Friday 29 June 2012

Hi Ho Silver Haway (bonnie lad)

kirkcarrion in winter

Me and the dawg just did our bi-annual walk around the footpaths to the immediate North of Pie Towers – up to Roddymoor, skirting the disputed Kitty’s Wood and up on to the hill above Crook and around the back kind of thing. Avid readers may remember that many of the stiles had been repaired when we did this walk back in January, and one stile had been wired up with barbed wire, reported to the Council, and cleared. So, this time, I didn’t expect much in the way of footpath issues and, I was chuffed not to find any. Bruno enjoyed the trundle and the bounce around the field with no stock in it.

bruno searches for a stile. any stile...

And its been that time of year when Maria at the council asks for plans for the winter guided walks programme, so I put a dozen walks in for that. Some are repeats and some are new. I’ll have to reccy the new ones fairly soon, and each gets a reccy a week before the walk takes place – so some get walked three times altogether.

dvcrs guided walk baldersdale

This is what I’ve submitted: (No dates at the present cos they’re not confirmed)

October: Burble Well Baldersdale (this is new – cracking name for a place, though, eh?)

November: Cow Green – Langdon Beck – Cauldron Snout ( another new one – this is a classic Upper Teesdale one that appears in lots of guidebooks)

November: Bolts law from Blanchland - (New – cracking view, Grommit)

December: Advent walk around Crook – (Mince pies and coffee at St Cath’s afterwards)

December: Tunstall/Fawnlees (Seemed very poplier last time…)

cowshill to the border january 2012

January: Cowshill to Northumberland border. (repeated – high level, so it should be cold brrrrrrr)

January: Upper Weardale: Westgate – Bollihope (new , low-level winter walk)

February: Elephant Trees – Bollihope (repeat – this is not the same Bollihope as above. Several Bollihopes are available)

February: Hudeshope (repeat – hoping that the mud is frozen)

March: Westgate – Rookhope (repeat through Slitt Wood etc)

March: Bentley Beetham vs Hannah Hauxwell (repeat walk in Baldersdale)

March: Rookhope Burn (repeat.)

Phew. This should keep me busy, I would have thought….

By the way – the post title refers to The Lone Ranger, for those not of a certain age. It’s a joke, see?


Wednesday 27 June 2012

Stony Band Shunner Fell and Great Sleddale

Upper Swaledale 

Yesterday, I had planned to go to Cumbria to bag a Birkett or two, but it was on the TV that over in Cumbria, they were still cleaning up from this month’s flooding, and there was the issue about the stupidly high parking fees over there, so, instead, I went to Thwaite in Swaledale with a loose plan to bag a light blue triangle (if it’s light blue it’s unbagged!) that’s appeared on – a Sub-Dewey (no, really, there is such a thing…) right next to the Pennine Way on Great Shunner Fell and then to get back to the start with an exploration of Great Sleddale, a place I like to visit once every 38 years – it was 38 years ago when I last wandered down this little dale.

I told the dog. He was happy about the plan, so, armed with a fresh cheese butty and a new banana we pointed the knipemobile in the appropriate direction and set off.

pennine way up to shunner fell

dofe group wanders off into the distance not taking to anybody

Not too long later, we were huffing and dripping sweatily up the Pennine Way towards Derbyshire. It was a dark and humid kind of day. But, on the moor, the larks and pipits were singing way up in the grey and the D of E kids were heaving their packs Northwards. I said “hello” to the first four in the group – none of them replied. I told number five that I wasn’t going to speak to him. They’re not supposed to talk to strange men, y’know.. they have strict warnings from their mums and D of E organisers.

monty - piglet lookalike

We quickly bagged Stony Band and then, a bit less quickly, blundered off to the top of Shunner Fell where there’s a cross shelter and some old banana skins.

A couple at the summit of Shunner fell were chatty, though and their little dog, one Monty, a double of Peewiglet’s Piglet if ever I saw one, was very friendly and was enthusiastic about meeting Bruno. I think they said they were going to go back down to Thwaite the way they’d come up – by the Pennine Way.

