Monday 29 April 2024

Brenda-Dawn Linney 1948 to 2024


I'll keep this pretty simple. My friend, Dawn Linney died the other day and this is a post to recognise her life and to record and celebrate a bit of what we did. Mostly, it will just be some pictures taken on our various adventures. I'll leave it all here.

We met on Kirkby Stephen railway station one winter's lunchtime with an intention of walking over Mallerstang Edge to Garsdale and walking back again over Wild Boar Fell. There was a blizzard, followed by an Atlantic storm and a quick and soggy thaw. We didn't get far. This followed a strange experience in St Cuthbert's shrine in Durham Cathedral whilst chilling from some Christmas shopping in Durham. I can't go into detail because I neither understand nor believe it but the positive outcome was 12 or 13 years long, mostly walking, backpacking, swimming, bivvying and generally enjoying things. 

Camp on Cadair Idris

Then there was a blizzard,,,

Maybe in the Peak District

Boots off for the standard was to cross a Scottish burn

We visited the high bits of England, the Borders, Highlands, and lumps of Wales. We did the South Downs Way one hot September and we joined up the highest pubs in England from Staffordshire to Tan Hill and over to Kirkstone Pass. Mostly, I also had LTD with me, and sometimes, often, John Jocys came, sometimes with others.

I had to get Dawn rescued from Knoydart and from the Howgills when illness struck - but she continued afterwards, gradually losing strength and range.

The last few years, her ability to walk anywhere, let alone the hills, deteriorated significantly. She was plagued by Parkinson's disease and was, sometimes depressed and she hated being in groups of people, or noise and bustle, so escaping from That London to the relative quiet of Blyth with it's proximity to hills and fun, was Just The Thing.. 

She'd had an extraordinarily difficult life prior to our meeting. I'm not going to repeat what happened, and part of it is recorded by Dawn herself. But it's not for me to pursue this here, but I'm sure that being out in the vastnesses of hills and also empty Northumberland beaches was a proper salve. I think that her life did improve when she moved to Blyth and her circle of friends expanded in a big way.

In particular, she joined the Panama swimming club, a group that swims weekly in the North Sea on Tyneside, all year round and which she enthused about. In return, they supported her right through to her final days and, in the end, organised her funeral, for which Dawn had already paid and sorted with a funeral director. Members read to her from Nan Shepherd's "The Living Mountain", a book I had coincidentally bought as in-tent entertainment for this year's TGO challenge. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not.

Dawn was exceptionally generous (maybe people who don't really have much in the way of assets are often more generous than those who do) Her last gift to me was her Trekkertent, which I will use on this year's TGO challenge - but I have loads of her kit, from jackets to stoves to maps that she gave me or hid in my car after trips, and which she always denied having any knowledge of. 

She also supported me when I took part on North-East skinny dips. It can be a scary business doing the skinny dips, which I once explained to her. So she joined in and, which, if you know her background, was an extraordinarily brave thing to do. As we ran into the sea, she said "I can't believe I'm doing this!"  It'll  be a relief to you that I haven't included any pictures!

And  I must recognise the staff of Ward 2 at Wansbeck General Hospital who were especially kind at the end and professional and respected her wishes not to rescusitate.

Dawn has a beautiful spot at the Northumberland Woodland Burial site near Morpeth. There will be a rowan tree to mark the spot in due course. I drive past the spot fairly regularly, so I will pop in and, maybe cast some wild flower seeds...

For those who have got this far - this was read at the graveside . Its from the prophet Khalil Gilbran

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from it's restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Wet Wet Wet


I'm so old now that I remember when Wet Wet Wet were just a bit damp.

It seems that it's been raining since September. Occasionally, just now and then, the rain has turned to snow. But mainly, it's been raining. Then, after a wet spell, there's been an Atlantic storm, followed by showers. Often, drizzle has been driven in sheets across the fells and moors. Drizzle goes through everything.  Precipitation is the name of the game.

I'm not complaining, though. Actually, I am complaining. I'm fed up. My boots are permanently wet. The dog has started wearing armbands. When I get the lead, he brings me the umbrella. In general,though, he doesn't shiver and whinge when he's wet. Ringo is, in fact very tough. He doesn't seem to care at all about cold and wet. He laughs in the face of a wet gale. He wags his tail at miserable glaur. He's an idiot.

I must admit, that on several occasions, I have taken to wearing the wellies. These are perfect for slopping through the slutch (Lancashire onomatopoaeic  dialect word for sloppy mud; consider the noise made by a welly being extracted from slippery mud). Also, puddles and streams up to a couple of feet deep can be sploshed through with impunity. On the downside, anything over about 8 miles starts to get uncomfortable and the grip on steep grass leaves a lot to be desired and you can't take them off without also removing your socks.

Most walks nowadays have ended with wet undies (from the rain, stoppit!), despite the armory of Paramo and nikwax and my rucksack starts to push my trousers down, including the baselayer, after a few miles of driving drizzle, meaning I have to walk with one hand holding up the pants and one hand stopping the dog from inserting himself into rabbit holes, hunting hares, heading around the back of flocks of sheep or greeting strangers enthusiastically. Maybe I should just buy some new kit.
I'm supposed to be training myself up for the TGO challenge and Crook and Weardale Ramblers (I'm the secretary y'know) never/hardly ever cancel a walk and defy the worst and heaviest rain in the hope that it might brighten up. And we're training up for a crack at the Three Peaks of Yorkshire in June, so we have to do longer walks despite the storm. 

And there's a bloke up the road building an ark. Apparently he's had some kind of angelic visitation informing him that we're in for a wet summer.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Things to Do Before the TGO Challenge


TGO 2023 Bynack Lodge Camp

When you take part in the The Great Outdoors (TGO) challenge there are several skills and attitudes that you must either acquire or develop and you must hone these to a fine edge sharp enough to slice a frozen mars bar into sufficient pieces to share with four friends, supposing that you have four friends. So, to this end, I have started to sharpen my winter-blunted edge and am searching for something to slice, particularly since my diabetic nurse looks askance at any suggestion of the inclusion of chocolate-based delicacies in my diet. Mind you, she is a bit puritan when it comes to scoffing or drinking anything at all which might be vaguely enjoyable. I tell her that it won't extend my life, but it will definately seem a lot longer.

A TGO challenger camping somewhere at the top of Glen Tilt
Not so long ago there was a famiss legend and  TGO Challenger going by the name of Alan Sloman. Now each year, a month or so before the TGO Chally, he arranged a "Daunder". This was a few days backpacking somewhere nice with a group of individuals and during which some rules applied. One of the rules was that a chap from (I believe) Morpeth timed the group's progress across the landscape and, should the speed exceed 1 mph, he had the power to stop the group and order a brew-up. Apart from anything else, this ensured that nobody got left behind. Camps were mainly wild(ish) and, generally, fun was had. Puritans and specialist nurses might ponder if such a relaxed attitude was the Right Thing, given that the TGO challenge can be a bit tough at times. But, that's the thing, see...  much of success in 2 weeks walking across the country in, sometimes, less than ideal weather, is in the mind. If the brain is elsewhere, success is unlikely and a bus home from Pitlochry (or similar) is the most likely outcome. Unfortunately, Alan passed away last year, and nobody has popped up with a similar event.
On a long walk in Weardale

So, as I usually do, I'm doing my own thing anyway. 

So, one of the things that needs to be done is to get the psychology right. Several things need to be practised and one of the most important of these, in my 'umble, is to relax. There's no point in worrying about how far there is to go and that everybody else seems to know what they're doing and am I getting left behind, and where are my teabags (I once lost these for three days before they turned up)

February Camping near Arkengarthdale
And, of course, you need to be able to walk reasonably long distances with a pack that's a bit heavier than normal, fuelled by unhealthy dehydrated food, sometimes with a blister and a hangover AND not fall off anything, get washed away in a river or acquire the squitters.
Ringo distributing bits of a chewstick and dog spit on my sleeping bag
So, I'm doing the following things:

A short backpacking trip each month with each one getting a bit longer in distance and the number of nights. This produces all sorts of advantages such as not bothering getting up when it's snowing heavily against the tent door, resisting the 3:00 a.m. attentions of Mr Bladder, never passing a tea-room, cafe or pub and trying to get radio reception in English that doesn't fade in and out all the time. You also learn what is nice to eat and what isn't and the most efficient way to make porridge AND whether or not the tent holds up in a strong wind and if it leaks anywhere.

