Stanza Stones Trail 30th August 2015

I forgot to make myself coffee. My biggest mistake of the day!

Cath and B and I met up at Hebden Bridge station with our cars at 7.40. Cath drove us to Marsden and we set off at 9.00 at a brisk pace to ascend Pule Hill and see the first of the Stanza Stones. Our walk was a reccy for a walk Cath is leading for the Walk and Ride Festival so we needed to check the projected timings and keep up the pace.

We headed north to the Pennine Way and the A640. Across White Hill and then to the rubbish dump on the A672. Cath was very incensed by this and took a photo. I have reported it. On my 3 drives along Turvin Road there was some fly tipping and this has also been reported.

Across the M62 and then to Blackstone Edge where we stopped for our lunch. Across the A58 and into the White House for drinks. The half way point. I had a coffee which seemed fine, a very inky black espresso. About half an hour later I started feeling queasy and this continued until the next day.

We reached the next Stanza Stone and then it was on to Stoodley Pike. Had a bit of a rest there. Then the last leg back to Hebden and along the canal to the station. I’m quite impressed that I managed it whilst feeling hideous but there wasn’t really a choice.

Into my car and back to Marsden for Cath and B. Then back to my house where I was able to be sick.

Despite my ailments we had a great day, legs were fine. 2 days later I’m still right off coffee and being careful as to what I eat.

Very official looking sign but the only one we saw right at the end of the day
Very official looking sign but the only one we saw right at the end of the day
Cath on the way up Pule Hill
Cath on the way up Pule Hill
First Stanza Stone
First Stanza Stone
Blackstone Edge
Blackstone Edge
Second Stanza Stone
Second Stanza Stone
Water board detritus
Water board detritus
Warland reservoir
Warland reservoir

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The blooming heather
The blooming heather
B and Cath
B and Cath
Stoodley Pike, last stretch
Stoodley Pike, last stretch
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Wall to wall Hadrian April 2015

Mon 6th April

As part of my job I’ve been taking some online courses called MOOCs (massive open online course). I did a very good one from Newcastle University on Hadrian’s Wall with FutureLearn for free.
You get to translate Roman tablets and identity objects. I’ve also done some very poor courses with FutureLearn but you don’t have to stick with it if you don’t want to.
It got me interested in the path and it looked like a walk with a lot of extra interest and lots of scenery. It’s also a test to see if I really can do 4 long days of walking and therefore will be able to do my Pyrenean trip in August.
The taxi I’d booked didn’t arrive so I drove to the station and parked in sight of a camera. Three trains were all fine. Chatted to a young Austrian woman who was on her way to Hawick to volunteer on a farm for a week and then coming back down to be an equine apprentice in the Midlands.
Walked to Ashleigh House B&B which is near my start of the Hadrian’s Wall Path (HWP). It’s probably 2* and frequented by builders but my room is clean.
Dinner in Pizza Express. I have a Peroni and a light pizza which is where they cut out the middle and fill it with salad. I can’t eat huge pizzas anymore. Also some roasted tomatoes and coleslaw on the side. Finish with fruity tea and a tiny piece of lemon posset crunch. Very nice.
Back to my room to take things in and out of bags.

 

Tues 7th April
Off to meet some Romans.
Breakfast of poached egg and tomato, and marmalade on toast.
Set off at 9. My first HWP sign directs me over the River Eden across the memorial bridge into Rickerby Park. Lovely park full of dogs and their companions. Rickerby village is des res. Over the M6 into Linstock, along the river to Crosby. A little girl had set up a roadside stall so I bought some juice for 30p. Start to see farm names relating to the wall. The first section of vallum (big ditch) and Bleatarn (Roman quarry) now  full of reeds and bulrushes. Various honesty boxes along the way but have plenty of supplies. The path goes along lots of farmland, mainly sheep but some cows (well behaved). Also sections of road all very quiet. At Swainsteads the path crosses a tributary of the river Irthing with a weir.
I had my lunch at Walton sitting on a bench. On the road to cross King Water which also feeds the Irthing. Here there is a temporary road section of the HWP which looks like it’s a very long temporary. Just here is the first real section of wall but I missed it because of the diversion. I met a solo female American and had a chat. Just after Howgill I met 2 Northumberland National Park Rangers in a truck. They asked me about the condition of the path. First real climb up Craggle Hill for good views back west and south. At Hare Hill the first proper bit of wall. Quite high. Into Banks. Nice chat with woman doing her garden. Arrived 3.50 at Quarryside B&B which is lovely. Proper good welcome with tea and cake (skipped this) and biscuits. Nice room. Lovely hot shower. They will drive me to the pub 5 miles away and the pub will drive me back! Love this.
I saw 4 parties of wall walkers. 3 non UK girls with gigantic rucksacks, 2 UK women, 2 women and a man and the American.
Nice drive with David to the Belted Will Inn in Hallbankgate (Belted Will is taken from Walter Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel, a reference to William Howard of Naworth Castle which we drove past just after Lanercost Priory). This is the family that built Castle Howard.
Another great welcome in the pub. Sweet potato, chick pea and spinach curry with rice, nan bread and salad. Good grub washed down with Thwaites’ Wainwright beer. I have to wait for Steve the chef to take me back at 9. I had a bit of a headache so the nice bar woman has rung David to come and get me sooner. Her suggestion.
Sheets and blankets!
15 miles, 24km

