Thursday 13 August 2020. Don’t be alarmed but this will be the last post on this blog site. Our free 3gb of cloud storage space is 95% full and it is time to start anew. You will know that the URL of this old site is fenlandramblers.wordpress.com and the new site will be fenlandramblersgroup.wordpress.com. I’ll update our website fenlandramblers.org.uk to reflect this change and will email our regular walkers to make then aware of the change.
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Sunday 9 August 2020. It seems that beauty spots up and down the country are being overwhelmed by visitors just now. Burnham Market & Burnham Overy Staithe were no exceptions and were heaving with visitors. I eventually found a parking spot and met up with the other walkers. There were 9 of us (David & Deanna, David L. Hilary, Margot, Josephine and me) joined by two visitors, another David and Kevin. It seemed like we had an outbreak of David’s. Is there a medical term for this?
It was good to leave the crowds behind as we walked through Burnham Overy Town for our coffee stop at Burnham Overy Staithe. It was high tide and there was plenty of sailing activity. Next, we headed out into the wilderness of Norton Marshes. It might appear to be a little flat and boring, especially in the cooler grey misty conditions that we were experiencing today, but it has its own charm and is certainly peaceful.
We stopped for lunch just on the edge of Burnham Norton before heading back into Burnham Market along Herring’s Lane. I call it Millionaire’s Row as there are some fancy houses along there only adding to the reputation of Burnham Market becoming “Chelsea on Sea”. The walk was just 6½ miles.
Sunday, 2nd August.
With the lifting of restricted numbers on our walks, there were 8 of us on my West Dereham walk. It was beautiful weather and a gentle breeze – perfect.
It’s been a few years since I’ve done this walk, and it seems that in that time West Dereham residents have done their best to obliterate, block and divert paths.
I had two rants at owners and the third had no-one to rant to. The first was only a mile into the walk where a ditch was totally obliterated by brambles and probably the bridge had disintegated. The other side of the ditch had a footpath signpost even though there wasn’t supposed to be one there, so we had to retrace our steps and go up the other side of the ditch – first diversion.
We then had a lovely coffee stop at the beautiful Saxon round towered church of St Andrews, then a bit of road-walking until lunch at the impressive gates of St. Mary’s Abbey founded in 1188, and now a private house.
We took a path between two houses. The path was supposed to have run to the left at the back of the gardens, but a fence blocked the way. I asked a man mowing the lawn what he’d done with the footpath. He said they had diverted it, so we had to go 100 yards on and then turn left on the edge of a field. Obviously the farmer knew nothing of this and the path was overgrown, but we got through.
The next path was blocked by a haystack at each end but we went round it, eventually ending up in someone’s garden – we were right because the yellow arrow pointed across it. However, the lady of the house and her son were not at all pleased that we had negotiated all obstacles in our path to gain access to their garden. I asked where the path went out again and the son pointed to an overgrown bramble patch. The lady took pity and said we could go down her drive, but objected to the footpath ‘just because some farmer allowed the children to go to school across his land.’
I pointed out that the footpath had probably been there since the 1800s, and other things besides.
There were more overgrown paths before we finally got back to the cars.
It was a lovely walk, but marred by the overgrown, diverted or blocked footpaths.
Friday 31 July 2020. Something of an odd walk today, revisiting Coldberry Gutter where I walked on a previous holiday in 2011. That first visit started from Middleton-in-Teesdale and I was accompanied by Bea. Today, I decided to start from the Bowlees visitor centre and to follow a route that I’d devised by just looking at the map. I didn’t really know how far it might have been but somewhere around 7 miles would be a good guess. As it turned out, I deviated wildly from my intended route some of which is shown in pink on my walk route below. Where I actually walked is shown in red.
It was a steady climb from Bowlees and after about an hour I arrived at the bottom of Coldberry Gutter. These old mineworking are fascinating and I could have spent more time exploring them. I was struggling in the heat on the hottest day of the year and decided to make my first route change on reaching the highest point of the Gutter. From here I had intended to descend to Hudeshope Beck and would have had a climb of 600ft back up to the top of Coldberry Grains. I decided to save myself some of this effort. A short-cut across uncharted open country following the 500m contour line knocked off most of this climb. My plan was to intersect with the footpath just north of Coldberry Grains and then to follow this path to Moor House. I quickly realised that paths shown on a map aren’t always visible on the ground and boggy sections meant I had to abandon the line of the path and make my way downhill as best as I could.
This took me south-west across Lord’s Allotment and a long way from my intended route. Time for another change of plan. I abandoned the idea of returning via Moor House and Gibson’s Cave and decided to walk south down the road to retrace by steps through Summery Hill farm and back to Bowlees.
This had been a particularly hard walk and whilst it was only 5½ miles with 1,100ft of ascent it was slow going and took me nearly 6 hours to complete. This was largely due to the underfoot conditions, much of which was across open fellside and I’m ashamed to say that I only averaged 2mph. There were many, many, stops to take in the views.
Wednesday 29 July 2020. I spent the weekend watching sport on TV and the weather on Monday & yesterday was truly awful with rain and strong winds. It was time to get back outdoors and I decided to do a walk near Waskerley Reservoir. This meant a 20 mile drive up out of Teesdale, over the moors before dropping steeply into Weardale and up the other side. My planned walk started at an elevation of almost 1,500ft where there was a strong cold wind blowing. I hadn’t been walking long before thinking that I should be wearing gloves, it was that cold. After half a mile I decided that I wasn’t enjoying it and it wasn’t going to get any warmer, so I binned the walk and retraced my steps back to the car.
I knew that on the way back to the caravan that I would pass through Romaldkirk and, from there, I could divert to do a short walk at the end of Baldersdale. I’d done this walk 9 years ago and oddly on that day it was a second choice walk as my planned walk from Dufton was also binned but then it was heavy rain that caused a change of plan.
It was 11:30 by the time that I set off to walk across the dam wall of Balderhead Reservoir and then down to Blackton Grange where I joined the Pennine Way for a short while. I walked through Low Birk Hat farm which had been the home of Hannah Hauxwell and beside the meadows named after her. They had only recently been cut so I missed seeing the wildflowers that grow there. After a short section of road walking, I was soon back at my car. The full route of this walk would have been 6 miles but, as there was still a cold wind blowing, I cut it short at just over 2 miles.
Sunday 26 July 2020. Five Ramblers (Sue & Cavin, Margo, Josephine and Karen) joined Linda on her lovely walk around The Pingo Trail. It was a lovely sunny day, modified by a nice breeze. Butterflies and dragonflies darted everywhere around us, and Sue did a good job in identifying them.
It was a little muddy in places, but could have been worse after all the rain the day before.
There were information boards and one at the beginning listed the trail as 7 miles. As we arrived back at the end, a brand new signpost showed it to be 8 miles, and this was nearer the Strava reading.
Friday 24 July 2020. While Damian Hall was completing his record-breaking run of the 268-mile Pennine Way in just 61 hrs & 34 min, I decided to follow in his footsteps for just a couple of miles on my return from having climbed Dufton Pike. This had been on my “to do” list since I first walked up nearby High Cup Nick a few years ago. So, today was the day. I set off with some trepidation as I hadn’t undertaken a climb like this since my second heart attack in January last year. I’d struggled to climb much smaller hills on my Northumberland holiday last May, so this was going to be something of a test. I knew that there was a get-out route which would take me on a contouring path around the back of Dufton Pike beside Great Rundale Beck.
The walk out of Dufton was on a steadily climbing track; that was until I reached the point where the climb of Dufton Pike began in earnest. I sensibly decided to use my walking poles which were a great help both going up and then coming down. The path across Dufton Pike is a grassy one and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it when the ground was wet and slippery. It included a series of ramps and a few less steep bits in between with the first ramp being at least 1-in-3; seeming to be almost vertical. Those who had gone before me had worn a series of steps up the hillside and, with some pushing on my poles, I manged to climb what was probably only the first 100 feet on a climb of just over 500 feet in less than half a mile. Stopping to catch my breath, I began to question my sanity in tackling such a climb and wondered whether to take the easier escape route. Going back and down the steep section of hill that I’d just climbed would have been difficult and whilst I still had some way to go, heading up seemed like the marginally easier option.
