Wednesday 31 December 2008

A place called Knipe

…And finally, I don’t expect anybody to read this blog post tonight, but I just thought I’d round off the year whilst waiting for Jools Hollands Hootenanny and whilst I’m still reasonably sober – whatever happenned to Andy Stewart?

So me and superdawg bagged our last bag of 2008 today – a Wainwright outlier and Birkett and quite nice limestone hillock at Shap called … Knipescar Common.

I think that’s a rather fine name for a hill. It also has Knipe Moor, Knipe Hall , Knipe Fold… Shap.

Unfortunately, we failed to break through the fog into the lovely warm sunshine which was probably shining a hundred or so feet above us. As it was, it was minus 6 C when I set off and this had decreased to Minus 7 C when I returned to the car a couple of hours later. Both me and the dawg developed frosty decorations in the form of beard icicles (me) and a sort of sugar coating on the eyebrows, ears and tail (the dog)

Despite the fog, we found both tops and a nice permissive path not marked on the map, but running parallel to the crag scarp through the Lowther estate. The ground was frozen quite hard and made climbing up or down steep bits a bit of a lottery since my boots couldn’t get any sort of purchase. I expect there’s a rather fab view of the main Lake District fells from the top, too.

Incidentally, bearing in mind that there was very thick fog and the temperature was around minus six on the motorway, and I was driving much too fast at 70 mph, how come I was constantly passed by people blatterring into the gloom at 80+ mph with no lights on? Eeeeze Crayzeee. Or as Rolf Harris once so succinctly put it “minnneeah minnnnah minnnnnnah minnnnnah” Thought provoking, I’m sure you’ll agree

Anyway that’s it for me for 2008. That was my 127th walk and my 1175th mile this year (last year if you’re reading this next year – or this year if its this year when you’re reading about…last year… or sumfink, innit? I wonder if I can manage 128 walks next year?

Over and out and get the whisky out. Happy New Year and stuff like that anyway…

Monday 29 December 2008

A visit to the Elephant Trees in new undies

Santy brought me socks and undies for Christmas – the undies in question being iceberg (or something….) merino wool trollies and long johns, and the sox being sealskins. So, along with the bottles of nice scotch and a sort of bobbly digital camera tripod thingy, I’m well chuffed with this year’s haul.

On the way back from the weeding, spoken of in the previous posting, we seem to have become diverted into Aldi’s car park in Halifax – and I came out with yet more merino wool stuff –in this case, a top at a stupidly low price and some snow goggles in case it ever snows again and then sunshines, and a mid-layer top.

So, me and superdawg decided it would be a bit of a jape to try out some of the kit and we had this little walk to a small but significant patch of trees overlooking Weardale. Its quite handy for Knipe Towers as its only six miles from here to Wolsingham and it is one of my favourite little trundles for the winter time – or, very specially for a warm summers evening with some twilight and a big moon at the end.

The Elephant Trees are a famous Weardale landmark, or should that be a treemark? Anyway, you won’t find the name on an OS map, cos it’s a local name. You can see this little patch of trees on the Weardale skyline for absolutely bloody miles and, so it is said, they once looked a bit like a small herd of elephants, specially after spending a long liquid lunchtime in the Black Bull.

Weardalers are very fond of the Elephant trees and, as they’re getting quite old and just a bit senile, some replacements have been planted in their little walled enclosure. But it’s a windy spot. They’ll need to be tough trees. Some of the old codger Elephant Trees bear witness in the carved hearts, dates and initials on their wizened bark. Anybody who fells these trees will need to watch their backs for a long long time.

It’s an easy walk, though – up a hill, along the moor, down the hill to Frosterley and back along the riverside and through the townfields of Wolsingham. There are usually snowdrifts when I do this – but not today, just a little bit of ice. 10 Miles and about 1000 feet of upness.

And the undies? They’re fab, as it happens. The temperature was around freezing but with a very light wind. I was also wearing some Ronhills, the mid-layer top plus softshell windproof smock. And a smug, warm look.

Friday 26 December 2008

Off to a weeding

This is us off to a wedding just now. A small contingent of Knipes and a Carter are just leaving ffor the exoctic climes of Junction 25 on the M1 where I've booked some very cheap beds in a desperate hotel.
Tommorrow, we will set up camp 1 at a small Knipe stronghold in Long Eaton for breakkies before pressing on to the even exotikker climes of Wellingborough for the actual conjoining thingy.
You ought to be relieved to know that this merging of ancient dynasties is unlikely to be the cause of any major global conflicts or lead to the violent deaths of very many people. So just be grateful for that.
We're off now....
Irrelevant picture attached.

