Sunday 29 April 2012

How to Get Really Wet in the Lake District

high raise high dog

Ignoring, or , rather, avoiding the weather forecast may be a risky strategy when intending to have a walk in the Lake District. The problem is that at the moment, all of the forecasts are so dire that if I take any notice I’ll never get out for a walk, then I won’t use any calories, then Eunice (the Fat Nurse) (not the fat nurse.. the nurse for fatties..) will not be happy and I have an appointment with her tomorrow afternoon….

So, on a grey but dry Sunday morning in Crook, I headed the knipemobile West up Weardale, over the hill (frozen this morning) to Alston, Penrith and Martindale to the little church on the hause above the windy road with the hub caps (this last phrase translates really well into a Welsh place name, by the way)

little slate quarry

There’s a path from the other church in the  boggy valley with the yew tree which heads up to the High Street roman road and passes very very close to Gowk Hill, an unbagged Birkett, in fact the only unbagged Birkett for miles and miles…

I lost the path early on and found an interesting slate quarry/hole instead. This navigational challenge was soon resolved and not too long later I was standing proudly on the unremarkable summit of Gowk Hill. Bagged. Ding!

the nab, the dog, getting misty

high street

A good path took me up onto Red Crag where it was cold and with just a hint of snow in the wind, and then on to High raise (the Mardale one, other High Raises are available…) where it was sleeting and hailing a bit harder, followed by Rampsgill Head (nithering drizzle) and down to The Knott (cloud base starting to touch higher hills). This deteriorating weather gave me a really good excuse good opportunity to practise finding a quick way off the Fells instead of heaving the aching legs and body up Rest Dodd.

angle tarn, anglian dog

the way down

So I followed the path to Angle Tarn and crossed the grassy ridge to find a sheltered path by a wall leading down into the cosy depths of Bannerdale. It wasn’t that cosy, really, in fact, by this time it was chucking it down in a very Cumbrian kind of way. The next few miles were only glimpsed beneath a hood through drippy specs. A farmer with two dogs was very chatty about it all and mentioned how it had seemed to have warmed up over the last half hour… I don’t think it had, really, to be honest…

We returned damply to the car after about five hours, half of which were specially wet hours.

The drive home was interesting too. It seems that the Helm wind may have been blowing today. An HGV was wheels-up in a field and we all got buffeted around.

The walk was about eight fathoms. (11 miles)

gowk hill


Saturday 28 April 2012

Hudeshope Reccy and the Crook Alps (aka Park Wall Opencast Mine)

a steep bit in the woods

Next Friday is the day for leading a Durham CC guided walk “Walking with Kings”, so yesterday, in cold sunshine, me and Superdawg did the reccy for this.

The title comes from a permissive path in the woods at Hudeshope (compliments of Raby Estate) which forms the King’s Walk – a pleasant, if muddy splodge through the woods. It was muddy the last time I did this – last November, and it was pretty muddy today. But then it’s been chucking it down for several weeks, culminating in a bit of a climax over the last few days which resulted in the becks being high yesterday, but not quite in spate. The whole of the Hudeshope woodland is Raby estate land and is accessible to the general public. Which is good.


I reccied a couple of escape4 routes on to the road which circles the woodland because there’s a beck at the “top” end of the walk which could be tricky to cross if it was in flood. I’ll make that judgement on the day based on the river level in Middleton in Teesdale, to avoid back-tracking. Yesterday, the crossing was just OK. Bruno enjoyed it.

Basically, the walk is fine, though and is graded “medium” although feedback from the Council (they give feedback from walkers based on what people say on pre-paid cards that are dished out by stewards) – feedback said that some people thought the walk should be “hard”. But it was muddy, and, it’ll probably be muddy next Friday. Ho hum…

hudeshope reccy 009

a new hole

I also noticed a new hole – a wet level with a surface collapse around it. maybe this has just uncovered due to Wednesday/Thiursday’s floods… who knows… it looks a bit wet and scary inside..  just the kind of place old blokes with not much to live for any more might have a little excitement….  maybe…

park wall mine

And today, based on comments by Yasmine, I directed my daily doggy walk to investigate the paths affected by the Park Wall opencast mine – a huuuge hole complete with massive spoil heaps that will be working for the next couple of years or so, providing high quality coking coal for the steel industry in Lincolnshire.  This whole area has been mined in the past and is riddled with old tramways and so on, and has been opencasted more than once in the past. The result of this is a landscape which is smoother than it should be. On the upside, old spoil heaps and tips, which were massive, have been landscaped away and extensive woodlands planted and footpaths laid out.

new woodland plantations

This process has started at Park Wall and there are new plantations filing in the gaps between the hawthorn hedges and, in ten years time, the new tips and spoil will have disappeared. In the meantime, it seems that its not possible to penetrate the paths and bridleways around the site. Well, it wouldn’t be would it..?  There are no “public footpath” signs around the place and most stiles look a bit tired. Its very difficult to know where its possible to walk. I think I should ask the rights of way peeps for more info about this, really…

Norrabad dog walk, though……

Right- time to boil an egg for some Cumbrian walkies tomorrow..


Tuesday 24 April 2012

A Very Small Bit of Alan and Fran’s LEJOG – Pennine Way Teesdale

alandfranslejog 009

Alan and Fran are TGO challengers and Over the Hill Club members whom I’ve known for donkeys years, in the episodic way it is with TGO Challengers (usually meeting only at random isolated Highland spots once a year and then getting outrageously drunk in Montrose) -  and this year they are walking from Lands End to John O’ Groats and, for the North of England, they’re following the Pennine Way. Their schedule says that today, they will be walking from Middleton in Teesdale to Landgon Beck and me and Superdawg decided to join them, whether they liked it or not.

To complete the ambush, I parked at Bowlees and wandered downstream towards Middleton – so as to intercept them – a strategy which had failed to locate dawn on Jacob’s tea Trail, I should add.

not d of e

The PW was busy today with a large group from a college (they denied being Dof E and had, in fact never heard of the Duke of Edinburgh , the Queen Mother or the Prince of Thieves and had never ever even considered doing this kind of thing for an award. Or a badge, certificate, tea-shirt, RAB fleece, free Bowmore whisky or anything like that. They’d camped at Holwick and were lumbering just as far as Middleton today.

bruno and a lamb

Coming from the other direction was a large group of schoolchildren with some teachers, one of whom had a beard and explained to them how to identify an ash tree, whilst standing next to an ash tree. These sproglets were nice and polite and, apparently enthusiastic about ash trees and their black buds and the lichen and all kinds of other stuff, and almost to a sprog made a big fuss of Bruno which he enjoyed immensely and soon trained several of them to scratch his back in exactly the right spot to produce doggy heaven. Any longer and he would have been eating their sandwiches and crisps.

low force

hmmmm   pies.....

Fran and Al appeared a few minutes later. It was nice to see them. They’re looking slim and healthy and we wandered up the PW past the schoolkids (paddling in a small beck), past Low Force and the stone sheep and up to High Force. We had pork pies for lunch (well, it had to be pies, innit..?) The local robins, chaffinches and bluetits visited and chirped for crumbs. Bruno hypnotised a pork pie with a view to a pastry-based suicidal leap into his warm and comforting jaws – but I rescued it just in time. Hmmmm, pies, dribble……..

boot cleaning

The juniper woods at High force are under attack from a tree-killing fungus and at each end of the wood there’s a boot-cleaning station involving brushes and sprays. We did the necessary, but I guess that some people might not bother – in which case, this might be not much more than a symbolic attempt at control. I didn’t dip Bruno’s paws in the stuff, in fact, not knowing what it was.

alan and fran make off in the other direction

Alan and Fran managed to distract me by some ruse and make off hurriedly towards Scotland whilst laughing manically     I left Fran and Al at the Cronkley Bridge and made my way back to the car the three or so miles along the old back way  to Bowlees that runs past Forest school from Langdon Beck

Its been a cold day with just a little rain – good for walking, in fact.I expect Fran and Al will finish their LEJOG – they seem to be going well and there’s friends walking with them on various stretches up the country. It could well be back to reccies for a bit for me. Or I might just slide something Cumbrian into the programme.


