A Pennine Journey – Part 1

IMG_7953I have been fortunate to have walked all of England and Scotland’s National Trails, bar one, and thus I’m always keen on a fresh idea for a long distance walk. Pouring over a new OS map last year something caught my eye, a LDP called ‘A Pennine Journey’. This was new to me, but I tend to view most ‘new’ LDP’s with some scepticism. Most, it appears to me, have been devised to pull in grant funding to a local authority or to appear in a tourist brochure. Few if any seem to have been designed as great ways to explore great geography without compromise. It was this lack of exciting new route opportunities that led me to devise my 8-in-5 walk around the Lake District that Mrs W and I enjoyed in 2012 and led to walking a section of the GR10 in 2016.

The Pennine Journey was different though, as a little web research revealed to me. It is a walk based on a route devised and walked by Wainwright in 1938. In his case he wanted to escape the pervasive negativity all of Britain was feeling, with a looming expectation of war with Germany. His goal was to walk across the Central/Eastern Yorkshire Dales up to Hadrian’s Wall (something he longed to see) and then come back by a more Westerly route. The more I looked into this, the more the route appealed to me. We were not seeking escape from anything as significant as WW2, just the chance to leave the hassles of work behind for a week in the fells. Wainwright seemed to have picked a route with just the right pleasure : challenge ratio that appeals to me. The Pennine Way tips this ratio to far to the former in my opinion (unless you really enjoy bog-snorkeling!) and the Dales Way is something too tame to attempt before I’m 70. A rough outline of the route is shown below, we had only a week so walked the first half, from Settle to Hexham.

PJ Map

Wainwright would have wrung his hands that we walked without reaching his primary objective, Hadrian’s Wall. However for me the logistic simplicity of getting a train back from Hexham defined our end point (and the start of Part 2 when opportunity allows in 2018 / 19)

For us, it is unusual to holiday so close to home, but being blessed to live within a 30 min drive of The Dales is no hardship. So even though we only woke at 0730, we were starting our walking holiday by 0930 – a pleasant change from a pre-walk plane ride. There is a really good guide to the walk edited by David Pitt but I’d had decided to try and split the initially daily distances more evenly that is suggested in the guide.

 Day 1 – Settle to Halton Gill. (14 miles)

A dry start, and only one day forecast to yield rain in the next eight gave us a spring in our step as we left Settle. By late morning one great bonus of AW’s route became clear. It gave you routes to Dales Honeypots than were virtually unwalked. This not only means more wilderness and less people (always good in my book) it also means new vista’s on familiar hills.

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The real route goes around Penyghent and takes you past Hull Pot. This giant sink hole is very impressive, but having seen it before we decided to take a detour over the summit. It was windy on top but worth it. IMG_7905

As soon as we started on the path to Plover Hill it was amazing to note that every other walker that day was taking the ‘standard route’ up and down to Horton, not one person was to be seen on Plover Hill. We thus soon left the madding crowd far behind. The view down to Litton Dale, Foxup and Halton Gill soon opened up before us. Our accommodation that night was to be one night in a self catering cottage. We were fortunate to be able to book it for just the one night and carried with us a homemade curry which just needed reheating.

Day 2 – Halton Gill to Stalling Busk (13 miles)

IMG_7911Day two was rather overcast and hazy. Our route started in earnest, steeply out of Littondale up to the Horsehead Pass. From there we dropped down to Hubberholme in Wharfedale only to find someone had stolen all the water in the Wharfe!

I jest of course, it is a unusual feature of several Dales rivers that when the water table is low they run underground for some strengths only to reemerge further downstream. Arriving in Buckden I was disappointed to see that The Buck (PH) was closed seeking a new landlord. Beer was substituted for tea and cake at the excellent Westwinds café. Mrs W was delighted. We then headed via Cray to a Green Road that crosses over the attractively bleak Stake Moss and down to the Hamlet of Stalling Busk. Our host was both quirky and really welcoming. When I said I was going out for a stroll to see the architecturally unusual local church I was volunteered to take her dogs for a walk with me. Ahh, the benefit of being married to a vet, making me [perceived to be] naturally good with all animals. Roast beef, with meat from the family herd ended the day very nicely indeed.

…to be continued in A Penning Journey Part 1.2

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Bedraggled in Bowland – A micro-adventure

A lot seems to have happened since my last micro-adventure, which was now almost two years ago. Mrs W and Junior were to be at a weekend conference in Derbyshire, so my appetite was wetted (and by the end of the weekend it wasn’t the only thing that became a little soggy) and the idea for a micro-adventure was born.

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 Step back just over four years, when Junior was just a large bump; Mrs W and I enjoyed a low-level walk in the Forest of Bowland. Part way round brought us to Tarnbrook, a hamlet at the end of the road with just fell-side wilderness beyond. Coming down Gables Clough was a stream, one of the two feeder branches of the River Wyre, and next to it a track running up into the fells and disappearing into the horizon. One look and I was hooked, I was determined to find where this path led, because it seemed tantalizingly likely that it would lead up into one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of England. From what I can see, it is possible to get further from roads and houses in places in the Forest of Bowland than it is anywhere else in England. Scotland offers a lot more wilderness for sure, but Bowland is on my doorstep. Junior was born a few months later, I changed jobs – twice – and thus the delay in realizing my dream.

Pouring over a map revealed that grouse shooters track could take me up to a fell top Roman road known as The Hornby Road. This gravel track could take me to the middle of nowhere, and what finer place to walk to and set up camp for the night. The forecast looked poor for the Saturday, but to improve for the Sunday morning so I decided to brave the rain and go. Abandoning the car at the top of the Trough of Bowland I headed off on the Wyre Way to Tarnbrook and then up my tantalizing track. The initial plan was to climb Mallowdale Fell and then take a footpath to the East to enable a longer walk NW along The Hornby Road. However the weather closed in and I was unable to find any trace of the footpath. OK, in fairness I didn’t look that hard, because the ground either side of the track looked particularly soft (i.e. thigh deep peat) and uninviting. I followed the shooters track all the way up onto the Roman Road on the top of Salter Fell. Occasionally the cloud lifted for just a few seconds and revealed a view of the colourful NE flank of Mallowdale Fell.

The weather was not conducive to a lunch stop so I decided to up the pace and head for the first spot I had identified as a likely place to wild camp. The wind was building, so finding a flat patch of ground next to the crux of two stone walls, itself within a short stroll of a stream (for washing my pots after dinner) soon saw me pitching the tent.

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Shortly after the heavens opened so I was delighted to be out of the weather and eating my lunch. It was only two o’clock but I had a good book with me and was warm and secure inside the tent. I love being in a tent, I find it endues such a sense of peace and secure restfulness. Three hours later I woke up refreshed and with the need of a pee and then some dinner. I was delighted to see that the cloud had now lifted for the day allowing me to drink in the view I had walked here for.

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It proved a wild night but I was secure in a Niak from who I consider Europe’s premier tentmaker, Hilleberg and glad to be tucked behind the wall. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but experiencing wild weather in a tent doesn’t keep me awake, it actually helps me to sleep.

The next morning the storm had not passed as had been promised by the previous days forecast. In a lull I got the tent down and set off along the Hornby Road. The cloud was higher, but the wind was a steady force 8 and then the rain restarted.

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Because of all the previous rain I decided to take what should be a drier path back to my starting point. The Withendale valley did not seem as attractive as it had seemed on the map, but having the rain stinging my eyes might well have flavoured my view. It was then a case of pushing on over two ridges back to the fell road. I stopped in the lea of some farm buildings in the valley for a quick lunch and then started up Whinn Fell to get back to the car. Upon getting some chocolate out to finish my lunch ‘on the hoof’ I was amused o find that all the sheep in the field came running to me in the hope of being fed

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Finally I was back at the car. 8.5 miles on Day 1 and 10 miles on Day 2. These grouse-shooters roads offer a great way to get into these otherwise inaccessible fells whilst maintaining dry feet, but next time I’ll hold out for a sunny forecast.

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Planning for 2017

Mrs W is out at a Christmas party and Junior is now fast asleep, so I have some time to start looking into the proposed cycle tour for 2017.  The brief I set myself was to find a route which was both flat and interesting with the idea that with a flat route we could bring Junior with us.  As this point it is unclear whether this will be in a trailer or on a tag-along.

