Sunday 28 February 2010

Teesdale – Moking Hurth and High Force

bruno searches unsuccessfully for the snowdrift

My plan for today – up until last night anyway , was to go and bag Penyghent and Plover Hill as part of the Yorkshire Dales 2000 foot tops thing.

The weather forecast was a bit borderline for the Dales, specially late in the day, and I didn’t have any change for the pay and display, and I could have a lie-in if I went somewhere closer to home…… so I went to Teesdale. In particular, I went to the Gibsons cave visitor centre care park, which is free.


I determined to go and have a look at a little crag on the North side of Teesdale which has some caves – and then come back to the start using the Pennine Way.

It was sublime. In fact it was very sublime. Gwan – ask me how sublime it was. It was, sublime. That is to say, it wasn’t beautiful, not in the usual twee sort of romantic green kind of beautiful. No it wasn’t that. There was lots of snow on the ground for a start. And then the sky was grey and white and heavy and, and the high moors were bright white, and maybe there was a bit of hillfog. So there wasn’t actually a boundary between the hills and the sky. The hills became the sky and the sky became the hills. There were flakes of snow and no horizon. There were deep drifts and frozen gates, impossible to open. It was bleak and tough and unyielding. It was, in fact, The Pennines. I really like it when its like this.

So, after leaving the easy lanes, we blundered into the white desert and there was hard work, for a time. And swearing.

deep teesdale snow

Bruno plunged through a soft new drift into a beck and struggled dogfully out again. There was limping for a while.

We lunched (I lunched, Bruno dribbled) on the limestone crag at High Hurth Edge. This is a fine suntrap in summer. Today there was a little shelter from the sneaking wind and a fine , if monotone view. There’s some caves in the crag – Moking Hurth, 1000 feet Grade II, and a pothole – Moking Hurth Pot, 35 feet deep, 800 feet long and Grade II. Must have a look down here sometime… there is mud and crawling to be done….

from high hurth crag moking hurth cave entrance

We descended by easy tracks to Forest in Teesdale school and crossed the river to join the Pennine Way.

high force

The Pennine Way, for some reason, was icy, and quite slippery till I reached the bottom of the snowline, somewhere just upstream from High Force. There were a few people rambling on through the juniper woods.

The juniper woods are quite remarkable. The trees are ancient and mainly sterile, so every year, as many juniper berries as possible are collected by Natural England and given to a nursery. Any germinations are shared between NE and the nursery – and quite a bit of new plantings have been done. Its a great place. It smells of gin. There are fierce suntraps in summer and its a favoured place for adders.

juniper trunk

We passed High Force and came to Low Force where we found – a pair of trainers. Just removed and left, by all appearances. I wonder if anybody is missing? Low Force would be a bad place for a dip on such a day. High Force would be more efficient if ending it all was the aim. You might survive Low Force.

abandoned trainers wynch bridge

It started snowing heavily. We left via the wobbly Wynch Bridge

Its a good walk, this. Quite easy to do. 9 Miles and 1200 feet. Which isn’t much…

Incidentally – I saw some signs of spring today – a flock of about 30 lapwings by Cronkley – and by High Force, a flock of about 50 lapwings heading West. Coming back from their hols at Redcar, no doubt. That’s a sign of spring that is…..


Saturday 27 February 2010

A visit to HMS Ark Royal and some Geordie stuff

hms ark royal

This was Brian’s idea. He turned up this morning along with Charlie and we hurtled off to South Shields to have a look at the Ark Royal which had an open day today before receiving some aircraft at sea tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the ship was parked in North Shields, so, after some excitement amongst the road works of the new Tyne Tunnel, and the old Tyne Tunnel, and getting ourselves trapped inside a maze of “No entry except buses” signs, we abandoned Brian’s car amongst some traffic chaos somewhere in the posh end of South Shields and went off to find the ship. There was a bit of a queue. (About half a mile, I should think) Some shivering was done, but eventually we came to our turn and were allowed up the gangplank and into a hangar. There were various displays of weapons and engineering and forces and lifeboat charities. The crew were all quite keen to show off the ship and tell anybody about it who cared to ask.


We followed the crowd upstairs (I expect that this isn’t the correct term) – where there were armed guards, a helicopter and various vehicles including a venerable crane. It rained and yet more shivering was done.


So we left. It was good to see. This is where the ship was built, so there seems to be a strong link. Some of the sailors were asked if they were enjoying their time in Newcastle. Some of them could remember….and some had only vague recollections of a night in the city.

