Thursday 21 May 2020

Walks Where Covid 19 Shackles Are Loosened A Bit

 In England, the rules about exercise changed last week, so that now, we can travel any distance to exercise i.e. walk (but not to Scotland) and we can meet just the one person from outside the household providing we stay 2 metres apart.  So, taking advantage of this, but bearing in mind the twitchiness of the people living in the more popular places in the North, me and Li Yang traveled all of 6 miles to Wolsingham for the purpose of walking a longish walk of some 17 miles -West on the Weardale Way, Bollihope, Five Pikes, Elephant Trees, Knitsley Fell and back to the start by the riverside path.

 As per all recent walks, I managed to avoid all farmyards and only came near to a couple of houses and, apart from a dozen or so cars and some families with their doggies around Bollihope, we saw only a couple of runners and a couple of other walkers, plus a family on of whom had left their toy plane by the trig on Knitsley Fell, which we managed to return to them. (nobody likes to lose a favourite toy, innit?)  And there was a chap fishing in the Wear. Fishing is now allowed too (I'm not entirely sure why it wasn't allowed before, the social distancing is quite extreme)
 And then, taking things a bit further, a couple of days ago me and LTD went off to Black Middens, on the very edge of Kielder Forest. I thought that nobody would be around. The idea was to bag Earl's Seat, a tussocky Tump on the edge of tussocky moors. It was a hot day. the first hot day of the summer and we saw nobody and met nobody. We saw some deer and that was it. It seems that the foresters aren't working. 

 Black Middens is a "bastle" or peel - a fortified farmhouse with cattle secured downstairs and a family and followers upstairs. And, in August 1583, one Armstrong, Kinmont Willie, from Liddesdale, not too far away over the Border in Scotland, raided Black Middens along with seven or eight neighbouring bastles, stole away with livestock and agricultural goods, killed 6 men and wounded another 11 and took away 30 people to be ransomed. He did it again a few years later. Lord Scrope, who was the Warden of the local bit of the border had Willie captured just after a truce day on the Scottish side of the border and taken to Carlisle Castle. Laird Buccleuch, the local Scottish bigwig and Warden appealed to the Queen for Willie's release, stating that his capture was illegal, being on a truce day. Queen Elizabeth ignored the request, but , apparently fancied the boots off Laird Buccleuch who, with help from English allies, who were opposed to Lord Scrope, arranged for a raid on Carlisle Castle to spring Willie from his gaol. This went well and Willie was freed. Liz, was miffed two knickers about the raid, but since it was Buccleuch wot done it, and trying to be on good terms with King James of Scotland, who may well have to be the very next English monarch didn't do anything. Kim may have had a quiet word with Buccleuch in case he ever considered doing that sort of thing again. Meanwhile, Ooor Wullie continued entering Northumberland and Cumberland, robbing and killing although nothing much was done to stop him since it might well have been that some important English locals were getting a percentage. Then Willie died, so it ended and they all went home and told their mums what had happened. You don't get this from other hillwalking blogs innit?

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Covid 19 Walks Get Longer and Plans Get Stronger

Just like most people and their dog, me and LTD have been staying home, except for the "allowed" reasons of shopping for essential supplies of merlot, nipping over to the chemists for my bisoprolol or wandering about having exercise. For this latter activity, the weather has been really very friendly and long, sunny spring days have brought out wild flowers, wild birds, not wild spring lambs and loads and loads of people walking, running and cycling in the countryside. Survivors will be very fit, have clean houses and tidy gardens and some, I expect, will have filled some of their time in other "activities" which may well result in a baby boom around Christmas time. Something to look forward to there....
Me and the dog started out doing circuits of the countryside around Crook. This is quite nice, but limited in it's own way and there was quite a bit of repetition and overlap in the chosen routes. Walks tended to be around 5 or 6 miles and could be undertaken without bananas, coffee, bonios or packs. (bonios are for the dog, I find them quite tasteless unless soaked in onion gravy and/or brown sauce.) (Lucky is not too bothered about brown sauce but he does like a slaver of gravy but without the onions)
And, after a while, and with some encouragement from "somebody else", it became quite apparent that 5 or 6 miles just wasn't hitting the spot. 5 miles is fine for a doggy walk, but to retain fitness and to be ready for when the shackles preventing travel to other places are finally loosed, something more needed to be done. The result was a 13 mile route, from the door and, then 15 miles and then 17 miles.  These things do require bananas, egg butties, coffee and just-in-case rainwear. They're all local routes, but the circles are bigger.
As time went on, Social meejah was reporting that in some places, farmers were closing footpaths and otherwise shouting at people. Some people (not really walkers , I feel) were nipping up to Malham from Kent and Accrington, having barbeque picnics and being very rude to police officers and anybody else who might have remonstrated. This  was not only moronic but unhelpful to say the least. One local farm track had a scribbled notice on a plastic lid stating that the track was closed to everybody. We ignored it and the farmer, who was out on his tractor, ignored us. Local intelligence stated that the said farmer was quite a nice chap anyway and was prone to giving away boxes of eggs to passers-by.
In other places, County Council notices started to appear on footpaths asking people to behave properly, I suspect, to calm the nerves of locals disturbed by the additional weight of people wandering across the fields.
My view is that whilst the risk of passing on a virus from touching a stile is probably very low, and this isn't Foot and Mouth Disease, farmers have some justification for being nervous, specially in view of the daily updating of the latest number of fatalities. And you don't really know who is living in the farm - is a member of the household vulnerable and shielding? (If there are, a notice asking people to avoid the farmyard could be met with a positive response) And farmers, just like everybody else should be washing their hands and not picking their nose or sucking a finger....
But, for pragmatic purposes, and to avoid unnerving anybody, when planning these longer routes, I've managed to avoid going anywhere near farms or farmyards. This has been much easier than I thought it would be - but we're blessed locally with miles and miles of railway paths :- old railway lines closed since the coal industry fell over in the 1960's and now converted to routes suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. They can get a bit dull after a while, but they get you miles away from home in short order. There's also bridleways, roman roads and miles of quiet lanes, and it's all really very nice. So, it'll do for now. Several pit villages are visited, but locals are generally very friendly (This IS County Durham) although their social distancing is a bit shaky sometimes. Local heathery moors are just about within reach.
And then there's the plans... I've already mentioned these, but I now have a "top 5" which will be the first Things To Be Done" as soon as "Things Can Be Done" There's no order to these because it depends how the unlocking of the lockdown is delivered - some of these are intended to be shared with Dawn, who is shielding just now, and some will depend on the ability to travel. This is the list:

Marilyn bagging:- completion of Section 37. This won't mean much to most people, but to explain that this involves a trip to the very highest parts of the Lincolnshire Wolds. I've found a campsite and the drive from Pietowers is around 150 minutes. Probably a couple of nights might allow the bagging of Normanby Top and, maybe a paddle at the seaside.

A couple of days camping at Ettrick: Gets Dawn out of the house and I can bag a few obscure hills and otherwise laze about a bit. There's a nice, quiet campsite available.

A beach bivi on a quiet Northumberland Beach. I've missed the beach bivvies.......

Do the trip in Lanarkshire that got cancelled at the last minute in March. I almost went. I have the gas and the food and I've given LTD a copy of the route. It was going to be 3 days... I might do it in 4. Three Marilyns are available to be bagged.

I had a route for backpacking from Loch Lomond to Callendar. There's a high level version and a low level version depending on the weather and fitness. Probably four days plus two for travel. The high level route has more than 20 two thousand foot tops. Its a cracker...

In between all this, if I can do this, it's likely that the Ramblers will start walking again and I'll likely be doing some of that, and, maybe Wolsingham Wayfarers, although I suspect that the bits of the walk programme I was involved in will have expired till the Autumn...