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Whalley Range to Liverpool, Sat 11 Jan 20

Surprisingly warm for quarter past five in the morning in January. A few birds singing.
Bright full moon overhead. Poetically (itself a cliché) I’d say silver, but more white with
greyish patches. Against yesterday evening’s orange/yellow. Fewer vehicles yet so I can
hear further. Are the LED streetlights with their white light more disruptive for birds and
other creatures? More energy efficient, yes. And those I’ve seen more directed
downwards. But closer to daylight than the old orange lights.

The city seems half-abandoned. Hand car washes, bus stops, junctions, shops. Quarter
lemon in the gutter. From someone’s meal perhaps? Condensation trails. Some as gaps
or shadows through thin cloud. Water hissing under the road.

I love knowing I have a day’s walk ahead, today 11 and a half hours. I love to see the
places and distance unfold. I love the changes in light. I love the sense of achievement
when I reach my goal. Last year, although I didn’t leave the UK, which would have
changed the balance, I walked 788 km more than I travelled by any other mode of
transport. 3688 km, despite being barely able to walk for five months thanks to my hernia.

Milkfloat passes. Dry leaf scratches along the ground. Stretford Mall. About two and half
hours before I join the Trans Pennine Trail. 8:30 or thereabouts. Here, Chester Road, of
course is busier than my home streets. But still wide gaps in the traffic. From a digital
roadsign seems I’ll be back in Manchester after the crowds from a football match. There
may be something happening in Liverpool.

Memories of childhood driving home from grandparents outside Nottingham or outside


Leeds. Street lights on motorways and dual carriageways withdrawing behind in
melancholy parades. Never tired. I needed to see and hear everything. Most especially
what adults talked about. I had to know the world, to construct my own sense of it. At
night after going to bed I’d come back down for water, any pretext to sit and listen longer.

Right now I can pay more attention to the names and appearance of shops, to the
rooflines, to the arrangement of elements in the street. Earlier in the week walking to work
nearly thought myself into a panic-attack. I was thinking again of how little I know, of how
every element of everything I see and hear and use every day is like a tiny dot surrounded
by a cloud of language, history, manufacturing processes, physics, supply chains, and so
much more that it becomes just one one letter in just one word in just one sentence in just
one book in a vast library. And even if I could read that book and all the other books I’d
barely understand a word of it. The abstract scale didn’t panic me so much as specifically
trying to unpack just some of the elements in something as seemingly simple as a brick.

The road snaps from retail to residential. Wind and trees shake sounds loose. Tyres hiss
and grumble. A fox or cat crosses the road somewhere ahead. Cross a stream into
Altrincham. De-Quincey Road. At least the second barbers I’ve seen in two days called
Scissorhand.

At least half this walk, maybe more, will be places I’ve walked in the last year. Lighted
staircase winds up apartments behind long windows. Cross another brook. Just after 7
near George Richards Way the first runner of the day. Off the main roads now making my
way to the Trans Pennine Trail eventually. Sell your van here today. Stop to buy new
notebooks and use the toilet at the 24-hour supermarket en-route. Glad it’s open, I
needed it now. If I’d chosen Sunday I’d be out of luck. I’m making good time. A stretch of
dark blue sky behind black purple cloud. Morning’s coming. I prefer it out here to the light
and music of the shop.

I’d forgotten that where the directions said slight right at Seamon’s Road that’s where I
join the Trans Pennine Trail. Just light enough to see my notes. The directions don’t
mention the trail for another hour. Still too dark to make out much at all beyond 10-20
metres. I’m sure there’ll be dog-walkers and cyclists though. Ducks take off and fly. The
first cyclist catches up and passes. Whine of a plane taking off. Now a runner. For the
moment we few have the path and rapidly brightening view to ourselves. The moon’s
dropping and orange again. Hazy through cloud. No sun yet, that’s 15 minutes away. Just
the sounds of wind and birds calling and hints of traffic. A cyclist heads the other way.
Clumps of nests in bare trees.

Wood pigeons clap out of a tree. The first walker. About a quarter of the walk done.
Trees creak. The path less wet than it was last time. Autumn I think. October? A walk to
Warrington and back. The sun should be up now somewhere hidden by clouds. I’d like to
share this with friends. See the day appear, enjoy the walk. I’m not sure how many could
match the distance.

The first dog walkers. When I checked before leaving it was forecast cloudy and rain
later, after 6, about the time I get back to Manchester. Also while I’m out I should have a
lavalier mic delivered, which should connect to my laptop and work, and be easy to use
with my smartphone. And that ought to improve the sound quality of my streamed vocal
improvs and the recorded accounts of walks. Last year’s dried out giant hogweed by a
slowly collapsing wooden shed. Rustle of probably a blackbird in leaf litter under trees.
Sheep graze. Magpies craa and grunt. Almost completely day-sky now.

Lymm. Rush Green Road. More people now enjoying the path. Hypnotic and calming to
walk distance. Much more vivid than dreaming. In the night I cramped my right calf
painfully. But it’s caused so little trouble I haven’t thought about it until three and a half
hours into the walk. Another hour until I leave the trail.

