Sunday 29 September 2013

North Pennines Walking Festival – AW’s Pennine Journey in a Day

First of all, I’d just like to thank Brenda and Andrew for their kind donation to my sponsored skinny dip on the North east Skinny Dip in the North(brr) Sea (aaargh) at Druridge Bay the other day in aid of MIND and national Trust. Its got nothing at all to do with this walk (no skinny dipping took place), but its just nice to say thanks, eh? I’ll be reporting on the total amount collected when the virgin giving link closes at the end of October.
tan hill inn
Back to the plot…  This walk was part of the North Pennines walking festival organised by Friends of the North Pennines. It’s also part of a project to do the entire route of Alf (that sheep is looking at me in a funny way) Wainwright’s Pennine Journey in a single day. This was achieved in a series of day walks including this one lead by me… in this case from Tan Hill Inn to Baldersdale – some 16 or so miles later.
misty start
There was only the three of us – me, Mike the steward (who may be referred to as “Mick” to avoid confusion) and Graeme. Graeme has contributed some pictures to this blog post.
A minibus from Teesdale Community Transport removed us from Balderhead Reservoir car park and delivered us a bit later to Tan Hill, where we failed to stop for any refreshments, but launched off on the soggy path down the hill towards Bowes. We set a cracking pace at first (note that the route was substantially downhill)
Soon, and after only the one short stop , we blundered into Bowes and were drawn, as if by magnets, to the public bar of the Ancient Unicorn, a truly ancient coaching inn advertised for sale and occupied by a temporary troubleshooting manageress fresh from the tropical warmth of The Gambia and a few locals, intent on mopping up the very last dregs of whatever beer remained in the cellar and whatever scotch was on display. This effort was carried out with enthusiastic and self-sacrificing dedication. In fact, we were so moved by this display of public spirit, that we decided to help out as best we could.
ancient unicorn with refreshed hikers
raf bpwes moor
More beer and new beerlines are due to be delivered shortly, apparently. In the face of this resistance, we left for the plod through RAF Bowes Moor to a lunch stop beside the beck at Levy Pool. The locals refused to quit, though and bashed on regardless, helped by a small crowd of walkers who arrived shortly afterwards.
After lunch, we motored on over by West Loups’s, which had a shoot going on, and by Goldsborough, which had a couple of climbers with bouldering mats.
And so, on a day of reasonably warm sunshine and mainly clear blue skies, we heaved our aching limbs up the final steep slopes to the reservoir car park, where our cars were still there, the lights were off and the wheels were still on. So, we counted this as a success.
The route follows the Pennine Way and the eastern half of the Bowes Loop, should anybody want to try to follow it. it’s a long, but reasonably easy bit of walking with a pub in the middle. All really good walks have a pub in the middle and should you wish to help in the quest to rid the Ancient Unicorn of it’s booze supplies, you need to get there quick before the drayman arrives.
flagging a bit, I think...
It’s haunted by the way…. I was in a seat on the corner of the bar – a spot known for contact with one of the pub’s ghosts, one “Emma”, who is renowned for tapping customers on the shoulder……..  ooer…..  anybody for a pint at halloween…?
The North Pennines walking festival runs until 6 October and has a total of 50 walks of all grades and 9 events. My next contribution is on Wednesday 2 October 2013 and is a 14 mile walk starting from Bowlees at 10:00 (be there from 09:30). The walk is called “Best of Teesdale” and visits some of the best bits of…er….. Teesdale – Low Force, Wynch Bridge, High Force, Green Trod, Hurth caves and the cafe at Bowlees..
shacklesborough from balderhead resr.
See the festival’s website for more details of all the walks including how to book and so on at north pennines walking festival website (click on Events)  note that even though the walk details for Wednesday’s walk say that you have to pay in advance for this walk, you will be able to pay the steward on the day, just before the walk starts.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Rangering Around Hunstanworth and Edmundbyers

red kite over hunstanworth
In between all this skinny dipping and glamour posing   running about daft, I have, actually been busy doing Durham County Council voluntary rangering stuff. This has consisted of wandering about on the moors just to the left of Consett. Being busy doing this kind of stuff isn’t really onerous, consisting , as it does, of mainly walking , interrupted by short sleeps or watching the world go by….  One such episode of world watching witnessed a red kite swooping low over Sykehead dam and taking a sip of water. The particular bird is shown in the introductory pic having a bit of a float around in the blue sky.
they're following me around... but I don't care, see...?
Today’s rangering was a guided walk entitled “Hunstanworth Hobble”, possibly a slightly ominous name for an event with a Risk assessment. There were 36 of us, including me and the stewards Compulsory Dave, Maria and David. This is quite a lot of people to have following you about, specially when it’s very claggy, as it was today.
wandering into clag
is it a bird? is it a plane? 
The potential for losing somebody off the back of the walk is a real one, but armed with a safety procedure involving jumping up and down and shouting loudly till somebody came to look for you, nothing much went wrong, apart from a few less than graceful descents from stiles, wet feet and gazing at a magnificent view that couldn’t be seen due to the fact that our heads were almost permanently in the clouds. I’m speaking of the cracking view from the top of Bolt’s Law, obviously…   I think people generally enjoyed it, though, despite the glaur.
bruno hunts for shaky stiles
bolts law summit 
To have a guided walk, of course, there has to be a reccy. Me and superdawg did the reccy about a week ago. The weather on this occasion was warm, showery and a bit blustery. This reccy also covered the first half of my equinoxal adopt-a-path thingy in which I stroll through Deborah Plantation, over the footbridge and along a moorland bridleway looking for things for the rights of way peeps at the council to put right – such as the three fallen trees on the steep bit of the path up to Townfield. Before I managed to report these to the council, though, somebody had been along and turned them into Christmas logs – so nothing much to report.
The dawg enjoyed it. The cows above Blanchland only went into a frenzy as we got to the field gate (we’d been mugged by cows in this field last year) and we escaped without injury.
sykehead dam
I did the rest of the adopt-a-path walk a couple of days ago in warm, almost hot sunshine, with big blue and beautiful skies. I added on a little trip to Sykehead Chimney and sat in the suntrap there for the best part of an hour. The moors nearby were occupied by at least three groups of grouse shooters, and, occasionally, the RAF and what I took to be a police helicopter paid brief but noisy visits,  so it did sound a bit like a war zone and I had some difficulty in retaining snooze status....
ok, which way now?

In ten miles up the leadmine trail out of Edmundbyers, and back down by the Pedam’s Oak path, the worst I found was a waymark that had gone blank. This happens to me occasionally, but it seems more important for a waymark to retain at least some element of clarity. So, I’ll report that one. I don’t expect that this will receive a really high priority…
the christmas tree on bolt's law
And that’s it for now. Next up is the Alf (I seem to have lost a sock) Wainwright Pennine Journey celebration walk during which we attempt to walk the entire Pennine Journey route in a day. The bit I’m doing is from Tan Hill to Baldersdale. We start at 09:00 on 28 th September at Balderherhead dam for a bus trip to Tan Hill to walk back again. We need punters for this, so come along. You’re supposed to book via the AONB  book free pennine journey walk  Note that this event is FREE OF CHARGE and is lead by an expert leader who’s been to Tan Hill before and is an absolute brick…
Some of today’s pics have been donated by Graeme Ferguson. Ta Graeme.
hunstanworth hobble

