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  • Dabbling with Darwen

    The walk of Sunday 10th of April, 2016.

    Or how to not interpret maps well! I thought it would be nice to return to Darwen Hill, after visiting it in February, at pace (Amble, enough said!). I also considered this might be another opportunity to attempt to take in the twin boggy summits of Cheetham Close and Turton Heights and to return to the car via the marsh which is Longworth Moor.

    First view of Cartridge Hill.
    First view of Cartridge Hill.
    Ah now the fact that the very top of this is not black, makes me think this might be White Hill.
    Ah now the fact that the very top of this is not black, makes me think this might be White Hill.

    I arrived at the Crookfield Road car park for around ten o’clock and by seven minutes past was on the road up to Slipper Lowe. Traffic was light, but fast and on several occasions I had to stand on the grass verge in order to avoid on-coming cars. It was a relief when I reached the gate opposite the great, long, stone wall on Tockholes Road and entered safer terrain. I’d noticed, well, could hardly fail to notice the huge stream of cyclists on route as I had driven through Abbey Village, I wasn’t expecting to see more on the moors but within five minutes had already encountered another two. On my right hand side lay the highest hill of this particular moor (Darwen) – Cartridge Hill, I don’t know from where the name originates, I do intend finding out. I must climb this hill in its own right one day. In fact, there are around four or five hills on this moor that may be worth exploring and they all seem to have footpaths leading up to them that the ordnance survey map I was carrying, (West Pennines Explorer:287) knew nothing about.

    Without the zoom Great Hill seems a bit less imposing.
    Without the zoom Great Hill seems a bit less imposing.
    Great Hill looms above the trees plantation.
    Great Hill looms above the trees plantation.

    As I was in no particular rush (oh how I’d come to regret that mindset!), I took the time to take some photographs, this will not be news to any regular reader, but, as I am in the process of building up my West Pennines section of this site, I’m more focussed on getting quality photographs of hills that I might not necessarily be walking up on the current walk of the day. Subsequently, I have a growing collection of Great Hill pictures – it’s beginning to become a favourite hill of mine. That being said, I also needed some photographs of the hills from Darwen Moor and managed to get quite a lot of White and Black Hills…although to be honest, I couldn’t really tell which was which. Yes, this should have been obvious!

    Now that's a long path!
    Now that’s a long path!
    I can't identify these peaks...
    I can’t identify these peaks on the horizon…

    Before very long I was at the start of the summit plateau. Normally this means that there is under an hundred metres or so to go until reaching the top of the hill. In Darwen Hill’s case it means there’s still another mile or so of undulating moorland to go…this did not bother me, I like this area very much. The main path snaked out in front of me and seemed almost never-ending. In almost every direction, peaks of differing heights and with varying amounts of snow capping them, popped up on the horizons – Longridge Fell looked deceptively near. Pendle had a lovely cloak of snow covering it which made me glad I was somewhere which was now getting warmer. I thought that I could see at least two of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks but the snow was not making identification easy. Elsewhere even Ramsbottom’s Bull Hill looked snowbound whereas Harcles Hill – identified by Peel tower, was snow-free, odd seeing as they are next door to each other!

     

    Earnsdale and Sunnyhurst reservoirs.
    Earnsdale and Sunnyhurst reservoirs.
    The trig point with a snow covered Pendle behind.
    The trig point with a snow covered Pendle behind.

    By 12:04 I had made my way to the trig point and tower, had a brief conversation with a dog owner about his gorgeous black Labrador and its penchant for jumping up at people and considered having my lunch. I’d ambled a bit and was aware that with the route I had in my mind…I may need to get my skates on.To be honest, spikes would have served me better in descending the South-Eastern slope of Darwen Hill. Mud was all around. I have to take a tiny bit of ownership for this, I did the Amble – so some of the damage was down to me and the other hundred of us who stomped across this moor without a care in the world. However, I still hold fast to the opinion that mountain bikers are like ploughs to the landscape. Deep ruts in the mud have been formed where these cyclists have followed each other down the slope and walking in these grooves is a challenge, walking and trying to avoid these grooves is just infuriating. I never realised just how many paths connect to the one that Karl and I and Mark and I ascended the last two times that I have walked up this hill. And therein lies my mistake…

    See sign for details.
    See sign for details.
    A lovely house in the middle of this tiny estate.
    A lovely house in the middle of this tiny estate.

    Because at one point or another, I should have taken a right hand turn which would have led me towards Cadshaw Farm – my intended destination. Even when I was fortunate enough to find a large map type sign indicating where I was in relation to the surrounding area…I headed for (according to the map) Cadshaw Valley. Or at least I would have done if I had turned right (again) but once I had walked another five hundred yards or so downhill, I passed a farm – Green Lowe Farm. This did not bode well, instead of coming out on the A666 at Cadshaw and I would have known if I had got this right as Great Hill would have greeted me, apparently I was now heading towards Whitehall. According to the map; this would put me a further mile closer towards Darwen town centre. No problem. I figured I could make up the time as this equated to another fifteen to eighteen minutes walking along by the side of the A666. One detail impacted upon this…the A666 to Cadshaw from here is uphill and what I had thought would take just under twenty minutes took the best side of half an hour.

    By the time I had crossed the 666 – this was easier than I’d thought it would be, I was feeling very deflated.I checked with Google Maps that I was heading in the right direction, I was and I headed onwards in search of Edge Lane which I knew would lead me down towards the Turton and Entwistle reservoir and from there to Green Arms Road. I’d forgotten what Edge Lane’s A666 entrance looked like – rarely do roads keep the same name (when you want them to), so when I reached Bull Hill Lane I called Karl to confirm that this would take me where I wanted. The short answer was ‘No’ I needed to keep on going along the A666 until the next left hand, gated turning. Excellent.

    The gate to Edge Lane with what I hoped was the Turton Heights massif behind.
    The gate to Edge Lane with what I hoped was the Turton Heights massif behind.
    ...and from there into beauty. Peel Tower and Bull Hill spring up from nowhere!
    …and from there into beauty. Peel Tower and Bull Hill / Scholes Height, spring up from nowhere!

    I took the turning, thinking it was funny how much scenery I had missed when doing February’s Amble – the countryside viewable from Edge Lane is just beautiful.What I had thought was a snow covered Bull Hill must have been another hill altogether as here was Bull Hill (the Ramsbottom version) as seen from near Bull Hill (the Darwen version). The distant views to the South Pennines revealed that they were snow free, whereas the Dales and Trough of Bowland had definitely been hit. Whilst it’s true to say that I was under a certain degree of self-asserted pressure with regards to timing, it was lovely to be walking in the sun. Karl’s guidance rang clear through my mind ‘go passed the Strawberry Duck’…so why I chose to not do this…beats me. I dropped down the hill at a good speed, every step getting me closer to my next landmark – the reservoir. Alas, there are a number of reservoirs in these parts and it was only when I was by the side of one that I noticed with dread the sign which read – Wayoh reservoir. Curse those bloomin’ right turns which I kept refusing to do!

    The Wayoh, a 'pin-up' of a reservoir.
    The Wayoh, a ‘pin-up’ of a reservoir.

    The plus side was that the Wayoh is stunning. Okay, on a sunny day, most reservoirs are lovely to look at. The Wayoh is different, it’s in the same league as Thirlmere and the Lower Ogden reservoir, a timeless beauty. I couldn’t put it into words, I didn’t even spend long in its company. But, I will return one day (hopefully this summer) to do the three reservoirs walk. I was now under no illusion, I would not be able to make it back to the car for three-thirty (the latest time that I thought I would have to leave by in order to not have Chris waiting after a hard day’s work). But what to do? I searched the map and my brain thinking of an alternative route. I stopped a passing gentleman and asked if he knew if the path (we were on)  led to Green Arms Road. Alas, no. the path did skirt the reservoir but it did not lead to Green Arms Road. He said that there was a town nearby – Chapeltown – curses, that put me even further away than I had thought. I would have to retrace my steps (oh joy up another hill!) back to the pub and pass it as per Karl’s guidance!

    Having ascended the lane, which felt twice as steep as when I had descended it, I took the turning in front of the pub and gradually dropped towards Turton and Entwistle reservoir. It was nice to see so many people out and about and not taking wrong – turnings (okay, let this go now!). I could see the massif which contains both Cheetham Close and Turton Heights, could I still make it? Then I remembered just how treacherous the continuation of the route was. Longworth Moor is a marsh in everything but name – it would take at least an hour to get through that, it would take at least an hour to get through the various car parks and fields near the reservoir and up Cheetham Close and there was always the skulking enemy – my apparent lack of direction, with which to contend. I headed for a bench, sat down, poured myself a coffee and ate my rather tasty Spar Chicken Mayo sandwich. I mulled things over.

    I knew that I was up to the task of bolting over Cheetham Close, that was not in question. But, getting lost at the top – in spite of its apparent openness, was something at which I was becoming alarmingly adept. I finished my lunch, made way to the car parks and headed towards Green Arms Road, which was pretty much right in front of me. I could see a turning that would grant access to the moors and more than likely the route (one of many) up to the hill. But the old sniper inside my head taunted me with jibes about getting lost once more. I called Karl on his mobile. Thankfully he was in the area – well, at home, so he was able to pick me up and run me back over to my awaiting car at Crookfield Road. I arrived at the car at around two fifteen, plenty of time to get home after all.

    Summary

    This could have been a great walk. No, scrub that. Not all walks are successful in achieving what we had meant to do at the start or in the preparation stages. Yes, it’s true that once again I had fallen foul of the ‘too many paths on the ground’ scenario which had tripped me up at Turton Moor last year and Spence Moor in 2010. But, I had still walked just shy of ten miles, ascended the lovely Darwen Hill, had a quick natter with Karl and got some much needed exercise and some sun on my face. How could any of that been a failure? I promise to myself to save up for a decent GPS system. With so many of us walking these days then old paths are going to get so wide as to be indistinct and new ones are going to emerge which aren’t going to be on any map until years later.  A GPS device will help by letting me know exactly where I am. A further promise to myself is to come back to the area and complete the “Three Reservoirs Circuit” – Wayoh, Turton and Jumbles as I’m sure this will be a rewarding walk in itself without needing to add a hill or extend it into the tens of miles type that I do at the moment.

    Song of the walk: Ellie Goulding’s This Love


  • Great Friday!

    This was the walk of Good Friday (March 25th), 2016.

    The Half Amble

    I’m a bit sentimental, a bit reflective. There that’s got that over and done with, in short I wanted to go back to the site of my last walking triumph…Rivington. Well, to be honest, most walks these days are triumphs in their own ways.

    1. I’m definitely getting fitter
    2. Chris is showing much more interest in walking with me
    3. I have more confidence in finding my way around these days

    So, in the spirit of wanting to: A Go for a long(ish) walk and B Go somewhere where I could be guaranteed to meet lots of people (I still don’t like being on my own for long amounts of time), Rivington fitted the bill just right.

    Having dropped Chris off at work for around ten to nine I headed off to Burscough, called in at Tesco, got something to eat for later and some cash – in case of sudden hunger – I had an inkling that there would be ‘burger vans’ at Rivington. It was a little before ten before I got to the drive at Rivington Barn and a little after before I managed to get parked – it was busier than I had imagined and I had expected it to be quite busy. As luck would have it, where I ended up parking probably took about five minutes off my overall time as I was so near to the barn itself. Ordinarily I despise the slight upwards walk along the drive to the side of the barn. Why? I really can’t answer that!

    A gaggle of pathwreckers – cyclists!

    So up the cobbled slope at the left hand side of the barn (from my p.o.v.), I went. As could be expected, there was a lot of pedestrians to overtake. I say pedestrians as this was evidenced by the countless number of people in shoes and trainers and other obvious signs that the owner of the footwear was not a regular walker. I’m not being snobby here, I too used to adorn inappropriate footwear when I used to make my annual pilgrimage to ‘The Pike’ on a bank holiday Monday. I reckoned that I had overtaken fifty people within the first few hundred yards. At the summit of the cobbled path (which does become less cobbled with progress) I headed left and then right then straight on to take me down a winding path that is essentially directly around the rear of the barn (it’s nowhere near as complicated as my description). Within a few yards I made my way through a kissing gate (eventually) and was by now beginning to get into the rhythm of the walk…when I wasn’t being somewhat curtailed by ‘tourists’. From a distance I could see the pike quite clearly and with this came the realisation that (already) there was a lot of people at the tower. This was going to be one of my less lonesome visits!

    Once I had passed a large amount of people and dogs I noticed that I was making good progress and decided to take a more circuitous route to the tower which meant staying on my horizontal path all the way to the section of the area known as Higher Knoll. Next I took a left hand swing to bring me in the general direction of the disused toilet block (oh doesn’t this sound a glamorous walk?) and from there a simple right turn through the large gates and onto the part-cobbled / part-stepped path to the pike. Regular readers of my blog will recall that I have this on-going challenge to never stop walking in between the gates and the summit until I reach the top of the steps. I doubted that I would be able to adhere to this today owing to the large volume of people on route (who were quite accomplished plodders). Nevertheless, I go to the top, admittedly at one time I was practically walking in place…but I did it.

    A headless dog, a man with 'moobs' and shed loads of others atop the Pike.
    A headless dog, a man with ‘moobs’ and shed loads of others atop the Pike.

    The summit views were as clear as I could have hoped but at the same time there were so many people around that I could hardly gaze off into the distance for fear of someone growling “Hey stop eyeing up me bird!”. Thus, I took about three or four photographs and began the next stage of my walk, the mini trudge over Brown Hill. I don’t mind the descent to the south from the pike. However, once the real drop is over and done with I once again found myself on a cobbled road (Belmont) that was at best a bit bumpy and hard on the feet. With the ‘burger vans’ and a handful of stalls on route there was more to look at than on a normal visit, there were more people even on this side of the hill. It’s rare to meet anyone on route to Crooked Edge Hill coming from the Wilderswood area – today there were scores of them!

     

    Rivington Pike adorned with 'tourists'
    Rivington Pike adorned with ‘tourists’
    Nostalgia rules! This sign marks the point where the Amble path splits from the Rotary Way.
    Nostalgia rules! This sign marks the point where the Amble path splits from the Rotary Way.

    Since doing the Amble last month (February) I have stopped hating Crooked Edge Hill, it was an irrational hatred I concede that. Today, after the pike and its myriad of pilgrims it was nice to have an area of land to myself. I resolved to not try any record breaking and to simply enjoy the walk up to Two Lads. Yes, I did feel all nostalgic when I neared the sign where the Amble path splits off from the Rotary Way / path to the summit and duly took a photograph of it – this won’t mean anything to anyone else but for me it was a nice memory. I did make quite swift progress to the cairn atop the hill and was relieved to see a couple were there having a respite. I say relieved because I had been on my own for a good five minutes now!

    The male member of the couple greeted me and we started bragging about which hills we had climbed lately, his Sharp Edge transit over Blencathra trumped my Skiddaw – even if mine was physically more demanding (I’ll never do Sharp Edge so this is largely theoretical from my point of view), but then my recounting of completing the Amble trumped pretty much anything he had to offer, I won (if only in my mind). Five minutes of chatting later saw me check my watch and whilst I was relieved to see it was not yet twelve o’clock, I had a pressing need to continue walking for fear of stopping altogether and consoling myself with the knowledge that I had done the pike in thirty two minutes if nothing else. I pressed on, Winter Hill was next.

    The antenna array.
    The antenna array.
    Counting Hill lurking on the distant left and my route of descent in the left hand foreground.
    Counting Hill lurking on the distant left and my route of descent in the left hand foreground.

    Some days the tarmac road up to Winter Hill feels endless…today was one of those. However, it was very nice to bump into other ‘genuine’ walkers – the type with real walking boots on that actually look like they have seen dizzier heights than those little bridges present in each Go outdoors store. I considered stopping for an early lunch, the coolness of the air gently persuaded me otherwise. I’ll concede to speeding up my walk here as essentially once one has seem the mighty antenna array at this locale…there’s never the extensive views that the web in general promises. I did hope to try and grab a picture of the much understated ‘Counting Hill’…I failed. Now after over an hour of walking uphill I would drop down the side of Winter Hill (and Counting Hill) for over a mile, glorious!

    The glade at the bottom of the path.
    The glade at the bottom of the path.
    Belmont Village as seen from my descent path.
    Belmont Village as seen from my descent path.
    Somewhere in the foreground is the continuation of my route...
    Somewhere in the foreground is the continuation of my route…

    I was now headed for the A675 – Belmont Road and had a slight reservation as to whether I’d be able to cross this often busy road safely. I need not have worried, it was, for all intents and purposes dead and I lazily strolled over the road towards the turning for Greenhill Farm. The turning was reached within a matter of fifty feet or so and I was soon on the nice, flat tarmac path…for another fifty feet or so and then it was into slightly foreign territory. Although I had walked along this section of my route the month before – I was following someone then, I was on my own now and I have an irritating habit of going off-piste without meaning to do so. With this in mind I simply made sure that I stuck to what I could remember and took note of the terrain watching out for flattened grass / reeds (it’s a very wet area) and for stiles at the opposite side from where I was.

    The ornamental reservoir near Greenhill farm.
    The ornamental reservoir near Greenhill farm.

    It filled me with a certain nostalgia to be carefully watching my feet and re-living the Amble walk in this bumpy and wet terrain. I do wonder how long it takes this little neck of land to recover from having a couple of hundred pairs of feet stomp all over it in the dead of Winter. I dropped down to the stream, making use of the sturdy footbridge and then headed up to Egerton Road. A left turn and then a right and I was heading up a sheep-filled pasture towards the road which leads down to Belmont reservoir. The sheep were curious but kept their distance. I had naively believed that at the reservoir began the path known as Catherine Edge, this is not correct. Catherine Edge actually begins a good few hundred yards north east of here closer to where the second Amble checkpoint is at Charley’s Pole (there is no pole), so what my path was called I have no idea.

    I don't know the name of the hill in the centre of the photo...if you do then please let me know.
    I don’t know the name of the hill in the centre of the photo…if you do then please let me know.
    Here's one I did earlier...Winter Hill looking a very long way away.
    Here’s one I did earlier…Winter Hill looking a very long way away.

    All the same I was fairly sure of where I was going…I carried on in a straight line until ultimately I found that dead end into which I always wander on each walk. a helpful farmer (no comment) put me back on track and within a few hundred feet I was once more in an environment that I vaguely recognised. I hadn’t seen many people on route since dropping off Winter Hill but all of a sudden, in ones and twos they began to appear.

     

     

    Catherine Edge(?) meets Crookfield Road
    Catherine Edge(?) meets Crookfield Road

    I was in very good spirits by now as Map My Hike continued to inform me of my progress, the twenty-six minute miles were now behind me and I was onto the eighteen-minute ones on this rural express-way. I was loving it. The weather had taken a turn for the sunny as well and for once I unzipped my coat. Finally, it became very obvious that my path merged with the infamous Catherine Edge as both paths came to and end at just outside Tockholes. I took a turn off down a shady lane hoping it would lead me to Hollinshead Hall, yes, success. This was the end of the second section of the route – I do like to split things up into sections.I was aware of a foreboding presence, lurking on the horizon, out of sight but filling my mind. Great Hill was now just around the corner. I stopped for lunch and some coffee. Once again, people appeared seemingly from nowhere, a couple shared my locale whilst they had their lunch, he had a cigarette which smelled divine! I put Map My Hike on pause. It was lovely to sit and relax, except for a part of me knew what lay around the corner. Having ascended Great Hill as part of the Amble I knew it was easier than it looked…but still it was somehow taunting me, as if calling out to me that all hope of truly relaxing was going to be denied to me until I had conquered the beast. I finished my wraps and set off with a renewed zeal.

    Great Hill makes an appearance.
    Great Hill makes an appearance.

    Great Hill is not a difficult hill…it just thinks it is! Any former Ambler will agree with this. After all it’s just 1,250 feet tall…a dwarf of a hill compared to some of the giants I’ve nailed in the last few years. All the same, once I’d crossed the A675 again and made my way through the opening mud-pool…I remembered how energy sapping a wet field can be and a wet hill is even worse. At times the path went out of vision on the ground and I resorted to ‘which bit looks most distressed’ as this would indicate that a few hundred fellow travellers had bounded over here a month earlier. At one point I did pass over the world’s most pointless stile and then into my line of sight came the top. Alas, I had erased from my memory the fact that there is a rather spiteful little false summit something like seventy-five percent of the way up, it had caught me out again. Oh well, no point getting angry…onwards. I passed a couple and joked that I didn’t know why I was walking up this hill for the second time in two months, they seemed to find this amusing…or at least within earshot they laughed!

    And so within thirty five minutes of standing on its toes, I was atop the mighty lump that is Great Hill, and for a moment was quite shattered. Once more people seemed to be gathering. Within the next ten minutes, whilst I sipped the remainder of my coffee, I must have seen another ten people. I was very glad to have reached the top before three o’clock as this confirmed to me that I should be able to do the route that I had set out to complete within my time-frame. All that was left now was to bolt over Redmonds Edge, Spitlers Edge down Will Narr and then into Rivington via Limestone Quarry / Valley / I really don’t know its name and Bing Maps is not helping me here! Sounds easy does it not?

    Winter Hill and most of the expansive Anglezarke Moor spread out before me.
    Winter Hill and most of the expansive Anglezarke Moor spread out before me.
    The slabbed path heading south across Anglezarke Moor.
    The slabbed path heading south across Anglezarke Moor.

    And for the most part it was. It’s hard to restrain oneself from going full speed when coming off Great Hill heading overall southerly. Not that this is a particularly steep drop, indeed, that’s the point, because it’s so easy a gradient – we fly down it! Within five minutes I had torn across the wonderful slabbed path and was at the lowest part of this moor. Every few minutes a new pair or group of walkers would emerge from the horizon, in most cases we’d greet each other warmly – this can be a lonely old place and it’s always nice to be nice to others.
    Redmonds Edge was reached very swiftly, easily, Spitlers Edge followed quickly thereafter. A lot of the route has now been made much easier by the addition of these slabs but, herein lies its own problem: when the slabs run out, we’re kind of lost! For less than a hundred yards I was watching my feet as I stumbled my way through the wet peaty upper reaches of the moor. I fell victim to the sucking, clawing, grasp at me from the evil tendrils of the ground beneath my feet, just as a power walking couple were about to overtake me. I groaned then laughed, they laughed and then continued to laugh. Unbeknown to the couple they had just become the trailblazers, the ones to follow. Both myself and the couple in front now hopped from one dry patch to another until, quite by surprise a deer came fleet of foot, but not full canter (do deer canter?) across the moor in front of us. We were all captivated, this was spring in action. None of us could retrieve our camera quickly enough to capture this delightful sight and to be honest it would have probably just been a bit of a blur anyway.

