The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Gun

Having plenty of daylight and energy remaining following my jaunt up Shining Tor, as I headed back to Blackshaw Moor I decided that it would make sense to take advantage of today’s good weather and take the trip up Gun, which (in this morning’s re-plan) had been deferred until tomorrow.

Aside from the weather, being already out and about in Colin meant gave me the further advantage of being able to park a bit closer, saving a good mile of road-based out-and-back when compared with starting from the campsite. Not knowing whether there was any parking (moreover Colin-sized parking) very near to the hill*, Colin was abandoned in Meerbrook (a couple of kilometres east of my objective) and off I strode.

Grazing land bordered the road, giving me the initial impression that I was right that this wasn’t going to be an interesting hill. Then came a sudden change as I reached the summit of the road: off to the north was moorland, and that was the direction in which I was heading.

The patch of moorland isn’t large, but it’s certainly popular and affords excellent views, including Shining Tor, on which I had been standing a few hours prior:

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I think, but could be wrong, that Shining Tor is the rounded lump to the right of the notable peak

Incredibly, considering the number of people around, the only company I had near the summit was a radio ham (see, there he is in the photo below):

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My initial thoughts of ‘what a disturbance’ and ‘why does he need to shout?’ morphed into interest as I realised how far away were the people to whom he was talking (although I’m sure the distance didn’t necessitate the shouting!). Florida and Ohio were included whilst I was there, and he certainly seemed to be rattling through contacts without pause, so I didn’t disturb him with my nosiness.

On the spur of the moment, I didn’t turn to retrace my steps, but instead opted for a circuit, even though that was going to take me past some farms with the attendant danger of more killer-dog encounters. Fortunately, the only dog which took an interest that I would perceive as aggressive didn’t reach the path until I was safely over a stile and hot-footing it across a field.

Although cloudier than the morning had been, no rain arrived until a good couple of hours after I was ensconced back within Colin (after 4.3 miles on this little outing with 600’ of up), happy to have achieved all of this week’s hills in good weather.

The question now is what to do tomorrow?

(*as it happens, there is a parking area almost opposite the footpath to the summit, but it was also full)

Shining Tor

Peeking out of the window just as the day was thinking of dawning, a swift re-plan was had. With clear skies and not a hint of fog, compared with a forecast of rain and ‘almost nil’ probability of cloud-free summits for tomorrow, it made eminent sense to visit the more interesting-looking hill today, saving the less interesting for tomorrow’s poor weather.

That did mean that Colin would have to move, necessitating a flurry of activity whilst an explosion of stuff got re-stowed, but it was still before 8.30 as I set out towards Derbyshire Bridge for a trip up Shining Tor.

The frost was heavy and the views (particularly of the Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks) were truly superb as I trundled my way north, but the final approach road to my car park was doing a good impression of an ice rink. The road along which I then needed to walk for a while was similarly slippery, so I was glad to get off it, even though the temperatures hadn’t been quite low enough to fully freeze the bogginess I then encountered.

My ‘why are you working when you could be here?’ email to Mick from the summit told him that it was “either a grin-inducing place to be on a day like today, or a grin-inducing day to be in a place like this, but either way the combination of place and weather are mightily pleasing”. Unfortunately, my snaps from the summit don’t do justice to quite how far the views extended:

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There was low level fog visible in the distance in this direction, as well as three valleys along to the east.

It certainly wasn’t a day for a quick out and back, so along the ridge I continued to Cats Tor. The path was getting busy by then, including a group of 20 or so who merrily took up the entire path, forcing me off it. Even so, they all got a cheery “good morning”. Later, having dropped down to the road and then veered off towards Errwood Reservoir, I wasn’t quite so cheery to the owner of a killer dog (although I concede that ‘Baldrick’ is a good name for a dog!).

Foxlow Edge took me back upwards for a while, which looked the better alternative (rather than simply heading down the valley) on a day like today. It was so nice up there that I declared it to be lunchtime at the top of the pimple, even though it was only 11.15. I do consider lunch to be a very moveable feast!