Monday 23 April 2012

Pre-TGO Shakeup Pumlumon and The Anglers’ Retreat (Part Two)

dawn beneath a rainbow at dawn
The End of Part One saw our hero and heroine settling in for a quiet if drizzly and windy night in a small conifer plantation in the Wettest Glen in Wales. The night drifted in and dusk settled on the dripping landscape of Mid Wales. Each of us in our cosy dens,  minds turned of, relaxed and floating downstream as Beatle Lennon would have it. Kylie visited. It was during the dark hours of midnight(ish) when the frantic struggle with Kylie’s technical bra clasp was reaching desperation when all the lights went on. “Sorry to disturb you” came a voice, apparently from a tree, “We’ll be very quiet. I’m setting up a bivi at the bottom of the wood.” Voices and lights continued for a bit, then it all went very quiet. Impressive, I thought. Back to the clasp…..
dofe tarp shelter dofe breakfast delivery

An hour must have passed. The lights were on again and there were voices and laughter and tent poles and pegs being knocked in and clanging and droning  and farting and laughing and rustling and all kinds of stamping about. I had a brew. The noise grew. Kylie had gone home. I anaesthetised with a slug of 40%. The noise grew more relaxed. I went and offered some free advice, partly in the form of an easy quiz. One of the questions concerned how long did they think it takes to put up a tarp? (Correct Answer - Not as long as this is taking) Another was a query as to the identity of the loudest (female) gobshite. A pale-faced waif with a Manc accent stumbled into me and explained, vaguely, that she was  “looking for a boulder”. Puir wee mite…
A very short time later, it went very quiet. Only the wind roaring in the branches and the splatter of yet another shower disturbed the darkness.
In the morning, I couldn’t help noticing that the atmosphere amongst the group was a bit subdued. A  proper “leader” appeared and apologised. i explained that this was the second night of noisy DofE group, the failed struggle with Kylie’s lingerie, the dwindling whisky supply, the rotten weather, the tendancy towards irritability when faced with hoodies in the garden late at night and the itchy bum. We parted in better spirits. I noticed that they had breakfast delivered by Range Rover. Not allowed to drink the water y’see. Health and safety, I expect.
crossing the beck
another beck
We packed and left and crossed the footbridge and paddled a smaller burn for a mile or so tussle with tussocks before we found a reasonable path, which in turn found a track which took us into the forestry. We had a short day today because the original plan would have had us camping at the other end of Pumlumon, but as it was, we hadn’t moved. So it was a short day. Around lunchtime, we prospected for camping spots but found none suitable (suitable means out of sight, out of mind, flat grass and good water). By early afternoon, in heavy rain, we tipped up at the Angler’s Retreat, a bijoux fishing hut by a small lochan which  provided a secluded camp near a small quarry. When the rain stopped, this proved to be a suntrap. An afternoon of luxuriating and brewing developed.
llynfnant valley

Friday was going to be a short day anyway, so we didn’t have to hurry the setting off. The morning was cold but dry and the process of breakfasting and packing was relaxed until…..  heavy rain burst upon us. This soon turned to large hail, which in turn became splattering wet snow. This went on for an hour or so until everything was truly soaked and/or iced. Eventually, I shook as much of the sticky ice off the akto and packed it up and we left for Machynlleth – at first of forestry tracks and then on a pleasant if stony bridleway and then minor roads into the Llyfnant valley where we began prospecting for camping spots once again.
Eventually we ended up at the spot we’d camped at on the first day. This is a pleasant and very quiet place – we only saw one runner and a chap walking his three dogs in the morning. The evening was peaceful and the weather benign.
dawn day five

The night was cold, though and the morning brought a cloud inversion over Machynlleth and a typically Welsh broken, misty landscape which for a brief period was warm and sunny and melted the frost on the tents. Then the rainbow appeared and within a few minutes it was raining again.

We repaired to Machynlleth for some proper food (bacon, eggs, sausage, beans, toast, tea…)
i can see a rainbow

As a pre-TGO shakedown , this was a useful trip. As a jolly jaunt, it was great fun, despite the Duke of Edinburgh’s best efforts and the typically TGO weather. The last two days were short and the middle one was even shorter, but carrying five days food is a good exercise and the approach to Pumlumon made the hill seem very wild and remote (Its not really, if you come from the other side) Thanks to Dawn for the company and specially for the breakfast and the orange chocolate drops – and for worrying about whether or not I was still alive during a pause in the snoring.
Lessons learned – things to do prior to TGO – Proof the tent and mend a hole that’s developed. The stove is great, roars like a jet engine and a 250 gram canister will last five days and a bit more. My boots leak – I have a spare pair which I will need to use extensively between now and TGO time.
I need a new map case. And I carry far too much food. I need to calm down a bit. The Akka down jacket will be going to Scotland. This is a fine and comfy thing and is a great pillow as well as being a cosy jacket for camping in.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Pre-TGO Shakedown Pumlumon and Other Soggy Places (Part One – Dim Campio)

Dawn on glyndwr's way

This trip has been planned in outline for a while. The idea was to walk from Machynlleth to Pumlumon, bag Pumlumon and then walk back again by a different route, thus describing a circle, or at least a circle that’s just crashed into a lampost whilst rolling down a hill. The actual details of the actual route were deliberately left a  little bit vague just to add interest.

I got the train to Machynlleth and met Dawn on the Arriva Wales train out of Birmingham New Street which, incidentally, was infested with some very sleepy-looking cockroaches. A woman on the train announced that if you killed a cockroach, all the little baby cockroaches would jump out of it’s back and your problem would be even worse. Nobody believed this, though but when the last carriage pulled into Machynlleth and, all the windows appeared to an outsider to be blacked out till a well-fed Arriva employee opened the door and thousands of big black beetles poured out knocking the man over and revealing inside several whitened skeletons, one of which had an opened laptop and another with a tin of Carslberg in it’s hand. This really happened, honestly.

steps camp 1

Leaving the chaos,  flashing blue lights and Welsh news crews at Machynlleth railway station, me and Dawn lumbered off into town and out the other side up a hugely steep hill to find a nice quiet camping spot in a discretely secluded little green valley overlooking the fires and screaming refugee columns from the little Welsh town. Luckily, we seem to have escaped before the attack helicopters arrived and I could enjoy my Look What We Found Durham meatballs and peas to the sound of heavy-duty machine guns, the constant chatter of rotor blades and the occasional whoosh and thud of a hellfire missile slamming into Barclays bank which was still open at that time. Other than that it was a quiet, if windy night.

perilous forestry

In the morning we followed Owain Glydwr’s Way till we got to a signpost which announced that it was closed due to a patch of infectious mud and a sheep with one eye and a bad attitude towards English ramblers and that we’d have to backtrack several miles to get to the place where it was open again 1500 metres further on. One or two of us (two actually) ignored this as most of the writing was in Welsh and we could barely understand it. (See explanation above) It did use the word “Pergyl”, which is something to do with washing up powder, I think. We sploshed through the mud and tripped over the forest brash that had been left lying around but it was without injury that we appeared 1500 metres later at the path closed sign at the other end.


We progressed on to a lovely, contouring path and up through busy, perilously teetering forestry operations to an area of plateau which sported several Dewey tops, two of which I bagged whilst Dawn did more sensible things like guarding the rucksacks and watching out for the arrival of Spring.

camp 2

We descended, with a few navigational challenges to the isolated sheep station at Hyddgen and down to the foot of Hengwm, where the substantial Afon Hengwm roared impotently beneath a concrete footbridge. Hengwm is wet. In fact, it’s soaking. Soppy is the word. We found a dryish bit next to a small copse of conifers and settled in for the evening.

After a while, there were voices. A party of DofE sprogs arrived and occupied the wood, noisily. they lit a fire, smokily and noisily and their mentor or whoever he was arrived and instructed them noisily. They were obviously on some kind of high and, as a storm stormed in off Carmarthen bay, with it’s driving rain and roaring winds, the playground noises from the plantation continued far into the night. It wasn’t the quietest wild camp I’ve ever had.

llyn llygad rheidol


The weather in the morning was, frankly, pants. It chucked it down big time all morning. The kids dissolved or something. We moved into the shelter of the wood. Dawn had, apparently been slowly sinking into the bog. Inside the wood it was still raining, but it was less windy. Quite cosy, in fact. The rain stopped. A full tour of Pumlumon, which had originally been planned, was probably a bit ambitious for what was left of the afternoon, but a short circuit of the two Easterley tops – Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan and Pen Pumlumon Arwystli could be done.

pen pumlumon arwystli


Dawn walked with me a little way and I continued climbing a cairned shepherd’s track above Llyn Llygad Rheidol which took me easily on to the tops, both of which were bagged in clear, cold weather and fuelled by Dawn’s orange chocolate drops and a few jelly babies (yes, yes, I know it’s cruel…). I followed an ATV track down into Cwm Gwerin which sports several nice camping spots and a few deep pools and down into the lower Corrie, which is as wet as any place which  is not actually a lake. The next mile took the longest – a struggle with tussocks , bogs, compromised drainage, slop, sponge, squirty places and small streams. A buzzard laughed it’s beak off from above whilst resting on a thermal. I returned to Dawn with soggy socks and with black fountains from me laceholes.

We settled in for a quieter night than the previous night…………   Oh aye, that’ll be right, then….

camp in the wood

To be continued…..

Sunday 15 April 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different (Other than Tunstall)

walking down by the park wall
See that walk in the previous post? – Well, we did that today. There were fifteen of us altogether, including me and the two stewards Clare and Ian.
We did it anti-clockwise as per Ian’s suggestion and, it’s much better this way.
dvcrs walk at tunstall
We passed through Baal Hill Farm where, it seems, that the sheep are giving birth to three lambs each. In fact, we gave a wide berth to one clever ewe who had just produced three bouncing lambs a few minutes before our arrival, judging by the gory mess at the back end and all the licking that was going on. The old girl wasn’t much perturbed by us, and we did pass quietly and in a wide arc.
tunstall reservoir is FULL

The day was one of sunshine and some very beefy snow/hail showers but we finished in good order and roughly on time. I have included in the pics, one of Tunstall reservoir, which readers from East Angular and other desert kingdoms, will note, is Full Up. We have loads of water, thanks. It’s brimming in our ponds, streams and reservoirs. We run off bathfulls, just for fun and splash the dog for a laugh. And no, you can’t have any.
tunstall dvcrs walk

So that’s it for Tunstall for quite a while. The very next thing will be a short hiatus or gap during which me and Dawn will be getting wet in Wales. For me, this is a TGO challenge shake-down. I have a pack heavy with  dehydrated scoff, squirty cheese, oatcakes, chocolate and cheap whisky. Its going to be fun. Its going to be damp. Its going to be Welsh.
In the meantime, please enjoy yourself with this short instructional video on the importance of the interweb thing…

Thursday 12 April 2012

Reservoir Reccy Wrecks Stove

reservoir boats

I’ve got another DCC guided walk on Sunday and I put off doing the reccy from the other day due to having been generously given a snotty conk by one of my three grandsons (I strongly suspect the two year-old with the nose candles). The there was the forecast about  the thunder and lightening which put me off a bit. In the end, I had to do it, so an early start before today’s electrical storms kicked off was called for.

reservoir cows

The walk is spookily similar to the previous Tunstall walk – the one with the big stile, except it includes a trundle around the shores of the reservoir. This is very nice. It also adds about a mile. Ian, one of the stewards from last Sunday’s Stanhope walk told me that I’d said I’d do this walk anti-clockwise. I can’t remember saying that, but it seems like a reasonable idea – so widershins it was. Its probably better this way since the two heart-attack hill in the middle is tackled with the advantage of gravity – i.e. downhill. All other hills are pretty gentle.

