Friday, 19 April 2019

Short Walks - Bewick Hill

Because the distance of the walk is not important - it's what you do with the walk. This one was necessarily fairly short - about 4 miles, in fact, and took roughly the same number of hours. A substantial amount of this time was spent lazing in the sun having lunch and chatting. This, I submit, is a Useful Thing To dD. LTD spent much of the same time in dreamy snoozy snory land. This is also a useful thing to do. This is time well spent. This is not a competition. There are no prizes. These hills, on a benign day like this,  allow you to breathe and think and empty the niggles from the mind.

Having neglected Dawn for some time in favour of some pre-TGO backpacking trips and some stupidly long walks (all very enjoyable - I'm not complaining) - it was time to catch up, not only because  I've bought a tent off Dawn for my next TGO challenge and I owed her some spondoolies, but also, that, well, it was just time to catch up. So we caught up a bit and made some tentative plans.

 The route choice was mine - a couple of Tumps to bag and 700 feet or so of contours. The hills turned out to be rather lovely - Harehope Hill - easy with short grass and a view and Bewick Hill with heather and a very large and impressive hill-fort plus some World War 2 pill-boxes in very good condition. On the way up, Dawn noticed some cup and ring markings and we investigated these further on the way down. Cup ad ring carvings are very very old and quite mysterious - that is to say that nobody knows why people made such an effort to make the circles and cups - and that the rock is quite hard so these would have taken some effort.

In the middle bit, we just laid in the heather in the warm sunshine with a skylark larking about nearby and a bumble bee or too and, on close inspection, some ladybirds.

This is all enjoyable stuff. It's all very well hurtling about the countryside in a bid to complete a huuuuuuge route before Something Happens, but sometimes, often, it's a really good idea to relax a bit and soak up whatever there is to be soaked up. You have to, just, chill, man.....  catch some rays, watch a ladybird wander about on your left Scarpa, have a chat, eat cheese and snooze...... and make some plans. And then go home and tell your Mum all about what happened.

More fax an info about Old Bewick hillfort is here (click the word "here") (over there, not here)

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Long Walks - Yorkshire Three Peaks

This walk was yet another of Li Yang's ideas. The date for this has chopped and changed due to snowstorms, bad colds, diphtheria, measles,  the election of comedy heads of state in various countries and has been juggled with another Long walk intended as part of a reccy for Crook and Weardale Ramblers at Skipton, but extended over some rather cracking moorland edges so as to get back to where the cars are parked.

All of this is highly irrelevant, obviously and, to quote said comedy politicians when avoiding a difficult (i.e. embarrassing) question - ".... what is important..."  is that as well as the usual Diane and David, we also had Marie and Michael, but no LTD cos I thought  this was too far for him.

 Everybody in this group walks faster than me and is more cheerful, better looking, has more money and a enjoys wider selection of friends than even me or  Lucky The Dog. This is a tragedy, obviously.

I have some history with this particular walk, though,  having done it half a dozen times before, failed at least twice and, taken individually, according to my walks log, the total number of ascents of the three hills adds up to 101 times, not including searches in the 1980's which didn't quite get to the top of anything.

I expect that this not only shows a lack of imagination concerning which hill to climb, but also indicates that by now, I ought to know my way around the area, and it seems likely that this is the reason why the rest of the group seemed to think I was the leader, even though I was miles at the back most of the time. Maybe they just wanted somebody to blame if at some point we'd been forced to resort to a taxi. 

 I should point out, though, that navigating the Three Peaks route is very very easy, apart, maybe, from finding the right way off the top of Ingleborough in the fog, which, historically, is where many people go wrong. It's not surprising, really, because it is a bit confusing.

We had no problems at all , apart from some minor trips. The group battered their way around the route, braving fierce winds and stupidly low wind-chill factors, specially on Whernside, finishing in 10 hours and 40 minutes which is not a record of any kind, but is the quickest I could have done it anyway. I suspect that some of my companions could have been quite a bit quicker.

