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Monday, 13 March 2017

Tree Planting at Tow Law and Reccying a Walk

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On Saturday me and Dawn (LTD stayed in his pit on Saturday) spent much of the day digging holes, inserting oak and rowan saplings and cosying them all up with plastic tree guards. This was part of a project organised by Durham Wildlife Trust and Wolsingham Parish Council, replacing an old conifer plantation with native deciduous trees and shrubs. The small plantation is on an old quarry site on a  hill-edge with big views of Weardale. We kept digging up green-coloured clinker and the odd half brick and, apparently, this was due to theold quarry being filled with waste from the local steel foundries.

There were lots of volunteers and many trees were planted but as the rain started and some scouts had pinched our lump hammer (for driving in the stakes), we called it a day and repaired to knipetowers to drink tea.

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On Sunday, it was time to reccy the third of my new(ish) summer programme Durham County Council guided walks – the one which starts at Baybridge and wanders apparently fairly aimlessly around local gills, pastures and moors. In fact, it’s an old route with a new start, mainly aimed at avoiding a really steep and slippery descent which is probably a bit risky for many of the DCC guided walks punters. The new route is a bit more interesting anyway and it has the added bonus of more contours, thus helping with anybody’s slimming plans or for hardening up their thigh muscles for proper walks in the Lake District.

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We  (me, LTD and Dawn) managed to time the first half of the walk with a fine, sunny spring day with sunshine that had hints of warmth. After that it clouded up and drizzled a bit.

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The route is fine, though, although I had to report FP no. 1 in the parish of Hunstanworth as blocked by fallen trees. A quick whizz-through with a chainsaw ought to sort it out, I would have thought.

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It’s ten miles and the walk starts at Baybridge Pickernick Site at 10:00 on 15 April at a bargain cost of just £4. Bring butties and a drink. I’ll have to reccy it again about a week before and hopefully somebody will have been busy with their little saws and the sheep will have had their lambs. And so on, and so forth….

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Next thing is to replace the knipemobile which has developed noises, vibrations and annoying messages about the left hand parking light being out. It’s old age. I’ve had it ten years…  I am in contact with Barclays Bank.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Soggy Stuff Near Swindale

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Me and LTD had a little  eleven-mile jolly around the hills just a bit to the left of Swindale (depending on which direction you’re facing).  Parts of the area seem to also go under the name of “Rafland Forest” It’s near Shap.
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These particular hills are specially empty and we saw nobody at all on them. They’re also specially soggy hills too, and, probably not because it rained all night the night before. These fells, therefore, are ideal for anybody who needs a bit of space for themselves, or who likes to sing but can’t, or who enjoys wet socks.
And it was sunny and spring-like and almost warm.
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The purpose of this toddle was to bag three wayward Synges – Langhowe Pike, Rowantree Crag (which has a holly tree pretending to be a rowan), Great Ladstones and Scam Matthew. Other tops are available in the form of a selection of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells and/or several Birketts. There is, in fact, a lot of overlap between all of these hill categories and this just goes to show just how desperate some people are for something to bag [koff]
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Anyway, it was a good walk. Snow on neighbouring fells was seen to diminish significantly during the day and, just to show that spring may well be springing, several small pools were heaving with rampant frogs who seem to be having some kind of party. Strangely silent on the part of skylarks, curlew and lapwings, though.
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Monday, 6 March 2017

