Sunday 30 November 2008

Mistletoe and Whine - Xmas Howgills on Doodlecat

The Howgills Diary account and walk description (well, sort of...) for December is now appearing on Doodlecat. Read it here at

New Cliff Richards Christmas Hit!
None of these are contained in this account!
Read it before Christmas! Or feel dead left out, like, sorta thing!
Yet another shameless plug....

Incidentally, whoever it is in the Anteeps, down there in New Zealand who is reading the blog - hello and welcome and we are the right way up! Hope you are enjoying the fun. We do requests......
(Pic is a friendly Howgills Fell pony)

Saturday 29 November 2008

Great Whernside in the frost

It was minus six degrees somewhere near Richmond this morning as I drove down to Kettlewell. Seems to be shaping up for a wintery winter...
Me and superdawg and my nephew had this little wander around Great Whernside on what seemed to be a very short day. We took a bridleway on the South side of Dowber Gill, a route that I'd never climbed before despite many, many trips up this hill. From the end of the bridleway, we could walk most of the ridge of Gt Whernside to the trig on the top, where there were lots and lots of people with their dawgs. No other super dawgs, though. It was all very frosty and cold and the air was fairly clear - and there was just a little frozen snow around. Some othe r nearby Pennines seem to have had a bit more...
Anyway, we could see the Lake District hills, and steam from various cooling towers somewhere in Yorkshire (not Drax, surely??) and a nuclear-explosion-type cloud over Teeside. I was assured that no such explosion has taken place today, though as many people would have noticed it and, likely, would have reported it to the appropriate authorities.
We came the short, steep and frozen slippery way down the hill and back to Kettlewell via the Park Rash Brigantian earthworks/defences - aka Tor Dyke - all the while putting the world to rights about the benefits of sitting about on the hills listening to skylarks and pipits and stuff - something I must make time for next summer.... the consequence of all this talk is that I failed to take many pics.
Home earlyish cos it went dark again.
Used me birthday gloves....

Friday 28 November 2008

New marilyn surveyed

Following a survey, its just been announced on the RHB forum that sail Chalmadale 480 metres has been "promoted" to marilyn status. Sail Chalmadale is close to the West coast of Arran at NR914401. One more hill to tick.
In case there's any marilyn baggers reading my blerg (which may be a bit unlikely, I suppose...)
I haven't got a picture of it I'm afraid, so I've just posted a picture of the dog.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Underground, not up Skiddaw

Today was the first anniversary of Brian's visit to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle during which he was fitted with a couple of stents in his cardiac tubes.
By way of celebration, and to provide a photo for the consultant who fitted the stens that Brian was still alive and kicking, we arranged to go to the top of Skiddaw. Unfortunately, a warm, wet Atlantic blow brought hill fog down to about 400 metres or so and it was drizzling and windy in a typical pennine windy and drizzly sort of way. A pic of Skiddaw summit would have been hardly woirth the effort.
So, instead, he fed his neighbours, the gooses (see pic) and we kitted up in yellow romper suits and wellies and forced our way into Nenthead's Scaleburn leadmine. the purpose was twofold
1) To see if we couldnt get some nice fossils from a seam of nice fossils - for which we carried a spade and a lump hammer and a chisel.
2) To visit a horse gang, which, until recently had been blocked off by a roof fall which had recently been excavated.
and ... threefold
3) To take some pics for the consultant (see above )
4) To have a laff....
Objective number one was started, but we abandoned the attempt to prize out some fossils pro tem. I was a bit worried when some big rocks suddenly squashed the rucksack with the tools in it. It would seem that roof falls happen suddenly and with no creaking or rumbling at all - the damn things just go bang - or splash, if they land in water. This was a bit scary, but Brian seemed unfazed.
And so we paddled through to the excavation for the horse gin - a short crawl under scaffolding. No creaking....
The horse gin is a circular cast iron circle whoch was rotated by a horse, who's job it was to simply walk around in circles. The gin pulled a cable and so, things were pulled up a deep shaft - which was just luking dangerously quite nearby. We lunched and took pictures and went back to the fossils.
We got a few nice ones, loaded everything up and left for a coffee at brian's.
A lass with a camera and her partner, who were interested in leadmines and had been mooching around purposefully outside, helped me get my wellies off. Once they get water in, I can't get the buggers off..
All good clean, wet and slightly muddy, fun.
I used the new Petzl and two backup lights, one of which is a wind-up. A real wind-up.

