Sunday 29 August 2010

Great Shunner and Lovely Seat

We’ve been up Great Shunner Fell on a previous Yorkshire Dales 2000 foot tops walk (it was covered in snow) – but not Lovely Seat.
So, rather than just bag Lovely Seat, which can be done in half an hour from the top of Buttertubs Pass, I determined to make a bit of a walk out of it.
pennine way swaledale
Unfortunately for superdawg, he’s not allowed up Lovely Seat till May 2015 and, such is the short life of even the most super superdawg, I fear that he’d never make it. So I distracted him with a handful of biccies in his molecky ball He has to extract the biccies from inside the ball, which he does by dragging it around the floor fairly violently. This is usually fairly successful.
So me and the knipemobile were dogless as we parked just outside Thwaite in Upper Swaledale.
colliery spoil heap and lovely seat
Apart from a short section of path beside a tea-coloured beck, I followed the Pennine Way to the top of Shunner Fell.  This is typical PW, with lots of stone slabs. Its a gentle climb and, due to the perishing and energetic North-Westerly (a gift from Iceland for all the fish), a sweat was not broken into. In fact I had three layers on and me winter hat.
Shunner Fell and Lovely Seat have rather a lot of “beacons”.  On inspection, these turn out to be shepherds’ cairns. I doubt if this many beacons would have been required – although several hills in England do sport beacon sites, mainly dating from Spanish Armada and/or Naughty Napoleon times. But these aren’t beacons, they’re cairns. Somebody is avvin a larf.

swaledale from a beacon
Lunch in the cross-shelter was a shivery affair. I seem to have persuaded a coupe to climb Lovely Seat too, and they set off along the fence line to find the start of the Lovely Seat path at the top of Buttertubs Pass. I followed shortly afterwards and passed them just before the pass.
The Lovely Seat moors are, apparently, closed at the moment “at the land manager’s discretion”. That means grouse shooting. Its closed for four weeks excluding weekends.
lovely seat seat and ingleborough
Anyway, I soon made it to the top, realising about half way up that the reason I was climbing hills so easily today was that I’d forgotten to take my daily selection of various blockers and inhibitors…..  makes yer wonder….. 
The way from the top – which does have a seat on it by the way, although a better description would be “draughty” rather than “Lovely” – was to head towards a patch of light –coloured ground on the far horizon. This is the lead-mine wasteland above Gunnerside Gill, but a line directly heading towards this hits the bridleway from Thwaite spot on. This navigation strategy will be ineffective in hill fog and in these conditions, finding the bridleway exit through the intake wall could be an interesting navigational challenge. Heading North would probably get you home after a while…..
I followed this gill downhill
As it happens, I diverted to follow a deep gill with some small waterfalls and came at the bridleway from the West. Various lanes and bridleways lead back to Thwaite.
But what of Lovely Seat? Its an easy climb of about 500 feet from Buttertubs. The top is dry and grassy. North, South and East, though have miles and miles of mossy moors – the South and East being a grouse-shooting estate. Its a dog free zone.
Today’s walk was 9 miles and 2100 feet.
lovely seat

Saturday 28 August 2010

Peebles to Moffat the Counter-Attack

moffpeeb 012
We may well have been sent homewards tae think again from our ill-fated expedition up the Moffat and Manor hills last April.
And having been home for a while, and having thought again, and remembering that we vowed to have another crack at this, I am confirming the dates for Round 2.
This will begin on Saturday 25 September 2010 in the Bridge Inn in Peebles and continue to Moffat, or at least towards Moffat.
A return journey from Moffat to Peebles will be made beginning on Tuesday 28 September 2010 and this will veer sharply towards Tibbie Shiels Inn, not because they treated us so well last time (which they did) but purely because it is there.
moffpeeb 011
Invites by email went out some time ago and many replies received. One or two people’s intentions still remain mysterious, but there has been a certain amount of fresh email chatter and some snatched car park conversations which confirm that there’s likely to be a bunch at least.
Note that if your old man is a dustman, we’re still not sure if you’re coming.
I will be sending a soothing confirmation email out shortly with meeting times and places and a proposed timetable.
If this doesn’t turn into a farce, I might well organise it again in September 2011.

Thursday 26 August 2010


Yes folks, its yetanother Yorkshire Dales 2000 foot top. Not far to go now. Nearly finished. Bear with me….
Bruno parked the knipemobile near the tea van at Ribblehead.(Its not fair, I always drive…) I allowed myself to be exploited to the tune of one cup of coffee and one egg butty. They were both very nice.
whernside and ribblehead viaduct
Most people, I suspect, use the Three Peaks path to get themselves up Whernside. Its a big hill, though and sports a number of routes. This one is a slight but interesting version of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Y3P) route.
retrospect to ingleborough
Thus, we followed the railway line (very busy today) to Blea Tunnel and then the Y3P path till it does a sharp left towards the summit. Three Peakers need to get up and down Whernside as quickly as possible. Today, though, me and superdawg were allowed a bit more of a daunder. We continued towards Dentdale on a bridleway called The Craven Way. This uses a band of carb limestone to make progress through the bogs. The result is a path through white and grey boulders on a carpet of  bright green grass, shorn short by the sheep and very easy to walk on. In fact, with the forward views of the Howgill fells, its an absolute bloody delight.
craven way green trod
We sauntered along easily , downhill for a bit , to Duncan Syke, a ruin which at one time was considered as a site for an MBA bothy. Then it came time to make the climb up Whernside. This starts at the edge of some enclosures and a soggy path climbs fairly gently uphill. There is no need for a sweat to be broken into on this route.
I left the path after a bit to investigate a shelter with a fine view of Dentdale. Worra grand place for a snooze….
dentdale from the shelter
A thin path continues uphill from here, passing two cairns with equally fine views.
dentdale from the first cairn
pensive dog second cairn
After all these fine views, I turned back towards the original path, passing three small tarns on the way. This route would be great for practising your micro-navigation in the hillfog. If it’s foggy and you’ve got your compass, go this way. If it all goes pear –shaped (and it probably will), resort to the simple expedient of walking uphill till you get to the top. Whatever you do, don’t panic and ring your Dad.  Or the police. Or anybody. go uphill till there’s no more uphill to go up. Its an advanced navigation technique, so don’t tell anybody about it. Note: It doesn’t work very well in descent.
whernside tarn
I joined the Y3P path again and was soon sitting behind the wall on the summit with my cheese and tomato butty and banana and some coffee. The summit clientele for today seemed to consists substantially of families or Dads and their kids. This exactly is how it should be. Having a whinge about the crowds on top of one of these hills during the summer hols is just silliness. I think its great. As long as everybody enjoys themselves anyway.
whernside summit ridge
Sooo – after a bit, we slouched off for the trying descent towards the Hill Inn. The path is being repaired just now, but the old path works are awkward and a serious trip hazard. You wouldn’t want to trip up on this path. You’d lose your face…. This would be a disadvantage when ordering a foaming pint of Scruttocks Old Dirigible at the pub at the end, and your dog wouldn’t recognise you either and might bite your leg. This would just rub it in. So be careful.
At the bottom, I followed two lasses who seemed to know where they were going and we all ended up back at the Ribblehead tea van. Once again I succumbed to the temptation of a nice hot cuppa and some cake.
All hail to the Tea Van
ingleborough from bruntscales
We did 10 miles and 1700 feet of uphill. I’d recommend this route if you’re just out to bag Whernside. The edge with the cairns has very cracking views indeed.
The finishing end is in sight…….

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Gaping Gill and Shittlehope Pics from Brian’s Camera


Brian sent these through just now. These are just a selection.

gaping gill 009

Charlie, Brian and Colin waiting to be winched down

gaping gill addn 1

Me in a a hole, somewhere near Sand Cavern

gaping gill addn 3

Returned to the surface, damper and muddier than before.

shittlehope addn 1

Testing the deep pool for depth. Anything to be kept dry is in the rucksack. The water is not very warm.

shittlehope addn 2 

Attempt abandoned. Thats enough of that….

We’ll have no ribaldry about the trollies. They were a bit damp at this point.


