Friday 31 December 2010

Beechburn and Enginemans Terrace – Howden le Wear

beechburn beck
This is walk 3 of the series. I said there were three walks. I’d forgotten about the bonus walk, so there’ll be another one.
This walk follows a section of the little valley of Beechburn Beck. (Beechburn and Bitchburn seem to be interchangeable here) This little valley is very pleasant. The walk returns to Howden on an old road which runs parallel to an old railway line. There is the remnants of Victoria – a hamlet built for miners, railway workers and brickmakers. Engineman’s Terrace is substantially the remains – plus a few cottages and farms.
needs tlc
There was one bit of confusion where the path stops at a farm complex. The farmer, who was playing on his tractor, said that I could go anywhere I liked. He pointed out a variety of possible routes. He said it didn’t bother him where I went. He said that some people went that way whilst others preferred to go this way (indicating). I thanked him, Bruno wagged his tail and we chose a route, emerging on the path at the other side of the farm, somehow.
my little pony island
Some of the rest of the route needs a bit of TLC – duff stiles, tied up gates – that sort of thing, but , generally, its OK. Its very nice, in fact.
The walk is three miles, and, due to it’s shape, and a bit of exploration along a permissive path in some woodland, I did 7.
Bruno did a bit more.
That’s it for walking for 2010, although there could be one New Years Eve/Happy New year posting……  probably in the morning.
howden 3

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Howden le Wear Walk 2

near white house farm
The second out of three short Howden le Wear walks.  Attentive readers will remember that there are three walks around Howden that are published in a County Council set of leaflets concerning short walks around Howden le Wear. And I’m checking them out for the Rights of Way peeps at the Council as part of my Lone Rangering activities along with my trusty dawg, Bruno the superdawg aka Tonto.
not silver kimo sabe
And so, we eventually dragged ourselves away form the fire and into the slippery and misty thaw and, once again, we slithered off down the bridle road to Howden.
Walk 2 coincides with the Crook Around the Compass South walk for a time, and also uses the bridle road.
Its quite a nice walk and passes an interesting mine tip (only interesting for those who find such things interesting, obviously…). This particular tip is fairly small but what appears to be the fishplate sticking out of the black shale of the heap indicates an underground railway, which probably means an extensive mine. There’s nothing much to show on the surface, apart from the heap – just a few large stones with some embedded iron work and, of course, the public footpaths which lead to it and form most of our walk today.
No mine, no paths, I suspect.
Very foggy today, although a weak bit of sunshine told me that not too far up the hill there was probably a very nice temperature inversion, warm sun, cloud sea, blue skies.
bridle road sign
The walk is just two miles starting and finishing at Howden le Wear Community centre. I did four, cos I walked there from Knipe Towers, along the bridle road, in fact.
One more Howden walk to do.
howden 2

Sunday 26 December 2010

Blackie and The Naxie – Howden le Wear

red lion at Bitchburn
And so, with a nagging dawg, we drag ourselves out from a Yuleish stupor of roast beef, red wine and various liquors and stumble off through the snow to Howden le Wear.
bouncy dawg
The purpose, apart from exercising superdawg’s latent powers of bouncing around in the snow, was to have a look at the prosaically-named Walk 1 in a small collection of leaflet walks produced by the Council. The remit is to have a look at the route descriptions and the paths.
This one is just two and a half miles long, has one bit of a pull up a hill, and a selection of refreshment stops – just the kind of walk you might want to do in an evening, in fact. If you’re not fully refreshed after doing this walk, then you’r enot trying very hard.
hill 60
The walk description is quite good, and has lots of local information such as the  long-gone whereabouts of railway stations, coal mines, brick works and that kind of thing. The Naxie and Blackie are, in fact, the names of the local pastures. Hill 60, pictured here, is the spoil heap from a long-defunct coal adit, named Hill 60 by soldiers returning from The Great War for Civilisation (aka WW1)
green tree
There’s a lot packed into the walk, in fact, and its all the better for it.  I enjoyed it, and so did superdawg. there’s no problems with the paths – they’re all well used by locals by the evidence of lots of footprints in the snow.
the australian hotel
The walk is two and a half miles – I did six, cos I walked there and back.
Two more Howden le Wear walks to do…
howden 1

