Thursday, 31 October 2013

Skinny Dip Sponsorship Results– The Score on the Door

This is likely to be the final word on the 2013 North-East Skinny Dip held at Druridge Bay on 22 September 2013.
The virgin giving page is closing today and the amounts of cash raised by Yours Truly and his generous sponsors, and, where the money went, is as follows:
Amount raised on-line, including donations from the UK government exchequer £267.50
Amount raised off-line from family, friends and sponsor form £100
Total £367.50
This was disbursed as follows:
Mind (national mental health charity) £183.75
National Trust £133.75
St Catherine’s Community Centre in Crook £50.00

So, I’m fairly chuffed with that.
Thanks to everybody who stumped up
I’ll probably do it again next year, but its unlikely that I’ll be asking for sponsors – I’ve never been keen on the sponsorship thing for raising charity money, even though it might be effective. But I might do something where people who dish out the spondoolies actually get something material in return. The thinking cap is on…     ouch…..

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Finsthwaite In Final Few Outliers

a top (?) coniston fells behind

Having done with the Hewitts, I now turn my attention to finishing the Wainwright Outlying Fells with a visit to Finsthwaite Beacon. The idea was to finish these in 2013 and, since there’s now only two left, it seems possible that I’ll manage this, although the show ain’t over till the fat lady eats another bun.

ria takes a pic. Bruno stands by for advice

The bro worked out a route and so it was with three Kendallers  (The Bro, Ria and June) and a brown dog (you know who…) that we all went off in convoy to a car park near Finsthwaite. Luckily, June paid the £4.50 fee (Four Pounds Fifty…!   Gasp!  How Much?!) and we set off up a stony path to High Dam. What happened next is a bit of a blur of stony tops, bracken, green paths, forest and walls. I have little idea where we went since I didn’t have a map and I’m not familiar with this area at all.

one of the finsthwaite beacons

Except to say that we visited both the Finsthwaite beacon shown on the hill-bagging site and the other Finsthwaite Beacon shown on the hill-bagging site and a couple of other hills and some tarns – one of which I know was Green Hows Upper Tarn. This is quite pretty and has things to sit on whilst scoffing a chocolate bar, and we got to it by climbing a deer fence, an exploit not specially enjoyed by superdawg since we had to drop him down the other side of it.

somewhere else..dhuhh)

green hows upper tarn

There was lots of bracken and a wall to climb and some very soggy boggy bits to splodge through (I now have two pairs of soaked boots).

Anyway, there’s no map cos I’m not sure where we went, but reports are that we covered six and a half miles (it only seemed like nine and a half) and thirteen hundred feet of uphill.


The autumn colours and some of the views were up to the usual Lake District standard.

And it was windy and sunny and sometimes rainy.

Only two left, then I’ll have the complete set of Wainwrights – I keep them in a cupboard next to the telly.

sunshine and shower

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of …Well, Everything…

orienteerers start here

I went off up Weardale today to reccy a walk that’s on the Durham County Council guided walks programme. Its at Christmas, but I thought I’d better go and take a look.

And I thought it would be a really quiet day on the hills because – some prune had been messing with the clocks again and I kind of assumed that most people would be going for the lie-in and the tea, toast and shag Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs AND, the weather was terrible – all windy and rainy and, well, just ‘orrible.

rainbow and ragged sky

So I set off in a brief spell of sunshine, forgetting to pack my waterproof trousers, which I helpfully left in the boot of the knipemobile. And it was soon slashing it down big time in a kind of Very Breezy horizontal kind of way, blustering around and generally trying to remove me hat.

towards the elephant trees

And there seemed to be a bit of a rush-hour going on. Car after car was heading for Doctor’s Gate, a notorious dead-end suitable only for brain-dead off-roadies dying to use their winches and get mud-splattered to heavy metal muzak. Apparently, it was an orienteering event. Harmless fun, in fact. They were all running off in the same direction and making for the same little pond as me – apparently, anyway, their control point was on a quarry spoil heap some meters away.

my navigational target

And then as I descended towards the Stanhope Lane, there were horses. I spoke to a lassie with an ATV who seemed to be an organisor , or, perhaps a direction indicator. She told me that it was the Hamsterley Riding Association Annual Halloween Ride, where people pay ten to fifteen quid to have a guided ride around Hamsterley, the proceeds going to a bowel cancer charity in memory of Andrew Moody who died from this disease aged only 23.