 

Largest chunk of wall height wise
Largest chunk of wall height wise

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The acorn, where's the blasted acorn?
The acorn, where’s the blasted acorn?
One for Carol
One for Carol
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Tower at Rickerby
M6 weirdly looking a bit quiet
M6 weirdly looking a bit quiet
River Irthing
River Irthing

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Vallum
Vallum
I saw a lot of these sleepy lambs
I saw a lot of these sleepy lambs
Old Carlisle airport opposite the new one
Old Carlisle airport opposite the new one

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Weds 8th April
Breakfast of poached eggs and beans while Elizabeth frantically makes toast to counteract a planned electricity outtage. Chat with 2 American women who are the support for a group of 19 walkers. They are all from RAF Lakenheath which I know well.
I set off at 9.25 and quickly reach my first turret. There are quite a few of these and 2 to each milecastle. Stop at Birdoswald for half an hour. Quite a lot of actual wall in this section.
Ghost boy. Strange little boy all on his own who looked like he had cancer holding a gate open. Then moments later another one who looked like him but smaller who then completely disappeared. I even looked to see where he had gone.
Cross the river Irthing which has a steel bridge brought in by helicopter. Through Gilsland crossing the railway line and then again at Greenhead. This morning at breakfast there were 2 men on the HWP. We leapfrogged for a while. I saw them when I stopped for lunch by a stream and one of them had a bad back and had to get his pack transported. I saw them again at Walltown Quarry and then later was waved at by someone being rescued in a Sea King helicopter which came right over my head. Don’t know if it was him.
First real ascent to Walltown Crags after Walltown Quarry. Frogs doing trigamy on path.
Lots of wall in such a difficult place. My back of a fag packet (mental arithmetic because haven’t smoked for nearly 15 years, hooray, best thing I ever did) calculation gets wall construction to 50 metres a day and it was 5m high which I thought could only be possible with vast quantities of slave labour, but apparently this is incorrect and it was auxiliary soldiers who did the work.
Along to Aesica fort which is really just a farm. Chat to woman who lives in Norfok and tells me the hardest bit is to come. Thanks. Today’s walk much tougher as a) muscles tired after yesterday b) much warmer and c) harder terrain with ups and downs. Down to Burnhead where there is a B&B. This would have been a sensible place to stop! It’s next to Cawfield Quarry (all the quarries are Roman and are now ponds), more mating frogs. Along the vallum to Caw Gap. Then some ups and downs to trig point at 345m where I meet my American pals from breakfast. Their party is 2.5 miles behind. I can see both my B&B and the Twice Brewed pub at Once Brewed from here. That last mile I fantasised about frothing tankards admittedly more likely in Bavaria! Val from the B&B rings me. Arrive at pub at 5.55, long hard day.
Twice Brewed beer is good. Eat a big bowl of pasta while drinking the Blonde beer waiting for my lift. It’s ok and I manage to eat it all.  The non bad back man turned up at the pub.
Two Belgians with beards tell me Val is here to take me to Gibbs Hill Farm.
Val is 71 and is in a pickup. My first time in one. Gibbs Hill Farm is about a mile from the wall. Boots off outside. My room is large and comfortable. Long hot shower then down for a bottle of Becks. Long chat with David. He is in the middle of lambing. This means a month of 20 hour days. He has 600 sheep. Twins are inside and singles are outside. They own huge swathes of land from the wall to the forest and to the lough but it’s poor land. 32 miles to get round it. Used to be lots of staff and horses but now it’s bikes. He tells me lambs don’t try very hard to live! As well as the farm there is the B&B, the 3 holiday cottages and the bunkhouse. In the summer the wall is solid with hikers so I’m glad I am here now with just a few hikers and a few day trippers. Keep following the acorns (National Trail symbol). The HWP is very well marked and maintained so the Northumbria National Park rangers are doing a good job. Also relatively litter free.
When David gets time off he goes across to the Lakes and has done 70 Wainwrights.
My dad would have been 101 today.
13 miles, 21km

 

Little Ted on his first turret
Little Ted on his first turret

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Walltown Quarry
Walltown Quarry

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Thirlwall Castle
Thirlwall Castle

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I've got to get to the far end of that today!
I’ve got to get to the far end of that today!

