Saturday 30 July 2011

A Message From Above

heart sky sky heart ky

Odd cloud formation witnessed over the North sea today, just after they’d played “Calling Occupants of Interstellar Craft” by the Carpenters on Radio Sunderland.  Was it a message from Outer Space?  We are your friends by the way….  Could you lend us ten bob for a bottle of Merlot from the co-op?

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Unshackled Navigation – Stuff About It.

camp at keld

Many people will remember UK prime Minister Mrs Margaret (Don’t mess with me, pal) Thatcher. One of her favourite ways of explaining things to people – in that “I seem to be speaking to a mere child” voice she had was to start with “And you know, many people ask me….” and then go on to explain as clearly as possible whatever it was she wanted to say. Nobody had ever asked her , obviously, she…  anyway…

Many people ask me if navigating without a map nor a compass nor a GPS ner nowt reminds me, in some tribal-inherited-memory kid of way of my Mesolithic ancestors and how they used to find their way about.

Even though I can accept that there’s probably more than a mere smidgeon of ancestors with Northern roots even older than the Brigantes who considered what a jolly jape it would be to defy the Roman Empire and shout rude words in proto-Welsh from the top of Ingleborough (given that my great granny was Spanish, though…); the answer is “No”.

attracted to an estate road

I went on a little tour of an archaeological site very recently and the question came up as to how Bollihope Moor, in Carboniferous Weardale could have so much flint – a rock which doesn’t occur in the Pennines, but who’s nearest supply is in the chalk of East Yorkshire – a good hundred and twenty or so Celtic miles to the South, given that this was long before the A1 was turned into a dual carriageway and yer Mesolithics probably had to walk too.

Was there a chap with a bag of flints who turned up every third Wednesday of the seventh moon after the winter solstice, saying, gizza piece of hot wild pig and ramson and you can have a couple of flints?

Or was it that the people up on Bollihope Moor had passed through East Yorks on their way home from their annual holidays in Skegness and gathered a load of lumps of flint on their way?

Or did they just swap stuff with other groups? Or maybe it could have been a dowry, or a religious duty to distribute the stuff – or anything – who can know?

attracted to the sound of a waterfall

The answer seemed to be, evidenced from other nomadic groups currently wandering around other places, and some local evidence, was that these peeps had a kind of circuit. They went to places at certain times of year to take advantage of certain resources available at those places and at those times. So they would know when and where the deer would be in the valley bottoms and they would know where and when the salmon ran upstream. They repeated the same journey, in other words – year after year, generation after generation. So they had mental maps. They remembered where stuff was and if they needed something else, they could ask.

How you find your way down the Pennines is by remembering where stuff is – hills, dales, fences, public bars, spar shops… and remembering what they look like and, roughly, how it all links together.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you know, almost by instinct, that the sun is never ever in the North. It gets close in the mornings and evenings in summer, but it never goes North. If you follow the sun, you will always go Southish.

ingleborough from shunner fell

Forget the rubbish about moss growing on the North side of trees (few trees on the moors) or that cows always point East at night so that they can read their papers without being dazzled by the setting sun – no – its where the sun is.

I did get drawn towards things – mainly cairns, stones, the sound of a waterfall and estate roads which would provide easier walking than the soggy Pennine Tussocks. I could hear the artillery at Warcop for the first two days. And from the top of Shunner Fell, I could clearly see Ingleborough, with it’s very distinctive flat, tilted top. Ingleborough dominates the central pennines and can be seen from a wide area. Its no wonder those naughty Brigantes had a fort on it. You can imagine the ramparts being visible from dozens of miles away and the threat or promise of fast moving pony-mounted irregulars appearing  suddenly out of the wild Dales ashwoods must have concentrated the minds of Roman patrol commanders. I would have thought.

hilltop cairn

So, there’s no real mystery to this, in fact it’s very simple – even in places I’d never visited before. From those places, I could recognise the direction and I could recognise nearby features – Shacklesborough, for instance is a small flat-topped gritstone outcrop sitting in a flat tussocky desert.  You find your way in the same manner as you negotiate the Huddersfield ring road. You just have to remember what comes up next and what it looks like.  Have you just passed the Polytechnic (apols – University) – and which lane should I be in for the turn of to Halifax?  This wouldn’t be easy in an area you didn’t already know quite well as anybody who has driven through a strange city might know.

And, just like the navigation of the Huddersfield ring road, you stick to things you can follow. In other words, you handrail things – fences, footpaths, streams – and if you wander away from one of those lines, you keep it in view, or choose another, even at a distance. You don’t leave the ring road.

Simple, really.


Monday 25 July 2011

Another Kind of Pennine Journey

high force malham cove

This could well be the very last time that I go banging on about  AJ Brown who wrote this ‘ere book, y’see…. anyway, the point is, I tried to walk one of his long distance routes along the Pennines. This was the one that goes from one serious health and safety hazard (High Force) which needs draining and another health and safety hazard (Malham Cove) which needs banking up with a ramp so that nobody can fall off. I mean ter say, its a very big drop.

And the point of the exercise was to see if I could walk between the two without using any navigational equipment at all, apart from the map in my head and a bit of whatever it is that allows you to make reasonable decisions about which direction to go in.

we'll keep the red flag flying here

And it was successful in that I left High Force albeit a day late due to duff weather, and arrived five days later at Malham.

Mrs K. dropped me off at High Force Hotel on Wednesday and I managed to find my way over to the South bank of the River Tees using a handy footbridge I knew about (!)

I then got a bit lost. I wandered up the Pennine Way towards Dufton and, after a bit , turned South, but missed the path over Hagworm hill because I had no bloody map, did I?

numbered boundary stone

I did manage to walk Southwards, parallel to the right of way and got to the top of Hagworm Hill (A Hagworm is an adder by the way. or a woman who can turn into an adder, perhaps.) And not long after this I located the Middleton to Brough road and had it in my mind that if I followed this Westwards, I would get to the Durham/Cumbria County boundary and I would be able to follow this for miles and miles and miles….   This worked well. It was a bit rough, but there were boundary stones (strangely numbered ) and a fence.

A long time passed and so did some miles, when I spotted an estate road --  over there…. and the outline of Great Knipe, a hill overlooking the A66. The A66 was a place to go. So I went.

sneaky camping spot

I camped behind a wall over the brow of a hill in a place where I though I would be out of sight of any wandering shepherds or estate workers. One did pass my tent within ten feet, but didn’t see me….

In the meantime, the gunners at Warcop Range had swapped their really big guns/bangs for withering machine gun fire. Note to self: Never try this on the Warcop range.

Thursday, I followed the edge of the scarp to Great Knipe, trespassed a bit in a sheep field and crossed the dual carriageway. The County Boundary would continue from the summit of the road, so I followed the line of the old railway to Tebay and guessed where the boundary was. I got it right and continued boggily Southwards.

boundary fence

And then I got distracted by a bothy. I had to have a look. It was a grand place for lunch. Very plush, in fact. I’m not going to say where it was. Those whom I know are interested in these things may apply for a location.

I returned to the County fence and plodge on through litterless bog, with a view of tan Hill Inn far ahead. Once again I got distracted by a road over there…..  or was it over here…. I plodged towards it and followed it to the sanctity and, indeed, sanity of the public bar. The lass serving asked if she could serve me. I said she could. She said she felt loved. I said that so did I.

tan hill inn

I followed the Pennine Way to Keld, applied at the farm and put the akto up on the campsite. There were a few midgies.

Friday, I refused the offer of direction from the Pennine Way – at first, at least. I wandered through flowery uncut meadows towards Thwaite and, once on the road, I came across a sign. “Pennine Way Hardraw 8 Miles.” Eight of your Queen’s miles to the George and dragon. Here be cold cider on a warm day. I gave in and followed the Way of the Pennines over Great Shunner fell to the public bar at Hardraw. It Was Worth It.

pw shunner fell

I continued to Hawes, to a phone signal, a Spar shop and a seat outside a pub in the sun. Eventually I left and went to gayle and then, turning away from The Way, I heaved my poor sotted body through the steep contours up to Yorburgh – a green hill far way without a city wall. Or a beck. Luckily, I’d filled up the platypus with three litres of cold beck at the bottom. I camped overlooking Wensleydale on the almost very top of Wether Fell. It was a windy night. No midgies at all.


Saturday, I joined the Roman road to Fleet Moss, wandered down the road to Beckermonds and was joined by three venerable ladies with a map for the climb up and over to Halton Gill. They looked at the map a lot. I didn’t.

ingleborough and penyghent

A nice, teetering path by Penyghent Gill brought me to the foot of Fountains fell where the Pennine Way meets it coming from the South – see how much distance I’ve saved here….  I couldn’t find any water. A rambling club descended. I asked if that green lump up there was flat on top. One said, helpfully, “It might be…” It was, but covered in thistles. I knew another spot, green and pleasant with a nice, clean beck. It was on the other side of Fountains Fell. crossing it, this late in the day would be a trial. It was. A trial. Oh yes. I did some swearing.

tent door view fountains fell

I got a signal and told everybody that needed to know (principally Mrs K) that i was just 12 miles from Malham. As it turned out, my nice campsite by Tennents Gill was more like 6 miles, which I covered the next morning, including a brew and a snooze and feeding the Malham Cove jackdaws on my spare cheese…    The Buck Inn gave shelter from the searing sun till Mrs K arrived to bring me home.


I would like to thank the designers of Ingleborough for placing such a dominating and distinctive lump in the landscape, without which this walk could have had problems. Malham is just behind the second hill to the left of Ingleborough, y’see and Ingleborough can be easily picked out from Shunner Fell – or even further North.

What happens when you don’t have a map? I need to let this sink in and will probably post something in a bit.

I measured the route, though – it was 62 miles and 8700 feet of up. I could have made it a bit shorter, but it would have been very very rough.

malham cove


Tuesday 19 July 2011


The starting day for the unstructured walk towards Malham has been postponed for a day due to a very duff weather forecast involving little triangles with !exclamation marks and 78mm of rain....

Never mind. Here's a song with some shouting....  I'm off to Crook Boozerama for some cheerup fluid...

Sunday 17 July 2011

Some Things Planned and Some Things Not Very Planned

cairngorms from burma road
As it’s been a wet weekend and I’ve done all the rangering that I need to do for now, I could have been doing some writing today.
But I didn’t
What I did do, was that I planned a TGO Challenge route, or at least, most of a TGO challenge route. This will (or, possibly, would, if I don't get a place), from Strathcarron to Struy, to Drumnadrochit, through the Moanyleegach wind factory, down the Avon and finish somewhere around Stonehaven.
d6 red bothy and challenge tents
One of the sections is a bit long, but if I can buy dehydrated scoff in Aviemore (and I don’t see why not) – it’ll be fine.
That’s the planned bit. There’s more planning to do, obviously, but it’s mainly there – I have the chords and the words…
127 high force river tees day 11

The unplanned thing I’m planning starts on Wednesday when, somehow (I need to plan this bit) – I’ll get myself to High Force and start walking South. The destination is Malham, or, possibly Skipton. Mrs Pieman has contracted to pick me up and bring me home from wherever I am four days later.
Regular pieblog readers will recognise the project as one which bans the use of maps, compass and GPS and will not follow the Pennine Way, but will be more direct. I’m hoping/expecting that the fact the Ingleborough should be in view most of the time will provide a handy reference. If its foggy, I could have trouble, I suppose, but the route isn’t very high…..
This folly is inspired by AJ Brown’s 1930’s guide “Moorland Tramping West Yorkshire” which I’ve described elsewhere in this pieblog.
Who knows where it will end?
not ingleborough
I’m hoping to hit the Tan Hill pub at some point, but if I miss it, it’ll be my own fault.
I’m not planning to run out of food, and have a fair stash left from my Outdoorgrub order. I’ll buy a little more and some in-tent entertainment, but thats it. Thats the plan.
Some things can be overplanned.

Friday 15 July 2011

Floral Derrangement

wear, caathedral and castle

I’ve just done the very last two of the reccy walks for the Durham County Councuil winter programme. All I need to do now is fill in the forms to submit them

I also did my around-Crook adopt-a-path thingies with not much at all to report. There’s ten paths involved in this, so its a good walk.

One reccy walk was from Newton Cap viaduct in Bishop Auckland, along the riverside and back along the Bishop-Brandon railway walk. The riverside is interesting – lots of herons and an old mill, plus a chap strimming the undergrowth (bless ‘im), but the railway path is a bit dull. I put this in because its an easy route if it goes dark – important on a mid-winter afternoon stroll.

pleasure boat and horns

Reccy two was along the riverside at Durham. This is a great walk, I have to say. Durham’s riverside is always interesting what with rowing clubs and incompetent rowing boats with patient girlfriends, and views of the castle and the Cathedral and statues and bridges and pubs – and eight speakers dangling beneath a bridge playing Brighouse and Rastrick’s version of the Floral Dance slowed down by a factor of 130.

flower derrangement speakers

This produces a rather weird and ethereal noise which floats along the riverbanks and, as you approach, gradually seeps into you somehow.

Its an “installation” by one Robin Rimbaud for Durham’s Brass Festival which is on at the moment.

Its an interesting nose to say the least. A lass in a tent beside the bridge gave me a leaflet and explained what it was.


The walk is four and a half miles and will be just before Christmas, if it’s accepted. The other walks are six medium length weekday walks in Teesdale and Weardale – plus one for advent involving mince pies, and six Saturday afternoon walks of four or five miles around Crook, Bishop Auckland, Durham and Howden-le-Wear, Barnard Castle and Wolsingham

And now for something completely different.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

A Bit More Rangering (nearly finished…)

on middlehope moor

Two more reccies done for Winter programme walks.

The first was from Wolsingham up to Tunstall reservoir and back – about 6 miles. This has some very flowery Northern Meadows type meadows, in the process of being cut for hay, some very fine oak trees on Fawnlees Hall land, the biggest ladder stile in County Durham (confirmed by the farmer who was working nearby), some very aggressive wasps who stung both my legs and my back and only stopped when I ran away.

  fawnlees veteran oak

There’s also a reservoir (yawn) and an ancient oak wood once coppiced by monkeys or , possibly monks, and a very nice high(ish) level walk back to Wolsinghamwolsingham holy well.inside the holy well

And a Holy Well. Nearly forgot the holy well. This is inside a little stone shed, has seats around the side of a small cistern or bath which was empty at the time.

So, quite a bit in six miles, really.

middlehope moor summit

Walk two was from Cowshill and is intended for January when it will likely be perishing cold. In fact, despite assurances from the Beeb weather forecaster this morning that a fine summer day wa in prospect, it drizzled all morning and it was so cold on top of Middlehope Moor that superdawg’s hot breath could be seen steaming in the wind.

rangering3 018 rangering3 022

The walk was remarkable for the vast swathes of violets and the equally fine array of wild flowers on the roadside verges.

This walk is an exercise in careful navigation to stay on the line of the right of way over the moors and often, in mid winter, it seems to collect a fine and very thick layer of hard neve which provides incredibly fast and easy walking. This is what what I’m hoping for anyway – just a brief taste of some proper cold and winter hillwalking.

Its 8 miles.

Good views too…

Just a couple or three things to finalise, plus an adopt-a-path walk and that’s it for the rangering till the next DCC walk in August.

cup and ring rock on goldsborough

Incidentally, Neville McDonnell (pictured on the Efelent Trees walk relaxing on a fancy seat at Harehope)  sent me a picture of a cup and ring marked boulder on Goldsborough. I’ve included it here.

Thanks Neville


Sunday 10 July 2011

All Kinds of Rangering around County Durham

shacklesboro from goldsboro

I’ve been resisting posting a post for each one of my recent rangering things, on account of the fact that you’d be bored from your panties, which is not what we want.

So here’s a round-up of rangering so far.

There’s a bit more to do and then I’ll be free to go up a proper hill.


