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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Teesdale Waterfalls



I had it on my List Of Things To Do to reccy a walk for Wolsingham Wayfarers up Teesdale. In my mind (what’s left of it) I had the words “Teesdale” and “Waterfalls”. So that’s what I did.

Me and LTD waited for a bit for the worst of the snowdrifts to clear and off we went armed with only an OS map and a cheese salad sandwich (and a banana, coffee, protein bomb things and some 85% Free-trade chocolate)



We did this walk and managed to link up seven lovely waterfalls in Teesdale AND, not only did we manage that, but we did it in the apportioned Nine of the Queen’s statute miles. We returned to Pietowers in smug mode and celebrated with some Californian merlot on Friday night. (Friday night is merlot night at Pietowers) (It doesn’t have to be merlot, actually, almost anything will do.)



Just now, I looked at the programme and it said there was a walk on Sunday 25 March 2018, 9 miles (so far so good) Teesdale Waterfalls (Yes, yes, still good) and Cronkley Fell. What? Cronkley Fell. We did not venture up Cronkley Fell.

Still, what could possibly go wrong? I’ve been up Cronkley Fell loads of times and I don’t think I’ve got the time to do another reccy.

On the upside, the walk we did was really very nice and I diswcovered a few places I’d not visited before and it was all rather lovely.


There was still a fair amount of snow left – some of it very deep indeed, and there’d been a few small avalanches in some places.

There are indications that the Beast From The East might well return for a short spell in about a week, so, maybe, by the 25th of March, there’ll be new old thawing snowdrifts to cheer the place up and beef up the water levels in the falls.

To see Wolsingham Wayfarers programme visit wolsingham wayfarers guided walks (click the linkm innit) The walks are excellent and free and if your dog is well behaved (like wot LTD is), he/she can come too.


Sunday, 4 March 2018

Cancelled Cancelled Cancelled (A Negative Version of Mrs Doyle)

Hiking – what’s it all about? A load of men wandering about in big beards.
Clearly, I seem to be developing cabin fever.
Me and LTD were supposed to be at the TGO Challenge Annual Gathering at the Snake Pass Inn this weekend, but the wind changed, the roads filled with abandoned cars, somebody bought ALL the bread and most of the milk in Crook Lidl and it snowed, just like it used to do when I was a mere lad of twenty-three.
Anyway, Snake Pass closed and the hills became sugar-sculptures. The A68 closed (my route to the A1, which was closed) and somebody in Crook’s toaster broke down from overwork. A Facebook group wot I joined called Weardale Road-Watch reported multiple people stuck in places they didn’t want to be, huge snowdrifts on car roofs, or in the case of Nenthead, on roofs and upper-floor windows. Much digging was done.
Not only could I not visit the Snake Pass and various lovely bits of Derbyshire, but neither did it seem like a good idea to get the car out at all, so a visit to mid-Weardale where the car parks are still full of snow, was also ruled out.
I drank tea and ate butterred fruit-loaf (did I mention that somebody nabbed all the bread? eh? I mean ALL the bread. There were flocks of starlings on snow-blasted lawns with more bread than at Pietowers) Yes, I ate fruit-loaf, sometimes toasted fruit-loaf. Fruit-loaf with Wensleydale cheese (too exotic for Crook-style panic buying) and sometimes with peanut-butter (also quite exotical and a bit colonial)
So, I’ve mainly been wearing wellies and LTD has had is red coat on and we’ve been bashing our way through various drifts on the hills above Crook. LTD has enjoyed this, and so have I. But the snow is slowly melting and some of the icicles have fallen from the Pietowers battlements, so, it’s getting close to the time when venturing out beyond Harperley roundabout seems to be on the cards.  I have to get the knipemobile out anyway because it’s booked in for it’s MOT.
We have plans. Me and Dawn have beds booked in Worcestershire somewhere (must find out where it is) and I have reccies to do on the far side of Killhope Cross and Hartside and in Teesdale. And my March 17-mile TGO training plan walk… the list just goes on and on. In the famous words of Dave Pendleton, Manager of an East Lancs small town sewage facility “Things are really backing-up here”
Will the drifts have melted sufficiently for a decent walk next week?
Its a great shame about the Snake Pass Inn cancellation because, apart from all the work that Alan Hardy puts in to organise the event, it’s usually a right good do and a chance for lots of pre-TGO gossip and stuff like that. And they allow the dog to go. But the conditions were exceptional and there was no road access to the hotel, so we missed out on this and also me and LTD’s annual trundle with The Crowthers and their pooches.
All pics from this week’s snowy doggy walks, apart from the one below – TGO “do” 2016 when the road was closed, except that it wasn’t.
snake 001

Thursday, 22 February 2018

TGO Challenge Training–February Fourteen


Some readers with healthy memories might remember my plan for getting fit for the TGO Chally. This partly involved walking a bit further on each of the months running up to May 2018. February’s distance was to be 14 miles.

And so, yesterday, in spring-like weather, me and LTD went up the Dale (That’s Weardale by the way) – not too far – just as far as Frosterley and we walked up field paths to Hill End, a hamlet perched on the end of a…..hill…    and then up onto the heather moor to the top of Catterick Hill. Catterick has a particularly lovely top for the sitting in warm sunshine, out of the cool breeze scoffing a banana whilst scouring the view of the higher bits of the Pennines beyond – James’s Hill being the huge heathery lump that blocks the view of the Atlantic Ocean, North Wales and, indeed, Urmston (there’s two ways you can go)


Whilst we waited for a shepherd to finish feeding his sheep on the moor below, this, is, in fact, what we did. The edge of Catterick has a little outcrop which contains a huge amount of crystals – prpbably calcite or quartz, or maybe, both. It’s all very pretty stuff.

After the shepherd had gone, we passed below the feeding sheep, just ut of their sight (didn;t want to disturb their elevenses) and on to the wide-open spaces of Turf Hill, which has a grassy track and gentle contours which provide an episode of superb fellwalking right up to the cairn and trig on Carrs Top where there are outcrops and boulders suitable for sitting in the sun eating chicken and tomato butties.


After a short snoozathon in warm(ish) sunshine, we progressed upwards in a on easy ground passing the ruins of a stone hut which had been rebuilt into a square shelter, entry being gained by scrambling over the wall with exit being a similar scramble with no dignity involved.

After this, there was snow-filled peat hags and a fence to follow to the top of Snowhope Hill, at just a smidge above 2000 feet.


To return, we handrailed Bollihope Burn whilst being occasionally monitored by a chap on an ATV just on the skyline above. At least one of the old paths on the South side of Bollihope Burn now sports a wide grouse-shooters road which seems to end in some kind of car park high up on the fell.

We followed Bollihope Burn all the way down through the picnic spots and on to the Weardale Way, thorugh Cowboy Pass and White Kirkley to Broadwood quarry, where the plan was to cross the footbridge into Frosterley.


But the bridge had a hole in it. I’d passed this way at the winter solstice in 2016, have had a wet and breezy night at a camp at Fine Burn. All watercourses were heavily in spate and the main road bridge closed as I arrived as it was thought to be in some danger of collapse, having been whacked by a tree floating down the Wear. So, I diverted to the footbridge, just a bit downstream. This was closed too, but, passable with little apparent risk. Obviously, shortly after I crossed, it must have collapsed. (dhuhh)


As it happens, there’s another bridge not to far downstream. This is a huge, steel and concrete affair, built to take quarry wagons and would take some shifting.

So, that’s the first walk done. 14 Miles and 2100 feet of up. Must take an extra butty for this type of thing. I haven’t yet got a 17 mile route, but I do have a 20 mile one – around the Dun Fells and Cross Fell from Garrigill. And I need some walks with increasing numbers of contours.

But it’s a reasonable start, I think. Map below. Not to be used for navigation. (dhuhh)


Monday, 19 February 2018

Weardale With Crook and Weardale Ramblers


I’ve joined The Ramblers. This is a well considered decision for which I’ve made some space.

There’s been some intial communication difficulties, now all sorted out (I think!) and me and LTD joined a Crook and Weardale Ramblers group walk ooop Weardale on Sunday as a starter.


Our walk (that is to say, me and LTD’s walk) was a fairly neat six miles at low levels around St John’s Chapel. This was very nice as it happens and re-introduced me to bits of the Dale I’d neglected for a long, long time. I knew several members of the group already from Durham CC walks, or Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays and Wednesdays groups, and everybody else was welcoming and friendly and all was quite pleasant.

We finished the day in the Chatterbox Cafe where LTD got to lick out the waitresses ears, as is his practise. I had a fruit scone which was probaly a lot more pleasant. This should NOT be mentioned to the cardiac nurse by the way. I’m not sure I’m allowed fruit scones….


But my enrolment with the Crook and Weardale Ramblers might well be a significant development. Many people attend Ramblers Groups walks and , it seems as if the Co Durham groups are yet more walking clubs. But they’re not really, are they? The history of the Ramblers is much more than this, being much more about access to the countryside for the general hoi-polloi. This is a political movement, however you might think about it. This is on the other side of huntin, shootin, wind farms, dressing as Edwardian gentlemen and being inconvenient distractions to farmers and whatever.

So, there you are. I need to make time for this. There’s walks and socialising to be done and a lot more.

In the meantime, there’s a walking programme wot they’ve got and there’s multiple other Ramblers groups in County Durham, all with their own programmes. And they allow dogs. And they’re really friendly.

We’ll see how it goes – I can always go back to the same-old-same old stuff if required.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

TGO Challenge 2018 Training

Today’s pics are from yesterday’s walk at Dockray by Ulswater – Great Dodd, Calfhow Pike, Clough Head and return by the coach road. Lots of ice and not a vast amount of snow. No progress would have been made, though, without the khatoola spikes, which worked very well and were worn for most of the day.
Hennyway – down to business. One of the Things Required for a successful and enjoyable TGO challenge is a reasonable state of general fitness. Some of this can be gained whilst actually walking on the TGO challenge and people turning up on the East coast of Scotland are usually lean, fit and tanned (down one side anyway) – and a bit smelly.  Most of it is In The Mind, but I’m not going to be training for this as I believe I’m OK on this point, having already completed 13 TGO challenges. This is not to say that I won’t have the odd “Oh bugger, I just can’t be arsed” moment, but , hopefully any of these will be surmountable. (This is not guaranteed by the way) Your heart has to be in it, see?
But then there’s general fitness. I do need to train for this. The longest day on my TGO route is about 19 miles, so I think I need to be able to walk 20 or so. Other, previous TGO plans have not survived reality and, on one occasion, I walked 27 miles instead of the planned 15. This was partly because an old lady told me that it wasn’t all that far to the end and the “hotel” I had my eyes on, on the map, was now a family steakhouse and didn't have any beds.
And some of the days of my 2018 TGO have lots of contours on them – adding up to 4000 feet or so of uphill. I really could do with training for this.
I’ve done this before (13 times) and my settled method is to develop the distance walking by a) walking a lot (I already do this) and b) gradually increasing the distance up to about 20 miles by April. So, in February, I should do a 14 miles walk, March would be 17 miles and April would be 20. It hardly matters how much uphill is involved.
Secondly, I need to increase the amount of daily ascent. This means going to the Lake District a fair bit and doing lots of contours.
Where am I now?
Yesterday’s walk was 11 miles with 2800 feet of uphill. Clearly, this is a long way from the target ranges. So, quite soon, I’ll be on a 14 mile walk and there ought to be more Lake District stuff as well. We have a trip planned for the Malvern Hills, which, although distances are short, the map shows lots and lots of lovely contours.
What about other stuff? I don’t think I need to train for wild camping or cooking or the intermittent boozing that sometimes happens on a TGO (my TGO’s anyway) We have camping trips planned anyway – some wild, some not so wild and some pretty tame.
I’m hoping that documenting any progress that might take place might be helpful to any prospective TGO challengers out there. The key message from me is to do lots and lots of walking. Get a dog. Lose a bit of weight (I’ve gone from 86kg to just under 78 kg. Any more and my diabetic nurse might panic. My cardiac nurse will probably just send her weighing scales to be serviced.) (This doesn’t sound good, does it?)
This is not rocket science – it’s just general hill-fitness. The wild camping, in my view, is just camping without a tap or toilets. Carrying the loads is also a matter of conditioning and fitness – you just have to do it till it stops being impossibly difficult. Reducing the load helps a lot, though, and this is often a matter of experience and listening to good advice.
As far as the kit is concerned – I’m an utter idiot. My tent is heavy but comfy, I take heavy alcohol, my pack is second-hand, I take maps…….. but I’m seriously considering a kilt. Watch this space ------------->