East Wallhouses to Chollerton to Steel Rigg

What a cliff-hanger at the end of the last post, eh? I left us standing outside the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses. The rhythm of the week was to be breakfast, walk, shower, dinner, sleep, breakfast, walk, shower, dinner, sleep and so on, leaving no time, nor energy, to write much at the end of the day.

Hadrian’s Wall rubber stamp box

One of the joys we missed out on throughout the trip was collecting rubber stamps. An organised person would have brought a little book or passport along to stamp at various points along the route. Not me. Unusually, I didn’t even have any scraps of paper with me. On the other hand, the compulsion to find a stamp at each point wasn’t there.

Here we go again

Hadrian’s Wall Walk was well signposted, we all looked out for the identifying white acorn, as seen on the stamp box above. Our guide book was ‘Hadrian’s Wall Path’ by Henry Stedman. It’s very detailed in terms of where to go and what to look out for, so I won’t repeat all that information here. But, if you’re tired, I suppose you could easily miss one vital turn, and end up in Scotland or Yorkshire. But I’m pleased to say, that didn’t happen to us. On this occasion.

As I mentioned, on this third day we followed a main road, but we walked on grass and well-worn paths rather than the hard surface. It was interesting to find that the road was actually on top of the wall in places. An excavation revealed the wall, and was left open for us visitors to enjoy.

The Wall under the road

Trying to explain semaphore to Americans was… challenging. David Bailey here wanted them to replicate the Beatles’ Help album cover picture.

Gorse v horse

When we say ‘Jyoti is in the bricklayer’s arms’, we don’t mean she’s having a quick pint down at the local. No, we met Gavin, a dry-stone wall builder with 28 years’ experience. Jyoti was very excited to be allowed to lay a stone. So, if this wall collapses soon, you know who to blame. Actually, it was interesting to meet a real craftsman.

Gavin admiring Jyoti’s work

Some fields are full of sheep and evidence of sheep, but we did find some untainted meadows too.

A big old tree
Sheep of the day

We arrived at the George Hotel Inn, Chollerford, ready for a lie down and a shower before dinner.

We were warned that Day 4 was the most strenuous stage, as well as being the second longest at 12 miles. So after breakfast, we all took a deep breath and set off in a westerly direction, marvelling at the weather which was ideal.

Tammy sporting hairstyle number 45
A long way to go
Jyoti by the wall

On the hill leading to the Temple of Mithras, we came across some very pretty flowers.

Northern Purple Orchids

I wouldn’t have identified them as orchids, but I’m very grateful to the more botanically aware member of our team.

As well as looking down while walking, avoiding obstacles and holes and manure, and looking around at signs of the Wall and its forts and lookout towers, we were admiring the views, to the north and to the south.

What a view
Not a Roman wall

We encountered flies of many species, some copulating, but for some reason, the cavern that is my mouth was particularly attractive to them. A sign, yes, that I was breathing through my mouth due to the increased exertion today.

Sheep of the day

Brocolitia, the Roman Temple of Mithras, was fascinating, and a good pace to have a bit of a rest. Mithras, rather aptly is an anagram of what was quite a presence in the surrounding fields.

The Temple was built in about 200 AD, about 1823 years before Tammy paid a visit.

Tammy at the Temple of Mithras
Pesky fly of the day

We encountered many people every day on the walk. Quite a few were, like us, taking 8 days or so to hike the whole route, while some others were obviously day-trippers. Many nations were represented, UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Germany, not to mention Manchester. Everyone says hello, some stop for a quick chat. And some were carrying ridiculously huge, heavy backpacks. Our bags were carried from venue to venue by a local haulage firm: all we had to do was make sure they were ready by 9 o’clock each morning.

Roman wall
Roman wool

Near Sewingshields Crags, we witnessed a lovely display of sheep herding. Most of the flock moved down the hill, but three stubborn sheep remained lying down, enjoying a late lunch of grass. The shepherd, on his 4-wheel-drive vehicle, didn’t notice them, and none of his dogs seemed to be that interested either. The five of us and many others observed from above, and one of the dogs ran right through the crowd. I think he may have been a trainee, misunderstanding the whistled commands.

Flock of sheep on the move
Green and pleasant land

We stopped at Housesteads Fort. This is the only part of Hadrian’s Wall that Liesel and I had visited before, once with Liesel’s parents. We arrived at the top end of the fort, and the car park was way off in the distance. No wonder Klaus was complaining on that occasion!

Up, up and away…

It was indeed a challenging hike today, it certainly had its ups and downs. Literally. But I think the hardest part were the dozens of stiles we had to climb over. Stiles, ladderstiles, some wood, some stone, some with very high climbs, not easy with old, tired lallies towards the end of a long day! We prefer gates, and we encountered mostly kissing gates.

