Sunday, 26 December 2010

In my Christmas (Walking) Stocking

Confining a blog to wittering about walking limits writing at a time of the year (especially this record-breaking cold, snowy end of the year) when the weather puts me off the longer walks worthy of a report. And it feels like a double whammy when I'm not walking and writing.

However, three items in my Christmas stocking give me the opportunity to break blogio silence; a mini torch, a book and a gas lighter.

The Maglite Solitaire, a one AAA cell torch (about 25 grams without its presentation box) isn't a serious walks torch but it'll bring the weight of my pack down next summer. Or, possibly on serious walks, it could be a useful addition at night, back from the pub, at the tent looking for my bigger torch.

Anything that improves my navigation skills has to be welcomed. Skimming through the pages of Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass (Harold Gatty, originally published in 1958), Chapter 4 caught my eye; Walking in Circles - I've been pretty good at that already.

The Silverpoint Jet Flame Lighter is like a mini blow torch. I like the blurb on the pack - "Burns at any angle". I can confirm that that is true; lighting candles around the house was never easier. Candles can of course be carried in a backpack as emergency lighting (for a light refreshment too - sorry, couldn't resist that). It's a solid, heavy thing that feels very comfortable and nice to hold. I think this lighter will find a more permanent place in my camper van.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Test - Memory Map Image

Test to show a memory map image from my PC.

North York Moors. 1:25,000 scale. Blue overlay adjacent to route taken. Click image to enlarge.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

No Moor Today

It was tempting to stay a while longer in Yorkshire but my new found freedom is not so great yet to allow excursions on a whim without regard to the simpler things that must be done at home. Plus, my prayer, which had been answered, had been for four days fair weather - it was fair for November given that there had been no rain during daylight hours. So best not to stretch my fortune.

It was a foggy return journey though, the North South Divide on Friday being where the Sun broke through nearer home.

Back to daydreaming about long distance walks now with no excuse for lack of time to prepare the body to do them.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Levisham Moor - Again

There are more Duchy of Lancaster No Parking signs in Goathland than anyone could point a walking pole at. So, unable to find a decent spot to leave the Grampervan close enough to today's objective - Two Howe Rigg, just south of Goathland, I returned to what has become my forward operating base - Saltergate Car Park on the A169. Ryedale District Council's sign, unlike the aforesaid pesky Duchy's signs, welcomes all. And a particular benefit at this time of the year is that there aren't many "all".

Cross over the road and be not careful and you will fall into The Hole of Horcum! (I must remember that one to frighten the kids or put a curse on a Duchy).

We were careful and made it to the bottom of the hole, then along it, up and around the other side of it. You'll just have to look at the map to see the easy route we took.

I wouldn't like to guess which is the oldest - the bridleway running generally north east from Levisham and partly alongside The Hole (the very same that we trod yesterday) or the dikes that abut it. However, the dikes were constructed about 2000 years ago. In awe, silenced and humbled, I took shelter there, reverently, trying to take in the enormity of two--thousand--years! Which was very tiring so I polished off my cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Levisham Moor

Walking across Levisham Moor today (Wednesday), I was reminded of Max Miller (the celebrated comedian, Cheeky Chappie) and his story regarding Albert, a farmer, ploughing a field when his plough broke. Wondering what to do, and desperate to finish the job he thought; "I know. I'll drive down to Joe's farm - he'll lend me his plough." So off he went on his tractor.
After a while Albert had second thoughts; "What if Joe is using his plough? Then this will have been a wasted journey." (A worrier, Albert.) "Still, best to give it a go." he decided, continuing.
A while later he had more doubts; "Joe's a fussy one. Cautious to lend me the plough, he might say his is broken too." "Well I'm half way there now so I might as well carry on."
Further on and further doubts; "Maybe he just won't want to help me out. Joe can be that way at times." Nevertheless, he drove on.
Then, shortly before arriving, Albert thought; "There's no way that Joe is going to lend me his plough. He's always been that sort."
Arriving at the farm, it was Joe that answered the door, but before he could say a word, Albert shouted; "Well you know what you can do with your bl*!dy plough!" and stormed off.

My version and telling of that joke won't, of course, do justice to the way the great Max Miller told it. But it was brought to mind because, like Albert, I didn't know if I would get what I wanted when I arrived at my destination - The Horseshoe Inn at Levisham in my case. It all depended upon whether or not dogs were allowed on the premises, and I hadn't checked beforehand.

Dogs are allowed in and we both got a very friendly welcome. Holly had a rest by the fire and I got the hot soup and half a pint of Black Sheep Bitter that I had hoped for. Then we returned across the moor on a dry but very windy day to the Saltergate Car Park on the A169, me wondering what to worry about next.

Pictures: The Hole of Horcum; Dundale Pond near Levisham.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hazelhead Moor

There was a look in Holly's eye, as I got ready for a night out in downtown Thornton-le-dale, that said "I'll stay. Bring me something back pLLease" but I ignored it. On this cold, dank, foggy (Tuesday) evening few would want to venture out but I could see her stretched out by the log fire at The Buck Hotel. And so we went and she comandeered the hearth.

