• 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.

     


  • A stroll around Staveley

    This was a walk with Southport Ramblers on Sunday February 28th.

    A view across the valley.
    A view across the valley.
    We need a 'Karl' to name all of these peaks.
    We need a ‘Karl’ to name all of these peaks.

    We arrived at Staveley, a place I had never heard of until around two weeks ago, at around 11:00. Technically we (the A-walkers) were dropped off at the side of the A591 and had been informed via Linzi’s helpful walk description that we would be climbing pretty much straight away – up a muddy field. The Ramblers, a muddy field? Yeah I know, the two go together like salt and pepper, more or less inseparable. Fortunately, apparently the field had dried out a lot since Linzi’s reccy trip and we managed to get a good old pace going through an only moderately bumpy field in not much time at all. All was plain sailing and the views to the Coniston Fells and the Crinkle Crags opened up spectacularly. I wished that Karl and Sue were with us in order to put a name to each of the myriad of summits that we could see before us.

    We’d successfully navigated one stile (perhaps more, I wasn’t keeping count!), normally these are contentious articles with Ramblers – when they’re not breaking up the walk by being superabundant within a short distance, they can be downright dangerous because of how rickety they can be. The one that caught-out poor Tim was not that rickety – it was of the wall-type, However, anyone above a size six in feet (38 in European nonsense) would have struggled – I felt like I was doing a lovely pirouette with my dainty little size eights getting stuck in the top of the wall – the act of manoeuvring without A: Falling off the wall and B: Yanking a hamstring or C: Collapsing the wall was precise affair! Somehow Tim managed to fall off the wall – ironically enough he had already been to the area a number of times this year and had managed to fall over three times on his last visit. I’d have given up with Staveley by now if I were him!

    The tarmac path leading to the spot where we had lunch.
    The tarmac path leading to the spot where we had lunch.

    But by this time Linzi informed us that we had done pretty much all of the climbing, I took this with a pinch of salt – there’s always more climbing and the very second that one starts to believe there isn’t…is when you come face to face with an unexpected mound to be ascended. The unwritten rule of ‘Rambles’, any hill at the end of any walk is infinitely more insurmountable compared to the start of the walk. We then began to drop in altitude…quite rapidly it has to be said as we sped our way across the landscape. The weather was far nicer than what we had any right to experience – given the time of year, whilst the skies were not entirely blue, there was sunshine to be basked-in. It was now getting near lunch time, a point rammed home to me in particular as my stomach was growling like a brown bear (or at least what I imagine they sound like, having never had the pleasure of interacting with a brown bear!). We made our way up a delightful tarmac climb and I perched myself upon a rock and tucked into my McColls chicken sandwiches.

    Grand Design?
    Grand Design?

    After lunch we eventually made our way along good tracks which led us onto the open moorland. We had been warned by Linzi that on her reccy this section featured a section where because of the torrential rain of late, the crossing of a stream had been rendered as impossible. Fortunately enough for us the weather had been kind and had dried out the moor a lot, and the river that was had now returned to being a stream, we all crossed safely…even Tim! We dropped downhill even more, I didn’t recall going up that much to come down from. At the end of a stretch which would have been a real old slog to ascend, we arrived at Kentmere Hall.

    Water
    Water

    Over the next five and a half miles (roughly) we edged closer to the River Kent having first spied the gorgeous Kentmere Tarn (my photography really took a back seat today) just after Kentmere Hall. Our pace quickened – as if we could suddenly smell the pub! It was notable that Staveley seemed to be more or less draped in Snowdrops, Linzi commented that the local garden centre must have over-ordered and given out a packet of them to all of the village such was their omni-presence, it was delightful to see but at one point I would have gladly sacrificed a clump of the little white wonders for practically any other bulb! Finally at around four o’clock we made it back to the awaiting coach and for ‘boots off’ having traversed for eleven miles (or thereabouts) and over six hundred and sixty feet – not a major walk compared to some that I’ve done recently, but still more than a leisurely stroll.

    Our route:
    StaveleyRoute

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Song of the walk: Zayn Malik – Pillowtalk.


  • The Anglezarke Amble 2016

    Yes, finally, after banging on about it for well over a year, I have managed to complete the infamous (in my world anyway) Anglezarke Amble in…(spoiler alert)

    Nine hours and thirty five minutes!

    And here’s the story of the day (he says cribbing the Walking Englishman)…

    I left home at the somewhat late time of 06:40 on Saturday morning, this simple act in itself is almost a revelation for me as normally for an eight a.m. start time I would have arrived by 06:40, let-alone set off then! The drive from sunny Southport (I’m kidding it was dark) to Rivington was free from incidents (well apart from one really bad gear change which I’ll write-off to being just clumsy) and before long I was driving through the leafy country lanes of Rivington trying to find somewhere to park. And that wasn’t easy because all of the other challenge entrants had got there before me! Oops!

    The tiny building where we have to register and receive our official entrant numbers.
    The tiny building where we have to register and receive our official entrant numbers.

    After Mark (my co-challenger) and I had attempted and failed to call each other by Facebook Messenger (seriously Facebook give it up!), we ended up meeting outside of the registration building – which was teeming with entrants. I feared that we wouldn’t be setting off until after the official start-time of 08:00. However, so speedy was the process that by 07:57 we were stood twiddling our thumbs and eagerly awaiting “the off”. A note to women of the world – go to the toilet at home before setting off to the venue, that way you won’t all have to queue up for the same two/three toilets at Rivington Church Hall – it’s a Village Church Hall in the middle of nowhere not the bloomin’ Trafford Centre (Jeez, Louise!).  (And relax!) I had my GoPro Hero with me (clipped to my new rucksack straps if you don’t mind!) and was intent on recording the official set-off announcement.

     

     

    Alas, this didn’t go as planned because of a few things:

    1. I got there later than most people
    2. Nigel – The announcer doesn’t have the loudest of all voices!
    3. Some people were a bit overly excited (as you can imagine) and wouldn’t shut up!
    The steps leading to Rivington Pike.
    The steps leading to Rivington Pike.

    Before long, we were off and following (for me at least) a new route up to Rivington Pike. All ways up to Rivington Pike are equal in steepness, oh yes, people can promise that this way is better or easier than the others…it’s not true, they’re all challenging and at the blistering pace we had set off at…I was knackered after about five minutes! At one point I seemed to forget that I was still recording (and more importantly AUDIO recording) and as we were positioned behind two walkers of the female distraction, wearing Lycra (and what a distraction) I commented to Mark that it might be rather nice to stay in this position (within the field of walkers I mean!). We were up to the Pike in what seemed like next to no time – about twenty minutes if not slightly more, had the briefest of all glances around the environment and then headed off down and over Brown Hill heading for the officially named ‘Rivington Dog Hotel’ – the kennels in plain speak. I wasn’t looking forward to the next part as Crooked Edge Hill can be a right pig!

    Photo of the cairns at Two Lads
    Two Lads. Courtesy of www.mypennines.co.uk

    The good news (for me) was that our ascent of the afore-mentioned Crooked Edge Hill did not feature in the (normally for me) diversion over to Two Lads. As this involves a further fifty feet of ascension, I was overjoyed! It was another few minutes before we’d finished hopping over the puddles and growing erosion amongst the peat hags at Crooked Edge Hill and joined the tarmac road which would lead us to not only Winter Hill (the T.V. mast) but the first of our checkpoints – I’d never done a walk featuring checkpoints before and was eagerly anticipating experiencing my first. At this point we had met up with some other blokes (we never really did bid a forlorn farewell to the ladies in Lycra), one of whom had a little dog on a lead the length of the river Severn! Okay, hyperbole aside, it was a bloomin’ long lead which kept tripping up the guy at the side of me (to be honest if he finished any route short or long then I’d be astounded!). After checking in we then began the wonderful drop down the north eastern face of Winter Hill (no trig-point tapping today, it was a ten minute distraction which we couldn’t afford to take). Readers of my blog will recall that this is both my favourite way up and down Winter Hill, so I was happy – even though my trousers seemed to be attempting a bid for independence (damn stupid weight loss 🙂 ).

