Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

A perfect winters day on Bamford and Stanage edges

by backpackingbongos

The plan had been to meet Chrissie and Dixie at a lay-by off the Snake Pass for a Sunday daunder.  Just as I got in my car in Nottingham I noticed that I had received a text from Chrissie (Dixie can’t text as she is a boxer).  The western Peak District, where she lives had received a large amount of snow the night before and it was still falling heavily.  A quick phone call and it was decided that the plan of action would be for me to drive to the eastern Peaks and investigate the conditions there.  Nottingham itself was looking decidedly not very wintry at all as I quickly made my escape.

Arriving in Baslow the slight dusting of snow seemed to be quickly disappearing under a blanket of low cloud and drizzle.  Pulling into the car park there was a brief moment of panic where my brakes appeared not to be working.  It felt like something was wedged under the car.  I got out to investigate and promptly nearly fell on my arse.  The wet surface was hiding a lethal covering of invisible ice.  I phoned Chrissie who had been out into her village to investigate the roads and had to help push several vehicles out of the snow.  She decided that it would be wise not to drive across the roads crossing high ground to come and meet me.

I therefore set off rather cautiously towards the Snake Pass, the road itself covered in a layer of slippery slush for the final mile or so.  A large lay-by near to Cutthroat bridge being a convenient place to leave the car.

9.6 miles with 530 metres ascent

Unfortunately the powers that be don’t want you accessing the access land direct from the lay-by, the moors being firmly defended by a high barbed wire fence.  Last time I attempted to cross it there was an incident with a brand new pair of waterproof trousers.  Luckily a path has now developed on the road side of the fence and it led us safely to a stile and the track that climbs up Jarvis Clough.  Thankfully Reuben did not spot the ‘No Dogs’ sign at the start of the track as his reading skills are yet to develop.  The no dogs rule is there to protect nesting birds, my small amount of ornithological knowledge informing me that they tend not to nest in December.

The snowy track climbed through the clough, the sun shining off the snow into my eyes.  I cursed leaving my sunglasses in the car.  I spotted a narrow path climbing the hillside on the other side of the valley so crossed the stream and climbed steeply upwards.  Stanage edge came into view promising a grand snowy promenade at the end of the day.

Once levelled out the path which is not marked on the map contoured easily towards Bamford edge, the views opening out towards the west.  The first thing that caught my eye was Win hill peaking above its forested lower slopes.

Then below me I spotted Ladybower Reservoir and its road bridge carrying the Snake Pass.  The huge snowy bulk of Kinder Scout dominated the scene, still capped by a bank of cloud.

After an early start I was hungry and thirsty and found a spot sheltered from the wind just before climbing onto the main part of Bamford edge.  From my lofty perch I sat and drank coffee looking down at Yorkshire Bridge and feeling rather content with the world.  Reuben sat quivering whilst eyeing up my cheese sandwich.

The chill wind soon got me moving again and after a short climb I was walking the grand promenade of Bamford edge.  I think that it is one of the best viewpoints in the Peak District, although some may disagree.  Thankfully it is still fairly unfrequented as there is no public footpath along it, although it is access land.

I stopped for a while doing my best to get Reuben to pose for the camera, he does have a habit of moving just at the wrong time.  I then passed a couple who asked if I was trying to get my dog to pose, I had to admit that I was!

A path took me down to the snow-covered lane which was followed eastwards.  The landscape that falls slowly down into the Derwent valley is one of hidden folds and woodland with the moors rising above.  There are some lovely houses scattered around which would involve winning the lottery for most people to be able to afford to live in.

I took the path through Bole wood and found a snow free spot in the sun for a second coffee break.  Completely sheltered from the wind it actually felt rather warm.  I sat with an empty mind enjoying my surroundings whilst Reuben looked on impatiently wondering what the hold up to his walk was.

The lane towards Dennis Knowl was covered with snow and ice and a vehicle passed me as I walked towards the car park, rather them than me.

