Thursday 24 July 2014

Things To Do On A Hot Day #1 The Plodge

DSCN1830 Brian demonstrates the proper use of walking poles. These are special deep water poles – don’t try this with any old sticks.

About once a year – on the North Pennines Hot Day – usually about this time of year, in fact,  me and Brian like to wander over to Ash Gill Bridge to descend through the  cool pools of the very lovely Ash Gill and the greenly dark and hidden parts of the South Tyne gorge leading to Garrigill village.
This is an expedition of approximately 2.3 kilometres with hardly any ascent at all.
Pool #1 Demonstrating the “Lets Pretend Its Not Cold But Nevertheless Make It To Land As Fast As Possible” stroke. AKA The “Talking Whilst Breathing In Sharply” paddle.
A car left in Garrigill provides the opportunity to get changed out of wet clothes without embarrassing many local residents and also avoids a walk back to Ash Gill Bridge in wet trollies.
How to
Fall In, prettily
And retain dignity
And so , on the occasion of Brian’s 72.93r birthday and the 51st anniversary of the Knipe family holiday in Morecambe in a  small caravan called “Noyna” we parked the knipemobile at Garrigill and the Brianmobile at Ash Bridge and descended the steep and slippery path to Pool #1.
Due to being nibbled by hungry horseflies on the 2013 expedition, we decided to wear clothes for this trip although I did remove my t-shirt for Pool #1, but put it on again straight away thinking that it might either be warmer or it might briefly hold a bit of air in it and , therefore, delay my demise by drowning for a few precious seconds – maybe half a minute. Anyway, Pool #1 is an easy introduction provided you don’t try to jump into it, cos its not very deep.
Brian keeps his hat on
Brian had his hat AND his walking poles to avoid any accusations of being under-equipped from any passing ramblers that might witness our splashings and sharp intakes of breath when plunging into some of the deeper pools.
Pool #2 was quite deep and required a bit of swimming and some climbing skills and Pool #3 was even deeper and the sides being slippery resulted in a bit of a slip and a deep , green and cold dunking for me during which I got my carefully crafted hair-do absolutely ruined. (What?)
Pool #4 was a pussy-cat and only needed a short swim.
This was all very beautiful and dappled green and sunny and smashing, apart from the attentions of the black-fly which, although non-biting are superbly annoying. And they follow you around….
River South Tyne has no water
Then we entered the Tyne, which had no water in it at all until joined by Ash Gill. Here, it lies in a deep, square-cut and tree-lined gorge - a very beautiful and almost secret place – a real gem of the North Pennines , in fact, and hardly visited at all. The South Tyne was found to be full of fish – hundreds of the buggers which we took to be either brown trout or salmon. I noticed that they were actually following in Brian;s wake, presumably for larvae or whatever disturbed from the bottom by his boots.
Onwards downstream over difficult ground, generously littered with slippery boulders, passing under a footbridge and then a more substantial and ancient stone bridge.
With a combined age of 134. it makes you wonder whether or not we should really be doing this kind of thing. Nice, though, innit?
Immediately following the stone bridge, the gorge narrows to a couple of feet and there is a long and very deep pool – the crux and also the highlight of the trip.

The white box is for the camera, car keys and anything which mustn’t get wet. And it floats if you screw the lid on properly.
Take The Miners Arms Challenge
After this, there’s a couple more deep pools but its mainly awkward walking/paddling on slippery cobbles. More water is added to the river at Cross Gill then it’s all over and only the challenge of the Miners Arms at Nenthead remains.
When its hot – have a plodge.
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Tuesday 22 July 2014

Duke of Earl (Silver) Expedition – Cadair Idris

descending cadair idris

Its a well-known fact that DofE expeditions aren’t allowed to speak to anybody whilst they’re out on expedition – at least all my attempts to engage a column of sulky DofE participants have been met with blanks – apart from the nice lass at the end of the column heading over the Shell Island causeway who, despite her obvious suffering, managed to smile weakly and gasp a hello. . They also have to carry far too much…carry. Duke of Earl Expeditions break both of these rules and so, after a brief kit-check, involving scouring the campsite grass for loose change, we set off in a lump up the steep lane leading to the other end of Cadair Idris, notably a top called Craig Gau.(Which the group – except me - of course, failed to bag)

codgers at the back

It was very hot and, as the group, pulled away from the heaving and sweating Pieman and disappeared around a bend, not looking back, or even aware that I wasn’t with them any more my DofE (Silver) expedition almost came to an early end and a plan was forming to return to Nantcol at Llanbedr and spend the time on the beach with some 4% proof tinnies – probably about six of them, I would have thought..

As I came up another steep bit, dripping salty water all over the road, the group had actually stopped, but as I arrived, the cardiac bits almost on the point of collapse, the buggers set off again.

dawn on the way up

I did eventually manage to open up the  auxiliary cardiac blood vessels I’d created before they put the stent in and start to be more comfortable with the contours, but others were slowing and it seemed a good idea that the codgers amongst us should, perhaps, stick together, for moral support and to control any desire to try to keep up

mynydd moel 


a tarn I expect

There was a bit of a stop Mynydd Moel and another on the summit of Cadair Idris and I was more than pleased to note, on our descent , that many of the walkers coming up the hill towards us were much younger and much much more knackered than we were.

pony path camp

Our leaders had already consulted each other about routes and camping spots, and dashed off once again towards some spoil heaps away in the distance. More struggling went on at the back – and, luckily some sense seemed to have somehow prevailed on those at the front and a new campsite at the head of the Pony track was chosen. This was a cracking situation and an evening of fine views and hot sun was enjoyed whilst our leaders consulted each other once again about which route we were going to take the next day.

In the meantime, I took the opportunity to watch my stove fall over and set fire to the grass inside the akto porch (too windy to cook outside) Thus I lost half a litre of nice water and in the resulting short  panic , I leant too heavily on my sleeping mat and burst some compartments. Slowly, overnight, it turned into an accurate scale model of Ayres Rock. It’s now busy turning into a huge brown football, so I could probably do with a new one.


In the late evening it got windy. By the early hours it was blowing a hoolie and tents were flattening, lurching around and occasionally bashing their occupants around the head. Dawn’s tent popped a peg and had to be temporarily demolished and weighed down with stones. Dawn became a refugee for a couple of hours in my tent but as soon as it came light, she put her tent back up again.

stormy dawn

At six-ish, conditions weren’t getting any better and JJ announced that a weather forecast had predicted violent thunderstorms, so we buggerred off, smartish, having breakfast in a sheepfold/ladies toilet at the foot of the pony path.

pony path

Meanwhile, our leaders (note that these were actually guests by the way – the cheeky buggers) were once again consulting each other about our route back to their campsite and it was at this point  that I decided that escape was the better part of having a row and I grumpily peeled off the back of the group and headed for Llyn Gwernan, a beautiful tarn nestling beneath the bracken and rocks of Craig y Castell – my Marilyn and cheerer-upper of the day. Craig y Castell is a rough little bugger with a couple of rocky tors on top, one of which I thought was the summit and, after a twenty-foot scramble/climb in which some teetering was done, I discovered wasn’t (the top). And it was even windier than before…

llyn gwernan

My route back to Barmouth basically followed the River Gwynant back to the Mawddach Trail and a retrace of the first day’s route.

The Gwynant is specially beautiful I have to say but the Mawddach was still a bit on the dull side (but with lovely views) and the water in the estuary was doing strange bubbly things on the incoming tide. There were also small herons fishing in the leads and I took these to be Egrets. (Look, I’m not Bill Oddie, innit?) Rien de rien (No, … no Egrets…. No, I will have no Egrets…)

craig y castell

Dawn, Laura and JJ were on the Barmouth campsite when I arrived.

The next day, after breakfasting with Dawn and Laura I returned to the Nantcol waterfalls campsite for a night before returning home. This was made much easier by the fact that my car was exactly where I left it. I also had a nice chat with Pero, the farm’s young collie dog – a charming, friendly, squirming animal who understood doggy commands in both Welsh and English who, by his doggy charmingness put the final tin hat on my decision to get another pooch as soon as possible.

So, the trip didn’t work out very well in the end and fell short of the objective, due, once again to the weather, the perennial buggerer-upperer. But I’ll be back in a while to have another go, possibly in October. It’ll be a solo walk with a dog (hopefully), though.

Here’s maps of my route. Not the clever avoidance of several baggable tops on Cadair!

