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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Win Hill before work

Walking with; Nobody

Starting work at 4pm on a Saturday when your good lady is away taking in the sea air of Whitby and the blue skies and crisp air make for perfect rugby playing conditions is not a prospect to gladden the heart. It does, however, provide ample time for a pre-shift walk and on a perfect Autumnal Saturday it would have been criminally neglectful not to stretch my legs a little. Days like today are the ones you bank to keep you going on rain lashed, misty tramps up Black Hill in November, days that inspire and remind you just why it is that we get out there in the first place.
Win Hill has long been a favourite haunt of mine, back in my carless days when the Hope Valley rail line was my best way of accessing the Peak District, it was the first hill I climbed in this area. Like Mam Tor it provides real "bang for your buck", a short, if very steep, climb is rewarded with 360 degree views of a truly spectacular nature from the 462 metre summit. To the North is Ladybower Reservoir whilst the ridge running North West links it to Kinder Scout. The ridge is crossed by the old Roman road near the Hope Cross marker post.Legend has it that the name derives from a battle in 626 when a force of numerically inferior Northumbrians defeated the forces of Wessex and Mercia, though there is little evidence to substantiate this and it is probably best regarded as myth.
Leaving the Thirteenth century church of St Peter's I headed off down the Edale Road before ducking under the railway line and starting the climb to Twitchell's Farm. The slope rises steeply and by the time I passed the well situated holiday cottages I had fine views along the Great Ridge to the paragliders on Mam Tor and back to Winnat's Pass (newly famous from the Olympics!) The heather had nearly gone, but there were still patches of vivid purple as I climbed up to the "pimple", the distinctive summit of Win Hill which was crowded with bikers and hikers. The views were superb in all directions and a 30 second hop from the Trig Point provided a little more tranquility.
Rested and refreshed by the views over the reservoir I headed back along the ridge towards Lose Hill. The sun was shining, sky was blue and if I hadn't had to head off to work it would have been a beautiful day to carry on over Lose Hill and onto Mam Tor, still it wasn't to be and I picked one of the paths leading back down to Hope for a slice of Yorkshire Curd tart and a coffee at The Courtyard cafe before clocking in for the evening!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wasdale in the Wet

Walking with; Nobody

I am developing another worrying addiction. Since quitting cigarettes, I have had a number of these ranging from Pork scratchings to Charlie Sheen's version of "Two and a Half Men", however, my latest, Wasdale, is healthier than any that have gone before it. I love this valley containing the deepest lake in England surrounded by forboding, scree slopes and peaks with the intimidating look of proper hills. It has become my Lake District go to this year, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the difficulty in reaching it by road, and even in horrendous conditions it hasn't let me down. I left Manchester in sunshine and arrived in Wasdale with cloud blanketing the tops and rain coming down, undeterred I donned every item of waterproof clothing I possessed and set off up Yewbarrow. At 628m it is not one of the higher peaks in the area but it sits above the lake and has a satisfyingly mountainous profile. It is reckoned to be named for the Yew trees that once thrived in the area and it's shape which resembles (with a little imagination) the bottom, or barrow, of an upturned boat. I took the route up through the Great Door, an entertaining little scramble traversing plenty of water and involving an amount of effort that made achieving the cloudbound summit very satisfying in spite of the lack of view! It was cold on the top so I hurried on along to Stirrup Crag from where I dropped down towards Over Beck where I squelched my way back along the valley following the path above Bowderdale with nobody but a few bedraggled sheep for company.
The drying room, pint of Snecklifter and library of the Wastwater YHA provided welcome respite from the weather and a warm and comfortable bed for the night.The hostel is a half-timbered house dating from 1829 and owned by the National Trust and the grounds at the front run right down onto the lake with great views of the forbidding scree slopes of Illgill Head.
I set off early next morning in sunshine, but by the time I'd driven the three miles to Wasdale Head it was raining and the wind was so strong that the car was rocking in the carpark, undeterred I headed off past the Inn (famed as one of the birthplaces of contemporary British climbing) and into the beautiful Mosedale. One of the benefits of inclement weather is that it greatly reduces the number of other people you meet in the hills and I had this fantastic dale to myself. Gatherstone Beck was in full spate so I spared myself the crossing and followed it's Eastern bank up to Black Sail Pass where the views down to Ennerdale and lonely Black Sail were impressive and where the wind funnelled through with such force it was all I could do to stay upright. Wet weather and scree do not make for the most comfortable scrambling companions and the ascent of Kirk Fell was (probably) just the wrong side of certainly got the adrenalin pumping and made the reward of popping up onto the top at the same time as a rainbow appeared behind me doubly satisfying. Kirk Fell is, however, not the most secnic of tops and with nothing to subdue the force of the wind was not a place to stop and I soon found myself nestling down behind some stones at Beck Head Tarn and watching another adventurerer trying not to be blown off the ascent of Great Gable.
 The power of a good cheese roll to inspire is not to be underestimated and I had Great Gable under my belt in less than an hour. Standing at 899m it is a truly impressive peak and worth the buffeting and battering the wind had given me on the way up. The lure of the Wadale Head Inn was growing ever stronger and I decided on the direct path down via Little Hell Gate and Gavel Neese, sure the contours were closely grouped on the map and the name sounded a little intimidating, but it was the "crow flies" route.......An hour of scree surfing, slipping, sliding and taking lots of deep breaths my feet hit solid ground once more with my thighs screaming and knees protesting and the odd hole or two in the bottom of my waterproof trousers. It is not a route I'll be taking again.....Lingmell Beck led me back to a pint in the pub and a wander round England's smallest church, St Olaf's. The gravestones bear testament to the dangers of the surrounding hills and also house members of famous fell runner and Wadale resident, Joss Naylor's, family. It's a peaceful little spot to contemplate both an ever growing addiction the splendour that surrounds even when you're soaking wet through!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Four Reservoirs Walk

Walking with; The Pendle Walking Festival

Walking Festival walking is of a very different kind from lonesome wandering. Whilst the freedom to stop at will and change direction on a whim is restricted, there is no need to constantly refer to a map or to worry about pacing, the walk leaders can generally provide useful local information and there is the opportunity to talk to other like minded souls. Pendle claims to be the UK's largest free walking festival and there are certainly events to suit all interests and abilities (see link for details)
As I have previously mentioned Pendle's main claim to fame is the Witch Trials that took place 400 years ago in 1612 where 12 alledged witches were tried and 10 executed. The region trades heavily on these events and part of the walk today followed The Pendle Witches Trail. We were seen off on our walk by the Lord Mayor of Pendle, not an everyday occurence, and one which made me wish I'd cleaned my boots! We set off along the banks of Pendle Water and headed through cow-tread boggy farmland (which made me glad I'd not bothered to clean my boots) with Old Pendle looming large in the distance. The appeal of Pendle is the way it rises from the flat valleys and troughs and dominates the surrounding landscape, a huge expanse of rock that just demands to be ascended! We passed between the Black Moss reservoirs where a number of fly fishermen were chancing their arms without any noticeable success that I could see. Conversations was batted back and forth within the group, "Where are you from?", "Where have you walked?" etc and tales of the witches were told as well as modern day tales of angry farmers tearing down 2012 witch memorials on the hill!
The sun came out for the ascent, a blessing or a curse? It made the climb pretty tough but the views from the top were fantastic, stretching out across the Lancashire countryside. A breeze cooled lunch, most of which I spent evading sandwhich scavenging sheep, provided beautiful views of Swallows and House Martins wheeling and swooping and keeping the midges down! We crossed the marshy tops, scruffy heather and black peat, on a fine flagstone path that very much reminded me of last weeks wander down The Pennine Way from Black Hill. At the foot of the hill, the vast expanse of moorland on top remains invisible, but once on top the summit spreads for miles and we crossed it to the head of Ogden Clough and began to folow the Clough towards Barley. Ogden Clough is not uninteresting but nor does it change much from top to bottom and the narrow goat path we followed ensured that eyes were directed firmly towards where feet were put rather than the scrubby surrounds. The clough ends in two more reservoirs and the path from there descends into the picturesque village of Barley where our numbers fraternally co-mingled with a group of French hikers, including a very fine gentleman with feathered beret!
Barley is a pretty spot with a fine cafe. United Utilities during excavations uncovered an almost complete 17th Century cottage complete with cat skeleton which it has been suggested may have belonged to one of the accused Pendle witches......The route from Barley back to Barrowford is a low level meander partially following Pendle Water and with fantastic views back to Pendle Hill. I saw a nodding, twitching Dipper and a pair of Grey Wagtails, before we were spat back out into Barrowford and urbanity and made our way back to our cars. Barrowford is home to the Pendle Heritage Centre, a beautifully maintained park and "The White Bear" pub where (before it was a pub) Methodist preacher and reformer John Wesley was forced to take shelter from an angry mob. All of these deserve a return and further exploration.
Whilst the walk was conducted in the glorious sun of an Indian Summer, there were some distinctly Autumnal hints. The rose hips and rowan berries are out, leaves are starting to turn and as we came through Barley, schoolchildren were emerging from the local Primary for the first time for many of them!