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Monday, 25 September 2017

Things To Do At An Autumn Equinox (Skinny Dip!)

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Yes laidles and gentles, it’s that time of year when lots of peeps turn up at Druridge Bay just a bit before dawn, or, even, the afternoon before dawn, and, at the appropriate time, when the sun begins to peep over the briney horizon from somewhere in the approximate direction of Copenhagenm they all take off their clothes and run screaming and gasping into the North Sea.

Of people already appearing in other places in this blog, these idiots gentle people included Dawn, Brian and me. LTD stayed sensibly but a bit reluctantly in the car where he had a cosy blanket.

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But first, me and Dawn did pretty much what we’d done the year before – we’d travelled up to Ross Back Sands to bivi, a bit luxuriously, on the beach.

Mostly, we ate and slept. Lucky made nests in the prickly grass and did some desultory running about. But he’s not really a running about type of dog. Give seven miles of empty beach and he walks to heel. That is, until he sniffs something dead and rotting and then he runs off and roll in it. Ross Back Sands had two dead seals.

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We did very little at all, the most taxing chores being the supping of tea and the thawing of our dinner. Me and LTD had a walk around the point – about three miles of mainly hard sand, a few stony patches and some hard mud. There were geese. Lots of geese. A tractor and land-rover convoy came off the mud and put up several hundred geese in a lump. Other geese just squawked a bit as we passed. Large numbers had been passing overhead at times – heading South. It was time for that sort of thing.

We moved to Druridge Bay on Saturday afternoon and camped in the “quiet/family” bay whilst others gathered around a fire and played drums a bit irritatingly for those who’s supply of merlot hadn’t quite done the sedation.

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At stupid-o-clock, we repaired to the beach – Dawn in her professional post-open-water-swimming stuff and me in my nor-a-onesie. There’ we met Brian, armed with coffee, hot and strong and we waited in the pre-dawn gloaming, shivering a bit, along with 400 or so others.

And, on command, we dipped.

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In my view, and I can only speak for myself, it was perishing cold. But it was quite good fun. There was much screaming and quite a few people seemed a bit taken aback by the “refreshing” nature of the water and the frequently over-assertive nature of the waves. Some big waves, in my view. I thought some were a bit scary.

The cause is Mind. And it’s just exactly the proper thing to be doing for Mind. It’s a healing thing. And it’s quite good fun. Everybody should do it at least once a year. If you’ve a hankering to do something like this, but are being held back by whatever it is that holds you back, my only advice is to take the plunge and get on with it. Sometimes tiomorrow has an unpleasant habit of being cancelled.

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The North-East Skinny Dip is an annual event held at the (very beautiful) Druridge Bay each September as close as possible to the Autumn Equinox. It’s been on the telly and in the papers and it’s not hard to find on Google. It’s a very wholesome event which tends to affect it’s participants in a surprisingly positive way. There’s a small fee.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Fight Club Hiking in Mottram

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Fight Club Hikers and erstwhile TGO challengers Paddy and Gill decided to host a weekend at Burrows-Mott Towers this last weekend, so me and LTD went along and got there eventually, after bagging a rather lovely Tump near Huddersfield (Cheese Gate Nab) and sitting in a traffic jam for 90 minutes somewhere near Tintwistle.

Pete from Anglesey also turned up and Steve did a substantial amount of the  cooking, and he was very good at it too.

Me, Paddy, Gill and LTD had a little 8-mile trundle around some reservoirs, and up on to Wild Bank Hill from where fine views of Manchester included the local branch of Ikea, The Hilton and Winter Hill and that hill just outside Helsby wot me and Dawn went up on the way to Wales.

Some wine and beer was drunk, as was I.

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On Sunday, after bagging the diminutive and, probably private Mottram Hill, me and LTD came back up North via the M1 and various other roads.

And some peeps may remember that a while back, I hinted at some health issues…..

I now have five appointments for various nurses who have instructions to stab me with needles and remove huge quantities of my very own lifeblood, and a dietitian, and a diabetic nurse. The diabetic nurse clearly has the same problem as me. And somebody else needs to look into my eyes, apparently.

Then there’s the invite for a flu jab.

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I’ve been instructed, pro-tem to stop eating sugar altogether and, so far, I’ve been fairly successful at this and I spend quite a lot of time peering at labels on packets of food and/or googling foodstuffs to discover their calory/sugar content.

I’m hoping that my career as a diabetic will be unsuccessful and, fairly short. In nopt scoffing any sugar, I’ve also lost a bit of weight and discovered that my speed up steeply arranged contours has increased a bit. In fact, I’m feeling pretty healthy. And the lack of chocolate on walkies doesn’t seem to have had much effect in terms of energy….

I’ve also been stabbed by a nurse (just a little prick, Mr Widdle) to discover if the pains in my knee I had recently was, in fact, a gout attack. I’m not sure why, but, they want to have another go at this test, so that’s another appointment. Maybe it was a bit borderline. I should ask, really, but I’m keepong away in case they find another disease for me to have.

So, now, I’m, officially a gouty diabetic with a dicky ticker.

And I’ve just applied for the 2018 TGO challenge.

FFS.

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Anyway – thanks to Gill and Paddy for the hospitality. It were a right good do. LTD enjoyed the long sleeps, the walks and Gill’s cuddles and I enjoyed everything else.

Whatever happened to Mottram bypass, though?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Helvellyn–Don’t Forget Your Gloves (dhuhh)

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Just before we left Pietowers for the fleshpots of Thirlspot, LTD di fcheck with me that I’d got everything – bonio, chewsticks, warm blanket for in the car, hat, butties, gloves….   “Yes, yes, stop nagging , pup.” I told him and we drove for an hour and forty-five minutres up Weardale, over the hill to Penrith and along the mad bit to Thirlmere where we parked prettily and cheaply not very far from the United Utilities seven quid layby just up the road. Seven quid?
Anyway, the plan was to bag a Synge first – one called Swirls. It’s in the forest just above Swirls car park, in fact. I mention this merely as a navigational clue for those who need clues.
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After this, we would lurch in an undignified manner up steep and stony slopes to Browncove Crags – another Synge wot I’d probably walked past a few times. And then, should circumstances allow, we would heave our aged and creaking and wobbling bodies (it’s quite hard to do both things at once, folks) up on to Helvellyn and then have a little saunter or stravaig along as many tops as we could be arsed with in a roughly Northerly direction before returning smugly and with aching knees to our transport.
This went well at first.
We bagged Swirls pretty easily and progress to Browncove Crags was slow but steady but increasingly cold. (Or should that be decreasingly cold)
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The first of a series of vicious little squalls blew over from the approximate direction of the Isle of Man. These got wetter and windier as we gained height. LTD didn’t like this at all. Not at all.
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Soon, or maybe more truthfully, having bagged several lumpy eminences along the ridge,  eventually we acheived the summit of a claggy Helvellyn  and lunched briefly and a bit shiveringly in the cross-shelter there. It is here that I discovered that my gloves were not in my pack and were still, probably in the backpacking pack I took to Wales.
The weather cleared for an instant as we passed Swirral Edge but got worse again a few minutes later and clagged in and got cold again.
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LTD suggested that this wasn’t much fun and wouldn’t we be better getting ourselves into a nice, warm car. And, after passing over a wind-blasted horizontal-rain-lashed Whiteside, I agreed and we set off down the hill back to Thirlspot. We’d done 7 miles and 3200 feet of ascent.
My boots leak too and I should reproof my jacket before long.
That was a short summer.
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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Not Backpacking or Wild Camping on the Lleyn Peninsula

