Wednesday 30 November 2016

Britain’s Best Walks : 200 Classic Walks - Review

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Readers with reasonable attantion spans may remember that Harper Collins sent me a couple of copies of this newly published book of walks for review and to see if I could raise a spot of charity cash too…  very nice of them , I thought, and so did LTD.

Soooo  we went off to Huddersfield to test out a couple of the walks and also to keep Dawn company in her role as house-sitter.

We did one and a half walks: The first, at Hardcastle Crags at Hebden Bridge, where we were distracted by a stray dog which required recovery to it’s owner and a one at Meltham which we completed without any interuptions of difficulty.

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Britain’s Best Walks is a compilation of Christopher Somerville’s contributions to The Times newspaper in his regular and popular column “A Good Walk” It is priced at £30. £30 for 200 walks seems like a reasonable deal to me…

We tried just two walks. You may consider this to be insufficient to form any kind of opinion, but, I have to point out that I have been wandering about the hills of Britain since I was eleven years old and I am now G^(*&’’0”  (sorry, something happened to my keyboard there..)  but anyway, its a long time. And during this long time, I’ve been all over the place and it seems that I am really quite familiar with a large number of the routes included in the book, specially those in the Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines and the Lake District, but also with several others in other places. A couple of them coincide remarkably well with guided walks I lead for Durham County Council, so I am qualified to make judgements.

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But first, what do you get in the book?  I pinched the following bullet points from Harper Collins website (sheer laziness and it’s so easy to copy and paste)

Each of the featured walks contains:
• Detailed description as featured in The Times column
• Postcode and OS grid reference start point
• Instructions on how to get there
• Distance and grade so readers can suit walks to their ability, fitness and mood
• Simple step-by-step walk instructions
• Beautiful colour photograph for each walk
• Full colour, clear and up-to-date map
• Food and accommodation details for the hungry traveller

All of this is true, the writing is, as you would expect from The Times, quite inspiring and necessarilly brief, so , if you have a short attention span….

And the photography is superb too.

And the extra information about starting points and refreshment opportunities is useful.

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The book is a big book, though, and much too big to carry around a route – and you’d damage it anyway in doing so. So you need to record the route somewhere – I drew it on an OS map using the map in the book for reference and just navigated my way around without reference to the route description other than remembering something about posts with red markers. This was sufficient for me and quite simple to do and the only difficulty we had was on the Hebden Water walk at the top of a steep slope where the actual path on the ground doesn’t follow the line of the right of way very well and an impasse was reached on tricky ground (with a large and reluctant captured dog!) but close attention to the OS map sorted it out.

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However, the book is rather beautiful and the walks are high quality expeditions. Give it as a present. Take it on holiday but don’t take it on walks!

If you want to try to win a copy, it’s being raffled in aid of St Catherine’s Community Association in Crook Co Durham: Donations received will have the appropriate number of raffle tickets allocated to the draw

Money/cheques etc.( minimum £1)  should be made out to St Catherine’s Community Association and sent to St Catherine’s Community Centre, South Street, Crook, DL15 8NE. We’d need your name and address to send it to you if you won (!) We’ll pay the P&P

For a more reliable method of acquiring the book click this:Buy Britains Best Walks

