Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Rentahostel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rentahostel. Show all posts

Monday, 20 March 2017

Rentahostel at Hawkshead – 17 to 19 March 2017


This was our annual ‘rentahostel’ weekend with 24 or so assorted friends based on Sue’s old university hillwalking club.

This year we had use of part of Hawkshead Youth Hostel. The weather was wet and the road between Hawkshead and the Youth Hostel was flooded. So despite an inclination to walk, we drove to the Red Lion on Friday evening.

I’d planned a circuit based on Dow Crag for Saturday. Whilst most people preferred something a bit lower in the inclement weather, ten of us assembled for the drive up to the end of the Walna Scar Road.

Before setting off, two of that number suddenly changed their minds in favour of a low level walk from the hostel. So it was just eight of us who disembarked at the Walna Scar Road terminus.


It was raining quite hard.

A search for Ken and Anne’s boots proved fruitless, so they were left with little option but to walk back to Hawkshead in their slippers. Bob and Judy, who had come for the day from their home in the Lakes, accompanied them.

So even before we had started, our group of ten had been reduced to me, Sue, Pam and Paul!

We made our way uneventfully up to Goat’s Water, which we could just about see through the mist.


There were quite a few people coming down the path leading to the gap (Goat’s Hawse) between Dow Crag and The Old Man of Coniston, some sporting rather drenched pairs of jeans. They were the last people we saw before meeting a mountain rescue team several hours later on the Walna Scar Road. We stopped for a cuppa just below the col where it was calm and warm. If wet.

Having ignored one of our ‘back at base’ number’s suggestion that we take the ‘seriously exposed’ climbers’ route up Dow Crag (why would we even know that there was a climbers’ route?!) we encountered no difficulties other than a bit of clambering over slippery rocks on Dow Crag. Then it was an easy walk over Buck Pike and Brown Pike, with occasional views down to diminutive Blind Tarn.

En route, the next two pictures taken from the same spot (it wasn’t a good day for photography in the pouring rain) give an idea of the terrain.


On reaching the Walna Scar Road, I pointed out the easy shortcut back to the start of the walk, but that option was rapidly discarded in favour of a further four summits.

Good paths led over Walna Scar to White Pike, from where there would normally be a good view, and back beside a wall to White Maiden.

A compass bearing then guided us towards our final summit – High Pike Haw, seen here from near our lunch spot after we’d established that the compass bearing had taken us in the right direction around a few steepish cliffs.


High Pike Haw is a minor summit with character. From there we headed over Torver High Common in a roughly north east direction, keeping to the left of a boggy area, to eventually re-join the Walna Scar Road at its bridge over Torver Beck, which unlike Ash Gill, crossed en route and pictured top, would not have been an easy ‘hop’ today.


We finished the walk around 3.30 – here’s the view to Crowberry Haws from the car park.


Despite the weather, only Pam had wet feet, and we were otherwise nice and dry apart from having wet hands. Waterproof garments had all worked well apart from some of the gloves. In this weather (not too cold) I find that fairly lightweight gloves that can be wrung out frequently keep my hands warmer than my waterproof gloves (Terra Nova Extremities) which were hardly used today.

Here’s our route – about 15 km with 800 metres ascent, taking 5.3 hours.


That left us plenty of time to relax back at base, where a sumptuous supper was served. There was an assortment of excellent menu items. My contribution of chardonnay chicken with artichoke hearts proved a good choice – it’s really easy to prepare, and went down well with Sue’s baked potatoes.

By Sunday morning the rain hadn’t abated, so most people went home via indoor attractions. Hawkshead hostel is shown below; we were in an annex behind me.


Sue and I were joined by Andrew at Leighton Moss Bird Reserve, where we eventually escaped from the café. There’s a fairly new ‘Skytower’ that affords a view over the reserve. Can you spot it in the picture below?


Here’s the view from the Skytower.


Back down to earth, these Scarlet Elf Cups were abundant. Apparently they are very tasty, but we didn’t pick any.


