Friday, 7 October 2016

Update. Post order.

It seems that in the blogging world the current blog is king, which does not work if you are trying to tell a story. Who reads a book from the last page to the first? Google, apparently. In an attempt to re-order the posts, to show the oldest post first, I have manually changed the posting dates. So, please ignore the dates. I hope this now makes sense to those coming to it for the first time.

Google, it wouldn't take much to have an option for which order we want to present our posts - would it?

Friday, 30 September 2016

The Pennine Way, and why not?

The Pennine Way

A walk of about 268 miles from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in The Scottish Borders. Known as "The Big One" amongst followers of long distance footpaths in the UK.

This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time; I have had The Pennine Way Companion, Alfred Wainwright's original 1968 description of the route, since receiving it as a school prize in 1977. I have not had the time to plan, train and do the walk, until now. I notice that the "Companion" was on its 49th impression even in the 11 years since its first one; a measure of the popularity of the walk and the guide or a measure of how few copies were printed at a time?

Whilst in my younger days I have backpacked a few long distance footpaths carrying my house on my back (tent, sleeping bag, mat, cooking equipment and food) the pleasure gained from the independence of that approach is far outweighed by the suffering and it no longer has the same appeal. So, I am to be supported by my coach and driver, aka my wife Catherine. Catherine will be driving our VW Camper Van, Gloria and doing her own thing by bicycle whilst I am out in the hills. I do have one overnight camp requiring backpacking at the very end of the route, by which time I will be fit or looking for an alternative option.

I have divided the walk into 16 sections and have planned a few rest days to recouperate and re-stock en route.

The Naked Man Cafe, Settle, not on the route but we will be spending a rest day in Settle and I have no doubt that we will be partaking of tea and cakes in this establishment.
So, I have been encouraged to write a blog by a few friends and family including Shelagh who is an expert with this blogging thing on her own long distance walks. I will attempt to keep you posted as we go along, "subject to the usual bumflufferies" of internet connection and my ability to work with this format whilst in relatively remote locations.


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Preparation, preparation, preparation...

...and a bit of training too. I have been doing regular walks up to 24 miles several times a week for about a month. It has been hot and dry and I am sure that I wont have this weather and a need to carry several litres of water on the PW. All accounts I have read of the PW talk about peat bogs and constant / consistent rain. AW himself talks about how his Pennine Way Companion was "completed in a hurry after several delays (due to continuous rain, of course)" and says that "you are almost certain to have an interesting journey in better conditions than I had". I hope so, but I am planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

The PW is hilly, it wouldn't be called the Pennines otherwise. However, dont let anyone tell you that the South of England and Kent in particular is flat. The ascent and descent of the PW sections are going to be similar to my training walks up and down the North Downs with a few exceptions.

Living in the balmy south has its rewards. Here is some of the wildlife I encountered.

Seriously! This beautiful Tortoise was walking, very fast in the afternoon heat, along the path towards me, just two weeks ago. To cut a long story short I picked him (?) up and left him with a helfpful lady at a nearby house who offered to try and reunite him with his keeper. I couldn't leave him wandering the countryside, close to a tarmac road. However, I was very tempted to take him home but did not relish the idea of walking the next 8 miles with him either in my hand or stuffed in my rucksac.

The other thing that the south has is tea rooms in abundance and I have to admit to being a regular at the Cafe at Igtham Mote (National Trust, just off the Greensand Way) where they do a fine, and very large, date slice.

All the training is done. Not that that means I am now match fit; I have done as much as I can in the time I have. My time now is being spent getting my routes finalised and uploaded into the GPS (I know, but it gives me confidence since I will be on my own) and my paper maps (A-Z Adventure series strip map) marked up for easy viewing; sorting food, clothes; boots; camping gear etc.

Catherine is doing similar for her cycling trips and is finding that the roads are few in number and are not shy about going straight up the hills rather than round them.

All in all, nearly ready for Wednesday's departure with our first day on the hill on Thursday the 8th.

