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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!

 

 

Got my new boots, RIP my Merrells!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windy up Fairfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A hop up Holme Fell and Black Crag with the hound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hike up High Rigg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.