Sunday, 30 March 2014

Teesdale – Holwick and High Force DCC Guided Walk

high force from the top

To start off, I’d just like to say “aaargh” “bleghhh” and “sniffle” because as a reward for 37 happy years of wedded bliss, my wife or loved one has been very kind to give me a steaming great cold complete with supplementary chest cough.

So I wasn’t all that surprised when the main steward for this walk, Compulsory Dave, texted me with a message saying that he wasn’t very well at all , so, instead of C. Dave, we had the sickeningly healthy Eric and the ever-robust Kathy to be stewards on the walk. Fourteen fully-fit and enthusiastic punters also turned up on a fairly glum and grey misty sort of morning – the kind of morning which encourages an extra hour or two in a nice and cosy bed with a lovely cup of tea and some well-marmaladed toast and, perhaps a snuggle up to a warm bum, or even a hot brown mongrel.

stone sheep

But, since people had made the effort and in the face of struggles with Neville’s Cross traffic lights and fog-bound moors above Stanhope, we felt it best, to press ahead with the walk which was, in fact, fairly easy really.

what it looks like when its not foggy

We crossed the Tees and splodged through the mud up to Holwick, passing the Earl of Strathmore’s stone sheep and on to a good track overlooking the Tees. I’d been this way a week earlier with my hot brown mongrel, Bruno in cold sunshine and a few snow showers, but with much fabber views than today.

easy blea beck crossing

usual blea beck crossing

There are three lively becks to cross. The first one, Blea Beck is the big ‘un. And , as it had rained gently for most of Friday and the beck at Bowlees was a bit higher than normal, we avoided any wettings by going for the bridge a  bit upstream.

beck two

The second beck was crossed without too much incident and only a few wet socks.

beck three, dog one.

The third beck proved a problem, however. There are stepping stoones, but, having fallen off these on a previous walk, and , in the expectation that I was going to get wet anyway, I basically just splodged across. Some walkers made it across the stones. Others followed my route. Some went upstream. One fell in, backwards. It wasn’t drowningly deep, though, so the penalty was just a wet pack and bum (worra good name for a ramblers pub by the way…). And so we lunched on the stones by the beck or by the ancient felldyke, just out of the reach of the searching breeze.

high force

low force artists

The rest of the walk was fairly routine, down along the Pennine Way passing High Force and Low Force with plenty of walkers coming the other way and a couple of artists doing a fine job at Low Force.

Most of today’s blog pics are from me and Bruno’s reccy, with just the odd one from the guided walk.

pennine way

And there’s a map,the flood route goes to White Rigg where there’s a bridge and then just follow the fence back to the bridleway , just in case it’s in a bad mood when you get there. (You’ll probably have to make the decision before you get there and, if it’s in serious flood, you might not be able to cross the next two becks!)

Its about 8 miles.

holwick walk


click the Mind logo to donate (see..? I worked it out!)

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Birkett Bagging with Bruno – Godworth and Kelton Fell