AW (thats me, not Alfred)

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Day 1 Edale to Crowden

Having taken advantage of my parents hospitality we had plans for an early start driving the 25 miles from there to Edale. However, we were thwarted by an errant alarm setting and overslept.  Only by 20 minutes or so and that misfortune turned to our advantage as the heavens opened up against the forecast whilst on route. I left mum and dad’s house wearing shorts much to the amusement of our hosts but they will be pleased to hear that shorts were quickly replaced by more substantial and warmer trousers at Edale. Shorts would have been a bad idea.

I left the car park in Edale at about 10:00am leaving Catherine to get her bike sorted and set off on her own adventure.  Whilst the rain had stopped by the time we arrived in Edale it was short respite and I was soon donning waterproofs despite it being rather warm. This rain was not in the forecast; special Pennine Way rain, I think.  

The Naggs Head Pub, where the Pennine Way starts. Note the Kinder Beer Barrell challenge - next year.
The Official Start, just round the corner from the pub.
 The rain turned out to be just showers and I only had to don waterproofs a couple of more times during the day. The one weather element that dominated was the wind. Constant, cold, battering wind once I gained some height. The waterfall at Kinder Downfall was in fact an Upfall; this is actually normal for here, I don’t think the water ever reaches the bottom.  At one point near Bleaklow Head it was difficult to stand.
Kinder Downfall, where the water flows uphill.
 I was warned by the other AW to expect bogs. In fact bogs are a constant theme along the entire length of the walk and day one was to be my introduction to them. However, much of the route over the bogs and peat hags is now paved with repurposed mill floor stones and this made for a fast crossing to the A57 and beyond. Stepping off the stones was potentially lethal at certain points and some of the stones had that Cardiff pavement habit of collapsing under foot and spattering your back with black bog water.

Don't step off the pavement...
The guidebook promised 16 miles; the Garmin said 18; it felt like 18.  The terrain here is very different from my training grounds down south.  The paths are more rocky and unstable, meaning that you have to constantly fight to keep your balance. This together with the wind meant that my walking speed was slower than in training. All in all a tiring day but as expected.

Catherine had set up camp in the rather quaint little campsite in Crowden by the time I rolled in at about 4:30pm.  The teapot had enough brew left in it to almost fill my pint mug. Catherine had cycled 27 miles taking in the tea room at Eyam – famous for its plague, the village that is not the tea room.

Tomorrow promises to be an easier day with a short section of just 12 miles according to the guidebook.

The plans for a daily blog failed on day 1 because there is no wi-fi and no phone signal here.  I did write this in “word” however, as per Shelaghs sage advice. Now uploaded via my mobile.

Garmin says:
18.4 miles; Max speed 6.2mph; moving average 3.3mph; overall average 2.6mph; time 7hrs 12 minutes with 1 hr 36 stopped. That seems like a lot of stops but that includes stopping to don / doff waterproofs, taking photos and snack breaks.  


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Day 2 Crowden to Marsden or "moor" of the same

We are currently sitting in the comfort of Gloria whilst a gale blows outside and heavy rain is forecast overnight. Thankfully we have escaped the worst of the rain whilst out in the hills and on the roads. We have not fared so well with the wind however. Whilst for me it was mostly on my back, or left side, sort of blowing me along, I could have done without the constant pushing; like being in an unruly queue at the bar without the reward at the end. Catherine fared less favourably and arrived at the campsite after me from a relatively short, but by all accounts, very hilly and windy ride. Having to pedal in low gear down the hills is no fun.

Day 2 on the Way was pretty much the same as day 1. More black peat bogs, stone flag paths and the occasional trig point. That’s not to say it was dull, far from it. I had good views from Black Hill.  Black Hill has a reputation amongst PW devotees. Wainwright described it as a “desolate and hopeless quagmire”. He also said that every hill is worth climbing, except Black Hill. I think he was a bit harsh, although the “trek through glutinous slime” is probably no longer there due to the flag stones. 

Black Hill Trig Point, known as Soldier's Lump, after the Royal Egineers who built it.

