1 March, 2009
Walk: Littledale, near Lancaster
Another oddly late start today: somehow I didn't get round to leaving for a cycle ride or walk until about 15:30, which didn't leave a lot of daylight. Hence, I just went as far as Littledale, between Clougha and Caton Moor, hoping to find Littledale Hall.
As the accompanying photos show, the weather wasn't great, particularly on high ground; as, by definition, the photos don't show, few images were worth publishing. At least I scouted and refined a route for a future visit.
I started at The Cragg, at the highest point on Littledale Road; the ride out from Lancaster was rather more strenuous than the walk itself, particularly the final steep hill.
After locking my bike to a fence, I headed across mildly muddy fields to Skelbow Barn, extremely muddy & undulating fields to Bellhill Farm, then a concrete road to Field Head Farm. In hindsight, I'm not sure whether I'd bother with this section again, other than as part of an alternative route up Clougha. A less circuitous (but still circular) walk to Littledale Hall could start at Udale Bridge, on the Crossgill side of the Littledale Road hill, and follow a well-surfaced farm track.
Littledale Hall wasn't quite as I'd expected, resembling a farm or mill complex rather than a manor house – there were no grand architectural details to photograph, or at least none I could see from the footpath. Maybe next time.
Likewise with my other objective of the day, a disused Free Church nearby, which I'd read about online. It's a striking building now only used as a drafty barn: all the external features of a Victorian chapel, but rendered in miniature and in the middle of a sheep pasture. Well worth seeing, but the light had already gone from the valley by 17:20, so I only managed to take a couple of photos. Maybe next time....
The path past the chapel came out at the hairpin bend between Crossgill and Caton Moor. If I ever wanted a really short walk to the Free Church and Littledale Hall (~500 m each way), this'd be the place to start, though this 'starting point' is 4 km (horizontally, plus ~100 m vertically) from Brookhouse, so it'd be more likely to be a brief diversion on a ride over Caton Moor and/or Roeburndale. At least there's a reasonable place to lock a bike, eliminating the need to replicate the final stage of today's walk, back up the steep hill to The Cragg and my bike.
7 February, 2009
Walk: Ward's Stone, near Lancaster, UK
Whilst walking on Clougha or cycling in Wyresdale & Roeburndale, I've frequently wanted to visit Ward's Stone, the highest point in the Forest of Bowland; indeed, the highest peak in Lancashire. However, its height belies the surrounding expanse of flat, peaty moorland and hence difficult walking conditions in any weather damper than an prolonged drought.
Or when the ground is totally frozen, like today.
Snow never lasts long in the Lancaster area – it may be the coastal air – so the cycle ride out to Quernmore was along clear roads, but by the time I reached the open moors beyond Brow Top there was a significant, if patchy, covering of snow; enough to accentuate details in the landscape, but not enough to impede walking. After locking my bike by Jubilee Tower, I gleefully strode off across the surface of the moor rather than intermittently ankle-deep in peat, as is more usual.
The theoretically-straight path up to Shooter's Pile still seemed to take forever (the destination is visible at every stage of the 2 km from Jubilee Tower, and never seems to get closer), but once on the plateau the walk was startlingly easy. I can't overstate how different the same moor can be when wet. It's not the prettiest area anyway: featureless and with limited views across the neighbouring valleys, but at least crossing wasn't an absolute chore today and ~90 minutes after leaving Jubilee Tower I was at the summit.
Briefly. The air was photogenically clear but the wind was far too cold for me to manipulate the camera with bare hands for long, so I rapidly retreated to a hollow in the rocks to enjoy a cup of tea – for the first time ever, I'd been sufficiently organised as to bring a flask. Oh; the luxury.
With my hands functioning again, I took a few more photos then returned across the moor, rather rapidly, as direct sunshine was unexpectedly beginning to melt the peat's surface.
15 January, 2009
What's the big one called?
Here's a useful site for walkers, discovered via Flickr, offering a large number of computer-generated panoramas depicting points visible from high ground & key landmarks.
I'm useless at naming mountains on the horizon: after 15 years I still can't reliably recognise the profile of the Lakeland Fells seen from Lancaster. I also recently made a fool of myself by 'correcting' someone's identification of Welsh hills seen from Clougha, near Lancaster: what I thought was Moel Famau, a moderate hill in NE Wales was Carnedd Llewellyn, a major peak in NW Wales. For the sake of my bruised ego, I've bookmarked this site for future use.
27 December, 2008
Walk: Waun-y-Llyn, Hope Mountain, Flintshire
My mother and I went for a short walk on Hope Mountain, overlooking Caergwrle, though the weather was hazy, bitterly cold (Waun-y-Llyn Country Park's eponymous lake was thoroughly frozen) and rather dull, so it became little more than an opportunity to plan future trips with my camera, which didn't get much use today.
6 December, 2008
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Ingleborough-Lancaster
Today's weather was cold but cloudless and particularly clear, so was an excellent opportunity to play in the snow on Ingleborough.
Though the main roads in Lancaster and Bentham were fine, the lane to Ingleton hadn't been gritted at all, so was far more dangerous than I'd anticipated. Seeing a car approaching along the narrow lane, I decelerated and moved aside – on totally invisible black ice. The resulting fall was trivial but made me nervous, so when another car was following a little too closely a few minutes later, I chose to pull off the road to let it pass. Unfortunately, the fresh-looking snowdrift I'd expected to slow me safely was days old and had refrozen to solid ice – hitting it at speed flipped me off immediately.
This time it did hurt, and I was very glad of a helmet when my head bounced off the frozen verge. My leggings were torn at the knee and for the following fortnight the base of my thumb was badly bruised, with occasional loss of sensation. [Update 9/5/09: the scars on my knee are still colourful after five months.]
It could have been far worse, and I wasn't injured, so after cleaning myself up in Ingleton, I went on with the planned walk. At least the blood trickling down my leg kept it warm.
Leaving the bike at Skirwith Quarry, I crossed the fields to Fell Lane and on to Crina Bottom. A thin crust of ice on snowdrifts then 'proper' ice on the track forced me to walk slowly, to the extent I thought I'd have to turn back simply because I wouldn't have time to reach the summit and return in daylight. As it happened, though the round trip took ~90 minutes longer than usual I managed it with about half an hour to spare, so was on well-gritted roads before dark.
There weren't many people on the path from Crina Bottom to the summit, but I was amused when one person I'd seen struggling uphill ahead of me carrying a huge rucksack then unpacked a parachute and jumped off the edge of the summit plateau. It must have been a great day for paracending.
The views from the summit were wonderful in the clear air, and I took several photos (including of fascinating ice structures left in the snow by high winds), but it was far too cold to leave my gloves off for long, and I soon headed back to the bike; as I said above, I reached Skirwith by sunset but cycled as far as Burton in Lonsdale before the light completely faded, leaving me in darkness for the final 24 km to Lancaster.
16 November, 2008
Walk: Clougha, near Lancaster
Taking advantage of a crisp, sunny autumn day, I went for a walk on Clougha, specifically to find a couple of highlights I hadn't seen before: Ottergear Bridge and Escher's Clougha Egg Cairn. Needless to say, something else I took was my camera.
Like most people, I started at Birk Bank car park, locking my bike to a fence, but instead of heading right, up the usual path, I turned left towards the shooting track, hoping to catch a glimpse of Escher's 'Clougha Egg Cairn'. That proved to be unexpectedly easy: it dominates the skyline at the top of Birk Bank itself. Hence, I abandoned the path almost immediately, carefully crossing the bog then scrambling straight up the steep, boulder-covered slope to find the best angles for photography.
After a while, I crossed to the mysterious rectangular tower (an air vent on the Thirlmere Aqueduct pipeline?) then followed a clear track back down to the footpath – that's probably the best route up for those unwilling/unable to take the direct way. From there, it was a short distance to my second target of the day, Ottergear Bridge, another, seemingly over-engineered, feature of the Thirlmere Aqueduct. Awkward light and overhanging vegetation (plus a poor choice of lens) limited the number of publishable photos I obtained, but A explored thoroughly before moving on again.
The shooting track to the top of the moor was longer and more circuitous than I remembered; I was glad to reach the third waymark, Andy Goldsworthy's 'Clougha Pike'. I'd already obtained a few photos there in June, and the light may have been better then, so I didn't stay long, heading to the final target, Clougha Pike itself (the hill's summit) as the shadows began to lengthen. After sitting quietly to appreciate the views and an inquisitive Red Grouse, I returned to Birk Bank a little too late to photograph 'Clougha Egg Cairn' from the road.
26 July, 2008
Walk: Yorkshire Three Peaks
As the blog has documented, I've completed several walks and cycle rides in the south-western Yorkshire Dales, including Whernside (the highest point in Yorkshire, at 728m asl), Ingleborough (723m) and Pen-y-ghent (691m) as individual trips. However, I've always fancied linking them together as the famous 'Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge', a single 37.5–42 km (23.3–26.1 miles – approximately a full marathon) circuit visiting all three summits, with a total ascent of over 1,600m.
HV & I had planned to complete it early on an autumn day, to avoid both the heat and congested footpaths of midsummer, but when J expressed an interest in attempting it with us and a childhood friend this weekend, we didn't hesitate. Possibly a flawed decision....
The standard anticlockwise route is well-known and is the subject of several dedicated websites, so I won't go into great detail here; I've mentioned it in the annotations of the accompanying photos, if anyone's particularly interested. In short, we walked from Horton in Ribblesdale to Pen-y-Ghent via Brackenbottom, directly across Horton Moor to Ribblehead, up Whernside via the railway and down via Bruntscar, then up Ingleborough via the Old Hill Inn and back to Horton via Sulber.
The 'challenge' is to complete the route within twelve hours. Those who clock-in at the Pen-y-ghent Café in Horton before starting then clock back in having finished within the designated time qualify for membership of the 'Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club', and their badge & tie. No thanks – I like the safety net offered by the booking-in system, but the petty exclusivity of a 'club' and associated merchandise really don't interest me. Not that it's particularly exclusive – according to the cafe's records, more than 200,000 walkers participated 'officially' in the first 35 years of its operation, and that doesn't include those who, like me, didn't clock in.
'Official' is also a relative term: the Three Peaks path doesn't have the same level of recognition as, say, the Pennine Way: you won't find it specifically marked as a named route on an Ordnance Survey map, and it's not signposted on the ground.
Hence, take care: we were lucky enough to experience good weather and though I say it myself, I'm pretty fit, but the walk and upland environment shouldn't be underestimated – it's not a Sunday stroll and one needs at least basic equipment. Though most of the route follows well-trodden paths, the section from Pen-y-ghent to Ribblehead strikes directly across open moorland. In poor visibility 'out of season', I'd definitely want to be fully weatherproofed and carrying a map & compass.
Despite my disinterest in winning a badge, I did want to complete the route within, at worst, twelve hours; nine hours had seemed plenty when I'd planned for an easy but continuous pace (apart from momentary photo stops) and a ~15 min lunch break on each summit.
However, it didn't seem to work. My starting pace drew complaints, and I reached the summit fully 15 mins before the others, so I was more than ready to proceed when they arrived to begin their rather longer break.
