• Category Archives Walking
  • Two more Pendle Virginities taken

    Ha what an ominous title!

    Darren and I had been planning on doing a Pendle hill walk for a number of months. This Sunday served as our chance to finally bag this most noble of all hills, and we had Connor (Darren’s son) along with us for added banter.

    Although I had initially planned one of my almighty excursions around the village of Barley taking in Stang Top Moor, Pendle itself, Spence Moor via Fell Wood and then back to Barley via Cross Lane, I soon came to realise that might be pushing things a bit. Moreover, on the day even a shorter route omitting Stang Top Moor felt like a step too far, this rotator cuff injury has really impacted upon my walking will power. So we stuck to the plan of simply going up the steps around the back of Pendle House then descending via ‘the slope’. Having had our progress cut in half by those God awful slippery fields between Brown House and Pendle House we elected to return to Barley via Barley Road on the return route, going up was one thing, coming back down via the muddy equivalent of a skating rink was just not our bag. We reached Pendle House and began the ascent of the steps.

    And how I had missed walking! My fitness was most definitely on vacation as I struggled with a new found zeal! Of course this was all fine for Darren – he’d been on ‘Park Run’ the day before and was fighting fit. Likewise with Connor, he coped admirably with the steps – each day he walks miles as part of his paper route. The steps were bringing an old sensation of burning back to the soles of my feet and to my poor thighs.

    However, in spite of two unscheduled breaks, brought about by the previously-mentioned thighs and soles, we did make good progress and within an hour and ten minutes were rounding the corner adjacent to the Downham wall at the apex of the stepped path. The going underfoot now got a lot moister but the incline backs off infinitely here, thank goodness. We made our squelchy way across Pendle Moor to Big End (Pendle’s less illustriously named summit)  and once there posed for the obligatory summit photo – I looked like a dwarf. The wind was howling, apparently this was the precursor to storm “Ewan” so I decided we should descend as soon as possible, the guys agreed.

    The last time that I dropped down off Big End towards Boar Clough the terrain was nasty, slippery, sticky and altogether not nice to walk upon. Today, well I think there must have been some path repairs of late as we arrived at the top of the slope without any of us falling over or even turning an ankle. The drop back down was fairly uneventful…apart from the one time that I fell flat on my backside as both feet simultaneously slipped from underneath me – damned wet grass, I hate it! Within ten to fifteen minutes we were back at Pendle House where we took the left hand turn along the track which would lead us to Barley Road, no way was I doing those two damn slippery fields again today.

    Thankfully the road route to Barley was as devoid of incidents as I would have liked and what was heart-warming in the extreme was the looks of awe etched on Darren and Connor’s faces every time that they looked back at the gentle giant whom had just played host to us.  Pendle’s like that, the further away you get from it then the more impressive it appears.

    All told we did around five and a quarter miles and roughly 1,200 feet of ascent/descent. Not bad for a cold Sunday morning!

    Song of the walk (when we weren’t talking): Clean Bandit – featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie- Rockabye

     

     


  • The path to fitness

    So, following on from my last post, I am recovering, slowly. It’s certainly not leaps and bounds, so far nobody has been able to tell me what I did to exactly which part of my body. It has been made clear to me that I did not have a dislocated shoulder – this in turn would have been a cloud with a silver lining – relocating it would have been very painful but after this recovery is very quick. Apparently I do not have a frozen shoulder or Tendonitis. Good.

    Ultimately, I can’t do anything about what I had/have as it’s all kind of past tense now. I just have to recover and in my book the best way of doing that would be to get fit. I have reasons for wanting to do just that:

    1. Being injured sucks!
    2. I could not take place in this year’s Anglezarke Amble after counting down to it for almost a year..that sucked too!
    3. I want to take on the Three Peaks of Yorkshire in May and to be honest, being able to use my shoulders / biceps and triceps is really going to be a prerequisite of not only getting me up Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough, doing this challenge in any way unfit (even having a cold or headache) is a recipe for failure.

    So, as of today, starting slowly and in as controlled a manner as I can manage, I am going to try and get myself as fit as possible for not only the Y3P but for life in general. Last year was my best ever walking year, but I can draw a line under the time when it all started to go downhill – when Chris was hospitalised.  Even though I went on to do more walks than ever, the Steel Fell round was agony, hard to believe I was the same person who ran up the last few hundred feet of Grisedale Pike. No point in getting bitter.

    Moving on, I’ve already started to prepare for getting fit by walking back from Tesco and adding another two miles on the way, making four and a half in total. Not earth shattering mileage by me by any stretch, but a start is a start. I aim to do a bigger (but still flat) walk tomorrow – unless the rain finally descends in which case I’ll go to the gym, but never to go on the cross trainer. No sir, that beast is never to be ridden by me again!

     


  • Someone got an ouchy!

    So for over a week now I have had a pain in the foot. It’s on my left instep spreading from the centre to the left – parallel with the toes.

    If you perform a google search you will be rewarded with a host of sites all auto-diagnosing the conditions: Plantar Fasciitis and Plantar Fibromatosis. It could be that I have either of those two ailments, alternatively it might be a compound fracture or strain, picked up whilst enduring ‘The walk of no merit’ last December.

    I’ve been to the GPs about it as this is impacting on my walking – imagine doing sixteen miles over cross country with a sore foot…yes, it did hurt a bit. The GP is taking the all too familiar ‘wait and see’ approach frequently inadvertently deployed to kill thousands of patients every year. So the jury is out on what I have until it goes – in which case we won’t know what it was, or it gets worse and I have to start taking Verapamil or some other drug – yes they could have sent me for an x-ray…

    It’s hard not to think that fate is having a bit of a go at me here with the timing of this ailment being so close to the Amble on the 11th of February. I’m not going to play the victim role- I’m still aiming to do the Amble – the full version, and if we don’t make it to Charlie’s pole before the cut off time (10:30) well, we will just be back earlier than expected to enjoy the delicious smelling ‘gloop’ that the West Lancs LDWA kindly offered up last year.

    My GP’s main advice was to lighten the load, take rest etc…she isn’t doing a 24.5 miles walk in a month’s time and is currently ten pounds heavier than last year…There will be no rest! A mixed blessing is that although walking is a little painful, cross-training isn’t (damn it’s so boring though!) so I can still go to the gym and burn off some of the after effects of all of those bottles of wine that I consumed last December and November…and most of the year to be honest! This is the price I am paying now for one too many ‘nights in with a bottle of red’.

    But it’s not all doom and gloom, I am optimistic enough to believe that this ailment will resolve just before the Amble…to be replaced by another! Either way I will comply (to a point) with the GP’s advice and just do flat walks for a few weeks…oh and the bloody cross-trainer!

    Update

    Well now seeing as I couldn’t go hill walking or even treadmill walking; I figured the cross trainer was the way to go. On Thursday morning I did over 2.5 miles cross training followed by another 1.75 miles on Saturday. And therein lies another problem…I’ve now done my left shoulder in! Simply the act of putting on a coat is an owed to pain! This made for a not very restful night on Sunday – and many expletives after attempting one of those fabled “relaxing” baths which we all read about; on Monday morning. With all these injuries it seems apparent to me that my body is trying to tell me something.

