Archive for the ‘Pennines’ Category

Winter on Whernside   12 comments

Twas the weekend before the weekend before Xmas and friends from across the country gathered in the Old School Bunkhouse for a weekend of walking and gluttony.

The weather has been pretty poor for the past few years we’ve been heading up here. We were hoping for a small slice of winter and despite reports that there was nothing like the feet of snow we’d had in lowly Herefordshire things looked promising when we got up early(ish) for a walk on the Saturday



Even more surprising was the fact the kids also got up early and wanted to climb a mountain. I was underlined on the virtual sheet of paper and therefore the nominated hike leader so I chose Whernside on account of the fact I’ve only been up once, on a dreadful day in my University days


The ground was frozen solid and the paths and roads were treacherously slippery. Not a great combination when you have the Dangerous Brothers in tow


The clouds rolled in but rather than deliver rain as is the norm on this weekend it sent us some rather nice cloud effects on a pretty much still day


The steep path onto the ridge was very icy with snow depth increasing as we climbed. A chance to stretch on my microspikes and perfect conditions to use them. I was glad I had them and rather smugly reached the ridge ahead of the rest of the floundering party


We stopped on the ridge to throw a few snowballs and look at the icicles


From there is a was splendid rise up onto the ridge in ever-deepening snow, all powdery and clean




As the summit approached the pace slowed primarily as the kids were having fun in the snow. No problem for me. I get as much pleasure out of seeing other people enjoy the mountains in winter as I do myself. Watching the DBs have fun was infectious and put a smile on everyone’s face. I have to say I was in a pretty damned good mood on this walk. The pressures of work seemed a lot further in the past than 24 hours



This photo didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped but if you look closely you can a snow-bow. Very pretty


The summit ridge was proper winter, icy cold and deep snow with a thin mist and vague hints of a blue sky above



Inevitably, snowballs were the order of the day!



The DBs and their dad spent ages playing in/with the snow while the rest of us headed down



Snowballs in action!



The walk down seemed snowier than the way up


It passes by the rather nice waterfalls on Force Gill. I wanted to take a closer look but I was alone in that thought and the ground looked seriously boggy. Another day


The fields on the way back were full of large pools of frozen standing water. Cue more fun for the DBs. Despite the fact the water was likely only a foot or so deep, it still made us edgy as they slid about and the ice made rather worrying deep cracking sounds. These things never worry the DBs though. Wellies and boots full of water is all part of the days fun



The plan was to be back at the bunkhouse for lunch and then head up Ingleborough in the afternoon. The walk and its snowy fun had taken longer than expected so we called it a day and focused on the gluttony aspect of the weekend


A nice picture of the Ribblehead viaduct to finish off.


Cracking 8 mile walk


Normal weather service was resumed for the rest of the weekend. Sunday was awful, low cloud, wind and heavy drizzle until just after it got dark when the skies miraculously cleared. Monday when we had to drive home was clear and sunny.

Still, another great weekend with one excellent walk and much fun and laughter. The Jones family were not too disappointed with the wet Sunday as on Tuesday we were heading off to…….

Wild Camping – The Next Generation   17 comments


The delights of Wild Camping are not always obvious to the younger members of the family. We’ve been hatching a plan for a couple of years to get more of the kids involved after Mark took A out on a couple of trips and me, TJS, the Hardman and his eldest did the same last year

To coordinate a weekend is easier said than done so we just picked a date and agreed to decide closer to the time to see if was a goer.

Right on cue the forecast was really poor. I almost bailed out, not fancying spending a weekend in the rain with grumpy kids. However it was said kids who convinced me I was the grumpy one and we decided to give it a go. We had planned a trip to upper Eskdale but the weather looked truly awful so we plumped on a less ambitious route into the Howgills.

The Saturday morning was as horrid as the forecast, several hours of ceaseless rain had us lounging about Mark’s place while he filled us up with a nourishing soup. We headed out anyway and as luck would have it got delayed by a traffic jam on the M6 long enough for the rain to have pretty much stopped by the time we parked up. All packed and ready to go we headed for the hills




The original plan had been to walk up Carlingill Beck. Its a superb valley and has possible camp spots at the far end. The wet weather had the streams in spate though and crossing them would have been a challenge. We changed tack and headed up and around the head of Carlingill by going over Linghaw and picking up an interesting looking traversing path high above the waterfalls at the head of the valley


The horses kept us company clearly waiting for us to disappear so they could get up to mischief, more of this later



Considering how poor the forecast had been the weather wasn’t all that bad. It had stopped raining and whilst it was windy, the cloud lifted a bit and we had views of a sort


We easily picked up the high level traversing path and what a find (thanks to Mark). Even in gloomy weather it was a real delight, easy, yet elevated high above the deep cleft of Carlingill Beck



We even had a few glimpses of sunshine on the valley below


The path cut across the top of the dramatic Black Force



The kids seemed in great spirits and were enjoying the challenge of the walk into the wilds


There were even steam crossings to delight and amuse for young and old alike




It was just a short walk from there to Blakethwaite Bottom, our intended pitch, having read favourable reviews online as a great spot. It was seriously windy and exposed but we found a great spot on the far side sheltered enough to make sitting outside the tents quite pleasent.

The Hardman had a new tent to try out, an enormous 3 -person Vango affair, in a discrete scarlet colour


I lent Mark my large Lightwave 3 person tent for him and two of his dangerous offspring. He was very taken with it. So taken I’ve lent it to him long term as his kids are really taking to the wild camping and this tent really hits that 3 person spot. I don’t have much use for it any more (TJS prefers to sleep solo when there’s the three of us – I snore apparently as well) and I’d much rather see it in use than under my bed gathering dust


We had a really enjoyable time cooking tea, messing about and having a laugh. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves and being outdoors with a trio of middle-aged grey hikers


We even had some brief sunny spells and decided to take an evening walk up Uldale Head




It was brutally steep and when crested the top, amazingly windy.



We had a few fleeting views but the real fun was had from surfing in the wind. The smiles on the faces below tell how much we all enjoyed being kids. We also discovered that turning cagoules inside out made a fairly effective parachute to drag us around the summit. I forgot to take photos alas


It had been cracking day, all the better for the fact we hadn’t expected to get much out of it other than a soaking and long periods sat in the tent. In the event we only went under canvas when it was time for bed after an improvised game of Petanques with rocks, many brews of tea and lots of biscuits


We woke the next morning with company. A small gathering of wild horses and ponies on our doorstep. A bacon breakfast got the day off to a grand start



Soon there was celebrity death-match between some cows and the horses. The cows won and spent an age just stood close by looking at us curiously, nudging each other out the way for a closer look. Very comical. I’ve had a few run ins with cows recently but these were harmless if a little disconcerting but soon dispersed with a little encouragement


We didn’t want to hang around as the forecast was for strengthening winds and rain in the afternoon. We packed up and headed back down but were hit by the only bad weather of the weekend. We walked straight into a cold deluge that had us all soaked within seconds and for a short period it was deeply unpleasent. It stopped soon enough though and apart from a few short sprinkles we stayed dry the rest of the day


We dropped back down to Carlingill Beck by the side of Black Force. An impressive ravine and extremely steep so we took our time. Again I think the kids enjoyed the challenge and the rain hadn’t doused their spirits in any way



We had a brief lunch by the river and embraced the challenge of a couple of river crossings



The walk along Carlingill Beck is superb and provided a fitting finish to what was a superb if short trip out to the wilds







I wasn’t sure how the kids would take to a wild camp in less than perfect conditions but they were all superb company. My abiding memory of the weekend was smiles and laughter. They took everything in their stride and were a pleasure to be with from start to finish. For me, there was a real sense of pride that they enjoyed it far more than I hoped and seemed to share in the simple pleasures of just being out in the mountains. Their youthful enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we can do this on a much more regular basis. Cracking stuff. If only those pesky ponies I mentioned hadn’t sheltered by my car and barged into it, denting the front wing, the little pests. Still that’s why we have insurance I guess


That brings my blog back up to date. I’m out of action for a few weeks having just had some minor surgery on my left knee. All went well and healing nicely so blog service will be resumed in a couple of weeks

The First Post (of 2017) – Above and Below Ground in the Yorkshire Dales   8 comments

It’s Christmas time and rather than mistletoe and wine, for us its a bunkhouse in the Yorkshire Dales with our little troupe of friends from years gone by. The Old School Bunkhouse has been our home for the past 3 years and despite the fact the weather has been largely miserable, we love it. Well the adults do anyway. Some of the kids now think we should be staying somewhere more sophisticated (more shops, Starbucks etc and less spiders and damp) or even possibly abroad (Amsterdam was suggested, can you believe). Back in the real world this place does us fine, loads of space and huge kitchen make for a very convivial atmosphere

Well this year we actually had a reasonable forecast. In the event there was a great deal of cloud (apart from EWH who always walks around in his own deluded blue sky sunny interval) but it stayed dry and that’s the main thing

On the Saturday a small group tackled Ingleborough while others lazed and went shopping. This included my partners in crime The Dangerous Brothers. I’m an honorary DB, less for my love of danger and more due to my calamitous, clumsy nature that finds danger where no-one thought possible (benign beaches, avocados that sort of thing).


It was an atmospheric day as cloud swirled around the summits and gave us occasional glimpses above and through to sunnier skies above.



The climb up the steep slopes to the plateau were taxing and we’d hoped we’d break through the cloud as promised, but promise was all there was. Once we pushed up towards the top that was the last we saw of blue sky and the end of the photos



The summit was actually bitterly cold, highlighted by the fact that DB Jr had come out with only a T-Shirt under his cag. Cue the comical sight of him wearing ED’s fleece over the top. The size differential is on a cosmic scale. To his absolute credit he barely complained and seemed in chipper spirits the whole day. It was a harsh day and I was mightily impressed how the young ones coped with the inclement weather and longish walk for them

The evening was the usual mix of stories and cooking, treated this year to catering by TBF and her sous chefs ( a very fine shepherds pie). I joke many times about the fact we re-tell many old stories but these gatherings are so important to all of us. Thirty plus years of friendships has given a huge comfort of familiarity. We all do our own things or group together depending on how we feel with no animosity if people feel the need for some “me” time. There is lots of gentle ribbing and mickey taking but no offense is ever taken.We do have some more serious discussions safe in the knowledge that we are all of a similar mind and on the odd occasion we disagree its never taken to heart. I can’t imagine starting my Xmas break without this weekend or indeed any other time of year when we regularly get together

Anyway, back to the outdoor stuff. The Sunday needed something to get the kids engaged (walks are “boring”). We decided to take them caving (after some small scale play in the Runscar caves last year) and all the kids gave it a go. We took the very sensible decision to rent lamps and helmets (a bargain at only £3 each) and it proved a masterstroke – they give off way more light than your average head-torch. ED had done his research and found a small cave just outside Ingleton, Skirwith Cave. It was an old showcave but sounded accessible. After a short while searching the hillside for the entrance (a steep slide down a concrete pipe) we were in. What can I say but it was great, easy walking and loads of interesting features and flow stones. Alas I forgot my camera so if you pop over to ED’s blog, he has some excellent photos

That first cave was enough for most, the delights of cake and carols proving tempting. However the oldies and the Dangerous Brothers wanted more so we headed back to Great Douk Cave. I messed around in here many years ago with GM and ED and my memory was of  a fun but short expedition. It turns out my memory let me down as I had no recollection of just how long, varied and feature packed it was. I did take some photos but they are, as you can see, a bit crap.






