Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Childe of Hale, at Hale

The ride leader for this Sunday had to pull out, and no-one else was able to offer an alternative.  Then, the previous Sunday, Chris from Kelsall told us about his daughter (age 11) cycling Lands End to John O Groats, and did anyone want to come along and meet them or ride a little with them.  So a plan formed in my head, - and it went something like this...

Meet at Chester station 8:30 for 8:39 train to Runcorn East.  Arrive at 8:59.  

It was just me.  And I nearly missed the train, helping a lady with the ticket machine!  It is a short 20 minute hop to Runcorn East, straight after the tunnel after Frodsham.

7 miles to Esquires Coffee shop in Stockton Heath, meet Erin and Dad for a coffee.

And a lovely 7 miles it was too!  Leaving Runcorn East, I picked up a small road
First Canal of the day, with boat lifting thingy
which crossed the Trent and Mersey Canal, crossed the railway (just before a train came) and then underneath the Bridgewater Canal, before climbing up a deep sandstone cutting (Red Brow) to near Daresbury, and the A56.  Crossing this, passing near Lewis Caroll's birthplace and the back of Creamfields (set up ready for next weekend); Appleton Reservoir with a Heron perched and into Stockton Heath.

Definitely a Cheshire Lane!

Erin and her Dad were a little later than anticipated, so I had already finished my croissant.  We chatted about the journey so far, and people they had met.  I recounted some of my memories from my LE JOG many many moons ago; we bemoaned traffic, and the usual cyclist chit chat.  All too soon it was time to part, and we loaded up amidst two small children using the cafe forecourt as a bicycle race track, occasionally running over our feet!

Erin and her Dad Chris, hoping to see more of them
when they finish their Lands End John O Groats adventure

Pick up TPT, heading west, to Hale 11 miles, for lunch.

I left Erin and Chris as we crossed the Manchester Ship Canal (it must be the canal capital of Great Britain around here - there will be another one in a minute!), and I picked up the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT).  I rode it last year, but the other direction, however it did not help as it is not always as clearly signposted as it could be.

It was a lovely warm and sunny morning, people were out and about walking, picking blackberries and generally enjoying their Sunday mornings.  It is a mostly flat and very traffic free route, with some lovely sights - here are my photos...

These little cottages lead to Waltons Dock, a loop formed by the
Mersey, just as it enters the Manchester Ship Canal.

Crossing the Mersey with Fiddlers Ferry Power Station
in the distance.

Where the TPT meets the Sankey Bridges, on the Sankey Brook and
the first wholly artificial canal built in England 

Fiddlers Ferry, viewed along the St Helens Canal

'Future Flower' artwork.  Wind turbines power
small LEDs which light it up (apparently)

St Helen's Canal - I told you there was another canal around here!

At this point the TPT is re-directed whilst
the new bridge is being constructed
This is the view back up-stream on the Mersey to the new crossing; taken near Catalyst science museum where the re-directed TPT rejoins it's original route.

I met a chap taking a pic with his old Nokia, and offered to take one for him with him in it.  He declined, but explained that he wanted to proove to his mates at work that he really had ridden this far (18 miles from Aintree)! 

The Runcorn Bridge is one of my favourite bridges, it can be seen from so far away and is just so pretty!  It stands high above the generally low lying area around Widnes and Runcorn, and so can be seen for ages as you approach it.

An unusual view between the road and rail bridges!

As I pedaled away from Runcorn, I was waiting for the set of zig zag steps I knew I would have to descend.  Goodness knows what Sustrans/ TPT / local council was thinking of when they negotiated the crossing of the small tributary of Ditton Brook, preceded (or followed, depending on which way you are heading) by a long set of shallow but numerous steps.

This leads us to Pickerings Pasture, another of the many 'reclaimed' country and nature parks along this stretch of the Mersey; and into Hale.

There is lots of things to see in Hale; I satisfied myself with a quick selfie with John Middleton, the Childe of Hale, who was a giant of a may at over 9 feet tall!

After a light lunch, chatting to a chap with a Cross Bike, I set off to negotiate Halewood - quite a contrast to Hale with its large thatched houses.  The trail appeared to be signposted off to the right, under an underpass.  I carried my bike through the expanse of broken glass, but could not see a way out.  I carried it back out, and circled a little, asking a local chap (who had clearly never heard of the TPT) and a couple of young lads (Youuffs) who led and directed me to the path out from the wastlelands and I was on my way.

Railway paths are nice and quiet, traffic  free, but tend to be tree lined and a little bit samey - you do not really know where you are and there is very little to see.  Hence I was stopped checking my map and location when a cyclist stopped to see if I was lost.  After we chatted, we realised we were both Cycling UK - he was with Merseyside and we knew our groups.  He was also able to direct me to route 56, which I wanted topick up next.

14 miles TPT then route 56 to pick up Mersey to Albert Dock, Ferry back (£10)

Calderstones Park Gates
That was the plan, but by now time was ticking on a little, it was about 4pm.  I followed route 56, now on Liverpool suburb streets, through Sefton Park, along and through Princes Park, skirting Calderstones Park.

I headed past Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and along to Paddys Wigwam, the Catholic church.  I love Liverpool, there are iconinc landmarks at every turn!  Lime Street was my final point, where I picked up the train to come home.

Even then I seem to have managed 40 miles!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Salt Barge at Northwich

It is not a good sign when the ducks have left the canal and are wandering the streets - how wet is it going to be?!

John had planned today's ride, on Easter Sunday, and ten of us gathered at Chester Town Hall.  We set off, after a little introduction by John including some safety notes, but it was several miles before I realised I had forgotten to take my start up photo!

We had a pleasant start out to Delamere, meeting Ribble Clarion on their Easter weekend away (heading to The Anderton Boat Lift) and taking a short detour to The Station Cafe at Delamere whilst a rain shower passed over.

After this we retraced and dropped down to Norley and then Action Bridge - at every turn we saw the Cheshire Cycleway signs (a reminder to me to get the online entries live for the event we are holding in June!).  Crossing the bridge took us to Little Leigh, and the lanes north of Northwich.  

This corner of Cheshire is leafy green fields, salt mines and canals.  There are numerous 'Flashes', which were brine pits where the Romans originally extracted salt, or may be caused by subsidence as salt was mined from underneath.  We passed Budworth Mere, which can be seen over the hedges after we passed through Comberbatch, and the Salt Mine workings and buildings can be seen as we approached our lunchstop.

Ollerton Road Flash, with swan and
Great Crested Grebe (honest);
Salt Works behind.

Lion Salt Works and boat
on Trent & Mersey Canal

The Salt Barge name is a giveaway - placed next to the Trent and Mersey Canal (the one at the top of the Anderton Boat Lift, less than 2 miles away as the crow flies) and a large Salt Mine - The Lion Salt Works.  This apparently has been open for about two years - you can see pictures of the restoration through 2014 here.

After lunch, we were treated to some quiet off road sunshine, we passed
between the Ashton and Neumann Flashes, recently 'reclaimed' and unusual as the salt allows 'seaside' plants to thrive; and on to skirt Marbury country park, where we were treated to bluebell woods.

Passing Ashton & Neumann's Flashes

Trent & Mersey Canal

Bluebell woods near Anderton Nature Park

Fields of rape in full bloom

The sunshine continued as we navigated the lanes, returning to Acton Bridge, where we followed the Dutton Towpath.

View as we dropped down to the Weaver - Acton Bridge
can be seen to the right

Dutton Towpath (with headwind!)

I am very fond of this picturesque route, as it develops from a peaceful towpath, to the set of locks (flood defence system) and black and white bridges (including the horse bridge we crossed), and eventually a dramatic viaduct - all 22 arches!

Horse Bridge

As we ended our travels along the Weaver, I said to the group to watch out for the monkeys in the monkey puzzle tree, as I knew I would be (again) off the back as the road tilts up.  Did they?  No.

So it was a jolly good job I stopped to take a quick picture of what looks like the newest edition to the tree.

Here end my photos.  As we climbed back over the sandstone ridge, the weather started to deteriorate again, and climbing Waterloo Lane I stopped to put my raincoat on, and saw misty grey clouds below and around us.  By the time we passed Manley Mere for the second time today, we were in the midst of a deluge, coupled with the strong head wind we had fought since lunch.  Ergo, no pics!

A very pleasant day despite the rain, with ups and downs, and 54 miles.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Tap at Eastham

Missing Links and Spare Links!

This pub is known to be a 'Bikers' pub, not for cyclists, but for our motorised cousins on two wheels.  There are three pubs listed at Eastham Ferry - The Eastham Ferry, The Montgomery and The Tap.  Having not been to any, I was guessing and relying on Trip Advisor.  Top Advice - don't even look at Trip Advisor!!

I always start with a weather report, today was jolly cold, but despite being a mere 1 degree, it was not icy.  We had hoped for Fridays blue skies and sunshine, but, Alas! just habitual grey skies and cold gloom, with intermittent dampness.

Spot Ian's pump in his front wheel, bottom right -
he was feeling a little deflated
before we even started!

We had two new faces to the group, which totaled 13 at the start.  

I also like to try to include local interest in our history timeline, and today we inspected the new Brook Lane Bridge.  This small road is a very busy link and was closed for a few weeks before Christmas, closing again on the 3rd Jan.  Last week they took the old bridge away, and I was able to commute past on the Greenway on Monday morning and see the lack of bridge.  These small things make me happy!

New Bridge (brand new, still has labels on!)

Very big crane

Anyway, clearly very impressed by this, we about-turned and headed the other way towards the canal; which reflected the gloom of the sky, only remedied by the lovely smooth surface we enjoyed - until it ran out past the Countess Country Park.  After much bumping and lumping, accompanied by the sounds of gunshots from Dale Camp, we reached the A41 where we left the canal and followed a usual route to Hosta Cafe.

After a pleasant refreshment time, where we met Ted from Two Mills (we invited him to sit with us as he was not riding with them today and consequently alone) and waved goodbye to Ian (date with a puppy) and Simon (selling his last Raleigh Chopper), we set of to the foothills of The Wirral.  Now we are 11.

We followed through the gated track near Dunkirk and The Missing Link, a route through Oaks Farm.  The farm yard was quite clean, but this is when Richard first felt the ominous soggy flat tyre moment.  He pumped it up but alas! it was not to be, so we left him with Gill (at their request) to sort themselves out, to save everyone getting cold.  (unfortunately a text message later informed me that 'one broken pump after nozzle snapped off and so used the two spare [tubes] and decided to head home').  Now we are 9.

We continued towards Eastham, bumping into Bob's brother (questioning what we were doing on the Wirral!) before going separate ways.  After a few back roads in Bromborough (sorry to the football lads I did not stop for, I guess we could've sat and waited for the field to empty?), we crossed the A41 and headed down to Eastham through Eastham woods and country park.

The Tap is not a pub as we know them.  They serve beer, yes.  But the food is more like a cafe at the back, a separate enterprise specialising in bacon butties and burgers.  And no-where to sit (despite phoning ahead to book a table(s) for 11.  But they allowed us and helped us to move tables and stools around, and were able to accommodate us.  We turned down the suggestion of sitting outside!  After lunch the tandem left us, now we are 7.

Not much view today from the Ferry

After a quick photo on the old harbour, we set off up the hill to Eastham Village; but when we got there we had no Dave!  Tony went back whilst I phoned him - his chain had broken as soon as we set off but he had not realised in time to shout to us.  We sent the men back to fix it while us ladies waited at the junction.  Good job we have a bike mechanic in our midst (although I am told it was a team effort with Tony's link extractor, Bob's spare link and Rod's 'expertise'!)

We continued towards Ellesmere Port (Great Sutton) and just before following route 70 (Cheshire Cycleway) down Mill Lane, we bade farewell to three more, worrying about light and energy levels.  Now we are 4, looking for a cafe.

M.S.C. Victory (1974)
I had planned to go to the Boat Museum, but forgot / didn't know it was closed until the 1st April.  As the Galley would not let us in (fully booked, apparently), we pondered where to go - and were treated to two of the four Manchester Ship Canal Tugs making their way up the canal.

M.S.C Viking

We headed to Cafe Rouge in Cheshire Oaks, not too hard to negotiate to and I know they do an afternoon tea and cakes offer, which we all enjoyed.  Sarah now headed directly home, and Bob, Dave and myself trundled the last few lanes through Stoak and Picton to Hoole and Home.

32 miles.