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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Black Mountains Part 3 Three Other Peaks

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The other day LTD was mentioning that he thought that the hills peripheral to the main Black Mountains group were much more interesting, pretty , and less boggy than the..er… main..er… 

I expect he was thinking about The Skirrid and Sugar Loaf and not at all about Hatterall Hill, Graig and Gaer.

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We parked prettily in the car park of the Queen’s Head at SO311221, just a bit North of the Stanton International Communications Hub (phone box and post box). There’s a £2 charge for the priviledge, but, it seems, at 10:00 am on a Sunday morning, nobody available to collect it. Its a reasonable fee, though and I posted £2.10 of LTD’s Autumn spending money through the letter box. I didn’t have the correct change. I would be really grateful if nobody actually mentions this to LTD by the way.

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Narrow and steep lanes, occupied by a veteran and friendly farm collie, who accompanied us up one of the hills till she was greeted enthusiastically by a collie pup at a farm entrace, took us to the foot of Hatterall Hill where we followed the Offa’s Dyke path up past a fine hillfort, the trig point and, finally, the summit. There were at least four walking groups out on the hill today, one of whom were apparently disoriented close to the summit of the hill and whom I met later on, still a bit lost and asking me for directions. I couldn’t help much but it did cause me to reflect on the pleasure to be had out of incompetence in the navigation department. Incompetence is one of my great strengths, it has to be said and the wonders of trying to get ground features to match the map is one of life’s great joys, as well as the subsequent explorations of unexpected places.

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After lunch in a sun-trap on the heathery ridge of Hatterall Hill, we descended quite steeply to bag Hatteral’s main pimple – one Graig or Y Graig, which, of course, means “Crag”. I should expect. Graig is much more interesting than it appears on the map and I was lucky that somebody was climbing up it just ahead of me as the path is a bit vague and not obvious.  It’s easy enough, though. This lass turned out to be an immigrant from That London,  an artist and who was walking her pal’s two pet dogs. We had quite a chat and we pontificated about how such a rocky lump should appear on the side of Hatterall Hill, not coming to any firm conclusions although it was noticeable that it would provide a really good lookout point. She described a descent route to me, which I tried to follow but, as it got uncomfortably steep and craggy I retreated back up the hill to find a more civilised way down. My advice is to get down the way you came up. Keep it simple.

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Onwards and downwards we went through the village of Cwmyoy where I met the discomfitted walking group again and where the church tower appears to be falling over. Some more lanes lead to a bridleway climbing the Very Lovely Gaer – which, it seems, means a castle or a fort. I deduce this because there’s a fort on the top. Pleasant green paths through the bracken lead  easily to the top and wend far away to the North leading enticingly to the bigger hills.

Returning to the Queen’s Head is a simple matter of descending a long lane.

I think LTD was right. These hills are much more interesting and friendly than the big, high, heathery lumps to the North and the rambles through woodland, pastures and meadows in between are specially nice.

There’s a map below. Its about 9 of your Earth miles and with 2500 feet of ascent. I did slightly more due to some kind of time/space continuum problem which occurred on Graig. I don’t like to talk about it.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Black Mountains Part 2 You Can Probably Do Better Than This!

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This is the second walk in the Black Mountains Trilogy Thingy. I have to be honest and say that this route could be improved significantly and I’ll point out some improvements which might be made. But y’see, I was a bit late getting out of bed and , as I reached the rather lovely table-top hill Pen y Gadair Fawqr, the weather, which had been grumbling and whingeing about having to get up so early, finally lost it’s temper and decided to give us a wetting. Just spite, really. But I terminated the joy of ridge-wandering for the less draughty options of a quick return to the car which was parked at the far-end of the route.

We began at a forestry car park in Mynyd Du Forest at Pont Cadwgan at SO267251. Just like the car park on the previous walk, this was temporarily occupied by a van containing some bleary hippies. Bless ‘em.

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Walking in the forest on rights of way is often a bit hit and miss, particularly since forestry commission peeps usually ignore public footpaths and bridleways and provide forestry roads instead and, sometimes, often, in fact, these don’t coincide very well with the actual rights of way. In this case, the paths did follow the roads but, by way of interest, the lumberjack peeps (they like to press wild flowers by the way) (and hang around in bars) have put up signs indicating that no unauthorised persons were allowed to pass. However, this being a public footpath and, on the legal advice provided gratis by LTD, I came to the conclusion that as this was a right of way, I was, in fact, an authorised person. Not to be defeated by a legal argument, the lumberjacks had driven large vehicles across the route and churned it up somewhat. This must have played havoc with their high heels, I shouldn’t wonder. We tipitoed across without getting too muddy.