We went to the Fish Quay and had haddock and chips in the Kristian, and mooched around the seafood shops and other foody places – and the fish dock itself. I thought this part of Britain’s heritage had gone. But apparently not. There are only a few trawlers left, though. I left with a kipper.


Brian decided I needed a bit more in the way of a tour, so off we went to Tynemouth where the waves were breaking over the piers and the lifeboat museum was closed.


river tyne at tynemouth

More touristy stuff took us to see the surfers at Whitley bay – then on to St Mary’s Island and, finally, to a Charlie’s old workshop in Newcastle and his ex-local pub where various people seemed to recognise him. The big window in the pub has a superb view of the Tyne and its bridges and the beer was wholesome….

st mary's island

The final act was visits to a couple of Tescos and a ride through the snows of North Durham. Hopefully, Brian will have got home. It was still snowing a bit…

This is a fascinating area – full of it’s very own character. I’ll have to come back.

newcastle and the tyne

Friday 26 February 2010

Jeremiah Dixon – A Celebration


Really really ardent readers of this blog will, no doubt be able to easily bring to mind my series of celebratory flapjack cakes – There was the Arsenal cake, The ode to TV chef Fanny Craddock and so on.

And so, I determined that it was about time for another cake. this time, I chose the very famous surveyor Jeremiah Dixon – rightly famed for his part in determining the Mason- Dixon line and thus preventing an early war between the Northern States and some other ones who weren’t quite ready for it.

Jeremiah Dixon was, of course, born in the lovely County Durham village of Cockfield. And so, I thought, that the word “Cockfield” should be inscribed in the chocolate covering of the memorial cake.

Infortunately (possibly), we had no cooking chocolate. I could never get the complete word on anyway.

In the words of the German WW2 pilot who had just been spotted over Whitby by the RAF in September 1939 - “Bugger”. (Some meaning may have been lost in translation)

The Cockfield cake will have to wait for more supplies of catering chocolate. Unfortunately, I’ve eaten some of it.

It was nice. It was Tia Maria flavoured.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Get Carter Coast

durham coast path

My Get Fit for the TGO Challenge plan says that at some point in February, I should walk 15 miles, so for somewhere new to go, I decided to have this little trundle down the Durham coast path – based on the theory that if I walked seven and a half miles in one direction, I could walk back again and thus achieve my objective.

The temperature today was a tropical five degrees – thats plus five… In Fahrenheit terms that’s fifty degrees warmer than it was up the A66 the other day… And so, in a kind of incipient North Sea haar, we marched southwards from the little car park just North of Seaham.

seaham promenade

I was last here in 2001 when, during the foot and mouth fiasco, this was, at one point, the only footpath open in the whole of England. Its remarkable that in the intervening years, the area just South of the town has been completely rebuilt – so much so that my map is now just wrong…

So we just followed the path – and its a very good one – easy to walk on and not too many of those nasty contour things. We fair battered on Southwards.

blast beach

To do this place justice, though, its much better in may or June when its a superb location for a spot of botanising. Some people may remember the specially bleak black beach in the final scenes of the classic “Get Carter” where our hero (Michael Caine) has chased one of the villains for many miles and eventually catches up with him by a coal conveyor, carrying spoil into the sea. The villain is murdered using cheap whisky and a shotgun and is loaded into a hopper and dumped with the shale – just as Carter is shot by a sniper…… well…. that’s this beach. the conveyor has gone but the beach is still raised and covered with black shale, but the rest of the coast has been restored to limestone grassland and the sea is finally cleaning up the beaches. There are still a couple of places where the cliffs are protected from the sea by raised areas of industrial waste – notably Blast beach. Eventually, the sea will recommence working away at these cliffs.

get carter beach

careful now...

There are, apparently, just offshore hereabouts, octopus and underwater visibility has increased from nil to 5 metres…..

But we digress a bit. We were fair blasting South.

We crossed hawthorn Dene – a deep sandstone gorge – and more Denes further South until, at last, I was faced with a steep drop and re-ascent at Warren House Gill – and I was finally outfaced. I just couldn’t be arsed with this – and I’d have to retrace steps very shortly. Pointless, really. I was half a mile short. It was three o’clock and time to turn North.

hawthorn dene

We plodded back much more slowly. The Denes were a bit deeper.

warren house gill aka the stopper

But its OK – In the end we did 14 Miles and 1000 feet of ascent (those Denes….)

get carter

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Cockup Collection Incomplete


Bijoux Birkett Bagging Back O’ Skidda

back o' skidda

Immediately following a TV News report of people carried off by an avalanche in Cumbria was perhaps not the ideal time to tell the wife that I was off to the Lake District in the morning.

