Thursday 28 April 2011

Jinxed ??

Thursday April 21st 11. Camped OS map OL19 GR724065.
Sometimes I feel that way. Looking at the weather  forecast for the Easter period, the indications where that it was going to remain dry and warm. A final re shuffle of the pack, a few items shed and the weight was down to just around twenty six pounds, (eleven kilo); that was inclusive of food and fuel to last over five days. The journey up to Kirkby Stephen was uneventful, connections at Leeds was fine and I arrived at eleven twenty five. Needing to top up on more fluids I nipped in to the newly added station cafe. Honestly, one pound fifty for a cuppa was steep. Road walking is not something I enjoy but the quick shuffle up the main A685 to Lane Head was quite painless. From there it was a quite pleasant amble down a minor road in warm sunshine. Obviously the sack felt heavy but not uncomfortable and I was taking my time, there was no rush. Joined up with the Coast to Coast path over limekiln hill and Smardale fell. A lot of the rock around here is red sandstone and the sheep have taken on a sort of red and off white hue. Skylarks where in abundance, insects and bees where all busy doing their own thing and the day felt pleasant. Dropping down to Smardale bridge I began to look for somewhere to camp, Although it was early there where two reasons I had decided to stop, one, I wanted a slack day just to ease in to things; secondly, there was the issue of water. Pushing on  would mean a few more hours before another suitable place to camp could be found. Water was not going to be readily available either. The scandall beck was a good water source. Finding a spot out of the way for the tent  took a bit more time. Smardale gill is a nature reserve and the viaduct was obviously a popular walk. There was a regular succession of folk walking up the old rail track bed. After much casting about I opted to pitch in the old quarry, discreet and out of the way. The only slight snag is that being a quarry floor, tent pegs are difficult to place, hence a rather slack looking tent. The warm weather had me wishing I had packed shorts, my arms where getting quite tanned. One slight worry, all afternoon I have had chronic heartburn; a couple of gaviscon tablets have eased it a little. My supper though was rather a wasted affair, I kept choking on the food and could not eat much of it..
Friday 22nd April, same map;GR 682996
An odd day, the morning was calm and still, after a restless night it was sheer bliss to sit outside the tent as the sun rose. The heartburn was as bad as ever and so it was more gaviscon. Breakfast was supposed to have been a sachet of porridge, still finding it difficult to get food down I added more water and milk powder and sort of drank it. Was underway by eight, although not indicated on the map, the old rail track bed is a regular  bridleway up as far as |Newbiggin on Lune. Delightful walking too, a lovely amble with wonderful views, peaceful. A quick dash across the main road, past Betty Beck and Sandwath and the terrain began to head upwards. My aim was for Green Bell. Following the path across Pinksey, it went from clear and easy to see to something vague and indistinct. There is a clearly defined track leading in to Pinksey Bottom, but the track indicated on the map was further over to my left. Striking off at an angle up and across the hill I found it again higher up. My pace was slow, I was deliberately pacing myself, trying to stay within my comfort zone. However, the heartburn/indigestion was worse and my chest was hurting. The sun was hot but a strong north easterly breeze was keeping temperatures down. A pause for a think at Hunthoof pike; overall I was not doing too bad; if only this heartburn would ease up I would be fine. Made Green Bell ok, marvelous views in all directions. Sauntered on, had a look for Spengill well but saw no sign of it. Randygill Top was a long time coming, nice walking, the ridge a well rounded whaleback. Paused for a break by the cairn and had a ponder over what was best; to be honest I was a tad concerned over this indigestion, my chest was hurting and I did not feel my best..My intention had been been to carry on over Kensgriff and on to Yarlside. Studying the map it looked as if the easier option was to drop down off Randygill in to the upper reaches of Bowderdale and stop there. There was an actual path leading down. Never before have I ever really struggled with a steep descent, but for whatever reasons this one proved horrendous. It felt never ending and relentless in its steepness and I had to stop several times to give myself a break. Once down my legs where like jelly and I did not feel good; all I wanted to to was drop the sack and collapse and basically that is what |I did. A couple who had been walking up the track came hurrying across, they had been watching me coming down and where rather concerned; I assured them I was ok, just winded a bit. After that I just sat for half an hour or so before getting the tent up on the first available bit of ground. This is most frustrating and I am unsure what is happening here, certainly I feel I was moving well within my capabilities, have kept to a slow steady pace, kept my pack weight down etc; I am not happy over this. Supper was soup, I am not managing food as such and even find taking liquids a bit of a hassle. The evening is a wee bit blustery but the tent is well pegged down and I am curled up in my sleeping bag listening to the sounds of the dale in the fading evening light. Sheep close by, their munching of grass clearly audible; they have their own vocabulary too, not just snuffles and coughs, but low, soft murmurs. Later, a loud snort near to the tent, a gentle whicker, ponies grazing close by.
Saturday 23rd. Same map, GR678995.
A non day, packed up this morning but felt woozy and my breathing was a bit odd. Basically I moved the tent  over to a more secluded spot in Hazel Gill and after some major faffing got the tent up, climbed in to the sleeping bag and remained there for the day.
Sunday 24th, same map, Bents camping barn.
Managed to get a brew of tea down this morning, gagged on the porridge though and gave up on it. Decisions had to be made, there was no point moping in the tent for another day. Mulling over the map, I formulated a rough plan of action. Packing up and getting the tent down was not easy; it took over an hour and I felt well out of sorts. Started off down the path that runs down through the fell; the pace was slow, very, shuffle, shuffle, pause, rest, move on. A small group of mountain bikers stopped and where rather concerned, one lad wanted to call the rescue team. To be honest, it was tempting but knowing the hassle it would cause I thanked the lads and assured them I would be fine. Gradually as I pushed on down I began to eventually perk up a bit and managed to get in to a steady pace. By the time I reached Bowderdale I felt more confident of things.A spot of road walking past Wath and on to Newbiggin  on Lune. Needing fluids I strolled in to the tea room at Bessy Beck's fish farm. Managed a couple of glasses of squash, food was out of the question though. Feeling a bit more confident I began the uphill plod to the camping barn; was quite chuffed that I was doing ok even though it was all uphill. Was at the barn by around mid afternoon; not a soul in sight, no response when I knocked on the farmhouse door, nothing. The barn was unlocked and taking a chance I dumped the sack inside and got a brew on the go. What bliss to kick off one's footwear, to settle back against a dry stone wall and just enjoy the sunshine. An old sheep came wandering over, had a look at me and then headed over to the bunkhouse. Obviously she had the place well sussed out, first she checked the door, finding it closed she moved on for a mooch around the rubbish bins. It became obvious why the lids where strapped down, the sheep carefully and methodically gave each lid a nudge, hoping to dislodge the lid, her efforts to topple the bins also failed.  With another hopeful glance at me, she finally ambled off. Speaking to the farmer later when I checked in, he was highly amused when I referred to the sheep as a 'canny yow'.He blinked and looked at me with a wide grin and asked if I understood what yows and tups where; I assured him I did; quite made his day. Fortunately the camping was quiet, two lads doing the coast to coast and |I had a dorm to myself. Eating is still problematical but I am managing plenty of  fluids.
Monday 25th. Kirkby Stephen
A quiet night, the coast to coast guys where away quite early and I had the place to myself. Plenty cups of tea and a cereal bar and I was ready to go. The morning was overcast with a chilly wind. My plan was simple, to follow the coast to coast route in to Kirkby Stephen and possibly check in somewhere.It is only a few miles from the camping barn to town and I found it a pleasant stroll. Kirkby was heaving, wall to wall with people and traffic. Checked out the local hostel and bumped in to the warden. The place was almost empty and she booked me in on the spot. Given the key code to all me entry during the day allowed me to come and go as I wanted. Got some chips from the local chippy, a mistake, managed about half the portion with plenty of fluids but that was my limit. For the rest of the day I was content to curl up on my bunk with a book. A few folk booked in early evening; all coast to coast. What struck me though was the cliquishness of the those people. In the kitchen making a brew and several folk asked the same question, 'doing the coast to coast?' As soon as I said no, they turned away; obviously, I was not one of them. Fortunately the hostel was not busy and I had a dorm to myself and I just kept out of the way. Mixed loos and showers where a tad disconcerting.
Tuesday 26th.
Waited until the majority of folk had left and headed out myself. With the train south not until twelve forty six it was just a case of killing time. Went for a walk over and around Hartley and back across toward the station. Making my over past Half Penny house I was shocked to see what had been a pleasant footpath that avoided  the main road was now a hideous scar, a track had been bulldozed right the way up to the station, ugly and brutal, nasty. Things certainly have not turned out as planned and certainly, in some respects I do feel jinxed. However, I do have a few ideas for another trip in to the Howgill fells. Possibly using the Bents farm camping barn as a first night stopover and then heading more toward Tebay and then camping high for a night or two.

