Friday 29 March 2013

Winter Bivi Oooop Weardale

centrally heated snowholes

I’m not entirely sure how this happened, except to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

There is quite a lot of snow up at the top end of Weardale. Some drifts have appeared on that inbterweb thingy which seem to be over 30 feet high. The ones we chose were quite a bit smaller than this and also, comfortingly close to a proper house with a kettle and everything.

pieman's grave

I arrived about 8-ish and Matt had already dug some holes – a little cave for himself and a grave-like trench for me, over which I arranged a six-man group shelter and tucked inside a closed-cell foam mat, a reflective groundsheet, a thermarest, an ancient Blacks sleeping bag with a thermal liner and an ex-army arctic cover.

snow cave

As well as all this, I had the additional protection of a small but adequate supply of loopy juice  aka Special Offer Help for Heroes Bell’s whisky.

I had a cosy night and don’t remember too much about it, apart from  trying to claw my way back up the hill a few times, and being gently sprayed with a dusting of fresh powder snow.

cosy nest (brrrr)

Apparently, though, somebody was snoring like a peeeeg during the night whilst I heard nothing at all, Matt decided to bail out and spend the night next to the kettle. It wasn’t even all that cold.

Its remarkable, though, that during the night, the local lapwings, curlews and oyster catchers, as well as a pair of wandering ducks, called throughout the night. Do they never sleep?

more drifts

Anyway, quite good fun….   The drift and it’s snow-works have been retained for the entertainment of the knipe grandchildren who are visiting this holiday and might well enjoy the outrageously deep , and now fairly hard, snow of Upper Weardale.

side dale


Tuesday 26 March 2013

Disrupted – and now cancelled

pw forest to cauldron reccy 005 

I’m aware that lots of peeps who come on Durham County Council walks read the pieblog – so if you’re intending to come on the walk on Sunday from  Cow Green with a little scramble up by Cauldron Snout (or even Cronkley Spout!) please don’t try to drive to Cow Green because the road is under lots of snow and the walk is cancelled.

Walkers who are intent on having a guided scramble up by the Spout should note that there’ll be another opportunity to join the Pieman on 1 September on a walk from Hanging Shaw. It seems possible that most of the snow will have melted by then. If it hasn’t , then we’re in trouble……

So – basic message: Durham county Council walk Harwood and a Cauldron Snout Scramble on Sunday 31 March 2013 is CANCELLED.  Don’t come. Nobody will be there……

Sunday 24 March 2013

I’ve Been Disrupted!

take care out there guys!
But not as much as this ground nesting bird, which appears to gave collided with a stone wall – probably due to the snow drifting over it and making it invisible.
There were lots of curlews and oyster catchers up Weardale today – and even the odd lapwing. These arrived in large numbers a couple of weeks ago, but I only saw one today, and it was sitting in the middle of the A689. Luckily there was no traffic at all (except me).
easy riverside path - weardale way
Problem was – I wasn’t really supposed to be up Weardale. According to my TGO Chally training plan, I was supposed to be doing a 17 mile walk along the bridleways in Northumberland. This would have been too hard for my lickle legs in the deep snow, so, instead, I decided to visit #1 daughter who has been snowed in (for the fourth time this winter) in their cottage oooop Weardale for about a week now. (Is a cottage in a freezing landscape a frottage, or is that something else….)
Anyway, the road up Weardale was lovely and clear, and, even dry – such is the current dryness of the air coming off Siberia.
I don’t think there’s been a specially big snowfall up there. It seems, though, that the wind is making the most of it. Each wall has plumes of snow cresting over the top and dumping a fine and icy spray in huge heaps on the leeward side.
Me and Mat and Mollie and Superdawg had a brief but vicious scrap with the elements of a five-ish mile circuit of Burnhope reservoir (where there was a car full of giggling yoofs with their dogs, well stuck in the snow, waiting for a friendly tractorman – who arrived about the same time as us. It seems that the reason for the giggling may well have been something herbal, judging by the perfume emanating from an open window…..)
greenwell 007
Anyway, its the first time this winter I’ve worn my snow goggles.
I have a guided walk in the far reaches of Upper Teesdale next week. I’m supposed to do a reccy this week and I strongly suspect that the road to Cow Green reservoir might well be impassable, and, judging by the forecast, will not become passable this week. So the prospects for that walk aren’t looking good – unless conditions alter substantially over the next few days. I have other fun alternatives planned, though….
8 Miles today. 8 foot drifts as well – Bruno is, frankly, knackered….. 9 miles short….. dhuhh…

