Around Orain

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Our annual Highland gathering, transferred this year to a new venue – The Bridge of Orchy Hotel. On the Saturday, the party split into several smaller groups. I joined the posse heading for the ridges just behind the hotel: a round of Coir’ Orain taking in Beinn Inverveigh and Meall Tairbh.

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It was one of those sort of days when I took a few photos before we entered the cloud.

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One at the highest point…

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Meall Tairbh (665m).

…possibly; there was some dispute at the time.

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And then a few more photos after we had emerged from the clouds.

The weather wasn’t great, but we’ve had much worse. It snowed a bit, at times, but at least it didn’t rain, so it was a round of Orain, rather than a round in the rain.

This lukewarm, lack lustre description, perhaps makes it sound as if I didn’t enjoy the day. But I did. Enormously so, in fact. Partly because of the excellent company, but mostly because, when all’s said and done, wandering around  a soggy hillside in the mist and the snow is my idea of fun. I like it. Admittedly, I don’t always think I will in advance, and it’s proving difficult to think of anything exciting to say about it in retrospect. However, round the day off with a very fine steak and some inconsequential chatter with your oldest friends and you have a recipe for contentment, in my view at least.

No hill-day is complete without some element of list-ticking. Meall Tairbh, whilst not high enough to be a Munro, or a Corbett, is, apparently, both a Marilyn and a Graham, probably a Hump, not a Donald, but maybe a Trump. I’ve added it to my personal list of Hills to Revisit when the Weather is Kinder.

As usual, the weekend was organised (very well), booked (at a discount), and generally only took place because of all-round good-egg, Andy, who’s account of this walk you can read here.

 

 

 

 

 

Around Orain

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Great Douk Cave

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Our original plan had been to go back to Runscar Cave up at Ribblehead next, but a last minute inspiration saw us heading for Great Douk Cave instead. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to us before; the Shandy Sherpa and I had been there before, with our friend Geordie Munro, a couple of times, once after a long hot summer walk and then again a few years later to explore more thoroughly. Both visits were a very long time ago and it turned out that we both had rather sketchy memories of the cave. Andy remembered, but I didn’t, that the waterfall which pours out of the entrance can be avoided by a little crawl above to the right. I remembered, but Andy didn’t, that a short walk into the cave brings you to Little Douk Pot where daylight can be seen high overhead.

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B in Little Douk Pot.

Neither of us remembered the series of little cascades which we, probably rather pointlessly, struggled to ascend dry shod by straddling the narrow passage with a foot on either wall. (The boys loved it). Nor did we recall just how long the passage was, or the great wealth of flowstone features.

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I took an awful lot of photos. (If you want to see more, simply click on one of the photos and that will take you to my flickr account). Actually, carrying the camera in my hand proved to be quite awkward. The case worked very well however: at one point I fell over – a bit of a shocking experience, the water was pretty cold – and dropped the camera in the water, but somehow it stayed dry, even though the case isn’t really sealed, or waterproof.

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With wellies full of water, Little S was cold again, but he was still really happy, full of enthusiasm.

This feature…

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…proved to be quite awkward to get past. The others managed by squatting on their haunches and shuffling by; I went past on hands and knees, which filled my sleeves and my wellies with water – this was before I fell over.

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Andy remembered, but I didn’t, that this was where, when the passage gradually gets lower, Geordie Munro discovered a tiny crawl and got very excited when it brought him to a new, larger passage, or at least that was what he thought, but in fact he had doubled back to the original passage, where Andy and I were waiting, much to our amusement.

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I’ve since discovered that it’s possible to continue through a section of crawling to reach Middle Washfold Caves, but we didn’t know that at the time, so where the passage got very low we turned and retraced our steps (not that I would’ve been up for a lengthy crawl anyway). At this point we were soaked and had given up on our efforts to keep our feet out of the deeper water, which made our return journey an awful lot quicker.

Fortunately, it wasn’t as dark as this photo suggests…

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…we were all still smiling, and the bunkhouse and clean and dry clothes were only a short walk away.

Discussion about possible caving outings for next Christmas has already begun!

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Great Douk Cave

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Skirwith Cave

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The little circle of friends who were assembled in Chapel-le-Dale originally met, in many cases at least, as members of the Hiking Club at Manchester University, so walking and climbing hills has always been central to what we do when we get together. But we have been known to branch out: canoeing, cycling, snorkelling, standing in the Kippax at Maine Road for example. Caving is another activity which some of us have dabbled in and it seems to be an easy one to sell to the kids. Two years ago we took many of them to a very wet Yordas Cave; last year we had a poke around in some of the caves close to the Ribblehead Viaduct.

This time we did it properly and first went down into Ingleton to rent helmets. (Three fifty for the day, with an excellent lamp too, a snip, and as it turned out pretty crucial I think). Once again, the vast majority of the younger element of the party were keen to have ago, but just three of the grey brigade. We started our spelunking with an exploration of Skirwith Cave, a former show cave which is just outside Ingleton and conveniently close to the road.

I’d already done my research before the weekend, but even so we had some difficulty initially in locating the current entrance. When you get to the small crag shown in the top photo, climb the steps and then bear right, looking for quite a small hole in the ground. (Photo near the end of the post).

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The former entrance?

The entrance is quite small and requires a muddy shuffle down quite a steep slope, but brings you into a larger, level passage with some excellent flowstone features…

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After a while, you reach a boulder choke which looked awkward rather than tight, but I decided to stop at that point, whilst most of the others crawled through and explored a little further. It gave me a chance to go back for some more leisurely exploration and to take some more photos…

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Emerging from the entrance…

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It had been a short, but hugely enjoyable little outing. For many of our band, it was also quite sufficient: some wanted to get cleaned-up so that they could attend the carol service in Chapel-le-Dale’s tiny chapel, others had just had enough. Only the my boys and the three adults were up for another cave trip….

(Tune in next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.)

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Skirwith Cave

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Ingleborough

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A brief gap in the cloud: looking toward Whernside across Humphrey Bottom.

The weekend before Christmas (golly, I’m almost up to date) and it was time for our annual rent-a-hostel weekend with the group of long-term partners in crime whom the kids refer to as Our Camping Friends. This was the fourteenth time we’ve done this, by my reckoning anyway, and the fourth consecutive trip to The Old School Bunkhouse in Chapel-le-Dale. Actually, we’ve been getting together for this weekend for a lot longer than that, but we used to meet in one of our respective houses. We must be getting on a bit: The Adopted Yorkshire Woman, who played host on more than one occasion, was denying all memory of this earlier incarnation of our festive gatherings. Maybe her unconscious has suppressed the memories; we used to attempt a full Christmas meal, Turkey with all of the trimmings, but those of us charged with the cooking were usually quite inebriated before we began and the results were often far from spectacular, although, ironically, the mess we made of the kitchen often was spectacular. This year, after several years of sous-cheffing, I took responsibility for one of the evening meals and tried to kindle some nostalgia for those earlier efforts by chucking a tray full of roasting carrots, and the fat they were cooking in, across the kitchen floor; by having everything ready at once, excepting some rock-hard jacket spuds and some recalcitrant pie-topping pastry; and by burning myself repeatedly on the unfamiliar oven.

On the Saturday assorted members of the party, including the boys and myself, set off in the fog to climb Ingleborough. Here we are, near to the top…

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We followed almost exactly the same route as I walked last year, but the weather and the views weren’t so good. Having said that, we bumped into The Eternal Weather Optimist part way along the ridge and apparently he had been enjoying wall-to-wall sunshine on the Whernside ridge, and would go on to experience the same on Ingleborough after he left us.

Unbeknownst to me, Little S (who will soon be towering over me) had decided to set 0ff on our climb wearing only a T-shirt beneath his cagoule. It was pretty windy on the ridge, and unsurprisingly, he was cold. My only option was to give him my fleece, which looked quite comical, being way too big for him, but seemed to alleviate the problem. Or at least transfer it: that left me with only a T-shirt under my cagoule. (But I’m a bit better padded out than he is – you might quibble with ‘better’ – more thoroughly padded out, let’s say).

Once again, the weekend was a great success – I always think that these get togethers feel like much more than the sum of their parts – this one for example, signals the start of Christmas to me, and always seems to contain much more than two days worth of relaxation – a sort of mini-holiday in fact.

A little more about Sunday’s adventures to follow.

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Ingleborough

A Slow Ripening Fruit

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So, here in my online diary we’ve reached the tail-end of September and my memory of that time is slightly hazy. Fortunately, I have photographs to help; here are Little S (who in just a few more years will be towering over me) and TBH approaching the top of Warton Crag.

From where, even on a cloudy day, there’s always some sort of view…

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But we weren’t on our own…

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…oh no!…

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Because this was our annual At Home weekend when some of our old friends congregate at our house.

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I know what happened, for the simple reason that it was undoubtedly the same things that always happen on these weekends: a bit of a walk each day, despite the weather, which actually wasn’t too bad this time around; endless cups of tea, a few beers, loads of food, including a takeaway from the local curry house and the usual recycling of old stories and even older jokes.

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One the Saturday we walked to and from Warton Crag, via Leighton Moss and Summer House Hill.

On the Sunday we must have visited Jack Scout because that’s where this giant limestone seat is, but I can’t recall how we got there or back again.

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“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”

Aristotle

These curious Turkeys jumped up onto a wall to assail us as we passed their field.

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Must be time for another caption competition…?

A Slow Ripening Fruit

Towyn Farm: Cloud Ten

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Lesser Black-backed Gull (I think).

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Our tenth annual summer camping holiday at Towyn Farm near Tudweiliog on the Llyn Peninsula. (Eleventh for some of our friends, because we missed one year for a family birthday party). We were unusually late this year, meaning that S had his birthday before we got there – he has had almost all of his birthday’s in Wales.

Because I’m chary about taking my camera to the beach, my photos are wholly inadequate and don’t capture any of the things which are important about the holiday – the frisby flinging, beach tennis and mass games of cricket, games of Kubb, swimming and body-surfing, messing about in boats etc etc. There are no pictures of our various rock-pool finds, in particular of the Norway Lobster which B and I caught with a borrowed net. Or of the many fish I saw at low tide whilst snorkelling around the reef just off shore.

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But most importantly, there are no photos of the gaggle of old friends whom we meet here every year and who make the holiday what it is.

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The weather was very kind to us this year, with lots of sunshine and the rain largely confined to the nights or early mornings.

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Our kids adore the sea and seemed to be quite happy to spend almost all day every day immersed in it, swimming, surfing, snorkelling, boating, floating on a ring, jumping about in the waves etc.

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I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Towyn Farm: Cloud Ten

The Three Amigos Ride Again

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It’s quite a long time since CJ, X-Ray and I have been out for a stroll together. Back in 2010 it seems, although we started a walk together in January 2011, but X-Ray turned back for the comforts of the tea-shop. It was very satisfying then, that the team were back together at the end of last week. Here we are – I’m represented by my rucksack – on the summit of Whitbarrow. We’d parked near Witherslack Hall and took the relatively steep ascent from there.

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Kent Estuary and Arnside Knott from Whitbarrow.

The walk southwards along the plateau is delightfully easy walking and the Kent Estuary and the small hills of home loom larger in the view as the distance closes.

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Field Scabious (I think).

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As we dropped down through the trees towards the village we came across this mystery…

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Something hanging in netting from a tree. Artwork?

We passed through the village of Beck Head and visited the Hikers’ Rest Self Service Cafe which I first came across on a family walk just after Christmas.

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CJ, who wasn’t carrying a rucksack, bought himself a bottle of water. The cafe is well-stocked with reading material. Here X-Ray is reading a randomly selected sentence from The Complete Sherlock Holmes. From that clue, CJ correctly identified the story as The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk. Quite a party trick.

We strung some paths and lanes together, across the Winster valley, to reach the Derby Arms for lunch. The beer was good, the sun continued to shine (rather contrary to the forecast) and the food, particularly the Thai Chicken Broth, was vey palatable.

At that point CJ had to speed back to the cars, needing to make an assignation at Oxenholme Station prior to a planned wild-camp at Sprinkling Tarn, so took the direct route via the road. X-Ray and I took a slightly more circuitous route.

First stop was Latterbarrow, where the wildflowers were stunning (I can’t think why I didn’t take any photos)

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Meadow Browns.

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A pleasant walk through woods brought us to Witherslack Church, also known as Barwick’s Church…

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There’s a little more about this church in this post about my first visit back in 2010 with B.

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We sat in the churchyard for a while and I watched this Red-Tailled Bumblebee’s progress around the flowerbeds.

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One final short, steep climb over Yewbarrow and a steady descent brought us back to the car. We still had one final treat in store however: a fox cub strayed on to the road as we drove back down the valley.

A very fine walk; hopefully our next outing will come around less than six years from now.

The Three Amigos Ride Again