Thursday 31 May 2012

Pies over Scotland - TGO Challenge Suddenly It's Summer

Morvern from Mona Gowan
 And so, after a moderately boozy night at the Allargue Arms followed by a frosty night in a tupping field, I left Cock Bridge in warm and bright sunshine and walked a mile or two along General Wade's military road from the South till I found a nice burn by which to brew up and make porridge.

Ben Avon from Carnagour Hill

Lochnagar fromScraulac

Later - I pressed on to the main road  to Ballater and on up over Scraulac and Cairnagour on short, springy heather. The views of snow-clad Lochnagar and Ben Avon were quite spectacular. Despite being breathless from the view, I eventually heaved my sorry carcase up to the top of Mona Gowan and decided that my plan to bag Morven, a huge snow-topped cone next door was maybe a bit ambitious. So I didn't.
Instead, I descended South and found a long and straightish track over moorland along the Southern edge of Morven, thereby avoiding any embarrassing heart-attacks, strokes, hyperthermia (it was hot), or over-pronated toenails.

I did notice an hotel offerring free beer and massage and made my way towards it, but just as I got to the front door, it disappeared. Damned mirages...

Lochnagar from Mona Gowan

 Various lanes and main roads and more lanes ultimately brought me to Tarland, once the centre of several beef-herding routes and now the location of the Commercial Arms, my bed, booze, food, shower and telly for the night - though not necessarily in that particular order. I was impressed by the Commercial Arms, though - the staff were unfazed by my trampish appearance or the odeur de Cairngorm, the food was specially good, the shower nearly took the back off me sunburn and the telly had hundreds of channels which I could flick through whilst sipping a luxury malt before waking up at 5:30 a.m with only a vague idea where I was.

Breakfast was good too and, refreshed and with dry socks and butties from the shop, I marched hopefully out of Tarland in completely the wrong direction, turned round, consulted the village information board and marched out again in a different direction, almost definately towards the North Sea.

During the afternoon, another hotel appeared and this one was advertising happy hour during the whole of May when all drinks would be half price and a free sauna would be included with every third pint.

As it happened, just as I made for the reception area, the whole buiding dissolved into the heat of the burning sun.

I can see the sea! Yippee!
 After a bit a Scottish Rights of Way Society green sign indicated a path up a steep hill which was the right of way to Lumphanan. I followed it into Rothiemurchus-like woodland. The robins and other small birds were singing happily. The sun was shining. There were beautiful, green views through the bgaps in the tree and the route was easy. I skipped along happily, in a good mood, full of Full Scottish Breakfast With Two sausages. Everything was right with the world. Or at least it would have been had I noticed the sharp right turn two miles back - the opne with the twin cairns I failed to notice. Two miles in the wrong direction leads to a huuuuuge error in being where you're supposed to be and takes some working out where you actually are, I can tell you. Various options were weighed up, including shouting for help and/or lying in the ditch sobbing or a combination of these two. I decided to eat chocolate and then go back whence I'd come.

I got it right eventually, and, after a while, I turned up in Lumphanan. The bad news was that the pub was shut (they always are nowadays), but the Mace store was open. The sun blazed down from a cloudless sky.
I shopped briefly and ate my spoils on a bench near the Lumphanan International  Communications Centre (bus stop with a phone box and a post box) and dozed in the heat of the mid-day sun. In a Blur, A caravan of camels sailed slowly by towards the Oasis. But which was best?  Blur or  Oasis?

I headed East, roughly in the general direction of Lithuania.  My route now coasted around the north side of Torphins. Many dog walkers were met. In fact there were dozens of them....

As I plodded on, I came across a white-painted hotel, gleaming in the fierce shimmering heat. The sign outside advertised buy-on-get-one-free drinks and meals and a discount for Englishmen over the age of fifty five with white bears and huge rucksacks. I knew it was a mirage. 

But as I passed, two men dressed in white tuxedos were leaning over the palm-shaded verandah. I distinctly heard one say to the other "I tld you this wa sa bad place to open a hotel, Hamish..."

Hill of Fare camping spot

I started climbing the Hill of Fare and soon noticed a beautiful green shoulder where camping discretion was assured by patches of strategically scatterred whin and a good water supply gushed from what appeared to be the supply for a building that was no longer there. I put up the akto and luxuraited in the hot sun and the gorgeous view of Lochnagar.

