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]

Wednesday 24 February 2010

K2CW: Food


An inventory has been taken, and we’re in better shape than I thought. So far we have:

Beef Chilli x 9; Pasta Sauce x 9; Chick Pea Stewy Thing x 5; Lentil Stew x 5; Veggie Chilli x 8; Fish Risotto x 4; Turkey Curry x 4; Veggie Curry x 2; Thai Turkey x 4; Shepherd x 7; Chilli Prawn x 1

Only just over 30 more to go.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Off Topic: The Hedgerow

I’ve been doing battle with the hedge for a couple of months now, and I’m winning the battle.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a ‘before’ photo, but having completed one side in its entirety, and the top and other side of half of it, I did belatedly take a quick snap of the half-side that I hadn’t touched.

This is a pretty good representation of how the whole thing did look:

IMG_0619 (Yep, it snowed again on Saturday night; this photo was taken on Sunday)

The difficulty in the job is disentangling the rampant ivy from the hawthorn, which meant that electric hedge trimmers were of little use, so the entire job has been done with two pairs of long-handled pruners (one lightweight pair to save my arms, one ratchet pair for the thicker pieces of both hawthorn and ivy).

The extent of the damage done by our previous neglect of this task over the last few years is evident when you look at the sorry, bare state of the half that I have completed:

IMG_0625 I’ve probably only got a couple more days of teetering on the ladder (and occasionally falling down the drainage ditch as I dismount the ladder) before I can declare the job complete (alas, there’s still plenty of work required to bring the rest of the woefully neglected garden into order).

Monday 22 February 2010

The Alleyways Around Altrincham (Saturday 20 Feb)

Although it wasn’t an early start in the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s start was a touch earlier than that to which I have become accustomed over the last five weeks. That meant that it was still jolly cold out (-4, said our garden thermometer) as we left home, but also meant that the roads were quiet, allowing us to arrive in Timperley on time.

By a few minutes before 9 we were assembled at Timperley Metro Station to join a LDWA (South Manchester group) outing on a 17-miles route around Altrincham.

It was as a party of 15 that we set out in a timely manner to do battle with a bit of overgrown undergrowth on the non-towpath side of the (lightly iced over) Bridgewater Canal.

Leaving the canal a while later alleyways and streets became a definite theme for the day.


It was by no means all alleyways and tarmac, even if they did prevail. In between times there was woodland (the bit in the following photo featuring the only non-flat bit of the route):


And then there was a section alongside the River Bollin, where logs and banks were turned into makeshift benches whilst we all paused to sample some of Martin’s excellent Fudge Brownies (yum!)


which pause also gave us the opportunity to try to find a Geocache which should have been under this bridge:


We failed to find it, and I’ve since found that it proved illusive to the previous seeker too, so maybe it has gone walkabout?

The coldness had been persisting for some hours (although not quite cold enough to turn the mud completely solid) until a bit of day-time warmth won through (allowing me to finally divest myself of both hat and gloves, although not quite enough to remove a layer). That warmth melted the last of the frost, which in turn made the mud even softer. There was quite some mud in places too:

IMG_0045IMG_0046(Mick was kind enough not to photograph walk-leader John’s inadvertent bathing in this particular mud obstacle.)

Lunch was taken in the rather lovely surroundings of the grounds of Dunham Massey, which was made even lovelier by the clouds having been chased away by the sun.


The day had brought lots of people out to enjoy the grounds.

IMG_0614 More woodland

IMG_0615 and some cobbles

IMG_0616led us back to the alleyways and streets, which led us back to the Bridgewater Canal, which was by now back in a fully-liquid state:

IMG_0618It had been 17 miles of good exercise (no dawdling on this walk!), with some excellent company (the pace and the company explaining why the photos shown above represent the entirety of those taken between both Mick & I!).

With the main event of the day over, it was not straight back into the car to stiffen up as we headed home. Rather, Martin & Sue were good enough to entertain us with one of their excellent slide shows (I failed miserably on flower identification as always (and sadly will likely not cry ‘That’s a black vanilla orchid!’ if I ever see one), but equally predictably added more places to my ‘must go there’ list!). They then proceeded to serve us a truly delicious meal, which set us up nicely for the journey south. Thank you Martin & Sue!

K2CW Countdown

Assuming that there are no show-stopping incidents involving falling down rabbit holes or the like, then one month from now we will just have finished our first day of walking from Kent to Cape Wrath.

(Eeek! Eeeek! Eeeeeeek! Eeeeeeeeek!)

Hope the weather’s looking a bit more spring-like by then!

Preparations are creeping forward, and will no doubt reach fever pitch in a couple of weeks when I realise quite how much we have left to do. As it stands we’re a good way through the food dehydration, but having not updated that spreadsheet for a few weeks, I have absolutely no idea what we have prepared and what is still left to cook. That’s just asking for a last minute panic isn’t it? This is turning into something of an expensive month too, as we not only have to buy all of the ingredients for the dried meals we’ll eat whilst we’re away, but we’re also in the midst of a flurry of replacing worn-out kit (not to mention buying spare batteries for cameras, phones, torches etc; I seem to be taking deliveries of batteries far more than is normal of late!).

Training’s not going to badly either, with just over 200 miles walked so far this year, albeit without as many hills as I would have liked.

Thursday 18 February 2010

A Great Sunny Ridge Walk

(Alternative versions of the following story of this walk can be seen on Mike’s blog and on Martin’s Blog. Because three accounts didn’t seem like enough, Mick’s written one too which can be found here)

Had I known in advance that yesterday’s walk was entitled "The Little Dale Horseshoe by Scope End to Hindscarth and the Littledale Edge to Robinson descending via High Snab Bank” I probably would have found the description somewhat intimidating. Fortunately, all that I knew in advance was that we were setting out from a set grid reference and having parked in a car park that I had assumed to be the correct one I belatedly thought it wise to check its grid reference against the one Martin had conveyed to us. Fortunately, we were in the right place, which meant that we didn’t immediately have to tackle that little lane again!

Considering that Martin had named the day for this walk some time in advance (and from a different continent), I was extraordinarily impressed that his usual ability to attract good weather was holding true and still prevailing over Mick’s and my usual luck of attracting awful weather. The day was as glorious as they come.

Only a little later than intended a group of five (plus Bruno the dog)  had assembled (those who were late mumbling excuses about closed roads) and with a brief enquiry on my part as to where we were going, off we set.

IMG_0005 The ascent via Scope Crag soon had some feeling back in my hands, and nearly in my feet, as the day warmed up from its freezing start – a visible process on this day as we saw the frost recede upon sight of the sun.

IMG_0013 Pausing only for cups of tea (accompanied by the famous CCS, provided by Martin), fourteen feet made their way through the snow-line and onto Hindscarth. Looking back the way we had come (you can clearly see the ridge in the photo below), snow wasn’t greatly in evidence.

IMG_0018Looking in the other direction, it was a land of whiteness:



Another pause had been had on the top of Hindscarth, this time for lunch and more tea, before our way was made down Littledale Edge:

IMG_0026and up the other side:

IMG_0033 to make our way onto Robinson, from where we had an excellent view down to Crummock Water and Loweswater:

IMG_0599It seemed that it would be rude not to pause for more tea on the top of Robinson (seeing as everyone else had), and with the flasks empty all we had to do was head in a downwards direction until we got back to our start point.

The grass was heavy with cold on the top:


And on our way down the craggy bits were similarly adorned with frostiness, which made for something of an interesting descent, sometimes utilising more than all our limbs to assist.

Mike was the master though, and as this photo shows Mick, Graham and Martin held onto his every word as he explained the correct way to descend such obstacles:

IMG_0605 Of course, the master-class was lost on the other chaps, as they had already slithered down in their own (sometimes not entirely elegant) ways.

Looking back at the ridge down which we had come, it did indeed look a bit tricky:

IMG_0606By the time we were down on the non-snowy surface of High Snab Bank, the sun was sinking and casting an incredible golden glow over the valley. Alas, both of my photos of it were mis-focussed and blurry.