Monday 28 November 2016

On Encountering a Loose Dog

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Me and LTD returned to Almondbury to keep Dawn company for a few days and to have a look at a couple of walks in the Britains Best Walks book wot they sent me the other day, the better to write some kind of review – more of which in another blog post in a couple of days…
So, we went off to Hebden Bridge to have a go at a shortish walk entitled “Hebden Water” – we felt a bit lazy and wanted an easy start to the proceedings.
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And the proceedings went well enough, after we’d paid the outrageous five quid parking fee. Five quid? I meantersay – five quid…
Hennyway, we progressed through the rather lovely autumn woodland on the bonny banks of Hebden Beck. I’d last been here ar Christmas, some 31 years ago, just after moving up from West Yorkshire to County Durham. I couldn’t remember any of it, really… Odd, that, because in the 1980’s I used to haunt the place, it being a through route from the valley to the moors beyond.
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We lunched briefly in a sun trap at Gibson Mill – the cafe being closed – and crossed the bridge to wander further up the little glen. It was here that we were first approached by the dog – a golden retriever-type of pooch wearing a Ruffwear harness just like LTD’s. The dog approached then retreated, as if waiting, perhaps, for an owner.
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A little later it ran past us and then returned, looking quite stressed and confused as to where to go. I decided that it was lost and removed the climbing sling that I use to hold LTD’s lead, and clipped it on to the stray’s harness with a krab. Dawn took LTD and me and the retriever headed back towards Gibson Mill. After half a mile, the dog sat down, anchored it’s paws into the ground and refused to move anywhere but upstream. So we went back and continued with the walk, but now with two dogs instead of one.
We lurched up the steep bit to Walshaw farm, where the new dog seemed to know the way through the farmyard, although the route description in the Times book was less than helpful..  and the dog pulled off the walk route and back towards Gibson Mill – so that where we went.
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Back at the mill, we approached two rangers – who turned out to be friendly volunteers who quickly took charge of the dog and made us a cup of tea. This was nice. We tried the various phone numbers on the dog’s tag and made contact with the owner’s wife who was on a journey between Preston and Liverpool at the time. Another mobile number failed due to lack of a signal in the deep valley. So we left the dog in the custody of the rangers and headed off back to the start, meeting the owner on his way to collect the dog – the “employed” ranger having met him in the car park. The dog had just run off , apparently. Some dogs do that…
So that was that. We failed to follow the route due to the dog emergency.
We would try again at Meltham the following day.
In the meantime, Dawn having found a debit card by the toilets, we tried and failed to find a cop shop in Hebden Bridge. My phone said that the nearest coppery was in Halifax and then took us on a mystery tour of the narrow, cobbly lanes above Calderdale to eventually turn up at Halifax police station.


Sunday 20 November 2016

Pieblog’s Christmas Raffle -The Times–Britain’s Best Walks

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Harper Collins, publishers have sent me a couple of copies of this new walking guide – The Times – Britain’s Best Walks – 200 Classic Walks, written by one Christopher Somerville and, as a first impression, I’m really quite impressed with it. The walks are based on Somerville’s contributions to The Times Weekend section and are accompanied by am OS-based map and directions, including where to have lunch (bonus!)

I’m due to re-visit Dawn in her temporary winter quarters in Huddersfield quite shortly and, it seems, that three of the walks detailed in the book are quite handy for Almondsbury, so , I’m hoping that the weather is kind so I can go and check out the guide on the ground as it were and, subsequently, write a proper review. But, I have to say, that it does look rather nice. There’s a link to Harper Collins marketing blurb thingy at the end of this post so you can have a look. (and you should have a look)

Regular and attentive Pieblog readers will remember that my charity dosh-rasing activities often centre around Things Sent For Review and thats what I’m doing with this.

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The book will be in the Christmas raffle for the St Catherine’s Community Association in Crook. St Caths operate a community cafe and host a wide range of events in support of peeps in Crook and their County Council grants have been slashed considerably, so they need the dosh, see?

If pieblog readers would like to have a go at winning a copy of this book, I will accept donations by cheque. The raffle tickets will be one English pound (or Clydesdale Bank, or other Scottish bank) for five tickets, so, if you were to send a fiver, you’d get 25 virtual tickets in the draw. Or if you live in Co Durham, and/or will be attending am 8 mile guided walk leaving at 10:00 from St Caths in Crook on 3 December lead by your’s truly and wearing a festive hat (all welcome – and it’s free and doggy-friendly) you could buy a ticket or two at the counter in the cafe. Your pooch may even get a complimentary chewstick.

The book is priced at £30, so winning it for a quid would be a significant bargain and I’d send it to you in time for you to wrap it in Christmassy paper and give it to one of your hiking friends, or you could just keep it all for yourself. The raffle will be drawn at the winter solstice on 21 December and all cheques cleared by then will have numbers entered.

Cheques should be made out to St Catherine’s Community Association and sent to St Catherine’s Community Centre, South Street, Crook, DL15 8NE. We’d need your name and address to send it to you if you won (!) We’ll pay the P&P

Here’s a link to click for more and better info: britains best walks

I’ll do a proper review once I’ve had chance to do a couple or three of the walks… and, I have to say, I’m looking forward to the test.


Saturday 19 November 2016

Rejected by Chapel Fell

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Me and LTD were intending to go from St John’s Chapel to Chapel Fell Top, across to Fendrith Hill and then down by the Weardale Ski Club’s installations at Swinhope back to the start.

We began in an incipient snow shower and plodded up the lane towards Green Laws Vein where the snowing stopped and the sun came out.

However, it had been quite hard work so far. I was having one of those “unfit” days and, wearing winter gear for the first time which I find restrictive and heavy.

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Up by Green Laws, the snow was suddenly deeper. It was heavy, wet stuff too, with greasy mud underneath and deep vegetation.

Higher up, by the steeper bits, even LTD began to struggle, now ignoring the rabbit scent and footprints for a series of short leaps and, at times,  he was almost swimming through the white stuff.

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We reached a flatter bit. The snow was less deep here and there was even  a bit of spindrift but we were now in the cloud and it started snowing again. It drifted past, freezing one side of my face and covering my specs. I blundered on a bit on a compass bearing, trying to ignore the feeling that this was all about to go badly wrong.

So, we turned around and followed our footprints easily back down the hill.

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Lower down, the sun came out and the tops appeared out of the mist. But it was too late. I didn’t have the motivation to have another go and, instead, repaired to the Chatterbox Cafe in St John’s Chapel where the dog is allowed in to witness me supping hot coffee and scoffing a jammy scone whilst chatting to the lad at the counter, who told me about running his 4x4 into the ditch just a bit up the Chapel Fell road.

I’ll have another go on another day. Chapel Fell’s been there a while and it’s unlikely to be disappearing soon. What we need is for the snow to build up a bit more and to freeze into some lovely neve. This is not all that uncommon up the Weardale Fells.

Or I could just dig out the snowshoes and goggles. (dhuhh) 


Tuesday 15 November 2016

Desultory Bagging–North Pennines–Viewing Hill

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There will now be a short series of North Pennine tops walks, the point about which is that dogs are pretty much banned from most of the taller North Pennine hills due to the “protection of ground-nesting birds”. They mean grouse, of course. But it occurred to me that in the winter, there’s not much nesting going on and not much keepering is likely to be taking place in those high places where the weather nithers at the bones.

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Anyway, there’s a bunch of 2000- foot tops in the North Pennines that LTD hasn’t visited, so, over the next month or two, specially when the weather is particularly challenging, me and LTD intend to bag a few of these and, in order to be a bit challenging to anybody attempting to predict where we’re going to go, and what routes we might take, we aren’t going to follow a plan. Instead, we’re going to go wherever we decide to go at the time. This is desultory bagging.

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The other point is that you can over-plan stuff y’know. Sometimes its nice to set off without an exact plan of where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do. Thus, new discoveries are made. It’s nice to poke around but it doesn’t get you fit…

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Today’s desultory bag was Viewing Hill. The weather was quite nice – sunny and not really cold and we bimbled up to Green Hurth Mineworkings from Cow Green car park and climbed up to the high point from there. A lovely cairn has appeared since the last time I was there (4 August 2007, apparently)

And, without a firm plan or route in mind, we wandered roughly Eastwards for a mile or so, joining the path from Cow Green to Harwood to return to the start. We didn’t do a straight line, but veered North for a bit to seek shelter for the comfy scoffing of an egg and tomato butty and some apple pie.

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And then East again, not really looking much at the map, but heading, instead towards the lump of Cronkley Fell until we hit the ruins of a mine shop which is a landmark on one of the Durham County Council guided walks. At this point we knew where we were.

Once away from Cow Green car park, we saw nobody. We did see a few grouse, but not many. And we found a shotgun cartridge at a grouse butt. Careless loss, I expect.

It was 6 miles and only 700 feet of ascent, but a bit rough, but that’s the Pennines for you, innit?

Where shall we go next?

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Wednesday 9 November 2016

Notes From The TGO Challenge Standby List

I thought I’d treat readers to some pics of LTD’s routine doggy walk, or at least, one of the routes, whilst I expound on me and The Lad’s TGO Challenge application and planning. I’ll keep the progress of the application and the planning up-to-date as things progress. Providing they progress.

