Monday 30 January 2012

My First Walk

these feet were made for walking and thats just what they'll do

Coming up very shortly is a hiatus or gap in the proceedings of the pieblog during which me and Dawn, or Dawn and I will be wandering around the Cheviots with some tents and a determined look…

Normally, when this kind of thing happens, I post a music video. This time, I thought I’d tell you a little tale; a true tale of my first recorded walk. This walk was recorded in the Barnoldswick and Earby Times and also various local police reports and it involved active participation by hundreds, or , at least, dozens of people.

Springfield County Infants School was “losing”. In local parly, this means that the kids were going home. I was one of those kids and I was in the first class. This means I must have been about four years old. I was walking home with my brother, who must have been six and for some reason, he announced (notice how I cleverly shift the blame for the following adventure early on in the tale) that we were going to follow some girls home. I forget who they were, but they lived somewhere near the level crossing on School Street in Earby. At some point, I’m not entirely sure how, we overshot School Street and embarked on a visit to my Nana’s. Grandma Knipe lived in Skipton, a bus ride North along the A56 and the A59.

We walked up the Wisick hill out of Earby and through the village of Thornton in Craven. We wandered past the magnificent conker trees at what we would later know as “Queensmead” and through the bends which were straightened out after a horrendous and fatal road accident involving my Uncle from California and various aunties and uncles, one of whom, only a relative by the fact that he was living with my Auntie, lost the top of his head…  

And along the road passing Elslack where the concrete walls I balanced along are still there, though occupied by hawthorns; through the junction with the A59, with the AA box, past Broughton Hall and the Bull, where we saw a police car which ignored us (It was supposed to be searching for us, I believe) – past the road end to Carleton and up over the railway bridge by the canal and into Skipton, passing the train station and turning right in the town centre to the road to Keighley and, finally, over the old bridge onto Burnside estate to 17 Burnside Crescent where my grandmother  appeared to be unsurprised by our appearance and fed us on cheese sandwiches and milk out of a cup. (I still like to drink milk from a cup!)

Meanwhile, back in Earby, all hell was letting loose. The police had been called. A search had been organised. Neighbours formed lines in the fields and bins and sheds and barns and cowsheds were examined closely. They’d started to organise a search of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Certain males had been taken into custody.

I remember some things quite vividly. I remember some places and I remember the light changing – something I’d not witnessed before and something that was more than magical and it was when this happened that I saw the people in the hedges, some of whom were encouraging and some of whom were unpleasant and being held back. There was nobody there as such, obviously. Parts of the journey are a complete blank to me and, I think were so at the time. There were at least a couple of miles of dusk where fatigue had taken over and the legs were moving but the mind was already asleep.

I don’t think there’s anything remarkable about a four year old walking this distance on an empty stomach by the way. I was a pretty average sort of sprog at the time and I strongly suspect that walking about is one of the things that people do best. It was, in fact, a very natural thing to do and there were no ill-effects. For my parents, I think it had consequences for how they treated us siblings a few years later when we’d disappear for a day to the moors – and for longer adventures by the time I was eleven or twelve. There was, in fact, very little to worry about, at least until we discovered that the local off-licence would sell us rough sherry if you took your own bottle. But  that’s a set of other stories.

We were taken from Nana’s to the bus station by Uncle Stanley and put on the last bus to Earby. A policeman was standing by the door of the bus. We watched our route through the upstairs front windows of the double-decker, pointing out places we’d walked past, not feeling tired….

At Earby, the bus stopped outside the fire station and there was a cheer from a large crowd. We were approached by two men and put into a black car. We were invited to ring the bell. We rang the police car bell. The big black car arrived outside our house  where there was another cheer from another crowd. My mum was in tears. We were put to bed immediately.

8.4 miles, 508 feet of ascent. (!)