reservoir geese

There was another purpose to this walk as well. My lovely lightweight and veteran Primus stove had performed indifferently at my camp at The Snake. I put this down to the cold morning. But I tried it in the warm, and it was lethargic to say the least. Maybe the canister had all the propane used up in the very cold Cheviots a few weeks ago. I had to test it to find out. So, armed with a Primus kettle and a windshield, gas canister, mug and kenco 3 in 1 coffee, I set up the stove in a little wooded bit with a lovely view of the Tunstall dale. As I waited (and waited and waited) for the water to boil, Bruno entertained some sticks and did a bit of digging.

reservoir lambs

The water never boiled, but it did get hot enough for coffee. I dismantled the stove and found it to be mucky and greasy where it shouldn’t be mucky and greasy, but also, I found that if I turned it upside down, the gas leaked out. This was likely to be a duff “O” ring, I thought. A little spanner is needed to get at the jet to blow it out but I’d have to buy a new “O” ring. As I’m off to Wales for a jaunt with Dawn on Monday, there’s no time for messing about with this stuff, so I determined to buy a new stove.


Me and Bruno finished the walk and found nothing special for the risk assessment (apart from a huge bull and some mud), so after lunch I went off to Cotswolds in Durham and bought a Primus Express with a canister for thirty of your Queen’s pounds in sterling. This boils a litre of water faster than you can claim your fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria, dear beneficiary,  and, if turned up to it’s full output resembles a Korean missile test only upwards instead of downwards. Impressive. This should be fine. And at four ounces, it’s two ounces lighter than my old one. This is not much. I don’t suppose I’ll notice this, really.

The walk is seven miles , clockwise or anti-clockwise and goes over the really big stile.

around tunstall


Monday 9 April 2012

Stanhope and Shittlehope Denes and the Bit In Betweens

melting snow park head

I’m aware about the constant repetition of the same walks in the pieblog, so, by way of a change, and just to re-emphasise my utter lack of imagination, this post is about two walks up Stanhope Dene and down Shittlehope Dene wot I did six days apart but substantially by the same routes.

This, by the way, is also the same route I did two or three times last year and which was, on the last occasion, joined by TGO’s peripatetic editor of walks in other places who gave me my Leg End plaque for ten TGO crossings a couple of years ago. Ten TGO crossings plus an intended eleventh, plus the half crossing in 2001 during the Foot and Mouth debacle may well also show a determined lack of ideas about where to go walking. And the walk appeared in TGO mag, so there’s no need for me to bang on about where it went…..

I just told they spelled my name wrong...

Anyway, last week, me and superdawg parked in the Dales centre, wandered up Stanhope Dene in icy drizzle, used the right of way which crosses and recrosses the beck, just to see what it was like (wet and slippy), up to the CtoC railway line where it was doing the snowy equivalent of drizzle, on to Park Head, where it started to blow a hoolie, down the incline where the blizzard started, along Crawleyside Edge where I couldn;t find shelter for me cheese butty and the dog was shivering, and down Shittlehope dene which was a bit more sheltered. This was a reccy for the proper walk which happened yesterday.

along the ctoc to parkhead

In between, it snowed quite a bit, the electricity at knipetowers went off and various vehicles had to be abandoned to snowdrifts along the Crawleyside road.

three heart attacks hill

Yesterday, ten people turned up and we did the walk again. It was the same route, apart from going around a certain slope failure and calling in at park head cafe for a cuppa and a hot beef sandwich. There were sloppy old snowdrifts and just a little drizzle, but, in general, the conditions were much more benign. In the woods, there were primroses and violets and wood anemones and in the fields the spring lambs were butting each other and jumping around for a laugh.

wet dog in shittlehope

It was nine miles, or eighteen if you do it twice. I’ll not be back here for a while. The sheep are getting suspicious.

Its quite a good walk, though, and there’s a cuppa in the middle.

dvcrs walk 2