Route recce around Embleton, Co. Durham.

Thought I’d turn over a new leaf and bring my blog back to life, it’s been some time since I posted a walk and had not been motivated enough to write about anything, but after writing a few Trip Advisor reviews I thought I’d show my blog some attention.
My sister in law owns Journey To Discovery, a guided walks venture, and she asked me if I’d recce a route with her in the area, so I said I would have a look out with her on my day off.
We met at the car park on the A689 on the north side near the bridge where the walkway from Hurworth Burn Reservoir crosses. It had been raining the whole journey to the spot but seemed to ease off as I pulled into the ‘free’ car park and met up with Ali.
We had a quick chat as I donned my day sack and I greeted my old mate Bruce, the enormous German Shepherd. As we chatted the rain started again so we made tracks and headed north east along a track towards Low Swainston and walked through the farm , heading north up to Embleton.
There’s a few buildings in Embleton but it is apparently a medieval village, like Swainston we’d just passed. After turning right and checking out the derelict church, the track drops down into a dip that someone has built a great, hidden house in fantastic grounds. The path goes straight up through a gate and across a large field called Embleton Moor. The path goes up to ’11 oclock’ and drops down into a beck and over a wooden foot bridge.
By this time it had been raining horizontal and the waterproofs had been put to the test. We laughed about the first time we went out walking about 8 years ago, the weather was exactly the same and it cost me a mobile phone due to getting so soaked.
The path circumnavigates

a large field and then heads north towards Embleton Old Hall. The path then goes around the house and grounds initially but cuts through the rear of the garden onto the track out of the grounds, west on another track towards the Castle Eden Walkway. We decided we’d stay on the small track running parallel ish with the walkway to Green Lane Cottages. Here we joined the walkway south down to the a car park and 4.9 miles later, back at the car.
A good short range route sorted for future use by Ali’s clients, hopefully the weather will be better next time.

Another look up Roseberry Topping!

I have a few friends from work who like the outdoors, we go on small dog walks and generally get together about once every two months (if we’re lucky) and take Alfie out for a leg stretch.  We have a ‘What’s App’ chat group where we basically chat about anything and take the piss every chance we get too.

During one of these chats my friend Shiv stated she had never been up Roseberry Topping, which is situated in the hills in North Yorkshire, or Cleveland if you want.  So, we decided to meet up and have a walk up the tiny hill.

 

 

Seeing as we all work shifts finding a date would be hard but managed to find a day we were all off, and would you believe it, the weather was even nice to us.

I’ve blogged about Roseberry before but it’s always nice to revisit and share different experiences.  We all meet at ours and drive down the A19 and head for the hills.  In the lovely little village of Great Ayton a quick left turn up Dikes Lane and before we knew it we were at the car park putting our boots on.  We started walking up the path which heads north up onto the heather and the awesome views that stretch across for miles and miles.

 

 

 

 

We walked next the dry-stone wall which is an easy way of knowing you’re going in the right direction as it keeps with you the whole way.  Once we all got our breath back it was time to start taking the micky out of each other.  As anyone who knows

and does the work we do, getting the piss ripped out of you is a sign of affection.  With a mixture of food chat and light hearted insults, the junction in the wall where we turned left was up on us before we knew it.  From here you can see the path up Roseberry, which to be fair looks quite steep from this distance, but at least the drop down to the start of the path gave us a chance to build up the enough steam to march to the top which we did quite quick.

The night before, Kel had knocked up some Millionaire Shortbread and Lemon Drizzle Cake for the top after our sarnies, well to be honest, she had only made the Shortbread but she was guilt tripped into making the Lemon Drizzle by Lou so she knocked one up just for her.  The top was busy and we settled down to stuff our faces and take in the view.

The top is covered in graffiti, or rather ‘etchings’ with ‘art’ stretching back to 1881 which, I can quite imagine the Victorians spending the day on the top taking in the view of the mines and the smog.  After half an hour of munching and being robbed of any remaining lemon Cake by Lou we made our way down the way we came.

The journey back was filled with the workings of a ‘She Wee’ and the appearance of a football on the route which wasn’t there on the way in.  Lou couldn’t get her head round the shape and the ‘fittings’ of the female urination equipment.  Kel didn’t make the conversation any better by saying the last time she used it, “It squirted out the back!”  And the football, well that’s still a mystery, although if it was a youngster who brought it with him and left it there to collect after he’d summited Roseberry, Alfie didn’t help by hiding it in the heather. 

Towards the end of the route the talk turned to a conversation that is well ploughed during any of these walks: my accent!  I’ve lived in the north-east for nearly 20 years now and have known people for the best apart of that, but my accent is still a source of amusement.  I don’t mind to be fair and find it funny!

Back at the cars the talk turned to the pub and where to go, we found a nice little place in the village where of all places we started talking to a chap from Easington who had been in Yorkshire for 30 years.

Great day and lovely weather to boot, back to Casa De La Hyde for Toad in’t Hole!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good dog walk near Shildon

We’ve been saving the walks for Country Walking magazine for ages now and today seemed a good day to have a flick through the little pile of cut out pages and find a nice little local walk.  We settled for a nice 7 1/2 miler around the Shildon area!IMG_6945

Great parking at the Railway Museum and free to boot.  Into the museum area and right down the lines towards the Welcome Centre further down the track.  Passed the playground and into a quiet part of Shildon through a small housing estate and a bit of industrial estate then out into the countryside.

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The route follows the old railway lines passed some old engine rooms and old railway sleepers which look like they’ve been well preserved.  From the route, great views of Bishop Auckland can be seen and the surrounding farm land.  And the KFC sign, which Kel pointed out, at least twice.

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As the route ascends up into Brusselton Woods where the path needs some concentration and easily to lose the ‘scent’, trick is try and follow previous boot marks and not to get fooled by heavily used deer tracks.  Plus, the shoulder high Ferns don’t help, luckily Alfie, our trusty Springer is a great pathfinder so we have an advantage.  Once we were out of the woods the route hit the road a bit but it’s not so busy and very pleasant.

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The route back towards Shildon was through scenic farm land and was well trodden, even through the farmers fields that were 99% cattle/sheep free, yay! Back into Shildon and back to the museum and a few pics for some of my spotter friends, not me, honestly!

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Nice little walk with no dramas.  Only advice i’d pass on is use your head in the woods otherwise you might get a bit ‘temporarily displaced’ and the midges are hungry.

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Great day out, great local walk, recommended!

Little Mell Fell

First walk of the week and with the weather looking very wet, Little Mell Fell looked like a good idea, and not too taxing to warm our legs up for the week planned ahead.IMG_6788

Looking at the map, parking wasn’t in abundance and after consulting Alfred WAINWRIGHT we decided to park at Thackthwaite to the north and have a nice leisurely  stroll (sheep pending) to the summit and hope we didn’t get too wet.  So, we drove west on the back road past Sparket and looked for a parking space.  We looked, and looked and looked again.  There was nowhere to park, well we couldn’t find it if there was, near Thackthwaite.  IMG_6789

We drove anti clockwise around Little Mell Fell and found a nice space on the southern side and parked up.  From this car park we could see the path to the top so donned the boots and got stuck straight into a climb which didn’t level, until we hit the Trig Point at the summit.

IMG_6790Not the highest hill but the views were amazing and we were scratching our heads when the blue sky burst out of the clouds after being promised rain.  Alfie had fun jumping on and off the Trig Point and we took some pics.  IMG_6791

The walk down was a bit slippy at times but we arrived back at the car about an hour after we’d left.

Great little dog walk and a good start to the week.

 

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Another kit Blog, this time a thermal base layer.

I’m a creature of habit, if something works and works well, it takes something really special to change my decision when it comes to buying kit.  I’ve normally used something in the harshest environment to prove its worth, or know someone or some organisation that have used it and given it the ‘rubber stamp’.

In 1992 I went to Norway with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines with kit I was issued, or IMG_6024what the army thought was good enough for that part of the world.  I was cold and wet for the first few weeks but watching the Marines operate in the clothing they had gave me a lesson in life.  The gear they were wearing was really good stuff, Helly Hanson and Berghaus to mention but a few.  It was clear to me,if I was to make things slightly more comfortable for myself I would have to invest in specialist clothing, and keep the issue stuff in my locker.

One bit of kit I saw the ‘Boot Necks’ (Marines) wearing was the Helly Hanson Lifa thermal tops.  This base layer was an absolute must.  I was issued a green cotton thermal number; ok it kept me warm but the sweat was collected like a sponge and in minus temperatures, this sweat got very cold and made life very uncomfortable.  I bought my first Lifa top on my first tour of Norway, I ordered it through a catalogue via the BFPO service and it was with me in weeks (no internet then).  I loved it; the feel was soft and not heavy like a cotton t-shirt.  I did my Arctic Warfare course and it was a life saver.  Days of sky marching with heavy Bergans (massive rucksacs) were a breeze as I was a fit lad back then so I could enjoy the view, instead of worrying about bad gear dragging me down.  The top wicked the sweat away like magic, days out in the field were great and without sounding like a minger, I got away with wearing it for a good 4 days without washing it before it got a bit funky.  The warmth it preserved was second to none, in minus temperatures on an active day, I could just have the top and a wind proof smock and was extremely comfortable.  As for storage, you can screw it up into the size of a tennis ball, it changed my life in the Arctic for the better.

This Christmas I asked for a replacement, yes for the one I bought in 1992, which by the way is still going strong.  I did buy another in the late 90’s, not to replace my first but to have a spare, however, that one did bite the dust in Bosnia in an ironing incident!

I still wear my first one and it is as good as new, it has been to Norway 5 times, 3 weeks in Canada and 2 tours of Bosnia.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve washed it in a make shift showers or sinks.  I’ve even had it in the desert for the cold nights and fresh mornings, it is really one of the most universal bits of kit I’ve had.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a kit expert or tester but if that isn’t a good ‘chuck up’ for a decent base layer, I don’t know what is!

Hop around High Hartsop Dodd

The last time we placed boot on fell in the Lake District was New Year’s Day when we got a good old drenching on Place Fell.  We teamed up with Dicko and Sue, and also the new ‘Team Hyde’ member, Alfie the Springer to get back into the swing of Wainwright bagging and set our sights on a quadruple quest starting with High Hartsop Dodd. IMG_6112

We all met the night before at the caravan site in Morland due to the Dicko’s becoming new residents at the site, route planned and we were set, although it did take us  4 bottles of red to sort it, we did it.  The next day we packed the Aygo with four days sacks, four lots of boots and Dicko was sat in front trying to keep Alfie in the foot well but failing miserably as we headed for Ullswater and Brothers Water to find the car park at Cow Bridge and the start of a day of bagging.  The route we had planned would take in High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Red Screes and Middle Dodd, which looking at the map looked a nice leg stretch and not too far.

IMG_6113The car park at Cow Bridge was quite full but I managed to squeeze the car into a nice little spot and we got ready.  Getting ready took slightly longer than normal, due to puppy pinching socks.  The moths from Sues daysack didn’t help either.  Anyway, the happy bunch strolled off down the side of Brothers Water and even though the cloud was low, a few bits of blue sky were making an appearance as I felt for my Sig Bottle only to discover it wasn’t in my side pouch on my daysack and a quick run back to the car find it in the boot of the Aygo, followed by a quick run back to the others, who by the way didn’t wait so the return leg of my run was slightly longer than the first leg.IMG_6121

Heading south we took in the sights of Brothers Water and Low Wood then came out into open land and the farm track to Hartsop Hall and a sea of sheep waiting to be sheered, and an angry farmer doing a ‘Fenton’ impression as his trusty sheep dog wasn’t being so trusty and not paying a blind bit of notice of his instructions.  We took a quick left at the farm over a meadow with the most randomly placed boulders and Dovedale Beck to lay eyes on the start of our accent.  The map does show quite a steep start to our route but as soon as you see it up close and personal you don’t quite get the full affect.  It reminded me of Fleetwith, a steep slope that needed to be climbed, and when you see sheep in harnesses you know you’re in forIMG_6122 a decent thigh burner.  There’s no getting around these sort of starts, it’s gotta be done to enjoy the experience.  Alfie was bouncing around like a ‘gud un’ and I was keeping an eye out for sheep.  Dicko set the pace and we were soon working our way up and Brothers Water was getting lower and lower, further and further away.  Chins were still up when we hit the little bit of a scramble near the top, Alfie had no fear jumping from rock to rock as he kept us all in check.  The cloud appeared to be getting lower and the tops of Hart and Dove Crag were disappearing to our right. Apparently at the start Kel had asked me if she could tie one of Alfie’s poo bags to my daysack, I can’t remember agreeing to this and only found out as I reached around my daysack looking for my water bottle, only to find something soft and squidgy in hanging for off the front, luckily my nails had been cut and I realised what the foreign object was, I wasn’t happy but the rest of the group said I’d agreed, I beg to differ.

