Sunday 28 September 2014

Weardale Abseiling (no, really…)

clints crag waterfall trying not to slide into the puddle

Its quite a long time since I abseiled anywhere.

clints crag However, the other afternoon, me and Lucky went off ooop Weardale, met Matt and wandered a couple of miles up by Ireshope Beck to Clints Crag. Clints Crag doesn’t show up much on OS maps, but it’s an interesting spot, full of nooks and crannies and little gorges and caves and all kinds of geological stuff.


looking up

The main crag’s abseiling potential is limited a bit by a general lack of nice, bomb-proof belays (essential if you’re out of practise) – but the main gorge – a dark and slippery place, gives a couple of slides of about 25 to 30 feet – the main waterfall being split by a large ledge which holds a  suspended pool with walls which give the same amount of grip as a lump of melting ice. I found this out on my little trip down the hole and ended up knee-deep in cold water.

at the bottom

We had one and a double half abseils (Matt had two, I had one) and left as the cloud began to envelop the local high tops and the Pennines began to look a bit more Pennine…..


Lucky didn’t think too much of being belayed to a rock and made to wait till we played and made lots of groaning and whining noises just to indicate boredom and disapproval.

We’re considering other spots for similar playtimes, though.


Quite good fun.

Note to self – next time take some butties….

smug mode


Saturday 27 September 2014

A Durham County Council Guided Walk and Reccy in Baldersdale

I’ll mainly let the pictures do the talking. We’ve done this walk before and, I daresay, we’ll do it again (probably next March…)
Me, Matt and Lucky and Mollie did the reccy about a week before the walk – which was on Wednesday.
It was damp and foggy and just the kind of day you often get in November.
We diverted from the route to have a look at Goldsborough.
approaching race yate
And then, on the day, 25 people turned up for the walk, including stewards Eric, Maria and Clare (no compulsory Dave this time…) and it was loverly and sunny and we stuck to the route.
Since they weren’t shooting on the Battle Hill ranges, we got into the ruins at West Loups’s (correct number of S’s here!) where we could get out of the nithering nature of the breeze and sit in the sun.
The route goes from Balderhead Reservour to Blackton Grange, Clove Lodge, South on the Pennine Way, East to Battle Hill ranges, Northish on the Bowes Loop to West Loups’s and then down to the reservoirs to follow the shorelines back to the start.
The walk is just a bit over 11 miles – me and Matt, Mollie and Lucky did 12.
rocks at Goldsborough
Matt and Mollie at Goldsborough
bovine luggoils
Nosey Cow
goldsborough from pennine way
Goldsborough from the PW path to Race Yate
rock art
Cup and Ring marked rocks near West Loups’s
west loups's
Heading for lunch at West Loups’s
goldsborough from west loups's
Goldsborough from West Loups’s
Top end of Blackton Reservoir
race yate

Monday 22 September 2014

Making a Splash at the North-East Skinny Dip

dippers escaping from the cold water - and press photographers

This should really be renamed as the “Great” North East Skinny Dip. Cos, it’s great, see..?

Dogless on this occasion, I parked the car prettily at the Druridge Bay visitor centre – not knowing that the parking venue had been changed, which is probably why there were no other cars there… and shouldering my pack, bimbled the couple of miles South along the bay till I came to two lasses cooking what appeared to be huge and fairly red burgers on a small campfire. I recognised this spot as the skinny dip venue and went a bit further South to some tank traps to find a place to bivi.

druridge bay at sunset

It was roughly at this point that it went dark…

Turned out not to be the skinny dip venue after all, but never mind – after some struggle with tent pegs that wouldn’t stay in  the soft sand, I managed to get the basha up by wrapping bungees around two tank traps – blew up the sleeping mat, rolled out the sleeping bag and bivi bag and settled down with a brew.

druridge bay

The night was occasionally cloudy and starlit and big waves were bashing the beach not too far away. Two or three tins of Guinness and a cheese butty later and I was in bye-bye land. I expect it was probably about nine o’clock. There’s nothing like an early night. It was a peaceful night, apart from the sand fleas which were jumping all over the place. They don’t bite, though, although they do commit suicide in your coffee.

basha bivi

At about four, I decided it was time for brekkies and brewed some coffee and sandfleas. Brekkies was a healthy and rather huge Bakewell cake (too big to be a tart) from Peggotty’s Cafe and Bakery in Wolsingham – a donation from my daughter who was visiting from bonnie Scotland. (I feel that I must commend Peggotty’s cakes to all those who  1) enjoy a nice cake and 2) pass through Wolsingham. They’re delicious and very generously sized….. 