Negotiating a stile in style

More hills and crags and a lough before we reached Sycamore Gap. Here resides, apparently, the most photographed tree near Hadrian’s Wall, mainly because of its starring role in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. It’s a mere 20-minute horse ride from the white cliffs of Dover to this tree, according to the film. It’s not a documentary, then.

Sycamore Gap

And a couple of hours later, what a beautiful, welcome sight. Our Steel Rigg digs for the night.

Twice Brewed plaques

Inside, a signpost confirmed that we were (just) over halfway in our journey:


Today, we’d climbed the equivalent of 56 floors, according to some marvellous technology owned by Teresa, Tammy, Jyoti and Liesel. My pedometer just counts my steps and, for the first time in a few years, I exceeded 43,000 in one day.

Jumping ahead in time, the radio show this week is a celebration of Jenny’s very special birthday. With some very special guest appearances too. You can listen to the show here. Happy birthday, Jenny!

Newburn to East Wallhouses

It will take a while to adapt to these early starts. No lie-ins for a while. Our breakfast girl was very friendly and bonny and we fueled up well before setting off for Day 2.

Tyne Riverside Country Park was very quiet, apart from the birds and the wind rustling through the trees. Yes, we heard the odd loud vehicle, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the countryside and the fresh air.

Fact-filled bench

A lot of the path was along a disused railway line, so very straight for long periods.

Every now and then, we caught a glimpse of a bright yellow field, rapeseed. Glimpse? The yellow flowers just draw your gaze, they’re so bright.

Field of rapeseed

We encountered our first serious hills today too. Nothing too onerous, I just find a rhythm and stick to it, until I have to stop or change my pace. I think we all have our optimum speeds on different terrain,  but on the whole, our group of five stuck together very well.

Heddon-on-the-Wall: I wonder why it was so-called? We followed a sign and snuck behind a hedge and saw the first secton of Roman Wall that we knew to be genuine. This was an exciting moment for us!

The Wall with Jyoti, Liesel and Teresa

One thing they’re not short of in the north of England is sheep.

How now, brown sheep?

Lots of lambs, and a surprising number of twins, as far as we could see. Sometimes though, the sheep looked a bit other-worldly.

How now, brown cow?
Gnarly tree occupant

At the risk of repeating myself, the views were spectacular today.

What a nice view

But never mind the views of the landscape, one thing I noticed was that in just two days, Tammy had gone through five different hairstyles. And while we ate dinner later on, a sixth one, a French plait executed by Jyoti, was on display!

It rained very slightly and ponchos and raincoats and backpack covers were deployed. Thankfully, it didn’t last long and we arrived at our final destination for the day, the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses.

Our tired and achy bodies enjoyed a drink and a meal before taking to bed early.

As the week went on, the walking days became longer, and so I neglected this blog. I will catch up properly when we get home.

I know you’ll want to know about this week’s broadcast Wythenshawe Radio show, which I recorded a long time ago now, or so it seems. The theme was,of course, Walking and you can listen right here.

The same guy that served us last night brought our breakfasts this morning. I don’t think he has a home to go to. But he did very kindly take a group photo for us outside the Robin Hood Inn.

Jyoti, Mick, Liesel, Teresa, Tammy

Thanks Tammy for the picture!

Most of the walk that day followed a main road, the B6318, so traffic noise was a potential problem. But in the end, it wasn’t such a big deal. The path stayed close to the road, with a wall or something separating us. It was sometimes muddy, sometimes grassy, and on the whole, much more comfortable to walk on for long stretches than the road itself.

To be continued…

Northenden to Newcastle to Newburn

One day to go before our next Big Adventure and I spent a couple of hours prepping the next radio show. I’ll be away from the Home Studio for a while and I’ll only have a small window of opportunity to finish it before the deadline. Apart from that, packing the right amount of stuff was the order of the day.

We’re going for a long walk so of course, this was the perfect opportunity to buy a new pair of trainers. It’s not the done thing to go on a major hike with shoes not yet fully worn in, but the old ones are probably a bit too worn out. But I found a pair in the shop that felt comfortable straightaway. Result!

Later on, Liesel dropped Jyoti and me off at Quarry Bank Mill where we had a very pleasant, relaxed wander around the gardens, down by the river Bollin.

River Bollin

Yes, the rhododendrons were out in force, and combined with the sunshine, our mood was lifted several notches on the happiness scale.

We had a look around the Mill itself too, and all its machinery. We’re so lucky that neither of us have ever had to work in such a hostile environment. But what amazing technological and engineering accomplishments from 200 years ago. Just to turn a few plants into tea towels.

Engineers make things that ‘work’ and make things ‘work better’. In the past Quarry Bank relied on the engineering brilliance of a few key men. Today, anyone can be an engineer. You just need to be able to think is a certain way. There are six habits that engineers all share:
Engineers work out what problem they want to solve
Engineers look for patterns and what connects things rather than just focusing on the smaller details
Engineers adapt and change, learning from what happens when they try things out
Engineers are creative, whether working on their own or with other people
Engineers imagine what the end result might look like
Engineers tinker. They test, try, improve and experiment!
There is an engineer in all of us.

What an inspiring sign for budding engineers.

In the evening, we all enjoyed a comedy night at Northenden Theatre, just up the road.

Dawn Bailey, Big Lou, Pauline Ayer, Bella Humphries

The MC was ‘Big Lou’ Jones, who I’ve seen before, and the other comedians to look out for in the future were Pauline Ayer, Bella Humphries, Dawn Bailey and Chris Oxenberry. They were all very funny but I only remembered to take pictures of four out of the five. And how nice to see a majority of female performers, yet sad that even now in the 21st century, it’s so unusual, it has to be commented on.

Late to bed, early to rise, makes a man tired. We had to rise early as a taxi was taking us to the coach station in Manchester. There was of course a spate of last-minute packing, and as usual, we were in that limbo between taking too much stuff and leaving something vital behind.

The cab driver was very fast. Well, he slowed down for speed cameras and sometimes stopped for red lights. Liesel felt nauseous and opened the window in case she needed to throw up. But we arrived in one piece, walked from the coach station to the temporary bus stop down the road, via Manchester’s Gay Village, and enjoyed a much more leisurely ride on the National Express to Newcastle.

I slept for a bit, did some puzzles, read my book but didn’t listen to any podcasts, which I’d come prepared to do. Overall, an uneventful coach ride but the highlight was passing by the Angel of the North.

Angel of the North

This work of art by Antony Gormley has only been standing there for a quarter of a century but this is the closest we’ve been to it. So far.

In Newcastle, we had a 15-minute walk to our accommodation for the night. The first landmark we saw was St Mary’s Cathedral.

St Mary’s Cathedral

But, carrying heavy bags, we didn’t pay a visit. The second landmark was the iconic Tyne Bridge. Google Maps insisted that we’d arrived at our destination but it was wrong. The Premier Inn was down below. A reminder that Google Maps isn’t very helpful in the third dimension. The other thing that surprised us was the number of gulls all around the bridge. What a racket!

Tyne Bridge
Birds’ eye view of the birds

The third landmark was The Sage, Gateshead, over the river. It’s designed to look like three ships approaching in the fog, and I’m sure one day, we’ll go to a concert there.

The Sage, Gateshead

We couldn’t check in yet, so we left our bags behind the desk, and went for a walk along the river. So many choices of food on offer, and what a great atmosphere.

Jyoti, Liesel and I did visit Newcastle’s other Cathedral, drawn in by the sound of organ music. Later, a boy’s choir started to sing, a wonderful noise and a reminder to me that I’m not really choir material, no matter how polite the other members of Northenden Choir might be to my face

Meet the Maddisons

Here are the colourful Maddisons that stand out in scarlet, blue and gold. Medieval St Nicholas’ Church once shone with colour, before the Reformation dictated plain stone and bare walls for churches.

Wealthy coal merchant Lionel Maddison paid for this memorial to his parents, Elizabeth and Henry, in the 1630s, Lionel was an alderman, sheriff and mayor, like his father before him. He was involved in Newcastle’s two wealthiest Companies – the Merchant Adventurers and Hostmen.

Our luck was in as we enjoyed a photography exhibition here in the cathedral too. Peter Marlow has taken pictures of all 42 of England’s cathedrals, and these photos were on display here. So of course, I had to take a picture of Guildford Cathedral while visiting Newcastle Cathedral.

Guildford Cathedral

I had a nice chat with someone who volunteers at this Cathedral, who has walked Hadrian’s Wall several times, who comes from Aberdeen but now considers themselves total Anglikised (sic).

The three of us crossed the Millennium Bridge, walked along the river and back over the Swing Bridge. This was of course all good training for the start of our long hike the following day.

At the hotel we met our fellow walkers from the USA, Teresa and her sister Tammy. I’d met Teresa before, in Portland, and she hasn’t changed a bit.

A personal recommendation took us to Träkol, by the By The River Brew Co. Thanks, Ross! We had a very nice meal, the four American ladies each choosing lamb, while I enjoyed a nut roast. The whole place is built inside old shipping containers, but you can’t really tell once you’re inside.

Our hotel room looked out over the Tyne Bridge, but here’s an unusual sight.

An open window

Yes, it’s a hotel window that you can actually open. Not too wide, mind, otherwise them pesky gulls might fly in.

