Saturday 31 December 2011

Howgills Hoolie

if I look damp, maybe he'll break out the butties
On the last day of the year, I thought it appropriate, for a blog that’s supposed to be about hillwalking, to walk up a hill. Many candidates presented themselves and, as I’d not been to the Howgills for quite a while, a little trundle up Green Bell and Randygill Top presented itself as The Thing To Do. Parking at the foot of Bowderdale would mean that there would be a bunch of options for returning to the piemobile post hilltop-bagging.
So thats where me and superdawg went.
It was raining in  a warm Atlantic blow kind of way when we arrived. It was that sort of driving drizzle that defeats hydrostatic heads. Be plodged off up a bridleway and then on a track over a moor. Contours were crossed. We found the path to Green Bell and plodded uphill, tugged by a wind that was a bit more than a breeze. Sometimes the driving drizzle morphed into a slashing deluge. Things started to become wet.
We passed a group of four very friendly “chaps” descending damply the way we’d come up. I declared (over a now thundering gale) that I’d probably “Just do the first one…..” One chap said something Important which hurled away on the noisyness. We plodged ever upwards.
bruno tries to dry himself on the grass
The wind on Green Bell seemed a bit more gentle somehow. We pressed on into the blankness of the hurtling hillfog. And soon, well, after a bit anyway, the dripping summit cairn on Randygill Top was reached. The driving rain had been stinging my eyes. Bruno rolled about on the heath and rubbed his face in the sphagnum – presumably his eyes were suffering the same. A path presented itself. I guessed it went to Leathgill bridge – a narrow bealach with deep drops on either side. It did, steeply. But here, between the two hills, the wind was extra lively. Side-on it pushed me around and, generally, roughed me up a bit.
randygill top summit cairn
We descended over Hooksey, me hoping that it was actually Hooksey and not something else and the dawg considering the possibility of me having my sandwich any time now.
We returned to the car. Everything was wet. I was damp to me undies. My socks were wet. My baselayer was wet. My five pound note was wet.
We went home. Damply.
Note to self: take a change of clothes next time… dhuhh….
We did 8 miles and 2000 feet of up.
No more 2011. We have good plans for 2012, I think.
Happy New Year to All Pieblog readers.

Friday 30 December 2011

Julie Fowlis Sings

This is just for New Year.  Gaelic is a smooth an poetic tongue, difficult for English speakers to latch on to...  but the music is here and alive and beautiful.... but you have to be aware that some of this is really nonsense... but Julie Fowlis, though - this is really fab stuff.....

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Walking on Wolsingham North Moor

along the edge
As part of my defence against my recent diagnosis of incompetent sugar metabolisation, the treatment of which was “Try not to be so fat”, I joined a Durham County Council walk advertised as hard and Long and 9.5 miles.
We gathered at the cafe at Bradley Burn  - I’m not exactly sure how many walkers, but I did hear that there may have been at least 38, including Jenny the leader and the three stewards.
somewhere under the rainbow
We splodged and slithered up through pastures to the edge, where an Very Mucky track took us to the site of the arrest of the Blessed John  Ducket in 1643, after which he got quite cut up at Tyburn in as an unpleasant a way as you could imagine. Glossing over this disturbing thought, and being thankful that as a civilisation, we have definitely moved on a bit, we passed beneath rainbows and into the hissing teeth of a violent and stinging squall up on to the heights of North Moor. Here we paused for our refreshments – in my case, some filter coffee, a beef spread and onion butty, an orange, a mince pie (we have several left over) and a slithery bit of cheese I found which appears to have survived the camping trip with Dawn the other day. Not sure exactly how that happened.
bradley burn 007
Afterwards, there was more mud to be enjoyed but the weather was just windy and not so squally along the contouring path to Baal Hill. I’ll be doing guided walks along here shortly and in the summer…. lovely views by the way.
We passed through Wolsingham and plodded along the less muddy path beside the Wear back to Bradley Burn where all the cars remained in  tact but the cafe was closed. But as this was only three miles West of Knipe Towers, the Pieland kettle was not too far distant…..
I measured the walk as 9.7 miles. Thats OK. We like 9.7 miles. Y’see , there’s no need to be fat and wobbly. Just take a Durham County Council guided walk through clinging mud and slutch whilst being batterred (like a fish) by howling maelstroms and all your Christmas calories will be gone. And you get good views and a bit of a chat.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

