Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: England

A weekend spent in England’s northeast

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The previous posting on this blog may have been a sunnier reprise of a walk that I did before but what I describe here is not of that ilk. Firstly, I decided to stay in Newcastle on a Saturday night. Though my initial explorations along the Tyne were done after dark, I liked enough of what I saw that another visit would not go amiss. On Sunday, I took myself off to Bamburgh to see its famous castle and walk from there to Belford, enjoying bright sunshine for much of the time.

2014-10-11

Initial notes on here updated my recollection of this trip. For instance, I never recall having played with the idea of a weekend among the Brecon Beacons or that a delayed start put paid to notions of a walk around Rothbury that took in nearby Simonside. What I remember much more clearly is what actually happened.

For one thing, there was an overnight stay in Newcastle that allowed for a bit of strolling along the banks of the River Tyne. It was then that I got to realising just how near Newcastle and Gateshead actually are and that the former of these is a not unpretty place. It helps that there has been some urban regeneration with a new footbridge across the river and that a tower belonging to the castle giving the place its name still stands in spite of the depredations of railway building.

Much of my wandering took place after dark so I made it my business to see things in morning light before I headed north the next day. Still, seeing everywhere lit up has its appeal too and there were plenty about the place. It was not only those out for the night on the town for a cancer charity was holding a night walk and I made it my business to be out of the way before that hoard set off on its way. The repeated booming of the line “Stand up to Cancer” was a little too extrovert for my tastes but it still told me that I had time before the charity stroll was to begin. In the event, I was largely out of the way before things really got going so my own amble was a pleasant one.

2014-10-12

After that quick morning stroll along the Tyne, it was time for me to get to Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. It would have been more complicated if I had been going to Scotland for there were engineering works between Berwick and Edinburgh so it was just as well that my sights were on Northumberland instead.

Bamburgh Castle, Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

Before travelling onward from Berwick by bus, I took the chance to potter around the place in the morning sunshine, peering at its bridges as I did so. Then, it was time to continue to Bamburgh where its castle awaited. It did not take long to find once there since Bamburgh is not at all large and it is situated atop a hillock.

Rather than going into see the castle on a wonderful sunny day, I opted to stroll around it instead. First, I headed a little south along the road and crossed to the beach through grassy dunes. Only the faded colours of the grasses gave any hint that this was autumn and not summer. Given where the sun was as the time, this also was the best vantage point for photos with good lighting and I was to find that the usual photos that you see published need to be made at another time of day, more likely morning.

Inner Farne, Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

Lindisfarne as seen from Bamburgh, Northumberland, England

It was when I got onto the beach that I was discover that last fact but there were other sights to see. In hindsight, it might have been better to have had a camera with a telephoto lens for some of these. Even capturing views of the Inner Farne would have been helped but it was the more distant ones of a well lit Lindisfarne where the usefulness really would have been seen. Still, it was good to get what I got and to savour what lay about me anyway.

It was around Harkess Rocks where I was to see the classic view of Bamburgh Castle and realise that this was not the time for my own version of such an image. It was no disappointment given what I had got from the day already and I was about to rejoin the Northumberland Coast Path that was set to carry me all the way to Belford.

That conveyed me around the coast as far as Budle Bay while largely avoiding the Bamburgh Castle Golf Club course before I was directed inland towards the B1342. That gave me a chance to look back at the castle where my walk began and it had fallen into cloud shadow. Since I was to head downhill from Galliheugh Bank, this was to be my last sighting for the day.

Outchester Ducket, Belford, Northumberland, England

The sea was not to be seen much as I headed for Spindlestone Heughs by footpath and road. Near Outchester, I got to see more of the sea again but there also was a curiosity in the form of an old windmill called the Outchester Ducket. The word “ducket” is a local form of dovecot so that makes the name an unusual one for what is now a building let put as tourist accommodation.

Passing Outchester Farm led me along quiet roads and public rights of way towards the East Coast Mainline that I had to cross to reach Belford. Rather than over a bridge as might be found on the West Coast Mainline, this crossing went straight across the tracks, a striking thought given the chance of an accident. Before making my crossing, I used the provided phone to check if I could cross and did the same on the other side to let them know that I was safely across. The latter was as much for sake of courtesy as anything else.

