Tuesday 31 May 2011

Sitting on Lord Hereford's Knob

The next jaunt is a backpack from Crickhowell to Hay-on-Wye, the last top, of course, being Lord Hereford's Knob.
Half Man Half Biscuit said much about this enlargement - or, shall we say, eminence?  Click the linkshapethingy

Sunday 29 May 2011

Superdawg Assists with Walk Reccy

dcc baybridge reccy 001

In around a week, I have another Durham County Council guided walk and, as regular readers, and a few who are still a bit constipated will remember, that I have to walk the route to see if there are any Elf and Safety Issues.

not a bluebell (?bugle)

As its been blowing a hoolie for a week or two now, and the next walk goes through woodland, there’s always a chance of a fallen tree, so, following Instructions, this afternoon, me and superdawg went and had a look.

This is a very familiar route, being part of my adopt-a-path thingy and also having had an initial reccy back in January.

dcc baybridge reccy 009

We start at Baybridge, march manfully and bounce dogfully through Deborah Wood (thats a forest, not an old school pal), up over the moor and back through some more woodland – a bit under five miles.

The point of the walk is the bluebells and the shiny things.


I was worried about the bluebells because a few weeks ago there weren’t any – but now, there’s loads – AND – there’s both British ones which are floppy and Spanish ones that are (koff) erect. Prolly something to do with the iodine in all that seafood.

Anyway, we had a look for shiny things – mainly by poking around in spoil heaps and we found a few bits of calcite, some flourspar and a few bits of coal.

not so blue bells

We also found a dead sheep and Bruno poked his head in a hole and caused a wabbit to squeak. This puzzled him for a while but put him into hunting mode for the rest of the walk.

permping station

The walk’s a goodun. Its on Friday 3rd June and leaves Baybridge pickernick place at 1:30 pm.

There’s no fallen trees and the only safety issues are the roads.

Incidentally, I met five people in Deborah Wood. I’ve never seen anybody in there before. Smashing.

dvcrs walk 4

Storm Damage Tarfside – What I did etc.. Part 3

in the masons arms
After a substantial breakfast in Braemar, I had a quick bag of Braemar’s very own hill – Creag Choinnich (Ken’s Crag). This is very steep and has a cracking view down Glen Shee and up and down Deeside (?Glen Dee, Deedale…??)
This was followed by a slow drive to Tarfside involving sitting in a layby drinking coffee and reading the paper and watching my only twenty quid note disappear off towards Inverurie at 55mph from the top of the Strachan – Fettercairn road. This is a very fine, if expensive view. Its impossible to catch a banknote travelling that fast. Just a tip, there.
I was soon at Tarfside where I had elected to be a gofer for the girls running St Drostan’s hostel. My immediate duties were to collect supplies from the Mace store in Edzell and to deliver a casualty to the health centre there too. I went to Edzell several times, in fact.
It was roughly at this time that the wind picked up. Then it picked up a bit more, followed by a full gale, then something a bit stronger. Trees started to loose bits and one such at St Drostan’s got tangled up with the power lines and cut the electricity off for the next two days. This coincided with people arriving from Shielin of Mark and Ballater – most of whom were bordering on exhaustion, one or two may have had early exposure symptoms and all of whom were without exception, soaked especially the lass who had been blown into the burn. It was a heady mix of sound judgement, helping each other and sheer luck that nobody perished that day.
tarfside field 2008
The hostel holds twelve people. Tonight there were fifty six.  There was no power, so the food was cooked by The Retreat, just down the road.  It was noticeable that the people making the most significant contribution (instead of just whingeing, which a couple of people managed to do) were Over The Hill club members. Dave Skipp, Alvar and Ann Thorn and Pauline and Bernie Marshall were prominent, although maybe there was a bit of over-staffing in the kitchen. I got out of the way till washing-up time.
A few camped on the village field, including me. I did try to put up the Primevera tent whilst  coincidentally demonstrating to a bunch of Bronze DofE campers how to put up a tent in a roaring gale, but it was a losing battle with the wind and I just ended up over-bending a joint on one of the poles. It had been an unequal battle. There was much flapping.  I think it' might be OK, after inspecting it just now. Its not a tent for a hurricane, though. The little Karrimor tent was put up fairly easily in the teeth of the storm and, once up, didn’t budge or leak, so I was both relieved and happy about that. It was double pegged, mind.
storm damage
A trip up the glen to see if anybody was struggling badly revealed no strugglers apart from the local martins and swifts who were all sitting in the road along with chaffinches and robins and all unable to fly in the storm. The trees were losing large chunks at this point, too.
The next night was less frantic, but still no power. One individual complained about the “chaos” at St Drostans – dhuhh…..   It was, in fact, impossible to cook much more than bacon rolls and tea at the hostel and again, everybody who wanted feeding got fed by the staff at The Retreat who came and took orders.
denis the card maker stephan (same routine as last year miss sophie?)
The Mason’s Arms also opened that night and a jolly night of moderate boozing took place. For me and a German lad called “Stefan”, this ended with a rehearsal of badly remembered sections from a Freddie Frinton sketch involving a butler, Miss Sophie and four invisible guests.  This is, apparently, very popular at New Year in the Fatherland.
On the third day, I bagged Cat Law, a Marilyn at the foot of Glen Prosen. I forgot the camera. It rained anyway.
And then, Montrose. I camped as usual behind the Glaxo factory and joined in the jollities at The Park.
the card by denis
It was Roger Smith’s final TGO Challenge as co-ordinator/manager/supervisor/favourite Uncle. Denis Pigeon had produced a card, Humphrey had organised a fine ornament for presentation, and cards had been carried across Scotland from each start point.
two of the tgo trio (singers) - jean and jj
Jean had written a song to the tune of Westering Home “Eastering Home” and she, JJ and Croydon did a rendition. It was a very fine send-off. Andy Howell says more and betterer about it on his blog
bob on king's seat
I gave Bob Tucker a lift home to Consett as he’d finished early due to the storms and on the way, we visited the Sidlaw Hills for the bagging of the diminutive, heathery but nevertheless lovely King’s seat. This has some fine, wild woodland at it’s foot and a cracking view of the Tay estuary.
The I went home for fish and chips and told my mum everything that had happened.
The end.

Gathering in Braemar – What I did on my hols 2

ben alder

Friday was the day for walking out. It had snowed on the hills during the night and rained all night at low level. The streams were all going a bit mad and the hilltops were quite white. Every twenty minutes or so the weather turned from sun to rain and , after twenty minutes,  to sun again.

the new road

I squished along the soggy path South from Ben Alder cottage and, after about a mile, came to a construction site for a road heading, it would seem, for the timber which stands on the South side of the bay, a few hundred metres from the bothy.

I expect that this is very bad news for the quality of the experience at the bothy. Soon, it won’t be remote and will be easily accessible by bike. We could be talking Galloway experiences here…  Maybe the relative remoteness of the start of the forestry road (assuming its not really for wind turbines) will protect the place a bit. It wil be a shame, though. The main attraction of the place is the fact that it takes an along time and some effort to get there.

open space

Nevertheless, I followed the new road, turning off after a mile or so for a wide gap in the hills, beyond which was Rannoch station. There seemed to be an old route through here. There were small mossy cairns on boulders, an occasional path and hints of footpath engineering. The countryside here is full of wide open space. Agoraphobics should avoid, unless they attend as part of their therapy.  Its a big country just here.

more space than you can shake a ktten at

Eventually I emerged at Rannoch station where the knipemobile was still waiting (quite a good omen, I thought) and, after a raid on the shop at Kinloch Rannoch for beer and pies and a paper, I was soon installed in the Primevera tent on the nearby forestry commission campsite for a comfy night of light boozing, reading the paper and entertaining fellow campers to snoring exhibitions.

mount blair from duchray hill

Saturday, I was off to Braemar encountering various shambling figures  with big rucksacks on the Pitlochry – Kirkmichael road. I had brief chats with Lou and Phyllis (who had been advised by a chiropodist not to do any walking for a while!) and Roy and a bunch of others. Speeding traffic almost despatched one or two of the Challengers as they chatted to me through the car window. Everybody seemed to be on Foul weather routes.

north from duchray hill

On the way up Glenshee, I had a brief affair with Duchray Hill, a 702 metre heathery lump which took a couple of hours. It was on the summit that the weather resumed it’s assault. The view on top was hazy and the wind and hail were perishing, so I didn’t/couldn’t hang about. I expect its quite a nice hill, really….?

Next up was Braemar. I parked the knipemobile prettily, extracted the backpack and, after a quick pint at the Fife with TGO Challengers   Miss Sophie, Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr Pomeroy and Mr Winterbottom, I wandered into the campsite looking like a TGO Challenger. This got me a pitch. It was fortunate that the campsite at Kinloch rannoch has no showers as this added to the effect. (I’m not exactly sure what I was getting for my money at that site,though, apart from the manicured grass…?)

braemar toon

A pleasant evening of carousing and listening to Bingo Wings was spent at the Moorfield and a wet night in the tent followed. (This refers mainly to precipitation rather than incontinence)

Apparently there was some serious snoring on the campsite that night. I didn’t hear anything, though….

Saturday 28 May 2011

Up The Uisge or What I did on my holidays 1

cafe akto up the uisge
I seem to be back. It was very windy in Scotland. There was a storm and I broke one of the tents, but more of that later. In the meantime, this is part one of my not-the-TGO-Challenge doingses in Scotland over the last two weeks.
Part One is the bit where I opened Cafe Akto on a small and green and pleasant camping spot by the gushing waters of the Uisge Labhair, just a bit to the right of Loch Ossian. This is on a TGO Challenge trade route which heads, generally, although not exclusively for Dalwhinnie. Challengers were invited to drop in for tea. A few did. Others just shouted abuse form the path and yet others stumbled past dejectedly and , often, quite damply. As for me, I was either cosy inside my den or tramping the hills.
loch ossian damply
I left knipetowers on Monday, having the drawbridge pulled up behind me and instructing the Nurse not to let in anybody called Long Lankin and to look after the baby and, secure in the knowledge that everything would be alright, I went for a hurtle up the A68, stopping only briefly to bag the little HuMP  Hartside Hill , just next to Dere Street near Soutra. It were right damp.
the train
Later – much later, I arrived at Rannoch station in time for the train to Corrour. Again, dampness prevailed.
I wandered damply past the SYHA and up to the Uisge where , in driving dampness, I took the opportunity to put up the karrimor Ultralite bluetent and brew some tea.
beinn eibhinn
Later, it was morning again and I moved camp to where I should have been in the first place to the junction of the Allt Glas Choire and the Uisge Labhair and, marvelling at the sudden appearance of warm sunshine, set off hopefully up the hill to bag Meall Glas Choire and it’s dad Beinn Eibhinn. This went well.
clag descending
I progressed on to Aonach Beag on a lovely curving ridge where I noticed that hills to the West had recently disappeared. Mist began to curl around the top of the hills just passed. I batterred on to Geal Charn (strangely spelled Gael Charn on the map…?) where everything went a bit blank. Time to navigate.
I used the compass to get across a blank felltop and down to a wide bealach, buit resorted to GPS to find the top of Sgorr Uitharn (cudder just walked uphill, I suppose) and a rather intricate route to the top of the Bealach Dubh where there’s a very well made path.
morkels ate my jelly babies
Wednesday was wet, so I stayed in. Various people called. Unfortunately, i can only remember the names of Dave Wood and Heindrich who was accompanied by a coffee house waitress from Vienna. Hendrich took the piss out of my tent and the lass ate most of my jelly babies. Others just passed by.
camp at alder bay
On Thursday, I moved to Ben Alder cottage and , in another brief and sudden bit of sunshine, bagged Beinn Bheoil and fell off some scree, putting a slash (actually a long and impressive, but superficial scratch) across my shin. I did some swearing.
beinn bheoil
Somebody had left a bottle of plonk in the bothy, so I supped it with my Real turmat.
Despite the fact that it rained and rained all night, I was, in fact, having fun.
No, really.
All except one of my target Munros had fallen to the knipe ticking pencil. It was time to go to Braemar.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Here Today… There will now be a brief hiatus

camping near here

I was going to set off to Scotland tomorrow, but a duff weather forecast convinced me that it would be a waste of time, so I’m spending Sunday packing and I’ll be setting off for Rannoch very early Monday morning.

This is the plan:

Monday: catch the 11:08 to Corrour. Walk a bit. put the tent up. Wait for a weather window and if there is one, bag a hill. I’ll be doing similar things for a couple of days whilst providing any passing TGO challengers with cups of tea or coffee. I’ve got 5 days supply of food. It’ll be very nice not to have to lug stuff around, but stay in one place for a while.

ben alder cottage

Wednesday or Thursday – Move to Ben Alder Cottage for more bagging

Saturday : Braemar.

Sunday: Tarfside to help with St Drostans.

Thursday: Montrose.

Saturday: Home.

I’m hoping to bag a few Munros and Marilyns and stuff, but the forecast for next week at least is poor.

You can leave comments, but after Sunday they won’t be published till I get home.

See me, I’m offski.


Friday 13 May 2011

Mick’s Walk from Eastgate to Rookhope and Back


There’s this Northumbrian lad from Northumbria called Mick with whom I’ve been in a desultory correspondence about routes around Weardale/Teesdale and so on, suitable for a chap with a metal leg. I kind of assumed that the terrain would have to be reasonably smooth, but judging by this man’s tussles with the tussocks up the Cheviots, I’m not entirely sure about that.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the butler did it because he was jealous of the footman’s illicit affair with her ladyship'.

proper farming at holehouse

To cut another story short, Mick did this walk from Eastgate to Rookhope and told me about a locked gate that might need sorting out in my capacity of Outdoor Footpath Snitch. Looking at a map of his route, I also formed the opinion that this could be a nice walk for the Durham County Council winter walks programme, so I determined to go and have a look. And this is what I did this afternoon.

I parked prettily in the Eastgate Village Hall car park (very big car park, quite a small hall) – DCC might need permission to do this, but maybe a donation to hall funds will help with the negotiations…  

rookhope burn

After this, a very pleasant trundle up flowery wooded pastures on the Weardale Way follows. This passes through Hole House farm, which is a proper farm with donkeys, geese, chickens, a friendly dog and some goats. This is like one of those toy farms you get for Christmas when you’re six, except that they’re all real animals. They do need some pigs and a black and white cow with the paint scratched off it’s arse.

rookhope inn

Soon, we are in Rookhope and the public bar of the Rookhope Inn calls. (I wonder if they’d do soup and butties…?) I didn’t go in, though…

And much too soon later, we are heading South again to find the locked gate.


But what’s this? The Public Footpath sign at the start of the path at North Hanging Wells has fallen over and is pointing skywards. this will not do. Its more than my jobsworth to allow this, so I’ve reported it.

slope failure shoring failure

I’ve also reported the locked gate  and the overgrown(ish) path and the bit about where all the shoring has fallen to bits, the reclining birch tree and the teetering boulders from the slope failure. I reported the heron I saw for looking at me in a funny way, the dirty pigeons, the illicit rope swing (health and safety hazard) and the fact that it was a bit cloudy some of the time. 

I just enjoy the power, really. Mwhahahahaha, as they say the County Council Rights of Way Department.

galena rope swing

It was six miles.  Very nice, too.  Lots of primroses, violets  bluebells and all kinds of other pretty things. And I got some galena from a rabbit hole. Very enterprising rabbits around here…..

dvcrs rookhope

Monday 9 May 2011

Dales Outdoor Weekend – More

guided walk

After a brief visit on Friday, I returned to Stanhope saturday afternoon – a bit late due to a sofa/shed/van mismatch incident (the van failed to turn up to shift these things) – and put up one of the Millets’s tents.

dow2 002 dow2 001

I had a look around the bikes and the tents and the various displays and manfully restrained myself from buying anything. I met Weird Darren (Whitespider) Christie in the tea shop and had little chats with some of the authors signing their books in there.


And so, it came to AGM time, which was held in the Town Hall in Stanhope. There was scoff, and a small and rebellious stampede was started by somebody or other (koff) when the chips arrived but the Committee were still deliberating whatever it was the Committee had to deliver. The Town Hall bar was not functioning, so raids were made on the Bonny Moor Hen and the Co-op booze shelves, which started to look a bit bare by about seven o’clock.

Later, John Manning gave a talk about Trail Angels and Trail magic happening during his PCT walk, and Danny Bent entertained with a talk about his cycle ride to India (described in his book “You’ve Gone Too Far This Time, Sir.” All good stuff.

A bit more later, refreshments were taken in the Grey Bull and even laterer, successful but fairly tentative crossings of the River Wear were made using the stepping stones by the ford.

little lambs eat ivy

It rained all night. The tent rejected all of the moisture, which was lucky.

In the morning, I met Doug Moffat and David Butler by the fossil tree and ten walkers, including Cameron and Gina McNeish followed me around the now over-familiar walk up through Stanhope Dene and back through (no giggling) Shittlehope Dene. It were right windy, but the Parkhead Station  cafe sold us teas and coffees and bacon and mushroom butties, so it was OK.

stanhope from crawleyside edge

After, there was a short period of celebration in the Bonny Moor Hen. Again.

So it was all quite jolly.

The Outdoor Weekend seemed to go well, apart from the overnight rain. Attendance seemed quite brisk and there was a fair bunch of backpackers at the camp and at the AGM.

Stanhope seems quite a good place for this kind of thing – the Showfield is massive, and the town centre shops and pubs are fairly handy. The people are friendly and the countryside is Pennine (which is what I quite like, really…)


Friday 6 May 2011

Dales Outdoor Weekend

tent display

Just popped up to the showfield at Stanhope for a nosey at the setting-up for the Dales Outdoor Weekend.

There’s a load of tents and bivis (?bivvies) on display already, and there’s seventy tents for people attending the “do”, plus a few camper vans and stuff like that there.

more tents

Its going to be a thundery night, tonight, and probably a thundery day tomorrow, so I’m back at Knipetowers with a small supply of Deuchars IPA and Black Sheep.

I’ll be back to Stanhope in the morning with a tent and some beer money. I’ll also be reccying a proposed winter DCC walk at some point and checking out a locked gate for Mick.

some tents...

I may let the Black sheep out later as it’s ruining the carpet….

DOW looks as if its going to be grand..