Again ED has much better photos over on his blog.

There was flowstone, waterfalls, roof openings and crawls and of course the now legendary “Pumffrey Back-Passage” (last time we were in here, GM got very excited thinking he dug out a whole new cave network until he realised me and ED were standing there looking at him as he burrowed back into the main passage . The DB’s were in their absolute element and despite the cold loved every minute (as did the grown-ups, lets be honest). By the time we returned to the exit the day was fading and we’d had pretty much a full day of enjoyment. More to come next year please, plans are already afoot

Interestingly whilst my photos came out badly, the video worked fine, there vare some clips in the brief slide show at the end

Another awesome weekend to kick off what has become our annual “leave home and the Xmas chaos behind” winter trip. We said our goodbyes and headed off to Luton Airport for another two weeks of fun in the sun

And the Sun it did Shine…   4 comments

The annual pre-Xmas gathering at Ingleton and a car full of wellies and waterproofs. The past couple of years here whilst great fun have been appallingly wet and pretty miserable. Saturday looked well set to continue the trend. Gloomy skies and the threat of rain ever hanging in the air. We convinced the kids to go out with the promise of caves to explore (we neglected to tell them it was an hour’s walk away – very remiss)

Well some of the kids (and adults) love caves and we had a great couple of hours messing about (although some of the party were bored within 10 minutes and wandered off back). Runscar caves are great for kids, no big pot holes or loose rock and wet enough for the Dangerous Brothers. You can in fact walk through from top to bottom but we weren’t really equipped for that. We made a solemn promise to return in summer, hire some proper gear and have proper explore. An ideal activity for a gloomy Yorkshire day although the long walk back in increasingly heavy rain was wearisome by the end. A hearty chilli cooked by yours truly aided by his sous-chefs more than made up for it. Needless to say a grey and rainy day combined with caves was not camera friendly so no photographs

Rather astonishingly there was actually a small amount of blue sky the next day. Despite this (there was food to eat and carol concerts to attend) only myself and Uncle Fester were keen on a walk. TJS was not feeling too well so again he failed climb the iconic Ingleborough with us.




The further we walked the brighter the weather became. Forecast was for very heavy showers and they were clearly all around but we seemed to be in a sunny spell. The walk through the Limestone slopes was a pleasure and even the boggy swampy morass that is Humphrey Bottom is now easy seeing as they flagged the whole stretch.





The steep section up to the edge is also less of a chore and when we reached the top the low angled sunlight was majestic. It was turning into a mighty fine day





As we crested the summit the wind suddenly found it’s feet and roared its greeting from the edge overlooking Ingleton. Not a day for stopping so we waved at the sun, congratulated ourselves on our grand fortune of a day of sun in this most miserable of winters and headed down.




UF wanted a quick retreat but the day was too good to waste. I went on alone along the path that skirts the edges. Its a superb route, airy with grand views over the valley and across to Whernside and Ribblehead. In my younger days I always followed the broad, boggy path up the middle of the “ridge”. Finding this path has been a real revelation.



I was worried that going off piste to get back to the bunkhouse would be tiresome and boggy but it was easy and dry (well, as dry as Yorkshire can be in the Monsoon season). It was even enlivened by meeting MM and EWO on my way down


More gustatory excellence was in order for the evening courtesy of UF. The following day we left early. We had a places to go! 🙂

Xmas Warm Up and Wet Down   10 comments

Xmas is time of traditions and friendship. Our little posse of friends and families celebrate the start of the holidays with a gathering at a hostel or bunk house and its a highlight of the year. For the past couple of years our home has been the Old School Bunkhouse and a very fine place it is. Warm comfortable with bags of space and a huge kitchen.

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

When I say a highlight I certainly don’t mean the weather. The previous year was pretty poor and if anything this year was much worse. Did it matter? Not one bit. The weekend passes by with the simple pleasures of lazy and outsize breakfasts, a few short wanders on the local hills and more convivial time spent preparing meals, chatting and drinking a few celebrity beers. The kids enjoy the simple pleasures of having the run of a huge multi-roomed hostel (and a TV worse luck!). It’s all very simple and undemanding and very satisfying indeed. Spending this weekend with good friends of 30+ years (god is it really that long) is a fine tradition and I hope it continues for as long as we can bore each other with the tales from years gone by.

Now having said all that, I should come clean and say that I really wish the weather is better next year! The area has so much to see and do that I really want to get out and see it through something other than a waterproof hood. The Saturday this year wasn’t too bad truth be told. We got out for a couple of walks.

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

Before lunch we took the juniors (and some seniors) out around the local lanes and paths. Sunshine was mixed with dark and stormy skies and rain was always a threat. Sometimes it’s nice to walk without the burden of a day-pack and all the accompanying hassle. Sometimes its nice to just walk.

