Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

10th January 2023

These words are being written in a period of ongoing industrial relations turbulence. Whenever this happens, it can seem never-ending. Hope gets lost, but things can be resolved quicker than anyone can imagine.

Much of 2018 was blighted by Saturday-only stoppages that affected Northern Railway. It meant that outings were limited for me because I do not drive a car. In fact, they were an impossibility for many of the places that hill wanderer would go in the north of England. Thus, when the stoppages were halted, it was as if I was unleashed to take advantage of the restored sense of freedom.

Trips to the North York Moors and Derbyshire preceded two outings to the Yorkshire Dales. This piece describes the first of the latter, when sunshine was scarcer than predicted in the forecast. That encouraged another that will be described in a later posting.

The lack of sunshine necessarily limited the number of photos that I made on this trip, so figuring out the route again took some doing. Nevertheless, I reckon that I have recalled it. Recording GPS tracks or even filming hikes is something that I have avoided so far, but that needs a rethink unless I stop leaving it so long before writing trip reports.

On the day, I made my way from Settle’s train station towards Castlebergh Plantation. From there, I followed the Pennine Bridleway in the direction of Malham Tarn. That meant passing the turning for the crags that may have lured me out that way in the first place. They would be passed on the way back.

Everywhere lay under grey skies as I followed the track towards Langscar Gate and Malham Tarn. A young walking group was going this way too, so I dallied to give them time to move along for the sake of added solitude. Following the broad track appealed to me, as these so often do, especially when quietude can be found. That made up for any lack of sunshine.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

Skies partially cleared of cloud around Malham Tarn, somewhere that I possibly had not visited for more than ten years. That made me linger and attempt a spot of photographic capture. The results may have been incompletely in their success, but they were proof that I was not totally out of luck. Now that I think of it, there may have been more sunshine available than I had thought.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

My next move was to make for Malham village. That took me past Broad Scars and Malham Lings before I returned to tarmac again. Descending by Malham Rakes gained me views over Malham Cove as well as getting me to the village where I enjoyed a refreshment stop.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

The shop was looking more tatty on the outside than when I was near there on previous visits. The paintwork was wearing off the stonework and the shopkeeper looked aged, which have explained the lack of maintenance to the outside of the building. Skies again broke to allow some sunshine, and I took in sights of the cliffs of Malham Cove on the next stage of my hike.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

My return to Settle took me near Town Head as I made my way onto Long Lane. That kept me off Cove Road until just before a steep ascent, after which I left the road for a public footpath that would take me back to the Pennine Bridleway near Kirkby Fell. There was empty countryside around Rye Loaf Hill, though I seem to recall seeing some mountain bikers around there.

More civilisation in the form of Stockdale Farm before I left the lane to follow the Dales High Way past crags that I had fancied photographing. The grey gloom put paid to that ambition, so I reconciled myself to enjoying the hike instead. There was one last uphill heave before the final descent into Settle, which felt very distant in the vicinity of the limestone outcrops that I was passing.

Another visit would be needed to make photographic use of the scenic delights that they offer, but the walk had left me content. There may have been a refreshment stop before I started on my train journey home in the knowledge that there was some unfinished business that remained in this part of the Yorkshire Dales. A return would follow.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Settle, with changes at Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds.

A break from Christmas preparations between Grindleford and Sheffield

27th December 2022

The lead up to Christmas this year was very gloomy. After all, economic fortunes were heading downward and many have been on strike. The weather did not help either, and I was feeling exhausted after a year of some emotional toil. The cause has been the initiation of significant changes to my affairs in Ireland. Some will be sold and a lot of preparation is needed, some of which is going slower than is ideal. All this has weighed on me because my life has not been here before now.

One result is that Christmas preparations did not happen as early as one would have liked. The other is that I did the bare minimum for a time of year whose meaning changed with the passing of my parents. It all crept up on my as well. Now, I am hoping for an extended period of rest so that my energy levels get recharged again.

2018 was different. There was a trip to Ireland at the end of November, which meant that I had a clear run at Christmas. Some dental treatment became necessary too, and there was to be a mid-winter break on Tenerife as well. All added a frisson of tension to that moment. In many ways, it was a time of hope.

All it took was a sunny interlude to allow me to make use of an idea from a previous trip. It was enough to get me to Grindleford for another station to station walk to Sheffield. The first part of the hike was to ascend through trees to the side of the B6521. After a little way around the road, it was time to drop down through Yarncliff wood to the banks of Burbage Brook. This descent was steep enough to warrant greater attention at times.

