Thursday 26 March 2015

Talkin About Geltsdale

cairns and crossbred collie on talkin fell

When I let Lucky out of the drawbridge around the back of Pietowers, he took a peek at the snowflakes and the grey sky, shivered in the nithering breeze for a second, then turned tail and went back to bed. As for me, I took consolation in another few coffees, some toast and a visit to will it rain today? to see if the snow had stopped snowing in the West. And it had..

tindale tarn - a peri-glacial kettle

Eventually, the sky brightened slightly so I wrestled Lucky into his harness thingy and we set off for Hallbankgate at the very very top end of the Pennine Chain. Here, we parked very prettily in the Geltsdale Nature reserve car park and went off to bag the diminutive Tump, Tortie Hill 296 metres of tussocky tussocks but with a nice view of Tindale Tarn.  We returned to the knipemobile to get out of the wind and to scoff the pasty (we’d set off late to allow the Weardale snow to melt off the roads).

talkin fell from whinny hill

After this, a long tramp past Forest head brought us to Whinny Hill – a steep little beggar and a bit higher at 336 metres and with a nice view of the Solway Firth. As this is bigger than Tindale Tarn, it’s much better, see?  This involved climbing a wall twice. Happily it didn’t fall down.

talkin fell cairns

crossing talkin fell

talkin fell summit

A short road walk found a gate and a well-worn path through old coal workings (there was coal in the mine spoil!) and up steeply to the very fine summit of Talkin Fell.  This one’s distinctiveness took me by surprise in that not only did it have a much better view of the Solway than Whinny -  and some snow-covered Scottish hills in the far distance as a bonus, but it also had a huge collection of well-built cairns. Nine Standards? Pah! There’s about seventeen standards up here, plus, plus, mind, a fine selection of holes and lumps so handy for sheltering in the sunshine from the brutal gale coming off the Solway, the better to eat a curd tart with some degree of dignity – that is to say, without shivering violently. Being out of the wind, and much warmer, Lucky soaked up a bit of sun. Lucky likes sun. I could spend a day snoozing on Talkin Fell, I think, but on a better day.


The final bag appeared to be a rough and heathery lump across a boggy pass and defended by a four foot wall. Lucky scrambled over the wall with ease and I bumbled my way over it, balancing precariously on a bit of fencing for a while till I’d managed to find a toehold for a toe…. Climbing over walls without causing it to collapse and crush yer vitals or without a disastrous bone-cracking tumble from the top gets more difficult when you have your senior citizen’s bus pass y’know. Just at the point where your life is drifting into it’s final few winters, you suddenly get more cautious when logic would seem to say that there’s not much point in caution when there’s less lifetime to be lost by a lack of bravery than, say, when you’re twenty. Maybe I should just drink more.


The bog wasn’t too bad, though and wasn’t too deep or wide and was without any crocodiles or similar and we found  an easy  path which went up at first then skirted a line of small outcrops along the edge, revealing various hidey-holes and shelters and stuff…

The summit cairn was hidden in rough heather. Simmerson Fell was the fourth and final bag of the day.

We returned via an old railway line leading to Howgill after just seven miles and 1100 feet of up. A nice little walk. Smug mode, in fact.

Here’s a link to the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale – quite wonderful and well-worth spending time here

Map below.



Monday 23 March 2015

Wales Border Backpack – Kerry Ridgeway and Other Places

frosty morning at pool hill
The Swansea train from Shrewsbury insinuates itself through Shropshire and into Powys just a few times each day and many of the stations are Very Small and you have to tell the guard that you want to get off. One such station is Llangullno also known as Llangynllno – a station apparently in the back yard of a couple of cottages with no sign apparent that there’s a station there and which is almost impossible for a Saxon to pronounce (actually, I think I’m probably more Anglian than Saxon, but we should let that pass as probably irrelevent.) (It’s the LL “thll” sound following a consonant thats hard by the way)
spaniel hiding from twat.
pool hill camp
And so me and JJ alighted and set off in the correct direction for Beacon Hill, being slightly distracted by some baldy brute out with his family beating up a small spaniel pup and the bagging of an intermediate Dewey, Pool Hill. This took just enough time to persuade us that five pm was late enough to set up a camp , which we did, just next to frog city, a small pool, which I suppose may have been the subject of the name of the heathery hill nearby.
A cold and frosty night followed, to the music  of many froglings ribbetting in the puddle. This stopped as the pond froze over.
sheep forming patterns beacon hill
jj seeing to a wobbly signpost

In the morning we passed over Beacon Hill – another heathery lump but this time a Marilyn and down the other side to Glyndwr’s Way which we followed to Felindre where the pub was closed till 7:00 pm. Unfortunately. I would have waited, obviously, but there were Things To Do, so we pressed on into England where we met pigs and brewed for lunch. It was sunny. It was nice. You should really try this sometime if you haven’t already done so.
climbing to the kerry ridgeway
More progress was made through the gently rolling Shropshire lambing fields to Anchor where the pub was actually permanently closed. I would have waited, but… er…  This is a shame because Anchor is the starting point of a cross-Wales walk and, presuming that some people might finish at Anchor, could have been a bit of a marketing ploy had somebody thought of it. Too late now, though.
kerry ridgeway sign
We joined the Kerry Ridgeway at Kerry Pole, about two-thirds of the way along it’s length. The Kerry Ridgeway is long and straight and ancient and follows a distinct ridgeline from Bishop’s Castle to Cider Cottage. According to infoboards along the way, it pre-dates the Iron Age, which is quite old in terms of oldness, I suppose. It is very easy walking and , I expect that views Northwards would be both huge and beautiful but unfortunately, today it was a  bit hazy.
ridgeway camp
I’d spotted a camping spot by map and, happily, this turned out to be quite a good spot with water, flat(ish) grass and no witnesses. Another frosty night followed.
Readers may have noticed that so far our weather has been unusually benign for a Knipe camping trip and we’d had almost continuous , if hazy sunshine, light winds and just a hint of warmth. Nothing dramatic was happening at all…
Except, the next morning, the sun went dim and the landscape took on a sepia tinge. An American tied to a stake in a castle courtyard some miles away announced to a baying crowd of knights, damsels and peasants that unless they let him go, he would cause the moon to block out the sun, which subsequently happened in short order. This lead to the crowd, and, more importantly, the KIng, to believe that he was a powerful magician, thence to his release, his marriage to a beautiful princess and the introduction of hamburgers and coca-cola to the mediaeval diet.
me on glog jj on glog
Meanwhile, I’d just had some porridge and we marched off towards the West and the end of the Kerry Ridgeway, bagging a small but shapely hill on the way – one Glog – easily bagged from the Kerry Ridgeway and with a fine vista Northwards too.
We battered our way  further Westwards, up onto a North-South ridge containing both Pegwn Mawr, another Marilyn, and a huge and ancient windfarm where the rusty turbines creaked and moaned in the breeze, some barely able to turn at all, bearings whistling and clunking loudly. Here is where turbines go in their final days. A nurse visits sometimes, apparently, to see if they’re all right, give them a bit of a possing with a warm soapy flannel  and enquire if their families have visited yet…..
me love trig - pegwn mawr
This bit of windfarmery is buggerred , it seems, so they’re going to build another one next to it, apparently. The locals are miffed about this in no small way, it would seem, according to posters supported by comments in the cafe in Caersws.
improving scenery
But we stalked along the wide ridge, bagging a small and heathery lump on the way and descended in improving scenery to the edge of the open access where another camping spot had been identified on the map. This turned out to be a rubbish spot – too much bracken, too sloppy, and too open to the local shepherd who would have to visit his very pregnant ewes that evening, and , probably again in the morning. This is Wales, not Scotland, y’know. YOu can’t just camp anywhere….
last camp
JJ suggested that we find a more secluded, not to say, discrete spot further down the road, which is what we did, and we found a nice little places by a burbling beck not too far away. We were undisturbed through the night, although there was a brief visit from a jim-jam dressed lady in the morning having a bit of a constitutional before brekkies (I suppose)
poster in caersws tearoom
Another sunny day followed and we finished off the walk on easy tracks to Caersws, where we had lots of tea, a butty and some  beer before the train came to take us home. Caersws is a friendly spot and it was here that I took the message that Meanie, one of the knipetowers cats (aka Mina) had died. The lady in the tearoom provided advice on an appropriate text response and a short memorial service involving yet another pot of tea was held. Poor Meanie – a cat which spent most of her long years asleep on a bed. Snoozing was , in fact, he greatest skill. And chasing the light of a pencil torch around the room.
The whole trip was about 37 miles according to my map-measuring skills, although I expect JJ will have come up with a different result from his gps. A link to JJ's cracking version of the events is here
Thanks to JJ for the company and the laughs – I think we spent most of the time swapping tales. And thanks to whoever was respnsible for the sunny weather and the eclipse. The eclipse was  a bit over the top, to be honest and will be difficult to top, I expect.
kerry ridgeway
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Monday 16 March 2015

Hadrian’s Wall – Following in the Footsteps the 14th Cohort of the Silesian Navigators

lucky up a steep bit
It’s probably just a piece of bad luck or mal-chance  that the only section of Hadrian’s Wall constructed by the 14th Cohort of the Silesian Navigators, overconfident, as they were in their ability to comprehend which direction they were pointing in, lies on a heading of 178 degrees – that is to say, almost North-South. Whereas the rest of the wall heads in a different direction. At it’s junction with Emperor Hadrian’s East-West directional concept, it forms an almost perfect T junction – a fact not lost on Lucky the dog who selected this very spot as an ideal place to enjoy a bonio or two whilst I scoffed my cornish pasty and a banana, sheltered as it was from the cutting breeze off the North Sea.
this'll be lovely when it's finished another classic view
14th cohort going the wrong way again
None of the twelve peeps who turned up for the Wednesday-Walkers-Except-It-Was-Saturday group believed me, in fact, when I revealed this newly discovered and , it must be admitted, fairly unlikely archaeological fact as we passed along Hadrian’s Wall between Steel Rigg and Sewingshields – a fine walk by the way, if a bit over-supplied with contours.

retrospect - always good to look back occasionally
lunch at sewingshields
Me and Lucky did the reccy on the Thursday in perishing cold, grey conditions and these only got colder and greyer by Saturday. And in-between, Lucky grounded the knipemobile ooop in the Weardale alps and knocked off the drive shaft, so I was grateful for the lifts from Eric and Diane who went out of their way to collect and deliver me on Saturday. Note how I cleverly transferred all responsibility to the dog by the way and, as it’s an ill-wind etc I was happy to have a post-walk beer or two at Twice Brewed Inn afterwards. (There’s always an up-side). I don’t need the car for a while as I’m off to Wales for a trundle around very shortly..
As for the reccy and the walk – they all went shiveringly well. I used some unmapped boardwalks and permissive routes around Greenlee Lough to make the walk a little bit easier and to add a bit of interest to the relatively dull second half.
14th cohort happy to be somewhere else
Lucky tidied up several lumps of fox-poo and interviewed a dead sheep whilst post snowstorm and thaw, the thirteen of us enjoyed specially slippery mud and extra damp boggy bits.
And there were signs of spring – mainly skylarks, curlew, lapwings and some frog spawn. Plus some trail hounds scaring the pregnant sheep and being watched for by fat blokes in cars from a hugely long distance away – in fact, many of them were looking in the wrong direction. Clearly the descendants of the 14th Cohort.
The walk is 11 miles.
Finally – thanks to The Bro for topping up the virgin money-giving page to a nice, round sum. We like nice, round sums. The only sums we don’t like involve lowest common denominators, fractions and algebra. And the sum of the angles of the two other sides being half of the square of the other thing.  Or whatever it was…
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Thursday 12 March 2015

Some Light But Bijoux Bagging in Dunnerdale

john and lucky (lucky is the one with the red harness)

Since nobody has ever heard of Wallowbarrow Heald, it seemed like a good idea to daunder off to Dunnerdale for a decko..   and, whilst we were about it, also bag Wallowbarrow Crag and thus utterly complete my bagging of “Fellrangers” – a hill category I’d not heard of until I’d done 99.5% of them – in fact, Wallowbarrow Crag being the other 0.5% (there’s 227 of them, apparently)


a harter fell playcrag


So, Lucky did the M6 bit down to Kendal where we collected the Bro and joined the traffic queue for Dunnerdale, parking nicely between two rocks, probably sited on the roadside to prevent people parking there. And we climbed Harter Fell which is quite steep from Dunnerdale. Harter Fell, though, does have a fine collection of bouldery bits and, indeed the actual summit is on top of one such. This provides a relatively easy scramble up one side and an even easier scramble up the other. I chose the slightly harder side to check out Lucky’s willingness to “WAIT!” after being plonked on a ledge whilst I selected another stance to put him on a bit higher up. This is a key command, I find, when scrambling with a dog and stops them trying to get up things which are too hard and then falling off. And he did it very well and the Ruffwear harness is Just The Thing.


Other crags provided an opportunity for a bit of a play too… but too steep for a dog.


descending harter fell

scafell from ulpha fell

After playtime, we descended to the huge boggy bit between Harter fell and Crook Crag and the gently tilted but horribly tussocked Uplha fell before finally bagging the obscure but lovely Iron Crag.

ulpha fell from iron crag

Our next target was the wonderfully obscure and fairly pointless Wallowbarrow Heald – a hill with all of five metres of re-ascent , but defended by lank grass, senile heather and sloppy stuff – a Synge, although Mr Synge seems to have overlooked the slightly more significant Wormshell How sticking out of Ulpha Fell a bit higher up the hill… Just goes to illustrate the often pointless anal-retentiveness of bagging these obscure little pimples.

Finally, the less-than-obscure Wallowbarrow Crag – the last Fellranger (whatever they are…!) eventually fell to the Knipe bootsandpaws after some resistance in the form of yet more tough vegetation and some rocks. Its a fine summit. But I’d had enough and it was time to close the bagging curtains for the day, give up any ideas about going to the top of Pen, which was on the wrong side of the river, and take the bridleway and footpaths back to the start.

Nice day, but knackering….  and just 8 miles of fun and tussocks.

There’s a map.


Thanks to the Bro for topping up the virgin money giving page to a nice, round figure….  One day soon, we’ll manage to arrange something where people actually get something concrete out of this and not just the warm and fuzzy feeling of karma plus.


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