Rather frustrated, I made a solo diversion to Hull Pot to give the others a head-start on the next section, but still caught them before they'd ambled far. When another break was called near High Birkwith I accepted the need to compromise, but when that became only the first of several half-hour stops, one solely in order to doze in the sun, I began to get quietly annoyed. I was no less glad than the others to stop at the Ribblehead and Philpin Lane refreshment facilities, but I can drink a cup of tea or juice in less than five minutes; more than half an hour seemed excessive. Sometimes it can be be enjoyable to sit on a wall and take leisurely sips whilst watching the world go by, but not when supposedly completing a timed challenge.
The result was that we left the summit of Ingleborough a ludicrous eleven hours after the start. I knew I could descend back to Horton well within the final hour, but had to force the pace; I was fully aware of J quietly fuming before I lost my patience: I made my excuses and – comfortably – ran the final 3 km, finishing just within the (arbitrary) time limit.
Plainly we'd had different objectives for the day. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a gentle stroll to walk off a hangover, but it's just not what I'd agreed to. I don't want to give the impression I'm a deadly earnest walker obsessed with completion times or bagging peaks – far from it. However, the Three Peaks is different, and I may have wanted to treat it as a timed challenge because that's a novelty, not something I'd normally attempt.
That same factor means that the route attracts sponsored events; our chosen day happened to coincide with one for the British Heart Foundation, and we found ourselves sharing the paths with a couple of hundred people wearing numbered tabards, some plainly not walkers. Not a problem (nothing like 1996, when I found myself queuing for the path up Sca Fell on the national Three Peaks walk), but the moor was rather badly churned-up in places, and I felt a slight pang of guilt at ruining the morale of struggling first-time walkers by overtaking them at a run!
I wouldn't have managed that during the day, though, as the weather was hot & humid. The plan had been to leave Lancaster at 06:00, but for a reason that was never quite established, we actually left much later and started walking at ~08:00, losing the advantage of the cool early morning. Even climbing Pen-y-ghent before 10:00 I was drenched in sweat, and the pint of orange squash I bought after Whernside was an essential supplement to the drinks I'd been carrying. In a way it was pleasant to cross the limestone pavement at Sulber as the sun began to get low. Photogenic, too.
Overall, a good walk, despite the circumstances; I'm sure I'll complete it again some time.
29 June, 2008
Walk: Clougha, near Lancaster
Yesterday's only partially-successful trip to find Andy Goldsworthy's artwork on Clougha left me wanting to make another attempt immediately. So I did.
This time I followed the more conventional route, cycling to Birk Bank car park and walking along the main path to Windy Clough then on to the summit at Clougha Pike. Avoiding the summit shelter itself, I turned away to the south-east along the Ward's Stone path, then a even narrower track across the moor to the shooting road (study the OS map; it's clearly marked).
Back at the Goldsworthy pillars for the second time this weekend, in better (but still hazy) weather and with a fully-functioning camera, I resumed taking the photos I'd missed yesterday, before heading back down the shooting track to three unnamed cairns, where I crossed back across the heather to Little Windy Clough and the main route back to Birk Bank & my bike.
28 June, 2008
Hunting Andy Goldworthy on Clougha
A while ago, I discovered references to an unpublicised Andy Goldsworthy art installation somewhere on Clougha, the 413 m hill overlooking Lancaster. Today I went to find it.
I knew it took the form of three rectilinear pillars in a hollow on the open moor, well away from the main footpaths from Quernmore and Birk Bank to the summit; having identified the most likely location by studying aerial photography at Google Maps, I decided that the quickest route would be via Jubilee Tower: 2 km in a straight line along the fence to Shooters Pile then a further 500 m across the open moor.
The Ordnance Survey's rendition of the landscape is far neater than the real thing, of course. Accustomed to walking on the well-drained limestone of the western Yorkshire Dales I'd forgotten just how wet the peat moorland of Clougha can become, so those first 2 km were slow going. Extending my walk a further 3-4 km to Ward's Stone, and 5-6 more back, as I'd considered, suddenly seemed less attractive....
The Goldsworthy installation wasn't visible from Shooters Pile (and I already knew it isn't from the trig. pillar on Clougha Pike), but I headed north across the pathless heather, trusting my memory of the aerial photography. Justifiably: it led me straight to the right place.
The three ~3m tall (so rather imposing) rectilinear pillars are within a ring of roughly-piled stones in a disused quarry. Each pillar contains an ovoid hollow, slightly offset from the middle so it intersects the outer face as an oval hole. The craftsmanship of building the dry stone structures, with crisply straight edges and a very few gaps for even light to penetrate, is very impressive, never mind in such a remote location. It was erected, one pillar per year, in 1999, 2000 & 2001 for the Duke of Westminster's Abbeystead estate. That may partly explain why it's almost hidden from locations frequented by the public but only a few metres off a gravel track laid for grouse shoots (in hindsight, that's the easiest, though not shortest, route: just follow the gravel track 3½ km from Littledale Road to the pillars).
I took time to admire the pillars, but they don't appear at all in the mere three photographs accompanying this entry, for two reasons. Firstly, the heavily overcast sky lit the scenery very poorly, so the photos I took aren't worth publishing. Secondly, my camera batteries failed. And the spares.
With no functioning camera and ominous clouds approaching rapidly on the high wind, there seemed little point in proceeding, so I returned to Jubilee Tower and my bike, and home. It was a useful scouting expedition, and I'm tempted to go back soon – maybe even tomorrow, weather permitting.
24 May, 2008
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Crummackdale-Ribblesdale-Settle-Lancaster
As is fairly usual, I wasn't entirely sure where I was going today: I caught the early train (08:12 from Lancaster) to Clapham and the Yorkshire Dales, but it wasn't until I was in my seat that I studied the map and made a rough plan. I'd visit the Norber Erratics well before other Bank Holiday day trippers arrived, return to my bike, go on to the Ribblehead Viaduct, then reconsider the options.
The main obstacle of the day hit me as soon as I left Clapham station. Given the sunny weather, I'd come out in a T-shirt and walking leggings (if I hadn't anticipated crossing rough grassland inhabited by sheep ticks, I'd have worn shorts), merely carrying my lightest fleece as some slight protection against showers – a strong, cold headwind was a nasty surprise.
First, I went into Clapham village seeking photo opportunities; since I was already there and was planning to park on the hill above Austwick, I got the climb out of the way immediately by following the unsurfaced Thwaite Lane from behind Clapham Church (passing as the clock struck 09:00). I'd been that way before, and hadn't been inclined to repeat the experience, but the surface was smoother and the ride hence less slow than I recalled. I still wouldn't recommend it to riders of 'racer'-type road bikes.
After locking my bike to a convenient yet unobtrusive bench, I was soon amongst the boulders at Norber, without a single picnicker or young family in sight. Unfortunately, the famous 'Norber Erratics' (large sandstone boulders perched, apparently precariously, on disproportionately narrow limestone pedestals) were about as scarce. Publicity and visitors' photos might suggest they're everywhere, but last year I struggled to find even one – there were dozens, even hundreds of boulders lying on/in the grass, but not raised on limestone pillars. This time I kept looking, and did find a few photogenic examples (hint: try towards the top of the area, rather than amongst the greatest density of boulders on the mid-slope).
In theory, the next stage was to return to my bike, but I didn't want to simply retrace my steps, and planned to complete a streamlined version of the route I'd followed last year. My only hesitation was that the sunny weather was deteriorating, with broken clouds increasingly obscuring direct sunlight and haze diminishing long-range visibility. I completed the route anyway (north along the eastern side of Thwaite to Long Scar, north-east to Thieves Moss, then returning via Beggar's Stile and the floor of Crummackdale), but walked quickly, knowing I wouldn't be able to improve on last years photos. I think I was back at the bike by ~11:30, having walked 9.5 km (5.9 miles) and having encountered only one other person.
That was slightly surprising, as there were plenty of people around: I'd noticed several busy campsites around Clapham and, cycling from Austwick towards Helwith Bridge, passed two completely full campsites which I'd never seen occupied at all before.
So far, so good, but the moment I reached the head of the pass at Swarth Moor, entering the wide-open Ribblesdale, my plan was blown away. The final kilometre of the road to Helwith Bridge took about as long as the foregoing four, as I was battling into a powerful north-easterly wind. The next 3 km north to Horton were even worse, as the gusty crosswind alternately tried to throw me off the road or into traffic.
Horton was as busy as I've ever seen it, with campsites full and closed to all but pre-booked visitors – bear that in mind if you ever wish to visit at peak times. Road traffic was fairly heavy too, so I made a diversion towards High Birkwith, up a ~4 km cul-de-sac on the opposite side of the valley to the main Ribblehead road. My intention was to explore some of the named potholes (or at least their entrances in sink holes, anyway), so I parked halfway along the road and headed onto the edge of Horton Moor on foot. Penyghent Long Churn was surprisingly easy to find, as was Red Moss Pot (I actually managed to go underground there, but retreated after stepping in – yes, in – a very dead sheep) but the highlight was Jackdaw Hole, a huge tree-lined, well, hole. In my enthusiasm, I could easily have got into serious trouble, so again, I took my photos then went back to my bike. I subsequently calculated that I'd walked ~3.75 km, or 2.3 miles, but that ignores the steeply-stepped limestone topography.
I'd considered following ~3 km of bridleway from High Birkwith to rejoin the main road just short of Ribblehead, but that route was temporarily closed, so I'd need to cycle 4 km south to Horton only to cycle ~6 km north-west again to the viaduct. That'd have been a minor annoyance normally, but in high wind it wasn't a serious option.
Instead, I returned to Horton and continued south (assisted by the wind) to Settle. I'd never visited before, and didn't take the time to properly explore today, merely glancing at the main street long enough to find a decent (if expensive) fish & chip shop and the road home. I should really have investigated Giggleswick station too, for a future trip, not least because joining the A65 there would have saved me the effort expended on the road I inadvertently chose, over Giggleswick Scar – an avoidable 166 m ascent wasn't the best start to my long ride home via Clapham, Bentham, Wennington and Hornby.
Incidentally, passing Hornby Castle at ~17:20, I noticed an open day had ended at 16:00. Not to worry; it's open tomorrow & Monday too, so I think I know where I'll be cycling next....
I reached home at 18:07, over ten hours after I'd left. Though my torso and limbs had been thoroughly covered against the wind, my nose was alarmingly red; if I'd taken longer, I think I'd have experienced my first sunburn in years.
In addition to (at least) 13¼ km on foot, I covered 83.1 km (51.6 miles) by bike, which was in motion for 4 hours (and 4 minutes) at an average speed of 20.4 km/h (12.7 mph) and attaining 54.9 km/h (34.1 mph) at least once.
10 May, 2008
Walk: Roeburndale Woods
I visited the Roeburndale camping barn at Middlewood (or Middle Wood?) above Wray this afternoon.
Though the idea was to stay all weekend to celebrate H* & D's birthdays, I'd been forewarned that numerous children would be sleeping in the barn so I'd need to take a tent. Somehow that prospect, plus the need to take food, really didn't excite me this morning, so I cycled out with A to see everyone just for the afternoon/evening, returning to Lancaster by 22:15.
