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, 31 December 2011

Patterdale Day 4

Friday 30 December

It was not a stormy night! All was calm and dry, hence we sprang out of bed bright and early this morning (relatively, we are on holiday after all) ready for another hill.

The rain started just as we left the campsite and even dithering for an hour in the car park by the Kirkstone Inn didn't make it stop, so eventually, with time marching on, off we set. Red Screes was our first of two targets for the morning and from the map it looked like it would be a quick outing.

What I hadn't banked on was how much the temperature had dropped overnight, and how snowy and icy it was on the way up Red Screes. The extra care needed slowed us down considerably.

The rain at the pass was soon falling on us as snow, and so it continued as we made fresh tracks all the way to the summit. We had met one family on our way up, but with three young children in tow, they had decided that the summit wasn't for them today. Quite right too - some of those scrambly bits required perhaps a bit more care than you would entrust to a five-year-old.

With no view to admire we didn't tarry long atop Red Screes. For the first time since I'd put my boots on, blood was threatening to return to my toes, so I was anxious to keep moving. By the time we reached Middle Dodd my toes were back with me, but we still didn't tarry very long because there still wasn't much to see.

Having followed the trodden path for a while down the north spur (during which time we descended enough for the snow to turn back to rain), off we veered to take a route that Wainwright would not have recommended. It was a tad steep.

Knees were grumbling by the time we hit the valley, where the rain was getting heavier. Pausing only to shove mini chocolate bars into our mouths, we barely broke stride on the return to the car park.

With rain/snow having fallen during the entire 2.5 hours we were out, we were two very soggy people by the time we reached Colin and, having stripped off the wet stuff and donned dry stuff, the kettle was set upon the stove. A steaming mug of hot chocolate washed lunch down nicely.

Tonight we've moved location (by lack of available pitches in Patterdale, not by choice). Tomorrow, if the weather clears up just a little bit, there'll be just one more hill before we wend our way home.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Friday, 30 December 2011

Patterdale Day 3

Thursday 29 December

It was a dark and stormy night and the rain came down in torrents. Well, actually, the wind finally let up a bit, but the rain most certainly came down.

Seven o'clock came and lying listening to the rain falling I decided that we may as well give it a while to stop so a lie-in was had. The same decision was made at 8am, 9am and 10am (that I was reading a very gripping book may have had an influence, on top of the continued rain).

Finally (with our planned long walk long-abandonned) we had to conclude that if we didn't make a move we wouldn't even be having a short walk, so at 11.30 off we set.
We didn't pick the easiest ascent route to get up Dove Crag. In fact, given the plethora of paths that litter the fells, we probably picked one of the harder going options, as we slogged pathlessly onto the ridge. The ascent and distance was hard won ("good training!" we said), moreover, as in the latter stages we were being lashed painfully by hail and trudging through inches-deep wet snow.

A chat was had with two chaps out doing the Fairfield Horseshoe, when we finally reached the ridge-path. No progress could be made at that point anyway, as we all stood braced against a gust of wind.

On the top of Dove Crag we had a lie down, simply because we couldn't stand. And when we did ajudge it safe to get back to our feet again Mick scurried off almost bent double to make headway, whilst I got blown over. Harrumph!

With another blow-down on our way along the ridge our hopes of getting up Hart Crag were abandonned. Being up there in that weather was madness. We started our descent as soon as we could...

...but Hart Crag was so close and it seemed such a shame not to even attempt it and with the squall having passed through the wind did seem to have dropped a bit. Back up to the ridge we climbed, dithered a little more as to whether our next move was the sensible one, and then we almost ran up to the top, from where we could see the next squall approaching.

With just a quick glance around and a shouted comment about the incredible view the top offers, down we scurried again, glad when we got into the lee of the hill.

Not that things then became easy. The next squall brought snow rather than hail and by then we were making our way down a steep (semi-snow covered) stone staircase where now and again the wind would also find us. I did manage to get below the snow-line in one piece, before next finding myself sprawling on the ground. I'm really not prone to falling over; this was becoming a record day for me, and not in a good way!

Once down the tricky section we soon rejoined our outward route and our thoughts turned to hot drinks and lunch. It was gone 3pm and lunch hadn't yet been taken.

Again, the light was dimming by the time we got back. A good day, we declared (having long forgotten my hunger-induced maudlin rant on the final, slippery, snow-covered bit of the ascent).

