Saturday 22 January 2022

Racing The Sun from Hartside Pass

Li Yang and Sun setting on Melmerby Fell
I had it on my List of Things To Do (important caps here) to do some more long walks and early last week me and Li Yang (Li Yang and I) arranged to do "a long walk" on Thursday as she was on holiday and I'm permanently on holiday. It took me a while to work out a route but the result was this little stravaig. Oddly enough, it started at the top of a hill....
Sunrise from Hartside

Li Yang and a cairn
We parked at dawn about ten minutes before sunrise in a little quarry near the summit of Hartside pass - a large number of cars and vans could get in here by the way... and headed approximately East over Benty Hill where the boggy bits were frozen hard. This made for relatively fast progress. 

As we passed along the ridge, the sun rose, apparently at some speed and proceeded across the sky at a worryingly fast lick - and us still with 20 miles to go. Would we win the race and finish in relative daylight? (Spoiler alert - not much chance of that!)

And just before the ridge drops down into South Tynedale we turned South to Leadgate and then along the road towards Garrigill for "First Lunch"  We usually have two "lunch" stops on long walks by the way. My first lunch was most of a pork pie, a banana and chocolate and coffee. LTD's first lunch was doggy biscuits, gravy bones and a little bit of pork pie. Li Yang may have donated some of her lunch as well.....

Black Fell - not really very black, in fact

LTD trying to hypnotise Li Yang into donating some of her butty in Greg's Hut

The toughest bit of the walk was the public footpath from the Garrigill lane to the bend on the Pennine Way leading up to Greg's Hut. Done Siuth to North, my view of the walk from Greg's Hut to Garrigill is that it's mind-numbingly dull, but, somehow going the other way is more interesting.  The Pennine Way gave another section of quite quick walking and we arrived at Greg's Hut for Second Lunch, in my case a beef, tomato and mustard butty and some more chocolate. LTD finished off all Li Yang's doggy biccies and my gravy bones and asked for more. The greedy bugger had also had a fair amount of snow from the remaining patches. 

Greg's Hut
As the shadow of Cross Fell began to creep across the Black Burn below, we started on the fabulous Pennine ridge which heads North back towards Hartside, still more than 5 miles distant and, with the sun with only a few feet of sky to traverse until it could dip behind the Lake District, have it's cocoa and crumpets, wind up the cat and put the clock out to drift off into dreamy snoozy sleepy land ready for another busy day tomorrow.

The conditions for walking this  ridge were ideal. The ridge is mainly grassy and wide and spacious and, generally easy to walk on and , it could be described as a romp. We made good, fast progress, on the frozen turf , passing cairns and patches of boulders, across the Maiden Way roman road and on to Melmerby Fell where the sun won the race and began to sink smugly behind the Cumbrian Fells and us with  several miles still to go.

Li Yang heads North


Another cairn!

LTD enjoys some snow

The sun is starting to set over the Lake District
We were treated to a fine sunset. In fact, we were bust taking pictures when it might have been wiser to press on. In the other hand, it would go dark anyway and the really wise thing to do was to witness this moment. From sunset to "lights on" must have been about 40 minutes. We came off the hill towards Alston Moor and found a stripe of yellow through the heather which marked the track of an old tramway which leads directly back to the quarry containing the knipemobile.
Yet another sunset shot

The sun has gone to bed. Zzzzzzzzzz

Inevitably, about half a mile along the tramway (which, incidentally, is not much of a path ) we put the head lights on and tramped in the general direction of the main road. Car headlights and tail lights moving along the road gave us an idea of distance and ensured that we couldn't go  far wrong.

We finished at half past five. 21 miles (this does count as "long") and 2600 feet of up.

Under instruction from Li Yang , I have to dream up another long walk for early February


Tuesday 18 January 2022

TGO Challenge Stuff Number One

Angle Tarn Camp
I wouldn't really recommend camping at Angle Tarn most of the time, particularly in summer. It's usually a very popular spot - probably because it's quite beautiful and pretty easy to find/get to from Patterdale. . It does get really busy and what people are doing with their sewage is a worry and drinking the water might not be such a good idea. 

But, I needed somewhere for a bit of an early TGO challenge shake-down and a bit of a chill-out and, I suspected that Angle Tarn in January might be fairly quiet. It would be a first foray, for a while in humping a big pack up a hill together with some chilly nights in a serene spot. The excuse, was that this sorta thing is just the sorta thing that might be done on a TGO challenge. It's not really true, though.

LTD helps an old chap up a hill

So, a few days earlier I had submitted my Route sheet for vetting and all I had to do now was chew some fingernails to see what my vetter would say about my plans. Last year, me and JJ completed a necessarily quite easy route, for lots of reasons, all simple, but in several reasonable layers. This year, my planned route is a fairly standard low-level affair with a few rufty-tufty bits interspersed with tea rooms, but probably a bit more of a challenge than 2021. My rule for tea rooms is "never pass a tearoom" Passing a tea-room is bad form and very very unlucky.

This is not Angle Tarn, it's just a puddle on the way

This IS Angle Tarn and that's my kettle
Anyway, the plan is to do a fair bit of training before the start of the TGO challenge (in just 111 days, apparently) (If you're reading this tomorrow, it'll be 110 days and the day after tomorrow will be..... I expect you get the drift...) And Angle Tarn was the target. I expected and planned for stupidly cold January weather, but instead I got warm sunshine - provided one stayed out of the breeze, moonlit nights with only the lightest frost and a final morning of wet hill-fog. I read Just William and The Great Outdoors Magazine, drank tea and whisky, snacked and wandered about the local hillocks and drumlins with no plan at all.

Meanwhile, LTD followed me about , but, generally, in between chewsticks, sat watching the tarn and chasing off the occasional labrador.

LTD on guard

A strangely quiet Angle Tarn camp
As I put up the Akto, a fisherman visited and told me all about the fish he hadn't caught and a few hikers - not more than half a dozen, wandered past and then a lass appeared, doffed off and paddled into the tarn for a swim. She said she hoped she hadn't disturbed me and wandered off home. Apparently she swims somewhere every day. I suspect it would have been one doggy-paddle too far for me and both me and LTD stayed away from cold water, unless filling a water bag or in the case of LTD, having a drink. LTD hates water and the very last place to search if he'd disappeared would have been in the tarn.

What sort of person lives here?
During the beautiful and long starry, moonlit night, where the tent door stayed open, we were visited by a stag, or maybe two. They were close but invisible. We hunkered down before 5:00 p.m. and, pretty much stayed put till 8:30 a.m.  The sun finally lit the tent at 9:30 a.m and the first walkers didn't appear until after lunchtime. And these were very few. - Maybe less than a dozen all day, mostly with dogs and mostly heading for High Street, it would seem. I expect they all had a fab day on the hills. Me and LTD did little. apart from some brief excursions around the tarn
LTD excited about a ripple on the tarn
The last morning dawned grey and drizzly and neither of us really felt like going anywhere. Going somewhere when the morning is driech and cold is a key TGO challenge state of mind. Sometimes driech and cold, or,, even worse, wet and windy and cold, can go on for days in Scotland, so it's important to be able to foray forward on the next day's progress towards the East....

A few more walkers were encountered on the way back down to the valley. And my vetter has vetted and, apart from getting the name of a burn wrong, I'm pretty much good to go. Emma, my vetter, has pointed out several useful bits of information , including, importantly, the location of tea rooms and informal shelters and all that now remains is to stay alive, get a bit fitter, do some camping with walking involved and book some trains and stuff.

LTD still on guard.
Note that doggies are not allowed on the TGO challenge and if you need to know what TGO challenge is, look here  (click on the word "here") dhuhh..........
LTD helps an old chap back down the hill


Thursday 6 January 2022

Socially Distant and Well Ventilated in the North Pennines

Me and my shadow

I'm slightly ashamed to say that I made this walk up on the hoof, as it were. I was supposed to be having a hill-bagging day around some diminutive Tumps (look it up!) around Roadhead, at the English/Scottish border just a bit to the right of Carlisle. However, circumstances conspired against this:

Firstly, it was a nithering sort of morning and, with LTD gently snoring and farting next to me on the bed, we lounged a bit late.

Then, Mrs Pieman's car handbrake decided to declare independence and set itself to an "on" position, rendering the vehicle fairly useless as a vehicle. So this introduced some delay.

I was also suffering from Procrastination Lethargy, a lesser known/identified but common syndrome notorious for inducing indecision, faffing and a desire for  yet another cup of tea.

But it was a lovely winter's day of blue skies a frost, so, eventually....
LTD spots something interesting in the distance
LTD also does this on carpets in banks, shops and hotels
LTD leads the way

... we rolled up at Stanhope with a vague intention of wandering as far as Bolt's Law, with an approach via the North bank of the River Wear and on paths to Rookhope and then up the old railway incline which now serves as part of the coast to coast cycle route. I expect that, on a bike, this would be tortuous...  

This plan soon fell to bits and I found myself on a minor road heading uphill in the general direction of Rookhope. Just two cars passed in the same number of miles. Soon, I was invited on to the open moor, which I knew lead up to the summit of Crow Coal Hill. The invitation, of course, came from the hill itself. There was no stock around and, for wildlife, I spotted a rabbit some distance away, so LTD came off the lead and immediately turned into his "puppy" mode - rolling about and bouncing around like a puppy. I followed him up the hill. The snow wasn't too deep and had been scoured away by strong winds, leaving small drifts behind each tussock. Nevertheless, in "winter fitness" mode, I thought it was hard work.
LTD finds some deeper snow
Tussocks and driftlets towards Rookhope

To get to the railway line/ctoc route means following the wide ridge over Long Hill and Long Law in a generally Northerly direction. The snow was deeper here and ground beneath it rougher and heatherier and boggier. So this took some time. A shepherd passed on his ATV. I suspect that the sun was in his eyes, so he didn't seem to see me. A long plod followed, sometimes made easier by the tracks of ATV's and, eventually, we arrived at the railway line, which was bordered by big snowdrifts. All this had taken some time, and I had to collect Mrs Pieman in Crook since her car was now in the garage and , time being shortened and , there being an ideal excuse not to bash through the deep snow and tussocks up Bolt's Law we just walked past Bolts Law and followed the line to Park Head and then down to Stanhope through Ashes Quarry.

Lunching spot by a random cairn

Tussocks all point South
Cairn at Longlaw End
Details of those met on the walk (12 miles) - hill-walkers = 0, shepherds on ATV's with dogs =2, keeper on a JCB = 1  Dog walkers near Stanhope = 2 Other walkers near Stanhope = 1. If the above, encounters within 4 metres = 5 of which 3 waved and 2 had a chat. One dog barked at LTD.

Site of the Rookhope Incline engine house/winch... and a snowdrift
A pile of white stuff

Then it went dark. 

Not a bad start to the year, although, technically speaking, this was the third walk of the tear, the previous two being a long doggy walk from home and a pleasant, if muddy,  but easy trundle beside the Wear at Durham with Crook and Weardale Ramblers

LTD on the railway line (icy!)

Then it went dark

Saturday 1 January 2022

Two Thousand and Twenty Two


JJ Crossing a wobbly bridge on the 2021 TGO Challenge

I've neglected the Pieblog for a while - apparently, since August. But now, there's a New Year's Resolution to start to write again.All the pictures in this blogpost are from 2021, although this is not to say that no pictures are available from 2022, cos there are - it's just that they're not really very interesting. Today's walk was just this afternoon's doggy walk from Pietowers to Fir Tree and Cold Knott and Kitty's Wood; just six and a bit miles in quite nice weather, nothing too exciting, really, so I probably won't ever mention it again. There's a short walk tomorrow too, just about 5 miles around the River Wear at Durham. It's a Crook Ramblers walk and, I suppose breaks the mileage duck for some people. I'm trying not to get too excited about it and I've not mentioned it to LTD in case he can't sleep for thinking about it. At the moment, (subject to an AGM in February), I'm secretary and also temporary footpaths officer for Crook and Weardale Ramblers and, whilst the power and control is going to my head, I'm quite enjoying it and, as it's coming up to this Group's 50th anniversary, I'm hoping to be able to do some significant stuff to celebrate it. Readers who are still awake and/or not wandered off surfing a bit more web, will now have realised that the point of this blog post is to look forwards, and, maybe, back a bit.
Winter 2021 near Brancepeth

On the subject of Blogger - none of the pictures in this blog post are in the order that they were selected. They appear to have been randomly selected by Blogger itself and trying to move them to where they're supposed to be just makes more of a mess. This may well be one of the reasons I drifted off from Blogger. 

Any road up, what else might happen in 2022, apart from Rambling with Crook and Weardale Ramblers and Rambling on about the Rambles. 

There's also the Long Walks. Me and LTD and Li Yang and Diane and David have managed a long walk , more or less on a monthly basis during 2021. By long, I mean 20 miles at the shortest. Subject to lockdowns etc, we managed nine of these last year. There are no definite plans , though for any in 2022, except to say that most of last year's were designed and arranged at quite short notice and were mainly in the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales. Both me and LTD are in our "senior" years and I'm really very pleased that we're both still up to the job.

Me and JJ (JJ and I) in the beach at Lunan Bay Angus at the end of the 2021 TGO challenge

Then there's the TGO challenge. As I write this rubbish, my route sheet for my proposed walk across Scotland in May 2022 is resting gently in the email in-box in the hostel at Newtonmore, waiting to be sent to a vetter who, once he or she has finished crying and slapping his or her head in disbelief, will come up with some advice or even instructions for me to take head of. Last year's was Covidded into mid June (in order to feed the midgies which had all been having a tough time too) and me and JJ walked from Oban to Lunan Bay on a relatively short easy route which was mainly a result of various circumstances, which, in the end, turned out to be Just The Thing due to JJ just having had a hole drilled in his neck by a neurologist. It was good fun anyway and we camped in some cracking spots and met but a few other TGO challengers. In 2022, my route is a solo effort, and, should I finish it and/or otherwise survive, it will be my 17th TGO challenge. I suspect that JJ's route might coincide with mine at some points. It might be useful for any tyro TGO-ers to follow the progress of my planning and training for this walk. The route is from Dornie (think Eileen Donan Castle on Loch Duich) to Glen Affric to Fort Augustus to Newtonmore to Braemar to Glen Esk to Stonehaven and is about 240 miles in 13 days. I have a couple of backpacking shake-downs planned for the physical and also mental bits of the training - hopefully, one quite soon in the Howgills.

Camp by Loch Dochard in the Black Mount, Argyll 2021 TGO

JJ heads off towards Canada - Oban harbour 2021 TGO Challenge

Next thing is the Hill-Bagging. In 2021 I managed to bag 107 hills altogether- and this means hills that I've not climbed previously.  This is not specially remarkable and I'm hoping to improve on this a bit this year. Last year I managed to complete the Nutalls with the exception of Pillar Rock, the prospect of which scares me witless. The TGO challenge should bag a few new ones, but I'll need to do some trips similar to trips I did last year such as the walks/camps around Comrie and Moniaive, hollibobs in Wales and day walks in the Lakes, Cheviots and the Borders and, if I can be arsed with the A19 traffic, North Yorks Moors
LTD in the Howgills

Bagging in Cumbria

There's other stuff too - For the past few years I've been taking part in the North East Skinny Dip, which happens around the equinox  each September and consists of increasing numbers of daft buggers... of people stripping off and running screaming into the waves at Druridge Bay. This is, believe it or not, great fun and it's all proceeds go to Mind, a charity which I've supported on and off on the very blog. In 2021, 850 people did this. That's 1700 buttocks (I'm assuming that almost everybody taking part had two) More people ought to be brave and do this - apart from anything else, it's superb for body confidence and even superberer for the mood. (No comments about the spelling here by the way) So, there'll be more of this sort of thing.  I'm not sure why this isn't titled the "Great North East Skinny Dip" bit there it is. Backslaps for Northumbria County Council for their attitude to this, since they provide space for camping and Druridge Bay is their land anyway. I should add that "some |" people have regular skinny dips in Druridge Bay pretty much all the year round. Local dog walkers seem to be resigned to this.
I trusted that this shot was far enough away from anybody to be sure that no actual bits could be seen and recognition would be very difficult. I should add that anybody trying to spot naughty parts or identify anybody needs to get a life, grow up  and have a serious word with themselves

Some Crook Ramblers in the Lake District

More other stuff - Last year me and Dawn, and, occasionally including JJ and Margaret managed a trip or two away. Dawn's camps are just that - easily accessible "wild" camps which are necessarily discreet and quite good, restful fun. LTD thinks they're great. I had a couple by myself last year. The pic below is a gill at Arncliffe which contains a remarkable, deep pool of sun-warmed water (in summer!) Its a spectacularly beautiful spot. I camped there for 2 nights and one chap and his dog swam in the pool on the first day  and on the second day, a family spent the afternoon sploshing about and exploring the gill. Other than that, me and LTD had the place to ourselves.
Static wild camp at Arncliffe

Galloway with hill-top windfarms

It's on Wales!

Thats about it, folks. I'm hoping to post more regularly with progress, specially around the TGO challenge  preparations. Obviously, this happens in May, so there'll be other stiff too. All I need to do now is survive............. (double jabbed and boosted and LTD has had his worming tablets