Bolton Castle and a sheep dip with a difference…

We were holidaying at Westholme Estate yet again so we decided to plan walks from the door as it would be ridiculous not to take advantage of such a great base camp and the walks it offered without driving.  We had purchased a great ‘Dales Pack’ from  walking-books.com and chose a walk up to Bolton Castle from the pack, taking in a quick look at Aysgarth Falls on route.IMG_6299

We walked from our lodge towards the impressive St. Andrew’s Church which looks over High Force Aysgarth Falls.  Crossing the road over the River Ure gave a photo opportunity of the Higher Falls.  Once over the bridge, there’s an area to the left where you can either go to have a closer look at the falls or turn right up IMG_6300a path into the National Park visitors centre.  We walked across the car park and crossed the main road into Freeholders Wood.  We had decided at planning stage to do the route backwards, not a reflection on the route card, just the way the weather looked we wanted to get onto the high ground sooner rather than later.

The track through the woods is well worn and simple to follow, exiting the woods and through the fields heading north towards Carperby.  The fields are open and give you a great view of the surrounding moorland and high ground.  We entered Carperby, a lovely village that looks like a great place to which I could retire, from the village we turned up an incline to Ponderledge Scar.  Then there’s a IMG_6301path bearing right following a fence/wall up onto moorland where it levels out nicely.  I know I do bang on about sheep and yeah, yeah they have equal rights to the hills, but as we reached the top, I saw something which made me think our woolly friends are sometimes just taking the piss out of me.  We saw a line of obviously pregnant sheep making their way into a gate.  I put Alfie on his lead and waited for the Ewes to make to complete their journey.  We waited, and waited, and waited as sheep after sheep trooped into this field in single file.  Initially in a rush IMG_6302but as the merry little bunch grew in confidence the procession became slower and slower, and the gap between them got wider.  So for about 5 minutes we stood staring at this slow moving queue of mutton filing their way through this gate, I’m sure some were laughing and if they had fingers, they’d have given me one.

When the flow of sheep had subsided we carried on the route turning east and a chance to get dive bombed by Lapwings protecting their nesting site.  I quickly glanced back to the field where the sheep had dawdled IMG_6303into, looked like bloody New Zealand!  From here you can see the dale, which I’m guessing the River Ure has carved out over the years.  The route is clear and with the added bonus of yellow spots dotted on the occasional fence post or wall which some kind soul has placed on for our benefit, for ease of navigation.

The path goes through probably the scruffiest set of farm barns (no house) I’ve seen in many a mile.  However, Alfie found the sheep manure which was spread across the path very exciting.  He found the IMG_6305freshest pile and probably the deepest, and proceeded to roll around in it ensuring a nice thick coat of sheep s@@t to accompany us for the rest of the journey.  My attempts to stop my naughty Springer were met with a scowl from the farmer as he sped past on his quad.  Mind you the air was a bit blue!

We walked through the grounds of IMG_6307Bolton Castle with a definite ‘air’ about us, god knows what all the visitors to the 14th century castle thought when we strolled through with what sort of looked like a dog, but bared more resemblance to a walking sheep pat.  The castle itself is in really good nick considering, a must for a nice cultured visit if you get the chance.

Just after the castle is the little village Castle Bolton, again looks very ‘retirable’ but maybe a bit out of our price range, but who knows.  The route takes the road down back over the main road and through another field, but this one graced us with not Ewes, but four hard looking Rams IMG_6309who didn’t appreciate the interruption to their sleep.  Down to the farm at Low Thoresbay and along Thoresbay Lane and through Hollins House and back to the sounds of Aysgarth Falls, this time the Lower Falls.  Back in Freeholders Wood and a look at one of the carved seats one of our twitter friends had told us about.

We ended the walk in Aysgarth Falls Hotel for a cider or two.  I shouldn’t laugh but whilst relaxing in the pub two or three people walked passed Aflie, who was still crusty and smelly, and they gave him a good old stroke before we had chance to warn them.  Hope they enjoyed their meals.IMG_6312

All in all, this is a great route, well-worn and marked, amazing views and wildlife plentiful.  Hats off to the author they have captured some good features along the way.

Alfie however, got a well-deserved bath in the beck back at the Estate!

Cleveland Way Part 3. Osmotherley to Clay Bank

1After a wet day in the Lake District and a good drowning for the majority of the party, we were glad to have a sunny clear day for our next walk out.  So, instead of hitting the A66 we set off down the A19 to continue with our next attack on the Cleveland Way, Osmotherley to Clay Bank.

The number of participants had fallen greatly for this hike in comparison to Place Fell, only the usual four suspects, Dicko, Sue, Kel and me.  After the usual traffic on the A19 we crawled out of a jam just the other side of Stockton, however I had been ‘resting my eyes’ whilst Kel drove and she’d lost sight of Dicko’s Passat in the commotion and when I woke we were well on our way but no sign of our hiking buddies.  My mobile rings and its Dicko enquiring where 2we were, stating he was on the A172 nearing our destination of Clay Bank whilst we were still blasting down the A19.  We eventually caught up with the others in Stokesley and after a brief micky take in the Co-op car park we were on our way to drop our Aygo off at the view point Clay bank.  At the car park we piled our kit into the Passat hampered by a thin but equally deadly layer of black ice covering the entire area.

