Archive for February, 2011

February 28, 2011

Along Kinder’s northern edges from Birchin Clough

by backpackingbongos

Kinder Scout has a magical appeal for me.  The Kinder and Bleaklow moors are my closest area of high ground which over the years have been explored in pretty much every combination possible.  The best bit of Kinder in my opinion is to the north where its edges drop down steeply to the Snake Pass, with the whole of Bleaklow as a backdrop.  The walk from Birchin Clough up Fairbrook, then along the edge before returning along the Snake path is one I have done several times.  This time I really wanted to walk the entire northern edge, something I have not done in its entirety before.

13.6 miles with 870 metres ascent

I was disappointed to find the food van was not parked at the layby in Birchin Clough when we arrived.  I really fancied a fried egg sandwich!  Usually this large layby can be very busy but not this Saturday morning, even though the forecast for later in the day was good.  A stile leads to a path though the woods that is not marked on my map, this eventually meets up with the right of way above the Snake Inn.  There was the usual comedy moment of trying to get Reuben over a stile which my friend Rae had not previously witnessed.  For a forestry plantation the path is enjoyable and there was a fresh smell of pine in the air.  Although the main road is close by you feel that you are in the middle of nowhere.

The path eventually deposits you onto open hillside and we contoured round to the deep gash in the hillside that is Oyster Clough.  It was here whilst I was not paying much attention Rueben spotted some sheep just at the moment his lead slipped out of my hand.  Luckily it was one of those extendable ones which whilst being dragged behind him distracted him long enough for me to recapture him.  Disaster averted!

Sitting in the sun on the other side of the clough there was a real taste of Spring in the air with the sun warming our faces.  Kinder Scout was now beginning to reveal itself as banks of low cloud and mist quickly lifted.

Oyster clough itself is a great way of getting onto the Bleaklow plateau and if you continue north you will find yourself high above Alport dale, the best spot in the entire Peaks (I think that I may have mentioned that a fair few times now!).  However we turned our backs on it and continued on easy paths towards Hayridge farm and Alport bridge on the busy Snake Pass.

Following the right of way on the other side of the road we came to a sign saying that the path was closed due to a collapsed footbridge.  The sign said that there was no other alternative.  Indeed after further inspection the bridge was a mess of wood and metal.  However right next to it is a shallow ford no more than a couple of inches deep which we crossed with considerable ease.  Why the path had to be closed because of the bridge is beyond me, surely a ‘Bridge down’ sign would be much more appropriate?

Climbing above the river the Woodlands valley painted a very pretty wild scene, especially once the busy main road was out of view.  It was only the constant sound of traffic that spoilt things.

We skirted around the buildings of Upper Ashop onto open access land and followed the track to the shooting cabin.  I had initially planned to contour the hillside from here to the rocky depths of Blackden brook, but in the end could not be bothered.  Instead we walked easy ground to the edge of the plateau near Crookstone Knoll.

On the heathery heights the changing light was magical, fluffy clouds scudding quickly though the sky leaving a patchwork of shadows.  It was now no longer spring with a biting wind removing all warmth from the winter sun.

There is one essential bit of kit on Kinder at this time of year, a bit of kit we had both forgotten to pack.  Deep black squelchy peat demands that you wear gaiters and it was a real effort to stop ourselves from becoming coated in the stuff from the waist down.  A battle we soon lost.  Rueben on the other hand simply did not care, within minutes he looked like he had been painted black from the belly down.  He was totally lost in doggy heaven!

Every now and then the edge is punctuated with gritstone outcrops, perfect places to get the dog to pose for a photo.

We soon approached the head of Blackden Brook, where we had originally planned to ascend from.  From above it looked impossibly steep, an illusion you often get when looking down into the cloughs.  I will have to return one day to climb up though its rocky depths.

The path along the edge marches ever onwards, every now and then turning into firm sand, a welcome respite from the deep soft peat.  Fairbrook Naze was our next major destination, sticking out from the main body of the hill like the prow of a ship.

Approaching the Naze the weather suddenly and very dramatically changed.  A heavy squally hail storm came in from nowhere battering us with pellets of ice.  There was suddenly panic in Reubens eyes as they pounded his face and he did not know what to do with himself.  In the end he put his back to the wind and tried to make himself as small as possible, looking sad and pitiful.  We found a large boulder to shelter him behind whilst the hail turned to rain and then snow before it stopped.  The skies soon cleared, this time a washed pale blue in front with heavy clouds behind us making the landscape dark and foreboding.  Reuben recovered enough for a quick pose on top of a rock!

We turned west and headed across what was now the true northerly part of Kinder.  The light slowly changed once again becoming warmer as the sun slowly sunk towards the horizon.  The peace however was shattered by the busy buzzing of a helicopter that was flying backwards and forwards over the plateau transporting large white sacks, part of the moorland regeneration project.  Here there are dramatic outcrops of rock overlooking an endless swell of moors.

The sun was now in our faces as it made its final plunge towards the plateau edge.  The clarity of the air was excellent with the glow getting warmer and warmer.  However the temperature was not and you could feel that there was the promise of a frost in the air that night.

We made the steep descent down the Pennine way towards Mill Hill before branching off on the Snake Path.  Normally I would curse flagstones but after hours of wet peat it was good to feel a solid surface beneath our feet.  We yomped along making good progress until all of a sudden the flagstones vanished and the path became a wet morass close to the River Ashop.  The state of the path and its difficulty really does take some beating as we sloshed through bogs up to our knees at some points.  The gloom of dusk soon turned to darkness and headtorches were deployed to find the way.  For some reason it has always been dark when I walk down this valley, so apart from the bogs have no idea what it looks like!