Earlier in the day, I'd got my first view of the North Sea - a long, blue horizon beyond the hill I was now sitting on. The End is Nigh (I got that quote off a bloke at King's Cross station by the way.)

A fine, blue morning followed and it was time to battle with the Hill of fare's deep and tangled heather.

Basically, I just got stuck into it and, after a while of uphill swearing and falling about, I noticed an old grouse but about 300 metres away and, a thin but rough and soggy path running towards it. Based on the theory that grouse shooters never actually walk very far, I deduced that there could be a  track there. I was right. A thin uphill track soon became a double track and then a proper landrover track and this lead to within a few metres of the summit. Clever bugger eh?

Deeside Way

After that, I went down over the moor and along a bit of highly dangerous main road to the fleshpotss of Banchory where I shopped again and feasted on ice lollies before embarking on the Deeside Way. This is based on the old railway line from Aberdeen to Ballater and is waymarked, surfaced and popular with all kinds of joggers, cyclists and dog walkers, a large proportion of whom had really lovely bums. So, it was a happy Pieman who slogged the Deeside Way, eventually turning up at Peterculter and, by a riverside path to the campsite and hotel at Maryculter. I visited the hotel, obviously.

In the morning - the final morning, I went back to Peterculter for breakfast but only found a coffee and cake shop. A spar shop provided butties and pop and so, armed with these I returned to the Lovely Bum Way and marched the seven or so miles into Aberdeen. I liked this path. It doesn't have contours, for one thing, and the countryside is green and beautiful and, the natives and their dogs are friendly.


The walk ended near Aberdeen docks and I made my way back to Duthie Park in search of the route to the bus/train station, I came to the Shanghai Restaurant where, all of a sudden the door flew open and a yoof with a bag rushed out, followed by a diminutive Chinese lass. The lad tried to hide behind an eighteen-inch high wall and then noticed that both me and the lass were almost standing over him. So, he threw the bag at the lass and legged it. Apparently, the bag was empty and nobody wanted to call the police. As a thief, he was a failure, in fact, if there is such a status he'd be legally incompetent, probably a smackhead and, certainly, an idiot.

Montrose campsite

I got the bus to Montrose, signed in, got me T-shirt, certificate and badge and got rat-arsed a couple of times in between sunbathing, swimming in the sea (fab beach at Montrose by the way) and scoffing hot smoked salmon and crusty bread.


That was number eleven. 

I'd do it again. I had a blast.

Stats: 202 Miles and 29000 feet of up. Eleven tickable hills ticked (according to

Gear that did well:

Merino wool baselayer that I got from Mountainwhareous for fifteen quid as it was the last one due to the fact that it was now summer (!) and being sold across the street for £62.

RAB fleece with a TGO challenge logo on it - exclusive to TGO challengers with the logo!

Primus Express stove which I got in April.

Sealskin socks - performed well in all the soggyness.

Berghaus Akka down jacket. Warm and toasty and a good pillow, and squashable in the pack. I wore it for walking on one very cold day underneath a Paramo windproof.

Me old akto. The old girl did it again - recently reproofed and with a few repaired holes.

Gear that performed with mixed results:

TNF Dhaulgiri II boots - warm and comfy and with no blisters, but in the mire of week one, wetted out badly and didn't dry out till Cock Bridge. Luckily I had waterproof socks and kept a pair of woolly socks to wear at night.

Pre-mixed porridge oats with powdered milk, sugar and sultanas. Easy and quick to cook, loadsa  slow release calories, lightweight and nice to eat - and very cheap.

Gear that failed:

Cheapo walking poles - One bent and couldn't be collapsed so I banged it hard on a road and it died.

Garmin GPS. Keeps turning itself off and forgetting the bliddy waypoints. This is a faff. Luckily, I have a map and compass and a vague idea how to use these.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Pies Over Scotland. TGO Challenge Through the Cairngorms

Meikle Geal Charn

Where'd we leave our hero...? Ah yes - In his tent sucking on a bottle of scotch and croning Abba songs over to Andy in the next tent.
In the morning - whatever morning it was, I visited the little cafe by the Glenmore campsite. This has a squirrelarium where red squirrels - and lots of wild birds, come and eat nots and other goodies in full view of the customer who ought ot be tucking into a Full Scottish at this point - which is what I was doing. This place is a highlight of any TGO challenge routed through Bynack or Tomintoul or other such places at the Northern end of the Cairngorms.

