Saturday 28 February 2015

Me and the Pooch Go Camping

borrowdale 2 027

There was a certain amount of unfinished business at Rosthwaite, so me and the dog went back. The campsite was closed, or, at least, locked but this didn’t deter us from putting up the tent and the farmer came, declared that I must be mad and charged me nine quid for three nights. It would have been four, but there was a storm involving drifting snow and closed roads on the Monday, so there was some slight delay…

eagle crag and dog

eagle crag 

And so, Wednesday dawned wetly. The wetness went on most of the morning so, after consulting the dog, we decided to have a longer snooze than we should have done and eventually, when the last drips of drizzle had splattered the tent, we set off, up through Stonethwaite and on up the impossibly steep path towards Dock Tarn.

summit of knotts

temporary tarn great crag

At the part where it levels off a bit, we turned left for the bagging of Knotts, a 400 metre TuMP where, it seems, nobody goes, specially not Wainwright or any of his fans and acolytes. This turned out to be an error, however – we should have turned right. (dhuhh) Thus, we missed the bagging of High Crag, which was definitely on my List Of Things To Bag, in favour of Great Crag, which wasn’t , as I’d already been there.

great crag smug dog

It was such a nice walk, though, so far, and Great Crag – a Wainwright (more dhuhhh) has a cracking view. Innocently, and forgetting that I’d already been here some thirty years ago, I congratulated myself, kissed the dog, embraced the summit cairn and severely damaged a  Warburton’s Thin thing, charged, as it was, with some Mackerel with a twist.

to the pub!

The rest of the walk was rubbish. The path goes North through an area of lank grass, of no use to man nor beast, bog, (frogs quite like bogs, I suppose) and dying heather – a sloppy. squelchy walk over a poor landscape of which the National Trust should be ashamed to have allowed to deteriorate into this mess, frankly.

I pointed Lucky towards the Riverside Bar at Rosthwaite for a brief moment of celebration for the bagging of two new hills. Lucky likes this pub for it’s warm fire and the fact that everybody seems to like him there – the barmaid even knows his name. She doesn’t know mine, though!

lucky's favourite place in cumbria

Except, I’d only bagged one…

lucky caught ripping up a shredded wheat packet

It chucked it down big time from about six at night till well after  Thursday lunchtime, melting much fell snow and turning rivers and streams into raging rivers and streams. This meant that me and Lucky got lots of sleep. I read more Beowulf and sipped scotch whilst Lucky ripped up bits of paper between bouts of doggy snoring and doggy  running and yelping dreams.

view from castlehead

from castlehead

black crag (I once climbed this!)

So, it was late when we set off for Keswick for the bagging of Castlehead and Grange Crags – both of which provide superb views for very little effort – thus three ticks for the trip – I thought I had four – and I missed my little Birkett, stuck, as it is on the side of Glaramara and permanently in hill-fog. It’ll wait. I’ll do it later with a proper walk along Glaramara and Allen Crags.

Lucky did get four ticks by the way – he’d never been up Great Crag.  There’s nothing worse than a smug dog.

Couple more pics below…

from grange crags

jaws of borrowdale

Sunday 22 February 2015


Intermission – there will be a short pie-based one whilst I nick off to the Lakes for a few days. Me and Lucky will be camping. The weather is ‘orrible. This may end up with a lot of sleeping and drinking of tea etc. I’ve just bought a little radio for £4.50 in Asda. My record with radios is not good – I’ve never had one that really works when I’m camping, but I still buy them. I should have a sale, really…..   In the meantime, a member of staff will visit this auditorium with a range of delicious iced refreshments and cold kia-ora at stupidly outrageous prices. or you could just nip out for a wee.

Back Friday by the way.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Wythop – Five Out of Four’s Not bad

can't go this way

The plan was to drive to Braithwaite, quickly bag Braithwaite How, drive to where the Swan Hotel used to be (site of the celebration of the completion of my final Wainwright in 1981 by the way) = er, where was I… oh yes, bag Powter How, then drive a bit further and bag Ladies Table and the diminutive Birkett Burthwaite Heights and then come home for a brief period of celebration.

It was Not To Be.

causey pike from braithwaite how

The first two Hows went well enough – and very nice they were too, specially Braithwaite How which has pretty much open access and appears to be some kind of huge childrens playground (i.e. a big playground, not a playground for giant kids…)

cant go this way either

Then I found that the Forestry Commission, in their quest to turn their trees (aka our trees) into electricity had closed all of the footpaths and forestry rides, so, not only could I not access the Ladies Table, but a walk to Burthwaite Heights would be circuitous and very very long…  and probably not very nice either.

So, I drove off in a huff…. actually, its an Audi A4, but it looks like a huff.

wide open spaces

Then I found this gently tilted and, above-all, free parking area just next to Brumston Bridge – in easy bagging distance of Burthwaite Heights – so I bagged it easily, finding gates in all the right places and following a couple of other baggers up the path (yes folks, there’s a path) to the summit area – which is undulating and gently grassy to such an extent that the highest point is somewhat in doubt.

I decided, at this point that two other hillocks just over there ----->  could also be bagged and yet more gates were in the right places for access, except I did have to climb just the one fence.

view from harrot

And so, we bagged Embleton High Common and Harrot – with it’s fine view of the Northern end of the High Stile/Red Pike ridge.

My old map didn’t have the farm buildings by Gray Beck and the yards were full of some very fat looking sheep. The farmer was friendly, though and she assured me that I could pass through with no problems so I did.

I returned to the knipemobile via some quiet lanes and a bit of a bridleway and made ten miles altogether.

lucky's not interested in barky dogs

Lucky met two sheep dogs by one farm and four more later on. His strategy of lunging at barking dogs which has so far either sent them packing or made them pretend to be doing something else didn’t work on the second occasion and something of a cross-fence face-off ensued with the little idiot finally deciding that he needed to sniff some grass instead of being a bad boy.

In the end, I planned to bag four hills and actually bagged five.

I’ve also registered Lucky as a hill-bagging site user, and his total so far is 80 hills bagged - more than me this year so far, because he’s newly bagged a few hills I’ve already been up (e.g. Cross Fell) and you only count the new ones, innit?

I let him drive home, obviously.


Sunday 15 February 2015

Wolsingham Wayfarers Wander in Weardale

thornley 005

Me and Lucky joined another Wolsingham Wayfarers walk from Wolsingham city centre along with 21 huming beans and five or six dogs. This is all good stuff for The Pooch since it gets him socialised both to people (he’s pretty friendly with people anyway) and other dogs (this is a bit more of an issue). However, he seems to remember his previous encounters with individual canines and is much less bothered the second time around in fact, he does have some Crook Dog Club pals whom he greets nicely.

black banks

So, on a mild and squishy Saturday, we all set off along the riverside path to Black Banks and then over the river through the paintballing woods, where a bit of a war was happening, to Thornley. All good, clean (mucky) fun so far.

river wear

At Thornley there was a collie dog on a chain which was making aggressive overtures to anybody passing by – all just out of reach due to a long chain. Lucky, however, decided to make a lunge for the dog at which point the collie thought better of being aggressive in Lucky’s direction. Lucky , I think, was quite lucky, although this is, perhaps the third time he’s altered the behaviour of a  bigger farm dog. I worry that one day his strategy won’t work and he’ll come out with lumps of him missing. In the meantime, it’s three out of three – it seems that most dogs don’t really want to mix it with a little black maniac. I must say that I’m not sure what to do about this – on the one hand, it would be best if he wasn’t so feisty about big barking dogs, but on the other hand, he does need to be able to look after himself should a scrap develop. He’s just too willing to wade in at the moment and gives no warning about what he’s going to do – he just does it- and so far, it’s certainly put the willies up the farmyard doggies and has taken me by surprise, too. I need to be more vigilant, but a loose farm dog appearing suddenly from an outbuilding may well be at some risk.



On the upside, after we’d visited the excellent Bradley Burn Farm Shop and cafe click the link!  for a nice cuppa, we wandered along the North bank of the River Wear, where Lucky could be off the lead most of the way. I experimented with his recall and on all occasions, when I called for him, he came scuttling back enthusiastically. This is excellent. I’m quite chuffed, not to say, gruntled with this and, obviously, I made my feelings known to the dog.

along the wear

holly in the river

As for the walk – all good fun and good company too. Wolsingham Wayfarers do a cracking job keeping Wolsingham’s rights of way open and useable and their dog-friendly walks are Just The Thing for a driech and misty February Saturday.

The walk was ten and a half muddy miles in misty conditions which brightened up significantly in the afternoon. It felt like spring. I bet it wasn’t.

Click here for more info on Wolsingham Wayfarers  wolsingham wayfarers website


Friday 13 February 2015

Cheviot TUMPS Darkly

scottish cheviots

On hearing the news that Beowulf was to be filmed over a period of five years (five years?) in a quarry in Weardale, I decided, completely at random and with absolutely no link to this even at all to visit some Cheviot Tumps and then to unload my word hoard in this ‘ere blog….

And so, as per tradition, me and Grendel  The Pooch set off a bit late for doing this kind of thing, but there being absolutely no speed cameras on the English part of the A68, we did, in fact, arrive in reasonable time. The car park at the foot of Buckhams Walls burn was occupied by a couple of dozen heavily armed soldiers being gently chided about the state of their bayonets.

yearning law 001 yearning law 002

So, I saddled up the pup and climbed the closely packed contours onto the ridge which leads , in fairly short order to the green, lumpy and pleasant summit of Yearning Law. I’d walked past Yearning Law loads of times but never thought to visit the top. Lucky mentioned that it seemed to be going well so far and had a nice little roll in the snow. Lucky has a very favourable attitude concerning snow.


So we plodded on – hitting more snow, this time deeply and softly inserted between lumpy tussocks. This soon began to feel like hard work, but we bashed on manfully and dogfully to the Border ridge which was occupied by a dozen or so shaggy goats.

The Pennine Way hereabouts is a line of Lancashire sandstone mill slabs and now these were slick with thawing ice – the very slippiest kind of ice, in fact. Its not really possible to walk on this stuff with any kind of dignity, so I walked just off to the side where the heather and the bogs were. We ground it out.

callaw cairn

lunch spot

At a certain kink in the border fence, we hopped over into Scotland and descended yet  more heather, tussocks and soft snow, sometimes, randomly, hard snow and thence up to the ancient Callaw Cairn – a Sub-Donald-Dewey (yes , I know…) and an excellent place to scoff a cornish pasty and a bonio with fox-poo afters and to gaze at the view whilst shivering a bit.

We bashed our way back up to the Border ridge and on to Beefstand Hill, abandoning any ideas concerning the bagging of Philip Shank, but , instead, head for Broadside Law, which was on the way back to the car.

yearning law 010

There was a deer fence in the way with a padlocked gate. I bundled the dog over the top and lowered him down using his lead and his Ruffwear harness. I don’t believe he enjoyed this much. Once inside the fence, there were newly planted trees and the very worst kind of lank moorgrass possible, generously interspersed with that damned soft wet snow again. A struggle for progress developed into a struggle just to stand up straight between plunges into knee-deep snow overlying black and cold bogwater. Lucky learned some new words. Anglo-Saxon Words. You know the ones I mean.

lucky seen from the top of the deer fence

We joined a “footpath” – hah!  and met a ladder stile back over the fence. Once more Lucky was heaved up and lowered off. The ground eased a bit till finally, with the final few cornish pasty calories pumping into the bloodstream, we acheived the summit of Broadside Law. Phew.

view from broadside law

The return was simple – a steep descent, sloppy path, footbridge and farm and 700 metres of tarmac. A  new crowd of troops were waiting in the car park for their transport. They looked knackered. And so did I.

Good for the soul, though. Probably.



Wednesday 11 February 2015

Bluecaster Blues

driech, y'see...

You’d have thought that with a name like “Bluecaster”, there’d be a roman fort or something – but no, apparently not. There is, however a roman road running along it’s Eastern edge and me and the pooch used it for a short distance to get a purchase on this obscure and boggy hillock.

