Sue and Martin's Christmas 2011 letter
December 2011

Regular readers of our ‘Postcards from Timperley’ will be aware that we have enjoyed a fairly active year.  For those (the vast majority) who can’t or aren’t inclined to keep up with Martin’s frequent ramblings on those pages, but may be curious out of passing interest, here’s a brief summary of our year.

Sue’s neck problem turns out to be as likely to be muscular as disc related, and her condition has improved considerably during the year, facilitating some ‘hut to hut’ or B&B trips, albeit reliant on Martin carrying most of the load.  Even more are planned for 2012.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the arrival of Jacob, Martin’s first grandchild, on 23 April.  He looked like Gollum, but happily has mutated into the smiley youth pictured here in October whilst waiting for his mum and grandad to complete a 5 kilometre Parkrun.

Jacob Milnes - age 6 months
Sue in Gatineau Park

January was spent mainly in Timperley, but finished with our annual visit to Ken and Helen in Ottawa, where the snow was good for cross country skiing, albeit not at its absolute best.  We are leaving the trip until February in 2012, which may be just as well as we currently seem to have more snow at home than they do in Ottawa.

February saw us back in the UK, returning from Canada’s monochromatic winter with blue skies to the greens and browns of home, with grey skies.  Lots of mud was washed down the sink after each excursion, so far as I can recall, but weekly visits to Dunham Massey’s Winter Garden were a pleasure.

Dunham Park - Winter Garden
Wolfgang joins us in the Peak District - Left to Right: Martin, Viv, Sue, JJ, Rick, Wolfgang

In March we geared up for the rest of the year, with Wolfgang visiting from Austria, several visits to the Lake District, a splendid TGO Challenge reunion at the Snake Inn, and Martin’s continuing enjoyment of some gentle strolls with some of the more ancient members of East Lancashire’s ‘Long Distance Walkers’ – known as the ‘Plodders’.

Summer arrived in April.  Martin was joined by Robert, Alastair and Steve to make up a team of four for the Calderdale Hike, a ‘Challenge’ walk – no running allowed.  They finished the 27 mile route, with over 5000 feet ascent in about 7½ hours, far ahead of the youthful opposition, gaining a ‘magnificent trophy’ that Sue will be pleased to see returned to the organisers before next year’s event [Ed: Actually it is very nice, but it does add to the things I have to dust!].  That was followed by a backpack in the Lake District when Martin was joined by an old school friend who became known as ‘Poor Michael’, largely because he hadn’t done much backpacking in the 40 years since they left school, whereas Martin had done quite a bit.  Anyway, on this trip they enjoyed some relatively short days in that ‘Summer in the Lake District’.

At the end of the Calderdale Hike - Steve, Martin, Robert and Alastair Mike Pope on a Lake District backpack

Then Jacob was born, a month early, whilst we were en route to Mallorca for a week of walking and cycling with Robert and Lyn, Martin’s old friends from UMIST days.

Sue in Mallorca
Wild camping on the TGO Challenge, near Dalwhinnie, with Mike and Stefan

May was dominated, for Martin, by his 5th TGO Challenge walk across Scotland, together with ‘Poor Michael’.  Their 220 mile walk from Oban to a beach near St Cyrus (near Montrose) involved about 40,000 feet of ascent – a bit less for ‘Poor Michael’, as at times he was able to take a lower route and avoid some of the slightly more inclement weather that Martin encountered higher up.  Immediately after returning from this trip, we both shot off with Andrew to meet the South West Coast Path team for the penultimate section of the 630 mile route that we have been completing in small sections over a good many years.  We look forward to finishing this ‘trip’ in Poole next year.

In June, most of Sue’s part time job at the NHS drew to a temporary close as the NHS in Manchester lost the ability to settle her bills.  Payment was eventually made in September, though the NHS in Liverpool took a pride in settling the accounts for the work she did there more or less immediately.  Meanwhile Martin took a stroll along the Dales High Way – 100 miles from Saltaire to Appleby – with Andrew, enjoying short days, fine dining, and excellent accommodation.

Roger and Jacky joined Andrew and Martin for a day in the Dales - here approaching Malham Cove, before watching the Peregrine Falcons
Sue on an iceberg in the Maritime Alps

The Maritime Alps beckoned in July.  This is one of our favourite areas of the Alps, and very easy to get to thanks to EasyJet’s services to Nice.  Susan, our friend from Connecticut, joined us for most of this stunning ten day adventure, backpacking from hut to hut (Sue with her bum bag, of course).

Whilst Sue spent August in a neighbour’s garden (a long story, Martin thinks she is training to be a market gardener, and the final tomatoes have only just been harvested), Martin packed his ice axe and crampons and headed off to the Alps again, this time to complete a long desired trek – the glacier route from Chamonix to Zermatt.  Brilliant, including the ascent of some fairly high peaks, and rounded off with a tour of Geneva’s United Nations HQ, courtesy of cousin Alistair.

Avoiding crevasses in the Alps Alpine reflections near Cabane de Chanrion

We were off again in September, this time to Turkey’s High Taurus Mountains and Cappadocia, on a trip organised by KE Adventure Travel.  Connecticut Susan and husband Roy joined us, as did other TGO Challengers who had booked on the trip, this being the TGO Magazine ‘Readers Trip’.  It was excellent, involving a week’s trekking through interesting landscapes, followed by a few days in Cappadocia exploring the ancient cave dwellings, underground cities, and in Sue’s case enjoying a vertiginous ride in what some call the ‘Ballooning capital of the World’.

Sue goes ballooning in Cappadocia
A view from Funchal

By September Sue had managed to resolve the issue of ‘How to get paid by the NHS’ and had enrolled with an agency who the NHS in Manchester seem happy to use as an intermediary for payment.  This of course costs them rather more than paying Sue direct, and leaves Sue with rather less reward for her work.  Baffling! Anyway, her six month full time contract will keep her busy until the end of March, so apart from short trips to Scotland, and a few other minor indulgencies we have had to content ourselves with a week in a nice hotel in Madeira as our only significant trip in the last quarter of the year.  We were joined there by Mick and Gayle for a very relaxing break.

Meanwhile grandson Jacob is growing fast, and his mum has been getting back into trim by doing 5km ‘Parkruns’ in Oldham every Saturday morning.  Martin has joined her on the runs, whilst Sue takes care of Jacob.  Back in Northern Moor (just round the corner from Timperley), Martin’s son Mike continues to teach guitar students from home and play gigs in various bands at weekends, all the time slowly progressing with the redecoration of his house, with a bit of help from his dad when time permits…

This all sounds rather over-indulgent, but Sue has actually done quite a bit of work this year, and Martin has provided assistance and guidance for others planning their own trips, as well as getting filthy at Mike’s house from time to time.  Whilst we have been saddened by the faltering health or circumstances of a number of friends and relatives, and wish them better times in 2012, we can report that Sue's parents and Martin's 86 year old mum are all in fine form and will be enjoying Christmas with us. Who knows what sort of state they'll be in after that?

Please feel free to keep in touch with us next year by visiting the ‘blog’ at – comments are always welcome.

Happy Christmas!

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