Tuesday 30 October 2012

Sounds of Battle on Saughy Hill

saughy 003

Bruno enjoys the summit of Saughy Hill

Each November (ish), when the nights are dark and the days are short and grey (a bit like me grandad, in fact), I do my planning of walks and new hills to bag for the next year. This is because November always seems like the end of the year to me. OK, I know it isn’t the end of the year, but it seems like it.  And many of the hills on the list are those which I didn’t manage to bag the year before.  So, if I don;t have a good year, the list might well look the same.

So, in order to make room for new hills, I sometimes find myself wandering up obscure tops in October – just so I can make room on the list for more , more and better hills the next year.

And so it was, that after a day of considering some lake District tops, I was persuaded, by the variable nature of each BBC weather forecast (it will rain, it will be dry, it might rain, it’ll probably be dry, expect rain, wet, dry dry wet, fckn dry…) I decided to nick off to the Cheviots to climb and tick Saughy Hill.

saughy 001

Clennel Street

Readers will be forgiven for not having heard of Saughy Hill before. Its fairly high, at 494 metres and looms steeply (with a rounded top) over the deep side-valley of the Usway Burn and can be included in a walk along Clennel Street, which is what I did.

I arrived in the deserted national Park car park at Alwinton to the sound of enormous explosions, machine-gun fire and helicopters. I stayed not in the Car park, but parked on the free picnic area with everybody else as I didn;t have two pound coins for the machine (it only takes £2 and £1 coins) I otherwise had the money, but not in the correct denominations. I don;t expect anybody from the Northumberland National park reads this blog, but if they do, they might well have found the reason why they’re not taking any money in the pay and display machine…. (just a thought…)

Clennel Street is the ancient road towards Kelso that me and Dawn had a chilly adventure on back in the winter. It was a bit warmer today, only just nithering, in fact… brrrrrrrrr

saughy 002

The white bit is smoke from the target. Bang, boom , whallop

Me and the dawg progressed reasonably easily along Clennel Street, chatting to a couple of cyclists pushing their bikes and bemoaning that they’d been given a bum steer about how good the was the road surface (boggy). Meanwhile, the army’s efforts to defeat some heather on a nearby hill were reaching manic proportions. I noticed, in the distance, that they seem to have managed to set a bit of the hill on fire.

saughy 004

Bruno decides how to navigate to Usway Burn below…

However, we soon found ourselves on the tussocky top of Saughy Hill. The tick duly ticked. A very steep descent brought us to Battailshiel Haugh where my Curd Tart received fatal wounds and my Egg and Tomato Butty was  ravished along some nice, hot filter coffee (in a flask, there’s nowhere to plug in a coffee machine up here.

saughy 006

Nothing to see here….

I decide to have a look at the site of a mediaeval village on the way back. This meant walking back to Alwinton along the road. there was no traffic, though, and there’s a short bit of permissive path which took me to the village. This was a bit of a disappointment since there’s not much to see from ground level. It’s much better from the Pass Peth path just over the river. In fact, perambulating primarily on the Pass Peth path produces a perfect peek at the place.

saughy 005

Army warning notices including flag retrieved from the 1964 Labour Party Conference in Brighton

My apologies for the previous sentence. (the one with all the peas…..)

saughy hill

We did ten miles. Some bugger has been messing with the clocks as it almost went dark on me today….


Sunday 28 October 2012

Low Level Rantings in Upper Weardale

river wear near st johns chapel

Meanwhile, back in England..

At some point in the winter (look, I be expected to remember everything in detail) I’m doing a guided walk which for some reason only known to me about three months ago and which I’ve now completely forgotten, which (crikey, it’s a long sentence, this one, innit?) (Jim Perrin would be proud of the length and the nested ideas, but, maybe not with the English) (I mean the English language, not the race) (Its irritating this, isn’t it?), which goes from Wetsgate to Burnhope Reservoir and back along the fragrant (although, maybe not so fragrant in January) banks of the River Wear.


