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]

Saturday, 27 October 2007

And It's All Gone Quiet Over There...

Sorry for the lack of anything to say this week.

A couple of the poorly people in the family need a lot of looking after at the moment. Add in a couple of plumbing emergencies and there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week to do much else.

So, it's all going to be a bit quiet around here for a wee while.

But in the words of Arnie - I will be back.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Experiment - This will be deleted

If this works then a big virtual hug goes to Bearded Git who may have solved my inability with photos!

Juan approaching the finish

Weston Park 10k - Continued

For reasons unknown, Blogger wouldn't post this last photo in my original post below, so here it is:

After, showing off their medals:

Weston Park 10k

In both 2005 and 2006 I ran the Weston Park 10k for Cancer Research. This year I was determined to do it in a much faster time, so entered it again. Husband and friends V&J also signed up.

Today was the day of the event - however, I conceded towards the end of the week that I was not going to run. I've had a persistent and niggling sore throat for weeks now, which has not assisted my belated training push, and (call me a defeatist, but) I couldn't see any point in doing a 10k if I was going to end up walking half of it and hating most of it. Fortunately, I didn't have the pressure of sponsors to cause me to run; having already tapped everyone up for sponsorship for Cancer Research for three other events over the last couple of years, I decided that I would be my only sponsor for this one (and I'm quite happy to sponsor myself notwithstanding a lack of participation!).

By not taking part, that put me in an excellent position to take responsibility for pullovers and to take photos. So, below is some of the photographic evidence that some of V&J's sponsors have requested to prove that they did in fact run 10k. The full set of photos can be found here.

A well done goes to all three for finishing in times better than their stated aims. A big well done goes to V&J for having raised over £500 for their efforts. Another well done goes to V for having achieved two of her running goals for this year in one go.

Posing before the race:

Husband at the half way point:

J comes up to the finish:

V comes up to the finish:

Friday, 19 October 2007

A Stroll in North Yorkshire

As is unsurprising after the cold, clear night that we had, Thursday presented itself as a perfect walking day.

Admittedly it was rather on the parky side first thing, making me wish for my Rab Vapour Rise trousers in lieu of the summer-weight Paramo Azuma that I was wearing. However, I acknowledged that the temperature would rise during the morning and that was indeed the case.

Parking just south of Malham Tarn, we set off along the Pennine Way, walking in the direction that some would claim is ‘the wrong way’.

Except for half a dozen youths who were just making their way north along the PW as we were faffing in the car park, meeting up with their leader before carrying on, we were had solitude to admire the surroundings for the first half an hour of our walk. Passing the first walker a while later I had to conclude that they breed them hardy up north; whilst I was sporting jacket, hat and gloves, the first person we passed was wearing a skirt and shirt sleeves!

As I’ve commented before, North Yorkshire is not an area with which I am familiar – and this walk was truly surprising me. Not only for the landscape in general (you can't see the terraced fields in this small version, but they were there): and the carved out limestone pavements (look at those grykes!):

but Malham Cove really is a sight to behold which diverted our attention for quite a length of time. Looking down from the top of Malham Cove. It's quite a way down, but someone's installed a staircase that goes the whole way down...

As a result of all of the landscape features that held our attention we were surprised, an hour and a half into the walk, to see a signpost back along the PW which indicated that we had only walked 1.5 miles!

My surprise at the surroundings continued (including a bit of analysis in my mind as to why I’ve failed to visit this area before) as we made our way through Malham and out the other side.

We missed the path that we intended to take (not that we looked particularly hard for it), and came out in Hanlith a few hundred yards (and a few hundred feet closer to sea level) from where we had intended.

At Hanlith we left the course of the Pennine Way as we followed uphill first a track, then a path up to a trig point on Weets Top, which proved to be an excellent venue for lunch (proved by the fact that a group of about 10 walkers were just leaving as we arrived).

Our route from lunch back to Malham Tarn led us along a lane and through a remarkably large field filled with at least three distinct herds of cows. Worryingly some of those cows appeared to be bulls, albeit reasonably young ones. Many worried glances over my shoulder ensued until we escaped the field.

I had particularly planned the route to pass through the Roman Camp marked on the map (a marching camp according to the sign in the area), but was disappointed that to my highly untrained eye the only thing that I could see was an area of flat ground. There were no tell-tale indentations, so if it hadn’t been for the information sign and the marking on the map, I would have been oblivious as to what had been there 2000 years ago.

Meeting back up with a road, we could have taken a short route back to the car, but we were in no particular rush and it seemed a shame not to take the detour to see Malham Tarn, so we headed off to walk adjacent to Great Close Scar and thence along the side of the Tarn.
People were aplenty in this area, and we soon found that we were now far from the only car in the car park.

The stats for this fine walk (which ended in significantly warmer conditions than those in which it had begum) were just under 10.5 miles completed in an extraordinarily leisurely 5 hours.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Wendy Gets Wet in Settle

The sun was just setting last night as we paced up and down looking for the flattest piece of ground on which to give Wendy (she’s our new Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R for those who aren’t in the know) her first night out.

We had cause to be up in North Yorkshire yesterday afternoon, so it had seemed rude not to take the opportunity to spend a night out and to spend today walking somewhere locally.

However, it was neither a good nor an arduous test of Wendy’s abilities. To start with, we were not on a hillside where she so clearly wants to be pitched, but rather we were car-camping on a regimented caravanning sort of a campsite just outside of Settle.

Then there were the weather conditions. Some would say that a forecast of -1 degrees does not create ideal conditions to test out a part-single skin tent. However, it was not just the temperature that went against this first use. The complete lack of any breeze at all (this morning we sat in the Ye Olde Naked Man CafĂ© looking at the flag at the top of an escarpment across the road and didn’t see it even try to flutter once) compounded the temperature issue. I think that most, if not all, tents with two people inside would struggle to remain dry in such conditions.

Getting up this morning, I firstly checked out the amount of condensation that had accumulated. Given the lack of wind and the cold temperature, I was expecting a lot – but perhaps not quite that much on the two-skin section of the tent.

It was when I started moving around that I found out that it is impossible to move around inside, when there is another person in there, without brushing up against the (wet) sides constantly. The only place where the tent is big enough to sit up fully is under the front pole – which is fine when there’s only one of you in the tent, but gets a bit tricky with two (particularly when you’re also trying to make a cup of tea (well, why not add a bit more water vapour?)).

The next ‘issue’ reared its head once I’d packed all my things away, at which point I intended to vacate the tent to allow Husband the room to do likewise. At this point I found that the water vapour on the door had, as it is designed to, run down to the lower zip and the mesh section below it. Alas, when it got to the zip, rather than seeping out of the tent, it had frozen solid. As a result, the zip was frozen shut; it wouldn’t even yield to gentle persuasion. Being the skinny thing that I am, at least I was able to squeeze out of the gap allowed by the vertical zip!

Now at this moment, I’m struggling to see how we could possibly use this tent for a 3-month walk. It will undoubtedly be great in certain conditions (like when there’s any sort of a breeze). The floor size is fantastic. It is ridiculously simple to pitch. It should be exceptionally sturdy. However, the height really is looking to be an issue. I’m also struggling to see how we could keep the inside dry when we’ve got wet gear or when it’s raining – that’s something that we definitely need to explore on a trip of a night or two.

As I said though, it was hardly a fair test. It will certainly get lots more use in different circumstances (and let’s face it, it only became the tent of choice last night for the fact that it was brand new) – and when we’ve used it in a more sensible location and in more sensible conditions, I shall report back again.

Wendy in an inappropriate setting. Of all the caravans present, the majority seemed to be in storage - only two were in use, and we were the only tent. I wonder why that would be, on such a nice crisp Wednesday night in mid-October...?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Drizzle in Hartington

The weather forecast for today wasn’t bad. A cloudy start leading on to sunny intervals later with no indication of any rain. The forecast for yesterday had been the same. For neither day was it correct.

At 10am this morning we were to be found loitering outside the Devonshire Arms in Hartington (in the drizzle), where a few minutes later appeared the couple for whom we were waiting (for ease of reference we will refer to them as S&A). Overly optimistically (and contrary to all indications) we all expressed hope that the mist and drizzle would quickly burn off.

S had taken responsibility for deciding where we were to walk and the answer was that we went south out of Hartington, over (remarkably muddy) farmland to meet the River Dove in Beresford Dale, along which we wandered for a while until the river flowed into Wolfscote Dale, through which we also followed it.

The river, the woodland and the impressively steep sided valley of Wolfscote Dale were fine sights – only marred by the continuing drizzle and general greyness of the day (which meant that the few photos that I took are not worth sharing). Still, a fine day would have increased remarkably the number of people out and about, so even the drizzle had a silver lining.

After a few miles of riverside path, it was time for an upward incline: the only one of the entire walk. It wasn’t long, but it was a tad steep. Needless to say, with my slowness up hills, Husband and A got to admire the (rather cloud-limited) views from the top whilst I dawdled my way up with S.

Quagmires more mud were found as we passed across farmland and onto a track heavily clad in nettles (shouldn’t they have died back by now?) which demonstrated once again (and quite extensively) that my trousers are far from being nettle-proof.

Proving that the person at the back (i.e. me) is not the best person to be navigating (“You’ve gone too far” I hollered to Husband and A), we left the tracks in favour of more fields, which afforded some fine views of the surrounding countryside. Quite why we’re not more familiar with this countryside I do not know. We were only something like 35 miles from home and yet in the five and a half years that we’ve lived in this neck of the woods we’ve only ventured into the Peak District a small handful of times. There’s something else that we must rectify.

Countryside paths, which clearly see much traffic, took us back to the same riverside path as our outward journey, which in turn led us back to Hartington, where a toss-up between two pubs led us to the Devonshire Arms for lunch. It proved to be an eminently suitable place to enjoy Sunday lunch and to sample some fine ale.

Leaving the pub to go our separate ways we concluded that S won the award for ‘Most Mud Adorning Trousers’ (really, she was covered to mid-thigh and below the knee looked like she’d been dipped in a mud bath). Husband was placed a close second. In last place we A, who seemed to have avoided all of the mud in which we had caked ourselves – surely that can’t have been the work of gaiters alone?

Now, I must go and clean some footwear…

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Wightwick Manor (and a bit of Cannock Chase)

With our planned National Trust property of the day not opening until this afternoon, we thought that we would fill our morning with a walk. A good theory except that we forgot to factor in our prodigious ability to faff in the process of getting out of the house.

By the time we were ready to go, we had less than an hour and a half to spare but so as not to be entirely defeated, we thought that we would still take a short stroll.

It may seem that Cannock Chase plays a disproportionately large part in our walking lives, but that’s because we cross it most days and thus we can walk there without going out of our way. Thus, it was the Chase upon which we walked again today.

Striking off from the tracks, we made our way through (often deep) bracken and into woodland, following deer tracks. In our wanderings we did find a particularly suitable, well sheltered place for camping – but of course that is irrelevant because I have already stated most decidedly that I will never camp on the Chase again. And, of course, I never go back on such definite statements!

As is inevitable, we were soon back on paths with which we are familiar and headed back to the car, arriving precisely on time. A splendid stroll, even if a short one and it was a lovely day for it: clear blue skies and no wind.

This afternoon Wightwick (pronounced Wittick) Manor was on the agenda. This is a property from which I lived half a mile up the road (quite literally, on the same road) for quite a number of years and yet in those years I never did visit it. Having passed by its entrance hundreds upon hundreds of times, I had it in my mind that it was a small place. Today I discovered quite how wrong I was. Not only is the house rather substantial, but the grounds are big enough to make for a good hour’s exploration too.

It was our third visit to a NT property this week, and it was again a completely different proposition from the others. The most unexpected fact about the place is that it was only built in 1888 (the extension in 1894). The oldest looking part of the building is actually the extension. It was donated to the National Trust (in the lifetime of the donor) in 1937 - when it was less than 50 years old.

I think that we’re maxed-out on looking around houses, manors and halls for one week. The next outing will (fingers crossed) be a stroll in the Peaks with friends on Sunday, the organisation of which is in someone's elses hands, so I await with interest to find out where it is that we'll be walking.

Husband and Ma pass the time of day whilst I snap away:

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Moseley Old Hall

With an unexpected window of a couple of days in which my mother is well enough to go places, with her expressed interest in going to visit a few local National Trust properties, and with my new found enthusiasm for visiting such places, today we paid a visit to Moseley Old Hall. Or, as it is known, quite undeservedly, in my family, Mouldy Old Hall.

This is a large family house, in modest grounds, rather than a Hall of the large and grand stately home type.

We were permitted to join the back of a tour that had started just a minute before our arrival - and what an interesting tour it was. Lots of interesting facts about King Charles II (who took refuge there after his sojourn in an oak tree at Boscobel House) and a smattering of trivia about the origins of common sayings into the bargain.

