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  • sgoff - Tuesday 10 November 2015 20:45
    O.C.O.T. Minutes

    16th October 2015


    Present: Clive Benson, Robert Brown, Dave Dalton, Andy Fildes, John Guest, Steve Goff, Robert Holmes, Kevin Jordan, David Lamb, Alan Larsen, Colin Larsen, Sylvia Larsen, Barry McGuinness, Dave Nichols, Noel O’Toole, Bob Rial, Elsa Sawczuk, Steve Sawczuk, Neil Shortland, Julie Sprigg, Dave Whittle, Mike Whittle

    Viewed from a strict economic standpoint, it would have hardly been the most risible of occasions for the typical member as his or her eyes first alighted upon the rail fares for the journey to Staveley when making ticket purchases. At £23 for a return journey, with no meaningful financial recognition afforded to those who decided to purchase tickets in advance, the pecuniary pain inflicted must have been barely tolerable for most.

    It was therefore immensely gratifying to see the number of attendees swollen to a heady twenty-two as we assembled upon the platform at Staveley shortly after disembarking from the slightly delayed service when it arrived ten minutes late. We set off from the station and in the direction of Dales Way to lead us towards Fell Plain, Borwick Fold and High Fairbank and the promise of a prompt arrival at our midday watering hole – The Watermill at the village of Ings. Waves of nostalgia washed over us as we entered the bar area, with fond memories of previous visits and a former overnight stay at the hostelry. Your correspondent observed several tear stained faces around the lounge as recollections were resurrected of memories of his rendition of a medley of memorable piano pieces played one evening during the short break. It would be perfectly understandable if expressions of shock were voiced today at the news that, contrary to popular belief at that time, he did indeed continue to hold onto his full time employment role. Unbelievable! Members appeared to enjoy the offerings at the bar with bitters including: A Bit Er Ruff, W’Ruff Night, Isle of Doks, Collie Wobbles, Windermere Blonde, Loweswater Gold, Dog’ Th Vader and Shihtzu Faced. Ciders of Stowford Press and Old Rosie were also on offer. Julie extended her apologies for her early departure shortly after arriving at the bar and from the remainder of the day’s activities, as she had to rendezvous with her husband for a pre-arranged camping break in the area.

    Upon leaving the Watermill, we continued the walk towards Staveley through Hugill Hall, Hugill Fell, Browfoot Lane and Scroggs Bridge. Shortly after our arrival at Barley Bridge, we proceeded towards the Old Mill Yard in Staveley village to visit the Hawkshead Brewery Tap. An extended range of bitters were welcomed by the weary walkers: Lakeland Gold, Hawkshead Red, Brodie’s Prime, Windermere Pale, Hawkshead Bitter, New Zealand P.A.*, IPA, White IPA, Hop Black, Crooked Staves Key Lime and Great White. (*Apparently news was received on good authority that Alan, the walk organiser, had suffered the ignominy of a fall somewhere in the bar area. It remains somewhat unclear as to the cause of his humiliation. The more churlish amongst us may have attributed it to the specific gravity level of the N.Z. P.A. whilst others of a more charitable disposition may have put it down simply to physical exhaustion from the walk.)

    Our final destination, after leaving the Brewery Tap, was the Eagle and Child. Upon our arrival, we caught sight of the two Roberts enjoying the pub fayre together with Colin and Sylvia sat together on a table positioned adjacent to the front facing windows. They had clearly enjoyed their cuisine observing the sated looks upon their faces. The low lighting levels immediately caught our attention as we entered the pub’s lounge. The level of lumens was so low that there was scarcely sufficient light to rearrange the gloom. On reflection, we must have located the bar using some form of primeval innate radar. However, once visible, the range of beers did not disappoint with an eclectic variety sourced from the Barngate Brewery. Whilst enjoying our drinks, a coterie of some of the far right conservative element of the membership voiced its displeasure at the lamentable lack of adherence to the formal dress code. For those dissentients amongst us - who are deemed culpable - they may wish to tilt their heads towards the oncoming headwinds that are beginning to blow to sense that they may be heralding an imminent crackdown on dress standards.

    Some disappointing news was received from the contingent that caught the 20:03 return train service. Owing to an earlier than anticipated arrival at the station, it elected to opt for the train to Windermere and then a return journey to Oxenholme. However at Oxenholme, the Virgin** service was fifteen minutes late. The devastating consequential effect of that was that the Preston service connection was missed and the next service being at 21:59. A fateful decision was then taken to remain on the service to Wigan North Western with a view to catching a 21:28 service at Wigan Wallgate. However, despite a valiant, coronary thrombosis inducing sprint to the Wallgate station, the connection was missed. Unfortunately, that now meant that the 21:53 slow service was the service to Manchester Victoria. Its eventual arrival at 22:40 resulted in a band of exhausted codgers having to make alternative travel arrangements. One word would probably eloquently encapsulate this sorry state of affairs: “shafted”!

    **(Another depressingly familiar instance of the Virgin group demonstrating its near infallible positioning in its ability to wrest control of the national lottery from Camelot at the next opportunity and operate it itself, as surely evidenced by the way it performs on its rail responsibilities: a lottery using the term in its purest sense.)

    Once again, everybody extended his/her gratitude to Alan for another splendid walk.