From the start of the Long Causeway, the track that leads to Stanage edge and beyond to Redmire reservoir, I could see the glint of sun off vehicle windscreens.  It looked like a convoy of 4×4 vehicles were about to attempt a descent.  I did think about another route to avoid them but could not be bothered to detour.  In the end only one vehicle passed, the others must have thought better of it.  A quad bike passed me near the top, filling the crystal clear air with exhaust fumes.  As I reached the summit there was the unwelcome sound of high-pitched angry engines as a procession of scrambler bikes sped past.  Some people have a bloody weird idea of a fun day out in the countryside………..

With silence once again restored I climbed up towards the trig point on High Neb through a couple of inches of powdery snow.  The air was the clearest I have seen for a while and the views seemingly rolled on forever.  It was a place to walk slowly to take it all in whilst my boots squeaked through the snow.

Once again Reuben declined a trig point pose (I think those days are over as he has wised up to my evil ways) and we continued along to a break in the cliffs at Crow Chin.  Once again I was transfixed by the snow clad northern moors rolling towards the horizon.

An exchange of texts with Terrybnd confirmed that he was heading towards Bamford edge to do some filming.  My plan had been to head towards the stone circle at Hordron Edge before descending back to the car.  Seeing that I enjoyed Bamford edge so much the first time I thought that it would be nice to meet up with Terry and watch the sun set from such a splendid viewpoint.  Looking back Stanage looked amazing against a totally cloudless winter sky.

I passed a couple who had been deliberating for a while over a map.  They were uncertain of their route, the right of way across Bamford moor not really existing on the ground.  After a brief chat I pointed them in the right direction and headed across the moor myself, aiming for the highest point on the skyline.  A short descent towards the edge and I spotted in the distance a man in a bright orange down jacket with a video camera, almost certainly Terry.

Indeed it was Terry, busy with his video camera.  I disturbed his work for a while and we stood on the edge chatting whilst the sun slowly sunk towards the horizon.  Terry was going to spend the night on the hills, it was evident that it was going to be a cold night, the temperature already well below freezing.

Reuben in the meantime had decided to slink off and build himself a nest in the heather in a bid to keep warm.

It was clear that Reuben was feeling the cold so I left Terry to his work and descended back towards the car, aware that it was roughly an hours walk.  Thankfully with clear skies and snow on the ground there was no need to get my torch out even though we reached the car long after sunset.

It was a shame that Chrissie and Dixie could not make it as the day turned out to be one of the best this year weather wise.  A cracking day amongst some classic Peak District scenery.

December 23, 2011

A Christmas message from Reuben

by backpackingbongos

December 20, 2011

Highland Council to visit the proposed Allt Duine site

by backpackingbongos

Copied and pasted from an email I received today:

‘ALLT DUINE – A WIND FARM TOO FAR’

 Campaigners welcome the Committee’s decision to organise a visit to the Allt Duine site and vow to campaign to secure an objection from Highland Council

 Date: 20.12.11

Supporters of the Save the Monadhliath Mountains (SMM) campaign plan to continue their fight despite today’s (Tuesday 20 December) decision by the Highland Council’s Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Planning Application Committee (Committee) to defer the application to carry out a site visit.

The SMM campaigners welcomed the pause, although they stressed that this would not distract them from their goal of achieving an objection by the Highland Council (Council) to the s.36 application for a proposed large onshore wind farm at Allt Duine, located on the very edge of the Cairngorms National Park, near the village of Kincraig.

The SMM campaigners believe that to build a wind farm on the very edge of the National Park, in an area of unspoilt wild land, and in an area that the Council wishes to protect, would be devastating and a step too far.

Outdoor author, photographer and former President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Chris Townsend, is a spokesman for the SMM campaign.  Chris, who lives in the Cairngorms National Park, is also a writer and photographer for TGO (The Great Outdoors) Magazine and has written many books and guides about the area, including A Year in the Life of the Cairngorms and the Cicerone guide Scotland.

 Commenting on today’s Highland Council deferral and site visit, Chris Townsend, said:

“The decision by the Highland Council area planning committee to pause and carry out a site visit is welcome. We hope on seeing the wild landscape of the Monadhliath Mountains and the proposal’s impact on the setting of the Cairngorms National Park, the councillors will be left with no other choice than to object.

“It is crucial that the officers arrange a visit in collaboration with National Park Authority to ensure councillors see and hear the devastating detail of this proposal in its own right and also in conjunction with the neighbouring wind factories close by.

“Allt Duine is one of 11 wind farms being developed near the National Park and we believe there is a line in the sand and this is it – this proposal is a step too far.  31 turbines, the majority of which are a massive 410 feet in height, are completely inappropriate for a wild area of outstanding natural beauty. The construction and operation of the turbines will have an irrevocable impact on the landscape, wildlife and ornithology of the area.

“The only way to guarantee a thorough assessment is for the application to be heard at a full Public Inquiry.”

Today’s Committee meeting agenda contained reports on two wind farms, Carbon Free Moy Limited 11/01205/FUL (“Moy scheme”) and Allt Duine s.36, with two very different outcomes – Moy to object and Allt Duine not to object. The Officer recommendation rode roughshod over the Council’s brand new draft wind farm spatial guidance (April 2011 HRES2) which has a clear policy of steering development away from the Allt Duine (and Moy) areas. It wrongly prejudged the outcome of the HRES 2 consultation process and failed to support the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s robust objection to the Allt Duine proposal.

SMM campaigners, who staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Highland Council headquarters in Inverness today, plan to carry on their fight, backed by their over 1260 supporters, to ensure the wild landscape around Allt Duine and the western edge of the Cairngorms National Park is protected from the devastating effects of the wind farm development.

Formal objections have been lodged with the Scottish Government by the CNPA, the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Scottish Campaign for National Parks and key local estates.

The overarching objective of the SMM campaign is to ensure the wild landscape of the Monadhliath Mountains and the setting of the Cairngorms National Park is protected.

The Allt Duine wind farm is one of 11 developments (proposed or currently under construction) on the edge of the National Park.  Campaigners are increasingly concerned about the cumulative effect of wind power stations on the unspoilt landscape of Scotland’s largest national park  – a point echoed by the Cairngorms National Park Authority – and have been urging supporters to ‘Save the Monadhliath Mountains’ over the last few months.

Renowned mountaineer, writer and broadcaster, Cameron McNeish; Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust, Stuart Brooks; and David Gibson, Chief Officer of The Mountaineering Council of Scotland are backing the campaign, along with support from organisations such as Scottish Campaign for National Parks, Walk Highlands and Scotland-Landscapes.

Ends

Notes to editor:

Membership to Save the Monadhliath Mountains is free.  To keep up-to-date on the campaign, follow us on twitter or visit our website:

@SaveMonadhliath

www.savemonadhliathmountains.com

 

December 19, 2011

The best viewpoint in the Peak District?

by backpackingbongos

Yesterday was a perfect winters day on the Peak District hills, a dusting of snow and unbroken sunshine.  I visited what I consider to be perhaps one of the best viewpoints in the national park, twice.  It was so good in the morning that I had to return later in the day to watch the sun set.

A trip report along soon (ish).

December 17, 2011

Bothy then Bongo in the Yorkshire Dales

by backpackingbongos

Driving up through the roadworks on the A1 my eyes kept drifting towards the western horizon.  Was that snow that I could see on the hills in the distance?  Indeed it was and as I approached the Yorkshire Dales the snowy moors rose up around me.

I drove up and down through the Dales village a couple of times before settling on a spot where I would be happy to leave the Bongo overnight.  I then spent an age having a good faff whilst kitting up both myself and Reuben for the wintry conditions on the hills.  It was during this faff that the skies darkened and a wet and sticky snow storm blew in, covering everything in a slushy layer.  I relaxed in the van and ate my lunch until it had passed.

The minor road that left the main street soon turned into a track as it snaked its way up onto the moors.  My rucksack was heavy, for although I had left my tent behind, it had been replaced by several kilos of coal and wood.  I was heading  towards a bothy, the shelter of four walls being preferable to a long night in a tent.  The snow became firmer the higher I climbed, everything covered in what looked like white icing sugar.  The light was lovely as the sun went in and out of the clouds.  One minute the world would have a bluish tint to it, then the snow would have a pink hue as the low sun reflected off it.  The occasional flake of snow would be pushed along on the frigid northerly wind.

