Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Sandstone Trail Easter 2013 Day two

When morning arrived we were once more early for breakfast, and after a plate full of instant heart attack (complete with fine black pudding) we were once more our on the road by eight thirty.
We know the track from here up to Rawhead, having done it before on a circular route. We knew we had done the longest part of the walk and we had also heard that the end of the trail is boring. Well after yesterday boring would be good.
As we ascended again up towards Rawhead we were back on ice. I looked back to see Viv struggling to stay on her feet. As I had not found it exactly easy there was no way I could go back and help, I just had to watch and wait.
When we got near the top the snow had again drifted, to such a point that we were faced with a precipice of snow. To walk along the edge we risked sliding off down to certain doom. If we managed to not slip we risked the snow avalanching beneath us and again careering to our ends.
We were left with no alternative but to climb over the fence and leave the footpath. Two hundred yards further on we climbed over the fence again at the most convenient spot. It was still very difficult to move and we spotted someone coming our way so we waited where it was best to pass.
Thinking I could offer advice on crossing into the field here where it was easy I stopped to talk. A lady arrived in lightweight walking gear with a walking pole. She hit us with a barrage of advice about how to get over the ice and snow. “I do this every day” she said “I am local” “you don’t need all that gear just a stick”.
Now I am always willing to listen to local knowledge, but how does she know what we have in our packs, and obviously she did not know how long we were out for. We had not asked her advice and her finishing remarks were starting to get obnoxious “I am seventy one so you should just get on with it”. Time for us to move on and get on with it, with or without local help.
By the time we had navigated the icy steps and snow covered ridges through more drifts and finally got down to the main road, I had had enough. It was so tempting to turn down the A534 and walk home. It would be only about nine miles, flat and with no snow.
Yet we walked on to Bickerton Church. We had been out two and a half hours and just finished the section we had started yesterday at Beeston. The whole section was supposed to take two to three hours. I reckoned it had taken us over four.
Now we had Bickerton Hill, Maiden Castle and Larkton Hill, all covered with Ice. Still there were many locals out so it could not have been that bad.
This is where again we lost sight of the way markers. We trudged on knowing we could not be far off track. Sure enough at the bottom of the hill we came across two way markers, one to the left and one to the right. They just said sandstone Way and my compass said go straight on. After a big consultation with the map I was no clearer, but from where I was sat to the left I could see a kissing gate. I set Viv to investigate. Luckily this was signed Sandstone way and was going south.
We set off again with hope that it was going to get boring at last. Then we came across what looked like a race track. I could not find it on my map, but the guide was helpful; it seems it is a horse training establishment. As we got closer there were signs up “Horse training take care” We crossed the track and we were in a passage way through the middle, fine except that this was filled with snow drifts, at least it cleaned the boots.
Out the other side and we skirted around The Manor House through deep mud again. At the back there were horses in a small ring being ridden around by professional looking jockeys. One guy on a tractor waved as we went passed and I returned his greeting.
Another corridor filled with snow ahead of us and a kissing gate that would not move as it was snowed in. Viv said she would liked to have seen some horses, I was amazed she never saw them or the guy waving.
After innumerable stiles (the backpack was starting to weigh heavy, up and down) the guide said do not cross the tractor bridge. So we turned left then crossed a foot bridge, only to turn right again and walk straight passed the tractor bridge again.
A little further up we decided it was a good time to stop for a rest and some refreshment. (more water and Easter Egg).
As we sat by the stream could hear voices “Is that them” “dunno I think they have given up”. Then across the next foot bridge came the trio we had met yesterday. It seems they are doing the trail in three days using two land rovers, so that they walk from one to the other.
They gave us some advice about avoiding some bulls and information about a flooded field. Well as is my wont I ignored the advice but they cheered us up no end before they left.
Two fields further on and we got our boots flooded, we tried everything but there was no avoiding the water.
We found the Chapel they had told us about, sat as it was alone in a field. Then we carried on in the hope of finding a pub at the start of the canal section. We tried to keep our boots clean, but the mud was endless where the snow had melted. Where it hadn’t it was piled high and usually meant we could not get through kissing gates. So every few hundred yards there was a style to cross and a mud bath to wade through our only relief was the odd kissing gate, except there was no relief there as we had to climb over the top because of the snow.
We were finally getting close to the pub, I could smell it. Then a small dog came to join us, he was very friendly but I did not have the energy to play. His owner arrived and said “I must grab him, he followed some walkers for five miles yesterday”. Another field and then THE PUB.
It looked so inviting “Food and Real Ales, served daily” but not today, the sign on the window simply said “CLOSED”. Easter Saturday and they close, must have known we were coming.
We sat outside on their tables, but being outside we soon started to chill, at least it was all canal now.
Our only hope now was Grindley Brook. Thankfully this was open and we enjoyed a nice coffee and apple pie, despite them saying they would close in half an hour. It was long enough for us, the best offer we have had in two days.
We got more advice from the girl in the café, but we have done this section before and after the snows of Peckforton we could cope with anything.
Finally we arrived in Whitchurch took our pictures at the end of the trail and walked into town.
We saw two guys working on a building “Do you know where the bus station is?” “Bus station? Oh yeh the busses stop by Tescos” “Thanks a lot” we said and headed off to tescos.
While Viv went inside to get some hand cream I sat on the bench outside. Next to me a guy was smoking rollies looking threateningly now and again. Then a couple came and from the conversation I think they were after drugs. They had a long chat about the violence in town the night before, filled with profanities.
We headed off to town to look for food as the next bus was not until quarter to eight (we thought). Then Viv said Tescos usually have a café so we came back and asked inside, they had no café or any food left in their Deli.
Between the girl who worked there and another lady we got directed to The White Bear for food. As we came out we saw a Wrexham bus heading off. I would have preferred to eat local and a little later, but we had missed it so it was off to the pub.
We had a little trouble finding The White Bear but when we walked in and asked for food they said “Six o’clock” only a ten minute wait.
We ordered burgers and I disappeared into the toilets to take off my long johns. When I came out we were told “the burgers are off” but they gave us steak baps at the same price.
Filled with steak and San Miguel I was ready for the bus home. Tonight I would sleep the sleep of the innocent.

