Wednesday 27 February 2013

Digging Out Gibson’s Cave

ron attacks a tree

Unnervingly or alarmingly attentive readers may remember that back when it was chucking it down big time, I failed to walk the path from the Bowlees pickernick place car park to Gibson’s cave/Summerhill Force due to a sloppy landslip that had smothered the path to a depth of a few feet.

several rons start digging

Any road up, I recently got the opportunity to go and help dig it out and yesterday, along with a van full of big blokes called Ron and two lasses called Adele  the huge mudslide was attacked, along with the trees it had brought down with it and a brand-new spanky (if a bit muddy) path was cut through the chaos.

..bit muddy...

Actually, it was a bit overstaffed at the diggings, so me and one of the Adele’s went and cleared the mud and winter compost off the paving outside the toilets, washed it, cleared the gutters, washed some signs, knocked another signboard into position and picked some litter. A local chap walking his dogs went off for lunch and returned with a stepladder (not his real ladder, but his step-ladder) and a bucket for the clearing of the gutters.

So, it was quite a successful “do”.

jennie adds some final touches

Apologies for getting everybody’s name wrong by the way, but I have a really bad memory for names caused by three years on a Casualty reception being bombarded by names, all of which were processed but not remembered. Either that or I just have a… 

Anyway, the Ranger-type in charge and van driver was Jennie, not Adele as previously mentioned.

summerhill force

So, if you’re visiting Upper Teesdale and happen to call in at Bowlees for a wee, and/or a cuppa at the currently being seriously done-up visitor centre and cafe and you decide to have a little walk up to Gibson’s cave – and you should, cos it’s very nice, think of the blood, sweat and cheese sandwiches of the Rons and Ronettes and hum to yourself “Met him on a Monday and my heart stood still Adele-Ron-Ron-Ron-Adele-Ron-Ron and Mike.”

Thursday 21 February 2013

Fourteen Miles in Wensleydale (Seven Pounds to Park!!)

guess how much it is to park here 

It should of been tsk.. have been fifteen miles, according to my “Get your arse in gear for the TGO Chally” plan, but even the extra distance caused by parking some way away from the pay and display machine at Castle Bolton which wanted SEVEN whole quids of my own personal beer money for leaving the knipemobile there for a few hours, I somehow failed to reach the magic number (15) and only managed 14.3.  Welllll  Dhuhhhhh….

bruno digs snow, man.

Never mind. After dumping the car on a verge outside Ripon, we progressed easily in a roughly westerly direction from the Castle. The Castle had been slighted by Oliver Cromwell’s men , but not very well, and the car park had been slighted, nay, rejected by me. I must try to stop banging on about this or it will seem that I have some kind of obsession. But I mean, SEVEN quid…!

addleborough and addled pooch

Anyway, there’s a very nice bridleway which goes from castle Bolton (with the outrageous parking charges) towards Askrigg, where they don’t charge at all – and guess which village has more visitors, eh? Go on, answer me that one!


And after about five miles of this pleasantry, we turned, brutally, uphill into the snows of Woodhall Greets (where' we’d been before on Boxing day and during this episode, which is recorded on this very blog, we were pleased to note that Askrigg just has an honesty box for parking charges into which I deposited a whole pound. Maybe a bit mean, in view of the market rate around here.)


The snow was hard and a bit bumpy and eventually, as I followed the bridleway, it gave way to a mix of snow, heather, tussock, juncus partially frozen sphagnum bog and ice – which was quite hard going. After a short walk on the “road” (in inverted commas ’cos its not really a road at the moment, its more of a series of frozen snowdrifts – don’t try to go this way in a BMW cos you won’t get anywhere; park it in Askrigg. Don’t park it at Castle Bolton.) we began a long trespass over Whitfield Moor which, in places was pretty rough going and we slowed down quite a lot. Bruno is starting to feel his age, I think, unlike me, obviously.  On this bit, each time I stopped for a breather, he curled up into a ball and went to sleep – and groaned when we set off again.

