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Monday, 9 July 2018

Tangling With Tussocks on Caldbeck Fells

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After having a trundle in the Borders significantly delayed and shortened by the eight sets of roadworks between Knipe Towers and Langholm – thats a set of traffic lights every ten miles with very little evidence of anything much going on (the Longtown delay was the longest), I decided to have another bash at walkies in short order and drove off in a bit of a huff to Mosedale, which is just a bit to the right of Penrith.

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And so, on a summer’s day which wasn’t really too hot, me and LTD tripped the light wotsit up  the little dale past Swinside to the Cumbria Way whoch follows Grainsgill Beck past the old tungsten mines (all tungsten is quite old, apparently) to Lingy Hut.

Lingy Hut has been dunnup by the Mountain Bothies Association since I was last there which was some significant time ago. I spent a draughty night with two peeps who’d got a bit lost in the hillfog and who opted to stay there instead of their planned B&B in Caldbeck. We had a nice night. They played Beach Boys tracks on a sort of boombox thingy and I shared a bit of whisky…

Anyway, it’s been dunnup and draught-proofed. You could spend a night there and it would probably be quite nice, but you’d have to carry up some water from Grainsgill.

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The objective of today’s expedition, though, was to add eight new tops to LTD’s bag. This involved wandering about quite a lot, doing some contouring, tangling with tussocks, blundering through deep heather and snoozing on soft bilberries, or in LTD’s case, on some rocks.

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The tops in order were these:

Great Lingy Hill 616 metres

Miller Moss 609 metres

Little Lingy Hill 600 metres

Coomb Height about 620 metres

Won’t tell you the name of the next one – Pike (dhuhh) 590 metres and a bit

Knott 710 metres

Little Calva 642 metres

Great Calva 690 metres.

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As for me, I’d never been to Pike before. It was very nice. It has a cairn and a nice view.

We snoozed in the sun for a long time on Great Calva before plunging the 1000 feet down to the path back to Mosedale through the Very Deep Heather.

Its a bit of a plod back to Mosedale, so I was more than gruntled to discover that The Friend’s Meeting House has a pop-up tearoom, staffed, presumably, by volunteers and serving pots of tea and dangerous-looking cake and they let me take the dog in.

We did 15 miles and 2880 feet of ascent.

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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Fiends Fell and Melmerby Fell–A Reconnaissance

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On the 15th of September I’ll be leading a guided walk for the Wednesday and Saturdays Walking Group (Wednesday Walkers Walkihng on Saturdays) and I’d said that the walk would be on Fiend’s Fell; Fiend’s Fell being just a bit North of Cross Fell for those who’ve never heard of it and it’s also in exactly the same place for those who have heard of it….
Before any guided walk can take place, of course, it’s usually quite a good idea to work out the actual route and doing a reccy is reccymended (see what I did there?)
There’ll be another reccy about a week before – that is to say, at the end of August, but in the meantime, me and LTD went off to a sultry Melmerby village, between Penrith and Alston to explore a route.
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The now finalised route will go on quiet rough lanes towards Gamblesby, then follow an old road which leads up the steep Pennine scarp towards Hartside Pass. After this it visits Fiend’s Fell and Melmerby Fell before descending by a lane back to Melmerby.
At the top of Hartside Pass there was once a cafe, once well supported by bikers and the occasional hiker but now in ruins having unfortunately been destroyed by fire this past winter. The route was originally intended to go this way, but a little way before the cafe, LTD noticed a new footbridge across the ditch beside the track and a waymarker post pointing uphill with a thin trod heading straight for the summit of Fiend’s Fell.
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We did go to the cafe to have a look and found a way through grouseland (tracks, burned heather, grouse butts, traps)  on some quite rough ground which eventually produced an ATV track which also went to the top of Fiend’s Fell. But the other way is better, and, frankly, there’s not much point in visiting the ruined cafe unless it’s for an ice-cream, there being an ice cream van there. Under pressure, I would lead the walk to the cafe should there be sufficient demand for cornets or, indeed, lollies.
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Additionally, September 4th is at the height of the grouse-shooting season, so avoiding the butts is probably  wise. I may need a Plan B in case they’re shooting on the day – this would likely be an approach to Fiend’s Fell directly from the West, as opposed to the North, or even avoiding that hill and  going straight for the next hill to the South.
Fiend’s Fell is at 614 metres and sports a trig point and a cairn and some comfy bilberry plants on which to lounge about. In September, there may well be bilberries and, it seems likely that the approach lanes will be abundant with brambles, so when we do the walk, an ample supply of vitamin C will be provided free of charge to all participants.
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The route then heads South towards Cross Fell and climbs gradually to Little Knapside Hill and then to Knapside Hill which has a currick – that is to say, a large cairn with a shelter and a cracking view of the Eden valley and the Lake District, and more bilberry and short, springy turf on which to laze or snooze whilst soaking up the sun. The going gets easier with altitude and it’s only a short and easy hop to the top of the walk at 709 metres and the cairn on Melmerby Fell
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So far, we’d avoided much in the way of intense heat, having set off just before it got very hot, and, at midday we were up on the high tops where there was a lovely, cooling breeze, and it would have been nice to stay high and, perhaps, wander over to Cross Fell on the easy and gentle ground and benign, not to say superb conditions, but we had to follow the route and so, we headed towards Blencathra and found, after some exploration, a gap in the extensive scree slopes marking the edge and this gap lead to a sheepfold and a track which lead all the way back to Melmerby, where it was shimmering hot. Too hot for the dog’s paws on the road, in fact and, despite LTD’s hatred of water, I made him have a short paddle and dip in the two becks which are crossed. LTD walked mainly on the grassy verges and , somehow, we collected a small tribe of sheep which lead the way all the way back to the village, eventually invading a farmyard and causing farm staff to rush about shouting and waving their arms.
The walk is just about ten miles with 2100 feet of ascent and seems to work quite well. The fellwalking part, in good conditions, is superb and easy and the views are huge. In wet, windy and misty times, it might well be a bit of a challenge.
Come back in September to see what actually happened!

