Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Album , Gig , Theatre

Northern Flyway

We came across Northern Flyway by chance in January. With a gap in our schedule for the weekend we were at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, we picked the show from the programme that sounded most interesting (and besides, Sarah Hayes was playing in it; we'd seen her with Admiral Fallow).

Taking our seats in the Tron Theatre back then, we didn't know what to expect. Tonight was different: we'd seen the show and knew the music so had to return to for the London date of the tour.

northern-flyway.jpg

Just about every way of classifying Northern Flyway won't do it justice. Is it folk music? Beatboxing? Theatre? Nature documentary? Birdsong catalogue? And dare you mention the gorgeous custom knitware?

Imagine all these elements brought to life with beautiful harmonies and a heartful of joy and you'll begin to approach the experience.

Two curlews duet about their lifelong bond, singing of dancing above heather moorland; waxwings flock and wheel around the sky in a twittering bundle, and owls find safety and shelter in the statue of Athena, their ancient protector and the source of the enduring myth of their wisdom. Folklore, ornithology and sociology mesh together. Stories of the struggles of migration apply equally to bird and human endeavours.

Perhaps we're sounding too enthusiastic. But here's the thing: Northern Flyway is a unique production that we're delighted to have caught. We'd recommend everyone go along.

And if you can't get to a show, the album was released last week providing the sonic experience if not the video and knitware.

(For bonus marks, pick up Jenny Sturgeon's The Wren and the Salt Air E.P., which perhaps marks the genesis of the Northern Flyway project. We came away tonight with two of Inge Thomson's CDs so we have homework of our own.)

Posted by pab at 23:24 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Monday, 10 September 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Settle Loop

attermire-crags.jpg Distance: 11.17 miles
Ascent: 555 metres
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes

Joining up

Although I've completed the current linear Pennine Bridleway, there are still some optional extras left. The Trail includes two loops off the main route, and at about ten miles the Settle Loop is the shorter, providing a good morning walk.

malham-tarn.jpgFor twenty years or so I had difficulty locating Malham on a map. It's up a bit of a dead end, and by road it's not particularly near anything. The Settle Loop challenges that perception, extending four miles east of Settle to provide a clear view of Malham Tarn (if not the Cove itself).

three-peaks.jpgI've really enjoyed "joining up" my knowledge of our island's geography on my walks, and there is no finer example than this. Looking east I remembered my first ever trip to Malham and Gordale Scar, as well as last year's passage through the village on the Pennine Way. On the return leg to Settle the Yorkshire Three Peaks presented themselves proudly on the horizon, reminding me again of last September, but also of this year's walks along the Bridleway. It's deeply satisfying to be able to scan such a wide horizon and see familiar features in almost all directions.

victoria-cave.jpgI detoured from the line of the Loop briefly to explore the Victoria Cave, a deep cleft in the limestone.

Its location just couple of miles outside of Settle was evident in that I met about a dozen people walking on these last few miles, but hadn't seen a single soul previously. I prefer the solitude of having the path to myself, but it's always comforting to see friendly faces.

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Sunday, 9 September 2018

Gig

Niteworks

Back in Settle Victoria Hall, this time for a band I've seen before.

niteworks.jpg

What you need to know about Niteworks' performance tonight:

  1. They had everyone dancing: from teenagers right up to eighty-somethings.
  2. The music scarcely stopped, band members switching instruments seamlessly without waiting for applause at the end of a song.
  3. By the end, everyone was exhausted, and everyone was grinning.

Even if the thought of Gaelic electronic dance music with bagpipes and poems doesn't sound appealing, go and see Niteworks anyway; you will be converted.

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Pennine Bridleway

Garsdale Head → Street

moorcock-inn.jpg Distance: 10.37 miles
Ascent: unknown
Duration:

A disappointing end
« Not walked | Not walked »

It's always a joy to stay overnight directly on the path. The convenience is one thing, but also you often meet like-minded walkers in the bar or over breakfast. And so it was at the Moorcock Inn, where we chatted with a couple from Ayr. They were in the area with their local walking group, the majority of whom we'd met the previous night in Hawes YHA, but our friends had made the sensible decision to eschew dormitories, bunk beds and self catering for this comfortable B&B.

surveying.jpgAlthough the weather forecast for today was significantly better than yesterday's, we set out from the pub into a persistent drizzle. A relatively short climb took us to Lady Ann's Highway, a track which although level became higher and higher above the valley floor as the nascent River Eden dropped away.

water-cut.jpgHeads down into the wind we didn't see the allegedly beautiful Hell Gill, but did stop for a breath at the Water Cut sculpture. Beyond here the path dropped to the valley road but before then the view was delightful, with rich farmland ahead, flanked on either side by the high, rocky moorland of Mallerstang Common.

The rain held off during our descent but returned as we ascended the flank of Wild Boar Fell to the pass at High Dolphinsty. Hopes of a clear view ahead were dashed by yet more low cloud, but at least the precipitation wasn't too heavy.

mallerstang-common.jpgRather soon we reached tarmac, and before long the A683 where the Pennine Bridleway presently comes to a rather abrupt and underwhelming end. Plans to extend the trail for another hundred miles or so through Northumbria to Byrness have been approved but no funding has been secured to construct the path.

All in all the Pennine Bridleway isn't the best National Trail. It has its moments; it runs through some spectacular scenery, but by design it doesn't follow a natural theme. Instead its purpose is to get people to places. For walkers it's a good route for passing swiftly from the Peak District to the North Pennines. Perhaps it'll find purpose as an element of LE-JoG routes that don't want the drama of the Pennine Way.

end-for-now.jpg

For me it'll always be the National Trail I was least fussed about finishing, but when I realised I was so close to completing all the others it would have been churlish to omit this one.

Walking from the end of the trail to the railway station at Kirkby Stephen we could make out the radar station on Great Dun Fell and to its north, the bulk of Cross Fell. I remembered the Pennine Way's onward route, and how just a couple of days' walking from where we stood would take us to Hadrian's Wall.

National Trail 14 is complete. Just one left, and it's along that Wall.

Posted by pab at 13:53 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Birkwith → Garsdale Head

pab-jsb.jpg Distance: 16.10 miles
Ascent: 645 metres
Duration: 5 hours 6 minutes

The Three Peaks
« Not walked | Not walked »

The summer is officially over, but the hardy are trying to eke out as much as they can of its remaining moments. That's why I'm up in Yorkshire once more, keen to spend the next two days finishing off the Pennine Bridleway. For the first time on this National Trail I'm not alone. Jez has joined me for the weekend and the last twenty-five miles.

three-peakers.jpgFinding somewhere to park in Horton-in-Ribblesdale this morning was far from simple, and that fact was not entirely unrelated to the twenty or so people we came across just forty-five minutes into our walk. Horton is the natural place to start the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, and the dozens of energetic twentysomethings we saw at High Birkwith had parked up and set out for Pen-y-Ghent probably before we'd even had breakfast.

It wasn't a good day to climb those hills. None of the three were really visible through the low cloud, and we were glad to be generally contouring round the edges of the valleys rather than aiming for the tops.

calf-holes.jpgFor a while we joined the Pennine Way, but soon the Way and Bridleway diverged at their most northerly meeting point on the Roman Cam High Road.

It's such a shame the weather was so poor. There ought to be so much more to report about this walk, such as the magnificent Settle to Carlisle railway line snaking its way along the valley, diving into tunnels and thrusting out across viaducts between tortuously steep gradients. We did see the line through a couple of gaps in the cloud, but a strike today meant that no trains were running; the line was silent.

dent-viaduct.jpgTonight we're staying at an isolated inn on a high pass between three dales. We arrived tired and soaking wet, but it's the sort of place where guests are expected to be disheveled. Of course within half an hour of our arrival the rain stopped and the sky began to clear. Perhaps that bodes well for tomorrow.

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Friday, 7 September 2018

Yorkshire Dales

Cove and Scar

malham-cove.jpg Distance: 7.72 miles
Ascent: 248 metres
Duration: 2 hours 44 minutes

17. Around Malham

Here's a walk I've done twice before. It's a bit of a classic: a Malham circuit taking in the waterfalls of Janet's Foss and Gordale Scar before reaching Malham Cove via Malham Tarn.

It's a walk of high drama, and the centrepiece is climbing beside the waterfall at Gordale Scar. The climb is a fairly straightforward short scramble, made more intimidating by the thundering water alongside and the prospect of a dozen or so less adventurous spectators wondering what the heck you're doing. Stay to the left of the main cascade, and it'll be over before you know it. I genuinely believe pretty much anyone can do this.

gordale-scar.jpggordale-waterfall-2.jpggordale-waterfall.jpg

It's been twenty-five years since I first completed the circuit, and last time I tried water levels were too high to safely complete the ascent. But today conditions were perfect. An ideal warm-up for a couple of days in the Dales.

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Friday, 31 August 2018

Greenbelt

Greenbelt 2018: Acts of the Imagination

Thirty years ago I was one of five teenagers turning up to our first Greenbelt Festival. Sixteen years old, and deeply impressionable, my life changed that weekend. I'm delighted it did.

I've been back to the festival every year since, and after ten years started to help organise it. 2018 is the first time I've not had any volunteer role in twenty years; this year I was a regular punter.

As ever I saw a lot of different things at the festival, but this year one act stood out perhaps more than any other has over the years: Pussy Riot. The Riot Days gig was the best thing I've ever seen at Greenbelt. It was a theatrical version of Masha Alyokhina's book, presented in the form of a punk gig. The gig told of Masha's part in Pussy Riot's infamous Punk Prayer, and her incarceration and challenges to Russia's harsh criminal justice system. It was loud, chaotic, shouty (in Russian with English subtitles), rude and a shock to just about every sense.

