Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rucksack Update

In June 2013 I wrote a review of the Berghaus Freeflow 25 + 5 rucksack. My review was generally positive and I stated it was the best rucksack I'd ever used. However, I haven't used it for several months now because although it was excellent when on my back it was a bit of a nuisance when travelling on public transport. It wouldn't stand upright on the floor or on a seat, and was too large to go in the luggage rack on the train, and it was very difficult to take off in a confined space.

I would still recommend the 25 + 5 if you're travelling by car, but not for using on public transport. The 'Freeflow' system is excellent at keeping your back from being rubbed and from sweating, and there are plenty of useful pockets, pouches, straps and hooks to keep everything secure and accessible...but I think that when it was designed they didn't take into account a large man like myself (6ft 4ins and 20st) taking it on a bus or a train.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bakewell, Alport, and Youlgreave

Today has been an excellent day; perfect weather for both walking and photography. The day got off to a very good start: I was woken up by sunlight streaming through my bedroom curtains, and then, a few minutes later, I found a long-forgotten tenner and a couple of Quid in loose change in the back pocket of my hiking trousers...this would hopefully allow me to treat myself later.

As soon as I got off the bus at Bakewell I had to take some photographs of the lovely primroses; they were probably the best I've ever seen [a couple of other people seemed to be doing likewise], they were very impressive.

As I was moving about to get the best angles I could hear most of the conversation between the bus driver and a young Chinese woman, most likely a student, who had just travelled on the bus. He was acting as a tourist guide, as many drivers often end up doing on this route, telling her about the local attractions. He did seem to get the information about the local rivers wrong though, not realising that the river that flows through Bakewell isn't the same same one one that flows past Chatsworth House. I briefly thought about correcting him, but then decided that it  wasn't my business to do so.

I took a few more photographs from a favoured spot down by the river and then walked along Coombs Road.

When I reached the old railway viaduct I turned off the road and walked down a bridleway that leads down to the river, and eventually Haddon Hall. I walked along here only a few weeks ago, but the countryside wasn't as verdant as it was today - and there weren't any wildflowers in bloom.

At the entrance to Haddon Hall I took the footpath which goes across the fields to Alport. As I approached the road which goes to Alport I was walking along a footpath which skirts a partially flooded quarry; I've cropped this picture so that, with a bit of imagination and a prayer, you might think you're looking at a lagoon in the Caribbean. 

When I got to Alport it was very busy; there were three large organised groups of teenagers and their tutors/trainers, as well as family groups and individual hikers. Today was the busiest day in the Peak District I can remember for several years, I must have seen nearly a dozen large groups...mainly in the Youlgreave area.

I left Alport by the the high level path so that I could look down into the valley; none of my photographs really turned out, but here's a panorama taken looking back towards Alport. 

I was hoping to enjoy some refreshments at Youlgreave; I've not visited the village before and so didn't know what would be available. It turned out that I would be disappointed; the first pub was far too crowded and the second one wasn't serving food, and didn't seem that keen on serving drinks either since it was catering for a large private party. I didn't find any tearooms either; there were a couple of shops which were closed. I found the toilets though, which came in handy.

I ended up eating my final two sausage rolls at a lovely spot down at the bottom of the valley and then walked alongside the river back to Alport; by this time it was a lot quieter.

I then followed the River Lathkill upstream to  Raper Lodge, at times almost tripping up over butterflies, crossed over the lovely stone bridge [not the one in the photograph - there are a lot of beautiful stone bridges in this area], climbed up out of the valley through the woodland and crossed more fields, and walked along a short stretch of road, until I reached Bakewell. There were many opportunities for me to get something to eat at Bakewell, but a bus was due and so I didn't bother - I've got plenty of food in the freezer at home that's quick and simple to cook.

As I was travelling back to Sheffield on the bus something very strange happened, another incident involving a quick drop in air pressure creating a strong suction force....just like my experience the other week when I was sitting on the toilet at Sheffield railway station.

As the bus was climbing up out of Baslow both myself and the woman sitting in the seat in front of me were startled when a large lorry passed too close to us on the other side of the road and the suction effect caused my ears to pop...and my rucksack to lurch upwards and forward, crashing into the back of the seat in front and then ending up on the floor.

