Got my new boots, RIP my Merrells!

It’s a rare day I actually get chance to update my kit, the limited funds I have normally get spent on Kel updating her walking gear, after all you can’t have enough pink and purple base layers cos you never know when you might need them!photo 1

However, if you read my previous blog, boots were on my list and after researching and researching I’d narrowed it down to Scarpa or Brasher, and it would be down to the actual ‘trying on’!

So a visit to Go Outdoors in Stockton was planned to see if I could choose.  First we had to get passed the bin of all the reduced tents near the door, grrr damn those tent bins.  We have had a bit of trouble with our base camp (sounds a bit Everesty that dunt it!?) tent after a soaking earlier this year.  But that’s all water under the bridge, and through the seams, and through the zips!  Anyway after inspecting a few of the tents in the bin, we decided again we’re having a new one, but that’s a different story, back to my boots.

The problem with Go Outdoors is they put all the base layers and fleeces on routé to the boots and trying to get Kel past all that kit is frustrating, Jesus Christ woman you own all the base layers under the sun, I want my boots!!  At last we’re at the footwear dept and we got immediate attention and before I knew it, I had Brasher Fell Masters, Scarpa Terra GTX and a pair of Berghaus the assistant suggested I try.  I’m no kit expert, I don’t pick the most expensive bit of clothing because it’s one of the top names, and I get what I like (as long as it’s green that is).  I had a look at the Berghaus and to be fair they were quite comfy, well the right foot one was, the assistant couldn’t find the left.  So Berghaus was out for that reason.  I tried the Brasher’s on and they looked the part, walked well and the leather was very soft.  I have big feet, well size 11 with a good instep and ‘piano toes’, they’re not fat feet by any stretch of the imagination.  The ends of the Brasher’s were very roomy and I could wiggle my toes a lot, which I could foresee a few problems on steep descents.  So I tried the Scarpa’s on, very nice, fitted well and the leather was very soft.  Kel swears by hers and I had to take that into consideration as she’s a fussy one.  The Scarpa’s had it!photo 2

My first ever Scarpa product was in the bag and I was happy.  In the early 90’s I’d spent many a winter with the marines in Norway for winter warfare training and those boys knew their stuff on the kit front.  The ML’s were very experienced with mountain life and to sit and listen to those guys go on about kit was very interesting.  They used to go mad for Scarpa kit and even a certain element of the group, which I cannot talk about, raved for the make, that’ll do for me!

On route to the tent section I managed to convince Kel we needed a new shelter for my daysack.  I’d been carrying my old army poncho as a shelter, which would easily do the job if called upon but it weighed more than I had wanted.  The new one is a 3 man bright orange dome with windows and draw cords to keep in the warmth, and weighed next to nothing.

The drive home was good knowing I’d get a chance to try out my new boots next weekend as we’re planning a walk in the lakes, plus the weather looked testing so straight in at the deep end for the Scarpa’s, let’s hope the shelters not 3

I have mentioned a couple of brands of kit in this blog and I have to say, sometimes it’s not the make that determines my decisions on buying kit, it’s just my taste.  I have Berghaus base layers that are excellent and have used for years, plus throughout my army career all I’ve ever used is Berghaus bergans.  I use Brasher socks that are great and continue to buy when I can.


There aren’t many bits of kit that you carry or wear that doesn’t serve a practical purpose, in fact apart from little mascots and good luck charms I can’t think of anything on my body or in my daysack that isn’t important and is possibly lifesaving.  When I can, I like to spend a bit more money when replacing gear as I am a great believer in the saying, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ and after all the difference of £30 on a pair of waterproof trousers may save you years of soaking wet legs.

Recently I have decided that one of the most important items of walking kit I own needs replacing. They have served me well and we’ve been on many adventures together I feel almost sad to have to replace my boots! old ksb

I remember the day like yesterday when I ordered my trusty Merrell’s, 15 years ago I was sat at in my flat in Osnabruck, Germany looking at my Karrimor KSB’s thinking they looked knackered and sick of endlessly having to treat them.  To be fair they too had served me well, many a time they’ve been battered and bruised up and down Pen y Fan and Snowdon.  They had survived hiking around places like Oman, Norway, Italy and a 3 week expedition to the Rockies.  But the time had come to replace them and as I had the extra 20% off when ordering from abroad and being in the forces I thought now was the best time.  I decided to come away from my normal fabric boot and try the leather, so browsing through my latest Cotswold catalogue I studied hard.  Many friends had leather boots and swore by them, and when we’d been out together wading through the streams of south Wales and falling through frozen becks they seemed to come out with feet nice and dry, I used to say my feet were ok too but in all honesty there were sometimes my socks were less then dry and toasty.  Scarpa had, and still does, a great reputation I was swaying towards them as they had a few leather boots that looked the part.  But tucked away at the bottom of a page was a nice looking pair of Merrell’s.  I’d heard of Merrell but all the talk was ‘Scarpa’ and did I dare go off the beaten track and order these lovely looking boots.  Now you have to remember the internet wasn’t as popular as it is now so I’d have to send off the order form and wait ages for the delivery, about 3 weeks!!  So I decided to phone in the order cutting down the wait to 2 weeks, it’s a week less that’s all I was bothered about.

Less than a fortnight passed before I went to BFPO 36 to collect a boot box shaped parcel and the start of a great relationship.  I couldn’t wait so I sat in my silver Ford Puma (also tax free) and unwrapped the paper and gazed on my new boots.  “Jesus Christ how f**kin big are they?!” I seem to remember thinking as I held the massive leather structures up and stared.  The tread looked like a land rover tyre and they weighed a ton.  But, after a bit and after feeling inside I grew to love them and they were to take me through thousands of miles of walking.

They’re first outing I can remember was a steady 12 mile blast around the forests near Osnabruck, a regular low level haunt for squaddies training for P company and SAS selection, not too many hills but lots of fallen trees and mud…. lots of mud! Even though they felt heavy in the hand, they didn’t feel much different weight wise to my KSB’s, and the good thing was, my feet were dry.

Year 2000 saw me back in the UK and pounding the Yorkshire moors and miles and miles of hills and heather.  And all these boots needed were a good clean and a polish with boot polish to keep them in good working order, no need for ‘spray from 12 inches away and leave to dry for 2 hours blah blah blah’.  The uppers kept that lovely brown battered look and the tread, which initially shocked me, was still deep and going

So back to present day and the last few fells in the lakes, as well as completing the Teesdale Way and the Weardale Way, have been testing, the tread has started to disappear and the slips have become far too often and when you’re trying to scurry across edges and coming down spiky rocky crags, you can’t take chances.  So from the first walk in the lakes up Skiddaw, and completing 73 Wainwrights, the Fairfield horse shoe saw the last outing for my trusty Merrell’s who can now rest.

I’ve had a good time over the last 15 years with my old boots; they’ve seen ice, rain and sun.  They’ve had to wade through all manner of faeces and have seen peat from a couple of feet below the surface on a number of times.  They’ve out lived countless lace changes but I’ve never had to repair the body.  Let’s hope the ones I replace them with are just as trustworthy.

