Sunday 30 August 2015

Wednesday Walkers Walking On Saturday Bag Nine Standards

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It was my turn to lead a walk for the Wednesday walkers and, despite the howling gale up on the A66 and the sheeting rain (spell check this…!), 11 walkers turned up. I had Lucky with me, so that was 12 and a small dog.

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Me and Lucky had done the reccy a week before in warm and sticky un-Pennine-like weather, so warm, in fact, that I changed into shorts about half way up the fell. Two of our colonial friends doing the Coast to Coast shouted a “Is it Ok to come forward?” “ Only we don’t want to surprise you”. An odd thing to say, I thought. As I walked along, it occurred to me that they thought I was naked. I wasn’t though – not this time anyway… One colonial was from USA and the other from Germany – neither, I suppose, proper colonials like yer antipodeans or yer Carribbeans.

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The reccy went well enough and I met another Coast to Coaster heading West and looking for Keld. This one was Swedish and she also insisted that she knew where she was.

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We progressed towards High Pike, meeting a farmer-looking chap in wellies seeking the summit of Nine Standards since he’d lived in the area all his life and had never seen the cairns up close, despite having been a beater up there on occasion. I gave him directions and heaved my carcase up the over-friendly contours of High Pike. This is a cracking place to sit and contemplate the meaning of Boris Johnson and how having Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party would set off a new ice-age making us all regret all those wind turbines. This would, inevitably put up our electricity bills and demonstrate how the council just doesn’t have enough gritters any more.

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The long ridge running from High Pike has interesting camping spots amongst the old stone quarries high up and is a fine downhill romp including fine views of the Eden, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang Edge, not to mention the Pennines.

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On the day of the guided walk, we set off in driving drizzle, accompanied by the screechy chattering of the local parakeets (beautiful plumage but irritating if you’re trying to have a lie-in, I should expect)

We were soon joined by a Glaswegian lass on her holidays locally, making us now 13 and a small dog.

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The walk eschews the Wainwright route up Nine Standards in favour of the much more interesting Ewbank Scar path (named after a carpet cleaner, I’m told) This has an interesting cascade, running high due to the rainfall – where the water rushes down a steep slab, undermining a crag.

We joined the Faraday Gill route at the road end and followed this to the cairns.

There’s a map at the end of this showing the route. It’s 14 miles with 2400 feet of climbing, or 2600 feet of climbing if an ascent of Birkett Hill is included. This is recommended for it’s cracking views and the nice ridge which runs down to meet the public footpath to the North.

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We finished up in the beer garden of the black bull hotel for after-walk jinkies.

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Click this logo to bung dosh into Dawn’s mad North-East skinny dip sponsor thingy and receive a pro-good karma boost. More of this later. She must be crayzeee  - wouldn’t catch me doing anything like that [koff]

Friday 21 August 2015

Cheviot…Cher…Cher…. Chev… Chhhnnn

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No, sorry, couldn’t think of an appropriate rambling/trekking/backpacking/hillwalking Cher word that goes nicely with “Cheviot” I could say “Chase”, but this implies speed and, since the invention and application of beta blockers, we don’t recognise “speed” as an aspect of our hilly wanderings.

Hennyway, I saddled up the pooch, allowed him to drive as far as the A19 (South) roadsign somewhere up the A1 and collected Dawn from her dockside pad whereupon we proceeded relatively funereally due to roadworks and tractors and specially slow old blokes in cars that Could Go Much Faster Than That to Spittal on Tweed where JJ and Mrs JJ were camping in a small town which wasn’t quite Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

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So, after a special pie and pasta and bara bridd (fruit cake) luncheon, we hobbled into Berwick where, since we’d got the bus times wrong, we had a pint. Then we caught the bus to Wooler.

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As we were fairly late at this point (note that this is just an excuse), we had to have a relatively short walk to the first lovely camping spot we came across. This was by the Carey Burn. Mine had a lump just under the groundsheet where my hips should go and this lump insisted that I spend the night in the akto porch and a long night of anti-lump struggle took place during which Lucky snored, stretched out and had the occasional running-about-barking-dream.

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And so, refreshed from a comfy night on the lump, we progressed even further up the  Carey Burn (nice swimming pools by the way) to Broadstruther where we failed to negotiate an onward route. Lots of ideas were proposed and politely rejected as being “too steep”, “too boggy”, “too midgey”, “there’s monsters and fairies” and “isn’t that somewhere near Birmingham?”. So, instead, we went to the Harthope Burn, intending, perhaps to walk over the ridge into the Colledge valley, or maybe onto the Border ridge and then work out something perhaps involving St Cuthberts Way back to Wooler. In fact, readers, we were to invent the route as we went along.

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At Harthope Burn we selected the very last reasonable camping spot before it all closed in and had a nice night. My pitch had a lump just where the hips ought to go……  During the night Lucky did some snoring and had a dream which involved running about and barking. Also during the night, Dawn had been busy consulting maps and a set of chicken bones and goat offal, scattered on the grass so as to form patterns by which to divine, by the grace of various gods, an onward route. Following this, she proposed a bagging of The Cheviot. Yes, folks The Big One. Not just “the Cheviots” but “The Cheviot” itself.

The question we should all ask ourselves is “where did Dawn acquire goat offal at this time of night?”

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Next morning we headed bravely up the glen – crossing and recrossing the beck and falling in a huge hole (me) by falling off some high and very steep heather which dirtied my legs. Soon we found ourselves at the top of Cairn Hill. According to my records, this was the third time I’d been here. I’d don’t remember any of the other two times…

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The Pennine Way spur to The Cheviot carried us along Lancashire mill slabs to the very top (My sixth time, apparently) where a bunch of peeps were resting and lunching. Some were friendly and some took themselves a bit too seriously and looked stern whilst munching their oaty bars or whatever it was. Anyway, they weren’t allowed to chat. And they rushed past us later on in a way which suggested that they told Mum they’d be back by four and it was now half past three and she’d be so mortified by this slight (as if it never happened every week) as to not speak to any of them for Three Whole Days and they’d have to eat burnt Brussels  sprouts for the next week……

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Me and JJ followed Dawn down the “tourist route” in a generally Northern direction, past Broadstruther again where we baulked at camping due to it being a grouse shooting estate and it being the prime time for the grouse shooting, but finally camped on a lump just where the hips ought to go, still on the grouse moor, but just on the edge. And , pretty much out of sight of any wandering keepers or ghillies. Here were not dragons, but midgies. Midgies in hordes, in fact. We all fastened ourselves tightly inside our tabernacles. Lucky had a snoring session and a dream concerning running about and barking.

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And so we finished with a short and rainy stroll into Wooler where we discovered that a bus to Berwick was due, so, instead of seeking tea and bacon butties (which would have ben just the thing), we got on the bus, and it was this bus which delivered us to a roundabout quite close the JJ and Mrs JJ’s caravan site.

And so it ended.

I think we did about 22 miles. This may not seem much for a three day walk. And it isn’t. But we just don’t care, see? There’s more to life than mileage.

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Thursday 13 August 2015

Lucky Does High Rigg/Naddle and Low Rigg

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Lucky suggested that if he’s to compleat (sic) his Wainwrights (HIS Wainwights?! Ha!) in any kind of decent timeframe, we’d best get on and bag one.

As he’s only two years old, I thought that an easy one would be Just The Thing.

So we pointed the knipemobile over Killhope Cross and Hartside Pass and parked neatly on some mud quite close, but outside the overpriced United Utilities car park at Thirlspot, thus saving beer tokens to the tune of at least two pints.

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First we struggled and sweated up Wren Crag, a Birkett with a fine view of Castle Rock of Triermain and some clouds.

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Then, we pranced manfully and dogfully along the pleasant ridge to High Rigg South-East Top, a Tump where it started raining pretty heavily, but briefly and so, we sheltered in my group-shelter. Lucky snoozed and I had coffee and chocolate whilst it lashed down outside for quarter of an hour or so. Lucky is not allowed chocolate nor coffee so he got nowt.

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After it stopped, we descended steeply where we were completely blanked by two old phogies struggling onwards in the general direction of the Wainwright top. After living in County Durham for thirty years, being blanked by fellow huming beans, being the only huming beans in the vicinity is strangely hurtful. I quickly formed the opinion that they were probably from That London or Surrey, or somewhere where you’re not allowed to talk to strangers in case somebody says something interesting that changes your life forever and makes you want to live on a small but warm island covered in coconut trees whilst drinking white rum and generally getting off your face. The wife’s mother probably wouldn’t approve of this type of thing, so….

So, we grumpily went off and bagged High Rigg, another Birkett.

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Then, we caught up with the two ignorant old frts  old chaps on the summit of Naddle Fell – the Wainwright summit. Here, they shuffled off quickly whilst avoiding eye contact and descended in the direction whence they had come.

Me and the pooch descended towards the North where, on some slabs on the side of Low Rigg, a large group were playing. There were wheelchairs involved…..

On the descent , I passed quite closely to our two snooty pals. One caught my eye and began to speak. Lucky blanked him. So did I.  Smug mode. I once went on a tube. I know the drill.

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The peeps on the crag turned out to be Calvert Trust peeps, doing what Calvert Trust peeps do. And a cracking job it is. The one individual I met – pushing a wheelchair back down the hill, petted Lucky and chatted briefly. Y’see, that’s all it takes. It’s quite normal to talk to other walkers on the hill. Sometimes it can be quite pleasant. Sometimes important and useful information can be exchanged. In parts of County Durham, hours can pass whilst this process takes place. (I’m particularly talking Deerness valley here by the way..)

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We finished our bagging on Low Rigg – a lovely, rocky top with a smashing view of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

We returned to our cheaply parked transport via the bridleways and field paths along the East side of the ridge. And very nice it all was. And only six miles too. And Lucky got his Wainwright (He’s done nine now)

We returned to knipetowers whence we came, visiting Brian in his fire-damaged chapel-in-the-sky at Nenthead. (We’re talking a serious fire, here, folks)

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Monday 10 August 2015

Walking Across Morecambe Bay with Bay Search and Rescue

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I seem to remember that walking across Morecambe Bay appeared on one of my “Things To Do” list way way back in the early 1970’s. But I seem to have forgotten to do anything about it. Then, recently, a leaflet fell out of a magazine I read (was it Lakeland Walker…?) and I decide to take the opportunity. So I registered, booked a bus from Kents Bank back to the start and that was that.

Bay Search And Rescue had it as a fundraiser and Cedric Robinson, the Queen’s Guide lead the walk from Arnside.

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Remarkably, 780 people plus quite a bunch of doggies turned up too. Maybe if I did it again, I’d  appreciate the sheer vastness of the scale of Morecambe Bay more keenly by going in a smaller group. Its not a walk I’d try to do myself, by the way, and I would only recommend other people to do it solo if they appear on my Pieman’s Brake Pipe list. Others should be more careful.

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Morecambe Bay is truly huge. No, I mean Big, in a Really Big kind of way. The way from Arnside to Kents Bank appears, on the map, to be a simple toddle of a couple of miles. But that’s not how we get there. Cedric initially took us a long way South – towards the little boxes on the far horizon that are Heysham nuclear power station. Then ,as we handrailed the coast, somewhere a bit West of Silverdale, we crossed the main River Kent channel. At first sight this appears to be a just a wide lead of water. It turns out to be knee-deep and with a substantial current which would make falling over a specially unpleasant experience, I suspect. Happily, the water was quite warm.

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The we finally turned West, or, maybe a bit North-West and headed for Humphrey Head before turning a bit more North where the grass starts (very strong sulphery smell here – best not fall into any of the mud…) and a bit of coastal walking ended the walk at Kents Bank train station where my bus awaited.

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Lucky wasn’t on this walk although he’d have enjoyed it all except for the River Kent channel, where I’d have had to carry him. This is because they didn’t let dogs on the bus. I could have caught the train, though. I’d appreciate it if nobody ever mentions this fact to the dog

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Anyway, it seems that with such a good turnout that Bay Search and Rescue will have made a few well-earned spondoolies from this jape. Its a good do. I’d recommend it. They supported the walk by shadowing it with a tractor fitted, apparently, with a sofa on in the back, plus two half-tracked go-anywhere vehicles. And Cedric had placed tree branches and a couple of rags-on-sticks to mark significant waypoints.

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Afterwards I bagged a little hill just outside Storth – one Haverbrack Bank – a steep little thing  some 367 feet high and boasting a fine view of the Kent estuary. Unfortunately, I’d left my camera in the car (dhuhh)

The Morecambe Bay walk was about 7 miles with just a little ascent on the coast – easy walking on hard, rippled sand – done barefoot and 2 miles for Haverbrack Bank.

Bay Search and Rescue’s website is here in case you’d like to know what they do and how they do it.