And so it came to pass, that in the year of our lord 2017, Mark Wild did next to bugger all walking!
There are no elephants on my blog, I’ll admit that in many ways, this has not been a stellar twelve months and walking, or the lack of, was one of the ways in which the year’s darkness materialised.
I got off to something of a bad start by developing a foot problem by the 14th of January and whilst I had been to the gym a number of times, this would never grow into a habitual regime! For most of January I simply walked around the fitness trail at work as a way of keeping the limbs moving.
At the end of January we lost Mike, this impacted upon us all and subsequently I had to pull out of the Anglezarke Amble which I had planned on doing with Darren – January’s only walk had been the ‘half Amble’ with Darren – for most part in the snow!
February saw my declining relationship with Southport Ramblers sink to new depths as we trudged our way across muddy field after muddy field at the stunning Arnside, four weeks later we took in the worst of what the Forest of Bowland has to offer with another ten mile slide at Chipping! Unofficially, I’ve had it now, these walks are just not worth paying £14 a pop for! The highlight of February however, was introducing Darren and my nephew Connor to the delights of Pendle Hill…even if I did fall over on the way down (at least if gave Connor a laugh!).
As mentioned previously, March’s Ramble to Chipping was utterly rubbish, I could have had a better time at home or even at the gym! March would prove to be my standout worst month. But April was by contrast a festival of walking. First came a beautiful stroll over two of the lesser challenging Wainwrights as Sue and Karl and I took in Brock Crags and Angle Tarn Pike. A week later saw me at Anglezarke once more in order to do the long pull up Great Hill and the traverse of the ‘Edge’s’ then an equally strenuous ascent of Catter Nab via various terrains of Woodland and grass – all in all a very pleasing yomp. The climax of this fantastic walking month was another trip to the Lake District to tick off another of the giants – High Street and I hope I can hold onto that memory of being face-to-face with the true giants at the top of this mighty whaleback! We nailed another three summits whilst there – but don’t ask me which ones, I can only remember the glory of High Street.
May and June saw no walking activity again and it was not until the start of our two weeks of annual leave in July before my feet touched the ground (other than going to and from work). Chris and I had a lovely stroll around the haunting Crosby Beach followed a few days later by an excursion to Beacon Fell to take in those magnificent views of the Forest of Bowland. On Sunday the 30th Sue, Lynne, Karl and I took in two wonderful summits at Martindale – Beda Fell and Place Fell. I might never go back to Beda Fell, I can’t imagine never going to a new favourite in Place Fell.
In August, four of us teamed up to take on two peaks near Horton in Ribblesdale – one rightly famous, Pen-y-Ghent and the other notorious, Plover Hill, one of the wettest places I’ve ever trudged across. I had planned another Yorkshire Three Peaks assault with Darren, this walk underlined just how unfit I had become as I struggled all the way up Pen-y-Ghent…I was in no shape to do any three peaks, let alone Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. It would have to wait for next year and I was dismayed to hear that Darren and Mike had achieved a very credible 9 hours thirty minutes a few weeks later.
In September I donned my walking boots on two more occasions, the first of which was a classic at Pendle taking in the lesser known Stang Top Moor with its legendary view of Pendle across the sky. As far as solo walking goes, this is my cream of the crop, I aim to repeat this walk at least once per year from now on. The second walk, just a week later had me back at Great Hill having first traversed Spitlers and Redmonds Edges and finally marching back through Anglezarke to Rivington, this has become my ‘go-to’ walk, if I can’t quite make up my mind where to go then this will always suffice.
So, with the exception of a wonderful ascension of Snarker Pike and Red Screes with Sue and Karl (my fourth trip to the lakes this year!), my walking year came to an end…it hadn’t really taken off by comparison to 2016!
This year, this awful year of 2017, has seen loss on a personal and family level on a new unprecedented scale…that I hope to recover from with the shortest of all delays. People will say, hell, I’d say of it, ‘a year is a year, it’s what you make of it’ and rightly so. But sometimes, just every so often, a dark one comes along…here’s hoping that I can make 2018 a fantastic spectacle of a year, I’m definitely doing the Amble (with Darren) and have organised a trip to Horton with some of my colleagues to do the Y3P again, so fingers crossed that I gain a measure of fitness that has been sorely missed this year!
