Thursday, December 11, 2008

By the light ... of the silvery moon

Walked: 10 December 2008
Distance: 7.5m

I've been wanting to go out walking at night for some time. It's happened by accident a couple of times, and I've enjoyed it. Tonight was reasonably clear and the moon was very nearly full.

I discovered that my old camera isn't up to taking good night-time photos. To the eye, there was plenty of light to see by, but all of my photos have just come out as black squares.

This is the only one that is usable. The moon doesn't look half as beautiful here as it did at the time.

It was very rewarding. The moon looked beautiful, the towns and cities were clusters of orange lights, and the moonlight was bright enough to walk by. The light was amazing. My disastrous photography proved that it wasn't really as bright as it appeared to the eye. A strange monochrome though, that colour being mithril.

I'm not sure whether it was a bad idea to walk paths that I didn't know very well, or a great idea. Orienteering was a little more of a challenge than in daylight. This being a linear walk, I obviously walked the same route back, but in reverse. I didn't need the map on the return part of the walk, because I remembered the paths pretty well. I think this was because when I did have the map out, I had to try and memorise as much as I could, because after reading a map by bright torchlight, it was very difficult to see in the moonlight once more.

I picked up where I left off last time out - starting in Stanton and walking east to Castle Donington, trying to keep to the higher ground for the views over the Trent valley.

The route above was generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Map image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Long View

Distance: 11 miles (linear)
Walked: 6 Dec 08
Terrain: The steep ascents are worthwhile!

The local moggies like to laze on top of my garden shed and take in the great view over fields and The National Forest. I thought about this as I drove to my local farm shop this morning, which takes me over one of my favourite South Derbyshire viewpoints (SK365250). Why do animals and humans alike find it so rewarding to find a high spot and take in a long view?

It might have to do with defence - from this position you can see a predator or enemy coming hours before they reach you and fight them off much more easily.

This is all a bit irrelevant for us these days, but nevertheless it feels great to be up high and see a long way. I felt inspired to devise a new walk which would follow the high spots along the Trent valley.

A circular walk would be great - to the south of the valley, then crossing over and back on the north of the river. This would be a very long walk because points where you can cross the Trent are few and far between.

Today's walk was a bit experimental and I'll develop this route some more but it worked out very well. I started in Repton and headed East, making it to Stanton before having to turn around to get back before dark.

From Repton, there are a couple of paths taking you East - on the map there's the main green line, and a pink alternative. I tried both today (one out and one back) and preferred the latter - the green one is low in the valley and you can't see very much more than Willington Power station.

I've said before that the walk along the river between Foremark and Ingleby (passing Anchor Church caves) is one of my favourite spots. Today the path was flooded, as it often is after wet weather. Once before I took off my boots and waded through. Today I thought I could see a way up over the cave, which gave me a great spot for a picnic lunch. This was off the right of way and was probably trespassing, which I hope the landowner will forgive, so I can't recommend it. Instead, I recommend the alternative path (blue on my map below) through Foremark

This chap seemed to enjoy sitting up high enjoying the view too.

In the distance is Ratcliffe power station making its signature across today's amazing blue sky. I really don't like the short days, and we're very nearly at the shortest day, but it was a perfect day for walking. The air was fresh and clear as a bell and the sun was bright. Despite some puddles being frozen over all day, the air didn't feel very cold.

The white building flying the St George cross is the John Thompson at Ingleby, famous for brewing its own marvelous beer.

This time of the year, there is a little bit of colour if you look for it. Today I saw beautiful yellow gorse flowers and red rose-hips. Here they're both showing in front of a tree in wonderful copper foliage.

I used Meander for Mac to generate the route below. Click the map for a bigger version complete with all of today's photos.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Early winter nature watch

Route: Blackfordby figure-of-8
Walked: 30 November 2008
Distance: 8m
Summary: Starting at the Heart of The National Forest, Ashby de la Zouch, walk to Blackfordby, continue out to Woodville, then back in a loop to Blackfordby and a different Route back to Ashy (Possibly starting and finishing at The Beeches pub, well worth a swift visit).

I've broken a bit of a lull in my walking and made the most of the glimmer of sunshine which made it through the dull sky.