The security of the track was left as we headed cross-country across the moors, following a drystone wall.  Reuben was suddenly in his element, he loves being on the open moor.  He bounded up and down through the snow covered heather, his face often being dusted with the white stuff.  I in the meantime proceeded with caution, stumbling over hidden boulders and tussocks.

A hut was spotted below and I went down to investigate.  On the way an extensive marshy area was crossed, a covering of snow hiding the bogs.  Luckily I sloshed across without incident and reached the hut which thankfully was unlocked.  My timing was spot on as just as I stepped inside the world outside disappeared to a wall of white as a heavy snow shower passed over the moor.  It was a lovely spot, but not one to spend the night in the middle of winter as it was lacking a fireplace.  I shouldered my heavy pack and started a steep ascent next to a lively stream frothing with brown peaty water.  Higher up the stream meandered lazily through a flat expanse of moorland and I picked a route alongside it.

The going was tough higher up as I was on the lee of the hill, spindrift from above being deposited in large drifts.  The source of the stream thankfully was not frozen and I filled my water bottles, the cold water burning my fingers.  Reuben discovered a small cornice above the stream and plunged through it with a look of surprise on his face, whilst a smile filled mine.

Thankfully the hut I planned to spend the night in was unlocked.  If it had been locked it would have been a long walk back to the Bongo by torchlight.  Initially I thought that someone was already there as the door was wide open.  It was empty apart from a rabbit seeking shelter, the storm of the previous day probably blowing it open.  With my pack deposited inside I spent a while happily exploring my snowy surroundings.

It was not even four o’clock and the last of the daylight was being chased towards the west.  It was time to go back inside and light a fire.  The few kilos of wood and coal that I had hauled up with me was dwarfed by the pile of logs and coal already sitting next to the fireplace.  However Bothy karma dictates that you should always bring in fuel if you can.  Bothy karma points are deducted if you don’t do this and one day you end up shivering in a cold bothy with no fire.  A healthy blaze was soon lifting the temperature in the drafty building by almost a quarter of a degree and I added to the warmth by lighting my stove to consume numerous hot drinks and plentiful food.  After a few hours the temperature was raised to a positively balmy three degrees and the ice melted from the windows.  The moon shone through the windows with an eerie glow and I once again found myself outside, mug of coffee in hand to take in the frigid night atmosphere, high on the hills and with civilisation glittering far off in the distance.

The concrete floor was far from inviting to sleep on, even with a down mat.  I pushed two benches together to make a narrow rudimentary sleeping platform, just wide enough to place my mat and sleeping bag.  Reuben kept eyeing it up, his body language requesting that he be invited to snuggle up with me.

It was rather toasty laying near the fire whilst reading my kindle until late into the night.  Every hour or so I would have to get up to throw a little more coal on the fire.  In the end sleep caught up with me and the fire went out, the chill soon rising from the concrete floor and stone of the building.  Darkness itself never really came with the moon reflecting off the snow through the large windows.

I awoke to a change of colour through the window, a promise that dawn was about to break in a spectacular fashion.  Encased in my down jacket I got up and lit my stove to make a coffee before setting about bringing the fire back to life.  The next hour or so was spent watching a rather special sunrise, punctuated by frequent trips to the fire to thaw out.  Reuben was suitably unimpressed by the light show outside, the fire providing him with what he appeared to be craving.  Warmth.

I quickly packed up after several cups of coffee and a steaming bowl of supernoodles, the breakfast choice of kings.  I have to admit that I then rather disgraced myself.  The toilet round the back was much more inviting than walking across the moor and digging a hole.  It even had running water, soap and a nice fluffy towel.  I should have realised flushing would be an issue with the cistern being outside and it being rather on the cold side.  I left feeling rather ashamed after writing my apologies in the visitors book!

The walk back to the Bongo was entirely downhill and I was back in just over an hour, a great snow-covered, blue sky start to the day.

I rather fancied a day walk, a visit to a summit without being weighed down by a backpacking sack.  I was a little unsure as to the condition of the roads leading up across the moors towards some of the higher hills.  I therefore decided that it would be prudent to stick to the main roads through the valleys.  In the end I drove to the lovely little Dales village of West Burton where I left the Bongo next to the village green.  I have to admit that I risked the life of the Bongo on the way by following a land rover through a large section of flooded road a couple of feet deep.  My heart was in my mouth during the crossing, leaving a series of waves in my wake, the cars behind being sensible and turning around.