Down at Errwood Reservoir, there was a severe lack of water, but that added to the interest, I thought:

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Gorgeous weather, and still frost in the shade

A couple of miles along the (still icy in places) road took me back to Derbyshire Bridge with 8.8 miles walked with somewhere around 1600’ of ascent.

What I should have done then (I now realise) was take a trip over to Shutlingsloe. It had been such a feature in the morning’s views, that I have no idea why I didn’t think of it at the time, given that I had plenty of daylight and energy remaining. Instead I headed back to Blackshaw Moor and …

…to be continued (don’t get excited, there’s no cliff-hanger. If I hark on much longer here, it’s going to be a ‘mare to get this to post; as it is I have to hold the laptop at an uncomfortable angle at the window to get enough signal.)

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Cloud and Rudyard Reservoir

If this morning’s hard frost wasn’t the first of the winter in the Midlands, then it’s certainly the first that I’ve noticed. Perishing it was (particularly after being spoilt with such mild temperatures thus far) as I left the house and pointed Colin’s nose northwards. On the plus side, there was absolutely no hint of fog, and lots of blue sky. Was I actually going to get a view from a summit?!

At just after 9am (and after a number of multi-point turns that I’m not going to disclose; it wasn’t my finest bit of driving navigation!) I pulled into a car park in Rushton Spencer and, over a cup of tea, promptly changed my plan.

The original intention had been a 11.5-mile circuit, taking in The Cloud (yep, another Marilyn), but as I sat there, tea in hand, looking at the 1:25k map, I noticed that I was very close to Rudyard Reservoir, and that the larger scale of map (in contrast to my newer 1:50k mapping) showed a path going the whole way around it. My circuit therefore became an out-and-back, to be followed by a circumperambulation of the reservoir.

After a bit of muddy farmland and a bit of muddy woodland, a few more muddy paths took me up to my objective, and before I reached the top I could already appreciate what a fine place it was going to be. With a bit of a grit stone outcrop on top, the lump stands proud amongst land which is, predominantly, very flat indeed. I couldn’t resist sending a smug email, complete with photo, to Mick to let him know what he was missing; .

The topograph by the trig point gave me the ability to take a self-timed photo (far better than an arm-outstretched, double-chin-inducing selfie), but I now realise that I completely failed to even glance at what the topograph was telling me.

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Cloud-free on The Cloud…

After cake and no small amount of view-admiration in solitude on the summit, I saw that people were approaching from all directions at once, which I took as my cue to leave. The return journey was remarkably similar to the outward one.

Lunch and more tea in Colin set me up nicely for Walk #2. Initial indications were that it was going to be far duller than the map had suggested, as I trogged along first an ex-railway line and then a tarmac track. It all came good after a while, with the main source of interest for me being the variety of dwellings dotted along the water’s edge to the north of the village of Rudyard. Varying from shacks to a stone-built house that sits fully within the water, I’m sure they all boasted fine views, although some of their boat-ramps were clearly currently useless, with the water sitting many feet below their ends.

It didn’t strike me as a lake big enough to be attractive to yachters, but this snap suggests that I know little on the subject. It also, hopefully, conveys what a pretty spot this is:

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The railway bed on the east side of the water is not entirely an ex-railway, as part of its width (admittedly a very small part!) has been taken over by a narrow-gauge, an engine on which was just testing out a newly repaired bit of track as I passed by, but it wasn’t interesting enough to cause me to break stride. Only the views (I took lots of photos today!), waylaid me from my route, until, at the end of the reservoir, the views ran out and from there it was only thirteen hops, eight skips and a few jumps until Colin was back within my sight.

The stats for the day were 5.6 miles on the first outing and 6.2 on the second, which I make to be 11.8 miles in total. I believe that Anquet has seriously over-reported the ascent on both walks and that rather than 2400’, there was actually nearer to 900’.

