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.