Monday, 28 August 2017

Castle Hill, Long Crag, Thrunton Woods - Northumberland 24 Aug 2017

Castle Hill, Long Crag
Thrunton Woods
Distance 17.25km Climb 550m
Thursday 24 August 2017

I have been interested in walking in this area for some time, my friend John was talking about it a few weeks ago. So today on the spur of the moment I just made a few jam sandwiches, packed a flask, some water and set off.

I left the car at the car park and picnic area. The footpath through the woods to Castle Hill was closed due to contractors harvesting the trees. So I followed the diversion signs along the road north on the eastern side of the wood. The road follows the edge of the wood as it turns west.

I continued along the road until it became a forest track heading west. When I realised that if I had taken the footpath heading north west I could collect a trig point, I turned round. I was still a little disappointed I had not found the trig point or at least the mark of the trig point on Meldon Hill a few weeks ago.

Returning back along the forest track to the track/footpath junction, I then turned down the footpath on my left. It would have been on my second right had I not walked down the forest track. There is a small sign on the gate showing it is a public footpath.

Following the footpath north east the map shows it crosses the course of a Roman Road. A sign on a gate advises caution bull in field. Looking to my right it looked like I was in a field of young bulls, or at least curious cattle so I was a little relieved when I crossed a style into what appeared to be an empty field.

As I walked up the field and rounded a corner I saw that the field was not empty, there were what looked like more cattle to my left, looking larger than in the previous field, which one was the bull? At the top of the field I was just across from Whittonlea Quarry which is now disused. I climbed a gate onto the footpath to my right, east. My map shows the footpath goes directly across the field north east, however I followed the edge of the field east. At the corner I had a look into the field where the trig point was shown on my map. It was full of crops.

I walked left, to the top north west corner of the field looking for a possible route across the crop. I did not want to walk on the crops, I could not see anyway across and decided I would come back another time to collect this trig point when the crop has been harvested.

Returning back to the field with the bull sign and large cattle, my map shows a path that led to the north side of Thrunton Woods. Walking to the left of the field to avoid the residents I reached the gate and was met with the sign below. I sat on the style, had a cup of hot chocolate, looked at my map and had a think about where I would go next. I could hear the noise of trees being felled down the track in the wood to my left and activity up the track in the wood to my right.

After my chocolate I decided to keep out of the woods, so rather than walk back across the field I continued westward along the fence line, skirting the field and crossed the fence onto the road. Walking the road south west I crossed a civil parish boundary line. Turning left away from the road, I walked a footpath up hill following the boundary line south east, up into the wood.

After a short steep climb the path levels a little. It was nice walking through here. As I climbed I was getting warmer, a combination of the nice weather and walking up hill.

Where a number of paths join I could see to my left another warning sign of the harvesting. I turned right and started the climb up to Castle Hill (231m). Part of this walk reminded me of our walks through the woods of Austria and Slovenia the way steps are made from stone and tree roots. The rich colours of nature, the browns of the earth and soils. The greens of the plants and trees. The smell of it all and the clean fresh air, all beautiful.

I took a load of photos on Castle Hill, the majestic old looking trees, too many to include here. The ground felt soft from years of fallen leaves.

After another cup of hot chocolate and time looking at my map I decided to wander south. I saw on my map a feature called Macartney's Cave. It would have been a shame not to check it out.

As I moved south on the narrow path, dropping down, I could hear the cries of a couple of buzzards high to my right, as they were moving further over to the west. At the fence I heard a strange noise behind me, it sounded like a mountain bikes brakes on a steep descent. It must have been a couple of trees rubbing against each other in the gentle breeze.

From the style there were a couple of paths, I decided to take the one on the left. There is a short steep climb by some rocks and as I followed the path up I came across Macartney's Cave. Very interesting, on returning home I looked it up on the internet. One website shows a local monk from Callaly used the cave as a retreat, it is not very big.  

From the cave I continued upwards along the worn paths, climbing all the way.

As the path levels I reached this small pond, where I took the track to my right, heading south west.

The trees were thinning out and the countryside was opening up. I saw a mother and son collecting bilberries, she said they were collecting them for a crumble.

I followed the path down to a gate in a fence at Hard Nab then continued along a gentle climb to a cairn (271m). A sign on the gate mentioned ponies, but unfortunately I did not see any. Butterflies skipped and danced along the path, bees buzzed as I disturbed them on my way through. Heather gave the whole area a beautiful colour purple, and I was reminded of a hymn from school. All things bright and beautiful....the purple headed mountain. To the south I could see Long Crag.

Looking north east, I could see The Cheviots, Hedgehope and The Cheviot itself, clear and bright.

I sat with a cup of hot chocolate and my jam sandwiches, enjoying the view. After my sandwiches I walked the footpath south east through the heather.

I followed the path next to the wood as it dropped down to the stream, Coe Burn (180m).

After crossing the burn and the steep bank on the other side the path turns right, south west. Crossing a fence I could see my path climbing the hill side. The path starts gentle then turns steep, in places there are large steps and boulders to step up and over. A turn left, south east and the path continues to climb, reaching a large cairn. In the distance I could see the Long Crag trig point.

