Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Long Walks - Bink Moss and Other Soggy Places


There was just me, LTD and Li Yang this time - Diane and David gone off on an alternative walk in Nepal. The persistent persistence of precipitation (I bet you can't say that with a mouthful of crisps), over the last two months, and , in particular last week, has lead to the fields being a bit more than soggy. Bink Moss is just what is says, it's a moss. In even the driest droughts, it's a bog. So, after weeks and weeks of slashing driven rain, it's Very Very Wet.

 Saturday had been specially drippy, and, with a weather forecast saturated with phrases like "heavy showers", "cold Easterlies" and "don't go out yer big mad bugger and what's wrong with lighting the fire and watching Coronation Street Omnibus with a pot of hot coffee and some toast then eh?, there was a temptation to cancel. And Sunday morning was  cold, grey and dark, just like a November pre-dawn, which is exactly what it was. But we set off to Middleton in Teesdale, splashing the tyres through all the overnight dubs on the back road by Hamsterley Forest. But it wasn't raining.

 So we paddled up the Pennine Way past Kirkcarrion and on up the bridleway to the fences and walls which can be handrailed up into the mists of Bink Moss. The way is relieved in places by duckboarding. In other places there are diversions to avoid deep sloppynesses. But we arrived at the summit wellybobs in reasonable states of dryness, just as it began to rain. Deep peat. Deep joy. A plover expressed it's opinion by going "peep". Just one "peep". A doleful, miserable plover, clearly fed up with life on Bink Moss.
 We progressed to Hagworm Hill, where there were no hagworms. I expect they've all drowned weeks ago. Or they've emigrated somewhere drier. A soggy moor followed which required some navigating. The path is invisible through the heather and mosses and never really appears, although there's one or two posts which are usually seen far away to the left , or, sometimes, to the right. Never straight ahead. The beck at the foot of Green Trod needed paddling. Li Yang found a way somewhere up in the juniper, apparently involving balancing on a rock. I can't do that. I fall off things like that and my camera is too expensive to be dunked, so I removed boots and socks and paddled. It wasn't too cold and it stopped raining.

 Gracie, presumably a young family member at Cronkley Farm is chosen to attend a Jamboree in Poland next year and, as I know from family experience, attendees are expected to raise funds to pay for Jamborees. Gracie (bless 'er) has set up an honesty-based "tuck shop" at a strategic point where the Pennine Way emerges from slippery rocks and sloppy mud on to the Gracie's farm track. She's selling pop and chocolate and deserves to succeed. Just sayin'. (Count this as an advert by the way)
 We crossed to Forest School and followed a well-trodden route to Bowlees, then over Coldberry Gutter where it went dark quite suddenly. I carry two headlights, preferring to swap lights if one goes down instead of faffing with batteries in the dark. And dropping a battery into the grass and not being able to find it without a light. Or even with a light. Both my lights seemed to have duff batteries on this occasion, so I had to feel the way a bit.
At the end we abandoned the intended route through the fields and woods back to Middleton in favour of a plod down the road.  This is quite easy in the dark.
The walk was just 20 miles (more than 19 by the way...) and with 3500 feet of upness. I think this is not too bad for this time of year.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

A Reccy on NIne Standards Rigg

Me and LTD are leading a guided walk for Crook and Weardale Ramblers quite shortly and, according to our Walk Leader Standards, we should be doing a reccy of the route (even if we think we know it pretty well already) - so I allowed LTD to chauffeur us over Stainmore to Kirkby Stephen for a walk on Nine Standards Rigg

 As you'll see from the pictures, it was a nice day. It's unusual this Autumn to have a nice day, but here we had one. It was cold though and some puddles on the hill were frozen and there was snow on Mickle Fell and the Cross Fell hills

 It was worth the effort to reccy, though (it being a nice day like wot I said above) and a route from the summit trig to Rollinson Hags was explored (I've lost a glove up there, so if you find one you can have it. You might need another on the  other side, though. ) And I changed the route to include the summit of Tailbridge Hill which has a fine cairn and a cracking view of the Howgill Fells, for only another 40 metres of ascent.

