Saturday, 31 March 2012

It was a sunny day .......March 30th
  And not a cloud was in the sky, at least when we left Newcastle this morning.
  Another sexgadgie outing, two cars, meeting initially in the Keswick Coffee Lounge for a five flitch bacon sandwich and pot of tea, although I do think the tea could be a bit stronger.
 A quick decision  sent us off to climb Scafell Pike, at 3210 feet the highest point in England. Minute by some standards but a good walk out.
 There are several routes up the Pike but we chose to climb from Seathwaite. Directions from Newcastle are the same as last week but as a reminder take the A69, the M6, the A66 to Keswick and find the B5289 signposted Borrowdale. Drive down this road almost to Seatoller and turn left down the narrow lane signed Seathwaite. Go past the Yurts on the camp site and park as near to the farm as you can. This is a very popular start for walks, you may have to be well back from the farm.
 Naturally, being a good walk it crosses two maps, OS4 and OS6, The English Lakes, North Western and South Western sections. Seathwaite Farm is at GR236122 and is lavishly equipped with a phone box and toilet operated by the National Trust!.
 From Seathwite there are several routes up to Scafell and for today's outing we have chosen to go up Taylor Force Gill for the scramble.
In the farmyard go through the gate on the right handside which goes through the cowshed/byre/mistal* and follow the path, cross the stream and turn immediately left. A vague and muddy path leads across fields in a southerly direction and then turns south west as it approaches Taylor Force Gill. A steep scramble up the side of the Gill brings you out to the flatter area alongside Styhead Gill.

Taylor Force Gill.
Somewhere I have photograph of it frozen solid
and looking even prettier.

The lads scramble up the side of Taylors Force
The footpath leads on to Styhead Tarn, another pretty fell tarn. We were once stopped there by a man doing market research into walking gear. We answered his questions. Not so much as a mini bar of Kendal Mint Cake** for our efforts.

Styhead Tarn with Great Gable in the background.

Follow the path beyond the tarn until it reaches the stretcher box. It really does contain one, I looked once, and Herbie has probably slept in it.
At this point we followed a short cut over a grassy hillock, down a short rocky slope until we joined the Corridor Route. This footpath is a popular trail, initially fairly level  and with one  twelve foot downward scramble but eventually it becomes a steady upward plod. It crosses the top of two gills, the first is Greta Gill, the second the yawning chasm of Piers Gill. Some years ago a man fell into Piers Gill and broke his leg. Unable to get out he survived for a couple, of weeks on little food and water before someone heard his cries for help. The sides of the gill are steep, the path round the top has been strengthened with large stones although care is needed in winter. Plod on. At Lingmell Col turn left and continue plodding the zig zag path that leads to the summit of Scafell Pike. On the summit there are several shelters which make excellent Herbie Spots, and the views are magnificent. In the south east it is possible to make out Ingleborough, to the south is Morecambe Bay and to the west the Isle of Man. But not today as the clouds crept in beneath us. (Temperature inversion he said, quickly donning the patched jacket.)
Ben had brought his delicious ginger biscuits, Harry offered healthy oranges and I handed round preservative packed pork pies to those willing to eat them.
Since I have had a mobile phone I have rung my mother from the top of Scafell Pike and today was no exception. As she lives in Morecambe it is a direct line! There were one or two mutterings about using phones in the wild but a phone call from the top, of England must be better than the usual "Hello I'm on the bus."

Wearing Rohan shades, Ben admires the view from Scafell Pike.

Dave packs as Ben and Harry admire the view on the summit of Scafell Pike.

The path down from the summit is a steep descent in a north easterly direction which then climbs between Broad Crag on the left and Ill Crag on the right. We gadgies refer to it as the boulder field and you do need to take care crossing the large stones on the cairned path. After about a mile take the right hand path at Calf Cove that leads down to Esk Hause. Here turn left then left again to pass in front of the imposing climbers paradise known as Great End. Not too far below is Sprinkling Tarn and close by is the wettest place in England. Wet because it is in a natural bowl surrounded by hills that force moisture bearing air currents upwards to cool and fall as rain! What a wasted talent. Before the tarn a path on the right dips down to cross Ruddy Gill which becomes Grains Gill which leads down to Seathwaite and the end. The top of the gills are very deep, have beautiful pools and waterfalls and Dave's first wheatear of the year, plus a meadow pippit.

