Category Archives: Hills and Camping

Breaking dawn on Lantern Pike

Confession: I never had much patience for depression suffers. Despite my father being a functioning manic depressive OCD alcoholic (no offence Dad), or maybe because of this, I always had a “pull your socks up” attitude towards it. I mean, I’d had blue days, who hadn’t? And some pretty dark grey to black days as a teenager as well that I’d prefer to forget about, and quite a few wobbles in my twenties and even in my thirties, but I’d always thought of such episodes as evidence of a character flaw, an intolerable admission of weakness to be swept away under the rug of British phlegm and pragmatism.

It follows that, having spent the first year of my forties dealing with an absolute shitstack bout of depression, I am considerably more tolerant (I hope).  However, that’s not what I particularly want to write about today; rather, I want to talk about the wonderful moment when the fog recedes, the night ends, the black dog recedes into his box of bonios and you suddenly think, for the first time in months and months: I feel normal; no, actually, I feel good.

I think I have been building up to this over the last few weeks, thanks to a change of anti-depressants and an excellent counsellor (maybe also return of Game of Thrones on a Monday evening?) but I really do suddenly feel OK. It’s a really good feeling and I don’t give two fucks if it’s chemically induced or not, it’s just good to find pleasure in being alive again.

I wanted to say something articulate about equating the feeling to the first feeling of spring  in the air after a long winter, and quote a poem that’s on the tip of my tongue about March winds being the morning yawn but I’ll be frank, I had a really strong campari & soda earlier and eloquence eludes me. So I’ll like to return instead to the subject of this blog post which is, you’ll be relieved to hear, nothing to do with parts one or two of the vampire-related cinematic monstrosity of the same name, but about a very pleasant walk  I had up to the local trig point on Lantern Pike early this morning.

I presume Lantern Pike must have once served as a beacon in pre-Whatsapp times, which provides a pleasing symmetry on a personal note, since as a child I was often dragged kicking and screaming up the local hill, Beacon Fell, for fitness and fun on a Sunday afternoon. My seven year old self would therefore have been horrified at the prospect of my forty year old self waking up at 5am on a Saturday morning and deciding to voluntarily tackle gravity (actually to be frank my forty year old self would normally feel a fairly strong aversion to both the hour and the exertion) but that’s what happened and it was great.

I’m really unfit, so it took me about ninety minutes, but it’s a pretty easy walk. I went up Swallow House lane and took the track at Higginbottom farm and then the short steepish path up to the trig point, back down the other side and then retraced my steps. You can combine this with the Sett Valley trail by cutting through back down to the reservoir, or with a longer gentler return via Little Hayfield and either the higher path through the woods, or the lower path through the fields.

I’m not saying it was the most exquisite morning ever, nor did my wheezing red-faced sweatiness make for the most romantic moment in the world when I reached the trig point, but I defy you to feel gloom and despair when walking with a friendly cocker spaniel and not a soul in sight, just sheep and birdsong and the morning sun on Manchester in the distance, and the mists rolling off Kinder Scout into the valley below.

Also, and while Lantern Pike is only a modest 1200 ft or something, carrying a piano up Ben Nevis or a washing machine up Snowdon or whatever has nothing on lugging a reluctant ten stone labrador to the summit when he would normally be lying flat on his back on the sofa at this hour, thus doubling my sense of achievement. That, and the smug satisfaction of knowing I achieved my Apple fitness goals by 7am, has enabled me to partake in the usual excessive weekend consumption of pasta, cheese and cheap red wine without the usual degree of maudlin self-loathing.

Here are some pics:

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Hayfield and Kinder from Lantern Pike

Manchester from Lantern Pike summit

Manchester from Lantern Pike summit

Cocky cocker

Cocky cocker

Fat Larry

Fat Larry

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Sett Valley

 

 

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Rambling

On each occasion – and there have been many – in recent months when I have privately bemoaned my manifest failure to maintain this blog at the heady levels achieved during maternity leave, and considered the manner in which I might open the post that resumes service, the same image comes to mind of Bernard Hill in the second Lord of the Rings film when, after being exorcised by Gandalf, he gradually unfurls and de-shrivels and, in some bewilderment, says: “Dark have been my days of late…”. I’m not entirely sure why this should be, save that a) I feel a little like the possessed Theoden at present and b) the recent months have been somewhat dark, not just in a daylight saving kind of sense, but in the sense that trying to distill a full time professional career into part time working hours whilst simultaneously look after an infant who persists in enhancing his experience of nursery by taking on every virus and cold available, is, on balance, difficult difficult lemon difficult.

Be that as it may, it’s all going to get better now as a) I feel certain that tonight  we will make a sizeable win on the lottery, hopefully larger than the £3 return I made on a disproportionately large investment in Euromillions last night (financial planning, folks) and b) more realistically, H and I have decided to resume our pre-parenthood preferred pastime of ambling about aimlessly in the local countryside and calling it hiking. And so we have resumed our campaign to conquer the hills and dales of the north of England, accompanied by the Nipper (thanks to this little beauty) and the Dog, and have ourselves begun to unfurl and de-shrivel and generally feel altogether Much Better.

Anyway, to ease ourselves back into it, we had a very pleasant walk last weekend at Tittesworth Water by following the five mile loop round the reservoir, starting from the Visitor Centre at the head of the reservoir at  Meerbrook, just north of Leek on the A53 Buxton/Leek road. I’m not going to pretend this was the most taxing walk I have ever done, but it was an extremely enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, following forest paths around the reservoir, with some great views of Hen Cloud and the Roaches to which the crap photos I took below do no justice whatsoever:

Tittesworth Water from the Visitor Centre

Tittesworth Water from the Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre

Hen Cloud and the Roaches (I think)

Hen Cloud and the Roaches (I think)

The trail

The trail

 

Friday took us up the Pennine Way from Crowden, heading in the direction of Black Hill, but getting nowhere near because we only walked for an hour, as it was 6pm and veering dangerously into wine bathtime, also we had for some insane reason gone out without coats, but there were cracking views of Bleaklow and the Torside reservoir, and we therefore formulated grandiose plans of returning in early course to tackle the complete circuit, until I went over on my ankle and terminated the conversation.

Today was supposed to involve a good low level walk up near my parents in the Lakes, but my father made me a gin & mix before lunch and it all went downhill from there. (Not literally). (If you haven’t had a gin & mix, it’s gin and vermouth (extra dry and rosso), mixed in equal parts with ice and lemon, and please don’t blame me for the consequences).

 

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Hayfield, Kinder Scout and a mysterious mermaid

The recent clement weather (I was about to write “unseasonable” until I remembered that it is supposed to be summer, after all) has had me hankering  to get out and about walking. This currently means a mile or so along the Tissington or Sett Valley trail before the Nipper starts to shout; however, in a previous life, good weather would mean a great day to get up on Kinder, which in my limited experience is one of the best places to be on a fine day, and therefore I thought I would share with you the walk which we might otherwise have done. For me, as a very amateur walker and hill climber, it ticks all the boxes: long enough to make you feel like you’ve done a decent walk without rendering you immobile the following day; a good balance of inclines and walks on the flat; spectacular views of the Peak District, Manchester and beyond, even to Wales; and, of course, a choice of hostelries at which to end.

Kinder Scout is not so much a summit as a sprawling high moor topping over 2,000 feet, thus making it the highest point in the Peak District. For those of you who care to don a pair of walking boots from time to time, you will be fascinated to learn, if you did not already know, that Kinder is the scene of the 1932 mass trespass, a sort of protest ramble which revolutionised access rights to the countryside, and this walks picks up part of the route taken by the trespassers. If you travel to Hayfield by car, you can park in Bowden Bridge car park and ascend the Kinder slopes by the trespassers’ original route, but I prefer to start this walk from Market Street.

Pass the Packhorse pub, and veer up Kinder Road to the right of the Royal, passing the library, until you see a public footpath heading off to the left. This, if memory serves me rightly, is the Snake Path. Follow this uphill, through a number of kissing gates (which can usefully counter the marital rage that often overshadows the first half hour of any major walk as a result of heated exchanges over e.g. dog leads, sandwich choices, washing facilities at campsites, etc.), and past a copse known locally as Twenty Trees, although I believe there are only nineteen. Turn around here for great views of the village and Lantern Pike.

The path levels out after a short climb, and brings you into sight of Kinder and the shooting lodge. I really love it up here on the moorland grasses, with the ridges looming in the distance, and there are a variety of other walks you could take from this point over Middle Moor and/or down into Little Hayfield. For now, follow the path with the shooting lodge to your left, the reservoir down below to your right, heading off to the left end of the Kinder ridges.

Twenty Trees

Twenty Trees

Shooting lodge and Kinder from the snake path

Shooting lodge and Kinder from the snake path

Kinder reservoir

Kinder reservoir

The path leads along the slopes above the reservoir and takes you onto William Clough, a very pleasant path up a gentle ravine, which ascends steadily until you merge with the Pennine Way at Ashop Head. Turn right and follow the path up for a short, steep-ish climb onto the edge of the Kinder plateau at Sandy Heys.

William Clough

William Clough

View back down William Clough to the reservoir

View back down William Clough to the reservoir

Walk round the edge for about a mile and a half. This is very easy walking along a good path threading between gritstone formations, with views of the reservoir below and beyond.  You will soon reach Kinder Downfall, the highest waterfall in the Peak District, where the river Kinder spills over the plateau down a tumble of gritstone rocks to the reservoir. Whilst not perhaps the most spectacular torrent on the planet, it looks impressive on a blustery day, when the water seems to blow back up on itself. The banks of the river make a good place to stop for lunch.

Kinder Downfall

Kinder Downfall

From here, you can also see the mysterious Mermaid’s Pool, shrouded in nebulous tales of a nymph who appears on Easter’s Eve to either grant immortality or lure men to their doom. It’s not an obvious spot for a mermaid, being a good fifty miles from the coast, and the legends are unclear as to whether she lures her victims to a nearby cavern or tavern, making a clear case for typographical accuracy if ever there was one. Here is a cheery poem by Henry Kirke telling the tale of a hapless shepherd’s boy who met his end at her hands.

Reservoir and the Mermaid's pool from Kinder Downfall

Reservoir and the Mermaid’s pool from Kinder Downfall

After lunch, cross the river and carry on along the path for another couple of miles or so until you reach the trig point at Kinder Low, set amidst a peaty, somewhat alien landscape with its quasi-lunar rocky outcrops.  Here you have good views of the southern ridges and yet more gritstone formations. From this point, my navigation becomes even more sketchy, but basically you carry on in roughly the same direction, keeping to the left of the rocks, until you reach a paved path which takes you past what I think is Noe Stool to a crossroads with the paths leading up from Jacob’s ladder/Upper Booth/Edale. Turn right through a gate, and follow the pony track for a while, passing the medieval Edale cross.

Kinder Low

Kinder Low

Edale cross

Edale cross

Kinderlow end

Kinderlow end

From here, there are various routes back into the village. The last time we did it, we took the path signed off to the right to Hayfield via Tunstead Cross. This takes you along the hillside and, if you bear right where it forks, under Kinderlow end, eventually bearing off downhill through several fields to Tunstead farm. From here you follow the path, which becomes a road, back to Kinder Road and the Bowden Bridge car park, from where you can bear left to continue back into Hayfield.

There are various places where you can take refreshment, in particular the Sportsman on Kinder road if you can’t make it back to the village without a restorative shandy or two, or outside the Royal on a hot day.