It was also liberating and challenging.

For example, is Putin's courting of the Orthodox Church any different to Trump's alignment with Evangelicals? Or for that matter, is it appropriate for me to say that I believe that the Christian faith is incompatible with voting for the party of individual personal wealth?

masha.jpg

Two phrases really stuck with me: "Freedom doesn't exist unless you fight for it every day" was the penultimate line of the gig. But on the previous day when asked in an interview what the Greenbelt audience could learn from Pussy Riot, Masha simply said: "You are the motherland of punk". We don't need to learn. We need to act.

Two hours after the gig there was still a long queue for signed copies of Masha's book. Most seemed to be young, impressionable teenagers. I've never been more proud to have played a small part in Greenbelt's story. Long may it continue to upset, disrupt and inspire.

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Settle → Birkwith

ribble.jpg Distance: 17.42 miles
Ascent: 725 metres
Duration: 5 hours 12 minutes

Ribble
« Not walked | Not walked »

This morning — just like four weeks ago — I found myself facing the end of a long weekend with a good distance ahed of me let to walk, and the prospect of rain coming in. At least this time I had the sense to have breakfast at my hotel before heading off, but that meant maintaining a pretty stiff pace all day.

bo-peep.jpg

Flowerpot Bo Peep shepherded me out of Settle, and after traversing the hillside I was soon crossing the River Ribble on the floor of the valley. A roundabout route on the other side took me along old green drove lanes from village to village, before finally ascending the flanks of Ingleborough.

moughton-scars.jpg

The Pennine Way doesn't climb the hill itself, but the landscape it crosses is equally splendid, with vast limestone pavements reminding me that Malham Cove isn't the only place to see this remarkable rock formation.

pen-y-ghent.jpg

In the end I made it to Horton-in-Ribblesdale with plenty of time to spare, and the rain didn't start in earnest until I was safely tucked inside the Crown Inn with a late lunchtime drink. One by one Pennine Way walkers (and one end-to-ender) wearily made their way into the pub, soaked to the skin having hauled themselves over a cloud-shrouded Pen-y-Ghent. Hopefully the camaraderie in the bar made up for the lack of a view from the top.

Once again I've had a great weekend; it would've been perfect had I not left my iPad in the station waiting room on my way home.

Posted by pab at 15:38 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Gig

Le Vent du Nord

It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the best gigs take place in the cities. Settle's Victoria Hall convincingly disproved that theory tonight.

le-vent-du-nord.jpgIt was midweek when I noticed that the quintessential Québécois quintet that Emma and I saw three years ago in Glasgow were playing in this Yorkshire town tonight.

The gig was tremendous: fiddles, hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, keyboards, accordion, tap and all. I suspect Le Vent du Nord aren't capable of pulling off anything less than a thrilling, joyful performance.

victoria-hall.jpgThe real star for me though was the Victoria Hall itself. Claiming to be the oldest music hall in the world (though I'm aware of at least two others that lay claim to that crown), it's run by volunteers, has a lovingly curated artistic programme and equally diverse selection of drinks at the bar. The hall felt like the centre of a community of which I was proud to be a temporary member. I'll be back.

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Pennine Bridleway

Barnoldswick → Settle

alpaca.jpg Distance: 18.87 miles
Ascent: 592 metres
Duration: 5 hours 45 minutes

The parallel path
« Not walked | Not walked »

white-moor.jpgOnce again the weather has been kind to me. Sure, I didn't get the wall-to-wall sunshine of yesterday, but more importantly on a day that had a forecast of non-stop rain, I remained unexpectedly dry. After the prolonged heatwave, it appears as though normal service has been resumed when it comes to the weather.

aire-gap.jpgIt's proving increasingly difficult for me to describe the Pennine Bridleway without reference to the Pennine Way. When I realised that today's leg started and finished with hills, but was otherwise across farmland, I remembered the route from Ickornshaw to Malham across the Aire Gap. Today I've crossed the same geological gap, about five miles to the west.

settle-milestone.jpgThe best of the walk was the end: the long climb after Long Preston, and the drop into Settle. Between these two the character of the landscape changed to moorland, and with dark clouds brooding in the east it felt dramatic and exciting, something that's generally been missing elsewhere on the bridleway. The fact that the Settle milestone is to be found at the top end of town on this track perhaps indicates its importance as the old traditional route across the moors.

alpaca-pot.jpgSettle itself is a lovely town, full of nooks and crannies, and well worth an explore. It's right in the middle of its annual Flowerpot Festival, with constructions made from flowerpots decorating every building and corner of the town. I've been through Settle on the train so many times but never stopped.

The town is also home to the Victoria Hall, said to be the oldest music hall in the world. Fortuitously there's a show on tonight that interests me, so here's another first on a walk: a post-exercise gig. Should be good.

Notes for future walkers:

  • The signpost was missing at the foot of Brook Lane west of Halton West, but the turning is easy to find if you're got an eye on the map — it's immediately before Town Farm.
  • There isn't a signposted route in Long Preston. I stayed on the B6478 until just after it crossed the railway before picking up a path behind the houses on the left. After crossing the A65 at the village green, the route out of the village is Green Gate Lane, tucked away on the left.
  • The route in Settle is similarly vague. The best option is probably to head downhill until you hit the main square although I think the formal route stays on the highest road, just skimming the easternmost edge of the town.
Posted by pab at 15:30 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Worsthorne → Barnoldswick

solitary-tree.jpg Distance: 16.48 miles
Ascent: 781 metres
Duration: 5 hours 26 minutes

Sunshine
« Not walked | Not walked »

My wish was granted. Today's walk was the best I've had so far on the Pennine Bridleway, and will be something I'll remember for a long time. Gone were the stony tracks that were such a feature of earlier legs, replaced with finer cinder paths, and even some meadows.

be-nice.jpgOver to the east — looking resplendent in the sunshine — I saw Ickornshaw Moor, the first real challenge for us on our Pennine Way attempt last year. To the north the unmistakable shape of Pen-y-Ghent was visible on the far horizon, another foe from September.

wycoller.jpgBut there wasn't the slightest hint of hardship in today's walking, accompanied as I was by glorious sunshine. The highlight was the little village of Wycoller, with its delightful ancient bridges and fords, its ruined Hall and it tremendous tearoom.

musghyll-guide-stone.jpgDo you get the feeling I enjoyed today? On the whole I've not been inspired by the Pennine Bridleway, but I'd gladly come back and repeat today's leg.

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Friday, 10 August 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Mankinholes → Worsthorne

calder-valley.jpg Distance: 14.10 miles
Ascent: 737 metres
Duration: 4 hours 26 minutes

Intertwined
« Not walked | Not walked »

They were huddled together, talking animatedly as they looked at a phone. "Pennine Way?" I asked. They nodded. "You'll want to go this way," I said, encouraging them to continue down the track they were on. "Then why does does the sign show that way?" Asked the young European woman, pointing to a National Trail waymarker showing the path I'd taken out of the dell in Callis Wood. Her male companions (who admittedly had initially said they didn't want help) looked as me as if they'd just played a trump card. I pulled out my guide book. "Pennine Bridleway. Different thing."

i-am-real.jpg"Is there anywhere ahead we can buy a map?"

I showed them where I thought the famous Aladdin's Cave of May's Shop was and we talked a little more before heading our separate ways. To be honest, I was quite jealous at the thought of doing this long trek on the threshold of adulthood.

The Pennine Way and the Pennine Bridleway are intertwined on this section, at first crossing each other, then running together in three separate places. Using the same acorn waymark and having almost identical names, there are plenty of opportunities for confusion (especially when you factor in the odd missing or misplaced signpost).

coming-storm.jpgThis intertwining was a delight and a challenge for me. I enjoyed the easier route of the Bridleway out of the Calder Valley, but then felt frustrated at how circuitous a route it seemed to take to reach Lower Gorple Reservoir. This was compounded by the sudden downpour that started as I reached Badger Lane. The rain skipped straight over the gentle shower phase and hit with a thunderclap which announced the arrival of plump raindrops, soon to be followed by hail, dumped from the sky.

hare-stones.jpgThe showers eventually cleared, and my spirit lifted as I saw the reservoir wall ahead of me and recognised not déjà vu, but a clear memory of walking this way before, back in September last year.

Were it not for the Europeans, the rain and the reservoirs, today's walk would have felt a lot less interesting. Ultimately it was mile after mile of stoney track. This seems to be the defining characteristic of the Pennine Bridleway: a good surface for horse and bicycle riders to enjoy, but for walkers it's a long plod whose main goal is to cover distance. I hope tomorrow is better.

Posted by pab at 18:35 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Gŵyl Coda

Gŵyl Coda 2018: Gathering Hope

tree.jpgThe Welsh word "bach" translates literally as "small". But it also carries connotations of affection and love. You don't have to be small to have a big impact. Take Wales itself: a small country on our shared island, but with a deep influence.

strata-florida-tiles-v.jpgThe first Gŵyl Coda festival was held in July this year. Is Coda "Greenbelt Bach"? Perhaps. The family semblance is there: a field with marquees, portaloos and traders; music, theatre, visual art, worship and workshops; a desire to engage with the world's injustices and celebrate its diversities. After listening to Wisam Salsaa talking about Banksy's "Walled Off Hotel", you could grab a falafel from a Machynlleth social enterprise, look at paintings inspired by floor tiles at the nearby Strata Florida Abbey, while in the next tent Nikko Fir sang touching songs of hope in the main Hwb marquee. You get the idea. Anyone familiar with Greenbelt would feel right at home.

