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Lockdown, a year on.

It’s now been a year since all this Covid malarkey first really kicked in and a very strange year it’s been.

All the plans made in 2020 were cancelled or postponed and the most excitement has been a couple of camping trips and day walks in the summer.
On the one hand, I’m so glad I managed to get out on the few walks I did in the Clwydian hills and Snowdonia. On the other hand, I wish I’d done more.

Our freedom was short lived and so soon we found ourselves back under more stringent lockdown rules. Wales was closed to us once more.

Church in Neston

I’d been bimbling around, close to home. Watching the sunrise in the local woods and taking country lanes to see where I’d end up.
I did one such walk on a day off in November and, rather naughtily, I crossed the border in to Cheshire.
It was a painless experience and I found myself in Neston.
Despite being walking distance (ish) from home, I’d never been before. The closest I got was Ness Gardens where, as a kid on a school trip, I fell head first in to lake trying to catch tadpoles.

Neston is a nice enough place. The usual shops but with an old market town feel and plenty of little nooks and crannies to explore.
The walk round the back of the church is pleasant and leads on to the Wirral Way with great views over to the Welsh hills.

The Wirral Way would be a possibility to get home but my return leg was mostly on pavements alongside the roads.
I did manage to get off road for a shore while walking an extremely muddy bridleway.
Most of the quagmire had been caused by cyclists. I’ve been cursing them a lot this past year.

Those that would have been riding around the tracks of Delamere or Llandegla were now turning their attention to footpaths.
At best, you find a route unwalkable. Fat bike tyre marks cutting though narrow footpaths At worst, a Lycra clad granddad on an over specced and over priced bike comes hurtling downhill towards you and the old couple walking their dog and small grandchild….
…..but I digress.
I was on a bridle way so I can’t shout at them this time.

By December, things had eased a little and once again, we were allowed back across the border in to Wales.
As soon as the restrictions were lifted, I booked two days off work. Surely one of those days would have decent weather?
One did, the other was atrocious!

On the nicer of the two days, I went to one of my favourite spots, Moel Famau
I’d been here many, many times in the past but, after so few walks in 2020, it was so good to be back.
I parked up and spotted a large group of older people heading up the main path, I headed in the opposite direction.
My route took me around the hill, initially heading East, walking towards the little village of Cilcain.

The weather was beautifully sunny and I soon wishing I’d worn lighter layers but, the paths were very wet. Thick gloopy mud covered my boots and worked my way up my trousers. I did manage to wash much of the mud off as I waded through what used to be little brooks but were now quite fast moving streams.

This route is available to download as a GPX file.


We managed to have a fairly normal family Christmas day but by the new year we were back in lock down and walks were back to ‘roam from home’.
It’s tough to find the motivation especially on the cold, dark mornings. To give me an extra kick I signed up for the Lancaster 500k Challenge. This celebrated 80 years since the first flight of the Avro Lancaster. As a pilot myself, I’m keen to support such events. I managed to complete the challenge in 2 months, despite being stuck in Wirral. I’m feeling rather smug about that 🙂

I walked around the streets, woodland and country lanes a few miles from my font door.
Boots and hiking gear were the most commonly worn items on the local residential streets and most of us had become masters at zig zagging across the roads to avoid others, Unfortunately though, once again, I was sharing pavements and footpaths with cyclists.
On one occasion, I was about to unleash my wrath while pointing at the ‘No Cycling’ sign, or, more likely, shake my head and tut loudly but, as I approached the wooden post, I noticed the sign had been prised away. At this point, I was imagining the Lycra clad chapter of Hell’s Angels appearing in the dead of night, armed with tools from their puncture repair kits removing anything that may prevent them from riding wherever they fancied.
This particular cyclist continued his ride along the pavement towards a woman pushing a pram…

Generally though, early mornings were cyclist free and were a time to appreciate what was on my doorstep and explorer previously undiscovered spots.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel…maybe….

Lockdown Continues

In March 2020, we began the Covid-19 lock down. As we got to April, it was clear than things weren’t going to change any time soon.
Back in March, it was a novelty working from home and spending the allowed exercise time discovering new paths a short walk from home. Now, the novelty was wearing thin.
A camping and concert visit to the Lake District was put back a year. A weekend football tournament in Crawley was cancelled. At least I got the money back from Premier Inn without any hassle. Big thanks to them!
We had to postpone the traditional Mother’s Day meal and a family birthday get together.

Annoyingly, for a country with so few bank holidays, most of them occurred during lock down and the weather has been fantastic. I would have loved to have been in the Welsh hills with my tent, instead I was wandering the lanes, paths and bridleways of Wirral.

Some of my routes headed across Brombrorough golf course. Interestingly, on the first few walks, the route across the course was marked with a few small, wooden pointers. Later, large arrows were painted on the grass and tees. I suspect more people were walking and some were getting a bit lost!

This is a footpath. Benty Heath Lane
This is a footpath!

After the golf course, the footpath passes to the side of a crop field with the M53 motorway on the right.
Taking a right on the road at the end of the field brings you out on to Bentey Heath Lane, passing Hargreave House Cottages.
Walking from the golf course, this route is clear but if doing the walk the other way around it’s not so obvious.
From the road you see painted ‘Private!’ signs and the footpath sign have been removed.
The bridge over the motorway has a piece of graffiti saying “f*** the farmer”, I do wonder if it was written by a disgruntled walker!