It was a gentle climb north east, almost level up to the Long Crag trig point (319m).

I continued along the ridge eastwards to cross the civil parish boundary line again. I could have walked the path north down the boundary line but decided to continue along the ridge following my path north east again.

Passing along Coe Crags east, with the majestic Cheviots in the distance.

They are slight climbs and drops until I reached another cairn.

The path then heads east down back into part of Coe Crags Wood. The path drops and turns north west, steeply in places.

At a path junction I turned north and followed the path down to Coe Burn. My map shows a footbridge, but I did not see one. It was very steep and slippery, through mountain bike tracks, down to the burn. After crossing the burn it was a short climb up to the forest track. Where I turned right, east.

Following the forest track east then north I reached another track junction where I turned right, north east and followed the track to the road.

On the road I turned left, north and walked up hill returning back to the car park and picnic area.

It had been a good day walking the weather was perfect, once out of the trees the views were clear, overall another brilliant day. I had covered 17.25km with a climb of 550m.

More to follow

Boz North

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe - Ben Nevis 17 Aug 2017

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe
Ben Nevis
Distance 8km Climb 600m
Thursday 17 August 2017

We were staying at The Goirtean on the West coast of Scotland at Smirisary near Glenuig. This was the first time Danny, Callum and Declan had stayed there with us. Hope they enjoyed the holiday? From The Goirtean there is a good half mile walk to the car park and this is a mini adventure in itself. Followed by an hours drive to Fort William and the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. 

On Wednesday, the day before, the weather was atrocious, driving rain and I thought conditions would be bad on Ben Nevis however we would still go and take a look. Driving down from Glenuig it was heavy driving rain that cleared the nearer we got to Fort William. 

Arriving at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre it was drizzling in the car park, looking up towards Ben Nevis we could see a thick wall of mist, low cloud and rain further up the mountain side. We would take a walk up and see what it was like. Due to the weather we started in our waterproofs.

We would be walking the tourist trail, a new bridge has been put in place since my last walk up Ben Nevis in August 2015. 

The bridge is now nearer to the centre and has reduced the walk along by the river on the other side. Anne and Declan came to wave us off.

This sign is where we would leave Anne and Declan (22m). The path by a field up towards Achintee House was very wet and muddy. Crossing the style at the top we followed the sign by the big boulder upwards.

The higher we climbed the wetter and colder the rain.

We passed loads of people on their way down as we were on our way up. Someone was waving at a friend below, we all stopped to help and waved as well.

Water was running down the path. A new bridge was in place over one of the streams that falls down the mountainside.

After a short rest we continued up to the sign where the very old path had been closed to conserve it.

Rain was falling steadily.

I could just make out the people walking further along the track, walking either into or out of the cloud, depending on whether they were walking up or down Ben Nevis.

Reaching the track junction near Lochan Meall an t-Suide (625m) we met a group of three Dutch men who had been to the top and were on their way down. I was surprised to see people camping near the Loch.  This was as far as we were going, after a short rest we turned round and headed back down hill.

On our journey back down, there were only two or three people who passed us going up, mostly everyone was coming down.

If the weather had been better we may have pushed on a little further, but we had walked far enough for today. The Ben will still be there, for another trip hopefully in better conditions. From the car park to the track junction near the Loch and back is approx 8 km with approx 600m climb. We had already covered some extra kilometres as well as including the walk to and from The Goirtean making a total of 13.64 km with a climb of 710m. 

More to follow.

Boz North
Previous walks up Ben Nevis
National 3 Peaks Challenge August 2015.
3 Peaks, Ben Nevis not as part of the 3 Peaks Challenge 17 September 2011.
Ben Nevis with Anne 11 June 2009.
Ben Nevis as part of my WHW. Best birthday present ever 20 March 2009.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Dufton to Meldon Hill via High Cup Gill - Northern Pennines 2 August 2017

Dufton to Meldon Hill via High Cup Gill

Northern Pennines
Distance 24.5km Climb 830m
Wednesday 2 August 2017

I had walked from Dufton to High Cup Nick returning to Dufton via Murton Pike in March. At that time I had seen that there was a path up through the valley and I was interested to see what it was like. Today I would find out. I was also checking out possible routes to take Anne up to High Cup Nick, something I had promised since Day 9 of my Pennine Way in 2011. Plans are being made to do this within the next few months, so fingers crossed.

I was a little late in leaving home and this would have a knock on effect later in the day. I parked the car at the Dufton car park, I was fortunate to get the last space. Leaving the car park I walked back along the road I had drove in on from Appleby. 

I continued south east down the road, passing the junction on my left from The Pennine Way.

At the main road junction I turned left, east, towards Keisley. It was overcast but nice and cool walking, today I was in shorts and tee shirt.

The countryside was opening up, fields and distant views to my right, hills to my left. Directly to my front I could see Murton Pike, this was the feature I had walked up and down on my last walk in this area.

After just over 3km I reached Keisley Bridge (240m). Keisley Bridge crosses over High Cupgill Beck, I would see and cross High Cupgill Beck a little later on, on my walk.

Just passed the bridge, I knew from my last walk I would reach a style that would take me on a footpath across a field to Harbour Flatt.

From Harbour Flatt a footpath took me north east up towards High Cup Gill.

The footpath runs next to a farm track. After dropping down to pass through a gate and cross Trundale Gill there is a little climb. After the climb I followed the path round the left hand edge of another short rise.

Looking to the front I could see the length of High Cup Gill stretched out before me. From the rise the path drops gently to the valley floor. I am sure I heard a buzzard cry, high in the sky but I could not see it. There was also the echo of distant rifle fire echoing around the valley from the Warcop Ranges to the east.

As I moved up the valley, there were a few showers, and I thought about putting on my waterproof coat. The ground was soft and boggy in places, tormentil flowers grew in large patches in the wet ground.

The path levels and the bottom of the valley rises up to meet it near a wall.

The wall has a crossing point. Crossing the wall then High Cupgill Beck, the path starts to climb along with the valley bottom. A waterfall coming from Strands Beck was to my left.

Moving up the valley I came across a boulder field which I had to cross. There was no distinctive path across, people had just found their own ways.

The shower was turning into more persistent rain, I decided it was now time to put my waterproof on. I had hoped the rain would keep off, as it was warm without my coat on.

After the boulder field I returned to a path as it climbed steeply up the side of High Cup Nick. At the top (550m) I had, what I felt was a well deserved cup of hot chocolate and enjoyed the views back down the valley. I had thought the BBC using a drone, filmed the view up High Cup Gill as one of the pictures at the start of Countryfile. I have since found out that was the view along Great Langdale a walk I did in July 2016.

I had decided due to the scramble over the boulder field and the short climb up the side of the Nick I would not bring Anne up this route.

After my break as I was getting ready to carry on I saw what I think was a buzzard rise on the thermals right in front of where I had been sitting. Had I waited a few seconds and had my camera ready I would have had a great photo.

Leaving I followed the stones marking the path slightly north east as they crested a rise.

My map shows The Pennine Way on the north of Maize Beck, and a path across the beck, yet I was to the south of the beck. A quick GPS check and I turned north and crossed the beck.

There was no easy way across, I crossed at what I thought was a good point and walked through damp ground to follow a stream north.

I was now walking freestyle, no path. Just following a bearing roughly north east. The rain was not stopping it was becoming heavier and with that less visibility.

The ground was not easy to walk on,tufted heather with rocks, turned to bog and marshy wet land. There was the moving up over and around peat boggy ground. I startled a number of grouse as I splashed my way north east. Earlier I had set a good pace, this had obviously slowed with my climb up High Cup Nick. Crossing this ground it slowed even further.

Visibility became worse after each crest another would appear in the mist. Looking behind I could still just see the shape of the high features on either side of High Cup Nick. They were my reference points.

Due to the weather even my reference points where soon lost to sight and I was referring to my map and compass using GPS as a check. Eventually my GPS showed I was in the area of the trig point (767m), I was at the height shown on my map, but I could not see it. I was running out of time so I did a quick search of the area.

Still I could not see it, time was no longer a friend so I made the decision to return to my car. Nothing was being achieved,and the trig point would still be there for another days walk, a better weather days walk. I took many photos which have water on them, I struggled to find a dry piece of clothing to wipe my lens clear.

Anyway decision made I turned my compass south and headed back over the ground I have previously described.

Walking above one of the streams that feed into Maize Beck when I spotted three deer running down away from me to my right. They crossed the stream below and came running up the bank to my left. The photo came out as rain drops on the lens. The deer did not wait long,once they realised they were heading towards me they skipped off further to my left.

I continued south to Maize Beck, my feet were wet now and any finesse in crossing the beck was lost. It was just straight in, get over and then get out. I climbed the bank on the other side to join the grass path heading west. At the top of High Cup Nick despite the visibility the view was still stunning.  

I followed The Pennine Way round what the map shows as Narrow Gate Path.

As I descended in height, the rain returned to showery, the wind picked up and the views opened up.

Dufton Pike appeared on my right and the rain stopped.

The Pennine Way led me to the road and the junction I had passed earlier in the day. The flag still hung wet and limp, I knew how it felt.

A right turn took me into Dufton.

Then a little climb with a twist left then right and I was back at the carpark. I think, when I bring Anne I will take her along The Pennine Way, it will be good. Looking forward to it already.

I was a little disappointed that I could not find the trig point on Meldon Hill. On returning home and checking out the Trig pointing sight it appears this particular trig point has been destroyed for a number of years. Wandering around the summit I did pass a number of stones, perhaps I had passed the broken trig point. Not to worry something to lookout for on another day. I had walked 24.5km with 830m climb. 

Even though I was soaked I had enjoyed the challenge and did enjoy my drink and dinner in the pub that night.

More to follow

Boz North
Details correct at time of writing.
Follow links to previous walks, Dufton to High Cup Nick return via Murton Pike
Day 9 Pennine Way 2011