Friday 22 March 2013

A Short and Snowy Howgills Walk

bruno flees about in the snow

I met the nephew in Sedbergh (eventually… due to somebody digging up the A65) and we parked badly out of the way of the stupidly expensive pay and display car parks and set off up the path along the flanks of Winder and into the snow.  Bruno was off the lead as the sheep had all, wisely buggerred off somewhere less arctic and so he proceeded to go a bit mad, running around in huge circles at high speed just like a 12 year old dog doesn’t.

its green(ish) below!

bruno gets a snowball

I’d encountered a bit of a blizzard and some lovely hillfog on the drive over the A66 a bit earlier, so I was somewhat aware of what the conditions on the high tops might be like. As it was, they were shrouded in mist but as we blundered ever upwards into the more frozen variety of snow, it became obvious that the climate would be less than idea for a long walk with a late start and what with having nothing spiky to wear on the feet. So we just got to the top of Arant Haw, at just under the hillfog and just underer the 2000 foot mark, selected a nice descending ridge and followed it down to a sunny and relatively tropical sheepfold where pies and pickles were scoffed.

howggills and sheepfold

howggills sheepfold

The sheepfold, it turns out, is a rather nice place for an overnight camp – with a choice of two becks of clean water for the brewing, some walls for shelter and some ever-so-slightly tilted short, green and comfy turf for the pitching of the tent.

We returned by following the intake wall back to Sedbergh, a route I’ve followed many many times before.

howggills from the intake wall

For those specially interested in walks in the Howgills – here’s a plug for something wot I ritt a while back and which was published by Phil Lambert in his Doodlecat website: howgills diary in doodlecat    Apart from this fine bit of rittings, Doodlecat’s trip reports is a cracking resource for anybody intent of having a crack at the TGO challenge

Here’s a map of the Howgills walk.

arant haw

Thursday 21 March 2013

Bentley Beetham Meets Hannah Hauxwell

select group on goldsborough

…is the title of a Durham County Council, guided walk wot I lead last Sunday (I’m playing catch-up here…) and which me and Bruno reccied the week before , on the day before I left for South Wales, in fact – leading to a full eight days in a row on which I managed some kind of walk, which is quite useful for the fitness I would have thought.


However, due, I strongly suspect, to a rather duff , and ultimately quite inaccurate weather forecast, detailing icy and dangerous roads, only one punter turned up, and, as she was also a Durham Countryside volunteer, she didn’t have to pay. Jane and Richard (no Daves this time) were the stewards.  As it turned out, the icy roads were roads with a bit of wet slush and some puddles. Or maybe we should have set off at half ten instead of ten… and they were digging up Crook….

making off to the bird hide for lunch

Anyway, Bentley Beetham, of course, was a teacher at Barnard Castle school who used Goldsborough crag as a rock-climbing ground for pupils from the school, put up several easy rock climbs suitable for sprogs in the Lake District (I believe that Cam Crag Buttress  is one of his….) and was a renowned Alpine  mountaineer. Hannah Hauxwell , on the other hand, had the farm at Birk Hat and her traditional farming methods  preserved several specially beautiful Northern haymeadows – now forming a Durham Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

the week before..

And so, on a cold and sunny morning, with a spattering of fresh snow, the four of us launched off over the moor to West Loups’s, then back to Goldsborough where we enjoyed the windy crags, through the haymeadows with the in-lamb sheep (including two dead ones) – lunch in the bird hide, where we saw no birds and a muddy plodge through the clarts by the shoreline paths alongside the reservoirs. There’s a map at the end of this post.

bentley beetham reccy 002

The week before, it had howled and blizzarded and froze. Just the kind of weather Bruno enjoys. me and the Dawg also used the shelter of the bird hide for lunch and finished-off the walk in not much over three hours, in view of the specially perishing conditions. We saw nor met nobody.

But its a good walk, I think. Prolly do it again. We might do it the summer after next when the haymeadows are in flower. I think that might be quite good.

Its 8 miles by the way. This is stretching it a bit….

baldersdale haymeadows in summer


Monday 18 March 2013

South Wales Backpack Part Two

a cefn yr ystrad cairn

The first night, beside the dam wall (as opposed to the flippin’ wall) of Brynmawr’s local reservoir in the company of a friendly black pony and a creaky bit of tin was a cold one. However, being so close to a centre of population and a bit of the Heads of the Valleys road, was probably responsible for the very nice DB radio reception. This, and Dawn’s orange chocolate drops, a 75 cl supply of loopy juice and a plastic milk bottle serving as a sleeping bag radiator, meant that the long hours of darkness which began at about half six, were passed in a reasonably comfy state. I was so toasty, in fact that if it hadn’t been for a visit from Mr Bladder about half nine I would probably still be there now.

brynmawrs reservoir and pylons

I didn’t manage to get away till nearly eleven o’clock. This concerned me about this much          ----><----    (i.e. not much) It was a nice day, sunny and frozen and all of the streams were completely solid. I passed the reservoir and got to a road which I followed on a parallel trod to it’s summit where I launched off over the heathery moor to find the trig at Blaen Onneu, a sub-Dewey (yes, I know…) at 541 metres – not difficult to find on a bright and clear day, but, I expect, a right bugger in the mist. This moorland is a paradise for anybody intent on practising their map and compass work and, indeed, a group of three soldiers turned up at the trig roughly at the same time as me – armed with maps and compasses and intent on finding their next target 2.2 kilometres away…. Basically, it’s a superficially featureless and relatively flat moor speckled with targets such as caves and shakeholes and little crags and hidden corners. The problem is, of course, that all the shakeholes look the same and there are very few linear features for a nice bit of handrailing. And I do ,like a nice bit of handrailing.

a big cairn somewhere

I left the top on a good path heading West, but after a while, considered that it wasn’t quite going in the right direction, so I left it. This was a mistake, cos the thing goes all the way across the moor. The next couple of hours were taken up “navigating” whilst never quite knowing exactly where I was. On a small top with a sheltering cairn, I sat and scoffed and bemoaned the lack of liquid water for a brew – all water was in small ponds and was frozen solid. And I noticed voices from behind a small ridge where, a few minutes later, I found the path I’d abandoned. So I followed it and it delivered me within a couple of hundred metres of the summit of this particular block Garn Fawr – a big cairn (you might have guessed by the name!) – this was the HuMP top of Mynydd Llangynidr, where it started snowing big time.

good navigating country

I descended to a minor road, which signs announced was “private” and on which a procession of quarry wagons rushed to and fro. The snow turned into a blizzard and I found a beck – alongside which, in the shelter of a  veteran hawthorn and a small gorse bush and out of sight of the quarry traffic and the shepherds calling up their sheep for feeding, I stuck up the akto and hid from everything.

Night two was a repeat of night one, but just a bit colder. I had to refresh the hot water bottle at one point, and the quarry traffic stopped at nightfall, and the little beck had turned to stone by half ten which I discovered whilst entertaining Mr Bladder once again by starlight.

cefn yr ystrad summit trig

I managed to get away by 10:15 in the morning. And stumbled up the frozen hillside of Cefn Yr Ystrad in bright sunshine. I found that sitting in  shakeholes eating jelly babies was the thing to do. In a shakehole, the sun was warm and I could close my eyes and pretend I was up Cefn yr Ystrad scoffing jelly babies in a sinkhole.

Last night’s weather forecast warned of heavy rain moving in. There was no sign of it just now, though, so I wandered lonely as a Dawnless eejit, visiting the several cairns up Cefn. I dawdled. It was too nice to be rushing about.

