The well-travelled hat πŸŽ©

30th and 31st May 2018

Over these two days we have walked between Prestatyn and Colwyn Bay, 8 miles the first day (to Abergele) and 7 miles today. It couldn’t be more different to last year’s expedition on the South West Coastal Path – this is so flat and ‘promenade’ and this week we have splendid coastal views to admire. The sea is incredibly tranquil – soothing little waves lapping. Today particularly the sun has been shining down so there were plenty of families on the sands enjoying their half-term leisure. Yesterday’s walk was slightly bleaker – today it felt so much prettier, in fact it was one of those ‘good to be alive days.’ We love Colwyn Bay – beautiful seaside resort.

So largely it passed with incident … except that is for the hat! Steve has a very favourite hat – his leather cowboy hat which he bought on a wine-tasting trip to Argentina. I clearly remember the day he strolled back into Heathrow wearing it – it made him look even taller!! And since then it’s travelled the world with him, including our recent ‘gap year’ travels to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes when it looks like rain he chooses to wear it while walking, yesterday was one of those days. Now our logistics for the day involved getting a train from Abergele to Prestatyn and, unfortunately, Steve managed to leave said hat in the luggage rack. He was so annoyed with himself and just really sad …. he loved that hat. ☹️ He found a phone number for ‘lost luggage’ who informed him that they were unable to contact the trains or stations along the way – they would log the enquiry and let him know in 10-14 days if anything turned up. Throughout the walk he kept trying to put it out of his mind because there seemed little hope.

After our 8 miles and a picnic lunch we returned to the car which we’d parked at the station. Seeing the trains again, Steve decided to take the search of his hat into his own hands! The train we had caught only had two carriages so that was the first thing to spot. After an hour of waiting along came a two-carriage train. So, it was just a case of how to get on the train and have a look!?

Now, for those of you who haven’t heard the story, Steve has a bit of history in terms of getting stuck on trains!! He once helped Alice carry her suitcase onto a train when she was going back to University in Manchester …. and the doors closed. Poor Alice had to sit there in excruciating embarrassment while Steve ran from carriage to carriage frantically pushing the buttons … but no doors opened and the train set off. And so pursued lots of complications – he had parked in a 20 minute bay, he had no glasses, no money, slippers on … and obviously no ticket!! And he didn’t want to go to Manchester! We were in the midst of making back-up plans over the phone, involving me, Tom and Emma, when the ticket collector came along – Steve explained his plight. She fetched her Manager and they kindly made an unscheduled stop at Nuneaton. The funniest part of it all though was that, as Steve got off, someone tried to get on the train and the guard stopped him, saying “we don’t stop here.” Steve jumped off trying to look as inconspicuous as he could and walked away avoiding eye contact with the disgruntled traveller!!!

Luckily yesterday in Abergele, the guard stepped out of the train and Steve asked him if he could look for his hat. The guard wasn’t particularly Mr.Happy – telling Steve he’d have to be quick as they were already running 15 minutes late. Steve jumped on and raced through the carriage …. and appeared at the door with a beaming smile … and his beloved hat.

So the hat had travelled all the way to Manchester airport, via Chester, Runcorn etc. and return, but had found its way back to Steve. Such a happy ending. ❀️

Goodness me … we found the sea!!

Monday 28th May 2018

So at the start of our second week of coastal path walking we finally came across the sea today! And wonderful it was too to hear the lapping waves, to smell and feel the sea breeze, to watch children enjoying their play on the sands and to be surrounded by hovering seagulls. It’s not that we haven’t enjoyed the Dee Estuary but we’re glad that it’s over. This is more like what we signed up for!!

Whilst many of the UK population were enjoying some Bank Holiday slumber, we were up and out early as we had to fit in 14 miles of walking – you don’t get holidays when you retire you know!!

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Looking fresh at the beginning of today’s 14 mile walk

A few hills introduced today but nothing major (as yet) – some pretty decent paths, the obligatory stiles, patches of overgrown stingers (note to self: wear long trousers tomorrow!), fields of cows, welsh dragons and a rather large boat!

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Didn’t expect to find this at the end of a country lane!

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The Duke of Lancaster – a railway steamer passenger ship, beached near Mostyn Docks

Steve’s always on the lookout for a shortcut so persuaded me to shimmy up the side of a grass bank to cross a railway track – I did said shimmy but drew the line at the barbed wire fence to cross the track …. we took the longer way round – minutes later a Virgin train whizzed by at 125mph! πŸ€”

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I don’t think these tunnels were designed for English giants like Steve!

Unfortunately there was a fair bit of road walking – not always the most exciting of views … but at least we got to practice our Welsh in reading the road signs.

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Easy for you to say!!

