Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Playing and watching

As a youngster I remember "playing out' with others from the neighbourhood, often on the flat roof of a motor garage built into the hillside with drops of twenty feet or so on three sides, with access possible from the rear which was level with the sloping terrain. Here we would ride, un-helmeted on ramshackle secondhand bikes and play games of our own devising, often to the annoyance of adult residents. Later we went further, down into the woods, unaccompanied. Cuts and bruises were common but visits to the doctor were a last resort, I think you still had to pay- the NHS didn't arrive until 1948. Of course this was just after the war and resources were  limited.

Now we have "adventure" playgrounds in every village, designed' by experts with university degrees, with soft surfaces, and helmets almost obligatory, but for more special treats a series of more sophisticated venues have sprung up for children. These have arisen partly from the increasing financial difficulties of farmers, pressurising them into finding more lucrative ways of making a return from their land.

Last weekend we took granddaughter Katie (fifth birthday) to The Ice Cream Farm south-east of Chester. Here investment in the purpose built adventure play park must have cost more then a million pounds.

Much thought and invention has gone into creating a series of costly well constructed activities. One building with a floor area of quarter of a football field houses a bizarre collection of water handling machinery (German manufacture) with windy handles, pumps, sluices, troughs, channels, scoops and the like. Children bring a change of clothes and then go ape with water splashing, tumbling and gurgling everywhere. There are seats for adults to sit and read their books (or play with their mobile phones).

Another attraction features a mock-up of a wild west gold panning site with water running through wooden troughs where the children (and the adults) get a metal tray/sieve to dredge sand from the stream bed which is panned off to reveal randomly placed mini jewels which the kids are allowed to keep, up to a full small bag which is supplied; the collection of jewels Katie obtained provided the background for many of her endless imaginary games during the rest of the weekend.

There are three proper JCB excavators which the children can operate solo scooping up, swinging, and dumping piles of gravel. That is very popular and you can pre-book your slot to avoid wearisome queuing.

Another purpose built shop the size of a mini supermarket displays and sells over forty different flavours of ice cream.

There are many other activities. Children can easily be occupied for a whole day - have a look at the website: CLICK

The array of ice creams in the background is less than half of the total counter

Panning for jewels - Mum just as enthralled as Katie

We went to the farm on Friday staying on a nearby site with my caravan. On Saturday we circumnavigated the walls of Chester...

...and on Sunday we went to Beeston Castle (cold and windy, but good fun). Katie tries out her skills as a medieval archer


I watch a lot of documentaries on TV and I know I have mentioned this before, but I am becoming almost frenzied at the obtrusive background music, but more and more often, foreground music that accompanies them. 

I recently switched one off that otherwise would have been an informative experience.

Last night saw the second of a series about the human face, which apart from the music had long periods where we learnt nothing at all with frequent repetition of what had been said before, and only occasional references to factual recognised research. I again switched to something else.

Another gripe concerns astronomical programmes - I never know whether I am looking at proper photos, perhaps from the Hubble, or a computer simulation.  

A few weeks ago I saw a BBC film made about a sheep farming family in the northern Pennines, Addicted to Sheep,  CLICK FOR BBC REVIEW    There was no commentator and no music. The family provided intermittently what I reckon were unscripted comments and conversation. The film makers had obviously spent many hours there over a long period showing the hardships of weather, animals succumbing, lambs being neutered, and many other graphic sights, but at the same time conveying the deep satisfaction of the family derived from this hard encompassing way of life and their pragmatic, but caring regard for their livestock. Even the village school sought to discuss with the children the ethics of rearing stock for food, and other aspects of hill farming life. That was worth the whole of the license fee (if I had to pay it) in one hit.

Las night I watched another excellent documentary on BBC4: A Very British Map: the Ordnance Survey Story. I had seen this before but it merited this second viewing giving insights into the so British development of the Ordnance Survey from the military, combined with all the stuffiness of the Establishment - wonderful. My only gripe here was the the commentator, Lesley Manville pronounced the word "ordnance" as "orda-nunce" throughout - there is no such word as ordanance, and "ordinance" has a different meaning altogether.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Kinder Scout

Monday 17th October 2016 

My final summit of the 175 English Marilyns

A fitting end to this campaign (but not to climbing further Ms I hope).