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The best-laid plans of mice and men and all that sorta stuff….  We met at a small but bijoux campsite in the small but bijoux Welsh village of LLanystumdwy (closest I can get is thlanerstimdoowey) and put up tents or, in the case of JJ, set up a caravan. We met for tea and planned a walk from somewhere a bit West to somewhere else a bit North-West. It was going to be grand. We had another cup or two. And some beer.
“We” in this case was me, Dawn, JJ and LTD.
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It began to rain. Then it rained some more. Then it was heavy rain. Then the Avon Dwfor went into spate quite noisily and it rained and rained all night and into a driech, grey, windy bwrw glaw of a lunchtime. We amended our plans to take account of the desire not to get really wet and to take advantage of the fact that we had two cars and could, therefore, do linear day walks along the coast without carrying too much, allowing us to trip lightly along the path like wot ballet-dancers would do if they went rambling
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In the afternoon, the grey and mizzly afternoon, we went to Llanbedrog and abandoned a car there. Another car was left at Abersoch and we wandered back along the beach, through the brambles and blackberries, up and over Mynydd Tir-y Cwmwd (you’d best help yourselves with pronunciation or you’ll never learn..) and back to LLanbedrog. The sky brightened and all was well with the world.
JJ’s caravan was to be Cafe Jocys for the evening.
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Next day, which, by now, was probably Wednesday, we did it again; this time travelling to Whistling Sands and leaving a car there, and another at Aberdaron. We followed the Welsh coastal path, coming slowly to the realisation that the three maps of the route that we had between us (LTD doesn’t need a map), had three different coastal routes on it and, just to rub it in a bit, none of these actually matched the route on the ground. At least, not all of the time. Also, one or two waymarks also pointed in more than one direction.
So, we floundered quite a bit.
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Happily, the coast is soothingly beautiful and nowhere is all that high or remote. And there’s lots of blackberry grazing to be had. Eventually, running out of time due to the confusing mappery, we bailed out and finished the walk on quiet lanes with a direct(ish) final march to Aberdaron.
JJ’s caravan once again provided shelter and sustainence.
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Day three, which was very likely to be Thursday, saw us using just the one car to get to Rhiw and from there we wandered like lost souls over bits of the several braids of the coastal path, some of which were on our maps and, as a diversion, scrambled and tussled with prickly dwarf gorse and brambles and reassuringly grippy rock up the bouldery rib which leads to the summit hill-fort on Mynydd y Graig and then, slightly less confusingly, along to Mynydd Penarfynydd and back along the coast path which occasionally coincided with the version drawn by the Ordnance Survey.
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It seems likely that should you intend to try to follow the Welsh coastal path, you could do well to wait until they’ve decided where it is. Just a suggestion. It seems likely that somebody designed the route on a map and didn't realise that all the existing paths didn’t actually join up. That person then left the job and was replaced by some kind of idiot who was probably drunk most of the time. This idiot had shares in a signpost company but was too far gone to accurately describe to the work parties responsible for the erection of signs, where they should stick them.  So they stuck them everywhere. Or maybe they just didn’t like him and were trying to get him into trouble. His letters and emails to the Ordnance Survey were also too vague and the OS, in a final act of desparation put each version of the path they had on each new printing of Explorer maps 253 and 254, reasoning that they were “Explorer” maps after all and that customers would need to be able to explore. A completely different version of the route also appears on the 1:25k map on walkhighlands by the way. I expect this is the latest version. It’s not completely right, though, and the actual route is subtly different.
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We finished the ramblings with a visit to Hell’s Mouth where JJ flew his kite, Dawn and me had a paddle (the conditions being too dangerous for anything else) and LTD actually chased a ball, albeit briefly. This is the first time he’s ever done this. In the past he’s just watched it fly and roll away into the distance.
Finally, the pub in Llanystumdwy opened, so, after tea, me and LTD and JJ went there for beer, which was very nice. The landlady took pity on LTD who was searching for somewhere comfy for a nap, and gave him a blanket to lie on.
We might try this backpacking lark at some point in the future. Who knows?
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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Tommy Does Penyghent

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I’ve provided the history of this type of thing before, but it does bear repetition, particularly for those who don't know what it is (!)
Way, way back in the day, or, in fact, a bit before the day, my Uncle Eric took my elder brother up Penyghent and not me. It was said, amongst the family that I was Not Old Enough. (Uncle Eric by the way, was a postman in Earby, and, made it up to Postmaster. Lovely bloke. Gangly bow-legged gait but as far as Penyghent was concerned, he was a failed diplomat. I still like him, though, bless his soul.)
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Hennyway, I did form a bit of an obsession concerning Penyghent and each of my three children, on reaching an appropriate age – about 6 or 7 ish – was taken from Dale Head to the summit of Penyghent and back (not done to abandon children at the top of Penyghent, even in those days). And , later, my children’s children have started to enjoy the same priviledge. “Can I go up the mountain?” is often a cue to the planning of such an expedition. There has been an element of peer-pressure amongst the second generation  of offspring to climb Penyghent. It is, and has been, a rite of passage dating back to about 1958. So that’s quite a long time.
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Last year, we turned up at the foot of Penyghent with Tommy and his two brothers, only to find that it had disappeared into some drizzly-driving hill-fog of the type which is No Fun At All. So the walk was postponed in favour of the Attermire caves and crags.
This year, a brief hoisting of the local air pressure ensured a dry day with clear views and so we set off. Mrs Pieman drove us to Dale Head and we secured a successful and incident-free ascent.
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So, that was that. The only question remaining is “shall we continue this tradition?” and…. the only two questions remaining are the one I already said, and “who is to be next?” and… amongst the remaining questions (apols to the Spanish Inquisition by the way) – amongst the remaining questions are those questions which have gone before and “if this gouty diabetic with a dicky ticker eventually finds himself unable to escort the kin childer up the rocky bits of Penyghent, who will take-over and continue the tradition if it is to be continued?”
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Anyway – well done to Tommy. We’ll ignore the strop on the way down. And Tar also to brothers Ben and Chris for being reasonably well- behaved most of the time.
For those interested in such matters, the walk there and back is all of three miles and 900 feet of ascent. A short walk, by any standards. But it’s not the scores on the doors that matter. Is it?

