Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Few Glen Lyon Corbetts

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June seemed pretty busy, but I’d put on my List Of Things To Do, a visit to Marilyn/Munro Section 2 for the bagging of one or two Marilyns and, since Corbetts are also Marilyns, any hilltops visited would get a really Big Tick.

So, stopping only briefly at Fort Linney, Dawn’s seaside hideaway, to collect Dawn (obviously), we spent the next severalteen hours battling traffic to arrive , eventually, at the Cruachan campsite about three miles East of Killin City Centre. Cruachan campsite is huge and, when we arrived, empty of any other tents. This was good.

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Our bagging campaign started on the Monday with a gentle introduction to the delights of the lower lumps around the North-Western edge of Ben Lawers. This mainly included Meall nam Maigheach 779m (Never bag anything you can’t pronounce by the way), with it’s two outlying lumps Meall Luaidh 778m and Meall nan Eun 635m. Unfortunately, I made the schoolboy bagger’s mistake of climbing a hill I’d already climbed – the Mhaigheach one. Dhuuhh.  Never mind, Lucky and Dawn got three ticks and I just got two.

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These hills are a bit Pennine, to be honest. That is to say they’re grassy and peaty and heathery but with extra Butterwort and a few deer skeletons. We kept an eye out for Brian, a missing Jack Russell. Everybody was looking for Brian, apparently. Back at the car, a shepherd, lusting after our parking spot, expounded his theory that the dog was “long gone”. We hoped not.

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This expedition, in gloomy and overcast conditions, took just three miles and 900 feet of up. And whilst most of the “Up” was quite steep, overall, an easy introduction.

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Tuesday dawned blue and sunny and a bit sweaty. We pointed the knipemobile over the slightly scary bealach into Glen Lyon and marched off from the Meggernie Estate car park at Innerwick up the extensive estate road that leads to the very last steep bit up to Cam Chreag’s lovely ridge.

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We battered our way up this, stopping only to allow Lucky to eat some snow and have a little bounce around and we were soon on the top of Corbett #2 Cam Chreag 862m. Cam Chreag’s summit has a few sheltering rocks in which to hide and scoff cheese and tomato butties whilst gazing at the superb all-round vista of snow-flecked mountains and big lochs.

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We retraced to the bealach which holds a large tin hut, in which there is a table and benches, but it’s a bit mucky inside. Dawn waited and had a little explore whilst me and Lucky marched off to bag another Meall nam Maigheach 741m – this one not a Corbett, though, but which has a cairn on a slab and a specially cracking view of Rannoch Moor.

Feeling fairly smug so far….

This walk was 9 miles and 2400 feet of upness.

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Wednesday morning dawned to the sound of rain on the fly. This went on till ten o’clock-ish. I’d contracted an episode of Caledonian drizzle lassitude and couldn’t really be arsed going very far – so we went to the Falls of Dochart, thus fulfilling Dawn’s current interest in snapping waterfalls. The falls are quite impressive, though and we killed time around Killin by following a railway path for a bit, lunching in the dog-friendly Cappercaille restaurant and having an exploratory mooch or reccy up Glen Lochay during which it failed to rain much more but always looked like it might start at any minute.

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Thursday was our last chance to bag another Corbett, so orf we jolly well went back over the scary rod to Glen Lyon and, once again, marched off from Innerwick up the Kirk Road which leads to Rannoch. This was a right sweaty do and, at one point, I had to steal Lucky’s new dog Buff (more about this later…!), so I could wear it to stop the sweat stinging my eyes.

We couldn’t find a path onto the ridge and all exits from the estate road seemed to be defended by steep and deep and very rough tick-filled heather. Not the kind of place to venture on a warm and sweaty day like this.

Eventually, we had to strike off uphill and Dawn did a fine job of finding the easiest was through the Calluna Vulgaris and, eventually, we emerged almost uninjured on the little knobble of Meall Glas 713m, but not a tick.

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A line of fence posts took us to the summit of Beinn Dearg 830m, and Corbett #3. It was cold on the top and threatening to rain, so we spent little time there and lunched briefly (steak pie for me!) a little way down the hill out of the wind.

The Corbetts guide advises that the walk along the ridge of Creag Ard would be nice, so this is what we did. And it was.

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We returned whence we came after 8 miles and 2200 feet of uphill.

And that was that.

I suspect that Dawn may have rediscovered her Highland bug following this trip.

And since I managed to bag absolutely none of the hills on my List Of Hills To Be Bagged, but repeated one and managed two different ones, I’m obviously going to have to go back for another go. Every cloud has a silver lining (unless its a cloud of midgies with a blood-lust)

Its a while since I had a purely hill-walking/bagging visit to the Highlands and, whilst the bag for this trip wasn’t huge, it’s a good start. So – in the words of Crichton … “Smug Mode!”