Sunday 23 November 2008

TGO Challenge Planning #4 and some snow

Superdawg was highly suspicious this morning that something was different but couldn't quite put his paw on it...

Its nice to see a bit of snow, but I suppose it won't last till my next walk... ho and hum...

Anyway, Ive just spent the evening drawing a TGO Challenge route on to some 1:50k maps and counting ascent and stuff like that. And I've transposed the route on to a route sheet. I'll put this into an electronic version sometime next week and get it emailed off to Roger.

One of the maps - sheet 42 has just 1.4 kilometres of my route on it. Maybe I won't take sheet 42....

Friday 21 November 2008

Horse Stone Naze and Cut Gate

Me and superdawg met Mike once again – possibly the final time in this current series of middle distance walks – on a nastily busy A616 near the Flouch Inn. [I need a rest after all of this]
Our route took us over doggy-prohibited grouse shooting moorland on to the wind and weather-clipped (and therefore, much easier to walk on than the heathery parts) tops. The particular top which we made for was Horse Stone Naze, a Dewey and otherwise fairly nondescript hillock which has a little gritstone tor on the top to provide just a little bit of excitement. Bruno made it to the very top with a little encouragement and a tug on the lead at a crucial just-about-to-blob-off-point.
Crow Stones, a bit further South provided a bit more interest with it’s strangely tilted rocks and nooks and crannies. Anybody who likes scrambling about on grit could pass a few entertaining hours here. Today (that’s yesterday actually) it was a bit cold and windy for that sort of thing. And I’m not much cop at that type of activity any more, so I tend not to do it.
And so we progressed Southly.
The peat hags around here are BIG and otherwise the ground is soggy and, in places, precarious for the cleanliness of one’s lower trousers – so the trek over to the junction with Cut Gate was, shall we say, sploshy and, occasionally very circuitous. Even superdawg, who doesn’t usually mind a bit of soft muck, was starting to get a bit paranoid about the potential depth of some of the soft and peaty bits.
Then it rained, then it almost went dark.
We descended easily, and very enjoyably in a half gale and fading light by the Cut gate bridleway.
The recrossing of the road was “testing” and took a long time before there was even a slight gap in the traffic. This road is a right bugger to cross – a constant stream of headlights in both directions. My best suggestion for doing this walk is to mug a lollipop lady of her lollypop and secrete it in the trees for use on your return. You’ll probably get killed, though. Live with it.

Or not.

A Somerfield petrol station and mini market sold me a bottle of Blossom Hill on the way home ..not my home… the dad-in-law’s home in Halifax.
Huddersfield ring road still as scary as it was when I once went to Huddersfield Poly…. Only scarier, actually..
Nice walk, though – about 12 miles.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Shameless Plug

And now for a shameless plug - Over on Phil and Tina have published the first three months of my Howgills diary - full of route ideas and good advice about how to manage your interpersonal relationships, nutrition, dog training, history, archeology and flower arranging and even how to stop smoking.

Its twelve months in the Howgills containing (eventually), thirteen walks and it took me two years to do due to various bits of unpleasantness involving ECG machines and nurses with needles and razors and stuff....
They do a cracking job on Doodlecat making this stuff readable and looking presentable by the way. I can;t bellieve some of those pictures are mine....
Anyway, whatever you do, don;t use it as a guide to the Howgills...
have a look.
justabitofun, justabitofun....

North Pennines - Deadstones

Tuesday Morning, me bruvver turned up and me and him (him and I?) went off for a walk whilst Mike plumped for the fleshpots of Alston via the Pennine Way.

In nice, almost warm sunshine, we went back to Ash Gill – at least I went back there as John hadn’t been there before…. Er… anyway. It was roughly the same as it had been on Monday – maybe just a bit more water. But, in leaving the place this time, we took a little side path that I happened to know about and this lead us up to an overhanging crag – apparently impossible to climb without pitons and a friendly helicopter. Or a friend with a very long ladder. R Kidd expressed the view that he wouldn’t be able to climb it.
But there’s a little slot in the crag, gained by a short but slippery rock step and this slot leads fairly steeply but nevertherless quite easily up through the crag in a sort of underground fashion and pops out in a surprising sort of way at the top. Just a bit bizarre, but interesting nevertheless.
After this adventure, we walked up a bit of tarmac, noting the red squirrels trotting along the wall tops – and up onto the moorland of the Weardale ridge, topping out at the summit of Dead Stones, at about 700 and a bit metres. Dead stones has a shelter or bothy on the top. You wouldn’t want to spend a night in there, though – inside there’s just a slimy bench and a tiny fireplace and no door.
We followed the ridge Northwards for a while and chatted to various grouse beaters waiting to start their drive on the way. We were advised two or threee times which side of the hill to walk on, but, generally, the encounter was friendly.
As it started getting a bit late, we shortened the walk at this point and headed down towards the col between nenthead and garrigill and then, by field paths in gathering gloom, back to the South Tyne and Garrigill.
As we came close to Garrigill there was a rabbit tottering around blindly and, as it sensed out approach it desperately tried to find a hole in the wall. In the end it just cowered behind a patch of rushes. It couldnt see a thing. Myxamatosis (I'm not sure of the spelling)
We tutted but carried on but as we crossed the next stile, a chap in camo gear carrying a rifle appeared. We told him about the rabbit and he went off to introduce it to it's maker. A single shot a short while later probably indicated the poor thing's final end. I hope so, anyway.
We finished the walk witha short conversation with an old bloke sporting a pool cue. Apparently there's a full-sized table somewhere in Garrigill.

Brian, my pal from Nenthead provided welcome hot coffee on my way home.
Cracking few days.
Incidentally, I used the new headlight whilst camping and to find Brian's kettle as he had all the lights off

North Pennines Bagathon

After the Mickle Fell stravaig, we diverted our attentions to Garrigill, principally for the bagging of Round Hill – Mike’s final English Hewitt. And so, in temperatures just marginally above freezing and in nithering rain, we mooched off up (or is it down…?) the South Tyne Trail towards France.

A mile or so up/down the path from Garrigill is the little gorge of Ash Gill, at the top of which there is the main road from Alston to Teesdale. Emanating, or , rather, gushing from underneath this bridge is an impressive waterfall, behind which you can venture for a look at a waterfall from behind. This is an ideal spot for hiding from injuns as they gallop by. When the beck is in spate it is a truly awesome experience, with the water thundering past at arms stretch.

And so, after being slightly awed (as the beck wasn’t quite in spate), we continued up/down South Tynedale, ultimately to it’s source where there is a vaguely erotic statue with a hole in it through which to view the very spring out if which springs the reason for the most famous of Lindisfarne’s hit records. It was quite foggy up there on Monday as well.

Then, after much huffing and puffing from me, we finally mounted the soggy and only slightly tilted slopes of Round Hill with it’s little cairn. A few celebratory pictures were taken and then we evacuated the place for warmer places such as Garrigill. It went dark again.

I put my tent up behind the village hall (not a bad spot as it happens…) and after a brief but nutritious scoff, we repaired to the pub for a sweet sherry and a water biscuit and to listen to the landlord’s vynil collection. Quite an enjoyable night, all in all.

Tuesday follows (but then you know that, innit?)

Sunday 16 November 2008

Mickle Fell

I met Mike from go4awalk again – this time at a little village called Hilton, just next to the impact area of the Warcop Army training range. This place is used for training the troops to fire various types of things that go bang, and its only possible to do the walk we did when things aren’t, in fact, going “bang”. Or even “crump”.
It was a cracking day for it, cold and sunny with views from Teeside to Ingleborough – which is a long way. We started off on a bridleway, passing a notice full of dire warnings, and up a little valley and over some moorland to the derelict trig-in-a-shelter on the other top of Little Fell. The main top is a little way over to the North and is marked by a puny cairn of carboniferous limestone.
The views towards Mickle fell from the edge of this hill are notable – very wild, peat-hagged and, well, er..wild…
We got to grips with the final slopes of Mickle fell by using a handy ATV track that went in the right direction. Mickle Fell summit is marked by a large and venerable cairn – suitable for it’s position as the highest point in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and, of course, Yorkshire itself, and also the highest point in the current County Durham – almost recently renamed Durham County, or Durham and Darlington County, or possible something else….
We followed small streams and green strips through the rough ground down to maize Beck, which we handrailed to the bridleway back to Scorsdale. Scorsdale is a fab, wild and rocky slit in the scarp and it was a bit unfortunate that it went dark as we descended – but lucky that we’d just hit a good track just as the light was switched off. I used a little wind up torch that I got from a local pound shop (guess how much it cost) It has 2 leds and is very bright and I didn’t need to wind it up. I’ll use adminfairy’s headlight next time, honest. I expect it would have been better than the pound shop thingy….
I think we did about 14 miles.
More walkies tomorrow, unless it really, really rains…

Friday 14 November 2008

TGO Planning #3 and nothing about stoves

Just had a session with TGO first-timers Doug and Michael Moffat , talking about stuff for the TGO challenge, and doing some serious damage to the whisky stocks at the Black Horse at Waterhouses. We may be doing at least one little, shortish backpacking trip in the next few weeks for training purposes, but we'll see. But as my 2009 challenge will be solo, my own personal training trips will be solo as well. Plans for this are slowly germinating. In the meantime, it looks like Doug and Mike have a route and a clear idea as to the number of teabags and socks required for a successful crossing. Doug is actually quite experienced at walking about in the wilder bits of Scotland, and he's also acting secretary of the Pennine Way Association, so I don't know why he feels he needs any advice...

Later.... today....Had a Topsy and Tim busy day including erecting a garden bench, fitting a number sign to my mum's house wall, welcoming and supervising a carpet fitter measurer man, visiting the Council offices to get some rubbish shifted, herding a goat and getting my exhausty pipe fixed...

Yes, that was herding a goat. I noticed a large brown animal disappearing behind the old folks flats...and then this enormous goat-in-a-panic came rushing by followed by a bloke who had been loitering behind there a bit suspiciously in my opinion. He asked me if it would bite him and I said I didnt think so. He made off, suspiciously.... So, a bit worried that it (goat) might wander onto the main road and eat a car or something, I captured the timid but slightly scary animal using guile and ancient half-remembered hunting instincts such as creeping up behind it and getting hold of it's "lead" It had very big horns and a strange way of looking at me - a bit like staring Old Nick himself in the eye. (Old Nick lives in the OAP's flats by the way and drives one of those electric cart things very fast whilst encouraging people to "Get out of the f****ng way")His vehicle has a high-vis jacket on the back and a union flag on a long ariel.... but I digress, or ingest or whatever it is.....

So I bring the goat back to show to the wife and tie him to the ash tree in our front garden, whereupon he scoffs my fuschia, next door's privet, an apple (donated as a diversion) a selection of leaves from a flowering blackcurrant, a sort of spiky little bush thingy and a dwarf conifer. - Oh, and a melange of potentilla fruticosa lightly drizzled with sooty dew.. The wife wants me to visit the pet shop for a bag of hay.

I set off to find an owner whilst the wife cheers up the police call centre in Durham (who advise that they'll issue an email to all the County Durham border crossings and airports in case some Northumbrian bedouins try to escape without one of their goats.) Failing that, its our problem. If it had been a nanny goat they would have sent round a WPC, apparently.

Turns out it belongs to a bloke who goes by the name of "Sooty" and lives with a horse in a field next to the old folks flats and has been busy, according to neighbours, eating the birch tree in the field and various organic items from their gardens.. It appears that it may well have consumed bits of the fence for its lunch.

I return it to it's horsey pal who is clearly quite pleased to see him. They nuzzle each other. Its time for me to rattle and roar up to Tow Law for me new exhausty pipe. (£147 by the way...) I wander around Hedleyhope Fell nature reserve for an hour whilst waiting for delivery of the new parts... Fab place by the way, just fab.

In the meantime, BT have responded to our complaints that the broadband falls over whenever its a bit windy or wet by erecting two new telegraph poles up the street and rewiring the whole shebang. What they made of a goat tethered in one of the front gardens is anybody's guess.

Bruno is quite pleased about the new telegraph poles....