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Solstice Morning

brian and sunrise
Me, Brian and Charlie got up outrageously early this morning and turned up on the Durham/Northumberland border just as the moon was going into it’s final stages of a total eclipse.

december solstice 001
(Very poor picture of the lunar eclipse. Well, it was dark, see..?)
As we totterred off over the hard neve of Middlehope Moor, it finally blanked out, turned red and disappeared into some Cheviot haze.
We pressed on up the hill, reaching the summit cairn not too much later (its not very far)
december solstice dawn breakfast
Here, we lit some hexamine and produced a fairly frazzled breakfast of sausages, bacon, black pudding, tomato and rolls.
And then the sun rose in a pink and red light. We all agreed haw great it was to be here and not tucked up in a warm and cosy bed.
charlie in the sun
The snow began to steam gently and, despite the severely negative celsius readings, Charlie pointed out a heat haze.
Everything was now bathed in sunshine.
december solstice sunrise
The snow conditions in the North Pennines, I have to report, are absolutely superb at the moment. There is hard neve to walk on. The bogs are frozen up. There is blue sky and sunshine. And the roads are open. This can’t be missed. I must have a walk tomorrow.
timer shot
And, of course, the year has now turned. From now on, each day will have just that extra few minutes of daylight. There is hope. Spring is lurking somewhere far away but has it’s bags packed, the taxi is waiting, the cat is at the Aunty’s and the neighbours have a key, just in case.
Solstice sunrise and a lunar eclipse. That can’t happen very often. It would have been a shame to miss that one.

Monday 20 December 2010

Oh, Holy Night

OK, so this is war…..   Stick this up yer chimneys and see if Santa finds it….

This’ll make you reach for the tissues..

Saturday 18 December 2010

Crook Around The Compass – West

deerness valley walk start
Well, this just about wraps it up for Crook around the compass. This walk was much like the others in the series – a very nice little trundle around snowy fields (I expect its not always this way) – but with a clumsy description. I got off route just the once and there was some minor trouble with some gorse, a missing footpath sign or two and a bit of route which could do with some of those little yellow waymarker signs you stick on fences…
crook west 002
But, as me and superdawg prepared for this walk (by having a late morning nap, followed by lunch and quite a lot of coffee) – we couldn’t help but notice, partly by the BBC News and partly by the view out of the window, that it was in fact, deep mid winter outside and a frosty wind was making moan. And we noticed, through our powers of observation, that the ground was as hard as iron and any water that was around was like a stone. This was lucky cos otherwise we’d have got really muddy on this walk.
We didn’t particularly notice and Cherubim or Seraphim by the way, but some very large East Coast snow shower clouds did build up towards sunset.
Anyway, its a good walk – ideal for a summer’s evening.
east coast shower clouds
The walk is four miles, but I did five and Bruno did about thirty as he was bouncing around in the snow quite a bit.
I’ve suggested to the County that these four short walks around Crook could be put into the summer guided walks programme as evening walks for people who are just starting to go for walks….  this way, I get to lead walks at a nice Knipey, beta blocky sort of pace and we can celebrate afterwards in the Farrer’s Arms.
Howden le Wear walks are next for inspection.
crook west

Friday 17 December 2010

Moffat to Peebles Yet Another Walk

moffpeeb2 005

I’ve just sent out an email invite to several people, mainly TGO-er types to test interest in walking from Moffat to Peebles next April.

Avid readers and those who are just a bit psychic, not to say psychotic, will remember that we had a badly failed attempt at walking from Peebles to Moffat last April, and a successful walk from Peebles to Moffat in September, during which bits of Mr Sloman were removed and left dangling on a fence just above Moffat.

Now its time to think about completing the circle and walking back to Peebles from Moffat by a different route.

If you have not received an email and you got one for the last walk, its probably because the email meant for you has bounced. There are two of these at the moment. Let me know if you think you should have received an email, but haven’t.

I’ve also invited Fight Club Hiker members through their internet forum and there’s a couple of interested people there.

