Sunday, 31 May 2009

Moorhouse NNR radgings

Back to Nenthead today as it was about time superdawg had a hillwalk, as he was trying to expain to me yesterday with my left calf in his mouth.

So we drove past the "authorised vehicles only" sign, Southwards beside the river South Tyne as far as a locked gate would allow. This was near the confluence of the River Tees and Troutbeck at a point beyond which the humble stickleback will not venture (apparently) at an altitude of "quite high really..."

We wandereed up to Natural England's scientific station and bothy at Moorhouse - which used to be a large shooting lodge, visited on occasion by such luminaries as Kaiser Bill and Kaiser bill's batman. Not much left of it now, apart from the bothy, a garage, a toilet, some concrete flooring and some original rhubarb.

Here, we lunched, following which we followed a small beck high onto the moor looking for the remains of a failed waterworks project and a small abandoned bulldozer. We found the remains of both then back downstream to visit a cave. Me and superdawg explored inside this as far as we could - a meandering passage which became too low for an unhelmeted dog after a couple of dozen metres or so.

The cave is on the side of a small limestone gorge containing a nice array of wild flowers - including a fair collection of birds eye primrose and a rare fern.

And so, downstream to the bridge, where I had a little dip in the warm peaty water.

As I reversed the car for a return journey down to Garrigill, a car with two lost people in it turned up. they were looking for Barnard Castle. They were indeed, very very lost. They followed us to the Teesdale road (about 10 miles!) and bthere we left them.

A seciond visit to the Miners Arms at Nenthead for yet another small libation followed.

A hottish day with a nice Pennine breeze.

We did just 4 miles, reached 2066 above sea level and climbed a petty 350 feet. I swam about 30 feet and sat under a small waterfall for a bit. There will be no photos of this final watery event. This is a family blog after all...

A warning to anybody wandering in the vicinity of Moorhouse, though - if its a quiet pee or other bare-skin involving activity you're after, be aware that there are many motion-sensetive cameras in the vicinity, placed for the purposes of measuring rabbit and other wildlife movements. Apparently, they also detect and photograph human activities for the delight of the local scientists.

Loads of other experiments inthe vicinity too with lots of "things" all over the place....

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Plodging Ashgill and the South Tyne Gorge

Taking advantage of the sudden warm and sunny weather, I visited Brian at Nenthead and we had a little sunny day adventure.
Soaping the insides of our trousers with washing-up liquid, we donned wetsuits, abandoned a car containing dry undies at Garrigill and drove to the top of Ashgill Force. There, we forced ourselves through the window (mentioned in a post some time ago) and had a quick look at the waterfall and the deep pool at the bottom and then commenced a descent of the very lovely limestone gorge below Ashgill Force. This contains half-a-dozen or so deep plunge pools, bathed in sunlight and scented with May blossom and each one a small test of nerve. We paddled and swam and sat and ate and paddled and swam till we joined the River South Tyne in a deep flat-bottomed gorge paved with Carboniferous. Limestone slabs. Not much water here, though. – We were slightly taken aback by a sudden discovery, stuck on the bank, of a balloon in the shape of a human which rocked and swayed as if in pain or distress. Slightly disturbing…..
So we walked till we found deeper water and, slipping and sliding we made slow progress down stream. As the water reached the thighs, we found it quicker and safer to float and push ourselves along the bottom by hand. After an hour or so of this, we finally reached the Crossgill Bridge. After the bridge, the stream is only three or four feet wide, but very dark and deep with a gentle current and we turned off our minds, relaxed and floated downstream. By this method we came across the Dipper. Then we crept up on the Dipper’s chick, standing on a ledge, dipping (as dippers do) we got within a foot or two before it flitted of downstream, only for us to repeat the approach. Two heads floating slowly and silently with the current. Not people, just heads!
Finally we were at the Garrigill ford and exited the stream, in the traditional manner by squeezing through the water pipe under the ford.
Removing wet suits is an undignified business, but we heaved them off each other, got the dry stuff on and , after collecting the car from Ash Gill, repaired to the Miners Arms at Nenthead for a light libation or two.
When the soapy legs get wet, the boots start to foam by the way. It’s a great conversation starter when meeting new people.
2.2 kilometres downstream in three hours! No ascent to worry about.
The water was warm(ish)
Not too many pics as the camera was safe inside a waterproof box most of the time.
Good fun, though – shouldn’t be allowed, really.

