Tag: walking

Sandstone Trail (well, the first 3 miles of it !).

I’ve started going walking each weekend. Frodsham is only about 12 miles from Chester. The Sandstone trail starts there, and since Tony and I are looking to do the full route in a couple of weeks, a short “recky” walk seemed sensible.

The start of the Sandstone Trail in Frodsham, Cheshire.

16 minutes from Chester by train, Frodsham really is a traditional pub and tea house village. We set off straight away, and walked up the hill. The trail is very varied and winding, and runs through a forest. The weather was superb throughout the whole afternoon. As we ambled along the trail, we passed several of the dells and caves.

The Dells alongside the path.

I wore my normal attire of walking trousers, t shirt, jumper and waterproof jacket (which between the 4 of them, can accomodate almost any UK weather) I also had my packed lunch, flask and last but not least, my old trainers.

Me in the Sunshine. It was nice to be back on the trail again.

After walking around for a couple of hours, we headed for the Sandstone Obelisk, the overlooks the whole of the valley bellow.

The War-dead memorial.

I ate my sandwiches, looking at the view out accross the valley. Spectacular.

The view accross the valley.

Frank and I originally walked the Sandstone Trail, about 5 years ago (it was 38 miles, done over 2 days). A brill day out. I’m really enjoying getting back into walking.

Christmas Day.

A winter walk along the Canal.

Christmas day. Up bright and early, I finish off a few last minute things, and then head of for my Christmas dinner.

Its a beautiful winter morning. I’m heading out towards Saughall and since its such a nice day, I decide to walk along the canal.

The water is frozen solid. People have tried to break it with bricks. When they haven’t succeeded, the bricks appear to “float” on the Canal.

I meet various poeple along the tow-path and wish them a Merry Christmas. After a few miles, I see this barge, listing heavily. The windows are open, and its half filled with water. I’m glad I didn’t sleep in there last night !.

Tony and baby Daisy.

My hosts are Tony and Lorraine (and baby Daisy).

Most people know, that I’m not big on things like cars and houses. Tony’s house however, was demolished and then rebuilt just the way he liked it. I have to say its impressive.

Presents are opened (most of them are for the baby). A sort of bedtime elephant, that says nice things in a slightly patronising voice is my favourite.

Dinner is put in the oven, and we head to the local pub (a 15th century establishment, called the  Greyhound).

Christmas festivities and Cakes.

For a village pub, I was expecting to find old George, an Alsation dog and the landlords teenage son/daughter with their entourage of friends.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was absolutely packed to the rafters. Whilst there, Tony introduced me to some of the village people (I mean the people who live locally, not a group of gay men dressed as red Indians/policemen/sailors  etc.)

Three really nice girls were there (I mean that they were really friendly and not, not that they were attractive (although it has to be said, that they were attractive as well, but that wasn’t where I was going with this)).

The kind girl on the left, had actually baked cakes, and was handing them out. I had one of the fairy cakes, and they were delicious.

A couple of pints, and then back home for dinner.

Me eating Christmas dinner.

A feast of a meal awaits, with the ubiquitous can of Fosters.

In the evening, we drank red wine and watched a variety of television, ranging from Eastenders (and Archie’s demise) right through to Citizen Kane.

Lorrain, who cooked the delicious dinner.

I thanked Tony and Lorraine for entertaining me on Christmas day. Lorraine (who’s whit can be likened to Obsidian !) joked and said I sounded like someone on Oprah Winfrey !.

Overall, a brilliant day.


My house in winter.

The cold is certainly starting to set in, here in the North of England. If like me, your keen to save money on energy (not because I’m tight, but because I can think of loads of fun things to do with the money I could save) have a look at this Quick energy saving checklist.

Another link worth having a look at (recommended by my old friend Matt Bridges) is Zen Habbits. They have a really interesting article on light/simple packing for travel.

One of the "revellers" at the Frog and Nightingale Halloween party.

I’m not big on “organized” parties, but I popped out the other week with Dan, and we ended up at the Frog and Nightingale, where they were holding a Halloween party.

What can I say, its probably the best night out, Ive had in the Frog, in 3 years. They had a band doing covers, who were themed on the Wizard of Oz (with cowardly Lion, Tin Man, the whole lot).

Some of our other friends turned up attired for the evening (although Bilge, was trying to look like a Pirate, consensus within the pub, was that she looked like quite a Gypsy).

Overall, a brilliant evening.

A friend of Amelia’s called Letty was there. I promised I would show her where to find the money saving expert flight checker. If you reading this, it can be found here.