    Annual General Meeting

    Secretary Larsen wishes to give forward notice of the annual general meeting which is scheduled for 18th December at The Queens Arms Country Inn located at 1 Shepley Street, Old Glossop (http://www.queens-arms-hotel-old-glossop.co.uk/). Following ruthless negotiating tactics with the proprietor, a deal has been thrashed out for an admirable £15. Colin successfully managed to wring a £2 discount from an opening bid of £17. The intention is for us to assemble in the privately reserved first floor dining area at 18:30. Colin proposes to begin collecting contributions for December’s soirée at this coming Friday’s 13th November visit to Otley Would members please therefore furnish themselves with the necessary liquidity to assist Colin in defraying the overall cost.
  • sgoff - Wednesday 14 October 2015 22:33
    Whaley Bridge

    Present: Steve Carey, Kevin Clarke, Dave Dalton, Andy Fildes, Adi Hammond, Trevor Heywood, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, Kevin McDonough, John Nelson, Mark Nutter, Noel O’Toole, Neil Shortland (evening), Linda Staunton, Dave Whittle, Mike Whittle

    It was at the crossroads junction of Princess St and Mosley Street that I chanced upon the hapless student from Belgium who asked me for directions to Manchester Piccadilly rail station. He happened to be walking in precisely the opposite direction to the one that he ought to have been travelling in. Following a brief exchange of introductory pleasantries, he was visibly relieved to learn of a turn in his fortunes as fortuitously, I was heading in his direction. We headed in a diagonal fashion across the city centre’s grid road system as he told me that he was heading to Colwyn Bay to rendezvous with some of his friends. I learned quickly that he had an excellent command of spoken English language as we exchanged titbits of information relating to each of our countries. We both duly arrived in Piccadilly station with Anglo/Flemish relations bolstered and bid our farewells as I spotted the gathering of the first member arrivals.

    Although having attended Thursday outings since last May, the inaugural full group attendance of Linda (Lady) Staunton was duly welcomed and she was introduced to everybody who had not previously met her hitherto on the Thursday forays.

    Andy’s arrival presented us with the sad news that he would be the only representative member of the Urmston contingent: Bob Rial had a prior engagement, Roger Wallace had taken a rain check as reportedly, he had become somewhat traumatised when appraised of the route and distance of the day’s walk, and Andy’s brother Graham, was holidaying in Hawaii.

    A further piece of harrowing news was relayed to us by John. The previous day, Neil had been transporting some concrete blocks in his estate car. He had parked the vehicle and had lifted the tailgate when suddenly and unexpectedly, a block that had been disturbed during the journey fell out and fell squarely upon his unprotected big toe of his left foot. It could be seen as almost paradoxical to describe the incident as fortunate but unbelievably, his toe did not break. One could only imagine the Hertz frequency of the pitch generated by the heart-rending scream that he must have emitted as the block made contact with his foot. I suppose it would be something akin to that which may have been heard from one of the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, when Jerry inflicted some scream inducing assault upon poor Tom. Neil reported later that he had delayed his visit to the Accident and Emergency department at his local hospital until the following morning as he was aware from past experience that the quality of hospital treatment varies enormously between late evening and early morning. Luckily for him too, he managed to avoid a weekend hospital visit as he was also fully cognisant of the spike in hospital death rates during weekend periods due in part to overworked doctors. Amazingly, John added that he would be meeting us at the Shepherd’s Arms later in the afternoon, following the walk, at Whaley Bridge. As we all stood and listened, it served as a salutary reminder to us all of Neil’s utterly indomitable spirit.

    During our rail journey to Buxton, the three members sat around Ady’s table were treated to the sight of his fish lunch: a whole mackerel; totally intact with the sole exception of its eyes. Fortunately and thankfully for those unable to avert their gaze away from this fine specimen of the oily piscine genus, their respective lunches were still safely tucked away in their lunch boxes. It would quite clearly be some time before their appetites returned. Adi also considered deferring his fishy meal until he encountered a fish and chip fryer later in the evening. He was quietly hoping for a compliant proprietor who would agree to his dietary request of having his ‘mackerel battered’!

    Shortly after about ninety minutes into the walk we enjoyed our first break at the renowned Cat and Fiddle public house. The group initially split into two factions with one electing to sit outside in the beer garden whilst the others chose to sit inside adjacent to the bar. However, as the wind and increasingly persistent rain began to nag those who were sat outside, they surrendered to the elements and joined the rest of us inside. The bitters on offer were Wizard and Unicorn accompanied by Stowford Press cider. Upon our exit from the comfort of the hostelry, we were immediately assaulted by wind and some light rain. The inclemency of the weather provided the necessary incentive, for several individuals, to don rainwear and in the case of Mark, a voluminous cape that wouldn’t have looked incongruous on the top of Mount Everest. However, within 30 minutes or so, the rain ceased and the remainder of the day proved to be dry.

    The reasonably moderate walk initially took us towards Shining Tor. We then proceeded towards Oldgate Nick and onto Pym Chair. We duly arrived at Windgather Rocks where we enjoyed a break in a rocky enclave situated in the lee of the wind. Upon leaving the enclave, a hairy moment ensued as we scrambled up a vertiginous rock face of several feet in height with several members requiring assistance from nearby colleagues in making the ascent. After regaining our composure we continued on towards Taxal Farm leading onto Taxal Moor. Soon we began to spy Toddbrook Reservoir in the distance, which also provided us with evidence of our imminent arrival in Whaley Bridge.

    The leading party experienced a little difficulty in locating the Shepherd’s Arms but after seeking guidance from several locals we stumbled upon it together with a convalescing Neil who was gently anaesthetising himself with a pint of medicinal Marston’s bitter. We sat in the beer garden below the front window and for those of us stepping over Neil’s feet to access our seats, due diligence was exercised so as not to inflict further agony upon him. We drank bitters encompassing Marston’s Bitter, Burton and Pedigree; Dirty Tackle and Strongbow cider.

