Thursday 25 February 2016

Not Allenbanks But Hadrian’s Wall

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Anither michty scheme gan aglay.

We’d set off hopefully from Dawn’s Dockside Den for Allendale, in particular the Very Lovely Allenbanks – a long and deep wooded glen just a bit to the left of Hexham. But it seems that the stormy winter has done for the paths in Allenbanks and it’s closed to the public for Health and Safety reasons. There was a barricade. We couldn’t get in.

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So, not feeling specially adventurous in terms of an unwillingness to tackle tracks teetering on brinks of enormous and loose drops over deep and rushing (and cold) water,  we decided to have a ramble around Hadrian’s Wall, which isn’t really all that far away and appears on the same Ordnance Survey map, thus saving any chance of getting lost, or, at least, reducing those chances fairly significantly.

So we went to Peel Crags car park which hovers above Twice Brewed and gives immediate access to the parts of Hadrian’s Wall which march over some of the more bumpy and craggy bits.

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We rambled for a few miles in a generally Eastern direction. The sun shone brightly and the light breeze from somewhere around Greenland insinuated itself into our thermals whilst the muddy path was frozen solid and made easier and cleaner than would otherwise be. In fact, we followed the Pennine Way and persisted with this strategy when it veered North away from the wall in the rough direction of Bellingham in favour of some bogs which weren’t properly frozen and provided an awkward obstacle.

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And then, after getting our feet wet, we turned West,  following the very same pastures that the Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays group had followed last summer… or whenever it was.

Second lunches were enjoyed in the bird hide at Greenlee Lough. It was warm inside the hide, but despite this, no birds were found hiding in there. It’s not surprising, really, since previous visitors had secured the door.

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We continued over the moss crossed on extensive duck-boards and finally, through pastures containing friendly tups and Highland cattle to the road back to the start.

On the way back to The Docks, we bagged the minor, almost road-side Tump of Harlow Hill, the most interesting aspect of which was a Tawny Owl, quartering the woods and the bunkers for innatentive mice.

I measured this jaunt as 8 miles. Dawn said it was ten. Dunno why there’s a difference….

Here’s a map:

hadrians wall

Friday 19 February 2016

Hey Ho The Wind and The Rain, The Wind and The Rain. And The Frost

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Other best made schemes of mice and men having gone aglay, I decided to have a few days in Galloway for the baggings. A campsite at Balloch O’ Dee, just a bit left of Newton Stewart is open all year. So I emailed them and went.

Its a nice campsite.

I arrived in hopeful sunny weather, the night being perishingly cold at first but then, after a suitable number of doses of cheap scotch, it seemed to get a bit warmer.

By the time the grey dawn appeared, there was a hint of spits and spots of rain on the tent and it was blustering about a bit. I decided to wait a bit to see what happened and went back to the knotty problem of Kylie’s bra, a dream I have never  yet been abloe to finish after several years of trying…

When I drifted back out of snoozy dreamy sleepy snoozy snooze land, the rain was hammering down and the tent was taking on the antics of the inside of a washing machine. This continued past lunchtime, into the afternoon and through into darkness.

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At one point two schoolgirls appeared dressed entirely in Paramo and riding wellies. They said “? somebody” (it was difficult to hear over the roaring of the storm “says you can use the bothy to cook in, or whatever you want to do” I gave a thumbs up, which was returned and off they went back to the shelter of wherever they’d come from.  What a nice offer. So I went and had a look. The bothy, it seems is quite posh. It has five or so bunks, a big wood-burning stove-cum-cooker and comfy chairs and lots of decoration. Lucky wasn’t so keen, though, and clearly preferred being covered by a four-season sleeping bag enhanced by a hot water bottle in a teddy-bear furry cover (I may be too soft on this dog). And getting stoves and food out of the heaving, dripping lump of nylon over the mud to the bothy would have been a task. So I decided to stay put in the tent. I had to keep putting pegs back in anyway. Nice thought, though.

The storm went on till, about 3:00 am, I noticed that the wind had dropped. But it was still raining heavily. This continued into the very next grey dawn and only stopped during my morning shredded wheat.

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So, by late morning, me and the pooch plodded up the road and bagged Culvrennan Fell. Culvrennan Fell looks quite rough, but turns out to have relatively easy walking. Its not a huge hill, but has three tops, lots of cairns old and new and ancient and a trig pillar. Being a Hump, it also has a big view.

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After this, we wandered over to Barskeoch Fell – just a bit West (ish) and defended by a bog and an electric fence. The fence had an unelectrified gap in it, though and we crossed unshocked to the green summit beyond. Another nice view.

We returned to the tent for lunch.

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In the afternoon, the sky cleared and the sun came out so we rambled over to the Three Lochs and climed Fell Hill. Fell Hill is defended by lots of trees. Lots of closely packed trees beneath which daylight never penetrates.

Our days wanderings were 11 miles altogether.

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That night the sky cleared even more and a penetrating and viciously cold night followed during which the hot water bottle was reheated three or four times. The milk froze. The water froze. Lucky was toasty under his 4 season bag.

And in the moring, the camera wouldn’t work, so there’s no pictures of the pristine white world of ice. And I couldn’t get into the knipemobile, but did set off the alarms trying to do so.

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Eventually, I got in and, car packed, we went to Wigtown just to have a look and to bag the little Tump Windy Hill, topped by a monument to the murder by drowning of several Covenanter women in 1685, principally for sticking to religious principals and made specially unjust because they’d actually be reprieved 11 days before. This is still disturbing even after 300+ years.

Not much of a trip, really. I liked the campsite though and there’s a link below. I liked the lack of notices detailing various rules that many campsites and bunkhouses have.  Maybe I’ll go back. They’re very friendly and they like dogs.

Here’s the link – click to view the campsite’s website   balloch o dee campsite

Saturday 13 February 2016

Mainly Meandering on Malham Moor

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Having lived in Skipton for several years and haunted the Southern part of the Yorkshire Dales for even more years, I was shocked and amazed to find that Malham Moor contained two Tumps wot I’d never been up before.

In both cases, I’d been within a hundred metres or so of the summits and, in the words of LTD, sent in a kind of telepathis way after I’d opened the channels using the time-worn methid of supping some of my sloe gin “Thart a  great daft bugger. Thad best go an’ gettem before t’winter ends an’ they put t’bloody cattle out.  I mek nowt o’t cows, thannoes” 

For an Irish dog, Lucky has developed a remarkable ability with the Yorkshire dialect.

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So, armed with a special steak pie from Durham indoor market, a huge fruit slice and some choccy bars, off we went early (ish) on Saturdasy morning. (Assuming that it will take me more than the remaining half an hour of Saturday to finish writing this tosh and push the “Publish” button.

We found a handy parking spot at the almost completely unknown hamlet of Skirethorns and plodded off up the Malham Moor road towards…  Malham Moor. Our first top was called “Malham Moor” for the reason that this is the name closest to it on the map. Malham Moor, though, is much, much bigger than just this top, so the name must be wrong. Ipso fatso, and Queens Erotic Demontstration, as we used to say at the end of maths lessons.

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Nevertheless, it’s a lovely top containing some lovely carboniferous limestone outctops and pavements, a lonesome pine  hawthorn, some rabbits for the dog and , probably, a lovely view, although this was mainly absent due to mistyness.

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We wandered lonely as a manandadog to Bordley (Population 23) where we were barked at by the dogs and howled at by the hounds. Lucky barked and howled and then howled and barked. Then just looked a bit confused. Mastiles lane took us through the site of a Roman Camp Marching place… apols… Roman Marching Camp (?ly) established 1944 years ago to curb the rebellious efforts of the local Brigantes, it is thought. mastiles 010

Mastiles Lane also took us to Street Gate and the loovely but small Tump Abbot Hills. Readers should know that the area was once a sheep ranch owned and operated by Fountains Abbey and, it is thought that Mastiles Lane is a drove road heading in a direction appropriate to travelling to their grange at Kilnsey. But it might be a lot older than that.  It does make for easy walking, though, which was just as well because we’d have to use it to get back to Skirethorns.

Abbot Hills, despite the use of the plural, is just one hill. Its a very nice hill, though, and easy to climb, and has a nice view which, by now, had appeared.

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We plodded all the way back in sunshine with a bitter headwind, passing a herd of about 40 Galloways on the way back. Lucky ignored them and they ignored Lucky. They had put the cattle out. Or, rather, they hadn’t taken them in. I expect they’re preventing the place turning into a scrubby wilderness.

Today’s sign of spring was a curlew. Probably lost.

12 Miles.



Thursday 11 February 2016

A Sunny Winter’s Day on the Caldbeck Fells

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Just occasionally, I get the timing of a walk precisely right and, in retrospect, from a Cumbrian summit with the glare of the sun on the snow and superbly cold conditions, my decision to drag LTD out of his stink-pit and into his harness, and myself of course (no harness for me, though) proved exactly right.

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And so it was with Carrock Fell. The stupidly steep start is a bit of a shock to the NHS stent that is still, somehow keeping that cardiac artery open just enough to make all these contours vaguely bearable, which leads up through the green world into the white-and-blue world which lies above.

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LTD celebrated by sliding around on his belly on the frozen crust and we had a brief choccy break inside the orange greenhouse-effect group-shelter which was flapping madly in the wind. It was clear, by LTD’s shivering that he needed his cosy coat, so, before moving on, I fitted it to him, cheering him up no end, and put on some crampons which |I’d not yet had a chance to use. I don’t think these were really necessary, but there was the odd bare patch of ice and I’d never put them on before, so….

We wandered over to Round Knott, which although just a small knobble on the wide ridge, defended itself with a deep and soft drift. LTD revelled in the drift, tail high.

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Next, was Milton Hill – a bit nonedescript and then, in deeper snow which broke underfoot with each step, making for increasingly hard going, the vague top of Drygill Head – where I’d never been before… and where I#ll probably never go again.

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More tough going gave us Hare Stones and then, more easily and with a strong bit od wind-assistance, High Pike, where conditions were just too cold and windy for a stop – so we started on the descent route, having a late lunch in a bit of a sun-trap beside some ancient open-casting with a final bagging of the very vague top of West Fell.

A short road walk brought us back to the knipemobile.

This walk was only six miles and it left me utterly banjaxed. I was never hungry on the walk, so I didn’t eat much and I think that the conditions must have made me dehydrated.

Back at knipetowers, all I could do was drink and not the boozy stuff (It’s not Friday y’know..).  I’m OK again now, and ready for another jaunt – probably on Saturday.

carrock fell and high pike

Saturday 6 February 2016

Return To Dunnerdale For The Forgotten Boots

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Those who paid attention to a previous post will remember what a dozy beggar I was when, leaving a damp and sploshy 3 days in the Wallabarrow Farm camping barn with Dawn and LTD, I left my new boots behind.
Now Wallabarrow Farm is just a bit over a hundred miles from the defensive moats of Knipetwowers, so I had to make special arrngements to get the boots back. This involved fighting the dog into his harness, driving to kendal to collect The Bro and continuing to Wallabarrow where I ransacked the porch for some boots that looked like mine. There were several lookalikes… but The Boss came out of the kitchen holding a clean and dry pair of Scarpas which he said were mine. They fitted and so, satisfied, we went off to bag a couple of Tumps before the rain started again.
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Just a bit up the road is High Tongue – a rocky and tussocky lump acheived from the little parking area at it’s foot by a mild but enjoyable scramble. LTD really enjoys scrabbling up rocky bits, it seems.
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We continued along through the rough ground and rocky tors to a second top overlooking a set of braided waterfalls, noticing, on the way, one or two rather pleasant-looking camping spots. In summer, these would be small green havens in a sea of bracken. And, the hills being not very big, and off-the-beaten-wotsit, probably quite quiet and ideal for a pleasant weekend sitting about reading a book or something. This second top had at least 50 metres of ascent on one side and, maybe, just about 30 on the other. It doesn;t appear much on the OS map, though.
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After lunching in the shelter of a wall junction, a public footpath took us more easily along to the second target in the shape of Long Crag. Long Crag is very steep, well wooded and appears to be huge and fierce from the bottom. But it isn’t. The crags are small and easily overcome and the top has a boulder on the top which, on the day was lethally slippery and only climbable if any dignity is left behind and there is liberal use of any available high-friction bits of the body, such as knees and/or buttocks.
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A path rook us down to the road for a two-mile plod back to the knipemobile which was still where we’d left it. At some point along here , the rain returned and the jaunt was over. The rain rained well into the night, so, any further rambling or scrambling wouldn’t necessarily have been much fun.
The walk was about four miles. Four rough miles, though, so……
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high tongue

Thursday 4 February 2016

Doctors Gate and Black Banks Guided Walkies

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Having a fairly packed diary, me and LTD did the reccy for this walk the day before the walk. This is probably not such a good idea, by the way. It was 11 miles and, on the reccy, stupidly windy, but after Doctor’s Gate, it could have been classed as “wind-assisted”. It was mucky. It was clarty. It was sloppy. In many places.

On the reccy, it all went fairly well – we almost stepped on a hare and LTD came within a couple of feet of a roe deer which, distracted by some sweet grass and, probably, deaf to pedestrian traffic by the wind roaring in the trees, we surprised it. LTD has never seen a deer before. I think he thought it was a big dog. After a brief staring match, the deer wandered off, with little sign of panic or hurry.

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On the day, Eric and Neville stewarded and 32 people, plus Bailey the doglet turned up. This is quite a lot of people for one of my walks. Inevitably, all wildlife had disappeared long before we got anywhere near. We did see some snowdrops, though, and the weather included blue skies and clear, long-distance views. And there’s a hint of warmth in the sun if you can escape from the breeze which seeps a gripping cold into the bones. Brrrr (shiver)

We’ve done this route three times before as a winter guided walk. It’s eleven miles, so it’s timing is for when the daylight is just that little bit longer. It’s often muddy. There was deep snow once. Not to be done when the river’s in flood.

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For the interested – the walk leaves Wolsingham by the three-heart-attack hill* up to Chatterley farm. Excitements include lots of contours, frisky cows in summer, a cracking view of Wolsingham, a hare (see above) and a tricky stile which cannot be surmounted with any dignity. *I’ve decided to categorise hills by the number of heart-attacks which may be expected whilst attacking these hills for a 65 year-old codger who’s forgotten to take his bisoprolol this morning. This one is a “three”.  Three is significant.

A long road walk follows on a quiet lane, passing St John’s Hall, famous for the daffodil-breeding Backhouse family who produced the Weardale Wonder – a rare daffodil to be seen, at the right time of year in Wolsingham church yard.

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On to Doctor’s Gate – so named for obscure reasons and having a track well-beloved by 4x4 drivers, if 4x4 drivers ever love anything sufficiently to avoid destroying it as a road suitable for anything other than 4x4’s

Over the rough moor to Stanhope Road quarry with it’s big pond (how deep is this I wonder?).

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Down through Hoppyland, a farm/settlement with a long history, to Harthope Mill, the site of the mediaeval bloomery of Byrkeknott, later a mill and, much later, a cattle shed.

Up the hill, past the snowdrops to the soppy pastures around Shipley and then down through the woods and forestry (and deer) of Black Banks followed by a riverside ramble back to Wolsingham. There’s a map below.

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