Following the lane of Morpeth Gate out of the village I was in a much greener world than I had woken up in.  A rise in temperatures meant that any low level snow had quickly melted leaving the ground waterlogged.  After spending nearly twenty four hours surrounded by white hills, the green fields suddenly felt rather drab.

As the track climbed up to a shelf above the valley the snow was met once more, puddles frozen over.  There was a moment of panic in Reubens eyes as he attempted to cross a flooded section of track which was frozen.  Half way across the ice started giving way and he found himself up to his elbows in freezing muddy water.  He soon learnt to avoid frozen puddles.  The peace was then shattered by four huge green rumbling Chelsea tractor things thudding past complete with chinless occupants in their ‘country’ clothing.  Soon afterwards there was the sound of shotguns from behind as feathered / fluffy wildlife was blasted off the hillside.

I had thought about spending the evening in the bongo at the summit of the moorland road between West Witton and Melmerby.  However the steep bends were covered in a layer of snow and ice as I walked past, not a place to take a two tonne campervan.  A right of way leads from the road to Penhill Beacon which a man with his two dogs had just started ascending.  I watched as his dogs scattered sheep across the hillside whilst he bellowed ineffectively at them.  He had passed me on the narrow lane earlier at some speed, wheels spinning as I held Reuben into the verge.  As he was clearly a bit of a dick I decided to avoid him and took a longer route to the Beacon, Reuben on the look out for rabbits, whilst the mans obscenities drifted across the hillside.

Thankfully he had disappeared by the time I reached the substantial cairn and I stopped to have a chat with a guy and his two sons who were out snowboarding.  I followed the defined edge above Penhill Scar towards the trig point, excellent views across the snow fringed Wensleydale.

I realised that the blog has been lacking ‘Reuben on a trig point’ photographs recently so I tried to encourage him to pose for one.  He declined and instead crouched on it looking mournful at the indignity of it all.

Not long after Black Scar the set of footprints that I had been following through the snow suddenly disappeared and the terrain became rougher as I approached Height of Hazely.  I decided to break away from the edge of the plateau and walk directly to the unmarked summit.  This was a big mistake as I bashed through deep snow covered heather, occasionally plunging into boggy pools of water.  With both boots full of freezing water I began to curse at my lack of progress, realising that it would soon be dark.  Even Reuben appeared to have had enough and I heard him whine a couple of times when I stopped.  Visually though it was lovely on the snowy moors with the sun disappearing and clouds building.

With the featureless summit attained there was more frustratingly rough moorland to cross before I intersected the bridleway down into the valley of Walden Beck.  Half way down the gathering clouds expelled a shower of rain and I stopped to pull on my waterproof trousers.  Reuben also stopped, looked at me in a dejected way, turned around three times and curled up with a sigh.  It was clear that his initial excitement at being in the hills had diminished.

Back at the van he was happy to curl up on the backseat and be covered with a blanket.  I now had to seek out a quiet spot to park up for the night, somewhere I would not be disturbed.  Usually I would head for the moors, but did not want to risk ice or snow covered roads.  In the end I parked up in the car park of a local nature reserve near Askrigg.  A comfy night followed as I lay in my sleeping bag watching ‘Breaking bad‘ on my iPad, Reuben curled up on the seat having doggy dreams.

In the morning I opened the door to a completely different world, almost all of the snow had been stripped from the hills by a night of heavy rain.  With the snow gone and the hills covered in a grey blanket my enthusiasm for heading for the heights had diminished.  I decided that it was time to head for home.  With flooded fields and the hillsides flowing with water I thought that first it would be good to have a quick daunder along the River Ure and visit Aysgarth falls.  This turned out to be an excellent decision as the river was in full spate, turning the waterfalls into raging torrents.  The power of the water roaring down the small falls was rather impressive.

The weekend had been a hastily thrown together ‘Plan B’ after storms had made visiting the Highlands rather dangerous.  The night in the bothy however turned out to be one of those memorable moments in the hills.

Here is a video I put together of my night in the bothy on the moors, unfortunately the wind played havoc with the sound in places.

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