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Friday, 19 June 2015

Crook’s Cold War Bunker


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At a meeting of guided walks leaders at County Hall the other night, somebody called Ian asked me if I knew of a Royal Observer Corps bunker at Sunniside, on the hill above Crook. I didn’t but it seems an ideal place for an observation post because the view from up there is enormous.
A Google search this morning provided a list of all the ROC posts in the UK with their grid references, including the one at Sunniside, helpfully labelled “Tow Law”.
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So, after lunch, including the ritual snooze through the second half of the Politics show, me and LTD wandered off to have a look. Its quite a nice walk, and a bit longer than this week’s doggy walks have been due to yours truly having had an attack of Man Flu and been laid up without whisky till today.
And we found the bunker, just next to the road to Tow Law in a little wire mesh compound looking just like the bunkers in the pictures on roc heritage posts map
The Tow Law post operated from 1958 to 1991.
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I had a little poke around inside the compound which wasn’t locked but I didn’t go into the post since it involved a  20 foot climb down a ladder and I had LTD with me and he would have had to be abandoned up top.
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The post isn’t in a very good condition. There’s hundreds of these poists in the UK according to the map but nevertheless we should be looking after these things a bit better, partly because they’re part of our history, and you never know when we might need them again (!). But mainly because they’re part of our history. And we can save future archaeologists the bother of digging them up if we preserved them a bit better.  Tow Law has had some damage.
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The Tow Law post is also on private land with no right of way going to it, so I did a little naughty trespass to get there. There was no stock in the field, though, and there are no obstacles between the nearest public footpath and the stockade, so no damage or harm was done. Here's a quick 16 second view of the..er...view from ROC Tow Law

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Simonside–A Guided Walk

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Me and Dawn, plus LTD, did the reccy for this severalteen days ago in cool and cloudy but ultimately sunny conditions. Yer actual walk was for the Wednesday Walkers, a splintering kind of group of Durham County Council punters , stewards and walk leaders who do longer walks on Wednesdays when the Durham County Council programme has no walk. And Saturdays. They walk on Saturdays too.

And this was Wednesday Walkers Walking on a Saturday and Not In County Durham At All.

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Me and Dawn (plus LTD) had a pleasant trundle around the 12 mile route and nothing much happened apart from LTD suddenly discovering that he can detect mice and voles and other small carbon-based life forms, probably by some combination of smell, sound and predicting the kind of places such carbon-based life-forms are likely to be and then pouncing on them and eating them, or, if prevented, just killing them or maiming them in a cruel but otherwise playful manner.

I must get a large supply of worming tablets.

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On the day, thirteen people and an additional dog turned up (I’m allowed a dog when leading these walks as they’re not Durham CC walks) and we progressed around the circuit in a safe and dignified manner with no significant death toll or the involvement of any air ambulances or anything like that.

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The route, for those interested in such things, leaves Lordenshaws car park, with the additional option of the bagging of Garleigh Hill if you’ve turned up a bit early. This adds a mile. The walk progresses along the fine and bouldery Simonside ridge, with cracking views of the Cheviots and Pennines, steeply down to collect Tosson Hill then across the moor (watch out for small carbon-based life-forms) and through the forest, returning along St Oswald’s Way back to the start. St Cuthbert is often depicted as having St Oswald’s Head under his arm, in fact, although he’s definitely not been heard to sing “Oh Ganny Goy” whilst drinking a glass of water whilst carrying this head. “Gottle of Gear” as St Oswald once remarked.

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The Simonside ridge is an easy trundle, mainly on hard surfaces with superb views at a distance and lots of rocky interest close by. Anybody who enjoys a bit of a scramble would enjoy a bit of a scramble on all those rocks. The forestry bit is slightly dull, but the return over the moor is fast and easy and wide-open enjoyable rambling. People who hate skylarks and meadow-pipits will be in hell. Everybody else will be having a fab time.

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Friday, 12 June 2015

Lucky The Dog Does Glaramara

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Having recovered from the mild attack of Lurgy, and it being a lovely, sunny day AND having a lone Birkett Thorneythwaite Fell to bag, I decided to point the knipemobile once again towards Cumbria and nick off to Borrowdale.

Unfortunately, due to funereally slow drivers on the bendy roads, four or five sets of roadworks with traffic lights, two tractors and a tour bus, it took me two and a half hours to get to Seatoller and then, THEN, readers, I had to pay seven quid to park. SEVEN QUID!!

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So, it was with a certain amount of grumpiness that me and LTD (Lucky The Dog) marched off in high dudgeon to the base of the ridge that leads up to Thorneythwaite Fell and, ultimately, Glaramara.

Now this ridge is rather lovely, so , unless you want to have a bit of a whinge about the closeness and sheer number of ten metre contours, and who wouldn’t, it soon puts the curmudgeon and his innocent pup in a much better mood.

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And so, we were soon sitting atop Thorneythwaite Fell, a spikey little nobble just next to the path and boasting a fine view of Borrowdale and Skiddaw. Lucky relaxed by rolling about and I had some coffee. Job done.

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Glaramara’s scrambly bit

We progressed up the ridge which is now more gentle and we were soon faced with The Scrambly Bit up to the summit of Glaramara. There’s an option to divert around this little rockstep, but I was keen to see if me and a pup, an often wriggly pup, could get up here in one piece (that’s one piece each, we’re not welded together, innit?) Lucky was enthusiastic and leapt up the first step, almost falling off but I put him on a little ledge, told him to sit and wait, and he did. We repeated this method three times until we were past the steep bits and could scramble more freely. It all went very well. Lucky’s attendance at Crook Dog Club on Wednesday evenings has paid off!

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We didn’t stop on the top but pressed on over several subsidiary lumps, notably Looking Steads, Red Beck Top, and High House Tarn top before stopping for a rest and a little paddle and a snooze at one of the little tarns, set in a rocky and sheltered slot just off the main path.

The hill was noticeably quiet, being midweek, I suppose – it seemed at times that I had the whole of the place to myself and, even the birdlife was unusually quiet – just a few meadow pipits here and there, and a couple of low-flying RAF jets…..

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After a suitable interval during which I failed once again to disconnect Kylie’s bra strap we stirred from our sun-kissed slumbers and toddled off to include Allen Crags before descending back to Borrowdale on the Red Beck path.

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It had been hot. We called at the Riverside Bar for a shandy and made a slightly quicker return trip back to knipetowers.

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The walk is 8 miles.  And here’s a map.  I like this route. It’s not to be rushed, though, cos its full of nooks and crannies and a sunny and slightly breezy day in June would be the perfect conditions. You’ll forget about the slow drivers and the traffic lights and the seven quid parking charge….

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Dunnerdale - Plough Fell and Other Stuff

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Having shivered the night away whilst swearing at the same time, the omens weren’t specially brilliant for a light trundle around some bijoux fells in South Lakeland.

And by the time I’d navigated the knipemobile across the A66, down the M6 and up the Kendal bypass, I had a sore throat and was suffering from some kind of as yet, undefined lassitude. Nevertheless , I collected the Bro and Lucky had a couple of sweet biccies before we set off.

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But it was to be a short walk and we parked at the top of the Corney Fell road (cos there’s nowhere else to park) and wandered off over Stoneside Hill, through a herd of suspiciously laid-back cud-chewing/snoozing Galloways and up to the vague top of Swinside – a top which appears in no lists of tops at all and which I’d included in my list of Hills To Be Included In The Walk for no apparent reason except that it lead to Raven Crag, also inhabited by Galloways, this time of the Belted Galloway variety but nursing some ginger-coloured calves which obviously weren’t Galloways.

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We descended steeply to Swinside farm and passed an ancient stone circle , through yet more disinterested Galloways to the foot of Knott Hill, a lovely green lump with fab views all around. It was here that I ignored my lunch in favour of lots of coffee and water and a bit of chocolate. Legs had been heavy so far, although my temperature seemed to be heading back towards “normal” Blergghh, as we say in Crook.

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We returned to Swinside via a brief trespass and headed off up a bridleway across a moor to the road and then across more interminable but relatively easy plodding to Plough Fell – my Birkett target of the day. Plough Fell is a dull and featureless grassy mound stuck on the side of the more rocky and interesting Kinmount Buckbarrow. But it does have a cairn on it’s edge which as a viewpoint for Dunnerdale and higher Cumbrian Peaks over there -----> is quite fabulous. It wouldn’t be a bad spot to spend a day for anyone with nothing better to do, although the plodding required to get there is numbingly dull.

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I was offered the opportunity to include the Buckbarrows in the walk, and, normally this would have been an easy and desirable thing to do. But readers, I just couldn’t be arsed. It had been a struggle so far and more struggling was low on my list of priorities. On the other hand, I was starting to feel hungry, so , it seems that a recovery was beginning.

It was 8 miles and 1650 feet of uphill, much of it a bit of a trial. But I’m feeling better now. Whatever bug it was has been defeated,in short order it seems  by the Pieman’s immune system, plus some statins and  a bit of South African Pinotage

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Incidentally, for real excitement, join the mad (and I do mean mad) dash from the West Coast over the Corney Fell road at five o’clock.  Convoys of cars moving at stupidly high speed over the rough pot-holed, bendy and narrow road with the sole intention, it would seem, of having some sort of accident, except that it wouldn’t really be an accident. Rush hour in Newcastle city centre is much more civilised and laid-back. These people are red-misted eejits rushing home for a cup of tea and the latest episode of Jeremy Kyle. A good way to get a new car out of it, though (supposing you were driving a really old Audi A4, for instance)  would be to drive West. Somebody is bound to trash your car coming the other way…

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