Monday, 9 May 2022

TGO Challenge Stuff Number Four

LTD is about to go to bed
I have packed my pack and tried it on. It feels quite heavy and when I put it on, LTD follows me about. I have my train and bus tickets, I've booked a spot on the lawn at the Park Hotel in Montrose and JJ has texted me from (?) Fort William suggesting he gets bacon, eggs and barms for Wednesday's breakfast - seems like a good idea to me. (for non-Lancastrians, a barm is a bread bun. Like a teacake, bit without the fruit.) I will translate "teacake" on request.

So, I'm starting the walk at Eileen Donan Castle on Wednesday. The forecast says breezy with showers. Breezy with showers is normal.

A camp near Straiton

A beck near Straiton

LTD is going to bed again
Since the last post I had a few days in South Ayrshire starting from Straiton, where it's possible to park a knipemobile for a few days without anybody noticing. Ayrshire turned out to be not very friendly, though. Paths marked on the map were blocked by barbed wire and aggressive notices concerning Big Dogs and the local shepherds seem to have closed the hills down for lambing and twice I was told I wasn't supposed to be there. In contrast, a shepherd in Northumberland was very friendly and bemoaned lambs abilities to escape from lamb-proof fields and get themselves into bother. Another in Westmorland (I know... Cumbria...dhuhh....) smiled and gave me a thumps-up sign as his dog and mine investigated each others naughty parts. 

LTD seems a bit tired
Other things didn't go as well as they might. After the first night, a very tall deer fence stopped me climbing my hill (not really possible with the dog and his panniers) - and, not long into the second day, and after much back and forth trying to find a way through farmland and fences and stuff, I came across a really lovely camping spot. The sun was out and although it wasn't far into the afternoon, I decided to stop. This meant re-arranging the rest of the trip. (by re-arranging, I mean, shortening. Obviously.

At some point on Day 3, I noticed that LTD was flagging a bit under his panniers. He was also taking any opportunity to snooze. I lightened his load a bit and gave him my cup to carry - so I could dip it into a beck for water without having to take the pack off. And that night, in the face of grumpy shepherds, we found a discreet spot  to camp. The sound of ATV's went on for a couple of hours and returned in the morning. So, not  a brilliant trip. Much too short for me and. maybe too long for LTD. He's not a young dog any more. I'll just have to carry his stuff.

But now I'm all packed up and being followed around by an expectant dog. He's not allowed on the TGO challenge, so he won't be coming tomorrow when Mrs Pieman takes me to Durham station.  Everything is ready, including the dog....  sniff.....

If I do manage to arrive at the North Sea (Stonehaven) - and these things are never inevitable - this will be my seventeenth TGO challenge. When it gets to 17, the possibility of 20 crossings starts to creep into the list of remaining ambition. (One of these includes being shot by a jealous husband at the age of 98 by the way. I've not mentioned this one to the wife.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

TGO Challenge Stuff Number Three

The Way to Hayfield
One of the things that happens (in normal times when there's no pandemic restrictions) is the TGO challenge "gatherings". There's two of these, one in Newtonmore and one in Derbyshire. This year the English Gathering organiser, Alan, organised a "do" at the Sportsman's Arms in Hayfield. This was good for me and LTD for several reasons: 
Hayfield is a good place for walking.
The Sportsman's Arms and the Kinder Lodge, where me and LTD stayed are both doggy friendly
Chrissie and Geoff live in Hayfield and said I could stay for the bagging of Robin Hood's Picking Rods, a place that has sneakily avoided my attentions for several years now for lots of different reasons, mainly, pandemics and Derbyshire County Council's enthusiasm for closing the Snake Pass.
Hatyfield (all these pics are in reverse order!)

