Monday, April 30, 2007

Hotel California

Another anniversary coming up, this time for the LP that finally killed off hippiedom! First released in the US in late 1976, Hotel California was released in the UK in 1977 and very quickly eclipsed just about every other album on release. I do still have a copy of the album from its first UK release somewhere.

The Eagles, originally Linda Ronstadt's backing group, who had boozed and tripped their way through the '70's came out with this powerful indictment of the whole drop-out culture. The classic line "You can check out anytime, but you cannot leave" says it all, and puts a definitive full stop on the whole pseudo turn-on, tune-in, drop-out attitude of Timothy Leary and the late '60's, early '70's counterculture and which had led to the extreme excesses of Charles Manson in 1969. For years, flower-power was looking for the right moment to grow up and move on, and this LP, as far as I was concerned, did that.

Yesterday, I put my CD version on the player, and the songs still seem fresh and original 30 years later. Not many LP's are that important, but this one was.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

80 Years Old!

One of the first 'real' beers I ever drank was Newcastle Brown ale and this mildly nutty and malty concoction turns eighty this week.

In a world full of pasteurised, sterile 'keg' bitters as it was in the early '70's, the taste of "Newky", as it is affectionately know, was a revelation. Sensibly priced, this 4.7% taste of heaven became a student's cheap night out - and thereby hangs a confession. It has been many years since I had a bottle - and it used to only come in a bottle, - and that may be because of its association with students, bed-sits, late-night studying/partying and the general squalor that was such a traditional part of student life.

I'm now thinking this is denying me one of life's pure pleasures - and one I need to rectify as soon as possible.

Happy Birthday Newcastle Brown Ale, many happy returns and thanks for the memories.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Holiday Over

I have just completed my first week back after having a fortnight off on holiday, and have just about cleared the decks of stuff that had been waiting for my attention.

It is very gratifying to know that I am the only person in the entire company who can deal with all this, and that I am so indispensable to their continue success that no-one else can do what I do!

We did have a great time on the Costa Del Sol and if you are masochistic enough to want to find out what happened - up to and including the point where my trousers fell apart and split in a busy Spanish shopping mall, then you can click the Mark's Holidays link on the left, but I warn you - there is a lot of it!

Now planning what to do in the forth coming bank holidays this May. If the weather holds, it will be great to get out onto the hills for awhile - even though I can hear my bike plaintively pleading from the garage that it hasn't seen the light of day for a while!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Three Reservoirs Walk, April 2007

The Route
Originally uploaded by markhsal.
After the glorious Easter weekend, the weather did a reversal and dawned dull and gray, though the forecast promised that it would stay dry. Originally, we were going to walk the canal to Manchester, but decided to try something a little more ambitious.

The three reservoirs are a linked set of lakes in the West Pennine Moors just north of Bolton and consist of the Jumbles, Wayoh and Turton & Entwistle reservoirs. The whole walk is approximately 8 miles in length and take in a height gain of about 500 feet or so.

Boots on and waterproofs in the rucksack, we set off from the car park at the southern end of Jumbles Reservoir heading along the path at the side of the lake. It wasn't long before the primary theme of the day made itself known - intermittent drizzle. However, we were pretty well prepared so the thought of abandoning the walk just didn't surface.

At the far end of the lake, we followed a tree-lined valley towards Turton Bottoms where we climb up through the village to Wayoh reservoir (where the name comes from, I've no idea). Again, we followed a tree-lined path on the bank of the lake. In good weather, the views and countryside would have been magnificent, but as it was, the cloud was low over the hills, and the sun never had a chance to come out.

At the far end on Wayoh Reservoir we reached Entwistle and the Strawberry Duck Inn where we had lunch. The food was very good and plentiful and the beer excellent. They serve a very good Black Sheep bitter and their own brew - Strawberry Duck Ale - brewed by a local brewery especially for the pub. The pub is very popular and we arrived at just the right time. Any later and we would not have been able to eat as it was so full.

After lunch, we climbed up to the third reservoir, the Turton & Entwistle Reservoir. By this time, the drizzle was less intermittent and more constant, but as we were at the point where it would have been just as far to go back as it was to go on, - we went on. Part way along the path, someone had decorated a holly bush with Easter Eggs (plastic, not chocolate I'm afraid) as an Easter Tree. Quite unexpected, but very pretty non-the-less. Eventually, we reached Yarnsdale at the far end of the lake and the point where we turn back towards the car and home.

When we reached the Turton & Entwistle Reservoir dam, we left the lakes to follow a path across the moors back to the Jumbles Reservoir and our starting point. This path marked the highest point on the walk, and the downhill stretch was very welcome. Before long, we were back at our starting point, tired, damp but very happy at what we had achieved. It has now got us thinking about future walks in the summer.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

We Made It

Yesterday, we set off very early with our bikes, to catch the train into Manchester and then onwards to Greenfield in the foothills of the Pennines. Our intention, - to cycle the Huddersfield canal from Greenfield in Lancashire to Huddersfield in Yorkshire.

There is just one major drawback to this route - at one point, the canal goes through a tunnel for 3 miles, while we will have to go over the spine of Britain - the Pennines!

The weather was superb, and a slight breeze meant it wasn't too hot. The trains were delayed so we didn't reach Greenfield until about 10:30 - about half-an-hour later than I expected, - but no matter. We had all day.

From Greenfield, it is about half-an-hour to Diggle up the canal. Lots of locks to cycle up, - The Huddersfield canal has 74 locks in its 20 mile length and also boasts the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain, the Standedge Tunnel. There is more information about the canal here.

At Diggle, both the trans-pennine railway and canal plunge into their respective tunnels and take the underground route to Yorkshire. We, on the other hand, have to climb 700 feet to go over the Pennines. naturally, this was the slowest and longest stretch of the ride, requiring a number of stops to "admire the view". However, like all good things, the climb had to come to an end, and the long descent to Huddersfield began.

First stop in Yorkshire was Marsden where both the railway and the canal emerge from the Pennine depths. Here we stopped for lunch at the appropriately named Tunnel End Inn. A lovely little pub serving Black Sheep ales and great food. Jayne had a massive, roast beef filled Yorkshire pudding, Bethen Steak and Ale stew and I had Cumberland sausage with mustard mashed potatoes. We felt we deserved it!

From there, it is a quick downhill run to Huddersfield, passing through small West Yorkshire towns like Slaithwaite, Linthwaite and Milnsbridge. At Slaithwaite, we stopped at a canal boat cafe and treated ourselves to ice cream before moving on. The canal at Slaithwaite runs right through the centre of the town, and was clearly the most important part in times past.

At Huddersfield, we left the canal and made our way to the station, - we were going to let the train take the strain going home! Imagine my pleasure when I discovered a superb station pub, the Head Of Steam selling more Yorkshire Black Sheep ale. We just had to stop and have a refreshing drink before catching our train home.

It was a magnificent ride in superb countryside and a thoroughly great day out.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wishing For A Peaceful Easter

From tomorrow, I start a 2 week holiday. A chance to recharge the batteries and get some much needed rest.

The second week will be taken up with a family holiday in Spain, but I will no doubt blog about that sometime next week.

But next week, if the weather stays as it is, will see an abundance of bike rides and walks. This weekend, I'm hoping to cycle from Lancashire over the Pennines to Yorkshire following a route Jayne and I attempted last year along the Huddersfield canal. Last time, we retreated when we reached the hills, but this year we are stronger and fitter, so we should be able to manage it this time.

Monday, as Christine is off, we're hoping to do a long walk as part of our training for the Wirral Coastal walk in May. Not quite sure where we will be going, but there will be plenty of good pubs to choose from on the way.

The rest of the week, the girls are at a Rugby League Easter, camp run by Wigan Rugby League club, learning how to play the game, though I would dearly love them to play the proper game - Rugby Union.

Friday will be a day of preparation and next Saturday we will be "off to sunny Spain"!
Wishing you all a peaceful and happy Easter - and watch the chocolate intake!