Glen Avon

I walked with Andy for a while but lost him somewhere up the Bynack, and met him again covered in what appeared to be breadcrumbs but may have been the ossified remains of a small animal and, along with Wullie Clark fae Stonehaven we plodged through intermittent snow showers to the Fords of Avon where I left them and turned uphill for the bagging of Creag Mhor - an easily bagged Corbett just about 600 feet higher than the Fords of Avon.
Shortly, I came to the snow level and found it to be mainly thin and soggy but with the odd deep bit provided for variety and surprise. The first top came underfoot just as the world turned white. I worked out some detailed navigation for the second top which suddenly appeared, suprisingly in the right place about half a kilometre away  and marched over to it just as it disappeared again. the top is a small granite tor of slabs, but a fierce blizzard started up and I had to hide in the rocks for half an hour till it subsided before I could teeter up the slab to the highest but. During this wait, a mars bar, some squirty cheese and two oatcakes received fatal damage. When in doubt, stuff yer face.

A GPS waypoint for Faindouran bothy gave a remarkably gentle route in a straight line, the enjoyment of which was only dented by the fact that the GPS kept turning itself off.
I arived at the bothy and brewed up. Other Challengers arrived. there were dark rumours of a large party of Glaswegians carousing their way down Glen Avon to occupy the hovel. I left and found a bonny spot beside a small beck about another five kilometeres down the Dale.

More Glen Avon
 having actually bagged something, and with some resistance from the elements, I felt that a short period of celebration should be allowed. This consisted of Beatles rock and roll songs (from the anthology) and about 40 cls of scotch I'd carried from Aviemore. This had, apparently, no effect till at 2:30 a.m. Mr Bladder came to call and I had to stand up. That is to say, I attempted to stand up but found myself in deep heather. It was a nice night, though and I was still happy, so I did whatever it was to satisfy Mr Bladder and slithered back into the golite for another six hours snooze.
And then it was the next day.
I wandered down Glen Avon, being bombed by lapwings and in the occasional company of two challengers who's names I failed to bother to ask.
After a bit, I turned Right (uphill) and climbed a track and some soggy heather to the top of Little Geal Charn. This has a fine view of the snowy Cairngorms.

Brown Cow Hill

And then on to Meikle Geal Charn. Which had some thin snow and an even better view of the Cairngorms and Lochnagar, both of which looked alpine.
The it was deep snow and the wide top of Brown Cow Hill. I have no idea why this plateau should be called Brown Cow Hill, but it is. And it's another Corbett.
I navigated off in snowy squally and through riven peat hags and , finally, down to Corgarff Castle and the hotel at Cock Bridge, which was occupied by TGO Challengers. The accomodation arrangements were chaotic. I'd ben told I could camp round the back, but other Challengers had been refused. Those who had booked rooms had only their first names recorded and there were doubts as to who had a bed....

Corgarff Castle, Cock Bridge
 But the food was fab. I had a magnificent steak. (Shtum!) and the farmer from down the hill said that we could camp in his field with the four tups. There'd be no bother from the tups, he said, and, indeed they were nae bother although one did snore and another had a bad bout of flatus and I had to let him out of the tent eventually.

Military Road, Corgarff

As I crawled into the akto, full of steak and beer, I couldnt help noticing that the old thing was stiff with ice.
Would I survive the night?
How could I carry on when I'm enjoying myself so much?
Why doesn't somebody stop me?
More follows during which there is sunburn and an actual shower (yes folks, I had a wash!)
Stand by...

Pie Over Scotland Part 2 - Another Bit of the 2012 TGO Challenge

So, we left our hero (me) stuffing his face and getting rat-arsed in Drumnadrochit. This went well.

The next morning, a stroke of luck (prolly another omen) saw me have a lazy breakfast and a stroll down to Temple Pier where Mr Menzies boat was already heading out towards Inverfaigaig. The stroke of luck was that he spotted me sobbing on the pier and turned around. There was strident, happy music and the sun glinted on the egg yolk in my beard as I leapt aboard and hugged the man till it was time to chug off into the distance. It doesn't do to snog a sea captain, apparently.