The routine for the next few days is that we have breakfast, and we have to have our bags ready by 9.00am. Then some haulage fairies will take those bags to our next stop. We can walk with just the bare necessities for the day.

We could have walked to the start point of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk, or Hadrian’s Way, but we chose to take a taxi instead. It was only about three miles, but it seemed much longer in the cab, knowing we’d be walking back again!

Roman soldier (centre)

The Roman soldier at Segundum Bath House and Fort, at Wallsend, wished us well on our travels and we set off in a mainly westerly direction. The weather was perfect, and we made good time. Actually, in hindsight, I wonder if we set off a bit too fast to start with, we ended up with various aches and pains.

This first day wasn’t too hilly, but it was a hard surface all the way. We were looking our for the iconic bridges far too early, well, maybe that was just me!

On one path, we saw a couple of discarded supermarket trolleys. As Liesel remarked, if this were Manchester, they would have been in the river by now. In any case, one of our party decided to have an easy ride.

Jyoti, Teresa and Tammy (in the trolley)

On this day, we never deviated far from the river Tyne. And the route itself was well signposted. It was Hadrian’s Walk at this point, because there’s not really a lot of the Wall to see. But from the next day, we would see the occasional section of well-preserved Roman wall.

Four American ladies by the Tyne

I can’t remember who first noticed it and yelled ‘Bridge ahoy’, but we soon found ourselves back in Newcastle. It was canny to see wor old bridgey friends again. Picking up the lingo.

Millennium and Tyne Bridges

Last night, we’d been talking about Costco. So imagine our surprise when we actually saw one today. What a shame it was on the other side of a very wide river with no bridge nor ferry in sight! (Or, what a relief!)

We saw some bits of old wall, but weren’t convinced they were older than Victorian. Still, we can dream.

Not a Roman Wall

To bring us back to real life and remind us of more recent history, we passed this memorial in Scotswood.

Yesterday Today Forever

In memory of the 38 men and boys who tragically lost their lives in the Montagu View Pit Disaster on 30th March 1925, when an inrush of water from a burst seam flooded the mine shaft. The pit was finally closed on 13th November 1959

The pitman, pony and tank depict our past heritage. The house represents the present regeneration of our community. The children are our future.

The official unveiling took place on 9th June 2012 by Councillor Hazel Stephenson and children from Scotswood Village Nursery, Scotswood Village Playgroup and Bridgewater School. The children and local community were involved in the design. The sculpture was made by Xceptional Designs.

In Remembrance of “Men of Steel”.

We stopped for a late lunch at Healthworks Lemington Centre. Jyoti fulfilled her dream, finding a scone with clotted cream. I think we all realised we should have stopped sooner for a break. Various muscles ached but the break helped a lot.

Just a quick (-ish) jaunt to our final destination for the day and we nearly had our first disaster.

Jyoti by the river

Jyoti went down to the river and from where I was standing, it looked like she was in the river. Hence the photo. But then she dropped something, and I assumed it had fallen into the water. Big sighs of relief all round when the phone was picked up from solid ground.

I don’t think I’d heard of the Battle of Newburn Ford before, but we came across a memorial to it with a very good description of the events leading up to it. And it all boils down to religion, of course.

Battle of Newburn Ford

And look, the sky is still blue, a nice way to complete our first day. We stayed at The Keelman’s Lodging, Newburn,  after 11 miles and in my case, over 32,000 steps. There’s a micro-brewery here that we didn’t take advantage of, on this occasion.

Rules of the Inn

After confirming that none of us fell foul of the rules, we dined well. Unsure of what dessert to have, Jyoti decided on a bowl of custard.


Yes, an Olympic-size pool of custard. And look at that bloke next to her, concentrating hard on his rhubarb crumble.

The night ended too soon, we could have done with a little more sleep, but we met up early for a hearty breakfast before beginning Day 2 of our hike.

Thanks, Mancs and Diolch, Cymru

I missed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on account of not being born yet. The Coronation of King Charles III was on TV in the background while I was doing other things, such as writing and looking out of the window and making coffee. I didn’t really go out and buy a hat as previously suggested. But Liesel and Jyoti went out shopping and missed most of the so-called Event of the Year.

King Charles and Queen Camilla on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

Liesel collected her new prescription sunglasses from Didsbury, and while they were in the village, she and Jyoti bought treats for me (and for themselves). So we had scones for breakfast on Sunday morning, with clotted cream and jam and no arguments about which to put on first.

Our walk through Kenworthy Lane Woods on Saturday afternoon was uneventful, no moose nor bear encounters.

Jyoti and the scone

No matter how careful you are, you (or is it just me?) always end up with sticky fingers after eating anything where jam is involved.

