Sunday 30 January 2011

Deepdale and The Butter Stone

butter stone and disappointed dog 
In view of the idiotic price of petrol, and the fact that I got up a bit late, I decided to have a local walk. Bruno mentioned that we’d never been to the Butter Stone and, drooling at the prospect of a rock fabricated entirely from Kerrygold, he was quite assertive about it.
So, we allowed enough petrol for the forty mile trip to Barnard Castle and back.
barnard castle
And so, after parking neatly on the main street, we wandered down to the River and used the gas pipe bridge to get across – and soon we were in the frosty-yet-somehow-still-muddy wildwood of Deepdale. The hills around had a general cover of new snow, which must have fallen last night and the breeze blowing over the snowfields was searching.
deepdale winter wood
The wild wind wanders around the old wintery wood
Wondering whether it would waken the weather
Winding it’s windy fingers round the old wald world.
Yes folks, it was perishing.
Woodland paths are always filthy at this time of year, and the path through Deepdale is a fine example of filthyness. It wanders up and down the sides, just like the wild wind, in fact.
But – I did notice that there was a lot more bird song in the woods today. Outside the woodland, in the pastures and meadows, there is no apparent life at all.
viaduct founds for piers
At one point it traverses a short tilted shelf  overlooking a vegetated crag where the path is slippery with slutch and where a slip would have dire consequences. Bruno was strictly on the lead here. If I fell, he was coming with me.
At another point, there are six stone plinths which are the foundations for the Bishop Auckland – Tebay railway which crossed the gorge at this point. The trackbed of the viaduct was about 50 metres above this point.
Later, the path escapes to the long Eastern Pennine slope where there are small crags with overhangs and dry bracken – ideal for scoffing a chicken and bacon butty out of the nithering breeze.
battle hill range
Even later, we wandered across the edge of Battle Hill firing range and over easy moors to the Butter Stone, disappointingly (for superdawg), not made of butter at all.
The Butter Stone, so local legend has it, used to be the place where  the villagers of Cotherstone, undergoing a self-imposed lockdown during the plague, would leave dairy products for trade. And these would be swapped for whatever they would have needed. I suspect that this would at least contain salt, since villages in those days would be pretty much self-sufficient.
I also suspect that the stone had a deeper significance and an older function, because its not very big, to be frank, and it would have had top have had to be well known in plague times. There was, in fact, a small votive offering in a little depression in the stone. A penny. Not much of an offering. I added a  5p. Again, not much, but a wish or a blessing (or a curse) escaped me at the time. I expect you’d have to circle it three times clockwise for a blessing and widdershins for a curse. Or something.
lartington hall parkland
We passed down through Lartington Hall parkland which at one time was a walled pleasure garden and at another, belonged to a 10th Century Danish aristocrat who gave it to the Bishop of Durham. It has some very fine old trees…
As I returned to Barnard Castle, it went dark.
We did 11 miles and about 1000 feet of uphill
The snatch of poetry , by the way, is an English translation of an old poem – I can’t remember whether its Old English or whether somebody just made it up and said it was Old English… .

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Inspiration - A J Brown’s Moorland Tramping