Walking The Dogs on Mount Famine/TGO Chally Spring Gathering

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For the past few years, a pattern of behaviour has developed where, on the occasion of the TGO Challenge Spring Gathering, that me and LTD visit Castle Crowther on the Very Edge of Kinder for a little trundle or dog walk up a few juicy Tumps prior to the evening’s jollities back at the Snake Pass Inn which is in Pass…
This year, following coffee and biccies in one of the Castle’s main butteries, me and LTD joined Geoff, Islay, Chrissie and Pebbles for a jaunt or expedition who’s aim was to achieve the very summit of Mount Famine followed by an assault on the Western Cwm of South Head and a bit of a circuit up to the Pennine Way and back in time for scone and more coffee. The deal was, as in the past, that I nominate a couple of hills-wot-I’d-like-to-climb and Geoff and Chrissie come up with a walk that does the job.
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The sun beat down with a UV score of almost 2 (this is where you can get a slight tan after only a few short weeks of exposure) which made a nice change from the day before where it chucked it down all day and, indeed, the following day where it chucked it down as far North as East Leeds  (noted when progressing up the M1 towards home.) (6 degrees C warmer in Co Durham by the way)
Anyway, the walk was exceedingy pleasant and reasonably warm if you got out of the breeze and there was soft, thawing snow and cyclists and illegal wild campers (outrageous, who would do such a thing? [koff]) and I think we did about 8 miles. (I’m willing to be disabused of this assesment by anybody with a GPS or, indeed, a map)
So it was all very nice.
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Meanwhile, back at The Snake, my tent pegs had come out of the mud they were tentavely (see what I did there) stuck in and LTD poddled my sleeping mat and bag with mucky footprints before tea and chewsticks and  after a short snoozette we repaired to the Inn for dinner, which, again, was all very jolly. The camping area was really very soggy with puddles and deep and sticky mud which got everywhere, specially with a dog. Next time, I’ll get meself organised and get a bed.
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Meanwhile, the walk organised specially for TGO challengers and lead by Graham, there’s been a slip and a broken ankle leading to a helicopter rescue, so there was one less for dinner. I did notice too, that much of the conversation over drinkies in the bar, revolved mainly around people’s infirmities – bad knees, hips, legs, shortage of breath and so on and the challenges of being a TGO challenge organisor or long-suffering vetter. Indeed, I had once been told by a vetter who’s name will remain obscure, but who’s initials are “JD”, that my attempts at Gaeilic place names were brave but futile and that my grid references of camping spots were often in places which were more precipitous than level enough for a tent. So, there you are.
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I was supposed to have a walk on the Sunday, but it started raining again just after breakfast, the car  thermo0meter announced that it was just 3.5 C and so, basically, I just couldn’t be arsed. The two hills I had thoughts on won’t be going away soon unless there’s a very sudden accceleration in local techtonic plate activity ( a small quake was noted at the time in Staffordshire, apparently)
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Thanks to Geoff and Chrissie once again for a crackin’ walk and the biccies and scones.
And now, folks, it That Special Time again. Yes, it’s National Pie Week. Just saying. Have a pie, whatever you do. You have a week to organise it. Get some peas as well. And gravy.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Raspberry Tripping - Yorkshire’s Eiger or Matterhorn or Something

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The other day, when the wind from the drifting icebergs just off Newfoundland nithered numbingly over the high Pennines, me and LTD did a well wrapped-up circumnavigation of Wrongberry Trapping, an apparently pointy swelling just a bit to the right of Middlesborough.

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We began, not by assaulting the beetling West Face with it’s crocodile of families, dogs and assorted yoofs, but by heading South for the Very Lovely Cliff Rigg, an interesting little hill sporting both a disused open pit and an SSI. The hole in the top (also known locally as the Elephant Hole) was originally for the digging of a dyke of Whinstone for stone setts. The hole has a little pinnacle which the adventurous may try to climb. Whinstone is volcanic. Just sayin’ so you know. (Whereas Ramberry Splitting is hard sandstone cap protecting softer shales and other rubbish from wearing away)

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We progressed on to a permissive path followijng the line of a tramway built for the nearby ironstone mine (it’s full of geology stuff round here innit?) and then joined the processions of people and their dogs for the bagging of Great Ayton Moor. Great Ayton Moor is a rough and heathery grouse moor on which dogs are apparently not welcome. We tried to follow a right of way to the top, but its pretty much impossible to follow the exact line. The top has a standing stone with 1927-dated graffiti and some older marking which are obscure. LTD cocked his leg on the markings to indicate his opinion of them.

And then, by a roundabout route, we finally climbed Blackberry Prodding by the stone-setted zig-zag route round the back. It looks hard from a distance but, in fact, it’s only 90 metres and the top is soon acheived just by keeping plodding uphill

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The summit was windy of the type of windiness that makes it hard to stand up or, indeed , to spark up a Benson and Hedges and it was also occupied by large numbers of wind-blown walkers, children and dogs some of whom were really enjoying having their hair disarranged by the elements and some of whom were a bit nervous.

We descended the steep side, accompanied by budding juvenile mountaineers who were using traditional methods of descent – aux gluteus and/or running hell-for-leather without being able to stop. As I was embarrassingly dressed as a “propah” walker, my delicate tip-toeing and nervous probings of the slippery bits whilst trying not to over-balance paled against this rumbustious cautionless display of mountain-joy  so irritatingly displayed by these youngsters. I meantersay, what had their parents been feeding them? I was like that once, y’know. Fifty years ago. Before I hurt my leg….

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The jollities were continued lower down the slopes where a group of young lads had brought sledges and were sliding the outrageously slippery mud-slopes. They looked like they’d been in a thrilling February rugby final mud-fest against a team of crack public schoolboys. Clarty is the word.

We left just before it started raining.