And it was foggy, too, so we made the most of it by making a pig’s ear of a bit of navigation. But eventually, we found the top by using  a traditional Yorkshire Dales navigational technique – that of walking at right angles to the contours, or “uphill” as it’s known in the navigator’s dictionary of navigational wotsits.

bluecaster 001

This proved effective and soon a diminutive cairn loomed, as best it could, out of the gloom. Lucky was unimpressed and ate the last bit of snow on the top.



So, we walked North, intending to have a look at Uldale, as opposed to going up on the tops on Baugh Fell, where it seemed unlikely that there’d be much of a view. The gloom, in fact, got a bit gloomier. So, we had a small potter around Uldale’s deep gill, which has some rather nice waterfalls, but it was all a bit driech and dribbly today and so, we crossed a footbridge just below Needle House and followed the road back to the Rawthey where a very pleasant rambling path took us back to the start through bits of woodland, Narthwaite farm where Lucky decided to try to dominate a little collie pup until faced with a well-built and very assertive farm collie , which, luckily for Lucky was quite a nice dog and a small ford where Lucky demonstrated his dislike of wet paws by tiptoeing across on stones… 


careful now... 

We did 8 miles. Uldale would be much better seen on a nice, warm and sunny summer afternoon rather than a driech and misty February lunchtime.


Sunday 8 February 2015

Wednesday Walkers Walk Cross Fell on Saturday

lucky on cross fell

For some reason I mistimed my journey to Kirkland and turned up a bit late. Cumbria was cold and a bit icy and in deep fog. Lucky’s plan to stay in bed all day seemed like a good one in the circumstances, except that on breasting the Pennine ridge just by Hartside cafe, the  snowy Lake District hills were floating on a sea of cloud and , it appeared, that we were, in fact, in for a bit of a treat.

murky below sunny above

that spectre is brocken

And so it was. We seven set off in the gloom and soon popped out into blue skies and warm (ish) sunshine. Graeme’s mobile weather station recorded a  temperature of 14C. 14c??! As the sweat dripped off my forehead,  I had to remove a layer. This was a bit of a contrast to last week’s brutally cool ascent of Cross Fell. And at one point, I spotted a Brocken Spectre. The pic is a bit vague, unfortunately… but you can just make it out.

popping out of the fog


And Cross Fell was busy. There was another big group numbering in the high twenties, all very friendly, some hares and some tortoises – and one or two other small groups. We all filed our way up the bridleway, following ATV tracks which had hardened a corridor of snow to make it all a bit easier.

lucky near the top

striding edge from cross fell!

All of this was done under  bright blue skies with the backdrop of the Lake District fells, the Solway hills in the North and the Howgills in the South and a sea of grey cloud beneath. The big corrie on Helvellyn was easy to pick out and Graeme’s zoomed picture above shows Striding Edge.


them (some of them anyway)

Soon, or at least, eventually, we arrived at the top where it wasn’t so warm. So , after group photos (they took ours, we took theirs!), we left for Tees Head. A few of the big group tagged along with us for ease of navigation whilst others of their number went off to bag the Dun Fells in a heroic but far-too-energetic-for-their-own-good bid for whatever it was possessed them to do it…! Anyway, its the first time I’ve managed to double the numbers on a walk….

towards the howgills

lucky about to plunge into clouds

And so, after a few slips and trips in the now slushy snow, which was badly fixed down to the grass on this side, we descended back into the gloomy Eden valley and our cars back at Kirkland city centre.

Our nominated pub was closed and up for sale, so we improved our post-walk drinkies a bit by visiting the Cumberland Arms in Alston which was dog-friendly, had a nice fire and a selection of tasty beers.

cross felll sunset

And in the end, there was the sunset. As I arrived at Killhope Cross, there were three cars there, all with their occupants snapping the sunset. So I stopped too, and so did Graeme. (Four of Graeme’s pics appear in this very post)

WE did 9 miles which, oddly, was a mile further than me and Matt had done, but we parked up the lane a bit and took two sraight-line shortcuts. Some of our snowshoe tracks were still there! And somehow I managed to lose one of the steel rings off one of my khatoola’s. I need to mend that somehow before I go on any more ice.

cross fell