Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Coledale Round - My Way

Most people set off to complete their walks with a purpose and a destination in mind.  I do usually.  But not this time.  This time it all just sort of happened.

It started with an intent and purpose.  It started with three men, a dog, and me meeting in Braithwaite at 9 am to do the Coledale Round.  The three men (and the dog) wanted to tackle all the highest and most difficult peaks in passing while they were at it, I would probably not.  So off we set up Grisedale Pike.  Trouble is, the four of them (including the dog) were like young whippets.  Me?  I was more like a worn out, over tired, grey old mongrel.
Looking over Braithwaite near the start of the walk 
The trouble with that situation is that the fast walkers are itching to get on and up the next hill, and no matter how patient they try to be, it feels like a forced march for really slow walkers like myself to keep up.  In fact, it sort of makes things worse, because in the effort to keep up, you get exhausted quickly, which actually makes you even slower.   You wish you had more lung power, better leg muscles and a magical energy source. But you don't, and it's exhausting and you stop enjoying the walk.

So we had a parting of the ways, cos I told them that I couldn't do it and I was gonna turn round at the top of the next ridge.  (Sleek How on the way up to Grisedale Pike by the way).  A quick goodbye, and off they went at their speed, and off I jolly well pottered at mine.

Thing is, now the pressure was off, I did exactly that.  I jolly well pottered. I pottered around at the bottom of Sleek How, taking pictures, looking around and  looking up at the final stretch to Grisedale Pike.  It didn't look that hard to be honest.  I mean, I was here now, and it would be stupid not to.
Looking Sleek How to Grisedale Pike
OK, so I took me time about it, but soon enough,  I was at the top with these wonderful views.
The big lump of Grasmoor centre left, Little Sand Hill in the middle,  and pointy Hopegill Head centre right
I sat and had a drink and nibble, and looked around a bit more.  I decided I wanted a better look down the valley in front of Hopegill Head, and I had loads of time, so I pottered on a little bit further.
Looking down the valley of Hobcarton.  Ladyside Pike on the left.
And I kept pottering.  Next I pottered across Coledale Hause, I wanted to have a good look down Gasgale.
Whiteside on the right
I liked the the little beck running down from Eel Crag
Eel Crag ahead, or is that above?
I spent some time at the head of Coledale looking down the valley and deciding whether or not I wanted to take the Miners Path back to Braithwaite.  But it was far too early, and like a kid, I didn't want to go home yet. I looked across at the other side of the valley, working out how to get to the paths I could see, but as easily as possible.  Now, there's this path that runs round the back of Eel Crag..............

As I set off,  I met a really lovely couple, who chatted away and kept me company for a bit.  Before you know it I was on top of High Crag....   Huh?
From High Crag - looking over Coledale. Blencathra, Skiddaw and chums dead ahead
A little further and we were on Sail, looking along Sail Beck at Buttermere
Buttermere can just be seen beyond Sail Beck
My companions went over Causey Pike from here.  But even at dawdley, pottering, gentle meandering speed, I knew me legs could only carry me so far and so high.  I chose to go down to Outerside and follow the path back to Braithwaite.  An excellent decision, even if I say so meself.
From Outerside, looking down past Stile End, Barrow and beyond.  Great Mell Fell in the distance.
Walking down Outerside, the sun came out, so I plonked me tired behind on a bit of heather and enjoyed a pit stop.  What a lovely place to rest.
Oh my.  Just lovely. 
Then it was the last stretch, and I couldn't resist taking this photograph before they disappeared from view.
My last little potter
So as it happens, I sort of did the Coledale Round.  I know I'd meant to at the start, but I hadn't planned to by the finish,  if you know what I mean.  So I was quite chuffed with meself.  (9 miles and 3700 ft of up by the way).

Next weekend it's Blencathra.  Now that is gonna be fun............

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Dales Weekend with the Walkers Forum - Swaledale

So, after a wonderful walk in Wensleydale yesterday, it was time for something completely different I'd decided to show Swaledale to the Walkers Forum  members, and take them to see the devastation caused by the lead mines of the 19th century.

We'd arranged to meet at Surrender Bridge, which, one of the forum members pointed out "is in the middle of nowhere!"  Despite a good turnout of the folks who'd joined me yesterday plus three, the sun decided it couldn't be bothered and we were left with dark clouds and drizzle for the whole day.  But Walkers Forum members are a cheerful bunch, and they certainly weren't gonna let a bit of sogginess spoil the occasion. So, after a bit of a delay, (cos we'd started in the middle of nowhere, which is hard to find apparently), we set off on a big loop to investigate the lead mines and smelting mills of Gunnerside Beck and more.

(By the way, many of the following photographs were taken during a different walk - you'll recognise the ones taken during the forum walk -grey skies and rain spots on the camera lens!)

Looking over Swaledale from Feetham Pasture
I remembered me manners this time, and made sure we had a "banana break" about a quarter of the way along.  And I remembered to find somewhere out of the wind and I even provided sweeties.  (See, my walk leading skills are improving.... (Sort of......  As long as you don't mention the word compass!)).

After the break, we continued our way around the side of Brownsey Moor into the little dale cut out by Gunnerside Beck and on to the first set of ruins and spoil heaps left by the mining industry. Weirdly, the torn and ruined landscape is striking and attractive. The spoil heaps and the mining scars somehow fit into the wild beauty of the surroundings.

Approaching Gunnerside Lead Mines
The walk continues alongside the beck, only now it's a gill, Blakethwaite Gill to be precise. It's odd to think that during the mining days, many people would have walked these paths daily to get to work and back. Now only a few people use them, to see the remnants of the industry those first walkers laboured in, to wonder at past lives, ruins and a changed landscape.

We walked up to the point where Blind Gill joins Blakethwaite Gill. There are more old smelting mill ruins here and the whole area is wonderfully photogenic.
Approaching Blind Gill 
The mill ruins, Blind Gill on the left, Blakethwaite Gill on the right
Looking back along Blakethwaite Gill to Gunnerside from the mill ruins
From here, we continued alongside the gill until we reached the Blakethwaite Dams.  I've never been here before, which is rather remiss of me, cos it's wonderful. We ate lunch behind the ruined dam at the top this waterfall.
Waterfall at Blakethwaite Dam
Up until this point, we'd walked over rugged ground, crossing becks and boggy patches, constantly watching where we put our feet.  Thankfully, there were gentlemen among us ready to offer a helping hand across the difficult bits. Our route back was so much easier, as all we hat to do was follow a track - back to the hushes above Gunnerside, and then across Melbecks Moor to Hard Level Gill.  In fact, it easy enough for the Three Musketeers to start playing I Spy.

 I spy with my little eye, something beginning with E.............

Looking over Blakethwaite Gill to Melbecks Moor from Blakethwaite

Nobody got that one, (we think Chris was being a bit tooooo clever,), the answer was epidermis.

Exposed as we were on the high ground, the wind blew hard and the drizzle was cold and sharp, but it wasn't long before we got over the moor to Hard Level Gill, and then on the little waterfall, Hard Level Force.

Our last stop was what is probably the most well known set of ruins of the area, The Old Gang Smelting Mills on Old Gang Beck.  If you look around the here, there is an old peat store, and more ruins nearby.  Information boards help you identify what's what. 

And then, we were quickly back at Surrender Bridge.  

It was a lovely walk, despite the weather.  My walking buddies were all excellent company and seemed to really enjoy the route, all of them wanting to do it again.  (Which is class and made me feel dead proud of little Gunnerside and Blakethwaite).  Thank you to the Three Musketeers, Helen, Lynn, Karl and Anne for keeping a smile on their faces despite the weather, and for letting me show them one of my favourite places in The Dales.

11 miles, and somewhere between 1850 and 2400 ft of ascent (depends which map loading or gps system you use).  Here's a map for anyone else who wants a go

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A Dales Weekend with the Walkers Forum - Wensleydale

I had the "brilliant" idea of setting up a Walkers Forum meet.  I mean, it can't be that hard?   I know parts of the Dales quite well, and I thought it would be nice to show the area off.   I'd also been sort of nagged to set one up, which might have had an influence.

I originally planned it for 23rd/24th March, then changed me mind because I wouldn't be ready by then.  Good job n'all, cos that was the weekend that the country got snowed in.  I set it instead for 20th/21st April with the idea it would be 8-10 miles per day.  I should be able to manage that............  I think.

Thing is, when I got to planning the routes, I wanted to include everything, which meant the walks kept getting longer.  They ended up  at 12 miles and 11 miles, which in turn made me worry, cos I didn't think I was fit enough to cover that sort of distance.  I mean - I'd hardly done any proper distances this year.

So I've got the route, and posted the meet, and watched to see if people would attend.  It's more worry when you do this..........  Will people want to come?  Will you have loads of people put their names down?  No-one wants to be a Billy No Mates, and even worse, no-one wants to be a public Billy No Mates.

This the tiniest new lamb I've seen
 As it happened, I was dead chuffed that a few people I've walked with before took the plunge and agreed to walk with me, including the very gentlemanly Chris and Andy from Cleveland Way Day 3,  and Tracey, who organised a walk on Derwent Edge.   For the record, the guy who nagged?  He didn't join us.   

So.  Walk 1 on Saturday - from Aysgarth to West Burton, up to the Height of Hazely, across to Penhill and back round in a big loop to Aysgarth.  (Me n Peter had reccied the route the other week - Drifting around Wensleydale, only it looked a bit different then, a lot whiter!)  Chris, Andy, Tracey and the lovely Helen that I've not met before, and of course me, set off at 10am to view some of the delights of Wensleydale.   The bonus companion, that I have to mention, because it made our day, was the sun.  Glorious sunshine all day, we even got sunburnt,  Brilliant!

Some pictures...........  (Not sure why I never took any of Aysgarth Upper Falls?)
Aysgarth Middle Falls
Aysgarth Lower Falls
West Burton Falls
What a beeauuuuutiful day

Gaining height and looking over Wensleydale
Another worry about leading a walk like this is the constant concern that everyone was enjoying the day, you're constantly sort of checking.  Are people happy?  Do they look happy?  Is it what they expected?  Do they like the walk that I like and spent ages working out for them?  I have to admit to not having thought this out properly, and my poor walking companions walked for hours without a break and ended up eating lunch in the wind.  (Heartless I am).  But they all seemed very forgiving, and in my defence, your honour, the views from the end of Penhill are lovely. 

We ended up changing the route slightly and adding another mile on our way down.  It was just so wonderful to be out, with  miles of open land and sky on such a gorgeous day. 
The Three Musketeers - (or should that be the Three Amigos?)
On the way back, one of my favourite views of the River Ure.
All in all, a lovely walk on a lovely day.  Map of the route on the recce walk here Drifting around Wensleydale

To Tracey, Chris, Andy and Helen - thank you so much for your company, and for not complaining when you ended up eating lunch in a gale, and for looking happy during the walk.  And even better, you came back for more.........

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Castles on the coast

Lindisfarne Castle
It was gonna rain where we live, so we decided to scoot off somewhere drier.  We picked Holy Island, which could be considered very undry if you're in the wrong place when the tide comes in, but the sun was due to shine over that little piece of coastline, so we set off for a look at a different life.

A little bit of planning is required before making a visit.  It's important to check the tide times to see when it's safe to cross the causeway : Holy Island timetable 2103,  but I reckon it's even more important to stick to it, rather than get stuck.  Islanders are a tad fed up of having to rescue folks from the causeway cos they can't read the huge signs telling you it's not safe to cross.

So after checking the tide times, I printed off a map of the island aided by walkhighlands, so that we could plan a walk around.  And, because it's a two hour drive to get there, we also decided that we might look n see what else Northumberland has to offer whilst we were up that way.

Driving across the causeway is sort of fun n surreal, and guaranteed to get your car covered in mucky salty water.  Parking is cheap enough, but we didn't have a lot of change, so we only had three hours for our visit.  Holy Island isn't that big, but if you do want to visit The Priory (£5.20 per adult), Lindisfarne Castle (£6.50 per adult), take a wander around the village and have a walk around the island, you'll need a lot longer than three hours.

Upside down boats turned into sheds?   Cool.

We chose to walk round the island, enjoying the coastline, the sun and the wind.  The wind really was a major feature of the day.  Luckily it wasn't cold, but whoa, what a blast!  Literally.........  It was exhilarating, as we played at leaning in to it, coats out like parachutes, loving the feel and the power of it.  Buffeting us about, it made the walk much more interesting for certain.
Lindisfarne Carstle and the Lime Kiln

Our walk was about 5 miles in total, and I loved being on the coastline and amongst the sand dunes.  Awesome!