With a final descent that had my knees chastising me gently for my abuse of them, we reached the valley again from where it was but a hop, skip and a jump back to our starting point.

With the walk over, we repaired to the Coledale Inn at Braithwaite for a short period of reflection and recuperation and, maybe the odd sniftah.

This was a superb walk – thanks to Martin for suggesting it and for allowing us to join in the fun on such an incredibly glorious day and in mainly superb underfoot conditions.

The stats for the day were a smidge over 7 miles walked with a smidge over 2500 feet of ascent. For the bipeds amongst us the route looked like this:


We went clockwise. Bruno went clockwise and anti-clockwise and described various inner circles too…

Monday’s Geocaching Photos

Being a bit of a miserable, wet sort of a day, not many photos were taken during Monday’s trip.

Once liberated from its well-concealed hiding place, Mick, Allan and Carole contemplated at length the extraordinarily large size of the third cache of our day:

IMG_0570 By and by they did get around to removing the lid, and inside was a ‘Travel Bug Lodge’ (I took the Travel Bug that you can just about see in the ‘room’ in the bottom left; to try to help it on its mission to reach New Zealand I will place it in a cache in the Midlands somewhere):

IMG_0571 After five caches the rain was really starting to come down, as we made our way across Foreside, which made me glad to be wearing something warm and waterproof and made me feel guilty for dragging Allan and Carole on such a route in such weather and without such waterproof attire:


The camera then went away for quite a while, only coming out near the end of our excursion when Mick found the well-concealed cache with eludes many of its visitors. It’s hidden under some moss about a foot in front of my left foot in this photo (and once you’ve found it, is of a not inconsiderable size):

IMG_0574 The next, and penultimate cache of the day, was the tiny one, which caused no trouble to locate. The hand and the GPS in the photo give the perspective of quite how tiny this little grey magnetic container was:

IMG_0575Had it been a nice day we might have taken some photos of the views of which we have taken many photos before. As it went, we were cold by this point so almost ran to the final cache and then back to Ma-in-Law’s, without giving a thought to taking the camera out again.


Tuesday 16 February 2010

Not Quite To Plan

It was one of those days that didn't go entirely to plan, albeit at our own fault.

Multiple cups of tea and lots of chatting meant that we didn't leave Ma-in-Law's until the morning was seriously thinking about transitioning into afternoon.

In all honesty, we did still have time to take the intended short stroll/recce trip on the way to Keswick, but aside from having forgotten to don suitable clothing for such an outing, we completely forgot about that part of the plan until too late. So, straight to Keswick we went to return to George Fisher the shoes that I bought last week, and about which (after much wearing around the house) I subsequently changed my mind.

To save parking fees, it seemed like a good move to book into the campsite first (the plan being to stay at Keswick C&CC).

When they told us that the pitch fee for the two of us in our little tent was £24 for the night we both fell on the floor, shortly after picking ourselves up with our jaws gaping. £24 in February when we've already been told that the ground is waterlogged?! Am I being unreasonable, or is that just a silly price for a patch of mud, even if the facilities are quite good?

We resolved to go to Stonethwaite instead, the only other local campsite of which I'm aware that is open at this time of year.

With our trip to George Fisher complete we left the heaving high street and headed into Borrowdale, only to find when we reached Stonethwaite that the campsite was displaying a big 'Closed' sign. Damn!

What to do? Mick was reluctantly resigned to returning to the C&CC, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much for that campsite at this time of year and reasoned that for £30 more we could have a comfy bed in a warm room with an en-suite and with a full cooked breakfast in the morning. It didn't take a lot of persuasion.

So we're now having a night of unplanned comfort. Tomorrow, after setting ourselves up with a cholesterol-fest of a breakfast, a bit of exercise awaits us when we meet up with Martin ( and Mike ( Allegedly, we might even have some reasonable weather for it.

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Monday 15 February 2010

Seven Eighths of Success

Together with Mick's brother and sister-in-law, we managed to get ourselves organised to leave Ma-in-Law's house whilst it was still morning, and over to Ogden Water we travelled.

