Sunday 31 January 2016

Nithering on The Stang and How Tallon

how tallon 003

The Stang is not a County Durham racing driver staying incognito as he drives a reasonably priced car around a disused airfield covered in old tyres, but a bit of forestry on the Northern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – just in County Durham, in fact. It’s navigation from the tumbleweeds drifting down the main drag in Barningham provides one of the dullest bits of walking in County Durham, unless, of course, you’re with the Wednesday-Saturday Walking Group (aka Wednesday walkers walking on Saturdays) diffidently lead by LTD, followed two metres later on the othe rend of an extendable lead by Yours Truly (who was supposed to be leading the walk) AND in the teeth of the tail end of Storm Gertrude who was determined to prevent walkers from walking anywhere with any dignity.

how tallon 004

Thus, a steeply-angled (at about 45 degrees) walking group of nine people and three dogs batterred along into a viciously nithering headwind, occasionally accompanied by short but lively blizzards. The mind-numbingly boring road walk was enlivened by sophisticated conversation on such subjects as thye effect of sheep subsidies on the local agricultural economy and which well-know celebrity would be next to meet his (or her) maker)  wasn’t even accompanied by any lively conversation, since speaking above the roar of the hurricane and in the teeth of flying pellets of stinging snow was utterly impossible.

So, it was with some relief that we eventually acheived the shelter of  the trees of The Stang.

Suddenly, just after passing through the hamlet of East Hope/Far East Hope, we turned left in favour of forest tracks heading towards the Barningham Moors, lunching in an unusually warm and sunny spot just on the edge.

how tallon 008

Oddly enough, the moor proved to be less of a fight for survival than expected and the howling nither had calmed itself into a lively blow, hardly even disturbing the rythm of the walkers heading ungrumblingly (made up word) up over the steep edge towards the trig and  ancient cairn which provides the 447 metres high point of the walk. This provides a cracking view of a huge lump County Durham and substantial bits of Teeside and the North Yorks Moors and group photos were taken.

stang reccy 002

Another series of vicious little snowstorms began once again and saw us off the top to follow the wall and the new estate roads back to Barningham. These are a mess, frankly, and do nothing to beautiify the place, although , it could be argued that beautification is less of a motivation than the transport of people with far too much money and a desire to kill things up to the grouse butts and, of course, the huge sums of cash they spend on buying the day’s shooting plus the scoff and booze they consume whilst they’re at it.

stang reccy 006

Me and LTD did the reccy for this walk in much more benign conditions a couple of days earlier in the little gap provided just after Frank and before Gertrude.

The walk is 8 miles. I got it out of a badly-written guidebook about walks in The North Pennines.

If anybody else’s pictures arrive in my in-box, I’ll probably publish them as well by the way.

how tallon walk

Friday 29 January 2016

Well, that seemed to work–Windows Open Livewriter

Thanks to JJ for testing this in the first place and publishing a blog thingy…

To celebrate (and to test yet again, here’s a picture….

ireshopeburn moor 008


If this works, we’re almost back to normal… whatever normal is…

Yet another test

ireshopeburn moor 007



Its just a test

Thursday 28 January 2016

Drenched in Dunnerdale

A brief lull in the downpour reveals Wallabarrow Crag

Me and Dawn had been considering a few days away in January for some time. The first idea was the Lowther Hills - very nice hills just a bit North of Dumfries. Following Dawn's drowning in Fisherfield at Christmas, we considered that a wooden wigwam at Wanlockhead would be better. But they failed to answer their phone for several days and a review on Walkhighlands mentioning duelling banjos, less than welcoming locals in the pub and having to use a tree as a toilet put us off a bit. So we plumped for The Lakes, where, as everybody knows, it never rains and everybody is friendly all the time. The camping barn at High Wallabarrow farm was chosen, booked by Dawn (my record of getting people to answer the phone being tested to the point of failure by now) and proved to be an ideal choice during the brief 11-month Cumbrian monsoon season.
Is the cloud base lifting?    (No)

The Wallabarrow camping barn is run by a friendly chap, has hot water, a cooker, a fridge, a stove which takes wood or coal, a huge supply of wood and a few small mice wandering in from the downpour outside.