After that Belford was near at hand under cloudy skies with more industrial surroundings for company for much of the last stretch of what had been a pleasing walk with much bright sunshine. It is how Bamburgh Castle and how the nearby coastline looked in the sun that is what I remember. It was a much needed interlude of brightness in a life with a lot happening.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey from Macclesfield to Newcastle with an overnight stop before continuing by train from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Outbound bus journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Bamburgh followed by a return bus journey from Belford to Berwick-upon-Tweed before going from there to Macclesfield.

A springtime sabbatical

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Though the output on here may try to belie it, the month of March was one of exhaustion and a longed for sabbatical from work came not a moment too soon at the start of April. Mostly, it was time to rest at home though there were some escapes. My yearning for rest and recuperation had to be countered for these but it is good for anyone’s state of mind to get out and about too.

The second weekend saw me head to the Isle of Man for the first time since July 2011. Though it was a reluctant manoeuvre in the end, it repaid my efforts with sunshine on a circuit from Laxey that took in Snaefell and on an amble around Castletown. Before I started my return, I took in Douglas Head and Summerhill Glen along with some other sights around the island’s capital.

Strife with insuring a car in Ireland partly ruined any peace of mind around Easter such that I shortened a stay in Edinburgh. In truth, I spent more time around Peebles with a rain-soaked walk around Glen Sax on Easter Sunday preceding a trot along the John Buchan Way between Peebles and Broughton in much better weather on Easter Monday. Thankfully, that Irish obstacle was overcome to allow a few more days of quiet rest before it hit me just how fast time was going.

While it felt as if my time away from work was too short, there still was time for walk from Litton to Buxton that took in several of Derbyshire’s dales. The list included Tansley Dale, Cressbrook Dale, Monsal Dale, Miller’s Dale, Wye Dale and Deep Dale. Wintry weather intruded at times and Chee Dale offered plenty of adventure. Still, it was a good day out with my partly making up the route as I went along.

There was a trip to Ireland too and this allowed more time for myself in between visiting family and neighbours as well as attending to business that I have over there. Evening walks took me on circuits around by Springfield and Kilmeedy village. Though the walking was along roads for the most part, it was a case of revisiting haunts that I have not frequented for a few years now.

On returning to work, I have decided to do things differently and that is allowing me more rest time. My mind is turning to future excursion ideas as a sort of tonic though such flights of fancy are tempered my aunt’s health for now. Still, there is no harm in dreaming a little as I assess how things are going for me after all that has happened during the past five years.

Starting independent touring of Scotland

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Prior to August 2001, my outings in Scotland were day trips or I set off with someone else. A conference in Aberdeen was attended with a university colleague and an annual trip to Highland Perthshire was with a university group. Then, there was a few days in August 1999 when I showed my brother some of the sights that I had seen on day trips and a few more with them.

A Family Outing

That last outing began from Edinburgh and took us to Fort William where we spent a night before exploring Glen Nevis the next day. Our late afternoon arrival meant that there was some time for a stroll along by Fort William’s shore after an evening meal at the Ben Nevis Bar. The town turns its back to the sea so it was up what lay across Loch Linnhe to assuage any lack of scenic glamour despite overcast skies lying overhead.

Next morning after breakfast, we parked in the Braveheart car park before setting off for a stroll along the road through Glen Nevis. The pace was to be a gentle one and I have no recollection of there being much road traffic as we went as far as the Water of Nevis car park. Though this was before I took up hill walking, my brother asked about how long it would take to walk up and down Ben Nevis. Seven of eight hours came the reply and I wonder at the naivety of our deciding against the proposition on the basis of the time we had. Nowadays, I would be thinking in terms of experience, conditions and equipment and that also would be the order on which I would base my decision.

The attentions of midges meant that we did not linger too long around the Water of Nevis. Also, we wisely did not proceed further along and the presence of a disturbing sign would have made sure of that. It was a few years later when I finally went a little beyond it and I maintained control of my ambitions even with the equipment and experience gained in the meantime. This is wild country that commands respect and is not something for a spur of the moment decision of a casual tourist.

We retraced our steps with a stop at a cafe so there was no rush in our movements. On returning to our car, we set off for Oban. Skies had been grey overhead all day but they now were to darken and bring rain. Scotland was to show its less favourable side that evening. Nevertheless, we still sought food that evening and pottered about Oban too. The rain must have passed sufficiently to allow this. We also figured out what to do the next day: a tour of Mull and Iona.

The weather next morning showed that we were not to see Scotland under sunny skies. Still, we crossed to Mull by ferry before catching a coach to Fionnphort with the driver providing commentary laden with dry wit. A mention of the once regular arrival of wet newspapers onto the island at Grass Point remains in my memory and does the description of the, at times single track, road as the island’s answer to England’s M6.

Once at Fionnphort, we crossed to Iona in dry conditions. Skies remained grey but were strolling Baile Mòr without any wetting. We also visit the restored abbey buildings so we would have been under cover for a time too. Still, it was good to have respite while we were there and we reversed our outbound travel to get back to Oban again.

From Oban, we headed to Balloch where we stayed the night. Sadly, we arrived too late to walk along the shore of Loch Lomond in daylight. In any case, we would have some of it while in the way there. Next morning, we continued to Stranraer where we crossed to Ireland and I got a short stay over there before returning to Edinburgh again.

Going Solo

Because of starting a new job in England and having to move home, there was no Scottish touring in 2000. Though it remains the wettest year on record across Britain, my recollections of the summer are not in agreement with the statistic. The autumn that year was another story and I soon learned not to cycle the five or six miles to work in Cheshire rain.

Being lonesome after life in Edinburgh, I resolved to return from time to time and it is something that I still do. There was a weekend visit in November 2000 when I stayed with a friend up there. That became a regular feature for a few years and it was to another friend that I came to stay in August 2001. That was to be a jumping off point for another tour of Scotland, travelling solo this time around.

After arriving in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon and spending the night there, I headed off to Skye on Monday afternoon after spending the morning sorting out my accommodation arrangements. After the sunshine of the previous evening, it was under grey skies that I set off on a Scottish Citylink coach to Fort William. On the way there, we were to pass through heavy rain but it was drier if still grey when I reached Fort William. Bright skies were to persist for the onward journey to Portree though there was a sense of stormy conditions whenever any showers came our way.

The Quiraing from near Staffin, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Eilean Flodigarry, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The following day could not be more different for it came fabulously sunny. Having not been there before, I chose to head for the Trotternish by bus as far as Culnacnoc. From there I trotted along the road as far as Flodigarry and lots of little places like Staffin and Brogaig were passed on the way. Though the road walking left me footsore, there was next to no traffic so I could soak in my surroundings. The gorgeous weather and scenery also meant that my Canon EOS 300 got plenty of use and I made sure that I had enough film this time around. It made a good introduction to the place and I returned to Portree by bus.

After another night on Skye, I caught the bus to Armadale where I caught a ferry to Mallaig. Memories of any sights of Knoydart and the Small Isles are lost to me know but there was some sunshine. Skies were greyer around Mallaig and I travelled from there to Glenfinnan on the Jacobite steam train, a rather expensive endeavour to me at the time. Photography was limited by the sun but I still got a stroll to the shore of Loch Shiel, albeit pulling a heavy trolley bag after me. From Glenfinnan, I got to Fort William on a more ordinary train before catching a Scottish Citylink coach to Oban where I stayed the night.

My third visit to Mull took place next day and I left most of my luggage in safekeeping on the mainland while I made for Tobermory by ferry and bus. Sunshine was rather hazy but I still tried my luck with making some photos of Tobermory with somewhat pale skies. My long SLR photography lesson was only beginning so there was a lot left to learn. Returning to Oban by bus and ferry, I retrieved my luggage and caught the coach to Glasgow. Once there, I continued to Edinburgh on another.

This was the English and Welsh August bank holiday weekend so I stayed there until that Sunday. Saturday came grey so I went shopping for better walking footwear at Tiso and came away with a pair of Columbia trail shoes that I still have somewhere today. They complemented the pack of thick socks that I bought in Tobermory just the day before. It is amazing what sore feet cause you to do.

Sunday morning was spent around Edinburgh and it all felt autumnal. Any photos that I tried making then reflected that more than what I believed I was seeing at the time. It was later that I set to travelling south again and the bank holiday was to see me trying out my new footwear on a trail by Grindsbrook Clough near Edale in Derbyshire. An interest in countryside walking was beginning.

An under-fulfilled photographic prospect

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

More than a decade ago, I had planned on a Sunday day trip to Snowdonia only for my plans to get extinguished by a cancelled train service. By these stage, I was in Manchester so I reviewed my options and continued to Windermere instead. The required train fare refund had to wait for another time because one operator (Virgin West Coast) was unable to refund a ticket sold by another (First North Western) and this was for standard tickets sold at a train station. Nevertheless, any associated frustration was to be pacified by what my chosen alternative was to offer.

From Windermere, I made my way to Ambleside by bus and a hike over Loughrigg Fell ensued. That exploit granted me stunning views over Grasmere on what turned out to be a wonderful evening. It must have been May when all this happened for hawthorn bushes were shrouded in white blossoms. The display was one of the best that I have ever seen. It all just begged for some photographic attention. However, in those days of film photography, my choice of film made for results that were redder than was ideal.

Still, that was not realised at the time and I descended to Loughrigg Terrace and continued past Rydal Water to reach the A591 in a very satisfied mood. Roadside walking returned me to Ambleside and I retraced my journey home again. The disruption was forgotten and only the actual photographic results were to send the idea of a return visit into my head.

2014-08-09

It was 2009 when I next crossed Loughrigg Fell while walking from Coniston to Ambleside. Though the hike included sightings of Coniston Water, Tarn Hows and Windermere, there was none that included either Grasmere or Rydal Water. That had to wait until 2014 when the promise of decent weather of a Saturday was enough to lure me north again for the last instalment of a summertime Cumbrian walking trip hat-trick.

Once in Cumbria, my first port of call was Orrest Head. Despite its close proximity to Windermere’s train station, it took me until 2007 to discover this delight. The chance of a quick return on another fine sunny day was too good to overlook. That it was a short walk up there made it a possibility for using up time while awaiting a bus. Now, I wonder if it was the cause of my deciding to catch a later bus than planned for it was idyllic even with others about the beauty spot. Those westward views over Windermere towards the Langdale Pikes and their eastward counterparts featuring nearby fells like Red Screes were stunning on the day. Hopes of getting pleasing photos around Loughrigg Fell were raised.

Once in Ambleside, I pottered out along the A591 nearly as far as Rydal Bridge before I dropped onto a public footpath leading to steeping stones over the River Rothay and onto a minor road. Walking poles were essential for a river crossing that required the summoning of added resolve. The apparent chance that this could be a long sunny evening was enough to ensure that.

Turning left along the road, I continued as far as Fox Ghyll before leaving tarmac again to commence an ascent of Loughrigg Fell. A family group had similar ideas and I happily left them to amble at their own enjoyable pace. In the warm sunshine, the climb was sweaty business devoid of wider views until I got beyond surrounding woodland. Then, they really opened out before me. With enough height gained, the gradients happily eased too. All still looked promising.

The route that I took puzzles me now it went back on itself and I could have pottered along the side of Rydal Water in the sunshine before reaching Loughrigg Terrace for its views over Grasmere. Crossing Rothay Park in Ambleside was another option though I now wonder if I was after another path that I missed on my way out from Ambleside. That is the more likely explanation.

My abiding memory of the my time on Loughrigg Fell that day is one of disappointment at having been caught by advancing cloud. However, looking through my library of photos from the time makes it apparent that my recollection is being selective. Any breaks in the cloud cover allowed the sun to peep through and spotlight the landscape. It may not have been the widescreen lighting that I had in mind but there were plenty of delightful moments too. In any case, cloud shadow added to the scenes before me in their own way.