Needless to say, I went for a wander in the woods whilst there, taking a few photos of spring in mid bounce.
*: Mr. HV, not Ms. HW; the camping barn definitely isn't a Helen sort of place!
26 April, 2008
Walk: Seathwaite Fells, Cumbria
Classing this as a 'walk' might be a slight overstatement, as our route barely covered five kilometres, with a lengthy interlude in a pub, and two-thirds of the accompanying photos were taken from the campsite.
We were in the Lake District (specifically, Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley, on the western side of the Coniston Fells) to celebrate J's birthday. I hadn't realised when we were planning the trip that I'd been there twice before, staying in the same campsite, Turner Hall Farm. Similarly, it wasn't until we'd started a walk that I realised I'd followed those footpaths before too, and remembered the route clearly (and remembered it as rough, soggy terrain).
The idea had been to walk to the western end of Seathwaite Tarn then clockwise around the lake, perhaps returning via the high ridge of Dow Crag, Buck Pike and Brown Pike if we were feeling ambitious. However, the cloud base had been very low all day and intermittent rain became steadier as we walked, so an alternative, low-level route was considered – and promptly rejected in turn, so we simply followed minor roads back to Seathwaite village and the Newfield Inn to dry off.
Having said that, I enjoyed the weekend tremendously – in hindsight – and some of the photos are quite atmospheric, if slightly murky: Lakeland scenery can be spectacular even as isolated glimpses between rain clouds.
1 January, 2008
Walk: St Agnes & Chapel Porth, Cornwall
Despite the distinctly unpromising weather (at least it was dry), my mother and sister decided to take a day trip to Cornwall, to show me one of their favourite places: the coast near St. Agnes and, specifically, Chapel Porth.
This was only the third (possibly fourth) time I'd ever visited Cornwall, and though it's somewhere I'd like to explore further, the day reinforced just how remote it is from the rest of mainland Britain. The motorway/expressway network helps, but we had to drive for an hour from Barnstaple across the undulating Devon countryside to the edge of Dartmoor before even joining such a main road, and once in the St. Agnes area, the roads shrank straight back to virtually single-track lanes.
We visited St. Agnes first, parking in Trevaunance Bay for a short walk along the cliffs to see one of my sister's more modest 'dream houses' and the rugged coastline along which she likes to paddle her kayak. Very photogenic, but not on a dull January day, I'm afraid, and I've only published a couple of images.
The accompanying photoset doesn't offer many of Chapel Porth, either, not least because I couldn't compete with the hundreds, no doubt thousands, of photos taken by tourists over the years, particularly of the Towanroath Engine House at Wheal Coates. Maybe I'll return in better weather.
That's certainly not to say I didn't enjoy the walk; some of the photos reflect the fact I simply sat and watched the waves for a long time, which was simultaneously restful and exhilarating – I've rarely seen better, other than during storms on Anglesey.
1 September, 2007
Walk: Penmon Priory & Lighthouse, and Beaumaris, Anglesey
Somewhere a little different this week: Anglesey, in North West Wales, specifically the Penmon peninsula at the south-east of the island, including the sole town, Beaumaris. Also unusually, on foot.
I'd spent family holidays in Benllech as a young child and visited the Holyhead area in my teens, but hadn't been back for over two decades, and this was my first ever visit to this out-of-the-way corner of the island. I was on Anglesey for a housewarming weekend near Llangoed and, as a non-drinker, would probably be the only member of the party interested in doing anything before midday, so I anticipated opportunities to see a little of the island by bike. However, due to a, er, 'misunderstanding' I'd been unable to take my bike, so was disappointingly tied to the immediate area.
I don't think I had a specific destination in mind for a walk on the first morning, but Penmon Lighthouse with a view across to Puffin Island would be preferred, if within walking range. I'd seen a map, but wasn't carrying one, and hadn't memorised specific road/path junctions, so guessed my way across the peninsula, taking routes which seemed to be going in the right general direction. I didn't know the distances, either, so stuck to the tiny rural roads, on which I could walk quickly – I didn't want to get bogged-down on a circuitous footpath, and particularly not literally.
Hence, I accidentally found Penmon Priory within ~45 mins (not having previously known that such a place existed) before finally identifying a direct route to Penmon Point and the lighthouse. I didn't stay long because, frankly, there wasn't much to see and because I needed to retrace most of my wandering outward route, since I at least knew it'd get me back to Llangoed within an hour.
Later in the day, A&A needed to drive into Beaumaris for wine, so I took the opportunity to see the town. There wasn't time to go into the castle or visit outlying areas, but I did take a few photos.
9 June, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Ingleborough-Lancaster
Ingleborough again this week; I seem to have visited the Yorkshire Dales a lot recently. This time was slightly different, as rather than the summit being my main objective, I wanted to explore the extensive area of potholes on Ingleborough Common, the shoulder of the hill above Ingleton.
As usual, I caught the train to High Bentham by 11:30 and cycled across to Ingleton, then followed the Ribblehead road to the start of the most direct Ingleborough path, just outside the village. Safe bike parking was a problem, but I found a secure fence post some distance from the road, inside Skirwith Quarry. If anyone's counting, this was 8½ km (5¼ miles) from Bentham station, and took 27 minutes.
I started the walk at 12:10 by passing Skirwith Cave, a disused show cave, now with limited surface expression. That was a common characteristic of the walk: several potholes are unremarkable small holes in the open moor, and less than photogenic above ground.
Joining the main path, I realised the day was hotter and even more humid than I'd anticipated; fine for cycling cooled within one's own flow of air, but more sticky on foot. I wouldn't be walking quickly.
I left the path at Crina Bottom, heading straight up the slope to the crest of Ingleborough Common/Dowlass Moss. My next realisation was that in the absence of any tracks or landmarks, it'd be difficult to find specific pot holes – or any potholes, as I couldn't distinguish grassy hollows from level moorland from more than 20-30 m away, never mind spot the cave entrances themselves, typically less than 2 m wide. As the accompanying photos show, I found a few, but it was a little frustrating to be unable to identify them. In hindsight, this may have led be to take foolish risks, precariously balancing over vertical drops to get good camera angles. If I'd fallen, no-one would have known where to look for me.
I eventually rejoined the Ingleborough path somewhat disappointed. From long experience, I'm very aware how difficult and hence slow it is to walk across nominally flat moorland; meandering wildly and stopping frequently, it had taken me two hours to travel about a kilometre, with very limited success. I had a quick look at Quaking Pot, a hole I could find and the entrance of which I could readily access, then I climbed Ingleborough itself, if only as an opportunity to stride along a decent path again.
The summit was rather crowded (I even met work colleagues, who were attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks route) and the views slightly masked by dense haze, so I made one complete circuit of the plateau edge, then returned to my bike. For the record, the decent took ~55 minutes.
After a 15-min break for a bottle of Coke and a banana, I cycled home by 17:35, taking 1 hour 48' to cover the 41 km (25.5 miles), at an average speed of 22.7 km/h (14.1 mph) (23.8 km/h until the final climb from Moor Lane Mill!).
26 May, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Kingsdale-Lancaster
My last 'big' cycle ride of 2006 took me through Kingsdale, a secluded glacial valley above Ingleton, at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It seemed quite pleasant, and looks interesting on the map, but I passed at dusk (with ~30 km still to go) and was too tired to appreciate it. Considering a motivation for that ride had been to visit one of the few dales I'd yet to see, today I returned for a better look and to take photos.
I used the opportunity of the train ride to Bentham to plan my route. Like most hills in the area, the western side of Kingsdale has a distinctive profile, determined by interbedded Carboniferous gritstone and limestone. A short slope rises steeply ~100 m to a level area dotted with sink holes, then rises more gradually (~200 m over ~750 m) to the foot of a second very steep slope, which rises ~50 m to the top of the ridge; an ascent of ~300 m overall. I planned to leave my bike somewhere on the valley floor, walk along the lower 'terrace' all the way along Kingsdale, exploring the main potholes named on the OS 1:25,000 map, then climb to the the ridge and walk back via the summits of Gragareth, Great Coum and Crag Hill.
In hindsight, that was too much, and is two separate walks, but based on that initial idea I decided to park by Yordas Cave, about halfway along the valley, and walk back to the mouth of Kingsdale before climbing the gentler slope at the end of the ridge (rather than go straight up the steep side). I'd follow that past Gragareth's trig. pillar to the head of the dale, look down over Deepdale and Dent, then follow a rough track and surfaced road back to my bike.
The optimum route from the station to Kingsdale (yes, I had consciously considered that) passes through Ingleton and Thornton in Lonsdale, so I made a slight diversion almost before I'd really started: I went into Ingleton to use the public toilets, check for photo opportunities, successfully avoid being rude to a christian evangelist, and buy a little more food for the trip. Another brief stop in Thornton was planned, as I knew I wanted to photograph the church where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was married.
The climb to the mouth of Kingsdale was the only strenuous part of today's ride, and not too bad (160 m in 2 km) though the road up the valley from there was steeper and much longer than I remembered.
There were quite a few cars and vans parked near Yordas Cave; I was briefly concerned that I'd stumbled across a popular picnic site or coincided with a rambling club's excursion, but I think most visitors were cavers, and I encountered very few people on the surface all day.
Yordas Cave (incidentally, it is 'Yordas Cave', from Old Norse 'jord-ass' ('earth stream'), not 'Yorda's Cave' – no apostrophe) is only a couple of minutes walk from the road. A cursory web search about Kingsdale had informed me that one can go in, so I'd made a point of bringing my bike's headlight. However, I hadn't checked the state of the batteries, so even after waiting about five minutes for my eyes to adjust to the small amount of daylight from the entrance, I ended up exploring the huge main chamber by touch and hearing – luckily the stream bisecting the cavern was audible.
Abandoning that part of the walk, I followed the gorge up through Yordas Wood to the other end of the cave, where Yordas Gill vanishes underground. It's quite an attractive area, and if anyone plans to visit the cave, I'd recommend making the extra effort to continue uphill a little.
Leaving the wood, I readily found a path seeming to head straight up to the top of the ridge, but not the one I wanted, across the slope. There had to be one somewhere; it was marked on the map and must be used regularly by cavers. I'm afraid it defeated me, and I wandered straight across the moor, navigating by dry stone walls until I jumped one and suddenly found myself on the proper path. I still don't know how that happened, but I suspect the problem was the similarity between the OS's depiction of a 'path' (a dotted fine black line) and a 'line of shake holes' (a dotted fine black line).
Somehow I missed the first named pothole on my route, Jingling Pot, but the next was impressive. Rowten Pot is a relatively large feature containing a small tree-covered shelf beside a deep open shaft. I walked around the perimeter, then found a way to descend at least as far as the shelf. That was good in itself, but I managed to find my way into a horizontal cave. For once I regretted walking alone, as despite my enthusiasm, it would have been too foolhardy to explore further. I took a couple of photos and sat for a few minutes to absorb the sounds, smell and appearence of the softly-lit rock, but then returned to the surface.
Despite there being several named potholes within the remaining two kilometres to the end of the upper ridge, and hence the start of the second part of my walk, the only notable surface feature I found was Kail Pot, a large, er, hole in the ground. Unfortunately, the sides were vertical (it was fenced-off to protect sheep) so I couldn't explore. I think I'll have to go back, with the specific intention of lingering to find other holes off the line of the main path – today I was a little too aware that the walk was taking much longer than I'd expected, and I still had a long way to go (not to mention the ~40km bike ride afterwards).
Crossing to the dry stone wall on the ridgeline and county boundary (the second phase of the trip couldn't have been more straightforward: follow a wall for 7 km), I diverted to follow a line of large sinkholes, one containing a cave mouth, to a small copse (itself unexpected on open moorland) containing another well-known pothole, Marble Steps Pot. This was attractive, especially surrounded by vegetation, but again the sides were too steep for me to (safely) investigate.
The ridge walk was, well, a chore, despite the excellent views. As I said above, this trip was taking far longer than I'd anticipated. It may be that I'm too used to judging distances as a cyclist – 7 km might take 20 minutes by bike but an hour at a strenuous walking pace, and that's on flat tarmac, not undulating moorland. After visiting the trig. pillar at the nominal summit of Gragareth, ~100 m off the path, then returning to the wall, I had to reconsider. Even without measuring on the map, I could see that most of the intended route was ahead of me (I measured it later; I'd covered 8½ km with 14¼ km still to do, the final ~5 km on a road) and it was time to mention the cycle ride home. It was too much, so I cut the walk short by scrambling directly down the valley side to the lower 'terrace', straight across the moor back to Yordas Wood and my bike. I'd walked almost exactly 10 km overall. Next time, I'll probably pick-up the route at the same point on the ridge.
The ride home wasn't too bad, taking 1 hour 52 mins. I didn't think to check the distance from Clapham to Yordas Wood, thereby providing the distance from Yordas Wood to Lancaster, but I rode 53.8km (33½ miles) in total, at an average speed of 21 km/h (13 mph) and reaching 46½ km/h (29 mph) at least once.
15 April, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Whernside-Lancaster
Slightly later than expected, today I (sort-of) completed one of the walks I've been planning: Whernside in better visibility than November 2005.
Sort-of: though there was no low cloud this time, today seemed particularly humid, with dense haze limiting visibility to only a couple of kilometres. On past occasions, I've noticed this to be a coastal effect so, hoping it'd be clearer inland, I caught the 14:45 train to High Bentham after lunch.
I cycled straight to the Old Hill Inn, where the Three Peaks route joins the road; the obvious starting point. However, I couldn't find anywhere safe to park the bike, so dropped back to Chapel-le-Dale and a secure fencepost in the church car park. That added about a kilometre to the walk, but I'd be able to return via a different route, passing several pot holes and adding a little variety.
Passing the Old Hill Inn again and following Philpin Lane, I reached the open moor behind Bruntscar Farm and finally started the 'proper' walk at about 16:15. If only the National Park Authority could install cycle parking at that point....
Despite the humidity, I found the steep climb to the Whernside ridge fairly easy, though I wasn't rushing. Somehow, the next section, the gentle ascent along the ridge to the summit, was less pleasant, largely because the destination was constantly visible (though one constantly wonders if it's a false summit and whether the hill continues to rise beyond the apparent horizon), unexpectedly far away. It's only 1.2 km, according to the map, but felt further! Hillwalking doesn't only require physical stamina....
I reached the summit shelter at 17:35. Though I wasn't remotely tired, the ascent had taken much longer than anticipated, as the humidity didn't encourage rapid movement. Given the time and the fact that the end of the walk was merely the start of the 20-mile bike ride home, I realised I'd have to reconsider my plans. After stopping to take a few photos and have a drink, I studied the map.
Continuing along the path to the Ribblehead Viaduct and back to Chapel-le-Dale along the valley (which I think is called 'Chapel-le-Dale' too – anyone know? It's not named on the OS map) looked considerably further than retracing the route I'd already followed, so I did the latter. Similarly, the path across fields from Bruntscar and a steeply undulating track to Chapel-le-dale looked as if it'd take rather longer than following the tarmac'd Philpin Lane back to the main road, so I decided to retrace that part, too.
As I started back down, I finally caught a glimpse of Pen-y-ghent – as the sun began to drop, the mist was thinning. Whilst remaining appreciably misty, the view across to Ingleborough was drastically clearer than before; not really enough for decent photos, but adequate to prove there are some very impressive views eastwards from Whernside. I'll have to visit Whernside again some time, in reliably clear weather if that exists.
Back at the bike by 18:45, I had another drink then set off.
I think I've identified the easiest route back from Ingleton, avoiding almost all the steep slopes at the particularly 'lumpy' junction of the glacial valleys now occupied by the Rivers Lune, Greta and Wenning. At the crossroads where the Chapel-le-Dale road joins the A65, go straight on, past the Mason's Arms, ostensibly towards High Bentham via a narrow lane. About halfway there, turn right after Langber and follow the remarkably straight lanes directly to Wennington. It's not immediately obvious on the map (which is why I hadn't found it until actually visiting the area), but this route follows a ridge, undulating no more than 25-30 m all the way.
Having had a decent lunch made a major difference on the ride back. Most of my trips are fueled by breakfast, 2-3 cups of tea then a very light snack before heading out for 4-6 hours and ~60 km. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the final 10-15 km tend to be rather hard work. Today, however, I felt fine all the way, if a little bored on the long, familiar sections I don't normally notice – zoned-out exhaustion does have at least one benefit.
Approaching Caton, I noticed that the fog was begining to gather again over the river, becoming quite dense before Lancaster. It was lucky that I decided to take the 'shortcut' (a rough track, so probably not actually quicker than the main road) from Denny Beck past HMYOI Lancaster Farms to Williamson Park, as I didn't have lights and I wasn't happy riding in fog and the associated early twilight. By the time I reached the Park, the fog was so dense as to hide the dome of the Ashton Memorial from only ~50 m away.
As I subsequently saw on the TV news, the North Lancashire coast had experienced this fog for most of the afternoon; I'd made the right decision to head inland, rather than complete another ride I'd planned, to Knott End near Blackpool.
I'd been out of the house for six hours (14:35-20:35), cycling 53 km (32.9 miles) from Bentham to the Old Hill Inn then back to Lancaster at an average speed of 21.9 km/h (13.6 mph) (22.7 km/h until I took the 'shortcut'....). The bike was in motion for 2:25 hours; if anyone's interested, my maximum speed was 50.1 km/h (31.1 mph), presumably on the steep descent into Ingleton.
13 April, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Silverdale-Burton-in-Kendal-Holme Park Fell-Lancaster
I made a point of avoiding popular tourist destinations such as the Lake District this week, as last weekend was the statutory easter holiday. Hence, despite being obliged to take 5-11 April off work (statutory days plus employer policy), I waited until today, when people were likely to be back at work, to take voluntary leave and to visit the Lakes.
That was the plan, anyway, rather defeated by the weather: totally cloudless and warm (for April, anyway), but humid, with a thick haze limiting visibility. It seemed pointless to climb, say, Bow Fell for the views if one couldn't see more than a kilometre. So I went to work....
A couple of hours later I saw sense and decided to go for a bike ride anyway – I'm not paid to sacrifice leave.
My chosen destination was Hutton Roof Crags, an area of limestone pavement north-east of Carnforth. That's within cycling distance, but I avoided the familiar lead-in by catching the train to Silverdale by 14:33. From there, it was an easy ride past Leighton Moss and Yealand Redmayne to Burton-in-Kendal. I stopped there to take a few photos of the Georgian main street, then went on to the outskirts of the village and the lane towards Newbiggin/Hutton Roof.
There's a layby and information sign at the head of the pass between Hutton Roof Crags and Farleton Knott, with footpaths leading to each summit. Parking my bike, I planned to visit both; according to the map each path was only 1 km long.
I began with the northern route, towards Farleton Knott via Newbiggin Crags and Holme Park Fell. The former was particularly photogenic, even in the haze, but immediately made me realise the impracticality of my plan. Walking across limestone pavement, taking due care of the fragile environment and my own safety, was a slow process, and it took a long time to reach the summit. I stopped for a drink and to peer at vague hints of nearby hills, but then returned only as far as my bike. I'll have to visit Hutton Roof Craggs on another, hopefully clearer occasion.
Studying the map again, I concluded that I'd save scenic cycling routes for another day too, so simply dropped back down to Burton the way I'd come then followed the main road to Tewitfield and the northernmost navigable point on the Lancaster Canal. I made another photo stop there, then returned to Lancaster by 18:00 via the Kellets and the familiar 'B' roads. I'd cycled 36 km (22.4 miles) in 1 hour 50 (average 19.5 km/h, peak 48 km/h).
6 April, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Moughton Scars-Crummack Dale-Lancaster
Crummackdale, between Clapdale (above Clapham) and Ribblesdale, is one of the few valleys I'd yet to visit in the south-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales. I'd wanted to visit for a while, not only for completeness but because of the spectacular features: the glacial erratics at Norber, the views across the eastern side of Ingleborough from Thwaite Scars and the limestone cliff of Moughton Scars. It's surprising that it's not better-known.
As usual, I caught the train from Lancaster to Clapham Station, then crossed to Austwick by bike. Parking above Town Head was straightforward – it's worth noting that there's a secure bench situated just off the start of the main footpath to Norber.
After a few minutes of walking I reached the famous Norber Erratics, huge sandstone (greywacke, in fact) boulders perched on tiny pedestals of limestone. Frankly, those erratics I found were slightly disappointing, but there were several young families and picnickers around, so I didn't linger as long as I might have, and I suppose I could have missed the best examples.
My plan involved crossing to the western side of the hill, straight over the summit plateau of limestone pavement. There were no paths, so I was a little nervous about damaging the fragile landscape or myself by stumbling into deep, sharp-edged crevices. If I did the walk again, I think I'd revise this part of the route; I wasn't pleased (with myself) about having to vault a dry stone wall, either.
Once I was on the western side of Thwaite Scars, the route became easier (and more legitimate) and offered the expected views over the landscape I crossed almost exactly a year ago. It was particularly good to see the features I'd visited on that occasion from a different angle, even obtaining the exact reverse angles of earlier photos. Choosing my spot carefully to avoid disturbing nesting ravens, I sat for a while to study the view and watch distant walkers & cyclists on the more popular path.
Traversing the cliff edge, I soon joined the (ex-)green lane of Long Lane, climbing back over the hilltop to Long Scar and the head of Crummackdale. I recommend that easy track to everyone, for the panoramic views over an unearthly limestone plateau backed by two of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent), with the dramatic cliff of Moughton Scars overlooking the gentler Crummackdale valley, the latter almost lush compared to the utterly bare limestone. Unfortunately, it's understandably popular, including with off-road cyclists, so I was quite glad to leave the main path and crowd at Sulber Gate, heading south-east along the Moughton Scars cliff edge, alone again. Not to be antisocial about it, I simply don't enjoy walking alongside groups of 15-20 people who've loudly brought their daily concerns and mobile phones to the countryside.