We didn’t spend any time looking around the house after the tour (a second ascent of the stairs being a step to far for Ma), but Sister also wants to pay it a visit at some point so we will have another easy opportunity to have a good sniff around then.

The grounds are not extensive, but we wandered around them any way (marvelling at the mutantly large apples and pears in the orchard as we went).

Just as we were about to leave, we got accosted by a man in ‘interesting’ attire who was wielding a rather large rifle (kicking myself for the second time this week for not having a camera on me). Yet more interesting information was imparted as he told us about the gun, the civil war and events surrounding King Charles II*.

I can report that the rifle that he was wielding (and accidentally pointed straight at some surprised chap who was walking out of the gift-shop) was extraordinarily heavy. Those fighting types of the day must have been awfully strong – particularly the women who apparently, despite being forbidden, were occasionally wont to dress up as men and join in the fighting.

Tomorrow, all being well, another NT property is on the agenda.

[*You may note that I’m being just a little bit vague there; I really must rectify my complete ignorance of all things history. I blame it on Mr. Clarke, who was a piece of history himself and my teacher of that subject when I was 13. As a result of his antiquity and his ineptitude as a teacher I gave up the study of history at the earliest possible opportunity, after just one year. I recall that during that period we studied the Second World War (in which Mr. Clarke almost certainly played a part) but of the details that he tried to instil into us, I recall nothing.]

Sunday, 7 October 2007

The Bivvy and the Tent

The Bivvy:
Those of you who were reading last weekend will have seen that I spent a night lying inside a waterproof bag on the floor of a copse on Cannock Chase. The purpose was dual: to ensure that my Alpkit Hunka bivvy saw its maiden voyage before winter set in and to enter John Hee’s Hip-Pack competition just a hair’s breadth before it closed on Sunday.

I got home on Sunday morning to find that Lost in a Forest (aka Mark) had also made a last minute entry into the competition and had beaten me good and proper in the quest for the lightest weight (1.454kg to my 4.4kg).

I couldn’t possibly have been miffed, and indeed I took my hat off to Mark, when I read that he had gone to the lengths of fashioning his own backpack out of a bag and parcel tape and had spent a chilly autumn night out with a 1 season sleeping bag and an emergency blanket in lieu of a bivvy. He was a very deserved winner.

When on Friday Mr. Hee published the ‘official results’ (complete with commentary) I was perhaps a little disproportionately pleased to see that I had been awarded a prize for my efforts.

With the rose-tinted glasses that are wont to afflict me after such challenges (a bit like walking the K2B and swearing that I would never walk 40 miles in a day again; a day later I said that I would do it again, but in a bit more of a leisurely fashion; by three days later I was plotting a sub-10 hour time for next time!), my memory is already trying to kid me that the night on the Chase was good fun. So, I’m now plotting ways as to how to go significantly lighter if the competition was to occur again. Perhaps my prize of The Book of the Bivvy will give some hints and tips.

Husband must be worried. Last time I read a book by Ronald Turnbull (Three Peaks, Ten Tors), I started mentioning such things as walking across Wales (although I have a more leisurely two day timeframe in mind, rather than the single day).

The Tent (Again)
Wendy had another outing in the garden again today – just to demonstrate her to Ma-in-Law (who dutifully oohed and aarrhhed).

Fortunately we don’t get too many passers-by here, or they may have thought us a little strange when all three of us crawled inside, zipped shut the door and stayed there chatting for slightly longer than was reasonable. The outcome was to decide that you could easily sleep three inside of her. We also established that she’s nice and warm inside with three people zipped in.

With her packed back away* in her bag I placed her on the kitchen balance scales. Due to only having metric weights up to a total of just over a kilo, I had to mix my metric and imperial units. The result was that Wendy weighs, in her bag, just 1kg and 10oz. Or converting that into metric she weighs a smidge less than 1.3kg. That's almost a kilo less than the TN Voyager that was our existing tent of choice.

[*as an aside and somewhat contrary to my existing theory as to the best way to pack gear, the instructions are quite definite on this matter: “try to always fold and roll it exactly the same way, so it folds where it wants to and you minimize additional creases. Never ‘stuff’ it …: that’s a way promoted to destroy gear fast”.]

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Cannock Chase and Shugborough Hall

What a top day out! Not outdoorsy in my usual sense, but I shall talk about it anyway.