Now, time to do some shopping!

Windy up Fairfield

With our holiday coming to a close we had decided, weather permitting, to hit a ‘high one’.  We’d had a little wander up Wansfell a couple of days before which to be fair is only a tiny hill, but a decent thigh burner if you walk up from Ambleside.  However, we’d decided to hit a mountain that’s been on our minds for some time, Fairfield! 1

Waking up at the cottage we had already packed our car and waved good bye to Bruce the German Shepherd who was giving it the big puppy dog eyes to join us.  But as we drove off up the drive the sun was out and we were looking forward to getting above 800 metres.  So as the daft hound became a small dot in my rear view mirror we headed for Rydal to try and find a parking space.  We joked “Should be ok, as long as there’s not a fell race on ha!” as we drove up the A591 we passed our usual parking spot in this area, the cricket club near Crow How but we had our sights on the small road between Rydal Hall and the lovely little church near Rydal Mount.  Turning right up the road we saw our dreaded nightmare, tall skinny men and women stretching on the rear 2bumpers of their cars wearing tight running shorts and trainers, fell runners… da da daaaaa!!  Damn them and their effortless ascents up mountains that make me suck in air from Sheffield.  To be fair I do admire them, I was like that once many years ago but it gets to a point where you’re joints really can’t take much more.

The good thing about my little Aygo is you can park it in a grit bin.  So we decided to tuck it in just the other side of the cattle grid at Pelter Bridge, not blocking the gate of course.  Boots on and we headed up back to the road packed full of fell runners to fight through the smell of Deepheat and our start of the Fairfield Horseshoe. 3

Like all Kel’s routes we have to start with a steep ascent and luckily we did not have to stop too early to remove layers.  We were heading North West for Nab Scar and as we drew nearer the top the views were changing by the step and revealing more and more of the glorious lakes and fells that make this all worthwhile.  There were a few walkers on the route, probably a mixture of good weather and it being a Friday.  The small rocky outcrop of Nab Scar was insight before long and the view included the shimmering joys of Grasmere, Rydal, Coniston and Windermere.  Plus a Smörgåsbord of mountains and hills making leaving the spot very hard to do.  I love the high summits but sometimes some of the best views come from smaller peaks, look at Latrigg!4

Oh well time to crack on over a small wall towards Lord Crag and a display by the RAF flying low up the Grasmere valley also making the most of the high cloud.  I had a few trips abroad with these guys when I was in the forces, they had the likes of the Grand Canyon to train in but always said the Lakes gave the best views, then I didn’t know what they were going on about as I’d never been to the lakes, now I see their point.  We were lapping up the sun and were down to base layers as we clambered up Heron Pike and more and more blue sky.  We could now see a great view of our decent down High Pike as all low cloud had ‘done one’ and now Fairfield itself was 5looking good.  We could see the Helvellyn range now and we knew by the time we were on Fairfield a good portion of the Wainwrights would be in our sights.  Dropping slightly off Heron Pike we came across a couple taking photos near the small water on route to Great Rigg.  Kel offered to take one of them together and they agreed and the pair stood near the water and their magical moment was captured by my wife.  We started to chat about where they’d been staying and where they’d been etc. After about a minute of the usual chat you generally have with happy hikers on the fells, I started to hear a rumbling sound, well more of a bubbling sound.  I had a quick look to see if the RAF were doing another fly past, but there were no jets in sight.  A few seconds past and again, the same sound but louder.  It started to sound more like bodily gasses being expelled but there were no sheep in close proximity.  It became apparent to me, the bloke we were stood talking to had a serious wind problem and while Kel made polite conversation, I was suppressing the laughter to a point where I near to bursting.  I tried to grab Kel’s attention to 6make her laugh, don’t ask why.   The conversation with the lovely couple started to close but not before another chorus of the poor lad ‘piping us aboard’ and me turning to face Grasmere with watering eyes, confirming the fact even though I might be approaching 50, I’ve still got the mental capacity of a 15 year old when it comes to flatulence.

Thank god, we set of for Great Rigg and left the, to be fair, lovely couple taking more piccys whilst we headed higher towards our goal.  Great Rigg brought great views but also an increase in wind, not from our mate, but nature just letting us know we were getting higher.  Before we set off on our adventure Kel’s sister Alison asked me if I had a compass.  I have near enough everything in my daysack and a compass is one.  I explained that the route was basic and I shouldn’t need it.  Alison is a Duke Of Edinburgh instructor and has topped most of, if not all, the peaks in the lakes.  She said I may need it at the top of Fairfield and left it at that. 8

Kel and me landed on Fairfield not long after we’d left Johnny Farty Pants and discovered a vast expanse of flat(ish) land with cairns all over.  There were other hikers milling around but we needed food and as the wind had got up (he he, see I can’t stop even now) and we searched for a sheltered cairn to have bait, and feed the massive crows that circle making pig sounds in their quest for ham and cheese butties.  Taking in the view and finishing up, plus emptying the remainder of my crisps for the crows we stood up and looked for the Rydal valley which I knew would be my navigational aid, without looking at the map, back down.  I looked, and looked again, Windermere and Coniston had vanished and I was confused.  I’d paid close attention to the definition of Hart and Dove Crags on the way up but I couldn’t see them from the summit of Fairfield.  Hartsop, St. Sunday, my head was battered; I had to get the compass out. 9

On our way down Scrubby Crag and back on track I couldn’t stop thinking that if hikers had been on the summit of Fairfield with a decent covering of cloud, trying to get off without heading towards Helvellyn when you should be dropping down the other side of the Rydal valley would be a problem and if the cloud was very low, costly.  Hmmm it goes back to my thought that no matter what, you have to respect the fells.10

Hart Crag and Dove Crag went by following the dry stone wall which would accompany us near enough to the bottom. Time was getting on and we could clearly see walkers heading up towards Fairfield on our way down, they’re cutting it fine!  The long dry stone wall appeared to go on forever, I wasn’t complaining as the descent was steady and wasn’t pounding the joints to a pulp like some return journeys.  The wall has a path either side, but we decided to stay on the right hand side as the views looked better and the wall was quite big so I wouldn’t be able to see the route we went up.  High Pike and Low Pike passed quickly leading us to 12High Brock Crags, now if anyone every follows the map and they are elderly or with any serious ailments I advise you to take the left path around Low Brock Crags.  If you go straight on following the wall you come to a cheeky little slab that needs climbing down.  Looking at the map it’s called Sweden Crag, it’s a bit of a test if you’re not into using your hands to scramble anywhere, and could be quite dangerous if the clouds low and you fall off it so take care.  As we negotiated the drop and after we regained our thoughts we cracked on down the hill as the end was not far.  We were about 50 metres away from the Crag when I looked back at I and saw a small fluffy white dog at the top of it.  I showed Kel and we gave it the usual awwww.  The little dog’s owner appeared and looked down the slab and I saw his face, he didn’t look happy.  He turned and walked behind the rocky outcrop on the top followed by the pooch.  Moments later they both re-appeared and 13prepared to negotiate the climb down.  I shouted up if he wanted to pass the dog to me while he climbed down and he agreed.  I ran back up the hill to carry out my good deed of the day, but as I approached the bloke had shimmied down and as I got within a few metres, the dog took a brave leap off the top to land in its owners hands.  Brave pooch!

