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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Three Late Summer Days in the Berwyn Mountains

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Having seen off the Hewitts a couple of years ago, I seem to have a need to turn my attention to Nutalls and all my remaining undone Nuttalls are in Wales, except Pillar Rock. Now many people have completed the Nuttalls except Pillar Rock and, it seems, I may be heading for the same status.

Three such Nuttalls – Moel Yr Erwig (Round Hill of the Garden Insects), Godor North Top and Godor itself lie within the Berwyn Mountains and email discussions with Dawn produced a plan with a rough, that is to say, approximate route and an invitation to JJ to come along too. We like aproximate routes. Allows for flexibility. Hides the fact that we’re a bit lost.

So thats what we did.

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We began with a rendez-vous at the ticket barrier on Chester station, a journey to Ruabon , wherever that is, and a short bus trip to Llangollen where Dawn bought me a pie. And it was a Very Good Pie too.

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We heaved ourselves up some really steep stuff onto a heathery moor where, after some exploration, we found a lovely, home-engineered water-source and a flat bit of grass amongst the purple where tents Could Not Be Detected from the nearby path. The sun set. All was well.

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In the morning we plodded off over Vivod Mountain along the North Berwyn Way and this made the going easy when it would otherwise have been quite tough. On we plodded to Moel Fferna 630m and then South into the heathery and tussocky wild bit containing a couple of Deweys and then, ultimately, as morale began to suffer, into the lumpy high heart of the Berwyns.

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The sun beat down. The natives were absent. There was nobody else around.  Only the bootprints of Martin Banfield gave any indication that anyone at all had been there before us. (He had, by a couple of hours, apparently)

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On over Cadair Bronwen and Cadair Berwyn we went, where we met an Ulsterman and his little dog waiting for the sun to set (bless ‘is cotton skeggies). Here, something slightly odd may have happened which I will gloss over and, maybe leave to others to detail. It wasn’t my idea, though and it just goes to show just how easily lead I am.

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Dawn decided that a leap over the crags of Cadair Berwyn would probably be OK, and so (see above ref being easily lead), me and LTD and JJ followed her down the excessive steepnesses to our second camp by the heathery and midge – infested but beautiful shores of Llyn Lluncaws, set in a large corrie. My pronunciation – Thlinn Thluncowss was confirmed as “near enough” later by a farmer interested in putting his fences back up.

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The midges eventually backed off and a cool and starry night followed, ultimately misting over, which I noticed during a rare and sleepless moment involving a visit by Mr Bladder and some barefoot stumbling about in the heather.

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Wednesday’s dawn was dull, therefore, but not cold – so I had the dip I’d planned – not an ideal tarn for a dip as it has a rough, slippery and stony bottom giving way to squealchy mud and water weeds. The water is clear and clean and has fish and beetles, so it seems OK. Squelchy can be quite nice between the toes, though, I have to say.

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And then we bagged the three Nutalls (see above) These were very Pennine, in fact, and quite boggy and tough going, but with very little climbing in-between. Lead now by JJ,  we followed a thin path down the hill and out of the Open Access area to find a couple of vehicles and two men involved in mending the fences on private land. We sent our diplomatic service department (JJ) in to negotiate and grace was give for us to continue down to the road. The meeting was friendly and the farmer advised that we wouldn;t get to Vivod Mountain today.

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A long and hot road-plod followed during which I seem to have lost my walking pole. We used the tarmac route for ease and speed and to get close enough to Llangollen for a morning’s trek the next day.  We did manage to rehydrate somewhat at The Hand in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, a small village containing more pubs than most villages of the same size (i.e. two)

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By this time I was feeling the heat quite a bit and LTD was determined to catch a pheasant or two. Or three and he was lurching after each bird that squawked and exploded off through the hedges.  So we had an argument. It was a draw. We were both banjaxed.

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Following the Upper Ceiriog Way, we crossed more moorland and just before we hit the second road, some rough, gorsey woodland with a small stream presented itself. So thats where we stayed, half hidden in the gorse and visited by many spiders and some ants. LTD slept for 12 hours almost without moving at all.

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Thursday was warm again, but with a darkened sky and we passed over the moor where we’d had our first night and then back into Llangollen where egg and chips/sausage and chips and tea and more tea was enjoyed at the Station.

And that, folks, was that.

We did about 33 miles.



Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A Descent of Brewery Shaft at Nenthead

Its been a while since I had a lead-mine trip and so I was gruntled to bits to get an invitation from Brian to descend into the depths of the North Pennines at Nenthead. Brian’s pal Hugo came along too and might have contributed a few pictures , as has Brian. My pics weren’t very good at all since I knew there’s be lots of water down there, and so, took a cheapo camera inside an aquapac bag… so they were a bit dark. The spirit was willing but the flash was weak.
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The occasion was the 120th anniversary of Vieille Montagne’s involvement in the Nenthead mines, including the development of the Brewery Shaft for compressing air and generating electricity.  The name comes from the Alston Brewery Company who owened the land before the London Lead Company bought it for the driving of the shaft.
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The shaft itself is in a small and nonedescript stone hut with a small shed attached and has been capped with a steel grid and equipped with a series of lights which, when an appropriate button will light up one-by one at the speed of a falling Pieman but without the screaming. Thus the 100 metre depth (this is huge by the way) of the shaft will be revealed.
On this occasion, a winch had been installed and a small trapdoor opened in the grid over one side of this huge (3 metre diameter) and yawning pit and, on the cable of the winch was a small seat into which the petrified might be clipped with carabiners and cowstails and sent off slowly down into the normally dark, but now well-lit  and dripping hole.
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The descent took three minutes. This is a long time. I had been advised that if the seat began to sway I should fend off the walls of the shaft very very gently so that any swaying might be dampened and not increased. I’m afraid I didn't do this very well at all and soon I was bashing off the walls of the shaft, with all it’s huge pipes and ironwork and spinning as well. And it was still a long way down.
But I arrived without huge drama and was extricated from the ropework and chains and stuff by a lass in a waterproof cape. I had to climb down a bit of aluminium ladder and some loose rubble to get into the bottom of the shaft.
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Here’s where I waited, resisting the beckoning attentions of a dark and shadowy figure who said he was a guide as I had to wait for Brian and Hugo. I did have a look in the underground workshop nearby and looked at the Pelton turbine, compressors and the pelton electricity generator – and the anvil and other untidynesses.
Brian arrived, followed six minutes later by Hugo and we all splashed off to find the waterwheel. This was located along a walking passage which was flooded roughly up to the hips. Luckily, my recent plunges into the North Sea had acclimatised my naughty parts to cold water, so it wasn’t so bad for me. The lad who went before us did a lot of gasping and whingeing, though. The waterwheel is huge and intact and quite impressive. We returned whence we’d come. And it was time to get back on to the little chair on the wire and go back up.
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There was a little wait whilst more visitors arrived. The ascent, though, I have to say was just as scary as the descent. This was mainly because whilst I did assure the Lady In The Cape that I was comfy and ready to go, in point of fact, after a few feet, I discovered that I was actually teetering on the edge of the chair and reluctant to move much in case I set the bloody thing swaying again. So I clung on and developed various cramps. It’s a long way up. It takes ages.
Good though. And I got to wear the Not-A-Onesie I bought at Bernie’s in Ingleton for the purpose for which it was made. It kept me toasty.
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Thanks to Brian for fixing this up – we do like to scare ourselves witless every now and then, even if we are much too old for this kind of thing, and to young Hugo for the company. And to Brian for the oxtail soup and dumplings afterwards. And to Mrs Pieman for the transport and the Indian takeway (I had Kashmiri Chicken) whilst the knipemobile is on a waiting list…

Click the link below for a scary video

Here’s a link to lots of faxaninfo about the Brewery Shaft info about the brewery shaft


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A Day in the Hills and a Night in the Sand

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So many things on the List Of Things To Do and so little time. And, impatient to fit everything in, me and Dawn (actually, it was Dawn, really) came up with the idea to have a hill-walk in the Cheviots followed by a bivi on a Northumbrian beach (and Northumbrian beaches are possibly the best beaches for bivis).

So we went to Hethpool at the foot of the Colledge Valley where there’s a small car park beyond which you can’t drive without a permit. This keeps the traffic down to a maximum of 12 cars per day except for those who have business driving up and down the dale.

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Our plans were off to the side a bit – starting with the diminutive and rippled – due to ancient cultivation terraces – White Hill 228m and fairly easyily bagged from the road.

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Onwards and sideways we went, ignoring a permissive path diversion for a jungly cleared forestry path to collect Haddon Hill 352m. Dawn waited at the bottom (actually, it was quite near the top) whilst me and LTD visited the summit. This provided a huge view of the East Coast right up to Crystal Rig windfarm, just above Dunbar, and West to far, far distant hills.

We lunched in the sun and then it was onwards to Ring Chesters 432m, for some reason, given the soulless name of “Haddon Hill SW Top” on the hill-bagging website. It’s called Ring Chesters because it’s clearly a series of defensive consecutive rings around a small hillfort or settlement and with a fine view over the Merse and the naughty Selgovae lurking in their forts on the Eildons. (You’ll have to google Selgovae)

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Dawn traversed the side of Coldsmouth Hill 414 m whilst me and LTD (Do I get to write any of this? (LTD) (No shut yer muzzle MAK) heaved our tiring legs up to the three cairns on the top, sustained only by handfuls of small and tart bilberries, of which there were copious crops. It only occurred to me whilst stood by one of the cairns spying over towards the Selgovae again, that many of those bilberries will have been weed on by sheep.

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Coldsmouth Hill sports two apparently ancient circular enclosures with significant above-ground remains and three cairns, probably fashioned from bits of those circular walls. Dawn was waiting by the trees at the bottom.

A fine romp along the English/Scottish border followed, turning left at a footpath and veering off up the slopes of Madam Law 397m, which has a tumulus on the top, according to my map.

Finally, a long descent and a gentle re-ascent took us to Ell’s Knowe 319m which had nothing particularly obvious in the archaeological deparment.

A plod down the road aka St Cuthbert’s Way brought us back to the knipemobile which was still where we’d left it. And that was that.

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LTD  says: Oh no it wasn’t. You drove to Wooller Co-op to buy beer and then we had a bit of a drive to some sand-dunes where, after some more walking, Dawn put up a tent shelter (they don’t allow camping, apparently). This wasn’t a  tent at all, so we didn’t camp we just stayed in one place for a while. Somebody dug a hole and lit a fire and sausages and spuds were buried in foil and sand and dug up about an hour later. The sausages had turned into black crispy things but the spuds were only charred a bit and, with added butter, were scoffed greedily and I only got some of the now sandy black crispy things and some sandy spud skin which wasn’t really fair. They don’t feed me enough y’know – I mean all I had was a tin of dog food, two bonios and a dentastick. And some Wesleydale cheese. And bits of bread and some measly scraps of Sorano ham. Oh and half a pulled pork pasty and some sand. I was starving…

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And then it went dark (ish) and we went to bed. I got under Pieman’s down jacket and had his TGO Chally fleece for a pillow, so it was a warm night. At one point Dawn said there were seals on the beach but all I could see were some vague lumps. These were very very close and if they were seals it would have been scary but when it came light they turned out to be clumps of grass. At another point Dawn said the sun was coming up and we should have a look because it was beautiful. But it was the middle of the night so we didn’t get up. Pieman grunted something about Kylie’s bra strap, turned over and stopped snoring. For a minute.

And in the morning, when the sun was high and hot there was frolicking and shivering at the same time in the sea. I don’t like water and I specially don’t like water that comes at you in waves. But these two seemed to like it.

And the beach was empty of life, except us and some birds squawking about and doing bird stuff.

And I got to dig holes and chew sticks and roll about. And sleep in the sun.

Then we went home. This took a long time.

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Ta for that LTD. For info, we did 11 miles (ish) and about 2000 feet of climbing and paddled a bit and even had a little swim or two. Its not so bad once the nerve-endings have frozen.

References to Selgovae I partly attribute to Ptolemy. Obviously.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Coledale–Was That The Summer Then?

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The night before last, on a toilet ramble up the Deerness Valley Way (wot’s quite near Knipetowers as it happens) LTD announced that he never gets to choose which walks to do and wouldn’t it be nice to go and park in the school yard at Braithwaite and do a couple of proper hills plus whatever small lump I might like to add to a route. Since there was to be one fine day between two wet ones, I thought this was a good idea. Well done LTD.
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Since I compleated (sic) the Wainwrights (even sicker) in 1991 or something, and most of the Birketts except Pillar Rock and that other still-to-bag one with the Viet-Cong in occupation, and so reduced to bagging Synges with 5 metres of reascent on all sides I discovered that there was one unbagged at the top of Coledale – one Force Crag and I determined to include this in the walk.
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It’s OK to park in the school yard at Braithwaite by the way providing it’s a weekend or a holiday and you post three quid through the school letterbox. Three quid is a proper amount for parking, so I did this without rant or complaint and me and LTD wandered up the track to Force Crag Mine, a closed leadmine with lots of interesting buildings, holes and heaps.
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Lots of other people were also wandering up Coledale with dogs and children and babies and there was some bunching, I noticed where the path crosses the beck. This was due to the fact that it had rained all of the previous night and the beck was in a lively mood, although not really in spate. One chap in the kind of trekking shoes that some TGO challengers get all evangelistic about complained that it was “supposed to be a ford” and the beck was too deep and the stones too slippery.
After crossing the beck, me and LTD crossed it again higher up and went off to bag Force Crag. This turned out to be a superb viewpoint for Coledale and a top-hole spot for the scoffing of an egg and tomato butty.
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We continued higher to the little bealach or pass between Sand Hill, Crag Hill and Grasmoor. I remembered a marginally scrambly route up the North ridge of Crag Hill which ought to deliver me and some aching thighs and a small dog to the summit in reasonably short order. And this is what happened, except to say that the marginal scramble had eroded quite a lot since I last climbed it – probably thirty years ago, and was now marginally too exciting. My leg lump didn;t enjoy one of the high steps either, but the view across to Grisedale Pike was impressive. The scramble is now a deep groove at a reasonable- enough angle and anywhere else would look like a slab. It’s a good idea to use the hands on this, I think.  High up it appears as a rock wall and provides a moment of quiet and slightly shaky contemplation as to whether or not to proceed,or to abandon the groove for the even more tricky-looking grassy ledges to the side, or to slither back down again and pretend that I didn’t really want to go that way anyway, having done it once before. But on inspection, the groove continues and snakes away up to a flat bit where the Ledge Route comes in from the left. After that it’s just a grassy ridge.
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Once on the top, LTD cocked his leg on the trig and it fell over ( LTD: this is not true, it was already prone and I always get the blame for minor damage. Like chewing up the paper that had had the butter in it.)
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It was nitheringy Autumn on the top of Crag Hill, it has to be said, and no place to sit and scoff a banana, so we sailed over Sail and got into a sheltered spot at the foot of those huge and ugly zig-zags wot Fix The Fells built some years ago. They were supposed to mellow into the hillside but they didn’t and now the surface is loose in parts and stones will rumble away under the feet of any hikers not concentrating properly. It seems that many people aren’t zig-zagging at all but are prefering to romp straight down through the heather. And much safer that would be, I would expect.
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LTD decided not to bag Barrow and Outerside but to go straight back to the schoolyard so that I could get in the car and drive back through Alston, stopping only to buy a couple of bottles at Alston Co-OP on the way back. (LTD: Actually, this was your idea, I would have liked to have bagged Outerside and Barrow and……cat!!!  There’s a cat on telly….)
9 miles and 3400 feet of up.
I once had a dog called “Jenny” Jenny was a bit of a runner and one day, when taken off the lead on the summit of Crag Hill, she chased a meadow-pipit and leapt over the edge into the steep corrie on the side of the hill – and into hill fog. I could hear her barking, but she’d disappeared from view. The corrie wall was too steep for me so I investigated one of the wings. I could see nothing so returned to the top. The barking had stopped. I got the first 9 into the phone  for mountain rescue and the dog arrived back at the top, battered and scraped with no skin on her chin or her pads. I carried her all the way back down to the car. Don’t ask how much it cost at the vet!

Monday, 25 July 2016

A Tan Hill to Swaledale Circuit by WSWG

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WSWG is, of course, the Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays Group.

And 12 walkers turned up at Tan Hill Inn, plus two dogs, Bailey and LTD.

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I’d reccied the route a few days earlier along with LTD in humid and oddly-sunny-with-hillfog sorta conditions. The route  initially follows a path over Robert Seat which was also used on me and Dawn’s Beer-Trekkin Trek. This leads fairly easily over the moor to Ravenseat where me and Dawn, or was it Dawn and me(?)  had sheltered from the rain in the barn with cups of tea and scones and cream back in May.

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On the reccy I didn’t stop but batterred on towards Keld, catching up with an Australian with a sore toe and some seashells hanging off his pack, a Yorkshire Australian with a retained Yorkshire accent after 20 years abroad,  and his partner who kept pretty quiet and we all walked to Keld where I allowed myself to be exploited to the tune of a cup of tea and a fruit slice at the Rukins tearoom there. (This was also the destination of a small team of DofE kids who actually spoke to us. I have noted in the past that DofE groups are usually pretty diffident about actually replying to a greeting or a question) We met them twice, in fact. They must have been doing our route, but the other way around.

And then back to Tan Hill for a pint of shandy and an hour’s drive home.

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On yer actual guided walk, we stopped at Ravenseat for cuppas – some had scones and we missed Keld altogether by rejoinging the Coast to Coast path after lunch by the swimming hole at Wainwath Force where a few swimmers were swimming and leaping into the deep water and other risky stuff.

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And we followed the Pennine Way back to Tan Hill – noting the most pointless gate in Yorkshire. Well done to the Yorkshire dales National Park Authority for transporting a gate, concrete, and men to Lad Gill where there’s a little footbridge over a very small and shallow beck. Here, they have installed a gate complete with a sign saying “Please Close The Gate”. There is nothing, however, to prevent stock, or anything else from passing either side of this gate. Whoever planned it, authorised it and built it and wasted all that money in times of austerity, needs their heads seeing to and really, if there was any justice at all, should now be reprting to their local job centre to be sanctioned. The feckers.

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Anyway, I think people generally enjoyed the walk. I enjoyed both walks, and so did LTD. There’s a map below for anybody inclined to give it a go. This shows the route not going to Keld. But if you want to, you can.

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