Soon, a bright light appeared from the North – a lad from somewhere or other seeking the skinny dip venue. We wandered North to where I thought it was. But it wasn’t Then , seeing lights further South, we headed that way instead. And there it was.


Gradually, in the first hints of a cold and grey dawn, a silent and nervous crowd gathered.

As the light strengthened we were asked to take our places behind some stakes  containing numbers – 1 to 10. A few people stripped off at this point. And a little way away, a film crew launched their spy-in-the- sky – a sort of small helicopter with a camera on it.

And then everybody was naked and doing warm-up exercises and a count-down from ten to go and we all ran the 100 metres or so into the foaming surf.

dippin-and a-screamin

The sea wasn’t as cold as last year, I think – but was quite rough and there were big waves and there was lots of gasping and screaming and laughing.

I think I probably managed five minutes. Others didn’t manage as long as that and yet others seemed to be in there for half an hour. I’m not sure how they do that.

I got dressed, wandered up the beach to my bivi, which turned out to be about 250 metres away, packed up and left to find notices on my car saying that the main gate was locked and detailing how to get let out and that it would re-open at 08:00. As it was 08:30 by now, I wasn’t too bothered. The gate was still locked, though.

flying camera (top right of pic!)

I did get out, though, which is probably why I’m now sitting at home typing this, innit?

As an experience, this was just as fab as last year – and a bit bizarre  - I mean to say, 300 people standing around shivering on a North-Sea beach at dawn and then suddenly stripping off all clothing and rushing screaming into cold and salty – and boisterous water whilst being filmed and photographed by various meejah types (who were all very nice, by the way)  and it they’d all got their pics and reports out on internet versions of their papers by lunchtime.

For some, it’s quite routine to do this kind of thing – but for others – the brave ones – it’s a seriously major step to strip off in public and with cameras everywhere. Bless ‘em. I’m somewhere in between the two poles, I think although I do have a strong aversion to cold water specially when it rushes towards you in a big, grey wall from a host of bare bums and almost takes you away – coldly… brrrrr…

Will I do it again?

Course – but next time, I think a bivi-bag would be better than a basha.

All proceeds went to Mind and the National Trust on who’s land and beach the dip takes place.



Click logo to donate via my Virgin Money Giving page

Friday 19 September 2014

Skinny Dip Time Again!


Ice bucket challenge? Don’t make me larf……. 

Anyway, I’ve not mentioned this all that much this year, but Sunday is the third North East Skinny Dip in aid of Mind and the National Trust.

Apparently about two hundred people have signed up which could mean that with last-minute turn-ups (definitely nothing to do with trousers here) the numbers running screaming into the sea, and shivering uncontrollably back out again quite soon afterwards could  be around three hundred. For anatomical statisticians, that’s probably about four hundred thousand goose pimples.


The event starts at 5:30 am (yes folks, there’s two 5:30’s in a day nowadays) at Druridge bay in bonny Northumberland and the actual acts of madness  bravery will happen at exactly sunrise.

Apparently this year it’s being filmed as part of a feature in the programme Tales from Northumberland and there’s every chance that Robson Green’s bum will be featured hurtling into the foaming briny.

As for me, I did it last year and got sponsors and made nearly £400 for Mind and the National Trust.

This year I’m doing it again but with a few small strategic changes.


Firstly, I got the runaround big time last year by Co Durham’s rebuilding works at several important roundabouts and it took me ages to get there – and I walked four miles down the beach in the dark and four miles back again. Actually, this bit wasn’t so bad.

But this year, I’m setting off on Saturday with the basha and brewing-up equipment and will bivi somewhere close by this saving the stress of dealing with the Western bypass at 3:00 am when I should be in Kylieland and thus will enter the water fully refreshed and not suddenly awoken by the, frankly, freezing and shocking experience of some lass splashing me back with North Sea. (aaargh)


Readers may also recall that a visit to Druridge Bay with a cheapo football to chase, burst and shred was possibly the only successful bit about Bruno’s bucket list. I did a walk with Mick and his three little doglets and the dog in particular enjoyed the whole thing. (I can’t thank Mick enough for coming along with me on this jaunt by the way). I also had a visit to Druridge later in the year with Dawn during her walk up the Northumberland coast and I commented at the time that nobody should visit Druridge without a dog. Well, I’m not taking the new dog on this trip – too many distractions, and there’s no telling what kind of trouble he could get into. I’ll take him later…  But there’s little doubt that the wrinkles and wobbly bits of other dippers will likely be no distraction for me when I’m remembering Superdawg


