For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Severn Way day 2

Tuesday 30th July

Uccingtton to Coalport

A couple of things from last night. My tent in the pub car park was about 8 feet below the level of the very busy, unfenced main road and only about 8 feet horizontally from the passing traffic on a long straight where vehicles must have been travelling at eighty mph. The noise was strangely exciting, and I experienced a suction followed by an inflation effect within the tent. I would have been brown bread if a car had left the road.

Mainly for JJ: the beer I had at The Horseshoe was Ringwood's Boon Doggle 4.2% - excellent rounded fruity bitter. There was a change of ownership here last March so old, critical reviews can be ignored. Ian and Mrs Ian had a positive response to everything I requested and made me very welcome. It must be understood they do not operate a formal camping facility and my arrangement was from their positive reaction and understanding of what I was about from a telephone call, so don't expect electric hookups and toilet facilities, but for a rough arse backpacker their response was great. Long may they continue in that brave isolated location.

I hardly saw the Severn today. A lot of the walking was on quiet country lanes with the odd short stretch on busy A roads. There were not many places for refreshment , but through persistence with enquiries (two 12 year olds with a football crossing the road) I found a village shop hidden away in the housing estate at Cressage where I was able to breakfast at 1:40 pm ( the Horseshoe had given me toilet access at 9:00 am with the cleaner, and a coffee gratuit).

I was caught in two short but severe rainstorms, but experience triumphed.

A little landmark saw me crossing my south to north LEJOG route east to west as I walked through Ironbridge. A couple of kilometres further I booked into the YHA youth hostel at Coalport where I have just eaten satisfactorily and inexpensively. This is a huge, purpose converted, multi-storey industrial building on the edge of the canal and finding the way from my room to the dining area has been more difficult than some of the navigation on this trip. The building has perhaps a hundred self closing (with a dull bang) fire doors, and lying on one's bed they can be heard doing their automatic thing at varying volume levels depending on which floor and how far away the doors are located. All in all this YHA is an excellent facility and I suspect maybe a blueprint for their future operation which has had a sad and indecisive history of late.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Arnside tp Uckington part 2

Some delay with trains had me leaving Shrewsbury at 10:30. Pleasant riverside walking led partly across open fields and partly through woods - no stiles but lots of those circular galvanised gates. There was one section of about quarter of a mile through chest high grass, hard going but not wet.

I overtook a party of rambling ladies, chatted to two anglers, and chatted to a guy walking his daughter's border terrrier - he had spent time in the army at Warcop near Kitkby Steven and had memories of yomping with heavy packs over those hills. Those were the only people i came across in ten miles.

I stopped to have a look at the Roman city of Wroxeter which you can see well enough from the road without paying English Heritage £5. The visitor centre was good for a bottle of Oasis. I had two brief showers, so short that donning my watrsrproof was a pointless exercise.

I had identified The Horseshoe here at Uckington before leaving and established I would be able to camp, and here I am. Reviews on the Internet varied from outrageously bad to the total opposite so I'm not sure what I'm in for meal wise, although J J's comrnent on my earlier post was encouraging.

See rny comment on previous post. I have now removed photos in the interest of posting this.

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from my iPhone

Severn Way

Day 1 (part 1) Monday 29th July

I am on the train again!

Destination: Shrewsbury.

Objective: walking the Severn Way for a none specified distance or time.

Target for tonight: Horsrshoe Inn, Uckington (camping with permission).

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Saturday, 27 July 2013


Browsing on The Guardian website I found this video about an aged computer artist. The video as a  whole is a work of art, and greater than the sum of its contents -  a moving comment on age.

I was certainly moved.

Click Here to see video

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Kennet and Avon Canal Walk Slideshow

I have discovered Dropbox: a facility  for sharing files and photos so here is the full slideshow for the Avon Canal Walk.


Then click on first photo to see slideshow

By request.

On my brother's blog I posted a comment which included an extract from a longer anecdote from my 58 day walk round the Welsh Boundary in 2011. I was requested by Rouchswalwe, one of my brother's commenters to publish the whole story so here it is. Apologies to those who have previously read it, and more apologies to those who have read it and heard it several times before.

We all like to repeat our favourites don't we?

Day 55 - Monday 13th June 2011.

