July 23, 2014

Baking at the Bleaklow Stones

by backpackingbongos

Geoff and Tilly offered their company for a short, sweet and sweaty night on Bleaklow in the Peak District. They were duly picked up from chez Crowther and transported to Old Glossop where I parked the car. This is a less than glamorous spot from which to start a walk onto the moors, a large factory dominating the end of Shepley Street. There is however plenty of parking close to the start of the Doctors Gate track.

Both of our packs weighed a tonne, or to be more accurate 20 kilos each. With a trip to Sarek getting closer I wanted to get used to a heavy pack on rough terrain. I had also dug out my old Lowe Alpine ‘beast’ as I will be carrying ten days supplies on that trek. I wanted to check that it was comfy and up for the job. Another reason why both our rucksacks were so heavy was because of all the water we were carrying. We had five litres each, hopefully enough to last until the following afternoon. The moors were parched and it was not worth the risk of camping high and dry without anything to drink and cook with. Water is bloody heavy. Reuben carried his own water supply with two litres in his panniers.

Total Distance  - 18.5 kilometres with 500 metres ascent

Bleaklow stones

The climb onto Bleaklow via Yellow Slacks was a hot and humid one. Although late afternoon the temperature had failed to dip and I felt every gramme of my monster load. I’m glad that Geoff was equally as laden, it’s always easier if someone else is sharing the struggle. Reuben and Tilly had more life in them but were also taking things easy.

There was actually water flowing in the upper reaches of Yellowslacks Brook, at least what was in my pack was not the colour of ale. The infant stream led us to the Hern Stones, a good spot for a break before picking up the Pennine Way to Bleaklow Head.

The plan was to camp in the vicinity of Bleaklow Stones, across what used to be a wade through oozing black peat hags. It’s been a while since I have visited this side of Bleaklow and was amazed at the transformation after the recent regeneration project. The plateau is now a prairie of lush grass, no longer the dark and foreboding place it used to be. I have to say that all that grass played havoc with both myself and Geoff’s hay fever. Until I got back to the car the next afternoon it was the worst it has been for years.

I think that it is fair to say we were both a bit sloppy with the navigation on the way to Bleaklow Stones. First of all we got lured into following the path that leads into Near Black Clough. Realising our mistake we got back on track and then found ourselves veering too far south. The Bleaklow plateau is no knife-edge ridge and even in clear conditions can be a confusing place.

The grass near the stones is lush and lumpy but we both managed to find a good place to pitch our tents. It was late by the time we had done this and the sun was ready to dip below the horizon. It’s not often that you can watch the sun set from a high level camp in just a t-shirt, I did not need to put anything warmer on all night. A pleasant evening was spent emptying the contents of my hip flask before retiring to our respective tents to sneeze the night away.

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I woke just after dawn to find Reuben sitting upright with his back to me, the odour then hit me. He had managed to regurgitate his dinner into a large pile of stinking mess. Not only that but he had done so in the inner of a tent that I was using for the first time. Thank you Reuben. It took a while to mop up, especially considering that I did not really have the tools for the job with me. When I finally settled back down to sleep I kept one eye open, ready to leap into action and let him out in case he decided he needed to get more out of his system.

I think it may have been Reuben that woke up Tilly in Geoff’s tent. He did not get much sleep after that when a big brown labrador decided it was getting up time.

The hot sun had me up early anyway, it’s hard to sleep when slowly being roasted. We had a lazy couple of hours around camp before packing up and setting off. My hayfever was still really bad and I was beginning to feel dreadful. I was actually looking forward to getting back to the car, winding up the windows and putting on the aircon.

We did much better at navigating back towards Bleaklow Head, this time following the widely spaced wooden poles along the ridge. Once back on the Pennine Way we saw the first people since leaving the car the previous afternoon. The nearby summit of the Snake Pass road gives very easy access to the high moors.

At the junction of Doctors Gate Geoff and I parted ways, he heading for home in Hayfield via Kinder Scout, Reuben and I returning to the car via Shelf Brook. I took my time on the Doctors Gate path, stopping frequently to rest in the hot sun, making sure that the panting Reuben drank lots of water. I had not come this way before, a grand valley leading directly into Old Glossop. It was with relief that I got back to the car and ditched the heavy pack. The hay fever and heat had wiped me out, I’m not sure if I had lost most of my fluids through sweat or snot.

Once again a short and reasonably local backpack had provided a great weekend escape from work and city living.

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July 14, 2014

Backpacking Upper Teesdale

by backpackingbongos

These days Reuben is quick to work out when I am getting ready for a backpack. The pile of gear and boots by the front door being the most obvious clue. Unfortunately on this occasion he was left to sulk in his bed. The North Pennines are one of the least dog friendly hilly parts of the UK. There are plenty of footpaths where he can walk but much of the access land prohibits dogs. This is mostly to do with disturbing grouse which are due to be blasted out of the sky in less than a month. I did try to explain this to him but he said that it defied common sense. What do dogs know?

Total distance – 47 kilometres with 1045 metres ascent

Upper Teesdale

Day 1 – 14 kilometres with 460 metres ascent

There are no restrictions on leaving a vehicle overnight at the car park near the Bowlees visitor centre, so that’s what I did. As I was getting ready I looked on jealously as a woman opposite fried some fish and then fed some returning walkers. I put on my hungriest face but she barely glanced my way.

Bowless gives quick and easy access to Low Force, which is a picturesque spot but not at its best during a dry spell in summer. I was heading towards the end of the road past the small hamlet of Holwick. The meadows were a riot of yellow, a beautiful sight under the steely grey sky. They are great to look at but soon had my nose streaming as the hay fever kicked in.

I had my sights on the unremarkable summit of Bink Moss, a 2000ft Nuttall which has eluded me for years now. To be honest it has not really eluded me, I have just avoided it. Looking at the map it does not scream out, ‘Climb me’. The ascent turned out to be easier and more pleasant than anticipated. A good path took me up Holwick Scar and onwards to Rowton Beck, the air full of the calls of Curlew and Golden Plover. I then followed a wall or fence over moorland to the summit (I have no recollection if it was a wall or fence, my memory has erased that detail). With not much in the way of stones or boulders in the vicinity the summit is marked by a post with a welly on top. I think that was the summit but just to be sure I wandered around onto various lumps and bumps just to be sure. It’s that sort of exciting place.

After another trackless moorland jaunt the large cairn at the wonderfully named Hagworm hill was reached. The plan had then been to take the non-existent right of way to join up with the bridleway across Cronkley fell. With a bird’s-eye view the going looked like it would be grim. Therefore I decided I would climb up onto the summit of Long Crag and cobble together a route from there.

Once on the extensive plateau the going was easy with a faint path along the northern edge. I soon ran out of access land and found myself face to face with the Warcop range. I then mounted a minor incursion and snuck across the line, heading for Merrygill Beck to get back to where I was allowed to be. A sense of wrong doing added a little excitement to this excursion and there were great views from the northern tip of Long Crag. Mickle Fell looked tempting but I thought that would be pushing my luck. I will leave that for a non firing day.

After collecting water from Merrygill Beck I pitched just above the River Tees, a light breeze just enough to keep the worse of the midges away. The view as I lay in my sleeping bag after dinner was superb.

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Day 2 – 19.5 kilometres with 445 metres ascent

There was a fine drizzle in the night which may have been midges attacking silnylon. I did not open up to investigate fully. Instead I shivered in a new Montane Prism sleeping bag which I bought to take to Arctic Sarek in a few weeks time. It has since been returned for a refund, heavier and not as warm as advertised.

After packing up I followed a delightful stretch of the River Tees along its south bank, all the time looking for a place to cross over to the Pennine Way. It would have been easily wadeable but would have meant boots full of water. Instead I continued upstream and crossed the nearly empty Maize back, Cauldron Snout thundering nearby. It’s always an impressive sight.

Once I had climbed up to the dam it was a very long trudge along the track on the east side of Cow Green reservoir and all the way to the summit of the B6277. Once the reservoir has been left behind there is a shooting hut which has an unlocked room at the end. This provided a good excuse to get the stove on for a coffee and a big pile of fig rolls.

The track allowed for quick and easy progress, Cross Fell beginning to dominate the landscape as I got closer. There is a real sense of space and although not wilderness it’s about as wild as you can get in England on these moors. As if to emphasis this it started to rain for a while.

The road with its fast traffic was a brief intrusion in the feeling of being somewhere remote. I simply crossed it and started climbing towards the summit of Burnhope Seat. A line of grouse buts gave a feature to follow but I was dismayed to come across several empty bags of animal feed discarded on the moor. Pretty poor and lazy land management in my eyes.

I knew that the trig siting on its large concrete plinth does not mark the actual summit of Burnhope Seat. This lay across a very boggy stretch of moor which had to be crossed twice.

With cloudy but settled conditions I decided that I would spend the night pitched right on the summit of Great Stony Hill. To get there I had to cross a great swathe of moorland with various disused mine shafts dotted about. I have to say that I have a fear of falling down a deep hole and not getting out again. I paid close attention to where I was going and was almost disappointed that I did not see any bottomless pits.

Great Stony Hill has a few stones scattered around its grassy summit, I’m just not sure that it qualifies it to have the words great and stony in its name. I pitched on a flat area of close-cropped grass, keen to ensure that the pegs were secure in such an exposed spot. Water was collected from a nearby small tarn and filtered. An unexpected bout of wind and rain then lay siege to the tent so I hunkered down to read my Kindle. A break in the weather led to impressive skies, dark clouds lit up by shafts of sunlight. The weather then closed in for the night, rain singing on the flysheet all night. Clouds descended leaving me in a grey swirling world. I kept half an ear out for thunder, ready to flee with only a hint of it approaching. Thankfully it did not.

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Day 3 – 13.5 kilometres with 140 metres ascent

It was another cold night, especially considering that it was close to mid summer. The mist had dispersed by the time I had packed up and set off. I passed more old mine workings and what looked like an unfenced shaft at the bottom of a depression in the ground. I decided against having a closer look.

The summit of Three Pikes is located across moorland that can be best described as boggy and peaty. Progress was slow as I worked my way between many hags, luckily the peat had dried enough not to be the dreaded black ooze that tries to remove boots. A fine cairn overlooks Harwood, a good place to rest and listen to the sound of summer on the high Pennine moors.

The actual summit was located before dropping down into the headwaters of Langdon Beck. This was followed downstream before climbing to High Hurth edge along the boundary of access land. Dropping down into pasture I had to pass a large herd of cows with calves. Aware of the potential danger I skirted along the edge of the field rather than follow the path through the middle of them. One gave me a cold hard stare.

Tracks and lanes led back to Bowless where I was tempted into the visitor centre for a bite to eat. I left with just a can of drink as I baulked at the price of a sandwich. I decided to drive home powered by left over fig rolls.

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July 9, 2014

Beyond the Black Mountain

by backpackingbongos

The Black Mountain is located to the far west of the Brecon Beacons, not to be confused with the Black Mountains that are situated to the east. I personally feel that the long north facing escarpment is the most impressive feature in the National Park. However that is not the main reason why I travelled to Wales on a hot and sunny weekend. I was set on exploring the less frequented limestone country to the south, beyond the Black Mountain.

Total distance – 32.5 kilometres with 1340 metres ascent Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 22.27.51

Day 1

Without prior knowledge you would never even suspect that there is a surfaced car park to give access to Llyn y Fan Fach. Very narrow lanes with few passing places lead to the hamlet of Llanddeusant. Another narrow lane then turns into a track after a mile or so following the route of the Beacons Way. It is easy enough to drive but on but at each corner I hoped that I would not meet a vehicle coming the other way. It would be a stand-off to see who would be the one to reverse a few hundred metres.

Although a Friday, the car park was pretty busy, families heading up to Llyn y Fan Fach with picnics on what was turning out to be a very warm day. It was sweaty work climbing the wide track up to the reservoir, the northern escarpment looming above. It looked like a bit of effort was going to be required to get to the top.

There is a small bothy / refuge just below the dam, possibly the least enticing that I have ever seen. Dark, dirty and windowless it obviously sees a lot of human traffic. A place only for a real emergency as far as I’m concerned. Don’t go rushing out to spend the weekend there. The Health and Safety executive have also paid a visit with a huge sign pointing out all the horrible things that may happen to you if you even think about going for a dip in the lake. No mention of the lady in the lake though.

I followed the Beacons way along a stone lined channel taking water to the reservoir. A steep climb then led onto the escarpment between Picwys Du and Fan Brycheiniog. This excellently engineered path threaded its way though and above the bands of cliffs. Narrow and occasionally precipitous it was an entertaining way to quickly gain height.

Walking along the top of the cliffs to the cairn at Fan-Foel was outstanding, a great sense of height with what felt like most of Wales spread beneath my feet. I sat at the cairn for a while drinking in the views, enjoying the solitude. My reverie was quickly ruined by two guys who approached and plonked themselves down whilst loudly talking about an annoying guy at work. They then each consumed a packet of crisps in a manner that can only be described as revolting. I quickly had to remove myself as the temptation to push them over the edge was becoming far too strong.

A grand roller coaster of a walk then followed over Fan Brycheiniog and Fan Hir. Views to the east were dominated by Pen-y-Fan, its summit easily identifiable. I kept the pace up to stay in front of a huge group of young backpackers who were spread out over several miles. I was determined not to get tangled up in a clot of them. So much for coming to the quieter part of the National park for a bit of solitude!

A sharp turn to the right down pathless slopes and I was on my own. The Afon Haffes was easy to cross after a battle with bog and tussock. The plan was to camp on the summit of Twynwalter, an obscure hill that I wanted to bag. The grassy limestone turned out to be a festival of thistles so I continued for another twenty minutes, rucksack heavy with a few litres of water. I finally settled on a pitch just below the summit of Carreg Goch. The infringement of the peace that evening was a mob of panicked fell ponies shortly followed by a couple of idiots on trail bikes. The noise of the engines and smell of petrol hung heavy on the warm evening air.

I ended up going to bed with a smile on my face shortly after witnessing a fine double rainbow. The moorland birds stayed up chatting all night.

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Day 2

Nothing beats suddenly waking up in a tent with the realisation that you are being slowly cooked by the morning sun. The moment of panic when you struggle with the zip of your sleeping bag before making a hasty exit in just a pair of sexy leggings. I timed this to perfection and gave a wave to the only people I would see all morning.

Breakfast was taken al-fresco and fully clothed and I was glad to have taken a lightweight groundsheet to laze around on the damp ground. The night had been spent in my Hilleberg Akto a tent that I had not used for several years. I had dug it out to see if I would be happy sleeping in it for ten nights when I backpack above the Arctic Circle later on this summer. It was a real pleasure to sleep in.

The morning was spent crossing a series of minor limestone hills, their rock strewn summits contrasting with the bright green grass. The intervening ground was a chaos of sink holes, some reaching an impressive depth. Perhaps not a place to go wandering after a large fall of drifting snow.

The Afon Twrch has created a large north south gash in the hills, the river flowing through an impressive rocky valley. A pleasant riverside patch of grass had me getting out the groundsheet and enjoying a bootless lunch and a bit of a doze in the warm sun. My plan to get in big miles that day were quickly diminishing.

Looking back after climbing the hills on the other side of the river the landscape struck me as being very similar to Dartmoor. I got to the summit of Foel Fraith and then lassitude took over. It was only 4.00pm but I liked the look of the head of the valley below as a tent pitch. The hills I had planned to climb that day suddenly looked too big and far away under the hot sun. After descending and locating a trickle of water I was quickly pitched and enjoyed a comfy snooze in the sun.

With the sound of approaching engines I was quickly cursing the idiots on trail bikes syndrome. Annoyance quickly turned to trepidation when I realised that it was two shepherds and their dogs rounding up sheep. They ended up about a hundred metres away when they killed their engines and started talking amongst themselves in Welsh. It was probably paranoia but I was sure they kept looking in my direction whilst taking. I had failed the pitch late, strike early rule for wild camping south of Scotland. They then started their engines and drove towards me before turning off up the hill. I waved and they waved back. I took that as permission granted to camp.

Sunset comes late in early summer, so after a lazy afternoon I ascended Cefn y Cylchau and watched the sun slowly sink towards the horizon. As it disappeared a heavy dew descended on the land. The outer of the tent was sopping wet when I returned a short time after sunset.

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Day 3

I was woken at 7.30am by the sound of engines. Peeking out of the tent I could see a dog rounding up sheep on the other side of the valley, a quad bike in hot pursuit. The shepherds were up early. I decided not to take the Michael, so after a quick breakfast packed up. I was walking before 8.30am which is almost a personal best, not bad considering that it was a Sunday.

I took to a narrow path that contours the slopes of Foel Fraith. This gave access to the south ridge of Garreg Las without gaining or losing any unnecessary height. The long wide ridge gives easy walking but is a jumbled mass of limestone blocks. It gives the feeling of being on a much higher mountain. Two huge cairns adorn the summit and I climbed both as it was difficult to judge which was the highest.