    Several members expressed their irritation at having to forgo several oases on their way to the Shepherd’s Arms including The White Horse and The Cock. During our stay in the Shepherd’s Arms, we noted a schism forming in the group and in due course, a group of dissentients consisting of Adi, Steve, John and Neil made its way to the Goyt Arms.

    In due course, having sated our thirsts, we decided to move on to the White Hart where we last ventured during July of 2013. Here we savoured Hobgoblin Gold, Tetley White Hart, Storm Brewery’s Yale Ale and Somersby Cider. We were also treated to an acoustic set provided by group of itinerant musicians. The sound was reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel and indeed, the melodic and harmonic delivery was so strong it prompted several members to augment the sound by providing backing vocals varying somewhere between soprano and baritone- especially during the rendition of the Moody Blues’ song: Nights In White Satin. Justin Hayward would have been rendered misty-eyed. For those sufficiently churlish not to enjoy the musical extravaganza, alternative entertainment was provided in the next room by the television coverage of the latest Rugby Union game.

    We eventually made our way towards the platform at Whaley Bridge station and gathered together whilst waiting for the return train. Soon, consternation was being voiced as to the whereabouts of Larry. Some time later, he arrived on the platform together with his supper consisting of three Zhejiang inspired spring rolls. Unusually, he decided not to fraternise with us and stood some distance away whilst enjoying his meal. Shortly, the train arrived and we all boarded – except Larry! Unbeknown to ourselves, he had boarded the train but was seated in the pair of carriages to the rear of ours thus ensuring the security of, and denial of access by ourselves to, his spring rolls!

    Upon our arrival at Manchester, several of us decided to have a final drink in the Angel on Rochdale Road.

    A big thank you again from everybody to Alan for arranging another very enjoyable day out.
  • admin - Monday 10 August 2015 18:31
    O.C.O.T. Minutes

    17th July 2015


    Present: Syd Bennett, Robert Brown, Steve Carey, Kevin Clarke, Dave Dalton, Andy Fildes, Graham Fildes, Steve Goff, Miklos Gombos, Trevor Heywood, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, Alan Larsen, Colin Larsen, Sylvia Larsen, Kevin McDonough, Paul Morrell, Aidan Moy, John Nelson, Bob Rial, Elsa Sawczuk, Steve Sawczuk, Neil Shortland, Julie Sprigg, Roger Wallace, Dave Whittle, Mike Whittle

    It was gratifying to note that Network Rail, when performing optimally as evidenced by the prompt arrival of the 11:17 from Manchester Piccadilly, is still able to demonstrate that it will not be upstaged by any earthbound or other extra terrestrial upstart such as the space mission’s ship which recently arrived at the planet Pluto having erred by just 1 hour during a million mile journey. Alas, if only Network Rail was capable of this calibre of performance on a sustained basis.

    Within minutes of disembarking, a substantial body of 28 individuals followed the leader Alan out of Marple station who wasted no time in heading towards the first stage of our walk, Marple Bottoms Hall. As we progressed along the 9 to 10 mile route, we were quickly made aware of the presence of elevated humidity. By the time we had passed through Marple Bottoms Hall and Linnet Clough and arrived at Moor End to visit our first hostelry of the day, The OddFellows Arms, we were perspiring heavily. In particular, as I entered the bar area, I soon realised how warm it was as I became quickly drenched in moisture which I found to be thoroughly unpleasant. I quickly headed outside to join the others sat outside the front of the premises at tables and on top of peripheral walls. The bitters on offer here included: Thornbridge’s Desert Sessions , Wellesley’s Abbeydale, Bollington Blonde and Marston’s Pedigree. Thatcher’s provided the cider.

    Following a relaxing two pints break and sufficient time to allow Sylvia, who looked to be in a fair degree of agony, to self medicate and tend to her painful toe which was looking eye wateringly raw as her boot had been rubbing against it for several miles. Unfortunately, nurse Elsa was unable to provide any relief by way of an adhesive plaster as she had, to her consternation, exhausted her supplies. I sussed that the prime culprit behind Sylvia’s predicament must have been Kevin Maximus who had hitherto required Elsa’s medical attention together with a plethora of plasters because of lacerations sustained on his skin from previous walks caused by brushing up against the leafy edges of viciously sharp dock leaf vegetation.

    We continued our walk towards Hollywood End and onto Bothams Hall. We savoured some splendid scenery as we gradually progressed towards Hodgefold at Broadbottom. Along the route, some members indulged themselves by picking at some wild raspberries that were ripening in the adjacent hedges.

    Our second and final port of call was The Harewood Arms at Broadbottom. The range of bitters and ciders here included: Smokey Joe, which reminded Kevin Maximus of a ‘smokey session’ beer and Chief, which Alan noted, contained hops from Slovakia. Rekorderlig and Rosie’s Pig were the available ciders. We collected our drinks and made our way into the beer garden at the rear of the premises. A flight of steep steps had to be negotiated to gain entry down into the garden together with a trailing mains electricity cable, which was draped across the bottom of steps. The blood pressure of any health and safety officer worth his or her salt visiting the premises would surely have been raised at the sight of this perniciously positioned cable. As we took our seats in the garden, we looked more carefully at the cable and slowly began to realise that its raison d'être was to provide a supply of electricity to a mobile hot food van, which was parked on the other side of a wall adjacent to the garden. The sight of the van piqued the interest of several members as they began to note that by now, their appetites were in dire need of sating. Other customers sat alongside us in the garden had also registered the signals from the van on their olfactory senses and began to return with portions of food. The sight of the food provided the final persuasive prod, for those members whose hungers could no longer be ignored, to climb the steps and visit the van to inspect the food on offer. In due course, members were returning with portions of pizza and pasta shells in accompanying sauces. Favourable comments were passed regarding the quality of the food but distinctly unfavourable ones regarding pricing. We deduced that the vendor was an ardent capitalist and was fully exploiting the monopolistic opportunity and captive customer audience that lay before him seated down below in the garden. I overheard one Bradshaw based member, who shall remain nameless, bristling at the £8+ price tag of what appeared, prima facie, to be a relatively miserly portion of pasta.