I met a fellow PW walker who also set off from Edale yesterday; earlier than we did. He is backpacking, carrying 22 kilos of stuff. He is young. We chatted for a while then he decided to stop for lunch and we went our separate ways. I don’t think I bored him, I think he genuinely wanted to stop for lunch; he needs all the calories he can get. I expected him to catch me up as I also stopped for lunch when I found a suitable concrete structure to sit on by the side of a sluice gate feeding one of the many reservoirs I passed, however I never saw him again. Hopefully, he is not stranded in a bog and I will see him tomorrow.  

I found evidence of other backpackers who had been so overwhelmed by their burden that they had abandoned non-essential gear at the side of the path. I know that feeling.

Abandoned gear? I left it there in case the intention was to return.

One of the reservoirs was Black Moss reservoir, built to feed the Huddersfield canal. The construction ended in disaster when the dam busrt in 1810 and six people were drowned. 

Black Moss reservoir.
Today’s walk was short at 13 miles. This was almost a rest day in preparation for the next three long days.  To Hebden Bridge tomorrow.

Towards the end of the walk today I came across this stone. I read it as M11 (or M2) 750 yards. Strange. 

 Garmin says: 13 miles; max speed 6mph; moving average 3.1mph, overall average 2.4mph; time 5hrs 10 minutes, with 1hr stoppage time. A bit slower today, probably because I knew it was a short day and took my time taking in the views.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Day 3. Marsden to Jack Bridge. Reservoirs, reservoirs, moor, reservoirs.

We had some weather last night. The van was rocking in the wind and the rain was being blown in through the air vents in Gloria’s upper reaches and spraying us with the occasional fine mist. However, we slept soundly enough and Gloria stood her ground. This morning was misty but dry with little wind and the day improved as time passed.

I crossed from Greater Manchester into Lancashire and then into Yorkshire. If I was giving prizes, Manchester would win the king of the weather, Lancashire for the most frivolous border stone and Yorkshire for the least generous (mean even) suppliers of way markers.

Lancashire border stone. Just to let you know where you are...

 As soon as I entered Yorkshire just by the A672 I felt abandoned to find my own way across the bogs. At junctions of three or paths there would be a sign pointing in the direction I had come from but no indication of which direction I should go. Almost like Yorkshire wanted people to leave its territory by the way they had come and not trespass any further.
The early part of the walk was accompanied by a familiar sound that reminded me of home. The constant, distant shush of a motorway; this time it was the M62 rather than the M25.

Today’s route was relatively easy, with plenty of flat tracks following the contours around the many reservoirs in the area. Apparently I have now walked past 17 reservoirs since leaving Edale. They are everywhere and every bit of bog appears to be forced into giving up its water via concrete and stone canals, ditches and sluice gates. Many of them supply the towns and villages but several supply the canals with water.

The other dominant feature was Stoodley Pike Monument; dominant because, at 125 feet high it can be seen for miles in all directions. I suspect it will be haunting me tomorrow too. It is a monster of a stone edifice built in 1856 to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.  At least this had been daubed with a PW sign, in the same white paint graffiti style as the “Man City” next to it. I assumed PW meant Pennine Way. Portsmouth Wanderers?

Stoodley Pike monument above the Calder Valley

Talking of Man City, graffiti extoling the virtues or otherwise of said team has been prominent on gates, signposts and the like. I did wonder why Man United were not equally well represented but then on reflection I realised that half of the graffiti was “Man City are shite”.
A friend e-mailed me yesterday and asked whether I had seen the steps she helped to lay on the PW back in the early 80s as part of a conservation project. I could not recall seeing them but replied that the way has moved over the years and it no longer agrees with the map at several points on each day so far. I suspect this down to management of erosion. I have been struck by how little erosion there is given the age and popularity of this route. I was expecting a very wide and rutted track for much of it. However, I have been very pleasantly surprised. The re-purpsoed mill fag stones help hugely but also it seems that the path has been deliberately moved here and there to allow sections to recover. Given the way the flag stones have vegetation up to their edges and between any gaps it would appear that the eroded stretches do recover quite quickly.  I have seen bags of materials deposited over the moors and wondered what they were until I saw an information board explaining that these were heather plants and sphagnum moss plugs for planting into degraded moors. So, the conservation work continues.

