Monday, 24 June 2013

More Malham Meanderings

Chrissie wanted to scratch that backpacking itch again; this time on the Dales High Way. It's supposed to start in Saltaire but Chrissie decided to miss out the beginning and start instead just north of Skipton for this first, two day leg. So, Friday night saw us driving along the well-worn groove between home and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Research using an OS map and Google street view found us a great wild camp spot north east of Skipton, just inside the National Park boundary.

What a beautiful evening!

Next morning I dropped Chrissie and Tilly off to set off on their adventure. Recently Chrissie's come to the conclusion that she needs a dog who can carry their own acoutrements, so poor Dixie's bin pensioned off and replaced by Tilly the big, strong labrador. Seriously though, at 11 and a half, asking Dixie to tackle harder walks as well as carry stuff is a little unfair. So, having got rid of the adventurers, Dixie and I tootled off along the lanes to a favourite wild camp pitch near Malham Tarn. Once ensconed there, we booted up and set off on our own ramble through the moorland grasses and limestone pavements so prevalent up 'ere.

We enjoyed a really pleasant wander, up past the tarn, along a bit o' t'Pennine Way and along a dry valley before following a twisting route through limestone and back to t'van. Despite the dull, misty weather it was luverly.

This ladder stile was intriguing, being totally devoid of rungs. Not the best  of ideas with an arthritic boxer. Thankfully, just a few yards away the wall was broken down, so giving us an easier option.

I liked this view of a limestone pavement by a drystone wall, the two seeming to merge into each other.

Here, Dixie's trying to remember which are the clints and which are the grykes. She was really struggling with this 'til I reminded her that the clints are the sticky up bits. This was actually the remains of a settlement where former residents appeared to have integrated the pavement into their buildings ... I think.

I reckon we covered around 8 miles and Dixie reckoned there was only one way to follow that so, as I put on the kettle she applied some serious effort to ... snoozing.

We had a wet blustery night, the evening being relieved by another watch of the Les Miserables movie. Dixie quite likes Gavroche, 'specially the bit where 'e sings "... you'd better run for cover when the pup grows up", or something like that.

Next morning I woke early and by 8 o'clock we were off walking in the wind and rain. Wearing my Paramo Pasco jacket, Velez trousers, Paramo cap and Sealskin gloves I was able to shrug off the worst the weather could chuck at me. Didn't take many photos though.

There's been a phantom sticker of pink hearts on some o' the signposts hereabouts. I can think of worse graffiti and couldn't help but wonder if the world might be a better place with the addition of a few more pink hearts.

We were back at t'van by 10 and, once out of wet clothes we moved on towards Settle in anticipation that Chrissie and Tilly might well be early at their RV. In the event, we ended up picking up the bedraggled pair on a lane above Settle. After a refreshing lunch it was back home from a fun weekend for all.

Now I just have to pack and ready the van again. Next Sunday Bernie and I are away to Islay & Jura for a week or so. So much to do, so little time!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

A week's wanderings

I had a great time enjoying the outdoors in glorious weather last week. Regular readers will know C and I've been watching our diet since the beginning of the year and the net result for me has been to become pretty much addicted to exercise. So much so that I've actually struggled to eat enough to match my calorific consumption over the past week. What a result!

So here are a few random photos from a week of wonderful wanderings around home:


Enjoy your travelling and ....

... smile

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Now we are six ...

... wheels that is.

On Monday Chrissie gave me my, very early, 60th birthday pressie (my birthday's in October). Following a heavy hint from me, I'm now the proud owner of a shiny new mountain bike. So, since I already have a Marin hybrid cycle as well as MBM (my beloved motorcycle; please keep up) that makes three two-wheelers so ... six wheels!

I've never owned a proper mountain bike before, but really fancied trying out this new, to me, outdoor activity. I took advice from my pal Hamish, who's seriously into off-road cycling and, armed with this and a little internet research we went off to the Bike Factory in nearby Whaley Bridge. There, Rob echoed all of Hamish's pointers and we came away with a Whyte 801. It's the lowest spec bike in Whyte's range but highly recommended for a beginner like me. With an alloy frame, front suspension, 27 gears and nice big, squishy tyres it looks the business and, hopefully will suit me well.

Here's a pic of the beautiful machine:

And here's me trying hard to look the part as I bimble around the cul-de-sac:

I spent Monday and Tuesday afternoons pottering around some local bridleways, trying my best to get used to the feel of the bike and today, Wednesday, I dragged my mate Bernie out on a ride I found in a book of Peak District cycle routes. He really should know me better by now, but agreed anyway.

We parked in Hathersage and set off along the road to Grindleford, then uphill to the Fox House Inn. From here, a short way up the road to Sheffield, we headed off up Houndkirk Road, a green lane favoured by trail riding motorbikers. Not been up there with MBM yet but who knows; only walked about half of it. Anyways, it's a short pull up to the summit; tricky for me as a first-timer and even harder for Bernie on his hybrid, but we managed. Then the real fun, thundering down the rest of the lane was a real blast and gave a taste of why mountain bikers get so taken with the sport.

Here's Bernie, powering up to the high point of Houndkirk Road:

What a star!

Leaving the lane behind it was then around the lanes to Redmires Reservoirs then up another byway to Stanedge Pole. It was a bit of a slog up the hill but Bernie gave of his best:

While I was content just to pose at Stanedge Pole, musing on why they couldn't agree on how to spell Stanage in days gone by:

Note my attempt to look the real deal with my long merino wool undies under my shorts. Sad or what?

And then after a short, downhill respite we hit the craziness that is the bridleway beneath Stanage (or Stanedge) Edge. Can't see how anyone could cycle down, or up, here, it being a mess of large boulders and steps. I carried my beautiful bike over the worst bits before we hit the freshly graded surface which took us down to the tarmac at Dennis Knoll. After a quick choccy break we decided to call it a day and scurried back down the tarmac to Hathersage. A pint of coffee and excellent flapjack in Outside's cafe served well to refresh us, having covered around 16 miles in 3 hours. Not bad for amateurs (and old farts, to boot).

Hopefully more old fart MTB fun will follow.


Friday, 7 June 2013

It'd be easy if I had a labrador's coat ...

... 'cos Tilly has the original Paramo coat; double thickness, with a rain shedding outer and a soft, insulating undercoat all proofed with natural oils. Given that she perspires through her enormous tongue, her coat serves her well in all conditions. Dixie, oddly, has the lightweight summer version, so needs careful care in cold climes; but that's boxers for you - awkward (I love her really).

But I haven't ... so here's a bit of info about the gear I do wear when walking and travelling (really it's mostly the stuff I wear all the time). It's not an exhaustive list, more a series of jottings, but might help someone out there with decision making (about clothes that is, not life in general or choosing partners or whatever).

I've long been a fan of Paramo. Their stuff served me and Chrissie well in the foulest of conditions during the later of our years in mountain  rescue; I was instrumental in converting the team to this from the then-ubiquitous Gore-tex. Between us, Chrissie and I own more Paramo jackets than is good for us but our latest are Pasco jackets, a nice compromise between weight and performance. Please ... don't believe anyone who tells you Paramo jackets leak; read the blurb on their website and try to understand how they work. You may well get a little wet under certain circumstances but, provided you are wearing something appropriate underneath, which will still perform when damp, it doesn't matter. Believe me, I've worn Paramo in conditions more extreme than most walkers will ever encounter ... and I trust the stuff implicitly. I have an old pair of Cascada waterproof trousers I've had for yonks - they still function perfectly. Be aware though, all Paramo's Analogy waterproof kit needs regular reproofing; easily done with wash-in, water-based proofing stuff. I also have lighter, waterproof Velez Adventure trousers for warmer weather. I have two Paramo Mountain pull on shirts, one vented, one not, plus an ancient version of this shirt. These are my first choice of shirt in cold conditions, otherwise it's merino wool (see later). The old one must be fifteen years old and still looks as good as new and works perfectly. In addition I have a few Explorer pullovers and two, yes two, Taiga fleeces which work well underneath the Fuera Windproof Jacket (yep, got one of those too - actually two 'cos I use one as a motorbike waterproof over leathers).

Chrissie thinks her new Paramo Pasco's good but Tilly knows her coat's MUCH better. Meanwhile, Dixie turns her back and refuses to be drawn into an argument:

This was a cold spring day on Harris which is why I'm wearing my Paramo Taiga fleece and Rohan Striders, plus my Harris Tweed baseball cap, which sounds ridiculous but is nice and warm on a cool day (I ain't got much hair y'know). Tilly's wearing the usual .. smug as ever:

Similarly, I was a big fan of Rohan when the company was formed by Paul and Sarah Howcroft way back in the 70s (yep, I'm that old), in Airton, near Malham in God's own county (I still bore Chrissie by pointing out the building in Airton where they were originally based whenever we pass through). In the old days you were not considered properly dressed in the hills unless you were wearing Rohan's Strider breeches; to say they were revolutionary would be a gross understatement. Then Ron Hill's Tracksters appeared and trends changed, rapidly.

Having gone through a period of ownership by Clarks and a later management buyout, Rohan has reinvented itself as the go-to brand for serious travellers' clothing, overlapping neatly into outdoor pursuits. As well as being a hillwalker and mountaineer I've done quite a bit of long distance travelling by motorcycle and latterly, motorhome, not to mention the odd foray into backpacking and long-haul aircraft trips. All these forms of travel dictate, in my view, lightweight, packable clothing which is easy to wash and, very importantly, dry. I kissed goodbye to cotton knickers and T shirts many moons ago: I don't want to get up in the morning to last night's laundry still dripping wet. What? You DO? Well then .. DON'T bother reading on!

So, back to Rohan, I currently favour them for legwear and own several pairs of their trousers; Striders for cold weather and Trailblazers and Escapers for warmer conditions, both the latter being available as convertibles. They all work well, are comfortable and have plenty of useful pockets. I've recently bought a pair of their jeans which, though they have cotton in them, have a polyester mixed in, making them stretchy and more comforable than "proper" denim; plus they have serious pockets and ... dry quickly.

Having lost a substantial amount of weight recently (see earlier post) I've been doing quite a lot of spending on clothes of late, but experience has shown me where to shop. I bought one of Rohan's new Ether windshirts, primarily cos it reminded me of Rohan's Moving On tops from the 80s. I love this shirt. In the cooler weather we've been having this spring I've been layering it over a merino wool T shirt (more of these later) and it's so comfy, adding a light, insulating layer. And in anticipation of a trip to Islay in midge season, I recently purchased a long-sleeved, Rohan Overland shirt, which is a more traditional looking version doing a similar job to the Ether. In the last week or so I've worn these two a lot out walking and I like 'em.

Here I am in my Paramo Pasco jacket and Paramo Velez Adventure waterproof trousers, and my ancient Paramo shirt. Tilly's wearing ... the usual. Please, no comments about my hair, or lack of it!:

On a slightly milder day it's my Rohan Ether windshirt, Icebreaker merino 150 T shirt, Rohan Escapers convertibles (with the zips opened at the front for ventilation ... cool) and Tilley T5 Airlight hat, with custom made (by me) hat band. Tilly's wearing ... oh, you get the drift by now:

And, on a much warmer day, I'm grinning like and idiot in my Tilley T5 Arlight and another Icebreaker merino T; this time 200 weight:

Back to merino wool. I owe this revolution in my wardrobe to Chrissie. I can't believe we ever managed travelling without these. Not only are they warm in the cold and cool in the warm but, amazingly they never seem to stink. I once wore one for 7 days, for both walking and travelling, then got fed up with the experiment and changed, despite it still not smelling at all. In reality, this means less time spent on laundry when travelling with the motorhome or motorcycle, and less need to carry more garments (that sounded daft Geoff ... I know ... never mind). I have versions in two different weights, 150 and 200 (please don't ask me what these numbers mean; I don't know - Google it) made by Icebreakers (some with posh printed designs) and Rohan. Plus I have long and short sleeves in both weights. I understand Decathlon do much cheaper ones too, but I haven't tried 'em yet.
I love merino wool shirts!

Boots? I currently run three pairs. For everyday shorter walks I have some cheap'n'cheerful Karrimor fabric and leather KSB Aspen Mid IIIs. These were bought by price, less than £30 from Go Outdoors, they're ok but the Karrimor waterproofing is useless! They don't seem to make 'em anymore; not surprised. My second pair are Raichle and these are proper 4 season walking boots. Can't remember the model, but they're leather, Gore-tex lined and Vibram soled; good, solid, comfy boots. My third pair are Meindl, fully stiffened, leather, crampon-compatible, winter-mountaineering boots, which have had little use over the past two winters for a number of reasons which I won't bore you with.

Knickers! Look away girls, this is bloke stuff and be aware that if you  DO follow the link you WILL see pictures of very scantily clad men! As I said earlier, I don't do cotton, nor will I pay the silly prices demanded by outdoor manufacturers for my underwear. For years I've stuck with good old M&S who, for a long time, have sold an active range of knickers. Just this last month I've purchased a dozen pairs of their Autograph minirib slips (that sounds rude ... sorry) to replace the old ones I had which were YEARS old. Well done M&S. These new ones cost £12.50 for 2 pairs; only available online. They're really comfy and make me look VERY sexy (and if you believe that you'll believe ANYTHING). In case you missed the obvious, they're NOT cotton.

Getting to towards the end of this "list" now. my hankies are all American cotton bandanas, bought over many years' travelling in the US of A, but Chrissie says you can get 'em here online. Good; some of 'em are nearly worn out. Just realised, they're cotton ... but very thin and they DO dry quickly. So there ... thought you'd caught me out didn't you?

I've got loads of hats; being a bit of a hat nut, but I won't drone on about 'em. What I will do is recommend Tilley hats. I've got an original cotton one and a super, duper lightweight one which does well protecting my thinning pate from the sun. They're wide brimmed and very posey!

What else d'you wanna know about clothing? Well, you only have to ask ... I have an opinion on most things, including clothing.


PS I bet you're really glad I resisted the temptation to post a pic of myself in my M&S knickers. Truth is ... you girls just couldn't handle the excitement.

Hey ... THAT, Geoff, is sexist!

You're right Geoff. Ok, the fact is, the guys couldn't handle the excitement either!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Dad, Dad, wake up

Come on Dad, that sky's all blue again.
Can we do another walk like we did yesterday?
Come on Dad, come on.
You don't NEED any more coffee.

Great, where are we going today.
Kinder! Kinder! Kinder!
Aw, please Dad?

Look Dad, I found some treasure:

This is a bit steep Dad. What's it called Sandy Days?
Does it take us up Kinder again?

Buy why can't I chase them sheep. Bernie says they shouldn't be up 'ere since they built that new fence round t'top. That's why I'm chasing 'em; cos they shouldn't be 'ere!

Hey Dad, look at me up 'ere.
I'm nearly as big as this white thing.

Look, you can see our 'ouse from 'ere Dad!

Did you say it gets steep down 'ere? Like steps?
Come on Dad. Keep up.

'Ow did yer get past me Dad. WAIT!

Ok, now let me get in front so you don't get lost.
Keep up Dad.

I like that little 'ouse Dad. We could live there couldn't we, it's as big as the van. Bet there's lots o' yummy sheep shit in there.

Come on Dad. Keep up.
Y'know what you always say to me, "We've come out fer a walk ... not a stand."

Right ... you just stay there for a minute while I wash me fur. And don't run away. Sit!

Right, that's better.
Now let's get 'ome for a Jumbone.
And stop messin' about tekkin pictures.
Yer've seen it all before anyway.
Come on Dad!
If yer good ya can 'ave some more coffee.

Ee ... that was fun.
I love you Dad!