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Friday, February 21, 2014


So it has come to the time of year when instead of pulling on a pair of boots and stomping up a big hill, I strap a pair of planks on my feet and hurtle (in varying degrees of control) down even bigger mountains! La Rosiere this year on The France/Italy border! See you in a week.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A walk round Wessenden Moor

Walking with; Nobody

Saddleworth Moor and the area around will, unfortunately, be forever connected with the Moors murders. The deeds of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley have cast a dark shadow over this area and the impression lingers that these are wild places where bad things happen and bodies and dark secrets are buried. The moorland in this area does have a dark and sometimes forboding feel to it, but as a place to find solitude and feel far removed from the urban jungle of Greater Manchester it represents an excellent option.
I parked in the layby at the site of what was once "The Isle of Sky Inn", Black Hill lay shrouded in low cloud and the car park at Featherbed Moss had been almost invisible beneath the thick blanket of fog. I set off onto The Pennine Way making my way between enormous bags of Heather Brash which was being helicoptered onto the moors and spread by hand to help prevent the worst excesses of erosion. I carried on down past Wessenden Head reservoir to Wessenden Reservoir and Lodge. The Lodge used to serve "rich repasts" in Victorian times, even in Wainwright's day food was provided, but apparently the last tenant farmer moved out some years ago and the place is now being run as a small scale deer farm. It is certainly a picturesque spot to be situated.
I followed the Pennine Way up Blakely Clough before striking off onto Black Moss and locating an overgrown Grouse butt to lunch in with views of the Butterly Hills and beyond. The helicopters had started ferrying the huge bags of brash out on to Broadhead Moss and the whirring of their rotors accompanied for the remainder of the day. There were plenty of Grouse around as I tramped through the peaty bog making my way up to the tiny pool sitting atop Birk Moss. The cloud had lifted by this point and there were grand views across to the Black Hill and the transmitter mast. I cut down to Shiny Brook in the sunshine thoughts of ghosts and bad deeds far from my mind and followed the line of the stream down to the reservoir where The Pennine Way led me back towards my car. As I reached the gates at the entrance a small sign caught my eye and gave me a sombre reminder of why this area is best known, it provided a website link to a campaign set up to try and ascertain the whereabouts of the body of Keith Bennett who is presumed to still be buried out on the wild moors.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lyme Park and Rivington Pike- Two great local walks

Walking with; Gary

Whilst the traditional image of Manchester is one of grim industrialisation, one of the reasons I have made it my home is because of the superb access it offers to the great outdoors! On a good day I can be in Windermere in 90 minutes, Llanberis is not much further and I can be in Hayfield on my way up Kinder in 40mins traffic permitting. However even within Greater Manchester itself and the immediate surrounds there are a wealth of decent walking opportunities, Lyme Park has long been a favourite of mine but Rivington Pike was new to me and all the better for that.
I'd decided on a bit of navigation practice at Lyme Park having seen the forecast and decided that staying low was the smart move. There were a few dog walkers about but not many others daft enough to brave the elements, there were plenty of deer about including a couple of beautiful white stags. I headed out onto the moors and spent a couple of cold, windy hours working my way (generally) successfully from point to point before dropping down into the soggy shelter of Cluse Hay and eventually heading back towards the hall via the pool where Colin Firth/Mr Darcy ignited the fantasies of so many Jane Austen fans!
I'd some notion to head up to the Lakes on Thursday but time ran away me and when my indoor climbing buddy, Gary, suggested visiting Rivington Pike I decided to take him up on the offer. What a great decision, I can't believe I've never been before! The Rivington Terraced Gardens were built for Lord Leverhulme in Edwardian times and designed by Thomas Mawson and consist of a network of paths crisscrossing the hillside and encompassing follies, woodland and more formal oriental gardens. We followed the paths up towards the Pike weaving in and out of the follies including The Pigeon Tower before hitting the top and looking out on some fantastic views as far as Blackpool. It was pretty blowy on the top so we descended and headed over to Anglezarke Reservoir where we spent an hour wandering up to Yarrow Reservoir and taking in the impressive views. The Pike and gardens are a perfect spot for a wander and are clearly popular with the locals but provide a great opportunity to gain some height and explore the gloriously dilapidated follies of the Edwardian era.

To view the full album please click on the link below; 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Walking in the Mourne Mountains

Walking with; Nobody

There is something magical about being the only person on top of a summit, whether that be the top of Ben Nevis or the top of Arnside Knott, there is that feel of smug satisfaction, of a treat well earned. In my mind that satisfaction is even greater when the summit is the highest in a country, for the time you are there, nobody in the country is higher than you, you are on top of that particular section of the world! Such was the feeling I had standing on Slieve Donard on Friday afternoon, there was not another soul to be seen and far below, the town of Newcastle flitted intermittently in and out of the cloud, it was magical!
I'd set off from Belfast in bright sunshine and as I reached Donard Park the sky was still blue and I set off in shirtsleeves. The path wound it's way through the woods following the path of the River Glen until I emerged into the valley opposite the restored Ice House built by the Third Earl of Annseley in the 1830's. I cut off the main path just beyond the Ice House and started to follow the gully between Donard and Thomas's Mountain, it was steep, sweaty work, but as I climbed above the frost line the ground froze and there was lying snow which actually made it easier underfoot. As I hit the summit the cloud dropped and the wind picked up and the views of the coast and Newcastle below disappeared. The cairns on the top of the mountain are believed to date back to Neolithic times and there are many tales of folklore linking the cairns with gates to the underworld. A further tale has Saint Donard turning the cairn into a hermit's cell and thus "appropriating the mountain for Christianity"! The summit wasn't a place to be hanging around too long so I followed the snow clad line of the Mourne Wall down to saddle at the head of the Glen valley. The wall was built between 1904 and 1922 to enclose the reservoir catchment area of the Belfast Water Commission. It was built by hand and is a truly spectacular achievement crossing, as it does, the peaks (or thereabouts) of fifteen different mountains. From the head of the valley I ascended Slieve Commedagh, the second highest peak in the range and from there followed the ridge down to Slievenamaddy and back through the park, before heading to "Diamond Pat's" for a well earned pint or two of the black stuff!
There's no better way to set yourself up for a day in the hills than an Ulster Fry and the one at the excellent "Dacara B and B"  was up there with the best of them...the weather however was not playing ball so I decided to head down to The Silent Valley, a huge reservoir situated south of Newcastle. The reservoir took ten years to build and was completed in 1933, it's a beautiful spot with plenty of walking trails to suit all levels. I decided to head up Slievenaglough and enjoyed a slippery scramble up one of the steeper faces to be greeted with spectacular views of much of the range from the Ben Crom Reservoir, round to the cloud topped Slieve Binnian and then across the flat hinterland to the coast. Leaving the windswept summit I descended across the bogs towards the head of Silent Valley, putting up a couple of Jack Snipe en route. After four fordings of streams of various difficulty I attained the head of the valley and from there it was a simple route march back to the carpark and back into Newcastle in time for the Six Nations!
The Mournes are a very appealing range, they are compact but seem quiet and there is definitely an air of mystery about them. Apparently there is a challenge walk that follows the entire length of the Mourne Wall and I think that is definitely one to be pencilled in for the future!

To view the full album, please click on the link below; 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Grasmere to Langdale in the snow!

Walking with; Gareth and Lawrence

Gareth and Lawrence had travelled up from the balmy South to see what Winter weather the Lakes could throw at them and, luckily, the weekend didn't disappoint. We rolled into Grasmere about 7pm and headed out straightaway  on a night nav. In spite of the cloud cover the snow was reflecting the ambient light which made things a bit easier as we picked our way around Wray Gill and the edge of Brigstone Moss. Even with the snow it was warm work and by the time we headed back to the YHA Lawrence was stripped down to his t-shirt!
YHA Grasmere has the best staff in the Lakes and buoyed by a good night's kip and a solid breakfast we kitted up and headed down Easedale taking in the snowy views that had been denied us the night before. It was slippery underfoot but we followed Blindtarn Gill up towards Swinescar Pike and skirted Lang How to the three tarns area where the snow really hit. We were looking down into Langdale but the snow was blowing upwards and we were being blown about pretty severely as we traversed across the slopes before slip-sliding our way down to the valley floor. In Langdale the snow turned to a steady drizzle and the Pikes themselves winked in and out of the clouds as we followed the Cumbria Way through Baysbrown. Once "The Wainwrights Inn" loomed into view it was a no brainer and we took shelter, dried out a bit of kit in front of the fire and made the most of a restorative pint!
Fortified by this we carried on along Great Langdale Beck before cutting across Walthwaite Bottom and skirting Huntingstile Crag on our way to Loughrigg Terrace. As we started the ascent of Loughrigg we met a couple of walkers who'd decided the wind was too strong and had turned back but undeterred we pressed onwards. When the wind did hit it hit hard, given we were at little more than 300 metres at that stage I can't imagine what it must have been like on the tops....we took the buffeting for a little while before dropping down towards Rydal Water and Grasmere and meandering back along the shoreline with great views of Goosander and Tufted Ducks. A night in "Tweedie's bar" consisted of great food, a log fire, live music and plenty of good beer, just what the Doctor ordered after a Wintery day on the hill!

To view the full album please click on the link below;

Monday, February 3, 2014

Peak Mountaineering

Just a short note to say that I can wholeheartedly recommend Paul Lewis of Peak Mountaineering for anyone looking to improve their mountain skills. As I continue to edge towards my ML assessment I'd decided that a day out with an assessor would be a valuable way of measuring my progress. I booked a day with Paul and despite everything the weather could throw at us I came away with loads of valuable information, some new skills and strategies and an increased belief in my own ability. Onwards and upwards now, but the least I can do is offer a wholehearted endorsement!