In hindsight, it appeared that I was being every photographic possibility but the one that brought me to Loughrigg Fell in the first place. At times, the sun shone brightly on nearby eastern fells like Red Screes, High Pike, Low Pike and Heron Pike. Looking at the resulting photos now is some recompense for the fact that the repeat of that grand view over Grasmere towards Dunmail Rise was laden with too much shadow for my liking.

That presence of cloud shadow did not deter me from having a go at capturing the scene before me. It was as I dropped down from Loughrigg Fell to the road that take me to the nearest YHA hostel, that any spotlighting really came to a halt. The cloud thickened and the sky darkened all the while as I made my way to my lodgings for the night.

Even so, I still had designs on a stroll towards Elterwater once I had sorted things at the hostel. Soon enough, I found what the cloud was to bring and I had overlooked bringing a rain coat. still, I got back under cover without too much of a wetting. A night of heavy rain lay ahead.

2014-08-10

It still was raining well when I rose the next morning so the atmosphere felt rather melancholic and autumnal. In order to late the rain pass, I dallied after breakfast while packing together my things. It was not to be so I walked along the minor road to Grasmere in the rain. Traffic was light and I was well equipped with waterproofs so the hike was no chore. The peace and quite was more than a compensation. If the sun had been out instead, it even could have been quite special in its own way though I suspect that Elterwater would have drawn me instead.

All in all, there is unfinished business on Loughrigg Fell so a return remains a possibility. Last December’s trip to Cumbria could have addressed matters had a walk from Great Langdale to Grasmere not been the bigger attraction in my mind. After all, I never had seen the Langdale Pikes up close in sunshine; cloud always pervaded whenever I was around those parts before then. The same might be said for Elterwater too so the reasons for new visits remain.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Windermere. Bus service 555 or 599 from Windermere to Ambleside. Bus service 555 or 599 from Grasmere to Windermere.

An occasion when resolve got rewarded

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Webcams can be both a blessing and a curse. They are handy for seeing what weather and ground conditions are like in areas of hill country, especially during wintertime. That is fine if you definitely are heading somewhere and the conveyed message is promising but they can irritate if you find that you have missed out by staying at home.

That was how I felt during the second Sunday in July after a wonderful weekend trip to Buttermere. Having been away for several weekends on the trot, I might have been looking for an excuse to stay home and my seeing what I missed on that Sunday stiffened my resolve for the next weekend.

The added determination was needed for I was soaked on the way to Macclesfield’s train station. At the time, someone could have questioned the sanity of what I was doing. Conditions were much drier when I got to Windermere and the trend continued around Patterdale. It was if much of the heavy rain had by-passed Cumbria and there were signs that some had been around there given the stormy look of the leaden skies overhead me and the clag surrounding a number of fells.

2014-07-19

Saturday evening did have occasional showers but this was a far cry from what drenched me in Macclesfield. There was time to potter about Patterdale and Glenridding. The lower shores of Ullswater were frequented for long enough that I even got to see the felltops seeing a some sunlight before the sun went down for the day. There was time for an evening meal too and it was a quieter more intimate spot that took my fancy.

Other such purveyors would not have offered such peaceful surroundings. If I had the expectation that Patterdale was to be the home of soothing silence with only nature providing any soundtrack, it would have been unmet. There was music was to be heard from both Patterdale Hall and Patterdale Hotel. There some recompense in the amusing sight of two young girls using inflatable guitars in a sort of sword fight in front of the latter of these. Still, any human noise was not so pervasive as to intrude everywhere for there remained quieter corners to be found.

2014-07-20

After the following morning’s breakfast, I set to a spot of strolling around the villages of Patterdale and Glenridding as well as Ullswater’s lower reaches in search of some photo opportunities. Though satisfying ones were thin on the ground, my retracing of steps showed me how peaceful the place could be without the sound of any revelling.

