Sunday, 31 March 2013

Drifting around Wensleydale

Today was another recce walk for the Walkers Forum meet that I have planned in April.  Mike at Walking Books had very kindly shown me a route to get to the Height of Hazely from West Burton and we were going to try it out.  I should point out that at this point, when Peter started the car up, there was no snow in the area at all.  Nothing.  Nada.  Not a sausage.  Not a white patch nor a slippery bit.

But as we drove out, and took the tank road towards Leyburn, we saw Penhill in the distance, looking really rather beautiful in it's white coat.  My statement of "That looks ominous!", fell on deaf ears.  Peter's attitude is always, "How hard can it be?", and the car sped on.

We parked at Aysgarth falls and paid the £4 all day parking charge.  A quick photo of the Upper Falls:

From there we headed straight out to West Burton. It was a beautiful day, and the snow was only patchy.

A photo stop at West Burton Falls,

and from there we followed the route shown by Mike.  It was easy with just a few checks of both GPS and maps.  I'm now dead chuffed we decided to test it out.  The views across Wensleydale opened out as we climbed.  Quite stunning.

And then we hit the snow! Obviously we'd seen it coming.  You could hardly miss the white blanket covering the hills above us.  We just weren't sure what it was going to be like.  Deep?  Icy?  Too slippy to move across?  We don't have any special sort of ice grips like microspikes.  Would we manage?

As it happens, we didn't need any sort of special grips. Mostly cos the snow was nice and soft and just right to sink up to your nether regions in.  We were not wearing waterproof trousers or gaiters either (cos we don't own gaiters).  I should explain that not wearing gaiters means that when leg goes in snow thigh deep, snow goes up trouser leg.......  Cold!

Actually it was really quite fun.  Luckily for us, a fair number of people who knew the way had walked before us, marking out the path quite clearly with their footsteps.  The snow was soft, not icy, so we weren't slipping and sliding everywhere and we reached the point where we were to turn off the bridleway and follow a wall  up to the summit of Hazely quite easily.

We'd been studying the snow drifts as we walked, some of them amazingly deep, and most of them up against the stone walls.  In fact, we cut our seats out of the one we chose to shelter in whilst we had a pit stop.  The next stage of the walk looked daunting. We had to follow the wall, which was nearly buried under snow, up the hill.  Nobody else had walked that way.  Our footsteps would be the first.  So after a steak pie and hot tea, we prepared ourselves for the challenge.

We'd worked out that it would be better to follow the wall, but keep away from it as it were, because that's where the snow was deepest.  But this would mean that we would be walking across the heathery, boggy snow covered hill, not quite sure what would be underfoot.  I let Peter go first.

After 10 minutes I was beginning to think this was a seriously bad idea.  The going was really tough and looked to be that way for the rest of the climb that we could see.  We couldn't see the summit, or judge what the conditions were going to be like.   Peter on the other hand was his ever optimistic self, and not ready to give up.  He spotted a track (that we should have followed earlier to be honest,), and convinced me we should take it.   When we got to it, walking was much easier, someone had been before us, and once again we could see how deep the snow was.

We shall be forever grateful to that intrepid pair that went aheadt of us.  As we followed their tracks, the path went over a massive snow drift.  The footsteps in front of us didn't sink into it tho'?  And neither did we.  Amazingly, the snowdrifts were very solid, and very easy to walk on.  The footsteps had worked this out too, and moved to the wall, walking on the snowdrifts alongside it.  We followed, delighting in how easy it was to walk on solid drifts rather than the soft snow.

In relatively no time at all, we reached the summit of the Height of Hazely, where we turned left, (west), to follow a fence down to the edge of the hill.  We were quite safe as walked along the edge of the hill, cos there was a wall guarding us from the slopes, well it would have been, if wasn't for the fact that most of the time we could step over it, the drifts were so high.  We were still walking on them, loving the shapes and patterns the wind had carved into our surroundings.

There was still the occasional moment foot went down and snow climbed up the trouser leg, and, in the words of the Pieman, the wind was very definitely "nithering", but the sun and the scenery more than made up for it.  I don't know how many times I'd wished we had a sledge with us.

And then it was time tyo make our way down.  The path I'd chosen is basically a gulley of zigzags down the side of the hill.  Bits of it are quite steep.  We just thought...... "BOBSLEIGH RUN!"

Boy that would have been so much fun.  All we needed was that sledge.

We got a little confuddled at the bottom, but I remembered this part of the route always did that, because what is on the ground does not match the maps.  Not a problem, we soon found our way to the next snowdrift over the wall,  (there was a little stile/gate underneath there somewhere), on to the final stretch of our walk and our last impressionable encounter with the drifting snow.
We were supposed to walk down a farm lane, only we couldn't, cos it was full of snow.  Not much of the white stuff on the outside of the lane walls, but inside it was easily four of five foot deep and filled the lane almost completely.  The only way to go was to walk on top.  It felt a bit like we were walking on air, above the walls and fields on either side. Surreal!.  This next picture was supposed to show what it was like, how deep it was and the footsteps on top.  It looks a bit arty tho'.  That's Penhill behind.

And shortly after, we were back at the car park.   We hadn't needed any special sort of winter boot grips in the snow, luckily, but I should point out that the wet muddy grassy paths elsewhere more than made up for that, I slipped all over the place.

A good walk just over 10 miles and 2000ft of ascent. We're supposed to going to the Lake District tomorrow, I hope we've got enough energy.

To see another on a different route not including the Height of Hazely, click here:- Aysgarth to Penhill

To read about the same walk, but this time in the sun a couple of weeks later, click here:- Aysgarth to Penhill with the Walkers Forum

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Just a quickie

I keep thinking that I should be out more and getting fitter.  Peter wanted to work today, so I took a wander down to Colburn Batts, to see how the bird folk were getting on.  I was hoping there would be masses of migrating birds taking a rest stop in the lakes.

There was a little bit of an obstacle on the way:  a little bit of a landslide to be honest.  This little bit has slid onto the Coast to Coast path.

Not a problem though, everybody has just been walking over it.  Twas a bit slippy n slidey n muddy underfoot  tho'.

Passing Colburn Hall, I waved at these two.  Next years Sunday roast probably, but for now, they are just dead cute.

Sadly when I got to the Batts, no sign of greylags or canada geese. But I did get to watch a kestrel hover and dive, see a cormorant look well out of place on the lake, and see the tufted ducks, coots, goosanders, mallards, swans and gull, including this handsome couple.  (He's chasing off a youngster in this pose by the way.)

And she's just posing cos she can.

And the bonus was a charm of goldfinches in the trees on the way back.

Just short of 7 miles.  Tomorrow we have a little bit further planned.  

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A walk in the white stuff

It's been a weekend of snow.  More for some than others.  People in the west have seen 20ft snowdrifts. People in the east noticed a few snowflakes driving home.   Richmond is in the middle, it snowed, but the roads were clear, and it melted from the houses and rooftops quite quickly.

I knew we had to get out this weekend, and since the roads were blocked  or dangerous in most directions, we decided on a local walk.  We could easily turn back if the conditions were too difficult.  Peter had his birthday gear to try out, (new rucksack and windproof fleece), and I've never tried to do a hill walk in the snow before, so I had a new type of walk to experience. 

So off we went up the familiar route to Williance's Leap.  Unlike the town, there was plenty of snow out on the hills and fields.  I think we spent most of the walk ploughing through about six inches of it.  The landscape is so different covered in snow, and we paused to take photographs.

Up on top of Whitcliffe Scar I was amazed and delighted at the patterns the wind carved into the snow on the ground.  Much of the open grassland was nearly clearof the white stuff, as it had been blown into deep drifts.  We discovered a couple by sinking into them!

