Days Like This, No 5: Ireland’s Deep Secrets

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DAWN breaks over Belfast. A van and a minibus rattle through the city and head down the main road towards Dublin, stopping only at the cross-border road block on the hills above Newry where a British squaddie peers at our luggage. An unfriendly machine-gun pokes from a bunker in the heather. You see this sort of thing on the telly but don’t realise how unnerving it is until the gun is pointing directly at your body. But by mid-afternoon that’s all behind us, and we have reached the Wicklow Mountains and the quiet valley of Glendalough. This is where our adventure begins . . . Continue reading

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Posted in Bronze Age, Camping, Caving, Environment, Geology, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Potholing, Ruins, Vikings, Walking | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Days Like This, No 4: Before Night at Beacon Tarn

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I HAVE a book in my rucksack by GV Carey. It’s called Mind the Stop. It could be about buses, it could be about church organs, but it concerns neither. It’s a book about punctuation, and I had half a mind to leave it in my parent’s caravan in Cockermouth to cut down the weight. But I stuffed it in a rucksack pocket with my map and teabags as I set out on a backpacking trip to Greenodd on the edge of Morecambe Bay. It was one of my better decision . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Environment, Hiking, Mountains, Quarrying, Slate quarries, Walking, Writing | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Feet of Cley on the Norfolk Coast Path

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SHINGLE banks are not the easiest terrain to walk across. And between the north Norfolk village of Cley and the town of Sheringham they stretch for miles. It’s a matter of steer your prow into the wind and start plodding . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Beer, Bronze Age, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Newsquest, Norfolk Broads, Politics, Ranting, Redundancy, Second World War, Walking, Windmills | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

Days Like This, No 3: Sunset on Caw

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ONCE in a while I stand still and look around and think: at this precise moment I am truly alive; I am as much a part of this earth as a root raising its knuckle from the turf or a raven perching in a blackthorn; I am here and my world is unfolding beneath my feet and flooding its valleys with cool mist and shadows as the sun sinks behind mountains. That’s how I feel on the summit of Caw . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Environment, Hiking, HMS Invincible, Life, Mountains, Walking | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

Going to California . . . Via Teesdale

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HISTORY has not been kind to the Pennine valley of Hudes Hope. On a sunny morning in March its lesser scars can be mistaken for natural wounds and warts on the landscape. But there is no disguising the greater disfigurements – the 19th Century lead-mining hushes that slice down the fellsides like colossal gutters, and the dull heaps of spoil piled randomly on the slopes. Hudes Hope has been gashed open by the hands of man, its moors hollowed out and the innards raked to the surface. But where man has unsympathetically exploited the environment, nature has partially recolonised and healed. Despite its bleak history and the despoliation, Hudes Hope remains a wonderfully peaceful place to sit in the sun and drink tea . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Environment, Geology, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Quarrying, Ruins, Slate quarries, Teesside, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Days Like This, No 2: In the Tatra With Bears and Nuns

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ZAKOPANE is a resort in the foothills of the Polish Tatra. Many people warned us about coming here, saying Zakopane is the unacceptable face of commercialism in an otherwise pristine mountain environment. But we like the town immensely. I suppose you could call it the Polish version of Bowness-on-Windermere, but without the steamers and the ducks. There are loads of inexpensive restaurants serving hearty Polish food, and a fantastic little campsite on the outskirts – Camping Ustup – where the proprietor helps to erect your tent while engaging your wife in conversation about David Beckham . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Environment, Hiking, Mountains, Poland, Second World War, Walking, Zakopane | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Blog on the Tyne

Tyne 1 WE have a favourite walk, my wife and I. If we have visitors, and they are new to the North-East, we shepherd them along this walk because it cuts through the social, industrial and cultural layers of the region like a knife slices through a little fishy on a dishy. And it fuses earth, water, sky, chips, tea and cakes into a day to cherish. It’s a walk of only three or four miles, with two rides on the Shields ferry thrown in, but we really enjoy it . . . Continue reading

Posted in History, Life, Rivers, Ruins, Tyneside, Walking | Tagged , | 28 Comments