Thursday 31 December 2009

Murky Middlehope Moor Missed Massively

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A good start

That’s it – I’m abandoning all walking activities for the rest of the year. Its much too snowy out there.

This morning, I set off twice for Cowshill for the bagging of Middlehope Moor. The first time I got as far as Crook roundabout, then came home due to slippery road conditions.

So I had a coffee and waited till it stopped snowing and then set off again – and this time I got as far as Cowshill, but the knipemobile refused to be coaxed through the deep snow into the car park – so I went down the road to St Johns Chapel and started from there.

All went well at first. It was all very pretty and wintery and then, after climbing the hill, we entered an ancient lane up onto the moor and started to hit trouble. Trouble in this case being very soft snow.

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There may be trouble ahead…..

Trouble got worse a bit higher when the snow reached underwear depths – the structure being a thin crust, a foot of soft, wet snow and another foot or so of powder snow and, finally, a layer of ice.

Feet, that is to say, legs, plunged through the crust at every step and didn’t even go straight down – no, they went to the sides. This resulted in falling over every couple of steps. It was too deep even to lift the feet high enough to take the next step. At one point both me and superdawg resorted to a doggy paddle. We were quickly running out of steam.

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Bruno tackles a five bar gate

Then, I walked on the top of the wall, which I noticed sticking out of the snow. This was OK till I fell off. Then Bruno got completely stuck in the snow and appeared to have given up. I hauled him out.

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…running out of steam….

We made for a gate over there, which I knew would give access to the road to Rookhope. The next two hundred metres took half an hour.

We reached the road. It was there somewhere under some hard packed snow. This provided easier walking. We arrived at the place where we should turn off on a bridleway which would give us access to Middlehope Moor. It was under six feet of soft snow.

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Easier going on the road to Rookhope

We gave up.

Another chap from the dale arrived with his dog and gave up too.

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Superdawg detects somebody with a packet of crisps over in Norway.

We returned to the Weardale and I used the always pleasant riverside path to return to St Johns Chapel.

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River Wear in Upper Weardale

It started snowing again. I read the Northern Echo till it stopped and then went home.

Snow shoes would be a really good idea.

5 Miles and 750 feet. Shudder been more. Felt like more anyway…

race head

Sunday 27 December 2009

Snowman abandoned after breakfast party

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Team photo including diminutive snowman

My plans for walks are in somewhat of a mess due to deep soft snow which is lying very deeply and softly just about everywhere I’d planned to walk. So I was really pleased to receive an invitation from Brian at Nenthead to join this annual underground breakfast scoffing session. This annual tomfoolery being a bit of a get-together for the Cumbrian Mines Rescue Organisation. A mine may well smell of sausages for quite a while after one of these trips.

I squitterred the knipemobile up Weardale and over to Nenthead, passing two police signs that said the road was closed – but it seemed OK, if a bit quiet – and I arrived safely at Nenthead only to forgo the impossible drive up the steep cobbles to Chez Brian. I walked up the hill. It was very slippery.

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Gilda and Brian (before picture…)

Here, Brian distributed helmets and caving suits for me and his partner, Gilda, and we loaded up packs with essential underground stuff such as stoves and gas, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomato ketchup and, generally stuff needed for a short but happy life of soaring cholesterol and cardiac nurses going (Tut!)

After a period of driving around on slippery snow, and a bit of kerfuffle about which hole we were going down, the Nenthead Chapel party were loaded into a land rover for a short and sobering drive over moors deep in snow to arrive a few nano-seconds later at the entrance to Smallcleuch Mine.

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Gilda cooks up a storm

And we entered and paddled along, sometimes crawling, sometimes getting a bit dislocated, but finally ending up in a large cavern known as “The Small Ballroom” This is not named after tight underwear such as you might get as a present on Christmas Day, but is the smaller version of “The Ballroom” – a much bigger cavern in which, it is said, a dinner for the local masonic lodge was once held. (around 1906,,,,?)

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Jamie Oliver eat your heart out.

Brian unloaded the snowman that he’d smuggled in and it was duly decorated in a festive kind of manner. – And we celebrated to season by cooking and scoffing large quantities of fried breakfast, all of which was really very nice.