Total miles and ascent over the whole trip, including coastal walks 53 miles and 7600 feet

cadair pt 1 cadair pt2


Monday 21 July 2014

DDDD of E (Duke Duke Duke Duke of Earl) Expedition to Cadair Idris – the Walk(s) In

barmouth beach
Going to the middle bit of North Wales from Knipetowers is a long drive, specially when you have to drive all the way by yourself AND navigate at the same time (a solution to this issue is about to be announced by the way).
The idea of this trip was born when me and Alan and Dawn camped on Cadair Idris a couple of years ago and we thought wot a jolly jape it would be to walk the whole ridge of Cadair from one end to the other with a wild camp at some point and a crossing of the walkway over the estuary at Barmouth.
But a three-day walk is just a  bit too far to justify all that driving (5 hours) and so I determined to extend the visit to a week and have a play on the coastline which is quite fab in this area – think Northumberland coastline but with mountains as a backdrop for extra beachy value.
rhinogion from shell island
In the meantime, Dawn was battling with the Rhinogian, a rocky and heathery playground only just a few miles inland.
So I camped at in sight of Moelfre – a rounded blob which me and superdawg had climbed in misty murk another couple (or , maybe, a few) of years ago on the Rheadr Nantcol campsite, where they let me leave the car, just under the gaze of one of their CCTV cameras and next to the reception where they said they’d keep an eye on it.
meolfre monday
On the Sunday, it chucked it down all day and got quite windy, so I stayed in with a book, but left for Barmouth on Monday, taking a route past the Llanbedr Airport and potential space-station site and across a rebuilt causeway/footpath – as part of the Welsh coastal path to Shell Island where I found myself in a huuuuge and well- spread-out campsite and an even huuger area of sand-dunes – just about a mile wide at the part where I crossed to the sea.
the beach is biig
I followed the unpopulated coast towards Barmouth into a nudie area where I witnessed some quite odd behaviour – including male nudies who’s body language seemed to say “look at me , I’ve got no clothes on and my willy is magnificent, isn’t it?” “And I’m getting a bit of a thrill from doing this by the way…”.  And then, above, in the sand dunes, a small coterie of men were popping up and down trying to peep at the exhibitionists whom, it would seem , would have been only too pleased to endure a much closer inspection should these sad-acts decide to have a walk on the beach along with everybody else. I couldn’t decide whether or not this kind of behaviour was just sad or a bit sinister. The peepers in the dunes would probably benefit from attending a North-East skinny dip, although, possibly, their heads might explode.  Happily, at the other end of the beach were some real people who’d just gone to get a tan and/or have a dip in the effervescent briny.
And it was hot.
I had an appointment to meet Dawn in Barmouth, so, at Dyffryn Ardudwy, I ventured inland, calling for a brief three pints of cold lager at a holiday campsite bar, for the bus into Barmouth.
Having met Dawn at the train station, we found the campsite and John Jocys’s caravan and so formed Team A of the DDDDofE expedition to Cadair Idris.
Dawn and JJ on the walkway across the estuary
Team B – manned by Alan and his two wayward mountain rescue pals Teg and Rich camped on the other side of the estuary (for reasons which are obscure).
The two teams met briefly in The Last Inn – delayed somewhat by Team A’s fruitless search for food, eventually ending in a Chinese restaurant manned by a miner’s daughter from Penistone and who wasn’t Chinese at all.
Incidentally, the washer-up plays a five-string bass guitar. Just sayin’
mawddach trail
In the morning, following a breakfast at Rosie’s Diner (I had the gut-buster) – team A eventually crossed the walkway and met Team B and we all marched off along the very beautiful but otherwise stultifying Mawddach Trail  - an old railway line which goes to Dolgellau without bothering any contours at all until the very end.
dolgellau camp - the ddddofe teams assemble
We camped at Dolgellau and were joined by Laura and Judith – our company now numbering eight and fully complete.
There was hot weather, windy weather and a lovely hill to come. But more of this a bit later…
Here’s a map of the intended Duke of Earl expedition route – we didn’t manage this for various reasons which will become clear in the next  breezy episode.
duke of earl full route
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Saturday 12 July 2014

Mickle Fell

alistair on top of mickle fell

There once was a time when climbing Mickle Fell was a simple matter of turning up on a non-firing day and walking there and back again. This was just after a much more complex situation where you had to apply for various permits – the important one being the one from Warcop  which ensured that you went on the right day and didn’t explode or anything.