We set off for Osmotherley in Dicko’s car and a chance for Kel to show off her new waterproof jacket to the others.  She’d replaced her ‘old’ one after a good drenching on Place Fell where everyone’s waterproofs had been put to the test.  My North Face jacket had stood well against the driving rain/snow on the Ullswater hill with only my over trousers failing me slightly.  My poor wife had basically been soaked through to her knickers, her jacket, which did cost a few bob I might add, might as well as not have been there hence the purchase of yet another expensive piece of kit at Go Outdoors in Penrith.3

We arrived in Osmotherley and struggled to park initially which was unusual for this lovely little village on a week day.  We managed to squeeze into a space and began to don our kit and daysacks.  Sue proudly displayed her new daysack and bragged about how much she’d managed to squeeze into it.  I explained that my map pocket was bigger and congratulated Dicko on finding a daysack for his wife that was actually smaller than Kel’s.

4We headed north out of the village and the sun was low and bright.  After a quick left turn just as we left the built up area and headed for Chapel Wood Farm, the views were almost immediate stretching eastward.  It’s hard to take photos on this walk because you’re always saying to yourself, “That’s a great view, no that is!”  The path is so definite on this route and it’s very hard to stray.  We headed north again towards South Wood taking the right in the fork at the start of the forest.  As soon as you lose the view to the west the forest clears and the view east opens up across Hither Moor.  On the left as Arncliffe Wood starts you get a wonderful view of a TV station; it sticks out like a pair of dog’s swingers and not the best view of the walk.  The route comes away from the wooded area 5near Scarth Wood Moor then drop into Clain wood.

The sun was shining bright and the temperature was comfortable as we crossed the track that leads down into Swainby.  We know this gorgeous little village quite well as it’s always were we finish off a good days climbing at Scugdale with a pint and some ‘real’ chips at the pub.  If we don’t retire to the Eden Valley, then Swainby is second on our list 6so as you can guess we’re both counting down the next ten years.  We pick up the Cleveland Way on the other side of the track and briefly head south east retracing our steps from our Whirl around Whorlton hike two years ago.  After about ‘1 click’ we take a left across a field towards Swine Park and its lovely little beck and its ford and bridge then a weir.  This is a gorgeous little spot that sees its fair share of Snowdrops and other wildlife, and a good place for Dicko to prove even more that his old leather Brashers are better than his fabric Salamons, dry feet!!  As you leave the woods a track up to Hollin Hill is a festival of birdlife, tits (…stop it!), finches, robins, wrens and more Hedge sparrows (heggies) than you can shake a ‘Leki’ at, which all stay with you until the route crosses the back road to Scugdale and the start of a steady incline up hugging the west side of Live Moor Plantation and stunning views left over the flatlands surrounding the area.  Soon the path 7shoots east and the start of a quick ‘thigh burner’ up though the plantation to the base of Round Hill.

Over the few years we’ve been walking and me been blogging I’ve had to put up with the barrage of jokes and quips from my old mate Dicko about my Yorkshire roots and background.  I know it’s all said in good humor and I take it the way it’s meant.  But from the top of Round Hill and, to be fair, the views from all the routes we’ve done in my beloved county, he cannot fault what he sees.  I mean, after all, he’s from Stanley where you have to make the most of the views before 8someone nicks ‘em!

As I said the views from the top of Round Hill were amazing and we couldn’t have asked for a clearer day.  We passed an old boy walking the other way nearing the top and again met an example of good old Yorkshire friendliness who stops and has a bit of craic.  We set back off towards the summit with Dicko making the usual jokes about how nice Lancashire people are, Philistine!   Round Hill, Gold Hill and Carlton Moor come and go with again cracking views and the sounds of gunfire in the distance and “Are we nearly there yet?” in the foreground from Sue.  This leg of the CW was quite hilly and I think Sue had set herself up for a flattish walk and was getting a bit 9flustered by the ‘ups and down’s ‘ presented by this part of the route.  Dicko, the loving hubby that he is likes to ensure his wife there’s only ‘another K left’ giggling as he tucks into his jelly babies….Oooh jelly babies!  The drop down to Lord Stones Café appeared to cheer Sue up slightly; I even think I saw her looking for the car park.  She weren’t too happy when I pointed at the view point at Cringle Moor and told her that’s our next destination.

10So, with Sue like a coiled noodle we started up the short but steep accent to the gorgeous views that the top of ‘the Moor’ offers we trudged up a very soggy path.  The wind greeted us with some great views as we quickly headed towards the top of Kirby Bank and some particularly nice looking crags under our feet.  To the south are some lovely looking moorland again, the CW gives way to some great moorland which is one of my favourite terrains.  For some reason I see it like the Falklands for which I have always thought I’d like to visit.  I did have the chance in 1990/91 but decided to freeze my arse off in the Middle East instead 11sorting tash face Saddam out.  To Sues delight Dicko and I informed her we were on the home stretch and the mood lightened, we carefully negotiated the steep descent from the top of Kirby Bank and set off taking the path between Broughton Bank and the Wainstones, a popular spot for climbers and home of ‘The Steeple and The Needle’.

The main road on Clay Bank was in ear shot and the end of this leg of the Cleveland Way in sight.  There was just a small little descent down to the road where my mate Dicko decided to see how hard the floor was using his arse.  I short squeal from Sue announced to the North Yorkshire moors that her hubby had come up close and personal with the earth.  Everyone within a mile radius turned their head, only us fortunate ones were greeted with a grassy 12thump and blue air as my mate was helped to his feet by his wife.  Now, you know that feeling when you know you shouldn’t laugh, but due to the amount of injuries acquired by my buddy during our adventures and the fact we’re BOTH not the best side of 40, it’s always a tongue in cheek affair on the rare occasion we become ‘one’ with the land.  He got to his feet quickly and immediately and announced he was ok, thank god for that, now I can laugh!

