The 235 Steps

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DURHAM is a great place for walkers. Excellent paths follow a winding riverside and fork up into the traffic-free city centre, which because of its historical significance has held Unesco World Heritage Site status since 1986. The city has plenty of highlights – but the highlight of the highlights is a climb to the top of Durham Cathedral tower. It’s an adventure that is not for the fainthearted or the week-kneed . . . Continue reading

Posted in Durham Miners Gala, Footpaths, Hiking, History, John Buchan, Religion, Tyneside, Walking | Tagged , , | 38 Comments

It’s the Poor What Gets the Blame

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WE’RE going to try something different today. I’m off for a short run across the hills above Richmond, North Yorkshire, because it’s time I knocked myself back into a semblance of fitness – but this post is all about ethics and our place in the countryside. It concerns rights of way, highways and byways, rich and poor, perceptions and prejudices. I shall offer you a few multiple-choice questions as we proceed and include a scoreboard. It’s hard work because I’m running while I’m typing . . . Continue reading

Posted in Country Land and Business Association, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, Hunting, Ranting, Running, Teesdale, Teesside, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , | 38 Comments

A Christmas Walk: With Ghosts on Baysdale Moor

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I AM wary of the North York Moors because they are more than a little bit sinister. They are wild and empty, peppered with the scratchings of forgotten people, laced with legends, and punctuated with the stumps of ancient crosses and boundary stones. There is a dark, Gothic atmosphere, which is intensified by the proximity of Whitby and its Bram Stoker connection. Wolves still inhabit the wilder corners and hags dwell in tumbled cottages, so some people say. It’s a marvellous place for a moor walk, but not necessarily a place in which to wander alone . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Captain James Cook, Cleveland Way, Death, Environment, Footpaths, Ghosts, Hiking, History, Hunting, Industrial archaeology, Legends, Mountains, Politics, Ranting, Ruins, Teesside, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , | 42 Comments

Almost Picture Perfect in the Coniston Fells

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THIS is such a promising start. The early-morning sky is dark and clear; frost cakes windscreens and grass verges; the Lakeland peaks stand pale and ghostly at the head of the Duddon estuary. It is the perfect day for climbing Wetherlam and traversing a frozen ridge to the summit cairn on Coniston Old Man. Nothing can go wrong . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Environment, Explosives, Footpaths, Hiking, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Quarrying, Slate quarries, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Sweet Tees Flow Softly (Black Friday Aftermath)

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IN this land of eternal gloom, where fog hangs in grey air and moisture drips from autumn berries and bedraggled sheep, Romans once marched to distant outposts on a cold northern frontier. They crossed many rivers on their journey from York, and few were swifter and more majestic than the river the native Celts called Tees – a name which is thought to mean the boiling, surging water . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Belfast sinks, Black Friday, English language, Environment, Ewan MacColl, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Iron Age, Jargon, Railway goods wagons, Ranting, Rivers, Ruins, Teesdale, Teesside, The Romans, Walking, Weather, York | Tagged , , , | 51 Comments

Not Everything is Black and White on Barningham Moor

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I DRIVE the rattly van to the top of Barningham Moor and it gets stuck in slithery grass while I’m trying to park. I stall the engine and can’t start it again because the starter motor jams. Mist rolls in and thin rain begins to fall. There is no reception on my mobile phone. Eventually, after lots of click-clicking from the solenoid, the engine coughs into life and the van snakes inelegantly onto the road. I park it in mud but on a downward slope just to be safe. I pull on my boots, but it’s a slow process because I strained a muscle in my back a fortnight ago and it’s still painful. Sheep painted in fluorescent colours watch me from behind a wall. The day has a very deep, dark and melancholy feel about it. I decide I’ve unwittingly strayed into a Leonard Cohen song or perhaps an upbeat episode of Emmerdale . . . Continue reading

Posted in Allotments, Archaeology, Bronze Age, Camping, Cup and ring carvings, Environment, Footpaths, Geology, Great North Road, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Iron Age, Mountains, Shipping Forecast, Stone Circles, Teesdale, The Romans, Walking, Weather, York | Tagged , , , , | 47 Comments

Faggergill: Out of the Fryingpan into the Mire

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BETWEEN Reeth and Tan Hill lies a land of strange names. It’s a country where wild open moors and grassy dales are neatly partitioned by walls built seemingly randomly, and generations of people have drifted through in search of shelter or sustenance. Romans mined lead here; Vikings settled; industry came and went in an almost forgotten belch of furnace fumes. All left their scars and moulded this peaceful green valley known as Arkengarthdale . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Belfast sinks, Bronze Age, Climbing, Cup and ring carvings, Environment, Explosives, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Railway goods wagons, Stone Circles, Tan Hill Inn, The Romans, Unemployment, Vikings, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments