The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 20 April 2018

Hightown Hill (NY 03585 83539; 250m)

Mick joined me for today’s outing, and as we walked the 1.8 miles along the lane that would lead us to our objective we paused at a suitable viewpoint and contemplated our options:

1) The line of an old track/path marked on the map; or

2) Straight up the fields to the S of the woodland at Bankhead Glen.

We thought Option 1 would give the highest chance of hitting crossing places through the field boundaries, but with the concern that the route through the strip of forest may be long gone. For Option 2 we could see a gate through the first wall, thought we may be able to see one in the second wall, but the third wall was out of sight. (Almost everyone else tackles this hill from the west side, with only one log on giving detail from the east side. They had gone with Option 2.)

We picked Option 1 on the way up. That worked reasonably well with the negative encounters being three farmyard dogs and one barbed wire fence. There was a second fence, but that was step-over-able, and following a burn through the narrow strip of forest gave us easy passage.

With this being sheep country, the going was lovely green fields of cropped grass, with just the occasional waterlogged section,  and with the earlier cloudiness breaking up by the time we reached the summit it was a pleasant place to pause for a quick elevenses.

It was the thought of having to pass the dogs again that made me veer towards Option 2 for the return route – a decision made easier by the fact that we could now see a gate in the top wall and were going to approach the middle wall in such a way that we would almost certainly be able to spot the gate that we felt sure would be there. Thus we made it back down to the track without having to climb anything, albeit leaving a trail of bleating sheep behind us.

Looking back up as we descended (summit not visible) to appreciate the lush greeness being set off nicely by the blue sky.

There’s nowt to be said about the reverse repetition of the road walk, other than it got us back to our start point, where we arrived having covered 6.6 miles with 250m or so of ascent.


Thursday, 19 April 2018

Calkin Rig and Grange Fell

It’s not even tea-time on the first day of hills on this trip to Scotland, and I’m yearning more for my bed than I am for food. That’s partly because of the unaccustomed exercise (first time on my bike and first British hills since last May) and partly due to a disturbed night.

The place we’d chosen for last night, on the Solway Firth, seemed so perfect, at the end of a dead-end road. It remained that way until just before 11pm, when a mobile disco pulled up next to us. We would have put up with the banging tunes for a while, but when it became clear that illicit substances were also being used, we swiftly packed away and left. The car load of party-animals (and this was not a pimped Corsa full of youths, but a 67-reg 4x4) seemingly weren’t wanting the motorhome to suddenly spring to life. As our lights came on, their vehicle was thrown into reverse and they made off up the lane like a rat up a drainpipe. Twenty minutes later we pulled into our new home for the night, but it was far from what we would have chosen if it hadn’t been knocking on for midnight. On the plus side, I didn’t have to get up at 2am to check that the tide wasn’t engulfing us (the tide mark in our original spot made me think we were just above where the water would reach, based on the tide-table information, but I wasn’t entirely confident). On the downside, lorries started driving past us, waking me up, at 5am.

Anyway, on to today:

Calkin Rig (NY2889087621)

Walk in bold, bike in not-bold

Whilst researching potential Bertie-parking for my second hill of today, I spotted that a new windfarm (and, more importantly, its road) had been installed to the south of this hill, suggesting to me that Calkin Rig can now easily be tackled from that side. Even better, I adjudged the height profile of the track to be cyclable, so once Bertie was installed at its entrance (plenty of room for a bit of parking there), I pumped up the tyres that have been neglected for the best part of a year, and off I set.

I almost enjoyed the first couple or three miles of that ride! Alas, I don’t think that’s because I’m coming to like cycling in general, but because I’d expected it to be a horrendous, lung-busting ride, given my lack of hill- and bike-fitness. It turned out, save for a couple of sharp ascents, to be far easier than expected, thus I made it on wheels right the way to the very end of the track, just 0.6 miles from my objective.

Lovely sunniness! Warm too – I was in short sleeves from the outset

The yomp from there may have been short, but it was a bit of a blunt reintroduction to Scottish Marilyns, as I followed a break through the forest which featured grown-over tree stumps, tussocks, heather, and bog – and all so that I could stand on one particular tussock in a break in the forest.

Not the most inspiring summit

There was a surprising amount of ascent on my descent back through the windfarm, but I was still back at Bertie an hour and twenty minutes earlier than my estimated timeframe.

