View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Friday, 9 September 2016

A Breath of Fresh Air, 7th Sept 2016

…or Norman’s Birthday Walk



Norman’s got this thing about lighthouses. If there’s even the slightest chance of including one in a walk it’s a dead cert that he’ll incorporate it somehow. This has led to many a sorry tale of navigation gone wrong, too many miles etc.

But today we decided to humour him, he’d just had his birthday y’see and advancing years are taking their toll on the old bugger.

‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ is a route that Norman devised when he was a young whippersnapper of 70, Each year, around his birthday, he leads this walk in the (vain) hope that fellow members of the East Lancs LDWA will buy him lots of beer at the apres. Fortunately the members are wise to his ways and he always ends up having to put his hand in his pocket. It’s tough being a retired plumber.


The Wednesday Chapter of the East Lancs LDWA in all their finery and glory

After a quick pre-flight check and photo call we left Conder Green’s Pay & Display Car Park (which was free ‘cos the ticket machine was jammed) and walked north along a disused railway track

The sun shone strongly and lashings of ginger beer sun cream were (was?) being applied to bare bits of flesh in an attempt to avoid nasty sunburn.


Norman sped off, leaving us in his wake. It was a devil of a job to catch him up.


Norman checking that his followers are, er, following him.


At Aldcliffe a call for elevenses went out, it was only 3 miles or so into the walk but it was hot and I don’t think anyone objected to such an early stop. A convenient wall provided seating, trees provided a little but much needed shade.



The Lancaster Canal, our view from the elevenses stop.

Suitably rested, fed and watered, Norman once again sped off – now heading south along the western bank of the Lancaster Canal.


After four miles of fast-ish flatness our leader decided it was time for his troops to lunch at a lovely lock-side spot, just south of Galgate. This was a very leisurely affair – there was plenty of time to catch up with all the current LDWA scandal and gossip…..but I’m sworn to secrecy – so no boddice ripping tales will pass my lips. Well not until the dust has settled.


Norman in Lunch Mode

Our route left the canal towpath and we headed towards St Michael and All Angels Church in Cockeram, a fine bulding if ever there was one. I’ve been this way on other walks and have always wanted a peek inside. Bits of the building date back to 1589, there’s little doubt that parts are considerably older. Today a service was being conducted so once again my plan for a quick church explore was foiled. Curses.


  St Michael and All Angels Church, Cockerham

A couple of miles further and another stop beckoned, this time for cold drinks and ice creams – very welcome in such high temperatures. The venue for this much needed stop was the airfield at Cockerham, home of the Black Knights Parachute Team. As with previous visits to the airfield, the team were in action – and what a glorious day to be pushed out of an aeroplane at 15,000 ft.




Doggies weren’t allowed close to the airfield, so whilst we enjoyed our cooling refreshments and watched the aerial display the pooches were left tied up in the airfield’s car park.


Eschewing NORM1, our leader takes to the hoof ….Barbara looks on in amazement

Leaving the airfield by the tradesmen’s entrance we were marched towards the coast – and a fine example of salt marsh:


The next point of interest, Cockersand Abbey, looks nothing like an abbey – it looks more a little chapel / church, a fine build nonetheless:


Cockersand Abbey

Just visible from the abbey is Plover Scar Lighthouse, set off the coast, in the River Lune estuary. Although the lighthouse is small and isn’t normally manned, apparently it offers some very basic accommodation and a fireplace – presumably in case lighthouse staff were marooned because of bad weather.


Plover Scar Lighthouse (Black Combe in the distance?)

The lighthouse suffered a bit of a prang earlier this year, a passing vessel barged into it causing some damage to the cast iron structure. It still works as a lighthouse but is currently undergoing repairs by a specialist welding company.

Northwards now, heading towards the fleshpots of Glasson Dock, world famous for it’s docks. Although still officially a working sea port, it seems to be more suited to leisure craft these days – it has quite an extensive marina.


Following the coastal path to Glasson Dock





One for Alan R



Glasson Dock Marina


Nearly back!

16 miles from the start:



Norman in Rehydration Mode:



So that was that. A flat 16 mile walk in excellent company, stories told, beer drunk….and then we all went home for tea.

Thanks to Norman for leading the walk and everyone else who walked the route – you all made it a grand day out. Thanks!

Where we went:

Breath of Fresh Air route 

16 miles of flat niceness.


More photographs here

Route details on ViewRanger

East Lancs LDWA ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ webpage

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Favourite Photographs, 3rd September 2016



TGOC2004 (C25) – my first Challenge, in Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy.

L > R: Ben (Bob Lee’s Dutch son-in-law?), Stormin’ Norman, the late and much missed Bob Lee

Photo taken with my then new Olympus mju410, a weatherproof camera that has dreadful low-light performance….but it was, and still is, quite weatherproof.

Conrad was kind enough to put his considerable expertise to full use by tweeking the photograph which resulted in much improvement, see below. Thanks Conrad!

P1010083 JJGroup edit by Conrad

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Favourite Photographs, 23rd August 2016


Photo: The start of the Sandstone Trail in the sunshine

The Bear’s Paw, Frodsham – at the top end of the Sandstone Trail.

You can read my story of when I backpacked the route in 2011.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Testing the new ViewRanger app

The good folk at Viewranger have improved their already very good navigation app. In order to make sure that it ticked all the right boxes a number of guinea-pigs were recruited to drink coffee, play with the new app, go for a nice little walk…and to drink some beer.

Oli, of Viewranger fame, had arranged this little jolly that had a select group of outdoorsy-types gathering in Castleton at the unearthly hour of 11am….that’s the 11am in the morning, in case you were wondering. Oli, being a sensible sort of chap, had brought reinforcements from Viewranger in case the group decided to revolt at some point during the day. The reinforcements happened to be quite expert on all aspects of the app and they were able to answer any questions we may have had. Like ‘when do we stop for lunch?’.


Those of the gathered throng that didn’t have iPhones or iPads (we were testing the Apple version) were issued with appropriate phones or tablets. After a quick chat to describe the new features and to make sure we were all sufficiently up to speed with the app we were released onto the Peak District’s unsuspecting hills using Viewranger to navigate Oli’s route.

If you’ve already got Viewranger you can view the route here , it’s a nice little route that was designed to test out the new features of Viewranger.


A fine pair of knees and the ‘new’ Viewranger screen

Viewranger ‘Skyline’

One significant additional feature of the new Viewranger are the abililty to be able to identify hills and other features simply by activating the device’s camera and pointing it in the direction of the area of interest. They call this feature ‘Skyline’. This is done using the button on the top right corner of the screen – the one with a question mark. The result is something like this (but without my reflection):


I’m afraid the image above doesn’t illustrate the facility too well. In reality it’s really good and makes Viewranger an even more valuable aid to navigation. The diagonal labels on the screen indicate the various tops, their height and how far away they are.

The little window on the bottom right corner of the screen selects various filters: Peaks, Places, Points of Interest, and Water. Water filters are good.

Another additional feature is the little arrow at the top left corner of the screen. This comes into play when following a route on the app; it points you in the direction you need to be travelling. Good eh?

It’s also possible to grab a screen shot which could be saved, emailed or whatever.


It was hot in Castleton, not as hot as the previous day’s 31degC, but still very hot. With this hotness in mind, the route had been tweaked* slightly to avoid the risk of heatstroke, premature exhaustion, dehydration etc.

* tweaked = shortened


Getting to grips with the new app


Oli indicating The One True Way. Uphill.


Hollins Cross


The Vale of Edale


My Samsung S3 Mini running the ‘old’ Viewranger, an iPad running the ‘new’ Viewranger

I didn’t find much difference in the performance of Viewranger operating under Android or Apple (IOS?) although the much larger screen size of the iPad made the app easier to use – and the maps considerably easier to view.

The screen of a smart phone is infinitely clearer than most dedicated GPSs – certainly better than both my SatMap10 and Garmin Etrex20. 

The Skyline facility is certainly far more than a gimmick, it’s a really useful navigational aid. It enable the easy identification more distant features. It’s also possible to customise Skyline. From what I’ve been able to deduce, points of interest can be added to a map or route and these features will be indicated on the Skyline. In addition it’s possible to add route notes, such as ‘Steep decent ahead’, ‘Dragons be here’ etc.

This latest version of the app is initially only going to be available for Apple devices but the Android version is due for release around October.



The old Stockport to Sheffield road, closed due to repeated landslips since 1979. I last travelled this road in the early 1970s on my old Triumph T90. Happy days!


To misappropriate a Bradburyism: ‘The final assault on the summit’ of Mam Tor


The gash in the landscape that is Winnats Pass


Mam Tor, ‘Shivering Mountain’


Mam Tor from Speedwell


Winnats Pass from Speedwell


Chilling at the apres debrief


Oli’s description of the route:

Starting from the Castleton National Park Visitor Centre, this walk initially follows the stream of Odin Stitch with great views of Mam Tor before breaking right towards Hollins Cross and the Great Ridge.
A left turn at Hollins Cross provides some wonderful high-level walking that eventually leads to the 517m summit of Mam Tor.
The descent route leads through disused mines and past the impressive caves of Blue John, Treak Cliff, Speedwell and Peak Caverns on its way back to the pubs, shops and cafes of Castleton



I’ve played with Viewranger on and off for a few years but not spent much time learning it’s ins and outs, prefering to stick with my Garmin Etrex20. With Oli and his Viewranger buddies being on hand I soon discovered that the app is really quite straightforward and easy to use – and it’s very useful.

What’s even better, Viewranger is free – you just buy the mapping, eg: All GB National Parks, 1:50K @ £8.50, All NW England 1:50K @ £8.50. I’m looking forward to the release of the Android version of the update, I’ll certainly be making use of it.

Thanks to Oli and his team from Viewranger for a pleasant few hours wandering around, the teas, coffees, beers etc – and their good company.

I was home in time for tea.

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