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: Yorkshire


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.


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.

Same month, two consecutive years, two very different seasons

28th August 2020

During July, I read Barry Lopez’s Horizon and its prose has the same elegance and attention to description that I enjoyed when reading Arctic Dreams, one of his earlier works. The main reason that I mention summer 2020 reading here is that it mentions the explorer Captain James Cook and this trip report includes two different excursions into countryside that he would have known well. After all, he had his upbringing in Great Ayton that was the start and end point for two very distinct walks.

North York Moors National Park Sign near Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

It was not so much the routes that differed but the weather and ground conditions. The first encounter was on a wintry Wednesday in 2018 while the second was on a summery Saturday with many more about since it also was during a school mid-term break. In fact, the weather drew many to travel by train to Whitby and it was a mild if greyer day spent there that took me past Roseberry Topping and Great Ayton in the first place.

Preceding Reconnaissance

The North York Moors have lain beyond the extent of north of England hill wandering for a long time before I made an actual incursion. Part of this is because getting to the North York Moors is a little awkward from where I live, especially for a day trip. For one thing, train travel takes quite a while and that especially applies to the Esk Valley railway line, scenic though it is. After all, it takes a few hours to get from Middlesbrough to Whitby and service frequency is of the order of number of trains per day rather than number of trains per day. As it happens, bus travel from Leeds can work just as well so that probably is saying something.

Given that, it perhaps is unsurprising that I undertook a reconnaissance visit before undertaking anything more intensive. That was how I got to going to Whitby on the Wednesday before Christmas 2017 and looking back at photos made then surprises me for I was a lot luckier with sunny spells than I then had supposed.

Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Detail of Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Church of St. Mary, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

West Pier & East Pier, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

East Pier Lighthouse, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

West Pier Lighthouse, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

When I reached Whitby after savouring the scenery along the way from Middlesbrough, I naturally got to pottering about the place to get a closer look at the ruins of its abbey and anything else that caught my eye while I was there. There even was a bit of coastal walking and a chance to dip my footwear in the incoming waves of the North Sea.

Not wanting to await the next train to Middlesbrough, I caught a bus to Leeds from where I started my train journey home again. Sitting in the top deck of that double decker meant that I spent more time looking at what lay about me on the way than progressing with any reading material that I brought with me. After all, I was getting to see places where I had not been and that was the point of my outing. It duly achieved its purpose and the possibility of a walking incursion into the North York Moors became all the more real.

True Winter

That I only got to glimpsing Roseberry Topping in reality during my 2017 reconnaissance trip might make you thing that I may not have known of the hill for very long but that is not the case at all. After all, the photographic craftsmanship of Joe Cornish is something that I have appreciated for nearly two decades and this has been one of his favourite subjects. More recently, I got to know that it is a local hill for world-class mountaineer Alan Hinkes.

It also is low in stature and near a train station once you get there so that made visiting it on a day trip more realisable than other parts of the North York Moors. That made it a plausible option when I desired a short afternoon stroll even when cold weather was forecast. It also helped that I could add to the route, thus gaining a wider appreciation of the area.

Easby Moor, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

On arrival at Great Ayton by bus, I was greeted by bright sunshine and the frigid forecast proved to be correct with a thin coating of snow and many icy patches that required extra care as I went. The village looked well in the sun as I left it to go via the train station to Great Ayton Moor accompanied by views of the Captain Cook Monument on Easby Moor. The folly of thinking that going by bus would give me more time was exposed by the arrival of a train from Middlesbrough as I passed on the bridge over the station. It was only later when I needed to await a bus after missing a train that any wisdom such be extracted from the approach.

Nevertheless, I continued along Dikes Lane before leaving it for a public footpath near Gribdale Terrace. It may been how icy the road had been that encouraged such a choice, especially with my going uphill. In time, I would meet with the Cleveland Way for the next part of my hike.

Roseberry Topping in Snow, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

That was to lead me over Great Ayton Moor and Newton Moor while previously clear blue skies became filled with cloud cover. There were few others about so I enjoyed more solitary strolling with views opening up around me to include Roseberry Topping itself. The Cleveland Way does include the aforementioned hill as a side trip on its way from Helmsley to Filey and that decided the route I would take to reach its summit.

First, I needed to drop down carefully off Newton Moor after passing Slacks Wood. As I did so, I debated the good sense of proceeding with the ascent given the conditions. Looking at the photos since then though, I realise that I missed a trick because not all sides of Roseberry Topping were coated with snow so I could have gone with an alternative route to that which I took. This might have saved reproaches against my stubbornness and coming off a different way might have appeal if I had not scared myself on the way up.

The way down was testingĀ  with the prospect of a long slide down steep slopes not appealing to me given the chance of injury. There was a short controlled slide but that only restored confidence rather than causing the feared outcome. It all slowed progress in declining light and I sensibly put aside the possibility of missing a train in preference to risking a more serious slip.

Thankfully, the steepest descent was behind me quickly enough though I retain a few lessons about looking for a less snow-coated route, having better traction equipment and even leaving a possibility for another time. They were being stored as I continued down to Aireyholme Farm where I met with a tarmac track back to Dikes Lane again. Though I missed the train by a matter of minutes, it was better not to rush and I returned to Great Ayton to await a bus instead. Then, my journey home began.