    I took it upon myself to contact the West Lancs LDWA to ask if it would be okay to hold over my entrance to the Anglezarke Amble until next year…they have very kindly consented with a footnote to mention that it is not at the moment; definite that there will be an Amble next year – there has been one for the last 43 years so there’s every chance it will be on. For now I will have to focus on getting myself fit – my body is not saying ‘don’t do it’ moreover, it’s a case of ‘at the moment you ain’t up to it’  – in the light of recent family events I would be foolish not to heed what it has to say.

    I shall in due course return to the hills, perhaps at a slower pace for a while and there’s every chance that I’ll even take part in the epic Yorkshire Three Peaks again, perhaps in September…

     


  • A Wythburn Round

    Owing to the festivities of Friday night – a work’s Christmas ‘do’, I felt a little fragile on Saturday and decided to opt out of the planned walk with Karl up to the summit of bull hill. Instead I opted in to Karl and Sue’s walk on Sunday which would feature “walking a round over Steel Fell near Grasmere” … sounds almost innocuous doesn’t it? Read on.

    As I drove from Southport to Darwen via Bolton at 06:30 I couldn’t help but notice there was a lot of mist around. This was evident in Croston and then again in Bolton. I had reservations. All the same, it appeared to have lifted by the time I got to Darwen but then two hours later as we set off from Steel End car park, next to Thirlmere (what isn’t next to Thirlmere?), it became all too apparent that the mist was here again. Not that I mind mist-meandering, because  let’s be honest, we do go off course when the grey stuff descends upon us. Why only last year I completed (again with Sue and Karl, and Lynne) the Fairfield Horseshoe in mist (the first five fells were!), so it’s not as if I am unaccustomed to traipsing around in the grey nothingness.

    The first quarter of a mile was deceptively easy, too easy. A gentle stroll along a tarmac road…we should have known better and in fact Karl did, the swine! All too soon the terrain transformed into the Devil’s playground as the grass became shorter and thus more slippery and the gradient seemed to be imbued with a wicked grin, an inaudible mocking sneer that one senses on the very periphery of one’s subconscious. This was no longer a walk, it was a trial, a battle against gravity and I was losing, badly!

    I gave up many times on that first ridiculous slant! Then, after a brief stop at an abandoned quad-bike, which practically screamed the word “PORTENT” at me,…the terrain went from forty-five degrees to more like thirty, hell had arrived in the lakes and its resident demon was after me. I watched Sue and Karl become engulfed in the fog – after they had shrunk to the size of garden peas! For some time I was on my own, to be honest, that was the best thing for me, I could vent, childishly vent that this walk was {multiple expletives deleted} / quite challenging. Within an eternity, just about, I happened to stumble my way up to my waiting co-walkers.

    All smiles and thumbs up Karl mocked “Bit of a steep section that isn’t it!”. I refrained from swearing, much! For a time we then traversed a much nicer gradient, but now came the second wave of walking nastiness – the boot swallowing underfoot water. We were quite definitely within a marsh. Nothing on any of the walks I had done this year could have prepared me for this wave (pun intended) of slosh from practically every footstep. I thought Longworth Moor was bad, pah! Child’s play compared to this lurking green lagoon!

    We reached a summit, or did we? The fells of the central lake district have one thing in common, multiple rises, knolls and outcrops. In the absence of a triangulation pillar – although these are seldom really at the highest point, one never can be truly sure of where the apex of the hill really is – unless one has the desire to roam around the apparent top of the fell with a g.p.s. device taking numerous readings…most of us don’t want to do this. A little time passed and we undulated with the terrain, up and down whilst sloshing around…all good clean misery! By way of chance we happened upon yet another summit and decided to take lunch there.

    It was nice to sit down and take a breather, but all too soon the demon who was controlling the weather took note of our buoyant disposition and cranked the temperature down a tad…just enough to make (for me at least) shivering the order of the day. I had to stand up and move around or else give in to the cold. Often I heard distant people noises. Having now completed the walk I can imagine that what I heard were the faraway expressions of woe of others who had just lost a knee’s-length to the wretched marsh. This is a horrid terrain! I had the feeling that we were halfway into the walk…I was to learn much later that we were not.

    We met two gentlemen who had come up from Grasmere to do a similar ’round’ to ours. After a few moments of chatting they bid their respective farewells but within another few minutes we were upon them again sat atop Calf Crag. This was my second Wainwright of the day and in all honesty what made this summit more worthy for inclusion in his pocket guides; than Ladyside Pike and Sale How; to the late great Alfred Wainwright, eludes me.

    Next we picked up the Coast to Coast path…and without realising it, at some point put it back down again as we entered another bog / marsh / wet cauldron from the mouth of Hades! For over an hour we seemed to circumnavigate the fog and mist and wet. Sue and Karl were of the collective thought ‘we might as well do Ullscarf now’. I’d heard of this summit before but had forgotten that it is in fact a mountain and to put it in to perspective – it’s ten feet higher than Ingleborough! Thankfully the climb up to the summit from our aspect was far more forgiving than any approach to the Yorkshire icon and soon we were within eyesight of it.

    On our way up to the top of Ullscarf we were treated to views of nearing fells which seemed to emerge from the murk, announce their presence and then promptly bugger off back into the mist once more! Sue and Karl suddenly became engrossed in the pursuit of Broken Spectres – I thought this was a James Bond villain! Apparently (pun also intended!) this is a phenomena whereby “the magnified shadow of an observer, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun causes a halo of light to be cast around the shadow of the subject”. I maintain that they both hadn’t been drinking enough water and had the auras associated with migraines, possibly owing to dehydration. I lied and insisted that I too could see what weirdness they were hallucinating…my colourblind eyes do not afford me such luminary luxury, unless I have a migraine! We played a short game of guess the fell…amazingly when one’s feet are wringing wet through this isn’t half as much fun as one might think!

    I was a bit freaked to notice that the afternoon was getting on. The light that we did have (not so bloody much) would soon be fading and a dreaded the prospect of being stuck out on this sodden moor at dusk or even darker. I must admit to giving in to my doubts and worries at this point. I thought we were lost, we had a g.p.s. with us but it seemed to be saying left, right, left like some insane Regimental Sargent Major. Helvellyn and her cronies across the valley were joyfully laughing at us. But if that range across the void was not Helvellyn then who was it? I seriously did not care which mountain range was gaping at us! I wanted off the moor, now! We ascended and descended, I fell over, then fell over some more! I lost a leg, then I lost the other one. I was black and blue and wet and miserable. I do find it difficult to believe that some people find this enjoyable.

    Ultimately, thanks to Sue’s magnificent navigating and Karl’s almost infectious sense of optimism, we arrived back in a sloping field from where we could clearly perceive Thirlmere on our left and Steel Fell on our right. We’d almost made it back. We descended a third of the way down the field, then Sue theorized that there might not be an easy exit to the road. So, we ascended to the head of the field once more only to be reassured by Sue that there was a right of way after all – this would later manifest itself as a blooming big gate! Before we reached it I had time to fall over twice more and to turn the sky blue with a barrage of expletives!

    Finally, a little after four o’clock we reached Sue’s awaiting car, we were safe…if not altogether dry!