    Following our drinks, meals and emptied pockets, we made our way to Broadbottom station to catch the 20:45 back to Manchester Piccadilly.

    We all conveyed our thanks once again to Alan for his organisation of another splendid walk.
  • admin - Sunday 19 July 2015 22:05
    O.C.O.T. Minutes

    19th September 2014


    Present: Dave Bates, Robert Brown, Steve Carey, Dave Dalton, Andy Fildes, Graham Fildes, Adrian Hammond, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, Alan Larsen, Kevin McDonough, Mike Melia, John Nelson, Noel O’Toole, Bob Riall, Dave Whittle, Mike Worthington

    The group was in a buoyant mood following the previous day’s Scottish independence vote and the day’s fine opening weather. It was as likely as not purring more loudly than Elizabeth, sat in her chambers at Buckingham Palace ruminating over how to deal with her recalcitrant prime minister. The Kingdom remains united!

    The British weather is perfectly capable of changing even the most buoyant of moods and defeating the most fastidious of meteorological soothsayers. We departed from Manchester Piccadilly on the 10:49 to Sheffield under blazing sunshine and blue skies only to be greeted by low cloud and diffuse light upon our arrival at Hope. Several members responded to the ambient climatic signals by donning additional layers of clothing before we began our ascent up Bradwell Edge. The mist had now become quite dense and its opacity completely obscured our views around the surrounding countryside. Unsurprisingly, it began to rain as the surrounding air had become as pregnant with moisture as the bramble bushes were in the hedgerows with ripened blackberries. Our sympathies were extended towards Robert B who had neglected to furnish himself with a water repellent jacket and any heartless individual who considered admonishing him, given the clemency of the weather earlier during the day, would have been regarded as somewhat churlish. Dave W did his utmost to volunteer the shield of his umbrella to Robert but the restrictive nature of the path that we were walking along prevented him from doing so. Several of the group took full advantage of the availability of luscious blackberries which by this time were glistening with rainwater. Warning reminders were issued about the fibrous nature of the fruit and the distance remaining to the nearest available amenities.

    A rain soddened group began its gradual, tortuous descent into Bradwell village and proceeded further into Smalldale where the first hostelry awaited us: Ye Olde Bowling Green Inn. The tight narrow path proved to be something of a nightmare given the recent rainfall. The state of the ground afforded minimal adherence to the group’s mud caked boots. Indeed, Kevin J suffered a fall which transmitted a shock wave through his shoulder and elbow of sufficient intensity that it provided a painful reminder of an already broken humerus bone in his shoulder; the break having been inflicted some weeks earlier but, for reasons best known to himself, he had neglected to seek medical attention for it. Several of us learned on the following mid week walk that Kevin will be incapacitated for several weeks and it will be highly unlikely that he will be attending any walks in the near future that require any sustained level of physical exertion.

    We duly arrived at the Bowling Green where we enjoyed pints of Hobgoblin, Harvest Pale and Tribute bitters together with Thatcher’s cider. Upon arrival, we sat down at one of the available tables just as a couple of individuals who had been dining had decided to depart upon our arrival. We all assumed that this was purely coincidental. However, prior to their departure, they had left a considerable portion of their meal behind including a still steaming portion of chips. As the Fildes brothers sat down, the chips quickly became the sole focus of their attention as the walk so far had begun to accentuate their prodigious appetites. It wasn’t long before the chips began to disappear and, after partly sating their own desires, duly offered the residual scraps to the remainder of the group. I casually glanced over at Robert B who appeared to be rapidly heading towards stage one hypothermia. He felt the need to conserve his dry shirt for later in the evening as the rain may yet have decided to make a return. So for the present, he was condemned to remain in his now saturated attire. I overheard a comment from Dave D that he felt fully justified in paying tribute to his pint of Tribute.
    We were enjoying pint number two when Alan suddenly announced that we had twenty-five minutes to complete our extant neckage prior to our departure at 13:30. Mystified looks were exchanged between us all as the time was presently 14:05. Kevin M in his inimitable and typical spontaneous fashion provided an apt quote from Hilda Baker who played Nellie Pledge in the 1970’s television series Nearest and Dearest: “I must get a little hand put on this watch”. Alan, in his defence, blamed his erroneous time keeping on the dubious quality of his fake Rolex watch that he had recently purchased in Spain!

    Following our departure from the Bowling Green, we made our way towards Bradwell Dale and walked up to Earl Rake. The dense mist was unrelenting and continued to obscure our views of the undoubted panoramic views that lay just beyond. We proceeded along the Limestone Way towards Cavedale.

    Upon our arrival at Castleton, we headed into our next port of call, the Castle, where Lees Pale, Doombar, Adnams and Black Sheep bitters were on offer together with Aspall’s cider. Dave D vented his chagrin at the Lees Pale as he concluded that it was a ‘pale imitation’ of the quality that he has experienced and consequently come to expect.