Coda is a festival with a strong Welsh accent. Heard in the voices of course, with Welsh language programming forming an essential part of the mix. It's there in the warm welcome; the celebration of Welsh culture, and (perhaps uniquely this year) the buzz of the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.

nikko-fir.jpgGreenbelt has often been described as a community, but really it's a festival that a community of people visit. Coda's taking the opposite approach, existing first as a network of people who amongst other things become visible through a bi-annual festival. The intent is evident in the translation of the festival name: "get up, rise up".

marquees.jpgCoda 2018 was a seed. With nurture and care it'll grow. The next festival will be in 2020, by which time the network will have spent two years working to build positive changes throughout their communities, inspired by the people they've met and the artistic movement they're part of.

England has Greenbelt; Scotland has Solas (next year is the tenth!) and now Wales has Coda.

You're standing on a small island shared by three nations, and now each has a festival of their own that celebrates art, faith and justice. Perhaps visit another.

Posted by pab at 12:19 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Diggle → Mankinholes

dawn.jpg Distance: 19.56 miles
Ascent: 1026 metres
Duration: 6 hours 13 minutes

Air
« Not walked | Not walked »

pennine-way.jpgIncoming inclement weather and a long distance to cover before my train home persuaded me to make an early start today. And so I watched the sun rise over Diggle and Delph as I climbed to the point where the Pennine Way and Pennine Bridleway briefly share a path at the top of Standedge. A disc of sunlight traced across each fell, as if gently waking the villages one-by-one.

pylons.jpg

Unfortunately the magic didn't last, the glorious start to the day replaced by dank greyness by the time I'd crossed the M62, and soon I was walking across moorland adjacent to marching electricity pylons, their wires fizzling in the misty air.

stoodley.jpg

For the first time on the Pennine Bridleway today's leg didn't follow a dismantled railway line at all. But on the final stretch of moorland, another familiar wayfinding mechanism returned: across Langfield Common the line of the path is marked by big flagstones sunk into the ground, a memory of many walks on the Pennine Way. Eventually the mist cleared sufficiently to reveal another old friend — Stoodley Pike Monument — just a shade beyond my destination for the day.

It's been good to get out these four days. I'll be back soon for the next hundred miles or so.

Posted by pab at 15:19 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Birch Vale → Diggle

hayfield.jpg Distance: 21.23 miles
Ascent: 956 metres
Duration: 7 hours 4 minutes

Fire
« Not walked | Not walked »

My original intent had been to walk these four sections of the Pennine Bridleway a fortnight ago, but I put that plan on hold when a week earlier news broke of a wild fire raging on Saddleworth Moor. Today's leg traced the edge of the fire ground.

st-tarcisius.jpgBefore getting there, I took the "non-bridleway" section of the bridleway. Being a new National Trail, the route isn't yet fully established, and for a section between Cown Edge and Lees Hill there isn't yet a path with bridleway access. Horses and cyclists take to the roads while I followed the "interim" walkers' route. This alternative route followed the sharp line of Coombes Edge, curving high above Charlesworth for a delightful mile or so, but the section wasn't well signposted at all, so I was glad to have checked the line of the path on the National Trails website before setting out. (On the positive side, the route took me past a couple of tremendously-dressed wells just before leaving Derbyshire.)

moor-edge-road.jpgHigher Swineshaw Reservoir provided an excellent point from which to view the fire damaged moors. Framed by the water and the deep blue sky, the blackened land took on an unusually beautiful hue, but after walking a few miles along the Moor Edge Road, with burned heather to the right and luscious pasture to the left the extent of the destruction was clear. Despite that, it was pleasing to see tiny flecks of green amongst the charred earth. It could have been source material for a parable about never being too late to start again.

diggle-tunnel.jpgEventually leaving the moor, the path dropped to follow yet another disused railway line (they seem to be a feature of the Bridleway) along the Tame valley to the village of Diggle, the southern end of the Standedge canal and railway tunnels under the main Pennine ridge, whose ventilation shafts we saw last year on from the Pennine Way walk.

Notes for future walkers:

  • The walkers' alternative is poorly signposted. Check the route before you set out.
  • I lost sight of the path on both sides of the A626 Glossop Road north of Charlesworth. Approaching the road from the east I couldn't find the path heading north from SK 010 936, and after crossing the road I ended up on the wrong side of the fence at SK 007 938. This latter mistake seems to be down to a poorly-signed recent re-routing of the path.
  • The route at SK 001 947 (The Hague) looks impassable due to an imposing iron gate. There's a similarly huge kissing gate hiding to the left.
  • The worst-maintained footbridge I've ever seen is at SK 007 976 in Swallow's Wood Nature Reserve. Thankfully the water level was low and I was able to find an alternative route round the precarious structure.
Posted by pab at 17:54 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Blackwell → Birch Vale

st-annes-dressing.jpg Distance: 19.20 miles
Ascent: 683 metres
Duration: 6 hours 41 minutes

Water
« Not walked | Not walked »

st-annes-well.jpgSince the theme of yesterday's walk was earth, today's had to be water. It was set before I'd even taken the bus back out to Blackwell. Staying in Buxton overnight there was only one way I could've filled up my water carrier: direct from the source at St Anne's Well. Like all other wells in the town, it had been dressed for the local festival, a practice I'd not come across before. Apparently a Derbyshire tradition, great frames of wet clay are affixed to the well heads, into which petals, leaves, feathers and all manner of other materials are pressed to create a scene. Had I known more, I would have sought out these wells over the past two walks.

chee-dale.jpgAs for today's walk, after a charming start deep in Chee Dale beside the River Wye, most of the first half was a little tedious, plodding along quiet tarmac lanes. On reaching the High Peak though, the trail transformed and became an absolute joy. Ahead I could see Kinder Low, evoking memories of the climb out of Edale last year on our first day walking the Pennine Way. The number of cyclists on the path picked up; some whizzed by, while others stopped suddenly to see what I was photographing (and then seemed surprised to realise that the views were stunning).

cyclist-mount-famine.jpgI was hoping to see a monument in Hayfield commemorating the mass trespass of 1932, considered by many to be the start of the movement to secure public access to our country's land, but if there was one I couldn't find it.

The final stretch of the day from Hayfield to Birch Vale was a little less inspiring, along the line of another disused railway, but was at least very easy walking.

Notes for future walkers:

  • Amongst the buildings at Mosley Farm (SK 115 730), the Bridleway turns north away from the drive, but this is easy to miss. If you miss the turn, continue along the drive — the Bridleway soon rejoins it.
Posted by pab at 17:06 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Pennine Bridleway

Middleton Top → Blackwell

middleton-top.jpg Distance: 19.02 miles
Ascent: 164 metres
Duration: 4 hours 55 minutes

Earth
« Not walked | Not walked »

pbw-start.jpgYes, I know we've already finished the Pennine Way. This is something different. The Pennine Bridleway is the newest of the fourteen National Trails of England and Wales, and aims to provide a route through the Pennines that can be used not just by walkers, but by horse riders and cyclists too. The route currently stretches 200 miles from Derbyshire to Cumbria, but there are outline plans to eventually extend it to Byrness in Northumbria.

So I'm walking again, hoping to complete the trail over a few weekends this summer.

hopton-tunnel.jpgFrankly, today's walk hasn't been particularly inspiring. Almost the entire length followed the line of a dismantled railway that was originally used to transport stone from nearby quarries. Stone is everywhere here. In the high fields, clusters of exposed rock reveal the geology that lies just below the surface: fuel for the limestone quarries and brickworks not far from the trail. Had I known about it, I'd have allowed time to explore the National Stone Centre close to the start of the walk. Perhaps another time.

endless-track.jpgAnother sight I missed was Arbor Low — a neolithic henge about halfway along the route. (Think Stonehenge but with all the uprights toppled. I had no idea such a place existed, which perhaps says more about my ignorance of the centre of our island than anything else.)

The route strikes away from the line of the old railway just ahead of an active quarrying site and heads north across the folds of the landscape towards the main road into Buxton. Hopefully tomorrow's leg will be more varied than today's.

Notes for future walkers:

  • To reach the start of the walk at Middleton Top, follow the road from Cromford Station to the crossroad in the village, then continue on the pavement straight ahead uphill (A5012, then B5036). Ignoring the B5035 turning for Middleton Top, continue ahead and take a path on the right just before a railway bridge takes you up to the old line. Crossing over the Steeple Grange Light Railway then pick up the High Peak Trail which runs steeply uphill past the National Stone Centre to Middleton Top.
Posted by pab at 15:48 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Solas

Solas 2018: Drift

dots-washing.jpgA field in the sun; familiar faces; an eclectic and mind-stretching programming: the ninth Solas Festival.

This year's theme of Drift took in the stories of cultures in migration, and some of the more subtle drifts in language, history and politics, soundtracked by new and emerging bands from around Scotland.

mainstage.jpgThe programme was book-ended by Arabic voices. Shamstep group 47SOUL had everyone out-dancing the midgies on Friday night, and a "learn Palestinian Arabic through the medium of za'atar" session turned out to be a thoughtful introduction to a unique new online learning course, developed by the universities of Gaza and Glasgow, which enables Gaza-based tutors to teach despite the restrictions imposed by the occupation.

Other highlights included:

  • barrow.jpgThe Barrow Band's singing and dancing fruit and veg

  • Professor John Curtis's talk on the Scottish Independence and EU referendums. I came away with the uneasy sense that Scotland might not lean as far to the left as its political representation suggests, leading to the chilling question of what would happen should Scotland gain independence. Would there be any need for the SNP? ("Look at UKIP.") Would a rebranded Conservative party become a dominant political force?

  • Vox Liminis' Distant Voices project bringing songs written by those with first-hand experience of the criminal justice system to a wider audience

molly.jpgIn between, there was the typical mix of the wondrous and sometimes bizarre that we've come to love at Solas. Where else can you turn a corner from the world-class Scottish Opera performers, and run straight into a towering-costumed street performer wielding a chuckling, demonic-looking baby; or enjoy a film about house music in Africa in the company of Molly, the site's horse, whose stable was being used as a cinema?

Posted by pab at 19:14 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Website

That was 2017/18

If you'd looked at this blog over the past fifteen months you'd be forgiven for thinking we've not been up to much. On the contrary, we've squeezed a lot in but have been tardy at writing it up.

We're up-to-date now, so feel free to catch up. We have:

Finally, in case you missed it, we explained the reason for our busyness: we're moving.

Posted by pab at 20:33 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Gig

Massive Attack / Young Fathers

young-fathers.jpg"What a time to be alive!" were the spoken opening words of Young Fathers's support slot. What followed was a sonic and visual assault that stayed with me long after the gig, and wiped any memory of the first support act. We were at the Eden Sessions to see Massive Attack, and while the Bristol group's headline set was even better than I'd hoped (I've been meaning to see them live for years), it was the intimidating support that really got beneath my skin. The sound was loud, and the dancing and posturing from the stage as effective as any haka.

Massive Attack's own set was fantastic. Towards the end, "We are all in this together" flashed up on the screen at the back of the stage, jarringly demonstrating neatly how words that seem so hollow from one person can appear authentic and urgent from another.

massive-attack.jpg

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Friday, 25 May 2018

St Cuthbert's Way

Kirk Yetholm → Wooler

cuthbert-waymark.jpg Distance: 13.53 miles
Ascent: 707 metres
Duration: 4 hours 50 minutes

Scotland to England
« Not walked | Not walked »

The first thing the B&B owner asked us last night was, "Do you know how you're leaving Kirk Yetholm?"

return-to-pw.jpgThis village may be the northern end of one of Britain's best known trails but it doesn't have particularly good transport links. What it does have though is another long distance path.

So today, a day after finishing the only National Trail that crosses into Scotland, we're embarking on the only one of Scotland's Great Trails that enters England — St Cuthbert's Way.

the-cheviot.jpgThe section from Kirk Yetholm to Wooler is right in the middle of St Cuthbert's Way, which runs from Melrose to Lindisfarne. It follows the Pennine Way south for a couple of miles before heading east at the border.

The rest of the walk was across moorland and along gentle valleys in the shadow of the Cheviot: a perfect way to wind down after a week of heavy walking.

em-silhouette.jpg

We head home tomorrow, but we'll be back to cross the border again soon. After all, we may have nearly completed the National Trails of England and Wales, but Scotland has twenty-nine Great Trails for us to explore.

Posted by pab at 13:49 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Pennine Way

Windy Gyle → Kirk Yetholm

numbered-boots.jpg Distance: 15.12 miles
Ascent: 761 metres
Duration: 5 hours 21 minutes

Journey's end
« Not walked | Not walked »

cheviot-range.jpgWe said a sad goodbye to our temporary companions this morning and headed off in the minibus to begin our final walk of the Pennine Way. The bus route took us along the military road, in places still wreathed in the overnight mist, back to Trows farm, where we started the long climb back up to Windy Gyle. Low cloud shrouded the valleys to the north, a fitting symmetry to our first walk on The Way when we left Edale in September.

looking-north.jpg

The lumpen mass of The Cheviot is on a spur off the main route of the Pennine Way, but it seemed churlish to not reach its summit. You don't do this for the views: the hill's upper reaches form a gentle dome that obscures the vista in all directions. Back on the main ridge there's plenty to be seen, especially the spectacular gully of Hen Hole.

into-scotland.jpg

Before we knew it we were crossing the border for the last time, although the path still had a few tricks up its sleeve. Lazy map-reading meant that I'd assumed today's walk was "up to The Cheviot, then a long descent to the end". That's not what we got; the high-level route continues a switchback across summits and bealachs - going up and over White Hill is particularly cruel - before finally reaching the road just outside Kirk Yetholm.

From the road we reached the village very quickly, and in the village: the Border Hotel. There's a book kept behind the bar for Pennine Way walkers to record their completion, and a reward of a free half pint of beer and a certificate. While we drank we noted with pleasure our friends' signatures and comments with just a hint of sadness that we'll not meet up again.

border-hotel.jpg

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Pennine Way

Byrness → Windy Gyle

pennine-map.jpg Distance: 13.00 miles
Ascent: 880 metres
Duration: 4 hours 54 minutes

Walking to Scotland ... again
« Not walked | Not walked »

On the previous occasion that our walking took us across the border to Scotland we were accompanied by family and were celebrating the end of a 3,000 mile journey around the coast of England and Wales. Today's crossing was appropriately lower key, given that we've a much smaller distance under our belt this time.

byrness-hill.jpgDid I suggest a singular crossing? We actually passed from one country to another five times today, but didn't once see a sign indicating this. In fact, on at least one occasion the border wasn't visible on the ground at all — not even accompanied by the low "border fence" that we walked alongside for much of the day.

archaeological-area.jpgFrom Byrness we started our traverse of the Cheviot range of hills. Every minute was absolutely glorious, with spectacular 360 degree views almost every step of the way.

There are no settlements between Byrness and Kirk Yetholm, but the 28 mile distance the Pennine Way takes is a little too much to complete in a single stretch. (And with views like this, why rush?) The best solution is to stay at the Forest View Walkers' Inn in Byrness, which offers a pick-up service halfway through the range, thus allowing wayfarers to have a day with a lighter pack.

no-motors.jpgForest View is pretty much the only place to stay in Byrness, so it collects Pennine Way walkers into an informal community. It's a former youth hostel, bought by the neighbours when the YHA withdrew. Colin gladly clean and dry your boots before you even realise what's happening, while Joyce prepares a filling home-cooked dinner; soon everyone is gathered in the lounge chatting about their day's walk. It's a delightfully old-fashioned way to connect with people, and a brilliant way to share knowledge and experiences with kindred walkers. (Tonight we've met up with a couple we first saw in Twice Brewed, and then again this morning in Bellingham.)

While chatting with Joyce this morning I happened to mention that I quite like haggis. By the time she'd collected us from the path in her minibus she'd visited the butcher in Hawick to ensure a "special" of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties was on the menu tonight. It's that kind of place.

Forest View is on the market at the moment, but Joyce and Colin insist that they'll only sell to people who'll ensure this unique place retains its flare. Fancy a change of lifestyle? If only it was the other side of the border we'd be sorely tempted.

Posted by pab at 21:05 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Pennine Way

Bellingham → Byrness

lichen.jpg Distance: 15.54 miles
Ascent: 648 metres
Duration: 5 hours 48 minutes

Into the forest
« Not walked | Not walked »

walking-on.jpgThe weather changed overnight, and we began the day under thick grey clouds, a stiff breeze and lower temperatures. The dark sky made a fitting backdrop to an early climb up onto the heather moorland above Hareshaw House. The ground underfoot became increasingly wet and soft as we moved north, with the bog cotton, moss and heather joined by bilberry and the occasional stunted spruce. Looking back from Padon Hill, there was a distant outline on the horizon of what we thought was Cross Fell, a reminder of the distance that we've travelled this week.

fallen-trees.jpgThe open moorland soon gave way to commercial forestry, some of which had recently been felled. It's strange to think of this as harvesting — we're much more familiar with standard crops such as wheat or oil seed rape — but it's the reason that the forest exists at all. Walking along the stony access track, we didn't get to experience being in the dense planting, although a couple of short deviations from the road took us along wooded paths speckled with wild flowers and short birches.

river-rede.jpgThe onward path takes a lovely route alongside the River Rede, emerging onto the A68 at St Francis' church near Byrness (which, we've learned, is pronounced Burr-ness, and while we're at it Bellingham has a soft 'g': Bell-in-jum). It's well worth stopping to look inside the church — there's a monument and commemorative stained glass window to the men, women and children who died during the building of the nearby Catcleugh Reservoir which supplies drinking water to Tyneside. The idea that children lost their lives as a result of industrial accidents, as recently as the beginning of the 20th century, hardly bears thinking about. As much as this is a beautiful landscape, it's also had a history of hard, unforgiving labour.