And I haven’t done anything about sponsors as this doesn’t really fit in with my current policy of nowt for owt (still two medium t-shirts left by the way)

click here 

arsenal cakearsenal cake

Sinister    (Left)                   Dexter (Right)

BUT, if anybody does feel like adding the odd spondoolie of their hard-earned (anything from just the one pound upwards), you can access my virgin money giving page by clicking the left buttock in the picture above.  All of the money going into this account goes to Mind by the way, only my entry fees (£10) are split between Mind and the National Trust. Actually, for the shy, clicking anywhere on the picture works, or, alternatively, there’s a couple of images of a cake (left and right) made to celebrate the progress of Arsenal football club. Unfortunately there wasn’t room on the cake for the full wording “Arsenal FC” to appear, but we did our best. OK, it’s an old picture….

Readers would, of course, be more than welcome to join in  in this slightly bizarre but enervating experience and you can register on the beach or on-line here  and there’s also details about where to go etc. 

More info on is on the Skinny dip facebook page which is here





Tuesday 16 September 2014

Three More Dislocations in Eskdale

lucky spots a wainwright 

On Friday, I put up another tent, loaded it with stuff and abandoned everything for a wander up Eskdale using, mainly, the Eskdale Trail which basically wanders up Eskdale as far as Jubilee Bridge where,on approaching from a great distance, I spotted an ice cream van, or perhaps a mobile bacon butty and hot tea establishment. Unhappily for me, or , maybe, happily for the cardiac arteries, it turned out to be an Outward Bound bus. Bugger.  Me and the dog had squirty cheese and oatcakes instead. It wasn’t the same, though.

near  tongue pot

We continued our wander up into a more scenic and rocky landscape (see the intro page of Alan Rayner’s blog to see what it really looks like – it was far too dull today and hazy for any decent pictures.


At the first flat bit at the entrance to the Great Moss, and quite close to the path to Scafell Pike, I put up the akto, brewed up, had lunch and then me and the pooch had a nice long snooze in the warm tent whilst the River Esk burbled and talked to itself quite close by……   ZZzzzzzzzzz

A couple of twitchy dog dreams later, involving running whilst not getting anywhere – it’d be about six o’clock by now, I suppose, me and the dog set off for a stroll.

scar laithing

First we strolled over a little outlier of the Birkett Scar Lathing. This was a mistake. I was supposed to bag the thing but cut down a wide gully to disturb some campers in the little corrie below before I should have done. I thought it went easily… dhuhh…

from throstlehow garth

Pretending that I knew what I was doing – I went on to climb the grassy slopes of Throstlehow Crag – another Birkett and which gives a fine view of the top bit of Eskdale just as it lurches up a steep bit next to all the waterfalls.

We returned to Scar lathing by a crag-avoiding route around the back and repaired to the akto for dinner and dreamy snoozy sleepy times.

At about nine o’clock, or so, I became aware of engine noises and peered out into a beautiful moonlit starry night to witness a helicopter hurtling by just overhead. It circled the corrie several times, hovered over Mickledore for a bit then went away.

Later it came back again for another six or seven circuits. And then again for a third time. Its one of the noisiest nights I’ve had for a while….. morning...

A fine and sunny morning lit up the tent somewhat later and me and the dog had our breakfast and wandered off to bag High Gait Crags. This is another Birkett stuck on the extensice South ridge of Esk Pike – a wonderful way up that particular hill – full of great views and rocky knobbles and lumps – and very quiet.

bowfell from high gait crag

I was going to bag Pike de Bield – another top a little further up the ridge, but decided to leave it for another day and we returned to the tent for another brew and a walk back down to Fisherground.

walking out

Somehow I missed the turnoff for the valley path and ended up yet again outside the Woolpack with a pint of Red Pike. I had another to celebrate and wandered down to the Boot Inn where, fearing that I might be dehydrating somewhat, I took the sensible, careful and healthy course of having another two pints. It was a very warm day.

deja vu...

Even later, I managed to somehow find myself once more in the George IV (King of Prussia) where not only did I acquire beer, but also a large portion of steak and ale pie (I was a bit concerned that the squirty cheese I’d been eating might not contain enough protein, so I had to do the healthy thing.)

We slept well.

On Sunday I came home.

I’d intended to do this trip in August, but the craving for a new dog got the better of me and I put it off till now. I’m quite glad I did, really. And the dog loves it inside the tent and generally behaves very well although he doesn’t ever want to get up in the mornings….

eskdale wild camp


More Navigational Challenges in Eskdale

stony tarn from whin crag

And so, it was Thursday and we repaired once again to the little car park by Wha House.

