A Big Adventure

SO I’m off to live in Spain. Just thought I’d slip that into the conversation. I’ve been thinking for some time that I need a new challenge – a big challenge. And although I won’t be embarking on a really, really, really big challenge, such as walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, my wife and I will very soon be heading for the Sierra Nevada, where I intend to climb mountains and explore new landscapes while she socialises with her many friends and enjoys retirement . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Environment, Hiking, Life, Mountains, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 70 Comments

Days Like This, No 21: Eternity in Borrowdale

Borrowdale 1THE closest thing to eternity is a cold night in a tent. Hope dies while hours limp slowly past. Supernovae fade and constellations shift as time distorts and clocks refuse to tick. Body heat is sucked into the ungrateful ground. Breath condenses and freezes on the inner tent. Dreams are short-lived and repetitive. Comfort is a dark stranger. Night is all . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Quarrying, Ruins, Slate quarries, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Days Like This, No 20: Glimpses on Gable

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EARLY morning on the South Traverse. The southern crags of Great Gable soak up sunlight. Rocks are warm to the touch beneath their volcanic tuff roughness and crumbly lichen. In the air, the bleat of a distant ewe and the clink of karabiners; an occasional laugh; an unfurling of ropes. This is a place of pilgrimage, a craggy paradise where climbers have sought adventure since Victorian times. This is Lakeland in its grand and gritty glory . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, Life, Mountains, Napes Needle, Tarns, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

On a Whim to William Gill

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WILLIAM GILL is an offshoot of Arkengarthdale in the northern Pennines and is the shallow valley leading to the source of Arkle Beck. It’s a place only the lonely visit because it’s right in the middle of one of those vast empty boglands which fester unobtrusively among the high moors. Crossing William Gill a couple of months ago, on a walk to Tan Hill, I spotted what appeared to be a single length of railway line poking mournfully into the sky on the crown of the moor. Subsequent research has cast a guttering light on something that might be vaguely interesting. Boots on, here we go . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Coal mining, English language, Environment, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, History, horse gins, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Pennine Way, Rivers, Ruins, Tan Hill Inn, Walking | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments

Days Like This, No 19: Pillar and the Rock

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HOT sun on the back of the legs. Dust inside socks. Warm breeze drifting from the Irish Sea and stirring dry grasses. The magnificence of Pillar rising from the green of Mosedale into a flawless sky. Days like this were made for climbing mountains . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Footpaths, Hiking, Mountains, Music, Poetry, Tarns, Walking, Weather, William Wordsworth | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

Gibbet Hill and Carlin Gill – That’s Entertainment


GIBBET Hill has history. Little more than a slope in the Tebay Gorge – which separates the Howgill Fells from the Lake District – it was the site where, in 1684, local villain William Smurthwaite’s body was left to rot in an iron cage suspended from a gibbet. The authorities knew how to deal with villains in those days. No messing about with rehabilitation schemes or probation orders; they hanged them by the neck then left their corpses to rot on a roadside gallows. This gave the poor a warning and the crows a feast. It also provided entertainment. This is Cumbria, after all . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Climbing, Death, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Legends, Mountains, Rivers, Running, The Romans, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Days Like This, No 18: A Dip in Goat’s Water

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tarn 1WE British are collectors of junk and tickers of lists. Men in particular, if left unmolested, will amass sheds full of lawnmower parts, used spark-plugs, obsolete tools and jars of reclaimed nuts and bolts just in case the unforeseen occurs at some distant date in the future. But things go much, much deeper than this. We are more than mere hoarders, we men, we are savers of cigar tubes, stashers of stovepipes, magpies of marbles, accumulators of cloud types. We collect locomotive numbers, Codd bottles, chimney pots, beer mats, military tunic buttons, Bazooka Joe cartoons, football programmes, ring-pulls and road signs. We are foragers of fossils, fungi and fountain pens; gatherers of glass eyes, graptolites and garden gnomes. We set ourselves lists and tick off our victories: pubs visited; home games watched; roller-coasters ridden; buses glimpsed. And we walkers in particular revel in websites that support our strange habits and massage our more extreme perversions – we Munro baggers, Wainwright wanderers, Corbett collectors, Furth filchers, Graham gatherers and trig-point tickers (a particularly vigorous and dedicated walker type). We are the crazy British with our Scotch pie contests, Welsh bog-snorkelling championships, Ulster marching season and English morris dancers. Eccentricity unites our otherwise disunited kingdom. This is the one thing we really are in together . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Hiking, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Scotch pies, Tarns, Walking, Waterwheels, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | 40 Comments