Saturday, 24 December 2011

Looks like reindeer

So we bought these trailers off eBay last month.  They're cheaper versions of more expensive ones you can buy from reputable places.  They're going to be OK, I think, probably. Well the wheels are a bit wobbly and the quick release for the trailer couplings doesn't inspire confidence but it will be OK, I think, probably.

Why have we bought them?  Ah, that's for another time.  I rather feel it's bad juju to give away mad plans too early, well like before they've actually been attempted.  Well, we'll see. 

Anyway, we thought for their maiden voyage we would start off with something easy, that is smooth and within easy reach of the car, in case they actually did fall apart on us.  And since the Monsal trail was extended for bikes earlier in the year, that seemed just the ride.  And since it's Christmas Eve, we though we'd get into the spirit of the occasion.  Time to blow up the reindeer.  (Can I say that on Blogger?) And so I give you...

Rudy at the Wye Dale end of the Monsal Trail

You don't arf get some funny looks from folk when you're towing an inflatable reindeer behind a bike.  And once the wind starts rushing through his antlers, he can get a bit loppy.  Next time, I'm going to fasten his feet more securely.

More seriously though, the Peak Park Authority have spent £2.25 million on the restoration of the tunnels and the trail and have done a fabulous job.  Six tunnels have been opened up so far.  All are surfaced and the four longer ones are lit until dusk.  The longest is the Headstone Tunnel, just after Little Longstone, which leads out onto the Monsal Viaduct below Monsal Head.  From there the trail follows the course of the River Wye and takes you past Cressbrook Mill, Litton Mill, Ravenstor with its overhanging roof, playground of the limestone 'ard men, Miller's Dale and through Chee Tor and past the towering and twisted white walls of Chee Dale, stopping for now at Wye Dale about 5km from Buxton.  It's a veritable feast of White Peak treasures, enough to make any Victorian poet emotional, particularly John Ruskin, who wasn't a big fan of the railway coming through here.

In the Headstone Tunnel
You have to marvel at Victorian engineering.  Just look at that cross section.  Also it would have been challenging enough to bore through the rock in a straight line but the Headstone runs along an a elegant curve

Cressbrook Mill
The first mill was built here by Richard Arkwright (of Spinning Jenny fame) in 1779 but burnt down in 1785 and was later rebuilt by his son, conveniently also called Richard.  Young boys were brought here from the big cities to work in less than ideal conditions.  It finally closed in 1965.

The parcel train at Cressbrook Tunnel

There are plans to open the remaining two tunnels west of Wye Dale and extend the trail the last few miles into Buxton, so by this time next year, as Ruskin might have said, "every reindeer in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every reindeer in Bakewell at Buxton".

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Stanage under snow

Just been for a short ride from home up to Stanage Pole.  It was nithering.  Here are a few pics.

Redmires from Stanage Pole

Stanage Pole

Dennis Knoll and Hope Valley from the Causeway

The Causeway with High Neb in the distance

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A series of randomly connected events

It all started back in the middle of last November.  We decided to fit one more trip with the campervan and the bikes up to the NY Moors before the end of the year.  I had my eye on a route starting in or above Farndale and I was on the laptop late one evening googling for likely looking places to park up on the Friday night.  It used to be you could camp at the Lion Inn at Blakey but they stopped that a couple of years ago.  Anyway, after a few attempts with different assorted keywords I ended up on  a campervan forum, where people mostly seemed to discuss knitting patterns and fishing and I noticed a post about a place called The Band Room in Farndale.

My curiosity was curiossificated and a bit more googling quickly led me to their website.  The Band Room ("the greatest small venue on Earth") is a wiggly tin hut that was built for the Farndale Silver Band in the 1920s.  Nowadays it serves as a kind of village hall but a chap called Nigel programmes music gigs there, mostly folky/bluesy kind of stuff.  As luck would have it there was something on for that Friday night - a solo violin recital by a young Icelandic violinist called Eva Thorarinsdottir. A quick exchange of emails and txts with Hilary and we agreed I would try and get tickets, since hearing some world class fiddling in a tin shed in the middle of nowhere seemed a surreal experience too good to miss.  And indeed it was.  We even parked in the car park outside for the night and strolled in with our bottle of wine to a couple of seats close enough to the stage to count the strings in Eva's bow (I hope there isn't too much innuendo in that statement).  And Eva was splendid - we became Eva groupies overnight and vowed to follow her career (though not as obsessively as  one of Hilary's friends follows that of Cliff).  We were treated to Bach, Paganini, Vaughan Williams and Ysaye (no I'd never heard of him either but he was Belgian and a mate of Debussy's ) and some others but I've forgotten who at the moment.  And we tripped back over the car park to the campervan, very happy and contented.