I eventually strolled down into the Calder Valley near Hebden Bridge and climbed a cobbled lane up the other side that I swear was a 45 degree slope. I have by passed the town in favour of a campsite just off the route on the other side of the valley. This is a shame because Hebden Bridge looks interesting judging by the sign selling its virtues to PW walkers. Our campsite is adjacent to the New Delight Inn which turned out to be a very friendly place serving a splendid pint of Lancaster Bomber.

Hebden Bridge is the place to be.

Catherine cycled up and around Hebden Bridge and met fellow cyclists on Blackstone Edge. One cyclist proclaimed that Kent was not hilly which Catherine took him to task on whilst conceding that it was not as hilly as around here.  No tea and cake today, standards are slipping.
Garmin says: 18.4 miles; 5.6mph max; 3.3mph moving average; 2.6mph overall average; 6hrs 55mins with 1hr 22 stoppages.

White Holme, Light Hazzles and Warland reservoirs

A beautiful stone seat memorial. Perfect spot for lunch. Thanks Cyril.

Stodley Pike again, framed by the stone stile. Note that there is a P and a W on the stile's pillars, an early 1960s way marker, but again in the wrong direction if travelling south to north.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Day 4. Jack Bridge to Ickornshaw. Bronte country.

The guidebook said that today would be undemanding but attractive. It wasn’t wrong.
It was a misty start out of Jack Bridge, the sun promising to burn off the cloud but not quite making it.  By now my boots are starting to get waterlogged with the constant tramping through peat bog. The mill flag stones only help so much.  This morning was no different with the tramp across Black Mires to Clough Head Hill. “Black Mires” says it all.

If yesterday was dominated by Stoodley Pike, today was the turn of The Bronte Sisters. Not that I am a devotee, far from it. I had an excellent view of Top Withins, the now ruined farm house supposedly the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. However, even the plaque on the wall supplied by the Bronte Society exudes scepticism. The history of the house is interesting enough though with or without the Bronte connection.  It tells a tale of a farming / landowning family (Bentleys, no less) and the division of land amongst three sons as their inheritance, each son getting a third of the land once farmed as a whole. Three farm houses were built, Lower, Middle and Top, Withins. Top Withins was built in the late 16th century and was still in use and occupied until the late 1800s. Now it is a roofless ruin with warning signs posted by Yorkshire Water about its unsound structure.  In today’s sunshine it looked very homely, I imaging in bleaker weather it is not so hospitable.

Top Withins Farm with views to the North of the Yorkshire Dales

Top Withins Farm

Bronte Society Plaque, 1964.
Having whinged yesterday about the lack of signs, today saw a resurgence of the way marker. Some were even in Japanese.  More for the Bronte fans than the PW walkers I suspect.
Pennine Way for the Japanese.
I now seem to be moving out of high moorland and into lower altitude farming pasture; lots of dry stone walls and the inevitable stiles to climb. Those reservoirs still keep coming, however.
Ponden Reservoir
I had my first sighting of Pen-Y-Ghent, one the Yorkshire Three Peaks that I will climb over in three days’ time.
Catherine had a day off from the cycling today. Her day was complicated by tonight’s campsite being 5 miles off route and me requiring a pick up. A very fine site it is though, with splendid views towards Skipton. We had a very fine Kedgeree made with tinned kippers for tea, which was much nicer than it sounds, trust me.

Garmin says:16 miles; 5.4mph max; 3.2 moving average; 2.4 overall average; 6hrs 37 minutes with 1:30 stoppages. I took it easy today. Longer day tommorrow to Malham, Yorkshire Dales proper.


Stone footbridge out of Jack Bridge. Wainwright has a drawing of this in the Companion and talks eloquently about maintenance of footpaths in the days when foot or horse were the only means of travel.