Panhandle Perambulation – A two day Wild Walk in the NW Dales

Our family day walks in the Yorkshire Dales are unusually restricted to the Southern areas as the journey time to somewhere such as Dentdale is deemed too far.  So with Mrs W heading away with Junior to see her brother for the weekend, I poured over a map and came up with a two day route with a fell top overnight stop.

Barbon Fell Route Map

The Opensource map suggested there was a path, unmarked on the OS Map, from a parking spot just outside of Leck up to the shoulder of Gragareth and indeed it was there complete with gates and stiles.  I didn’t get to see the notable ‘Three Men’ until my return on day two however.

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The (former) highest point in Lancashire – Gragareth

Once up onto the ridge the path was much smoother and well walked and afforded great views over Kingsdale towards Ingleborough and Whernside.  Ironically my route all but coincided with my winter weekend walk of 2018 which also took me to Great Coum.  I was simply the other side of the wall, which marks the former boundary between Lancashire and Westmorland.

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I had lunch in the shelter of a peat hag with a fine view of Morecambe Bay.  After ascending Great Coum the descent to Bullpot Farm was gentle.  Bull Pot is one of the entrances to the UK’s largest cave system which stretches some 70 km in total, dendron like, length.  Ultimately I dropped down to Barbon Beck and the foot of my second ridge of the weekend.

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When I plan a route like this I look at the overall structure of the ridges and places I will be able to source water but don’t often focus on all the other details.  Thus the ascent up to Castle Knott was a good deal steeper than in my minds eye.  Just the time to add two litres of water to my pack weight!  I reviewed the water options on the fell top and the two tarns looked very small, and the past few weeks had been very dry so I carried my beck water up with me. (I found the tarns to be stagnant and alive with fly lava, so a sound decision despite my water filter.)

I was very hot by the time I got to the my new ridge-line, but from here it was just less than a kilometre to the top of Castle Knott.  My original plan was to camp on the col just beyond this top but the wind was light and the views from the top inspiring.  Walking NW along the shoulder that extends away from the main ridge yielded a flat spot large enough for a solo tent with views over Morecambe Bay, the Kent Estuary and the Southern Fells of Cumbria – perfect!

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On the menu in the evening was a freeze dried meal from a company I’d not tried before, Lyo of Poland.  I was attracted by their use of all natural (and low FODMAP) ingredients and enjoyed my Five Spice Chicken very much.  In the UK they can be bought from Basecamp Foods – I suspect that I will be going back for more.

Overnight the cloud dropped and when the sun woke me at 0400 I was surrounded by cloud.  I had hoped that the breeze would keep my tent dry, but thankfully the pan-handle shape of this week yielded an extra bonus… …after getting a few more hours shut-eye.  I had brought a bum bag with me for essentials and although I packed up all the rest of my gear, I left it in the tent with the hope that tent would be dry for my return there-and-back walk to the end of the ridge.  Despite a lazy start, I was walking away by 0830 and by this point the cloud had lifted above 3000′ yielding panoramic views.  The ridge from Castle Knott to Great Maws was really like the Howgill’s in its shape and nature.  An hour later I was sat at the end of the ridge enjoying a fabulous view the Howgill’s themselves and also down into Dentdale.  I love this part of the world, and whilst the cloud cover meant it wasn’t a great day for photographs, I’ll let them tell the rest of the story.

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The return walk yielded fresh views and lost nothing for having been walked before.  The tent was dry upon my return so I struck camp and dropped back down to Barbon Beck for lunch.  I suspected that the rest of the walk would simply by a necessary ‘walk out’ but was delighted by the beauty, and ultimately the narrowness of Ease Gill. It is dry rivers such as this which point to the possibility of cave systems underneath – the water needs to be flowing somewhere…

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Another path which was only to be found on the Opensource map led me straight back to the car.  It had been a very enjoyable and empowering weekend and an other example of how it can be good to walk lesser know fells between the bigger peaks.  You get to see the spender of the larger peaks but without both the the full height gain and the heavy traffic they attract. The day had been getting warmer by the hour, and now I was down at valley level I experienced the full power of the sun.  Fortunately I was able to drop the roof on the car and drive home topless!