Springfield School was partially destroyed in an arson attack by a “firebug” a couple of years later. It was rebuilt in it’s original form but was replaced by a new building sometime later. The pictures on the windows have the same surnames as they did in the late 1950’s, though. Any four year old attempting this journey nowadays would probably be squashed by traffic and would be unlikely to reach Thornton in Craven.  So don’t try this, kids. It’d upset your mum as well.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Hunstanworth Hobble – A Tale of Two Chimneys

chimbly one hunstanworth hobble reccy 009

Or Chimblies as we would have said when I was alive…

Anyway, due to the fact that Dog 2 in the Knipe household is geriatric and has to be watched like an Ork to prevent, or , at least, manage random incontinence, I was up really early this morning and by Steve Wright Sunday Love Songs, had had my porridge and had driven the icy roads to Blanchland AND had my still damp boots on.

This walk is yet another DCC reccy for a Summer programme. This one is ten miles and will be listed as the Hunstanworth Hobble. I’m using this title just to make it sound like a proper route and not one I’ve just made up.

bruno in the woods

It goes through the woodlands which are part of one of my adopt-a-path routes from Blanchland to Baybridge to Townfield. In summer there could well be bluebells.

bolts law from the north

From Townfield, we head South and hit the snow at the defunct flourspar mines (who’s spoil heaps sometimes have lots of shiny things) and up through the snow over a trackless moor to Packlett Gate, just after which, we turn left and follow a bridleway to the top of Bolt’s Law. The track had been made much clearer by the kind attentions of four off-road motorcyclists who had been last seen whining off towards Cowshill and another bridleway which needed a bit of a shredding.

bolts law bridleway ..snow was a bit deeper

The view from Bolt’s Law is usually , or at least, often very extensive ranging from somewhere South of Teeside to the Scottish Border and all of the durham Coast and big chunks of Pennines including Cross fell and Mickle fell. It was a bit hazy today, so me and the dawg just played in the snow for a bit which was a bit deeper just here.

currick on bolts law

The next part was where I always lose the path around two chimneys. These two chimblies used to be the final outpourings of lead fumes from two flues; the exhaust from smelt mills. They’re now only used to train really fat Santa’s. You can get a bunch of reindeer and a sleigh down one of these without using a vast amount of special magic like wot Santa does There are dams and ponds and leats and watercourses to confuse things a little more. We lunched. I lunched, Bruno dribbled.

The return to Blanchland was back on the adopt-a-path route.

The walk works reasonably well. There’s a mile or so of trackless heath and I’ll probably record some significant spots (such as the gate at the end) on a GPS. And I can never work out the paths around the chimneys. I need practise at these…!

We did ten and a half miles but only 1300 feet of squiggly contours. I was home by three.


Friday 27 January 2012

Pennine Way Teesdale to Baldersdale


Today was the day for another reccy for the summer guided walks programme in which I’m planning to do the County Durham bit of the Pennine Way. This was the third of five routes and this one, like the last one, starts in Middleton in Teesdale.

But this one goes South to Birk Hat in Baldersdale and then returns by a different route. Birk Hat is the farm once occupied by Hannah Hauxwell who’s land management techniques have accidentally preserved some fine examples of Northern Haymeadows which are now managed by Durham Wildlife Trust. Its no coincidence that our guided walk will take place next July when the haymeadows should be in their full flowery glory.

kirkcarrion again

pw baldersdale

But today, me and superdawg got plastered by some very large snowflakes although the sunny bits in between the showers had a little bit of warmth. There was a fair covering of squeaky fresh snow, which cheered Bruno up no end. I followed the Pennine Way past Kirkcarrion and caught up with a couple of walkers. (The diet must be working, I caught up with somebody. This could be significant. I caught up with somebody…..  )… anyway, I decided to let them do the navigating and followed them at a discreet distance. Unfortunately, they went the wrong way. Just a tip here, for budding navigators – following somebody else may well not be the most efficient navigational technique.

hannah's meadow

bruno checking for pussycats

I relocated the Pennine Way a bit over there -------> and the couple followed me instead – I followed Bruno who seemed to know the way. We duly arrived at Grassholme reservoir, where two things happened. Firstly, the couple disappeared, presumably on their own route and probably not by some kind of space/time continuum accident as per Doctor Who (but you never know, innit…?). And secondly, it started snowing in a really mad and enthusiastic way – and the world disappeared in favour of some kind of white swirling thing. As I arrived at Birk Hat, it stopped and the sun came out as if nothing had happened. We sheltered in the bird hide which is handily placed at Birk Hat for the efficient watching out for birds and the even more efficient scoffing of a wensleydale cheese butty and a banana. Bruno had a peek out of the window but there were no pussycats, apparently.