    We then proceeded towards Ye Olde Nags Head where, again, Lees Pale, Doombar, and Black Sheep bitters were served together with Rudgate. Andy F unfortunately suffered the ignominy of being short changed by the bar staff to the tune of the princely sum of £1. However, we all sympathised with him as most of us would agree that an incident of this nature does stick in one’s craw.

    Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese proved to be the next venue that appeared in our crosshairs. Here, we enjoyed Acorn Barnsley, Absolution, Castleton Smooth, Chatsworth Gold and Moonshine bitters and Olde English cider. Dave D and Kevin M, heads both bowed in deep debate, conducted a comparison of their respective estimations of our distance travelled so far: Dave using global satellite positioning equipment and Kevin, his trusty pedometer. I recollect that a considerable discrepancy emerged between the two. Regarding the accuracy of the output of each of the individuals’ equipment? The jury is still out.

    Our penultimate venue was the Old Hall Hotel. Kevin M and Dave D however, as an accidental precursor, decided to visit the Peak Hotel. Kevin’s subsequent report of his Adams was: “Superb!” Dave, in stark contrast, complained that his eyes had watered following his pint of Piledriver! The Old Hall served Theakston’s Best, Old Peculiar and Dizzy Blonde bitters.

    Our final hostelry was the Traveller’s Rest, which reminded me of the Half Way Inn that I used to visit some years ago. I believe that it has now been subsequently renamed the Virgins’ Rest. The Traveller’s Rest took us to within a cock’s stride of Hope railway station, albeit the walk to it was a formidable distance along a poorly lit road frequented by high- speed traffic. Farmer’s Blonde, Wainwright’s, Cobra and Stone’s awaited us at the bar.
    The Manchester local football cognoscenti may or may not be interested to learn that an animated, jocular and nostalgic discussion took place, led principally by Larry J and Mike M, which endured for some time regarding the historical composition of the Moston 6/11 team members.

    Our heartfelt thanks once again to Alan for his unswerving dedication to the O.C.O.T. cause in providing a top quality walk. We extend our condolences to Kevin J and wish him a speedy recovery and an imminent return to future walks.
  • admin - Sunday 19 July 2015 21:51
    O.C.O.T. Minutes

    18th July 2014


    Present: Dave Bates, Syd Bennett, Robert Brown, Dave Dalton, Andy Fildes, Graham Fildes, Bill Flanagan, Steve Carey, Steve Goff, Miklos Gombos, John Guest, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, Colin Larsen, Sylvia Larsen, Kevin McDonough, Noel O’Toole, Elsa Sawczuk, Steve Sawczuk, Dave Whittle, Mike Worthington

    Marketed as the “The Capital of the Peak District” and its name originating from a French derivation of: “Chapel in the forest”, Chapel proved to be a hit from both from dual perspectives of walking and hostelries.

    We welcomed the inaugural attendance of Elsa at her first main monthly walk, clearly following the lead taken by Sylvia at her inaugural main outing the previous month. Perhaps now, the old myth has finally been laid to rest that the group is male, pale and stale. I noted that David Cameron too gave a nod in our direction when announcing his recent Cabinet changes in the House of Commons! Where we lead, others follow.

    After leaving the rail station, we began the walk which took us towards Castle Naze reaching an altitude of 400m and subsequently along Combs edge. The climb proved to be quite testing both physically and psychologically. Thankfully, the forecast temperature of 29 Celsius did not come to pass because of the altitude and which proved to be a merciful relief. The psychological challenge emerged as we gained height because to our right lay vertiginous rock faces. Indeed, Kev J, prone to bouts of vertigo, chose to walk along the opposite side of a wall which formed part of the perimeter of an Iron Age hillfort to steer himself well clear of any potential catastrophes. The hillfort was apparently surveyed in 1957 by students from a Nottingham University summer school and The Workers’ Educational Association of Buxton, when it was established that the fort had undergone three phases of construction, two of the Iron Age period and one Medieval. Obvious differences in the method of construction confirmed that the two prehistoric phases were not contemporary.
    Kev M sustained an injury to his left arm which was badly lacerated as he accidently caught it on some wickedly barbed vegetation. He appeared to be in some difficulty mopping up the excess oozing blood which, given the seemingly insignificant size of the cut, was flowing quite prodigiously. The news quickly caught the ear of Nurse Elsa and, acting as if she was a long standing vocational clinician, judiciously applied sticking plasters to Kevin’s arm in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood.
    Having stymied Kevin’s haemorrhage, we gradually negotiated our way along Combs edge. Larry too suffered a mishap as he stumbled and fell when he misplaced his foot on some loose earth. He made a quick recovery but it had the effect of putting the remainder of the group on high accident alert.
    I inquired of Syd about the fate of his shorts that he wore on the Lancaster outing. Sadly, after several bouts of hand and machine washing he decided to discard them as they were too severely stained. I felt that I had to mention to him that his new shorts looked very avant garde. The fate of the bird remains unknown.