With our energy levels suitably boosted, we took a bus into Manchester. And yes, of course we saw the back end of a bus disappear up the road as soon as we turned the corner, walking towards the bus stop. Yesterday, when Liesel and Jyoti walked to the village, I said I’d catch up and, for the first time ever, a bus arrived at the bus stop just as I got there, so I boarded it, overtook the ladies, travelled as far as the next stop, disembarked and met them.

Liesel and I enjoyed showing Jyoti the sights of Manchester including the Central Library, although it seemed to be closed. So we mooched around the Art Gallery for a while.

Golden Monkey

You can just see Jyoti’s reflection to the left of the golden monkey, who sits on top of a large urn made by top artist Grayson Perry, and he wasn’t afraid of incorporating images of his own face throughout the design.

In a few galleries, several objects are on display as if they are in storage, still in crates, and grouped together in unorthodox ways, such as by material, by object type, by size, rather than by country of origin or by artist.

Just bung them in here for a minute

Some works of art make us laugh for the wrong reason. For instance, this pot of kitchen utensils is very similar to one we have at home.

Work of art and Liesel’s version at home

One of the coolest items was a dress make up from 43 kg of dress pins.

One dress, many pins

I tried to count the pins, but someone interrupted and I lost count at about 13,000 and I wasn’t even up to the waist.

By accident, we ended up at Gooey, a cake and cookie shop that Liesel was aware of and which she’s been lusting after for a long time. We bought doughnuts and after enjoying mine, overflowing with raspberry jam, I vowed never to look at a Krispy Kreme donut again. And yes, my fingers were sticky.

We paid a quick visit to the Cathedral where we witnessed a small band rehearsing, including a harp player. I’ve never been that close to a harp but I resisted the temptation to wander over and have a pluck. I don’t think Liesel would have let me, anyway, never mind the harpist.

Harp and musicians

We walked towards Castlefield Viaduct, passing a few places of interest, such as what’s left of the old Roman Wall. Rather than sit on this historical artefact, Jyoti chose to sit on the sheep. A premonition, maybe.

Jyoti and the sheep

It was a first visit to the Viaduct for Liesel and Jyoti, and I hadn’t visited since I went with Pauline and Andrew last Summer. It has matured since then, many of the plants are now in full bloom and some of the beds are even overgrown.

Selfie of the day

As you leave, you’re surprised to see yourself in a reflective surface. You’re supposed to reflect on what you’ve seen, the flowers, the local communities and groups that have contributed to the project, the plight of the world what with climate change and all that, but all I could think of was, I look a bit distorted in that mirror.

A quick pitstop at the Museum of Science and Industry was followed by the slog back to the bus stop. Our pedometers confirmed that we’d far exceeded our 10,000 steps today, so the sit down on the bus back to Northenden was very welcome. We dined out at Chennai Dosa before making our way home.

I had a few little admin jobs to do on the computer before packing for a few days away. We d drove off and on a long section of road, we watched as several thousand vehicles were returning from their long weekend away, it was a bank holiday, and they may have all gone to Wales to escape the Coronation. Yes, Wales, that’s where we went, Snowdonia to be precise. Liesel had booked a National Trust Cottage just up the road from Craflwyn Hall. Why this area? Many years ago, Liesel and I enjoyed a Bicycle Beano cycling holiday there during the course of which I undoubtedly had a whinge about the hills. Especially the ones that go up.

Bwthyn Mai is a cute little cottage: most of the pictures on the walls are William Morris prints from an old exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, the bedrooms are on the top floor, the bathroom on the middle floor, the living room and kitchen down below. Yes, it was built on a hill, a long, long time ago. The doors and floorboards squeak a symphony as you walk around.

And outside, we can watch the sheep as they upturn furniture, take shelter under the picnic table, rub their bums against the fences and gate posts, we can witness the lambs barging into their mums for a quick feed, and generally gambol like sheep do. Jyoti took many, many pictures of sheep. And I took a couple too.

A sheep

The only downside to this accommodation, to the wider area as we discovered, is that there is no 4G coverage, and our cottage has no WiFi either. Not a problem, I thought, but as time went on, we all realised how dependent we’d become on having access to the internet. Someone had left me a WhatsApp message but I was unable to acknowledge it for a couple of days. We couldn’t quickly check the weather forecast. When faced with a problem or a question, the first thing we think is, I’ll just Google it. Can’t do that. When reading a book on my Kindle, if I want to look up a new word, I just click on it and it tells me via a dictionary or via Wikipedia. Similarly if I want to remind myself about a certain character, just touch the name and it tells me. Not now I’m out in the sticks. What’s the news? Probably the same old depressing nonsense  but we shall remain in blissful ignorance.

From my point of view, the worst thing was the possibility of losing my winning streaks on a couple of puzzles that I do every day. This really is a ridiculous first-world problem I know, but this is how tangled our lives have become with the many tentacles of the internet. And I haven’t even mentioned Twitter, Instagram and email yet. Who’s been communicating with me?

On the other hand, what a great opportunity to get away from the modern e-world for a few days. Except, everywhere we go, we’re checking for a 4G or even a 3G signal, and whether shops, cafés, galleries have WiFi.


I asked Liesel whether she fancied a game of chess on this board in the gardens of Craflwyn Hall but she politely declined, which is fair enough: she doesn’t know how to play.

Liesel and Jyoti set off for a walk and I followed a little later. The path was steep, rocky and damp, it had rained a lot overnight.

Steep path

After lunch, Liesel drove us to Rhyd Ddu from where there is a trail leading to the summit of Yr Wyddfa which is the new (old original) name for Snowdon. It started off as a well made path, no water running down this one, and yes, of course, walking up a mountain, it’s going to be steep. Liesel and Jyoti climbed a lot further than I did because, annoyingly, I had to stop due to my old shortness-of-breath issue. Maybe I should have trained longer and harder up hills, not the flat plains of Northenden. Maybe I should have persevered on an inclined treadmill at the gym. In any case, I had to stop and sit on a rock for a while, soak up some sunshine and convince my body that it can manage.

Liesel and Jyoti lead the way

It was a beautiful day, though, no complaints there. I walked back to the car park, slowly: it took a ridiculous amount of time before my breathing was back to normal.

Rhyd Ddu is a station on the railway line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. While pottering about, listening to the birds, I heard the whistle from a train in the distance. I also saw a red dragon on the platform.

Welsh dragon

Eventually, the train that had been tooting arrived at Rhyd Ddu and I took a few pictures of the engine.

The Harbourmaster

At which point, my phone died. No internet and now, no phone, no camera, no more pictures today, then. So I missed getting photos of the second train as it arrived from the opposite direction. Many people disembarked maybe with the intent of hiking some of the way up to the summit of the mountain. No pictures of them either, some dressed like me, in t-shirt and shorts, some with several layers of waterproofs and a full backpack including a tent.

Liesel, Jyoti and I met up and compared notes, especially regarding tired aching calves. After dinner, we turned the TV on and Jyoti and I watched the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Conest. The whole event is new to Jyoti and semi-finals are a new experience for me. A good nights sleep should have been a dead cert.

The weather didn’t look so good in the morning. Aches and pains determined that we should therefore have a bit of a rest day. Last night, a sheep had a fight with one of the benches outside. The bench lost, and we found it with its legs in the air. One of the sheep was limping and we wondered whether he was the one who beat up the furniture.

We drove to the nearest town, Beddgelert, where we resisted the temptation to have an ice cream. We did buy postcards and stamps and other cards and pottered about a bit. Outside the church, St Mary’s, we saw a well-preserved gravestone for a William Parry and I wondered whether he was a local hero of some description.

William Parry

Many scenes for the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens and Burt Kwouk were filmed in the area in 1958. I wonder if this explains the presence of this Chinese dragon which is stylistically very different to Welsh dragons.

Chinese dragon
Bridge over the river Colwyn in Beddgelert

There was a touch of mizzle in the air and at one point Jyoti commented that she couldn’t understand why I didn’t put a coat on. Well, it wasn’t raining that hard and I didn’t feel cold. I said that, equally, I couldn’t understand how she could keep taking her coat off and putting it back on every time the temperature changes by a degree or two!

We’d been through Betws-y-Coed before, on the occasion of our cycling holiday, so we knew it was a (relatively) big, busy place. Liesel came up with the idea of parking outside the town and walking in. And what a great decision that was because we saw a wonderful heron down by the riverside.

Ooh a heron

We found a place to eat by the railway station and looked forward to using their WiFi to catch up with some totally unimportant stuff. So imagine the heart-wrenching disappointment when we saw this on the wall.

No WiFi here

The food was great though, especially the Victoria sponge. On this beautiful day, we should maybe have done a tour of the the local waterfalls, since they are so well signposted.


Liesel confessed to her love of bridges, so we walked to Sappers Suspension Bridge, but it’s not open to the public at the moment. Further along the road, (and who would have guessed that we’d ever be walking along the A5?) we saw Waterloo Bridge, a small edifice compared with its namesake in London, but so called because it was first built in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Waterloo Bridge

Even though this was supposed to be more of a rest day following the exertions of all the climbing yesterday, we still did a lot of walking.

