April 13

Gravels Bank to Shrewsbury

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We set off this morning from Gravels Bank with light hearts in the April sunshine. A fine day in prospect to enjoy the Shropshire Hills and to test our aged frames and aged equipment, neither of which had been tested for some years. Would this old stuff pass the test? Would this be a day of tears?

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In order to get to the Shropshire Way we strolled down Gravels Bank to the A488 and set off towards Bishop’s Castle. After a few 100 yards we entered what was once a forestry plantation but which has now been transformed into an ex plantation.

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The transformation from a wood into an open vista was quite stunning. We spent quite a few minutes staring at views which had been hidden.

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Once out of that which had been a wood we headed towards The Bridges and beer.

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A hint of the tests to come became all too obvious on the route towards the Stiperstones. The incessant rain of the last few months had certainly left its mark

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The Horseshoes at the Bridges was a welcome sight for beer and planning although we had only completed about 6 miles of the 21 at this point.

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Leaving the pub is always sad but the small valley through which we passed at the start of our bit of the Shropshire Way more than made up for the nostalgia.

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Not completely free of water.

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We met a couple of strollers like ourselves. They were walking from the Shrewsbury direction. They mentioned that we might find the going a little muddy. They were accurate to a fault.

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The views one gets from a footpath are always worth the effort.

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Of course, we had forgotten the wise advice of the couple coming in the other direction and were committed to strolling along a green lane. Our green lane was a sort of brown, nettley lane.

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In order to remember the wonders of the Shropshire Way I stopped to take a photo of the interesting ford which we found. It was about half a mile further on that I realised that the pouch containing my camera was empty. Coming up the lane behind us was a large tractor with a sprayer attached. It was with a heavy heart and leaden step that I retraced my steps. Would I find my camera? Would it have been crushed by the leviathon?

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When we got to Lyth Hill we were about done in to be honest. Only about 5 miles left though so a few chunks of salami, france compte and a bit of bread soon perked up our ancient frames. The mud had taken its toll on our stamina but, being steadfast souls we set off again. It was at this point that we became aware of a sudden darkening of the sky and the odd dollop of water dropping onto our naked heads. “Wonderful!” we cried in unison. “We can test our waterproof clothing.” Sheltering under a hedge we put on our homemade waterproofs and made for a Waitrose dinner for two and home.

During the day we learned a lot about the Shropshire Way, our Shropshire bodies and our equipment.

Firstly, the Shropshire Way.

The scenery is wonderful but the signposts seemed to be for those strolling from Shrewsbury to South Shropshire. We two, travelling against the grain, were disappointed at every turn to see signs encouraging  those heading southwards but nothing for we two moving northwards. Quite a lot of the way is in need of hardcore or drainage.

Our fitness

Not as good as we had imagined.

Our equipment

My waterproof shoes not waterproof at all. In fact they appeared to be hygroscopic.

Waterproof kilts made by Janet? Superb in every way. Easy to put on and worked as expected.

So that is that for now.

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April 28

Day 1 Shrewsbury to Yorton

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It took us quite a long time to get started this morning. It was only after having a robust breakfast at the Hole in the Wall that we felt strong enough to begin.

We set off up the Dana steps and over the railway footbridge, stopping only for a few minutes to adjust our equipment.

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Then onwards along the old canal and river bed

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The weather has been a bit strange, sun, then big raindrops, then sleet, then more raindrops so we put on our McTorrent tartan kilts before leaving Shrewsbury.

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Then onwards.

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The farmers, along whose fields we strolled today, have done a great job in making easily followed tracks across fields. We passed through a folk song on our merry way as one farmer had planted oats and beans and barley.

This isn’t a picture of oats or beans or barley but Janet going through a kissing gate. These take a little longer to negotiate, as you can imagine.

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We were a bit bothered that the ground might be boggy after the wet winter and spring but North Shropshire soil is more congenial than South Shropshire soil so we walked on top of it rather than four inches below it as we did last week on our way to Shrewsbury.

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Having said all that about North Shropshire soil there was the occasional damp patch when least expected.

I would like to make a small complaint to my ecclesiastical chums. We became accustomed to the welcoming arms of church porches, in which to perch away from wind and rain, as we strolled to Italy. Today we were obliged to stand in the rain, Janet to eat her lunch of one chocolate egg and me to eat my hardboiled brown Sheila, by the side of a B road. The only church we saw had no porch and was stoutly barred against the passing stroller.

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Our destination today was Yorton railway station. A shortish day in order to test our rainwear, packs, legs, resolve, map reading skills. All of which passed with B+.

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The roaring fire in Yorton Station waiting room was a welcome sight as the wind roared and the rain descended.

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April 29

Day 2 Yorton to Tilstock

The wind was very brisk this morning. Not only brisk but frisky too as it blew about my semi naked lower parts freezing everything in range.
Some people have expressed surprise that i should choose to walk in a kilt, particularly when the weather forecasts have been so discouraging. The reason is simple. I have size 13 feet. Overtrousers are not designed for those of us with such extreme extremities. The problems begin when the rain starts as one crosses a muddy field or bog. In order to don waterproof overtrousers with size 13 feet these are the steps, take off one shoe and balance on one leg while putting on one leg of trousers hopping about due to heavy rucksack. Put shoe back on and repeat for other foot, or leg. The overtrousers become very muddy but not a problem of massive proportions. The real problems start when the rain stops. Reversing the removal of trousers is far worse but keeping them on means an unpleasant feeling of gathering moisture plus, the under trousers, or trousers, get wet anyway. With a pair of shorts and a waterproof kilt one has rapid rainproofing and no nasty humidity.

Today’s stroll was uneventful. The stroll was pleasant enough with just one unexpected detour. Farmers who knock off direction markers on stiles are daft as strollers have to wander about all over their property, crops and livestock in order to make progress.

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The sleepers over this yawning chasm were not very robust. Janet is stouthearted and crossed without fear.

Returning to an earlier rant, today’s weather of stiff arctic wind, heavy rain, sun, hail, more sun, were all rendered helpless when confronted with Janet’s patent waterproof kilts.

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April 30

Day 3 Tilstock to Wrenbury cum Frith

Today has defied the weather forecasters’ Jeremiah like predictions. We set off from Tilstock in beautiful, for Britain, weather.

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The forecast for today was confusing. Despite the forecasters’ confusion the weather itself decided that it would support those that had predicted rain, wind and hail. We were obliged to get into kilts and koats after just 15 minutes.

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Thunderstorms and hail no longer fill us with dread. We laugh at their silly attempts to dampen not only our bodies but our spirits.

First stop today was the wonderful cafe de bon sol in Whitchurch

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Where we were fed and entertained by Paco and his assistants, Welsh, Spanish, English and Polish. None of whom felt moved to join us as the hail it haileth everytime we attempted to leave.

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I have no idea who this blighter is except that he was keeping watch over the Mercian Way.
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Because the rain has been heavy over the last day or two we decided to avoid fields and use the small, narrow, lanes of old England today. We have been rewarded by views of old manor houses and the lovely old farm houses of the Cheshire plain. I suspect that the current occupiers are bankers rather than farmers.

Then onwards to Wrenbury cum Frith

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As has happened many times before on these strolls accommodation has been difficult to find. Therefore the plan was to take the train from Wrenbury to Nantwich and our bed. The trains weren’t playing ball so we followed the siren call of a beer mug displayed on our OS map. The station and pub are separated by about 1 mile.
Country pubs are vanishing at an alarming rate. Sadly, the pub in Wrenbury cum Frith had vanished some time after the surveyors had visited .
The worst hailstorm of the day, plus the vanished pub, would have unsettled less experienced strollers. We laugh at such things and notice bus stops with lists of alluring buses taking travellers to exotic destinations, so the day was saved

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The good old C of E came up trumps too with an open porch.

Having settled in to the Cheshire Cat we strolled about Nantwich, a lovely town where the pubs stop serving food at 7:30 with the exception of the pub directly opposite..

We are lying in our feather bed listening to the strains of bank holiday merriment, music and the fragrance of freshly cooked chips as we contemplate tomorrow’s stroll to CREWE.

No map because I, foolishly, deleted some data and Android is a duff text editor. Now back in Windows land so a miraculous map has appeared

 

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May 1

Day 4 Wrenbury to Crewe

Once more the meteorologists led us to believe that we would be in for a soaking as we sauntered. Yes, a barbecue would have been a bit wet and chilly. Yes, sunbathing at Bognor would have been a washout but we, in our waterproof kilts, laughed at the pitiful offering today’s clouds could manage.

Most of today’s stroll used the South Cheshire Way, what a lovely contrast to the sad old Shropshire Way. Farmers have taken the trouble to clearly mark all paths at well maintained stiles and even made little lanes for the stroller.

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We met quite a few friendly cattle as we crossed the fields. They pretend to take no notice of the stroller in their field but if you turn around they are about 1 foot from your bottom. I think that they expect some grub to appear from the depths of the rucksack. They are usually content with a tickle under the chin and a lick of the hand. Janet made quite a few new chums wanting a kiss at the kissing gate.

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Thank goodness that the name of this lane was hidden from their view and that cows can’t read.

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When we strolled to Italy there was always a handy church porch in which to take sustenance. Here in darkest, obviously heathen, Cheshire we have had to dine in stile.
We ate old jam filled croissants washed down with a slug of water with our backs turned from the wind.

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Janet is a brave soul evidenced by the way she strode, without hesitation, over the Shropshire Union Canal by means of a weak bridge clearly labelled as only to be crossed when empty.

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I know that I am silly but I am still ridiculously amused by signs to secret establishments.

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Our map was drawn before the recent spell of humid weather

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Not all landowners have embraced the South Cheshire Way but he did have a load of old diggers so we didn’t mind the obstacle course.

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This milestone was a welcome sight. Two miles to go, today anyway.

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Crewe! The air is filled with the delicious perfume of porage, porridge, What a wonderful welcome for the kilted stroller, it is the Mornflake mill.

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Today’s stroll has been really enjoyable. We made one error and went in completely the wrong direction but probably only added about one quarter of a mile to the stroll. The rain, although persistant, could not penetrate through our defences and the fields were dryish.
A massive Asian buffet has finished me off nicely.

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May 2

Day 5 Crewe to Alsager

Janet has been as lively as a cricket today. I, on the other hand, have been very dozy. Thank goodness that today’s stroll was short and flat. I had only just enough energy to climb stiles.
I can understand why this has not become a famous national trail even though the field bits are well maintained and easily navigated.

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Wandering past the old Crewe college buildings made me feel quite nostalgic, remembering the amusing behaviour of my chums. New houses have been built at the back of the halls of residence. It was there, when those houses were just trees and fields that a friend, the wonderful Andrea Turtle, saw a flasher. Silly blighter picking on Andrea, she pointed and giggled and made him feel quite small I am, sure as no one saw him again
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The only unpleasant section was a narrow, busy, bendy section of road. We probably would not have felt so apprehensive if the sign at the start of the section had not said that everyone should remember that loads of accidents had happened on this bit of road.

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Crossing golf courses is quite pleasant as the grass is cut nicely.

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We remembered to look right and left to avoid misdirected balls.

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We crossed our first wood today. Janet, in particular, was reminded very strongly of her Surrey childhood. We could easily have been strolling through the Bourne wood. Had we been, of course, it would have meant that our navigation had been disappointingly wayward.

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Janet commented that having motorways coloured blue on maps was a useful convention as motorways are a bit like rivers in that they bar the way to strollers. We have to find bridges or tunnels in order to cross to the other side. I did wonder if pedestrian crossings on motorways might work. The motorway in the photo is that famous schlerotic artery the M6.

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The weather today has been drier and warmer than predicted. Not drier and warmer than I would have liked though.

On getting to our cosy room I sprawled on the bed and slept like a stone. Now it is time to wash our small clothes and prepare for tomorrow.

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May 3

Day 6 Alsager to Congleton

Alsager is a nice enough place. Loads of well kept semi detached houses and things. I won’t dwell on it.

Today’s route had a number of firsts for this extended stroll, a canal, a railway pedestrian crossing, a pub and, best of all, a room with chairs, a table, a bath and space to move about without one of us having to leave or breathe in deeply.

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Having left the semi detached houses of Alsager we found the path alongside the railway line which took us towards the canal.

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Another first, which I had forgotten was the presence of the sun. The sun beat down so fiercely that we had to remove our fleeces. Phew what a scorcher!
I really love walking along paths near to railway lines, particularly when separated only by a small fence.

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Whenever we need to use a pedestrian crossing over a railway line we always get halfway across and stop. Is this a feeble act of defiance I sometimes wonder.
Finding the canal on the map was a real stroke of luck. It goes in the right direction and, being a canal, is flat.

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We had hoped that stopping at a pub for some light refreshment might be a daily pleasure. Sadly, this has not been the case. We have eaten meagre meals sitting on stiles in the rain until today. Someone had taken the trouble to chalk ‘pub’ on one of the canal bridges. This was followed by a further sign and arrow which was followed by us. A pint and a packet of crisps! Sheer bliss!

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Herons are shy birds. They stay absolutely still, looking like garden ornaments, until they spot the stroller’s hand sneaking stealthily into the camera pouch. They do not move at that point but wait until the lens points in their direction. Once the camera is poised and cocked they disappear.

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Walking along a towpath is so very relaxing. As long as the canal is on the correct side of the stroller navigation must be correct. Of course, if there is a canal junction and that junction is where the stroller must change direction then it is a good wheeze to understand how to change from one canal to another. Not seeing that other canal in its aquaduct as we passed under it added a few yards to the stroll.

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Today’s stroll to Congleton has been a real pleasure, a perfect day followed by perfect accommodation at the Lion and Swan

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May 4

Day 7 Congleton to Allgreave

Best day so far. No internet so blog somewhat sparse.

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This has been the day in which we moved from urban to rural landscapes. We have moved as well from flat to uneven walking. We are not quite as fit as we believed ourselves to be.

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Without the wonderful Wincle Brewery who knows if we would have made it

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I’m never sure why people put “Bull in field” notices up. If there is a Jersey bull in the field then the farmer is bonkers. If the bull is a Hereford, or such like then who cares?

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The lovely welcome from Luda at the Rose and Crown made us feel at home. What a surprise to find someone who had been at Clun Green Man weekend too. Thanks Adam for a pleasant evening.

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May 5

Day 8 Allgreave to Buxton

It is a shame that we have walked so far and carried so much today. The bar below our Buxton bedroom is having a salsa night and the teacher is really giving her students some advice. We have always quite fancied a chance to swivel our ancient hips but tonight our hips just want to be horizontal.

Still, on with today.

A hearty breakfast, shoe cleaning in the sun gave us a good start to today’s stroll.

I thought that yesterday was wonderful but today has been even better. This part of the world is full of wonderful views and friendly people.

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Everyone we have met has told us that we must visit Lud’s Church so we did. It should have been a short detour, it wasn’t.

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I took loads of photos of this wondrous place, but they all look
really dull, so put your waders or wellies on and see it for yourselves.

Adding 3.5 miles to our day’s stroll took its toll later on in the day. We were leaping about like mountain goats at first, silly old us

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We took a short pause for lunch after the major detour to find Lud’s church. We had a sausage and bacon saved from a breakfast a few days ago and some salami which was nicely matured. The babbling brook and cows wandering about made me want to sleep, but we strollers do not shirk our task.

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With about 6 miles to go we both ran out of steam. We had quite a bit of up diddly up to do and were feeling groggy. Luckily for us Janet keeps a store of mint imperials about her person and dispensed one each of these miracle workers. Restored, we moved upwards.

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The Dane Valley Way took us most of the way to Buxton. The source of the Dane is a sort of Grimpen Mire. I staggered about in its clutches for some time, nearly losing a pole. Janet did not seem to be so disadvantaged. Perhaps because she is lighter or not so stupid.

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We now have an inkling of what to expect on the Pennine Way.

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May 6

Day 9 Buxton only

Our accommodation is very comfortable. Our bathroom is up a long open staircase leading off a balcony at the top of the stairs. From the balcony there is a sensation of an out of body experience, albeit someone else’s body as one gazes on the bed’s occupant. Janet thought that it was like a film scene. Considering our ages probably one in which the relatives were waiting for the will to be read.
Our day off has been spent at the laundry, supermarket, outdoor shop and phone shop.

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Finding accommodation for tomorrow, Saturday night, has been a bit tricky. We failed completely and staying another day in Buxton seemed the only solution. We went, as a last resort, to the tourist office where Luke tried with all his might to find a pillow and quilt. We gave up as he rang pub after pub, b&b after b&b and all that seemed to be left was some sort of ark on a camp site. Doughty Luke was not to be beaten and found a pub near to Kinder Scout. No need to get out the emergency foil blankets, phew!

Having completed the all these mundane tasks we set off on a good old tourist rubber neck stroll

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If you have never visited the Dome, you must do so as sooon as possible. Entry is free to stand beneath a massive open ceilinged dome. Directly under the centre of the dome, on the floor, is a circle. Standing in the circle one can speak but not be heard by those standing outside the circle. The effects are quite magical. We sang and shouted for ages.

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After a decent nosh and a bath we must settle down to plan how we are going to walk from Buxton to Kinder Scout.

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