This was the walk of Sunday, 24th September, 2017.
A sunlit day served to incite in me the desire to return to Rivington in order to fit in yet another ramble around one of the Amble routes…or at least a part of it.
If I had to pick a favourite route exclusively for this area, it would have to be this one. Yes it is easy, very easy but more than that, as the day transpired, it’s a lovely sociable route. I got to what would be my starting point – the car park near the Rivington Hall Barn for around 10:10 and after booting and suiting up and adorning my GoPro and a selfie stick, I was all ready to go … if a little burdened with regards to the equipment. For a change, I thought that I’d do the steep stuff right at the start of the walk, which is of course the way that we’ll hit the slopes on Amble Day in February. The first obstacle out of the way I treated myself by meandering past the Ornamental Japanese lake and terraced gardens (there really is not that much evidence of the terracing anymore ), before detouring to the old toilet block on Belmont Road.
From here I ignored the normal, practically compulsory, ‘full steam ahead to the pike’ calling and turned left to pass Dovecote (Pigeon Tower) before veering off to the right in the direction of Catter Nab. Along the way I was almost disappointed to discover that someone had taken it upon themselves to repair the world’s (or at least Bolton’s) most rickety stile. This was a surprise so intense that it bordered on startling! Now, there are no obstacles to impede a walker’s progress to Noon Hill from Catter Nab…well none apart from the bumpy and often wet terrain that is.
The track from the tower to the main, Rivington Road, looks like a long journey on the online maps, all things being relative, it’s even further on foot! To break up the monotony of every footsteps being pretty much the same, it was at this point that I decided to get out the selfie stick, attach it to my Iphone, plug my microphone in and do some crappy commentary. (Having listened to the end result…I am in n o way exaggerating this!) Video to come much later.
Having reached the sometimes speed track at Rivington Road, I crossed without obstacle, only briefly stalling to read with horror the sign which now states that the area falls within the boundaries of Blackburn with Darwen boundaries…I was mortified! Only a good stretch up Will Narr and along the edges would now bring solace to my distraught mind! Imagine the horror, believing for all of one’s life that Winter Hill was in Bolton>Horwich only to discover that those thieving beggars in Blackburn and Darwen have wrenched it from our grip! Thankfully, the trot up Will Narr always looks notably harder than it really is, a good five minute yomp saw me at the top of this most minor of all minor bumps. Within a matter of a few moments I had said ‘hi’ to a number of walkers. Whilst I would never eagerly await the prospect of greeting a virtual football crowd’s worth of walkers during my moorland traversals, the odd one, two , even twenty is no great hardship. Having surmounted the merged summits of both Spitlers and Redmonds’ Edges, I continued my way along the former mill-stone paths which stretch out for over a mile in a northern direction from Rivington Road almost to the base of Great Hill.
Water was still in evidence, I don’t remember ever making the crossing of this moorland without seeing water attempt to seep over the flagged paths, it will win its battle, eventually. More and more walkers were met on route and all were greeted with a cheery hi and smile. Before long I was traversing the stile at the base of Great Hill and no more than five minutes later saw me at its summit, 1,250 feet in the air. I love great Hill, it’s the Longridge of this area, the Catbells – okay its reputation probably isn’t as gleaming as Catbells, what with having no advocation from the late A. Wainwright, but all the same, it’s a cracking little hill. Only time will tell if I still feel as enamoured with the blessed mound on February tenth after eighteen miles worth of ‘Ambling’. For now, I was on the final section of the Amble and would stay that way all the way to within the last half mile of my route.
Talking of the Amble, and contrasting this with just how popular this hill has now become, the sloping path back down towards the ruins of Drinkwaters Farm is now in quite a sorry state of disrepair. With footfall comes the pounding of many feet and the path, though never truly treacherous, could stand quite a large measure of t.l.c. being administered in this walker’s humble opinion. The area around Drinkwaters Farm is no more spectacular than the majority of that encountered throughout the walk, but there is that certain undefined and indefinable quality within its tiny perimeter which just warrants a five minute stay, maybe it’s the presence of the bench and convenient locations to sit and watch time (and yet more walkers) go by…I had to force myself to stand up.