I discovered a copy of Arthur J Brown’s 1931 walkers guide to the “West Yorkshire” moors in the banqueting hall at Knipe Towers, “Moorland Tramping.”  By “West Yorkshire”, by the way, this chap means, of course, the West Riding of Yorkshire – the county which once stretched from Doncaster to The Calf, and includes a great lump of the Forest of Bowland, too. So, there’s plenty of moors.
Mr Brown says that as the roads are getting very busy and quite dangerous due to the spread of the motor car, that walkers, or “trampers” are going to have to find somewhere a bit safer to walk – and he’s come up with the suggestion that the moors hold lots of tracks that go from one place to another and which make ideal routes away from all that nasty traffic.  Hmmmm…. I think he’s got something here….
tramping 002
And so, after going on about equipment for a bit, in which he decries the use of boots as being too heavy, he suggests saving up and paying a cobbler the princely sum of £3 to have some proper shoes made. He also suggests supervising the cobbler whilst he spends long candle-lit nights in his cobbling shop cobbling your shoes.  These shoes can be expected to last for years and years although they may have to be bailed out occasionally. If its snowing or raining very heavily, then some chunky boots may be allowed.
On rucksacks, he recommends the lightest available. Inside the pack should be a roast beef sandwich and an apple and a waterproof cape. Other essential things such as your guidebook, map, compass, volume of poetry, pipe, tobacco, matches and railway tickets, can be stored in the pockets of your tweed jacket. He does, however, have some reservations about maps and compasses because people who use them are “forever stopping en route to consult their instruments”, although he does concede that a person of a scientific mind may well derive some enjoyment from studying maps and, perhaps, taking an observation every hour or so…. (all good clean fun this, eh?)
On “ultra lightweight”, Mr Brown suggests staying in a pub overnight. Your accommodation should be your very last economy. Far too much lumber is carried by the youth of today.
You should also consider using a stout staff or pole. This should be a straight piece of ash. This can be used to persuade cattle or to test the depth of snowdrifts.
Mr Brown then goes on to describe some routes, and in doing this, I am immediately reminded of Alf Wainwright and his Pennine Journey, for one of the first routes to appear is a “Yorkshire Rivers” walk from Malham (Aire) to High Force (Tees)  The south bank of the river Tees is firmly in Yorkshire, as every true Yorkshireman will attest. This route can then be extended to Hadrian’s Wall if a longer holiday is required. Justaminnit…..  this was 1931 – just half a decade before Alf had the same idea….  I wonder if Alf had a copy of “Moorland Tramping”? Was it, I wonder, available in the public library in Blackburn?
No matter.
The there’s the “Three Peaks in One Day” route. Hello?
Two routes are suggested.
The first starts at the Hill Inn at Chapel le Dale and the tramper is recommended to climb Whernside first, returning to the Inn for breakfast. A walk over Ingleborough to the Crown at Horton in Ribblesdale follows where light refreshments may be taken before bagging Penyghent and returning to Horton for more refreshments and the train home.
Route two starts at the Sun Inn in Dent at 07:00
then the following timetable applies:
Whernside Pikes 08:10
Whernside 09:00 to 09:30
Hill in Chapel le Dale 10:30 to 10:45
Ingleborough 12:00 to 12:15
Crown Inn Horton in Riblesdale 14:00 to 15:00 (lunch)
Hull Pot 15:45
Penyghent 16:50
Hesleden Gill Bridge 17:15
Litton 18:15 to 18:45
Kilnsey 21:15
Presumably a night at the hotel at Kilnsey follows.
This is quite a timetable.
Anyway, the point is that I’m Inspired to have a go at these routes – Malham to High Force in a pretty straight line – and the Three Peaks from Dent to Wharfedale (probably go to Grassington) – though, one day may seem like a punishment, but Dent – Horton and Horton – Grassington may be more like fun – that is to say, two days.
So, this year, at some point, I’ll be doing some Moorland Tramping.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Flan Fuelled Cross Fell from Kirkland

bruno and cross fell snow
I don’t know why I suddenly decided to climb Cross Fell. It must have been lurking in the undermind.
And so, armed with a cheese and onion flan (only Southerners and the genetically effeminate eat quiche), a fine banana a mince pie (we still  have lots) and some fair trade chocolate, the knipemobile screeched to a halt in a shower of flying pebbles in the turning circle of the unoccupied holiday cottage village of Kirkland, on the windy side of Cross Fell.
bridleway up
There’s a nice bridleway which goes to Garrigill from here and it is this that we slipped over and nearly cracked both wrists on, and, after being suitably punished by an attack from superdawg using his ice-crunching powers, we followed gingerly through a fierce but brief snowstorm towards Gregs Hut. Gregs Hut is named after a famous North-East pie retailer. The extra “G” was lost during the doomsday survey.
Historical fact #1
superdawg attacks naughty ice
There’s no need to go as far as Gregs Hut, though, so we didn’t. Instead, just after tiptoeing over some well frozen but still somehow wobbly bogs, we turned off over the moor to the scree and snow slope that guards the equally frigid summit area.
cross fell summit 
Any thoughts of having a bit of a tarry in the summit shelter soon faded as the nithering wind discovered the chinks in the seventeen layers of thermal liberty bodices and merino stuff as I sat and scoffed the flan.  Bruno helped, in view of the urgency of avoiding a slow but probably quite enjoyable death from hypothermia and we soon sloped off and slithered off down the Pennine Way to find bridleway number two, which took us pleasantly back down the hill.
south to dun fells
We had a brief stop in some brief sunshine in a little shelter on the edge of a view of Eden, but we were soon off again.
cross fell 010
the edge
Just before we got back to Kirkland, I did notice some ancient ploughing terraces, and, found later, that these were, in fact the “Hanging Walls of Mark Anthony” Bugger all to do with Mark, actually, and much more likely to be lychets – terraces on a hillside created by repeated ploughing.  These things are all over the Pennines, as it happens – some really good ones at Eggleston in Teesdale. They’re quite good for botany because the plants on the little scarps are different from those on the flats. Have a look next time you find rows of long, green platforms on a hillside.
Anyway, we did just under 9 miles and 2300 feet of up. 
Be a man, scoff some flan. Just a tip, there.
cross fell

