Monday, 30 December 2013

Rumination: The Conclusions of 2013

Here we are at the darkest corner of the season, the pit of the year, only redeemed by the fact that it has Christmas located within it, and as we are about as far as possible from the active walking weather, this must be as good a time as any to have a reflect on the triumphs and failures of the 2013 season. I have to find something good to say at this grim portion of the fading Autumn as my only stretch of exercise, my annual festive stroll to Birstall retail park had me appalled that it starts getting dark at 2pm, so a positive rumination on the season passed is necessary before I can start stoking the enthusiasm for hitting the trails next year. So what have we learned in 2013?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Rumination: Time, Gentlemen, Please

No, I don't have another day in my legs. Four weekends have now passed since my last day on the trail, and I think it's fair to conclude that the 2013 season is finished. My birthday week, two weeks ago, should have signalled the end, but I'd held out hope that a fair day over the subsequent weekends would provide me with a day to act as a finale and to get in the last plotted walk for the season on the West Riding's High Moors, but no such luck. The weather chose not to smile on me and my body did not greet any available day with any enthusiasm at all, and so the season is done, and so am I.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Mytholmroyd to Haworth 26/10/13

Last available day for 'free' train travel in West Yorkshire before my access all areas Metrocard expires, and that deserves a big day out going from valley to valley again, even though the autumn has now descended hard and even a clear day brings with it the risks of seasonal rains and chills. The Calder - Worth trail for today had really deserved a better day than one at the end of October, but I'd been holding on to it as it felt like a good finale for the High Moors season, and it's the last route that I feel like I could attempt over the Aire - Calder watershed on these rapidly tiring legs that I am compelled to use. Seriously, work in the hospital is doing me in, and my role as Departmental Gopher for the Out-patients Office is proving more of a physical strain than I could have imagined, and I'm going to need to use the Dark Season for some major recharging and refocusing, because I doubt that I'm going to have the physical and mental stamina needed for a healthy walking season in 2014 if this attrition rate continues...

Mytholmroyd To Haworth, via Hebden Dale, High Rakes & Withins Height  12.5 miles

Friday, 8 November 2013

Marsden to Mytholmroyd 19/10/13

A weekend drops from the schedule because of foul weather, and it couldn't have come at a better time as work is starting to leave me feeling perpetually run down and I need a spare day to recharge for the coming week and to focus myself for the final push of the season, as I've got three more trips to fit into four weekends and only two weekends of 'free' travel left. Another trip out from Marsden is in order, doing Colne to Calder again, and I set out an hour later than planned, hoping to have allowed time for the early morning mists to have cleared, and feeling like I owe Kirklees district an apology, because in all these month of having rail access to anywhere in West Yorkshire, I have made only two trip into this area, and both of them have been focused on walking out of it. No journeys have been made in the direction of Slaithwaite, Meltham or Holmfirth,  and I didn't once ride the line to Penistone, plus obvious targets like Castle Hill and Black Hill avoided my plotting, and I'll have to make my promise to make it up to the district and wander into the unknown paths of Kirklees next year, where my attention will hopefully focus in a direction that isn't north and west.

Marsden to Mytholmroyd, via Slaithwaite Moor, Moss Moor Edge, Blackwood Edge
                                               & Great Manshead Hill.  14 miles

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Pen-y-ghent (& Plover Hill) 05/10/13

Having my walking season finale on a high hill seems like a great idea when viewed at a distance, but becomes a much less appealing prospect once you have felt the Autumn bearing down on you bringing mist, rain, falling temperatures and high winds above the 400m contour. It's the wind that's the killer, and the last trip I made has me feeling like I don't want to know what the winds of November might be like when the ones of late September were no fun, so the finale gets brought forward, spoiling the symmetry of the season, but that is less important then comfort, surely? Anyway, 3rd October marked my 20th anniversary since coming north to attend the University of Leeds, and what better way to celebrate that marker than to listen to every album that I bought in 1993? Or perhaps to also return to the scene of my first solo walk, some 11 years ago, and to partially retrace my original steps and to add Pen-y-ghent to the list of summits achieved in my official wandering career? Anyway, to the last excursion to the Dales for a while whilst the day still manages to promise a six hour window with minimal risk of precipitation!

Pen-y-ghent & Plover Hill  10.4 miles

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Marsden to Hebden Bridge 28/09/13

With the end of the walking season approaching fast, it becomes important to get the long excursions off the slate as quickly as possible as a long walking day needs a guarantee of decent weather and sufficient daylight to get to the finish line before being surrounded in gloom. So late September is the last point in the year to make an attempt of 16+ miles, and that's the fourth time that I'll be topping that figure this year, the magic number that says 'this is a long way', and I do wonder why I have left it so late in the year to go from Colne to Calder, and how I've not been to Marsden in a whole year when I still have an all-areas Metrocard. You'd never imagine just how difficult it is fitting in all your walking targets, even when you go for the whole summer without taking any time out from the schedule, so it looks like I'm not going to fit in more than a couple of walks in this area before my right to 'free' travel expires, and next year I'll have to return to travelling with cash in my pocket, or learning the dark art of rural bus travel. Onwards, anyway, as I've got a weather projection of clear skies, prolonged sunshine and minimal risk of rain, so hopefully it's only the wind coming from the north-east that will provide the only climatic challenge of the day.