I’ve got the thinking cap on for further invitees, given that we had quite a lot of late wastage last time and we can manage a reasonable-sized group I think.

moffpeeb2 009

The dates for Moffat to Peebles will be 15 to 18 April 2011. Walking will commence from Moffat on Saturday 16 April 2011. It seems traditional to visit the Bridge Inn for good luck festivities before hand. This could be done on the Friday.

The route will include bits of the Southern Upland Way, a long and mainly grassy ridge including a bunch of 2000 foot tops, Tibbie Shiels Inn , more SUW and Glen Sax.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Coventry Carol

Over the next week or so, I may well post various and several videos appropriate to the season.There will be no apologies for this. This stuff is taking me back to New road School in Earby.
Annie Lennox, though... bless 'er cotton sox....  There's a pagan undertone to this, which is exactly how it should be.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Smearsett, Feizor and Helwith Bridge

smearsett 004
Today’s little trundle was a pre-Christmas card-swapping and cuppla pints in a pub walk. Unfortunately, the effect was reduced a bit by the fact that Mrs Pieman had posted the Bro’s card some time earlier…
But me and the brother met anyway.
We met in the outrageously priced pay and display car park in Stainforth. (Incidentally, there seems to be bad news from Stainforth that the pub is closed at the moment and awaiting a new tenant. This will not be specially good for Christmas celebrations in Stainforth, I shouldn’t wonder)
starting the scramblesmearsett summit
Anyway, we slithered off over the globally warmed black ice and up through Knight Stainforth to attack the mighty ramparts of Smearsett Scar – a carb limestone lump which was  likely a reef at some point in it’s 350 million year history. Smearsett Scar has a very obvious craggy South face and this provides a not-very-well-known-but-nevertheless-quite-exciting little scramble on mainly good and spiky holds but which aren’t available at the scariest spot. However, using some frozen rabbit poo, and with a bit of Anglo-Saxon,  I managed to teeter up and we were soon at the trig on the top. The scramble is about 25 metres with a ledge half way and is, maybe, Grade 2. It’s also perfumed with wild mountain thyme. And wabbit poo.
smearsett scar from pot scar
The walk along to Pot Scar feels like a high level ridge walk in the mountains, but isn’t. We repaired to Feizor to Elaine’s tearoom and cafe for coffee and toasted teacakes.
Feizor, incidentally, had a family of Knipes living in it in the 16th Century. they were described in church records as “husbandmen”. this is a farm labourer. There were more Knipes living in villages nearby and they seem to have spent about 300 years marrying people called Metcalfe. Metcalfe is the Yorkshire dales farming name. The Knipes, however, seem to have left the area.
funeral horse
Down the lane a bit, we assumed that a Christmas choir was assembling. We wondered about asking for a request. Silent night, maybe or, While Shepherds Washed Their socks By Night, or maybe a bit of Cliff Richards. its lucky we didn’t as it turned out to be a funeral party. we should have known by all the hanging around and smoking they were doing. the old chap’s horse was waiting patiently nearby to transport the coffin to it’s final destination. Nice touch, that. The Holly and the Ivy were perhaps not appropriate.
penyghent and moughton scar
We were informed that the arduous trek to the local shrine dedicated to the Great God Bachus – alias the Helwith Bridge Inn , shouldn’t take us more than forty five minutes. Unwilling to be benighted in Elaine’s tearoom (although, on reflection there are worse places to get stuck) – we marched off, stopping only in a sunny spot behind a barn for lunch for about half an hour.
We duly arrived at Helwith Bridge half an hour before the bar opened, which it did twenty minutes later. We worshiped bachus to the tune of two pints of Helwith bridge ale each. It was very nice. They do pie and peas too. Its very civilised around here.
A plod down the road brought us back to Stainforth.
8 Miles and 1400 feet, including one short period of excitement.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Snow Melt Defeats Reccy – Shock Horror Probe

tonto on crawleyside edge
Some time ago, I agreed to lead a handful of guided walks for the Durham County Council summer programme and today’s plan was to take advantage of the thaw and go and reccy a route at Stanhope. This is Rangering. As I would be by myself, I would be The Lone Ranger.
The idea is that there’ll be a Durham CC guided walk which will take place on the same weekend as the Backpackers Club AGM. A good plan… maybe.
stanhope limestone quarries