Retracing some of my steps back from Glenridding, I turned onto the lane leading to Grisdale at Grisedale Bridge. After threading along tarmac for a while, I found a footpath taking me up towards Thornhow End. The going was steep in the gathering heat of the day. others had the same idea as I did but left them pass me to I could go at my own ease, taking in any views that were there to be savoured. It helped that those over Ullswater were opening out before me and that I could see where I had loitered both on the previous evening and earlier that morning.

Other views opened up on the way up to the top of Birks too. Looking across Grisedale lead the eye towards the bulk of Birkhouse Fell and beyond that lay Sheffield Pike. Around these, a multitude of routes lead fellwalkers towards the top of Helvellyn and Catstye Cam. These are prospects that I have pondered more than once once without making any of such designs real. Between them, there should be enough cause for a return sometime.

Cloud was set to frustrate photographic efforts as I continued along the summit of Birks and meant any views across Patterdale towards High Street were not of the sort of quality that makes me make anything but record shots. It was as if I was collecting reasons to return. St. Sunday Crag lay ahead of me and cloud broke to leave me sunlit sightings of both Helvellyn and Catstye Cam. The amount of exposure to be encountered by a walk along Striding Edge was there to be seen and everywhere seemed rocky at those higher reaches.

Once I had crested the top of St. Sunday Crag, there was a pressing matter that I to address once I had enough mobile phone signal: I needed to phone my father when there was someone with him to help with taking the call. He had little sense of where I was and I never let him in on my whereabouts either. He had mixed up his days of the week and was expecting me to visit him sooner than was planned. Quite what other walkers made of this Irishman speaking on a phone in such a spot, I’ll never know and it is not something that I usually do either. That times have changed since then mean that I am less likely to do the same these days. After all, I visit hill country as a respite from everyday life. That was not so possible back then.

With that phone call made, I looked at what faced me if I kept going towards Cofa Pike for the ascent to the flat top of Fairfield. In the event, I decided that I did not fancy it and picked up an informal path at Deepdale Hause that would drop me to Grisedale Tarn. Steep sections made for careful progress until gradients levelled off and navigation towards the outlet from the tarn was devoid of the confirming line of a path. Breaks in the cloud brought more in the way of sunshine though Patterdale remained under its cover.

There was time for a rest beside Grisedale Tarn before I continued with my walk. It was August 2005 when I last had been this way for I have photos from a time when I mainly pursued film photography. That day, I believe that I was headed for the top of Fairfield and it was to take up one of the most frighteningly eroded paths that I ever tried using. the way down took me to Patterdale by Hart Crag and Hartsop above How. It was that day that I rejected the idea of dropping down Cofa Pike to go over St. Sunday Crag after the ardour of my ascent. The seeds were sown for a walk that came to pass in the 2014, the one that I am describing here.

My next destination was Grisedale Hause from where I would drop into Hause Moss, a level area that by rights could host another tarn. In reality, this is but a bog with Fairfield’s gentler side rising up from it. The slopes remain steep and craggy but they are more hospital that the foreboding cliffs that form its northern aspect. These were seen in the flesh for the most time earlier in my walk but they appear no less striking in the line drawings that Alfred Wainwright included in the first of his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. Fairfield is not a place about which to be blundering in poor visibility.

My first encounter with Fairfield was on a walk that started from Rydal Mount and took me over Heron Pike and Great Rigg with the way to Ambleside going via Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike, Low Pike and Low Sweden Bridge. It was a horseshoe route and both Great Rigg and Heron Pike loomed over me as I dropped down to Rowan’s Ground with Tongue Gill beside. This was an unpeopled place though it could have done with a breeze to take the edge of the warm afternoon sunshine.

Another crossing of Tongue Gill was needed to reach the track down to Mill Bridge on the A591. Once on the busy roadside, it was time to make for the junction from which a lane would take me into Grasmere. The heat meant that I was flagging a little by this stage so I appreciated the chance of a refreshing stop in the heart of the village before I began my way home. That initial test of resolve had paid dividends and with all my traipsing over these fells, there remains yet more to explore.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Windermere. Bus service 508 from Windermere to Patterdale. Bus service 555 or 599 from Grasmere to Windermere.


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