A fitting end because Kinder Scout has one of the frustrating characteristics of many of the summits on this invented list - it is almost indeterminate. The trig point is an obvious focal point which many would be satisfied to claim, but over half a kilometre to the north-west there is ground three metres higher and it must be visited.

After a non-stop power walk (by my standards) from Barber Booth car park via Jacob's Ladder, a now well engineered steep climb, I gained the trig point. The hard walking I am sorry to say was not laudable, it was promoted by a shameful macho demonstration to myself. I had stopped at one point to chat to a guy who was just descending from two nights backpacking over Crowden and Kinder Downfall, and shortly afterwards I saw there was somebody catching me up from behind. I was determined not to let him come past me, and being guilty of one of the deadly sins I was proud that he dropped further and further behind.

The trek to the high point was across rough, tussocky, rocky, boggy ground until I eventually found a small cairn, but this was not located exactly at the spot height of 636m, nor was the OS grid reference given on Hill Bagging's website, which also locates itself on a footpath marked on the map - that path is fifty yards or so to the north. I spent much time stumbling about over tussocks, without the aid of my poles to counteract my aged lack of balance, the poles were tucked under one arm as I held the compass and GPS map on the iPhone in my hands. For several minutes I had a sort of Rum Doodle episode, mistaking north-east for north-west, what a fool! There is no way that I could visually identify the highest point amongst thousands of grassy hummocks and tussocks, but eventually I had the GPS red circle over the exact spot on the map. I looked around and was sure there were others two or three inches higher, and I began to question the sanity of what I was doing.

The start of Jacob's Ladder - it gets steeper than that

More laid path after Jacob's Ladder. The trig point is a few hundred yards beyond the rocks on the skyline with still a bit more climbing to do

Looking down Edale not far from the trig

The small cairn fifty to a hundred yards from the true summit

Although the ground beyond looks higher, I assure you this is the highest point (as far as anyone not possessing theodolite, Abney levels and the like could tell)

Looking down Jacob's Ladder from the top

Yellow cross  is approximate position of the small cairn - I omitted to OS Grid Ref. it. The red flag is the OS grid Ref. given by Hill Bagging, and 636 is the supposed high point

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Borrowdale (M6, not Keswick)

Thursday 13th October 

Favourite outdoor locations are the better for having been discovered by oneself, and better still, if by accident, rather than being told about them by another.

I can't remember my discovery of this Borrowdale, but I had driven past its source many times before I went to investigate, knowing nothing of it at the time. Since then I have walked up and down the valley several times and along the ridges high up above on both sides. There is an almost hidden entrance from the A685 south of Tebay which if you look carefully you can see from the M6. A Land Rover type track winds up to Low Borrowdale and High Borrowdale farms which I think are both unoccupied. From High Borrowdale the track becomes a footpath for a kilometre or so before another track leads out to the A6 Shap Road which was the way north before the advent of the M6.

The valley is well wooded and the twists and turns provide changing views - it is all delight. Wainwright said it is, "The most beautiful valley outside the Lake District." Well, Alfred you may have been pleased to hear if you were still here that with the recent extension of the Lake District National Park it it is now within the boundary, as far as I can tell from the very poor mapping available on the Internet depicting these changes.

Pete and I walked nearly as far as Low Borrowdale on Thursday in drizzly weather. We met a guy on a nostalgia visit, he having spent his childhood and early employment in the area working on the farms. He had noticed that the farm covering a large part of the south-eastern end had recently been sold at auction. Friends of the Lake District have been active in this valley and now with its inclusion in the national park it is to be hoped there will be no despoiling of this gem. Some years ago a planning application was turned down for a holiday accommodation complex at the north western end.


Although the weather was drizzly it is worth clicking to see these photos enlarged which give a taste of the autumn colours and varied scenery within less than two miles of walking up this valley.