For info and bragging tights, the dog walk is 3 miles and 600 feet of ascent. Some doggy walks are a bit longer and some a bit shorter. Whatever the distance and no-matter how many doggy walks take place in a day, LTD always does two poos. And this is why his nickname is “Lautrec”.

So, me and The Lad applied to do the 2017 TGO challenge. This would be my 13th and The Lad’s 3rd. But we’re on the stand-by list. This means that we’re dependant on other people dropping out – either from a bit higher (or is it lower?) on the stand-by list or from the list of participants. So, we’re a bit in limbo although I think we have a moderate chance of getting places.

We have a start point and a finish point – these being Dornie on the West Coast and Dunnotar Castle on the East Coast. The only link between the two places is their castles.

Mrs Pieman is determined to hire a cottage, probably at Johnshaven, to greet us on arrival in the East and, I understand that there’s a tentative plan for Mrs The Lad and The Lad’s family and dog to take the same cottage for the second week…  not sure about this.

I have a plan to buy a bigger tent (more of which later)

So, we need to sort out a route, pending acceptance and plan gear and food and so on. This is standard stuff. I’d like us to go through Braemar and pay a visit to Callater Lodge for the TGO carousing.

Our only strategy, so far, is a determination to do a walk during the TGO chally time – either on the challenge, or at the same time, in the same kind of place, or somewhere else.

And we need a TGO challenge shake-down route – my idea for this is a foot-to-head traverse of the Isle of Man. It’s 35 miles (ish) and should take 2 or 3 days. If we do a walk outside the TGO, it means we can take LTD, which would be good.

And that’s about it. We’re having a family “do” this weekend in the Borders, so some of this detail can be ironed out.

As for LTD- he nearly caught a mouse today in the deeper snow…

In the meantime, I'm using fecking blogger again since the open livewriter software isn't playing.  One could get paranoid about non-google stuff keep breaking, so you could....

Monday 7 November 2016

Fight Club Hikers Use Reasonable Excuses

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Me and LTD went to Gerlan, on the slopes overlooking Bethesda for the annual Fight-Club-Hikers-Can’t-Be-Arsed-To-Hike-Anywhere meet. The last two November meets were met with atrocious weather and only a very damp trundle over Lingmoor was taken by me, Masey and our soggy dogs last year.

The previous year’s weather was even worse and absolutely nothing at all was attempted. This was a Reasonable Excuse

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But this year it was just cold and windy and the hills were clear of fog and dry (ish) apart from a shower or two. I had a route with a couple of easy escapes or shortcuts and, it seemed that there was enthusiasm for the escapade in The Bull the night before. A ten o’clock start would be required. 

Fight Club Hikers decided, though, that a lazy, two hour breakfast would be preferable to actually walking anywhere and proceeded, or, more accurately, proceeded not to proceed anywhere at all.

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At ten o’clock, LTD was chewing my leg to be off, so off we went. As it goes dark at half four, I thought this was late enough. So, whilst FCH members considered another round of toast, me and LTD were marching up Moel Faban , a rocky little 408metre Tump just above Gerlan, where LTD met Kipper, a rampant collie who insisted  and insisted on licking LTD’s naughty parts.

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We followed this with a lurch up the beetling slopes of Gyrn, a 514metre Dewey with a lovely view of the Bethesda quarries and then, in a  stinging hail shower, the piece of resistance they call Moel Wnion – named after a popular vegetable commonly grown on the allotments in Gerlan.

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After lunch in the tropical confines of my liddle group shelter, we avoided Drosgl using a reasonable AND believable excuse and wandered over easy grass to Gyrn Wigau, a Nuttall with all of 15 metres of re-ascent (so, only just a Nuttall, then) which has a cracking view of the Carneddau corries which the rest of the Fight Club Hikers were poking about in a cwm in using a different reasonable excuse for doing Not Much At All. This was, of course, my second ascent of Gyrn Wigau.

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The King’s Head in Bethesda provided entertainment for the night and LTD enjoyed the attentions of several lovely girls and, too late for me, it dawned on me that I should have had a small cute dog with me on nights out when I was eighteen  - some several years ago….  Bugger. Too late now.

On Sunday, the weather was duff, so I went home. I thought this was a reasonable excuse.

The route is just 7 miles and 2400 feet of ascent. Drsgl and various other Nuttalls could easily be included.

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