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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Cold Camping in the Cheviots

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Y’see, I’ve bought this ‘ere fabby-whizz down sleeping bag and a thermarest mat to go with it and all it needed was a few empty diary days and a thermometer which barely registered anything at all for there to be some cold-weather camping.
All these things came together a few days ago, so, I collected Dawn from her harbour-side luxury pad in Blyth [koff] and we went up the road to Hethpool at the very foot of the Colledge Valley. Strategically, this was a good move because a) it has a car park and c) (there’s no b) the car park is only just about one mile from some places to camp.
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The sunny and cold morning had changed into a grey and driech one during the short time it took us to find a camping spot and put up the tents. We found a flatish spot with a small stream with a spring of clear water and some shelter from gorse bushes and small hawthorns. A lovely spot.
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So, we had the tents up by lunchtime and, as it had started to snow/sleet/drizzle and it seemed like a good idea to put the kettle on and eat some soup and some paninis with some of that really thinly sliced Italian ham and some nuts and then to doze off listening to the patter of precipitation on the flysheet.
It was disappointingly warm, mainly due to thick cloud cover. Actually, it was still nitheringly cold, but not actually much below zero.  And, it being December, it went dark well before teatime.
I had my radio, a little book, a huge supply of dark rum and a sigg bottle filled with hot water, inserted into a sock and placed in the sleeping bag for extra cosiness.
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By 1:00 am, during a visit by Mr Bladder, I noticed it had gone cold(ish), so I reheated it. By sometime really really dark, the sky had cleared and the previously wet tent had frozen solid. This was More Like It.
Attentive readers might have noticed that LTD was not on this trip. I thought it best to leave him in his bed by the radiator because he doesn’t specially enjoy cold and the forecast was for –10C and for the temperature not to rise much above –2C the next day. In fact, the car temperature gauge had been reading –5C to –2C up to the previous lunchtime.
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The morning was bright and sunny, but, having studied the map for the next camping spots, it seemed that these could be difficult to find and the chances of small streams being frozen solid seemed quite high, so we elected to stay put. Instead we set off to bag 3 little hills just a bit to the North, with light packs and a guaranteed bonny spot with nice water. . Dawn abandoned this walk after half a mile or so but I forged onwards into a thin cover of snow, following the track of a fox or two for a couple of miles. And a hare, and some kind of small deer.
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Three steep little hills followed – Longknowe Hill 346 metres, Longknowe Hill NE Top 327 metres (an unsatisfactory name, surely there must be a local name for this hill as it’s quite distinctive) and Kilham Hill 338 metres.
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It was only a couple of miles back to camp and I contoured the three hills and visited a hill-fort just above our camping spot on the way back. I was back in time for another leisurely lunch and an afternoon snoozathon during which it went dark again.
The next night was warm(ish) and most of the ice melted and a grey dawn struggled to get out of it’s bed, as did I. I wouldn’t have minded staying right there for another day, specially as it started raining halfway through the three –mile return walk (we went back by a longer route)
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A second breakfast/brunch at the Ramblers Cafe in Wooller revealed that a) Its quite cheap and c) (no b) they let dogs in. I have banked this information for future use. Oh, and d) the all-day breakfast was very nice. and e) despite scoffing huge numbers of calories over the previous two days, I was starving hungry.
The walk over the 3 hills was five miles. It would be about 7 if you did it from Hethpool.
More cold camping to come, I shouldn’t wonder.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Advent Adventures–Crook, Weardale and Wansfell Pike

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..Bit of catching up to do here – But I did three Christmas walks in such quick succession that there was no time, or sufficient sobriety to do the blog thing:

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First up is the Advent Adventure. Originally, this was a walk wot I used to lead for Durham County Council. But, as DCC have got the sack, I did it for the Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays (and Wednesdays) group. It snowed big-time on the reccy in quite a blizzardy sort of way but it was a bit mild and muddy for the 23 peeps wot turned up. Apart from LTD attacking some horses and the blizzard on the reccy, nothing much happened, really; it all went fairly swimmingly. It’s also quite good for St Catherine’s Community Centre’s cafe takings because we have coffee and cakes there afterwards. This is probably why I keep doing it. 8 miles or so…

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And then me and LTD went to Kendal and, deterred from the superb Plan A wot we had, which involved Kirkstone Pass, in favour of the much lower risk of skidding off the road into a huge gaping rocky gorge full of dead cars (a bit like Snake Pass, in fact), we went to Ambleside Rugby Club where it’s much more level and parking is by honesty box donation. For the Lake District, this is brilliant and, probably something I’ll do in the future.

So, we headed for Skellghyll Wood and the Hundreds Road which leads up onto the fell, and thence on up to the summit of Wansfell Pike. The ridge on the top was being blasted by one of the coldest winds I’ve ever met – 35 to 40 mph at –2C, giving a wind-chill of –12C . I thohgt it dfelt colder than that anyway.