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Thus, our route went by Fford-las-Fawr, which may be an outdoor centre, or somebody’s forest holiday hideaway, and up a steep bridleway out onto the open moor. An improvement may well be to head on another bridleway via Llwyn-y-brain and head up the shoulder of Crug Mawr via the Beacons Way path. Due to an attack of Bwrw Glaw Lassitude, I just didn’t think of this at the time. Dhuhhh…

The point is, that the first objective of our walk was, in fact, the summit of Crug Mawr, a Dewey with a trig point, an easy path and a fablious view. We did it as an out-and-back from the bwlch or bealach just a bit North of Dysgwylfa. (Get a map out!)

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The main objective of the walk was, in fact, though, the outstanding unbagged Nuttall Pen Twyn Mawr. This is achieved by an easy path which goes along the crest of the vague, wide ridge. It’s easy underfoot providing you keep on the path, otherwise it’s a tussock-fest. As a summit, Pen Twyn Mawr is a bit underwhelming, to be fair, but the next top along the ridge, Pen y Gadair Fawr, looks quite a lot like Ingleborough and whispers to you seductively in the wind to draw you on to it’s gentle shapely slopes.

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So, that’s what we did. The very same whispering wind had been getting livelier by the minute and, as we approached the summit cairn this breeze loaded itself with cold water and began spraying horizontally accompanied by a bit of a bluster. It was an easy decision not to press on to Waun Fach, which, if I remember correctly, is a bit boggy on the top anyway, but to head down, with the wind and spray at our backs, to the valley below. A nice, thin trod presented itself and we followed this all the way down to the Grwyne Fawr stream, crossed it by a footbridge and followed the road easily, damply and a bit grumpily back to the car. It’s a quiet road on a weekday anyway. I did notice an-almost-parallel bridleway which might have been more fun, but, honestly, I  just couldn’t be arsed and the potential for Forestry Commission Comedy Footpaths Department shenanigans put me off an exploration. The dog was wet anyway. The dog doesn’t like wet.

You might take a different view, specially on a weekend, bank holiday or when the kids are off school because the road might be busy. I saw no traffic at all.

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But, judging by the number of rings of stones containing old campfires and the attempts at burning picnic bar-b-ques, old tents, general plastic litter and, even lager tins and bottles (it’s always lager, innit?), it seems that the usual users of the woods are a complete set of utter pillocks. (There may not be a sufficient number of the word “utter” here, so, feel free to add a few of your own) So a wet Tuesday in October may well be preferred timing for wandering in the forest. There’s a lot of camp fire parties. More than anywhere else, I would suggest. Do they not have tellies in Merthyr Tydfil, I wonder?

Apart from the moans, this isn’t a bad walk and, in better weather and with more determination and thought, several significant improvements could be made.

Me and LTD did 11 miles and 2300 feet of ascent.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Black Mountains Pt 1 Red Daren and The Cat’s Back (I didn’t know he’d been away)