    Summary.

    I hate wet field walking!

    I may well be in the minority from the perspective of ‘seasoned walkers’ but in regard of humans in general I have numbers on my side when I question, “What’s wrong with real paths? Y’know the type that Fix the Fells and the National Trust spend pounds sterling on repairing every year.” Why do we have to get so dogmatic in our belief that grass is best when it comes to trudging up and sliding down the Lake District paths? In summer this walk…would have been just as bad. That water comes from rain and as everybody knows the Lake District is the rainiest part of England. Thus it would take a really dry summer before I came back to this particular environment. In future I vow to stick to real ‘on the ground’ paths. One’s that have evolved or been constructed and don’t just vanish from before our very eyes. Pendle has them in spates! Ultimately I have to say that I was glad of the exercise, it’s all been a bit easy whilst Chris has been recuperating. In addition it is always great to be out and about with Karl and Sue. One thing is for sure, next February, when next I traverse the God awful Longworth Moor whilst walking the Anglezarke Amble, I won’t feel quite so bad about a mile-wide stretch of marshland now that I’ve walked this route!

    Walk distance: 8.5 miles

    Ascent: 2,000′

    Time: six and a bit hours

    Song(s) of the walk: Chandelier by both Sia and Mollie Bylett (Cover) 

     


  • 2016 My Walking Year in review

    I knew it was going to be a good year, I was wrong. It was a fantastic year!

    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.

    I was off the mark very early in the year in 2016 as I rekindled my relationship with my beloved Pendle Hill on New Year’s Day. It was good that there were so many people out and about in spite of the liberal coating of snow/frost that she had been granted. Before the week was out I joined the Ramblers on a walk in the Lune Valley / Reservoir as we slogged along a flood plain for ten and a half miles and I watched as my core temperature plummeted! Later in the month was a trip to the future, at Burton as I observed the effects of silting on the River Dee estuary. The same environmental metamorphosis is set to happen to our beloved and receding coast line at Southport. A sobering yet captivating scene. the last trip out of the month was with the Ramblers to Skipton where, whilst being rained upon for most of the day, I conquered the minor peak of Sharp Haw.

    The Jubilee Tower on Darwen hill
    The Jubilee Tower on Darwen hill

    February brought with it a bonus week off for my birthday during which Chris and I returned to the spectacular Ingleton falls. In winter this was far nicer than the last time that we visited at the height of summer. Then came the big one, the walk that I had been building up to for over a year: The Anglezarke Amble with Mark Carson. To say that I had become obsessed with this twenty-four mile dash over numerous hills and mud galore is no exaggeration. Nearing the end of this epic day I had sworn ‘never again’ yet within an hour of finishing, on the way home, I was planning my next participation. I’m hooked and hope that I will always be so. At the end of the month came another trip out with the Ramblers as we went to Staveley , taking in numerous fields and more parts of hills. Although the walk was enjoyable it would be so nice to put a name to the places that one has been!

    March opened up with a wonderful snowy walk with Chris as we passed most of Rivington’s vast reservoirs. We loved this route so much that it has now replaced Rivington Pike as our ‘go-to’ route. Winter Hill draped in snow is becoming an increasingly irregular sight, so i considered myself fortunate to be within sight of this natural beauty on this visit. The next walk was another where I re-united with an old acquaintance in the shape of the Keswick giant Skiddaw. Sue, Karl and I spent five glorious hours traversing the Ullock Pike ridge to Skiddaw whilst avoiding suicidal mountain bikers at 2,700′! Six days later Chris and I returned to Pen-y-Ghent, where snow was on one of its flanks and spent a very enjoyable afternoon walking around my favourite of the Yorkshire Three Peaks: Pen-y-Ghent. On Good Friday came what could well be the prestigious (in my head at least) ‘walk of the year’ – the Half Amble’. Although on my own, this walk featured a celebration of my completion of the Anglezarke Amble and at just shy of fifteen miles, was a good workout in fine temperatures and even featured a sighting of a red deer on Anglezarke Moor.

    Cheetham Close's summit comes into view.
    Cheetham Close’s summit comes into view.

    April saw Chris and I back at Pendle on a gloriously rainy day. No new sights, no new routes we slowly splashed our way up the steps in the rain. the photos were a washout, the route down to the slope was precarious! The rest of the month saw me return to Darwen Hill and then two excursions up to a new favourite in the form of Cheetham Close, its neighbouring summit Turton Heights practically defined disappointing but I may still take this route on next year’s ‘Amble’ as the route across the slope of the hill is just awful!

    A re-take of a photo that I used to have on my desktop in 1999
    A re-take of a photo that I used to have on my desktop in 1999

    In May we took a mini break in Salou (again) but still managed to get in a breezy coastal walk along the Camino de Ronda. A couple of weeks later I was lucky enough to tackle multiple summits over the Dodds in the north east corner of the Lake District. I won’t lie, Clough Head was very testing and to this we added the summits of Watson’s Dodd, Great Dodd, Starling Dodd and a couple of Birketts. This visit left me wanting more and Chris and I returned a week later to the Lakes in order to take in Loughrigg – we finally managed to get to the trig point. The next day we had a three peak walk over Rivington Pike, Crooked Edge Hill and Winter Hill.

    The first walk of June was somewhat frustrating. Southport ramblers took us off to Ambleside where I had the option of ascending Great Rigg and Fairfield or Silver Howe and Blea Rigg. As I had climbed  Great Rigg and Fairfield as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe last summer I thought that I would tick off the two lesser summits. And there in lay the problem. Oh sure, we achieved the steep little pull up to Silver Howe with relative ease, for the next few hours however, Blea Rigg proved elusive. We could not find it! I think we stood on four minor peaks with me checking my phone’s altimeter to no avail! The following Saturday Chris and I walked up to the summit of our biggest mountain so far. We nailed Snowdon from Llanberris. I was delighted to be atop this majestic giant, even if a thick mist had descended half-way up.

    Walking was to then take a back seat. Mine and Darren’s Yorkshire Three Peaks had to be put off, as did the week after’s White Bear Way as Chris succumbed to a gall bladder illness which would trouble her for a further three weeks and involve an ECRP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography) procedure which bottomed-out her blood pressure – thank you Fazakerley Hospital!!!

    Barrow, Outerside and Crag Hill on the left with Grisedale Pike facing on the right.
    Ard Crags begins to fill my mind as well as my camera lens.
    Ard Crags begins to fill my mind as well as my camera lens.

    It wasn’t until the end of July that I was back amongst the north western fells on a walk with Sue, Lynne and Karl which took in the magnificent Grisedale Pike and another three summits from this area of relative giants.

    Another month would go by before Chris and I returned to Pendle for a jolly old walk up the slope and down the steps. She didn’t appreciate this diversion to an established route – I did, the slope route is my favourite way up and down.  August saw no further walking action from either one of us.

    And so into September and once again a lean walking month. Sue, Karl and I had a strenuous hike up to the two lesser Wainwrights of Ard Craggs and Knott Rigg. This is hailed as a ‘classic walk’ according to the internet…I remained somewhat unimpressed.

    A distant view of the masts from Belmont Road.
    A distant view of the masts from Belmont Road.