Maybe this incident is the explanation for poltergeist activity...if you were in the right frame of mind you could have been very scared.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Visit To Gainsborough Old Hall

I've just got back from a visit to Gainsborough Old Hall with Siobhan, one of my support workers; it's our first trip out this summer. I've visited the hall once before, a few years ago. At that time admission was free, it now costs £5.50 at the concessionary rate - and it's not really very good value for what there is to see.

Obviously we didn't do much walking today; the climb up the spiral staircase to the tower roof got me a bit out of breath though.

At the other side of the pleasant square the unusual parish church is located. Architecturally it's a mixture of mediaeval and seventeenth century styles. Inside it looks, and feels, more like a sumptuous palace ballroom than a church.

Unfortunately my indoor flash shots didn't turn out right at all.

We then walked into town and I got some bargains from the charity shops, and then returned to the car via the riverside.

Here's an information board telling you about the Aegir, the Trent tidal bore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fox House, Longshaw Estate, White Edge, Baslow Edge, and Baslow

By the time I reached the railway station at Sheffield this morning, before I'd even started the walk, I was absolutely shattered; stiff all over, sore, and aching...and I even ended up with a numb backside because of the shaking, rattling, and vibrating of the train's engine and the hard and uncomfortable seats; it might have been better had I been standing up for the journey. I normally get the Cross Country Reading service, but the local stopping service was running late and so I was able to get that; I probably won't be doing that again though. I'd like to say that this morning's journey was the worst I've ever experienced, but I can't - there have been several that were even worse.

The train arrived at platform 5 and so it was only a short walk to the toilets, the exercise bringing some feeling back to my bum cheeks. I was aware of this as I was sitting on the toilet in one of the cubicles; a powerful Intercity train, or freight train, passed by the platform causing a drop in the air pressure, resulting in the toilet's plumbing making a gurgling noise and me having a sensation that my bum was stuck to the toilet seat and my balls were being sucked, licked, or tickled - I'm sure there must be Latin term for people who actually enjoy this; I wouldn't know where to start though.

After my experiences on the train and at the railway station I was looking forward to an uneventful journey up to Fox House; the bus was five minutes late, but that was all. I got off the bus to be greeted with what I thought would be excellent conditions for photography, a mixture of sunshine and several different types of cloud. Most of my photographs didn't turn out how I expected, or was hoping for. I seemed to be quite often standing in the shade and pointing my camera towards distant objects that were lit by the sun. All that I seemed to get was dark silhouettes in the foreground and everything in the background bleached out. This photograph is the best of the early ones I took, taken near to Wooden Pole.

Just beyond this location I climbed up onto Big Moor. I was hoping to spot some deer and I wasn't disappointed, soon seeing four hind on the horizon. I pointed them out to two women who seemed totally oblivious to anything, or anyone, other than their conversation. One of them seemed to be quite knowledgeable about deer though, telling me that they were female red deer.

Although it was sunny and quite bright there was a cold wind which was rather unpleasant at times. It was very exposed as I walked along the top of White Edge, and so at the earliest opportunity I crossed the moor to reach a lower path which I hadn't walked along before.

I had a similar problem with the light when I reached Curbar Gap, but did manage to get one decent photograph.

The small herd of Highland cattle was in its usual place, close to the footpath and not too far from the road, meaning that people could quickly and easily reach them. Other people were already taking photographs and getting up close to them. Although they do seem to be very friendly and docile I still kept my distance as I was taking my pictures.

I continued the walk towards Baslow going right along the top of Baslow Edge; it wasn't anywhere near as windy as White Edge was, and I was able to stop and enjoy a bit of sunbathing. I was taking things easy on this walk again; my Achuilles' tendon in my right heel is still very tight and my right knee is starting to creak a bit. These days, there always seems to be something.

At the end of Baslow Edge, just above Bar Road, the track that leads down to the village, I photographed a couple of primroses that caught my eye; a bit of guerilla gardening that the National Park authorities might not be too pleased about. I think they're pretty though; I have a lot in my garden.

A few minutes later I came across some more Highland cattle; in this photograph I'm trying to re-create Constable's 'The Hay Wain.'; even though there's no cottage, no pond, no horses, only one tree, and no people...but I do have Highland cattle and inflatable tyres.

John Constable - The Hay Wain

When I reached Baslow Nether End there was only five minutes until the bus was due. Since there are now buses back to Sheffield every thirty minutes I'm never going to have to wait for long for one to arrive...meaning that I won't have to kill time in the café; but maybe I'll just linger in the café and let the bus go one day...when I'm not so tired.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lodge Moor, Porter Valley, and Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Following on from Saturday's walk with a steep climb up Win Hill the steepest climb today was in Sheffield City Centre, from the railway station to the bus stop on Arundel Gate.

I caught the number 51 bus to Lodge Moor and rode all the way to the terminus. This is the view from the terminus, not bad at all for a service which runs every ten minutes. It's not actually as rural as it looks; there's a large housing estate right behind me, but as can be seen, it's easy access to the Peak District from here.

I crossed the road and took the footpath that leads into Fox Hagg Nature Reserve and walked through woodland, high up above the Rivelin Valley until I came out much further along Redmires Road.

For the next two miles I was walking along country roads and across fields until I reached the top of Porter Clough. I continued down the valley until I reached Forge Dame Café, where I ordered a 'Full Forge Breakfast' - even though it was 12:15. Although it was busy in the outside seating area, there was plenty of space inside.

Up until this point, and even further towards the city centre the valley appears quite rural, it only takes on the appearance of a city park for the last mile or so before you reach Eccleshall Road. Along this section I saw two small white dogs chasing each other, running towards each other, running in circles, and frantically jumping over each other whilst barking and sounding like two old men blowing their noses. A few minutes later I saw another animal running around frantically and jumping in the air; a grey squirrel - maybe it's the time of year and they're all feeling frisky.

I walked down Eccleshall Road for a few hundred yards and then visited the Botanical Gardens; they were quite colourful - most of the flowers were multi-coloured primroses. Here's a photograph of some palm trees in the greenhouse though.

I had intended to walk all the way back to the railway station and take some photographs of the places I most often visit in the city centre, the theatres, the City Hall, The Peace Gardens, the Winter Gardens, and the Millennium Galleries; unfortunately I pulled a couple of muscles in my lower back on Saturday and they were starting to be bothersome - so I caught the bus.

Here's a photograph of the City Hall I took a couple of months ago when I went to the opera; I think it's the best photograph I've ever taken - it was featured by Google + on one of their showcase travel pages.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Climbing Win Hill With Chris

Fox House, Yorkshire Bridge, Win Hill, Hope Cross, Hope, and Brough.

As usual I met Chris at Fox House, then travelled in the car to Yorkshire Bridge. We parked in the parking bays just before the Yorkshire Bridge Inn and walked to the dam wall of Ladybower Reservoir to look at the 'plug holes' [bellmouth spillways]. They were very noisy today; there was a lot of water rushing down them.

The first path up Win Hill was dangerous, very muddy and slippery, so we took the path that leads up to Parkin Clough; still a difficult climb of 990 ft right from the bottom. I needed to stop for regular rests on the way up, Chris didn't; he only stopped because I was - he's a good few years younger than me though.

At the start of the walk it was quite cloudy, but by the time we reached the summit of Win Hill the cloud cover was breaking up, and so all the way to Hope Cross there were some excellent views of Lose Hill and the Great Ridge, Edale, and Kinder Scout.

On the trig point on the summit there was a pair of gloves weighted down with stones; I think you can just about make them out on the first photograph if you enlarge it. I wonder for how long they'll stay there?

Just beyond Hope Cross we started to descend, using a track that's popular with mountainbikers; I thought it might be called 'The Beast' - they do like to name their best routes (I watch quite a lot of mountainbiking videos online - they tend to be more interesting than the hiking ones.)

As it was there was a gasping mountainbiker pushing his bike up the hill and so I asked him if  this was 'The Beast.' He was glad to take the opportunity for a rest and told me that I wasn't 'riding The Beast' - it's actually the track that tumbles down to Ladybower Reservoir through the woods.

Chris was too far in front to pick up on the first double entendre of the day but he enjoyed the second one a few minutes later as we were waling through Backside Wood.

We continued along the river and the road to Hope, then taking a shortcut that comes out on the main Hope Valley road just before Hope Station.

We'd been walking at our quickest pace for the last half an hour, at my quickest pace though actually because Chris is a very fast walker. I was slowing him down; he wanted to get back to the car for four o'clock so that he would beat the football congestion at Hillsborough. So we decided to part at the turn-off for Aston where he could walk back to the car via Aston and Thornhill: I just waited for the bus.