Following the brook took me out of the tree cover and towards Burbage Bridge. Reaching the A6187 meant going through more woodland, meaning that views were restricted and that my camera was mostly inactive. This being a Sunday, there were others around at times, though numbers were never oppressive and there was plenty of solitude as well.

A break from Christmas preparations between Grindleford and Sheffield

A break from Christmas preparations between Grindleford and Sheffield

Crossing the road got me onto the Sheffield Country Walk, with views of surrounding moors catching some of the available sunlight. Higger Tor was among these, and there was an antiquity too in the form of Carl Mark Fort. The idea of continuing north might have appealed by for my designs on reaching Sheffield in more daylight than my previous amble in that direction. Even now, it tickles my sensibilities to think of passing Burbage Rocks and to reach Stanage Edge, closing the chain as it were.

On the day, I picked up a path leading to Houndkirk Road. On reaching the intended byway open to all traffic, I was trading solitude for the bustle of multi-modal usage. Dealing with other walkers along with cyclists and runners is one thing, but I was somewhat aggrieved by the sight of off-roaders engaged in green landing. That caused some clutter as I made for Ringinglow.

All such annoyances were left behind me, though; it helps when there are some quiet stretches that soothe your spirit. From Ringinglow, I made as if to head directly towards the outskirts of Sheffield, only to leave the road for a public footpath dropping me onto Clough Lane. This was my return to the banks of Porter Brook, albeit omitting Porter Clough this time around.

While I do not seem to have the photos to prove it, daylight was to persist all the way to Endcliffe Park for me at the second time of asking. There was some ice underfoot too, but this was no intrusion on progress. Neither did it prematurely force me onto city streets, so a little more closure was my lot before I mustered my wearying limbs for a meandering course to Sheffield’s principal train station.

The general run of weather may explain the dearth of photos accompanying this piece. It so happened that the hike returned me to Sheffield for the second time in two days. The second encounter was drier than a preceding shopping excursion beset by rain. Rain was also to await my return to Macclesfield after the walk, proving a point about what I had snatched during an otherwise unsettled run of weather.

Getting better photos remains a motivating factor that adds an idea for a visit to Sheffield’s more natural surroundings when an opportunity allows. It is as if you never can say that you are done with anywhere. The same could be said for a Grindleford to Hathersage station to station hike. Some places just cannot but offer more and more ideas for walking trips.

Travel Arrangements

Outbound train journey from Macclesfield to Grindleford with a change at Manchester Piccadilly. Return train journey from Sheffield to Macclesfield, changing either at Stockport (faster train) or Manchester Piccadilly (slower one); the journey is lost to my recollection now, but my sense is that I would have gone via Stockport for sake of speed and convenience.

From Hathersage to Sheffield with clag abounding but not obstructing

26th December 2022

In many ways, this hike follows on from the last one that I did in 2017. It was the first of a pair of moorland rambles that finished in Sheffield city centre in darkness. The second one started from Grindleford to make the most of the shorter hours of December daylight, while this one began from Hathersage to fulfil a possibility that was spotted on that 2017 outing and followed part of the Sheffield Country Walk next to some appealing crags.

Cattis-side Moor, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Baulk Lane, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Ridgeway Side, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

The way out from Hathersage shadowed the end of the previous hike. Because of declining light, that had made use of Coggers Lane after Denis Knoll for the sake of easier navigation; my memories of this are that it was quiet because motorised traffic went elsewhere from the car park at Denis Knoll. The views were available to a point at the start, but I entered Hathersage in darkness. This time around, I followed the off-road Baulk Lane on a course that took me to Green’s House via Brookfield Manor and Brontë Cottage.

Stanage Edge from near Green's House, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

My passing Green’s House was reminiscent of a walk that I undertook more than fifteen years before. Then, I was also bound for Stanage Edge, but I believe that I went north that day and returned to Bamford via Ladybower Reservoir. The walk may even have begun from Bamford, though the mists of time somewhat fog up certainty on that matter. There was even a photo in the online gallery of this website for a time that recalled this, and the approach was from the west back then.

On the way to Dennis Knoll, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Stanage Edge from near Dennis Knoll, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

This time around, I came to green’s House from the south and continued past it to the north, and not the west like the previous time. All the while, sunshine was coming and going, as it had been all day. There was a hazy feel to long-distance views too, with things looking a little claggy from time to time. There also was a piercing east wind, so that also ensured that I kept moving.