    Again over a month went by with no walking and then it happened! I proposed a route to Karl that we simply could not resist – the Anglezarke Amble (shorter version). I don’t want to betray its bigger brother…but the shorter version is simply the nicer walk. Not only is it eight miles shorter, it omits the eastern half of Longworth Moor, declines the opportunity to ascend Darwen Hill and gives one some wonderful yomping across Catherine Edge…it’s all good. Moreover, in preparation of next year’s Amble, I now know the route from White Coppice back to Rivington. One week later saw me return to the same environment to tackle the classic Edge’s to Great Hill walk returning to Rivington via the same White Coppice traversal – Brilliant and the fact that it clocked in at just shy of twelve miles meant that Chris and I had just set our new distance bar!

    We had no walking in November as Chris had to have the misbehaving gallbladder extracted. Never again will the cursed thing impede my Three Peaks and White Bear Way…bloody thing!

    Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.
    Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.

    So that brings me up to December and already we’ve returned to Rivington two more times. The first time we took in Wilkinson Bullough, Simms and the Hempshaws Pastures – it’s becoming a classic for us. On our next return we simply took in the Pike and back – more ‘Amble’ practice, I am now sure of the easiest way to get me and Darren up to the top of the Pike. Only two more possible walks remain. Karl and I have promised ourselves another return to Ramsbottom in order to take in Bull Hill and Holcolmbe Hill. Hopefully the final walk of the year should see me at good old Pendle to do my doc-u-walk and visit both Stang Top Moor and Spence Moor in the same epic walk, watch this space, on New Year’s Eve!

    So there you have it. If all goes to plan then I will have completed thirty two walks this year. It’s getting serious now. There have been some new peaks: Grisedale Pike and the others of the north western Lakes and not forgetting the little cracker that is Cheetham Close. by way of contrast, aside from Pendle, Winter Hill and Rivington Pike who would have thought that I would hit Snowdon once again and that I would slip and slide my way over the Ullock Pike route to the mighty Skiddaw?

    For next year, I long to be back atop England’s highest, Scafell Pike to me is somehow not fully ticked off. Darren and I often put plans down to return to Snowdon in order to complete the epic ‘Watkins Path’…here’s hoping. There will be more challenge walks next year, obviously the Amble, a moth later the Peelers Hike with Mark and two weeks later the one that has me most nervous – The Two Crosses (25 miles in nine hours). I’ll give the White Bear Way another shot, I may even make it to the start this time! So many walks to do…

    But returning to this year and the not at all prestigious walk of the year. Once again there were three candidates:

    1. The Anglezarke Amble – full version with Mark.
    2. The Half Amble – me on my lonesome
    3. The Anglezarke Amble – short version with Karl

    And the winner is…(no, seriously did you need to ask, I’ve been banging on about it all year?) The Anglezarke Amble (long version). But the other two were tied for second place!

    Until next year…

     

     

     

     


  • Demisting Rivington

    Chris and I had been promising ourselves another walk…it had felt like an eternity since our last one, the ascension of Snowdon in June. We’d planned on doing Pendle but I fancied putting into use the knowledge of the last section of the Amble which I had gleaned from last week’s walk with Karl.

    Noon Hill should be here - it was last seen fifteen minutes ago.
    Noon Hill should be here – it was last seen fifteen minutes ago.
    Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.
    Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.
    I drove us to Rivington and decided to park as close as I could to Rivington Hall barn. By 10:38 we were on route, following once again, a section of the Anglezarke Amble route to take us past the cottages around the back of the barn. It was here that Chris caught sight of three Roe Deer (I saw just two but don’t dispute the number). This was the start of the climb and any cheery thought would be caressed tenderly! Over the next half a mile we steadily gained height but made very swift process and before long we were passing the old toilet blocks on Belmont Road (effectively the continuation of Georges Lane). I would have liked to have taken a photograph of the Pike but the mist was completely obscuring the tower at its summit. Fortunately we were going passed the Pigeon Tower (Dovecote) and it would have taken some mist indeed to block that out. The descending mist was significantly adding to the ‘feel’ of this walk. After passing the tower we turned right towards Catter Nab.

    A procession of orienteering people make their way down Will Narr.
    A procession of orienteering people make their way down Will Narr.
    Here should be the stunning view across to Anglezarke Moor.
    Here should be the stunning view across to Anglezarke Moor.
    It was here that the full extent of the mist was realised. Normally the mouthwatering vista across to Anglezarke Moor dominates the view, today, we had pea-soup! Occasional bits of scenery popped up as we neared it, Noon Hill and the very immediate surroundings, random bright fields in the distance sharing a moment’s illumination, all very seasonal. Surprisingly, we were not cold, moreover, Chris took off her coat. The path which transports us from Belmont Road to …Belmont Road-at Hordern Stoops is a generally well-worn and stream-like, we were not being ferried away on the cusp of a mighty river in spate, but let’s just say that our socks were getting wetter by the mile. I was relieved when we reached the end of the track and were back on Terra-ash-felt for a short time at least. Across the road, which is often a racetrack, we could see a small assembly of people playing around with a Drone – one of those remote controlled helicopter-like things, not R2D2! They appeared to keep losing it in the distance, I kept losing track of it up close…rubbish eyes.

    On nearing Will Narr we were almost overwhelmed by orienteering people – there were probably about twenty at this stage, which meant that for the second week in succession I was observing people out on the moors with maps. I like this. Chris wasn’t that impressed and we began the now much nicer ascent of Will Narr – owing to its new stone path which was a joy to walk on compared to how treacherous it used to be. Progress was quick, it was not many minutes before we were dropping then climbing back up Spitlers Edge. It was at this point where we again noticed that our feet were taking on water. And there would be no reprieve as for the next mile and a half as we dropped down Spitlers and then up and over Redmonds Edges, the water kept on coming over the millstone slabs which had always saved walkers from the worst bits that this moor can throw at a person. At Catter Nab I had (stupidly) guesstimated that we would be at the summit of Great Hill in an hour. I hadn’t even checked my watch, Chris’s line of inquiry/interrogation led me to believe that it was at the forefront of her mind. I have to admit that my spirits stayed high, I had never ascended Great Hill in the mist until now. The fact that we were going up the undisputed easiest way was just a bonus. I told her that within five minutes we would be at the top – then sped off uphill as quickly as my soggy feet would carry me and tried to deduce which aspect of the summits ‘cross’ shelter would afford the warmest spot at which we would have our lunch. In was indefinable, we tried all four and none felt any worse or better.

    I was happy to tell Chris that it was all downhill now for at least a mile and a half. Given the wetness of the locale, this was not met with a warn reception. We finished our lunch then set off towards White Coppice which was hiding somewhere in the mist. This was my fourth and easiest ascent of Great Hill this year. I think I’ve gone up it at least once per year since 2010, it is becoming something of a favourite. The way we were descending was the same route that I have ascended a few times before…it is a right pig at the start. that being said, the middle section has its moments too, once the landmark of Drinkwaters Farm (or at least its ruin) is passed then the end of the walking on a nice flat path has been reached. The path then quickly degenerates into a sometimes muddy, sometimes grassy and other times rocky affair that has one looking only at ones feet! We only met one couple on route and they were ascending – I didn’t feel any envy for them. Chris thought that we had been dropping down Great Hill forever, to me it seemed to fly by and before long we were ambling (did you see what I did there?) along passing by the cricket ground on one side and Stronstrey Bank on the other – plus the odd overly curious Yew!

