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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Black Hill via Holme Clough

Walking with; Nobody

I like paths. When I am on a path I know it is taking me somewhere and even on the odd occasion when that somewhere isn't exactly where I think it might be, I know it's going to end up in a defined place! However, there are times when I want a bit more adventure in my life. Maybe it's the fact that my Mum's family lived in Africa for much of their early life, maybe it's a yearning for the carefree days of childhood when everything felt like an adventure, but just occasionally going "off piste" seems like the way to go! Now, I am not comparing the Peak District with the velds of South Africa or plains of Tanzania, but an off path adventure on the bleak moors around Black Hill can still feel pretty wild.
The start of today's walk was by no means adventurous, a gentle stroll along the shores of Dove Stone, Yeoman Hey and Greenfield Reservoirs. The footpaths were busy with bikers and walkers, both of the dog and power varieties. Reservoirs have been, and can be, relatively contentious, think of Ladybower, beneath the waters of which lie the remains of the villages of Derwent and Ashopton and Mardale now sitting underneath the water of Haweswater.However, I like them, these three provide havens for wildlife and sit picturesquely below the crags of Ashway Hey and the delightfully named Raven Stones Brow. Leaving the reservoirs behind I climbed along the banks of Greenfield Brook before striking out (off path) along Holme Clough. Holme Clough is a beautiful but tough walk/scramble. The stream winds it's way towards the open moorland, tumbling over waterfalls and cutting a deep, steep sided gorge through the landscape. The walking was not easy, tussock grass, mossy bogs and slippery rocks all provided impediments but, more satisfyingly, just the right degree of challenge to make it feel vaguely adventurous, a feeling heightened by the lack of any other walkers. The Heather on the slopes was magnificent, turning the slopes purple and I came across a couple of patches of Match Head Lichen, beautiful and unusual, and a good indicator of the air quality in this part of the world. Eventually Black Hill hoved into view, I was only separated from it by (yet another) patch of marshy bog, (deep sigh.......)
I struck off East, heading for the path that had come from Black Moss Reservoir and after another foot soaking, located it and made my way upto a perfectly situated stone shelter where I paused for lunch. The moorlands of the Dark Peak do not have the scale and splendour of Snowdonia but the vast expanse of barren wilderness is impressive in a completely different way and still made a memorable vista for a chicken sarnie!  From here I ascended to the summit (582m), informally known as Soldier's Lump after the Army surveying team who were the first to erect a Trig Point on the boggy top. Apparently in the past, reaching the trig meant wading knee deep through bog, today it was wet but my descent was made much easier as I located the flag stones of The Pennine Way as it headed towards Crowden. As the route climbed above Great Crowden Brook it narrowed to not much more than a sheep track and passed above Laddow Rocks (previously mentioned in my blog as an important site in the establishment of Mountain Rescue). Leaving The Pennine Trail I headed across to Chew Reservoir before following the service road back to Dove Stone Reservoir which buy now was busy with families, picknickers and even more dogwalkers. One side of the reservoir is given over to a woodland with the trees planted in commemoration of deceased loved ones and it struck me that a Rowan Tree in a wood on the shores of such a beautifully situated body of water might not make a bad reminder for myself some day,hopefully, a long time in the future!!

To view the full album please click on the link below;!/media/set/?set=oa.262198243899088&type=1

Monday, August 20, 2012

Y Garn, Snowdonia

Walking with; Ruthy

"Staycationing" this year on the Llyn Peninsula it seemed a wasted opportunity to make our way there from Manchester without having a night in Snowdonia. We had booked into Idwal Cottage YHA, the oldest hostel in Britain which opened in 1931 and is beautifully situated in the Ogwen Valley surrounded by the epic peaks of the National Park and full of climbing memorabilia.( Jeroen, the hostel manager, was a mine of information and recommended a couple of 4-5 hour walks, of which we decided on the ascent of Y Garn.
Y Garn is one of the Welsh 3000s and is ranked as the tenth highest peak in Wales at 947 metres. It rises from the basin containing the Llyn Idwal and forms part of a spectacular ridge that when we set off from the hostel was hidden in forboding cloud. Llyn Idwal is a magnificent spectacle and only a ten minute stroll from the car park, subsequently it was busy (even in the teeming rain) so we headed on up towards the slopes of scree that flanked our eventual goal. As we climbed the wind got up and whilst it pushed the clouds off the summit it made it heavy going. Frequent view stops to look back down towards Bethesda and Llyn Ogwen provided respite, as did views of Ravens surfing the thermals and photos of the Heather coming into bloom. Eventually we reached the ridge that led up to the summit and found ourselves admiring the views of Tryfan as the peak slipped in and out of the clouds, sheltering from the wind in the lee of the summit cairn and refuelling ahead of the knee crunching descent of The Devil's Kitchen.
The sun was out as we headed down the slope from the top towards the lonely tarn of Llyn Y Cwn and we started to come across a few more walkers, it seems as if the path up The Devil's Kitchen is the preferred route, although I wouldn't fancy descending the scree slopes we came up. The Devil's Kitchen is justifiably famous as a path and although hard on the knees is a spectacular descent with the whole of the Cwm Idwal stretching out below you and waterfalls crashing down the rock face. There were a group of climbers testing themselves on the exposed rockface and we saw Redstarts, Meadow Pippits and Jackdaws as we picked our way down the rocky staircase. By the time we reached Llyn Idwal, the paths were very busy and we headed back to our car and onwards to the wild, windy expanses of the Llyn Peninsula where, unfortunately, the weather prevented too much in the way of walking except for a gentle stroll along the Coastal Path from Tir Glyn to Aberdaron.

To view the full album from this walk, please click on the link below;!/media/set/?set=oa.261525060633073&type=1

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Walking with; Nobody

The Lake District in Summer can be a pretty horrendous place, Bowness can be akin to Blackpool and on my drive up both Ambleside and Keswick were too hectic to even consider stopping. I eventually found a spot of lunch in Cockermouth and can heartily recommend "Main Street Fisheries" for an excellent portion of fish and chips. Ennerdale however remains a relatively tranquil oasis, it's remoteness means it gets considerably less visitors than many of the other lakes and apart from a trickle of Coast to Coasters I had the place to myself for the majority of the walking.
   I arrived on the Monday afternoon and parked my car outside the picturesque YHA which is housed in an old foresters cottage a couple of miles along a dirt track and has it's own hydro-electric power supply, an excellent selection of cakes and scones and no mobile phone, reception, internet or television....all adding to the tranquility. It also has a superb view of Pillar from the breakfast room. On Day one, I contented myself with a gentle stroll along the forestry track taking in the views of Pillar, Crag Fell, Anglers Crag and Ennerdale Water. I watched a couple of Peregrines playing above the forest, snacked on billberries in the woods and listened to the distinctive "cronk" of a Raven. I found a bench to sit on and watched the shadows of the clouds flit across the hills and generally revelled in doing nothing, hearing nothing and seeing nobody........Back to the hostel for a few pints of "Snecklifter" and a good nights sleep ahead of a slightly tougher Tuesday.
  Fuelled by a cooked breakfast I set off on Tuesday morning and was soon climbing out above Ennerdale following the path of Gillflinter Beck onto the slopes of Red Pike. It was wet underfoot and there had been a number of landslides across the path so I ended up scrambling through the scree to reach White Pike before heading across the tops to Red Pike and some spectacular views over Crummock Water and a good twenty miles of visibility in all directions. The ridge stretched out ahead of me and I was soon continuing high above Bleaberry Tarn to the next peak, High Stile, where I sat and looked out over Buttermere and away in the distance to the Derwent Fells. I watched another Raven circling and chatted to a couple of girls backpacking their way over to Scafell Pike. Reluctantly leaving the view behind I struck out East along the well defined ridge to High Crag where I stopped for a sarnie with beautiful views down the valley to Ennerdale Water and watched as the clouds started to swirl around Pillar and minutes later the rain started to fall. Descending the steep flank of  High Crag I was aware, for the first time today, of multi-coloured dots ascending the slopes ahead of me, it was Haystacks, beloved by Wainwright and, if Tuesday is anything to go by, large numbers of others. Wainwright wrote of Haystacks, "for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all..", high praise indeed and whilst I might not find myself in total agreement, it is certainly a pretty spot and accessible at only 597 metres. Having made it this far I decided to carry on to Innominate Tarn where Wainwright had his ashes scattered, a site of proper pilgrimage for fans of Lakeland walking. I skirted the tarn and then made my way down a steep sheep track on Haystack's flank to Scarth Gap sandwiched between Seat and Haystacks where I followed the path down to the valley floor and watched a group of walkers working their way up to the Black Sail Hut, sitting remote at the head of the valley. The last four miles were a military yomp along the forestry track back to the YHA. The Ennerdale re-wilding project is working and the valley floor reminds me of wild Scotland or even the South island of New Zealand with the Liza running down the middle and the lack of farming until Gillerthwaite is reached. Ennerdale is still home to Red Squirrels and Pine Martens and is a fantastic spot to get away from the hubbub of the Southern Lakes and enjoy some real solitude.

To view the full album, please click on the link below;!/media/set/?set=oa.257203821065197&type=1