The route I’m looking into is the Canal des Deux Mers.  A chance to cycle across France with less than 400 m of height gain in ca. 7-9 days of riding.

Planning a cycling holiday is a great way to bring a little sunshine into a December evening.

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Buckden Pike

Many people reserve their blog postings for epic tales of ‘daring do’ involving vertiginous climbs and wild camping in the wilderness. However with a 2 ½ year old in tow an amble in the Yorkshire Dales seems just as note-worthy. Well perhaps it was a little more than the average amble, as it involved 9 miles, 530 meters height gain and reaching the top of the fourth highest peak in the Dales. And not being in the top three meant it was relatively quiet which was really pleasant.

Our route started from Buckden and took a glancing route up onto Buckden Pike complete with Trig Point. Junior now recognizes them and shouts ‘a Trig Point Daddy!’ with the same enthusiasm I feel inside at seeing one of these iconic land marks.

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Sun Hat & Snow Suit – both required for a Spring Day in Yorkshire!

So taken with them was I as a youth that two of us set ourselves the challenge of finding all those on the Isle of Wight in sub 12 hours. There were around 110 as I recall (of the ca. 6190 in the whole of the UK).

As we reached the summit and enjoyed the view we could see a band of what looked to be rain coming towards us. All three of us wrapped up against this and started heading along the ridge only to find we were to be sprinkled with snow. Snow, in April? And this after almost unbroken sunshine on our ascent. Well it was better than rain and soon passed. Sections of the ridge were rather boggy, and each time one of us found a particularly soft spot it was accompanied by a little voice asking ‘What just happened?’ the most popular phase of the moment with Junior. Next time we will try the earlier descent from the war memorial to avoid this wet section.

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He slept for all the descent but woke in time to walk over the bridge over the Wharfe and then to ‘drive’ a mini-digger we found abandoned in a nearby field.

The final highlight was getting back to the Buck Inn for a pint of XB for me, tea for Mrs W and a hot chocolate for Junior (without the whisky chaser on this occasion).

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Gear issues – Ortlieb panniers

An observation which is well worth noting. I’ll be checking my screws this weekend.

The Bicycle Pedlar

Ortlieb panniers on the front and rear, Ortlieb trunk bag and Ortlieb handlebar bag...we have them all! Ortlieb panniers, Ortlieb handlebar bag, Ortlieb trunk bag…

When we started this bike shop, we wanted to sell the waterproof and durable Ortlieb gear. We were like just about every other cycle tourist from every part of the globe who (it seemed anyway) knew the brand and either used the products, or wished they could!

Considering our love affair with every piece of Ortlieb gear we own, imagine our surprise when we had an issue with our High-Vis rear panniers during our recent cycle touring trip over Easter!

We were only a few kilometres along the gravel road on day two of the trip when we noticed that the top corner of our front pannier had become unattached from the mounting bracket! How could this be?!

The screw was missing so we tied some nylon cord around the pannier to keep it on the rack and continued on riding. We were so rattled by this unexpected betrayal of…

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Summit Selfie

The boyz on the summit

A boys afternoon out climbing Pendle from the East side, traversing the length and then dropping down into Barley for a beer whilst we waited for our lift home with Mrs W.

Junior also loved sitting on the trig point, carrying on something of a family tradition.

Junior on the trig point

 

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Great Weston Railway

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Recent investment in new infrastructure.

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Self-employed on two wheels

It has been a busy few months, with other activities taking president over blogging, and little cycling to report because of the ceaseless rain. One thing this gestation period has yielded is a subtle change to my employment. Now whilst I remain with my original (and very agreeable) employer I do so just three days a week (a long story, but one with a happy ending). The other two days I now work for myself as a Powder Science Consultant. And like moving to a new school is a great excuse for a new school bag, so is a new job. And what better that one that can move seamlessly from the office to the bike. (With credit to Rob at Darkerside).

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Rocket Science – Lesson One

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10,000 Reasons

Our church set us a challenge.  Based on the lyrics of the popular Matt Redman song “10,000 Reasons” can we collectively (the whole congregation) list 10,000 reasons why we are grateful to God.  To get us started the Sunday School groups came up with 1100 reasons.  This got me thinking.  Could I come up with 100 reasons which would not cross over with anyone elses?  Well taking a chemists perspective – here is how far I’ve got.

