Sunday, 26 August 2012

Swaledale Lead Mines

Looking down on the Old Gang lead smelting mines near Healaugh

Finally!  A weekend day where it wasn’t going to rain all day…..  Well, not until 4pm apparently.  So…. time to get out in the hills.  I’ve been wanting to walk out to the lead mines near Gunnerside for some time, but I’m not used to navigating the Dales by myself, and I kept putting this walk off until I managed to drum up some company.  I’m obviously not paying enough, (a mars bar and a packet of mini cheddars), so today I had to take the plunge and go on my own.
Using Google Earth I'd seen that my planned route wasn’t that difficult and all the paths were clear and could be seen from the satellites.  If anything, the problem would be there are too many paths and tracks, and it would be easy to take the wrong one.  But it did look like finding my way was going to be alright, and I had maps and my GPS.   So, taking it easy as usual, I started from Surrender Bridge at 11am.   
The good thing about being on my own was that this was now my walk, I could potter and wander wherever I wanted, which I did.   The old buildings interested me.  Like everyone else, I wanted to know what happened in them.  Why was that bridge there?  Why this ditch, and that tunnel?  And why were these pillars up there? 

An hour after I started, I was only a mile up the track investigating the “Stone Pillars” above the Old Gang Smelting Mines. 

As usual I took loads of photos.  I might of taken a few more, but for some reason, August is a good month for flying things, particularly crane flys.  Every time I lifted the camera to take a picture, something leggy would fly into my face, or land on my hand.  My natural reaction is to sweep it off in panic.  (Far too leggy and spider like, horrible things).  This resulted in me hitting myself with the camera a couple of times. (Ouch!)  Luckily it still worked.    

Old Gang Beck, also known as Mill Gill, was almost the colour of black coffee, and after the rain of yesterday, the little inlets and streams rushed and bubbled huge volumes of dark brown water down the slopes to join the beck.  The sight and sound is wonderful, very tranquil.

I turned off the track to take a look at Hard Level Force.  I like it here, it’s rugged and rocky and how I always think of the Dales. 

Back on track and take the next bridge left to head over Brownsey Moor towards Gunnerside.  Remember what I said about too many tracks?  The area is  a favourite of the shooting fraternity, judging by the grouse butts, and vehicle tracks which run every way across the Moor, I took the wrong track.  No matter, I got back on route and eventually arrived at the bank overlooking the little valley cut by Gunnerside Beck.  Here I had my lunch.  Wonderful views.
After that came the charming farms at Pottering and Winterings.  It was now about 2 pm and the weather man did what he always does, and got it wrong.  Sadly the rain started.  And I had been hoping for at least another couple of hours dry walking. 
So I pulled on my bright blue, in your face, waterproof jacket and hurried along the grass path (past this):
Quiz question No 1.  Anyone know what this is used for?
to more buildings related to the lead mining industry.  It’s an area of devastation that I find weirdly attractive.  Eventually, Mother Nature will reclaim what’s hers and return everything to green.  But I think the valley will keep that rugged, torn apart look that so many people come this way to see. 

Then it’s a right up the only steep bit of the walk.   A couple stood at the bottom watching me.  I think they were wondering whether or not to follow.  It’s not as difficult as it looked and I managed fairly easily.  I even stayed upright!  They did make me feel all smug and like a proper walking roughie toughie when they turned to take a different path.
It wasn’t too long before I was up at the top and crossing Melbecks Moor Heading back to Hard Level Bridge.  I was hoping to see more Old Gang Mine buildings as the mines were marked on the map up there, but I think this is the actual mining area, and the path goes through the old quarries.  Not very pretty really. 
Quiz question No 2 - Anyone know what this is for?   Related to lead mining or maybe even grouse shooting?

Once I’d got to Hard Level Gill I turned right and headed back down Hard Level Gill, Old Gang Beck, Surrender Bridge and my car.  It was still raining, on and off, but the sun was beginning to show through the clouds and the afternoon was getting to be much more pleasant. Rain still threatened though.
No walk in the Dales is complete without sheep.
My final stop of the day was something I’d seen at the start.  As I parked the car, I noticed across the beck some old buildings that looked like part of the lead mining industry.  So I headed over for a nosey and was very pleased that I did.  Inside this building are a couple of boards, explaining how it was used, what those tunnels were, (chimney’s, weirdly), and what the pillars that I’d been investigating earlier were.

All in all a very good day. The walk was about 10 miles. I took 6 hours over it and really enjoyed it.

This is my planned route of about 11 1/2 miles. Due to time mostly, I cut off the Great Pinseat loop and turned directly back to Surrender Bridge.  I also have to admit to taking the odd wrong turning - I didn't walk by the river, that weird chimney thing is on the path higher up.  :-)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

My first Ben.

Ben A'an.  A little hill in the heart of the Trossachs.  I found the route on Walk Highlands , which is an excellent website with loads of walks as well as a route planner.  This looked perfect for a short excursion into the hills, and wasn't too far a drive from our  friends home in Livingston.

We knew it was going to be steep.  It's only a little over a mile and a bit each way with a climb of 1100ft to get to the summit (1468 feet), but the pictures on WalkHighlands looked so enticing we just had to give it a go.  We got there for an afternoon walk, setting off at around 1.30 pm.  It was hot and muggy, with not much of a breeze. As usual, I was slow at getting up the hill, which meant I was overtaken by young fit people, older fit people, older not very fit people, toddlers, toddlers who have just learnt to walk, hedgehogs, beetles and caterpillars.  Peter enjoys this pace, as it means he can take as much video as he likes, our friends are much faster though, and went ahead in the final stage, which was good, cos that meant they could get the picnic out ready for when we got there.
There are quite a few very steep sections of the walk which is mostly through woodland at the start.  This means you spend that part of it concentrating on moving and keeping your lungs inside your body.
Then suddenly it opens out, and you start to see the scenery around you.
A little hill that thinks it's a mountain. 
The last couple of steep sections bring you to the top of this wonderful little hill that feels like a mountain.  All the time the views are opening out, and you get to see more and more, including your first sight of Ben Venue across the loch. 
Ben Venue
Then we were at the top, the sun was out, the lochs glinted below us and the heather was just beginning to show purple.  Beautiful.
Loch Achray
It's a popular walk, and there were loads of people up there, but I am quite happy with that. Everyone scrambled over the rocks to reach the absolute top of  the peak, and cameras clicked away busily.  Just lovely.
Loch Katrine
Sadly though, we had to leave these glorious views.  But cunningly, we'd left flasks of tea and coffee in the car to entice us down. Exactly what was required by the time we got back to the car. 
So that was our weekend in Scotland.  With the very excellent company of our Scottish hosts, who I must thank again, it was brilliant.  We have to go back now, especially to them there Trossachs, they are awesome. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

We went to visit our friends in Livingston, Scotland,  for a very entertaining weekend which we started with a day in Edinburgh.  The Tattoo is underway up in Edinburgh Castle and the Fringe Festival has taken over the city centre.  The Royal Mile has been closed to traffic, and the place is just FULL of people.   Fantastic.

We took the train in, to save problems with parking and alcohol consumption. From the moment we arrived, we were captivated.   Some of the street acts were absolutely brilliant.  We watched a hysterically funny magician take the mickey and insult everyone in the audience.  Then there was equally funny American on a unicycle and later a flaming torch juggler that lost his pants.  There were living statues, the "most pierced woman", spoon benders and japanese contact jugglers.  Musicians everywhere, (although we didn't see a set of bagpipes all day), and the constant, constant attention of leaflet wielding youngsters.  Their job was to entice you into one of the several hundred stage performances going on in the city.  There was everything you could think off, comedians, bands, magicians and jugglers, plays and drama's, opera, musicals, even a bit of relationship counselling we discovered.  (By accident......more later)
So we meandered up and down, our attention constantly drawn in all different directions - here a martian, over there a choir.  Stilt walkers, a balloon man, men dressed as soldiers from the civil war, a woman in a torn wedding dress, on and on it went.  Mind boggling.
As we wandered, we decided we'd like to see one or two of the shows. The first one we decided on was  when the leaflet "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" was shoved into our hands. We thought it may be some sort of comedy take on the book.  As you may have guessed from my earlier comment, this wasn't quite the case.  We did learn that the guy has to look after his lady like she was a garden, needing constant attention, and the lady has to look after her man like he was a dolphin.  And feed him fish!
This has been a source of jokes between us all ever since.
On the way to the second show of the day, we finally got to hear some bagpipes.  The band busking at the roadside was made up of an electric guitar, a drum set, and a piper.  It was brilliant to hear those pipes playing alongside more modern instruments, playing modern tunes, and sounding awesome. But we couldn't stay long to listen.  We had to get to our next venue, which was to see Jo Caulfield at The Stand.  Absolutely amazingly brilliant.  We had tears running down our faces, we laughed so much.  I am so glad we managed to get tickets for that. I'd very happily pay again and go listen to her all over again. Really really good.
And finally, feeling very satisfied with having had such a brilliant day, it was time to get the train back to Livingston.  A special note should be made here in the form of a thank you to my mate Jenny, who, bless her cotton socks, cannot help herself, she has to organise everything, even when it doesn't need organising.  It's a flaming good job she does though, cos otherwise we wouldn't have got tickets, or anywhere on time, and definitely wouldn't have managed to get one of the best tables in the club to watch Jo Caulfield.

Thanks Jen.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Richmond Live 2012

Peter and I love this local music festival.  There are some brilliant local and not so famous bands.  The atmosphere is great, loads of families and groups out together.  It's a excellent day and a half for Richmond.   Some photographs
Friday Evening, things still yet to build up.  Some good bands, hot dogs and dinky donuts.
Saturday afternoon - one of our favourite bands - The Spirit Levellers
Saturday evening, another favourite - Atlantic Soul Messengers, plus Mini Messengers.

A lovely atmosphere,  music's playing, kids are running about, beer is flowing and the sun is out.

And then it started to rain.  And rain, and rain, and rain and rain.  

But those who did stick it out got a dry starry night ending and to watch Cast.
Richmond Live runs every year, first weekend in August.  Find out about it here Richmond Live Home