Friday, 11 January 2019

Yorkshire Trip. Wharfedale. Langstrothdale. Hubberholme Circuit.

On the Sunday of our Yorkshire trip the weather was much the same as the Saturday. In other words dull, damp and misty all day. If anything it was worse as it had been raining heavily overnight and it was still a light drizzle at lower levels when we looked out but above the 1000 foot mist level it appeared more intense as the skies were much darker up there. No one in the hut seemed particularly keen to rush up into it to bag summits. This view of the dale and Buckden was taken in the afternoon from the balcony trail when it had improved into a half decent day, late on.

Yesterday, the Saturday, we had climbed the two peaks while Gail had been geocaching on her own with her dog at lower levels but today, due to the weather, she would have human company. I had already picked a lower level balcony trail as a possible wet weather alternative on the map running from Buckden and Wharfdale up to the tiny hamlet of Cray then along the limestone cliff edge to Yockenthwaite through Langstrothdale, returning via the river and part of The Dales Way long distance path through the National Park.. As regular readers will know I have little interest in climbing invisible hills in the rain so had intended doing this route myself anyway- on my own if necessary, if the weather was bad.
As it turned out joining Gail at lower levels was a popular choice, with John, Craig, Doris and I all keen to avoid the rain as well with a lower level balcony route. This looked scenic on the map and it was in reality, even in cold muddy November. As it was the most obvious low level circular walk in the valley near Buckden this was also the route of Gail's chain of hidden geocaches to find.
Traditional stone built barns near Hubberholme. The route was well signposted and led us from Buckden, with it's public house hunting themes... the typical dry stone wall field enclosures popular throughout this area. I'm not sure if it was a lack of trees or because limestone was abundant lying around in chunks in areas that had to be cleared or if it was very easy and cheap to shape and cut, leaving fertile green grass pastures behind but well built dry stone walls and barns are a feature of this entire district.
Well seen here in Wensleydale. Being inland and high up they do get severe winters in this area with long lying snow at times. Further north the Scottish west coast mountains, even at 3000 feet tend to be more affected by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream ( North Atlantic Drift)  encouraging moist, slightly above freezing conditions year round, melting snowfalls quickly except above a certain level near the summits or inland so this area is more akin to a lower east coast Cairngorms type climate. Incidentally, this was the only brief glimpse of sunshine we spotted over the entire weekend, and that was on the drive back home.
I noticed that the sheep are larger here as well. Massive big beasts... just like the Cumberland Sausages. Maybe the stone walls offer some shelter from driving snow and rain. Looks like moss growing on it here, similar to a South American sloth due to the constant damp weather this autumn and winter. It has been largely grey and dull for several months now.
On the balcony trail above Langstrothdale. Limestone pavements near the cliff edge.
Heading down into the hamlet of Yockenthwaite to reach the river and double back along the Dales Way footpath. I was thinking at first the large stone barns were for storing hay and grain or supplies but then I watched a recent programme about this area where the farmer was using them to shelter the entire flock inside during heavy snowdrifts last year to prevent them getting buried for days under eight foot high snow drifts in all the surrounding fields. A really bad winter last year with the weather coming over from Siberia and Moscow.
A range of different types here....
and they have more meat on their tails than the average supermodel has standing on the scales :)
I was surprised at the lack of bird life on the walk, unless they had all disappeared to more sheltered environments, only crows and dippers spotted, even in the patches of woodlands we walked through.
A waterfall near Cray.
A minor road section.
One highlight of the walk was this old church near Hubberholme with an ancient graveyard and a history dating back to Norse times.
And lovely stained glass windows inside.
The Yorkshire born author and broadcaster J.B. Priestly is buried here as it was a favourite place of his.
A very small, hand sized, but detailed Last Supper carving that caught my eye on our travels around the district.
And two guys we met at the Great Whernside summit that wanted a record of it to show they were there on that day. Saturday. Better late than never. I have a two month backlog of posts at the moment.
Meanwhile...............................It was a hard walk for little legs....

Geocaching can be as easy or hard as you like to make it. Just a gentle stroll in the countryside finding little plastic boxes or a hunt through tunnels, caves, old mines, caches hidden on remote islands, or up mountains. There's even a cache on the space station I'm told.  Or as this video shows it can be an athletic day running on into night time- a tour de force endurance test of stamina and energy by the looks of it on a crazy traverse line across cliffs and in caves in darkness. I'd love a go at this as long as I still had sufficient arm strength to make it all the way around. Not a problem 10 years ago but with declining upper arm pulling power and increased belly size I'm more uncertain if I would find it hard lifting through the overhangs. You would certainly know you'd had an epic day out after this geo hunt.
Link to that entertaining video here.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Yorkshire Dales Trip. Great Whernside. 704 metres, 2,310 feet. Buckden Pike. 702 metres.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A weekend club trip in late November down to the Yorkshire Dales saw us stop at Penrith first, seen above, and the wonderful 'little chippy' where they serve the most amazing Cumberland Sausage suppers. ( the mighty Cumberland- the King of sausage folk, which makes a standard jumbo sausage look like a human pinkie by comparison, size for size, on the same plate.) The last time I visited the Yorkshire Dales, many years ago, and munched down a mighty Cumberland without it putting up a struggle, it was another club trip in November and we were camping near Horton in Ribblesdale. During the night, either through a rain shower or heavy dew the tents got soaked then froze solid to the ground creating sparkling flysheets that stood up by themselves even after the pegs and poles had been removed. In the morning it was around minus 5 below but bright, sunny, and clear.
This time the club had booked a hut in Buckden, a small village directly under Buckden Pike and as I always like visiting new areas, especially down in England, I was keen to go. When you book months in advance however it's just down to pot luck what the weather will bring. On this occasion it was mild and moist- not raining but thick hill mist settled over the 1000 foot high mark with no indication that it would shift or climb higher. A view of Kirk Gill Moor and Birks Fell area here.
The hut we were in was a good one, no camping this time, so we got a lift down to Kettlewell, a larger village a few km away and set off from there. Our intention was to do a full circuit of Great Whernside and Buckden Pike, two of the hill giants of the area, then return to the hut on foot straight off the last peak. Hut arrival above.
The village of Kettlewell. I have seen loads of photos of the Yorkshire Dales in sunny conditions in spring and summer and in famous films like The Railway Children, shown recently at Christmas here, and filmed not too far away. Lush green fields, bright flower meadows everywhere, abundant heat, wall to wall sunshine, and dry stream beds. No doubt it was like that during the UK's long lasting summer heatwave but by the time we arrived it was more like 'Bleak House'.... or 'Happy Valley', a police TV drama about drugs, depression, suicide and crime filmed in Hebden Bridge, which is not that far away. ( Hebden Bridge now is actually a fairly trendy, gentrified place full of tourists, independent shops and artist groups but it's a former mill town so it did go into decline for a period after they shut- like a smaller version of cotton and fabric mill hub Paisley, in Scotland. Fortunately for Hebden Bridge, the various old buildings, scattered around in a wooded valley looked picturesque and was rescued from terminal decline due to this fact and its Yorkshire Dales, golden bubble location. It's not that far away from the Bronte Sisters House, The Parsonage, which is already a major tourist draw on the same road through the dales from the south.
I was just glad it wasn't raining, although damp, and it was still an interesting place to visit although it seemed to be in shut down mode this late in the season. The last time we were down here we had gone under the mountains with experienced caving friends, crawling and walking for several km of darkness, caverns, wormholes, and tunnels into the extensive limestone cave systems for six or seven hours each day so we had hardly seen sunshine then either, or much daylight, that trip. Although winter it was not as cold as we expected once below ground level. One of the best adventures of my life as caving to that standard is a rare event with hired ladders, ropes, and serious equipment for major drops in height  through dancing waterfalls and surreal streams roaring far underground.
On this occasion little splashes of colour here and there still lingered on however. John and Craig walking towards the hills.
A fox door knocker. Hunting seems to be a theme in the Yorkshire Dales, harking back to a more heavily wooded, wilder past- Yorkshire was once part of the Danelaw, a large chunk of Britain settled by Norse/Vikings from Denmark and other Scandinavian groups looking for new lands. Which is why today, in this present era, we all speak English mostly, but have different outlooks and mentality shaped by our origins, values and beliefs. It was just largely feelings before but now backed up by accurate DNA testing.

Yorkshire husband waving a piece of paper in vindication. "See!  I always told you Elizabeth- these buggers are different from us here." (wife (78 percent Irish, waving her own slip)- "I want a divorce! we're incompatible now! I always knew it!")
Red berries. a popular choice in this area in gardens for a late colour burst.
Then we were off up the hills- my companions being John, Craig and Doris. I marveled here at how green and grassy the paths looked given that the Yorkshire Dales are a popular walking venue whereas many of Scotland's paths are getting completely trashed due to wet weather and visitor numbers, even in the local parks- which is presumably why fat bikes have been developed, allowing riders to stay upright in the mud.
All too soon however we reached the mist line.
Hag Dyke Hostel, at 1,500 foot high. Originally a remote upland farmhouse but now accommodation for self catering Scout and Guide groups plus others who wish to use it to access this area, reached by a land rover track. Only with booked permission of course.
As well as bagging hills John was also geocaching on behalf of his wife Gail- both committed enthusiasts of this apparently highly addictive sport of finding little hidden objects in holes- as driven as any drug junkie or Munro bagger. (I know the signs- I've been that gleaming eyed Gollum in search of my precious prize.)
Up here I had to retract my earlier statement that Yorkshire appeared to be all grassy delightful paths around the hills. Although still not raining it was very wet underfoot with miles of bog trotting between summits. Thankfully only ankle to knee deep in places rather than the waist deep mud holes on The Cheviot, which I sampled a while ago. (Waist deep there and still going down before I grabbed the edge of the seemingly bottomless pit of mud.)
As it was too cold to hang around Craig and Doris headed off after the first summit of Great Whernside while John and I hunted for caches in the mist.
The Polish memorial to an aircraft crash near the summit, not uncommon in mountain areas in poor conditions. A lonely spot.

