Friday, 19 September 2014

Skinny Dip Time Again!


Ice bucket challenge? Don’t make me larf……. 

Anyway, I’ve not mentioned this all that much this year, but Sunday is the third North East Skinny Dip in aid of Mind and the National Trust.

Apparently about two hundred people have signed up which could mean that with last-minute turn-ups (definitely nothing to do with trousers here) the numbers running screaming into the sea, and shivering uncontrollably back out again quite soon afterwards could  be around three hundred. For anatomical statisticians, that’s probably about four hundred thousand goose pimples.


The event starts at 5:30 am (yes folks, there’s two 5:30’s in a day nowadays) at Druridge bay in bonny Northumberland and the actual acts of madness  bravery will happen at exactly sunrise.

Apparently this year it’s being filmed as part of a feature in the programme Tales from Northumberland and there’s every chance that Robson Green’s bum will be featured hurtling into the foaming briny.

As for me, I did it last year and got sponsors and made nearly £400 for Mind and the National Trust.

This year I’m doing it again but with a few small strategic changes.


Firstly, I got the runaround big time last year by Co Durham’s rebuilding works at several important roundabouts and it took me ages to get there – and I walked four miles down the beach in the dark and four miles back again. Actually, this bit wasn’t so bad.

But this year, I’m setting off on Saturday with the basha and brewing-up equipment and will bivi somewhere close by this saving the stress of dealing with the Western bypass at 3:00 am when I should be in Kylieland and thus will enter the water fully refreshed and not suddenly awoken by the, frankly, freezing and shocking experience of some lass splashing me back with North Sea. (aaargh)


Readers may also recall that a visit to Druridge Bay with a cheapo football to chase, burst and shred was possibly the only successful bit about Bruno’s bucket list. I did a walk with Mick and his three little doglets and the dog in particular enjoyed the whole thing. (I can’t thank Mick enough for coming along with me on this jaunt by the way). I also had a visit to Druridge later in the year with Dawn during her walk up the Northumberland coast and I commented at the time that nobody should visit Druridge without a dog. Well, I’m not taking the new dog on this trip – too many distractions, and there’s no telling what kind of trouble he could get into. I’ll take him later…  But there’s little doubt that the wrinkles and wobbly bits of other dippers will likely be no distraction for me when I’m remembering Superdawg


And I haven’t done anything about sponsors as this doesn’t really fit in with my current policy of nowt for owt (still two medium t-shirts left by the way)

click here 

arsenal cakearsenal cake

Sinister    (Left)                   Dexter (Right)

BUT, if anybody does feel like adding the odd spondoolie of their hard-earned (anything from just the one pound upwards), you can access my virgin money giving page by clicking the left buttock in the picture above.  All of the money going into this account goes to Mind by the way, only my entry fees (£10) are split between Mind and the National Trust. Actually, for the shy, clicking anywhere on the picture works, or, alternatively, there’s a couple of images of a cake (left and right) made to celebrate the progress of Arsenal football club. Unfortunately there wasn’t room on the cake for the full wording “Arsenal FC” to appear, but we did our best. OK, it’s an old picture….

Readers would, of course, be more than welcome to join in  in this slightly bizarre but enervating experience and you can register on the beach or on-line here  and there’s also details about where to go etc. 

More info on is on the Skinny dip facebook page which is here





Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Three More Dislocations in Eskdale

lucky spots a wainwright 

On Friday, I put up another tent, loaded it with stuff and abandoned everything for a wander up Eskdale using, mainly, the Eskdale Trail which basically wanders up Eskdale as far as Jubilee Bridge where,on approaching from a great distance, I spotted an ice cream van, or perhaps a mobile bacon butty and hot tea establishment. Unhappily for me, or , maybe, happily for the cardiac arteries, it turned out to be an Outward Bound bus. Bugger.  Me and the dog had squirty cheese and oatcakes instead. It wasn’t the same, though.

near  tongue pot

We continued our wander up into a more scenic and rocky landscape (see the intro page of Alan Rayner’s blog to see what it really looks like – it was far too dull today and hazy for any decent pictures.


