Saturday, 24 June 2017
If the weather at the summer solstice looks reasonable, and it sometimes still seems like late winter, it seems a good idea to have an overnight. Me and Dawn had had a series of beach bivis last year and so we arranged an overnight on Ross Back Sands, an isolated stretch of Northumberland coast just opposite Lindisfarne and a specially beautiful place at any time of year. Since it’s a pretty big beach with shallow waters and not all that easy for the hoi-polloi to get to, it’s often pretty quiet and is listed in wild swimming info sites as being suitable for skinny-dipping, and so it is.
But first, just to make the most of it, we visited Harthope Valley for a shortish trundle aimed at bagging Langlee Crags, a Tump with several interestingly scrambly tors and lots of little nooks and crannies in which to shelter from a blustery Northumberland breeze. But even more first, as we started out, we noticed a cyclist, descending the hill opposite , do an ungraceful but proper somersault from his bike on a steep bit, then lay still for a while and then wander about as if in a daze. We thought it best to have a look to make sure he was OK, so we potponed our climb and rushed off across the valley with imaginary blue lights flashing. He was fine. He’d lost his watch and some kind of lump of rubber which he was specially fond of (?!) which is why he’d been wandering about and he had holes in his trousers (no comments required, Louise…) and a fine selection of grazes and small cuts. Basically, though, he was all right.
So, we returned and bagged the top, wandered about a bit and then pioneered an off-road minor trespass to return to the car, followed by the short drive to Ross Back Sands. After a mile and a half or so through the cow fields, dunes and the flat beach, I attempted to help Dawn put up the bivi whilst just over there ---->; a couple had suddenly failed to resist the call of the Ross Back Sands surf and had stripped off and were having a nudie splash about in the sea. I’m all in favour of this kind of behaviour of which there really should be more – mainly because it’s quite good fun, and people worry far too much about bodies and, the cold water does something magical to the dipper’s mood, so it’s all good, providing you don't get bitten by a shark or something, or get carried off by a big wave. After they’d dressed and left, we settled in for a quiet and univentful evening and night.. LTD didn’t attend because he has a mortal fear of thunderstorms (as do I, as it happens) and there was thunder forecast for the overnight and the next morning. So he stayed at home.
In the end, the thunder waited till after dawn, but was briefly very loud and quite spectacular. My pint mug, placed strategically under the edge of the tarp filled to the brim with rainwater in less than three minutes. The pre-dawn was nice and colourful and not quite as tilted as the picture I took, but the dawn and the morning developed into a grey, cold and windy one. The only people wandering along the beach seemed to be linked to the nesting terns just a bit towards a fenced-off area a few hundred metres away.
Eventually, the day brightened up just a tad, and just enough to persuade me to risk a splash in the briney. This wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected and, later, after lunch, I had another, all of which made me feel all healthy and slim and happy. Two of these things don’t really apply to me in reality (the healthy and slim aspects). But the dips were outrageously enjoyable and a bit exciting and not so cold that a quick escape was required. Much more of this type of thing will be happening during the summer, providing there’s some warmth. It may get tedious for readers. We have another similar trip planned quite soon. LTD may well come with us.
Friday, 16 June 2017
OK, so it’s quite possible to walk from Innerleithin to Peebles on a flattish route of little more than six miles. Not the sort of distance where an overnight may be required.
CAMRA have published a guidebook of walks linked to pubs (this seems to be quite a good idea by the way) and they asked if I’d like to review it. What, me, beer and walks? I thought it was a good idea anyway, so they sent me a couple of extracts, one of which was a ten mile walk from Innerleithin to Peebles mainly along the “Old Drove Road”. More of the review when I’ve done the other walk, but Peebles/Innerleithin is a bit too far from Pietowers for a day walk, so I thought what a neat idea it would be to drag Dawn from her cosy seaside changing hut and have an overnight on the hill somewhere along the route. So this is what we did.
We parked prettily and freely in Peebles and caught the X62 bus to Innerleithin, scoffed some pies from a bakery and wandered up the road to Traquair and then into The Glen. The Glen is an estate which doesn’t have shooting, but does seem to welcome walkers, which makes a nice change , as it happens. We found a flattish spot near the Glass Burn which provided a nice water supply and camped a warm and sticky summer night amongst ticky bracken. I caught two ticks scrambling up LTD’s muzzle. another, intent on evil heading up my arm, one on my cooking pot and one on my map case. None of these survived. I can’t find any on my body or, indeed on LTD although he may be hiding some somewhere. I may get Mrs K to check my more secret parts. She might enjoy that. Even if she doesn’t, I might enjoy it anyway. Ticks don’t survive on LTD anyway due to the tablets we get from the vet, so he should be safe.