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Patterdale Day 2

Wednesday 28 December
(That last post should have been dated Tuesday 27 December - seem to have lost track of the days)

It was a dark and stormy night and, my goodness, did that wind blow? I imagine it would have been a quite 'interesting' night in a tent.
Alas, it hadn't blown itself out by this morning and soon plans were being tempered. The plan hatched last night was heavily influenced by the realisation yesterday evening that both the pasta and the rice, which were key ingredients in our planned evening meals, were still in the cupboard at home. As a result we would take in Middle Dodd and Red Screes on our way down to Ambleside to rectify our grocery gap. We would also take the opportunity to buy yet another map case as all five of our existing ones were also still at home. Doh! More checklists required (or maybe if we'd even glanced at any of the ones that already exist...).

As the wind continued unabated it was clear that I didn't want to battle that wind for 12 miles (although I suppose it would have been behind us for at least some of that distance). Instead hopes of hills were abandonned in favour of a short, low-level stroll into Patterdale. Such a crying shame as the cloud was well above the summits and the day not a bad one (save for the wind).

Patterdale's Post Office saw us right in the grocery department before we fell into the White Lion for a cup of tea. That was over an hour ago. We're still making our way through the vat of tea served to us. I'm not sure that we've ever been defeated by a pot of tea before - but eight cups apiece does seem a little excessive.

The weather forecast displayed in the Post Office suggests that today's 'hurricane force winds on summits' will abate tomorrow to a more reasonable 30-40mph. As for today, after a stroll back to Colin there are books to be read and I'm sure that more tea will feature in our leisurely afternoon.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Patterdale Day 1

Wednesday 28 December

Our long-held plan was to be in Scotland this week, playing in the snow on some hills. A few weeks back I looked for, and found, a suitable campsite, but held off booking it as such was the snowiness of Scotland at the time that I didn't want to book if snowy roads were going to prevent us getting there.

In a complete about-turn in the weather, winter suddenly receded and Christmas day saw a record temperature of 15 degrees recorded in Aberdeen. Desperately we scoured the forecasts for some hope of a return to winter, but all we found were reports of positive temperatures on the summits and webcams showing only patchy snow. Acknowledging that our ice axes were going to remain in the cupboard a while longer we looked for somewhere to go closer to home; it didn't seem worth the fuel to travel so far in the absence of snow. We'll save that fuel for a snatched weekend in February.

And so, here we are in Patterdale, chosen as it offered the most un-bagged Wainwrights accessible directly from the campsite.

We wasted no time in our bagging. Colin had been settled on his pitch for all of half an hour (during which time a quick lunch was grabbed) before we set out with just 3 hours of daylight remaining.

Our jaunt wasn't a long one. High Hartsopp Dodd was attacked head-on (which didn't feel as steep as it looked - a good thing as it looks thigh-burningly steep), and then, having ascended into the cloud, the wind was battled on our way over to Little Hart Crag. The wind made us stagger before Scandale Pass was reached, but finally our route became sheltered again and down below the cloud we dropped.

The light was dulling by the time we climbed back into Colin. The wind was rising too. Colin is being buffetted and we can only hope that the wind will blow itself out overnight. There are more hills to be climbed on the morrow.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Martin & Sue’s Christmas Walk

Just before 10 o’clock this morning the last couple of cars pulled into a layby on the A515 east of Coldeaton. It was a good job that the layby was a big one, as 30 people accepted Martin’s invitation for his annual Christmas walk.

I’m not sure that Martin remembered to renew his ‘good weather’ subscription when it lapsed earlier this year. Over previous years he has been renowned for having fantastic weather for every walk he has arranged. There have been a few blips in his 100% sunshine record this year, and today’s forecast was decided wet (heavy rain from 9am to 6pm said the forecast when I checked it last night). The straw at which I clutched was the knowledge that the weather in this country is seldom as bad as forecast.

Rain wasn’t falling as we set out along the Tissington Trail, nor as we slip-slid our way down the steep, muddy side of Wolfscote Dale:


The muddiness of that descent was nothing compared to muddiness encountered later!

Wolfscote Dale is a lovely place, but today attention was captured by chatting with others more than by the surroundings. This was a social occasion, after all.

