Saturday, 30 June 2012

My First Visit to the Peak District

Peter on Mam Tor Trig Point
Peter had to cancel one of his weekend workshops which meant we would have a weekend free together. “Where are you taking me?” I demanded! His answer was a weekend camping in Hope, Derbyshire with two days walking. I got really excited about this, as I haven’t been to the Peak District before. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Last year went camping in the Lake District which wasn’t the best of experiences, because our old bones didn’t like resting on the ground and we didn’t sleep much. So this time we had a cunning plan……… Camp beds!

We arrived Friday night, and set up camp at the Laneside Caravan Park where our little tent looked out of place amongst the caravans and glampers. After a good night’s sleep, we woke to a dry Saturday morning, and after coffee and biscuits for breakfast, (well….. they were oat biscuits), Peter drove us to the start of our first walk. Parking just below Mam Tor, we booted up and set off.
The path to Hollins Cross and then Back Tor
A few things surprised and pleased me. The first was the little engraved stones in the path on the way up, which I thought were delightful. The second was how quickly it was that we got to the Trig Point of Mam Tor, but then, we’d driven most of the way. And the third thing that surprised me was the path itself. I know that the land has to be protected because walkers can grind the path down into a trench by sheer numbers, and that stones are laid to prevent this. But I suppose I wasn’t expecting so much of our route to be paved. Personally I prefer to walk on grass, as you have to watch your feet on these sort of paths, and can’t lift your head much to look at your surroundings.

The weather was good. Nice and dry and even a little bit of sun as we walked From Mam Tor on to Hollins Cross then down across the valley floor into Edale. We even stopped for a bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee.
Then it was up the other side onto Kinder Scout via Grindsbrook Clough.

Well, I say walked. There isn’t much walking up Grindsbrook Clough, more along the lines of a clamber up the rocks and boulders of Grinds Brook.

As we climbed, the sky darkened, and we started to get the odd spot of rain. Peter put on his little packaway wetproof. I had a fight with my poncho...... We eventually got to the top and took a well earned rest, enjoyed the view and had a bite to eat.

We set off again. Not across Kinder Scout, though Peter tells me it’s fun, sort of, if you have wellies or maybe a set of waders and a compass, but we did walk along the edge to Noe Stool. Now the weather got really miserable. The wind picked up and the rain came down. Peter put on his little packaway wetproof. I had a fight with my poncho again, but now it proved to be worth it. I was all snug and warm inside whilst Peter got wet. We were still on mostly paved path, but sadly I never got to see the various rock formations along the edge properly. The weather was appalling and we didn’t lift our heads much. Getting a camera out was even more unlikely. I did manage a view pictures though.

We got to Noe Stool and headed around the top of Edale Vale via Brown Knoll and Horsehill Tor to Rushup edge, leaving the stone path behind us. The cold wind and rain continued and here I got a taste of the peak bogs. Our path was completely waterlogged and Peter and I had to zigzag our way across the moor to try and at least keep our lower legs dry, (our feet were already soaked). Now I know why so much of the paths up here are paved. All of a sudden I really like those paving stones, they are truly wonderful, they stop you sinking into the wet blackness!
The walk from Brown Knoll to Rushup edge was really tiring, and we very relieved to finally reach the good sandy path which would take us back to our car.
The path along Rushup Edge, taken earlier in the day, in dry weather!
And then the rain stopped, and the wind eased off, and we were able to enjoy the last part of our walk with views across the Vale of Edale and Hope Valley.

Our route

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Bow Fell and The Packwoman's Grave

Today was another Walking Forum get together, where I met three other intrepid adventurers Rich, Kev and John, for a walk up to Bow Fell. 
Just before we started, the very knowledgeable Kev told us the story of the Packwoman’s grave.  She was:
an elderly hawker who travelled the hills towards the latter part of the 18th century. Peddling general wares at Lakeland farms, she would have been a well known visitor and no doubt her local knowledge would have enabled her to plan her itinerary to ensure that she reached shelter before nightfall.  Unfortunately, one morning she was discovered still surrounded by her wares, having apparently frozen to death in the remote hills. As it would be known that no claims would be made upon the corpse an immediate rudimentary burial was expedited”    Paul Grantham Packwoman’s Story. 
She is mentioned in Wainwrights books, he thinks she was buried around 1790.  Because her story is not well known, and because the grave is not easily seen from the path, it isn’t visited often.

Our little group was easily persuaded to change the planned route and venture where no man had been before (that day…….. probably), to find her.  We also wanted to walk along the Climbers Traverse to find a spring under Bow Fell Buttress where the water was sparkly clear and clean enough to drink.  So, we set off for the path up The Band towards the great Bow Fell.
The last time I walked along The Band, we were coming down, and it had seemed to take absolutely forever.  Today wasn’t so bad though, despite the fact we were going up it seemed to be much shorter.
I’m beginning to learn and recognise fells and peaks around me, and I sort of feel much more comfortable about the area, because I have a better idea of where I am.  I did of course keep asking the others “Tell me again…. what’s that one called?”
From The Band we walked under along the Climbers Traverse under very impressive crags and buttresses below Bow Fell summit.  Massive, dominant they leaned over us. I could imagine the delight of climbers when they first see them. Awe inspiring.
We found the spring, and yes, the water is delicious.  Very cold, very clear, and tasting like melted snow. Lovely.  After filling everyone’s bottles, we scrambled up the rocks alongside the Great Slab to reach the last stretch of path to the summit.  Now we’d got to the top, it was time to rest and admire the views……. And experience our first midge attack.  Blasted things.  For being so tiny, they can be massively irritating.
From our viewpoint,  I was very interested in Scafell since Peter has said that this is where we’ll go when we visit for our camping trip.  I don’t know if anyone else can see it, but Scafell Pike sort of reminds me of the head of an octopus from this angle.
So now, after climbing all that way up, it is time to go all the way down.  We stopped at Angle Tarn for a five  minute rest, snack, drink and midge attack.  The midge attack was the reason we only stopped for five minutes.  I wandered over to see the tarn close up.  Very clear water, no fish or minnows to be seen, just a single tadpole. Lovely though, and I bet brilliant to swim in on a hot day. 

Then we took the path down beside Rossett Pike (which doesn’t look very big from Angle Tarn) and down to Rossett Gill.  Looking across and over the edges of the path which has been created by setting stones into the bank, Kev spotted the cross of rocks and stones that marks the grave.  Pleased with his find, we made our way down and over to see the last resting place of The Packwoman.  It was actually a lovely spot, loverlooking Mickleden and Langdale, surrounded by the Fells.  I am sure there are worse places to spend eternity.
More of her story here: Lakeland Hunting Memories - Packwoman's Grave 
A few minutes absorbing the scene, and then it was time to complete the final leg of the walk, down to the valley floor and alongside Mickleden Beck, following the stream round into Langdale until we finally got to back to the Stickle Barn for a well earned pint (of orange and lemonade), and a bowl of chips.  The weather had been good to us, we have had a brilliant and interesting walk, and despite John suffering a bit of pain due to a heel problem, we all had an excellent day.
Just over 8 ½ miles and 2863ft  of up (and down again).  Our route:
And finally, a view from the top of Bow Fell:
Peter and I are due to stay at the National Trust site for a weekend in July.  Not all my previous experiences of the site are brilliant (not much sleep for example), but the good memories are obviously much stronger than the bad ones, Eating chips and enjoying the evening sun, watching the shadows move across Langdale, I got all excited about our forthcoming camping trip..........  Scafell here we come!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Gaping Gill

I've been planning this one for a while, ever since we fell in the beck on a walk up to Ingleborough and Peter had told me he'd been down there.  He said that the cave at the bottom of Gaping Gill was big enough to house York Cathedral.  This I had to see.  So I did the research and found out that Bradford Pothole Club have a winch meet every Spring Bank Holiday.   I persuaded Peter to keep me company and visit the cave again and we set of early (for us) to get to Clapham village and then Gaping Gill before the rush. 
The only way to get to the cave entrance is to walk 3 miles from Clapham Village, so once parked up we set off to arrive at the winch meet at around 10 am.  We got our "tag" which is basically a number telling you your place in the queue.  I had 99,  Peter had 100.  People with tags around 60-65 were being called forward to take their turn.  We were told it would be about 1 ½  hours before we would get our go.  We had expected this, and sat down to watch the goings on.
And there were a lot of goings on.  One of the things the Pothole Club do is provide hard hats and waterproof overalls.  People were rummaging through the attractive green garments to find their size and then retiring to their spot on the hill to get the blasted thing on.  One guy was trying to get into an set of overalls that didn't fit. He couldn't get them over his shoulders, so his friend tried to help him. They were yanking and pulling and he almost ended up on the floor. We couldn't help but laugh outright, poor guy.  Luckily he was laughing too and didn't take offence. Once they'd managed it, it became obvious that the set he'd chosen had been designed for a gnome.  The trouser bottoms were just below his knees, he couldn't do the fastenings up, and I'm certain he couldn't bend in the middle.

We watched the people arrive and get their tags, the people being winched down, the people being winched up and the goings on of the proper cavers.  1 hr 30 mins went past really quickly.
Tip for anyone else doing this, take extra layers of clothes.  Depending on the weather, you can get really cold whilst waiting.  We kept our coats and gloves on to go into the cave too because we were told it can be very cold and damp. And pick overalls at least two sizes too big. Both Peter and I had the same fight with our protective clothing as the man earlier.  Hysterically funny all over again.  
Then it was our turn.  I was a little worried about the winch.  It looked quite fast as people went down, and I imagined it would give a stomach lurch like a fast lift.  Actually, it didn't.  It was  really smooth and easy.  Going down, I tried to look about me and see as much as I could.  Awesome. The next picture is an attempt to give some sort of scale.  That's the winch seat containing a person in the middle of the photograph. 

And then, very quickly, I was at the bottom, with my eyes adjusting to the light.  They set big halogen type lights up so that you can see the full size of the cave.  And it is big!
To be honest, as far as caves go, this one is relatively plain.  What I mean by that is there are not wondrous stalactites, or stalagmites, or crystals or rock formations to grab your attention.  It is a very big cave, with lots of nooks and crannies for caving type people to investigate. 
We admired the waterfalls, the light from Gaping Gill, the shapes and layers of rock in cave walls, the sheer enormity of the space around us and read the information provided.  For cavers, Gaping Gill is a wondrous place with loads of exits leading to a network of passages, further caves and "halls".  We watched with interest as the helmet lights appeared high in the main cave wall, descended down to floor and moved along to disappear into another hidden passage.  
We took loads of pictures, knowing that there wasn't enough light for the camera's.  But we tried anyway.  Peter’s camera did better than mine, and the next photographs were taken by him.

And then, once we'd had our fill of the dark, it was time to go back up.  So we waited our turn before going out the way we came.  We handed in our tags, (so that they knew we were back and didn't send down a search party), and sat on the bank to eat lunch before heading for our next little trip underground.  

Ingleborough Cave

The idea was to make a day of this, so after visiting Gaping Gill, we walked back to Ingleborough Cave,  which is on the way to Clapham village and our car.  There's a little shop where you can get a hot cup of tea, and where we bought our tickets for a tour of the cave.  Buying these tickets gives you the rights to use the loo too.  

I like caves (although not squashed places), and had always fancied a visit inside this one.  I have a fascination for all those weird and wonderful shapes inside.  The tours run every half an hour and take an hour to complete.  Our guide was very entertaining, and made the tour especially fun, telling stories of Victorian visits, soot drawing and escaped alligators. He also told us of the connecting passage between Gaping Gill and Ingleborough Cave that had been found, before a rock fall blocked the route.

We both felt the tour was a bit rushed though, and would probably have preferred a little longer walking round. To be honest, every cave tour we've ever done has seemed rushed.  Perhaps it's us?

The cave was fascinating, glistening rock formations, water dripping everywhere, stalactites, stalagmites, and wonderful shadows cast by the lights.  Apart from preferring another half hour down there, I really enjoyed it. 

A dragon in the rock

And a fantastical ceiling

All in all a very good day out, topped off with pint for Peter and a coffee for me in Clapham Village.  

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cleveland Way Day 3

I feel I need to be fitter and get out more, so I met up with a couple of guys from the Walking Forum.  They were doing the Cleveland Way, and invited me to join them for a day.  (Before we start, I did warn them I was slow!)


It was a brilliant day, maybe not weather wise because it was overcast and cloudy, and the “clag” came down on us once or twice. There is 11 ½ miles and 2500 ft of up on the Cleveland Way Day 3, described as the most difficult day of the total walk.

Cloudy and overcast views across the moors

2500 ft of up actually means five hills.  We were up and down like up and down things.   Hard work for little ole unfit me, but not for my two walking companions, who were very obviously much more used to this sort of thing. 
They were perfect gentlemen though, Andy kept offering to help lighten my rucksack, and they both kept telling me not to worry about me slowing them down. 

Roseberry Topping framed by half a stone circle

I did slow them down though.  At each and every hill they went straight up, I huffed and puffed behind and they waited very patiently at the top.
However, we completed the 11 miles in what was a very, very respectable time for me, (I think it would have been about 6 ¼ hrs, including breaks), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

A lovely walk along the edge of Kirby Bank

I found it hard work, but to some extent, that is what gives you a sense of achievement isn’t it?  And I love being out in the open, with the fields, trees, hills and sky all around.

Hill number 4!

A very big thank you to Andy and Chris for letting me slow them down, and for being so nice about it.  They even said I could go along with them again (although I think they were being polite).

Finally, the Wain Stones, the last hill of the walk! 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Rievaulx Abbey

With a much valued day off from work, I persuaded Peter to stop working and join me for a potter out.  We started with a visit to a Yeomans camping display near York, where I got me a nice new sleeping bag, and then drove down through the Castle Howard Estate to Rievaulx Abbey. 
We paused at Castle Howard to see what was on offer, but decided not to stay, mostly due to cost and time to be honest.  But we did take advantage of the farm shop to get our supper.  (Really good value).  We also met a very handsome peacock who, despite making a lot of noise, didn't feel the need to give us a full display of his tail feathers.  He did look good though. 

Rievaulx Abbey turned out to be better than expected.  We were given audio guides, which explained very well the purpose of each room or hall.  I found out about lay men, and how they were different from the monks, the Abbey drains, and how the monks used to make leather.  Eeeugh! 

We spent a good hour or so wandering the ruins and taking pictures.  An amazing place.

And before you comment, yes, I know about the head!.  :-D