I have to admit taking loads of photographs as Peter battled to get out of the snow.  He did get his own back tho', see the video at the end. 

It was all brilliant fun. I started to wish we'd bought a sledge with us. We walked on, admiring the way the wind carved the snow into fantastical shapes

From Williance's Leap we turned north and headed for pine tree plantation.
The path looks like something from a Christmas scene. It's deceiving.  Underneath all that pretty white stuff was a very sloppy, muddy, boggy path.  We took to following deer tracks figuring the deer knew where was dry. They did! 

We took a few minutes at the edge of the wood to enjoy hot coffee and chocolate and noticing how wierd it is that the snow doesn't blow up against the walls.

We went on, past High Coatsgarth to Low Moor,

And up the hill towards Richmond Gallops.  (One of my favourite pictures).

 before we we finally hit the road road and headed home.
It was a brilliant few hours.  Only 6 miles and 750ft of climbing, but some of it was hard work, as you will be able to see from Peter's video.

(And  If you're wondering at the "Ow!" noises, it's cos a pulled muscle in me back keeps making me wince. It's getting better tho').  Here's the map.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Back in me boots and out in the Dales

After all that gadding about in foreign climes, (see the cruising blog), I'm back in good ole England, enjoying the cold, damp and dull days of our winter.  Peter got home a week after me,  and it's taken a little while to get back into the routine of work and weekends, just long enough for the days to lengthen and the sun to start making an appearance.
And it did today.  Glorious sunshine.  Not quite as hot as in Isle Du Salut, but wonderfully warm and hinting of Spring.  And we were ready for it.  Today we were off to recce parts of a walk I'm planning to lead in April. 
The walk is in Swaledale and starts at Surrender Bridge.  I've been up here a few times, but we wanted to check out some paths we've not been along before.  Good job too.  This area is used by the shooting fraternity and is criss crossed with tracks, misleading walkers trying to follow the rights of way.  We got confused several times and ended up walking up and down hills we shouldn't have.  But who cares, the sun was out and so were we.

So we started at Surrender Bridge, and made our way Southwest in a big curve heading towards Gunnerside Beck.  As always, the views around us were wonderful.

Despite appearances, the air was anything but quiet.  The grouse are just setting themselves up for a bit of a canoodling and nesting.  Boy grouse chase away other boy grouse from the best nesting pads.  And all the boys chase the girls if she's silly enough to let them see her. And if that wasn't noisy enough, it's also the time of the year to burn off the heather, causing grouse, lapwings and crows to get all het up and make a right racket.
The smoke came over our heads and kept getting into the camera shots, making them look even blurrier than  

We could see Great Shunner Fell, still wearing a snowy coat

This is Potting Farm.  I can't think of anything more Dales like.

From there we made our way up and down until we reached the old mine buildings at Gunnerside Gill. The area has been ravaged by the lead mining processes and all you can see are spoil heaps.  But the scarred landscape has a strange beauty.

After lunch in the sun, we moved on to climb up onto the moors.  There are a couple of scrambly routes up, we followed Bunton Hush.

A hush is a sort of mine area, I read up on it all here Lead Mining in the Yorkshire Dales
Once we'd got to the top, we were surprised and a little bit delighted by how much snow still remained.

Making our way between Friarfold and Melbecks Moor, the snow made patterns in the landscape.

The second set of old buildings of the walk were the Old Gang Smelting Mills.  Fascinating places, they make you wonder who, what, where and how.

And the sun is still shining.  Blue skies, tired legs, but happy hearts as we followed the Old Gang Beck back to our car.

A wonderful day out.  8 1/2 miles, and 1500ft of up (and down).  Here's the map.

To see more pictures and read about a different walk, click here:- Swaledale Leadmines August 2012

To see and read more of the same walk, but this time including the wonderful Blakethwaite mines, waterfall and dam, click here:-Lead mine walk with the Walkers Forum