Saturday 30 April 2011

Stanhope Denes and the Bit In Between – Reccy

pig family

Next week, I’m leading another Durham County Council walk, and today was the day to do the pre-disaster checks…er… the risk assessment pre-walk walk thing…

The Pigs are some I met on the way, incidentally. They were either very friendly or a bit hungry. They looked delicious, anyway.

stanhope old hall

So me and superdawg nicked off to Stanhope with a jam butty, a banana and a slab of cake and did this walk yet again.

As you can see from the pics, it was a very nice and sunny day and everything was quite green. Stanhope Dene was a delight and absolutely heaving with wild flowers – mainly ramsons, primroses, violets (or were they pansies?) and celendines and there was a woodpecker pecking a dead tree.

plodging pool

We went to the salmon pool where Bruno had a little plodge and I discovered a large number of empty budweiser bottles and lager tins scatterred about. I collected them up and stuffed them into my pack. Honestly,…. dhuhhh…… ghasp…

What I’m most upset about, of course, is the fact that I missed the party. Anyway, it’s all been recycled now.

stanhope reccy 016

Then we followed the route up over the moor and along the old railway line to Park Head, where we, that is, me, enjoyed a cuppa and a teasted toecake. I allowed Bruno to watch as a treat. They were very busy with cyclists in silly clothes asking for their water bottles to be filled up, so I didn;t talk to the boss about next week’s walk today. I’ll send an email, which he’s more likely to remember anyway. It was a bit frantic up there today.

crawleyside incline

We progressed down the Crawleyside incline and along Crawleyside Edge to Jollybody farm, where we met the Pig family. We all had a lovely grunt. Bruno had never met a pig before, so he was intrigued as to how he was going to eat a whole one at one go…

crawleyside edge 1 weardale from crawleyside

We sidled discreetly through a lambing field and into Shittlehope dene (no sniggerring, ta…) and this was all very green and flowery and pleasant once again.

I did come across a fallen tree which is across the path but doesn’t pose a serious blockage and can be ducked-under. I’ll report it anyway, with a photo and the Rights of Way peeps can decide whether or not the rangers would like some chain saw fun.

shittlehope dene

And that was that. The mobile has intermittent signals all the way around the route except in the depths of the Denes, there’s one exposed bit and a road crossing and there we have the risks…

9 Miles and 1000 feet – which, spookily enough is exactly what it was the last time I did this walk back in January.  Has details of the Dales Outdoor Weekend which coincides with this walk (Just so people can have a walk after looking at all those tents)

dvcrs walk 2

Friday 29 April 2011

Plodge on the Tyne

tyne plodge 012

Just by way of a little light relief, me and Brian had a little plodge down Ashgill and bits of the Tyne Gorge near Garrigill.

There was very little water in either Ash Gill or the South Tyne, so progress was relatively dry and fairly easy.

ash gill falls

Ash Gill is a favourite “gorge-walking” spot for naughty boys and girls having their characters built by being encouraged to jump into deep pools of cold water, so its fairly well known, but the Tyne Gorge can only be entered at certain spots – one being where it’s joined by Ash Gill – and it lies in a deep square-cut gorge and is, therefore, secluded and retains just a thin stripe of ancient greenwood.

tyne plodge 011

It’s bed is carboniferous limestone and the walls are sandstones and shales, the junction between the two being sharply defined. And, due to lack of human traffic, its got lots of wildlife and flora. Its a bloody fab place, in other words. If you go, do it in settled weather as the Tyne is  a spate river at this point and once you’re in the gorge, its often a long way to an exit if the stream decides to flood.

So, me and Brian plodged upstream for about a mile or so, paddling the pools and slipping on the greasy limestone. One pool was up to the naughty parts, but mainly, maximum depths were knee-level.

tyne plodge 019

There were dippers and ducks – including a female with a large brood of ten or so very tiny ducklings. they all poddled off out of the way and eventually pretended not to be there, and, if you didn’t actually know they were there, you wouldn’t have seen them.

tyne plodge 024

After doing the upstream bit, we retraced damply and did some downstream. Inevitably, the river is a bit more substantial downstream and it comes to pools which would have needed a more determined approach than we were willing to give it. Also the water was a bit cold…

ash gill

So we scrambled out and followed the paths back to Ash Gill Force where we’d left the car.

All good clean , watery fun. Sometimes its good just to have a poke a round and see whatever it is that can be seen. Its kid’s stuff really; people our age really shouldn’t be going paddling for an afternoon. Coming back with soggy  socks and undies…  it’s ridiculous…… arf….

Thursday 28 April 2011

You’re Two tents

the little tent

I got an email the other day which, basically, to cut to the chase, as they say all the time on Jeremy Kyle just before they do the all-important lie detector results, asked me if I would like to review a tent. I saud I could do two tents if they wanted.

And so, this morning, two tents arrived. We packed some butties and bananas and strong coffee and went off to Demesne Mill pickernicking place (aka Wolsingham Pools in Knipe Family Nomenclature) to put them up and have a look.

tent one two tents 004

Tent 1 is a two man Karrimor Ultralite Explorer and tent 2 is a Eurohike Primevera 3 – a three man tent.

The grandkids liked tried both briefly and liked the big one the best.

The big one fought bravely not to be erected, but persistence and a set of guidelines prevailed and it had a brief outing.

inside tent two

The backpacking tent will be used for “Cafe Akto” – a couple of temporary Munro-bagging sites just to the East of Loch Ossian and at Ben Alder Cottage – and, possibly on the site at Montrose. And the Primevera will be used at Tarfside. Its big enough to have a party inside, as it happens…  I’ll likely use it in Wales in the summer as a campsite tent. Plenty of room, see?

After this, I’ll do some honest reviews. I have some early thoughts, but its much twirly to say anything really, so I won’t.

Except to say that whilst I quite liked the Primevera, I can’t get it back in it’s bag.

Kids have gone off to see Fireman Sam just now, so I may take the opportunity to have a brief snooze…

My First Guided Walk

crook east walk 001

Firstly – If you visit Durham Cathedral , as I do, frequently, you have to be prepared to have a “moment”.  I was sitting there, minding my own business below the big round window, in terms of brain function - coasting along empty-headed,  when all of a sudden, the lass, who’d been sitting in front of me, innocently and unexpectedly, sank to her knees and began a long and silent prayer about something Very Important, whatever it was.

A choir began to assemble in the Bit In The Middle.

After a while – a long while, she re-assumed her seat and nudged the chap sitting next to her. He shrugged, sort of, puzzled a bit, maybe embarrassed; possibly, certainly resigned.

Back she sank to her knees and began again. Same thing.

Meanwhile, the Cathedral choir prepared. The choirmaster  gave instructions. they had a little practise – a few short snatches of heavenly stuff… if there were rafters to be reached here, they would have been reached; briefly anyway.

The lass prayed and sank low behind the pews. Something Important, without Doubt.

As she re-established herself on the bench, the choir launched into something amazing and soaring and unexpected. A gift, perhaps. A moment, certainly.

And here’s me with a bag full of new trousers and nothing much more in my head.

crook east walk 003

So anyway, we did the first walk in my new role as DVCRS walk leader. My steward was  Sheila King. And I had a punter. Just the one. He said he might come back for later walks.

We had a nice walk, though, in cold sunshine – Crook East – regular readers will know the route already. The rubbish has been tidied up.

That’s two results.

Thanks to Sheila for the stewarding. I’ll probably put some posters up, but, clearly, the only way is Up.


Sunday 24 April 2011

Thirl Moor and Some More Border Explorations

borderwalk 013


Today was the day for bagging Thirl Moor – a HuMP and Dewey on the edge of the Otterburn Ministry of defence Shooting Things range. They shoot very big things up here, and I mean very very big things that make loud bangs and make people disappear, so its wise to visit when they’re having a rest. Once such time is lambing time. Lambing time is now.

summit of thirl moor

So we loaded up the rucksack with cakes and snouts and drove off up Coquetdale to a layby at 509 metres and  about a kilometre away from the summit of Thirl Moor. It was easily bagged sans rucksack or big boots. The top has three ancient cairns and a trig point and some of those metal star things they use in the Cheviots to denote archeology. There’s lots of archeology up here, in fact, the layby is on the roman road from York to Perth, built in 70 to 80 AD without laybies, and latterly called Gamels Path – latterly being the 13th century. This was before tarmac, obviously.

We (me and the dawg) were about to nick off to another car park when a TGO Challenger turned up – Doug Cockburn. he was on a mission to support his wife’s bike ride and we had a long chat about the TGO and our respective cardiac problems. fascinating stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. TGO challengers seem to have a nack of turning up out of the blue.

towards yearning saddle

Eventually, we relocated to a car park by the bridge at Buckham’s Walls Burn – Buckham, apparently, being a whisky manufacturer sought after by local farmers, publicans and excisemen alike. can’t stand the stuff meself  (koff)

Anyway, there’s a very nice path beside the burn which reveals lots of very nice paddling a plodging pools and quite a lot of very nice camping spots.

ten mile hut

We made our way by a series of unplanned loops to the Ten Mile Hut or Yearning Saddle Refuge which sits on the Pennine Way. The idea was to follow the border a bit from here, instead of the Pennine Way. This is what we did and, I have to say, it was a lot nicer than the Pennine Way. The hills are green and dry and the views North into Scotland are extensive and beautiful. Its less than a kilometre from the PW at any one point, but the sense of remoteness is remarkable.

big view north

We dawdled. We sat about. There was nobody else but me and the dawg and the skylarks. We bagged Raeshaw Fell which has a linear earthwork and Scraesburgh Fell and up on to Blackhall Hill, which has two ancient cairns and a BIIIG green view.

After a bit, we joined Dere Street towards York (its 130 miles to Legio IX HQ, apparently) – and this reveals quite a bit of engineering as it cuts through the side of a hill on a 6 metre wide rake. The road surface is somewhere beneath lots of turf and some bog, but there’s a culvert at one point…

dere street/pw junction

After crossing the PW, we used a bridleway to get back to the start. We disturbed two feral goats with a kid. Bruno was in pack hunting mode, or would be if it hadn’t been for his lead.

The conclusion is – bag Thirl Moor in April and, if you want to walk the Border (like wot I did last August) – don’t follow the PW all the way, but take Dere Street then follow the very lovely and interesting edge to the Ten Mile Hut. This is much, much better than the PW.

And expect to meet TGO Challengers around every corner….

Altogether, we did ten and a half miles and 1500 feet of climbing.

Nice, sunny day, too… AND, I had me new trousers on…

border walk

Saturday 23 April 2011

Crook East Reccy

some crook contours

One of the things that Must Be Done prior to leading a Durham County Council walk is to reccy about a week before hand to see what’s what and which is who and where are my socks…  And so, it came to pass that me and the dawg did exactly this today on the “Crook Around The Compass – East” walk which may well take place on an evening next week.

a corner of crook

I say “may” take place because, as yet, I don’t think I’ve got a walk steward and a walk steward is essential for making sure that nobody dies and that all the participants are threatened with Council tax re-evaluations if they put complaints in.

The walk is just over 3 miles and it’s been advertised as taking an hour and a half. We did it in an hour and ten minutes, so on the actual thing (if there is an actual thing), we can dawdle a bit and look at the view and stuff, which is good.


One of the functions of the reccy is to check for hazards and Horrible Things. I found these :  Three road crossings, a bit of light teetering along the edge of a cropped field, some litter involving what appears to be Jehovas witnesses literature and some tipping of a large quantity of empty booze containers in shopping bags. One of the waymarks is falling to bits and another is missing, or , maybe has never been there.

waymarker seen better days

The litter/tipping and waymarks will be reported to the appropriate authorities quite shortly. Maybe somebody will tidy up the rubbish before the walk.

If nobody turns up, or if there are punters but no steward, I have a plan or strategy.

Last time I did this walk it was under deep snow. I mean deep, not some peebling minor bit of soft drifting – this was yer actual arctic powder right up to the Parts. I mean Right Up.

after before

3 miles and 500 feet of little brown contours.

Quite a nice,easy evening stroll, actually – Its on 27 April starting at 7:00 p.m. at Peases West Sports Centre between Crook and Billy Row. Be there or stay at home sulking.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Borders Backpacking, Moffat – Peebles Day 3

dryburgh peel tower
Like wot I said in the post before this one (can’t spell prevouis) – we had to get up early to make sure that Louise and Laura could catch their bus. We wanted to get to Peebles by three-ish.
We also straightened the route out a bit and reduced the number of uphill contours by a bit. Whether or not this made much difference in the end is debateable.
up the forest
Any road up, we set off around half seven, through lambing fields with new lambs and up along the Southern Upland Way to Blackhouse Tower, once belonging to Black Douglas, fifteenth century mosstrooper, reiver and provider of quality coals and fuels. Everybody had three jobs in those days.
Then we plunged upwards into the forestry, getting only slightly lost on the way and selecting a path which, according to the number of paths we came across, should have been “Path One”, but was more probably “Path Two”. At a certain point, or , rather, an uncertain point, this path did a right turn and hurtled off with tussocks uphill, popping out of the forest a little way West of Path 2 and a long way east of Path 1. All good clean fun so far.
drove road
Next was the heathery moor which brought us to Path 1 and it’s clear line – a rising traverse across the moors towards Birkscairn Hill. Moffpeeblers swam through the snow on this path last April, in fact. May are still having nightmares about it and several have not been seen since, other than by their community mental health workers.
As for us, we marched well behind Alan who was intent on nobody missing their bus.
descending to glen sax
At the top, we eschewed a bagging of Birkscairn Hill and plunged off through more deep heather into the yawning depths of the very lovely Glen Sax where a bloke was setting fire to forest brash and sitting about a lot in the warm sun.
We arrived in Peebles before three o’clock – in plenty of time for a coffee/ and/or a wee and for those who needed to catch a bus could catch a bus. I hope it turned up….
moffat to peebles the last hill
me and Judith and Alan went to Moffat in the Knipemobile to collect abandoned vehicles.
It was all over.
I must say that this was all very enjoyable (apart from some of the tussocks and the slug in my mug). We had a fine ridge to walk on, lovely, mainly sunny weather, excellent company, no wobblers, no unpleasant incidents leading to unplanned surgery and a lot more knowledge about where to camp.
On day 3, we did 12 miles and 2000 feet (according to me – other measurers will charge more , or less. ) 37 – or, maybe, 38 miles altogether.  Good stuff for those embarking on TGO challenges next month.
moffpeeb4 moffpeeb5

Borders backpacking, Moffat – Peebles Day 2

carrifran corrie

We managed to get off up Bodesbeck Law by Nine o’clock. This was a tough start to start with and the biggest climb of the day. Alan set the pace and drew us along, which was a useful role which eventually ensured success….

ettrick ridgewalking

Bodesbeck Law has a specially fine view of the enormous and particularly beautiful Carrifran corrie, so, if you’re up there, just wander down the hill a bit to get the best valley floor to hill-top view. Don’t forget to take your camera – dhuhhh….

andrewhinney hill

The ridge continues in a generally grassy, occasionally a bit soggy, but fairly easy-going manner over several more Donalds – Mid Rig, Bell Craig, Andrewhinney Hill (one of the bigger ones) Trowgrain Middle and Herman Law. Generally, though the climbs between hills aren’t really very big, although the contours do add up after a while. But the ridge is a Donald-bagger’s delight and the walking is easy.

louise and loch of the lowes

For those not particularly interested in bagging Donalds, its still a very enjoyable walk, with wide-open spaces and big views. We had a cracking walk – ending the ridge with a view of St Mary’s Loch ahead (we could see the pub) and a final squelch over Peniestone Hill to join a green track descending to Loch of the Lowes.

path to the loch

We were soon installed at a garden table outside Tibbie Shiels and liquids and butties were enjoyed in the hot (ish) sun.

After a suitable interval during which we allowed ourselves a brief period of celebration, we wandered off down by St Mary’s Loch to find a camping spot at it’s foot.

lochside path

A local abandoned her car by our campsite, swapping it for another one and announcing that she’d be back early in the morning to wake us up.

A long period of unconsciousness followed during which I was only vaguely aware of some snoring. We had to be up early the next morning so that Louise and Laura could catch their bus from Peebles to Edinburgh with onward connections to far away places with strange sounding names (Aberdeen, Inverness – you get the idea, I’m sure…)

camp ingitup

Today was 13 miles and 1800 feet of uphill. I expect that others have different numbers. Whatever it was, this was a cracking day’s walking and lots of fun.