    At the bottom of the hill was the A675, we carefully crossed it as per the instructions (I do normally cross it with care as I’m guessing being hit by a car doing sixty-plus would hurt!) and from there it was onto foreign lands…Greenhill Farm. I attempted part of this route last year…it didn’t end well as I completely ignored the first turn-off and ended up getting kind of lost. This time however, we were saved the embarrassment of getting lost after less than six miles by simply following the ‘Amblers’ in front, even if (by now) the field had begun to split up somewhat. And so had the terrain, the pounding of a couple of hundred boots all marching at pace had left the grass pretty thinned out and the mud, ubiquitous! This made for a hazardous slide down and across the field and going up the other side after the footbridges was just about the hardest going of the entire day.  I instantly recognised the antenna towering over Great Robert Hill (wonderful name but to whom does it refer?) to our right which instilled in me the confidence that we were still on the right path as we turned left, then right, across another quagmire then onto the marsh which is Higher Whittaker – part of the southern most fringes of Longworth Moor. We had a deadline to meet, if we were not at a certain destination in the middle of a field by ten thirty we would be discouraged from the twenty-four miles route and coerced onto the shorter (sixteen miles) one. There is a name for this particular destination: Charlie/Charley’s pole? Upon reaching the said ‘pole’ at 10:15 we were warned that as we were near the cut-off point time it might be wise to try the shorter route. We refrained from calling anyone a cheeky blighter (or more colourful words), after all just because we were a little behind the main pack (they’d gone!) that didn’t imply that we would not finish. I was encouraged to have a piece of the world’s most phlegm-inducing caramel which then set to work on trying to bung up my oesophagus and trachea at one and the same time – I would vehemently spit this out several moments later when the novelty of being chocked to death became no longer attractive!

    The last time that Karl and I traversed this marsh I hated it…this was true once more. I love the Amble in concept and design but please God can we not find another way around this God-forsaken moor? Okay rant over, and before long we were busy sliding down the ‘path’ along side Holden’s Brook – whereby at one point I chose to stumble to my right in order to avoid falling in said ‘brook’ but still managing to impale myself on my mobile phone. Ouch just didn’t quite seem to sum it up really! Once Charter’s Moss Plantation was reached there was relief – just Turton Moor to do now and then the terrain gets easier. In itself this is true, apart from the fact that this does not take into account just what an absolute nightmare we were about to experience in crossing the northern reaches of Turton Heights. Hardly ever were two steps on even ground! Again, I had experienced this awful patch of land previously with Karl. That time we were not on any kind of time limit and there was the reward of pint of shandy at the Strawberry Duck to which we could look forward, this time there was neither of these luxuries to eagerly anticipate! My ability to flowery verbalise prose fails miserably when I attempt to describe how grateful I was to finally reach Green Arms Road which runs by the side of Entwistle reservoir. Checkpoint three beckoned and if it wasn’t for the fact that my freshly opened can of Red Bull was bitingly cold I would have been a delightfully happy chap. Mark seemed in very good spirits and had a fresh air of ‘we can do this’ which was infectious.

    After stopping for a few moments at the checkpoint we set off on route for the most civil section of the walk, the climb up to Cadshaw Farm. Before becoming all Amble-obsessed I had never heard of Cadshaw farm, now I could describe every bump and tuft and contour of the trek as it was glorious (if a little steep in places) walking. I even took a phone call from Southport Computing Centre who told me that they still couldn’t fix my dead Samsung Galaxy Ace! The man on the other end must have thought that he had interrupted me in ‘other kinds’ of recreational activities as I was puffing and panting like Darth Vader on a fast treadmill. It was almost with regret that we hit Darwen Road / Blackburn Road / the A666. Now the hills were going to get a lot more serious and certainly more cold as Darwen Hill can be a horribly inhospitable place for most of the year. One of the greatest challenges was avoiding the turn-offs. We walkers seem to think that if we are not turning left, right, left, etc then we must be following the route incorrectly, but we persevered and managed to stay on track…mostly!

    However, after some time an object appeared to our left. Perhaps wrongly (perhaps???) we set off to follow it, not that the object was in transit…only when we started to get closer did we notice another much greater object on our right. This would be Darwen tower then, as opposed to the thing to our left which was just a rather nice and quite large cairn. So we re-traced our steps through another sloshy field and re-joined the main path. Even though this was a twenty minutes diversion we still had to steal ourselves from taking another left-hand turning…I thought it was just me that did these things but then remembered that my walking mate Karl has something of a penchant for going off-piste, so it must be a common affliction for all walkers. I should mention that a few minutes prior to our sub-amble, we had spied a number of other walkers. This was good, Mark’s fantastic company but there is that irrational moment when one starts to think that perhaps every other walker has finished, or even worse; along with the rest of humanity; been abducted by aliens…I did say irrational yeah?

    So, we now rejoined the walkers the first one of whom I spoke to was a lovely lady named Jacqueline (I couldn’t help telling her that was my sister’s name – I say was ‘cos the ignorant bugger never speaks to me any more!)  and her husband Nigel who was the man that started off the event, who were in fact sweepers! A sweeper in this case being someone from the organising party whom deliberately does the walk at a slower pace and picks up any struggling waifs and strays on route. How complimentary was this? We were waifs and strays! All the same, it was nice to meet new people and we got chatting to Jacky her husband and the others who were accompanying them. From being a band of just two, there were now around eight of us, of which five of us would form a great little group who stayed together all the way to the end. This had been what I had wanted from the walk. It’s not just the walk that entices me out to the countryside, it’s the prospect of meeting people, of shared experiences and being a part of something bigger and unifying…and I do realise how soft and gushing that reads (ah well, I do live in Merseyside these days not stoic old Lancashire!).

    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill

    We finally made it to Darwen Tower. This was to be the scene of checkpoint four (it was on the website instructions) but there was nobody to ask for our numbers – maybe they’d already gone. We had a short sit down and a swig of water and then set off the gloriously long downhill stretch towards Slipper Lowe. Actually I had remembered this part of the route with rose-coloured glasses over my mind’s eye! Although there was a lot of downhill walking, there were also many rises and a great deal of flatness. It mattered not, Mark, Julie and I with Chaz and her brother (damn it why can’t I remember blokes’ names???) slightly behind us; carried on relentless and even picked up our speed. We reached Slipper Lowe at a little after three o’clock and were treated to all the warmth and hospitality for which Lancashire is known…they mocked us for taking so bloody long! I had a slice of cake…it was absolutely gorgeous. I had a cup of coffee – with two sugars in it along with the justification of “this’ll get me up Great Hill!”…for this beast was next on our itinerary.

    From the descent of Darwen Hill; Great Hill loomed threateningly on a horizon which was becoming worryingly nearer, as if mocking us, ‘you can’t escape me, I’m next‘. Great Hill is a pig! We ambled our way through the shaded path which dissects the grounds of the ruined Hollinshead Hall, crossed the A675 (Belmont Road) and yomped our way through the opening quagmire at the very start of the approach to Great Hill. Then it snowed! Fortunately this did not last long and nothing stuck to the ground, I’ve been on this moor in snow before and whilst it did look stunning it was painful to walk through then. I’ve heard Great Hill referred to as ‘Great Mess’ – they were right, this is one boggy hill in some sections. However, it’s not as bad as it had appeared to be. In all honesty, Great Hill’s bark is a lot worse that its’ bite – although a more fitting analogy would be that it looks worse than it is. Mark lead the way up the not-so-mighty mound followed by (damn I still can’t remember his name), then Julie then I, and at times Julie and I swapped places. I stopped twice for no longer than ten seconds, spurred on by the fact that there were some seriously dark clouds gathering over Winter Hill which was only some two miles away. Once atop the summit we paused for a while, smugness having set in as we believed that the rest of the route was all downhill from here. A time check revealed that it was four o’clock and we each agreed that we should be at the finish line in Rivington at around five thirty if we kept to our current pace, onward!

    I knew this part of the route very well. It’s not hard to get lost in this environ, but the descent of Great Hill to White Coppice is something that I am proud to say that I’ve done a number of times and I was able to direct Mark and Julie away from taking the path to Brinscall. We arrived at the quaint little cricket ground within half and hour or so and had another cup of coffee and another slice of cake. I was feeling in high spirits as I left the pavilion…until I fell down the steps that is! Fortunately for me; the rucksack which I had come to loathe and despise for its’ unfailing ability to push at my trouser’s waistband – came to my spine’s defence. The only injury sustained was that to my pride and…well I’m kind of accustomed to that being battered, it usually recovers. ‘No time for dramatics, just get on with it’ was what my inner voice was saying to me, I listened and carried on as we marched past Stronstrey Bank and out towards Moor Road. We crossed the road, fortunately without being hit by cyclists as can happen here and from here on in I admitted that I was now in foreign lands once more. Luckily enough for us Chaz’s brother had the text version of the route to hand and lead us through scenery which I will long to see again – the sunset over Anglezarke Reservoir was stellar! There was some ascension…actually there was some descent from Chaz as she began to detest every single rise, but she coped wonderfully and I believe that we each kept our spirits up.

    And at five thirty-something-or-other, tired and straining to see because of the onset of dusk, we limped into the tiny village hall at Rivington, we’d made it around the route and with time to spare!

    Within moments we received our certificates of completion and Mark very generously paid for my ‘badge’ a picture of which will be posted later. We were informed that there were drinks and food available (some kind of stodgy potato-based gloop which smelled divine) but I simply couldn’t eat, I never can immediately after big walks and this was my biggest so far. I sat back in my chair and simply ‘was’ safe in the knowledge that I had completed my first Amble.

    It was only on Monday, whilst on the way home from work, on Ruff Lane of all places, when I felt that I had done the ‘Amble’. It’s one thing to have the knowledge of having accomplished something that we had set our hearts on achieving, it’s altogether another to feel it…I remember this realisation process kicking in a lot quicker when I’d completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks last year. It’s a lovely warm surge of euphoria – it’s okay, I’m not going to get any more erotic than that!

    If I was to do no more walking for the rest of the year, then I have still done the ‘Amble’…but I will do more walking, and possibly there are even greater high’s to experience as this year I do intend to do longer walks and greater peaks, Snowdon and Scafell Pike both spring to mind. For now this is the culmination, the end-game of my obsession of wanting to complete the Anglezarke Amble…I may never watch the Great Galleymo’s You Tube video again! I doubt that very much. I have said that I’d like to try the next long distance challenge walk – The Peeler’s Hike in March and may very well have the company of Mark once more and Darren of Y3PIR and Snowdon walks…an embarrassment of riches with regards to walking companions. Also there is ‘The Return of the Pig’ (Ingleborough – Simon Fell – Park Fell – Whernside) walk in March to look forward to, so I’m definitely going to get some exercise in.

    Song of the walk? Well it had to be “Beauty Hides in the Deep” by The Doppler Effect as featured on the afore-mentioned Mister Galleymore’s excellent and inspirational video.

    Read the Blog? Now watch the video:


  • Gone for a Burton?

    First logged Ramble of the year.

    They won't even approach us, Cheshire Alpacas.
    They won’t even approach us, Cheshire Alpacas.
    The haven - the disused railway station where we stopped for lunch and a quick freeze!
    The haven – the disused railway station where we stopped for lunch and a quick freeze!

    I must admit to having never heard of this Burton. Of course as a fan of football (my team is about to disappear into the ether!) I had heard of Burton Albion…I don’t think this is the same Burton. However, aside from all that, with the A.A. event getting ever closer (gulp!) it is getting more and more important that I continue to get out and about walking, but not just walking, cold-weather walking, for as sure as eggs are eggs, it will be surely cold atop Darwen Hill on the 13th of February! Hence I pledged to do this Burton walk straight away after the Rambles (soggy) walk in the Lune Valley earlier this month.The choice of the three walks were:

    C – About six, relatively flat, miles
    B – Eight and a half miles, a stretch of estuary and only about forty metres of ascent.
    A – At least eight fields, all of which would be muddy – no, seriously we were warned that they would be muddy!

     

    The haven - the disused railway station where we stopped for lunch and a quick freeze!
    The haven – the disused railway station where we stopped for lunch and a quick freeze!
    Railway station
    And again

    So, obviously I opted for B and what a grand walk it was! Within the first mile we were wandering through Coniferous woodland and treated to a site of two Alpacas – two very shy Alpacas who were intent on staying put at the far end of their field, which was more like a paddock to be honest. Within a few moments we were on the trail which ultimately became the Wirral Circular Trail and encompasses an easy to walk-upon section of path that used to be a railway line. this was further evidenced when we visited the disused Hadlow Road station at about halfway. This was where we stopped for lunch.
    To be honest I couldn’t re-start quick enough as the temperature started to become more ‘noticeable’ after the eating had stopped and the drinks had been drunk.

     

     

     

    The Marshes at the Dee Estuary
    The Marshes at the Dee Estuary
    the view out to the estuary from the top of the 40 metres climb
    The view out to the estuary from the top of the 40 metres climb

    Our next destination was to head in a northerly direction then veer off due west in order to transport us over towards the marshes at the estuary. I loved it here, although I do like a good beach, and we Sand-grounders are resigned to the fact that we’re losing ours, the marshes were captivating. It also has to be said that the weather, although clement enough, didn’t lend itself to spectacular views. We could see across the river Dee’s estuary towards the other side…we just couldn’t see the Dee itself! This made for some really rather lacklustre photographs. After carefully negotiating the marshes and keeping our collective feet dry – thanks to Trefor’s memory and Jean’s leadership, we then headed uphill for the last stretch back to the start and a café – where I was able to wirelessly connect to EduRoam (this is a big thing to me!). the uphill stretch would only grant us a further forty metres in altitude, but after so much flat walking…felt considerably more.

    All in all a good walk with the section of marshes at the Dee estuary being far and away my favourite.

    Distance 8.5- 10.4 miles
    Altitude gained / lost – 348 feet.
    Time taken – Around four and a half hours.

    Song of the walk (even though I was chatting a lot): Ellie Goulding: This Love

    Picture of the stats from map my hike
    the stats

  • 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!