Long Walks in March 2016

16 Mar Walk Leader: Barrie Hacking Haigh Country Park, Wigan

Length of walk: 10 miles Distance to Start of Walk: 43 miles   Number walking: 17

We have never walked in the Wigan area before but, with the M6 in full working order, we arrived at the car parks for Haigh (pronounced Hay) Country Park in good time. There are two car parks on opposite sides of Haigh Hall so two cars went to the one where the pay & display machine worked and the others had parking for free. Ralph is always in the wrong place.
We walked through the country park but failed to catch the miniature train; it runs at weekends only. We walked along the Leeds & Liverpool canal for a while but came off the towpath to pass through Wigan Golf Club. We nearly walked into one of Wigan’s finest waterfalls but Barrie called us back onto the correct path. That was where we found the dead vole (not pictured). We also met a live toad which refused to hop off the road until Doreen lifted it onto the verge. If you know of a good cure for warts, send it direct to Doreen.
Barrie chose a site for lunch at the education centre by Worthington Lakes featuring picnic tables, shelter from the wind, sunshine and closed toilets. The bushes were available. There is a newly-built housing estate just below the dam which holds back over 500 million gallons of water. They must have faith in United Utilities.
Near the end of the walk we passed through a farm with a collection of winsome calves, horses and lambs. Some of the ladies were tempted but, so far as we could tell, all the lambs remained with their mothers.
As the back markers climbed the last hill they spotted Blackpool Tower on the horizon but the others wouldn’t walk back to see it. When you are young, seeing Blackpool Tower is so exciting…

23 Mar Walk Leader: Tom and Lesley Smirk, Waterhouses

Length of walk: 10.5 miles Distance to Start of Walk: 27 miles   Number walking: 19

The walk started at the car park which used to be the Waterhouses station of the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway. Now it hosts a car park, toilets and cycle hire depot. The railway opened in 1904 but never made a profit and its track was turned into the Manifold Way for walkers and cyclists.

Out of the car park we started to climb the hill opposite the Lafarge cement plant and when we reached the top Tom explained how to make Portland cement (the most commonly used variety). He did it so well that there were no questions. Wikipedia has a comprehensive explanation for walkers who were not able to hear Tom’s version but it may make your head spin.

In his recce Tom had noted that there was little mud but omitted to mention the large amount of manure scattered over the fields at the top of the hill. We pressed on to the village of Calton where we stopped at last for refreshment at the crossroads.

Further climbing brought us over the hill and down to the river Manifold that we crossed to reach Ilam Hall for our lunch stop. A picture of the crossing is included. What looks like a mass Nazi salute is in fact a communal wave to Mike & Linda Beck as they recover from their accident in Australia. Ralph was offended at this point by some reckless mis-pronunciation from John Minshull and steamed gently for some time. Wikipedia (what a boon to society!) has it that Ilam is pronounced eye-lam; so that’s that.

Tom explained the story of St Bertram who became a hermit after his wife and child were killed by wolves; we didn’t see any wolves. A well on the hill opposite Ilam Hall is named after Bertram; we didn’t see that either. Among the other things we didn’t see are the houses built in the style of Swiss chalets by the owner of Ilam Hall in the 19th century. There is a picture of a Swiss chalet style house on the Wikipedia entry for Ilam, so they must be there.

The way back from Ilam took us into Musden Wood – a long gentle climb. During this ascent we found a wild primrose bursting out of the middle of the path and Ralph was persuaded to capture its image. It took him such a long time to find his camera, pose the flower and put away his gear that half the party had taken root and we had another refreshment stop.

One final highlight before we reached the car park was the sewage works; every walk should include one.