Earlier today we'd left the Grampavan at the Saltergate Carpark - beside the A619 overlooking the Hole of Horcom (as the crow flies, about 6.5 miles NNE of T-le-Dale) whilst we walked a 4 mile circuit of Hazelhead Moor.

It's not a high moor but sufficiently so to be above today's mist, which lingered all day in some areas, and to keep us in bright sunlight. We had fine views from the bridleway which runs along Saltergate Brow in an overall north eastern direction to Whinny Nab and down to the Malo Cross. A footpath goes south from there to a track which connects with Old Wifes Way. That heads northwest and back to the A169.

I can see all that on my Memory Map device. I have yet to work out if and how to reproduce the image here - the way that others do so admirably on their blogs. Laters though, when it's warmer.

Pictures: Blakey Topping from Whinny Nab; Malo Cross

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


We spent the night on a railway line - well, a dismantled one which is now a small caravan site on the southern outskirts of Thornton-le-Dale, which itself is on the southern boundary of The North York Moors National Park. A level pitch in a quiet spot, 16 Amp mains electricity and four nights for the price of three persuaded me to make this my base.

A later than planned departure and delays along the way left little time to explore in daylight. Holly had a quick dip in the stream that runs through the village, she no doubt wondering why I opted for a hot shower later.

Monday evening is not a good time for the traveller looking for dinner here. One (The Buck Hotel) of the two pubs I passed doesn't do food on Mondays, the other's (The New Inn - which advertises that it welcomes dogs) kitchen is closed for a fortnight, the several tea rooms shut shop early and the Chip Shop/Cafe doesn't open Mondays - (that used to be a sign of a good chip shop, along with queues, so good news perhaps). Another pub/hotel - The Hall Inn does not admit dogs.

So, we dined in, and I got into Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth", a book that I have been saving for this trip. The opening line - "Nothing happens the way you plan it".

Friday, 12 November 2010

On A Whim And A Prayer

As I suspected and hoped, retirement is freedom; freedom, amongst other things, to choose if and when to do something. And so, I'm off to Yorkshire on Monday for a few days on a whim and a prayer.

The whim is in the going and the prayer is a common enough English one - for fair weather. Yes, I know it's November but nothing ventured nothing gained.

We're an ageing threesome. Officially, I'll be a Pensioner next year. Holly my 11 year old Border Terrier is probably one now in dog years and the Grampervan (my J Reg, VW T4 Campervan) looks like one.

We are raring to go though. And, no matter if the prayer isn't answered in full. A fresh wind and sleety rain should blow and wash away the cobwebs, and work up a healthy thirst and appetite. Our first stop is Thornton-le-Dale where it is said there are three pubs and a fish and chip shop.


Saturday, 30 October 2010

The New Term - 2

Well, we made it to Coniston on Tuesday where I introduced Tara and Rueben to the Black Bull rather than the Old Man. It seemed to me that a walk to the summit of The Old Man of Coniston in non-stop rain wouldn't endear my grandchildren to The Lake District.

Lunch at The Black Bull, Coniston

We meet the locals

Tara prepares desert while Rueben relaxes
Teenagers' bedroom Day 1

On Thursday morning we walked around Ulverston including Hoad Monument


Not quite the walking holiday that we had hoped for but we were agreed that it was an enjoyable way to spend half-term.

Disagreements with teenagers regarding what to wear in wet weather and what time to get up in the morning were easily settled. Compromise and truce do not work. The grandfather must accept unconditional surrender.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The New Term - 1

According to the BBC this morning, it will be sunny in Coniston on Tuesday 26th October. I hope that the forecasters are proved right about that; I'm taking two of my grandchildren, Tara and Rueben, to The Lake District and Tuesday is pencilled in for a climb up The Old Man of Coniston - T&R's first mountain. I don't anticipate problems if it rains whilst we are out walking but getting the beds off their back if it's pouring outside won't be pleasant. And it is a holiday. Not my normal walking holiday though.

Monday we drive up there, Tuesday walking, Wednesday partying, Thursday shopping, Friday home. Plan B, a wet weather programme, is that activities on Tuesday and Thursday can be transposed. A compromise (an unbelievably hard one for me to bear) is that T&R can sleep in on Wednesday and Thursday.

For the children it will be a half-term holiday.

For me it's an end-of-term holiday.

I joined the ranks of the retired this month and can now look forward to a new term where there is more time to do the things that I would like to do rather than must do.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Greensand Ridge Walk - 2

Tara, Rueben and I walked another section of The Greensand Ridge Walk yesterday - from Haynes to Sandy, here in Bedfordshire. There were more than enough ingredients to make it an enjoyable day out:


An early birthday present for Rueben




Multitasking (peeling potatoes whilst walking along The Greensand Ridge)

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Greensand Ridge Walk - 1

Taking the quote, attributed to Lao Tzu, at face value and ignoring any deeper meaning that "A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving" may have, and applying it to backpacking is a frame of mind that I aspire to. And it was a condition that I came close to on Sunday thanks to two of my grandchildren - Tara (age 13 this month) and Rueben (12 next month).