Plodging, by the way, just means "paddling" in water or mud, or similar wet stuff.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Some Brief Bowland Baggings

After some initial locational difficulties, (we got lost), me and brother John, whom I collected from Kendal on the way, eventually turned up at Dunsop Bridge in the Forest of Bowland. This is one of those bits of Yorkshire ceded to Lancashire in the 1974 local authority debacle 1974. The original boundary stone still announces the border between Lancs and Yorks at the appropriate spot, though.
Here, (Dunsop Bridge) we parked badly and teamed up with Mike from Go4awalk for the bagging of the ever so green but steep Middle Knoll, 395 metres, a couple of miles up the valley, followed by the boggier, hetherier and much higher Whins Brow. This was attained by a rather fine path which traverses across the face of the hill in an almost mountain-path kind of way. Its just 476 metres’ though, so not a big deal really. During this entire operation, I struggled to control my walking poles, the left one (or is it the right one?), refusing to be adjusted and collapsing to a very short stick at times. I twisted and played with it till Mike offered to help and proceeded to dismantle it altogether.
Its an ill wind, though, and this provided an opportunity to examine the inner workings closely which resulted ultimately in a solution to the problem. Its OK now, ta. I mended it.
I expect you were worrying about this.
At this point, I realised it was half three and we still had eight miles to go. So I chopped a lump off the walk, and we were back at the cars by six, even having time for an ice cream in Dunsop Bridge.
We basically dropped down to the Trough of Bowland and followed the road and riverside paths back to the start.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Trough of Bowland is a moorland pass holding the ancient route from East Lancashire to Lancaster the old County town of Lancashire. Here was the assizes and the centre of administration for the County. It was also the nearest port to the Western bit of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and East Lancs too.
Today, it’s a single track road but with a fair amount of traffic. At one point it was the main route and of very significant strategic importance – dating back a very long time indeed.
Anyway, it were a grand day of warm sunshine and to prove that summer is finally here, the tormentil is flowering at last.
Incidentally, the white things appearing on some of the pics is cotton grass. Its not a grass, its a sedge, and thats not cotton either. Hills with the name "White Hill" are often called so due to vast swathes of the stuff making it look like its been snowing. High protein scoff for yer red grouse, though - and qute pretty too...
Sedges have edges and rushes are round (around) - if you pick a sedge and roll the stalk between your fingers, it will "click" because the stalks are triangular. So sedges have edges , see? thats how you tell..... (simplification alert!)
Don't pick wild flowers just so you can see if its a sedge or not by the way. This is potentially very naughty.
We walked 10 miles and climbed 1900 feet by the way.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Whats happening with my TGO trip report?

Phil Lambert, head honcho of the very fine Doodlecat has indicated that he’d likely accept my 2009 TGO Challenge trip account on the Doodlecat website.

I think this is probably the best place for it (providing its any good!), along with multiple other TGO challenge accounts. Presumably some other Challengers will be looking to post accounts and picture albums there too. It’s a cracking resource for this kind of stuff.

So, the result of this is that there will be very little further mention of the TGO Challenge on this blog, at least until the October issue of TGO Magazine comes out. Unles I get a bit maudlin about it and start missing the constant rub of skeggy undies against glowing thighs, the delicious smell of damp socks and the craving for sausage and chips. No! I will have none of it. At least for a few months anyway.

Until then, I leave the TGO with a cuppla pics – the bottom one being sent to me earlier today by Challenger Tony Bennett, whom, along with this mate Steve, crossed paths with me several times between Newtonmore and somewhere else. It is, of course, yours truly reclining recumbently and a bit imperially at Gelder Shiel with a cup of hot chocolate. There’s a couple of other pics too. I’m saving the rest for Doodlecat and the occasional unresisted mention of the TGO.

There’ll be a shameless plug when it appears. I’ve not started writing it yet – I want things to sink in a bit. I have made no notes at all, so, when it happens, the result will be inaccurate, disjointed, untrue and at best, exaggerated. Specially the bit about the slug. Anyway, you’ll have to wait.



