Sunday, 25 September 2016

Skinny dip time

Having somehow  done the North East Skinny Dip last year had somewhat kindled my interest in swimming. There is something in this wild swimming malarkey that one is unable to experience in the safe and sterile waters of a swimming baths.
When registration time came around for the dip this year I duly signed up. Mike, who introduced me to this, was, I think, quietly pleased.
  We had done a few acclimatization swims, not enough really, we need to do more. The idea this time around was to go over to Ross Back Sands on the Saturday and have a few dips there.
There was a stiff, somewhat chilly breeze blowing up the beach. There was also a bit of a sea running.We had fun frolicking in the surf and being approached by curious seals. Mike went in three times but I only managed twice and never actually swam.
In the evening we relocated to Druridge Bay to camp alongside many other folk who were arriving for the skinny dip. To be honest, I slept little, pre dip nerves, I have many hangups about my body..
At the unearthly hour of five in the morning, the kettle was on and rain was pattering on the tent fly. Undaunted we joined the throng of other dippers to register. Amazingly the rain stopped as we joined the crowds on the beach.

. No brilliant sunrise this time, but undaunted, one and all charged naked in to the rolling surf. Yes, it was cold, but oh my, it was, in a crazy sort of way, fun, invigorating too.
A different sort of weekend but already Mike and I are discussing next year. Another important factor here is that the money raised is in aid of Mind, a worthy cause.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The missing link, linked

Back in the month of May, Mike, Lucky the dog and myself set out to circumnavigate a round of the highest pubs in England. An interesting proposition for an avowed teetotaller! However, as the great Rabbi Burns stated,'the best laid plans o' mice an' men gang aft agley'! Due to the pressures of time we left out a section between Todmorden and Skipton. The missing section required completing. Thus it was we returned this September to link up with the missing section.
Joining us on this return trip was the indomitable JJ. John is a man of many talents, is much in demand in various circles and we looked forward to his company. Arriving in Todmorden earlier than John, Mike and I visited the local chippy for a spot of lunch. Collecting John from the station we popped in to a local hostelry for a quick pint, or in my case, a shandy! A place of interesting character with interesting characters. it was the tattooed lass with ears that must have been surgically worked on. they were pointed, Dr Spock style, that caught my attention, different, fascinating!
Our way out of Todmorden led uphill, steeply so. Up through woodland, on to open moorland and over to the Great Bride Stones. The pub that used to be by Keb Hill is now a private residence. An interesting piece of navigation through bog and dense vegetation led us over to Jack Bridge and the New Delight pub. They were dog friendly and permitted camping It seemed a convenient place to stop for the night.
After a muggy night,Tuesday looked as if the heatwave we had been experiencing would continue. Much of route for the day was to loosely follow the Pennine Way and the Pennine Bridleway. It was not just the heat that posed a problem, it was the energy sapping high humidity.

 A shop at High Gate farm provided much welcome cold drinks.

 Making our way over toward Lower Gorple reservoir we detoured slightly to visit the Pack Horse public house. Not the friendliest of places.

Rejoining the Pennine Way, we made our way up and over Withins Height End. Descending down toward Top Withins, I noticed a semi clothed guy with a couple of professional looking cameras all set up on tripods. It did sort of register to me as a little odd as it was still some distance to the ruined farm and the cameras were pointed away from the buildings. It was only when Mike pointed out to me that the chap was actually doing naked selfies. looking back and there he was, in the altogether posing in front of the cameras, odd?

It must have been  a hard life, farming so high up on the moor and of course it will always be associated with Wuthering Heights and the Brontes.
Coming down by Upper Heights decisions as to where we were going to camp that night was rapidly decided by a rolling clap of thunder.. We hastened downward to Ponden Hall. A campsite there is marked on the map. Basically a wild camp on private land. Follow a path down through a wooded hill to a clearing by a stream. The shower and loo are back up the hill by a group of holiday cottages. Tents were erected in haste as the sky grew darker and darker. The first drops of rain were falling as we scrambled to get set up. Soon the storm was upon us. Great flashes of lightning, peel after peel of thunder. At times, as the storm rolled overhead, thunder and lightning were almost simultaneous. For over an hour the storm continued.
Wednesday morning broke dry and clear with the promise of another hot day. The campsite was midge infested and we were glad to be away.
Our route began by following the Bronte Way up to Watersheddies reservoir. A machete would have come in very useful. Apart from the rhododendrons, the bracken was over six foot high and wet. One could have hidden a herd of elephants in there! As for the stiles, well, a top rope may have been handy? It is safe to say we found it hard work! By footpaths and a nasty bit of road walking we made our way to the hostelry at Height Laithe Farm. Unfortunately it is a pub no more. By the looks of it, the place is having much cash spent in conversion to a private home. Mind, there was a grand view over the surrounding countryside.
Footpaths led us over to Wycoller. The ruins of Wycoller Hall are quite impressive, if a little enclosed.

It seemed a good spot for a lunch break. There was a tea room, unfortunately closed.

A mixture of lanes and paths led us over to the Black Lane Ends Inn. It was open and dog friendly. The weather was hot and cold drinks were required. Although it was still early, when it was discovered they would let us camp at the rear of the pub, well, it seemed daft not to. Leaving the lads to contemplate the merits of various ales, I went and found our camping spot.
The pub is obviously very popular. By early evening the place was becoming busy. We went over for a meal, large portions served all round. It was becoming a tad too busy for me and I retired early, leaving the guys discussing the merits of various pubs, beers and landlords!
Thursday morning once again saw a heavy dew and hence wet tents. We were away around nine and the day looked as if it was going to another hot one. Footpaths and lanes took us over to Lothersdale.

Heat haze over Lothersdale.

A steady climb up and over Tow Top lane. It was then footpaths and finally lane and road in to Skipton.  John had to rush off for a train while Mike and I visited a local pub. Once again a dog friendly place and Lucky was glad to just snooze in a quiet corner. Possibly not a lot of mileage covered over the three days. The weather was one continuous heatwave and even a  humungous thunderstorm only momentarily cleared the air a wee bit. It was enjoyable and fun though.









Sunday, 11 September 2016

Hill and beach.

With the skinny dip fast approaching Mike and I agreed acclimatization dips were of a necessity. Mike recently has had a period off intense busyness. Knipe towers had been under siege by a screaming hoard. Aided by his indomitable companion, Lucky the dog, they overcame all difficulties and restored the peace. With a bit of time in hand, Mike managed to slip away for a walk and an overnight bivi.
Heavy rain on the way up to Wooler gave some cause for concern. However, by the time the car was parked and we had lunch, the skies cleared and the afternoon became quite pleasant.

 Our goal for the afternoon was Humbleton Hill, an ancient hill fort. A blustery wind was blowing across the top.
The views all around were superb.
A meander around to join the St Cuthbert's way and it was back to the car park.

From Wooler we headed over to Ross Back Sands for our overnight bivi. Recently I picked up a modified tarp which I thought may be ideal for our overnight stays. However, it was a major faff to erect . Modifications are required, I need a sewing machine!
Water is the biggest problem when we bivi. Carrying in four plus litres is heavy. Modified tent stakes that will actually be effective in loose sand also adds to the weight. A griddle and charcoal was also carried in. Mind, the grilled lamb steaks and spuds were great.
A blustery night with a few spots of rain but the morning dawned  fair.

Mike went for an early morning dip while I waited until a bit later. My first foray was a knee deep paddle. Unfortunately a bit later I began to feel ill. Doctors tell me it is a form of migraine. Extreme giddiness, loss of balance and co'ordination and nausea. For me it was a case of curling up in a bivi bag and not moving. Mike gave me a nudge in the afternoon. We had to move. Getting out with a heavy pack was an ordeal. A good samaritan carried my pack part of the way. Thus ended our overnight sojourn.


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Berwyn circular.