More like Summer

It was partly a desire to capture a photo of Roseberry Topping in sunnier weather that drew me back to the North York Moors and a February day that felt more like summer offered just that. Added enthusiasm came from the suspension of a Northern Rail strike that meant that no Saturday services had be operated by the company for many months. The train service restoration had the effect of encouraging me to embark on numerous trips to Yorkshire during the spring of 2019.

Roseberry Topping as seen from the Southeast, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

Roseberry Topping as seen from the South, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

My previous encounter had happened on a wintry Wednesday so it was very quiet with plenty of solitary walking. It was not just the unseasonably mild weather that added company the second time around for this a Saturday during the spring school mid-term break too. That pretty much guaranteed that Roseberry would have plenty of people around as might be spotted in the photos by careful observers.

The first part of my way up there was quieter though and was a reprise of my previous descent route via Aireyholme Farm. With all those who were around Roseberry Topping my call to the summit involved little in the way of delay with some leaving me pass since they were slower than I was. In any event, I was seeking quieter surroundings and it did not take long to find them.

Newton Moor, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

Looking towards Highcliff Nab from Hutton Moor, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

High Cliff Nab, Guisborough, North Yorkshire, England

All I needed to do was to go following the Cleveland Way as far as Highcliff Nab. That journey carried me over Newton Moor, Hutton Moor and Black Nab along the way. As I crossed near Hutton Lowcross Woods, the landscape took on something of a desolate quality to my eyes for some reason. The variety of landscapes encountered on the day made sure that I would dwell on such an impression.

The final part of the journey to Highcliff Nab was a simple out and back affair that involved spending a little time around the crag. That said, it did not detain me and others were stationed there already so I started on the next part of my hike. That took me across Codhill Heights and Kildale Moor where I met with a tarmac lane. Then, I doubled back to meet with a path that went across Great Ayton Moor. As I got closer to the car park near Cockshaw Hill, I encountered more people again and there was a certain recognition of where I was since I was going past places that I first saw on my previous visit to the area.

Captain Cook's Monument, Easby Fell, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England

Reaching Captain Cook’s monument was an attraction for quite a few visitors so I needed to share the trail over Cockshaw Hill and Great Ayton Moor to reach the obelisk on Easby Moor. There were still quite interludes though since it was by then later afternoon. After spending some of my own time up there, I continued down to Great Ayton’s train station and gained more solitude along the way. The path down through Ayton Banks Wood was gentle at first but later became steep enough that I resorted to holding onto tree trunks in an effort to steady my nerves. That was behind me soon enough so I trotted along a bridleway and a byway to reach the Dikes Lane and the train station again after a good day of hill wandering. Even so, the possibilities of this area are far from being exhausted and other halts on the Esk Valley Railway may offer additional departure points for future explorations on foot.

Travel Arrangements

Getting to and from Whitby involved an outbound train journey with changes at Manchester and Middlesbrough while the way back made use of the Coastliner bus service to get from Whitby to York from where I continued back to Macclesfield with a change in Manchester. The first trip to Great Ayton needed a return train journey between Macclesfield and Middlesbrough with a change in Manchester and bus connections were used to get between there and Great Ayton. With changes in Manchester and Middlesbrough, the second journey to Great Ayton was an all rail affair unlike its predecessors.

Into the 2020’s

1st January 2020

2019 had its share of preoccupations, both political and professional, and I did get out and about more during the first half of the year than the second. Weather had its part in that as much as those aforementioned preoccupations but the dividing line appears to be my trip to British Columbia in July. That also needed recovery from jet lag together with financial restoration.

Before all that, there were numerous trips to Yorkshire and Scotland between February and May. The Yorkshire outings took me around Settle and Malham after a visit to the North York Moors near Great Ayton. Easter was spent around Edinburgh with excursions to Linlithgow, Peebles and Penicuik getting me out into more natural surroundings on a sunny weekend that rather spoiled me. Subsequent return visits in May even featured a return to Stirling as well as another stopover in Linlithgow.

The Canadian trip was the highlight though and my base in Vancouver allowed for plenty of exploration around the city itself as well as fitting in side trips to North Vancouver, Squamish and Vancouver Island. The introduction was so thorough that I struggle to think of an excuse to return and there should be plenty of those as long as I figure out how to spend time on any associated long flights.

To some, 2020 is not when the new decade begins but popular opinion is not awaiting 2021. For me too, a certain wistfulness has descended and I look back to 2000 when I began my career and 2010 when I changed jobs. The 2010’s have been life changing too and unwanted political developments to come in 2020 will bring more change. For that reason, I am not planning very much and will see how the year goes.

It this was 1990 or 2000, my sentiments would be more optimistic since that was the world view at the time. However, all that has dissipated and popular dissatisfaction is causing all sorts of upheaval. Throughout all this, it is important to keep a sense of perspective so it is likely that sunny days will lure me out of doors like the last days of 2019. After all, my late mother left me with a constant desire never to waste bursts of sunshine.

We appear to live in a time when making one’s own new happy experiences is never more needed and then there is the necessity to share them. Distractions in 2019 have lengthened the trip report backlog though I am writing one at the moment. As I now look to 2020, that motivation is one that feels sound even if I largely will let the opportunities come to me. Then, less of them get wasted and more stories are there to be told. If a few are uplifting too, that will be even better.