    Other walkers atop Great Hill.
    Other walkers atop Great Hill.

    I had forgotten all about the separating wall which pointlessly divides the fields at this point as I walk towards them I got talking to an elderly couple (well, they were older than me ha!) about our days walks contrasting and comparing. I forget now where they said they had been that day but I do remember the man being impressed with my route (I am a bit vain!) and they were still deciding on which route to take next. He referred to the way that I was now going as Lead Mines Clough – I accepted this as I really didn’t have information to the contrary. There was just one stile to use in order to get to the next field, alas the woman was taking an eternity to traverse the thing as she was slipping whilst trying to haul herself over it. I decided to look around for an alternative route and found a large enough hole in the fence for me to just about get through. I bid the couple farewell and continued on my own. It was now getting closer to my three o’clock deadline…I had to be back at the car for four o’clock and if I didn’t think this was possible by three o’clock I should book a taxi for Chris.

    After some more hopping around from dry patch to dry patch I finally arrived at Will Narr and looked around for the plaque donated by the ‘Friends of the Yarrow’ which indicates the start of the mighty river Yarrow…I couldn’t see it anywhere, damn! There appears to be some sort of ground work in progress at Will Narr, there is a large hole dug out of the side of the rise very near to the top of the slope (sorry my words don’t do it justice). I decided not to take a picture of it…it’s just not pretty and knowing me, I’d have fallen in.

    Believe me, there are easier ways to get up Winter Hill than this!
    Believe me, there are easier ways to get up Winter Hill than this!

    I made my way to Rivington Road, took a photo of the ridiculously hard-going path up Winter Hill via Hordern Stoops which the power walkers had taken (ha, they’d regret that!) and began the long drop down towards Rivington via Moses Cocker (Bing really is crap at naming roads, even on ‘Road’ view). I had meant to use the path to Catter Nab which I had seen on a previous walk with Chris, but decided against this as to do so would just make my route harder and longer. By this time I had already walked almost thirteen miles. I bid a cheerful farewell to the moors behind me, for now I would be roadside walking all the way back down this long and winding road, not exactly safe – but definitely drier than my last hour and a half’s walking.

     

     

    Noon Hill rises like a tiny pyramid.
    Noon Hill rises like a tiny pyramid.
    Starting in the centre and heading up, meet the 'Super path' which does look an absolute pig to ascend.
    Starting in the centre and heading up, meet the ‘Super path’ which does look an absolute pig to ascend.

    From this aspect, the minor lump which is Noon Hill gained a profile all of its own. I have walked over it twice but to be honest I don’t get the whole ‘It’s neolithic’ hype. to me it’s very much in Winter Hill’s shadow. As I passed by the turn off for the ‘super path’ I did consider revising my decision, but, no: the path could wait for another day. The views across Anglezarke and as far afield as the Peak District where so good that I cursed my inability to name what I could see. That should not detract from the quality of this walk though. I knew that although not a busy road per se, this was a road that can (and does) bring out a driver’s need for speed. I had to cross the road a number of times, estimating where potential death might occur from some lunatic flying around the corner at sixty. As you’re reading this, you can assume that my estimations served me well. It seemed hardly any time at all before I was turning left off Rivington Road and onto Belmont Road (seriously, why can they not give more than one name to different streets in this locale?) at 53.631227, -2.552341.

    No puddles and an Ice Cream van!
    No puddles and an Ice Cream van!

    The last time that Chris and I were here there was a bit of snow and a vast puddle which cars were struggling to get through, fortunately the puddle had receded, the sun was by now blazing away and it was only three-twelve, I should make it back to the car in no more than fifteen minutes. There was even time for me to buy an ice cream from the van parked up at the meeting of the paths…but as I had just burned off around two thousand calories I thought this might appear, well…stupid, so I just headed back to the car instead.

    I eased my way through the paddock at ‘The Meeting of the Paths’ after struggling to open the gate. This area is normally rife with sheep but I think the superabundant human presence was having some affect on that and I don’t remember seeing any. A five minute walk down the same cobbled path that I had walked up five and a quarter hours earlier and I was back in front of the Barn. There were a lot more bikers around now and the enchanting smell of hot coals and beefburgers was getting in my head. I restrained from eating and simply absorbed what I had done – Map My Hike said that I’d hiked 14.85 miles. Actually I forgot to switch it from ‘pause mode’ when I had my lunch and only remembered half way up Great Hill!

    Summary

    Without doubt, this is the best, most enjoyable solo walk that I’ve done. Yes the weather helped greatly. A growing familiarity with the environment also helped. But, more so a new born confidence in me has helped immensely – I’m no longer terrified of being on my own. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

    Stats:
    I walked roughly fifteen miles over around 1,883 feet and it took me just short of five hours actual walking – though there was the pause mode mess-up to take into account.

    Song of the walk – well, there wasn’t one. I know it sounds a bit soppy but I was thinking about my lovely partner Christine (who was at work), my friends, colleagues and I was also busy reminiscing about the Amble and how much I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year! However, here is a musical montage of the photos I took:

    Downloading the route:
    Sadly, WordPress is far more Draconian than it ever was! It takes over your server. Thus if you want to download the .gpx file for this route then you would need to do the following:

    1. Right click on the “Download the GPX file Text box
    2. If you’re using Chrome or Firefox select Save Link As…
    3. Save the file somewhere memorable on your PC or device
    4. If Internet Explorer is your choice of browser, then:
      1. select Save target as…
      2. In the file requester pick a destination for the file and save it there.
      3. For some reason, IE tries to rename the file as a .xml or .txt instead of .gpx. If this happens then just rename it back once the download has finished.

    [easy_media_download url=”http://www.fatgoatwalks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/gpx/TheHalfAmble.gpx” text=”Download the GPX file” force_dl=”1″ width=”250″]

    The route according to Map My Hike:
    Half Amble Route
    [sgpx gpx=”/wp-content/uploads/gpx/TheHalfAmble.gpx”]


  • Catching up with an old friend

    The walk up to and over Pen Y Ghent on Saturday March 19th, 2016.

    I had felt a certain un-right, for some time. I should explain, when Colin, Darren and I attempted our Yorkshire Three Peaks in Reverse late last summer, we missed out our old friend Pen y Ghent owing to bad navigation. This was something that I had regretted since then. So, when Christine (my partner) handed me my “Walks in Ribblesdale” book back with the suggestion of us doing ‘Walk number six’ – I was delighted, this was the walk from Horton to Pen y Ghent and back via Plover Hill.

    We left home at 08:04, our first stop was the Lancaster Service Station near junction 34 for breakfast. Back on the road and our Tom Tom sat nav then proceeded to guide us through most of the back roads of the Craven area. Suffice to say, we didn’t arrive at Horton in Ribblesdale until something like ten to eleven…the train wouldn’t have been much slower! All the same, as the masses have thus far forgotten about the Yorkshire Dales – until the first “Three Peaks” sponsored walk, around about mid-April, thus parking was easy at the long stay car park and the overflow one wasn’t even in use. It’s not cheap to park here any more, as for over two hours now costs £4.50, on a par with Keswick Prices.

    Pen y Ghent is now appearing to look much bigger as we get closer.
    Pen y Ghent is now appearing to look much bigger as we get closer.
    What we'd done so far. the path back to Bracken Bottom.
    What we’d done so far. the path back to Bracken Bottom.

    By 11:04 we were all booted and readied and on route to the hill. Bracken Bottom was the first named area that we traversed, with fond memories I flashed back to the last time that I was here and displaying a ‘tally-ho’ attitude towards the steep trek up this field akin to the farm. On my Y3P day I held nothing in reserve, today I was more than happy to take in the scenery and chat with Chris. We did see a number of people on route but the only ones whom passed us, we then passed at later stages in the walk. We both enjoyed the little scramble stages as we headed east towards the first major wall stile. The route then gets a bit more gentle as more limestone to be surmounted; juts out of the ground. I especially like this way of tackling the mountain as it is such a varied route. Yes, although the overall trajectory is unmistakeably up, there are both flat and downhill sections.

    In your face. The nose of Pen y Ghent is now within touching distance.
    In your face. The nose of Pen y Ghent is now within touching distance.
    A hazy view over to Ingelborough and the two walkers behind us.
    A hazy view over to Ingleborough and the two walkers behind us.

    The last downhill section before the joining of paths soon came and went and as we neared the Pennine Way path I did wonder what had happened to the two gigantic ladder stiles which used to reside at this wall. This section seemed to serve as a natural stopping point, the couple and their dog, with whom we had been swapping places for the last half mile, decided to take a respite here and we took the opportunity to carry on up the fearsome southern face of Pen Y Ghent. Here the path gets a lot steeper (and this is coming from someone who did Ullock-Skiddaw on his previous walk!). I knew that it was less than half a mile to the summit, but even previous experience of having walked this route does not prepare one for the sight of the steep rocky staircase that we now had to ascend. We now had a lot of knee work to do…and both enjoyed it!

    The steps that had accelerated our progress so far.
    The steps that had accelerated our progress so far.
    Fountains Fell or Darnbrook Fell (or both).
    Fountains Fell or Darnbrook Fell (or both).

    Between scrambling sections there are opportunities to take photos of the two adjacent fells: Fountains and Darnbrook, but on the day I was at a loss as to which was which! It was a joy to see other walkers on route – this was still not ‘crowd-pulling’ weather so it was nice to not be harassed up the stony track, which can happen when the mountain is festooned with people attempting to walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was around six and a half years since I last did this mountain purely for pleasure instead of a training walk, thus I took the chance to have a look around and fall back in love with the Dales’ scenery. On average I only tend to frequent these parts once per year and that has to change.

    Out of Edale! The Pennine Way snakes its way over from the south.
    Out of Edale! The Pennine Way snakes its way over from the south.
    The ordnance survery column atop Pen y Ghent.
    The ordnance survey column atop Pen y Ghent.

    Ultimately, the summit path beckoned. It was a pleasant surprise that the mill-stone slabbed paths are now in such superabundance. After the final scramble you are immediately greeted by a new slab-path which facilitates progress all the way to the ordnance survey column pillar at the highest point of the mountain. We’d brought our lunch with us to eat at the small wind shelter near the o/s column. Thankfully, this was occupied by three smoking ‘chavs’ a lovely looking Golden Labrador and a ‘barks-at-anything’ bull terrier sort of dog. They were not for moving nor did they speak to anyone, both of which made me arrive at the earlier noun of ‘chavs’. All the same, I was glad to not have to eat my food here amongst the remnants of dried up bananas and the cold temperatures. And the evidence of the cold? Well that was the snow on the dip in-between Pen y Ghent and Plover Hill.