The day started with a short jaunt on Cannock Chase. Ma-in-Law is staying with us this weekend and having read many an account of our walks on the Chase we thought that we’d show her one of the most popular areas – Stepping Stones (a rather more conventional choice than taking her to see where I slept out last Saturday night!).

She’s pretty fit for an eighty-something, but with failing eyesight we stuck to the main thoroughfares and kept the excursion to a short couple of miles, but it still gave a good taste of the varied woodland and of the sort of terrain available.

With that jaunt complete, and with our new National Trust membership cards in our pockets, we then thought that we would just pop up the road to Shugborough Hall.

My aim in joining the National Trust was to park in their car parks. Husband convinced me to opt for the joint membership so that we could go and look around some of their properties too. I was dubious as to whether we would make any such visits. However, after spending an afternoon inspecting the house in some detail and marvelling over the gardens, I’m already plotting which other properties to fit in to the next twelve months (and ruing the fact with my suddenly found enthusiasm for visiting stately homes, most are closing at the end of the month for the winter).

On this trip we only scratched the surface by visiting the main house and walking through a small section of the grounds – but that still kept us all happily amused for the best part of three hours.

As an added bonus, as we walked back to the exit, the ‘Tower of the Winds’ was open, allowing us to see inside.

The Tower of the Winds is an octagonal building, with two grand entrances (on opposite sides of the structure), a plethora of windows, and a circular addition on one side, which houses the spiral staircase. We’ve walked past it many a time as we’ve cut through the estate, and I’ve always commented on its fine quirkiness. So, it was a real treat today to be able to see the interior (the downstairs was nothing special, but upstairs is unexpectedly decorative with a stunning ceiling).

A return trip to this estate is most certainly called for, with a whole day to spare, to explore more fully.

[And as a complete digression: it seems that we’ve had rather a turn of luck today. We’d not reached the end of the road today before I realised that I’d forgotten to double lock the front door. Being security conscious, I was all set to return home to rectify the security, but Husband convinced me he had actually closed the door and that we didn’t need to go back. Returning home this afternoon we had a visit from Mr. Policeman who told us that three of our neighbours were broken into today. They used next door’s drive to secrete their car whilst they carried out this spree. I have no idea why they didn’t opt to do our house too (perhaps they looked through the windows and accurately assessed that there was nothing worth taking? Perhaps they’ll be back for ours tomorrow?), but had they so opted, they would have found that we’d left them a very easy means of entry and exit. I shall be more careful in future!]

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Wendy: Seam Sealing Complete

A fine day in the Midlands today gave the perfect opportunity to seal Wendy Warmlite's seams.

Unfortunately the fine weather also brought the little flies out in force. They found the green of the tent rather attractive. Then they found the tacky seam sealant rather inescapable.

We may forever have flies attached to seams.

But the job is a good one and Wendy is ready for her first outing.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Wendy's First Erection

Today the Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R (Wendy Warmlite, as we have named her), which I ordered just six weeks ago and was delivered within the USA a fortnight ago, was passed into my hands (huge thanks go out to my ex-boss who apparently had a little trouble carrying the seam sealant through the airport!).

After reading the instructions, which are hard to follow and seem to contain more warnings about how not to do things and how damage may be caused than they contain positive information about how to do it, we set out into the garden for the first pitching experiment (with me being very nervous about breaking it having read all of the said warnings).

No sooner had we got it pegged down, than it started to rain, so the photos were taken before we’d adjusted the pitch (it shouldn’t be as slack as the photos show).

We did then have a bit of a play with the adjustments and managed to get a much better pitch. I’m sure that a little bit of practice will soon make perfect.

First impressions:
- The fabric is so incredibly thin. I reckon that you could easily read through the light green of the end sections.
- The size inside is huge – but then you have to remember that all of our gear will be inside with us, so I’m sure that it will seem smaller in practice.
- The colours are not at all like they looked on the website. It’s a whole lot brighter than I expected. The light green in particular looks the colour of a highlighter pen. Still, at least it will stand out if we use it on a campsite!
- I’m concerned about the water-resistance of the floor (again due to warnings contained in the instructions). It’s not unheard of us to pitch on very wet ground (Keswick C&CC site springs to mind!); I don’t want water coming up through the floor of the tent!

We will indulge in seam sealing soon, then hopefully we’ll manage to slip away for a quick night on a hill somewhere, whereupon I will report back.

Husband tries it for size:

Showing off the poor pitching nicely:

Where did that head suddenly spring from as I pressed the camera button?: