Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Galloway hills.

With easter looming ahead, it seemed a trip would be a good idea to spend a few days backpacking. The Galloway region was one I had been looking at for a while. Thus it was that I arrived at Sanquhar station on the Thursday afternoon. Actually reaching the hills from there would involve a longish walk in. No time was wasted in setting off. The pack felt heavy with five days food on board. The plan was relatively simple, to follow the road that ran up the glen by the Euchan water. Hopefully I would be able to snuck in somewhere on the way and camp for my first night. Well, that was the plan!
Signs restricting 'works traffic' to twenty miles per hour were vaguely noted but caused no concern. A new, wide unmetalled roadway branching off up the hill to the right, gave me pause for thought. Mind,the security chap, which I considered a little odd, stationed at the entrance to this road, was quite polite as I passed on the old road. The water works marked on the map proved to be quite new modernised buildings with several vehicles parked inside a fenced off area. Just beyond, the new roadway crossed, heading up the hill. It was for new wind farms being built high up on the ridges. These new roads have blighted and scarred the area  more than the turbines themselves.
To compound the problems,, just beyond the roadworks, extensive forestry logging was in operation. The clatter and roar of heavy machinery filled the late afternoon air. New roadways branched off left and right. An eye had to be kept on the map. More heavy machinery was parked in newly bulldozed laybys. A couple of pickup trucks passed me heading down the glen. No one challenged me as I waved and passed on, trying to act in a purposeful and confident manner?To be honest, I was not a happy bunny. Close map reading kept me on track. A quarry, marked on the map as disused, was now back in full production. There had been a few showers of rain on the way up. This was now becoming more prolonged and it was getting colder too. finding somewhere to camp for the night was difficult. After some eight and a half miles of walking I finally managed to tuck the tent in a small spot out of the way.
The rumble of traffic on the nearby track started around seven thirty in the morning. Possibly the security chappies for the quarry? More roadways had been bulldozed nearby in preparation for yet more wind farms Ice in my water container indicated how chilly the night had been. The plan for the day was quite simple, to hand rail up by the Poltalian burn and fence line upwards to Blacklorg Hill. In actual fact I  stayed on the higher ground heading up to avoid the very wet and extensive tussocks by the fence. The going was still tough though. Lines of old, narrow drainage channels indicated that at some period in time this ground had been better managed.
  Eventually I had to contour around to Magheachen Rig. Light showers of rain had been on and off all morning. Hardly enough for waterproofs, enough to make things damp! From the Rig the bog and tussocks became intensive. To be honest I was beginning to struggle. My legs were protesting strongly. It was obvious very few folk passed this way and one cannot blame them. An old fence topped with barbed wire blocked the way ahead. It was not easy getting over it. With the weather taking a turn for the worse, it meant donning full waterproofs. So much for the weather forecast of mainly dry in all areas with a few light showers?
Blacklorg Hill was a rather uninspiring top. Possibly though I am being unfair? With rain and hail bearing down on me I did not linger.

The intention had been to head down and then up to Meikledodd Hill. However, with sleet, freezing rain and hail coming in and things turning wet, I decided I had to camp.
It was difficult finding anywhere for the tent. Possibly I would have been better staying on the ridgeline and risking the wind that was picking up? As it was, I was forced to lose height and descend down toward a break in the forestry that had a burn running through it. A group of roe deer were browsing in a gap between the trees. Unfortunately they were gone before I could get the camera out. At last among the wet and rough ground I found a flat moss covered spot that felt firm underneath. It was a nice little spot for the tent. Although only a short distance covered over the course of the day, some six miles, my legs were very tired. Mind, it was very rough ground that had proved hard going!
 There was wet snow overnight and Saturday morning saw the cloud base down and with it came more sleet, hail, rain and wet snow. There was little sense in heading back onto the tops in those conditions, thus I stayed put. It cleared briefly in the afternoon, too late in the day to make a move. Conditions worsened overnight. By early morning it was snowing heavily.
A study of the map had given me an escape route and that really was my only option. As I packed up on the Sunday morning, the snow cleared, more or less. The cloud base dropped and things turned wet and not nice. My route involved another spell with the killer tussocks and quivering bogs! The plan was simple, another case of hand railing. It involved following an old fence line that bordered the block of forestry uphill and then swinging off to follow another fence downhill between a large break in the trees. This in turn would lead to a forestry track lower down. Simple in theory, not quite so in reality. For a start, the cloud base dropped. This was not just thick mist, I could barely make out the fence on my left, even though only a few feet from it. Thick, dense clag and wet with it. Occasionally the ghostly outline of the trees appeared and disappeared, spectral like, spooky in a way! Things got difficult near the top end of the forestry block.  Tree harvesting had begun. The fence had disappeared, worse, heavy machinery had churned the ground in to a quagmire. It took a bit of jiggling around to pick up the remains of the fence I wanted and establish I was on course. A long, difficult descent down the hill followed. Where possible I stuck with narrow deer tracks. A couple of times I hit really nasty boggy bits. As the ground began to level out I was certain the track was nearby. The growl of a four four and a vehicle appearing out of the gloom directly ahead of me was a pleasure to see. The startled look on the drivers face was quite amusing.
The murk was not so dense lower down and for once it was something of a pleasure to to be on a terra firma track. It was then a case of heading down and joining up with the Southern Upland Way. The rain continued unabated but at least there was some visibility! Met a mountain biker heading for a few of the forestry trails. He mentioned that a farm further down had a sign out offering tea, coffee and light refreshments. My step quickened a bit at the thought of a cuppa and slice of cake. Sure enough, at Polgown the sign was there for all to see, 'just knock'  was the instruction given. This I duly did, no answer. Knocked louder but no response. There were cars in the driveway but no one around, odd?.
Disappointed, I turned away. The route now led uphill by Cadgers Knowe and Glenmaddie Craig. It was not a difficult or steep climb, just a steady upward plod. On tired legs though it felt a long haul.
  Once over the top it was a pleasure to see ample spots to camp for the night and I was not long in setting up the tent. A testing sort of day, difficult at times. A distance of some nine miles covered.
By morning the rain had cleared away and it was a straightforward walk back to Sanquhar. Not a bad trip, although I seem to have made a bit of a meal of it. Mind, I suppose getting that wee bit older adds to the factor?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The elephant trees

This Saturday saw the ruby wedding anniversary of Mike and Margaret. A knees up was arranged complete with a ceilidh band. Many folk attended and there was much music and merriment. We wish them well for the next forty.
Mike had suggested a walk in Weardale on the Sunday. After a substantial all day breakfast, re the kind that sustained one for the rest of the day! we set off, possibly a little later than intended? The car was parked in Wolsingham and soon we heading up out of the dale. Our goal was the elephant trees, a popular local landmark that sits on the northern edge of Pikeston Fell.
This is really Mike's home turf and there was no need for maps or map reading. Thus we were able to maintain a steady plod. Bridleways and footpaths led us up past Towdy Potts farm. A gradual climb brought us up on to Pikeston Fell and the elephant trees .
A pause for a cuppa and a nibble, neither of us fancied lunch due to said breakfast. Our way led us on along the ridge and down to Fine Gill and on toward Bollihope.

It was pleasant walking following the valley back.
The afternoon sunshine had the promise of some warmth in it. Everything is peaceful now but at one time the whole area was a centre of industry. Mines and quarries abound, nature gradually healing the scars.
Cowboy Pass proved to be a massive pillar of rock where the old railway bed wove its way around the quarry floor.
A pause for another cup of coffee by Harehope quarry and then it was footpaths through grassy meadows back to Wolsingham. A pleasant afternoons walk of just over eleven miles.

Upper reaches of Weardale

Friday, 31 March 2017

Alwinton wander

Alwinton in the Coquet valley is a lovely area much frequented by the walking fraternity. Mike had proposed a walk that led over Lords Seat and on to Nettlehope Hill. However, even before setting out we had to don waterproofs. It was one of those mild days of showers and general dampness whereby one becomes rapidly overheated cocooned in waterproofs.
Coquet valley
With the weather as it was we felt disinclined to push on to Nettlehope. A leisurely lunch and then we wandered on over to the trig point at Green Side.
The resonating boom of heavy artillery over on the ranges gave us a momentary start.

From the trig point it was an easy wander on to the Pass Peth and back to Alwinton.

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!