13I giggled to myself as we joined the road and turned left toward the car park and the awaiting Aygo and the sight of my limping mate you disclosed the fall had given him some grief after all to his repairing fractured ankle.

My guilt for laughing at my mate was short lived as we joked in the car on route back to Osmotherley to retrieve the dubiously parked Passat.  Yet another leg of the Cleveland Way complete’ and yet another walk without event.  After all, what would I blog about if it wasn’t for someone’s mishap!14

 

A New Year Plod up Place Fell

New Year is either a full on experience for some or it’s just the other annoyance after Christmas for the ‘bar humbug’ brigade.  So, Kel and I hadIMG_3214 a look at the weather forecast after the big fat lad in red had squeezed down the Combi boiler and made a decision.  It looked rainy-check, windy-check, and snow on the peaks-double check!  We’d missed a Wainwright on our last visit due to unforeseen circumstances so we decided our quest should be Place Fell.

We decided we’d see the New Year in at the caravan in the Eden Valley, which is only a short drive from Ullswater which was ideal for our chosen fell hugging the bottom of the massive water.  We had mentioned it to Kel’s sister (whose caravan it is anyway) and she and her hubby Stu where up for bringing 2014 in the lakes.  But after a couple of texts, the party that would be heading up Place Fell was hitting 9 humans and a German shepherd.  Thankfully not all staying in the caravan!

We arrived at Pooley Bridge for lunch Tuesday and a taste of what was to come, Ullswater was like the North Sea as its waves licked its shores splashing the A592.   Snow had capped Helvellyn and its surrounding peaks and I had a fuzzy feeling in my stomach as I love ‘good weather’ when we’re hitting the fells.  Kel doesn’t join me in my like for inclement weather on hills but she would prefer to be battered with nature than walking around the shops with the endless ‘sale’ signs.  We joined Ali, Stu and Bruce at the caravan late afternoon and started to bring in the New Year with finger food and wine, lots of wine!!  We were joined by one of our friends Michelle who managed to find the caravan after a few loops around the Eden Valley and churning up the campsite in her ‘Beemer’ looking for a parking space.

IMG_3215Due to the planned route not taking us that far and only 4 hours on the hills at most, a half ten meet at Pooley Bridge was organised to meet the rest of the party.  So, after leaving Pooley Bridge we drove down the flooded A592 to park at the school house in Patterdale to start our attack of Place Fell.  Quick head count:  Me, Kel, Ali, Stu, Michelle, Dicko, Sue, David (Dicko’s brother), Yvette (David’s wife), Richard (Dicko’s son) and of course the big German Shepherd Bruce.  New Year greetings complete we joined the footpath sneaking between the school house buildings heading across marsh land towards Side Farm to start our ascent up Patterdale Common.  The stream that enters Ullswater down this valley was slightly high and the couple of hundred metres to the farm was ankle deep in water which prompted a few ‘girly’ giggles from the female element of the party.  Us blokes just cracked on as usual!  A testament to recent weather was soon upon us as we saw a caravan in the farmland on its roof at the adjacent campsite.  We all found it amusing but I guess some poor soul has had their world turned on its roof quite literally, oh well.

I’d looked at the map and the route wasn’t that complicated, we’d take a right behind the farm and just IMG_3217climb south east towards Boredale Hause.  There were a couple of other hikers heading up and smiles and New Year greetings were exchanged.  It wasn’t long before the hills gave way to the sound of pounding paws and Bruce’s relentless quest to keep his ‘flock’ in order.  The rain was pleasant and cloud cover high(ish) but the wind was getting up.  As we passed Rooking Gill the breeze got a bit more lively and the drops of rain where getting a bit bigger.  Ullswater was clear and the snow on the Helvellyn range looked very inviting making me wish we’d headed up the western side of the valley, hey ho, Place Fell was the goal and we were well on route.

We arrived at Boredale Hause and were met by another group of hikers chewing the fat.  Stu had found a dubious footpath up the fell which was immediately ‘Poo Poo’d’ by our new friends.  It looked good to me but I could see the top of the fell and it looked bleak, I knew the well-established path was clear and wanted a drama less ascent so we headed to the path that Kel and I had abandoned a few weeks before.  As we trudged up the well-worn path the wind increased and the chunks of rain got bigger.  Just before Steel Edge the weather had got quite bad, we’d stopped for a breather but the party had become stretched.  Communication was hard between the group and chins were hitting the floor.  After a brief chat, Dicko, Sue, Yvette, David and Richard decided to turn back.  There’s no point getting higher into IMG_3220worse weather if all you’re doing is looking down and not enjoying it.  There are certain things that people get from the hills, views, exercise, but I like the thrill! I know it’s not Everest and there’s always a way down but I’ve always loved the mountains and hills not matter what the weather, bad weather just adds to it for me.  I carry enough kit to make my ‘stay’ overnight comfortable!

With a good chunk of the party gone we cracked on leaving just the caravan dwellers heading summit wise and the weather getting worse.  Bruce the Shepherd wasn’t happy, he’d lost half this flock and it was doing his head right in.  However, at the top we managed to shelter slightly but we were greeted with a small scattering of the fluffy white stuff.  A ‘re-group’ as I like to call it was in session.  Did everyone like to carry on? Yes.  Was everyone dry? No but ok.  Where the fek had my daysack cover gone? Hanging near my arse.

Happy days and we cracked on after hoying down a Snickers and a reassessment of kit.  The snow was now driving into my unzipped pockets but I was warm and dry.  Vision was very good considering and every one was chipper.  Bruce had got over the fact he had only 5 humans to watch and cracked on negotiating the crags and the driving snow which, even he was struggling to contend with.

‘The Knight and Mortar Crags’ were negotiated extremely well, mainly down to a good path, nowt to do with navigation.  There were a good few IMG_3223moments where Kel had a couple of slips but nothing to write home about.  My daysack cover decided to make another bid for escape on Mortar Crag but luckily moorland to the west of us saved it from joining the waves of Ullswater.  The wind was very strong making all the snow and rain a little bit more extreme.  Michelle had grabbed my attention as we headed to the massive Sheepfold at Low Moss, she pointed out a left turn just before High Dodd which looked good.  Things were starting to be blown about, my daysack cover included plus my underpants were soaked, don’t ask me how but they were.  We banged in a left turn at the junction and headed down the path parallel with Low Moss Gill.  Immediately the wind reduced and we stopped at the disused quarry about a quarter of the way down to have a break.  Kel popped on her white bonnet and Bruce tried to eat Michelle’s sarnies, I found a lovely slate water fall and we headed off down the route.  The surface was slippery under foot and there was a couple of ‘Hip jammers’ as people slipped but recovered without hitting the deck.  We had the joy of Scalehow Force roaring away to our left as we joined another well-worn path just before Scalehow wood and a left turn south west along the side of the lake.

IMG_3224We were still not half way but as the wind, rain and snow were not with us chins were up and conversation was ongoing.  Well between Ali and Michelle it was, very much so, what do lasses find to talk about?!  With the steep crags to our left and the swirls on Ullswater to our right, the pace picked up and jelly babies made an appearance.  Kel was proud to produce a packet of ‘Spogs’ (liquorice with hundreds and thousands on) and smiles were on all involved.  Silver Bay went by with the water a bit closer than usual and it wasn’t long before the end of Ullswater was in sight.  The cloud was dropping and twinkles of Glennridding were inviting us from across the water.  A text from Dicko stating the rest of the party were in the ‘Ramblers Bar’  made the sight of Side Farm and the caravan on its roof very welcome and a pint to make the day perfect.  However, remember the path from the school to the farm at the start being ankle deep, it had now been replaced by a few more inches of water and a prospect of wet feet for the shorter people in the party.  Sod it, we just trudged through what the hell.  We came out the other side laughing and commenting the fact we’d just seen a black Labrador chase a swan in about two feet of water on the path, and Bruce had just stood and watched, probably in amazement. IMG_3227

I came out the other side with dry feet, so did Stu.  The girls were soaked but the car was in sight and the start of the great ‘De-kit’ IMG_3233and a chance to steam Stu’s car up on the short ride to the ‘Ramblers Bar’ and a welcome from the rest of the starting party.  Stories exchanged and pints downed as Bruce left a dog shaped wet print on the wooden flooring.  The mystery of my wet underpants was solved by realising I’d left the zips on my waterproof over trousers open to the driving rain/snow on the summit.

AW states “Few Fells are so well favoured as Place Fell for praising neighbouring heights!”  This is true; Helvellyn graced us with its white cap the whole way almost inviting us over as if to capture souls.  Even though the weather was ‘wintery’ I wouldn’t have had it any other way!IMG_3236

Cleveland Way Part 2 – Sutton Bank to Osmotherely

Walking the Cleveland Way has some advantages over other linear walks, because the path is so well used and maintained to a high standard it’s virtually map free, leaving more time to enjoy the views.  Anyway the views were quite breathe taking on our second leg of the CW from Sutton banka1 to Osmotherley.

I crisp morning met us as we prepared for this long leg of our winter walk.  We packed ‘MY’ daysack into Kel’s new (ish) Aygo and took to the road expecting a nice long wait on the A19 but were pleasantly surprised by the lack of cars as we followed a solo Dicko heading for our first car drop off point at the quaint little village of Osmotherley.  As we pulled into the village square to park up, the pub was in spitting distance which made Kel and Dicko’s day, I however wasn’t so impressed as I was going onto night shift so a post walk pint wasn’t in the mix for me grrrrr!  We hopped into Dicko’s Passat and Capital radio and its minging music.  You’d have thought a gentleman of his years would enjoy Radio 2 like me; however I had to endure chart chaff while Kel and Dicko chatted away.  We pulled into the car park at the top of Sutton Bank and it was Dicko’s turn to get turned over by the parking meter.  Boots on, me and Dicko put our daysacks on and Kel skipped off laden free back onto the most well-kept route I’ve ever seen.

a2Within a few metres we were back on the top of the cliffs that make up a good part of the CW.  Looking west Sutton Brow gave way to Garbutt Wood revealing Gormire Lake secretly nestled in its trees.  Even on a fairly overcast morning in the North Yorkshire moors the view stretched across to the Pennines that had a cloudy cap.  The route was completely, with us as an exception, hiker free at this point with only a dog walker at the top of South Woods to pass.  The breeze was fresh but not too cold but certainly not t-shirt weather, I was comfortable in a base layer and my trusty Rab jacket.  Kel skipped along in her base layer, fleece and a light body warmer, again all sponsored by Rab.  Sneck Yate Bank was soon up on us as the pace was brisk and with a clear path and no maps we were storming north.  I had to keep looking at the map as I like to know ‘exactly’ where we were, looking at features and fencelines, keeping my mind active as well as looking at the cracking views.  As we approached Sneck I was looking to see the road that crossed the route.  We had stopped as the path forkeda3 off and decided what direction to take; a few Jelly Babies had appeared from Dicko’s bottomless Osprey so I was happy.  Sue had passed on her apologies the day before as she could not get time off work to join us, however she had furnished Dicko with a bag of those liquorice sweets with sprinkles on them, Kel calls them ‘Spogs’ for some reason, it’s probably another ‘Pit Yacker’ expression that no one else has ever heard of.  Then, just as we’d decided on the correct path, this wonderful old bloke came walking passed and began to speak to us.  You could tell by his gear he was seasoned, saying he was local he began to explain, step by step our route to Osmotherley.  He knew ever blade of grass, every twist and turn and every incline we’d encounter in the next 9 miles.  He then further impressed me by mentioning AW himself, I’d have thought a born and bred Yorkshireman hardened in the heather, git stoned fells would probably dismiss the Lancashire legend, but the famous 214 were discussed which made me smile.

