Saturday, 30 April 2016

Two blokes, two dogs, one hill

Edale rocks. So called because they are rocks. And they are near Edale

Geoff on Kinder
A couple of weeks back I decided that I would go over to Hayfield in the Derbyshire Peak District for a few days to potter around with Mossy dog to get rid of some of his Hyperdogish energies now that my legs appear to be better. The poor dog has suffered along with me over recent months as my lack of ability has meant he has had a lack of long walks.  Anyways, the week we chose to go had the best weather of the year so far, with lovely warm spring days. Unfortunately, a long awaited hospital appointment to prod at said legs and various other bits of my anatomy that control them was then offered in the very week we were to go away.

‘No problemo.’ Mossy Boy, says I. ‘We can go the week after.’ To which he replied with silence, but his tail did twitch a bit and I took this for agreement. So that is what we did. Which meant that we went to Hayfield just as the temperatures dropped by about 10 degrees centigrade in new money, and snow and hail showers blew in from the far north-east with gusto, north-east  being the new south-west.  But as we weren’t camping but were in the motorhome it didn’t matter too much.

Now being in Hayfield I took the opportunity to meet up with Geoff and Chrissie Crowther who live in this neck of the woods and who (or is it whom?) I know from Twitter. They kindly invited Moss and I round for tea and cake. I ate this as best I could with one hand, whilst using another hand to protect Moss from a very playful Pebbles who was hurling her not inconsiderable Boxer weight at my delicate flower, so putting him off his stride. Now his stride happened to be trying to demonstrate to the gorgeous puppy Islay what teenage boys do given the slightest chance with any lovely young female they happen to meet.  Well if you are numerate and have been counting how many hands I was having to use in the aforementioned activities you will be aware that despite me having the full complement of hands, I was still one short of the number necessary to protect Islay’s virtue, although I have to say that the lovely little floozy appeared less concerned about this than Geoff and Chrissie.

Despite Moss shaming me, Geoff was still kind (or foolish) enough to suggest that we went for a walk up Kinder Scout on the morrow (for my younger readers, ie anyone born after the 16th Century, that means the day after). Chrissie had more sense and decided she would do some domestics and possibly walk up to meet us in the afternoon with Pebbles.
I distracted Islay so that Moss could steal her lunch whilst Geoff looked on oblivious to the crime
And that is what we did. Geoff knows the area like the back of his proverbial and was a fount (that is short for fountain pen) of wisdom and informative information. Moss and Islay had a marvellous time racing around after each other as only young racing around things can do. They certainly  covered rather more ground than their owners. Moss managed to control his baser instincts until the homeward leg when he had to go on a lead in disgrace after a rather stern lecture from me on gentlemanly behaviour.
Kinder Low: Geoff sulks as Islay sings  "I'm the Queen of the Castle and you're the dirty rascal"
Moss eyeing up a pile of sheep shit and wondering when I will move away so that he can eat it
The walk was absolutely splendid. It was good to be back on the grit stone. The ever changing weather, with short snow and hail showers intermingled with longer sunnier periods, meant that the views were spectacular and the opportunities for a skilled photographer to capture memorable moments were myriad. Unfortunately, I am not a skilled photographer and, worse, when I got down I realised that I did not even have the camera set on “intelligent auto” mode but portrait mode. Despite this the landscape shots on this post do not appear any worse than my normal offering so who cares? And the final plus of the day was we finished the walk  and were drinking tea just before torrential rain arrived. For some reason puppy Islay had now slowed down and Moss completely crashed out and hardly blinked when Chrissie arrived with Pebbles. Pebbles is clearly jealous of Moss’ infatuation with Islay and so had dressed in a very flattering yellow rain coat, no doubt to attract his attention. Sadly for her Moss was unmoved, worn out by his younger and fitter new friend.
Moss whispering sweet nothings, but Islay only has eyes for one man
You can't beat an interesting smell
Thanks to Chrissie, Geoff, Islay and Pebbles for a fun couple of days.