Saturday dawned foggy, as forecast, and we left the van outside the Band Room and headed out of Farndale up the 1 in 5 onto Blakey Ridge.  It was fortunate there were some beaters standing at intervals up the hill, waiting for the start of a shoot, as it gave us a legitimate excuse to stop a couple of times to chat with them,  without looking too much like we needed a breather.  We cycled up the road past The Lion, which was barely visible in the fog before heading out over a short section of Moor to White Cross aka Fat Betty.  When I was making various attempts on the Lyke Wake Walk, back in the 70s, we used to pass here in the wee small hours and sing Black Betty by Ram Jam.  And here it is, if you fancy groovin on down while you read the rest of this nonsense

And here is Fat Betty, err that's the cross I'm talking about (I could get into a lot of trouble here)

I should probably mention that in the half mile we had done off road by this stage, I had lost Hilary in the fog, she had come off a couple of times and I had buried my front wheel in a bog and flown over the handlebars. By the time Hilary had caught up with me I was rolling around in the heather clutching both shins and uttering some fairly immoderate language.  It was an unpromising start to the ride and the singletrack heading out from Fat Betty looked overgrown and uninviting, rather like this in fact

Singletrack from Fat Betty

But looks can be deceiving and after a very short distance it opened out into a splendid piece of track across Danby High Moor with fine views to the north and clearing skies. 

Danby High Moor

The route crossed the road and then started to plunge down and down (and down) into Westerdale.  So now we were low and as we had started low, we needed to finish low, only to get back there we had to gain all that height again.  This starts with a hill climb on road with increasingly fine views and an increasing sense of remoteness or maybe that was just due to my unfamiliarity with any part of the Moors north of the Ralph Crosses.

Looking north along the road out of Westerdale before it plunges down to the ford at Hob Hole

There is a dearth of photos from this this point on but we romped along as far as Baysdale Abbey (with no evidence of an abbey, not even a bit of ruin) before slogging up though some very clarty woods to have lunch in the sunshine up on the moor.  Some fast cycling on doubletrack with rapidly plunging temperatures, even though it was only two in the afternoon, brought us to Burton Howe.  East from here looks towards the start of the Lyke Wake, 10 miles away, and to the north, Roseberry Topping, one end of the White Rose Walk, stood out in the skyline

Burton Howe
Roseberry Topping is in the middle of the picture (yes, it really is!)

From here it was a short drop down onto the green lane, where I thought I'd photographed a monument to someone* but clearly I didn't as it's not there now (the photo that is, I'm sure the 8' high stone hasn't moved).  This is part of the Cleveland Way and an old road running down to Kirkbymoorside.  A mile further on is Bloworth Crossing, where the road meets the fast, flat section of the Lyke Wake Walk at
the course of the old iron ore railway that used to go down to Rosedale.  I think this was the first time I'd ever seen Bloworth in daylight.

From here we had a choice, although we had already chosen (well I had).  We could follow the Lyke Wake route west, round the head of Farndale, back to the Lion Inn and then down the road or we could go south along Rudland Rigg and take one of two off road routes that drop steeply down into the valley.  This seemed the more attractive option. 

Rudland Rigg goes on a long way (and much further than we went) and although the contours on the map suggest it's mostly flat, it had a surprising amount of unrelenting uphill, especially for the end of the day.  It also offers the rider a number of long and sporting flooded sections to negotiate, either by going through them or by doing a wall of death round one side or the other.  The descent into Farndale by the side of West Gill Head was satisfyingly fast and pulse elevating and was only marred by the sign on the gate at the bottom which said the land was private and we were not welcome and we had been photographed.  We didn't see a camera and in any case wondered what they were going to do with our mugshots.  As far as I can tell (and I checked when I got back home) we had come down a green lane, for which there is a right of way to all vehicles.  I suspect they were trying to put off the 4x4 off roaders.