    Talking of Plover Hill, on Jack Keighley’s excellent walk, which we were following, the next section should have featured a down and up trek over to Plover Hill and then down to Hull Pot. On a warm summer day I’d happily do this minor detour…Chris and I agreed, that would be one for another day! We began the drop down the north-western face of the mountain.

    Apparently a Yodel delivery for Whernside?
    Apparently a Yodel delivery for Whernside?

    As if by magic, once over the tall stile, more walkers appeared seemingly out of the ether. A couple, the man of which had congratulated his lady on completing the trek up, began to drop down on the same stony path as us. Pen y Ghent’s north-west descent/ascent is fiercely steep, I may have played this down in previous reports, but at some points I’m sure the gradient must border on forty-five degrees. I had to watch my feet. We passed by some blocks on pallets which appeared to have been randomly left. I did wonder what future purpose they would serve. After roughly a quarter of a mile, the old nemesis from last Sunday showed its face once more…snow. A patch of roughly fifty feet, on one of the afore-mentioned forty-five degree sections seemed intent on slowing us all down – our group of two (Chris and me) had morphed into a group of about eight as we each struggled to come to grips with this white demon. I decided that as last week, I would lead with my heels. Alas, this proved to be ineffective for apparently Yorkshire snow and Cumbrian snow are simply two different creatures and I went up to my knees on a couple of occasions. Chris fared better by simply shouting and me “I can’t stop” and then of course coming to a natural and calm stop!

    Plover Hill, not the most alluring of all summits, but all the same...
    Plover Hill, not the most alluring of all summits, but all the same…

    We passed by Plover Hill and I did feel some remorse over our decision to not take this summit in today. That being said, it was more snow-covered than our mountain which would have added substantially to our route’s time to get across. At times we stopped and looked back at the snow patch in order to laugh at the spectacle of other walkers struggling to get over it. It was hilarious when happening to other people. The drop down from the top is a seriously long one, I must measure this one day, for some time Whitber Hill appeared to be on our route and although we could have made it over this 420 metre lump, neither one of us actually wanted to do so. Fortunately, Horton Scar Lane eventually came into view and we duly turned left here to head back to Horton in Ribblesdale once more.

     

    A last longing view back at the lovely Pen y Ghent.
    A last longing view back at the lovely Pen y Ghent. Will I feel the same in May when I have to do it at speed once more?

    We were passed by a number of younger walkers, early to mid-twenty year-olds at best but they never really shrank into the foreground. I think these had been the ones making most noise when confronted with the snow patch and they seemed in good spirits.

    Horton Scar Lane can be described as the longest ever walk back, if nobody else agrees with me then I still hold fast to that belief. I don’t know for how many miles we ambled along its length, but it seemed like three! But finally we arrived at the B6479 (bing maps does not give it a real name!) and we made our way to the car in order to change out of our boots and for me to get rid of the backpack which had been giving my shoulders a real ache. the Penyghent Café now beckoned and having bypassed lunchtime (thanks to the chavs and their dogs) I had suggested to Chris that we have a sausage butty! It was absolutely lovely, especially when I added English mustard. The two mugs of coffee that I consumed were also lovely and it was nice to sit in the café during one of its more obviously quiet phases. We listened to other excited walkers regale tales of their walks, nobody mentioned the snow, I wondered how many had fallen at that particular hurdle. Chris was in her element to have completed the walk, her fitness is coming along in leaps and bounds…Helvellyn next? We’ll see!

    In all the walk took just a little over four hours, which given that neither one of us was in any particular rush and the snow patch certainly had an impact, I thought was brilliant. Our various apps report a distance of seven miles and an altitude of two thousand and three hundred feet, fantastic. I can hardly wait to get over to this neck of the woods again, in May, in order to successfully lead Darren over the Yorkshire Three Peaks. However, it did cross my mind, has anyone ever thought of making an alternative route: Pen y Ghent, Fountains Fell and Plover Hill?

    There was no song of the walk…apologies, we were too busy gabbing on!

    Farewell for now, you beautiful mountain, you ‘hill of the winds!’


  • Skiddaw via Ullock Pike with Sue and Karl

    This was the walk of Sunday 13th March,2016.

    For a number of years I’d frequently seen posts on various forums and blogs of people that had completed the walk from Bassenthwaite over Ullock Pike and up to Skiddaw and regarded them with jealousy! The view of the startling Ullock Pike strutting out from amongst Wainwright’s ‘Skiddaw family’ is without doubt one of the ‘must-see’, iconic views of the Lake District and I hoped to one day experience it for myself.

    Sale Fell in the distance, giving the impression that this is an 'easy walking area'.
    Sale Fell in the distance, giving the impression that this is an ‘easy walking area’.

    I was delighted then when Karl, my walking companion, texted me to say that he had decided on a walk for us…Skiddaw via Ullock Pike and returning via Bakestall. If one were to include the summits of Long Side and Carl Side that would make for four additional ‘Wainwrights’ with the added bonus of ascending Skiddaw via the ‘hard way’.

    The oddly named "Watches".
    The oddly named “Watches”.
    A first glance at Ullock's 'Pike'
    A first glance at Ullock’s ‘Pike’

    Thus we arrived at our destination at just before ten o’clock on Sunday and were booted and geared up a little thereafter. I’d read a lot about this walk and had readied myself for a stern challenge. At first I was impressed…with my walking fitness, I didn’t appear to be struggling. Then, we reached Watches where all that changed! Ullock Pike was trying its best not to be inconspicuous, it stood out like the proverbial ‘sore thumb’. However this was but a shrinking violet compared to the sheer ‘in your face’ attitude proffered by the broad side of the looming hulk of Skiddaw – the undisputed king of the area. I’d ascended Skiddaw in 2013 via the ‘easy, tourist’ route. What I could see of the path which began at Carl Side and appeared to climb up at a thirty degree angle, looked anything but easy. First we had Ullock Pike to traverse, and in itself that was no mean feat. Ullock Pike can be likened to Clougha…save for the fact that one (the former) is almost a thousand feet higher than the other (the latter). Clougha has numerous, well, cloughs, areas of depressions, sudden rises, Ullock Pike has these in spates! Some might refer to these rises as false summits, I could probably summon up some more robust sounding adjectives. After no more than thirty minutes walking, my thighs were nicely warmed up thank you very much, some might even say burning!

    Our path up Skiddaw, definitely not the Yellow Brick Road.
    Our path up Skiddaw, definitely not the Yellow Brick Road.

    I found it surprising to see many people on this side of the mountain (Skiddaw) with this being the side for the more adventure, thrill-seeking, walkers. All the same, whilst we would have seen exponentially more walkers on the tourist side, we did see and say ‘hi’ to perhaps twenty or more walkers during our climb to the summit of Ullock. When we arrived at the summit, the views of most of the peaks of the Lake District opened out to us. Grisedale Pike looked (to me anyway) as tempting as ever, Helvellyn appeared quite near and Bassenthwaite lake itself looked enormous. What was most pre-eminent in my mind was that fearful looking path up Skiddaw, oh my it looked steep! Karl and Sue must have seen the colour wash right out of my face and both did their best to reassure me that it was wider than it looked and would not be the Skiddaw equivalent of Striding Edge. That being said, it was a good deal narrower than any ‘edge’ upon which I’ve placed my feet! I was nervous and excited at the same time.

    Dodd - demanding our attention, from Long Side Edge.
    Dodd – demanding our attention, from Long Side Edge.
    Our path to Carl Side, pretty hard to miss really.
    Our path to Carl Side, pretty hard to miss really.

    From Ullock Pike we first descended then walked along the level edge which is Long Side or at least Long Side Edge – I don’t know if this is technically a mountain, fell or just a col on the route over to Carl Side. Nevertheless it made for a great stopping point at which we could consume our lunch, it was 12:02 after all. It makes sense to eat when there is significantly more of the walk yet to do – as opposed to some walks when we don’t eat until the apex of the walk when, invariably, it’s all downhill from there and the surplus energy gets put into reserve. The more that I walk, the more planning and preparation goes into that walk.

    Long Side Edge is something of a high-level expressway.
    Long Side Edge is something of a high-level express-way.

    After lunch I pretty much charged across to the rounded summit of Carl Side as I wanted to start work on that unnerving track up mighty Skiddaw. We dropped down probably around fifty to one hundred feet in less than a quarter of a mile, this was great apart from the fact that it then meant that we would obviously have to climb up the same distance…and then some! I won’t lie, the first few yards of the ever increasing slope were tough but this soon subsided and was replaced by an even tougher gradient. I noticed with some trepidation that the path was at least half as wide as I had believed owing to the majority of it being covered in a three inch layer of snow. ‘Oh great’, thought I, ‘not only am I leaning into the mountain, but now I have to watch every footstep as well!’ And watch I did as the gradient once again increased and I began to stumble every few yards even though I now had my eyes glued to my feet! On six occasions I fell forward and had to put my hand out to steady myself. A few people on the way down passed close by me – a mid-twenties woman with deep brown eyes, a very young lad with blonde hair and his ‘meat-head’ of a father who had seen fit to only wear a t-shirt on the top half of his body – no coat (ah I’m only jealous really, if there was an ounce of fat on him it was a lonely one!). The most unnerving moment was the encounter with a group of mountain bikers (I’m not aware of the collective noun, pack, herd, crash?), one of whom seemed intent on descending the monstrous slope via my route! Fortunately for us both, his friends were able to persuade him not to commit at one and the same time suicide and manslaughter – believe me, if he had come my way he would have been the first of his ilk orbiting the earth!

    We've done it! The highest point of Skiddaw at 3,054 feet.
    We’ve done it! The highest point of Skiddaw at 3,054 feet.

    I stopped on a number of occasions – I was jelly-legged and totally spent, including mentally, I hadn’t been this trembly since…well since nearly falling in Holden’s Brook during the Amble – before that it would have been since dropping (quite literally) down Great Gable in 2014! After a morning full of false summits I was expecting another…however, after chatting with the more sensible mountain bikers for a few minutes, I was rational enough to notice that one of Skiddaw’s tops (for it has two) was really not that far away, perhaps a hundred feet in distance. A surge of energy flooded through me, this was aided by the sight of Sue and Karl whom I had not seen for a good ten minutes. Full steam (or what was left of it!) ahead and within a moment I had caught them up – well okay they weren’t actually moving! Then, after a moment’s pause, I charged ahead on route to the real top – the one adorned with the trig point and other pieces of ‘hill-bling’. Although there is a drop and then an ascent, momentum carries walkers forward here from one ‘top’ to the other and in a few seconds I was tapping the trig point…and then being mobbed by a zealous group of women who wanted me to take a summit photo of their group, I obliged.

    The astonishingly beautiful Helvellyn range.
    The astonishingly beautiful Helvellyn range.

    Excellent views from Skiddaw’s summit are seldom witnessed, good yes, but there is normally too much mist or haze around to facilitate the taking of breathtaking scenery. Today’s views could only really be described as fair-to-middling. Yes, we could see all of the Lake District fells, the Isle of Mann and Criffel in Scotland; both floated across their respective bodies of water beautifully and even the mighty Cross Fell and the Dun Fells put in an appearance ..but I would have expected to be able to see all of this and more – I know how greedy that sounds. I was not disappointed, I just wasn’t ecstatic about the views. The sense of achievement having ascended such a steep path – after already taking in the strenuous climb of Ullock Pike, was euphoric, if somewhat exhausting to achieve. I had meant to do Skiddaw again and this was definitely the best way to return to the giant.

    The gentle climb to the summit of Bakestall.
    The gentle climb to the summit of Bakestall.
    Turning around often rewards us with a view of what we've done!
    Turning around often rewards us with a view of what we’ve done!

    I think we stayed at the summit of Skiddaw for ten minutes or so, just about long enough to get a decent ‘slurp’ of water from my under-performing hydration bladder – I really must look into buying something for those of us who don’t have lungs like an Olympic swimmer! I was a bit wary of the descent off Skiddaw – there was no way that I was going to descend via the route by which we had gone up – thank goodness. Karl had told me that we would be dropping down to Bakestall next but in all honesty he could have rifled off the names of any fells he wanted and unless they were really obvious (Helvellyn, Scafell, Grassmoor) I would have believed him, I just don’t know much about this area.

    Aww how cute is Over Water?
    Aww how cute is Over Water?
    Carrock Fell and Great Calva.
    Carrock Fell and Great Calva.

    Ordinarily, when I am at the top of a hill, any hill, I only want to descend all the way back to the car- no uphill bits whatsoever. This shows some hill walking inexperience and is a bit lazy, hills aren’t made like that, and neither are valleys, where most hills are found. Fortunately enough for me, the drop off Skiddaw was monumental and a bit snowy in places, both of which led to an enjoyable drop, which seemed to go on and on. Karl did enjoy a slide down a few yards – which looked like fun, I only fell once. Before long we were traversing the top of Bakestall and found ourselves another spot to sit and eat (drink in my case) and admire the views across to Scotland over the Solway Firth. More locally a lake of which I’d never heard (Over Water) came into view and looked ever so cute being so near to Bassenthwaite – which is vast! Other fells that are on my to-do list came into view, Carrock Fell and the viewing platform of Great Calva had been getting larger and now were at their full viewing heights from this aspect.

    The lovely titled Dead Craggs
    The lovely titled Dead Craggs
    The stunning Dash Falls (or White water dash!)
    The stunning Dash Falls (or White water dash!)

    In spite of the allure of the serenity, which could have kept us there all day, we chose to leave and drop some more…and what a drop. The descent from Bakestall to the Cumbria Way is pretty much like falling downhill. I couldn’t really guess at the gradient, suffice to say, I’m glad we never went up this way as this would have crushed my spirits, each time I turned around to gaze at what we had dropped down it seemed relentless. It’s true to say that certain patches of the downhill stretch were so we that they reminded me of doing the Anglezarke Amble. Ultimately our path down Bakestall led us on to the Cumbrian Way, we turned left and began the sometimes tarmac, sometimes grass track back to where we had parked. It was not all grass and tarmac for all to behold, the stunning Dash Falls were a sight for sore eyes (not that we had sore eyes) and Dead Craggs may have a terrible name but they are quite captivating. I practically welled with pride each time that I took in the whole view of the walk as we walked mile after mile along our tarmac / grass highway. If we had just done the whole of Long Side Edge, from Ullock Pike to Carl Side, this would still be a walk of which anyone could be proud. But we’d gone better than that, we’d done Skiddaw – the hardest way and that was a sensation of unrivalled pride onto which I will hold on for the rest of the year.

    The walk’s statistics don’t make for particularly impressive reading, we ascended something like 2,800 feet over roughly nine and a quarter miles. We left the car at 10:02 and returned at around 16:20. I hope to make it back to Skiddaw again at some point, it won’t be this year, it may very well not be for another three years, but this old friend will always be in my thoughts whenever they turn to the subject of mountains, for this is truly a mountain of note, without doubt the king of its area (sorry Blencathra!)

    Song of the walk: This Love by Ellie Goulding

    Now available on You Tube:Click Here to watch a montage of photos of the day.


  • Roaming around Rivington’s Reservoirs

    The walk of Saturday the fifth of March, 2016

    Ever since I was introduced to the route (February 2015 on a Southport Ramblers’ “B” walk), I had wanted to take my partner Christine on a walk around the reservoirs of Rivington, as part of a fairly none-strenuous route up to either Winter Hill or Rivington Pike. A combination of Saturday’s beautiful weather and the snow which had fallen a few days before had moved this route up the rankings, making it hard to resist.

    We arrived at Rivington at the lane which leads to the Great Barn at around twenty five past eleven and were booted-up by 11:34 and on route. First we had to cross Rivington Lane and pass alongside Go-Ape – which looked to have a good number of potential clients today. The beginning of our route was not the hardest thing that I’ll ever have to navigate as it was simply a case of heading for the reservoir and then turn right before setting foot in it! It has to be said that this was the easiest walking of the day.

    Winter Hill with a layer of snow.
    Winter Hill with a layer of snow.
    Winter Hill looking majestic across the Yarrow reservoir.
    Winter Hill looking majestic across the Yarrow reservoir.

    We passed the first of the four reservoirs – the Lower Rivington and then we quickly passed the other ‘Rivington’ reservoir (the Upper). Before very long we turned left away from the main bridal path and then walked alongside the Yarrow reservoir – there’s a frightening amount of water which gathers in this vicinity and with the recent snowfall, I surmised the ground was going to be saturated.Oddly enough, there was only a little bit of snow on one of the flanks of the reservoir’s outer banks, giving the impression that Olaf the snowman had simply given up the goat on an expedition! As featured on either side of this text, the views to a snow-covered Winter Hill were inspirational.

    The head (or bottom) of the Yarrow reservoir.
    The head (or bottom) of the Yarrow reservoir.
    I believe this is Holt's Flat - a plantation of sorts.
    I believe this is Holt’s Flat – a plantation of sorts.

    After the Yarrow we were in an area named Parson’s Bullough where resides yet another…reservoir, only a small one this time, in fact I don’t remember seeing or passing it. We passed through the gate at the point where Alance Bridge lies and took a very good path up into the area known as ‘Meeting of the Waters’ – so named as this is where the River Yarrow and Limestone Brook meet and then converge into the Yarrow reservoir. The going was not yet as bad as I had feared and we made swift progress up quite a steep incline as we headed easterly towards Wilkinson Bullough (some day I’ll research what geographical feature a ‘bullough’ is!).

    Unofficially, we were now in ‘Sheep World’, well there was so many of them scattered about the path. Thankfully, none of the ovine gathered were feeling brave enough to tackle or us or cause us any kind of obstacle and we carried on across the wide open moorland. We had spied a number of other walkers some distance ahead (crossing what I assumed would be a soggy field), we seemed to be gaining on them. I had to make sure that I kept Chris up to date on where we were going (this helps, I’m the same when Karl and I go anywhere) and as we neared the part of the route where I had planned that we should bear left in order to ascend to Will Narr, I noticed that our path was an inclined quagmire! We took the right hand (straight on) path instead and practically ran straight into the distant walkers we had seen earlier. Actually it was sizeable group of walkers – I guessed around ten to fifteen. Assuming that they knew where they were going (was this wise as they seemed to have gone through one wet field after another instead of sticking to the relatively dry path?) we followed them.

    The view of our progress along this long path.
    The view of our progress along this long path.

    Fortunately, the sight of Rivington Road (don’t get me started!) was never far from view so I knew that if only we could traverse this moorland up to the said road we would be able to progress unhindered. As luck would have it, there appeared to have been many recent walkers on route whom had left a great big black swathe of a path for us to follow. We just had to take our time hopping from one tussock to another in order to avoid the myriad of springs in the area and eventually came out on to Rivington Road. I had it in my mind to cross the road and locate the Belmont Road which would eventually lead us to very near the Dovecote / Pigeon Tower, but, as Chris had a severe case of wet feet going on, I decided against this and we turned left to take us all the way downhill towards Moses Cocker. On route I did spy across the valley a simply gorgeous, steep path that seemed to weave its way from the bottom of the gulf known as ‘Shore’ and up to Belmont Road (not the A675). Instantly, I took the vow to come back and do this wonderfully steep path. However, as we were now on a national seed limit road, featuring many a blind corner, I thought it best to not get myself maimed by taking photographs of it!

    Winter Hill with the view of one of the western approaches.
    Winter Hill with the view of one of the western approaches.
    Winter Hill with the 'Edge's visible.
    Winter Hill with the ‘Edge’s visible.

    After dropping two hundred feet (or thereabouts) in less than a mile, our pace picked up enormously. I felt the need to slow down simply owing to the fact that we were going to be at the end of the walk too early. This road is not nice to walk alongside as I believe it’s an national speed limit one and there are many blind corners. Finally we turned left on to a road with no name (according to Bing maps) and wandered over to where I thought we would be turning in order to cross a paddock and drop down to the barn. However, I didn’t account for Chris suddenly wanting to take in Rivington Pike!

    So, after a moment’s worth of debate, we set off back up the hill from a place that I know as ‘the meeting of the paths’ – under the shadow of Catter Nab. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have now ascended this route – not always have my trips up here resulted in the seemingly inevitable climb up to the pike. On this occasion, we made haste for the bench at the start of the mildly descending drop down to the Japanese Gardens’ route and had our lunch. Refreshed and revitalised, we had already walked about six miles and a couple of hundred feet, we set off once more with the clear intent of making it to the pike.

    A view of Wilder's moor and possibly Adam Hill.
    A view of Wilder’s moor and possibly Adam Hill.

    We made quite swift process, before long the disused toilet block was in site (why isn’t something done with this building?) and within a few moments we were on the last stretch of steps to Belmont Road (the path). This was crossed and so for the second month in a row I was taking in the path which would lead to the steep little staircase up to Rivington Pike. I told Chris of my personal challenge: to never stop or pause once on the final climb up this hill and she was content for me to ‘bomb-off’ on my own up the steps. It only takes a few minutes but always atop the pike…it’s damn hard to catch one’s breath! I was somewhat astounded when just thirty or forty seconds after I’d finished the climb, up popped Chris! She too had not stopped on route and the sense of pride I had in her (without meaning to sound patronising) was almost overwhelming.

     

    The views to the east were now looking more dark.
    The views to the east were now looking more dark.

    As usual, mother nature had a welcoming gale-force-wind atop the pike, we didn’t stand around talking much. I kept wanting to hug Chris and tell her how proud of her I was – this had easily been our longest rural walk for a good number of years, and those steps are seriously steep. We took a few photos and made our way back down the steps, weaved our way around the multitude of paths and before very long at all ended up at Rivington Hall Barn – which was closed. So, we decided to have something to eat across the road at the Great House Barn (gee, I wonder why I get confused with the names of things in these parts!)

    Having started the walk at 11:34 we arrived at the Great House Barn at 16:15 having walked around seven hundred feet over roughly nine and a half miles. Not bad at all given the amount of ascending and distance.

     


  • Perishing Pendle

    Last year I celebrated New Year by climbing my favourite hill – Pendle, on New Year’s Eve – effectively 2014 (still with me folks?). I made the comittment to do the same walk the following year but around December this year came to the realisation that it would be January first that I would do the walk. All the same it was a great way of burning off a mince pie or two as not only was it a good old leg stretcher, the temperature ensured that there would be no idling on route.

    The 'grit stone slope' path which leads to the Boar Clough main arterial path to the summit from the rear of Pendle House.
    The ‘grit stone slope’ path.
    Photo of The steep and infamous 'Barley steps'.
    The steep and infamous ‘Barley steps’.

    I made it to Barley for around 11:00, set my phone to run ‘Map My Walk’ and was all ready to roll at 11:07. I’d planned to go up the hill via one of my lesser used routes – the ‘Grit stone slope’. Along with its sister routes this path starts around the back of Pendle House but splits off to the left. I passed only one person on route to the public footpath which starts facing the Barley Mow – he was a huge hulk of a man who appeared to be walking hap-hazardly, I couldn’t get past him quickly enough. The stretch from the road up to the area around Brown House is a gentle walk over multiple teraains – gritstone, grass, tarmac road, you name it. I occaisionally peered over to the steps to see if I could catch sight of anyone ascending by that most arduous of routes, some Bank Holidays it can be like looking at a procession of ants, but not today. In the centre of the village the weather was quite mild, my scarf and gloves would stay in my backpack, for now and I kept my coat undone.

    The first person that I encountered on route was a young blonde haired (I want to say woman, but to be honest she could have been fifteen or twenty) who said ‘Hi’ to me with a lovely smile…the day was shaping up. By the time I’d reached the horrid fields on the run-up to Pendle House I think I’d exchanged greetings with another four people, a couple of couples. After roughly twenty minutes Map My Walk had told me that I had walked one-point-six kilometers, odd, even though I’d set the ‘app’ to read in metric measurements it still wanted to tell me the milage – why not tell me of my progress after one kilometer as opposed to 1.6  a mile!

    After traversing three footbridges and noting that the footpath at Ings End needs repairing again (honestly, it’s a mess again) I finally arrive at the horrid fields which had their usual draining effect on my calves and thighs, I’ll never appreciate this part of the route and to make matters worse, the second field was rather cut up and muddy, I think I could have taken five minutes less time on the day if I had ascended via Barley Road. I vowed to not come this way on the return to Barley.

    Another photo of the steep and infamous 'Barley steps'.
    Another photo of the steep and infamous ‘Barley steps’.

    And so I arrived at the foot of the infamous ‘Barley Steps’. By this time I had encountered a lot more people on route, possibly around fifty or so. The mood was somewhat bouyant, I heard the odd ‘Happy New Year’ and the dog-walkers were definitely out en masse. Whereas last year my initial vow was to essentially ‘say yes to everything’ (I pretty much stuck to this, even if sometimes I ought not to have done so), this year’s inspirational motto is to be ‘balance’ (this has been influenced by a very dear aquaintance, who is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever met). I’d need balance to get me up the slope as it starts off quite easy – for a good five yards or so…then gets really tough for roughly a quarter of a mile. I had been tempted to try the steps route but promised myself to stick to plans that I have made (if it makes sense to do so), so I kept to the slope plan. I met a lovely couple who were gingerly descending the slope, it was quite wet so they were watching every footstep, I have lost my footing on the way down this slope prior to this visit and can vouch for how tricky it can be. I failed to take any more photographs as the higher I climbed the more fierce the wind became and by the time I had reached the hollow at the top of the slope, just before this path merges with the one from Boar Clough, my ears were stinging owing to that biting wind.

     

    Map my walk informed me that I had been walking for forty five minutes, this had the effect of accelerating my pace. I met several more people who were taking my route back down and exchanged greetings with a number of people (including one Happy New Year). I now wanted to get to the summit trig point as soon as possible, would I improve on my previous time of fifty-seven minutes? The summit plateau was decidedly ‘crunchy’ in places were the myriad of micro-streams which ultimately merge and become Pendle Water, had frozen. Now the wind was howling, this was more like being on Cross Fell at the time of the Helm Wind, let a lone Pendle Hill. The trig point beckoned and seemed to get nearer all at once, not enticing for seemingly ages but appearing to stay the same distance away. Within moments I was touching the top of it and uttering ‘for mum’. Only after doing this did I notice the time – twelve o’clock, it had taken me just fifty-three minutes from start to summit!

    The o/s point atop 'Big End' at Pendle Hill.
    The o/s point atop ‘Big End’ at Pendle Hill.
    Lots of folks out on the hill today, we must all be mad.
    Lots of folks out on the hill today, we must all be mad.

    From my backpack I retrieved my scarf and gloves, this did not aid photography in any practical way. Thus I took just a few photographs. Many more people were now nearing the top of the hill and I wondered if someone kind of ‘meet-up’ had been arranged as they all seemed to know one-another! I did consider doing the decent thing by asking other amateaur photographers if they needed a photo taking by me (with the cameras/phones) but the wind was screaming by now and this did not facilitate conversation. Myself and another walker tried to have a dialogue about our respective routes of ascent and descent but to no avail. We said our farewells and headed off in opposite directions, I aimed for the Downham boundary wall where I then turned right and began a perilous desent of the steps. Why was it perilous? Well the wind was now being highly efficiently transported to my eyes causing them to water profusely. Whilst this was not painful and was tolerable, it didn’t expediate progress as I had to keep stopping in order to blink!

    After a few hundred yards the wind was much easier to cope with owing to my losing altitude. More people passed me on the way up the hill, I had expected it to be busy today. For the first ever time, when I got to the bottom of the steps I stayed on the same route (as opposed to veering off to the right as normal) and took the left path passing the rear of Pendle House, I was sticking to my resolve to not slip and slide my way across the horrid fields. To be honest it was an inspired choice as quite soon I had removed my gloves in order to send Chris a text boasting of my progress. I stopped to check the ‘app’ and take a photograph of the slope – the odd thing is that I cannot find this photo on my phone and it was rather a good one with a little dog posing in the forefront (this tickled the dog’s owner, who was actually a stunning strawberry-blonde haired woman!).

    When the leafy lane met with Barley Road I turned right and resisted the urge to wander across the fields opposite in a bid to nail Stang Top Moor as well, that would have to wait, today’s walk was to be just Pendle (see I’m already getting the hang of sticking to a plan if it makes sense to do so!). The walk along the tarmac back to the centre was very boring, but all the same it was lovely to be out and about getting fresh air and exercise and before long I was back at the car park and café from where I would get a really fowl-tasting latte – the staff at the Cabin are lovely but they need to ditch that coffee machine as it’s a good few years since I last had a decent drink here!

    Summary

    As far as walking goes, this was a perfect start to the year. I’d shaved another four minutes off my record walking time – obviously aided by the cold weather, I’d been sociable and said ‘morning’ or ‘hi’ to a dozen people or so and most importantly I’d shed the December cobwebs in preparation of Sunday’s Ramble to Hornby with the Southport Ramblers.

    Stats:

    Passed – seven

    Passed by – three (but I then passed them!)

    Miles: Just over five.

    Ascent -1,043 feet.

    Time taken: One hour and forty-two minutes!

    Song of the walk: Love Me Like You by Little Mix

    Route: Barley visitor centre, Ings End, Brown House, Pendle House, The slope, Big End, The Steps, Pendle House, Barley Road.


  • 2015 My Walking Year in Review

    Well now, this was a good walking year!

    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
    Great Hill hazed out by a stinging snowstorm.
    Great Hill hazed out by a stinging snowstorm.

    January saw the start of my walking year…I know how obvious that sounds but some years I haven’t started walking until March.

    I had decided to have another bash at joining Southport Ramblers after 2011’s falling out with them. This time around I found that I was much better prepared to keep up with them – picking category ‘C’ walks at first proved to be a wise decision. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the routes offered by the ramblers. We seemed to traverse muddy fields simply for the sake of traversing muddy fields. The highlight of each walk definitely was the company. Our first outing to Longridge in order to take in various country lanes, could essentially have been anywhere. Likewise two weeks later saw us at Saint Asaph for a walk through some more washed-out and verdant fields! Late January saw the weather take a turn for the colder as Karl and I enjoyed a walk in the snow over Darwen Moor. Karl and Anne and I traversed the hills on my mission to acquaint myself with the route of the Anglezarke Amble (I did mention that I’m doing this in February 2016 didn’t I?) This was to be my first West Pennines yomp of the year and a thoroughly enjoyable one…minus a couple of minutes when I had to climb over a barbed wire fence and nearly became an alto singer! A further expedition along Southport’s thought-provoking Coastal Road gained me some more leg milage – twenty one to be precise. The 22nd of February saw me with the Ramblers at Rivington in a very enjoyable, snowed-out walk over Rivington Moor and Catter Nab whilst taking in the sights of Rivington Lower Reservoir and the Yarrow Reservoir on route.

    Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.
    Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.

    Until the end of March far the most challenging walk of the year came about when we (The Southport Ramblers) went to Chipping, walked over six mile’s worth of muddy fields then took on the steep southern face of Parlick Pike. This would put me in good stead for the rest of my walking year as not even Whernside or Snowdon (the Llanberis route) can measure up to the ridiculous gradient this aspect proffered, by the time I reached the summit, I was shattered. Parlick had been on my ‘to-do’ list for the year, although I had meant to set about it from the top of Longridge Fell – I still intend to do this iconic walk…maybe next year.

    Further trips in the first quarter of the year saw Karl and I back at the West Pennines in order to take in Turton Moor and another section of the A.A. whereby we wandered over the side of Turton Heights then back over past Cadshaw to Green Arms Road. I’d never walked in this locale prior to this and was taken aback at just how scenic the West Pennines (including Winter Hill) can be. Another attempt at doing a section of the A.A. on my own resulted in a ten mile walk over Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and many, many miles of roads as my legs started to moan under the stress of so many walks in such a short time. The walk in itself was fantastic but the company was a bit irksome! This would improve dramatically as in March Chris and I enjoyed a quite balmy walk on one of the many trails through Delamere Forest.

    April saw me return to do the Coastal Road once again and a trip with the Southport Ramblers to Besston. I’d never heard of the place before and to be honest, I could quite easily forget all about it now as we took in a tiny summit (the name of which I cannot recollect) and we visited a candle factory (be still my beating heart!).

    The Middle Way
    The Middle Way

    May brought with it a couple of Bank Holidays and one of these saw me return to good old Pendle to do ‘The Middle Way’, on a walk which I laughingly referred to as ‘Pen-ny not so dreadful’ I completed my objective of ascending Pendle the undisputed hardest way. The climb itself was hard, but the time to complete the steep ascent was a breathtaking sixty-nine minutes. I had no idea that I could walk so quickly uphill! As this was training for the month after’s Yorkshire Three Peaks attempt, my confidence was escalated beyond my wildest possible expectations. Another walk two days later which would take in Winter Hill via the east and again ran in at around ten and a half miles, left me feeling that this time, more than at any other point in my past, I would be able to get around the infamous Yorkshire three peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

     

    24.5 miles, five thousand feet, one county top and two aching legs!
    24.5 miles, five thousand feet, one county top and two aching legs!

    And thus onto June and on the sixth I booked a car from Enterprise (A wonderful little Corsa), drove up to Horton in Ribblesdale, met up with the lovely Linzi from Southport Ramblers and Mark – an old acquaintance from my Bolton days and took on the challenge of Yorkshire’s finest. It’s tough going but at no point did I consider not completing the twenty four and a half mile course. I would go on to to scale bigger mountains throughout the year but nothing could compare to the sense of sheer unprecedented joy of arriving back at the Penyghent Café to be informed that we had completed the route in time…eleven hours and four minutes. I believe that there were many factors which contributed to my success: yes the weight loss had definitely been principle among these, but also the twenty-plus mile walks along Southport’s stunning Coastal Road had definitely played a part – as had May’s ascent of Pendle’s ‘Middle way’ – even Ingleborough seemed less challenging than this (though not to be taken lightly, I still paused a number of times). Mark was excellent company – even if he did comment to the effect that I dropped down the hills like a sheep (A sheep? Not a GOAT?) and it was a shame to lose Linzi at Chapel le Dale. I had vowed ‘never again’…that promise would last but two short months as I returned to do the reverse route with Darren and Colin at the end of August. Alas our bid was unsuccessful after some wayward rambling put us on a path which never seemed to get use any nearer to Pen-y-ghent.

    The end of the Fairfield Horseshoe - Low Pike!
    The end of the Fairfield Horseshoe – Low Pike!
    The Coniston Range as seem from Low Pike.
    The Coniston Range as seen from Low Pike.

    In between the two Yorkshire assaults there were a few walks – including two trips to the glorious Lake District. The first trip was again with the Ramblers under the pretence of ‘We’re going up High Street’ – this was a blatant mis-direction as in fact the hill which we did ascend was the much lower (but still a Wainwright!) outcrop of Arthur’s Pike. Although the walk in itself was ‘lovely’ and the company was as good as ever, it just didn’t seem to be that much of a challenge a week after completing the Y3P. The second return to the Lake District however, was a real belter as four of us took on the impressive Fairfield Horseshoe. Karl and Sue were almost apologetic for the abysmal weather that stuck with us for over half of the walk…I was overjoyed to not be able to see the route in full and thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. If I only stick to one intended walk next year it would have to be another one of these Lakeland Horseshoe routes – preferably the Kentmere Horseshoe. That being said, there is another return to Horton in Ribblesdale planned in May!

    From here on in the walking year became considerably easier. Yes there was a rather boring ascent and hair-raising descent of Winter hill and a record attempt at Pendle’s stepped path from around the back of Pendle house – in just fifty-seven minutes. On the same walk I also discovered the wilder side of Pendle at Churn Clough and Deerstones – locations to which I will surely return.

    Yr Wyddfa - Or Snowdon as the rest of us call it!
    Yr Wyddfa – Or Snowdon as the rest of us call it!
    Connor and Darren in front of a hill which I cannot name!
    Connor and Darren in front of a hill which I cannot name!

    Ultimately, the ‘big walk’ came around. If the Y3P taught me anything it was a sense of perspective, we can only ever walk one footstep at a time. This would be a good motto onto which I would hold on as Darren, Connor and I took on the Welsh giant of Snowdon from Llanberris. Yes, it did prove to be easier than I could have hoped, but, was this only relative to the rest of my walking year? If I hadn’t already done two speedy (for me) walks up Pendle, the arduous trek up Parlick, the two Y3Ps and ultimately Fairfield’s Horseshoe would it have seemed as easy? Snowdon is a beacon in every sense of the word, it’s a challenge even once one has ascended it and I can hardly wait to return in the spring of next year to complete the challenging ‘Watkins Path’ again with Darren – though I’m not sure we’ll be roping in Connor to do this one! There would be few walks for the rest of the year, save for one adventure to do Rivington Pike with Chris…and a last visit to Pendle for All Saints Day, more stunning sceneryand the walk re-routed at Under Pendle, which is never a down-turn given that it’s my faourite part of the area.

    It looks a long way to the top...but it really wasn't, thankfully.
    It looks a long way to the top…but it really wasn’t, thankfully.
    The sun sets on my walking year...it's been a fantastic, challenging and thoroughly rewarding year.
    The sun sets on my walking year…it’s been a fantastic, challenging and thoroughly rewarding year.

    In October we visited the lovely city of Edinburgh and on a leisurely amble I ended up climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat – a hill of which I’d never heard before our visit. It was a thoroughly enjoyable dash to the summit and I’d love to return to take in a more circuitous route as opposed to the ‘up and down’ direct approach that I took.  Finally in November, Karl and I met up once more with the intent of completing another section of the Anglezarke Amble, but, with the main road from Egerton to Belmont being something of an ice rink we headed to the east – Edgworth and took in the bleak but captivating Holcolmbe Moor. This was about as remote as I have been all year, I doubt that I saw twenty people on the walk and would certainly not want to do this one on my own. We must go back one day when it’s warmer to ‘bag’ Bull hill but for now I’m glad to have made it through the day without falling over!

     

     

    And so ends my walking year. It’s unlikely that I’ll add to my twenty four walks total – the greatest number (by far) that I have completed in one year. I can congratulate myself that I’ve taken on some big challenges in the Yorkshire Three Peaks, The Fairfield Horseshoe and the completion of Snowdon and I’ll be hard pressed to surpass this next year…but surpass I shall as I intend to re-visit Horton in Ribblesdale (with Darren) and to complete the Anglezarke Amble, the Watkins path up Snowdon and there are still those wretched four missing peaks from my ‘Top ten of England’ to tick off. Of course there will have to be more trips to Pendle – I’ve not completed all possible routes up there yet and well, I still love it there. I’m hopeful that Karl and I can get back to Keswick to do the classic Skiddaw via Ullock Pike and wouldn’t it be wonderful to replicate Julia’s walk over Broad Crag and Ill Crag before arriving at the mighty summit of Scafell Pike – it’s been too long since I last went there! For now it’s a case of feet up and build up the calories on mince pies ‘cos come February they’ll certainly be getting burned off again!

    Oh I nearly forgot to mention: the hardly-coveted ‘Walk of the Year for 2015’…well I’m afraid that vanity wins out. Whilst achieving Snowdon with Darren and Connor was very rewarding and a great summit to tick off, and the Fairfield Horseshoe was again a great walk with great company…I did the Yorkshire Three Peaks for God’s sake…that was the ultimate highlight!

    Andiamo!

     


  • Around Holcombe Moor: Walk 24

    Karl and I had been threatening to go for a walk together for a while…about four months. We had agreed to do another section of the Anglezarke Amble but, this was postponed as the car was not available to me until mid-day, given that this was now officially still late Autumn (the 21st of November) there was no chance of us walking sixteen miles over Winter Hill and Great Hill in the short amount of daylight time that we had. Subsequently, a perilous drive down Stones Bank Road (in order to get us to Rivington from Egerton) was re-routed owing to the fact that I do quite like my current car and felt no need to have it slide out from under us and written off!

    So, we took a last minute decision to head off over to Edgworth in order to take on the triple threat of Harcles Hill, Bull Hill and erm that un-named hill next to the afore mentioned ones. I hadn’t been walking in these parts for a couple of decades and had never ‘done’ Bull hill so I was enthused to give it a shot now. The weather had been nice upon travelling through Southport but as soon as I hit Tarleton, the snow on Winter Hill was evident. So it was no surprise to discover Edgworth’s lofty and bleak environment to be a complete white-out, and boy was that first gentle climb a slippery tale? At times I did wish that I had seen fit to pack my walking spike-sole things. Karl seemed to be coping admirably, but then, he is not a fair-weather walker, unlike me!

    It’s at this point that I have to admit something a little bit painful…I don’t know the names of anything around these parts…which makes describing the walk somewhat difficult!

    So, here are lots of pictures…

    The side of the unnamed hill we shall be ascending in the next half hour.
    The side of the unnamed hill we shall be ascending in the next half hour.
    Ah, good old Winter hill with a cloaking of snow.
    Ah, good old Winter hill with a cloaking of snow.
    Karl's all dressed up for winter.
    Karl’s all dressed up for winter.
    Slippery Plantation Road
    Slippery Plantation Road

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Yes, it was actually quite beautiful to behold. On three of my four walks with Karl this year:

    • Darwen Moor
    • Turton Moor
    • The Fairfield Horseshoe
    • Holcolmbe Moor

    We have had unusual weather, snow twice and weird spooky fog followed by a heatwave once!

    Peel Tower
    Peel Tower
    Peel Tower
    Peel Tower

    After roughly an hour or so we found ourselves on the final slog up the western slopes of the unnamed hill which is capped by Peel Tower. The going underfoot needed a little bit of attention, which Karl must have failed to do as he suddenly became horizontal in front of me! I decided at this moment that there was something eye-catching to behold behind me and I just had to stare at it until the desire to laugh…had gone! It was at this point that we met some other people which was very nice as thus far we had only seen distance glimpses of solitary walkers. I had formed the impression that this was one of those walker locales frequented more by individual walkers as opposed to groups. The last time that I walked up this hill was roughly twenty years ago with Dave Hill (from Bolton), it was considerably warmer then, but I was a smoker and I seem to remember it taking a good deal longer to get to the top than it had today. I still yearned for a cigarette at the summit, even in the bracing wind…thank heavens I’ve stopped the suicidal habbit.

    Ingleborough?
    Ingleborough?
    Ahhh good old Winter Hill
    Ahhh good old Winter Hill

    The views from the summit where as wonderful as I had expected them to be. This location offers spectacular vitas to the north featuring: Pen-y-Ghent, Pendle Hill, Ingleborough and Longridge Fell. To our right was the Forest of Rossendale – an area that I have yet to begin exploring and of course slightly to our left,the ubiquitous Winter Hill, which always looks at its best when given a lovely dusting of snow. It has to be said that the temperature became only slightly warmer as we headed off in the direction of nearby Harcles Hill – this was the hill upon which I had previously believed Peel Tower did sit. It just goes to show how the memory fades when we don’t revisit a place enough times. We were aiming for the local landmark of Pilgrim’s Cross. I know roughly what this particular landmark looks like through watching another one of Adam Gallimore’s long distance walks – the Peeler’s Hike.

    Bull hill approaches
    Bull hill approaches
    A glorious sunset
    A glorious sunset
    The summit of Harcles Hill
    The summit of Harcles Hill
    Our way back across an unnamed 'vale'
    Our way back across an unnamed ‘vale’

    As we were both a bit on the cold side by now, and the light was beginning to fade a little, we decided to simply bag the Pilgrim’s cross then turn left and head for home. I did want to ascend Bull Hill and at one point I think that this might have only involved a fifty foot ascension over something like two hundred yards…but did I mention it was bitingly cold when static? Bull Hill would have to wait for a warmer time – I nominated summer! Oddly enough, the views of the route that we had already taken on the way out were now displayed to us and they were just gorgeous…

    Finally, after some very gingerly walking owing to Plantation Road being exceptionally slippery, I knew it was going to be worse descending than it was ascending, we made it back to the car. It took a good few moments of reversing down the ice-rink, as my poor old Xsara was simply not up to the job of powering up the road in order to turn around. We made it back to Karl’s house in good time and had a good old thaw out on route!

    Summary

    This was a great little walk in an area that I really should visit more often. This is the eastern fringe of the West Pennines with just three or four summits to add to the overall collection. The walk was not very strenuous, although the slog up to the summit plateau is not to be taken lightly, if you’re doing a very long walk in this area then this should be taken into account at the start! It was great to see Karl again and it was just as good to be back walking after a bit of a break. This was walk number twenty four – will I get to twenty six before New Year’s Day?

     

    No song of the walk for this walk: Karl and I when together can talk for England!

     


  • Arthur’s Seat

    Walk Twenty Two – Arthur’s Seat

    This was the culmination of our (mine and Christine’s) walk around Edinburgh on Saturday 10th of October.

    Spectacular views from the square next to Edinburgh Castle.
    Spectacular views from the square next to Edinburgh Castle.
    More wonderful views from the square next to Edinburgh Castle.
    More wonderful views from the square next to Edinburgh Castle.

    We had already walked from the centre of the city up to the beautiful Edinburgh Castle, then walked around that. After an hour and a half of walking we then went to the Camera Obscura…and walked around that. We then descended the lovely Royal Mile back down to Holyrood before hitting the base of the range of upland which would take us up to Arthur’s Seat. Around ten minutes into the walk, Chris bailed – well it was her birthday weekend and I suppose asking her to walk up this steep little beast could be seen by some as a bit cruel. The weather was thankfully behaving rather well, the day before I had experienced cold on the train before we even arrived at the Arctic circle – Scotland.

     

    It looks a long way to the top...but it really wasn't, thankfully.
    It looks a long way to the top…but it really wasn’t, thankfully.
    Oh dear, Arthur's Seat is blocked from our vision by erm...
    Oh dear, Arthur’s Seat is blocked from our vision by erm…

    At the end of the nice, flat and comfortable to walk upon path; Chris took a left towards a lovely looking lake and I went right…up a soddin’ big hill! Undeterred, I carried on, even though I was wearing jeans – never good for walking wear and Clark’s shoes – definitely not good footwear for grass let alone hill walking. I soon began to pass people as I was on a mission, I didn’t want to leave Chris sat on her own for very long, it would be just rude! The path became progressively steeper – and more polished rock became apparent. I feared a fall…

     

     

    A steady stream of fellow ascenders comes into view.
    A steady stream of fellow ascenders comes into view.
    Ah the view to...I have no idea!
    Ah the view to…I have no idea!

    All of a sudden, as often happens when hill walking, the summit appeared to be much closer now. I could hear the murmur of hordes of people all excitedly chatting away. This was the lowest summit I had climbed all year, but with perhaps the exception of Whernside in June, this was also the busiest hill that I had ascended. I paused a while to take in the scenery as I had been going pretty much full speed thus far.

     

     

    A few people were a bit happy about their achievement!
    A few people were a bit happy about their achievement!
    Some people just prefer to sit around and contemplate.
    Some people just prefer to sit around and contemplate.

    As I expected, the tiny twin summits were heaving with fellow tourists and walkers. This doesn’t do justice to just how many people were gathered in such a small area, it made Snowdon look empty by comparison. I loitered at the top for roughly five minutes, listening to some kids boasting about being at the highest point in Scotland – hmmm as the 1,900′ Pentland Hills were right behind them, not to mention Ben Nevis etc…Geography is apparently not everyone’s strong suit (I know it isn’t mine!).My descent off the hill top was even quicker than my ascent up it had been. I was on a mission, well, two actually:

    1. Don’t fall over
    2. Get back to Chris as soon as possible

     

    Farewell lovely little hill
    Farewell lovely little hill

    I managed to achieve both criteria and it must have taken me just twenty minutes to arrive back at the parting of the ways where I had left her some fifty minutes before.

    Summary

    This was a lovely, frisky little walk up a seriously steep little hill. I hadn’t wanted to do this alone but by the same token I didn’t want to pass up the chance of climbing this famous little hill as I don’t know when (if ever) I’ll be in this vicinity again – I do hope that we do go to Edinburgh again as it’s wonderful.

    Song of the walk – Song of the walk: Emmelie De Forest – Drunk Tonight Again!!!


  • Sizzling on Snowdon

    Snowdon walk on Sunday 27th September, with Darren and Connor Peake

    Myself and Darren (my brother in law, well he would be if Christine and I ever get married) had talked about doing this walk a couple of weeks before our “Yorkshire Three Peaks in Reverse” walk in August. With that event out of the way / postponed until May 2016, we figured it would be great to get down to Llanberis before the end of Summer. And his son Connor would come along to – to keep us oldies from simply ambling up the mountain at a snail’s pace. We decided to do the classic of “Up the Pyg and down the Miners’ track”.

    On the day, we arrived at Llanberis a little after nine thirty and managed to park quite handily near the main A-road from which the Llanberis path commences. Yes, that’s right, at some point in time our planned route had taken a turn for the mainstream / tourist route and we would leave the “Piggin’ Miners” for another time.

    The weather was utterly glorious for a late September morning, we chatted with a pair of ladies whom had just got back from watching the sun rise atop Snowdon – what a fantastic spectacle that would have been. I was a bit concerned that Darren felt some discs move in his back – unlike me; he’s self-employed and I didn’t want him to go without income owing to crippling himself climbing up a 3,560′ mountain…he soldiered on!

    The opening mile of the Llanberris path is

    1. Tarmac
    2. Steep, no seriously steep!
    Assembly at the halfway café
    Assembly at the halfway café
    A view to the neighbouring giant from the halfway café.
    A view to the neighbouring giant from the halfway café.

    Okay, even for an urban walker such as myself, the tarmac was far from interesting or picturesque. That being said, I believe that it facilitated progress over the first half a mile. We kept swapping places with a trio of walkers – two adults and one daughter, then we marched past a couple of teenage girls who wanted to know where the next train stop was – oopss, it was with only a slightly heavy heart that we gave them the options of “At the top or at the bottom”, as I said…”oops!” Later – much later After some distance (I really couldn’t say how much) we began to merge with many more walkers and by the time we hit what I would term as the halfway stage (a café no less!) the chain that was; had now become more or less a throng. We stayed for a few moments, I had a slurp of my water and knocked back one of my orange gel things – it’s never a pleasant experience but it’s a mighty quick way of getting seventy plus calories inside me! Connor looked a little tired, he’s only…(I want to say twelve and now I’m thinking what a bad uncle I am!) and thus his body is not as efficient at shedding heat as Darren and I…who looked like we had run up the path thus far!

    The 'trio' from the start
    The ‘trio’ from the start
    Connor poses for Darren whilst I snap Darren!
    Connor poses for Darren whilst I snap Darren!

    When the trio of walkers from earlier on in the walk came into view; I decided it was time to push on. The next section started off easily enough…and then got seriously strenuous, alarmingly quickly. The gradient steepened, the throng went all kinds of wide as opposed to long and the terrain of the neighbouring giants became more and more ornate. Cliffs were visible from most aspects, I spotted a couple of ridge paths the likes of which would put Sharp Edge to shame and even began to notice the walkers on the path akin to ours – this was the Snowdon Ranger path…I have to confess it looked a lot harder than ours.
    Here are some more views of the day as sadly I don’t know the names of the peaks and mountains that we passed by:

    DSCF0593 DSCF0629 DSCF0620
    The Doorway
    The Doorway

    After walking through essentially a ‘doorway’ we got our first ‘proper’ view of the distant summit – the photo shows DSCF0621the view opposite the doorway. Now we were into a serious ‘slog’ up the side of the mountain and onto the top. I did feel the need to tell Darren and Connor that we were still lower down than a few neighbouring summits – and as we were going up the highest thing around, that meant we had a way to go yet. This didn’t sit well with one of the walkers near us at the time who joked “Did you have to say that?” Oops again! The path levelled out, I felt like cheering, but didn’t. All of a sudden, the summit seemed to get a whole lot nearer, and so did a procession of walkers, many of which were ascending the last stretch of the infamous ‘Pyg’ track or was this the ‘Miners’ Track’ – there are at least six ‘official’ routes up this giant and whilst I don’t think I’ll do them all, it’s nice to know what they are called.

    And so the last final push was upon us, we were well over half way into the climb / walk. The next push was a sustained one as opposed to a brutal one, more Whernside from Ribblehead than Pendle via the ‘steps’. And before long we were on to the ridge which would lead us to the apex of this mighty mountain. Even though there was a train to our left and a café and a visitor centre, the terrain really felt like a true mountain, albeit  one with a very busy summit. The trig point was like an open jar of honey next to a wasp hive – yes there were many more colourful similes I could have used then, but that was the least offensive! Somehow I avoided falling off the final rise up to the o/s column, some people should just touch the thing then bugger off – not do countless selfies which never quite turn out right anyway!

    We dropped back down off the summit and hit the café for a latté – okay that’s a bit Italian for the summit of a Welsh mountain, but what do the Welsh drink which is, y’know, Welsh? Exactly! We sat around full of a triumphant feeling, I can’t remember how long it had taken getting here…about two and a half hours I think, but it was mine and Connor’s first (and definitely not last) ascent, we wanted to savour it. It was lovely to sit watching people hit the summit from over the Watkins path, I distinctly remember an American-sounding lady ask a group of girls from a larger, mixed-gender party which route they had taken, to which one particularly well-spoken teenage girl responded ‘A hard one!’ Priceless!

    It would take us a further hour and a half to get back to Llanberris, although these days I drop like a greasy stone, I promised to wait for the Peakes (Connor and Darren), well there was no rush, the weather stayed beautiful and to be honest…they are such damned good company. I was proud for myself – ha I always am whenever I’ve walked up anything over a thousand feet, but I was also proud for Connor and to be honest after Darren’s back playing up at the car park at the start of the walk, he deserves some ‘man points’ for making it to the top and back, downhill is always considerably harder on the joints than going up. We arrived back at the café akin to the mountain railway station and I had another latté satisfied with the day’s walk.

    Summary

    This was the loftiest peak that I have ascended from top to bottom – okay I have been atop Mont Sant and Montserrat (near the top) both of which weigh in over four thousand feet, but they’re in Spain and don’t count…and I haven’t actually walked all the way up them! I have to admit to being something of a fan of Snowdon and it’s frustrating to not be able to name the accompanying summits – the ‘horseshoe walk’ is really tempting, but seeing as this covers a traverse of the imposing ‘Crib Goch’ which I promised Chris I would never attempt, I’ll probably never do that. I was somewhat disappointed to complete Scafell Pike in 2013 – the summit is awful to walk upon, Snowdon on the other hand was lovely and I can’t wait to go back and walk the ‘Watkins path’ which I gather is a real tester!

    I’ve been really lucky with the weather this year, and as such have been blessed to complete such classic walks as the Yorkshire Three Peaks, The Fairfield Horseshoe and now the mighty Snowdon. I think this was walk number nineteen, I don’t plan on taking a break from walking during the Winter this year…Pendle on New Year’s Day is a must-do, so as the nights draw in and the weather gets much worse it’ll be lovely to re-read this page and mentally re-visit this wonderful September day in excellent company and excellent weather up a very noble mountain indeed…excellent!

    No song of the walk for this one: I was too busy talking!