The drop to Drinkwaters Farm from the summit of Great Hill is mild, relaxing, easy. The drop from here on in is unlike the descent of Lord’s Rake, but it’s closer to that spectacle than it is the first half of this stage. Mud is encroaching on the majority of the path. In parts the path stops resembling a path altogether. Fortunately, since my first encounter with Great Hill in 2010, I’ve gone on to do it another eight or nine times and as such am fairly capable of finding my way down to White Coppice without any real troubles…it’s just much nicer to do when one is not sliding quite so much. There was a father and son couple on mountain bikes who seemed to be having a minor spat about the son’s reluctance to peddle great distances…or any distance at all. The lad it seemed, being most distressed that he couldn’t keep his feet where they were and psychically amass forward momentum, or at least that was my take on it. I motioned for them to pass but managed to catch up with them near the turning for Brinscall, moreover where one continues onward to Brinscall and the rest of us turn left in the general direction of White Coppice. The lad took great strides (metaphorically) to inform me that ‘this’ was the way to Brinscall, very kind of him but an invitation I would duly, if silently, decline.
The steepest drop in to White Coppice is the last few hundred lateral feet. Here you really do have to mind your footing and watch your steps. The reward for this due diligence (aside from not falling over of course) is an ever-widening puddle,( I’d estimate it’s about six inches in depth but I’m not willing to prove this) whereby one is practically forced to use the fencing (barbed wire of course!) to hold onto whilst circumnavigating the Broads of White Coppice. Other than that, it’s plain rambling all the way back to the road in around one mile’s time. There’s even a downhill stretch leading up to the path’s termination at Moor Road.
Cross the road and you cross a divide, here the terrain is on the sylvanian kind as trees seem to hone in on the otherwise obvious path. After the initial drop, which lasted for a good twenty feet, the very slow ascent begins. The hardest aspect of this section of the route is avoiding the damn mountain bikers who duly tear up what’s left of the path…and then fall off, or at least one of their pedals did. I took enough caution to ensure I did not slide off the odd microbridge, whose primary purpose seemed to be to the acquisition of mud at its termination. then onwards again as I continued passing cow pat field – a name I’ve given to the area as the width of the path is roughly equal to that of a cow pat. More drops and minor rises and ultimately I found myself at the water chute leading up to the Yarrow reservoir where I spent some moments reflecting on the walk and life in general. There’s only around a mile and a half to go from here, yet nature still manages to find a couple of uphill sections. After the Yarrow reservoir I turned left at a kissing gate then right at another and ‘ambled’ my way to the last real feature – a tiny flight of steps which ascend not even ten feet – except when you’ve just walked twenty-three miles, then they are Everest!
The increasing sound of traffic marked the proximity of Sheep House Lane, I was within a few hundred lateral feet of my start / end. Two youngish women (I’d say late teens / early twenties) approached asking me for directions to Go Ape…the ease of explaining this was blighted by the fact that they had no idea where they were, how they got there and how to get away again. I had to laugh, but only when I got back to the safety and comfort of my car, some five hours after leaving it.
As a precursor to February’s Amble, this served me well, if only because I am very confident in getting off Great Hill without falling over…much! It was a sheer delight to walk in an area that I am getting to know very well and to be told by one walker whom I encountered ‘You’ve got a hell of a pace on you!’ That’ll do.
One more post before the end of the year…
The video for this one has not even been started to bear with me folks!
Plover Hill and Pen-y-Ghent on Saturday, August 26th, 2017.
For most of the highly successful (from a walking perspective) 2016, Darren and I had been discussing and planning another assault on Yorkshire’s beloved three peaks. This has spilled over into this year but with this year being such a scant one in terms of the number of walks I have been on, I thought it best to start preparing for this gruelling walk in a timely manner. We planned to do just Pen-y-Ghent…until I decided to throw neighbouring Plover Hill into the mix.