Thank you Benny et al

Friday, 22 April 2016

A Copyright Warning: Danger of death or at the very least boils in your armpits

As my beloved readers may be aware, it is well known in the best literary circles that in the next few months I will become a highly acclaimed new novelist.  It is my intention that the income from my pensmanship will make JK Rowling's look like that of a benefits claimant who has recently had their disability living allowance re-assessed by Yurfitandelffyenuftowork PLC.

I have realised that this will inevitably mean that my blog posts will become of great monetary as well as literary value. Thus, this is to warn any would be plagiarists that I have asserted my copyright of all such blog posts and photographs. Furthermore, I have instructed my solicitors, Messrs Skullcracker, Knuckleduster and Flicknife that they are to show no mercy as they tear the shirt off the back, then make destitute and homeless, any miscreant who steals my written work or photography (ie pretty pictures). They will then suffer slow starvation, so sending them to an early, bleak and maggot ridden pauper's grave outwith consecrated ground.

A little hill, a big giant and a few virgins

A handsome hot dog on top of The Wrekin: Moss. We have to perm his coat regularly to keep him looking like that
I moved to live in Shropshire at the age of 11 and regard it as my home county.  I love the hills in the south of the shire, but one hill which has a special place in the hearts of all true Salopians lies elsewhere in the county.  This is The Wrekin. It stands tall and proud above the Shropshire Plain, and it is said that 17 counties can be seen from its summit.  I had not climbed it for the best part of 30 years, and as last Sunday was sunny and warm I decided to rectify this as another test for my legs, which have been behaving now for almost three weeks.  I had the pleasure of the company of Mrs F. and, surprise of surprises, the lovely young girl who lives in one of the bedrooms in our house, and who spends her time giggling at her very clever phone, which picks up something called You Toob, when she isn’t doing something called snap chatting.  "Who is she?", I whispered to Mrs F. as we climbed in the car. "Look. I've told you a number of times. Try to concentrate and remember," she replied. "She is your step-daughter."

Well, I knew I'd seen her before, but was glad of the explanation.  Apparently, she has lived in the front bedroom for several years now.  She moved in just after that day when my son told me to put my best suit on, pushed me into a church, and said to me "Just say 'Yes' or 'I do' each time the guy in the white frock asks you a question. And try not to muck it up." Anyway, Mrs F. says that this girl will come out of her room again in just over a year when we will then be asked to drive her, and several boxes of her possessions, to an as yet undetermined university town.
Looking east. Some of the 17 counties on view from just below the summit

When we tried to park in the small Forest Glen Car Park I realised that the choice of day for such a walk was not good.  It was full, and the narrow lanes all around were chocka with abandoned cars. We found a space, though and with the help of the front and rear beeper thingies I got parked in what I insist was no more than ten minutes. I then reminisced about crawling along the stream that runs near the lane in the pitch dark, on a Boy Scout exercise, forty five years ago, and also of the old Forest Glen Café, now dismantled and reconstructed at the fabulous Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
The track was enlarged when the TV people were allowed to desecrate the hill with a new mast in the early 1970s so that the people of Telford could watch Coronation Street
As we followed the hordes up the tourist path I also recalled the Geography field trip when, as a very young probationary teacher, I gave my splendid Head of Department apoplexy by telling our 'O' Level students that his rather dry explanation of how The Wrekin was formed, which involved terms such as “Precambrian...felsic tuffs…viscous lavas and nuée ardente ash flow" was "all baloney".  You see, as every Shropshire Lad knows, and as I explained to our pupils, The Wrekin was formed 700 years ago by an angry giant called Grimey Grossocks, who had bad toothache, and who went about in a battered old Austin Cambridge motor car. He was also rather smelly.  If you know your mediaeval  English you will know why. “Gros” meant dirty. Yes, Grimey Gros Socks never changed his socks or washed his feet.

Now you may already be disbelieving this, as you might think that a giant could not fit in an Austin Cambridge. Well he could if it had a sunroof and drove along with his head sticking out, and this is what Grimey Grossocks used to do.

Grimey lived on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, and every Easter, being fed up and angry about all the dirt and smoke and funny accents in that neck of the woods, he would drive over to the lovely market town of Shrewsbury and terrorise the locals. He would stamp on their houses, and would only go away if they provided him with three lovely young virginal girls, which the people always did, not wanting to have their houses squashed. He would stuff the crying maidens onto the back seat, drive them to Wolverhampton, do unspeakables with them, and then eat them, cooked in a little butter and smothered with ketchup.  And the following year, come Easter Monday, he would be back again, stamping on houses, and demanding his three fair maidens (“fair” because he preferred blondes to brunettes).  Well, as you can imagine the burghers of Shrewsbury got pretty fed up with this, as did the young men, who were almost all single, what with the lack of young maidens to marry.
Two modern day fair young maidens
Thus, on one Easter Monday when Grimey arrived, all the young men were holding clubs. For my younger readers I should explain that means wooden clubs, not night clubs.  As soon as he sat down on a house they leapt on him and hit his toes really hard with their weapons, and the Mayor, using a loud haler, shouted “now be off with you Grossocks, and never darken this place again,what with your brooding, menacing and quite frankly, rather unsavoury behaviour. And, I might add, with your dreadful foot odour.”

At this, Grimey jumped in his Austin Cambridge, floored the accelerator, and raced back to Wolverhampton in a right old huff.

The next day he decided to get his revenge. “I’ll learn em not to mess with ole Grimey,” he says.  So he picks up his giant spade, and digs up a giant sized spadeful of stones and soil, big enough to bury the entire town of Shrewsbury.  Now he couldn’t fit this in the Austin Cambridge (obviously), so he sets off stomping across the countryside to wreak his dastardly havoc.

But there was a problem. Grimey had never done this journey on foot before.  It was further than he thought, and the spade and its load were very heavy. As he sat resting near the village of Wellington, he sees a cobbler walking up the road. Now this cobbler worked in Timpson’s in Shrewsbury and he was one of the sharpest cobbling tools in the cobbling tool box, so to speak, and he knew all about Grimey and his dreadful deeds, but Grimey didn’t recognise him.

“How long will it take to get to Shrewsbury?” asked Grimey.

The cobbler, quick as a flash replied “Oh. It’s at least a two day walk from here, Mr Giant, sir, and uphill all the way.  It might take you even longer, as there are temporary traffic lights and road works just along from here as the bridge is down on the Shrewsbury by-pass.

Well Grimey was taken in by this very clever trick.” Cobblers,” he cursed, “I can’t be arsed.”  And, with that, he plonked his giant spadeful of stones and earth down just where he sat. And that, dear reader, is how The Wrekin was formed.  But that is not all. Just next to the Wrekin is a smaller hill called The Little Wrekin or Ercall Hill, depending on your bent. After Grimey had deposited his load to create The Wrekin, he sat down on it and scraped the mud off his boots and that smaller pile formed The Wrekin’s little neighbour.

It was a super little walk, and I reckon I could see most of the seventeen counties from the top. However, lessons were learnt. The next time I go up there it will be mid-week or raining. But the best thing of all about the walk was that the legs behaved yet again. Bring those hills on.

A mean-spirited, smelly footed giant on top of The Wrekin

(With thanks to Phil Wright who many years ago inspired the naming of the nameless giant. He also knew a thing or two about motor cars and which models were suitable for the taller driver).

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Latrigg The Hard Way

Hyperdog Moss on the summit of mighty Latrigg

‘So where exactly has Fellbound been?  Do tell, please do.’

I am sure this is a common cry across the blogosphere. Why did his blog go quiet for so long?  Well, I have always meant this to be a blog about my walking exploits, such as they are, and there have been precious little of these of late.  I did think of posting random ramblings “The thoughts of Fellbound”, in which I would share my very valuable, insightful and completely reasonable, moderate and unprejudiced views on matters of great import to this fine country of ours, but decided that these could wait until I am chosen by a popular and understandable clamour to be supreme ruler of the universe.
Desperate for a drink, Moss heads down to Whit Beck, stopping only to eat sheep dung
A failed attempt to drink the beck dry

Without going into all the extremely interesting details which would have readers on the edge of their seats with excitement, my legs and various other parts of my anatomy have been misbehaving for some months now.  As I mentioned on twitter (and I beg your pardon in advance for this) the correct medical terminology is that they are “fucked”, as confirmed by our very wonderful NHS.  Wonderful, apart from the waiting lists, that is, and one or two other things which I will also need to sort when I become the Supreme Ruler.  So, a word to the wise.  If you work in one of the NHS teams which determines appointments, I suggest you buck your ideas up.  Pronto.  We can’t have a Supreme Ruler with wobbly legs made out of jelly, can we?  That would be most undignified.

