Tuesday, 6 November 2018
Eeejits in Crook have been setting off fireworks since the last week in October and each time there’s a bang or, indeed, a whizz, LTD runs about panting and shaking and looking for somewhere to hide.
Sooooo… As it was firework night on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, I decided that enough was enough and a camp-out miles away from anything explosively noisy would be Just The Thing.
I contacted Dawn and she was up for a relaxed weekend in the hills somewhere (she usually is…) and we eventually decided, in view of some exciting wind-blown weather forecasts that somewhere fairly sheltered would be required. Evenhtually, we lighted on the Harthope Valley in the Cheviot Hills – far away from fireworks and , coincidentally, also away from artillery and machine guns which are quite common in the Cheviot Hills.
Our first choice was unsuitable, not having easy access to water and not very discreet, so we ended up low down in the little side-dale carrying Carey Burn – behind some gorse and very close to the beck – a sheltered and fairly discreet location.
There was not a bang or whizz to be had. We stayed for two nights and did very little, apart from the odd short ramblette or exploration.
In early November, the nights are long – roughly between 4:45 pm and 7:15 am and this gives ample time for brewing, meditation, snoozing and general lazing about. This should be boring, but it isn’t.
I’d taken my Not-A-Onesie (it’s a caving undersuit), and my cosiest sleeping bag in case it was cold – it wasn’t cold – and LTD had his toasty Woofbag into which he enthusiastically curled up and remained almost without moving for a full 14 hours of darkness, his tea and breakfast both being inserted at the appropriate times and into which he stuck his face unceremoniously, snuffling the meat and crunching the doggybix and finishing with a little doggy burp and sigh as he settled down once again to complete whatever dream he’d been having before he was woken up.
We left mid morning on Monday, to the sound of two cracks of gunfire, which we determined was somebody shooting at rabbits, there being a hefty population of which at Carey Burn. Other than that, the noisiest noises were the pheasants, squawking and hiccuping throughout the night.
All things being equal, and, supposing we all survive till next November, I’m determined to do this again – possibly in the Howgills if it’s not too stormy. Next year’s Gunpowder Plot is more midweek, so it may be less drawn-out. A couple of nights at Blakethwaite Bottom may well be Just The Thing
More info about woofbags and how to get one for your pooch is here clicky
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
I decided that, as part of TGO challenge training for next year (me and The Lad have places), instead of the usual training programme wot I do, which wasn't very effective, I would, instead, try to do a long walk each month between now and next April. By a long walk, I mean 20 miles and, maybe , a bit more. This means that I have to dream up a bunch of routes – or I could join the LDWA I suppose. My preference, I think would be to invent my own routes.
So, I have a walk designed for November and October’s walk was this one – Alwinton to Windy Gyle in the Cheviot Hills – originally thought to be 20 miles, but, with extra loops, turned out to be 23 miles. (dhuhh). However, this was a good thing, specially since the route did no damage and I also did a nine mile walk with Wolsingham Wayfarers the next day.
LTD was less enthusiastic about the second walk, but once at the start, he was OK. I suspect he remembered the cold and wet parts of the Cheviot walk.
Li Yang decided she wanted to enjoy this walk too, and she told Diane and David who also came, as well, of course, as Lucky The Dog.
It was a day of heavy snow showers in the morning, clearing to blue skies and a Northerly wind , making the temperature on the top of Windy Gyle – at just a bit over 2000 feet, just around freezing, with an enormous wind-chill effect coming from somewhere really icy.
Our route was Clennel Street, diverting to Uswayford for a bit more distance, then up to the Border fence, along to Windy Gyle (brrr), a loop to Trow which David said I’d included on the map, but which I’d forgotten about, and back to Alwinton via the Usway Burn and Peth Pass, the ascent of which after 20 miles was a bit of a challenge. And, at the end, we got wet again.
I think we managed a dignified pace and came away unscathed and encouraged to do more of this stuff.
November’s walk is designed but without a date as yet, and , I think April’s will probably be the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
I’ll be carrying to headlights on these walks in the certainty that most of them will not be completed, or even started, in daylight.
Hopefully, by next May, I’ll be reasonably fit.
Friday, 26 October 2018
Well, I must say that just because Friday night is Merlot night here at Pietowers and The Pieman isn’t really in a fit state to write anything sensible (whoa, there’s a cat on telly……) xxxxxxxxxxx what was I saying? Oh yes – just because he’s got Plonk Lassitude, he’s given me the job of reviewing “Woofbags”
Now “woofbags” are doggy sleeping bags (just in case you didn’t know) and (somebody’s just opened a pack of cheese and onion in Spennymoor, but I shall ignore it. Apologies if I just dribble a bit and keep an ear cocked….) .