The hill overlooking Delamere Forest.

For £3.30 and the time it takes to make a packed lunch, there are few days out to compete with Delamere Forest.

I keep going back and back, and now, I actually have an ordinance survey map of the area, so I can explore loads of cool places off the beaten track.

Winter is a brilliant time for going out walking, as there are a lot less people about, and the air is crisp.

I do sometimes cheat, and pop into the Cafe, for coffee, rather than doing the “proper” thing and drinking out of my flask.

An orange bivvy bag, is an essential. Not for emergency’s, for which it was designed (although Im sure its pretty good for that too) but folded into a square and used as a seat.

The above picture, is of the rocks overlooking the forest. Apparently, they have rock concerts there and everything.

Whilst wandering around, I saw a superb and rather unusual shelter, which I have added to my list.

My first month in a new job.

My VM Ware server, I have 5 different servers and 2 endpoints running concurently.

Its Friday evening and I’m out Jogging (yeah right, I’m in the Pub, working on my laptop).

Well, Ive just finished my first month in my new Job. Its pretty interesting, Ive learned loads of cool new stuff about infrastructures, VM Ware and Citrix.

For example, some of you reading this (that even care !) will think that there are 3 types of entity in the client side virtualization model (there are in fact 5).

Its pretty cool, I have my own laptop, my own server and other stuff like an IP phone and an RSA key.

To resolve various technical matters, we use state of the art technology. One of them, is a program called Windbg. Apparently it stands for the nickname, Win-debug. I personally think it should be called Windbag, which is much easier to remember.

In the evening, Ive been watching a DVD by Brian Madden (a legend in the virtualization world, I read his blog every week).


Culturally, the firm is very modern and progressive, as you would expect a software house to be.

On my first day, we had an induction with the boss ( a very charismatic guy).  Amongst the various things discussed, were some management strategies that had evolved with the company, and one was  the metaphorical  “hill of hell”.  Its Ironic, that every day, I face my own personal hill of hell, as I walk from the station to the office, up an enormous hill.

The lad I walk in with, is a lot fitter than me, so I am usually exhausted when I get to the top (although I feel like I’m getting a lot fitter).

Dave Angel from the Fast Show

As well as the lad I walk into work with, Ive made some other friends. One of them, Darius (that isnt his real name) who looks a lot like Dave Angel from the Fast Show.

Darius, initially accused me of racism.  His argument centered around my lack of cultural sensitivity towards residents of a particular peninsula near Mersey side, which purports to be part of Cheshire.

His allegations, centered around the fact that I call it The Wirral.  He points out, that there is no such thing as The Manchester, or The Liverpool.

I have therefore, spent the last 3 weeks, practising saying <pause> Wirral, which has resolved the problem.

Darius (who goes rowing) and Ro (it isn’t her proper name, but it rhymes with it) teas me by making up songs containing my surname.

The towpath walk near work.

In terms of working benefits, there is a canteen. Although I take sandwiches Monday to Thursday, they always do “Pies” on Friday, and I make a point of starting the weekend early by eating one (along with chips and gravy).

The office is casual dress code as well, which I think is much more comfortable than I traditional suit.  I resist the urge to dress like a 70’s punk rocker and try to maintain some sense of occasion in my clothes and grooming.

There is a superb coffee machine, which is free. Its amazing, the sort of coffee, that you pay £3.50 after a meal, is the stuff that we drink throughout the day. I prefer a mix of Italian, and occasional Arabic brands.

I spend my lunchtimes either reading or going out walking. I have worked out a circular route, that takes in the Canal and can be completed in about 40 minutes. Its very peaceful and relaxing.

Unfortunately (for the purposes of this blog) the company functions in a competitive market place, so Im not able to discuss what we do, how we do it etc (you’ll just have to take my word, that its pretty exciting stuff).

Overall, things are pretty good. Life is getting back to normal (after 4 months of unemployment).  I have enough money to pay the bills and pursue adventure, and I have interesting work to do each day. If there is more to working life than that, Id like to see it.

The Dee coastal path

A horse grazing on the Dee coastal path.

I’d mucked about around the Dee Estuary a few times on my bike, but I never realised, it was an official path (and now featured as an extension onto Chester’s promenade walk).

I head for a place called the Cop (nothing to do with Liverpool football club) where the walk begins.

The football ground of Chester City.

The path runs very close to Chester football ground, which despite living here for 8 years, I have never seen.