Sunday, 24 May 2009

TGO In Praise of Angus

Before embarking on a fuller account of my ninth TGO crossing, I’d just like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the unwavering friendliness and support of the good people of the County of Angus, that final swathe of fertile whisky-growing country immediately prior to the plunge into the North Sea, without which the TGO Challenge would be a mere anti-climax of outrageously yellow fields and suddenly alert local drivers, rounding that tight bend just by the Mains of Inversquirty at their usual speed to be surprised by a red-faced lumberer click-clacking unremittingly towards the briny and not quite getting out of the way quick enough for the comfort of either.
And so it was that this very supertanned vision of Big G having a bit of a laugh lighted heavily on the doorstep of a certain unfeasibly chested Mrs Primula Brown with the intent of asking directions for fresh water for the platypus. And, after fighting his way through the shameful display of intimate laundry on the washing line, and sporting a substantial and pink pair of Mrs Brown’s midweek panties , accidentally attached to that little clip thing on his platypus tube, he leant heavily against the door and, puffing with the effort, rang the doorbell.
There was no answer.
It wasn’t because Mrs Brown was out shopping. Nor was it that she was deaf or deliberately ignoring the summons of the bell. In point of fact, she was taking advantage of a brief and watery shaft of sunlight out the back in order to try to make herself look a bit more healthy for the Johnshaven Village Hall tea Dance on Tuesday, after which she would quite like to have tea and, ultimately, her evil way with a certain retired fisherman.
Oh no, it wasn’t for any of these reasons that the bell went ignored.
In point of fact, the doorbell button had never actually been connected to the bell for reasons much too complex to explore here, but which concerned her lazy good for nothing son who was crap at DIY.
Mrs Brown closed her eyes and faced the weak yellow shaft of late afternoon sun and bemoaned the latest damage to her vegetable patch. Speaking, as she often did, to the starling having a squawk in the hedge, she berated the thieving barstewards wot “pinched ma bliddy carrots” again.
The starling, whom our heroine Primula knew well in view of its distinctive lack of a complete pair of legs due to an accident with a crop sprayer a couple of years ago had been tragically nursing a clutch of sterile eggs in Mrs Brown’s gutter these past eighteen months, but would if she could, have explained to Mrs Brown that it was the local rabbits wot done it. This would have been a just reward for all the cake and breadcrumbs.
Following the first two disastrous crop failures, Mrs Brown had, in fact, been inserting carrots purchased from a local shop on the grounds that the season was probably getting a bit late for seeds and the purpose of the patch was more for decoration and the delight of a local retired gardener she had eyes for than mere sustenance. She was also very much aware of the possibilities of an tour or inspection of a vegetable patch for the discussion to resort to the kind of meaningful double entendre so useful for making one’s romantic intentions clear even to someone who could be a bit slow on the uptake. The fallback position would be the lacing of his tea. He was, indeed, “in for it”.
Anyway, the rabbits regarded Prim’s patch as more of a branch of Tesco Express, than a regular garden.
The point is, I failed to attract any attention and so plodded even more dejectedly towards Johnshaven. A lucky escape, perhaps, or then again, after two weeks out in the wilds….
This is quite a good place to finish as it happens, but the point I am skirting around, of course, is that the Angussians are dead friendly and sometimes slightly inebriated, which is why they get on so well with TGO Challengers.
As the bloke at Mrs Brown’s veggie shop said - “They’re a great bunch”
Unfortunately he was talking about daffodils.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

All packed up and nowhere to go

As the title of the post says...

I've packed my rucksack ready for the TGO. Its got everything I need in it, including enough food for four days.

I also took a few things out - one breakfast too many, and who needs all those nutty-fruity-chewy bars anyway.

All I need now is some money and some tattie scones. Apparently you can't buy tattie scones in England. Either I'll get some in Inverness or I might try to make some myself.

I also need some whisky and to load four rashers of bacon into the bag. This is an emergency supply of bacon (its why I need the tattie scones...). If all goes to plan, I'l have these for "elevenses" with some coffee on days one and two of the walk. (TGO Challenge for those who haven;t been paying attention).

This post will probably be the last you'll hear from me till I get back.

Unless I miss the train or I get snotty snout (pig flu). Or something.

Incidentally, apparently its very difficult to buy pease pudding in Yorkshire. They don't seem to know what it is. Mind, I first came across it in a bun fight at the Bishop Auckland Job centre (I worked in Personnel) and I thought the butter on the ham sandwhiches had gone off. Somebody gently explained to me that it was traditional, if a tad bizarre, to put pease pudding in ham sandwhiches in North east England. Very odd. Healthy, but odd.

As it happens, I seem to have developed a bad reaction to boiled ham - specially the waffa thin muck. If I ever need relief from chronic constipation, I'll have a ham butty with pease pudding.