We were roughly half way along the route.
It rained a bit in the morning, leading to a late-ish, relaxed kind of start and then varied between hot sunshine and squally, heavy showers and we finished the walk in waterproofs. The second half of the walk is much better than the first and, unusually for half a walk, it’s six miles longer than the first half… (dhuhh ??!!)
The drove road towards Peebles is quite delightful and there are cracking views to be had of Glen Sax. Some pre-TGO challengers may remember a couple of expeditions in this part of the world, one of which ended in a wet and windy atlatntic storm at Tibbie Shiels and the other finished with Mr Sloman doing himself a nasty of a barbed wire fence just outside Moffat. Maybe I shouldn’t remind them about these things.
Anyway, the walk is fine, and quite nice in parts. I’ll be doing a proper review later, once we’ve worked out the logistics of a Malham-to-Settle stravaig.
I measured the Peebles walk at eleven miles, though. So that’s a bonus mile, innit.?
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
I told the County Council aka Volunteer Durham that after July I wouldn’t be doing any more guided walks. And this walk – Slitt Wood and Black Hill, a ten mile trek – would be my next-to-the-last one. Volunteer Durham ( I will avoid using just the initials) have now stopped asking me for photo-id and an application form to be a volunteer.
The omens, in the form of the Met Office weather forecast were, er, ominous. Basically, it was chucking it down in the morning in exactly the kind of way that it does when nobody turns up for a walk, and it would rain most of the day. Not only would this be a contra-indication to much in the way of company, but also, Footpath No1 in Westgate, the one through Slitt Wood, is officially closed but unnoficially quite easy and safe to walk providing that the beck isn't running high, and, after four days of rain… and more to come… I expect you catch my drift. Me and LTD visited the day before, though, and it was still good to pass.
On the day, me and Jo, the second steward turned up half an hour early by mistake, leading us to belie that nobody was coming and, at the same time, a walk leader from Gateshead Ramblers was also starting to think that her walk numbers would be very low. We discussed forming a coalition in order to have a majority and the only thing to decide was which of our routes to take. I wanted to do her route, and she wanted to do mine. In the end, five walkers turrned up for mine, plus Neville the steward, and half a dozen for hers. It was still chucking it down. What’s the matter with these people anyway?
The walk went well enough. Eventually the rain slackened off and then stopped.
The route goes from St John’s Chapel, down to Westgate on the riverside paths, through some rather fine Northern Haymeadows, up through Slitt Wood to Slitt Mine and Middlehope Mine to the Rookhope road, then over Black Hill to Queensbury farm and back through Wearhead to the start – ten miles and 1900 feet of up.
I did reccies in March and a week before and, just Slitt Wood the day before.
The pics in this post are mainly from last week’s reccy.
Just one more to go. I’m making space for more backpacking and, maybe, for another, fresh outlet for social walking and, perhaps, in time, more walk leading.
In the meantime, my daughter Becky has given birth to her second Scottish sprogling and my fifth grandchild – Austin Thomas, born at Melrose just the other day. Knipes are in a general state of chuffdness or, even, gruntledittity.
Some things change, some stay the same, innit
Thursday, 8 June 2017
And so, we dragged ourselves out of our stink-pits at some point in the morning, to be handed cups of tea and bacon rolls. This was good. This was very good, actually. Alan Sloman’s Wine and Cheese party had been cancelled due to a weather forecast which involved lightening and driving rain; not the kind of weather to be sitting about watching your best Lancashire blow away and your Rioja filling up whilst being electrocuted for some minor blasphemy concerning the rain diluting your plonk. So we (when I say “we”, I really mean “I”, that is to say, me.) decided to go directly to Glen Clova without passing go and without collecting £200.
So we headed off up the exceptionally beautiful Glen Callater. Glen Callater has more very fine camping spots than you can shake a walking pole at. It would be a fine place to spend a lazy weekend with a small collection of Just William books and a small but adequate supply of teabags and booze. I might do that sometime.