Mike, with his meticulous planning, had come up with the proposal of a circular route in mid Wales that incorporated a round of tops, including Berwyn itself. It was something of a long train journey across to Wales. With me meeting up with Mike on the train at Durham and JJ (John Jocys) joining us at Chester. Eventually we arrived at Ruabon and from there proceeded onward by bus to LLangollen. Our way out of town led us upwards. At first the gradient was moderately uphill. Suddenly though it went skyward, thrusting steeply up the hillside. Gradually though things eased and soon we were walking through rolling, open moorland. A homemade water tank, complete with piped water offered a bountiful water supply. A lovely flat spot among the heather and out of sight of the track made for a splendid camp spot.

A heavy dew overnight and calm conditions made for soaking tents come morning. However a brilliant sunrise soon saw the tents becoming much drier.. The weather looked promising, dry and warm. Unanimously we set off in shorts and tee shirts. Steady walking saw us crossing over Vivod Mountain and onward to Moel Fferna.
. The ground around Moel Fferna was deeply rutted were a tractor had ploughed through the heather
A narrow path that led through dense heather led us over Carrig Coediog. With Mike's careful map reading we continued on toward Careg-Y Caws.



What followed was a long, slow, hot and sweaty plod up to Cadair Bronwen. The reward was a glorious view of the surrounding countryside. A wonderful airy ridge along Bwlch Maen Gwynedd, led  us up to the trig point of Cadair Berwyn. We pressed on to Moel Sych. A certain happening here is perhaps best glossed over. It was though a rather hilarious event!.
. Mike had suggested a direct descent off Moel Sych down to Llyn Lluncaws. taking him at his word, I began to thread my way down through craggy rock outcrops and very steep ground. Unfortunately JJ was less than amused, he is not keen on very steep ground. My apologies JJ.



A bit of casting around and a suitable camp spot was found. The stiff breeze we had experienced higher up had now vanished. This in turn brought out the midges. Thin wisps of smoke could be seen rising from the tent porches as incense sticks were lit in an attempt to ward off the wee beasties.  After a starlit night with a full moon, the morning dawned with a thin mist drifting lazily over the hill.

Mike went for an early morning paddle. However he found the water very shallow and the bottom covered in a mixture of slippery stones and mud. My hope for a swim were cancelled.

Our route for the day saw us ascending a short, sharp uphill bit on to a broad, grassy ridge by Moel yr Ewig and then a gradual climb up and over Godor. As we left our camping spot we spotted a pair of red kites quartering the opposite ridge.There was no public right of way off Godor. Thus as we made our way down through rough pasture, there was a little trepidation as we approached a farmer mending fences. JJ put his public relations skills to the fore and the farmer proved friendly. A steady descent down to to Tyn y Ffridd and then a section of road plodding over Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog. This was a hard bit of walking, steep climbs uphill and with the shimmering heat reflecting off the road surface. Our reward was to find a friendly pub in the village where much needed liquid refreshments were partaken off.

From the village we joined the Upper Ceiriog Way. The climb out of the village was brutal. The heat rapidly sapped any remaining energy we had. Higher up the track we came across literally hundreds of young pheasants. Lucky went into hyper overdrive. If he had had his way pheasant would have been on the menu for tea.Cross words were exchanged between Mike and Lucky, I think the outcome was a draw? In the meantime I tried to push on ahead, hoping to clear the track of these crazy critters. Just short of the road we called a halt for the day, managing to get the tents in a grassy spot among the gorse bushes that lined the track.  A great number of small spiders quickly made the tents welcome, also a few ants.
The following morning we were up and away early. A descent down to the road, a short uphill bit of road walking took us over by Tan y Foel. Here we turned off and then a steady walk up through open moorland that was slowing fading in to it's autumn colours. This led us up to were we had camped on the Monday evening. It was then a case of retracing our footsteps back down Llangollen. The hot weather had brought folk out by the score. The town was heaving with people. We made our way to the railway station, a preservation line run by volunteers. There was a bustling cafe here and we indulged in egg /sausages and chips. Large quantities of tea were also quaffed. For entertainment as we sat at a table on the platform, was a steam engine doing steam engine things, puffing and huffing, letting off steam and tooting its whistle.
A delightful few days on uncrowded, indeed mainly deserted, hills. All in excellent company too. Amazingly we returned deeply sunburned!