The distant peak is, I think, High House Bank just on the other side of the A6, and below a zoom to same

Haven't bothered to show our route. We set off from eastern end and walked to just short of Low Borrowdale

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Longest Walk

Gayle drew my attention in my last post to a minor alteration to the English Marilyn, Muncaster Fell. The highest point has been relocated to a different lump on the ridge.

My claim to that ascent arises from the longest walk I  ever did which included a traverse of Muncaster Fell, so I am counting it as "done", but it all brought back memories.

Here is a letter I sent to Dave Hodgson, a prominent member of the Fell Runners Association and a senior colleague of mine during my career with Yorkshire Bank.

The walk was from Shap to Ravenglass, gleaned from, The Big Walks, Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert.

If you click to enlarge it should be readable, but below I summarise the route.

17th June 1991

Depart Shap - 5:20am
Long Sleddale
Old Corpse Road
High Street
Dunmail Raise
Steel Fell
Angle Tarn 
Eskdale to bottom of Hardknotts
Muncaster Fell

42 miles - 17.5 hours.

As I walked into Ravenglass a guy was tending the garden of his guest house. He enquired as to where I had walked from - his reply, "Oh! My friend put that walk in the book. We often wondered if it could be done in one day!"

He turned out to be Roger Putnam and had been at Oxford with my friend Gimmer who comments here. I was informed that there were no trains home on Sunday, so Barney, my Springer, and I stayed the night with Roger.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The last but one

Sunday 9th October '16

I had two remaining English Marilyns* to climb: Mickle Fell and Kinder Scout. Gimmer, is a long-standing friend from school and scouting days. He recently bought a house near Dufton and we had agreed that Mickle Fell would be a joint ascent.

Warcop military firing range incorporates MF which is surrounded with "DANGER AREA" markings on the OS map. As far as one can understand one is obliged to obtain a permit. Well, just you try!

It is possible to find an address, but no telephone number or email address. That leaves the only possibility of writing for a permit for a day in the future and awaiting its return hoping for fine weather. That wouldn't be so bad if it was a quick dash to the summit, but the shortest route is an eight mile round trip ascending on pathless bog, heather and peat hag - no push-over. We both researched possibilities exchanging emails considering various options. One telephone number was found leading to a female voice rattling off future non-firing times and dates apparently recorded in a noisy room with the speaker muffled with a knitted sock in her mouth. Gimmer and I had listened, Gimmer could glean nothing. The only intelligible morsel I could interpret was a recurring Sunday availability after 1:00pm; we decided to claim diminished responsibility and assume that was available without permit - it may well be so, but there seems to be no way of finding out. We searched accounts of other ascents on Hill Bagging, but could glean nothing more.

Gimmer (always one for pushing matters to the edge), now enthused with the added drama, plotted a route ascending to High Cup Nick, following Maize Beck, and striking up to Mickle Fell via four kilometres of wild moorland terrain. I measured this at sixteen miles. Hill Bagging showed no records of this route, and it looked more likely to be an area of unexploded ordnance. I was able to persuade Gimmer that this was not  good on the grounds of safety, terrain, and above all distance.

My option was to take the shortest route from the cattle grid at NY 831 198 on the B6276, but Gimmer, having had his master plan vetoed identified a longer route that I had considered and dismissed, mainly because it was longer; a twelve mile round trip starting from NY 872 211. This had the advantage of being on CROW access land to within three kilometres of the summit, so  we could time our crossing into military land after the 1:00pm deadline, and it had the advantage of a track nearly all the way to the summit. So I was overruled.

The weather held fine except for a cold wind and one brief period of drizzle. We visited the big cairn, and the supposed highest point, a minor cairn sixteen metres away, then walked to the far south-western end of the ridge, returning to the summit for pasties, flapjack and hot coffee.

Views  in all directions were impressive, including Ingleborough, and nearer, Cow Green Reservoir and the line of the Pennine Way.