<Hoo hoo hoo-hoo. Hoo hoo. Hoo. Hoo-hoo.>

Squirrel shakes its tail. Where do they shit? What does it look like? If it were possible to
walk forever I would. Start and never stop. No destination, no goal in mind. Just walk and
never stop. Wren and robin on the path ahead. Ranger Service. Warrington 8 km away. I
think I leave the trail before then. About another 50 minutes. Ivy, holly, three blackbirds in
a bush, beaks bright. A union flag. I’m not a fan. I find the flag of St George more
threatening. More associated with nationalists, fascists, violent thugs. Years ago someone
I knew at primary school added me on social media. One day they posted a fake, easily
debunked, anti-Islamic post. I politely pointed out it wasn’t true and they got huffy. They’d
shared it from their partner’s timeline and THEY weren’t racist. I refrained from pointing
out their profile picture literally showed them at a National Front concert. I unfriended
them.

Some of the clouds look like eventual rain. It is Warrington where I leave the trail. So
either I’ve slowed or the distance marker was wrong. Unless it was kilometres which I
read as miles and converted unnecessarily. And I think that’s what I did. No. Another sign,
it is miles. But I think the distances are very approximate. Anyway, I’ve plenty of time. Dog
races from exploring the path edge to catch up with its human. Cyclists stop and take up
all the path ahead. And continue to do so as they start again. Ah, okay, the signs are for
Warrington centre but the trail breaks at Thelwall and I’m still slightly ahead of time.

Under a tall brick railway bridge over the road and the ship canal to my right. A much
lower bridge ahead, which I think is where I cross. I’m in the unfamiliar only four and a half
hours in. Usually I cross at the locks. Yes, this is Knutsford Road. High Expectations /
High Aspirations / High Standards / You Will Succeed. Red Route. 45 Casualties. I dunno,
maybe limit people’s speed?

I think it’s largely urbs, suburbs and industrial developments from here. So lots of traffic,
but I should be okay for footways the next six and a half hours. Of course I’m likely wildly
wrong. River Mersey Flood Defences. Howley Weir. Stand for three plant pots shaped like
a half-sized penny-farthing. A statue of Oliver Cromwell. Signs now for Liverpool. For
drivers at least. Brutalist building next to Georgian houses. Some fine red brick Victorian
towers on a building ahead, probably a hotel originally. A three storey terrace. Not a hotel,
but some civic building. A police station now, and possibly always that. Warrington Bank
Quay Station.

For a moment thought I’d lost the road, but no we’re still good. At the next roundabout
as usual the walking directions count the exits counterclockwise as though we drive on
the right. Sankey Canal and Sankey Valley Park. 11 o’clock. Halfway there. Time for my
first bit of lunch. Some scatterings of light rain.

Beautiful chimneys on a terrace from, I don’t know, the 1930s? Looks like a town or
village swallowed by urban sprawl. Perhaps still not far from open country. It’s Cheshire
so of course no hills and a wide sky. And of course wide busy roads with no provision for
cyclists. But I guess that’s everywhere in this country. Molly Blooms The Florist. Long time
since I read Ulysses.

Trailer in a field with well established grass growing over whatever its load is. Manure I’d
guess. Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. I saw the lights when I joined the Trans Pennine Trail
several hours ago, but wasn’t sure I was right. Boarding Kennels and Cattery. Santa hat
on the path. Cooling towers left. Wide arable field right. Numbers counting up on
streetlights, 166, 168, 170. Small wooden bus shelter. Spice of India Restaurant. Cuerdley
Cross. Collapsed round bale with grass and other plants growing on it. Street lighting
switched off midnight-6 am. Halton Borough Council Welcome to Widnes. Mersey
Multimodal Gateway.

Did miss a turn in the last half hour, but easy to rejoin the route. Right, then up this road
to the A5080. I don’t mind passing so close to Fiddlers Ferry and now this quiet
residential street. And I do have time to play with. The Bongs. BYK Additives and
Instruments. Dancing moiré patterns from two grilled panels on bus shelter. Back on
track. Flock of pigeons. Brown strands of trees in green field with dry yellow grass in
places. Cloudy sky. Cloudy stream.

Lovely garden walls with arched brick tops. Church View Inn. I think the church you
view is the inn itself. Two large dogs, malamutes? Cronton. Far to my left I think is
Ellesmere Port. Not sure if what I saw on the horizon before trees and houses buried it
was Liverpool or not. It seemed a little too close. But then I figure on walking an hour or
two through the city’s outskirts, so maybe. Extremely slim footpath. Sun on my face
briefly. Bonfire in a farmhouse garden. Could do with a piss right about now. Not quite
holding myself and doing the pee dance but close.

The footway ends on this side, but picks up again across the road. Still too narrow. This
road is shit and dangerous. Which is a regular complaint I have on these walks. Our
infrastructure is actively hostile to walkers and cyclists and horse-riders. Which is good
enough reason to keep off-road vehicles for leisure away from from tracks and paths in
national parks. I’d like to see smaller cars, lower speed limits everywhere except
motorways, wholly pedestrianised centres to cities and larger towns, and transport
recentred around rail, water where possible, public transport and pedestrians, cyclists
and horses. Make our roads safe.

Distinctly russet coloured raptor rises and drifts over the road. Ignore the Footpath
Closed sign immediately since there’s nowhere safe to cross. But eventually have to. At
least it’s away from the motorway access approach. How about some lights you pricks?
Only just after two, but definitely on the approach to Liverpool now. Huyton. This bit at
least very suburban. Clouds lifting and breaking a little. A reply tweet from one of my
brothers reminds me I hope to walk to Skipton in summer.

Italian restaurant in a former petrol station, complete with canopy. Collapsed wall where
it looks like a truck smashed into it. Perhaps the first noticeable climb of the day. House
with red and yellow alternating bricks and a veranda. Red sandstone building. Wall green
with mosses and lichens. Low door in curved wall. Bowring Park. Over another motorway,
then the road hoops alongside it, large artificial bank between. Meiji Back and Neck Pain
Clinic. Polite Notice Please Refrain from Climbing Over the Wall.

Five past three. The street name signs say City of Liverpool L16. Still an hour and three
quarters left but I’ve made it. I’m here. Just a stroll through the city from edge to centre
and Lime Street Station. Cat watches from bay window. Neat houses, yards and gardens.
Clean streets. A flag celebrating a Liverpool cup win I don’t care enough to note down. I
think a European title, I’m sure it mentioned Madrid.

Like all cities frequently impossible to follow a sensible line anywhere. Soon enough I’ll
put the directions away to follow landmarks and roadsigns. I already have a sense of
where I’m going. Kids playing with sticks and cans. Police car passes. Gulls calling
overhead. Self storage place. This is clearly a city approach from the tourism banners
down the centre of the dual carriageway. Car dealerships, B&Q. Most cars have their
lights on now. Sign for the city centre. Liverpool Shopping Park and inevitable traffic. With
fast food places to sit down, takeaway or drive thru. A bleak looking Travelodge. Liverpool
Innovation Park. No bins. Innovation Boulevard. Huge derelict Littlewoods building by
Wavertree Botanic Gardens.

Former church now a Hindu Cultural Association. Mister Van Man. Student
accommodation in an impressive red sandstone former church. St Cyprian’s. Hire cycle
docking station. I think there are none in Manchester since the dockless cycle experiment
failed. Too much damage, too many losses. Developments. Empty plots. Sunset’s been
and the light’s going.

Apparently it’s possible for a building to be covered in patronising, infantilising cladding.


Past university buildings. And finally a bin! Now this is starting to look more central.
Should be signs for the station soon. I think I know this street. I may be close. Shops and
bars illuminated. And yes, left here and a couple hundred metres to the station. Got here
in 11 hours 20. An hour to my train, so take a quick walk to find a coffee. Or as quick as
shoulder to shoulder crowds allow. Got one and got back to the platform with half an hour
to wait. The train’s here but dark. There are a lot of stops but it’ll still only be an hour, then
a walk home.

I’ll end here after a quick review. This walk was planned for last summer, then added to
the list for this year. But after Hebden Bridge I wanted to really stretch out, and Liverpool
was an obvious candidate. I knew if I set off around 5 or a bit earlier I could get there
before it was fully dark. This was working from a selected route from Google Maps rather
than planning my own route, which I didn’t have time for. Preparation - making a packed
lunch, getting my bag and coat ready - took no time. Then all I needed was to set my
alarm, get up, clean my teeth and go.

Right from the start it was a warm day, especially once I’d been walking for a while. The
walk to Altrincham was nice and quiet. But my favourite parts of the walk were joining the
Trans Pennine Trail just before sunrise and seeing the light come up and the world open
out. And then continuing on the trail to Warrington. After that there’s less to differentiate
one place from another. There’s Fiddlers Ferry of course, Ellesmere Port away to my left.
Some wonderful old buildings in and around Warrington. And then reaching Liverpool and
following a city approach right to the Walker Art Gallery.

Although it was never sunny it was a nice warm day for January, even though it was
often windy. The rain held off and except for a stretch the footways were pretty good. I
made the trip in less time than predicted and still had time for a coffee and to sit on the
platform.

And I love to walk the day. To see the sun rise and fall, to cover a long distance (just shy
of 54 km) and pass through places familiar and unfamiliar. To see landscape, architecture
and building materials change. The sense of accomplishment, the exercise. As I’ve said
before, beginning to flesh out and expand my mental map. It has tendrils now to
Blackburn, Burnley, Hebden Bridge, Runcorn, Wigan, Huddersfield, Liverpool, all the way
(in four walks) from Kendal to Crewe, and more I’ve forgotten at present. Every walk
makes me more confident and more ambitious. Bring on summer and the longer walks.

Thanks for listening and watch out for the next walk.