Monday 31 October 2016

Herefordshire Bed-time Dogwalks

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At home I always take the dog out very late at night. We are night owls, so a midnight walk of, maybe, a mile and a half settles both me and the dog. Dogs like routines. They like to be able to predict what's going to happen next. They expect routines. They don't really like change.

And it's no different when we're on holiday. And here we are, on the edges of Shropshire and Herefordshire where the skies are dark and at a time of year when the night-time countryside is silent.

We go out on our midnight walkies with a large hand-held lamp. But the road in the lane shows up as a grey corridor on the blackest night, so I don't use the lamp at all. And the trees and hedges are outlined by the stars. There is no moon, just the great sweep of the universe above us. There is no breeze. There are no sounds. There are no clouds and the first night is a warm, almost summery one.

We pass out of the driveway into the lane by the gate where the keeper checks traps every morning at eight o'clock and, there. Just by the first young ash tree, we walk into a cold patch of air. The dog hesitates for a moment, then, attracted by some scent or other, I assume, pulls me up the lane into warmer air, just by the second gate. Maybe there’s a hint of cigarette smoke. Maybe not.

We climb the hill till we can see the street lights of Ludlow a couple of miles away.

Then, we descend the steep hill back towards our cottage, heading straight for the Pole star and The Plough; back through the cold patch between the two gates, where the dog is keen to get back to his bed by the radiator.

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Several nights of the same routine follow. The cold patch of air is always in the same spot and the dog is always keen to pass through to the other side. Sometimes, perhaps I think that he's a bit reluctant to enter the cold air, but he always does. Maybe he's picking up my vague sense of unease. Sometimes the hairs on my neck prickle a bit between the two gates. There is a  definite slight scent of tobacco…

As the week progresses, there's more cloud. At first it's white and fluffy but the sky stays bright with stars. Sometimes the lights of aircraft pass silently high above. Then, one night, there's a complete cover of grey cloud. It's too dark to see without using the lamp. But the night is warmer than before. Even warmer. Except for that ten yards of deep cold between the two gates. The dog pulls out of it enthusiastically and holds back on the return down the hill. One night, in the middle of the second week, I catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. I think I do anyway. Maybe I don't. Something moved. I feel quite spooked about this and return to the light and warmth of the cottage more quickly than usual. This night, as I climbed our hill there was a moon somewhere just near a gap in the cloud-cover giving a hint of light.

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On the next night the clouds are broken and the road is clear to see. I don't need the lamp. We march through the cold bit between the two gates and, further up the lane, begin our usual pottering gait. The dog is sniffing the verges and the holes in the grass marking the animal runs in the hedge and marking and re-marking his new territory. Probably rabbits. Maybe rats.

As we turn from the top we have a clear view of the whole of the hill before us, the land on the left hidden behind a high hedge, the fields of the left open clear to see behind a wire fence. As we head down the lane the moon emerges suddenly from behind a cloud, lighting up a patch of the field in a blue-white beam and revealing a man, walking steadily, purposefully towards the bottom gate. He's in a rush,  sometimes glancing quickly over his shoulder. He looks, for all the world, like a 1950's detective, with the mac and the hat... and, just a few yards behind him, a mist enters the lit-up patch of field. It's a tall, thin wraith of grey, ragged, shapeless vapour, circling and dancing in the moonbeam. There's a feeling that it's chasing the man down. He glances over his shoulder again and begins to run. The clouds rush to cover the moonbeam and he's gone. I shine the lamp. There's nothing there at all. I imagined all this, obviously. There’s nothing there. Nothing at all. Whatever didn’t just happen took only three or four seconds.

We pass quickly through the cold bit and the  cigarette smoke between the two gates, half expecting to meet the man, and trying to retain some kind of dignity in our pace. But we know he's not going to be there. It's colder tonight. I feel watched. The dog pulls me hard to get away. We're both quite keen, me and the dog, to get back to our cottage where we don’t mention what's just happened. Because nothing really happened.

