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]

Monday, 31 October 2011

Back to Glossop

Saturday 29 October (0700-1315)

Distance: 14 miles (allegedly with 2700’ of ascent; I’d say it was less than that)

Weather: Sunny intervals but catching the edge of two showers

I slept really well considering how the wind had picked up as night fell. I had been woken by some particularly violent gusts at about 12.30am and then again at 5.45am. In the case of the latter waking, I’d already had more than my required 8 hours of shut-eye, so sprang into life with gusto. Mick accused me of being on speed as I set about making cups of tea and packing away.

Incidentally, last weekend I’d taken my down trousers with me and decided that they weren’t necessary given the mildness of the weather, so I didn’t take them this weekend. Oh, how I missed them. The weather may be mild during the day, but (as you would expect at the time of year) the temperature collapsed quite remarkably as darkness fell and, given that my walking trousers were covered in peat, some alternative leg-wear would have been good (not essential, but certainly good). Next time they will make it onto the packing list.

Anyways, after the early cup of tea and breakfast, we were all packed up and walking at 7am, at which time the moon was still up and only the slightest hint of light was appearing over the eastern horizon. For the second time ever (the first time was this rather interesting trip) our head-torches were called into action as we set out.

I concede that the route we took was a tiny bit on the steep side for tackling in the dark, but I managed to stay on my feet all the way down to the valley. Mick only missed the same boast by a count of one ass-slide.

By the time we reached the valley there was a hint of sunrise (in the absence of a tripod, I didn’t manage to hold the camera quite still enough for the long exposure, but I’m sure you get the idea):


Day broke as we made our way up to Rowlees Pasture on the other side of the valley day, from where we could clearly see where we had camped the previous night. It’s in this photo, but I won’t attempt to describe where (other than that it’s on the far slope on the left side):


Our diversion at Lockerbrook Heights to try to locate Tor & Lande didn’t bear fruit (I now know where they did spend the night and we weren’t even close), so onwards up Alport Castles we went. I’d thought that we would use the hide up there to shelter from the keen breeze whilst we had second breakfast. Alas, when we got to Alport Castles there was no trace of the hide. I guess it was a temporary thing, but it was certainly there in June (or was it a figment of my imagination?). Still, we got to admire the ‘tower’ and the cliffs as we walked by.


The boot-prints died out just after Alport Castles, so it seems that most people miss out on the glorious surroundings on the way up to the trig point. I see that I’m almost completely obscuring the trig in this photo, but it was there.


Our descent down to Upper Ashop that morning had been ridiculously steep, but even steeper (although much shorter) was our descent to pick up the trod that runs along the Alport Valley. I did have Ben Fogle’s voiceover in my head saying ‘One slip here could spell disaster for the whole expedition’. Fortunately there were no slips, trips or falls and thus we made it to the path without incident.


Yep, that’s quite steep!


Not long afterwards, we crossed a boggy bit of path and, after the peaty water of the night before, I was overly excited to realise that the boggy area housed a spring. I was almost out of water, so decided that a cup of tea would be in order at this point, using the perfectly clear water. Lovely! Just as lovely was the view across the valley to this tumbling stream:


The rest of the valley was muted browns rather than the lush greens of earlier in the year, but I was still rather taken with the unspoilt beauty:


Not a single person was seen all morning (apart from the chap in a car on the road down from Rowlees Farm, who stopped to comment that we’d got an early start), until we reached the Pennine Way, whereupon it was like we’d joined a motorway. It was as we unexpectedly bumped into Dave, Phil & John that the first edge-of-a-shower hit us, which is what led to the synchronised pack-faffing that I mentioned the other day, as all of the chaps reached for their waterproofs. Personally I was wearing Paramo, so my pack stayed on my back.


All we had to do then was to nip back down Doctor’s Gate and onwards back to Glossop, arriving at the car within 26 hours of leaving it, with 28 miles covered.

I’m pleased to say that my body didn’t revolt at all during this trip*. I can only assume that it was the violence and frequency of the ascent that caused everything to object to the effort during the previous weekend’s trip. I even managed to take myself out for a little stroll locally on Sunday. Then I had to go for a lie down. Four consecutive days of walking – phew – it’s been a while since I last did that.

This was the route we took, and I do recommend it (except that a slightly more gentle line down to Upper Ashop might be advisable – or even better, walk it clockwise so that the killer descents become ascents):


The green line is what I’d plotted in advance. The red line is what I recorded on the Garmin Gadget.

(*Not true! My feet hurt like I’d never worn walking boots before in my life. People reckon that switching to lightweight, flexible footwear can be hard on the feet, but I found out on this trip that moving back the other way can be just as painful. My feet still ache now. It was the first time I’d worn boots since our 17-mile trip onto Bleaklow at the beginning of January (the snow and ice on that trip made the boots the more sensible choice). On Sunday I reverted to trail-runners and it was bliss.)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

From Glossop

Friday 28 October (11.35-1730)

Distance: 13.9 miles (the Garmin Gadget said 3100 feet of ascent; the map suggests significantly less)

Weather: Glorious!

Having left home under clear blue skies, promising a fantastic day for a walk, increasingly sizeable patches of fog were encountered as we made our way north. Was the sun going to win over the fog by the time we reached Glossop? We gave it every opportunity by being waylaid by a completely unnecessarily fat-boy fry-up of a second breakfast as we passed through Buxton. By the time we reached Glossop the sun had won, making everything look autumnally attractive as we wandered up to Doctor’s Gate:


Having followed the flags of the Pennine Way past Mill Hill there was the steep staircase to tackle to get us up onto the Kinder Plateau. I remember walking down here on our LEJOG and commenting that I was glad we weren’t heading up it. In reality it’s easier in ascent. It may cause me a bit of puffing and gasping, but climbing it is definitely gentler on the knees.


Mick thought I was really dawdling up here. What he didn’t notice was that I’d stopped to take this photo!

The north edge of Kinder Plateau was our chosen side, as Mick hadn’t been that way before. It is surely not possible to walk around this area without marvelling at the shapes of the rocks, and this was no exception:


I would have missed this ‘cosy’ little man-made bivvy site, which took advantage of the overhanging rock, if Mick hadn’t pointed it out. Fortunately no-one was in residence when I stuck my head in for a look.


A while later Mick said “That was an owl!”. I looked at him as if he was daft (well, it was mid-afternoon and not an owl-hooting time of day) and said that it was clearly a sheep. Not two minutes later what should fly across the path right in front of us, but a barn owl. Seems like Mick may not be daft after all…

Things were significantly damper underfoot than they had been in June (which is hardly surprising considering how little rain fell in March, April and May). All of the peaty, boggy wallows which now littered the path were sufficiently avoidable to avoid sinking by more than an inch or so, and the benefit of the recent rain (it had certainly rained quite a bit on Thursday) meant that the streams were flowing. Even so, the last stream of any significance that we were going to pass before finding a pitch was Blackden Brook so we stopped to fill our bladders. I drink my tea weaker than that peaty water looked!


At this point I should probably digress onto one of the purposes of this trip. Having been in correspondence with Tor and Lande about their intended trip to the Peaks this weekend, we had hoped that by walking a similar route in the opposite direction we would bump into them at some point. The plan seemed like a good one until around abouts Blackden Brook when I suddenly realised that the route that I’d plotted for our own walk was quite possibly not the route the Tor and Lande were going to take. A little detail that I should have checked in advance, particularly as the only bit of the route in doubt was the bit where we were hoping to meet them.

The best thing to do, we decided, would be to head over to Rowlee Pasture before looking for a pitch. The problem was that we didn’t have enough daylight to cover another five miles, and I didn’t want to be scouting around for a pitch in the dark. The next best option was to stick with Plan A, camp on the Kinder side of the valley and get up silly-early in the morning to try to get over to Rowlee Pasture before Tor and Lande moved on.

With the west end of Kinder being mainly a bed of heather, we dropped down off the side a bit to find a pitch. The spot we chose would have been visible to a number of farms across the valley, if it hadn’t been for a conveniently placed shooting butt.


The pitch looked perfectly reasonable as we threw the tent up about half an hour before darkness. However, crawling inside, I discovered a big lump and dip by Mick’s knees (or, more precisely, where Mick’s knees would be spending the night), so we moved the tent forward a couple of feet. On reflection, I should have kept quiet about the lump and dip as, come bedtime, I realised that by giving Mick a nice flat bed I’d gained a lump and a dip myself (harrumph!).

Being the party animals that we are, by just gone 9pm our books were away for the night and eyelids were being rested.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Four Men Faff With Their Packs

We were just on our way back to the car today, after a good little trip, when three chaps approached us along the Pennine Way.

“What sort of a knob wears a jacket that colour?” one was heard to ask as we got within earshot (with reference to Mick’s YELLOW! top), at which point I realised that these weren’t three strangers. In yet another of those incredible coincidences (which wouldn’t have occurred if we had been 90 seconds earlier or they 90 seconds later), we bumped into John, Phil and Dave.

The last time we bumped into them was less coincidental, at a campsite in Hathersage during our Kent to Cape Wrath jaunt last year:

Day 18 14

As first exhibited in the ‘three men, three matching tents’ snap above, it seems that these are three chaps who rather like to do things in sync, as today they co-ordinated their pack faffing activities:


Unrelated to that, here’s my favourite sign of the trip (in fact, the only sign worth photographing). I think they should delegate the sign-writing to someone else…


More about the rest of the outing tomorrow…

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Contrasts in October

On 2 October (which you may spot was just four weeks ago), we were out for a walk on Cannock Chase and found it to be busier than we had ever seen it. The car parks were full and, at the Visitor Centre, not only was the over-flow car park full but there were cars lining the nearby roads. More cars than we’ve seen even on a sunny summer weekend. This is a photo I took of the area outside of the Visitor Centre that weekend:


There were people picnicking all over the big grassy area, and hoards of children enjoying the play area. The reason for so many people being out was apparent. On a sunny summer’s day there will be lots of people around, but there will always be the expectation of more good weather so there’s not the imperative to get out. However, when the thermometer hits the high twenties in October you know that it’s almost certainly not going to be repeated in a week’s time, hence everyone was making the most of it. I was certainly enjoying being out in shorts and t-shirt in October!

Today was the contrast. I don’t think we’ve ever encountered so few people on the Chase! (No photos of that fact because it’s difficult to demonstrate a general lack of people in a photo (and because we didn’t take a camera).)

That it is a weekday doesn’t explain the notable lack of people. The general greyness and the forecast for a day of heavy rain is more likely the explanation. We were five miles into our walk before we passed anyone and only passed two sets of people in the whole 8 miles we walked. There were other people in the tea room at Springslade Lodge, but it was obvious that we were the only people who had walked there (we walked in and waddled out; in between times many chips were eaten).

The people who stayed at home missed out. The weather was nowhere near as bad as forecast. We did get rained on, but not heavily, and it must have been dry as much as it was wet. Moreover, it was all incredibly pretty with the autumnal colours, not just on the trees but on the heathland too.

As darkness fell this evening such was the persistence of the greyness that it’s difficult to believe that tomorrow’s going to be a nice day. Hopefully the forecast will prove to be reasonably accurate for both tomorrow and Saturday, as we’re off out for another quick backpack Smile.

Monday, 24 October 2011

From Top Withins

Saturday – From Top Withins to Illingworth

Distance: 10 miles (1000 feet of ascent)

Time: 0750 to 1230

Weather: Fine, with increasingly blue skies


The sun was just peeping above the horizon as we set out on Saturday morning to demonstrate how to make a meal about navigating our way back to Halifax:


Someone had made a really early start (or had camped somewhere else nearby) as there were wet boot-prints on the slabs of the Pennine Way passing Top Withins.

Pausing on our way down towards Haworth (not that we were going down to Haworth, but we were heading in that general direction), we looked back to see that our pitch was now bathed in glorious golden morning sunshine (that tree sticking up above the hill on the horizon is next to Top Withins, and we were just above there):


The early route issues weren’t really navigation issues. It was more that I was taking us along the route that I had hastily plotted without putting any thought into whether it was sensible. As a result we (completely unnecessarily) walked three sides of a square before reaching Bronte Falls. I didn’t manage a passable shot of the falls, so I’ll make do with one of ‘Bronte Bridge’:


I was surprised that we only met one fell-runner on the walk down towards Haworth (Mick was very admiring of her running style), but once down onto flatter land we did meet plenty of dog-walkers, including three old-dears, who were most concerned that we must have been cold camping up by the ruin overnight. They were relieved when we told them that we did have a tent with us!

Having skirted Oxenhope, a bigger meal was made of navigating our way. It’s actually pretty rare that we have to backtrack, but this was one of those occasions. Our mishap was witnessed. We’d exchanged a few words with a builder shortly before I’d dug out my compass and declared that we were heading the wrong way. As we passed him again he reassured us that there was a path heading that way. There was indeed a path, but not heading in a direction that was useful for us.