We're just three weeks away from the winter solstice, which here in the northern hemisphere means the days are almost as short as they're going to get. This, combined with me being short of spare time and letting my fitness lapse a bit, means that a shortish walk starting and finishing at my house was the order of the day.

I've written about my Blackfordby figure-of-8 walk before. It's one of my most regular South Derbyshire walks. The distinctive broach spire of Blackfordby church is in view most of the time. Today the church was looking a bit green and mossy.

In another life I'm bracing myself for Christmas Caroling season. It's not quite the bleak mid-winter yet, but 'The Holly and the Ivy' did seem very appropriate today. On the whole the trees and hedgerows looked pretty lifeless, but a few things were still keeping vigil, or in one or two cases, just coming into their own. Ivy looks pretty healthy and its berries are just starting to appear:

There's quite a contrast here between the brown and brittle bracken (to the left of the path) and the thriving holly on the right:

Surprisingly there are still plenty of red berries, including rosehips. These ones are among brambles (the blackberry bush) which are still green, but looking very tired and yellowing:

This bush was heaving with red rosehips, and looking really interesting, I thought, in silhouette against an attractive winter sky.

The route above was generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Map image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Hadrian's Wall

[Brian is writing graffiti on the palace wall. The Centurion catches him in the act]
Centurion: What's this, then? "Romanes eunt domus"? People called Romanes, they go, the house?
Brian: It says, "Romans go home. "
Centurion: No it doesn't ! What's the latin for "Roman"? Come on, come on !
Brian: Er, "Romanus" !
Centurion: Vocative plural of "Romanus" is?
Brian: Er, er, "Romani" !
Centurion: [Writes "Romani" over Brian's graffiti] "Eunt"? What is "eunt"? Conjugate the verb, "to go" !
Brian: Er, "Ire". Er, "eo", "is", "it", "imus", "itis", "eunt".
Centurion: So, "eunt" is...?
Brian: Third person plural present indicative, "they go".
Centurion: But, "Romans, go home" is an order. So you must use...?
[He twists Brian's ear]
Brian: Aaagh ! The imperative !
Centurion: Which is...?
Brian: Aaaagh ! Er, er, "i" !
Centurion: How many Romans?
Brian: Aaaaagh ! Plural, plural, er, "ite" !
Centurion: [Writes "ite"] "Domus"? Nominative? "Go home" is motion towards, isn't it?
Brian: Dative !
[the Centurion holds a sword to his throat]
Brian: Aaagh ! Not the dative, not the dative ! Er, er, accusative, "Domum" !
Centurion: But "Domus" takes the locative, which is...?
Brian: Er, "Domum" !
Centurion: [Writes "Domum"] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times.
Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir.
Centurion: Hail Caesar ! And if it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.

Distance of this circular walk: 7m
Walked: 27 September 2008

If there was any graffiti on Hadrian's Wall, which bounded the far corner of the Roman Empire, then it's long gone. As is the vast majority of the wall itself.

I have to take my hat off to the tourism people responsible for marketing the area, for getting so much value from something long gone. It's not fair to say that it's not there any more, because there are visible signs, but you have to look for them. On arrival at Greenhead near Gilsland (near Carlisle) I saw big letters on the side of a bus saying 'Hadrian's Wall Country'. It does all lead you to believe that there's a wall there to see and walk along.

To be fair, it's a well marked route, with plenty of information boards and bits and pieces to see and some glorious English countryside. I had just been expecting to see a wall - that's all!

Our starting point was close to Thirlwall Castle. Built long after the romans had gone, out of stones robbed from the wall itself, it's a fascinating piece of history. It marks a time of conflict, not between the Romans and those just beyond their empire, but between the Scots and English.

This route took us north-east; away from the route of the wall, but through some gorgeous scenery. The weather had looked dodgy (at best) when we set off, but as you can see it was superb for most of this walk.

Having turned south to join the river, footpaths took us back to Gilsland and the route of the wall. Our first sign of the wall was Poltcross Burn Milecastle, accommodation for about 60 soldiers or possibly prisoners. There's not much left, but the information boards show how (we think) it looked. The wall extended east and west from here.

This awesome arch, straight out of Lara Croft, is much later. The railway line runs over it.

This is what's left of the wall itself in this area. A bit of a mound and a bit of a ditch. Interestingly, you're asked not to walk in single file or worn bits of ground as an erosion measure. It's easy to see why a ditch and a mound like this is a good defence measure and puts those beyond it at something of a disadvantage. Even without the wall, it would be quite difficult to scramble over this lot with your sword in your hand and an enemy throwing things at you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rutland Water - with peninsula!

Distance: 21 miles
Walked 20 September 2008

The last time I walked around Anglia Water's 3100 acre reservoir (the largest man-made lake in western Europe, folks) I didn't have time to walk the optional loop around Hambleton Peninsula.

Today I did, and it was a fascinating experience. You'll see from the maps at the bottom of this post that the reservoir is a U shape. You can just walk a circle around the outside, or you can add the inner circle. I walked anti-clockwise around the outside, and had walked almost all of the outer circle before arriving at the peninsula, so while still keeping the water's edge on my left, I found myself changing direction and walking clockwise, and seeing all of the paths already trod, across a stretch of water.

Today we're in the middle of what might be an Indian summer; it really does feel as if Summer has returned (some might say 'arrived'). It was a perfect day for a saunter around one of England's beauty spots.

I started in Manton, and the first mile or so is along a road, with glimpses of the water. The first real views come as you descend towards Lynton nature reserve. Note the rosehips on the hedge. I noticed so many red rosehips and the red berries of the hawthorn. It's either been a very good year for them, or I've just never noticed them before.

This is Normanton Church Museum, which I've not stopped to investigate so far:

A long straight path takes you along the top of the dam at the eastern side of the reservoir. It looks like a huge dry-stone wall, and the village to the east is much lower than the water level.

The big surprise on arrival at the peninsula is the long busy road. For a couple of miles I was dodging surprisingly heavy traffic. It was well worthwhile, because once off that road, the views are excellent, and as I mentioned before, across the water I could see the paths I'd already walked.

This is Normanton Church viewed from the middle of the peninsula:

My car is somewhere in the distance across the water:

I don't know the story of the Old Hall, but I loved this view, and the old tree in the foreground.

At the bottom is my route created and measured using Meander (the extra loop is in green, and my start/finish point is at the extreme south-west) but I have to include Anglia Water's own map from their hand-out leaflet because it made me laugh out loud while I was walking. You'll see that the Rutland Belle is marked on the map. When I saw the pleasure boat, it was parked near Normanton museum, which demonstrates the folly of printing a moving object on a map!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ivanhoe Way

Walked: Sunday 24 August
Distance: officially 36m (I've not checked this yet) plus a couple of miles for one deliberate detour and going 'off track' a couple of times.
Weather: To start with, it was misty and drizzly at best and raining at worst. It brightened up during the morning and the rest of the day was warm and pleasant.

I've had my heart set for three years on walking the whole Ivanhoe Way in a day. I had big ideas about planning where I'd be at what time, and inviting friends to join in for parts. However, with the day length closing in, and a reasonably fine bank holiday forecast, I decided almost on the spur of the moment just to go for it.

The route almost passes my house, and so the obvious plan would be to start and finish from home. Instead, my more cunning plan was to drive to the other side, so that half way round I'd arrive at my house to top up on food and water, meaning I wouldn't have to carry all of the provisions I'd need for the day. Therefore I parked at Billa Barra car park, which is between Stanton-under-Bardon and Bardon Hill. I walked the route anti-clockwise, though I don't think there's a right or wrong way to do it.

For once I remembered to set the time on my camera, so I know where I was when.

I intended to start at 6am, as it was getting light. It was around 6:15 when I arrived at Billa Barra, and I waited for a bit because it was raining. I started walking at 6:30am

6:45 am. This first picture shows Bardon Hill. Or at least the camera is pointing towards Bardon Hill. It's somewhere in that mist.

7:11 am. I'd usually enjoy a coffee and enjoy the view from the top of Bardon Hill - said to be the highest point in Leicestershire (which isn't saying much). You can see this radio mast from the A511.

This is usually a great view of Leicestershire and I've taken this picture before on sunny days. not very exciting today! There was little point hanging around.

There are then a couple of housing estates to walk through. I took a wrong turn in Bardon (Didn't look at the map, thought I knew my way through. One street in a housing estate looks much like another!) That added a mile. There's another council estate to get through at Whitwick, but no problems there. (Give me fields and hedges anytime!)

8:18 am. My photo isn't very good, but the arrow disc says 'Ivanhoe Way' in it. Leicestershire County Council are brilliant when it comes to waymarking. There are plenty of these yellow posts, or the green fingerposts; usually the next one is in sight of the previous one. However, you can't rely on them, the OS map is essential.

9:00 am. This is the first time I stopped for coffee and cake. I crouched under a tree, the driest spot I could find, but it still wasn't very nice. Before I moved on, though, I realised it was getting brighter and saw the first glimpse of blue sky.

9:18 am. Swannington has an old inclined railway (trains were winched up a steep bit of track) which is still there as a museum piece. The Ivanhoe Way just misses it though. I don't know what this metal structure is, but it looks like it was something to do with mining.

10:39 am. This is my first view of Breedon church. Between Worthington and Staunton Harold was field after field of maize, with unpleasantly unkempt paths. This very long grass was still saturated from the rain.

12:09 pm. This is one of my favourite South Derbyshire photo opportunities (we're right on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire). I've taken lots of photos from The bottom end of Staunton Harold Reservoir, and it always looks slightly different. The water's still covered with algae, and there's a good reflection today.

3:22 pm. Half-way through now. If I cheated slightly, it was stopping at my house to freshen up a bit and have a hot dinner. (I resisted the temptation to have a shower!) However, I did take a bit of a detour around Ashby to do it, which added a mile or two to my journey. Just south of Ashby here, I like this view. My house is on the horizon, left of centre. We're in the National Forest here, and typically, the trees are still only head-high.

3:51 pm. This picture sums up the season. Blackberries and elderberries together. I stopped many times to pick the former to eat on the spot, and will be back for a bucketful of the latter to make this year's elderberry wine!

3:55 pm. Ashby to Measham is one of my favourite parts of the Ivanhoe Way. This is Moira Furnace, it is a fascinating building with a fascinating history. Unfortunately, I've just missed the furnace itself off this photo.

4:13 pm. After a lovely walk along canal and through woods, this is Donisthorpe church. It has some fascinating recent stained glass representing the mining heritage and new forestry and tourism industries. from here to Measham is cycle path, so easy walking and pleasant views.

6:32 pm. 12 hours' walking! Stops for drink and food seem to be getting more frequent, although things seem to hurt more when you re-start after resting for a while! After a stop for something to eat and drink in Snarestone, there's a little bit of surprisingly beautiful road here in Shackerstone. The Ivanhoe Way just goes off the bottom of Explorer 245 at this point, and so when walking here previously I've always taken a bit of a detour in order to stay on the map. I decided to try sticking to the Ivanhoe Way today, relying on the fingerposts, a strategy which very nearly worked.

7:44 pm. Almost to Odstone. It was still bright, but check out those long shadows - the sun is really low now. At this point I was still optimistic that I'd finish before it was completely dark.

8:10 pm. Just before Nailstone was this beautiful sunset.

The beautiful Nailstone church nestles among 20th century council houses!

At this point it got too dark to take any more pictures, and with quite a few miles to go, I panicked a little about what to do. When I came to Bagworth it was completely dark (stars but no moon) and with a few fields and woods to cross, I very nearly called a taxi.

The remaining paths go in very straight lines, and although it's obviously difficult or impossible to see the waymarkers, I could see my map and compass by torchlight, and pick out hedges and field boundaries and so very tentatively decided to carry on. Each stile or waymarker that I came to was a mini-triumph, and with a new determination dulling the pain a little, and a real peaceful atmosphere and even more of a sense of solitude than usual, I enjoyed walking in the darkness very much.

I arrived back at my car at 10:30pm - stung, sunburned, bitten, mud and blackberry-stained, sweaty, but very happy - 16 hours after setting off.