We lunched briefly. A Pennine way walker stopped for a chat (they’re allowed to communicate with others too). I told him the weather forecast (warm and wet) and he suspected thunder and lightening. Always look on the bright side…

great sleddale

After lunch, me and superdawg lead off down the steep slope into the upper parts of Great Sleddale, following a nice little limestone gorge for a bit and then tracks by the beck to the abandoned farm and fields lower down. This hasn’t changed much at all in 38 years, if my memory serves… thingy..

deep ford

A plodge through a deep ford provided wet socks for additional excitement, followed by a nice riverside ramble and a second sweaty, dripping huffanpuff over a moor, during which I met the same DofE group again. the first one said hello. The next three looked into space when I said “hello”. I told the last one that I wasn’t going to speak to him.

1840 bridge

The forecast had said rain, starting in the early afternoon, but it didn’t start till I was within yards of the shelter of the car. It had, though, been a very warm and humid sort of day suitable for baselayers only with rolled-up sleeves and something to keep the stinging salty stuff out of your eyes.

superdawg above sleddale

It was ten of your Earth miles. I enjoyed it. Bruno enjoyed it. Monty seemed to be enjoying it. The Pennine wayfarer enjoyed the feeling of doom.  I don’t think the DofE kids enjoyed it. I think they’re just after the line in the CV. At some point, though, they’re going to have to start talking to other people. They should put something about this in the training, really, otherwise there’ll be little point in having a CV entry with “Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award” in it if they can’t speak to an interviewer. Or anybody.

upper swaledale

more upper swaledale

Here’s a map for anybody intent on visiting Sleddale- which I would recommend for it’s remote feel. You can’t take dogs there, though cos it’s a grouse moor (koff). I only found out about the dog thing at the foot of Sleddale, which was too late by then. No ground-nesting birds or sheep were harmed, though.

Swaledale’s very nice at the moment, too. The meadows are blooming. It’s a good time to go. And parking near the junction with the Buttertubs road is free, leaving funds available for a cuppa at the tea room at Thwaite.


Monday 25 June 2012

Pennine Way Bowes to Tan Hill Inn and back again

old roadsign sleightholme moor road

Back in the depths of March, when the sun was beating down from an azure sky, I did the initial reccy for this walk along with my ever loyal companion (providing I possess food, that it..) Bruno aka Superdawg.  And, the County Durham Guided walks programme for the laughable and slightly ironic title of the “Summer Programme” (Ha!) said that I was to lead the walk on 24 July. This meant doing a reccy shortly before 24 July.

bruno denies damaging the castle

I’d been in Wales with Dawn and Alan till a few days before this, and the weather forecast for the first available day – last Thursday involved weather warnings and serious flooding in bits of the North of England. Friday’s forecast was poor too, although the actual weather wasn’t too bad, so it was at the very last minute, on Saturday that I saddled up the pooch in Bowes Village Hall car park and marched of up the Pennine Way Loop towards Tan Hill.

river greta in spate would-be dog chasers

It soon started raining and it  with a full-on headwind. The River Greta was in spate. I was chased by cattle (Bruno was chased by cattle who turned out to be no more than skittish yoofs who were unable to cope with Bruno’s manoeuvring, so it was OK , really.

bruno in tan hill inn 

We marched through meadows and sploshed over moors, ultimately coming to the really sloppy bit near the top of Frumming Beck. This is described by Alf (isn’t that Herdwick ewe pretty?) Wainwright as “ a journey of despair” And so it would be were it not for the oasis of shelter and delight sitting, in full view, on the hill – The Tan Hill Inn. The highest pub in England.

I was soon inside holding a pint of Black Sheep, followed by another pint of Black Sheep and finishing with a flourish with another pint of Black Sheep.

bruno tidies up some litter

Soon, and with the wind behind me, a spring in my step and three pints of Black Sheep shaking Mr Bladder from his slumber, me and superdawg skipped off down the road to Sleightholme – this avoiding the soggy sphagnum of Sleightholme Moor – you only want to do this bit once in a day. Bruno took the opportunity to tidy up a bit of litter – a plastic drinks bottle. He carried this all the way back to Bowes, in fact, occasionally giving it to me to be kicked along the road…

We walked back to Bowes on the road, all the while being sprayed and spattered by driving drizzle.

imagining she's at home with hot coffee and a scone... 

On Sunday, seven walkers turned up, plus the two stewards, Ann and Steve. Steve had been coerced by Maria at the Council.  Everybody else wanted to be there , though. They must be mad.

entering the temple

We marched off, on exactly the same route as the day before. It was quite a nice day at first. The rain and headwind didn’t really start till we got to the exposed bit on the Sleightholme Moor road. This is where the desperate struggle began.  We lunched, briefly in a sheepfold (cracking camping spot by the way….) and, despite the foul conditions, we all stumbled into the smoky warmth of the Tan Hill public bar, where skilled and highly trained bar staff supplied refreshments and comfy chairs soothed our aching limbs. A guitarist/singer gave renditions of Beates and Paul Simon songs. He was very good.  Outside, the elements raged in impotent rage (it was raining again). But soon (two pints of Black Sheep) it was time to return to Bowes.

cardwell bridge

We followed the road to Sleightholme and then the still sloppy Pennine Way back to Bowes. A count of heads revealed that we had neither gained nor lost anybody.

The walk was advertised as 16 miles. I measured Saturday’s walk as 17 miles. Three of the walkers announced that we’d walked 18 miles. There’s something odd about the Pennine Way. I suspect it might be stretching due to it getting really wet. I expect it’ll go back to it’s proper length when it dries out. If it ever dries out.

We’ll be back to the Pennine Way shortly. the next time, it’s the Bowes Loop/ Bowes Alternative, complete with God’s Bridge and Poison gas. I’m specially looking forward to the poison gas.