I did see five hares today. All in different places, so it probably wasn’t the same one.  Bruno noticed the scent of a couple of them, but failed to spot them bounding off into the distance.

Next was an easy plod along the shores of Blackton and Hury reservoirs where we turned North once more over an outrageously sloppy moor which finally got my socks wet, to go along with everything else, and down to the Teesdale railway path which goes almost back to Middleton.

We did 13 miles. Next time I won’t get lost. next time I won’t get wet. Next time the sun will be shining and the skylarks will be up and singing. Next time, I will be drinking pop instead of hot coffee…..

kirkcarrion yet again

Its a good walk, though. More walkies on Sunday. In the meantime, the radiators at Knipetowers are occupied.

Monday 23 January 2012

Pennine Way Weekend in Teesdale

cauldron snout

One of the projects I’m proposing to do in the summer as part of the Durham County Council guided walks programme is to complete County Durham’s bit of the Pennine Way from Tan Hill Inn to Cauldron Snout. I think this will take five walks, each of which will be circular.

So this weekend just past, and after one weather-related postponement, I’ve been exploring circular-ish routes in Teesdale to see what happens….   Bruno came too, and on Sunday, I was joined by Louise and her collie pup Rosie.


rosie bruno eyes closed

Saturday’s ramble started from Forest in Teesdale school, wandered up the Pennine Way to Langdon Beck, Widdybank farm and , finally , scrambled up the very noisy Cauldron Snout, all in a fierce headwind combined with that ever-familiar driving drizzle that’s been a feature of this year’s winter. In fact, it was howling most of the time and, having my hood up and head down and not paying sufficient attention made me miss a turn and, so a small chunk of the Pennine Way. It’ll be all right on the day….

meldon hill and cow green

We returned damply from Cow Green reservoir over a bit of moor to Binks farm, down through Harwood in exceptional and unreasonably fierce and unbalancing hail –loaded gusts and back along the Tees. It was nice to be pushed along by the gale for a bit, though.  The fields are sloppy and wet, and, taken together, it developed into a bit of a scrap with Mother Nature. Basically, we got a bit roughed up.  It’ll be all right on the…. it will be July and the hay meadows will be in full flower and the curlew will be wheeling and calling on the moor in a warm sky…

river tees

hungry sheep canoes

Anyway, Sunday, and after a night for the kit on radiators,  I met Louise and her dog in Middleton and we fought a slightly reduced headwind, but this time in bright sunshine, up the Pennine Way beside the Tees, to Low Force, High Force and up to Forest and back along old back lanes and riverside paths, where it eventually went dark and forced us into a road walk of a mile and a bit, or so. So, I missed another bit of path which I’ll likely have a short walk to see in a week or so. There’s no panic, really. The last bit of path was up a seventy metre hill through pastures, and I think we’d both had enough calorie-burning by that point in favour of a plod down the B6277 with the Petzl on strobe, which is an odd experience and makes reflectors and road signs appear to flash from a great distance. It does make sure you get noticed by traffic, though.

high force

Bruno and Rosie enjoyed themselves once again, bouncing around, choosing sticks and, generally doing doggy stuff.  There’s more sheep on the return route, though, for some reason (its probably a bit warmer on the North side of the Tees…?) and canines had to be on leads. Rosie is specially interested in seeing how fast sheep could run, given the chance and does sheep-dog poses from behind gateposts. Bruno, on the other hand, only notices sheep if they make a point of running away. He’s much too old for that sort of thing, really. Its that time of year when flocks of sheep tend to follow us across fields anyway, which is a source of some puzzlement to a canine codger like Bruno.

junipers and louise

Anyway, I’ve managed to reccy the Pennine Way from Middleton to Cow Green, so there’s just three more routes to do…

Total miles for the weekend was 12 + 14, (that’s 26, folks…)  with 2200 feet of up. (that’s not a lot of up for 26 miles…)

More of this later this week but today I might have a bit of a rest…….


Tuesday 17 January 2012

A Bit of Buttermere Birkett Bagging and a Pork-based rant

grasmoor from scale force

The temperature difference between County Durham and Buttermere was eleven degrees centigrade today – minus 5.5 at the bridge over the Wear at Witton and plus 5.5 at Buttermere. There were still flows of ice over the Whinlatter road, and the Buttermere – Newlands road was closed, which caused a bit of delay at the start.

climbing up 1 buttermere 004

But eventually, me, the dawg, the bro and his Dutch/Irish co-walker Rea (not sure if that’s the correct spelling) slithered off over the icy path to Scale Force and over the slightly less soggy bit on the left hand side of the Very Soggy bit to the steep little climb up to Floutern Cop – a mainly grassy but distinctive nobble which is a good place for lunch as it provides effective shelter from a nithering wind blowing over from the Isle of Man.

bruno and floutern cop

It was about this time that we realised that we didn’t have enough daylight for our original plan which was to climb Great Borne and Starling Dodd, along with three minor lumps, so we went for Banna Fell, which was on the original itinerary. Banna Fell is a nondescript bit of moor with a good view of the foot of Ennerdale. And then we retraced for a bit, but skirted around the side of Hen Comb by a descending traverse, then up for the bagging of Scale Knott, which is but a pimple on the side of melbreak, but with a very fab view of Grasmoor and Crummack Water. It was on this traverse, that Bruno demonstrated his fence-jumping skills, sailing over top wires and landing gracefully and without breaking step, but coming a cropper when crossing the beck by a misjudged leap to the insufficient extent of his retractable lead and receiving a chilly dunking in a small pond as a reward for his lack of planning and, frankly, for being a clever dick.

bagging scale knott

Back to Buttermere by the outward route – there’s a path from Scale Knott to Scale Force.

We did nine miles and about 2000 feet of upness, and bagged just three Birketts, bringing my Birkett Bagging Total to 482 Birketts out of 541. Unfortunately, the final digit (a “one”) will be Pillar Rock. I am unlikely to be able to bag this, partly because at this rate, it will take me another ten years to bag the rest of the unbagged ones, and partly because I iz a wimp when it comes to climbing about over beetling drops. So, I’ll never finish the Birketts.  But am I bothered?


six quid for a bacon butty!

Incidentally, the two pubs in Buttermere were firmly closed, but we did spot this sign outside one of them. Six quid for a bacon butty!  Six quid!

Locally sourced bacon, though. And it’s in a rusty bun…. There must be a supermarket selling bacon and rusty buns nearby – probably in Cockermouth or Whitehaven…

Six quid…! Some kind of joke, surely….


Sunday 15 January 2012

Big Pup on the Haute Route

bruno ignoring his new stick

Ok, As a route, it’s not very “haute”, in fact, it’s highest bit of hautness is 1153 of her Majesty’s Imperial feet above datum. But, it’s hauter than the other route, which is lower. It is, in fact, yet another walk from Wolsingham to Tunstall, but a different one from before, at least, some of it is different….  Its a reccy, anyway.

After a hurried breakfast, which ended at approximately lunchtime, I bundled Bruno into the back of the knipemobile and hurtled off to Wolsingham.

frosty fields at wolsingham

It was frosty. The ground was frozen hard. The lunchtime temperature was just minus two. We skiddled and skited over the hardened mud up to Baal Hill and Thistlewood and along the High Way towards Salter’s Gate, Tow Law’s premier dogging spot (gays during the day, couples at night). We didn’t visit but battered on over the sunny moors to join with the old railway line which used to go from Crook to Sunderland, collecting iron and steel and coal and fireclay on the way. (There was a coalmine at Saltersgate which is of little local interest nowadays, apparently…)

cattle more cattle

old railway line to sunderland

I noticed that there were cattle on the moor above Thistlewood, and a large herd above Tunstall, right on our descent route. Both me and superdawg sensed bother and prepared for a diversion. I waited by the gate so that the cattle could spot us and so that I could precipitate anything that might happen with a quick escape route. Nothing happened. We walked gingerly through the middle of the herd. A few watched us, most were busy with their hay supply. These are sucklers. There’ll be calves here in the summer. I might not try this again when there are calves…  It seems odd not to have these moocows in their sheds at this time of year. But I’m not a cattle farmer, so I have no idea, obviously…

tunstall haute 013

The rest of the route was along the eastern shore of the reservoir and by High Jofless, Park Wall and Fawnlees, a reverse, in fact , of the route we’d done a few days ago. This will be a new County Durham walk for the summer programmes. Its a good walk.

big pup

There’s no stock on the high moor and many of the fields are empty too. There were some sheep flocks, who gathered and followed us across their pastures but in the stockless places, Bruno could bounce around, carrying lumps of ice and crunching them up; finding sticks and running about like an old dog should know better.

I did eight miles. Bruno did about twenty.

Friday 13 January 2012

Sunny Walk to the Border

traversing middlehope moor

Finally, after what seems months of wet and windy, warm and muddy, and, frankly, ‘orrible non-winter weather , we get a pristine day of blue skies, bright sunshine and frozen ground.

Today was the day for doing the walk that me and Louise did (along with Bruno and Rosie) last week – the one where I broke me specs… you remember….  I had an egg butty…

middlehope moor 004

Anyway, there were nineteen people on the walk including me and the two stewards Ray and Richard and a bunch of other, off-duty rangers who have appeared in the pieblog on previous occasions.

This time, the bogs that we’d squelched over were mainly, though not entirely frozen and the mud of the riverside paths and fields had dried out a bit and/or frozen. And we took the lunch stop in a sheltered lane, and, the sun was actually quite warm. And there was an over-enthusiastic skylark singing. How good is that?

decending to ireshopeburn

And, this time I managed a few pictures although if I’d been by myself I’d have taken more.

We had a good day, although we completed the route a bit quicker than I’d planned.

beside the river wear

I’m hoping this weather sticks around for a while. If the winter finishes like this it will be just perfect and I have plans. I always have plans. You need to have plans. Just a tip for anybody who doesn’t have any plans – Make Some Plans.  Do it tomorrow after you’ve cut your toenails and been to B&Q. Gwan!


shivery walk


Tuesday 10 January 2012

Cold Fell… where it was cold actually…

brunthwaite viewpoint

Cold Fell is a boggy, soggy, heathery lump at the very top end of the Pennines. It is, in fact the very last Pennine you would come across if you were walking up the length of the Pennines. After this, it’s Hadrian’s Wall.

And another thing about Cold Fell is that it’s part of the RSPB nature reserve Geltsdale. This is a Good Place if you’re a hen harrier or a black grouse. Geltsdale also goes by the name of the King’s Forest of Geltsdale, an ex-hunting forest belonging, at one time, to the Scottish crown.

And it’s got an ancient cairn on the top which has been fashioned into a big, neat cairn and a small and scruffy wind shelter just big enough for three people and a small dog.

cold fell 005

lichen flowering

And so it was today that three people and a small dog sploshed up from the car park at Clesketts into that familiar Pennine Driving Drizzle and into the sheltering arms of the Cold Pike’s Cairn. The three were, of course, me, John and Brian and Bruno.  We only stayed long enough to scoff a butty and a mars bar and to take a pic of some lichen which was flowering on the stones. I suppose that this is exactly the kind of weather that lichen likes. It seems likely.

knipes in the cairn

brian outside the cairn

Lashed by a bit more driving drizzle, we descended a different way over a windy and drizzly moor to better visibility and an old tramway which lead back to where we’d started.

kings forest of geltsdale

It was all very damp and the Belted Will public house nearby was firmly closed.

We did six and a half miles. Longer walks are available when there’s more daylight and less precipitation. It’s always going to be soggy underfoot, though.

Onwards and upwards…..