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!

From slim pickings to superabundance

14th May 2024

The lack of sunshine during my March 2019 trip to Settle and Malham brought forward a repeat encounter in advance of an Easter trip to Edinburgh in the same year. Compared to the previous trip, when there was photographic famine, this one brought an overwhelming number of possibilities. A little sustained sunshine can make choices of what to show and what not to show more difficult, especially when not every landscape feature has a name. It is time to leave a narrative to do the discriminating.

Donkeys near Settle, Yorkshire, England

As well as the sighting of the donkeys that you see above, the way out of Settle offered views of a passing steam train as well as the chapel of the independent Giggleswick School, a far grander structure than you would expect to see situated in the middle of the pastoral countryside. There was more to occupy one’s eyes than more distant views of Pen-y-Ghent.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

The main drama of the day began once I left the route of the Pennine Bridleway for that of the Dales High Way. In the morning sunshine, the limestone outcrops festooning the Warrendale Knots and adjoining Attermire Scar did nothing to disappoint me. Clouds stayed away from the passage of the sun for long enough to keep me entertained all the way as far as Stockdale Lane.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

Continuing past Stockdale Farm also led me past Rye Loaf Hill and Kirkby Fell on a somewhat expedited route to Cove Road, near Malham. Views of Malham Cove did tease as I went forth, yet clouding skies stopped me from everything my own way for photographic exploits. Nevertheless, opportunities did present themselves as I followed the route of the Pennine Way onto the limestone pavement above the one time ancient waterfall.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

From there, it was a matter of continuing north to Malham Tarn. Sunshine was again liberated to light up a part of the world that I largely experienced under cloudy skies on previous visits. Names like Raven Scar, Ing Scar and Ing Scar Crag hint at what you find in this classy limestone landscape.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

Following an ascent, the terrain levelled out on the final approach to Malham Tarn. The size of the lake makes photography a little tricky, but the availability of sunshine almost enforced such activity. That also meant that there was some dawdling before embarking on an alternative route to Langscar Gate. Any gain in height was rewarded by views over the tarn and what lay around it.

From slim pickings to superabundance

From slim pickings to superabundance

After passing Langscar, I took a south-westerly turn in the direction of Kirkby Fell. After passing Grizedales, I returned to my outbound route for a time. The return to Settle was to keep me on Stockdale Lane until it reached High Hill Lane, which I then followed the rest of the way to my starting point. Not only did that offer different viewpoints (which was just as well given the shadows that had fallen on what was fully lit in the morning), but it also made the descent easier than the more usual way that I had been using. On tiring legs, that is easier as long as tarmac traipsing is kept to a minimum.

A good day hike ended with my being well sated by what I encountered. At the time of writing, though, my appetite for such countryside has been dimmed by excursions to Scotland and other possibilities. If it ever gets rekindled, the prospect of walking from Malham to Skipton could be tempting. A desire to replace photos from my film-using days may be just the thing for that.

Travel Arrangements

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

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 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.

 

Revisiting Calderdale after a long absence

23rd December 2019

2007 became a year that was dominated by walking sections of long-distance trails like the Pennine Way. That in turn led me to Calderdale during the spring of that year. Two trips stand out for me with the first being near the start of February and the second near the start of March. Since those, I hardly have explored the area with other places gaining my attention.

This is a part of the world laden with so many public rights of way that it is difficult to pick out a few to facilitate some wandering. Maybe it is better to ramble from one to another in a more haphazard way and civilisation is ever at hand in the valley below the moors in any case. That sort of approach lay in the background as I plied my circuitous way from Hebden Bridge to Todmorden during the autumn of 2017.

It was a sunny if chilly Friday so it was little surprise to see others wandering about as well. Even so, I was about to find plenty of those quieter interludes that I relish so much. The advantage of having many paths to follow is that people can spread out everywhere. Some of these rights of way were not as clear or as well signed as others, but there was no conflict with landowners either.

Looking towards Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, England

There may have been a problem with train services going east from Hebden Bridge but it did little to delay my arrival and was soon forgotten as I scaled the steep slopes to reach the moors in the autumn sunshine. Because of all the path options, that also meant correcting a wrong turning and I got to wondering if having a GPS receiver with me might have been better. These days, the OS app on my phone would have been enough to put me right but that lay in the future back then.

Looking towards Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, England

The constant sunshine and the multitude of quieter places meant that I could navigate from right of way to right of way in peace and with ample time for ensuring that I was going in the right direction. Some of these followed clear tracks while others took me straight across boggy ground. Along the way, I took in views towards Heptonstall and Mytholmroyd though any sights of Hebden Bridge were lost in the steep-sided cleft of Calderdale. On any hike, some views are left behind you as you proceed towards others.

Stoodley Pike Monument, Todmorden, West Yorkshire, England

My eventual destination was Stoodley Pike and getting there meant passage along part of the Pennine Way, so the direction of travel was easy to follow at this point even if the air was chilly enough for me not to tarry for too long. Cloud may have started to fill the sky, but any disruption of sunshine was momentary so I started on my way towards Todmorden. That took me down a steep incline using part of the Calderdale Way to Mankinholes and Lumbutts from where a mixture of road walking and footpath rambling got me to my final destination in ample time for the train journey home again after what had been a satisfying stroll with an added element of problem-solving.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey from Macclesfield to Hebden Bridge followed by a train journey from Todmorden to Macclesfield.

A busy spring

31st May 2019

The continuing non-availability of Northern train services on Saturdays due to industrial action became such a source of personal confinement that their restoration produced such a dramatic effect. From February until now, I have been away most weekends, making use of the increased opportunities for train travel. The promising weather helped too, even if it meant that water supplies were not getting replenished as required after last summer’s extended spell of hot and dry weather.

The result was that Yorkshire got a lot of attention throughout February and March. It started with a visit to the North York Moors on a sunny day in February that felt more like summer than the actual time of year. Roseberry Topping was revisited, as well as nearby hills, as I traced out part of the Cleveland Way on a circuit centred on Great Ayton’s Train station.

Other circuits were followed by train as dictated by the extent of day ranger ticket areas. Two of these took me between Leeds and Carlisle, so it might have been inevitable that I ended up getting ideas for walking outings as a result. The departure point for such attentions was Settle, since I had not passed Attermire Scar or visited Malham and its nearby tarn for far too long. Sunshine may not have been in ample supply through my walking rounds, so another trip to Malham Cove cannot be ruled out, and it could see me going to Skipton on foot as well. There were two outings in total, and there already is another in mind.

It has been a spring full of city visitations, too. In the north of England, the tally included Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield and Scottish cities like Edinburgh and Stirling got their share of attention too and there even was a trip to Cardiff for some wandering by the River Taff. More will be written about these below, while Newcastle saw more wandering than other northern cities as I pottered along by the River Tyne on the way to Wallend using part of Hadrian’s Wall Path. That again was a quieter stroll, and there was much to savour on a journey from a city centre to greener parts of its suburbs.

An elongated Easter weekend allowed for a longer stay in Edinburgh that has been in mind for some time, and there was a truncated effort in 2017. 2019 saw no such intrusions, so I was there from Holy Thursday through to Easter Tuesday as planned. That allowed for a lot of city rambling, and there were two visits to Linlithgow. Hill wandering featured too, and days were spent among the Pentland Hills and doing a round of the hills encircling Glen Sax. Along came reminisces and silly daydreams entered my mind, but the time spent around a city where I spent part of my university years also became a chance to deal with any episodes of unfulfilled promise that returned to haunt me.

When I moved away from Edinburgh in 2000, there may have been an element of unfinished business that drew me back again and again to somewhere for which I still hold much affection. The 2019 version of the same was a suboptimally composed photo on Calton Hill, so I returned on the Mayday bank holiday weekend to set that to rights. Other sights like the city’s botanic gardens and Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve were frequented too, and the latter featured on another visit during the following weekend.

Though I was bound for Stirling, a stopover in Edinburgh did allow me to revisit The Royal Mile and Corstorphine Hill in good sunshine for the sake of a little closure of what was becoming like an Edinburgh trilogy. Stirling saw plenty of sauntering with photographic pursuits in mind, but the prospect of a walk among the nearby Ochil Hills remains outstanding, so that could be another excuse to go back up there again.

After all those weekend forays elsewhere, it now feels as if some quiet time at home is in order, and that pervaded the Spring Bank Holiday weekend aside from the aforementioned day trip to Cardiff. Others making the same journey had the attendance of a Spice Girls concert in mind, but designs were far more demure as I avoided bands of cyclists to amble by the River Taff to take in the spring foliage on trees around Bute Park and Llandaff on a sunny afternoon that could not be enjoyed further north, such was the available weather. The summer awaits, so only when that arrives will its roaming be revealed.