Outdoor Discoveries

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

Tops

4th September 2022

While I am not really focused on bagging summits of hills, a good number of them have featured on hikes this year. If conditions are clear, it often can be surprising how much of the surrounding countryside you can see from a lofty vantage point. Admittedly, some work better than others but it has been a noticeable trend and it is about the height above the neighbouring landscape rather than the actual height above sea level that matters.

That point has been proven on some trips to Ireland too. In April, I happened on the top of Feenlea Mountain near Killaloe in County Clare only to be stunned by the expanse of Lough Derg that lay below me with the nearby Arra Mountains in County Tipperary drawing my attention too. It helped that the morning was sunny and there are times when you need to try again with better conditions.

That was the case with Torc Mountain near Killarney in County Kerry. My first summit ascent was in poor visibility and only got done for the sake of personal satisfaction while the second was a diversion from the route of the Kerry Way that I was following from Kenmare to Killarney. Though sunshine was limited by cloud cover at that stage of the day and my legs were weary, the rewards were unmistakable; an American that I met on my way was awestruck by it all. The lakes of Killarney (Upper Lake, Muckross Lake and Lough Leane) lay below me and eastward views led my eyes as far as Lough Guitane and the hills that lay around it.

My encounter with Knockclugga in the Knockmealdown Mountains near Clogheen in County Tipperary was another case in point. While being surrounded by hills can limit what can be seen, this was no drawback on this rounded top. To the north, there were the Galtee Mountains while fellow hills like Knockshanahullion, Sugarloaf Hill and Knockmealdown brought scenic interest while the Comeragh Mountains lay to the east of everything mentioned so far.

None of the above hills is particularly high so it is their sitting that matters but I do not limit myself to those lower hills and trips to the Lake District have been a case in point. That did start with lower tops like Lingmoor Fell and Loughrigg Fell with the former allowing sightings around Great Langdale and Little Langdale while the former facilitated some photography capturing scenes around Grasmere that had been on my wishlist longer than might have been wise.

Greater heights were walked on the Fairfield Horseshoe and that included other tops like Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike and Low Pike in addition to Fairfield itself. There were ample views of Grisedlae Hause, Grisedale Tarn, Helvellyn, St. Sunday Crag and Patterdale to occupy the time and the available if warm sunshine added greatly to the experience. One walk often begets another and so it proved in this case.

While part of the inspiration was provided by Terry Abraham’s feature film on Helvellyn, the reminder came from the Fairfield Horseshoe. Having some free time in July might have allowed the trot to happen earlier but for uncooperative weather, rail strikes, the prospect of a then-forthcoming trip to Ireland and my not having thought of using Carlisle as a base. The latter was to enable the escapade and get around rail travel constraints so I got to Glenridding and chose a route that avoided both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge to contain any sense of exposure. That may have limited my sightings of Red Tarn but I was glad of the gentler way via White Side and Lower Man. There was a punishing descent to Thirlmere but any sightings of Catstye Cam, Ullswater, Skiddaw, Blencathra, Thirlmere and other landscape features made it all worthwhile.

That was followed by a Scottish incursion that did not enjoy the same kind of weather. Ben Ledi near Callander stayed largely clear on a day with cloud-filled skies that limited any sunshine but the views round about it inspire thoughts of returning. There was an associated hike around the Ochil Hills with limited visibility and pervasive dampness that adds even more impetus to the idea of returning when better conditions are in prospect. Tops can be clear and they can be clouded so it is the former that we all seek. Nevertheless, having gained so much from hilltops this year means that there is much for which to be grateful.

Tweakage

29th May 2022

Eventually, my ongoing attention to website appearances was going to include what you find here. The changes have been evolutionary and updated some underlying technologies as well. There has been simplification too as well as some rethinking of what should be in the different sections.

All the images in the photo gallery are now the same size and many film photos were rescanned. Some have been replaced with digital ones and the prospect of doing so was the cause of some added trip ideation. In part, the wanderings around Calderdale, Marsden and Hadfield were inspired by this and day trips to Dublin and the Lake District also aided the effort. Some photos were removed without the prospect of any replacement too. Sometimes, images can feature subjects that no longer inspire or have been added when photo albums acted as components of trip reports, things that now appear on this blog. Times change and so do we.

As I was doing all this, knowledge of the happenings in Ukraine hit hard since global wanderings feel more plausible in the absence of global strife. That feeling has eased now and several trips to Ireland have happened. These took me to places new and old. The former of these included Lough Derg, the Slive Felim hills and the Clare Glens while the latter included Killarney and parts of West Limerick like Adare. More may follow yet.

A Marsden project

28th May 2022

This past spring has been a busy time for walking in areas of hill country and growing boredom with what is near me in Cheshire and Derbyshire after traipsing around various places repeatedly during the constrained times of the pandemic led me to look elsewhere and Marsden caught my attention again after around fifteen years of not venturing near the place.

