#10 – “On Ilkley Moor….”

Think of West Yorkshire, and you will probably think of towns and cities, and the remains of long gone industries.  The reason that so many of those lost industries were situated in West Yorkshire in the first place was because of the valleys, where plentiful water supplies drove the mills.  Where you get a valley, you also get uplands, and West Yorkshire has those as well, though not always as obvious or well known.

Striding out over Ilkley Moor

However, one bit of West Yorkshire upland is famous in the song “On Ilkley Moor, baht ‘at”.  Two bits of confusion to clear up here.  The landmass that most people regard as Ilkley Moor is, in fact, Rombalds Moor, and Ilkley Moor is the high ground directly above Ilkley town.  The thing is, no one ever wrote a song called “On Rombalds Moor, baht ‘at”.  And the second confusion to clear up, for those who are not from the North of England, is what does “baht ‘at” mean in the first place?  Quite simple, it means “without a hat”, the consequences being terminal in the song.

From our home (Shipley near Bradford) it’s a simple matter to walk to Ilkley over Rombalds/Ilkley Moor and from Ilkley to return home on the train.   So, that’s what we did.

The Leeds-Liverpool canal at Saltaire

From Shipley the Leeds-Liverpool canal makes a pleasant connection with Saltaire, which is a world heritage site.  Sir Titus Salt built a ‘square mile’ of houses for his employees in the 19th Century, including churches, halls and libraries – the only thing he wouldn’t include was a pub!  From Saltaire we headed up Shipley Glen, a great local playground where you will see horses, mountain bikers, rock climbers bouldering and the ubiquitous dog walkers.

Chris, Barbara and "Mist"

Also on our route was Golcar Farm, home of Mainline Border Collies, and the Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies (FOSTBC – see below).  Our Border Collie, “Mist”, was a farm dog that didn’t make the grade as a working sheepdog, and was re-homed with us by FOSTBC.  After swapping a few tales with Barbara Sykes, who runs the trust, we set off again for the moor.

The Twelve Apostles stone circle, Ilkley Moor

Cloudless blue skies, and hard frozen ground made walking over the moor a pleasure – all too often this route is misty, muddy or both.  We made great progress up to what is literally the high point of the walk, the ‘Twelve Apostles’ stone circle.  The circle is Bronze Age, and has stood on this spot for several millennia.  In the distance we could see a more sinister example of the hand of humankind at work, the electronic monitoring station at RAF Menwith Hill.  Despite its official title, the facility is run by and for the USA.

Menwith Hill in the distance

From the stone circle it was all downhill to Ilkley and the railway station for the return trip.  Ok, so Rombalds/Ilkley Moor isn’t the Cairngorm plateau (though when the north wind blows the snow directly in your face you might find similarities) but on a crisp, winter day it makes a fine excursion.  Just remember to take your hat!

The descent to Ilkley

p.s.  FOSTBC is a charity dedicated to the welfare and future of the Border Collie breed.  Running costs are inevitably high, and any contribution to their finances helps to re-home another unwanted collie.  You can even sponsor one of the ‘sanctuary’ dogs – for more information check out their website – http://www.fostbc.org.uk/index.php

p.p.s.  Not much derring-do this week.  If it’s gale force winds, avalanche conditions and steep snow and rock you want, come back next week for the report of my trip to Fort William last weekend – wrap up warm, though.

Posted in 4. Northern England, Border Collies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

#9 – Conistone Dib and the Dales Way – “…just a walkin’ the dog!”

11 January – A week after the Great Whernside mini-epic, Chris wanted a less exciting walk.  We chose the route we should have done last week., starting from Conistone, heading up Conistone Dib, then taking the Dales Way to the edge of Grassington before returning along the top of Bastow Wood – shorter, lower and much less affected by bad weather than last weeks walk.  Mind you, one four-legged member of the party was in for some excitement.

"Hmm, these stiles can be tricky!"

Border Collie “Mist” has been with us for a month now, but just as we got her she came into season, so for the first three weeks walks were all on a lead, with a careful watch kept to avoid potential suitors.  We started recall training in a fenced tennis court, and then after three weeks had her off lead in the local park with good results, a dog that doesn’t wander too far away, and comes on recall.

"... just a walkin' the dog!"

The next step was to try her without a lead on the hills.  A bit more nerve wracking for us, because if the dog was startled by something she might run, though the evidence so far was that she would stick to us like glue.  Still, at least the high ground was clear of sheep, and the Conistone walk would be ideal.  There was still the thought, however, that no matter how certain you are about a dog, they can sometimes surprise you.