A plethora of paths just past an unnamed (on my map) reservoir saw us further discombobulated, and if it hadn’t been for the position of the sun and the needle of the compass my sense of direction would have taken us off in the wrong direction. All was very pretty looking back:


Heading up past Thornton Reservoir the moorland was so desolate that it was hard to believe how close we were to civilisation. My legs (particularly knees and hips) were pleased to hear that we were now within 3.5 miles of Ma-in-Law’s house. The thoughts of sinking into a soft sofa was bliss. The thought of a steep hill was not.

Happily the climb up onto Thornton Moor wasn’t as violent as the climbs of the previous day and we both agreed that we were glad to have walked the route in a clockwise direction (although if we had done the short and gentle day first I probably wouldn’t have been so wrecked for the second day).

The meandering route I had plotted from Ogden Water to the finish was abandoned in favour of a shorter walk along roads and by lunch time we were back. Gladly I sank into the sofa and had a cup of tea put into my hands (you can always rely on Ma-in-Law to have the kettle on within 30 seconds of you walking through the front door).

The trip was just what the doctor ordered and I’d happily go and walk it again. In the meantime, I must do something about my woeful lack of fitness. It’s not in any way reasonable to hurt so much after 24 miles of walking, spread over 2 days.

Not that I’m expecting anyone else to want to start and end a walk from Ma-in-Law’s house (although she’d undoubtedly put the kettle on for you if you did), but this is (more or less) the route we took (excluding the first and last mile, which I’ve cut off the edge of the map):


Sunday, 23 October 2011

To Top Withins

It was a last minute trip. As I got home at 5pm on Thursday I suggested that, as we needed to be in Halifax early the next morning, we should travel up that evening and make the most of the trip by spending Friday night on a hill somewhere. So as not to arrive on Ma-in-Law’s doorstep at an impolite hour at night that gave us 2.5 hours to cook and eat tea, wash up, pack our bags and plan a route.

Two and a half hours later we were on the road with a plan.

Halifax isn’t the obvious choice for starting a backpacking trip (I say that based on not recalling having read a single trip report that used the town as its starting point), and I can understand why. But, given that our business in the town was unlikely to see us free to set out until around noon, I thought that we would save the time and trouble of travelling anywhere by setting out from Ma-in-Law’s front door. With the benefit of hindsight I can report that to have been a good decision; it was an excellent trip on good and varied terrain!

Friday – From Illingworth to Withins Height
Distance: 14 miles (2700 feet of ascent)
Time: 1140 to 1755
Weather: overcast but mainly dry, with just the edge of a few drizzly showers threatening us

This area of West Yorkshire is notable for its steep-sided valleys. Having spent a whole fifteen minutes planning a route, I hadn’t paid much (or in fact, any) attention to the contour lines and even though I’d walked most of this route before as parts of various day-walks, I had overlooked the violence of the inclines. I’d also, perhaps, overlooked the fact that I’ve spent the last four months sitting down and thus that I boast very little fitness just now.

Here’s the profile of the route we took:

Those ups at 5.5 miles and 8 miles certainly attacked the valley-sides straight on. The one at 5.5 miles was so steep that steps had been installed, seemingly with the planners basing the step size on a walker with a 50-inch inside-leg measurement!

The route featured streams:

Interesting buildings (albeit with the sun in the wrong place for a photo):
Good views:
And, on our way to the trig point on High Brown Knoll, the view included Stoodley Pike in the distance:IMG_3343
The waterfalls at the head of Crimsworth Dean were a fine spectacle:
Perhaps, at this point, I should mention that I have now declared summer to be over. For the first time since spring, I was out in full Paramo, and as we reached Crimsworth Dean I was wearing gloves too. Apparently these chaps weren’t finding the weather quite as cool as I was:IMG_3347
As we met them again after they had jumped into the pool below, swum around a bit and had climbed back up to the path, they were asked how the water was. “Freezing!” came the response “But quite refreshing” the other added after a pause. They breed them hardy up north, you know!

By the time we joined the Pennine Way at Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, my body was feeling the effort and I was about ready to stop. Perhaps, given my complete lack of fitness, it would have been wise to take the walk at a slower pace and to have stopped occasionally. However, in my mind I can still walk 25 miles in a day without a problem – and, in any case, daylight was conspiring against us.

It looked like we were going to be caught by a heavy shower as we first left the Pennine Way to try to find a pitch for the night. Unfortunately, where we’d hoped to find a nice stream with a patch of flat grass alongside, we found a boggy wallow where I succeeded in losing one of the ferrules off my Pacerpole. I think that’s four that I’ve lost so far this year. I plunged my hands into the peat to try to retrieve it whilst Mick donned his waterproofs. I didn’t find the ferrule, but Mick’s donning of waterproofs did the trick and the rain skirted us.

Upwards we continued, even though we didn’t have enough water for the night and even though we weren’t optimistic of finding any up higher. Whilst kicking myself for not having stopped to collect some earlier, we cocked our heads at each indent in the ground that looked like it might be hiding running water, listening for a give-away tinkle. Finally, just before Top Withins, the magic sound was heard and after digging through the grasses I managed to find a hole down to the underground stream. Slowly, a mug at a time, our water bladders were filled with water that was peaty, but not as brown as expected.

What we didn’t know until Saturday morning was that if we had continued on for about 20 paces beyond Top Withins there was a perfectly clear and perfectly accessible stream…

We didn’t get that far, because when we got to Top Withins we set about finding a pitch and were pretty pleased with the one that we selected. Although very close to the Pennine Way it was completely out of sight of the path and whilst a tiny bit lumpy (fortunately, those NeoAirs are very forgiving), it was level, sheltered from the worst of the strong wind, and with a far-reaching view. By the flatness of the long grass, I suspect that we weren’t its first occupants this week.

With the darkness falling, we wasted no time in pitching Vera, making tea and settling down for the night as the street lights all lit up below us, proving quite how close we were to civilisation whilst feeling like we were properly out on the moors.

Friday, 21 October 2011

By Withins Height

We're sitting here trying to remember the gist of the story of Cathy and Heathcliffe* and failing miserably.

The far-reaching views are serving to distract us from our poor knowledge of classic English literature. Having not pitched until gone sundown (because that's when we arrived, not because we waited for dark), as I type this the view has become one of a sea of twinkling street lights.

It's not a bad place to be on a Friday night and it wasn't a bad walk to get here. More to follow after we get home.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

East to West Photos: The Finale–Day 42

Sunday 8 May (0700-1605) (Resipole to Ardnamurchan)
Distance: 26.5 miles (Tot: 747)
Weather: wet until 2pm, then increasingly fine

Two and a half miles through our monster day we came across an exciting signpost. You know you’re getting close when there’s a brown signpost naming your destination:


An interesting bit of demolition. It would have been better if they’d left the three flying ducks above the fire place and maybe a mug on the mantle piece:


It may have been predominantly a road walk, and the weather may have been decidedly wet, but some of the views weren’t too shoddy:


There was a little bit of a yomp to break up the road walking (also, conveniently, cutting off a big loop in the road):


On that yomp we saw a herd of deer – incredibly the only deer we saw on the whole trip.


Until 2pm it had looked like we were going to have a rather grey and damp walk in. Then the rain stopped and as the cloud started to break up. By the time we were past Kilchoan and well into the final leg of the day, the weather had done a complete about-turn:


Glorious! Blue skies, blue seas and the lighthouse just a mile away:


See! There it is.


Only a few paces to go!


More gloriousness:


Beyond the lighthouse is the fog horn, which seemed like a good location for the ‘finish photos’.


As we didn’t conveniently have a photographer with us, we had to call the stick-pic into action (really must practice using the stick-pic without getting the hands and walking pole into the shot!):


We couldn’t get the lighthouse into view using the stick-pic, so we had to take turns for those shots:


And then all we had to do was to go and mug three old ladies to get a lift back down to Kilchoan. It was actually rather a shame how the trip ended. I would much rather have taken the originally planned two days to get from Resipole to Ardnamurchan, to take a less tarmacked route, and to have had time to loiter at the end. But, thanks to the severe leakiness of the tent (which had become apparent the previous night) combined with the increased raininess of the weather, we had to conclude that the only thing to be done was to get the walk finished and get ourselves to Fort William where we could sort out the tent situation before the start of the TGO Challenge.

At some point we will return to Ardnamurchan to explore the area more thoroughly. But, I digress. What (I’m sure) you really want to know is where you can find the original blog post for the day, and the answer to that is: by clicking just here.