Sunday 21 December 2008

The Father is dead, long live the sun

As you're probably aware, today was the shortest day - that is the day with the least daylight.
Tomorrow, there'll be just a tad more daylight than today and thus it will be until June.
This is surely something for walkers and other outdoors types to celebrate, unless you're a creature of the night, in which case it's a right bugger.
In effect, the natural year has now turned. So, to celebrate this, I determined to go up a hill and watch the sun come up (should have been tommorrow, but me father-in-law's outpatients appointments decree that it had to be today... its complicated, I'm not going to explain....)
And so, at stupid-o'clock this morning, with a large crescent moon hanging over the outer suburbs of Crook, I drove off in search of a sunrise.
It soon became clear, by the drizzle up the Dale, that this was not going to be a good morning for watching sunrises, but I was up and almost concious, so I parked up the knipemobile at Killhope mining museum and stumbled off in the dark up over the moor to the top of Killhope Law. This was quite an interesting exercise in foul weather navigation - dark and foggy and windy as it was...
Killhope is such a descriptive name, though dontcha think..... I mean, for such a hopeful day as this.
Anyway, it gradually came light, although, this didn't do all that much to improve visibility.
Somewhere over Gateshead way, the sun was rising in a coy sort of way, but here it was blowing a right old hoolie, mist hurtling past damply.
So I went to Alston to buy another breakfast and then to Brian's at Nenthead for coffee and to talk about the additional hole he's just had made in his bottom. (Its some sort of abcess thingy which needs packing with half a mile of Morecambe Bay seaweed every day. I don't want to know the horrific details, but it sounds deliciously painful and quite the sort of thing you would wish on a wheel clamper or truculent politician.
Then I went home for a sleep.
Bruno had punished the household for not being taken on this jaunt by scoffing a pound in weight of Christmas fruit cake; a present from Aunty May. He was apparently saving the big lump of Wensleydale cheese for later. Just now, he's a bit subdued whenever anybody mentions it. I'm monitoring him for signs of ill health, cos dried fruit isn't very good for dogs. He seems Ok, though.
Two of the pics show the driech conditions using two different camera settings. The other shows what Killhope Law summit really looks like. No idea what the big stick is for. On the map its described as a "mast". But it's a stick.
Anyway, so this is Yule. The old father is dead, say boo to the new born sun. This is the start of something better.
(Cue Herman Hermits track...)
The summit of Killhope Law, by the way, is just over 2200 feet above sea level and has a view which includes The Ettrick Hills, The Cheviots and lots of Pennines. Usually, well, sometimes anyway...
And the spring will bring us together forever
The lark will rise and sing from the clover
Rise to the promise of fine spring weather
Rise to the promise that winter is over.....

Thursday 18 December 2008


Ingleborough – May absolute fave hill, and Bruno’s too. Actually, he’s no idea where he is most of the time.
I met the bro in Ingleton for this little pre Christmas trundle. The plan was to climb Ingleborough, walk along the hill for a bit, descend to the Old Hill Inn and walk back along Twistleton Scars – a very nice bit of karst scenery as it happens.
I changed the plan whilst driving South from Hawes – in view of the fact that the hillfog was down and there was no view, and it was tres windy and drizzly and I had a fingernail hanging off. I determined instead to explore the limestone scars along Ingleborough’s Western side and shelter from the gale in a clint. Or maybe a grike. Or a hole.
I changed the plan again at Crina bottom in view of the fact that the weather looked a bit brighter and it would be more fun up Ingleborough anyway.
And so, a short while later, after some huffing and puffing and the odd kerfuffle and fuss, including Bruno crapping all over Ingleton, which I had to clean up…we found ourselves in the wind-blasted summit cross-shelter on…summit.
Not a good place for lunch – so we shuffled off down some snow and found a cosy spot behind a wall – scoffed – and then proceeded breezily along the edge of the very fine corrie heading Northwards.
A steep descent and a magnificent leap over a five bar gate by the dawg and we found ourselves in a deep hole or chasm, containing the entrance to Great Douk Cave. An impressive place, but too much water to explore in hillwalking kit.
The pub was open, but it was after 2:00 pm, and we had to negotiate Twistleton Scars, so we forego the pints of shandy (we certainly can live it up) and set off for Twistleton, finally abandoning that idea for a quicker march down the roman road.
Incidentally, the chapel at Chapel le dale has the earliest Knipe wedding I’ve found listed in the church register. In 1594 a Mergret Knipe married a chap called Foxcroft.
Foxcrofts, Metcalfes and Knipes continued to marry each other around the immediate area and down towards Settle for the next 200 years after which most of them seem to have buggerred off to Pennsylvania. They must have had the reception/booze-up in the Hill Inn…?
Anyway, at this point (today, not 1594), it started to chuck it down big style. We returned to Ingleton by walking through the last bit of the Ingleton Waterfalls walk in gloomy conditions. There was nobody to pay the £4.50 fee, so we didn’t. (£4.50!?, I remember when it was sixpence….)
I bought some beef and onion soup at a little bakery/café/hot soup shop and transported it up to Ribblehead to eat it. It was absolutely fab. Obviously homemade and, just, well, just fab. If I could remember the name of the place I got it from, I’d give them a plug. But I can’t. Shame, really…

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Hello to the followers

This is just to say a brief "hello" to the nine followers wot I've got at the moment, including recent additions Eric Morecambe** (apparently) and somebody who looks spookily familiar, or at least familiarly spooky...
As at least 33 percent of my followers are now some of my favourite daughters (of the night) and one of their partners anyway, I would just like to point out that following this blog is no way to discover what you're getting for Christmas. The recipient of the rubber egg-laying rubber chicken thingy will have to remain a mystery, as will the magic drinking spectacles and the yellow blobby thing wot I've forgotten what its supposed to be - but probably dangerous for young children, so you at least you know who won't be getting it.
A special welcome too, to Eric... Nice one, sunshine...they can't touch you for it...

Has anybody noticed, by the way, how very little actual outdoor stuff most outdoor bloggers actually do? They really do need to get out more.... Or we'll have to start calling you indoor bloggers....

The pic attached to this post is completely irrelevant.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Plans and plans and a picture of Trex

Here’s a picture of Trex the cat relaxing in front of a nice warm Yuletide fire.
As its virtually the end of the year – (the amount of daylight starts to increase after next weekend – yippeeee!) – I thought I’d plan my stuff for next year, so I had this big session with Excel spreadsheets and maps and lists and here’s what I think…
Ive just joined the Backpackers Club, so I’ll try a couple or three of their meets early in 2009. These are in the Peak, Northamptonshire (no, really…??!) and Arkengarthdale. Then, of course, there’s the TGO Challenge in May, with a practise walk in April around Wanlockhead(ish)… and the TGO English gathering at the Snake Inn.
And I thought I’d plan a short winter few days in the Southern Highlands with me ice axe and stuff….
And a week in Brecon/South Wales for the Beacons and other things local to those hills. And another two weeks in October based somewhere like Harlech for the bagging of many Hewitts and Marilyns…
A summer Munroing week in Glen Etive/Grey Corries/Mamores.
I thought I’d bag some Birketts, specially Knipescar Common, and, I’ve never been to Pen on the side of Scafell Pike – and some local HuMPs and some Cheviot Deweys, and even more HuMPs and Marilyns in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. Plus my usual local Weardale/Teesdale/Tynedale/Swaledale things. And whatever else shall arise, probably in the form of various holes in Tynedale with Brian (currently suffering from something that needed lancing, that its not possible for him to view without a mirror – if you catch my drift. Anyway, it’s a very painful hole, apparently, so he’s out of commission for a while).
And that’s about it. Each of the first six months seems to have some time away from home. Its going to be fab.
In the meantime, it snowed again last night and today’s dog walk had to be extended to take advantage… Oddly enough, I got a bit lost just after it went dark and ended up with some horses trying to muscle the dogs out of the way….
And, also in the meantime, I’m planning something special for yer actual Yule on 21 December. But you’ll have to wait to see what that is. I hope it snows, though…

Thursday 11 December 2008

TGO Challenge Planning #6 - vetters Comments

I've just received the vetter's comments on the route I submitted a week or so ago. My vetter this year is John Donohue. This year, aside from pointing out the inadequacies of my gaelic place names "You are to be congratulated for your early posting; congratulated, too for your valiant if hopeless battle with Scottish place names...."

Apart from clarifying where I actually meant for a couple of places (ahem!), John has pointed out a nice route improvement for me for climbing out of Glen Feshie (I am avoiding trying to remember how to spell the name of the bothy, but it's pronounced apparently without any consonants at all and sounds like somebody found the hot water bottle with their bare bum.

I didn't protest to John that I have the same struggle with English place names and Welsh is a mystery. I am aware that many Welsh villages are Pants, though..

Anyway, thanks to JD.

So, now, the route planning bit of the is complete. I have to add a couple of days at the start now, and also design a little four day training walk in April next year. When I've done the first part of this - the introductory days, I'll do a food plan.

JD, by the way, is one of the funniest blokes on the planet and whenever he's allowed to do a proper after dinner speech at The Challenge Dinner, its a real treat.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Sitting in a Currick