Beyond Denis Knoll, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Near Buck Stone, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Looking towards Stanage Plantation, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

After Denis Knoll, I was retracing some of the steps that I traipsed the year before. The light was stronger because of the earlier time of day, and the views beckoned me forth. Buck Stone was passed, with Stanage Edge coming ever closer. As I approached, I surveyed the views that lay about me.

Final approach to Stanage Edge, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Long Causeway, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

My lure was Long Causeway, a clear track that led through the crags of Stanage Edge. Tracks like this always appeal to me, so long as there is not too much multi-modal usage. This time around, that was not the case, so I could enjoy what surrounded much like I do on such things in Scotland.

High Neb, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

The track took me past Stanedge Pole before dropping down to Redmires Reservoirs. The day was advancing, and I needed to be determined if I were to get to Sheffield. There would have been a time when I might have reconsidered my plans, but there was always the fallback of using a head torch later if needed. There was quite a way to go yet.

Redmires Reservoirs, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Redmires Plantation, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

To get to Fullwood Lane, I made use of concessionary paths that were more boggy than that on which I had been travelling. There was some added route finding too as I veered around by White Stones. Nevertheless, I returned to tarmac and set to finding the path leading down to Porter Brook. Now, my course to the heart of Sheffield was largely set.

Light was declining noticeably by then, though, and that took away a little from the enjoyment that I might otherwise have gained. The banks of the watercourse felt wilder than I might have expected. The other surprise was how many were making use of the amenity that late in the day. It was not just stragglers like myself who were pottering about in the dusk. The attraction of more natural surroundings must defy any lack of light for them.

The trail does finish up in Endcliffe Park, and the increasing darkness caused me to bail out around Hanging Water. The rest of the way had me shadowing Porter Brook under street lights with by now tiring limbs. Beyond Endcliffe Park, it was a matter of making for the city’s train station. This was not as easy as walking along the banks of a stream, since improvements for motorised traffic add deflections to any sense of a direct course.

It had been a Sunday filled up with a station to station walk and many delights. If I had been more motivated or less occupied by other matters, I might have got out on Saturday instead. That might have meant an earlier start (trains start later from Macclesfield on Sundays) and hence better lighting on the Sheffield section of the amble. Instead, I was pondering another way to do just that. What was filling my mind was the prospect of another station to station walk: Grindleford to Sheffield. With shorter days, that shorter course might mean that I would not have needed to wait too much longer. In the event, it did not, and that is the next trip report that needs doing.

Travel Arrangements

Outbound train journey from Macclesfield to Hathersage with a change at Manchester Piccadilly. Return train journey from Sheffield to Macclesfield, changing either at Stockport (faster train) or Manchester Piccadilly (slower one); the journey is lost to my recollection now, but my sense is that I would have gone via Stockport for sake of speed and convenience.

An Irish Year

25th December 2022

Changes that I am making to matters in Ireland were the cause of my spending a lot of time there this past year. That also meant that I really got to see more of the place than ever before. That was just as well for two reasons. One is that my explorations of Irish hill country have been more limited than I fancied. The other is that the pandemic had grounded me for 2020 and 2021. Being over there a lot allowed me to get more courageous again. There is further to go, but this start was useful compared to where I was earlier in the year.

The nerves applied during various trots starting and ending in Marsden during the spring, so some movement was needed. A day trip to Dublin got me started on flying again. After that, there was a hotel stay in Limerick that allowed me to sample the delights of Adare, the Limerick Greenway, the Lough Derg Way, the Slieve Felim Mountains, Killarney and around Lough Derg. Much of this was in unexpected sunshine, and some was inspired by what I saw from my hotel room as well.

A getaway from jubilee celebrations returned my Ireland. This time, my base was Tralee and I got some wet weather as well. Even so, any sunny interludes got used when other matters allowed. A hike along the Dingle Way from Tralee to Camp was one such beneficiary, as was a circular walk featuring Dingle and Ventry. An amble along part of the North Kerry Way also saw dry weather before something inclement arrived in for the evening time. That affected a second trip to Killarney as much as the presence of a bikers’ festival in the town. The weather also affected a hike from Dingle to Anascaul that might have seen me wander up to the Conor Pass if there were better views up there.

The Lake District got some attention for the first time in some years as well. One trip featured both Lingmoor Fell and Loughrigg Fell on a walk that attended to a photographic need as much as using up an idea that had lain in my mind for a few years. That was followed by a reprise of the Fairfield horseshoe, along with an ascent of Helvellyn. All of these enjoyed warm sunshine that allowed many photos to be made.