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The COVID Diaries (Weeks 3 & 4)

Here in rural Lancashire we are still a couple of weeks (decades?) behind London & Birmingham so we’ve not seen the direct impact of COVID-19 as yet, but the indirect impact on day-to-day life is now with us just the same as the rest of the UK.  Without doubt it is strange, but after two weeks under house arrest the ‘new normal’ is getting to be fairly well bedded in.

How to light a campfire

How to light a campfire, a great way to also teach the fire triangle and an introduction to combustion chemistry.

Home Schooling turns out to be a much better experience than I expected. With Junior being six I guess I have it easy.  He doesn’t have exams ahead of him and is missing his friends more than it matters that he missing his formal education.  I am finding that a project based approach, akin to the  Montessori  approach is working well for both of us.  Each week we have a project, or two, which acts as the framework for discovery and learning the skills needed to carry it out (maths, science, dexterity) and record it (maths, English).

We have been blessed with great weather thus far meaning that bike rides (twin solo, or with the tag-along) have been possible and have been a little longer than most folks 20 minute walks.  However around here it’s easy to self isolate on the back roads.

I am delighted that I was able to restock my (mini) alpine garden before house arrest too, and am starting to see the results of old and new.

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Church life has changed again.  My ‘live streamed’ drumming to an empty church  was not only the first but probably the last time this will happen.  Since then church buildings have themselves been closed and now our church, amongst many others, is streaming sections of each service from different members homes.  All credit to the people organising this at St James who are doing a grand job.  Canned music didn’t work as well as it might last week, the difference between performance (what you can get from YouTube et al) and leading a congregation, albeit virtually, is actually very significant.  For Easter we had a multitrack of keys, guitar and vocal, complete with video, from two different homes.  Much better. Next week there should be drums as well.  This afternoon I laid down four drumming tracks for someone to mix into next weeks multitrack song recordings.  I’m feeling the benefit of having an electronic kit.  Whilst it’s perfectly technically feasible to mike-up every drum and cymbal, it’s neither easy nor cheap to achieve this.  I can mix my drums within the Roland ‘brain’ and output the drumming track straight to a .wav file on a memory stick.  In theory this is a perfect recording. I can even choose my ambience!

Home Multitrack Recording setup

I’ve found some voluntary work on the day I’m not home schooling and it’s good both to be busy and to be ‘doing my bit’ for the community.  Finally, the wheat malt I ordered has arrived and I have been able to set up my home office and do some informal development work.  I cannot sell the results as I am on furlough, and then there is also the small issue of being unlicensed.  However, it’ll keep my tasting panel happy and keep my brain and taste buds ticking over.

Isolation Pale Ale

Brewing an IPA – Isolation Pale Ale!

Cheers!

Inspiring the next generation of cycle tourists – a mini tour to the sea

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I enjoyed a lot of time outdoors as a child, but my wildest camping spot was within feet of my parents caravan and longest bike ride was 10 miles with a break in the middle. I joined the Scouts at 13 and a whole new world opened up to me. So now with my own boy, I am hoping to whet his appetite to the simple pleasures of walking, cycling, canoeing, wild-camping and the like rather earlier in life. I want to prove there is (a better) life beyond the X-Box.

With half term coming up, I muted an idea to Junior (now five) – would he like to cycle to the seaside and take a tent for our accommodation? He was pleasingly enthusiastic about the prospect, so the idea was born. The primary goal of the trip was for it to be fun throughout and to be something he would want to repeat. Thus I planned a route of just 20-23 miles / day which would mean we it would take us a day and a half to get to Knott-End-on-Sea via one of the flattest routes possible in this hilly area.

By taking the same route out and back (which to avoid big hills was itself unavoidable) this meant we could leave all the camping gear in place at the end of day one and travel light on day two. The first day took us from East Lancashire to Garstang and a friendly basic campsite. To keep the weight down we left the stove at home and opted for a pubs for our evening meals, no great hardship. Heading West from here takes you through Chipping if you stick close to the river/s and this proved a great lunch spot with the seats they have outside the church. Mid afternoon saw us arriving in Garstang in time to set up the tent and have a hour in a local playground before seeking out our dinner.

On day two it was just 10 miles of flat riding over the Fylde Plain to Knott End. I chose this as our initial destination because it meant we could catch the passenger ferry over the River Wyre to the better beach and playground at Fleetwood. The ferry only had us and one other passenger, and the pilot volunteered to show Junior the controls and let him rev the engine and sound the horn. Someone was in seventh heaven, a useful reminder to see the pleasure in the simple things of life.

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Once at the coast the drizzle started, but whilst this disappointed me it seemed not to dampen Junior’s spirits. He loves trains and trams so we took the tram for a few stops South and then back again before seeking out the playground which again he loved. The last ferry back was at 1445, and fuelled from a huge hot chocolate mid morning we were happy to wait until we were back in Knott End to get our lunch out of the supermarket. A short ride took us to a steam engine we had seen on the way out. A great lunch spot if you are five.

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Day three saw us pack everything up and trace our route back home. By chance we crossed the river Wyre several times on the route, with it being smaller each time as we headed back closer to it’s source. This fascinated Junior. On our return journey he commented that the bottom of his feet hurt – this I can only assume was because he was pushing so hard on the peddles – certainly I could feel his welcome input on the short steep climbs when I shouted back ‘push hard please.’ He had done just that.   Stopping every 6 miles rather than my normal 10-12 miles worked really well, as did the provision of pressed fruit bars at each break.

This was the first long journey we’d done with his new tag-along and I can say we were both impressed with it. My primary reason for choosing the Burley Piccolo was that it is the lightest tag-along on the market (apart from it’s sister model the Kazoo). Also, uniquely, it has gears which Junior soon got the hang of; meaning he could contribute more and do so more easily on the climbs. In typical American style it warns you to go no faster than 15 mph for fear of anything up to and including death! It’s not limited to this speed in truth, but the gearing does not allow him to pedal above 15 mph. However if the road means I’m able to go at 15 mph with a 26 kg load behind me then at that point I guess I don’t need help! As Newton would remind us, you only need to put in major effort when you are accelerating (or fighting the acceleration due to gravity when going up a hill).

Junior said he wants to go again – on that basis alone the trip was a success. I enjoyed his joy at simple things too and some father and son time with pie, chips and a pint in the pub. (Just a half for Junior of course…)

Wet, wild and walling.

 

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My walling partner John on the far side of the wall

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…

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John / My section – ready for the next 100 years

…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.

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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!

‘bent over the Pennines 5th and Final Day : Holmfirth to Ilam – 60 miles

Life has rather got in the way of blogging, so the conclusion of my tour notes has been somewhat delayed. For this, dear reader, I apologise. However the distractions have all been good ones! When I left off I had just reached Holmfirth, stopping some 10-12 miles before my planned end point because day four had proved to be the meanest stretch that the Pennines would have to offer. The Holme Valley Campsite proved to be very good. That it was so quiet was not be expected from the map, falling as it does between two busy A roads. However not only was it a haven of peace, the staff were fabulous and hospitable too. Also their new shower block was nothing short of the state of the art – and no coin slots for the showers. What a welcome change compared to our time in Barnoldswick.

