Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Trees and walkies

Mike had mentioned that he was off to a local tree planting session. Thinking it was a worthy cause and a chance to put something back in to nature, I expressed interest. Thus it was Mike invited me along to Tow Law, which is a few miles up the road from Crook. An enjoyable day was spent planting a mixture of deciduous trees, mainly beech, oak and rowan.
We were off for a walk on the Sunday, so rather than having to travel back to Blyth, Mike kindly put up with me for the night, err, put me up for the night? This was to be a recce for a guided walk. Check out northernpies.blogspot.co.uk
Sunday we headed over to Blanchland. Our way took us through woods and forestry. Very sloppy underfoot in places.

Some enjoyable walking led us past old abandoned  mine workings and on toward Townfield.
The old farmhouse of Gibraltar looked in rather a sad condition.

Just beyond Nookton farm we stopped for a spot of lunch. The sky noticeably darkened, however, apart from a wee bit of mizzle it remained mainly dry. Mind, it did turn chillier in the afternoon. This walk involved quite a few contours, however, I managed to hang in there. Heading over by Cocklake plantation, it was on toward Ramshaw and around by Sikehead lead mines, now disused.

.These days it is all grouse moorland but in its heyday these mines must have a noisome place bustling with the clamour of industry.
With a chilly wind chivying us, the pace picked up a wee bit and by way of bridleways and a little bit of road walking we headed back to Blanchland. An enjoyable day of walking covering some ten miles. The weather was mainly kind to us and the brief moments of sunshine had a hint of warmth. Thank you Mike and LTD.

Thursday, 23 February 2017


This was a lovely trip proposed by Mike and I had been looking forward to it. The proposed plan was to start out from Kirk Yetholm and do a round of the local hills over the course of four days.. It was to be a mixture of two short days and two longer ones
The car was parked in Town Yetholm late Sunday morning. Following the Pennine way out of Kirk Yetholm,, we turned off to head up Staerough Hill.
A steady plod up with the occasional stop to admire the views!

View towards the Cheviots.
. It was windy up there but a lovely day. We stayed fairly high to take in a few more tops and then descended to the ruins of Old Halterburnhead to camp out of the worst of the wind.
Monday morning, had a good breakfast, plenty of fluids. Was aware of a slight blurred vision and noticed I was slow in packing up. However, it was when we set off I realised I was in trouble. My body was just not responding properly. It was proving difficult to even keep moving. By the time we reached the saddle just before Birky Knowe it was obvious I could not continue. Leaving Mike to carry on  by himself, I headed down toward Currburn. Even downhill it was not easy going. My intention had been to camp somewhere on the way down. Unfortunately the place was full of cattle. At one point a large group of them where clustered around a gate I needed to go through. It is just as well I am ok with beasts, as I had to push my way through them. By the time I had got as far as Smiddy Brae, the need to stop was obvious.  Even the blocks of forestry offered nothing. They were full of pheasants and pheasant feeders. Eventually I ended up quite a way up the Elhope burn. It took four attempts and an hour or so before the tent was up.
   Ironically, on the Tuesday I was fine, no problems at all. It was a short day though. Went around by Yetholm Loch. Some quarrying going on up the hill a bit. Got followed by a huge dumper truck. Ended up back in Town Yetholm. and then headed up Yetholm Law  to camp in a high, windy position. Strong gusts of wind pummelling the tent made me uneasy.
 Wednesday saw me heading back down to link up again with Mike in Town Yetholm.
It is so frustrating when things like this happen, so demoralising, I hate it. Also, I feel a sense of guilt in letting Mike down.
The Parkinson's clinic has suggested surgery and my name has been put forward for it. That though is to gain control over the excess body movement I sometimes experience.


Saturday, 4 February 2017


Mike, in his preparations toward the TGO challenge, which this year, he intends to do with his son, had bought a new tent. The intention had been for the two of them to share the one tent. Having purchased the tent, the idea now was to have a trial night out with it. Thus it was we headed over to Alwinton in Northumberland.
Following the river Alwin up for a short way we turned off up a side valley and pitched the tent out of sight of the track.
The tent, a Terra Nova, proved to be very spacious inside. We had pitched early to allow for a bit of faffing and getting a little more familiar with how it pitches. We spent a quiet afternoon, Lucky and Mike dozing and me reading. Mind, the afternoon and evening were not entirely quiet. The crump of  heavy guns firing on the nearby ranges echoed across the hills After a night of mizzle and occasional showers, the early morning broke grey and a wee bit dreich. However it soon cleared.
River Alwin
Our initial aim was to make a round of a couple tops. As we headed up through Kidland forest though it became apparent that forestry operations were being carried out in various areas. Inner Hill,( one of two) was dotted with machinery and was obviously out of bounds.  After a bit of head scratching and double checking of maps, we turned off at Heigh. Anyone intending to use the bridleway, beware, you may experience difficulties! Mind, the path down to Lindhope burn proved to be interesting in places!
Stopping for a brew and a spot of lunch, it was decided that with time running on a bit, our best option was to head back down to Alwinton.
A good day's walking, covering roughly nine miles. Mike had also come to decision with the tent, not really ideal for the Challenge. There was a solution though. Last week I had been experiencing one of my periodic lows. While browsing online, actually looking at handbags and shoulder bags, somehow I ended up with a secondhand Enan. Odd,  a bad habit that, impulse buying? Mind, it sorts out Mike's problem. He will be borrowing it, fantastic!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Peak District wander

After the usual rounds of e mail messages between Mike, John Jocys (JJ) and myself, a date, time and a rough plan were drawn up. Thus it was that we met up in the pub at Bamford on the Monday afternoon. A quick drink and, shouldering our packs, we headed steeply uphill out of the village. Wire barriers and notices stating that the road (Rough track?) ahead was closed due to exposed cables. Undaunted we skirted around the barrier and pressed on upwards. Much of the road was badly eroded and in places slippery but we saw no cables. What at first appeared as a wall in front of us, was in fact the road. It was that steep! In the last light of the day, after passing through a car park with 'no camping' signs and various other notifications, we finally found a place to camp on the edge of a wood. A rather unsalubrious spot  but needs must. As darkness descended so did the murk and wetness.
A dreich morning, Peak District.
Tuesday morning was one of greyness, dank and dripping wet. We were in no hurry to set off. Eventually though we packed up and headed on toward Stanage Edge. We were in a monochrome world. The ghostly figures of sheep appearing and disappearing in the thick cloud. Strange rock formations, phantom sculptures adrift in spectral light and drifting waves of murk.
Figures in the gloom.
Something else that was very apparent was the incredible wetness underfoot. Mind, it was not that bad weather wise. There was no wind and it was incredibly mild.
High Neb trig point.
 A descent to a main road. Briefly we were treated to a wee bit of a view. A spot of road walking and a stop for a lunch break and once more we ascended in to the mist.
Carved rock bowls

Kissing stones?
A void lies beneath!
.Passing the grey clad Wheel Stones, we pressed on to Dovestone Tor. According to the map, a small stream was to be found near there. In reality we found a myriad of tiny trickles that would eventually become a stream. We took water from the many pools in the area and set up camp in beds of soft heather, moss and bilberry. The weather turned from damp and mist to dense cloud and extremely wet. To have strayed far from the tent would have been folly.
Tents in the mist, Dovestone Tor.
Wednesday morning saw the tents streaming with water. Even in the tents, things felt decidedly damp. However, despite it still being misty, there was a hint of brightness.
 Once packed up we made our way around by Lost Lad. A wee scramble to attain the trig point. No fine views though!
Lucky does not enjoy the wet, but remains steadfast.
 Descending down toward Upper Derwent reservoir we finally popped out of the mist to open vistas all around. A stop for lunch by the reservoir and then it was down to Fairholmes and a quick cup of tea at the visitor centre. The place was quite busy, it must be heaving in the summer months! Squadrons of ducks patrolled the area and they looked fat and healthy, obviously well fed by the visitors!
Derwent reservoir.
Well fed ducks.
From the valley a steep path led us up through Hagg Side woods to the ridge above. A steep descent down to Hagg Farm, across the road and then another steep ascent. By the time we made the top I was fast falling in to 'knackered old lady mode'.A quick cast about and we camped close to Hope Cross.
Camp near Hope Cross.
Thursday turned out to be a pleasant day. There had been some mist and mizzle during the night and tents were packed away wet. A steady walk took us over to Winhill Pike. Unfortunately Mike was suffering from back pain. A couple of pain killers from John seemed to ease things a bit.

