Thursday, 29 November 2012

Progress in Kitty’s Wood

Me and the Dawg did another reccy today for an advent walk which circumnavigates Crook and ends with Festive Pies and Hot Coffee (important capitalisation here) at St Catherine’s Community centre in Crook – just to start off the hiking Christmas (I just like Christmas…) and I made a discovery that cheered me up no end…
Most readers probably won't remember a blog post I made last summer about Kitty's Wood in which somebody had bought this wood from the County Council and had barricaded it off, I presumed, to use the wood as a pheasant shoot. The good people of Roddymoor have been using the wood as a recreational facility for yonks and it has a long history, being the site of Roddymoor Pit, a huge industrial site which employed thousands of men and boys from Crook, Roddymoor and Billy Row, some of whom lost their live there. So, as you can imagine, the locals weren’t too chuffed about all the barbed wire and there was a kerfuffle about it, to say the least, some of which was organised by fellow outdoor blogger and Roddymoor resident who blogged about it here and organised the submission of rights of way claims concerning two main routes through the woods.
This is what one of the barricades looked like in the summer:
kitty's wood summer 2012
And this is what it looked like today
kitty's wood winter 2012
This looks like progress. I checked out the other termini of the main paths and they all appear to be open and useable. I’m not sure when all this happened – my eye hasn’t been on the ball.
It looks good, though. I’ll be having a little doggy walk through there quite soon….

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Two North Pennine Guided Walks

above rookhope
It can’t have escaped many people’s notice that it’s been pretty wet recently. Unfortunately (although I could be persuaded to enjoy some of this…) the November monsoon coincided with two of my County Durham guided walks and their reccies, which were specially wet in a properly damp kind of way.
bernietheboltreccy 002
Lone tree on Bolts Law in the driech;  waiting for local cyclists to decorate it for Christmas
Number One Walk was entitled Bernie the Bolt and was yet another excursion to the summit of Bolt’s Law – this time from Blanchland. Me and the dawg did the reccy on a specially wet day last week. The rain lashed horizontally and the howled vertically, or however wind might howl. We finally solved the problem of where the fence crossing were on the descent to Ramshaw. other than that the walk was uneventful unless you count soggy socks as an event.
waterfall near blanchland
On the day (last Sunday), six people turned up, along with the stewards David and Ian and the weather the night before had been even wetter, causing flooded roads and general slop everywhere. It occurred both to me and the stewards that it was unlikely that anybody at all would turn up, but they did. At some point in the afternoon it stopped raining. I put in a few small diversions to avoid the worst boggy bits but, generally, the atmosphere was driech and dank. Just like late November, in fact.
bernie the bolt
This is the intended route – we cut off the bit by sikehead dam to avoid superslop
rookhope burn reccy 006
In between these, I reccied a walk at Rookhope. Instead of rain and wind, I got a hard frost. This was good, apart from the nithering cold, which wasn’t so good. Bruno came too. He ate a fair amount of ice, so I guess he mainly enjoyed the experience.
There was a problem, though. Footpath 13 in the parish of Eastgate quickly turned into an obstacle course. It started with some deep and tilted mud – tilted in such a way as to propel a sliding hiker into Rookhope Burn. I was soothed by the thought that at least the mud would get washed off as the victim succumbed to hypothermia and/or drowning.
rookhope burn reccy 009
rookhope burn reccy 010
Next was a bit of shoring that shore no more, followed by a tricky tree entanglement that wasn’t there last time I was here. Then more mud and a bog – a product of the severely wet conditions lately and, finally, a landslip with a large teetering tree trunk to swing off, plus a fair amount of mud.
All this was a bit of a shame because otherwise this is a fine and interesting route with waterfalls and little gorges and stuff like that. I’ve reported the state of the path to the rights of way peeps, but I couldn’t take a guided walk that way. So I didn’t.
neville seems happy...
And today, after yet another night of torrential, preceded by several other days of downpour and serious floods and closed roads and train lines, the morning dawned bright and sunny and thirteen brave souls turned up for the walk at Rookhope Arch, along with the stewards David (a different David, there’s lots of Davids), Sheila and Neville.
at the top of one heart attack hill
And we had quite a nice walk – sunny and chilly and still muddy. We avoided Footpath 13 by walking along the road, which was very quiet anyway. The mood seemed generally happy and Graeme produced a slug of sloe gin at half time which cheered me up even more and went down nicely with a lump of Sheila’s fruitcake. (This is not a euphemism, there was cake) (and chocolate) I might check out my own sloe gin which is slowly brewing in one of the knipetowers main kitchens…
moors at lintzgarth
Anyway, the views were much better today and the upper part of the Dale was bathed in winter sunshine and quite beautiful.
Thanks to the five stewards and the nineteen walkers – it seemed unlikely at times that anybody would turn up at all and there were discussions on Tuesday night about cancelling Wednesday’s walk due to road conditions. (Turned out they weren’t so bad in Weardale as it happened)
Both walks are 8 miles with or without diversions.
rookhope burn diverted route

