Friday 28 February 2014


2011 solstice 006


I just got this as a comment on a very old blog post. No, I mean a really really old blog post concerning the Teesdale Fighting Ant (A new discovery)


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tɦis blog and I'm inspired! Ѵery helpful info ѕpecifically thhe remaining phuase :
) I handle ѕuch іnformation mսch. І wass lookіng for this certaiո info for ɑ lοng time.
Τhank you aոd best of luck.
Hеre is my paɡe :: web site;

This chap needs to get a job – he’s forgotten to attach details of his website and hasn’t got the joke about the ant... I expect it’s got something to do with really cheap Nike trainers, or similar….

The picture’s got nothing to do with the subject by the way, it’s only here to illustrate that even a pre-geriatric canine still thinks he’s a puppy and enjoys a game of tug with an old jumper, bought at a charity shop for the purpose of providing comfort and entertainment to this silly old bugger (that’s the dog, not me by the way – my entertainment is usually red and around 13% proof..)

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Lumsdon Law and Hearts Toe (Cheviot Hills)

lumsdon law from harry's pike
I’ve had Lumsdon law on my bucket list of Fings Wot To Do for years and years……..  it lies just off the Border ridge not too far from Carter Bar and is a huge great lump of a thing and it’s hugeness and lumpiness is probably why I’ve always been put off from leaving the Border fence for the bagging of it.
But today was the day. I let superdawg drive the knipemobile up to Byrness as he’s much better at keeping within the speed limit than me and I was a bit sleepy from the porridge.
lumsdon law
We heaved our fat and wobbly carcases up the Northumberland County Council comedy bridleway through the forest to Harry’s Pike and Hungry Law. Its a joke because for the most part it runs parallel to the forest road , but in the forest and the gate at the top is chained and padlocked and you’d never get a horse over it, so horses aren’t allowed. As a bridleway, it’s a bit of a failure, but then this seems to be a bit of a pattern where Northumberland rights of way are concerned  (The last time I pointed this out to Northumberland, their pathetic reply was that they’re like that because nobody uses them. It hadn’t occurred to them that nobody uses them because they’re an utter joke.)
hungry law trig
Anyway, on top of Hungry Law, it was bright and sunny  and if it hadn’t been for the howling gale, it would have been quite spring-like.
bruno reacts when I tell him I forgot to feed the cat
Getting to Lumsdon Law involves a bit of a traverse around a large and beautiful corrie and a tussocky plod over squishy sloppy stuff, followed by lunch involving a boiled egg and tomato butty and a choccy bar, and then a short heave up to a flat and windy top. The location of the highest tussock may be debateable.
huge and beautiful - and windy - corrie
hearts toe
We returned to the border, more or less whence we came, and climbed up to Hungry law on the Scottish side. It was noticed that the English fence was letting in quite a draught from England. We sploshed along over Greyhound Law to Heart’s Toe. I think this is a spelling mistake, and so does Bruno. There’s a bit of ground near Heart’s Toe which may , under certain lighting conditions, and with the eye of faith, look a bit like a deer’s foot – so maybe, Hart’s Toe…  Anyway, its the place where an old route crosses the border. The customs and excise officers were on their teabreak when we passed…
wild camping site marker
Another comedy bridleway leads off down through a wide gap in the trees to a comedy wild camping spot. Here, there is nowhere to put up a tent. This might be why it’s been designated by the Forestry Commision Practical Joke and Jolly Jape Department as a wild camping spot. The bridleway continues through many a tussock and bog and quite a lot of forestry brash in the general direction of Spithope Bothy. No dignity will remain for anybody who tries to follow the route to Spithope, especially when the frazzled walker, picking yet another sharp stick out of his bleeding thigh, realises that there’s a much easier route using a forestry road and a footbridge.
Spithope seems to be a nice place, though. Quite small – with room for six or so, and a good stove and a shed with saws and axes and spades. We spent half an hour there drinking coffee and reading the bothy book. (Bruno just had a snooze…)
the new path
The comedy bridleway continues up some “informal” muddy steps up a steep bank (may be too steep for a horserider!) and has a couple of waymarkers till it hits a forestry road. here, I found a large supply of slabs. I guess these are for building a path to Spithope.
A long plod through Christmas trees followed till I got to Byrness Hotel and the short but bijoux path back to the car.
We did 13 miles.
That’s probably why my legs are stiff….
Here’s a map.
lumsdon law

Friday 21 February 2014

Return to the Pearly Gates


Only the reincarnated usually get the opportunity to return to the Pearly gates – and so it wasn’t with me.

The Pearly Gates, of course is the local name of the level crossing with white-painted gates that, many years ago stood on a colliery railway line near the village of Brandon, just outside Durham. Really attentive readers may remember that some months ago, I had a day hacking through undergrowth along with various Durham Countryside and Brandon village volunteers in order to have part of this old line opened as a brand-new public right of way.

