He first rode this bike with help on Thursday evening and by Saturday morning Junior was riding solo / unaided. He’s done so well, it looks like having the Balance Bike really did do what it was supposed to. Junior had the lightest one on the market, which was not only good for him, but also for me when he lost interest and I had to carry it home! Go for a Strider! I cannot upload a video onto the blog without upgraded, but you can see the video here.
Being on a sabbatical year has given me a lot of time to think, to develop but also more time to have fun with Junior. After a trial nights’ camping in the back garden in the Spring, we discussed taking it up a notch. Initially I thought we could camp on top of Pendle (and one day I hope we will) but I realized that he was still not old / strong enough to walk to the top without being carried some of the way. And, in saying this I hope I don’t shatter too many illusions, I’m not Superman! I cannot carry full kit for two and 19 kg of flesh and bone too.
As some of you may know during this year I am working two days a week on a local sheep farm. It’s great fun! This farm is on the fell side and reaches 850 feet at its highest point. From this point you get a great view across the valley to Pendle. So with the permission of my wonderful farmer friends we headed up to an empty field on the fell top where the grass was recovering (they work a grazing rotation system) and pitched up for the night. It was a glorious evening, dry and warm out of the wind. This was my chance to introduce Junior to the skills of wild camping. Finding a sheltered site, clearing obstructions (and sheep poo also in this case) and pitching the tent. Assuring him the tent would not blow away (how many kids have the assurance they are in a Hilleburg and safe from everything apart from the apocalypse?)
It was great to see the excitement on his face that we were going to ‘cook up’ some hot chocolate on our stove as a treat to enjoy as we savoured the view. OK, I enjoyed the view and Junior was more taken with the biscuits which ‘tasted better on top of a hill.’
He slept well and in the morning the excitement continued as Daddy cooked porridge without even getting out of his sleeping bag and he got to eat his also without getting out of bed. Hopefully some good memories have been laid down and this will warm him to the idea of more such adventures in the future.
*I was tempted to entitle this ‘Fell Trek – The Next Generation’ but imagine the humour might fall cold on all but the most geeky of my readership.
I am delighted to have just introduced Junior to Thunderbirds. Whilst originally made in the 60’s it was still being shown in my childhood some 10-15 years later. Showing superlative taste he loved it, which meant I got to relive the experience with him too. Great father-son bonding time. Then he wanted to know, can we build it out of Lego, so I shook the internet to see what I can find. Surprisingly it’s not a kit that’s ever been offered. Pleasingly though Lego have an ‘Ideas‘ site where people can submit ideas for model kits and then the Lego community can vote whether it is something they think they would buy. Apparently if an idea gets 10,000 votes it will be seriously considered as a new product. Well the Thunderbird 2 model has already garnered 3000 votes in just over a month, so only 7000 more are needed. Thus if each of my followers votes for this, and promoted it to ten of their followers who voted for it we would reach the 10,000. So please consider the young people of our world and how there lives could be transformed for good by such a model being made available and vote here. Thanks.
After two weeks of continuous rain here in the North West we was blessed with a forecast for a sunny weekend. A little chilly perhaps but I felt in the need of some sunshine, so I was kindly granted a weekend pass by Mrs W, packed my rucksack and headed off to the Yorkshire Dales for a two day walk with an overnight stop under canvas (well silicone impregnated rip-stop nylon to be exact). After my two outings in 2017 I am a total convert to the concept of micro adventures. This time it was a circumnavigation of Kingsdale.
Mrs W was due to work this weekend, so Junior and I headed away for a weekend in York aided by our VW camper-van. I was really pleased with this photo which was taken just after we had woken on the Sunday morning.
A half term treat, going to Manchester on the train to catch a tram (and an incidental visit to the Museum of Science and Industry).