Of the 118 elements in the periodic table, 92 are natural and thus created by our God. Of these 70 are a blessing to my life and here is why…

  1. I’m grateful for H ions because they are the active part of acids which makes lemons tangy
  2. I’m grateful for He because it’s low boiling point allows it to cool superconducting magnets which enables MRI scanners to work.
  3. I’m grateful for Li because it is used to make the battery which gives my mobile phone and my camera long battery lives.
  4. I’m grateful for Be because when included in alloys it makes springs last longer. Great news for my hybrid bike.
  5. I’m grateful for B because it makes glass stronger so I can have Pyrex dishes which are ovenproof
  6. I’m grateful for C because it is the building block for all of life on Earth
  7. I’m grateful for N2 because as part of fertilizers it ensures that higher crop yields are possible which helps feed a growing world population
  8. I’m grateful for O2 because it allows my muscles to work and my brain to survive.
  9. I’m grateful for F because incorporating this into a polymer makes drugs more effective and also helps stop my black pudding sticking to my frying pan (Teflon)
  10. I’m grateful for Ne because it glows red in an electrical discharge tube and enables colourful displays.
  11. I’m grateful for Na so I can put salt on my chips
  12. I’m grateful for Mg because when added to aluminium it forms a much stronger more easily worked alloy making stronger bicycle frames
  13. I’m grateful for Al because it is strong and light and allows large aircraft to be built and carry me to amazing places.
  14. I’m grateful for Si because synthetic oils allow the engine in my van to run for longer between oil changes.
  15. I’m grateful for P because it enables matches to ignite
  16. I’m grateful for S, because sulphites are used to preserve my food.
  17. I’m grateful for Cl2 because it is used to kills the bugs in my drinking water to make it safe to drink.
  18. I’m grateful for Ar because it is used in double glazing to keep my home warm.
  19. I’m grateful for K because it is vital to controlling the electrolyte balance in all my cells.
  20. I’m grateful for Ca because it is the major building block of my bones
  21. I’m grateful for Sc because it is used to make ‘daylight bulbs’ to light film studios so I can relax watching a film at the weekend.
  22. I’m grateful for Y because it is used to make lasers and superconductors. There is a laser in my CD player and I love music.
  23. I’m grateful for Ti because it’s oxide absorbs UV light and is used in sunscreens to protect my skin
  24. I’m grateful for V because when added to steel it makes strong tools to work with.
  25. I’m grateful for Cr because it is what makes rubies red.
  26. I’m grateful for Mn because it makes railway tracks last longer.
  27. I’m grateful for Fe because it is the element that carries oxygen from my lungs to my muscles.
  28. I’m grateful for Co because it is used to make strong magnets that then protect my food from the containing nuts and bolts that fall off from food processing plants.
  29. I’m grateful for Ni because it is used to make hydrogen from steam which then enables ammonia to be made which is used in fertilizers – this in turn allows us to feed the world.
  30. I’m grateful for Cu as it is used to stop my fence posts rotting.
  31. I’m grateful for Zn because it stops the chassis of my van from rusting.
  32. I’m grateful for Ga because the semiconductors it makes enables my computer to work.
  33. I’m grateful for Ge which enables the glass of the wide angle lens of my camera to refract light correctly.
  34. I’m grateful for As because I love murder mystery novels.
  35. I’m grateful for Se because it helps keep me free of dandruff.
  36. I’m grateful for Br because it is used in the fire retardant that makes my sofa safer in the event of a fire.
  37. I’m grateful for Kr because it enables the bulb in my study lamp to last longer.
  38. I’m grateful for Rb because it gives the purple colour to fireworks. As an inorganic chemist, I love fireworks and purple is my favourite colour.
  39. I’m grateful for Sr because it produces the brilliant red light in fireworks
  40. I’m grateful for Y because its compounds form superconductors which enabled the NMR machine I used as part of my Ph.D to work so I could study the mechanism of chemical reactions.
  41. I’m grateful for Nb because it’s oxide increases the refractive index of glass meaning my wife can have thinner more attractive glasses.
  42. I am grateful for Mo because when alloyed with Cr and Fe it produces a steel which is strong and flexible and is used to make the Reynolds 541 frame of my touring bike.
  43. I am grateful for Ru because it is one of the catalysts used to make acetic acid. The household name for this is spirit vinegar and I love this on my chips (alone with the salt, see No. 11)
