Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wandering through Cheshire

Chester - B&W Houses

At last I am back again!

I have been silent for quite a long time. I usually set out for a long distance walk two times a year. Sadly, because various illnesses, I haven't been able to walk since Spring 2009.

A new (for me) way of walking

This last stroll has been quite different from the previous ones (note, by the way, the term "wandering" of the title): I have tried to shift the focus from the goal to the action or, better still, as the father of backpacking says:

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. [R.L. Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes].

In the previous hikes the end of the trail was my goal and, moreover, I was obliged to stick to the planned legs, being bound to the accommodations booked long time before.

In the end, I have found that that approach spoils somehow the pleasure of walking. So I decided that, first of all, I should get rid of the reservations constraint. Therefore I changed my gear in order to be able to camp anytime I couldn't or wouldn't spend the night at some accommodation.

I was determined, if not to camp out, at least to have the means of camping out in my possession; for there is nothing more harassing to an easy mind than the necessity of reaching shelter by dusk, and the hospitality of a village inn is not always to be reckoned sure by those who trudge on foot. [R.L. Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes].

Apart from the night I arrived from Italy, I didn't book any accommodation at all. So, I was able to change my route or to finish the leg as the whim took me.

In fact, I camped only once; the other ones I found some kind of accommodation.

The Gear

Obviously, this change of method and my quest for lightness, have driven me to modify my gear.


Following the multifunctional ultralight approach, I didn't choose a tent (regardless of its lightness) but something that could also work as a waterproof: a cape-tent.
Gatewood Cape set up as a tent
Gatewood Cape set up as a cape
As the photos show I used the Gatewood Cape by Six Moon Designs which works as a tent and a rainproof cape as well, for less than 400 grams, pole and stakes included.
It resisted the rain but a lot of condensation during the night; I need to learn staking the front line for better ventilation.
On the whole I am happy with this gear and I will continue to use it.

Sleeping bag

I wanted to find something lighter than a traditional sleeping bag so I used Thermo-Lite 2.0 Bivy Sack by Adventure Medical Kits.
Very light (190 g.) but too much condensation. At 4 p.m. I was nearly wet.
So, for 265 g. more, I will shift to HighLite Sleeping Bag by Western Mountaineering (already ordered) rated to 2° C.
For summer and not mountain hikes, I will balance the weight dropping the second fleece I carried for sleeping.

Sleeping mat

I used Z-Lite, a closed-cell foam accordion-plying sleeping mat by Thermarest.
It provided also a back stiffener for JAM 2 rucksack by GoLite, which I had stripped of its back foam.
I am very happy with this mat: comfortable and incredibly isolating (even laid directly on damp forest ground).


During the last two hikes (Pennines Way and South Downs Way) I wore mid Lowa Renegade boots. Absolutely waterproof and breathable but a bit too heavy (550 g. each).
So this time I used a lighter footwear (trail runner): Rocklite 318 GTX; very light (318 g. each), comfortable, high cushioning but less waterproof and breathable than Lowa Renegade.
I will nonetheless continue to use them unless hiking very wet tracks like Pennines or Scotland where I will put on Lowa again.


Waking up after a night in the cold and damp, one needs some warm beverage in order to get in good mood.
So, I carried a very light mug (Tibetan Titanium), solid fuel tablets and instant coffee. A rewarding weight: never enjoyed a hot coffee so much!

Short description of the hike

16 July 2010

S.U. Canal - Chester
From Chester to Bulkeley Hill, firstly along the Shropshire Union Canal then along the Sandstone Trail (23 km).

17 July 2010

From the Sandstone Trail
From Bulkeley Hill to Whitchurch, along the Sandstone Trail (20,5 km).

18 July 2010

Stuck in hotel (Whitchurch) waiting footwear and garments to dry!
I took a short-cutting footpath from the Sandstone Trail to Whitchrch, that, before getting to the town, ended in man high nettles and other weeds. There I fell head first into a knee deep dark slimy water of a ditch I hadn't seen because the tangle of weeds. I lost my glasses and I got to the town (trespassing a farm) all black smeared; a sort of alarming scarecrow! Luckily I found at once a basic hotel the landlord of which didn't fuss about my look.

19 July 2010

From Nantwhich (got there by train) to Winsford along the Weaver Way (24 km).

20 July 2010

FromWinsford to Northwich via Weaver Way (12 km).
From Northwhich to Delamere by bus.
Delamere Forest
From Delamere to Frodsham along the Sandstone Trail (14 km).


Honestly, the excitement of this hike came especially from the new approach (see above).
Delamere Forest is gorgeous, unfortunately I walked it under unrelenting heavy rain.
Canals are very interesting (locks, manoeuvring, etc.) and often quite lovely but, in the long run, they tend to be slightly monotonous.
Weaver Navigation between Northwich and Winsford is lovely but one must walk some miles in the ugly works area of the latter town.
Chester and Nantwich are pretty nice; the other towns I have seen in the county are colourless and, sometimes, even a little bleak. I think it depends of lack of old history or de-industrialization.
Lastly, with the exception of Chester, accommodation and refreshment along the trails are rather scanty.

1 comment:

adult walkers said...

Chester is a wonderful place to go walking, I regularly walk the city walls, it'a a lovely way to spend a quiet Sunday. Hope you were able to take in all the sights when you visited.


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