What I was coming round to say is this.  Over the last three weeks the legs have not mucked me around so much.  This means that either I have miraculously cured myself (I do lay my hands on my person at every opportunity) or I am in remission from the lurgy that was afflicting them.  The long and short of this is that this week I got up two mighty Cumbrian Hills.  Which gives me an excuse to brag about my exploits.
If you look carefully, you can see Moss in the distance topping out on Beacon Pike. We had ascended by the NW Ridge and here had just joined the main tourist route
We always have a game of "fetch green rubber stick" as a reward for our efforts at scaling The Beacon.  It's a tradition in the Fellbound household
The hills in question were Beacon Hill (or Beacon Pike according to most locals) which is 286 metres above seal level, and Latrigg near Keswick, which climbs to a lung busting 368 metres above seal level.  I climbed both of them alpine style, and so did not use oxygen or fixed ropes (Moss’ lead doesn’t count).  The photographs tell only part of the story.  They show the fierce terrain but nothing, neither words nor pictures, can adequately explain the endurance and determination needed, and the rigours and hardships endured by my hairy partner and I as we battled through the elements (sunny spells and a bit blowy on Latrigg; drizzle and slightly misty on the Beacon) to achieve our goal.  Why did we do it?  It’s simple. Because they are there.

Descending the little used West Route from the summit of Beacon Pike

The Penrith gallows, where wrong uns were done to death in the olden days, were situated in this small quarry. I suspect that the blurry photograph is the result of paranormal goings on that I skillfully captured with the camera of my smartphone

The Prodigal Son

Over the past few weeks I have often been approached by complete strangers whilst going about my daily business.  They have stopped me to enquire about my lack of blogging activity.  It is, I can tell you, quite embarrassing to have someone get down on their knees in the middle of Tesco and beg that you resume your writing with no further delay.  When this happened recently I pointed to the newspaper stand and suggested that the person concerned buy themselves a red top if they needed entertainment and then left the store as quickly as I could as a menacing looking crowd was beginning to gather and comments such as “come on, pull your finger out and get back to that keyboard” were being shouted.


This harassment has not been confined to supermarkets.  Why, only the other day as I strolled along the lanes with Hyperdog Moss, I was approached by a small child who was walking a little dog.  I did not recognise the boy.  Children all look the same to me nowadays, what with their designer trainers which they wear solely to cross their bedrooms to get between their I Pads and their smartphones, or at best to get downstairs to the biscuit tin or to steal cans of lager from their fathers.  However, I knew that the dog belonged to a neighbour and goes by the name of Maggot.  Well that’s what I call her as I was not listening when my neighbour first introduced her.  Maggot, incidentally, is very young and a complete floozy, and her behaviour towards poor innocent Moss is both outrageous and improper.

 Apple, Worm, Bitten, Fruit, RottenApple, Worm, Bitten, Fruit, RottenApple, Worm, Bitten, Fruit, Rotten

The child said a polite “how do you do sir?” and was about to speak when I had to interrupt.

‘How old are you, small boy?’, I asked.

He hesitated, so I explained to him that there were two ways to find out the age of a child. The first was to ask and receive an answer; the second was to chop a leg off and count the rings in the bones, each ring being equivalent to a year’s growth.  Well, all I can say is that the child told me pretty sharpish that he was seven and three-quarters.

The boy, rather too boldly in my opinion, then asked me whether I was “Mr Fellbound” and started to whimper and say how much he missed my blog.

‘Stop your blubbing,’ I replied. ‘I wasn’t put on this earth to entertain seven-and-three-quarter year old boys.  There are plenty of blogs out there to amuse you.  You should try those written by Messrs   Sloman, Evans and  Sanderson for a kick off.  Not the Pieman's , obviously, for that would turn you into a beer swilling Geordie, and then all you would be good for would be watching your team lose at football and hewing coal.’