Since its nearby, I decide to pop over and have a look. Well, its a football ground, and I enjoy football as much as watching Goldfish swim around  a bowl.

I continue along. The route, runs along the coast of the river Dee, for 7 miles (or 8 miles depending on which signs you believe).

Its a pretty quiet walk, you meet a lot of cyclists in training, but very few walkers. Its very open to the elements, so the usual rules apply, of wearing an old pair of trainers, and if its warm, take a daysack containing water,  a warm jumper and a waterproof coat with you (this is Britain after all, and it could well start raining half way around).

One thing that always surprises me, is the number of people who walk along a “road” walk, like the Wirral way, but wear walking boots. The thing is, “propper” walking boots, have a gripping sole, that’s designed to “bite” into something (preferably the ground) if it can’t do that (ie you are walking on a tarmac’ed road, rather than a muddy field) then they will bite into your feet.

I can’t realy talk, as I fell for that one while doing Hadrians wall . The first 12 miles are tarmac (and lead through, effectively a housing estate) and I sustained the worst blisters Ive ever had there.

Map of the number 5 cycle route, that lead back into Chester.

The Coastal path, effectively ends at the Connors key bridge.

From here, its possible to walk back into Chester along the number 5 route of the cycle path (again, 7 or 8 miles, depending on which sign you believe).

The long, straight, flat cycle route.

The cycle path (as you would imagine) is very flat, and mostly straight. Its a lot more sheltered than the coastal section, and makes the 2nd half of the journey, a lot more relaxing.

About a mile from town, the path joins the Canal towpath and its possible to wander into Chester admiring the barges (and then find a pub next to the Canal and have a pint, this being johnsunter.com after all).

Whilst researching this trip, I learned of a new and exciting walking technique, which is fashionable at the moment. Many people, will be familiar with Climbing (and even Canoeing) in the Alpine style.  Siege technique is also well know in the Himalayas.

Well, not to be outdone here in Chester, walking in the Amelia style is gaining popularity. Named after the recently returned Chester socialite Amelia Webb, it involves setting out on a fairly long walk, with minimal equipment. Getting tired or bored after about 20 minutes, and then taking a taxi (YES, A F*CKING TAXI !) to the pub to relax and discuss the walk !.

Continuing on my budget adventure theme, Ill be visiting Southport and going on the Chester secret history tour in the next few days, so stay tuned (well you dont have to actually, it’s not like I have a radio station or anything).

Walking the Chester “sponsored walk” route.

The forest in Westminster Park, Chester.
The forest in Westminster Park, Chester.

Its a beautiful day and I decide to go on a really long walk (by that I mean a long local walk, which, in relative terms is pretty short compared to say a hill walk).

Each year in Chester, there is a sponsored walk (I have taken part 3 times). Being here in Chester, where everything is done with a bit of style, participants are greeted on the route with Bacon Butty’s and Gyn and tonic throughout the walk.

Its a great trail, that leads through 2 of my favourite places here in Chester, The earls eye in the meadows, and the Westminster park.  It can be done both ways around, but I decide to walk to Westminster park first. I don’t walk up the main drive, but instead, take a trail off to the left and wander through the Forrest for nearly an hour.

While there, I see some young lads with Shovels. They have already constructed a mountain bike track, further up the trail, but now they are building an even more ambitious one. Its nice to see young people doing something practical and instead of complaining, actually solving a problem themselves.

The road back into Chester
The road back into Chester

I normally like to be on my own in the woods, but stop to chat to them for a moment. I continue to the top of the park, walk down an A road, and then pick up the riverside walk, back towards the Meadows.

All sorts of things have been implemented to stop it flooding, but its still frequently submerged. Since the water there is pure and uncontaminated, there is loads of animal and plant life  (some of it unique in the country).

Cows grazing in the Meadows.
Cows grazing in the Meadows.

I see a couple of people eating picnics along the bank of the river and some cows grazing as they have done for centuries before (not these particular cows though, they would be dead of old age !).

Wander back, all the way along to the hand bridge. Cross over, and walk down the waterfront toward the band stand. Ive been walking now for 3 and a half hours (Ive been taking it easy). Technically, the rout hasn’t cost any money, but its a fantastic day and I treat myself to an ice lolly, courtesy of BT.

My “Personal” Birthday


Well, its that time of year, and its my birthday once again. I normally spend my actual birthday (the 7th) on my own reflecting and planning for the future and have my birthday celebration (this year the 9th in Liverpool) a few days later.