Our pace picked up as we began to hear the trickle of Scandale Beck as we headed to Low Sweden Bridge and into the ground of Nook End farm and tarmac.  Kel’s mobile rang and I heard her discussing food, it could only be Alison (sister) on the other end.  The small road took us down the back of what looked like ‘halls’ for the university building which is opposite the nick, eerrrm sorry, police station.  These digs looked nice, Ambleside must be a great place to study, and the views must very inspirational.

15The route was nearly at an end and all we had to do is walk up the main road back to Rydal but not before we had a very important visit to make, the Golden Rule!  I love this little pub, the staff are canny and it’s quite welcoming.  As I watched Kel snort her pint of cider I refolded my maps and placed them nice and neat in my daysack.  I wrung out my buff and finished my pint, being watched closely by my wife who’d finished her pint about five minutes ago.  We decided to just make it one drink and walk back to the car which was still a good mile away.  Ambleside looked packed, well it was Friday and the crowds were building and it was coming alive for another weekend being packed with tourists.  Ha, I make myself laugh sometimes, I live in Durham but don’t consider myself a tourist when I visit the lakes but obviously I am.  There have been times when we’ve been driving through Keswick and it’s been absolutely ramming with people wandering across the roads in front of cars.  I’ve forgotten how many times little Miss Short Fuse has blasted some poor unexpected holiday maker for crossing in front of our little Aygo near the Booths 16crossing (we all know it) shouting “FFS tourists do my head in!”  It seems just because we’re here for the fells, we’re not tourists!

We arrived back at the car thinking of our tea, the drive back to Outgate and a warm welcome from 8 stone of German Shepherd who will no doubt have his well gnarled piece of stick covered in dog snot.  On arrival we weren’t disappointed as the big daft hound came bounding over with wagging tail and ‘the stick’.

17Ok, I’ve bored you enough but I have to finish on one note.  If you’re thinking of doing this route and when planning you think, “nah, we don’t need two maps” and just go up with OL7 tucked into your daysack.  Please think again, the top of Fairfield is quite a big expanse and it’s easy to lose your bearings at the top.  For the space it takes, pop OL5 into your daysack unless your familiar with the mountain as it will, especially if the cloud drops, get you down the right route, if you can use a compass that is!

A hop up Holme Fell and Black Crag with the hound

1We have a few walking buddies as you’ve probably noticed if you read my blogs enough.  However, apart from my wife Kel, there’s one who’s my favourite but you have to pick your fells carefully when you’re bagging Wainwrights with an eight stone German Shepherd, Bruce!

A good way into our fortnight holiday and the weather was improving.  Blue sky was becoming the norm and if the forecast was to be believed we were in for a good few days.  We’d not been out with Bruce for some time, he isn’t ours, he’s Kel’s sister’s dog and he’s as mad as his mam.  We had planned to take in some smaller Wainwrights over the holiday stay at the lakes so today was ideal to bag a couple of hills and take Bruce and his mam and dad with us.  Holme Fell and Black Crag 5looked ideal and they weren’t that far from where we were staying in Outgate.  The morning was fairly relaxed over breakfast but then it was time to hit the hills after packing 4 humans and a dog into the car, not my car by the way!

We planned to park near Yew Tree Tarn to start our ascent up Holme Fell but we had decided to try and avoid the National Trust car park as they do tend to ‘have your eyes out’ with the charge.  I know NT do a cracking job in the area and I fully support them, but a fortnight of paying for their car parks you might as well join…..hmmmm….there’s a moral to that somewhere!!  Anyway we parked on the main road between Coniston and Skelwith at the side of Yew Tree Tarn and put our kit on.  Bruce also put on his daysack, well it’s more like saddle bags for dogs but he was looking good to hit the fells.

2We walked south to Glen Mary and joined the path heading north to Harry Guards woods seeing Yew Tree Tarn again and realising we could’ve used the permissive path and save a bit of time.  Hey ho, we started to climb up Uskdale Gap and the path started to get narrower which generally isn’t a problem, however Bruce, who like all Shepherds, like to keep an eye on his flock.  That means he constantly runs from back to front of the ‘pack’ making sure he doesn’t lose anyone.  Again, it’s not usually a problem, he’s a big dog but you can generally hear the thunder of paws hitting the floor and you brace yourself before he tears passed you hopefully not knocking you for six into a nearby Gill or over a crag.  But today his width had trebled with his saddle bags and every ‘fly past’ left you kissing the ferns or having to crawl up the nearest tree.  Anyway we managed to get to the top of the gap with only a few collisions with the manic mutt.  At the top we made a quick dash for the cairn to claim our first wainwright of the day, Holme Fell in the bag!  Weather still on our side and the only moisture being sweat, and for me lots of it, niiiice!!3

Our plan was to stay heading north east ish past the unused reservoir and some bogs mixed in with slate from the quarry to the right.  The reservoir was a lovely sight and very quiet, well apart from the thundering paws roaring passed every 10 seconds.  We dropped into the woods to join a well-established footpath but not without a nice juicy obstacle to negotiate first, a fallen tree with only about 3 feet of clearance underneath.  Shorties Kel and Alison just about crawled under, god knows how Stuart did and it was just me to try and bend my 6’3’’ frame and daysack under the mighty felled Oak.  Hands and knees and stooping as low as I could I was doing a reverse Limbo and doing very well.  I thought I was going well and nearly home and dry, nope, I started to hear the thunder of tiny paws getting louder and louder and before I knew it I had a face full of dog snot as Bruce had come to welcome the last of his flock back to the pack.

4After wiping my face of a mixture of sweat and mixture of dog chew and canine saliva we joined the path and walked towards Hodge Close and the magnificent sight of the quarry.  We’d seen the massive hole in the ground a couple of days before just driving up.  It’s a popular spot for divers as the bottom of the quarry is full of clear water with a green tint.  If you ever get a chance have a drive up and have a look, it’s quite impressive.  We carried on to a junction in the path and had a bit of bait and another session of Stuart telling Kel off for feeding Bruce crisps and chocolate, she takes no notice!