Woofbags are made to order using propah human sleeping bag stuff by Chrissie Crowther over in the Peak District. Prices and detailed stuff like that are on a special blog that she’s made, and, as I don’t have access to any actual currency (I never really bother, leaving all that sort of detail to The Boss), you’ll just have to read the blog – a link to which is at the end of this.
So – what do I make of my woofbag.
It’s very cosy.
I sit there, in the damp grass, covered in rain, shivering and digging a nest in the juncus as Mike pratts about putting up the akto. As soon as it’s up, though, I’m right in there and waiting for my bed to be made. There’s yet another long wait whilst Mike sorts out sleeping mats, unpacks stuff and sings pop songs or old Steeleye Span tracks grossly out-of-tune.
Eventually, a small piece of old yellow karrimat is produced and my lovely, toasty woofbag is opened up for me to get in. I usually do four turns clockwise, followed by four or five turns anti-clockwise before collapsing in a damp heap with my nose up my tail. At some point soon, a collapsable bowl is produced with my tea in it. This is pushed under my nose so I don’t have to move much. Then it goes dark.
After a significantly long night, a cold, grey dawn seeps into the akto and a breakfast is inserted into the bag. The breakfast seems to be exactly the same as the supper from last night.
Eventually, after some resistance from me, I’m dragged out for a wee and The Boss begins the process of packing everything up for the day’s walking.
I like my woofbag.
If you have a dog and you like to go camping, wild or not, winter or summer, you really should get one of these for your pooch, specially if you want your pooch to have a cosy and undisturbed night.
Your canine kompanion can be folded in and covered up completely, or the top can be left open if it’s a bit on the warm side. Personally, I hate chilly draughts and Pieman tucks me in. I can still wander around in circles inside without disturbing the draught defences.
Is it heavy? I’ve no idea – The Pieman carries it. I just carry my food, poo bags and a security device thingy in case somebody unauthorised wants me for a pet. Apparently it’s about 400 grammes, which is nothing, really…
Pieman has promised a Gunpowder Plot Night hide-out in the hills somewhere and we’re having a three or four-day walk in the Ayrshire Hills later in Novenber, so the woofbag will come into it’s own quite soon, I hope.
Chrissie’s website thingy is here (click the link yer great dozy prune)
I’m off for a nap now, to build up strength for my main sleep later on.
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
My total of unbagged Nutalls increased by one during the year with the relocation of a top to Foel Cedig in the Berwyns – meaning that I now had 9 to do (up 1 from 8 – pay attention at the back) This alteration also meant that my completion of the Hewitts list was not now complete. Clearly, I’ll have to have a trip to the Berwyns next year..
And so, me and Mrs Pieman, along with LTD, turned up at Cynghordhy, a railway halt and diminutive village just a bit North of Llandovery for a desultory campaign on four remaining unbagged Nuttalls in the Brecon Beacons and, if successful, a small number of Marilyns could be bagged along with a generous local supply of Tumps and Humps.
It was just me and the dog involved in the bagging by the way, the only bagging Mrs Pieman does is in a bagging area in a supermarket.
So, as a start, we went off to an obscure car park at a farm/settlement called Blaenau (which, apprently means “near” – an ironic name as it didn’t appear to be near anywhere, really. The idea was the bagging of Bannau Sir Gaer, which sits nicely at the start of a lovely ridge which also has Picws Du and Fan Bycheniog on it. Two rather shapely but easy hills to climb. We lunched in the sun in a shelter in the company of some Midlanders who, after some debate went off to bag the niext hill on the ridge – whatever that was. Me and LTD bagged the County top of Carmathenshire and then retreated over the moors back to the start.
A few days later, on a day of temperature inversion and bright sunshine, and in the company of hundreds of others, we went off to Pen y Fan. Two unbagged Nuttalls were the targets for the day – Craig Gwaun Taf and Y Gyrn and, in between we could visit the summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du. Pen y Fan is one of those really popular honey-pot, being, I suppose the highest top in Southern Britain, and the easiest to get to from South Wales, Bristol and That London. It’s also a military training area, so on the top as well as dozens of civiians, there were people on army preparation – carrying what appeared to be half a telegraph pole, and a coterie of Ghurkas, who, spotting me in my hiking kilt, rook lots of pictures and addressed me as “Sir” Which was nice.
I’m not going to get all precious about the crowds on Pen y Fan. I fact, it doesn’t bother me at all – I quite like to people-watch as it happens and most poeple are quite interesting, specially the ones who climb hills (koff) There’s a few hills on which you should expect to meet lots and lots of people and their dogs and many of these will be having their first, probably, only walk up a hill. It’s a Good Thing. LTD enjoys the attention too. I did get asked by one chap what was that thing in the plastic case – it was my map. “Where do you get those from then?” I gave Dash4it a plug. Three down, one to go…
Three down, one to go…
The final Nuttall foray was delayed by an Atlantic storm, which took down trees and flooded roads and lasted for three days. Walking was quite dangerous since the area is well-covered by woodland, including many veteran oak trees, from which huge lumps of timber litterred the roads and whioch would have ended a bagging career should one such lump land on one’s head.
