High Raise with 4th Durham Scouts

Spring has sprung early and the chance to hit the Lakes was upon us. We had been thinking of trying out one of the camping pods and due to repairs being carried out on our tent, we took the plunge and booked one at a site near Ullswater.  We had arranged to help the Scout troop as our walking buddy, Dicko, is the leader.  They were doing a navigational exercise in the Lakes on the Saturday so it tied in nicely.

On the thursday night  I’d been on night shift and as usual Kel and me crossed at the door as she went out to work Friday morning. Knowing I would be hitting the road later I thought I’d struggle to sleep but I was soon snoring away as Kel was pounding her beat.  Come lunchtime I was awake and after a coffee started packing the car so when Kel came back after 4pm we’d be good to go. She landed just after four and with smiles like half moons we set off for our favourite road, the west bound A66.

A couple of hours later we had arrived and unpacked and were in the site bar for a couple of pints before heading back to the pod for a night cap and bed.

I don’t know wether it was excitement or the early night but Kel was up and about just before 7am with the stoves blazing and a full English was on the cards. The weather was perfect and Hallin Fell was standing proud in the sunshine as we tucked into a cardiac arrest.

Pots washed, bellies full and lunch packed into our day sacks, we headed to Grasmere to meet Dicko and a mini bus full of Scouts. The journey was glorious and Blencathra had never been clearer, with my mate Sharp Edge looking ever inviting. However, our goal today was High Raise near the Langdales and we were soon pulling into Grasmere and phoning the bank to remortgage the house to pay for the car park.

This was our first proper outing with 4th Durham Scouts and it was quite exciting to see how they coped with a good walk and the challenges that come with it.

We set off with smiles all round and the banter was good.  Along with Dicko we had two other leaders called Mike and Paul, also Sue (Dicko’s missus) and Richard (their son) so adult supervision was plentiful as we headed off through the town and up Easedale Road to join the path that starts at the small foot bridge crossing Easedale Beck. I

Iike being at the back and the chatter was pleasant as the Scouts trotted off with their assorted backpacks and equipment. When I say assorted, I mean the word to be taken in its broadest sense. I thought I’d seen the smallest daysack with Kel’s, but there were some the same size as my map pocket as I looked up the line of the enthusiastic adventurers crossing the bridge.   I was pleased to see good walking footwear and not flossys or Nike’s.   Anyway we plodded towards the New Bridge heading towards the base of Brinhowe Crag with a picturesque waterfall to the right.  A short ascent took us up towards Easedale Tarn and the sound of something that would be common for the next 14 miles, the thump of falling Scouts!  I’ve learnt to live with the usual ‘thump’ of arse hitting terra ferma after miles of hiking with Kel, however these came with a mixture a fits of laughter and the odd tear.

Easedale Tarn was a great sight with many other hikers stopping to admire.

The Scouts had already started to go ‘off piste’ in search of adventure under the watchful eye of us. Marsh land is very common around Tarns and is very well disguised by a good covering of grass, this didn’t stop one Scout sinking knee deep into a well sodden patch only to be pulled out, luckily intact with boots.

Socks changed and after a rest we looked forward to the busy junction between Codale Tarn and Stickle Tarn.  This was a planned lunch stop and we settled before the right turn to Sergeant Man and ultimately High Raise.  In March you try and think, or hope, Mother Nature might be kind and let you at have a good look from the peaks, again this was not to be. As soon as we had our butties in our hands, the rain started. The temperature had dropped somewhat and the drops were icy cold. The Scouts didn’t need telling to get their waterproofs on, all you could hear was the rustle of Gortex and other materials as we all dived into our daysacks and donned our kit. All fully water proofed we settled back down to finish our soggy sarnies. I was looking over Sickle Tarn and saw as sight I thought we’d seen the last of this winter. A thick scattering of the white stuff was falling over the water and heading our way.  Within seconds it’s was snowing quite bad, not exactly a ‘white out’ but enough to make everyone pack any left food away and Dicko give it the big ‘wagons roll!’

We set of in the driving snow, heads down and water dripping off our heads. High Raise wasn’t yet in sight but I knew it was close. Even though the weather was evil, the Scouts were still very chipper and you could still here them chatting and laughing away as we sneaked passed Sergeant Man and caught sight of High Raise. It looked as though the sun was shining up on the summit, but we still had snow. No sooner had we started the boggy ascent the snow stopped and the hoods came down.

The summit was quite crowded so after a few piccys we set back off as the day was getting on. Then it happened again, the sound of the lesser toggled Scout hitting the deck. The snow had left a slippery legacy which wasn’t helped by soaking boggy ground. The Scout in question looked a bit shocked but back on his feet and joined in with the rest of the troop laughing at his mishap. We cracked on down the paths with the intention of meeting the junction above Grasmere Common and taking the right turn just passed the cross roads to go towards Helm Crag. But no sooner had the laughter left the air, another thud, then another. It was like ten pin bowling on the fells. Then, just when they were all back on their feet, laughter filled the air once more with one of the lads sinking knee deep, then to add insult to injury, was pulled out of the bog minus one boot. Oh how we laughed!!

Navigationally we then had a little blip. The path seemed to vanish, leaders and helpers had maps out and heads were being scratched. The rules say at least one Sat Map must be carried but that was in the hidden depths of Kel’s daysack, no doubt amongst the nations of crisps and chocolate. But we needed it as the weather had gone a bit over cast now and only a few hours of daylight were left.  At this point I tried and experiment with my IPhone, I had downloaded an app for mountain folk with compass weather etc. I clicked on the map app and my position came up almost immediately. And when the Sat Map had picked us up, my IPhone was only about 100m out, and that’s a free app 🙂

Anyway we dropped down through Ash Crags and joined a path, but not without more slippery shenanigans and yet more Scouts covered in mud.

We reached the junction and carried on up and joined the path near Brownrigg Moss and headed east. I now thought it was a good time to carry on my barrage of gloating at Dicko about the fact we were going for a pint after the walk and he couldn’t as he had to head back to Durham. So Kel and me started discussing the Dog and Gun and what size portion of Goulash we were going to enjoy. It is a pastime I enjoy as every time he manages to get out and finishes off the walk with a pint, he always manages to bombard me with picture texts of his drinks, as I’m usually at work.

The weather had brightened up again and there were a few smiles along the line of Scouts as they negotiated the roller coaster of hills on the approach to Gibson Knot. This one of the boggiest stretches of the fells I’ve been up against and the Scouts started to have little competitions as to who could jump the widest bog. Of course it would end up with one of them knee deep but that prospect didn’t seem to dampen their fun.

As we got closer to the Knot the ‘IMapMyHike’ app which I’d set off at the start said we were at the 12 mile mark. That’s the last I heard of the voice who had been updating me with her pleasant mannered robot style voice since we set off. Battery dead!

Now we’d had a few falls, even the leaders had managed to end up on the deck once or twice.  But one Scout in particular had seemed to make the art of not staying on your feet an Olympic event. When he fell, it wasn’t just a thump and stop, it was a thump and slide 2 or 3 metres resulting in him being covered head to foot in mud. But he kept on smiling and laughing and awaited the next Michael Flatley impersonation as he appeared to just surf off Gibson Knot and Helm Crag.

I’ve always hated the decent of these wondrous fells, and this one was no different. The steps down to the right of Jackdaw Crag gave my old war wounded right knee some hammer. My stick earned its pay for that stretch!

Once back on Easedale Road and the end was in sight everyone was all smiles, but to be fair, they were for most of the route.  We met the small bridge we crossed at the start of the route over Easedale Beck which gave me a chance to wash the bog off my boots and the Scouts a chance to soak each other. We walked the last couple of hundred metres back to the car park and a last chance to remind Dicko our next stop would be the Dog and Gun.

The Scouts were still laughing and joking and generally in good spirits. From past experience I’d have put the walk nearer 14 miles with all the ups and downs and I was surprised they were enthusiastic about doing it again.

A great day out and four Wainwrights bagged, surprised to see the snow again but it added to the challenge for the kids and they took it in their stride. The leaders congratulated the Scouts on their achievement and their attitude, well done all round!

If you would like more information on 4th Durham Scouts, search for them on facebook or follow on twitter @4thDurhamScouts

Gainford to Barnard Castle, Teesdale Way.

As spring seems to have sprung well and truly it gave Kel and me a chance to take another chunk of the Teesdale Way. We’re walking it’s length with Dicko, a good mate and drinking buddy. 

As usual with linear walks its a two car operation and so we tipped up at Dicko’s house, unusually we’d only had a couple of crumpets. As Kel is infatuated by never being a minute late for anyone (apart from me), we passed up our usual stop at the greasy spoon for a buttie and sat outside his house with grumbling tummys.

We were summonsed in while he got ready, his reasons were obvious for his invitation into his house which backs onto the fells. He takes great pleasure in telling me what birds he’s had in his back garden, “oh I had a Bullfinch and Goldfinch in the other day” he bragged on. “Even had a pheasant wander in last week”, he does this as he knows Kel and me have a problem with getting garden wildlife.  A few choice words at his gloating and we left,  jumped into the cars and headed for Barnard Castle to drop my car off. We parked up at the end of the walk as usual to drop my small Aygo off and load our kit into Dicko’s car. We had a good drive to get to the start at Gainford and this is usually where I jump in the back and have a cheeky snooze to charge the old batteries. Before I closed my eyes I had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing the man with the best job in the world, the PCSO for Barnard Castle. You should see this bloke, he gets paid for walking around the best town in Durham, he looks like he has slept with a coat hanger in his mouth, jammy beggar!!

Anyway, with the sound of Kel’s voice in Dicko’s ear I closed my eyes and drifted off. Kel takes the Micky that I can sleep at the drop of a hat, normally for ten minutes then wake feeling better.  I think this is from my time in the army, sleep is precious and on exercise you slept when you could. I once fell asleep stood up against a tree!

I woke about 15 mins later and no one knew any different, Kel was still spotting Eddie Stobart wagons and Dicko was listening.

We pulled into Gainford and donned how kit. Kel was straight on the ‘Geocaching’ app on her phone to see if we had any on route back to ‘Barny’. I also had a cheeky look on my phone, plus switching on my ‘IMap my hike ‘ app. So with the Geocaching app and IMap my hike app I was the focus of every satellite hovering above.

We stormed through this lovely little village and for a short time joined the A67.  It wasn’t long before we were stood stretching our heads looking at the surrounding fields for the old railway line that went under the road. Usually there’s some sort of ‘sign’ of an old line, but after looking and looking we decided this one had been ploughed into the English landscape decades ago. We dropped off the road on to the tees and the sound of the traffics vanished. For those who read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know I’m a bit of a sado. Walking next to a river is bliss for me as there’s nations of wildlife to be seen, I had set my heart on seeing my first Dipper of the year. So my eyes were peeled for the little bird and anything else I could see. We came across a small fountain perched on the banks of the river which amused us for a while. A few piccys later and we made our way back up to the road as the route slips off for a few hundred metres. Then a left turn back towards the river on the old rail line we’d been looking for early. This was more like it, an old embankment with surrounding wildlife, just like the Hart to Haswell route back home. We join the river again and are surrounded by the Snowdrops and the stunning little green shoots of wild garlic. 

It was not long before Kel alerted me to a nearby Geocache quite close to Winston Bridge. I had a look at my phone and saw the cache was on the other side of the river to the walk.  Dicko proposed a brew stop so I ditched the day sack and ran over the bridge and about quarter of a mile down the opposite bank to the cache. I realised time was limited and Dicko and Kel would be waiting. Couldn’t find it, it was meant to be quite near the water line in some tree roots, either the GPS was playing up or it had joined the Tees in the last heavy rain fall. Hey ho I ran back up to the bridge and joined the rest who were happily taking piccys of the cracking view which enveloped us.

Then river was out of reach and we hugged the fence line of the fields that surround the water which was a good 70 to 100 feet below us. I could hear the numerous waterfalls that littered the Tees but struggled to see them. But the view was still awesome and the weather was still our friend. I was down to short sleeves by now as the sun was beating down on us. We passed a few wooden cabins tucked  into the surrounding woodland which looked great, maybe retirement accommodation?!   I had noticed something about this route, and others, the amount of Great Tits has surpassed the amount of Sparrows. Every tweet, apart from the odd Robin, was a Great Tit! 

We skipped into Whorlton and negotiated the Way as it seems to go off in a tangent, like the Weardale Way which at points deviated from the map. We crossed the Whorlton suspension bridge, which was a bit of an experience. It’s obviously a swingy bridge , as the name suggests, but it wasn’t to Kel’s liking. The words “OMG the f**kers moving!” will have left a scar in this quiet Durham village for years to come.

Over the bridge and we have a good kilometre of English green fields before we rejoin the river.  Time for a brew stop and time to have a look at our progress. My IMap my hike was playing a blinder, Dicko’s looked like a heart monitor reading on his Android app but mine even showed my pee breaks!

Our break gave me my first nettle sting of the year, one of many as spring joins us on our many walks.

I see that Geocache twinkle in Kel’s eye as we head in to Mortham park and towards the ‘Meeting of the water’ where we cross Dairy Bridge that has the most perfectly placed house on the banks. Kel rushes off to quickly find our first and only cache of the day.  Dicko boils over excitement and we have to rest…….not!!

We set of through Rokeby Park and take in its views, which include a herd of Alpaca’s

A fairly picturesque walk to Abbey Bridge and a dog fest with an encounter with a Black Labrador called Harvey and we enter ‘Barny’ and enter ‘Barny’ feeling pretty fresh and fulfilled. We pile everything into the Aygo and scream off (ha ha) back to Gainford for a well-deserved pint.  The Nelson is a good pint, no signal and a bit annoying when I wanted to see how far we’d walked.  Dicko text later saying we’d done 10 mile.