We visited several of the hides and got occasional glimpses of Marsh Harriers, as well as seeing the following:

Mute Swan
Greylag Geese
Tufted Duck
Little Egret
Great Egret
Curlew (Saturday)
Marsh or Willow Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow

Had Ken and Anne been with us, we would no doubt have spotted much more.


The reed beds have been cleared in places in order to prevent tree growth, and efforts are being made to provide suitable habitats for both Bittern, who like it wet, and Bearded Tits, who like it dry in the reed beds.


The pheasants seemed pretty comfortable with our presence. This one wasn’t sure whether to regard my orange anorak as friend or foe. Gun shots could be heard in the distance.


Here’s where we walked – a bit less than 7 km.


Then we went home.

Thanks to Sue W for organising the weekend but not for providing her customary wet weather.

Friday, 18 March 2016

How to Retain an Audience?


You need a good story. They woke up when I started to tell them about my appearance in Private Eye…

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

12/13 March 2016 - Rentahostel in Kington


It’s that time of year again. Sue W organises a ‘rentahostel’ weekend whereby about thirty of her old mates enjoy sole occupancy of a youth hostel, with volunteers contributing to the breakfasts and Saturday night’s meal. It all makes for quite an economical weekend, this year’s total costs amounting to less than £40 per person, despite some lavish catering.

About thirty ‘mates’ assembled on Friday evening in the Herefordshire town of Kington, mostly in the nearby and apparently very welcoming Oxford Arms, where the landlord was reported to be a star, and the food delicious. Sue and I had eaten at home and were late to arrive after our two and a half hour journey.

Saturday morning – whilst a small splinter group headed for the Black Mountains, a large group of over twenty walkers preferred to walk directly from the hostel. It’s an ideal place to start a walk, with many options from the town’s position straddling the Offa’s Dyke footpath and a number of other trails.

After a little debate, everyone seemed happy with a circular clockwise route starting with a walk up Hergest Ridge on the Offa’s Dyke path. Here are some of them getting ready at our youth hostel base, a fine building that until a few years ago served as a cottage hospital.


We strolled up the narrow main street of Kington, a border town that for business now relies heavily on its status as a walking centre.

The wild boar and fallow deer that roam the streets are culled by the local butcher and offered as ‘street kill’ to passing punters.


We paused to read a plaque that informed us that in 1892 only 1% of the town’s dwellings had a bath and tap, and none had a hot water system. It may also have explained that despite being only two miles from the Welsh border, the town has been English for over 1000 years. There’s more information on Kington here.

We ambled slowly up Hergest Ridge, admiring hazy views south towards the Black Mountains.


Monkey puzzle trees grow in a small copse near the summit. Perhaps the nearby Hergest Croft Gardens have something to do with their presence?

There's a good bench and a plaque in memory of a local lady who died in 2006, sadly at the age of fifty.


Jon and I shared the bench for an hour or so whilst the others caught up.

There were limited views through the haze as we ascended the ridge.

The ghost of a chap called Sir Thomas, and also that of the Black Dog of Hergest are said to haunt the area around Hergest Ridge. The Black Dog's sighting reputedly presages death. It is also rumoured to have been the prototype for The Hound of the Baskervilles, as Conan Doyle is known to have stayed at nearby Hergest Hall shortly before he wrote the novel. Phil was the only person to spot the dog*.

We duly reached a trig point at 423 metres, but this wasn’t the summit, despite its good views towards the Black Mountains.


Nearby, at 426 metres, there’s a jumble of rocks, just a bit higher than the trig point, with a distinctive ‘pointy’ rock signifying the summit.

Keith made a futile bid to reach the pointy rock (the high point is near his left hand), whilst GS strode on manfully towards the border with Wales.


I'd intended to go round the side of Hanter Hill (414 metres), but the troops rebelled and shot off up to the summit, from where Robin and Josh took time out to admire the view during their half hour wait for the slower contingent.