Bag number one was close by – Goat Crag – a brackeny,  rocky lump typical of the brackeny rocky lumps that bejewel the sides of Eskdale, in fact. There was some slight scrambling. Lucky enjoys slight scrambling, apparently although he occasionally runs too far up a slab before falling off.

looking down on bull crag

Goat Crag has a sister  - one Bull Crag. Bull Crag is slightly smaller, and only a couple of hundred metres away but is packed with excitements. Bull Crag has crags on three sides – some look quite difficult, but many appear to be eminently scramble – or, at least by easy graded rock climbs (by “Easy”, I mean “Difficult” and it’s possible that only rock climbers will understand what I mean. I mean “Difficult” is fairly easy. It only gets difficult at “Very Difficult” and only very difficult at “Very Severe”. This may be open to some debate. Anyway, me and the dog skulked around the back. Lucky is good at skulking due to his collie genes.


We then progressed over more mixed ground to the very lovely and superbly perched above a little blue tarn Whin Crag. There is no whin on Whin Crag, so you don’t have to pay (No Whin no fee… arf…sorry, it’s the ,merlot… koff….) Its a lovely spot, though, even though the actual top marked on the map doesn’t actually appear to be the top.

slight side

Upwards to Dawsonground Crag at 397 metres. Another rocky jewel with a small cairn and an ideal spot for a pre-lunch snooze, followed by lunch, followed by a post-lunch snooze in the warm sun. Readers should note that it’s always warm and sunny on Dawsonground Crag.

Next – across a small depression, treated by a few sessions of cognitive therapy, came Cat Crag where there are no cats either.. This is yet another rocky lump with a cracking view (will this joy never cease?) (Who said that…?). From Cat Crag, the next target looked a long way. No, I mean a LONG way. With a lot of up. I mean it looked hard, what with my legs and everything…

upper eskdale from high scarth crag

High Scarth Crag at 487 metres would be the highpoint of the day. It had a footpath heading towards it. This would make easier going for a while. I encouraged Lucky to go in front and engage “pull” mode by using encouraging words concerning pussycats, wabbits, sweeties and biccies. This didn’t work. he has no idea what I’m on about, in fact, and probably just thinks I’m indulging in some senile rambling. Any human witnesses would probably form the same opinion but there was no-one else around. In fact I only met one other walker yesterday, come to think of it.

lucky on silverybield

The slog continued. I left the path at a boulder and took to the slopes of High Scarth Crag. It was easier than it looked and as I reached the top, I was provided by a superb surprise view of the huge and beautiful corrie which has the Scafells on one side and the Crinkles on the other.

Sometimes you’re really really glad you made the effort.

environs of high scarth/silverybield

High Scarth Crag was a bugger to get off safely and in the correct direction for Silverybield Crag, although I did make a bit of a meal of it and really should have just followed the ridge along to a small corrie. I crossed another path and heaved my aching legs up the few steep contours of Silverybield. Another superb view presented itself. Yet another.

the abandoned knobby ridge

From Silverybield, heading South, there’s a knobbly ridge containing five large rocky knolls. This was my intended route, but, frankly, I was shot. There was little left in the little legs and Lucky seemed to be feeling a bit jaded too – although its a bit difficult to tell since he falls asleep every time I stop.

lucky's comfy rock

So, feeling somehow guilty, I abandoned the lovely knobbly ridge for another time (I don’t expect its going anywhere faster than the current rate of continental drift) and took to the nice, easy footpath heading South.

The easy ground let me recover a bit and finally, I decided on one last top – Brock Crag. We circumnavigated a herd of cud-chewing Galloways (Lucky had a little growl) and contoured around to the top. On the Southern edge of this hill came the last surprise view – a fantastic vista of the length of Eskdale. Unfortunately, it was getting really hazy, so the picture I took doesn’t look much.

eskdale from brock crag

I celebrated by skidding on the stones on the steep path and landing on my backside, pinging the retractable lead into Lucky’s bum at the same time, and with a clatter and an “Hoy!” or something, scared the dog witless.

At this point I made some kind of really serious navigational error and found myself once again in the beer garden of the Woolpack Inn clutching a pint of cold lager shandy. I must have gone round in a circle somehow. It happens. In the mist.

Today’s walk outline spells the word “Onomatopoeia”. Quite a complex route.

Eight tops, though…   a simplified version of the route appears below.

goat crag etc