‘Please sir,’ he said, ‘my father once caught me reading Mr Sloman’s blog.  He read a little of it himself and then shouted at me that I was polluting my young mind reading tales of Miss Whiplash, her gimps and sado-masochistic perversions, whatever that all means.  After he had written down the website address he gave me a smack*.  Then, when I read Mr Evans' blog I got into trouble for trying to “mod” the dining room with a sledge hammer to create an extra window.  And the Edale Mountain Rescue Team were most unhappy when they picked me up on Kinder Scout as I tried to emulate Johnboy by bunking off school at a tender age to walk the Pennine Way.  Apparently your blog is the only one written by someone with the intellect of a moderately sized child.’

Now to hear this was salutary.  The absence of my blog has clearly deprived small children and hypochondriacs everywhere of their champion.  I sent the small boy home with a clip round the ear for talking to a stranger and returned home in a reflective mood……

* I may have misheard this. Slapping children for misguidedly reading Mr Sloman's blog is unnecessary and barbaric and out of all proportion to the seriousness of the crime. As I live in a very nice area where the middle class parents do not give their children a smack I think he probably said 'he gave me some smack', which would be far more likely in this neck of the woods.

Disclaimer: This post has not been sponsored by Tesco, apple growers, maggots or Jackie Milburn

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Death Awaits....

Eagle Crag
A National Trust Land Rover pulled up in the car park at Rosthwaite as I was getting my pack out ready for the off.  I watched the ranger as he got out. Suddenly his nose went in the air and he sniffed.  His eye balls started to bulge and roll around their sockets.  His tongue lolled out and he began to drool.  I recognised the symptoms.  I had seen them before. Cuben fibre envy!  He rapidly took in the scene in the car park, sniffed the air again, and then headed over to me.

“Nice pack.  Z Packs cuben fibre Arc Blast?  I want it.  And I want it now.”

Fearful that I was about to be mugged, I calmed him down and we got chatting. It was fellow outdoors blogger and Backpackers Club member, Trevor Morgan. After the normal gear chat we went our separate ways.  Him to work, me to continue to enjoy my retirement.  I can't recall the name of Trevor's blog.  If you know it please could you tell me?

After 42 years of walking in the Lakes I should know that on 90 per cent of occasions it will be wetter and windier than the forecast, which had been for fair weather, and so it proved to be. I pulled on my waterproofs, today wearing my Z Packs Challenger Jacket.  I have been told by people who have never worn one that it will not keep me dry and I will die in it. A black cuben fibre shroud. The Death Jacket. As the rain came down I headed up Eagle Crag, the ‘back way’ via Greenup Gill, to avoid the more exciting, but very steep direct route I would probably have taken if I was wearing my day pack.
Greenup Gill. looking back to Borrowdale

Sergeant's Crag and Langstrath from near the top of Eagle Crag
After Eagle Crag, with it superb views up Langstrath, it was on to Sergeant’s Crag.  Then back to Eagle Crag to collect my camera which had fallen off my hip belt when I took my pack off there.  Forty minutes of unnecessary effort because of carelessness.

There followed the long plod over grass to Low White Stones, then High Raise, and on to Sergeant Man.  Memories of my first visit there in 1973 in thick mist on a school Combined Cadet Force expedition.  We couldn’t find the top on that day. We had sat on some rocks taking bearings and wandering around, always ending up back in the same spot.  Eventually we headed off down into Langdale, giving Sergeant Man up as a bad job.  A couple of weeks later, back at school, we watched some training films about navigation.  By coincidence they were filmed around Sergeant Man and we discovered that the rocks we had been sitting on were its summit.

After Sergeant Man there followed a long descent to little visited Tarn Crag, collecting water on the way ready for my overnight  camp from the stream that heads down to Codale Tarn.  The forecast had said that the previous day’s near gale force winds on the tops would abate in the afternoon. They hadn’t really done so.  Not gale force, but very strong at times.  The near constant showers persisted.  I spent some time finding a spot to camp.  Reasonably dry, reasonably sheltered and reasonably flat. Result!  By now I was wishing I had brought my Scarp 1 which is a great shelter in such conditions.  Thinking the weather would be clement I had chosen to bring my very lightweight Z Packs Duplex tent, also known as Daphne, which many tell me (including some who have never used one or even seen one in real life) is a calm weather tent. The sort you die in when the going gets tough. A cuben fibre coffin for the man in the cuben fibre shroud.
Daphne Duplex near the summit of Tarn Crag

Daphne braces hereself in the wind on Tarn Crag
Soon after getting the tent up, at about 4.30pm, the rain really arrived, and I spent the next 14 hours inside, cooking, reading, sleeping and worrying about whether Daphne would survive the night.  I dozed off and woke again at about 11.30pm.  The wind had significantly strengthened, and shifted ninety degrees, so that my sheltered spot was no longer that.  Very strong gusts intensified what was already a constantly strong wind.  I was glad that I had taken the precaution of packing up everything except my sleeping bag and mat before bed.  Headtorch in hand in case I had to make a quick get away, I lay listening to the gale and watching the poles flex.  After half an hour or so I fell back to sleep.  I awoke after dawn to complete stillness.  Daphne was fine.  The pegs hadn’t shifted, the guy lines had remained taut.  A good test that has increased my confidence in her.  We had survived and the rain, too, had ceased. Death is for another day.
Brewing up on Tarn Crag, three doors closed and one open. Great flexibility for varying conditions.

Below Codale Tarn. I had camped just over the central skyline

Summit of Blea Rigg, looking towards Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle
Pavey Ark: View to Stickle Tarn and Langdale
I was away by 7.30am.  Off to another little frequented hill, the lovely Blea Rigg, via Codale Tarn, then back up to Sergeant Man and on to the Langdales.  It is six years since I was last on the Pikes, and the July busy-ness of the hills in this area reminded me of why I now rarely come to what used to be one of my favourite destinations.  I popped over to Thunacar Knott, then on to Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag before skipping the final summit cone of Pike O’Stickle, to head to Martcrag Moor.  Another navigational challenge of long ago came to mind.  I had hitched up to the Lakes from home one university holidays.  I remember the feeling of satisfaction when I made my way in thick cloud from Pike O’Stickle, across the Moor to Stake Pass, probably the first time I had ever used my compass in anger whilst walking solo.  Back then, in the mid 1970s, the path was at best intermittent.  Nowadays it would be hard to lose it given the 40 more years of pounding by boots. In places it has been ‘improved’ by Fix the Fells.  I think they were worried that walkers might get their boots a bit muddy in some places.  They have even thoughtfully put a large stepping stone in a stream that is all of two feet wide so shorter walkers can avoid having to take an over large pace to get across dry shod

Loft Crag and Pike O'Stickle from Harrison Stickle

Harrison Stickle from Loft Crag

Martcrag Moor
 Towards the bottom of the Stake Pass, in mid to late afternoon, I met two blokes coming up towards me, in jeans and with map in hand.

Bloke: “Could you help us get our bearings?  Is this the path up to Scafell Pike? We’ve come from a camp site”.

Me: “Where is your camp site?”

Bloke: “Not certain.  I think it’s at a place called Stonethwaite.  The problem is that we are on the edge of a map.”

Me, unspoken: “No, the problem is you are complete dickheads.”

Me spoken: “You can’t make Scafell Pike today.  Nor would this be the best way.  Tomorrow?  Here let me show you.  It might be best if you first drove to Seathwaite and then..…”.
Heading down the Stake Pass to Langstrath
The Stake Pass path has been ponsified by Fix the Fells with sweeping, regular, unnatural curves.  Well we wouldn’t want the path to be too tricky would we?  It drops down into Langstrath.  This valley is long and beautiful and, for the Lakes, it has a wilder and more remote feel than many others.  I plodded along to Stonethwaite, the camp site remarkably empty for the school holidays and on to Rosthwaite.
Trevor Morgan wasn’t laying in wait to pinch my cuben fibre gear. I’m told by some that cuben fibre doesn’t have a long life.  I reckon mine will outlast my knees, which seem to ache badly for days after any walk such as this with long steep descents.  Those visits of discovery to the Lakes in the 1970s seem in my head to have only been yesterday.  What a shame that my creaking body tells me another story.