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: Durham

Why go elsewhere when there are good things nearby?

9th October 2012

The past few weekends have seen me enjoy walks through local countryside. For instance Sunday saw me drop from the Cat and Fiddle Inn into the Goyt Valley before walking along its length as far as Whaley Bridge. Skies may have filled with cloud as I went and much mud may have been encountered but that reminder from last January while on another walk from the same starting point that landed me in Buxton at its end was set to prove its worth and I wouldn’t mind having another hike around there either.

The Saturday of the previous weekend came up sunny too and I used the afternoon for a walk from Bollington back to my house that took in the Saddle of Kerridge and Tegg’s Nose Country Park as I revisited parts that I should frequent more often than I do. In fact, that was a thought that occupied my thoughts as I took in my surroundings. With so much on my doorstep, I have been wondering why do I not get out there more often.

That may get corrected on the evidence of the Saturday before that again when I followed part of Macclesfield Canal while en route to Lyme Green Retail Park on a shopping errand. A short snippet like that neatly fits into a life with other things that need doing. Little outings often have their uses in getting out of doors to build up to bigger ones and that certainly has been happening over the last few weeks.

During that time, thoughts of wandering around Teesdale from Middleton-in-Teesdale has surfaced more than once only for working week fatigue to put paid to the scheme. The same thing has defeated a trip to Abergavenny to go up and down Sgyrryd Fawr. Another is playing more of a part now as well: local attractions. That’s quite a change given how delights that were further away once blinded me to what lay nearby.

For instance, Sunday offered choices that I struggled to decide between them. One possibility was a walk that took me from the Cat and Fiddle Inn, over Shutlingsloe and then onto home. It was one that would have been my choice but for the sight of cloud advancing from the south. Reprising the Gritstone Trail between Bollington and Disley was another and there’s walking along the Macclesfield Canal between Macclesfield and Congleton in mind too. Then sun shone and decision needed overcoming to get out the door. The Goyt Valley may have got my vote on the day but the others remain tempting though and would make ideal walks for shorter days too.

However, that isn’t to say that walks have been discounted because the list of trip reports that need writing include a range of destinations: Loch Ericht and Glen Tilt in Scotland, Cumbria’s Howgill Fells, the Gower in south Wales and Pembrokeshire in west Wales. Of these, I scarcely have made any mention of those August visits to Wales. The Gower saw me walk from Rhossili to Prot Eynon and its a hike that I can recommend. On a long deserved return to Pembrokeshire, I sampled part of the coastal path between Strumble Head and Fishguard. Cloud may have filled skies on both of these – is that becoming something of a feature for me, I wonder? – but the walking was good and that’s all that I ever ask.

So, I have some sharing to do and more ideas on places to be exploring and revisiting. The shortness of some of my designs should mean that the shorter days of winter should not be an excuse for hibernation. Getting in (at least) one longer walk every month has become my target and it seems to happening so far. It’s a habit that I wish to continue.

Coincidences or mind-reading?

20th August 2012

Last week, I picked up a copy of the latest edition of Country Walking and it features ideas with which I have been toying for a while. High Cup Nick and Teesdale on the Pennine Way are among these as is a circular walk from Ingleton that takes in Twisleton Scars and Ingleborough, yet another route that I’d like to reprise. Even, nearby Shutlingsloe and Tegg’s Nose get a look in too so Cheshire’s hill country does not get neglected either.

The week before, the current edition of TGO arrived on my doormat and it features two places that I have visited recently: the Howgill Fells and Gower. The latter of these only saw me again last week and I enjoyed a circular walk taking in Rhosili Down and a pleasant stretch of the Welsh Coastal Path between Rhosili and Port-Eynon. The TGO route differed from these coastal ambles but going inland and uphill for much of the way. Gower is not big but it attracts a lot of folk of a sunny day and the roads cannot take the traffic so that’s worth bearing in mind. That also has the effect of severely delaying buses as I discovered. Sensibly, I decided to overnight in the area rather than trying a day trip so the delay caused no mishap and I was indoors before a weather drama featuring lightning, thunder and heavy rain unfolded. Looking along that coastline again is causing me to conjure up yet more walking ideas.

TGO’s Howgill Fells route is an overnighting affair too and explores hills that I only glimpsed from atop The Calf. While a day walk would be more what I am after, it has made me think about approaching these hills using somewhere other than Sedbergh, again using the 564 bus service between Kendal and Kirkby Stephen. The Llyn in Wales is another walking possibility of which this month’s TGO has reminded me and there’s the prospect of a circular hike into hills from Achnashellach train station on the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line too for pondering, especially as I have played with using an out and back train journey along that railway to occupy a day when the weather isn’t as favourable for going out of doors.

While the overlap between my thinking and what’s to be found in walking magazines may seem uncanny but it could also be that I am just ranging over so much of Britain when playing with possibilities that overlap with what others are thinking is inevitable. Then again, they may be reading my words on here too…

Collecting ideas…

2nd August 2012

The weekend before last saw me head to the Howgill Fells for an out and back trot from Sedbergh to The Calf. While the sky clouded over during my walk and there was an unintended deviation towards the end of the return leg, it remained an enjoyable affair with my having traversed no fewer than five hilltops along the way. The first was Arant Haw with Calders, The Calf, Bram Rigg Top and Winders all following in succession and Calders being crossed twice. Much of it was on access land too so it didn’t matter much if I veered away from rights of way and, in fact, much of my course deliberately took advantage of this.