So me and Tonto, me and Superdawg set off from Stanhope and climbed up through the old quarries and the dripping snowdrifts to Crawleyside Edge. So far so good, a fine start with a bit of a high-level wander along a gritstone edge.
Sloppy slushfull fields followed which were quite hard work for a while, then, after a stride over an angry beck into what appears to have been a hidden pond (Bruno chuckled), we contoured along a high path overlooking Stanhope Burn.
tonto plays
The burn looked quite unpromising for a crossing, I have to say. And on closer inspection it seems that it was roughly just over knee-deep and running very fast. We followed it upstream, past a big stream junction to a braided flood. We probed. We were rejected. Further upstream looked no better. I had coffee and a cheese butty and some of my special flapjack wot I made….  
stanhope burn
We probed a bit more. A crossing could be made, but it would be a  cold and deep paddle of about ten yards. There would be wet trousers and socks for quite a while afterwards – and there was more slushy snow ahead. We abandoned the idea and struggled up through the soft stuff to the CtoC cyclists route on the old railway track. This was underneath a large snowdrift.
ctoc route
At some point on the way back to Stanhope, I redesigned the guided walk route completely. There will be no paddling. We will enjoy Stanhope Dene in all it’s springtime glory, have a cup of tea at the Park Head cafe then float along Crawleyside Edge to Shittlehope where there will be rude schoolboy jokes involving incontinence, funny noises and smells.
Speaking of which, one of the walk stats is that Superdawg  had four craps. This was two more craps than I had crap bags for. Some craps were kicked into hidden spots. Sorry. I don’t know where he gets it all from.
The we’ll all go home for our tea and we’ll tell our mums all about what happened. Next time we might come across some smugglers or robbers or something.
I did 8 miles and 1100 feet. This was a bit less than intended.
Bruno ate 12kg of snow, thus advancing the thaw by 6 minutes by the way. Just another climate stat for you there. They might be interested in that in Mexico. As for me, I’m about to go and magically change 75 cl of vino collapso from Crook Boozerama into water….

stanhope dene 1

Thursday 9 December 2010

Christmas Shoppings

st cuthberts cathedral
First expedition to Durham took place today. It was reasonably successful. There are fart cushions and wind-up false teeth that walk across the floor…. and the ducks were walking about on the frozen river.  Wot fun for them, wot?…
But the best bit about Durham is not the fart cushion shop, the many and various opportunities for scoffing and imbibing or the perambulating mallards – oh, no.
Some piccies…
cross in Durham
durham castle

And a Christmas video for all those who are temporarily parted at the moment, but who may be together again at Christmas. I have no idea who you are by the way, but St Cuthbert suggested this. Its one of his all-time favourites even though, in the past, he was never all that impressed by girlies….

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Crook Around the Compass – South

near point 5 crrok south
And Lo! (Note the Christmas theme by the way) – Lo! The Angel of the North came down in a wakening light and saith “Go Forth and do Crook South and take thy dog cos he’s ripping yer socks up and needs a walk”. And so, it came to pass that I went forth and did Crook Around the Compass – South. Just “West” to do, then there’s three more at Howden le Wear.
crook south cows
This is a three and a half mile walk. I did four, because I walked to the start. 
Its a good walk, although I did get a bit lost at one point after following the footprints of local dog walkers instead of the right of way, but I soon relocated myself again.
broken fence
At one point, a local farmer has built a fence across the path, but the local League Against Building Fences Across Our Dog Walks (Labfoudw), have wrecked the fence.  Direct action, that is…
Somebody I met recognised Bruno from the Pie Blog and we had a bit of a chat about the local paths.
bruno bouncing around
The route is good but the description is a bit awkward in places and really needs the attention of somebody skilled in writing route descriptions. It would seem that most of the paths are very well used by locals. I’ve reported my findings to the County Council access and rights of way peeps.
Nice day for it, though…… Bruno enjoyed bouncing around.
More later…
crook south