Tuesday 24 August 2010

Exploring the Shittlehope

looking out of lynnkirk cave
Brian’s camera had to be returned, so we met at Stanhope and wandered off to see if we could find a cave in the Shittlehope Burn.
I’m not going to keep repeating the word “Shittlehope”. That sort of humour is just so schoolboy.
lynn kirk
Anyway, Shittlehope Burn (is nothing to do with eating curries….  damn….)  - is found just to the left, or East of Stanhope. Its a little, wooded gill of exactly the kind of thing you find in the Pennines – full of ash trees and stuff. There’s a good, if muddy path.
I wasn’t quite sure whereabouts in Shittlehope (snigger..) the caves were, so, at the point where the path started to climb, we stuck to paddling up the beck.
That would be Shittlehope Beck, I shouldn’t wonder.
The cave is Lynnkirk Cave, in Shittlehope Burn. I guess that the limestone gorge is Lynn Kirk but the gill or dene is the other thing. (You know the word I mean. The S word….)
lynn kirk - the pool
Then we came to an impasse. In a deep part of the gorge, where Shittlehope’s limestone walls started to close in, we came across a deep pool with a couple of tree trunks in it. It was too deep for the wellies. I estimated that I could wade through to the little waterfall at the other end with water at round about belly-button depth. An alternative was a chossy , mossy climb up a chimney which looked about Diff or V-Diff, but risky in wellies/without a rope.
So I re-arranged my dress-code, stored anything I wanted to keep dry and paddled in. It soon became clear that the water was much deeper than I’d guessed and the contents of the rucksack were likely to get very wet. So I abandoned.
lynn kirk from the cave entrance lynnkirk cave
down the gorge
We scrambled up a loose and earthy bank and found the path and easily bypassed the pool.
A short scramble down the very narrow gorge brought me to a large cave entrance with a substantial stream resurgence. I had a good old plodge and crawl around inside the passages.
stream passage
This was Lynnkirk cave. Its a Grade 1 (easy) about 360 feet long. Some parts were too low for a wanderer with no caving helmet on.
back to stanhope excuse me, pennine way?
Later, we had a short conversation with some bullocks (or were they stirks?) and repaired to the Bonny Moor Hen for a pint.
On the way – I met Peter Shepherd on a raid to the southern softlands. TGO Challengers are always popping up at unexpected moments. He gave me a bit of TGO gossip and news of another participant in our forthcoming Peebles to Moffat (and back) walk.
We walked about 2 miles altogether today – plus a bit of a paddle and a cave.
Happy birthday Brian. (There may be further pics of this and the Gaping Gill trip from Brian’s camera later)

Monday 23 August 2010

Overground, Underground, Wombling Weekend

in ascending order
Not actually a weekend as it didn’t start till Sunday evening.
Late Sunday afternoon, I steered the knipemobile over Stainmore, down by Pendragon Castle, past the Wensleydale Cheese factory and to Clapham with a brief stop for pie and chips in Ingleton. (And very nice they were too – from the chipper there….)
After a few light bevvies in the New Inn (which is very old, as it happens) I was joined by Brian and Charlie, Colin from the Hare and Hounds and Ellis, a Weardale bobby. We had a bit of a session.
Later – much later, we put tents up exactly where we shouldn’t and drifted off to bye byes for a while. We determined to rise and shine at about 6:30 a.m. for the walk up to Gaping Gill.
walking up to gg
At 7:00 a.m. we heard the distinct raised voice of the local National park toilet attendant berating a family in a camper van and offering to fine them £50. He wasn’t personally all that bothered, but the camping ban was to stop things like this (I guess he was indicating our tents at this point) and said that this (indicating the tents) was ridiculous.
Brian soothed him using a bit of diplomacy but the toilet man said he was going to report us “to Bradford”. I think he meant Bradford Pothole Club who, if he did mention it to them, were not likely to be very interested.
trow gill
It was an ill wind, though (it got us up) and we were soon embarked on the short walk up to Gaping Gill.
At this time of year, Craven Pothole Club organise a winch meet at Gaping Gill, which allows easy access down the 350 foot shaft into the Gaping Gill cave system. Its a spectacular ride both down and up and the only down side to it are the queues that can build-up at the bottom and the top.
gaping gill 006
But today was relatively quiet and we were soon individually hurtling down through semi-darkness and a slight waterfall to arrive smoothly on the cobbles and stones at the bottom of this mighty hole.
gaping gill
entrance shaft
We gathered and set off toward Sand Cavern, though most of the party dropped out and made their way back. Me and Brian crawled around for a while and gave ourselves about half an hour as Ellis had to be back in Durham for his shift by tea time, and there was the potential for a long wait in the queue to get back out.
inside gg
So, we didn’t get much of an explore. I think we were underground for a couple of hours or so, but there was no wait and we were soon sploshing through the rain back to Clapham.
preparing to ascend
The three peeps we’d lost had left for Co Durham, so it was just me and Brian who later sat in Bernie’s cafe in Ingleton with pots of tea and a bowl of chips.
The walk above ground was about 5 miles. The underground but was much, much less.
And it was Brian’s birthday and 50 years since his first trip down Gaping Gill.
There may be more pics from Brian later (But he’s left his camera in my car) I await a response from Bradford Pothole Club. Our excuse is, I’m afraid, that we were, in fact, very very drunk.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Walking the English-Scottish Border – The Route(s) and Other Stuff