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

After lunch a few hardy souls took a walk up Twistleton Scars. Apart from one inadvertent trespass we had a fine walk under glowering skies – a sign of things to come, again just enjoying being out rather than striving for some goal of distance or height.

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

Alas that was as good as it got weather-wise. The last two days were pretty much washed out with heavy rain. This did provide some excitement though.

We got to take the kids to Yordas Cave in Kingsdale. An old showcave that the kids enjoyed immensely. A thunderous stream and waterfall underground provided an exciting if short diversion

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

EWO went out walking and came back looking rather sad and soaked, worth the petrol money as far as I was concerned. Schadenfreude is the word I believe. Only Germans could have a specific word for taking pleasure in others misfortune

And on the final morning, EWO and TYG went out again and came back with tales of swollen streams and life threatening stream crossings. We went out to take a look and discovered some dangerous water flows that very nearly caused us to get wet feet. Some people just can’t help telling porkies and I doubt we will ever let them forget about the day when they risked life and limb paddling through a puddle. Never let the truth get in the way of a good wind up I say.

chapel le dale, ingleborough, ingleton, Old school bunkouse, ribblehead viaduct, waterfalls, twistleton scars, yordas cave, kingsdale

So not much to write home about in terms of outdoor adventures but a superb weekend anyway. Mark has posted his version here and refers to some of the stories from the Xmas get-togethers from many years back before we started increasing the population. Let me finish off the post by elaborating on one of those tales he mentioned by way of my own cathartic amusement and to get me some big points in anecdote bingo.

A gathering at one of our homes always involved us cooking a proper roast dinner with all the trimmings. Cooking can be a tiresome business and we always found it helped to punctuate the day with a regular supply of beer. This does have the minor downside of leading to some poor decision-making on behalf of the chef collective. We once neglected to put the roast spuds in the oven for example until far too late. Some bright spark decided we could microwave them first to speed up the process. Alas we had about 12 people to cook spuds for and one microwave. No problem, just fill the microwave. When I say fill I mean really fill! We just crammed the thing so full that the little rotating plate just went round on its own without moving the spuds. When you opened the door spuds just tumbled out. Anyone with a brain (unfettered by alcohol it should be said) knows that microwaves cook less efficiently the more stuff you put in. End result is after 30 minutes on full power we still had raw spuds. There then ensued a furious debate between those who claimed the spuds were pretty much ready and those who knew they were raw – namely me. The air of tension was palpable  and time was ebbing away so I took the executive decision to throw the spuds out of the window in a fit of pique thus removing them from the equation. There was a silence as everyone looked at the spuds on the back garden lawn before realising that the only way forward was to drink some more beer. The saddest part is that 20 years on some of those involved still claim the spuds were cooked. They weren’t! 🙂

The Second Half and into Extra Time in Silverdale and Beyond   7 comments

So on we traveled through the length of Wales and beyond to Silverdale and a visit to “Our Friends in the North”. They’ve been down to see us the past couple of years so this time it was our turn to mess up their house, eat all their food and generally make a nuisance of ourselves 🙂

As you can see from the slideshow below we had a fine old time

But you want to hear, I know you do. Ready, let’s begin

As is traditional on these house swaps the first day was grey wet and miserable. Fortunately the kids had a plan. Laser Quest. Oh deep joy, running about a warehouse in the dark with a bunch of noisy kids. At my age. Actually it was great fun and most of the kids were friendly and eager to join in the team games with grumpy strangers like me. The day was almost a 100% success but DB Junior managed to split his lip open and spent the next day in hospital having it repaired. He took it all in his stride and was very brave, bless him. He’s not one of the Dangerous Brothers for nothing

The next day we just took the rest of the kids out for a local walk through the woods and up Arnside Knott. A pretty gloomy day but we made the most of it and the kids enjoyed the usual tree climbing antics and poor DB Jr didn’t miss out anything too exciting while he was in hospital

silverdale, arnside knott, arnside tower

silverdale, arnside knott, arnside tower

silverdale, arnside knott, arnside tower

It was then time for ED to show us the sights. He’d been promising to take us to the SW coast of Cumbria near Barrow and it didn’t disappoint. We stopped off for lunch at Aldingham, deserted and peaceful we spent a very nice couple of hours chilling, digging holes, making temples out of pebbles and an absolutely pathetic attempt to light a fire using dried seaweed and a flint-stone (Fred or Wilma, who knows). Where is Bear Gryllls when you need him

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

On to one of my longed for visits. Piel Island and what a place. The childish delight of a small ferry boat ride to a perfect little grassy island with a ruined castle.

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

The high tide mark was just a long line of crab shells, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Oyster Catchers paddled and pecked.

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

The views across the sands to Walney Island and over Barrow to the Black Combe where I’d walked a few weeks before were sublime even on a pretty grey day

The castle is substantial and extensive and clearly you were once able to climb to the top of the keep. Health and Safety seem to have put a stop to that – villains of the piece. Most of the grassy areas outside the castle seem to open for camping. It would be a fine place for a couple of days. Just a shame there’s no pub on such a small island. But, no, there is a pub as well. Be rude not to pay it a visit so a pint of shandy and a lemonade for the kids was very much in order.

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

We only had a couple of hours and the island deserves much more, a return visit needs to be made with a picnic to really explore the island over a full day. I just loved the unusual views of estuary, boats, sand-banks and unusual structures. It’s rare in these small British Isles to find somewhere unique and that was Piel Island

Back to mainland for a beach BBQ at Aldingham to finish the day. But no, one more final treat in store. ED has often told me of the tidepooling at Roa Island (where you catch the Piel Island ferry) and that due to the currents or nutrients or some such the pools under the Lifeboat station are teeming with life. We had to wait till nearly 8pm for the tide to go out but it was magnificent. I’ve never seen so much stuff, hundreds of crabs, anemones, fish, worms crowding every pool. Even the clouds parted and we had some late golden sunshine.

aldingham, roa island, piel island, barrow in furness

I’m in my element in such places and the kids had a ball. It was a shame it was so late and starting to get dark when we had to tear ourselves away and head home. I could have stayed for hours. What a top day

Saturday brought on a Yorkshire Dales walk. ED has been telling me about his renewed enthusiasm for the Limestone scenery and I was keen to revisit. It was a warm and sunny day in Silverdale but as we headed west it clouded up and by the time we arrived in Stainforth it was gloomy with drizzle in the air. We lunched in the rather bland picnic area by the car park and set off for a walk to take in Catrigg Force and the Ribble

Catrigg Force was great in a dark and gloomy sort of way, tucked in as it is in a wooded ravine. Very hard to do it justice with photos.

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

Onward and upward onto the fields and stone walled pastures. The sun made a fleeting appearance and the fields, full of wildflowers were enchanting

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

As we approached the bridge over the Ribble the sun burst forth from a rapidly clearing blue sky and everything was bathed in sunlight as a dramatic contrast to the earlier grey.

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

We stopped and lazed on the grass (others rolled about in it) and all was well with the world.

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

However we had plans for a BBQ in the sun so we pressed on past the excellent Stainforth Force (try saying that after a few beers) where a group of teenagers were swinging from the trees and plunging into the brown water. It had turned into  stunning afternoon to accompany a very fine walk indeed

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill

stainforth, stainforth force, catrigg force, river ribble, upper winskill, lower winskill


4.5 Miles

4.5 Miles

Our last day and we headed to Sizergh Castle for some easy strolling around the gardens. It’s a beautiful spot and there were loads of diversions for the kids including a sort of adventure course in the woods. I satisfied myself with playing photos of the kids, flowers and wildlife in the large pond that sits in front of the castle.

sizergh castle

sizergh castle

sizergh castle

sizergh castle

And that was that. We returned for an outrageously oversized lunch in the garden (joined by a very striking dragonfly) and then set off for home.


A huge thanks to ED, TBF and the family for making us so welcome and relaxed. It was a really great few days and here’s hoping we didn’t outstay our welcome and that we get an invite for next year – lots more to see and do! 🙂

Twas the Weekend before Christmas   7 comments

The annual friends pre-xmas gathering had moved. After 3 splendid years at Ninebanks Youth Hostel we decided it was time for a change. A year or so before we came across The Old School Bunk House at Chapel le Dale near Ingleton. The location was perfect with plenty of walking on the doorstep and loads of interesting limestone scenery to explore. Despite some pretty miserable weather we had a cracking good time.

The bunk house is excellent. Really well appointed, warm and spacious and the owners were friendly and accommodating. Perhaps not quite as much character as some of the places we’ve been to but a huge kitchen (where we tend to spend most of time) and a lounge with enough comfy seating for all us (something singularly lacking at Ninebanks) gets a massive thumbs up from me. I felt at home in minutes, always a sign you’ve hit the jackpot

chapel le dale, old school bunkhouse

Sunshine was in short supply all weekend. Saturday was dark and grey but it did stop raining just before lunch. The kids were not keen to go out but what do they know. They were going out and that was the end of it.

5 Miles

5 Miles

We took a stroll across the limestone to Great Douk Cave.


We had planned to take the kids caving in here (it’s just an easy walk-in sort) but after weeks of rain the entrance was thundering with water. Caves are not a good place to be exploring in high water. We contented ourselves with a scramble about in the entrance and a look down the excavated hole. This was just a rubble filled hole last time I was here but now it’s a sizeable pot-hole. supported by scaffolding and gushing with water. Never quite understood the need, in an area littered with caves, to dig new ones 🙂

Great douk cave

Great douk cave

great douk cave

Our cave fix satisfied we wandered up on to Fenwick Lot, one of the expansive areas of limestone pavements that this area is renowned for. I have a certain fascination for them with their myriad holes and blocks. The kids interest lasted slightly less and most had had enough fresh air by now (the bunk house has a TV and DVD player you see!)

fenwick lot

The hardiest souls noticed shafts of sunlight and headed up the hills onto Souther Scales Fell. Steep it was – very steep! The views back across towards the Ribblehead Viaduct were pretty good and the weather was almost promising

souther scales fell


souther scales fell

The path that follows the edge towards Ingleborough along the flanks of Green Hill is excellent and I don’t think I’ve ever walked it before. We were encouraged to press on to the summit although the light was fading. Right on cue, sunshine was replaced by clouds and rain so most of us headed back down the steep edge to Humphrey Bottom. Unsurprisingly a couple of minutes after heading down it stopped and the sun came out again!


The path across Humphrey Bottom used to be a nightmare of quaking bog, a graveyard for dry feet. In recent years however the whole way has been paved and what an improvement it makes. No ugly scar on the hillside and – dry feet. We made our way back as the last of the light faded with a respectable 5 miles covered and fine day in the wet circumstances. Mexican food and beer tasting followed to close out the evening in true xmas style – who says Xmas shouldn’t begin with Chilli, Enchilladas and Corn Bread!