The plan was originally for Darren and I simplyto tackle Pen-y-Ghent, but I later thought this would make a great opportunity for Darren’s son Connor, to bag his first Yorkshire mountain…and he did enjoy Pendle Hill which we would see for a good portion of the first part of the walk. A few days before, Darren had informed me that an acquaintance of his, Mike, would also be joining us on the day…I had to empty the boot of the car in order to get all of our walking gear aboard! All the same, after picking up the Peakes and Mike at 9:10 we were at Horton(-in Ribblesdale) by 10:55 and on route within ten minutes of that! Except that I had to wait a while as the others called in at the toilets…I know, I know!
The weather was wonderful for mountain walking, warm – but not too warm, and dry. Experience had already ingrained in me the knowledge that the hardest part of the ascent of Pen-y-Ghent is the short, sharp, shock of Brackenbottom…I had remember the difficulty well but had forgotten the anguish, I’ve done tougher climbs…and won’t do them again! This was hard going especially given Darren and Mike’s apparent fitness. Did I forget to mention that Mike is one of Darren’s running mates? So did he…up until we were three quarters up the slope towards the junction with the Pennine Way’s path! I struggled to keep up. In fact that’s an understatement, I declared “I’m the driver, so you’ll have to wait for me me!” funnily enough that idle threat worked a treat, for a spell! I had read a number of times Mike Brocklehurst’s recantation of his Three Peaks walk and of how he could easily make out the shape of Pendle Hill from the slopes of Pen-y-Ghent, personally I had never been able to do that…until today.
On a hazy horizon I managed to spot good old Pendle Hill, this was the first time that I had managed to clap eyes on my favourite hill from this locale and it raised my spirits accordingly. I just haven’t been out and about anywhere near enough times this year and seeing Pendle in the distance instilled in me a will to put this to rights. By twelve o’clock we were nearing the frightening front face of Pen-y-Ghent. It’s still a firm favourite of mine, I imagine most walkers who have made this journey more than once will agree, that this is a lovely mountain. But, the sight of the Pennine Way scrambling up the nose of this relative giant is still enough to stop most people in their tracks and we were all no exception. I won’t undersell this mountain, up to the first rocky section from the gate is no walk in the park, but there is progress to be made, and swiftly. The first rocky outcrop is fantastic. Yes, I know people who suffer from vertigo might disagree – I know this because I was gently coaching one of them up the thing! I thoroughly enjoy this scramble and today was no exception. I flashed back to the time when I received a text message from Christine during my successful Yorkshire Three Peaks bagging in 2015 and must have smiled like a Cheshire cat.
For me, the best part of most walks is the opportunity to chat with other people engaged in the same activity, it’s even more enjoyable if they’re being as frank and open about their fitness levels ( or lack thereof) as I tend to be. Today we met a small group of women who were acquainting themselves with the individual peaks ahead of an imminent challenge…in aid of Hedgehogs! One woman even joked, ‘I didn’t even like Hedgehogs beforehand…’ I can’t reproduce what she said next; as the language was colourful! The first scramble over, I rested, chatted, then continued at a slower, more deliberate pace. I was determined to make it up the mountain, but not puffing and panting in so doing! The second scramble always demands more attention, there’s further to fall! Armed with this realisation, I took my own sweet time but within a few minutes of three-points-of-contact work, I was on Pen-y-Ghent’s promenade path to the summit, in last place of our group of four.
We stopped for lunch having tapped the trig point, I always do this three times these days. The views all round were unobstructed but not as stellar as I have scene before, maybe it was because my legs had turned to jelly. My lunch consisted of a berry-flavoured caffeine gel, another banana and a chicken caesar wrap from the Spar near home. All told this would probably equate to around 900 calories at the very most, I think I’d burned that off in the last 1.75 miles ascending this mountain.
We identified on my map, the rest of our route – nothing more complicated than ‘follow that wall’, and eventually we set off northwards to the next target: Plover Hill.
