On Saturday I did the last of my route / map check walks for the soon to be published Marsden Walkers Are Welcome guides. Despite really strong winds on the exposed parts of the moors the weather was great. No actual rain, for the walk or indeed the whole day, amazing
The overview of the walk from the WaW site is : “This 6.5 mile walk will take you from the Marsden centre into the scenic Wessenden Valley, containing ancient woodlands and deep upland reservoirs, then onto sections of the Pennine Way and Standedge Trail close to the watershed and above Swellands Reservoir. This walk contains some sustained ascents, descents and rough terrain.”
I’ve been helping out on the Walkers are Welcome initiative, by surveying a little patch of England near to me, to check that all the paths, stiles, gates and access points are as they should be. I didn’t get a sheriffs badge but I did get a nice big map. And a sense of community spirit. The map I was allocated covered an area 1km by 1 km, so not huge as such but it allowed for a good inspection of the various paths and bridleways concerned .
I think there are 23 maps / squares to be surveyed and the average time to check each one and all the paths and bridleways, stiles etc is about 6 hours. As a volunteer grid checker I was given a laminated A3 map with OS squares centered on my 1km x 1km part. And using an indelible pen (naturally, this is rainy UK after all) I had to mark on any problems encountered along each path. That could include flooded areas, obstructions on a path, diverted paths, angry dogs on the loose etc. My area was pretty clear as it happens.
I went a bit gadgety of course and used my Viewranger App to mark out the paths and routes I checked for later reference. See image below for part of the route taken (other paths are marked in the central square that was ‘mine’ but just not shown in red on this viewranger snapshot).. I was still in checking mode when this snapshot was created.
Marsden is a great place to be based for walking. You get plenty of ‘hardcore’ hikers doing the Pennine Way, which glances off Marsden before heading north / south (depending on which way you do it of course), as well as casual day walkers (like me up on the hills). I think this initiative will only make the paths and rights of way crisscrossing the valley and surrounding hills even more popular, great for inward revenue for the area. I’ve noticed a lot of Marsden’s shops have W-a-W window stickers now.
And probably the same boost to local businesses in the other towns who have taken up the Walkers Are Welcome scheme.
If you’re local to Marsden or just want to know more about the specific Marsden initiative (and find some routes) have a look at the link.
Or here for an overview of the Marsden area shown on Walkers are Welcome website.
Related Books (sort of) Corner:
I think Walkers are Welcome is supported by Julia Bradbury who (coincidentally to this blog post is launching a book about Wainwright’s Walks today/tomorrow (1st Nov), good on her for supporting it. And the Wainwright book looks good. And timely…
I’ve just (yesterday) finished Simon Armitage’s book on his North to South Pennine Way trail.. good book, read it (short review there for you).
Anyway – this is a great initiative, we should all exercise our rights (or just to, you know, exercise) to walk the countryside / urban / historical areas around us and this grass-roots and community-led approach is top-notch I think.
I got contacted today by an app developer who has brought out an app (for Android initially I think) for people looking to do the West Highland Way.
I’d love to do this path / trail its entirety – on my bucket list, as having driven up most of it (and walked a tiny part + one mountain at the northern end) it’s a beautiful part of the world.
And I have family in Erskine / Paisley and as a boy we had day trips to Loch Lomond. And I’ve travelled up and down the road to Inverness a few times as an adult and always wanted to stop and wander a while..
Alas I don’t have the time just now – but (and this sounds like an Ad, it isn’t!) .. if I was to do it I’d download this App for sure, it looks really useful.
I’ve got viewranger which of course handles all the GPS, route marking and more but this looks a bit more specialist with local knowledge thrown in. One of the neat things for this App, I think, is it looks to have a diary feature. so you can jot down notes at stopovers.. handy for blogging types (yes you can blog on the go but having a facility in the app for diary notes seems a nice touch ).
Some info from the developers:
“For the first time, a guide to Scotland’s West Highland Way long distance path is available for Android phones and tablets. People can use it to plan their route and accommodation in advance and also day-to-day as they walk the route.
The app can display a map of the route overlayed with the locations of essential facilities such as hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, shops, transport links, etc. Users can move around the map and touch a location to see information about the facilities there, including links to the appropriate website for further information. So people can find the best accommodation options and link straight to their websites for contact details and booking.”
Looks like they are going to do bespoke apps in a similar vein for other long distance paths. nice one.
I’ve had a couple of trips away of late, so this weekend I was determined to get out and get moving in prep for the upcoming Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge I’m doing (raising money for homeless charity Simon On The Streets). Saturday looked like the best day so that was the plan. A ‘proper’ walk, come what may. What I hadn’t planned for though, was just how long the (excellent) Olympics opening ceremony would go on for.. and how heavy the red wine I was drinking would be. Oops.
Saturday was therefore a bit of a slow start. And my reluctance to get up the hills wasn’t helped by the rain that started just as I was getting Brodie’s harness on. Anyway – rain,schmain – off we went, though neither of us in particularly high spirits!
I had planned (in my head) a route that would start out from the back of the garden (always a good place to start) and go straight up the hill to the catch-water near Shooters Nab above Marsden. The climb felt a bit hard this time (first time for a long time actually). I was a bit dehydrated and I was cursing myself for not drinking more water before I set off. There was approximately 10 miles ahead of us so I stopped to swig some water rather than start with a headache.
The route described a southerly, then west to north-westerly loop up above the Wessenden valley on the heritage trail and then joining the Pennine Way near the Deer Farm and heading over the moors between Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs towards the Oldham Way / Pennine Way.
The part between the Deer Farm and Swellands Res is one of my favourite parts of the moors whether rain, snow or (occasional!) blue sky. Walking down the little steep sided valley to the river (Wessenden Brook) and the wooden bridge, past the waterfall and then up the steepish hill to the phone mast (and Heritage Stone number X (can’t remember which one that is.. 11?)) is a nice little section and gets your heart going.. more so with a dog pulling you downhill sniffing out sheep and rabbits (every time).
We stopped for a quick lunch of cheese sandwich just after Black Moss res (Brodie being a bit partial to cheddar) before heading over the A62 and on to the impressive cliffs looking over Castleshaw reservoirs. I could have spent ages here poking around the interesting shapes of the rocks but would have had a bored dog to contend with.
I shot a short video near the Oldham Way / Pennine Way Cairn – Warning : terrible sound quality due to the incessant winds ..
We then headed a bit further north before turning east / south east, down Willykay Clough and down to Eastergate and the final tramp back into Marsden.
So about 10 or 11 miles in all and I had reckoned about 4.5 / 5 hours to complete. Which it turned out to be.
And after that first shower we had patchy blue skies but (very) strong winds to contend with over the first 3 or 4 hours or so (it got a bit wearing actually).
I’m glad I got out despite the initial reluctance and a few more 5+ hour walks to get fit for the 3 peaks are on the cards
If you enjoyed this post and admire my grit in fighting a mild hangover,
why not sponsor me for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks:
Our second day on Rum was going to less about height and more about distance. We were heading over to Guirdil, the other Bothy on Rum. And what a beautiful start to the day – it was blue skies from the start. The occasionally heard cuckoo from the day before had made a couple of appearances during the night, I was blaming that, rather my snoring for keeping tent partner Nigel awake.
I’m not sure of the exact distance but I think it is about 6 or 7 miles as the crow (or cuckoo) flies between Dibidil and Guirdil bothies. But we weren’t cuckoos* so the real distance covered along parts of the coastal path and via the Harris Mausoleum was about 12 miles I would guess. And the best part of a day’s walk.
(* The cuckoo became a bit of a standing joke, in moments of quiet and rest during the day, the cuckoo (we were sure it was just one, stalking us) would pipe up. And some of us live in Marsden.. a village with its own ‘cuckoo legend’. So to come up to Scotland and be stalked by a cuckoo was pretty funny. We were hoping for Eagles, we got Cuckoos.)
The route took us essentially south-east to north-west of the island and across a few rivers (burns). There was quite a bit of rough moorland (which I felt at home on) and some steep cliffs that the path shadowed in places. Not any real climbing but it was still a fair trek. All of the sea views out to the further Hebrides were fantastic. Now we were on flatter ground (although some scrambling was still needed in a couple of places) I wished I had carted my DSLR with me. Ah well.
The first place we came across from Dibidil was the abandoned hunting lodge at papadil. Which I now know (see the link on the last post) is a name associated with early celtic ecclesiastical settlements. The little lake here was really pretty and ‘exploring’ the disused lodge was interesting.. we even had a curious deer appear as we headed away from the lodge and back up hill.
The lodge itself was overgrown with Rhododendron bushes.. very much like some occasional parts of the moors where I live (Marsden, Yorkshire). Victorian land owners had a penchant for planting these shrubs near estate houses. Left to their own devices they get really big of course. When the lodge was in its heyday the hunting parties would come around the island by boat whilst the staff would head inland from Kinloch. (Quick Ad: I was told that by author of a book on walking the small isles, Pete). Now it has reverted to a wild wood as it were, with shrubs / trees growing through the lodge windows and doors.
We then flanked around Ruinsival and its fairly steep slopes and headed to Harris bay, which was about a 3 hour tramp across some occasional rocky parts but mostly moor / bog (although not at all boggy when we were there). In wet and rainy weather I’m sure this would have been a lot, lot slower to cross with some very claggy sections.
Harris itself annoyed me. I think that’s the best word for it. The mausoleum is an oversized brash thing, a testament to one family’s vanity. John Bullough had the money (made from the cotton mill industry) to aggrandise his own passing. To be fair, he wasn’t the instigator of the enforced land clearance of the original island crofters (that came before him) but the building set amongst such a lovely ‘wild’ landscape is historically both interesting and annoying at the same time.
Without the distraction of the previous day’s vertigo, I had time to think about the islands. I was actually conceived on Skye (mum and dad lived there for a year when they were first married) and my mum was Scottish. Her family were from (more latterly) southern Scotland, working class folk from around Paisley. But (having started to trace my family tree) elements of the family originated further north. I’ve been to Scotland lots of course (and lived in Paisley for a year or so aged about 10), yet I’ve never been to any of the Islands before. So being on Rum and also seeing some of the more distant isles from various advantage points over the weekend was kind of cool. I think that was why the brash Harris mausoleum annoyed me, it cut through my romanticised revelries of celtic ancestry
Anyway – one great thing about Harris was the beach, it was great to be able to take our boots off for a while and sit under a blue, warm sky! What a great place to eat and have a break.
Some of the guys even had a paddle, to soothe those aching feet
I should mention that getting photos on the last 2 days (we had a 4 day trip in all) was thanks to a solar charger thing I bought recently. I’ve done kit review as it really worked out well. (see separate post).
From Harris we then had about 4 hours of hike across a mix of moors and also some rock / scree fields. And part of the route brought us pretty close to some very steep cliffs .. we kept back for the most part but there were a couple of places (around ominously named Wreck Bay) where you got some excellent views. Mr Vertigo kept a couple of feet back from the very very edge of course.
There had been some evidence of deer (and also some goats that I think live on Rum?) wherever we went – but that was mostly in the form of droppings and ticks. The ticks themselves were not so obvious on this particular day – more on the following, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Real deer evidence came around the Wreck Bay headland area where Steve picked up a really nice antler. Which was proudly strapped to his rucksack for the rest of the trip.
Speaking of evidence of wildlife.. I meant to mention on the previous post that sections of the Cuillins were riddled with burrows for what I think were Manx Shearwaters. The evidence being the holes themselves and lots of bird droppings. But of the birds, no sign. I’m guessing they were out at sea before coming back for the nesting season?
There was then a longish schlep across rough moors before we crossed Bealach an dubh-bhraigh and found our way towards Glen Guirdil.
The glen itself is really impressive, with Orval (at about 570 metres) imposing itself at the head of the glen over to our right as we walked down the steep glen flanks, in what was the beginning of late afternoon sun. The glen is steep-sided and the river at the bottom (Guirdil River) gets really full in wet / winter weather I believe. Thankfully it wasn’t in spate when we picked our way eventually across it after a long descent into the valley. It must get bad though as there are crossing suggestions posted on the notice board in the bothy. Up and behind us (and with the soundtrack of yet another Cuckoo) was a fenced off plantation and behind that, Bloodstone Hill. The hill dominated the view from the Bothy once we got to it.
Giuirdil Bothy was, for me, the more interesting of the two Bothies. I think the location, right on the edge of a bay, and the collection of derelict / collapsed building next to it make it really interesting. The guest book tells of the regular visits of deer down to the seashore. We did have a couple appear at twilight but they stayed behind the bothy , not straying onto the beach itself. But I think there is (or was) a stag called Brutus (if I remember the name rightly) who is a beach comber on occasion.
We decided to bivvy again rather than use the empty bothy but it was the base for the evening meal prep and also the place to stay warm in the rapidly cooling late evening air. We gathered up a lot of dried seaweed with one of the flotsam fishing crates, which we replenished again in the morning for the next visitors. The dried seaweed burned really well in the old fireplace and after a long day’s hike it was great to sit and chat with some candles lit and a fire on the go.
I would happily spend a week or two based at the bothy to get into the place and it’s quietness. And having a deer mooch about as you eat your breakfast outside can’t be bad.
Ah, update on Brutus. I just googled to check I’d got the name from the guest book right.. and turns out he’s a TV celeb. As seen on Autumn Watch on the BBC apparently:
So, that was the second day on Rum. Really enjoyable.
I’ll write up day 3 separately, it was essentially a hike across to Kinloch, dodging ticks (some of us) and eventually eating cake (all of us) without any climb or much elevation but for the sake of completeness I’ll do a quick post when I can.