Looking south down the Dales Way

* * *

Re-wind twenty-five years.  Penrith Mountain Rescue Team is on a winter training exercise, with about twenty members and two search dogs.  The radio crackles into life – an ice-climbing accident in the next corrie.  We set off at a good pace, working round the base of the ridge between us and the incident, all out of breath but trying to keep something in reserve.

Suddenly a loud noise from behind.  An RAF Sea King helicopter, callsign “Rescue 131”, is hammering up the valley towards us.  Graham’s dog “Rick” flees downhill with Graham trailing behind – it would be almost a mile before he caught up.  Meanwhile my dog “Matt” is also running, but running uphill, the same way as “Rescue 131”, heading towards the incident.  We arrive to be told that the climber has died.

“Rick” was a well-trained, obedient dog, probably a bit brighter than my “Matt”, but after this he hated helicopters, and became nervous about all loud noises.  “Matt”, on the other hand, was blasé, and would leap aboard a helicopter as if it was the family car, before curling up under the seat behind my legs.  Why the dogs reacted so differently is still a mystery.

* * *

On the way home

“Mist” is sometimes nervous of new situations, but the helicopter we could hear nearby  during this walk didn’t seem to bother her.  In fact, we all had a great day out, with the cool breeze tempered by a warm sun.  For Chris and I it’s a walk we have done several times, but which still holds interest.  The dog certainly had a great time – from now on the walks in the park will probably seem to her like, er,  …a walk in the park…?

p.s. – Thanks to my regulars for continuing to follow this.  If you enjoy this weekly wander in the outdoors you can subscribe – costs you nowt, and you get an email when the new posts go live.  Just click the “Sign me up” button on the right side of the posts.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales, Border Collies | Tagged , | 3 Comments

#8 – Great Whernside …Underground, overground.

It’s all a bit confusing.  There are two Whernsides in the Yorkshire Dales.  There’s Whernside (736 metres) that is one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and there is Great Whernside (704 metres) that isn’t.  Using the same name for different hills can cause confusion, such as two different Harter Fells in the Lake District, or the Black Mountain and the Black Mountains on opposite sides of the Brecon Beacons.  Sort that out, then!  I’ll not even mention Scotland.  So, having established all that, this is about a walk on Great Whernside above Kettlewell.

6th January 2011 – I’m usually a sucker for a good weather forecast, so when both the Met Office and MWIS (Mountain Weather Information Service) agreed on a ‘shiny sun’ symbol from noon onwards, a walk up a hill was on the cards.  There had been snow the night before, but nothing extreme, so Great Whernside was chosen as being a good leg stretch.  The car park at Kettlewell was icy enough to require care, but the path up to Hag Dyke was easy going with only a little fresh snow.

Approaching Hag Dyke above Kettlewell

Hag Dyke, an 18th century farm on the 460-metre contour, is now an outdoor centre owned by the Scouts.  As well as the usual amenities you might expect at an outdoor centre, it has one of the most interesting (or notorious) caving trips in the country running over one hundred metres directly below the kitchen.  In an excellent article in the bulletin of the British Cave Research Association, Terry Trueman and Ian Watson described Dowbergill Passage as “….a very lonely and unforgiving place.  ‘Overdue’, ‘exhausted’, and ‘stuck’ are the most common preambles to rescue call-outs”.

Dowbergill Passage - A strong start...

... before starting to get tired ...

... and ending up totally knackered!

These photos show the nature of the difficulties.  My mate John Bamber did Dowbergill Passage in the late 1970’s.  He describes the trip as “an eleven hour epic”.  Asked what the secret for success was, he added, cryptically, “Keep your fingernails sharp!”  Chris and I had no plans for extra excitement, so after a coffee break at Hag Dyke we pressed on up the hill.  As we did it started snowing.

... it started snowing.

... and carried on snowing.

We didn’t linger on the summit of Great Whernside.  The wind from the north is invariably cold and makes its presence felt just as you reach the crest of the ridge.  There was also enough mist to make serious navigation necessary.  In my rucksack I had a state of the art GPS – unfortunately that was in my rucksack at a friends house in Mid-Wales, not in the rucksack on my back.  So, it was going to be a traditional map and compass day.

Poor visibility on the summit.

One thing I emphasise when talking to people about navigation is the importance of not becoming distracted by strong crosswinds, people nattering at you, etc.  Well, I did let myself get distracted in the mist by the other “Mist”, our Border Collie.  It’s a useful trick when “slightly misplaced” to recognize the fact early, but although only about ten degrees off course it took thirty minutes extra time plodding through knee-deep snow to relocate on a good navigation handrail (a stone wall).  From here all that remained was a simple descent.

Back on course.