So, eventually, we went off for Fan Fraith. This is a boggy, soggy lump hidden in thick mist, but lying adjacent to a really fablious area of karst with potholes, caves and limestone pavements – so we had to go there first.
After Fan Fraith – located by GPS, we bagged Fan Gyhrych and met just the one walker out for the day – in fact, the only person met the whole day. We had a chat.
It had been foggy with driving drizzle all day.
Having finished the Nuttall campaign, the Marilyns of Crugiau Merched and Trichrug were bagged days apart. Crugiau Merched lies on a huge area of moorland with easy walking on bridleways and has standing stones and two large and ancient cairns at it’s summit (presumably , these are the “Crugiau”) Fab walking and a round of some 13 miles including two subsidiary tops, one of which was well hidden in some forestry on which the closely planted conifers, boggy holes and brambles scratched me to bits, reduced my speed to an hour for 250 metres and filled my ears, shirt and rucksack with pine needles. I still have the scars. LTD thinks I’m a nutjob.
In between all this, and on tourist trips to wool shops, castles and supermarkets and pubs at lunchtimes (very nice!) , I managed to bag 21 tops altogether, which, although not up to “Mad-Bagger” standards, was enough to make me feel ever-so-slightly smug.
Wednesday, 3 October 2018
It’s not a mistake to allow your pet dog to study maps y’know. LTD had been pawring (see what I did there?) over OL Whatever-It-Is – a 1:25k map of the Cheviot Hills when suddenly he pointed at a small and obscure ring of contours and barked excitedly. On investigation, there, hanging off the Souhtern slopes of Mozie Law was, indeed an intruiging ring of two contours. Due Diligence proved this to be the very obscure but rather lovely Tump named Mozie Law South Top. I expect that this isn’t really it’s name, but it’s the name given to it in www.hill-bagging.co.uk , the web-based bible for all things important and many things not really very important in the Ramblers version of trainspotting, the bagging of hills.
So, we went. We were diverted from our trip up the A68 by a multi-day-once-in-thirty-years resurfacing of the road..er…surface at Ridsdale on to some obscure road that drifted aimlessly in the approximate direction of Stockton-on Tees, which made us late. What made us even later was my arrival at the Chew Green car park after two hours driving when I had already passed my intended car park at Buckhams Bridge some time earlier and had been held up by a herd of cattle chewing the cud in the middle of the road and/or tucking in to the contents of a road-salt bin and covering said road in slippery poo. I’m not sure if road salt is good for cows or not. I wonder if it curdles the milk?
Anyway, eventually we set off and after a bit of a moorland wander populated by many cattle, turned up at Yearning Saddle Mountain Hut in time for lunch out of the lively and chilly breeze wafting off the Solway Firth and tight up the kilt. I mean Right Up.
We were joined by a friendly Pennine-Wayfarer who gave me the news that Colin and Joyce are selling-up their hostelry at Byrness. It’s probably deserved, but they’ll be missed by Pennine Wayfarers and the odd (some would say peculiar) wanderers along the Scottish/English Border. They dried my boots and socks and fed me and beered me, so it’ll be a bit sad, but, hopefully somebody will carry-on the good work. There’s not much else in Byrness to be fair.
Mr Pennine-Wayfarer marched off towards Hen Hole for the camping out of the wind and we followed him a bit – as far as Mozie Law and then down steeply to discover a steep green mound with a small cairn on the top – Mozie Law South Top. It was much too windy to hang around drinking coffee and eating baked black olives (my latest addiction) So, to the East of this lump, a couple of hundred feet below in a deep valley, there’s a flat green sward providing somewhat of a sheltered sun-trap. A group of about a dozen feral goats had also noticed the sheltering effect of the gill immediately above and these were sitting about reading the Guardian and sipping Pimms with nibbles, or just scoffing the grass. We didn’t bother them.
A brief but brutal lunge up the hill brought us to The Street – an ancient road to Scotland - where, back in the wind, we had a breeze-assisted traverse over Swinside Knowe and Bought Knowe to descend through more cattle to the farm at Carlcroft. They have a lot of dogs at Carlcroft and we were greeted by a couple of adolescent collies, the local alpha-male collie who sniffed LTD’s bum, and a couple of levely pups, off on some adventure, but beating a hasty retreat into the farm buildings on encountering a grumpy LTD. No harm done, though. The cattle weren’t interested in us or made off in an opposite direction and the farmer waved.
A quick march up the road returned us to the knipemobile which was still where we’d left it.
Ten miles and a couple of 2200 feet of ascent and a severe hair-ruffling. Winter draws on, I think. I might have to start wearing trousers quite soon.