All in all, depending on where you start and finish, the walk is about 8-10 miles and I would allow a good 6 hours for it.

(Disclaimer: this route description is written by a woman who relies heavily on her mobile navigation app, and is not intended as a substitute for a good map and a compass, and the knowledge of how to use them – none of which I had, which is all well and good on a fine day, but potentially disastrous in more typical High Peak weather).

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Now is the winter of our discount tent…

There was a time, once, where a spring weekend did not mean sitting in pyjamas with baby spit down the front, with the curtains drawn, waiting for H to get up so I could half-arsedly push a hoover around before various relatives turned up to coo at the Nipper. No, the dawn of the weekend would mean skiving out of work half an hour early, donning my walking boots and attractive rainproof trousers, heading to Piccadilly station and catching a train to Edale or Windermere, where I would meet the advance party (H and the Dog) and head off for a weekend of proper northern fun. Yes, any weekend between March and November that was not spent knee-deep in mud and empty wine bottles after at least 8 hours walking at a steep incline was not a weekend well spent, irrespective of the gale force winds/torrential rain/subzero temperatures, etc. etc. etc. This weekend just gone would have been perfect: cold, damp and poor visibility. Still, family commitments being what they are these days (and, for the avoidance of doubt, I wouldn’t change a thing), the tent will languish in the boiler room, and I will post a little homage to my favourite Lake District, Peak District and Welsh campsites:

1. Wasdale National Trust Campsite.  It was probably ambitious of us to select this for our first ever camping trip, since not only did we have to brave Wrynose pass in distinctly unfavourable weather conditions, but trying to assemble our luxury three-man tent for the first time in gale force winds would have sent a saner couple home, Anyway, we braved it out and it was well worth it. At the head of Wastwater with amazing views of Great Gable, Scafell, the Screes, Illgill Head etc., and with a proper lakeland pub, the Wasdale Head, within staggering distance, this is a reet proper lakeland experience. Handy for exploring the more remote Western lakes and some spectacular walking, although owing to infirmity of Dog we are yet to attempt the obvious ascent up Scafell (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

2. Thirlspot Farm Campsite. On the road between Ambleside and Keswick, this is a lovely if basic spot opposite Thirlmere reservoir,  the experience of which was not spoilt either by the traffic from the main road or by the fact our luxury three-man tent blew down on the second night, never to be used again (and has now been replaced by a far less ostentatious model). Ideally located for Keswick, Blencathra and one of the easier ascents up Helvellyn. King’s Head next door also ideally located for a post-Helvellyn spritzer or three in the sunshine, or indeed for a bed if your tent blows down.

3. Baysbrown Farm. Massive but impressive campsite in the postcard-perfectly picturesque Langdale valley. Good facilities and good access to walking up Dungeon Ghyll,  the Pikes, etc. Wainwrights’ Inn a pleasant 15 minutes walk away, the Britannia Inn at Elterwater another 15 minutes on, both dog friendly if I remember correctly. Bacon butty van at the campsite in the morning very welcome after a night of torrential rain.

4. Upper Booth Campsite, Edale. Basic but beautiful campsite at foot of Kinder plateau, about 1.5 miles from Edale. Brilliant walking straight out of the campsite. This was the campsite that made us fall in love with Kinder Scout, and the Peak District generally. The Nag’s Head in Edale is the location of the Best Pint of Shandy I Have Ever Had (after 9 mile circuit of the Kinder plateau in unseasonable sunshine, the last 3 miles being completed in a filthy mood with a sprained ankle).

5.  Cwmrhwyddfor, Tal Y Llyn. This is a slightly strange but very attractive campsite at the foot of Cadair Idris, near Dollgellau. Separate areas for caravans by the river and tents in the field above. The farmer owners are friendly, even down to the old guy who sits in his car waiting to collect dosh. Barmouth and Twywn close by. Three pubs close by, two of which are slightly intimidating in their own way (think: Girl’s World head on bar in one (actually, no, who thinks of that?); H getting bollocked by landlord for not using a coaster in the other). Birthday dinner in the third pub was abandoned when chef went missing (?) so ended up eating crisps and drinking fizzy wine in the tent, listening to one of the caravans blaring out Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits. Good times. I’d definitely go back, if only to make it further up Cadair Idris than we did.

So, off you go, no excuses, the weather couldn’t be better for a proper northern camping experience (snow in May, I ask you….)

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Hello blogosphere

First, a confession: this blog is entirely self-serving. I am slightly concerned that the transition, albeit temporary, from fourteen hour days at work dealing with relentless emails, phonecalls and, er, lunches, to what appear to be twenty four hour days at home changing nappies, watching endless repeats of Friends and eating toast, might cause me to completely lose my already tenuous grasp on reality without something vaguely intellectual and constructive to do when the Nipper is sleeping and H is at work. I have therefore done what it seems all sensible parents do, according to Mumsnet, and started a blog, to keep the grey matter fresh and to maintain a healthy interest in things going on outside these four walls. (I should clarify that in doing so I do not harbour any delusions of being offered a publishing deal, or taken on as a columnist for the Independent). (What am I saying? Of course I do).

Having said all that, I do appreciate that writing about the day to day minutiae of my maternity leave might cause me, or indeed anyone else foolish enough to read it, to gnaw off an arm out of boredom, unless I make at least a vague attempt to shoehorn it all into some form of niche. So: the plan is that I will blog about things I like, and on occasion things I don’t like, all  from a northern perspective.  This is in part for the unremarkable reason that I am northern, and I live in the North. The concept of this blog has also evolved from my perennial frustration at what I perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be the ubiquitous southern bias in the lifestyle sections of the weekend broadsheets and the national media generally. I do understand, thank you so much, that this reflects the demographics of the nation, but I am increasingly wildly irritated by the lifestyle divide that is perpetuated in the printed press and the reluctance of, for example, BBC Breakfast News to acknowledge the existence of a landscape north of Milton Keynes (examples to follow in subsequent posts to avoid a premature descent into relentless ranting).

What this blog is not (I hope):

  • An “eee by gum it’s grim up north” whine. It certainly can be; I have done my time in grim Lancastrian market towns populated by B&M Bargains and frightening teenagers in hoodies, waking to find a pint pot of piss on the garden wall, or a kebab on the car windscreen. I am sure there are parts of the South that are equally charmless to live in, if not more so. However, I think Manchester is sound in every conceivable way, and that life in the village in which we currently live in the Peak District is, on the whole, not at all grim.
  • A twee, chintzy “isn’t-life-funny-in-the-provinces-but-deep-down-christ-I-wish-I’d-moved-back-to-London”-style journal. I don’t own an aga, or a labrador,  or a Land Rover (actually I wouldn’t mind any of those); I don’t socialise with the vicar; I don’t bake cakes; I don’t hunt; I am terrified of village social events. I like where we live because it’s beautiful, and you can walk out of the front door and be climbing a hill within 15 minutes.
  • A yummy-mummy, know-it-all, smug, self-satisfied exposition of how much more I know about things than anyone else.  Nor do I profess to be at all cool, or have my finger on any sort of pulse.
  • A true “you know nothing, Jon Snow” rant about the inequity between North and South. I recognise and respect that the issue of the North-South divide carries political and economic ramifications about which I know next to nothing, and about which therefore I don’t intend to write (much). However, I do reserve the right to talk about it in a shallow, superficial way, and to make further Game of Thrones references at every conceivable opportunity.

So if you, like me, are an older, professional, working parent, perhaps daunted as I am by the changes parenthood brings to your professional identity – or even if you are none of these things – think of me as your northern correspondent, idly rambling on about things in the hope that a snippet or two might distract you.  And if you like what you read, or even if you don’t like what you read, please do comment; I always love to hear that I’m awesome/a twat etc.

ta-ra

northernlikes

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