As a regular (on-road) cyclist, I'm always slightly surprised how long it actually takes to walk modest distances over rough ground, which means I've wasted previous walks by impatiently striding past the very sights I'd travelled to see. It's not as if I need the exercise, so I consciously stopped myself a few times, taking in the view, investigating the limestone pavement, and thoroughly enjoying myself.
I stopped for lunch in the cliff edge, dangling my legs over the ~20 m drop before casually glancing across at the neighbouring and heavily fractured limestone exposure. Ah well; if it was going to collapse, it would have done when I first sat down.
I descended the cliff, rather more safely, via the footpath at Capple Bank, then followed the valley floor ~4 km directly back to Norber Brow and my bike. Only another ~38 km to ride home....
I reached home at 17:35, having been out for 6 hours 50'. My bike had been moving for 2 hours 10', covering 44.75 km (27.81 miles) at an average speed of 20.6 km/h (12.8 mph), peaking at 44.4 km/h (27.6 mph) at least once.
Nearly forgot to mention: I was carrying a camera....
1 January, 2007
Walk: Bickerton Hill and Peckforton Castle, Cheshire
Having lived in North East Wales for eighteen of my first nineteen years, it's unsurprising that I know (knew) certain districts rather well. However, family habits meant that other areas, even quite close to home, were visited infrequently, if ever. For example, I grew up in a village roughly equidistant from Chester and Wrecsam (Wrexham in English), but whilst I visited the former at least monthly, I've only ever seen the centre of Wrecsam about twice.
Another little-known area is the Cheshire plain. I've visited Beeston Castle once (maybe twice), but otherwise Whitchurch, Northwich and pretty much everything between Chester and Crewe is terra incognita to me. For a while, my mother and I have planned to explore Bickerton and the Peckforton Hills, a ridge of ~200 m high red sandstone lumps immediately south of Beeston protruding from the very flat plain (~20 m asl near Chester rising to ~80 m in Whitchurch, ~30 km away). They're clearly visible from the top of my mother's road, so I've seen them literally hundreds of times over 35 years, but for all I knew the view could have been a matte painting. Until today.
To start we (well, my mother) drove to Broxton, little more than a crossroads on the Chester-Whitchurch road (A41). We made a false start on the the walk, as there's nowhere (apparent) to park a car in Brown Knowl on the north-western side of Bickerton Hill, so we went around to the south-eastern side and Bickerton itself. We parked alongside others in a wide gateway, but discovered (on foot) that the track through the gateway led to a public car park. Which was, incidentally, rather full. It seemed others had had the same idea for their day trips. There were numerous people around, but curiously they were all rather similar. All looked more than averagely affluent, and were either pensioners in goretex or young families in clothes somewhere between 'smart casual' and 'non-technical outdoors'. The adults' hair would obviously match their working suits, whilst the children looked like miniature horsey adults. None looked like the sort of walkers I encounter in the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales.
It seems there are a number of footpaths on Bickerton Hill, but I was slightly concerned that exertion made my mother (convalescing from pneumonia) breathe the cold air rather deeply, so we kept it fairly short: just a kilometre or so and ~60 m ascent to Maiden Castle, the Iron Age hillfort at the 212 m summit.
The weather was patchy – clear in certain directions whilst in others the landscape was obscured by haze or even curtains of rain. Hence, we had good views of the North Wales coast, Chester and Liverpool (i.e. a quadrant between west and north of the hill), but could barely see Wrecsam or southern Cheshire.
Back at the car, we headed north along the eastern side of the hills, towards Beeston. Some of the farms and cottages we passed were rather quaint, so we made a couple of photo stops and wandered around the hamlet of Peckforton.
Another stop to photograph the grandiose gatehouse of Peckforton Castle was extended when I noticed a 'public footpath' sign pointing straight up the drive – at least part way to the castle, it wasn't private property. Hence, we followed the wooded track up to the castle itself, and into the courtyard. Even knowing it to be a Victorian interpretation of a mediaeval castle in a location which had never featured the real thing (Beeston is only a kilometre away), it was very impressive.
For a number of reasons, not least the approaching black clouds, we didn't visit Beeston Castle too, though I couldn't resist one more photo stop, just as the first raindrops were hitting the windscreen. Minutes later, visibility failed in intense rain, and a final diversion, to the historical village of Christleton on the eastern margin of Chester was more than metaphorically a washout.
26 December, 2006
Walk: Clocaenog, near Ruthin
Today's weather seemed dry but somewhat misty, so though we decided to go for a walk, locations offering long-distance views would have been wasted. As an alternative, I rather fancied visiting Rhuthun (Ruthin in English) and Ddinbych (Denbigh), the principal small towns in the Vale of Clwyd, largely for their post-17th Century architecture.
K. hadn't questioned the destinations when we left my mother's house, but on actually reaching Ruthin, she decided wandering around Welsh market towns would be 'boring' – great timing. Visibility west of the Clwydian Hills was better than expected, so I didn't particularly mind a change of plan; if only we could decide on a plan. The half-hearted result was somewhere we'd been several times before and which I'd rarely enjoyed: Clocaenog Forest.
Considering there was a time when I seriously considered a career in forestry, it's perhaps surprising that I dislike dense coniferous plantations, for their regimented rows of trees and consequent darkness & lack of undergrowth. More profoundly, I find the environment unsettling, somehow even threatening. It's irrational, but I just don't think plantations like humans. I've had nightmares about such places, or rather, because it's the forest I've visited most often (8-10 times since childhood), I've dreamt about Clocaenog. I've never expressed this before, and I don't think my mother & sister would understand, so we went anyway.
It's difficult to describe the exact location, as it's somewhat remote. Halfway along the B5105 from Ruthin to Cerrigydrudion, about 2 km after entering the fringe of the forest, the road crosses the Afon Clwyd (only 40-50 cm wide this close to its source) at Pont Petryal (the river is signposted, not the bridge). About 100 m further on, there's a crossroads; the left turn leads to a car park, artificial lake and some sort of estate lodge converted to a visitor centre, itself seemingly abandoned since I last visited. The few paths lead one onto a roughly oval route into the silent heart of the plantation (actually on the very edge of the 100 km² forest, straying no further than 500 m from the main road). There are no particular landmarks or clear means of judging distance, and no apparent wildlife. There aren't even any echoes. Once, we walked it after heavy snowfall, which was great, but ordinarily it's dreary and, as I said, makes me uncomfortable.
But that's just me. I recently read a description of the sea as 'an element of impersonal horror', which puzzled me; I love the sea and coast. Perhaps other people would find it equally mystifying that I don't appreciate the enclosed solitude and muffled sounds of artificial forests. Still, if you're tempted to visit Clocaenog, I'd recommend the somewhat scenic Brenig & Alwen Reservoirs ahead of the featureless forest itself.
I was happy enough walking in just a t-shirt and fleece, but within a couple of minutes of leaving the car, K. was complaining of the cold, and my mother casually pointed-out that the lake was frozen. Hmm. I think my body must have been burning-off recent heavy meals. The good news was that the others wanted to abandon the full trip, cutting the 3 km walk along forest roads to a 10-minute stroll around the lake, passing the witch trees and sign advertising Clocaenog's red squirrel (the text does imply there's only one) before returning to the car for chocolate biscuits.
At least the return trip was slightly more novel: we followed a tiny road to Cyffylliog for the first time, along the near-gorge of the Afon Clywedog past an impressive watermill (impossible to photograph through the trees) and back to Ruthin, then over the 'unsuitable for motor vehicles' track to the upper car park on Moel Famau. I took a few more photos there, then we headed 'home'.
22 October, 2006
Walk: Middle Wood, Roeburndale again
I'm not entirely sure why she chose this weekend, but P. booked the camping barn at Middle Wood from Friday to Sunday, inviting the usual group of friends to accompany her. It's fine in late spring and summer, when one can sit outside on relatively warm nights, but the weather in late October is changeable, and likely to be cold and wet. I wasn't the only one to have doubts.
My initial plan was that, if the weather was good enough for a bike ride anyway, I'd head out in that direction and visit the barn for a few hours on Saturday, returning to Lancaster that night. However, I was in town in the morning, looking at bikes with A., so I took the opportunity to replace my massive (and somewhat smelly) sleeping bag with one I could slip into my rucksack. This gave me the freedom to stay overnight in the barn if I changed my mind.
A. joined me for the 12-mile (~20 km) ride to Roeburndale, so we followed the pedestrian-crowded Lune Cycleway (aka Millennium Park) to Caton then, somewhat quicker, the main road to Butt Yeats, near Hornby. The lane from there to Middle Wood obviously ascended as far as my more usual route via Wray, but avoided two very steep sections. Worth remembering.
It'd also be worth remembering that a large Thai red curry eaten just before leaving home (to save having to carry food for an evening meal) objected to 152 m of still quite steep, sustained ascent before it had really settled. Bad idea.
Meeting 'other A.' there, we walked the ~1 km to the barn through surprisingly little mud. The weather had held, but within an hour of our arrival, a heavy shower almost extinguished H's campfire and caused us to remain in the barn all evening.
I was a little startled and concerned that others were obtaining remarkably better indoor photos with compact digital cameras than I could achieve using my big almost-DSLR. I suspect it's a consequence of technological advance in the 26-27 months since I bought mine, not least in image-stabilisation. Mine was fine with flash (which ruins the atmosphere) and unbeatable in really low light, so I did get a few slightly staged images and a few more unguarded ones, but other cameras seemed better-suited to 'average' ambient conditions.
I'm afraid I'm not prepared to publish those images of private individuals, but I did go for a wander on Sunday morning, and took a few fairly 'pretty' photos.
On the whole, Sunday morning was leisurely; though H. lost cans of beer to the river again, there was no point chasing them. The accompanying photos explain why!
3 June, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Pen-Y-Ghent-Ribblehead-Ingleborough-Lancaster
When people attempt the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk (three adjacent hills on a circular route to be completed within twelve hours), they usually begin with Pen-Y-Ghent (694 m asl), but in my case it's the last I've climbed, having visited Ingleborough (723 m) numerous times over the past decade (most recently in April) and Whernside (736 m) in November 2005. Time to complete the circuit.
I did try to climb Pen-Y-Ghent several years ago, on the occasion of A or K's birthday, but in hindsight it was unsurprising that late January brought driving rain and zero visibility, so we gave up halfway and retreated to the café.
Today's weather was much better, and a cloudless morning in June was likely to remain that way (hopefully), so I caught an early train to Clapham. Giggleswick might have been closer; maybe next time. On a trip last year, I explored the lanes from Clapham to Austwick then on to Horton in Ribblesdale, so knew which rough tracks to avoid and was at the start of the walk by about 09:40.
I planned to follow the fairly direct route across Brackenbottom Scar around and up the southern end of the hill, rather than the better-known path along Horton Scar Lane and across the moor to climb the middle of the western side of the ridge. I remembered the latter as somewhat boring (though the conditions hadn't been exactly ideal) and I always prefer to climb steep paths rather than descend them (a choice reinforced on Coniston in April). That worked very well; the Brackenbottom route was attractive, not especially busy, and dealt with the steep sections pleasantly quickly. Even stopping to take several photos, I was at the summit shelter by 10:45.
I did follow the Horton Scar Lane path back down to the village, largely because I wanted to make the diversion to Hull Pot, a huge chasm I'd seen on that aborted trip. In fact, I hadn't – that had been Hunt Pot, a narrow (though at ~60 m, three times deeper) slit nearer the main path. It's strange that my memory had been distorted, presumably by seeing other people's photos.
By midday I was in Horton again, the planned trip complete rather early in the day. Now what? Whernside had been a less than challenging walk last year, and just as brief, so I decided to do it again, taking advantage of the improved visibility.
As I hadn't anticipated two walks today, I had only brought a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts, a little cheese and 500ml of Coke, all of which I'd already consumed at the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent. It seemed sensible to refuel with a cup of tea and a sandwich at the Pen-y-ghent Cafe. A key rest stop on the Pennine Way since 1965 (i.e. it's as old as the long-distance footpath itself) and the official clocking-in point for the Three Peaks challenge, it also serves distinctly unimpressive toasted cheese & pickle sandwiches.
Leaving Horton, I cycled to Ribblehead, past numerous trainspotters, then back down the next valley to the Old Hill Inn, where the Three Peaks route crosses the main road. My plan was to follow the surfaced road (Philpin Lane) by bike to Bruntscar, cutting ~1¼ km off the walk, then climb Whernside the same way as last year. However, the lane was totally clogged with pedestrians (in the middle of the road – that's road, not footpath, ****ers!) so I could only ride at a walking pace anyway, and I could see the path up to the ridge was similarly busy. By the time I reached Bruntscar, I'd already pretty much decided that I didn't want to walk with a crowd (queuing my way up Scafell in 1996 put me off that for life), but the deciding factor was that there was nowhere to safely leave my bike. I think I made the right decision in turning back, even if it meant fighting my way through the inconsiderate pedestrians again.
It was still only about 13:30, so Plan 'B' was to climb Ingleborough instead, parking the bike near Chapel-le-Dale church then joining the Hill Inn path via a shortcut (legitimately – one shouldn't roam randomly in a sensitive environment like limestone pavement, so I kept to a designated footpath). Initially, that went well, and I passed the famous limestone pavement exposures without meeting an abnormal number of people, but on the narrow ascent to Humphrey Bottom I struggled to overtake what seemed to be whole coach parties. Looking up at the final ridge, I could see that I faced much the same for the rest of the walk, and the summit was bound to be lost in a braying horde, so again I gave up, to return on a quieter day rather than spoil this one.
Please don't misunderstand. I don't remotely object to sharing Ingleborough with a couple of dozen other walkers, and I wouldn't have dreamt of being rude to those I passed, but the sheer number of people was just excessive. Again, please don't interpret this as empty snobbery, but several weren't 'proper' walkers. There may well be an appropriate place to loudly discuss golf via a mobile phone whilst strolling in pristine deck shoes, but I really don't think it's at ~500 m asl on Ingleborough.
I retrieved my bike at ~15:15, which limited my options for the rest of the trip. I could continue down the valley to Ingleton and wander around the village for over an hour before going on to Bentham and the train to Lancaster, or I could head home immediately, covering the ~32 km by bike. I did the latter.
I'm afraid I didn't notice what time I reached Lancaster, but I'd been out all day, covering 67 km (41.6 miles) by bike in 3 hours 37 minutes (not counting time the bike was stationary), which gave an average speed of 18.5 km/h (11.5 mph), peaking at 45 km/h (28 mph) at least once.
30 April, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Ingleborough-Clapham-Lancaster
At 723 m asl, Ingleborough is the nearest 'big hill' to Lancaster, or at least the most readily accessible. I've climbed it several times over the past decade, but I'd only followed the route from the south-east once before today. That's an odd omission, as the path from Clapham is probably the most pleasant, avoiding the duckboards and crowds of the Hill Inn footpath and passing more landmarks than the direct route from Ingleton.
Saving a lot of effort, I caught the train to Clapham station and cycled to the village. I suppose it'd be possible to do the whole trip by train and on foot, but be aware that Clapham's railway station is about 2 km from the village and the usual start of the walk. The disadvantage of the alternative was parking: I wasn't entirely happy about locking my bike to a fence adjacent to the unofficial car park, both for reasons of security and imposition on private land. It was still there when I returned, but it wasn't ideal (I've since discovered a proper car park, with cycle parking facilities, on the other side of Clapham).
The first part of the standard route follows a private 'nature trail' through the Farrer* estate of Ingleborough Hall, and a nominal fee is imposed. I object to that on principle, and nor did I especially want the company of young families, so I found a public footpath around the boundary of the estate (on my second attempt – it's clearer on the map than on the ground). That's a pleasant route in itself, with amusing signs, stiles and wild flowers probably not apparent on the more heavily-used path. Give it a try.
Rejoining the main track near Ingleborough Cave, I went on via Trow Gill and Gaping Gill then ascended Little Ingleborough on the ridge to the main summit. As usual, the sunny, clear sky at the start of the walk became cloudy as soon as I gained any altitude (I don't think I'm jinxed), then cleared as I descended, an equally familiar experience. Hence, though I obtained a few good photos, or rather, adequate photos of good views, none of this published set were taken at the top. In fact, as soon as I emerged onto the summit plateau, I seriously regretted not bringing a compass, as it could have been difficult to rediscover the start of the correct return path after visiting the summit shelter. I took extra care to note the position of minor cairns and studied the layout of the start of the path, which seemed to work. Could have been awkward, though.
After lunch staring out at a grey vista extending only 15-20 m from the shelter, I started back the same way – there isn't really a practical circular route on Ingleborough. Descending from the cloudbase on Little Ingleborough, I tripped, bruising one knee and grazing the other palm. That's a risk I take when walking alone – if I'd really hurt myself with so far still to go (it happened seconds after I'd taken this photo), I'd have been in trouble. I don't think that's really avoidable in itself, but perhaps I shouldn't have been running on a loose surface....
The rest of the return route, including the diversion around the private path, was straightforward; perhaps too straightforward, as I was back in Clapham much earlier than expected, not remotely coinciding with the rail schedule. That left one option: after wandering around the village for quarter of an hour or so, I reset my bike computer at 17:30 and simply cycled home. That was surprisingly and pleasantly easy, even after the walk, and the 34.6 km (21.48 miles) took 1hr 40 non-stop, at an average of 20.6 km/h (12.8 mph), peaking at 43 km/h. It's good to know that's practical after a walk, and that I'm not reliant on trains.
*: Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) introduced over a hundred new plants into Europe from the Far East, including the Himalayan Rhododendron. So it's his fault that Snowdonia was overrun by the species.
23 April, 2006
Walk: the Old Man of Coniston
Within moment of A, A & I returning from our walk, J proposed another. Much as I'd enjoyed the low-level walk to Tarn Hows, one of my planned objectives for the weekend was to climb the Old Man of Coniston; it was the walk H. & I aborted yesterday. Hence, when J. suggested that, I barely hesitated: I dropped some food into my rucksack (little more than a muesli bar, a banana and a 500ml bottle of Coke) and we left. I don't think I even stopped for a cup of tea between walks.
The first section, to Coppermines Valley was becoming familiar, but after a few minutes of confusion near the mine workings, we headed left, towards Levers Water, rather than right, towards Wetherlam. Somehow, the footpath on the map didn't match the gravel track on the ground, so the scramble to the reservoir was rather convoluted. I'd recommend simply following the gravel path from the start.
After a brief rest at the dam, we had much the same problem on the ascent to the Prison Band ridge: we kept losing the path. It did occur to me that following the recent introduction of 'right to roam' legislation, people might be choosing their own routes and the pre-existing paths, maintained merely by constant usage, might be becoming overgrown. In hindsight I don't think that was the case; it was just an intermittent rocky path which disappeared when crossing grassed areas, primarily used by those descending the valley. From above it was easy to see the next sections of path, whereas it was less clear from below.
By Prison Band, J. & I were walking in our usual manner i.e. I was quicker on the steep sections and didn't like to stop midslope, so only saw him at cols and summits. Unlike yesterday morning, this evening's sky was clear, so I did stop for a few photos, which prevented me getting too far ahead!
Once on the level ridge between Swirl How and Coniston, the weekend began to catch up with me, and my feet began to hurt. I wasn't looking forward to the steep descent after the main summit (803 m asl).
If anything, it was worse than I'd anticipated. I don't like descents anyway; each step jars and damages my feet in a way ascending & walking on the level don't, and I'm also more sure-footed when climbing. Virtually every time I've fallen on a hill (bruising or grazing myself; nothing serious) has been on the way down. Hence, I like to, er, run down steep hills, if the surface permits. The aspect which hurts is stopping my momentum on each step, so if I can minimise the stopping and merely control my momentum, it's much more comfortable.
That wasn't possible today. The entire route back to Coppermines Valley was on loose slate, so every step had to be carefully placed. Ow. I did manage to run on the lower, stable slopes, but the damage was done. After the culmination of a full weekend of walking, I think I'll lose both little toenails.
As I've mentioned in the photos annotations, we reached the floor of Coppermines Valley at dusk, as the last of the light failed, so the last mile or so along the miners' track was in near-full darkness. Good timing.
23 April, 2006
Walk: Tarn Hows, near Coniston
I was tempted to try a variant of yesterday's aborted walk today, on my own if no-one else was interested, but I had a better offer instead.
For various orthopedic, education- and construction-related reasons, it's been a while since I last walked with A & A – years, in fact – and I'd missed their choice of walks: low-level and following relatively obscure routes derived from local guidebooks. Today's linked various public footpaths and forest roads, taking us from Coniston to the popular 'beauty spot' of Tarn Hows via Yewdale, round the lake then back to the village. It didn't have the same bleak grandeur as a high ridge walk, nor notable summits, but it's not about trophies, and it was good to see the valley countryside, with its lambs and wild flowers. There were a few good views of the mountains, too.
I won't provide a long narrative of the walk, since anyone wishing to reproduce it should be able to do so by examining a map in combination with these photos. It's certainly worthwhile.
22 April, 2006
On the drive up from Lancaster last night, Harriet & I had agreed to go for a walk this morning, planning to climb Wetherlam then follow the ridge around to the Old Man of Coniston. Despite the mist, we went ahead anyway, half-hoping to get above the fog.
However, past the Youth Hostel and into Coppermines Valley, it became obvious that we were heading into denser cloud. By Red Dell visibility was very restricted and without significant landmarks it became difficult to find the path; the final ~100m of ascent to Wetherlam was simply a matter of consistently heading upwards on sheep tracks or no path at all. We stopped at the summit cairn for lunch, but there was no view, apart from momentary glimpses allowed by swirling cloud, which only confused my sense of direction ("there shouldn't be a ridge there") and made me wonder whether were were even at the true summit.
Plainly we couldn't go on; climbing in cloud is straightforward, but choosing the correct downward direction or navigating across an undulating plateau/ridge is more challenging (a few years ago, Andy and I climbed the Langdale Pikes from Langdale and accidentally descended into Langstrath). Instead, we followed the very obvious main Wetherlam-Above Beck Fells-Miners Bridge path, with the intention of returning to Coniston via Tilberthwaite.
Repeating the luck experienced by J. and I last November, as soon as we started to descend, the cloud began to lift, initially enough to snatch quick photographs through tantalising gaps then revealing all but the very tops of the hills. By Hole Rake we even knew exactly where we were....
I'd never been to Tilberthwaite, but the remnants of mining and quarrying were interesting, and there were hints of picturesque views through the remaining mist; it's somewhere to explore again. It's certainly within easy cycling distance of Windermere.
It was good to walk with Harriet, and something of a novelty. With the possible exception of Andy, with whom I haven't walked for a few years, H. is the only person who walks at about the same pace as me. Walking with J or Hedley tends to be a matter of starting together and meeting at summits, but otherwise walking alone. It was good to walk and converse, for once.
22 April, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Coniston lakeshore
I'm pretty sure I was the first up today, so went for a short walk to the shore of Coniston Water before breakfast.
The first thing I'd noticed on glancing out of a window was that the weather was disappointing: rather misty, with visibility limited to under a kilometre. I thought this might provide a few fairly atmospheric photos, but soon realised that the 'mist' was dense, low cloud, and it was actually rather dark outdoors. The walk was a good start to the day, but few of the photos were usable.
So I repeated the entire exercise the following morning. Sunday was brighter and near-cloudless, and photos from the same locations were much better. The second visit only took a few minutes, as I was on my bike, so I extended the trip by cycling around the head of the lake to Brantwood (John Ruskin's home), to also capture a few images I'd missed the previous evening.
1 April, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Lancaster-Ingleton Waterfalls-Lancaster
As I mentioned at the time, I was slightly disappointed by my last visit to the Ingleton Waterfalls, as the harsh light limited my photos technically whilst the confined valleys limited the angles from which I could take photos at all, and being with a group limited my time to experiment. The results were clichéd and bland, only saved by the attractive subject matter.
Today, I went back alone, deliberately in uncertain weather after a week of particularly heavy sustained rainfall, expecting the rivers to be full and hence the waterfalls to be spectacular. And I was right.
Though I'd normally take the train, I travelled to Ingleton by bike, as I also wanted to take photographs of the Rivers Lune and Wenning at high flows. As the results show, that was a good decision: upstream of Caton, the Lune had spilled out onto its floodplain whilst the Wenning at Wennington was as vigorous as a mountain stream.
Just before Ingleton, I was caught in a heavy shower, but I was wearing full waterproofs so welcomed the last-minute top-up of the waterfalls.
The results were as good as expected; I'll simply let you look at the (annotated) photos for yourself. I've interlinked them with the previous set, allowing comparison of the rivers' normal state and today's.
A highlight of the trip was following the ledge behind and hence beneath the main cascade of Thornton Force, sitting quietly in a remarkably dry space whilst water thundered past a couple of metres away. As I said in the photo caption, when I emerged a couple of other walkers expressed envy that I'd done something their wives wouldn't have permitted.
Having completed the usual walk in a few hours – I certainly didn't rush – I cycled back to Lancaster, with another stop at Halton to photograph the weir as deeply submerged as I've ever seen it.
29 December, 2005
Walk: Celyn Woods
I'm not even sure whether Celyn Woods even have an official name; my family arbitrarily applied that one to the wooded valley ~750 m west of Celyn Horticultural College, itself about a mile west of Northop, Flintshire (Llaneurgain, Sir Fflint) and ~2½ west of Northop Hall, the village where I grew up. It's an awkward location: just too far from my childhood home to walk to, but too local to be included when considering driving somewhere for a walk. Hence, when my mother suggested it for a brief stroll today, I think it was only the third time I'd been there.
It's right on the line of Wat's Dyke, the contested border between Mercia and Wales, and the ruins of a Thirteenth Century fortified manor house are a Scheduled Ancient Monument nearby: Llys Edwin ('Edwin's Palace') was the birthplace and home (obviously not in that specific building) of Owain ap Edwin (1044-1105), father-in-law of Gruffydd ap Llewellyn, Prince of North Wales (1055-1137). Otherwise, I know nothing about the area; there's a ruined watermill at the start of the walk, by the old route of the Chester-Holyhead post road, but I haven't been able to discover anything about it.
That's not a major concern, of course, as I was simply out for a walk with my mother and sister, and to take photographs of the very heavy frost.
27 December, 2005
Day trip to Betws-y-Coed, Swallow Falls & Cwm Idwal
Almost a year ago, I mentioned that my family has somehow acquired a 'traditional' route for day trips to Snowdonia, typically in December each year, the one occasion we're reliably in Wales at the same time. That time, we did something different, but today we reverted to the usual plan.
I suppose that sounds jaded, but the itinerary includes beautiful riverside, woodland and mountain scenery, so I certainly couldn't be bored, and this was the first time I've been since starting this blog, so I saw it afresh in taking numerous photographs; I've published over fifty with this entry. Note that the thumbnails are spread over three pages for clarity; there are 'back/forward' links at the foot of each index page.
The first stage followed the A55 coastal expressway to Conwy (well, Llandudno Junction), then inland along the Conwy Valley to Betws-y-Coed via Llanrwst. My mother drove, so I was able to take a few photos out of the windows. Until the comparible trip last year, I hadn't realised that was viable; though a few display the odd colour cast imposed by polarised glass and others are marred by dust/smudges on the windows, it's quite possible to capture worthwhile images whilst travelling at 50+ mph.
We stopped in Betws, ostensibly for the 'January' sales in the numerous outdoor-activities shops, but I'm rarely interested in browsing without a specific objective, so I went down to the river (Afon Llugwy) instead and took a few photos of the Pont y Pair Falls and mediaeval bridge.
Once the others had finished, we drove on a few miles up the Llugwy Valley to Tŷ Hyll ('The Ugly House') and the small car park at the start of K's 'secret' path to Rhaeadr Ewynnol (Swallow Falls). It's a standard public footpath following the attractive wooded northern bank of the Llugwy to a viewpoint overlooking the Falls, and evidently receives enough traffic to keep the path clear of vegetation, but it's barely signposted and offers a far better view of Swallow Falls than the better-known access point on the southern bank, which also happens to charge an admission fee (which I refuse to pay, on principle). Recommended, but don't tell anyone about it, okay?
That's a pleasant walk in itself, but after returning to the car we continued up the valley to Capel Curig and on to Cwm Idwal for a second walk, around the lake.
The ~400 ha NNR (within the Snowdonia National Park, which emphasises its extra importance within an already protected environment) was so designated for its distinctive geology, textbook glacial landforms and arctic-alpine botany. On a number of levels, it's clear evidence of evolution, and Darwin visited in the 19th Century.
Oh, and it's also very pretty, attracting climbers, 'serious' walkers and those merely wishing a gentle stroll around the 800 m x 300 m glacial tarn of Llyn Idwal.
My mother and sister tend to be in the final group, whilst I'm slightly more ambitious (if not really adequately equipped on trips like this), so we don't often complete this walk together. We all set-off anti-clockwise around the lake, but (by agreement!) I soon left them behind and whilst they followed the low-level lakeshore path, I headed up the scree-slope path to Devil's Kitchen (Twll Du), a deep notch in the top of the Cwm's headwall cliff. That's a radically different experience, involving a scramble over ice-covered boulders to view frozen waterfalls and look back over a stunning view from ~600 m asl. Very photogenic, even under broken low cloud.
I stayed a little longer than I'd planned, so even running for most of the descent (over ice-covered boulders...) and around the rest of the lakeside path, the others were back at the car and waiting by the time I caught them. Oops.
The December light was failing rapidly, so that was about it for the day, though I did request a quick diversion from Capel Curig to the Llynau Mymbyr for a beautiful view of Snowdon itself at sunset.
26 December, 2005
Walk: Moel Famau
K. and I decided to get out of the house for a short walk this morning. After the usual half-hearted debate about a destination, we chose one I've wanted to do for a long time: Moel Famau in daylight.
As previously explained, it's been a family tradition since the 1980s to see in each New Year at summit of the highest of the Clwydian Hills (554 m, or 1,818' asl), so the route is very familiar – but only in near-complete darkness. It was good to see the same views, but as villages, woods, hills and valleys rather than groups and lines of lights.
It's a fairly easy route, ascending a mere ~205 m (670') from the car park at the highest point on the nearest road, to an excellent viewpoint, and only takes ~45 mins each way. I suppose this was also a particularly obvious day to go for a walk, but I was a little surprised that the car parks and paths were rather busy.
The weather wasn't great for photography: slightly hazy, with broken cloud providing odd patches of brilliant illumination and deep shadow. However, I did take a few publishable photos.
24 December, 2005
Walk: Loggerheads Country Park again
Back to Loggerheads for the second time this year. As I said in that earlier entry, it's somewhere I've visited frequently on walks with my family, and this was such an occasion, with my mother and sister at the one time of year we can rely on getting together.
However, there were two breaks from routine.
There are two main paths in the Country Park. One simply follows the leete path along the bank of the River Alyn, whereas another leads though the woods higher on the valley side, offering views over the area from a large cliff. For some reason, I'd only been that way once before.
Secondly, this was the first time I'd actually entered the 'cave' (lead mine, really) in Devil's Gorge, going in as far as I was able and taking a few photos. Unfortunately, that wasn't far, as the floor was flooded. I'd need to try again in summer, but I think the last time I was in Wales during the drier months was over a decade ago.
20 November, 2005
Walk: Whernside, Yorkshire Dales
Until fairly recently, I wasn't even sure of the location of Whernside (I'd also thought it was called 'Great Whernside', but that's an entirely different hill elsewhere in Yorkshire), the tallest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks at 736 m (2415'). I've walked up Ingleborough several times, and aborted a trip up Pen-Y-Ghent several years ago (that was a very wet January day), but those two have distinctive shapes, unlike Whernside. I knew the rough direction to it, but wouldn't have recognised it from even a kilometre away. Indeed, I hadn't; I've visited Ribblehead Viaduct at least five times, and photographed the ridge overlooking it without realising that it has a name... guess.
Despite my ignorance, I've wanted to visit Whernside for a while, so an excellent weather forecast (very cold, but clear) for the weekend after my birthday seemed a good opportunity to do that and perhaps persuade others to accompany me. As it happens, only (certainly not 'merely'!) J was available, and was kind enough to drive.
We arrived and started walking at about 10:00, under a virtually clear sky, though the sun on frosty ground was generating light mist in the valley and wispy cloud near the peaks – see photo. However, by studying the map, I'd decided that we'd need to follow the circular route in a clockwise direction, as we'd both prefer to climb the steepest section rather than descend it. By the time we'd walked ~2km down the valley, rather more significant cloud had arrived, and soon after we started to climb to the ridge, we totally lost visibility. If only we'd done the walk yesterday.
This meant that apart from a lunch stop huddled against a wall, we didn't pause on the summit itself, and had no views of the surrounding area. I'd been particularly hoping to identify familiar points from the top of Whernside so I'd subsequently be able to spot the relatively anonymous profile of Whernside from elsewhere. Never mind.
Despite the weather, the route down was rather busy. It's an easy walk and Ribblehead is accessible by car, so I can understand it being popular. One section of the path was fully paved with 'flagstones'; it must receive a lot of traffic if the National Park managers consider that necessary. Indeed, lower down, we encountered a section being resurfaced. Workers had obviously left the site on Friday and weekend visitors were obliged to cross an area of bare soil. Even within that short time, it had been churned to ankle-deep mud.
Very annoyingly, by the time we'd descended about 200 m, the cloud cleared, including across the summit. I suppose the frost-sourced water vapour had been expended for the day, and the clouds literally evaporated. If I'd been alone, I would definitely have turned back and retraced the 2 km to the top – it was still only ~13:30, with several hours of light remaining – but I knew J had other plans for the afternoon, and I'm sure there'll be another opportunity. At least the interaction of limited direct sunlight and cloud/mist had been photogenic.
4 September, 2005
I'm on a mountain! Can you hear me?
A survey for the Ramblers' Association (a pressure group dedicated to walkers' access to the countryside) reports that only 10% of people regularly carry a mobile phone when out walking.
That's odd. I have a mobile phone specifically for such occasions – I'm extremely unlikely to have my phone with me unless I'm walking or cycling in the country.
I don't like mobile phones, but I'd certainly encourage everyone to carry one when in remote locations, simply as a safety measure.
Then again, the same survey states that most people's least favourite day for a walk is Monday, which sounds rather spurious.
2 April, 2005
Walk: Loggerheads Country Park
Loggerheads is a hamlet just over the Rainbow from Mold.
As I've explained before, this isn't a quote from a fairytale, but the slightly odd naming of features near my childhood home in North-East Wales. The Rainbow is a pass, and Mold is the English name of Yr Wyddgrug, a market town four miles from my mother's house. Mold was the county town of Clwyd from 1974, and with further local authority reorganisation, is now the 'capital' of Sir Fflint (Flintshire). Loggerheads is ~2 miles further away, on the border of Sir Fflint and Sir Ddinbych (Denbighshire).
The hamlet of Loggerheads was a centre of the galena (lead ore) mining industry until 1872, and various features remain: caves (old adit mines), ruined pump houses, and a leete (artificial watercourse) now acts as a level path following the River Alyn for a couple of miles.
Apart from a few cottages, Loggerheads itself comprises a watermill, associated buildings, and an 18th Century coaching inn on the Mold-Ruthin road.
The current landlord of the latter, the 'We Three Loggerheads' apparently claims that a disagreement between two local landowners in the 1780s gave the world the phrase 'at loggerheads', meaning 'engaged in a dispute'. However, that suggestion is absurd; if anything the hamlet may have been named after the phrase.
I clearly remember several visits to Loggerheads since the early 1980s; I know I visited as a very young child in the 1970s, but I don't recall it before the mill complex was restored and paths improved around 1980. Its proximity to my childhood home means that Loggerheads always heads the shortlist of venues for afternoon walks with my mother every couple of years (okay, Cilcain would head my mother's shortlist, but I'm less keen – I already see enough open moorland around Lancaster!). Thankfully, I don't associate it with any one period of my life. I suppose that means it's been somewhere I can forget the routine worries.
Today's walk followed exactly the same route as always, along the Leete Path to Devil's Gorge and back the same way. I took a few photos, of course.
5 March, 2005
Walk: Ingleton waterfalls
Occasionally, social events are organised by and for the senior members of Bowland College (i.e. members of University staff affiliated to Bowland, but not the undergraduate students). Karaoke or bowling don't interest me, but today's event was a walk in the Yorkshire Dales, so I was pleased to go.
The trip was to the Waterfalls Walk at Ingleton, just over the N.Yorks. border. It's a fairly major tourist attraction, following one tributary of the River Greta, the River Twiss, up a steep-sided valley to open moorland, then back down an adjacent tributary, the River Doe, to its confluence with the Twiss and Greta in Ingleton. The potential of the route as a tourist attraction was realised in the nineteenth century, and it has been popular since an 'improvement company' developed paths and bridges, admitting paying visitors from 1885.
It may be worth mentioning that the 'per car' (and all occupants) admission price has been discontinued, and we paid £3.50 per adult. Ordinarily I deeply resent people charging for access to naturally-occuring features (an argument some years ago with the 'owner' of Fairy Glen, Betws-Y-Coed very nearly turned violent – unfortunately I had to concede that my mother's car was on private land, so I withdrew, without paying), but the Ingleton Waterfalls Walk is a special case, as considerable work has been done to establish and maintain high-quality paths through difficult terrain.
I've done the Ingleton Waterfalls Walk twice before, and noticed that confined valleys limit the number of good viewpoints of the waterfalls. Hence, each photographer will tend to reproduce the same images as everyone else!
If I'd been alone, I'd have taken more time to play with composition and shutter speeds, and perhaps left the path to find more novel viewpoints. Much as I enjoyed walking with a group, I did feel a little constrained. Ingleton is just about within cycling range of Lancaster, perhaps a 40-mile (64km) round trip, and the walk itself is only ~4.5 miles (~7.5 km) with 300m (984') of ascent, so I treated this as 'rehearsal' for a day trip of my own some other time.
Another problem was that, though I hadn't realised at the time, the weather was inappropriate for proper waterfalls photography, direct sunlight on white water washing-out long-exposure photos. Hence, I was a little disappointed with the accompanying photos, both in terms of the bland, clichéd composition and limited technical results. I really must go back, preferably on an overcast day after heavy rain, and take some rather more adventurous photos.
28 December, 2004
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen & World's End
Considering I grew-up in North East Wales, it's perhaps surprising that barely know the Dee Valley upstream of Chester. My childhood seemed to focus on the coastal belt, and I've only been to Wrecsam a couple of times. Hence, though I lived within ~50km of today's destinations for 18 of my first 19 years, today's trip was new to me.
I'd seen the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from the Chester-Shrewsbury railway, but had never actually visited it, so it was a (very belatedly) obvious venue for an afternoon walk with my mother. Having parked by Trevor canal basin, we followed the towpath across the Aqueduct to Froncysyllte, looking down 38 m to the very full River Dee. We followed the canal on to the Newbridge railway viaduct, but it didn't seem productive to return along a main road through a rather industrialised ex-mining village, so we returned to Trevor along the canal.
Somewhere else of which I'd heard but never visited (or even added to my mental map of the area) was World's End, north(ish) of Llangollen, so we drove back over the 'Llandegla Moors', stopping at each for a few photographs. We also passed 'one of the most haunted places in the UK', Plas Teg, near Mold. I had been there before, but almost twenty years ago.
28 November, 2004
Walk: Clougha Pike
For only the second time this year, I think, I went for a walk in the hills today, climbing Clougha Pike (413 m / 1356'). It's within 30-40 mins of Lancaster by bike, but I went by car with Andy, Alizon and her nephew Sam.
The weather was pleasant as we left the city, and stayed dry, but the clouds were a little threatening - at least it added a little drama to a couple of the accompanying photos.
28 August, 2004
Walk: Middle Wood, Roeburndale
The Middle Wood Trust is an environmental centre and community occupying low-impact ecological buildings in a profoundly rural section of Roeburndale, near Wray, itself ~11 miles (~18 km) up the Lune Valley from Lancaster. It runs courses in permaculture and environmentalism (plus certain New Age topics, which dilutes my respect for it, I'm afraid), and a number of people live on-site, in yurts. It also owns a camping barn about a kilometre upriver of the main community, which it rents to groups wishing to 'get away from it all'. A group of my friends hire the barn for a weekend each year, typically coinciding with birthdays in May or July, but I don't recall there being a specific reason this time.
As usual, on the first evening we sat around the fire talking, drinking beer and staring upwards – on a clear summer night, the sky is wonderful. The beer was cooling in a backwater pool in the river, mostly cans protected from the river itself by their multipack cardboard boxes. Unfortunately, we'd overestimated the boxes' strength, and one pack broke open, all the cans disappearing downstream.
The following morning, a few of us went after the beer – bright silver cans should be easily visible in a brown river, and they couldn't have gone that far, right? Despite the presence of a couple of graduate-level fluvial geomorphologists, one postdoctoral, the idea wasn't laughed down immediately (I performed tracer experiments of the same type in a neighbouring river a few years ago, and achieved recovery rates in the 20-30% range), and after several hours quite a few cans were retrieved, surprisingly. Most of the accompanying photos were taken during the search.
Incidentally, I've always known the site as Middlewood, but the Trust's own website calls it Middle Wood, so I've used that here.
25 January, 2004
First decent walk of the year
I went for a walk with Hedley today, up Ingleborough Hill (723 m), just over the Lancashire border into the county of North Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
UK National Parks (founded in 1952, as I remember from 'A' Level Geography) are rather different to their US equivalents; though there are restrictions on the degree and type of developments permitted, our National Parks aren't pristine wilderness areas, they contain thriving rural communities.
The commonest path up Ingleborough starts at the Hill Inn, but that's long way over very wet ground, finishing with a steep climb. Hedley & I have been up before from Clapham, but again that's a long route which I found a bit boring once we were on the open moor. Since we only had about three hours before sunset, we took the shortest route, from just outside Ingleton.
Though the weather has been wet all week, this part of the Dales is on limestone, and full of cave systems (the famous Gaping Gill is on the second route I mentioned above), so the ground wasn't too soggy underfoot. Today's weather was sunny, but local geography means the top of Ingleborough is almost always in cloud; this was no exception, and much of the walk was either in the shade of clouds, or in the cloud layer itself. This might sound unpleasant to those who haven't experienced it, but walking in light, 'good weather' cloud generated by topography is nothing like being in mountains when dense rain or snow clouds descend. There was no rain, and the temperature was fine for walking, so I didn't bother with my jacket until we reached at the top; the flat summit of Ingleborough is rather exposed to even the slightest wind. This wind was enough to keep the cloud moving, and brief breaks gave stunning, fragmented views of the beautiful surroundings. On the return trip, low sun through such breaks similarly lit the landscape well.
Needless to say, I took the digital camera, and this posting is essentially an introduction and link to the resulting images!
Hedley is an ex-press photographer, and (obviously) still a talented expert, so we discussed digital photography at length, a shared interest we approach from rather different backgrounds.
Having now seen the finished images, and knowing both the degree of manipulation that was possible in Photoshop and the time it took, I've reinforced my impression that I'm able to obtain satisfactory digital images in lighting conditions that would defeat my (old but high-spec at the time!) film camera. In several of the instances shown here, a bright sky and fairly well-exposed skyline (the subject of most images) was dominated by an under-exposed foreground, but the ability to correct the colour and brightness of these elements independently allowed me to restore the balance of composition that I'd seen and intended to record.
However, pride in the result forces me to mention that the final image is exactly as the camera captured, and no post-processing 'faked' it!