This is nearly the end of the story except that as I drove into the office the following week, I had the radio tuned to Classic FM and they were advertising the final of the Northern Royal College of Music violin competition.  Eva had mentioned that the pieces she had played were also the pieces she would be playing in the very same contest.  And so it was that we ended up going over to Manchester for the competition final at the NRCM where we were treated to violin concertos by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Brahms played by 3 hugely talented young musicians and supported by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.  Eva only reached the semi-finals and we didn't get the chance to hear her play a second time but she did win best semi-finalist.
And there you have it.  How a weekend's cycling in North Yorkshire led, totally unexpectedly, to two nights of culture.  The route we did was based on the Blakey Bank Circuit taken from the North York Moors Mountain Biking guide published by Vertebrate.  Our route was 22 miles and 2850 ft of ascent

*I've since found a picture of it here - the one with the big F - and some interesting facts about the area.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Mostly Mountain Biking

The shin splints linger on (but we won't dwell on that topic) and so the mountain bike has been getting a bit of a hammering in the last few weeks.

Hilary and I had an absolutely splendid ride north of Chesterfield about 3 weekends ago.  It was the Linacre North circuit in the White Peak Mountain Biking guide by Vertebrate Graphics.  I don't have any photos sadly but the route comprises a open and wooded trails with some fine singletrack.  If you are into mountain biking (and what right minded person isn't?), then I can highly recommend this little treasure of a route.  It wasn't without some personal cost however.  I broke another spoke and got a slow puncture but close enough to the end that I could get away with stopping and pumping up the tyre every mile or so.  I also got into conversation with a woman about her full suspension bike and she let me try it out.  Apart from the frame being too small, I stepped through a door into another world of fun but more of that later.  (15.5 miles and 2300')

Two weekends ago we took the campervan up to the NY Moors and did a route out from Goathland, over Lilla Howe, round the back of Fylingdales, down to Levisham for a brew at the eponymous station on the NY Moors Railway (and in time to see the Foxcote Manor pull in) before heading up over Howl Moor to cross the Lyke Wake Walk at Simon Howe and then a fast descent back down into Goathland.

Cross on Lilla Howe - visited many times on Lyke Walk Walk crossings

Fylingdales early warning station

 This is another superb route (The Goathland Circuit in the N Y Moors Mountain Biking guide also published by Vertebrate) and a real mix of wide trails, single track and some exciting downhill with the added frisson of the obligatory run-in with the Fylingdales security police.  The bridleway passes inside the outer perimeter fence and they really aren't keen on this.  The first time, about 5 years ago, I got stopped and encouraged to leave by the nearest gate! 

Another puncture

Malo Cross

The Foxcote Manor pulling into Levisham Station

 Once again there was a minor bike failure, with the new inner tube developing a small hole on the inside seam.  I think I may have been jinxed by a woman we met earlier in the day who was repairing a puncture and who had had 4 others the previous weekend.  That feels like bad juju to me.

We stopped for a brew and cake at Levisham Station and did some mild train spotting before heading north up Newtondale, through the forest, pausing to harvest sloes destined to become an intoxicating liquor in Hilary's kitchen (aka gin palace).  The singletrack to Simon Howe (crossed by the Lyke Wake Walk) and on to Two Howes Rigg is superb and the ride culminated with a mad descent over grass back down intio Goathland.  23 miles (of which 20 was off road) and 2,300'.

Finally, for a birthday treat I decided to hire a full sus bike from Eighteen Bikes in Hope last week and took it for a 25 mile,  4000' test ride round the edge of the Hope Valley, going over Shatton Moor and then down through the cement works, up Pin Dale, then Dirtlow to round the back of Mam Tor and on to Hollins Cross, down into Edale for a brew and then back up over Win Hill.  I came off Shatton down the wrong track and ended up in Abney and off the map, forcing a bit of an extended ride to get to Bradwell and back on route and I was starting to think I was never going to get anywhere where I could put the bike through its paces.  However, once I got up Pin Dale, things started to look up and I plugged the iPod into my head and started singing away to Lindisfarne and Hayseed Dixie like a demented thing, as I flew down steep rocky singletrack into Edale that I had hitherto shown several degrees of circumspection towards.  It was a day of fun and mud in equal measure and turned out to be rather expensive.  I bought the bike and am collecting it on Thursday!

Shatton Moor

The track off Mam Tor, looking towards Hollins Cross

Hope Cross, looking up Edale

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Caving Stuff

Well, the Craven Pothole Club's Gaping Gill winch meet has come and gone for another year.  It always feels like the end of summer when I get back down to Clapham on Bank Holiday Monday.  A few interesting changes down in the Main Chamber this year.  The mud banks at the west end have eroded significantly from when I was last there, two years ago and a small depression has formed in the floor at the east end, a couple of metres from East Pot.  It appeared at the start of the meet and was deeper by the end.  I wonder what that will look like by next year.