    Eventually, we descended towards Allstone Lee farm and hit a blind alley. According to Robert’s ordnance survey map, there was a clear public right of access. When he initially looked at his map, he commented that the terrain in which we were walking was so bland and featureless it was difficult to assess where we were heading but then quickly realised that his map was upside down! We noted too an old price tag on the map stating 2s6d (or 2/6 - half a crown for the benefit of the more juvenile members) which didn’t inspire us with confidence. We made our way to the perimeter of a field hoping to find an exit stile or gate: there wasn’t one. We were therefore now presented with formidable task of climbing a five foot dry stone wall with no obvious footholds. The two ladies suffered a manhandling by some of the male members who offered them a helping hand as they negotiated their way over the wall to avoid any injuries. They were both very amused, once they were safely on the other side, to see the remainder of us engaging in a variety of futile attempts in negotiating the wall.
    Some considerable time later we headed towards the farm’s exit gate to be confronted by a ‘No public right of way’ sign prominently positioned on the farm’s gate. Robert by this stage felt that the ‘Sword of Damocles’ which had been dangling perilously close to his head for some time during the walk, was now in imminent danger of decapitating him.
    Paralysed by inaction and indecisiveness as to whether we should commit a civil tort of trespass and climb over the gate, Larry quickly stepped forward and made an executive decision. Clearly, this aspect of Larry’s profile had been honed from years of working under the tutelage of Jim Cocker, an erstwhile treasury manager of Manchester City Council, together with stockbrokers and roaming the money markets to secure the most lucrative financial instruments on behalf of Manchester City and Bolton Metropolitan Borough Councils. Larry’s decision making prowess provided the green light for us all to climb the gate but unfortunately, we were immediately confronted by a farm manager which potentially could have precipitated a highly incendiary situation. Larry engaged his legendary charms and negotiating skills which helped to pacify the manager and provide an ameliorating effect. I overheard part of Larry’s negotiations and I had to stifle a chuckle as I heard him explain the rules of the walking game: “there’s twenty of us and one of you – we’re coming through!”.

    Luckily, we were waved through by the manager and made our way to our first port of call – the Beehive Inn.
    Kevin J’s inimitable humour shone through once more as he emerged from the bar with a clutch of pints remarking that he’d just been ‘stung’ at the bar. Offerings at the bar included Bank’s Sunbeam, Wychwood’s Beehive, Ringwood’s Old Thumper and Revisionist Craft lager.
    The second hostelry was the Hanging Gate. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Robert H as he glanced at the pub sign and gave a shudder. The choice of beverage here was limited to Theakston’s.
    The New Inn was the next venue. Again, a limited range of beers were on offer. Unicorn was the featured bitter.
    Our final stop was the Royal Oak. At this juncture, several members disappeared for some solid sustenance whilst the core drinkers made themselves comfortable in the beer garden soaking up the remaining uv’s as the sun began to wane. We were joined sometime later by the remainder of the party, several of which had prominent catenaries forming in their lower abdomens – a direct consequence of sating unbridled appetites.
    Kevin M announced some news following some gossip with pub staff and/or customers concerning the ever widening reach of his family’s genetic footprint. Apparently, his uncle’s name, Pat Frith, is connected to the town of the same name - namely Chapel. Remarkable!

    Following our departure from the Royal Oak, we endured an extremely brisk walk to Chapel station as we had under estimated the time required. Thankfully, we were in time to catch the 20:40 to Manchester Piccadilly.

    We extend our thanks to Robert for such an entertaining walk.
  • admin - Sunday 19 July 2015 21:45
    O.C.O.T. Minutes

    19th June 2015


    Present: Syd Bennett, Robert Brown, Dave Burrows, Steve Carey, Dave Dalton, Bill Flanagan, John Guest, Trevor Heywood, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, Alan Larsen, Kevin McDonough, Barry McGuinness, Paul Morrell, Paul Muir, John Nelson, Mark Nutter, Neil Shortland, Tony Statham, Dave Whittle, Mike Whittle

    It is oft said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. It was by no means a certainty that your correspondent would ever cross the path again of one, Paul Muir, emeritus doyen of purchase cards and erstwhile colleague of mine at a leading greater Manchester local authority. On platform two at Todmorden rail station, however, there he stood, looking as pleased as Punch following his recent retirement from the aforementioned organisation. I hesitate to describe his attendance as his inaugural appearance as I seem to recollect his presence as a guest some years ago when we visited Littleborough.

    The two of us exchanged a volley of pleasantries between each other before being joined by John Guest. We hadn’t stood for very long before the next train arrived and following some delay in the opening of the carriage doors, the three of us boarded. It was mercifully a shorter period of time before it dawned upon us that we had boarded the wrong train: it was destined for Bingley rather than Bradford. Disembarking smartly at the next station, Hebden Bridge, we stood and waited for the next train from Manchester carrying our compatriots who had boarded at Manchester.

    Arriving several minutes later than scheduled, we duly boarded the Bradford service and greeted our seated Manchester colleagues.

    In due course, we arrived at Bradford Interchange station where we were met by the organiser, Alan and a longstanding childhood friend of John Nelson: Dave Burrows. Dave, another retiree who has recently retired from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Taxes had hitherto, organised a pub visit to Keighley in West Yorkshire and had also made a very brief and fleeting guest appearance at our previous visit to Bradford during 2014. In view of this, today could be properly described as his inaugural visit. Following Dave’s introduction, Alan quickly shepherded us to the bus stop where we had to make a short bus journey across the city to Crossflats – a suburb of Bradford. We caused a few raised eyebrows as we quickly subsumed every available empty seat much to the consternation of the extant itinerant passengers.

    After alighting from the bus, we headed towards the Leeds and Liverpool canal and walked along it for some distance until we arrived at the outskirts of Bingley. We seized upon the opportunity of a brief break at the Brown Cow public house where we stopped for some brief liquid refreshment. The predominant available brews were Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, Golden Best, Ram Tam, Landlord and Dark Mild. Stowford Press was the cider on offer.

    We left the Brown Cow and plotted a route towards the River Aire. Our target now was to reach the Devil’s Alter. Following a reasonably testing incline up the hillside we reached the hill’s plateau and progressed along it with the Alter soon to appear in our sight. Several members’ facial colour, pallor and heart rates had visibly and audibly changed soon after their successful overcoming of the incline.

    Alan and your correspondent were the first to arrive at the Alter. Alan, confronted by several rocky outcrops any one of which could be persuasively described as having the appearance of an ‘Alter’ shape, was briefly racked by indecision as to which of these he should be describing as the genuine article. A quick random decision provided a solution to this most vexing of geological condundrums. He turned to me and in a somewhat hushed voice whispered: “Christ! They all look the bldy same! That one over there looks like a pretty convincing outcrop!” The remainder of the group began to arrive whereupon Alan with the assured flourish of a confidently outstretched hand and forefinger authoritatively proclaimed with aplomb: “Here gentlemen lies the Devil’s Alter!” Somewhat surprisingly, there were no dissentients coming forward questioning the validity of Alan’s judgement. Perhaps any such individuals were simply overwhelmed by the panoramic views afforded by our lofty position of high altitude.

    In due course we began our gradual descent and imminent arrival at the St Ive’s estate. We navigated our way through some impressive deciduous woodland and a plethora of rhododendron bushes. Along the way we stumbled across an engraved sandstone rock informing its readers of a Dowager* Lady Blantyre by way of a brief inscription (http://www.friendsofstives.org.uk/history/ferrands_4.php). Confusion quickly spread around the group as to the definition of the word “dowager” (see below).

    Having sated our appetites for local history, we wound our way down to the Coppice Pool, which, historically, was the source of the Estate’s water supply. It also provided an abundance of wildlife and freshwater fish, which were comprehensively catalogued by a wooden signl. Following a brief rest, we walked from the pool towards a narrow bridge to cross over the Aire as we made our return to Bingley.

    We set a course for our second port of call: Off The Tap. Here we enjoyed an eclectic variety of bitters and ciders such as: XT15 IPA, Darkside Of The Moose, Acorn Belma IPA, Coniston XB, Perfect 10 and ciders: Wyldwood, Sandford Orchard and Black Dragon.

    Sometime later, a selection of members headed down the road to the local Wetherspoon’s to enjoy a ‘Ruby Murray’. Those Wetherspooning members were to subsequently rendezvous with us later at our final hostelry. The remaining members headed towards the bus stop for a return bus journey to Bradford city centre for our next hostelry visit: Jacob’s bar. It was situated in a location, which entailed a five minute walk to Bradford Interchange station. Here we were provided with beers such as Pacifica, Blantyre Red, Stancil Mild, Titanic Plum Porter and Dark Side Of The Moose. The cider on offer was Kingstone Press.

    We began to wind up the evening when the first tranche of members opted to go for the 20:14 service to Manchester. The remaining members departed for the subsequent 20:58 service.

    Many thanks again to Alan for his tireless devotion to his organisation of our walks. We all thanked Paul and Dave for coming along and joining us.
  • admin - Sunday 19 July 2015 21:29
    O.C.O.T. Minutes

    15th May 2015


    Present: Karen Arnell, Dave Bates, Syd Bennett, Clive Benson, Steve Carey, Kevin Clarke, Dave Dalton, Sarah Evans, Andy Fildes, Graham Fildes, Bill Flanagan, Andrew Goff, Steve Goff, Miklos Gombos, John Guest, Adi Hammond, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, David Lamb, Alan Larsen, Colin Larsen, Sylvia Larsen, Mike Melia, Aidan Moy, John Nelson, Mark Nutter, Noel O’Toole, Bob Rial, Elsa Sawczuk, Steve Sawczuk, Bohdan Serednycky (Sid), Neil Shortland, Debbie Thomas, Roger Wallace, Dave Whittle

    Sauntering along Manchester’s Chorlton Street in the early morning sunshine, I made a mental note to confirm my next optician’s appointment as I peered through the windscreen of the Huyton’s coach, parked in its majestic glory and which would soon be thundering northwards along the M6 motorway – its suspension struts weighed down by its 36 strong human cargo of O.C.O.T. members and, most probably, given a test the likes of which they will not have experienced in its driving lifetime.

    Was that the top of this week’s edition of Motorcycle News, which was becoming visible as I approached the parked coach? If so, it was surely beyond any co-incidence that the driver could be anybody other than Chris Law, who has not been seen in O.C.O.T. circles for the best part of five or more years? As I arrived, I quickly realised that it was just a trick of the early morning light and that the said rag propped up against the driving wheel in front of the driver was in fact of copy of the Metro belonging to its reader Andy Goff, the professional driver son of regular attendee member Steve. I supposed my imagination had run away with me in thinking that Chris had decided to play a trick of his own by making a surprise reappearance by masquerading as Andy.

    Members gradually assembled in Chorlton Street, engaged in casual conversation and waiting to be subsequently shepherded, registered, and gently prodded on to the coach by our resident registrar, Robert Holmes. Following the final member’s boarding onto the coach, Robert performed his now almost obligatory final roll call by way of a raised voice and proclaiming: “If anybody hasn’t yet boarded, would that person please make him or herself known!” Robert’s inquiry mattered little to Andy as he already had his foot pressed firmly on the coach’s accelerator even as Robert’s words had yet to fade away.