From my journal:

I camped at Newgale at the northern end of Newgale Sands, a huge three kilometre sweep of golden beach which attracts the surfers.
From my journal:
I’m eating this evening in The Duke of Edinburgh which is also residential. I had enquired if I could get breakfast tomorrow, but they said they didn't do breakfasts which I found difficult to believe.

This place seems to be staffed by, and frequented by a caste reminiscent of Little Britain; everybody seems weird - perhaps I have finally flipped? Some examples: a small Bernie Ecclestone like guy who has just come and complimented me on the way I ate my soup - "very few people do it properly these days, nice to see". A woman wearing a black jacket and tight black trousers (Richard the Third), but with hair like Worzel Gummage. An elderly couple - the man goes to the bar to ask for more lemonade in his lager - returns to find wife with head in hands, "are you having one of your moods" he asks, and then they move to another table. An elderly man on his own, looking depressed with head bent staring at a glass of lemonade which he does not appear to be drinking. There are more but I draw the line here. Amidst all this the hotel is presented as being reasonably sophisticated but we are subject to a television showing Coronation Street which nobody is watching.
Bravely, I am going to risk a dessert and hope to get out before I end up in the loony bin.
Believe it or not a guy has just walked in who is over seven feet tall.
I'm off!

Semington to Bath (last day)

Saturday 13th July

A splendid breakfast was delivered before I retired. Fruit juice, two croissants, fresh strawberries, yoghurt, and an apple and banana, and a cheese sandwich.

The forecast said, "hotter than yesterday". I was away at 5:45 hoping to beat the heat, but by 8:00 it was already uncomfortable.

From Bradford-on-Avon the canal was much busier with holiday boats, and many more cyclists to the point where they became a damned nuisance - the heat tends to make me bad tempered. I was too early for any of the cafés I passed, and eventually got a pint of orange and lemonade at The George about three kilometres from Bath. I have been charged £1.86, £2.36, and, at this last call, £3.20 for that drink.

The canal wends its way through the atttractive Georgian architecture of Bath, and finishes in an indeterminate fashion - there is a descending lock which would put you into the River Avon and onwards to Bristol, but from appearance, at this stage it just looks like a continuation of the canal.

At the final lock it was 12:40 so I had covered the fifteen miles in approximately seven hours. Even with that early start the heat was a killer, and I was soaked in sweat and somewhat bemused almost to the point of hallucination when I arrived, and I'm sorry to say I was in no mood to explore the wonders of Bath. I walked the few hundred yards to the railway station. It was 12:50, and luckily, I was able to board the 13:00 train to Birmingham, the first stage of my homeward journey. From Birmingham to Preston took two hours with no air-conditioning. I was running with sweat the whole journey wearing the same shirt I had worn, except for evenings, for the last five days; I don't know if this was apparent to my fellow passengers, but it was not something that was worrying me.

 From Preston I landed at Arnside for 18:41.


I would recommend this walk highly. TheKennet Avon is by far the most attractive canal I have explored, and much less walked than I expected, certainly as far as Bradford-on-Avon. Places of refreshment are scarce without diverting from the canal, so if it is hot I suggest carrying plenty of liquid. I can normally go all day without drinking much, but on this trip the heat was intense and after the first three hours I was craving for liquid for the rest of the day. I wonder what it would be like as a winter walk?


At last I can post some decent photos taken with my camera instead of the woeful results from the iPhone.

The River Avon from the Avon Canal aqueduct at Avoncliff

Quite a lot of this walk was fortunately in dappled shade, but there was plenty in uncomfortably hot sunshine as well

On the way into Bath

The final lock taking the Avon Canal into the River Avon. It is not apparent here but we are in the town centre only about three hundred yards from the large railway station

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Somerset Arms

The Somerset Arms is a proper inn. I had a good welcome by the boss, and he reacted positively to my request for breakfast left for me to enable an earlier start than their weekend breakfast from 8:00am. Food is thoughtfully prepared. I had a pork steak on mash with a mustard sauce - sounds run of the mill, but that doesn't matter if it is done well done and it was.

Without noticing I had chosen a table close to the tropical fish tank which proved to be a great attraction for parents to show to their children, so my meal was accompanied by squeals of delight, more grown up comments from rising 8 year olds, and encouraging attempts at education by parents. I am sat here typing all this and wondering if they are beginning to suspect that I am some sort of good food guide inspector. I chatted with the lady who told me she had been to look at the infamous Barge Inn where I ate lat night. If Somerset got their hands on it that would be good news.