Sunday 22 September 2013

Finally –D for Dip Day - The North East Skinny Dip

dippers in a circle
The instructions in the string of emails from Dip Central were to park at the Druridge Bay Visitor Centre and to make our way either by a five mile road trip in shared cars, or by a two mile walk along the beach to Diptopia, the centre of skinny-dipping operations. The actual baptisms were to take place at sunrise – at 06:45 hrs and it would be best if we were there by 06:00 for any necessary beaurocracies to take place. As it would be an hour’s walk (ish), 05:00 had top be the start time from the car park and, in order to get the 55 miles or so from Pie Towers, I would have to leave by 03:30, which, since once I’ve gone to bed, getting up again at 02:30 would have been unlikely, it would be best if I just stayed up and drank coffee – so that’s what I did.
I found the car park eventually. There was a small Dippers campsite, complete with snoring and dogs trying not to bark as I crunched by on the gravel. I met a few lurking figures – who turned out to be locationally challenged press photographers. I showed them my map – an old OS map which hadn’t got the main A-road on it since it had been re-aligned in nineteen echty blob and got on with the job of marching South into the night – a full and very bright moon on my right and a flat calm sea lazily flopping onto the sand on my left. Druridge Bay by moonlight, on such a warm and balmy night was a joy, and that alone would have been worth all of the expended caffeine reserves. I must do this walk again – by moonlight, maybe on a frosty winters night….
contrail lit up by the sun over the horizon
Eventually I arrived at the dip site where just a dozen or so shadows were mooching around. I checked in at the reception and sat on a WW2 tank trap to await developments. Gradually people arrived and quietly wandered about. The sea continued with it’s laconic slapping of the flat sands and bit by bit the sky lightened.
More people arrived with a cool breeze. The organiser asked if anybody minded if she “got naked” and took her clothes off for a photo-shoot. Nobody minded. A lad with a drum started drumming. It was irritating. His noise was just so much litter. I’m not sure what he thought he was doing, but I had a strong urge to shut him up. I didn’t. The sky got lighter and a jet stream lit up orange in the sky. There was a bit of a buzz going on. There was a  sense of nervousness amongst many and whilst some were greeting old friends and joking, and the local naturists at least were being confident and friendly, many were silent. The drummer battered on and, as dawn broke, we were directed towards ten numbered markers in the sand – these were to provide reference points for locating our clothes. Announcements were made and a few shoes and socks were removed, and , the occasional t-shirt too, but , it seemed that nobody was going to be first to strip off.
sunrise starts the dip
Finally, the instruction came to remove clothes and, slowly at first, people began to comply. Suddenly almost everybody was naked. We did some nervous warm-up exercises and then , on a word of command, there was a noisy rush into the sea. The North sea, dear readers, is not the warmest of the world’s oceans. Internet research seemed to indicate that the best it could offer in terms of heat, happens around the autumn equinox and, at very best would be 14C. The most likely would be 12C. This, I have to say, is Chilly. Nevertheless, when a herd bolts, it all bolts, and this herd bolted, screaming, laughing and gasping, following a count-down into the cold cold briny. There was splashing and jumping about and many went for the full-length dip. Photographers clicked away all along the beach. Some made a hurried exit. I managed about ten to fifteen minutes of , basically, walking around up to the nips(ish), before I gave in and made for the shore.
somebody needed to snap the press!
Some of the dippers were obviously old hands at this cold water stuff and quite a lot of people were swimming far out. One group formed a large circle and went around and around. There was a lot of laughing. It was, in fact, quite good fun.
I got dressed, shivering along with many others. I wandered back up the beach in the warm sunshine and went home to get breakfast and, frankly, have a nice sleep for the rest of the morning.
It was the merlot made me do it. I registered on-line on a whim. It was either this or the backpackers club treasure hunt. I wanted to do both and didn’t realise the clash till much later.
more dippers
One of the aspects of this that’s promoted by the organisers, is that it’s a life-affirming experience. Having done quite a bit of skinny-dipping in mountain tarns and streams and, occasionally, the sea, mainly alone, not wanting to offend anybody or get into any bother  (alone with the dog!) I didn’t really understand this. But, having done it, in a crowd of nearly 200 people, and with press photographers all around, I must say that, I think I now “get it”  Most people are pretty nervous about stripping off in public. There’s always that worry that your body isn’t really quite what it was, if it ever really was all that attractive – and I’d be the first to admit that my expensively acquired beer-belly is probably not my most attractive physical asset; so, in the end, I’m just like everybody else. And that’s it, really. We’re all different, and that makes us all the same. We have whatever God gave us, probably a bit worn and floppy, but that’s it. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.   The life-affirming part is, of course, the act of taking off your clothes in public and then doing something ever so slightly daft, and the realisation that, apart from the old hands – the local nudists who do this sort of thing all the time – that everybody, more or less, feels the same about it. There’s a sense of relief, somehow.
And, of course, taking off all of your clothes is a little bit naughty isn’t it? Doesn’t it appeal to our mischievous side just a bit?
And then, as well as this, there’s the contact between the body and The World. Nature, that is. Reality perhaps. You know – away from the technology and the central heating and all that civilised stuff..   The sea is cold and prickles the skin. The breeze touches places where breezes don’t often get to touch. The moon finally knows who you are. The sun finally gets to greet it’s beautiful creation.
returning to the car park
I was quite nervous about publishing stuff on the internet about my participation in this jape, but, a bit like the stripping off, once you get used to the idea, and that you realise that if you do want anybody to pay you money for doing it, you have to tell them about it. Simples, really. I was quite chuffed with the response I got – most people just said I was mad to do it, which was the response I would have hoped for.
And, sponsors have donated £200 on-line (thanks to Brian Cowling who is the latest generous donator of spondoolies) – and there’s fifty quid or so on a sponsor form back in Crook, plus family and friends donations of, perhaps another fifty quid. So, as far as Mind and the National Trust is concerned – and St Catherine’s Community Centre in Crook – I’m fairly pleased with what we’ve done.
Would I do it again? Too true I would. Next time, though, I might bivi or camp somewhere along the beach and I’d go into the water, come out and then go back in again – since this works for me in terms of dealing with the cold water (and it is cold…..) And it would be nice not to be the “unaccompanied male” – a status which might meet with some suspicion where an activity involving the displaying of naughty parts is concerned.
And, of course, Druridge Bay is a particularly beautiful piece of Northumberland coastline. It’s a huge horseshoe of a  beach of flat sand backed by high dunes. At any time, it’s a fabulous spot. On a moonlit starry night it is more than magical.
Thanks to all who supported me and to Jax Higginson who organised it (and who announced she was going to “get naked” and did anybody mind?) and to those who gave of their hard-earned cash. You can still donate by the way…..
And now, back to walking……
I walked six miles altogether, by the way…

Saturday 21 September 2013

Nearly Time for the Skinny Dip


I’m not having second thoughts about this – oh, no, in fact I’ve been practising Cold Weather Survival.

Its at dawn in the morning – the time most often given over to dealing drastically with deserters, spies, traitors and bowls of weetabix.

Thanks to my on-line sponsors, who now include – in addition to those previously mentioned – Becky, Alan (cheese and wine party) Sloman, Martin (I really wish I had a Hilleberg Akto) Rye and Norma and John Keohane who’s generous offer of doubling their donation if I provide photographic proof that I can do a headstand in the sea will probably not be taken up. (I’m hopeless at headstands and anyway asking somebody to hold my legs could well be taken the wrong way and nobody wants to be taken the wrong way)

Also thanks to the loadsa folks who signed my sponsor form and made various donations large and small, making my total so far at around £275 or so.

But, don’t feel guilty about not donating so far – there’s still plenty of time to cough up some dosh – in fact the on-line facility will remain in place for another 30 days. C’mon now, folks, give yourself that warm and cosy glow of smug self-satisfaction of giving away your hard-earned spondoolies to a worthy cause. We wouldn’t want you to suffer any pangs about being called an auld scrooge or being left out. It’ll be good for your soul. Your karma will be enhanced and remember – what goes around comes around, so don’t be a tight-arse like this chap:

Click here

don't click


Sunday 15 September 2013

An Ear Worm Does Dartmoor

no idea where this is   dhuhh

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

first camp nr ivybridge

Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to


Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it.

second camp hooten wheals

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Though you might hear laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly across the sun
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're
Seein' that he's chasing.

he's very proud

some misty top or other

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow

don't touch anything!


wet camp night 3
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you

galloways eating tussocks

follow the road

Monday 9 September 2013

Another Intermission

upper weardale near ireshopeburn
Right, that’s it – if you’re all going to avoid my sponsorship begging post, I’m going to Dartmoor. In the morning. No, don’t try to stop me, my mind’s made up (this phrase translates as a “happy mind” in Liverpool by the way).
early in the morning, just before eleven o’clock, I’m catching a train which leads to another train, then another train, then another train which, if they all link up, will see me getting off a train (another train) in Ivybridge which is somewhere down there. From there I will head North and, hopefully, will arrive in due course in Okehampton where I have a bed booked and paid for in a B&B.
I will return shortly after that, hopefully to a bunch of emails from Richard Branson detailing the amounts and bawdy comments of many and various generous donators.
The website link for donating  to my sponsored strip utterly and brutally naked and plunge enthusiastically into the dangerously hypothermic waves at Druridge Bay is here
In the meantime , here’s a song which has nothing at all to do with the subject in question.
The pics on this post are from recent rangering reccies up Teesdale and Weardale for walks for the winter Durham County Council guided walks programme.

Gimme yr money or I’ll take me pants off!

Friday 6 September 2013

They’re All Coming Off For Charriddeee

Oh bugger, I’ve done it now. This was the ever-so-slight sinking feeling when this morning I signed up for a world record attempt at the most people to go skinny-dipping in one place at one time.
This ever-so-slightly lunatic escapade will happen at dawn on 22 September 2013 at Druridge Bay in Northumberland and lots of people (hopefully anyway, I wouldn’t want to do this by myself) will be doffing off and running screaming (probably) into the North Sea, not the world’s warmest bit of briney.
Its for chariddee (don’t normally like to talk about it) – in this case, the spondoolies will be shared 50/50 between Mind and the National Trust
There’s some links here:
Local national Trust article

skinny dip facebook page

and , for those who would like to give me money to take all my clothes off and run shivering into the sea

pieman's sponsorship page

and for those who would like to give me lots of money to keep my clothes on.

its the same page, innit?
dawn on lindisfarne (not too far away from druridge bay)
‘Course, the worst bit is having to tell people. I am braced, braced, I say, for a bit of a ribbing. Gwan, do yer worst. Its a fiver on the sponsorship page for every jape, crack or attempt at nudie banter.
Comments involving double-entendre will require twice as much.
Think of it as a kind of swear box.
Incidentally, if you want a line of  double entendre, ask  JJ and he’ll give you one.
Lets just hope that its not like this:
aap crook 017

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Pennine Way Forest in Teesdale to Cauldron Snout

view from cow green dam wall

I seem to have a mental block about Cronkley Spout  Cauldron Snout. I caught myself calling it Cautley Spout… dhuhh…..   It’s the one up Teesdale, just below the Cow Green dam. In fact, despite the fact that the waterfall always has an impressive flow of roaring, foaming water, gushing at a rate of flow that would take your foot off, it' all comes out of a pipe at the foot of Cow green dam – unless the water is coming over the overflow which can also add quite a bit. In fact, the River Tees here is being used to transport water from Cow Green to the sinks and toilets of the good citizens of Darlington who also use it to eke out the essential supplies in their pubs. Its cheaper than a pipe, see, and stops a lot of damaging flooding.

This walk was the last of a series of five Durham County Council guided walks who’s aim was to complete the part of the Pennine Way which lies inside County Durham. basically, this means walking from the fence just left a bit from Tan Hill pub, to the bridge just below Cow Green dam, plus the Bowes Loop. This, we managed to complete.

river tees near langdon beck fluffy

I did the reccy a week last Sunday. Everything was fine. I met a rotweiller puppy, who decided that a walk was a good idea and bounced along biting molehills and running about daft. I took her back to the farm and she got locked in.

near widdybank

Later, I had a little row with a fisherman at Widdybank farm. I was climbing the stile and this dweeb’s back-casting nearly took my ear off. Even later, I thought that if I’d reported it as a “near miss” at Widdybank, that would have been the end of his day’s fishing. They’re well-up on Health and Safety at Widdybank, so they are… It would have been a w****y thing to do anyway. If it happens again, though, I’ll probably do it…

abandoned tent

Then I found a tent. Somebody wild camping…?  A bit naughty, but not as naughty as removing the Pieman’s right ear with a hook. It was still there a week later, so I took a peek inside, having a little sniff first, just in case somebody had expired whilst waiting for their chicken curry to rehydrate (this could happen – it takes eight minutes). There was nobody in. There was, however, a sleeping mat, some plastic sheeting (probably for the Victim), a lunchbox, a used tissue and a puddle, which appeared to be rainwater. I reported it by email to Widdybank. I suspect its just been abandoned – its a cheapo tent – and a leaky one. It’s, basically, litter.

climbing scrotal scout

On the day (last Sunday), there were nine of us and a small dog. Stewards were Ian, Anne and Sheila. It was a bit windy. We didn’t meet the rotty pup and nobody fell off the Cautley Force waterfall – or whatever it’s called. I thought it was a bit cold, to be honest.  Brrrrrr…


There’s a map showing the route. Its a good walk. Its probably not ideal for anybody scared of dogs, slippery rocks or cows. Its about 12 miles too…  The thirsty could get a pint at Langdon Beck Hotel for a small extra effort.

This is not the end of the Pieman’s 2013 affair with the Pennine Way, though – oh no…  At the end of September, I’m leading a walk for the North Pennines AONB Alf (quite a pretty sheep over there..) Wainwright' celebration of his Pennine Journey with a walk from Tan Hill to Baldersdale. Luckily, we won’t be going anywhere near Crumple Sprout – that’s somebody else’s job.

[w forest to cow green