Marsden to Hebden Bridge, via Close Moss, White Hill, Blackstone Edge, Warland Moor 
                                                 & Stoodley Pike   16.5 miles

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Saltaire to Otley 21/09/13

Autumn is upon us and as is the tradition, a ferocious head cold descends on me, only a 48 hour virus and one that I choose to work through to demonstrate what a trooper I am, but that means that the tank is going to be running low as the weekend comes around and the long walk from Marsden to Hebden Bridge isn't going to happen. Walking after a respiratory ailment is not a good idea, as recalled by leg #3 of the Calderdale way when a trek of less than 10 miles took more than 6 hours, so walking from Colne to Calder is going to have to wait, and as the last phase of the walking season is upon us, I think I can allow myself a short excursion to get in three high points between Aire and Wharfe.

Saltaire to Otley, via Baildon Moor, Hawksworth Cliff and Otley Chevin  9.8 miles

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Bradford Millennium Way #4: White Wells to Bracken Hall 13/09/13

Self at White Wells
It may have only covered four walking days, but I'm glad that the final stretch of the Bradford Millennium Way has arrived, as this has proved to be quite a challenge, probably fitting in more metres of ascent than the Dales Way managed in all of its mileage, and even with a week off work to do it, I feel like I'm going to need another holiday to get over it. Still, if you only do on walk in Bradford district, uh, don't do this one, there are far friendlier tracks among the three valleys than this stretch, and I may have unreasonably maligned this district, but this trail does show off most of its good faces and convinces me that the council should change the district's name to something altogether friendlier or amusingly amorphous like Wharfeaireworth, for instance. Many points for putting in the effort to get people interested in the district, and the number of different circular walks attached should invite many more people to these hillsides, perhaps ambling during the week has given me the wrong impression and these paths actually buzz with life at the weekends. Onwards, anyway, the last corner of the trail awaits and a final day for this holiday on the Bradfordian hills with my sore calves and even sadder looking boots...

Bradford Millennium Way #4: White Wells to Bracken Hall  7.4 miles

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bradford Millennium Way #3: Silsden Bridge to White Wells 12/09/13

Self at Silsden Bridge
It's always good to have a plan for your holidays, and when you are holidaying from home you don't really have any excuses for your plans going awry, and this holiday's plan was sound, in that I had a 9 day break which would allow for 4 days of walking and 4 days of blogging. What I hadn't considered was starting the holiday week feeling run down after expending a lot of energy at work, and then having a dinner invite sent my way for Saturday evening, and as Last Night of the Proms is a regular tradition for my closest circle, as well as indicating the decline of the year, it wasn't an opportunity to be turned down. Of course, sleeping on the Sunday has me losing a second day from the schedule, and whilst fitting 4 days of walking into a possible 7 is pretty straightforward, getting in the 4 of blogging is not, as 3 of those have been burned, so what was intended as a display of walking and writing prowess, only the physical aspect has been successful, the mental aspect has let me down, and I'm still trying to force the words out more than a week after the holiday is over, and again I ponder, Why did I start writing when I honestly don't enjoy it all that much? I should go back in time and tell my June 2012 self to set up a flickr stream instead...

Bradford Millennium Way #3: Silsden Bridge to White Wells  12.9 miles

Monday, 16 September 2013

Bradford Millennium Way #2: Oxenhope to Silsden Bridge 10/09/13

Self in Oxenhope
Having my parents up country on one of their flying visit proves handy, as getting a lift out of them means I'm not having to start out from home at 7.30am to make a 9.30 start in Oxenhope, it can allow for an extra hour in bed and more rest time for my aching calves. Plus we get  journey of only 45 minutes to my start point, and it can offer my folks sight of some of the views regularly described to them but not previously scene, especially as we pass through Queensbury, and my choice of route has me realising that I have done lamentably little walking close to home this year, when I've had no good reason to avoid the Spen Valley, Lower Calderdale and Alpine Bradford, and I'll have to start putting them on the slate for next year as I've probably got more walks for this year than I have weekends available before the end of the season. Those thoughts need to be put aside for now, though, as I know that I have got a hardcore day of walking coming my way, I'm prepared for a day of clustered contour lines and many stiles and I might be starting out much later than I'd wanted to but I'm not going against the clock today, so enjoyment, rather than speed, is the key for a day in more virgin territory.

Bradford Millennium Way #2: Oxenhope to Silsden Bridge  15.4 miles

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bradford Millennium Way #1: Bracken Hall to Oxenhope 09/09/13

Self at Bracken Hall
It has been a while since I last did a formal trail, having spent the last three months wandering under my own influence around the high moors of the West Riding, and with a whole week off work on my plate and me not having the desire to spend £100 for nights away in Wharfedale means that now is the best opportunity to burn through another of West Yorkshire's circular trails. I'd put the Wakefield Way on my slate for 2013, but that was bumped onto next years plans once I picked up the route guide for the Bradford Millennium Way, which promised more challenging walking and would make much better use of my all-regions Metrocard. 45 miles long and instituted in 2000, naturally, the Millennium Way promises to visit all the high lands and scenic valleys of its district whilst it deviates from the template of the trails the other five districts of West Yorkshire, insofar as it does not place its administrative centre within the loop, so that the Bradford district walk does not actually go anywhere near Bradford, and I'm not going to offer any commentary on that, so make of that what you will...

