Monthly Archives: November 2015

CHESHIRE RING WALK. Southern section – Day 1.

Marple – Macclesfield.

I walked with Conrad 3 days of the northern section of this trail earlier this year and I now hoped to complete the circuit on the Macclesfield Canal and then the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Catch up on our walk along the Bridgewater, Rochdale, Ashton and Peak Forest Canal sections  – https://bowlandclimber.wordpress.com/category/cheshire-ring-walk/

Murky weather greeted me at Marple where I was reunited with the last set of locks on the Peak Forest Canal leading up through the town to join the Macclesfield Canal. A brief detour found me in AngkorSoul, a Cambodian cafe fortunately serving good coffee with an eclectic background music mixture, had to tear myself away. Next time I would love to try their food. As a blue plaque states don’t miss Marple!

The Macclesfield Canal, surveyed by Thomas Telford as a direct route between the Potteries and Manchester,  was one of the last narrow canals to be built, opening in 1831 just as the railways were starting. Goyt Mill is encountered early on, an impressive brick building spinning cotton till the 60’s when the Far East took over. Now, as many of these old mills do, it houses small businesses. On the outskirts of towns other small industries exist on the canal banks, they all look a little run down and usually involve breaking something.

I was now striding out along the tow-path. This area seems popular with both permanent and passing canal boat types. They all seemed keen to chat and I discovered the intricacies of mooring rules – 48hr, 2 weeks and more permanent moorings. Apparently satellites can now track your boat and where and for how long you moor up, somehow takes the romance out of the carefree life most of these people signed up for. A pleasant surprise came at bridge 15 – Bailey’s Trading Post, a chandler selling everything for the boat owner but more importantly serving coffee. Several walkers were resting up here so I joined them for the usual interesting chat. Long may these places thrive, deserves a mention. I had only gone 4miles and the morning was disappearing. Across the way I could see ‘The Cage Tower’ in Lyme Park, something to do with hunting, and further on ‘White Nancy’, commemorating the Battle of Waterloo, on a hill above Bollington.

The Cage in distant Lyme Park.

The Cage in distant Lyme Park.

I remember walking along the ridge between them many years ago on, I think, the Gritstone Trail. Wherever I go these days my past seems to catch up with me.

Further down the pleasant rural canal I came across two fishermen. The first was a stately Heron who allowed me unusually close before drifting off…..….. the second was an excited man who had just caught a 12lb pike, what a beauty it was too but I wouldn’t like to get too close to its teeth.Two more large mills were passed as I strolled into Bollington, the Clarence and the Adelphi. They were originally cotton but have since had chequered histories, both now host small businesses but have been involved in silk, parachutes and car safety belts. Near here in 1912 the canal broke it’s banks flooding the town with water and fish.

Onwards to Macclesfield the canal passed an extensive modern industrial area belonging to AstraZeneca pharmaceutical firm, the modern face of Macclesfield. Previously famous for silk weaving,  treacle, canals, railways, Hovis, and Joy Division. [all depicted at the station]

The 'Hovis' mill.

The ‘Hovis’ mill.

There is a choice of restaurants tonight ?Indian ?Thai ?Italian and about fifty pubs – it is that sort of town.

 

 

STYLES OF STILES.

Ancient bridleway out of Grindleton.

 

This summit cairn is not regularly  visited and it’s years since I’ve been up here. Any ideas as to its location? ……………..

We arrived here via this isolated trig point – any ideas? …………

 

I’d planned a 9mile walk for today as the weather forecast was good, cold and sunny. We didn’t have as heavy a snow fall as predicted and most had melted yesterday. Coffee was on at my house at 9am for the Rockman [travelling from Bolton] and Sir Hugh [travelling from Arnside]. Equidistant planning. I coaxed my car across to Grindleton on the north side of the Ribble Valley, an interesting village with many rows of cottages in hidden back streets. Having left the village we vaguely climbed up through complicated fields onto the fell. We encountered a multitude of stiles on the way, some ancient stone squeeze ones had been over ridden by modern wooden ones. Even the simple wooden ones seemed awkward, either at a funny angle and height or doubled up.