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Warming the snowman

And so, after a few team photos, we were lead out by an easier way than the one we came in by – which took about an hour, I suppose – it all seemed impossibly complicated to me but we finally emerged blinking into a blinking blizzard.

There is much of interest in the holes – but one of the really interesting buts we came across was the hoof marks of (presumably) the last ponies in the mine for a short section between some rails. The area had been taped off but this had not prevented some prune from walking through the marks in his wellies.


Me and Gilda full of Full English

Once out, our manic landrover chauffuer made short work of the impossible drive back to Nenthead and after a short coffee break at Brian’s, I attempted to get the car back over Killhope Cross – and failed, partly due to the car in front coming to a slithering stop. One of the keys to success is not to stop, y’see….. The headlights/windscreen thing looked like that star wars screen saver thingy…

I ended up driving around by Hexham and Corbridge, which is quite a long way home. I doubt if the car would have made it down the other side of the pass anyway. But all’s well that, well,….ends, I suppose.

But what fun.

We lit a small fire for the snowman, to keep it warm as we abandoned it to it’s dark, damp and lonely fate. Its a hard life, being a snowman.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Best laid plans…

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Dawn near Crook (brrr)

Brian rang at about tea time and said “What do you think?”. Its highly likely that whenever Brian rings and says “What do you think?” he actually means “I don’t think so”

He told me that Nenthead, at the time was in the grip of a bit of a blizzard and that the roads weren’t too good. We cancelled the solstice vigil at Deadstones in favour of cosy fires and a night in front of the telly with (in my case) a warm dog.

It was probably just as well, because, in the morning the Hartside Pass and the Stainmore (A66) cross-Pennine routes had both closed due to snowfalls.

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Happiness is bouncing around in the snow

We may return to Deadstones in the next few days if the weather calms down a bit.

And, so, having missed the winter solstice, I decided to witness winter solstice plus one minute (the extra length of today’s daylight0 from our nearest hill – a place in horse-grazing pastures some 800 feet above sea level just 3 kilometres from Chez Knipe and with a reasonable view of Durham’s limestone plateau over to the East.

I took the dog.

He bounced around in the snow.

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Deerness Valley walk down to Crook

The dawn was barely adequate, but a bit pink and blue just a few minutes later when there were elements of beauty. A gay dawn, probably. It didn’t feel all that cold, maybe we’re getting used to it. The thermometer was showing minus four.

There were foxy footprints in the snow.

So we minced off back home for another warming breakfast. Quite good fun, really.

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

Happy Yule, its all a bit lighter from here.

Sunday 20 December 2009

That’ll do, Bruno

At the end of a long hard day being a superdawg, Bruno just likes to relax with his favourite whale.

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Hands up those who think this dog is being spoilt.

Snowy Crook

Hillwalkers tend to get over-excited about a bit of snow – and so it is with Superdawg. And its for this reason that later on this morning – after a short bout of scoffing a gradely plate of bacon and fried potatoes and, me and the dogs will be having a bit of a play in the snow. 

In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures of the front garden of knipetowers with some snow in it, innit?


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And a picture of Crook.

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For anybody reading this who may be a bit nervous about their prospective travel in and around the area – the main roads are clear girls and boys, providing you drive on the dark bits.

There may well be more snow pics later on.

Friday 18 December 2009

Santa Goes to Clough Head

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The thing about today’s walk was that everybody on it went to Ermysteds Grammar School in Skipton in the 1960’s. Except Bruno who hasn’t actually ever been to Skipton.

And so, after doing battle with slippery roads and frozen windscreen equipment (wipers…washers….windscreen….) – which caused me to stop a few times, I turned up half an hour later than I’d wanted to do, but , more or less on time at a very small car park somewhat near Threlkeld and met The Bro and his pal Ian.

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Great Knipe - Stainmore from the A66

We had the ice axes out for the first time this winter, although, whilst R Kidd had brought some spikes, neither me nor Ian had anything sharp to put on our boots. Bruno already has some fairly efficient crampons already fitted by his Maker.

So we trotted off and heaved our way up Threlkeld Knotts. There was hardly enough snow for ice axes to be honest – just a dusting, and certainly not as much as in the Pennines, which I’d photographed on one of my screen cleaning stops

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Blencathra from Threlkeld Knotts

But when we climbed up the main path up Clough head, I had to beat bits of the frozen scree into boot-sized footholds with the adze – so I was glad to bring it in the end.