Tomorrow, I shall be visiting the Marilyn with the shortest name. According to the last weather forecast I saw, it’s going to be foggy in the morning and raining in the afternoon, and I’m not fancying my chances of hitting the middle ground, after the fog has lifted and before the rain arrives!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Walton Hill (Worcestershire)

I was almost at my chosen start point for this morning’s walk when it struck me that the number of brown ‘Country Park’ and ‘Visitor Centre’ signs meant that it wouldn’t be a free car park. That was a bit of a problem, and on this occasion it wasn’t entirely due to my severe aversion to paying for parking that made me rethink my start point; it was the fact that the entirety of the cash I had with me was 2p. Even if this was a cheap car park, it wasn’t going to be that cheap!

A quick re-plan and I headed off to park at the foot of my hill, which wasn’t my ideal choice. Parking further away makes sure that I don’t get overcome by laziness and call it a day after just nipping up the hill and back. Happily, not far from the Country Park I came across a large (and empty) layby, which served my purposes perfectly.

After a few crop fields, a lane (which I walked in both directions without meeting a single car) took me through extensive attractive woodland whilst taking me down, down and down some more. Why was it taking me downhill? So that I could climb back up, of course!

The climb back up gave me pleasing views:

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With lovely autumn colours in some directions:

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Then a gently rising path, initially through more woodland, took me to the top of Walton Hill, where I did take a selfie but it’s so awful (far more so than yesterday’s!) that I’ll keep it to myself and just share a piccie of the trig point itself:

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So much was I enjoying myself, that I opted to walk on further, dropping the north side of the hill to venture into the Country Park that lay in that direction (a different Country Park to the one I didn’t park in – this little area doesn’t seem to be short of Country Parks). There was a view point marked on the map there and I reckoned that I would reach it just about lunchtime. Lunch was thus taken admiring the view from a bench by the ‘Four Stones’. A fine view it was too. I could only imagine what it would be like on a clear day.

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The topograph nearby proved difficult to read, but it has stood there since 1929, and it must be a popular place (i.e. lots of fingertips rubbing over the names), so it’s not surprising it’s a bit on the worn side:

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A perusal of the map over lunch gave me a route for my return (it’s such a nice area that I wanted to see more of it, rather than retracing), and off I set in the direction of Clent. Some of the paths were horribly muddy…

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…although in the case of the one shown above, I shouldn’t have even been there. I got my compass out to check my direction before I took this path, and have no idea (having now looked at the GPS track) how I came to the conclusion that this was the right way. I hadn’t gone too far before realising my error, but to put myself right, I had to wade right back through it again.

Back on track, more fine colours were around me:

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It was a lollipop shaped walk, and as I re-joined my outward route I passed this view again…

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That’s the same as the first photo above, but with slightly better weather

… before I had to go up, up and up some more on that little lane I had descended along earlier.

It was a most enjoyable little outing, measuring exactly 8 miles in distance with 1600’ of ascent.

(For anyone wondering what led to these last couple of walks, it was all down to those hill-list gpx files that I downloaded last week. Both Bardon Hill and Walton Hill are Marilyns, and having visited them I’m now left with just one more Marilyn within sensible day-trip driving distance of home.)

Neither The Weather, Nor The Season

I suspected that the lack of joy that I took in yesterday’s surroundings was largely due to the weather and the season. Today I proved that not to be the case.

On paper, I thought that yesterday’s walk in the area circled below…

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The red triangle marks Bardon Hill, which was my objective

…looked more promising than today’s walk in a little chink in the urban sprawl that surrounds Birmingham:

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Today’s red triangle was Walton Hill

Paper can be deceiving. Yesterday’s walk was mainly thoroughly dull surroundings, walking along muddy alley-esque paths behind houses, across open land that had a wasteland look about it, through old woodland that boasted no prettiness, and past quarry extension works. There were a few short good bits, but they were the exception.

Today I only knew that I was so very near to major urban areas because the map told me so. If someone had just plonked me there blind-folded and sent me on the walk I walked, I would never have guessed my true location. The weather was similar to yesterday’s and obviously the season is still the same (mud, mud, glorious mud…), but there were fine (even if severely curtailed) views, the woodland was (without exception) attractive, the autumn colours stood out (thanks to the lumps and bumps in the landscape) and it was all quite lovely. I’d very much like to go back on a sunny day.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Heady Heights of Leicestershire

It was nice and sunny when I left home this morning – a fine day for a walk up the biggest hill in Leicestershire – Bardon Hill.

Somehow (not to mention rather cruelly), I’m still suffering the same luck as stalked me on the latter part of my Scottish trip, as the sunny day had transformed itself to a grey one as I crossed the border into Leicestershire and, by the time I had ascended up to the heady heights of 278m, I was well and truly in the cloud. Harrumph!

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First ‘view’ of my objective. How inviting…

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There’s the trig point – and a hint of blue sky

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Proof that I was there, and a stunning view behind.

With the hint of blue sky above me, I thought that the sun might be about to burst through, so (even though it wasn’t yet 11.30) I sat myself in the shelter of the trig point for lunch, overlooking the huge quarry below. Or, more precisely, overlooking lots of cloud, in the direction from which quarry-like noises were emanating, and where the map tells me there is a huge quarry.

I might have sat up there even after my sandwiches had been despatched (for example, I might have drunk my flask of tea, if it hadn’t still been sitting next to the kettle at home), except that it was rather cool, so rather than putting my jumper back on, I hauled myself back to my feet and opted for the shorter descent route. I’d walked around the base of the hill before ascending and it wasn’t an attractive route. My descent path was one of the nicer bits of the outing.

Back at the car (which I’d parked at Cademan Wood, just north of Whitwick), I thought it would be rude not to make the very short out-and-back detour to the trig point shown in the woods. It only took a small handful of minutes for it to come into view, on a little rocky outcrop:

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It even boasted a bit of a view (only a bit though, on account of the trees). This snap doesn’t really show it off; I might have managed a slightly better snap if I’d had the camera with me.

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The whole outing was 7.5 miles with a whole 850 feet of ascent.

Incidentally, I used the Ivanhoe Way to get me from Cademan Wood to Bardon Hill, and I’m not sure if my perception was unfairly skewed by the weather and the season, or whether it really is the dullest of walks. Apparently (so t’internet tells me), it’s only a 36-mile circular route, so I saw a reasonable chunk of it. The bit through a National Forest plantation was pleasant enough (but exactly the same as the National Forest plantations near home), and Cademan Wood was okay too, but otherwise it didn’t leave me feeling inspired to investigate any more of it. On a positive note, it was reasonably well waymarked – once you know to scrutinise street name signs for the smallest waymarking stickers known to man.

Friday, 14 November 2014

I Blame Conrad…

Last night I downloaded GPX files giving the locations of the current lists of Munros, Corbetts, Marilyns and Munro Tops*. It’s not something I would have thought to do if it hadn’t been for Conrad, who is convinced that I am teetering on the edge of becoming a confirmed list-ticker. I now have my maps festooned with red crosses, amber triangles, red triangles and red pins (and at some point I may recall without thought which symbol I’ve used for which).

I *really* wish I’d done that before my recent trip. My eye has now been drawn to lots of hills that have had me thinking “Oooh, I’d like to take a closer look at that one.”. Ideas for future trips are springing into my head accordingly.

For the avoidance of doubt, I still have no intention of aiming towards the completion of any of those lists … but I am liking having these symbols as focus points on the map.

 

(*The files for these and many other classifications of hill are downloadable from www.haroldstreet.org.uk, with a request for a £1 donation per file, which seems a very reasonable request to me.)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Flashback to GT Day 11: Loch an Eilein in the Wind

On Day 11 of my trip, when I went up neither Ord Ban nor Cruban Beag (actually, there were an awful lot of hills I didn’t go up that day; thousands, in fact), I took a few little video snippets of conditions at Loch an Eilein. Here’s one (just 14 seconds long), looking out to the castle, which I think captures conditions reasonably well; it even shows a bit of the flying-spray, just before the end.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

GT Day 16: A Splosh in the Rain

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Although I didn’t actually have to be home until Thursday morning, my planned outings for Tuesday and Wednesday were put on the back-burner, for another trip, when I saw the forecast for those days. I decided to finish my trip on a high, after Monday’s excellent outing – except that it was too late for someone with night-vision (and an ability to sleep) like mine to drive home straight after that outing, so I stuck around in the Moffat area for one more night.

I know that it rained in the early hours, but by the time I got up it was dry, reasonably bright (for an overcast day) and without any hint of the predicted strong winds, so I thought I may as well stretch my legs before hitting the motorway.

Given that I had kipped within three paces of the Southern Upland Way, it was the obvious place to walk, even though no obvious short circular route jumped out at me, and even though it looked less-than-inspiring on the map. My plan was simply that I would walk either for an hour, or until it rained, and then turn back.

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As it turned out, the surroundings weren’t quite as uninspiring as the map suggested, but it was most certainly wet underfoot. I rued having put on clean and dry boots and socks when, after sploshing through a section into which I sank only a couple of inches, I suddenly plunged into some muddy bogginess up to mid-calf.

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Yep, that’s where my one foot went in. Careless!

Three quarters of an hour in, just as the path was doing a jolly good impression of a muddy stream, it started to rain, and after giving it a few minutes to see if it was going to pass, I decided that I couldn’t be doing with water from both directions, so back I turned.

I managed 4.6 miles in total .. and then spent the rest of the day driving.

GT Day 15: White Coomb & Co

Monday 10 November 2014

What a good day that was! I set out with optimism that I was going to get a view (once again the forecast said there was an 80% chance of cloud-free summits, and I surely couldn’t be in the unfortunate 20% again, could I?!) and, to an extent, I did.

After a chilly boot-off crossing of the burn, followed by a splashy, wall-hugging path, I got to the top of White Coomb and this is what I saw:

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Not ideal, and not the sunshine in which I had set out. On the plus side, I hadn’t entered the cloud until 700m (White Coomb is 821m), and I had a plan: I was going to add a few more tops into my planned circuit and amble about until either the weather obliged me with a view or I ran out of daylight.

Over to Firthrig Hope I went, thence to Donald’s Cleuch Head where, instead of turning right to drop back down (per the original plan), I turned left, leaving the security of the wall to follow a line of old fence posts to do an out-and-back to Great Hill. Barely able to see the next post from the one before for most of the way, I was almost at the top of this small raise when I noticed a small patch of blue above me, which soon expanded such that I could see this:

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Acknowledging that this may be the only view I saw all day, I declared an early lunch and plonked myself down on the grass to enjoy it. As I sat, this was the progress I witnessed:

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It was still looking pretty good as I headed back along that line of posts, back to Donald’s Cleuch Head:

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It didn’t clear entirely (there was always a wall of cloud in one direction or another) and that cloud keep drifting back over me, but even so, when I reached Firthybrig Head I decided that I had plenty of time for another out-and-back, this time to Molls Cleuch Dod, where I was again a happy ambler:

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I was so pleased to finally see a few snippets of the loveliness of this area!

Alas, by the time I got to my last top of the day (Lochcraig Head), there was not a single view to be seen. In fact, a couple of minutes after I took this snap, I was struggling to see my hand in front of my face:

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Carelessly, I was fooled by this cairn, and now realise that I missed the actual summit.

With the day marching on, and no other top falling naturally on or near my route, down I went, steeply at first, then taking what felt like a non-standard (i.e. heather- and bog-wading) route to cut over to Loch Skeen once the land levelled out. The trodden line around the loch was wet in the extreme, and my boots are no longer entirely waterproof, but it mattered not. I’d had a cracking day and only had a mile and a half of walking downhill to get back to warm dry socks and a cup of tea.

The stats for the day were extensively stated in my previous post, but now that I’ve resurrected Anquet and have imported my track, I see that I actually walked 10.25 miles with just over 3000’ of ascent.

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As an aside, early in this outing I had stopped to listen to what initially sounded like distant cries for help. I very quickly decided that it was an animal, but it went on and on and I couldn’t positively decide what animal it was (donkey was my best guess from a distance, but that seemed unlikely in this location!). I eventually found the culprit – a goat. You can barely see him/her in this 9-second video snippet, but it does capture the cry: