Friday 31 August 2012

Rangering Reccy to Bolts Law

dawg and bolts law

I wonder who Bolt was……hmmm never mind.

Today, it was cold. In fact, it was perishing – but as with all arctic blasts, the air was clear as something really clear. And the Cheviots and bits of Scotland were clearly to be seen…

Me and the dawg went off to do a reccy of a route that’s in the winter programme of Durham County Council guided walks. (see… I’ve got cold and winter and arctic in this end-of-summer blog post.

it might look nice but it was perishing...

Most of the walk has been done before on the blog, but there’s a section where there are dark rumours of electric fences and fences with no stiles. We set off hopefully.

bolts law christmas tree


Every Christmas, a some members of a NE cycling club decorate this isolated tree with Christmas decorations.  This year, I’ll take some pics…  I love it when people do stuff like this…

First of all, we encountered a grouse shoot. Our route took us across the front of several grouse butts manned by people with guns and ear protectors. One of them waved. We waved back. An old chap guarding a beaters transport responded positively to “Its a nice day for it” – so I felt comfortable with a chilly ascent of Bolt’s Law. It was, in fact, nithering. Not really an August day at all, bit the views up and over the Scottish border were clear as gin.

topof boilts law with dawg roilling about like an idiot

Then there were the fences.

The first seems to be in the wrong place. It’s a bridge over a deep and ancient leat with an electric fence. OK so far.

electric fence #1

Next, is a bit where there’s a crossing over an electric fence, but the insulated way is a few yards to the right. Damage to the fence indicates that insulating a bit of the fence that’s not next to the stile could be classed as a mistake. Crossing the stile in the correct place could lead to exciting and painful experiences for the hiker’s “parts”. Some people like this kind of thing, however. This is exactly the walk for them.

no stile

Next is a fence with no stile at all.

It needs a stile. There’s a DCC waymark, indicating that the rights of way peeps have been here, but no stile. There’s going to be a stile!

Overall, the path between Bolts Law and Ramshaw could easily be described as a disgrace. Lets see if we can make it better. This may well take some time.

dog on monochrome for some reason....

And so the walk ended through Deborah Wood and alongside the river into Blanchland, during which superdawg went into monochrome for a few minutes. I’m not entirely sure how he does this.

It’s about nine miles.

More of this later….

Monday 27 August 2012

Burbling In Baldersdale

a slightly scary moment near battle hill farm

I put a walk in the Durham County Council Winter walks programme which visits Burble Well in Baldersdale.

The walk is in October and so, yesterday, I thought I’d best go and see if I could actually find Burble Well. Eventually, after plodging through some very wet bogs, I got to the place where Burble Beck meets a road, and, by handrailing the beck (just a trickle) and by counting paces, I found two very old manhole covers and an orange bog, swelling out of the ground in a huge dome. The water looked reasonably clean but there was a lot of orangey “stuff”  which may or may not have been organic.

burble well with the lid off some orange chalybeate stuff

Burble Well is chalybeate. In translation, this means that it’s got a noticeable content of iron salts. Most of the becks and bogs around here seem to have lots of iron salts, judging by the orange and red deposits, so I came across several possible candidates, mostly in the wrong places, due to navigation based more on hope than how many double paces there are in 100 metres.

baldersdale's twin peaks

So, the reccy was successful and I decided to alter my original route quite a bit – it’s now a bit shorter, and come at the Burble from the East, where it’s easier to find and not so boggy, and I can build up the exciting anticipation of waiting to see the famous (well it will be by then…) Burble Well.

The rest of the walk circumnavigates an army shooting range, passes through Battle Hill farm with all it’s cattle (I came across several excitable heifers and one huge but , thankfully, calm bull.

rain on it's way

Then it started to rain heavily, so I curtailed my wanderings and hurried back to the cosiness of the knipemobile parked cosily in Hury Reservoir Car Park.

I hope the punters won’t be too underwhelmed by Burble.

I should have called the walk “A Bimble to the Burble” but it’s too late for that now as the programme is at the printer’s.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Two North Pennine Guided Walks

pw near falcon clints

It is with a smug fizzog and ever so slightly damp undies that I write this post.