Saturday 22 January 2011

I’ve Been Got by Facebook


Some time ago, I seem to have somehow acquired a Facebook account. I don’t recollect how this happened, but it did. And then, for a long time, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, on the tail of an atlantic storm, a message arrived in my email saying that Philip Werner wanted to be my friend.

Philip may well have bought me a beer in Montrose last may, which does seem like a friendly thing to do, so, I thought – why not….?

The I looked on facebook and did nothing else much for a couple of weeks.

Then, a bit later, I edited my profile a bit and there were all these messages about people who knew Philip Werner – some of whom I knew – and, well, one thing lead to another, and suddenly, I’ve asked all these people to be my friend (I’m normally fairly shy… no, really…) and people who knew the people whom I asked, and there were messages and pictures – a nice one from Ron Reynolds for instance… and I need to get away to make the tea…… 

A message to anybody who has sent me a message or commented on a picture – I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Apologies if you don’t get a reply straight away, or you get a reply which doesn’t male sense. it won’t make sense because its for somebody else.

Tea time now, anyway….

The picture is irrelevant by the way – I just liked it…


Thursday 20 January 2011

Susanna's Still Alive. Apparently

An element of Madness, takes me back to Wentcliffe Drive and unfinished/unstarted Chemistry homework.

This is The Cardiacs. The Kinks/Ray Davies originated the song and the version is on Youtube and well worth a listen. But I like this too, for it's psychoticness.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

The Dodd, Middle Rigg and a Bare Bum

have you had your prostate checked?
When the weather girl announces an anti-cyclone and sunny intervals, it’s always best to take advantage straight away with a nice walk, followed by an enormous tea of fine aberdeen angus steak mixed with gravy and dog biscuits followed by a long a snooze on the settee till its time for supper, according to Bruno.
bruno destroys a small glacier bruno spots a cairn
And so, we turned up on the Cumbria/Northumberland border just above West Allendale and sploshed off over the soggy moor in the general direction of The Dodd. The Dodd is a boggy Pennine just over 2000 feet high and, as the cloud base was around 1800 feet, it was a tad murky on the top. I had to navigate to find the summit cairn. This failed. So I switched on the yellow GPS thingy and put in the grid reference. This failed as well There was no cairn where it said the top was. So, instead I wandered off to the East in search of the bridleway that runs down Middle Rigg – and, found the summit cairn.  Bruno took the opportunity of each pause for navigation to eat the remaining patch of snow/ice. He and his kind may well be responsible for the retreat of arctic ice. Has anybody checked the pack for teeth marks, I wonder?
check the speed
Note the maximum speed on the screen, though. I can be quite quick when I want to be…. (maybe its been switched on in the car…dhuhh)
below the fog
And so we romped and sploshed just a bit down the lovely broad and grassy ridge till we popped out below the fog. It brightened up a bit and I found a rectangular enclosure with high walls, ideal for scoffing an egg and tomato butty in, out of the wind.
the enclosure/shelter
I was a bit puzzled by the enclosure, which I thought was an old sheepfold, except that sheepfolds are usually round, or have compartments which can be used to put the animals through some kind of process…. like shearing or washing. Its next to some old mineworkings, so I wondered if it was a temporary shelter for ponies, perhaps….
river west allen mine buildings
Anyway, we followed the ridge downhill with good views of West Allendale and, where the path meets the road, we turned back up another path which runs along the intake wall for a couple of miles. Eventually it arrives at Carrshield (where the cheeky gnome/elf can be found guarding a gateway. I believe he’s having his prostate checked…).
Carrshield has some extensive derelict mineworkings and the destruction around River West Allen is remarkable. And interesting. There’s some old mine buildings, about to be restored/converted into houses, which contain peculiar arches and what appears to be a large stone oven??  I’ve no idea to be honest.
A plod up the main road brought us back, through the hamlet of Coalcleugh (coal cluff), an interestingly cold and draughty place,  to the border and the car. We repaired to Brian’s at Nenthead for coffee and catfood. I had the coffee. I’m not sure Brian’s cat will be too happy about this…
We did 9 miles and, as we started at nearly 2000 feet , just over 1000 feet of ascent.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Smardale – A Foul Weather Alternative and a Dog Recovery

