As we approached the car park last night, which would position us nicely for our first hill this morning, I had a great sense of déjà vu, commenting to Mick that I felt like I’d been there before and that there had been a chap in residence in the car park, in a caravan. Mick responded that the chap in the caravan had a generator running outside. Then I saw the Herring Road sign post, confirming that this wasn’t a memory trick; we had walked through this very car park on our Lowestoft to Ardnamurchan walk in 2011. The snap above is looking down on the car park this morning; Colin is the white van on the right.
Arriving in pouring rain yesterday afternoon, we expected (from the forecast) to be in for a very wet night, with the rain persisting into the morning. So, it was a surprise to peer out of a window this morning (after a night during which I’d heard not a drop of rain fall; the afternoon’s wetness had abated mid-evening) to find that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Cereal was wolfed, tea necked and at quarter to seven we made haste for fear of the fine weather being short-lived.
As I’m finding is often the case, when I stand at the foot of the hill and look at it, there’s a more obvious route than the one I’d picked from the map. On this occasion, I’d planned to take a longer route making the most use of the tracks and paths marked on my map. In reality we headed straight up, via a good trod. There was a bit of heather-bashing to the very top, but it was all very straightforward, and whilst there were clouds forming, it didn’t look like we were in for any wet weather before second breakfast.
Down we headed, via a slightly different line, involving a trod sporting half a dozen untagged snare traps. If they are checked daily (as the law requires) then they will all have been reset by now…
(2.3 miles, 700’)
Dirrington Great Law
Considering that this was the hill that had led me to even contemplate returning home via the east coast (we’d seen it from the Southern Upland Way in April and it had called my name), it was careless that I’d missed it off my list for the day! All’s well that ends well, though, and I realised the omission before it was too late (even if it meant that we didn’t do the hills in this area in the most obvious order), so after Spartleton we headed off to park in a gateway from which, so t’internet told me, I could follow a track all the way to the top of this pimple in the landscape.
The parking situation wasn’t such that Mick could join me for this one, so off I wandered on my own, wondering where this track was going to take me as it appeared to head off in the wrong direction. Sticking with it, it did come good, even if it wasn’t the most direct line ever taken up a hill. By virtue of its indirectness (combined with the small stature of the hill), it would have given me the most ridiculously easy ascent if it hadn’t been for the strength of the headwind.
I did have to pause and back off at one point a few paces from the top, to allow a family of fluffy grouslings to cross the track ahead of me. Peeking around the corner again, they all seemed to have gone, so on I went, only noticing the sole grousling which had been left behind when I put my foot down about an inch away from it. My goodness, they’re well camouflaged, even when sitting on a track! I trod so very carefully the rest of the way.
Maybe I didn’t tread as carefully as I should, or maybe it was because I was scanning the ground for brown and yellow balls of fluff that I stepped wrong and took a good tumble on my descent. No harm was done, and I did spring back up like someone was watching, even though it seemed highly unlikely that I was going to have a human encounter on this hill. Sometimes unlikely things do occur though, and about ten paces away from the gateway back onto the road, I encountered a very chatty gamekeeper. For a full twenty minutes we passed the time of day, covering a great multitude of subjects, making Mick wonder if I was ever going to get away. We were later glad I hadn’t chatted for five minutes longer…
(3.4 miles, 600’)
This one has to be a contender for the most pointless Marilyn I’ve visited to date. It was so pointless that Mick declined to join me, even though Colin was neatly parked. So, on my own I left the road, went through a gate and walked up to the top of a field. Then I walked back down. To add a bit of interest to this visit to the high point of a grassy field, I did visit the hill fort which also lies within the field, extending the round trip to a whole three quarters of a mile with about 130’ of up.
Having crossed the border back into England, this hill could have been another outing of less than a mile and only a couple of hundred feet of ascent, except that we found a good car park at the picnic area to the south of Chillingham Park, which meant that Mick could (and did) join me on this one. The revised start point gave us a steep start, but it was an interesting little walk, up onto heather moorland, via some big boulders (and apparently another hill fort, but I didn’t notice the evidence of this one), before heading up to the prominent high ground ahead of us, which was Ros Hill.
As we stood taking in the views, we couldn’t help but notice that there was one particular shower that looked to be on a collision course with us, so we upped the pace for the return journey. We failed to outpace the shower, but we did get lucky in that only the very edge of it hit us, not requiring any waterproofs (of course, we did don jackets, which is probably why it missed us).
It was rather a pleasant outing, and our last for the day … or so the plan said.
(1.9 miles, 500’)
We reached our intended night-stop at half past one, second lunch was had (first lunch had been had in a different picnic area at 10.30am; I was hungry today!) and it was still far too early to call it a day, so we figured we may as well bring forward Long Crag, which was pencilled in for tomorrow morning.
A really nasty forest track (big chunky stones, like walking on a railway bed) took us so far, then a grassy break to our right looked likely to lead us out of the forest, so we thought we would give it a go. The presence of a well-trodden line soon gave us confidence that the route would work, and it wasn’t too long before we were out the top and onto the ridge just west of Coe Crags, from where we walked further west to the top of Long Crag, enjoying the views as we went. A suitably nice walk to end my month of Marilyns, I thought. I even extended the outing a little to include a visit to the top of Coe Crags, just to check out what could be seen to the east.
Then it was back the way we came, increasing pace as we made our way back along the nasty forest track, as there was an ominous darkness that suggested that we weren’t quite going to achieve five rain-free hills on this poor-forecast day. It was a close run thing. The last couple of minutes were accompanied by light rain, and a couple of minutes after we climbed into Colin the heavens opened. That was when Mick commented that he was glad I hadn’t been any longer chatting to the game keeper earlier in the day; we would not have wanted to have been out in that!
(4.7 miles, 550’)
And that was that for this trip. Thirty-eight Marilyns, and a few other tops, the vast majority in good conditions. In combination with some involvement with the TGO Challenge, it’s been a very enjoyable time. I’m now expecting that the Marilyn count to remain static for at least a few months … but I will return to them in due course.