Yesterday and today I had back-to-back guided walks: Friday’s was a trundle up the Elephant Trees and around Bollihope in Weardale, stewarded by Sheila and Chris and attended by two small dogs and fifteen walkers, and today’s was the final section of the Pennine Way in Durham, from Forest in Teesdale to Cauldron Snout with stewards Doug and Neville and nine walkers. There was a certain amount of overlap in attendance (that is to say, some people came on both walks)

elephant trees

I’d reccied both walks last week, the Teesdale one in half a day’s driving drizzle and half a day’s hot sunshine , and the Weardale one on a nice,warm summer day. Today, it persisted all day, and the grass was wet and the rocks were slippery, which is why I’m a bit damp.

Unfortunately , I forgot to take the camera on the Weardale walk, but got some pics on the reccy, but there’s a few pics from the Teesdale walk.


The Weardale walk was pretty much uneventful once it had stopped raining and we visited the Efelent Trees again (some avid readers may say “yet again”) and the flowery Bollihope side-valley and the Harehope Mine and Quarry. All very familiar stuff….

river tees in spate

The Teesdale walk’s fortunes were maybe a bit more ominous. First, there was the mistake in the programme which talked of a walk to “Cronkley Spout” This is almost entirely my fault, with some small responsibility at least falling on the proprietors of the Bunnahabhain distillery who’s product I may well have been sipping whilst putting in my bid for the walk. I did fail to notice the mistake on proof reading/checking the details. There is, of course, no such place as Cronkley Spout, although there ought to be. We went, instead, to Crumply Scout Cauldron Snout

cronkley cauldron snout

Secondly, the day was wet and stayed wet, so rocks and duck-boards were slippery, and deep grass in the remaining uncut meadows were specially wetting.

scrambling the snout

I must pay homage to the grit, determination and persistence of the punters who turned up. (I was a bit surprised that anybody turned up, given the weather) There were no complaints and nobody came a cropper. The scramble up by the waterfall went as smoothly as could be expected although one or two of the walkers had a little flutter of adrenalin since the waterfall was in a bad, bad mood.

pw forest to cauldron reccy 008

So it was all OK.

Maps below:

dvcrs walk one

Weardale walk 11 miles

pw forest to cow green

Teesdale walk 11 miles as well… spooky, that…

Thursday 23 August 2012

Lindisfarne Beach Bivi

weardale reccy and lindisfarne 022

We’d been meaning to do this for a while, but the weather and busy busy got in the way. We, being me and Brian of course. Eventually, and with a bit of shuffling the diary, we managed to squeeze a night out on a Holy Island beach. Brian was having an early celebration of his 70th birthday and an imminent promotion to grandad. And serve him right, too…

It was by no means a foregone conclusion, though. First of all, there was the discouraging sign on the causeway which said words to the effect that camping on Linisfarne was right out , whether in a car, a tent or a shed/phonebox/upturned boat or whatever.

weardale reccy and lindisfarne 015

Then there was the puddle of salty water on the causeway which restarted on old fault on my car alarm – that is to say, whenever I locked the door, the alarm went off. This would mitigate against parking discreetly (the car park had a sign about not parking overnight.)

Then there was the tide. If we decided to go somewhere else, we had till half four to get off the island otherwise we’d be there for another twelve hours. We decided on a pint, a quick look round and then a retreat to Bamburgh or somewhere.

We had food and we had booze and we had the means to light a fire quickly (not allowed by the way) and we had the means to cook any seafood that might fall into our hands (turned out there wasn’t much seafood – Brian pulled a mussel and gave it to me. I named it Dave but it turned out to be an unresponsive pet. In fact it seemed to be asleep. It was almost certainly deaf.

coves haven

On wandering around the harbour, we came across a lass with a dog sitting in a van. The short story is that she persuaded us to stay on the island and have our bivi (Brian told everybody we met that we were going to have a bivi on the beach and that it would be best if they didn’t tell anybody)

We parked freely on a bit of grass and wandered down a lane which took us to a sandy and flowery hinterland, some sand dunes, then a cliff overlooking a bay in which seals were being nosey about anybody who appeared on the cliff.

snapping wood for the fire

We wandered briefly towards Scotland till we came to a beautiful little sandy bay where we decided to stay. This was Coves Haven.  We gathered wood for a fire on the sand. There was no shortage of driftwood.  We explored a bit and found a place for the flysheet of the akto for shelter in case of rain, and we found a well built stone hut with a roof of fishing nets and “stuff”. Inside , it was full of toys and a traffic light, and candles and a rosarie and all kinds of flotsam and, maybe a bit of jetsam. There was a book to sign. It seems that the “authorities” don’t like the hut and occasionally destroy it. The authorities, it seems, are a*****les if this is what they think. Its a beautiful thing and its not doing any harm. What is the matter with these people?

inside the hut

We returned to our beach and our fire, drank Guinness and wine and ate a tinned supper. I had a paddle, then a swim – the pictures of which I’ve decided not to publish (!) I wouldn’t want anybody making unfair comparisons between me and any junior members of the royal family. I can say that the water was perishing cold at first, but, after a bit, once things had gone numb, it was fine. I’ve had worse….. and if you can’t bring yourself to have a “wild” swim here then you have no soul and will be doomed to have a perpetually sweaty bum.

pointing to denmark

Seals were singing on the rocks across the bay as the tide rose slowly up the sand, just to add to the romance of the occasion.

About half nineish, it started raining. A rushed tent pitching session soon revealed that I’d forgotten to bring tent pegs. We used a spare bit of pole, two walking poles and some rocks and achieved a waterproof but cosy shelter. We went to bed.  There was a bit of condensation and a lot of snoring, but otherwise we were undisturbed.

dawn coves haven

Suddenly it was morning and there’d been one of those time/space continuum accidents. Just in time for dawn, though, which appeared in just the right place in a clear, blue sky over a flat, calm sea.

The fire was still lit. We burned a bit of plastic beach rubbish, put out  the embers with sea water and covered up the evidence with sand.

I’d also forgotten the sausages by the way, so proper breakfast had to wait till we got to Roy’s tea van on the A1.


Then we went home and told our Mum’s all about it.

Dave died by the way. (sniff…)  Difficult to tell, actually. There’s very little chest movement with yer seafood and I have no idea where the pulse would be.

The end.










lindisfarne5  Oi! Stop looking…..

Sunday 19 August 2012

Penhill (aka Hill Hill)

penhill beacon aka "pile of stones"

“Penhill” translates as “Hill Hill” You’d have thought a little more imagination could have been employed.

The detailed arrangements for this foray into the Yorkshire Dales was only arranged last evening when we eventually decided on a walk to the top of Pen Hill. “We” being me, superdawg and rellies Paul and Bev.

We met on the village green at West Burton where, unusually in these days when it’s traditional to squeeze very last drop of loose change from tourists and motorists alike, the parking is free. This fact seems to ensure that the village is full of parked cars on a summer Sunday and that the village shop and pub do a reasonable trade.

cauldron force

We set off for a look at the village’s waterfall,(Cauldron Force) which lies in a wooded bower and has a hugely deep plunge pool, ideal for plunging in on a hot day. We’re still waiting for global warming to produce a hot day, by the way…. Today, the place was aniseed scented with Sweet Cicely which seems to be abundant

This was followed by a foray along almost the full length of Morpeth gate, where it started raining. We’d expected this, though and the choice of hill was one about which we could be flexible and have a number of quick escape routes back to the cars if the weather turned specially nasty. But it wasn’t that bad, so we plodged on.

morpeth gate

Morpeth gate is an ancient road, wide enough to be a drove road, which goes nowhere near Morpeth and, in fact, not even in Morpeth’s direction. Its more likely that its just the original road up the Dale, being on a dry limestone shelf, as opposed to the soggier, heavily wooded ground below in the dale where the modern road lies. Its good, easy walking, though and has good views over Wensleydale.

Morpeth Gate goes on for quite a way and leads to the Northern end of Penhill, the bit where the beacon is.