I did 5 guiding sessions in Main Chamber over the two weekends.  When I got back to Sheffield after the first weekend I could hardly talk.  It had been very noisy down there on the Sunday after the previous night's heavy rain.  Perhaps I need a voice coach before next year.  We had one person who didn't like it and wanted to go straight back out.  She said to me, "I bet you get a lot of people like me" and I didn't have the heart to say, "Well no, you're the first in the 20 years since I started guiding down here.

Straws in Stream Passage

My friend Hilary came up for the first weekend and I took her out to Stream Chamber.  I tried to go there with the Pieman two years ago but had forgotten the way round Mud Pot.  It turned out to be round the lip of the intimidating big, dark hole we stopped at.  Anyway, we went about as far as you can along Stream Passage and I also had a quick look up North West Extension but I was there years ago and I recalled that it gets 'orribly muddy, so I turned back after a short distance.  We also went out to SE Pot and to the bottom of the 110' pitch in Bar Pot.  The climb up from SE Aven into Bar seems to get more polished and scarier every year (or maybe I've just lost my bottle).

At the bottom of the 110' in Bar Pot

I found this video of a cave rescue from 1964 on the web earlier in the week.  Given it's probably one of the first caving films made for TV, the quality fo the photography is stunningly good.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Highlights from Font and N Wales

I've got very lazy about this blogging malarky of late.  I have however not been so lazy in other areas.  There's been a lot of work stuff occupying my time and there's been some walking and rather more cycling to work, which the dedicated reader will recall involves crossing Stanage before descending down into Hathersage.  In the last couple of weeks, families of grouse have been in evidence above Stanage Edge, running about like refugees fleeing a war zone, as if they knew that the glorious twelfth was about to seal their fate.

At the end of last month, I took my son Joe and two of his mates over to Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, to do some bouldering.  Font (as it's known to English climbers and Bleau by the French ones) has long been a climber's Mecca but I'd never been to the area before.  I knew it was a series of boulders in the forest but hadn't realised just how many boulders and how big the forest.  There are in fact a couple of dozen areas spread over something like 50 sq kms.  The boulders are typically 3m to 4m high and are of rounded sandstone (so the rock feels a bit like crags in Northumberland) and too hard for me but the boys had a good time.

The lads on a boulder problem

Cul du Chien (head of the dog)

One of the 'beaches' at Font

We visited the Trois Pignons area, which has half a dozen groups of boulders in close proximity.  I spent my time cycling on some of the sandy trails through the trees and getting lost.  I'd set the GPS onto a datum suitable for France but the IGN map I'd bought in the local InterMarche wasn't a good scale for navigation on forest trails.  On the last afternoon, I found a detailed map on a notice board in the car park.  Doh!  Technically, the cycling isn't hard (unlike the bouldering) but I managed to break a spoke.

Typical sandy track through the trees

The useful map I found just before we left!

From Font we drove to the Lleyn peninusla in N Wales and stopped in a  field of sheep above the cliffs at Tudweiliog.  The parents of one of Joe's mates have been going there for years and were already set up by the time we arrived.  I'd only planned to drop Joe off there and then come back to Sheffield but in the end I stayed on for a week.  I got some more cycling in, during which the front gear changer spontaneously fell apart, leaving me with low gears only, which at least meant I could go up hills even if my top speed was limited to 14 mph. 

Our campsite at Tudweiliog

Joe and I did a couple of multi-pitch trad rock routes over in Snowdonia, taking alternate leads and doing the sort of climbing I was more in tune with.  Our first route was Faith, a popular VDiff on Idwal Slabs, off the Ogwen Valley.  The climbing is easy but it gave us a chance to sort out our multi-pitch technique. Joe is new to this and I haven't done much climbing since 1992 .  It all went like clockwork and the scariest thing was the desecnt route down by the east wall of the slabs, which technically speaking, was probably harder and certainly more exposed than Faith.

On the first stance of Faith

The track back to the Ogwen Valley.  Pen yr Ole Wen behind me.

Our second route was at Tremadog, just outside Portmadog, which traditionally is the place to climb when it is too wet in Snowdonia.  I'd never climbed here before - usually, when it was too wet, I had either gone walking or done some low grade route in big boots.  Tremadog climbing focusses around Eric Jone's cafe.  Eric Jones is something of a 'rock' legend, who along with the likes of Joe Brown and others did a number of bold first ascents in the sixties as well as making the first British solo ascent of the Eiger North Wall, a balloon flight over Everest and a base jump off Angel Falls.  When we called in for a brew, Eric was sitting in the corner looking uncompromisingly fit for a man in his mid-seventies.
We picked at route called Poor Man's Peutery, which is graded severe but has different descriptions in different guidebooks.  In the end, we started up a route called Borchgrevink, a small gully with a couple of trees in, which parallels the first two pitches of PMP before joining it.  Joe led off, which was good as I found the first pitch quite energetic.  Joe also led the bold move onto a nose of rock, protected by a large iron piton and, while he set up the belay, I watched an Osprey from the local RSPB site, come out of the trees and circle below me.  I led the final pitch, which was a thought provoking crack climb up a steep slab.

So that's about it.  I've been back at work for two weeks and resumed the commute across Stanage on the mountain bike, while the weather holds up.  I must be getting fitter.  Three months ago it took me an hour fifteen to get from home to the office.  I'm now down to fifty minutes.  The last big obstacle is working out a line through the steep rocky section off Stanage Causeway.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Well dressing

One of the two well dressing in Hathersage

Just testing out blogging from 'droid phone before setting off to France.  Yay, it works.  Yay again - I'm off to France (did I already mention that?)

Monday, 20 June 2011

A cycle around Derwent and Ladybower

This poor old blog of mine has been languishing in some dark, dusty corner of a digital cupboard for a few months now and if it were a mirror onto my life, it wouldn't be a very good one.  Hmm that sounded cleverer in my head than it looks in words.

Anyway, roll back to just before Easter when I was in full swing, preparing for the TGO Challenge.  First Christine messed up her knee and was out of the game and I emailed Roger to say I would be doing a solo crossing.  Then a couple of weeks later I developed shin splints in my right leg, ironically after the walk on Snake Pass gathering weekend.  Full of misplaced optimism but in the knowledge I had 10 or 12 weeks to recover, I carried on fine tuning the gear, buying food, booking trains and hotels, only having to unbook them all and make the dreaded call to Roger to say that I was going to have to drop out as well.  Teams of medics, physios and podiatrists (well one or two of each) have each offered advice, pills, orthotic footbeds and stretching regimes, which have resulted in shin splints in both legs and other weird and scary pains popping up everywhere else.

Nevertheless, I found recently that I could cycle without too much discomfort and whilst my distance limit for walking is a pathetic 2 miles at the moment, I can go for miles on the mountain bike, as long as there is a pack of frozen peas and/or a cold beer at the end of the ride.

I've also taken to cycling to the office from home once a week, on a route which passes by Stanage Pole and then down the edge by one of two routes, both of which require some portage of the bike.  It's been a good time of year for this ornithologically and I've seen more Curlew than ever before up on the moors and also a totally unexpected double sighting of a pair of Golden Oriole, who according to the RSBP web site never venture north of East Anglia - because they're too knackered after their flight from Africa.  Anyway, I know what I saw and a large bright yellow bird is pretty unmistakable.  The moors are also teeming (ish) with baby grouse (grouslings, grouslets?) moving furtively through the heather with their mums, not suspecting any of the carnage in store for them in just a few weeks time.

Yesterday's cycle  started at Fairholmes, on the side of Derwent reservoir (cue Dambusters theme tune) and struggled up an over enthusiastically steep track through the trees to come out on a fine ridge, which rolls pleasantly down to Crook Hill before plunging with aplomb back to the A57.  A mercifully brief section of road takes one to the track round the back of Ladybower reservoir, then a bit more road and a bit more track back to Fairholmes.

Rolling pastures above Fairholmes

Derbyshire seems to be overrun with highland cattle these days.  On a ride 2 weeks ago, I came across this chap and his/her mates.  I'm glad these things are docile.

So that's my news.  As soon as A levels are over (my son's, not mine), we plan to head up to Scotland for a few days, assuming I can walk by then or alternatively, we'll maybe go and investigate the condition of some rock in the Lakes.