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The Sandstone Trail Easter 2013 Day one

The old Hall Hotel sits back from the road looking like it has been dropped there from a Bygone age. We watched our friendly neighbour drive off in the direction of Chester knowing that now we would be committed; there was no going back now from this, tomorrow we would have to walk the seventeen miles to our next hotel because now we were stranded. We could walk or stay put, but going back was not an option.
So we booked in and went out to explore. There was not much happening in Frodsham this time of night and also it was getting cold. So we came back and sat by the fire.
We met Eddie who regaled us with tales of his travels and his caravan in N Wales. It seems that the exceptional weather this year is stopping him getting there. I just hope it will not stop us as well.
Before that there was eating to be done. The trouble here is that we are in Cheshire and it was going to be Cheshire prices. The food though was exceptional. It may not have looked a huge meal on the plates but then looks can be deceptive. It is not often that the Finches leave anything on their plates but we were well and truly beaten.
I enjoyed a lamb pie that stood well out from the plate and its bath of gravy. Viv had roast turkey with a matching slab of stuffing on the top. Added to this we had a bowl of chips and another each of veg. The two course menu included a pudding as well so we had a short wait before starting again. This time Viv had a chocolate cheese cake and orange sorbet. I had a waffle drenched in toffee sauce with a blob of iced cream.
The stout here is a fine brew and some quantities were imbibed along with our food. We finished with a cappuccino each. Now some create an artistic event with the chocolate on the top, not so here, the chocolate was dredged on in volumes.
Well I am paying in the morning with my credit card so I do not know what it cost, but I guess that the point of a meal this good is not about the price. That’s my excuse and I am sticking with it.
It is not just the food that is deceptive here; viewed from the front this grade 2 listed building looks far too small to be a hotel, but once inside it assumes Tardis like proportions. The sweeping staircase that dominates the reception area and the huge dining room that just goes on forever all add to the feeling of space.
We never got to explore the gardens but they too looked spacious and well kept.
The following morning we were up early and had our breakfast in a deserted dining room. Only one other guest appeared while we were there, but then it was seven thirty and the breakfasts officially did not start until eight.
So for us it was a very early start, we were checked out and on way by eight fifteen. In the centre of Frodsham we stopped to marvel at a bollard on the road that someone had knitted a cover for, very strange.
First stop was the Bears Paw, as this is the official start to the Sandstone Trail and to photograph the monument to prove we were here.
The first part of the walk is through the town past a playing field and through some more houses. Then we turn up through the woods. This is where we encounter our first problems; The hill has been walked during the previous two days turning the snow into slush. Last night it has frozen again and we are faced with a sheet of ice to climb. Maybe it would have been easier without the heavy backpacks on, but we found the climb up to the monument exhausting. Not only were we sliding back as much as we were going forward but several trees had been brought down by the snow and we had to either climb over them or negotiate a way around them.
The view from the top was worthwhile though. We stopped at the top to photograph the view and eat some Easter egg; after all we were supposed to be enjoying this.
The journey across the top and down through the woods involved a lot of trudging through snow and skating across ice until we came out into a sunny vista. There was even a place advertising hot soup. We thought it too early on our journey to stop, had we realised that this would be the last and only place we would see, perhaps we would have stopped.
Soon we were into Delemere Forest, I felt safe here, because we had spent so much time here in the past on our bikes. This is what happens when you become complacent, Viv said “I haven’t seen a Sandstone sign for a while” I looked but the only signs we could see were yellow footpath markers. A couple who we had passed earlier caught us up again and they said “Are you following the Sandstone Trail? because it is over in that direction”.
I hate back tracking, it seems such a waste of time, but eventually we found some more people looking at maps and discovered we were back on the trail.
When we finally arrived at the car park where we always stopped for our cycling trips, we decided it was time for a rest. We were now ahead of schedule so things looked good.
We started climbing again, and now we started to experience real problems with the snow. We had more ice to negotiate as we scrambled down towards the A54 and more the other side as we struggled to climb up again. But this was just a taster; the wind here whips across the fields and dumps the snow on the first available hollow, yes, the trail. The hedge above us was leaning dangerously over with a great wall of snow. The hollow that was the trail was filled with snow, not a nice even layer, no, drifts up to six feet high. We had to climb up and scramble down over and over, progress was painfully slow. Still up ahead was The Summer Trees Café so we could have a rest and a coffee.
When we arrived there the Snow was almost up to the roof and where it was miraculously clear, by the door we could read the notice pinned there “Sorry we are closed until 30th April” typical we are always a day too early.
Eventually we climbed down and as we were now back in greener pastures we stopped for lunch. We had water and a wrap each that we had saved from the tea dance the day before plus more Easter Egg.
Now we just had lots of fields to cross on the way to Beeston Castle. We encountered a group of two men and a woman walking the other way, we exchanged stories of our journey and they told us of a guy they had met in Burwardsley who was trying to do the whole trail in one day. Not in these conditions I ventured. They told us that the café was open at Beeston so we strode on in hope of a coffee.
Field after field we trudged all the time checking my watch, it would be just like us to miss our coffee by being too late. The hours passed and when we passed four I was holding out little hope. We arrived at Beeston at four thirty and there was not a sign of any occupancy of the café, there was not even anyone inside cleaning up, so we sat on the benches outside and drank more water.
“You’re late” the guy in The Pheasant said. I could have said “we never expected ice and six foot snow drifts” but I just let it lie. We had a hot shower rinsed our boots and headed back to the bar for some food.
We are getting predictable, Viv had the beer battered fish and chips and I had the blue cheese burger. While we waited they brought a cider for Viv and a pint of Bear’s Home for me. Now I am not a fan of so called real ales, I find that they have a sort of after taste that I do not enjoy. Bear’s Home however had a silky texture that just slid down my throat and very soon I had downed three pints of the stuff. So I thought I had better have a glass of Argentine Merlot with my food. Now I don’t know whether I was just exceptionally hungry after our day, but the food was excellent and we soon wolfed it down.
No time for puddings, tonight we were in bed by eight. My head no sooner hit the pillow than I was snoring away, much to Viv’s annoyance.

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Snow time

Well we were in Buenos Aires in July 2007 for the big freeze. Do you remember it? The first snow in reputedly 75 years, it looked a bit like sleet to me, but there we are.
We lived in the Welsh hills for 16 years and I never failed to get out. So now when we live in the low “ish” lands of Gresford I thought it would be safe to get rid of any sort of utility vehicle and get something nice and sporty.
Yesterday it started snowing and it snowed all night, I never expected this in these low lands. I managed to get my car off the drive, but it would not move on the road. Not put off, after all I was a mountain man. Our street is not long, maybe fifty yards to the junction, but it took me half an hour. once there, there was no moving. I was well and truly beached.
Not wanting to be one of those nuisance guys who just abandon their cars I tried and failed to get back. It is still there. I may go out later and try again to retrieve it, but I think I will probably fail.
So for those of you in Buenos Aires who complain when the temperature drops below ten degrees, think of me out in the snow pulling and digging to rescue my car.

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More on technology

Ihave not written much mainly because it has been Quiet at casa Gresford lately. However we are stillpreparing for my retirement and the great walkacross Spain. With this in mind I amtesting all my gear over the next twelve months, and trying out some new technology ready for the trip. My new smartphone is up and working well, and the solar charging is still giving a few problems. I have now bought a keyboard so that I can keep up with the blog while we are away. So to this end I am writing this blog. If it ever gets to the stage where you are reading this, then you know that I will be blogging across Spain next Year. If you can’t read this, well then it will all be a bit pointless.

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