It was pitch black by the time we reached the plantation , the dense trees cutting out all light.  There were a few minutes when we knew the car park was only a couple of hundred metres away, yet we could not locate the correct path.  The dazzling car headlights on the Snake pass were a bit of a shock when we finally emerged.

February 26, 2011

And now the buses play the same game

by backpackingbongos

Following on from my last post……….

I fear that a blood vessel is going to burst in my head.  I posted on the TGO forum that the bus ticket I purchased from Glasgow to Shiel Bridge was on the expensive side at £34 for a single.  I got a reply asking what company I brought it from as they can often be got at half that price.  The trick is to split the same ticket and buy two singles for the same journey.  I went back on Citylinks website and found that I could have got a single to Fort William for £5 then another single to Shiel Bridge for £16.20, a fair bit less than the £34 that I paid!

So now it is not only the train companies playing this game, you have to split your ticket on one bus journey to get a cheap fare!!  At the end of the day I know that it is only £12.80 but it is money that I drag my sorry arse out of bed to go to work for in the mornings.  A complaint has gone to Citylink but I feel that I already know their response.

Is it me or is nothing simple these days?

Going back to the subject of trains I often think back to the many months that I spent travelling around India on their rather splendid state-owned railway system.  There you pay a set fare for each kilometre that you travel, this being as little as a penny per kilometre.  Ok so each train may have several different classes from hard wooden benches where you are packed in like sardines to sumptuous first class.  The thing is everyone can afford to travel, from the very poorest to the richest.  Then there is the fabulous catering, you order when you board then a stunning curry is delivered to you at meal times all for a few pence.  Ok so the trains do have an alarming tendency to crash killing hundreds at a time but any form of transport carries a certain amount of risk and clenched buttocks over there.

I just want a simple life.

Normal service will resume shortly!

February 26, 2011

The complexities of booking a train ticket

by backpackingbongos

Over the last couple of weeks it has felt like I have spent too much time trying to purchase cheap train fares to Scotland.  At the end of March I will be travelling to the Isle of Rum with Pete from Writes of way, followed by the TGO challenge in May.  When attempting to purchase a ticket to Mallaig to get the ferry to Rum I initially did a search to see what the fare would be from Nottingham.  The result was the fact that I would need to remortgage the house!  I therefore sat at the laptop for hours one evening trying to work out every single permutation of train routes, the result being that I purchased six singles to get me there and back!  In the end it has cost me £48 return to Glasgow where I will spend the night, followed by £43 return to Mallaig.  Not too extortionate.

What really got my goat (where does that expression come from?) is whilst searching for Glasgow to Mallaig I spotted fares of £14 each way, bargain I thought.  I then went and had a bath to celebrate before actually making a booking.  Less than half an hour later I went back and one of the fares had already increased to £29!  How can something double in price in less than thirty minutes?!

Anyway the whole painful experience has been repeated this afternoon as I attempted to get tickets to the start of my challenge route.  Feeling rather chuffed this time as I have managed to get to Glasgow for £32 and travelling first class.  I have never travelled first class and am hoping that it is all decadence and luxury with uniformed staff catering for my every whim.  At the very least free tea and coffee!

With the cost of diesel becoming ridiculous I think that train travel may have to become more of a feature of travelling long distances to the hills.  It’s just a shame that you have to book three months in advance to get a half decent fare.

February 25, 2011

Dirty Dartmoor

by backpackingbongos

The dirty in the title refers to the weather that I had over the past week and the muck that generally coated me from the knees down.  The weather was pretty remarkable in its unrelenting dullness, no storms, heavy rain, wind or snow.  Just a thick blanket of cloud draped almost constantly over the moors, stubborn in its refusal to give me a glimpse of what the area had on offer.  Occasionally there would be a break for a couple of hours when huge expanses of grassy moors rising up to tors sitting like ruined castles would be on display.  However just as I would get a spring back in my step and my mood brightened, a fine misty drizzle would return limiting my world to a few grey metres.

I was lucky enough on my first and last day to get brief glimpses of sunshine and I explored the wild northern moors.  To me the area shares similarities with the Elenydd of Mid Wales, miles of tussock grass stretching off into the distance.  However the lack of forestry and the rocky tors give it a real distinctive feel.  An area that I would image would give great backpacking when the military is not firing.  It was good to explore a new area but it is not somewhere I feel that I would rush back to, being a 500 mile round trip (oh the endless joys of the M5!).  For me there are much more rewarding places to visit closer to home.

Over the coming week or so there will be several posts with the dog being dragged through bogs and to the top of tors.  He never did learn that the nice bright green patches amongst the tussock grass are not places to run into.  Plop!

My frequent view of the moors……..

February 17, 2011

Dartmoor bound

by backpackingbongos

It has been fourteen years since I last visited Dartmoor, something that I will be rectifying tomorrow.  My partner is spending a week in Spain in March with her mother, a trip that to be honest did not appeal to me.  Being an independent couple with differing ideas of what constitutes a fun holiday I decided that I would stay at home and look after the dog.  My idea of a fun week away usually involves getting a bit wet and cold on some remote hillside, something that Corrina does not share.  We must be doing something right though as we celebrate our 19 year anniversary today!

After a bit of perusing the internet I found a cheap cottage slap bang in the middle of Dartmoor, a woodburner in the lounge and a view of a tor from the bedroom.  I can’t wait to spend a week walking the remote moors and visiting the tors.  I have told the dog that he is going but I am not sure that he understands.  The ‘W’ word gets his tails wagging though and he leaps up to the kitchen table where his lead is kept.  There will be loads of photos of Rueben staring wistfully into the distance when I get back!