early_LOTSW_5Rolling back into the town centre was an easy start, but Holme Moss was there waiting for me. Once again the initial climb was very steep, but soon settled out to a manageable 1:7. The TDF went this way, but took the A6024 over the fell which was (once again) a slightly easier route than NCN 68. If I were to do it again, I’d follow the A road, as the support van reported that this was a pretty quiet road even at around 5 pm. On top of the fell it was a little misty, the first less than perfect weather of the trip. However I was soon down from height and barrelling down towards the Woodhead Pass (A628). Luckily I joined this on a downhill section (heading West) and so was able to keep up a respectable 38-40 mph and was thus not so much slower than the trucks. There were plenty of those and I was glad to get to the Torside Resovoir and onto the B road on the other side. The ride down into Glossop was both glorious and all but traffic free. I didn’t stop in the town, nothing invited me to do so and it was busy with traffic as usual. The really steep hills were now behind me, but there were still a couple of significant climbs ahead. The countryside rolled and swayed as I entered Derbyshire and apart from one navigational error it was an easy ride to my lunch spot. The wind had built up, and whilst this is not a big issue peddling a ‘bent, it did mean seeking cover for my lunch. The Pack Horse Inn filled my beer stomach nicely, and after a rest it was time to hit the road again. My hope (which turned out to be realized) was that this should turn out to be the easiest afternoon of the trip.   In terms of what I had seen up until this point, really there was only one more ‘real hill’ to get over that day. This was just outside Buxton. I deviated away from NCN 68 as my advice had told me that ‘off road’ section was far too rough for me. Sticking to the A5004 I thought I had ‘hit the wall’. Instead it turns out that Long Hill is aptly named. I could see that I was on the side of a hill, but not until the road snaked back on itself did I get to see where I had come from… And this told me that I was not running out of steam, I was instead battling up a very long [if gentle] climb. This was finally rewarded by a sweeping decent into Buxton and a trip to Gregg’s to try out a couple of their Danish Pastries. Two for the price of one, it would have been rude not to! Mrs W and the support van arrived in town just after me and together we had a fun conversation with a cycling cleric who wanted to know more about my Metabike. What a great chap he was and I was buoyed up for the final leg with the assurance that ‘there are no more big hills South of here.’

The Quiet Woman PH

10 miles outside of Buxton I joined the Monsal Trail. The surface was much better than I remembered from my last trip here in 2005. Perhaps it had been improved? The dry weather will have helped. Now the challenge was on; would I be able to complete the final 20 miles before dinner time / my own personal energy store ran low? A nice flat level trail really is ‘bent country, and apart from negotiating around dawdling grockels I was managing 20-22 mph all the way. This suggested that I would get to Ilam, my end destination within the hour. This is in fact exactly what happened. Whilst lacking in geological drama, the rail-bed route made up for this with bucolic views seen at high speed, or at least what is high speed for a long distance tourist at the end of a long day.

Our final campsite proved to be the delight we hoped it would be. The NT site at Ilam Hall. A little luxury and the chance for a couple of days family time at the end of the tour.

Ilam HallSo would I recommend NCN 68? A qualified yes… …the scenery was outstanding, the route quiet (apart from the Woodhead Pass!) and the sense of achievement massive. I’m glad I got the chance to do it ‘supported’ however and did not have the weight of touring gear. Given the hills on days three and four, very short days would have been in order had I had this weight with me. I would have added a day. However I had no weight, so for me it as an excellent route.  Pleasingly also, I can counter the misconception that ‘bents cannot climb.   It is true that a lot of ‘bents are built more for comfort rather than speed, but there are at least two designs out there which have the same / very similar mechanical efficiency to the standard diamond frame design and the Metabike is one of those. So it was a great route for a great bike – luckily I was on just such a machine and had great weather thrown in for good measure.

Nathan Scott Weston – welcome to our world!

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When you are ten days old, many of the things you do will still be ‘firsts’.  Today we went for a walk in the delightful Hodder Valley with a stop in the Hark to Bounty Public House in Slaidburn, his first visit to a pub.  A pint of Theakson’s for me, and a pint of Mrs W’s best Gold Top for wee Nathan.  Whilst we still need more sleep per night than we are getting, the glorious Lancashire sunshine drew us out to enjoy the fresh air a wonderful views.

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Learning to ride again

About to leave home

About to leave home

Having proven I could ride my high racer well enough to cover 27 miles last weekend, this weekend I set off on a long planned mini-tour.  Mrs W and I had planned to do this together, and one day next year I hope we will – but at eight months pregnant a 40 mile bike ride has been out of the question for her for a few weeks since.

