Thursday, 4 April 2019
This is a third time on this route, so I’ll be brief. The first, on 22 October 2019, is recorded here, and the second, on 29 October 2018, is here.
On a cool, overcast, April morning, Sue, Al, Richard and I set off at 8.45 from Timperley Bridge. We followed the route previously described – canal to Worsley, Loopline and busway to Leigh, then canal to the Flash, where Richard and Al enjoyed baskets of chips, covered in tomato sauce, from a local kiosk. Sue had turned back at Worsley, she was inadequately dressed for the cool morning.
Still in need of an off road alternative, some relatively quiet roads saw us to The Mucky Mountains.
If you click on the following image, you should be able to make out some of their interesting industrial history from the information board.
Richard and Al studied the information presented, before we all headed off along the Sankey Valley to join the Trans Pennine Trail (drinks stop in the memorial forest), which we followed all the way back to the Bay Malton…. via a minor diversion to LD24 café in Stockton Heath, where coffee and cake were offered as an alternative to chips.
We were home from the 45 mile ride by 2.30 pm, despite three stops en route. Another pleasurable outing. Thanks for your company, folks.
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
This was a repeat of last week’s route, with very minor variations, on which I reported here.
On a lovely sunny morning, I was joined by Paul, Jeanette, Laura, Richard and Sue. The poplars beside the canal past Water’s Meet near the Trafford Centre looked magnificent. Sue insisted that I send the following picture to the Sale and Altrincham Messenger newspaper.
Beyond the Barton Swing Bridge, with Grey Wagtails flitting over the canal, and a Sparrowhawk ‘fast flapping’ ahead of us, we proceeded through Eccles to join the Loopline, at which point Sue returned to Sale for some attention to her painful Achilles.
The rest of us continued through Roe Green towards the Busway at Ellenbrook.
At the centre of Leigh the canal is re-joined. The Bridgewater Canal was opened in 1761 to transport coal from Worsley to Manchester. In 1795 an extension to Leigh was opened, and by then an extension from Water’s Meet to Runcorn had been built. The Leigh extension was later linked to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal by way of a branch of that canal from Wigan. These days the canals join seamlessly, the picture below of a renovated warehouse being situated on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Pennington Flash is right next to the canal. It used to be the home of a couple of farms, but mining subsidence led to flooding and these were abandoned in the early 1900s. The present country park and bird reserve was opened in 1981. Some 230 different bird species have been observed here.
We paused for drinks and sustenance from our bags, as the nearby mobile kiosk got a thumbs down for its greasy chip menu.
After the same 9 km of roads as last week, we dropped down to the Sankey Valley and its disused canal.
The disused canal runs parallel to Sankey Brook, which no doubt fed into the canal, which actually pre-dates the Bridgewater Canal, having opened in 1757.
This whole area is rich in industrial history and the subject of many books. Our route headed down the Sankey valley to join the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) to the west of Warrington.
After a break at the memorial forest, we eventually arrived in Stockton Heath, where Paul and Jeanette knew of a café. I think it was called LD24. Anyway, a short diversion to the centre of Stockton Heath soon found it, and that was indeed a worthwhile diversion.
Back on the TPT, we went under this bridge, one of many bridges of a particular type to be found crossing the Manchester Ship Canal.
After that we returned home via the TPT to the Bay Malton, where we went our separate ways, mine being back home along the canal towpath.
Here are two takes on the route - 74 km, 500 metres ascent, taking 6+ hours including three breaks.
What a lovely morning.
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Another lovely sunny Monday morning enticed me out for a bike ride based on one I did way back in March 2013. The report on that one is here. I’m not sure whether the short slideshow will still work unless you are signed in on my Google account.
This time I headed along the Bridgewater Canal to Barton, by the Trafford Centre. The first two pictures were taken there. There were stunning reflections of autumn colours in the glassy canal.
The canal was followed for another couple of km, into Monton. Here you could continue all the way to Pennington Flash along the towpath, which may be muddy in places. I did that last time. Today I decided to leave the canal and follow the disused railway loopline, the Monton and Roe Green Loopline. “Loopline” is just another word for ‘disused railway’.
A good surface ensures that this amenity is enjoyed by cyclists, walkers, runners and dogs. There’s plenty of room for everyone. In Roe Green the line splits, with the left branch heading towards Ellenbrook and Tyldesley. The right branch leads towards Bolton; I’ll explore that soon.
Between Ellenbrook and Leigh, the good surface takes you all the way to Leigh beside a concrete track designed specifically to take buses. The track is just wide enough for them, and there are ‘pits’ that swallow up any trespassing cars that aren’t as wide as a bus.
In Leigh town centre the Bridgewater Canal is re-joined, leading in about 3 km to Pennington Flash Country Park. You can cycle around the lake, and there’s a Visitor Centre, unmanned today, with toilets, and mobile food kiosks outside.
It’s a haven for bird watchers. I stopped for a cuppa by the southern bank of the lake, where tufted ducks were competing for attention with a small white headed duck that I couldn’t identify.
It’s worth a separate visit for bird watchers. Here’s what one person spotted last Friday:
Full circuit of Pennington Flash 19th October 10:30 - 14:30 hrs.
Redwing x 5 (first of the autumn for me - in trees in field next to Sorrow Cow Farm)
Snipe x 7 (see photo attached)
Kingfisher x 3 different sightings
Willow Tit x 2
Wigeon x 4
Teal x 5
Shoveler x 15
Gadwall x 8
Pink-Footed Geese x 250 flying eastwards
Buzzard x 3
Kestrel x 2
Oystercatcher (still there in the car park!)
Coal Tit x 1
Great Crested Grebe x 5
Cormorant x 25
Lapwing x 20
Lesser Black-Backed Gull x 1
Black-Headed Gull x lots
Mute Swan x 7
Wren x 1
Dunnock x 1
Blackbird x 5
Little Grebe x 2
Grey Heron x 4
Pied Wagtail x 1
Canada Geese x 40
Coot x lots
Moorhen x 10
Tufted Duck x lots
Mallard x lots
Robin x 4
Chaffinch x 2
Great Tit x 1
Blue Tit x 1
Starling x 50
Woodpigeon x 40
Mute Swan x 9
Jay x 2
Magpie x 10
I saw quite a lot of the above-mentioned, plus a Grey Wagtail that I don’t see on the list.
It’s a little over 30 km to this point; shorter by the canal towpath route. There follows about 9 km of cycling along roads. They are mostly quiet, but the challenge is to find some off-road alternatives to this section of tarmac. Some research will be needed. After that 9 km, the route is all off road on mostly good surfaces. Any bike will do – you don’t need a mountain bike for this route.
I went along minor roads through Golborne and Newton-le-Willows to reach the Sankey Canal at the Mucky Mountains Nature Reserve. I visited this, and wrote about it, on 3 November last year.
Here is Hulme Lock, on the very much disused Sankey Canal, from a different angle.
The route continues easily, alongside the disused canal, which eventually seems to mutate into the St Helens Canal, and beside Dallam and Sankey Brooks. There’s plenty of weed in the canal, where a heron was fishing as a swan paddled past.
After finishing my flask of tea in a quiet spot on a bench in a memorial forest where trees have been planted in memory of the sadly departed, many of them having enjoyed rather less than a ‘full term’, I joined the Trans Pennine Trail near Sankey Bridges, and followed that all the way to the (remains of the) Bay Malton at Oldfield Brow, leaving the last 3 km to the canal towpath back to Timperley.
En route, the Manchester Ship Canal was crossed, and the disused railway line from Grappenhall was very picturesque, with the bright sunshine glinting through a tunnel of tired greens of late summer. Neither of the next two pictures captures the aura – the S5 camera isn’t that good.
It must have looked so different when the railway was operating.
The next two pictures show my route, neither of them very satisfactory, but anyone wishing to follow in my tyre tracks shouldn’t have any difficulty in working out where I went. Both Garmin (GPS) and Anquet (mapping software)agree that it was 72 km in distance. Garmin reckons 186 metres of ascent, whereas Anquet calculates 566 metres. I reckon about 300 metres. That means it’s basically a flat ride. It took me about 5 hours, including stops.
Another excellent ride, to be repeated next Monday (29 October) with anyone who would like to join me. Meet 8.30 at Timperley Bridge.
Thursday, 7 March 2013
For the last of my four ‘here and there’ walks for Plodders whilst Reg has been out of action I’d chosen the flatlands of North Cheshire, where eight stalwarts duly assembled in the car park at Culcheth Linear Park.
We’d expected Roger to turn up, but perhaps the navigational challenge of getting to the start was a bit much for him! Alan R was hard to spot, and almost unrecognisable as he appeared to have dyed his skin to match the colour of his car.
The Linear Park follows the old Wigan to Glazebrook railway line. It opened for freight in 1878 or 9 and for passengers on 1 April 1884. ‘Specials’ took racegoers to Haydock and bathers to Blackpool.
We strode down about half the length of the park, which ends at Kenyon Halt, where the railway once crossed the Manchester to Liverpool line. During the war, extra lines were laid to cope with the goods traffic from the Royal Ordnance Factory at Risley, but by 1968, despite regular cargoes of oil being transported from Shell’s depot at Haydock, Beeching’s shadow had heralded closure.
The area became a muddy eyesore before being transformed, in the mid 1970’s, into the Linear Park we walked through today. The old but lovingly carved bench, and the rusting signs shown below, indicate that this park is barely ticking over today, whilst other projects steam ahead. It’s mentioned in passing on Warrington Borough Council’s website, but the link to its history doesn’t work. It needs a bit of TLC.
Shouldn’t there be a budget for maintenance?
We headed off in the direction of Kenyon Lane, enjoying the field paths which were nice and dry after this excellent spell of weather.
Alan and I both took close up photos of the huge clods of earth that had been thrown up by the plough. The result in my case wasn’t impressive, so here’s a more ordinary picture of some Plodders plodding along the grassy public footpath the ploughman has kindly left in pristine condition between the cloddy fields.
By and by, after managing to negotiate our way over the Manchester to Liverpool railway line, and dicing with death on the East Lancs Road and elsewhere, we came to a spot near Red House Farm, where a decision was required.
So we sat down and enjoyed elevenses (with traditional fresh cake), whilst a vote was taken on the route ahead.
‘Anticlockwise’ gained a majority, so that’s the way we tackled Pennington Flash, a lake formed around the turn of the 20th century by mining subsidence, but now a Country Park and bird reserve.
Clearly some residents, judging by the sign below and the disgusting state of their farmyard, would prefer the squalor of the old days before the Country Park was formed.
These days, apart from heavily armed scouse farmers (luckily we saw none), the Flash is a tranquil place with a large population of birds and numerous hides from which to view them. We had seen a tree creeper in the Linear Park, and here we noticed a prevalence of Canada geese, swans, mallards, tufted ducks, coots and black-headed gulls. Not particularly exciting, but lots of them. Keen ‘birders’ would have spotted far more of the 230 species known to operate (but not all at once) in this area. But Plodders just have to keep on plodding, or they seize up.
I discovered a reason for the ‘anticlockwise’ vote when we reached the Visitor Centre. Others amongst us know this area better than me, and the toilets hereabouts seem to have exerted an attraction. They desperately needed some maintenance, though. (Toilets, not Plodders.)
Our next landmark was the Leeds Liverpool Canal, where navigation became quite easy for a while.
We headed off in the direction of Leigh and Manchester, soon stopping for lunch on two big benches next to a sign that told us we were at the junction of the Bridgewater Canal and its extension to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. I can report that the transition is smooth, marked only by the old derrick shown below.
During lunch we’d been entertained by a plump cyclist with a step-ladder in his bag. He lurked furtively next to a ‘Bridgewater Way’ information board, muttering things like “signs for route 55” and “mate’s late”, whilst anxiously glancing at his watch. All a bit strange. But his mate did turn up, and we left them, apparently in deep uncertainty as to where to place the signs that must have been festering in their bags. I’ve since discovered that route 55 does indeed exist, and that I appear to have inadvertently strayed onto it last Sunday!
As we passed through Leigh, we came across this huge barge. It dwarfed the familiar cruisers next to it and looked as if it would be more in place on the Manchester Ship Canal. I suppose that in days past barges such as these plied this canal, loaded with coal or textile materials, not the dainty pleasure boats that we see today.
Mather Mill dominates the scene hereabouts.
Built in 1882, Mather Mill was the first in the world to sport reinforced concrete floors. It’s an iconic piece of Victorian engineering. It’s falling into the canal. Luckily no barge was passing as I took the above picture, the noise from my camera apparently triggering a shower of glass into the canal.
The hardest bit about navigating a walk along a canal towpath is working out where to leave the towpath, as the bridges seem strangely similar and their numbers are carelessly omitted by the Ordnance Survey from their maps.
Guesswork proved successful on this occasion, and we soon gained our bearings with a degree of certainty when we found the East Lancs Road. I’m not quite sure how we managed to get across without being converted to ‘road kill’, but we did. Then we passed through several farms; modern security equipment was in evidence, supplemented by uncontrollable barking dogs, and traditional drinking troughs.
Alan R indicated that he could have identified these tractors even if he had been blindfolded (we’ll have to try that sometime!).
His worthy record of the day will no doubt provide tractor technicals that would only be revealed to me after hours of research. After crossing under the Manchester to Liverpool railway line, we came upon the Chat Moss Hotel, so called due to its construction on land known as ‘Chat Moss’ (though others may differ), with its pub sign depicting Stephenson’s Rocket, a reminder that this railway line, opened by the Duke of Wellington in 1830, was the scene of the world’s first inter-city rail passenger service, after ‘Rocket’ had shown itself to be the most efficient locomotive of its time at the Rainhill trials.
We halted nearby to enjoy a chat and a final swig of tea.
Beside the railway (seen below in the background, I should have waited for a train to come) a field of vegetables seemed to be running amok. I stole a few cabbage hearts, with a view to soup, but they’ve wilted overnight and look less than appetising!
Our arrival at the outskirts of Culcheth indicated that this pleasant stroll was drawing to a conclusion. It’s a posh place, judging by the luxurious nature of the housing that we passed on our way back to the Linear Park.
Did Alan’s tan fade during the day? Certainly it didn’t get washed off, as the forecast rain had not materialised.
Nancy took the credit, having assiduously deployed her rucksack cover for the entire walk.
Here’s our route - 21 km, 50 metres ascent, taking about 5 hours.
Thanks everyone for coming along, I hope you have enjoyed this little series of ‘here and there’ plods as much as I have.
There’s no slideshow – the images above are more than enough! But Alan R has both written a report and produced a slideshow. He certainly knows how to live life in his imaginary world full of nuthatches and chatty Plodders with moss covered footwear.