Tuesday 14 April 2020

Making Lists

The world seems to be having a rest. It was getting a bit frantic, though, and it's been like that for a while, but now, quite suddenly, there's no aircraft, apart from the odd police drone looking for really slow dog walkers and there's still some local traffic, although I understand that motorways and the big trunk roads are spookily quiet. I wouldn't know, I'm not allowed on motorways. The knipemobile has done all of 6 miles in 3 weeks, although I do move it around a bit to save the tyres and stop the brakes rusting on. This is saving me loads of money and, apparently, wildlife is quite quickly exploring the quietened places. The skies are clear, the air is clean(er) and Crook has chiff-chaffs. I've never noticed chiff-chaffs before.

 Another upside is that my reasonably stress-free life pre-Covid 19 is now almost permanently recumbent, probably in a deep snooze, just waiting for a frog to come along to be turned into a prince. I may have got that bit wrong. The downside is that I'm often in the fridge. Grazing. Hot Cross Buns are calorie-loaded.  I've reduced the booze quite a bit, to a genuine Merlot Friday, but it's not helping much, the kilogrammes and wobbly bits are creeping back. The bad news for small businesses and key workers in danger of burning out is, that this could go on for quite a bit longer judging by the international graphs which, more or less, all show similar patterns of a long and slow descent of the graph. 12 weeks or so seems to be optimistic.
 By now, if you've not already dozed off or gone off looking for a more interesting blog, why I am illustrating this post with pictures of tents and LTD from 2016. I chose 2016 because it was a good year for backpacking. And the pictures are chosen because this is really about planning Things To Do When All This Is Over. It came suddenly and everything got cancelled, and, combined with my age and the slowly reducing potential opportunities for a really good, hard, long walk (text stolen from an abandoned Carry On Backpacking script) (Are you going all the way? Oo er, warden) (snigger), its a good illustration why , when you get the chance to do whatever it is you want to do, you really must get on with it. Might do that next year is not good enough. There might not be a next year for you. You'd best just do it now. Or at least in the next few weeks.

 So, in my awake times when I'm not busy with some soap and hot water or helping the dog meet his doggy pals and enemies up the Deerness Valley Railway Walk, I've been making lists. Plans, if you like. The list now has eight backpacking trips on it, plus some other holidays and camping things - mainly aimed at bagging Marilyns and other hills, doing Things That Were Cancelled in March, bivvying on a beach, and , generally, having jollies.

 The pictures are from Mr Sloman's Daunder around Cross Fell and me and Dawn's walk from Buxton to the Lake District visiting the highest pubs in England (with a bit missing in the middle due to my duff planning). This is the stuff. It's not big or clever or expensive, or even all that adventurous. It involves no foreign travel, no vaccinations (apart from Covid 19 if it's available) It might involve a TGO Challenge if the cards fall right. All I have to do is avoid a virus and not run across a busy road. I'm still planning. If this goes on for a long time, there's going to be a huge tick list to tick off.

I've no idea why Blogger does daft stuff like this - all the pics are centred, but some just aren't. It says they are, but they aren't. I also had to start the whole thing again because Blogger decided to underline all the text and colour it blue. It's the work of the devil, that's what it is.

Thursday 9 April 2020

Whilst Every Day Is Sunday

 It seems to me that since the UK locked-down, that lots and lots of people have suddenly discovered that walking is a Thing To Do.  Being prevented from doing and Rambling or, indeed, and hillwalking and, limited to a daily binge of wandering, sometimes aimlessly and sometimes with intent to visit somewhere in which I've suddenly developed an unexplainable interest, that I'm meeting a lot more people out and about than usual.
And it seems possible to categorise the people walking , as opposed to those running or cycling or, indeed , on horses, into a few discreet groups. There's family groups, often with a family dog in tow. There's Dads out with a sprog or two and, maybe a dog. There's couples. And their dogs.  There's pairs of friends and, maybe a dog. There's people out on their own, except for the company of several dogs. And there's just the one old chap in an electric buggy thingy and his three dogs. Most of these don't look like "walkers" - that is to say, there's no boots or packs or bobble hats or anything that makes them look like they've done this kind of thing before. And they're all very friendly although some of their dogs have a bit of an issue with Lucky The Dog and there might be the odd barking frenzy. (The universal willingness to say hello and chat briefly - sometimes not all that briefly, might just  be a North-East England thing, though)

 I think this is great. It's fabulous. Lots of people out doing exactly what The Ramblers want people to do. They're out getting exercise, burning calories, hearing birdsong and seeing the spring flowers emerging, and new lambs in the fields and great views and , well, just green stuff and, maybe forgetting the "other" stuff just for a while.  And, sometimes, there's a blue sky after a rotten soggy and dark winter.
And the roads are quiet as are the streets. It all reminds me of my Sunday childhood : empty streets, closed shops, quietness and people wandering about in the fields and woods. Every day, it would seem, is a Sunday just now. (I have to admit that since I ran off giggling with my NHS pension in 2006, I can hardly remember which day "today" is. Apart from Christmas. You can't miss Christmas... and, maybe solstices and equinoxes have gained more importance.)
The Ramblers HQ peeps say that they've gone home. All Ramblers activities involving meeting people are cancelled, or, at least, suspended pro-tem. This means all Crook and Weardale's lovely Spring walking programme, the footpath work, some bus trips and, probably our May committee meeting. Trips farther ahead are wobbling and only need a push. So, we're not really doing anything, We can't do anything. Or can we?
Ramblers generally seem to be keen to fill the time by keeping in touch with each other - keep up the interest and the morale - we have an informal support network if anybody needs anything. This is positive stuff.
But we might be missing a trick here. Isn't this perhaps the time to start to nurture this sudden and, perhaps temporary interest in the simple stravaig and make some of it permanent? Isn't this what The Ramblers do? Is it time to raise the profile somehow? Could we not put our brains to this instead of scoffing hoy cross buns whilst watching Homes Under The Hammer until the dog demands his daily trundle. (We've been managing 5 or 6 miles). Inevitably (we hope) that all this will soon be over and children will go back to school and mums and dads will return to work and whatever routines they had before. And, maybe, they'll not find time to wander about any more.
One day soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow.
(Apols to Have yourself a merry little Christmas)

Monday 6 April 2020

Completing a Circle

This walk is almost exactly the same length as all the other walks in this little series and most of them, oddly enough, have 500 feet of ascent. And, if you do them all you'll have encircled Crook. Probably best to leave this feat for better days, although, for me, they all begin within a hundred or so metres of Pietowers and don't go much further away than a couple of kilometres. It's true, though, that to do one within an hour would involve running. As I wouldn't want to damage my cardiac stent, I wouldn't like to try yer actual running. LTD takes a dim view of me running anyway and thinks I want to play some kind of rough-and-tumble game involving random sticks or bits of paper,

 This particular walk visits  St Thomas's Church  at Stanley Crook, which hides a bit unsuccessfully at the top of a steep hill. The contours here are unusually friendly with each other resulting in a short but brutal climb up through some gorse. Somebody ought to report these contours to the police because they're much too close together for safety.

 The walk also goes through a little subsidiary graveyard which I find remarkable in that it has some children's graves, some of which , although 70 years old, still have toys on them. There are clearly surviving family members visiting these babies graves. It's very moving.

 The path through the graveyard isn't a right of way but there are gates at either end and the next path heads into some woodland and is well used and has stiles, but isn't a right of way either. This leads to the Deerness Valley Railway Path which is well surfaced and can be easily followed in the dark, which is just as well because it did go dark. As usual, parts of this walk have become more popular recently. I'm not sure how many people will keep up the walking when this kerfuffle dies down, but for now, it's a positive thing I think.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Yettanother Local Walk - Stanley Moss

 No, Stanley Moss isn't Crook's local famiss racing car driver, it's a lowland moss nature reserve near Stanley Crook (not a local criminal). Having said that it's lowland, it's reasonably high at about 800 feet above sea level (sea level being quite close at Hartlepool). In fact, it's a lovely spot and a trundle up there from Pietowers, or even the nearby Hope Street Car Park (free) in Crook and back again is about 5 miles with 600 feet of up. This puts it in the "relatively easy" category.

 As me and LTD approached the reserve, there was a kestrel just in front of us, doing a bit of a hover, in exactly the way that kestrels do, and, as we got nearer he  just moved up a  bit, so for half an  hour or so he was about 100 metres ahead of us. But up in the sky, obviously. Stanley Moss is quite tussocky and, I should imagine, a bit heavenly for yer average small rodent, apart from the gentle attentions of the local kestrel and, maybe an owl or two, obviously. And then there's the local pussycats I suppose. And maybe a fox or two....  Actually, now I think about it, if I were a vole, I'd be on me guard most of the time....

 Anyway, me and LTD completed the walk in about 3 hours, which is not rushing. If your map shows an open-cast mine ("workings") on the route, it's been filled-in and is now green and smooth and walkable. There is no mine. What there is, though is new woodland and wildlife ponds and gates for access and no obvious objection to people wandering in. Rights of way have been re-established. Everything is fine. Calm down. The coal is now all burned away and used to make steel (cos it's good stuff)

Wednesday 1 April 2020

The Hill That The Nuttals Missed

Boy Lee Knott North Face

When the list of hills categorized as Nutalls (610 metres + with 15 metres of renascent was published, this one probably didn't exist. And, because it developed on the grouse moors just above Rookhope in Weardale, the locals, being a significant population of keepers and beaters determined to keep it a dark secret, so as not to attract hordes of bobble-hatted Nutall Baggers

Boy Lee Knott South Ridge

Geologists will confirm that beneath Rookhope, there is a large bulge or bubble of hot granite which was discovered several years ago by the sinking of a borehole. This was subsequently vandalised by local teddy boys who had just attended an exciting Adam Faith concert in Darlington and, fired up by half a pint of dark mild each, chucked a load of rocks down the hole and bunged it up. This disturbed both the geologist and the geology.  And so, at some point in the 1950's, Boy Lee Knott (610.6 metres), under enormous Earth-based pressure emerged suddenly and steaming from the moorland, obliterating grouse butts numbers 3 to 12 and ruining one of the drives. This was only the latest in a series of volcanic incidents, the previous one being 150 million years ago. So these things are quite regular in geological terms, but a bit of a surprise in Weardale, specially in the Smoke Room of the Rookhope Inn.
LTD Struggle with  Boy Lee Knott screes

Boy Lee Knott summit in summer

The name "Boy Lee Knott" comes from an old local legend about a young lad called Lee who fell in love with t'maister's youngest daughter, Sharon. (T'maister was a Yorkshireman by the way, not that this is really all that relevant.) Such was t'maister's fury that the Boy Lee was instantly dismissed from his post as ore washer and sock darner in the local lead miners' shop. (He was said to have a defective sense of smell)  So, he and Sharon eloped and were never seen again. There are tales that t' maister's men  subsequently committed a dastardly deed, dumping the bodies of the lovers down a shaft and,  shortly afterwards  on 31st March 1886 there was a fire at Grimley Manor in which t'maister was said to have perished; the Boy Lee's dad, Isaac Isembard Moses Lucifer Lee and his mates in the smokeroom at the  Rookhope Inn being a suspect, although, it is said that some of the local miners were quite a bit miffed about having to fettle their own socks. Ever since then , on the night of March 31st/April 1st t'maister's ghost is seen to pursue the Boy Lee and Sharon across the Nookton Edge crying the phrase "Come here yer little git" into the wind. Their ghostly shapes are seen to disappear behind the looming bulk of Boy Lee Knott and not come out of the other side.

I've decided to expose the hill to Ramblers and Baggers everywhere and I submit a couple of pictures of Boy Lee Knott in winter garb. I'm not saying exactly where it is because finding it would be so much fun. Except to say that it's just opposite and a good kilometre away from Flamey Knott and not all that far away from Steamy Knott.