Monday 28 January 2013

Scutter Up The Gutter

coldberry gutter west side

I had extra company for this jaunt up Teesdale – readers with really good memories and, frankly, a very suspicious eye for detail about what I’ve been up to in the blog may well remember that when me and Dawn went up the Cheviots last February, we chanced upon Mick and Yvonne out on a walk…?  Well it was Yvonne who came on this walk – a nice change, as it happens, from just Bruno’s company. I mean Bruno is OK, but his conversation is limited and he always demands some of my lunch and Yvonne had brought her own, although as it turned out it was far too draughty to sit around scoffing butties.

hudeshope beck

The original idea had been to wander up on to Fendrith hill from hanging Shaw pickernick place , visiting Moking Hurth caves on the way and taking advantage of the still frozen bogs up top, as it were. When we arrived at Hanging Shaw, however, it was blowing a bit of a hoolie and it was snowing and blowing in a particularly unfriendly kind of way. On top of all this, the snow all around was melting fast and all streams, ditches, footpaths and substantial bits of road were underwater or a mix of soggy slush and water. So we didn’t go.

this is supposed to be a path

Instead, we had a stroll up Hudeshope by the raging Hudeshope beck and up to the mines. All of this was extremely sloppy and/or with deep,, soft snow and little becks in spate. Quite hard work, in  fact. One path was a deep, running stream, probably knee deep, although I was reluctant to expose my knees to this icy flood.

skears hushes

Sometimes the sun came out and at other times it slashed it down in a specially unfriendly kind of way.

hudeshope mine shop

coldberry gutter east side

We found the foot of Coldberry Gutter, using the magic of Ordnance Survey mapping and splattered off up the hill using, as far as possible, the bits of hill that had just emerged from underneath the snow. Some slithering was done as we eventually got ourselves into the gully, which we followed uphill and over the top of a huge snowdrift at the summit.

in the gutter

Its remarkable how much this looked like the Lairig Ghru or maybe the Chalamain Gap, but much smaller and less bouldery.. in fact … not really……..  anyway…  Coldberry Gutter is a deep lead mining hush forming a double-sided gully system and which is a significant feature in the Teesdale landscape – that is to say, you can see it from lots of places!

newbiggin high road landslip

We splodged onwards, emerging, eventually, wet and wind-ruffled on the high road back to Middleton, which was partially blocked by a collapse of part of the wall/hedge and bankside, probably due to the weight of sloppy snow drifted up against it in the field.

We did seven miles. This is the equivalent of fourteen in the conditions according to Tranters Aunty Mary’s Formula – in view of the headwind, the serious damp underfoot conditions and the lack of a chicken sandwich.

kirkcarrion from the high road

Remarkably, my feet were completely dry at the end, although I did have a wet bum from sliding down the hillside at one point.  The dryness of the tootsies are down to my new Meindl boots and the gaiters I bought when I thought I’d left my first pair at Buttermere (I found them in Bruno’s toy box)

Despite, or probably because of the weather and the new company, it were a right enjoyable do. I’m not sure Yvonne will be back for more of this kind of torture, or my relaxed attitude to walk planning however!

Yvonne has a blog too and it’s here:  where there might be another version of this tale at some point…



Friday 25 January 2013

I should of known better

Look, sorry guys, but this is really fckn annoying. If you're ever, I mean ever, tempted to write "I should of" or "I could of" , please stop and replace the word "of " with the word "have"
I mean FFS, what were your English teachers thinking about? Did they never mention this? What's the matter with you? Are you foreign? Good grief. Are you retarded or what?

Sorry about that. Here's a Beatles song. This might help you get it right.

Thursday 24 January 2013

The Twin Peaks of Gowbarrow

blencathra and dawg

After much hesitation, a bit of vacillation and some shilly-shallying I eventually decided that it was time to bag the first bag on my list of Things To Bag for 2013. And in new boots, too…. wot I got from Cotswolds with my 20% Countryside Volunteer discount – I got a fleecy sleeping bag liner too.    And I wore spikes due to slipperiness and gaiters for to keep the snow out of me socks.