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I was disturbed by the big hole in the roof and the washing on the line
I was disturbed by the big hole in the roof and the washing on the line

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Birdoswald
Birdoswald
River Irthing
River Irthing
Birdoswald
Milecastle
Wall
Wall
And another turret
And another turret

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My first turret
My first turret
Thurs 9th April
Breakfast with the bearded Belgians. I’m not usually mad keen on beards but theirs are quite fun. One has a long but neat beard. I give the shorter bearded Belgian some sun cream.
We all get a lift back to the HWP at Steel Rigg and set off at 9.50. I go for a more relaxed pace although there is a teenage lad running up the hills like a puppy.
Up and down to Housesteads. A couple drop their National Trust card and I run to return it to them, could do with the boy for this. Pretty section through Scotch pines overlooking Broomlee Lough. I get in for nothing at Housesteads with my NT card. There are portaloos which are horrid and I wish I hadn’t bothered. Report the lack of hand cleaner to the staff. Eat choc ice cream. Quick trot round the fort. Came here a long, long time ago on a family holiday. Possibly as much as 50 years ago. I really cannot believe I am even saying that! Still some Ministry of Works labelling in place but a lack of apostrophes even then.
Say hello to the American walking group. They were 19 yesterday but today are only 10.
More ups and downs to Sewingshields Crags. Take the Americans’ photo and forget to ask them to take mine.  Chat with an HWP volunteer who is knocking down molehills and picking up litter although he says the path is not too bad and this is so but it is early in the years for hikers.
I have my lunch in a turret.
From this point on it’s down, down and then along the side of the road, not actually on it, some wall in between. This part is a bit dull, about 3 miles.
Across the road to the Temple of Mithras which also rings a very strong bell that I have been there before. I don’t bother with Procolotia fort as it looks to be lots of grassy mounds.
Back across the road and along to Limestone Corner. This is a Roman quarry where stone has been cut but then abandoned.
Down to the road, along a bit and then to Greencarts farm, arrive about 4.25.
Sandra is Val’s pal so I give her Val’s message and we are off to a good start. I have the whole bunkhouse to myself. It’s ok, but the floors are a bit grubby. First have to make my bed which is hard when I feel so tired. Second is to have a shower but I have to use the campsite ones as the bunkhouse one is being repaired so I am very glad I brought my flip flops as it’s all a bit old and grubby but my towels and sheets are all very clean.
Sandra drives me to the pub, the Crown in Humshaugh (said Humshoff). This is the best meal so far. Grilled chicken with couscous done with herbs and broccoli and red cabbage. Washed down with Blaydon Brick beer. Sandra picks me up and back we go. Huge hare in the field next to the farm.
Today’s walk was 10 miles. I’ve decided that as I’ve now walked all the exciting bits of wall and done all the ups and downs that I will have an easy day tomorrow. It’s 19 miles from here to my last stop at Heddon-on-the-Wall although they would be easy miles they look to be a bit dull. I have a plan.
Everything is signposted in miles on the ground and on one of my maps. I find it quite hard to think in miles for walking purposes as all my maps are metric.
10 miles, 16km

 

In Temple of Mithras
In Temple of Mithras
Start of the day
Start of the day
Milecastle
Milecastle

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Sycamore gap
Sycamore gap
And on and on
And on and on
Down to Broomlee Lough
Down to Broomlee Lough