After getting in at least an outing a month since May, I would like to continue the pattern. Over the last few weeks, I have been dredging a few from previous outings that I made in the last few years. In its own, that visit from to the Howgills was born of this strand of thinking but there are others. A return to Ingleton for a circular hike featuring Twisleton Scars and Ingleborough with some sunshine and blue skies is but one of these others. Revisiting Teesdale is another and it took the world of Twitter to remind me of that part of England. My sole visit to the dale so far also happened on an overcast day so getting a day with better lighting and more interesting skies would be good too; that would make photographic endeavour all the more appealing. After all, someone has a very appealing image on their Pinterest site and I wouldn’t mind having my own photos of Low Force (and High Force too) in similar conditions as well. The passage of the Pennine Way along there brings to mind the idea of exploring High Cup Nick near Dufton on the western side of the North Pennines. Again, there only has been a single outing in the Eden Valley so far and I’d like to complement it with another. The weather was good that day though travel issues curtailed the time that I had available, hence why I’d like to go back again.

There should be enough to be pondering from the above by catching up with a few issues of TGO while on a trip to Ireland added to them. They brought to my attention possible crossings of Lingmoor Fell in the Lake District and Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste near Glencoe, both of which making use of roaming rights that we now have. The latter traverse reminds to me that having a few Scottish trip ideas would be handy and I was reminded of my pondering ascents either of Bynack More in the Cairngorms or a tempting Munro near Blair Atholl. Re-walking the West Highland Way between Bridge of Orchy and Kinlochleven was yet another. One new inspiration had caused me to recall older ones.

Maybe, I need to collate the various brainwaves in a permanent if ever changing list somewhere so that I can inspect them in moments when nothing particularly can be extricated from my imagination like during the latter half of 2010. Long standing Welsh ideas like walking Ysgyryd Fawr near Abergavenny or returning to Pembrokeshire (featured in the current issue of Discover Britain, as it happens) would belong on there too. Maybe I need to re-read these prospective pieces more often than I do.

As it has turned out for me, the ideas that I have been using so far this year have treated me well and all the inconvenient weather that has come our way doesn’t seem to have stalled my hill wandering greatly at all. Now, I need to sit down and write about a few of them in place of thinking about possible new excursions, good though that is. The coming weekend looks not too promising for an outdoors excursion so that may be a chance. That’s not to say that other matters may not intrude though…

And so to 2012

1st January 2012

Having had a few days to catch up with a few recent issues of TGO, a realisation has popped into my mind: maybe basing myself somewhere on a trip away might allow me to get more from it, especially for those places that take a little longer to get to them. Using Dunoon as a base for exploring Cowal worked very well in 2011 so I need to spend a little time pre-assembling some designs so that they have some hope of becoming reality. Along with the wilder parts of Scotland, Northumberland also comes to mind with the longer travel times needed for getting there and because of my whetting my appetite for its hill country during the summer of 2011. Parts of Wales such as the countryside round about Brecon or the Heart of Wales railway line also come to mind as do the eastern fells of the Lake District in Cumbria and the Cairngorms in Scotland. Methinks that setting aside a little time to think these over might be no bad idea and there others that I could list here too but there are enough mentioned for now.

The end of one year and the beginning of another is as good a time as any to take stock of things. One of these that comes to mind pertains to loose ends outstanding in my hill wandering from the last few years. The biggest of these is the Pennine Way, along which I haven’t walked for a while, and it now looks like multi-day trips are need to add to the mileage already completed. The mention of the Pennine Way also reminds that unused plans exist for walking Derbyshire countryside too, both new and already frequented. Then, there’s the prospect of extending what I have walked of the Rob Roy Way and the perennial desire to savour more of what my home country, Ireland, has to offer the hill wanderer. Those should mean no shortage of trip ideas like what I felt to be the case at the end of 2010, at least until I started to catch up with then unread issues of TGO anyway.

2011 has been a busy year for me and my hope is that 2012 lets me out of doors more often though the future will decide that when it first becomes the present and then the past. After all, there’s hill country near Macclesfield that needs to be revisited and other possibilities may come my way. Unlike the end of 2010 when I felt that I had ran out of ideas, a year later sees me pondering a fair few options as the blog goes into its seventh calendar year although its actual birthday is at the start of May; 2012 will see the sixth one being reached. Any designs that I concoct may not be as grand as those of other folk but having a few of them manage to come to pass will more than do me. Hopefully, 2012 will turn out to be a good outdoors year for you, dear reader, too.

A look back at 2008 Part 2: Until Midsummer

16th January 2009

While 2009 has yet to see its first proper hill outing of the year for me, I have to say that anyone who doesn’t make the most of the first half of any year is missing out on something special. It is nice to think that everything is on the up and your next outing could be more wonderful than the last. You are less likely to be overrun by hoards too and there’s much to admire from the skeletal forms of the trees to the way that fine landscape is enlivened by the gentler light. I can see some being put out by such things as the shortness of the days or the lingering feel of winter but I see wonder in these too and it allows one to be ready for the annual crescendo that is April, May and even June. After that, I feel that the year passes its peak and regard the traditional summer holiday months of July and August as being ill-timed but that means that we are more likely to have things to ourselves, never a bad thing. Here’s how the first half of 2008 fared.

January

Casting my mind back to January, I remember expressing an inclination to stay home when the weather wasn’t so inviting. What had been a tactical device for ensuring that necessary life chores got done had developed a less than desirable side effect: being too choosy about when to go walking among those wonderful hills. A sunny Sunday at the start of the month drew me out on a cycle between Macclesfield and Leek with a diversion round by the Roaches on the way back. It was a good start to the year and I followed it up by strengthening my resolve in order to head to Leek for a circular walk through Staffordshire’s muddy moorlands (encountering clay was rather apt given the county’s fame for pottery production) that took me over Hen Cloud. The need for inner strength was prompted by greyness of skies earlier in the day but that soon evaporated to uncloak blue skies and unleash the sun to do its magic, a sort of reward for my endeavours.

February

That "get out there regardless of everything but personal safety and other much more important things" mentality was to serve me well in February. When a dusting of snow presented itself, I was off to Northumberland to explore more of the hills near Wooler. There was an ample coating of powder dry snow about and that both enlivened the views and brought out a little of the inner child in mind as I bobbed downhill on my return to Wooler. The middle of the month saw that replaced by a settle spell of glorious if nippy weather that allowed me to narrow the gap between Haworth and Gargrave in my Pennine Way hiking project. In line with the "bag-of-nails" approach that I have been adapting, a southbound walk from Gargrave to Lothersdale came first with a northbound hike from Haworth to Ickornshaw following it. The narrow gap between Ickornshaw and Lothersdale remains a possible irritation but it’s also another excuse to revisit those parts, even if public footpath signposting isn’t what it might be. The end of the month saw me undertake my visit outing of the year in Scotland with a wander through the countryside by Tarbet and Arrochar. I needed my new found resolve as the showers started to gang up on me with the ageing of the day; it was certainly good weather for any frogs that I saw.

March

In contrast to February, March was a much quieter month when it came to exploring the outdoors. A heavy flu was partly to blame for that but I felt a need to clear out some physical and mental clutter too, an activity that kept me busy over the early and white Easter. The latter fact should have drawn me out because a good walk is often good for garbage clearance but I ended up looking out at the Maxonian (that’s to Macclesfield what Mancunian is to Manchester) hills instead.

April

April’s two excursions mean that I was among hills instead of looking at them from afar. The first of these saw me traipse along part of the Offa’s Dyke Path near Knighton on a day that had me frequenting both Powys in Wales and Shropshire in England. I even dropped in on Church Stretton on the way home for a short sortie that preceded a heavy shower. Another weekend trip to Scotland followed with my exploring around the villages of Glencoe and Kinlochleven. The weather couldn’t have been better and snow still lay on the mountain tops though I remained at lower levels. On the way home, I began to feel that I had seen enough of the pervading browns of the hills for one sitting.

May

May made another good month for wandering through open hill country and its being topped and tailed by bank holidays surely helped. The first of these saw me exploring Teesdale on a grey if dry day with sun struggling to make any headway through the cloud cover. Even so, I got taken along another part of the Pennine Way and it made for a good day out. The next day was a damp affair so my next trip took advantage of the fact that normal weekday train services run on a bank holiday to get to Bethesda in North Wales for what turned out to be a linear hike to Bangor by way of the foothills of the Carneddau and the North Wales Path. Cloud broke to release the sun even if sea fog somewhat curtailed the sunshine later on in my walk. Another Welsh outing followed with my planned walk near Dolwyddelan being displaced by an out and back hike from Dolgarrog to Llyn Eigiau due to transport misinformation. It didn’t matter because a good day of walking followed anyway. Scotland surprised me with perfect weather for the second bank holiday weekend of the month, so much so that I was barely ready to take full advantage of what was offer and I left for home with a certain amount of regret. That’s not to say that a good tramp from Inverarnan to Dalmally or a few hours spent on Kerrera wasted the time that I had but I would have preferred more extensive planning than was done. If I had known what was ahead of me, I might have booked some time off from work and made a longer weekend of it. Having Monday would have avoided the bank holiday traffic and allowed for some very enjoyable walking too. Maybe the weather forecasters were so taken up by what was coming to England that they forgot Scotland…

June

June started well with a walk along the Cumbria Way through Langstrath on my way from Borrowdale into Great Langdale. Though I had glimpsed the Langdale Pikes from afar, this was to be my first visit to Great Langdale and, though cloud got to obscure the sun as the day wore on, a return to these wondrous parts remains in order. A primarily social visit to Ireland followed with my only snatching short strolls on a visit to Killarney on a damp day. Nevertheless, the sight of Torc waterfall retained its appeal and I was sorely tempted by the idea of going further along the Kerry Way.