Walking the Cliffs at Stanage

Last day of my time off work so Clare and myself set off for the longest inland cliffs in the UK – Stanage in the Peak District.

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Weather was hot so Stanage was a good choice for a hike, as you can get excellent views of Man Tor, Win Hill and Kinder Scout without much of a climb.  My fitness needs some work so I was grateful for as little ‘up’ as possible, especially in the summer heat.

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Stanage is a gritstone cliff, couple of miles long, and as such is a Mecca for climbers from all over the world. This day was no exception with bodies clinging to the rock almost everywhere we went. We used to take our boys climbing here years ago and no matter how busy it was you could always find a climb – as long as you didn’t mind a bit of a walk to get to it.

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We would take a picnic and spend the day taking turns to climb the easier grades – good times, I’m tempted to dig out the gear and start again.

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The walking was easy and the breeze took the edge off the sun so we had a great time strolling along the cliff edges and taking in the views.

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We passed climbers and walkers and a couple of fell runners too. We even spotted one guy running backwards and forwards along a lower path. Watching him from above we wondered what he was doing. He’d run fifty yards and then turn back and run not quite to were he started, gradually progressing but covering the same ground several times over. Eventually we spotted a girl plodding along behind him. It must have been his girlfriend and she wasn’t quite as fit as him so he would run off and then turn back every so often so she wouldn’t feel abandoned – he knows how to show a girl a good time eh?

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Great weather, great walk and just the kick I needed to start working on my hill fitness.


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Manchester Pub Crawl No2

After the success of our Manchester Pub Crawl, the current Mrs Hughes had felt left out so last Friday we arranged another.

Clare and myself travelled to Manchester on the bus and started at the Sinclair’s Oyster Bar. The rules are that you must have one drink at each pub, last time Mark and myself managed six – not that we we’re trying to beat that of course. That would be stupid!

Sinclair’s was cheap but hammered as it was Friday afternoon and sunny, so the crowds were out.

Pub No 2 was next door – the Wellington, where I had a pint of Monty Python beer – quite apt as we were booked to see the (almost) live show at the Cornerhouse later in the week.

We then looked on my smartphone for pub number 3, which was the Ape and Apple. Once there we called my Dad who joined us – nice to have an expert guide. I liked the Ape and Apple, it was bright and breezy and reasonably priced.

Pub number 4 was my Dad’s suggestion, the Seven Oaks – so much for expert guide. This pub was small, dingy, expensive and the girl behind the bar looked annoyed at having to serve people. We were also sat under a huge screen showing the Golf. Onto number 5.

The Circus. This is supposedly the smallest pub in Britain with a bar that is barely three feet across (though they do have a couple of side rooms). This was nice, we met some interesting people and had a good time. One guy was asking if we knew anything about the Shakespeare book shop in Paris – I must have that look.


Pub number 6 was my suggestion – the Port Street Beer House. I’d visited this on the last crawl and saw you could get thirds of a pint tasters.


We selected four ‘thirds’ to share, including a spicy chilli beer matured in cognac barrels. Everyone enjoyed this one and we walked on to pub number 7, the Lass O’ Gowrie.

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This pub had recently been renovated and was lovely, in fact we decided to stop here and sit out on the balcony over the River Medlock to finish.


We met some nice people, had a chat, and finally called it a day, getting the bus home before all the clubbers came out to claim the streets.


Great day out, bit of a hangover the next day though.



Kayaking on Windermere

Yesterday Clare and myself dug out all the kayaking gear and set off for the beautiful Lake District.

After strapping our two kayaks to the roof of our little Skoda Roomster we set off for Fell Foot Park at the southern end of Windermere. From where we live it’s only and hour and a half drive and we’ve been here before, so we knew it was a good place to get on the water.

When we arrived though, we were shocked at how many people were there. The lakeside looked more like a mediterranean beach with crowds of people, either sprawled out on towels and deck chairs or splashing about in the water.  You can’t blame them really, it was great weather and a beautiful spot, but it took us a while to work out the best place to launch the boats without taking out gangs of paddling toddlers in the process – always causes a fuss I’ve found.

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Once on the water we carefully navigated our way through the swimmers and inflatable dinghies to get out into open water. Gradually the sound of shouting children subsided as we followed the western shoreline up the lake, until all was quiet except for the sound of the occasional seagull or goose.

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The wind was very low so paddling was easy and we even kept up with a few yachts, who were struggling to make headway, until the lake opened up a bit and they managed to catch a breeze. Our kayaks are technically tourers so they are a bit longer and easier for distances. They aren’t very manoeuvrable, so you wouldn’t want to use them on a fast-flowing river, but they’re great for cruising along a big lake like Windermere.

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Beautiful scenery was all around us and we passed by some stunning houses and boathouses, most with big signs saying ‘private’ and ‘no landing’, but they couldn’t stop us ogling their back gardens – so there!

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We dodged various yachts and the big steamers, riding the wakes as they lifted us up as they passed,  and were even buzzed by RAF Hawk jets low flying down the valley, the roar of their engines struggling to catch up with them as they flashed overhead.

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We stumbled onto a tiny island for lunch and then cut across the lake with a bunch of teenagers paddling open canoes before heading back down the eastern side. Roughly eight kilometres in total.

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Back at Fell Foot we loaded up the gear and then went back to join the masses for a swim in the lake. The water was warm (after the initial shock) and the feeling of floating in the sunshine while tired muscles slowly relaxed was wonderful.