I'm leaving for Scotland on the 9:20 train Wednesday morning. I'll be meeting Becky in Edinburgh for lunch then I'l be on the bus for Inverness and Glen Shiel for a walk over to Glenelg Thursday and to start the TGO Friday. I'd planned to bag a Corbett on the way. The weather forecast, though, is wet and windy. Bugger.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Dowgang Hush and Shrine

I called on Brian at Nenthead today and we had a little radge or exploration up Dowgang Hush at Nenthead.
Nenthead is a village planned and built by the London Lead Company for the sole purpose of the extraction of minerals. So its full of lead mines. Dowgang Hush is a deep man-made gully leading down into the village from the moors also created for the single purpose of extracting minerals, mainly lead. There are the remains of a coalmine at the very top, though along with some more recent channelling of water for the operation of water-powered machineray at the lead mines museum. This stuff is very clever and quite interesting and is a worthwhile expenditure of your resources, in my opinion.
I’d never been in the hush, so Brian agreed that it would be a good place for a bit of a radge.
And so, we explored upwards from the car park. There’s a sort of laid-out trail in the huish with information boards, which was unexpected, and we actually followed some of this and read the boards.
There was quite a bit of evidence of informal camping in the place too – at one point there being a selection of children’s chairs arranged around the remains of a large campfire containing broken glass and squashed lager tins, alongside a large polythene sheet and a wigwam-shaped log construction, presumably the unsuccessful attempt at building a shelter. I suspect that a bunch of eejits had watched a Ray Mears episode of dandelion eating, fire laying and shelter building and that they had probably burned their SAS survival books on getting the fire lit.
After poking around the coalmine for a bit, we repaired to the Miners Arms for a pint of Scruttocks Old Dirigible.
As I seem to be going through a short period of heart-string tugging regarding distressed rabbits, I’ve included a pic of one such youthful specimen apparently asleep on a pagan shrine somewhere on Alston Moor. Actually, the animal is an ex-rabbit. It used to be a rabbit, but now it isn’t. It’s sleep is a permanent state and its only the cool Alston Moor climate that’s keeping it in one piece.
To the ageing Stardust Child of the Universe who believes that the ever-changing contents of this shrine arrive mysteriously from some nature spirit as a yet-to-be-divined special message – its not true. Somebody is having a giggle. Sorry. In point of fact, the rabbit is a recent victim of next door's cat - a friendly, but one-eyed pussy who is currently on a bit of a rampage as far as the local rabbit population is concerned. (Also culls field voles, rats, mice, sparrows, robins, blackbirds, seagulls, crows...... a couple of elderly ramblers...... a Ford Ka........)

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Weardale walk with many, many people.

