Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Pitlochry

Pitlochry is the new Cornwall.

Tonight the picnic tables were out, alfresco dining was de rigeur for the early diners.

It was 11C when we left Timperley; it was 20C when we arrived here. A good call!

Before dinner we visited the salmon ladder, which enables around 5,400 salmon and sea trout every year to make it up past the 17 metre dam to spawn beyond Loch Faskally. There are 34 stages to the ladder, with a couple of larger resting pools en route.

Our evening was spent at the 300 year old Moulin Hotel, next door to the brewery that produces thirst quenching Braveheart Ale. Here 15 out of the 18 victims carefully selected by Graham and Tove for this week's activities, endured a softening up session, courtesy of the hotel's mouth watering menu.

The downside was a ten minute walk back to Pitlochry in pouring rain. Shame we left our waterproofs in the car....

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Thursday 7 June 2012 - Bleaklow

First of all, I’ve been informed by Heather T-S that Grant Cunliffe’s body was found on 7 June in the Braeriach area, as the snow line finally recedes in the Cairngorms.  You may recall a posting in January that I made at Heather’s request.  It’s very sad news, but at least his family can now grieve properly.  Our thoughts are with them, and with all his friends.

Andy and Gareth near Grains in the Water

Now then, Gareth and Andy had been camping out on Bleaklow.  Despite a rather dire weather forecast I popped out to meet them, as Obi 1P (last seen on a November backpacking trip with Mick and Gayle), who I wanted to borrow again, was languishing in Andy’s car.

I left Polly at 7.30 on the top of the Snake Pass, where the Pennine Way takes on a rather strange look.

The Pennine Way by the A57 road

Turning the other way, I wondered briefly as to my sanity, but the flowers were nice, and the plovers certainly noticed me.

The path towards Bleaklow

‘Welcome to the High Peak’ muttered a runner as he breezed past.  (Or was I imagining that?) 

Hope Woodlands Moor

The runner was one of only five people I saw on the hill today.  Two of the others were Andy and Gareth, who took some tracking down.

I was at Bleaklow Head by 8.30.  It’s a bleak sort of place and I didn’t feel like a long wait.  I knew that they were camping at Grinah Stones, some way off, thanks to Gareth’s ‘buddy beacon’.

Bleaklow Head

So, with the unexpected benefit of a phone signal, we arranged to meet at Bleaklow Stones.  We arrived there within a few minutes of each other, but Andy and Gareth didn’t think these were Bleaklow Stones, so they moved off to an obscure map reference just before I arrived and taunted me from there.

Bleaklow Stones

It didn’t help that I’ve still not learnt how to use the Satmap GPS, so I bumbled around, already having inadvertently turned 180 degrees on the path from Bleaklow Head to Bleaklow Stones.  It was that sort of day, I think Andy and Gareth did something similar.

Anyway, I zigzagged my way to their obscure location, half expecting to find an envelope with directions to my next ‘clue’.  But there they were, a jolly pair of backpackers in the rain, which was the dominant feature of the day’s weather.

At last - Andy and Gareth in the mist

After making our way back to Bleaklow Head, the navigation became very easy for the rest of the walk.  We simply headed back down the Pennine Way, turning left down Hern Clough to Grains in the Water, near where the dynamic duo are pictured in the top image.  Beyond there, Alport Dale narrows and the path moves high above the left bank.  It’s a beautiful dale, even in the rain.

Andy found a little difficulty in staying upright, banging his head and his knee at one point.  So G brewed up for him and all was well again.

A brew stop in Alport Dale

Andy’s spring had been re-wound, and off he went again as we contoured gently past Over Wood Moss and along the delightful contouring path across Alport Moor.

Alport Dale on a wet day

Opposite Grindlesgrain Tor, our route switched to the heights of Westend Moor, climbing steeply but briefly beside Glethering Clough.

Gareth and Andy on the pull up to Westend Moor

Andy was suffering…

Hard work for Andy

Soon we were up at the trig point on Westend Moor.

The trig point on Westend Moor

By now we were rather damp.  It really was raining quite hard.  Perhaps a little harder than on the first Sunday of the TGO Challenge.  It was certainly more wetting, perhaps because I’d deployed an old set of waterproofs for this day walk.

Cameras were stashed before they drowned, and we made our way along to Alport Castles where a left turn took us down the excellent path to reach Andy’s car at the hairpin bend near Fox’s Piece.

The Ladybower Inn then provided real ale and a large plate of chips, which went down very well.  In the next alcove a group of farmers had assembled to listen to a fascinating presentation on management of the Peak District moorland.  It seems that much good is being done, with new techniques revitalising the land.  We left feeling that there is much hope for the future wellbeing of the magnificent landscape and the flora and fauna, not to mention the crops and livestock, that are being helped to flourish in their moorland habitat.  One slide showed an area where there had previously been hardly any skylarks changing to the extent that their numbers are now uncountable!

Thanks for your company, and to Andy for the lift back up to Polly, and Gareth for the loan of Obi 1P, and if you want a bit of a laugh you can chuckle at my wanderings, as recorded by the Garmin gadget:

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

SWCP 2012 - Durlstone Head to South Haven Point, Poole (Monday 4 June - The End of a Long Walk)

Waking to overcast skies, we were pleased to find that overnight rain had passed and we would enjoy yet another dry day on the trail.

Numbers increased again today, with Colin, the original organiser of these trips, arriving with Simon at Primrose Cottage. Meanwhile, Sue, Andrew and I picked up Gaynor and Jacqui from Ammonite B+B. G and A then strolled into Swanage whilst Sue and I provided Jacqui with a tour of the Bee Orchid beds that she'd missed yesterday.

Somehow the whole group eventually managed to coagulate - for the record:

Organiser Sue and David
Stalwarts Betty and David
Sisters Jacqui and Gill
Gaynor and Hilde
Liz and Rachel
Martin, Sue and Andrew from 'up north'
Nelia and Jonathan
Colin and Simon

The very scenic stroll around Durlston Head got the three of us off to a great start, though I think others may have short-cut this section. After admiring the orchids and the sea birds - mainly guillemots and gulls, plus a few scavenging jackdaws - we found ourselves back at the car park 50 minutes after setting off. A fine walk to Peveril Point (pictured - top) and its National Coastwatch Institution lookout point maintained the quality of today's outing. Then it was a stroll along the sea front to Swanage and a morning coffee.

The rest of the party had long since moved on from here, so we continued as a threesome out of the seaside town, past beach huts whose occupants were sporting Royal Family masks. It's QE11's diamond jubilee weekend.

The rocky spikes of Old Harry soon beckoned, beyond a golden buttercup meadow (pictured - middle) and by the time we reached the headland (pictured - bottom) known as Handfast Point we had caught up with half of the rest of our party. Lunch was taken here, in a zone of wide tracks, vertiginous cliffs and whizzing mountain bikes, whilst the vanguard had moved on towards Studland for lunch on the beach.

Wonderful wild flower meadows on the stroll to Studland sported a variety of species, including broomrapes and lilies - providing Sue and me with a foretaste of our forthcoming Alpine adventures.

From Studland the SWCP ends in style, with a stroll along the beach all the way to its conclusion at South Haven Point, where one sign indicates the start of the classic trail and another sign alerts one to the fact that it's 650 miles of coastal walking to reach Minehead.

Today we traversed the beach soon after high tide, so the sand was firm enough to grant us an easy passage. There's a nudist zone where today a lone elderly man played (frisby) with himself in a rather ostentatious manner. Not a pretty sight!

We all finally met up at the end of a walk that only two of our party, Sue and David E, had actually completed in full. Congratulations were in order. And self-timed photos. Then a tanned gent turned up and watched as many of us fumbled to find our old age bus passes.

"I started from Minehead on 26 April" he observed "it has taken me six weeks. And you?"

"We started in May 1997" chimed Sue E, proudly demonstrating her mathematical expertise by adding "it has taken us fifteen years..."

A number 50 bus curtailed that conversation and whisked us back to Swanage, where a street party was in full flow. We adjourned for tea and cake/biscuits at our various lodgings before reconvening at Primrose Cottage for a barbecue and beer celebration. Sue and Colin both received presentations in recognition of their organisational efforts and I think I spotted the odd bottle of champagne being quaffed.

The evening climaxed after dark, when most of us (Sue, me, S+D, B+D, J+G, Andrew, Liz, Simon + Jonathan) took a stroll under a full moon up Knowle Hill to admire a selection of firework displays and try to spot some of Dorset's many jubilee beacons. It was a perfect activity with which to round off the mini era of our SWCP travels.

What next for this group? Who knows?

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Sunday, 3 June 2012

SWCP 2012 - Gaulter Gap to Durlstone Head (Sunday 3 June - a Bee Orchid Day)

Today we managed somehow to deposit some cars at Durlstone Head, then our friendly local taxi got 15 of us (numbers having been swelled by the arrival of Nelia and Jonathan) back to Gaulter Gap for about 10.30.

Gaynor, perhaps distracted by yesterday's memory of prostrating herself in front of a pirate, missed the crocodile and headed off in the wrong direction, but by the time of our CCS stop below Eldon Seat she had caught up and could enjoy the goodies.

Today's weather forecast foretold of steady rain all day. Luckily for us the legendary pessimism of the BBC's forecasters proved to be the case. Not a drop of rain fell on this pleasantly temperate day.

It was a classic 18km section of coastline. A few ups and downs put paid to some of the less fit members, and Liz, Betty and Jonathan soon headed off to a strategically placed car in Kingston.

The rest of us continued on past some warblers - whitethroats I think - to a sheltered spot for lunch in a field to the south of well named Emmett's Hill.

Shortly afterwards, National Coastwatch Institution volunteers provided more tea and cake in return for a small donation, though I suspect that we and they do not approve of the government cuts - minuscule in general terms - which are forcing coastguard operations to rely on charity.

Nearby was a field of poppies and St Aldhelm's Chapel, a unique and fascinating place dating from before the 12th century.

The walk to Dancing Ledge was easy and uneventful apart from a short appearance of the sun. Numerous climbers were enjoying the warm rock on the cliffs above the crashing waves.

As we progressed towards Anvil Point, Sue spotted some Bee Orchids, the first time she has seen them in the UK. Quite a find, although my reference book describes their occurrence as 'frequent, locally common". One of them is pictured above, underneath some cliff scenery typical of today's walk.

Tea and cake at Primrose Cottage was followed by another meal at the New Inn with coffee and chocs back at PC before the long drive home to Norden House.

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