I was overtaken by a family group of 4 on the way up and was joined by another family whilst stopping for coffee at the top. There were great 360-degree views to be had from the summit with the Lake District eastern fells being clearly visible and Cross Fell (2,929ft), the highest hill in England outside of the Lakes, looking to be not too far away. I ticked this one off when last on holiday in Barnard Castle in August 2016. The track up Threlkeld Side is an alternative route to High Cup Nick which I might explore one day.
Having reached the top, it was mostly downhill all the way back to Dufton. It seemed a little less steep than the way up and I’m glad that I did the walk this way around. I picked up the Pennine Way at the ford just north of Cosca Hill and followed the path all the way back to Dufton. Although the walk was just over 4½ miles it included a total ascent of just over 1,000ft. Sadly the village pub didn’t open until 3pm so I missed out on my much-anticipated post-walk drink.
Thursday 23 July 2020. The weather yesterday and today in Barnard Castle has been cool & windy with intermittent showers. Not really the sort of weather one would expect in mid-July and totally unsuitable for a fair-weather walker like myself. So, confined to my caravan, I’ve been following the GPS tracker of ultra-marathon runner, Damian Hall, who is currently trying to set a new FKT for the Pennine Way. I had thought that I would go to nearby Middleton-in-Teesdale this morning to cheer him on as his schedule had him due to arrive at 10:50am. However, when I woke this morning, I could see that he was running so fast that he shot through Middleton at 7:00am which was a little too early, even for me.
I’ve had an interest in the 268-mile Pennine Way trail since I took up hill walking but have no ambition to do it all as parts of it are just a bog. I’ve walked the section out of Edale and into Kirk Yetholm with the Cheviots being a particularly attractive part of the trail. A race called “The Spine” is run along the Pennine Way each summer and each winter with the latter being particularly brutal. The record for the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the Pennine Way had stood for 31 years at 2 days, 17 hours and 20 minutes. That was until last week when John Kelly, an amazing American ultra-runner, knocked 40 minutes off this bringing it down to 2 days 16 hours and 40 minutes. That is a pace of just about 100 miles per day.
Damian Hall has set a schedule which would see him finish in 2 days, 16 hours and 4 minutes. He was 3 hours 50 minutes ahead of this schedule at Middelton and is likely to set a new FKT which will take some beating. I wish him luck.
Back to my walking plans. A weather window is forecast for tomorrow, Friday, before becoming wet and windy again for the weekend. I think that I should make the most of this opportunity to go and do a walk up Dufton Pike, which, whilst being only 1,600ft high, is a nice conical shape and seems quite inviting. But, as they say, tomorrow is another day.
Tuesday 21 July 2020. This is my first caravanning holiday since mid-February and the first with my Ford Kuga which I only got last week. Although it has a similar size engine to my Mondeo, it seems to be a little thirstier returning 40mpg solo and just 24mpg when towing. This compares unfavourably with the Mondeo which returned 48mpg solo and 30mpg when towing. On the plus side, the Kuga seems a little sportier and I guess that there is a price to pay for this. I miss the reversing camera and electronic boot opening but these were nice to haves and not really essentials.
The 188 mile drive yesterday to Barnard Castle was uneventful and made with just one very short toilet break. The caravan site is full as everyone seems to be taking advantage of the lockdown relaxations and a return to something resembling “normal”.
After refuelling I set off to park in the grounds of The Bowes Museum from where I would start today’s walk. I hadn’t realised that it was still closed so I diverted to Egglestone Abbey. This is an unattended English Heritage property with free parking for members. The £2 parking charge for non-members should be paid by telephone but I doubt that this is ever checked, and I decided to ignore it.
I was walking a route I had made up from the map and it seems that very few people had passed before me. The outward leg on the southern side of Thorsgill Wood was along field edges and whilst it entailed just a small climb, the sweat was soon pouring off me. My fitness has taken a real dip during the lockdown. The return leg on the norther side of the wood ran alongside Thorsgill Beck and was a little more scenic. There hadn’t really been any suitable stopping points on this walk so my coffee/lunch stop was delayed until I returned to the grounds of Egglestone Abbey. I had planned to walk a section of the Teesdale Way from The Bowes Museum, but for today I felt that I’d done as much as I wanted to at just 2¼ miles. Perhaps I’ll come back later in the holiday to finish off this walk?