Back on the path and east towards high and low Oxen fell and to cross the main road7 for the start of our ascent of Black Crag and more dramas.  We kept Hollin Bank to our right and the start of my worst map reading ever, I blame a combination of sweat and pedigree chum in my eyes still from the fallen tree episode, bad eyesight and the after effects of being barged into cow s**t every time Bruce barged past in an effort to keep everyone within sight.  Anyway, instead of hugging the base of Hollin Bank I made a ‘small’ mistake and took a left into a field with no paths or way out.  We trudged up the boggy field and tried to find a place to cross a drystone wall that had halted our pace.  If you look carefully at OL7 333 024 (ish) there’s a sheep fold, now we should’ve been to the right of that, however we were left of that at the wall to the north.  We looked and saw our best way was to cross the wall 8and head for bridleway east of the sheep fold. We, well Stuart, found a gap in the barbed wire covering the wall, the only thing is that the wall was about 4 feet high on our side, but it stretched to 6 feet on the other side as a small gill ran down the base. Kel and Ali had to get over first to encourage Bruce over.  He eventually jumped off the top of the wall and just me and Stuart to get over.  I took my daysack off and threw it to Alison who nearly collapsed catching it as I carry all the safety equipment and Kel just carries her bait. Me left, I stood on the wall and dived across thinking the probably 100 year plus old wall would collapse under me, I landed in a classic Para roll in the ferns to a loud burst of laughter, even before I’d confirmed id not snapped my ankle or popped my knee, cheers guys, love you too.

We found the bridleway and headed for Low Arnside and a junction of walls to walk north along another wall to a path that isn’t actually there to the top.  The walk to the top was worth the view from the top of Black crag, second Wainwright!IMG_4446

A few photos and we set off down pretty much the same route up down to the iron Keld plantation to the major route up from Tarn Hows.  The plantation had been partially felled so there were loads of big sticks for Bruce.  When I say ‘big’, I mean big! So our nice little steady descent to the picturesque Tarn Hows was made interesting by the massive hound running passed us with branches stretching the width of the path, felling us with every pass.

Safely onto the very well made path around Tarn Hows we were on our homeward stretch and a pint at The Black Bull in Coniston was in my sights.  A quick dip for Bruce and we were heading down the slippery but beautiful Tom Gill falls before re-joining the main road up to the car.

10A really liked this walk even though it isn’t the highest of fells, it has forest, tarn and heather, and what else could you ask for?!  Map reading error number two from me so far these holidays, need to get a grip or get Kel to navigate….I’ll get a grip!!


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Dawdle around the Deepdale Round

When planning the Deepdale Round I would take advice from AW and read about his account of Clough Head and how naughty it can be in bad weather.  But when looking at the fell from different positions you can clearly see that the mountain has no shelter from any of its neighbours making it a somewhat blustery peak.1

For once, it was a day where the rain wasn’t bouncing down early doors and that big yellow thing was peaking its head out, allowing us some blue sky.  Our journey to the start of the Deepdale Round was rain free and for once I was hoping to start this testing walk without donning my waterproofs, at least not straight away.  Our plan was to include Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watson Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd and Hart Side, it was a bit ambitious as we’re still just getting back into fell walking after a year off due to injury, but we had smiles and for the moment, good weather.

We parked at the car park to the side of Red Moss on the A5091, the cloud was half and half, to the north was blue sky and sun, to the west a couple of grey clouds were hanging around looking for hikers to drench.  The weather forecast said we’d be relatively rain free so we set off with a skip in our step and chatting about the past couple of soakings and feeling positive about the miles ahead.  Hugging the plantation on the coast to Coast route we headed North West towards the ford over Groove Beck.  At this point we’d been hoping to see Kel’s sister who was cycling the C2C route but we never saw her, we later found out she’d wimped out and only completed a small section, I’ll not tell why.  Anyway, we took a right at the ford heading north before swinging left and heading towards Wolf Crags.  Near the plantation we’d felt a few specks of rain so because of our past few days we’d put on waterproof jackets.  Near Wolfcrag Moss I started to regret this decision as the sun had reappeared and this fairly exposed part of the track I was getting a bit hot under the collar.  At Mariel Bridge we stopped for a drink and looked at Clough Head trying to see the path up to the 2top.  No path in sight but there were 3 laden hikers trudging their way up the side of this deceptive peak.  To be fair, there is no sign of a path on the map but we had planned our route using ‘’ and it had stated there was no path.  So, we walked to the point where we ‘thought’ the other walkers had gone through the tatty fence line and started our bid for the summit.  This side of the fell is covered in that thick sodden moss, it’s like walking in deep sand and before long my thighs were bursting out of my skin.  It seemed an eternity before we reached the scree near the top then we saw the trig point, which was a great sight.  From the top we had great views of Bassenthwaite, Blencathra and the Skiddaw range, plus we had a cracking view of the dirtiest, blackest cloud heading our way at an alarming rate of knots.  The wind picked up and the cloud hit us before we could move, the sleet and hail gave us a good kicking before heading off to Great Dodd to pick on other unsuspecting walkers.

As we descended Clough Head we could see the cloud hitting GD which wasn’t too thrilling as that was our next destination.  For once, I wanted the wind to keep up its pace and we should be good for the summit.  We hit Calfhow Pike quick quickly and met up with the 3 female walkers we’d seen climbing up Clough Head.  They were sheltering from the high wind and tucking into their sarnies and looked very cheerful as they said ‘hi’ peering through their misted up spectacles.  We decided to hit Great Dodd and have bait there, seeing as the 3 girls had taken up the best spots from the blasting gale force wind knocking us off our feet.3

I looked up to the top of GD and it was getting visited by light fluffy clouds but nothing to worry about so we put our heads down and started our ascent.  I was keeping as eye on the North West as that was where the wind was bringing all the nasty little clouds that were wetting everyone.  After a brief chat with two gentlemen on their way down GD it wasn’t too long before we reached the cairn on the top, and was met by the thickest cloud we could have ‘wished’ for, I didn’t see that one coming!  This was easy the densest cloud we’d experienced for some time and the visibility was down to about 30-50 metres.  The two blokes we chatted to said there was a half decent shelter on the summit, but I couldn’t see it, come to think about it I couldn’t see much apart from the rain dripping of Kel’s nose.  I decided to take a bearing (yes it was that bad) to Watson’s Dodd just in case the path wasn’t obvious but I couldn’t hold the map straight long enough and feared it would be blown back into the valley.  Now, where’s that bloody shelter!?  After about 5 minutes of searching in the thick cloud, I briefly saw what looked like another cairn and we headed to one of the most welcoming sights I’d seen in ages, it was like seeing the Dog & Gun I’ll tell ya!

