Thursday, 21 May 2020

Walks Where Covid 19 Shackles Are Loosened A Bit

 In England, the rules about exercise changed last week, so that now, we can travel any distance to exercise i.e. walk (but not to Scotland) and we can meet just the one person from outside the household providing we stay 2 metres apart.  So, taking advantage of this, but bearing in mind the twitchiness of the people living in the more popular places in the North, me and Li Yang traveled all of 6 miles to Wolsingham for the purpose of walking a longish walk of some 17 miles -West on the Weardale Way, Bollihope, Five Pikes, Elephant Trees, Knitsley Fell and back to the start by the riverside path.

 As per all recent walks, I managed to avoid all farmyards and only came near to a couple of houses and, apart from a dozen or so cars and some families with their doggies around Bollihope, we saw only a couple of runners and a couple of other walkers, plus a family on of whom had left their toy plane by the trig on Knitsley Fell, which we managed to return to them. (nobody likes to lose a favourite toy, innit?)  And there was a chap fishing in the Wear. Fishing is now allowed too (I'm not entirely sure why it wasn't allowed before, the social distancing is quite extreme)
 And then, taking things a bit further, a couple of days ago me and LTD went off to Black Middens, on the very edge of Kielder Forest. I thought that nobody would be around. The idea was to bag Earl's Seat, a tussocky Tump on the edge of tussocky moors. It was a hot day. the first hot day of the summer and we saw nobody and met nobody. We saw some deer and that was it. It seems that the foresters aren't working. 

 Black Middens is a "bastle" or peel - a fortified farmhouse with cattle secured downstairs and a family and followers upstairs. And, in August 1583, one Armstrong, Kinmont Willie, from Liddesdale, not too far away over the Border in Scotland, raided Black Middens along with seven or eight neighbouring bastles, stole away with livestock and agricultural goods, killed 6 men and wounded another 11 and took away 30 people to be ransomed. He did it again a few years later. Lord Scrope, who was the Warden of the local bit of the border had Willie captured just after a truce day on the Scottish side of the border and taken to Carlisle Castle. Laird Buccleuch, the local Scottish bigwig and Warden appealed to the Queen for Willie's release, stating that his capture was illegal, being on a truce day. Queen Elizabeth ignored the request, but , apparently fancied the boots off Laird Buccleuch who, with help from English allies, who were opposed to Lord Scrope, arranged for a raid on Carlisle Castle to spring Willie from his gaol. This went well and Willie was freed. Liz, was miffed two knickers about the raid, but since it was Buccleuch wot done it, and trying to be on good terms with King James of Scotland, who may well have to be the very next English monarch didn't do anything. Kim may have had a quiet word with Buccleuch in case he ever considered doing that sort of thing again. Meanwhile, Ooor Wullie continued entering Northumberland and Cumberland, robbing and killing although nothing much was done to stop him since it might well have been that some important English locals were getting a percentage. Then Willie died, so it ended and they all went home and told their mums what had happened. You don't get this from other hillwalking blogs innit?

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Covid 19 Walks Get Longer and Plans Get Stronger