The simple descent had a sting in the tail.  A steep 50-metre slope of névé (old frozen snow) barred the way.  We didn’t have ice axes and crampons, and my stiff winter boots just about made an impression on the surface.  We got off the hill by me “short-roping” Chris down the slope using the super-strong dog lead that she says is over-engineered – it was certainly useful for us on this occasion.  A slope that would have taken about a minute with crampons took about 50 minutes of faffing about and looking for alternatives.

After that, the walk down the Coverdale road in the dark was a breeze!

End of an "interesting" day.

p.s.  For those of you who like to read this along with your morning meusli (and I know there are a couple of you out there) I’m afraid you will have to carry on without me next Monday.  I’m away over the weekend on a couple of one-day courses at Fort William (Avalanche Avoidance and Winter Mountaineering – The grey area)  I’ll hopefully be back with you on Tuesday (18th January) with a trip report to follow, probably the week after.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock - Dowbergill photos by John Bancroft – © John Bamber

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

#7 – Wakening the ghosts

The countdown started – “Ten … nine … eight …”  A few more people joined in, “… six … five …” until the chant was taken up by the whole pub, “… three … two … one … Haaaapy Neeeew Yeeeear!!”

New Years Eve at the Station Inn

From the earliest days of outdoor sports in the UK, walkers, climbers and cavers have frequented the local pubs, harking back to a time when social networking was done over a pint, not a computer keyboard.  The pubs were places for tall tales, stories of epics, narrow escapes or triumphs, and places to plot and plan the next trip.

The author looking pleased with himself

All the mountain and hill areas had their own popular venues.  The Clachaig Inn and Kings House Hotel in Glencoe, the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and the Wasdale Head Inn in the Lakes, the Vaynol Arms and the Pen y Gwryd Hotel in Snowdonia, the Station Inn and the Old Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales, the list goes on and on.

John Bamber - mountaineer, caver, photographer, musician and good chap

Now I’m not a fussy man, but I do like a bit of music with my pub.  And I don’t mean the music that comes out of a box screwed to the wall.  I mean the music that comes out of a box with bellows, reeds and buttons or a box with strings that you strum, pick or bow – I’m talking about live, acoustic music.

Di and Jeff

When I started walking, climbing and caving the pubs in the mountains and hills frequently had that sort of music as part of the normal scene, and the music became as important to me as the outdoors.  In fact, I’ve probably spent more money on musical instruments over the years than I have on outdoor gear.

Jill and Steve

Which is why I found myself in the Station Inn at Ribblehead on New Years Eve, along with others who love the music, the outdoors or both.  They travelled from all points of the compass, from Cumbria, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and that was just the locals!  We had a few pints, played some tunes, sang some songs, and saw in 2011 in right good style.

Gail and Alan

The instruments are now back in their cases, and the ghosts of long-gone walkers, climbers and cavers have retreated back into the shadows, perhaps for some peace and quiet.  Until the next time we come to waken the ghosts with our wild, beautiful music.

Two old gits making a row

Happy New Year – Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Credits – The following who supported the night have websites you may find interesting
Di Dennie and Jeff Wright – “Anastice Dingle” - http://www.anasticedingle.co.uk/default.html
Gail Sirmais and Alan Cole – “Fagin’s Pocket” – http://www.faginspocket.com/
Steve and Gill Parkinson – “Mooncoyn” – http://www.mooncoyn.co.uk/
Ron Mollett – West Yorkshire mandolin and ukulele club - http://westyorkshire-mandolinandukulele-club.com/
Chris and Dave Stewart – Walking World - http://www.walkingworld.com/
As well as mucking about in the hills I also play in a band, “Long Meg” – http://www.longmegband.co.uk

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales, General Interest | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

#6 – A Short Walk on the Shortest Day

Tuesday 21st December – Clear blue skies made a trip to the hills a ‘must do’.  There was a white blanket of snow over the North of England, promising great views, but the same white blanket had also covered the roads.  By Tuesday, though, things were improving, so we decided to try somewhere reasonably near to home.

For various reasons we wanted to make it a short day, so Malham came to mind – reasonably near to home and with a good selection of short but worthwhile walks.  The Aire valley was a bit on the murky side, mainly due to air pollution, but nearing Skipton everything was clear and bright.  It was also getting colder as we hit the A65, and between Skipton and Gargrave we had our coldest temperature reading of the day, at –12C.

All dressed up for sub-zero temps

By the time we reached Malham that had risen to a balmy –9C.  Chris and I were well layered with winter gear, and “Mist” was even better prepared with a thick collie overcoat, but we could still feel the cold.  We followed the Pennine Way route south from Malham before turning off towards Janet’s Foss.  Out of the bright sun the temperature plummeted to an estimated –12C or lower, but the water was still flowing in the beck.

Janet's Foss

Janet’s Foss is a well-known waterfall near to Goredale Scar, and despite the cold very little ice had formed.  “Janet” is the fairy who lives behind the fall, and those who know their northern dialect will recognise the word “Foss” or “Force” as a waterfall, from the old Scandinavian word fors. After admiring Janet’s watery home we carried on up Gordale Scar, where the beck was now frozen solid.

Approaching Gordale Scar

At the head of the narrow gorge there is an easy rocky scramble, or at least there is in summer.  Today it was a 7-8 metre ice pitch that would have required crampons and ice tools.  Not on the menu today!  We opted instead for a return route heading towards Malham Cove, before following the road for an easy return to the village.

Ice fall, Goredale Beck

So, a short but worthwhile trip out.  A bit of snow and ice transforms familiar landscapes, and the cold conditions made it feel like a more like an exploration than the stroll it would have been in summer.  With an early start to winter we will probably have more days like this before spring returns.

Homeward bound

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

#5 – It’s a dog’s life…….

Out in the cold on Ilkley Moor

Yet another week gone by without any days out in the hills, but all in a good cause, as we have been settling in our new arrival, a three year old Border Collie girl called “Mist”.  We have had an unlucky year with dogs, losing one in a road accident and another to epilepsy, and I’m sure our friends who don’t have dogs probably don’t understand why we are doing it all again, and why another Border Collie?

Why another BC is easy to answer.  The breed was developed by working shepherds who wanted a dog to herd sheep in the upland areas of the UK, not by members of the Kennel Club designing a pretty looking dog.  Over a couple of hundred years those shepherds have given us the best possible dog for the hills – a medium sized dog with strength, speed, agility and endurance.

The looks of the dog were never important, but temperament was.  The BC had to be gentle enough to round up a newly born lamb, but bold and courageous enough to turn an aggressive ewe protecting her young.  Often working long distances from the shepherd, the BC had to be intelligent and able to ‘work things out’ without having to be told what to do.  The BC can do all that, and do it all day and in all weathers.

Because of these characteristics, Border Collies are an extremely versatile breed, being a “Jack of all trades” dog that can also be a “Master” of any task he or she is put to.

This probably seems very “off-topic” for a blog about my days out in the hills and mountains, but there is a link.  Twenty-five years ago my Border Collie “Matt” was a working mountain rescue search dog.  He was one of my best ever companions in the hills and mountains, as well as a much loved family pet.  “Mist” will not be a working dog as “Matt” was, but for the adaptable Border Collie being a companion on days out in the hills is all part of the job description. Watch this space for further adventures.

Back in the warm!

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 4. Northern England, Border Collies | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

#4 – Would you like some ice with that?

Big ice fall on the Twll Du cliffs, Cwm Idwal

What a week!  One of my excursions included sub-zero temperatures where I was glad I was wearing my down jacket, and with a perceptible avalanche risk and so much ice that I regretted not wearing crampons……….Yes, shopping at ASDA can have its moments!

The temperature here in West Yorkshire did not rise above zero for more than a week, and we had snow avalanching off roofs.  As for the pavements, I would feel a bit foolish striding into ASDA wearing 12 point crampons, but last week the pavements here were lethal – my risk assessment for walking outside was along the lines of – “Yup, it’s risky!”

Mention the phrase “risk assessment” and people either nod wisely, possibly with a pained expression, or their eyes glaze over.  If you think about it, though, we are carrying out risk assessments all the time in our everyday lives – can I get across the road before that Eddie Stobart truck runs me down, can I get away with putting the rugby on TV without it causing a domestic…. well you get the picture.

Our trips out in the hills involve an element of risk, even easy, uncomplicated hillwalking, so the ability to carry out a simple risk assessment can be useful.  It’s really not rocket science.  Things to consider are –

What can go wrong?

Who will be affected if things go wrong?

How likely is it that things will go wrong?

What are the likely consequences of things going wrong?

Can we do anything to stop things going wrong, or to make the consequences less serious?

No need to fill in a long complicated form, just keep asking the questions.  The process is exactly the same, whether you are planning a simple walk up a valley bottom or climbing 30 metres of vertical ice with your last protection a long way away.  By thinking about the risks beforehand, it’s easier to come up with a solution if (when) things don’t go as planned.


Anyway, my risk assessment must have been OK, ‘cos I managed to get home from ASDA without breaking anything.  Just in time for pre-dinner drinks…..

”Would you like some ice with that?” – “Nah, too risky, might choke on an ice-cube!”

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 5. North Wales, Mountain Safety | Tagged , , | 5 Comments