Cefn’s Western edge is a disused limestone quarry – or at least, its still in use for Welsh off-road biker boys doing wheelies judging by tyre tracks. I met some more horses and ponies. they seemed to be tame and a bit bored. I wandered Northwards for a bit and bagged a little Dewey – Darren Fawr, named after Darren, obviously…  A nice limestone hill with old grassed-over quarries for sheltering from the nithering wind and the spits and spots of rain….

bit fuzzy...... must be the scotch

I found another liquid beck in the upper parts of Cwm Callan, stuck up the akto and retired to the sound of rain on the flysheet. The night was much warmer and I found that if I stuck the earphone wire through one of the roof loops of the akto and kept a finger on it to keep it tight, I could listen to the DAB radio again (Programme about Pet Sounds for the info of JM who probably listened to it anyway)

It was still raining in the morning and I’d planned my route overnight. Basically, I wandered down to Pontsticill reservoir and followed the Taff Trail to Merthyr Tydfil. Most of this route is an old railway line, tarmacced for the convenience of cyclists, and mainly downhill. It rained most of the walk, which was about seven miles. As I got nearer to Merthyr, it got more like Halifax again, except that the people I met – who all spoke to me, occasionally commenting on how this weather was good for the legs or whatever…  had more musical accents.  Its not a bad walk, but the last couple of miles are industrial and there’s quite a bit of evidence of one of the local pastimes which seems to be to try to set fire to the vegetation – lots of burned patches.

ysgyryd fawr

I spent little time in Merthyr and got a bus almost straight away for Abergavenny where I got a bed at the Swan Hotel for forty quid. And that was the end of that. In the morning Abergavenny slowly emptied towards Cardiff where some kind of sporting event was taking place, so I went home. ( I did bag the little HuMP Ysgyryd Fach and visit the castle and museum whilst waiting for the train to Mancenion Piccadilly as well..) The castle and museum are free entry by the way and the chap in the museum guarded my rucksack. I’d counted the jelly babies and arranged them into a special order before I handed it over, obviously. Can’t be too careful where jelly babies are concerned, innit?

abergavenny castle

The Cefn Yr Ystrad ridge and it’s fat and flat eastern satellites is a beautiful and quiet oasis of peace occupied by skylarks and curlews and eeejits with maps and it leads the backpacker with more determination and even more jelly babies into the Brecon Beacons by the back door. And it’s one more Hewitt bagged for me. Less than a dozen left!

Not many pics, by the way as yet another of my cameras has decided it is now capable of making it’s own decisions about which function to provide, so I had to take out a battery to stop it turning itself on and off and the faff of putting it back in to snap a pic was , well, a faff. The it rained, so there wasn’t much to see anyway.

The whole jaunt was about forty miles by the way.


