Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The List Of Things To Do Shortens a Bit (Backpacking in Lanarkshire)

This was on my List of Things To Do for whenever I was able to do them (things). This trip was originally scheduled to start on or around 22nd March. We all know what happened that week, though, innit? I almost set off a day or so early, but in the end, some vague remnants of commonsense that remained from whenever it was I last used some commonsense prevailed and I didn't go. And so, it appeared on The List.
The idea was to bag 3 Marilyns: Common Hill, Nutberry Hill and Middlefield Law, initially in the company of LTD, JJ and Beryl (aka Margaret) This plan failed to even reach the racecourse, never mind get into the starting line-up. According to the map , some intervening hills also could be bagged and all this would put me on 595 Marilyns, just 5 Marilyns short of the Marilyn Hall of Fame (you'll have to Google this, I just can't be arsed explaining it all.)
And so, on a recent Tuesday lunchtime I parked quite near a pie shop in the Lanarkshire village of Douglas and wandered up through wind turbines on easy wind turbine roads beneath wind turbine signs which warned against going up there in freezing conditions or thunderstorms and bagged Nutberry Hill fairly easily, just about the time a huge black cloud appeared and started to rumble a bit. This put the willies up me big time because I don't enjoy being lit up by electricals and for some reason they always bring to mind some really poor jokes about God which I try not to think about. Luckily for Lucky, who hates thunder even more than me, I'd left him at home. I had some suspicions that the walk might be getting beyond his doggy walking powers. There was also the crossing of two grouse moors and he does have an unfortunate habit of trying to eat grouse. Grouse moor peeps who could well have been it and about in this season might well have taken a dim view of this. They can be a bit surly sometimes.
So, after the bagging, and in view of the rain, I cast about for a camping spot. I did notice a security camera on a long pole which overlooked some nice spots, and also the previous rumblings from heaven made me consider not being too close to a turbine. Eventually I found a place by a little beck out of sight of the camera and settled in to listen to the rain and eat some dehydrated chicken fried rice and some cheese and rum and stuff like that whilst listening to an old MP3 player last used on a TGO Challenge five years ago (I found it in a drawer.... it was a fab evening - comfy and cosy and swishy when the MP3 player was eventually turned off.
And in the morning, after porridge, prunes and coffee I attacked the tussocks of Meikle Auchinstilloch (it means "Big Auchinstilloch") and whilst many a Meickle maks a Muckle, this one was quite tough and not a Muckle at all. (Google is your friend) Rough and soggy is a good description and, I found, that this applied to all of the hills to be bagged. So, I continued, sloppily over Little Auchinstilloch and |Priesthill Height and abandoned my pack in a corner of the fence and blundered off to bag Marylin #2 , the very heathery Nutberry Hill. I did find a vague ATV track to the top which made it easier. The view from the summit of Nutberry contains more wind turbines than any reasonable person would want to shake a stick at.  It seems possible that with the lively local westerlies, that the Northern part of Britain is destined to drift off and bump into Denmark at some point soon. There must be a tug in that direction, surely.
Onwards - after finding my pack was exactly where I left it and that my 70% proof chocolate was safe - on by that fence to a brew and by the Leaze Burn using burn water which already looked like builders' tea and tasted vaguely of blood (I guess it must have had a high iron content) - and then over the sloppy Spirebush Hill on to the even sloppier Goodbush Hill where I decided I'd had enough.
The weather forecast had said that there would be high winds and rain and Goodbush Hill is no place to put up a Laser Competition in this sort of stuff and, in any case, bogwater isn't nice for rehydrateing a beef stroganoff. I had noticed a space in the forest to the North which might produce a camping spot, although forests aren't often brilliant at flat and green places. And there was Death Grain -a small stream which went through a gap in the trees to a forest road which ought to deliver me to my intended spot in short order - once I'd plodded miserably over the miles of soggy stuff of Goodbush as energy levels seeped out through the now soaked socks and out through my wetted-out boots. AS it happened, Death Grain had a flat bit. The trees were far enough back not to get blown onto my tent and the little beck was more than handy and so, as the rain started, the Laser comp went up and I went in. This particular spot had a large selection of various species of spider and some of the night's entertainment consisted of watching one build a very small web in the top of the tent porch. In the morning there was the shell of a fly in the web and the spider had gone. And my cooking pot and lid, which had been left out, now contained a full litre of lovely fresh rain - much better than the light brown peaty stuff in Death Grain itself. So that went in my water bag for the next day's hydration.
I was just 100 metres from the forest road. This 100 metres was a maze of steep drops, waterfalls, thick forest and wet grass. Eventually I made it and followed the tracks past my intended spot for last night, which would have been quite nice as it happens, to the main road where a chap was pushing broken glass out of the indow of his JCB. Apparently a front window had blown back and broken it. We had a chat. It was the first chat I'd had  Anyway, there was piles of rubbish which I expect he'd been sent to sort out - left, apparently, by a family from Wishaw who'd "wild" camped there for a few days and left, it seems, without taking their tent, the plastic chairs, the food and drinks wrappers, the tennis rackets....  Its not known whether they'd remembered to retrieve all of their children.....  I pressed on down the road, crossing the sinsiter-sounding Blood Moss and on up to bag Bibblon Hill - the boggiest and soggiest yet. And the bit between there and Middlefield Law was energy-sapping and thoroughly draining AND my pack back adjusters fell out , making the whole thing a bit of a trial to say the least. I had to stop for a brew as the wind started to rise again. The summit of Middlefield Law, Marilyn #3 welcomed me in a touselled wind-staggered state and despite the top being the most interesting so far, and with the best view, it was no place to sit and eat a soreen lunch bar or indeed a lump of Wensleydale, so I left, downhill on a good path which took me to a road, which took me to Muirkirk, which was closed and had been closed since 1963 when the gritter failed to turn up. Somebody's been trying to tart it up, but, honestly, when Scotland does decrepit, it does it really well. So I didn't stay.