Deciding where to visit on our final whole day in Wales was hard, so much depends on the weather and of course, we can’t look up a weather forecast because we have no internet. In the end, we drove to Beddgelert Forest where we planned to walk to around a lake. Well, we never did find the lake. The trail was marked but somehow all three of us, I think, missed a vital pointer so we ended up well off course. But it doesn’t matter, we enjoyed the walk, the views, the weather, the fresh air, the birdsong and the fact that there were very few other hikers, cyclists and no horseriders at all. The forest itself is very lush, so many different greens from olive to almost dayglow.

50 shades of green

Once we realised we were off course, we decided instead to follow the trail into Beddgelert itself. It was a much more pleasant experience than one of our earlier plans which was to walk from the Forest car park to the village along the road, with no footpath. We lost count of the number of streams and rivulets. It’s a very wet forest but today, we were lucky to be out in the sunshine, and the threatening grey clouds never came too close.

Snowdon aka Yr Wyddfa under the clouds

We’ve been wondering which peak was in fact Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, and today a very helpful sign showed us. What a shame the actual summit was shrouded in cloud!

We had lunch at the Prince Llewelyn public house in Beddgelert, grateful for the opportunity to sit down for a while after quite a long walk. Oh, and they weren’t afraid to let us use their WiFi so I caught up on a few things, nothing of any importance of course.

Before setting off for the car, retracing our steps, we had an ice cream. What a joy to be sitting in warm sunshine eating an ice cream.

I heard a dog barking and a man telling it to be quiet. Round the corner, and we saw a flock of sheep in the road.

A flock of sheep

The man had two dogs that very skilfully herded the sheep through a gate. I thought it was unusual to hear a sheep dog being so vocal, though.

Finding another cute little bridge, I thought it would be rude not to take a picture of it for Liesel. So here she is, with Jyoti, about to walk across it.

Bridge with bonus Liesel and Jyoti

By the time we found our car in the car park, we had walked over 20,000 steps, so probably between 8 and 9 miles. Very good training for what we’ll be doing next week. My body behaved much better than yesterday. I found my rhythm and walked up a very long hill and was hardly out of breath when I got to the top, a totally different sensation to the shortness-of-breath episode I’d had yesterday.

Back at our cottage, we had some coffee then supper and in the evening, Jyoti and I enjoyed the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. I now realise what I’ve been missing for several years!

A good night’s sleep was interrupted by a very early rise and an early departure. One aspect of the cottage that I didn’t mention was the beam in the room.

The offending beam

I must have banged my head on it a thousand times over the course of four days, thus keeping Liesel fully entertained. How I can bang my head, utter ‘ouch’, glance down, forget the beam’s there, stand up and bang my head again so many times is a question that will only be answered by the pathologist who dissects my brain post mortem.

The day back at home was quiet, I worked on a radio show, processed the week’s accumulated mail (one item) and in the evening, we met up with the family for dinner at a pub called The Pointing Dog. Martha was but a small baby when she last met Jyoti but what a fab reunion.

Jyoti, Martha, William and Liesel

As mentioned a couple of times, this is Eurovision Song Contest week, and the competition is being held in Liverpool, on behalf of Ukraine, last year’s winner, and we’ve had a lot of coverage on TV and radio. So of course, my own show on Wythenshawe Radio has a Eurovision theme, and you can catch up with it here.

Oh and by the way, I didn’t lose my winning streaks on the puzzles that I do every day, just because there was no internet access. It seems that if you don’t or can’t attempt the puzzle one day, that doesn’t count against you. Phew, I am so relieved.

And, as I discovered after we returned home, the Wikipedia entry on the Welsh Red Dragon is a fascinating read. Highly recommended.

I could find no evidence that the William Parry whose gravestone we found was a celebrity in any way. But Parry is a very common name in the Beddgelert area, certainly in the graveyard.

One out, one in

All good things come to an end and such was the case with Leslie’s visit. We took her as far as we could, Security at the airport and she then enjoyed (?) an uneventful series of flights back home to Anchorage. Where, unbelievably, there was one more, final snow flurry before, maybe, possibly, Alaskans can finally bid farewell to a very long Winter.

Liesel’s been a fan of Duran Duran for most of her life and we had tickets to see them in concert many years ago but we didn’t make the show on that occasion due to indisposition: this was well before the days of Covid.

So imagine the delight on Liesel’s cute little face when she found out that they were playing in Manchester within two weeks. In a rare moment of spontaneity, she booked tickets for us, and so it was, we found ourselves in Manchester on a Saturday night, visiting the Arena for the very first time. In general, we try to avoid large stadiums, other than Hyde Park, but we had a very good time.

Before the show, we found something to eat and, eventually, somewhere to eat it! Not many flat surfaces (aka tables) to sit at or even stand by, given the place has a capacity of 20,000 and presumably, most of them want to nosh on something before the show.

AO Arena
Liesel with Duran Duran

There were two support acts, both of whom seemed very excited and pleased to be supporting Duran Duran.

Lia Lia

Lia Lia is German Chinese but some of her dance moves were, we thought, Japanese influenced. And yes, we were quite a long way back so no there was realistic possibility of close-up pictures on this occasion.

The next guy seemed familiar and it took a while before it clicked: in his shiny silver suit was Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters.

Jake Shears

The best I could do from a photographic point of view was to wait for a close-up to appear on the TV screen. He was very energetic and he knew the audience wanted him to sing some old Scissor Sisters songs as well as his own.

And then the moment Liesel’s been waiting for for forty years: Duran Duran. Their show was very visual and amongst all their big hits, they performed some new songs, both genuinely new and some just new to me.

Duran Duran
Liesel with the band

I think it’s fair to say the conditions for me to take pictures with my phone were less than optimal! Some of the stage lighting was so bright, I had to look away and then blink away the green blobs before my eyes.

Save a Prayer

In the olden days of course, all these lights would have been cigarette lighters. We welcome the reduced fire hazard, but what a strange custon, when you think about it, to illuminate your phone’s flashlight just because a particular song is being played.

As advised, after the show, we didn’t rush to leave, and it was about 45 minutes before we were able to leave the car park. If we ever visit the Arena again, I think we’ll be going by public transport. Or at least, parking down the road in a totally unrelated car park.

Manchester Victoria Station as seen from the car park roof

The day after the gig the night before was quite relaxed. Did we go out at all? Probably, briefly. But the following day we went for a really long walk, towards Sale Water Park, mostly along the river. In places, the bank is being reinforced. And near Sale as with Didsbury, the paths beside the river are in a much better state of repair than those in Northenden.

River bank

It was nice to see so many ducks out and about, and especially nice to see this heron.

Black heron

To be honest, I’m not sure this is a real heron perched up there on a gate post, its eye looks a bit googly. We stopped for a break at a pub, where we had a plate of chips each. Perfect preparation for the wander back home.

Some of the gardens in Northenden are now beginning to show the results of all the occupants’ hard work.


For the first time in many, many years, I watched some of the final of the World Snooker Championship from The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I watched it on TV, of course, I didn’t schlep all the way over there to Sheffield. Luca Brecel from Belgium won for the first time, becoming only the fourth non-UK player to become World Champion. And some of his shots appeared to defy the laws of physics, he might be some kind or wizard or something.

One of the most exciting sightings of the week was in Wythenshawe Park, we we saw a peacock butterfly. Lovely to see one, but it would be so much nicer if there were flocks of them like we used to see.


I approached very slowly but even so, it flew away before I could get a close-up. Maybe I should just get a zoom lens for my phone. Or even, as I keep saying, take out my real camera.


I showed Liesel the bench, commissioned by Netflix and Campaign Against Living Miserably, as featured in the TV series After Life. As we walked away, this chubby little robin came to say hello. We think he’s a very young one, and hopefully he’ll look better when he sorts his feathers out.

Did it feel strange, now, just being the two of us? Well, yes. Leslie didn’t join us for many really long walks, but it doesn’t take long to adapt to having a third party join us, out and about while she was here. And now there were two. But not for long.

Just a few days after Leslie returned home, we were joined by Jyoti. After not sleeping for the duration of her flights, needless to say she was a bit tired. But we all went for a brisk walk to Fletcher Moss Park.

Selfie of the day

From the boardwalks near the park, we spotted a thousand tadpoles in the water below.


And on the way home, we saw more ducks in the river including a family of ducklings. Another encouraging sign that Spring is here.

After a jolly good night’s sleep, Jyoti and Liesel were raring to go for another long walk. After a false start, when we got as far as the landing before it started raining, Liesel and I retraced our steps, more or less, towards Sale Water Park, this time with Jyoti. On this occasion, en route, we walked around Chorlton Water Park, just to get a few extra steps in. I rescued a small beetle from Liesel’s shoulder, and it sat on my finger for the whole circumnavigation of the lake.

Liesel and Jyoti by the river

We revisited Jackson’s Boat for lunch and then wandered back to Northenden on the other side of the river. And what a good day for bird watchers. More ducks of course, plus a ring-necked parakeet and even a great tit. But on the river itself:


In the evening, I went to Tea and Talk at Benchill Community Centre where a few people from Factory Internatioanl were doing work in and for the community, as well as telling us about Manchester International Festival. I wasn’t expecting a meal but that was very welcome, and it was good to see some people I knew.

The room was decorated in preparation for the Coronation. Lots of red, white and blue plus posters of the new king who I pretended not to recognise.

Benchill Community Centre

Which is an amazing coincidence, because my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was inspired by the Coronation. Two hours of songs about or by Kings and Queens. You can pay homage here.