Monday, 2 May 2016
No folks, this is not a new dance, it’s a 614 metre high Nuttall/Hewitt/Sim with a 31 metre drop.
The Dodd is a lump. A flat-topped boggy lump at that. It is, in fact, typically Pennine. It’s only redeeming features are it’s fine views of the Lake District, surrounding Pennines, The Cheviots and bits of Scotland. The views up here are Big in a Very Large kind of way.
And it’s curlews, skylarks, meadow pipits, snipe, grouse (I suppose…) and the long and gentle ridge heading due North towards a sparkling green glen.
And the bogs, if you like boggy bits.
And the industrial archaeology.
This was a Wednesday Walkers Walking On Saturdays Group walk lead by Lucky The Dog with me as deputy. LTD, of course, has been here before. There was a previous WSWG walk on this very hill in the summer of 2014; LTD’s first long walk, in fact. I’m not certain if he remembered it.
12 other WSWG peeps turned up, plus Bailey the Dog and we started in hopeful sunshine, then in unhopeful sleety rain which was happily and hopefully just a brief wetting. Any further showers seem to have just missed us, although it seems that the surrounding hills were enjoying some fairly beefy ones.
There was snow too, remaining from a snowy and unpleasant week of weather which had me hiding indoors with lots of hot coffee. And toast. And preventing me getting to Nenthead for a reccy.
The snow was starting to thaw in the sun, just still deep enough to disguise the really deep boggy bits from unwary boots and, after bagging the top, we sailed down the ridge to a square fold where, inside, it was quite warm in the sunshine for the scoffing of lunches. This is not a sheepfold, though. It’s square and the map announces a disused mine near the site of it. My suspicion is that it’s a fold for ponies, used to remove ore from the mine. There’s other square folds in other places…
We returned via the Miner’s Rest, Carrshields and Coalcleugh – a tussocky trip where we failed to acheive the signpost at the bridleways junction in favour of a contouring route which saved a bit of climbing and was no rougher than the proper route.
At Nenthead, Brian was found attempting to fix the window on his car. He joined us in the Miners Arms determined to delegate the engineering to his son, who was on his way…
The walk is about 12 miles and 1800 feet of up, with some bogs and tussocks. Bits of it are quite fab, though…
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
When we left our derring daunderers in the previous post, they were settling in for a nithering night somewhere not all that far from the source of the River Tees. The next morning, needless to say, was frigidly frosty but beautiful. LTD was reluctant to emerge from his stink-pit till the sun started to warm up the akto. And so was I.
But Things Had To Be Done and we all set off at roughly 9:00 am for the march to Cow Green. Some went on the North side of the river and some (including me and LTD), on the South. Our RV point was to be the Moorhouse NNR entrance near Tynehead. Alastair and Jamie carried on for the bagging of Belbeaver Rigg and Viewing Hill, two handy Nutalls on Alastair’s List Of Nutalls Still To Bag whilst the remaining 8 blundered on through the tussocks and tracks to the little bothy/unlocked shooting hut near Cow Green which provided a brewing shelter from the nithering breeze drifting off an iceberg just this side of Greenland.
Reunited we wandered down to Cauldron Snout to join the Pennine Way back towards Dufton. The original plan was to camp just inside the military training range but clearly the army were being a bit sniffy about this, so an alternative camp in the limestone gorge just to the right of High Cup Nick was selected. It became obvious, though, that there would be other camping opportunities beside Maize Beck and, by 4:00 p.m. we’d found a comfy spot beside a little waterfall and popular skinny-dipping spot which would do nicely. It was much too cold for any kind of river bathing, though.
A convivial evening ensued. I visited a few tents and was shorlty followed by LTD who I thought had been well tucked-in for the night and seemed settled and immovable underneath his thermal blanket and my cosy jacket.
So we visited Mr Sloman’s tabernacle where he helped Alan in the safe disposal of the substantial remains of a chicken curry. LTD does enjoy teamwork and the cleaning up of remains of scoff from dehydrated meals packets is his specialty. He tends to emply his very efficient and sloppy tongue at an atomic level and in this way, the rubbish bag stays much fresher, specially on multi-day walks, any empty packets being clinically clean.
Overnight there was a bit of snow and it was still murky and snowy in the morning. Andrew reported that at one point the night was starry, moonlit and beautiful. But I missed it. I always miss these things.
Another 09:00 start saw us complete the walk back to The Old Post Office tearoom for breakfast, joined once again by Mr Morpeth. On the way, of course, we passed by High Cup Nick where it was still snowy and quite misty. This added a bit of atmosphere to the place, but, maybe it would have been nice for those who hadn’t been there before to get a proper view.
The whole walk was a bit over 30 miles in two and a half days. And the North Pennine landscape is the only bit of England with anything like the scale of things a bit further North. And, much of the time it was at it’s best with wide sweeps of fell well ventilated by cold North winds and big, sunny views.
And it was a lorra lorra fun. Lucky The Dog enjoyed being in a bigger pack than usual and worried a bit when the group split up or temporarily drifted apart and would have gone to try to round people up had he not been on his lead.
And it was really nice to meet old friends from the TGO challenge. (Even the chap who pinched one of my slices of toast – you know who you are. Your Dad works for the Council, innit?) We only meet once every few years and when we do, it’s often in some remote and unexpected spot. It’s made me want to have another go at the TGO. Probably next year. I have a route.
Thanks to Alan for the invite. Hopefully, this post will look less horrific than the previous one (!) – I’ve added a few pics of people who seem to be enjoying themselves…. hope this helps…..
Good luck to those on this year’s TGO challenge. Me and Lucky and Dawn are off to do some Beer Trekkin at TGO chally time. (Dawn will likely have soft drinks). I’m not confident that either of us are fit enough for this but if we don’t set off we’ll never know. And I have train tickets for Buxton.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Each year, just a bit prior to the TGO Challenge, Alan Sloman arranges a couple and a half-or-so days wandering and camping as a sort of shake-down for the main event. And this is the Daunder. This year’s daunder was to begin at Dufton, head over Cross Fell, around by Cow Green and back via High Cup Nick and me and LTD attended along with ten other daunderers, all experienced and Fully Qualified TGO Challengers and backpackers extraordinaire. Except Lucky who is a dog and dogs aren’t allowed on the TGO challenge. And I’m not going this year either and neither is Pieter who came all the way from Holland to join the Daunder.
After a coolish night on Dufton campsite and a night in The Stag where scoff and beer was taken, we set off hopefully in bright sunshine up the Pennine Way towards Scotland.
It must be admitted that the first part, of the walk was a bit of a heave up many, many contours towards Knock Fell. Veteran Challenger Morpeth dropped out at this point having struggled a bit with fitness following a triple bypass. Some readers will be aware that I have just the one stent in my cardiac wotsit (apols for the medical terminology here) and getting back enough fitness to contemplate even a much easier slog than this was a struggle for me. And my op was bugger-all compared with his. TGO challengers tend to have a high degree of determination, though, so the prognosis for hillwalking is hopeful, I would have thought, though it might take a while.
So, Morpethless, we struggled on up to Knock Old Man and along to the road to Great Dun Fell radar station where we were almost mowed-down by a cyclist who turned out to be Alastair’s pal. They stopped for a chat whilst others ground out the climb up to the radar station and then onwards over Little Dun Fell and finally on to Cross Fell for a long break in the shelter at the top. LTD started to look a bit knackered at this point, having pulled me most of the way up. Never have a hillwalking dog walking to heel. Their job is to tow not to follow.
We had a brew at Gregs Hut and then, after a few more km of the Pennine Way, turned off to find a camping spot on a nice, wide strath by the River Tees. We’d done 12 miles and 3300 feet of ascent. This is quite tough for a Daunder, I believe.
After dentastick, bonio and kibble, LTD snuggled into his cosy bed as the sun went down. The tents began to ice up almost immediately. My water supplies froze. It slowly went dark. A beautiful moonlit night shivered outside my akto. But I had a hot water bottle in the shape of a furry Christmas reindeer (I got it for Christmas!) and also my toasty It’s-Not-A-Onesie with the Union Flag pattern wot I got from Bernie’s at Ingleton.(It’s an under-a-caving-suit-suit.) And, despite the temperature descending steeply to minus stupid, inside a heavy 4 season sleeping bag, I was too warm (!). Lucky got very close during the night and performed running-whilst-asleep, a kind of puppy-style barking whilst asleep and a series of heavily perfumed but silent gas attacks whilst asleep.
Thursday, 21 April 2016
Me and Lucky got this invite from one Briony who works for Nativve – a Manchester-based “Customer Acquisition Specialist” company. Now I often/usually ignore these things but it seemed that not only would I be fed a breakfast but also, Patagonia would repair my ancient and well-loved (and free!) Paramo jacket wot has (had!) a big hole in it where the elbow should be. And I could take the opportunity for some Synge-bagging (you’ll have to look up “Synge” – basically, they’re obscure and almost pointless Lake District tops, often on private and well-guarded land…
So we said “yes” and went.
Patagonia are currently doing a tour mending people’s outdoor gear under the label “Worn Wear” for free. We like “free”. Click this is patagonia worn wear to have a look. It’s interesting stuff and makes a refreshing change from the usual scrabble for your hard-earned spondoolies as well as avoiding land-fill and all that green stuff… They seemed quite busy and I suspect that a lorra lorra zips got replaced. Whilst they were fettling my coat, I went inside George Fisher’s to meet whoever else had turned up and scoff a bacon butty or two.
Click the pic above for the George Fisher website (also info on Terry Abraham’s new film about Blencathra)
Before being set free to roam the fells, or the shops, we met representatives from Nurture Lakeland and Fix The Fells, who lead a guided walk. Nurture Lakeland’s role is to collect donations from visitors and direct the money towards conservation projects, thus protecting and enhancing the Cumbrian environment. And one of the organisations to benefit from this is Fix The Fells. There’s still quite a bit of footpath damage from the winter storms evident around the Lakes, but also, the sheer numbers of feet over many years has a significant effect on footpaths which tend to get wider and wider and deeper and sloppier as time goes on. So Fix The Fells attempts to repair and rebuild paths so that damage and erosion to surrounding land is reduced and the ecology is protected. They need both money and volunteers. Here’s their website fix the fells click it! Gwan! More info on Nurture Lakeland is here (gwan, gwan, click it!)
After all this, me and LTD went for a walk and bagged a couple of wayward Synges and caught up with the Fix The Fells walk on Bleaberry Fell. We also joined the throngs on Walla Crag. It seems that Walla Crag is a busy crag and it also seems that Fix The Fells will be busy here for some time to come. Walla Crag, though is justifiably popular having spectacularly beautiful all-round views and relatively easy to climb. Don’t go up there if you want to be alone with your thoughts, though. There’s other places for that kind of thing.
It was sunny. It was cold. It snowed a bit. It was all quite beautiful.
Continuing with the beautiful theme, after walkies, we had a visit to Keswick Brewery who are having their tenth anniversary this year and producing ten beers to mark the occasion – named K1 through to K10. They also have an electric car for hire. It’s called “Tethera”, which as everybody knows is dog Welsh for “three” and also Cumbrian and Yorkshire dialect for “three” and is supposedly still used for counting sheep. Other dog Welsh numbers are available should there be more than three sheep. I last saw this car hurtling up the A66 at Threlkeld. Had it been stolen? And where did it’s battery run out?
Back at the brewery, there was some sampling done, although since I had to drive the knipemobile home, I got myself a three-pack and took it back to Co Durham. There was another bottle in the goody bag provided. So I had a good night.
The basic message of all this is that Keswick and Cumbria are still in business despite the flood damage (although it seemed quite busy on the day) and that they want to see you and your dog. (But they need to calm down quite a lot with the parking charges) (and some of the daft prices for what should be budget-end accomodation) (just sayin’)
And that Patagonia is a bit more radical than some other outdoor gear makers, will fix your stuff for nowt, that there gear is available for sale at George Fisher and that they gave me a nice bum bag as well as fixing my beloved but mucky Paramo (I was advised to wash it at least three times before wearing it in the rain…) Patagonia-s website: repair is a radical act gwan, click it, click it…
Monday, 18 April 2016
The Lowther Hills are Howgill(ish) hills lying roughly and a bit emptily between the M74 and the A76, approximately between Moffat and Sanquhar. There’s forestry, grouse moors and steep-sided rounded grassy hills. Nothing too exciting, except for those who get excited by empty places.
So, we went to Sanquhar. It was grey and drizzly and driech, so we didn’t get too far on the first afternoon, specially since the rain was getting it’s act together. We camped a few miles up (or down?) the Southern Upland Way by a small beck – the Bog Burn. We had a rain-spatterred but otherwise quiet and peaceful night.
In the morning (Wednesday) , we continued through the drizzle and hill-fog along the Southern Upland Way which had been partially and a bit irritatingly diverted for “Lambing”. On the way, me and LTD did short diversions for the bagging of handy Tumps. By the time we were approaching Wanlockhead, the mere seven or eight miles we’d walked was beginning to feel like a lot more.
So we had tea outside the visitor centre – because they wouldn’t let the dog inside..
We camped high on the slopes of Lowther Hill, on a grassy little platform by the path from the Enterkin Burn. It was a cosy and pleasant spot, apart from the slight tilt which had me and LTD in a lump at the bottom of the tent on a couple of occasions. LTD suggested that I belay myself to something but couldn’t suggest how this might be acheived.
Thursday was the day for the bagging of Steygail, a Hump, sub-Marilyn and all-round shapely hillock on the other side of Lowther Hill. We used the service road to get up to the top by the radar station and launched off over lovely, grassy hills to discover that Steygail was defended by grass at a general angle that grass shouldn’t be and that there was just a bit less than 500 feet of “up” to get “up”. This proved to be a challenge, what with the big pack.
And then, once up, there was the simple matter of an 1100 foot thigh-destroying descent to a pickernick table where me and LTD brewed coffee in antici……………pation of Dawn’s arrival. I suspect quite strongly that Dawn didn’t really enjoy this bit.. !
Onwards and sideways because it wasn’t too far to a nice camping spot, particularly if we gloss over the huge, deep and steep ravine that was in the way. However, with much effort, a wet bum on my part and a small laceration ro a pinky, plus much groaning, moaning and heaving, we found ourselves on the correct side of this cavernous slit.
The camp by the Auchenlowe Burn, on what appeared to be small dwelling platforms, was specially nice. And the sun came out.
Friday was a bit brighter and we wandered more easily down Glenim and across the Mennock Pass to follow the intake wall (at a distance) across the fell to rejoin the Southern Upland Way back into Sanquhar.
My previous visit to this area, back in April 2009 had ended in a desperate evacuation in a blizzard following a stormy night in the depths of Glendyne and it was interesting to discover that had I followed the burn downhill a bit, I would have come across a fine and sheltered flat camping spot with an easier exit than I’d had that breezy April night. Dhuhh…
We had four hours to wait in Sanquhar and, on the advice of a local butcher, who came out of his shop to talk to Lucky, we spent the time in the lounge bar of the Glendyne Hotel which had more room for dogs and rucksacks than the cosy but crowded public bar. And then there was the opportunity to rehydrate after al that hot weather [koff]
There’s a direct train to Sanquhar from Newcastle, making it specially quick to get there. And the Lowthers provide some really exceptional and quiet hillwalking and backpacking. I should go more often. Once every seven years is probably not enough.
LTD liked it too.