My last visit to this route was in July 1982, so it's a long time ago and, I have to say, that since then the walk has been Pennine-Way-I-fied. That is to say that it has been diverted around boggy bits, sloppy bits, and bits where the path turned into a deep and scary gully and it has also been signposted at most crucial points and, best, or worst of all, has been provided with a hard surface, mainly Lancashire mill slabs or made into a road, just a bit under width for a land rover. This is fairly hard on the feet and would have ruined LTD's delicate paws. (As I explained to him on my return to Pietowers. Luckily I was already covered for tetanus...)

Thus, it has been civilised and , as far as brainwork is concerned, it's easy. It's still a long way, though, and the contours add up to a lot of ascent, and descents, parts of which are tricky having been "improved" with boulders or cobbles in an apparent random and uneven distribution.
There's a tea van and a pub at Ribblehead, a barn selling tea and all kinds of scoff at Philpin Farm, quite close to the pub at Chapel-le-Dale.  My advice is that success may well depend on staying out of the pubs... 
Coming up in the Long Walks series, in early May, is a little trundle starting at Cracoe, heading into Skipton on the Dales High Way and returning via the moorland edges of Crookrise, Rylstone Fell and Cracoe Fell.  Just 20 miles, unless we get lost, in which case it might be 15 .... or.. er  25...  Lucky is not allowed on this one either because it's the Duke of Devonshire's open access land.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

A Bijoux Backpack from Borrowdale to Buttermere and Back

There was supposed to be three huming beans and a dog on this trip but towards the last minute JJ hurt himself somehow and had a small disaster concerning a caravan, so he couldn't come. However, Margaret did turn up and so did LTD and me and we spent a chilly night at Chapel Farm campsite where The Boss agreed our plan to leave a car and a small tent for a few days whilst we had a wander.

For this trip, I had no navigation, negotiation or responsibilities, which was fab. Margaret had a route and so, that's what we did. Attentive readers may notice that on all the photos, she's in front, followed by Lucky The Dog with me bringing up the rear, making sure we weren't ambushed from behind or anything untoward  like that.

Very attentive readers, and those who just look at the pictures, will also notice that the weather on almost all of the pics is bright and sunny. This is because the weather was bright and sunny, except at night when it was dark and very starry and specially cold, covering the tents with a layer of ice.

Our route was specially fablious too - wandering up Honister Pass (for a cuppa), down the other side to Gatesgarth and beside the lake to Buttermere (for drinkies) We found a slightly tilted camping spot below Addacombe Hole. The moon rose. The tents froze. All was quiet.

In the morning, and in the shade of nearby Knott Rigg and Ard Crags, we rambled over the pass or bealach (or, indeed, bwlch) into Newlands and along the Cumbria Way into Keswick where, I was, I'm afraid to say, tempted by a lamb and mint pasty at the pasty shop AND an dutch apple and cinnamon pasty, thus completing the planning of my evening meal which, I intended,  would be rounded off with a significant amount of dark rum and a huge and lengthy snooze till the next dawn dawned.  LTD was to have Winalot, kibble a bonio and a dentastick, as usual.

In mid-afternoon, on our way up to Walla Crag, we noticed some flattish platforms beside a derelict wall near a small beck . This provided a bit of a suntrap for the tents (it may have been sunny, but it wasn't all that warm in the wind). The beck provided a large supply of good water and a warm and lazy few hours was spent being warm and lazy with a nice view of Skiddaw and Blencathra.

However, the pasty I bought in Keswick proved to be significantly more substantial than I'd thought and the result of stuffing this down my throat as quickly as feasible was that I couldn't face all of the apple pasty.  So Margaret accepted half (apple isn't really very good for dogs was my excuse to LTD... and he'd already had his tea anyway and he didn't want to get fat eh?)