Now that its been a few days since I finished the walk along the Border, I thought I would put down some thoughts which may be useful for anybody else who is considering this madness  undertaking.
There is no set route. It’s not an official Long Distance Walk (although it has a lot of potential). But there is, of course, the Border itself. This is a definite line which runs from the Solway Firth, along the River Sark, East-West on an earth bank called the Scots Dyke, along the River Liddel and the Kershope Burn, through the Cheviot Hills then through the arable countryside of North Northumberland and the Borders, and , along the River Tweed, finally turning North a few kilometres east of Berwick to the sea.
As there’s no set route, people are free to do whatever they desire. I think its best that this remains the case.
Day 1 Carlisle to Longtown
sands centre undrpass
I started at Carlisle. The nearest town to the start of the West-East border is Gretna. Starting here would provide the advantage of an opportunity for a quick marriage before setting off. Other than that, it seems that there would be much road walking to start with. This may not be entirely true. (See Day 2) I would need to explore this further.
But why did I start at Carlisle?
1) Its very easy to get to from Chez Knipe. It has a railway station strategically placed on the West Coast main line.
2) the Cumbria coastal path leads easily alongside the River Eden to the Solway, where the Border is.
The path by the Eden is well signposted and waymarked and the stiles and footbridges are all in good order. I probably left the riverside path a bit early but the eastward route from Rockcliffe was on quiet lanes and I soon joined a path on the a bit of disused railway line, which was very nice. More roadwalking followed to Arthuret and more field paths to Longtown.
Longtown has pubs, shops, cafes and beds and there are campsites on either side of the Border within a couple of miles. Its a good place to stop.
I was happy with my route for day 1
Day 2 Longtown to Newcastleton
walking in liddesdale
I messed up the navigation at the start of this. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but lead to a cul-de-sac as far as off-road walking was concerned. A lot of road walking followed, with bits of bridleway on the English side.
I noted, at the Border crossing near Canonbie that the Scots Dyke has a footpath sign pointing to it. If there’s a pathg along the Scots Dyke, this would be very useful for a Gretna start.
But, from Longtown, the English side of the Border may offer footpaths for use, although most of these go North-South which is less than useful for an West-East route.
The Waverley line – to old railway route from Carlisle to Edinburgh is not open for walking on , at least the parts I saw weren’t feasible. This is a pity. It goes to Newcastleton….
The English side also offers the alternative of following the Border more closely along Kershope Burn. this is all forest roads and would miss Newcastleton and heads directly for Kielder. This might take an extra day for mortals like wot I am.
Newcastleton has beds, pubs, hotels and expensive but friendly camping. It may be possible to camp for free alongside the riverside which is short green grass and a local walk.
Day 3 Newcastleton to Kielder
This was almost all forest. There’s nothing much to be done about this if you want to go to Kielder, although there are several options through the forest. Forestry Commission signage is aimed at cyclists who know the place already, it would seem. I found the signage confusing. the Border route appears to be only signposted in one direction and is often counter-intuitive.
Despite the map, there is no path over Larriston Fell. If you go this way, you are warned, strongly, that it is very very rough going indeed. It seems to me that any clear hilltops surrounded by commercial forest are a sea of tussock, lank heather and bog. I suspect its because there are no sheep to trim the herbage. There’s a new mountain bike track which goes to Kielder from Bloodybush. This squiggles about a bit, but its much easier than Larriston.
Day 4 Kielder to Byrness
kielder forest on the pw
There seems to be three options:
1) I followed the bridleway from East Kielder to Catcleugh. This was an absolute nightmare. Its almost as rough as Larriston, but goes on much, much further. Some of the bridleway is impassable. It is, however, the shortest route to Byrness, if thats where you want to go.
2) The toll road to the A68 near Byrness followed by a quick hop up the Pennine Way. Probably the easiest. Its almost all hard surface forestry road, though.
3) The border ridge to Carter Bar and beyond.
This is rough stuff. It is the purest route, sticking close to the Border. It visits the Kielder Stone which was a meeting point of the Marcher authorities for the dispensation of local justice, so its a significant point.
It also visits the tea van on the Border at Carter bar.
You can drop down to Byrness either before or after Carter Bar.
Its a fine route, but its a very long way to Byrness and an extra half day might well be needed.
It would be possible, of course, just to continue along the Border and bypass Byrness altogether. Tough guys would do this.
Day 5 PW from Byrness
cheviot hills
Follows the Pennine Way. Much easier walking from Byrness onwards. Forest view have a van/bus which will pick you up from Trow for a small consideration, thus avoiding the need to wild camp. There’s also accomodation well off route at Barrowburn.
An alternative would be to drop down along one of the cross-border roads – Dere Street goes close to Jedburgh and The Street does similar stuff. This might be more useful for finding a camping spot or for very bad weather.
Day 6 Beaumont valley to Town Yetholm
 foul weather on border fence
Should have continued following the Pennine Way, but I dropped down the Beaumont valley to Town Yetholm.
Its also possible to drop down into the Colledge valley.
Town Yetholm has beds, a campsite, a hotel and a good shop. Kirk Yetholm has it’s hotel. Informal camping is possible beside the river in between the two.
Day 7 Town Yetholm to Twizel
berwickshire countryside
The path from Town Yetholm to Hoselaw is open and easy to follow. After that there are few paths on the Scottish side of the Border and, after some initial stretches of walking on very quiet lanes, there are mainly good paths on the English side, with a few notable exceptions where there are some serious issues about blockages.
Cornhill on Tweed has a small shop and an hotel, but Coldstream is much bigger and has a supermarket, many hotels, pubs, B&Bs and girls in tight shorts……
The signed path to Norham/Berwick (10 and 20 miles respectively) appears not to be a continuous path, the railway bridge over the River Till being dubious as a  crossing at the moment. CI’ve asked Northumbria CC about this)

Late edit: I just discovered that you can cross the disused railway bridge over the River Till by a permissive path. This misses out the junction of the Tweed and the Till and a bit of riverside path but avaoids a couple of miles of road walking beside a busy A road. So it's better, see?
Day 8 Along the Tweed to Berwick
A1 bridge ahead
Riverside paths by the Tweed are generally fairly good and give a fine route into Berwick. The Scottish side of the river appears not to have a continuous route. I don;t think there’s a sensible alternative to this.
There are shops, pubs and beds at Norham and Horncliffe and a campsite off route a bit South of Horncliffe.
The locals are specially friendly.

And that’s it. I guess that, depending on the route, you’d be looking at 7 to 10 days for this jaunt. There are no rules, remember (that’s a rule I just made) but you have to stay as close to the Border as your concience demands.
If,of course, you happened to be walking around the coast/perimeter of England (?and Wales) – you really ought to stay on the English side of the line, eh?
I’m off to do something different now….