They had asked if they could go walking and camping with me so we went on a one-day outing as an introductory test walk at the weekend. They passed with flying colours, covering the five miles effortlessly and, more importantly, clearly enjoyed being outdoors without focussing on getting to our destination, or as Lao Tzu put it "not intent on arriving". It was a salutary lesson for me - something that they did naturally and that I will have to work at to achieve. It's going to be a delight when we go further afield.

On Sunday though, we walked from Woburn to Eversholt and back. It's a section of The Greensand Ridge Walk - a forty mile route from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire to Gamlingay, Cambridge -shire. For Tara and Rueben there was no urgent need to get to Eversholt where refreshments at The Green Man were a draw for me. They found plenty to explore and see along the way which is mostly over the grounds of Woburn Abbey.

We have now voted to do the whole route eventually, covering some of it in both directions. Our next section is likely to be from Haynes to Sandy - a walk of seven and a half miles as it happens. But that won't be important to Tara and Rueben I'm pleased to say. For them it'll be another day out and a few steps closer to backpacking and camping.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - After

If you have read my posts then you will have gathered that my enjoyment of this particular walk was enhanced by the folk that I met along the way. So I'd like to emphasise that aspect as a final note rather than witter on about my kit etc.

Camaradarie grows from the outset on Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk, as does the friendly banter and laughter which arises from shared events and experiences. That was my enjoyable overall experience and I think it will have been for the thousands before me and will be for those yet to follow. So for those reasons, I would recommend this walk. But of course there are many other things that contribute - the scenery, the challenge, and so on. And there is space sufficient for solitude for lengthy periods.

If I have a regret then it is that I didn't carry a pebble. There is a tradition of carrying a stone, taken from the shore of the Irish Sea at St Bees, which can be flung into the North Sea upon arrival at Robin Hood's Bay. I didn't quite see the point (I can be a right face ache at times). But on reflection I wish I had, although undoubtedly for the wrong reason. It occured to me that should a new civilisation, similar to ours, evolve millions of years from now, after an apocalypse say, then it would give me some satisfaction to expire with the thought that those interested in such matters in a far distant future might for ever wonder how stones from one side of the country got to the other side. No one would ever conclude that people just "did it" in the way that others might have just "done it" when constructing the mysterious Nine Standards Rigg.

So, for enjoyment and mischief, I'll be doing the walk again, and carrying a brick of course.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 15

Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay - 19 Aug

Leaving the B&B in Grosmont, the owner said considerately, "Take your time up that hill." Thirty minutes later I realised just how considerate he had been. It was a breathtaking start to the day, but a climb, I noted with satisfaction, that would have taken me twice as long had it been on the first day of the walk rather than the last.

The plan had been to consider camping at Priory Farm overnight despite it's appalling reviews. But Bryn, aware of my concerns, had secretly booked a B&B. Revealing the secret at camp breakfast that morning was a great and welcome surprise.

It felt as if we had completed The Coast to Coast when we reached the cliff top above the North Sea. But really it ended with celebrations in The Wainwright's Bar, by the shore in Robin Hood's Bay.

To especially: the lovely family of five from London who, impressively camped every night; Anthony a really nice guy who, remarkably, completed the walk after most complicated heart surgery; Markus & Andrea, a very special couple from Germany; Jane & Mark, who led the flock over Kidsty Pike; Bryn, who put up with my teasing; and the many others for contributing to my (almost total) enjoyment of The Coast to Coast Walk - Thank you!

That's it for now but I'll post a final piece next week, when my kit is washed and packed ready, hopefully for another walk as good as this one.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 14

Blakey Ridge to Grosmont - 18 Aug

Our tents and nerves were severely tested last night. I'm accustomed to the Terra Nova Laser Competition tent flapping about somewhat in the wind but it was gusting almost gale force ovenight and accompanied by driving rain.

I'm zipped in three times: sleeping bag, inner and outer tent, so the prospect of trying to get out should the tent come down kept me awake.

The tent is truly excellent though. I should have known that of course, but last night's experience has left me completely reassured of that fact. I use the pole hood, Bryn doesn't. Both tents were still totally secure in the morning, waking to a bright fresh morning, having dropped off eventually.

Bryn made the coffee. I made the porridge. The pub opens the door at 07:30 for campers to use the facilities and we were off soon after, others waiting for breakfast from 08:30.

Yet another fine walk; roads and tracks, high up over spacious moorland, giving way eventually to famland and settlements.

Another great walk. You should try it.

Image: View from Glaisdale Moor.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 13

Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn)

A major part of today's walk is one I have walked many times before because it follows The Cleveland Way for most of its course. In fine weather it's a fantastic walk. I could fill this blog describing it and still not do it justice. It's a tough rollercoaster journey though and for the Coast to Coaster heading for Blakey Ridge, it's a long one of twenty miles. It took us ten hours.

The only thing of note at Blakey Ridge is the pub - The Lion Inn. Regrettably though, it's a sad note; it isn't a pub that I would recomnend to anyone. The beer was first class but the service is indifferent, the building scruffy and the food disgusting. Sorry, but it had to be said.

Coast to Coasters can camp on the field adjacent to the pub, which is what we did, And that is where we chose to eat having cooked our own dinner.

In all though, a great day.

Image 1: Dinner at Blakey Ridge.
Image 2: Roseberry Topping - the pimple on the horizon (not sure if image quality allows, but the North Sea is visible on the horizon).