            Grains Gill, too much sunlight  for a prize winning picture.

Before reaching the farm another ancient gadgie tradition is to stop at Stockley Bridge for a final drink before heading back to the cars.
Stockley Bridge. Usually a fast flowing stream but quiet today after a fairly dry spell.

Back at the cars we compared pedometer/GPS readings as usual. My good old reliable Higear said 9.3 miles. Unfortunately I had switched on my Outdoors GPS but had managed to switch it off again as I put it in my rucsac and didn't realise until we stopped at Styhead Tarn. So although it worked well from then on it gave a walk of 6.8 miles.
Two ped Dave averaged 9.5 miles and Bens Ukrainian powered bragometer claimed 9.6. Seems reasonable to claim 9.5.
We stopped on the way home for alcoholic refreshment at the Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld. Today it was packed with people who had been out enjoying the unseasonal weather. Fortunately I was not driving and enjoyed a couple of pints of Jennings Bitter.
* The English language has a variety of words for cowshed. Mistal, peculiar to the area around Cravendale is my favourite.
**Kendal Mint Cake, for my foreign readers is a block of tooth rotting sugar flavoured with mint and sometimes covered in chocolate. and always carried on British expeditions to Everest, the Arctic and the Antarctic.

There are of course many books on the English Lakes. The best guides remain Alfrd Wainrights eight Pictorial Guides. Written with a gentle sense of humour and with beautiful drawings and maps they are a must.
For more serious route directions than mine try

Monday, 26 March 2012

Glaramara.....March 23rd.
  My first job was for four weeks in the school summer holiday of 1959 when I worked as a relief porter/general dogsbody for Marks and Spencers in Lancaster. For a 15 year old it was a great job, paying £5 a week, which I reckon would be worth £200 today. Furthermore there were heavily subsidised meals and 12.5% off all non food items bought in the store. I had two sisters and the day I finished work I was given, much to my embarrassment, a list of female underwear to buy.
 There were also a good number of attractive young ladies working there who showed only a sisterly interest in me. One of them was a girl called Rosemary Frankland who went on to be Miss England or Miss United Kingdom or Miss World or Miss Universe (and parallel universes today). I think she went off to Hollywood. That’s the nearest I have ever got to a celebrity although I once stood next to Alan Bennet in Wigley’s bookshop in Lancaster. He didn’t recognise me. Ben, halfmarathonmeister has done much better, he knows Christopher Chataway and furthermore Sting was his milkman for a short time but he gave the round up to be a teacher then a pop star. Made some good records too, with The Police before he got into saving rain forests.
 When my four weeks were up I took my wages  (£20 less National Insurance) to the nearest Army and Navy store and bought a pair of walking boots, some thick socks and a green anorak with a large map pocket and a hood. A sweater came from M and S with 12.5 % off. My last pair of boots was £94 in a sale!
Ted Short was headmaster of a small secondary school in Blyth, Northumberland in the 1950s. He became a Labour MP for a Newcastle constituency and was eventually promoted to Postmaster General. Like all good socialists he had at least two houses, one of them near my father in law’s post office and grocery shop in High Heaton, Newcastle. He occasionally called in with exciting things like despatch boxes and one day when I was in the shop and behind the counter he came in for a loaf of bread and a jar of marmalade. I served him: the nearest I have been to a politician, although I once stood next to Ronnie Campbell,  Labour MP for Blyth in the Waterloo Working Men’s Club.
 When Ted Short retired he was promoted to the House of Lords and took the title “Lord Glaramara” after one of the hills in the Lake District.  Given the chance I would choose to be “Lord Helvellyn”.
Got to the walk at last, which is to be an assault on the north face of Glaramara, the 46th highest Lakeland peak and the bump from which Ted took his title. Today we are a sexagadgie again, the usual crew and as there are two cars involved we met in the Coffee Lounge Cafe in Keswick (A69, M6, A66) for the energising bacon butty. Served by the ever cheerful owner,  who appears to be an old friend of Brian, the well filled buns qualify for a five flitch award.
Breakfast over we headed in a mini convoy down Borrowdeale Road (B5289). About half a mile past Rosthwaite a narrow lane on the left is signposted Stonethwaite. After the first bend there is a limited amount of parking on the right hand verge, so get there early, but there is more further on. Booted up we set off.
A map could well prove useful in the Lakes and like all good walks this one is spread over two, OS 4 and 6, The English Lakes, North West and South West sections. The parking spot is at GR257141 on OS4.
Almost immediately turn right and go past the small but quite old Anglican Church and through a yard in front of a short row of cottages guarded by a friendly collie. Just beyond the cottages a home made but distinct signpost says  PATH in large letters. Take it. The path follows Combe Gill past an old corn mill and it is necessary at times to cross and recross the stream as Abba would say, but it is quite easy to follow as it climbs up Thorneythwaite Fell and approaches Glaramara itself. As you approach the top of Glaramara you are faced with a choice: either scramble up a 20 foot face which has many handholds but can be slippy if wet or take the path to the west. They both end at the same place, the cairns on the summit, one of which, although not quite the highest, has a shelter that makes a good Herbiespot. Nobody had brought pies today although Ben had brought his usual home made and delicious ginger biscuits, he is also a biscuitmeister now. As we dined and chatted we were joined by a man who asked where we came from. On being told Newcastle he expressed the wish that we wouldn’t mind too much if Manchester City beat the toon in the penultimate game of the season if it meant the blues could take the Premiership title. We thought it would be OK if the toon had a place in Europe and it meant Manchester United were denied another championship.  We were about to throw him over a cliff but his wife arrived with a very large stick.