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So, we walked along the ridge, sheltered, at first by the wall and then not sheltered at all, and descended from Baystones to climb a wall giving access to a minor top Dodd Hill and then, conouring round, and fending off the aggressive intentions of a black stallion fell pony wot didn’t like LTD at all (and with good reason, cos LTD would have eaten the horse if it had been mixed with Hero Complete Doggybix), contouring round the hill to descend to the bridleway leading back to Ambleside. 9 Miles.

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And then, we caught the bus to Wolsingham to join the 16 peeps from Wolsingham Wayfarers for their Christmas foray up the Elephant Trees, down to the Black Bull at Frosterley where LTD managed to spill most of my Oat Stout over mine and others’ rucksacks (I had to buy another one) – and back to Wolsingham with some waving at the Christmas Special (Train to Christmas Town) trains that are running up and down the Weardale line at the moment. And a chap on this walk had driven over Kirkstone Pass the day before, when we’d been up Wansfell and confirmed that in fact, it was, a sheet of ice…

As I’d just missed the bus, I was forced to seek shelter in the Black Lion where diplomatic protocol insisted that I sampled at least three pints of the various ales on offer. LTD accepted a packet of pork scratchings from a friendly customer. Then, having been delayed for 90 minutes, we caught the bus home and told our Mum everything that had happened.

10 and a half miles and four and a quarter pints.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Hill 60–A Week of Doggy Walks by LTD

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We didn’t manage a doggy walk yesterday – something to do with a bout of Jeremy Kyle Lassitude, waiting for some all-important DNA results or something.

Anyway, we managed today. This is the seventh doggy walk, and those readers blessed with a gift for mathematics as related to the interpretation of calendars, will appreciate that this ought to be the last doggy walk, cos there’s seven days in a week. Even though it’s taken a couple of weeks. Nerds with a gift for worrying about fine detail may well remark on the fact that a year, on average, has 52.14286 weeks in it. This number is apparently extremely useful when calculating the payable lump sum and annual pension of an NHS superannuation scheme payout, which, when linked to the amount outstanding on a mortgage and the monthly amount being paid, together with how much it costs to go to work, would help any determined-to-retire NHS workforce planning manager who is a bit fed-up to calculate exactly when would be a good time to abandon ship and spend the remaining days of his life walking the fecking dog.

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So, today we went South, along the really old road that used to go to Crook from the South but which was replaced by a newer road some time later. This starts in an industrial estate and ends somewhere a bit South of Howden-le-Wear. We just went as far as Howden-le-Wear.

Howden has some interesting things in it.

First, there’s the Australian Hotel – named after one William Walton who made a fortune in Australia and spent most of it here (apparently). Next, there’s a funeral parlour, a local shop, a petrol station and a wurlitzer organ.

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Then, (yes, I did say there was a wurlitzer organ. A Mighty Wurlitzer, as it happens) (Responds to Google) – then there’s Hill 60. Hill 60 is quite close to Jubilee Park and is, a bit mundanely, perhaps, an old pit heap. It was named by soldiers returning from Flanders in the Great War for Civilisation as it reminded them somewhat of similar battlefield hills over there. There’s not many pit heaps left. This is but a small one but Pieman’s view is that it ought to be preserved. I don’t have a view cos I’m a dog, innit?

The grid reference appears to identify this heap as belonging to Howden Colliery. This operated from the 1860’s to September 1907 and produced mainly industrial coal and coking coal and employed 262 men at it’s height (or depth!) in 1896.

Ten accidental deaths are recorded, the youngest being one George Alderson aged 14 who was a “driver” – that is to say that he drove the ponies which pulled the tubs. One fateful day in 1890 he fell off the limbers and was run over by the tubs.

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In order to get some contours in, we then climbed Rumby Hill Lane which is mainly occupied by people driving too fast and we returned back to lower altitudes via an old tramway which used to lead from Watergate Lane to Bitchburn Colliery. This colliery is now mainly under the industrial estate where we began. It was a biggun, though, apparently.

We might do other doggy walks should anything interesting happen..

This walk was 6.65 km (about 4 miles) and 105 metres of upness. So, it’s pretty easy.

Faxaninfo about Co Durham’s mines can be accessed on by clicking here - durham mining museum

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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Tunstall Danger Ducks and Other Naughtiness–A Week of LTD’s Doggy Walks By LTD

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We had a little hibernate over the l;ast couple of days due to the fact that it’s been raining a lot  in Pieland and, frankly, my doggybed by the radiator was much comfier than wandering about the coutryside getting wet. So, mainly, we stayed in. Pieman went shopping. I didn’t.

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But today, the sun seemed to be shining, at least till we got to the car park at Tunstall reservoir, just a bit up from Wolsingham. Here, it was chucking it down in a sleety sort of way and, whilst waiting for one of the forecasted “mainly sunny” bits, Pieman ate his egg and tomato butty and banana whilst I barked at the ducks who were gathering threateningly around the Knipemobile demanding food. When it stopped and  as Pieman put his boots on, I saw ‘em, off. They came back, though, so I saw ‘em off again. Persistent, is them ducks.

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I had my big coat on today as it was baltic and we wandered up throught he soggy fields to join the old railway line wot used to go from Crook to Consett over the moors. This provides easy walking and is very good for running about daft, sniffing and leg-cocking activities.

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The track stops suddenly at a gate with a discouraging sign. This, apparently, is the site of a WW2 ammunition dump – the shells being produced at Aycliffe and transported up here by train for distribution from Sunderland later on. It’s all fenced off and, apparently, now holds a collection of buses and fire engines and stuff. A google earth view reveals the site nicely, and is complete with old ammo stores with blast walls and anti-aircraft emplacements. The old fence surrounding it is more or less derelict, though, so security seems to rely on the inducement of paranoia by the placing of signage. There might also be a man with a notebook sonewhere. Or a stick. Or a thing that squirts water. I really hate things that squirt water.

There’s also the site of a coalmine. It didn’t produce much, if any, coal, though but there was quite a lot of fireclay , and there’s an old pit for that nearby and a gantry thing which is likely to be a station platform for the mine.

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This, by the way, is Saltersgate and there are signs (as opposed to signage) that the area has been heavily used for nefarious purposes,  and apparently [looks both ways and adopts a conspsiratorial attitude] it is the site of County Durham’s Number One – and chilliest – dogging location. However, in my opinion, there’s little evidence of much in the way of canine activity, but quite a lot of broken glass, campfires and general litter all around and especially in the forestry. Pieman and his pal Brian did once discover a very large bra hanging off a tree, apparently, but the less said about that the better, I should think.

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The walk gets much better after this and progresses through a couple of pastures, where, being unnoccupied by any stock, much running about could be done, if one could be arsed. Given so much space, I generally walk to heel as this is much more disconcerting to the Pieman than charging about, cos he never knows quite where I am (I’m right behind him). This also uses much less energy than the other stuff.

So, we descended to Backstone Bank wood – which is a really old wood according to a sign wot I can’t read, and has old platforms where charcoal was produced up to about 600 years ago. Probably for barbeques I shouldn’t wonder.

Back to the Dangerducks by a short road-walk, there being a footpath through the woods, but also a bunch of toffs shooting towards pheasants with some of their servants waving flags and blowing whistles and stuff.

The walk is 8.39 km (5.2 miles) and 239 metres of up (nearly 800 feet)

There’s a map:

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Stanley Beck–A Week of LTD’s Doggy Walks by LTD

Ecky Thump – What interruptions. First this:
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A failed attempt to camp on Lindisfarne which ended up on Ross Sands. Very cold it was, too..
And then this:
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A Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays 9 mile trundle around Slaley Forest during which I was NOT ALLOWED to jump up, bark at anything, beg food, attack the cattle or chase pheasants.
Not to mention a wet day up some rocky bits which the Pieman has already droned on about…
Before this:
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A six mile doggy walk, including barking at other dogs, sniffing holes of all kinds, territory marking and bits of running about. Today’s stravaig (the fifth, I believe) was a couple of miles of Deerness Valley railway path and a detailed exploration of a piece of dark forest containing a sinister hole, a culverted stream and a large tunnel/culvert which seems to go beneath an old spoil heap.
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Like almost everywhere around Pie Towers, there’s been lots of coalmining and the nearest pits seem to have been the Stanley Colliery located in the nature reserve (see pic) and Josephine Pit, currently in the woods a little to the South-West. Both pits are were part of the same complex and worked from the 1850’s to the early 20th century. This site lists 39 fatal accidents at Stanley Pit including several teenagers/children which might well account for the sombre atmosphere of the woods….
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There’s lots of exploration and sniffing around to be done hereabouts and, given more daylight, maybe we would have spent longer. Or it could have been Pieman’s raging thirst for a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea that leant urgency to our progress (in view of the nithering nature of the searching “breeze” blowing off the North Pennines. )
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On a more happy note, in the woods, at a location I’m reluctant to detail, but which is probably quite well known to locals, there’s a tree with a couple of seats made in it. This is quite a beautiful spot in it’s own way and has been there for some time, in the past, bearing quirky messages from whoever it was that created it. More recently, it seems, there’s a memorial to one Kenny Ayres who is pictured seated at the tree. Its not too much of a stretch of the imagination to understand that Mr Ayres had a lot to do with this particular spot.
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Our walk now went around the back of Stanley Crook (noting two white pussycats on the way) and through the graveyard at St Thomas’s Stanley Crook which is where many of the casualties from the local pits between Tow Law and Waterhouses and Woolley are interred.
And then down the hill to Roddymoor and Crook and a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea. I had to make do with cold water and a chewstick.
10.18 km (6.3 miles) and 198 metres of up.
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