We did the Crook around the compass (South) walk. Three peeps turned up in a threatening thunderstorm that did no more than threaten. Jennie was the steward. She’s a full-time DCC ranger-type employee. We found lots of flowers – including, on a patch of industrial wasteland, a patch of “Weld”. I’ve never seen Weld before. My dad did a fair amountmof welding for blue streak rockets at Rolls Royce Barlick. No connection, obviously.

rangering1 008 rookhope beef

Then, I’d had some email correspondence with a lass by the name of “Cheviot Stroller” or “Yvonne” – about some paths around Rookhope. I have a winter walk planned for Rookhope from Westgate, so I went for a look. I found all kinds of rights-of-way naughtiness including, mainly, duff stiles and recumbant marker posts which I attempted to put up again. All very useful, though.

signal box

I have twelve walks planned for the DCC winter walks programme and each one needs at least one reccy and some need two. So I reccied one at Barnard Castle which was a bit muddy in parts, and heaving with black fly, but otherwise quite nice – including the pic of the redundant signal box on the Bishop Auckland- Tebay line wot’s not there any more.

graffiti erratic

And another reccy today up Baldersdale including the very lovely gritstone outcrop of Goldsborough. Goldsborough is supposed to have some cup and ring marks on some rocks but I couldn’t find any. I did find some 1964 graffiti and an erratic pink granite boulder amongst all the gritstone. This has come a long, long way.  Is it from the Cheviots or the Cairngorms??. Its out of place anyway.

The other point about the reccy was the reservoir-side paths. Do they go all the way from hannah’s Meadow to the car park? They don’t on the map, but they do in reality. This means that the walk works.

yellow rattle

Incidentally, the yellow rattle is running to seed and is nearly rattling. I’d give it another week, the its the end for the flowers in the meadows. Go now or it’ll al be stubble.

A lot more rangering to come (we’re full o’ busy) , then its a walk down the Pennines. And I really must climb up a proper Lake-District –type hill….


Wednesday 6 July 2011

Death Cab for Cutie

I'm doing a fair amount of Rangering just now - but I expect that pieblogreaders wil be bored by the constant trials on footpath 49, so here's a little striptease instead.

I'll do some kind of roundup with pictures of birds foot trefoil and broken stiles after a bit.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Plodging in Harehope Gill Mine

harehope mine 4

Various pieblog walks have passed the entrance to Harehope Gill Mine over the last few months and so when Brian suggested having a look inside I was quite chuffed to go along with the idea. He did warn me that there was a lot of water inside and that we’d need wetsuits.

harehope mine 2 harehope mine 1

The lady from White Kirkley Farm suggested that if we parked in the lane outside her house, our vehicles would probably be written off in shot order by all the haymaking traffic. So she said to park in the field. This wa sthe field with all the chickens. remember the chickens?  They’re still very friendly and soon, the wheels of the piemobile were surrounded by hens settling into the dust on all sides.

aap and harehope 018

Changing into wetsuits was interesting. They don’t go on easily. And it was a hot day, so the rubbery struggles soon had me dripping with sweat, as did the walk to the mine entrance through the clouds of friendly blackfly. Zipping up the wetsuits over beer bellies was even more interesting, and quite hard work. I was exhausted and dripping before we’d done anything.

aap and harehope 019

So, it was with some relief that we eventually entered the cool confines of Harehope Gill Mine. The water was soon quite deep. We plodged along. Then we waded to  junction. Then , after a bit of awkward crawling, the easiest progress was made by walking on the knees in the deep water. This water soon deepened to chest depth and, by using a waterproof canister as a float, it became much easier. We came to a dead end. The passage had collapsed and there was no way through.

aap and harehope 021

We returned to the junction and followed the other passage. The water was soon much deeper – chin deep, in fact and we eventually came to a place where the gap between the water and the ceiling was just a few inches. A few bubbles were blown. I was floating at this point, having lost contact with the floor.  We pushed on a bit, through a slight easing, but , as the ceiling lowered once again we decided that maybe we’d gone as far as we could.

So we came out.

Somewhere beyond all these difficulties there is a waterwheel but unfortunately, we couldn’t get to it. Still interesting, though.

aap and harehope 022

We were underground for a couple of hours.

As an aperitif, I had a brief crawl through the culvert which used to take water from a wheel pit to the river. It was dry inside and there were sheep bones and some nettles at an exit where there had been a collapse. The passage continues but I didn’t.

We repaired to the Black Bull after fighting our way out of the wetsuits again.

There are no pictures of the places with the deep water cos we didn’t want to trash our cameras which were safe inside waterproof boxes. Other pictures are misty, mainly, I think, due to our breath.

Don’t try this at home, folks.