All Day Breakfast in Santa’s Grotto

santa in his grotto
Santa. (Obviously)
There were rumours that a Mr Claus, an itinerant  magic reindeer herder and  trader of miscellaneous goods had some kind of depot or base deep beneath the Pennines just to the right of Alston….
I went over to Nenthead to meet Brian to join in with this jaunt, calling at Westgate to collect Charlie and Josh on the way.
browney hill 004
Going in…..
And so, armed with supplies of sausages, black pudding, tomatoes, bacon, mushroom, eggs, bread rolls and beta blockers a bunch of Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue people and several guests invaded Browney Hill Leadmine just by the river at Nenthead.
After a substantial paddle through cold water, a bit of crawling and some light scrambling up to a higher level, Santa’s grotto was discovered.
getting the scoff going
COMRU Peeps start cooking on gas (and parafin)
browney hill 009
Santa’s snowballs
browney hill 012
The glittery roof decs (beads of water, actually…)
browney hill 013

Beta blockers are available…
Sixteen breakfasts of the Very Naughty kind (it would be best if one’s cardiac nurse didn’t hear about this) were duly burned, incinerated…. finely cooked and scoffed. Santa’s photo was taken as proof of his discovery and, with a promise to provide intelligence next Christmas on  exactly who had been good and who had been naughty, we left him to it and reversed the passage back to daylight and the warm scent of the outside world.
Some COMRU peeps
Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit’s blog is here  for those interested in their work.
Don’t try this at home, folks!
browney hill 022
Waiting for stragglers to catch up
browney hill 023
Louise demonstrates the effect of crawling through mud
browney hill 024
Louise and the Oracle.
It wasn’t me in the Santa outfit this time, by the way. It was somebody else although I will admit to performing “The Death of Santa” outside Nenthead First School at playtime on one occasion. Sorry about that…
browney hill 025

COMRU members discuss their stents. Nurse Louise supervises.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Solstice Dawn at Kirk Carrion

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, but long, long ago – no, I mean, really long long ago. Longer than that. …. there was a Prince called Caryn who died and was cremated and his few remains placed in an urn  and the urn was placed on top of a hill and covered with a large cairn of stones. 
Over time the cairn disappeared under the grass but the idea that a Great Man had been buried on top of the hill remained and much later, Local Brigantes named the place Carreg Caryn.
kirkcarrion in the dark
In 1804, during the enclosure of Crossthwaite Common, a team of workmen were riving stones from the hilltop for making the walls of the new allotments and one man came upon a stone kist, and in the kist was an urn. He hugged the urn, thinking it contained treasure, and declared to anyone who could hear the “ It’s aa mine.” Unfortunately, on looking inside , he found the urn to contain only burnt bones and some dark material.
middleton in teesdale
Lord Strathmore’s bailiff decided to protect the place and had an enclosing wall built and Scots pines planted
This is Kirkcarrion.
Pennine wayfarers will recognise it. It has fine views over Teesdale and Lunedale. It is said that if you were to spend the night in Kirkcarrion, you would spend it in the company of Caryn’s spectre.
kirkcarrion 006
Me and Superdawg visited Kirkcarion this morning for the witnessing of the dawn of the shortest day. From here, it gets lighter each day. The King is dead. And so is Prince Caryn. Long live the King but God rest Prince Caryn wherever he is.
It was very misty this morning. Quite spooky, in fact……..   oooer…….

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Advent Adventures

neville stewards at a stile

Nineteen people turned up at St Catherine’s community Centre in Crook for today’s Durham County Council guided walk. This nineteen also includes the two stewards, Neville and Maria who did a fine job despite some initial chaos centred around the instructions somebody had put out telling them to park in the market place when actually it was market day and only market traders with stalls could get in there…. dhuhh…. I wonder who did that… (koff).  I did apologise.

The walk went well. There was still ice and frozen ground but the three arable fields with lovely new barley crops intended, no doubt to be turned into fine liquours, were sticky mud of the kind that increases the walker’s height by about six inches. So we were all much taller at the end.

