Bollin Valley Way & Carrington 2-day backpack

Pitch by the BollinA 2-day solo trek of the Bollin Valley Way (BVW) route that shadows the River Bollin from Macclesfield to Partington at the Manchester Ship Canal. I extended the route start from Macclesfield rail station and walked directly home from Partington via the track network and disused oil railway trackbed of Carrington Moss, though some improvisation was required to access the network due to the appearance of a huge construction site adjacent to the Ship Canal.

A cloudy and uninspiring forecast caused this forgotten route to surface from the bottom drawer of walks, a local low-level leg stretcher easily walked in less than two days. No aerobic hillwalking training here!. Instead there is much fine woodland and some pleasant Cheshire countryside scenery to enjoy as the route follows the Bollin as closely as possible.

The Bollin Valley Partnership has done a good job here with a very easy waymarked route on paths and tracks that satisfies its objectives well and is furnished mainly with black metal kissing gates. I took very few photos, the woodland needing special light to make really good pictures that stand out and it wasn’t forthcoming on this trip. Beyond a couple of minor curiosities I don’t have much commentary to add.

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Sandstone Trail 2-day backpack

Raw HeadA 2-day solo trek of the Sandstone Trail (ST) waymarked route that traverses the sandstone ridges of Cheshire between the western Peak District and the far eastern high ground of the Clwydian hills and Dee hills of Wales.

One of two Cheshire ridge trails, the other being the Gritstone Trail that I did last year, this popular walk was a perfect candidate for a short spell of excellent weather with chilly nights and warm days before Easter and the inevitable influx of walkers, also a better chance of retiring to a fairly early stealthy tent pitch. Bearing in mind the nature and popularity of path sections on the high ground of this trail, I considered my usual Big Agnes Copper Spur tent a potential risk due to its colour and instead dug out my 15-year old forest-green TN Laser Competition (never has an item of gear engendered such simultaneous feelings of love and hate!).

The two principal sections of sandstone edge walking were most enjoyable and offered good views and plenty of lovely woodland. There are also two long sections of typical Cheshire field rambling between farms that were pleasant enough in these warm and dry optimum conditions, but after significant rain these would often be extremely muddy. The trail is plentifully signed with the ST logo, but there are often other paths in the vicinity and you still need to keep your wits about you at times.

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Greenfield to Hebden 3-day backpack

Blakely CloughA 3-day trek from Greenfield to Hebden Bridge utilising a large section of the Pennine Way (PW) that includes a few fragments we have not walked before. It includes a section from our previous trip that we walked in thick blasting mist, giving a chance for some brighter photos. The route approaches via Alphin Pike and takes the high level path across Wimberry Moss and Chew Hurdles, an excellent line that we abandoned on the previous trip.

This was the first sunny spell for ages, but the strong wind on the open moors made walking arduous on the second day and the third morning suffered from early low mist before finally clearing to sunshine.

The powerful wind also made life interesting with regard to a pitch: for hills of this modest elevation, Rishworth Moor is as bleak as they come. The rolling moorland has virtually no natural shelter and the persistence of the wind downslope on the leeward side left few options.

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Wessenden, Black Hill & Chew 2-day backpack

Pitch at Red RatcherA 2-day linear trek in the north-western corner of the Dark Peak.

The route from Marsden passes the Butterley and Wessenden group of reservoirs, joining the Pennine Way (PW) to ascend to Black Hill, one of our old haunts going back to the days when it maintained its reputation as a peat megabog resembling the aftermath of trench warfare, but is now tamed and sanitized by paving across much of its traverse, but not all – the very wet January conditions made progress slow on the boggy bits.

Near Laddow Rocks our line departs the PW to ascend to Black Chew Head, then follows the path across Laddow Moss to Chew reservoir.

This time our faith in the various weather forecasts for clear tops and some sunshine was misplaced: the thick windblown mist persisted on the high ground for the entire two days, a dank and dismal trek leaving only the wild atmosphere of the bleak moorland to savour. At Chew reservoir we improvised a lower level route than planned to reach Mossley using the Oldham Way and Tame Valley Way.

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South-West Bleaklow & Kinder 2-day backpack

Pitch near Kinder DownfallA 2-day linear trek in the south-western regions of Bleaklow and the Kinder Scout plateau. The ascent to Bleaklow is via Doctor’s Gate and crossing Glead Hill to the Kinder massif via the Pennine Way to Mill Hill. The south-western edges are followed past Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low to descend via Golden Clough and Ringing Roger.

After a long and generally dismal autumn, we were quickly back to the short days of winter. A two-day promising weather window called for a simple nearby route easily accessible via public transport where we could utilize all the available daylight. The first day of this linear station-to-station trek was clear and sunny once we reached the high ground of Bleaklow, quite warm too, but the second featured thick windblown mist until midday.

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Gritstone Trail 2-day backpack

Trig and topograph on The CloudThe Gritstone Trail (GT) is a waymarked route that traverses the gritstone ridges on the western edge of the Peak District overlooking the Cheshire plain.

A September forecast for two days of late sunny weather after the end of the holiday season suggested a perfect opportunity to tackle this trail whose best features include the extensive views over the Cheshire plain. It turned out to be almost a repeat of the sweltering conditions earlier this year with temperatures in the high twenties and the views were hazy in the distance, though still good.

The GT contains a good mix of walking and interest, with many sections of fine woodland mixed with the characteristic gritstone paths reminiscent of those of the eastern White Peak. There are also sections on metalled surfaces that need good footwear cushioning. The trail is well waymarked with accurately oriented direction arrows, but needs a careful eye open for the marks and posts particularly where other trails and footpaths pass through the same area.

I found this backpack hard, partly no doubt due to the heat, but there is quite a lot of ascent involved, though not nearly as much as mapping software suggests. On the first day I had to walk at a relentless pace on the last few miles to make my intended pitch on the upper flank of Tegg’s Nose by nightfall – that turned out to be an interesting experience. It was also one of those very rare occasions where I pitched using just the tent inner with no flysheet and watched the stars through the mesh.

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Taith Ardydwy Way 3-day backpack

Pitch at Llyn Eiddew-bachThe Taith Ardudwy Way is a low-to-mid level waymarked trail that traverses the ancient commote of Ardudwy, a mediaeval administrative area, through the western fringes and foothills of the Rhinogydd. It passes sites of historical interest and presents wide coastal and mountain views.

After the sweltering exertions of the Arenig trip last month, this modest trail gave an opportunity for a more relaxed backpack over three days allowing two half days for travelling. Most of the trail is on excellent easy tracks and paths, virtually deserted and well waymarked apart from one critical point noted in the description. Just one short section had harder, slower going due to the bracken: this stretch had the best heather and rock scenery of the route but, when the flowers are resplendent with colour, the bracken is at its most vigorous and over head-height, swallowing the path and some of the marker posts and hiding the rocks.

Our expectations were exceeded here, particularly in the wild northern section that has splendid easy walking, the highlight being a superb pitch on the first night at Llyn Eiddew-bach at the foot of the rough Rhinog heartland. Another fine spot on the second night was the pitch at LLyn Irddyn below the craggy facade of Llawlech.

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South Western Arenigs 4-day backpack

Pitch on Foel BoethA linear 4-day trek in the South Western Arenigs from Bala to Dolgellau.

A weather forecast of several sunny days, including a weekend, and the imminent easing of lockdown restrictions: just the time to escape the inevitable hordes for another visit to one of our favourite areas of old, the generally forsaken and often trackless wild Arenigs. Always a reliable plan, in four days of almost unbroken sunshine, we saw just one couple ascending Arenig Fawr in the evening of day one, thereafter nobody at all – the whole area was deserted.

Eleven years have flown by since our last backpack in this region. This time we found the large tracts of rough tangled terrain much harder, the effort intensified by the unrelenting heat and struggle to maintain a good level of hydration. Regarding the latter, we were very glad to have packed a full tube of High 5 electrolyte tabs to maintain a better salt balance:- by the end of this trip my blue top had large patches of white all over it. Designed as a slackpacking trek with time for leisurely ascents and exploration, it turned out quite the opposite.

On this trip the prevailing irritants were those fairly large biting insects, clegs I think, that left numerous itchy red lumps on the hands, wrists and lower legs. Very oddly though, despite the calm humid nights, we were not troubled by midges at all.

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Western Arans 2-day backpack

Pitch at Llyn y FignFinally after more than a year of CV lockdown and an 18 months hillwalking layoff, we set off on our first backpack of 2021.

Local walks in the flatlands, some over 20 miles, have been fine for maintaining distance training but do nothing for ascent. With some apprehension we chose a reasonable mountain route to test the effects of the hiatus and that should be easy to reach by public transport without significant difficulty. This is a shorter modified version of my Aran Ridge south-west trip using the same approach from Rhydymain, a good choice for solitude for most of the route during a holiday week.

The weather was holding after a glorious bank holiday weekend but the sky turned milky, resulting in a poor flat light for most of the first day and improving on the second. A strong wind made for an interesting high pitch on Glasgwm and became a lot stronger on the main ridge.

As expected after so long away, the ascents were very slow and tiring, but this was a tonic of a backpack and a real morale booster.

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Bridgewater Way, TP Trail & Carrington Moss

TP Trail & celandinesA few pictures from another lockdown restricted day walk from the door, this is a variation on the Bridgewater canal / Carrington Moss theme taking a longer route around the northerly fringes of the Moss to skirt the Carrington chemical plant.

Today was the hottest March day since 1968 and it showed in the numbers of people out and about: loads of walkers, cyclists and quite a few horse riders. The butterflies were out in force too, a spectacular number for March including Brimstones, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells and Orange-tips.

At the northerly edge of Carrington Moss, the right-of-way along the southern edge of Shell Pond nature reserve was not accessible from the eastern end near the MUFC facility, it was taped across and enforced by the guard in the cabin. Instead we took the track south, west and north to gain a peek at the western end but it was barely worthwhile, only glimpses of the lake and birds were possible through the bordering trees and security fence. The loud cries of the birds could easily be heard though.

This northerly region of the Moss was almost deserted, a pleasant change from the crowds before on the BW and TPT.

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