    The beautiful expanse of water which is Anglezarke Reservoir.
    The beautiful expanse of water which is Anglezarke Reservoir.
    Once at the gate where we would stride across Moor Road, the time of testing my memory was upon me. Could I navigate us passed three reservoirs, one common a couple of flights of steps and not get lost? To be fair Chris appeared to have complete confidence in me. To be even more fair, that might have been because I hadn’t told her that I could quite easily get us lost here! fear ye not! From the time the lovely High Bullough Reservoir came into view, de-ja-vous took over. I was on auto-pilot. Given that this was my third time traversing this section of the Amble then it’s debatable as to if I should have been concerned at all. But I wanted to be absolutely sure that I was not going to get Darren and I lost when we do this for real in February next year. We took the steps, we dropped down the tarmac lanes, we crossed the streams and slid around a bit on the wooden bridges, but we did it. When I finally managed to struggle through the kissing gate at the end of the field and onto Horrobin Lane, I was over the moon. I couldn’t stop myself from pointing out to Chris “That’s the official start to the Anglezarke Amble”.

    “Oh are we at the end of the walk then?”
    “No, that’s about ten minutes walk away!”
    “Grrrrr (under muted breath)”

    I didn’t care. I’d done it, we’d done it and arrived back at the car by 15:25.

    The start and finish sections of the printed version of the route for the Anglezarke Amble are some of the single most confusing pieces of walking literature that I’ve had the opportunity to read. If you can understand them, good, well done, not all of us can. But in successive weeks now I have done both…and survived. Now if there was just a way of doing the Amble without going over that bloody Longworth Moor!!!

    Distance: 12 miles (not the EIGHT I told Chris at the start of the walk!)
    Ascension: Around 1,800 feet.
    Terrain: Water – everywhere even though it didn’t rain much!

    Song of the walk: Clean Bandit featuring Louisa Johnson – Tears


  • Ambling Around Again

    The Walk of Saturday the 22nd of October, 2016

    Well talk about ‘walk of the year’!

    I have already mentally signed up for next year’s grueling 24 (and a half) mile walk known as the Anglezarke Amble – most readers will recall that I’ve been obsessed with this since around December 2013. If you’ll also recall I did it accompanied by my good friend Mark this year in February. Around 7/8 of the way there was a point when I thought ‘never again’…by the end this had transformed back to ‘I can’t wait until next year’. Well next year’s event is just four months away now, (eek!) and I considered it to be time to start getting into the right mindset. This was further fueled a couple of weeks ago when I struggled up Ard Crags with Karl and Sue. Speaking of Karl, I could think of no finer guide to help me decipher the route – the instructions are written in a format that I find a bit tricky to understand. Karl has extensive local knowledge and I was over the moon when he agreed to accompany me.

    We arrived at the tiny ‘green’ at Rivington Village – oddly enough I cannot recall walking past this in February, but I must have done so…other things on my mind I suppose, and set off at 09:18. Our initial destination was Rivington Pike…we went a very direct route and seemed to fly up there as by 10:00 (perhaps even earlier, I was hyperventilating!) we were atop the hill and looking around at the spectacular views.

    A lonely tree on Rivington Lane.
    A lonely tree on Rivington Lane.

    From here we dropped down Brown Hill, with my walking trousers (oversized) making a bid for freedom in February, it took a long time to descend then. Now with a pair that stayed in place, it was less than five minutes between setting off from the pike and setting foot on the road that would take us to the start of the next climb – up Crooked Edge Hill. The afore-mentioned hill is not a giant by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be a right pig to walk up quickly. I think we did it quicker today that at any other time that I’ve ascended the little beast and the bonus was that we were not going to the top – Two Lads. The ‘Amble’ path separates something like one hundred yards before the cairns, as does the Rotary Way I believe. Anyway, next on the agenda was the ‘real summit’ of Winter Hill – to me this is the crossroads, just passed the buildings and most of the ironwork, definitely not where the trig point resides.

    I was looking forward to the drop down to Belmont Road, what with having trousers not snaking down my legs at every given opportunity I could descend with some gusto…and I did! We set a blistering pace and I was almost disappointed when we hit the turn off through the woods. Not least of all because the left hand side of the tiny glade has been felled. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but the area certainly doesn’t look any better for this arboreal destruction. Greenhill Farm beckoned…I had trepidation.

    A distant view of the masts from Belmont Road.
    A distant view of the masts from Belmont Road.
    Belmont (or is it Abbey )Village?
    Belmont (or is it Abbey )Village?

    Because the path which the Amble takes to the left of Greenhill farm, may be the most muddiest area of the entire route. I remember this impacting on my performance for sure at the Amble but then a few weeks later the area had entirely dried out. I knew that there had been rain here in the last few weeks and whilst not exactly saturated, there was still a lot of mud around. Both myself and Karl came off that field with our footwear having been given a generous and unwanted coating of mud, in my case my right ankle had copped for it! That was within fifty yards of entering the Greenhill farm field. Karl strode confidently and I rather more gingerly over the mud and grass and within five minutes we were dropping down towards what we thought was the beginning of the Eagly Brook. We crossed this, admired the ornamental reservoir and made our way uphill to Egerton Road with the trusty tower as a beacon at Great Robert Hill.

    And if what had gone before was a little bit of a slog, then here came the grand slog and I shall make no attempt to hide my feelings about this stretch of land: I hate Longworth Moor! Having ascended then descended for a few hundred feet we then had the pleasure of watching the path disappear before our very eyes as we took to Higher Whittakers – the wet, featureless, bleak – (I really do not like this moor) sprawled out in front of us. Thank heavens for Karl being able to visibly pluck objects out of the distance, I could not see the infamous ‘Charley’s Pole’ until we were practically on top of it. This is quite salient as it’s the split in the overall Amble walk in more ways than one. The guidelines that Karl had stated that walkers intent on doing the full 24 miles route should be here no later than eleven o’clock, or they will have to continue on the shorter route. My instructions stated 10.30! When Mark and I completed the route in February we arrived her at 10:15 and the check point staff were advising us to take the shorter route then! So at best next year I will have to make sure, somehow, that we get here by 10.15 at the very latest – well I only hope that the ground is hard, because Karl and I practically flew over Rivington Pike and Crooked Edge Hill, raced up Winter Hill and charged down to Belmont Road (okay we had a five minute stop there for drinks!) and yet still we only arrived here at 11:48 – two and a half hours which would equate to 10:30 on Amble day!

    Karl imparts his map reading expertise...farewell kids!
    Karl imparts his map reading expertise…farewell kids!
    Karl disappears as we ascend Lower Whittakers.
    Karl disappears as we ascend Lower Whittakers.

    At this point we met with some Scouts (I think they were scouts, boys and girls) who were out and about all over the moors doing their Duke of Edinburgh award. One of them brought a smile to my face when he said to Karl ‘Are you doing this for fun? My grand dad does that too!’ Priceless, but seeing as in a few months Karl is going to be a grand dad then may be this will have taken the stinging revelation out of the coming event for him. Karl gave the kids some directions…then we got off this section of moorland as quickly as possible, fearing the imminent headlines of ‘Children lost on moorland’!

     

    The ever so slightly spooky Hollinshead Hall.
    The ever so slightly spooky Hollinshead Hall.

    The good news on this day was that we didn’t have to cross the eastern section of Longworth Moor and instead headed west on one of the four Witton Weavers Way paths to meet up with Catherine Edge – this is a path, an excellent path, not a woman! I’ve walked this path on a couple of occasions but I think today was the first time that I had gone so far, the last time, on Good Friday, I crossed over Crookfield Road. This time Karl was having none of this and we climbed the short hill at the western edge of Conyries Plantation. We dropped down (at speed) to Hollinshead Hall where we had roughly fifteen minutes to eat our lunch and have a drink and peer at Great Hill, our next destination.

    To some this would signal the start of the end of the walk, but then, can this not be said of the first step? Indeed, at this point in February I was secretly cheering…little did I know! Today, I was fully aware that in order to get up Great Hill, you have to concentrate on… Great Hill and not the end at Rivington which is six massive miles away. Today Great Hill was cold in some places and hot in others. I watched as Karl became very small and then he vanished into the horizon. I’ve never failed to get up Great Hill – it isn’t that steep, however after nine miles of walking, I wasn’t going to be flying up the hill. We made it to the top (including that one little false summit that always catches me out!) where we had a few minutes before setting off on the long drop down via Drinkwaters Farm to White Coppice. It’s very easy to pick up some speed on this descent although it is not quite as easy as the drop off Winter Hill to Belmont.

    We called in at the cricket pavilion hoping that the toilets might be open and I could refill my water bottle – no such luck, although quite why I had envisioned a cricket match being underway in October…altitude sickness fogging up my frontal lobe perhaps? At least we were on the home stretch now. Herein lies one of the reasons for the walk, when I did the route in February, Mark and I simply followed the walkers with whom we had joined up. They were very good at following directions (unlike me, I’m shockingly bad!). I cannot guarantee that this is going to happen again next year so it made sense to me to become familiar with the final stretch. After all, I don’t want Darren and me to be so near yet so far to the end. We marched along the path which passes by Stronstrey Bank and crosses over the Goit and before long we were at Moor Road where we crossed and headed off into the woods. We passed some more groups of children, although this bunch of girls looked to be early teens as opposed to the Longworth Moor group who looked 10 at the oldest. The going was good, and although the sun had said goodbye for the day it was nice to be able to pick out some landmarks before dusk took hold. Last time we were practically in darkness for the last few miles, which did nothing to aid navigation.

    At the end of the woods stretch and having traversed the odd field or two we passed the gorgeous landmark of the High Bullough Reservoir, this is the smallest one in the area and yet it’s by far the prettiest. I had hoped to take a photo or two of Anglezarke reservoir as it too can be a stunning stretch of water but I had dehydration on my mind and my calves were beginning to grumble a bit by now. To be honest I was still enjoying the walk but was looking forward to the finish. We dropped down a very steep tarmac road which I did recall from last time and then before long were crossing over the damn via the pavement which holds in the Anglezarke reservoir. One more road crossing led us to an altogether more forest-like environment and after some debating as to whether we should go left or right – where I played my de-ja-vous card, we went left and before long hand the Yarrow Reservoir on our left hand side – success as that’s where the guide had said it should be. Less than fifteen minutes after this we were back at the car and I could at last get another drink from the two litre-bottle of sparkling water in the boot of my car. The time was 15:58, we had made it around in six hours and forty minutes.

    There are parts where we could have carried on walking and saved a few minutes – and then slowed down afterwards due to exhaustion! I cannot see how we could have made it across the route any quicker. That being said, it’s a hell of a route. The shorter route does not feel thirty three percent easier than the longer route even if Catherine Edge is a joy to traverse! Karl thoroughly enjoyed the route and I was happy to hear that he would do it again some time – I know I am 🙂 So now I have to put some serious effort into getting fit for this event in February 17, I have the confidence now that I can find my way around, but I am concerned greatly by that 10:30 cut-off time at Charley’s Pole. A few less KFC and Fylde Road Chippy teas should sort that out!

    Song of the walk was the Euro 2016 classic ‘This one’s for you’ by David Guetta and the gorgeous Zara Larsson.

    Stats:

    Milage – 16.5 miles

    Ascent: 2,420 feet

    Time taken – 6 hours 40 minutes.

     


  • A Great walk up to and around Grisedale Pike.

    This was the walk on Sunday, July 31st, 2016 with Sue, Helen and Karl.

    Having not climbed a hill since the successful ascent of Snowdon, what felt like an epoch ago, I was chomping at the bit to get back up to the Lake District and had pleaded with Karl “Anywhere will do!”. By Thursday of that week he had got back to me saying that his next outing would be on Sunday and did I fancy coming along to do Grisedale Pike? Did I ever! This had been one visible hill on most occasions that I’d visited the lakes for the last year or so. Sunday morning came around and I set off to Darwen amidst all manner of suicidal animals. I was lucky to not run over two cats, a rabbit and countless birds – this always happens when driving around near Southport in-between the hours of 06:00 – 08:00. I did manage a wry smile at what I thought was a tall horse in the field on my right- yes that’s right it was essentially two horses, having sex. Sunday mornings!

    Without more coital observations I arrived at Karl’s in time to be half an hour early – It’s not just the case that I am bad at judging the timing of journeys, I’m just well aware that I’ll get a cuppa made for me if I am more than 15 minutes early.

    Within the hour we were off in Sue’s car up to Braithwaite. The views on the M6 revealed that this would be a fine walking day for us. I didn’t have the slightest idea as to how to get to our start-off point and to add more confusion into the mix we picked up Helen just outside…I want to say Braithwaite but I really don’t know. It was nice seeing Helen again as the last time that we met it was in 2012 when the same four of us were treated to all the mist that good old Pendle Hill could throw at us.

    By ten o’clock we had parked and set off – straight uphill towards the path that would take us up the eastern face of Grisedale Pike. And what a face it was! From relatively early in the route the last push to the summit was clearly visible. However, the views which encapsulated magnificently the other fells from the vicinity served to take one’s mind off the steep slog to come. Most noted was the spectacular vista of the area known as Coaldale Hause (54.579008, -3.256508). In conjunction with this were the lofty summits of Causey Pike and Crag Hill and the lesser peaks of Barrow and Outerside. Further afield a great number of the eastern fells were plainly visible, even i picked out Catstye Cam and Helvellyn, but also on show was Clough Head and Great Dodd from my last trip up to the area. It was mildly amusing that even though my eyesight is nowhere near as keen as it used to be: I could still make out the Weather Radome atop Great Dun Fell with its smaller sibling to the left of this and mighty Cross Fell slightly more left. Even Mickle Fell was plain to see.

    Barrow, Outerside and Crag Hill on the left with Grisedale Pike facing on the right.
    Barrow, Outerside and Crag Hill on the left with Grisedale Pike facing on the right.

    Running parallel to our path – Sleet How, was one which begins at Whinlatter, or more accurately Hospital Plantation which looked like one of those dead straight, relentless paths, I’m usually drawn to paths such as these like an iron filling to a magnet! The path was very kind to us and levelled out a number of times which afforded us countless opportunities to take in the fantastic views of our neighbouring fells and mountains. It was something of a novelty to be walking amongst so much bracken which would eventually give way to seemingly endless bands of heather. Causey Pike tends to dominate the horizon when heading up Catbells or walking around Keswick in general and such was the case – every so often, today with its distinctive knuckles bordering on omnipresent.

     

    Competitor!
    She let me win really!

    As usual, Karl made it to the summit of Grisedale Pike first, I was inspired…but the heat was slowing me down, it was a case of off-again, on-again for my coat. When I was parallel to him I did spy a much younger woman dressed in blue (I think) who might just have made it to the summit before me. This was unacceptable and I quickened my pace to a sprint whilst shouting to Karl “I’ll be dammed if someone’s going to overtake me fifty yards from the summit!” at which he scoffed! Those were the longest fifty yards of my life! Thankfully the girl magnanimously yielded this one-player-race and let me get to the summit before her, I maintain that if she had wanted to be first, she would have been without breaking sweat. All the same, on my way back to Karl I took her photograph.

    The next sections emerge
    The next sections emerge

    I rejoined Karl at the fringe of the summit and waited for Sue and Helen to catch up with us, it wasn’t a long wait. We engaged a mountain biker in conversation, he was waiting for his less-fit friends to make it to the summit and from there they were to film themselves flying down the paths of descent. I remembered the joy of having a mountain biker coming hurtling towards me from March’s Skiddaw ascent. Whilst the others busied their selves with lunch, I decided to keep mine for later and attempted to satisfy myself with one on my pineapple caffeine gels. The gel must have gone passed its use by date as it tasted horrible but did give me some energy – around eight calories worth.

     

    From atop Grisedale Pike, Grasmoor dominates.
    From atop Grisedale Pike, Grasmoor dominates.

    As could be expected, the views were all encompassing, Grasmoor was by now dominant but a great deal of the Lake District could be seen from this loft position at just under two thousand six hundred feet. With regards to altitude, we were now at the apex of the route, there would be more ups and downs granted, but we were not going to get higher than this. However, that being said we then set off downhill for quite some way, which of course meant that on route to our next summit Hobcarton Crag – we had to ascend once more. After the slog up Grisedale Pike, this was child’s play! What seemed like a long way was accomplished in just a few minutes and it was interesting to note just how many other walkers seemed to magically appear. Hobcarton Crag appears essentially to constitute Hopegill Head ( I did reference the point that I never saw Hope Gill, only its head, several times during the day) and within moments we were looking at the next destination Whiteside from the summit of Hopegill Head.

    RidgeWalkWe said a temporary adios to Helen here whom we would rejoin later in the valley. Here the ridge-walk started in earnest as this picture blatantly plagiarised from Karl’s fantastic photo set demonstrates. A nearby fell caught my eye – Ladyside Pike, apparently Mister Wainwright could not fit it into his North Western Fells book, I’ll reserve opinion until I’ve climbed it but Sue was a fan and voiced her observation that from some angles it really does look like a lady on her side. Ah well, not everyone can see the dolphins on ‘Magic Eye’ autostereograms (I can), so I won’t mock or judge! The last time that I walked a real ‘ridge’ was over Longside Edge in March…and then up Skiddaw the scary way (yes, I will concede that route was scary), so it was nice to be on another of these ‘airy’ little pathways in the clouds. I have to admit that I spent a great deal of the time following the aforementioned Mister Wainwright’s advice…watching the ground beneath my feet. Thus ever time that I wanted to take in the scenery I simply stopped. This proved to be a splendid strategy and I never fell once, although I came close to so-doing on a number of occasions!

    Yours truly, with Grasmoor lurking!
    Yours truly, with Grasmoor lurking!

    Once at the summit of Whiteside (and I’m guessing that there are large Quartz deposits on its side which gives the mountain its name), we took some more mandatory summit shots of ourselves and the immediate scenery and had a few moments breather. I’ve walked tougher routes than this, Sca Fell was a pig, the Pike had a good old go at crippling me and Helvellyn tried its best to freeze me to death, but I was feeling quite spent by the time we were face to face with Grasmoor.

    From here the mountain which I would most like to climb (from the North Western fells) looked huge, not unassailable but certainly not something that I would consider attempting this afternoon and was relieved that I didn’t have to think about climbing it. It’s always impressive to see the route that you have achieved – whilst still on it and looking back at the ridge we had just traversed did fill me with wonderment, not least because we now had to go back over it to Hopegill Head once more!

    Some huffing and puffing once more (yes, emanating from me) and we were back at Hopegill Head – none of us feeling the need to go all the way up to its unmarked and largely un-celebrated summit again. On the slopes of the mountain I finally ate my Marks & Spencer’s Jerk Chicken Wrap – it was rather nice, as we contemplated the walk so far and I learned what else was in store for us – namely Sand Hill. So after our leisurely, but much needed stop, we set off on route to Sand Hill, which meant aiming directly at Crag Hill…for a while as that was the direction in which our path ran.

    Crag Hill does appear to be a mightily impressive land mass, it’s understandable that people chose to include this in their Coledale Horseshoes routes. We dropped down Sand Hill and passed by a number of waterfalls and becks – Low Force was quite impressive and audible from a great distance away. Finally we carried on down the valley via the path which runs alongside Coledale Beck, overtaking a large group whom seemed content to sit and dangle their feet in the beck. We caught up to Helen and later spied the disused coal mine – Force Crag Mine which had a distinctive “Good, bad and ugly, spaghetti western” feel to it.

    A couple of miles later and we were all back at Sue’s car at the end of a brilliant day’s worth of walking. Sue’s GPS revealed to us that we had walked roughly three thousand, six hundred feet in altitude over nine point one miles. I hope to come back to this area soon to do the summits at which we gazed today: Causey Pike and its ‘knuckles’, Barrow, Outerside, Crag Hill and not least Grasmoor – I still have three more Wainwright number one’s to do – that is the highest mountain in each of his guides: Grasmoor, High Raise and High Street so it was agonising to be so close to one of them and not tick it off the list…there’ll be another time.

    Song of the walk this time does not actually have a video on YouTube, but the delightful “I Need to Forget” by my former classmate and friend Joanna Koziel was in my head for the majority of the day.


  • Oh, My, Dodd!

    The walk of Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

    I had texted Karl in the week to ask if he was doing a lake District walk at the weekend as it had been a while since we last visited the district together. He rang me up with details of the walk, apparently we would be doing Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watson’s Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd then Birkett Fell, Hart Crag and Common Fell. He even proffered a name for the post walk blog – “Doddering about!”.

    Sunday came and unfortunately Karl was unable to join us which left just the three of us, Sue – the walk leader, Lynn – the driver and me…I didn’t have a role!

    We arrived at the Lake District equivalent of four lane ends at ten to ten, so good progress really from Darwen to here. The weather was lovely, well it was when the sun was directly above us, I have, so far this year, had problems keeping warm. This walk would highlight this situation. The first mile was a gentle amble in a general westerly direction with the mighty hulk of Blencathra filling out the horizon. This was too easy, something was going to change, I knew it!