Sunday 17 March 2013

Mixed Results from South Wales backpack

abergavenny from blorenge
The idea behind this little jaunt to Abergavenny was to have a reasonably gentle early start to the backpacking season, partly for Dawn’s post-surgeried feet which would need some coaxing into full performance and for the sake of both her post-winter fitness and mine (in my case, more fatness than fitness, it has to be said). The idea was not to go mad on the hills, but to have short and enjoyable days with little pressure to make progress -  a bit in the style of Mr Sloman’s annual daunder in many ways.
Another objective was for the bagging of a loose Hewitt/Nuttall which had escaped from previous Hewitt/Nuttall hunts by some devious strategy of being a bit away from the rest of the Brecon beacons 2000 foot tops up a scary road inhabited by strange beasts and dark and  evil lurking things…  either that or I just ran out of time the last occasion I was down this end of the country.
summit of blorenge
And so, me a dawn duly turned up at Abergavenny train station and we batterred our way by the superstore and the underpass and up a big hill to a canal then even further up the big hill to Middle Ninfa, a bijoux bunkhouse with a proper gas fire and a kettle and with a purchase up the first couple of hundred feet of Blorenge, the only hill in Wales named after a vitamin tablet.
I had a restful night due to the fact that I’d cleverly packed a small nip or two of malt into a hip flask for the purpose. Dawn didn’t. She’s been suffering since Whernside, all those blog posts ago and her lack of appetite and tendency to dehydrate meant a difficult lurch up the hill in the morning turned into an abandonment. And so we parted (temporarily, we hope) – Dawn back towards the comforts of Middle Ninfa and a train to That London, and me to the airy delights of Blorenge (the only hill  etc etc….) A shame,really, but not to be helped, at least not to be helped by me since I was helpless to do anything about it, or make any sensible suggestions other than to agree that it would be best if she went home. Dawn talks about it heredawn's pages
And so, I blundered on, Dawnless.
its a tip!
The path up Blorenge (the only hill etc etc…) was a delight, even if the evil , perishing wind blowing from That England wasn’t. In fact, it was uncomfortable even if the views weren’t. I passed over the summit and joined a road heading West for a while – passing into an area of “tips”, which contained, at some highest point, Pen-Rhiw Ifor, though how the highest point in the piles of stuff can be identified is a mystery. I think I found it, though. The place is a tip (!) It seems to consist of a lot of shale, some lumps of ironstone and a lot of little bits of coal. if this was in Co Durham, somebody would be up there with a sack, gathering it all up. As it is, the hill’s main function seems to be a playground for off-road bikes and, frankly, as there’s nothing to spoil up here, it seems an ideal spot.
There’s no water, though, at least none that wasn’t frozen,  so no place to camp and I plodded Westwards, descending to join a cyclepath which traverses the side of a deep gorge which might have been beautiful once and on into the little town of Brynmawr where I proceeded to get a bit lost. This area is just like West Yorkshire and if you transposed pictures of Brynmawr and it’s environs with pictures of the outskirts of Bradford or Halifax, you’d be hard put to mark a difference. They even have obscure lanes on the hilltops where you can find burned out cars and everything. Brynmawr itself seems pleasant and appears to have kept important stuff such as small pubs and independent shops and, neat and well- kept cemetaries….
dead centre of byrnmawr
I found the cemetery. This was the key to my potential camping spot. I blundered on, passing the burned out cars and crossing the road to the upper reaches of the  River Clydach, just by the reservoir wall – a small and green and hidden patch occupied by a friendly black pony who came to watch me put up the akto but lost interest after a while.
camping spot with pylon
It went dark by half six and a long, cold and frosty night followed, entertained only by the distant clanking of a sheet of corrugated iron which was about to become detached from it’s bit of fencing post. It was very windy.  The river provided good, clean water which tasted a bit of iron, but which was otherwise OK. This would have been no place for Dawn, though. The night was too cold for a troublesome and delicate constitution and the curious attentions of a friendly black pony in the middle of the night’s necessaries might not have been so much fun – and , perhaps the water might have been of a poorer quality than might be required for a delicate constitution, so Dawn’s tough decision to bail out was definitely the right one..
I’d done about eleven miles.
End of Part One. More soon…….

Sunday 10 March 2013

Jane Tomlinson’s Peak District Walk


kinder edge

As winter returns for yet another nibbler at the toes of spring, me and Dawn are off to South Wales for yet another backpacking trip. Who knows what will happen. Whatever it is that will occur, I’ll be away till next Saturday evening, so, in the meantime, there’ll be a little hiatus or space on the pieblog, as there often is.

But this time, instead of posting a pop video of somebody you’d forgotten, or , at least, your dad had forgotten, I’m going to mention Jane Tomlinson’s peak Distric t walk. This is one of a series of charriiddeee walking events taking place over the summer during which you can join in and raise lots of spondoolies for various handy charities.

And the first of these takes place on 28 April 2013 around Edale in the Peak District.

There’s three walks available – a short 5 miler suitable for sprogs and people who can’t walk very far, a medium distance 14 miler and a huge 25 miler for idiots.

There’s a wide range of charities that will benefit for this event including:

The Jane Tomlinson Appeal

Bluebell Wood childrens’hospice

Breast cancer campaign

Diabetes UK

Edale MRT

Heart research UK

McMillan cancer Support


Sheffield Hospitals

Yorkshire Cancer Research

Entry costs between £9.20 and £21.20 depending on which walk you register for.

See the website here:

I’m hoping to join the Lake District event later in the year

In the meantime, I’m off to Abergavenny.



Friday 8 March 2013

Sings of Spring on Scout Hill

scout hill standing stone

I’m willing to bet that not a vast number of people will have climbed Scout Hill – unless they’re a HuMP bagger having a break from the madhouse on the M6 and on their way to somewhere else, or a local Luptonite, or the shepherd who has the sheep….

Its quite a nice hill and has one of those lovely radio /repeater mast thingies on the top, as well as a trig point and a standing stone.

not a very good pic of a primrose

lambing fields

Me and the bro and superdawg did a seven (ish) mile gentle (ish) trundle around Scout Hill and the lambing fields of Lupton. Lambing seems fairly early here, its not really in full flow back home in the Pennines. Its nice to see gangs of lambs chasing each other around the fields, though and, as well as the snowdrops, there was a single primrose in a sheltered lane and the hawthorn has the very first new green leaves just sprouting and, superdawg’s ears were sticking up as he ran about daft in the stockless pastures. 

lonesome pine

sticky up ears

I try to avoid taking the dog into lambing fields, and any field containing sheep, specially those with coloured bums is generally to be avoided if possible.  For the next few weeks and until the lambs are robust and charging about, its not a good idea to introduce a daft bugger like Bruno into these places. There’s a really good case here for a more reasonable approach to the use of public footpaths. It would be much better for all concerned if walkers could just legally go around – like wot they do in Scotland, in fact. English access legislation doesn’t really allow for people to act reasonably

So – signs of spring.  And there’s cold and snow forecast for the next few days. Lambing showers perhaps…?


Wednesday 6 March 2013

Slit Wood and Rookhope County Walk

above slit wood

‘Orrible, mizzly weather met the walkers at Westgate this morning, and, not only that, but there was a very lazy drift off Dogger bank seeping into the bones – just the sort of day for spending in front of a fire with a library book, or snoozing, perhaps to the background of a programme about somebody doing up a house and then selling it. Luckily, me and the dawg did the reccy last week in clear weather with a hint of sunshine.

pontificating before we start

what it looked like last week

I’m not entirely sure how many people turned up for the walk – certainly there were the compulsory Dave’s as stewards, plus Neville, and, possibly thirty two or thirty three others – they kept telling me different numbers. However, there were, amongst the brethren two recruits from social networking – one Jim aka Geordie from walkingforum and Llona aka  meanqueen who has a spectacularly popular blog substantially concerned with living reasonably whilst not spending too much money. She’s blogged about the walk here Life After Money - Llona's Blog  Llona’s having a couple of days living it up in the fleshpots of Stanhope.



And I forgot to take a camera with some memory today, so I’m indebted, once again to Graeme who kindly sent me some which I’ve used here. Luckily, I did take some pics last week, so anybody who is wondering what the surrounding scenery looks like without the clag, they can see them here on the pieblog.

weardale way last week!

this week

I changed the route a bit too. This was for two reasons – firstly, there was the clag. The bit I avoided was a climb over rough pastures where I considered that anybody who became dislocated from the group – an easy thing to do with a big group – would be difficult to find – and that there seemed to be a large flock of in-lamb sheep gathered around feeders near the entrance to the pastures and at this stage of lambing, it might not be such a good idea to invade their space with nearly forty ramblers. So we plodded up the lane and the road instead, not looking at the superb view which we couldn’t see anyway.

last week

this week

After splodging over the misty Lintzgarth common, where we were lucky not to lose anybody, we lunched in the relatively tropical shelter of Rookhope before finishing off the walk with a stroll along the Weardale Way (although the Weardale Way seems to keep changing it’s rtoute for some reason)

The we all went home!

Nice to see Jim and Llona on the walk – and the other thirty or so too!

Here’s a map.