The stats came in at 11 miles cycled (around 410m ascent) and 1.2 miles walked (around 70m ascent).

Grange Fell (NY24409 81941)

Walk in bold, bike in not-bold. The out-and-back bike leg is explained below.

Buoyed by my success on the bicycle on Calkin Rig, I thought I’d try cycling this one too. There were two downsides to this plan: 1) my cycling muscles were now tired; and 2) I’d just eaten lunch (recipe for indigestion, as it transpired). Even so, I made it to the point I’d identified on the track, and clutching a printout of the aerial photos of the area (in lieu of any useful information as to the layout of the forest on the 1:25k map), off I set on foot.

Any misgivings I’d had as to navigating with an aerial photo proved unfounded, and the breaks through the forest were much friendlier on this hill. Boggy, yes, but without tussocks or similar obstacles.

For another summit-in-a-forest, this one wasn’t bad, with the trig being set in the middle of a nice clearing

Retracing my steps was easy, but then I decided to see if I could make the bike ride into a circuit. The aerial photos had suggested that in so doing I would run into a quarry, but the evidence I’d seen on the ground suggested the route would go. It didn’t. I ran into a quarry. Gah! Back up the hill I rode, to retrace my earlier tyre prints.

3.5 miles were biked (around 160m ascent) and 0.9 miles walked (60m up).

Conveniently, the best parking I could find for tomorrow morning’s hill was a small (certified location) campsite, so we should have a nice quiet night tonight...

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Eleventh Bloggiversary!

I’m sure that everyone of my age or older often finds themselves wondering about the speed of the passage of time, perhaps even finding themselves uttering words along the lines of “Doesn’t time fly!” with disturbing regularity.

By way of example, about eighteen months ago, Mick & I went to Florida to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, yet somehow the numbers on the calendar tell us that it’s our fifteenth this year. About five years ago we walked LEJOG, except that those pesky numbers on the calendar tell us that it’s actually ten years ago this April that we set out*.

And apparently, it was eleven years ago today that I first put fingers to keyboard on this blog.

It has been rather quiet around here as late, but hopefully we will do some stuff relevant to this blog (as opposed to our other blog at, which was much more active than this one last year) sometime soon.

In the meantime I had good intentions of throwing some photos into this post illustrating what I’ve been up to whilst not getting out walking, but I can no longer use Open Live Writer on my laptop, and I’m feeling too lazy to transfer these words to, and fiddle with photos on, my phone to use Bloggeroid to create the post. Anyone familiar with Blogger will likely understand why I’m not even considering creating a post within Blogger itself.

(*I gave serious consideration to re-walking LEJOG this year in celebration of that tenth anniversary, and revisted the thought many times. Eventually I decided against for many, and varied, reasons.)  

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Cruz de Priena (Covadonga)

My mind was raring to get out and about this morning. My body was somewhat more lethargic. That was not, however, why we opted for the shortest-with-least-ascent option of the three routes I had downloaded.

The option of walking to the lakes above Covadonga was rejected as it would have been at least a 21km round trip just to get to the first lake. I'd rather go up there when we can either drive or catch a shuttle bus, neither of which were viable options* today as the road was closed for resurfacing.

That left us with a toss up between two hills accessible from Covadonga, one on either side of the valley. Cruz de Priena won as, although it was an out-and-back, whereas the other option was a circuit, it was on the sunny and unwooded side of the valley and it looked the more pleasing shape and viewpoint.

The snaps I took of our objective before we set out all boasted a lovely blue sky, but a far better illustration of where we went is given by this one, taken this afternoon from a chapel constructed within a cave on the side of the hill opposite:

See the path zigzagging up?

This one shows the wooded slopes we would have ascended had we plumped for the other hill:

Bertie is in this shot too.

It was a very straightforward walk (aside from a bit of tree debris after last night's strong winds, and some very deep sections of lying leaves through which we had carefully to wade, not knowing what lay beneath), with the switchbacks providing an easy gradient. That was good, as it was sweaty enough a climb in today's temperature.

A short cut was necessitated for the final stretch to the summit to avoid a sheep dog, guarding his flock, right on the path. Then we were there, saying 'Cor, that's a big cross!':

The views extended for 360 degrees, but the most notable were those towards the snowy Picos, with uncountable jaggedy lumps:

The sun wasn't in the best place for this snap, as you'll likely notice.