Bloomberry Crapping is a cracking little hill for kids, I have to say. It looks bigger than it actually is and it’s very very popular. Don’t go there if you’re seeking quiet contemplation. The place is heaving and when me and LTD were there it was quite noisy with children enjoying themselves. I should take some gradnkids there I think…

And there’s a pub at the bottom which allows the entry of families, walkers, cyclists, dogs, in fact,it seems, just anybody.


Friday, 24 February 2017

Blustery Borders Bowmont Backpacking Bimble

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The Bowmont Valley is a specially beautiful dale running Northwards from the English/Scottish border ridge near Windy Gyle towards the Tweed and a circuit of the hills surrounding it seemed like a good idea at the time, specially as it could be taken reasonably gently over three or four days.
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So, me and Dawn and LTD set off last Sunday with full packs in order to take three and a bit days to walk the round. The full walk would be about 26 miles and 4500 feet of contours arranged in an uphill fashion, and a similar number in downhill too. So, it’s no mean feat. However , doing it in three and a half days does make it a bit less mean – and, it’s possible to knock huge chunks off it simply by turning right and walking down the road to the start. So, this was our plan.
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So, we set off to climb Staerough Hill which overlooks Kirk Yetholm and continued over the very lovely Sunniside Hill and Wildgoose Hill. It was a nice day, but the wind had picked up, so when we arrived at our planned camping spot, we thought it was too windy and the water supply was poor. So, we found a contouring track around Latchly Hill and descended to the shelter of Pennine Way at Halterburn Head where we spent a blustery night, just out of the reach of some apparently quite violent winds which roared just a bit overhead.
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Dawn had leant me a Hilleberg Enan, as a trial to see if I might use it on the TGO chally – and I might. Its a bit noisy and flappy and a bit cold when it’s windy, due to the mesh door. But it is very light and it did stand up to a bit of a bashing from the wind. And, apparently, I can add a couple of extra guys to improve stability and the inner/outer gap.
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The  very next morning we set off to follow the Pennine Way, but after about a mile, Dawn said she wasn’t up to the task today and turned back, leaving me and LTD to disappear into the mizzly gale that was blowing along the ridge. In fact, I got blown over once and fell over another time due to the piece of bog I was about to launch  myself off letting me in up to the knee.  We batterred on into the driving rain, and a fierce sidewind and the Twenty Mile hut overlooking Hen Hole and brew-time came as quite a relief. LTD was also indicating that he was quite fed-up by hiding under a bench and groaning. He does a good groan, does LTD.
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Having got duly soaked and batterred like a fish (cod) , we headed down to the Cheviot Burn for the camping and, after a bit of exploration, found a semi-sheltered spot on a little platform some way up Crooked Sike. The sky brightened up quite a bit but the wind blustered around all night. Nevertheless we were cosy and firmly fixed to the ground. In these conditions, LTD sleeps on a piece of old karrimat on a small thermal blanket and under my down jacket. For extra warmth he snuggles up to my sleeping bag. He’s quite content like that and moves little for several long, long dark winter hours.
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Back to the border ridge in the morning by following Crooked Sike uphill for a bit and then contouring round the using handy sheep tracks to rejoin the Pennine Way relatively easily to Windy Gyle, turning North (ish) along The Street to bag Philip Shank and Craik Moor. The Street was also mainly very easy walking, despite the obvious attentions of off-road motocyclists ripping the place up , so the ten miles or so of today’s walk was a bit of a romp, despite the return of the hefty winds. We met only a chap pushing a bike through one of the boggy bits and a chap on a tractor, apparently inspecting fences. I don;t think he saw us, though. Other than that the place was just for me and the dog. (Smug mode)
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We descended to Belford Hope where a sheltered spot with water and No Cows was hard to find. Eventually, I tucked the Enan into a small space between a corrugated-iron lambing shed and a sheepfold. Another noisy and flappy, and a bit cold night followed. I celebrated the successful ascent of Craik Moor by polishing off my rum supply. Other excuses were available.
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Inn the morning, there was early sunshine and a cold wind and soon, though, the sky turned milky white and I decided that it was going to rain and be windy (and, yes, other excuses were available too…) – So we quickly bagged Place Hill packless, where it was quite hard to stand up straight – and headed for a bale-out route along the road down the Bowmont Valley back to Town Yetholm where Dawn was discovered lurking in a bus shelter.
The local shop provided pies and coffee and that was that. Me and LTD had done 26 miles.
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Dawn’s account of her adventured can be read here   Dawn seems to think she let me down somehow. She didn’t. These things happen – it was a reasonable decision in the circumstances.
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On the right above is the purist’s round of the Bowmont Valley whereas on the left is me and LTD’s version, altered for sheltered camping spot, avoidance of the slog up Auchope Cairn with tired legs and windyness avoidance over Hownam Law by taking to the (lovely) Bowmont Valley road.