Bradford Millennium Way #1: Bracken Hall to Oxenhope  11.4 miles

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ovenden Moor: Halifax to Haworth 31/08/13

The last day of August arrives, and make no mistakes that The End of Summer is coming down upon us, as the sun sits noticeably lower in the sky and 4 degrees C drop from the air temperature, and it's also my favourite time of the year. Absolutely ideal for walking as the heat of high summer no longer gets to you and the days are still long enough to not risk wandering into the fading light of Autumn, and all weather projections point to a glorious start to this fragment of the year, as I seek the trail over the High Moor of the Aire-Calder bracket that has been observed the most from afar without me going near it. Plus starting out from Halifax means I get in another route featuring a pair of tributaries of the Aire and Calder and to bag photographic opportunities with a couple more industrial relics, which have largely been forgotten about in my explorations this year, also, I'm back onto Saturday wanderings, so a day of recovery will be coming my way if today proves too challenging.

Halifax to Haworth via Ovenden Moor.  12 miles

Monday, 2 September 2013

Hebden Bridge to Keighley 25/08/13

When i got my all-areas Metrocard back in march, i saw opportunities to maximise my travel around West Yorkshire and get in as many trips as possible that would otherwise require the purchase of two train tickets, but my obsession with Wharfedale has meant that I have yet to make any trips across the moors between the valleys of Aire, Calder and Colne. I thought I'd have got going in June but here we are at August Bank Holiday weekend and are in danger of running out of Summer, and despite me saying that I wasn't going to start doing regular Sunday walking, here we go again after another grotty Saturday, but on the middle day of a three day weekend means that I should have let my legs recover by the time it comes to work again. So, onwards, for what is remarkably my first ever trip from the Calder to the Aire, and amazingly my first stretch in Calderdale in over 9 months.

Hebden Bridge to Keighley, via Walshaw Moor & Penistone Hill  12.7 miles

Monday, 26 August 2013

Earl Crag & Airedale's Neglected Hills 18/08/13

Reading walking literature about the lands south of the Dales seems to have largely ignored on quarter of Airedale, namely the southern side below Skipton and above Keighley, for some reason it does not feature as a desirable destination despite many hills rising above the 300m mark and by having the Pennine Way running right through the middle of it. Maybe its lack of a distinctive name and identity has cost it, or maybe it's just that much less appealing when placed against its loftier and bleaker neighbours, but having taken a look at Earl Crag from afar and knowing that ridge is the one known feature of the area has me putting it on the walking slate for immediate attention and hoping that the area might bring other rewards as I once again venture into the completely unknown. Also, I'll be doing this all on a Sunday, and I know that's not a good plan when work looms the following day, but Saturday was mostly a washout, and I do need to make hay whilst the sun still shines!

Earl Crag & Airedale's Neglected Hills: Steeton to Skipton  12.6 miles

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Skipton Moor: Ilkley to Skipton 10/08/13

Back to the North Country then, and it's now time to start thinking about walking somewhere that isn't Wharfedale, because of 24 up-country walks so far this year, 11 of them have featured in this most lovable of dales. I admit that I've fallen for it pretty hard and made a previously unexplored region one of my absolute favourites, but with more than half the year gone, I'd have thought that I'd be well into the Aire & Calder moors by now. So return to Ilkley, which has seen me so many times this year that I might start considering it a second home, and set course for the last remaining unexplored moor that borders Lower Wharfedale and to make a symbolic break away from my new favourite walking country.

Skipton Moor: Ilkley to Skipton  10.3 miles

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Lost Villages of East Leicestershire 03/08/13

Plans for 2nd August fell away after the intense heat of the previous day, and no walking took place as I awoke with legs reluctant to move all that much, not coming right until the late afternoon, and the the only part of the day's plan was taking my Parents to dinner at the White House, an under-performing restaurant that has since found its way as a branch of Wetherspoon's. So my walking plan has to be pruned slightly to fit it in on Saturday, losing a couple of miles from a loop and re-directing to a new finish point and my target for the day is the rural landscape of East Leicestershire,  the side of the county that I considered home for over 20 years, to seek out some of the villages lost to history in the late Medieval period, swept away by enclosure and the change from arable farming to livestock. One side of the Explorer 233 plate shows at least a dozen of them, and a fascinating account of these by the antiquarian WG Hoskins should be read for a bit of background, before I set out in search of six of them, taking an early start in some much more hospitable weather.

The Lost Villages of East Leicestershire:
 Hamilton, Baggrave, Lowesby, Cold Newton, Quenby & Ingarsby   12 miles

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Peaks of Charnwood Forest 01/08/13

No walking career was ever conceived in the county of Leicestershire, I grew up in the county and can count on my fingers the number of walking excursions made during my first 18 years, it simply does not have the drama of Landscape and the scale of terrain that can be found in most parts of the country outside of the Midlands. Plainly expressed, the majority of Leicestershire is gently rolling countryside which can prove interesting on the smaller scale, does not offer the changing vistas and viewpoints of the higher lands which would appeal to the walking soul. There are a couple of notable exceptions however, and one of these is Charnwood Forest, an area largely covered in the remains of ancient woodlands and sited atop the remnants of even more ancient volcanoes, at over 560millon years old forming some of the oldest rocks in England. So when the time comes for a week away from home and absorbing my parents' hospitality, my first walking destination in the Old Country has to be in the heart of North-West Leicestershire's Granite Country.