Sat in the relative comfort of the shelter we decided to have our bait and try and warm slightly and regain our thoughts.  I’d had times like this in the forces where the elements take over your thoughts making map reading difficult.  However, with a cheese and ham buttie down our necks things looked better, plus our 3 female hikers had wandered into the 30 metres of visibility and seemed to be lost.  They disappeared into the cloud briefly and Kel wondered if they’d gone the right way and looked at the map.  The cloud was thick, but we had to crack on, we were getting cold and the visibility wasn’t getting better.  Just as we decided to make a move, the 3 girls came back into sight and sat behind the shelter.  They smiled at us but the smiles didn’t appear to be as convincing as earlier when we passed them lower down.  Bearing took, now to find the start of the path and the route to Watson’s Dodd and hopefully clearer views.  We scanned the likely descent and we briefly lost sight of each other, I shouted for Kel then heard I “what!” in the near distance, she was only metres away but I’d lost sight.  She’d found the path and things were looking grand.  We joined hands and set off down the hill, closely followed by our 3 hangers on; to be fair I was relieved they’d waited for us to make a move rather than wandering off into god knows what.  If you look at the map, GD has a very steep drop as a north west face so one wrong move could prove fatal.  It’s not the highest peak but it just goes to show you, mountains need respect.5

As we descended from Great Dodd we also left behind the thick cloud and with our 3 new taggers on we picked up the pace and headed south west towards the cheeky little summit of Watson’s Dodd.  The route was very boggy and a couple detours around obvious ‘sinking holes’ were needed to get to the small cairn marking the top.  I tried to avoid following Kel on this little route, she has a canny knack of finding deep bogs, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched her vanish into sodden peat in the lake district.

The view was now clear and we could see High Rigg, the scene of a good soaking a few days before and the untimely demise of Kel’s waterproof trousers and her initiation into the wet knickers brigade.  A few photos taken and we were heading south east towards Stybarrow Dodd, as we were half way across we heard a girly cheer coming from Watson’s Dodd, a quick look back and our 3 ladies had reached the cairn.  Obviously they are bagging Wainwrights too, quite an enthusiastic celebration but Kel and me decided we’d stick to our celebratory kiss rather than shouting the fells down.  It’s not a massive climb up Stybarrow and it wasn’t long before we’d reached the top of the fell and the return of the high winds and driving rain.  Visibility down again and we stuck to the path to the pile of stones at the end of the small plateau.  I eventually got the map out again as I didn’t fancy it floating off into Thirlmere and looked for Hart Side and the path down.  Now, call it a brief brain fart or the fact I’d not looked at the map for a bit, I’d decided the path I needed on the ground was the one heading up Raise.  I pointed in the direction of Helvellyn’s little mate and hinted to Kel that was the route.

6When writing this blog I try to stay clear of colourful language just in case some younger people may come across it.  So I cannot put down on paper the words that came out of my beloved wife’s mouth when she looked up the chunk of rock I’d just pointed at.  Translated into everyday English it would read, “My darling, I will not be walking up that hill, please can I look at the map just to see if you have made a genuine mistake!”  You get my drift don’t you, needless to say she corrected my minor mistake and we set off west down toward Hart Side and not south up the 12th highest peak in the lakes.

As we trundled down the moss and heather I wondered where our 3 fellow AW baggers had gone.  I’d not heard the cheer of Stybarrow but when I’d last looked they were following us up the fell.  They weren’t heading up Raise making the same mistake as I did, they weren’t following us and they weren’t going back up Great Dodd surely.  Hey ho I thought as we squelched our way to Hart Side and the start of our last decent. 9

Tod Crag was a minefield of heather covered holes in the ground and mini landslides as the thick boggy peat.  We aimed for Goegill Beck and crossed over heading for an apparent footpath down into Dowthwaitehead.  Couldn’t find the path so we just free-styled until we saw an opening in the wall and bingo, a path and an end to dodgy ground.  We could see the bridge crossing Aira Beck and it wasn’t long before we crossed it and was walking through the farmyard.  Farmers always amaze me, they must have thousands of walkers bimbling through their land a year, but they always stop what they’re doing and stare as if you’re gonna run off with a Herdy under your arm.

A quick look at the map and the road from the farm goes straight back to the car park after about a mile of sturdy tarmac beneath our feet.  The weather had cleared up and we were smiling, come to think of it, we were smiling at the top of Great Dodd. A  Back at the car as we collected our thoughts looking over to the rainbow that had appeared, Kel mentioned the 3 ladies who we’d left on Stybarrow.  We scanned the surrounding fells and there was only us two left.  Kel shrugged her shoulders and said, “They’ll be ok, I’ll check Twitter later to see if the mountain rescue guys had a call out!”  She’s so caring!

10Funnily enough, Raise was mentioned a few times on route back to the caravan and I had to just take it, there’s no let-up in our little family when someone makes a tiny mistake!

A saunter up Souther Fell

After High Rigg we were hoping for a dry walk when planning our Mungrisdale meander, however, our route in cooperated Souther Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell and the weather had a different plan for us. 1

We’d planned to join our good friends Dicko and Sue for this session of Wainwright bagging and had arranged to meet them at the caravan.  As we waited for them, prepared for our walk and had breakfast, the rain was pitter pattering on the roof but it wasn’t too much of a concern.  We’d looked at the forecast and it didn’t look too bad and was apparently going to improve as the day went on.  Our companions arrived with the great news that Durham was in sunshine and the weather had deteriorated as they had travelled along the A66.  As we piled Dicko’s trusty Passat with our kit, Sue commented that the bad luck which seems to have followed me since the start of the year looks to continue as the rain got heavier and prospect of a full day in water proofs looked on the cards, again!

Saddleback had quite a bit of cloud cover as we drove the back road to Mungrisdale to the car park near the community centre at the quaint little village.  Sue had brought her daysack but after donning her waterproofs there didn’t seem any point in her wearing it so that got left.  All kitted out and ready to rock but Dicko announced he’d put the car keys in his daysack so the start was slightly postponed as he rummaged around his packed Osprey to locate them.  Keys found and we set off across the wooden bridge over the river Glenderamackin waving bye to Sue’s lonely daysack as it spends yet another cosy day in the VW’s cluttered boot.  Kel’s sister Alison had assured us there was a path just out the back of the Mill Inn which would take us straight to the top of Souther Fell.  After searching the wall line and only finding a gate with a sign saying, “THERE IS NO PUBLIC FOOTPATH THROUGH THIS FIELD KEEP OUT!” we decided walk left from the pub (south) for about 300 metres to a gate, which had seen better days, and a right up through the ferns heading for the top of Souther Fell.   Look at the map and it shows he path running in a diagonal direction towards the summit.  It’s a gradual ascent with, even with all the rain, a fairly decent view across to the A66 and beyond.

