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Saturday, 25 March 2017

A Simple Desultory Philander in the Borders

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I have disposed of the knipemobile due to it’s habit of wearing out CV joints. I had the Old Girl for ten years and was just learning how to drive it properly , that is to say, putting the least amount of stress on the CV joints when going around bends. I got a new one, after buying a lump of money from Barclays Bank at a remarkably low price – that is to say, the loan, not the new car.

I immediately took the new knipemobile to Alston and Nenthead for a visit and then, it struck me , that a bimble up the A68 where there’s a small group or gang of unbagged Tumps might be Just The Thing, specially in view of the weather forecast which was for warm sunshine. People who travel South on the A68 might recall seeing a line of conical hills hanging on the side of the Border ridge just before the bendy bits at Carter Bar. The side road off the trunk road to the start of this walk turns out to be horribly holed, mud-covered in parts and quite bumpy in places. Knipemobiles have to put up with this sort of thing, so it would be a good introduction. The new car is now filthy.

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I parked the car near Towford – a deep ford with the Kale Water in semi-spate following several rainy days and quite a bit of snow melt.

Hill number one was Heugh Law, a long and grassy sheep pasture overlooking Plenderleith farm, from where there was an excellent view of the pointy hills mentioned above…

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I was quite lucky to find gates where gates were needed and, any cattle were too busy with their hay supplies to bother me and LTD, and only a patch of deep, deep muddy slop , caused by said cows, caused any trouble. This was Up To The Socks. We passed over Knock Hill and avoided some people quarrying stone for a road and were soon on the top of Pointy Hill #1 – Philip Law. This is a fine hill with a cracking view of the snow-clad Cheviots to the East and Ettrick and Manor Hills to the West. So I ate my pie and chocolate-covered ginger cake (dribble..) LTD sunbathed. It was nice and warm out of the breeze.

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Next up was Pointy Hill #2 –Goshen Hill. Goshen is proto-Welsh for “covered in cow muck” , which it was. It seems that the top of this hill is a favourite place for the local bovines to do their toilet. Its not the kind of place to stop and eat a pork pie and some ginger cake being grungy all around. So we didn’t. It had all gone anyway.

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A trundle through the forestry followed and Hill number four eventually came underfoot – Phawhope Rigg from where a fine and easy tramp over a huge grassy plain brought us to our final Tump, Loddan Hill, overlooking Nether Hindhope where, it seems, the post-bus (or at least a large post-office van) was seen to be visiting.

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My utter lack of planning of this jaunt raised a bit of a problem for the return to the knipemobile, which we hoped was still where we left it with the lights off and the wheels on, and this was the crossing of the Kale Water, which was still running high. We descended to a meander which, from above seemed to be a wide spot where, maybe the current would be slacker and maybe the water would be shallower.

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I removed boots and socks at my predicted ford, watched incredulously by LTD who really really hates water. The burn was deep and swift and, it looked a bit risky. I prospected around a bit, chose a spot and paddled across. It was just about knee-deep and not quite as cold as I expected. LTD plunged in , swam a few doggy strokes and scrambled up the bank. He seemed overjoyed by what he’d just done. I praised him and this made him even happier.

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I finished the last easy mile on the road without socks.

My new GPS thingy said I’d covered 118km at an average speed of 48 kph. I should have reset it before setting off…  dhuhh..

On the way around, we met various animals. Firstly, on climbing one of the hills, I noticed that LTD had spotted something and there, just a few yards away was an elderly-looking badger. He didn’t see us till LTD barked and he disappeared undergound before I could get the camera out.

In other places , there were deer. I spotted seven or eight altogether.

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And then there was a lizard. He was moving jerkily towards lTD who clearly wanted to eat him.  If I hadn’t noticed the little fella, LTD would surely have scoffed his first lizard.

And, as a sure sign of spring, skylarks and meadow pipits were all up and singing. Fab stuff.

The walk – made-up as I went along, was just a bit over 9 miles and 2400 feet of up.

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Monday, 13 March 2017

Tree Planting at Tow Law and Reccying a Walk

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On Saturday me and Dawn (LTD stayed in his pit on Saturday) spent much of the day digging holes, inserting oak and rowan saplings and cosying them all up with plastic tree guards. This was part of a project organised by Durham Wildlife Trust and Wolsingham Parish Council, replacing an old conifer plantation with native deciduous trees and shrubs. The small plantation is on an old quarry site on a  hill-edge with big views of Weardale. We kept digging up green-coloured clinker and the odd half brick and, apparently, this was due to theold quarry being filled with waste from the local steel foundries.