The Peaks of Charnwood Forest: Old John, Beacon Hill & Bardon Hill.   13.8 miles

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rombalds Moor: Steeton to Guiseley 20/07/13

Walking the High Moors of the West Riding and failing to do another traverse of Rombalds Moor would surely be an error, but having already crossed it twice this year and three times in total, does it still have a good trail to offer? A only 6 and a half miles long and 3 miles broad at its limits, you'd imagine that it would soon run short of fresh and unseen perspectives, but this is plainly incorrect as it offers an awful lot of things to see, so unlike the other moors of Lower Wharfedale which can only offer a couple of routes over their masses, Rombalds Moor can offer a whole book's worth, and the best way to get the full flavour is to walk the full length of the spine of the moor along a latitudinal route, rather than the traditional longitudinal ones. This had been intended as one of my shorter ambles, but after plotting it turns out to be my single longest walk on the High Moors so far, so it's probably for the best that this isn't another day of unrelenting sunshine and 25+C temperatures, and our first heatwave since 2006 may have passed, but the walking season certainly has not.

Rombalds Moor: Steeton to Guiseley  13.1 miles

Monday, 22 July 2013

Grassington Moor 13/07/13

For the first time in my walking odyssey, we meet a day when I actually considered not walking on the grounds of it being too hot, rather than too grim or wet, and having gone to bed for a night of restless sleep brought on by excesses of heat and a rough headache, walking prospects for the Saturday looked grim. On rising the following day, my mood was much more resolute, mostly because of the realisation that we are having a proper hot and clear summer for the first time since 2006, and it would be wise to make the best of it as we might go another seven years before the next one. Plus good long days are needed when you are still delving into upper Wharfedale, and whilst Grassington Moor is a much vaguer upland mass than the High Moors previously explored, I'm sure that my investigations will show that there is still plenty to see up there, so get the bag loaded with liquids and set out for the High Moors in the heart of Limestone Country, on the hottest day of the year, taking with you the idea that you might well be insane to do such a thing.

Grassington Moor, via Hebden Ghyll & Bycliffe Road: 12.6 miles

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Barden Fell & Simon's Seat 06/07/13

I quite unexpectedly got sun-burned on my trip over Whernside, surprisingly as I'd barely seen any direct sunlight, but I noticed when taking a shower afterwards and finding that it stung my cheeks and ears a lot more than normal, and sure enough, lower half of the face (due to consistent hat-wearing) is looking distinctly pinkish. Work colleagues greeted me with 'Where have you been that we haven't?' and 'Are you going to try to even it out next weekend?', so I must have been looking unusually healthy! Anyway, after that experience of light frying on an otherwise unremarkable day, we've hit that rare point in summer where the clouds disappear, the wind drops and the temperature soars, the sort of weather which we haven't seen since 2006, I think, and I had better slather on the sunblock and don the sunhat and the most lightweight clothing possible and prepare myself for a whole day of seasonal warmth in the gritstone country of Lower Wharfedale.

Barden Fell & Simon's Seat  12.1 miles

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Whernside 29/06/13

The top of the year comes a week later than I had planned, as the 22nd provided uninspiring and grey skies around Morley and promises of grimmer weather further afield, so the mid-point of the walking year, and of my 3 year odyssey can come as 'Flaming' June comes to an end. Having walked up Ingleborough at the start point of the year, I think it's time to return to the Yorkshire Three Peaks and make my first assault on Whernside, having first looked that way back in 2002 and being discouraged from going there as my more active friends described it as a 'grim and unforgiving slog', but having had a reconnoitre on my wanders in Dentdale, I have picked myself a route which is the path less trammelled and approaches that big hill from its more interesting aspect. So, top of the year and top of the county too, which has a nice symmetry to it, and the weather for the early summer looks like about as changeable as an all white cloud day can be...

Whernside: Dent to Ribblehead  11.3 miles

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Beamsley Beacon: Addingham to Ilkley 15/06/13

The first three walks on the Summits and High Moors of the West Riding have been on my planning slate for more than two months, and the target for today had been officially listed before weather and ennui intervened, but the route I'll be taking today will be very different from the one originally projected. Having learned the lessons of adequate planning for walking days, my weather eye sees that the 13 mile loop from Ilkley, taking in Beamsley Hospital, is going to be rather too long for a day that threatens a very mixed bag of sunshine and showers, so some judicious trimming is necessary and if that means riding the bus out to Addingham to take a couple of miles off of the circuit, then so be it.