There was a bit of a mess up with my order and I was served the wrong meal, but the change was made pronto. The test anywhere is what happens when something goes wrong, or you want something outside the system, and here all that this was handled with efficiency of the oil in a Ferrari. The only downside was loud Musatc, but I am beginning to think that is just something I am getting paranoid about.

Sent from my iPad

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Honeystreet to Semington

Day 4 - Frday 12 th July ( last night)
"The golden evening brightens in the West.
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest."
An enjoyable day full of interest passing through Devizes ( café) and onwards through incredible heat to The Three Magpies (pint of orange and lemonade) , signposted from the canal for 281 yards. I told him if it had been 282 I wouldn't have bothered, but I suppose he's heard that one before.
From Devizes onwards it has been busier with boats and pedestrians and cyclists, but not unpleasantly so.
There are more of the sea going broad beam barges about giving everything a grater sense of adventure. I had a long chat with one owner who was a professional steel boat builder. He had toured French canals with his boat - a most interesting conversation. He told me that dredging around here had recently been done for the first time since the sixties, some measure of the integrity of these canals.
I am now at the Somerset Arms at Semington taking my "rest" and will report later on anything eventful. There is almost no signal here so I reckon this will not go until tomorrow (Saturday)

Going through Devizes.

Water lilies

The sea going barge and owner. I've done my best with this. I can identify nothing on the iPhone. When I take pics with it I can see absolutely nothing in the screen, i just have to point and shoot, and hop for the best.

The famous Caen Hill Locks. There are about 25 one after the other with a bit of parking space in between. Boats can take a couple of days to pass through. Fortunately I was walking in the descending direction.

The Somerset Arms where I am tonight.
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Friday, 12 July 2013

Froxton to Honeystreet

Day 3 - Thursday 11th July

Breakfast was scheduled for 7:30. The door to downstairs was locked with a notice saying it would be opened at 7:30. I had tried yo get one jump ahead so I was ten minutes early. I waited until 7:45 having knocked on the door several times when nother regular guest arrived and showed me the way outside via the emergency exit. The pub was locked and there was nobody to be seen. The other guest, who seemed familiar with things went off , I think, to the owner's house.

Eventually things were opened up some time after 8:00. I was cross, but didn't want to miss breakfast so I ended up with a start an hour later than I wanted.

In view of all that I marched hard for over three hours and then it became uncomfortably hot and I was suffering, but the scenery was getting better all the time. This canal is not as busy or commercialised as I had imagined, and there are long stretches of verdant scenery when you see nobody, with the odd narrow boat put-putting by, The railway is ever present and mostly very close, but not apparent because of trees, but when a train comes you really here it. It seems a shame in this gentle environment, but geographically this is major line of communication in England, and I suppose it was always inevitable that a railway would be established, especially when steam became dominant and made the canals redundant.

The only place of refreshment today was Pewsey Wharfe where there is a cafe. I got there at 1:45 and had a pot of tea for two and a toasted tea cake. It was now another 6km to my b and b. at Honeystreet. I was weary, and it was still hot, although there has always been much intermittent shade with tees along the canal. I set a steady pace which did enable me to enjoy this last lap.

I now have to walk nearly a kilometre to the pub for my meal at the Barge Inn back on the canal. I'm looking forward to the meal but not the walk.

Here were some cows crossing the bridge and looking over- quite comical. I can't see it very well on the small iPhone pic but you may if you enlarge.

Lady Bridge - the lady landowner insisted on having a fancy one.

Cyclists on the bridge. I had just pinched the bench seat in the shade.

Sent from my iPhone

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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 3 part 2

You may get this before the regular day's post which won't go without 3g because of photos.

I should have known when they wanted to keep my credit card behind the bar, but I either ate there or starved. The Barge Inn at Honeystreet was my only choice. I paid for everything up front, main course, dessert and two beers and never let the card out of my sight. The clientele were mainly outside but those that came in were covered in tattoos, wearing cowboy hats and camouflage trousers, as well as one skinhead and his mahoican mate.

A guy who looked semi business sat at a nearby table with a laptop which he studied intently whilst continually smiling, whilst his huge plate of burger and chips remained untouched for over quarter of an hour. All this was to the accompaniment of pop music and the rattle-click-tumble-thump of the pool table.

I reckoned fish and chips would be the safest option. They were the worst I can remember. Fatty, unimaginative chips, batter like soggy cardboard, and worst of all, SKIN LEFT ON, and some bones to boot.

