Sunday, 16 September 2018

Rumination: The End of Summer

Again, the Following is For Reference Only.

Remember Summer? and that hot blast of weather that lasted all the way from the top of the year to the end of July? when it felt like we might have lasting high temperatures and drought conditions previously unseen in our lifetimes? which made our working environments hellish but still provided days inspiring enough to head out to walk distant trails despite the risks of moorland fire and induced dehydration? Those days seem hopelessly far away now as we roll on to The End of Summer, which I had once considered my second favourite time of the year after the glorious days of May, which has lately come to be regarded as the time of the year when my inspiration levels fall off and I have to start revising my plans for the late season as I begin to run out of available weekends to use as the legs and brain feel the appeal of walking waning badly. My na├»ve and much younger walking self of six years ago was ready to use this weekend to start on five legs of the Calderdale Way, which seems a bizarre choice when regarded at this remove, while my contemporary, and supposedly more organised, self is looking at how to fill the remaining weeks of the year before my will to walk falls away or the weather gets too poor for me to want to be outside at all. It's all been a bit of a rough turn since August rolled around, as it feel like I've had a whole bunch of rum walking days as the weather turned to a more familiar atmosphere of constant inconsistency, though the continually unacknowledged truth of the matter is that across the period  I've had four good days out against three mediocre-to-poor ones. I guess that the inconsistent weather has left me with the feeling of it being cold and dull over the last seven weeks, when the reality has been that it has been wholly average, and my mood has been hampered more by my failures to get organised, by changing my walking plans for August which caused the delay and then cancellation of plans for six trips of traipsing around in Malhamdale. Still, you find me in particularly glum mood as the last weekend of Summer comes around, feeling ground down by the external pressures that have descnded during the last season, and not finding much in my personal, family or working lives that have brought me much joy, or will do in the immediate futrure, and when wedded to the aspects of the wider world, it gets me feeling anxious, that if I feel this bad now, how on Earth am I going to feel when I've got to face a three month traverse through The Dark Season?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Leicestershire Round #7 - Sutton Cheney to Newtown Linford 05/09/18

17.1 miles, via Bosworth Park, Market Bosworth, Carlton, Shackerstone (station),  Odstone, 
 Nailstone, Bagworth, Thornton (Mill & Reservoir), Markfield, and John's Lee Wood.

Long Distance Trail means 
Selfies! #7 at the Hercules 
Revived, Sutton Cheney.
A relatively chilled couple of days drop in between my trekking days, with nothing more active than having My Sister and her family drop by for lunch while passing through on a cross country jaunt, and getting My Parents over to the church dinner club the following day, knowing that the gardening exploits are due once my walking days are finished, so I feel decently recharged once my second 17 mile jaunt of my Down Country break comes around. Unfortunately, after six clear runs to my start points on the Round, the seventh and final one is the longest trip of all, which forces us through Leicester's morning rush hour traffic, preventing a very early start and meaning that we don't get our jump off in Sutton Cheney until 9.05am, with the skies suggesting coming blueness in the west, but general grey pudding hanging over the rest of the county. Depart from the Hercules Revived public house (a name I really can't get enough of), and roll up Main Street, through a village that would surely glow red on a sunnier day thanks to all it construction in brick, passing the Old Hall that is plainly the most impressive structure in the village, running up as far as the Royal Arms Hotel, the other village pub that has a sideline as an actual hotel complex, and our route passes through its car park and into the fields beyond. Trace a bunch of boundaries as we tack to the northwest, which will be our trajectory for the next 5 miles, noting that we are passing though enclosures that were growing beans, judging by the quantity still on the ground post-harvest, rising towards Spring Wood and Woodhouse farm whilst feeling a light regret that the Round doesn't pass through Cadeby, a mile or so inside its path, where the Reverend Teddy Boston used to famously operate a narrow gauge railway in the Rectory Garden. The path leads us into Bosworth Park, once the extensive parklands of Bosworth Hall, seat of local benefactors, and general oddballs, the Dixie family, where we follow a tree lined avenue that leads among the open meadows and small spinneys, still looking the same as the would've a century ago,  for a solid half mile before we arrive in the public park at the top end. Meet the local exercisers and strollers here as our route tracks around the shaded memorial garden and the Bow Pool before meeting the open parklands as we run in towards Rectory Lane, with both Bosworth Hall and St Peter's church just beyond the passage of the Round path as we enter Market Bosworth.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Leicestershire Round #6 - Frolesworth to Sutton Cheney 02/09/18