Lunchtime at the Glaramara Herbiespot.
A hazy day but that bump in the background
is Great Gable
  The best thing about Glaramara is the view. On a clear day you can almost see forever.
To the East is helvellyn to the south Bowfell, westwards to Gable and Lingmell and to the north is Grisedale Pike. And that's just a few. Sadly it was hazy today and views were restricted.
Regular readers may have noticed the lack of wit  from the punmeister on the last few walks, indeed he has been a little quiet on the wisdom front but he did ask a good riddle today:
“What’s the difference between a plastic surgeon and an Ofsted Inspector ?”*
Answer: One of them tucks features.
As four out of the six of us have been involved in education at some level this joke went down very well and Harry was kind enough to remind us all that on one occasion I had managed to clear Bowfell by telling the joke about English poets.**  and gaining the title jestermeister.And the one about Native American names.
From the top of Glaramara the walk continues in a roughly SSW direction from OS4 onto OS6. (Reminder; you can of course resort to photocopying and laminating too if you don’t have daughters who scoff)
After about two miles the path reaches the summit of Allen Crags which are slightly higher than Glaramara but don’t have such a poetic name. You can almost imagine some homesick Irishman in Boston promising to take his sweetheart home to see the folks back in Glaramara possibly a village in Killarney.
Down from Allen Crags is Esk Hause, a meeting place for footpaths. There is also a good shelter for a Herbiespot, cross shaped and really designed to offer some protection to any passing Herdwick sheep who need to keep out of the weather.
Turn left and head South East to Angle Tarn, a beautiful fell tarn nestling beneath Hanging Notts. Having admired and photographed the tarn, look out for the nearby fork in the path and take the left hand  narrow path alongside Angle Tarn Gill which goes down and down and down until it joins  Langstrath Beck. Keep going down the Langstrath Valley which seems to me to be the widest, deepest valley in the whole of the Lake District. For Geographers this glaciated valley has a couple of Hanging Valleys on its North West side.
Bowfell in a haze.

Angle Tarn, still hazy.