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View West from the climb up Clough Head

We lunched on the sheltered side of the hill amongst grass feathered with hoar frost, till the clouds started to build up and then we lurched for the top, where, to be frank, it was on the chillier side of perishing (Probably somewhere around minus 6.) Bruno had his sheepskin jacket on for the first time today and was, I think, a bit puzzled by the lack of feeling when he rolled in the snow.

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Clouding up – Scafell range

Rather than go and bag Great Dodd, it being two o’clock and already loosing light, we slithered off back to Threlkeld

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John (R Kidd) and Ian at the Clough Head trig

A chap in a farm noticed my Santa hat and shouted that even though I was early, he’d just like to point out that there’d be something for Santa on the mantelshelf on Christmas Eve. I asked him to make sure that the fire wasn’t lit and reported that I knew, in fact, that on the naugty/nice continuum, he was at the wrong end.

So he shot me.

The last bit is a fib, actually.

The trip home was a lot less exciting although several cars on the A66 had come to grief – a couple broken down and one on top of a large cutting, actually sitting on the fence somehow. That must have been quite a thrill, I should imagine.

Short walk – 5 miles and 2000 feet – and just one more new Birkett bagged.

clough head

Thursday 17 December 2009

Couldn’t be arsed

Worra horrid, dreich sort of morning it was this morning.

C’mon Bruno”, says me “get yer walking stuff on, we’re off up Collier Law”

Bugger Off” growls the dog with a just hint of threat.

And he was right. I poked me head out of the curtains and it was chucking it down, but this time it was white stuff.

I determined to have an excuse. I decided that my Scarpa heavy winter boots had shredded my ankle so much (sniff!) that I couldn’t possibly walk further than the kettle in the kitchen.

Later, by way of entertainment, it being far too chilly to tear myself away from warm radiators and a never-ending supply of eyebrow-lifting strong coffee, I decided to get creative and, as its Christmas (you must have noticed this, surely…), I put my sparkly Christmas hat on and made some mince pies, including rolling out the pastry and everything. Its remarkable, isn’t it how clean this activity gets your fingernails.

Then, acting on a suggestion by one Graeme aka Angry Climber from somewhere up in Scotland, I made some “special” flapjack – this time flavoured with tia maria (no, honestly…) and containing much dried fruit and ginger and covered in milk chocolate, and in the series of cakes so far including Arsenal FC and Famous jockey Willie Carson, and this time dedicated to that veteran pioneer of TV cookery Fanny Craddock.

Here’s the picture (writing a bit shaky due to nerves…)


Thanks to Graeme for the suggestion.

Any other suggestions for cake dedications will be received with thanks, in fact, in the words of the famous Brian the Irrelevant, who had serious problems with punctuation - “I can’t thank you. Enough!”

Lakes tomorrow if I can get the car out. In any event, I'll likely be doing the Fanny cake some serious damage.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Bloggers Lead Their Doggies Up High Street

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I suppose its quite possible that there may be three different blog versions of this walk – and even, maybe, a podcast… but as we’ve now shaken off the bogey of duplicated blogs using exactly the same pictures and exactly the same words, but with different spelling mistakes (hands up who noticed!) –there will be some significant benefit to blogreaders to read all three. Just in case there’s any suggestion of blogreadingweariness, I’m doing mine whilst the other two are relaxing in front of Animals do the Strangest Things or When Cheap Package Holidays Go Wrong……

mardale 005 Rough Crag/Long Stile Ridge – Martin and Shirley Heads Down Bruno adds artificial assistance

So, today I met Shirley (Peewiglet) Worral with her terrier pup Piglet and Martin (Phreerunner) Banfield at Mardale Head, which is the commonest starting point (I should think) for the bagging of High Street and the doing of the Mardale Round which is a short ridge walk suitable for a mid-December day where there’s not much daylight - or a leisurely summer’s day with lots of sitting around listening to meadow pipits. Superdawg was there too and was, no doubt, relieved to receive the immediate submission of Piglet. If it had gone the other way, he’d have been fine with that too, no doubt (he’s not very assertive)

mardale 007 Bruno waits in ambush

And so, in spirits as high as Outdoor Bloggers could ever ascend to, we rattled off over the stony path to the foot of the Rough Crag ridge – a narrowish and quite long ridge leading up onto High Street.