It was still early afternoon when we'd finished, and we took the coast road south to see what we could of a couple of castles.  The first was Bamburgh Castle - we had just a quick look at the outside.

And then we drove on to Dunstanburgh Castle which is a bit more our thing to be honest.  I love a good ruin.  We walked to it from the Dunstanburgh Golf course, lovely weather, lovely sunshine.  Brilliant.

A brilliant day out.  And we walked about seven miles as well.

Up along Gunnerside Beck

I took a walk out Swaledale way again today to test me new boots.  Apparently you are supposed to break them in.  I'm thinking the boots were breaking me in!   Suffice to say I ended up with a couple of blisters.  Nothing too painful, but definitely some more breaking to do.

Anyway despite sore feet, a thoroughly pleasant day, I really like the area around Gunnerside Beck. 

So does the snow apparently (like the area around Gunnerside Beck that is), it doesn't want to leave!

These ridges/drifts/banks of snow can be found on route up the sides of the little dale onto Melbecks Moor via the hushes, easily 8-10ft deep. .  I went up  Friarfold Hush this time.  Me leg muscles are still aching, from either digging, pressing and testing steps in the snow, or from having to haul the complete said legs out of snow nether region deep, hopefully with the boot still attached.  And I walked right at the very edge of this lot!

Hard work, or even a hard workout, but I feel I am learning all the time.  

Tomorrow me n himself are off to Holy Island.  I'm really looking forward to that. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013


We knew the weather was going to be good, so after a very late start, we set off across the A66 heading for the Lake District.

We wanted to have a go at Blencathra, but the thing about Lake District fells is that the sides tend to be steeper than the slopes of our lovely local Yorkshire Dales.  Slipping and falling here is more likely to end in pain, and neither of us fancied slipping off  Blencathra.  Looking Blencathra's snowy topping we decided to drive past, heading for Keswick and a lower, safer walk.  Catbells and High Spy here we come.  Did you know you can see Catbells from a webcam on the MWIS site here? 

We set out  to walk a circular route of 8 1/2 miles. The weather was fantastic, there were loads of people out enjoying the sunshine.  On a day like today, it would be hard to take a bad photograph. 
Skiddaw, Blencathra and a few others looking stunning in the sunshine.  
Views on our right as we walked,  Causey Pike and the Derwent Fells
The Northern Fells from Catbells.  Derwent Water in the foreground.  Beautiful.
This tent at the top of Catbells belongs to an entrepreneurial pair of lads who used the snow and made tea and coffee for the walkers as they reached the top.  For a price of course.   They probably got several hundred pounds from it, judging by the numbers of walkers handing over the cash.  Note snowy  Bull Crag behind - the next fell of our walk. 
We reached the summit of Catbells, loving the views, the sun, everything.  It was now afternoon, so we stopped for our lunch, and were joined by a cute little meadow pipit.

As we ate, we looked across at Bull Crag, making up our minds about the next part of our walk  Now to be honest, Peter had had a bad night with a bad tummy, and still wasn't feeling right, our leg muscles had been whining about the abuse yesterday, and we still don't own any micro spikes. Bull Crag looked like it might be icy, as did the route beyond  We decided not to go on.  It was the possibility of slipping all over the place that did it for me to be honest.  I'd seen so many MRT call out stories, I didn't want to risk becoming one of them. I think that Peter just wasn't feeling well enough, and unusually for him, just wasn't up for giving it a go.

Our lunchtime view
I was a little bit disappointed that we were here, in the Lake District in fantastic weather, and we weren't planning to get up some hill or other.  But then, we made a inspired decision to do something nearly as good........we went shopping in Keswick.   Net result?  A pair of gaiters each (read yesterday's walk), a brilliant furry hat that covers me ears, and a BARGAIN new pair of boots. (My old ones were letting in water. I'd only had them a year!  Humph!).  Not so bad after all eh?  

Micro spikes..........?  Gonna get them next Autumn ready for the winter.

( PS, today was 3 miles and 1000ft of up.)