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And on
And on
And on
And on
Bottom of an arch
Bottom of an arch
And on
And on
Soggy Temple of Mithras
Soggy Temple of Mithras
Mithraic detail
Mithraic detail
Fri 10th April
It was odd sleeping in a bunk bed without Chris being in the one above!
I had asked for poached eggs for breakfast but got 2 small fried ones with the edges cut off which S was trying to palm off as poached. Sandra friendly etc. but the place was too grubby for me to want to come here again.
Walk to Chesters and happy memories of being in the bathhouse with Carol! Nice English Heritage coffee and shortbread. Sandra  suggested that I walk the dismtld rly (my favourite OS abbreviation!) to Hexham so I leave Chesters and go into Chollerford and cross the Tyne over a nice 18th C bridge. Along a permissive path to the Roman bridge abutment for the east side of the river looking across to Chesters. It’s an extensive structure and very clear in the water. I tried the old railway line but it was hard going, overgrown and soggy. Gave up at a private land sign to retrace my steps. Along the road a bit still on the HWP but no acorns or signs at all. Thought about looking at Brunton turret but instead got the bus to Hexham. The bus was 2 minutes late. Hexham is a bit tired and I wanted to leave almost immediately as I just didn’t want to be in a town. Went to tourist info and ran into the bearded Belgians from Ghent again. Their walk to Wark (said as in park) yesterday had been hard.
Back to the bus station. Nice chat with old man who reminded me of dear Dave, I’m a pushover for twinkly eyes! Bus to Corbridge was 10 minutes late.  Corbridge is a nice old village. Off to the Roman town which is 15 minutes walk from the centre. It’s our own Pompeii! Ice cream in the sun. Back to the village to wait for bus to Heddon-on-the-Wall. Bus was 7 minutes late. Get off at the Three Tuns. The barman says Houghton North Farm is 500m along the road. Off I trot, it is a bit more than that. Pass a bus stop I could have got off at next to the hostel. Paula is very welcoming and this really is a nice clean hostel. I have a bunk room I can lock all to myself. My bed not a bunk is already made up. The kitchen is next door and a skinny man is cooking several tons of pasta for 9 serious skinny cyclists who are in a race tomorrow. They are Wiggins level apparently.
Paula recommends the Swan. After I’ve sorted myself out and had a nice shower it’s off to the pub. I measure the distance back to the Three Tuns because I am quite obsessive and it is 800m.
The Swan is mainly a carvery. I opt for a pint, a whole pint of Doom Bar, veg lasagne and Eton Mess. It’s all ok but the beer is the best!
Back along and then take the footpath next to the hostel signed Military Road half a mile. I can’t see it at all because crops growing on it.
Back to the hostel. Despite planning not to walk much I’ve knocked up loads of miles which wasn’t the plan at all. My feet are quite good this evening. Am very grateful to Mandy for my birthday arnica salve which has saved my feet.
14 miles, 23 km

 

Corbridge
Corbridge

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Hypercaust
Hypercaust
Ministry of Works managed an apostrophe
Ministry of Works managed an apostrophe
Bath house at Chesters
Bath house at Chesters
The fog is not on the Tyne
The fog is not on the Tyne
Bridge foundations
Bridge foundations
Bridge over the Tyne at Chollerford
Bridge over the Tyne at Chollerford
Art deco flicks
Art deco flicks
Hexham Abbey
Hexham Abbey
Corbridge Roman town
Corbridge Roman town
Sat 11th April
Very glad no ailments on this trip – no blisters, no cuts, no bruises, no insect bites. Just slight headache because of not drinking enough which was soon remedied. Very pleased with what I’ve done. It got easier each day. Still slept badly everywhere. But I like waking early and the early mornings are the best part of day for me. Bruce song accompanying me on the trip in my head was Further on up the road. Of course.

 

 

Breakfast was a bit bonkers with the cyclists but pleasantly overlooked by Paula who made sure everyone had what they wanted. Surprise to see the 2 American women again. 12 of the 19 air force men finished the walk. They rushed off.
The Express bus got me into Newcastle. I recognised Eldon Square, decided to spend 20 minutes in the big M&S and had a coffee. Then onto the Metro to Central Station and into my First Class seat to Leeds (£1 extra). My car was still at Sowerby Bridge station much to my relief. Home before 2pm. Always funny to see how much further on the plants are in just a few days. Feels like weeks!

 

Gear, kit and tips
Planning was done using:

 

Maps:
National Trail 1:40K strip map, basic but despite the metric scale also shows exactly how many miles you’ve walked, good for detail of services available.
Harvey’s 1:40K strip map, showed better contour detail. I had the 2 maps on either side of a case so that I could quickly get the different but equally useful bits of information.
At no point did I need a compass. It would have been possible to do the whole walk without a map but you would also lose a lot of the historical detail.

 

I used a baggage service, Walkers’ Bags, to take my holdall to each destination. This was efficient and cheap, cost £7 per day.

 

Because the weather was so stunningly good I was able to ditch my waterproof jacket and trousers after the first day. I took:
Medium sized rucksack
Trekking poles (only used on one day)
Bladder for water (essential), I used about 1.5 litres each day, drink lots before you leave your accommodation.
Small first aid and emergency kit, Compeed essential here, I didn’t have to use it but if there’s a hint of a possible blister, you need to be able to deal with it. Sunscreen also essential.
Snacks, I ate a couple of energy bars each day, one mid morning and one as I started to flag near the end of each walk with a big hill looming! I didn’t eat much else but made up for it in the pubs.
Camera
Lightweight summer boots
Summer walking trousers
Short sleeve merino top
A sun hat, mine is a baseball cap with a foreign legion flap, I don’t care how stupid I look and I can always tuck the flap away and look almost normal if the sun isn’t shining on my neck.
Long sleeve merino top (merino lessens the terrible smells which you get with synthetic clothes)
Light weight warm synthetic jacket
Last but not least, a small Mountain Rescue bear, who has his own ruddy Facebook page! You will find him on Facebook by searching for Little Ted.

