Pages

Friday, 29 April 2016

TGO Challenge 2016 PreWalkDaunder: Part 2

I woke to this fabulous view. Okay, it's slightly marred by the Great Dun Fell Radome and a double fence. Nine out of ten Daunderers are camped to one side of this fence, which is the boundary of the Moor House National Nature Reserve, following the bank of the River Tees. The importance of this fence only hit home after I had taken a trip to examine the porcelain as dawn had broken. 

Walking away up the hill, away from the Nature Reserve, I was really taken aback at the sheer number of Fen Traps set across the little stream I was following. They were placed, I would guess, every fifty yards or so. All the traps appeared to be legal, though I did not spot any identification tags. However I also came across two very sturdy but rusty wire snares. I pulled each out of the ground - they were very firmly attached and this took some effort on my part.

It's clear to me that whoever owns or manages this ground has every intention of eliminating any sort of predator whatsoever that will compete with grouse. Shooting grouse - or any animal, come to that - for fun disgusts me to the core, and the elimination of competitive species is equally abhorrent.

IT HAD BEEN A VERY COLD NIGHT

LORD ELPUS FETTLING HIS STOVE FOR A CUPPA

A GLORIOUS START TO THE DAY

We all set off more or less together; Phil & me following Mike & Lucky down the right bank of the Tees, and the rest of the party either bagging a few raised lumps in the surrounding scenery or the left bank of the river. It was a fabulous start to the day with larks, geese and oystercatchers all doing their larky-oystercatchery-goosey things.

I don't recall seeing a single animal trap.

A RIGHT-BANKER

TWO LEFT-BANKERS

COMPETITIVE ANDY

DRY LIMESTONE RIVER BED 

I need to do a bit of digging about this place as Phil & I were positive that the Tees came and went as we followed it downstream. We're sure there's a lot of the Tees underground here in the limestone.

Both Banksters were reunited at the disused mine at the confluence of the Tees and Trout Beck. After lazing about in the sun (and perishing wind) we set off again to plod over Metalband Hill and then clamber up the tussocky hillside up to the path that would take us towards Cow Green. What was noticeable after crossing Crook Burn was that every twenty yards or so up the hill we would cross drainage ditches cut around the side of the hill. 

With my old Engineer's hat on, I'm pretty sure these will not have been cut to speed drainage into the reservoir, as the water will end up there regardless of faster drainage. I may be wrong (and please feel free to correct me in the comments section if I am) but I believe these are cut solely for the drainage of the peatland to make a better habitat for grouse. If it wasn't for the sodding great dam above Cauldron Snout this would make for a much flashier flood hydrograph, with inevitable increase in risk of flooding further downstream. Even with the dam there as a regulator, they will still have to release water sooner than otherwise necessary. 

Of course, if you believe in Man Made Global Warming, draining this peat also leads to massive releases of stored CO2 - not something that the Warmistas would want either. For whatever reason these ditches should be stopped up and left to infill to revert back to a natural peat bog.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: A GREAT PANORAMA: L>R: KNOCK FELL, GREAT DUN FELL, LITTLE DUN FELL & CROSS FELL

There is a magnificent sense of wide open country hereabouts and we were fortunate to see it with the wind and blustery little soft hail and snow showers at our backs. We popped into the estate bothy above Backside Fell for a bit of R&R and shelter. Whoever named things around here had a sense of humour. We had also been camped at Crossgill Pants, and had in view Great Cocklake...

Phil & I strolled over the dam to take the very steep concrete steps down the other side (The clamber over the gate almost ripping the crown jewels from my body  - not that there's any need for them these days.) We were rewarded with an up close and personal view of the wonderful structure. 

I LOVE DAMS.  BRUTAL SIMPLICITY.

By now my wayward left knee was really giving me a hard time and I was probably a bit quiet as we headed southwest, uphill following the Pennine Way alongside Maize Beck. 

GERRY, PETER, JAYME & MAD'N'BAD.

You'll note the new very deep sharp-stoned track behind the old lags. This has been built in a National Nature Reserve. Mike filled me in with some of the ghastly details. Utterly depressing. This used to be a beautiful bouncy-earth (occasionally boggy) peat track which was a delightful surface to walk. Now it's a bloody road.

MIKE & LUCKY THE DOG

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The photo above has been stitched (rather poorly) from two pictures, but it serves well enough to show the very recent muirburn on the northern flanks of Mickle Fell. Again, this is in a National Nature Reserve! WTF?  Feel free to comment about this, but anyone who gives me any "conservation" bollocks will be given very short shrift.

"IT'S NOT A ONESIE!"

We flipped the shelters up past our original destination, (as the Army wanted it for some stupid with a flare gun) alongside Maize Beck before you get to the footbridge. We all found a place to stay and readied ourselves for what promised to be another very cold night indeed. 

LUCKY THE DOG

I've not mentioned Lucky, Mike's wonderful companion, that much so far. He is an astonishingly good little dog, who very generously hauls his man up all the steep bits. But even more wonderfully he is a fantastic waste-disposal unit. Today, I had been carrying the bulk of a reconstituted Adventure Food Chicken Curry (which I thought was pretty tasteless and very boring), but Lucky gave it 10/10. That's an excellent review, Adventure Food! As recommended by Lucky the Dog! Stick that on your packaging and it will sell like hot-cakes! They might not be back to order again, mind...

LUCKY GIVES THE CHICKEN CURRY TOP MARKS

Trinnie Trailstar is a very happy shelter and whisky was passed around and a generally sociable time was had (while I mainly lazed in my rather snug sleeping bag).  Lucky enjoyed curling up inside as well. Mike had to haul him away from his comfortable bliss.



As I dozed off, very cold northerlies were bringing fresh soft hail to rattle against the shelters. It was all quite blissful. And besides, the dreadful walking had stopped, for a while at least.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

TGO Challenge 2016 PreWalkDaunder: Part 1

Scotland's hills are an empty place. Nothing there but from grouse moors and wind turbines. In an effort to match these conditions we choose the Northern Pennines for this year's PreWalkDaunder. Although here we will not find any wind turbines.

NICKED FROM THE DAILY MAIL. CLICK TO ENLARGE

This year's clutch of Daunderers descend upon Dufton from as far south as Croydon, as far east as Holland and from Aberlour, way up north. I haven't done the arithmetic but I would guess that between them they've finished over a hundred Challenges, and with an age range of some forty years.

HOW MANY GROATS TO THE POUND? LAURA'S PICTURE

Shoe-horned into a tiny patch of grass we flip up the shelters and head off to the Stag Inn for the rest of the night. It is warm and comfy in there. It is very cold outside. 

LUCKY THE DOG'S HUMAN (NO - LUCKY ISN'T HUMAN)

OUR CARNIVAL QUEEN

MORPETH, CROYDON, PETER & GERRY

LORD ELPUS

AFTERMATH OF A NASTY ACCIDENT WITH A CHAINSAW

THE LATE RUNNING POOLER MAJOR

EDITED TO REMOVE BEER CAN FROM TOP OF HEAD

BENEATH THAT TABLE THERE ARE SOME VERY SUDDEN TROUSERS

***

Natural Navigators will already have noticed that the shadows in the next picture are cast in a different direction to those of the tents further up this post. Apparently this is because it is now the morning. I'm not a morning person. Some idiot had been belting around the campsite on a very powerful quad-bike since ten past bloody six in the morning and clanging anvils against gigantic sheets of steel, dumped here by the Chinese. Thoughtful. And there are the crows, of course, around about five o'clock. Bloody countryside. How do you post comments on Trip Advisor?

ROOM FOR A FEW MORE?

So what lies ahead? It always looks so easy on the map, but the first day is about thirteen miles with well over three thousand of Her Majesty's imperial feet of uppishness. That's one hell of a lot for a lowlander whose idea of a walk is strolling around Waitrose leaning on a shopping trolley. The second day looks to be around twelve miles in a perishingly cold wind with the uppity bits cleverly concealed in bog and upon dreadfully constructed sharp-stoned roads, built presumably to transport chinless tossers in Range Rovers to go and kill birds for fun. All grisly things come to an end eventually, and the last day will be wonderfully downhill on what I remember to be soft green paths, but we should still suffer cold northerlies with snow showers.

And the nights? They're forecast to be well south of freezing. Deep joy. A bit of a Challenge.

THE ROUTE: CLICK TO ENLARGE

Within half an hour of setting out we're grateful for the views back to the hills of the Lake District, so we can pause to identify old friends. After a few moments it's back to the day job and hauling far too heavy bags up the side of Knock Fell.

LAURA COUNTING CONTOURS

PETER JETTISONING THE HEAVY STUFF

Around about here Young Morpeth (currently well into his eighth decade) decides that he is not yet hill-fit and needs to go back down to the comfort and warmth of the pub. Peter had a triple bypass only a few months back and to get as far as this is frankly very good going indeed. It's going to be a slow recovery, but already he is looking years younger with colour back in his cheeks and a glint back in his eye. In fact he looks a lot perkier than I currently feel. But this is situation normal for the train crash that is my frame.

PHIL'S PICTURE: HARD WORK FOR A FLATLANDER, CLAMBERING UP KNOCK FELL

By now our unwieldy group of ten remaining Daunderers have split fairly naturally into the capable and incapable. I nail my colours to the mast of the latter group. And speaking of masts we notice the twin masts of HMS Endeavour, dragged up the hill by Naval Cadets in the fifties and given a ceremonial partial burial at the top. These days the old girl's masts are used to house aerials so folk down in Dufton can have a decent TV picture. 

The large white dome is a more recent addition, added by Richard Branson as a memorial to one of his aborted balloon sorties. It does have dual use - inside are six mezzanine floors of Eastern European call-centre workers.

JUST THE MASTS REMAINING OF HMS ENDEAVOUR. A DOME MARKS THE SITE OF THE WRECK.

It's a cracking roller-coaster of a walk from Knock Fell, over Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and up onto Cross Fell. And today we have views in every direction. The first time I was here (1976, with Bob Butler) it was a blizzard and we saw sod-all. The second time was on my LEJOG in 2007, in thick very cold cloud.

It's a surprisingly big flat top with a brand new shelter incorporating the dome of the mosque dismantled brick by brick and rebuilt with care here many years later, after they flooded Cow Green reservoir.

THE NORTHERN LAKE DISTRICT. CAN YOU SPOT TERRY ABRAHAM?


THE PIEMAN

ALISTAIR SITS ON THE  ROOF. THE BULK OF THE MOSQUE IS UNDERGROUND

It's a delightful yomp, mercifully downhill, to collect the stumbly track to Greg's Hut. To the north and east there is nothing but moorland stretching away forever.



OBVIOUSLY NO DRESS CODE ON THE INVITE...

Greggs Hut (wrongly spelled as Greg's on the OS maps) is believed to be the very first location of the massive Greggs business now found in every town centre. Unfortunately, Mike Knipe is at the head of the queue and scoffs the last of the Pies. By the time the rest of us arrive it is past closing time and the counter staff have nipped off to the party back at the Great Dun Fell Pleasure Dome. 

It's a cracking location, but I think the Damp Proof Course needs attention.

GREGGS PIE SHOP


MAD'N'BAD WINS THE PRIZE FOR PRETTIEST HAT - A WHALE CONDOM.

NO ONE WANTS TO LEAVE BUT THERE'S A FAIR CHANCE IT WILL BE WARMER IN THE FREEZING WIND OUTSIDE.

It's a lovely stroll above Skirwith Fell before we turn right and drop down to just beneath 2,000 feet to flip the tents up in the last of the sunshine in a field of thistles alongside the headwaters of the River Tees.

TEN PITCHED IN THE THISTLES NEXT TO THE INFANT TEES

This feels like a very big place. It's wonderfully quiet with just curlew, larks and geese for company. Hip flasks are passed about the place as the sun sinks below the shoulder of Cross Fell and the temperature drops like a stone. Snuggling into the luxuriousness of my winter bag I'm soon away with the faeries.

EIGHT OUT OF TEN IN THE LAST OF THE SUNSHINE

Monday, 18 April 2016

2016 PreWalkDaunder Mugshots

LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU ARE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION!

Scotland is a hideously wet and boggy place. Because of this, the powers-that-be decided it would be a great jape to send off three hundred innocents to walk all the way across the midge infested morass, carrying all their worldly belongings in a bag strapped to their backs. "It will make men of them. And the women too."

Lord Elpus and I are, for the most part, Englishmen and each year, prior to setting off to that northern hell-hole, we find England's own version of a Scottish Somme, and attempt to walk about in it for a few days with large bags strapped to our persons. It's all unutterably horrible. We have carried on this tradition for some twenty years. We invariably invite a few victims who deserve a little punishment to tag along with us. 

This year we have decided to tackle (according to Wikipedia) "a lost world prone to dense hill fog and fierce winds. A shrieking noise induced by the Helm Wind is a characteristic of the locality. It can be an inhospitable place for much of the year. In ancient times it was known as "Fiends Fell" and believed to be the haunt of evil spirits." Only yesterday it looked like this:

THE LOST WORLD (PICTURE C/O THE PIEMAN)

Wikipedia also says it forms a block of high terrain which is all over 800 metres in altitude. This is the largest block of high ground in England and tends to retain snow-cover longer than neighbouring areas. Snow can be found in gullies on the north side as late as May in most years. In some years, lying snow has been known to persist until July and fresh snowfall in June is common.
Precipitation averages around 2.8 metres (!) per year. It is covered by what is known as "siliceous alpine and boreal grassland". It is the southernmost outlier of this vegetation type, which is common to highlands in Scotland and Scandinavia.

It sounds absolutely awful. Sorry, perfect. 

Without any further ado, here is this year's crop of Daunderers. You were warned.

LORD ELPUS

PETER & JAYME (BOTH NEW TO DAUNDERING)

LAURA:  NEW TO DAUNDERING. YOU CAN TELL AS SHE'S SMILING. SHE WON'T BE HIGH-KICKING THIS TIME NEXT WEEK.

TRIPLE BYPASS MORPETH. THAT BILLY CAN OVERTURNED SECONDS AFTER THE PICTURE WAS TAKEN

PHIL (MISSING HALF HIS INNARDS) ON ANOTHER BLEAK HILLSIDE

GERRY, CROYDON & MORPETH: OLD LAGS.

MAD'N'BAD. HE LICKS CAR WINDSCREENS WITH THEIR OWNERS SEATED INSIDE.

BINDER, MISPLACED, AGAIN

'BOGFEST' ROBIN & ANDREW

PETER (FROM HOLLAND!!!) EVERY CHALLENGE GIRL'S PIN UP. 

CROYDON. MICK. 'ARD.

LORD ELPUS' EVIL TWIN. ON ANOTHER GHASTLY SNOW-SWEPT BOG

I'VE NEVER SEEN HIM BEFORE IN MY LIFE! ANSWERS ON A POSTCARD. POSSIBLY MISPLACED.


A HAPPY PIEMAN (THAT'S A PORT & LEMON IN HIS MUG)

AND BRINGING UP THE REAR, ALISTAIR, THE PATRON SAINT OF CHEESE & WINE PARTIES.

All too soon we will be camped up somewhere ghastly on that forbidding Lost World. It will rain. There will be bog. There will be howls of protest. The navigator will be sacked. There will be schisms.

A normal PreWalkDaunder, then.


EDIT: EVENING, MONDAY 18th APRIL

I thought I would add in the weather forecast for Cross Fell for when we are there. Click on the forecasts to enlarge them.

FRIDAY'S CLAMBER OVER CROSS FELL

SATURDAY'S WALK AROUND THE BACK OF CROSS FELL: SNOW AND A BIT CHILLY!

SUNDAY'S WALK BACK DOWN TO DUFTON: BLOOMING CHILLY!

So it looks like we will all be wearing an extra vest and taking a warm bag to sleep in. Maybe the microspikes too...

Proper Challenge training then!