An old friend Andy Gepp (who at the time I called  a Buffoon ) once told me that he always took a day of on his birthday. He reasoned that otherwise, it just becomes like any other day.

Ive always felt the same way, although taking a day off at the moment is a bit redundant (pardon the pun). Still, a candles as bright as you see it, and a day is as special as you make it.

No gym, and a 9am lie in as a treat. Nothing to do, as I have already cleaned my room, prepared my clothes and everything, so nothing routine needs doing today (apart from reviewing available jobs).

Read texts and emails wishing me happy birthday (a nice virtual card from Frank and Na) and then go downstairs and start opening my cards.

Bath and get ready ( Ill be doing some walking later, so I try for the “stylish rugged look” that I can sometimes pull off).

When people think of luxury’s, they probably think of yachts and Ferrari’s. One pure luxury for me, that I absolutely love, is having a sit down full English breakfast. I head for British home stores, and order the whole 10 items breakfast.

Plenty of fuel, I head towards the Grosvenor Park. Its a beautiful day and the sun is shining. After spending another 40 minutes, just wandering around and sitting in the sun, I head for the waterfront, across the handbridge and up towards the Westminster park.

I wander deep into the forest and then leave the path. Exploring in forests is one of life’s pleasures for me. On a tracking course some years ago I was taught to do a sit spot. It involved sitting very still. It was designed as a stalking technique, but over the years Ive learned to develop it to help me relax.

I can do it now for up to 3 hours, but on this occasion, being all alone in the forest, an hour is enough. Wander through Handbridge, notice ANOTHER new pub there.  Decide to organise a pub crawl up there at some point in the near future.

Mum calls, and we chat for about half an hour. I miss being in Manchester, but Ive been back and I know that Chester’s my home.  Say goodbye to mum, and then head for the meadows (pictured above).

Loads of open ground to walk along, then I make for the banks of the river Dee, and wander back towards Chester town center.

Its nearly lunchtime, so I head back to my local, the Frog and Nightingale. All the staff are there, as its Race day (I hate the Chester Races as town gets really busy, but its no problem, as I have other plans for the afternoon). I get various congratulations (and free “birthday” pints).

Its lunchtime but I’m not hungry after such an enormous breakfast. I know from experience, it takes 28 minutes to walk from the Frog to the Cinema, and the first showing of the new Star Trek film will be at 12:50 so I set of (I have given myself an emergency 2 minutes to spare).

Arrive at the Cinema, the film starts almost straight away, which is excellent. Wont talk too much about the film, as its mentioned in this weeks media review.  Suffice to say, it was completely on the wavelength of my birthday mood.

Nip back to see my friends Sean and Mandy. They don’t own half the things I own, haven’t been to a 10th of the places ives seen nor done a 100th of the things Ive done, but they are quite the happiest couple I know, its a pleasure to spend time with them and always gives me a sense of perspective about whats really important.

While there, a mate texts me, and asks how to get into a certain pub (a lot of nice local pubs, get swamped by racegoers, and they have invented some quite ingenious techniques for ensuring only locals and regular get in. Its for this reason, I wont mention the name of the pub nor the routine, in this case).

I explain the procedure and I get a text a few minutes later, he and his friends have got into the pub.

A text from Dan, inviting me out for the evening. The Oaklands, a pub I have never taken too. Still a few friends are out, who I havent seen for a while, so I head over.  Evening turns out pretty cool after all (they must have sacked all the staff and re-hired).

On the way home, I pop into the Sea Breeze chippy in Hoole.  Pie and Chips, home, one episode of  Special Victims Unit and then bed.  Another birthday over.

Promenade trail, Rowing boat and Museum trip.


I spent the morning wandering around the Riverside Promenade trail here in Chester (the leaflet from tourist information is free, or you can download one, from the link above). The highlights of the walk for me, were the Water tower, the Grosvenor Bridge and the Suspension Bridge (sometimes annoyingly called the Holyoaks bridge, as its featured in the opening titles. That program went downhill, once Becka left).

After  spending 2 hours exploring I debated having a Pie and Pint at the excellent Boat house pub (previous winner of the credit crunch lunch award here at js.com).

Instead, I decided to content myself with my trusty packed lunch and bottle of water, and instead, use the money to rent a rowing boat. Okay, your not exactly navigating the channel, but the feeling of freedom and exhilaration of “piloting” your own boat, are remarkable.