 

In the holdall:
Change of clothes
Wash kit
Arnica salve, this kept my feet in one piece, lovely stuff from Neal’s Yard
Books
Supplies of snacks, energy bars etc. I had far too many of these.
Extra layers because I thought it might easily be cold and wet!
I walked the walk I wanted to do, I didn’t stick strictly to the Hadrian’s Wall Path which starts at Bowness on Solway and goes to Wallsend. Once I had got onto the path at Carlisle though I did stick to it rigidly and followed it as far as Chollerford. It all went really well and I have a great sense of achievement plus I think the Pyrenees trip is now possible.

 

Please support the National Amyloidosis Centre
Lots of people decide to do big things, runs and walks and climbs and raise money for charity. I managed to not spend all the money I took with me so I’ve decided to donate £2 for every mile I covered to the National Amyloidosis Centre. Those of you who know me will understand why I’m doing this and I would urge anyone who has enjoyed this blog post to donate to the NAC. Amyloidosis is a hideous illness and is rare and thus needs more research, please support them and University College London to find out more and so be able to treat patients like my dearest friend.

 

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Through the wind, through the rain, the snow, the wind, the rain: 22nd February 2015

After last week on the west side of Widdop I wanted to head east then up and around White Hill. It started to rain as I left home and as I approached the car park layby, it was a sleety blizzard. Whilst I got my boots on the boot of the car practically filled with sleet.

Fairly quickly I decided just to visit Lower, Middle and Upper Walshaw Dean reservoirs instead of my circular route. It was soon clear that walking into the wind and sleet would be very unpleasant even if I did it at the start of the walk. So I kept the wet stuff to the side and back and went to the end of the 3 reservoirs and then returned the same way. It’s a very clear track. White Hill was a proper whiteout with thick fog as well as snow on it so I think my decision was quite sensible. Walking back was probably as horrid a walk as I’ve ever had with what felt like pins of snow flying into my face. I should have put my contact lenses in although my specs were some protection against pins in the eyes so should have dug out my goggles as well. I was wearing a hat with a big bobble on it, the bobble pushed up against the hood of my anorak which then kept blowing off in the wind.

It was lovely to get back to the car where I had a bite to eat and some delicious if rather expensive Charbonnel and Walker hot chocolate! Then I went and bought a bobbleless hat at Springfield Camping.

Almost solarisation a la Man Ray!
Almost solarisation a la Man Ray!

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Walshaw Dean Upper
Walshaw Dean Upper

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Des res?!
Des res?!
Not a happy bunny
Not a happy bunny

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Widdop and Gorple Reservoirs 15th February 2015

This is a walk I’ve done many times and cycled it too. Today I went from Widdop dam and up to the rocks at Shuttleworth Moor and Black Moor overlooking Upper Gorple reservoir. Across to Upper Gorple on a permissive path and then to Lower Gorple reservoir. It was mainly misty with the odd glimpse of sun. I took a path that was new to me to get back across to Widdop. It went through a boggy and gloomy wood where most of the trees had died. The path had been moved which I only realised because I had to check a bearing when I got out of the wood. Then crossed a good chunk of featureless moorland and came out at the top of Cludders Slack. I don’t know what that means but I like it. Some really vast rocks litter the hillsides round here.

Widdop reservoir
Widdop reservoir
Cludders Slack
Cludders Slack
Lower Gorple reservoir
Lower Gorple reservoir
Upper Gorple reservoir
Upper Gorple reservoir
Widdop reservoir
Widdop reservoir
Cludders Slack
Cludders Slack
Widdop reservoir
Widdop reservoir

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Wintry walks February 2015

Last weekend Cath and I walked from the Shepherd’s Rest at Lumbutts around the hill and across to Gaddings Dam. We were checking a route for Cath and generally enjoying being out on the snow. At one point we took a right of way on the map that wasn’t visible on the ground and it was nice to see that our bearings worked out and good to keep in practice. Very chilly but lovely in the sun.