On the bit of road between the end of Morpeth gate and the start of the Penhill path, we met huge numbers of cyclists, none of whom had cycle bells, and some of whom were exhibiting sysmptoms of severe exhaustion and cardiac distress. This, and the Very Tight Trousers and Tops With Writing On, I took to be part of the Olympic Legacy. There’s a distinct Darwinian element creeping in here. I hope some of them survive to go on to lead fulfilling lives and the wearing of less obscene pants. darts, dominoes and beer-swilling really should be in the Olympics. Much safer.

shumthin sheems to be on fire...

After avoiding a field full of sucklers by an illegal (dog) rough and soggy detour over a bit of grouse moor and then, joining a bridleway we performed  a steep, grassy heave up the end of the big hill to a stone plinth which holds the modern version of Penhill beacon. The ancient beacon is a few yards away across heather. This is one of the ancient network of beacons created for the defence of England against the privations of Suntanned Steel-Breasted Spaniards with Pointy Beards, Accordion-playing and Onion and Beret-Wearing Frenchmen  and  drunken naughty Scotsmen with no pants on when it would be lit to warn the Nation to gather together for a panic. A chain of such beacons leads all the way from Cornwall to Berwick and would be manned in times of danger by people with good eyesight and the ability to get a really good fire going quickly.

penhill crags

We followed an unmapped but nice path along the Western edge of the hill which would have cracking views on a less hazy day, and on to the summit which was a fairly unimpressive lump of heather, a bit higher than all the other bits of heather.

descending to waldendale

As the rain became heavier, we came back down to Waldendale using the bridleway from Coverdaale and Thus, West Burton. This was very very slippery in the wet and infested with a huge herd or flock of pheasants who would be better served as a defence against being shot at by the local Barbour jackets by being a bit quieter with their escape. They could just sneak off. There’d be a lot more survivors. Just a tip, there. 

We’d done about 9 miles. We all thought we’d done ten.

Here’s a map. Its a good walk. Do it. Do it now. Gwan!



Thursday 16 August 2012

Welsh Marches Backpacking – Offa, Hergest, Colva and Radnor Forest

Dawn on Llanfihangel Hill not getting shot at today

This was a walk designed principally by Dawn which started out as one of several solutions to the problem of bagging three Hewitts in Radnor, plus a couple of others in South Wales and one near Devil’s Bridge. In the end, just the Radnorshire ones were ticked, but the interchanges of emails developed a longer route from Knighton to Dolau over several days, dangerously reccied by Dawn a few weeks ago, during which she was shot at (On the same day as James in and was called upon to herd cattle and visit pubs and other risky stuff.

hawthorn hill camp

So, last Saturday afternoon, we got off the train in Knighton and plunged off in sweaty weather Southwards along Offa’s Dyke for several hills till we found an interesting and discreet camping spot inside an isolated pickernick place on the summit of Hawthorn Hill hill amidst cows and sheep. Here, the grass was deep and the contours were enough to hide our presence in case anybody was interested. Water was got from a cattle trough, which sounds worse than it actually was. The night was windy but quiet with only the distant sounds of wandering ATVs and the odd fox.

misty on offa's dyke

Sunday morning was driech, though. It was rainy and misty and warm and we progressed Southwards, briskly, following Offa’s Dyke which is remarkably well preserved in places. Ultimately we got to Kington where lunch was had in the Swan Inn till it was time to plod on.

hergest ridge summit

We plodded on up Hergest Ridge – a Marilyn and, it would seem, popular resort for Kington’s population and their dogs and bicycles and possessing a strange group of Monkey Puzzle trees near the summit – a feature which makes the hill identifiable from wide areas of countryside all around. Its not a dramatic hill, though, but is grassy and friendly in the nicest English kind of way even though some of the hill is in Wales. Hergest Ridge has lots of piles of stones, which seem to be clearance cairns including one at the summit.

view north from colva

We turned off Offa for facing fate fearfully on Llanfihangel Hill (ok, that’s enough of that…) – which henceforth shall be known by it’s easier English name of Colva. It was here on Colva that James heard gunshots and was confronted by an angry gamekeeper. It was here on Colva that Dawn heard the whistle of passing shotgun pellets fired from nearby. It was here on Colva that me and Dawn spotted what appeared to be a caravan parked on the track above us. It turned out to be a white tank of water on the back of a trailer, but a little higher up the track was a veteran landrover containing a couple of keepery-types and their dogs. They ignored us. We continued to the trig.