Monday 18 April 2011


Having not been away for many months my fitness levels had fallen through the floor. With medical problems currently more or less under control the decision was made; time for a few days away. Decisions, where to? The Howgills are an area of Yorkshire that I have had my eye on for sometime, it is fairly accessible and away from the busier areas of Yorkshire. A trawl through the net and to my surprise I was able  to purchase cheap train tickets for over the Easter period.The one downside of this is being tied to a fixed period of travel. This involves an early start; the 07 10am from Kings Cross. It will  mean me being up and away from the flat before the sparrows are out of their pyjamas. There is a routine to packing my rucksack, different items paced in certain parts of the bag and so forth. Also I tend to pack differently when heading out than when returning; for example, tent ready and accessible, ditto water bag and so forth on the journey out.. When coming back it is my clean change of clothes, wash gear and the likes. Routine though does not prevent the faffing around, stuff gets packed, unpacked, weight is considered, is this item too heavy, do I really need that item? April can be a tricky month weather wise; I have experienced both warm and balmy days and freezing temperatures with snow and ice. Thus clothing has to be carefully  considered. Taking a risk I am packing my lighter sleeping bag rather than my winter one. A pair of leggings can double as sleeping gear or thermal bottoms.The overall weight of my rucksack comes in at roughly 28 pounds or 12 kilo; that is with five days food and fuel on board. To be honest I am apprehensive, not having been away for so long, carrying a weighty rucksack is going to be interesting! yikes!! Mind, this is going to more of a wander than anything serious, a slack packing trip.

Sunday 3 April 2011


Many months have passed since I last posted; medical problems curtailed much of my wanderings. A couple of minor ops, more tests and changes of medication seem to have eased the problems. Offered a chance of a place to stay for a couple of nights in the New forest, I accepted. In many respects I have doubts and uncertainties concerning my outdoor activities. Questions constantly buzzed around my mind, did I have the same abilities, was I still capable, was the old enjoyment and thrill still there? My time in the New Forest was split over two day walks and travelling light with just a daysack. When I first arrived in Brockenhurst early afternoon I nipped down to the local bakers to get some rolls for packed lunches. A couple of folk where queuing in front of me and so I tagged on the end of the line. A heavy nudge from behind took me by surprise, slightly annoyed I turned around to remonstrate with the person who had pushed me only to come face to face with a donkey who had nonchalantly tagged on to the end of the queue. Poor lad, he was unceremoniously shooed away. On my first walkout I followed bridleways over toward Roydon manor and Dilton farm. A light rain had changed to a steady downpour and the woods smelt fresh and pungent with the scent of wild garlic. It was surprising to see a few caravans on the campsite at Lodge heath; mind, a couple looked as if they had been there for a while. Heading over toward Ladycross Lodge the rain got heavier. Made my way over toward Stubby Copse enclosure and then swung back down through Pignal hill and back.
The following day saw me heading back and around  Pignal hill. This part of the forest is bisected with hard dirt tracks, long straight avenues; ideal traffic free cycling routes, but sore on the feet and a tad monotonous for the pedestrian. The secret is to study the map closely and follow footpaths that cut through the trees. Often muddy, however, these less used routes are often byways for the deer and is possible to see where they have been wandering. Tiny, delicate prints of muntjac deer, larger prints of roe deer and occasionally hooves prints of the  ponies.The morning had started off dank and drizzly but the day had gradually improved. My main problem was trying to settle down and relax; a bad habit of mine is to keep pushing on.  Picking a route around Denny wood I took stock of my route and decided to make my way back through Parkhill inclosure and then back toward Brockenhurst. Just a few miles of fairly gentle walking; it was difficult to slow down and enjoy my walking. Probably I will not really know how things are until I head out with a full pack and spend a few days on the hill.