114.a Birkenhead to Frodsham

Since I recently declared that I would now be walking around the estuaries and rivers that I had previously bypassed by means of a ferry; I have been planning which “gap” I would tackle first. As this section was the closest to my home I could easily make a one day excursion to complete it.

Todays walk would be through a collection of residential suburbia and a large swathe of industrial complexes, in particular the Stanlow oil refinery. I drove to Frodsham where I parked my car. I then caught the 6:33 train to Chester, where I changed and caught the Mersey rail service to Hamilton Square – Birkenhead.

The Liverpool skyline on a dull grey morning

It was a dull and grey start as I rounded the Woodside ferry terminal and set off south along the Wirral Circular route (which I would following, more or less, for the next 6 or 7 miles). It was not long before i was turning inland slightly as the first dock appeared. In fact I would spend very little of todays walk alongside the river, as the industrial landscape is very extensive here. I followed the quieter Campbeltown Road south and emerged at a roundabout. The main road continued as a bypass with not many verges. I continued down the Old New Chester Road through Rock Ferry. I passed over the bypass which led into Rock Park, an area of once grand Victorian building which faced onto the River Mersey. I was back on the shoreline walking along the Esplanade with old grand buildings the other side of a stone wall to my right. The Esplanade ran to an area known as New Ferry and a favourite place for people from Liverpool to come and picnic and a place to get fresh air. I found the site of the recently demolished Great Eastern Picnic Hotel, now the site of a group of new private dwellings. I continued along the shoreline until  a sewage works and cul-de-sac meant I turned inland back onto the New Ferry Bypass.

Walking down a rather quiet New Chester Road
Heading south along The Esplanade at Rock Ferry
Looking back at Liverpool across the Mersey at low tide
The site of the Great Eastern Picnic Hotel

I now passed through Port Sunlight, the model village built by the Lever Brothers. Unfortunately, I did not pass through the village itself . I had indeed seen some of the village from the train that morning. It is somewhere I will undoubtedly go back to and take  a better look. I turned into Old Court House Road, with large industrial units flanking either side of the road. I walked along Thermal Road, then onto Riverbank Road. From its slightly elevated position I could quite look across the Mersey to its northern bank. It was not long before I entered Eastham Country Park and a short respite from walking amongst industry. The Country Park is quite large and has a visitor centre and park ranger. in the mid to late 19th century, Eastham had a busy and vibrant ferry service to Liverpool.

Entering Eastham Country Park

I passed out of the country park and the entrance to Eastham docks, this is where The Manchester Ship Canal has its entrance; although it was not possible to get any view of it. I passed through the small village of Eastham, where the Wirral Circular Route heads off south-west towards the Dee Estuary and I continue down Rivacre Road. I am now entering the sprawling urban area known as Ellesmere Port. The road runs alongside the busy M53 and I can now see Vauxhall Motors plant directly opposite and over the M53. The traffic on Rivacre Road was mercifully very quiet compared to the roar of traffic on the adjacent motorway. I turn off the road and enter Rivacre Country Park, after a short distance I find a path that leads up to a motorway access road , the road passes under the motorway and up to North Road. North road eventually comes to a dead-end, but I am able to use a pedestrian underpass to cross the M53 again, which takes me onto another North Road, confusing eh? I pass signs warning of the presence of Giant Hogweed, an introduced and invasive species of plant that cause’s severe burns to the skin. I can see the base of the stalks that have already been cut down. I walk onto yet another Motorway junction and recross the M53. I am now north of the motorway and walking along a road that services a number of dockside industries.

Walking down Rivacre Road
Crossing over the M53 near Vauxhall Motors

The dock road merges onto a road collectively called the Oil Sites Road, which is a privately owned road that serves a number of oil site industries, some of which are now derelict. I reach a sign which tells me not to stop , not to take photographs and that after Entrance No.3 no further continuation along the road is allowed to unauthorised users. Obviously this was meant for vehicles. No mention is made of pedestrians and cyclists, although I am walking on a wide and impressive cycle path. CCTV cameras are everywhere and I suspect that I am being watched very closely by someone, somewhere! Pedestrians are indeed allowed along this road, but I didn’t feel comfortable. At Entrance 3, there is a set of automated barriers, with vehicles flashing a card or pressing a keypad. The cycle path simply goes around them, which I do. The Oil Sites Road is almost 3 miles long and serves the Stanlow oil refinery.

Entering the restricted area of the Oil Sites Road

I emerge at a roundabout and head down a quiet lane to the village of Ince. The surrounding land suddenly turns very rural and given back to agriculture, although large industrial premises chimney stacks are never far away. I continue out of the village along Marsh Lane, which soon becomes a dirt track road. The whole area is very flat and certainly once a flood plain of the Mersey. I join a cycle path NCN 5 which continues around recently built factories and then alongside a large fertiliser plant. I am now walking along Lordship Lane and amongst a small Wind farm. there are large deposit pools used by the Manchester Ship Canal, warning me not to trespass.

Leaving the Oil Sites Road

As I continue along Lordship Lane I witness an astonishing sight. About 60 metres up the track I see a rabbit, which is jumping in the air being chased then turning and chasing back. The animal doing the chasing is a Stoat. I thought at first it could be a weasel, but weasel’s don’t go for rabbits. This continued for about 5 minutes as the stoat went towards the rabbit, but was then chased back by the rabbit into the undergrowth. I watched this through my binoculars. I followed at a distance as this ‘cat and mouse’ game continued. It looked like they were both playing, but in reality rabbits are the main source of food for stoats. I investigated  on the net and others have witnessed this rare spectacle. Unfortunately my camera would not have been much help at that distance, so sorry no photos.

The Manor House, Ince
Walking through the Frodsham Wind Farm

I cross over the very busy M56 and enter Frodsham. Hopefully, I may only need another days walking to cross over the Runcorn bridge and continue on to Liverpool.

Frodsham High Street

Distance today =   22 miles
Total distance =  3085 miles

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180. Ardgour to Locheilside

It rained most of the night, but I was really hoping that when I came to packing away the tent, the rain would cease. False hope i’m afraid, the rain increased and in 10 minutes of putting the tent away my last dry walking clothes were soaked. I ended up throwing the half-dismantled tent into the back of the car.

Crap weather aside, today would be unique in that I would use a combination of public transport (train, bus & ferry) to get to the start of my walk. I’m pretty sure I have never combined all three means of transport in a single section before. I would also begin walking in, what I’ve always referred to as Ardgour, which is actually just one of a number of districts (including Morvern, Ardnamurchan, Sunart and Moidart) that make up a very wild and rugged area of Western Scotland. The area also has a fine collection of mountains, often ignored by the masses, because of the absence of Munro’s.

I park up at the small Locheilside station. A brief respite in the rain allows me to rearrange the my half-dis-assembled tent and also to find some clothes that are not already soaking. I catch the 7:00 train from Mallaig into Fort William and then walk the short distance to the bus stop where I catch the 7:50 #44 bus to Corran Ferry. At Corran Ferry I utilise the frequent ferry service across Loch Linnhe to Ardgour. The ferry is run by the Highland council and is free to foot passengers and pedal cycles.

At Ardgour I begin the long walk north along the A861 single-track road which hugs the Loch Linnhe shoreline. For almost 30 minutes there is no rain and I begin to think I could be in for a dry spell. Wrong! It starts to rain incessantly for the next 5 hours. Even though the weather could be better, I enjoy the peace and quiet of the road where I can relax and think without having to jump onto the verge every few minutes. As I approach Fort William from the opposite side of Loch Linnhe, I can see a large cruise ship is docked in the middle of the loch. This is the MS Black Watch, a Fred Olsen owned vessel and currently on a 8 day cruise around the northern tip of Scotland before returning to Leith.

The Corran Ferry heading back across Loch Linnhe
Crushed Rock caused by movement along the Great Glen Fault at Rubha Dearg
Crossing the River Scaddle at Inverscaddle
MS Black Watch at Fort William

At Camasnagaul I pass a small jetty that a passenger ferry service operates across the loch to Fort William. Initially I had planned to make use of this ferry service, but my planning had bypassed this service entirely. I now enter Loch Eil, an eastern extension of Loch Linnhe. I can see and hear the wood processing yard a short distance across the loch at Corpach. As I near the head of Locheil, the rain briefly stops for 10 minutes. However, as I pass under the railway bridge and join the busy A830, normal service is resumed. I have another 2.5 miles of walking along the road to the rail station at Locheilside.

Camasnagaul ferry jetty
Looking across Loch Eil during a brief respite in the rain

On reflection these three days have not been particularly enjoyable, however, this trip was really about clocking up some miles, 60+ of them. It would have been nice to have had some views, but the lasting memory would be of rain…lots of it.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23781

Distance today =   23.5 miles
Total distance =  3063 miles

179. Corran Ferry to Lochielside

I was hoping for better weather today, but unfortunately I did not get it. The forecasted showers simply merged into one long one! Besides the weather I was a bit concerned with the lack of any footpath alongside the A82 for the first 4 miles after Corran Ferry. In the end, although it was very very busy I had a reasonable verge for most of the way. However, there were a couple of sections which required great care, especially as there was no verge and little protection from vehicles passing in both directions. I did think of the extravagancies of certain sections of the NCN 78 along which I walked yesterday which had the path width 4m wide for some distance. The A82 really does need a simple footpath for this section of road.

Anyway, I caught the 7:50 #44 bus from Fort William to Corran Ferry, where I got off the bus and started walking back up the A82. The first 4 miles went quite quick as I was totally focused on getting to the start of the footpath further up the road. Through the vegetation i managed to get the occasional glimpses across Loch Linnhe to Ardgour, although the cloud was well down and it continued to rain. Eventually I reached the footpath and made progress into Fort William itself. I regarded reaching Fort William as one of my milestones and I thought I would celebrate by getting some lunch in Morrison’s cafe. While I was eating my lunch I came up with the idea of getting the train to my destination, Locheilside station, and then walking back to Fort William. This meant that I would not have to wait about 1.5hrs at Locheilside for a train back to Fort William. As luck would have it a train was leaving for Mallaig in 30 minutes, plenty of time to finish my lunch. The train was packed with tourists, standing room only.

The A82 – at one of its quieter moments
Approaching Fort William

I informed the guard that I needed to get off at Locheilside, as this is a request stop. The walk back along the busy A830, in the rain was just one long verg-hopping exercise. Although almost as busy as the A82, the traffic on the A830 was far faster because the road had a number of long straights. It was a relief to reach Corpach, which meant a footpath and getting onto quieter roads after crossing the railway tracks and Caledonian Canal. I was looking forward to walking over the recently refurbished Soldiers Bridge, which runs adjacent to the railway bridge as they cross the River Lochy. I finished the walk back in Fort William.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23780

Locheilside Station
The large wood processing yard at Corpach – the destination of many of the logging trucks
The basin of the Caledonian Canal at Corpach
The Soldiers Bridge crossing the River Lochy at Caol
The Jacobite on it’s return journey from Mallaig

Distance today =  20 miles
Total distance =  3039.5 miles

 

 

 

 

178. Corran Ferry to Appin

Even though my planned three days promised rain each day, I simply had to put some miles on the clock as I have found that if you don’t keep the ball rolling it is always difficult to start again. My first day would have to be done in reverse as the bus timetables did not work in my favour and I would have begun walking very late in the day. Today was also the return to school for most of the children in Scotland. This meant, potentially, more bus services but there were local variations so I stuck with doing the walk in reverse.

Today would also see me leaving Argyll & Bute and passing into Lochaber, which is part of the greater Highland region. I will be in this region for some considerable time to come. The vast majority of the next three days will be cycle path and road walking, principally walking around Loch Linnhe and Locheil.

I drove to Appin and parked in the large community car park in the village. The bus stop was close-by and I caught the 10:03 #918 bus to Corran Ferry. When I got off the bus at Corran Ferry I immediately donned my water-proofs. The rain had not started yet, but when it did it would be in for the rest of the day. I began walking down the very busy A82. The cycle path with its large green stripe to demarcate the footpath from the road was quite generous and gave some reassurance. Just as I entered North Ballachulish the rain started, it was not a deluge just incessant. By the time I crossed the Ballachulish Bridge the visibility was very poor and it was difficult to see any of the high peaks around Glencoe. I crossed over the bridge admiring its solid box structure. I had driven over this bridge hundreds of times previously, but had never got a close look. At the southern side of the bridge and set back slightly from the road is a memorial  to the wrongly convicted and executed James Stewart (James of the Glen). On this spot in 1752, James of the Glen was hung for the so-called Appin Murder of Colin Campbell.

Amusing hay bales at Onich
Approaching the Balachulish Bridge

I descended some steps and joined the A828 next to the Ballachulish Hotel. I walked along the road a short distance and then re-joined the NCN78 which followed the route of the old Ballachulish Branch railway line which closed in 1966. With the vegetation and mist, it was difficult to pick out any views at all as the rain continued to fall. I passed through the village of Kentallen and managed to find a location for an igneous rock called Kentallenite (an olivine Monzonite) which is a type locality for the rock. It was quite difficult to see the pronounced minerals on the lichen covered rock. The NCN78 cycle-way criss-crosses the road a number of times until just south of Duror, here it dumps you back on the main road and for 2 miles you fend for yourself. I verge-hop for the 2 miles until the NCN re-appears. I pass quite close to the unique Castle Stalker prominent on its tiny island and then shortly through the old Appin Station with both platforms still in evidence. I finish the walk and drive north to set up my tent at a packed Glen Nevis campsite. Hopefully, tomorrow I will get just a few rain showers?

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23778

 

The memorial to James of the Glen
On the old Ballachulish branch line
Water tank at Kentallen
Kentallenite outcrop at Kentallen
Lagnaha camp site, where I camped previously
Amusing wood-art near Duror
Yes that is rain falling!
The northern island of Shuna across Loch Linnhe
Castle Stalker
The Jubilee Bridge at Appin

Distance today =  19 miles
Total distance =  3019.5 miles