Courtesy of Conrad.

Courtesy of Conrad.

Our creaking stiff joints didn’t appreciate them and we in fact took to a quiet lane to make life easier. Soon we were at the trig point 305m Beacon Hill, a fine viewpoint of Ribblesdale.  The ground all around is rather boggy and the forests hereabouts seem different shapes to our map, the result of felling and replanting. Easington Fell, 396m came next with even better views to the Three Peaks and the Bowland Fells. Time for lunch and talk turned to the virtues of Higgidy Pies, the sun came and went. Lanes led down the fell. We were lucky to watch a Sparrow Hawk pluck a luckless Starling out of a flock. Our next objective was the hidden Drakehouse valley, a deep ghyll in the woods. progress was hampered by debris from recent flooding but we enjoyed the almost secret paths down here. A pleasant stroll by the Ribble brought us back to Grindleton, completing a surprisingly varied tramp. My legs are aching tonight after all those stiles and boggy ground. You may get a true record of the day from    http://conradwalks.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – change of plans.

From Top to Bottom.

All good things come to an end. I was up all night with the most awful abdominal pain!  If I’d been at home would have gone to hospital – ?appendix ?kidney stone. Eased up after 7hours and spent the rest of the day resting in bed feeling sorry for myself and disappointed about missing the walking in this fantastic weather. The hotel were very helpful and we booked another night. John had a great day’s walking with a taxi back to Cruz de Tejeda. Saturday I was feeling better but didn’t dare set off into the wilderness. So we had a pleasant short walk down to the village of Tejeda, a lovely little spot where we dallied on a bar terrace overlooking the valley down to Artenara.

Roque Nublo above Tejeda.

Roque Nublo above Tejeda.

Sleepy Tajeda.

Sleepy Tajeda.

Towards Artenara with Cueva de los Candiles high on the right cliff.

Towards Artenara with Cueva de los Candiles high on the right cliff.

The bus didn’t leave from where we thought so we had a bit of a rush down to the small bus station. I didn’t envy the drivers task of negotiating the steep narrow hairpins over steep drops, he did hit the barrier on one hairy section! Two hours later we were in the busy holiday resort of Maspalomas, installed in our hotel apartment and enjoying a swim in the pool. Another world from where we had been. Our complex was massive but  surprisingly pleasant and clean. Didn’t really like the fitting of a wrist band for our stay, shades of electronic tagging. Are they trying to stop us running away, not something I’m used to. We were given a map of the complexes and it took us some time to locate our room, even worse when we tried to find the restaurant. We ended up on the streets outside and arrived back where we started, the areas all looked the same! Maybe tagging would be useful for finding lost, and hungry, guests.

Sunday was our last full day, John was not happy to go back up into the mountains whilst I could possibly take a turn for the worse [somebody has to have some sense]. So after a leisurely breakfast we walked through the no man’s land of apartments and shops to Meloneras beach where we had a swim and dried of in the sun before heading back to a little restaurant, La Esquinita del Mar, for lunch. Papas arrugadas con mojo sauces and then the local fresh Cherne [Wreck fish].

As an aside I noticed a quirky translation elsewhere  of ‘papas arrugadas’  wrinkled potatoes. Mis hijos quedaron encantados con sus papas arrugadas – became – My children were delighted with their parents wrinkles.

Walking back past some exclusive looking hotels along the wide promenade ‘living statues’ were in evidence, some quite clever. At the lighthouse at Faro, a prominent landmark, it was 28degrees and everyone was making use of the good weather sunbathing and swimming. One can see why Northern Europeans flock here in the winter. The southern tip of the Island is famous for its sand-dunes above the beach and I was keen to see them, I wasn’t expecting all the other sights I saw. Some things are best kept hidden.Can’t really end with that photo so here’s another cheeky chap seen along the way …..

Gran Canarian Giant Lizard.