Just like most people and their dog, me and LTD have been staying home, except for the "allowed" reasons of shopping for essential supplies of merlot, nipping over to the chemists for my bisoprolol or wandering about having exercise. For this latter activity, the weather has been really very friendly and long, sunny spring days have brought out wild flowers, wild birds, not wild spring lambs and loads and loads of people walking, running and cycling in the countryside. Survivors will be very fit, have clean houses and tidy gardens and some, I expect, will have filled some of their time in other "activities" which may well result in a baby boom around Christmas time. Something to look forward to there....
Me and the dog started out doing circuits of the countryside around Crook. This is quite nice, but limited in it's own way and there was quite a bit of repetition and overlap in the chosen routes. Walks tended to be around 5 or 6 miles and could be undertaken without bananas, coffee, bonios or packs. (bonios are for the dog, I find them quite tasteless unless soaked in onion gravy and/or brown sauce.) (Lucky is not too bothered about brown sauce but he does like a slaver of gravy but without the onions)
And, after a while, and with some encouragement from "somebody else", it became quite apparent that 5 or 6 miles just wasn't hitting the spot. 5 miles is fine for a doggy walk, but to retain fitness and to be ready for when the shackles preventing travel to other places are finally loosed, something more needed to be done. The result was a 13 mile route, from the door and, then 15 miles and then 17 miles.  These things do require bananas, egg butties, coffee and just-in-case rainwear. They're all local routes, but the circles are bigger.
As time went on, Social meejah was reporting that in some places, farmers were closing footpaths and otherwise shouting at people. Some people (not really walkers , I feel) were nipping up to Malham from Kent and Accrington, having barbeque picnics and being very rude to police officers and anybody else who might have remonstrated. This  was not only moronic but unhelpful to say the least. One local farm track had a scribbled notice on a plastic lid stating that the track was closed to everybody. We ignored it and the farmer, who was out on his tractor, ignored us. Local intelligence stated that the said farmer was quite a nice chap anyway and was prone to giving away boxes of eggs to passers-by.
In other places, County Council notices started to appear on footpaths asking people to behave properly, I suspect, to calm the nerves of locals disturbed by the additional weight of people wandering across the fields.
My view is that whilst the risk of passing on a virus from touching a stile is probably very low, and this isn't Foot and Mouth Disease, farmers have some justification for being nervous, specially in view of the daily updating of the latest number of fatalities. And you don't really know who is living in the farm - is a member of the household vulnerable and shielding? (If there are, a notice asking people to avoid the farmyard could be met with a positive response) And farmers, just like everybody else should be washing their hands and not picking their nose or sucking a finger....
But, for pragmatic purposes, and to avoid unnerving anybody, when planning these longer routes, I've managed to avoid going anywhere near farms or farmyards. This has been much easier than I thought it would be - but we're blessed locally with miles and miles of railway paths :- old railway lines closed since the coal industry fell over in the 1960's and now converted to routes suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. They can get a bit dull after a while, but they get you miles away from home in short order. There's also bridleways, roman roads and miles of quiet lanes, and it's all really very nice. So, it'll do for now. Several pit villages are visited, but locals are generally very friendly (This IS County Durham) although their social distancing is a bit shaky sometimes. Local heathery moors are just about within reach.
And then there's the plans... I've already mentioned these, but I now have a "top 5" which will be the first Things To Be Done" as soon as "Things Can Be Done" There's no order to these because it depends how the unlocking of the lockdown is delivered - some of these are intended to be shared with Dawn, who is shielding just now, and some will depend on the ability to travel. This is the list:

Marilyn bagging:- completion of Section 37. This won't mean much to most people, but to explain that this involves a trip to the very highest parts of the Lincolnshire Wolds. I've found a campsite and the drive from Pietowers is around 150 minutes. Probably a couple of nights might allow the bagging of Normanby Top and, maybe a paddle at the seaside.

A couple of days camping at Ettrick: Gets Dawn out of the house and I can bag a few obscure hills and otherwise laze about a bit. There's a nice, quiet campsite available.

A beach bivi on a quiet Northumberland Beach. I've missed the beach bivvies.......

Do the trip in Lanarkshire that got cancelled at the last minute in March. I almost went. I have the gas and the food and I've given LTD a copy of the route. It was going to be 3 days... I might do it in 4. Three Marilyns are available to be bagged.

I had a route for backpacking from Loch Lomond to Callendar. There's a high level version and a low level version depending on the weather and fitness. Probably four days plus two for travel. The high level route has more than 20 two thousand foot tops. Its a cracker...

In between all this, if I can do this, it's likely that the Ramblers will start walking again and I'll likely be doing some of that, and, maybe Wolsingham Wayfarers, although I suspect that the bits of the walk programme I was involved in will have expired till the Autumn...

