Sunday, 19 May 2013

You know you live in a hiker's house when...

As I was surveying our hallway while strapping myself into my hiking boots the thought occurred to me that the homes of hikers contain some unique features.   Perhaps you'll recognise some of them. (Of course it could just be us...)


 1.  The number of flasks/ water bottles etc. outnumber the number of residents by about 4:1 and, although there are a multitude of drinking vessels in every size shape & dimension to suit every conceivable scenario, you generally use the same 2 or 3 each time.



2.  The number of waterproofs outnumber the number of residents by about 6:1.  Lurking in the cupboard will be a range of garments, some of which will have now truly earned the title "vintage" and yet we are still unable to part with them.  "Might come in handy for visitors" is our usual excuse.


3.  Somewhere near to the waterproofs will be a basket or drawer containing enough gloves and hats to keep Blacks going for a few weeks; evidence of our continuing quest for "the perfect pair".



4. The hallway will generally be a muddy obstacle course of boots and doormats.  Yes I know I'm meant to put them away, but they need to dry first.  Honest.


5. Talking of drying, when planning the layout of your bathroom, "space to dry the waterproofs" will be a consideration.  Shower rails were not meant for shower curtains alone...


6.  And while we're in the bathroom, the following items will have pride of place in your medicine cabinet.


7.  Behind a door somewhere, probably in your spare room, lurks a space designated as "rucksack corner".  This is a space where rucksacks can hide away, biding their time until 2am when they topple over and slide down the wall, knock the door closed and scare the living daylights out of you.


8. Your "snack cupboard" will contain enough chocolate and high energy bars to give your dentist nightmares for a week.  Mixed fruit and nuts will also feature on your shopping list and in your rucksack, but will probably only be eaten when the chocolate has run out.


9.  One of your book shelves will look a lot like this (on a good day, after I've tidied).


While another will look more like this. (For long cold winter evenings.)


10.  And your magazine rack will be overrun with walking and outdoors magazines chock full of walks you plan on doing.  And best keep all the back issues too just in case; though when you come to look for that perfect walk you remember seeing, you won't recall just which magazine it was in, or when, and will hunt through the entire pile muttering something about "sorting this lot out, one day."










Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Go Go Gadget Gardener!

Technically a weed I suppose but...
I've been looking back over a few blogs this morning and realised I've not done a general round up on the whole "new life" thing for a while, which is a good thing really as it means I've been too busy either working, having fun or, usually, both.  Both writing and training are keeping me busy and, more importantly, keeping my bank manager happy.

As spring has finally sprung the garden has been demanding my attention.  You may remember a year or so ago I was having a minor rant about Peter Mayle and the idyllic life he portrayed in his books, well 12 months on and with more time to keep an eye on it, the garden is gradually beginning to behave itself.  We've added a number of plants to try and bring a little colour to the place (lots of evergreens and not many flowers before), and have tamed the ones we inherited.

We've also installed a vegetable plot which was hard work to create but is now all planted with us eagerly awaiting our first crop of home grown goodies.  I spent most of yesterday attacking the weeds in the garden and decided that gardening would become a whole lot easier if gardeners could undergo a "Six Million Dollar Man" (or woman) makeover.  Please feel free to add your own, but my ideas so far are:
Wannabe blackcurrants.


  • Telescopic arms - to allow you to prune high bushes/ trees without the need to balance precariously on the step ladders whilst wielding a very sharp implement.
  • Gadget hands which, at the push of a button, could switch between trowel, secateurs, fork etc.
  • The ability to hover thus allowing you to reach that annoying weed at the back without trampling the newly forked soil. (OK, the telescopic arms would allow this too, but hovering would be WAY more fun!)
  • A rubber back, so you could spend the day working in the garden without having to spend the evening engulfed in the smell of Deep Heat.
  • A garment that has a waterproof back but is non waterproof elsewhere.  This would allow you to remain outside during light showers without having a cold soggy back for the rest of the day. It would also come in handy when working under bushes after the aforementioned rain shower.
  • An invisible soundproof bubble; not to shut the outside world out (though that would have its advantages) but to protect the outside world from my inane chatter as I tell the weeds off, chat to the plants and converse with the birds.
  • Foam knees that feel no pain.  How can one tiny stone hurt so much?
  • Gyroscopic balance; particularly useful for rockeries.
  • "Weed vision" which will allow me to instantly differentiate between weeds and "oh, maybe that's where I planed those poppies"
  • A telekinetic ability to transport my bucket of weeds to the compost heap without me having to move from my finely balance spot.
With the exception of "sapling watch" (we are overrun with ash & sycamore seedlings) I shall now be taking a few days off from the hard chores to allow my back to recover.  All I need now is a spot of hot weather so I can enjoy a G&T on the patio... (And you thought my wish for telescopic arms was far fetched!)

The heathers have been particularly pretty this year.

Have always loved my Pieris.

A "Rockery" or a "Bouldery"?

Apple blossom - a magnet for birds.

Ferns.  We have no shortage of ferns.

Think is is a bluebell before it chimes.

Ornamental quince. Lots of quince jelly this year!

Wild Garlic. Less of a weed and more of a salad ingredient.

My favourite garden visitor.




Saturday, 11 May 2013

Find the time to Stand and Stare.

Riggindale Valley


When I first posted the pictures Steve took of the Golden Eagle at Riggindale I mentioned to a friend (Ray @scafellhikehow long we'd sat waiting to see it and he reminded me of the poem "Leisure" by WH Davies, which I have loved for many years.  

The poem has stuck with me this week as I've reflected on our walk around Riggindale; while we were sitting in the sun for the best part of 2 hours only one person paused nearby and peered hopefully into the valley and they were gone in a few minutes.  We saw a few other folk up on Kidsty Pike but none of them stayed longer than 5 minutes tops and by 4pm we had the entire valley to ourselves.

48 hours later I was in central London with thousands of people racing in every direction.  I don't dislike London at all, it has some spectacular architecture and hidden corners, I'm just not very good with the the crowds of people, always in a hurry and seemingly oblivious to what's around them.

WH Davies doesn't suggest you "pause and glance for a moment" he asks you to "stand and stare".  Take time out of the rushing around to truly appreciate your surroundings. How many of us have asked "Is it May already?  Hasn't the year flown by?" Life has a habit of doing that, racing past us as if it was never going to run out.  So, in the middle of the chaos of modern life, may I invite you to pour a drink, put your feet up and stare at a selection of photographs from two quite different places:  Riggindale and Gray's Inn Road, London.

Leisure - WH Davies




WHAT is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?






No time to stand beneath the boughs,

And stare as long as sheep and cows:



No time to see, when woods we pass,


Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:



No time to see, in broad daylight,


Streams full of stars, like skies at night:



No time to turn at Beauty's glance,


And watch her feet, how they can dance:



No time to wait till her mouth can


Enrich that smile her eyes began?




A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.







Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Howling Howgills


The Howgills

It seems like ages since I wrote up a walk on here, we're so busy walking and writing up hikes for everyone else that this poor little blog has been feeling a little neglected, so, with good weather forecast for yesterday we decided to tackle somewhere new and headed for the Howgills.

My first mission was to establish which county they were in.  It seems most of them are in Cumbria but they do appear to straddle the border into Yorkshire.  Certainly all of the way markers around Cautley Spout were Yorkshire Dales markers.  Whomever they "belong" to they're incredibly pretty and have long caught our eye as we've made our way north on the M6.

We parked up near the Cross Keys Temperance Inn; a 400 year old building with an interesting history.  It used to be a licensed bar but in 1902 the landlord drown while trying to save an inebriated customer from the nearby river.  Relatives of the customer then bought the bar at auction before reselling it with the licence to sell alcohol removed from the deeds, since which time it has been a Temperance Inn.  They serve food and soft drinks though when we popped our heads around the door it was already rather packed and, temperance bars not being my natural habitat, we moved on.

The path along Cautley Holme Beck is an open and pretty ramble; perfect for families and if you're after an easy stroll with stunning views then this is a great spot.  The path winds along to the base of the falls with stunning views back across the valley.
Approach to Cautley Spout

Frogspawn ponds along the way




Cautley Spout

View from Cautley Spout



Once at the base of the falls the path steepens considerably and it's a sharp but enjoyable hike to the top of Cautley Spout, Englands highest waterfall with a drop of 198m.  The excellent views all around are the perfect excuse for regular stops to catch your breath.  Once at the top of the falls the path continues to rise, though much more gently, leading you out onto the main summit route to The Calf and it was at this point, as we were blown sideways, that we christened them the Howling Howgills, though it turns out we're not the first people to do that!





Around you tempting ridge walks disappear in every direction; it's the sort of place I could happily potter around on for days at a time.  To start off with we headed north along White Fell Head, Bush Howe and then onto the cairns at Fell Head.  The views in every direction are stunning; the Lakeland Fells, Ingleborough, the Yorkshire Dales and even Morecambe Bay away in the distance.

Retracing our steps back to The Calf we continued onwards past Bram Rigg Top to Calders; from here there are clear views along the valley to the Kent Estuary and the viaduct at Arnside.  Heading away from Calders along the fence boundary towards Great Dummacks the going got a little boggy but the suction from the bogs at least gave us a little purchase in the face of the howling gales.

View from the top of Cautley Crag

Arriving at the top of Cautley Crag the path is narrow and not for the fainthearted; the crags drop away dramatically to the river valley far below, but the views were absolutely stunning as we made our way back towards Cautley Spout.  I can honestly say that with the wind blowing hard against our faces and the sun high in the sky it really was the perfect afternoon to be out on the fells.