smardale gill viaduct
Martin Rye invited me to join him and James Boutler on a little foray in the Howgills. I was to meet them at Bowderdale Head and walk for a day and then come home.
The weather forecast said that there was a deep depression storming in from somewhere just left of Bermuda and that it was going to be warm, wet and windy. But we’ve had weather forecasts before haven’t we, children. And now we’ve stopped believing them.
river lune tebay
And so Saturday dawned warm, wet and windy. There was a severe weather warning for Bowderdale Head. I packed the dog and set off and then came home, ate toast, listened to radio Newcastle and dozed off. At some point a message arrived from Martin saying that it was far too wet and windy and the streams were all in spate. Presumably, they’d seen the sense in bailing out (hopefully, not literally…)
And so, I looked at maps and decided that as Sunday was going to be windy and sunny, that I’d pack the dog again and nick off to Wet Sleddale for the bagging of an errant Birkett that somehow has missed the desultory campaigning that should have bagged it long ago. It rained all the way to Shap.
winter burn
When I got to Wet Sleddale, it was very Wet. In fact, I had to drive through a deep flood to get to the car park by the reservoir. After using up some ageing and valuable brain cells working out what to do next, seeing as the car windows were being violently lashed by an unreasonable amount of water, I considered that walking from here would be foolish, particularly as the flood I’d just driven through might well become impassable for the knipemobile. So I buggerred off.
smardale limekilns
I buggerred off in the general direction of Kirby Stephen and, after scoffing my chicken butty and faux Co-OP chocolate “flavoured” kitkat I remembered Smardale. I had no map for Smardale and only a vague notion of where it was, but, by slaughtering a kitten and spreading it’s entrails on the car bonnet whilst simultaneously chanting an arcane and ancient mapping poem, I narrowed down the whereabouts of the place to a fifty square mile area. Luckily, I found it fairly quickly and , paring just by Smardale Hall, an apparently fortified manor, where there’s a car park, me and superdawg finally marched off down the disused Bishop Auckland – Tebay railway line.
notice board
In summer, this will be a fab place to spend the day with a book of wild flowers, a magnifying glass and a cheese and onion butty. Its now a nature reserve and, according to the notice boards is chocablock with wild flowers and vicious butterflies. Apparently, its an ancient woodland, long managed as coppice, but wooded since before 1600 AD.
We passed over the Smardalegill Viaduct – a fine piece of engineering and on past the 1861 lime kilns – once providing lime for steelworks in both Barrow in Furness and Darlington.
The walking (or in Bruno’s case, jumping around) was outrageously easy and we were soon overlooking the Smardale pachkorse bridge, which coast-to-coasters will know all about. Shortly after this two dogs barked at us from a field and one, a young black lab tried to come to greet us but couldn’t manage the fences.
The Nature reserve and walkable line ends close to the main road at Newbiggin on Lune. So we turned around as the rain began to get even heavier. Anybody intent on walking along this track (and I would recommend it for an easy day) – should note that there’s a cafe at Newbiggin on Lune. Just thought I’d mention that.
To vary the return, I thought I’d use a path I’d noticed on the opposite side of the gorge which ends at the viaduct. But first, we met the two dogs again. This was a bit disturbing. they hadn’t mov ed and the lab, not much more than a pup, was very friendly and let me read her tag – which had her name – Millie, and a phone number. I rang the number. It was out of use. I had visions of somebody being washed away along Scandale Beck, which was in full spate. All the small becks were in full spate, in fact, and it was only because I’d elected to wear wellies that I could get across dryshod.
smardalegill viaduct
Ramblers with bobble hats and proper boots will note, with dismay, that I was wearing wellies, I had no map (till I’d photographed one on an information board) – had no rucksack ner nowt. All I had was a wet dog, in fact.
Anyway, the phone number was obviously wrong, and Millie was now a bit nervous about letting me have another look at her tag. the other dog just barked at me and wouldn;t let me anywhere near. So I pressed on, keeping an eye out for corpses laiyng in fields or, indeed, rolling down Scandale Beck.  I did wonder why Smardale Gill contains Scandale Beck – but came to no conclusion.
After that, i entered the gorge on the nice green path I’d spotted and there was no phone signal
As I returned to the car park, there was an information board with local phone numbers on it. I noticed that the dialling code was different to the one on the tag. So, by using my immense brain power and a Barclays bank free pen, I deduced that the code on the tag was wrong, replaced it with the code from the notice board and rang the number.
Millie’s owner’s daughter answered and conformed that her dad had dogs fitting the description and that he was probably out looking for them. We had a bad connection, so very little more of any sense was relayed between us, so I decided to drive back to Newbiggin to see what could be done.
I parked the knipemobile and a  car drew up. It was Millie’s Dad’s daughter. Miilie’s dad’s daughter’s dad arrived a few minutes later and, just as we were about to embark on a search of Smardale Gill, so did Millie. She was acting a bit guilty, I thought. Maybe it was the sheep bones she’d been scoffing when I left her.
Anyway, all’s well that ends well, innit?
We did seven miles and not much ascent, as its on a railway track and trains don’t do hills. I may return here in the high summer with a wild flower book and a magnifying glass.  I’m not really supposed to eat cheese butties….

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Lillies, Lead and Shiny Things

squawky toy
Finally, the last reccy for the Durham County Council summer guided walks programme. This one starts at Baybridge Pickernick place, which sits squarely on the Northumberland side of the River Derwent and , yet, is just, but only just in County Durham. The river moved, see?
bolts burn bluebell walk
This is a short walk and, in view of the mild weather (Nine of yer Queen’s degrees Celsius), and the shortness of the occasion, I went lightweight. My pack weight was nil. Lets forget the 10kg of wobbly fat around the gut, the pack weight was nil. There was no pack.
And I was wearing the cruben fibre thong as a base layer. Not quite sure what to do with the guy ropes…..
derwent mine engine house
The walk follows great lumps of my Blanchland adopt-a-path route, but without the diversion up the hill to Townfield, and with the addition of a short excursion up Footpath 17 in Hunstanworth parish. This is a new, recently diverted/created path and, thus, has new stiles and waymarks. It goes through a spruce plantation, some of who’s trees are a bit friendly. I expect they’ll respond to a pair of secateurs just before the walk.
on the snow
So, I hear you ask…..  why the daft title….   wellllll… the lillies are bluebells which are abundant in may and June in the woods hereabouts. there’s loads of them, and the walk will be in June so that we can see them and go “ooooh - bluebells” They’re not very impressive just now, but they’re in all of the woodland pictures on this blogpost.
buckshott fell bridleway
The Lead is the Derwent Lead Mine complex, long defunct, but which still has culverts, spoil heaps, adits, shafts and the old steam-powered water pumping station.
The shiny things are the jewels to be found in the spoil heaps – mainly flourspar, but some other crystals, too.
squeaky toy squeaky toy
We did the walk in just under two and a half hours – but with no stops. We did have time for some fun in the snow, and some more fun with a squeaky toy which seems to have appeared out of a thawed snowdrift. Bruno, of course, is a connoisseur of squeaky toys. It got a bit annoying after a while.
All good stuff, though – a nice, short walk of just under five miles and 680 feet of uphill…
spot the bluebell
Today, I also got a nice letter from Penrith saying I owe the local judiciary sixty quid for driving at 51 mph at Brough on my way to Windermere the other day. Dhuhhh.. Still, on the bright side, they’ve given me three points, so I must have been driving fairly well or something….  I can spend the three points on a speed awareness course, apparently, instead. I’ll probably do that. I thought I was going faster than that…..
Incidentally, if anybody wants their squeaky toy back, send me an email and I’ll make the appropriate arrangements. Bruno is looking after it for the time being. Its in safe paws…
dvcrs walk 4