Eventually the Langstrath Beck joins the Stonethwaite Beck, the footpath becomes a rough stone track and as it passes a campsite on the righthand side evolves into a properly surfaced road leading to the village of Stonethwaite and its hotel/pub. The pub offered a selection of real ales, had I not been driving I would have opted for a brew called Thirst Session from the Keswick Brewery, which I was assured was very drinkable.
A total disaster for the Outdoors GPS which had worked well for most of the day but ran out of juice and shut down, losing everything. Good old reliable Higear said 13.3 miles.  Two ped Dave averaged 12.75 miles on the ASDA peds and we both measured the walk as 10.5 miles. Throwing in the ups and downs and following winding streams 12 miles seems right to me But on a warm sunny day like today, us lads can handle it.
*Ofsted Inspector. School inspectors who sit in lessons, assemblies, nursery classes, prison education classes, night schools and even old folks meetings if there is a bit of a lecture going on.  One told me that my classroom needed a” Resource Island”. Turned out he meant a cupboard.
** Copies of this cultural joke are available on request. And the Native American.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Wind and Rain.............March 9th.
While I have been sunning myself in gadgieland, aka Madeira, the rest of the team have been out for the normal Friday walk and Brian the punmeister has kindly written up the day's adventure for me to add to the blog so here it is, added  by my recently acquired skill of cutting and pasting. The benefits of children are few but they are good with computers.

Wind and Rain – March 9th 2012

The day started so well with good warm sunshine and a bacon sandwich at the Terrace Cafe in Wooler. 

The route is a variation of the gadgie favourite – the Henhole (see walk on Sept 23rd 2011) but instead of the Henhole we would go via the Mountain Refuge Hut (GR 878202) on Auchope Rig.

Your regular author, the blogmeister, is away on the island of Madeira (19oC with light winds and sunny spells), so didn’t accompany the cinqgadgies on this walk but how he will laugh when he reads this account.

As usual we parked by the Harthope Burn where it meets Hawsen Burn and headed up Hawsen Burn into the teeth of what could be playfully called a stiff breeze. We, that is Ben, Dave, Ray, Harry and Brian, plodded our way up to the flat section between Blackseat Hill and Broadhope Hill and as usual couldn’t find a direct path to the style.  One day we will have a working party to build our own.  From the stile the path starts off muddy but then becomes good track down to Goldsclough. 

Howson Burn, very popular with Ring Ousels.

Near Goldsclough we saw Dave talking to a fellow walker.  What a friendly chap Dave is, always attracted by the lure of someone’s lunchtime sandwiches!

Goldscleugh Farm, probably named for a man named
Golda, and a ravine (The cleugh bit)

 A little further down the valley we honoured the absent grubmeister at our usual lunch spot, behind a wall at Dunsdale, where Dave produced pork pie and Ben ginger biscuits. Dave and Ben who carry next to no superfluous weight are net food exporters where as Ray, Harry and Brian are net importers. From Dunsdale we turned in a more south westerly direction down into the College Valley so the wind wasn’t now directly against us but perversely it did start to drizzle.

At the end of the College valley the only way is up, but there are choices. There is the regular path and a spur that is shorter and steeper with both leading to the Refuge Hut.  Dave decided to try the spur, whilst the rest of us followed the other path.  The Hut is a solid wooden building and could be a life saver for anyone caught out on the hill in poor conditions.  There is a Visitor’s Book but it made no mention of the map and compass Dave had accidentally left there some years before.

Now we were heading up to Auchope Cairn, into the cloud and heavier rain.  The section between the Cairn and Cheviot summit is almost completely pathed with duckboards to begin with and later stone slabs, to ease the passage over the Cheviot plateau. 

Cheviot Summit.
My best man, not knowing the Cheviots, decided to camp on the summit a few years ago, thinking there would be sparkling mountain streams for his morning tea. By the time he made it down in the next day he was so dehydrated he hallucinated.

To my mind this does nothing to detract from the walk, indeed the conditions underfoot on the plateau are so wet and boggy that the 1.6 miles to the summit, could under poor conditions be very very difficult without these walkways. 

By the time we reached the summit cairn the rain was lashing down, though thankfully now on our backs. They say that on a good day you can see the steep crowning glory of dark Lochnagar but it was not this day. I joked with Ray that I had just received a text that it was “sunny in Seahouses”.  The steep descent from Cheviot is no fun and is probably the biggest erosion scar in Northumberland however we were soon below the cloud and out of the rain and could see to the coast where, lo and behold, it was sunny in Seahouses.

It is a short walk up to Scald Hill where you turn south east and take a reasonable path back down into the valley and back to the car.

Now what is the distance of this route? Dave’s nuclear pedometers suffered meltdown but his map measurement was 12.4 miles.  I got 12.6 miles and 3250ft of ascent using electronic map measurement. Ben used a mixture of map measurement and “how much equivalent mileage can you add on for walking into a gale”  This adds roughly 1 mile for every 5 miles travelled directly into the wind and ½ mile for buffeting (this doesn’t mean eating lunch).  Ben’s calculation therefore was 13½ miles and it certainly felt like it.

After changing into dry clothes we left and headed to the Anglers Arms for good beer and a warm welcome.

Thanks Brian. Love the use of "cinqgadgies", un petit morceau de classe. And sorry about the rain.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

On the Moors again ............ ....  March 16th
is almost a Willie Nelson song.
Today's walk was to be up the Schill from Hethpool but a last minute change of plan was caused by a weather forecast suggesting the Cheviots would be wet. Blame Hannah Beyman, weathergirl for the BBC North East, pin up girl for gadgies dependent on  reliable weather info for Fridays.
So a septgadgie* is setting off for a walk on the North Yorkshire Moors, the usual gang of six plus a welcome guest Cornish Johnny, music meister.
As in "A Walk on the Mudslide" today's ramble starts from the car park just south of Chop Gate in God's county, so for directions from Newcastle see that blog. A map would be quite useful for this walk, more reliable than GPS systems and the one to use is OL 26 North Yorks Moors, western area. The only problems with these maps is that they are large, printed on both sides and the walk you want to do is always on the edge, necessitating furling sails in the wind. The alternative, if you can ignore the jeers of your offspring is to photocopy and laminate.
When you have finished watching the birds, and, because of the number of feeders, there are many birds, take the footpath that leads from the  car park in a South Westerly direction and start climbing the fairly steep hillside on the clearly marked path. I am not too keen on walks that start with a climb immediately, Grisedale Pike on the Coldale Round, in the Lake District is a killer, this one is shorter, but steep.
The path continues in pretty much the same direction to  Cook Howe and then turns North West over Green Howe and along Barker's Ridge.
On the left hand side of the path is a small pool called Brian's Pond. Some people get whole mountains, think of George Everest and President McKinley, some people get airports, think JFK and John Lennon** but our own punmeister Brian gets a small pond!

Queen Victoria got waterfalls, railway stations and halls and Australian states, but Brian the punmeister has a pond.

The path continues in a northerly direction, passing the Carlton Gliding Club headquarters. Immediately beyond the club the path turns west and soon joins the Cleveland Way, a long distance footpath shared with the Coast to Coast Walk. Turn right. The path is on the very edge of the moors for the next few miles, giving, on a less hazy day than this, excellent views. To the north is the beauty of industrial Teeside, to the other three points of the compass almost endless moors, and below a flat agricultural area with a scattering of villages and small towns.
For the next few miles the Cleveland Way follows the moors edge or goes down into farmed valleys. The escarpments are quite steep, as are the paths up and down so that the on the whole walk the total ascent is approximately 3000 feet.
A sunny spot overlooking Raisdale was chosen as a Herbiespot. After pies and much merry banter we moved on in an easterly direction.

A small section of the Cleveland Way on the edge of the moors which in places are very steep.

Climbing out of Bilsdale the walk goes through the Wain Stones, an outcrop of Millstone Grit and the nearest thing to a scamble on the ramble.

Wain Stones. Look carefully, Ray is visible on the left hand side.

Beyond the Wain Stones the path dips down again, crosses the B1257 and then climbs towards the last moorland section. A signpost by the road points to Bloworth Crossing  but about half a mile from the road take the path (GR 579031) through the heather on the right hand side of the Cleveland Way and follow it in a southerly direction across Urra Moor. A series of notices tells walkers that Urras Dyke, an ancient earthwork, is being improved. Urras Dyke is the much shorter northern answer to Offa's Dyke, built to keep the English out of Wales. It failed. The footpath crosses the moor and several fields to Bilsdale Hall. At the end of the road turn left and walk back to the Chop Gate car park.
On this occasion the Buck Inn at Chop Gate was open, and what a find. A cosy pub, serving food and several real ales, run by an enthusiastic landlord more than willing to discuss his supplies and the micro breweries in the area. I chose a pint of Golden Dragon  from the Skipton Brewery, not exactly local but a very refreshing light coloured beer. Also on offer was a pint from the Whin Stone Brewery, equally tasty.