During the evening, I was struck by an attack of Lassitude du Neige – a fear of being carried off either by an Australian Women’s Darts Team (abducted by Aileens) – or being swept away by a moving white hillside. I studied the map and the lake District Weatherline and MWIS and discovered that it was only Northern and Eastern slopes which were a bit iffy. My route for today would have been up Northern and Eastern slopes. I was doomed to an evening of indecision. Later - the police issued a statement about the unstable snow conditions


Eventually, I chose some low, rounded hills on which nothing could go wrong.

Two of them were named “Cockup” – Low and Great.

I made a cheese butty and told the dog.

stick rescue from frozen lake

We parked by Overwater and investigated the frozen tarn. Bruno rescued a stick from the ice. Country lanes through green countryside took us through Orthwaite to Horsemoor Hills where we bagged our first little Birkett – the diminutive Orthwaite bank – 348 metres with a nice view of snowy Skiddaw and an apparently frozen Bassenthwaite Lake. It soon became clear that today’s windchill was teetering off the scale. It was, in fact, perishing. Bruno whinged at waiting about, so we made a rising traverse to Birkett number two – Little Cockup, where a short stop was made for more insulation.

countryside without snow

We climbed Great Cockup – up into the frozen snow and yet more nithering draughtiness which insinuated itself into my bones and played bongos on my blood vessels. We descended, shivering to the glacial overflow channel at Trusmadoor , finding a cosy spot by the beck, just abandoned by a couple having their lunch. There was a hint, just a hint of warmth in the sun.

another cockup

I decided against further explorations which would have only taken me to higher, more frozen and much colder places, being unable to get the idea of drinking hot coffee in a warm and comfy car to the sound of Steve Wright in the Afternoon… Bruno seemed to agree, so we followed the bridleway back to Horsemoor and the lanes back to Over Water where the car was, indeed , very warm, and the coffee still hot, and Steve Wright was on the radio.

burn tod

It was late anyway and the hills were beginning to get white and cloudy caps.

As an afterthought, we bagged the extremely easy Birkett Aughertree Fell – a matter of a few shivery minutes. We left for the fleshpots of our house…

skiddaw from aughertree fell

On the way home, I picked up a chap called Frank. He was fairly elderly, had a big rucksack and was happily quite drunk drunk. He’d been standing by the A66 for hours being ignored by and making rude signs at lorry drivers. The police at the nick opposite his hitching spot had been waving at him. Apparently, he’d spent the night sleeping out in the park in Penrith – but what was significant was that he had a selection of Norwegian army kit and, despite the rough sleeping, was well turned out. Whilst we crossed Stainmore, he waved his arms and stated “I’ve walked over all this..” – indicating the rough and flat moorland – the kind of place avoided by most hillwalkers. I suspect this chap had a bit of a history. I dropped him off in Barnard Castle. He seemed quite happy…..

We did 7 miles and 1400 feet.

Nice to be home today…..

hot dog


Saturday 20 February 2010

The decrepit leading the blind up Calf Top

eskholme pike photo stop

A family car with a contingent of John Robinson’s family arrived at the appointed place in a layby near Barbon this morning. John’s family went off to do a spot of walking around Sedbergh, leaving him in my tender care for the day.

John is blind and a hillwalker and has his own blog at and I’d seen his request for hillwalking partners on the Ramblers forum – and decided to give it a shot. I mean what could go wrong? Nothing physically bad would happen – at least not to me anyway - so why not.

devils crag on the rocky climb

And so it proved. We climbed up on to Castle Knott on a steep and rocky path, which caused the occasional excitement, and, inevitably, I found my place at the back (beta blockers again) – but, overall, we fair hurtled up the hill and made short work of it.

I was a bit surprised to see John taking photos, but, of course, these are for his blog. He just needed to be pointed at whatever view it was.

castle knott - gt coum opposite

A small patch of ice and a bit of a pirouette learned us to take a bit more notice of patches of ice and we were soon basking in the snow and sunshine on the summit of Calf Top. calf Top, by the way is 1999 feet high, so whenever you’re up there, everything above the shins is a mountain. Unless you’re really really short.

calftop photo call

The tussocks of Middleton fell caused little problem and we lunched on some warm heather a bit down the side.