Sunday dawned cold and wet with hail showers and general unpleasantness. Time for another long leisurely and exceedingly large fried breakfast waiting for the weather to improve and it did – a bit. The Ingleton waterfalls walk beckoned and despite my natural reticence to pay money to look at natural features (they charge you for this walk) we agreed it would keep the kids interested.

4 Miles

4 Miles

Up Swilla Glen along the River Twiss, past Pecca Falls and up to Thornton Force. The rain held off and we even had some glimpses of sun. The falls were in spate and thunderous with water after the rains and quite impressive

swilla glen

pecca falls

pecca falls

pecca falls

Thornton Force was amazing. I was the only idiot who scrambled across the slippery rocks to try and get behind the falls – I gave up halfway across – it was too cold for a swim.

Thornton Force

Thornton Force

Thornton Force

Back across the top and down into the gorge of the River Doe.

river twiss

river twiss


More waterfalls of Beezley and Snow Falls but the light was fading and I’m not skilled enough with the camera yet to get decent photos in such a dark environment. Tripod needed really. Quite a long walk in the end and it was dark when we finished but everyone seemed to enjoy it and that is of course the most important thing

beezley falls

beezley falls

snow falls

That was the end of the excitement though. Monday was a total washout, a truly awful day of driving heavy rain from the moment we woke to the moment I arrived home later in the evening. A sign of the winter to come. A fantastic weekend enjoyed in the company of old familiar friends and faces. We’ve already booked for next year. I would wish everyone a happy Xmas and New Year but of course that would dumb considering it’s now February 26th! 🙂

Ninebanks YHA Weekend Part Two – Greenleycleugh Crags   14 comments

Some walks have a special place in your heart, like a fondly loved tune or a favourite meal. This walk is one of  mine for reasons I can’t truly explain. It’s not especially dramatic, doesn’t possess any features of great interest, in fact I would imagine the “big peak” baggers would call it dull. Perhaps it’s the peace and solitude, possibly the open expansive views, or just simply it’s such a quiet and little known or walked area. Whatever the reason it’s a great easy stroll that fits in with the laid back atmosphere we always seem to conjure and cultivate on our Xmas weekends.

Greenleycleugh Crags

Greenleycleugh Crags from Ninebanks

After our cracking day out to Hadrians Wall and an evening of curry, quizzes and stories it was time for a more leisurely day. Best way to begin such a day is with a humungous fried breakfast served with toast and several pots of tea. None of us are especially great cooks (well Mark is actually but let’s not build his part up) but boy do we know how to fry sausages and bacon and boil unfeasibly large amounts of beans in a pan. Refreshed and stomachs full to bursting we needed exercise so we “popped out for a stroll”.

Mohope Burn

Mohope Burn

We headed on the same route as we did last year (minus the clear, cold, snowy conditions) but when I plotted the route it came out at 7.5 miles which surprised me as it always feels less than half that.


D is now the proper mountain man so declined the offer of a kiddy stroll in favour of joining that seasoned group of mountaineers that is me, Mark, Geordie Munro and Uncle Fester – building parts up again there. We strode, well ambled, along the quiet and muddy banks of the Mohope Burn below the hostel where we met up with the advance summit party who’d got up at the crack of dawn to bag what turned out to be spot heights on the moor.

Mohope Burn

Intrepid mountain men

This prompting a new tedious train of thought about possible guidebooks and tick lists. EWO then took a sideways step away from convincing us that weather is sunny and cloudless when it clearly isn’t, to trying to convince us that the moors were not boggy when they clearly were. We decided it was time to move on and headed on up towards the moors. Not without losing one of our party though. You’re probably thinking it was the younger member of the party, worn down by the relentless pace of the experienced members. Wrong, it was Uncle Fester who bailed out – he can’t walk for two consecutive days the poor old lamb. Despite this set-back we recovered our composure and carried on.

West Allendale

GM and ED above West Allendale

West Allendale

West Allendale

There was a biting cold wind blowing so we took a stop in the forest of the Corryhill Plantation. It was dark and gloomy but again for reasons I can’t put my finger on it was a wonderful 30 minutes. We sat, brewed tea , ate cold apple crumble and custard from a sandwich box, and relived, at D’s request, some of our favourite days in the mountains from years gone by. Mark has detailed this in his blog post of the same day as well as a rather dated and embarrassing photo from the 80’s. If I ever get the time I’d love to scan in some of those old photos and tell a few more of those tales from years gone by, they were good times.

Corryhill Plantation

ED and GM discuss the old days

We continued up onto the Dryburn Moor and on to Greenleycleugh Crags. As expected it was boggy unlike the assertions of EWO!

Dryburn Moor

Dryburn Moor

Small in stature and little more than a line of loose boulders it’s an esoteric spot which I’ve grown to love. The view spreads from the western Lake District to Cross Fell and over to the North Sea. Doesn’t really qualify as a “hill” but it would definitely make it into my book of “small hills with disproportionately fine views”. It’s up there now with Carn Fadryn, Foeldrygarn and Arnside Knott in my affections. It’s lonely, unspoilt and evokes feelings of a bygone age. Despite the road only a few hundred metres away it feels like a step back in time to a simpler age. It’s a beguiling place and one I urge you to seek out when you are up this way

Greenleycleugh Crags

Greenleycleugh Crags

Greenleycleugh Crags

ED on Greenleycleugh Crags

Greenleycleugh Crags

Tarns on Greenleycleugh Crags

Due to the late start the light was fading so after a brief pause we headed down through the open moor and upland fields down to West Allendale.

West Allendale, Mohope Moor

West Allendale and Mohope Moor

We caught sight of a couple of deer in the woods as we descended the ever steepening slopes to the river including a rather precarious and dated gate.

West Allendale

Olympic Gymnastics

Back in the valley we crossed fields of mud and passed through the sleepy farms at Broadlee and Hesleywell back to the hostel. It was pretty much dark when we got back but we all added this walk and this day to our list of the best ever. It says much for it’s quality that it shares a place with some well known and distinctive routes from my past. My first ascent of Ben Nevis in winter, Piz Palu in the Bernina Alps, Chrome Hill in the White Peak, Sgor Gaoith on skis to name a few. It deserves it’s place.

West Allendale

Winter Trees

Having visited this area for the past 3 years and this walk in particular the last 2, perhaps its familiarity that gives this walk it’s special place. They say familiarity breeds contempt. I disagree, and this weekend epitomises that sentiment. To me familiarity is bred from memories and my memories are my story of who I am and the person I’ve become. My passion for the outdoor life is very much at the core of my personality so my memories of my walks both favourite and less well cherished are an integral part of that. As I have changed so has my appreciation of the mountains. In my callow youth I became the peak bagger, seeking out the highest summits, the well known mountains, the longest routes, compiling and checking off lists, reluctant to repeat a mountain (“nah, went up that one last year”). Nowadays I look for unusual places, hills I’ve never heard of or visited, intriguing routes, quiet places. When I’ve found them I like to revisit them and enjoy them time over adding to that list favourites and special places. Familiarity breeds close acquaintance and an understanding of charms and subtleties. You come to feel at home on a walk

Mohope Moor

Moon over Mohope Moor

This passion for the outdoor life began while I was at University through it’s Hiking club. I forged some great friendships from those beginnings with people who shared that passion. These friends that were with me right at the start are still my best friends today. They have shared in many of my formative experiences in the hills and been part of most of the those favourite days. They are part of that familiarity that marks out who I am. We’ve all grown up (a bit!) through various careers and now into building our own families but the outdoors is still that constant binding thread. These weekends are a fundamental part of my life and I can’t imagine it any other way. When we get together that familiarity breeds a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of friendship that I’d struggle to define. The old favourite stories from 30+ years that we re-tell time and again (and often joke about) remind me of good times, no, great times that we’ve had and like the favourite walks are part of who I am, my story, that I now tell through the blog. It will be sad day if we stop telling them or sharing the memories. I can’t imagine not spending the last weekend before Xmas in a Youth Hostel, the first weekend in the school summer holidays in North Wales or any other of the regular get-togethers. Familiarity breeds lifelong friendships.

Next year it’s off to somewhere new. Goodbye Ninebanks (for now) and thanks for all the fish 🙂

Ninebanks YHA Weekend Part One – Hadrians Wall   8 comments

The annual Xmas gathering was here again and just like the last 2 years our chosen location was Ninebanks YHA in the North Pennines. The last 2 years has seen an “interesting drive” over the high roads from Penrith and Alston on snow and ice but no such fun this year with an uneventful journey and no drama – shame! The downside of the white stuff is that we’ve never been to Hadrians Wall a mere 30  minutes away, choosing sledging and walking over more scary driving.

Hadrians Wall, Steel Rigg, Peel Crags

Peel Crags from Steel Rigg

Me and D in particular were keen to see it having never been and this year was our chance. We were especially inspired as Mark and his kids had taken a summer hostel walk along the wall in the summer and were full of stories of how good it was. Armed with a plan Mark suggested we packed up the kids into the cars (I got most of them!) and headed to Steel Rigg to start the walk.

Hadrians Wall

The weather looked “mixed”, possible sunshine, possible rain but in the end we only had one spell of drizzle while we were out, which alas coincided with lunch. We passed the remains of the first turret and then scrambled up onto Peel Crags.

Peel Crags, Hadrians Wall

Peel Crags

Peel Crags, Hadrians Wall

Peel Crags

The walking was superb and just right for kids, plenty of wall related stuff, scrambles and the like to keep the kids going and some wide open views for the adults to enjoy. For me it was great to see an area I’d never been before and one of Britain’s most famous landmarks. It’s not so much the wall itself that’s impressive but the concept of the wall and the effort it must have taken to build it. Such a long and immense construction (including the turrets, Milecastles and forts) in some pretty wild and inhospitable terrain. I kept reminding the kids that these features were all 2000 years old.

Hadrians Wall, Crag Lough, Milecastle 39

Crag Lough & Milecastle 39

We stopped of at Milecastle 39 for a rather damp lunch and for the kids to play.

Hadrians Wall, Milecastle 39

L at Milecastle 39

From there we passed Sycamore Gap. I’m reliably informed that in the Kevin Costner film “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” our hero is seen sitting at this very spot discussing what a naughty chap the old Sheriff of Nottingham is before popping over to Nottingham to teach him a lesson. Not sure why he needed to ride 300 miles from Sherwood Forest for this little chat but such is Hollywood.

Hadrians Wall, Sycamore Gap

Sycamore Gap

We continued on over a long section above Crag Lough, it’s cold dark waters looking, well, cold and dark.