The downpour outside continued, more or less, for the whole three days, resulting in just the one shortish walk involving a rough ascent of a nearby Tump called "Penn" and a bit of a scramble over forestry brash and slippery boulders back to our oasis of sanity.
Lucky's jacket is more waterproof than mine. This is Just Not Fair
It rained heavily all of the second night and blew a hoolie, resulting in flooded fields and some hysteria from the people broadcasting traffic reports from BBC Radio Cumbria -  and a very brief dog walk which the dog didn't enjoy at all and just a short wander around in the afternoon to look at the swollen becks and the rampaging river.

It rained heavily during the third night too....

We went home.
Water water everywhere....   Cumbrian drought sets in (it stopped raining for five minutes)

I forgot to pack my boots and they're still there, but the farmer's lad was helpful on the phone and is looking after them till I can collect them in a week or so's time. I suspect that I might owe him a small reward.

But, on the upside, I can recommend Wallabarrow Camping barn. It sleeps about ten people I think and dogs are allowed providing they behave themselves and don't chase the chickens or the sheep, or anything else and dog poo etc. is cleaned up and they don't sit on the furniture. Its a camping barn, though and not a hostel. Its a plush camping barn, though and its not too far from the pub, although, when it's dark and wet and howling outside, sploshing over to the pub takes real determination, I would have thought. 

Friday 22 January 2016

Dentdale: Helms Knott and Aye Gill Pike

Lucky was having a daft half hour on Helms Knott
And so it came time to travel to Dent for the bagging of a little Tump called Helms Knott which looms over Dentdale in a specially unthreatening manner. To add to the day's adventure, Lucky pointed out that there was a Marilyn/Hump/Dewey/Tump (oddly enough that seems to rhyme!) quite nearby called Aye Gill Pike.

Now, I'd already been up Aye Gill Pike, almost 40 years earlier during a particularly hot summer, but Lucky hadn't and neither had the Bro. So we included it.
On the climb up Helms Knott

We started off by following the Dales Way and a bit of road as far as Helmside where a chap doing "things" to a stone wall advised us that Aye Gill Pike would be sloppy.

Undeterred we slogged up the steep  footpath and around the back of Helmside Gill for a final steep flourish up to the lovely, green lump that is Helms Knott. I expect there's a really nice view from up there, but today was a bit murky with the promise of rain later. The chap interfering with the stone wall had, though, assured us that it wouldn't rain till teatime at least. What he failed to mention, of course, was that he usually had his tea in the mid-afternoon...
Murky stuff

After bog-trotting away from the very lovely Helms Knott, we bog-bashed our way over to the wall which runs all the way over the top of Aye Gill Pike and, together with a clear but boggy worn path, navigation into the snowy hill-fog would be easy. It's just a slog, really. The ground was mainly frozen anyway, so the wallophile down bellow's prediction of sloppiness wasn't quite realised.
Foggyness on Aye Gill Pike

So, we plodded over the top in the icy snow and down the other side where, at some point, the rain arrived. I'd fitted Lucky with his cosy coat at lunchtime and fitted myself with waterproofs just then in readiness for the forecasted downpour. Our additional wet afternoon planning included marching quickly back to Dent on the road instead of following the Dales Way, which should be quicker, drier and not muddy.
Lucky in his new coat - The Bro in front.

This proved to be the case. We still got wet, though.

The whole walk was just about 13 miles. And there is a map, just in case either of these lovely lumps appear on Brenda's List Of Things To Do 2016. (I have a similar list by the way and so does LTD, although his mainly involves snoozing in his dog-bed whilst completely covered by a thermal blanket.)