Me and The dawg had a wander up a very icy- and a little bit snowy Weardale today, starting at the auction mart car park at St Johns Chapel. We slithered our way up the hill to the North and along various bridleways to the very top of Middlehope Moor - at just a tad over 2000 feet.
There's a complete silence on these hills just now (in between visits from the RAF) - just one bird, I think it was a Plover going "peep" in the ever-so-slightly-bored-with-it-all way that Plovers go "peep".
Very rough going on the heathery tussocky bits and attempts to walk on hardened snow failed with knee-deep plunges at the rate of once every ten steps - but in such a random sort of way that it was just too much of a lottery. Deeper drifts on the very top of the moor worked out to be more reliable.
And then we found Puddingthorne Edge Currick. At first, I thought this was just a pile of stones, but on closer examination, I found it had a built-in stone seat and a shelter, facing down the length of Weardale and quite cosy in the sunshine. Bruno dozed off. I ate a mars bar and some flapjack and finished my green tea. Just a yard away, it was a nithering minus two with an epic wind chill, but here it was toasty. Worra grand place to sit away a long summer evening with a bottle of beer - or to watch the summer sunrise, maybe.
Eventually, we had to abandon the shelter and descend to the valley. A riverside path brought us back to the start (We actually out-aggressed a farm collie who was intending to have a chunk of Bruno. I'd watched "Dog Whisperer" the night before....
A cracking 12 sunny but perishing cold miles. Fab stuff too....
Pics include the Currick and it's view...

Sunday 7 December 2008

Thomas up a tree

I spotted this chap aloft in a neighbour's holly tree this morning.

This is Thomas, next door's adolescent cat. He often comes to play, and seems to like me - but here, he has the more serious intent of killing the sparrows that congregate very noisily in my privet hedge - hence he's up high in their tree. There's about thirty sparrows in all and Thomas sees it as his job to reduce the numbers. He's not been very successful yet, but I suspect I'm going to have to change how I feed the birds. Our own tom cat, Trex (cooking fat, gettit?) has recently lost a fang and isn't too bothered about decimating the wild bird population any more. He does get a bit twitched by Thomas's stalking, or is it shadowing...?

Superdawg sees Thomas as prey. I see my job as making sure that nobody gets hurt.

No walking today, hence a post about fluffy kittens.... I'll really have to do something involving walking boots and icy snow next week... I could get me crampons out... Its a fab day for it today, dammit...

Thursday 4 December 2008

Snowday - Its grim ooop North

This post is in the key of E with standard blues changes.
Well I woke up dis mornin
An ma woman dun left me.
Ashley, she's visitin her dad in Halifax
I was intending to have a walk somewhere hilly today, but I woke up dis mornin (see above) and there was piles of snow everywhere. The lads who live next door had failed to get to work due to the road being too slippery (it goes up a big hill, or "bank" as they call hills in Crook)
The A66 and A68 were closed and a lorry had blocked the A1. Not weather for driving anywhere, so me and superdawg, and his sidekick, Robin (aka Tammy) went for a walk up the Deerness Valley Walk.

The Deerness Valley walk starts (or finishes?) in Crook and goes over the hill to Deerness valley, which it follows to the outskirts of Durham. From there other walks go to Lanchester and to Bishop Auckland. The Lanchester walk links up with the Derwent Valley walk, which can be followed to Gateshead, or if you follow it the other way, it goes to Weardale.
These are all old railway lines. The Deerness valley route is heavily wooded due to being planted for pit props which were never used. Its all quite beautiful.
We just got to the top of the hill where it we met the hill fog and a snow plough. Very deep snow which was heavy, wet stuff and quite hard work.
Its an ill wind, though - as they say - the local schoolkids were rolling snowballs, sledging and chucking snow at each other instead of being at school. As this is the type of snowfall we used to have when I were a lad, and which we haven't had for a few years now, I consider this to be good education anyway. they'll now be able to say to their kids (when they get some kids) - "When I were a lad, it used to snow up ter t' rooftops...."

Its freezing now, so the snow conditions on the hills this weekend might be quite good......

Tuesday 2 December 2008

TGO Planning #5

Well, that's it, I've just emailed my TGO 2009 route off to Roger at Challenge Towers. One of his henchpersons will no doubt be sending some vetters comments back in a while...

In the meantime, this is my route:

I'm starting at Glenelg (after some initial non- challenge wanderings) and heading towards Kinloch Hourn and bagging a little hillock on the way. next day, its Westyer Glen Quoich to Allbeithe, then Easter Glen Quoich (I like to have the set) and a small peeeemple and some woods to Tomdoun where I will spend the kids' inheritance. Then to Loch Lundie - followed the next day by a raid on the shops and pubs of Ft Augustus before carrying on to Blackburn Bothy.
wake up at the back, there....
Then over the moanyminnie hills for two days to Newtonmore, where I will wash my mucky neck - then Phones to Ruighaiteachain, followed by the Cringroms to Derry Lodge.

I'll pass fleetingly and boozily through Braemar to Callater, then over Lochnagar to Shielin of Mark. Tarfside follows that, then Fettercairn and lanes and tracks to Johnshaven.
then on the Tuesday...........
Its a lowish level route and I'm going to camp, although i'll probably seek clean sheets and a roof in Newtonmore and Fettercairn. I need to think about Fettercairn a bit more.
We'll see what the vetter(s) say. (I had two last year...)