Instead, I joined the River Ayrshire Way, which here follows a dismantled railway line. This provides easy walking, which is exactly what I wanted, being pushed along by a lively and very wet gale. An unnamed little beck in what we might call a gill in the more Danish parts of England, or a clough, or a cleuch. Anyway it was a lovely spot, in sight of the A70, nicely sheltered and, as it turned out, full of healthy-looking slugs who all wanted entrance to the Laser Comp. I spent most waking hours flicking them off the tent, removing them from boots, my cup, the inner tent and my elbow. I swear that the one on my elbow was going for the throat. Very...slowly....

It rained all night and it was still raining as I left for more of the railway line, ending up at Glenbuch Loch. I abandoned the idea of climbing Hareshaw Hill in favour of a more dangerous, but sheltered scutter along the A70. Roadworks meant that the traffic came in lumps, so , most of the time, quiet progress was made and, sometimes, I could walk along the railway line although it was overgrown and the grass was wet.  At Monksfoot Bridge, I took to the hills and followed a track to Low Broomerside, which was inhabited by just a goat - and then, back to the familiar tussocks and bog. But the sun was now shining and a brew in the sun was almost idyllic. I recrossed the railway and descended through some rather nice woodland, with litter (to prove that the public was allowed to go there) - to a road which took me back to Douglas and the pie shop who sold me a very large sausage roll, some coffee and a huge lump of wholemeal bread.  There's more stuff on the list before I start to get more sociable again.....

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Rambling Rambles With Crook and Weardale Ramblers


According to the Ramblers, from 30 July 2020 Ramblers Groups (Crook and Weardale Ramblers is a Ramblers Group) can ramble in groups of up to 30 people, which was an increase from 6. Up until then, if more than 5 people, plus a leader wanted a walk, we had to split the group into But now, the gloves, or at least, the thermal socks, are off.
And so, since then we've had potentially bigger groups, although, in practise, we've actually had twelve humans and, occasionally , a small dog (LTD).  These are pics from the last 2 walks - nine or so miles from Nenthead to Ash Gill where, on the occasion of Trevor's birthday, a rendition of "happy birthday" was provided behind the Ash Gill Force waterfall. The noise of this drowned out most of the choir, thus either preventing any less skilled vocalists becoming jealous, or stopped anybody noticing any variations from yer actual correct tunings.

And then, there was a ramble up Buckden Pike. This walk had, in fact already been the subject of a reccy and a bit of a blizzard which, generally put people off a bit. But then, as the Covid 19 rules were relaxed, it appeared once again in the August programme.

Once again, the weather made an impact on the walk, this time being stupidly hot, with a dangerously electrical element in the forecast. So, as we simmered by the summit cairn with our lunchtime butties, somewhere over to the North-West and darkened sky rumbled. LTD began a sneaky escape (he likes thunderstorms even less than me), but was captured and held, tail between his legs and refusing gravy bones. It was that serious.
I shortened the walk a bit by using an escape route to the Fox and Hounds at Starbotton where they sold us some refreshments. And a storm failed to develop, although a certain amount of rumbling and grumbling from Langstrothdale continued. So nobody was electrified. It stayed hot, though.
We're javing more walkies through August and, we're just working on a September programme (it seems daft to plan too far ahead just now) Details of all walks are either on the website or will appear shortly Here (click the link!!)

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Blogging Mojo Found Inside The Sofa

Its been a while since the last blog post. This does not mean that I've been idle - although I have been a little bit idle. The pictures in this blog post are from some of the expeditions I've not blogged about. But the point of this post, really, is not to dwell on the past but to look forward, once again, to the future. It seems that some of the shackles which have been placed on the hillwalking and backpacking, specially the inability to visit Scotland, which is temptingly close to Pie Towers, are getting ever looser.

Once again, though, pictures in this blog are refusing quite pointedly to behave themselves and are either left or right justified or in the middle. This is a "blogger" thing. Sometimes they won;t go where you want them to ho and sometimes they just like to lean to the left or the right. So apologies if this spoils your entertainment but me and my mouse seem powerless in the face of intransingence.
 In the last few weeks, we have re-instated group walks in the Crook and Weardale Ramblers group. We have been limiting the group sizes to six, meaning that so far we have been having two groups of six on a walk. The walks have been fairly local and all around 10 miles. And whilst we're looking forward to having a "propah" walking programme as soon as we can, these have been all Good Clean Fun.

 And me and LTD have had two camping trips: Two days in Lincolnshire for the bagging of the only Lincolnshire Marilyn, Normanby Wold. We got wet. It rained.  
Then, we had a couple of nights by the shores of Sand Tarn , a lovely spot on a little shelf near the summit of Wild Boar Fell. This time it rained and we got wet. Even so, it had to be done. And it was nice to see the cafe/outdoor shop Mad About Mountains open again in a socially distant sort of way. I bought gas and dry bags.

 And I had a walk at Wardle, just outside Rochdale on the occasion of a visit to Halifax. Wardle is not more than 14 miles from Halifax so it can be reached by knipemobile quite quickly, even though it's technically in a foreign part of the country and completely on the Wrong side of the Pennines. Locals were quite friendly though and the cattle on the hill weren't bothered by a small black and white dog.
 And there's been long walks with Li Yang and Diane and David and bagging walks in Northumberland  and North Yorkshire and even a pickernick with Dawn during which I got fatter and browner. But what about the future?
There's some more "interim" quite small group walks to be done with Crook and Weardale Ramblers and a litter-pick and lots of other important stuff.  There's no sign, yet of Wolsingham Wayfarers starting to walk again  or, indeed the Wednesday and Saturday Walking Group (Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays). And, based on the theory that this new freedom and spare time could all go badly wrong at any point, specially, probably in the winter to come, I have a feeling that Things Which Can Be Done Now Really Need To Be Done Now. (Hence Lincolnshire and Sand Tarn) - so , quite soon, I'm intending to do the trip that was cancelled last March - a 3 or 4 day backpacking walk in South Lanarkshire/East Ayrshire. And I'd quite like a couple of nights by Loch Dochart for some remaining Munros and to lay the ghost of the cancelled TGO challenge, which would have seen a camp by the sandy shores of this lovely spot.
And, these things done, plus, maybe a beach bivi, thus clearing my "me time" cache, leaving the space open for some more sociable trips and, perhaps, some more Long Walks.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Long Walks Are Back! Knock Fell - High Cup Nick

 Actually me and Li Yang walled from Willington to Durham, by the Weardale Way, which is mostly on the banks of the River Wear, and back to Willington on the Bishop - Brandon railway walk - just about 20 miles and we didn't meet any Government advisers at all and anybody who says we did is pushing False News.
So, the point is, that this isn't the first long walk since lockdown, technically, it's the second but this time we were joined by Diane, David and Bailey The Dog, thus re-instating the Long Walks team wot did the other long walks back when we were allowed to meet other people. 
 The idea for this one was to approach High Cup Nick from a different direction than the usual ones from Dufton or from Cow Green. Instead of that, from Cow Green we wandered up the track along the flank of Viewing Hill, nipped down to the River Tees above the reservoir and followed it to the locked gate on Moorhouse estate, at the confluence of the Tees with Troutbeck, which we followed up on to Knock Fell.

 This was all pretty straightforward and we met only two people and some very stressed trout who were clearly worrying about the singular lack of water in Trout Beck, although what there was, was probably fairly warm. Up on Knock Fell there was nobody at all apart from us enjoying the views of the Lakes and Solway and South to Penyghent and hills like that there.

 We continued not meeting anybody at all as we bashed the dried-up and tinderbox-like bogs down to Great Rundale Tarn and up the other side to the cairn and ruinous trig on Backstone Edge, where we did see just the one walker and his little dog (or was it a "her" and a little dog?) - at some distance away, it was hard to tell. An easy plod along the edge and we arrived high above High Cup Nick which was well populated but not really overcrowded. It was here on soft dry turf with an ariel view of  the High Cup Nick visitors that we had our second lunch. On long walks, we usually have two lunches, one at about 11:00 and another mid afternoon depending on how hungry we ware and whether or not it's raining. I had my egg custard, a banana and some seriously dark chocolate (my first lunch, by the Troutbeck had been a pork pie, some cashew nuts and some strength 4 Columbian filter coffee and LTD had a Bonio and some of Li Yang's gravy bones)

 To reduce the chances of any more human contact we took the "gorge" route back to the Pennine Way bridge over Maize Beck. This is a little bit longer but more interesting than the straightforward Pennine Way route and is, in fact, a Pennine Way alternative and, probably an older route than the PW. In days when the Pennine Way was a tough and boggy challenge fit only for real he-men with hairy packs and peaty legs and their bearded girlfriends, there was no bridge on the direct PW route from Cauldron Snout to High Cup Nick and, when the Maize Beck was in spate, the gorge route offered a safe alternative with a bridge over the gorge. Unfortunately, the risks of trying to cross a raging Maize Beck weren't always recognised and there were accidents, near misses and fatalities. So another bridge was built.

 We spent a little time poking around the gorge which seems as if it would be a lovely place to camp....   If we  And we also found the yellow flowers above. growing in the limestone walls. If anybody can identify these, that would be fab. I can't find them in my books of wild flowers.
The return to Cow Green from the PW bridge is a bit of a plod at the far end of a long walk and isn't improved by the new estate road for the Edwardian pretendees aka grouse shooters who visit Meldon Hill in the autumn but nevertheless eschew walking or  riding ponies up onto the fell in favour of Range Rovers.. In fact, it's a pain in the feet. In a few places the old flagstones, which were some kind of "improvement" on the previous boggy sloppyness which was the state of the PW in these parts back in the day when the Beatles were still publishing songs...
We finished about 7:00 o'clock. It seems that now that we're allowed to be in a group of up to six from different households, and outside and socially distant, we might be doing this kind of thing a bit more in the next few weeks....

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?