Quick change of clothes in the car park, doing the usual squirming routine with a towel clutched round you while you try to peel your wet trunks down and not expose yourself to the passing families – I have to admit that I’m almost at the point where I don’t care actually. If they want to look, that’s their problem, but the thought of being arrested does hold me back.

Into the car and we were off back home.

Stopping for supplies at a petrol station we were told that two lorries had had an accident on the M6 and our route home was blocked while they resurfaced the motorway. We cut through the North Yorkshire dales instead, which added to our journey but was at least a very scenic route. We later heard that some people had been stuck on the M6 until that night, so we dodged a bullet there I think.

Overall, a great little adventure. Loading up the gear that morning, I had contemplated selling the kayaks but we both agreed, we need to make more use of them, so watch this space.


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Cracking the Code

Here’s a short post on the release of our short film, ‘Cracking the Code’.

Shining Tor

Our new short film, ‘Cracking the Code’, is finally out and I think it’s one of our best.

I wrote this as part of an on-going project with fellow writer Ash Jones, to try and come up with a series of short comedies that might work better online than the longer stuff we had been doing. Ideally we were aiming at two minutes but this comes in at just over three and a half (but that includes the credits so I’m still claiming victory!).

It’s up to you to decide whether it’s funny or not?

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/100841715″>Cracking the Code</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/shiningtor”>Shining Tor Productions</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Let me know what you think?

We’d like to generate as many views as possible so please share the film with all your friends and anyone you think might be interested.

Many thanks to Barry, Kevin, Joe, Clare and Elliott for all your…

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Dinosaurs and Spaceships in London

Today I took the train to London to visit the Natural History Museum, along with Lady Hughes and number two son Elliott.

Beautiful sunny day and once we’d found some seats on the busy train we settled down and enjoyed the trip. There’s something deeply satisfying about finding someone who has spread their bags over three empty seats so they can have them all to themselves, and asking them to move them so we can squeeze him into a corner.

We got off at Euston and joined the herd on the tube to South Kensington. After travelling on the underground in Singapore, which is a model of sterile efficiency and high-tech cleanliness (much like the rest of Singapore) I am always struck at the shabbiness of the London Underground. I have heard people talk of its ‘character’ and I’m sure it does a wonderful job considering the funding it gets, but it does sometimes look like it’s held together with gaffer tape.

Once at the museum you are immediately impressed by the beautiful Victorian architecture with gothic arches and lots of zoological details like little monkeys carved into the masonry. This really was a temple to the Victorians passion for the study of nature. The greatest profit of them all, Charles Darwin, looks down in life-size statue form over a skeleton of a huge dinosaur and signs to all the evolutionary branches. I think they should add an inscription that says, “ha ha, I told you so”. But I somehow doubt they will.

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We paid a bit extra to visit the special exhibition on mammoths and then we made our way to the mammals hall with its life-size model of blue whale suspended from the ceiling. They’ve had to ask people to stop throwing things from the balcony and we looked down to see the blue whale’s majestic tail peppered with two pence coins – why? Sometimes people’s stupidity still amazes me.

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The museum is great, but there’s only so many stuffed animals you can look at before you get ‘dead animal fatigue’. It was at this moment that we stumbled into the new Darwin Centre and were immediately guided into the Attenborough Theatre. It’s a sort of interactive cinema, with Sir David Attenborough himself taking you through human evolution in roughly thirty minutes, or so. The clever bit is that everyone is given a tablet which interacts with you and the show.

You take a selfie and it’s projected on the main screens, speakers pass things to you on-screen and you can then turn them around and examine them. The best bit though was the augmented reality, where you look through tablet and see various animals, fish, dinosaurs, etc. walking/ swimming around the theatre.

Suitably refreshed we entered the dinosaur hall which looked like it had been spruced up a bit with high level walkways and animatronic raptors snarling at you. It was interesting to hear a few people all saying “do they have a T-Rex?” as if no dinosaur collection in the world was worth anything if it didn’t have the big one from Jurassic park in it. This must be what annoys palaeontologists. They can spend hours explaining the social behaviour of iguanodons only for all the people to dismiss them as they want to see the one that ate the jeep.


Cleverly, the museum kept the animatronic T-Rex till the end just to tick all the boxes and ensure you’d at least walked past the other exhibits.

With only an hour before it closed, we ran round the corner to the Science Museum. A quick sprint round the space exhibits and a play on a machine that helps you see what you’d look like in the opposite gender (thinner) and we are out.


We squeezed back onto the rush hour tube back to Euston just in time for the starters orders for our train back. Usain Bolt would have struggled with this race. As soon as the platform number flashed up on the board I saw all sorts of people break into a desperate sprint to get a table seat, god have mercy on anyone who falls over in front of these people, they would surely be trampled to death.

Anyway, we made it and I write this now, sat with a table seat and a beer watching the English countryside roll past the window.

Until next time fellow adventurers.



Shooting the Police for a Laugh

Shining Tor

Yesterday we shot our ‘Police Investigation’ film (working title).

This will be a short comedy about two police officers discussing a new break in the case they’re working on. We shot the film in the head office of Stockport Homes, who generously allowed us access on a Saturday when no-one else was in. I wanted an open plan office so there was some depth to the location rather than a small room where it might have looked a bit flat.

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Though this is a comedy, we wanted to try and replicate the look of serious television cop shows so we shot handheld for all but one shot and kept the lighting suitably gloomy. We considered copying the Scandinavian police dramas but it was too hot for the knitwear.

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We were lucky enough to have two excellent actors for our coppers – Kevin Harper and Barry McCall. I’ve not…

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