Sunday 21 April 2013

Gales in T'''' Dales

This was a wee trip that had been on the back burner for a while. It was well suited as a pre challenge trip. Travelling up on the train on the Monday though, I was mulling over my original plan. That had involved getting off the train at Horton in Ribblesdale and walking up to Ling Gill. An easy enough afternoon walk.There was one downside though. It meant a shorter walk the following day, which involved following the Pennine Way over to Hawes. My aim was for a longer walk not a short one. Horton to Hawes measured out at roughly fourteen miles Thus it was that I ended up in the campsite at Horton. It was run by a delightful, eccentric chapppie. The campsite was basic, nothing fancy, which suited me fine.
A student group from Burnley came in later in the day but they where polite and well behaved. A blustery night with showers of rain. Tuesday morning was dry, and not wanting to hang around, I was up and away shortly after half past eight. The wind was fairly strong but no problem. The day was overcast but not cold. It was good to be out and on the move. Encouragingly, I was managing quite well going uphill? A slow, steady plod. The air was alive with the piping calls of lapwings, curlews and peewits. Ground nesting birds, they would be rearing their young before long. Stopping at Ling Gill for a break, it was noticeable that the wind was now much stronger. It is a long pull up past Cam End. Upwards, ever upwards. No shelter to be had from the gale that was now blowing.Gusts of wind causing me to occasionally stagger. Coming to a gate, I had a struggle trying to open it. The  wind wrenching it out of my hands. Eventually getting it open enough to wriggle through, the wind slammed the gate against my back. Fortunately the pack took the brunt of the blow, but I was momentarily pinned up against the gatepost.
Stopping for a quick break by Hestor Hole, I hunkered down behind a dry stone wall to take stock of the situation. My  intention had been to camp at Ten End. There was no chance of that now, it would have been crazy to try. The wind was most certainly gale force, roaring loudly across the hills. It was also predominately side on and making the going very difficult.It would have to be Hawes for the night. My concern was that I was tiring and fast running out of energy. Another handful of chocolate raisins and a drink,  heft the rucksack and stagger on. Snowdrifts across the path added to the difficulties. Unfortunately the dry stone wall that offered a degree of protection, stopped. It was now wide  open moor, exposed to the full force of the elements. This was pushing my limits and I was really struggling to make any headway. Blast after blast bludgeoned me sideways. Suddenly I found myself airborne and I was thrown several feet, landing heavily. Two guys who had passed me earlier had felt rather worried about my well being and had decided to wait for me. They had actually seen me take off. They told me later that I had bounced on landing!! The pair of them had fought their way to where I was trying to get to my feet. One of the chaps, half expecting broken bones actually had his mobile out to call 999! Certainly I was hurting but  nothing felt broken. The three of us battled onward. It seemed to take an eternity to get down off the hill. All three of us took a few tumbles. Everything was a howling, roaring maelstrom of  wind.. Eventually we made it down to the road. Somehow I made it to the youth hostel where my two Samaritans where also staying.It is an odd thing but my Parkinson,s affects me badly when I run out of energy. my shakes are much worse, also I tend to go  a tad blank. This happened when I attempted to check in. Firstly I could not remember my details and then my pin number could not be brought to mind.. A bottle of fizzy drink helped bring up my sugar levels and restore a bit of compos mentos. Later, when I reached Kirkby Stephen, I discovered that wind speeds for the area had been recorded at sixty eight to seventy miles an hour with occasional gusts exceeding that. Impressive, a lot of wind going from one place to another in a hurry!
