Monday, 7 April 2008

Sandstone Trail vs Melling Road

Last minute planning could well be the new black.

Originally we had planned to climb 'The Cloud' near 'Beartown', but events overtook us and so a plan b was hatched. Craig decided to walk to Sunderland on a railway track, which, short of starting at the top of a mountain and walking down is without doubt a cop out. Actually I did that in the summer, it was bloody tricky walking down an Alp. Much trickier than a flat stroll on the way to Sunderland especially if you give up and turn around after a couple of miles.

Saturday was a better plan, go to the Grand National and then head off to The Cavern to see a few bands.

I decided that the only thing to do was find a local hillier option for a short walk. The Sandstone Trail runs right through the middle of Cheshire from Frodsham to Whitchurch via a number of hills and is about 35 miles long. I opted for The Sandstone Trial, ie just the top bit, although I think the whole thing looks like a good plan for the summer.

Left on my Billy (as my daughter would say) I headed for the start point in Helsby. The small car park had one disabled slot which brilliantly had a huge amount of mud dumped in it...what were they thinking. Unless of course it was hiding an old 3 wheeler vehicle.

It turned out the walk had at least 2 and maybe 3 hills built in and the climb was supposed to be only 300metres but it felt like a whole lot more.

You can get these planned walks off a website and they have maps and everything you could possibly need to make sure you stay on track..even GPS downloads. The more fun option though is to print off the route with pictures only, and then try and match these up with what your looking all works fine until you realise that trees move and houses change colour. Oh and then 'they' (whoever they may be) close the footpath halfway because (and this is true - see the picture) of 'fear of landslide'. This is Cheshire and this was on the exceptionally flat bit, if landslides are now sneaking up on people on flat land Craig had better look out. I've posted the pictures and I think the council workers (oh it just had to be) who did this have watched the 60's horror film 'The Blob' once to often.

Having negotiated this terror I was then faced with 'Warning Smartwater'.... and it catches criminals, oh well at least its good smartwater........for now. As the movies have now entered this blog its only a matter of time before we have 'Westworld' smartwater flooding your wellies before you know it.

And then about 50 yards further on I was faced with a real terror, the route decided to go across a field containing a giant horse. Now I hate horses, well actually I hate most things animal on a one to one in a field basis: just too unpredictable. My mother once lead me into a field when I was about 8 yr old to 'pat the nice little dobbin' the bloody thing turned round and booted me up the backside...and my parents just laughed. A couple of years later I got stuck in a stable with a racehorse which decided to bite me, so this isn't an irrational fear. Anyway I bravely strode right passed the horse knowing I was a master in chinese burns should it give me any trouble.

Horses - 0/10

Dogs 0/10 they eat footballs

Monkeys with guns 10/10

Giraffes 8/10

The good thing about Helsby Hill and Woodhouse Hill is that you do get great views right across the Mersey Basin from along the ridge. Helsby Hill also has one of those trig points, the white triangle posts that all big hills should have so you feel good getting to the top. My feeling of joy was only slightly dented by some Roland from Grange Hill figure bounding up the hill not even out of breath. He should try 20 benson a day for 15 years and see how he gets on. The top of the hill also has loads and loads of flat solid stones, although this does seem to be used as some sort of alternative marriage / first girlfriend register for Helsby citizens. Yes Shaz and Bob may be 4Ever but do the seagulls need to know?

Back down the hill and ready for a trip to Aintree

At the risk of having some trainspotting past brought into greater focus than wanted, I really do think that if anything has got its act together lately its rail travel in the UK. I know I'm not a southern 'travel to London' punter that you hear every now and then having a good winge about fares, trains and other peoples arm pits...but £6 return to Aintree is a bargain. And all on time.

Its not that I don't trust all my mates implicitly but I do like to have a hand in the organisation of any event.

These tickets were left exclusively to Craig and as he handed me my possibly overpriced ticket it read ' Princess Royal Stand 'Roof'. Now I'm no Jessie when it comes to the weather (yeah yeah I know I left Glasto early last year but that was life or death) but watching from the roof on a cold wet winters day sounded a bit mad. Luckily (a word that works most of this day) Craig had bagged plum tickets in a posh stand with a great view and its own bar. The only mistake we had made was to not really dress up! and I know I'm a bit lackadaisical when it comes to fashion and smartness, but as an ex mod Craig has no excuse, I've dropped the picture in here just to illustrate how bad he was

Having checked out the form ie read the Racing Post for 10 minutes on the train we were armed with 2 horses per race ready for the place pot on the first 6 races. Using this fabulous technique we proceeded to pick 4 winners in the first 5 races and still very much in the placepot...including both of us backing the winner of The National, happy days, beer and tickets paid for. Race 6 proved a little unlucky as our dead cert favourite finished a poor last and the place pot went up the swanny...still it was only about £56. Then a touch of genius, if all else fails pick number 17 ( I once won at roulette bigtime using this technique), and true to form Honest John galloped in at a handy 22-1 in the last race with two slightly giddy idiots jumping up and down and cheering it all the way to the winning post - everyone else seemed a bit glum.

Still collect winnings, have a last look round, get a photo with the Grand National trophy by stopping the poor soldier with the 4st bronze load and maybe a quick pic with Red Rum before heading off to the pub.

And it really was a top pub, built to the very limits of getting around the smoking ban, it was a pub atmosphere old style, with singing and spilling of beer and smoke and even good natured chanting. The full scale dance off between two chaps was a bit odd, but maybe I've found the generation gap. 'huh dancing in public and not in a club...Jessies' actually they were damn good: in an 8 mile without the words style.

Back to town again on the fabulous train system and down to Matthew Street to see a few bands in The World Famous Cavern.....except never ever agree to meet someone at The Cavern as there are now about 8 of them on the same street. I think if John Lennon actually farted in the general direction of your pub you're served a compulsary name change notice. Having tried one Cavern which had a band on, we were then directed to a more Cavernous place that didnt, however in the 'Back Cavern' we heard the music. At only £3 entrance fee for 5 bands we probably should have sussed that they were all going to be a bit Flaming Lips...

First band on 'Would be Kings' most certainly wont be...and having put our ears through hell they then came up to us and gave us a free CD. As all the other punters were mates and mams and dads we were clearly A&R men ie old. The second band were just as bad so we cut our losses of £3 each and headed to a pub to watch the boxing.

Link to the WBK best tune Red on Red

Dull boxing, our chap won sandwich Corned Beef and Cheese....thats exotic in Liverpool - anyway 7/10 in my book. If anyone knows what the Corned means in relation to the beef please let me know.

Back on the train and home via a Kebab shop obviously.

Kebab 4/10 needed more alcohol. And I actually went home with more money than I set out with, well after the Edinburgh trip thats blessed relief.

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