Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Shopping Avoidance Failure!

During a brief moment of madness gifts were bought, wrapped and delivered.

..but fortune favours the brave and before long normal service was resumed.

The golden views over the Macclesfield Forest from the summit of Shutlingsloe were broadly presented to all those who made this their traditional Boxing Day pilgrimage.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Shopping Avoidance #3

Kirstine has been studying Buddhist meditiation for just under a year now and in the midst of Manchester's madness went on a retreat at the Manchester Buddhist Centre.

Today, Manchster shoppers have been slogginig it out for those final prezzies and Manchester United have been playing host to Everton. This combined with icy roads has spawned traffic chaos.
What better way of escaping the commerial riot and find a calmer, more peaceful level from which to view the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Shopping Avoidance #2

Those who participate in seasonal madness are finding themselves in the home strait of the Christmas shopping race. In the meantime Kirstine and I decided to go to Wetherby in search for a Christmas Adventure. There is an artificial nordic ski track laid through illuminated woodlands. There is also a cafe, a christmas shop and an ice rink.

The ski trail runs through an enchanted wood with strange illuminated creatures and characters from fairy tales.

Although we couldn't get hold of any mulled wine, we did manage to have a hot chocolate break between circuits of the 1 kilometre trail. The only downside was the rush hour traffic across the Pennines on the way home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Shopping avoidance #1

Whilst almost everyone in the mad mad world was dashing around crowded shops. I headed off for a whistle stop tour of north Wales. My first port of call was Holyhead where I dropped off my long suffering double kayak for some much needed repairs. Mike Webb and his crew at Rockpool Kayaks are sure to give the very best of treatment.

I have been missing some of my friends from north Wales recently as I have been so busy exploring the shores of northern England. I was eager to catch up with Barry Shaw before he set off for his trip to circumnavigate New Zealand's south island with Justine Curgenven. After being treated to a splendid roast dinner and done all the catching up I could handle, I headed off into the night to meet up with some friends from North West Sea Kayakers staying near Pwllheli.

In true NWSK outdoor & adventure style we engaged in a pre-christmas retail frenzy avoidance weekend. Kev and Gill organized a wonderful cottage near Pwllheli in north Wales. I arrived later than expected and was roundly ticked off by Cap'n Roscoe.

Following a frosty night we scraped the ice from our cars and made our way to Abersoch for a trip to the St Tudwal's Islands. The sky was clear, the air crisp and the sunshine typically golden in its low winter placing. The islands were unusually quiet as during the summer months they are bustling with birdlife.

Following the tour round the islands we made our way across to the surf beach at Porth Ceiriad. Following some tentative surf landings with questionable dignity we tucked into an assortment of seasonal fayre all washed down with with a cupful of warm mulled wine before returning to Abersoch.
Kev and Gill led the assault on Tesco's in Porthmadog and returned with the ingredients for a delightful and hearty evening meal. Having eaten Garlic Bread, Baked Camembert, Beef stew and roasted veg and Apple crumble, only a relatively small amount of alcohol sent us into a lengthy night long slumber.

The next morning we headed off for the north coast of the Lleyn. We started at the small inlet at Porth Ysgaden. There is plenty of rockhopping along this intriguing stretch of coastline.

There was even a small beach with enough surf for some good rides in the winter sunshine. We continued to weave and dodge our way along towards Porth Dinllaen stopping at a small sheltered cove for lunch. All done, we headed back to Porth Ysgaden by a more direct offshore route in order to catch the best of the ebb tide.

What a terrific way to stay far from the madding Christmas crowds - Recommended!

For more photos click here!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Shark Found in the River Ribble

The weekend monsoon had left plenty of water in most of the rivers in northern England and with the promise of calmer weather, I decided to join some friends for a paddle on the Ribble in Lancashire. Its easy paddling and very scenic. The Ribble Valley is renowned for its beauty and is popular with tourists, especially ramblers.

As we neared the end of our trip 2 of my friends who were paddling an inflatable canoe spotted something big and red on the riverbank. It must have been washed up by the previous night's flood.


