Monday 30 April 2018

Wolsingham Wayfarers Walk to High Hurth Edge Forest-in-Teesdale


This was another Walkleader Replacement Service, the proper leader being indisposed just now – an 8 mile walk from Bowlees to Forest in Teesdale. I made the route up and it was, kind-of, figure-eight shaped where the middle bit of the figure eight didn’t quite meet up. I tried to make it interesting by including some light speleology.

Me and LTD did a reccy last week in nice, warm sunshine, with lambs gambolling in the pastures, curlews and lapwings hurtling about everywhere and no cows in the fields. This is important because cows can be specially excitable when they’ve just been let out of the sheds and LTD barks at cows. This is not a good indicator and puts the willies right up me I can tell you.


In the end, I worked out that the route was 8.5 miles.  Participating Wolsingham Wayfarers, of which there were seven declared that is was 9.5. It was probably somewhere in between.


We had a bit of woodland walking, some fairly blank moorland, some pastures and a little crag (High Hurth Edge) which has some small caves in it, previously visited on Durham County Council walks. The caves are explorable with a little care and one seems to be occupied by animals, possibly rabbits, maybe a fox, and there was some kind of raptor nesting on the crag last week, who didn’t seem to be there on Sunday. LTD was really very interested in the occupied hole and snuffled, whined and wagged his tail at whatever was in there.


High Hurth Edge is a cracking lunch spot by the way – it has a fine view of the wilds of Upper Teesdale as far as the Cross Fell hills and, when the sun eventually does shine, it can get quite warm and there is a temptation to allow oneself to doze-off in such circumstances. I doubt if whatever is living in the cave is dangerous, and a snooze, therefore, should be quite safe.


We returned to Bowlees via more lamb-occupied pastures and a bit more moorland. Still no cows out, although there were hopefull glances grom a small herd in a shed. I expect they’ll be out as soon as the grass starts to grow a bit more. It was quite cold on Sunday, so the grass is still being a bit reluctant.

After-walk jinkies in the form of tea and scones were had in the cafe at Bowlees.

There’s a map below. (Not to be used for navigation or wrapping chips)

Wolsingham Wayfarers Walks are free to attend and their website is here- click this link and have a look

high hurth edge

Friday 27 April 2018

Clapham to Dent–Not a Daunder nor a DofE expedition –pre TGO stuff

So, I decided that a short backpacking trip, pre-TGO chally would be Just The Thing. LTD thought this was a rubbish idea and why couldn’t we just stay at home. But a vote of the general household at Knipetowers overuled this notion.
Nevertheless, I invited a couple of friends, not wishing for the thing to get too big and too organised. Thus, (despite the gentle attentions of the railway companies who determined that me and Dawn and LTD should arrive two hours late) just the four of us, plus dog met eventually in the New Inn at Clapham – the group being me, JJ, Chrissie, Dawn and LTD.

We progressed wetly up to Gaping Gill where we erected our tabernacles and retired cosily inside.
The rain rained and the wind blew. And the mist gathered around us very damply. The yawning pit of Gaping Gill called in the night, inviting any one of us to sample the delights of a 350 foot freefall into a dank oblivion-headed darkness. Oooer…..
In the morning (this now being Tuesday), we slogged up through the tussocks and bog to the col or bealach between Ingleborough and Simon Fell where Chrissie put up a tent and me and JJ and the dawg visited the summit of Ingleborough and where there were wet people and NO View Of Anything At All. We returned to Chrissie’s camp and then followed the rather lovely (normally anyway) path along the edges across Simon Fell and Park Fell and down to Ribblehead where a few jinkies were jinked before erecting our tabernacles once more in the nithering gale blowing off the viaduct and the sprinkling showers sprinkled our tents quite liberally. An evening of beer and steak pies was had (JJ didn’t like his cos it was all dried out, like, and others ate other things involving chickens and sausages) Pub staff appeared unhappy about something. We didn’t enquire, not wishing to intrude on their private anxieties, some of which may well have included the opening and closing of the gate onto the moor behind the pub. This seemed to be somewhat of an obsession.
If you’re considering camping behind the pub, by the way, it is free at the moment, but several brainless-types have littered, lit fires, left a general mess and, probably , emptied their bodily cavities all over the place and it’s probably only a matter of time before the free camping in stamped on. Try not to light a fire, get drunk, have a fight, break glass, chase sheep…….
The night was wet and breezy but LTD was cosy in his bed wot Chrissie made, snored loudly all night and, frankly, was reluctant to emerge on Wednesday morning.
We delayed the day’s start due to a re-evaluation of the route in view of a duff weather forecast. Chrissie decided to abandon due to an incipient migraine and the remainders eventually emerged and plodded off towards Blea Moor.
After a few showers, though, the day turned bright and cold and we sploshed over Blea Moor and down into Dentdale, pickernicking by the river Dee before catching the train to Leeds and home.
What’s the point?
Well, it gets you in the mood for TGO stuff- TGO weather specially arranged for the event. I eventually remembered things I’d forgotten to pack – tissues for the bum and a sponge/scourer for the pan – and not too bothered by the weight of the pack – and having to keep going in the face of morning drizzle and gloom – and I tried me kilt. It was too cold  and windy for kilts on Day 2 but I wore it under waterproofs on Day 3 and let it all hang out after lunch. I’m happy to wear this on the TGO. Some peeps may ask for a reason why I wore a kilt. All I can say is that I can wear whatever I feckin want to wear and not answer to anybody else with a reason. I like the kilt. It’s adding miles to my day. And I have rather lovely legs, though I say it myself (LTD agrees and he has a special view, not revealed to most people) Only one person has questioned this, in seven walks. They need to have a word with themselves, I think.
Not many miles were done, but I enjoyed it anyway, despite the glaur and the wind and the recalcitrent railway system. Almost up to TGO speed…..