Our objective for the day was to try to find as many as possible of the eighteen Geocaches secreted around the area, with 16 being our aim.

It wasn't the best day for introducing Geocache-virgins to the pastime, as whilst the cloud had lifted to above our level, it was still a damp (sometimes wet) day.

Onwards we strode anyway, and half an hour later we found the most enormously huge (and well-hidden) cache. Think of the sort of plastic crate that you might use for under-bed storage - and in it was a glass-fronted wooden TravelBug Lodge.

Returning it to its hole and rebuilding the stone wall in front of it, onwards we went, into lands of boggy yomping. And then it started to rain.

It was at the point the furthest from the car that the rain really started coming down, which was unfortunate as our companions had no waterproofs.

As a result, as soon as we reached a track that led back to the car park they wished us a good walk, heaved a sigh of relief (perhaps swore that they would never again accept an invitation to walk with us), and hotfooted it back down the valley.

In the meantime, Mick and I continued in our quest and with much time spent searching at quite a few of the locations (plus, later in the afternoon, time spent whistling nonchalantly whilst waiting for dog walkers to pass by).

It was wet and it wasn't hugely warm, and when we got to the Visitor Centre for a cup of something hot we found it closed. But to counter those negative factors we (by 'we' I actually mean 'Mick') found one incredibly well hidden cache which, from the previous logs, I hadn't expected to be able to locate. I was equally pleased to find one which was about half the size of a thimble!

With time marching on and rain still falling I rejected the intended 4km circuit up onto t'moor just for the sake of one cache. Instead we decided to divert on our walk back to Ma-in-Law's house (as we had no car by now) to pick up one which hadn't been on our list for the day.

Five hours after setting out we arrived back (about a third of which was spent searching, or otherwise not moving), with water just starting to reach my right hand through my Buffalo mitt and (not quite waterproof) overmitt. We had walked 12.5km and found 14 out of 16 caches.

In spite of the persistent wetness we were rather pleased with the outcome of the day - although we did rather wish that we'd packed some lunch (or maybe some of the two cakes I baked on the weekend). We really must remember before embarking on the little outings that searching for lots of plastic tubs adds significant extra time to a walk!
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Thursday 11 February 2010

First on Sunday, and Again Today

A few weeks ago I came up with a few routes, all reasonably local, that I thought we could walk as part of our mission to try to gain a little fitness and endurance. With Sunday looking like a free day, I suggested that we should try out one of these routes, and answering Mick’s enquiry I advised that it was 9.5 miles long.

“Not long enough” was Mick’s response.

So, back to the drawing board I went. Or, more precisely, I went to where I found the location of all of the caches in the vicinity of the route, and having added them in I came up with a route with six caches, and which looked nonsensically circuitous on paper. Circuitous is okay when you’re trying to add miles, though, and the wiggles also had the benefit of climbing up and down the biggest hills (peaking at a whole 40 metres above the usual flatness!) in the locale. The revised route was 15.5 miles, and with both of us satisfied that it was long enough, out we set on Sunday morning.

Just five minutes in it became apparent, with the plethora of snow drops, that spring is marching forth, irrespective of the remaining evidence of autumn:

IMG_0555 A while later we found ourselves in the unusual position of heading north on the Trent & Mersey (third time in eight years!), where we got to appreciate lots of industrial views, starting with the gravel works (deserted on Sunday, but with many a constant chink-chink-chink today as the gravel fell of those massive conveyor belts):

IMG_0556 Shortly afterwards there was a change of theme when Mick pointed out, on the other side of canal, the curious sight of llama and ostrich, which are not entirely the species expected in the vicinity of Burton-on-Trent. The sign to the left of the following snap advertises llama treks. Llama trekking? In Burton-on-Trent?!