The Bag to be bagged was the recently (fairly recently anyway) discovered slightly higher bit of Gowbarrow and new HuMP into the bargain. I’d already been up the Wainwright Gowbarrow and the Birkett Gowbarrow and I desperately needed the set, and so, full of porridge and , more dangerously, a few prunes, I clipped Bruno into his ejector seat in the knipemobile and launched off up the A66 to Ullswater to the bottom of today’s hilly victim.

the dodds

It was a grey morning, but as we climbed the snowy slopes (just a mere frosting compared with Pieland’s blanket), I was sure that the sky was brightening up. As we visited all the little tors and lumps, just to be sure, the sky did brighten and, by the time we’d got to the top (not that top, the other top), the sunshine was quite pouring out of a blue heaven – to such an extent that I was beginning to wish that I’d gone for a walk up some of the bigger hills all around. But this was not The Way Of The Bagger. Determination and a singular dedication to the less romantic or dramatic is the Bagger’s creed. Bugger.

path to ulcat row

Never mind. We had a nice walk anyway and the views were quite nice. Bruno ate lots of snow and I had a PEK and tomato butty with English mustard (Epistaxis Strength) and a Lion bar.

We did six miles.

veteran ash

We went to Ulcat Row and back along a nice path which visited an ancient Ash tree which appears to have gone through several reincarnations and, hopefully, will survive ash die-back and continue getting yet even bigger.

place fell

I’m not doing a map. Can’t be arsed. Its not the alps, it’s an Alf (what’s that woman doing in here?) Wainwright lesser fell with a bit of snow on it.

place fell/high street etc

Sunday 20 January 2013

It was Burnhope, Not Bollihope… Dhuhhhh

icicles in the Greenlaws tunnel

Just the one walker turned up for today’s walk entitled “Westgate to Bollihope”, mainly, I suspect due to the panic induced by the BBc’s panic-inducing reporting of what is, up to now, a fairly routine winter storm. Maybe they’ve been asked  by the Gumment to see if they can keep people off the roads due to some secret fuel supply farce or something.

bruno runs about daft.

Anyway, it obviously had nothing to do with the fact that Westgate to Bollihope and back is a really long way, whereas Westgate to Burnhope and back is a much more reasonable proposition, and, probably what I was thinking of when I wrote it in the little boxes in the form for the County Council. In reality, the blame for this mistake is more likely to lie in a slight over-consumption of an eleven year old liquour produced on a Scottish island. In Scotland. Can’t trust ‘em, see?

sunshine near burnhope not bollihope

I did the reccy last week in cold and snowy conditions, whilst accompanied by Bruno. The walk passes #1 daughter’s new house, so I called in for a coffee and was accompanied from there to Wearhead by #1 daughter’s hubby and pet dog.

theres a red kite in these trees

“Its a good walk” is the opinion I formed on this little trundle, so I was a bit disappointed by the low turnout today and even one of the stewards wasn’t feeling up to par and the responsibility for stewarding was passed to Steve. So three of us set off.

swardle yows at burnhope

In view of the size of the group, I added a visit to Greenlaws Hush for the lead-mining stuff, and, on this occasion, we went through the tunnel (a bit of a shaky roof, there…) and took pictures of the lovely stalactites made from real frozen water.

burnhope 028

There was just enough snow on the walk to burn off just the extra few Christmas calories (yes, folks, they’re still here…)

burnhope 035

We called at #1daughter’s again, for a bit of shelter from the nithering outside, and were joined once again by #1 daughter’s hubby and his pet dog Molly – just as far as West Blackdene

Anyway, it’s a good winter walk. I’ll bung it in again next January or February and see if I can double the attendance. Maybe if I got the title right…?

burnhope 037

Here’s a map. Its ten miles.

upper weardale

Thursday 17 January 2013

Shivery Walking on the Border

setting off 

Yesterday was the day for leading another Durham County Council guided walk, and Wednesday’s route was up to the Northumberland border from Cowshill, followed by a rough lurch over the moorland tussocks to Sedling Rake, a quick descent to Weardale and a riverside ramble alongside….river back to the start. A grand total of 8 miles.

middlehope 1

middlehope 2

It were perishing cold today, too with a starting temperature of about –8C in the lower bits of Weardale, rising to a magnificent –0.5C at the end. people from the Eastern bits of Durham were worried about the snow (there was more in the East than in Weardale as it happens) and in view of the nithering nature of the day, I didn’t expect a record-breaking attendance. Nevertheless,  ten of us turned up, including the stewards Ray, Dave (it’s compulsory to have a Dave) and Eric.