But I digress a bit. We headed up over Jock’s Road. Jock’s Road rambles up Glen Callater and then hits a wall of steep grass up which a thin and intermittent path makes it’s way. It’s not as hard as it appears from the bottom. Or are we finally getting fit? Then there’s a bit of fence-post following over a couple of tops and then it starts raining. It always starts raining on Crow Craigies. It’s a rule. It chucks it down, in fact and at lunchtime we grovel into the hovel that is Davy’s Bourough – a semi-underground howff which is weatherproof but filthy. When we emerge, it’s just about stopped raining, so we descend into Glen Doll and wander down the road to the Clova Hotel which we enter, intent on having beer and, maybe, food before climbing up to Loch Brandy to camp for the night.
Andy Walker appears at the bar. He has a bed in the bunkhouse. After a couple of pints, this seems like a really good idea, so I book us in. This also means showers, dry tents and dinner and more beer. The decision is declared a Good One after it starts chucking it down again and blowing a hoolie at the same time. We miss all of this and have a nice, big, calorie-heavy breakfast in the morning.
The climb up to Loch Brandy and then further up to the plateau is slow but seems fairly easy. More TGO Challengers appear on the tops, heading for Tarfside. As for us, at Muckle Cairn, we turn into Glen Lethnot and down to the Shieling of Saughs, which has an anti-raptor gas gun, making the place a bit noisy for a lunchtime stop, the sudden bangs being a contra-indication to the stability of one’s brew, so we don’t stop but carry on a bit to find a quieter place next to the burn. Sheiling of Saughs was supposed to be our camping place on our TGO Challenge route sheet, but we’re half a day ahead, so we bash on down the glen till it starts raining again and we find a squishy, spidery, slightly tilted spot next to the river and out of sight of the road and any farms. If we’d carried on a couple of miles further, there would have been some nice places off the road and next to the river. Dhuhh. I may have mentioned this sort of thing previously.
The next day is hot and we plod on over the Caterthuns and into Brechin where we raid the co-op for lollies and drinks and end up , after a desultory tour of the city centre, in the Dalhousie Bar where the barmaid is a nice lass called Shona and the afternoon clientele consist of fairly-well hydrated elderly gentlemen. One or two are really really well hydrated, but jolly and friendly and the pub does a pie and a pint for £3.75. I meantersay, even a Yorkshireman couldn’t complain. We stay almost all afternoon till Mrs K phones to say that she’s in the Co-op car park. I have an emotional re-union with Lucky The Dog who spots us from a distance. Probably the smell, I shouldn’t wonder. (ahhh, sniff….) LTD’s nose is a very fine piece of detection equipment, though the challenge on this occasion could well have been quite easy.
Then, we cheated. Mrs K transports us to Johnshaven where we have showers, tea, clean undies and beer and scoff in the Anchor. I take LTD for a walk. Mrs K then returns us to Brechin in the morning after a substantial breakfast at The Anchor (I’ve always liked this pub) and lighter packs due to us not having to carry camping gear.
Its a hot day and, not stopping for a break at all till we get to the garden centre at Charleton where we stop for tea. They put strawberries on everything y’know. I can’t eat stawberries cos they do unpleasant things to my digestive system, which I point out to the waitress when they’ve put a strawberry on my scone. She points out that Charleton Fruit Farm is a stawberry farm. We make short work of the walk to Kinnaber Links – our finishing point. Then we wander along the cliffs and the golf course to the Park Hotel. Mrs K collects us again and we return to Johnshaven for more food and beer.
As a finale, the next evening, it being too hot for anything other than snoozing during the day, I take LTD the 3 miles to the summit of Paul Matthew Hill, a 172 metreTump with a wind-farm on the top - and the 3 miles back again. I’ve gained fitness and LTD has lost a bit.
So, that was that. My 13th TGO challenge. 194 miles and just about 30,00 feet of ascent. The Lad has raised over £500 for Forever Stars, the perinatal bereavement charity in Nottingham and we suffered no damage to life or limb. So, we call that a success. I may do another TGO, and, maybe I’ll go for 20 crossings…… I may well finish my next one at Johnshaven.