ALSO (There's more) - Once a month, with pals, I'm doing a long walk - 20 miles or more, although not much more.

The only difference is that I am accompanied by Ringo the dog, who has settled in to the rhythm of very long winter nights in his woofbag see link below) He doesn't snore and he doesn't move and he carries his own food, and the rubbish that camping produces. He's not allowed on the Challenge and will be spending Challenge time on holiday in Derbyshire with his pal Merlin (my son's dog)

I've done all of this in previous years

My feet in the North Sea TGO 2023

December camp oooop Weardale
Whether or not any of this actually works is, perhaps a moot point. My point, though, is that it does help with the psychology of the challenge and, sometimes, it's quite good fun. 

I know that some people like to weigh everything, down to the last gramme, evangelise about their particular choice of equipment to the extent that they may suggest that if you don't have the same, you're clearly an idiot and they report walking 20+ miles a day for several days and finishing well before everybody else. They produce gear lists with weights and bristle with electronics. 

Dawn on a ling walk by the Tees (this is a flood, not the River Tees)
My method is just to think in little compartments - tent (plus pegs and poles), sleeping, cooking, washing, eating, lighting and in-tent entertainment. My only nod to ultra-lightness is to walk in a kilt - just got a new one - and thus the requirement to pack 3  pairs of undies is dispensed with. So, I can enjoy a nice breeze on a hot day, have a wee without , apparently moving at all and receive compliments, except at Tarfside - see previous post hopefully a more mature attitude might have developed. - Although I do have to invent the names of various Scottish clans and it does attract the attention of American tourists who declare that it is their "first kilt", ask for pictures and demand to know which part of Scotland I'm from. They never ask the obvious question.

I'm not sure I should have written this by the way. Usually, if I write stuff like this, everything goes badly wrong. It's a temptation to failure. If I get to Arbroath in 2024, I will have completed my 19th TGO challenge. I have a 5 day section in the middle of the Challenge with no shops ner nowt, so it's not going to be a pushover. If you comment expressing confidence that I will succeed, you'll only be making it worse

Dog snoozing in the sun Sleightholme Moor
Woofbags, sleeping bags for dogs hand-stitched by Chrissie Crowther (Ringo loves his!)  link below. Get one for your best friend. (Provided your best friend is a dog)

Monday 18 September 2023

Pieman's 18th TGO Challenge 2023


Oban Harbour
It is written that amongst the wise, repetitive implementation of the same , or similar plans expecting a different result. but merely encountering the same result repeated, but yet doing it again, and yet again, is a sign of madness.

And so, having been let down by Northern Rail on Durham Station by a train that refused to move and was overtaken, at some speed by the train I was supposed to catch was the first sign that doing the same thing again (that is to say, relying on a train service to get me where I am supposed to be at the time I am supposed to be there) was just the first incident from which I ought to learn. Northern Rail have done it before and, I expect, will do it again. But, by running about like an eejit at Waverley station and Glasgow Queen Street, I eventually managed to arrive at Oban at, close enough, the time I was supposed to be there.

Glen Lonan ( nice, innit)

I've started from Oban before - but this time, I did something different. I walked to Taynuilt with Kate, a first timer from the far North who somehow knew JJ. Everybody knows JJ, though, so maybe no surprise. I had a light pack, so I could keep up with her youthful pace. And the reason I had a light pack was because I had a train ticket from Taynuilt back to Oban. We parted in Taynuilt and I returned to Spoons where they fed and watered me and didn't make jokes about the kilt.

Glen Etive

Loch Drizzlybum aka Loch Dochart

This plan had worked well. In the morning, Spoons fed me a huge breakfast which I couldn't quite manage and Scotrail whisked me back to Taynuilt where I plodded off up Glen Etive, turning Right at Glen Kinglas. I walked some of the time with Rolf, an anglophile European and was passed by Lindy and we met some others too. There were four of us camping at the head of Glen Kinglas. It rained. Then it rained some more, followed closely by a damp spell. This is not particularly unusual. In the morning I bashed on to the West Highland Way and followed it South surreptitiously, hiding behind tussocks or pretending to tie my bootlaces if it looked back. I arrived at Tyndrum where I had a bed in a hotel, busy with West Highland Wayfarers and some TGO challengers who didn't want to talk to me. So I repaired to a pub where I allowed some bikers the chance to worship the ground that was still stuck to my boots when they learned that I was 78 years old and had taken three days to walk from Oban when they'd done it in 40 minutes. I'm not actually 78 by the way, but why spoil a good story and the chance of free beer?


