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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….


Laura said...

Oh boy - that looks a trifle damp!

The Odyssee said...

Well done to you Mike for chasing the owners. I do remember this area when i did the C2C. I thought it was a lovely place then but i have never been back.

Judith said...

Mike, did you find out how the dogs had become separated from their human? Well done on a successful rescue and some nifty navigation!

Mike Knipe said...

Have you read Martin Rye's and Backpackingbogos account of the weekend, Laura..? Call this wet!?
Alan - I was worried that an owner had come a cropper somewhere which is why I got involved, and, having lost dogs myself in the past, I can understaand how worrying it can be.
Judith - I understand that the older dog had taken the younger one off for a walk, having been cooped up for a couple of days by the storm, which was a pretty beefy one in these parts. The owner was in the process of refencing his garden, so there'd been an opportunity. He'd been searching for them all day and had passed by their location at least once but hadn;t seen them. But its a big field with a hill in it....

QDanT said...

Hi Mike, have you taken the Nitrous oxide kit off the Knipemobile and stopped wearing your Banzai silk headband or was it the rain that slow your driving ?
cheers Danny

Mike Knipe said...

Dan - I'm going to get into serious bother on the A66 one day. The bit from the top of the hill down into Co Durham is a racetrack with some outrageous speeding going on. I can't resist trying to keep up. Never seen a police car on it yet.
There were lorries lying in the ditches along the road Sunday morning, though and 60 mph was quick enough.... 50 mph speed limit on the M6.
Otherwise, I'm usually fairly good at speed limits, in towns and stuff - where I got caught was a 40mph zone at the end of a dual carriageway in open countryside, on a bank holiday morning with no traffic, except me and the dawg.
I can usually tell when to slow down when the dog screams, by the way...

Meanqueen said...

Smashing scenery up your end, I really must come and have a look. Glad you sorted the dogs out. I found a wandering dog once, while on a group walk, and rang the number on the collar. The owner wasn't too bothered, he said, oh, it's alright, he often goes for a walk by himself. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again though, I couldn't leave a dog who appears to be lost.

Mike Knipe said...

Thats what I think too, Llona - can't leave a stray dog wandering about, although some farm dogs do this and I was once joined by a collie in Scotland for about three miles before it finally went home.
I'm sure you'd enjoy the landscape up here - its quite fab, I must say... you must wander up here. Wait till it stops raining, though..!

Tony Bennett said...

i do like that picture of the bath, well more the reflection. with a nice frame you could get that in the tate modern. i was round morrycamby bay on sunday - i could tell there'd been a bit of rain on that side of the country.

Mike Knipe said...

Wet, Tony. Very wet. I wonder if I could crop around the bath/reflections a bit and produce something arty farty...?

peewiglet said...

Great stuff on the dog recovery front! Lucky wee monsters. Piglet's packing a small semi-masticated gravy bone into an envelope for you as I type, as a reward.

Word = pantsi

Mike Knipe said...

Hmmm, loverly, Shirl, and not pantsi at all.... I might let Bruno have it, though, on reflection.... prolly too much salt or cholesterol or something for me..