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long distance path

Lockdown!

My annual leave entitlement at work runs April to April which means in March, my entire team battle to claim days to use up their leave.
Being sneaky (some may say selfish!), in December I booked a week off in March before anyone else did.
I planned to buy a 4 in 8 Freedom of North West Rail Rover ticket which can be used for travel towards Chester to the south, Leeds to the east and Dumfries to the north.
Leeds was a definite, I’d not been before and I was keen to see the armouries, perhaps combine with another Yorkshire town.
Carlisle was tempting too. A walk along Hadrian’s wall, sneak in a spot of camping….
…..
…..then came Covid-19.

My football Sunday league games had already been cancelled, my football and fencing training sessions soon followed. My hotel in Crawly cancelled the booking I’d made for April as did the campsite in the Lake District.
Things were slowly getting ready for lock down.
My big plans for the week off were becoming smaller plans.

For the time being at least, walking/hiking was still allowed. One idea was to use the Chester to Manchester line, get off the train at Delamere, walk back to Chester then, take the Merseyrail train back home.

4 in 8 freedom rail rover ticket

The ticket is in two parts.
The bottom part can be read by ticket machines, the top part is for writing in the day and month the ticket is being used (click on the image to expand).

After a pleasant journey on an empty train, I got off at Delamere station.
From the station, it’s a short walk to the visitor centre (with it’s toilets!) and on to the Blakemere Moss lake.

Navigation is easy, follow the signs for the Delamere Way through the forest to the road running (almost) through the middle.

Unfortunately, this route does go along roads for a short while but they aren’t very busy.

I was now following the well signed Baker Way.
Just to the north of Ashton Hayes (which sounds more like a Hollywood actor than a village), I had a decision to make. I could continue on the Baker Way which lead to the south of Chester or I could turn right on to Gongar Lane. This would take me on the Longster Trail towards the north of Chester.
I decided on the Longster Trail.
This was a nice 12 mile walk, passing villages and crossing farmers fields before reaching the outskirts of Chester.
The route is available to download from ViewRanger.
Needless to say, I’ll be trying the other route when I can!

I did get to Leeds as planned, but now all the museums including the armouries were closed. As I sat alone in PieMinister, the annouoncement was made that all pubs and restaurants would close that night.
Total lock-down was imminent.
I made mu way very quickly to the station, I certainly wasn’t going to wait for the last train as more and more were cancelled.

I never managed to use the final day of my 4 day ticket.

I didn’t return to the office after my week off either.
I got a text message off a colleague saying that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. Luckily I guessed this might happen. I had taken my laptop home and, more importantly, my stash of coffee.

Tree in the morning mist

Working from home wasn’t too bad.
The time I’d normally spend communing. I spent doing the government approved daily walk.
I would walk for a couple of minutes to the local woods then wander around discovering the various paths. For the most part, I was very lucky with the weather.
I’ll certainly miss these early morning strolls through when normality returns.

Eastham country park, Wirral


At the weekends, I’d get up early and head a little further down the road (still only about 5 minutes!) to the larger woods at Eastham Country park.
Leaving early mean I could easily follow the social distancing rules, only seeing the occasional early dog walking in the distance.

We work flexi time in my office, and I’d managed to build up enough hours to take a couple of days off.
When I booked them, I had planned a couple of days in the Welsh hills. When the time came, we were in full on lock down and were only allowed to go on one exercise a day.
The (short) list of permitted exercise included walking but only from where you live. I’m quite lucky, there’s several footpaths and quiet country lanes near my home. I drew up a couple of routes, both in a similar area. One 8 mile circular route from my house, the other about 10.5 miles.
I’ve added both to ViewRanger but tweaked both to start and end at the nearest train station.

Eastham Country Park Wirral

We’re now approaching the end of the third week of lock down.
Needless to say, we’re all missing seeing family and it’s tough missing usual activities…..but there’s quite a few walks and camping trips getting planned!!

Dales Way..or not

From a very young age, most of my holidays both abroad and in the UK, have been spent up in the hills somewhere. One of the earliest holiday photos is of me, aged around 5 years old, in Austria wearing my big leather boots and ‘Munch Bunch‘ rucksack containing such essentials as a colouring book and pencils!

All of my holidays, however, are spent in one, occasionally two, bases. Walks all start and finish at the hotel/b&b/guesthouse so why not try something different, start at point A then after a few days arrive at point B?

There are a few of long distance paths (LDP) to choose from, but, lets not run before we can walk.
First prerequisite was to do this properly, it seems ‘cheating’ to send all your kit ahead in a van and it is  definitely is ‘cheating’ if all the organisation is done by a specialist company.
I was to carry everything I needed for the trip myself and find my own bed and breakfast accommodation….yes, I know people would say it’s ‘cheating’ not camping out but, as I say, lets not run before we can walk…..

So, where to go?
While it would be great to try something across Europe (and I won’t rule that out in the future), I just wanted to take a few days off work and have a relatively cheap break.
The Dales Way was consistently coming up as a good beginners LDP. While I’m no beginner to walking, I am new to multi day trips and this seemed a good introduction.

I got a copy of The Dales Way: A Complete Guide to the Trail (British Long-distance Trails) by Terry Marsh and fired up Google.
One of the first things that hit me as the average age of the walkers, it seemed like this was God’s waiting room for the more active. Was I about to embark on my first ‘challenge’ of the year with people over twice my age?!
At least I was taking a few less days than they were. I had planned  5 days to complete the 81 miles rather than the 6-8 suggested. Perhaps I can put the Werther’s Originals away….for now…

One of the biggest problems is to find town/villages along the way which not only have rooms available but also have somewhere for an evening meal, cue calculating mileage between stops and coming up with the following plan:

  • Day 1 From Ilkley to Grassington
  • Day 2 To Buckden or Hume
  • Day 3 To Dent
  • Part 4: Dent to Kendal
  • Part 5: Kendal to Bowness on Windermere

Now the next problem, actually getting the rooms booked. Some hotels had online booking, however, a couple replied to my emails with ‘you have to ring up’.

Bear in mind that I was looking at very basic rooms, some with shared bathrooms and  usually above a pub, by the time I’d added the train fare,food and drink the price for this trip was over £500!
To put this in to context, I received an email advertising an All Inclusive holiday in Gambia including flights for a week for the same price!

So, my plans for my week off have changed somewhat, I’m now looking at flights and hotels in warmer parts of Europe and saving myself a couple of hundred quid.
The Dales Way walk became a week in La Palma.

 

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