We passed Aberdune Tarn – a frozen puddle with it’s own glacier and followed a mile or so of dead straight fencing, eventually, and with some relief, turning up at the bridleway into Apedale.

dent's houses

Much better going got me to Dent’s Houses in about half an hour. I went inside, noted the stove and the flushing toilet and signed the visitors book whilst allowing Bruno the honour of watching me finish off my coffee and a rather nice chocolate chip bun.


Not too long after this and we were back at C…. B…. with the Stupidly H….P…Ch….s

The car was some distance away…

Dammit. A mile short. Where did I go wrong?

Here’s a map.

castle bolton

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Adventures In Bigland

an attack of tallness overcomes me

Everything is big in Bigland. As you can see from the photo above, even yours truly can become really really big, although why there was very little effect on superdawg is a mystery.

After having had a really good sleep and eaten all my breakfast this morning (this makes you big and strong by the way, according to my Mum who, now I think about it wasn’t very big, but was quite strong…), I loaded the Dawg into the knipemobile and headed off to somewhere quite near Ulverston. As the old OS map has it “Here be Bigland” where everything is BIG.

the lake or tarn. or lake.

belted galloways

Some of Bigland contains a Wainwright Outlier – one Bigland Barrow, disappointingly short of one huge wheelbarrow, but containing a large herd of small cows (belted Galloways) – who appeared docile and uninterested in Bruno, which was nice; a large tarn or lake and a concrete bunker thing on legs.

bigland hall from grassgarth heights

Next was the vairy pawsh Bigland Hall, where the Very Tall go to ride about on horses, shoot things, do fishing and get rat-arsed at night. Just next to Bigland Hall is a small but perfectly formed HuMP – one Grassgarth Heights. Now Grassgarth Heights is easily reached from the Cumbria Coastal Path except that it is well defended by lots of signs indicating that the presence of The Public is Not Wanted. Nevertheless, somehow, I suddenly found myself on the summit of this Grassgarth Heights. It has a very nice view of Bigland Hall. I expect the Big people were having a snooze or something as they didn’t notice me and the dog up the hill. Maybe Grassgarth is not, in fact their hill at all, but somebody else’s; somebody who doesn’t want Big People up their sheep pastures. I don’t know.

dixon heights

I returned to the car which was exactly where I left it, and went to Lindale – a small village a few miles away on the other side of a huge traffic-calming measure aka some temporary traffic lights protecting a tree-pruning ceremony. These lights took a full half an hour to pass. This in turn reduced my intended bag of hills from four for the day to three.

dixon heights folly

Hill Three was outside Bigland, in More Normal land. And it was called Dixon Heights – another Wainwright Outlier listed in his book as Newton Fell (South). It has a ruined pile of rubble on the top, some ponies and a heron, fishing hopefully in a small pond which, I would like to bet, has no fish. I hoped to point this out to Mr Heron, but he flew off.

I am now back at home and have returned to my usual dimensions. Thank you for enquiring.

I like the name “Dixon” by the way. Dixon’s ice cream van used to visit our street when I were but a sprog, nearly twenty years ago now [koff] The driver (presumably Mr Dixon) had a hand bell. You had to find your mum with her purse for a tanner for a cone….  and the ice cream ran down your arm to soothe the itchy scab on your elbow and if you didn;t concentrate, the dog snaffled the whole thing from your hand.    Anyway, Dixon Height is a fab place for half an hour’s break for those driving a long way to get to Wasdale or somewhere like that. Fab place, actually….

Monday 18 February 2013

Hudeshope King’s Walk and Stuff


bruno about to eat the last snowdrift

I’ll be fairly brief with this one – this is not the first time this walk has appeared on the Pieblog.