Nowadays, another situation applies.

the red flag start

This morning I turned up at the Co Durham/Cumbria boundary where a folded red flag doesn’t fly and met Alistair Pooler, TGO challenger and bagger of Nuttals – the Nuttal in question today being Mickle Fell

Now to climb Mickle fell, what you have to do is complete a form applying for a permit. The range officer will sort out all the other permits and , if you’re nice , you’ll be able to climb Mickle Fell by one of two routes and only by those routes.

mickle fell in the distance

There’s a Northern route which goes from Cow Green and a Southern Route which goes from the Durham/Cumbria border. Return is via  the same route, although, I expect its OK to leave the area via the other route to wot you came up on.. er..if you catch my drift. Wandering off to visit a trig point or catch a ten pound note what’s just blown away is NOT ALLOWED. This is probably more to do with Elf and safety and/or the protection of certain ground –nesting birds encouraged for the fun of certain chinless over-remunerated fools who like to kill things for fun (By ground nesting birds, I refer specifically to certain chicken- sized red ones that shout for you to “go back” from whence you came and not any other ground –nesting birds such as curlews, skylarks, lapwings or mud parrots.)

Anyway, Alistair sorted all of this out, so I didn’t need to bother….

peeps going down (they musta set off early)

So we followed the fence up.

And we followed the fence down again.


It being a non-firing day, lots of other people headed up there too and, I expect, many jealously eyed the  specially lovely wild and open moors on either side of the authorised route and fantasised about long days of beautiful emptiness accompanied only by birdsong, the sound of the wuthering breeze  and the wondering about whether or not you left your headlights on….

the top

It was about seven and a half miles altogether and there’s a bit of a path all the way and the streams have footbridges, so it’s all nice and safe and easy. Apart from the prospect of being shelled if we’re late back, obviously. – But you’re supposed to ring the guardhouse when you set off and when you return. this is a little difficult due to there being no signal at the start, but Alistair rang them as soon as a signal popped up on his phone.

mickle fell's big corrie

It was a good day. Nice and warm and with reasonable views and afterwards, whilst I went shopping for my Wales hols next week, Alistair went off to bag the very lovely Bink Moss by the arduous North Arete and the notorious Hanging Couloir Des Grenouilles with it’s dangling and rattling 19th century Austrian corpses yet still not recovered. I made sure his pitons weren’t cracked before he set off.

Here’s a map.

mickle fell

Don’t try any other routes cos you’ll get into bother.

In the meantime, I’m off to Wales for a week, so there’ll be silence from the blog.

The class monitor (sneak) will report any noise, disruption, bad language, theft or  the expression of any unauthorised views or thoughts to me when I get back. So watch out.


Click Link to Donate – Incidentally, I’ve just registered for the 2014 Great North-East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay at the autumn equinox and I will keep my pants ON for a price. Otherwise, it’s all coming off and being dipped in the balmy North Sea,( at which point it will all probably disappear again. )Help buy me a hot water bottle and a thermal thong. Please help…. arrgh…. why did I do it again after last year?

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Cocklaw Fell to Kentmere Pike

if you want yr pics to have a bit of movement, put any figures in the left half. just a tip, there

There’s a lonely Birkett up by Sadgill called Cocklaw Fell, my very last Birkett tick in the Eastern fells and so, despite dire prognostications concerning thunderstorms and buffeting, me, The Bro and Ria set off from Sadgill to bag it, finding £1.11p on the road on the way. If anybody has lost £1.11p, they can apply to me for it’s return. Otherwise I’m keeping it along with other loose change to be donated to Mind whenever the bottle is full. If it is yours, send a cheque or postal order to Pietowers for £5 and you can have it back.

longsleddale from harold shipman knotts

herdy thinks Ria is her mum. But she isn't.

Cocklaw Fell itself is a small lump on the other side of a little bog full of Northern Marsh Orchids and Bog Asphodel. I doubt if many people go there.

After this we had a walk over Shipman Knotts (as a founder member of the Harold Shipman lookalike club, this was a bit of a pilgrimage for me) and then Kentmere Pike where it was sunny and a bit windy but not in a buffeting kind of way at all.

one of wren gills many holes

We descended by Wren Gill, a fascinating place full of holes and waterfalls and old industrial stuff in general – I think I should return here at some point for a good old full-day of radging around – probably with a headlight and a helmet, I should think.

ill bell, froswick ridge.

Oh yes, the other thing that happened was that we spotted Blackpool Tower from Shipman Knotts. This was too far away to come out on a picture, so I took a pic of Ill Bell instead.

And that was that.

I believe we did seven and a half miles and about 2300 feet of uphill.

It were grand.

Here’s a map.

kentmere pike


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