IMG_0557 At Branston we swung off the canal to take a path through the Water Park (“Water Park” meaning a collection of flooded gravel pits), where I think that they’re keen to convey to all that the fishing is private and for members only:


(Google Translate suggests that it means ‘Ban on fish’)

Thence it was along a track to our first cache of the day, which we struggled to locate for a while as we barked up entirely the wrong tree (‘believe what the GPS is telling you’ is the message to be learnt here).

A pull up a bank gave us an excellent view over industrial Burton, and more pleasingly over the farmland surrounding:


IMG_0560A busy lane ended this distance-adding diversion, and plonked us back on the Trent & Mersey, where some sheep attracted our attention. My sheep-recognition abilities are right up there with my bird-recognition abilities, but to me these looked suspiciously like Herdwick, which are not a breed that I expect to find in this neck of the woods:

IMG_0562  A lunch-break later, we were passing Burton where even the canal showed plenty of evidence of the brewing heritage:

IMG_0563 The canal actually runs through the Marston’s brewery, but I didn’t notice until today (when I didn’t have the camera on me) the yard filled with an impressive number of kegs.

After a quick out-and-back detour to our fourth cache of the day, which saw us add a bit more ascent but didn’t add any benefit in terms of surroundings or view, we found ourselves walking up a hill that various logs on the geocaching website have described variously as tiring, steep and hardgoing. Really, it was a gently 30m climb on a tarmac track! However, completing the climb up to the ‘ridge’ which we were to follow for a while did afford us views of Burton which I have never before appreciated, all of which evidenced its brewing and industrial status:

IMG_0564 The photographic record would suggest that not much occurred for the next few miles (although I seem to recall prodigious amounts of mud (most of which was frozen today)) as the next photo taken was nearing the end of our walk when we came across this chap:

IMG_0568 “I’m sure that’s a Black Swan, from Australia” I said to Mick, and having taken the photo I didn’t stand my ground when the subject came running at me somewhat aggressively. I don’t care that I won on size and body mass; I had no interest in being a prime example of the rumour that a swan can break your arm!

Legs were aching (particularly mine) as we climbed the last two muddy little inclines of the day. The 15.5 miles had taken us just over 6 hours with all of the geocache faffing (five our of six found) and the slow-going mud.

Today, in the absence of anything better to do, we walked the route again but without the cache faffing and with the mud being mainly frozen under a smattering of snow. Without any need for navigation or cache-finding, we were a touch quicker.

Not a bad day for it...

Bit of a nip in the air, bit of a breeze, but clear views from this viewpoint a thin-aired 80m above Burton.
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Monday 8 February 2010

On Thursday Last: High Raise

It had been a slow and mainly foggy trip from Halifax up to Ambleside, but in its latter stages the fog had started to lift and we felt (foolishly) optimistic that the mountain forecast would hold true and the rest of the murk would lift to leave us with fine weather until early afternoon.

Until Ambleside we hadn’t decided on where we would walk, but suddenly I decided that Langdale seemed like a good idea and declared that High Raise would be our objective for the day.

We were only the second car in the car park alongside the New Dungeon Ghyll, and after no small modicum of faffing we were on our way, up to Stickle Tarn.

Carefully picking our way around the icy bits of the stone staircase that leads up to the Tarn, several pauses were had to gape at the views unfolding as the cloud lifted to leave a gap between the mistiness still hugging the grass in the valley, and the cloud still shrouding the tops. IMG_0526 IMG_0528

By ten minutes in I realised that it was not nearly as cold as I had expected, and quite considerably warmer than it had been the previous day in West Yorkshire, and as such I had made an error in wearing long-johns. I struggled on with all vents open until a point where I adjudged that the people ahead of us were sufficiently far ahead not to be able to see back, and the people behind us were sufficiently far behind not to catch us up within the next three minutes and so, apologising for the delay, I declared an intention to undress and remove the long johns.

IMG_0535 Showing off my shocking pink undertrousers. I opted not to include the bare-legged photo.

For reasons best known to himself, Mick decided that the appropriate thing to do with my discarded, shocking pink underwear was to put them on his head, and so he stood patiently waiting for me to look up and react (as it went, I failed to look up and didn’t learn of this entire incident until much later in the day).