top of gavel fell
Its a long way to the Western part of the lake District, specially for a couple of fairly non-descript grassy lumps. But Bruno insisted and so, to satisfy his unexplainable and, sometimes unreasonable need to tick something off a list, we set off up  a partially-frozen Weardale, and over the tops to Alston, Penrith, Keswick, Cockermouth…..  and we eventually arrived at a free parking spot just to the right of Bowness Knott.
heelan' kye
After returning to the knipemobile to turn off the car alarm (must get that fixed..) we eventually found ourselves hurtling uphill towards Buttermere, but turning left at the timid bunch of Highland cattle to meet the fence running over Banna Fell. Banna Fell is a “Synge” and, so, is inferior in many ways to Birketts, but a nice back-up tick should anything go wrong, according to Bruno (I’m not all that bothered, obviously)
down to croasdale beck
We descended steeply to Croasdale Beck, noting the wild camping flat spots, the lovely pools and also the tractor parked on a nearby hill in full view of me and the Dawg making a pig’s ear out of getting over the fence. A short climb up a side-gill put us out of sight and a traverse along some pretty brown contours gave us our first tick – Godworth, a Birkett with a little cairn and a view of the Solway Firth, the Very Lovely Criffel and the Isle of Man. We headed off for Birkett tick number two – Kelton Fell. godworth with knock murton behind
Unfortunately, the tractor and it’s occupant, apparently having lunch inside it, were parked right on top of Kelton Fell which was also occupied by a flock of Herdwicks and, being a bit diffident about trespassing through a flock of sheep with a dog in full view of a farm worker upset by the fact that he’d got cheese in his butties yet again and he didn’t like cheese (even though he made the sandwich himself the night before), and the fact that Eon had just put his gas bill up yet again,  we just sat behind the wall and had lunch in case he decided to finish-up and go off down the hill to watch Police Interceptors or Car Wars or, indeed, Jeremy Kyle with the all-important lie-detector results. Or maybe go and get the mothers day card which he’ll send to his spouse from the kids, it being mothers day quite soon, he’d just remembered…..
After half an hour of me and the Dawg sitting in the sun with a Lancashire cheese butty with pickled red cabbage, a banana and a mars bar and a flask of fair trade coffee, he was still there, apparently staring at his own cheese crumbs on his lap and grumbling darkly under his breath that next time he might try a tuna salad and why couldn’t the kids get their own card, the amount of spending money they get.
top of gavel fell
So, we made a plan to have a little circuit of the hills to the North and come back to Kelton fell later when he’d have had the phone call from the wife asking what time he’d be home so that she knew when to put the minced beef on and could he get some carrots and washing-up liquid on his way home, but none of that cheap stuff his mum uses and to make sure he leaves his wellies in the porch as she’s just mopped the hallway floor and did he see the cat this morning?
So we headed uphill on a nice path with running-shoe footprints and emerged at the col, bwlch or bealach between Gavel Fell and Blake Fell. Bruno decided that Gavel fell would be where we would go, so that’s where we went.
floutern cop
We descended back to the Highland cattle and the car via Floutern Cop (already ticked some time ago). During this descent, I noticed that tractor-man had moved his vehicle further down the hill and so, no longer occupied my summit…er…Bruno’s summit.
We drove a bit up the road and parked at the foot of the track which leads from the road back up Gavel fell and, which passes the summit of Kelton Fell a few metres to the North. Tractor man was out-of sight and doing things to the dry stone wall when we bagged Kelton fell.
ennerdale water
And so, that was that.
We returned via a bit of a blizzard up the A66.
We did about 8 miles. Some of those miles were on unfriendly, well-fenced territory (Banna fell) There were notices on the other side of the barbed wire entaglements. I don’t know what they said, but, I suspect that it was something on the lines of “You can’t come in here” However, we were already “in” and our main problem was getting “out”
Anyway – two more Birkett ticked for Bruno – Only 27 more to go. (One of these is Pillar rock, so make that 26 – I may not be competent under any circumstances short of a lift in a helicopter to get to the top of Pillar Rock)
Finally, I’d just like to thank Judith and Andrew and Brenda for their donation of hard-earned cash via the virgin money giving site, and specially to Judith for reminding me that unless there’s something to click, nobody’s going to cough-up. So, there’s something to click – I haven’t worked out how to get the JPEG to be a clicking linky thingy, so I’m keeping it simple and just having a “click here” link underneath the Mind logo.
But thanks Judith, Andrew and Brenda – it’s all gratefully received and appreciated – you are allowed a brief moment of smugness, and even a bit of gruntleness.
You can see the Isle of man from Kelton fell

Monday, 24 March 2014

TGO Challenge – Cafe Akto and Other Plans

akto disappears under baha
A few years ago, whilst having a year off from the TGO planning (I’d just finished my tenth crossing) – I took a Karrimor “lightweight” tent up to Corrour and plonked it on a popular TGO trade route, dishing out tea and jelly babies to anybody who cared to wake me up. This was a good idea from my point of view in that I got to stay in one place for a few days and bag a small bunch of Corrour/Ben Alder Munros. (A little album appears below)
I had a great time, if a bit damp, and went on to haunt Braemar for the boozing and Montrose and, on my travels, came across straggling lines of limping humanity – it being bad weather and, at Tarfside, I broke the big tent they gave me whilst trying to put it up in a hurricane, but alsoi managed to get in the way in a fairly significant manner, supporting the various ladies running St Drostans Hostel. The weather that year was notorious and many people will remember without any fondness at all, the hurricane which struck in the second week of the Challenge.
So it was all (or at least, mainly),  quite good.

This year, I’m taking an actual Hilleberg Akto to Glen Mazeran from 12 to 14 May, followed by a day or so at the Cairngorm Club footbridge on 14/15 May and I ought to be able to supply a more sophisticated choice of refreshments than last time, including bacon roll’s, tea’s, coffee’s cak’e and, possibly even  a mug of lovely Black Paw beer – unless I’ve drunk it all myself. I will be expecting, or ,at least, hoping for generous donations to Mind through the magic of a collection box or a raffle ticket. (the prize would be a mugful of Black paw beer, I expect) (The apostrophe’s are there for catering purposes by the way) (Commercial catering establishments like their apostrophes – e.g. Fish and Chip’s, Pizza’s and Gents Toilet’s Customer’s Only)
And so, today, I went far, far up Weardale, further than the furthest limits of civilisation  where the snow lasts till July and they laugh in the face of any suggestion that a service bus might turn up on a Sunday, or, indeed, after dark, and put up the akto with an extra porch, in the form of a basha wot I bought at Kitt Pongo and the Hoggman’s superb army surplus store in Bishop Auckland.
The results of this experiment were that it’s a really nice and cosy setup and fairly wind-resistant but that I need another four bungees to get it tight and properly fastened down.
Advice and assistance, and the loan of extra bungees was accepted from the son-in-law who knows about things like this, whereas the Pieman is more of an artiste than a bungee engineer and needs help.
It does tend to disappear into the landscape a little bit, so, to make the thing more visible, and to signify that The Pieman Is In – there’s be a large and flappy Union flag flying at times when dead pig butties are available. I only hope that somebody actually turns up, otherwise I’ll have to drink all that beer myself.
Pics show some basha and akto/basha experiments and Mollie, my first customer.

click to donate

Friday, 21 March 2014

Pictures of Brownber (Made My Life So Wonderful)(Apols to Lily and The Who)

There’ll likely be a bity of a hiatus on the pieblog till I do my next walk – actually, it’s tomorrow, but as it’s a reccy of a guided walk, I won;t write anything about it till I do the walk – which is next week…

Soooooo…. being at a loose end, and avoiding sorting out my laundry etc or dooing anything energetic… For anybody really interested in Brownber Edge (You know who you are!) here’s a few pictures


Picture taken from Dufton Pike – Brownber is the top on the left. We climbed from the valley to the right of it, following the wall.


Same pic, different light


I think this is Brownber Edge! (Its been a long time)


Looking east from Brownber


Tree trunk fossils thingies (there’s a name for these, but it escapes me)


Gritstone edges

high cup nick 

High Cup Nick

I climbed Brownber and Dufton Pike and then over to High Cup Nick on 2 Feb 2007 and it’s a bit of a miracle that the pictures survive – they’re now on their third computer,I think….



Thursday, 20 March 2014

Borders Bagging at Langholm

tussock city

Its seems unlikely that a huge number of walkers will know Ewes Water. This is not some kind of strange desire to run after sheep with a bucket to catch and consume their Number Ones, but is the fairly short but beautiful dale emerging from Langholm and ending nine or ten miles later at the bealach containing the Mosspaul Hotel.

About half way up this dale is the village hall at Meikledale (Big Dale!) and this is where you can park to undertake a waymarked walk up onto the fells. Which is what I did yesterday.


Superdawg was left at home – mainly because local info asks dog owners not to bring their dogs in March and April – and, I’m aware that at the moment, it’s the crucial time for lambing, with ewes having either just produced , or are about to do so within the next week or so. And I don’t know where the lambing fields are for me to avoid them. And Bruno has a bit of a limp just now, following a fluffed attempt to cross a cattle grid. He usually manages to get across grids pretty easily – without breaking step, in fact. But this time, he failed. He’ll be Ok. he’ll be back out on a proper long walk on Saturday.

So, dogless, I left the knipemobile at the village hall and followed the series of kissing-gates through empty (dhuhh!) pastures to the track up Meikledale. This did have a selection of very fat sheep, however.


Meikledale goes a long way into the hills and, at a sheepfold (fine camping spots around here!) the waymarks tell the walker to climb the hill. Its a bit vague as to whether or not you’re supposed to follow the deep gill of St Martin’s Sike, or the ATV track climbing the breast of the hill. I took the ATV track. This, eventually, dumped me in tussockland in dense hillfog. Maybe I should have followed St Martin.

I blundered on uphill and found the fence – supposedly electrified (I didn’t test it) and a few hundred metres to the left was the high spot of Faw Side – a baggable Donald Dewey (I bet you’ve never heard of these before either!) at 526 metres. Donald Deweys are just like Deweys, but in Scotland, South of the Highland line. There’s loads of them….

that fence

More waymarks invited me to plod on – so I did, not seeing anything but the fence, some tussocks, and enveloping fog. I squelched onwards, (g’wan, ask me how wet it was…)  following the fence over Swingill Height, Blackgrain Height, Middle Hill and Broad Head, which is where I had to get the compass out in order to find the col or bealach between Broad Head and Roughbank Height. This is a huge target for yer navigator and, so, proved fairly easy to find.

near roughbank col 

Roughbank Height has shorter and less vicious tussocks than the other hills and, maybe it’s a bit drier too. Certainly, the hillfog lifted a bit and I got a view. Its a short and sharp climb to the vague and rounded top from the pass.