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Intrepid Cath
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Stoodley Pike from Gaddings
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Gaddings

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This weekend I walked from the Hinchliffe Arms in Cragg Vale, going up through the woods behind the pub onto the hill. Very soon I met a group of 4 roe deer who scooted away, I walked carefully and came upon them again but they shot off again. After the wood up onto a very icy track to the road above Withens Clough reservoir. It started off lovely and sunny and was almost warm but then fogged over big time and again very nippy in the wind. Across the top of the dam and then a very neat contour along a drain and up by Tenter Wood where cloth used to be dried on tenter hooks (so my friend Babs assures me). Back down past a couple of houses where they’ve made a feature of the footpath and turned it into a lovely dry gravel path. Some geese skating on an icy pond and then the 4 deer again.

Apart from some not very well behaved dogs, an atmospheric walk in the cold and mist, very Bronte-esque!

Near Tenter wood
Near Tenter wood
Wood behind the Hinchliffe
Wood behind the Hinchliffe

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Withens Clough reservoir
Withens Clough reservoir

 

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Mytholmroyd reccy 4th January 2015

Short walk as part of our drive for Map and Compass walks to start near train stations. A good cafe helps. I’m told Milly’s is good but have yet to try it. It’s veggie and vegan.
I went up from the Methodist church to Stake Lane then found barbed wire across the right of way. Next a sign pointing away from the right of way which went through someone’s garden. I corrected the sign and went through the garden. Got to the old quarry and soon found its Millennium Garden which was nice and peaceful although chilly. I had my hot chocolate there. Back via Miry Lane which wasn’t and Stake Lane which was miry and an old track. Not a long walk but will be a good one for our punters.
Some fabulous light on the way home.

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Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Iceland November 2014

Intro
It all started with Addie, Chris and Geraldine planning to go to the Airwaves festival in Reykjavik. Then I added myself to the trip with a view not to go to the festival but to go hiking. Chris was unable to go because of her illness and Geraldine wasn’t able to go either. So Addie recruited Rosie and then there were 3.
Sun 2nd November

Stayed in the Radisson Blu at Manchester airport. I dropped the bags off, drove to the Meet and Greet parking to find I only had parking from Monday to Monday. The guy took pity on me and gave me a night for free! I walked the Skyway back to the hotel, settled in and met up with Addie and Rosie for a beer in the bar.
Someone said "red, white and blue"
Someone said “red, white and blue”
Mon 2nd November
My deal of park (limited) and sleep didn’t include breakfast so I walked into T2 but no shops there without setting off to the wrong location and particularly no M&S so thought I would get something in T1. Lovely surprise, Addie brought me a bread roll, an apple and a yoghurt! We walked the Skyway to T1, checked in, did security (thorough frisking for me even inside the top of my pants)! Shopping was a large bottle of whisky. Coffee, then onto the plane.
Smooth flight up through Scotland and along most of the southern coast of Iceland. Cool but sunny on arrival. Onto bus to cross a very flat lunar landscape. To Reykjavik and a quick switch to a minibus which took us to the Embassy Luxury Apartments see the link for photos of the flat. The Russian embassy is across the road from the flat. At first there was no answer to the intercom but we soon got in. Freya then rang us to check we were ok. Flat is v spacious and comfortable with 4 separate table areas – kitchen, dining room, vast leather sofa for watching TV and another relaxing set up in sitting room. Hot water is geothemically heated so smells of sulphur which we will get used to after a few weeks, we are only here for one week. Cold water comes off mountains and is delicious. We all got nice bedrooms. I went for the twin as small and cosy. Lots of books mostly in Icelandic and a large number of hideous and in two instances disturbing items of “art” on the walls. Settled in and unpacked then out to explore. Looked in supermarkets and food is expensive, in fact everything is. We went to Caruso to eat. I had quiche baked potato and salad which was good. Nice firm pastry and chunky veg.
Did some shopping in the 7:11 and then home via the city pond (Tjornin).
Cheers me dears
Cheers me dears
This one is loads better in a photo than on the wall, can actually make sense of it now.
This one is loads better in a photo than on the wall, can actually make sense of it now.
I rather liked these chaps.
I rather liked these chaps.
This one was also better in the photo.
This one was also better in the photo.
This was HUGE and frankly very nasty.
This was HUGE and frankly very nasty.
What can I say?
What can I say?
I liked this one for its bonkersness.
I liked this one for its bonkersness.
Kiki didn't seem to like being open to guests.
Kiki didn’t seem to like being open to guests.
N and R were obscuring the name of the shop!
A and R were obscuring the name of the shop!
Lake Tjornin
Lake Tjornin
Tuesday 3rd November
Got up early for collection by David (an Englishman) of Iceland Horizon. Drove out of city. He gave us lots of info and quite a few opinions some of which were a bit old fashioned but he knew a lot and was good on geology and birds and culture. We stopped often and jumped out for the loo and coffees, then a waterfall to walk behind, a farm under Eyjafyallajokull (I can almost say this now) which had made a video of when the volcano went off, their house was covered in ash, they had to leave. The farm is pretty much self sustainable with its own hydro electricity since the 1920s and hot water and heat from geothermal sources. Then to the beach at Myrdal with basalt columns. Another cafe at Vik where we surreptitiously ate our sandwiches. On the return trip to a glacier with black ash from Eyjafyallajokull making it look very grubby, then another big waterfall at Skogafoss. Dark and snow on the way back. We tried valiantly to keep the condensation off the windows but it was a somewhat thankless task and had a certain bonkersness to it as we had to share just 2 water scrapers back and forth up and down the minibus. Back at the flat, A and R quickly produced leek and potato soup and pasta with veg and sauce. We stayed up late and drank whisky. David said there would be no buses at all to Mt Esja as no one lives there or has any need to travel there or even past there.
Sneaky pic.
Sneaky pic.
And another sneaky one, love the intense concentration in both.
And another sneaky one, love the intense concentration in both.

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Myrdal
Myrdal

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Basalt columns
Basalt columns

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No idea! A highland fling perhaps?
No idea! A highland fling perhaps?

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Grubby glacier
Grubby glacier

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Setting up Little Ted for a shoot
Setting up Little Ted for a shoot
Orange works well on the glacier
Orange works well on the glacier
Just squeezed in there
Just squeezed in there
Wednesday 5th November
We all got up late and walked to Harpa, the gleaming new media centre. Addie and Rosie got their wristbands for the Airwaves festival. I then went to the tourist information centre and got information on the non-existent buses to the places where people do live and even for journeys beyond. I wandered around the town, went to the church, a creperie – Eldur og Is and had a cheese and sun-dried tomato crêpe. Bought some beer and some Brennavin for Kate. Came home and just chilled. Had some soup for supper.
Leifur Eriksson
Leifur Eriksson

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Any why not?
Any why not?
Leifur Eriksson found America first
Leifr Eriksson found America first
Concrete church, the Icelanders have been a bit too fond of concrete...
Concrete church, the Icelanders have been a bit too fond of concrete…
Thursday 6th November
Slow starting the day. Walked to Volcano House cinema via the old harbour. Watched a film about volcanic fissure on Heimaey Island in the Vestmannaeyjar  Islands near Vik in 1973. Then another one about the Eyjafyallajokull eruption in 2010. Got a Reykjavik welcome card. Went to 871 + – 2 Settlement exhibition which is a Viking long hall. They’ve built the exhibition around the actual dig.
Lunch at Gio raw food. 3 salads for £4.50 with rye bread included. Very good. Located the Handknitting Association of Iceland. There were ladies knitting by hand in the back of the shop! Walked across to the national museum which gave me a comprehensive history of Iceland. I saw the actual axe and block used to behead Agnes Magnusdottir, I am reading her story in Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and recommended to me by Chris.
Bought veg so as to cook dinner for when the girls returned from the Blue Lagoon, all chilled out! Made noodles, veg, tofu and peanut sauce with toasted nuts. They seemed to like it.
Nice little hut
Nice little hut
Apparently Reykjavik is overrun by cats, I saw about 4.
Apparently Reykjavik is overrun by cats, I saw about 4.
A badstofa
A badstofa
Off they go out to boogie!
Off they go out to boogie!
Typical corrugated iron clad houses, but not rusty!
Typical corrugated iron clad houses, but not rusty!

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Mount Esja
Mount Esja

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Lots of people very unhappy in the small population.
Lots of people very unhappy in the small population.

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Friday 7th November
A and R went to the Blue Lagoon so I went to the local hot baths which were included in my 24 hour city pass. I thought I was mad walking across to the pool in my swimsuit in very chilly air temperature but then the relief of the warm water made it all ok. I swam myself warm in the first pool, then moved into the next one to get a bit warmer, and then the next one to get warmer still. There were hotter pools but I was quite happy at 38 degrees. The lifeguards appeared to be wearing snowmobile suits so I dread to think what they would do if someone needed them, maybe they strip off very quickly or perhaps they use a pole.
We all went into town and I set off to do a bit more shopping and then went down to the prom to take some photos of the stainless steel Viking boat. I was nearly blown away and it was icy cold in the wind. I went back up to Gardurinn Buddhist resto for a veggie curry which came quickly and was lovely.
It was bitingly cold wind chill that day requiring hot chocolate when I got back to the flat.
I then went out to the university cinema which doubles as a conference centre to see the first of a series of films to commemorate 25 years since the wall came down in Berlin. I was very interested to see all this as I’d kind of missed it all at the time because my dad was ill and dying. There was an introduction by an Icelandic chap to welcome us all (mostly a German audience). The first film was Zug in die Freiheit (The Train to Freedom). There was a panel at the end of Icelanders who were in Berlin at the time so they said their bits and asked for questions but none were forthcoming! Good film.
I liked the statuary
I liked the statuary
Off out to more bands!
Off out to more bands!
No traffic
No traffic
Embassy Luxury Apartments
Embassy Luxury Apartments
I'd like this boat
I’d like this boat