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Muckle Samuel and Bits of Me Dad’s Blue Streak Rocket

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Back in the day, for a brief period, my old Dad worked at Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick where they made Important Bits for Blue Streak - Britain’s answer to the Soviets – a rocket intended for the delivery of huge amounts of death and destruction just a bit East of Berlin. These rockets were built and then tested to destruction at Spadeadam, an RAF station sited in England’s bleakest and emptiest quarter – a huge patch of  low, brown tussocky, boggy stuff quite near the Cumbria/Northumberland border. The landscape is not relieved at all by the huge and regimented Wark Forest, Kielder forest’s twin.

However, the landscape is relieved quite a bit by it’s best possession – a craggy, half-quarried tor of hard rock called Muckle Samuel’s Crags.

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Muckle Samuel’s crags holds the opportunity for the rock scrambler to have a few minutes of excitement getting to the top (although there is an easier way round the back). Muckle Samuel also has what appears at first sight to be a small sheepfold and a couple of walled shelters, one of which is neatly hidden under and beside a bilberry-dressed pinnacle and, according to That Interweb, has an extra underground room access via a small hole in the floor. I wish I’d known this on Friday when I visited. I did notice the hole in the floor, but thought it too tight and mucky to warrant squeezing inside. The place is cosy and big enough for 2 or 3 close friends and an ideal spot for a lunch out of a Northerly nither.

The interior of the main howff or shelter is decorated only by some graffiti, apparently dating back to 1966

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Also, according to That Interweb, the place was the site of a mediaeval steading of some kind. It certainly has a good view to the North of the flat and tussock-infested sloppylands.

The purpose of my visit, though was to bag something, almost anything, and the nearby Tump Coomb Rigg was my target. This was achevied with some difficulty over a vast plain of knee-high and closely-packed and hugely vicious tussocks of the kind that steal your boots and fill them with smelly black water. Happily, the return journey was made much easier by following tracks made by off-road bikers and an outward journey of knee-threatening half an hour was completed coming back in about ten minutes. I was originally intending to go to the Lakes where I had three or four targets to do but then I remembered that the Bank Holiday was starting and the place would be heaving. A traffic report of the jams around the M6/A66 at Penrith in the afternoon confirmed that I’d made a reasonable decision.

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The walk started at Churnsike Lodge, an ex-keeper’s place, now holiday cottages I believe, on the forest edge at the end of an 8 mile single-track road with a dearth of passing places and very soft verges – enlived somewhat by the array of targets (aircraft, buildings, dummy tanks etc) , used by Spadeadam’s Electronic Warfare customers. Also enlivening the journey were the cattle on the road who were reluctant to move, a nice sheepdog pup at a farm on the way and the meeting of the heating gas wagon on the brow of a hill. He reversed half a mile up hills and around tight corners to the next cattle-grid. Impressive skills. I had nowhere to go, really.

Me and LTD did 9 miles and only 800 feet of ascent. And a lot of forest roads. We saw nobody else.  For seekers of solitude, therefore, it’s an ideal spot for an easy walk, or, even a very long walk, maybe to Bewcastle -  and, I should expect, would be delightful if it happened that the sky was full of larks and pipits and such, and, perhaps the odd attacking Eurofighter. It’s not the kind of place where you’d want a rogue knee to sieze-up though.

I wondered whether or not any debris or bits of me Dad’s handiwork remained anywhere nearby.

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