Absolutely amazing weather once again – in fact the day just got hotter and hotter. By midday we had already clocked up nearly 10 miles so we stopped for our picnic lunch … and then a little further on a delicious malteser ice-cream – we’d put in the work and this was a justified reward.

As we neared Prestatyn we hit the sand dune walking, always a favourite (not) … but the Welsh people are much kinder than their English counterparts – they had provided wooden boarding to traverse large sections of the dunes (not all) – so much easier on our calves.

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Steve’s purposeful stride over the dunes

So two sets of weary legs finally reached Prestatyn mid-afternoon. We rested up for a while in the sunshine before hopping on a bus back to base. A good day of walking today – the longest so far.

Tuesday 29th May 2018

Steve got up crazily early and fitted in a 13 mile run … a couple of nights ago after a few beers he signed himself for another marathon – 3 days after we get back! πŸ€”

Another ‘move on’ day today and also a ‘non-walking’ day. We had decided that before we got too much further into Wales we would head back for a look around Chester, so once the car was loaded up, back we drove across the border. Really pleased that we did, I now can see why people rave about this pretty historical city. We walked and talked, had coffee, then lunch, explored the city wall … even fitted in a boat cruise … and throughout it all the sun shone down. Stunning, lots of photo opportunities.

A beautiful scenic drive then to our new airbnb destination in Old Colwyn – absolutely splendid countryside views. Settled into a gorgeous house owned by a lovely young couple, Sioned and Daniel, and they speak Welsh – I love the sound of the Welsh language. And shortly we’re off to the pub … for dinner 😊

Port Sunlight Village … and on to Wales

Friday 25th May 2018

As we had walked the quota of miles for this leg of our trip, today was a ‘free from walking day’ – so, what did we do, we started the day off with a run!

We’d promised ourselves all week that we would use this day to fully explore this beautiful village we’ve been staying in – Port Sunlight. As the rain decided to join us today we headed for the Museum first and learnt so much about the history of the remarkable entrepreneur and reformist, William Heskith Lever, who not only set up and ran a hugely successful business but created this haven for his workers to live in – driven by his passion to move people away from slum living and narrow lives, and achieve a motivated workforce. Steve and I have been bowled over by this place, if it wasn’t so far away from family we might feel tempted to snuggle into this still charming community.

The museum was interestingly set out and it was great to see products from our past such as Sunlight Soap, Lux, Lifebouy household soap and Vim – who remembers those? – it’s amazing what you forget until you’re reminded. Next door to the museum is a family house set up as it would have been in the late 19th/early 20th century – and it really was incredible the space and facilities they had for that time.

After the museum we went to the Art Gallery that Lord Lever had opened and named the Lady Lever Art Gallery in honour of his late wife. Again he had wanted to open the eyes of his employees to the wider cultural world – what an inspiration this man was. We really enjoyed viewing his art collection which included a Turner and a Constable painting …. and even a sculpture named ‘Deidre!’

The gloomy weather settled in for the rest of the day so a photographic wander around the village was off the cards – we resorted to some chill time in the house, early dinner and a bit of local pub time.

Saturday 26th May 2018

Now despite having had a few wines the night before, we were awake early to get to the Birkenhead Parkrun for 8.30am. It was in a pretty park and we’d read that it was a fairly flat course – there was however a sneaky hill at the end of mile 1 and as it was a three lap course it meant you had to face this uphill battle three times. Steve managed to get a PB however, I missed out on one by about 9 seconds – but it was the best time I had done in ages! Actually enjoyed it.

We sadly checked out of our Port Sunlight accommodation today – we will definitely come back. As the sun was shining we took the opportunity to whizz around the village to take some photos.

With the car all packed up we drove across the border into Wales and found a convenient parking place for today’s walk. We parked in Shotton and took the bus to where we thought was an ideal place to pick up the River Dee path, which forms part of the Wales coastal path. Unfortunately we didn’t get the planning of this quite accurate – we found ourselves on the wrong side of the river – this meant we had to walk all the way back into Chester which added an extra couple of miles onto our walk – hey ho!!!

It did however mean we got to see and hear (very loudly) Chester Racecourse which was exciting, lots of galloping horses.

Lots of straight riverside walks again today … still no sea!! Many many cyclists whizzing along this path. Some sections more scenic than others – Steve positively drooled over some of the ploughed fields – he’s seriously missing his OCD task of mowing stripes into his beloved lawn!!

So after 8 miles of walking we reached our destination – back to the car. We drove on from there to our next Airbnb in Bagilt. Beautiful house owned by Andy and his son Josh and beautiful sheepdog Frank. Showered and made some dinner … then it was down to the local pub – The Blossoms – to watch the Champions League Final – well, won’t say too much more about that!

Sunday 27th May 2018

We had a leisurely start to the day – doing less miles each day means we don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn. The bus from the village only goes every 2 hours so we chose 11.00am rather than 9.00am (wise choice). Another 8 miler today – a whole mixture of environments – riverside, industrial areas, woods, mudflats and roads (very noisy roads in fact)! Just steady plodding – nothing particularly eventful – a few more aches and pains to add to the collection, but what’s new – we’re old!!!

And back to our cosy Airbnb where Steve cooked us a roast beef dinner – can’t be bad. 😊 It doesn’t all have to be hard work you know.

The long straight road to Chester

Thursday 24th May 2018

Day 4 – still no sea!!

Apart from a glimpse of the Irish Sea on the first day, we have not seen the sea on the Wirral’s coastal path. We’ve seen plenty of sand marshes, the estuary (in the distance) countryside and villages …. but no sea! As beautiful as it is, we’re looking forward to a few sandy beaches and waves crashing over the next week or two.

We managed to plan today’s walk using a bus to get to the starting point and a train to get home, so were able to leave the car at base. The bus took us to Ness Botanic Gardens and from there we wandered down to the coastal path at Burton Village where we left off yesterday. To be honest, today’s route was not the most inspiring … the path started along the marshes/firing range with industrial views as a backdrop – then onto the longest straight path (disused railway line) I think I have ever encountered …. it just went on forever! Parts of it were pretty but SO straight – just like a Roman road. Thrown into the mix were some residential areas, some industrial estate walking and canal tow path.

There was more cloud about today but no showers which I believe the South of the country has been experiencing. I know this because Steve tuned into the England v Pakistan test match at Lords as we walked – oh so very English!

Yesterday we had wafts of hawthorn, today we had wafts of manure – huge mounds of it as we passed one particular farm and also some pretty interesting aromas on the industrial estate. Outside one particular Food company there was a pungent smell of cloves – reminded me of my Nana’s apple pies – I used to have to sneak the cloves out as I hated the smell and taste of them then!

We crossed into Wales at one point but returned to England a mile or two down the lane!

I’ve never been to Chester and was so looking forward to seeing the city that people rave about. I think we must have come into it the wrong way … only managed to walk through some not so salubrious residential areas and to the railway station. So after today’s 10 mile walk, we were not even rewarded with the magnificent views of this 1st century AD walled city.

But we’ll be back …. we have one more day in Port Sunlight (we have a day off walking tomorrow and so are planning to explore this incredible Grade II listed village we are lucky enough to be staying in) and then we’ll be moving on to Chester (or just outside) for 3 days. And hoping to catch up with our lovely friend Jo and her husband Jez and their daughter Lulu while we’re there – so excited.

Blue skies and heady wafts of hawthorn

Day 3, Weds 23rd May 2018 Thurstaston to Burton Village

I just love the smell of hawthorn, for me it heralds ‘summertime’ … and today it was gloriously wafting throughout our walk, accompanied by blue cloudless skies – summer clearly comes early in these parts. β˜€οΈ

We’re still walking the route along the Dee Estuary, this area’s coastal path. We have had to follow the Wirral Circular trail for large parts of it – this took us inland so a lot of countryside walking today. We did try to find a way of walking nearer to the coastline – this however involved boggy marshland that got boggier as we progressed, so we had to retrace our steps.

We passed through some beautiful villages though such as Parkgate – it has a picturesque seafront with fish and chip shops, ice-cream shops and village pubs … but sadly no sea! Instead it has vast salt marshes rich with wildlife including ducks, geese, wading birds and birds of prey. On the few occasions a year when the tide is high, you can see small mammals fleeing to the sea wall including field voles, shrews, moles, rats and harvest mice – apparently tourists come especially to witness this – not really my kind of thing, I’ll stick to the fish and chips!! πŸ˜‰

We also passed through the village of Neston which has a fine cricket ground, much admired by Steve. The old ‘country boy’ skills came in handy too as we walked up towards Burton Village – a couple of lambs had escaped from their field and were scurrying and bleeting around on the country lane – their Mum was anxiously baaing out to them! Farmer Steve managed to open the gate and safely herd them home to safety. His good deed for the day!

So it was truly a beautiful sunny 9 mile stroll today – very few hills – magnificent views of the Welsh coastline to our right (looking forward to exploring that next week), luscious countryside (gained a few nettle stings) with its magnificent scents. It’s days like this that you can really appreciate the fine country we live in and Steve and I are loving the new parts of the UK that this coastal adventure takes us to.

Again today we passed some spectacular houses in beautiful locations and it crossed our minds as to what money could buy in contrast to the South! However, we had a taxi ride back to the car and the driver requested that we don’t tell anyone how stunning life is in The Wirral – they prefer to keep it to themselves!! He suggested we pass that word that The Wirral is (in his Liverpudlian accented words) a S***hole!!!

And we achieved that 9 miles in 2 and a half hours – oh yes, I have to speed walk to keep up with the ‘Scout Master.’ And it’s all about ‘minutes per mile’ and ‘miles per hour – that’s how our life rolls!! Bring on tomorrow – we’re walking to Chester.

It’s not the leaving of Liverpool ….

Yay we’re back … it’s time to blog again.   We’re off on some more walking adventures – this time The Wirral, Chester and North Wales.   Having spent a fabulous weekend in Liverpool at the Rock and Roll Marathon ( a true mixture of running and partying), we got up early and felt relatively bright this morning, donned the trusty old walking gear, picked up the poles …. and jumped into the car!

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The Fab Four + 2

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Looking across the Mersey to Liverpool

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At the start of our new walking adventure

Yes we’re doing things a little different this time.  Having analysed last year’s South West Coastal Path ‘endurance’ walk we have made the following amendments to our strategic planning:

  1.  We’re going to take it a bit easier!!!  Not pack in the miles like last time – aiming for between 5 and 10 miles a day depending on terrain.  No we haven’t got lazy – we just want to be able to stop for breath occasionally, admire the views along the way and get back to base early enough for some relaxation time.
  2. We’re not following a daily guide – this time it’s the old faithful ordnance survey map + a whizzy new OS app.  This way we can adjust the distance to our fancy.
  3. We have a car with us this time – it does mean some forwards and backwards stuff but on a positive note means no rucksack carrying (hurrah) or paying out the Β£25 per day for luggage transfer.
  4. Rather than move accommodation every day, we’ll be staying in a central area for 3,4 or 5 days and use the car/bus/train to ferry us around to starting and finishing points.  We’ll still be walking most days but we’ll actually be able to unpack and feel a little settled.

So lots of new ideas …. let’s see how it all pans out.  And let’s see how far we get.  Aiming to be away for 3 – 4 weeks.

Day 1  Seacombe to Meols

Drove through the Kingsway tunnel, leaving Liverpool behind and made our way to The Wirral.  We planned to walk about 5 miles today as Steve was suffering a little with aches in his knees and hips after his half marathon yesterday – well having achieved 13 miles in 1:52 he did deserve some consideration! As it happened we walked for 8 miles – but it was a pretty easy stretch by anyone’s standards – promenade, no hills, perfect weather – that’s my kind of coastal walking!

Not the most scenic of routes but some interesting industrial views across the Mersey, reminders of days gone by and reinvented docklands.  Some stunning houses nonetheless – huge – I imagine you get a lot for your money here.

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When we decided to call it a day, we managed to find our way back to the car via two buses … then drove to our airbnb in Bebington.  What a find.  We are here for 5 nights and it’s a fascinating house in the Port Sunlight village.  The village was built to accommodate workers in its soap factory, it’s amazingly pretty, all Grade II listed buildings.  James, our airbnb host, has renovated this house to a high standard and it has lots of interesting Port Sunlight memorabilia.

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Our airbnb – Steve looking for the keys!

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Day 2   Meols to Thurstaston

A gorgeous sunny day to be setting out for a walk (what a change to last summer!!)  A drive followed by a train ride took us back to Meols where we finished off yesterday.  We started off on more promenade paths – bliss!  We admired the picturesque views of wind turbines against the blue sky.

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We took up the alternative coastal path route which was along the sands – didn’t seem much risk of the tide coming in – you needed binoculars to spot the sea!   We said it was like walking in the desert, miles of sand and the sun burning down – no camels though!

We ventured seaward to take a closer glimpse at Hilibre Islands situated at the mouth of the Dee Estuary – we didn’t go all the way as the sand looked to be getting a little boggy and we didn’t know enough about the tides.

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Hilibre Islands with Wales in the background

We walked on past Hoylake and its magnificent golf course and into West Kirby where we stopped for a picnic lunch.  We had parked the car here but decided to walk on as it was still earlyish and our feet and joints weren’t yet worn out.  We’d had a little look around West Kirby earlier – seems to be a beautiful town, might have to venture back for a little retail therapy.  Felt so at home here as it’s sort of my namesake – the mouth of the Dee Estuary, we passed the Dee Hotel (interestingly a Wetherspoons) and we parked in Dee Lane – well I’m not likely to find a town called Deirdre am I !?

So on we walked and after some more promenade and sand we actually reached a more typical coastal path – it took us through woods (with a few little hills) and a disused railway line still with some pretty coastal views.  We made it as far as Thurstaston before we called it a day – just 6 miles today.

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Got back to base in good time, got stuck into this blog and guess what …. we’re now going for a run!!