And at the end, about half of the group warmed up with coffee, hot chocolate, tea and mince pies in St Cath’s

fly tipping

I did spot a bit of fly tipping which I haven’t noticed before. This is a picture. This takes effort. Sluts.

st caths

Anyway – Freezing your bits off waiting for the bus to Darlington? Is it a nithering North-eastern day? Then why not nip in to St Catherine’s Community Centre for a warming cuppa and a hot bacon roll and avoid chilly chillblains,  ferrrfreeezing frostbite and  horrible hypothermia?

That’s St Catherine’s Community Centre. For all your hot beverage needs. There, I done a plug.

This was the same walk I did two days ago. It’s still just under eight miles.

Sunday 18 December 2011

A Weekend for Short Guided Walks Stuff

fulling mill and cathedral

This weekend I are mostly been doing Guided Walks stuff. We had the Saturday Afternoon Special on Saturday Afternoon during which we walked for about two miles in an upstream direction on the inner loop of the Durham riversides path and back again, a very similar distance on the downstream direction on the outer loop. We had very cold and sunny weather and there were six of us, including the two stewards. Two people turned up but went away again when told there wasn’t going to be a coffee stop. The guitar playing busker on Framwellgate Bridge was excellent. This is such a nice walk if you enjoy looking at spectacular views of cathedrals.

rangering 028

Sunday, me and Superdawg forayed out from one of the Eastern sally ports at Knipe Towers to reccy an eight mile walk which will happen on Tuesday and which will circumnavigate Crook. I have, in fact, dropped a Spherical Thing in the arrangements for this walk but I’m not going to tell anybody till they notice – unless they notice. Coffee and cakes will be available at the end, though, so whatever it is, it isn’t that.

icy view of crook

We had a nice walk today, though, in bright sunshine and with a thin layer of frozen snow, some of which Bruno ate. Views of the very snowy and not very distant North Pennines were enjoyed.

bunged up kissing gate

I also solved the mystery of where the path goes on Crook Golf Course and found a bunged-up kissing stile, which I unbunged by removing the vegetation and booting out loose soil with a hefty boot. The kissing gate now swings open and closed just like what it should do.

There are no other problems or issues with the route, although I may divert a little bit at one point for a marginally better course. Or I may not. Who knows?

I expect it to be muddy on Tuesday as the weather forecast is for mild weather which will melt the ice and release the mud.

advent walk

Saturday 17 December 2011

Are You Ready For Christmas?

I've been out doing the riversides guided walk at Durham today. There were six of us altogether. It was a bit icy.
Here's a video to cheer up those who have been having Christmas Tree Challenge situations.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Planning for Summer

best of teesdale walk

On a raw North- Eastern day, having finished hiding clutter behind chairs and sofas and having not yet visited Crook Boozerama following my survival of the  bilateral medical haematology investigations (blood from each arm) – it was nice to get an email from Maria at The Council for bids for walks for the summer 2012 guided walks programme.

So, I’ve had a day with maps (there’s another one coming up shortly for TGO walk route form completion) – and lots of measuring and cutting and pasting and all kinds of word processing wizadry, and I’ve come up with fifteen walks for next summer’s programme.

I had some requests (no, really…) to repeat some of last summers walks, so I put some of those in.

108 tan hill inn day 9

And somebody in the feedback stuff that gets sent in asked for a series of walks which would complete a long distance walk – so I’ve put in five circular walks which completes County Durham’s section of the Pennine Way from Tan Hill to Cronkley Spout. There’s a total of 67 miles of walking to achieve this.

And there’s some new ones. Almost all the walks are longer than your average Co. Durham guided walks because I’ve been told that there’s a demand for longer walks.

Nine of the walks are new, so I’ll have to plod around those as soon as the daylight gets a little bit longer.

I’m quite chuffed and a little bit smug.

Crook Boozerama here I come…..


Tuesday 13 December 2011

Thursday At The Surgery

Just reminded myself that I have to fast tomorrow from nine in the evening for the Blurd Nurse to take some finest vintage knipe stuff on Thursday morning. Mince pies before nine....

Here's a relevant video thingy......

Sunday 11 December 2011

Five Pikes in Weardale – Bruno Eats His First Snow of the Winter

dog on snow

I could tell that Bruno was feeling a bit cabin-feverish and neglected by the way he was chewing my leg this morning.

So, after a hurried breakfast, lasting about an hour and a half, and involving almost a litre of coffee (coffee machine birthday present) I saddled up the hound with his harness and lead and orf we jolly well went to Bollihope in Weardale, parking irritatingly neatly just by the bridge over Bollihope Burn.


We followed an old mines track on the East side of Howden Burn, through an interesting but devastated area of mines and quarries. THis continues as an estate track up onto the moor at Pawlaw Pike – a heathery drumlin.

first snow

There was snow. Bruno likes snow. The first bit we met was but a small patch, which the dog stamped about in and ate. A bit higher, there was hard, thawing neve in big patches – ideal for running about on and digging up. I left this task entirely to the dog.

five pikes 009

The met office’s forecast of a cloudy day, brightening up was witnessed by a cloudy day turning a bit dark with lowering clouds and a light drizzle. Close, but no gold star this time. At least it was mild….

five pikes trig point

We bashed the heather a bit and climbed to the summit of Five Pikes. Now Five Pikes, you might imagine, would be a more dramatic version of a lake District Pike – all rocky and pointed and covered in people. Not so. The Pikes on Five Pikes are old shepherd’s cairns, built by old shepherds who clearly had nothing better to do. Apparently there are five of them. Three are in view from the trig point.

one of the pikes

We headed towards the Elephant trees – a copse which has appeared in this blog many times. many, many times…..

bollihope burn footbridge

And then we went down to White Kirkley and followed Bollihope Burn back to the car which was still there and with it’s lights turned off and all it’s wheels still on. This was good. Not so good were the holes in the footbridge over the burn. these could scare a small dog of a nervous disposition and a phobia about falling through small holes into a raging beck of brown and peaty water and thus getting washed away and ending up in a canine rescue centre in Sunderland (which is where all that water goes eventually). So I’ve reported it to the County Council. Regular readers will appreciate that this is not a waste of time and that sometimes, often, something Gets Done – one way or another.

Anyway, the walk was seven and a half miles. Its a nice little walk.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Durham Riversides Reccy

durham catherdral

Next Saturday I’m leading yet another Saturday Afternoon Special – this time, a Christmas Special from the Framwellgate Bridge in Durham city, specially for those who would rather go for a walk than blunder around doing Christmas shopping. We will be playing truant along the riverbanks.

Now Durham riverbanks have lots of interesting things to look at and enjoy. there are, however, not very many contours and, if, say, you were to try this walk in summer, say, on a long summer evening, there’d be time to visit pubs and bars and there’d be girls in shorts running up and down. On a dark afternoon in December, very little of this pertains. You could go in a pub I suppose.

something on the bridge... definately something there....

Let me just say thanks to whoever it was arranged the safety backup. I appreciate that my previous trip may have looked a bit hazardous and, possibly foolhardy, but , really, having The Team follow me around as discreetly as they could in a big white ambulance with people in red jackets is Not Discreet. neither were the flashing blue lights, siren and the helicopter was overkill. I didn’t mind the lass with the defribillator as she was hiding behind trees most of the time, although on occasion, when I looked back she was tying her bootlaces. Again.  Look, I may be getting on in years and in receipt of free prescriptions, but sometimes its nice to take a risk.

durham riverside reccy 014

There’s also wildlife on the riverbanks. here’s a coot, for instance, just having had his fag break and returning to the coot office routine. That white stuff is ice, by the way.

gone fishing

And some fishermen resting on a weir,  maybe waiting for salmon.


The route went well. There are no hazards to speak of providing you don’t enter the water.

Afterwards, I had a wander around and had a whim to visit the cathedral. This was fortunate as there was a proper-job Christmas carol service going on  with a proper cathedral choir and readings from St Luke and everything…and the cathedral was packed.


I’ve included a picture of the cathedral door knocker. Just for those who enjoy pictures of knockers.

Next Saturday, Framwellgate Bridge, half one. No excuses. Its only four and a bit miles and you can have a pint after.

Thursday 8 December 2011

A Few Days Camping with Dawn

..after the snowfall

The trip had been arranged for a short while and, maybe, perhaps, it was ill-timed. The signs of an ill-fated trip were there from the start.

From the start, it was snowing in Crook. The travel lady girl announcer person announced that the trans-pennine A66 was partially blocked, down to one lane, with a  trapped HGV and otherwise “difficult” I joined it at Bowes in a blizzard and tucked in behind an HGV that was eventually going 20 mph too fast for me, so me and lots of other, more careful people plodded along at 40 in no visibility at all, apart from some vague tyre tracks on a white road.

kirkby stephen station

I got to Kirkby Stephen railway station a couple of minutes early where it was snowing.

The train came in and Dawn got off. It snowed.

On the way to Kirkby Stephen, a car coming up the hill overtook something that wasn;t there and jumped up the embankment, damaging some shrubs and the front end of the car, and the front end of the driver’s pride – it was a really really expensive car, and the attempt to gun it up the hill had turned out badly. We didn’t stop. We couldn’t actually stop….

camp behind the wall

The snowstorm abated a bit as we made our way up through the muddy woods and on to Hartley Fell – the lower part of Nine Standards Rigg where a pitch behind a sheltering wall presented itself. Finding good water was an initial challenge, but an exploration the next day found something a bit better than the green mossy, but potable stuff we originally found.

The night was cold. And it snowed. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. I got out a couple of times to clear the akto of excess white stuff, but eventually resorted to just periiodically kicking the stuff off from inside with a warm sock full of foot. Nevertheless, the akto grew gradually smaller bit by bit as the long night drew itself out in a very gradual drawing out kind of way.

a bright morning

A bright and beautiful morning followed. The snow was crisp and deep and heavily rutted for some reason. A plodge along Mallerstang Edge would be rufty and not a little tufty in this deep and soft stuff. We decided to wait for a day. I had a little trundle up the hill and found better water.

The lovely day lasted roughly till lunchtime, after which windy, sleety showers plastered the tents and it was nice to get tucked in with brews and snooze – a pastime which is by no means a waste of time. Soon it went dark.

brewing and snoozing

A cold, grey morning with thick mist, driving drizzle and ice mitigated against any kind of movement which wasn’t for urgent bladder relief. After a bit of a foray up the hill, Dawn returned through the post-holing icy thaw to declare that she wasn’t really feeling well at all. She was sent back to bed. Another day of brews and snooze developed. I could get used to not doing anything at all. You’d have thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to think through all those niggly little problems. To plan out solutions. To consider the higher things in life. Not so. I am a very efficient snoozer. I awake to a vague consciousness every now and then to register if its still raining or not, or whether I need to emerge from my aktococoon to do something useful, such as reposition a tent peg or have a nice wee. My major decisions concerned the calculation of the resilience of my water supply when measured against my sachets of kenco 3 in 1, packet soups and hot chocolate. And if the water was low, whether or not I really needed another, given that the inevitable bladder emergency would occur all that much sooner if….

The next night was a bit snowy and occasionally starry. Then, about 3:00 a.m., I became aware of a more determined rattling of the old akto. By grey dawnfall (the daylight one, not the other Dawn…), the akto was dancing around like a firewalker who’d suddenly lost his faith. The rain was also hosing down and the noise from both almost drowned out the artillery fire from Warcop.  Pegs were coming loose. The snow under my tent had mainly melted to reveal a sphagnum bog. Sphagnum bogs do not take well to tent pegs. Dawn was making noises from her tent and, which I couldn’t make out due to the thundering noise of the storm, but as I emerged from mine, it became clear that Dawn’s tabernacle was in some trouble with the gale. I decided to pack my stuff, since my akto was in some danger of collapse and some things inside needed to be kept dry…..

After this, I attended to Dawn’s loose ends, which were flying in the gale whilst she packed. It was a bit frantic for a short while.

kirkby stephen in flood

Not too long afterwards, after a short but brutal fight against a howling hurricane attended by a bit of a hosing down, we were gratefully ensconced in a warm cafe in Kirkby Stephen with a full breakfast and a huge pot of tea.

The drive home over the A66 was even more dangerous with fallen lorries, cars that had hit floods too fast for their little tyres, and consequently ended up in distress, and the odd eeejit blundering on at 100 mph as if nothing was happening.

I suspect that mid December is probably not the most ideal time to try to go for a backpacking trip down the Pennines.

Thanks to Dawn, though. Believe it or not, I enjoyed the whole thing. Everything is on radiators here at knipetowers and the dog is happy to see me.

Dawn’s blog is at   She’s not home yet, as I write this. I’m not sure if she intends to write her own version of this adventure, but if she does, it’ll likely be here.