There were gas guns going off and what appeared to be an inflatable scarecrow, all of which seems to be a reasonable and humane way of keeping the corvids off your grouse chicks so that they can be shot. So, we had keepers, guarding the place before the glorious 13th, we had scarecrows, gas guns, grouse butts, access roads, managed heather; in fact, all the accoutrements of a fully functional grouse moor – but, apparently, without any grouse. We saw none, and we heard none.  I blame the walkers.

second camp

We camped by a small beck a mile or so North, well off the “grouse” (arf) moor and, after a twenty mile walk with nearly 4000 feet of up, we had a quiet night.

The next day was to be much easier, so we didn’t have to set off too early. Our job for the day was to get ourselves to New Radnor, have a cup of tea and snaffle some water  before getting a foothold on the Radnorshire forest group of hills. (there’s very little water available for backpacking hereabouts, obviously due to the geology of the place. Becks are marked but prove to be dry. Huge valleys hold pathetic trickles. Its not lack of rain – there’s plenty of rain – its just disappearing into the landscape somehow.

sheep gathering

So we set off in high hopes for an easy day, encountering a shepherd and his dogs and 1500 sheep on the way. It seems the next stop for the lambs would be in curries and Sunday joints. Moving them all in the right direction was an impressive skill.

camp three from whimble

We called at a tea room for toast and tea and cakes and stuff and filled up our water bags from a tap, and, seeing as the pub in New Radnor was just opening, we allowed ourselves a short period of celebration as the rain started. A painful and long uphill struggle through steaming wet jungle followed and at first, campsites were difficult to find. In the end, we blocked a bridleway with our tents and, as the weather cleared, I went off to bag Whimble, a 599metre, very steep , grassy lump with a cracking view, whilst Dawn snoozed the afternoon away.

dab on eleven

We saw nobody. Nobody wanted to use the bridleway. It was an atmospheric spot, on the edge of a steep-sided valley, with the hillfog hiding the tops and the wind wuthering through the wires and another fox yelping and crying somewhere. I turned the DAB radio up to eleven!

Dawn on bache hill

Yet another day dawned – quite a nice day today – and we waltzed off to bag Bache Hill, which went easily, Black Mixen, quite easy, and Great Rhos – nice , if a bit North Pennine (boggy) and down to a pleasant camping spot on a little bilberry ridge overlooking some Howgill-type countryside. Water was got from a tiny stream deep down in the valley below, followed by a heaving, cursing climb back up through the sweaty bracken.


radnor forest

last camp

But we had the tent up by two o’clock, so a lazy afternoon of sunbathing was followed by a snoozy, balmy evening which was rudely and suddenly interrupted by a blustering gale straight into the tent door. I zipped up the akto which was soon dancing around in the gale, a gale which lasted all night and which resulted in yet more bits of the akto falling off (small poles in the box sections). I need a new tent. The DAB on radio 4 predicted heavy rain and gales , so by 6:00 am the next morning, I was stuffing porridge into myself and planning an escape.

...and rest...

So, we arrived at Dolau station with about three hours to spare before the train. Dolau station is unmanned and is, basically, a garden with a railway going through it. Local volunteers do all the work and it’s quite beautiful. A couple of locals were strimming and cutting and wheeling wheelbarrows about as we waited in the garden shed  passenger lounge for the train to Shrewsbury as the weather went briefly forwards to a wet and windy autumn.

And that was it. We’d done 72 kilometres and bagged several tops, including the all-important three Hewitts. (Only eighteen left to do) Dawn had, of course, done a stout work on the reccy and knew where the water was and the fact that the tea room had a tap and had even despatched staff members from the Powys access team to brave the dangers of Colva AND had provided supplies of orange chocolate drops…..