Beamsley Beacon: Addingham to Ilkley  9 miles

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Barden Moor: Skipton to Grassington 08/06/13

No longer having the Dales Way on my walking schemes should make me feel that I am now free to head out into the walking world without the constraints of a plan, but my mind seems to like order too much to start out like that, and with Summer weather upon us and the reality of Summer being only a couple of weeks distant means that I need a plan for the coming three months or so. Last Summer had the many miles of canal path to tread, and this year should have a similar theme, but one hasn't come to me yet, and with a number of plans that I had schemed for April and May still unwalked, I had better make the most of the arrival of summer whilst it is here. So off we go for an early start to join up with the FOSCL group again, who are staying out the Higher Dales to avoid the traffic going to Appleby Horse Fair, and to instead cover one of the southern High Moors that has so far avoided my attention.

Barden Moor: Skipton to Grassington  12.1 miles

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Dales Way #6: Burneside to Bowness-on-Windermere 31/05/13

Self at Burneside
To the last leg of the Dales way feeling somewhat sore, as the muscles in my lower thighs and the tendons in my knees seem to be objecting after all that fell-walking yesterday, I guess that must mean that I have given myself a decent workout. My Sis does often emphasise that walking is not a particularly useful method of keeping fit as you are doing a range of physical exertions which you body is programmed to do naturally, which is why she prefers hill-walking and cycling as they are things to really get the body going. I favour point-to-point walking though, as it allows you to experience the world at the most humane of paces, and over an extended period, you can see the incredible distances that you have travelled under entirely your own power, and that's where I am today, taking the ride out from our holiday house in Bowness, to make the 20 minute trip out to Burneside and I can be momentarily overwhelmed that I am so close to my destination. The strange caprices of the universe may have thrown foul weather and the extremes of ennui at me over the last three months, but right now I am less than 10 miles from completing a real long-distance trail, as well as my walk from home to Windermere.

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #6: Burneside to Bowness-on-Windermere. 9.8 miles

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Old Man of Coniston & Dow Crag 30/0513

The first encounter I had with the idea of hill walking came my way as far back as 1980, when my family was holidaying in Wales, as my parents suggested we might take the Mountain Railway up Snowdon and then walk back down, a plan the 5 year old me famously nixed with the phrase 'I'm not wasting my legs!', and so it came to pass that I only did two country walks of any duration in my childhood, and didn't achieve my first summit until the age of 27. However my nieces have both gotten to the top of various big hills already, having summitted Catbells and Skiddaw respectively before they were even six months old, but all trips so far have been on the energy of their active parents carrying them, and we all think that it is time that they got to the top of their first Lakeland Fell under their own power. Younger Niece isn't massively impressed by the idea, and at age 5, I can't blame her, but at 6 and a half, Elder Niece is game, so a course is set to Coniston for four of us to have a wander into the Furness Fells.

The Old Man of Coniston & Dow Crag.  6.3 miles

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Dales Way #5: Millthrop to Burneside 29/05/13

Self at Millthrop Bridge
Bank Holiday Monday turned out to be a complete washout, because of course it did, which allowed me a day of rest and relaxation, at least it would have if I hadn't been handed Roast Dinner duty for the evening, and attempts to get my blogging done 'live' went south due to me almost getting worked up into a device smashing rage when trying to plot a map using the slidy mouse-substitute contraption on the MacbookPro (I loath touchscreens with a passion, and can only handle devices with buttons). Then, Tuesday featured yet more rain, so more opportunities were taken to cook, my signature Morroccan lamb, and to take trip to Kendal to revisit the Museum of Lakeland Life before my annual free-entry ticket expired, and to hit K Village in search of bargainous outdoor gear, landing a gilet and lightweight waterproof jacket for under £43, and the latter of those looks like it will prove useful as the return to the Dales Way is made. I have three days of walking to do and three days of holiday to do them in, so Wednesday has me riding back out to Sedbergh, and the pleasant weather of lakeland passes as we travel inland to find cloud hanging heavily and ominously over the Howgills and I steel myself for another 16 mile haul in less than ideal conditions.

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #5: Millthrop to Burneside. 16 miles

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Windermere Three Peaks 26/05/13

Even with me out on my holidays I had no intention of walking on a Sunday, as I'd already had six days of activity preceding it and was in need of a rest, but with another excellent day of weather projected (and two rotten ones following it), I couldn't waste it just with food shopping, a good book and dinner preparation. Plus, with the four ladies of the household all on a cookery course and Dr G out cycling, I was left with only my Dad to entertain, and he'll be needing an afternoon nap, so that'll surely give me a three hour window to get in the sights around Bowness-on-Windermere. A delve into Wainwright's 'Outlying Fells of Lakeland' illustrates three hills around the town that should make for good viewpoints, and I'll plot a course and head out for that straight after lunch, at least I would if I could find my phone. I cannot find it anywhere, so I can only assume that I dropped it somewhere between Gap Wood and Sedbergh, and that wasn't a smart thing to do when walking in unexplored territories...