The track had been monotonous, and seemed to go on forever both ascending and descending and I was glad to have company. We saw not a soul, and even though I have a greater capacity than most for being solo, I did think to myself during the last couple of miles that this would have been a long lonely trip on my own.
Since writing this I have found various other more informative accounts of Mickle Fell ascents, but whatever is said the military seem to make it purposefully difficult to conform with their rules which only leads to  people being tempted to disobey them. The same applies to farmers and footpaths, where the odd marker post across a field would save the farmer and the walker inconvenience.
* Marilyns - all hills in Great Britain with a minimum drop of 500ft all the way round the summit. 

England    175
Scotland  1218
Wales       158
Total       1551

I have climbed 427, and only have one left to do of the English 175

Fish Lake on the ascent

The monotonous Land Rover track

Mickle Fell

The trig on Mickle Fell - the proper summit is another couple of kilometres along the ridge

Cow Green Reservoir. Cauldron Snout (waterfall) visible, appears to be in full flow.
The Pennine Way runs past there right across this photo

The main cairn, and the supposed highest point smaller cairn in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Gimmer

This photo was taken circa 1968/9. My mother had heard of the construction of Cow Green Reservoir and wanted to see the area before it was flooded and I took her there, so this view would now all be reservoir. The construction infrastructure can just be seen in the distamce.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Above Staveley - Thursday walk with Pete

Thursday 6th October '16

Normal walking pants have replaced shorts. My Paramo Cascada jacket has come out of hibernation. As far as I can remember I bought that jacket in a blur moment  back in 2006 at the gear shop in Braemar.

"Blur moments" entered the family lexicon years ago when an older version of this card was sent on one of our birthdays

I was aware that the waist cord threaded through the Cascada had worn through the fabric and four or five inches were hanging loose from the rear.

Recommended retail price for a new one is £220. Thanks to Gayle I found there is an eBay site selling discounted, new Paramo and I have replaced it for £179.00. Whilst deliberating I emailed Paramo, mainly to find out what the difference is between the Cascada and the Alta, it not being at all clear on their website, and I had this reply from Ken Mulley:

Dear Conrad

Thank you for your enquiry.

The Cascada jacket is the original, most basic (and most popular) of the jackets produced by Páramo.
The Alta jacket is very similar but has more pockets and venting zips.

The new Alta111 jacket doesn’t have the cord in the back – so this shouldn’t be a problem in the way that it has been on the Cascada.

We do have a repairs/alterations workshop where the jacket could be repaired (for a reasonable charge) – if you wish to use this service please print off the attached returns form, complete it and return it with the garment to the address shown.
Once our workshop have assessed the garment they will write to advise you.
Just so you are aware though – there is about a 4 – 6 week turnaround.

We also have a recycling scheme  - if you are interested please follow the link below for full details of this.

As it happened there was no need for the new jacket on our walk with almost balmy summer weather.

Brunt Knott and good-to-be-alive Lake District scenery

Zoom to Crinklebank Crag above Longsleddale

Distant Kentmere

I took this because of the attractive stonework porch on the unwhitewashed cottage,
see close-up below. Kentmere Pike top left

This seriously challenged the camera. I've tried with Photoshop, but it was an interesting little building on the other side of the road from the cottages above - stone shelves inside. maybe an ice-house?

Our Tarmac changed to track, then footpath - see map below

Kentmere Pike


Katie update (coming up five!)

A family visit to Coniston last weekend - click to enlarge.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Lake District's retribution

Lord's Seat NY 204 265 (Marilyn) - Wednesday 29th September

For years I have favoured the Scottish hills over those of the Lake District, and have been known to state in cavalier fashion that the latter are more like a children's playground. I don't know if the Lake District exists as a sentient body, but if it does, yesterday it wrought its retribution on me for those ill considered remarks.

In a recent post recording Gayle's increasing list of conquered Marilyns she included Lord's Seat, which I realised  I had overlooked, having climbed a different Lord's Seat and ticking it off by mistake. "Well" I thought, it's only a children's playground peak which will be a quick up-and-downer, and looking at the forecast yesterday, on a dire morning of unremitting rain, I saw there was a weather window between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, so off I went.

There was a good path leading off the minor road and I was in happy mood because rain had abated as predicted, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "this is great, a typical sylvan Lake District path, and a pleasurable ascent ahead, and how clever I am for planning this so well."

I failed to notice the indistinct diversion from the path left across the stream. The path I was on continued with all appearance of being the main route. A couple of hundred yards further it started to rise steeply up loose shale and scree and I thought "this is a bit steep," but I pressed on, then found myself clutching at heather and worrying about footholds. That was when I should have turned back. But I continued to a point when I considered ascent safer than descent. It became steeper. I was sweating profusely. I was moving slowly for safety. I put my poles away in my sack because I needed hands-on all the time. I was now definitely beyond the point of no return. Looking down made me increasingly aware that this was not a place to tumble. It went on and on. Then I saw a rock band ahead blocking the way, fortunately with a rake going diagonally left, but even that had a small rock outcrop halfway up, but I had no option. I had two attempts at that rock pitch, and got into a desperate situation and came very close to coming off. After instructing myself to suppress the fear I managed by kneeling on my replacement knee which is something I do not do, but now that really was the difference between achievement and what would have been a potentially fatal fall, and it had to be done. That was  serious.

After more dangerously steep scree and shale scrambling, the path cut back right horizontally, yes there was a well worn path through heather, cut out of the very steep hillside, so I reckon, despite its severity, this is a trodden route. A fall off that path would have had you rolling several hundred feet, and the path was intermittently furnished with tricky rocky steps. It lead to scree and a gully  with proper rocks for footholds and handholds giving what under less stressful conditions would have been a pleasant scramble. But my two hour weather window had expired and I was enveloped in fine, highly penetrating rain with increasing wind.

Eventually after easy ground with continuing rain and limited visibility I came out on the summit of Barf. Against all likelihood in those vile conditions another figure appeared from the mist swathed in what I think was a pink plastic mac which was being ripped and swirled in the now violent wind. We took photos of each other. He was trying to retrace his steps back to Whinlatter Pass I think, and seemed to have no map or navigation equipment, but there was little I could do to advise him.

I was now, believe it or not, on my planned route to Lord's Seat which  summited Barf on its way, albeit by an easier path. I continued over boggy ground, fortunately on an unmistakable path to Lord's Seat Summit only  quarter of an hour away. I managed to get a  murky photo but feared for the camera getting soaked.

There was a path from the summit leading to a Forestry Commision road and then a branch off to descend on the path I should have ascended by from the other side of the stream near the start. Even that path was incredibly steep, wet and slippery, and rocky with a  difficult section down-climbing a mini waterfall. Great care was needed all the way  and I proceeded oh so slowly. I actually fell twice, but backwards, and the slope was so steep that the arc of my body was  reduced from what would have been more serious on level ground.

Back at the car I found that a lens from my expensive varifocal specs had disappeared - a small price to pay for return to safety.

I do carry spare specs.


Intermingled with this story is another mini disaster. For years I have struggled with those wretched mini military tin openers which risk a visit to A and E, and tend to bend like plasticine. I searched the Internet for a lightweight backpacker's alternative but as far as I can tell there is nothing so specialised, so I admitted defeat and decided to try and find the best household compromise in terms of weight. I saw Lakeland had a selection and because I had time to spare yesterday to coincide with the late weather window I called at Lakeland Windermere. Helped by an assistant I bought a likely looking device, but back home I realiased it was not a tin opener (less said). Today's weather prompted a non-walking day with Pete so we drove back to Lakeland and I exchanged for a £15, supposedly proper job. I have just got back home and tried it out and it is uselss. I did manage to open a tin of peas, but had juice running down the tin, and turning the mechanism only worked intermittently with a jerky, stop start action. For fifteen quid I expect better than that, so that will be going back as well.

Any suggestions?


Don't bother to click to enlarge !

The Bishop.
 A white painted rock prominent from the A66. I think there is a story - Google if you want

Zoom to same

The Sylvan path just before the left turn to cross the stream which I missed. At this point I was in a pleasant little world of well-being

"This seems to be getting a bit steep?"
I assure you it was much steeper than it looks, but we always say that don't we?

Barf summmit

Lord's Seat summit

My approximate route up Barth

Click to enlarge if you are thirsting for more detail

The incompetent tin-opener