Tuesday 17 December 2019

Long Walks - Waskerley and Stuff Like That There

Plan A was to walk around the head of Weardale from Cowshill - a route mainly above 2000 feet. I had a sinking feeling that this was too ambitious for a short winter's day, so, at almost the last minute I decided to repeat the walk we did last Christmas. This provides 21 miles of  easy walking which can be done at some speed, provided the tracks weren't frozen like wot they were last year.
And so, me, LTD, Bailey The Other Dog, Li Yang, and Diane and David, fresh from their trip to Annapurna Base Camp (no, really..) turned up at Wolsingham Train Station Car Park at dawn (roughly 8:00 a.m) Li Yang had brought a prezzie for Lucky; a lovely thermal/padded winter coat, which he changed into in the car park.

 Conditions were somewhat better than last year (probably disastrous global warming, I shouldn't wonder) - and the tracks weren't slippery at all. There was a thin cover of fresh snow and an equally thin and lazy wind which didn't bother going around a body, but insinuated itself through the clothing in a more direct fashion. On the upside, it was nice and sunny.

 So, we walked up through the mud and cowmuck of Thistlewood and onto the more solid moors, having First Lunch in the shelter of the trees in a suntrap by the  broken fences of the WW2 ammo dump near Waskerley.

 The walk up to Park Head was simply a matter of battering on up the gentle incline and battering off down the other side, turning on to the moor at the top of Crawleyside and finding a lovely suntrap in the quarry above Stanhope Dene for Lunch Number Two.
Riverside paths and roads and more pastures took us back to the start, arriving at about five o'clock, which is a bit quick for this group. (It's a bit quick for me too as it happens.) It went dark, of course but we did spot Santa on the Christmas Town Express which passed us going West as we went East. There IS a Santa after all. Those 8 year-olds at New Road Junior School in Earby in 1960 (ish) had lied. I sort of knew this all along, though. There were elves on the train too, so that proves it..... 
21 miles and a tad over 2100 feet of upness.
LTD loves his new coat. Thanks Li Yang...

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Long Walks - Bink Moss and Other Soggy Places


There was just me, LTD and Li Yang this time - Diane and David gone off on an alternative walk in Nepal. The persistent persistence of precipitation (I bet you can't say that with a mouthful of crisps), over the last two months, and , in particular last week, has lead to the fields being a bit more than soggy. Bink Moss is just what is says, it's a moss. In even the driest droughts, it's a bog. So, after weeks and weeks of slashing driven rain, it's Very Very Wet.

 Saturday had been specially drippy, and, with a weather forecast saturated with phrases like "heavy showers", "cold Easterlies" and "don't go out yer big mad bugger and what's wrong with lighting the fire and watching Coronation Street Omnibus with a pot of hot coffee and some toast then eh?, there was a temptation to cancel. And Sunday morning was  cold, grey and dark, just like a November pre-dawn, which is exactly what it was. But we set off to Middleton in Teesdale, splashing the tyres through all the overnight dubs on the back road by Hamsterley Forest. But it wasn't raining.

 So we paddled up the Pennine Way past Kirkcarrion and on up the bridleway to the fences and walls which can be handrailed up into the mists of Bink Moss. The way is relieved in places by duckboarding. In other places there are diversions to avoid deep sloppynesses. But we arrived at the summit wellybobs in reasonable states of dryness, just as it began to rain. Deep peat. Deep joy. A plover expressed it's opinion by going "peep". Just one "peep". A doleful, miserable plover, clearly fed up with life on Bink Moss.
 We progressed to Hagworm Hill, where there were no hagworms. I expect they've all drowned weeks ago. Or they've emigrated somewhere drier. A soggy moor followed which required some navigating. The path is invisible through the heather and mosses and never really appears, although there's one or two posts which are usually seen far away to the left , or, sometimes, to the right. Never straight ahead. The beck at the foot of Green Trod needed paddling. Li Yang found a way somewhere up in the juniper, apparently involving balancing on a rock. I can't do that. I fall off things like that and my camera is too expensive to be dunked, so I removed boots and socks and paddled. It wasn't too cold and it stopped raining.

 Gracie, presumably a young family member at Cronkley Farm is chosen to attend a Jamboree in Poland next year and, as I know from family experience, attendees are expected to raise funds to pay for Jamborees. Gracie (bless 'er) has set up an honesty-based "tuck shop" at a strategic point where the Pennine Way emerges from slippery rocks and sloppy mud on to the Gracie's farm track. She's selling pop and chocolate and deserves to succeed. Just sayin'. (Count this as an advert by the way)
 We crossed to Forest School and followed a well-trodden route to Bowlees, then over Coldberry Gutter where it went dark quite suddenly. I carry two headlights, preferring to swap lights if one goes down instead of faffing with batteries in the dark. And dropping a battery into the grass and not being able to find it without a light. Or even with a light. Both my lights seemed to have duff batteries on this occasion, so I had to feel the way a bit.
At the end we abandoned the intended route through the fields and woods back to Middleton in favour of a plod down the road.  This is quite easy in the dark.
The walk was just 20 miles (more than 19 by the way...) and with 3500 feet of upness. I think this is not too bad for this time of year.