I noticed some small dog-type prints on a patch of ice at one point. It must either be a small poodle or a fox. I wonder which is the most likely? At one point the prints described a small circle. Itchy bum, I should think. A worming tablet would sort that out.


We continued down the hill, avoiding strips of ice, lurking boulders and a vicious-looking Swaledale ram with evil eyes and a sinister smile.

currick on middleton fell

We ignored a “You can’t come in here” sign to pass by some holiday cottages onto a lane at Mill House, and an awkward step onto a footbridge on a short bit of bridleway was the only tricky bit of the day. We were hoping to be challenged with a “Eyyup, whassamarra, can’t you read? Are you blind or something?” But all was quiet in the cottages.

On the minor road back to Barbon, we did meet a pony and trap at one point and a tractor towing a large bowser full of cow muck and slurry. The pony gave John a bit of a fright, when it whinneyed, but it was well on its way. It was a quiet and friendly thing anyway.

middleton fell from the lane

We were back a bit early for John’s lift home, so we repaired to the famous Devils Bridge tea van for hot drinks before meeting up with John;s relatives once more.

I came home with a jar of rhubarb and ginger jam – courtesy of the Robinsons. This will do nicely on my toast in the morning….

I think it went fairly well. No blood was shed and no bones were broken. John really doesn’t need all that much guiding – just a bit of “left hand down a bit” and “mind that…. bugger too late…” type of thing.

I think we’ll likely do a bit more of this.

I expect that a version of this walk will appear on John's blog in due course.

Today we did just under 9 miles and 2000 feet of climbing.

calf top

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Little Dale Horseshoe

gayle leads up hindscarth

I let Bruno drive to the Lakes this morning as I was still a bit tired from the wife’s Uncle Joe’s funeral yesterday. he’s quite good and he does mirror-signal-manoeuvre, but not in that order…

Anyway, I put him in the back at the Threlkeld roadworks and we arrived at the appointed spot at chapel bridge in Newlands where we were pleased to meet Gayle and Mick. Martin and Graham arrived late having parked somewhere else. they will, of course, have their pay docked or they can make up the time on Christmas Day (mwhahahah) – Just a little Human Resources joke, there…

distant skiddaw

And so, in blazing sunshine and slowly melting frost we embarked on the Little Dale Horseshoe, or, as its known in Bill Birketts Book “great British Ridge Walks” – The Little Dale Horseshoe by Scope End to Hindscarth anad the Littledale Edge to Robinson descending via High Snab Bank (draw breath…)

Which is what we did.

littledale horshoe ahead

I have to report that the felltop conditions today were nothing less than superb – easy underfoot with a thin cover of new, specially fluffy snow, blue skies, light winds, big views. Big, big white views.

Bruno took to Mick and jumped for snowballs and, generally did his charming bit (in the hope, no doubt of The Ultimate Motivator – Food) Mick needs a dog.

blencathra from hindscarth

I was lucky in that the group seemed to instinctively wait for me to heave my way up the hills Its the beta blockers. the cardiac nurse says I could stop taking them but the chances are that I could penk out and take the stairway to heaven. Its up to you, he said. Otherwise, just put up with it. So I plod upwards.But I think that more steep stuff like this, together with a move towards my ideal weight (current weight minus 10kg) – I might be able to go uphill a bit quicker. As it is, frankly, its a torture. I’m really much better off without any company at all. I can do the thing with the really small steps and Bruno doesn’t whinge on about being left behind. But for the time being at least, I’ll bash on being sociable….

hindscarth summit

lunch on hindscarth

And so, after bagging Hindscarth and Robinson we descended by High Snab Bank – the icy/slippery rocksteps providing some excitement and entertainment. I was planning a rocky landing, but managed, in the end to slither off in a fairly undignified scitterring and dithering semi-frantic series of lurches and scrapes.

Afterwards, we repaired to the pub at Braithwaite for a short period of reflection and recuperation and, maybe the odd sniftah.

descending high snab bank

This was a fab walk, today – thanks to Martin Banfield for the notion – and thanks also to Mick and Gayle and Graham for the company and the location of crucial footholds….

littledale shadowdog

TIts very possible that other versions of this walk will shortly be appearing on Mick and Gayle’s blog and Martin’s blog at

It may well be that the accounts will all be different this time.

You should of know this would appen. Innit?

We did 6 miles and 2500 feet of uphill. See map. We went clockwise. Bruno went clockwise and anti-clockwise and described various inner circles too….. we know a song about this..