middlehope 3

Me and superdawg Bruno did the reccy in ever-so-slightly warmer conditions last week. (just around freezing) We went to the top of Middlehope Moor, though, just cos we could. The guided walk didn’t venture into Northumberland but stayed on the other side of the wall. We  allowed ourselves to look over the wall for a short period as a special treat.  The bridleway that meets the County boundary stops there and doesn’t continue inside Northumberland. This is a fine example of dirty deeds done when rights of way were being registered back in time. The local grouse-shooting gentry of Northumberland clearly didn’t want the unwashed distrubing their fun whilst the politically redder county of Durham seems to have registered more paths. Northumberland are just about to fix the problem, although horses and bikes will still have to stop at the border, making the bridleway a bit pointless for anything other than an out-and-back journey where a saddle is being used.

bruno detects a crisp bag being opened in penrith

The ideal conditions for this walk – the ones I envisaged when I first thought of it, are hard neve, which happens up there regularly, often at this time of year, but so far we’ve just had hard frost or (today) a moderate powder snow cover. One day, we’ll get there, though, we just need a blizzard of warm, wet snow to freeze hard for a couple of days and Robert will be your Mum’s brother.

middlehope reccy 005

Even so, just like last year, the sun shone most of the time and the views of the surrounding fells was superb – a grand day to be out on the hills, in fact although barely warm enough to stop for long for the consumption of butties and chocolate.  Graeme did, however supply quantities of delicious cocktails to warm the cockles at lunchtime behind the wall at Sedling rake. Nice.



On the reccy, there was just the hint of a snow dusting and the top of the hill had been helpfully marked with the word “top”, just to confirm the fact. I also took GPS waymarks of all the key points of the trundle across the moor in case of hill fog on the day. If you got yourself dislocated up here, it could be difficult finding yourself again in the fog. Unless you had a GPS or just decided to walk downhill (this would inevitably lead the walker to Cowshill since the landscape is a big funnel at this point) (See – you get self-rescue tips as well on the pie blog)

river wear at west blackdene

The return by the riverside was uneventful although I did detect that the earlier struggles over the moor had taken their toll of one or two of the walkers. It’s good for them, though.  Pic of waterfalls by Graeme. I’ve been struggling to get this picture myself for ages.

Good walk, though. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the reccy. Bruno couldn’t come on the actual walk, though as he’s Not Allowed.

More Upper Weardale fun shortly..

There’s a map…..

Extra pics courtesy of Graeme Ferguson. If walkers want to send me pictures, I’ll likely put as many on the blog as possible. It would make a nice change from my efforts!

middlehope moor


Saturday 12 January 2013

Durham Guided Walks Stuff for Summer 2013

horse and goose

I’ve spent a substantial part of this afternoon filing in a form with details and dates of all the walks I’m proposing to do for the Durham County Council guided walks programme for April to September 2013.


I’m letting it simmer for a while before I can check it and send it off to the Council.

I’m aware that some guided walks customers and a few stewards too read the pie blog from time to time – mainly as some kind of penance, I suspect, but from this they’ll be able to judge the kind of delights we have in store.  And take appropriate avoiding action….

superdawg reccies the best of teesdale walk

There will be  repeats of some of the old favourites, these being the Teesdale Fellwalking walk over Crosthwaite fell (in Teesdale!), The Hunstanworth Hobble including my only ascent of Neville’s Couloir on the beetling North face of Bolt’s Law. Ropes will not be used to allow for speed and grace. There’ll be a Wander along by the Elephant trees yet again. Walkers are requested not to feed the elephants this time and we’ll be repeating the Best of Teesdale walk which includes Low Force, High Force, Cronkley Fell, a bumpy walk by the Tees and Moking Hurth Caves and, optionally, and depending on whether or not the mudslide has been shovelled away, Gibson’s Cave too. This walk, though might form part of the North Pennines AONB Pennine Journey walking festival in which case it’ll be in early October.

 tan hill inn

We’ll be repeating the five circular walks which completes the Pennine Way in Durham on Sundays in July, August and September. This includes beer (or whatever) at Tan Hill and lots of sloppy bogs culminating in a climb up Cauldron Snout, or at least, up the path beside Cauldron Snout.

crosthwaite fell holwick

And there’s some new walks - one around the heathery moors above Bollihope, possibly with an ice cream van at the end and another in Baldersdale around Race Yate and the dry(er) side of the Battle Hill firing ranges.

All of the walks are graded as “Long and Hard” and range from ten to seventeen miles

haymeadow baldersdale and dawg

On top of all this , I’m leading a walk for the North Pennines AONB for the Pennine Journey celebration walking festival from Tan Hill Inn to Balderhead reservoir – a linear walk of about 15 miles involving the provision of transport from the Balderhead car park to the start at Tan Hill. Unfortunately it will be too early for a pint of Black Sheep at the start.

The introductory pic is irrelevant by the way. I just liked it. The horse and goose (sounds like a pub) were seen on a recent walk reccy at Cowshill in Weardale.


Sunday 6 January 2013

Weardale – Reccying Around Bollihope

bollihope 007

One of the things that the County Durham guided walks programme needs is a selection of new walks (…in my ‘umble…) and it’s that time of year when suggestions are being made for the summer walks programme. It would be really easy just to repeat the walks from last summer, get the handouts copied and wander around the route about a week beforehand and, so far, my list of ideas for next summer surely does contain some of the things that have been popular in the past. It also doesn’t contain some areas which seem to appear regularly, not only in my walks, but in those of other walk leaders.

Bottom line is, I’ve been trying to come up with a bunch of new ideas.

And I had this one today. So me and the dawg went for a look.

elephant trees from a different direction

Basically, it’s a heathery plod around the moors above Bollihope in Weardale. It should be grand and purple in August. When the sun came through today, the fells all around looked really attractive, and the views up here are biiig…. and when the larks and pipits and curlews are calling….

I was a bit worried about one of the paths being a bit rough, though – in fact, last time I was up there – about two years ago, I couldn’t find the path at all. But now, there’s a line of cairns and a good trod to follow, although, it’s a bit off the line of the right of way by about 150 metres or so.  But it’ll do.

path back to bollihope

Quite a nice walk, really, and sometimes, there’s an ice cream van at the end!

This is the fourth walk in four days for Old Superdawg and, he did seem a bit jaded today. I’ll give him a bit of a rest for a couple of days – short walks only.

Here’s a map. Its about nine miles. I might add a bit on if the paths at the far end of the route aren’t too rough – they’ve generally been a bit “virtual” up there in the past, but maybe, with traffic….

bollihope round


Saturday 5 January 2013

Cheviots with James and Reuben

reuben and bruno investigate a pool

James ( and his dog Reuben have been having a little tour of bits of the Cheviots and today, me and Bruno went up to Barrowburn to join them (I have very fond memories of the soup, tea and bacon butties provided by the nice peeps at Barrowburn last year)

james and reuben

davidson's linn

Anyway – forgetting the bacon and soup (hmm…..bacon…dribble…) we turned up roughly on time in tropical double-figures Centigrade and after introductions set off up to Uswayford and then bits of bridleway to Davison’s Linn. Here lie some very nice camping spots and the waterfall , whilst not perhaps the most impressive, has a little hidden waterfall just to the side and a little scramble to get up the arete between the two. The ascent of this provided a brief moment of excitement before lunch. There was always the strong possibility of an accidental plodge submerging a whole boot and, thereby, wetting a sock. We really should have done a Health and Safety assessment beforehand.

windy gyle summit (in scotland)

After all this, we followed Saltersgate and then Clennel Street (both ancient cross-border routes)  to the Border ridge and then, along the Pennine Way into the clag smothering Windy Gyle – perhaps the only Nuttall actually in Scotland. (This might be wrong, I can’t be arsed looking it up)

hunters on atvs on hills

We descended to Trow, encountering huge numbers of people on ATV’s and a few on horseback, apparently involved in the gentle pastime of fox hunting. This now seems to involve lots of very red-faced individuals staring at hills. This seems just a little more exciting than watching lettuce grow. I suppose it gets the horses exercised, although the red-faced camo-wearing hypertensives on ATVs would probably die in short order should they be called upon to cross a couple of uphill contours under their own steam.

windy gyle 014

Quite soon we were back where we started. There was a certain amount of TGO Challenge talk – bearing in mind that our routes are very similar for the first couple of days - and the two dogs, being male (or almost male in Bruno’s case) involved themselves in running about and then being a bit aggressive games. We presumed that this behaviour was intended to establish a pack hierarchy. As no actual damage was being done, we let them get on with it.

James has another day in the Cheviots, but, I expect that ultimately, there’ll be a version of this jaunt. I may post a link, depending on whether or not its got a pic of me looking scared on a short waterfall scramble…  [koff]

I think we did about ten miles. Here’s a map.

windy gyle