Yesterday, the hacking job was completed and all that remains now is for a mower to chug it’s way along the path to tidy up the surface a bit from the brambles.


Now certain people, naming themselves as “Skid Marks” (Ren) and “Red Bull” (Stimpy) have been writing on a walkingforum (hint) that Countryside volunteers are, and I quote, “parasites”. Presumably, as I’m a countryside volunteer and eligible for a free walk every now and then, this label also applies to me.

The reason for this  walkingforum rant seems to be that they/he have/has a bit of a gripe about the fact that two years ago, the Council put up the charge for walkers attending guided walks to £4 from £3 and that the walks are now the sole dominion of middle-class walkers who can afford the extra quid. The volunteers, of course, get to go on the walks for free, hence the accusation.

previous occasion

They (He?) is/are right bitter about the whole thing. Good. He is, of course, welcome to come on the walks. And they are ,, in fact, open to everybody. Even pillocks who need to get themselves a bit of a life instead of sitting at home simmering about an extra quid. Its a good job the Council didn’t get their way and put the price up to six quid, which is what they wanted to do until certain “parasites” objected in strong terms otherwise Skid Marks’ eyeballs would have probably exploded in anger by now.

Pics are “before” (ish) and “after” (ish). I am now really good at lopping branches by the way. And the good news is that I might soon have an opportunity to slash my way through similar vegetated paths at Wolsingham.

Neither Ren nor Stimpy will be allowed to make any comments on this blog about this subject unless and until they reveal their/his true identity and not hide behind their/his armoured keyboards.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Doctor’s Gate and Black Bank Mudfest

stanhope road quarries

Another Durham County Council Guided walk. me and the Dawg did the reccy for this a few days ago – although, following a return to the car for a forgotten map 9dhuhh), we did it in the other direction. i’d also done a reccy of this walk last autumn where I found that the crossing of Harthope Beck – in slight spate at the time – was a fairly damp experience.

river wear

And so, me and Bruno set off alongside the River Wear to Black Bank. There was potential for the riverside path to be impassable, but it wasn’t, even though the river itself was in a grumpy and excitable mood and was well above it’s normal levels – probably due to snow melt high up the Dale, I would have thought.

mud, mud, glorious mud

The, there was mud. I estimated twelve different kinds of mud. There was a muddy climax by a gate which sent me off on the wrong footpath. Never mind. We reccied a footbridge at Harthope Mill at  Low Burnlea. As it happened, this was much better than the original route which had the teetering crossing of a raging beck higher up the little dale. More mud followed – now up to 14 different kinds.

doctors gate

I crossed onto the moor, lunching in  a warm suntrap at the top of Stanhope Lane, and crossed the heather to Doctor’s gate – noting a 40 (ish) strong band of Golden Plover sitting in the heather and not moving despite the close proximity of Canis Lupus Familiaris Bruno Curiossitus.

On the day, 25 walkers turned up including stewards Doug (a fellow member of the Harold Shipman lookalike club), Compulsory Dave and Neville; so, a good turn-out.

muddied compulsory Dave

We were attended by reasonably good weather and did the walk in the proper direction. 16 different kinds of mud were noted, including Grade 6 Alluvia – the life-threatening one. Compulsory Dave was the only one to get up really close and personal with the stuff.

I also noted skylarks singing on the moorland bit. Yes folks – spring is just around the corner. The green and orange bottomed sheep will soon be producing cute, cuddly and delicious lambs and the hawthorn and ash is in bud.

Its eleven miles and here’s a map. The diversion is now officiaally part of the route, cos it’s betterer, see….

black bank

Finally – huuuge thanks to the anonymous donator who bunged some of their precious funds into the Virgin Money Giving page/fund. It fair warms yer heart, so it does. I wonder who you are..  Not that it matters, all spondoolies are given a warm and fluffy welcome and I expect that your actions have been duly recorded on the Positive Karma register. Thanks.


Monday 17 February 2014

Snowshoes and Sledges


I got an invite to try out some snowshoes up the Dale (That’s Weardale, folks..). Now I’ve often thought, whilst struggling through some North Pennine fresh drift, often up to the naughty parts and occasionally a bit deeper, that a set of snowshoes would be just the thing. Then the snow either melts or turns into some lovely, hard neve and , what with the stupid cost of snowshoes and everything… I never get around to it.

bruno having snow trouble on a previous occasion

Bruno also has had trouble with deep snow and, even though he loves the stuff – enough to try to eat most of what he finds – on occasion it’s all been just too much even for superdawg. Unfortunately, they don’t do snowshoes for dogs. At least, I don’t think so.

and a sledge!