Thursday 14 November 2019

A Reccy on NIne Standards Rigg

Me and LTD are leading a guided walk for Crook and Weardale Ramblers quite shortly and, according to our Walk Leader Standards, we should be doing a reccy of the route (even if we think we know it pretty well already) - so I allowed LTD to chauffeur us over Stainmore to Kirkby Stephen for a walk on Nine Standards Rigg

 As you'll see from the pictures, it was a nice day. It's unusual this Autumn to have a nice day, but here we had one. It was cold though and some puddles on the hill were frozen and there was snow on Mickle Fell and the Cross Fell hills

 It was worth the effort to reccy, though (it being a nice day like wot I said above) and a route from the summit trig to Rollinson Hags was explored (I've lost a glove up there, so if you find one you can have it. You might need another on the  other side, though. ) And I changed the route to include the summit of Tailbridge Hill which has a fine cairn and a cracking view of the Howgill Fells, for only another 40 metres of ascent.

 Attentive readers, specially thoise from the North of England will have noted that, in the main, it's been chucking it down for weeks and weeks now and this, combined with the attentions of some cattle, who are now, thankfully absent from the route, has made some sections of the walk a right boggy mess. It's inevitable that walkers attending the walk next week will be clarted up to the eyeballs in a mixture of mud and manure. We like to call this mixture "slutch" With a bit of luck it will freeze.

 One section of the walk goes down through the woods by Ladthwaite Beck. Wet tree roots hidden under leaves have made this quite skitey. But it's very beautiful, so we may risk a second interaction with Kirkby Stephen MRT. I meantersay, lightening could stike twice, could it?  On the reccy day it was occupied by people in camouflage with shotguns standing about waiting for grey squirrels to pop up, Apparently they'd been there a while and not seen any.

The walk is on the Crook and Weardale Ramblers Winter Programme and is quite fab. More details of the walks is found here  (Click it, don't just stare at it!)

Sunday 10 November 2019

LTD's Camp-Out Well Away From Fireworks

 OK, I admit it. When I were but a sprog, we used to buy bangers - not sausages, but firecrackers. We used to set them off at night. Sometimes, we'd blow out hibernating earwigs from the holes in fence posts where the wire went through. Sometimes we'd chuck them at each other. Sometimes we'd put one in a cigar-tube and fire it across the road at Wentcliffe Drive. The streets of Earby were a war-zone from roughly the end of October till the 5th, after which no more fireworks were available till the next year. It's now 10 November and a firework has just gone off and LTD is running about in a panic. Fireworks have been going off at random since the last week in October, sometimes at 11:30pm on a wet Tuesday night. I meantersay, somebody somewhere close is a proper dweeb.
So, to avoid the worst of the Guy Fawkes stuff, me and LTD planned a camp-out miles and miles away from any fireworks. In the Howgills, four miles walk from the road in a lovely spot. 

 Spotting my tweets or faceache posts about this, JJ said he would come, then Beryl (aka Margaret) and, finally, Judith. I expect that the chance of a pre-TGO chally shake-down might have been on their minds: me, JJ and Beryl are forming a team for next year's TGO Challenge and we've made some tentative steps at planning a route.

 Me and LTD set off at about noon on 4 November in unpromising conditions of heavy showers, rainbows and blustery bluster from the approximate direction of Blyth (Had Dawn left her back door open?) We had the tent up by half past two and the kettle on a few minutes later and we settled in for book-reading, (where angels fear to tread)  brewing up and snoozing. This went on till the next morning, which was even windier, so we didn't venture far. No fireworks had been heard during the night and, apart from aircraft, a noisy fox and a couple of booms or rumbles from the direction of Warcop, the night was peaceful if a thundering wind can be labelled as "peaceful". I was in the akto, so there's no problem with an average gale-force blast.
 In the late afternoon I spotted two figures heading towards me along a contouring path and, these turned out to be JJ and Margaret (aka Beryl). Judith arrived at about the same time, having opted for a route up the little Dale that leads to our campsite. They all arrived by about sunset and we all settled in for a cold and starry night. Ice formed early, melted for a bit and then reformed. Margaret said there was mist for a while, but I was in snorydreamysnoozyland, as was LTD, tucked into his cosy doggy sleeping bag. We had a sigg bottle filled with very hot water and placed inside 2 socks inside my sleeping bag and right next to LTD's back to keep us toasty. I had to warm it up once about midnight and drank a bit of hot water just because it was hot.

 We struck camp at some point in the late morning, having spent the early part of the day brewing and chatting and generally mooching about and a couple of hours walking saw us back with the cars. As a final flourish, we managed to find a well-hidden benchmark. Judith collects benchmarks, apparently. There are photographs....

 So, we managed to avoid two nights of whizz-bangs (although there's still a few left apparently) and we had a jolly little camp-out in a remote-ish spot  where nobody else at all visited during our stay. As it's not such a good idea to be explicit about the locations of really nice wild camping places, because they soon get over-used, I'm not going to say exactly where we went. Many people will already have sussed it and may well have camped there themselves. It's a lovely spot, though, with good water and some short grass and it's very very quiet and anyone with a relevant map should be able to spot it. Nuff said.