Monday 16 April 2018

More TGO Challenge Training Stuff–Sheffield Pike and Other Hills

There’s been a minor hiatus in Piewalks recently due to Pietowers maintenance requirements and an almighty wind which rent the firmament and cast down the high places including bits of the new tabernacle. So, I’ve got a bit of catching-up to do.
Part of the catching up was to do a walk with some contours and the English Lake District is ideal for this kind of thing. This walk, in particular turned out to have 1044 metres of uphill contours and a very similar amount of downhill ones too, given that I ended up exactly where I’d begun.
And this was also the second outing for The KIlt – proper hillwalking test with proper mountain breezes and lots of witnesses too, which, to be honest, was the part I was a little worried about.
I parked expensively in Glenridding. Eight quid. I meantersay, eight of Yer Queen’s Quids. You can have full access to my body for several hours for eight quid fer evvansake. (I’d demand biscuits, though)
Despite this initial setback, we left the expensive car park (they’re taking the mickey, surely…) and climbed Glenridding Dodd for starters. Lots of contours here.
We followed this by an enjoyable climb up some more contours to Sheffield Pike which was sloppy on the top but otherwise pleasantly rocky but not really scrambly. This gives access to the vast open grassy prairies East of the Dodds – in this case, a contouring route to Hart Side and a gentle climb up to White Stones where lunch was declared. A few people passed. Nobody mentioned The Kilt.
We made a long plod up to Stybarrow Dodd and then across the motorway path to Raise, the highest point on the walk at 883 metres and the only snowpatch on the route, although the ice-axe and spikes I was carrying were unrequired. Here, I met a lassie who was deciding where to go next. We had a chat about what a lovely day it was and how nice it was to sit in a bit of warm sunshine and she didn’t mention the kilt. I should point out that whilst the hills had been claggy in the morning, the sun had broken-through and it was now a thoroughly cracking day, ideal for sitting about considering some salted nuts. if… maybe not the….  An elderly, I should say, senior fell-runner, was the only person to mention my hillwalking kit – and she said “You’re a brave man getting your knees out…” as she hopped gracefully from boulder to boulder down the hillside. She was a brave woman to be hopping gracefully from boulder to boulder; if I tried that I’d probably require a new face.
Anyway, my next objective was the diminutive Synge named Stang, a small lump on the ridge heading East from the summit of Raise. This also has the terminus of a lead-mine flue ending at a “chimney”. This now provides a small stone shelter, suitable for sitting in with a satsuma or, indeed, a banana should there be a strong westerly airflow making sitting about with fruit a bit uncomfortable.
It was here that the extent of the rambling population of Helvellyn could be made out – lots and lots of little black dots on the horizon, many, no doubt, carrying comedy hiking kit and teetering and sliding riskily down the snowy headwall of Swirral Edge. I expect that this could have been “thrilling” for some. As for me, I was clearly over-equipped for a sunny spring day with no snow, yet oddly under-equipped in the trouser department.
We progressed and followed the flue down to the lead mine spoil heaps and then down the Stake Pass path to the YHA where I joined the hordes returning from Helvellyn. Nobody mentioned the kilt here either, although I did detect some interest from some senior ladies. I trust they could raise the eight quid fee….. To be fair, most people seemed more interested in LTD, who is extremely friendly to strangers and this does distract attention from the knees, I think. DSCN2803

We did 9 miles and 3400 feet of uphill. I really really like this kilt, thing. (In fact I wore it again the following day on a 9 mile “easy” trundle with Crook and Weardale Ramblers and , whilst there was some initial banter and the singing of “Donald Where’s Yer Troosers?”, in general the reception was positive. I suspect that most people, when sober, are just too polite. More kiltiness coming-up soon.

