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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Tunstall Danger Ducks and Other Naughtiness–A Week of LTD’s Doggy Walks By LTD

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We had a little hibernate over the l;ast couple of days due to the fact that it’s been raining a lot  in Pieland and, frankly, my doggybed by the radiator was much comfier than wandering about the coutryside getting wet. So, mainly, we stayed in. Pieman went shopping. I didn’t.

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But today, the sun seemed to be shining, at least till we got to the car park at Tunstall reservoir, just a bit up from Wolsingham. Here, it was chucking it down in a sleety sort of way and, whilst waiting for one of the forecasted “mainly sunny” bits, Pieman ate his egg and tomato butty and banana whilst I barked at the ducks who were gathering threateningly around the Knipemobile demanding food. When it stopped and  as Pieman put his boots on, I saw ‘em, off. They came back, though, so I saw ‘em off again. Persistent, is them ducks.

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I had my big coat on today as it was baltic and we wandered up throught he soggy fields to join the old railway line wot used to go from Crook to Consett over the moors. This provides easy walking and is very good for running about daft, sniffing and leg-cocking activities.

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The track stops suddenly at a gate with a discouraging sign. This, apparently, is the site of a WW2 ammunition dump – the shells being produced at Aycliffe and transported up here by train for distribution from Sunderland later on. It’s all fenced off and, apparently, now holds a collection of buses and fire engines and stuff. A google earth view reveals the site nicely, and is complete with old ammo stores with blast walls and anti-aircraft emplacements. The old fence surrounding it is more or less derelict, though, so security seems to rely on the inducement of paranoia by the placing of signage. There might also be a man with a notebook sonewhere. Or a stick. Or a thing that squirts water. I really hate things that squirt water.

There’s also the site of a coalmine. It didn’t produce much, if any, coal, though but there was quite a lot of fireclay , and there’s an old pit for that nearby and a gantry thing which is likely to be a station platform for the mine.

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This, by the way, is Saltersgate and there are signs (as opposed to signage) that the area has been heavily used for nefarious purposes,  and apparently [looks both ways and adopts a conspsiratorial attitude] it is the site of County Durham’s Number One – and chilliest – dogging location. However, in my opinion, there’s little evidence of much in the way of canine activity, but quite a lot of broken glass, campfires and general litter all around and especially in the forestry. Pieman and his pal Brian did once discover a very large bra hanging off a tree, apparently, but the less said about that the better, I should think.

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The walk gets much better after this and progresses through a couple of pastures, where, being unnoccupied by any stock, much running about could be done, if one could be arsed. Given so much space, I generally walk to heel as this is much more disconcerting to the Pieman than charging about, cos he never knows quite where I am (I’m right behind him). This also uses much less energy than the other stuff.

So, we descended to Backstone Bank wood – which is a really old wood according to a sign wot I can’t read, and has old platforms where charcoal was produced up to about 600 years ago. Probably for barbeques I shouldn’t wonder.

Back to the Dangerducks by a short road-walk, there being a footpath through the woods, but also a bunch of toffs shooting towards pheasants with some of their servants waving flags and blowing whistles and stuff.

The walk is 8.39 km (5.2 miles) and 239 metres of up (nearly 800 feet)

There’s a map:

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Stanley Beck–A Week of LTD’s Doggy Walks by LTD