Biped Dave's two pedometers gave an average of 13.1 miles but disaster struck my measuring devices. Hi gear opened unnoticed at the beginning of the walk and remained open for the first five miles. When we stopped for a mini Herbiespot just before turning on to Urra Moor the previouslyb reliable Outdoors App shot off to some place near Darlington, giving a distance for the walk of 37.1 miles.
Measured with the highly accurate German map measurer I got 12.3 and throwing in the ups and downs, wandering around a bit, will settle for 13. A great walk, highly recommended, and no puns. Is Brian slipping or am I going deaf?

* Hint for young and enthusiastic maths teachers. Ask your class why the ninth month is called September and the tenth October and.....
** For very young people John Lennon was one of the Beatles, Liverpool Airport has been renamed after him.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Walking with the gadgette II  March 5th - 12th

  No walk this week as I have been on holiday in gadgieland, aka Madeira, with the gadgette, the gadgiebabes Kate and Lucy, the apprentice gadgie Mark, who has many years to go before he gets a bus pass, and the mini gadgie Alex who has 59 years to wait for his.
 When I was a mere boy I read a couple of books by Ludwig Bemelmans. One was called Hotel Splendide but I can't remember the title of the second, nowadays it would be Hotel Splendide II, or Return to Hotel Splendide. They were gently humorous tales of life in a huge hotel in New York between the two world wars. Living in a forties council house in Lancashire as I did, the luxury and size of the hotel  was beyond my comprehension.  When I got to stay in New York for a few days in 1966 the student hotel I chose was seriously lacking in the spendour of Ludwig's place of work, a bit grubby and the TV  only seemed to show baseball.
 The Pestana Promenade Hotel in Funchal is probably not as luxurious as Hotel Splendide either but it is a holiday hotel offering a pretty high standard of accomodation, swimming pools, saunas, jacuzzis and Turkish baths. We booked a three room apartment which had a living space, kitchenette and two bedrooms. One room for Lucy, Mark and baby Alex, one room for the gadgette and I and a settee/bed for gadgiebabe Kate. Three bathrooms, one hot tub, three balconies and underground parking. A long way from the boarding houses of my youth.

Part of the Pestana Promenade Hotel in Funchal. We had an apartment on the top  two floors.

  We did not do any serious walking on the holiday, Alex was not too keen on the levadas but we had a great family time.  In our rented VW Sharan, with me driving and the gadgette's eyes tightly shut we drove to the Curral das Freiras, Valley of the nuns. Since our  last visit some years ago either a tunnel has been dug avoiding some of the more tortuous bends or we came a different way. Previously we journeyed by bus along narrow roads which climb steeply through tight bends and with only a low  wall protecting vehicles from a vertical descent to the valley floor. 
 The nuns apparently came to this valley to avoid the attentions of fifteenth century pirates who were probably not too keen on their devotions. Now it is a tourist spot with views, roast chestnuts and a serving of chips even bigger than the portions from Gills Fish and Chip Shop on Chillingham Road in Newcastle.

Sister Lucy at the Valley of the Nuns. She has few bad habits, taking the piss out of her dad is one of them.

Looking down the Valley of the Nuns. A good walk on another day.

  Another day we went for a trip on a replica of Christopher Columbus's  ship the Santa Maria. I have nothing but admiration for the men who sailed the Atlantic on these tiny vessels. The replica is fitted with an engine but at one point it was shut down and sails were hoisted to give us some idea of life on the ocean wave. I suspect the sailors were not offered Madeira wine and cake as they crossed the ocean, nor would they have a pump action toilet like this boat has.
Avoiding the perils of the deep, the rum and the lash,
Alex sleeps through a typhoon aboard the Santa
Maria. But he liked the ships dog and the parrots.
He is probably singing "Sloop John B" to himself.
"We sailed on the sloop John B,
My grand daddy and me"
Long John Silver Hair shows Alex the ship's parrot.

Cabo Girao from the deck of the Santa Maria.
Aboard the Santa Maria, safely in
The ship hove to, (naval term for stopping) beneath the highest cliffs in Europe, the Cabo Girao, 580 metres from top to bottom. At the foot of the cliffs is a restaurant and a few houses. The hamlet is served by a lift that descends the cliffs, bringing guests and supplies and taking away local exotic produce, It's either the lift or a boat, there is no road.

After the excitement of the Santa Maria a trip round an extinct volcano sounded tame but our drive out to Sao Vicente on the north side of the island turned out to be interesting and another opportunity to don my Geography teacher's patched jacket.*
The visit started with a well illustrated exhibition of volcanoes and their workings, followed by a short film on the formation of the Madeira archipelago, a journey by lift to the centre of the earth and a 3D film on the formation of the Madeiran archipelago. The CGIs were good, the narration subtitled but sufficient and the trip finished with a walk through lava tubes deep underground.

                                              Inside a lava tube at Sao Vicente. Long
                                      extinct, fortunately.

Apart from the trips we did a lot of strolling up and down the promenades of Funchal like proper tourists, a fair bit of relaxing in and out of pools and some visits to a sauna. On one afternoon I sat with a rather fat German gentleman in a very hot sauna, blackheads popping  and floors wet with sweat. He had rolls of fat, fuelled no doubt by years of eating wurst and drinking good German beer. It was only when he stood up I realised he was completely naked!
And then there were the quizzes. One evening, leaving grandma to babysit the four of us went to O'Hallaransbejesustopothemorningslainte Irish pub to enter the quiz, and have some beers. A fun quiz with occasional clues, needed by me for the picture round because all female TV stars look alike, and we won! The prize was a round of drinks, well worth winning. Next night the hotel held a quiz for guests in the bar. It started at 6pm so Alex could join in. We won, with a fantastic score of 28/30, mainly because the gadgiebabes could answer the music questions and I was old enough to remember such things as the comedy duo who appeared on the last "Sweeney" show. (Morecambe and Wise in case you forgot) and Kathleen knew the name of the dam on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe (Kariba). The prize, collected by Alex was a voucher for two breakfasts in the hotel dining room. As we were self catering breakfasts consisted of healthy muesli and bananas but next morning Mark and I did justice to the complete English and a bit more. Set up for the day with arteries blocked by bacon grease we returned to the healthy vegetarians.
All in all a good family holiday, even if we never made it to a levada. But we did have the lovely Alex to make up for that. As we left Kate said Goodbye to Madeira, a green island of beutiful trees, plants, wine, cake and pensioners. True.

                                                 Alex sporting a one piece swim suit
                                                       and kepi.
When the plane arrived back in Manchester we, along with all the other passengers, had to wait over an hour for our luggage. The reason, apparently, the plane was early so luggage had to wait for its alotted time. There was only one other plane unloading at the time, from Dublin, not a fleet of Boeing 747s from the Dominican Republic. The large TVs in the baggage hall said "Welcome to England."
* Perhaps I should explain. I have never taught Geography but I do like maps. In England it is almost a tradition that PE teachers (Probably called Sports Facilitators today) taught a little Geography when they were not torturing children in the gym. And Geography teachers always seemed to wear sports jackets with leather elbow patches. Today they probably wear jeans and a sweatshirt and  say things like "OK guys, listen up." Standards Michael, standards, as Miss Brown used to say.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Ospreys have not landed March 2nd
  Some years ago a pair of Ospreys set up home on Bassenthwaite in the Lake District and produced families. A web cam was set up near the nest and pictures were relayed to the visitor centre at Whinlatter.  Across the lake a view point was set up in Dodd Wood, complete with powerful telescopes. All was well until a couple of years ago when Mrs.Osprey decided to upgrade her living quarters and move to a new nest in the woods behind the viewing point. No more web cam: telescopes  still useful for watching the birds fishing. Whinlatter is a good centre for activities though, cycle tracks through the plantations, walks and adventure playgrounds for  children and those of us who never grew up. Parking cost £6.40 strange amount.
Today's walk is from Whinlatter centre, there are six of us so it is a sexgadgie, a fine name for such a handsome group.
We arranged to meet at "The Coffee Lounge", a pleasant cafe in the first car park you come to driving into Keswick on the A66.
(Directions from Newcastle: follow the A69 to Carlisle, the M6 south to Penrith and the A66 west to Keswick.To get to Whinlatter continue on the A66 past Keswick, turn left through Braithwaite and after a couple of miles the Whinlatter centre is on the right.)
Back in the cafe. Brian and Dave ordered bacon rolls, feeling porky after my week in the Czech Republic, I opted for a cup of tea and was joined by Harry. We sat at a separate table, like kids left outside the pub with a bottle of lemonade and a bag of crisps as they ate what looked like delicious bacon sandwiches. Brian, who is a bit of a bacon butty connoiseur maintains the Coffee Lounge serves one of the finest bacon sandwiches in the north, so for service, nice staff and quality I award it 5 flitches, and will partake next time.
 A map could well be useful on this walk. OS Outdoor Leisure 4, the English Lake North West Area is recommended and the centre is at   GR208 245.
 As you look at Whinlatter centre there is a set of steps cut into the hillside on the right. Take them and follow the footpath through the plantation, starting north, turning westand following a forest track to the fence. Once over this obstacle turn right up the hill until you find a sheep track leading west across Whinlatter Fell. Follow the path along the ridge and admire the views. The path turns towards the north and goes downhill to Aiken Plantation. Through the plantation, turn left for a short stretch  on a forest road, turn north and find a crossing point for Aiken Beck and rejoin the forest track.
On a sunny bank facing the south we stopped for pies, sandwiches, coffee and merry banter.

This photograph won the Ringwood Hampshire Photographic Society prize for pictures of Grisedale Pike taken on March 2nd 2012.

Lunch time for gadgies.

After lunch we followed the forest track in a north west direction until we found a footpath leading north to the edge of the plantation. Once across the fence we turned south west and walked up Graystones, stopped a moment and walked back down again, a bit like the Grand old Duke of York. Back at the spot where we had emerged from the plantation we continued on the footpath up to Broom Fell and along to Lord's Seat.
  I have mentioned before the deep philosophical conversations that take place on these walks and of course today was no exception. Having discussed the RSC's production of  The Taming of the Shrew which has been on in Newcastle, and the National Theatres Comedy of Errors being broadcast by the magic of satellite TV at the Tyneside Cinema we moved on to films, Wittgenstein, Richard Dawkins and God. But mostly we laughed about first dates. Dave had taken a girl to the pictures when he was in junior school, Ben fantasised about a girl he called Pam the Superb, I must have been a very late developer! But we all knew about small shops with issues of Health and Efficiency* on display. Black and white photographs of bikinied young ladies holding very large beachballs and with navels air brushed out. And the shops had packets of Durex to giggle about. Such days of innocence. The punmeister told us that his wife had informed him Davy Jones** was dead  but he wasn't too  sure until he saw her face. "Now I'm a believer". How we laughed.

                                  Ray, Ben(with Rohan sunglasses) Dave and Brian
                                    by the cairn on Lord's Seat.
From Lord's Seat  we followed a path south, turning east then south again until it joined a forest trail which meandered back to the centre. We watched the birds feeding for a while before walking back to the cars.

Chaffinches on one of the centre feeders.

Those of us who did not have a bacon butty in the morning were allowed an extra sandwich at the end of the walk.

After the walk we went to the Horse and Farrier at Threlkeld. A lovely hotel with 1688 over the door, a fine range of Jennings beers inside, including one with the name "Tizzie Wizzie", it was served in a pink glass. There was also a competition being held for the world's most unsmiling barman. Perhaps he had supported JamesII.

Outdoor GPS
* Health and Efficiency Officially  a magazine for outdoor pursuits and health benefiting exercise it was really an incredibly soft porn magazine. By today's standards it was very mild, so I am told. Definitely not top shelf material.
** Davy Jones. One of "The Monkees" an artificial pop group made by an American TV company as an answer to the Beatles. Their TV show was a half hour of fun, rather like "A Hard Day's Night" but in colour. Not a bad band, they had several good hits before disbanding. Davy Jones real claim to fame however was appearing as Ena Sharples' grandson in Coronation Street.

There will be no blog next week as I am going with the gadgette and the gadgiebabes on holiday to Madeira. Brian has promised to write up their adventures and I shall write about the levada, a popular Madeiran dance,