Saturday, 6 February 2016
Those who paid attention to a previous post will remember what a dozy beggar I was when, leaving a damp and sploshy 3 days in the Wallabarrow Farm camping barn with Dawn and LTD, I left my new boots behind.
Now Wallabarrow Farm is just a bit over a hundred miles from the defensive moats of Knipetwowers, so I had to make special arrngements to get the boots back. This involved fighting the dog into his harness, driving to kendal to collect The Bro and continuing to Wallabarrow where I ransacked the porch for some boots that looked like mine. There were several lookalikes… but The Boss came out of the kitchen holding a clean and dry pair of Scarpas which he said were mine. They fitted and so, satisfied, we went off to bag a couple of Tumps before the rain started again.
Just a bit up the road is High Tongue – a rocky and tussocky lump acheived from the little parking area at it’s foot by a mild but enjoyable scramble. LTD really enjoys scrabbling up rocky bits, it seems.
We continued along through the rough ground and rocky tors to a second top overlooking a set of braided waterfalls, noticing, on the way, one or two rather pleasant-looking camping spots. In summer, these would be small green havens in a sea of bracken. And, the hills being not very big, and off-the-beaten-wotsit, probably quite quiet and ideal for a pleasant weekend sitting about reading a book or something. This second top had at least 50 metres of ascent on one side and, maybe, just about 30 on the other. It doesn;t appear much on the OS map, though.
After lunching in the shelter of a wall junction, a public footpath took us more easily along to the second target in the shape of Long Crag. Long Crag is very steep, well wooded and appears to be huge and fierce from the bottom. But it isn’t. The crags are small and easily overcome and the top has a boulder on the top which, on the day was lethally slippery and only climbable if any dignity is left behind and there is liberal use of any available high-friction bits of the body, such as knees and/or buttocks.
A path rook us down to the road for a two-mile plod back to the knipemobile which was still where we’d left it. At some point along here , the rain returned and the jaunt was over. The rain rained well into the night, so, any further rambling or scrambling wouldn’t necessarily have been much fun.
The walk was about four miles. Four rough miles, though, so……
Thursday, 4 February 2016
Having a fairly packed diary, me and LTD did the reccy for this walk the day before the walk. This is probably not such a good idea, by the way. It was 11 miles and, on the reccy, stupidly windy, but after Doctor’s Gate, it could have been classed as “wind-assisted”. It was mucky. It was clarty. It was sloppy. In many places.
On the reccy, it all went fairly well – we almost stepped on a hare and LTD came within a couple of feet of a roe deer which, distracted by some sweet grass and, probably, deaf to pedestrian traffic by the wind roaring in the trees, we surprised it. LTD has never seen a deer before. I think he thought it was a big dog. After a brief staring match, the deer wandered off, with little sign of panic or hurry.
On the day, Eric and Neville stewarded and 32 people, plus Bailey the doglet turned up. This is quite a lot of people for one of my walks. Inevitably, all wildlife had disappeared long before we got anywhere near. We did see some snowdrops, though, and the weather included blue skies and clear, long-distance views. And there’s a hint of warmth in the sun if you can escape from the breeze which seeps a gripping cold into the bones. Brrrr (shiver)
We’ve done this route three times before as a winter guided walk. It’s eleven miles, so it’s timing is for when the daylight is just that little bit longer. It’s often muddy. There was deep snow once. Not to be done when the river’s in flood.
For the interested – the walk leaves Wolsingham by the three-heart-attack hill* up to Chatterley farm. Excitements include lots of contours, frisky cows in summer, a cracking view of Wolsingham, a hare (see above) and a tricky stile which cannot be surmounted with any dignity. *I’ve decided to categorise hills by the number of heart-attacks which may be expected whilst attacking these hills for a 65 year-old codger who’s forgotten to take his bisoprolol this morning. This one is a “three”. Three is significant.
A long road walk follows on a quiet lane, passing St John’s Hall, famous for the daffodil-breeding Backhouse family who produced the Weardale Wonder – a rare daffodil to be seen, at the right time of year in Wolsingham church yard.
On to Doctor’s Gate – so named for obscure reasons and having a track well-beloved by 4x4 drivers, if 4x4 drivers ever love anything sufficiently to avoid destroying it as a road suitable for anything other than 4x4’s
Over the rough moor to Stanhope Road quarry with it’s big pond (how deep is this I wonder?).
Down through Hoppyland, a farm/settlement with a long history, to Harthope Mill, the site of the mediaeval bloomery of Byrkeknott, later a mill and, much later, a cattle shed.
Up the hill, past the snowdrops to the soppy pastures around Shipley and then down through the woods and forestry (and deer) of Black Banks followed by a riverside ramble back to Wolsingham. There’s a map below.
Sunday, 31 January 2016
The Stang is not a County Durham racing driver staying incognito as he drives a reasonably priced car around a disused airfield covered in old tyres, but a bit of forestry on the Northern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – just in County Durham, in fact. It’s navigation from the tumbleweeds drifting down the main drag in Barningham provides one of the dullest bits of walking in County Durham, unless, of course, you’re with the Wednesday-Saturday Walking Group (aka Wednesday walkers walking on Saturdays) diffidently lead by LTD, followed two metres later on the othe rend of an extendable lead by Yours Truly (who was supposed to be leading the walk) AND in the teeth of the tail end of Storm Gertrude who was determined to prevent walkers from walking anywhere with any dignity.
Thus, a steeply-angled (at about 45 degrees) walking group of nine people and three dogs batterred along into a viciously nithering headwind, occasionally accompanied by short but lively blizzards. The mind-numbingly boring road walk
was enlivened by sophisticated conversation on such subjects as thye effect of sheep subsidies on the local agricultural economy and which well-know celebrity would be next to meet his (or her) maker) wasn’t even accompanied by any lively conversation, since speaking above the roar of the hurricane and in the teeth of flying pellets of stinging snow was utterly impossible.
So, it was with some relief that we eventually acheived the shelter of the trees of The Stang.
Suddenly, just after passing through the hamlet of East Hope/Far East Hope, we turned left in favour of forest tracks heading towards the Barningham Moors, lunching in an unusually warm and sunny spot just on the edge.
Oddly enough, the moor proved to be less of a fight for survival than expected and the howling nither had calmed itself into a lively blow, hardly even disturbing the rythm of the walkers heading ungrumblingly (made up word) up over the steep edge towards the trig and ancient cairn which provides the 447 metres high point of the walk. This provides a cracking view of a huge lump County Durham and substantial bits of Teeside and the North Yorks Moors and group photos were taken.
Another series of vicious little snowstorms began once again and saw us off the top to follow the wall and the new estate roads back to Barningham. These are a mess, frankly, and do nothing to beautiify the place, although , it could be argued that beautification is less of a motivation than the transport of people with far too much money and a desire to kill things up to the grouse butts and, of course, the huge sums of cash they spend on buying the day’s shooting plus the scoff and booze they consume whilst they’re at it.
Me and LTD did the reccy for this walk in much more benign conditions a couple of days earlier in the little gap provided just after Frank and before Gertrude.
The walk is 8 miles. I got it out of a badly-written guidebook about walks in The North Pennines.
If anybody else’s pictures arrive in my in-box, I’ll probably publish them as well by the way.