Elevenses marked the time when the rain started to fall, but that didn’t put anyone off their flasks of tea and the CCS and Fudge Brownies provided by Martin and Sue. Mick & I were particularly happy to lighten Martin’s load on both counts, as (in a repeat of last year’s Christmas walk) we had arrived at the start point only to realise that our morning snacks were still at home. Do I need a checklist every time I leave the house? Apparently so!

The river was running high, a couple of herons flew past just metres away, and a bit more mud was encountered, and before we knew it we were approaching Hartington.

The Charles Cotton Hotel was the venue for lunch, and they did a good job of feeding 30 wet and hungry walkers. They had interesting murals too. This one was in the Ladies’ Powder Room and was entitled something like ‘Why Men Shouldn’t Flyfish Naked’:


It’s always a bit of a wrench to leave a warm, inviting place when you know that it’s hammering down with rain outside, but a move had to be made and so move we did. It was something of a bonus that by the time shoes, bags and jackets had been retrieved, the rain had stopped. It stayed stopped too, until a whole 2 minutes into our drive home.

There was, however, a bit of standing water on the return leg:


I was glad to have discovered a pair of long-forgotten waterproof shoes lurking in the depths of my wardrobe before we set out this morning. They served me well.

It was still daylight (just about) when we got back to the start point, said our goodbyes and tootled off in the direction of home. Thanks go to Martin for another excellently organised Christmas walk (during which not a single navigational error occurred!). Same again next year?

(Another account of this walk will appear on Martin’s blog, and also likely on Alan Rayner’s blog, and on Helen & Colin’s blog.)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Day 5 in Madeira

Saturday 19 November

Sitting supping beer on the roof terrace as the sun set the previous evening a consensus was quickly reached that we would return to Camacha the following day to walk the Levada de Serra.

Camacha is home to a basket factory and shop, so that’s where our day started (click here for the photographic evidence of what our tour involved…). Following a premature coffee break, off we headed out to seek the levada that we were to follow. From a promising start to the day, the weather took a bit of a nose-dive when soon after setting off it started to rain with some vigour. A handy bus shelter gave us (ummm….) shelter whilst we donned waterproofs and by the time the waterproofs-faff was over the rain had almost stopped.


Five minutes after donning them, off came everyone’s waterproofs (except for my jacket, which stayed on for most of the day – it was decidedly cooler than previous days).

The surroundings for this walk were so different to the previous day it was hard to believe that we were on the same hillside, just a bit higher up. Woodland (notably eucalyptus, but with oak, chestnut and beech too) was the main feature, and with the fallen leaves I could have believed that I was somewhere much closer to home (except that I was wearing shorts in mid-November!).


Yep, we were a matching-hat quartet in our Tilleys. Mick, Martin and Sue even had the same colour.

The Levada de Serra walk is a fine and interesting, but not overly long, so when we reached (mumble, mumble, if I knew what I’d done with the map I’d look up the name of the place) Martin suggested that we headed down the road to pick up the Levada dos Tornos that we’d walked the previous day, but that before we got to the nasty, evil, exposed bit that we should cut down the valley to Funchal. Everyone agreed it was a good plan.

The most notable thing about the Levada dos Tornos today was how much water it had in it. The previous day I could have just jumped in the water to avoid the exposed bits, and I would have been paddling up to my ankles. Today I would have been wading up to at least thigh level.


Having all failed to notice the side-path we wanted to take (even though we’d walked past it three times in a bit of to-ing and fro-ing for a photo-opportunity), we almost reached the nasty, evil, exposed section before realising that something was amiss. We’d not overshot it by too far, though, and we soon located our turn. Down, down, down we then went. It seemed to me that we descended steeply for about 4000 feet, even we only started at about 1500 feet. Thoughtfully, some path-makers had put in steps to help us on our way:


Eventually things flattened out when we reached another old levada, but the respite was brief, before we headed back down again, this time to pick up some alleyways into Funchal.


Somewhere along the 10.5-mile route, I had met and gone past my mileage target for the year (1825 miles) and so when we reached Funchal my resolve to see the walk through to its natural conclusion at the hotel was sorely tested as we passed a taxi rank. If I hadn’t tripped and accidentally fallen into the open door of a taxi, I promise that I would have walked the last 2 miles. As it went, Mick and Sue jumped into the taxi to retrieve me and before we knew it we were back at the hotel in time for the quiz. Martin, having missed the whole falling-into-a-taxi incident, wasn’t part of the rescue party and thus had to walk back. He missed the quiz, as did Sue who had an appointment with a masseuse, and so Mick & I had to put in extra effort to maintain the team’s reputation. We succeeded (by a clear five points too Smile).


That evening, over wine, beer and too much food, we discussed what to do with our final full day on the island.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Day 4 in Madeira

Friday 18 November

This was the day on which I discovered that I have absolutely no head for walking along a 15” wide parapet with a sheer drop of a few hundred feet off to the side, and without even the skinniest of railings. For ‘no head for’ you can read ‘sheer terror ensued’.

The day didn’t start with sheer terror. Per the plan that had been hatched over beer, wine and food the night before, the morning saw us journey up to Monte where after a look around the church, off we went to the Tropical Gardens. It seems that there are lots of gardens in Madeira, and although we didn’t visit any of the others by way of comparison I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Tropical Gardens – they were most definitely my cup of tea.


After a bit of a wander around, Sue was feeling all hot and bothered, so she opted for a shower…


Before we knew it, a coffee shop was before us and no time was wasted in declaring it to be coffee time. Today coffee was augmented by cake and a glass of local wine. Appropriate, we felt, given that we had just learned that we had places in next year’s TGO Challenge.


With coffee, cake and wine consumed, off we headed to pick up Levada dos Tornos. Here are two snippets of what Paddy says about this walk:

- “…in the case of the hugely popular Levada dos Tornos, you could end up stuck at the end of a long ‘crocodile’ of walkers”

- “The levada has a narrow parapet and some exposed fenced stretches.”

What we found didn’t bear out either of these statements. We did meet a small handful of other people, but a number of the exposed stretches most definitely didn’t have fences.

Even the most nervous of the party managed to get past the dodgy unfenced sections. I did it by throwing a hissy fit, bawling a bit and making Mick come back and help me. Martin did it on his hands and knees. Once again, Mick and Sue turned pirouettes above the drops and didn’t bat an eyelid at the exposure. Fortunately the exposed sections (which probably weren’t more than 10 yards long each) were finally behind us and I managed to make an effort to smile again:


Whilst Martin posed to show off his muddy knees:


And at the first suitable spot we decided to calm our nerves with a spot of lunch. It wasn’t a bad spot for lunch either, sitting in the sunshine looking down over Funchal:


Skipping forward a few miles (for the avoidance of doubt, we didn’t actually skip to get there) a significant feature of this walk is a tunnel, which can be avoided by going over the top. What’s the fun of omitting the tunnel though? Even Mick was game for it, even though he had locked his head-torch in the hotel safe that day. What this photo doesn’t show is the bits of ceiling protruding downwards, the bits of wall protruding outwards and the flooded bits of path, nor does it show how dark it was in there.


We all made it through without incident, and some while later we managed (on the second attempt) to identify the place where we needed to leave the levada and into Camacha we walked.

The day was marching rapidly towards sunset by the time we located the bus stop and started trying to decipher the timetable. The conclusion reached by Sue and I was that there should be a bus in about 15 minutes time. About five minutes later a taxi pulled up, having obviously clocked the likely fares. Twenty minutes later we were back in the hotel. It may have cost us a few euro more than the two buses would have cost, but worth every cent for the time saved. After all, it was almost beer o’clock, following which there was wine and too much food to be consumed, whilst we contemplated what to do the following day.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mam Tor and Lose Hill

The last time I went for a walk was in Madeira where, contrary to the indications of the fallen leaves, it felt like summer. Today, it felt most decidedly wintery.

Suitably wrapped up, we soon got the blood pumping by choosing a steep route up Mam Tor. Once on the top, our admirations of the far-reaching views on this fine day were shared by a few others who reached the trig at the same time as us (albeit from different directions). Then, like a group walk, we all set out towards Lose Hill.

When out of the wind, the middle of the day was approaching warm and thus there was no shivering as we enjoyed sandwiches just before Back Tor.

Having reached Lose Hill we shunned a proper circular walk, as it seemed a shame to drop down the hill on such a nice day. Instead, an about turn was performed and back along the ridge we went, for a while at least.

We did soon pick up a downwards path and back to Castleton we went.

It wasn't a long outing, but then size isn't everything is it?

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange