Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Masham Circular - Wensleydale Walkings

Of course a mention of the town of Masham has you immediately thinking real ale - not suprisingly as it is home to the Theakston and Black Sheep Breweries. I went there to discover another side to the town too, as I was interested in trying out some new walking country.

This walk starts near the hamlet of Fearby, a couple of hundred metres away from the Druids Temple, built by William Danby, the squire of Swinton. The countryside around Masham is much gentler than the Dales further north, rolling fields, rivers, hills and woodland offering pretty and contrasting views.

The start of the walk is on fairly high ground and gives a great view over to the east with the hills of the North York Moors looming in the distance. As soon as you set off the varied landscape never fails to impress - the horizon changes as you cross each field and stile and past sections of woodland. One moment you cross large lush pastures accompanied by sheep and the North York Moors.

A couple of stiles later you are gazing up into distant hills of the Yorkshire Dales with Wensleydale just beyond. These looked magnificent with their dusting of snow on the tops.

As you cut back down towards the Fearby road, you are back in the sleepier more rustic world of the Dales, with drystone walls, gentle valleys and quiet villages.

Finally after crossing the road and heading back into the hills, you are back into a wilder countryside, where pasture becomes moorland and the moss has conquered the walls, alongside Sole Beck, which feeds into the river Burn.

Alongside the dry stone walls, ancient stone barns appear and almost disappear into the surrounding countryside, so much they appear to live in harmony alongside nature.

The wet woodland was home to all kinds of flora such as these patches of giant mushrooms appearing at the foot of the trees

A muddy trek back across farmlands brings this fine circular walk to a close. Just a short distance away is the Druids Temple and my next post will give you an small insight into this mysterious place.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Some Christmas Cheers and Beers

With all the preparations for festivities I haven't had as much chance to get out and about as I would have liked - although I did sneak in a walk close near the Druid's Temple, just outside Masham whilst shopping for Christmas presents so watch out for the report and pictures in the New Year.

In the meantime I made a stop off in Leyburn for some goodies and was pleased to find a selection of celebration ales from the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co. I also got to see what must be one of the best views of Wensleydale, from The Shawl which is a couple of minutes away from Leyburn market place.

Having watched the number of my blog followers grow and grow, I aim to keep up a high standard of regular entries with reports, photos and news items, so thank you for inspiring me to keep going. I wish you all a cheerful Christmas and a Happy New Year, I hope you get the chance to get outside and and enjoy the scenery!

view of Penhill from The Shawl in Leyburn

Friday, 16 December 2011

Fewston Reservoir - North Yorkshire Nature

My pals Jase and Rob had told me about their trips to the Fewston and Swinsty reservoirs of North Yorkshire  on a number of occasions so I was very glad when we got the opportunity to visit them recently. The reservoirs are just off the A59 near Blubberhouses, and are a great environment for an easy walk.
With plenty of parking available this is a honey pot for walking and open air activities, but on this windy but fine Sunday the walk wasn't overcrowded. A walk around each reservoir takes a couple of hours, so a bit of sunshine and a good picnic means you could have a perfect day out.

On this occasion we opted for Fewston reservoir, which is a more elevated walk than that around Swinsty, offering some glimpses of the surrounding Washburn Valley.The path is very well maintained and is suitable for prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs too, which meant it was a pleasant easy walk.

There were great views of the water to be had all the way around. We saw plenty of geese stopping at the Lake on their migration.A look at the route description on the excellent Walking Englishman site informs that there is plenty of flora and fauna to enjoy on this walk, particularly in Spring. On this late Autumn there were less distractions to take our attention away from the great water scenery.

At the far end of the reservoir as we approached the car park at Blubberhouses we had a quite spectacular view of St. Andrews Church perched on the edge of the Blubberhouses Hall estate. The church is a great modern Gothic building that conjures up all kinds of imagery as you enjoy the site.

The walk back along the northern bank of the reservoir briefly joins the side of the A59 before heading back down to the water's edge alongside woodland.

 The walk back is straighforward and follows the water's edge, heading briefly into the wods before coming back out on the reservoir dam road, and from there it is a short walk back to the car park. This is a great family walk which I look forward to doing again.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Wharfedale Wander - Almscliff Crag

This was an excellent walk that I did with some friends after a night in Leeds. it always amazes me that there are so many fabulous locations in close proximity to big cities. I am familiar with the region around Otley and Ilkley just north of Leeds and Bradford, as well as the foodland walks around the Adel and Meanwood areas just north of the city, but this was a new one.
My mate Rob was keen to show me "Lovely Rocks" and I was only to happy to discover a section of Wharfedale. We parked up at the railway station at Huby - which is oddly named Weeton station even though that village is a mile away?!

Together with Jase, who had accompanied me on walks in Malham as well as a walk along Offa's Dyke nearly 20 years ago, we made our way out of the vilage in a thick mist. There were patches of blue sky visible and we hoped the sun would manage to burn off the mist, but unfortunately we never did get our view over Wharfedale.

But the mist and fog patches made for some pretty spectacular eerie scenes and whilst we were walking along the lane all of a sudden Almscliff Crag became visible.

This was definitely a place worth exploring, and we were not alone as it is a popular spot for climbers. Almscliff still felt very remote and magical in particular in the light which meant that crags and climbers drifted in and out of visibility.

After a short climb we were at the very top of the crags, where we enjoyed our sandwiches and a chat about how the rock formation came to be. We enjoyed a roam around on the top of the rocks in the vague hope that the mist would lift, but the we will have to enjoy those views another time.

We made our way along the footpaths back down to the village of Huby, before heading our seperate ways and having thouroughly enjoyed our short walk.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Walking for Charity - Lyke Wake Walk Jan 2012

I am pleased to announce the first of a series of charity events of which I will be participating in 2012. I have already signed up for and am looking forward to the Great North Swim which is taking place in June. Before that I hope to do a number of charity walking events.

The first is taking place (weather permitting) on the 14th January and together with a small team we will be tackling the Lyke Wake Walk, across the North Yorkshire Moors from Osmotherly to Ravenscar. My hope is that it will be cold enough for those bogs to have frozen over, making the walk easier that it might be on a warm spring day.

Claire's Lyke Wake Walk expedition 2009

That also means that we will get less hours of daylight, but hey you have to compromise somewhere. Claire and I will be walking in aid of South Durham Early Intervention Outward Bound project, giving young people from the north-east who are recovering from psychosis, the opportunity to participate in the activities in the the great Outdoors, learning a number of skills as well as gaining valuable experience such as teamwork as well as  self-confidence and the feeling that they are not alone. Details of how you can sponsor us coming soon.

picture by Claire on her 2009 Lyke Wake Walk

Monday, 21 November 2011

Another fantastic Outward Bound week!

My wife Claire recently took a group of young people to the Outward Bound Trust in Howtown on Ullswater. This is a great opportunity for those people and I really admire Claire and her team with all the work they put in. Here's her report of their latest expedition!

During the last week of October we took another group of 10 young people recovering from psychosis to Howtown for a week of adventures with the Outward Bound Trust. Again a fantastic week was had by all. Although the weather was colder than our week in April we managed to get out and about everyday, hill climbing, canoeing, rowing, ghyll scrambling and even an overnight stay in a mountain hut!

This trip really gave me confirmation of how valuable outdoor activity can be for our service users. The young people we took were more medicated (thus subject to more side effects) and at an earlier stage of recovery than the April group but still they took part in everything with enthusiasm that I found completely inspiring.

We are really making this a regular part of our team's work. We have recently been successful in getting a 6k grant from the National Lottery which will pay for three more Outward Bound weeks, and on November 2nd we received the accolade of 'highly commended' at the Nursing Times Awards in the 'Team of the Year' category. I am so lucky to be part of such a special team.

For further information:

Early Intervention Team South Durham:
The Outward Bound Trust:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Hadrian's Wall - Birdoswald

Having stayed the night in Carlisle, a group trip to visit Hadrian's Wall was deemed a good idea. This was the last weekend in October and despite the terrible weather that I had the day before on my walk up Binsey in the Lake District, it was sunny and about as warm as you could hope for at the time of year.

Together with the rest of my band, we followed the rather vague roadsigns out of Carlisle and eventually they took us to the section of the wall close to the fort of Birdoswald. This was one of the 16 forts along the length of Hadrian's Wall and in Roman times was known as Banna.

The usual issue of time constraints reared it's ugly head once more, so we just had time for a brief walking around the site rather than properly that visiting the fort.

The wall itself is such an impressive structure and is a unique part of the wall, where the stone wall runs on a different line to the original turf wall. This was a great little stop in a fantastic part of the world.

Binsey - the Lake District's Outer Limits

A recent trip to Carlisle for punk rock purposes meant mainly one thing for me - a small diversion over to the Lake District and a chance to tackle another Wainwright fell. As I only had a limited amount of time this wasn't the occasion for a major excursion, and there was miserable weather forecast. With this in mind I decided to tackle Binsey.

This marks the northern end of the Lake District, as beyond Binsey lie the plains of Cumbria that stretch to the Solway Firth. As far as fells are concerned, this is no giant, but it's remote position means it offers an excellent panorama of Back O' Skiddaw, and over to the west Bassenthwaite Lake and the North Western Fells beyond.

Finding a parking space proved to be the first challenge, and eventually I had to change the route I had planned. This meant a shorter walk than planned, as I finally parked up at Binsey Lodge. The path here was impossible to miss and even a map wasn't needed.

looking back across Overwater to the Uldale Fells

I simply had to follow the wide grassy track that led all the way to the summit in a more or less straight line. It was a good thing that I didn't need the map as it meant that stayed nice and dry, unlike my now battered copy of Wainwright's Northern Fells.

Bassenthwaite Lake and the North Western Fells

As always each step upwards was rewarded with a widening panorama, this time stopping and turning around gave a great view of the moody Northern Fells, the tops covered by the low cloud.

I was keen to get to the top sooner rather than later as the clouds were threatening rain. It started spitting when I was about halfway up, and it was pouring down when I made it to the summit.

The rocky plateau of the summit made quite a surprise after the grassy slopes of the ascent. There are a number of sizeable cairns as well as an Ordnance Survey trig column. Despite the bad weather I sat in the summit shelter, and read from my guide book.

Seeing a mountain rescue helicopter fly past was a reminder that even smaller fells offer a challenge and shouldn't be underestimated.

I then walked over to the northern cairn and in doing so was really at the northen tip of the Lake District! I then decided to head westwards to get a panoramic view of Bassenthwaite Lake. I got absolutely drenched heading over the fell, and when I got to where I thought I would have the view, the whole scenery was covered in cloud and drizzle and there was nothing to see. With the rain pouring down and wind howling it was time to make a hasty retreat to the car and my well earned lunch before heading northwards. Sitting in the car, soaked and cold, eating damp sandwiches, I still had a smile on my face. The Lake District tends to have that effect on you.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Hamsterley Forest

With very little free time as of late, I managed to grab a couple of hours at the weekend so Claire could take me to one of the walking areas of her childhood, Hamsterley Forest.

Sandwiched between Teesdale and Weardale, this forest, run by the Forestry Commission covers 5000 acres and makes for some excellent outdoors time.

As well as the walking you can do, there is a great selection of bike tracks - reminding me of the time one of my colleagues back in Berlin took me on a track, insisting I would be fine on my old bone shaker. He went flying over the trail on his high tech bike, whilst I pushed mine most of the way - flat tyres and a broken chain after the very first section not helping much...

With Autumn in full flow it was a great time to visit the forest, with the colours on the trees setting a spectacular scene. You could return every week in Autumn and the same view would offer a different colour spectrum every time.

The paths and trails around the forest reminded me of Whinlatter forest and Dodd wood and it's good to see woodland being well managed and offering the opportunity to really get away from it all whilst being easily accessible