Clouds started to build and it looked like it was going to storm. This hurried me over the minor top of Carreg Y Ogof and across boggy ground where a path was picked up below Waun Lefrith. This contoured along the western slopes until the main path up the hill was reached. With the sun back out in full force a group of young backpackers who were climbing the hill looked ready to melt. It was then a simple walk back to the car, the ford across the river giving no problems.

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July 8, 2014

Keep Rannoch Wild – My personal objection

by backpackingbongos

At the tail end of last year I wrote a very brief blog post after finding out that there was a proposal to build a large wind farm on the edge of Rannoch Moor. The application for the Talladh-a-Bheithe wind farm has now been submitted. This is for twenty four wind turbines, each 410 feet high. The location is between Lochs Rannoch and Ericht, slap bang in the middle of one the finest landscapes in the UK.

The excellent Keep Rannoch Wild website has far more information than I can include in this post. I recommend that you follow this link here to have a look at what is proposed and the impact that it will have.

If you object to this development in the midst of such an iconic landscape I urge you to spend a few minutes making that objection known. A letter outlining your objections does not have to be big, long or clever. Just write what you think about the proposals. Details of how to do this is on the Keep Rannoch Wild Website.

Whilst my dinner was in the oven this evening I fired off a letter, twenty minutes and the job was done. This is my effort. Every objection counts.

 

 

Energy Consents and Deployment Unit
Scottish Government
4th Floor
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
Glasgow
G2 8LU
Dear Sir / Madam

Application for a Windfarm at Talladh-a-Bheithe, Rannoch.

I write to object to the above application by Eventus Duurzaam BV for consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to construct a windfarm on a site at Talladh-a-Bheithe, Rannoch.

The word ‘Rannoch’ in my mind sums up all that is special about the Scottish Highlands. The word alone bring images of wide open landscapes, a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

On the 1st August 1997 my love affair with the Scottish Highlands started on the hills, moors and mountains of the Central Highlands. I caught a train to Rannoch station and with a heavy rucksack set out on the long walk to the isolated bothy that is located below the southern slopes of Ben Alder. Over the next couple of days I climbed Ben Alder itself along with many of the surrounding hills. I eventually caught the train home from Corrour station.

As a city dweller what struck me was the sense of scale and space. I had never experienced a landscape that was both so large and empty. The scale took my breath away. I could not believe that on such a small crowded island you could stand on a mountain that was a whole days walk from the nearest road. That mountain was Ben Alder and from the summit there was literally no sign of human interference. Not wilderness in the purest sense but about as wild as it is possible to get in the UK.

The fact that the date of this trip is recorded re-enforces the impression the area had on me.

Those few days in the Rannoch area kindled an obsession with the mountains and remoter corners of the Scottish Highlands. Over the following years I have visited the Rannoch area many times. The main reason for returning is the freedom to walk and camp amongst such a large and unspoilt landscape.

I am therefore saddened to hear of an application to place twenty four moving structures, each 410 feet high right in the middle of such an iconic area. Rannoch is to many people the heart of the Highlands. The walk that I did all those years ago would if the application was given the go ahead be dominated by not only the turbines but the infrastructure such as roads that will need to be constructed.

If the turbines were built I do not think that there would be a reason for many tourists to visit. I doubt that I could return. What would happen to the many small businesses that cater for hillwalkers and mountaineers in this isolated area?

Scottish Government planning policy aims to support renewable energy developments but not at any cost and not indiscriminately at any location. Schedule 9 of the Electricity Act places on the ‘developer’ a duty to have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, and the current Scottish Planning Policy (June 2014) states ‘Wild land character is displayed in some of Scotland’s remoter upland, mountain and coastal areas, which are very sensitive to any form of intrusive human activity and have little or no capacity to accept new development. Plans should identify and safeguard the character of areas of wild land as identified on the 2014 SNH map of wild land areas.’ In my view this guidance applies fully to the proposed site which lies within the ‘Wild Land Area 14’ on the 2014 SNH map: mitigation would make little difference in this case due to the topography, and the visual intrusions into magnificent scenery would be too great a price to pay.

As the proposed development is within Wild Land Area 14 of the SNH 2014 map and is on the edge of the Rannoch and Glen Lyon National Scenic Area, this proposal should not be allowed to proceed.

Wild land is a valuable asset that should be cherished. This is an inappropriate setting for a large-scale industrial site. I therefore urge that you reject this planning application.
Yours faithfully,

James Boulter

July 2, 2014

A night at the Grinah Stones

by backpackingbongos

The road along the Derwent reservoirs to its terminus at Kings Tree is shut on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer. This makes this exceptionally popular area much more pleasant, especially for the cyclists doing a circuit of the reservoirs. A regular shuttle bus can however drop walkers off at various points along the way when the road is shut. The current timetable is here, if anyone is thinking of a weekend trip.

I had the good fortune to be off work on a Thursday and Friday which just happened to correspond with a spell of excellent weather. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Kings Tree and there were only a handful of cars left parked on the verge. Soon after setting off towards Slippery Stones we passed the last person we would see until late the following morning. That’s one of the greatest benefits of backpacking, you can have the hills to yourself when everyone else has gone home. You can then go home when everyone else arrives.

The walk to the head of the Derwent is an easy one along a land rover track. The surrounding hillsides and trees were almost a luminous green, the type you only get for a couple of weeks at the beginning of summer. The bracken which was only just starting to unfurl and cloak the hillsides added to the myriad of greenery.

Reuben happily trotted alongside, the warmth at the end of the day preventing him from racing about. In the summer I have to stop frequently and fill his bowl with water as he does not always think to have a drink out of a stream or puddle. Planning ahead for waterless stretches is not his best attribute.

The river was easy to cross and water bottles were filled. Five litres are heavy but I wanted plenty for myself and the dog to last until late the following morning. It would be unlikely there would be any flowing higher up on the moor. Unfortunately it had the colour and consistency of Newcastle Brown Ale, even down to a nice frothy head. I was glad of my water filter.

Climbing towards the Barrow Stones, two huge planes (no idea what as I’m not an aviation or military buff) flew over the ridge in front and down below me into the Derwent valley. It was an impressive sight and over all too quickly. I’m assuming that it was to do with the D Day commemorations that weekend.

The evening light was now as perfect as it can get, blue skies and endless views north across the South Pennines. It was warm with no wind and the midges had yet to wake up. It was only the constant air traffic going to and from Manchester airport that was a reminder of being sandwiched between two major cities.

Years ago I had picked out a potential wild camping spot close to the Grinah Stones. I remembered it as being flat, well-drained and with impressive views. My memory must be failing me as when we got there it was lumpy, sloping and very boggy. The view was good though. I spent at least half an hour walking around searching for somewhere suitable for the Trailstar. Everywhere was either deep heather and bilberry or soaking wet bog. In the end I found somewhere that would just have to do. It was very squelchy underfoot and hard to get the pegs to hold sufficiently to stop the shelter from collapsing. Luckily I had brought a Tyvek groundsheet which was put under the Oooknest to stop the bog seeping through. It was pretty much dark when I had finished with there just being time to watch the sun as it dipped below the main bulk of Bleaklow.

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Soft bogs are comfortable to sleep on, although getting in and out of the Trailstar without getting my trousers wet was difficult. I ended up doing a manoeuvre that resembled a badly performed Cossack dance. This was performed at speed once the sun hit the shelter in the morning as the temperature suddenly shot up from comfortable to boiling. It was during this exit that I realised Reuben’s sleeping pad had been placed at the edge of a red ants nest. Despite his often sad looking face he is a stoical dog.

A nearby rock doubled up as a breakfast bar and I sat watching the distant rush hour traffic move silently across the Snake Pass. Coffee and noodles cooked with dark brown water. Reuben’s meaty pouch was served straight on the grass.

Packed up we headed down steep slopes on a narrow path to the head of Grinah Grain, where I found clear and cold running water. It was good to drink deeply without the metallic taste peaty water brings.

Surprisingly for a National Park the surrounding ground had been trashed by vehicles driving directly over the soft peat. This headed in the direction of a set of newly built grouse butts. It branches off from the well established track that serves the shooting cabins in Lower Small Clough. This is a hellish eyesore as it gouges its way through deep peat on the plateau. Why can’t grouse shooters walk?

An old ditch called Black Dike gave a handrail along the top of the moor which was left at the head of Linch Clough. Here a narrow trod was picked up and followed along the top as the ground dropped steeply away. Before the final descent back to the car a handy outcrop was in a good position for Reuben to do one of his mountain poses. The breeze wafting from the valley below was welcome before I joined the throngs at the snack kiosk at Fairholmes.

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