We think this beast may have escaped from a nearby panto performance of Jaws. I have never come accross a pantomime shark before but those teeth look rather sharp. Blessed with hindsight we decided that giving it a ride home on an inflatable canoe was unwise.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Crosby Beach

This beach lies at the mouth of the Mersey Estuary just outside the Port of Liverpool. Recently the soft sands here have been dominated by the controvertial artwork of Anthony Gormley. His creation 'Another Place' consists of 100 of life-size statues of men spaced out along the huge stretch of Crosby Beach. The effect is quite striking.

Life on this windswept beach seems to go on as usual despite the prescence of 100 iron men looking out to sea. These wading birds, called 'Knot' out number the iron men many times over.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Pet Spider

The onset of cold weather,
The change of the season,
Brings in new creatures,
And I search for no reason.

The storm, wind and rain,
Brought me my pet spider,
He eats all the flies,
And keeps me from myther.

I provide food and a home,
from the hustle and bustle,
He shelters by my window,
Beside the bottle of 'Mr Muscle'.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Lancaster Round

Last Saturday Peter, Maurice, Dell and I set off in atrocious wind and rain in search of yet another triumphant mission of endurance and self punishment.

The Lancaster Round is an extraordinary paddling trip which combines sea, river and canal to complete over 26km in a loop in the Lancaster area.

The trip starts and finishes at Glasson Dock where the estuary of the river Lune opens out to the Irish Sea. We paddled up the estuary on the last of an unusually high flooding tide making our way into the historic part of old Lancaster. Leaving Lancaster downstream behind us we paddled over and above Skerton weir, normally a 2 metre drop but well submerged by the high tide.

Kayaks had to be carried up a steep path from the river Lune to the Lancaster Canal 30 metres above before we could continue the next stage of our journey. The Lancaster Canal runs right through the old industrial heart of Lancaster and we found ourselves paddling amongst huge mill buildings that are at various stages of well deserved re-development. Unfortunately we had no time to stop at any of the fine pubs en route. I feel a return will be appropriate when we have longer daylight hours.

Finally the canal leads out into the beautiful Lancashire countryside and for the most part we were sheltered from the harsh prevailing weather.

Once we arrived at the village of Galgate it was time to turn right onto the Glasson Branch of the Lancaster Canal. It was to prove the most exhausting stretch. We were now paddling northwest right into the prevailing icy wind, and there were 6 locks to portage. Once we arrived after dark back at Glasson Dock we treated aching bodies to hot chocolate beside a nice warm fire in the Victoria Pub........... Perfect!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hinkes' 8000 metre descent to the welsh coast

I spent last weekend working for the British Mountaineering Council at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. Manning a small show stand in a draughty marquee all weekend is the sort of experience that could test the resiliance of the toughest. Wise and well travelled men can look lost in such places, those who have scaled the heights have been brought to their knees and hardy paddlers have all but drowned in their own tears in their attempts at dealing with the public. What chance would I have?

....... A warming glow .......

Last year's challenge was padded by the close proximity of 'John Mark and Robbo's Easy Drinking Whisky Co.' and their never ending supply of free samples, but I knew that this time they wouldn't be there. So imagine my delight upon arrival, at the sight of our neighbours for this year's festival weekend.

.......... and we all got along just fine, despite our differences (whatever they were).

From the mountains to the sea....

Among the greats of mountaineering that graced the BMC stand was Alan Hinkes who is the first British mountaineer to complete all of the world's 14 peaks over 8000 metres. Having marvelled at the views of South Stack and the sheer cliffs of Gogarth Bay, Mr Hinkes (left) enquired enthusiastically as to the nature of further adventures depicted in the 'Welsh Sea Kayaking' guidebook.

The reminiscence of his early days as an outdoor instructor in Northumberland included tales of paddling in huge seas and tide races around the Farne Islands and Lindisfarne. The subject moved on to future projects and the possibility of a sea kayakers guide to the shores of northern England and the Isle of Man grew with each golden sip of Orkney malt.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

... with a little help from 'Scooby Doo'!

