishes of true lovers and her third was never to be inflicted with marriage and love again.
What ever the truth or otherwise of the legends, the island has a captivating atmosphere.
Walking back through the forest we happened upon puff balls...

and disabled perching for the resident gulls...

More swimming and another sauna and then we went and joined the newly married couple... their reception. Let's just say a good time was had by all with lots of food and alcohol!
Sunday morning and after a good breakfast and a walk around the grounds we paid our bill and headed for Beddgelert Forest.
On the way I had a very strange feeling that I was about to come to the Snowden Ranger Youth Hostel (I had stayed there when I was 11-12 years old). It was a cold shiver down the back time when sure enough there it was! Wow! I still don't believe that I remember it from that long ago (about 46 years ago)
We arrived at the forest...

...and apart from a couple of showers, the walk provided some stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

We followed forest tracks; one steep climb was both a narrow path and bed of a stream. We passed Llyn Llywelyn circling round to a picnic site at the edge of the lake before returning to the car and heading home.
All in all three lovely days walking and both Chris an I wish Steve and Ann all the best in their married lives together.
PS I won the most money on the roulette wheel!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

My chest is appatently heading for 500 years old!

Today Chris an I went to the recording of the Antique Road Show at St George's Hall in Liverpool.
St George's Hall was reopened this year on St Georges Day (April 23rd 2007) by HRH The Prince of Wales, after a £23m restoration.
It was very interesting so see how the show is filmed and how many people the experts see during the time we were there. The queues outside were very long indeed!
We were two of the lucky ones; we had a pass to 'jump-the-queue'! Chris had wanted to find out more about the 'dough chest' which we had acquired when Bessie (my grandmother) had moved in with my parents. We sent pictures to the BBC and were paid a visit last week (one of of 40 visits in and around Liverpool we were told), with the view of it being included in the show. As a result of the visit, we were given a pass!

The Chest was apparently from the early to mid-1500s. Wow that is much older than we thought!
Having had expert opinion about books, ceramics, and a number of other items we had taken, we headed off for a walk in Calderstones Park.
I've not included a map for this walk as it was nothing more than a "pleasant walk in the park". Liverpool is very lucky with their parks; they are looking so much better now that they are being given more TLC!
Calderstones Park in Allerton is named after the ancient megaliths situated in the park, which are said to be older than Stonehenge.
Calderstones incorporates the Harthill Botanical Gardens, founded in 1802. Almost 4000 species of plants are on show, brought from all over the world by merchants and other travellers.
We visited the Japanese Garden...

...and were impressed by the autumnal colours. From our experience of gardens in Japan we felt sure that the Japanese wouldn't have left so many leaves on the ground. They would have been cleared up very quickly. They wouldn't have had 'duck-weed' on the water either.
There is a lake in the park, where you can feed geese and ducks (if you ever remember to take any with you),

and there is also the Mansion House, which features a cafe and a child-friendly play area. Yes we did pop into the cafe! Toasted sausage and bacon sandwich went down very well!
Autumn seems strange to me this year. Many trees have completely lost all their leaves and others are still very green. This picture I think shows the uneven rate of leaf change.

Another enjoyable day but what a contrast; less than 12 months ago I was told I had the lungs of a 17 year old and today I was told I had a chest that was over 450 years old!

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