This is a very nice route by the way and never actually achieves scrambling level, although it tries a bit sometimes.

(And for those who don’t know, High Street is a 2700 foot high hill, so named because it has a Roman road running over it from Ambleside to Penrith (ish). It also has a 19th century racecourse, of which nothing much remains. Its a long, wide and fairly flat ridge with deep and rocky corries, one or two of which have eagles nesting.

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High Street Summit Poses

But I digress, which is something quite difficult to do on the Rough Crag ridge without some excitement involving steep drops, crags and howls of terror.

We got to the top of High Street with only one coffee stop and one ghost-story telling session perched somewhere on a rocky bit and we lunched briefly behind the wall on the top and then posed in various poses on and around the trig point.

The rain and mist slowly lifted to reveal a view of other places lit by a golden winter glow.

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We were soon at Nan Bield Pass where we met a couple with three boisterous young dogs, and not too much later, we crossed a tiny patch of hard snow to reach the summit of Harter Fell for another photo-call.

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Small Water and Haweswater from Nan Bield

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Harter Fell Posing – Where’s Piglet?

We followed the ancient packhorse track down Gatescarth Pass zig-zagging steeply back to the start as the short day ended.

No winter conditions today, although the ground on High Street was a bit frozen and ice underwater in ponds was quite thick. There were a few small white patches, most of which Bruno dug up and attacked enthusiastically. It was, in fact, 2 degrees, and with a 20 mph or so wind, which gave quite a refreshing edge….

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Haweswater from Harter Fell

We repaired to the Haweswater Hotel for hot coffee and other refreshments. Piglet found a discrete place by the radiator. Bruno had his thermal blankets in the back of the car.

6 and a bit miles with 2400 feet of climbing.


At various points in this walk, Shirley got out her little digital recorder thingy and asked us various podcast-interest questions, such as “Have you always been unable to talk sense?” and “That buffalo doesn’t half pong, innit?” I seem to be completely unable to say anything vaguely interesting or sensible when faced with a recording thingy, but maybe Podcast Bob will be able to edit it to form something vaguely interesting to Podcast fans – possibly a Mama’s and Papa’s track or something…… Martin seemed to do better…

Anyway, it was nice to see Shirl and her liddle doggy on the walk – and worra nice dog, too.Bruno mentioned it a few times on the drive home. Maybe she’ll venture out with us again….?

Check out the companion bloggers blogs at and - I expect they'll be along shortly...

Stop Press: Just copied this group photo from Martin Banfield’s picasa album.


Peewiglet with Piglet, Pieman with Superdawg (hiding) and Phreerunner – summit cairn on Harter Fell

Monday 14 December 2009

Navigation Techniques for Beginners #1

Here’s just a little video wot I made demonstrating the “map-to-ground-random-vectoring” method of navigation.

Continue at random till you spot someone you recognise and then follow them. Legs should be kept short unless you've got very long arms and are called Cheetah.

This is guaranteed to get you Nowhere Fast. (The capitals aren't important, I'm just showing off)

This is a proper technique, honestly.

Tip: You're supposed to have a map, although the raandomness of the vectoring will be enhanced if it doesn't show the area of your possible location, and , to be frank, its not essential.

Next week, we'll be covering a settee with a cosy tartan throw, or we could do handrailing or something. Please write in with suggestions.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Dodd Fell 13 December 2009

ingleborough from kidhow gate

Quite a nice day today, which makes for a really nice change – I didn’t even have to wear my gloves – although, as the pictures will testify, it was a bit dark from early afternoon.

We’d been to the bank to get money for the car park, and initially investigated the Ropemaker’s car park in Hawes, where a £3.20 charge is made for knipemobiles.

We had no change, so we visited the spar shop and bought a box of festive Mr Kipling cakes – and then repaired to the Gayle Road car park, where there was no charge for parking today. (dhuuhhhhh) – but the cakes were nice anyway.