Wednesday turned out to be an odd sort of day. Bruised and hurting from yesterdays drubbing, my intention had been to do little and generally take things easy. The hostel had posted up a weather forecast. It was more gales for both Wednesday and Thursday. My intended route over Great Shunner Fell and the Mallerstang ridge on the Thursday, was now out of the question. Also, a wild camp up near the crags by East Side. Far too exposed to the wind. There was an alternative plan in mind. Taking a slow stroll over to Hardraw, I pondered on what to do. There was a campsite in the village, behind the tea room. Staying there would involve some sixteen miles plus walking to kirkby Stephen the following day. Doable, however, the idea of a day spent in a campsite did not appeal to me. Thus I ambled on, heading over to Collier Holme farm and the path that led up to the High Road. Aware that there  was a short, rather steep bit of hill leading up to the high ground, my thoughts where that if I could manage that, then a camp higher up would be ideal. Also I knew that a good, sturdy dry stone wall ran close to the path. Excellent protection from the gale that was blowing strongly across the fells.
The path was as steep as I remembered, the upper part churned up by off road motorbikes. There where some excellent spots to camp, but alas, no water. Finally I pushed on over to Hell Gill Bridge. Still large, lingering banks of snow drifts across parts of the path.  A couple of wild ducks taking off, beating hard in to the gale but making no progress. Eventually,  bowing to the inevitable, they turned and dove earthward once more. A most  inviting spot to camp, sheltered from everything. The downside was that it was right next to the track. Worse, it was next to a gate where it was evident that a shepherd came through on a regular basis to tend his sheep. Rather than  risk upsetting the shepherd, I pushed on a tad further. Rain was now coming in as well. There where places to camp but exposed. The sheep had muddied the ground close in to the wall. and the ground was wetter. With no choice the tent was pitched as close in to the wall as possible.
It was a storm tossed night with torrential rain hammering down, colder too. Early Thursday morning and all hell broke loose. The wind had swung and was now pounding the rear of the tent. So much for my leisurely lie in and late start! Standing pools of water gave evidence of the amount rain that had fallen during the night. Thankfully it had eased by morning. The tent was rapidly dropped and I sat on it while pulling out the tent pegs. The whole lot was unceremoniously bundled in to the rucksack. No finesse, just rammed in any which way. Bursts of icy rain occasionally skittered across, but nothing too much. A long, steady drop down to Mallerstang and then it was a gentle low level stroll to kirkby Stephen. The fell sides where streaming with water. Where farm machinery had been entering fields and using tracks, there was mud. Thick, glutinous goopy stuff. Following a footpath by the river Eden, I crossed a style into a field full of sheep and lambs. There was a shifty eyed sheep watching me intently. Next thing I knew she was heading for me at rapid speed. It was the signal for pandemonium, sheep came running from all directions. They surrounded me on every side. Sheep and lambs, all yelling at the top of their voices, what a din! They wanted fed and demanded feeding immediately. Life can be hazardous at times, mobbed by sheep, a risky business?
It was early afternoon when I arrived in to Kirkby Stephen. Unfortunately the hostel was fully booked. The local campsite did not appeal to me. Loads of caravans, open and exposed to the wind and probably the ground would be saturated. This was getting expensive but it had to be B&B. My room was a nice one with a plush carpet. Unfortunately, sorting out the rucksack, bits of grass and debris littered the carpet. It was a hands and knees jobby, meticulously picking up every last bit of debris!
A short but eventful trip. My computer is running on only one hard drive, it has two. It refuses to allow me to download my pictures.
Arriving back Friday evening, I had a two day turn around. My flat descended in to chaos.. Everything unpacked, kit washed, aired dried. Food to be packed for next week. Kit to be sorted, repacked. Monday I have shopping to do, prescriptions to pick up. Also I have two hospital appointments. Tuesday I am off early morning to link up with Mike for another wee trip.

Wednesday 10 April 2013


Finally, a trip away slotted between two hospital appointments. Dartmoor was an area I had been considering for some time. Arriving at Ivybridge on the Thursday, it was noticeable how cold it was. A mile and a half detour in to town for a few bits and then it was a plod up the hill toward the moor. The lane that leads to the open moor was badly washed out in places. Deep ruts, rocks and stone made for some careful footwork. The wind was noticeably stronger as I headed out on to the open moor and it was a cold easterly one.  Basically I was heading for the old tramway that once served several industrial workings in the area. Having been here once before,, many years back, my concern was the lack of sheltered spots to camp. The moor is wide and open and offers little in the way of sheltered spots to camp. A stand of trees below the track failed to configure with anything on the map. There was a farm close by and it was evident that the place was heavily used by the farmer to tend his sheep. Finally I opted to pitch by Hangeshell Rock. Not an ideal spot although there was some protection from the wind. A few snow flurries whirled through as I pitched.
Unfortunately the wind swung around to east, north east during the evening. It lead to a wind tossed night, not at all comfortable. By Friday morning all was frozen. Water left in the cook pot was solid, the water bag was largely ice as well. The gas cylinder  had to be placed in the sleeping bag for a while to get it functioning in a somewhat hesitant manner. It had been a bitterly cold night. Setting off in the morning I was wearing almost all my layers. The wind buffeted me as as I plodded up the track. The old tramway does not aspire to exciting walking. As it was I ambled past the turn off for the Abbots Way and had to backtrack. Fortunately the wind had eased a tad.. Not so the cold.
Coming around by Dry Lakes ford I spotted a possible camping spot. It was still early, however, after a few of the usual stomach problems  earlier in the day and with a dearth of camping spots, it was an easy call. Another perishing cold night. Not helped by having to dive out of the tent twice in a rush. Sheer purgatory, enhanced by showers of ice crystals cascading down the back of the neck.
Saturday morning saw everything deeply frozen. There was no wind though and then something miraculous happened. The sun came up and it soon became warm  It had been my intention to carry on over to Princetown. Somehow though I wandered off toward Great Gnats Head, and Nakers Hill and a meandering circuit following a ridge line. At one point I was heading across country, using a boulder in the distance as an aiming point. Unfortunately it got up and walked away. One of the many ponies that frequent the moor.  Coming around by Green Hill I then descended down to Erme Pits. The cold weather had meant that the bogs where largely frozen and one could traipse with some impunity through what would normally be difficult ground.
It was an easy call to stop and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. With the tent up and sleeping bag airing, it was an afternoon to be savoured. Mind, as soon as the sun went down so the temperature plummeted. By morning everything was frozen once more and the cold east wind was back. It was decision time, Monday morning I was heading out and needed to be in close to Ivybridge. Having only had a cats lick of a wash over the three days I felt dirty and craved a hot shower and clean clothes.. Nipped up Piles hill on the way back. An interesting and massive cairn on top. It was then on to town and a B&B. My mileage was disappointing for the three days. Roughly around thirty miles. There are a few photos but my computer is dying and refuses to let me download them. It is a confidence booster though. Hopefully next week there will be better thing achieved??????

Monday 1 April 2013

Not dead yet!

After the failed South Wales trip, I felt really down, depressed. The main question was, 'is it time to quit?' Being dogged by ongoing illness was taking its toll. However, there was the TGO challenge. Mike had spent some time coaxing me around to the idea of doing another one. Gradually I had warmed to the thought of it. Excitement grew when we got our placing. Things took off from there. Many e mails where exchanged. Routes hammered out and agreed upon. There is even accommodation booked. It was too much just to walk away from.
The main problem was that my training program was in tatters. What to do? The urgent thing was to get some mileage back in to my legs. Revising some of my old marathon training routes, I roughed out a tentative plan.  Pounding the pavements is not my forte, I had enough of it in my old running days. With little alternative though, I began heading out early mornings. Why so early? Simply because it is quieter, less traffic and people. It was and is, difficult. Mornings when a bitterly cold easterly wind was blowing, snow and ice. Conditions when the desire to stay in a nice warm bed bed was strong. A gradual start. Two hours of walking then three. That is now up to three and a half to four plus. It may surprise some folk, but in south London there are one or two streets with steep uphill sections.Those where gradually incorporated in to the daily routine. That and six flights of stairs.
One major problem when I first started was the stomach one. It normally meant taking imodeum before setting out. Even then problems occurred. Once I had to nip in to a builders porta loo in someones front garden. However, that has now eased.
Mind, early mornings can be interesting. Foxes casually checking out any rubbish lying about. Early morning workers stoically waiting at bus stops. Coats drawn tight, shoulders hunched against the cold. The there are the runners. Lithe, clad in body hugging Lycra. Head up, chests out. They move in liquid cadence, flowing swiftly, effortlessly over the pavement. Then there are the joggers. Their gait is vastly different, often a slow, shuffling affair. Arms flailing, breathing laboured, faces set in a grimace. Their clothing is vastly different too. Jog suit bottoms are a favourite. Some wear tights and baggy shorts. Light nylon tops of many varying colours. Woolly hats seem to be de rigour. Head gear of all shapes and designs. An early morning bin man doing the ..rounds, gives a broad grin and a cheery "mornin' darlin' "
This is maybe not the best way of doing things but it is a start. Having foregone a backpacking trip over the border, I devised a plan B. Later this week I am off to Dartmoor. Slotting a trip between hospital visits. It is a solo affair. The main aim is to push things around a tad, see what I am capable of. A no frills out and back affair. Hopefully I can slot in two more trips before May?