Monday, 28 September 2015

Skinny Dip!!! Yay!! Jeez Brrrrr!

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Yes folks, it was that time again – The North-East Skinny Dip in aid of Mind.
This year the venue moved from a remote part of Druridge Bay to the Visitor Centre where, for a fiver, a tent could be put up. And the toilets were open and, in the morning, so was the cafe (although a huuuuge post-dip queue indicating an overwhelmed server-on had us driving up the A1 for a “Drivers Breakdast” at Belford.) The change of venue to a more civilised spot probably caused the increase in numbers of dippers this year – I understand that there was 300, or, maybe, 350 altogether of people in the altogether.
Anyway, I collected Dawn from the Usual Place and we camped for a noisy night amongst much laughter and late-night clinking of bottles and some light striptease and/or streaking from some of the less inhibited campers. We were much more refined, as we should be at our age.
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And then it was quarter to five in the morning – yes folks, there really is another quarter to five in a day – this one in the middle of the night, it seems, and perishing cold it was too, the only light being the huge brown moon sitting on the treetops.
Eventually, and by some miracle of night-time navigation involving following somebody else, we found ourselves on beach with a flat sea slapping lazily at the hard sand (too early for the sea to wake up, obviously). I made the mistake of filling some of the wait for dip-time with a little paddle. This anaesthetised my toes very effectively, or actually, it made them hurt if I’m honest.
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Something inaudible was announced on a megaphone and then, suddenly, everybody stripped off, did a count-down and charged towards the sea.
Dawn’s comment on the way to the briny was “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I strongly suspect that quite a few others were either saying, or at least, thinking exactly the same thing.
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Then we were in. Splashing and laughing and shivering and screaming and, in may cases, trying to breathe.
Then, there was a cheer and a round of applause, apparently aimed at the sun which had just peeped over the horizon. Many rushed for the shore and warm trollies. I stayed in for a while, coming out only to collect my camera for a few pics of this magical scene of humanity in it’s salty, beautiful playground, bathed, as it was , in gold.
I took some pic of the well wrapped-up press photographers snapping the massed undressed cavorting in the sea..
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This girl was taking instructions from a photographer so that the sun would be cradled in her arms. To get the same picture I would have had to sit on his knee. I suspect that this might have caused some tension, so I did as best I could:
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The last picture I took before my camera broke is this one:
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Serves me right, I suppose.
So there are no pictures of the achingly beautiful Ross Back Sands where we spent the rest of the day snoozing and reading and brewing (and, in my case, dipping again) in the warm sunshine. Shame, really.
So, that’s another dip dipped. I shall do it again. I’m grateful to Dawn for her support – I’m never keen on being the single (old) male on these occasions, so Dawn’s presence made it easier for me and, in the process, she’s raised a couple of hundred quid for Mind too, so it’s all good. We could do with a few more recruits, though, I think. Anybody feeling daft/brave/too warm?
As for me, the greeting of the sun by many dippers was spiritual and the whole thing has left me feeling euphoric for some unexplainable reason – I suppose it’s the same mixture of joy and spirituality that you get at Yule with the connection to the turning of the year and all that. And then there’s quite a lot of people being quite brave about revealing their bodies against instilled social taboos, overcoming shyness, inhibitions and fear. And doing something a bit naughty too.  I’m hoping that the event grows in popularity even more. I could be quite evangelistic about this if I tried…


Friday, 25 September 2015

TGO Challenge–Shall I or Shan’t I? (Do you really care anyway?)

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Mrs Pieman gets me the TGO mag on subscription as a Christmas present, so I got the copy with the application forms in it (innit?) a week or so ago and I started filling it in. But it’s still sitting there half completed.

I’m not sure if I really want to do this or not. I have completed 12 TGO crossings, starting in 1998 and my last one was in 2013. On a couple of occasions I’ve haunted the route instead of doing the walk – notably 2014 when I did “Cafe akto” which raised loads of spondoolies for Mind and was, basically, a hoot.

But I’m undecided.

i am the music man

There are pro’s and cons:


If I do another I’ll probably aim to get to 20 crossings. This would be a bit of  an achievement, I believe.

I’d meet lots of old friends.

I’d drink lots of scotch, most of it fairly cheap stuff.

It would be fun (mostly, but not all of it)

It would be a hoot.

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Its fifty quid!!  Fifty quid. I meantersay – it’s fifty quid….

Last May I did the English CtoC with my little dog “Lucky” and this was a hoot and I met some friends (and relatives) and I supped lots of cheap scotch and I could do something like this again.

I would put myself back into a hillwalking rut

Everybugger and his dog (apols- not his dog – dogs aren’t allowed) does a feckin trip report and some do a feckin feckin list of gear. The sheer weight of all this information is mind-bendingly dull. And I would have to write a feckin feckin feckin trip report on the Pieblog otherwise readers would assume that I’d died or otherwise failed to complete the route. Casual readers would turn away as soon as they spotted yet another feckin feckin feckin feckin TGO chally feckin trip feckin report.

If I don’t get a place at first and end up on a standby list, it buggers up my 2016 walks planning. Or I could withdraw at that point and lose my fifty quid. FIFTY QUID BY THE WAY|!

I could do something else.

I could do something else.

I could do something else.

I’m still thinking about this. I won’t decide to apply (yes, I do understand that I might not get a place – see above_) until I’ve had a fortnight in the Trossachs with Mrs Pieman and the little Piedog. And in 2013 I wrote that 2013 would be my last and final TGO challenge.

The dog would get fat and bored whilst I’m away.

I think I can see the way it’s going…..



Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Tales From Druridge Bay

Y'see... all the best people.....

Its not too late to bung some dosh into Dawn's Skinny Dip sponsor thingy in support of Mind   Click here

In fact, its not too late to decide to do it yourself. It ALL has to come off, mind...  click this link:   see new goosepimples where goosepimples are seldom seen

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Week in Ennerdale and Eskdale

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This could be a bit of a challenge – fitting in a week’s wanderings into a blogpost, but here goes anyway.

The idea behind this tripette was to finish off the four Birketts I had left, not including the fifth Beatle Birkett, the undoable (for me anyway, not without lots of help anyway…) Pillar Rock, the mere thought of which has me with wobblers.

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The first of the four was to be High Hows (Lamplugh) which is quite near Ennerdale and not too far from Low Cock How – a campsite I’d enjoyed on my Coast to Coast jaunt.

And so, me and Lucky headed off through the North Postern Gate of Pietowers for the collection of Dawn and then up the A69 to somewhere else and eventually to Low Cock How where we pitched on the soggy lawn. An evening expedition to High Hows (Lamplugh) was quickly organised. Now High Hows (Lamplugh) has a bit of a reputation for being defended by a farmer who has a low opinion of walkers in general and, more particularly of those out to bag HH(L).

So we went round the back, through the midgies and the trees and over the spiky fence and through the landmines and the caltrops and the trained killer budgies and all that – without incident.

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Next was Lingmell – a minor nobble on the side of Scoat Fell which we approached from Ennerdale. This hillock is defended only by very steep bracken and a bull with a ring in it’s nose. Happily for Lucky and luckily for Happy, it wasn’t at all interested in us as we passed by within feet of it’s huge and sharp horns and the steam emanating from both it’s nostrils and it’s huge backside at the same time.

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After Lingmell we heaved ourselves up the ridge and across to the Haycock/Scoat Fell col and thus to the top of the Fell. We returned via heathery and brackeny slopes which went on and on and on in a downwards direction causing some significant pain in the thighs, knees and bumpsadaisy.  I had some “special medicine”  back in the tent which dealt with these aches and pains successfully, though.

Next up was Great Bank – a precipitous height overlooking Miterdale and surrounded by deepest dark jungle occupied by tigers, remnants of two misplaced units of the Viet Cong and a forestry commission tree harvesting team, two of whom are reputed to have specially bad tempers and are prone to some Very Bad Language.

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In preparation for the assault on Great Bank, we removed ourselves to Fisherground campsite in Eskdale and explained our compex plans to the Warden On Duty, who charged a reasonable price.

The assault on Great Bank failed, I’m afraid to say. There were notices which indicated that the area was closed for harvesting and that open access was suspended till after Christmas and that the Viet Cong had already mounted a mortar attack on some walkers that very day. Nevertheless, we pressed on past the “You can’t go any further than this” sign, just after being passed by a forestry commission vehicle retreating at some speed from a large tiger somewhere up in the trees. Finally, the Tin Hat had been placed on the head of our attack by a second FC vehicle which we avoided by hiding in the bracken. So I called it off to fight another day.  Research indicates that the hill is a bag of poo anyway and can wait till I have nothing better to do next March.

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Then, next morning, we caught the La’al Ratty up to Dalegarth and wandered up through more jungle and rocky bits to the stupidly beautiful Great Moss, girded, as it is, by rocky and spikey mountains and roofed , at night by the darkest of skies sparkling with the full set of stars and other stuff. Oddly enough (maybe not) several people were noted to be wandering about in the darkness during visits from Mr Bladder.

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In the morning, I had Pike de Bield to bag and Dawn walked with me and Lucky for a while in the general direction of the ridge up to Esk Pike, but decided to wait for me to finish it off. The ridge is a grassy plod at first but soon morphs into a delight of rocky tors and, at Yeastyrigg Crag, it gets narrow-ish, specially when smothered in one of the clouds which were drifting about that morning.

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Pike de Bield, it turns out, is a delightful top perched on a rock overlooking Great Moss and with a fine view of the Scafell range. A cracking lookout and a place to spend some time considering how best to seriously damage an Asda value milk chocolate bar.

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I retraced down the ridge to find Dawn pretty much where I’d left her and we paddled through the bog back to the tents for a bit of brewing up and Not Doing Very Much.

At some point we decided to move down to Lingcove Bridge, partly to cut a bit off next day’s walk, but also to give an opportunity, perhaps, to take advantage of some of the superb pools down there. So we left.

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Not long after we’d arrived and pitched camp, it started raining. Then it rained some more and kept on all night, often heavily, sometimes torrentially, and always noisily, along with the roar of the becks and waterfalls which developed.

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In the morning it had stopped but the becks were happily roaring away in some kind of watery frenzy and not really safe for anybody considering a bit of a dip. Lucky decided that it was probably still raining anyway, or it was just a temporary halt to the downpour, and refused to get up out of bed. He’s a teenager, really, though, y’know, so….

So we walked back to Dalegarth, had tea and a cream scone and returned to Fisherground on La’al Ratty – an excellent service for yer walkers, I have to say.

And that was that. The tents have just about dried. The undies and socks are in the wash. I managed to lose 1.5kg.  Lucky is happy, the Great Bank Viet Cong are having peace talks in Paris and the UK press are having hysteria about Jezza Corbyn (this developed whilst we were up Ennerdale, apparently) So, it’s all good.

We did about 35 miles altogether. (Dawn’s device will likely have recorded more than this by the way)


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Just Up The Street

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I had unfinished business in the land of the Upper Coquet in the form of an unbagged Tump called Swinside, a rounded lump of a Tump with some Very Nice Views.

I collected the digitally injured Dawn* from her dockside den and we progressed haltingly up to Alwinton (couldn’t remember how to get there from the coast) and we parked reasonably prettily at the start of The Street, a green trod of some antiquity which heads over the Border.

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This is easy walking and height is soon gained and the views soon get better and better and the target bag was soon bagged, followed by lunch out of the hefty Southern breeze on a soft grassy carpet Northern slopes.

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After lunch the same hefty breeze gave us a bit of help getting up to the Street’s junction with the Pennine Way where we turned left , or, as some might insist, West and with the considerable help of the long line of Lancashire mill slabs we romped easily over Mozie Law and Lamb Hill to the Ten Mile Hut aka Yearning Saddle mountain refuge aka shed…  for Lunch #2

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Some serious tussocks were then defeated as we entered the lovely gill or cleuch of Buckhams Walls Burn which has some cracking camping spots were it not for the two herds of highland cattle crapping all over the place and mooing and other cow-like stuff.

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A brief road-walk where we encountered just the one car, brought us back to the knipemobile which was exactly where we’d left it.

Upper Coquetdale is particularly beautiful, though, I must say…

12 or 13 miles or so and here’s a map… 

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*Dawn cracked a bone in her hand whilst resisting the force of a huge and lively wave on a Northumberland beach whilst testing the temperature of the North Sea and in plain sight of Holy Island and is wearing NHS strapping. This is not, however, preventing her taking part in the North East Skinny Dip, a circumstance which may well have caused others to back off whilst rejoicing in a nice and irrefutable excuse not to do it. Determined, or what…. (nuff respect by the way) (which is why you should bung some dosh into her virgin money-giving account by clicking on the Mind logo below!!!)


Saturday, 5 September 2015

Almost Skinny Dip Time Again


God really does love diversity. And when you attend an event during which hordes of people take all their clothes off and do something odd (bike ride, art installation, running screaming into the North Sea at dawn etc), you may quickly realise that all those inhibitions concerning your wobbly bits, the rolls of fat – or the skinny ribs, perhaps, and the marks and scars and faults and shapes and all that - and all that – are for nothing because all these things are shared by pretty much everybody. Its the differences that make us all the same.

A few lucky people are often temporarily blessed with very beautiful bodies, it has to be said,  but most people don’t neatly fit into the shape of a standard “beautiful” body, whatever that is. We are what we are and we all have a right to dash screaming and very naked into the chilly waves and by doing so have any worries about being different in some way washed away by the salty briny, along with a couple of hundred others.

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If all goes to plan, this will be my third North-East Skinny Dip, so it could be argued that I'm getting a bit blasé about stripping off in public. This is almost true – there are still butterflies, but, generally, I just get on with it. If it was so routine, I probably wouldn't do it.

But for many taking part in this beautiful event, there will be doubts and fears. There will be more than butterflies, in fact, I suspect that the odd sleepless night will have been had. But afterwards, I expect that almost all will be on some kind of personal high. They may be shivering with cold and, maybe a bit embarrassed but there will be euphoria. Its a daft thing to do. Its a naughty thing to do. It's a brave thing to do.

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Then again, there's always the question of what others will think about you taking part in such a jape. Your Mum might not approve. Your brothers and sisters might not approve. Your boss might not approve (worry about your Mum, not your boss!). And what if you’re recognised on the telly or in the paper; bearing (baring ..arf) in mind that the press will be there – fully dressed journalists too?

But it's just bodies and skin and scars and blemishes and tattoos and willies and breasts and bums and goosepimples. And they're all different. And they're all the same.

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My friend Dawn is taking part in the North-East Skinny Dip to be held at Druridge Bay in Northumberland at dawn on 27 September. She has the same worries as everybody else, apparently. Its a brave and rather daft thing to do. She's raising money for Mind, the same charity that I support. And she's supporting me and my charity money raising cos she’s a friend. basically.

You may not have time or inclination, or, even the daftness to take part in a skinny-dip, but you might well be on a similar wavelength and if you'd like to show support , you can, by bunging a small lump of spondooly into Dawn's Virgin Money-Giving account. A quid would do. A fiver would do, a tenner would do too.

The web address is found by clicking on the naked man above, whoever he is….. or here

Gwan, do it. Do it now and get a bit of good karma.


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Cauldron Sprout and Harwood Guided Walk

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I seem to have some kind of mental block about Cronkley Spout…er Cautley Snout…. I just can’t remember from one minute to the next what it’s called.

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Anyway, I did the reccy dogless about a week ago in warmish weather and it all went swimmingly well. The reason I didn;t take the dog was the high cattle population on this walk. There’s Galloways on the Pennine Way near Widdybank farm, and sucklers and beef bullock stirks around Harwood and the dog, who likes to bark at and attack anything large he thinks might threaten him, is a definite liability – and just as well I didn’t take him, too, because we did have a little trouble from one mature moo-cow mum.

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On the day (yesterday), 12 people turned up at Hanging Shaw, including steward Compulsory Dave and his assistant Ruth plus Diane’s small dog Bailey. Bailey may well have been the root of the cow barney, or , then again, possibly not as she’s very small and not very dog-like in shape to a cow, I would have thought.

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We progressed up the Pennine Way incident-free through the Galloways and up and over the scrambly scree to Corbyn’s Shout, or whatever it’s called, where we had lunch. The fine spray blowing off the waterfall got a bit heavier as lunch ended and turned out to be a drizzly, blowy shower – one of several to dampen the afternoon.

We all scrambled up the Sprout easily and marched off up the road to Cow Green where we plunged headlong over the rough moor to Harwood.

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I was quite pleased that one group of bovines had been removed from a field and another had been replaced by beefy stirks, who appeared to be a bit lethargic but were easily sent on their way down the field.

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The next large field running  down to Harwood beck still had it’s big hers of sucklers and we took a wide diversion around them, causing no apparent excitement till we got to the stile at the end, where a manic mum came hurtling and dancing down the field to join us. The dog was shuffled quickly over the wall and several group members made aggressive cow-herding noises which seemed to put the cow off it’s stride a bit. Soon we were all safely over the stile and without injury to pride or body. Had we been spotted by this lunatic whilst in the middle of the field, though, we may have been in trouble. It does seem, as one of the walkers observed, that cows are much more aggressive than they were when I was a sprog.. they probably don’t get handled as much as they used to, I suppose.

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The walk ended with a walk along the riverbank, a passage through the Bob Pendlebury Memorial stile and further wettings from above. Bob Pendlebury, who died in 2012 was a County Councillor from Crook who was a significant advocate for the North Pennines AONB and  access to the countryside in general and a stile in his memory is now on Alf Wainwright’s Pennine Journey at Forest-in-Teesdale

The walk was about 12 miles.

Cauldron Snout. Cauldron Snout.. that’s it…. dhuhh..

[w forest to cow green


Click this logo to donate a quid to Dawn’s Skinny Dip thingy…