My route out skirted around Waddington Fell so I could enjoy may favourite valley – the Hodder – and after Slaidburn took me up onto the fell over to Tosside.  I may have walked two hills that day, but the climb out of Slaidburn was not one of them.  I felt buoyed up by making up a 1in6 with a tight hairpin in the middle.  The Metabike is proving as good as reported for getting up hills – every bit as good as a standard up-right.  When I fail it is really down to confidence.  Not only am I new to two wheel recumbent riding, I am also new to being clipped in. Going slowing uphill with your feet above your head is proving an acquired skill.

After Settle the real climbing began up into the foothills of Pen-y-Ghent.  The sun was out and the views glorious.

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Pen-Y-Ghent

About to decend into Littondale

About to decend into Littondale

  The climb topped out at 440 m and from there it was all downhill for the three miles to my destination – The Queens Arms in Litton.

Mrs W was waiting in the van outside (having a nap, lucky her!) but woke up to buy me a pint and then go for a stroll beside the river before dinner.  The atmosphere in the Queens Arms was as good as when we first visited in the winter – a very pleasant evening ensued.

The next day saw me start off at 0900 in the direction of Arnside.  I fondly remembered my wife’s late Grandfather, Lionel, who always spoke so warmly about Littondale.  The route down the valley was slightly downhill, following the river, and this led to fantastic cruising speeds on the Metabike.  I can but imagine how fast I’ll go once I have developed all the right muscles and the confidence to go with them.  After 18 miles I arrived in Gargrave and was mighty chuffed to note an average speed of 15.5 mph.  After Gargrave the wind really picked up, and whilst it did not feel like the drag I am used to on my upright, the stat’s on my cycle computer could not be argued with, it was slowing me down.

It was nice to see the Leeds-to-Liverpool canal a few times on my way into Barnoldswick  (Barlick), but by this point I’d already eaten my lunch and was ready for a second one (I blame the headwind).  Stumbled on ‘The Chef’s Pantry’ a bakery and deli in the town centre.  What a Godsend!  A fabulous bacon and black pudding roll for just £2.15.  I love cycling, it means you can eat like this with a clean conscience!  I can see Barlick forming an integral part of further cycling trips after this discovery.

It was quite a climb over the fell to Downham after >20 miles into a strong wind.  But as I’ve noted before on  the Metabike – you look at the hill and think ‘that’ll be hard’ and then you find yourself half way up and think ‘ this is much easier than I thought ‘.

Leaving Litton at 0900

Leaving Litton at 0900

Really this was more of a learning experience than a chance to see the scenery so what did I conclude

The reported mechanical efficiency of the Metabike is all it is claimed to be – riding up all hills less than 1in5 seems as easy as on an upright – perhaps easier?  That sometimes it feel easier I think is the move to a high cadence ‘spinning’ technique over a low cadence ‘grinding’ technique.  A change forced by necessity (clearly you cannot stand up and pull on the bars anymore) but welcomed as a good and wise change.

The harshness of the stiff frame is OK on decent roads, but trying on badly broken back lanes.  This made one thing obvious in my trip and that was the transition from Lancashire into Yorkshire.  We all know that Yorkshire folk think their country the greatest not just in the UK but in the world, but for sure their council has a more effective road maintenance policy.

Getting the positioning of the handlebars just right is critical to being able to relax.  Mid way though day one I raised the height a little and tipped the angle to a little more vertical (to make my wrist-to-arm junction straighter) and this really helped me drop my shoulders and relax more.

The high level of concentration needed on day one detracted from riding pleasure, but by day two I was starting to enjoy the views and the ride – the whole riding experience was becoming more natural.

So whilst gaining the first 70% of what is needed to ride a high racer proved easy for me, I can see it will take quite a few more day rides to fully relax into this new mode of cycling.  But the ability to ride 40 hilly miles in a morning is a great incentive to keep on building on my experience.  I hope next year to do a pukka week-long tour, junior Weston and his trailer allowing…