Friday 28 April 2017


With the Otterburn military ranges open to the public, Mike and I agreed to a walk in that area. Setting out from Rochester, we headed up past the Roman fort. It is noticeable that many of the local dry stone walls are built with carefully dressed stone! A footpath led us up Coal Cleugh and in to the forestry. The going was rough in places but at least the footpath was reasonably signed. The Tofthouse road, marked as a bridleway, is in fact a road.

For most of our route it was largely on tarmac. The wide open views made the walking something of a pleasure. Also, we were able to maintain a steady pace.

Two young military types in a four four stopped to check on our route. They were off to a hill to blow something up. They did too, with quite a large boom!
Wide open spaces.
The wind was fairly blustery as we headed up past Bushman's Crag.
Our aim was for the trig point at Ridlees Cairn.

It was then down and around to the Dere Street Roman road. A long straight stretch. A few icy showers with beautiful rainbows, chivied us on our way.
Most of it was straightforward walking with a few tussocky bits thrown in for good measure. A good workout for the legs!
A nice days walking covering an average of 13.5 miles.

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