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Making Lists

The world seems to be having a rest. It was getting a bit frantic, though, and it's been like that for a while, but now, quite suddenly, there's no aircraft, apart from the odd police drone looking for really slow dog walkers and there's still some local traffic, although I understand that motorways and the big trunk roads are spookily quiet. I wouldn't know, I'm not allowed on motorways. The knipemobile has done all of 6 miles in 3 weeks, although I do move it around a bit to save the tyres and stop the brakes rusting on. This is saving me loads of money and, apparently, wildlife is quite quickly exploring the quietened places. The skies are clear, the air is clean(er) and Crook has chiff-chaffs. I've never noticed chiff-chaffs before.

 Another upside is that my reasonably stress-free life pre-Covid 19 is now almost permanently recumbent, probably in a deep snooze, just waiting for a frog to come along to be turned into a prince. I may have got that bit wrong. The downside is that I'm often in the fridge. Grazing. Hot Cross Buns are calorie-loaded.  I've reduced the booze quite a bit, to a genuine Merlot Friday, but it's not helping much, the kilogrammes and wobbly bits are creeping back. The bad news for small businesses and key workers in danger of burning out is, that this could go on for quite a bit longer judging by the international graphs which, more or less, all show similar patterns of a long and slow descent of the graph. 12 weeks or so seems to be optimistic.
 By now, if you've not already dozed off or gone off looking for a more interesting blog, why I am illustrating this post with pictures of tents and LTD from 2016. I chose 2016 because it was a good year for backpacking. And the pictures are chosen because this is really about planning Things To Do When All This Is Over. It came suddenly and everything got cancelled, and, combined with my age and the slowly reducing potential opportunities for a really good, hard, long walk (text stolen from an abandoned Carry On Backpacking script) (Are you going all the way? Oo er, warden) (snigger), its a good illustration why , when you get the chance to do whatever it is you want to do, you really must get on with it. Might do that next year is not good enough. There might not be a next year for you. You'd best just do it now. Or at least in the next few weeks.

 So, in my awake times when I'm not busy with some soap and hot water or helping the dog meet his doggy pals and enemies up the Deerness Valley Railway Walk, I've been making lists. Plans, if you like. The list now has eight backpacking trips on it, plus some other holidays and camping things - mainly aimed at bagging Marilyns and other hills, doing Things That Were Cancelled in March, bivvying on a beach, and , generally, having jollies.

 The pictures are from Mr Sloman's Daunder around Cross Fell and me and Dawn's walk from Buxton to the Lake District visiting the highest pubs in England (with a bit missing in the middle due to my duff planning). This is the stuff. It's not big or clever or expensive, or even all that adventurous. It involves no foreign travel, no vaccinations (apart from Covid 19 if it's available) It might involve a TGO Challenge if the cards fall right. All I have to do is avoid a virus and not run across a busy road. I'm still planning. If this goes on for a long time, there's going to be a huge tick list to tick off.

I've no idea why Blogger does daft stuff like this - all the pics are centred, but some just aren't. It says they are, but they aren't. I also had to start the whole thing again because Blogger decided to underline all the text and colour it blue. It's the work of the devil, that's what it is.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Whilst Every Day Is Sunday

 It seems to me that since the UK locked-down, that lots and lots of people have suddenly discovered that walking is a Thing To Do.  Being prevented from doing and Rambling or, indeed, and hillwalking and, limited to a daily binge of wandering, sometimes aimlessly and sometimes with intent to visit somewhere in which I've suddenly developed an unexplainable interest, that I'm meeting a lot more people out and about than usual.
And it seems possible to categorise the people walking , as opposed to those running or cycling or, indeed , on horses, into a few discreet groups. There's family groups, often with a family dog in tow. There's Dads out with a sprog or two and, maybe a dog. There's couples. And their dogs.  There's pairs of friends and, maybe a dog. There's people out on their own, except for the company of several dogs. And there's just the one old chap in an electric buggy thingy and his three dogs. Most of these don't look like "walkers" - that is to say, there's no boots or packs or bobble hats or anything that makes them look like they've done this kind of thing before. And they're all very friendly although some of their dogs have a bit of an issue with Lucky The Dog and there might be the odd barking frenzy. (The universal willingness to say hello and chat briefly - sometimes not all that briefly, might just  be a North-East England thing, though)