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Murton fell and High Cup Nick

Me and superdawg met Mike from Go4awalk at Dufton and we had this little 11 mile trundle up onto the North pennine scarp, including a short but exciting scramble up a limestone prow, during which Bruno tried to enforce his share of my will and life insurance policy by trying to knock me off my feet.
We lunched on an edge overlooking Eden and then on to the moors of Murton fell - 675 metres.
There seems to be a new(?) bridleway hereabouts, not marked on the map, but with waymarker posts....
We finished off by returning in growing gloom via High Cup Nick where we pontificated on the geology of it all and who's fault it was (see the geology joke there....?)
Returned to Co Durham very noisily and slowly up the A66 due to the fact that my exhaust pipe appears to have become a bit dislocated. I expect that several quids will solve the problem tommorrow morning.
The new flask is fab - thanks Rachel

Monday 10 November 2008

TGO Planning #2

I seem to have done it, or, at least some of it.... I've got the outline of a route for TGO 2009, starting at Glenelg to Tomdoun - after some shenanigans) - to Fort Augustus, part of the Corrieyairack, then the beeline of a slightly distressed bee to Newtonmore, Glen Feshie and over the tops to Corrour, then Braemar, Bill and Stan's, Shielin of Mark, Tarfside, Fettercairn, various roads to Johnshaven.
I'll be camping. I wont be staying in Fort Augustus or Braemar, but merely passing through to visit shops and , maybe partake in a sweet sherry and a water biscuit...and a look around the local Womens Institute nudey calendars...
I need to shorten one day and lengthen the one following it, cos things are a bit illogical in the Moanyleeags...
But apart from that, the route seems to work. Its 192 miles long at the moment. I'll be going through it in greater detail and adding up the ascent and stuff like that later. I'm just going to leave it to cook for a few days first in case I get a sinking feeling about it...
I need to add on an introductory couple of days and sort out a training walk - I usually do a training walk in April of about 4 days. last year I went to Shropshire, this year, I'm intent on South Ayrshire and/or Dumfries and Galloway. Ive made some space to do some other backpacking stuff as well... and I'll be at the English gathering at Snake Pass in March.
And thats about that....
More planning Thursday night, but more of that later.
Pics show various aspect of the challenge incuding adminfairy on a bealach, giving directions to a tea room and some hill or other

Saturday 8 November 2008

Visiting Earby

Later today, we have a another duty to perform. We are going to distribute my mother's ashes in the fields behind Earby Youth Hostel. At the moment, my mum is in a plastic bag and a special "scatterring" box next to the TV. But tommorrow, the Knipe clan gathers and finally disposes of a matriarch. The clan will gather from Cumbria, Durham, Edinburgh, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire in a little town that I am fiercely fond of, but which they've mostly never seen.
Everybody will pass grandma's and great-grandmas birth houses and the place where , out of four families in their houses, only one male returned from the battlefields of Normandy and the one grandad./great grandad, severely injured both physically and mentally..... I remember that he showed me pictures of a devastated town and described how he hid behind the remains of a tree at Ypres but still got hit and said " Don't ever get involved in anything like this, lad...." and mended my bike. and told me how to manage walking long distances, and taught me some dog French with a Normandy/Lancashire accent....... and read the pink paper upside down when he was finally beyond reason... I heard from my mum that he'd actually shed tears when he heard that I'd passed my 11+ and could go to Grammar School. I wish they'd told me that at the time. I wonder why I'm thinking more about my grandad than mum. She was a cotton weaver. they were all cotton weavers. She could tell you what the people in the car behind were talking about because all cotton weavers could lip-read.... even through a mirror... Cotton dust hung in the sunlight in our house... I thought everywhere was like that...
Cotton Mills had the same rythm as "Gimme Some Loving" by the way.
All of this later today... at the top of Red Lion Street behind the YHA.
These are my roots...

Thursday 6 November 2008

TGO Challenge Planning #1

Weird Daren's declaration over on his blog that he has booked some accommodation for the TGO Challenge next May has prompted me to start thinking about my own TGO challenge route.

I already had a finish point - which may seem, at first sight to be the wrong way around - but last May, whilst on the bus from the Stonehaven International Transport Interchange and Phone Box to the Montrose Metropolitan Passenger Terminus and Bus Shelter that Johnshaven has three things that a finishing Challenger might want.

Thing 1 is a beach. There's not much point in doing a coast to coast walk that doesn't finish at the coast,, and I find that a beach is a very satisfying ending to this venture. Its the salty, wet feet and the tin of celebratory McEwans Export.

Thing 2 is a pub. The one at Johnshaven appears to do food. probably seafood, I shouldn't wonder. This is a good thing, or , rather, these are good things...

Thing 3 Is an International transport Interchange in Johnshaven - just opposite the pub where the buses to Montrose stop. And, as they have to turn around in the narrow streets of Johnshaven, this provides sufficient warning for the walker to finish his pint before leaping out of the pub and being knocked flying by a fish wagon... or, more likely, catching the bus. I did note that last year the bus driver abandoned the bus at Johnshaven and went to check on whether or not his girlfriend was, in fact, having an affair with the Rington's Tea man, as reported by that Sharon who works in Wooollies in Montrose. I don;t know what the result was, but he didn't look too happy when he got back and he drove very very fast into Montrose and didn't pick up any more passengers....**
Thing 4 (Did I say three things....?) Is the fact that the other three things (see above) are all within Challenger hobbling distance of each other - a matter, in fact, of a few yards. Global warming may well soon be affecting the siting of the bus stop, but in the meantime , it's perilously close. Little excuse for missing the bus.

And I have a starting point. I thought (about September) that as this is a coast to coast walk, merely having a finishing point would be insufficient for the organisers to justify awarding me the certificate and badge, so having never been to Glenelg, I thought I'd start there.

Well, as Captain Scott once said to his girlfriend "Why not?"

The I thought, wouldn't it be a good idea to extend the walk at the start by a day or two, just to get a bit more walking in and also avoiding any awkwardness about the fact that Glenelg isn't on a bus route - and I thought what a jolly jape it would be to start at Sligachan and walk to the start...that's the other start, not the first start.

I will draw a veil over the bit in between the start start and the other start and the end - principally because I've no idea what to do at the moment.

I'll probably get an idea at 2:00 am next Wednesday morning and forget what it was by 8:30 due to feeling smug about not being in one of the traffic jams on the radio.

But you'll surely be the second to know about it. (After me....)

** This is not strictly true, but I thought it would make the blog a bit more racy...

Wednesday 5 November 2008

The dawn of a new

The other day I bought three little LEDs. The total cost of this purchase was £2.99 (probably a severely discounted price) These LEDs are switched OFF by placing a very small, but very strong magnet next to them. Remove the magnet and they come on. Stick the magnet close, and they turn off. The idea is that you can fix the thing to a cupboard door or toolbox or something and when you open the door, the light comes on.
My recent wild snoozing session (in the previous post) was illuminated by these lights by placing the little beggars in one of those little mesh bags you get in boxes of detergent, for putting in with the dirty clothes. I tied the thing to the one of the little loops on the roof of the Akto.
The arrangement weighs 60 grammes.
I won't be using this system on the TGO Challenge as, in my previous eight crossings, I've only witnessed darkness after coming out of a pub, and fiddling with magnets and little nylon bags would be just too technical.
As you can tell, I'm not very busy today.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

A little wild camp

Just got back from a really loverly wild camp at Blakethwaite Bottom in the middle(ish) of the Howgills. Its a cracking place for the camping - vast areas of green sward available and a nice view to boot.

I met R Kidd at Cautley and he walked with me from Tebay over Uldale Head and then continued on his way back to Cautley. We did try to launch the helicopter he got for Christmas, but it wouldnt play and had to remain ground-bound
The sun streaming into the tent sheltered me from the nithering northerly blowing up me flysheet and so, instead of exploring The Calf and Simons Seat , as planned, I dozed off in the sun..
Had a quiet, but breezy night with me cheap scotch, a Bill Bryson Book and an MP3 player, only interrupted by a bladder emergency at 3:30 am. Finally came out of the coma at 8:30 this morning and wandered off over Rispa Pike for an eight item all day breakfast at Tebay services.
So, a record 19 hours of not moving very much, other than to eat, drink, pee, or change the page.... There were vague indications of the proximity of the M6 and West Coast main line and Warcop artillery range....

And my LEDs-in-a-bag lighting system worked fabby whizzily more of which, possibly, in another post)