Pieter was on the boat. Pieter is Dutch and walks very fast, specially uphill, which is strange for a Dutchman since contours are strictly banned in Holland and you don't really get any till well over the border.

But after assaulting the decrepit and heaving pier of loose boulders at Inverfarigaig, we walked together , on and off, for the next few days.

The weather was quite good at first. Then, on reaching the first proper hill, it started snowing. Then the sun came out for ten minutes, then it snowed again. We stopped at a little bothy where there were other challengers. The one who couldn't pronounce anything at all - not even Englissh place names, never mind gaelic ones, decided to camp. Me and Pieter launched over the high moor - up to about 740 metres then down the other side where a lad was digging out track ditches with a JCB. We chatted and a bit further on, his boss, apparently the ghillie, accused us, well, he looked at me at the time and said we'd be springing his bridge traps.  I shrug at the idea, but I hadn't sprung any traps. Not that day anyway...

We camped in a pretty spot amongst juniper and with a nice water supply at the top of Glen Mazeran.

I noticed that my spork was broken. This was an omen. Stirring dehydrated food, or, indeed, porridge, with half a spork is a hot business on the ends of the fingers. I improvised with other tools and sticks and things...

In the morning, I left before Pieter who was busy drawing contours on a map of Delft and Environs with a brown coloured felt-tipped pen and wandered down Mazerandale to find two tents and a sort of green flappy thing parked on the other side of the beck near a footbridge. I went to collect the campsite fees.

The tents and the little green thing were occupied by JJ, Louise and Denis Pigeon (Denis used to draw Desperate Dan cartoons and is, therefore, a childhood hero of mine). They seemed happy, if a bit knackered and cold and JJ lent me his spoon. This is trail angel stuff.  he lent me his spoon. His own spoon. I could stir. I could put accurate measurements of sugar in my tea. I could signal to aircraft (it was a metal spoon) I could balance a spoon on the end of my nose. Bless 'im (sniff...)  JJ also gave me all of the pics in this post except one.

Pieter turned up and we continued. At the very first big hill, it started snowing again. We brewed briefly in a bijoux bothy (thats enough stuff beginning with B ya bugger) and went to the top of Carn Dubh where there is a lovely electrified fence - and down towards the Red bothy where, as luck would have it, another bijoux bothy gave us shelter from yet another fierce squall. But what was this inside the bothy....? Boxes of cutlery....!?  One box in particular held plastic spoons. Five hundred plastic spoons. There are now 498 plastic spoons. I'm afraid I pinched two. However, if the owner of the spoons should contact me I will gladly return the spoons with interest (I could send back three spoons) - or I could make a suitable donation to a charity of their choice. It would have to be cutlery based, though.

Then we were at the Red Bothy where others were camped nearby, but didn't venture out of they're tents. This was a pity, really, because we lit a fire, which was, occasionally, huge and cheerful. JJ, Denis and Louise turned up and we had a convivial night of eating, drinking, rude jokes (Denis) and unlikely TGO tales. Outside it chucked it down. By bed time it was snowing.

In the morning, the familiar small-tent syndrome and a grey-muffled dawn told me that my akto was buried in white stuff. I variously kicked or punched off lots of avalanche from inside and peeked out. The world was white and swirling. A time/space continuum warp had taken us back to December. this was good because I really like Christmas.

I returned JJ's spoon, removed some of the snow from their tents and plodged off for the Burma Road. This was bleak. I arrived in Aviemore by mid May and went to Tescos for more scotch and to an outdoor shop for a spork (titanium now...) - and to the Bridge Inn where I met Andy and Pieter and ? some others..../ and scoffed very posh scoff which was just OK compared with better, much cheaper scoff I had later in the trip.

I walked to Glenmore with Andy by the Cairngorm Club footbridge. It was May again. Just a bit cold.

Was that the end of the spoon incidents? Find out in the next episode where it snows again and we visit the very lovely Cairngorm Mountains which are arctic, y'know.

Monday 28 May 2012

Having a liddle trubble

There may well be a short hiatus whilst I sort out this computer. It seems to have lost it's links to my fave software again, including livewriter. I'm a bit surprised it's allowed me to do this, actually....
I could set it up again I suppose.

The inside of my computer looks a bit like this

I blame the spoons, actually

People waiting responses to emails may have to wait a bit longer.

fed up.....

Sunday 27 May 2012

Pies Over Scotland – TGO Challenge Challenges…

andy and his pal in a glan or a dale or something

Eventually, there comes a time when the blogger, refreshed and suntanned and with only slight liver damage has to write up his (or her) experiences on the TGO Challenge and, for me, the time has now come.

This, however, will be no day-to-day account. Oh no…  One of the reasons for this is that my home PC has been having wobblers whilst I have been away and has completely lost all it’s passwords, links, shortcuts, disc space, car keys and TV remote and (this may or may not be linked) when I downloaded the 122 photos and 1 video of Kylie arriving in Glen Avon on a white charger, it lost 48 pics and the video. This caused me to make several very rude exclamations at the time but, bearing in mind that the fat nurse will be checking my blood pressure in the next few days, I’ve decided to calm down and do some DCC reccies up Teesdale to cheer meself up and also sort out the dawg’s cabin fever.

So.. Day 1. ………

was followed, in numerical order by another 12 and then another two sitting around in the Montrose sunshine eating hot smoked salmon and getting a tan.In between it was, the proverbial Game Of Two Halves.

tony heads west

Half One started with the crowing of the Strathcarron Hotel’s magnificent cock, sometime before dawn. The hotel let me camp with a good view of the cock and the drizzle sizzling on the tent overnight was, perhaps, an omen. I left at the same time as Tony (Pennine Ranger) Bennett but walked with him only as far as the first path junction where I turned left and he went forward. I never saw him again. In fact I didn’t see anybody up close all day.

damply up the bealach from bearnais

The weather was, frankly, duff. My route took me to Bearnais bothy where it should have gone up Sgurr na Feartaig but I was feart of Feartaig due to the low clod and driving drizzle and , instead plodged over a bealach designed by Tolkein and down to the River Splodge or some other gaelic name nobody has heard of.

top of the bealach

Its an area called Pollan Buidhe and there, on a flat and slightly soggy bit of grass was the second omen – a desert spoon stuck in the grass. (Actually there’s been a desert spoon stuck in the grass at Strathcarron too, now I think about it and I’d presented this to Carl Mynott, or , at least somebody who claimed to be Carl Mynott – but the point is, the spoon-based omens had started to build up.)

back to t he bealach

view from tent pollan buidhe camp

Another TGO-type arrived and put his tent up but was unable or unwilling to chat. I discovered later that he was from That London, so that probably explains why, in all the vast space, he put his tent up next to mine, but still pretended I wasn’t there. Funny buggers are those from That London.

andy and his pal

In the morning I joined up briefly with Andy Howell and his pal and we sauntered down the Dale in sunshine. A nice discovery was the garden shed at Glenuaig which is open to hillwalkers and has light and heat. Its very small, though – only big enough for two or three, so not ideal for a party.

glenuaig shelter

andy takes a picture

I crossed the beck in the wrong place due to a small time/space continuum discrepancy and plundered over another bealach to the Loch Monar Reservoir where I found Andy again. The night settled in for wet and windy. And so it remained for the whole of the next day. This was the Notorious Sunday. I wandered along the fine path alongside the Loch and down the long road along Strahfarrar dale to Struy where I followed Les and Issy into the Cnoc Hotel to get drunk. This was successful.

loch monar in the rain

path by loch monar

During the evening we got a call from control asking if we’d got room for Roy and ? who where having difficulties somewhere close. The bar staff sent out relatives in landrovers to find them, which they did. Several  bedraggled Challengers arrived and were squeezed into the technically full hotel. There was a distinct smell of socks. I did notice, however, that at breakfast, may sausage was pointing East. I took this as a positive omen and ate it quickly before it could alter it’s orientation and then left for the notorious Eskadale Triangle where the shortest heather is up to yer nips and the bogs are full of horses and carts from olden days – indeed, I believe I did stand on the peat-stained hat of a coal merchant from Drumnadrochit who went missing in 1926 and was presumed to have run off with a bus driver’s daughter.

The trial starts at Maud, where a deer fence’s wire is interrupted for a few feet by a fence of wood. This is assaulted using a bold approach and leads the hiker into a jungle of wet birch and dripping sitka. A brief rush through a back garden, keeping an eye out for huge, slavering dogs, leads the now hypertensive potential stroke victim up a very steep track where, in summer, the black flies will  be an additional torment. This eventually leads to a small lochan where the real trouble begins.

tgo 2012 029

A couple of miles of soggy bog and vicious tussocks follows to a second small lochan or tarn, where a good road leads off in entirely the wrong direction. The beck (burn) is crossed sans boots and the most jungly and tick-infested part of the crossing now ensues. I heard distant drums……  prolly from Drumnadrochit (arf) – and more lochans follow in short order. it wa shere that I met John Enoch who had been walking on a similar course and knew where there was a road. We headed for the grid reference containing the road and there it was. It lead to the road a few miles West of Drumnadrochit where we joined the popular route from Tomdoun and eventually staggered into Drum, scratched, wet, bruised, twisted and with a raging thirst for fine liquours of the type only served up in the very best public bars. I had a B&B and scoffed a huge steak pie and chips in a nearby hotel, along with one or two hearty libations which my cardiac nurse better not hear about if you know what’s good for you.

I’ve had enough of this excitement for now. I’ll continue later. But just to say that this was the first Monday – 58 miles and 8600 feet of up. The weather so far was fairly typical for  early TGO – cold and showery with new wet snow on the hills – but also some sunshine too.  More adventures up the Monadhliath and Cairngorms will follow inabit. Food-based omens were positive, but I was just a little worried about the cutlery. What was it trying to say, I wondered?


Wednesday 9 May 2012


There will now be a short hiatus of a couple of weeks - maybe a bit less if I fall over or something.

I will shortly be enjoying the childish pleasure of being alone and small in a big landscape

Here's a video which seems to be looking forward to the future with a certain amount of abandon:

"I don't know my future
After this weekend
And I don"t want to."

Tuesday 8 May 2012

TGO Optimism

 lochcallater lodge sign
Quite a few people are about to launch themselves on a journey,  and many of those are blogging (and probably tweeting, twittering and, possibly, wittering) about their forthcoming attempt to walk a couple of hundred miles or so across the middle, relatively wild bit of Scotland. Readers of blogs who aren’t about to set off on this particular trip may well be excused for the glazing of their eyes at the constant stream of lists of equipment and what it weighs and so on and so on.

TGO challengers, particularly those chosen few who’s privilege it is to make their first attempt can be empathised with if they have the odd qualm or even the occasional butterfly about it. (If they haven’t then they’re idiots, frankly and probably won’t be at Montrose at the end)

Those of us who are about to make yet another attempt – in my case, my eleven-and-a –halfth (sic) – may also be aware that the outcome is in doubt.

But we set off with nervous optimism. We are optimistic about the weather. We are optimistic that if the weather is dire, that we’ll cope well enough. We’re optimistic that when we meet other challengers on the way, somewhere, perhaps in a remote and unlikely spot, that the meeting will be friendly and positive and that new, cherishable memories will be formed.

And we’re optimistic that our puny, or otherwise fat and failing bodies will be cajoled into carrying us and our listed gear over all those tussocks and across those difficult streams.

It’s good to be optimistic.

It’s a bit late for Beltane, but here’s a short late-spring bit of optimism (maybe a bit too fast for traditionalists – but at least it’s cheerful) I’ve done my packing. The pack is resting now, waiting for the addition of a few forgotten items, suddenly remembered at random times.

Here’s my best wishes for everybody about to set off on the TGO Challenge, and also for those friends doing something else.

Monday 7 May 2012

Deer Gallows, Crookrise and Rylstone Crag

rylstone crag

I did a very similar route to this walk with Martin Banfield a couple of years ago and I seem to remember that the two resulting blog posts – on Northernpies and Postcard from Timperley – were almost identical and with the same spelling a grammatical errors, almost as if they’d been written by the same person…..

It was different, though, this time.

deer gallows chimney dg pinnacle

Yesterday, I pinched the very last place in the village car park at Embsay, read the Craven Herald and Pioneer whilst waiting for the nephew, and, after he’d arrived we marched off to have a look at  Deer Gallows Crag. This place is a small but perfectly formed gritstone outcrop in the middle of Embsay Moor. It has a few memories for me – we used to climb the rocks here and, I believe that Deer Gallows Chimney may well have been the first named route I ever climbed. DG Chimney is a narrow slit containing some chockstones. Its not really climbed as such. What you do is you insinuate yourself inside and wriggle upwards for about thirty feet and pop out of the top like a cork. The last time I did this must have been in the early 1980’s , and without the additional frictional benefits of a huge beer belly which on this occasion, acted as a safety device, preventing me from sliding down inside the chimney should I lose grip. It’s graded “Difficult” and, it’s a fairly easy difficult. I think you’re supposed to climb it outside the chockstones. I’ve never done this, always enjoying the cosy embrace, which turns slowly into a desperate upwards thrutchy struggle of the innards of this crack. I tried it again yesterday. I did get to the top eventually. There was much huffing, groaning, puffing and heaving and one hand lost a bit of skin. Phew. Its like potholing, but without the darkness.

crookrise crag

So, after admiring Deer Gallows’ rocky pinnacle (also a Diff) – we continued to Crookrise. Crookrise was another stamping ground and I haunted the place occasionally from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1980’s, climbing the rocks, a night bivi  where Neil’s brother set fire to a tree, and , generally mooching around the place. This crag has a rich history dating back to the times of Napes Needle, and it has secret howffs, one of which I only managed to find once, and then never again – a huge boulder with an overhanging capstone, underneath which there was a space, big enough for six or seven people to shelter and containing hurricane lamps and old bits of climbing gear. It’s whereabouts are a complete mystery to me, but sometimes I like to try to see if I can find it. 

up a boulder....

And then, after crossing Waterfoot Gill (misnamed on OS maps as “Waterfall Gill”, ) and lunch, when a few snowflakes fell, we wandered along to Rylstone Crag with it’s cross teetering on the edge -  and Cracoe Fell, where more boulders were found to be too attractive to miss the chance of a little unthreatening mountaineering. You could have hours of happy fun floating up and down these rocks. They are beautiful, grippy and friendly……..

rylstone crag

A long march back over the moor brought us back to Embsay, and so to Skipton for our tea.(Which was excellent by the way – ta, Bev.)

We’d done about twelve and a half miles with about two thousand feet of up, which is not bad for a walk we made up “on the hoof”.  Bruno, unfortunately, is not allowed on these moors under the terms of the access agreement with the Duke of Devonshire’s estate. Boo! Wuff! Growl!



Tuesday 1 May 2012

Lead Mine Trails Little Victories Around Blanchland and Edmundbyers


I have this little trundle on the Lead Mine trail and a few other paths around Blanchland and Edmundbyers which I do twice a year for the purpose of reporting to the Council rights of way peeps on the state of the footpaths. Its a very useful walk to have just before setting off on a TGO Challenge (only ten days to go!) as it’s fifteen miles. OK, its fifteen fairly easy miles… 

new lamb

Unfortunately, superdawg is not allowed on this jaunt due to what is basically a ranch containing suckler cows, one of whom once knocked me over in her attempt to get at Bruno, who had, wisely, buggerred of over the wall..  There’s also lots of sheep who are producing lambs just now and panicking ewes are contra-indicated for a responsible volunteer wot like I am.

path fallig to bits

Part one of this jaunt is a six or so mile wander through some nice woodland, a few lambing fields, a bit more woodland, a bit of moorland and some more woodland. The path issues are usually about fallen trees, but there’s a steep path where the shoring is falling to bits and a stile which occasionally rejects the walker and chucks him over the wall, a bit like a trebuchet. And I’ve mentioned a place which needs a waymark.


The naughty stile’s bolts have rusted up now, so it no longer exports ramblers into the sitka over the wall, so that’s good, but the steep path is still falling to bits, although it doesn’t really look any worse than it did last September. And a waymark has appeared in just the right place. Time for lunch.

old boiler belmont farm

Part two is a nine mile walk up the Lead mine trail – a route heavily used by mountain bikers which is getting a bit frayed in parts. The walk returns by a footpath through the cattle/sheep/horse ranch through Pedam’s Oak. This is usually OK, apart from the occasional manic heiffer but here’s some gorse slowly closing the path at one point (I did notice a gorse-cutting day in the working party lists, though) and there used to be a handwritten sign on a gate informing walkers that they were going the wrong way. This needed another waymarker and – one has appeared. OK, so they’re only little things, but it seems that somebody is taking notice of what the adopt-a-path volunteers are saying.


Perishing cold this afternoon by the way. Somebody in Denmark seems to have left a fridge door open. Fifteen miles, though…..

aap blanchland