Another discreet camp next to Loch Tay

The previous three pictures are completely in the wrong order by the way.

So orf I jolly well went down the west Highland Way again and then at Auchtertyre, I heaved myself up the glen to the North, getting a bit lost for a while and then, after passing easily through the Gleann a Chlachain Mountain woodland, where it chucked it down in a big way, I passed over the bealach into Glen Lochay. This goes to Killin, after a bit of discreet camping next to a very nice beck burn. I allowed myself to be exploited a bit in Killin to the tune of a nice lunch and some tea , before joining the Rob Roy Way and completely missing the turn off I was supposed to turn off at and walking all the way down the road to Ardeonaig where I found a lovely camping spot next to the loch, just below a roadside sign which said "No Camping". I considered that this probably didn't apply to me and in any case I was hidden from the road and there wasn't much traffic anyway.

Glen Tilt

Sign near Mar Lodge

International TGO ers snooze break

Aberfeldy came and went and provided food and a camp site and the Rob Roy Way continued without incident or accident to Pitlochry where I became slightly mislaid on the High Street, ultimately fullfilling my gastronomic desires and the purchase of fresh supplies of rough whisky. I took the path through the Pass of Jimmy Krankie through to Blair Atholl where I didn't like the food and the service was rubbish. The Pass, though was fandabbydozy. As was Glen Tilt. Gloen Tilt was heavily populated by TGO challengers and cyclists and just some of the time, I walked alone. I camped with four others at Bynack Lodge - a ruined hunting lodge and a fandabby (don't start that again) cracking place to camp. And in the morning and bits of the afternoon, I wandered through to Braemar and the campsite and the cafe and the pub.

Ballater was a long way next and somewhere during this stage, I met up with Jo, a Japanese chap with shin splints and (?Mark) , an American without shin splints. He was a Monty Python fan, so we got on. The King was out at Balmoral and Ballater was better than Braemar, providing scoff, beer, shelter and a breakfast and nobody mentioned the kilt.

Sir Dave at Edzell 

Nobody mention the kilt
Following the successful scoffing of a Full Scottish in Ballater, I followed the Deeside Way for a bit, teaming up at some point with Emma and we walked into Glen Tanar to be interrogated by the Ranger. I'm afraid I might have been forced to admit to being a member of the County Durham Peoples Liberation Front , or possibly the Front foir the Liberation of the People of County Durham (actually, I am a secret member of the Ramblers Association) and I was forced to take an oath that I would not disturb the local Very Randy Capercaillie who could get quite vicious, apparently. So I changed tthe route to coincide with Emma's, which went to a  locked bothy with two Yorkshiremen camping outside. Apparently, when they were little they lived in a cardboard box in't middle o't road which they had to lick clean with their tongues every morning before working 28 hours down t'pit. Anyway it was windy and nobody made any kilt-based remarks.

The came Tarfside. In a previous year, I had almost walked out of the hostel at Tarfside when there was an anti-kilt pile-on  during which skirt-wearing men's masculinity was challenged. I expected the same and, my plan was not to stay there anyway - mainly because of the pile-on, I would say. I went in anyway and was met with "Oooh look its that man in a frock again  gigggle giggle hehehehehe". No names, no pack drill, but expected. Its childish stuff, but I found that in Scotland, its not all that unusual to encounter the kilt on a man and most people I met, including yoofs, who you have thought the most likely to take the mickey, were very complementary. Its just the odd eeeejit, and it's very very annoying. and I walked straight out again and marched off down Glen Esk, to find a lovely spot by the river and leaving me with only a short day the next morning....

....Which was to Edzell, where it was steaming hot and the pub was closed. Eventually it filled up with TGO challengers, including Sir Dave, the beaver. Its a long  and heart-warming story which I guess has been told elsewhere.

The walk finished at St Cyrus, where the pub was open and nobody said anything bad about the kilt.

The final pic, below is Sir Dave receiving his accolades at the Challenge dinner.