Chrissie and Geoff and Pebbles and Islay

Dragons Back Again. (where has he been?)
So, the Gathering, for me, is part of the TGO challenge "thing", as is having a walk with Chrissie and Geoff and their doggies (although LTD is a grumpy bugger and did cause the occasional noisy fracas with the otherwise placid and, even  cuddly, Pebbles and Islay. ) He's a pillock for that sort of thing, and, it's probably my fault. Hard to stop, though. 
Anyway me and LTD turned up at the Kinder lodge in the Friday night, had dinner with a smattering of TGO-ers at the George Inn (also dog-friendly) and in the morning we (me and LTD)  went off to bag some hills just to the South of Buxton. The main victims of the knipey boots and paws being Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill aka The Dragons Back.
The Dragon's Back

More Dragons Back
After bagging the first two tops, and being unable to identify a permissive path to Chrome Hill,we found ourselves at the foot of Parkhouse Hill.  Parkhouse Hill has a bit of a reputation for scaring people ..... and their dogs.... and, from the bottom, I was quite doubtful of setting off. Lots of people were coming down the narrow ridge and some were having little "adventures". But nobody fell off and I decided just to go up an bit and have a look. 
Parkhouse Hill --- Ooooer....

Same place
It does look very big and spiky and scary, but, in fact, it's quite small and , quite quickly, I found myself in the company of three herbally scented individuals and their little dog and, noticeably, one empty bottle, an almost finished bottle and another spare back-up supply of strong liquor. They were in a happy mood and were trying to consider how they would get back down. They may still be there, who knows?
Infeasably steep grass

East side of Parkhouse Hill

LTD on the summit, yawning nervously
Having got up, we went back down, partly aux-gluteous maximus, and went off to climb Chrome Hill. This was much more civilised and friendly and the permissive path was obvious. So we went back to Hayfield. The do at the Sportsmans's Arms was grand and friendly and the food was good and LTD slept under the table and was  restored to conciousness by being fed quite a lot of chicken by a man from Burnley

And in the morning we went to Geoff and Chrissie's and went off to finally bag Robin Hood's Picking Rods, and, in-between doggy-based skirmishes, we had a cracking walk in a chilly wind, breezing in from somewhere the other side of Manchester. Thanks to Geoff and Chrissie for looking after me and feeding me with Geoff's pasties (not a euphamism) and for breakfast and several brews. And so, me and LTD went home.
In other TGO news, I have laminated extracts from seven 1:50k OS maps, saving just half a kilogramme and next week I have a final TGO chally shake-down in Galloway, or South Ayrshire. I was going to go to Llangollen, but this would involve the trans-Pennine express/Northern rail and , frankly, their record of actually having a train turn up at all has been poor. They're blaming covid for a lack of drivers, but they failed to turn up several years ago when I went to the Dales for a pre-TGO shakedown, resulting in missed connections and a late arrival in Clapham. So I have more confidence in arriving at a destination by using the knipemobile. So that's what I'm doing. I have the maps. I have the dog. I'm going to Galloway. (hopefully!)
After this I'll do a food plan. This ought to be better than my Howgills food plan where I ran out of food. The upside of this was some very nice bacon from Sedbergh market. (Pebbles snoozing on my lap)

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

TGO Challenge Stuff Number Two

LTD RTG (Ready to go)
So, what progress towards setting out on the TGO Challenge has been made so far? 

I have a vetted route, vetted by Dr Emma, who has been very helpful. 

I have a bed booked at an hotel in Hayfield for the TGO Challenge Spring Gathering, organised by the Very Lovely Alan. LTD is also attending and we're hoping for No Blizzards as in previous TGO Challenge gatherings and maybe an attempt on the legend-soaked Robin Hood's Picking Rods via the South Couloir with a direct ascent of the Gendarme du Merde followed by a traverse of the Bad Step. This hill has avoided my gentle attentions for several years now, mainly due to snow storms, Derbyshire County Council's enthusiasm for closing the Snake Pass and a Pandemic. The expedition will be lead by the Crowthers of Hayfield. They know the way and I don't. Nothing could possibly go wrong.....

LTD dribbles over JJ's lunch.

JJ auditions for Strictly Come Hiking
After having the route vetted and approved, I booked some trains. A train to Glasgow from That Durham and a train from Montrose to That Durham. Citylinks bus has been booked to take me from Glasgow to Dornie. Accomodation at Dornie will be in a tent. And I have a B&B booked in Newtonmore, so I'm fixed on getting to Newtonmore. In between Dornie and Stonehaven I are mainly camping, mostly wild and sometimes discreetly.
Determined JJ in the Howgill Fells


No idea who this is

Camp near Cautley
So, the next aspect of TGO chally preparation is physical and mental preparation. I usually deal with these things by 1) Walking about a lot. and 2) Having a couple of backpacking trips where lessons are re-learned - such as not running out of food, not mistaking bright moonlight for dawn and not carrying a load of stuff that's not going to be used. And, since the first day of the 2022 challenge and a bit of the second day will be in company with JJ, it seems logical to do some of this with JJ. And so, we went to the Howgill Fells and walked about a bit for two full days and two half days.
Seems to be in a fairly cheerful mood

JJ on a damp morning

second Howgills camp
The Howgills is a cracking place for backpacking. There's loads of places to camp and nobody goes there (apart from the four or five other backpackers we saw, the two runners and the half dozen day walkers. The water is good but the hills can form wind-tunnels in the North-South facing valleys. And navigation can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. Distances, however, on this particular walk, were short.
Day 2

Also Day 2

LTD has detected somebody opening a bag of smoky bacon crisps in Barrow in Furness
Anyway, it all went reasonably well. We walked from Ravenstonedale to Sedbergh and back in a big circle. I ran out of gas and LTD was a doggy food pouch short (and he blames ME for this!). But we re-supplied in Sedbergh. Unfortunately, during the transactions required for re-supplying, LTD attacked the shop owner's puppy, although I don't believe any physical harm was done, the shopkeeper was pretty unhappy about this and we had to retreat to the Red Lion where we ate and drank and tried to light their fire, which, for some reason, was quite reluctant in the conflagration department. We spent much time sheltering from the rain. Sedbergh market provided some nice bacon and a pasty and the Spar shop produced beans and smash and more whisky for the in-tent entertainment. And it rained all day.
LTD navigating. He's quite good at navigation

JJ follows closely behind, ever alert for sudden changes of direction

Justaminnit, these pics are in the wrong order

First camp

First camp (windy)
And so, replete with Sedbergh's hospitality and extra supplies of food and gas and drink, we slithered through the mud and rain up the bridleway to Cautley where we pitched the tents somewhat out of sight. The forecast for the last half day's walk was encouragingly good. This forecast turned out to be a load of dingo's kidneys and, after a brief spell of benignness  benignity   being a pleasant morning, it rained for the rest of the journey and the Cross Keys was closed. On the upside, the bacon and coffee for breakfast was superb. The key skill, with your bacon and only a small cooking pot, is to cut up the bacon into small pieces to get that all-over tan effect with crispy bits. The results can be loaded into a wrap, a sache of brown sauce applied and the whole thing washed down with a pint or so of hot Taylor's coffee at a strength sufficient to make your hair stand up. Only then can the packing of gear begin.
I'm in the planning stages of a similar trip to Galloway for April. The planning mainly consisting of buying a map
LTD won't be allowed on the TGO challenge

Thursday, 3 March 2022

February - A Train Rant and Other Stuff

Northern (Comedy Service) Rail Not Coming From Carlisle

 I'll get to the rant in a minute. Bear with me, I need to build up some steam. But the picture above of the "arrivals" board at Newcastle Central Station is a symptom. The station is using the ironic, or maybe sarcastic version of "arrivals" here in that one of the trains is not arriving at all. In fact it hasn't set off.  More of which later.

My second little rant is about blogger , which, once again, has loaded the pictures in reverse order. It fights desperately with me if I try to re-arrange them and I've not yet been bright enough to outwit it by loading the pictures into the picture-selecting box in the opposite order to which they are required. This , the first picture is Lucky The Dog admiring the carpet in the Twice Brewed Inn on Hadrian's Wall.  One of the clauses that Hadrian had written into the contract for Hadrian's Wall was that it went quite close to the Twice Brewed Inn. Mainly because the beer there is very nice and much better than anything you could get in Rome at the time. That and the fact that they don't use much in the way of fomented fish sauce in the steak pie.