Notes for future walkers:

  • Avoid the worst of the boggy bits and the fallen trees by turning west just before the trees at NY 814 936, then following the minor road north past Gibshiel into the forest, joining up with the formal route again at NY 799 955.
  • Although the guidebooks recommend avoiding the footpath detours off the track through the forest, we found both to be quite delightful.
Posted by pab at 17:28 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Pennine Way

Rapishaw Gap → Bellingham

pennine-fingerpost.jpg Distance: 13.26 miles
Ascent: 447 metres
Duration: 5 hours 10 minutes

The Pictish lands
« Not walked | Not walked »

So often "Hadrian's Wall" is used as a convenient shorthand for the England/Scotland border. Even politicians have confused the two as equivalent. The Pennine Way is clear that they're not the same thing. We may have crossed the wall into the land of the Picts today, but it'll take us nearly three days before we finish a walk in Scotland.

hotbank-crags.jpgImmediately north of the wall is a large expanse of moorland. Looking south from there the Whin Sill is an impressive natural defence, topped by the dark line of Hadrian's Wall, its north face in shadow.

wark-forest.jpgToday's walk alternated between moorland and forest. Tomorrow will be a similar story. In the early part of the 20th century the wild land here was artificially planted with spruce trees to create Europe's largest man-made forest, providing the United Kingdom with a sufficient supply of wood should it be required in a future Great War. It's an odd history, but one we were grateful for as the trees provided shade from the unrelenting sun. The only downside to the shelter of the trees was the slightly softer, wetter ground; picking a route around marshy mud brought back memories of our walks on the earlier sections of the Way last year, where this was the frustrating norm.

refreshments.jpgAt Horneysteads Farm we were grateful for another intervention: the owner keeps a barn unlocked as a "walkers' pit stop", with toilet, kettle, chairs, outdoor magazines and a well stocked fridge of goodies in exchange for donations. We've left the crowds behind, and are relying on the generosity of strangers. It's a wonderful thing.

Notes for future walkers:

  • If you're starting at The Sill and want to avoid the worst of the rollercoaster of Hadrian's Wall Path, follow the line of the old Roman Military Way instead. You can pick it up just south of Peel Bothy where the road running north from The Sill turns left. It took us a little under an hour to get to Rapishaw Gap from The Sill on this route.
Posted by pab at 20:40 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Pennine Way

Greenhead → Rapishaw Gap

hadrians-wall.jpg Distance: 9.17 miles
Ascent: 681 metres
Duration: 3 hours 27 minutes

The Wall
« Not walked | Not walked »

thirlwall-castle.jpgWe made no progress north today. Instead we walked east along The Wall, you know: Hadrian's one. It really exists. Somehow we've lived on our island all this time without witnessing first hand its most famous archaeological site.

bhf-walkers.jpgFrom Greenhead to Rapishaw Gap (just shy of Cuddy's Crags) the Pennine Way follows the line of Hadrian's Wall as it relentlessly pursues its journey from coast to coast, rolling over hills and clefts without diversion. The best preserved sections of the wall are along this stretch, and were being enjoyed today by an eclectic mix of people: Pennine Way walkers like us, other long distance wayfarers on the coincident Hadrian's Wall Path, day trippers, foreign tourists, dog walkers, rock climbers and those participating in a British Heart Foundation charity walk.

Where the Pennine Way leaves the wall we bumped into a fellow walker who has been on the same schedule as us for the past three days. Unlike us though, she's pushing on to Bellingham tonight and will finish the trail a whole two days ahead of us. With so much to see we're glad to have a shorter day today, but we'll miss comparing notes with our occasional companion.

milecastle-39.jpgInstead of continuing on the Way we ended this knee-straining, undulating, historical pilgrimage with a visit to Housesteads Roman Fort, a small township built against the wall, which had been home to a garrison of 800 soldiers. It's well worth a visit to get a sense of how people lived and survived in this bleak frontier landscape. Then on the way to the new Youth Hostel at Twice Brewed we visited Vindolanda, another Roman settlement -- this one predating the wall. There's much to see at both sites and we didn't do either justice. We'll have to come back.

But the Wall is really the star today, in all its splendour. From the too-frequently photographed Sycamore Gap, to the little sections where the only hint of masonry was an unusually linear earthen mound, it's amazing that any of this 2,000 year-old structure survives at all.

Notes for future walkers:

  • If you're going to repeat our exact walk, we recommend stopping for lunch at Vindolanda (where there's a decent-looking café) rather than Housesteads (where the best you'll get is a pre-packed pasty).
  • To walk to Vindolanda from Housesteads, take the track running south-west from Housesteads museum. Where the track reaches the B6318, turn right briefly before picking up a bridleway on the opposite side of the road. Note that most maps show this bridleway to the east of the track, not west. Follow the bridleway to East Crindledykes farm, then take its access track to a minor road. Turn right on the road, then take the second road on the right which leads directly to Vindolanda's main museum.
  • From Vindolanda to The Sill, leave the site at the opposite end, follow the road to a t-junction then turn right.
Posted by pab at 17:52 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Pennine Way

Alston → Greenhead

alston-lambs.jpg Distance: 17.08 miles
Ascent: 633 metres
Duration: 6 hours 26 minutes

The last of the Pennines
« Not walked | Not walked »

One of the guide books that we're using warned that today could be 'your least favourite day' on the Pennine Way. This morning beneath blue, cloudless skies and a shining sun, we were ready to prove the author wrong.

knarsdale.jpgStarting out over pleasant farmland, we soon passed the earthworks of Whitley Castle, a Roman fort. A drystone wall now runs through the middle of this impressive structure, but it's still possible to see the multiple ridges of its fortified banks. If we'd had more time (and weren't so close to the start of the walk) it would have been worth taking more time to explore, but other Roman ruins were calling us onwards.

the-hill.jpgUnlike some of the previous sections of the walk, there was a lot of careful route-finding today, which contributed to a feeling that we were putting a lot of energy into not making much progress. The path took a series of twists and turns as it took us under a pair of viaducts, back alongside the River South Tyne, and up and down over more pasture, before finally meeting moorland again at Lambley Common. Here, the landscape changed, becoming the open, rushy ground that we've grown used to, although considerably drier and less boggy than we expected. At times the path wasn't visible on the ground at all, and we just had to aim in a rough general direction

dappled-mare.jpgStanding on Blenkinsopp Common, with the wind blowing through the parched grasses and the 8-bit piping of the lapwings overhead, we could just about see the line of what will define tomorrow's walk: Hadrian's Wall. It felt as though we'd left the Pennines behind and finally moved into border country.

(Side note: another benefit of being well away from urban development was hearing a cuckoo, as we approached Haltwhistle Golf Club. It made us aware of just how long it's been since we heard one around Maidenhead.)

Posted by pab at 18:41 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Friday, 18 May 2018

Pennine Way

Dufton → Alston

leaving-dufton.jpg Distance: 20.04 miles
Ascent: 1056 metres
Duration: 7 hours 26 minutes

Settling an old score
« Not walked | Not walked »

A combination of good weather, leave allowance and determination means that seven months after we reluctantly called time on our previous effort, we're back on the Pennine Way. And what a way to start: the longest and potentially toughest section of the Way.

cross-fell.jpgBoth of our guidebooks describe today's section over Cross Fell with foreboding, highlighting its potential difficulties with harsh weather, tricky navigation and energy-sapping climbs. Thankfully, after a cold night today began with clear blue skies and light winds, and as we made our way out of Dufton the tops of the fells were clear and cloudless. It was a good omen.

The route climbs steadily, over Knock Fell with its square cairn, on to Great Dun Fell with the curious golfball radar station. We had the route to ourselves, with just the rabbits, curlews and lapwings for company.

Cross Fell, the looming plateau, had been in sight for most of the morning but ascending to it was mostly straightforward (follow the numerous cairns). We're aware that we caught it on one of its rare peaceful days, but standing in the sun by the cross-shaped summit shelter it seemed that the fell's earlier name, Fiends Fell, was rather undeserved. The views from the summit were glorious, not least due to the absence of roads and buildings. This is a truly wild place.

gregs-hut.jpgThere's opportunities to go really wrong on descending from Cross Fell; even in clear daylight, we veered into wet ground, but once Greg's Hut came into view we were able to navigate towards it safely. We popped inside and felt extremely grateful to the Mountain Bothies Association for maintaining shelters like this; had we continued our walk in October it's highly likely that the availability of a place like Greg's Hut would literally have been life-saving.

The rest of the descent followed a hard, stony path over grouse moorland for several miles, heading to sheltered Garrigill in the valley, surrounded by fields of sheep with young lambs, basking in the sun.

south-tyne.jpgAlmost the best part of the walk came last: the final few miles to Alston follow a lush, bucolic path along the River South Tyne, full of flowers and sweet meadow grass. It felt like a totally different walk, and a great way to end a day that redeemed our previous encounter with the Way.

One final note: if you're looking for somewhere to stay in Alston we highly recommend the Youth Hostel, if for no other reason than because you can enjoy watching red squirrels eating their dinner and breakfast outside while you enjoy yours.

Posted by pab at 15:47 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Yorkshire Wolds Way

Ganton → Filey

staxton-wold.jpg Distance: 11.42 miles
Ascent: 378 metres
Duration: 3 hours 21 minutes

Sprint to the sea
« Not walked | Scarborough »

We had intended today to be far more leisurely. Instead we got up early and raced to Filey, frequent glimpses of the sea drawing us forwards.

raven-dale.jpgDespite the pace we had time to appreciate our final walk through a deep Wold, at Stocking Dale, where the trail is overhung by hawthorns and scrubby birches, and filled with the sounds of skylarks and songbirds. Once the path rose again to follow field edges, it felt like we'd reached the end of the rolling terrain that we'd become accustomed to. Instead of a sudden change, the landscape gently evened out into flat fields, with increasing numbers of houses. By the time we reached Muston it felt like we'd left a week's worth of pastoral wilderness behind us.

The plan to catch a late afternoon train home was scuppered by Northern Railway massively reducing their services today due to industrial action by the RMT. That left us with twelve miles to cover before the one and only train at 1230; a tall order, but just about achievable. In the end, we found we'd covered the distance at 3.3mph – too fast to really appreciate the scenery.

acorn-marker.jpgSince leaving Hessle we've passed sturdy acorn distance markers every five miles measuring the distance from each end of the trail. These seem to be a unique feature of the Yorkshire Wolds Way, but I'd love to see them adopted by other National Trails — they provide a reassuring rhythm to the walk and an encouragement of progress being made, counting down to the finish line.

filey-station.jpgWe reached Filey with almost an hour to spare; sufficient time to drop to the prom where we linked this walk with our coastwalk but not quite enough to make it to the formal end of the trail and back. (Good job we walked that stretch back in 2013 then.) The Yorkshire Wolds Way ends where the Cleveland Way begins, on the top of Filey Brigg. In a way we've come full circle this week.

So that's National Trail number twelve complete. Depending on how you count, just two or three more to go, and we're already over half-way through the longest of those.

Posted by pab at 12:16 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Yorkshire Wolds Way

Thixendale → Ganton

thorpe-bassett-wold.jpg Distance: 21.95 miles
Ascent: 718 metres
Duration: 7 hours 3 minutes

Springtime
« Not walked | Not walked »

thixendale-dawn.jpgSpring has well and truly sprung, although there was a little frost on the ground first thing before the sun had risen over the deep Thixen Dale. The clear skies transformed the rest of the day. There wasn't a cloud in sight, and the contrast between today's glorious weather and that of the previous weekend is remarkable.

wharram-percy.jpgThe highlight of this leg was always going to be the abandoned medieval village of Wharram Percy. For us, this came after a four mile walk across empty valleys, a much more evocative way of approaching the site than the 500 metre jaunt from the car park. All is not as it seems though. The derelict church was in regular use until 1949, its ruined appearance dating from ten years later when the tower fell. Of the medieval village there is little to see — just outlines of buildings on the ground. Even less evident is the railway which passed through the site until the Beeching cuts. This isn't the cut-off place that romanticists would have you believe.

guardian-warriors.jpgThe landscape changed again on this section, deep dales giving way to a defined escarpment edge, and just after passing Wintringham we caught our first glimpse of the North Sea. At West Knapton, the point where we turned east, stands a modern artwork said to depict the Enclosures Act, but it left me rather cold.

We didn't linger long; we had a lot of ground to cover — more than originally intended, but we've set ourselves up very nicely for the final push tomorrow.

Posted by pab at 17:30 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Yorkshire Wolds Way

Goodmanham → Thixendale

lambs.jpg Distance: 20.27 miles
Ascent: 798 metres
Duration: 6 hours 51 minutes

Folds and dales
« Not walked | Not walked »

sylvan-dale.jpgOur B&B hosts - both seasoned Wolds Way walkers - warned us that the route would dramatically change at Millington, so we set off with a degree of foreboding. The path from Goodmanham to Millington was much the same as yesterday: all arable fields and chalk downs. But once we'd climbed above Millington village we crossed a succession of winding, deep and empty dales.

thixendale-spiral.jpgThe sensation was rather claustrophobic. Alone apart from the sheep, there was nowhere to run, and no civilisation for comfort. The grassy hillsides towered over us and the only escape was to walk to the end of the dale, rather like being trapped in a tunnel. The villages in these undulating hills often get cut off after heavy snow; it's not hard to see why.

Iwolds-halfway.jpgn Thixendale we passed the halfway mark for the Yorkshire Wolds Way. It's come about so quickly; a product of this being the shortest National Trail and the fact that we've taken on a pretty long day today.

Tonight we're staying in the Cross Keys in Thixendale. There's no mobile reception, no television and no Wi-Fi. The comforts and securities of our modern lives are absent, but sat next to the open fire, listening to the chatter of locals and visitors, waiting for a hearty pie, we couldn't be more content.

Posted by pab at 16:35 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Yorkshire Wolds Way

South Cave → Goodmanham

sancton-wold.jpg Distance: 11.30 miles
Ascent: 375 metres
Duration: 3 hours 38 minutes

A bit of south in the north
« Not walked | Not walked »

cave-castle.jpgFor all its grandeur, and despite its quirks, the Cave Castle Country Club is a walker-friendly hotel. We weren't the only people at breakfast with a Wolds Way guidebook, and as we checked out the receptionist made sure that we'd "picked up some snacks for the walk" at breakfast. (Suddenly the individually wrapped pieces of homemade lemon drizzle cake at the cold buffet didn't seem out of place.)

The walk itself was very much a case of "getting on with the job," following a path that felt like many other National Trails of the south. Lots more chalk downland, reminiscent of the Ridgeway. Lots of straight, old, green lanes that reminded me of Peddars Way. At one point we even saw a vineyard, like on the North and South Downs. And to remind us that the weather still isn't settled, a dash of cold wind that for once had swung round to face us.

swin-dale.jpgThe countryside here is getting bigger: the route took us across larger hills, and at one point through an extended dry valley, speckled with stony chalk. The landscape felt more undulating than yesterday's gentle introduction, as we turned away from the brown Humber estuary and headed deeper into the Wolds.

Even accounting for the better weather we've been surprised to see so many people on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. Our B&B hosts for tonight provided the answer: the trail has featured on TV a number of times this past year.

Posted by pab at 16:50 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Yorkshire Wolds Way

Hessle → South Cave

yorkshie.jpg Distance: 13.38 miles
Ascent: 381 metres
Duration: 4 hours 34 minutes

Yorkshire, part II
« Not walked | Not walked »

humber-bridge.jpgThe Yorkshire Wolds Way starts on the banks of the Humber, in the land of cream telephone boxes. We've been here before, on our coast walk. Back then it took us seven days to walk 105 miles to Filey along the coast. This week the Yorkshire Wolds Way should get us back there in five days, by the shorter 89 mile inland route.

cream-phone-box.jpgWe may be broadly in the same part of the country as the Cleveland Way, but the landscape is quite different. The limestone escarpment is replaced by gently rolling chalk downland, the high moorland by huge arable fields. Thankfully, the weather has moved on too, with a real sense of spring in the air.

grave-mouse.jpgOne charming link with earlier in the week is at All Saints, Brantingham. Standing in the churchyard are two wooden grave markers, quite simple in design but beautifully aged. Seventy years ago these were carved by Robert Thompson of Kilburn, whose workshop still produces furniture and other wooden objects, each adorned with a signature carved mouse. The ways these grave markers are slowly weathering and decaying fits perfectly with their purpose; before too long they too will have returned to the earth from which they were crafted.

We'll be keeping an eye out for more of Thompson's work as we make our way across the Wolds this week.

Posted by pab at 15:40 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Cleveland Way

Kilburn White Horse → Helmsley

cote-moor-road.jpg Distance: 8.79 miles
Ascent: 176 metres
Duration: 3 hours 3 minutes

Wildlife wakes up
« Not walked | Not walked »

This final stage of the Cleveland Way is very different to all the others. Almost immediately the path turns its back on the escarpment edge and heads into rolling farmland. Soon it descends to follow a wooded glade towards the ruined abbey at Rievaulx. It's then a short (and seemingly popular) stroll through muddy fields to Helmsley and the end of the Cleveland Way.

blackdale-deer.jpgAs the landscape changed, we started to notice more wildlife too. We left behind the grouse of the wild moorland, replacing them with phesants and partridges. Hares dashed across arable fields and deer scampered through the gently wooded slopes.

What a walk! Five years since we started walking this National Trail, we finished it having endured the worst weather we've ever walked through. Surely walking the 109 miles from Saltburn to Helmsley is enough? You'd be forgiven for thinking so, but we've still got half a week to go. Tomorrow we start another walk, another National Trail, and with Filey as our destination. Let's hope the weather plays along.

helmsley-signpost.jpg

Posted by pab at 12:25 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Cleveland Way

Osmotherley → Kilburn White Horse

black-hambleton.jpg Distance: 13.91 miles
Ascent: 486 metres
Duration: 4 hours 57 minutes

The Hambleton Hills didn't get the memo
« Not walked | Not walked »

A brief amble around the outskirts of Osmotherley took us onto the edge of the Hambleton Hills, an area of heather-rich grouse moorland. As we skirted Black Hambleton we were gently snowed on, adding to that still lying; the general thaw hadn't reached here yet. Despite the drifts and slush, this was an easy, mostly level stretch that quickly brought us into woodland at Steeple Cross.

hambleton-drove-road.jpgThe Cleveland Way leaves the old drove road just before High Paradise Farm, and as tempting as it was to stop at the tea room, we headed south through a mixture of woodland and open fields, following the edge of the escarpment. The ridge swings back and forth, offering panoramic views across the plain to the east, before winding up Sutton Bank.

sutton-bank.jpgThe residual snow — deep in places, melting to wide puddles of brown water — hid the outlines of some of the tumuli and disused quarry pits that mark the area, and made for slow going as we negotiated the limestone cliff edge. Our persistence was rewarded as we reached the end of Sutton Bank, accompanied by a glider taking off from the adjacent airstrip, and took what local author James Herriot claimed to be "England's finest" view to the south and east (though it was a little too hazy for us to agree).

kilburn-horse.jpgThe white horse hill figure facing Kilburn is slightly less majestic — a greyish, lumpen nag close-up — but easier to appreciate from the village below.

kilburn-mouse.jpgAlthough not on the path, it's worth visiting the village of Kilburn — particularly the church and pub — to see the woodwork of local craftsmen who adorn each of their pieces with a tiny church mouse. Founder Robert Thompson ("The Mouseman") is buried in the cemetery.

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Monday, 19 March 2018

Cleveland Way

Garfit Gap (Wainstones) → Osmotherley

cold-moor.jpg Distance: 9.68 miles
Ascent: 672 metres
Duration: 4 hours 2 minutes

Thaw
« Not walked | Not walked »

"I hope you have a better day today than yesterday," offered a total stranger as we left the village this morning. Maybe word of our presence had leaked from the pub. Perhaps like the first cuckoo of spring, the first walkers to arrive indicate that winter is over.

And so it was. Throughout the day we watched the fields below the escarpment turn from dazzling winter white to luscious springtime green.

broughton-bank.jpgThe first descent after the aptly named Cold Moor was painfully slow, each foot having to be lowered gingerly into the drifts of snow. By the time we were making our third descent there was hardly any snow to be seen, and the final miles into Osmotherley were characterised more by mud than ice.

carlton-moor.jpgThe dry weather and blue skies opened up the views north and west. In the distance we could make out the backbone of the Pennines, laid out in a long row. We'll be back soon to finish them off.

lww-clain-wood.jpgWe've walked through the thaw and seen the seasons change before our eyes. The cold wind is still about, but it's lost its ferocity.

Posted by pab at 19:41 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Cleveland Way

Kildale → Garfit Gap (Wainstones)

warren-moor.jpg Distance: 10.89 miles
Ascent: 756 metres
Duration: 3 hours 57 minutes

Exposed
« Not walked | Not walked »

We seem to have become instant celebrities in the hotel where we're staying tonight. "You're the first walkers we've seen this year," said the receptionist at check-in. Her colleague was falling over himself to offer us a lift to the start of tomorrow's leg, a packed lunch, and advice for the route ahead. At the bar we were told we were "at least two weeks early for walking." Everybody expressed astonishment that we'd walked at all today. I think we share their surprise.

Snow continued to fall overnight and throughout the morning. The cold easterly didn't let up, gusting at 50mph and dropping the wind chill temperature to -10C.

boundary-stone.jpgWe saw scarcely a soul, so we had the views across the Cleveland Vale all to ourselves: a patchwork of crisp white fields, dotted with sheep huddled together for warmth. Ours were the only footprints in the virgin snowscape.

Climbing out of Kildale we passed a monument to the crew of a Hudson aeroplane that crashed nearby in January 1941. Although the four airmen survived the crash, they didn't survive the two days out in the cold before they were discovered.

wainstones.jpgThe highlight today was the descent through the rocky outcrop of the Wainstones. Here the snow had drifted 25cm deep in places. Thankfully by this time we'd started to see other footprints and were able to safely follow them through the maze of crags.

garfit-gap.jpgNo more snow is scheduled to fall, but tomorrow is still due to be bitterly cold. Hopefully the path will remain walkable, and not disintegrate into a paste of slush and mud.

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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Cleveland Way

Saltburn-by-the-Sea → Kildale

cook-monument.jpg Distance: 15.39 miles
Ascent: 1089 metres
Duration: 5 hours 19 minutes

Snowberry Topping
« Runswick | Not walked »

For us 2018 is about unfinished business. We're trying to finish off all the National Trails in England and Wales. Five years ago we walked the coastal sections of the Cleveland Way; it's time to finish the trail with the inland leg.

This morning though, we weren't sure we'd even start. Overnight a bitterly cold easterly formed, bringing dangerously gusty winds and snow showers. The Met Office has responded with an Amber Warning, and were it not for the fact that we'd booked onward accommodation elsewhere we might have remained snug and warm in the Saltburn Spa Hotel.

Remarkably, we managed to walk the entire distance without having to execute any of the potential exit strategies we'd come up with.

highcliff-nab.jpgThe snow arrived in short, sharp, needling bursts. One minute we were enjoying breathtaking views towards Middlesbrough and the coast in bright sunshine; the next we'd have quarter an hour of total whiteout, with powdery snow swirling around us as we were battered by the wind.

roseberry.jpgThe highlight of the walk should have been Roseberry Topping, an isolated hill off the main Cleveland Ridge. Here the weather did its worst, with gusts threatening to blow us off the steep, stony path to the summit. The view from the top was glorious, but not one to linger over today.

After passing a monument to Captain Cook, who grew up in nearby Great Ayton, we descended into Kildale and stopped at the most welcome Glebe Cottage Tea Room. Never before has a cheese and tomato toastie been appreciated so much.

toastie.jpgTomorrow the weather is due to be marginally warmer, but the snow threatens to be heavier. Whether or not we'll make it out the door is anyone's guess.

(News tonight tells of an endurance race that was called off early due to worsening conditions between Guisborough and Kildale. We are hardy/lucky souls.)

Posted by pab at 16:55 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Friday, 23 February 2018

Cotswold Way

Tormarton → Bath

frosty-start.jpg Distance: 17.51 miles
Ascent: 640 metres
Duration: 6 hours 22 minutes

Pilgrims' end
« Not walked | Not walked »

A sharp frost overnight had hardened the ground, giving us some respite from slithering around on muddy paths, but the air temperature was still freezing as we set off from Tormarton. The landscape had also changed, from grazing pasture to huge arable fields, and it was hard to see where the chalk escarpment had disappeared to.

dyrham-wood-notebook.jpgAfter crossing the busy motorway, the route turned south, passing more strip lynchets and erratic fields before skirting Dyrham Park, with its grand house just in view. Dyrham Wood, at the top of a gentle climb from the estate, has a message box for visitors to leave details of interesting sightings, but the real joy was in reading walkers' accounts of their journeys so far — some bounding with energy, others ... not.

griffin-monument.jpgBeyond Cold Ashton, we spotted the first of a series of metal flagposts marking the site of the 1643 Battle of Lansdown. Although the Royalists eventually forced the defending Parliamentarian army to retreat, many were killed or wounded, including Sir Bevil Grenville, who had led a force of Cornish pikemen. Grenville's monument on the edge of the battle site is one of the oldest war memorials in the UK, a sad testament to a loved leader.

royal-crescent.jpgWe could see Bath for some distance away, and as we gradually got closer to it, we sensed we were leaving the ancient countryside of hill forts and flinty chalk downland behind us. The final route into the city centre took us past fine Georgian houses and the famous Royal Crescent (with selfie-stick toting tourists), before we made our way to the official end marker outside the doors of Bath Abbey.

Amongst the crowds of people we felt slightly wistful for the peace of the open fields, but it was a fitting way to end this beautiful walk of contrasts.

bath-abbey.jpg

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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Cotswold Way

Wotton-under-Edge → Tormarton

holloway.jpg Distance: 16.47 miles
Ascent: 626 metres
Duration: 6 hours 19 minutes

Pastures and parkland
« Not walked | Not walked »

Setting off from Wooton, we took time to visit Hugh Perry's almshouses on Church Street; this quiet group of stone houses, standing around a small chapel, was built to house poor men and women, on the injunction that they "constantly attend upon the public prayers". Suitably chastened, we followed the Cotswold Way into farmland, walking along deep, overhung lanes filled with beech leaves.

This is ancient farming country; hillsides were marked with the ridged echos of old strip lynchets, evidence of a long history of use. This stretch of the Way also took us past the site of two mills, used for grain and fulling cloth, a reminder that the sheep grazing nearby would once have been part of a major local economy.

After a brief reminder of William Tyndale (the route passes Little Sodbury church, where Tyndale heard preaching that inspired him to start translating scripture into English) we continued through the extensive Iron Age hill fort of Sodbury Camp. Unlike some of the smaller forts along the path, Sodbury is well preserved, giving a sense of containment and safety inside the hefty walls.

dodington-park.jpgIn complete contrast, Dodington Park is a mannered, clipped, Capability Brown estate, where trees and landscapes have been artfully managed to create an aesthetically desirable vista. The temptation to run wild across Sir James Dyson's immaculate lawn was strong, but we resisted, heading out to the untamed woodland beyond.

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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Cotswold Way

King's Stanley → Wotton-under-Edge

wotton-hill.jpg Distance: 16.21 miles
Ascent: 944 metres
Duration: 6 hours 4 minutes

A meeting with Tyndale
« Not walked | Not walked »

trig-point.jpgMuch of today's walk continued along the clearly-defined chalk escarpment, peppered with the remains of tumuli and long barrows, and old quarry workings. Nympsfield barrow was surprisingly extensive, with an impressive height that would have taken skill and effort to build. The even larger Uleybury hill fort was well worth walking around to appreciate the massive earthworks built by its founders.

stinchcombe.jpgThe path took us steeply over the quarry-marked Cam Long Down, dropping briefly into the busy market town of Dursley, before another strenuous climb to reach the top of Stinchcombe Hill. There's a cheat's option of walking across the neck of this high ground, but we walked around the edge of the plateau, taking in the view of the Severn bridges and the distant hills to the west.

tyndale-monument.jpgThe Tyndale Monument at North Nibley was also very clear on the horizon — a graceful tower tucked amongst trees on the hillside. Built in 1866 in the village of his birth, it commemorates William Tyndale's work translating the Bible into English, for which he was burned at the stake as a heretic. In the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation it felt especially appropriate to visit.

Notes for future walkers:

  • Our guide book shows a direct route to the Tyndale Monument but the path has since been diverted; where the path leaves the road just south of North Nibley, follow the bridleway to SO 744 957 before turning back to rejoin the main Cotswold Way. The diversion is signposted on the ground.
Posted by pab at 15:23 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Cotswold Way

Birdlip → King's Stanley

bright-woodland.jpg Distance: 17.13 miles
Ascent: 730 metres
Duration: 6 hours 11 minutes

Like a rolling cheese
« Not walked | Not walked »

coopers-hill.jpgThe beginning stages of today's walk took us through more deciduous woodland, in clearer weather than we'd had yesterday. A very pleasant wander along a gently-climbing woodland track eventually brought us out to the foot of Cooper's Hill, famous for the annual cheese-rolling race. It's much smaller, and steeper, than either of us imagined. Thankfully, rather than crawling straight up the face of the hill, the route zigzags around the back of the hill to gain the top of the escarpment. Standing at the top — with a cheese-roller's-eye-view of the slope — we could only imagine the bravado needed to attempt the chaotic run back down to the bottom. It wouldn't be pretty.

vineyard.jpgMuch of today's walk was through quiet woodland, with wild arum, wood violets and ransoms already showing fresh green leaves. We'd seen gleaming white clumps of snowdrops amongst the remains of tumbled-down stone walls, too, so it was slightly ironic to watch a stream of traffic being marshalled into the grounds of Painswick House, which was advertising its own snowdrop display, presumably at a cost. We stopped in Painswick, a beautifully-preserved stone-built town, for a very welcome coffee.

severn-plain.jpgClimbing once again to the chalk ridge, the best views of the day were at Haresfield Beacon, where the path takes a circuit of the Iron Age hill fort known as The Bulwarks. The Severn plain and the distant Black Mountains were visible from this airy promontory, making up for previous murky horizons, before we decended again to meet the canal and mill building on the edge of Stroud.

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Monday, 19 February 2018

Cotswold Way

Dowdeswell → Birdlip

moss.jpg Distance: 10.96 miles
Ascent: 523 metres
Duration: 4 hours 19 minutes

Cheltenham and Gloucester
« Not walked | Not walked »

mud.jpgHeavy rain passed overnight, turning much of today's route into thick, claggy mud. It left behind a low cloud which muffled all views. Despite the mizzle we managed to see the Devil's Chimney, an interesting rock stack left behind by quarrymen on Leckhampton Hill.

cheltenham-view.jpgLater on we also caught a glimpse of Cheltenham, with GCHQ's "doughnut" offices just visible (though not mentioned on the toposcope). Another view claimed to show Gloucester Cathedral, but we couldn't make out a thing.

treetops.jpgMostly though, we've been walking in woodland, slowly making our way around the hills that fringe these two towns. On such a dreary day it's no surprise that the highlight was lunch. We can highly recommend the café at Crickley Hill nature reserve for jacket potatoes and cake.

Notes for future walkers:

  • Once again our guidebook is out-of-date. South of the A40 the Cotswold Way now climbs almost as far as the A436 before turning west at SO 990 186, rather than passing through the centre of Lineover Wood.
  • The A417 by the Air Balloon pub at SO 935 161 is the most dangerous road crossing we've ever had to make: traffic approaches the roundabout in two lanes at insane speed, and there's a blind corner to make it even trickier. Good luck.
Posted by pab at 15:28 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Cotswold Way

Winchcombe → Dowdeswell

cheltenham-racecourse.jpg Distance: 11.69 miles
Ascent: 567 metres
Duration: 4 hours 27 minutes

A familiar but distant hill
« Not walked | Not walked »

For the fifteen years Greenbelt was held at Cheltenham Racecourse I looked up at the stony cliffs of Cleeve Hill and wondered what the view was like from there, looking back at the town. We finally found out. Today's walk has been a long zig-zag up and over the hill, finally dropping down to the A40 just east of Cheltenham.

landrovers.jpgThere's been plenty to see, including the magnificent ancient burial tumulus of Belas Knap, the impressive Jacobean opulence of Postlip Hall (now a cohousing community), and — audible for a good half mile before we reached them — a group of men (and it was mainly men) driving Landrovers around an improbable course in a disused quarry. We've also seen rather more mud than we'd have liked.

Notes for future walkers:

  • Since our guidebook was published the path has been re-routed east of Cleeve Hill. After passing Belas Knapp, instead of continuing on to Wontley Farm the path now turns right (north-west) at SP 011 250 along a field edge, then downhill through Breakheart Plantation to meet a road at SP 009 262. It then heads north-west again, turning left in front of Postlip Hall and picks up the bridleway around the left and back of the hall to SO 999 272 before running east to the clubhouse at Cleeve Hill.
Posted by pab at 14:40 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Cotswold Way

Broadway → Winchcombe

shenberrow-hill.jpg Distance: 12.24 miles
Ascent: 505 metres
Duration: 4 hours 25 minutes

Back on the horse
« Not walked | Not walked »

We're back on the Cotswold Way after a couple of months' break. At one point we passed a man struggling to get back on his horse after passing through a gate; sometimes resuming a long walk feels like that.

stanton.jpgLeaving Broadway behind us, we slowly ascended to the escarpment, a prominent feature that we'll keep company over the next few days. The Cotswold escarpment is marked with evidence of earlier settlers: the route passes the remains of the ramparts of Shenberrow Camp, one of several Neolithic Hill forts that made the most of the excellent defensive position offered by the limestone cliff. The same golden limestone features in many of the older Cotswold buildings, including tiny estate village of Stanway, with its grandiose gateway and hall.

A steep climb back up the escarpment from Wood Stanway, over increasingly muddy fields, gave us an exhilarating view of the Malvern hills across the Vale of Evesham, before we turned west to circle the outside of the Beckbury Camp earthworks. We enjoyed the birdsong filling the beech woods on the decent down to the ruined Hailes Abbey, before squelching over fields to meet the sunken lane into Winchcombe.

Posted by pab at 14:54 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Celtic Connections , Music

Breakbeats and pipes

Relive our Saturday night in Glasgow last weekend.

The full sets from Bothy Culture and Beyond are now on iPlayer: the storming Gaelic techno/trad/drum&bass support from Niteworks, and the headline GRIT Orchestra.

Unmissable modern "World Music" from our islands.

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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Celtic Connections , Personal

Why Scotland?

For the third time we've spent a January weekend in Glasgow for the Celtic Connections festival. Two gigs stood out.

First, on Saturday night was Bothy Culture and Beyond. If the 80-piece GRIT orchestra recreating a seminal Scottish electronic dance album isn't enough, why not add a 10-voice cantor choir, an aerial dance company, and a trials cyclist rowing across the audience before bunny-hopping round the crowd before climbing a model of the Cuillin's Inaccessible Pinnacle in front of an 10,000-strong crowd at Scotland's largest indoor venue? I've not mentioned the metaphysical Gaelic poetry; the Islamic, Scandinavian and Irish musical influences; or the stunning support set from Skye-based techno/trad band Niteworks.

Jaw-dropping, indescribable and utterly bonkers. You owe it to yourself to watch the gig after it's broadcast this coming Saturday night.

bothy-culture.jpg

The second highlight was an altogether different scale. In the intimate Tron Theatre Northern Flyway brought together harmonious, ethereal music with beat-boxing and stunning videography against a continuous backdrop of birdsong. It'll tour in the Autumn; don't miss it.

northern-flyway.jpg

Over the weekend I realised: this is why we're moving to Scotland; you simply don't get this level of innovation in the arts elsewhere. Hopefully we'll be able to visit Celtic Connections 2019 by at most a forty-mile train journey instead of the four hundred miles we travelled each way on the sleeper this week.

Posted by pab at 19:04 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Monday, 1 January 2018

Personal

Change Everything

front-door.jpgWelcome to 2018, hopefully the year in which we finally make the big move we've been talking about for years.

We're sorry that this blog has been quiet for most of 2017. We'll fill in the gaps later, but for now we're preparing for the Big Adventure. Step one starts this week: sell the house.

Posted by pab at 21:28 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Cotswold Way

Chipping Campden → Broadway

start-marker.jpg Distance: 6.18 miles
Ascent: 204 metres
Duration: 2 hours 10 minutes

The year's final trail
« Not walked | Not walked »

Our walking plans for 2017 included completing two more National Trails. We realised a while ago that was too ambitious, but today at least we can start on one of them. This short walk sets us up nicely to walk the rest of the Cotswold Way, hopefully early next year.

As has become the trend, the Cotswold Way starts at an elaborate modern marker: a stone disc set into the pavement beside the Market Hall, engraved with words from a previous resident of the town, T.S. Eliot:

Now the light falls across the open field leaving the deep lane shuttered with branches dark in the afternoon

Rather unloved next to it is the original marker, a much simpler affair stating "Bath 100m". I much prefer it.

Since we were cloaked in mist for the entirety of this short walk, we don't have much to report.

broadway-tower.jpgWe've been here before anyway, on Jane's 40th birthday weekend. But even before then, in a way these hills have a story intertwined in mine. I remember Dad pulling over in the car when Jez and I were nine so he could point out Broadway Tower. Only much later did I discover that Mum and Dad spent their first night as a married couple in a hotel in the village. Through the mist and my faded memory I caught a glimpse of a story that began fifty years ago.

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Monday, 2 October 2017

Pennine Way

The Helm Wind (pause)

One warm bath later, we accepted the inevitable: it's time to stop for now.

The fells round here play host to our island's only named wind, rising from the Eden valley and wreaking havoc on the west side of the hills. The weather forecast say that it's only going to get worse over the next twenty-four hours, so with regret (but a little pride) we're calling time on the Pennine Way for now, stopped in our tracks by the Helm Wind.

(There's also the small matter of the massive bruise on my shin from yesterday's fall and an ankle that doesn't seem to be getting any happier.)

We'll be back next year. We don't give up that easily. The hills will be waiting for us; hopefully the wind will have died down.

appleby-station.jpg

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