2The rain was tipping down now but the wind was being kind, or rather the fell was sheltering us.  As we got higher the breeze started to pick up and as we reached the summit what was a fresh breeze had turned into a near gale.  We had five minutes at the top and Kel put on her new waterproof gloves.  Yep, if you were on any of the surrounding peaks and could see a bright pair of pink gloves struggling in the wind on the top of Souther Fell, that was us!  We were now leaning into the wind and rain, and at one point as I had a cursory look at my drenched companions and saw a few snowflakes mixed in with the driving rain ripping across the summit, effectively my first snow of the summer, officially not autumn yet!!  I looked at Saddleback and it didn’t look good, a quick chat with the rest and we decided to carry on down to Mousthwaite Comb and assess our next move.  At the bottom we headed towards the small wooden bridge across the upper section of the Glenderamackin.  As we approached the slippery wooden structure, one of the many sheep that had been bleating our way down decided it didn’t want to use the bridge and dived into the torrent raging down from the surrounding peaks.  It looked like it was struggling and was going to be swept to Mungrisdale, after about 5 attempts to clamber onto the opposite bank it managed to dig its hoof in and scramble up the grass and run off into the ferns to re-join its mates, who I’m sure took the micky out of it in a sheepy way.  The funny thing was I’m sure I saw Dicko, who was slightly ahead, start to de kit in an attempt to jump in and save the woolly wader.  He’d have left his boots on though as they let in water anyway!3

After a short discussion we decided to bin the rest of the peaks.  Sharp Edge had vanished into the cloud and so had the top of Bannerdale Crags.  The rain was teeming down still and water was starting to cascade down White Horse Bent joining the river.  We started to make our way down the path nestled between Souther Fell and Bannerdale.  The path is in a bad way due to the water and the river is slowly eating away at the route causing mini landslides.  The wind was none existent due to the higher fells shelter, but the rain was relentless.  The two fords on route down were more than ankle deep in places and had to be crossed with care, we didn’t want to replicate the plight of our sheep friend at the top of the river.

4It wasn’t long before we saw the sight of Mungrisdale and the thought of the Mill Inn sprung into my head again.  We sat outside the pub to have our sandwiches before we went in for a drink, listening to Dicko complain about his wet feet and watching the rain drip off Kel’s nose as she tucked into her sarnie made me wonder why we do what we do.  She then turned and looked at me with the biggest smile ever, that’s why we do it!!5

Hike up High Rigg

High Rigg isn’t the biggest fell AW climbed and wrote about, however the views are quite amazing in good weather, however this fell was chosen by Kel and I because the weather was poor with low cloud and also it was our first climb since injury had blighted our Wainwright conquering quest.IMG_4250

We’d planned two weeks of Wainwright bagging as our holiday and we were both excited as we’d not put ‘boot on fell’ for more than a year.  We landed at the caravan with all our routes planned and full of energy to start our marathon fortnight.  The weather forecast wasn’t too great so a small fell and short route was the best plan of action.  High Rigg is fairly isolated in relation to adjacent fells so a quick up and down was ideal for us.

We packed the car in the pouring rain but hoped it would ease off before we hit St. John in the Vale for the start of the walk.  Parking in the church car park we put on our boots in a fine drizzle.  I don’t really mind the rain, we’ve got used to it, it’s the wind and rain mixture that makes a day in the hills very testing, and this day we would be tested.  The church of St. John’s in the Vale is quite remote with only a youth centre as neighbours.  It’s a gorgeous little building that’s well-kept and has a very handy car park to boot.  Wet weather kit already donned we walked up the right hand side of the church straight into a steep climb up a grass ascent.  Before long, the church was below us and the views should’ve been cracking…. Should have!!IMG_4255

The rain had picked up dramatically and the wind was blowing it sideways from right to left and before long we were both dripping with water.  Now when you look at map OL 5 at High Rigg, you’ll notice that there is a severe lack of footpaths on this hill.  If you do plan to walk it, have a look at AW’s routes as they are very accurate and way better than the OS map.  The path, luckily, is very clear and it wasn’t long before we’d topped this fell and didn’t want to go back down the way we came up as that would’ve ended the day.  Instead, we decided to head south east to stretch the day out even though the wind was blowing the rain up every orifice.  The path still clear but the marshy land around Paper Moss and Moss Crag was getting fuller and fuller as the rain hammered down to a point where visibility started to become more and more limited as even the sheep were hiding in the crags laughing at us.  At the bottom of Moss Crag the wall is crossed by an almighty, well used wooden style.  The rain had made this very slippery, but watching Kel negotiate it made me smile, it was like watching a cross between Bambi on ice and an old woman learning to use a Zimmer frame for the first time.  Once Ena Sharpels was safely back on Terra Firma I hopped across the obstacle and we had five minutes break while Kel snorted a Snickers bar and said her water proof trousers may not be doing their job, or in her own words, “Me knickers are wet!”IMG_4262

We carried on and passed a lovely mini tarn which had no name, there looked to be a few places that would be nice for a wild camp around it, ill bear it in mind.  It had gained in volume due to the rain, so we had a little paddle to get around the east side of the water.  I thought this may be the start of the decent but it seemed to be up and down and Kel’s chin seemed to have dropped for reasons she’d explain later.  Eventually we hit Wren Crag and the decent was upon us.  This was typical, the rain stopped and we had a clear view of Thirlmere and surrounding fells.  The decent was semi covered with a mixture of evergreens and Oak trees.  The midges had made an appearance and the rain had nicely lubricated the exposed tree roots, happy days!!  I’d gone in front as Kel still is very cautious about her ankle and I occasionally have to hold out a helping hand for support.  But I felt dry and in good spirits and had a spring in my step.  Now regular hikers will know what I mean when you see a small rock and think it’s a good footing, however you place your foot on it and it didn’t have the friction you’d expected.  This happened and I thought I was ok and regained my balance, but the correction didn’t exactly go to plan, my right boot gets stuck in the bottom of the left leg water proof bottom and I braced myself for a nose dive into the ferns and a quick route down the last few hundred yards.  But with a pretty nifty two step I managed to regain my balance and re-joined the path, just!

The path joined another path that is actually marked on the map and we started our return leg north back along the side of the hill.  The sun had started to shine and St. John’s beck was a welcome companion as we walked in the wooded area up to the tractor grave yard IMG_4260that is Low Bridge End Farm.  This cheered Kel up as she’s a bit of a tractor freak.  She takes the mick out of me for liking birds and butterflies, but at the end of the day, she likes tractors!!  After dragging her away from virtually climbing on a Fordson Major we carried on up the path to Sosgill Bridge and a field full of cows and a bull.  The path showed a route through the field but seeing as there were calves present we decided to back track and creep up the fence line.   I wasn’t in the mood for running from a one ton beef burger blowing bull snot all over Cumbria, so a quick, but careful walk saw us out of the field incident free.

Safely behind the dry stone wall we stopped for a break.  Kel decided to inspect her under clothing and by dropping her water proof trousers she revealed the result of the driving rain on the summit.  She was soaked to the bone, the water proof bottoms I got her for Xmas two years ago had finally thrown in the towel.  Bless her, she was dripping wet, her trousers looked as if she hadn’t even bothered with waterproofs, but had not said a word.  She removed the bottoms and in an attempt to dry off we carried on the last two kilometres back to the car.

The last hundred metres were midge ridden but were made better by watching my ‘squelching’ wife trudge up the last incline to the car.  Our timing wasn’t great, as we arrived at my trusty Aygo a bus load of kids were making their way to the youth centre.  They were very unimpressed as the driver had dropped them a ¼ mile down the hill and there they had to carry their belongings up the steady hill ha ha.IMG_4269

IMG_4270It was not the best day weather wise but the sun had appeared at the later stages revealing Blencathra, which AW stated was one of the highlights of the walk.  I enjoyed the day and I thought it was an ‘interesting’ return to Wainwright bagging.  Made more interesting as I nearly put the car in a ditch when Kel told me she didn’t want to go the pub afterwards!!


Drenching walk around Derwentwater

Camping in the Lake District is sometimes touch and go, the weather, as anyone who lives or visits the Lakes, can be very temperamental.  I personally don’t mind the rain whilst been there, I guess who just get used to it, all I ask for is a few minutes ‘let up’ while we put the tent up, once it’s up it can lash it down and I’m still happy.

This weekend we decided to hot foot it down the A66 after work and meet our old favourites and great friends Dicko and Sue at the campsite at Thornthwaite that we nearly always use.  The journey was pretty much rain free with only a few spots near the ‘Cumbria’ sign.  But the clouds cleared as we found a space on the field and started to erect our brand new Icarus 500.  Like hundreds of times before we have a routine, we both set up the outer and then Kel sets up the bedrooms and what she calls the ‘Housekeeping’ while I do the ropes and the outside stuff.  During this process what I’ve learnt is to do exactly what Kel says and listen to what she says, not how she says it!  However, due to this being our first time setting up in company with our friends, Dicko and Sue thought they’d try and help.  Hmm, well have you ever disturbed a Grizzly Bear from hibernation?!  I think Dicko and Sue must have thought they had.  I tried to whisper to him, ” Just leave us mate, she’ll kick off”  however he must have thought I was just being polite, he obviously didn’t think I meant it was to possibly save his life!  Enough said on that matter but let’s just say they didn’t ask again.

Tents up and camp fire roaring and the night was passed away with good banter and a few drinks and chatting about the walk planned for the next day, a nice bimble around Derwentwater.  We went to our sleeping bags with smiles and thoughts of the next morning and breakfast.  Laid in my ‘scratcher’ I heard the first patter of tiny rain drops but drifted off.

Next morning came and I awoke to a mini Glastonbury!  It had absolutely hammered it down all night and the site was water logged, the worst I had seen it.  The others had been up a little before me and Kel greeted me with a brew.  Dicko had bought his BBQ and it wasn’t long before he had sparked it up and we were tucking into a full Monty brekky.

Dicko and I had decided, due to it being quite warm, to wear shorts for our walk.  The girls laughed and we started to get set for the day.  As It was a low level walk Kel popped her wet weather kit in my daysack and as usual I was cart horse for the day.  Dicko was the same, but that’s the norm for the long suffering lad as Sue doesn’t even know what a daysack looks like.  So bait was made, car packed, pots washed and Sue’s hair very, very straight and looking perfect as usual.

Parking just over the bridge near Portinscale we put our boots on in the pouring rain which had made another appearance whilst we were on route.  I hummed and arrr’d about putting water proof bottoms on but seen as Dicko was standing firm with his decision I didn’t bother, a decision I would come to regret.  We set off over the suspension  bridge into Portinscale.  As we walked through I think the majority of other walkers, who had water proofs on looked and thought me and Dicko were slightly mad.  Sue, whom had put all her waterproofs on, was probably giggling away to herself looking at our bare legs, which her a sight in dry weather, but with the rain dripping down our legs into our boots.

Like most villages I walk through in the lakes, Portinscale was no different.  I don’t mean they look the same, it’s quite the opposite they’re all breath taking in their own way.  No, this is a feeling of jealousy!!  I always get the urge to mumble under my breath “lucky bas***ds” at every dwelling with a lake or mountain view, and most that don’t come to think of it.

The walk carried on and the rain eased, we took a left off the road into the woods and towards the lake at Nichol End.  We’d decided to the route anti clockwise saving the B5289 for the homeward leg.  Dicko as usual reminisced about coming to the lakes as a young lad for which I am also jealous, I’ve been all over the western world but he by far beats me having the pleasure of a life in the lakes.  Even with the rain again beating down on Derwentwater I can’t fault the place, love it!!  The route through the woods isn’t definite.  You can see where walkers before have tried and tested pathes leaving a mish mash of trodden grass.  We came to a piece of marshy land and we all, as you do, went off in our own separate ways looking for a route through, with an extra obstacle of a beck through in.  In these situations I usual get quite clever as having 34 inch legs I normally can stride through no problem.  I decided to avoid the soaked logs and branches others have tried to stack over the beck as they’re generally slippery and if your footing goes, a smack on the head with a piece of wood can mess the walk up.  As I inspected nearly every bit of sodden ground, I could hear the girls giggling and messing on trying to get through.  The next thing I heard was a scream from the depths of hell.  Don’t ask me how, but I once spent I couple of nights not too far from a Leper colony in the early 90’s, the sounds I heard from there were some of the unnerving I’ve ever heard.  But this scream was something else, and what was the source of this call from Saturn… Kel!!  I quickly looked up and saw my wife up to her knees in a bog, struggling and grasping for anything to pull herself out.  After about 10 seconds she’d managed to pull herself out and the laughter started.  Sue, who was to her rear looked like she was gonna pee.  So there’s Kel gaiter’s covered in peat as we trugged on with our adventure.

The rain was hard core today, there were swirls blowing across Derwentwater with the opposite side shrouded by the sheer volume of rain.  The chatter had stopped by the time we’d reached Manesty Park and everyone was face down stopping the rain driving straight into our eyes.  We took a left off the Cumbria Way and headed for the B5289.  As we crossed the open ground at the very bottom of the lake, Dicko commented on how wet his socks had become.  He’s been having a few problems with his new boots letting water in so I just thought it was the problem reoccurring.  However, after a few more yards I began to feel a little bit soggy in the sock area too.  The problem was the rain dripping down our legs into our boots and drenching our socks, school boy error really, quite embarrassing as we are no strangers to walking and should’ve known better.  My embarrassment was doubled when Sue remarked how dry and cosy she was.

We crossed the footbridge over Cannon Dub and headed for the gate on the main road.  Now, on this gate is a sign saying ‘café 200m’ with an arrow pointing south down the road.  Hey, we’re all soaked, apart from Sue, what better than a nice brew to warm our cockles.  “200 metres my arse!”  The café was best part of a kilometre down the road and to add insult to injury, cars were taking pot shots at us driving through the puddles.  We arrived at the café absolutely soaked through; the guys at the café were very cheerful and welcoming so they were forgiven for their crappy measurements.

A few more digs from Sue about how stupid we were accompanied by a lovely diet coke and we were back on the road, in our waterproofs.  The walk up the road was kept interesting by idiots belting up the winding road in the atrocious weather splashing us or narrowly missing us with their wing mirrors.

We managed to get lakeside again and left the BMW drivers to kill each other.  We walked to the jetty near the Ashness approach road.  For those who know us, Kel did ‘trash the dress’ at this jetty, that day in October and it hammered it down, guess what, it was hammering it down today too.

We stopped for a bite to eat at the National Trust car park and the rain subsided slightly.  Two canoeists came storming in from the open water; the lake was very sea like with canny waves making it look a bit like the coast.  The two guys looked exhausted but had massive smiles on their faces.

Faces fed and we too were back on the walk with smiles on our faces.  The water level had risen slightly and the paths were submerged at points.  Friar’s Crag was soon in view and it wasn’t long before we were at the landing bay at Keswick.  I’d dried out a lot under my water proofs and was beginning to feel happy and looking forward to a pint at the Dog & Gun before the last leg back to Portinscale.

Not the most scenic walk we’ve completed only due to the weather, not the location.  At the car I took my soaking socks off and the steam coming out of my boots looked like a power station.  We went back to the tent and sorted our kit, mainly drying clothing.  The site was a little less populated on our return, seems the weather does bother some campers but as usual, and as I always say, at least I’m in the Lakedistrict no matter what the weather!

Another ramble up Roseberry Topping

August and September were great months, well for Kel they were, I managed to get a really annoying eye infection which knocked me out of sorts but it wasn’t too bad.  However, those who know us or follow us on social media and my blog, you’ll know about Kel’s ankle problem that has basically kept us not only off the fell’s, but kept us from any form of physical exercise for a year.  But an operation and a long rehabilitation has sorted her troublesome joint out a treat.IMG_2750

Our hiking partners Dicko and Sue have also long awaited Kel’s return to the footpaths and bridal ways so it only seemed appropriate that they joined us on our ‘tester’ trip to the hills to see if the operation had done its job.  There was no discussion about the first test, ‘Roseberry Topping’!!  it made sense, close to home and a nice steady climb with no drama’s plus, as long as you don’t look at Middlesbrough, cracking views when the skies are clear.So, for the first time in ages I got my rucksack out and checked and checked again, rucksack sceptics like Kel and Sue think I carry too much kit, but as Dicko and I always say, the hills are a dangerous place and should not be taken for granted.  Even a small hill like ‘Topping’ needs to treated respect and the weather can, even in mid-summer, close in and cut you off.  Plus an injury can send a nice day out walking into turmoil and misery and god knows what else if unprepared.

cheeky Kestrel

Cheeky KestrelIMG_2744

As the ground levelled so did my heart rate, it calmed quickly which, from my army PTI days, shows I’m still quite fit.  The heather was quite breath taking and because I’m a sado it wasn’t long before I was seeing how many different kinds of butterflies I could spot.  Immediately the views are stunning, looking left over the stone wall Roseberry Topping was standing there ready to be ‘topped’,  I’ve been to the top numerous times but this time was special, it was Kel’s first top in more than a year.  With a smile that made me look like I’ve slept with a coat hanger in my mouth we cracked on along the wall line keeping Great Ayton Moor to our right.  The banter was fun and times were great, we were back on the hills and life was good.  As the temporary view stopper Slacks wood stops, the path drops down before the steep incline to the top of Roseberry.

The view was consistent and beautiful, the sky was clear and the North Sea was still.  The incline is fairly steep but the path well maintained, as you’d expect with a section of the Cleveland Way.  At this point we had a visitor to the walk; a Kestrel was patrolling its patch and was circling us.  It came to rest on a fence post and seemed quite happy to be the subject of a photo shoot.  It’s times like this that hiking shows it’s worth, views of wildlife like this seldom are seen in everyday life, well for me they don’t, this is one of the reasons I walk.  The gorgeous bird of prey got bored with all the attention it was getting and took to flight to continue its patrol.  We reached the dip on Roseberry Common and braced ourselves for the climb to the top of the popular peak.The top

I could see from here that the top was very busy and there were quite a few people coming down from the top, we passed a few who looked like they’d just come out for an evening stroll, trainers jeans etc.  this always annoys me but I won’t dwell on it.  After a short time and quite a bit of sweat we reached the top.  I’d forgotten how ‘vandalised’ the stone work was at the top, it amazes me why people want to disfigure a piece of nature like this.  I never could understand why someone would want to carve their name into a rock, idiots!!  The others sat down for a rest but I wanted to have a look around.  The west side of the peak is quite steep, it’s not accessible without rope and gear and looking at it, it doesn’t look like many have attempted to climb it.  I also found what looked like someone’s ashes, I reminded Kel that I still want mine scattering off the top of Carlside.  I got the usual response made up of expletives that I can’t repeat on a family blog, she don’t like Carlside!!  We spent a few more minutes taking in the view and set off back down the way we’d come.  Heading east down the CW with the intention of heading over to Hutton Moor.  Our friend the Kestrel showed itself again with another brief pose before heading over to the corner of Slacks Wood.  Back up the hill and instead of turning right back along the fence line to Slacks wood we carried on west towards Hutton Moor.  This is a very ‘moory’ section of the route with acres of heather and the sound of cackling grouse to accompany us.  Grouse Butts served as a reminder why the grouse were heard but not seen, dodgy time of year for game birds, it makes you realise why pheasant’s normally run across roads instead of flying.

The forest shown on OS map, Hutton Lowcross woods is now…. Not forest!!  This is a very popular mountain bike route and they were coming thick and fast. I admire them, like fell runners, it’s a very demanding pass time that takes bags of stamina, however, I can remember when I used to run around the hills in my army days and looking back I never actually saw much scenery.  Now I’m walking the hills I’m taking in more of the views and enjoying it more.  Turning right heading south east took us up a slight hill again surrounded by heather.  Now, about two hundred meters up the track there should be a path leading off to the right, there sign posts there, but the path ain’t.  While Dicko was examining the map I decided to recce the path, or where it should be.  I went for about 20 metres into the thick heather and couldn’t see any clearings, I saw what looked like a boundary stone about 300 metres in the distance and thought it wasn’t too bad.  I trugged back to the rest and saw a familiar look on Sue’s face, that “I’ll be buggered if I’m walking across there” look!  Dicko and me had shorts on and the girls had long trousers on so I thought it would be me and him getting scratched legs not them.  After a deliberation between the Dickinson’s and Kel finding a chunky bright green caterpillar, Dicko had won and we set off across the moorland.  No one had used this path for some time and it showed, the heather was thick and the grouse had strimmers.  We reached the boundary post and the we could see the path we had started on, however that was about 500 meters of thick heather away and Sue’s face wasn’t a happy one.  I didn’t help by bringing up the subject of Adders and that their bite can be very nasty, but we cracked on and found a grouse butt path and with bloodied legs we re-joined the path we had trugged up earlier.

The evening was drawing in but the temperature was ill comfortable, we dropped down the hill we had started on not that long ago and came to rest at Dicko’s car.  I’ve had my boots for about 15 years and the outers are still going strong, however I couldn’t help thinking the inners are on their last legs as the steam piped out of them.  My sandals were a welcome feeling, but the heather filled socks weren’t.  The pint in Great Ayton went down well as the next step out was discussed.

Roseberry Topping is a nice walk out with lovely views, the top can get a bit busy and years of it being ‘topped’ has took its toll with pointless etchings daubed all over the rock.