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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

TGO Challenge Preparation–A Pilgrimage


I had a different 17-mile walk planned which would have started at Hawes, but there having been a heavy snowfall over the last few days, and with pictures of huge snowdrifts appearing on-line, I opted for a low-level trundle between the 7th Century Saxon (Anglian, really…!) Church at Escomb and St Cuthbert’s Cathedral at Durham. The church at Escomb is one of the oldest stone builkdings in Britain and is built from stone robbed from the nearby roman fortress at Vinovium, just outside Bishop Auckland. One stone has the inscitption “LEG VI” upside down and there’s also an arch pinched complete from the fort.


Most people doing such a walk would probably have entered both buildings, but having LTD with me, and covered in clarts (mud), I thought they probably wouldn’t have let me in. So I stayed outside.

The seed of an idea for this walk was sown by a member of Crook and Weardale Ramblers (he knows who he is). Apparently, there’s a chap going around doing pilgrimages between significant eccesiastical locations and, for County Durham, these two churches are pretty significant.


The route is simple. The Weardale Way passes Escomb Church and follows the River Wear all the way to Durham. Its then a simple matter of walking uphill from the river to the cathedral. The distance is 15 miles, but by starting at Escomb School and having to walk to Durham bus station, I managed to increase the length of the walk to just under 17 miles, which was my training target for March.


Apart from a few minor diversions which don’t appear on my OS map, and a couple of fallen trees, the main difficulty was mud. Mud at Brocken Banks, just outside Bishop Auckland was the worst and a lack of waymarks makes decision-making about how to progress with any digity at all quite difficult. Many walkers will have encountered rocksteps. At Brocken Banks there’s a mudstep, only overcome with some difficulty and a young ash sapling. Here, there is quite a strong possibility of falling backwards into a soft and splodgy landing.


Other places had no waymarks at all and the mud of the Croxdale woods was specially clarty.

It might be better in summer, apart from the additional hazard of cattle, I should think.

But it’s a good walk and those of a religious bent might consider giving it a go. There’s enough to make a rambler sufficiently smug and a bit pious about overcoming any hardships which might be encountered.

Logic seems to be calling me to extend the route to Jarrow and then, maybe, to LIndisfarne. If I get the time I might do this at some point.


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Much Mooching in the Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills had been on my List of Things To Do for a couple of years. It’s a long way from Pietowers, so a couple of days at least was required.
Dawn appeared at Durham Train Station and we slipped off down the A1 to the Travelodge at Hartlebury, which is tolerably close to the Malvern Hills, but inconveniently on the wrong side of Worcester. On the upside, there was a kettle, it was warm and dry, and it wasn’t all than much more expensive than camping. And there was less of that mud stuff and trekking to the toilets…. 
We did two walks.
Firstly, we parked prettily for four quid (four quid?) at the foot of the ridge leading to Worcester Beacon. This is the Malverns highest hill at 425 metres, but looks higher.  The sun came out and, if you sat in the sun, out of the wind, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was mid March. Which it was. LTD in particular enjoyed the sunbathing whilst I scoffed a squishy banana.
We progressed Northwards over Sugar Loaf and North Hill, returning almost to the car park via paths which contoured around the hills we’d just climbed. The Malverns have lots of these and they’re outrageously enjoyable and easy to walk on.
So, we passed the knipemobile, which was still there, lights off, wheels still on, and wandered Southwards, pretty much as far as we could go and stay on the ridge. And so, we bagged Perseverance Hill, Jubilee Hill, Pinnacle Hill and Black Hill and returned to the car on one of those lovely contouring paths that they have wot I’ve already mentioned.
On the Wednesday, we went to the car park at the foot of British Camp. Here, we paid yet another four quid (four quid?) (again?), had a very nice bacon roll at the cafe there and set off over Herefordshire Beacon (which has the British Camp on it) ( One of the supposed scenes of Caractacus’s last stand before he escaped to County Durham/North Yorks to Cartamandua, Queen of the Brigantes dontcha know, who betrayed him to the Romans, leading to a revolt by her husband/brother Venutius and ultimately the conquest of Hen Ogledd aka Northern England and the Borders, so, a right old bugger-up in other words)  I did notice that several trees, including one senior hawthorn had a beautiful crown of mistletoe. The mystical relevance of this, specially so adjacent to several iron-age fortresses should not go unmentioned, which is why I mentioned it. I should also mention the oaks, ashes, hollies and so on…. AND I should mention that three of the four local hill-forts have evidence of a violent and burning end to their existence, but not, apparently, the British Camp, which seems to have just been abandoned, maybe because Caractacus had buggerred-off to Yorkshire, right up the A1(M). There is scant historical evidence that he and his peripatetic war-band purchased  bacon rolls at the services at the far end of the M18, although we did, and they were quite nice. And, historically, if any bacon rolls were purchased, this is the most likely spot. It’s also where the locals a start calling you “Luv”.
So, we wandered down the ridge, bagging Swinyard Hill, Midsummer Hill and Ragged Stone Hill, returning via bridleways and contouring paths (Have I mentioned these before?) back to the knipemobile which was exactly where I left it save for a very small amount of continental drift and a huge but indistinguishable shift in position in the Universe and Everything.
I liked the Malverns – lots of contours in a short distance, and extensive views both East and West. There’s clearly a lot of pedestrian pressure and the footpaths are hardened in many places, and there’s lots of them. And there’s lots and lots of people about. You need to have a wee before you set off. Just a tip there for you…. 
And we managed somehow to have two consecutive dry days in between some horrendous driving in heavy rain and spray for hours and hours of motorways.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Teesdale Waterfalls



I had it on my List Of Things To Do to reccy a walk for Wolsingham Wayfarers up Teesdale. In my mind (what’s left of it) I had the words “Teesdale” and “Waterfalls”. So that’s what I did.

Me and LTD waited for a bit for the worst of the snowdrifts to clear and off we went armed with only an OS map and a cheese salad sandwich (and a banana, coffee, protein bomb things and some 85% Free-trade chocolate)



We did this walk and managed to link up seven lovely waterfalls in Teesdale AND, not only did we manage that, but we did it in the apportioned Nine of the Queen’s statute miles. We returned to Pietowers in smug mode and celebrated with some Californian merlot on Friday night. (Friday night is merlot night at Pietowers) (It doesn’t have to be merlot, actually, almost anything will do.)



Just now, I looked at the programme and it said there was a walk on Sunday 25 March 2018, 9 miles (so far so good) Teesdale Waterfalls (Yes, yes, still good) and Cronkley Fell. What? Cronkley Fell. We did not venture up Cronkley Fell.

Still, what could possibly go wrong? I’ve been up Cronkley Fell loads of times and I don’t think I’ve got the time to do another reccy.

On the upside, the walk we did was really very nice and I diswcovered a few places I’d not visited before and it was all rather lovely.


There was still a fair amount of snow left – some of it very deep indeed, and there’d been a few small avalanches in some places.

There are indications that the Beast From The East might well return for a short spell in about a week, so, maybe, by the 25th of March, there’ll be new old thawing snowdrifts to cheer the place up and beef up the water levels in the falls.

To see Wolsingham Wayfarers programme visit wolsingham wayfarers guided walks (click the linkm innit) The walks are excellent and free and if your dog is well behaved (like wot LTD is), he/she can come too.


Sunday, 4 March 2018

Cancelled Cancelled Cancelled (A Negative Version of Mrs Doyle)

Hiking – what’s it all about? A load of men wandering about in big beards.
Clearly, I seem to be developing cabin fever.
Me and LTD were supposed to be at the TGO Challenge Annual Gathering at the Snake Pass Inn this weekend, but the wind changed, the roads filled with abandoned cars, somebody bought ALL the bread and most of the milk in Crook Lidl and it snowed, just like it used to do when I was a mere lad of twenty-three.
Anyway, Snake Pass closed and the hills became sugar-sculptures. The A68 closed (my route to the A1, which was closed) and somebody in Crook’s toaster broke down from overwork. A Facebook group wot I joined called Weardale Road-Watch reported multiple people stuck in places they didn’t want to be, huge snowdrifts on car roofs, or in the case of Nenthead, on roofs and upper-floor windows. Much digging was done.
Not only could I not visit the Snake Pass and various lovely bits of Derbyshire, but neither did it seem like a good idea to get the car out at all, so a visit to mid-Weardale where the car parks are still full of snow, was also ruled out.
I drank tea and ate butterred fruit-loaf (did I mention that somebody nabbed all the bread? eh? I mean ALL the bread. There were flocks of starlings on snow-blasted lawns with more bread than at Pietowers) Yes, I ate fruit-loaf, sometimes toasted fruit-loaf. Fruit-loaf with Wensleydale cheese (too exotic for Crook-style panic buying) and sometimes with peanut-butter (also quite exotical and a bit colonial)
So, I’ve mainly been wearing wellies and LTD has had is red coat on and we’ve been bashing our way through various drifts on the hills above Crook. LTD has enjoyed this, and so have I. But the snow is slowly melting and some of the icicles have fallen from the Pietowers battlements, so, it’s getting close to the time when venturing out beyond Harperley roundabout seems to be on the cards.  I have to get the knipemobile out anyway because it’s booked in for it’s MOT.
We have plans. Me and Dawn have beds booked in Worcestershire somewhere (must find out where it is) and I have reccies to do on the far side of Killhope Cross and Hartside and in Teesdale. And my March 17-mile TGO training plan walk… the list just goes on and on. In the famous words of Dave Pendleton, Manager of an East Lancs small town sewage facility “Things are really backing-up here”
Will the drifts have melted sufficiently for a decent walk next week?
Its a great shame about the Snake Pass Inn cancellation because, apart from all the work that Alan Hardy puts in to organise the event, it’s usually a right good do and a chance for lots of pre-TGO gossip and stuff like that. And they allow the dog to go. But the conditions were exceptional and there was no road access to the hotel, so we missed out on this and also me and LTD’s annual trundle with The Crowthers and their pooches.
All pics from this week’s snowy doggy walks, apart from the one below – TGO “do” 2016 when the road was closed, except that it wasn’t.
snake 001

Thursday, 22 February 2018

TGO Challenge Training–February Fourteen


Some readers with healthy memories might remember my plan for getting fit for the TGO Chally. This partly involved walking a bit further on each of the months running up to May 2018. February’s distance was to be 14 miles.

And so, yesterday, in spring-like weather, me and LTD went up the Dale (That’s Weardale by the way) – not too far – just as far as Frosterley and we walked up field paths to Hill End, a hamlet perched on the end of a…..hill…    and then up onto the heather moor to the top of Catterick Hill. Catterick has a particularly lovely top for the sitting in warm sunshine, out of the cool breeze scoffing a banana whilst scouring the view of the higher bits of the Pennines beyond – James’s Hill being the huge heathery lump that blocks the view of the Atlantic Ocean, North Wales and, indeed, Urmston (there’s two ways you can go)


Whilst we waited for a shepherd to finish feeding his sheep on the moor below, this, is, in fact, what we did. The edge of Catterick has a little outcrop which contains a huge amount of crystals – prpbably calcite or quartz, or maybe, both. It’s all very pretty stuff.

After the shepherd had gone, we passed below the feeding sheep, just ut of their sight (didn;t want to disturb their elevenses) and on to the wide-open spaces of Turf Hill, which has a grassy track and gentle contours which provide an episode of superb fellwalking right up to the cairn and trig on Carrs Top where there are outcrops and boulders suitable for sitting in the sun eating chicken and tomato butties.


After a short snoozathon in warm(ish) sunshine, we progressed upwards in a on easy ground passing the ruins of a stone hut which had been rebuilt into a square shelter, entry being gained by scrambling over the wall with exit being a similar scramble with no dignity involved.

After this, there was snow-filled peat hags and a fence to follow to the top of Snowhope Hill, at just a smidge above 2000 feet.


To return, we handrailed Bollihope Burn whilst being occasionally monitored by a chap on an ATV just on the skyline above. At least one of the old paths on the South side of Bollihope Burn now sports a wide grouse-shooters road which seems to end in some kind of car park high up on the fell.

We followed Bollihope Burn all the way down through the picnic spots and on to the Weardale Way, thorugh Cowboy Pass and White Kirkley to Broadwood quarry, where the plan was to cross the footbridge into Frosterley.


But the bridge had a hole in it. I’d passed this way at the winter solstice in 2016, have had a wet and breezy night at a camp at Fine Burn. All watercourses were heavily in spate and the main road bridge closed as I arrived as it was thought to be in some danger of collapse, having been whacked by a tree floating down the Wear. So, I diverted to the footbridge, just a bit downstream. This was closed too, but, passable with little apparent risk. Obviously, shortly after I crossed, it must have collapsed. (dhuhh)


As it happens, there’s another bridge not to far downstream. This is a huge, steel and concrete affair, built to take quarry wagons and would take some shifting.

So, that’s the first walk done. 14 Miles and 2100 feet of up. Must take an extra butty for this type of thing. I haven’t yet got a 17 mile route, but I do have a 20 mile one – around the Dun Fells and Cross Fell from Garrigill. And I need some walks with increasing numbers of contours.

But it’s a reasonable start, I think. Map below. Not to be used for navigation. (dhuhh)