At the first flat bit at the entrance to the Great Moss, and quite close to the path to Scafell Pike, I put up the akto, brewed up, had lunch and then me and the pooch had a nice long snooze in the warm tent whilst the River Esk burbled and talked to itself quite close by……   ZZzzzzzzzzz

A couple of twitchy dog dreams later, involving running whilst not getting anywhere – it’d be about six o’clock by now, I suppose, me and the dog set off for a stroll.

scar laithing

First we strolled over a little outlier of the Birkett Scar Lathing. This was a mistake. I was supposed to bag the thing but cut down a wide gully to disturb some campers in the little corrie below before I should have done. I thought it went easily… dhuhh…

from throstlehow garth

Pretending that I knew what I was doing – I went on to climb the grassy slopes of Throstlehow Crag – another Birkett and which gives a fine view of the top bit of Eskdale just as it lurches up a steep bit next to all the waterfalls.

We returned to Scar lathing by a crag-avoiding route around the back and repaired to the akto for dinner and dreamy snoozy sleepy times.

At about nine o’clock, or so, I became aware of engine noises and peered out into a beautiful moonlit starry night to witness a helicopter hurtling by just overhead. It circled the corrie several times, hovered over Mickledore for a bit then went away.

Later it came back again for another six or seven circuits. And then again for a third time. Its one of the noisiest nights I’ve had for a while….. morning...

A fine and sunny morning lit up the tent somewhat later and me and the dog had our breakfast and wandered off to bag High Gait Crags. This is another Birkett stuck on the extensice South ridge of Esk Pike – a wonderful way up that particular hill – full of great views and rocky knobbles and lumps – and very quiet.

bowfell from high gait crag

I was going to bag Pike de Bield – another top a little further up the ridge, but decided to leave it for another day and we returned to the tent for another brew and a walk back down to Fisherground.

walking out

Somehow I missed the turnoff for the valley path and ended up yet again outside the Woolpack with a pint of Red Pike. I had another to celebrate and wandered down to the Boot Inn where, fearing that I might be dehydrating somewhat, I took the sensible, careful and healthy course of having another two pints. It was a very warm day.

deja vu...

Even later, I managed to somehow find myself once more in the George IV (King of Prussia) where not only did I acquire beer, but also a large portion of steak and ale pie (I was a bit concerned that the squirty cheese I’d been eating might not contain enough protein, so I had to do the healthy thing.)

We slept well.

On Sunday I came home.

I’d intended to do this trip in August, but the craving for a new dog got the better of me and I put it off till now. I’m quite glad I did, really. And the dog loves it inside the tent and generally behaves very well although he doesn’t ever want to get up in the mornings….

eskdale wild camp


More Navigational Challenges in Eskdale

stony tarn from whin crag

And so, it was Thursday and we repaired once again to the little car park by Wha House.

Bag number one was close by – Goat Crag – a brackeny,  rocky lump typical of the brackeny rocky lumps that bejewel the sides of Eskdale, in fact. There was some slight scrambling. Lucky enjoys slight scrambling, apparently although he occasionally runs too far up a slab before falling off.

looking down on bull crag

Goat Crag has a sister  - one Bull Crag. Bull Crag is slightly smaller, and only a couple of hundred metres away but is packed with excitements. Bull Crag has crags on three sides – some look quite difficult, but many appear to be eminently scramble – or, at least by easy graded rock climbs (by “Easy”, I mean “Difficult” and it’s possible that only rock climbers will understand what I mean. I mean “Difficult” is fairly easy. It only gets difficult at “Very Difficult” and only very difficult at “Very Severe”. This may be open to some debate. Anyway, me and the dog skulked around the back. Lucky is good at skulking due to his collie genes.


We then progressed over more mixed ground to the very lovely and superbly perched above a little blue tarn Whin Crag. There is no whin on Whin Crag, so you don’t have to pay (No Whin no fee… arf…sorry, it’s the ,merlot… koff….) Its a lovely spot, though, even though the actual top marked on the map doesn’t actually appear to be the top.

slight side

Upwards to Dawsonground Crag at 397 metres. Another rocky jewel with a small cairn and an ideal spot for a pre-lunch snooze, followed by lunch, followed by a post-lunch snooze in the warm sun. Readers should note that it’s always warm and sunny on Dawsonground Crag.

Next – across a small depression, treated by a few sessions of cognitive therapy, came Cat Crag where there are no cats either.. This is yet another rocky lump with a cracking view (will this joy never cease?) (Who said that…?). From Cat Crag, the next target looked a long way. No, I mean a LONG way. With a lot of up. I mean it looked hard, what with my legs and everything…

upper eskdale from high scarth crag

High Scarth Crag at 487 metres would be the highpoint of the day. It had a footpath heading towards it. This would make easier going for a while. I encouraged Lucky to go in front and engage “pull” mode by using encouraging words concerning pussycats, wabbits, sweeties and biccies. This didn’t work. he has no idea what I’m on about, in fact, and probably just thinks I’m indulging in some senile rambling. Any human witnesses would probably form the same opinion but there was no-one else around. In fact I only met one other walker yesterday, come to think of it.

lucky on silverybield

The slog continued. I left the path at a boulder and took to the slopes of High Scarth Crag. It was easier than it looked and as I reached the top, I was provided by a superb surprise view of the huge and beautiful corrie which has the Scafells on one side and the Crinkles on the other.