And then there were locationally challenged mountain bikers.

And the cattle in the pastures were frisky and very noisy. (apart from the two bulls, who both appeared to have had a sleepless night and seemed to be knackered.)

All day, the wind roared and alternately howled or whined, if there were any wires to whine through and the sun shone, with rainbows, and the rain, when it rained, came sideways and in big lumps.

harthope beck

I teetered across Harthope Beck which was in a Bad Mood and climbed the hill to West Shipley farm where they were doing something obscure with the sheep. Lots of sheep. I spoke to the farmer who gave me a route around the farmyard which only had a little bit of mud and didn’t go through too many sheep, although he didn’t seem too bothered about me walking through the middle of the flock.

weardale railway

Even more and friskier cows followed, or, I should say, some of them followed me. Even the sheep followed me. I entered the woodlands around Black Bank, with some relief – shelter and no cattle. Instead, there was a lass with a huge dog – imagine an evil version of Scooby Doo. She said it was harmless. It looked at me In A Funny Way.

Its not a bad walk – harder than I thought it would be, with some rough moorland, lots of winter mud and a potentially difficult beck crossing. Maybe everything will be frozen.

Didn’t take the dog cos of all the cows. Just as wel, really. It’s eleven miles and 1400 feet of ascent..

And now all my gear is wet. Except for my waterproof overtrousers. (dhuhh)

black bank - doctors gate


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Last of the Lleyn Tops – Gwylyr Gareglefain, Garn Boduan, Carn Fardyn and Mynydd Rhiw. And some paddling.

yr eifl from gareglefain

These last hills are widely separated by green and pleasant countryside which has sufficient wind turbines at the moment (just the one).

We parked in what was optimistically labelled as a picnic area on the OS map, but which, in fact, was a parking place big enough for three or four cars in what seemed to be a very old roadside quarry. It was a very nice quarry, though.

gwylyr gareglefain

We marched off down the road towards Nefyn and turned off up a lane which was occupied by a chap on his mobile and his Jack Russell who seemed friendly enough on the surface. The lane took us towards a rocky knoll which was our target for this morning – one Gwylyr Gareglefain a HuMP of some 261 metres and sporting an easy scramble up it’s Southern slopes. A fine little top, in fact, and, as it was such a nice and warm day, we had a little sitabout for half an hour admiring the view and getting a little tan.

view west from garreglefain

We returned whence we came. This time, the man with the mobile was strimming and was completely engrossed, which was just as well since the Jack Russell and Bruno got themselves into a bum-sniffing competition which ended suddenly when the JR attacked Bruno’s backside quite noisily and grabbed a huge lumpaof flesh and hung on. The skirmish ended suddenly when the little JR seemed to take flight with a little surprised yelp. He flew about two feet in the air and went forward some five or six feet. I’m not sure exactly what happened to him as I was looking the other way [koff…]. No, honestly. Luckily Jones The Grass (Strimmer) didn’t notice and merely remarked in English on what a nice day it was. The JR didn’t seem too upset and trotted along with us happily, but just out of reach of my right boot. As they used to say in the News of the World, I gave my excuses and left.

superdawg leads the way

carn boduan summit

Next was Garn Boduan, which is reached by a little trespass, disturbing a cottage owner having a phone chat in her jimjams, and her little dog who didn’t like Bruno either. bruno, by this time, had decided to get his revenge in first and there was another little noisy but harmless spat. We pushed on into the brambles and trees and, by following the notional path to a better one, we climbed up through the trees to the top. The top was a fine place, rocky and sunny and just the kind of place to sit about for another half an hour. The top has a hillfort with well preserved walls and , just below the summit, the remains of round buildings.

I didn’t want to disturb the lass in her jimjams again, so I took the path down the other side of the hill and used the country lanes to get back to the car.

top of carn fadryn

A short drive followed to the village of Llaniestin, where I parked next to the church and wandered up the lane to Garnfadryn, where I could have parked next to the disused chapel (dhuhh) (pews for sale by the way…)

descending carn fadryn

Carn Fadryn looms above this village in a way which belies it’s short stature  - just 371 metres high but very steep and rocky and covered in huge scree, and appearing more of a mountain than many a much bigger hill. The path to the top is a delight. It winds it’s way easily up through all the scree and bracken and emerges on a heathery top. The summit is an airy perch with the usual sublime Lleyn seaside views on both sides.


We rejoiced with a visit to the offy in Nefryn and a little paddle at Dinas Dinlle.

mynydd rhiw summit

A few days later, in the face of a really duff weather forecast, we went for lunch near Morfa Neffryn (cracking lamb shank by the way…) and on a bit of a ride around, I managed to quickly bag Mynydd Rhiw, far to the West and my eighth and last Lleyn Marilyn.

Mynydd Rhiw has a wireless mast thingy on the top and is owned by the  National Trust. It also has ancient cairns, a neolithic axe factory (Axes R Us aka Just Axe aka Stone Chopper Inc) and the top is perched on a sharp little knoll. More cracking views. More paddling.

on the beach again

And then we came home and told our Mums all about it.

Next: back to the Pennines!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

More Lleyn Tops – Bwlch Mawr, Gyrn Ddu + Paddling and Killing Seaweed

superdawg on the way up
I just heard that there’s plans to build wind propellers along the Lleyn Peninsula. So, if anybody is fond of really beautiful landscape with a seascape to match, you’d best get to Lleyn quick before it’s too late.
Anyway – on the next trip, we parked neatly on a old, bypassed bit of main road at Tan – y –Graig – the bit of new road which cuts it off not appearing on my new 1:25k Ordnance Survey map – so there was some initial difficulty in finding the Wales Coastal path that climbs up the hill, partly due to the fact that there weren’t any footpath signs either. But we managed and soon, me and the dawg were romping (koff) up the steep hillside to Pen y Bwlch and soon, or at least, eventually, and after crossing a wide expanse of lovely moorland, we were turning off the path for the bagging of Bwlch Mawr.
bwlch mawr view
This went more easily than expected and the walls marked on the map were easy to cross. We visited a rocky knoll which seemed to be the highest point, and then the trig point, which seemed to be the other highest point. A local walker also appeared at this point and together we remarked on how outrageously beautiful was the view along the coast and into the mountains that it really shouldn’t be allowed. This chap gave me some helpful info on the route onto the next hill and off we went in search of Gyrn Goch – the route to which is apparently barred by various enclosures.  But by following his advice, me and Bruno found the strategic hole in the wall and the vague path leading up to this top.
gyrn goch view west
Gyrn Goch is another spiky rock-covered windy top with another superb view of the coast and hills – just the sort of place, in fact to play host to some wealth-generating wind propellers, along with some nice new roads made from carb limestone and some usefully deep and wide concrete platforms, not to mention a fine collection of beautiful pylons to carry off whatever electricity this infrastructure will manage to create. Gyrn Goch is much to wild to be comfortable. It needs to be calmed down.
view from gyrn ddu cairn
Gryn Ddu is even worse. A short traverse over rough and grassy moorland is followed by an awkward lurch across badly organised boulders to a spiky top and a view which contains no wind turbines at all. Ridiculous. Obviously, all this natural stuff will soon be tamed and brought up to standard. The white heat of modern technology will have the the serried arrays of shiny white windmills as their new badge of finally emerging from their last high point in the late iron age.
Its a lovely spot, and the descent to  Pen y Bwlch is first awkward and then, for a few moments, apparently off the edge of the world till the easier grassy slopes lower down come into view.
This was 8 miles and 2400 feet of up.
gyrn ddu
dina dinlle beach
A short visit to the beach at Dinas Dinlle was made for the ripping up of seaweed and the soothing of tootsies in the briney.  Dinas Dinlle is almost impossible to pronounce for an English tongue. It is a hillfort on the edge of the sea at the strategic southern entrance of the Menai Straits. It is the birthplace of one Lleu,  who, cursed by his mother Arianhrod to have no name, not to bear arms and not to marry a human. Trickery and magic  is used to achieve these desires and, for a wife, the most beautiful maiden that ever was seen , Blodeuwedd is conjured from the flowers of the oak and the broom and the meadowsweet.
Those were the days, eh?
the turbines are coming