  44. I am grateful for Rh because this was the metal on which my Ph.D was based which gave me the skills to carry out all the fascinating jobs I’ve had over the past 19 years.
  45. I’m grateful for Pd because it is in the catalytic convertor on my van meaning it’s emissions of carbon monoxide are minimized which is good news for our environment.
  46. I’m grateful for Ag because it is the basis of photographic film and I love photography.
  47. I’m grateful for Cd because it is used in the rechargeable batteries that power all my gadgets.
  48. I’m grateful for In because indium tin oxide is a transparent conductor that makes touch screen devices, like my smartphone possible.
  49. I’m grateful for Sn because it is used to make glass. Sheets of glass are formed on pools of molten Sn and my home and van would be much less pleasant without windows.
  50. I’m grateful for Sb because it is used in the hard alloy used in printing presses. Without this we could not have books and I love a good novel.
  51. I’m grateful for Te because it is used to make light sensors such as that in my digital camera
  52. I’m grateful for I2 because it is essential to the proper operation of my thyroid which regulates my metabolism.
  53. I’m grateful for Ca because it has a repeatable electronic relaxation time of just the right length to use in very accurate clocks – atomic clocks. These in turn are essential to the operation of GPS systems which I used to guide me when I’m out cycling or walking in the mountains.
  54. I’m grateful for Ba because Ba sulphate is the least soluble salt known to man and is very dense. This makes it ideal for radiological imaging. I haven’t needed it yet, but one day a barium meal might enable someone to save my life.
  55. I’m grateful for Hf because it is used for control rods in nuclear reactors. 20% of the electricity I use each day will have come from a nuclear powered power station.
  56. I’m grateful for Ta for its high resistance to corrosion. This enabled the first chemical plant I ever worked on to handle some very interesting materials – one of which was the catalyst that enables post-it notes to separate from each other.
  57. I’m grateful for W because the hardness of tungsten carbide allows all the other elements to be readily mined from the earth. It is the key to the most of the other blessings on this list.
  58. I’m grateful for Re because it makes jet engine turbine blades possible. This facilitates mass air travel and has allowed me to see the world.
  59. I’m grateful for Os because it gave me the chance to make one of the most significant scientific findings of my time in industrial science. Because potassium osmate is such a distinctive colour I was able to identify a new way to separate Os from Ru. This freed up Ru to make the high density HDD that made Classic iPods possible.
  60. I’m grateful for Ir because it makes the spark plugs in all my petrol powered garden tools last longer.
  61. I’m grateful for Pt because it is used to make silicon polymers which keep the flysheet on my tent both light and waterproof.
  62. I’m grateful for Au because it can be used to make objects of beauty.
  63. I’m grateful for Hg because it is the only metal which is a liquid at room temperature. This enables it to be used in level switches which enable my tablet computer to know which way up it is. It also enables the fluorescent bulb above my workshop bench to work and thus enable me to enjoy making and fixing things into the evening.
  64. I’m grateful for Pb because it is soft and resists corrosion and thus is a great material to seal the joins in the roof of our house so we stay dry.
  65. I’m grateful for Bi because it is used as it’s alloys are used as safety fuses in shops and hotels, meaning that sprinkler systems would kick in and keep my family safe in the event of a fire.
  66. I’m grateful for Po it is used to power satellites which enables me to know so much more about the world and to easily speak to friends in remote places.
  67. I’m grateful for Rn because of the role it played in helping Marie and Pierre Curie understand radioactivity. Knowledge we now use for many medical imagine and curative procedures.
  68. I’m grateful for Ce, because its oxide is what is painted onto the inside of my oven to enable it to be self-cleaning.
  69. I’m grateful for Nd because it can be used to make very strong magnets. These help my hifi sound great.
  70. I’m grateful for U because it is the basis of most nuclear power plants and electricity is vital to modern life.
  71. Finally, I am grateful for the extravagant variety of chemistry that stimulates my thinking, provides my career and enriches my life in so many ways.
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