The next night. I change our route. There's another lane on the other side of the main road. It's just as dark and lit by the moon, it's just as easy to follow and there's access to a pasture, empty of stock. And there's no cold patch. The dog doesn't seem to mind at all.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Autumn in Almondsbury

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Dawn invited me and LTD over to Almondsbury, an apparently fairly well-to-do bit of Huddersfield where she is house-sitting for a pal whilst the pal is away in foreign parts having a jolly. LTD thought this was a good idea, so we went, and, whilst there enjoyed some tentative adventures Up The Pennines and there follows a series of pictures each with a short exposition concerning whatever is going on in the pics….  The opening pic (above) is Marsden’s memorial to the fallen in the Second World War of the 2/7th battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s regiment. It’s simplicity and it’s position on Pule Hill are it’s strength, I feel.  My two grandads were in the same regiment but different battalions – 1/6th and 2/6th Craven in World War One. Happily, they survived the war (otherwise there’s be no Pieblog would there…?)

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We began with a stroll over to Castle Hill and back, calling at the excellent butcher’s shop in Almondsbury for sausages. The fact that the first pic contains a horse has no relevance. Castle Hill is a famiss Huddersfield landmark and can be seen from all over Huddersfield and several other towns plus parts of the M62 just before running into the back of a B&Q delivery waggon. (Keeping the attention focussed on the traffic and not the distant view is a key skill on the M62)

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Next we move on to Rishworth Moor. Rishworth Moor is it’s Sunday name. It’s real name is Dog Hill. The M62 is used to get to the start which is the road out of Ripponden. It was foggy. A sign on the M62 said “Fog” which is how we knew. We followed LTD’s nose to the trig point on the top, then wandered about a bit, covering all of five miles before retiring to consider the Almondsbury sausages.

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This pic shows how a motorway can completely disappear in some Pennine fog

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This shows a dog at the summit of Dog Hill. (The dog is the one with the red harness on)

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And this shows that whilst a motorway can just go in a puff of mist, a reservoir can just as easily appear as if from nowhere. This one has notices banning swimming due to the fact that Cold Water Kills (and is useless for making tea) and that a local stone shed is alarmed, although what it is bothered about is left unsaid. Probably just an anxiety attack I shouldn’t wonder.

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Next day we foray as far as Marsden for the ascent of Pule Hill. According to my log (which I keep in the shed with the coal), I climbed Pule Hill whilst asleep in 1989. At night. I couldn’t remember any of this, so a return match was arranged.  Afterwards we went to the entrance to the Standedge Tunnel to look at the hole, and then to Marsden co-op for milk, cream for the pudding and a swede called Sven for the swede and carrot mash.

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This shows LTD making his way over to a rail tunnel air shaft on Pule Hil to wee on it.

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And here is the Standedge Tunnel entrance with some glowing eyes coming out for the frightening of Marsden villagers. Well it is halloween after all. After this, Dawn and LTD waited in the car whilst I risked losing bits of important genitalia on a barbed wire entanglement near the summit of Meltham Cop.  There was no need for this as there’s an easy way around. Happily all parts are still attached and not dangling on the fence like a molecatcher’s haul.

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Foul weather forced an abandonment of a plan to visit Crowden but a slight lifting of heavy cloud on the next afternoon allowed us a seven mile .. er….afternoon ramble to Farnley Moor via Farnley Tyas. Farnley moor’s main excitement lies in the electric fence on the top and a dog which looked remarkably like LTD, apart from different colouring and so on… Pic is Castle Hill again, from the woods on the way to Farnley Tyas.

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Our final outing was to the White House on the Pennine Way (closed today) for the bagging of Blake Moor. Blake Moor looms not, but skulks behind the reservoirs. It was very misty with no view of anything at all  and the mist eventually turned to drizzle. My advice is to follow the fence and wear a waterproof coat.

We got a bit wet.

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Dawn and LTD by the trig (not the summit) of Blake Moor

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Misty, see? And wet.

Me and LTD are now back at Castle Pieskull.

Thanks to Dawn for the invite and to Sue for permission for me and LTD to sully her door. We enjoyed it and it was really nice to re-acquaint myself with the Huddersfield Ring Road.

Friday 21 October 2016


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Samhain is a mirror for looking into the future

It may seem like the end of the light times and the start of the dark times, but, really,  it’s just the end of October. If you want to be humourously scary and get free sweeties as per the newly-invented culture of the USA, you can be a ghost or a ghoul for a time and be spookily happy. There’s no danger in the fun, it’s just fun and means nothing at all. But If you want to review the end of this summer and the summers before, maybe long before, and the good times that have  passed and to remember those who were lost  this year, and  at other times before, and to love and honour them just like you did when they were here, as if they were still here… then Samhain might be your thing. Bless their memory. They’re still more than important to you. Never forget them and their odd little ways and the things they did and the things they said and the way they loved you much, much more than you deserved. And for those you loved who didn’t know.  And then move on to the future.

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This is the time I start to plan my next twelve months, assuming I’m going to complete another twelve months. I’m thinking about it. I have ideas. I will consult with pals.

Janet’s tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee….

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Border Bagging Bimbles

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It’s been a bit quiet here on the Pieblog for a couple of weeks. This is because me and Mrs Pieman and LTD have been on our holidays and I don’t write blogging stuff on holidays. This isn’t because I have any deep philosophical objection, it’s because I don’t really know how to do it.
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Hennyway, we went to Leintwardine, which is a small but bijoux village just inside Herefordshire and not very far from Shropshire. This is really very handy for bagging Herefordshire and Shropshire Marilyns, Humps and Tumps, which is what entertained me on the days when I wasn’t doing anything else. Thus we abandoned the dark wuthering moors of Hen Ogledd for the softer oak-clad legend-soaked slopes of the Welsh Marches.
I won’t drag out the details of each walk, except to say that there were five main ones and several unmain ones, bagged en passant whilst off to do something else. LTD enjoyed these small intervals of brambly joy.
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Altogether, 23 hills were bagged for The Pieman and 25 for the Pieman’s Pooch (I’d already ticked two of them) These were:
Grimshill – A Hump in Corbett Wood, just a bit North of Shrewsbury on the way down the A49
Weaver – A Tump with a cracking view near our cottage
Evenhay – A sheep pasture near Mortimer Forest
The Coggin – Brambly wooded top near Evenhay
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High Vinnals – Marilyn – highest bit of Mortimer Forest. Well populated with dogs on walks.
Bringewood – Mortimer Forest Hump ascended via an “extreme” mountain biking route
Wapley Hill – Large hillfort Marilyn in a forest
Shobdon Hill – Forested, brambly Marilyn – met Jenny Hatfield and her partner Rick. They gave me a lift back to my car. Jenny is the first woman to complete ALL of the Marilyns, a stupendous acheivement. We really are not worthy.
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Croft Ambrey Hill – National Trust land – stupidly expensive car parking and volunteers who apparently know bugger-all about the hillforted summit which has enormous and extensive ramparts AND medieaval rabbit warrens just like they have on Wapley Hill. “Oh, we’ve got nothing like that” said the very nice but ever-so-dopey volunteer.
Monks Well Hill – Just outside Hay on Wye. Ridiculously easy Tump and I camped within  a couple of hundred metres after a walk over the Black Mountains a few years ago.
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Merbach Hill – A Hump on the way to Hereford for a new battery for Mrs Pieman’s car key. Cracking view of the Black Mountains.
Callow Hill – Marilyn with a tower on top – Flounders Folly, built by a Yorkshireman for no good reason other than he bloody well wanted to.
Woolverton Hill – A brambly wee shite on Wenlock Edge
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Clee Barf – Now we’re talking – a proper hill at last.
Brown Clee Hill – Highest point in Shropshire. Marilyn with horses.
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Titterstone Clee – Devasted Marilyn with huge holes, and electronical stuff on top. Nice views, though
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Coxhall Knoll – Brambly in the extreme, but with enormous ramparts on the hill-fort at the top. Probably forty feet high at one point. I got lost on the way down. I knew I was lost by LTD’s sighing, tutting and eye-rolling. Dhuhh.
Helmeth Hill – wooded Tump at Church Stretton. Woodland Trust path from the bottom to the top. We love the Woodland Trust. Very steep.
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Hope Bowdler Hill – Rounded, misty Hump with rocky tors. Steep
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Caer Caradoc Hill – Best hill of the lot. A Marilyn with craggy tors and a hillfort. The sun came out. Super stuff. I’d done it before though.
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The Lawley – Hump just South of Caer Caradoc. Long, thin ridge. Quite steep with superb views.
Shelderton Hill – A ploughed crop field near our cottage. A Tump.
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Bradnor Hill – Marilyn with a golf course at Kington. Very foggy. Couldn’t see a thing.  Ended up climbing barbed wire fences during a fracture in the Earth Time and Space continuum which caused some temporary misalignment of my navigational senses.
Rushock Hill – A Tump on Offa’s Dyke. I did this before with Dawn on a backpacking trip.
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Herrock Hill – A big, rounded Tump with Offa’s Dyke as a high necklance overlooking Wales.
And that was that.
We’re back now. The knipemobile is currently broken, so there may be another short hiatus. I need to throw money at it. Or I need a new car…
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