Ive lived in Chester now, for 8 years and the Chester regimental museum is somewhere Ive never gotten around to seeing. At only £3, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

I couldn’t believe how many interesting artifacts and displays were there. The picture above, shows a replica of a WW2 fighting trench. In the middle of the picture (a bit hard to see) is an authentic periscope, used to look “over the top” without getting shot.

There was a great deal mentioned about the Cheshire regiments involvement in Bosnia, and elsewhere, an account of the 2 VC’s awarded to the regiment.

One that I found interesting, was where a private in the regiment, had jumped out of the Allied trenches, and jumped back into the enemy trench having noticed that their machine gunner was dead. From here he was able to traverse the gun down the length of the enemy trench, take the position, and 42 prisoners with no loss of life on either side.


Some of the displays showed barracks and some of the activities performed by the regiment, throughout the world (it was pointed out, that even outside of wartime, soldiers will routinely be sent to places like Borneo and Norway for advanced training.  Above an imaginary scene of a soldier in the Borneo jungle). Having spent time there myself, I can tell you its authentic.

One other aspect of the museum, was its honesty and sense of humour. A display showing all the different ranks of soldiers and what they do, mentioned the Colour Sergent major, who is responsible for quarter-mastering and supplying the regiment. It was stated, that when he isn’t there, he is referred to by everyone as “the colour bloke”.

The museum was run by former soldiers of the regiment. As I entered, they told me the rules about photography, gave recommendations for things I might find interesting (they were extremely helpful) and politely, asked me to show respect at all times.

He said with humility that brave people (some of them his friends) had died in uniform.  It was a humbling experience.

Hill Walking in Llangollen


Its not possible to get the train from Chester to Llangollen directly. You normally get the train to Chirk or Ruabon, and then get the bus. I decided to get the train to Ruabon, walk to Trefor (the site of the famous  Pontcysyllte Aqueduct) and then follow the Canal into Llangollen.

The Weather was better, throughout the day, than this picture gives credit, however it does show some of the countryside, nature and serenity of the walk.

According to the map, it was 7 miles, but took nearly 3 hours, each way, so not sure what that’s about.  On the way, I was passed by a barge.  It travels from Ruabon to Llangollen and back again, and costs £11 one way. I thought this was a bit expensive, when you consider that you can hire your own barge for around £100, as I did on  my birthday one year.


Arriving in Llangollen itself, I immediately make for the steam railway there. I have been in submarines, flown in helicopters, travelled in amphibious vehicles, and even driven a tank, but I have never actually travelled on a Steam Train.

There was a major Steam Train event taking place, with hundreds of enthusiasts. I have a strange kind of reversal of luck. The ticket seller, explains to me that its my lucky day, and that for £16 I can travel around on different Steam Trains, all day. All very nice, but I only want to go on one, and was thinking more like £3.50.  Because of the Gala event, the standard ticket prices aren’t available, so I have to put off this adventure for another day. I take a few minutes to snap a nice picture of a Steam Train anyway.


I continue wandering around Llangollen. I visit the Pro-Adventure (a supplier Ive used several times for equipment and outdoor activities). After wandering around further, I see that the credit crunch has taken its toll on local adventure businesses, but this has created opportunities for people like me.

Normally a days hill walking, mountain biking etc with a guide costs around £100 per day. Now they are offering deals where you can do this for and average of  £45. I haven’t done any Kayaking in a good while, so make a mental note of this for the future, when I plan a weekend camping in Llangollen.

No trip to this town would be complete, without a walk along the river. About 250 metres outside the main town is the riverside park. Its pretty quiet, so I buy some tea and a chocolate brownie, get out my notebook and start writing stuff down (its easy in the excitement of the day, to forget things).

A wander around some more, have a good look at the campsite, look around a few bunk houses and camping barns and take down telephone numbers. I see the shop doorway of a charity shop. I remember that several years earlier, my friend Frank had some acting work here. He was working for the BBC on a local news story called “Keep a welcome in the valley”.

The basic idea, was that Frank would stand in the shop doorway, and try to convince passers by to try on a horrendous dressing gown, which he told them he was considering buying for his sister (Ive known Franks sister since she was a small child, and she would have strangled him, if he had ever seriously delivered such a gift).

Frank being Frank, actually got all 5 people to take part and put on the dressing gown.

Back to the Canal, and a long but peaceful walk to Ruabon.  The station, it is overrun with Steam Train enthusiasts. travelling home (ironically on Diesel trains !).

I sit there, and wonder how they can get so excited about something like that. But then it occurs to me, how many people would think wandering along a Canal is such a fantastic experience, yet to me it is.