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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Knobbly Knee Nobbled

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There’s been a long space between blogposts and normally, this would be because I’ve been on holiday. I did try to go on holiday – the plan was to visit  a far-flung knipe-ish outpost to help look after some cats and dogs, probably bagging some Pentland Hills and then, as the song says, “rhere are hills beyond Pentland y’lnow…” – go up to Invergarry, camp there for a bit and bag some local Munros, returning later for an overnight somewhere up by Hart Fell near Moffat and then finish the whole thing off with another  Cheviot bag-and-beach night with Dawn.

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But my knee got in the way. Avid readers may remember that I banged it on a stone whilst foolishly pot-holing through a cripple or hoggett-hole in the outer-suburbs of Shap. The thing siezed-up almost completely and the doc’s advice was that it was inflamed and to rest it, smear it with ibruprofen, take painkillers and drink unusually large amounts of beer. (OK, not the last bit…) There was something about bags of peas too… but we only had sweetcorn.

I did make a foray on to Hedleyhope Fell, which is a rather beautiful nature reserve near Tow Law and which has some flat and easy paths. This was a mistake and the knee siezed-up once again.

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However, me and Mrs Pieman and LTD had a second go at Hedleyhope Fell today and I seem to have got away with it. Two of the Queen’s miles were acheived – so that brings my August total to a magnificent four miles altogether. I’m wondering if I can actually get into the drivers’s seat of the knipemobile yet without screaming and shouting rude words.

LTD is getting a bit depressed about the whole thing and is growing his nails in protest. I’m just fed-up.

But this week, if all goes well, me and LTD are returning to the footpaths and byways and will be attempting to re-establish some kind of decent distance and, maybe, ultimately, bag a Tump.

I would have included a picture of the kneecap in question but there’s nothing much to see and I wouldn;t want readers to get caqrried away by lustful feelings. This is a family blog despite the odd naughty word.

Watch this space.------------>:  Not that space, this one<----------------

Hedleyhope Fell is a cracking Durham Wildlife Trust heathland nature reserve and is well- worth a visit, being handily placed for a rest-stop for anybody heading up the A68 tourist route towards Edinburgh. Info here

Monday, 31 July 2017

Creepholed

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Me and LTD had a brief visit to Shap and Wet Sleddale for the bagging of a Tump – Shap Thorn, just outside Shap, and Tongue Rigg, a Synge at the head of Wet Sleddale. This all went fairly well, or so it seemed at the time.
But Shap Thorn may have temporarily crippled me. I followed an old track up to an intake wall and the summit appears on the other side – either a small copse containing what appears to be a tumulus, or a bit of rising ground just a little way to the North. There was no gate and, whilst the wall seemed solid enough and only lightly armed with some loose and rusty barbed wire, a chink in it’s armour seemed to be a creephole aka, in local dialect, a Cripple through which I could push the dog and follow him through, thus retaining a smidgeon of dignity provided that nobody was watching.
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I used the same cripple on the way back, banged my knee on a stone, did some swearing and returned to the knipemobile and drove off to the Wet Sleddale reservoir car park not all that far away.
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A walk passing a herd of cows who were just considering a brief bit of frenzy, but didn’t bother in the end, passed relatively easily if a bit squishily underfoot past an odd enclosure with very tall walls, up a steep and sloppy slope covered in asphodels and through a gate to the summit of my desired Synge. The weather on top being completely out of kilter with the BBC/Met Office “Mainly dry” – that is to say, it was windy and raining – I sought shelter lower down for the scoffing of an egg and tomato butty and one of Coopeland’s finest curd tarts. I have a bit of a fondness for Cooplands curd tarts as it happens.
To get to a footbridge I noticed, I had to cross a deer fence and discovered a rather lovely little gorge on the other side.
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Having sated myself with the butty and tart, plus a bit of  pre-melted and re-set chocolate I determined to get myself back to the start. This turned out to be less than straightforward due to a maze of fences who’s siting seemed to have no logic at all and which did not appear on my map. But, eventually, we achieved a permissive path and plodded back to the car park.
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Now, when I left Sleddale and Shap there was nothing at all wrong with my kneecap. it was only after tea (this is dinner for Southern readers by the way) I had a little nap during Farmingfile Countryfile and when I awoke, I couldn’t move my knee joint at all without a Level 9 pain. And now it’s swollen up. I went to the doctor. I said “Doctor, it hurts when I do this…” She said “well don’t do it , then”  (Joke in memory of Tommy Cooper – just like that…)
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Hennyway, I’m temporarily out of commission as far as walking is concerned. Driving is probably impossible too and I doubt if I could even be a passenger for very long. I can’t bend me leg, see? I’m not allowed ibruprofen due to other medications, so the regime, as advised by the doctor who is probably still giggling at the thought of an elderly, slightly obese gentleman squeezing through a crippl'em is paracetamol (this does bugger-all), ibruprofen gel, regular ice-packs, watching Jeremy Kyle on the tellybox whilst having a raised foot and some gentle pottering about the house, but no proper walking.
I’m hoping this will resolve quite quickly as I’m supposed to be off to Scotland on Thursday and have a Munro-bagging planned if the weather is OK.
If anybody knows the function of the large enclosure with the extra-high walls, I would be quite gruntled to hear it. The walls seem high enough to keep deer in, but may have been shortened in some places.
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Friday, 28 July 2017

Swimmin Off Northumberland–Don’t Get Carried Away

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We did it yet again – a brief Cheviot baggathon followed by a night on a Northumbrian beach.

The baggathon was a six-ish mile ramble near Wooller Common involving three Tumps – Fredden Hill, oddly not included in the local access land, according to my map, and covered in forestry according to Dawn’s (although there were no trees at all) – followed by Hart Heugh – another fine Tump and then Earle Whin, another Tump with cows and pheasantry. Dawn didn’t bother with the last one.

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And then, as per routine, we hurtled over to Ross Farm and headed onto the beach where the sky was grey and cold and the sea was in a specially lively mood. And we  put up a bivi. Actaully, Dawn put up the bivi cos she’s a bivi-putter-upper expert. I just stand about holding bits of paracord or lumps of wood. LTD usually uses the time to dig a nest nearby.

So, we brewed, I walked the dog, had a brief but exciting plodge and we had minced beef with veggies and noodles for tea (cooked the night before and gently frozen in the knipetowers chest freezer (although why anybody should want a frozen chest is obscure)

In the morning we had bacon paninis. Yes, folks, we really know about camp cooking. None of this dehydrated muck for us, oh no…

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At some point, Dawn went for a swim and was briefly carried off in the approximate direction of Dogger Bank, but managed to make a withdrawal before being welcomed into Davy Jones’s locker. I also had a dip, but although this didn’t involve any actual swimming, some waves lifted me up somewhat. Dawn’s second swim was apparently less exciting. Still, close to the shore and in an odd little bay that appears at low tide, the sea was strangely difficult to wade through, pulling in all kinds of directios at once. I’m not sure if this was a one-off or a regular thing. Sea dipping is bound to be a bit risky anyway, I suppose but worraway to go, eh, almost as good as being on the wrong side of a speeding fish-wagon or being shot by a jealous husband – much better than the nursing home thing anyway.. The North Sea isn’t specially cold at the moment. Either that, or I’m getting acclimatised. It still left me with the usual euphoria.

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Note in the pictures that the bivi was specially well hidden on this occasion. This was probably a happy accident. Several people passed by wihtout, apparently noticing the camp and finding it at night after a little wee or a short pre-bed-time doggy walk was a bit of a challenge. Following the footprints in the sand was a good strategy at first, till there got to be too many lines of prints going in all directions.

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And, for good karma, we found a camera on the way back to Ross Farm and, at the last minute, following  a return visit to the beach by Dawn and a phone call to Northumbria cops, the owners turned up and were re-united with it.

This is probably not the last time we’ll do this kind of thing.

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Thanks to everypeeps for the good wishes by the way. Just to be clear, I’m not on my way to meet my maker, at least, not in the short-term, unless I make a serious error of judgement up the A1 Morpeth by-pass. There’s no need to fret or get terribly supportive. Just sayin’. The cryptic comment about positive and negative wishes will be better understood by one “special” reader who thinks I’m an utter utter @$£1!F+*** but who nevertheless likes to read the pieblog, presiumably to see what I’m up to.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Some Things Change, Some Stay The Same

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Its taken me a while to produce another blogpost and things have backed-up a bit, but, maybe I’ll catch up over the next few days.

Having had time to ponder a bit, though, it seems that following my abandonment of DCC guided walking and, maybe , a few other items, that things begin to change quite quickly. My diary for August is full of stuff which wouldn’t have been possible had I booked myself in for a DCC guided walk (and the other thing…)

So, here’s the first two “things” over  last Friday and Saturday, about which there might be indications of change, although maybe only I can detect the change at this point in time.

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Friday, initially had been postponed from Wednesday due to a BBC/Met office forecast of thunder and lightening – which, by the way, didn;t materialise till half –past ten at night (dhuhh). Me and Dawn were supposed to be heading for some Cheviots lying just beyond the Border at Carter Bar.

Instead, we found ourselves planning to investigate inland swimming spots, partly connected to Dawn’s new fascination for getting really wet, a pastime I’ve occasionally followed over the last severalteen years, even since I were a lad of only 57. First, there was Ash Gill. Ash Gill has featured in this blog several times before, being the location for me and Brian’s last-of-the-summer-wine-type japes involving floating downstream scaring the dippers and being munched by horseflies.

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Ash Gill has a waterfall you can walk behind and a row of small but deep pools in the carboniferous limestone. Its a beautiful spot. Ir would have been quite fab, except that the forecast of a “mainly dry” North-East England with temperatures climbing to the dizzy heights of 21C (see BBC/Met Office weather forecatss again!) – it was drizzly and rainy and windy and cold , at just 13C. This put me off dipping in one of the pools and I failed to do very much. Dawn did dip briefly and wetly and we mived on to Cow Green where it was still damp and cold and windy, at just 12C.

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We struggled over the  tussocky/squishy moor to the head of the reservoir where Dawn lost the will to live and sat by the wall and I paddled the River Tees to re-aquaint myself with Force Burn, a small stream holding a remarkable series of small waterfalls, each with a large and deep pool at it’s foot. A smashing place which used to be remote and now isn’t since there’s a new estate road just above it, leading to a new shooting hut. Your taxes are paying for the grouse shooters to do this kind of thing by the way, in the form of agricultural grants. I meantersay, grouse shooters are the hard-ups of the sporting world which is why they have to wear such old-fashioned clothes.

Not such a good day, but, swimming, eh? Good exercise, wot?

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And then on Saturday, I collected Li Yang and we went off to Osmotherley where we joined the 10 of the Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays group as a punter. Nice to be lead for a change and I didn’t even take a map. It was quite a good walk, too, lead by Eric and over new territory for me. I left LTD at home due to the feckin forecast of feckin thunder and feckin lightening which, guess what….  It did rain, though and there were suckler cattle which might have been a problem. And LTD didn’t want to get up anyway because it was raining at Pietowers and his cosy bed is much to be preferred in such conditions.

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So, things are changing. There’s a new health challenge which I’m not going to detail till all the tests have been tested. I would just say, though, that those who project positive “wishes” have positive things reflected on them whereas…. This won’t affect my walking, or, even, swimming activities for a long time yet, though, I shouldn’t think and, incidentally, I wouldn’t want any rellies to worry about this….

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

So vs Well…..

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I’m not sure exactly when it happened, except that it seems that it was fairly recently when interviewees on the tellybox, when asked a question requiring an explanation, started beginning their narrative with the word “So…”   This was immediately annoying, so it was.

I’m now starting the “CAUSE” campaign. So What does it stand for? , Well, [glances briefly to the right and to the left, apparently to check nobody is earwigging], “CAUSE” stands for “Cease All Use of “So” in Explanations” (on the tellybox).

Instead, members of CAUSE will encourage the use of the introductory word “Well” in all explanations.

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Thus, “Well” can be used along with a brief glance to right and left, as above, to indicate that, perhaps a secret is to be told. It can be extrended to “Wellllll” to show that the narrator is not quite sure of his/her ground, or it can be used to raise interest, maybe in a conspiratorial way,in whatever it is the narrator is about to say. Other strategies are probably available. Feel free to to whatever you want, except use the “S” word.

Membership of CAUSE is free and there is no committee, no democracy, no subscription to be made, no quarterly magazine or annual general meeting and success will be measured whenever “Well” overtakes “So” in tellybox or radio interviews.

Pictures of buttercups and daisies are included in this blogpost for no good reason at all except that these highly evolved plants could well be seen as symbols of the Cause.

Well, I just thought I’d get that off my chest.

The flowers live on the bit of recreational ground between High Hope Street and The Farrers Arms in Crook, Co Durham. Other wild flowers also grow on this bit of grass, mainly clover, wild thyme and birds foot trefoil. LTD has a walk here every day.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Backpacking Off the Settle–Carlisle Line

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This was the second walk based on a proposed review of a CAMRA walking/beer drinking guide (wot? walking and beer? Moi?). This one involves a linear walk from Malham to Giggleswick (although the guide says it goes to Settle) and, public transport not being the best if you need to get to Malham and it’s not a Sunday or a Bank Holiday, we (me and Dawn and LTD) thought that we could do a greater – that is to say, bigger linear walk of a few days using the Settle-Carlisle line, which is exactly what we did.

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We got the train to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and, since we didn’t arrive till half past three in the afternoon, we were provided with an ideal excuse to make Day 1 very short. So we walked just under three miles to a rather lovely piece of flat grass just about where the old Three Peaks path crosses Hull Pot Beck. This also has access to several deep-looking pools which turned out to be not-quite-so-deep-really but were refreshing on what was quite a hot afternoon.

A quiet, lovely, moonlit night  followed during which Nothing At All happened.

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In the morning we climbed Penyghent via the old 3 peaks path, meeting the crowds, many of whom had never seen a dog carrying panniers before and who made the usual comments about making the dog carry the gear, do all the work, oooo look a feckin dog with a feckin pack on etc etc etc – we try to be nice, but it’s getting trying and very predictable…

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They’re rebuilding the path up Penyghent. It’s now a staircase of square blocks – much easier and safer than any Fix The Fells path, but it’s so safe and industrial and urban. All it really needs is handrails and some useful Health and Safety notices in red.

Having passed over Penyghent, we passed over Fountains Fell and decided to camp near some nice stream water at Tennants Gill, rather than bash on to Gordale Scar. It wouldn’t make any difference at all to our route timings since we had two days to get to Settle train station. A couple met on the climb up Fountains Fell recognised Dawn first and then said that I must be “Mike”. Apparently we’d met them before on the Coast to Coast. No idea. People usually just recognise the dog… and his panniers…

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Another chap was met as he fell into the thistles trying to get water. He’d just crossed a nice stream only a yards earlier, so his fight with the prickles seemed a bit odd. I had him down as a botanist who’d just identified a brand new thistle and his enthusiasm for a closer look had been his downfall. This was not the case, he was just a daft bugger to be fair.. He was determined, though to walk over Penyghent to Horton to catch the train home. Bless ‘im. I trust he made it home.

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It rained heavily overnight and we were visited by a group of ATV’s who didn’t bother us. Hearing an ATV approach whilst wild camping in England is always a bit unnerving for me. I’ve never yet been asked to move, though. I don’t like hearing those engines…

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The next morning was still driech and damp and we pressed on to Malham Tarn and then to Langscar Gate where we joined the Camra Malham to Settle (that is to say, Giggleswick) route.

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After some poking around, we managed to find a spot to camp in some old mine workings just off the bridleway from Malham to Settle, being discreet not to disturb the two rangers fixing gates on the path. Later, following a brief visit to the summit of Rye Loaf Hill, I noticed that a cow, a bullock and a huuuuuuge bull (I do mean huuuuuge by the way) had made their way through one of the gates which the rangers had left open (presumably on purpose). This meant that the rest of the herd would probably be following shortly and this would put said bovines in the same massive field as us. We didn’t really want this, because it’s a contra-indicatiopn to a good night’s rest, specially with a dog who barks at cows,  so Dawn was sent in to resolve the issue. This she did by creeping up behind them, jumping up and down, waving arms and doing some shouting, resulting in the wandering cattle escaping whence they came – back into “their” field. Dawn then closed the gate, which we re-opened in the morning. They were nowhere to be seen in the morning, but then again, it was so foggy, there was not much to be seen anyway.

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A wet and windy night followed and , in the morning, all that could be seen was a grey/green landscape and lots of hill-fog.

We walked, damply, to Settle, had a cuppa outside ye Olde Naked Man cafe (not allowed in with a dog), and beer, chips and crisps at the Talbot Arms (allowed in with a dog). The beer was all very nice.

I’d call it slack-packing up to a point, so I would. We did about 23 miles or so… it’s all-right to be relaxed about the effort you put into these things y’know. Life is too short for too much in the way of hard work We’re supposed to be enjoying this stuff. And we are..

I’ll do the guidebook review shortly.

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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Guided Walks: The Very Last One–Baldersdale and Lunedale

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On the 11th of October 2003, I was an assistant/trainee steward on a guided walk starting at St John’s Chapel. 37 people turned up and I remember absolutely nothing at all about what, if anything, happened. This, though, was my first “duty” for Durham Voluntary Countryside Service, an organisation now defunct. Survivors have been asked to apply to be volunteers for Volunteer Durham. I decided not to bother.
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Every now and then, I feel the need to slip out of the routine I’ve got myself into and wait to see what happens. Something always takes the place of whatever, or whoever, on some occasions, I’ve abandoned. The rule is that if something or someone is responsible for any negative feelings (fairly or unfairly), then it, or they, have to go. It’s a simple rule and it works. Life is too short and, in the case of the reconfiguration of countryside volunteering in County Durham, the management speak and promises that “nothing will really change all that much” sounded exactly like the multiple NHS re-organisations I’d experienced and became the death-knell of my involvement. It was probably just an excuse.
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So, on 5th July 2017, I lead my last guided walk. 12 people and a small dog turned up in the drizzle at Mickleton Station, including the two stewards, Maria and Ruth. Everybody was really very nice, as they always are, and I enjoyed the walk and the group, despite the clammy weather which hid the best views in murk.
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I’ve mainly enjoyed the guided walks, and the other DVCRS rangering stuff, monitoring some footpaths around Crook and around Hunstanworth, and doing the odd bit of stile-building or brush-clearing and the occasional “event”. Its been all good, clean fun but it was becoming a deeper and deeper rut and I’ve managed to crawl out of it. I have, in fact, quit whilst it was still good, so I’ll be able to have happy memories.
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And now for something completely different - actually, whatever it is, will probably be quite the same as before but in the meantime, I think I’ll expand my backpacking/wild camping activities a bit and, maybe revisit some of those classic Lake District rounds, or sumfink….
And LTD can come with me wherever I go (dogs not allowed for walk leaders, even though LTD is actually semi-human despite his habit of eating wild mice raw)
Most of the pics of the walk are from the reccy, cos the weather was duff on the day…
Some stats: Guided walks stewarded on since 2003 – 113 with 2673 people and several dogs attending. Guided walks lead – 108 with 2135 people attending (and some dogs). I had a few gaps in doing rangering stuff due to having a dicky ticker in 2006, a bit of a sulk at one point and a hurty leg last winter.
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Saturday, 1 July 2017

We Did It Again… Cheviots and Beach Bivi

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This time it was Cold Law, a 452 metre Tump beside the Harthope Valley – in driving, wetting drizzle, a very short and very damp walk followed by another night at Ross Back Sands, this time with LTD in tow and Dawn’s big bivi with a huuuge groundsheet by me.

The driving drizzle of the Cheviots was replaced overnight by a short period of North-East har (sea-fog) and the day turned out to be generally warm and sunny. There was some odd and furtive behaviour by some elderly individuals in the dunes who used secretive routes to get to their destination and then kept popping up and down to see whatever it was that was going on, which, frankly, wasn’t very much.

The sea was in a rumbustuous sort of mood, making for exciting dipping but generally, it calmed down quite a bit during the day.

I dare say that more of this type of thing may well be happening over the summer. The shape of bivies may well be fairly variable, however.

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So, we survived the glaur up Cold Law and the lost the permissive path back down again and hurried off to the coast for a bivi. Supper was beef bolognese pasta, cooked properly the night before and frozen and brekkies was crispy bacon in ciabatta rolls. LTD had a bit of bacon, but threw it up an hour later, not eating his breakfast till mid-afternoon.

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We might do this again.