IMG_6138The summit came quick and Alfie had acquired a bone from somewhere, we had come across a sheep that had gone to sheep heaven about 20 metres back so that’s got to have been the source.  The summit brought a heavy mist enough to wet you so water proofs came out as we entered the misty cloud as we plodded on to Little Hart Crag.  We found the summit ok, the cloud had cleared again and this was as good as place as any for bait.  The temperature dropped slightly with the wind so we all sat huddled, a bit unusual for July but that’s the mountains for you.  Alfie was doing the rounds looking for scraps of ham buttie but his luck wasn’t in so he went off to explore, probably looking for his new love, sheep droppings and wool.

Bait was a quick affair and we were back on track in no time, we dropped off the top and IMG_6141the path to Scandale Pass and looked at the ascent up to Red Screes, there were a few other walkers coming off Red Screes looking a bit damp, the top was covered in cloud but I was hopeful the small piece of blue sky which had appeared over Dove Crag would shuffle over to the top.  We set off up and I did a bit of a Bambi on ice impression landing with a thud on the wet peat.  Kel was happy with that as it’s usually her back side that spends its time on the floor.  The weather gods were definitely on our side as we climbed the steady ascent to the top of Red Screes and we were met by blue sky and sunshine at the top.  The view down to Brothers Water was very good and we had a bird’s eye view of our route down, well, we could see the direction we were going but not the actual path.  Looking down the valley the Kirkstone Pass looked like a Scalextric set and cars minute .  Red Screes isn’t the biggest fell but it’s a canny drop down when you peek over the edge.  The summit is a good spot for a wild camp as well, apart from the water; the mini tarn is smelly and peaty.  Sue perked up a bit as we were now going down, if she’d only knew what the ‘down’ would be like I think she’d have called mountain rescue.IMG_6143

We set of down and the first bit of the decent was good going, we still had to ‘top’ Middle Dodd which we did quickly and set off down.  The going became steep and footings were precarious and I felt my ankle cracked a couple of times.  Everyone’s joints were being tested, the only one of us who looked comfortable was Alfie who had been hopping around as Springer’s do.  A bit of advice if doing this route is to turn right at the wall (399102) and walk to the permissible path and take that.  We didn’t, if you look at the map (OL5) there is a small black line about (400103), it’s not a small black line in reality, it’s a sheer drop which creeps right up on you, if it’s foggy there’s a good chance you wouldn’t see it and take a 50 feet nose dive into the ferns.  We took a left at the cliff and walked to the straight wall to follow IMG_6168down to join the permissible path lower down.  As we approached the wall, I spotted a herd of cows near Caiston Beck, they were a good 200 meters away and we weren’t going anywhere near them but Kel told me to put Alfie on his lead.  We are quite good with him and always put him on when anywhere near sheep etc, but these cows were some distance away and we were walking away from them so I just kept an eye on him.  She said, “Ok it’s your call, but if they stampede and eat him it’s your fault!”  The first few seconds were like an old Western film when the town is deserted and the brush wood blows though.  I looked at Dicko whose face was just as confused as mine.  “Eat!?” I said to my worried wife.  “You don’t know what they’ll do!” she replied.  “Well I do know they won’t eat him!” I said laughingly as she stared at the happy herd chomping on the Lakeland grass.  That was it for a good quarter of an hour, all sorts of jokes fired at my embarrassed missus ranging from me singing the theme tune to ‘Rawhide’ to Dicko telling everyone to watch out for the dog eating wildebeest stampeding across the Glen.

We approached the small footbridge across the beck and I saw some killer sheep in the next field, prompting me to put the lead on Alfie in case the woolly canine cannibals attacked my defenceless pooch.  The jokes did eventually die off as we joined the footpath that we walked along to start hours before.  We got to the car and took off wet kit and heated boots, plus I IMG_6156finished of Dicko’s jelly babies.

Sat in the beer garden of the Brotherswater Inn the banter was good, even though I was slightly fuming at the £1 for an hours Wi-Fi that I wouldn’t pay.  We’d had a good day and even though we were not hitting the highest peaks we had worked fairly hard, and for the first time back on the fells it was a canny leg stretch.  Just watch out for the flesh eating Friesians!

 

 

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 1, Helmsley to Sutton Bank

With the night’s drawing in and the days getting shorter and shorter, day trips to the Lakes to bag Wainwrights is near impossible.  So about this time every year closer, more practical quests are sought with equally satisfying hikes and views.  We’ve completed the Teesdale and Weardale Ways in the past winters, so after great deliberation with our pal Dicko and his long suffering wife Sue, the Cleveland Way looked favourite.  It has everything to ask, hills, coastal paths and only half hour down the A19, plus I get to visit god’s country….Yorkshire!!1

For those who don’t know the Cleveland Way it is basically a massive horseshoe up and around the North Yorkshire moors starting at Helmsley and ending in sunny Filey, 110 miles later.  We’ve planned to complete it over the winter, hopefully.

We’d arranged for the Dickinson’s to meet us a ours about half seven giving us enough time to get down the A19 for a fairly early start at Helmsley, but like all linear walks, two cars are needed and  drop a car off at the end, Sutton bank, to ferry us back to the start.

2I would’ve preferred to get straight to Sutton Bank quickly to make a good start, I thought we’d sit on the A19 for an hour with loads of other cars and listen to Kel swearing at radio DJ’s for daring to talk in between records whilst attacking my vulnerable Aygo ‘sound system’ with her ever increasingly forceful fore finger.  For the love of god, can anyone who reads this blog and works for the highways dept, please add another lane to the A19 between Newcastle and Stockton.  Rant over and eventually we went from bumper to bumper to just our two vehicles on the road as we drove passed the sign for ‘North Yorkshire’ and clean air.  I’ve driven on this road a few times and the climb up Sutton Bank is a test for most vehicles, especially HGV’s who take the road at their own risk. 3

We arrived in fairly good time in the car park at the top of Sutton Bank to leave my car and to jump in Dicko’s car to head to Helmsley, not before Dicko jumping out of his car to run to the toilets and me getting fleeced by the parking meter.  Ticket displayed and Dicko’s bladder still full (toilets closed) we sped off to Helmsley and a chance for Kel and Sue to catch up on hair length only to realise they were both wearing the exact same clothing, ha!

Arriving in gorgeous Helmsley we found a parking spot outside the church after avoiding another parking meter dressed in a striped top wearing a mask.  Boots donned and we had a look at the castle before we headed towards the start of the Cleveland Way.  The hiking gods had graced us with ideal weather, very sunny with a chill in the air.  The night had been freezing and the frosted grass and the frozen puddles gave testament to the low temperatures that had sneaked in overnight.  Unfortunately Dicko managed to find one of these frozen puddles, 4I had an early scare with a minor skate across some frosty leaves, but the sound of my friend’s arse hitting the tarmac after hitting one of these puddles was initially concerning as he’s just got over a broken ankle, but a quick recovery turned my concern to micky taking and the start of our new fall count of the winter, 1-0-0-0!

Photos taken near the impressive stone monument at the start of this famous walk, we started the leg.   We headed west out of the town straight out into the farmland and the muddy, but frozen, tracks sneaking up between the fields interrupting various varieties of cattle as they grazed on the frozen grass.  The pace was brisk, Dicko’s attempt to warm everyone up I think but it was welcome as the cold nipped at my hands.  The sun was beating down leaving frost in the shadows of fences and heavy hedgerows.  But the mild breeze still carried a minus temperature and hands were firmly placed in pockets.  My constant obs (observations) of my wife are always a pleasant pass time; I think from my army days I need to supplement my love of the scenery with the want to look after someone, Kel is a wonderful distraction!  The night before our walk she had placed all the kit she needed in my daysack, I’m not bothered on these walks as we not too high.  She had a massive smile on her face as she was daysack free and had a skip in her step, which always makes me smile.  However, the usual daysackless Sue had been told by Dicko she had to wear hers today, she hates wearing it and will normally put all her waterproofs on rather than carry it, but today the spring in Kel’s step was only equalled by the slump in 5Sue’s back.

We reached Blackdale Howl wood which blocked the sun and sent the temperature plummeting down as the path regained its cold hard surface, which was briefly softened going through the exposed fields.  Before you get to Whinney bank wood Griff Lodge appears on the right, god what a gorgeous place to live, the view from the south facing window must be incredible, damn those that live there, ha ha!  Quarry bank wood drops you down onto a small road which takes you to within touching distance of Rievaulx Abbey, or what’s left of it.  One of the good things about the winter low level walks is some of the buildings you come across, this abbey looked particularly grand but all we did was look from afar across the cow field, yep, a cow field!  That was Kel sorted for a few minutes looking at the baby ‘Cooos’ while we stood like spare parts on the road.  6Dicko produced some jelly babies which was very welcome while Sue produced some liquorice allsorts that managed to distract Kel from the beef.  We set off across a lovely little bridge crossing an equally stunning stream which also had a cottage siding onto the cold running water, another house on my ‘retire to’ list.  It’s becoming a very big list!

The path stuck to the road for some time, I noticed a large amount of large, posh 4 x 4’s passing us with what looked like very grand looking people in them dressed in tweed.  Back in the forest on Bridge Road the population of pheasants seemed to soar, they were everywhere!  They did their usual trick of running like mad instead of flying away, which as I’ve mentioned before would be my choice of getting about at this time of year for game birds, take to the wing and you could be looking down the business end of a 12 bore held by Harry the Spaniel’s dad.  We passed a few ponds on our right with the world’s supply of mallards, we were obviously in game shooting 7country.  We hit a cross roads in the route and entered Callister Wood and time for bait.  The owners have provided a wooden bench which was very welcome.  Sue produced an array of lovely sandwiches which Dicko obviously complained about, even though he ate.  I had my lovely broth and some ham and cheese sarnies which went down well.  I didn’t sit down like the others as I’m still waiting for Christmar to get my body warmer that the others don on the breaks to keep them warm, so I scoffed stood up and I wasn’t long before we were back on the path and heading up to Cold Kirby.  It’s a steepish rise up through the forest into the sunshine.  The route was littered with the carcases of various game birds which strengthened my shooting area theory, me and Dicko suggested a day shooting which I thought was a cracking idea, if we were both millionaires as they charge thousands for the day as far as I know.  Maybe clay pigeon shooting is more our bag.

8We strolled through Cold Kirby like kids in a sweet shop, pointing at different cottages and houses saying, “I’d have that one, no that one, no that one!”  I think Sue was eyeing up different properties for when Dicko retires soon, I am of course in full support of them spending his ‘lumper’ on a cottage in the countryside!

We pushed on to Cote Moor and our first sighting of deer this winter, another benefit of low level winter walks.  The pair of Does (I think) were stood on the track in Hotel plantation that gave us about 30 seconds of their attention before running off into the forest, not before Kel could get a long distance piccy with her phone.  We crossed the A170 onto High Town Bank Road and made our way down the road towards the Gliding Club and had the pleasure of seeing a few of the flimsy planes taking off and coming into land.  Dicko expressed his desire to go up in one of these toy planes, I 9admit I do have a hatred for flying in planes, I can spend all day in a helicopter no problem but not planes.  Plus, these gliders have collapsible wings which get closed down to transport them.  If you can collapse them on the ground, they can collapse at 10,000 feet so no thanks.  The route leads you to the top of the famous white horse land mark.  You can’t actually get the gist of the horse from the top but there’s an info board near its ear if you wanna know the craic.  Continue the route towards Knowlson Drop you’re in for a treat, there’s an info board with a painting from Turner, and the view is breath taking.  It’s one of the views in the area where the industrial area isn’t in view, it’s gonna give an appearance later on in the walk which I might mention.  The view of Sutton bank from the top shows the scale of the accent for vehicles, no wonder it’s had so many vehicles grind to a halt hallway up.

We got back to my Aygo a few minutes later and the sun was still blazing down on us.  My car very rarely gets passengers in the back so 4 sweating adults steamed my windows up straight away.  Sue’s bickering with her having to use her daysack continued into the car back to Helmsley and into the pub for our post walk pint.

10A good start to this part of the walk, the weather was great, company good as always and the views were absolutely stunning.  It’s great to be back in Yorkshire, I’ve done a few walks on this route in the later stages a few years ago, the eastern side of the horseshoe is fairly demanding but fulfilling.  Stay tuned for the next few miles.

 

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!!