Friday 6 April 2018

Let the Wind Blaw High Let the Wind Blaw Low–Hartside

Me and Dawn went up into Northumberland for to bag the diminutive, but roughly heathery Hartside, a hill I’ve passed many many times on the A68 and wondered what it was like.
JJ aka John Jocys, folk entertainer and purveyor of Lancashire monologues extraordinaire went to Florida and brought back a “hiking kilt” wot we’d had many email interchanges about over the last few months. It was my intention, possibly, to wear such a garment on the 2018 TGO challenge. It arrived at Pietowers and I put it on and immediately found it to be quite fab. It’s a proper, decent length, is made from artificial fibres, thus being very lightweight, and has belt loops and pockets and all the kinds of stuff that traditional Scottish kilts don’t have. I’ve been wearing it around the house, but I’ve been very very diffident about going outside the protective walls of Castle Knipetowers whilst wearing it. I suspect it’s because I actually feel naked when I’ve got it on. The breeze, for instance, is breezing where breezes never breezed much at all before.
So I determined to wear it on this occasion.
The occasion was, a little seven mile trundle around the aformentioned Tump called Hartside, somewhere quite near Bellingham, followed by a tricky and boggy traverse of some forestry during which we lost the path several times, used GPS to go in approximately the right direction and went up to my naughty parts in a seething bog, which was quite refreshing if a bit distracting.
Hartside is a rough, heathery lump with a fine and ancient cairn on the top, an extraordinary view of Dere Street and the road up into Scotland and a memorial plaque to an 1897 bonfire lit in tribute to Queen Victoria for some reason or other that passed me by.
We saw two foxes, the last one of which disappeared down a rabbit-hole very close-by and which Dawn explained was probably a vixen with cubs. I left a small donation of cashew nuts around the hole which I hope she enjoyed (the fox, not Dawn, who can source her own cashews).
What’s my verdict on the wearing of a kilt I hear you ask if you could be arsed?
Well, I have to say that despite the nithering wind off the snowy Cheviots, just up the road, and the lightness of the fabric, the cold was not an issue. The breeze was a bit distracting at first, but the main thing about yer kilt is that there’s an extra freedom to move the legs, a lightness which probably reduces the effort of actually walking by a significant amount. It’s almost like cheating. I’m going to try this again. It was, in fact, quite fab.
There is an issue about modesty whilst climbing walls , stiles and very steep scrambly bits. I expect that companions would just have to get used to this and, either avert their gaze or , at least not make any comments.  Comments I’ve had so far tend to have been an interest in how much, if anything is worn underneath (its all in perfect working order, thanks for asking),  concern about ticks (I don’t think this is any more significant given the availability of modern insect repellents and I’ve not been specially prone to ticks up to now anyway) and fairly adolescent comments about naughty bits. I expect to have to put up with this. Wearing the kilt feels a bit like coming out to yer Mum that your proclivities might not be exactly what she might have wished and hoped for. I expect this is quite different in Scotland, but in Crook, men wear trousers.
My verdict so far is that a lightweight kilt is a superb bit of kit for hillwalking/rambling. I’m going to try it on an upcoming couple of days backpack but I expect that there won’t be much difference to day walking, apart from the saving on skeggy underwear which has to be carried/washed/dried etc but probably doesn’t weigh much anyway.  I think kilts are fab – everybody needs a kilt!
We did 7 miles and about 900 feet of upness, and quite a bit of soggy slop in the forests.