The beer, a local Honeystreet brewery was surprisingly good - a rounded bitter with a slightly sweet finish.

The girl behind the bar said it had been quiet all day. I'm not surprised.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Thatcham to Froxfield

Day 3 - Wednesday 10th July

Well, we've all heard the excuses retailers and service providers give when there is a problem. Yesterday at The Swan i washed out my walking socks and put them on the ground outside my room to dry - that is actually outdoors.

Later in the evening the socks had vanished. The pub was very busy with perhaps eighty people sat outside merrymaking until nearly midnight.

This morning, mentioning the socks to the manager he suggested they had been taken by their familiar urban fox. Knowing my socks after walking 15 miles, even though washed out they may never have a problem with that fox again.

Walking in the heat today was nearly as tough as some of my walks in France. I'm glad I am only carrying a light rucksack.

Another unusual boat name: Caivir Vie, as far as I remember. The owner was quizzed. Well remembered trips to The Isle of Man had always started with this greeting in IOM Gaelic as one rolls off the ferry, which means have a hood voyage.

I stopped at The Dundas Arms at midday for a pint of orange and lemonade. There was a whole bevy of well-to-do middle classers in their smart chinos, well polished brown shoes, and sleeveless shirts, and the ladies with good perfume and summer frocks, all ordering lunch. Looks like a popular spot. I was not in the least embarrassed or feeling inferior, butIi felt out of place as I sat there running with sweat and suncream, sporting walking poles and rucksack , and a funny stained, but treasured hat, and mused that most of those guys were younger than me and would hardly be capable of walking to their local pub.

Music again. After the previous night's enjoyment I tuned in after my meal to Classic FM's Uninterrupted feature. The first item was Bryn Terfel singing Shenandoah, not to my taste, then it was Rimsky Koraakov's Scherherazade thing which again is not a favourite by a long way, so I flitted back and forth, until I found the grand finale was Ravel's Bolero, at which point I switched off.

I am now at The Pelican at Froxfield. Quite upmarket - proper milk in a Thermos flask in the room to make good tea instead of that chemical stuff in little plastic tubs.

The canal going through the centre of Newbury.

The Pelican

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my iPhone

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Tuesday, 9 July 2013


I have a pocket radio which with some superior headphones gives excellent stereo reception in most places.

Last night i listened to the whole of Mozart's Requiem, uninterrupted on Classic FM. Colin Davis live at the Barbican, 2007 with BBC assemblage, not sure exactly which. Magnificent. It seemed faster in places than i have heard before heightening the drama.

Sent from my iPad

Reading to Thatcham

Day 2 - Tuesday 9th July

The Polish/Latvian or whatever waitress knew nothing about the reason for the hotel name Great Expectations when I asked her this morning. To give her her due she disappeared and then returned to tell me the building was once a theatre and the great man came there to give readings.

A good start saw me off at 7:00. I soon realised that the Kennet and Avon is combination canal and river having occasional shallow rise locks to sort the levelling, and weirs going off to let the river have its way, so I was getting a bogof.

Getting clear of the town there were plenty of cyclists, presumably on the way to work.

Roads that crossed the canal were also busy, and I marched along feeling smug about the benefits of retirement. There had been a suit sat near me on the train with his laptop, mobile, and a file of papers, no doubt from Head Office, advising him in 150 pages how to conduct appraisals on his staff. Oh, the bullshit and tedium of all that stuff.

It was about 11:30 when i started getting thirsty and a shop attached to Aldermaston Wharf appeared and I bought Oasis fruit drink and found a deserted boatyard workshop with a stool, so I trespassed and sat there in cool shade from the heat outside.

I had a friendly welcome here at The Swan (Thatcham), and then joy of joy, the en-suite had a bath, then doom of doom, there were no towels. I had already run water in the bath and undressed. Back in the pub i was told "not to worry", their laundry delivery had let them down, but "towels will be here later". What is the first thing you want to do on arriving at an inn after walking 15 miles in 27 degree sunshine? I was beyond making a fuss and went back, managing to dry myself with a lonely bath mat. The towels arrived half an hour later to wake me up from my post walk nap.

Great Expectations

Reading centre. Modern architecture pleasantly displayed wirh all the multiples individually styled along the canal.

WW 2 machine gun post.

On this canal we also have barges as well as narrow boats.

The towelless Swan Inn at Thatcham where I am now.

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Arnside to Reading

Kennet and Avon Canal Walk
Day 1 - Friday 8th July.

As I walked to Arnside station at 7:45 am, coincidentally, daughter Jill came the other way by car with Katie on her way to school and baby minders so we had a little chat.

Changing at Lancaster I bought the Guardian and managed to finish the cossword before I arrived at Reading, a great triumph for me, even though the setter was Rufus, one of the easier ones.

Reading station concourse is massive, and I found myself using the compass to establish direction to the town centre.

Although this not a huge town it is crammed with modern buildings and architecture and has a sort of bustling capital feel. A contrast with the drabness of some of our northern towns and the affluent south.

I walked the couple of kilometres east on the Kennet and Avon Canal to its junction with the River Thames and then back again. There were a few undesirables here and there but plenty of other people, but I was wary.

Beggars are frequent sat dolefully on pavements in Reading which makes a poignant comparison with the aforementioned apparent affluence.

I am now in situ at my strangely named hotel, Great Expectations. I'm not sure what the name is about, but so far it is quite ordinary.

The first bit of canal I Iwalked on going east out of Reading.

I know its a bit of a cliche, but one I like - a feeding frenzy of Swans and Canada Geese.

Where the Kennet and Avon joins the Thames.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Whither the next TGO?

Various people have chivied me about doing the next TGO*.  At the moment I don’t think  my knee could handle the rough stuff, but I have an idea.

In 1969 Donald Crowhurst entered The Sunday Times non-stop sailing race round the globe. For complex psychological reasons Crowhurst holed up on a remote part of the South American coast and wrote a log indicating his progress in the race with the intention of rejoining when the fleet returned to the Atlantic and then going for victory. Unfortunately Crowhurst went off the rails literally and mentally before the finish of the race, and as far as we know walked off his boat in mid Atlantic, and was presumed missing. His boat was found drifting with Crowhurst’s logs on board. It was only after careful scrutiny by Sir Francis Chichester that the deception was discovered. Crowhurst’s logs and transmissions had been a masterpiece of fabrication.  A well researched and authoritative book** which I read many years ago tells the story in minute detail, and it has always stayed powerfully in my mind.

Well, why not do a Crowhurst on the TGO? One could flit from place to place by car, take a few photos, and even meet others as you pretended to head off for a multi Munro epic in a different direction, and then mysteriously appear at the finishing post with all your tales of derring do.

Of course I jest. There is nothing further from my nature. When I say I am going to do something I am almost paranoid about carrying it out, and if I have a problem I will desperately want to admit to it and tell the world, even if this is self deprecating.

I recommend the book as a fascinating read, even though it is harrowing, and may, as with me, leave you with a lasting and haunting impression. 

* For the few who don’t know the TGO is an annual walk across Scotland, taking about two weeks. Entrants specify their own route between a number of starting and finishing points on each coast. Entries are limited to about 300. This is a tough undertaking, but it is not a race, more a strenuous social event as you bump into other entrants along the way.

** The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst: Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall

Friday, 5 July 2013

Sir Hugh is off on holiday

This time it's unashamed indulgence. For the first time ever I have booked accommodation for all five nights in advance and not a campsite, youth hostel, bunk barn or dosshouse in the itinerary, just four pubs and a bed and breakfast. No need for an EPIRB, and no humping tents, sleeping bag, cooking equipment etc, just a diddy little rucksack with a toothbrush and a decent shirt and clean socks to don when I dine.

The Kennet and Avon Canal from Reading to Bath measures 76 miles (123 km.). I take the train from Arnside on Monday, 08.07, and arrive in Reading for 12.39 where I am booked into a hotel. That will give me time to walk to where the canal meets the River Thames to the east of Reading and back again, so that I will be able to start on the canal directly from the hotel next morning walking west.

I bought a superb map on line (Heron Maps - Waterways Series - Kennet & Avon Canal and River Avon). This is a strip map, double sided at 1:50000 with more detail of relevance than you see on the equivalent OS map. The only trouble is its length - nearly two metres. If I try to open it up to re-fold in a high wind I may end up  paragliding part of the route - just hope the wind is blowing from east to west.

Ports of call are Reading, Thatcham Froxfield, Honeystreet, Semmington and Bath.

The map. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Sandstone Trail Tale

I didn’t want to walk through Manchester. I guess I will be corrected by certain bloggers, but the thought of finding myself, late in the day, wandering around the murkier environs of this gun-crime city looking for accommodation worried me, especially as advancing years are in inverse proportion to the ability to defend oneself, and in consideration of weight I only planned to wear trekking shoes not boots.

Following the River Weaver to Frodsham seemed like a romantic plan, but continuing with the Sandstone Trail may have been unwise after my woeful performance in the south east some weeks ago.

The Weaver was majestic with noticeably more bird life than the canals, and worth seeing, but its pathways were a mixture of good cycle tracks and appallingly overgrown riverbank paths; even so I battled through and was glad I had taken it on.

I naively pictured Frodsham with a nest of welcoming bed and breakfasts, and quaint pubs. The first pub extinguished such thoughts. I was informed there was nothing but one hotel half a mile down a steep hill. The thought of walking there sharpened my weary mind and I used my phone. They were full.

It was time to use my staying-put-and-not-saying-much technique, which usually triggers deeper thought from the pub’s occupants, and this worked. A regular told me of a camp site a mile south east of Frodsham on a busy B road, (the Sandstone Trail heads south west out of Frodsham). Halfway to the camp was the Travellers Rest where I could eat. I would need to walk to the camp site, walk back to the pub to eat, walk back to the camp site, and back into Frodsham next morning, to start the trail.
Although the Sandstone Trail is marked on the OS map, I had a blinkered notion that I needed the guide. One would have thought that Frodsham retailers would recognise the trail as an asset and keep a good stock. I wasted a lot of time visiting two private newsagents, W.H. Smiths, the post office, and the town hall out in the middle of the local park. They were all stockless. By the time I started walking it was 10:45. 

The Sandstone Trail proved to be flawlessly waymarked, and despite my ability to get lost between my house and the shed at the bottom of my garden I never put a foot wrong.

A steep climb out of Frodsham to the sandstone outcrop overlooking the town was tough after months of flat canal and coastal walking - my knees were grumbling. The views north revealing the unbelievably extensive chemical industry of Widnes, Runcorn, the Mersey and the Dee estuaries were breathtaking. Even though this is nature despoiled one can only wonder at man’s capacity for such massive and intricately technical development which has been going on since the digging of those huge ring ditches and hill forts.

Continuing along the ridge, sometimes on top with  great views, and sometimes steeply up and down through attractive sunlight dappled mature woods, I was conscious of being in a rare environment with the strangely red sandstone, silver birch, old pines and heather. We have a few unique places in England like this including Cannock Chase and The Broads, and it is only by walking that you properly appreciate them. After the ridge a short road section followed by a field shortcut led to a surprise farmhouse offering refreshments. I had a pot of tea and a buttered scone sitting outside in the sunshine. The lady took a photo for me, and only asked for two pounds which was ridiculous - I gave her double that, spoiling the market for any impecunious or stingy followers, but I didn’t care.

My destination,  Delamere Forest, is another special environment and a joy to walk through and absorb. This had been a good nine mile walk through rare scenery in enjoyable sunny weather.

I asked the warden at The Camping and Caravan Club site to charge up my iPad Mini and my iPhone still leaving my Mili iPhone sleeve charger to be done. At 4:55 before the office closed the warden was concerned because the plugs had become very hot - heavens above, I didn’t want to be responsible for burning down the Camping and Caravan Club’s site, and perhaps the whole of Delamere Forest. However I persuaded her to accept the Mili for overnight charging, this item being slower, and maybe safer to charge. That meant waiting until 9:00am in the morning preventing an early start, but I was also told the station café next door opened at 9:00 so at least I could get breakfast as well.

Fellow blogger JJ who I had only met two days before when we walked together with Mick and Gayle on the Cheshire Ring, had sent me text messages aware that if I stayed at Delamere there was nowhere for an evening meal. JJ invited me to join a music train passing through Delamere on which he would be performing.  I boarded the 7:20, (second coach), and music was in full swing: JJ on squeeze box, a violinist and two guitarists, one a lady, and all playing and singing an endless repertoire of mainly sea related folk songs all to a high standard. Music continued at the pub in Plumley where I also ate, and we had more music on the return trip. I have never seen a group of musicians play continuously for so long. Afterwards I had a text from JJ saying my walk had been the talk of the train; I thought it much more likely to have been my tramp-like appearance and my out of tune contributions during the choruses.

In the morning I retrieved Mili from the warden at 9:00 then found the station café didn’t open until 9:30 - one tries to be philosophical about misinformation like this. I marched another kilometre to the visitor centre to breakfast, but it was 9:45 before I left, putting in  jeopardy arrival at Bulkeley, from where I could comfortably complete the walk in one day.

Rain started at 12:30 and never stopped all day and during the coming night. The delays and conditions restricted my walking to ten miles. Early on I climbed again onto the attractive sandstone ridges at Hangingstone Hill and Primrose Hill, but the plains below were shrouded in mist and drizzly rain. After that it was back to cow trodden fields, crop field boundaries ploughed out with no footpath, and grossly overgrown with long wet grass. I climbed so many stiles my knee felt as though it had gone through one of those repetitive stress tests that manufacturers use for a product representing the whole of its ten year lifespan in a few hours.

I quit the day at the canalside Shady Oak, which I mistakenly christened the Dusky Oak in a post. That may have been more appropriate; its only merit was the camp site, but even that in foul rain and with no other occupants was uninviting, and just far enough from the pub to make the trek in the rain off-putting.. The pub appeared to have been furnished from several differing house clearances, and was so remote that it had no land line telephone, hence no credit card facility. I paid for my meal with cash.

Lying in the tent afterwards with rain spattering forcibly on the outer fabric I pondered.

What were my options in the light of the continuing rain forecast?

I could continue, but that would mean finding another night’s accommodation and suffering increased dampness. Although the Terra Nova is brilliant and never failed in any way, in these conditions you fight a loosing battle against dampness.

I could hitch-hike to Crewe for the railway station, but the location was so remote there maybe only one car an hour. 

I could pass time in the tent and the pub for all next day hoping for improvement in the weather.

Feeling low in spirit I thought I would opt for the hitch-hike and posted to that effect on the blog.

Next morning it was still raining. I normally walk along the road when hitching, this being a mixture of relieving boredom, and fighting against the guilt of being a pauper spirit. With that in mind I thought I might as well walk on the Sandstone Trail itself, and decide on the desirability of starting to hitch whenever I crossed one of the few roads. It was now that ending the walk in the day filtered into my mind as a remote possibility, but I had worrisome doubts about that. Having packed up the wet tent I was off to a satisfyingly early start at 6:45 am clad in waterproofs.

I passed the potentially interesting Beeston Castle far too early to view, and then ruefully noticed its closed café. I had eaten my  three remaining Spar Shop fruit shortcake biscuits before departure. Another section of the sandstone ridge followed with the Peckforton Hills, but I was now marching hard through the rain and fighting for survival.

Now it was back to agriculture, and at one point I was faced with a dish shaped swamp field consisting of cow muck with that oily, rainbow, chocolate brown glistening on the surface. I was forced to wade through this gloop for fifty yards at knee depth nearly loosing footwear as I tried to extricate. I found a galavnised cattle trough of water and stood in it, shoes and all, but even so it didn’t bode well for anybody next to me on the train if I managed to get that far. By now that was looking like a possibility.

Quite suddenly I emerged on the Llangollen Canal towpath at a lock where I chatted with a passing narrow boat captain and his wife. They were self employed, delivering boats for owners. It was now only five kilometres to Whitchurch, the end of the Sandstone Trail and the railway station. Two kilometres from Whitchurch a café appeared. I had a buttered scone and a pot of tea for two, my first food since 6:30.

At 5:30 pm I was at the station having walked for nearly eleven hours covering nineteen miles, the longest I have done since I walked round the Welsh boundary in 2011 which was responsible for destroying the last shreds of cartilage in my knee joint necessitating replacement surgery. 

On the River Weaver

Frodsham and the chemical industry sprawl beyond

The only rest on the first day of the S. Trail

JJ (left) and fellow musicians on the music train

In the pub

Sandstone ridge scenery

Pictures from the Cheshire Ring Walk

Although I walked the Cheshire Ring canal walk immediately followed by the Sandstone Trail I see them in my mind as two separate events.

For a detailed account of the Sandstone Trail see the next post, bringing together scattered posts and comments made during the trip.

Here are some pictures from the Cheshire Ring.

Typical scenery of the early part

See next photo

This boat was called Pecheur which I egotistically translated to its owner as Fisherman, only to be corrected with the proper translation, Kingfisher, which I was then cross about because it was something I knew

With JJ, Gayle and Mick on the rainy Sunday