One of my ‘new’ walks was around Raby. I’ve made this walk available to download but altered it to start and end at Merseyrail train stations. I’ll be doing this walk again post lock down and popping in to the lovely, thatched Wheatsheaf Inn for a drink or two!

Friday 8th May was a bank holiday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
I used the day as an opportunity for a longer walk.
I had to alter my route as the footpath to the side of Clatterbridge hospital was closed. This meant taking a slightly longer route along roads, luckily they were still very quiet.
The route intended to take is available on ViewRanger. I’ve tweaked it slightly to start and finish at Bromborough Rake train station

June started off in much the same way as the previous months but with the added disappointment of the cancellation of the holiday to Zakopane in Poland. At least most of my money will be refunded, apart from the part I’d booked with LastMinute.com. I certainly won’t be using them again post lockdown and wouldn’t recommend any one else do either!

And now, well, it’s cold and it’s wet and there’s few signs of normality returning any time soon.
I’m looking forward to the time when we can pop to Primark to pick up our “I survived Covid-19” t-shirts….until that time, stay safe out there.

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!!

The Wirral Way by bike

The Wirral Way is great place for cycling. It is fairly flat, mostly traffic free and there are plenty of opportunities to stop along the 13 mile (21km) route.
The only downside is I haven’t (yet) sussed out a non linear route.

Bike and caarThe full route starts at Seacombe Ferry and ends at Hooton Station.
My route started at the Thurstaston Visitors Centre which has plenty of free (at the moment at least!) car parking, a cafe and toilets.

West Kirby, Hoylake and New Brighton can be reached by taking the path heading  roughly North East.
I went in the opposite direction towards Hooton.
The route follows a disused railway line, once a part of part of the Birkenhead Railway and  now a multi use path offering some fantastic views over the River Dee to North Wales.

Wirral Way ViewThe first opportunity for a break (and ice cream!) is at Parkgate.
Leave the Wirral Way at Boathouse Lane and continue along The Parade.  There are a number of pubs and award winning ice cream shops along this route.
The path can be rejoined near the cricket club off Station Road. Don’t let the name fool you, there hasn’t been a station here since 1956!

The path stops for a short distance in Neston, passing through a quiet housing estate.
The route is still signposted, simply continue straight ahead before crossing a road to rejoin the path.

SheepThe route passes the Leahurst Veterinary school part of the University of Liverpool, which once featured in a couple of TV programmes.
Keep an eye out for some of their residents!

I rode to  Hadlow Road, a  good spot for a ‘comfort break’ before heading back the same way.
This disused railway station has been preserved in it’s 1950’s condition along complete with ticket office and signal box. In fact, you can see many features of the old railway line along this route.

My ride was roughly 15 miles (24km) and can be downloaded via the ViewRanger website

The Visit Wirral website has several downloadable maps of other cycle routes around the peninsular

The Wirral Way by foot

Another walk from last year, back when we had  warm sunny weekends! I wanted a walk but didn’t fancy a drive so, took a local, albeit a virtually linear walk.

I started the walk close to Bromobrough Rake station making it around 14 miles, however, for a shorter walk, start at Bromborough, Eastham Rake or, to avoid walking along streets, Hooton Station

I headed to Plymyard Avenue, taking a right at the end on to Eastham Rake.

Just before the railway bridge, turn on to Lowwfields Avenue,  following the blue signs to Hooton. Take the underpass beneath the M53 motorway then follow the path to the left, where it forks, take the left hand path, around the field  before reaching Dale Hey.
At the end of this road, take a right towards Hooton Station, passing the Hooton pub.

The Wirral Way
The Wirral Way

Just past the station, a path to the left takes you to the start of the Wirral Way.

Navigation is easy enough, just follow the route of the old Birkenhead Railway. This line was closed in 1962 and became Wirral Country Park in 1973.

hadlow road station
Hadlow Road station

Eventually you’ll  hit Hadlow Road station, another spot where you can park up and start this walk, in fact, starting here makes the walk more circular.

Hadlow Road was once a  station on the Hooton to West Kirby line of the  Birkenhead Railway, serving the village of Willaston.  It closed to passengers in 1956 but the Grade 2 listed station as been preserved and is well worth a look inside, if nothing else, it makes a nice toilet stop!

On leaving the station, cross over the road to continue on the Wirral way.

Path
It’s easy to spot the route through!

Rather than walk the full 12.2 miles of the Wirral way I took a path to the left  crossing fields.

This is where the circular part of the walk starts.

The path pops out on the busy Chester High Road, cross here at the lights and follow Mill Lane to the bridleway on the right which, eventually leads to Gorntons Lane in Neston.

Some lovely views over to Wales here.

 

Take a right up the lane until it becomes a footpath, this path leads to Lees Lane. Turn left here.

Follow this to the junction with Mellock Lane, turn right and follow it until you reach the start of the Wirral Way which takes you back to Hooton.

The map is available in GPX format from ViewRanger

Map

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