LTD looking for a crumb

Sycamore Gap from the North

Sum sheep. No idea how many, I keep falling asleep
Anyway, what of February. Mainly it rained and was very windy. I think it was Very very windy on four or five occasions and at times it was wet at the same time, or otherwise, just before the windy bits. Or just after. Several of the windy bits were Atlantic Storms which had cosy names like "Fluffy" and "Graham". "Ronnie was a bastard and tangled up the wind-chimes in our garden as well as blowing trampolines on to Lane Three of the A1(M) in several places. This was Not Good for the walking. So less walking was done in Feb 2022 than as far back as Feb 2011.
LTD suspects that there may be a gravy bone inside that rucksack

But there were some highlights, apart from the sheltering and drinking tea (Yorkshire Tea, grown in Doncaster) Me and Dawn went camping to Buttermere. This was a bit muddy but we were the only campers there and it was a nice break. Me and LTD managed to bag two very small hills. We left just as it got windy again (yellow warning for severe gales)
Crook and Weardale Ramblers doing a Caledonian-style river crossing

High Force, obviously

The, me and LTD attended three Crook and Weardale Ramblers walks, one of which was snowy, another wet, I mean quite wet... and another on a beautiful spring-like day. Attendance on walks seems to be increasing a bit - specially in terms of the canines. We were up to three doggies in Teesdale. LTD isn't keen on doggies....
White Horse of Kilburn (not ancient!)

Grasmoor, near Buttermere

Buttermere camp
And so, I come to the part where I have a bit of a rant. I had decided to have a night out at a certain bothy, not all that far from Hadrian's Wall and had secreted some firewood there a week or so earlier. I decided, that, rather than abandon a car nearby, I would go on the train - noting that Bardon Mill station was only a hop and a step away from the bothy and twenty quid for a return ticket with a lift home from Mrs Pieman would be a good strategy.

So she took me to the station. The first thing I noticed was that all of the trains coming up from That London were 15 minutes late due to a "security incident" at Peterborough. I had a ten-minute gap between trains, so I hopped on one I shouldn't have been on, according to my ticket.

At Newcastle, the station announcer announced that my train to Bardon Mill was cancelled due to a lack of drivers. A nice lady in a red suit confirmed this and added that the train after it was also cancelled. So I got on a train that went to Carlisle but stopped at Hexham, but not at Bardon Mill. I got the 685 bus to Bardon Mill and arrived only 30 minutes late. This is when it started raining.

I arrived at The Bothy at teatime, got water, fed the dog, put the dog to bed (he stayed there for the next 15 hours, a record - he was clearly fed-up) I lit the fire using some extra coal I'd brought and snuggled in for a very quiet night with brews and scotch and the radio. And LTD's contented sighs snores and farts.

The morning was really beautiful - a bright, sunny and frosty start and we had a lazy breakfast sitting in the doorway in the sun-trap.

The return walk was on paths North of the Wall and then to Twice Brewed for a couple of pints and a stupidly large breakfast and then down to Bardon Mill for the train.  

At Bardon Mill, an announcement was made that the train to Carlisle was cancelled. I began to have a sinking feeling about this. The phone to customer services couldn't confirm either way whether or not my train to Newcastle would or would not run, or even that it existed at all. So I decided to get the bus, which turned up at the bus stop a few minutes after me and LTD and took us to Newcastle, arriving 90 minutes early.

My train was, in fact, cancelled. Had I waited I would have missed the connection to Durham, and you can't get on one of these trains without a seat reservation.

Get my money back? I tried the website and it's impossible to navigate. So I rang them up and they won't talk about refunds on the phone.

If I'm ever faced with Northern Rail again, I think I'll pass and see what the local bus service can come up with. Or I'll drive...

Notice the use of green. All rants ought to be in green ink. It ought to be a rule. Or it's not a proper rant. Fact.

Anyway, it's spring now and the daffies are coming up, there's skylarks and lapwings in the fields and the sap is rising....

Must go backpacking.