This could be the last walk before the 2009 TGO Challenge, or, maybe not….
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I used to act as a “steward” on Durham County Council guided walks and today, I decided to join one such walk. I did this mainly because it was advertised at a fairly beefy 15 miles (most DCC walk are a lot shorter than this) , and I could just be a punter on the walk
So I turned up at the bridge over the River Wear at Stanhope, slotted the knipemobile onto the grass verge and joined around 30 other people for this trundle around the Weardale Moors. I recognised several of the walkers and all of the three stewards. Two other TGO challengers were on the walk – Doug, who, along with me is a member of the Harold Shipman lookalike club, and his son, who was sporting a heavy-looking “practise” rucksack. These two will be TGO first-timers this year. Doug understands the alcohol-based TGO sub culture full well. I think that might be why he’s going.
Anyway – Our route today took us firstly along by the River Wear up to Eastgate.
Here, we completely ignored the inscribed Roman stone by the bus stop – created and set by a Roman cavalry officer from Lanchester (Longovicium as it was then) in honour of the god of woodland, one Deo Sylvano (Sylvanus), on the occasion of the killing of a large wild boar. As a Roman cavalry officer, he would have had the use of a horse, presumably and, I conclude from this that its quite unlikely that he created the stone whilst waiting for the bus to Crook. He wouldn’t have had time anyway. (It’s a replica, the original is in the British museum. They took our stone. (They terk arr stern)
Eastgate, I should explain, along with Westgate and Northgate (there’s no Southgate) are the boundaries of the Bishop of Durham’s base for hunting in Weardale. This consisted of a park area and a lodge which was more or less created every year.
It was almost the site of a significant battle where an English army of some 30000 troops faced a large Scottish army on the other side of the Wear for a few days. Apart from a Scottish commando raid on the King’s camp, no significant fighting took place, and, one morning, the Scots had gone to Teesdale and were heading for home towards the Tyne.
Onwards and upwards by the Rookhope Burn, through small farms with chickens, horses, goats, sheep, ducks and donkeys… and by small limestone gorges and old lead mines, we progressed till we came to Rookhope.
I noted that Rookhope’s pub is open all day, does hot drinks and meals. This may prove vaaaaaary useful for later walks…
So then we climbed the Rookhope incline. This is well-known by coast-to-coast cyclists and is a 600 foot climb up a hill on a dismalnlted railway line. The mineral trains were hauled up this hill by a steam engine and a winch which is, as you’d expect, at the top. The engine house is derelict and ruinous and the boiler lies forlornly rusting in the heather on the moors above.
There followed a long and mind-numbing plod along the level railway line which contours for several miles. The views are good, the crack was good, but the plodding was dull. WE ended up at Parkhead – an ancient (dismantled) railway junction which now has a bungalow, a derelict sandstone quarry and a café. The café is excellent and is the must-stop place for the cyclists and is well used.
After teas and cakes, we fair sailed down the track into Stanhope, this time using the Crawleyside incline (the same as the Rookhope one, but shorter) and a short walk through the old limestone quarries back to Stanhope where crossed the stepping stones by the ford, which, since the advent of satnav, has been the scene of lots of rescues…
Fab little jaunt. I’ve done this walk many times and I always enjoy it. (most of it)14 miles but only 1200 feet of climbing. That will just have to be enough walking for the Chally. I was pleased with my speed up the incline which I decided to climb as quickly as I could. I’m still alive. The ticker held out. The legs worked. The heart rate may have hit 85 bpm….which could be a 2009 record.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Howgills Diary thingy

I don't usually post more than once a day, but Phil Lambert emailed me just now to say that the May episode of the Howgills diary is now posted on Doodlecat at

read it.

its fab

Its a non-smoking walk.

This is a plug.

A shameless plug
He's having trouble with his ftp, though, apparently and can't write a Doodlecat post till whatever it is stops doing whatever it isn;t doing, or starts doing something it should.
sorry about the technical jargon here, sometimes plain English just isn't enough....

TGO Challenge Perhaps Penultimate Preparations or maybe not eh?

Hands up who knew it was Beltane today. Its time to run around a big pole with flowers in your hair and a belly full of strong cider with a load of girls in floaty frocks and long hair.

So to celebrate this holiday, I did some not quite last minute TGO things. These involved a short drive to Bishop Auckland to buy sealable sandwhich bags for my instant tea and even more instant sugar, and, maybe a few rashers of Irish bacon and perhaps a tattie scone or two.

And then I bought two butane/propane cylinders and got another go at Blacks/Millets win a thousand quid by saying nice things about our stores competition. Actually, the two wee lassies in Millets in Bishop are very pleasant… and they certainly know their butane. They had no idea about Beltane, though and refused to discuss floaty frocks unless their rugby-playing boyfriends were there. (Prop forward and scrum half, apparently)

I got some liddle plastic boxes to replace my big plastic box wot I keep important things in such as my supply of Ministry of defence Biscuits (Brown), my dickie ticker tablets, my MOD tin opener, a lighter, cakes, a small settee with breathable cushions, an umbrella with the word “Stella” printed on it (3500 static head) and a pack of tissues for er… personal stuff…. (very low static head) This saves just 300 grammes of weight. That’s another 300 grammes of Irish bacon, then.

At Asda, I got some shorts (swimming shorts, apparently) – but they’re very light weight and have integral netting inside to keep things inside, presumably. Wouldn’t want anything poking out innit? Anyway, if I take the shorts on the TGO it will guarantee snow.

And six breakfasts in the guise of twelve Jordans fruity nutty healthy crunchy farty bars. That’s two for each breakfast. I’m not sure I can keep up with those. I suppose I could slip a rasher of bacon between two for a bit of an early morning thrill.

Evrything I need to pack is in a cardboard box beside the telly with the motto “Avon Cosmetics London-Paris-New York-Easington Colliery” written on the side. If I ever find out who wrote on the side of the telly…..

The next thing I need to do is pack. And try to find a B&B in Fettercairn I might do that later…. Or I might not. You don’t really care do you?

Pic is a TGO challenge pic from a previous fiasco...