To the left was a vision over a Welsh quarry (Dolyhir), a highly industrial landscape.

A sharp descent brought us back down to Lower Hanter. The folk who had rushed up Hanter Hill had perhaps not realised that they were already quite high and the descent through gorse could be a little tiresome, so they elected to go around the next two hills, skirting both Worsell Wood and Navages Wood before 1pm. En route we spotted a pair of peregrine falcons, gliding gracefully beside a rock face. During the weekend we also saw many buzzards, a few red kites, a hedgerow of yellowhammers, a hillside of skylarks, siskins and many commoner species.

"It's lunch time" announced Sue, her eyes glued to her Fitbit watch, arriving after the people at the front had already started eating theirs.


After another half hour break (actually 31 minutes 29 seconds, 1 minute 29 seconds longer than scheduled – I’ve been reading ‘The Rosie Project’) we were ready to shuffle off again.

GS left us near here, after fields containing new born lambs, to skirt around Herrock Hill and dash back to the Oxford Arms to expand his waist line in front of a TV. (England 25 – Wales 21)

Five of us continued to join the Mortimer Trail, whilst everyone else tackled Herrock Hill (371 metres). Here they are, some of them following the ancient line of Offa's Dyke. We were puzzled by their desire to go over the top of the hill rather than follow the Offa’s Dyke path around the side of it…


Our longer but more staid route passed this lovely half-timbered farmhouse at Knill.


The path soon rose gently through pleasant woodland to the top of Little Brampton Scar, at the top of which we enjoyed a lovely stroll along the Mortimer Trail. The five of us decided to abandon Plan A (the long circuit via the Mortimer and the Herefordshire Trails) due to the many half hour breaks, and head back to Kington via Kennel Cottage, Rushock and Barton. It turned out to be an excellent and fairly quick route.

Here's what the twenty plus starters had been whittled down to - Martin, Ken, Edwina, Sue and Jon. Note that Sue had to stay with this group as I had her ‘supplies’, her rucksack having carelessly been left at home. Fortunately it didn’t rain, nor were her absent hat and gloves necessary.


Beyond a very light coloured buzzard on a gatepost and some bare fields with sheep in poor condition, we found Kennel Cottage also to be in quite a poor state of repair, but was pleasantly surrounded by snowdrops.

We finished the walk about ten minutes after the Herrock Hill group, touching on the Offa’s Dyke path then taking an old tramway route through the town to reach the hostel with virtually no tarmac.

Despite recent rain, today's walk was on a consistently dry surface. Here's our route - 23 km, 700 metres ascent, taking 7 hours including about 10 hours of breaks.


Sunday – after an enjoyable evening with superb food, capped by Richard and Jenny’s salmon with leek & mushrooms wrapped in puff pastry served with roasted veg, most of us assembled at the memorial in New Radnor for a modest Sunday stroll in the Radnor Forest, over the border in Wales.


The 21 metre (77ft) recently restored memorial was erected in 1864 to commemorate Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-63), a barrister, politician, and man of letters whose family home was nearby. I wonder whether he enjoyed the luxury of a hot water system. From what I can find out about him I think he probably deserved the occasional hot bath.

Soon, around twenty of us were tramping up Mutton Dingle, with Hillhouse Farm standing out in an otherwise very hazy view. Closer to hand, Sue discovered the aftermath of a fatal accident. Out of consideration to my audience, I have decided not to show the maggot ridden skeleton of the deceased cyclist.


Near Whinyard Rocks we took a dogleg up to the 599 metre summit of Whimble. It was a lovely day, but views were very limited due to the haze.


Then we wandered along to the 610 metre summit of Bache Hill, after which we continued to slowly gain height on the way to our next target, Black Mixen (650 metres), marked by a trig point next to a communications mast.

I’d followed a good track to the summit, whereas the others followed a shorter but much rougher, perhaps pathless, route.

Then they took another cross country route to reach the high point of the day, Great Rhos (660 metres), whereas my knees preferred to use the nearby tracks.