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Me and Mrs Pieman and LTD have just had a fortnight in a cottage just about a mile inside Wales and it’s time to report fings wot appened on the Pieblog. But rather than just drone on interminably (with no end in sight) about wot-I-did-on-my-holidays by Michael A Knipe Class 3, I thought, that, instead, I’d just write up some useful information about three of the walks so that if anybody else just happens to have a spare day or two in the area they could follow one of these routes safely and with confidence, armed, perhaps,with a nice meat pie, some pickled onions in a little snack bag and a large banana for their lunch part way round.
This is the first one.
The idea was to bag an unbagged Nutall labelled (probably in error) Black Mountain South Top – clearly not a local name. I’d already bagged the other Nutalls/Hewitts on the ridge, but LTD hadn’t, so…..
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There’s a car park on an excitingly steep and narrow back road just a bit to the left of Longtown, which is in England and, indeed, the walk starts and ends in England and hardly ventures into Wales at all, so there’s little need for the phrasebook or the passport. The grid reference of the car park at the start is SO298299 and from there a path heads off on a muddy/slippery zig-zag route up to the Welsh border where it joins Offa’s Dyke long distance footpath. The mud is red and isn’t properly fastened down to the World. Offa’s Dyke, though is paved or surfaced all the way to Hay Bluff and, in combination with the gentle contours, provides outrageously fast and easy walking for miles and miles and miles. Step off the path and you’re in heathery tussock land, so you might not want to do this. It occurs to me that a walk from Pandy to Hay-on-Wye using the Offa’s Dyke path would be a really fine expedition and not too taxing providing the wind is in the right direction. But we didn’t do this.
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Progress, is remarkably straightforward and it’s unlikely that much in the way of navigation will be required. You may wish to pass the time creating little brain stories, or singing one of your favourite albums with all the tracks in the correct order and the guitar riffs at exactly the right pace. My choice on this occasion was the Beatles For Sale album, followed by Revolver and then most of the White Album, missing out the surreal stuff on side four, though I did do “Goodnight” as sung by Ringo.  LTD entertained himself by weeing on things and having several poos, barking at a pony and otherwise being in dateless-doggy-happy-brain-land. I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that this was a boring walk, though. Marching off over this fine Pennine  Welsh border landscape with nothing much to bother the intellect was fine stuff and just the thing to forget and worries about blood sugar, dicky tickers, gout and whether or not Mrs May will try to get the Irish to pay for their own wall.
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So, we marched and sang and pooed and wee’d and ate a turkey and tomato butty and a large banana inside the Big Orange Group Shelter (it rained a bit) and we passed over Red Daren, Black Mountain (South Top) and Black Mountain itself and on to Hay Bluff where there was a very fine view indeed and where my camera batteries gave up and refused to allow any pictures.
We returned whence we came for a short bit and then turned off on a muddy path on the edge of the very green and beautiful Herefordshire’s version of Bocage, leading on to a very fine, narrow and long ridge known as The Cat’s Back. There’s a few rocks on here, but there’s no actual scramble. It was on here that I replaced the camera batteries with those in my GPS (I should have done this earlier). The Cat’s Back is quite wonderful and easy in descent.
The last few miles were through pastures via Blackhill Farm and on the back lane leading back to the start. Only one vehicle passed me on this bit.
The route is 13 miles with 2000 feet of ascent and is mainly very easy walking.
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Monday, 25 September 2017

Things To Do At An Autumn Equinox (Skinny Dip!)

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Yes laidles and gentles, it’s that time of year when lots of peeps turn up at Druridge Bay just a bit before dawn, or, even, the afternoon before dawn, and, at the appropriate time, when the sun begins to peep over the briney horizon from somewhere in the approximate direction of Copenhagenm they all take off their clothes and run screaming and gasping into the North Sea.

Of people already appearing in other places in this blog, these idiots gentle people included Dawn, Brian and me. LTD stayed sensibly but a bit reluctantly in the car where he had a cosy blanket.

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But first, me and Dawn did pretty much what we’d done the year before – we’d travelled up to Ross Back Sands to bivi, a bit luxuriously, on the beach.

Mostly, we ate and slept. Lucky made nests in the prickly grass and did some desultory running about. But he’s not really a running about type of dog. Give seven miles of empty beach and he walks to heel. That is, until he sniffs something dead and rotting and then he runs off and roll in it. Ross Back Sands had two dead seals.

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We did very little at all, the most taxing chores being the supping of tea and the thawing of our dinner. Me and LTD had a walk around the point – about three miles of mainly hard sand, a few stony patches and some hard mud. There were geese. Lots of geese. A tractor and land-rover convoy came off the mud and put up several hundred geese in a lump. Other geese just squawked a bit as we passed. Large numbers had been passing overhead at times – heading South. It was time for that sort of thing.

We moved to Druridge Bay on Saturday afternoon and camped in the “quiet/family” bay whilst others gathered around a fire and played drums a bit irritatingly for those who’s supply of merlot hadn’t quite done the sedation.

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At stupid-o-clock, we repaired to the beach – Dawn in her professional post-open-water-swimming stuff and me in my nor-a-onesie. There’ we met Brian, armed with coffee, hot and strong and we waited in the pre-dawn gloaming, shivering a bit, along with 400 or so others.

And, on command, we dipped.

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In my view, and I can only speak for myself, it was perishing cold. But it was quite good fun. There was much screaming and quite a few people seemed a bit taken aback by the “refreshing” nature of the water and the frequently over-assertive nature of the waves. Some big waves, in my view. I thought some were a bit scary.

The cause is Mind. And it’s just exactly the proper thing to be doing for Mind. It’s a healing thing. And it’s quite good fun. Everybody should do it at least once a year. If you’ve a hankering to do something like this, but are being held back by whatever it is that holds you back, my only advice is to take the plunge and get on with it. Sometimes tiomorrow has an unpleasant habit of being cancelled.

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The North-East Skinny Dip is an annual event held at the (very beautiful) Druridge Bay each September as close as possible to the Autumn Equinox. It’s been on the telly and in the papers and it’s not hard to find on Google. It’s a very wholesome event which tends to affect it’s participants in a surprisingly positive way. There’s a small fee.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Fight Club Hiking in Mottram

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Fight Club Hikers and erstwhile TGO challengers Paddy and Gill decided to host a weekend at Burrows-Mott Towers this last weekend, so me and LTD went along and got there eventually, after bagging a rather lovely Tump near Huddersfield (Cheese Gate Nab) and sitting in a traffic jam for 90 minutes somewhere near Tintwistle.

Pete from Anglesey also turned up and Steve did a substantial amount of the  cooking, and he was very good at it too.

Me, Paddy, Gill and LTD had a little 8-mile trundle around some reservoirs, and up on to Wild Bank Hill from where fine views of Manchester included the local branch of Ikea, The Hilton and Winter Hill and that hill just outside Helsby wot me and Dawn went up on the way to Wales.

Some wine and beer was drunk, as was I.

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On Sunday, after bagging the diminutive and, probably private Mottram Hill, me and LTD came back up North via the M1 and various other roads.

And some peeps may remember that a while back, I hinted at some health issues…..

I now have five appointments for various nurses who have instructions to stab me with needles and remove huge quantities of my very own lifeblood, and a dietitian, and a diabetic nurse. The diabetic nurse clearly has the same problem as me. And somebody else needs to look into my eyes, apparently.

Then there’s the invite for a flu jab.

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I’ve been instructed, pro-tem to stop eating sugar altogether and, so far, I’ve been fairly successful at this and I spend quite a lot of time peering at labels on packets of food and/or googling foodstuffs to discover their calory/sugar content.

I’m hoping that my career as a diabetic will be unsuccessful and, fairly short. In nopt scoffing any sugar, I’ve also lost a bit of weight and discovered that my speed up steeply arranged contours has increased a bit. In fact, I’m feeling pretty healthy. And the lack of chocolate on walkies doesn’t seem to have had much effect in terms of energy….

I’ve also been stabbed by a nurse (just a little prick, Mr Widdle) to discover if the pains in my knee I had recently was, in fact, a gout attack. I’m not sure why, but, they want to have another go at this test, so that’s another appointment. Maybe it was a bit borderline. I should ask, really, but I’m keepong away in case they find another disease for me to have.

So, now, I’m, officially a gouty diabetic with a dicky ticker.

And I’ve just applied for the 2018 TGO challenge.

FFS.

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Anyway – thanks to Gill and Paddy for the hospitality. It were a right good do. LTD enjoyed the long sleeps, the walks and Gill’s cuddles and I enjoyed everything else.

Whatever happened to Mottram bypass, though?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Helvellyn–Don’t Forget Your Gloves (dhuhh)

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Just before we left Pietowers for the fleshpots of Thirlspot, LTD di fcheck with me that I’d got everything – bonio, chewsticks, warm blanket for in the car, hat, butties, gloves….   “Yes, yes, stop nagging , pup.” I told him and we drove for an hour and forty-five minutres up Weardale, over the hill to Penrith and along the mad bit to Thirlmere where we parked prettily and cheaply not very far from the United Utilities seven quid layby just up the road. Seven quid?
Anyway, the plan was to bag a Synge first – one called Swirls. It’s in the forest just above Swirls car park, in fact. I mention this merely as a navigational clue for those who need clues.
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After this, we would lurch in an undignified manner up steep and stony slopes to Browncove Crags – another Synge wot I’d probably walked past a few times. And then, should circumstances allow, we would heave our aged and creaking and wobbling bodies (it’s quite hard to do both things at once, folks) up on to Helvellyn and then have a little saunter or stravaig along as many tops as we could be arsed with in a roughly Northerly direction before returning smugly and with aching knees to our transport.
This went well at first.
We bagged Swirls pretty easily and progress to Browncove Crags was slow but steady but increasingly cold. (Or should that be decreasingly cold)
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The first of a series of vicious little squalls blew over from the approximate direction of the Isle of Man. These got wetter and windier as we gained height. LTD didn’t like this at all. Not at all.
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Soon, or maybe more truthfully, having bagged several lumpy eminences along the ridge,  eventually we acheived the summit of a claggy Helvellyn  and lunched briefly and a bit shiveringly in the cross-shelter there. It is here that I discovered that my gloves were not in my pack and were still, probably in the backpacking pack I took to Wales.
The weather cleared for an instant as we passed Swirral Edge but got worse again a few minutes later and clagged in and got cold again.
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LTD suggested that this wasn’t much fun and wouldn’t we be better getting ourselves into a nice, warm car. And, after passing over a wind-blasted horizontal-rain-lashed Whiteside, I agreed and we set off down the hill back to Thirlspot. We’d done 7 miles and 3200 feet of ascent.
My boots leak too and I should reproof my jacket before long.
That was a short summer.
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