Forest of Bowland, Saturday, 22nd May 2004
Where's that? is the oft-uttered question when one names one's destination for the weekend as Forest Of Bowland. For those who remain unenlightened this consists of those lumpy bits of land on your right as you head up to Lancaster past Preston, on the M6. It is just west of the Yorkshire Dales and this is one of the reasons why no-one knows what it is as they pass through it on the way to the Dales. That's a shame as it is one of the most spectacular parts of the country.
A dozen of us found ourselves domiciled in the highly attractive village of Slaidburn at the fine old former-coaching inn youth hostel, conveniently located in the square opposite the village stores (which did some trade when several of our party realised that the hostel didn't do breakfast) and the pub Hark To Bounty - a hunting reference apparently.
> The first day's walk consisted of a tour of the pasture lands around the village environs. The Group Secretary was dubious of deriving any pleasure out it since he suffers from Can't Be Good Because It Hasn't Got Any Hills In It Syndrome. He was to be pleasantly surprised. In fact as we strode a route along Gaughy Hill, Harrop Hall & Fold and up to Far Brown Hill (he couldn't completely leave them out), he found all the fields of buttercups lovely. The view of Pendle Hill from Brown Hill was particularly rewarding as it should have been given its steepness. It had been pointed out by the Publicity Person that is was supposed to be a moderate weekend and that this hill constituted hard in our ratings. The walk leader was therefore forced to placate everyone by calling in at the Parkers Arms in the adjacent hamlet, where some most excellent pints of Copper Dragon were procured. This helped the remaining walk back by the river drift along quite admirably. So much full of the milk of human kindness were we that we even assisted Mrs Slaidburn Village Stores Lady in hauling her fridge into a trailer for the village fair the next day, whilst the Group Secretary and resident refrigeration engineer called out helpful advice like, mind the compressor and gentle with that expansion valve (terms he'd read in a book once and uses when the need to impress lay-people is felt). Mrs SVSL offered to buy us all a pint, but we declined her kind offer on account of needing to sober up prior to getting drunk again in the pub.
The evening slid by in fine style as a handsome cornucopia of victuals was provided by Hark To Bounty, notably a superb game pie (though I didn't see any bats or balls in it) and other things. The highlight of the evening was a the presentation to our Chairman of a highly grown up chocolate caterpillar cake for his 33rd birthday (kindly presented by the pub people themselves and flouting the concept of no consumption of one's own food on the premises) and some whisky. He shared the cake.
The next sunny morning got off in fine style with breakfast in the hostel courtyard to the accompaniment of swallows, martins and swifts swooping overhead. It felt so nice, I didn't want to leave. Sadly, a few people didn't share my sentiments as work commitments etc forced them home early. Never mind, they were in our thoughts as we seven remaining commenced the day's linear walk, driving up the superb Trough of Bowland to park half of our cars up at the jubilee tower (carefully keeping our backs to the view until we'd earned it some six hours later) and then return in the other half to Tower Lodge.
This route took us up onto the skyline we'd seen the previous day. Here was Great Brennand Hill (where Nick lost the Group Secretary's bung - off his walking pole), Grey Crag, Ward's Stone and Grit Fell in glorious succession, passing wolf-hole crag where the last wolf in England was ignominiously killed in the 17th century. Pen-y-gent, Ingleborough & Whernside dominated the view for most of the ridge. The fact that no-one knows the Forest Of Bowland exists is shown by the fact that such a spectacularly route in the Lakes or Peaks would be marked by a furrow of boots marks, but this one was much more ill trod. We never saw anyone all day, save three lads we'd met at the hostel.
To round off the weekend, and to satisfy the Group Secretary's chip habit, we finished at Morecambe, where inspite of constant moaning from our education representative, we found a superb, classic British chip shop, whose wares we munched while gazing at the southern Lakes across the bay in the evening sun, assisted by a sculpture showing their silhouettes and names. A fine end to a fine weekend.
Thanks to everyone who came.
Carnedd Llewellyn, Saturday, 29th May 2004
A Chip Off The Old Block
At 8:00, six bleary eyed travellers congregated at Roland's house prior to setting forth on our expedition. The weather forecast, according not to Shefali but the BBC weather page said that North Wales would be resplendent in sunshine and showers. However, as we set off, it seemed mainly showers of the long variety as we drove out. But, by the time we got to Chester they had gone, leaving us with a cool but clear day. The only excitement of the journey being the amusing way that Roland's car seemed to be on a road climbing above us as we instead plunged on into the amazing coastal road tunnel under the Conwy estuary. I don't remember the Great Orme coming after Conwy exclaimed Neil T, Just keep driving. And we'll make a U-Turn when this traffic queue's ended came the reply. (The walk leader can't even navigate on a sign-posted road - Heaven help us in the mountain fog).
Negotiating a very narrow lane up from Tal-Y-Caefn, where we met five more of our group, we arrived at the foot of the Llyn Eiriau reservoir, or what remained of it. A thick high wall, which seemed rather excessive for a sheep fold turned out to be the remnants of a dam that once held back a much bigger body of water, but, the gaping holes in it told the tragic story of a 1930's catastrophe for the unfortunates downstream of it. A sombre start.
However, we were soon more concerned about our own health as we instantly started ascending towards Pen Llithrig y Wrach, wet witch mountain. Cool name. The walk leader shrugged off cries of derision every time he took out his map and strode on to the top, confidently.
We had one or two members of our crew who weren't sure of their ability to climb the eventual 1064m to the top of Llewelyn, however, this worry seemed unnecessary as they hared up to the top, ably assist by labrador, Bliss, who thought it was all great sport. We munched a sandwich at the top before dropping again, so as to get more benefit from climbing Pen Yr Helgi Du's lofty heights, the next pinnacle of our achievements.
> Another sharp drop then ensued and not a little stimulating as we made our way down the rocky ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog, with Bliss proving to all that acceleration due to gravity can exceed 32.2ft/s2 when you're attached to the handler's end of a dog lead. However, we were soon all assembled, fears of steep drops confronted and vanquished, preparing ourselves for The Objective. In fact the climb up Carnedd Llewelyn seemed positively leisurely compared with the 45o inclines of its two predecessors.
> Across to the west, we could see the majestic peak of Snowdon. To me, it looks more like an Yr Wyddfa than a Snowdon. The former of these two names, and its traditional one, is more appropriate to its imposing size. I still thought that it was still a git though, as, once more, I gazed frustratedly at it, knowing that if I'd led a walk up there instead, I might actually, after seven attempts, see something from the top, other than clouds.
We made our way down via Foel Grach and the Melynllyn Reservoir and along Clogwyn Maldy to the cars.
As we let the other five run off, the remainder of us set off for Conwy, and the whole point of the expedition, which was to enjoy one the excellent fish, chips, peas, bread and butter and cup of tea suppers at the equally excellent chippy/cafe there. Yum.
Another enjoyable day's walking and thanks to all who came.
Wasdale, Friday, 13th August 2004
The long and the short of it
> A fine summer evening in Wasdale saw the party assembling in the local pub at various times. Those who'd sneaked the day off work enjoyed a meal of the local Cumberland sausage and a selection of fine ales. Others made it up the motorway just in time for last orders.
A long, hot day seemed likely as we drove up to Wasdale Head to start the ascent of Pillar. Much glowing, perspiring and not a little sweating took place as we climbed up from Mosedale to the top of the Black Sail Pass. Little did we know that the sun was about to disappear for most of the day. A cooler traverse of the north side of the mountain followed (with some members "enjoying" the scrambly terrain more than others), and by the time the summit was reached we were completely surrounded by cloud. The route continued over Scoat Fell and Red Pike followed by a descent to Dore Head. A few energetic people completed the intended route with a scramble up Stirrup Crag and over Yewbarrow, while the rest followed the leader's example and descended down the valley so as to get back to the pub that much sooner.
Sunday's weather was altogether different with a cloudy start. Members with some energy left opted for the "long" walk over Great Gable. A "short" option over Wasdale Screes was offered by our illustrious secretary. Strangely those doing the long walk managed to complete their route, have a pint and still get back to the hostel before the others. Which obviously proves that the length of a walk is just the same as a piece of string, or something like that.
New Year's Eve, Friday, 29th December 2006
A Walk in York
The journey to York was easy and only punctured by a Mars Bar break on the M62. It seemed I was there in no time, and it was only when I was in York that the fun started. I breached the city walls at 1.15pm and it was only after hitting more red lights than I have ever experienced in my entire driving life that I did the unmanly thing of ringing Nick and asking directions. Eventually after another faff of 30 minutes I pulled onto the Youth Hostel car park. Within minutes I got a shout from Nick and Matt from the car park and Clare who already arrived and was in her room. After checking in Nick, Matt, Nina, Susie, Clare and myself went in to the City. It had started going dark and the Christmas lights were sparkling and the narrow streets were packed with shoppers and tourists. It would have felt very festive if it hadn't have been so unseasonably warm. After a brief mooch around the shops we headed into a Nick recommended pub, The Yorkshire Terrier, and then headed for a stomach stretching Chinese buffet mountain before a mini pub tour.
Next morning, after a healthy and delicious fry up courtesy of the Hostel we headed off for a coastal walk from the chalk headland of Flamborough Head whilst Matt went for a cultural excursion into the City. The walk went from the lighthouse to Bempton cliffs which rise up over 400 feet with spectacular views of picturesque coves and sea caves. The only blot on the landscape was a big caravan park which looked like it had been lifted from somewhere in the deep south of the U.S. and deposited it in a random way on the Yorkshire coast. Although it didn't rain heavily while we were in Yorkshire, the paths were as muddy as anything I've ever seen in the Peak District in winter. With the sea and the cliffs looking so fine and the weather being so warm, even this couldn't spoil it. At the half way point Nick brought out the hip flask and Nina broke out the mince pies. When we finally reached the Bempton Cliffs we decided to head back as the light was beginning to fade. The mud made things heavy going but to help us on our way, should it get too bleak, the lighthouse suddenly flared into life. After a walk which gradually gained in speed as the darkness fell and the wind and rain came in we reached the car park and quickly changed out of our muddy gear.
The afternoon of New Years eve consisted of a lazy afternoon walking around the City walls and shopping area admiring the wonderful architecture. As the temperature started to fall for the first time all weekend and the rain came in we all went back to the Hostel to prepare for the night's celebrations.
At 7.30pm we headed for our final night in York centre. Nick brought out the special presents for each of us which he had mentioned at the beginning of the weekend which were glow sticks ! A speed march to get to the pub to secure seats meant we were all gagging for a drink by the time we got there. The conversation flowed, as did the ale, and at 11.30 we headed for York Minster and we joined the throngs of people descending on it. When we turned the corner there were several hundred people in front of us but we managed to easily get to the centre. We all did our ravey glow stick dancing as the bells finally chimed for the 12th time and the crowd erupted into Auld Lang Sine which no one ever remembers the words to but nobody cares either. Much hugging and well wishing went on within our group and to strangers.
As we had hadn't drank for 45 minutes our blood levels were starting to increase and some more alcohol had to be consumed from the Three Legged Mare to reverse the affect. We joined a big queue and showed our tickets to the door staff. When we got in we all rang friends and family to give them messages of joy and love which at 12.30 doesn't come out in a very articulate way to say the least.
Next day, after being evicted from our room by over zealous cleaning staff (a sleep in protest was mounted) we went down to reception and said our final goodbyes before we headed off to our own destinations.
Thanks go out to Nick for the effort he put into making this weekend really enjoyable and for the presents he got for us all.
A Happy 2007 to you all !
Yorkshire Weekend, Saturday, 7th April 2007
Sun and Fun in Yorkshire
It was an overloaded Renault Megane that left for Yorkshire at dinnertime on Good Friday. Four lots of walking gear, food and sweets for the journey made a £4m Bedsit in London look palatial but we were all in good spirits as we cruised (albeit falteringly with the traffic) up the M6. Eagle eyed Alex sitting in the back recognised a member of The Bill as we passed his girlfriends motor several times in the yo-yo traffic. I never saw anyone famous when I played spot the registration when I was a nipper !
Excellent driving by Adam "The Transporter" Vincent got us to the bunkhouse in good time and we then found the way to our homes for the next few nights. The ladies room was an enormous, vast open spaced dorm with sink, kitchen table and bench. The gentleman's room was compact and bijou but nevertheless ideal for our simple, limited needs.
Not long after we arrived the familiar presence of Matt's car appeared somewhat surprising us as we weren't expecting him or his passengers until after 8pm. A small oversite that it was a bank holiday meant they were incredibly early which made for an earlier start to the night's entertainment, especially as Phil H arrived as we went to get some bedding from the reception.
We headed over to nearby Settle to visit the Royal Oak for our first evening meal. The beer was splendid stuff and an odd pint of Black Sheep was consumed, and the food was pretty good with a carvery and a vegetarian choice. We finished our drinks then made our way back to the site to check out the entertainment at the bar there. To wake us up a bit card games were suggested. We then endeavoured to learn a game whose name cannot be published as our webmaster will remove it ! After several explanations Matt and myself began to get it. Instructions for such games just sounded like noise to us both but in the end we got there.
Next day with our guide, Michelle, reading the map far better than I, we set off from the site to Ingleborough. The weather was fantastic and we couldn't have hoped for better. Heading through Austwick into the pretty village of Clapham and The Lake, we headed up to Gaping Gill. This is quite a scary 100 odd foot sheer drop into the bowels of the earth. After a quick tea break we headed up to the ironically named Little Ingleborough which is far from. Lunch was at the summit point here before we relunctantly made our way from the warm, windless shelter to the big brother Ingleborough. The views from the top were superb with Pen Y Ghent and Whernside in the distance. We made our way down to a well earned in the New Inn, Clapham. Although it was sunny there was a slight chill in the air as we sat by the river so we headed for the Game Cock (Cue much hilarity) in Austwick where we had a meal.
After much cursing standing on the torture mats which pained even the hardiest of walkers feet we headed back to the bar for round 2 of the game that shall not be printed. A few people soon appeared to be card sharks, Phil H, Nina, Michelle and Alex all playing rather immoral hands.
Day 2 (cue dodgy Geordie accent) of our walk went from the lovely village of Malham. Top on the list of must do walks in this area is Gordale Scar made famous by James Wards' painting The Romantic North. It's a a 22 mile geological fault line which runs from the borders of Cumbria into the Yorkshire Dales and is somewhere around 15-16 million years old ( I think you'll find!). In its dark heart is a gripped, sorted off road, up hill scramble. Being Staffs Walkers, we laugh in the face of danger, and and throw ice cubes down the vest of fear. After waiting a while for the queue to drop a bit, we scrambled our way up to the waterfall. It is an amazing place made even better by the weather, but saying that if the weather had closed in it would easily be just as beautifuk but more atmospheric. You can only imagine the sites that must have gone on through its million years of history.
Onwards we went through the fields full of limestone to Malham Tarn which was getting quite choppy as the wind had picked up by this point. Heading back past ancient settlements we aimed for Malham Cove along the Pennine Way. Although it was the busiest day of the year so far it wasn't a walking equvalent of the M6 by any means and we finally got to the stunning Malham Cove and it's stunning views in the early evening sunlight. Along with everyone else we trod down the steps into Malham and a well earned pint in the Lister Arms before going on to a great night in the White Hart Inn at Giggleswick.
We'd come here expecting great brews and some tasty grub. We got both and a brilliant night which included a pub quiz. Trevor, our host, quickly impressed with his wit and repartee and while we were eating asked if we'd like to stay for the pub quiz. We weren't going to until he suggested that he could book us a taxi. Not wanting to be rude we decided this was a plan and soon forgot about another night of cards and hunted for a place to park our weary bones for the quiz. We soon split into camps, the girls team (Aren't Birds Brilliant) and the Boys (The Gareth Hunts). The quiz started and not longer after the rivalry kicked in. Played along the lines of Blockbusters with Bob Holnes (Can I have a P please Bob ?), we were a bit pants to start off with. The girls got close, and then the boys didn't, and we were pretty far off again. Then we started getting there and the questions came into our areas of speciality ( and we lucked in). It went to a tie breaker, when did Whitney Houston marry Bobby Brown. 1992 - back of the net. The Gareth Hunts won - a meal - for one. Still that wasn't the point. The night was brilliant, the company entertaining and we even got a lift back off Trevor as he couldn't get hold of a taxi for us all. What a great bloke !
Next day we headed off to Ingleton for a little stroll and to see the Thornton Force (waterfall) and the several others downstream. Ready for a bite of lunch we headed into the superb Bernies Café (www.berniescafe.co.uk) caver/ climber shop/ café which served pints of tea, huge portions of chips in Yorkshire pudding and a massive veggie selection. All in all it was a great weekend, and even the final days weather couldn't take it away from us. Big thanks to everyone on the weekend that made it so much fun and to Michelle who got us around the walks with her excellent map reading. Finally, we'd all like to thank Trevor and Barbara Reynolds at The Harts Head Hotel (www.hartsheadhotel.co.uk) for making us welcome and going out of the way to make sure we got back to Daleshead safe and sound.