Its the seven mile (actually nearer six) which goes up one side of the Hudeshope valley and down the other; a Durham County Council walk wot me and superdawg reccied in slowly thawing snow a few days ago and which six people, plus Jane the steward turned up to do on Sunday.

hudeshope 008

stocks and snowdrops

I made one new discovery (there’s always something) – which was the Middleton-in-Teesdale stocks which are opposite Brunswick house and now have a sundial on the top. The stocks would have been used to punish fairly minor offences such as drunkeness, wife beating with a hefty stick,  looking at Lord Barnard In A Funny Way and starving a dog.  Miscreants would in theory at least be at the mercy of ridicule, buit in practise may well have been wise and forward-looking enough to appreciate that any rufty-tufty imprisoned in the stocks would be out in a day or so and might hold a grudge. Those that didn’t actually die of exposure on a frosty night, that is.

hudeshope leadmines

The County walk was held in almost warm sunshine, with a few remaining snow runnels on the fells to add a bit of interest and with a small flock of newly arrived lapwings to announce that spring is probably not too far away.

hudeshope 014

Unfortunately, there are no pics of the County walk as I forgot to put a memory card in the camera and the USB port is broken so unless I faff about emailing the two pics I did take and then doing whatever’s needed to put them on the blog belatedly… there wont be any. Just accept it, folks, no pics this time.

I took pics of the reccy, though, and there’s a map for anybody who wants to follow the route.

Its a nice little walk. But I’m not doing it again for a while!


Monday 11 February 2013

This Year’s Preparations for the TGO Challenge

me and the vicar

Apparently, there’s about thirteen of your Earth weeks before the start of the TGO Challenge and it’s about that time when it comes to starting to prepare things for the Big Event. (Its a bit like another Christmas, but without John Lennon and Slade) (or twinkly lights) (or a tree).

So, what, I hear you ask, am I intending to do to prepare this aching and ever-so under-thin body of mine for this jaunt across Scotland and, indeed, will I have some shiny new kit and will I be psychologically, emotionally and financially ready in time for the Glasgow-Mallaig train on that fateful Thursday lunchtime in the merry month of May (the finest month in all the year, I think you’ll find)


First of all, I need a new tent. I have resolved to get another akto. I can get one for £320 using my Durham Countryside Volunteers discount at Cotswolds. I don’t care. I like aktos,and I’m going to get one very soon indeed.  Everything else will just have to do. I might buy some gas and some more of those Fuzion scoffbags – although I should have the opportunity to test out more of these over the coming months.

by haweswater

Wottabout fitness?, I hear you exclaim, loudly. What I normally do, is build up some distance walking, so in February, I’ll do a fifteen mile walk, in March a seventeen miler and in April a twenty miler. This is enough. If, on a TGO challenge, I find myself walking more than nineteen miles, then I consider that I’ve cocked it up somewhere. Sometimes it happens, usually it doesn’t. I’ve done this eleven times now, so I know that I don’t need to have big, long days. I’ll be doing other walking, too – I’ve got six guided walks to lead, which means twelve walks including the reccies, plus at least one other walk per week as well. And superdawg needs his little trundles in between….

brecon (s wales, see..?)

Then there’s backpacking. There are three planned trips:

In March, it’s South Wales with Dawn – a four or five day wander aimed at bagging Cefn yr Ystrad from Abergavenny plus some general wandering about. We shouldn’t be working too hard on this one and distances should be modest.


In April, there’s the Backpackers Club AGM in Ulverston. Again, me and Dawn plan to be wandering the Lake District hills – probably between Eskdale and Millom just prior to the AGM. Black Combe is on the list plus other Wainwright outliers.

moffat to peebles 2011

And then, a bit earlier in April,  there’s the “TGO Training walk” which this year will be from Lauder to Dunbar, mainly using the Northern scarp of the Lammermuir Hills. Finishing at the North sea following a short road walk and with the possibility of Fish and Chips and beer is very realistic as far as TGO training is concerned. We have seven people attending this expedition including several bloggers and TGO challenge-types. (And me and Dawn) We’ll start off gently and build up to a crescendo of burning boot soles and searing calf muscles after a few days. There are no pubs in the middle of this, although there’s three at the start and half a dozen at the end.

Financially – Anybody want to buy a Big Issue?

That orta do it, I should expect. If it doesn’t,  well , nobody can say we didn’t try.