The same could be said for the major holiday trip of the year, for that took me to Ireland again. Killarney and Cork were the bases for this one. The former allowed me to frequent parts that I had not surveyed for nearly thirty years. There was one all-day stroll that took me around Knockreer Park, Ross Island and Muckross Lake. This was followed by a hike from Kenmare to Killarney that used past of the Kerry Way, with a diversion to the top of Torc Mountain. The Kerry Way also had a part to play in a serendipitous walk that took in the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley and the Upper Lake. These were followed by trips to Bantry, Whiddy Island, the Knockmealdown Mountains, Kinsale and Cobh as the weather continued to warm.

There was a return to Scotland too, though luck with the weather was such that a return trip is in mind. Staying in Stirling again would allow the Ochil Hills and Ben Ledi to be revisited. That awaits longer hours of daylight and a favourable weather window. The two trips that I have had already whetted my appetite for a part of Scotland that I either overlooked or surveyed twenty years before.

There was one trip to the Welsh hills too. This took me to the Ogwen Valley for a dramatic day that saw me go over Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. Eroded slopes were the cause of some adverse comment, but this was a warm, sunny day that offered much. Any plans for descending to Pen y Pass and Llanberis were rejected for time and transportation reasons. Assessing one’s progress often needs a change of route, not that it mattered in this case.

The last Irish trip did not allow more hill wanderings. Time was short, the weather was unfavourable, and other matters needed attention anyway. It was not as if a lot of satisfaction had been given, so I was not put off by this. The temptation might have been unwanted anyway.

The rest of the year saw me grow increasing tired, mostly because of lack of progress with the things that I need to get done. They are spilling into 2023, but that is another year. It remains to be seen how that will go, but trips to Galway and Clare as well as other parts of Europe and North America entice. Only time will tell how things proceed.

Grey at the start and at the end, lots of brightness otherwise

9th December 2022

The trouble with trip reports is that they can descend to being a direct factful recollection of a route followed on a day hike. That may explain partly why I have been tardy with sharing these, but the lockdown period of the pandemic has had its impact as well. Sometimes, it works best to leave things a while so that their associated emotional intensity wanes. The vantage point at the time of writing matters too; when there is nothing much happening in one’s life, it can result in uninspired scribblings.

This is being written in a time of tumult, when looking back on the past can offer a brief diversion from a life beset by strikes, wars, ongoing works and increasing costs of living. Public transport is not as dependable as it once was, so getting into the countryside now involves a mix of patience and creativity, unless you have your own transport. In fact, many will rely only on their own resources when others appear to be letting them down.

When I went to Shropshire in February 2018, none of this lay in my mind. Then, I was on a career break and contemplating my next career moves. This was a matter of rest, healing and reflection after a few years of upheaval, bereavement and legal works that wore me out more than I had realised. Only later did I learn how caffeine consumption covers up a lot of this weariness.

The prospects for a sunny day out did not look good when I arrived in Church Stretton. Skies were grey and gloomy, and there was a hint of drizzle in the air. None of this deflected me from heading for Carding Mill Valley, and my first encounter with this part of Shropshire may have been on a grey, cold December Sunday, assuming that my memory is not failing me.

Shropshire’s hills may be low in stature, but many of the ascents and descents are steep and joint-testing. Thus, there was quite a pull to get into the Carding Mill Valley, and it got tougher on the way up Mott’s Road. This did nothing to deter others who were going the same way, persisting as I was.

Looking across Hawkham Hollow, Btechcott, Shropshire, England

The Port Way, Betchcott, Shropshire, England

Looking back towards Paulith Bank, Pulverbatch, Shropshire, England

In time, gradients eased and people peeled off on my going onto a bridleway leading me towards the Port Way. Instead of continuing on towards Woolstaston, I turned left towards the Betchcott Hills. Around there, clouds broke overhead to give more hope for the rest of the day. Clouds were still going to obstruct the sun at times, but there were photographic opportunities to come too.

Farm tracks were what was going to convey me across the Betchcott Hills to Wilderley Hill. Until there, navigation was a simple affair. Near Thresholds, things became a bit less clear, so my route finding was not as smooth as I might have liked on someone else’s land. The size of the field meant that it probably was ideal for map and compass work, but I found my way without any untoward encounter or any exchange of cross words.

