Thursday, March 11, 2010

Castle Crag

Pic 1 - High Spy from Castle Crag
Pic 2 - On the summit of Castle Crag
Pic 3 - Borrowdale.

I recently paid a visit to Castle Crag up north in Cumbria. Although it is not classed as a mountain with it only being 951 ft in height I have to say that is one of the most beautiful I have climbed in the Lake District . It is quite impressive in appearance displaying forest, rock face and beautiful pasture on its lower slopes, it also has a number of caves with the most famous being Millican Dalton's Cave named after Millican Dalton , the eccentric and self styled "Professor of Adventure" whom used the cave as his summer home from the 1920's until shortly before he died in 1947. It was originally called High Hows Quarry and it lies to the west of the beautiful and crystal clear waters of the River Derwent which winds its way down from Great Gable via Seathwaite Fell. I parked in the lovely hamlet of Stonethwaite and walked the short distance along the river bank with the sheep and cattle until I came to the footpath that leads up the southern slope, it's a fairly easy climb which took me to the top of another hill that afforded wonderful views back into the valley of Borrowdale , such rich and fertile land. From this point I noticed some awesome wild camping spots with cool views to wake up too. As I climbed the sty to make the final approach to the summit, my mate Lee spotted one of our rare native Red Squirrels having his breakfast so we spent some time watching him before eventually climbing to the top of the crag itself. The final approach is through some massive slate scree banks where a zig zag path has been created up to the top, from this point you get a magnificent view looking onto High Spy which appears to be vertical as you face it. Once on top of Castle Crag you are presented with such wonderful views down into Borrowdale and also North over Derwent Water to Keswick and the big lump of Skiddaw at it's rear with some of the higher peaks still holding onto their snow. On top of the crag there is a war memorial dedicated to the men of Borrowdale whom fell in WW1

The day I climbed it was quite pleasant and warm although a tad cloudy so I managed to bag Castle Crag and have a wander down the Langstrath Valley on the other side of Stonethwaite before the weather deteriorated. The highlight of the day however was not Mr Red Squirrel nor the magnificent scenery but a Robin Redbreast on the top of Castle Crag whom flew right up to my feet and allowed me to share my sandwich with him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Northumberland's Coast.

Now when it comes to England's coast, which includes the isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles , you find yourself with around 6261 miles of it to choose from , which is as they say in the North East , 'a canny few like'. My favourite places on England's coast are the Scilly Isles although I have not yet had the pleasure of a visit yet but hope to do so soon along with Cornwall and Northumberland which I am quite familiar with. Cornwall is vastly different from Northumberland in that it is certainly warmer but also quite rocky with beautiful fishing villages and secluded bays. Northumberland on the other hand has quite a low lying coastline in many parts giving access to wide golden sandy beaches with vast expanses of sand dunes and a lot less people. But for me one of the greater attractions of Northumberland's coast is its castles. I love the Northumberland coast and would recommend it to you, why not have fish n chips at Seahouses, take the boat out to the Farne Islands from the little harbour, there are plenty of good hotels, inns and caravan sites to base yourself in along the coast. My best beaches along this coast are Bamburgh, Alnmouth, Dudle Bay, Embleton Bay, Druridge Bay. Here are a few pictures to captivate you.

Picture 1 - Embleton Bay with Dunstaburgh Castle
Picture 2 - Alnmouth
Picture 3 - Bamburgh Beach with castle.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Aldeburgh in Sunny Suffolk

Picture 1 Beautiful Aldburgh cottages
Picture 2 A perfect day but this fisherman is having the day off.
Picture 3 The large shell with Aldeburgh in the distance.
Aldeburgh in Suffolk has been a port since Roman times however the Roman area is now under the sea. It is a delightful typical English seaside village with a beautiful long stretch of shingle beach where the village fishing fleet finds rest when it is not at sea. The boats are launched from the beach itself and you can buy fresh fish from the fishermen's huts straight from the sea. The village itself is quite small but perfect for a quiet weekend away with some lovely shops and places to eat alongside some traditional English cottages and a nice pub. Following along the beach towards the north one finds a rather stunning shell sculpture made of steel embedded into the shingle which provides a great place to picnic and it is perfectly situated to enjoy other attractions nearby which will follow this entry. England is cool

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Honister Via ferreta

I have just recently been up to Honister in England's beautiful Lake District and completed the Via Ferreta at . It was a fantastic weekend as I took 9 workmates with me most of whom had not done anything quite like it before. We spent two nights at the Tan Hill Inn which in itself was good fun but the day at the mine was excellent. The day started with a tour of the mine which is still actually working and producing the best slate in the world it was also interesting to hear how difficult it was during the Victorian era with lads as young as 8 working in these mines. We are so fortunate these days aren't we? The highlight of the day however was doing the Via Ferreta up Fleetwith Pike to a height of around 2300 ft . What is a VF? A via ferrata (Italian for "iron road") is a mountain route which is equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges. The use of these allows otherwise isolated routes to be joined to create longer routes which are accessible to people with a wide range of climbing abilities.
The VF at Honister at the moment is the only one so far in England and Great Britain and it is a beauty, it also has a spiffing zip wire which takes you 80 metres across the crag to a quite vertical section of VF on the other side. I will not go on to much about the VF as you can see the photos by clicking this link and then clicking 'view slideshow' as well as check out the site.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

England & Britains highest pub

Whilst up north after a spot of climbing in the Cumbrian mountains I decided to deviate from the A1 when travelling back to London and head over to the Pennine Way for a swift half in the highest pub in Old Blighty the Tan Hill Inn. The Tan Hill situated at 1,732 ft above sea level is a regular stop off for Sunday dinner on our Dove Cragging weekends away before we return home. A brief history of the Inn is as follows: It is built on land described by William the bastard whilst compiling the domesday book in around 1085 as being a wasteland. There are coal mining records on the site that date from at least the 12th Century A.D. and possibly earlier. The coal was a poor quality crow coal which gave off a lot of soot when burnt. It was not suitable for the steam engines that were to arrive in the Industrial Revolution - the superior coal from the County Durham pits was used instead to fuel the trains on the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The crow coal was used to fuel the lime kilns of Arkengarthdale - an environmental disaster, not just because of the pollution but also due to the kilns using wood, stripping Swaledale of the trees that grew in the more sheltered areas. Mixed with peat, this crow coal can be banked up over night and after a bit of poking in the morning can be rekindled. The seams were only four feet (120cm) thick but the mines under Tan Hill were extensive, justifying the need for a pub there. Horses would line up with their carts waiting to be loaded with coal for Reeth and Swaledale while the miners would sing and get drunk in the pub The inn was not on it's own all the time. Miners' cottages stood near the inn until they were demolished with the closure of the mines in the early 20th Century. Today the Inn is a haven of warmth and tranquility on the windy exposed Pennine Way where you can enjoy a pint or three in comfortable surroundings with a roaring fire, a dog & a cat and sometimes a few ducklings and even a sheep.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Looking for a secret cave.

I like to spend the odd night out in the mountains the most recent being in the Priest's Hole Cave on Dove Crag in June and September last year. This year there are two more caves to spend the night in. One is on Castle Crag called Millicans Daltons cave and the other is a cave which is known to only a handful of people non of whom will confirm its location but whom have left clues in their writings and photo's. The cave is situated on a crag and it is entered by a small hole but once inside it is well fitted out. The story is it was kitted out by a Leeds university lecturere whom was building a little hideaway for himself but it was discovered by some rock scramblers. The few photos of the cave show it to have 3 wooden berths for your sleep bags, a fireplace with a built in fleu and a storage cave for supplies. Everything you need for a night in the mountains. The cave came to my attention when I spent the night in the Priest's Hole last September with my mate Spetsnatz. We met a monkey hanger out with his dog and he joined us for a brew and during the conversation he asked us if we had ever heard of the $%*# cave on @#& Crag? We hadn't but following 4 months of gathering information, examining the pictures for clues and the fact Trail magazine confirmed it's existence Spetsnatz and I went on a recce to find it. I can not mention any place names of where we parked or climbed as we too want this place to remain a secret and retain it's mysterious identity. As it happens we did not find it but we know we were on the right crag on the right mountain. If you were to enter this cave name into Google you would only get three entries and they report that you could be standing by the enterance and yet non the wiser to it being there.The snow didn't help us in our search but we will be back in the spring with two more clues and confirmation as to what height it can be found within.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Whitby and chip shops.

Picture 1 Coming down the Abbey steps into Whitby to find a chip shop
Picture 2 The Abbey and St Mary's church above Whitby
Picture 3 St Marys church on the hill and replica of Cooks ship the Endeavour
Picture 4 Whitby from St Mary's churchyard
Picture 5 Whitbt Abbey ruins
Everyone knows England's national dish is fish 'n' chips, preferably wrapped up in a newspaper and smothered in salt 'n' vinegar. The trouble is most people whom visit England from oversea's only see London and the South East of the country. Now whilst the south east has many wonderful treasures for the visitor to enjoy, it is lacking in good chip shops. I speak from experience in saying that London has some terrible chip shops in the tourist area's which leave the visitor wondering what all the fuss is about. In saying that however,if you visit Hainalt Road in Leytonstone East London there is a very nice chippy ran by a Chinese chap called Michael which I would recommend. The best chip shops in England are generally found in the north and one town with it's fair share of excellent chip shops is a small Yorkshire town situated at the mouth of the River Esk named Whitby. Whitby is a pleasant little harbour town famous for a number of things but mostly for Captain Cook whom was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer whom was the first to map Newfoundland in Canada prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during which he achieved the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Also on offer in Whitby situated high above the town are the remains of it's abbey built in 657 AD and destroyed by Danish Vikings in 867 along with pleasant beaches, narrow olde English cobbled streets, great local shops and as stated earlier, fantastic chippy's.
Whitby offers the visitor more than history; its situation is superb in the middle of one of Britain’s most delightful stretches of coast, with cliffs and fine bays interspersed with picturesque fishing villages. The noble Abbey may be a beautiful ruin, but the Parish Church of St Mary, dating partly from 1110, and reached by 199 steps cut in the cliff, is still very much a part of the town.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Stadium of Light & Joan's Cafe

1 - Joan's cafe outside the stadium
2 - The Wearmouth Colliery wheel with Bethany, Zahava, Sammy Jo & Bailey.
3 - My two young lion cubs in the Stadium of Light
4 - My two young lion cubs before a friendly with Juventus

What am I doing showing you all these wonderful scenic and historic sites in England without first showing you what I think is the coolest place in England. The Stadium of Light in Sunderland in England's beautiful north east. As a young lad growing up in Durham I would watch Sunderland every home game at their old stadium Roker Park I was first taken there in 1976 by my Grandad although I had been introduced to his beloved Sunderland as a toddler prior to their 1973 F.A cup victory over Leeds United at Wembley. His team became my team the only difference being that when he was a youth Sunderland were winning everything, in my lifetime I have known them win the F.A cup once with plenty of promotion and relegation battles thrown in. Non the less the motto of my Grandads regiment the Durham Light Infantry is ' faithful' and that is what I am to my team. I live in the south of England now having moved away from Durham city in 1995 but my two young daughters are now keen Sunderland fans and I like to take them to a match or two when we travel up to visit Grandma in Durham. Sunderland moved from their old stadium Roker Park to the Stadium of Light in 1997 and although I have many memories of being frozen by the winds coming in from the North Sea into Roker whilst watching Stan Cummings, Gary Rowell & Marco Gabiadinni amongst many other Sunderland legends I much prefer the new stadium and its facilities although I miss being on the sea front.The Stadium of Light is on the banks of the River Wear and was erected on the site of the old Monkwearmouth deep sea colliery and it has become the cathedral of the city as Sunderland does not have an actual cathedral to correctly call itself a city. It's capacity is 49,000 with plans to raise it to 66,000 when the club establishes itself as one of the English greats again hopefully this will not be too long. With the stadium being built on the site of the old colliery the club has incorporated some links to it on their new crest which replaced the fans favourite in 1997. The old crest had a ship on it signifying that Sunderland was a shipbuilding town , it was at one point the biggest shipbuilding town in the world but with the decline of ship building in England Sunderland ceased to function with this grand title. In 1997 with the new stadium, Sunderland released it's new crest, it is divided into four quarters; the upper right and lower left featured the traditional red and white of Sunderland. The upper left section features the Penshaw Monument and the lower right section shows the Wearmouth Bridge. A colliery wheel lies at the top of the crest, to commemorate County Durham's mining history, and also the land the Stadium of Light lies on, which was formerly Monkwearmouth Colliery. The crest also contains two lions, the black cats of Sunderland and a banner reading the club's motto Consectatio Excellentiae which means In pursuit of excellence. Prior to WW2 Sunderland were league champions six times: in 1892, 1893, 1895, 1902, 1913, and most recently in 1936, when they became the last team wearing striped shirts to win the league. They were elected into The Football League in 1890, becoming the first team to join after the league's birth in 1888. Sunderland stayed in the top flight until 1958, a record which only Arsenal, in 1992, surpassed. They have a long-standing rivalry with local team Newcastle United whom are known by Sunderland fans as 'the skunks' because of their black and white striped shirts.The Tyne-Wear derby has been contested since 1898 but the rivalry goes back to the English civil war when Newcastle was a royalist city whilst Sunderland was a parliamentarian town. A Davy lamp monument stands outside the stadium, as a reminder of the Monkwearmouth Colliery that the stadium was built on. The mascot of Sunderland A.F.C is the black cat there is a long historical link between Black Cats and Sunderland; including the "Black Cat Battery", a battery gun based on the River Wear. Raine's "Eye Plan" of c.1785–90 shows two of the (ultimately four) gun batteries on the south side of the Wear which guarded the rivermouth during the Napoleonic wars.This battery site would later evolve into Militia Barracks during the course of the nineteenth century. An annotation to the 1984 published version of Raine's Eye Plan states that one of the two batteries was named the John Paul Jones Battery after the American naval hero who sailed down the English East coast in 1779 with a squadron of warships intending to disrupt the coal trade. In 1805 the battery was manned by local militia, the Sunderland Loyal Volunteers, one of whom was a cooper by trade named Joshua Dunn. He, it was said, "fled from the howling of an approaching black cat, convinced by the influence of the full moon and a warming dram or two that it was the devil incarnate". From that point onwards the John Paul Jones Battery was known as the Black Cat Battery. Sunderland fans or Mackems as they are known have proved to be the noisiest fans in the English football league for three years in a row in a study carried out by phone number service 118118 ,they came out on top in terms of the sound level and frequency of their chants. The average peak volume measured at The Stadium of Light was 129.2 decibels – almost as loud as a jet. Why not come along next time your in the area tickets can be purchased from When you visit the stadium you will find Joan's cafe I visit here for a pre match meal every time I attend a game, it's not posh it's a traditional working class environment that the miners & shipbuilders of bygone times would have approved of , the food and friendly service is legendary & I will be in there this coming Saturday with my young lion cubs and their two cousins for the West Ham match. Haway the Lads.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

England's white Cliffs

Picture 1- Looking east from the Lifeboat Cottages of Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap in the distance.
Picture 2- Looking west from the chalky beach of Birling Gap towards Cuckmere Haven.

On the south east coast of England you will find mile after mile of beautiful white chalk cliffs, these have become symbolic of England's separation and independence from mainland of Europe and are often referred to as the White cliffs of Dover or Beachy Head however they stretch far beyond these two locations. Recently I took a short drive down to my favourite part of the white cliffs in order to walk along them, enjoy the views and partake of a swift half in a rather nice pub in the area. I managed to do all three and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I parked at the small settlement of Birling Gap which is just west of Beachy Head and walked along the beach in a westerly direction towards Cuckmere Haven. It was only about a mile in distance clambering over shingle, rocks and large chalk boulders smoothed by the sea but it was awe inspiring with massive white chalk cliffs to my right towering above me and an English Channel tide rapidly rising to my left. As you can imagine I did this part of the walk with some urgency.
Arriving at Cuckmere Haven where the River Cuckmere and it's canal overflow enter the sea one can wade over to the lifeboat cottages on the other side depending on the tide and depth of course and take in it's most famous view. From the cottages you can follow the canal for around 1/2 a mile inland spotting kingfisher, stork and various other species of bird until you reach a very nice pub called the Golden Galleon. It has a lovely log fire, serves fine food and has a pleasant garden where one can sit under an apple tree whilst enjoying the tipple of their choice.
Once refreshed you can head back to Cuckmere Haven by crossing the Exceat bridge and following the winding River Cuckmere back to the shingle beach spotting WW2 sea defences along the way. Arriving here you turn east climbing up the grassy banks to the top of the cliffs as you follow the clifftops all the way back to Birling Gap remembering not to get too close to the edge.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dove Crag & The Priests Hole

1- Looking up to the Stangs.
2- View from the cave to Brothers Water.
3- View from the back of the cave.
4- Looking up to Dove Crag from Hartsop Hall
Dove Crag is a peak situated in the Patterdale area of Cumbria’s Lakeland. It is only 2603 ft high but is blessed with many beautiful features one of which is a cave known as ‘The Priests Hole’ that can be found 2/3 of the way up on it’s north east facing crag. The cave is a popular place for fell walkers to bed down for the night as it provides good shelter with fantastic views towards the Angletarn Pikes, High Raise and many other Lakeland peaks.
To get to the cave however one must scramble up Dove Crag’s north east face but it is well worth the effort. Once in the cave you will find a metal strong box which is generally stocked with goodies that previous climbers have left behind for you , when I arrived I found in the box a bottle of whisky with some candles, raisins, gas canisters and an emergency sleeping blanket wrapped in an emergency bag as well as a bag of self heating food. There is also a visitors book for climbers to leave their signature, reflections & doodles which provides an interesting read.
I ascended Dove Crag from the route Wainwright gives you starting from Hartsop Hall following Hartsop Beck through a very scenic area known as the Stangs , The scenery was of the of lushest green patterned with rock, crag, bracken & a small wood that actually produces Hazelnuts in October. Hartsop Beck provided some wonderful waterfalls and tranquil area’s for one to bed down for the night weather permitting.
Once you reach the area known as Hunsett Cove the ascent becomes quite steep but the National Trust has provided a path using rock & scree as improvised steps, Dove Crag towers above you on your left until you reach a small tarn where you can traverse south along the crag up to the Priest Hole where you can crack open s swift one and take in the magnificent scenery below. Dove Crag remains one of my favourite climbs and I can’t wait to do it again but next time explore a lot more of it’s surrounding area, I may even carry my portable barbeque up there, if your in the vicinity and you get a wiff of honey & mustard sauce climb up and join me. ( Bring a bottle)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

England's Highest.

Scafell Pike pronounced Sca Fell Pike is England’s highest mountain. It is a bulk of a mountain and in my opinion not as attractive as somewhere like Haystacks or Great Gable, however it does have attractive
aspects to it, my own favourite being on the way up to the summit from Wasdale Head, about 1/3 of the way up you come to an open expanse of scree and cliff known as Hollow Stones. This is a fantastic place to bivvy
down for the night with a range of overhanging boulders for shelter. The summit is not visible from this point one must continue past Hollow stones by either Mickledore on the right approach (my favourite) as it provides one with a nice little scramble up a cliff before turning left and and following through the boulders to the summit, or the approach to the left of Hollow stones via Lingmel Col which is a winding path through rock & scree. Once on the summit you (depending on the weather) are subject to wonderful views of Great Gable, Crinkle Crags, Scafell , Bowfell even Skiddaw & Blencathra with Derwent Water. I ascended from Wasdale head via Hollow Stones and returned to Wasdale head via Broad Crag, Esk Hause and Sprinkling Tarn. From Sprinkling Tarn to Wasdale Head I followed Lingmell Beck which gave majestic views to my right of the Napes high above me on
Great Gable. Right at the end of this walk is of course the Wasdale Head Inn.
The photo's are from top to bottom. 1.The view from Hollow Stones of Pulpit Rock & Mickledore.2.Looking over Piers Gill onto Great gable, the bank of scree down the centre of Great Gable is called Great Hell Gate,I came down this when I did Great Gable (mostly on my bum). 3.Me on top of Skafell Pike with Skafell behind me. 3.Pulpit Rock from Mickledore..

Friday, March 28, 2008

Staithes Car Park

Recently I visited the small hamlet of Staithes on the Cleveland/North Yorkshire border and what a day to visit. It was during a period when little old England was getting hammered by strong winds from the Atlantic, however the wind kind of enhanced my visit and added to the enjoyment of being there especially with regard to the waves that the North Sea was sending against the rocks and breakwater of Staithes harbour. Staithes is a seaside village which is divided between Yorkshire & Cleveland by Roxby Beck with about 90% of Staithes being in North Yorkshire. In times past it was one of the largest and most productive fishing centres in England by the North Sea, however nowadays it is largely a tourist destination due to it's attractive olde England appearance. Staithes is noted for its sheltered harbour, bounded by high cliffs and two long breakwaters, a mile to the north is Boulby cliff which is the highest cliff in England. The cliffs around Staithes also are popular with sea birds and it can get a bit noisy. Staithes population has dwindled due to a lot of the cottages being owned by people from Leeds and York for example and during the winter it can appear like a ghost town with few visitors but this is a great time to visit if you can handle the stormy weather. Staithes still maintains its tradition and many of the local women still wear their Staithes bonnets (some can still be bought today in the Gift Shop in Staithes!) for the annual nightgown parade, and the Fisher Men's choir is still going strong along with local participation in the local RNLI Lifeboat. In 1745-1746, Staithes's most famous son (born in Marton near Middlesbrough), the young James Cook worked in Staithes as a grocer's apprentice where he first gained his passion for the sea. Later he moved to Whitby where he joined the Royal Navy. William Sanderson's shop, where Cooky worked, was destroyed by the sea, but parts were recovered and incorporated into "Captain Cook's Cottage". A local family has lived here for a number of generations. Should you find yourself in Staithes make sure you visit the Royal George or the Cod & Lobster for a pint of the local and a bite to eat. One last thing Staithes is famous for , it has the most dangerous car park in England as can be seen by my picture. When I was there a local resident by the name of Sandra climbed down to investigate this strange sight. ( I suspect she's a menber of the Royal Marines Reserve but the secret is out now)