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Monday, 2 July 2018

2018 Northumbrian Beach Bivi #1

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Really really attentive readers will recall a multipicity of beach bivis in 2017 and, possibly 2016 too…
The idea is simple – go for a walk involving bagging something, head to Ross Farm and carry huge amounts of water, teabags, food, dog biscuits and a towel for a mile or so  and then eat, sleep, brew and dip for a day, or, possibly two if the weather and the sea conditions allow.
Now camping is Not Allowed on Ross Back Sands on account of it being disturbing to the snoozing of the local seals and the sand gets all churned up and in the wrong order. And, I expect, that some campers may light fires and leave litter and general poo all over the place. We’ve always been much tidier than this, leaving no trace at all of our short residencies, apart from a bit of flattened grass and sand and some footprints. It’s a big and spectacularly beautiful place and only gets busy in a small area and, after hours, there’s nobody else at all. Apart from the wardens guarding the terns and the fishermen chugging about just offshore. And the seals who like to watch people from a distance. And a fox and a lizard and some birds.
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On this occasion we didn’t bother with a pre-bivi hill-bagging but proceeded direct to the beach where Dawn put up a small tabernacle or shelter into which we retired for a snooze due to the fact that it was cloudy, misty and a bit chilly. In the late afternoon, the sun broke through suddenly just a short while before it set, but the next day was hot and sunny and the sea was relatively friendly, apart from the odd wayward current which, if ignored, would probably carry off the dipper towards Aberdeen. And some random and lively waves mixed in with the more gentle stuff just for added excitement.
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In the evening, we were visited by a “warden” – a chap unbothered by our bivi but what excited him was the prospect of us , and LTD, of course, disturbing the terns wot are nesting half a mile to the North, guarded, it has to be said, by  some notices, fencing and a permanent staff of..er.. guards in a hut. Anybody approaching the area during the nesting period, which seems to end at the end of July, is approached by a warden and diverted politely whence they came. There is legal force to all this, so trespassing is a bad idea. In any case, the terns will have soon done their stuff, so if anybody does want to wander around the nearby point, a postponement till August would seem to be just the thing.
We managed several dips in the sea, which had warm waves and cold waves, till it was time to leave on Saturday afternoon.
We may well be back. We left no trace at all, not even LTD’s squishy poo. You wouldn’t know we’d been there had the wardn not chanced on our camp.
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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Langstrath Solstice Bivi-Dipping

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There’s been a minor hiatus in the blogging recently due to me temporarily losing my blogging mojo. So, I’m a bit behind…

Back in the harsh, cold winter me and Dawn had a brief camp in Borrowdale and this included a bit of a trundle up the very lovely Langstrath and it was this walk which provided the idea for a relaxed Summer Solstice camp-with-dips. providing, of course, that the weather was kind enough for this sort of thing. I quite enjoy marking a solstice with some kind of appropriate event.

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As it turned out, the weather was more than suitable and we spent a night at Chapel Farm campsite, followed by solstice night quite near Tray Dub in Langstrath, followed by a day sitting about and brewing and/or dipping, followed by another night at Chapel Farm.

If anything, the weather was a bit on the hot side, but, the effect of this was to warm the pools of Langstrath Beck and, by mid-afternoon, Tray Dub held lovely bubbling, clear and silky waters – an absolute delight, in fact.

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So, the summer of 2018 sulters on sultrily. I don’t mind, I’m a bit sick of shivering and dripping, although it’s quite hard to find some cool shade when you’ve placed your tent so as to get a bit of sunshine (dhuhh), and even Dawn’s potentially draughty bivi provided a super-cosy spot for LTD’s hobby of snoozing a day away, followed by a brief period of eating in order to build-up strength for his main sleep later on.

Things seen at Langstrath:

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Not many people – a few came over the pass from Langdale – one or two looking a bit fragged. And some exploring Langstrath as far as Tray Dub but no further. Only one came down the glen from the higher tops and only one passed on his way up there.

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A Herdwick gathering around Black Moss Pot – hundreds of sheep, in fact, who, at sokme given signal all wandered off back up Langstrath in small, presumably, kin groups. Around lunchtime, they all traipsed back down the Dale to Black Moss Pot, returning once again in the afternoon. Dawn’s theory was that the farmer had probably been feeding them at Black Moss during the winter and they’d got themselves into a habit pf a lunchtime visit. This seems likely.

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Sundew in the boggy bits. Sundew is an insectiverous plant. It likes a midge or two, apparently. We like sundews.

A very large bird circling over Cam Crag – somewhat bigger than the average buzzard…

Yoofs solo climbing at Black Moss Pot – quite a difficult-looking route. The consequennces of a slip being a plunge into a very deep pool. I expect this is considered safer than falling onto hard ground.

LTD eventually ignored passing files of Herdwicks and the sheep didn’t seem too bothered about our prescence.

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Bagging By The Clyde–An Ill-Wind

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Hill-baggers who, by some stroke of fate find themselves in Lanarkshire, as opposed to Lancashire, who’s only experience of said Lanarkshire is a quick trundle up the M74 may be surprised to find that the countryside around Junction 13 at Abington services holds some excellent hillwalking. Baggers who are specially fond of wind turbines will be ecstatic to discover that the Clyde wind “farm” has something over 200 turbines, some very high masts, lots of lovely roads to make walking between the hills so much easier and some kind of huge electrical buzzing installation thing with tin huts, plus various vans, cars and tractors. It also has a very fine population of hares who’s existence, I suspect, is being somewhat protected by all this industrial activity. It’s an ill-wind.

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Outside of the Clyde windfarm, the hills are quiet and heathery and quite beautiful and some are heavily managed grouse-moors although, it seems that the wind-farm peeps have their eyes on even these and, in places, the grouse-shooting infrastructure is showing early signs of dereliction. It’s another ill-wind, at least for grouse and anything that’s not a grouse.

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Me and LTD just had six hot and sunny days based a bit to the left of Abington and had six bagging walks based on Abington (free parking, pub, off-licence and pie shop), Crawford (Castle, shop, pub, transport-type cafe, roman fort and road) and Leadhills (Pub and shop, railway museum, lead miners’ library and grouse-moors).

In all I bagged 22 hills of various categories (won’t bore you with a list) and LTD bagged 23, the extra one being Culter Fell which we climbed along with the son-in-law and which was somewhat shortened by an impending thunderstorm, which eventually impended and scared the willies out of LTD. I wasn’t too bothered cos I had an adequate supply of dutch courage in liquid form. I’d been up Culter Fell before y’see, so it doesn’t count as a bag for me.

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I’ve been predicting the Great Drought of 2018 since 1976, only altering the actual date during specially cold and soggy Junes, of which there have been many during this intervening period – usually followed by a string of atlantic storms coming off the ..er….Atlantic, only ending in a week of warm weather during early September. Such are the perils of planning a sunbathing holiday on an island with the same latitude as Alaska. Although it doesn’t go very dark for long in summer – as I say, it’s an ill wind.

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We returned to Pietwowers via Jedburgh, it being the occasion of the first birthday of a grandson who’s smiles aren’t all rictus ones.

Wot fun. Ad quite cheap too.

LTD is ecstatic to be home and has taken to his cosy stink-pit, although he does get dragged out for a daily doggy-walk or two and yesterday, for instance, we managed all of nine miles during an extended trundle over Dowfold Hill and Crook Golf Course and then a four mile ramble around Witton-le-Wear with Crook Ramblers, which was all very nice.

We’re now intent on getting on with more routine stuff and we have some guided walk reccies to do and a summer solstice “do” to do at the turning of the summer, during which we can all look forward to the nights drawing in again, dark and cold mornings, cocoa and crumpets and slipping on one’s arse on night-time doggywalks..

It’ll soon be Christmas. (Its that ill-wind again)

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