The reason why I had elected to add this hill to our excursion was down to empathy. Coming from a town which was so often overlooked by its gigantic neighbours (Ainsworth / Radcliffe overshadowed by Bolton, Bury, Salford and Manchester) I felt the pain of a mountain which is, after all, just forty feet lower than its much more illustrious neighbour. It came as a surprise to me that we had to traverse the fairly sizable wall-stile, I had it in my head that we would stay this side of the boundary. The drop down was very close to immediate and a lot more severe than I had imagined, although not a dangerous fall would await the clumsy of foot! It has to be said that the views really did not sing out loud. Ingleborough, Whernside and Plover Hill were pretty much all that I could identify. After the path levelled out – in the vertical sense, Plover Hill decided to allure us with the promise of a wet kiss! Without any warning on the ground, the terrain suddenly got a whole lot wetter – and much muddier. If one were to refer to an ordnance survey map, the sight of lots of lovely dots and symbols indicating that this is a marshland would jump off the page practically dowsing the reader! We walkers have odd memories, oh yes, we can remember at which point on which hill of which day we had which sandwich, but as to looking at a map…we forget what we have just read, instantly! So wet was the terrain that I believe we must have added at least one more percent to the totally milage, just by veering off to the left, then coming back in again to the right after the dry patch had altered coarse!
Ultimately, we reached the wall that sat upon the highest part of Plover Hill. My trouser legs were covered in mud, my jegs were even more like jelly and I was more than a bit relieved to be able to sit down for a few minutes and recover. We all agreed that the path to the north, which we were about to discover simply had to be better than the quagmyre through which we had just sloshed. Upon traversing the wall-stile, we were proved right in our hoping. For the next few hundred yards we buoyed in delight at the sturdiness of the terrain beneath our feet. Yes, the path did brake up often, but it was never as wet as it had been ‘the other side of the wall’. In time, we came upon the escarpment. The fact that I have no photographic evidence of this path should serve as testament unseen of the steepness of this rocky staircase in the sky. Darren may or may not have been hyperbolising when he referred to the path down Plover as being even steeper than the path up Pen-y-Ghent, I’d be inclined to agree, or maybe it was because we were all feeling the effects of the previous moorland slog. By contrast the tightening of the knees and surging shockwaves of descent were if nothing else, noteworthy!
The descent over, we could now be poetically described as in a pasture or meadow, to the more pragmatic, I suppose it could be reasoned that we were actually on the outskirts of Horton Moor or Foxup – yes we too laughed at how that might be sardonically pronounced! At best we were two miles away from Horton in Ribblesdale’s main road…but these were Yorkshire miles. I had previous experience of the ‘ 1½ miles to Horton in Ribblesdale’ finger sign on the descent of Ingleborough across Sulber Nick…I was well aware! When our nice, obvious path vanished into the moorland we took a left hand turn onto a bridal-way of sorts which quickly facilitated our way across Horton Scar, passing Pen-y-Ghent once more. This time the mountain looked much different than the ‘crouching lion’ aspect to which most walkers become accustomed.
Now came the long, drawn out trek back to Horton along a grassy track which was sometimes a bit wet and other times a bit sticky. This was not the most exciting route as for the best side of three miles…the scenery stayed exactly the same! The one point of punctuation in the first few miles was when Darren, Mike and Connor stopped off to visit Hunt Pot (or was it Hull Pot?). I really couldn’t care less, sorry to say it bus missing parts of the earth just don’t do anything for me…now if it were to be High Cup. The slog down along Horton Scar Lane is always, always the worst part of the walk, the only thing that puts me off doing the Yorkshire three peaks in reverse…is knowing that I’ll eventually have to trapse down this boring piece of crunchy road(?). I’m just not a fan!
Before my soul had been completely destroyed we were back in Horton and at the Penyghent Café…milk and coffee being the order of the day…before the long drive home.
In summing, I had no idea what to expect with regards to Plover Hill. Jack Keighley had warned us that it’s a little wet, he was in no way understating. As for the drop off its southern face, that truly was exhilarating! It goes without saying that I loved the (ahem quite fast yomp) up Pen-y-Ghent, I always do although to be honest, I prefer it more when it’s me and Chris and I have more time to peruse the landscape. I might never do Plover Hill again, I definitely will do Pen-y-Ghent as many times as possible.
Stats time taken – around five hours (it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten).
Ever since our ill-fated stay at the rather run down Patterdale Hotel, way back in 2010 (I think), I had seen the mighty, imposing and wide Place Fell through the coveting eyes of a peakbagger! Years later, on a walk just a few months ago I was once again enraptured by the sight of this gerthy fell and its sprawling, man made path as seen from Angletarn Pikes. This truly did look like a pathway to heaven, in no way did it look anything less than arduous…I was hooked. When the message came through from Karl, I was delighted to see that our next destination was to be Place Fell…with Beda Fell thrown in as well for good measure – two more Wainwrights.
As usual, the four of us: Lynn, Sue, Karl and myself, arrived at the walk’s start place at around 09:50 and as we were in the eastern section of the lakes, the views of the immediate local were phenomenal. It’s no overstatement to say that I love this particular area. I’d done my research – and even had my map with me and as such was duly prepared for a bit of a slog up Beda Fell. But what I had failed to take notice of was just how many false summits the fell had. This was easily on a par with Whernside from Chapel le Dale. Small rise after small rise took the energy from my legs and I certainly did struggle with this sub 2,000′ fell. Once again, the neighbouring giants watching over us were the notorious ones: Helvellyn flanked by both its killer ‘Edges’ – Striding and Swirral and Catstyecam served once again as a poignant landmark. This was familiar territory. We even had time to stop and take a few snaps of the smallest church in the Lake District, the old one at Saint Martins.
At the head of the valley was the sumptuous Boredale Hause. It was almost a shame to walk past this verdant spectacle, the ever present grass looking especially lush in spite of thus far, the rain holding off. The last time we were in this valley the sun was pounding down on us, today felt refreshingly more like ‘walking weather’, even cool when we took time out for our breaks. At the summit of Beda Fell, we took some time out in a small sheltered spot and gazed at the distant views across the mighty Ullswater and over to Gowbarrow – not the biggest of all fells, at a mere 1,578′ but somehow it grabbed our attention and for all the time it was in my sight, wouldn’t let go. The climb up over Beda had been tough but punctuated with a few easier stretches whereby horizontal progress was gained over vertical. To be honest, I felt like we were higher up than the paltry 1,670′ that we had ascended. It’s fair to say that I was chomping at the bit to get going and head over to our next quarry – Place Fell.
Progress was a lot quicker than I had imagined. We practically flew over Beda Head and then down into Boredale Hause and over the other side of the valley into the area known as Redgate Head, via the path, the completely man-made, inorganic, engineered path which I had first set eyes on a few months ago. Some paths start off extremely easy then become more arduous, this one never even flirted with ease! From the off; this had the gradient of a domestic staircase and it never really improved. By way of contrast, it never really got any worse, which was a blessing. Fortunately for me, there were plenty of spots at which I could take a few minutes breather. I watched as Karl disappeared into the distance and waited as Sue and Lynne caught up to me…then also disappeared. The weather tried to inspire motivate me…this had scant effect. Ultimately a man who was in the area and appeared to want to tell me all about his wanderings in the Lake District, somehow instilled in me the drive to tackle the last one/third of the mountain. I caught up to my co-walkers who were having thirty minutes…had one of my caffeine energy gels and within minutes was first to the trig point atop Place Fell. Ha, that lulled them into a false sense of security!
The weather phenomenon which hit me was very similar to what I experienced a few years ago when I first completed Whernside from Ribblehead and stepped through the slim opening to touch the trig point, like stepping into an arctic tundra combined with a gale force wind. In today’s case it was a warm wind, but a severe wind all the same. There would be no summit photos today. To be honest the very top reaches of Place Fell offered no greater views of the surrounding scenery than what I had observed on the way up, but there’s still something compelling about the mere act of touching the trig point – when there is one. We made our progress after just a few short seconds, that wind was something to leave behind!
And so began another of Karl’s descents which has one wondering ‘just where the hell are we going, ‘that doesn’t look like the start?’ None of Karl’s walks ever seem to make me feel like we are heading in the right direction to the car…but we do end up there! The rain now decided to fully saturate us, I thought that as we were less than a mile away from the car then there would be no point in getting all the waterproof gear on…Karl and Sue thought otherwise and rustled on the rest of the walk.
As it’s taken me so long to post this walk report (there is now a queue forming) I have forgotten how long the walk took. I figure we must have ascended around two and a half thousand feet and walked for around seven and a half miles. I hope to visit Place Fell again, even to ascend by that same challenging but thoroughly enjoyable stairway to the sky!