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 12

Danby Wiske to Osmotherly - 16 Aug

We were up early this morning, other campers rising soon after. I like the atmosphere; nods and grins to each other, across the field, as we quietly go about the business of packing up. Bryn and I enjoy coffee for breakfast followed by porridge and fruit. Our porridge is a 40 gram pre-packed mix each of Ready Brek with a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of Coffee Mate. Combined with hot water to a consistency fit to eat it out of a mug with a spoon, it's a decent, convenient meal.

We have had more level and easy walking today, across farmland (arable and livestock), and along lovely enclosed country lanes (see image), as well as quiet country roads.

One highlight of our day was joining The Cleveland Way - a National Trail that Bryn and I have walked before. Daughter came with us once too, so special memories are revisited as we walk that section. Today we used it in the opposite direction though as a link to reach Osmotherly, just off the route of The Coast to Coast, where we tucked into fish and chips, washed down with Black Sheep Bitter.

We stay in the village tonight at a luxury b&b (Vane House) where we have been able to dry our tents and have hot showers. We're hoping for a good sleep tonight before heading toward Blakey Ridge in the morning. Our simple plan is to camp wild on the moors or in the field behind The Lion Inn.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 11

Richmond to Danby Wiske - 15 Aug

The whole community had turned out to greet us and the band was playing when we arrived at Danby Wiske. It was a party atmosphere on a hot summer's day, around the green next to the pub. Truly.

Well, all true except for the bit about greeting us. The inabitants of the very small hamlet were celebrating the new landlord and lady's first anniversary at The White Swan, rather than our arrival. Nevertheless, we received a very friendly, well oiled welcome.

There's a well maintained camping field at the back of the pub with a decent, modern toilet and shower (50 pence pieces), outdoor hot water washing sink and clothes line, nicely mown level lawn where tent pegs can be easily driven into the ground. It's quiet too, if you are as lucky as we were with considerate Coast to Coasters either side of us.

There is little food on offer in the pub. However, you can order a takeaway (Chinese, Indian or pizza, to be delivered) and the landlady, who will offer you the menus and the use of their phone, will lay a table for you. Breakfast is available to order too.

Oh - the walk! An easy, enjoyable14 miles along well beaten paths and quiet country roads. Just what I needed with minimal navigation, leaving more time to chat with Bryn.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 10

Reeth to Richmond - 14 Aug

Any regular reader of this blog will be aware that I rarely describe routes in detail. I leave that to the experts who publish guide books. Despite the obvious benefits, I am not carrying one having judged each of the many too heavy an item for my pack.

I have read two regarding the Coast to Coast - Paul Hannon's and Alex Steadman's, and browsed through others. However, I do not recall any that mention, nay more, highlight - a growing feature of this walk that sets it apart from any other national type trail that I have completed - the social side; meeting and sharing the experience with others along the way. It's quite incredible and adds temendously to enjoyment of the journey, and I should like to add, whatever the weather.

Today's walk was in glorious weather. Probably the easiest section of the C2C at 11 miles in a leisurely four hours, passing the time of day with Coast to Coasters along the way and at the end of it in Richmond.

And one of my sons, Bryn, arrived safely this evening to walk with me over the next five days and join the party in The Wainwright's Bar in Robin Hood's Bay next week.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 9

Keld to Reeth - 13 Aug

I was chuffed to have my porridge, fruit and coffee during a dry spell and to have got away just before the rain started again, day dreaming about bacon butties.

After easy walking alongside or above the River Swale, the dream came true at Gunnerside where there is the most fantastic restaurant that welcomes bedraggled walkers. Full marks and five gold stars to the Ghyllfoot Penny Farthing Restaurant for their Yorkshire Tea, Bacon Sandwich and service. I could live there.

Reeth was almost as welcoming. The weather still decidedly not so though. Therefore, reminding myself that I am in holiday, and not wimping out, I chose a B&B (lots of vacancies) rather than the campsite, but as a token, and because it was miserable out, dined in, having Drytech's Cod and Potato Casserole (Torskegryte). Absolutely delicious! I could live on it. Well bacon butties too, mugs of steaming tea and ...

Richmond tomorrow. A very special day. Son Bryn joins me for the five day walk to Robin Hood's Bay. Good on yer Bryn.

Image: River Swale

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 8

Kirkby Stephen to Keld - 12 Aug

The guide books describe three routes over Hartley Fell, and on-site notices request walkers to avoid particular paths depending upon the season to allow the surface to recover - it's a boggy place. I chose my own route, partly, following a wall south to emerge onto the road near the county boundary, my feet dry and boots fairly clean.

Upon entering North Yorkshire, I received rapturous applause in the form of great rolls of thunder. I had seen the wall of rain heading toward me, and those nearby, blasting away at grouse on the first day of the shooting season, may have wondered why my sudden sprint until, if still watching, they observed me get the boundary photo I was intent on before the heavens opened.

Coast to Coast gossip has it that the shooters pay £37,000 for the privilege. Judging by all the quality cars in a full layby, the parties that I saw would be able to afford it.