I descended steeply to Wolfhope, a beautiful deep little side-dale with semi-natural woodland of hawthorn and birch and a pleasant green road for the now soggy feet. Me and Dawn had passed this way last year and had camped at the head of the dale in a little corrie.

Wolfhope leads down to the main road at Bush Farm – just a very short walk up the road back to the car.

I did nine miles and just over 2000 feet of upness. I have more bagging business in this neck of the woods to be done later in the year. It takes me the same travelling time as it does to get to, say, Buttermere and it’s very quiet – the only people out today were some friendly estate staff building pheasant pens. It’s quite hard-going on the tops, though.

faw head


Monday, 17 March 2014

Pimp Mah Boots – Mick’s Climb Up Cauldron Snout

It was this comment  from Mick on a previous post which lead directly to this adventure up the far end of Teesdale

“Hi Mike, Nice report as normal I like your something for something with regards to raising pennies for Mind so how about you selling your body!!!for the day sorta pimping yourself out if you like , what I propose is you escort me from say Bowlees right along the Pennine way to cow green reservoir there we can jump in a motor and drive back to Bowlees . Conditions are! You fill my head in with what ever local knowledge that you can think of on route (doesn’t have to be true) and for this marvellous service I will bung £25.00 of my hard earned pounds into your mind fund ….something for something eh! Of course you could always try for extra brownie points for a “care in the community “type of thing. One last thing …I like coffee & if I fall in going up Cauldron spout and die a horrible death I wish you good luck getting the dosh off my better half ( she’s very mean with money) What do you think”
widdybank mick

And so, we met on Sunday morning in a howling gale at Cow Green reservoir, left Mick’s car there and went in mine to the road-end at Widdybank, all the better to getting to the nitty-gritty purpose of this walk on the craggy bits of Cauldron Snout.
pennine way
seems to be enjoying himself..
Many readers will likely be familiar with the part of the Pennine Way between Widdybank Farm and Cow Green reservoir. It’s a very rough path with two or three sections of scree, arranged into big lumps on a steep hillside and which can only be crossed at significant danger to the walker’s composure, dignity and knees. These tricky bits are interspersed with duckboards and sloppy, wet bits.
crinkley sprout crumbly scout
Finally a bend in the river is rounded, at the part where Maize Beck and the River Tees meet and the grazed and exhausted walker comes face-to-face with the impressively roaring cataract of Crumbly Scout (or Cronkley Spout as I sometimes call it… in error…don’t ever do this..)
mick starts the climb
The Pennine Way then climbs up some ninety feet or so of up and 600 feet of across (so, its at a reasonable angle  most of the way) on polished rocks suspended ever-so-scarily above the roaring maelstrom below. Its not a hard climb, although there’s a couple of places where a slip could well, like the bomb in the alphabetti spaghetti, spell “disaster”. It’s a cracking climb for those of us blessed with a complete set of functioning limbs. For those who are one limb short of the usual collection, (I’m speaking of Mick, here, folks)  it could well prove tricky and a bit of a test to say the least.
I am happy to report, therefore, that neither of us fell off and, in fact, the whole thing was, in fact, quite good fun.
Mick at the top of top of wrinkly scrote
Following the Wrinkley Sprout climb, there’s a fairly dull walk of a mile and a half or so over the moor back to Mick’s car, which was still where we ‘d left it. It’s less dull if you have the  free leaflet from the tourist info box at the car park and you do it when the larks and curlew are calling and the spring gentians are in flower and not when there’s a huge wind blowing off the reservoir trying to re-arrange your hat etc.
A short post-walk celebration was held in the Chatterbox cafe in St John’s Chapel (recommend the huge pot of hot, steaming tea and the teasted toecake with jam)
this pic's out of order, dammit..
And thanks to Mick for the idea and the company and, not least for the  generous amount of hard-earned dosh he’s installed into the virgin money-giving page that I use for raising and storing spondoolies and general loot for Mind.  (And thanks to Dawn too, for the extra spontaneous donation and for the fleece which was auctioned on walkersforum recently) All good stuff – and the fund is doing fairly well just now.
If anybody else feels like contributing in return for a wild walk somewhere, all idea would be considered within reason. And by using the virgin page , HM revenue and customs can be prevailed upon to add even more filthy lucre to your donation.
Spontaneous contributions (some people seem to like to do this) can be made here (click on “donate” and have your debit card handy)
I expect that at some point, Mick will also write about this on his blog, “One Foot in Northumberland, an amputee’s struggle to get into those distant hills” and whenever he does, it will be here  I expect.
For those more interested in hot tea and teasted toecakes and a warm welcome after a windy walk in Weardale, I recommend the chatterbox cafe in St John's Chapel
cauldron snout