Storm Brian (who makes this up?!?) and my DSWA ‘Introduction to Dry Stone Walling’ course coincided this weekend. The two day course was held on a fell adjacent to Saddleworth Moor. What an informative, fun and satisfying two days it was too. Thanks to some heartfelt prayer, Brian held back the rain between 0900-1600 each day and saved his deluge for the night in-between. I was teamed up with John, a retired telecoms engineering manager and we were allocated a 1.5 meter section of collapsed wall to take down, sort and then rebuild.
What a satisfying weekend. We were pleased with our section…
…and to see a whole 20 meters of new wall build by the 14 people on the course with the able assistance from our three instructors.
I’ve just started a sabbatical and hope to put my new skill to use on sections of dilapidated walls on a friends smallholding. It takes years to become expert and fast, but I hope I can get a few meters of simple wall built for them by dedicating a day a week over the next three months – always assuming Brian doesn’t make a return visit!
For Junior’s fourth birthday we spent a day at Diggerland in Yorkshire with his best friend. We all enjoyed the day and the digger themed cake we’d made in advance…
The story continues …
Day 3 – Stalling Busk to Keld (16 miles)
A very pleasant day under blue skies, but little outstanding to make reference to. Initially the route took us down to Semer Water and it’s outflow, the River Bain which has the unusual accolade of being said to be the shortest river in the UK. One highlight was the salad boxes we bought for lunch in Askrigg from ‘The Humble Pie’ – a mother and daughter enterprise with excellent food and service to match. We enjoyed our salad boxes and the attendant view half way up Askrigg Pasture. The most attractive part of the day was the section between Muker and Keld.
Our accommodation for the night was to be a little querky and the fulfilment on an ambition: A Ger on the site misnamed as Swaledale Yurts. It seemed pedantic to point out their error, but having had the great pleasure of two trips to Mongolia over the past ten years we have been instructed in the difference between the Russian curved walled Yurt and the straight walled Ger of Mongolia. We had dinner delivered to our Ger which was excellent and enhanced still further by a roaring wood stove.
Day 4- Keld to Bowes (12 miles)
Today we really reaped the benefit of being within an extended period of dry weather as our route was to take us across the wet ground (bog!) known as Sleightholme Moor. First of all our route rose gentle up to the highest Inn in England – Tan Hill. Here, the welcome is always warm and the Theakston’s universally good, especially when you know you’ve earned it. Because of the ‘dry going’ across Sleightholme Moor it was really very attractive with views stretching a long way across the flat lands either side of the A66.
Our destination of Bowes has only one place offering accommodation, The Ancient Unicorn. Dinner was distinctly average and the beer disappointing but the room was nice and a walk around Bowes Castle a fun end to a lovely day.
Day 5 Bowes to Middleton-in-Teesdale (12.5 miles)
We took a detour at the start of the day to go and see God’s Bridge. A large slab of rock forming a natural bridge over the Rive Greta.
The day then consisted of a series of fells and reservoirs culminating with a delightful downhill stretch into Middleton. The day proved a lovely day for me to talk with Mrs W. The chance to be child free and out in glorious countryside in the sunshine was conducive to bringing each other back up to speed with our thoughts on work, church, life, approaches to child care and so much more. People marry for many reasons, but for us we love time in each others company and the chance to talk and really discuss matters of significance. For me the finest view of the day was the collection of isolated pines on the descent into Middleton. A view so iconic of Eastern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.
Day 6 – Middleton-in-Teesdale to Westgate (15.75 miles)
The morning of day six introduced us to very different terrain. All morning was spent following the river Tees. At this point the river is at its most attractive and included the chance to see the well known High Force and the lesser known (and secret is in the name) Low Force. The last time we had seen High Force it was from the other side of the Tees on our ‘enhanced’ C2C cycling route in 2011. There is no bridge across the river at this point, so you have no choice of vantage point, but it was clear from the Southern Bank that this was the side to best enjoy it from.