Sometimes you’re really really glad you made the effort.

environs of high scarth/silverybield

High Scarth Crag was a bugger to get off safely and in the correct direction for Silverybield Crag, although I did make a bit of a meal of it and really should have just followed the ridge along to a small corrie. I crossed another path and heaved my aching legs up the few steep contours of Silverybield. Another superb view presented itself. Yet another.

the abandoned knobby ridge

From Silverybield, heading South, there’s a knobbly ridge containing five large rocky knolls. This was my intended route, but, frankly, I was shot. There was little left in the little legs and Lucky seemed to be feeling a bit jaded too – although its a bit difficult to tell since he falls asleep every time I stop.

lucky's comfy rock

So, feeling somehow guilty, I abandoned the lovely knobbly ridge for another time (I don’t expect its going anywhere faster than the current rate of continental drift) and took to the nice, easy footpath heading South.

The easy ground let me recover a bit and finally, I decided on one last top – Brock Crag. We circumnavigated a herd of cud-chewing Galloways (Lucky had a little growl) and contoured around to the top. On the Southern edge of this hill came the last surprise view – a fantastic vista of the length of Eskdale. Unfortunately, it was getting really hazy, so the picture I took doesn’t look much.

eskdale from brock crag

I celebrated by skidding on the stones on the steep path and landing on my backside, pinging the retractable lead into Lucky’s bum at the same time, and with a clatter and an “Hoy!” or something, scared the dog witless.

At this point I made some kind of really serious navigational error and found myself once again in the beer garden of the Woolpack Inn clutching a pint of cold lager shandy. I must have gone round in a circle somehow. It happens. In the mist.

Today’s walk outline spells the word “Onomatopoeia”. Quite a complex route.

Eight tops, though…   a simplified version of the route appears below.

goat crag etc


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Navigational Challenges in Eskdale Part 1.5

a bit of rocky contouring
It was some time on Tuesday afternoon that me and the dog managed to get ourselves organised and on our way to Eskdale. And several hours later we turned up at Fisherground campsite where we met various helpful staff who were very nice about my plans to stay for five nights, but not actually be present for the whole five nights and to leave a tent and the knipemobile there whilst I went off for a wander.
lucky waits to go to bed
I put up the akto, installed the sleeping bag and all that stuff and went off in search of the ablutions, but by some peculiar navigational oversight – probably due to a mis-read grid reference or something, I was recovering from some kind of reverie on the perimeter road - involving a female Australian pop-singer - when I suddenly found myself in the main bar of the George IV (King of Prussia) with a pint of foaming ale in my fist and a sighing dog under the table.
harter fell from dow crag
The next morning, it being a Wednesday, we set off in search of a small car park near Wha House (this could be misread by North-Easterners as meaning “Our House and, just to be clear, it wasn’t “Our House”, but somebody else’s, although I wouldn’t mind living there myself as it happens)  and plodded off through some steep and deep bracken up a path which leads ultimately to the top of Harter Fell. But that’s not where we were going – oh no…  The handle on the dog’s new expensive Ruffwear hearness came in handly for crossing the new fence that they’re building and we marched Southly across a dried-out bog to Target #1 for the day – Dow Crag – a small but rocky tor with a lovely view of Harter Fell which looked very steep and quite hard from where I sat.
crook crag and green crag
After this delight, we threaded a way through crags up to the excessively steep and rocky Crook Crag and thence a search for the elusive Great Whinscale – another rocky top which appears to be in two or three places at once, so I visited all of them in no special order, just in case.
low birker tarn
Broad Crag was a long way over there ----->; and reached by a bit of craggy contouring and then, when sense eventually prevailed, a vague and probably normally damp path which took us within close reach of Broad Crag. Broad crag is indeed quite broad and is ideal for enjoying a second lunch and a bit of a snooze.
We returned to the squishy path and followed it, fairly inaccurately down to Tarn Crag and the little oval of Low Birker Tarn which, I might add (in practise for next week’s Druridge Bay North-East Skinny Dip) is suddenly very deep indeed but, luckily, not specially cold. Lucky just watched. There’s Lucky isn’t it?
eskdale from kepple crag
A traverse of more knobbly bits (of landscape) produced the final upward lurch of the day – Kepple Crag. Kepple Crag was the third Birkett of the day and the one with the finest view of Eskdale in..Eskdale.
We descended by devious ways through crags and steepenings and by some kind of peculiar but probably simple navigational transgression, I suddenly and inexplicably found myself sitting in the beer garden of the Woolpack Inn with a pint of shandy in my hand and a puzzled but very tired dog tethered to the table.
This pretty much brought the walk to an end.
lucky likes the tent

Lucky likes the tent and spent the hours between doggy teatime (about half six) and doggy breakfast time (about eight the next morning) snoring and farting on a woolly blanket  and underneath my Berghaus down jacket thingy. Even opening the tent doors didn’t produce the usual dash for the outside which has been my experience with previous dogs. And I had to drag him out at 3:00 am for a pee.
Well, it was dark and I wasn’t about to go out there by myself innit?
More later – I would have put a map in this post, but I’ve just noticed that the trace of the route effectively spells the word “pillock”, albeit with only one “l”. Must have been the wanderings on Great Whinscale.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Lucky Climbs Hopegill Head in his new Ruffwear Harness


Objectives for today were – get a doggy climbing harness for Lucky for the lifting over fences and steep rocks and climb some fences and steep rocks.

The first bit was easy – go to Keswick and chuck some money at the problem. £130 (A HUNDRED AND THIRTY QUID!!!???   HOW MUCH!!!) would have resolved the issue easily  and provided some panniers for the carrying of dentastix and assorted biccies. In the end, with a bit of backpackers Club discount, £55 was more the mark in Cotswolds.

And so, we went off in search of rocks.

lucky follows matt closely

This was also resolved easily and relatively cheaply by first frightening an old chap on a venerable motorbike who wasn’t paying enough attention to my brake lights and wobbled off towards the hedge as opposed to smacking into my bumper (must get the dog navigating these difficult narrow roads) and parking prettily on some grass, we (me, Pup and Matt) climbed steeply up to Swinside, an unbagged Birkett just above Lorton. This included crossing a gate and a fence. The harness worked well and there was only just a little bit of wriggling.

on the way to hopegill head

trail hound hurtling by

We progressed to the sound of the tannoy at some kind of agricultural/country show going on below. Several lean and stupidly fit hounds hurtled down the hill past us, ignoring us completely. Lucky wanted to join in but was prevented by his new harness (did I mention he has a new harness which only cost me fifty five quid (FIFTY FIVE QUID>>>!?) (Gasp)

hopegill head scrambly bit

Soon, we were at the top of Ladyside Pike – not very rocky so far, but ahead, the crags of Hopegill Head loomed menacingly and fairly rockily. In the end, they were climbed easily, but the rock scenery of Hobcarton Crag was impressive. The harness wasn’t used, really.

matts 3

matts 4

We lunched on Hopegill Head as two Lancaster bombers passed below us in the gap between Grisedale Pike and Skiddaw and then down the long trench of Thirlmere. Apparently, it’s unusual to see two Lancasters flying together. Impressive stuff.

me and the pooch at the top

matt, gasgale crags and crummock water

After lunch we traversed the narrow(ish) ridge to Whiteside and down the heathery ridge to Dodd – an easy descent, but probably horrible to climb.

matts 6 

It was here, on some steep grass that Lucky discovered a new method of descent. This involves lying flat out, all legs akimbo and sliding slowly down the grass. If it’s not quite steep enough, a little wriggle produces some downward momentum. I’ve never seen this done before. But every dog has his own little gimmicks, innit?

hopegill head from hope gill

We couldn’t help noticing the camping spots in Hope Gill……  with a nice, clean beck for the paddling and soaking of tootsies… and brewing up….  and snoozing.

A short walk of just about five miles, 2300 feet of upness and about a quarter pound of blackberries….  There’s a map. This is an ideal walk if you’ve not got much time or, you’re not in much of a rush. If its foggy on the tops, I wouldn’t bother, frankly.

I like the harness by the way, and so does Lucky, who sees it’s fitting as a prelude to fun. Which it is.

And now, I’m off to Eskdale for several days – mainly campsite camping but, hopefully with just the one wild night (that’s camping by the way, I’m much too old for anything else….)

hopegill head