Driving not walking to Edinburgh


Having to give upon my walk after only four days and 77 miles was frustrating to say the least but not the most serious curtailment to a journey that I have experienced. Almost eight years ago I was with a group trekking in the Markha Valley in Ladakh, India when we were stranded by the severe floods that the Western Himalayas experienced that summer. After several days, we were rescued by the Indian Air Force and got home safely. Not all trekkers were so fortunate: four died in the gorge we had walked down three days previously. Many of the locals had lost family members and had their homes and livelihoods destroyed.


I had cancelled most of my accommodation reservations but left the one in Penrith as James had been planning to meet me there on his way to Edinburgh. We had a fairly easy run but something I had noticed on the way down a few days earlier still mystifies me. Two years ago, ‘Pies’ was seen on many of the motorways bridges in Cheshire and Merseyside. This related to a Liverpool band who 30 years previously had once been stuck on a bridge on the M57 and written it on there. Their fans have continued to do this periodically since then. This week ‘CANED’ in white was written on several M6 and other bridges in Lancashire. I have not been able to find out what that is about yet.

We arrived in Penrith late morning and visited three of the bookshops in town: the first at Brunswick Yard which has antiques, rugs, Black Hand Wine and a café in addition to secondhand books. Down the hill and past the church is Beckside Books which sells secondhand and antiquarian books and has several comfortable sofas to relax on. St Andrew’s church café was a great spot for lunch. It is staffed by volunteers and has a good range on offer. The Hedgehog Bookshop sells new books. We came out of all three with some finds. Penrith has a large number of independent shops in addition to some familiar high street names. Just out of town near Junction 40 on Skirgill business park is Summerfield Books. The business park is situated on an estate and sheep were grazing outside.

The shop stocks new and secondhand books specialising in natural history, botany and forestry. Penrith has a ruined castle, some standing stones, the site of a Roman Camp and other antiquities. Had I been walking from Shap as planned, I would have passed a cairn. Part of the A66 east of the town was a Roman Road. My inflamed ankle meant that exploring these would have to wait for another visit. Our evening meal at a pub in Carleton was interesting. We arrived just after six and the proprietor asked us to order as quickly as possible. He explained that he hosted a local bingo club on Wednesday and Thursday evenings to try and boost takings and was expecting around 40 people very soon. While we were eating, they all arrived and after a drink, got down to business. At the end of the day, I had hobbled around for only 1.9 miles.

This morning we left and drove a few miles on the A686 before taking the B6413 to Brampton via the Eden Valley. The road passes through farmland and villages with walls and houses built with red sandstone. One village, Castle Carrock has had an interesting addition to its road sign. No-one appears to know who did it and made it look so professional but it appeared around the time of the annual Music on the Marr festival in 2011 and the following year was put on the festival T shirts.

After a coffee stop in Brampton we headed over to Longtown, Langholm and to Edinburgh via Eskdalemuir, passing the monastery I would have been spending a night as some of this was the route I should have been walking. Descending towards Yarrow we met this group of cattle beside the road.

And had a fleeting glimpse of a red squirrel that shot across the road. All too soon we were in Edinburgh six days before I should have been arriving.

Walking to Edinburgh: Preston to Lancaster and then disaster strikes


I left my accommodation before eight this morning, picked up some lunch supplies and set off through Preston to join the A6. It was sunny and warm so I soon shed my layers and donned the sunglasses. Near the hospital was a sign announcing that next Sunday the road would be closed for the Carnival. I was so glad that I did not have to do a diversion today. After 2.8 miles I had my first brief rest before crossing the M55 intersection. Unlike the others, this one had a subway for pedestrians and cyclists. There are many villages strung out along the road. My first milestone today was this one:

At one point the A6 was again parallel with the M6 and West Coast Mainline. I even saw a Northern train. This was a surprise as it was a: Sunday and b: they have so many problems with cancellations since they introduced their new timetables. The M6 soon diverts east of Lancaster while the railway enters the city. Several Virgin trains passed me. The old road is now a B road to Garstang while the A6 bypasses it to the west. Just south of Garstang I got my first glimpse of the Pennines.

I was looking forward to seeing the Cumbrian Hills and the Southern Uplands later in my journey. The road crosses the Lancaster Canal and then the River Wyre before entering Garstang, the first Fair Trade town in the world.

I had a cold drink near the market square before finding a bench to eat my lunch on. This was about halfway on today’s walk. After rejoining the A6, we passed through another community known for its service station on the M6: Forton with its Grade II listed tower. It was the second one opened after Charnock Richard. This is not my photo:

What got my attention on this hot day was Hugo’s Ice Cream Parlour which also does breakfast, coffees and light bites. Needless to say, they had 22 flavours but I had vanilla. The walls were decorated with old vinyl LP covers which was a great blast from the past.

After that I had to keep plodding on, resting when there was somewhere to sit down on. Most folks had donned shorts but it was not quite hot enough for the Glaswegian ‘taps aff’. After passing through Galgate and past the University, I popped into a pub for a cold beer. We had a few years ago been driving up to Edinburgh on Hogmanay after James finished work when an accident closed the M6 and we spent three hours crawling through the city before we could rejoin the M6 and get to Edinburgh too late to go out to any festivities. At that point, I remember thinking this would probably be a city to explore but not in this fashion. Sadly, it was not to be on this occasion either. I had only one mile further to walk, downhill to the canal where I was to meet up with James and stay at the Toll House Inn. A historic building that has been renovated two years ago. Disaster struck when suddenly my left ankle became painful and I hobbled down the hill ironically past the Infirmary. I have psoriatic arthritis but have not had an inflamed ankle for 15 years and have been on several walking trips since then so this was a shock. I know that it usually takes 2-3 months for a big joint to settle down (small ones take a few days) so I have had to cancel the remainder of this trip and go home. I must return at some point both to explore Lancaster and finish my walk. I had to content myself with a brief glimpse of the canal and the interior of the hotel.

Walking to Edinburgh: Wigan to Preston


I was the only person down for breakfast at 7am as most of the other folk staying had been out Friday evening. I set out on a very grey morning which varied from being dry to mizzle and drizzle. A few times I had to stuff the camera away and don my waterproof jacket but later on it did dry up. The A49 northbound was relatively quiet early on a Saturday morning. The first old milestone of the day was spotted on a railway bridge in Standish-Langtree.

Standish used to have a station on the West Coast Mainline, but it was closed in 1949. A little further on, I stopped for a coffee at the local butcher’s place which also has an adjoining licensed restaurant. I spotted a Pilgrim’s Lane in Standish and after passing through Coppull, a ‘German Lane’ in Charnock Richard. It would be interesting to find out how this came about. Charnock Richard is mostly known for its M6 Service Station, so it was interesting to walk along the old road. This old milestone updated my progress.

As it was Saturday, there were a lot of cyclists out and it must be a popular activity round here as there is a large Cycling Outlet Store by the A49 in Charnock Richard. Much of the traffic leaves for the M6 at Standish so the A49 here is a little quieter. The road begins to descend towards the Ribble Valley and passes through Euxton and past Leyland where it got busier. There is a business park here and new luxury homes being built. At one point the road is sandwiched between the M6 on the left and the West Coast Mainline on the right. I could hear the motorway for most of the time but only one Virgin train passed me today. However, there was still some greenery around.

I took the quieter A5083 and then a B road towards Lostock Hall which is a more direct route to the city centre for walkers or cyclists. From there, the last 2.8 miles were via lanes and footpaths, some of which are unused tramways, south of the Ribble. Part of the area is a Local Nature Reserve.


There are a number of sign-posted routes. Mine passed a cricket pitch where a couple of matches were in progress and I met lots of dog walkers. After crossing the Ribble, it was a short but steep walk through a park to the city and my hotel. 17.5 miles today brings the total so far to 55.5 miles.

Walking to Edinburgh: Warrington to Wigan


I was woken this morning before my alarm by the pub next door throwing all their bottles into the recycling bin. While I had breakfast there a little later, a local radio station was playing and one of their adverts was for ‘Fiona Bruce Solicitors’. She is our local Tory MP and I am definitely not a fan of hers so it spoiled my breakfast a little. The receptionist gave me a great send off when I checked out as she had sussed out by the rucksack and camera that I was not one of the many workers staying there. She said that she was very impressed by my plans and had known an elderly gentleman who had in his youth, walked from Warrington to London. I took the riverside shortcut into town and after waiting for the shops in town to open for supplies, I headed on up the A49 which is lined with retail parks all the way to the M62 interchange. It was pretty warm today so although I had only done just under four miles, I stopped after crossing the motorway for a cold drink at the services.

At Winwick I experienced a bit of a blast from the past seeing a sign for ‘Delph Lane’ and the walls surrounding the grounds of what used to be the psychiatric hospital for the area. I had been there on several occasions years ago before it closed in 1997. The asylum buildings are still there but have been converted into apartments and houses. It was pleasant to be in an old village and I took the quieter road to Golbourne where I could hear the birds singing and enjoy the flowers in the hedgerows. This road name appealed as I feel I am on something of a pilgrimage.

Apparently, there is the site of a battlefield nearby where in the 2nd English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell defeated some Royalist Scots on 16 August 1648, but I did not pass it. The road passes over the M6 which I did for the second time on this walk but will be doing several more times later on. There is a big railway junction just south of Golborne so the road passes under and over several railway bridges including the West Coast Mainline which I have been on more times than I can remember passing through Warrington and Wigan. Several Virgin trains whizzed past me at various points today. In Golborne I found a quiet green space under some trees by a brook to have my lunch.

There was also a poignant memorial to local miners in the town.

At Abram it is possible to leave the road and walk into Wigan via the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. It runs through Wigan Flashes which are large ponds on what was mining country. Further south in Cheshire, many of them are collapsed old salt mines. The Wigan ones are now designated as a Local Nature Reserve. There were many waterfowl on the lakes and some of the paths were closed due to the breeding season. There were some mallard on the towpath, Canada Geese on the canal and someone had been feeding the Bean Geese and their goslings.



Every pedestrian, cyclist and people passing by on barges said hello. One of the things I have enjoyed about living in the North West for the last 28 years is that people are generally very friendly. Some kids who were planning to swim in Scotsman’s Flash asked me if I had any shorts that they could have as some of the girls had only their jeans with them. It may have been 24 degrees, but it usually has to be at least 30 plus before I break out into shorts, so I could not help them. A little further on, I could hop off the towpath into town and find my accommodation.

Walking to Edinburgh: Lostock Gralam to Warrington


My “Contour” Road Book of England (Northern Division) arrived yesterday and was delivered by James in the evening. It describes the road from Warrington to Northwich that I was travelling today in the reverse direction as ‘Class II. The road has good surface but is slightly rough approaching Northwich’. Points of interest are: Manchester Ship Canal, Budworth, Budworth Mere and Northwich Salt Works’. Today was dry and warm but overcast and even a little misty to begin with. I left Lostock Gralam on the A559 Hall Lane. It passes Wincham Hall which is now a hotel and wedding venue. A little further on the road crosses the Wincham Brook.

At the Great Budworth Crossroads there is a small hut and I wondered what it was.

Looking inside, it is a well and used to be the only water supply for the village. My water bottle was still full at that point.

Further on, in Marston is the Lion Salt Works, down a side road, which is now a museum. The road continues to wind around through Antrobus and Lower Stretton. By the time I got to the A49/M56 interchange, I had done just over seven miles. In total I passed five pubs, one derelict and none of the others open for coffee. At least there was a bench just before the roundabout for a rest. I had left Vale Royal and was entering Warrington. Like many of our larger towns and cities the outer main roads are lined with 1930s houses. Car ownership had increased, and people moved further out. This is the case in Appleton. The road started to descend towards the Bridgewater Canal. It is part of the Cheshire Ring which is a 98 mile walk.

The A49 London Road here is on the route of a Roman Road but the current bridge dates from 1936. The sun was trying to get through, it was warming up, a canal side pub, The London Bridge was open, and a cold beer was needed. The bar staff were asking what I was doing and thought I was a bit daft but wished me luck and re-filled my water bottle.London road continues through Stockton Heath where the buildings are Victorian and crosses the Manchester Ship Canal with only one mile to go to the centre. I had my lunch near here and a mile further on, I crossed the River Mersey to Centre Park where my accommodation was.

I sat by the river for a while. Network Rail were repairing the rail bridge upstream. I heard lots of birds and bees were feeding on the clover but there was no wildlife on the water, just a plastic bottle floating downstream.

Total mileage today was 11.4 and after yesterday on the Cheshire Plain with altitudes less than the 86m above sea level we are at home, the highest point today was 106m.

Walking to Edinburgh: Smallwood to Lostock Gralam


May is National Walking Month and we did do quite a bit of walking in Arran, but I started off on my big walk on the penultimate day. James saw me off and I headed north up our lane and over the brook, the first of many watercourses that I will cross. At the end of the road is a path alongside the brook which goes to Brookhouse Green. It can be walked, cycled or ridden but has not been a through road for the last 200 years when a ford was in place. Unfortunately, many digital maps have not caught up with this and endless peoples’ satnavs send them down what they think is a through road. I used to walk around these lanes a lot when we had the dog. Just north of us there are farms and some equestrian centres.


I exchanged greetings with a runner, a cyclist and a guy working on his garden. After 3.7 miles I came to Brereton Green where I paused for a while. The A50 south of Brereton is known as Newcastle Road as it eventually leads to Newcastle under Lyme. A stretch between Brereton and Holmes Chapel is called ‘Dog Lane’ and I have no idea how that arose. I did spot this old sign almost hidden away at the side of the road.

I had a fairly early lunch and rest at a bench in Holmes Chapel and then set out to complete the remaining eight or so miles. Unfortunately, the forecast rain set in soon after so it was time to put the camera away and don the waterproofs. It persisted as I walked for two miles up the A50, then on a B road towards Northwich. Had it been dry, a stop at Shakerley Mere would have been in order. This is a lake with wildfowl and woodland around it where we used to walk the dog. I continued, getting splashed by trucks as there were huge puddles at the side of the road. In Lach Dennis, I diverted up the quieter Birches Lane, through Lostock Green and into Lostock Gralam, my destination. After a bridge over Wade Brook, I passed this smallholding with black sheep and pigs.

The main road that runs east to west through Lostock Gralam, Manchester Road, is part of the Roman Road, Watling Street. Lostock is also the home of one of Cheshire’s oldest football clubs, Lostock Gralam F.C., who have played continuously at their Manchester Road ground since 1892. They are one of the Cheshire’s leading amateur clubs, despite being based in a relatively small area. Lostock’s population is just over 2,200. My total distance for today was 13.6 miles, giving me time to dry off before meeting James for an evening meal.

Arran: last day in Brodick


Our last day on Arran began with a visit to Brodick Castle. The current red sandstone building dates from the 19th century with some 13th century remains. It is said that a fort stood on the site from the 5th century and the numerous conflicts and wars since then have led to damage, demolition and rebuilding. The castle was given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1958 and sits amidst gardens and a country park which includes the mountain Goatfell. At the time of our visit the castle itself was under renovation and not due to re-open again until spring 2019. The gardens are open, so we contented ourselves with exploring them. At first it did not look as if this would be a very peaceful experience as the lawns were being mowed and a tree being cut down with chain saws. Fortunately, this did not last too long. Below the terrace that the castle sits on is a walled garden which was built in 1817.

George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward were plant hunters and some of the plants they brought back from their expeditions are in the gardens at Brodick: there is a Plant Hunters path through some of them. Some are rhododendrons. I had always been familiar with many of them in gardens and the escapees that are in the Scottish countryside and assumed that they were all large bushes. The first time I went to India in 2009 and saw rhododendron trees in the Western Ghats I was amazed. There is at least one such tree here, but it was not quite in flower yet. Other plants were flowering:
<a

Towards the bottom of the garden, overlooking the road and the sea is the only remaining Bavarian summerhouse of several that used to be on the site. James remarked that it looked like something from ‘The Hobbit’. Inside the walls and ceiling were decorated with thousands of pine cones.


One recent construction is a large adventure play area which the person on reception told us was not just for children. There is also a red squirrel hide. They are not native to Arran but were introduced and as there are no grey squirrels on the island, they have done well. They do tend to feed in the early morning and in the evening, so it is less likely that they will be seen at this time of year during the opening hours. There are lots of birds and we spotted this swallow near a nest in a summer house.

Some of the information boards had an interesting approach to history. One described all the conflicts the castle had been involved in and went on to say that the 18th and 19th centuries were peaceful times. I do not think that the people who lost their homes and farms or were forced to emigrate to Canada or move to Glasgow during the enclosures and clearances that the Dukes of Hamilton initiated with would regard it as a peaceful time. There was a dispute in 2017 about a display in the Arran Heritage Museum which was reported in the National newspaper. A tour guide felt that describing this as ‘an agricultural revolution’ was not appropriate or accurate but the museum did not change the display. We did not manage a trip to the museum on this visit.

Back in the town, I visited Books and Cards which in addition to these, stocks other stationery supplies . It has books and maps on Arran and Scotland, fiction, non-fiction and a good children’s section. I picked up Thorbjörn Campbell’s Arran: a history, the Rucksack Reader for the coastal walk and another book on walking. I am always happy to support an independent bookshop. Our time on Arran is coming to an end and tomorrow we will be back on the boat to Ardrossan.