I'm not feeling emotionally strong enough to read all the TGO reports yet but I'm sure I'll get round to them one day.  And it won't be long before next year's entry forms are out and we can start the planning all over again.  Then again I already have a pre-vetted route!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Introducing the Sporkzilla

Since everyone seems to be doing gear reviews these days and in the absence of anything serious to write about, I thought I'd bring this new bit of gear to the attention of the world or at least that small corner which follows this blog.

Advertised by Outside in Hathersage as the Sporkzilla, it is a monster spork - the red one in the picture is a spork of normal dimensions This truly hyperbolic utensil it is the mother (or should that be Mothra?) of all Sporks - a spork worthy of Crocodile Dundee II (that's the bad one, set in New York). 

Presumably targeted at those with a larger appetite or in a hurry to eat their freeze dried nosh, it weighs in at a hefty 50g (compared to around 10g for a normal spork).  UL backpackers might be inclined to shy away from such a beast but it could easily double up as a poo trowel, tent peg and comb.  It is almost perfect for getting stones out of horses hooves or boy scouts out of girl guides (or other boy scouts).

So rush out and buy one - you know you want to.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Stanage for sale?

My son found this news item on the UKClimbing website

Stanage Edge, the popular climbing, walking and wildlife area on Sheffield's doorstep, could be leased or sold by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) to a 'like-minded' body.

and I have since found the original posting on the PDNPA webiste here

Now this may be something or nothing, like the proposed sell off of the forestry, but it's hard to see how the free and open access to Stanage and the North Lees Estate that we currently enjoy is commensurate with the needs another owner would have to raise revenue for its upkeep (or, of course, make a profit).

The Peak District National Park, along with those in the Lakes, Snowdonia and Dartmoor, is 60 years old this year.  Whilst much of the land within the PDNP isn't owned by the authority, it's troubling to learn that some of the most precious areas, which they presumably bought in the first place to conserve, are now to be sold off or leased to private organisations as a result of government spending cuts.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Redmires - Stanage

After a glorious day on Pen-y-Ghent, I unexpectedly ended back home in Sheffield on Saturday night and woke on Sunday feeling grey.  Actually I didn't really wake because I hadn't actually been asleep, which was the reason for the greyness.  Anyway it matched the day outside the kitchen window.  After catching up on some catch up TV and still feeling restless, I grabbed the daysack and drove up to Redmires with only a vague idea of where I might go.  I ended up sneaking up on Stanage Edge by a route which started by following sheep tracks until they ran out and then landrover tracks in the bracken until they ran out and then a stream until that ran out and finally across some burnt heather until that also ran out just before the High Neb trig point and moments before my legs ran out. It was a breathtaking thrash.- that is, I felt quite out of breath.  Clearly my body doesn't function well after no sleep.  Anyway, despite the greyness or as a result of it, the Hope Valley skyline was one of receding silhouettes


Hope Valley panorama from High Neb, Stanage

To the north west, dense grey smoke was rising high into the sky from burning off the heather.  There had been signs of this at various sites across the local moors all last week.

Close by the trig point is a rock with a cup and water channels carved into it.  There are a series of them up this end of Stanage, from the time it was used as a drove road used by Jaggers, the local name for the drovers who transported goods over the moors using pack-horses to carry things such as salt from Cheshire.  This cup is labelled number 9, though it's not clear from the image below unless you zoom in above the cup.

High Neb Cup (no. 9)

A few photos later and I headed east along the edge towards Stanage Pole with the sun just starting to turn the clouds pink over my right shoulder.

Fading red sun over Hathersage

I reached the Long Causeway to find two 4x4s had just arrived, radios on at full volume and preparing to descend the track to the plantation near Dennis Knoll. 

The Long Causeway from Redmires, below Stanage Edge to Dennis Knoll

At the Pole I checked the geocache, which my son had shown me last year - a sad, broken plastic box filled with trinkets and a soggy notebook to log visits. 

Stanage Pole

Duly logging my visit I headed off down towards Redmires and it was then that I saw the new anti-4x4 defences which have been erected since New year, from just below the gate all the way down to the reservoir.  The damage done by the off-roaders was unsightly (why do these folk think it's ok to go off the track?) but I think this fence and random blocks of stone looks far worse.

 Landrover proof fence

 Damage done by 4x4s

Not glacial erratics

The track is currently a Public Byway, meaning that 4x4s and trails bikes may legally go along it.  The good news (from my perspective)  is that Derbyshire Country Council have posted a notice at the bottom of the track, stating they have evidence that the Long Causeway should be added to the Definitive Map.

If I understand it, this could lead the way to reclassifying the Causeway as a Public Footpath or Bridleway, which would put a stop to motor vehicles using it.

Distance 5.3 miles, Ascent 650 ft

Monday, 31 January 2011


Reminiscent of a lion at rest, with the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale nestling at its feet, Pen-y-Ghent is my favourite of Yorkshire's Three Peaks.

Parking in the village, I proposed a counter-clockwise traverse for a change, approaching from Brackenbottom.  There were the usual critical comments from Nick about uPVC window frames in the many renovated buildings, which I've become used to on our walks.  

Pen-y-Ghent from just above Hunt Pot

It was the perfect walking day with clear blue skies, crisp air and firm ground underfoot

Pen-y-Ghent from the Brackenbottom path

The first section of the walk climbs up onto the limestone bench which is riddled with many caves systems, the most extensive being Penyghent Pot, a grade 5 cave with a flat out crawl in water for around 700 or 800 feet made more challenging by the requirement to drag ladders and lifeline (or SRT ropes) for 350 ft of vertical descent in ten pitches to the lower streamway.  I went down the cave once or twice in the 80s but never quite bought into why it was considered to be one of the great caving trips in the Dales.  It's a dark and gloomy place and the section of streamway to the terminal sump is along narrow canyon having a floor broken up by frequent cross-joints that require your full concentration to avoid being tripped up.  In recent years, some significant extension have been made in the lower reaches of the system and from what I have read, these are a serious undertaking and require and enthusiasm for extreme discomfort which I lost (or grew out of) some years ago.

But enough of la recherche du temps perdu, today it was good to be above ground in bright light and expansive moorland with views of Pendle Hill, Ingleborough and the blot on the lanscape which is Horton Quarry.

All of the Three Peaks are made up like layer cake of three distinct bands of rock, with the Great Scar carboniferous limestone overlain by a series known as the Yoredales and topped by gritstone.  It is the impervious nature of the upper two layers which have given rise the extensive cave systems in this part of Yorkshire by channelling rainwater and snow melt into cracks and fissures in the Great Scar limestone and opening them out into networks of horizontal tunnels punctuated by vertical drops and chambers.

As you continue up the hill, the observant walker can spot the boundaries between the three layers, that between the upper two being more obvious than between the Carboniferous limestone and the Yoredales.  Even if you miss the actual horizons in the rock you should notice a change in vegetation.

Above the stile, are two steep sections of rock steps, which give some easy scrambling fun followed by a gentle stroll to the summit.

Looking down the final ascent

For some reason, I forgot to take a summit photo (too busy eating I think) but after crossing the wall onto the west side of the fell, the ground took on a white hue with frost covering the low lying vegetation.

Wind blown frost crystals

The descent from the summit looks across to Ingleborough, Whernside and further rightwards towards the fells of the northern Pennines, whilst looking down onto the limestone bench the eye is drawn to a large gash in the ground, Hull Pot.

The dark gash of Hull Pot from the western flank of PyG

But before reaching Hull Pot, the track back to Horton passes close to another open shaft, Hunt Pot.

Hunt Pot

Water from a beck collected high on the flanks of Pen-y-Ghent plunges 90 ft down Hunt Pot onto a ledge, bouncing off the far wall on the way down.  Below the ledge is a further 60 ft drop to the floor of the shaft, where the water sinks through boulders to be seen again in Penygent Pot before rising at Brants Gill Head above Horton.  It's possible to exit Hunt Pot via a different route, coming out of Shrapnel Pot, a small hole in the north-west edge of the Hunt Pot shakehole.  To do this requires a series of pitches to be laddered first, usually by a second party, who will exit up Hunt Pot.  Shrapnel is very tight and loose at the top and a through trip exchange is a serious undertaking to be undertaken by experienced cavers (so don't be tempted to crawl into the entrance of Shrapnel for a quick look as that way is likely to lead to the cave rescue missing a pint).

The edge of Hunt Pot

After pausing to photograph the ice formations decorating the top of the shaft, we carried on to Hull Pot.  This is an even more impressive feature, especially in wet weather when the water from Hull Pot Beck plunges 60' into this tear in the rock.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that it can fill to the top but I think that may be apocryphal.

Hull Pot

From here it's back to the gate and a brisk stomp down the track into Horton.

The route from Hull Pot, rays from a weak afternoon sun piercing the darkening clouds.

Distance 6.75 miles, Ascent 1700ft