Sunday, 25 October 2015

The East Leicestershire Village Circuit, v.2.0 23/10/15

14 miles, via Scraptoft, Houghton on the Hill, Gaulby, King's Norton, Little Stretton, 
  Stretton Magna, Stoughton & Thurnby.

Down country again for an emergency visit to Leicestershire as My Dad is in hospital after a fall and My Mum is need of some moral support after a minor incident a couple of weeks back has evolved into something more serious, with a diagnosis of him having a Subdural Haematoma, and currently being in the care of the LRI's stroke services, awaiting an MRI scan to check the extent of his brain injury. Thankfully he's mostly still there, but looking extremely tired and responding like a his battery has run almost flat, and My Mum is demonstrating all the qualities of a trooper as the scenarios shift almost daily with the hopes and fears that come with them. The whole family is down for a long weekend, so My Dad can have some company daily and I can not feel to bad when I feel the need to get out of the house to get my head clear, and the first Leicestershire walk that I had plotted for 2016 can go down on the Friday, which looks like the best available day whilst I'm down here, and my tilt at 2000 miles before I'm 41 and 600 miles before the end of 2015 can be completed whilst among family and in the lands of my birth. If nothing else, it will give me some extra good news to report to My Dad when visiting him over the weekend.

So, the second tour of the villages of East Leicestershire kicks off at 9.30am, My Mum dropping me off at the top of Scraptoft Lane, just along from All Saints church and a mile or so from the family pile, setting course eastwards along Covert Lane, which has been a road to nowhere for as long as anyone can remember, but now has started to gain traffic thanks to the redevelopment of Scraptoft campus, and now it's lane popular with those doing jogging as exercise. I push on, beyond the old Polytechnic's sports grounds and make my way to the bridleway that departs on a southward path through Square Spinney, setting off with great purpose before reaching the fields and disappearing from view, leaving us with hedges to follow down to the very obvious railway remnant stretching across the landscape. Heading eastwards on a rising gradient is the alignment of the GNR branch from Leicester Belgrave Road to Marefield Junction, operational from 1882 to 1964, and hosting a few relics on the half mile that is now a farm access track, namely an overbridge that carries the bridleway, an aqueduct carrying Willow Brook over the cutting close to its source, and most impressively the west portal of Thurnby Tunnel. Despite being sealed and partly infilled, a hole cut in its plating means it is accessible but I don't have the torch with me that I hopefully took to Barndale and Crigglestone, so what's left of its 516 yards will have to go unexplored, odd to think that such a significant structure could have gone unvisited in all my years in Leicestershire. Return to the fields in the direction of New Ingarsby farm, and the easiest path to continue my circuit in the direction of the A47 is up the farm driveway, which has no PROW, I'm guessing, but it gives me the best access to the paths that head into Houghton on the Hill from the south, its continued expansion convincing me that this village is still a growing satellite beyond the city of Leicester. Main Street still has most of the village's old face along it, and I had never really acknowledged its elevation as a settlement, but the fact that the spire of  St Catherine's church is possibly the only distinctive man made landmark on the local horizon suggests the 160m of its location must be considerable.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Abbey Village to Rivington Park 18/10/15

7.8 miles, via Brinscall, White Coppice, Anglezarke & Lead Mines Clough.

There's always an option for a bonus day when visiting My Sister's family, so whilst I'm still not persuasive enough to get the girls out walking today, preferring a trip to MOSI with Dr G, a bit of car relay can get us out to Abbey Village, the odd linear village that grew alongside the A675 Bolton Road, a start point for a stroll of many sections before a late lunch and my ride homewards. Drop off outside the Hare & Hounds pub at 11.20am, at the bottom of the village, pacing the way among the terraces at the roadside and past the mill that drew the village here in the first place, to start a railway walk that hadn't quite aligned itself to fit onto my Coastal trek, the remains of the Lancashire Union Railway (L&Y / L&NWR joint) line from Blackburn to Chorley, active from 1869 to 1966, have become a linear park running through to Withnell and Brinscall. It's a leafy and nature filled route which immediately gets My Sister's approval, one which she hadn't known about previously and now provides a much more level cycling route than the one available on the roads, with a few pretty impressive bridges along its length, an obvious station house at its top and a parkland with fishing lake near its end, a really good use for a resource that could have lain fallow otherwise. Pass the C2C route again as we meet Brinscall, having once again passed close to Withnell without entering it, and this might be the smallest place in the country to have its own swimming baths. Dick Lane shadows the railway line to the bridge on the lane to Brinscall Hall, before footpaths almost drop us onto the alignment before we peel away to head towards the woods on the moorland fringe and the path that accompanies the goit channel that links the reservoirs at Roddlesworth and Anglezarke. Another leafy walk on the western bank, along a track badly represented on the map and oddly developed as a good bridleway surface but with cycling thunderously forbidden from it, and as for the goit, I've no idea at all if the water still flows functionally in it, as it is, it's a good way to get down to White Coppice and to observe to moorland edge as we pass. Change sides by the cricket field, moving onto a slightly more undulating course on the eastern bank as the rough upland looms larger, and it seem the cyclists are pretty keen to ignore the ban along here, we pace along discussing this odd section of moorland, as is ends so abruptly on the edge of the coastal plain, with neither of us having quite enough geological nous to theorise coherently.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Egerton to Darwen 17/10/15

10.3 miles, via Cheetham Close, Entwistle Reservoir, Darwen Moor & Sunnyhurst Wood.

So back to the West Pennines, with the intent to get in the conclusion to my Summer break, even though the temperatures and skies of the high season have retreated into the past, and I travel with an uncertain heart, believing that I should be down in Leicester after my Dad suffered a fall last weekend, with him now being admitted to hospital for observation and assessment. My Mum is entirely content for me to have this pre-planned weekend away though, so off we go to enjoy some fresh miles with My Sister, just the two of us on this occasion as Dr G and the girls are off doing cyclocross, which appeals to them much more than wandering, and I couldn't really blame them as the skies hang heavy. Away from Egerton at 10.40 am by the United Reformed church to strike a different path up to Cox Green Road, and once we hit the path to New Butterworth's farm, you could be forgiven for thinking we might be cutting a path towards Ramsbottom again. No, we are taking a sharp turn left as the moorland walk starts to get serious, heading up to the top of Cheetham Close, the hill which divides the Eagley and Bradshaw brooks and provides some rather sticky going as a fresh panorama is presented, another perspective gained on this corner of Lancashire. Only a 329m top, but worth it, before the muddy and slightly puzzling descent sends us down in the direction of Green Arms Road and the path in the direction of Entwistle reservoir, soon back into familiar territory as we hit the level path on the southern side. It's as about as different as it could be from the last time I came this way though, the water level being right up to path in February '14 but many feet below us on this occasion, indicating that 2015 might not have been as wet as we thought it was.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Streethouse to Barnsley 10/10/15

13.9 miles, via Sharlston Common, New Crofton, Havercroft, Shafton, Cudworth, Lundwood, Stairfoot & Oakwell.

Another misty morning ands another ride out to the awkwardly located Wakefield - Pontefract line, but a change over at Kirkgate station at least give me plenty of time to take in the revival work that has gone on there over the last few years, quite a transformation for the better, I must say, to think that I was calling for its demolition in 2012. Anyway to Streethouse at 9.40am, another new station, and another settlement in the heart of the district's coal country and another one to be barely seen below the fog, but impressions suggest it's pretty modestly sized, parked between the old Snydale and Sharlston Main collieries. The day is set for a railway walk, but once again we find ourselves along way from the start line, so course is set into the fog, down Whinney Lane and out across the contemporary rails, not far from the old platforms of Sharlston station, and a field boundary keeps us on track in the direction of Sharlston Common, with its houses arrayed along the A645 and opposite the memorial winding wheel, with The Green providing the road across the excessively wild common land. The survival of this and the old village to the south seem remarkable, when so much of the surrounding land had been scoured by mining over the last two centuries, and these days it looks as pleasant a country retreat as any, West Lane leading us on the A638 and the bypassed hamlet of Windmill Hill (maybe?). Field walk beyond, still in heavy mist, but the way over to New Crofton is nicely clear but the village seems to have been growing eastwards since my map was published, and a building site has obscured the way forwards for a stretch, demanding the use of a detour that was thankfully laid out for us. I couldn't say this new development appeals to me much, the older houses on Santingley Lane appealing to my taste rather more, and another trip is made in the vicinity of Crofton without meeting the village centre, passing out to the south alongside the track thankfully laid out next to the lane which eventually leads us to the day's railway walking.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Featherstone to Moorthorpe 03/10/15

16.8 miles, via High Ackworth, Ackworth Moor Top, Fitzwilliam Country Park, Kinsley, Hemsworth, Upton, Wrangbrook, North & South Elmsall.

Finally back to Saturday walking, and this is one of those trails with a distance that I wouldn't want to approach without having a rest day in hand, and it has to get cleared off my slate asap because the days are going to start abbreviating soon enough as Autumn closes in. Even so, an early start isn't really obtainable when you pick Featherstone as your start point, isolated on the Wakey - Ponte line, but another one to tick off the list as I start out around 9.45am, the trip down Station Lane and Pontefract Road confirming my impression of the town as low-rise, surprisingly extensive and resolutely post industrial. That hasn't stopped new development cropping up on the field next to the path I cut last year, opposite The Junction, and in the early going the pubs are the most interesting features along the roadside, but suburbia emerges, after a fashion along Ackworth Road, in the entertainingly named district of Purston Jaglin, the parklands offing some much needed space and greenery. Strike out into the fields by following the coach road which once accessed Ackworth Park, and the ascending track gives a good view north to the familiar landscape horizon around Pontefract before dropping out on the A628, opposite the distinctive water tower, below which the Ackworth Plague Stone still stands, a rare 17th century relic. Push on down Pontefract road, beside the plush dwellings on the edge of Ackworth Park, past one of the eccentric milestones on the edge of High Ackworth and into the village that looks like is has been pretty upscale for a few centuries, complete with charity hospital and the parish church of St Cuthbert. Press on down to middle (?) Ackworth, with its large Georgian school, established by the Quakers and finally abandon the turnpike to Barnsley on the edge of Ackworth Moor Top, slipping down Mill Lane to go in search of a railway walk that has been a long time coming.