pw bowes - tan hill part 1

pw bowes - tan hill part 2

Friday 22 June 2012

Tales of Cadair Idris

looking out from cafe akto in the rain
We had initially gathered our expeditionary forces on the half two Arriva Wales train from Birmingham New Street. The That London brigade (Dawn) had snuck on at Birmingham International in order to fool any Cadair spies that an assault was about to take place.
After a bag of fish and chips and/or chicken and chips in Machynlleth, further Arriva Wales transport was commandeered (for the price of about six quid) to land the initial assault force in the howling gale and slashing monsoon of the Minffordd car park (no overnight parking and no camping by the way)
camp horse stone ant nest swamp midge bog
We lead off up the steep path in unpromising conditions. Actually, the conditions were promising to drown us or blow us off the path, but were we dismayed? Well, , yes, actually, but we pressed on  and once in possession of to lower corrie of the Nant Cadair ,where  we sploshed around for a while getting our socks wet trying to find a relatively sheltered spot for the siege camp. We found such a place behind a rock that looked a bit like a horse from certain angles and a lot like a big rock from all other perspectives. Extra guy lines and more than enough pegs were deployed. A substantial larder, sufficient for an extended stay was laid out and a small library of books and maps was created for the entertainment and education of the troops, to avoid boredom and mutiny.
craig cwm amarch and llyn cau
The wind blew gustily and the rain lashed down. tent doors were zipped up and the cosy confines of sleeping bags were occupied. A period of Atlantic Storm lassitude overcame the party. This lasted from Friday evening till Sunday morning. There was no let up in the resistance put up by the meteorological conditions, until, faced with apparent disdain, witnessed by the scoffing of large quantities of bacon, eggs, sausages, stotties, beef stew with real boiled spuds and peas and carrots and delicious and nourishing selections from the sweet trolly, the storm finally packed it in and went to Norway for it’s holidays where easier pickings than our stout crew were to be had.
alan (blog on the landscape)
Just as the sun came out, Alan turned up. He was fed on some spare sausages and his own barm cakes (Lancastrians aren’t usually allowed to eat stotties in case they develop a taste for them and start demanding their own branches of Greggs.).
alan on mynydd moel
A plan was developed to bag Cadair Idris and some of it’s satellites over the next two days, a feat which often takes hillwalkers just the one day. This plan was deliberately developed just to further demonstrate our relaxed attitude to the business and our willingness to wait, doggedly and with determination any thoughts that the weather might have of chucking another wet spanner in the works.
cadair idris
Walk Number One (also know as Walk A) would not even visit the summit of Cadair Idris itself but would just toy with a couple of outlying summits – those of Gau Graig, a 683 metre lump in the far North-eastern reaches with a cracking view which included Llyn Y Bala and the Aran ridges and Mynydd Moel with it's dramatic rock sceenery.. This involved the unusual and diversionary tactic of starting off downhill to get to the start of the path. dawn walked part of the way but returned to camp to protect it from bacon addicts and the awful hooded  Dolgellau sausage snafflers, a feared gang of breakfast thieves with their dirty clothing stained with the careless spillage of other people’s tomato ketchup.
Me and Alan bagged Gau Graig, and Mynydd Moel, a more pointy and rocky lump a bit to the left. This has some impressive rock scenery. We returned whence we came and dined heartily on potatoes in a cheese and onion sauce and chocolate sponge and custard.
yoof camp llyn cau
Walk Number Two (also known as Walk C (Information on walk B is restricted)) Started off in the unusual direction of uphill and visited the bottomless tarn of Llyn Cau.  Its obviously bottomless because a) You can’t see the bottom and b) there’s more water coming out than going in and c) somebody once said it was bottomless. Its also haunted by yoof groups who leave crap everywhere and burn the grass. Like all yoof groups , these are Not Allowed To Talk to Anybody and everything in their rucksacks is On A List which gets ticked off.  Instructions do not, however, appear to include taking all your wrapping paper home, but do include setting fire to the vegetation and your own clothes (apparently)
dawn at llyn cau
nato air support for our climb up Cwm Amarch
We quickly bagged Craig Cwm Amarch. Dawn went back to guard the campsite from arsonist yoof groups and I had a short adventure on some rocks which almost ended badly. Some jets flew past. there might have been twelve of them or, alternatively, they might have come around more than once.
craig cwm amarch
Mynydd Pencoed was also ticked off before the final assault on Pen y Gadair, a lazy lunch in warm sunshine and a wander along the huuuuuuuge escarpment overlooking Dolgellau. This was all quite, quite fabulous.
llyn y gadair
After descending, we had to resort to dehydrated food since all we had left was a bit of bacon, a potato and some cheese (not counting jelly babies, orange chocolate drops or various types of energy bars and porridge). So I had a “chicken” “risotto” and whatever was left in Alan’s whisky bottle.
On Tuesday, we left. Alan took me and Dawn  almost to Machynlleth, but was preventing from entering the town by the lorry just in front of us which had jammed itself under the railway bridge. This caused havoc in mach for most of the rest of the morning. We breakfasted and tried to find beds, but found none at an attractive price, there being a census ordered by Plaid Cymru and all people had had to return to their home towns. We were offered a place in a stable but refused when we heard that some shepherds and some Wise professors from Aberystwyth University were on their way… or something… so we camped up the Parc, where we’d camped before.
white stonecrop up the parc
It was very nice up the Parc. Lots of wild flowers and nice views and its very quiet and a bit discreet.
My stuff suffered some damage over the trip thus:
Akto – Small pole and line to the main pole punched it’s way out of it’s holder due to being battered by wind. This caused outer and inner tent to meet which caused a significant leak which I had to mop up at 3:00 a.m. (Why is it always 3:00 a.m when stuff happens?)
Akto – hanger for inner tent came adrift and needs sewing back on.
Akto – some splashing of hot oil around the door due to frying inside the porch in the storm. this may be additional waterproofing, I suppose…
Akto – One guy seriously frayed and about to break.
Platypus – delaminated. (age)
Cycling bottle for transport of whisky – Hole in lid cause by thumb whilst pushing it into rucksack
Neck (personal injury) – Big lump seeping with body fluids caused by an attack by an irate ant who objected to me putting my tent on his nest. Other ants were involved in failed tent invasions and some were treated (disgracefully) to hot coffee and/or small flamethrower attacks using a small cigarette lighter. Prolly serves me right, I suppose.
Alan’s version of the trip is on his blog here:
walking out up the parc

I expect Dawn will come up with something at some point, and when she does, I’ll put a link in…