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Yr Eifl (The Rivals) and Other Rocky Lleyn Hills

post-walk celebrations on the beach

One aspect of the Lleyn Peninsula is the fine selection of rocky, pointy, scree-covered hills lying in a chain right down the length of the place, and most with a selection of well-preserved hillforts, huge and ancient cairns and venerable settlements. To say nothing of the cracking views of a beautiful coast, empty beaches and bits of seaweed to shake and worry to death. (The last bit added courtesy of Bruno. For myself, I have little interest in destroying clumps of seaweed) (Honestly)

bardsey from mynydd anelog

I started with Mynydd Anelog, an old-fashioned, pre-digital hill near the Southern tip of the Lleyn and by a short route from the nearest chapel at Ystolhelyg Bach on a bit of a drive-around. A fine start, though, with good, misty views of Bardsey island, a place I really should visit sometime. Anelog was just a one-off and I didn’t really do it justice. It was, however, my third Marilyn of the trip – I bagged Mynydd y Cwm just by the A55 on the way and, of course, Mynydd Mawr is a marilyn as well as a Hewitt and Nuttal. Wake up at the back!

from yr eifl north top

north top

So, I started again with Yr Eifl, climbing it’s North top first by an exhausting route through deep heather and piles of thankfully very grippy rock. This was a trial and, had I known about the staircase leading up from the BT mast, I would have gone that way (dhuhh) I was rewarded by the first in a series of compact summits with big cairns and a huge view of the coast as far as Holyhead Mountain.

yr eifl summit stuff

Yr Eifl itself was easier, having a nice path through the heather and with a nice feel of a high Lake District top somewhere near Langdale. This is a mountain, really, despite falling short of the magic 610 metres by about 50 metres. The summit has a cairn/shelter and a strange “thing” on a pole in the form of a number 4. I have no idea of the significance of this. In any case, at this point, it started raining, so I left….

tre'r ceiri ramparts

And visited Tre’r Ceiri which is specially notable for it’s huge and very well preserved hillfort. This was built around the time of Christ and it’s ramparts still stand up to two metres high and , in parts, the walkway along the top of the wall, which is two or three metres wide, still exists.

more ramparts

Inside, and merging with the wall and with each other are the remains of circular buildings. Extra defence is provided by the surrounding sea of difficult scree and a fine selection of closely packed contours.

yr eifl

After all these excitements, I went off to bag the outlying hill Mynydd Carnguwch. From the West side, the summit has difficult access, being barricaded off by a wobbly wall topped by two strands of barbed wire. A determined effort is needed to get a sub-geriatric dog and his neo-geriatric overfed softy boss over this obstacle without ripping off bits of flesh or clothing and without demolishing the wall. But we did it. The top has an enormous and very ancient cairn – a good thirty feet in height.

yr eifl

We rejoiced with a trip to a) the beach, for the running about with sticks and a bit of light plodging (I believe that to visit the seaside without at least dipping the tootsies, is just plain wrong. Bruno seems to have the same opinion.


b) Allowing myself to be exploited by the off-licence at the garage at Clynnog Fawr. Passing a boozerama after doing 8 miles and 2800 feet of ascent is also wrong.

I expect that there’ll be yet more of this kind of stuff later – at least until after I’ve done the next Durham County walk. Although, I’m considering a night walk whilst there’s still a moon. If it stops raining.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Mynydd Mawr – The Final Hewitt

bruno about to abduct a stick 

This is me, back from Wales with a spring in my step and an extra kilo of wobbly fat around the belly from all the lovely holiday food and booze. It would have been more, except for the exciting walks and interesting naps I’ve been having in between the scoffing and general lazing about waiting for it to stop raining.

special kinda welsh light

And the reason for the spring is that I’ve managed to achieve one of my goals for the year – that is, to complete a list of hills; the list being The Hewitts (drumroll, fanfare etc). For those stunned into indifference about this feat, let me just say that Hewitts are really just a higher class of Nuttal. Those still displaying blank looks maybe need further details:  The Hewitts are hills in Englandadwales over 610 metres (2000 feet) high with an all-round re-ascent of 30 metres (Nuttals are the same but with just 15 metres) Altogether there are 317 Hewitts in Englandandwales  (and 209 in Ireland but I’m not doing Irish hills..)

some way up mynydd mawr

And so, I did my first Hewitt on Good Friday 1964 as part of the Ermysteds Grammar School for Boys Easter teachers boozing trip to Foredale cottages in Ribblesdale when it came to pass that we climbed Penyghent, lead expertly by a leader who was even more over-weight than me and who, additionally had no idea at all how to get to Birkwith where our tents had been pitched.

foggy summit of mynydd mawr

The only link with this post is the fact that this teacher was Welsh and that the final Hewitt was bagged by me and superdawg on 6 October 2013, sometime after lunch on the summit of Mynydd Mawr, a hill specially saved due to it’s isolation from other hills and it’s ease of ascent – just 6 miles and 2000 feet of ascent from Y Fron, in fact, including the outlying HuMP Moel Tryfan

So I’m chuffed.

Bruno is chuffed (he’s usually chuffed as it happens)

We’re all chuffed.



More stuff and nonsense about hills bagged and other things regarding our October holiday in the Lleyn Peninsula later. In the meantime, I’m just going to sit here feeling smug and sipping my blackerry gin wot I’ve made specially for this occasion.

Will I finish the Wainwright Outlying Fells before the end of the year? ….

More of this type of stuff later (see pic below)

garn boduan


And…..  rest….


Friday, 4 October 2013

Poetry In The Dale


Right, then. This is me off to Wales for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, there’s a festival -like event, or some may say, tour, of Weardale going on where poets stand up and do their stuff and people can come along and Not Pay Anything to listen, or , even, join in with their own pomes.

Poetry In The Dale has a programme of eleven poetic events over the next 3 months, including the production of a book of Weardale poems. Local poets will have an opportunity to have a page in the book.

There’s one such event at the Working Men’s Club in Wolsingham on 11 October starting at 7:00 pm.  Details of the other events will be revealed later….

I expect that people will also be able to buy beer and fruit-based drinks for the ladies…..

wolsingham holy well

Here’s a Jules Clare poem wot he wrote:

A Wolsingham Tale

I have arrived at Wolsingham, the start of The Dale

A beautiful place, full of wonder and scale

A thriving market town, on the up,

on the level but definitely not down

There are cafes, pubs and a Working Men's Club

There's nature in all its glory

and Michael Caine is another story

There's a community, there's rural love

There's very little push and shove

There's Saint Godric and Elric and their well

Tunstall Reservoir around which

to romantically cast a spell

Attwood's old Holywood Hall hospital for all to see

A Pet Shop Boy who could have been me

There is an iron and steel works which is gone

and no longer struggling

The national economy's out for a mugging

The South East doesn't appreciate the North

Scenic holidays and exploitation

their only reasons to venture forth

There's a caravan seller called Robson's

A local Dales culture with strong Weardale farmers names

A season of shooting grouse with guns

A history written in the love and flames of desire

A railway to shift tubs of coal

The sons of Wael on which to draw one's soul

There's incomers hiding in millionaires' row

There's people who say this shouldn't be so

Matthew Harding had a house here a while back

His helicopter landed with regularity and did not crash

Cilla Black and Shirley Bassey visited on draft

but just like Shearer and Nail they were gone in a flash

A beautiful place, full of wonder and scale

I have discovered a rich tapestry of rural integrity and tale

I will leave feeling happy and content

and under the influence of Real Ale