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Canine Caterpillar Claims Caterpallot

Lucky( note: not shivering)  lusts after my pasty

All these pictures of snowy walks in the Lakes and Dales and Scotland and So-On made me think I was missing something, and I really hate Missing Something.  So, in cahoots with LTD, we decided to go up the North Pennines to bag an unbagged Tump going by the name of Caterpallot Hill.

Now Caterpallot Hill is a mere pimple on the chin of Melmerby Fell and a walk could be devised to include Fiend's Fell as well and also include the more abcess-or-boil-like Cuns Fell as well.

All good plans must have some weak spot, though and, in this case, the weak spot was a Very Cold Morning and a warm bed including a small dog who wasn't interested that next door's cat was rampaging around his backyard and much preferred to insinuate himself from his cosy bed into mine.

So we set off late and didn't arrive at Melmerby till noon.
Lucky's impression of a green caterpillar on Caterpallot

We achieved the summit of Caterpallot about an hour later after a bit of a slog along the intake wall. Caterpallot is one of those outliers that line the edge of the Cross Fell ridge and include such fine and ever-so-slightly pointy hills like Dufton Pike. The little gap between the outliers and the Pennine scarp is, in fact the boundary between the Carboniferous Pennine rocks and the older Lake District stuff. So, it's interesting, see?
Caterpallot Hill from the slopes of Cuns Fell

Having bagged the bag, we progressed to lunch. For me, this was a Cornish pasty and a curd tart and for the dog, it was a small piece of Cornish pasty and some curd tart crumbs. Its not good to spoil a dog.

We launched ourselves into the steep tussocks and soft snow of Cuns Fell and made ponderous progress. Legs were heavy. The snow was deep in places (Lucky enjoyed these places) and "soon" (not the inverted commas) we were standing, dripping with sweat and trembling with emotion (actually, not the last bit...) on the summit of Cuns Fell - another fine summit with a little rocky tor on top and a steep drop down one side. It was now getting quite murky and the sun was winding up it's alarm clock, had put the cat out and was sipping some cocoa ready for an early night.
Climbing Cuns Fell

So we forgoed...   forewented.... gave up the idea of going up Melmerby Fell and headed off on a Northwards contouring course for the path coming off Fields Fell back to Melmerby. This was done in short order.

Cuns Fell has a little rocky tor on top
At one point, I did notice a line of footsteps indicating that somebody had descended the fell wearing the same kind of MOD snowshoes that me and Matt had used on Cross Fell last winter. I found this fact pathetically interesting, a bit like finding a shovel in a slightly lighter shade of black than the one in our coalshed.
And  a big drop

We did 7 miles. There's no map. I'm not proud of the route, so you're not allowed to see it.

More walkies tomorrow. Hopefully, I will do better. Lucky enjoyed his new jacket by the way and didn't shiver once. Mind you, I did find it quite warm for some reason, although the knipemobile temperature gauge said it was 0.5 C. The snow was wet and thawing a bit, though.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Middlehope Moor Weardale - Eventually, Winter

On the lane up to the border

Each January, for the last three or four years I've lead a Durham County Council Guided walk from Cowshill in Upper Weardale to the County Boundary with Northumberland, then across some lovely moors with fabby-whiz views of Weardale and alongside the RiverWear back to the start. My motivation for doing this was an occasion, about six years ago when me and Bruno walked the same route in hard winter conditions when the snow was deep and solid, the walking easy, and the sky was blue and, I hoped that at some point, a bunch of Durham CC guided walks punters might experience the same conditions. It's always been cold and often snowy, but never quite the same, as yet.
Driech conditions last Monday (brrr)

I titled the walk "A Shivery Walk to the Border". A bit naff, I suppose, but the walk title has stuck and a few die-hards brave the Neville's Cross traffic lights and the long drive up to Cowshill every year.