2013 TGO Challenge will be my twelfth and a half (2001 half challenge) – should I turn up at Montrose.


Sunday 10 February 2013

Ultimately Ill-Fated Whernside Camp

duncan sike camp

We started out quite well with sausage butties in a cafe in Kirkby Stephen and the drive to Ribblehead went well, as did our local request for somewhere to leave the knipemobile for a few days (I won’t reveal this as parking at Ribblehead is at a premium on weekends and we wouldn’t want hoards of would-be backpackers dumping their cars at inappropriate places). And a pint of Timmy Taylor’s at the Station Inn was another good omen.

dawn below whernside

And so we set off hopeful – into the cold, grey and snowy afternoon.

After a while, it became obvious that we were running out of daylight, so we determined to pitch camp and carry on to our intended destination the next day. I mean, there’s no point in plodding on when you’re not really in a rush – we had three days to go four miles and back. The idea for the camp was to have a few days relaxing, eating, reading, maybe having a little wander about and by this gentle expedition, to re-establish Dawn’s post-op feet with the wild world of tussock snow and bog and, maybe to mull over plans for the spring and so on…. We had stew, we had spuds and cheese and onions, and ginger cake, and custard and all kinds of ultra-lite comforts. You know the kind of thing….

first camp Grain Head

I had a good night. Dawn didn’t. I noticed on the news that four hospital wards in Leeds had been closed due to an attack of the nasty winter vomiting bug norovirus and, symptoms given over the radio seemed to match Dawn’s condition quite closely.

view from duncan sike

Nevertheless, in the morning, and , probably hoping that the worst was over,  we completed a plod of about a mile and a half to Duncan Sike, which, when it’s not under snow, is a beautiful green wold high above Dentdale with pure streams and soft and level places for tents. Its a really good wild camping spot, in other words, and the local rabbits like it too.

does this qualify as a wild camp?

An afternoon of snoozing and reading was had. Dawn’s night proved worse than the previous one and what with her wobbly and unhappy condition, request for a warm and comfy hostel bed and a Radio Tees weather forecast mentioning “snow” and “disruption” there was no doubt that we should bail out and make for Kirkby Stephen for Dawn and the far side of the Pennines for me. So that’s what we did although there were certain elements of Napaleon’s retreat from Moscow about the walk out, the only things missing being the drums and artillery undercarriages embedded in the snow. A nice lass on her way up Whernside donated a bit of medication for Dawn’s angry digestive tract, and more pharmaceuticals were obtained in Hawes.

force gill

I dumped Dawn at the hostel in Kirkby and bolted for the County Durham border, pausing only briefly to have a full English at Chochs cafe in Brough ( excellent value and delicious and a good test that a constitution is working properly)

It was all really very bad luck,really, and whilst it wasn’t exactly the planned relaxing little camping holiday was pretty much wrecked as far as Dawn was concerned and she’d have probably had more fun sticking hot needles down her toenails, physically, we actually did pretty much what we’d planned to do.

ribblehead viaduct

As for me, I learned not to put too much water into a Fruzion kedgeree (breakfast) and that the minced lamb meal is quite nice and I’ll probably get some more of that for later expeditions.

Poor Dawn – this was really just such bad luck, but in the face of almost complete debilitation, she walked off the hill, although not necessarily in a very straight line - which is probably more than I would have done…

The pics are quite impressive, though innit?


Wednesday 6 February 2013

Wandering in Weardale

weardale wander 006

Today’s was a Durham County Council guided walk which goes from Wolsingham to the Elephant Trees, to Bollihope, Harehope Mine and Quarry and along the riverside back to Wolsingham. I measured it at 11 miles, but, inevitably, clever dicks with GPS devices said it was twelve.

dog in bag

Me and the Dawg did the reccy a week earlier in a vicious headwind blowing from somewhere between Dublin and Belfast – an exhausting experience but lightened a bit by the fact that the wind was behind us on the way back. We lunched briefly in the tropical confines of my new bothy bag. This is a bit flappy for Bruno who doesn’t like flappy, but once the sun shone and the inside temperature rose a bit, AND he’d come to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to get any of my beef spread butty, he dozed off. I came very close to joining him in a bit of a  snooze but resisted. I should learn not to resist notions like this.

climbing out of weardale

On the day, thirty two walkers turned up , so, along with the three stewards, Eric, Doug and the compulsory Dave, and me, of course, there were thirty six of us altogether.

