Saturday 26 August 2017

Muckle Samuel and Bits of Me Dad’s Blue Streak Rocket


Back in the day, for a brief period, my old Dad worked at Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick where they made Important Bits for Blue Streak - Britain’s answer to the Soviets – a rocket intended for the delivery of huge amounts of death and destruction just a bit East of Berlin. These rockets were built and then tested to destruction at Spadeadam, an RAF station sited in England’s bleakest and emptiest quarter – a huge patch of  low, brown tussocky, boggy stuff quite near the Cumbria/Northumberland border. The landscape is not relieved at all by the huge and regimented Wark Forest, Kielder forest’s twin.

However, the landscape is relieved quite a bit by it’s best possession – a craggy, half-quarried tor of hard rock called Muckle Samuel’s Crags.


Muckle Samuel’s crags holds the opportunity for the rock scrambler to have a few minutes of excitement getting to the top (although there is an easier way round the back). Muckle Samuel also has what appears at first sight to be a small sheepfold and a couple of walled shelters, one of which is neatly hidden under and beside a bilberry-dressed pinnacle and, according to That Interweb, has an extra underground room access via a small hole in the floor. I wish I’d known this on Friday when I visited. I did notice the hole in the floor, but thought it too tight and mucky to warrant squeezing inside. The place is cosy and big enough for 2 or 3 close friends and an ideal spot for a lunch out of a Northerly nither.

The interior of the main howff or shelter is decorated only by some graffiti, apparently dating back to 1966


Also, according to That Interweb, the place was the site of a mediaeval steading of some kind. It certainly has a good view to the North of the flat and tussock-infested sloppylands.

The purpose of my visit, though was to bag something, almost anything, and the nearby Tump Coomb Rigg was my target. This was achevied with some difficulty over a vast plain of knee-high and closely-packed and hugely vicious tussocks of the kind that steal your boots and fill them with smelly black water. Happily, the return journey was made much easier by following tracks made by off-road bikers and an outward journey of knee-threatening half an hour was completed coming back in about ten minutes. I was originally intending to go to the Lakes where I had three or four targets to do but then I remembered that the Bank Holiday was starting and the place would be heaving. A traffic report of the jams around the M6/A66 at Penrith in the afternoon confirmed that I’d made a reasonable decision.


The walk started at Churnsike Lodge, an ex-keeper’s place, now holiday cottages I believe, on the forest edge at the end of an 8 mile single-track road with a dearth of passing places and very soft verges – enlived somewhat by the array of targets (aircraft, buildings, dummy tanks etc) , used by Spadeadam’s Electronic Warfare customers. Also enlivening the journey were the cattle on the road who were reluctant to move, a nice sheepdog pup at a farm on the way and the meeting of the heating gas wagon on the brow of a hill. He reversed half a mile up hills and around tight corners to the next cattle-grid. Impressive skills. I had nowhere to go, really.

Me and LTD did 9 miles and only 800 feet of ascent. And a lot of forest roads. We saw nobody else.  For seekers of solitude, therefore, it’s an ideal spot for an easy walk, or, even a very long walk, maybe to Bewcastle -  and, I should expect, would be delightful if it happened that the sky was full of larks and pipits and such, and, perhaps the odd attacking Eurofighter. It’s not the kind of place where you’d want a rogue knee to sieze-up though.

I wondered whether or not any debris or bits of me Dad’s handiwork remained anywhere nearby.


Thursday 24 August 2017

Upper Swaledale Interlude


Me and LTD and Dawn went to Keld for the camping and a bit of swimmin’

Just a bit upstream from the campsite is Catrake Force – a series of , would you believe it (?) small cataracts with stupidly deep plunge pools of tea-coloured water, so brown you can’t see your feet. It was this lack of visibility in the tootsie department that caused me to walk off the slippery underwater slab I was sliding my feet across into the deep, cold, brown wet stuff. Not so much a dignified dive, more of a panic-filled plunge.


A bit later, after traversing the edge of the pool for a bit and launching myself into a proper, controlled swim, I decided to test the depth and walk a bit. A secon panic-filled plunge ensued, except that this was fairly brief.

Then, a bit later, whilst exploring the waterfall, I headed, gingerly, back towards basecamp and then remember thinking “This is probably going to end badly” as my feet headed skywards and my head towards rock. It soon became clear that I’d got away with no significant injuries as I slid, more gracefully across the slab towards that deep, cold, brown, foaming pool.

We returned tentwards for tea..



In the morning, we had a less incident-full ramble down Swaledale, up Swinner Gill, across the moor (using the new unwild-the-moors steps and slabs provided by YDNP), along the edge of Gunnerside Gill and back up the Dale to Keld where we found JJ.

A wet and midgey night followed, relieved somewhat by a smoky fire we lit in a fire-tub-thingy provided for the purpose by the campsite peeps. Me and Dawn provided a camping tea (tinned stewed steak, tinned veggies, tinned spuds). This was outrageously substantial and LTD had to help out at the end. It has to be said that LTD moved not at all from his cosy pit for the next 12 to 14 hours. He does enjoy a nap, does LTD, specially when full of Butcher’s Tripe and half a gallon of camping stew.


In the midgey morning, Dawn went for another plunge in the river whilst JJ cooked a substantial breakfast, after which we forayed UP the Dale, mainly to Wainwath Force, which m, being roadside, got quite busy, and then up the CtoC path to Ravenseat farm where we had a nice cuppa with scones, cream and jam. At this point, it started raining again, but not heavily.

We returned to Keld by a short path parallel to the CtoC path , and a fair bit of road.

The knee stood up reasonably well to the 10 miles of the first walk, but was whingeing a bit by the end, and still didn’t like steep downhills, but the 6 miles on Day 2 caused no issues at all and it all felt really quite well.

We have some Welsh plans quite soon, and we did some light planning for this, so I’m fairly gruntled with knee-based progress. I have medical appointments soon and , maybe we can exclude, or otherwise, an attack of gout. (This is what I think it probably was)


Saturday 19 August 2017

Nee Knews or On Hedleyhope With Knee Cap (apols to Tykes anthem about Ilkley Moor)


It’s getting better all the time…  but not quite there yet. There’s going to have to be some more blood tests I think.

In the meantime, I’ve been bashing away tring to get my mileage back up to something reasonable.


These are the efforts so far – all walks/hobbles in the company of Lucky The Dog.

10 August 2 miles on Hedleyhope Fell : – couldn’t walk after this (dhuhh!)

13 August 2 more miles on Heldeyhope Fell with Mrs Pieman

14 August 3 miles to Howden-le-Wear and back. Found a wild apple tree (wild? it was furious….  I pinched some apples and used them for apple sauce a few days later)


15 August 7 miles at Druridge Bay with Dawn. No contours to speak of. Walkhighlands  optimistic estimate of 80 feet of ascent. Had a dip too…

16 August 5 Miles around Crook and Roddymoor. Ate many blackberries.


17 August 8 Miles from Silverdale with me Bruvver. Also 1000 feet of contours. Some difficulties with high step-ups (no scrambling yet, then) and downhill over rough ground.


Anyway, we’re off for a couple of days in Swaledale just now. Hopefully, I wont be requiring a rescue….

Sunday 13 August 2017

Knobbly Knee Nobbled


There’s been a long space between blogposts and normally, this would be because I’ve been on holiday. I did try to go on holiday – the plan was to visit  a far-flung knipe-ish outpost to help look after some cats and dogs, probably bagging some Pentland Hills and then, as the song says, “rhere are hills beyond Pentland y’lnow…” – go up to Invergarry, camp there for a bit and bag some local Munros, returning later for an overnight somewhere up by Hart Fell near Moffat and then finish the whole thing off with another  Cheviot bag-and-beach night with Dawn.


But my knee got in the way. Avid readers may remember that I banged it on a stone whilst foolishly pot-holing through a cripple or hoggett-hole in the outer-suburbs of Shap. The thing siezed-up almost completely and the doc’s advice was that it was inflamed and to rest it, smear it with ibruprofen, take painkillers and drink unusually large amounts of beer. (OK, not the last bit…) There was something about bags of peas too… but we only had sweetcorn.

I did make a foray on to Hedleyhope Fell, which is a rather beautiful nature reserve near Tow Law and which has some flat and easy paths. This was a mistake and the knee siezed-up once again.


However, me and Mrs Pieman and LTD had a second go at Hedleyhope Fell today and I seem to have got away with it. Two of the Queen’s miles were acheived – so that brings my August total to a magnificent four miles altogether. I’m wondering if I can actually get into the drivers’s seat of the knipemobile yet without screaming and shouting rude words.

LTD is getting a bit depressed about the whole thing and is growing his nails in protest. I’m just fed-up.

But this week, if all goes well, me and LTD are returning to the footpaths and byways and will be attempting to re-establish some kind of decent distance and, maybe, ultimately, bag a Tump.

I would have included a picture of the kneecap in question but there’s nothing much to see and I wouldn;t want readers to get caqrried away by lustful feelings. This is a family blog despite the odd naughty word.

Watch this space.------------>:  Not that space, this one<----------------

Hedleyhope Fell is a cracking Durham Wildlife Trust heathland nature reserve and is well- worth a visit, being handily placed for a rest-stop for anybody heading up the A68 tourist route towards Edinburgh. Info here