 Attentive readers, specially thoise from the North of England will have noted that, in the main, it's been chucking it down for weeks and weeks now and this, combined with the attentions of some cattle, who are now, thankfully absent from the route, has made some sections of the walk a right boggy mess. It's inevitable that walkers attending the walk next week will be clarted up to the eyeballs in a mixture of mud and manure. We like to call this mixture "slutch" With a bit of luck it will freeze.

 One section of the walk goes down through the woods by Ladthwaite Beck. Wet tree roots hidden under leaves have made this quite skitey. But it's very beautiful, so we may risk a second interaction with Kirkby Stephen MRT. I meantersay, lightening could stike twice, could it?  On the reccy day it was occupied by people in camouflage with shotguns standing about waiting for grey squirrels to pop up, Apparently they'd been there a while and not seen any.

The walk is on the Crook and Weardale Ramblers Winter Programme and is quite fab. More details of the walks is found here  (Click it, don't just stare at it!)

Sunday, 10 November 2019

LTD's Camp-Out Well Away From Fireworks

 OK, I admit it. When I were but a sprog, we used to buy bangers - not sausages, but firecrackers. We used to set them off at night. Sometimes, we'd blow out hibernating earwigs from the holes in fence posts where the wire went through. Sometimes we'd chuck them at each other. Sometimes we'd put one in a cigar-tube and fire it across the road at Wentcliffe Drive. The streets of Earby were a war-zone from roughly the end of October till the 5th, after which no more fireworks were available till the next year. It's now 10 November and a firework has just gone off and LTD is running about in a panic. Fireworks have been going off at random since the last week in October, sometimes at 11:30pm on a wet Tuesday night. I meantersay, somebody somewhere close is a proper dweeb.
So, to avoid the worst of the Guy Fawkes stuff, me and LTD planned a camp-out miles and miles away from any fireworks. In the Howgills, four miles walk from the road in a lovely spot. 

 Spotting my tweets or faceache posts about this, JJ said he would come, then Beryl (aka Margaret) and, finally, Judith. I expect that the chance of a pre-TGO chally shake-down might have been on their minds: me, JJ and Beryl are forming a team for next year's TGO Challenge and we've made some tentative steps at planning a route.

 Me and LTD set off at about noon on 4 November in unpromising conditions of heavy showers, rainbows and blustery bluster from the approximate direction of Blyth (Had Dawn left her back door open?) We had the tent up by half past two and the kettle on a few minutes later and we settled in for book-reading, (where angels fear to tread)  brewing up and snoozing. This went on till the next morning, which was even windier, so we didn't venture far. No fireworks had been heard during the night and, apart from aircraft, a noisy fox and a couple of booms or rumbles from the direction of Warcop, the night was peaceful if a thundering wind can be labelled as "peaceful". I was in the akto, so there's no problem with an average gale-force blast.
 In the late afternoon I spotted two figures heading towards me along a contouring path and, these turned out to be JJ and Margaret (aka Beryl). Judith arrived at about the same time, having opted for a route up the little Dale that leads to our campsite. They all arrived by about sunset and we all settled in for a cold and starry night. Ice formed early, melted for a bit and then reformed. Margaret said there was mist for a while, but I was in snorydreamysnoozyland, as was LTD, tucked into his cosy doggy sleeping bag. We had a sigg bottle filled with very hot water and placed inside 2 socks inside my sleeping bag and right next to LTD's back to keep us toasty. I had to warm it up once about midnight and drank a bit of hot water just because it was hot.

 We struck camp at some point in the late morning, having spent the early part of the day brewing and chatting and generally mooching about and a couple of hours walking saw us back with the cars. As a final flourish, we managed to find a well-hidden benchmark. Judith collects benchmarks, apparently. There are photographs....