I am a teapot

elephant trees

The weather was refreshing in a chilly kind of way, this time arriving in a lively manner and without hindrance direct from the North Pole and far too cold on the tops for sitting around or having yer walk leader (me) pointing out interesting rabbit holes or bits of gorse or whatever.

lunchstop elephant trees in background

stiff dick

We did find a sheltered(ish) suntrap for lunch but no pontificating from me was endured until we’d descended to the more gentle climate of the Bollihope Burn where we enjoyed the carboniferous limestone, the cowboy pass, Harehope mine, the lump of Frosterley marble and Harehope quarry where several of the male walkers were seen pointing and giggling just like they used to do in Form 2(b), at the rude names allotted by the quarry men of old to some of the bands of rock in the quarry – names inscribed on the top of the wall of the quarry observation point.

Graeme provided cocktails once again.

It’s a walk of two halves and will appear once again in the summer programme when we will be able to enjoy the fabliously green views of Weardale, the balmy moorland breezes, the larks and pipits singing high in the sky and the midgies and blackfly at the lunch stop in the gill at Fine Burn.

It’s eleven or twelve miles. Here’s a map.

dvcrs walk one

Thanks to Neville and Graeme for the pics. I’m off to Yorkshire now for a spot of camping with Dawn – there will be a short hiatus or gap. Behave yourselves. Neville will be in charge of the blackboard and chalk and will write down the initials of anybody misbehaving on the board using a five bar gate method to indicate the number of misdemeanours.


Monday 4 February 2013

Baldersdale Without Bleakness Would be Rubbish

bruno navigates by nose

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was being jostled along by a lively Pennine breeze with a dark and heavy sky glowering over my shoulder and as the Dawg chased things that weren’t there and relieved his itchy moulting back by wriggling about legs skywards in the sheep-chewed juncus, that there’s a certain joy to be had from sploshing across the bogs in weather that many people would class as less-than-ideal. (Specially when the new boots still don’t leak!)

pennine way nr race yate

This notion has probably occurred to me before, probably, I should say, on the day before in the bright blue and sparkling snow-covered Long Crag whilst being scoured by a wind of evil intent. Refreshing at least, to say the least and creating a facial glow that even an old and bearded wrinkly could appear vaguely healthy for at least an hour or two afterwards.


It is pure joy, really. It’s probably why I do this sort of thing. None of this bollix about being spiritual or communing with nature or finding myself (I often/sometimes know where I am), it was more to do with… er….  sort of…   putting a finger on it…… now you ask…..

bruno scratching an itch  

Me and the Dawg were doing yet another reccy for a walk that’s to be had in the spring – now scheduled for the 14th of April. I expect that the weather might be quite refreshing on that day too, as it often is in April. There’ll be lambing showers, no doubt. There’ll be a need for a place for shelter.

bruno guards the privy

And the place for a shelter will be the abandoned and ruined sixteenth century farmstead of West Loups’s (the apostrophe is not an accident by the way!) This is plonked squarely , or at least, roundly within the banks of a previous, mediaeval farmstead. And all around, to be hunted amongst the rank grasses , are several boulders sporting cup and ring markings. I have the grid references. The very best place, though, amongst all of these things is the ancient privy – a double-seater, cosy inside and roofed with dangerously heavy sandstone slabs. You wouldn’t want to make too much noise in there….  It’s the only building left with a roof. We just have to hope that the Battle Hill firing range is not active on the day, even though the risk of being shot seems minimal, the place is on the inside and inside is where you’re not supposed to be when the guns are blazing.

hury reservoir

The fight against the headwind by the reservoirs in the slippery sheep-poddled mud was less fun, though, I would say.


In the end, the route turns out to be eleven miles, which is just as well, because that’s what it’s going to say in the brochure. Here’s a map.

baldersdale race yate