    We made our way in a northerly direction along Regent Road in the direction of the M61 motorway. On reflection, it was only natural that several members would begin to comment upon and to compare and contrast, the driving styles of Andy and Chris given that Andy was only the second driver that O.C.O.T. had ever experienced. Members also favourably viewed the extra capacity afforded by the 49 seat vehicle having historically endured a somewhat intimate and, depending upon one’s viewpoint, indeed claustrophobic, travelling environment. It was a generally noted feature too during this journey, as we made good progress along the M6 motorway, as to the absence of hands clamped on facing seat head rests with whitening knuckles!
    Following an approximate 2 hour journey and having suffered only one minor delay on the motorway because of a road traffic incident, we duly arrived in Ulverston with several members sat with tightly crossed legs signalling the fact that they were in urgent need of the water closet. This unsatisfactory state of affairs was the combination of a fault with the on board coach facilities and the leadership’s uncompromising target of arriving in Ulverston in record time and uncharitably turning a deaf ear to any bleats of motorway toilet breaks from any of the unfortunate souls who were courageously attempting to manage their bladders that, under any normal laws of human physiology, should have succumbed to the inevitable odd accident, long ago.

    Soon after parking up, we were greeted by Alan who had departed his country pile in Bear earlier that morning to meet us upon our arrival in Ulverston. No sooner had he introduced himself to the group when he was faced with a barrage of calls for advice on the whereabouts of the nearest water closet facilities. He urgently assembled the group and directed us towards the town centre mindful of his responsibility to avoid any ‘little accidents’ among the group. Upon arrival at the facilities there was a loud collective groan as the realisation dawned that there was an admission charge to the facilities. It was fascinating to ponder that even in the centre of this pool of human misery, Southlakeland District Council (SDC) was not to be denied its receipt of miscellaneous income. Much to the relief of the group, a couple of enterprising individuals had access to 20p coins to permit two tranches of sexed individuals to obtain relief from their feat of endurance. Unbelievably, I thought I had misunderstood a retired, community minded Manchester City Council finance employee, who shall remain anonymous, whose thoughts were focussed upon SDC’s budget monitoring team and its income shortfall regarding its miscellaneous income budget as thirty odd O.C.O.T. members had relieved their selves for the princely sum of £0.40. Egalitarianism can sometimes become an end in itself!

    When everybody had been suitably relieved, we assembled again outside a municipal building in the centre of Ulverston in front of a memorial statue of Arthur Stanley Jefferson (Stan Laurel) and Norvell Hardy (Oliver Hardy). In the meantime, Alan had mysteriously disappeared back towards the direction of the parked coach. Several opportunistic members used the wait for the return of Alan to sate their burgeoning appetites which were now evident following a two hour journey. A local bakery had been spotted and members were seen making a beeline for various pies and hotpots. Secretary Larsen showing uncharacteristic indecisiveness finally made his own visit, exhibiting surprising agility as he made his way, fleet of foot, towards the bakery having realised that time was running out, as by now, Alan’s return was imminent.

    In due course we made our way from the town centre and began walking up an incline towards the John Barrow lighthouse. Having climbed to the lighthouse summit, it duly provided the group with photo opportunities. Our descent from the summit took us towards Ulverston canal. A site along the canal presented us with a sandwich opportunity. As the majority or members sat down on wooden benches and enjoyed their food, several eagle eyed members noted the presence of a public house and duly set off to take advantage of the facilities. Unfortunately, Mark Nutter was neglected and much to his chagrin, missed out on this opportunity.

    We duly made our way from the canal foot head along the Cumbria Coastal Path to eventually arrive at the Buddha Temple. We had a short cultural break at the site to investigate the artefacts and other objects which garnered our interest

    Our departure from the temple took us on a route through the villages of Bardsea and Swarthmoor and ending at Ulverston. The earlier fine weather had now given way to the start of rain and we were grateful that our first point for refreshment was appearing ahead of us, namely the Devonshire Arms where Copper Dragon, Cascade Pale Ale, Coniston Bluebird, XB and Yorkshire Terrier were the bitters on offer.

    Our next stop was a visit to the Farmer’s Arms. Here, we savoured Land Of Cartmel, Hawkshead, Esthwaite, Langdale, Lakeland Gold and Swan Blonde.

    Upon our exit from the Farmer’s Arms, we were greeted by very heavy persistent rainfall. Noel, conscious of the dripping water gathering upon his head, immediately advised that perhaps we should take a minibus ride to The Swan, our final hostelry, to avoid a soaking. Incredibly, he was overruled and with an incredulous look on his face, not dissimilar to that of a condemned man, he began to walk towards the Swan muttering words which cannot be included by your correspondent but were similar in meaning and vitriol to phrases such as “the parsimonious bunch of so and so’s” and “tight-fisted set of ne’er do wells!”

    In due course, we entered the Swan and Noel, rendered myopic by the mist over his spectacles’ lenses caused by the relative humidity of the warm pub interior and water rivulets visibly running off his pate, barked over to me in an almost accusatory tone of voice: “What are you drinking?” When his myopia dissipated somewhat, he noted the array of ales that lay before him and that helped him to attain a modicum of pacification: Screech Owl, Wobbly Bob, Hawkshead, Timothy Taylor, California, Acorn Blonde, Haka, Acorn Gorlouka and South Island Pale.

    Between 19:45 and 20:00, we headed off towards the car park and boarded the coach for the return journey back to Manchester.

    We extended our sincere gratitude towards both Andy and Steve for their provision of the transport services and to Alan for his organisation of a scenic and culturally rewarding and fulfilling walk.
  • goft - Sunday 24 March 2013 12:22
  • admin - Saturday 29 December 2012 14:58