It took us almost exactly 2 hours to walk the 3.9 miles out-and-back, with around 1900' of ascent, and our considered opinion was that our choice was a good one. For such a pleasant, easy hill, boasting such good views, it's surprising the path was so narrow (Mick had a worse time with the overhanging gorse than me).

(*technically we could have driven. The road was closed from 8-13h & 14-18h, but that was a bit too restrictive for my liking.)

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bulnes from Poncebos

I got my metric and imperial units mixed up this morning. Yesterday afternoon, when proposing today's outing to Mick, I had told him it was 5 miles (8.23km said the gpx file I had downloaded). This morning I was convinced we were going 8+ miles, and thus I packed elevenses and lunch. In view of the true stats (I recorded 4.9 miles with 1830' ascent), that was overkill, considering that we set out at 9.15am.

Bulnes is a village that sits at an altitude of around 600m and has no access via road or track. Until 2001 the only way of reaching it was on foot, and since then there has also been a funicular railway, which runs through the mountain for its entire length. How the village survived its isolation for so long is a wonder, but now, by appearances, it is not just surviving, thanks to the tourist trade. We counted six bars and restaurants - which is a high number for such a tiny place.

It probably goes without saying, that we didn't use the funicular. Our route instead lay up this valley/gorge:

That required us first to cross the Rio Cares, with its incredibly clear waters (it was thanks to the clarity that I spotted the otter yesterday - it was underwater when I first saw it, initially mistaking it for a large fish):

Not a single person was met on the way up, but we did meet these girls:

I won't generally cut switchbacks, due to the damage it does, but on this occasion it seemed like the best way to pass the herd. We still had to get past Daisy at close quarters and I did so with a nervous eye on those horns:

The path was still fully in the shade as we ascended, but it didn't mar the views, or the impact of the perfect blue sky. You can see the path as it clings to the side of the gorge in this snap:

Like yesterday's outing in the Cares Gorge, the path was hewn out of the rock in some places and had sheer drops that made me think that falling off the path would be a bad idea.

The route was a lollipop, albeit with a very long handle and a very small head...

...and as we got to the top of the handle we had a choice to make: clockwise, or anti? Opting for 'anti', up to the top village we headed, which is a few hundred metres (linear) away from the lower village, and quite a bit higher too. We got a good view of the main village from up there, but the dull light doesn't do this photo any favours:

Due to my mix up with the distances, combined with our early start time, none of the bars or restaurants was open as we wandered around, so coffee from the flask was drunk perched next to the public water tap, rather than real coffee consumed on a real seat.

Looking left from our elevenses perch

and looking right

The sun was on us for much of the descent, and with the wind having turned to southerly overnight, it was almost as warm going down as it had been with the effort of going up. (The temperature, incidentally, had been a chilly 8 degrees at 6pm last night, but with the change in the wind it was up to a balmy 15 degrees at 7 this morning.) Once again, we admired that glorious sky, which is forecast to get hidden from tomorrow whilst a stretch of more mixed weather comes in:

Spot the village on the hillside opposite. I think it must be Camarmeña

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Cares Gorge (Desfiladero de Cares)

I'll start by quoting a bit of what The Rough Guide to Spain says of the Cares Gorge:

Deservedly the most popular walk in the Picos [it] takes hikers into the heart of the central massif along the Cares Gorge. Its most enclosed section, between Cain and Poncebos - a massive cleft more than 1000m deep and some 12km long - bores through awesome terrain along an amazing footpath hacked out of the cliff face.
(see my Footnote 1 regarding the stated length)

What an excellent outing it proved to be! It started, within five minutes of leaving Bertie, with the sighting of an otter in the Cares river, and proceeded with a few hours of wide-eyedness at the magnificence of our surroundings.

Everything I had read about the gorge was based on walking it from south to north (from Cain to Poncebos). We had pretty much decided that we aren't going to venture further south into the hills on this trip, plus the road to Cain is a lot less accessible than the road to Poncebos. I couldn't see any reason why we couldn't start at the northern terminus, involving a perfectly good road. Google StreetView confirmed that there would be somewhere to leave Bertie at Poncebos (footnote 2), so that's what we opted to do.

I took masses of photos, but the scenery is so towering that my camera could not possibly capture what I was seeing.

Here are a few snaps, not presented in order:

There are people in these three, which hopefully helps to give a bit of scale. What they don't convey is how big the drop down into the gorge is. At some points it is not just sheer, but the path is hewn out of rock part way up an overhang:

This one looks a bit blurry, but it's probably the best shot I've got showing a long section of the path as it proceeds down the gorge:

And here are just a few more. I think that the path is again visible in all of these, but it's difficult to tell on the screen of my phone:

Unfortunately, neither of us took a photo of the wooden walkway bit, where an information sign showed the 'before' and 'after' of a tunnel section that fell, in its entirety, off the side of the gorge. Although mainly wooden (on a steel frame), there was one section that had been made in mesh, so that you can look down into the abyss below.

The only downside of the day was the schoolboy error of completely failing to pick up our water bottles on our way out. We noticed at the furthest point where we could conceivably have chosen to go back for them, but we opted instead to manage with just our flask of coffee, accepting that we would have to cut short the outing instead. As it went, the going was so easy (once over the high point, it was mainly akin to a forest track, albeit narrower) that we made it to within 2km of Cain before turning back. Even then, it was more the want to find some sunshine in which to drink the coffee than the lack of water that turned us around. Our entire outward leg had been in the shade, but we could see by then that the sun had hit the path behind us, and we couldn't see that the same was true ahead.

In total we covered around 11 miles with 1800 feet of ascent.

1) The distance signs within the gorge were not consistent, stating the path's total length to be between 10.3 and 11km. The GPX file I downloaded had it at 11.5, but due to the nature of a gorge probably suffered some error due to 'wandering'. I think 12km is an exaggeration.)
2) The parking turned out to be better than expected. I had thought that Bertie would have to be left alongside a road that was sloping to the extent that it may have troubled his fridge. It turns out there's a flat car park too, and whilst it's not massive (and the spaces are small, even by car standards), by arriving relatively early, we were able to find the one slot into which Bertie could be squeezed.)

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Liandres, Comillas, San Vicente de la Barquera and Pechón

We are really liking the north coast of Spain! That's probably why we are journeying along it so slowly. After 5 weeks in the country, we are only 200 miles, by road, from our point of entry!

I've been lazy in posting about our walks this last week. None of the outings has been long (generally around 5 miles), but they've all been very pleasant - helped by a spell of good weather that's still persisting as I type.

Here's a bit of a catch-up in pictures:

After leaving Cóbreces on Tuesday, we drove a whole 3 miles along the coast and entered the car park that was to be our home for the night with a 'wow'. The snowy Picos de Europa, a manicured picnic area and the rugged coast were all visible out of Bertie's windscreen:

Most of our coastal walks over the last few weeks have coincided at some point with the Camino de Santiago and Tuesday's was no exception. I'm sure that the 'pilgrims' must help to boost the economies of many of the villages we've visited, and the one we were now in (Liandres) had recognised them with one of the public water taps, which caught my eye:

Our next stop was just 2km further west, at the town of Comillas - so close to Liandres that we could clearly see the church below which we had been parked the night before:

The 'herding instinct phenomenon' struck large during our stay there. With 128 out of 130 spaces free in the car park, where did the only other motorhome to arrive decide to park? Yep, you can just see its tail sticking out from behind Bertie in this snap:

It was another good walk we took from there, taking us to this viewpoint:

We spotted an early lamb too on our way back:

San Vicente de la Barquera (big drive - about 6 miles this time!) was our next stop, where we were parked quite literally within a stone's throw of the water:

That wasn't a walking destination for us, as we only stayed one day/night and that day was all about the food (note Mick's indignation in the bottom right as his wine has been reducing in quantity with each Menu del Dia, and this time he was down to just a glass):

That brings us to where we are now, in another stunning coastal car park, by the village of Pechón. Here's the view from the car park, with the first snap being taken about an hour after low tide, just after we had walked out to the rocky outcrop, and the second being taken at high tide:

You may spot something in the sea to the left of the beach. It's a chap in a tractor, harvesting seaweed. He has intrigued us to the extent that today we took elevenses down to the beach... that we could sit and watch him from closer quarters, finding it incredible how deep he goes in:

He regularly gets a wave splashing straight through the cab. It's no wonder he's put a can of expanding foam to good use around the gear levers:

(For the avoidance of doubt, AlanR, I'm not expecting you to tell me what the tractor is - we were just captivated by how it was being used.)