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We walked up by the Hawes creamery, home of Wensleydale Cheese, Grommit, and then by the Pennine Way to Gayle, where we got lost for a while, but found our way after asking directions from an old, probably retired farm collie, who had one blue eye and one brown eye and a severe limp – but he was friendly enough to Superdawg, who wanted to play.

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Cam Road – looking North

We used the Cam Road to get up onto the Pennine Way, and then straight up to Dodd Fell’s trig. On the way we were briefly investigated by five foxhounds who were busy ignoring a lad on an ATV who was vainly calling them to follow him. They decided that superdawg was superdawg and not a fox and continued sniffing and , generally investigating things and doing some howling and hound-type noises. Bruno wasn't very impressed.

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Some fox hounds

After visiting the top, we made for Kidhow Gate where we met the farmer from Duerley Bottom farm having a little contretemps with a two-way radio which was refusing to work. He confirmed that he’d turned it off and turned it on again and that he’d sworn at it. He’d now resorted to hitting it, which seemed reasonable. He was looking for the lad with the hounds, apparently. I suggested he might have to shout instead. Later, he offered me a lift down the road which I refused because I was enjoying myself, innit. In a rainier weather, I might have accepted…..

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Oracle and Grommit of the Baskervilles (Its going dark)

In view of the lack of daylight (it was already starting to fade by half two) – I plumped for a quick trek along the Roman road that heads for Bainbridge and then the Beggerman’s road down to Gayle, but went off on footpaths in the Dale bottom to have a look at Aygill Force – a very attractive waterfall in a deep, square slot, very much like the Tyne Gorge at Garrigill, in fact – maybe a bit deeper.

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Aygill Force

I got muddy, then rejoined the Pennine Way back to the start.

The Penny Garth Cafe sold me a very nice fresh coffee for thirty bob (£1:50), whilst Bruno was abandoned to his thermal blanket (I really spoilt that dog) in the back of the car.

Good weather today, though – very light wind, dry, with views as far as the Scafells and freezing from about 560 metres and above – but not really feeling cold and the boggy bits were only just crunchy.

12 Miles and 1700 feet.

A different route that I did earlier in the year includes Drumaldrace, but I wanted to do that one separately from Semer Water.

How tickled hi ham, anyway, missus. Have you ever been tickled in the Dales missus?

Ken Dodd died. Did he? No, Doddy. That’s enough of that, now….

dodd fell map

Thursday 10 December 2009


Blog written by guest bloggers Alan (Mines a large one) Sloman and Phil (That’s not what I’ve heard) Lambert who have hacked into this blog to report THE TRUTH.

You can tell its not the usual blogger as the spalling and gremmar is a bit iffy, and as for sintax, well, why not….?

Way back in those heady days just before this ultra-modern Mersey Beat nonsense came in, it was always said that you never saw Cliff Richard and Helen Shapiro together in the same room.

And so it is with Mike (The Postcard) Banfield and Martin (The Pie) Knipe. You never see them in the same room. And we’re here to investigate the reasons.

And, what a giveaway – they blog at the same time and about the same walks with the same pictures. The only difference is, of course, that the actual words are sometimes completely different.

If you don’t believe us, check out the other blog here.

We have suspected for some time that these blog posts actually do relate to REAL walks. It’s a very clever double-bluff. There were dark rumours of a secret tryst, involving dirty boots and damp trouser legs and a WALK, beginning at the quiet Yorkshire village of Embsay in Craven, once said to be the centre of a legal rambling ring, but never convincingly proved as a fact.

Cunningly disguised so that you can only just see him at the foot of the picture:  Grousey, our roving reporter

But this time, we had them banged to rights. We sent out Grousey, a radio-controlled clockwork chicken, cunningly disguised as a Red Grouse (that’s a wild bird, not a grumpy socialist) to monitor their every move….

And this is what we saw.

First of all, I have to report, dear readers, that there is NO DOG. Bruno is a figleaf of the imagination. He doesn’t exist. I suspect photoshop, to be honest. Why they should go to this length as to invent a fictitious pet is beyond us. Maybe they just wanted to appear normal or something.

Their was a meeting quite near the once-renowned country inn – The Elm Tree, in Embsay village centre – now cunningly disguised as a coffee shop – but without any coffee….