What he didn’t notice was the footsteps approaching from behind, and before he knew it he was removing his impromptu headwear whilst simultaneously greeting the chap who was, by now, alongside him. Being caught in such a ridiculous post didn’t faze him, however, as (so I later learnt) he figured that he would never see this complete stranger again…

Now much more comfortable, we progressed past more falls (another excuse for a brief pause)

IMG_0530 and finally we popped out at Stickle Tarn, which was wearing its winter garb:

IMG_0540 At this point it would have been a good idea to liberate the map from the pocket on my pack, as if we had done so we might have picked up the intended path. What actually happened was that we didn’t look at the map until ten minutes later, by which time we had missed that path (not that the path would necessarily have been visible under the snow, but at least we could have followed its course).

Combined with having once again been enveloped in cloud before we left the side of Stickle Tarn, the next couple of hours became something of a navigation exercise as we found ourselves not only with no view of what was around us, but increasingly with all ground features also obliterated by snow.

 IMG_0543 IMG_0544

Early in this adventure, whilst in amongst some craggy bits, I had a failure of confidence so great that not only did I get the GPS out, but I programmed a waypoint into it – the first time I’ve done that since a similar crisis of confidence in much better conditions in September 2008.

By the time we reached that waypoint, I had given myself sufficient of a talking to that the rest of the day was navigated by compass, albeit the GPS stayed out for the rest of the day and was used to obtain more positional confirmations than ever before.

Progress was slow, but finally we noticed that things had flattened out and we impressed ourselves by homing straight in on the trig point.

With the ascent taking longer than we had expected, and with the day marching on, and with the forecast being for more wet weather coming in during the afternoon, it wasn’t a difficult decision to abandon our intended (longer) descent route. Instead a quick look at the map caused the decision that we would simply head south for a kilometre and a half or so in the hope of picking up the path between the Langdale Pikes.

Not two minutes into our downwards route, it started to rain, so it was with hoods up and heads down that we yomped over whatever fell before us as we tried to maintain our southerly course as best we could.

The quality of the light was by this time getting to be about as poor as the visibility, which was causing optical illusions. At one point Mick pointed out Stickle Tarn over to our left, which made me doubt our position and navigation skills all over again, as the map told me quite clearly that there was no way that we would be able to see the tarn from where we should be.

That tarn, which looked to be some distance from us, turned out to be a patch of snow about twenty metres distant!

With optical illusions affecting both of us, and with me getting perhaps a touch crabby due to extreme hunger (it was 2pm, I’d had breakfast at 7am and had been doing quite a bit of exercise in between!), I called for a halt long enough to throw a sandwich and a cup of tea down my neck.

Down I plonked myself and as the rain had let up I liberated my down jacket and put it on in an effort of conserving the little heat that I had. Almost immediately it started to rain again. The jacket went back in its waterproof bag, and I hunched up my shoulders as I almost swallowed my sandwich whole, and inhaled a cup of something hot and wet.

Back on our way just a few minutes later, the descent seemed to be interminably long, probably because we were so low before we got out of the cloud, but apparently I was back to my happy self having benefitted from our spot of lunch:

IMG_0551Eventually (and not without a few arm-flailing moments on the steep, iced-up path), we did get back to the car park, where we met two chaps also just finishing their walk. A brief chat was had about our respective days, and it was only with Mick’s comment of ‘Didn’t expect to see him again’ as we parted that I came to learn of Mick’s earlier incident of being caught long-johns-on-head. I guffawed.

With my laughter dying down, we covered the final three yards back to the car and hotfooted it to the campsite to make our home for the night (Dora was our tent of choice for the night), where pretty soon the kettle was on and we were being revived with cups of tea.

IMG_0552 The stats for the day were that we walked 5.5 miles, with just under 2500 feet of ascent, in about 5.5 hours. Only four people were seen all day (the two ahead of us up the Dungeon Ghyll path, and the two behind us). The conditions were decidedly Interesting, not to mention challenging, but the assessment of the day was that for all but a few moments, it was jolly good fun.