Back in the merry month of May I was persuaded by some well meaning colleagues to enter the most scenic and demanding marathon that Europe has to offer. The Snowdonia Marathon is now in its 25th year and despite its gruelling reputation attracts runners from a broad spectrum of abilities.

I was joined by my colleagues Tina (with whom I have done much of the training) and Andy (who has been rather secretive about his training schedule).

As I wandered around at the race registration area I became all too conscious of the whippet like and focused appearance of my fellow competitors. Undeterred, I completed with my preparations before meeting with Tina and Andy to take the short bus ride to the start at Nant Peris.
The first part of the course climbs the Llanberis Pass, a huge but steady climb of over 250 metres after which it is down hill all the way to Bedggelert, the half way point at 13 miles. It was at this point when an old injury sustained many years ago playing football began to make itself apparent. It had been raining heavily for the last four miles.

The second big hill lay ahead beyond Beddgelert and it was at this point I decided to give my troublesome knee a rest by walking up it. No shame in that many were doing the same. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help looking round to see if my tyrannical sports teacher from school days long gone was checking up on me.

As the hill topped out I was soon off to a good pace again and soon approached Rhyd Ddu where Kirstine and my brother Chris were waiting. Their vocal, moral and practical support gave me a real boost. The weather had deteriorated considerably and I was thankful for Kirstine’s windproof top without which I would certainly have succumbed to hypothermia.

As I approached Bettws Garmon at around 18 miles my knee began to get seriously painful. Too painful for running, but I was still determined to continue whilst I could still walk. There were other walking wounded along the route too, one of which was a nice chap called Colin who was wearing a ‘Scooby Doo’ outfit. He was raising money for Prostate Cancer. Together we combined our determination to make the last climb and get to the finish. The top of the last climb was bleak, misty and very cold, and Colin had been uninhibitedly vocal about his wanting for a hot, sweet cup of tea. Undoubtedly one of the finest moments of the day was defined, when through the swirling mist at Bwlch-y-Groes a windswept voice enquired, “Would anybody like a nice cup of tea?”

This was much needed as what followed was a painful and slippery descent into the final stages of the race at Llanberis. Once off the hill Colin and I managed to run some of the last mile to cross the finish line in just over 6 hours.

Congratulations are due to Andy and Tina for finishing in under 5 hours, but I should also take this opportunity to thank Kirstine, Chris and Ana for their support, and I'd like to encourage anyone reading this to support either of Tina's chosen good causes for which she was raising money through sponsorship.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Yorkshire coast from the Air

Last weekend, after having paddled round Flamborough Head I made my way over to another 'yorkshire treasure'. Eddsfield airfield is so called simply because it is located in Edd's field. over 15 years ago Edd Peacock along with some like minded friends got together and began to create an airfield.

" We wanted it to be an airfield where there were no politics. no committees and no hassle. Just somewhere to come flying, or in the case of the British weather, somewhere to come and talk about flying."

The idea seems very much like my beloved North West Sea Kayakers.
I was privileged enough to be taken for a flight along the Yorkshire coast by Bill who lives locally, loves flying and shares my passion for aerial photography.

The conditions weren't ideal but we did get to see interesting patterns in the mist as it tumbled from Vale of York, over the sea cliffs and out to sea.

Mid morning boating in the sea off Scarborough.

Breathtaking views over Flamborough Head.

Back at the Eddsfield the atmosphere in the 'control tower' was lively and friendly as folk were dropping in and making plans for their next flights. I had a wonerful flying experience and a great time amongst some lovely peple.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spurn Head and Flamborough Head

Sean and I set off early from Manchester especially early so that we could paddle across the mouth of the Humber Estuary to Cleethopes via a couple of old fortifications. Spurn Head is an important site for migrating birds and is designated SSSI so we searched for any relevant advice or guidance from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust but found no restrictions for launching kayaks on their website. When we arrived at the Spurn Head Nature Reserve a friendly warden took our entrance fee and said that there wouldn't be any problem. He also mentioned that a chap called 'Noel' had been staying with them for a number of days waiting for favourable conditions to cross the Humber.

Sean and I made our way to the point and got ready to put on at a beach beside a car-park the warden's boss turned up and told us that we weren't allowed to launch. He refunded our entrance fee. We didn't argue but instead looked for other places to launch.

Our search was unsuccessful. There was just too much soft estuary mud, which in places made for pretty circles around boat moorings. We decided that it was still early enough to go somewhere else and still get some paddling done so we headed north for Flamborough!

Flamborough Head is on the East Yorkshire coast between Bridlington and Filey and is a monumentous headland made up of chalk and limestone. Cliffs of almost 100 metres rise vertically from the sea at the northern edge and there are a multitude of caves and gullies closer to the end.
Our route started at a small cove with a lifeboat station and RNLI shop on the southern edge called South Landing.

Despite many preceeding days of calm weather it wasn't long before long we encoutered swell breaking on the reefs that extend a mile or so out to sea.

Our plan was to stop at a small beach on the northern edge called North Landing, for no more than a butty and a bit of cake but our plans got disrupted due to someone with greater needs than ours. As we paddled into the beach we spotted an ambulance arriving. The paramedics had been attending a casualty for a while when a local coastguard came to clear the beach in preparation for the arrival of a helicopter. We moved our kayaks our of harm's way into a small cave and waited near the carpark above the beach. The casualty was eventually winched aboard the helicopter and taken to hospital. I hope he makes a good recovery.

In the late afternoon sunshine we continued on our way from North Landing, along the coast towards Bempton where the tall cliffs play host to thousands of nesting seabirds during the spring and summer.

Failing light forced us to turn back and not a moment too soon as our late return to South Landing was after the last of the sun's rays could be seen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Circumnavigation of Walney Island

Walney Island lies off the south west Cumbrian coast. The Island is about 8 miles long but is less than a mile wide in most places. The northern half has an airfield and 'Vickerstown'.

I joined some nice folk from Duddon Canoe Club on a trip round the island. We started at the public slipway on Roa Island and began to make our way northwest up the Walney Channel.

Progress was swift on the rising tide as the imposing industrial skyline of Barrow-in-Furness loomed out from the misty morning.

This is locally known as 'The Big Shed'. This is where BAE Systems make 'Big Things'!

The North End is a perfect quiet spot for a lunch break.

As the tide falls, water ebbs to the west into the Irish Sea. The resulting tiderace is perfect for a spot of surfing before heading off to explore the west side of the island.

The west side of Walney has some good surfing spots but there is little more to expolre than miles of sandy beaches.

The south end of the Island has a nature reserve some of which is designated SSSI so we didn't land. Instead we carried on in failing light and headed north back the where we started at Roa completing the circumnavigation, a trip of 20 miles.

There are a few more photos here. Thanks once again the folk at Duddon Canoe Club for their guidance and fine company.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Blackpool Illuminations - A view from the sea

NWSK arrived in force at the Blackpool seafront in search of candy floss, 'Kiss me Quick' hats and amusement arcades. Such was our enthusiasm for the burlesque, we mostly arrived at least half an hour before the pre-determined rendezvous time. Eventually tradition took over and we took to the sea at dusk for a different perspective.

Peter's briefing was a short sermon, the kind that may have kept me interested in going to church. As we paddled north along the promenade wafts of doughnuts, chips and pies flowed strongly on the gentle south-easterly breeze.

Glen was mezmerised by the whirling lights and almost became caught up in the giant wheel on Central Pier. Phew Glen , that was a close one!

There were a few shouts from sea fishermen on the last leg back to the finish. Its really difficult to see their rods and lines in broad daylight let alone at night.

In the meantime Mark was trying to work out how to get his kayak onto the 'Big One'. In the meantime my mind was on supper. The weather had been kind - Peter's guidance was spot on, and we even found a wonderful Fish and Chip shop just across the road from where we landed.