The Elm Tree Inn: doesn't serve Gourmet fresh coffee, or anything else for that matter

(You can see just how clever these two are, now, can’t you?)
Under cover of a women’s institute yoga, life drawing and belly dancing seminar, our two suspects sloped discretely off up a quiet lane and disappeared briefly into dense hillfog about 800 feet up the slopes of Crookrise Crag.

Grousey got this shot as the cloud lifted

Our roving correspondent kept track of them in the improving conditions.

Our hero, the clockwork chicken, with a nice self-timed shotLater.they were seen laughing and joking and drinking “something” out of flasks by the trig point on the top.

I think we may have been sussed - Mike, or is it Martin, is too quick for Grousey with his Thomas the Tank mask

The mist slowly cleared to reveal that both were wearing gaiters of the type commonly sported by the mountaineering classes. Already they had expounded more calories than the average Outdoor Blogger in a week of keyboarding.

Oh dear, look at those awful gaiters!

But let us continue. We must warn you that there are parts of the story coming up which decent home-loving OBs will find quite distasteful. You may wish to alter the contrast on your screens.

They was tracked in their halting progress over deep heather and across a small stream at the head of a waterfall.

Not everyone got across this chasm.  Our intrepid reporter wore its battery down at this point by having to 'go airborne'.

One of them was heard to say “Fatdog – that’s a real dog y’know” and they both laughed. Here, they managed to avoid our monitor for a while, but we picked them up again disporting themselves by a large stone Cross teetering on the edge of a beetling crag or cliff. They actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. Outrageous.

We are sure this was one of them, just visible in the blinding sunshine
And then, a bit later, they were spotted enjoying luncheon beside an obelisk or stone pepperpot, having scared off a couple of innocent day walkers, one of who was heard to say “Quick, put your clothes on, Brenda, there’s somebody coming.”

This is the highest point - Brenda is hiding

At this point, we, whilst skillfully monitoring their progress,

Grousey tries not to be distracted by the view to Grassington, Wharfedale and Buckden Pike

were beginning to wonder just exactly what it was that these two get out of this outdoor malarkey, for, given that any sensible OB would of taken the opportunity at this point to descend to the pub at Cracoe, get absolutely blotto on strong spirits and then get a taxi back to Embsay, these two, unbelievably, continued, bashing their way through deep bog and heather to visit yet another trig point.

Bit of a problem with Grousey Cam here, folks, but we think we've caught up with them at the trig (not the highest) point

And, did they then , at this point head for home? Not on your outdoor blogging nelly, they didn’t – they went North to some squalid huts,

Two bothies and a confused hobo

one of which they entered, obviously casing the joint for a possible overnight bivi (I told you this would get unpleasant, didn’t I?) and only then – only then did they find a track which led them back towards Embsay.

Grousey Cam failed, so he drew us this little picture

Behind them, the rejected bothy stood stark on the horizon in the late sun.

The rejected bothy stood stark on the horizon under a crimson sky

And, the final proof, that these two really are involved in Outdoor Activities (I sticks in the craw….) they didn’t descend directly back to Embsay as they could have done. No – they used the last vestiges of daylight to visit Embsay Crag, where they brazenly took photographs and were heard laughing and joking, and waving to dog walkers and sailors below.

Turning on his infra red attachment, Grousey caught proof of this final unspeakable act

We ask you – is this the kind of behaviour we expect from Outdoor Bloggers. I mean , they’re supposed to be blogging, not traipsing about in the countryside.

We save the most damning piece of evidence till the last. They obviously did not have a stove. There was very little evidence of gear testing going on, in fact all of their stuff looked old and used. Martin Knipe looked specially old and used, in fact.

We expect you’ve had to sit down and let the shrapnel of that final devastating bombshell finish rattling around your sensibilities.

They must be Brought to Book (the capitals are important here). This is just blatant.

Comments, please…..we can’t be putting up with this.

Please send your objections and a cheque or postal order for £5 to Alan Lambert, League Against Cruel Rambles, Postcard Pie Cottage, The Flat Mile, Fenland, UK.

Finally, our SPOT activated Grousey reported the following co-ordinates for this most unusual and unexpected OB activity.

Tuesday 8 December 2009, 20 km (12 miles), 700 metres (2200 feet) ascent, 6.5 hours (400 minutes)