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  • 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.