But here are some ex MOD snowshoes – ideal for transporting huge and muscly Royal marines and their huge and muscly bergens across the arctic wastes, so they should be Ok for a not-quite-morbidly-obese ex member of the Ermysteds Grammar School for Boys climbing set (aka those of us who couldn’t catch a cricket ball and who hated being beaten up by enormous over-trained  latin-speaking rugby forwards from Form 4(a) The clever gits. But I digress.

We set off up Ireshope Moor by first parking the knipemobile (not known for it’s ability to negotiate a snowy road)  badly in a thawing bog. The snowshoes were strapped on, tightened, adjusted, strapped on again after they’d fallen off, adjusted, tightened, tripped over and pointed uphill into the murk of a blast of warmish air over the arctic wastes, thus causing not only drizzle but also hill fog.

We battered uphill, dragging blue plastic sledges behind for the descent. This was predicted to be quick and easy and not at all dangerous due to the softness of the snow cover (which is why the snowshoes were useful)

I was impressed by how good these things were – and , apparently, only Thirty of the Queen’s pounds from a local forces surplus store.

bijoux hut

We coffeed and chocolated in the lee of a bijoux and anti-socially locked shooting hut before continuing a bit higher to the flat bit at about 660 metres above sea level. (Apparently, according to “scientists”, this figure gets lower every day and will soon be 659.99 metres unless we allow the Scottish hills to be converted into windy power stations. … But yet again, I digress…)


It was sledge time. Matt hurtled off at 4.4 mph. I decided to go head first, placed the sledge on the slope , got on, and…..  nothing happened. I pushed with my arms. Something happened. I got tired.  I decided on a more convenient posture. I sat on the sledge. Less happened than had been happening before. I pushed with my arms. I got tired. I got off. I walked, pulling the reluctant sledge behind. On a steeper bit I tried again. I reached a speed of, perhaps, 2.3 mph. I pushed with my arms. I got tired. I stopped. I got off. I walked. Sledge sulked behind.

not hurtling at all

Steeper ground, now. I got on again. Nothing happened again. I pushed. We slid. Gracefully, as one, man and sledge in a partnership of speed; hurtling Northwards, contours and startled grouse flashing by…… 3.4 mph. After a full 200 yards, things slowed to a stop. I pushed with my arms. You know the rest.


I tried the other sledge. This was better. I almost got a nose bleed as the air rushed past at 4.1 mph. Maybe I should have used kph. This would have been a higher figure and, therefore, faster.

I blame the snow. It was too soft and wet. Icier snow and harder snow is required. Snow shoes were good, though. I’m off to Darlington to get some.

and rest.....

Sunday 16 February 2014

Backpacking From Moffat to Kirkby Stephen

Wednesday morning starts a bit driech

No, folks, we didn’t walk all the way. Me and Dawn have had a trip to Moffat planned for a while and the time came when it was….er…time to collect Dawn from Penrith train station and whisk her off up the M6 for a quick lunch in the Rumblin Tum cafe (some blogreaders will recognise this fine establishment from previous Peebles-Moffat-Peebles trips (and falls).


And then, it was time to walk. So we walked up the road towards The Devil’s Beeftub, turning sharp right up the path to Hartfell Spa where we camped next to the deer fence that obstructed access to all the very best camping spots, at the foot of Spa Well Burn.

first camp

Hart Fell Spa is a chalybeate well and so has lots of iron in it, although it didn’t taste too bad and wasn’t really very red. So we drank it.

hart fell spa

We also scrambled up the gill a bit to have a look and, suitably impressed, we came back down again for our teas as it went dark.

hart fell spa gill

It snowed a bit during the night and a fox made a lot of noise close by and in the morning it was grey and driech and we plodded off into the snows in an attempt to reach Gameshope bothy, well over the other side of the hill. On the face of it, this didn’t go too well. But, as with all fateful happenings, if we’d been a bit earlier, or a bit fitter, or a bit quicker, we’d have encountered our fierce blizzard whilst up on the most exposed section of the route.

It started at lunchtime, quite suddenly as a drift of big snowflakes, just as we settled by the beck for a break. By the time I’d scoffed an oatcake, it was swirling and we made a quick decision to put the tents up and sit it out.

my very own snowdrift

Putting the tents up was quite difficult in the storm that quickly grew, with the wind blustering around and clouds of fine spindrift blowing up off the snow. Eventually, we got settled, tents weighed down with huge stones.

We were battered all afternoon and deep into the night  - noisily and roughly. I had to get out of the akto a few times to clear snow which was pushing in at the back, making things inside damp. At some point in the early hours, the wind changed completely and now hit the door, filling the porch and my boots with spindrift.

meanwhile, back in the pennines

So, an exciting night, with not much sleep. In the morning it was calmer and there were signs that the day might improve. But much of my kit was wet from the crushing effect of the weight of snow and the snow was soft and somewhere between shin and knee deep. So, it was an easy decision to head back to the Rumblin Tum.

We decided to go to the hostel at Kirkby Stephen, partly because dawn knew it well and it wasn’t too far from Penrith and, maybe the weather would be better dahn sahf. It wasn’t. In fact, it was chucking it down big time in Kirkby, but they let us in to dry out and raid the co-op for lots of scoff and so on and so on….

nine standards outliers

We had a spare day, so on that day, with another blizzard forecasted (inaccurately as it happened), I bought a map and we headed off up the CtoC route through Hartley for the bagging of the very diminutive, but quite nice Birkett Hill – not a Birkett, but if it was further West, it probably would be – and Little Longrigg Scar. These two little hills have a huge amount of old mining activity in between and would probably repay a  more detailed and relaxed exploration. We, however were working against the weather, which, in turn was working against us.

bell pits

After a short brew-up, we climbed Longrigg Scar for a seriously buffeted wind-assisted ascent. As we dropped down the other side, it started raining and sleeting and, by the time we hit the old railway line path , it was heaving it down again.

nine standards outliers

So, the bottom line was that the weather got the better of us again. This is a problem with having to plan these trips well ahead. Family diaries have to be co-ordinated and trains have to be booked well in advance to get the best fares. So we’re often stuck with the dates and, so far, we’ve had all kinds of interesting weather chucked at us and we do set off even in the face of a threatening weather forecast. (maybe it won’t actually turn out to be so bad… it’s all down South…. it’s supposed to get better later… etc) Actually, I quite enjoy sheltering in my little tent from a howling storm, but it does put a bit of a block on progress across a map.

Its good for the soul, though.

February has been manic. Maybe March will be calmer.

For those obsessed by numbers, we did about 14 miles around Moffat and 7 on our little friendly wind-blasted walk around the outlying fells of Nine Standards Rig.

Link to Kirkby Stephen hostel is here


And finally, whilst I was away Peter Waites made a donation to Mind via the Virgin money giving page. Thanks ever so much for this,  Peter, it’s been a long time….. I wonder how you found me.  Sorry for you loss, too, by the way.

If anybody else feels like bunging some spondoolies into the account it’s here  I’m not naggin ner nowt, its just that I need to bring the link forward every now and then otherwise it disappears, see…?


Saturday 8 February 2014

DCC Guided Walk to Race Head – Upper Weardale

climbing by sedling vein

This walk was badly timed, really, since the route coincided quite a bit with two other guided walks up Weardale within the last few weeks. This, and the duff, almost hysterical weather forecast on the Beeb containing monstrous amounts of heavy rain, turning to snow on the Pennines and huuuuge gales of wind to boot, may have been responsible for the fact that there were only seven of us on the walk, including the steward Ralph and the stand-in emergency appointment steward Richard.

bruno doesnt like the group shelter but he does like snow

sedling rake road is made from flourpar!

Me and the Dawg did the reccy a few days ago in nithering but otherwise fine weather. Bruno was pretty gruntled about the small amounts of snow on the tops but not all that happy about having lunch inside the big orange flappy group shelter.

upper weardale

And another thing ….  this walk will be repeated in October as part of the North Pennnines AONB Walking Festival and will start and/or finish at the Chatterbox cafe in St John’s Chapel, a fine establishment which provided me with a huge pot of tea and a teasted toecake with raspberry jam after the reccy. Unfortunately, as it was chucking it down when we finished today, nobody was motivated to make the dash from the auction mart car park to the cafe for similar refreshments today.

above ireshopeburn

Basically, the walk follows the Weardale Way from St John’s Chapel to West Blackdene and then a path on the hillside to Wearhead, followed by a lurch uphill to Sedling rake, returning damply to the start via Slit Wood and the riverside path from Westgate.

ralph and richard see to a gate

As we stopped in Wearhead to allow ladies to visit the ladies, a lady came out of a house to offer advice on where to walk in Weardale. We told her our route and she declared that there was “Nowt oop there” and that we would have to cross fields to get anywhere.

burtree diggings

Ignoring this advice, we took to the hills for a wind-assisted ascent to Race Head – a place with a bit of sloppy snow, a lot of flourspar and a cracking view of the approaching dark clouds over the Teesdale ridge the South. It rained a bit. Then it stopped as we paddled the Middlehope Burn, and started again as we left Westgate. By the time we got to Pheonix St Johns Chapel it was heaving it down.

I’ll be back in October.

In the meantime, me and Dawn are off to Moffat to get blown about and really wet.

race head walk