Edna Turner was me mum by the way. Locals in Earby had the unnerving habit of calling you by your mother’s maiden name if they caught you doing something naughty. “Tha’rt Edna Turner’s lad in’t tha?” They’d say, holding you by an ear. If Edna Turner was in bother , they’d say “Tha’rt Bertha Payne’s lass ent tha?” Knowing your family history for the previous hundred and twenty years was a great help in controlling wayward yoof, I think. This last paragraph probably has no relevance at all to the TGO chally.
Monday, 5 June 2017
After a full Scottish breakfast, proper scoff and beer the night before, clean socks, aired boots and chemichalised armpits, we set off in high dudgeon just as far as KIngussie where, a tea-room being open, we had to call in. Not passing a tea-room is one of the rules. Several other TGO challengers were in there too, some scoffing huge and delicious-looking breakfasts. This kind of reIaxed attitude to the TGO may well be one of the main attributes for a successful crossing. I also replenished some of the food suppy, although my still-kippered Big Bag hadn’t really shrunk all that much from Day 1 and now there was veen more porridge inside it. And I bought a little stove to fit my other (Primus) gas supply. Now I had two stoves and a competely separate stand-by cooking system, including two spoons (yes, that’s one spoon and another spoon). Can’t be too careful. Safety first. Anything could happen.
We plodded past Ruthven and into Glen Tromie which was all very easy walking and increasingly beautiful. As we lunched, we heckled some TGO-ers paddling the river. And then we passed on up the glen till we got fed-up and pitched about a kilometre short of our target, which was supposed to be just about where the Minigaig starts going uphill a bit more seriously. Happily, and unusually, our selected site was the best. Normally, what happens is that you pass several really nice camping spots, get fed-up/tired/grumpy etc and pitch the tent on a lumpy, stony or squishy bit covered in rabbit-poo only to find a really really nice place 50 metres upstream the very next morning. A mental note taken at the time for future reference is never ever used.
The night was cold and clear and starry for the twenty minutes it actually went a bit dark and in the morning there was a smear of ice on the tents. But it’s warm and sunny and the tents dry out quickly.
I decide to change the route and , due to the hot and sunny weather and a sudden attack of River Feshie Lassitude ( a debilitating condition caused by excess breakfast), we launch ourselves into our Foul Weather Alternative. Not only does this have fewer contourts than the proper route, but it’s also five miles shorter. I did think I vaguely heard something about rain from about 4:00 pm in the afternoon, and getting ourselves wet before entering the posh bits of Braemar would be so last year, so I thought it only sensible.
So we set off up a bit of a nick in the hills and popped over the bealach to the upper reaches of the River Feshie. On the way, in a rare moment of energy and positive-thinking caused by the consumption of an infected jelly baby ( a red one), I bagged Meall an Uillt Chreagach (Round Hill of the Self-Catering Chalet), breaking my tradition of never climbing anything I can’t pronounce.
Dropping into Feshiedale, we crossed and recrossed the infant river, stopping only occasionally for soup and chocolate and hop-scotching with a couple who had camped nearby the night before.
A short Pennine-like bog-trot brought us to the headwaters of the River Geldie where more challengers were met coming over from the Feshie. As it began raining (see – I said it would rain, innit?), we pitched our tents near the fords leading to Geldie Lodge. A wet night followed where I worried only fitfully about the river filling up and washing away one or more of my stoves.
In the morning, we completed our march through Geldiedale and entered Braemar with only a short visit to Mar Lodge where it seemed they didn’t want Challengers to be seen by anybody of substance and where the custard creams had run out. However the cafe’s and bars of Braemar fulfilled almost all of my bodily needs. Nobody mentioned Kylie, which was a bit of a relief. I did manage to leave the place the very next morning with somebody else’s underpants in my bag. This was the result of bleary-eyedness whilst collecting my drying laundry on the campsite and not as a result of any kind of night of passion. If anybody has lost a pair of black icebreakers, let me know and I’ll post them back to you. Apologies for this mistake. I’ve not worn them and, whilst they did appear to be reasonably clean, they’ve been washed again, which is how I discovered them. I also found a dead tick in my sleeping bag, for which I blame my beta-blockers, or , possibly the Ace inhibitors. This is not the first time this has happened. I may be toxic to biting insects and spiders and serves ‘em right anyway. I won’t mention the pink bra or, indeed, the suspenders.
And thus, the section was completed by a short ramble up Cluniedale and into Callaterdale for a night of carousing, merriment, song and dog food at Achallater Lodge. The dog food was a mistake. Somebody put a huge dish of it in front of me and I grabbed some, a bit hungrily. It was a bit salty, but not unpleasant. On the other hand there was the Callater beer, whisky, chilli-con-carne, cheese and oatcakes bacon butty, tea, coffee, good company and superb hospitality. Having failed to buy any decent contributory scotch in Braemar due to TGO challengers having bought it all, we both left a small but decent donation towards the upkeep of the lodge. We camped outside. I slept well. Kylie failed to turn up.
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
After surviving a wet night by the River Loyne, which was only slightly more full in the morning than it was last night, we bade farewell to the Barnard Castle Ramblers “A” Walk and paddled off over the bealach towards Tomdoun in heavy showers. Tomdoun Hotel is now a posh house, although not yet occupied but the International Communications Hub aka phonebox is still there and, I dare say, somewhere there’ll be a post box too.
I was missing LTD somewhat and Larry The Gull wasn’t much of a replacement as he was always somnewhat distant, either high in the sky or being mobbed by crows. My supply of life-supporting chocolate bars had suffered no further damage, apart from being scoffed at brew-stops and the interval between showers had increased to seven minutes, so, all was well with the world and we made good progress in an approximate Easterly direction till we arrived at Faichem campsite some seventeen miles later. Not too long later, a taxi arrived and me and The Lad and two oher TGO challengers (who had arranged the taxi) were off to the local hotel for a quite expensive dinner and severalteen pints of frothy. Other TGO challengers, including JJ, accompanied by an infected Shetlander were also in there.
We walked with them the next morning to Fort Augustus. The Shetlander generously shared his upper espiratory tract infection and I spent the next few days attempting to sneeze, cough and pour boiling water into a food pouch all at the same time. Or sneeze, cough and urinate to leeward. Or sneeze, cough and swallow porridge. Or sneeze, cough and not knock my new stove over. This did not always go well. On the upside, Larry was heard to screech in the way that seagulls often do when spotting an open bag of chips in, say, Hartlepool or Whitby and then sneeze from high above in the way that seagulls almost never do. He was last seen heading West, coughing in the general direction of a magpie and, what appeared to be a Caledonian version of a carrion crow. (Thats the grey one). The attractiveness of the perfumed food bag (the Big Bag) to wandering mammals – you know – cats, dogs, foxes, mice and so on, remained and even the choccy bars still had a pescatarian edge to them. (Look it up!)
And so, after fish and chips and some light shopping, where we met Chrissiedixie on a rest day, me and The Lad investigated stove shops. There was just the one. The lad inside sold me a Camping Gaz stove wot you can take the canister on and off (marvellous what they can do nowadays) and, as we were now officially ahead of oursevles, after a pint we marched off up the Corrieyairack to Blackburn bothy, which was full, so we camped outside. I had to buy the canister, obviously but I still had a full Primus one which seemed that it was just going to be dead weight. But for now, the stove problem was solved.
The next couple of days were intended to be a wild traverse over the high land to Newtonmore. And it was. Mainly anyway. We began in warm sunshine which soon deteriorated into a fierce Southerly gale with driving rain, which pushed us on over a few minor tops and the odd Corbett to Lochain nan Sidhean where the weather suddenly calmed down. A bit higher than our camp, though was a new road, driven across the face of Meall na h-Airse at roughly the 800 metre mark and on which tipper trucks, rollers JCBs and vans were seen to be trundling backwards and forwards. The traffic stopped at six o’clock and only restarted as we crossed the road the next morning, a frosty, sunny, promising sort of morning. Several drivers waved cheerily. So much for the wilderness.
The next section was still wild, though and we hopped from hill to hill till Carn Ban and then dropped down into Glen Banchor to a B&B, beds, showers, pub food, a parcel of socks, maps and breakfasts and lots and lots of TGO challengers. Some locals, enjoying a night in the pub and enquiring as to the meaning of the letters “TGO” went away with the idea that it meant “Two Girl Orgasm”. No idea where they got that notion from. Look – I’d had a beer or two, right? I should probably apologise. This wasn’t my worst by the way…. Whoops…
The next day would be day 7. We had covered 89 miles out of 188. Almost, not quite half way, but crossing the A9 and the River Spey always seems like halfway.