Eventually you cross the river and have to leave it behind, heading up onto the fell side again. This proved a lesser walked part of the route and demanded compass work to get us to the road to Westgate. It was a long trudge on the road, but at least this was rewarded with some lovely limestone outcrops beside the road. Our destination was Hill House East for the night. Whilst all of our accommodation was good, Carol and John were the crème-de-la-crème of hosts. You just cannot beat being greeted with tea and John-made cake on arrival. Their hospitality was without equal. They were even able to provide me with a book explaining the history and chemistry of the local lead mining which really helped us appreciate the ruins we would see over the next two days which had been left from this long dead industry.
That night we ate ‘simple food done well’ at the Hare & Hounds , home to the Wear’d Ale brewery… …work it out! The brewery is in the cellar and the beer truly excellent. It would reason enough to visit Weardale again. A return weekend beacons because the scenery, whilst secondary to the quality of the ale, would offer excellent day walking.
Day 7 – Westgate to Blanchland (10.75 miles)
The scenery from Keld to Middleton may have been simply pleasant, but in Weardale we were back in a Dale every bit as fine as Wharfdale or Littondale.
It was made more interesting still by the remnants of the lead industry. This area had once been the richest source in the world of this famously malleable metal. Following an abandoned railway line gave an easy route into the Rookhope Valley, home to the one remaining arch of the Rookhope horizontal chimney. This remarkable piece of ancient industry was once the vent stack from a lead smelting works. When it was working, this ingenious horizontal chimney ran for two miles up the hillside to take the fumes away from the works, rather than take the conventional approach of building 100 feet vertically.
After lunch we headed up Bolt’s Law Incline, once the location of the highest standard gauge railway line in the UK. The remains of the engine house, whose stationary engine pulled carried up the slope can still be found at the summit. Great views were afforded along with a peppering of attractive conventional chimneys left over from the areas industrial past.
From the fell top we dropped down into the virtually medieval Blanchland. Not wanting to take out a second mortgage to stay at the Lord Crewe Arms Hotel (which did look idyllic) we had arranged for the landlord from a hostelry in the neighbouring village of Edmondbyers to collect us at the end of the day.
Day 8 – Blanchland to Hexham (11.75 miles)
Today was a case of putting in the miles to finish our week of walking. Having been blessed with such good countryside to this point much of this final day was something of an anticlimax. However thanks to the book I was lent by Carol on the Thursday evening I was able to enjoy the full splendour of Dukesfield Smelting Mill. As an industrial chemist, understanding the functionality of these structures brings an extra depth to the pleasure of finding and exploring them. This too had a length of ‘horizontal chimney’ as we had seen in Rookhope, but in this case passing through a chamber which was (when the smelter was operating) packed with brushwood. Today we might use demister pads to condense out liquids from a stack but I can imagine this would have worked almost as well and could be replaced from the local woodland when required. This brushwood and the horizontal section of chimney were so designed to make it easy to collect the condensed lead and silver which with volatilized out from the smelting hearth. And who better to do this job than children, small enough to walk through this confined space. Different times indeed!
Our journey ended at the splendid Hexham Abbey. Wainwright would have had harsh words with us for stopping at a point just five miles short of what he considered to be the climax and primary goal of this walk, Hadrian’s Wall. He, however, was only half way through his holiday at this point and had the time to walk home. We had to get a train back to Settle to enable us to be at back at work on the Monday.
Any long distance walk has it’s high-points and also some less fabulous stretches to join some of these together. However enjoyment is more about attitude than opportunity and on the mundane sections Mrs W and I simply enjoyed each others company (free from the pressures of work and fast pace of keeping up with our three year old son) or we revelled in understanding Victorian lead smelters (OK that would be mostly me!), a well earned lunch or an excellent pint of local ale. The walk did fulfil its brief, in that we walked across the whole breadth of the Yorkshire Dales on a route with better views than the Dales Way and (almost) free of the bogs which are the signature of the Pennine Way. Next time we will finally get to see ‘the wall’, walk the whole length of the Howgills and then through Dentdale and out to the splendid Western edge of the North Pennines. Unlike Wainwright I think I am looking forward more to the return journey than his destination, but perhaps ‘the wall’ with enchant us as it did him? However, sadly this will have to wait until 2018 / 19, so watch this space…
Up until March of this year, it had been 24 years since I’d last been true wild-camping. Back then it was two separate nights above 2000 feet on passes of the Lake District whilst walking the Coast to Coast. Then the urge to go once again came across me in 2013, something I actually only fulfilled earlier this year. After my return to this pursuit my appetite was whetted. However, as I noted earlier it was far more that my appetite that got wet, most of the rest of me did too that weekend!
This time I waited for a good forecast before packing my bag. Whilst reading about our local AONB I was entranced by photographs of ‘Langden Castle’ It lies on the ancient road from Whalley to Lancaster and was apparently the site of an early overnight stop for prisoners being taken to the county town assizes. As you will come to see, whilst it sports some unusually fine Gothic arches around the door and windows it is not today and is likely never to have been any more than a humble dwelling. Today it is part sheep shelter with a locked middle section which I can only imagine is used by the local grouse shooters. What the photo’s did show however, is a nice patch of grass out front and a brook close by from which water can be drawn (further down stream water is extracted by UU from this same brook to sate the thirst of the people of Lancashire.)
But enough rambling, it’s time I was telling you about my walk. This was to be a linear trek and thus only possible thanks to the kind chauffeuring service of Mrs W. On a bright sunny Saturday morning she dropping my off just outside of Chipping and the foot of attractive if diminutive peak of Parlick. This sits on the very Western edge of the Bowland Fells and as such affords fabulous views all down the Lancashire coast as well as across to the fells themselves. It forms the end of an attractively curved ridge which I followed to the top of Fairsnape Fell.
An interesting feature of this ridge is that it is used by the local gliding club as a way to get lift and I enjoyed the company of three gliders that morning. From the greater high of this second fell I was afforded remarkable views from Snowdonia in the South, to the Southern fells of the Lake District to the North to Pen-y-Ghent to the East. I was travelling light with only my phone as a camera and could not do the views justice. It was a little hazy in the distance, but I was to find that this would clear later in the day.
From Fairsnape Fell I followed a fence line to Fiendsdale Head – not the friendliest sounding place, but a good spot for lunch with a view down Fiendsdale Clough. By this point I had the fells to myself which is exactly what I had been hoping for.
I had a choice at this point, plot a pathless route around to Hawthornthwaite Fell and then down into the Langden Valley, or go down into the valley first via the footpath, set up camp and then head back up to the unusual trig point on the top of said fell. I felt happier with the idea of yomping through untracked heather without my pack, so I headed down the Clough towards my proposed camping spot next to the castle. The heather on the route down was glorious, surely only 1-2 weeks from ‘peak purpleness’
The path down keeps swapping sides of the brook and I regretted deciding to leave my gaiters at home, but with some nimble footwork kept my feet dry as I crossed back and forth over an ever-growing brook. Where the path says it is on the map and reality do not quite coincide until the valley floor broadens out as you join Langden Brook itself.
Once at the castle I set up my tent and then headed back up the fell side again. Initially my route to Hawthornthwaite fell followed a shooters track, but when this ended I followed a couple of bearings to the summit. Given the absence of any kind of path I can only imagine this is a lesser visited summit. The views from the top were fabulous with the haze having cleared Also interesting was the trig point.
Since at least most of the ca. 3 meters of foundations must have become exposed before the pillar toppled, this shows that the erosion on top of the peak must amount to the same loss of height to the fell. Perhaps 10 years ago the view was a little better!?!
By the time I had got back to the tent I had covered a reasonably respectable 11.5 miles and it was time for dinner. This I enjoyed with the valley to myself. The evening afforded more sunshine and the solitary experience I had been hoping for.
Then there was plenty of time to enjoy my book, interspersed by opportunities to drink in the view. After an early night, I rose early the next morning and walked 45 minutes out to the Trough road to meet Mrs W who gave me a lift back to church were I was due to drum in the band.
When is a day more than a day? When it is a full 24 hour experience. Hopefully I’ll get a chance for another such weekend before winter sets in…