I'd been pleased to see signs along the approach to Keld encouraging walkers to spend the night at Keld Bunkhouse, which is also a campsite. This was a camping night for me so I was drawn there, arriving at 3 o'clock. No food or drink till 6 o'clock, no sense that the lady I spoke to wanted my custom, and worries that the overcrowded site so close to the beck might be noisy and midge infested, I continued to Park Farm, in Keld proper where there is a campsite (Rudkins) and Tea Room.

I spent the night on a quiet pitch. Keld Lodge, the coverted YHA, was a short stroll away away where there was good Coast to Coaster company, food and beer.

There were only five other tents on the site (The farm has two sites - one, mine, is next to decent public conveniences and was midge free - not many level pitches though. The other busier site is adjacent to the Tea Room, closer to the showers/toilets and beck/midges). My neighbours were a backpacking couple - the first that I have met that are, like me, carrying everything. All others are using one of the using the luggage carrying sevices.

Image: View from the "higher" Rudkins Campsite.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 7

Orton to Kirby Stephen - 11 Aug

Today's was a lovely amble in near perfect walking conditions. Along quiet country roads, following well-beaten tracks over lush meadows where sheep and cattle graze, across open moor and grassland where horses roam, encountering few human passers-by along the twelve to thirteen mile route.

I love the limestone country with its weathered craggy outcrops and sun-bleached dry stone walls.

There was no sight of any other Coast to Coaster en route but I bumped into the young German Coast to Coasters, Markus & Andrea, in Kirby Stephen and we had a beer together.

All's well in my world.

Image: Smardale Viaduct - from Smardale Fell.

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 6

Shap to Orton - 10 Aug

A relaxed start today for a walk that was short and easy when compared with yesterday's; over sixteen miles then, about eight today.

The route was across rolling farmland and open moors where the heather will be in full bloom soon. It's probably waiting for the sun as we Coast to Coasters are.

Priorites are changing - the route, food and shelter are what the days are about. What day and which - fourth? fifth? - it doesn't come readily. But time enough to get to know a few other Coast to Coasters as our paths cross, walking together occasionally, passing or being overtaken.

In the pub at Orton this evening, I had dinner with Anthony from London. I'd first met him at Angle Tarn on Day whatever. We sat next to Markus & Andrea from Germany who I walked most of today with. Jane & Mark from London, who led the way over Kidsty Pike, joined us. A happy, slightly scruffy crew swopping news of other Coast to Coasters ahead or behind us. I was in good company, washing down steak pie with Jennings Cumberland Ale. All saddened though by the cautionary sight through the pub window of a two chaps getting into their lift home - the scuttlebut being that one had injured his knee.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 5

Patterdale to Shap - 9 Aug

You can see Kidsty Pike in the distance on a clear day from The Greyhound at Shap. As I sipped a pint of orange squash and a half pint of Cumberland Ale I was pleased to be looking at that hill, of which the summit is the highest point on The Coast to Coast, from where I was sat rather than the other way round.

I had left Patterdsale at 08:45 and it had taken me three hours to reach the summit, slowed by driving rain and swirling cloud. Visibility was down to fifty yards or less so no chance that spirits might be lifted by the views and not the conditions in which to linger occasionally; it was a day to press on to keep warm. It took an hour to drop down to Haweswater, where I joined other Coast to Coasters, huddled against a wall in the wood, for my Corned Beef & Pickle sandwich, and mug of hot chocolate which I boiled up on the spot and which I shared with Jane & Mark - Coast to Coasters from London with whom I had walked over the Pike with.

In all, it took nine hours to reach The Greyhound, including the twenty minutes or so it takes to walk the length of Shap. Its a tough walk.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 4

Grasmere to Patterdale - 8 Aug.

It made a great change to set off in fine weather this morning, and for a walk where there are alternative routes along the way. The first choice was at Great Tongue where I turned north east . Both paths reconnect just short of Grizedale Tarn. Another decision needs to be made at the tarn's northern end. I chose NE again, climbing over St Sunday Crag into the clouds emerging along Birks to fantastic views over Ulswater.

Grasmere to Patterdale is about eight miles. It's a journey that would have been a struggle for me on Day 1. Today though, my recovery rate is significantly improved and going "upstairs" for an hour or two is much easier too. Amazing.

I'm hoping that the magic will continue as it is a long day tomorrow; sixteen and a half miles or so to Shap where I leave The Lake District but will be tempted to turn back. There's great walking here as well as good beer (Patterdale Choice Bitter today) and friendly walkers with whom to pass the time of day with.

Image: Ulswater, from Birks.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 3

Stonethwaite to Grasmere - 7 Aug

The Stonethwaite Campsite is basic; cold water only, and toilets that satisfy the planning authority's requirements for the building's outside appearance rather than the needs of those that use the facilities inside it. The lady at the farm suggested I find a pitch at the near end. "There are noisy people the other end." she said, as she took my fiver. It was fairly quiet except for the sound of gushing becks, and rain which forced an early night for all.

It was a long haul up Stonethwaite Fell. Higher up, the bridleway is hard to pick out but cairns mark the way which I thought a blessing until I twigged that I was still going up when I should have been heading down; I'd followed the cairns of another, higher, trail to Brown Rigg Moss. No colour coding up here.

Regaining the bridleway, the surface of it down to Grasmere is precarious until it levels off.

When planning this walk my intention had been to B&B in Grasmere but failing to find one available my Plan B was to wild camp at Grizedale Tarn. Arriving in Grasmere after a fairly tough eight miles, I was surprised and pleased to note the "Vacancies" signs and so was able to revert to Plan A.

A bed tonight, a shower, a room with kit strung up to dry and food and drink in abundance. And WIFI!There has been no Virgin Media network coverage since leaving St Bees. None here either. Vodaphone, O2 and Orange rule in Grasmere.

Image: Looking back down the Fell to Stonethwaite.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 2

Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite - 6 Aug

The first eight miles or so of today's walk was on the level, alongside Ennerdale Water then due east on a forest track to Black Sail Hut where they have a brew kit to make yourself a hot drink. From there it's a hard climb before the drop to Honistor Pass and further down to Borrowdale. A total of about sixteen and a half miles.

I'm well and truly in the Lake District now.

The highlight of the day though wasn't the scenery or an event, it was a person - Diana. She runs The Fox & Hounds at Ennerdale Bridge. As well as being the perfect host, she tends the bar, cooks the food and delivers it to the table. And she looks after everyone. Thanks Diana from me and the other Coast to Coasters at The F&H on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Image is view down to Honister Hause.

Coast to Coast 2010 - Day 1

St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge - 5 Aug.

It was an RAF Tornado that woke me this morning, or so I thought until I realised that its engine roar was not receeding into the distance, so it had to be a Harrier, hovering. It was neither. I was a wide awake now. Peering through the curtains I could see that it was thundereous rain, shed loads of the stuff, happily on the other side of the double glazing.

The double glazing of a lovely room in an excellent guest house in St Bees; The Tomlin Guest House which I can highly recommend. "Early breakfast?" "Yes. At what time?" So enabling an early start, and in fine weather, the dawn downpour having moved on or spent.

It's a low level walk to Ennerdale Bridge except for the inappropriately named Dent (1000 ft approx); "Bump" or "Lump" would be more fitting. It's a simple haul up to the summit but a fright awaits on the other side. The descent to Nannycatch Beck is worryingly steep.

All in all though, an enjoyable walk. To be rounded off shortly with lamb chops, washed down with Jennings Bitter here at The Fox and Hounds. Then into a routine of early to bed, especially tonight as I make the most of a soft mattress and crisp sheets. I'll camping out for the next three nights.

Pic 1 is Dent from the outskirts of Moor Row & Pic 2 is from Dent looking NW - Cleator, Moor Row with Irish Sea beyond (if image quality allows you to see that detail).

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Coast to Coast 2010 - Before

I head north today - by road and rail to St Bees in Cumbria. It's the well-advertised start of Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk and where I will begin to find out what all the fuss is about. With the odd diversion on his route and if all goes according to plan then I should arrive Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire 15 days later.

The extra comforts in my pack have pushed its weight up. A better sleeping bag, a pillow, a little thingy to sit on, more washing kit, even a full gas cylinder - it all adds up to 21lbs. Leaving my camera at home helps balance the extras so I will have to rely on my phone for pictures. It is fixed since my last trek so I am blog-enabled!

Body and signal strength willing and available I should be able to post the occasional update.

Chocs away!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Lake District - 21-23 July 2010

The weather changed for the better during the second half of my trek so I made it to the top of Skiddaw and back to Keswick on a fine, dry Tuesday. That was a clear day too which provided for fantastic views. It was very hard work though - 8 miles from the town centre and back which took me six and a half hours, including a 20-30 mins lunch break on the summit and a lot of breathers on the way up and down.
Skiddaw (3054 ft but it felt like more)

My path from Gawthwaite to Keswick had been along The Cumbria Way. The rest of the walk to Maryport, via Bassenthwaite where the Sun Inn pub is attractive, the beer decent and the food not so (I would not recommend the Steak in Ale Pie), was in glorious weather and by way of The Allerdale Ramble which is shown on the OS 1:25,000 map.

The camp site near the village of Bassenthwaite was surprisingly quiet. Mainly statics, there were a couple of tourers and two, maybe three groups camping out of cars. I was the only backpacker and I set up near the washroom/toilet/shower block. At £6.00, it was a better stopover for me than the Great Langdale National site.

Stylish stile north of Cockermouth

The aim had been to walk hard in preparation for the Coast to Coast which I start next week. I'm certainly better prepared except that my knees still hurt and I'm not sure why. I'm not entirely sure why I am walking the C2C either but think it is more about doing it to have an opinion on it and as a challenge. Walks over 10 miles (in the Lake District) demand a lot of me so the C2C will put me to the test.

There will be some changes to my kit for future walks.

I realised last year that my Snugpak Softie 6 sleeping bag was not for me but I made do. It's warm enough but I feel too restricted in a mummy shaped bag to get a good night's sleep. I'm expecting a much improved slumber and sweeter dreams in my new Golite Adventure 1+Season Semi-Rectangular where I can move around in the bag rather than with it.

There'll be more to say about the Golite sleeping bag and other additions to my kit (including an Icebreaker merino wool polo shirt and the Pico Solar Charger) in the near future.