Stop Press – A couple of pics from Graeme ( the chap with the sloe gin)

I’m aware that a few peeps who come on the Durham CC guided walks sometimes read the pieblog and, occasionally, I get sent pictures. Soooo…. as this is an open invitation to guided walks customers to have their pics put up on the blog – let’s call it Punters’ Pics. Could there be prizes…..?

rookhope burn graeme 2

rookhope burn graeme 4 rookhope burn graeme 3

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Bellowhead Queens Hall Edinburgh

We wuz there... a bit to the right (with a glass of beer..) This is Bellow head's concert at The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh 21 November 2012

Absolutely really fab stuff - much better, in fact, than this video which doesn't quite capture the base lines rubbing intimately with yr arse and the sheer jumping joy of the whole thing.
But anyway, I didn't record it, so I can't whinge and this lass done well and it's the earliest posting of this fabidozy concert.

Monday, 19 November 2012

TGO Route Planning at Buttermere


Just had a few days with Dawn in a bunkbarn at Buttermere, the purpose of which was several fold…

That is to say, we had to plan a TGO Route, we had to remedy Dawn’s cabin fever following orthopaedic joinery to a foot, and to test it out to some extent, and we had to have a bit of a jolly….

There were other visitors to the barn too – notably a pair of Northumbrian The North Face fans and a fork-lift truck driver from Northamptonshire.

crummackwater and grasmoor

Purpose #1 was completed in outline and we now have a route which goes from Inverie (after a ferry crossing from Mallaig) to Mam Barrisdale to Glen Quoich to Glen Garry to Spean Bridge and Glen Roy (thanks to Alan for the grid reference of the camping spot next to falls of Roy by the way…) – to Melgarve and Laggan and Newtonmore then over some high ground (a lot of high ground as it happens) to Glen Shee, Glen Prosen, Angus crematorium and Scurdie Ness. I am specially looking forward to the night at Angus crematorium. The route is 210 miles, which is about average for one of my crossings. I  arrive at Montrose, this will be my twelfth crossing. I won’t do a thirteenth, but will move right along to fourteen.

We now need to decide on a training walk in April.

scale force


 crummack water

Purpose #2 and #3 were discharged by what was supposed to be a gentle walk up to Scale Force and the boggy plateau just beyond, to a circuit of Mellbreak  by heading down Mosedale followed by a pleasant wander along the shores of Crummackwater – about nine miles, so a “moderate” walk, ideal for a day of duff weather or for those days when you just can’t be arsed slugging up a big hill. Its a nice walk, if a little soggy underfoot and you can have a little scramble alongside the lower bit of Scale Force which gives access to a deep gorge. Take my advice and climb back down facing inwards. If you face outwards, you get a wet bum.

buttermere 025

Next was a trip to the coast at Allonby for a few miles along the shingly beach and back. This was cold and windy…… but good views over to Criffel and a very nice off-shore windfarm for those who enjoy windfarms. I decided to forgo my usual coastal bathing frenzy.