 I think this is great. It's fabulous. Lots of people out doing exactly what The Ramblers want people to do. They're out getting exercise, burning calories, hearing birdsong and seeing the spring flowers emerging, and new lambs in the fields and great views and , well, just green stuff and, maybe forgetting the "other" stuff just for a while.  And, sometimes, there's a blue sky after a rotten soggy and dark winter.
And the roads are quiet as are the streets. It all reminds me of my Sunday childhood : empty streets, closed shops, quietness and people wandering about in the fields and woods. Every day, it would seem, is a Sunday just now. (I have to admit that since I ran off giggling with my NHS pension in 2006, I can hardly remember which day "today" is. Apart from Christmas. You can't miss Christmas... and, maybe solstices and equinoxes have gained more importance.)
The Ramblers HQ peeps say that they've gone home. All Ramblers activities involving meeting people are cancelled, or, at least, suspended pro-tem. This means all Crook and Weardale's lovely Spring walking programme, the footpath work, some bus trips and, probably our May committee meeting. Trips farther ahead are wobbling and only need a push. So, we're not really doing anything, We can't do anything. Or can we?
Ramblers generally seem to be keen to fill the time by keeping in touch with each other - keep up the interest and the morale - we have an informal support network if anybody needs anything. This is positive stuff.
But we might be missing a trick here. Isn't this perhaps the time to start to nurture this sudden and, perhaps temporary interest in the simple stravaig and make some of it permanent? Isn't this what The Ramblers do? Is it time to raise the profile somehow? Could we not put our brains to this instead of scoffing hoy cross buns whilst watching Homes Under The Hammer until the dog demands his daily trundle. (We've been managing 5 or 6 miles). Inevitably (we hope) that all this will soon be over and children will go back to school and mums and dads will return to work and whatever routines they had before. And, maybe, they'll not find time to wander about any more.
One day soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow.
(Apols to Have yourself a merry little Christmas)

Monday, 6 April 2020

Completing a Circle

This walk is almost exactly the same length as all the other walks in this little series and most of them, oddly enough, have 500 feet of ascent. And, if you do them all you'll have encircled Crook. Probably best to leave this feat for better days, although, for me, they all begin within a hundred or so metres of Pietowers and don't go much further away than a couple of kilometres. It's true, though, that to do one within an hour would involve running. As I wouldn't want to damage my cardiac stent, I wouldn't like to try yer actual running. LTD takes a dim view of me running anyway and thinks I want to play some kind of rough-and-tumble game involving random sticks or bits of paper,

 This particular walk visits  St Thomas's Church  at Stanley Crook, which hides a bit unsuccessfully at the top of a steep hill. The contours here are unusually friendly with each other resulting in a short but brutal climb up through some gorse. Somebody ought to report these contours to the police because they're much too close together for safety.

 The walk also goes through a little subsidiary graveyard which I find remarkable in that it has some children's graves, some of which , although 70 years old, still have toys on them. There are clearly surviving family members visiting these babies graves. It's very moving.

 The path through the graveyard isn't a right of way but there are gates at either end and the next path heads into some woodland and is well used and has stiles, but isn't a right of way either. This leads to the Deerness Valley Railway Path which is well surfaced and can be easily followed in the dark, which is just as well because it did go dark. As usual, parts of this walk have become more popular recently. I'm not sure how many people will keep up the walking when this kerfuffle dies down, but for now, it's a positive thing I think.