Terra Nova Pegs "parked" in old Biros so that they won't pierce anything when packed

I'll be camping and B&B-ing later next week. I have no place booked to stay, or even in mind, in Grasmere so I may change that part of the route to avoid that fair town. I'm not sure about the blogging either because my phone is still to be sorted. A bit like me all-round really.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Lake District - 17-20 July 2010

In the movie Blade Runner, it never stops raining. It's been like that here in the Lake District since Saturday morning. Harrison Ford isn't around nor the doomed Rutger Hauer and it's not perpetually twilight as well so I suppose it's not really like the movie at all. Except in the movie no one moans about the rain and I haven't heard anyone complain about it around here either. In fact only positive comments - "At least it's not cold!" etc. The true British spirit lives on.

I'm in Keswick now and it is catch-up time with my blog. My phone isn't working fully and until now there has been no network coverage anyway.

Saturday - I set off from Gawthwaite, on the southern boundary of the Lake District, for a 10 mile walk to Coniston along route of The Cumbria Way. Stair rods of rain greeted my arrival in Coniston where the shorn sheep, which are daubed in a fetching splash of blue, ignore my calls of "Come on you blue~ues!". A couple of pints of Coniston Bluebird, a plate of Fish and Chips and a decent B&B completed my day.

Beacon Tarn

Sunday - A 13 mile paddle to Dungeon Ghyll, where radio reception is nigh on impossible let alone network coverage, and where the sheep are wearing SO last year's colour of red, and where lamb is on the menu at The New Hotel but with no hint of whether it is from from the Blue or the Red Tribe.

Monday - The plan was to make my way over Stake Pass to Stonethwaite (7-8 miles?) where I could recce Borrowdale prior to my visit next month, but the campsite there was already waterlogged, the rain unabated, the pub closed (on Mondays), a Tea Room closed, so I carried on to Keswick not bothering what colour the sheep were. Derwent Water was filling up and my intended stopover on the campsite there didn't look too appealing and campers were being asked to move away from the lake. Given that I was a day ahead of my schedule, I booked into a very comfortable B&B. Then having dined, drank and dried out had a warm dry night's kip.

Tuesday - Here I am scribbling furiously before my 30 min stint in an Internet Cafe runs out. Then I'm off for a cuppa before walking up to the top of Skiddaw and back.

Wednesday - I'm heading north to the Bassenthwaite - Cockermouth area, Thursday to Maryport where I can get the train south on Friday.

Not sure about any internet access for the remainder of the week.

Afterthought - Rutger Hauer's expiry in Blade Runner gets my nomination for best ever movie death:

"I have seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion. I watched C-Beams glitter ....... All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die."
It was still raining at the time.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Corrymoor Socks

I'm not as fit as I was this time last year. I've been eating for England so most of the weight I'd shed in 2009 is back and visible. There was always an excuse or a reason why I couldn't make it to the gym so I'm not as bendy as before either. Therefore, as well as the extra weight, I'm carrying some apprehension - unsure of what I'll be capable of during a week of backpacking in the Lake District.

Next Saturday I make my way from Ulverston to Coniston along the first leg of The Cumbria Way. I have a B&B booked for that first night then I have another six days with my backpack, stomachpack and a slightly bulging rest of me. There is no schedule at the moment other than to get to Coniston, have a pint and see how I feel. It might take a second pint of Bluebird Bitter before I conceive a plan which may include having a third.

I don't think my feet could be classified as fat but I do get swollen ankles occasionally. Consequently, tight fitting socks (which most seem to be these days) can be problematic. I may have that issue under control now though as I have successfully test walked a pair of Corrymoor Gentle-Top socks. The short, lightweight socks, which are 55% mohair and 45% nylon, have elastic free tops. The material has a slightly "hard" feel to it; a cotton-like texture but wooly with excellent wicking properties. I'm using the large size and they fit comfortably over my Bridgedale Coolmax Liners, over my size 9 feet in size 10 boots.

Prodnose: "I can't believe you're blogging about socks for Gawdsake! Are you on commission or something?"

Brian: "Shove off! I choose what to say on my blog!"

They are not whiffy after prolonged use on my plates either. I've worn them unwashed over a five day period, in hot dry conditions - purely for testing purposes you understand. I didn't detect any wrinkled noses as I wafted past sock test dummies (my feet were washed daily by the way).

Corrymoor deserve a pat on the back for making online purchasing so easy and for such swift delivery. I now have four pairs but I need a slap on the head for going for one pair in Old Gold.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Spoilt For Choice

The toss of a coin decided my weekend; dutifully north to Newark to buy spares for my campervan, temptingly south to Complete Outdoors in Hemel Hempstead where I could check out their excellent selection of Paramo gear, or simply east to Thetford Forest for walks with Holly, my Border Terrier who will be 11 tomorrow. Hemel won both flips, at which point I wished I had said "Best of three" because I wanted Thetford Forest to win.

Arriving in Hemel, I couldn't resist the silky charms of a Paramo Adventure Light Smock and easily convinced myself that the Brasher Supalite II GTX boots had to be mine because my older version of Brasher Supalite GTX's need resoling - I'm going to send them to LSR for repair. With campervan and debit card groaning I made it back home with my treasures and daydreamed of backpacking whilst I did some tentwork (tentwork as in housework).

Last year's Shangri-La 1 and this year's Terra Nova Laser Competition have been aired.
My waterproof Montane Litespeed Jacket and Featherlite Trousers have been washed and reproofed. It's not something I've done before so I'm keen to feel the results.
Now I need to flip the coin again to decide which tent and waterproofs to take on my next outing.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Missing the Walking and Blogging

Work and jobs around the house and garden have claimed most of my time of late. So there's been little time left for walking other than to and from work, and with my dog mornings and evenings. Somehow I have to find the time for the gym and bike rides. Falling behind in those respects, I find myself, at the same time looking forward to and worrying about my forthcoming challenging summer holiday.

Situation normal for the working man I guess. However, things will be different next year. This time then I will have retired and expect to have more time for proper walks.

In the meantime though, my plans are for a long weekend away next month, a week in the Lake District in July, and then two weeks on (Wainwright's) Coast to Coast in August - with Number 1 Son, Bryn, joining me for the second week.

A bike ride today - definitely. After I: post this blog, breakfast, take Holly for a walk, cut the grass; tend to the potatoes, onions, garlic, swede, carrots, salad leaves and sew some corriander; harvest some mint and rhubarb (make sauce with the former and crumble with the latter), some housework, watch the box (a Nigel Kennedy recording again - his truly excellent and captivating concert with The Polish Chamber Orchestra) and a bit of C2C day dreaming and planning.

Just as well I stayed at home for the Bank Holiday.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Jeepers Peepers

My blog is a platform for wittering about walking and subjects related to it but today I divert your attention to another matter; an update on my peepers - eyes.

I mentioned them in November last year following an operation to have a cataract removed from my right eye. That was a great success and a revelation. It was like having a curtain drawn to give a clear view from that eye. However, my vision was still impaired by a cataract forming in the left eye. So my name was placed on a waiting list for an operation to resolve that issue.

The operation was successfully carried out on Wednesday. Vision through that eye is still slightly blurred but the indications are that when it settles down it will be as good as the other one.

It's all good news, as it seems likely that I won't have to wear spectacles full-time from now on; just when reading - or consulting a map.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Gyp tackles LEJOG

I do love to follow Land's End to John o'Groats Walk blogs.

Here's another brave adventurer who plans to set off on 14th April with his dog Gyp. Good luck to you both ...

Friday, 26 March 2010

Lake District - Friday 25th later

A walk up to the top of Black Combe and back marked the end of my walking week this morning. I parked at a small layby (space for three cars) on the A595 next to Whicham Church.

I'm keen to head south now to join family for a while before returning home by Monday.

Lake District - Friday 25th

Black Combe at 11:11 hours. In the clouds.

Lake District - Thursday 25th

The underlying reason for being here this week is to work my legs as part of preparations for a tough walk in the summer, and indeed, that is what I am doing. And yet, if truth be told, I realised today that I wasn't entirely at peace with the way I have been going about it. Everything became chrystal clear on my second pint of Jennings Cumberland Ale this evening.

I'd kitted myself out over the winter with a lightweight backpack to sustain me on a trek but it wasn't going to be fully deployed on this outing. I'm a day walker this week who returns to his home on wheels with all mod cons nearby; not the sturdy, independent nomad. No, he's a few more walks away yet. But his mind is a bit lighter now. A lighter rest of me will only result from more physical means and that is what your not-so-independent-occasional-commuting-coastal-day-walker was about today.

The walk was 7 miles/11km with 650ft/200 metres ascent. I know that because it says so in a pamphlet that I purchased "Walks - The Western Lakes".

The route starts at Boot and passes two small tarns; Blea Tarn and Siney Tarn. Boot is near Dalegarth Station at the head of the narrow-gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway line so I could have made the journey to and from the start area by train. I drove though - no complaints but I've had enough of trains this week. Although I always stop, stare, listen and admire those choo choos whenever they pass by. Someone (not the same one) always waves a greeting from those trains. At least I think it's a greeting 'cos I always wave back.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Lake District - Wednesday 24th night.

Today's earlier blogs were a bit of an experiment - using the camera. Outdoor conditions weren't what you might call condusive to such activities, however, apart from the evening picture disappearing into the ether it seemed to work.

I had half planned to camp wild tonight but with the odd thing going wrong I decided not to.

Next month I'll be trying out Memory Map so hope to be able to show (and measure) routes. In the meantime here's a brief description of today's:

From Ravenglass (Map OL6) generally NE by footpath (FP) to and then along a short section of A595. Then generally NE on FP over Muncaster Fell (playing silly beggars off route practising navigation) to pub east of Eskdale Green.

Disheartened to find pub shown on map (King George IV) closed and up for sale, so no hot soup and pint.

Continued SE (hungrily) along the road (up Birker Fell) heading for Devoke Water but wasn't enjoying that because of other water falling out of the sky and turned back down to Forge House. From there, generally SW on bridleway (BW) to Muncaster Tarn and the BW (Fell Road) and back to Ravenglass.

PS. Thanks for your comments Alan, Martin. My comments box giving me a hard time so hope you can make do with route description above!