The Windermere Three Peaks: Brant Fell, School Knott & Orrest Head.  7.3 miles

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Dales Way #4: Far Gearstones to Millthrop 25/05/13

Self at Far Gearstones
Onward to the Spring Jollies then, not feeling a huge amount of physical and mental enthusiasm after too many tiring weeks of work, but I'm looking forward to the whole clan, all seven of us, getting together again after we all had such a good time back in October, and there's plenty in the far North-west for all of us to enjoy, and weather projections are looking good too! So many cares are to be left behind, and bags can be sent on with my parents as we take a Friday-Friday let, and I can ride light up to Ribblehead on Saturday morning to resume the Dales Way, which encompasses three of my four walking targets for the week, as I wander into the unknown once again. It also looks like this is going to be the first time that I encounter the Yorkshire Dales in what could be described as 'good weather', so that'll add an extra layer of challenge to this day that has already had two extra miles added to it with my choice of start and finish points, as I bid to get to Sedbergh in 7 hours. The adventure starts here then, and what's the last tune on my iPod before alighting the train? 'Magical Mystery Tour' by The Beatles, and I think that feels like a good omen.

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #4:
     (Ribblehead &) Far Gearstones to Millthrop (& Sedbergh).  16.5 miles

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Rumination: Pausing for Breath

Back at the start of this walking season, I said I'd be taking a few more weekends out of my schedule to allow for some recuperation and to prevent myself burning out from too many days on the trail, but as the weeks have progressed and I have found myself intent on hitting the byways on every weekend. Having to catch up on the delayed stretches of the Dales Way and having to catch up on them before Spring Jollies was the major factor behind the activity, as was the need to use as much available Spring as possible after that never-ending blast of Winter, but I also need to relax, as the last few major walks had all proved quite mentally taxing, so I needed a good reason to get off the trail, preferably one that didn't involve a lot of booze...

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Dales Way #3: Buckden to Far Gearstones 04/05/13

Self, at Election Bridge
near Buckden
These long days which feature as much travelling/waiting around as they do actual walking are starting to frustrate me somewhat, as a good 5/6 hour walk should not be accompanied by a 5/6 hour journey. This is especially frustrating with the Dales Way as I had wanted to actually get the feeling of starting up in one place and then winding up in a far distant place three days on, but travelling to each start point by train and bus might absorb a lot of time, but it makes it feel that much closer together, and the feeling of  the many miles traversed and of escaping from the trappings of civilisation for a while is almost completely lost. Plus, today's outward journey was something of an ordeal, as the train up to Skipton is ridiculously busy with folks hitting the Dales for the Ride2Stride festival, and many, many kids are on board, filling half a carriage with baggage and loud voices, and it's then a 35 minute wait for the bus to Buckden, which bounces and dawdles its way up Wharfedale as I start to check my watch anxiously as I know I'll be going against the clock again on my remotest solo Dales walk so far, and I've forgotten to leave notice of my travels on my Facebook page...

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #3:
  Buckden to Far Gearstones (& Ribblehead).  14 miles.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Hawes to Horton-in-Ribblesdale 27/04/13

The abiding image I have in my mind of walking the Pennine Way comes from my distant childhood and an episode of 'Go With Noakes' in which John Noakes took on the path in foul weather and extremely muddy conditions whilst wearing quite the most hilarious pair of 1970s flares. I recall thinking 'That looks no fun at all' and that impression still hasn't changed in 30+ years, as the Pennine Way resides somewhere near the bottom of my list of walking priorities, but the truth is that it is a trail that ultimately remains unavoidable when walking in the North Country. Indeed in all of my walking exploits since 2002, I have walked nine different sections of it, ranging from a few hundred metres to several miles between Stoodley Pike in the south and Hadrian's Wall in the north, so let's meet up with the FOSCL group and have day 10 on this trail and my longest single excursion on it to boot, and maybe I should start tagging my walks with 'Not Walking the Pennine Way'.

Hawes to Horton-in-Ribblesdale: 14 miles

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Keighley to Ilkley via Rombalds Moor 20/04/13

In the days before the flight to the seaside or garden centre, it was a tradition for the citizens of Bradford and Airedale to walk across Rombalds Moor on Bank Holidays to crowd the spas and hostelries of Ilkley for the day before catching the last train home, and the walking half of that tradition is well worth keeping in my eyes. This was my plan for May Day, but it got shoved forward as I'm going to need some days out of the walking schedule to replace some necessary household gear, and today was going to be taken out as I desperately need new work shoes (having had both my pairs reach the point of unwearability about six weeks ago), but a gorgeous spring day surely can't be wasted on shopping alone. So a short walk can be dropped in to conveniently link two phases of my walking exploits for this year, as well as allowing me to not have to rise with the lark and to have time to seek out appropriate new footwear afterwards, so onwards to the high moors again!

Keighley to Ilkley via Rombalds Moor.  6.1 miles.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Dales Way #2: Grassington to Buckden 13/04/13

Self in Grassington
Having had a tough week at work, ending it feeling stressed, tired and irritable, does not leave me in the best condition to go for a walk, but I need to go out as I'm sure that Spring is now upon us and I need to make the most of the sunshine and (hopefully) lack of snow. Anyway, walking is my head-clearer and with my walking season having been thrown out with me still having two legs of the Dales Way to do before my jollies at the end of May, it is essential that I get out when the weather is good and I feel even the slightest shred of inspiration. So it's back to Wharfedale, to walk the Dales Way from home, exactly the way I hadn't wanted to, having to ride two trains and one bus to make the trip back to Grassington, but the sun is out and the fields are greening up as I ride past various now familiar locations, and the joys of Spring start to run through me again, even before my feet have hit the ground. Plus, the winter coat and woolly hat can be left behind, with the crazy winter beard having its last excursion, and even if I've not got a heavy load to carry, I'm still going to have a harder sort of walking day as I'm going to be going against the clock...

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #2: Grassington to Buckden. 10.8 miles.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Thornton to Keighley 06/04/13

The major lesson of taking on the Alpine Route from Halifax to Keighley is that of knowing your route, I had planned out and projected the route for the week prior to walking it, memorising its various twists and turns, but I'd never actually accurately plotted it and got an accurate distance. Using Google maps and plotting a line along the nearest available roads gave me a distance of 15.5 miles, and that seemed sufficiently different from the direct route of 12 miles for me to use it as the projected distance, even when factoring in the deviations I would inevitably make. Ground conditions and the hill climbs made the first day hard but I still thought I'd projected correctly, but sitting down to plan the unintended day 2, I realised just how badly I'd screwed up my calculations as the unwalked miles totalled not 8 but 10, and I suddenly felt lucky that I had chosen to quit as 19 miles of up and down would surely have been beyond me. So include that in the mix of reasons as to why the 2013 season has gotten off to a sluggish start, along with a general lack of mental and physical enthusiasm, and this winter that just will not end... But, anyway, onward!

The Beeching Report 50th Anniversary Walk, part 2: Thornton to Keighley  10.2 miles

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Halifax to Thornton 01/04/13

27th March marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Beeching Report on the Reshaping of British Railways, and I have already posted my somewhat intemperate thoughts on that matter, but that mix of small-minded accountancy, flawed statistics and socially regressive thought is worthy of a railway walk to demonstrate that we might have gained something from the losses this country suffered. Trouble is, the route that I intend to explore was actually closed down in the years prior to 1963, which demonstrates that the demonisation of Dr Beeching is somewhat misplaced as all he did was accelerate a process of decline and closure which had been in progress since the early 1950s, but when all is said, he still remains a worthy figure of hate in my eyes. So onward to tread the old Great Northern Railway's route from Halifax to Keighley, opened between 1874 and 1884, by what railwaymen used to call 'the Alpine Route', which is one of the most heavily engineered railways in the whole country, and you'll forgive me if I go full-on trainspotter as I seek out every single railway remnant I can find along the way.

The Beeching Report 50th Anniversary Walk: Halifax to Keighley Thornton  9.3 miles

Friday, 29 March 2013

Rumination: Beating the Retreat 22/03/13

Taking a room in the Black Horse Hotel in Grassington was such a good idea, being able to end your walk and immediately jump in the shower, give your boots and gaiters a scrub and check your shoulders for only minimal amounts of bruising after carrying 8 kilos for 17 miles. Then being able to get in a couple of pints of Grassington Best Bitter, and Sausage and Mash for dinner, and chat with the staff about sharing someone else's name, share walking tales with the other patrons and to send word of my progress to my folks via the hotel's phone when my mobile refuses to play ball. And there's still time to peruse my OL2 and route guide to bone up on the coming day's route and to get myself familiar with the bad weather alternative avoiding Grassington Moor, before getting an early night with the weather still looking clear and me still having full intent to press on to Buckden.

Then, as the cliche would have it, what a difference a day makes...

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Dales Way #1: Ilkley to Grassington 21/03/13

Self in Ilkley
Backpacking is not my thing, I'm very much a one-day-at-a-time walker, but when it came to examining ways of assaulting the Dales Way, I couldn't theorise a better way of taking on the first three stages up Wharfedale, the only alternative would be many hours of travelling on Dalesbuses up and down the valley, and that would be a lot of day wasted just going hither and thither. Anyway, Spring is due to start and I need to take a break away, so book rooms in Grassington and Buckden and pack your life into a bag for three days and get going! Trouble is, my regular bag isn't really big enough, so I have to score a bargain at Nevisport and get myself a new 35 litre rucksack, and when that's loaded up with 8 kilos of gear it feels like a weight that I have only carried as far as the railway station in the past. But onward to the Dales Way, to make serious inroads into my Walk to Windermere, and I've no real idea of how far it is to Bowness as my route guide says 78.7 miles, wikipedia counts 84 and the sign at Ilkley Old Bridge claims 82. All I now is that if I'm going to be carrying 8kg of my belongings with me, I am going to count every footfall towards my walking total, and with a 17 mile opening day and the promise of a blast of arctic weather on subsequent days, the greatest immediate risk to my progress is me psyching myself out, so let's get on the move!

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #1: Ilkley to Grassington. 17.1 miles.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dent to Ribblehead 16/03/13

Walking over Great Shunner Fell, in May last year, had me regarding the uplands and valleys that separate the eastern flowing Wensleydale from the western flowing Ribblesdale, Dentdale and Garsdale, and wondering why the names of these geographical features were unfamiliar to me in the inventories of the ups and downs of the Yorkshire Dales. As with so many new things in my walking career, I made the resolve to venture into these lands between Hawes and Ribblehead, once the predictable routes had been covered and to find out the hidden corners of the North Country therein. So once a FOSCL walk shows up in the vicinity at the start of Year 2 of my 1,000 miles, it's the right time to make my first tentative steps in that direction, and as the weather projections shift from mediocre to changeable, a late winter walk in the high lands would be an ideal distraction before the Dales Way comes calling.

