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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.