Lucky in his new coat on the reccy

LTD and summit cairnette Middlehope Moor 2009 feet amsl

Me and Lucky did the reccy for this last Monday. Lucky was wearing his new toasty dog-jacket, and just as well too, since the weather that day was on the turn from the soaking warm-but-outrageously-wet November and December to a something a bit more snowy and wintery.  Monday's precipitation was still mainly wet, but there was an edge to the cold and occasionally, sometimes, there was stinging bits of snow in the rain. There was snow on the moors too, and I took Lucky to the 2009 foot summit of the moor so he could bag the Nutall. He wasn't specially impressed, though. I could tell.

Weardale/Teesdale ridge from Middlehope Moor
In fact, I used the group shelter for me and LTD for lunch in the folds at Race Head.
Crossing Middlehope Moor

On the Wednesday, fourteen people and Bailey the doglet turned up and the day was a notch colder with less snow but blue skies and a nithering wind. Shivery, in fact.

Wednesday's views of the snow-clad Teesdale/Weardale ridge in particular were stunning and, apart from a few incidents involving deep boggy bits, the walk went well, I think.

Lunch in the sun
It seems that the winter may now have arrived. There was snow on the roof of one of the main drumtowers at Knipetowers this morning and the chains of the drawbridge scattered ice particles all over the postman.
On the Race Head road
And its perishing cold outside.

The walk is 8 miles and there's a map below. Some people with GPS devices thought it was 8.5 miles. I though it was 8.6 if you go to the summit.

And there's some nice samples of fluorspar along the Race Head track - particularly under the roots of a fallen tree in the little wood at the end of the track. I've got a huge lump. And I'm not really bragging....

Friday 8 January 2016

No More Shivery-Dog

Lucky's slightly big jacket

Me and LTD were just about to set off to Trimdon to bag two of my remaining unbagged County Durham Tumps when the postman arrived bearing gifts.

The delivery today was Lucky’s new toasty warm jacket – a Hurtta Outdoor Ultimate Warmer jacket (which cost me many, many spondoolies by the way) – so we determined to give it a test.

The knipemobile thermometer was reading 3C during our journey across County Durham, and this was , it has to be said, a bit on the warm side for this jacket. But the test was passed:

Can the dog walk normally and leap dogfully over stiles etc whilst wearing the jacket?   (Yes)

Can the dog cock his leg every five bloody minutes? (Yes)

Can the dog do a lovely poo without anything horrible happe3ning to the back of the jacket? (Yes)

Does the dog like putting it on? (Not really)

It covers a lot of dog, is reputed to be waterproof and has a thermal lining, so, I expect that it will be fabby-whizz in the cold and windy snows of the North Pennines, Lake District and Northumberland. Lucky ought to remain toasty as I sit behind some drystone wall scoffing my egg and tomato butty. No more shivering for LTD.

Did we bag the two Tumps? (Catley Hill and Raisby Hill) (Yes)

The coat and the dog might well get a snowy test tomorrow becasue I have a reccy to do Right Up Weardale. I mean Right Up. Right, right up….

Only the one picture today as Aunty May’s camera has stopped working. (I now have three dead cameras)

Tuesday 5 January 2016

Clarty Welly Walks

I didn't go out today - if I had I would have been alone in me wellies. Once again, LTD took one look out of the back door prior to his normal morning quest to chase next door's cat, and decided that his bed would be much more comfortable. I've ordered him a fabby-whiz toasty new jacket which I'm hoping will ameliorate his despising of anything cold and wet, specially when cold is accompanied by wet.

So, I stayed in till LTD's bladder became distended to bursting, at which point we went out into the slashing rain and, indeed, the clart or slutch for a brief exploration

And I decided, at some point, probably late last year now I think about it properly, to see if in 2016 I could encourage or even inspire just one person; just the one, to take up walking as a hobby or pastime and, in doing so, maybe save their mind, or even their life, or maybe just make their death more interesting than croaking away in a pool of bodily fluids, and expensively too, in a nursing home or hospice.

So, I came up with "Clarty Walks" suitable for wellies and bring your dog if you have one. This is a series of four easy walks starting at St Catherine's Community Centre in Crook in which explorations of Crooks Most Muddy and Partially Flooded Footpaths will be made. The idea is that the walks will expose some Crook peeps to the local footpath network so that they'll start doing their own long walks, and, who knows, maybe go on to longer and better stuff up the Dale, or even, dare I hope, in Cumbria or Northumberland....  eventually...

The walks are 2-hour, easy 3 mile jaunts or rambles, the main challenge of which will be to avoid falling over in the mud. We've put up posters in antici......pation

I'm not expecting a rush of enthusiastic and unfit  would-be hikers. In fact, it seems unlikely that anybody will turn up at all, in which case me and LTD will just have a nice plodge through the Co Durham clarts.

Its worth a shot, though, and the first one is on 15 January starting at 10:30 am.  There'll be one per fortnight after that for at least the next three walks. What happens after that depends if there's any enthusiasm for the project.

Apart from that, Me and Dawn have plots hatching and I have a List of Things To Do in 2016, so, unless something disastrous happens, the hillwalking and blogging will continue in much the same vein as before.

They're all free and I am qualified to do this kind of thing, y'know.

Sunday 3 January 2016

Nenthead to Garrigill and back

Ash Gill Force

Well, that about wraps it up for 2015 - A good year for a Welsh backpack with JJ, lots of walkies with Dawn including Corbett-bagging in the heelans and also with JJ in the Cheviots, Wainwright's Coast to Coast with LTD and, of course, the North-East skinny-dip...   phew.. And much more stuff, adding up to 1459 miles, 250k feet of ascent and 141 tops bagged (Lucky did more than this!)
Sunny Nenthead

And it was off to a damp start to 2016 with a Wednesday-Walkers-Wot-Walk-On-Saturdays guided walk from the frankly soaked Nenthead car park to the ever-so-waterlogged Garrigill and back via the almost-in-spate South Tyne and Ash Gill Force a waterfall of that can be walked behind for an impressive view of a roaring curtain of cream-coloured water.

Me and Lucky did a reccy a week or so before in roasting in weak winter sunshine. And it was good, if a bit sloppy underfoot.  This jaunt is, of course, mentioned in the previous post, so there's no need to drag up the fact that I kept getting lost eh?
Trying to switch on an ordnance survey map

Wandering behind Ash Gill Force
On the day, just four people turned up, plus Bailey The Dog. This was mainly due to a darkly sinister weather forecast, two attacks of coryza , or, maybe common colds,  and a social engagement involving anything not connected with driving over the Pennines to get really wet.  My Plan B, in the event of nobody turning up, was to attend a Knipe-based family gathering with some of the Scottish branches of Clan Knipe at the border fortress town of Alnwick. As for LTD, he refused to go out the back of knipetowers to chase Thomas, next door's ginger cat, which he does every morning unless it's chucking it down. His victorious ejection of Tommy from the back yard is usually celebrated with a dentastick and his breakfast. In view of the forecast and the fact that he shivers miserably when really wet, I left him at home snuggling smugly on a beanbag. My mission this coming week is to get him a better winter coat.

On the subject of getting lost, we did take the opportunity of the hill-foggy conditions to practise a little map-and-compass navigation. This went much better than I'd managed a few days before, it has to be said. It's a lot easier when you've given the map to somebody else... (just a  tip, there...)
Bentyfield and Whitesyke Mines by Garrigill Burn

Rob Cunningham has supplied most of the pics on this blog post, mainly due to the fact that my camera failed to recognise that any of the batteries I put in had any actual electricity in them. Thanks Rob.

I hope everybody enjoyed the jaunt. It didn't actually rain all day, preferring to drizzle, but there was some proper precipitation at for the final few miles.

Its a good walk, though and there's a map below for anybody else intent on trying to follow it. I made it 9 miles, everybody else said it was 10.
Ash Gill Force in sunshine