17.2 miles, via Claybrooke Magna, Claybrooke Parva, High Cross, Fosse Way, 
 Fosse Meadows, Sharnford, Aston Flamville, Burbage (Wood & Common), Barwell, 
  Odd House, Ashby Canal, Sutton Wharf, Ambion Wood, and Bosworth Battlefield.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#6 at St Nicholas's, Frolesworth.
After my long weekend away in Wharfedale and a gratifyingly short week back in work, we can set our sights on the last holiday of the Summer, heading Down Country once more with August already receding into memory and all intentions set on getting the Leicestershire Round completed, with the two longest and most distant days still to go, trips that I had worried might prove to be logistically unfeasible due to the travel durations necessary to get to my start lines. We need not have worried though, as My Dad can be left to nap of a morning without great risk, and maximum flexibility can be gained from starting out as early as possible, not that I'm entirely sure that My Mum is entirely enamoured with having to get the Parental Taxi fired up for a departure from home at 7.15am, so that the trail might be joined again at St Nicholas's church in Frolesworth at 7.55am, which is easily the earliest I've started out, and the day's sunshine has already come on, for which I'm immensely grateful after last Sunday's damp debacle. Away on Main Street we go, past the gates of the Rectory to the corned by the now absent Royal Oak inn, taking a southerly track as we set course for the Heart of Roman England, down a grassy track that leads onto a field walk, seeing the village recede rapidly, but making sure to note the Dutch Barn at Manor Farm, a modern office building that looks exactly like an open barn stacked with straw bales, the sort of modern design that should be replicated in every rural redevelopment. Our path rises, gently, up towards Hill Farm, aside plots of corn and across the recently harvested wheat fields, before cresting by the equestrian grounds and then declining through open plots before shifting into rougher fields, where I'm greeted along the way by a farm worker and her enthusiastically yappy dogs, and I continue to enjoy the warm morning sun as we field walk to Frolesworth Lane and then hot foot it over to Claybrooke Mill, secluded away in its own little spinney. Trailing around the West Riding moorlands can make you unprepared for regularly rural Midlands landscapes, with its many stiles, ditches and plank bridges, and they will become the testing features of the day as we progress, across recently ploughed fields and enclosures full of docile cows, as we lead over to Claybrooke Magna, one of a Leicestershire pair which seems to have the majority of the modern suburban houses in it, apt to it's 'large' name, which our track only sees a corner of, on Bell Street.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Buckden Pike (aborted) 27/08/18

6.3 miles, from Kettlewell, via Top Mere Road, Cam Pasture, Starbotton Cam Road,
 Tor Dike, Hunters Sleets, Top Mere Top, Buckden Pike, Buckden Rake, Buckden, and 
  Starbotton. Park Rash, and Cam Gill Road.

The weather projections for Bank Holiday Monday morning look a whole lot more favourable than those we had for Sunday, suggesting that the worst of the lingering rain should be done before 9am, and as I've got my camera working again and all my clothes dried, with a potential six and half hour window to use before the last #874 bus runs back to Leeds, it makes total sense to tilt again at Buckden Pike and hang the consequences of a dozen extra miles walked when I still need to return to work on Tuesday. So rise for breakfast at 8.45am, again eating as much food as Zarina will put in front of me to sustain another trip out, feeling teased by the suggestions of blue skies and sunshine breaking through the light clouds as I watch an early starter walk up the ascent up to Gate Cote Scar across the valley, but as I make plans to leave an hour later, the weather looks a whole lot less favourable, and I'm already mentally revising my plans as my hosts agree to allow me to leave my bag containing my clothes and ancient laptop at the tearoom to collect on the way back. Step out at 10am, cursing the fact that Upper Wharfedale never seems to bring the weather that you'd like to have, striking back along Middle Lane again as I choose to get the long ascent up to 500m altitude done early, rather than retracing steps up the main road back to Starbotton, stepping past the Village store again and walking up the north side of Kettlewell Beck, past the various cottages and farmsteads to the former village school at the bottom of Cam Gill Road. The ascent here starts in earnest, and even before we've risen above the tree cover, the drizzle has shifted to a steady rain, and I'll pause overlooking the village to look to the north west to see if the weather shows any sign of relenting, which it doesn't and so we get fully waterproofed up again as we hit the slippery limestone-clad track of Top Mere Road, wondering aloud if we're getting yesterday's weather back, returning for a bonus downpour or two over Wharfedale again. The steepest stretch of the days' ascending is the rise to 350m, the regular 150m ascent from the river valley being something of a West Riding tradition, and looking back down the valley as we go gives a distinctly shifting view of the weather as the cloud level changes with nearly every look, sometimes revealing Barden Moor all the way down the valley, and at other times offering nothing further away than all the marquees around Kilnsey, and hopes for high land progress feel stymied once I get sight over to Great Whernside, with cloud shrouding it above the 600m contour.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Great Whernside 26/08/18

10.1 miles, from Kettlewell, via Hag Dike, Great Whernside, Stone Top Head, Blackfell Top, 
 Black Dike, Hunters Sleets, Top Mere Top, Buckden Pike, Buckden Rake, Buckden, 
  Tor Dike, Starbotton Cam Road, and Starbotton.

As it's August Bank Holiday at the end of one of the hottest summers in the last few decades, it's entirely natural that the weather projection isn't looking good, and it looks like a complete circuit of the two 700+m fells around Kettlewell is unlikely to be completed before foul weather takes the day over, so after a decent night's kip I rise at 8am, the only early starter in the B'n'B so Zarina can host me with a three and a half course breakfast, which will hopefully be enough to fortify me for the whole day, and against whatever it might throw at me. I'm not quite prepared for winter weather but waterproof and gloves ought to protect me against the coming rain and wind, which are already underway when I depart at 9.10am, hopeful that I might get well on over the high grounds before the weather worsens around midday, wandering off up Middle Lane to the corner by the Village Store and crossing over Kettlewell Beck by the King's Head Inn and pressing east up Scabbate Gate, among the many cottages that grew up here thanks to the boom in the Lead mining industry in the 19th century, surpassing the textiles and farming industries that preceded it, and it's the sort of Yorkshire village that I love most, until you realise just how far from the wider world you really are up here. Which makes it ideal for the adventurous type, which we are being this weekend, following the road as it turns to a rough track leading up to the campsite at the bottom of Dowber Gill, where we pick the bridleway as our ascent route up to Great Whernside, which still sits away hidden from view above the village, and as we rise aside the neighbouring valley of Cam Gill Beck, we gain a fresh perspective over the side valleys that cannot be seen from the main body of Wharfedale. The road up to Coverdale can be traced as we rise above the tree cover and press on up well built track until we hit the 350m contour and split from our north-western trajectory to hairpin back and trace a broadly twisting path across the high pasture that leads back towards Dawber Gill, giving us evolving views back down Wharfedale and across to Firth Fell, to Buskden Pike and its companion Top Mere Top to the north, and finally up to the top 200m of Great Whernside, a summit strip that is over a mile long, and thus I'm not entirely certain that we can see the actual summit cairn from here.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Skipton to Kettlewell 25/08/18

14.8 miles, via Tarn Moor, Scale House, Rylstone, Cracoe, Swinden Quarry, Threshfield, 
 Kirk Bank, Kilnsey, and Skirfare Bridge.

August Bank Holiday weekend arrives, at long last, or rather suddenly as the month already hits its last week, and even if the weather projection for much of it is not looking too great, I'm still going to take my long weekend away in Kettlewell to face down its pair of 700+m neighbours as I've had this trip planned since May and have already paid half of the costs of my room and board, and most probably won't be seeing that money again if I chose to stay home and rest up instead of walking. So stuff my life into two bags, rather than the largest single one, as wearing them slung fore and aft offers more comfortable weight distribution, despite me looking like I'm primed to attend Leeds Fest instead, and set out late-ish as Northern Trains and the RMT are still at loggerheads, meaning that I don't get to my jump off point in Skipton until 10.40am, with my sights set on Upper Wharfedale, which immediately feels like a long way away as the extra weight of my holiday bag is soon felt. Skipton station being offset to the town's south-west means that finding routes north will always follow familiar pavements, and that's the case today as we hammer out along Broughton Road past the mill conversions as far as the canal bridge before turning up Coach Street to pass among the old wharf-side building before crossing the Springs Branch and heading uphill among the town's car parks to meet Gargrave Road, and the route up the sealed off rat run of St Stephen's Close. Suburbia butts up against hidden terraces along here, where the RC church also hides concealed, where a last look over the town is gained before we slip downhill to the leafy passage of the B6265 Grassington Road, which will be our companion as we press away from Airedale, rising out of the walled in section below the trees and on past the smart range of suburbia that has never quite grown to fill all the fields above the town, where we gain sight of the Barden Moor fringe before we lose our footway and have to make a passage over the A59 Skipton Bypass. It's going to be road walking for such a large chunk of today, so it's nice to briefly get a detour onto an off-road trek over Tarn Moor up as far as the Craven Heifer Inn, a path seen before as long ago as 2012, meeting the pub and having the three high crags on the southern edge of the moor announce themselves as we press on, along with Sharp Haw and Rough Haw arriving on our horizon to the west. The road walk thus starts in earnest as we rise and fall with the lane as Eller Beck flows south towards the town beyond the adjacent fields, as we enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park with the traffic level looking like it might prove more challenging than on my escapade along the A65 in April, pressing on in the shadow of Crookrise Crag as we pass Bog Wood and None Go Bye farm, and the West Riding roadsign indicating that we are only two miles out on the Skipton & Cracoe turnpike.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Rumination: Pause and Take a Deep Breath

The Following is for Reference Only.

Every walking season so far has had its disappointing months, like September 2017 or June 2015, when plans don't seem to come together and it all ends up feeling rather disjointed, or the stamina drops and illness knock the stuffing out of you to leave all you best intentions scattered like so many Autumnal leaves, and I'd thought that after the delays brought on by weather and general unwellness back in March and April, this year might look to much plainer sailing through the Spring and Summer. That has been largely the case, as the plans have gone on without interruption since Spring sprung in April, doing the usual trick of filling every available day with activity and not taking time out despite promising myself that I will take time out to rest and be sociable, like I do every year, but as August came around we hit the point in the year where the wheels start to spin and impetus feels like its lost. After three successful months of treks around Wharfedale and Nidderdale, my plan to take a detour into the Upper Washburn has become something of a millstone as after missing out on the planned trip two weeks ago, and failing to get it done this weekend, means that I won't get it walked until I've had both my breaks away, meaning that all my scheming for phase three of the High Season won't get started until the middle of September at the earliest. Having plotted out six trips in and around the vicinity of Malhamdale leaves me with the frustration that despite being in only Mid August and still having three months of walking season left, I'm left with a rapidly diminishing number of weekends to use before I run out of viable days, and I learned in both 2012 and 2014 that having multi-week plans still loitering on the schedule in September and October forces you into activity when you might be starting to lose the motivation with the cooling and shortening days. Having taken last weekend out for a trip over to visit My Sister also leaves me feeling rather frustrated, as has again taken so long for us to get together when I'm always promising that we will be more sociable and put together some proper walking schemes for each season, as I'd forgotten how much I enjoy her company, and that of her family, as it's nice to be able to hit some paths that I wouldn't see in ordinary circumstances and shoot the breeze with someone who can fire a conversation for hours regardless of the topic.