Anyway, I thought I’d better go and have a look at the proposed route, and it’s a good job that I did.

upper weardale

It started well enough and then, up a lane which goes onto the high fells, it came to a dead end where a path is supposed to leap off downhill in order to make further progress in a Westerly direction. There’s never been a path there. There’s a walled-up gate which looks as though it’s been like that for a hundred years, but no path. There’s a wall which has barbed wire on the top. I went back down the lane and through a gate into the field and, a bit further down the hill, came to a barbed wire fence. There’s no stile and never has been. Its a duff path. We won’t be going this way. I did do a bit of light swearing. I’m not supposed to do this on the actual walk.

a tunnel

in situ lump of flourspar

But, on the other side of the fence were some lead mine buildings, an old hush and a tunnel. Me and the dawg crept under a hole in the fence (we won’t be doing this on the guided walk) and inspected the flood debris on the valley floor. It was heaving with huge lumps of flourspar, some much too big to carry home. Interesting…. And there was what appeared to be the old mine shop. This was full of bits of iron, an old and retired pair of walking boots, a bicycle, and other “stuff”. there was also a hut which looked a bit like a small cricket pavilion. I didn’t investigate this – probably just as well because I met Charlie in Westgate later on and he told me that the place was too spooky and he suspected that somebody had died in there.  I must have a look at this before halloween…..

westgateburnhope 012

We continued.  The next bit went well, apart from being a bit sloppy and then, after a bit of a road walk, I came across some “shafts, disused”, one of which still had bits of winding gear and cables on the top and was partially built from cream-coloured bricks which seems to indicate a well-financed undertaking. Y’see. they’ve gone to the trouble of carting bricks miles up the dale from the Durham coalfield rather than just using a bit of locally quarried stone. This makes it a bit extravagant.

Then we got stuck again(more swearing) In the valley of the Ireshope Burn (also full of leadmining stuff), the path to Slack House was blocked with fencing. We won’t be going this way either. There is a way around, at the cost of extra roadwalking.

stepping stones river wear

The rest of the expedition was fine, and gets quite pretty. And there are two sets of lavvies for the ladies on the walk (the men usually just spray around freely)  The wander down the Dale by the river, with the leaves on the turn, was beautiful. We will be going this way.

One of the aspects of walking in County Durham is the high chance that you’ll stop for a long chat with somebody. A walk up the Deerness Valley can take much longer than planned. I’d forgotten about this. It happened twice on this walk, three times if you count the encounter with Charlie. I don’t mind, in fact its part of the enjoyment. Quite good fun, really….

I measured the walk at about ten miles. It’s eleven in the guided walks programme.  Probably just as well that I went for a look…..

Thursday 25 October 2012

Argoed Hewitt Bagging – Craig-y-Llyn and Bryn Brith

bruno considers a way down to Llyn Cyn

Finally fate forfended a finish to the fortnight on a far flung top of Cadair Idris – (OK, that’s enough of that..) – one Craig-y-Llyn – the crag being the crag above the little tarn called Llyn Cyn – possibly quite a nice place to camp.

llynau creggenen's matterhorn

I parked the knipemobile on the National Trust car park at Llynau Creggenen, a fishing spot dominated by the Matterhorn-like silhouette of Pared y Cefn Hir and it’s heathery pal of equal height Bryn Brith – a twin HuMP, no less. The first looks quite fierce from the car park and as I set off on my short round to bag Craig-y-LLyn, it seemed likely that at the end of the day me and superdawg would be testing our scrambling skills on it’s steep ridge.

cadair idris ridge from crag-y-llyn

But first, we had an appointment with the far-Western end of the very lovely Cadair Idris ridge.