    Some distance away, Clough Head beckons.
    Some distance away, Clough Head beckons.

    And thus after the landmark (which I forgot to photograph) of an old, abandoned railway carriage, we traversed a  stile and set off on the relentless slog up to Clough Head. What a hard slog this was. I’ve done steeper inclines, but not for so long…the terrain was not rough or uncomfortable, but it just kept on keeping on! After many moments we hit our first false summit which brought us more or less parallel with White Pike – 1,370 feet above sea level. At the time I was not aware of its lack of inches! this would be one of the few walks where the count of the number of people I saw was less than thirty. Yet when we finally reached the summit cairn at the top of Clough Head, there was already a couple there who looked like they were going to stop, thus we did not stay long at the top and after having climbed up for ages…dropped back down a couple of hundred feet on route to our next mountain…Great Dodd.

    Great Dodd, living up to its name.
    Great Dodd, living up to its name.

    On the day Sue was equipped (as always) with map and compass and lessons on how to use them. I can honestly say now that I’ve cracked it as at regular intervals myself and Lynne would take turns at getting a bearing. At first I was a little reluctant – some of the easiest procedures in life are a mystery to me, by the end of the day I had picked up the habit of taking bearings…I just need to start using this before I forget it again. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the haul up Great Dodd was almost as tough as the preceding one up Clough Head. Given that the former is over five hundred feet higher…it was only to be expected. Fortunately this meant that at the top we were as lofty as we were going to be for the day. However, that didn’t mean that we had finished our ascending for the day as next  (having had a break for something to eat at the excellent shelter atop Great Dodd) we dropped over three hundred feet to Watson’s Dodd.

    Helvellyn, Catstye Cam and Watson's Dodd.
    Helvellyn, Catstye Cam and Watson’s Dodd.

    Sometimes I am tempted to imagine personalities of fells. Yes, that does sound a tad insane but hear me out. Of this locale Hevellyn is the almighty, undisputed star attraction. One can see it from everywhere and (at times) from atop the summit – it should be possible to see the whole of the Lake District. This glory, this limelight would then disseminate on a lessoning scale throughout the rest of the neighbouring fells, with the smaller ones sharing in the limelight in a diminishing scale. Thus, Watson’s Dodd would command less attention than a lot of the fells in its immediate environment. At just about two and a half thousand feet, in the company of others closer to three thousand feet, why would one even bother to wander over to its summit?

    Because the views from Watson’s Dodd, overlooking the beautiful Thirlmere, offer a much more enhanced sense of depth and scale than the views from the much loftier surrounding mountains. Watson’s Dodd maybe one of the smaller of Helvellyn’s clan, but its views make it an undisputed star – in this author’s opinion anyway!

    The 'dark' fell in the middle is Stybarrow Dodd (or at least it should be!).
    The ‘dark’ fell in the middle is Stybarrow Dodd (or at least it should be!).
    Raise with Helvellyn and Catstye Cam.
    Raise with Helvellyn and Catstye Cam.

    We only stayed at Watson’s Dodd for a few minutes, long enough to take some photographs, then headed off in a South East direction towards Stybarrow Dodd. In all honesty, although I was in no way sick of mountains, I can’t really remember much about Stybarrow Dodd and its summit.It has to be said that the tops of the summits all were now sharing a common theme, rounded and a little rocky, thus in the memory it’s hard to remember which one was which.We took to the map once more and set a course for our final Wainwright of the day…Hart Crag on Hart Side.

     

    It never impressed Wainwright, Birkett Fell.
    It never impressed Wainwright, Birkett Fell.

    Next we headed off piste as we took in another summit over two thousand feet but one that the late, great Alfred Wainwright had decided not to include in his Eastern Fells pocket guide – Birkett Fell. At 2,379 feet this was no baby fell though, the summit cairn was large and impressive and the views to the Hight Street ridge and the Kentmere Horseshoe upper reaches were captivating. I have to admit that by this time with all of the ups and downs, my knees were getting a bit jelly-like.

    We then had something of a get together on which route to take back to the car – via the Royal Hotel at Dockray, we could either do a really steep drop down to the valley below which would then result in an onerous ascent back up to the car, or we could cross the ridge and take in the lesser summit of Common Fell, another hill with an mightily impressive cairn and drop in to Dockray via Watermillock Common. Either way would result in a climb back to the car, but one the one featuring Common Fell we knew for definite would offer us a guaranteed route back into the village, the same could not be said for the lower level route. We opted for the ridge walk.

    The summit of Common Fell, our last fell of the day.
    The summit of Common Fell, our last fell of the day.

    Common Fell is a fine hill in its own right, Wainwright never took to it and I’m not sure if it’s a ‘Birkett’. As can be expected from any top in this area, the views are all encompassing, with the neighbouring tops of Round How and Bracken How adding a certain ‘cute’ picturesque quality which only little hills can administer. And so, at around five thirty, we left the fells and dropped into Dockray where we called in at the Royal hotel for a much needed drink stop. After half an hour we headed up the hill back to the car after what had been a thoroughly enjoyable walk in the eastern fells.

    The eastern fells, to me, all look very similar, For Great Dodd see Stybarrow Dodd in turn add a few rocks and you have Raise, the summit of Fairfield is similar to that of Clough Head…only Helvellyn and Catstye Cam stand unique in their appearance…to those who don’t profess to being a concessioner of the Lake District.  What does attract the visitor is the views from these majestic fells, all around is notoriety from the loftiness of the neighbouring Kentmere Horseshoe to the adrenalin of both Swirral and Striding Edge. I do hope to visit the Eastern fells again, but then there are some major summits to tick off my list including the four which remain from my top ten of England:

    1. Great End
    2. Bow Fell
    3. Pillar
    4. Nethermost Pike

    I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do the complete linear walk over the Helvellyn massif – from Dollywaggon Pike to Clough Head (or the reverse way), now I have an insight – bloomin’ hard going!

    Thanks to Sue and Lynne for making it such a great day, especially to Sue for the map and compass lessons.

    Song of the walk: Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend (Official video) – YouTube

    Video of the walk:


  • Cheetham Close and The Jumbles Reservoir

    The walk of Saturday April 30th, 2016

    With the Yorkshire Dales being given a liberal coating of snow, I decided to postpone my latest assault on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge until later in the year. This afforded me the opportunity to visit the small mound answering to the name of Cheetham Close, for the second time in seven days.

    My original route featured in the ascent of Cheetham Close followed by a circular walk around the three main reservoirs of the area: The Turton & Entwistle, The Wayoh and the Jumbles. Ultimately we chose to only do the Jumbles and to save the route featuring the other two for a dryer day, although that being said, we had already done all the muddy stuff at Cheetham Close.

    Here are some pictures from the walk.

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    I have now completed two of the basic four directional routes up to the summit of Cheetham Close and would argue that the route from the North (east-then-north) is my favourite so far. The next time I shall approach from Dimple Hall / Egerton and shall circumnavigate at least one of the local reservoirs. These are easy walks, even if the terrain does get a bit soggy!