Gran Canarian Giant Lizard.

All being well we will be on a plane home tomorrow, I hear the weather back in Britain hasn’t been that good – can’t wait.

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – caves in the sky.

Artenara – Cruz de Tejeda.

Another leisurely start and another perfect day. we say goodbye to the lovely people at the cave. Breakfast at Bar Tamadaba was taken in the town square, tomate tostada and good coffee. Lanes led to the hills above with views once more to distant Mount Teide. On the ridge we came across a sign for Cueva de los Candiles describing it as one of the most important pre – Hispanic caves with hundreds of carved triangles possibly representing the female pubes, fertility symbols?  The approach to the cave was described as dangerous and precarious so we were soon scrambling down the loose cliff face in search of the cave. After a few false descents we found a metal ladder taking us down to an exposed terrace leading to the cave in the rock face.  Disappointingly the entrance was barred and it was difficult to make out the carvings but what a situation 400m above the valley.

The best 'triangle' I could see.

The best ‘triangle’ I could see.

We had not seen much in the way of bird life in the hills, some Kestrels yesterday but up here we spotted a Barbary Falcon flying across the cliffs below us. Continuing along the ridge we found more caves [all barred] Cuevas Caballero which were worth exploring, this time without risking life and limb. There was an interesting carved face in the rock but this was probably of a different date.

Back on the ridge we had a surprise view down to the capital Las Palmas.

The day was disappearing and we hadn’t gone far but good paths led us towards the col of Cruz de Tejeda where all the day trippers land up in the centre of the island. We had a beer on the terrace of the exclusive state run Parador hotel but couldn’t afford a swim in their heated pool. The view down the caldera is impressive, as is everywhere in these mountains. The sombre pilgrim cross overlooks the busy tourist cafes and stalls and our more modest hotel, El Refugio, was tucked away behind. There were pleasant gardens with a pool which looked inviting in the hot afternoon sun – but turned out to be freezing, about 15degrees [we are at 1500m], so we didn’t linger.

We were in a cheap attic dorm type room and suffered several head injuries as we moved about. The couple running the place were most charming and provided a good Canarian evening meal with honey/rum to finish. Recommended.

 

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – through the forest.

Tamadaba – Artenara.

The morning was perfect, clear and sunny and already warm. We supped our tea gazing at the view from the cave across the caldera valley to Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga as cocks, mules and goats awoke. The Acusa plateau to the west reminded me of Andean landscapes. The small Bar Diaz provided us with desayuno, tostada con tomate, although the coffee on the Island is rather strange. Our taxi man turned up at 10 and we were soon back in the trees of Tamadaba. We climbed up to the summit at 1444m for a view of Mount Teide on Tenerife.

Undulating paths led along the pine covered ridge. We passed a giant eggshell of larva which would have made the perfect bivvy. The path was well waymarked and was really only running parallel to the road with several well frequented view points. Soon we were overlooking Artenara and were drawn into the town square and the rather touristy Bar Tamadaba. So it was a mixed tapas and beer including the classic ‘patatas arrugadas’ with mojo sauces and fish croquettes. We took the opportunity to walk up to  la Ermita de la Cuevita a church inside one of the many caves on the hill side. Up here we passed many inhabited caves with goats and chickens scattered about.

Dropping back down to our own cave as the sun was setting and a new influx of interesting people. A mother and daughter from England had come up on the bus and were adjusting to high altitude cave life.  We set off into the village hoping for supper and found the only place open was our Bar Diaz. Classic Canarian meal of mixed salad and dorada  [a type of sea bream] and chips.The local ‘Tropical’ beer was good as was the company. About 7euro per head. Bought some more wine and retired to the cave for another chilled out evening. The old hippy in me is resurfacing.SAM_6609

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – into the mountains.

Puerto de las Nieves – Tamadaba.

Aeroplane and bus had us onto the Island and into the busy capital Las Palmas, where Christopher Columbus stopped over [1492] as did we; and the next morning over to Puerto de las Nieves, a sleepy port on the north west coast. Time over coffee to adjust to the sun and temperatures climbing into the high 20’s. The GR131 is not marked as such on Gran Canaria but the route across the island is covered by a series of well signed and numbered paths. We picked up the S90 on the edge of town and started climbing.

The path was well contoured through the volcanic ash and soon typical Canarian plants were distracting us from our task. A new bulldozed track gave us easy walking, its purpose we found out was to access land where millions of trees were going to be planted. The workers put us on to our smaller continuing path up the rocky crest [a sign will be needed]. Steep slopes were crossed and a large party of 25 walkers met descending, there is a walking festival on the Island at present. At over 600m old terracing appeared and an ‘era’ threshing floor. I suppose this was the reason for our old path in the first place. Surrounded by cliffs and with good views down to the coast this was a good place for a rest and snack. Also an opportunity to compare the carrying properties of our respective packs, my back was soaked in sweat from my basic Golite sack whilst John was dry using an updated airflow Osprey pack. Sometimes the quest for the lightest carry has its downfalls.

The stone paved path now climbed steeply to find a breach in the cliffs above and entered the forest of Canary Pines at 1000m.

Volcanic bomb.

Volcanic bomb.

This was a different world of shade and mist with silent needle covered paths, hanging lichens and giant heathers. The absence of any other walkers enhanced its spookiness. We hit the road where I had hoped the taxi would appear and sat and wondered if it would. There was no mobile reception.

Taxi!!!!!

Taxi!!!!!

This is not a particularly busy road, we only saw one other car, so when a taxi came round the bend we stopped it and jumped in. The driver’s replies to my stuttering Spanish had us worried as to whether we were in the right taxi – he didn’t seem to know my name or where we were staying and his phone number was different from the one I had. The simplest solution was to keep quiet and get to our hostal in  Artenara. We arranged to see him in the morning for the journey back.

Our hostal was in fact a cave house, and a very good cave it was. Adam the ‘warden’ was from Hungary and the other guests from France and Belgium. The laissez faire [can’t translate that into Spanish] atmosphere was perfect for the situation – a cave with the most fantastic outlook and that black cat, Sombre.  [El Warung Cave Hostel]. SAM_6536We had no food with us so wandered into the village to eat only to find that due to some previous local festival every bar was closed. A shop provided us with pasta, beer and wine and it was back up to the cave for a convivial evening. The stars were fantastic and the planets almost aligned. Should be good tomorrow.

PS. The taxi was the correct one.

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – Plans.

Cicerone Press.

Cicerone Press.

 

A rather bleary eyed friend, John, opened his door last week – “we’ve just arrived back from Tenerife at 4am this morning!”

“Oh – so you won’t want to go walking in Gran Canaria starting this weekend? We might have to bivvy a few nights but the weather should be good”

“I’ll have a think about it”

We ‘outdoor types’ seem to live from one expedition to the next, there is never enough time for all the potential trips. I’d come across the GR131 on La Gomera last December and realised it’s potential for winter walking.  Cicerone, as ever, do guides. The trail links all the seven Canary Islands and I thoroughly enjoyed the Lanzarote section at the beginning of this year. My plan was to try and complete the other Islands this winter. Gran Canaria would easily fit into the week I had free.

A day later – “Yes I’ll come, what do we need?”

So I booked the flights, getting and paying for more than I expected from Thomas Cook. Taking trekking poles [a security risk] always means having to book expensive hold luggage, but somehow I bought reserved seats and meals as well.

Planning went into overdrive and within a couple of days we had booked accommodation for every night to reduce the amount of gear needed. This did involve however the use of taxis for complicated transfer link ups and I wasn’t confident of my some of my telephone conversations in Spanish.

The Map Shop at Upton-on-Severn sent me a map by the next day, one of the superb Discovery Tour and Trail series.  I’d got my rucksack weight down to 6kg,  John’s was only a couple of Kilograms heavier but he was much fitter than I having just completed the Cape Wrath Trail with camping gear. We were ready to go.