Three for the price of one.

I’m back after a week in Bakewell in the Peak District having had a rather lovely break. There were several stand out trips from the week and rather than blog about them all, you get three for the price of one today AND they’re not even past their best before date…..

First up was a small walk from around Winster early in the week with the whole family, three generations together. Our eldest son Ifor (4 years old) led the walk using the Making tracks series of walking packs. I expected it to be great practice for reading, but the stand out aspect of the walk was seeing his confidence increase and his skills develop from leading. There was some strong emotion on seeing him check off navigation features and get a bee in his bonnet about striding on at the front. It was a joyous thing to see his outdoor life and independence start – I’ll be posting a review of the Making tracks series shortly.

Hawthorn above Winster

All the gang

Ellis has a go at leading

One of the other family trips was just a short stroll up to Robin hood’s stride to have a bit of scrambling fun. It’s a set of rocks in the white peak near where Cath’s folks live. Ellis bounced about like a leprauchaun and I’m not sure he has actually developed his fear reflexes yet on the strength of his behaviour that day. Ifor was much more cautious, but again it was awesome to see their decision making skills coming on in leaps & bounds. If you have a spare couple of hours and fancy some easy non-scary fun scrambling, it’s well worth a look.

Robin Hoods Stride

Rock hero pose

love the rock

It's so much fun my hair stands on end

The final trip was a swift wild camp with Andy (AKA @mixedupmessedup). We took a Backpacking Bongos trip from a week or two earlier as inspiration and changed it around to make it slightly longer. The initial evening walk to our camp was uneventful as we headed up from Howden resevoir, but the weather looks more beautiful than I remember according to these photos. I’ll let them do the talking.

Leaving Howden resevoir

Up towards Bleaklow

Towards Grinah Stones

Journeys end

Time for a brew

The second day was dreich as they say North of the border. I awoke to the sound of rain on the tent and it didn’t stop until the following day. We had planned to meet Martin Banfield of Postcard from Timperley fame on the second day to stroll with us. After packing away the tents, we strolled up from Grinnah stones towards Bleaklow stones where we were due to meet Martin. He had already spied our camp spot via the power of Social Hiking so we got a text to let us know he was at Bleaklow Head. Mobile signal was intermittent to say the least and whilst we were at Bleaklow Stones we began to worry as on the OS explorer maps, it is shown away from the most recongnisable rocks such as the anvil stone. To cut a long story short, we then had a joyous 3/4 hour of intermittent texts, with hill fog reducing visibility to 50 metres and the rain stepping up a couple of notches whilst we tried to find each other in amongst the Pinnacles of Peat. Eventually we found each other and it was a timely reminder of just how difficult navigation can be in crappy weather, especially in the Dark Peak.

Finally strolling on, the conversation flowed as easily as the rain did. The weather was totally crud but there are few areas in the Peak District that lend themselves as well as Bleaklow do to getting away from it all. We followed a straightforward route back to the Penine way, cutting down to Grains in the Water then up on to Allport moor for the obligatory trig photo. We then strolled towards Alport Castles before heading left down the hill back to the car. Dollops of wilderness and a sense of scale and height you don’t get elsewhere in the Peaks made for a wonderful day despite the dampness. Add in some decent company in the form of Andy and Martin and the day was over far too quickly for my liking.

Misty start to the day

Andy H

Bleaklow Stones

Up to Alport

Andy had been feeling pretty duff after a stinking cold so we finished up early, just in time for a swift drink in the Ladybower Inn. Whilst there, we overheard a group of farmers have a local land management presentation. It focussed on what they were doing to look after the moorland, particularly when they should burn heather. It was the most interesting 10 minutes I have ever heard on moors, of which the stand out facts for me were that Midges pollinate heather and heather only stands a 5% chance of germinating if it hasn’t been near smoke. All of a sudden the midges didn’t seem so much of an irritation. It never ceases to amaze me the balance and purpose there is in everything in Nature.

If you want to look at more pretty picture they’re here. Martin’s elegant report is here, James’ blog that delivers inspiration by the bucketful is here and our tracks in the rain can be followed below.

Walking in the wettest April for 100 years

Walking in the wettest April for 100 years

Rain, more rain and a side order of rain with extra rain has been the overwhelming memory of this April. With rivers in Gillingham getting friendly with the tops of bridges and fields resembling swamps, it’s not been a great month for getting out and about. Come the weekend though, it seemed to get worse. After some of our guttering blew down all hell appeared to be released outside, rain liberally sprinkling the windows so hard it sounded like stones. So what did Ifor want to do? Go for a walk.

Flooded Gillingham

Ellis wisely had hit the sack and Cath decided to stay in to finish a bit of crafty chinwagging so we got suited, booted and pootled on up to Mackintosh Davidson woods. Woods are strange things. Sunny outside, it will look a lot darker under the tree canopy. Today was the reverse however, a grey and cloudy day was replaced by a green luminescence as we moved in to the woods, Ifor acquainting himself with every puddle that crossed our path of which there were many. I’ve written about Mackintosh Davidson woods before, they are my favourite escape close to the house and Sunday was no exception. The bluebells were in full effect, sheltered from the wind and the rain, the moisture giving the woods a sheen that reflected what little light came in beautifully. Ifor was in his element, dancing in and out of puddles and giving excited hiccups at the streams gushing through the bottom of the woods where trickles had been weeks before.

Ifor in Mackintosh Davidson Woods

Blossom

Bluebells

We kicked mud from bridges in to the rivers below and played extreme poo sticks (that’s with a river in full spate for those of you who don’t know). We threw mud at each other and let the rain wash it off our jackets, we wondered at the banks of branches broken off the trees. Several times I stopped and savoured the feeling of being with my son, enjoying the moment. His total joy at being outside and my joy at seeing him explore and enjoy the woods left me with a feeling of a perfect time and a perfect moment.

New paths and fresh eyes

New paths and fresh eyes

I have been really enjoying setting up this blog and writing, but life has a habit of keeping me seriously busy these days. So much so, that I have only now had the chance to actually write this post about our week up in the peaks two weeks ago, after my first post about walking with Cath again.

The rest of the week was just as pleasurable as the start, and I felt great for getting some serious strolling in. The Thursday saw me head out with Dave from My Outdoors UK, and Andy from Walks around Britain to meet & film a walk for Andy’s site. As Cath’s parents live in the Peak District, we have explored the area in some detail over the years. Dave suggested a route we had not done before though from Stoney Middleton up Coombs Dale, and so I set off in anticipation of exploring somewhere I had never been to in the Peaks. The weather gave us a crisp beautiful day, the best of the week. Although I had met Dave once before briefly, it was the first time I had properly spent some time with him, and it was my first meet up with Andy. After 10 minutes walking though, it felt like I had known Dave and Andy a lot longer,  the conversation flowing as easily as the stream we walked beside.

 

Andy filming in Coomb's Dale

Dave’s wealth of knowledge of the local caves and area made for a wander that didn’t just touch on the beauty of what we had around us, but added a depth of experience that you don’t often get when walking. It made the walk that much more special, and I can’t wait for Andy to finish the editing to post up on  his You Tube channel. My thanks to both of them for meeting up, we managed to steer mostly clear of geek talk about outdoor gear for all of 3 minutes by my reckoning…… What finished the walk off beautifully for me was the cliff path coming back in to Stoney Middleton. All of a sudden we went from Peak District rolling hills to some serious drops away from the path, giving a real feeling off exposure. It was even more delightful for it being so unexpected.

 

Approach to Stoney Middleton

 

Andy & Dave

Just before we went back on the Saturday, I tweeted Helen Fisher, one of the outdoor bloggers I have had the pleasure of meeting online through Webtogs, to see if she fancied a walk in the flesh. Foolishly she said yes, and on a damp Saturday morning, Cath and I headed up to Burbage for a stroll. The rain came down and decided to stay a while – the entire walk in fact, and several items of gear got a serious work out. Cath discovered her 8 year old Meindl Burma’s have just about died when it comes to waterproofing (not bad considering the abuse they have had), and that her lightweight waterproof trousers, were in fact windproof and not a lot else! My G2 Moutain pants were lengendary, only leaking around seams and zips, and my love of these trousers continues to grow. I think Helen stayed vaguely dry, but you can make up your own mind from the photos below.

 

Helen and myself setting out

 

Cath & Helen

Nigh on 3 hours we walked, with a cuppa at the end in the NT cafe at Longshaw. I’ll tell you what. The time flew again. I’m not sure what is was about that week, but meeting and walking with new people who were all rather lovely, gave me a whole new view of the peaks. Interacting with people online, and then cementing that friendship in real life is a rather grand feeling. You can tell what people are like I think through their online chatter. The feeling of nervousness and anticipation of meeting new people, fading in the real knowledge that they are as lovely as their online presences, delivered a warmth that made this week in the peaks special. Helen was fine company and the conversation ranged as wide as our feet did.

I’m not sure when we’ll be heading back up North again to stay with Cath’s folks, but we’ll be calling on some new friends to be sure.

Leave your home, lock the door, and never come back.

We’re coming up for our busiest period of the year at Webtogs right now, and getting outside has had to take a back seat whilst we get things ready for Christmas. Saturday though was a rare treat, a day out with the family. Dorset doesn’t have much in the way of real wilderness, it’s pretty much tractor land where we live, with a few too many posh houses for my liking and lots of agriculture. Dartmoor, Exmoor & the Brecons are the most logical wild options close by to, us but today saw Cath take us off to the one really wild option we have within the county – the coast. So we got up, got the caffeine going, strapped our boots on, got in to the car and headed southwards to Tyneham.

The village itself has a hell of a story having been abandoned since the end of the second world war, when the army requisitioned it for training for D day towards the end of 1943. There are a couple of other villages that have also suffered a similar fate, though for different reasons such as Derwent in the Peak District and Imber on Salisbury plain. They all evoke strong responses in people for lots of reasons, but for me, the emotions are stirred by the fact that houses some families had called home will never be so again. We drove through the Purbeck hills searching for the bluster of sea air when we came up the hill overlooking the village. Although the village was emptied to train troops for the D Day landings, after the war, the army held on to the land, and the villagers were not allowed back in. As a result, the village can only be accessed on certain weekends as it remains part of an army firing range. When you approach it, there are rather a lot of signs and flags warning you that you can get yourself blown up if you are not careful. I think that always adds a certain frisson to a walk, knowing that you are walking on land which you can’t usually traipse upon, and that you could find something that goes boom…..

Military firing range warning

It had been a beautiful start to the day though, so we drew up in to the car park at Tyneham with anticipation of a great stroll. Our route was a 2 mile walk and we hoped that Ifor, our 3 year old, would walk the whole way as we want to build up his stamina. Driving in to the village was a little underwhelming as you cannot see too many abandoned buildings. We togged up though, and headed off. I tweeted yesterday that bad weather is great for making you feel alive. We had no rain for Saturday however with the Sun gracing us for the most part, but the wind was strong, ever present, and the recent hours spent in front of a screen were blown away rapidly, leaving me with energy for the short trail ahead.

To the sea

There are many calculations for distance covered based on incline, weather etc, none however that allow for distance covered with a child. Based on Saturdays experience, I think 1 hour 15 mins per mile is about accurate! With Ellis on my back, we took a leisurely pace to the beach interrupted by the last Blackberries of autumn, puddles, rusting tanks and lots more puddles for Ifor. The sea swung in and out of view as we passed through through Tyneham valley. Large numbers on each hill and the occasional hunk of metal reminded us we were on MOD land, and it wasn’t long before we were at the beach. It’s been a while since I have been to the coast, and it was great to be reminded just how noisy waves crashing on a pebble beach can be. There is something incredibly wild about the Jurassic coast, so we spent some time just letting the sights, sounds and smells soak in.

Looking out over Tyneham bay.

Tyneham bay towards Lulworth

Looking down the coast to Werth Matravers & Kiddiminster

Cliffs above Tyneham

A biscuit, glug of milk, and we were off back up the cliff path back towards the village. We were rather glad to have Ifor’s littlelife animal daypack as the path ran rather too close to the cliffs, and the reigns were invaluable in keeping him by us. The path along the cliffs saw the sun come out, and we had beautiful views down the coast to Kimmeridge and Worth Matravers. Finally back at the car park, a rather tired Ifor & Ellis woolfed their lunches down, before we wandered off to have a look around the remains of the village. Spooky was the order of the day, particularly the schoolhouse which has been restored, and the graveyard of the church. Generations of families lay beneath the salty turf, yet no burials for 60 + years made it even more sombre than your average graveyard.

The farm stables in Tyneham

Tyneham church

Tyneham school

Heads lolling in the back of the car from the two boys, we headed home after a great stretch. Walking on the Dorset coast is fantastic, but adding the history and emotion present in Tyneham made it a day out that will stay with us for a while. If you want to take a look at all the photos we took, click here for our flickr stream of Tyneham.

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