There were lots of volunteers and many trees were planted but as the rain started and some scouts had pinched our lump hammer (for driving in the stakes), we called it a day and repaired to knipetowers to drink tea.

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On Sunday, it was time to reccy the third of my new(ish) summer programme Durham County Council guided walks – the one which starts at Baybridge and wanders apparently fairly aimlessly around local gills, pastures and moors. In fact, it’s an old route with a new start, mainly aimed at avoiding a really steep and slippery descent which is probably a bit risky for many of the DCC guided walks punters. The new route is a bit more interesting anyway and it has the added bonus of more contours, thus helping with anybody’s slimming plans or for hardening up their thigh muscles for proper walks in the Lake District.

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We  (me, LTD and Dawn) managed to time the first half of the walk with a fine, sunny spring day with sunshine that had hints of warmth. After that it clouded up and drizzled a bit.

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The route is fine, though, although I had to report FP no. 1 in the parish of Hunstanworth as blocked by fallen trees. A quick whizz-through with a chainsaw ought to sort it out, I would have thought.

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It’s ten miles and the walk starts at Baybridge Pickernick Site at 10:00 on 15 April at a bargain cost of just £4. Bring butties and a drink. I’ll have to reccy it again about a week before and hopefully somebody will have been busy with their little saws and the sheep will have had their lambs. And so on, and so forth….

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Next thing is to replace the knipemobile which has developed noises, vibrations and annoying messages about the left hand parking light being out. It’s old age. I’ve had it ten years…  I am in contact with Barclays Bank.

countywalk3nookton

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Soggy Stuff Near Swindale

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Me and LTD had a little  eleven-mile jolly around the hills just a bit to the left of Swindale (depending on which direction you’re facing).  Parts of the area seem to also go under the name of “Rafland Forest” It’s near Shap.
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These particular hills are specially empty and we saw nobody at all on them. They’re also specially soggy hills too, and, probably not because it rained all night the night before. These fells, therefore, are ideal for anybody who needs a bit of space for themselves, or who likes to sing but can’t, or who enjoys wet socks.
And it was sunny and spring-like and almost warm.
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The purpose of this toddle was to bag three wayward Synges – Langhowe Pike, Rowantree Crag (which has a holly tree pretending to be a rowan), Great Ladstones and Scam Matthew. Other tops are available in the form of a selection of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells and/or several Birketts. There is, in fact, a lot of overlap between all of these hill categories and this just goes to show just how desperate some people are for something to bag [koff]
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Anyway, it was a good walk. Snow on neighbouring fells was seen to diminish significantly during the day and, just to show that spring may well be springing, several small pools were heaving with rampant frogs who seem to be having some kind of party. Strangely silent on the part of skylarks, curlew and lapwings, though.
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Monday, 6 March 2017

Walking The Dogs on Mount Famine/TGO Chally Spring Gathering

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For the past few years, a pattern of behaviour has developed where, on the occasion of the TGO Challenge Spring Gathering, that me and LTD visit Castle Crowther on the Very Edge of Kinder for a little trundle or dog walk up a few juicy Tumps prior to the evening’s jollities back at the Snake Pass Inn which is in ...er....Snake Pass…
This year, following coffee and biccies in one of the Castle’s main butteries, me and LTD joined Geoff, Islay, Chrissie and Pebbles for a jaunt or expedition who’s aim was to achieve the very summit of Mount Famine followed by an assault on the Western Cwm of South Head and a bit of a circuit up to the Pennine Way and back in time for scone and more coffee. The deal was, as in the past, that I nominate a couple of hills-wot-I’d-like-to-climb and Geoff and Chrissie come up with a walk that does the job.
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The sun beat down with a UV score of almost 2 (this is where you can get a slight tan after only a few short weeks of exposure) which made a nice change from the day before where it chucked it down all day and, indeed, the following day where it chucked it down as far North as East Leeds  (noted when progressing up the M1 towards home.) (6 degrees C warmer in Co Durham by the way)
Anyway, the walk was exceedingy pleasant and reasonably warm if you got out of the breeze and there was soft, thawing snow and cyclists and illegal wild campers (outrageous, who would do such a thing? [koff]) and I think we did about 8 miles. (I’m willing to be disabused of this assesment by anybody with a GPS or, indeed, a map)
So it was all very nice.
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Meanwhile, back at The Snake, my tent pegs had come out of the mud they were tentavely (see what I did there) stuck in and LTD poddled my sleeping mat and bag with mucky footprints before tea and chewsticks and  after a short snoozette we repaired to the Inn for dinner, which, again, was all very jolly. The camping area was really very soggy with puddles and deep and sticky mud which got everywhere, specially with a dog. Next time, I’ll get meself organised and get a bed.
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Meanwhile, the walk organised specially for TGO challengers and lead by Graham, there’s been a slip and a broken ankle leading to a helicopter rescue, so there was one less for dinner. I did notice too, that much of the conversation over drinkies in the bar, revolved mainly around people’s infirmities – bad knees, hips, legs, shortage of breath and so on and the challenges of being a TGO challenge organisor or long-suffering vetter. Indeed, I had once been told by a vetter who’s name will remain obscure, but who’s initials are “JD”, that my attempts at Gaeilic place names were brave but futile and that my grid references of camping spots were often in places which were more precipitous than level enough for a tent. So, there you are.
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I was supposed to have a walk on the Sunday, but it started raining again just after breakfast, the car  thermo0meter announced that it was just 3.5 C and so, basically, I just couldn’t be arsed. The two hills I had thoughts on won’t be going away soon unless there’s a very sudden accceleration in local techtonic plate activity ( a small quake was noted at the time in Staffordshire, apparently)
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Thanks to Geoff and Chrissie once again for a crackin’ walk and the biccies and scones.
And now, folks, it That Special Time again. Yes, it’s National Pie Week. Just saying. Have a pie, whatever you do. You have a week to organise it. Get some peas as well. And gravy.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Raspberry Tripping - Yorkshire’s Eiger or Matterhorn or Something

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The other day, when the wind from the drifting icebergs just off Newfoundland nithered numbingly over the high Pennines, me and LTD did a well wrapped-up circumnavigation of Wrongberry Trapping, an apparently pointy swelling just a bit to the right of Middlesborough.

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We began, not by assaulting the beetling West Face with it’s crocodile of families, dogs and assorted yoofs, but by heading South for the Very Lovely Cliff Rigg, an interesting little hill sporting both a disused open pit and an SSI. The hole in the top (also known locally as the Elephant Hole) was originally for the digging of a dyke of Whinstone for stone setts. The hole has a little pinnacle which the adventurous may try to climb. Whinstone is volcanic. Just sayin’ so you know. (Whereas Ramberry Splitting is hard sandstone cap protecting softer shales and other rubbish from wearing away)

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We progressed on to a permissive path followijng the line of a tramway built for the nearby ironstone mine (it’s full of geology stuff round here innit?) and then joined the processions of people and their dogs for the bagging of Great Ayton Moor. Great Ayton Moor is a rough and heathery grouse moor on which dogs are apparently not welcome. We tried to follow a right of way to the top, but its pretty much impossible to follow the exact line. The top has a standing stone with 1927-dated graffiti and some older marking which are obscure. LTD cocked his leg on the markings to indicate his opinion of them.

And then, by a roundabout route, we finally climbed Blackberry Prodding by the stone-setted zig-zag route round the back. It looks hard from a distance but, in fact, it’s only 90 metres and the top is soon acheived just by keeping plodding uphill

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The summit was windy of the type of windiness that makes it hard to stand up or, indeed , to spark up a Benson and Hedges and it was also occupied by large numbers of wind-blown walkers, children and dogs some of whom were really enjoying having their hair disarranged by the elements and some of whom were a bit nervous.

We descended the steep side, accompanied by budding juvenile mountaineers who were using traditional methods of descent – aux gluteus and/or running hell-for-leather without being able to stop. As I was embarrassingly dressed as a “propah” walker, my delicate tip-toeing and nervous probings of the slippery bits whilst trying not to over-balance paled against this rumbustious cautionless display of mountain-joy  so irritatingly displayed by these youngsters. I meantersay, what had their parents been feeding them? I was like that once, y’know. Fifty years ago. Before I hurt my leg….

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The jollities were continued lower down the slopes where a group of young lads had brought sledges and were sliding the outrageously slippery mud-slopes. They looked like they’d been in a thrilling February rugby final mud-fest against a team of crack public schoolboys. Clarty is the word.

We left just before it started raining.

Bloomberry Crapping is a cracking little hill for kids, I have to say. It looks bigger than it actually is and it’s very very popular. Don’t go there if you’re seeking quiet contemplation. The place is heaving and when me and LTD were there it was quite noisy with children enjoying themselves. I should take some gradnkids there I think…

And there’s a pub at the bottom which allows the entry of families, walkers, cyclists, dogs, in fact,it seems, just anybody.