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