Last weekend (back before Christmas) we travelled up to Allendale for our regular pre-Christmas get-together with old friends. We (well, not me personally: I’m hopeless and would definitely cock-up the organisation if it fell to me) had booked a youth hostel for our sole use – this year Ninebanks hostel. I’m reliably informed, by TBH, that this is the eighth year that we’ve done this. Which is true up to a point, but before we used Youth Hostels we used to gather in one of our homes – this was when we were young and able to sleep on floors, and perhaps more importantly we didn’t have so many kids between us.

It’s as much a social event as anything – communal meals, rehashing old stories, a kids party, a few beers. This year tobogganing and a music intros quiz also featured. There wasn’t really enough snow for the former and every stone and rut bumped and jolted as we slid down the icy field. Frozen mole-hills proved to be particularly hazardous and all of the sleds were fatally damaged over the course of the weekend. I finished the trip with very painful sciatica which I think was probably as a result of the sledging.

I did manage to fit a couple of walks in too though. On Saturday I was up early for a pre-dawn start with the Adopted Yorkshireman (henceforth AYM). We walked a horseshoe around the valley of Wellhope Burn – up to the trig pillar at Hard Rigg, across Hesleywell Moor, over Whimsey Hill and the Dodd before turning North back toward the hostel. It was phenomenally cold – I’m essentially a very warm person and usually find that I can’t wear gloves for long, but on this occasion I comfortably wore two pairs together.

Hard Rigg

Twice – on the way up Hard Rigg and right by the trig point, we saw a mouse darting from a hole in the snow and then disappearing into another hole. Must be a hard won existence.

Where the going underfoot consisted of fresh snow over tussocks (approaching Hard Rigg) or fresh snow over heather and peat hags (the Dodd) it was hard work – letting the AYM break trial is not much help since his legs are about 3 yards long and it’s nigh on impossible to match his stride, and even if you do manage it’s only to find that he walks with his toes pointing out at 45 degrees and you can’t turn your feet to match his prints without the advantage of double-jointed ankles. Fortunately much of our route followed a wall in the lee of which old drifted snow had frozen into solid neve which was a delight to walk on. This was my first time around this moorland but with the boggy bits frozen it was probably an ideal time to visit. True to form however, on the Dodd I did manage to crash through some ice into peaty water which filled one of my boots – it was, needless to say, very cold.

Later on in our walk it brightened up considerably but for some reason I didn’t take any photos – probably too busy putting the world to rights as the AYM and I always seem to do whenever we are together.

After the early start we back in time for a late lunch, some sledging and to cook the curries for tea (my contribution to the weekend).

On the Sunday I was out with the AYM’s other half the Adopted Yorkshirewoman. We were on the afternoon shift having been on child-minding duties in the morning. As luck would have it we hit the best part of the day – it had been rather dull and dour but as we set-off the AYW opined that ‘it might clear up’, and she was dead right.

The confluence of the River West Allen and Mohope Burn….

…still running but with  ice building up under the water.

West Allen Dale

The track which took us up on to the moors. (Remarkably ice-free unlike many of the paths and tracks we followed)

The cloud begins to reassert itself.

We enjoyed the sunshine whilst we could, because when the weather turned again it did so very swiftly. And by the time we were following the edge at Greenleycleugh Crags, visibility was very limited…

Looking along Greenleycleugh Crags to the last of the sunshine disappearing in the North.

On the way back to the hostel we passed Throssel Hole Buddhist Centre which I’m sure I’ve read about before on the interweb but which I wasn’t aware was here. We talked to a couple of people here who I would guess were a monk and a nun from the centre. They were having problems with their water source. The centre is in Limestone Brae which is a small hamlet stretched out along the road on a steep valley side. Having seen the name Limestone Brae on a road sign I had been expecting it to be some sort of interesting geological feature.

At the end of our walk, in almost complete darkness, we came across a gathering of hares – I think seven in all. I thought that hare’s were essentially solitary creatures and was surprised to find them fraternising in a field.

In all a great weekend, and we didn’t get round to exploring Allen Banks or visiting the forts on nearby Hadrian’s Wall. We shall have to return.


The Missing Month

I don’t know what happened – I was busy and suddenly a month had whizzed by without any posts. In the meantime – it was dark, and mostly pretty cold. Sometimes very cold: –11 degrees Celsius one morning. I still walked to and from the railway station some days, eventually in the dark. Before it got too dark I would encounter starlings in both directions, always travelling in the opposite direction to me. In the mornings they would be flying high and quite spread out, in the evenings flying very low in tight groups, sometimes the noise of their wings would surprise me as they rushed overhead. I was surprised to see bats on the fringes of Hagg Wood until well into November.

One morning, walking in thick mist, I looked up for the starlings and realised that I could see blue sky directly above. As the sun rose the mist ahead was suffused first with pink and then with more fiery oranges and reds.

As usual there were weekend forays into Eaves Wood in various company. The boys found another ‘new’ route to the Pepper Pot, which crossed limestone pavement…

… finished with a short scramble  up the rocks on the right here…

…and led to a great viewpoint:








Season’s greetings to the blogosphere and all who sail its tides!

The Missing Month