The summit of Buckden Pike. It shows how cold it was up here when this little iceberg was sitting in water yet not melting. Probably just around the freezing level as pockets of old snow still lingered in the deeper hollows and north facing slopes. Obviously it can be minus 15 below but on a sunny, windless day its fairly pleasant, even at night if you keep moving or find shelter. Change that to 2 degrees above freezing but add soaking rain, sleet and strong summit winds and it's a harder proposition to survive a night up here. After visiting some of the vast exposed summits on the long distance Pennine Way which travels along the high spine of Northern England I have full respect for anyone completing it. Very little shelter exists on the ridges and summits so it would be a real challenge in bad weather despite being under the 3000 foot mark. And a lot of bog bashing in that 266 odd miles (or 430 km.) as well.
After 6km of bog bashing ourselves we reached Buckden Pike just as darkness was appearing. Head torches out we had about an hours descent in fading light then total darkness, John still hunting diligently for caches. I meanwhile was starting to enjoy myself again and this was the trip I remembered how much I love night walking. The 6 km between summits I had grumbled about how bad it was but now I was in my element again and much warmer out the wind. Happy in the 'night garden'.
I even stayed out an extra half hour to explore the village and surroundings at night.

This is another group that should be better known by now. Been a fan of these two for many years.  Genuine original artists making music are still out there but seem to be marginalized, and in the shadows much more, barely scraping a living at it through live touring. Any album and singles sales are much diminished compared to pre-internet levels. It is what it is though. Great back catalogue of original songs, fine harmony singing and intricate guitar melodies are usually a feature of this duo. Hopefully every plug helps to spread the word, however small. Gutted when Alisha's Attic broke up, another fantastic close harmony UK duo, after three great albums worth of original catchy material. Much harder to last these days and reach iconic status without a strong music industry promoting you and those that do survive are often not the most talented or best examples of original sparkling entertainment... going by recent trends.


Saturday, 29 December 2018

An Illuminated Christmas. Part Two. Union Canal Basin. The Meadows. Edinburgh at Night.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Getting off the bus in Edinburgh while it was still daylight  my intention was to head down through Princes Street gardens and make for the Union Canal Basin, reaching it, hopefully, just as dusk fell.
Whereas the Christmas illuminations look good against a black sky, already having a burst of dazzling colours everywhere in abundance, I thought that the other areas I intended to visit would look better with a lighter sky and clear details in the surroundings. This is the newly created zone of offices and apartments that surround the union canal basin, once a hive of heavy industry, various factories,, warehouses, a large brewery, etc etc... but now rebuilt into what I'm calling round tower land....
for obvious reasons. Five or six similar structures cluster together in this area surrounding the city end of the Union Canal. Once, materials flowed in and out of the capital via this watery trench and liquid highway with barges lined up to transport the goods. A narrow slot here between the buildings leads through to the canal terminus.
Now it's just the occasional kayaker, an annual raft race day, or a few floating barges/ restaurants moored here and in summer canal tours along the network that take place.
As it says in the posters it is well hidden, completely surrounded by high buildings, like a secret desert oasis with protective steep canyon walls and I'm sure many people even living in Edinburgh have never visited this spot or know about it.
When I was last here they were still constructing new apartments so an added curiousity was to see how they turned out.
and this is some of them here. The slogan- 'perfection is a matter of time' may reflect the fact that it looks fairly austere and open- few softening features, grass, or gardens in sight.
and a wider, distant, view of the same complex. But they do have a Christmas tree. I think these are probably student flats as Vita have them in Glasgow.
I then raced across to The Meadows while it was still light to capture the lighter backdrop. Any later and the outline of spires and buildings here would be almost invisible. It might look easy but getting good  photographs can involve loads of effort. And jogging down five separate streets between districts to get into position in time.
I didn't have to worry about feeling cold in near freezing temperatures after that. Plenty warm.
This isn't Edinburgh Castle by the way, just buildings around The Meadows... a large expanse of open parkland deep within the city.... mainly short grass slopes crisscrossed by various paths running to different city districts.
Unlit at night, apart from the illuminated walkways. I really enjoyed being here as it got fully dark. A great feeling to be in a new area in complete blackness yet surrounded by a spiral tapestry of twinkling lights. A human made milky way and every bit as impressive in its own complex design.
Looking towards Arthur's Seat from the Meadows. A very different vibe from Glasgow Green at night. More friendly feeling, less threatening, although I still had to watch out for large boisterous dogs dancing and growling out the void towards me. But far less growling humans here.

That's the  main difference I find between Glasgow and Edinburgh after dark.

No longer the murder capital of Europe Glasgow still retains a harder edge than Edinburgh that's obvious even to tourists walking around after nightfall. Both cities have rough areas of course... Glasgow just has more and you only need to walk a few streets to find them. In Edinburgh you have to work at it.
Edinburgh Castle, where I'd danced down from myself two hours beforehand. It may not be mountains but I was packing the miles in nevertheless on my whistle-stop tour of the city.
I was also having a ball. I've never been that keen on nightclubs, parties or functions with large groups of people but give me a dark tunnel...
a shady deserted lane....
A voyeur's view of city life from above....
or creeping around unseen in the shadows....
And I'm in my element.               I love the dark when it's like this.
Especially when this is what large parts of Scotland have looked like during December. It may have been an unusual variation on a White Christmas theme but this kind of weather does not inspire me much after the initial novelty and first couple of days. Particularly with freezing ice on the roads.
I 'd much rather swap grey miserable weekends for evening splendour instead.
The Mound. Edinburgh. Can you spot the extra sparkle. Just a suggestion...
Entertainment complex.
Central Plaza. Quartermile.
The Gothic confection of George Heriot's School, an independent fee paying establishment where the children of the great and the good get sent.
Another view.
Christmas tree. Quartermile plaza. Note the rising transparent lifts in the red section.
Somewhere around the Tollcross District.
Heading Back. The Dome.
By the way, I found out that Potterrow here refers to a medieval area flattened by the University of Edinburgh in times past and not Harry Potter at all but could it be that simple? The origin of the Harry Potter name perhaps?.. or just mere coincidence? A similar coincidence to the name Dumbledore being very close to the adjacent Edinburgh district of Dumbiedykes under Arthur's Seat. ... or then again maybe not...a pure wild guess on my part.

but here's another one that may fit better... or also mere coincidence I hasten to add.
Andre Norton. Witch World. published 1970. A very successful children's/young adult author back then with hundreds of published works of imagination to her name and and entire galaxy of self created worlds dreamed up to charm readers. I still have a collection of her books. A man running from his past uses a standing stone ( actually an ancient stone seat set in a gateway, the Siege Perilous of round table fame.)  to enter another past world where his skills may come in handy and he finds true love there with a female of the opposite sex, who happens to be a witch. It's a great read and is set in medieval castles, moors, battlefields, clifftop strongholds and swamps in a land where magic happens. He is referred to frequently as an Outlander in the book. The first time I heard that term although it may well be common in writing before then.
This developed into a popular series of interlinking novels in the 1970s about a land ruled by witches who go to a school for witchcraft as children.
She has been largely forgotten now sadly in the UK but the Witch World series of six books up to Year of the Unicorn is still a great read, developed by a highly skilled and gifted storyteller. Very different from the currently in vogue modern worlds of Game of Thrones, D,G or JKR in overall layout but just as complex and perhaps an early inspiration? Just a fleeting thought. It would also be  wrong and just idle speculation to see certain comparisons/similarities between the 1858 edition of Phantastes and the later Lilith, 1895 both by George Macdonald and truly wonderful for the time and JRR Tolkien's 1950s masterpiece Lord of The Rings. But maybe a foundation stone to build on? Or Roger Dean's floating island paintings on Yes albums in my record collection....coupled with writer Philip Jose Farmer's The Stone God Awakens novel about a giant tree with god like properties and the race of half human creatures who live and depend on it, also.. 1960s/ 1970s concepts.... with the modern film Avatar. That's probably just me guessing out loud as well.
Having said that they are all good- all genuinely different... after adding and blending the colours together so its all academic where they came from.
But  A. N.?  Her best books deserve to be remembered and cherished again. They are still terrific today. As is Phantases and Lilith. A double edition in one volume. The shoulders of giants perhaps sitting on my dusty bookshelf?

And another person that should be better known is J.A. as he has a huge back catalogue of great songs and has been one of the outstanding alternative songwriters for well over a decade now. Numerous awards and critically acclaimed albums should put him up there with Bowie, Elton John, Rod Stewart etc as a songwriter but it's much harder these days to become a household name as an independent creative artist.  This is one of his album tracks but suitably appropriate lyrics for this time of year with 16 hour long nights and a run of short, murky, dull days where car headlights have been on non stop, day or night due to the foggy conditions. Not sure that speed painting artwork between songs was ever going to be a winner though but top marks for trying :)