The Stiperstones as seen from Cothercott Hill, Picklescott, Shropshire, England

After becoming more confident about where I was going around Cothercott Hill, views of the Stiperstones opened up before me. There was a catch though because there was a stiff descent down to the road near New Leasowes Farm. Some of the going was muddy, too, especially as I neared the road. From there, I went around by Leasowes Bank Farm by byroad and farm track until I met with another lane.

While I fancied cutting the amount of road walking by following a right of way that lead through Hollies Farm, this did not look like such a friendly option even if it was part of the Shropshire Way. Going through farmyards never appeals that much to me anyway, so I opted to walk the quiet road instead while marvelling at how many larger vehicles were travelling along the one linking Stedment and Stiperstones. The surrounding countryside appealed to me too, which lessened the length of the journey for me.

Nameless hill near Stedment, Shropshire, England

Looking towards Marehay Farm from Stedment, Shropshire, England

Near Stedment, I turned right to close in on the Stiperstones ridge. On the final approaches to that turning, I noted how old my paper map was. There was an entire farmyard missing from it, so it was time for a replacement. Given that I was backed up by the Ordnance Survey app on my phone, there was no chance of a wrong turn based on old information. A new paper map was acquired soon afterwards.

Gaining height meant opening up more views of what lay about me. If there was more traffic on the road crossing the Stiperstones than what I saw earlier, it largely is lost to my recollection now. What I do remember is seeing a tractor being used to put out winter feeding to otherwise grazing sheep. Seeing the size of it caused me to remark to myself how large tractors had become these days compared to what they were when I was growing up on an Irish dairy farm.

Rocky Outcrop, The Stiperstones, Shropshire, England

Manstone Rock, The Stiperstones, Shropshire, England

Looking east from the Stiperstones, Shropshire, England

Looking west from the Stiperstones, Shropshire, England

Since it was half-term time and I may have seen more people about because of that, I chose to overshoot the obvious way up to the top of the Stiperstones ridge in favour of a quieter approach. That meant that a father could ask me about a good way up there for kids with trainers. As I often find myself doing, the answer included perhaps vaguer directions than I might have liked to give. The way that I was going might have been one suggestion, but I directed them to where I had deliberately overshot. In any case, I was not seeking company and my line may have been too muddy for them anyway. Not everyone goes out in the countryside equipped for what they can meet; there was a car park and visitor centre not far away, which explains the encounter we had.

My way towards Manstone Rock was the quieter one, and I relished both that and the well sunlit views that going that way offered. In time, I was to join the main track, which was surfaced in a better way for trainer travel, so my instincts had been the rights for that family who I met earlier. The surface may have uneven, but it was not muddy like what I had traipsed. These rocky outcrops probably fascinate kids anyway, since many would clamber onto them. That certainly was what was happening to one concerned mother who was having her patience tested by her boisterous boys around the trig point on Manstone Rock. Quite why Ordnance Survey surveyors placed the trig point upon such a difficult to reach site is beyond me. What is equally beyond my understanding is how they got their heavy equipment onto the thing afterwards. The sighting of these things can amaze.

Looking east from the Hollies, Snailbeach, Shropshire, England

My own desire was to get back a sense of grater calm. Beyond the Devil’s Chair, that really proved to be the case, and I relished this in the late evening sunshine. However, I did not get it all to myself on the way to Snailbeach. Still, I managed to get myself as much solitude as I could by veering away from my preferred route, and the final descent was a steep one.

My heart sinks a little whenever I see a large rambling group out on perambulations. They take up a lot of space if anyone needs to pass them, and I wonder just how present one can be in a scenic spot when chatting with others, as they often do. It also prompts the following question in my mind: can groups like these just get too big to be in the countryside? We are social animals, though, so I can see the attraction this holds for many, and they are often friendly to more solitary creatures like me.

Once I reached Snailbeach, I saw the minibus that was awaiting them, for this was an organised outing. They reached it while I was awaiting my bus to Shrewsbury, and one said to me that they thought I knew my way down. In reality, I only was finding my way on the go, as it is with so many things in life. They left before I did, and I then wondered if my bus would show up, or if I would need to consider later alternatives, possibly from elsewhere. As I continued my vigil, rain arrived, but this was no dampener on my spirits given the day that I had enjoyed. The bus came too, and I started on my return home after a very satisfying outing.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey from Macclesfield to Church Stretton. Bus service 552 or 553 from Snailbeach to Shrewsbury, followed by a train journey from there to Macclesfield. Doing this walk on a Saturday, like I did, now needs a route reversal since later departures from Snailbeach have been removed from the timetable.