As we watched the t’old lad bimble off in the direction we had come, I had a second smile at his canvas gaiters and his ‘lightweight olive green trousers’.  I have spent many years in those trousers, not his, in my first few years in the army.  High Paradise Farm brought a couple of treats for us, well Kel in particular, it had a couple of Saddlebacks nuzzling around in their pen.  They paid us some attention before getting stuck back into the undergrowth, the king size bacon butties gave us a last glance as we walked through the farm yard.  To be fair, the farmer did come out to have a bit of craic, apparently the a4pair of porky pets had knocked out 21 piglets a few days before, of course Kel wanted one but we ushered her away before any deal was sealed.  We carried on towards and knuckled down into Boltby Forest and a considerable drop in temperature.  The festive mood was set alight by the sight of Christmas trees growing and the thought that Kel still won’t allow me to put the tree up back at Hyde Mansions.   Time was getting on and the familiar sound of Tubs’ (Kel, it’s a family nick name nothing to do with her size) tummy rumbling had started to erupt in the grand Yorkshire Moors.  To be fair she’d been dropping hints to stop for food for about a mile but Dicko wasn’t having any on it.  The wind had picked up as we came out of the forest with Little Moor to the east of us, the pace was still good as we followed a path that came surly be seen from the moon it’s so wide and distinctive.  At this point there was a competition looming between Kel’s rumbling stomach and the army Lynxa6 helicopter buzzing the fells on exercise.  Finally we stopped near the disused quarry and the path cross behind a dry stone wall and had lunch.  The only hikers of the day so far came over the moors to the east and bimbled off the way we had come.  Dicko phoned Sue at the office and gloated; she took it well and managed not to swear to much at his attempts to make her jealous.

Sarnies gone and back on track we headed towards the left bend in the route at White Gill Head and along Hambleton Street and a cracking view south west at the route we’d come, quite a distance in a short space of time.  The route drops down quite a bit going passed the forest on Nether Stilton Moor and passed some Grouse Butts to the right, the closest approximately about 50 metres from this well used route, glad they weren’t shooting today!  At Square Corner the route turns left and drops further passed two disused reservoirs and daft question time from my wife.  “Why’s it disused?” she enquires.  “Cos there’s no water in it!” Dicko replied.  I go walking with some sharp tacks I’ll tell ya!

a8We’ve encountered some inclines in the past which, yeah, we all have ‘view stops’ to catch breath.  But today we had not really climbed much but I saw my friend Dicko looking decidedly hot and bothered, too much wine I thought the night before.  We crossed a tarmac road and pushed towards Whitehouse farm and another cheeky little incline making the old boy puff a bit more.  I was shocked cos for his age he’s still a fit lad and generally can keep up if not storm ahead.  We sneaked across the farm land and down into a small wooded area over a stream then up a few steps.  Kel ran to the top, I trudged up thinking Dicko was hot on my heals.  I turned to check and he’d stopped, face red as a baboons backside and a face that said “I’m goosed!”  We got to the top and sat on a bench which sported a sign saying ‘Paul’s steps’, Dicko looked rough.  The end was in sight as we passed almost through the back gardens of the cottages in Osmotherley, a7sometimes passing front doors with signs saying ‘Don’t stamp your boots on our drive’.  Ha, obviously the residents have in the past taken exception to muddy ramblers stamping some of the finest Yorkshire soil over their nice clean driveways.  Through one last ‘gennel’ and we were out into the village square of Osmotherley, it was a bit like coming out of the cinema into the daylight.  We dumped out kit into the Aygo and went into the Queen Catherine Hotel for a post walk pint, or diet coke in my case.

As we settled down and ‘de-layed’ it became apparently why Dicko was struggling on the inclines, he took off the best part of ‘Cotswolds’ stock.  Layer after layer of top quality outdoor clothing was thrown across a wooden chair, body warmer, Rab jacket, fleece and then not one base layer but two!  Oh how we laughed, I had a base layer on and my trusty Rab jacket and I was comfortable, he must have been roasting daft bugger.

Another stage completed and another few miles under the belt, plus another head full of stunning views and lessons learnt.  Hopefully the next leg will have a dusting of snow to add to the views, although I don’t think Dicko’s got anymore clothing to wear if it gets colder!a9a11a10

Beda Fell

Whenever you put boot on fell, you have to take all sorts of factors into consideration; weather, terrain, route, gear and your party’s ability.  There are plenty of benefits of walking in the mountains and hills, but there are also things that could go wrong.  Our walk up Beda Head luckily didn’t need outside help but it goes to show, even seasoned hikers have problems.1

It’s Friday and Kel and me were on dayshift, I was set to finish at 5pm and Kel at 4pm, so it was up to her to get home first, pack my car and get all sorted for a quick blast down the A66 for when I pull up on the drive in her shed, I mean car.  We had a passenger just for the journey; one of my mates had set his family off to Center Parcs in the morning, arranging for us to drop him off on the night so we had a slight detour before settling in the caravan.  We were on the road for roughly half five so things looked good as it only usually took us just short of 1 ½ hours to get to Morland, and the detour wouldn’t add much, so we should be settled for 8pm planning our route for the next day.  The rain was pounding down but, hey ho that’s to be expected.  Process was good until Bowes and the road cone fest, can anyone tell me why the road works are there!?  Bang to a halt and an hour later we managed to come out of the other end and back on our journey.  We drove up the long road to Center Parcs and dropping 2our mate off to tackle the resorts fierce security while we made our way to our own peaceful, quiet resort, Aaahhhhhh!

As the rain bounced down on the tin roof of our, errgh hum, Kel’s sisters caravan we cast our eye over OL5 map and tried to marry it up with the go4awalk.com route which we’re using to get all the peaks in to accomplish our Wainwright goal before I’m 50!  Route sorted and after a couple of night caps, it was bed time.

Next day driving down the side of Ullswater the weather looked good and as we drove through Howtown there were a few cars parked at the bottom of Hallin Fell so a lot of people were already on the fells.   We parked at Garth Heads (427186) near where the footpath crosses the small road up Boredale.3

We planned to take the footpath east up Beda Fell to the ‘head’ then  drop down to Boredale Hause then up onto Place Fell and heading north to High Dodd then back to the car.  This was taking in two Wainwrights and a good few views, plus a post walk pint in the Pooley Bridge Inn and Kel’s favourite cider.  Boots on and straight into a steep climb up to Howsteadbrow and Winter Crag, the temperature was that awkward type of temperature where it’s slightly too warm for a fleece but just too chilly for just a base layer.  We trooped up to the crag and turned right heading to the top and the ground levelled and as we got closer to the top Ullswater revealed itself and with the clear skies every fell in the west could be scene.  Unless it’s driving rain or blowing a hooly I normally like a good little chin wag and it never seems to amaze me that Kel can name most of the fells from every angle.  Our ‘view stops’ are usually a feast of Kel turning a full 360 degrees pointing and saying, “Helvellyn, Sheffield Pike, Gowbarrow 4etc etc!”  But today seemed very quiet on the stops with Kel just appearing to look down and breath heavily, more than usual.  My concerned questions were met with “Aye I’m alright!” and “just tired, maybe too much Pinot last night!”  Too much Pinot!!??  I was concerned; it’d take a lot of Pinot for her to say it’s affected her the next day.  I remember when we went up Helvellyn the day after a good sesh.  We’d stopped at Parkfoot, which isn’t really our place but we were with camping friends.  Our mates weren’t hill walkers but like a good BBQ and the alcohol that went with a good pile of meat and buns.  Anyway needless to say our attack at Helvellyn was a bit ropey and we were sweating 14% but Kel was still chipper and we still made good pace.

But today was different, her chin was down for her not to be talking, this was a 5concern.  I knew that if she didn’t perk up on the flat on the summit I’d have to monitor her without making a fuss.  The summit came and went, she’d smashed a ‘Snickers’ in and we’d started looking for the path down to Boredale Hause.  We’d been blessed with cracking weather today and I was taking in the surrounding peaks, but the guided tour of their names was still missing and I was getting a bit worried about my weary wife.

As we dropped off the top over Freeze Beck and to a possible bait stop, I noticed a slight spring in Kel’s step, she’d said on the top that if she felt this rough at the ‘hause’ we’d be cutting short which I’d whole heartedly agreed.  Now, this ‘spring in her step’ didn’t mean all was good.  During my time in the forces I’d had many times where I’d had to monitor individuals who’d just been poorly.  Nothing to do with fitness as I’ve 6known the ‘Racing snakes’ who ran the fells be taken down by stomach bugs during exercises in the mountains of Wales.  The art is to watch faces and mannerisms; fatigue comes in three stages as far as I’m concerned.  Initially quiet and getting quite tired with more than frequent stops and not saying much.  Then, a second wind where there’s about half hour of “yeah I’m ok now” and picking up the pace.  This second stage is where you have to wait and rest, sit down and have bait.  If you’re walking bud is knackered and has fatigue caused by whatever, they’ll fail whilst resting.  If you don’t clock this this second stage and crack on, it may get serious about an hour later.  I’ve seen the third stage and many people have collapsed and CASEVAC’D (casualty evacuation) off a hill because someone failed to recognised the second stage.  The casualty won’t know and will think life’s good and try to crack on, that’s why it’s important to have a monitor buddy to call the shots.  You might get “What ya goin on about I’m fine!” but take the grief cos if they’d gone up and collapsed you’d be feeling worse.

We sat and started to have bait, it was a busy crossing with walkers coming up from all directions, Patterdale, Boredale and a few 7coming from Angle Tarn direction.  We perched on a rock and tucked into our butties; Kel just nibbled and nibbled then stopped eating.  I refer back to my previous paragraph where I mentioned mannerisms.  Kel had settled by the side of a small boulder, about shoulder height, and had lent against it.  Next thing I knew her eyes closed for a brief moment and there you go, stage two.  She’s never done that before ever, so with a slightly concerned grin, I told her we were getting off the hills.  She said OK!

The journey down Boredale confirmed my prognosis as Kel admitted she did not feel herself.  She perked up slightly again but I had no concerns as we were dropping down to farm land and a flooded path and watch a big black cloud covering Beda and Place fells ready to bolster Boredale Beck on its way into Ullswater.

8I wasn’t concerned that Place Fell hadn’t been bagged, to be fair, it’s not going anyway.  I was just glad I got my wife off the hills before anything bad.  It’s mainly a man thing too, no way am I gonna phone mountain rescue unless necessary, I would carry Kel, her daysack and mine off a fell before I used a much unfunded and overworked resource like mountain rescue.

