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]

Thursday 19 April 2018

Calkin Rig and Grange Fell

It’s not even tea-time on the first day of hills on this trip to Scotland, and I’m yearning more for my bed than I am for food. That’s partly because of the unaccustomed exercise (first time on my bike and first British hills since last May) and partly due to a disturbed night.

The place we’d chosen for last night, on the Solway Firth, seemed so perfect, at the end of a dead-end road. It remained that way until just before 11pm, when a mobile disco pulled up next to us. We would have put up with the banging tunes for a while, but when it became clear that illicit substances were also being used, we swiftly packed away and left. The car load of party-animals (and this was not a pimped Corsa full of youths, but a 67-reg 4x4) seemingly weren’t wanting the motorhome to suddenly spring to life. As our lights came on, their vehicle was thrown into reverse and they made off up the lane like a rat up a drainpipe. Twenty minutes later we pulled into our new home for the night, but it was far from what we would have chosen if it hadn’t been knocking on for midnight. On the plus side, I didn’t have to get up at 2am to check that the tide wasn’t engulfing us (the tide mark in our original spot made me think we were just above where the water would reach, based on the tide-table information, but I wasn’t entirely confident). On the downside, lorries started driving past us, waking me up, at 5am.

Anyway, on to today:

Calkin Rig (NY2889087621)

Walk in bold, bike in not-bold

Whilst researching potential Bertie-parking for my second hill of today, I spotted that a new windfarm (and, more importantly, its road) had been installed to the south of this hill, suggesting to me that Calkin Rig can now easily be tackled from that side. Even better, I adjudged the height profile of the track to be cyclable, so once Bertie was installed at its entrance (plenty of room for a bit of parking there), I pumped up the tyres that have been neglected for the best part of a year, and off I set.

I almost enjoyed the first couple or three miles of that ride! Alas, I don’t think that’s because I’m coming to like cycling in general, but because I’d expected it to be a horrendous, lung-busting ride, given my lack of hill- and bike-fitness. It turned out, save for a couple of sharp ascents, to be far easier than expected, thus I made it on wheels right the way to the very end of the track, just 0.6 miles from my objective.

Lovely sunniness! Warm too – I was in short sleeves from the outset

The yomp from there may have been short, but it was a bit of a blunt reintroduction to Scottish Marilyns, as I followed a break through the forest which featured grown-over tree stumps, tussocks, heather, and bog – and all so that I could stand on one particular tussock in a break in the forest.

Not the most inspiring summit

There was a surprising amount of ascent on my descent back through the windfarm, but I was still back at Bertie an hour and twenty minutes earlier than my estimated timeframe.

The stats came in at 11 miles cycled (around 410m ascent) and 1.2 miles walked (around 70m ascent).

Grange Fell (NY24409 81941)

Walk in bold, bike in not-bold. The out-and-back bike leg is explained below.

Buoyed by my success on the bicycle on Calkin Rig, I thought I’d try cycling this one too. There were two downsides to this plan: 1) my cycling muscles were now tired; and 2) I’d just eaten lunch (recipe for indigestion, as it transpired). Even so, I made it to the point I’d identified on the track, and clutching a printout of the aerial photos of the area (in lieu of any useful information as to the layout of the forest on the 1:25k map), off I set on foot.

Any misgivings I’d had as to navigating with an aerial photo proved unfounded, and the breaks through the forest were much friendlier on this hill. Boggy, yes, but without tussocks or similar obstacles.

For another summit-in-a-forest, this one wasn’t bad, with the trig being set in the middle of a nice clearing

Retracing my steps was easy, but then I decided to see if I could make the bike ride into a circuit. The aerial photos had suggested that in so doing I would run into a quarry, but the evidence I’d seen on the ground suggested the route would go. It didn’t. I ran into a quarry. Gah! Back up the hill I rode, to retrace my earlier tyre prints.

3.5 miles were biked (around 160m ascent) and 0.9 miles walked (60m up).

Conveniently, the best parking I could find for tomorrow morning’s hill was a small (certified location) campsite, so we should have a nice quiet night tonight...


  1. Wonderful stuff - nothing ventured...
    These two sum up that Northumberland/Border Country atmosphere - nothing is given - you have to find your own way. Smaller hills but more of a challenge than most of the well worn paths up Lake District hills - bring on more.

    1. I did briefly wonder, as I toiled my way up the rough stuff in the forest, why I didn't choose to bag Munros instead. They may be bigger than most Marilyns, but the route is already described in detail in various books and there's almost always a path. But at the same time, that's exactly why I like obscure Scottish Marilyns - together with the fact that I almost always have my chosen hill to myself.