On the final walking day, we walked by Walla Crag and in and out of the heathery tors to Dock Tarn via the Caffle Café at Watendlath. Now, in the dialect used at Airedale Hospital, when I worked there many years ago, to "caffle", was to chicken out of something. Caffling was sometimes accompanied by the excuse that it was one's aunty's birthday and so it would be impossible to do whatever it was that one didn't want to do. In this case, though, "Caffle" is the name of the nearby beck. However, it may be possible, I suppose, that the odd deep pool in Caffle Beck holds really really cold water; cold enough to make the tyro swimmer or dipper to caffle and declare that it is, in fact, his Dad's sister's birthday and he'd better be away to attend the party. Who knows?

An impossibly steep descent brought us back to Borrowdale for a last night on Chapel Farm campsite. Attempts to contact JJ failed due to shaky and/or non-existent phone signals, so we have no news as to what kind of break he was having.

And that was that. Three days walking on a superb route in cracking weather and some starry nights and NO RAIN AT ALL (which is remarkable actually.)  We'll probably be doing a rematch or two, I expect.  because it was all quite good fun.  Thanks to Margaret for doing all the hard work and helping out with the Dutch apple and cinnamon pasty. Next is an attempt on the Three Peaks of Yorkshire. Doomed.... doomed I tell you......

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Long Walks: Allendale Challenge

It wasn't really my idea. Li Yang put me up to it and I applied for the Allendale Challenge absolutely ages ago and, mainly, it slipped my mind rather than lurking as a nagging doubt. Had I known what it was, I should really have had the nagging doubts....

The Allendale Challenge is a fundraiser for the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team and this was it's 30th annual event. The experience of 29 previous events shows in the remarkably efficient organisation which includes a fast registration process, eight manned checkpoints, radios, quick check-back-in and pie and peas at the Golden Lion in Allendale. (Must return here, they let dogs in.)

So, there was me, Li Yang, Diane, Diane's daughter and Ruth who gathered in the main square in Allendale City Centre. Plus 850 other people and several dogs.

Setting off on a walk with 850 others, in a bunch, is, perhaps, not my usual style and there's a certain amount of peeps trying to get to the front and walking too fast for comfort.....  In fact, my all-female team (not including yours truly) set off at a blistering pace and kept it up for 26 miles. I soon gave up trying to keep up, but did manage to connect with them occasionally at checkpoints. They didn't stick around, though and were very quickly sploshing through the bogs, swamps, wet parts, damp bits, flooded sections, wet snow and sucking black peat. (This is ten quid a bag at B&Q by the way, but completely free up here)

Things soon settled into a rhythm, though  and we bashed on bravely. Miles went by damply and a bit muckily. My boots leaked - I was using my old boots due to the fact that I have a backpacking trip coming up tomorrow and goretex boots need days and days to dry out. Days and days and days and....

This is not a route to be meddled with, though. It is, in fact, a monster which eats footwear, splashes peat everywhere, sucks at your very being and just goes on and on and on...

There was some wet snow and a lot of sphagnum, floating on apparently bottomless pools. There are dark rumours of entire armies, horses and carts, JCB's and young families out for a picnic disappearing completely into these quivering morasses. At one point, I crossed a bog by stepping on a bobble hat floating on the black water. There was a squeak from beneath and a demand that I watch where I'm putting my feet.

The North of Tyne MRT cheerfully and encouragingly manned their checkpoints. There was soup at some and dark, well-brewed tea at others. And jelly babies and biccies and all kinds of stuff banned by diabetic nurses

At the end there was a certificate (mine says my time was 9 hours and 12 minutes - just 6 minutes behind the girls)  and a badge and a t-shirt and a bijoux buff, which I shall be wearing with some pride, and a raffle ticket giving access to an excellent pie and a fairly mean portion of mushy peas at the Golden Lion. (my only whinge about something that wasn't my fault)

Today, I can walk. Just about. In 8 days, we're having a bash at the Yorkshire Three Peaks, all being well. Technically, thins is just a smidge harder than the Allendale Challenge, but I'm not so sure - the 3 Peaks route has been hardened over the years and doesn't have the miles and miles and miles of gloopy slop.