 So, we managed to avoid two nights of whizz-bangs (although there's still a few left apparently) and we had a jolly little camp-out in a remote-ish spot  where nobody else at all visited during our stay. As it's not such a good idea to be explicit about the locations of really nice wild camping places, because they soon get over-used, I'm not going to say exactly where we went. Many people will already have sussed it and may well have camped there themselves. It's a lovely spot, though, with good water and some short grass and it's very very quiet and anyone with a relevant map should be able to spot it. Nuff said.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Long Walks - Mardale Skyline

 I suppose I should really have posted about our hollibobs in the Preselli Hills - very nice hills by the way and the nearby coast is crackin'. But the moment is passed. So instead, on the theme of our little group wot does a long walk every month, this is October's effort.
 Lets just state from the start that, as a 20-mile walk, this one was short, by the tune of one mile. I felt that this was something of a shame. Clearly, something went wrong in the planning stage. (Maybe if there'd been an actual planning stage, the magic 20 miles would have been achieved.) There were lots of contours, though and Diane's GPS said we'd climbed 4900 feet and this number was used as an excuse for trying to make me feel better about the abject failure of the 20th mile. Actually, there wasn't a 20th mile.

 The conditions were quite good and much better than anything I'd experienced in Preselli (Did I mention we'd been to Preselli?. It's in Pembrokeshire y'know. Quite a long way from Durham as it happens. My longest walk there was 10 miles. But I'm not blogging about Preselli)

 So, the idea for the walk was to circumnavigate Mardale. That's the Dale that is mainly beneath Haweswater. So we began at Burnbanks at just after 8 o'clock, having remembered to put the clocks back. Our team was me, LTD, Bailey the other dog, Li Yang, Diane and David. Unfortunately I'd utterly failed to contact Ruth who'd said she wanted to come on some of these walks but I only remembered as the sun went down... dhuhh.... A mile short AND I've probably upset Ruth. I'll tell her about the future dates and she can decide whether or not to tie my bootlaces together at first lunch (long walks have two lunch stops)

 It was spectacularly cold for October and there was snow on the Helvellyn range as we plodded up the hill from Burnbanks to join the ridge at Keasgill Head. Navigation from there is pretty straightforward and the ridge is followed over High Raise, Rampsgill Head and High Street. It occurs to me that if we'd included Kidsty Pike and Thiornthwaite Crag that shortage of miles by one wouldn't have happened and not much extra effort would have been involved. (dhuhhhhhhh)

 From High Street, we dropped down to Nan Bield Pass, heaved our tired legs over |Harter Fell (a big climb),  down to Gatescarth Pass to consider the apparently huge but grassy climb up Branstree. This proved both huge and grassy, quite a lot like many of the Preselli hills, except that some of those have tors on top which need to be scrambled for the bagging tick. This proved tricky for Lucky on one or two occasions.  

 Having rested on Branstree in the shelter of the cairn, we plodded over Selside, completely missing Branstree's North East Top which, had we wandered over there, would surely have taken us a bit closer to the 20 mile target. I'm not bothered about this by the way. I'm not sure why I even mention it, really. It's not as if it was important or anything

The picture above is me and LTD on Pen y Fan, which is the highest bit of Dinas Head. It's a Tump. The picture was taken by a member of a friendly  family out on a walk from Swansea. It's on the Pembroke Coast, see?  This is where we went on our holibobs. It's not on the Mardale Skyline. The Mardale Skyline doesn't have sea quite as close as this, although you can see Morecambe Bay at times.

 So, we descended to the old corpse road, upon which there appeared to be no old corpses, at least not yet and wandered into a lovely wild bit which required a bit of navigating for a kilometre or two, specially as the sun was winding up the clock on the mantelpiece, was warming it's cocoa milk and had already put the cat out.
 We made for a "ford" on a track crossing High Goat Gill and followed this to the concrete water board road which leads to Burnbanks. Headlights were only needed to protect the group from wild-eyed drivers returning from their pathetic little walks at the top end of Mardale or, indeed, an afternoon of carousing at the hotel up the road. I bet none of these had done twenty miles anyway