Luckily, there’s a path from the road which climbs steeply up onto the ridge. It’s then an easy matter to plod along the ridge to the top. This ridge, though, is quite fabulous and wot a jolly jape it would be to walk the whole thing from end to end from Gau Craig to Pen y Garn armed only with a huge amount of camping equipment and a litre of fine malt. There’s a path over the estuary at Barmouth and the Mawdach Trail leads the intrepid alcoholic to Dolgellau, where I expect there are friendly pubs and then hill paths would take the survivors up on to Gau Crag to start the jaunt.  There’s a fine path along the coast to take you back to Barmouth where I expect it’s possible to arrange a short celebration and get the train home. It’d take a few days, I expect.  Just an idea…..

arial view of barmouth

Anyway, after bagging our tick and completing Cadair Idris, we bagged Craig Cwm-llwyd, a little Dewey with a fine view of the Mawdach estuary. The black road (FFordd Ddu) took me back to the start and the prospect of a clamber on Pared y Cefn Hir.

ffordd ddu standing stone

This is only a tiddler as far as Welsh hills is concerned, being just 383 metres high and with an alpine start at the airy altitude of about 240 metres, the maths indicate the scale of the job in hand (143 metres ish)

llynau creggenen from pared

cadair idris from pared

There’s a good path and about halfway up there’s a rocky slab to climb and then a short arete before the top is reached. The ridge continues rockily and delightfully with short scrambles here and there and rocky nobbles and a fine view of Cadair Idris. What fun. The hill is the only one I‘ve been on with an artist on the top. He had his chair and easel and special artist’s hat and seemed to be waiting for inspiration or something…..

pared ridge

But, in order to have the tick, I had to bag Bryn Brith and this consisted of a short, brutal and steep series of lunges and wobbles through thick heather to attain a small cairn on the top. The view from the top now included the opposing ridge complete with it’s artist, now, apparently painting furiously in the fading light. I hope he got down OK.

spot the artist

Not too long later and we were back at the car and on our way back to Barmouth Co-op for more celebratory supplies.

We did about 9 miles today with 2250 feet of uphill.

But, if you’re in the area and the hillfog is sitting squarely on Cadair Idris, you could do no better than have some rocky fun on Cefn Hir. This is possibly one of the best little hills in Wales. This is Bruno’s opinion, obviously…

craig y llyn


Wednesday 24 October 2012

Argoed Hewitt Bagging – Rhobell Fawr and Y Dduallt

north from y dduallt

One thing about this particular bit of Wales if you’re a dog is that if you’re not pulling somebody up an enormous hill covered in little white fluffy animals you’re not allowed to chase (even though they obviously want to be chased as they always run away), you can be running about daft ripping up bits of seaweed and chasing sticks, balls, seagulls and other dogs on the huge flat beaches for hours on end. Or otherwise napping in front of a warm radiator whilst Pieman quaffs his way through yet more holiday booze. We also visited various slate quarries, pubs, lakes and glens (or maybe they’re dales…)

on the beach (we know a song about this)

woodland in cwm bychan

And so, three days after Rhinog Fach, it came the turn of Rhobell Fawr and Y Dduallt to be bagged. We parked on the main road about 800 metres West of Rhydymain, a bit late due to having planned to wait till high winds died down and then heading off towards Bala by mistake and then getting tangled up in some back lanes with signposts to places I couldn’t find on the map – in other words, a right cockup.

the route up rhobell fawr

But the route was a quick one to start with on hard surfaces and sheltered from the howling Atlantic storm that was in the process of going on it’s holidays to Denmark, having ruffled Wales for a few days.

Rhobell Fawr summit was reached by a  short and steep climb through outcrops on a vague path. The wind had , more or less died down to a lively breeze by the time we reached the top, so we spent a little time exploring the outcrops and wandering about a bit. We descended by the same route and soon found the way through the forest top Dduallt – given as Y Dduallt on the signpost, so that’s what I’ve called it. Y Dduallt seems almost impossible for an English tongue to pronounce by the way, you just can’t do the “LL” sound after a vowel. I can’t anyway. As John Donohue once said of my attempts at Gaelic place names “ … brave but futile attempts…”. And so it is with Dduallt.

route to Y Dduallt

The way through the forest is waymarked and very boggy in parts and exits onto a knobbly bit of moorland. A path though yet more sloshy bogs (just like home, this..) handrails the forest edge and then takes off to another nice knobbly top.

argoed 049

We retraced all the way back to the start as the day was now late and the light was going. I’m going to have to come back to these hills for a proper walk. I don’t think I did it justice, really – Rhobell Fawr’s South ridge looks interesting and there’s more wild country North of Y Dduallt.

The lanes to Rhobell also produced some of the biggest, juciest and blackest blackberries I’ve seen anywhere. I took back a bagful and got crumble mix and a bramley apple at Barmouth Co-op. You can guess the rest. We already had custard.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

D’you think he Herdus?

sheep making off

Here’s just a bit of an interval of light relief before I complete The Rhinogs and Cadair Idris by way of a short but lumbering course over a couple of Cumbrian hills – these being the Birketts Brown Howe and Herdus both of which are stuck on the side of the Red Pike – Haystacks Ridge.

I thought I might do more today, but the old legs are still a bit heavy. This could well be caused either by the remnants of the nasty cold I had (sorry to keep banging on about this) – or the fact that I’ve been thriving whilst dosing myself with 40% proof and sitting about stuffing tissues up me nose. that is to say, I might have put on a pound or two…

pillar in layers of cloud

Anyway, I parked in Ennerdale, just below Bowness Knott, a hill which according to the knipetowers records and archives department, I did a long time ago, although I have no memory of it at all. maybe I should do it again….

We (me and Bruno) set off down the road and heaved our ageing carcases up the steep grass onto Brown Howe. This has a fine and rocky top, some quite nice camping pitches on little ledges and a cracking view of Ennerdale. This was a bit more interesting today due to the hillfog drifting over from the East Coast (where it was as driech as Siberian shoeshop in November) and where, due to the bumpiness of the ground, it was breaking up into layers, making the hills look bigger than they actually were.

great bourne appears from the mist

This brief visit was followed by a long contouring traverse over steep scree on a good, clear path and on which various sheep (Herdwicks, Swaledales and a Herdwick/Swaledale Cross) were snoozing on the comfy stones. There were complaints that we’d disturbed their morning naps, one of which was in writing although badly spelled, in green ink and repeating that irritating mistake where writers put “I should of” instead of “I should have”—you know the one I mean.

Once over this interesting bit, we had to climb stupidly steep grass, some of which wasn;t fixed down properly, for several hundred heaving, sweating, swearing, stumbling and slipping feet till we were dumped, a long time later on a soggy moor which had , at the far end, a little green island with a cairn which for the time was hidden in thick mist.

y'owd bugger

As we lunched… as I lunched and Bruno dribbled, the hillfog cleared to reveal another fine view of the Ennerdale fells and the round, stony pudding that is Great Bourne. We quickly bagged this as well and finished off the coffee… I thought I deserved a rest. Bruno had a nap too. I suspect we’re both getting past our peak and, as this seems to be the fifth time I’ve been up here, the sharp tang of anticipation duly satisfied was replaced by the overwhelming desire to have a little snooze in the warm sun. Maybe I’m just not taking this stuff seriously enough. Maybe if I got some wrap-around sunglasses and a headband instead of the beany hat and TGO Challenge T-shirt from 1998…

grasmoor and buttermere fells

We descended, steeply to the Floutern Moss bridleway and then back to the car. We’d done just six miles but with Quite A Lot of Up and it felt like more. And we’d done some seriously strenuous sitting about.  Two more Birketts bagged, though…

Meanwhile, back in Wales……….


Monday 22 October 2012

Argoed Hewitt Bagging – Rhinog Fach

jess waits in ambush

Having developed a bit of a lurgy, a few days off were called for following the efforts on Rhinog Fawr. In order to complete the set , I would, in due course, have to return to Cwm Nantcol and climb Rhinog Fach. In the meantime, Bruno made acquaintance with Argoed’s farm dogs – the veteran meg, who came to nap on our rug, and, occasionally, Bruno’s bed, the Jack Russell, Jack, who just bumped into things, being a bit blind, and Jess, who ambushed Bruno from under the gate, having a nip at his hindquarers as he ran past. Oddly, he didn’t seem to notice this at all and continued chasing the tennis ball we’d found.

bruno on the precipice walk

foel cynwych

After a few days, and still not really up to par, and the weather being a bit ropey, I contented myself with the bagging of a little Marilyn at Dolgellau – one Foel Offrwm which is short and steep and has a reasonably well-preserved hillfort on the top, and the Precipice Walk – an easy ramble which contours around Foel Cynwych and which, for the effort involved, has some interesting and beautiful situations. We finished by bagging Foel Cynwych.


Wanderings around the Precipice walk

And then, three days later, we returned to Cwm Nantcol, paid two quid at the farm at the dalehead for the parking and sploshed off up the soggy path to the bwlch where we’d abandoned six days before.

y llethr from rhinog fach

The path from here looks obscure, but on closer acquaintance is perfectly clear. Its very steep for a bit, though, but relents eventually to a more reasonable angle and then, after a final steep lunge for the last hundred metres, it achieves a knobbly summit ridge.

cloud base!

We wandered about on the summit for a while, bagging knobbles, just in case, and watching showers pass by to the North – and we retraced back to the bwlch. I’d thought of descending to the South and making a circle, but the streams were in spate and I’d have to cross somehow to get back to the parked knipemobile.

rhinog fawr

rhinog fawr 2

I couldn’t be arsed with this, frankly, and a simple return was called for which allowed Bruno to demonstrate once again his remarkable skill with retracing his route step for step over several miles. His footprints in the peaty bits were testament to his accuracy. This is a trait which could well prove extremely useful in some circumstances, specially if you’ve dropped a tenner and you want to go back and have a look for it.

The return to the Rhinogs was just five miles and about 2000 feet of uphill.

y llethr

rhinog fach

Sunday 21 October 2012

Argoed Hewitt Bagging - Rhinog Fawr

rhinog fach from cwm nantcol chapel

I should have expected to be affected when, on transporting our more geriatric dog to Nottingham to be dog-sat, it became apparent quite soon after setting off that she’d had a serious toilet accident in the back of the car and Mrs Pieman said that she couldn;t smell anything due to the fact that she “Ad a bad code ad cuddy smew addythig” (sniff..)

But, on the way to our two weeks on the farm at Ardgoed, just next to the Welsh coast at Harlech, I’d stopped off to bag The Wrekin, which went well and no hint of what was to come.

rhinog frog (dim hoppio)

The Saturday night had witnessed a few sneezes, and, perhaps the start of an itchy palate (my normal first symptoms of a bad code) and so, I’d set off from the chapel car park in Cwm Nantcol for the bagging of two Rhinogs – Fawr and Fach. (I could have parked a couple of miles closer to these if I’d known, but never mind)

rhinog fawr summit

I went around the back of Rhinog Fawr, so as to make a better circle and climbed steadily but a bit heavily up through the peaty and heathery jumbles of rocks and closely packed contours to the summit where I didn’t feel very well, really…. despite the cracking view of Cardigan Bay from the top which on the day gave the impression of a temperature inversion, but instead of a cloud sea, there was yer actual briny shimmering below.

steep way down

The descent was very steep and weary and took far too long. None of the paths are marked on the map and, in fact, I found them quite difficult to follow in places and there were jumbles of steep scree and places where a careless footfall might have loosed off a boulder onto superdawg who was doing most of the route-finding. (He uses his nose for this and is remarkably efficient)

rocky bits...

We arrived, eventually, at the bwlch between the two hills, far too late and with insufficient energy or motivation to heave myself up the outrageously steep heather to Rhinog Fach.

rhinog fach - couldn't be arsed with this today

So I didn’t. I went back to the cottage for some sneezing, coughing and shivering, relieved only slightly , but fairly regularly over the next couple of days by cheap scotch laced with honey and warm water, and not much of the latter. Shares in nose tissues rose noticeably over the next few days.


Good walk, though. More later…..

rhinog fawr