And then a circuit of Buttermere for a main course of about five miles, followed by what can only be described as a soggy lurch up Hatteringill Head – an unbagged Birkett at the North end of the Loweswater fells. This involved at least two barbed wire entanglements and a lot of very soggy mud. My prediction that it would remain dry and, thus,having  set off with no waterproofs proved disastrously inaccurate on the way back. Dawn amused herself with a ramble along the lane and was reported by a woman who got out of a landrover to be “way up there and heading uphill”  which was a bit worrying for a few minutes. However, she turned up, damply quarter of an hour later, so the search teams weren’t required.

fleetwith pike

One thing about camping barns in November – even in the mild, almost warm conditions we had at Buttermere, is that they’re perishingly cold and it was due to this factor that I was forced to repair to The Fish Inn on one occasion and The Bridge on another. This was purely a survival strategy, obviously.

the fish

There was a dusting of snow on the tops as we left. It won’t last, though. The reason for this mild spell is that I’ve just bought a pair of Khatoola spikes. The last time I bought cold weather stuff – a pair of skis on one occasion and a pair of expensive crampons on another, it didn’t snow for ten years. This was before global warming, obviously, it’s been cold ever since they stopped predicting  a new ice age and started predicting tropical conditions for County Durham.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Get Up and Go (To Buttermere

This is me off to Buttermere for some walking about, some eating, some drinking and some TGO 2013 route planning. I have maps, I have er... thingy and I have the will to implement it, whatever it is.

There will be a short hiatus or gap.

Here is a famiss rooftop concert thing.....


Monday, 12 November 2012

Fight Club Hikers Anniversary Bothy Night

masey carries sticks up the dale

Due to the fact that the Knipemobile is in the car hospital at the moment having a new in-tank petrol pump, Masey gave me a lift to the Lakes and by late morning we (me , Masey and his collie Pepper) were parked up at the foot of the Dale, apparently in the midst of a fox hunt, or, as a local farmer winked - “exercising the hounds…”. They do it on foot in Cumbria and, apart from the occasional hound noise from the fells and the large number of people standing around in fields, there wasn’t a lot to show that anything much was going on.

the dale

But they locals were friendly and enquired as to why Masey was carrying an enormous bag of kindling. The logs were stored in side the rucksacks, plus a fair amount of booze and food. One asked what time we were doing dinner…..

the bothy

We arrived at the bothy in a rain shower, thoroughly soaked from both the rain and the soggy ground and proceeded to light the fire and warm up and dry out.  I put the old akto up outside as a defence against cold bothy floors and vicious snoring.

It went dark, at which point, paddy and Gill arrived, along with Woodstock and a convivial night was spent in front of the warm stove, which really is very efficient and warms the place nicely.

ghost stokes fire shock horror probe

At some point in the proceedings, one of the bothy ghosts joined us, refused food, drink and tobacco, but helpfully spent the night feeding fuel into the fire. Apparently, it’s very cold where he is….

inside the bothy

And so the night passed. I eventually retired for a cosy night in the akto and was only disturbed by my phone alarm which went off according to British summer time and not GMT – I must fix that…

walking out again

The morning was bright and blue and clear and we had a pleasant, sunny walk back down the sloppy dale to the cars – about five miles each way.

We may come back in deeper winter conditions and with more fuel….

gill and woodstock

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Berghaus Spectrum Micro Fleece – A Gear Review



They (Berghaus) sent me a Berghaus Spectrum Fleece which looks just like this, except that it’s two-tone blue.

berghaus spectrum

The deal is, of course, as many other bloggers know, that if you write a review with a link (see link above), that you get to keep the fleece and I notice that in the blogosphere, this isn’t the only recent review of this fleece. But I don’t mind – I’ve got a fleece after all – a small reward for all that slogging at blogger.  Anyway, what of the fleece?

It’s a micro-fleece and, for me, where it wins over all my other micro fleeces (all of which I had to pay for by the way…) is that it’s got a full-length zip and two hand-warming pockets with zips. This gives me somewhere safe to keep my valuable stuff that i don’t want to lose on a hill – keys, credit card wallet, phone, fiver, small portrait of Kylie – that sort of thing. And, unlike many of my other fleeces, the zips are hefty and robust.

The Spectrum Fleece is made from AWL 100 micro fleece and weighs 430 grammes and the idea is that you can zip it into a Berghaus waterproof jacket as part of a layering system.

It appears to be very well put together and some thought has gone into the siting of shoulder seems, for instance, which are off-the-shoulder, presumably to prevent any discomfort when carrying a heavy pack. And it zips up toastily high up the neck.

And it looks quite smart – could be worn whilst Christmas shopping or even dahn the pub.

How have I used it so far?

back o skidda 004

It’s main “serious” use has been as a mid-layer on the very stormy walk I did at the back O’Skiddaw last week – the one where everything went wrong (except the fleece, which was fine). I had a merino wool baselayer underneath it and a Paramo waterproof over the top. Unfortunately, I got really wet. (Somebody send me a Berghaus jacket!). This walk involved several hours of driving hail/sleet/snow and rain and some hefty gusts of wind and, frankly, wasn’t all that much fun, specially the part where the dog panicked and the GPS wouldn’t work..

whernside 018

The second occasion was a sub-zero (maybe just sub-zero) walk in snowy and icy conditions from Dent to the summit of Whernside and back down Dentdale. Conditions were mainly sunny, very cold, and with a nithering wind (more than a breeze) coming from somewhere over by Norway. It was, in fact, perishing – but nice. Again, I used it as a mid-layer and with a Berghaus Akka duck-down vest over the top. This worked well, although I had to remove the vest for the big uphill bit to Whernside summit – much too warm – but I put this back on and added a Paramo windproof smock on the shivery top of Whernside.

I tend to run quite cold and, as many of my walking pals will attest, I have a habit of wearing lots and of layers and, it seems I can get another micro fleece underneath this should I want to!

tgo 2012

For future use, it’s likely that I will use this fleece quite regularly – mainly on backpacking trips in spring and summer. If I get chosen for next year’s TGO challenge, for instance, I could well include this in my kit, along with the Akka vest which will keep me warm whilst camping.

I’ve not washed it yet. The washing instructions specify washing at 30C, presumably to support it’s anti-pilling properties, or maybe just so as not to damage it. This is OK, though, since merino wool baselayers and woolly socks are washed at the same temperature.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Early Snows on Whernside

ingleborough from whernside

Me and the Dawg went to Dent. We set off from Pietowers in dense, freezing fog, and minus 3C,  which suddenly cleared on the A66 at the Cumbria border, and the sudden flush of sunlight revealed a pristine white high Pennine ridge and even more pristine white Lake District. The roads in Cumbria were an icy nightmare, though…

great coum from the occy road

But we arrived and set off up Flinter Gill to join the Occupation road which leads easily to White Shaw Moss and providing the opportunity to bag the sub-Dewey High Pike, a hill I’d walked past many times but never visited.

There was a certain amount of naughtiness going on, though.

naughty bikers

Naughtiness #1 was a group of three off-road motorbikers, buzzing down the lane like a bunch of manic lawnmowers and, Naughtiness #2, possibly more seriously, half a dozen camouflaged men with a dozen or some lurcher dogs, shepherds crooks and spades, climbing over the walls and clearly up to no good.

whernside from the occy

As I approached my High Pike target, I spotted a fox mooching along the wallside and I drew the conclusion that this chap had escaped the attentions of our group of those murderess dog walkers and was doubling back behind them. Its unusual to see a fox out here in broad daylight, so I guessed it had been disturbed

gt coum from whernside

Anyway, we bagged the hill which was just above the snowline, much to the delight of superdawg, who likes bouncing around in fresh snow and specially enjoys trying to eat as much of it as possible.

bruno enjoys the snow

So he was  even more chuffed to find that there was even more, deeper snow and better snow on the climb up to Whernside where there was a perishing wind and a path made icy by the amount of pedestrian traffic it had had. We didn’t stick around as it was much too chilly for the scoffing of a beef and pickle butty and instead, we slithered down the path for a bit but hopped over the stile for the much less slippy but more sloppy path to Whernside tarns and, ultimately, the Craven Way bridleway to Dentdale.

whernside tarns

Whernside Tarns were well-frozen and Bruno decided that eating as much ice as possible would be just the thing, so he scrabbled lumps off and crunched them up.  For an old dog – he is past pensionable age – he still acts like a pup in snow and had spent almost all of the route bouncing around and running about, eating snow, chasing snowballs, digging snow…  you get the picture…. He wasn’t on the lead till the final mile and a bit of slippery mud along the Dalesway back to Dent. He must have been knackered, the poor old bugger…

Wot fun – and mostly in cold, blue sunshine. I expect it’ll all melt now, though

The daft thing is, of course, that I just bought some kahtoola spikes from Outdoor Warehouse and decided that I wouldn’t need them on this trip. They would have been useful for a mile or so along the Whernside summit ridge which, in places, was quite lethal. Dhuhh….

We did 12 miles and 2400 feet of ascent.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Doziness at the Back O’ Skiddaw


A sad tale of “woe, woe and thrice woe” (in the words of Frankie Howerd)  follows. Those of a nervous disposition may wish to be sitting down.

The plan was to park up at Overwater and go and bag two Birketts – both minor lumps – White Hause and Frozen Fell and, in order to make a walk out of it, to visit Great Calva, which is White Hause’s mummy and Knott, which is Frozen Fell’s daddy.

This went well at first. I bumbled my way through the lanes, following the dog, as usual, traversed the bridleway towards Burn Tod, crossed the Hause Gill and climbed the steep grass to White Hause, where there was a  howling gale and very nice view of Skiddaw, topped by dark clouds and a sprinkling of fresh snow. I noticed at this point that the view to the West had completely disappeared and formed the view that it was probably about to rain. I bumbled on towards Little Calva which was Just Up There.

great calva

After a bit more bumbling, it started to sleet a bit and the hillfog was creepijng down the higher hills all around. I decided that as I’d been up Great Calva lots of times, and that the weather was getting ropey, to cut the thing short by just going for Knott, bagging Frozen fell on the way down. And so, after tying up my bootlace, I turned towards the bealach between Great Calva and Knott, arrived without incident and started on the 500 foot of wet grass to the top of Knott. At some point on this climb, I was enveloped in mist.

Nevertheless, I arrived at the cairn on Knott in a driving storm of really wet, splatting snow, which Bruno wasn’t enjoying at all and, after tying up my bootlace again and glancing at the map, headed off in the general direction of Frozen Fell.

A few minutes later, I arrived at a strangely familiar cairn, but probably (note this word well!) from a different direction. This was the top of Knott. Again. A compass would be just the thing. I got it out, tied up my bootlace again and took a bearing on Frozen fell and headed off.

After a bit, things didn’t seem to be developing quite as they should. I decided to stop. Bruno thought this was a duff idea and wanted to press on urgently. It was only the fact that he was on the lead that stopped him abandoning the hill altogether, with me or without me. I tied up my bootlace and turned on the GPS. I was also having trouser problems at the moment too. They were creeping down my bum for some reason. I pulled ‘em up – they slid down. Meanwhile the sleet sizzled and splatted all around and there was some difficulty in actually standing up.

The GPS said it couldn’t find a signal and was I sure I wasn’t indoors or had I moved hundreds of miles recently or otherwise was it October? I replied in the negative to all of these questions and it said “Oh well, I dunno, then” and settled down for a little snooze. Mr compass was undecided as to where exactly North was and kept changing direction after I’d set off, making me stop and recheck the bearing. Bruno wanted off, my bootlace was untied again, my pants were falling down and I couldn’t get my gloves back on cos it was too cold.

This wasn’t, perhaps, my finest hour.

I set the compass, hopefully, for “West” (ish) and marched off into the teeth of the maelstrom (after fixing the bootlace and pulling up me kecks)

Soon, or, rather, eventually, I came to a steep slope. Mr GPS suddenly awoke and told me , after some button-pressing, that I was just 300 metres North of Frozen Fell. This was exactly how I’d planned it, obviously [koff], so I decided to go and bag it. Both me and Bruno were a bit underwhelmed by Frozen Fell, it has to be said. Its just a slight rise on a moor. And we were still in deep hillfog standing in a fierce, slanted sleet storm, so no view.

bruno at burntod gill

Quite chuffed that I actually knew where we were for a change, I tied up my bootlace, hitched up the pants and descended a steep little grassy arete which stands between the  two arms of Frozen Fell Gill and was soon passing through the gap at Trusmadoor for the track to Longlands and Overwater.

At some point around here, a view of the Solway Firth appeared, complete with a sun-kissed Criffel and, not too long later, the sun came out as if nothing had happened.


Guessing the direction of Frozen fell was a bit dozy, I have to admit, and whilst the GPS problem was unexpected, I had a compass and a map, although the compass’s performance was scarily inconsistent (possibly affected by the dog’s retractable lead??). The speed with which a relaxed wander, albeit in a bit of a storm, suddenly develops into an epic, albeit  a brief one, is a timely reminder.

I think I’ll buy a new compass anyway.

We did ten miles. We probably did ten miles. Who knows where we’d been? The track recorded  on my GPS spells the word “idiot”. (although I was, in fact going in the right direction most of the time – I just couldn’t prove it till I got to an edge)