Ecky Thump – What interruptions. First this:
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A failed attempt to camp on Lindisfarne which ended up on Ross Sands. Very cold it was, too..
And then this:
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A Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays 9 mile trundle around Slaley Forest during which I was NOT ALLOWED to jump up, bark at anything, beg food, attack the cattle or chase pheasants.
Not to mention a wet day up some rocky bits which the Pieman has already droned on about…
Before this:
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A six mile doggy walk, including barking at other dogs, sniffing holes of all kinds, territory marking and bits of running about. Today’s stravaig (the fifth, I believe) was a couple of miles of Deerness Valley railway path and a detailed exploration of a piece of dark forest containing a sinister hole, a culverted stream and a large tunnel/culvert which seems to go beneath an old spoil heap.
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Like almost everywhere around Pie Towers, there’s been lots of coalmining and the nearest pits seem to have been the Stanley Colliery located in the nature reserve (see pic) and Josephine Pit, currently in the woods a little to the South-West. Both pits are were part of the same complex and worked from the 1850’s to the early 20th century. This site lists 39 fatal accidents at Stanley Pit including several teenagers/children which might well account for the sombre atmosphere of the woods….
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There’s lots of exploration and sniffing around to be done hereabouts and, given more daylight, maybe we would have spent longer. Or it could have been Pieman’s raging thirst for a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea that leant urgency to our progress (in view of the nithering nature of the searching “breeze” blowing off the North Pennines. )
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On a more happy note, in the woods, at a location I’m reluctant to detail, but which is probably quite well known to locals, there’s a tree with a couple of seats made in it. This is quite a beautiful spot in it’s own way and has been there for some time, in the past, bearing quirky messages from whoever it was that created it. More recently, it seems, there’s a memorial to one Kenny Ayres who is pictured seated at the tree. Its not too much of a stretch of the imagination to understand that Mr Ayres had a lot to do with this particular spot.
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Our walk now went around the back of Stanley Crook (noting two white pussycats on the way) and through the graveyard at St Thomas’s Stanley Crook which is where many of the casualties from the local pits between Tow Law and Waterhouses and Woolley are interred.
And then down the hill to Roddymoor and Crook and a nice hot cup of Yorkshire Tea. I had to make do with cold water and a chewstick.
10.18 km (6.3 miles) and 198 metres of up.
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askewsshrine

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Drizzly Day in Langdale

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I am now interupting LTD’s rampage of sniffing, leg cocking and barking (at other dogs) for a brief and misty expedition into the Lake District on the occasion of another little trundlette with The Bro and Ria.

The objective of our attentions was a small, cute and fluffy (that is to say, boggy) Synge luring suspiciously above Mickleden named Martcrag Moor, or, if you had a very old one-inch map, Martcrag Moo. This may have been one of those OS deliberate mistakes to root-out copyright infringements. Or it could have been a morning-of-Christmas-Eve-in-the-office-post-sherry-can’t-be-arsed-cos-we’re-off-to-the-pub-at half-eleven things. (Or was this just an NHS type of thing?)

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Anyway, the Met Office said it would be mild and wet and that it would brighten up in the afternoon. It was, indeed mild and a bit damp and there were hints of a brightening at first. The, in the words of Homer Simpson, it just got worse and worse.

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So, we set off up the steep, slippery and, in places, badly paved path beside Dungeon Gill and, after bagging the viewpoint Synge Pike Howe, we traversed on a thin/little used, unadulterated and perfectly safe path which emerged just a little way above Stickle Tarn and heaved and balanced our way up the random stones to Harrison Stickle summit where the rain started to become a bit heavier.

After lunch in a small nook or cranny beneath the top, we headed off towards Pike O’Stickle, with a small but bijoux diversion for the summit of Loft Crag on the way.

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Pike O’ Stickle (aka Pike Of Stickle according to the Ordnance Survey peeps) was acheived by a short scramble and another short and slippery scramble to get back down again.

In the mist, we considered that we had found the top of Martcrag Moo(r) but the “mound” marked on the map which seems to delineate the highest point, was not obvious. That is to say, we didn’t find it at all. However, we did seem to be at the highest bit.

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A long descent of Stake Pass followed on paving which was better than the Dungeon Gill paving, but nevertheless managed to provide of a couple of “whoops” moments which, had they not been controlled by deft rebalancing, would probably have resulted in  a brain-stem injury and/or a broken neck. Its not a surprise that in places, alternative paths exist in the more grippy grass to the awkward and unpleasant new trip and slip hazards. What we really need is some proper handrails and public first-aid kits every half a mile or so. 

We did just 7 miles and 2800 feet of up and down.

And it rained.

Now handing control back to LTD who is currently snoring in his dog bed by the radiator. He’ll be left to fester for a bit, then we’re off for a walk.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Dowfold Hill–A Week of LTD’s Doggy Walks by LTD

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In the face of a fierce but very short snowstorm and the suspicion that the weather was going to get a bit wet, Monday’s Sniffathon was a short 5.2 kilometres (3.23 miles) over Dowfold Hill, a hillock which looms for about 300 feet above the teaming metropolis that is Crook.

But first, we visited St Catherine’s Community Centre to collect a couple of doggychews. I visit St Cath’s roughly twice a week and the customers there give me a great welcome and Doreen (its usually Doreen) gives me some doggytreats. So, it’s worth going.

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After this we wandered up through the golf course , which was very quiet, apart from a lady with three not-quite-pedigree greyhounds who investigated my parts indiscreetly. The lady asked Pieman why he’d got the beard and didn’t he look like Santa and she called me by a name I’m not familiar with. It didn’t really dawn on her at all that she was mistaking Pieman from her brother (probably doesn’t see him that much) and me for her brother’s pet dog, a member of an opposite gender to me, as it happens. She went off still convionced that her brother had grown a white beard and that for some reason he was pretending to be somebody else, probably to avoid all that Christmas family nonsense.

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Dowfold hill itself is a fine wander and you can look down on Crook and over to the Pennines where the local ghillies were once again setting fire to the heather.

Dowfold Hill is crops and a couple of pastures for horses and ends with a steep sledging hill which had no stock on it today, so I was allowed off the lead for the running about, sniffing and leg-cocking. The sniffing was specially interesting today.

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The return is by the Deerness Valley Railway path where more doggies were met and much more wagging, indelicate sniffing and so on occurred.

The railway path goes to Langley Moor, just outside Durham and is quite beautiful in places, although it may be better on a bike, I expect.

The railway itself was originally built to link various collieries and industrial sites together and opened in 1855, the collieries around producing huge quantities of high quality coal for a hundred years or so. Its now possible to walk the line from Crook and link up to similar railway paths to Bishop Auckland, Lanchester, Consett and up into the Durham Dales at Stanhope, Rookhope and Westgate, or down the Derwent Valley to Gateshead. In fact, should you so wish, you can walk your little legs off.

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Today’s question was “how do golfers know which ball is theirs when they get to that little hole with the flag?” It’s a mystery.

Here’s a map.

Kendal tomorrow. I’ll be getting sweet biscuits but I have to do snarly snarlies to get them.

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Stanley Moss–A Week of LTD’s Doggy Walks By LTD

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Sunday’s walk – walk number three. Yes, I know we missed a day but yesterday was the occasion of The Pieman leading 12 Wolsingham Wayfarers on an 11 – mile ramble around Doctor’s Gate and Black Banks, so we both reckoned that was far enough to avoid a second doggy walk till bedtime.

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So, today (dontcha just hate people/dogs who begin explanations with the word “So”?), we headed off up past Kittys Wood and some back lanes to the left of Billy Row to find some re-established/unmapped footpaths leading up the hill to Sunniside. All of this area has been mined andthis particular bit has, in addition, been opencasted twice, most recently in the last couple of years. The result is that the landscape is super-smooth. All random lumps and bumps like wot you get with most British landscapes, have been dug up, ironed out, and replaced very very neatly. It’s not unnatractive. They do tend to put in extra bits of woodland, some rough and tussocky bits for animals and birds that enjoy rough and tussocky, and a few small ponds.

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On the top of the hill, we find Stanley Moss. This is a nature reserve, although, the weather being spectacularly cold today with a bitingly strong Northerly blowing that seeped into the very pores , and, also the paws, naturists were noticeably thin on the ground. Stanley Moss is also liberally decorated with wind turbines, which are somewhat noisy.

Stanley Moss is a Durham Wildlife Trust reserve; a lowland blanket peat bog and more info about is can be had by clicking here (recommended, but please come back)

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We returned via well-known tracks and bridleways. Aoart from the nithering cold, it was quite a nice day and there were many opportunities for running about daft, investigating suspicious smells and, generally sniffing. We met just a few people, three on horseback and one with a small and friendly dog. We wagged our tails at each other and enjoyed a brief moment of bum-sniffing until rudely interupted by an old lady, who thougt she was in control of the other dog. (Hah)

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We also came across a fine example of the work of the local Roddymoor Feral Art Group. The artist in this case has, by the clever interplay of an image of a soft and incompetent male member roughly inscribed onto the hard brick ediface of a small culvert or bridge, suggested ironic tension between eroticism and humour, and, quite cleverly, I feel, failed quite spectacularly and deliberately to describe either, thus attacking the concept of male aggression in inter-gender sexual relationships. Amazing.  Either that, or he started the image from the bottom  and , during the process, suddenly realised he was too near the top of the wall to get the whole image on. It is, of course, criminal damage.

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Here’s a map: The walk is 10.18 km (6.73 miles) with 198 metres (about 650 feet) of ascent. The map doesn’t shopw the new paths but has the word “workings” where the new fields are. The high-quality coking coal – about 70, 000 tons, went by train from Wolsingham to Lincolnshire to make coke and , then, presumably, steel. There should have been more coal but the old miners had removed 85% of the coal instead of the 75% considered safe, so there was a bit less.

Landscape by Banks, drawings by Mr Floppy.

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