And here it is

Thursday 14 June 2012

Lightweight Wales (We say “Pah!” to lightweight)

hugh rucksack
In the face of a terrible weather forecast and probably motivated by the extended planning period for this trip plus the fact that we’ve bought train tickets, me and Dawn are setting off to Machynlleth tomorrow for a backpacking, or, rather, camping trip to Cadair Idris and it’s surroundings. We’re lead to understand that Alan Rayner  who’s blog is here will be joining us on Sunday and, if he’s any sense at al, will bring a small supply of barm cakes. As for me, my contribution is stotties. North-Easterners will be familiar with the stottie, which is a local bread-based flat loaf with a specially chewy consistency which is traditionally loaded with ham and pease pudding. 
Together, we have bacon, sausages, eggs, beef, cheese, veggies, various species of potato, including the dehydrated version which earthlings peel with their metal knives and then smash all to bits.
I have a small supply of alcohol which is barely sufficient for five days but includes tins of beer and we both have the means to fasten tents down as securely as possible in the teeth of an atlantic storm
We have a small library of books and maps and music via the magic of MP3.
By no means could this expedition be described as “lightweight”. (although I do have a titanium spork)
There could well be another short hiatus in blog posts till I return after the solstice.
So , here’s some educational music which is not relevant to the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics or the footy going on over in Slabovia.

Monday 11 June 2012

Livewriter Fixed (It had to happen eventually)

lovely dirty pig

This is just a test post to make sure that Livewriter is working like wot it orta. (spelling’s not improved…)

It all go broken whilst I was on the TGO challenge y’see… 

these plants can uuurrgghhh 

Not much else to say, really. I’m off to Wales shortly. This will be a heavy backpacking trip involving beer, bacon, eggs sausages (by Dawn) and a frying pan (Dawn again) and other proper food and luxury items such as a proper hat and a novel by Charles (where’s me porridge, Gradgrind?) Dickens.

Its going to rain.

There will be floods and wet socks.

Usual stuff, really…

Friday 8 June 2012

Over the Tops to Rookhope - Guided Walk

The hill that goes over to Rookhope

The last time I lead this guided walk, two stewards and just the one walker turned up. This time I had two stweards (Eric and Clare) and fourteen people turned up. By any measures, this is an improvement.

Brian and Dawg in Slitt Wood

Me and superdawg reccied the walk a week ago on Friday and Brian came along for the Slitt Wood bit after which he returned to Charlie's in Westgate for a cuppa...

The reccy was fairly straightforward. There was a bunch of suckler cows at one point which I avoided by a wide detour across a hillside and was only detected by them as I reached the skyline. This caused some excitement in the herd which was now far below - but too late for them to do any dawg chasing.

Utter Rubbish

We also discovered piles of litter, a large area of burned ground and some Bear Ghrylls/Ray Mears wannabe had been hacking at the trees with an axe. There's some right [insert preferred descriptive rude word here] about, to be frank.

Chopper damage
Wednesday's weather for the actual walk was mizzly and drizzly but the duff weather forecast which had involved electrical storms, flash floods, a plague of frogs and a sandstorm, eveolved into a pleasant sunny afternoon.

We rescued a lamb which had managed to get it's legs stuck in the steel grid of some derelict reinforced concrete quarry buildings and it ran off with one leg askew and calling for it's mother, which eventually turned up with an udder full of sheep milk.  The grid sticks out from the side of an old cutting and a lamb jumping on it from above would be well stuck and in for a long, painful and protracted death. Somebody really should tidy it up' it's much more dangerous as litter than some scruffy eeejit's picnic.

North Pennine Views

Anyway, the highlights of this nine mile trundle are:

Slitt Wood wild flowers, waterfalls and industrial archeology including bargain steads, wheel pits, the footings for an armstrong hydraulic engine, the mine smithy, Slitt vein, culverts, dams, shafts, levels, tramways and spoil heaps.

A tramp over the moors with nice North Pennine views.

A nature reserve

Rookhope village including pub and toilets

The Rookhope borehole (which discovered hot granite 1000 metres down)

Westgate in Weardale

The track of the railway to Westgate for easy walking with views of Weardale

Meadows and pastures.

Westgate  - shop and Hare and Hounds

There's a map.