Dent to Ribblehead, via Arten Gill and the flank of Blea Moor.  9.6 miles

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Bramhope to Ilkley 09/03/13

Self in Bramhope
The oddly predictable pattern of weather for the the early walking season continues, alternating between bright sunshine and dour greyness, and we land on the rubbish sort of weather for today. All week the projections for Saturday had suggested poor to terrible, only easing toward mediocre to poor on the Friday but projecting an, and I'd had another tough week in work and wasn't feeling any enthusiasm for the trail as the time to go came around. But I had to go, as I had only two weekends available before my first break away of the year, and the option of dropping behind schedule just wasn't there this time. And, anyway, if you are going to take the high road to Wharfedale, a bit of crappy weather is surely the sort of thing you want to have to get the full bleak flavour of Rombalds Moor? Yeah, keep telling yourself that, and as you ride the bus up the A660 into the gloom and mist, keep reminding yourself 'This was supposed to be my week off...'

Walking to Windermere: Bramhope to Ilkley  11 miles

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Leeds to Bramhope 02/03/13

Self at Woodhouse Moor
Having endured a severe brain grey-out on the the 23rd, spending the whole day feeling fuzzy and listless, I was already a week out on my early season schedule when March came around. Of course, I'd factored in a weekend off but I'd hoped to take it a little closer to the serious activity at the end of the month when my legs would need the time out. Still, a weak day of grey weather was lost and that didn't feel too bad, and the weather eye kept looking toward a repeat performance until a late week change predicted a good 7 hour window of clear skies for Saturday. Let's get going early to curse the fact that the early buses into Leeds at the weekend are just not as regular as I'd like, to wind up at that rather scratty corner of Woodhouse Moor to again stand beneath the statue of HR Marsden and contemplate the panels of the aspirational Victorian triptych on the plinth, noting that while 'Industry' and 'Education' remain, 'Commerce' has gone missing, somewhat appropriately for these rather straightened economic times. Anyway, enough with the trenchant political insight, the Dales Way Link awaits!

Walking to Windermere: Leeds to Bramhope  9.9 miles

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Morley to Leeds 16/02/13

Self at Morley Town Hall
It may be early in my second season of walking, but it's now time to start out on a proper linear walk, not all done in a single expedition, of course, as that sort of thing is still beyond me, but it's time to stop walking in circles and to travel in a distinctive straight line. The Dales Way is the obvious choice, as it's straightforwardly accessible along most of its length and its start point in Ilkley is only 21 miles distant from home in Morley, factor in the Link to Leeds and it's only 7 miles away to a path that leads me all the way to the shores of Windermere. There's still plenty of Winter to traverse before we get to the joy of Spring, and there's no great hurry to get this done in short order, the season can afford me a few short ambles before we get to the real meat of the trail, so my walk to Windermere can start with the walk from home to the Dales Way Link in Woodhouse, getting in the remnants of three lost railways along the way. Weather projections for Saturday had stated the high probability of mist all through the preceding week so it's a surprise to find a bright day opening up when I rise, so I have to get on at the hurry up to make a detour to collect more books to add to the 2013 pile from Morley parcel office before heading to my start point.

Walking to Windermere: Morley to Leeds. 7 miles

Friday, 15 February 2013

Ingleborough 09/02/13

Having taken my annual trip up to Carlisle and my favourite second-hand bookshop on the preceding Thursday, I was able to have a reconnoitre with regards ground conditions in Ribbledale and was fully prepared for some snow and ice residue on the ground when it came to hitting the Dales at the weekend. I'd kept my weather eye set to Saturday, and whilst the projection had gotten progressively worse, it never gave indication of heavy precipitation or high winds, so going up the first of the Three Peaks was never in doubt. What I hadn't taken into account was what the weather might do in the intervening time, but surely the conditions couldn't change that drastically? Well, they had and what follows is a walk quite unlike anything I have experienced so far in my walking career.

Ingleborough: Ribblehead to Horton.  12.8 miles

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Morley Circular 02/02/13

The 2013 walking season was due to kick off on 9th February with me meeting up with the FOSCL group for a walk over Ingleborough, but as some unseasonally sunny weather greeted the first Saturday of my week of being NIW, I made the decision to get out one week early. Not that there was huge pressure to make an excursion of it, indeed in all of 2012's ambling, I never really did anything close to home other than joining to Leeds Country Way as it made its way past Morley. So this was a good time to rectify that, and to wrap up in my underused winter coat, down fleece and thermals and head out to the end of Station Road because most of my walking excursions had started out from Morley railway station to various parts of the West Riding, so today I will very literally start my walk from there.

The Morley Circular.  10.3 miles

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Rumination: The Dark Season Passes

No, I haven't given up. And the trail is due to be re-engaged.

The way time passes as you get older is most perplexing, the passage of days is incredibly rapid and recent events can feel like they were an age ago. It's been 12 weeks since my last noted walk and that time seems to have torn through, but it feels like it's been a year since I last went out, and I'm going to blame the dark quarter of the year for that, but now here we are in February and I'm psyching myself for a return to the trail.