First up was a trot from Marsden to Hadfield that retraced steps not taken since 2002 when I was only starting hill wandering and a dull day heavily limited photographic efforts even if it brightened up near the end of the day. The reprise saw brighter sunnier weather albeit with a bracing aspect in the form of a stiff chilling easterly wind. Even so, I enjoyed my stroll along the Kirklees Way as it rounded Wessenden Moor and passed numerous reservoirs. Eventually, I passed onto the Pennine Way that conveyed me across the A635, over Black Hill and down into Longdendale. There was an intrusion in the form of an American hiker with two dogs who asked for a photo while my mouth was full of food but that passed and it was the edge above Crowden Great Brook that really held my attention.

On Holy Thursday in 2007, I headed north from Marsden to Littleborough as part of an ongoing Pennine Way project but low cloud intruded on the start of that walk so photos were limited. That made a partial reprise of that hike a possibility so I started from Todmorden on a southbound hike to capture what I had missed. Ultimately, I overdid it and arrived in Marsden in darkness so the compensation had not been gained and it took several returns to the area before photographic possibilities were largely consummated. Still, Calderdale and its nearby moors were kind to me even if their popularity slowed me down at times. From Blackstone Edge, things were much quieter but the day was moving on as I made the most of the available light. Even so, my sightings of the Castleshaw reservoirs left me in doubt as to my misremembrance enforced tardiness. More was to come in my sightings of Pule Hill and Holme Moor in very much faded light. That was to apply to Redbrook, Black Moss and Swellands reservoirs as well so thoughts of a return were forced into my mind. Eventually light failed and I decided against a steep descent on not finding the path so I went another way that got me to Wessenden Reservoir after an improvised crossing in the absence. Still, the waterfall looked appealing in the night light and it was now easy strolling back into Marsden in the quietude of the time of day. That did nothing to remediate my mixing up train times so I had a much-delayed train journey back to Macclesfield with a tight connection in Manchester that was aided by the last train to Macclesfield being late. That was just as well since there should have been another but for there being a shortage of train drivers at the time. The day had been eventful and I am not just talking about a momentary standoff with a cyclist around Calderdale either; they seem to be getting everywhere but that is another subject.

While the stage was set for several returns, the weather was not playing ball when I needed it to do just that. Still, I returned to Marsden in hope. Things looked promising as I headed out of Marden along Waters Road. My good fortune persisted as I continued along the track by Willykay Clough. Unfortunately, it was not to last and I lost out when I was wanting the cloud cover to stay away. There also was a biting wind from a northerly direction but that did nothing to keep away the numerous hill runners who were out and about. They went another way so all was quieter again but the sun was in hiding. Scrambler bikes were heard and I wondered what the point of their short rides was with their turning back at a pass to avoid being spotted. To me, it looked a little cheeky and I continued on my way on a day full of compensations. One was finding that path that I missed on the previous hike and I was glad that I had not tried it in the dark even if I had a head torch (there has been a scary moment when one did not fall to hand but all was well). The could cover had broken by this point and it have been understandable if I had been wondering at my impatience but the cold would have explained that. By the time that I got back to Marsden, many were outside enjoying what by then was feeling like a warm summer’s day. For me, it was back to the train station for a more timely return home.

Even with the same midday prediction of trouble with cloud cover as the previous encounter with the area, I persisted with another Marsden to Hadfield walking idea. There were variations from where OI had gone on previous trots that the walked started similarly to its predecessor. It took a map enquiry from another walker to highlight my slow progress in adjusting to a post-COVID world and I reproached myself for being unforthcoming but I had a long way to go and an appointment with hope. There were bright spots and I made images of the Castleshaw reservoirs that advanced on what went before. The same could be said about Pule Hill and its surroundings because the aftermaths of hail showers bring their recompenses. Other places brought a bit more photographic joy too and a bit of National Trust work made the way to the A635 much easier. Beyond that, navigation and bog trotting became more challenging so getting to Black Hill was slow work. Once there, I did not delay and started the descent to Longdendale by a gentler moorland route that left me with a longer walk to Hadfield and its train station. Even so, the gentle quietude of what is now a heavily industrialised valley laden with reservoirs and pylons prevailed and other walkers shared words with me. Daylight was in short supply as I neared Hadfield but it held long enough for me not to need a head torch. The day had been long and tiring but there was a lot to savour.

Eventually, there was resolution and near-complete closure. The last Friday of April came free and the weather remained sunny all day so another attempt was made. In many ways, this was a reprise of the third Marsden trip of the year, albeit with many deviations. It also saw me take my time in many ways. The route took me away from Waters Road and around by March Haigh Reservoir before I retraced old steps. Heat haze may have affected views over the Castleshaw reservoirs but what I go was as good as I needed it to be so I was sated. Brun Clough Reservoir saw a visit and I got over the wire fence to rejoin the Pennine Way because my patience did not extend to finding the stile and I often wonder how entry points to access land get so rationed. That made no impact on my mood as I attended to my photographic objectives. Various reservoirs were ticked off a list that also included Wessenden Reservoir and I crossed some rough ground using my access rights so as to avoid retracing steps. There even was an ascent of Pule Hill so this was a day that was working for me and the evening light was attractive as I returned to Marsden to start my train journey back to Macclesfield. it was now time to look to other places because the moors around Marsden may have seen times when things did not work out for me but they also kept me engaged in so many other ways as well.

 

Into nighttime

14th February 2022

Over the last few months, I have gone walking under hours of darkness by design rather than by accident as often has been the case. Much of this has been in urban areas in the name of remaining active after a day of working from home but some have taken me away from hard surfaces as well.

The first time that I ever tried this was during a much-needed career break at the end of 2017. Then, I chose a nearby route that I knew well and I relished the quietude once I had over some initial nervousness. The same route was plied by night several times during the winter of 2020/21 and the reduction in the chances of encountering others was as much an attraction as being out on moonlit ones and ones that were not so bright. Naturally, a head torch was put to good use in the process.

The same sense of peace and solitude drew me out again and other routes were chosen. Most were near at hand and with better staring points as well. Each time, I was reminded of the reduction in the amount of information from what we have by day and I always was on familiar ground. It was not just the one’s whereabouts that demonstrated this but the placement of one’s feet and one’s sense of balance.

This traipsing reached its zenith on New Year’s Eve at the end of a long day out that added an extreme elbow to two places that are not that far apart. Mostly, I try to keep away from where people live because having unexpected lights around a home in the countryside could feel unsettling and intrusive. Nevertheless, the countryside feels very different at night and being out there feels more adventurous than it might during the hours of daylight.

Curtailed adventuring

19th August 2021

In spite of the pandemic, 2020 turned out to be something of a vintage outdoor activity year though most of that was local and I never got to Scotland, let alone overseas. If anything, 2021 has turned out to be more restricted even if I have been fully vaccinated for a while now.

During late May and early June, I was starting to get out and about though numbers of others doing likewise meant that it did feel uncomfortable at times. The Spring Bank Holiday weekend showed me both quiet countryside and busy places. A reprise of a walk between Disley and Macclesfield proved to be a quieter affair though the same could not be said for one from Monyash to Bakewell. With few places to go and the onset of warm sunny weather, places like Bakewell or even Youlgreave meant that these were not places to linger. The same could have been said of the Hope Valley the following weekend but I still walked from Hayfield to Hope while keeping to quieter parts of the Great Ridge. Again, warm sunshine had drawn many out of doors and there were busy trains to bear as well. Nevertheless, there were no longer term effects even if I was not fully vaccinated at that stage.

From then on though, it looked as if things were reopening too quickly given the case numbers. Even delaying the full withdrawal of restrictions was insufficient for my sense of safety. In many ways, a more gradual reduction would have been better since so-called “Freedom Day” was in fact “Anxiety Day” for anyone was nervous in their disposition. To be fair, many have been sensible and much continues as it was with the use of face coverings and social distancing.

Last month, I took a break of several weeks from work but the timing was not in many ways the best for outdoor excursions. “Freedom Day” came in the midst of it so that was one reason not to be so carefree and a scorching heatwave persisted for the entire week as well so outdoor activities were stymied by lack of acclimatisation. After those, there was yet another reason for my persisting with a “homecation”.

In some ways, this takes me back to my student days in Edinburgh when research work, lack of money, living in a wonderful city and a strong interest in computers conspired to delay the development of any interest in explorations of hill and coastal countryside. The interest in computing still remains and I embarked on a major PC upgrade that did not run so smoothly so it took several weeks to settle everything done again. That not only kept me indoors a lot but was the cause of my working up quiet a sweat as I carried things between my work area and my home office. Also, worries about wreckage of expensive equipment entered my mind and heat was not helping the machinery either.

Those worries were to prove groundless and everything has settled in again though ongoing assessments regarding cooling and noise reduction continue. Usefully, the weather has cooled and become more autumnal in feel though warmer temperatures are predicted without their reaching abnormal highs. Damper weather now abounds though there are interludes for getting out and about on sunny evenings as well.

Video viewing earlier in the year became the cause of my acquiring a GoPro camera and an extension pole. Later, a magnetic mount for attaching the device to clothing and other similar materials was acquired and all has been put to some use. However, videography is a very different activity to photography so things are very experimental at the moment since there is much to learn.

After all that, it feels like a time to realise that there is a need to live with the ongoing pandemic and I am of a cautious persuasion. Yet, I am spotting some possibilities that may help with confidence building since case numbers have not gone as high as was predicted. They did rise dramatically in July but it looks as if the Euro 2020(1) football tournament cause a lot of that since they also reduced substantially afterwards. If there is a chance for some stability and the weather offers some motivation, this may become a good time to get going on longer trips again. The pace of advance will be slow and there are other things to occupy me too since there has been a lot of self-learning of new computing tools over the last year. Life can become very full so gaps do not always happen so they often need to be made.