Winhill Pike.
The path leading us back to Bamford was grim. Dense, cloying mud with underlying clay made for hazardous, slippery conditions.
Trig point, Winhill Pike.
We arrived back in Bamford in time for a spot of lunch in the pub before John had to dash off to catch his train back to Manchester. Mike and I had a bit more time to spare.
An enjoyable trip in good company, despite inclement weather conditions. We will have to plan a return visit sometime.

Derwent water
Bamford mills.
Backpacking Lucky the dog.

Friday, 30 December 2016


In many respects this was a shuffle around the edge of the Monadhliath. Plans were made to spend the Christmas week in the Monadhliath. However, as is often the case in winter, the weather dictates what is actually achieved.
The journey up to Newtonmore was fairly straightforward. Mind, the trains from Edinburgh and Perth were hugely overcrowded. There are only a few trains a day that stop at Newtonmore and I arrived shortly after five thirty in the evening. My intention was to spend the Friday night at Newtonmore hostel. This is an excellent hostel and much recommended by fellow backpackers. Neil and Sue are backpackers themselves and I was made most welcome. The hostel is warm, cozy, clean and tidy. Rules are few. A place I would certainly recommend to anyone heading in that direction.
Saturday morning I nipped up to the local co'op for a few extra supplies. It was windy with sleet and wet snow. Thus I dawdled in getting away, giving time for one of the village cafes to open. A cup of coffee and a slice of cake and I headed out. My intention was to head up Glen Banchor. As the road out of the village climbed higher, the weather worsened. Soon I was in driving snow with a head on wind.
Allt Fionndrigh, Monadhliath
Flooded ground and a burn in spate rather put paid to my intended destination. Following a deer trail  that led me to the edge of a stunted plantation and a flat piece of ground. There was just about room for the tent on the edge of the trees. They offered scant protection from the wind but any protection was better than none.
One unexpected snag I hit was trying to get the tent pegs in to decent ground. A thick layer of moss and grass saw me using my boot to drive the pegs deep. A few handy rocks were added to ensure they stayed put. It was a short day but there was no point in trying to fight the weather. Even when the snow eased off the wind remained as strong as ever.
Snowy Glen Banchor.
By Sunday morning a rapid thaw had set in. The wind was still strong but it was now raining and felt very mild. Keen to get out and do something, I followed the track that leads up the glen behind the old Glenballoch farmhouse.  It was not a bad wee wander, despite the wind and rain. However, the wind was noticeably picking up.
 Water rising rapidly, Allt Fionnrigh.
With the wind starting to push me around, I turned back. By the time I reached the tent it was blowing a hooley. Great gusts slamming down the the glen and causing the tent to shudder under the onslaught. Using the ice axe as an extra ground anchor, I hooked a spare guy line on to it and, placed another couple of heavy rocks on the tent pegs. With the tent snugged down as much as possible, it was a case of putting the kettle on and sitting out the storm.
Track up the glen.
By evening the wind had eased a little. The temperature had dropped again and once more it began to snow. The snow continued through the night and was still coming down thick on Monday morning.
Wintery tent!
It was still windy in the morning and still snowing. Needing to top up on water, I had a short wander but it was not a day to be out.
Snow in Glen Banchor.
Monday was largely spent in the tent reading and drinking tea.. By the afternoon the weather cleared and another thaw set in.
Snow storm Glenballoch.
The wind eased over Monday night and another rapid thaw set. Deer wandered around by the tent during the night. Tuesday morning broke dry and I was able to get out without being togged up in waterproofs. There was nothing ambitious in mind, just a walk up to Creag nan Abhag. Everything was streaming with water. Being in no rush and basically, not that fit, I took my time. A chill wind was blowing across the broad, wide open top. A meander across to a craggy  top and wanting to be out of the wind I was soon heading down again. A cleft in a rocky outcrop allowed me to sit out of the wind and enjoy a cup of coffee. Dark clouds were scudding across the tops but the glens below were clear.
Care had to be taken heading down  the hill, the ground was slick with water and  greasy.  It was only a short walk and I was back at the tent early afternoon. It was pleasant though to get out and do something.
Wednesday morning was once more dry. Rather than pack up and head straight out I took a detour.. Following the track that runs up by the Allt a Chaorainn I made my way up toward the red bothy and back.. A pleasant walk and in improving weather conditions. Not a bad trip, little done, but that can happen on winter trips.
wintery Monadhliath

memorial cairn
Allt a Chaorrainn
Monadhliath hills
Above Newtonmore