There were hazy views down Harley Dingle.


Some folk had peeled off after Whimble. The rest of us peeled off after Great Rhos, leaving Keith and Carol to complete a longer circuit via some waterfalls.

Phil found what he took to be a submarine; he chatted at length to the crew through the periscope. They told him they'd been blown off course.


It was a steep and slithery descent to a Danger Sign that is marked on the Ordnance Survey map. Whimble is the distinctive hill on the right.


After a while, on a sunny afternoon in improving weather, we concluded the final descent to the ancient walled town of New Radnor. The roads seemed to be pretty much empty for most of our way home.


Here's my route - 16 km, 600 metres ascent, taking a little over 5 hours. Others took shortcuts.


There’s a slideshow (68 images) here.

The ‘Marilyns’ we climbed were Hergest Ridge and Great Rhos.

Previous ‘rentahostel’ weekends:
2015 – Slaidburn
2014 – Welsh Bicknor
2013 – Helmsley
2012 – Wooler
2011 – Eskdale
2010 – Caldbeck
2009 – Helvellyn (Part 1)
2009 – Helvellyn (Part 2)
2009 – Helvellyn (Part 3)

* – Phil has a vivid imagination. He spotted the dog from a remote spot in the Black Mountains.**

** – whose imagination did I report as being vivid? My watch seems also to have accelerated a little during our breaks this weekend. No offence is intended to anyone who may perceive themselves to be victims of such minor exaggerations that may have crept into this story.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Friday 20 to Sunday 22 March 2015 – Rentahostel in Slaidburn


I’d intended to continue with the mobile postings during this trip, but with Slaidburn not having wifi or a reliable mobile phone signal (not a bad thing), I gave the phone a rest. In fact it may be having a long rest, as it’s overdue an upgrade and I’m fed up with being pestered by call centres.

Back then to Friday morning, the day of the 85% eclipse, of which Sue and I had excellent views whilst driving around the M60 squinting through a bundle of photographic slides when the clouds weren’t shielding our eyes from the sun.

Reaching Sabden at 10.15, we found Ken and Anne and discovered that the antique centre’s café, where we had planned to meet, had been closed for two years. So we plonked ourselves outside the amenable Malkin Pie shop, which also did coffee - very friendly it was too.


Luckily, it wasn’t too cold, as the rest of today’s 14 strong team arrived in dribs and drabs over the next hour or so. Eventually we all set off up Calf Hill on the misty day, along the easy path up Pendle Hill.

Here we are, on track, near Churn Clough Reservoir.


Up into the mist we went, soon taking a path to the right. The wrong path. My incompetent navigation (a ‘Martin’s Meander’) resulted in a joyous yomp across the moor towards Ogden Clough. Keith and I soon found the easy track, but for some reason the others, just visible through the mist, continued their clumsy yomp through peat hags, about 50 metres to our right.

However we were reunited further up Ogden Clough for the final storming of Pendle Hill summit (557 metres), where a much anticipated cloud inversion sadly eluded us.


Lunch was taken 10 metres from the summit in the forlorn hope of sunshine that never arrived. Then we descended north to the wall that heralds the path down to a waymark post that looks ancient but is actually quite new. From there, a path of well laid and well used stone slabs lead down towards Barley.


Black Moss Reservoirs appeared through the haze, and the easy walk into Barley led inexorably to the Barley Mow, where the clientele unfortunately put off some of those disposed to nervousness amongst our number…


... so 9 of them disappeared into the nearby Pendle Inn.

The rest of us continued on beside Lower Ogden Reservoir, on the road – we missed the lower path due to some incompetence from our leader (oops!).

Further on, water cascaded with a degree of symmetry  from the upper reservoir.


We rose from there,with a bleak view down to the reservoir, heading over Driver Height towards Sabden Fold. On the way, Ken found the item he had earlier purchased ‘blind’ from an eBay seller. He joyously took possession of his new caravan. Anne looked on, puzzled.


We returned with no further incident, apart from deep mud, unexpected hills, and shadowy figures bearing broomsticks, to Sabden, and the short but convoluted drive to Slaidburn.

Our walking route, including my faux pas in the mist over Spence Moor, was 19 km with 700 metres ascent, taking 5.5 hours.


During the evening our group of 14 expanded to the weekend’s quota of 25, most of whom enjoyed the Hark to Bounty Inn’s fish night – a choice of about ten different fish dishes, all very good.

Saturday morning, and a fine day outside Slaidburn Youth Hostel saw all 25 of us milling around for some time. In other words, these two, Colin and Tove, were in for a long wait.


Some then went on a drive, leaving 12 of us to set off up the road. Foolishly, someone had appointed me leader again. I had to turn around and call back the vanguard in order to negotiate an unexpected turning into the enticing garlicky aroma of the woods around Tenter Hill.


Mud was encountered near Myttons, then high quality farming equipment adorned the landscape at Lanshaws…


... lots of it.


We headed on past Croasdale House and up to the Roman Road that stretched far ahead of us onto Croasdale Fell – see photo at the top of this posting.

'Elevenses' was soon declared.


Then we came across one of a number of memorial plaques erected in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the execution of the Pendle witches. There’s a website dedicated to the cause, here. A central feature seems to be a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate. This is one of the ‘Tercet’ waymarks that carry stanzas from the poem on the top of the waymark, in this case the sixth tercet, with the whole poem on one side. (A tercet is simply a three-lined stanza or poem, that often contains a rhyme.)


Here’s the whole poem:

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars,
feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,
away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave;
only future tourists who might grieve.

Suitably impressed, we continued along the Roman Road, unnoticed by courting birds of prey but viewed with suspicion by their minders. On the moor we saw the usual curlew, lapwings, oyster catchers and skylarks, to name just a few (Ken could I expect provide a long list) as well as birds of prey, the most conspicuous of which was a sparrowhawk.

A gateway indicated the point at which we should leave the track and yomp beside a fence, across peat hags to White Hill.

There's a 'Tower' near the summit. Graham Illing climbed it, perhaps trying, and failing to be first to the summit of the hill.


It was therefore Keith who made it first to the trig point at 544 metres which marks the highest point in the neighbourhood.


Ingleborough was visible in the distance, its summit ringed with the last vestiges of a wintry necklace, but it was only just visible through the haze (though today was by far the clearest day of the week).

It was time for lunch, in a more sheltered spot today, again by the highest point of our outing.


Then a downhill yomp took us back to the Roman Road for another sunbathing break before heading down Whitendale, a pleasant valley where we met just two people - one of whom I recognised as an LDWA member who had been on my recent Curry Walk.

After passing a lady enjoying afternoon tea in her garden, we headed steeply up into a cool breeze towards Dunsop Head.


Once the initial ascent was over we paused to empty our flasks before a final march to the high point, followed by an easy descent on a high path to the south of Dunsop Brook. There are some fine signposts around here!


The skies were clear, offering good views towards Stocks Reservoir before we finished the walk on gentle tarmac past brutally coppiced hawthorn hedges. An excellent day out, the route of which is shown below - 23 km with 800 metres ascent, taking 7.5 hours.


Luckily, we were back shortly before the ‘driving’ contingent who had done a point to point walk using cars to ferry themselves around, so some of us got hot showers before the water went cold and then we adjourned for tea and cake, and later an excellent meal provided by numerous volunteers. Thanks everyone, Sue and I took a break from cooking this year but we know all about the effort that’s required.

Sunday morning - Slaidburn's War Memorial sparkled in the sunshine as we passed to and from the car park opposite the village hall, before Jess, Elaine and Clare set off back to the south coast, and Andrew returned to Cheshire, leaving the remaining 21 of us to drive to beyond Dunsop Bridge, to Langden Brook.

All 21 set off along this fine avenue of trees at around 10 o’clock.


We soon turned off and crossed a bridge, warming up for a long ascent by strolling alongside Langden Brook. Then, while Keith nipped up the minor summit of Mellor Knoll, the rest of us tottered up Totridge, pausing for elevenses en route, at exactly 11 am.


The large group remained vaguely together, despite the efforts of some to drop off the back, and we all reassembled at Totridge’s 496 metre summit, having already completed most of the day’s ascent.

In 2011 there was a major incident when the body of Bill Smith, a famed fellrunner, was found on nearby Saddle Moor. He fell into a bog and wasn’t missed for nearly three weeks. He is remembered by way of a plaque on Totridge's trig point, but that plaque gives no clue as to the feats achieved by this legendary character who wrote a definitive history of fellrunning.

Here’s an extract from Bill’s Wikipedia entry:

The president of the Fell Runners Association, Graham Breeze, published a posthumous encomium and long-belated book review: "Considering the masterpiece that bears his name Bill Smith was a staggeringly modest and unassuming man ... I am privileged to have known him slightly and corresponded with him occasionally ... A few years ago I wrote a short piece about Stud marks on the summits and sent it to Bill for his approval. I wrote that I knew he would hate it but I would like it to appear in The Fellrunner in homage to his masterpiece. As I partly anticipated, he wrote back and asked me not to publish because it would embarrass him. We later talked about the piece at a race and I promised that, since all writers hate to waste material, it would only appear when he could no longer be embarrassed ... Fellrunners come and go, Champions come and go, but no-one will ever be as important to the development and history of fellrunning as the man who died in September on the Bowland fells."

We milled around at the trig point,  impressed by GS’s efforts to climb it (pictured below) before ambling off into the bog.


Neal soon attempted what, given the above story, could perhaps be called a ‘Bill Smith’. Luckily there were friends on hand to pull him out, and others to record the occasion. Mary Berry would not have approved of his ‘soggy bottom’!


The long section following a fence all the way to Fair Snape Fell’s summit measured 4.5 km as a straight line on my map, but the ‘bog dodging’ requirement of our actual route probably added quite a bit to that. Anyway, by the time we eventually we made it to the 520 metre summit, we were all happy to find a sheltered spot for our third ‘summit lunch’ of the trip – apart from Graham, who decided that in the absence of a trig point, he would impersonate one whilst downing his lunch, which I’m told comprised a can (or two?) of gin and tonic.


Then we set off to the actual trig/view point that overlooks West Lancashire from the lower height of 510 metres. There were paragliders and a proper glider vying for uplift, and whilst the usual landmarks of Blackpool Tower, etc, weren’t visible today, we could see smoke from numerous heather burning operations, and we could watch the paragliders as they attempted to take off from the nearby 432 metre summit of Parlick.

It was a busy spot, especially with our 19 marauding ramblers (Ken and Anne having gone ahead).


Soon it was time to return to the summit of Fair Snape Fell, from where two further kilometres of yomping led us to the narrow but excellent path that leads down Fiendsdale.


We got down to Langden Brook by 3 pm, just in time for a afternoon tea, more brownies and shortbread and various other goodies provided by an assortment of folk – thanks everyone - and a snooze for some.


A leisurely departure across stepping stones saw us on the last lap of the weekend, and we eventually exited from 'access land' and its list of 22 restrictions.

Langden Intake is the site of a water supply for Lancashire, guarded by a nymph - Miranda – she looked a bit tired today, as were the pheasants, who couldn’t be bothered to fly – they just ran ahead, guiding us back to the start of this excellent walk.


Here’s our route - 19 km with 650 metres ascent, taking 6 hours.


The end of a most agreeable little trip.

There’s a slideshow (95 images) here.

Some folk complain about the cost of youth hostels, but this rentahostel weekend cost each of us about £30 for the two nights plus the excellent two full breakfasts and  the Saturday evening meal provided by members of the group. Even adding the ‘fish night’ food (£7) at the local pub on Friday, and the cost of a few drinks, the outlay could be considered modest.