Sunday 1 April 2018

TGO Challenge - In Search of the Caledonian Warple

The Caledonian Warple (Varpellii Caledoniensis Vasgobbler) was (or, actually, is) related to the Himalayan Warple. It is a rodent, thought to be approximately the size of a red squirrel, or maybe a bit smaller. It  is secretive in habit and is likely to have been responsible for delaying the effects of over-population in the Highlands of Scotland by about eight centuries. It was the hunting of the species to extinction (it was thought) which resulted in a 16th Century Scottish population explosion, subsequent collapse of local economies, starvation, inter-clan warfare based on competition for resources, the over-division of hereditory lands, emigration, ethnic cleansing and general mayhem.
The reason for this may be complex, but it is thought, by… thinkers… that there was a link between the wearing of the kilt aux commando (if you catch my drift) and the preference of the Warple to a nice, juicy  pre-mating Vas Deferens  which so effectively held back the growth of the Caledonian population for such a long time. Studies on the Himalayan Warple have shown that the bite of the Warple is almost entireley painless and, it is thought, that Highlanders sleeping in the heather on warm summer nights (there are an average of two of these every year) provided those kilted and unprotected Highlanders with exactly the right conditions for the Warple to creep in and have it’s annual pre-mating feed. Apparently, studies also showed that Warples were attracted somewhat by the scent of blended whiskies, the odour of which may have seeped through the Highlanders scrotal areas, thus rendering them even more vulnerable to attack. It was shown that followers of certain more Protestant Christian sects were less prone to accidental neutering than followers of the more Eccesiastical versions and that this may well have lead to certain jealousies between the various factions, leading to conflict, burnings, hangings and, indeed, drownings so that’s proof, innit?
What has this got to do with the TGO challenge? I hear you ask. I shall explain.
The Caledonian Warple was thought to be extinct, the last one being hunted near Brig O’Turk in 1612 and displayed to the public by being mounted on a stick on the walls of Stirling Castle until being carried off by a passing crow about twenty minutes later. According to legend, this Warple was accidentally dropped at the feet of the Last Witch of Spott (just outside Dunbar) and brought back to life, being kept as a pet/familiar and sent out on “missions”, furtively at night to the husbands of rival witches and, occasionally, potential lovers. There is no actual proof of this, though.
But recently, a small colony of what is thought to have been Warples was discovered living in a recycling bin in Tranent, and whilst these little animals scutterred off into the night as the householder filmed them on his smartphone it is thought that many may have made off and formed yet more Warplish colonies across the Central Belt. A study of the images by scientists at the Edinburgh Institute for the Rediscovery of the Caledonian Warple, provided almost 98% certainty of Warpleness. It may well be relevant that the recycling bin held several empty bottles of Notorious Grouse, most holding just the odd little drip and it may well have been the householder’s intention to try to drain these last vestiges into a small glass just to get a nip before going off tae bed. I use the word “nip” advisably here, obviously. He probably had little idea of the risks he was running, having just had his fortnightly bath and dressed only in his wife’s dressing gown at the time even on such a cold night as it was..
The dispersal of these rodents has been a source of worry to many, particularly certain Urologists operating in various parts of Scotland who, having been tasked with performing vasectomy operations, have increasingly discovered whilst investigating patients underparts that somebody had been there first. Local NHS Trusts have been advised to keep these facts confidential because certain funding streams were thought to be “at risk” should this informaton be released to the public. Some surgeons have pointed to the slow decline of Scottish birthrates but no definitive link between the wearing of the kilt aux commando, as it were, lower birth rates and the spotting of small warple-like colonies has yet been proved.
It is rumoured, though, that for Private  Patients one renowned surgeon has a pet Warple called Dave who , on payment of a suitable fee and , having been fed by an appropiate amount of Lamb’s Navy Rum, may have been be introduced to the unconcious patient’s underwear in order to do the job. I doubt if this is substantially true, though, having worked in the NHS and been aware of the local Urologist’s pet ferret  Brian, a veteran of various strangers tight underpants, given sufficient alcohol, and certainly not a Warple of any kind/. Lovely animal, if a bit vicious when roused, but a Warple? – seems unlikely but the links here are more than worrying….. I wondered whatever happened to Brian….
And so, in the interests of science, the general health of the population of Scotland, the Day Nursery service, and the kilt industry I am using the opportunity of taking part in the TGO challenge to search for and capture at least one warple and deliver this to any Urologist who would care to have it. If nothing else, it would probably make vasectomy operations that much quicker and less painful should such an animal be licensed for use in these delicate operations.
If you are taking part in the TGO challenge, you might like to join me in my quest. You can help by searching out any nooks, crannies, waste paper bins, recycling facilities and so-on. Equipment requirements are simple. Some stout gardening gloves, a sturdy wooden camping mallet and a lightweight cat box should do the trick.
If you’d like to try Warple-Stalking, you’ll  also need a kilt of traditional design and weight . Thus you should lie in wait  in your kilt aux commando, having consumed between 8 and 10 units of alcohol, and, if you detect any movement beneath your tartan, whack the bugger with the mallet, thus rendering it temporarily unconcious for sufficient time to get it into the cat box. Whatever you do, don’t kill it.
I will be accepting donations – mainly of cheap whisky, so no need to splash-out (as it were). If I do capture a warple, it will clearly need to be kept alive till I reach civilisation, or Montrose, whichever comes first. Volunteers who are in need of emergency contraception will be needed, and be advised that I am unconstrained by normal medical ethics, not being a doctor (I never really bothered)  otherwise, my advice is to zip up your sleeping bag well, stay off the booze and wear very very tight underpants at night.
Good luck and good hunting.