Crag Lough, Hadrians Wall

Crag Lough

This was the most dramatic section for me and was the view I had in my head when thinking of the wall and it’s scenery.

Hadrians Wall, Crag Lough

D above Crag Lough

Hadrians Wall, Crag Lough, Hotbank Crags

Crag Lough from Hotbank Crags

Hadrians Wall, Crag Lough, Hotbank Crags

Crag Lough from Hotbank Crags

From there it was on to Hotbank Crags for what Mark reckoned was his favourite part of the walk he did in the summer.

Hadrians Wall, Hotbank Crags

The gang on Hotbank Crags

He was  right, it was top drawer. Easy walking along a high grassy ridge with the wall for company.

Hadrians Wall, Hotbank Crags

Wall walking along Hotbank Crags

The kids were having a great time and making light work of the walk despite the cold and windy conditions. As we approached Milecastle 37 the low sun came out lighting up the wall and it’s surroundings in a most becoming fashion.

Hadrians Wall, Hotbank Crags

Sunset at Hotbank Crags

Hadrians Wall, Hotbank Crags

Looking back along Hotbank Crags

Hadrians Wall, Hotbank Crags, Milecastle 37

Hotbank Crags and Milecastle 37

We took in a section of the wall that you can actually walk on (D was especially pleased about that part) and dropped down to one of the famous forts, Housesteads. I had it in my head that this fort would be on flat ground  down by the road but in fact it’s built on a hillside well up in the hills. It’s a huge and impressive roman site containing all the usual features you expect to see (underfloor heating, latrines, bath houses, granary).

Hadrians Wall, Housesteads

Granary at Housesteads

Hadrians Wall, Housesteads

Underfloor heating at Housesteads

Hadrians Wall, Housesteads

Barracks at Housesteads

However it was already starting to get dark when we arrived so we were only able to give it a very cursory look (most of the kids had bailed to the warmth and fun of the interactive museum) before we called it a day. We’d finally seen the Wall and what a fascinating experience it had been, cracking walk and history lesson all rolled into one. It needs alot more of my attention if this little jaunt is indicative. If you want to read more of the history of the wall etc then what you need is to read an extensive account of summer stroll along the wall, taking in all the features. Luckily I know a man who has so pop over to Mark’s blog and read his account starting here. You can also read his own account of this day if you need more.

Ninebanks – Gathering of the Clans (part 2)   10 comments

After the action packed day, revelry and all night partying of the previous night (well a couple of beers and a handful of quality street anyway) we had a bit of lie in on the Sunday. The day started cloudy but it soon started to clear into what looked like a cracker of day.


Ninebanks Hostel

Me, GM and ED (now fully recovered from his dunking on the first day) decided on”a bit of a stroll”. We said we’d be back shortly but in the end we were out most of the day


Setting off

We left the ladies in charge of the kids sledging. The previous year the lads all had a go as well but after a mix of major injuries (ED – again! why does he attract so much incident) and busted sledges resulting from fat gits sitting on them, we thought we’d better leave it to the junior members of the party.


TYG, L and Z


E in full flow


B makes and igloo - sort of!


"Girls just wanna have fun"

We took in a stroll along Mohope Burn where the sun was casting a glorious winter light over the snow-covered landscape. We spent the time chatting as we walked and playing with the cameras taking “artistic” shots – yeah right! Still, don’t think I do too bad for a rank amateur with his point and press multiple approach.


Mohope Burn

It was a simple walk over the fields and green (well white) lanes up to the lower slopes of Greenleycleugh crags.


Surveying the scene - with a slightly suspect pose

Once onto the open moor the going became tougher with deep snow on even deeper tussocks and grass.


Tussock bashing

This was more than compensated by the views which were inspiring with a virtually cloudless bright blue sky and views for miles. The “Christmas Cake” look.


GM poses artistically

Cross Fell was showing its bulk and you could clearly make out the communications domes on Dun Fell. You could even make out the tower blocks of Newcastle.


Cross Fell and Dun Fell

I’ve been astonishingly lucky this year. I’ve lost count of the number of days of crystal clear blue sky days I’ve had and here I had another  one. It’s good to be alive on a day like this and whilst I’ve had longer, more dramatic, tougher days than this, few can beat the 30 minutes I spent on this little known and I bet little visited hillside.

We lingered as long as the cold wind would let us drinking from flasks and sharing the Apple Crumble I’d thoughtfully carted up with me and kindly shared around (these boys don’t deserve me).


Summit scoffing

Even though it was relatively early as we returned along Mohope Burn the sun was already dipping below the hills and the temperature dropping. Another truly memorable day


Mohope Burn


Homeward bound

The kids were still sledging and building igloos when we got back but it was time for a brew and some serious festering back at the hostel.

The evening was pleasant but quieter as many of the posse had to return home as their schools had yet to break up (when will there be a coordinated set of school holiday dates – how hard can that be!). We had plans to do a short walk on the Monday morning but the weather turned foul so it was just a long drive back home.

Another top drawer weekend and a big thanks  to EWO and TYG for booking everything. Already counting the days to Ninebanks 2012. ED has his own report the day here including a brief summary of the various nicknames for members of our pathetic band of tedious anecdoters. The slide show below includes some kiddy sledging action as well as the usual mountain vistas spoilt by a couple of middle-aged walkers in the frame

Posted January 9, 2012 by surfnslide in Family Trips, Pennines, Walking

Tagged with , ,

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