We reached the car dry and in good spirits for a change and for once, I drove to the pub with my boots on instead of ditching them for sandals for a ‘breather’.9

I hope people that read this blog don’t think I’m a ‘know it all’ and a total knob.  I have had past encounters with all sorts of stuff and while passing on my experience, I’m not the font of all, just know some stuff!

PS, my new boots are the dog’s swingers!!

 

 

Boots

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 strong.boots

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!

In and around Aysgarth, North Yorkshire

With the cold weather here we thought we’d have look for some snow for a nice walk to stretch our legs.  Our good friends Dicko and Sue were staying in the village of Aysgarth in North Yorkshire for Dicko’s 50th birthday, so we thought we’d have a drive down and have a stroll on the Yorkshire moors.

We met them in the George and Dragon pub car park where they were staying, Kel was extra excited as it was the first outing for her new walking boots.  We donned our kit and set off through the village.  Aysgarth is one of those villages where you want to live in all the houses.  The path brings you up close and personal with the windows of the houses and you just can’t help staring in to admire the real fires and the Inglenook stoves which give off the sweet smelling  smoke pouring out of the chimneys.   A couple of the gardens were already sporting daffodil shoots and the Snowdrops where well and truly in bloom.

As we headed west the road forks and so we took the left turn onto the road heading for Thornton Rust.  Here a few more barn conversions and original buildings have the pleasure of looking out over Wensleydale.  After a couple of hundred metres we took a left and joined a track which took us up past the reservoir and then right onto Flout Moor Lane heading west.  We were all in good spirits and Kel was happy with her choice of boots.  A few jokes were flying about how she could’ve been sponsored by ‘RAB’ for the walk, but she wasn’t bothered as she was ‘toastie’.  The lane had a slight climb hidden within and the nip in the air which had accompanied us at the start now gave way to red faces and a thick layer of condensation across Dicko’s black ‘Dut’!  Now, people have their own view on farmers, I think they do graft but don’t particularly have a great deal of love for hikers.  Whilst walking up the track we encountered probably the grumpiest farmer.  He buzzed past us in his tractor with a face like thunder, I gave my usual wave but the look he gave back was like I had just rogered his prize Saddleback!  Even his trusty Border Collie following up behind the tractor didn’t have a nice word to say.

We plodded on to the next gate, and this is where it happened, my mouth got me into bother with Sue.  We encountered a big wooden gate with a chain and hook to secure it, a bog standard obstacle that every hiker negotiates on every walk.  I walked up to it and casually tried to lift the hook out of the ring on the fence post.  I tried, and tried, and tried and could I hell get the hook out of the ring.  Dicko caught up and he tried to lift the gate up, push the gate down to give me more purchase, but the freezing hook would not come out of the ring.  Minutes before we had seen the farmer open and close the gate with ease, so we both thought he had done some underhand trick to hinder our access.  So we both stood there cursing Victor Meldrew in his tractor and telling the girls they had to scale the gate due to the farmer’s actions.  Sue however, calmly walked up to the gate and inspected the conundrum.  I stood and informed her that if two decent size blokes couldn’t shift it, a mere female with short legs would never manage.  Needless to say she lifted the gate and removed the hook with ease!  From now on, I will carry a bottle of ketchup so that when I have to eat my words, it will be more pleasurable.

I cracked on while Sue basically made me my 6’ 3’’ frame look about 3’’ tall with well-deserved abuse in relation to my comments.  Anyway, we cracked on and my frame was rebuilt as I easily strode over the ford at the next bend and Sue, doing an aeroplane impression, struggled to cross, but this time I kept my mouth shut.

We walked up to Haw Head and entered the snow line.  A good 3 inches of snow covered the ground and the Red Grouse escorted our route with their familiar shrill and their bunny hopping the white moorland before us.  We dropped down into Gayle Ing Beck and met a couple who I had been watching with my bino’s for some time on the horizon.  When I say watching I don’t mean in a pervy way.  I’m a sado when it comes to footpaths, I saw the couple walking on what was quite obviously a non-marked footpath in the distance.  When we met at the style in the Beck they said they had lost the path due to the snow.  We had a bit of a giggle with them and assured them if they followed our tracks they’ll stay on track.  Toilet stop for me but the rest cracked on and I climbed up to Brown-A-Haw while they had a break at the top.

I could feel the temperature had dropped quite a bit but the climb had warmed everyone up.  We crossed a stile and headed for Stake Road, still escorted by the red Grouse and their silence breaking call.  Stake Road was a much defined path and the join with our path was clearly marked with a small cairn, marking the junction.  Again, being a sado o saw the boot prints of the couple we had met in the snow and they appear to have missed the cairn completely causing them to take a right turn across the Side Well moor and an undefined route.

So, this is where the fun started, the track was littered with potholes and dips in the surface making perfect place for big puddles….big puddles frozen over and covered with snow.  Now, due to a dodgy right knee I use a stick for descents so I had a prodder to test the ground before I tread.  Dicko and I blazed the trail while Kel and Sue chattered away about 15m behind.  So while we hop skipped and jumped the hidden death traps, Kel and Sue played Russian Roulette with the snow covered terrain.  Needless to say they both finished the track with about a foot of mud and ice up their legs which made the gate incident feel better.

The track into Thoralby was slippy and muddy which was littered with spotted horses and elusive Kestrels.  We trudged into the village and decided to have a break at the Village Inn….which was shut!  We sat on the well-kept benches outside and I had my home made Butternut Squash soup.  There was a notice outside the pub which said, “Leave your boots outside”, seemed strange considering the area.  We carried on into West Burton and another drama.  I cannot for the life of me remember the pubs name, but we walked into the foyer and Dicko peeked his head into the empty pub.  He asked the usual question, “we alright with our boots on?”, the answer will astonish me forever, considering the area, “well, the obvious answer would be,would you wear them in your own living room?”  Needless to say we left and duly informed the next hiker of the pubs restrictions.

We walked down Eshington Lane slightly then climbed up to Flatlands and negotiated a series of stiles made for anorexics to head back Into Aysgarth and a pint of Blacksheep and a final slagging from Sue about the gate incident.

I love Yorkshire and its views but I’m torn between ‘The Lakes’ and the Dales.  Obviously, I’m a Yorkshire lad so the Dales should weigh heavily in favour.

Whirl around Whorlton

I suppose the best thing about working weekends is you have the chance on the week day rest days, to avoid the crowds and shoot off to the hills. Kel got a little AA box of walks in North Yorkshire for Christmas so we chose a walk around the crags where we climb in the summer, Barkers Crags near Swainby.

We parked next to the stream in Swainby and donned our boots and brand new gators, which were Christmas prezzies. We know the lovely little village quite well, the Blacksmiths is our chosen pub for a post climb pint.  The place was quite busy and there was a line of cars all the way up the road and walkers already plodding about.

Kel was trying out her new streamline day sack seeing as we weren’t going to scale any mountains. This day sack is quite unique, it consists of stuffing all her wet weather and warm kit into my day sack so I can carry it all!

So we set off heading south through the village, passed the lovely houses that line the road. As usual the air is full with, “ooooh look at that one” and “Oooh can you imagine living there!” when we pass houses way out of our price range. We reach the right hand bend and carry on straight up a track where at the top join the Cleveland Way.

  I’ve been on the Cleveland Way just a handful of times and I always find it very well kept. This was no exception; the signs look like they’re made by Pinocchio’s dad and the path is so prominent it can be seen from the moon.

We went left and walked through Clain Wood, overlooking Scugdale, the views were awesome. We also got a look at Round Hill and Barker’s Crag looking up the valley.  In the sun it was quite warm (ish) but in the woods the temperature dropped quite a bit.

There was no doubt of the route at this stage as the sign posts hit us with a fanfare saying “Cleveland Way”, we turned left into a field full of sheep and back into the sunshine. Footing became a bit dodgy and I chuckled to myself wondering when Kel’s first fall of the year would be. We re-entered the wood to cross a shallow Scugdale Beck.  Kel spotted a small weir and seeing as we decided not to bring the big camera (something else I’d have to carry) she decided to try out her ‘delayed shutter speed’ app on her iPhone.  The problem being, no tripod!  Now, as it was past lunch time, Kel’s hands would be a bit shaky. That glass of Pinot was hours away so steady hands were hours away too. Needless to say the photo was a bit hazy and we plodded on through the stream. We did notice Snowdrops starting to push their heads through the frosty soil and some buds appearing on the trees.  

We plodded up Hollin Hill towards the main road, which we’ve driven up countless times to Barker’s Crag, we crossed the T junction on another sign post pointing us onto the Cleveland Way that you would never miss. We took in the smell of the freshly cut Pine and pushed up a slight accent around the Live Moor Plantation. We then took a right through the woods onto Knolls End to start up Round Hill.  As we came out of the woods we spotted a really well kept information board regarding the hill, it’s privately owned so respect the hill!

 

As we rose we had to negotiate the gauntlet of Red Grouse and the view became breath taking. On our right, Roseberry Topping dominated the skyline, however, there’s a slight glitch in the panoramic pleasure, Middlesbrough and Teesport.  These are to the east coast, like dog shit on your golfing green, something you have to put up with.

 

There’s a big Cairn at the top which, like the Cleveland Way, is well built and I swear symmetrical.

Photos done, we drop back down the other side and re-join the plantation. At this point it’s always good to be behind Kel, the decent is always a tongue in cheek time. Boggy peat and piles of sheep droppings are always prime spots for ‘ bambi on ice’ to hit the deck.  But she kept on her feet, not without a few Jesus impressions with her arms but the slate was clean, and so was her backside.

 

We made it through the forest and joined a track which took us to Whorl Hill Wood. Again, wepassed houses we could never afford and a radio banging out Spandau Balllet by work women we took a left into the woods. Around the hill and it comes out at Whorl Hill Farm where you take a left up a track to a locked……..yes, locked gate!

We scaled the metal gate and made our way over the fields to another field with some bulls in, luckily I had my walking pole so any bother a cheeky poke will sort any beef related problems.

 We joined the road through Whorlton with the picturesque church on the left with loads of arches when I say loads I mean loads of arches!! That’s Kel sorted for ten minutes while I try and clean my boots. She loves arches!

 

We carried on down the road and Whorlton Castle was on the right on the top of the hill, just where you’d find a castle.  It’s well-kept and access is easy through the front gate.

Ok, since coming down from the hill, the Blacksmith’s has been in both our thoughts, I fancied a nice pint of the local brew, Kel however had been banging on about the home made chips we like there, so the pace sped up through the east side of Swainby towards the car. Going over the little bridge and the low flying Mallards, we walked to the car where we quick time changed our footwear and jumped in.

With thoughts of food and ale in our minds and looking like we’d slept with coat hangers in our mouths  we pulled into the pub car park……a closed pub …… we left!  Needless to say the air was blue!

Gorgeous walk with good views, I love Yorkshire!