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An electricity building
An electricity building
Saturday 8th November
Up early to the bus stop near the Radhus in the dark. No. 6 Bus didn’t come. 10 mins later as I walked away it did come very fast and wouldn’t stop so I think the driver overslept. All well as went home for loo, coffee and to pick up my phone which I’d left on charge.
The next bus did arrive and went through the burbs to Artun which is not very nice just a big bus stop on a busy road. The 57 bus came and dropped me off half an hour later at Esjuraetur Hiking Centre. This is a big name for a bus stop. There is a cafe which was shut and a portaloo and a hand drawn picture of routes up the mountain. I had given my details to Iceland 112 in advance. My map was limited by being 1:100,000 and my head would struggle to do the maths but the sky was clear and it was sunny so I could see my path went up the east side of the valley. They really do need to make some maps at a larger scale. It was also very very cold and very very windy. There were a few other hikers out. I was warm enough with all my gear but wished I’d remembered the balaclava. One girl was out in trainers and no socks. Not for long I bet. I went about half way up but stopped when the ice became too difficult without crampons. The path was clear but I drew the line when the wind blew shards of ice into my face. Went back down across a bridge. Chatted to woman taking photos. Back to the shut cafe having just missed a bus. Hung around in the sun and ate oatcakes and cheese. The woman met up with her husband and they offered me a lift to a bus stop somewhere but I said the view was probably nicer where I was and they agreed! Having seen the bus stops I was right!
The 57 Bus came and I went back to Artun, waited half an hour. The next bus didn’t go back to Radhus despite being a No. 6 but I got off at the top of the road and walked back home.
Out again to the university cinema to see 2 parts of Der Turm (The Tower) which was good but part 1 ended at 9.30 and part 2 was due to start at 10.00 however the person doing the mechanics couldn’t make the DVD player work so it started at 10.25. I got out at midnight only to find I’d missed a 5 min show of the Northern Lights. Buggeration!! I went to behind the Marina Hotel now the Icelandair Hotel but nothing doing (David had said this was the best place to see them). Addie took some photos of the event. A and R also managed to get a good home for the spare Airwaves ticket which is great as it went to a woman who wanted to see her son playing drums.
Little Ted resting after the climb
Little Ted resting after the climb

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Mt. Esja
Mt. Esja
Mt. Esja
Mt. Esja
Mt. Esja from Artun
Mt. Esja from Artun
Tjornin
Tjornin
Tjornin
Tjornin

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Mt. Esja very much a part of city views
Mt. Esja very much a part of city views
Sunday 9th November
We had a restful day at home packing and eating.  I made a short foray to the shops.
Out to the cinema for Die Unberuhbare which was dire. Don’t even think about it.
We had just received a photo from Geraldine showing us a lovely bare table at home!
We had just received a photo from Geraldine showing us a lovely bare table at home!
Monday 10th November
Up at 4 a.m. The minibus arrived on time. It then stopped for ages in the town whilst the driver got a coffee. Eventually back to the bus station and into the coaches. Got to the airport and quite a slow performance through security. I was invited to have my flight case opened but this was because I had a large lump of cheese in it! To be honest I was so sleepy I didn’t really care. I was allowed to keep it that’s the main thing.
The flight home was fine and fab to see the sun coming up. Little Ted was dancing on Addie’s head, honestly he’d spent the whole week drinking whisky and beer and set himself up with a Facebook page. That bear is irrepressible!
White, blue and red
White, blue and red
Little Ted thinking about jumping on Nola's head
Little Ted thinking about jumping on Addie’s head

And finally

Thank you to Chris, because it was all your idea! I’m so sorry you couldn’t be with us and I missed you every day but you will get to go there. I loved Iceland and would like to do the round trip.

Thanks also to my great companeros who bravely went to something like 25 bands over the course of 5 days! And why have just one hat when you can have 6?! Here’s one for you which may or may not have been sung by Anna Calvi! See, I was listening!

Bruce Springsteen – Fire

Man in a hat (Bruce at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 1975, singing Thunder Road – an absolutely epic performance, enough to make grown men cry….)

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS