Ah, Whitby!  Tied with Keswick in the Lake District for my favourite place to be.  Not so much of a set walk today but just a lovely day out (not lovely weather, in fact the opposite of that).  In spite of the freezing winds and sideways rain, we walked the North Pier, climbed the 199 steps, took in the sights of the Abbey and ventured round the town.  Perhaps more comfortably we enjoyed a coffee and cake at the wonderful and eccentric Sherlock’s Coffee House on Flowergate.  I’ve been visiting Whitby my whole life and reading Sherlock Holmes books nearly as long and as far as I know there is no connection.  Still, this matters not as the café is impeccably decorated in the haphazard style you would imagine Holmes’ 221b Baker St. address and more importantly the coffee is tasty, the cakes enormous and process fair.  So a winner all round.

After a cold, wet but fun day we hit my favourite Fish & Chip restaurant in Whitby (and possibly in the world), the Quayside.  I whole heartedly recommend it if you’re visiting.  The restaurant won best restaurant in the 2014 National Fish & Chip Awards.  Many visitors to Whitby will be drawn to the Magpie, which despite its reputation and queue out of the door, is fairly mediocre.  So get yourself to the Quayside!  Plus, reading the blurb on the back of the menu, it appears the building (which I have always know as a fish shop), was once, amongst other things a library where Bram Stoker researched Dracula.  So a double claim to fame.

Anyway, enough prattling from me, here are some pictures from my Canon SX170D:

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References & Further Reading:



Great Shunner Fell, Swaledale, North Yorkshire

After recovering from my foggy adventure in the Peaks I headed back ‘home’ to the Yorkshire Dales for my next walk.  Teaming up once again with my co-conspirator Graham, we decided to take on Great Shunner Fell, this time with his Dad joining us.

I was looking forward to this walk for many reasons, firstly because it is always good to catch up with my old friend Graham and with the added bonus that his father Mike was coming too.  Mike was our history teacher at school and was pretty much responsible for my interest the history of these isles (and Jimi Hendrix but that’s another story).  With Mike coming along I would be sure to learn a thing or two as well as enjoy a pleasant walk.  Secondly, I’d fancied climbing Shunner Fell for sometime as it is the third highest point (716 Metres above sea level) of the Yorkshire Dales and borders Swaledale and Wensleydale, so hopefully there would be plenty of spectacular views. As an added bonus the route we decided upon would also take in the Butter Tubs pass, another amazing limestone feature of the Yorkshire Dales.

We arrived in the hamlet of Thwaite, a picturesque but tiny settlement about a mile from Muker.  The weather was clear, the sun was shining and the wind gave an icy bite as we headed out of Thwaite and joined up with the Pennine Way.  The lane gave a gentle ascent along a well worn farm track bordered by the dry stone walls so iconic and synonymous with the Yorkshire Dales.

Pennine Way

Pennine Way

The walk was steady and pleasant and gave opportunity for some lovely views and photographs down Swaledale.  Just after a mile or so the farm lane ends and the lane gives way to a muddy and well worn track that is soon replaced with a stone paved path.

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Flagstone Pavement of the Pennine Way

Given the time of year and current chilly weather, there are still many pockets of snow and ice across the fell.  The stone path is well kept and does well to combat the erosion present on the earth footpaths, it’s also helps us avoid the ever present deep peat bogs (but more of those later).  After a mile or so the stone path becomes earth and grass trail again and we descend a little as our goal approaches.


Graham notes that it is a nice walk where you can see the summit from virtually every point of the trail. Graham’s Dad Mike remains sceptical and notes most of Graham’s walks involve getting lost and some sort of vertical ascent before the summit is reached.  Luckily, I have chosen the route and thus far it seems to be going quite well (unlike my last outing in the Peaks).  As we begin the final ascent, the views North West towards Mallestang Edge and Hangingstone Scar are stunning and despite the bitterly cold wind we agree this is a fine day to be walking.  Further round to the North we can view Birkdale Tarn and then to the East a spectacular view down Swaledale all the way to the Cleveland Hills the other side of the A19.


View down Stock Dale towards Swaledale

We come across a curious stone with IP 1839 chiselled on to it.  I’ve done some Google searches since but am still none-the-wiser as to what it may be for.  If any readers do, please get in touch and enlighten me.

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Marker Stone

We hit the beacon marker, around a quarter of a mile from the summit and stop for some coffee, lunch and photographs before heading on to reach our goal.


Beacon Marker

Great Shunner Fell is a notable feature of Swaledale as it effectively marks its point of it’s origin.  Great Sleddale Beck has its sources on the northern banks of the Fell; flowing north its confluence with Birkdale Beck becomes the River Swale itself.  At 716 metres, Shunner Fell qualifies as a Marylin, Nuttall and a Hewitt in fell walker’s parlance.  I suppose it’s an unofficial Wainwright too as Alfred himself walked the Pennine Way and detailed it in his excellent book: A Pennine Journey – The Story of a Long Walk in 1938. Though not being a Lakeland Fell it cannot officially qualify for this illustrious title.


Stopping for a Photo Opportunity

The views from the top are incredible, with Wild Boar Fell to the immediate West, Ravenseat to the North, Kisdon Hill stood over Thwaite (our start point) to the East and the beginning of Wensleydale to the South.  A fine vantage point for all points of the compass, which is likely why it was look-out point for the early Norse settlers of the area.  The word Shunner is derived from the Old-Norse word of ‘Sjon’ which means ‘Look-out’ and of course fell (from fell, fjeld,or fjäll) is an Old-Norse word for ‘high and barren hill/mountain’, so Look-Out Hill.


Wild Boar Fell


The summit of Great Shunner Fell




Frozen Pond on Great Shunner

The summit is marked with a large cross-cairn complete with benches, offering some shelter while we have a rest.  In the north facing part of the cross, there is sunk a lead-plaque bearing the details of the old OS Trig Point, atop of the stone is the metal North marker.


Trig Point Marker at the Cairn

[In another part of North Yorkshire there is a Shunner Howe, also a former Norse look out post (Howe is derived from Old-Norse for haugr which also means hill.)]

After taking in the spectacular views, taking some pictures and refreshing with a coffee, the biting cold wind got the better of us and we decided to move on.  Indeed as we started to pack up, it became overcast and the beginnings of a light snowfall hit us, definitely time to progress.

We left the well-worn and signposted Pennine Way for a path marked as ‘other access route’ on my OS map, which followed a fence down the fell towards Little Shunner and across the top of Thwaite Common.  This is where the path became one definitely less-travelled and often hard to pick out of the sea of scrub grass and peat bogs.  In a way, the sub-zero temperatures keeping the ground frozen was a blessing, otherwise at times I think we would have been knee deep in peat.  We followed the boundary as best we could; eventually realising we were on the wrong side.  We hopped over and got our bearings as we (literally) stumbled across the ‘Grimy Gutter Hags’.  Peat Hags are quite a quirky and interesting landscape feature to walk amongst, combined with the frozen solid dark black peat bogs, they make for an almost other-worldly landscape.  Our continuing trek across Graint Gill Moss and Hood Rigg reminded me of a quote I once read from author Garth Nix:

 ‘Does the walker choose the path? Or does the path choose the walker?’


Peat Hags

By the time we had reached the edge of Hood Rigg and had definitely lost the trail, picking our way down the steep outcrop of Howgate Edge felt like the natural thing to do.  Mike commented that this almost vertical descent was more inline with what he had come to expect of Graham’s usual walks, Graham soon quipped back that at least it was downhill and not a climb.  Either way, I felt the latter part of Nix’s quote was definitely at work here.  Only slightly off the trail we were soon on the level tarmac of Buttertubs Pass and back on track.  Though not exactly planned, it was fun scaling down the rocks and moss mounds of Howgate Edge as you could clearly hear all the underground streams coursing through the limestone bed, the same streams that caused the incredible buttertubs.


Scrambling down Hood Rigg

The Buttertubs are one of the more popular features of the Yorkshire Dales, attracting thousands of visitors every year.  Last year saw the popular B-Road stage of the prestigious Tour-de-France cycle race, well-received along this route.  The ‘buttertubs’ themselves are around 20 metre deep geological features formed by water erosion of limestone seams.  As water flows across the surface of limestone it can sometimes erode away hollows called ‘Shakeholes’, caused when drift material falls into joints/gaps chemically widened by water/rainfall.  The water then begins to erode the limestone seam vertically forming a pothole or swallow hole.  Over the course of a geological timescale these features can be enlarged by glaciations and/or rainfall.



The result is a series of spectacular formations along the road from Hawes towards Thwaite.  Legend would have it that the name originated when farmers would stop to rest on their way to market, they would lower their butter into the potholes to keep it cool.



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Graham lowers himself to take a selfie… with my camera.

We stopped to admire these quirks of geology before heading along the road back towards Thwaite.  I’m generally no fan of walking along roads and avoid where possible, so I felt it was a shame the final leg of this journey was on tarmac.  By decent way of compensation though the views across the valley towards Lovely Seat and Long Scar over Cliff Beck we very enjoyable, especially as the sun lowered and cast its yellowy glow across the fells from behind us.  We also took in great views of the old lead mine at Providence Hush, a location Graham and I decided we would very much like to explore in the future.


View down Cliff Beck

Eventually the road winds its way back down the hill towards Thwaite and we note the sheds located along the wall are old converted railway trucks (Graham has an enthusiastic fondness for sheds, barns and huts.  A fondness I’ve never understood but come to accept). As we reach the final stretch, seemingly from out of nowhere a dark-grey, unmarked Hercules C5 (Lockheed C-130J) thunders from the valley between Kisdon and Stock Dale, banks hard left and speeds down Swaledale until out of sight.  This enormous yet graceful aircraft must have only been 400-500 feet above the ground (if that), adding to the spectacle and surprise.  Growing up near the Dales and RAF Leeming; low flying aircraft are not a surprise to me, but seeing this huge ‘workhorse’ of the Royal Air Force swooping so low is still quite an exciting sight.   A little research once home reveals that it is not uncommon for the C4/C5 aircraft to fly low-altitude sorties over the Dales from their Brize-Norton home for training missions.

We wander down the final stretch of road back into Thwaite and despite there being a tearooms-cum-pub-cum-hotel that serves Black Sheep Bitter; we don’t have time to enjoy one as Graham is soon due at work.  All-in-all though, a most enjoyable walk with some spectacular views and interesting scenery.  It certainly has whet my appetite for future walks further into the Dales, Wild Boar Fell is definitely on the horizon now, although I think Pen-y-ghent is next on our list!

Hopefully I should be back in the Peaks sometime soon as Higger Tor and I have unfinished business, until then happy rambling.

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References and Further Reading:









No more walking since Tuesday, think there’ll be a bit of a lull for a week or so as family and work commitments. I’m hoping to get out in to the Dales again in a few weeks and will of course keep you posted how that goes. In the meantime go have a look at the fantastic work of Bill Schwab from USA:


Jack Lowe who is undertaking an amazing project photographing all 237 RNLI Lifeboat Stations in Great Britain and Ireland using Victorian methods:


And of course my very good friend, co-conspiritor and mentor; Graham Vasey:


And if you’re not bothered about photographs and just fancy a good walk, check out this beauty of a site:

(NB. not exclusive for Englishmen!)

Stanage Edge, Peak District

Man on the Edge…

After Sunday’s glorious clear skies, I decided to brave the icy weather and head for the Peaks again, this time to complete my original intended walk along Stanage Edge. There had been a thick fog over Sheffield all morning but by lunchtime the sun was beginning to shine through and the mist was clearing. The Met Office website promised the same out towards Hathersage, so after work I set off out of the city towards Ringinglow.
As I pass Lady Canning’s Plantation, the remnants of the previous weeks’ snowfall soon escalates into very real recent deep snowfall. The road narrows to single tracks carved out by braver or more desperate drivers and the fog thickens reducing visibility to less than 50 yards and I seriously begin to question the sense in this outing. Regardless of my doubts I press on until I arrive at the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it car park at Upper Burbage Bridge. The level of visibility is so poor now I cannot even see down the valley from the path along the ridge. I should be presented with a magnificent vista of Burbage Brook down towards Higger Tor and the ruined for of Carl Wark. To the South West I should be able to view the other side of Over Owler Tor where I visited on Sunday, but all I can see is a vast, domineering, void of thick grey fog.

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Against all good sense and judgement, armed with sturdy boots and a Explorer OS Map (OL1) I decided to head out anyway. After all I had driven all the way up here; I might as well get a few hours walking in, even if the fog prevented any glorious views. I optimistically took my camera, though the lens cap never came off, the modest pictures uploaded here are from iPhone.



I crossed the stepping stones over Burbage Brook and headed along what I thought was the Burbage Rocks path towards the southern tip of Stanage Edge. After five minutes though it became clear I was actually following the rock-line that ran parallel to the Fiddler’s Elbow footpath. Navigating when you can’t see where you’re heading was going to be interesting and my lack of a compass would prove to be a huge learning point for this journey. I back tracked to the car park and identified the correct path and set off again.

The footpaths were difficult to identify at times due to the snowfall but luckily the Stanage Edge one had seen plenty of footfall; so there was a fairly clear route in this direction. I soon came upon the Cowper Stone, a distinctive huge boulder marking the southern-most tip of Stanage Edge, satisfying confirmation I was heading in the right direction.

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The route to the footpath across the top of the escarpment wasn’t clear so I picked my own way through the rocks, ending up thigh deep in snow at times. I was soon on top of the rocky outcrop though and back following a more obvious path.

Not far from the Cowper Stone is an old OS Trig point, set atop a huge slab of gritstone. This four foot high stone was erected in 1936 by Ordinance Survey as part of the ‘Re-triangulation of Great Britain’ project that ran until 1962. Over 300 of these posts were installed around the United Kingdom at this time and helped Ordinance Survey create the seamless mapping we enjoy to this day.



Continuing despite the freezing fog hindering the views; I find I am actually quite enjoying the walk. There are more than sufficient interesting rocks and boulders strewn about close enough to enjoy and the quiet desolation (save for the odd bleat of a sheep or squawk of a grouse). The eerie quiet it’s unsettling at first but after a mile or so of only hearing the noise I make, I find it very peaceful and relaxing.

After rounding Hook’s Car I finally happen upon other humans more ambitious than I; scaling the cold rock face of the escarpment. I perch on a rock for a while and watch their progress musing that I’d very much like to try rock-climbing and resolve that I should visit on of Sheffield’s many climbing walls soon.


I press on and finally reach Robin Hood’s Cave. The snaps I took on my phone do not do this geological quirk justice but it was fun to explore and served as a natural turning point. I would have liked to have gone further long the ridge as far as Crow Chin, but I was conscious of the waning daylight and thickening fog. I started back-tracking my route with the intention of branching off near Overstones Farm and meeting the footpath that would take me up over Higger Tor and back towards Upper Burbage Bridge.

However, due to a combination of bad map reading and complete lack of visibility, I cut down from Stanage Edge earlier than intended and ended up at the car park near Carr Head Rocks. Realising my error and risk getting further off track I decided to follow the road back towards Burbage Bridge. This would prove to be the last good decision I made on this walk. I followed the road until I reached a style, which I remembered from a guide book led to the path towards Higger Tor. Even after studying my OS map many times since, it still remains a mystery how I ended up where I did next. I came to an intersection of pathways and after (incorrectly) reading the map; I turned left and headed up the hill towards what I thought was the Fiddler’s Elbow. What I had in fact done was go in completely the wrong direction and only realised once I hit the road again and saw a sign for Mitchell’s Field. The fog by this point was increasingly dense and daylight was fading, I was not able to make out the obvious landmark of Higger Tor. Had I been able to see this to get my bearings (or if I had bothered to bring my compass), I like to think I wouldn’t have made such an error. After a bit of panicky map work, I found the road again and followed it back towards the Tor. Visibility was now so poor I missed out on Higger Tor completely. I did manage to find the path that led over towards the brook which took me over the Fiddler’s Elbow and eventually as the last embers of the dying daylight were extinguished, I reached my car.

I reflected that the elements were against me and even the most skilled reader of maps would have struggled with the conditions. However, I made a lot of school-boy errors and learned a few important things:

– Always take a compass
– If you are unsure of the path, stop and get your bearings
– Never rely on weather reports; prepare for all eventualities
– Assume the walk will take longer than planned and prepare as necessary (torch, food, water)
– If you’re alone, stick to the beaten path and tell someone your route

Luckily I got back safe and other than wounded pride I was unscathed, but it could have turned out differently. If I hadn’t have got my bearings or retraced my steps, I could have ended up lost on Hathersage Moor, in the dark, surrounded by thick fog with no provisions or a light. I’m not dwelling on the alternative possible outcomes, but needless to say the consequences wouldn’t have been pleasant.
So there you go, mistakes made, lessons learned. On a more positive note, before getting lost I really enjoyed the walk and aim to repeat it very soon on a clearer day with my camera in tow.

I’ll leave you with an extract from a poem by Robert Frost (1874–1963) I think appropriate:

OUT walking in the frozen swamp one grey day
I paused and said, “I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.”
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went down. The view was all in lines 5
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home…

References/Further Reading:
http://www.bartleby.com/118/16.html (full text of Frost’s Poem)

Surprise View/Over Owler Tor, Peak District, Derbyshire

It’s almost criminal that I have now lived in Sheffield over 15 years and have never gone walking in the nearby Peak District.  With scenery and terrain which rivals my beloved Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, it is incredible even to me that I have not spent more time in the Peaks; especially given it is only 30-40 minute drive from my home.  All that changed this Sunday however when I decided to finally decided to see what all the fuss is about.  I was not disappointed.

The air was cold but fresh and the sun bright and inviting as we headed out of the city towards Hathersage.  Originally we planned to park up at the new Upper Burbage Bridge (say that three times fast) car park, which is apparently near the well-know Surprise View.  I must have missed something though as I couldn’t find it (I passed it later and the term ‘car park. Is a rather liberal application to what is essentially a lay-by, hence why we missed it), so we parked up at the much more obvious Surprise View car park.  Thrown by my complete lack of experience of Peak geography and alternative starting point, we scrapped our original walk to Stanage Edge from Higger Tor.  Instead we followed the droves of Sunday walkers to enjoy views of our intended destinations.  This hiccup in no way impinged our enjoyment or sullied my maiden voyage in to the grit stone landscapes of Derbyshire’s Dark Peak.

Tree at the edge of the Longshaw Estate

We slowly trekked up through the pretty woodland walk from the car park, soaking in the views as we went.  The woodland soon cleared and gave way to a blanket of brilliant white snow, haphazardly punctuated by the gritstone boulders of varying shapes and sizes.  The dark, oddly-shaped boulders make for a fantastic contrast against the bright white of the snow.  Gritstone was formed over the course of millions of years as layers of course sand pebbles were compressed to form much of the rocks that make up the landscape you see today.  The gritstone and sandstone is layered between softer deposits of shale and siltstone, which are eroded by the elements at varying rates.  This result is an assortment of oddly shaped, almost wind-swept rock formations and outcrops.  These are massively fun to photograph, climb on, picnic under and just generally walk around.

View past Over Owler Tor to Stanage Edge

Mother Cap

After taking in the spectacular views down the Hope Valley and out towards Grindleford with the clouds gently rolling over the hill, we wander further up the moor  as it plateaus out towards Over Owler Tor.  The first remarkable thing you notice on approach is the monolithic rock formation known as Mother Cap.  As we wander up to the giant 8 metre high lump of grit, I notice a millstone by the side of the footpath, which makes for a half-decent photograph opportunity.  I previously knew that millstones were synonymous with the Peak District but I shamefully never knew why.  Once up on the top of Hathersage Moor and privy to all the gritstone, it became fairly obvious that millstones were made from the natural resources of the landscape.  A little research on my return revealed that my guess was quite correct and millstones production along with lead mining had been one of the chief industries in the area above Hathersage and Baslow since the 14th Century.

IMG_0445 Abandoned Millstones

Stone Masons would travel up the peak to quarry the gritstone and make pairs of millstones in situ.  The completed stones would then be transported down the peak, it is commonly thought by controlled rolling, to be transported to their mills by road or water.  This was a huge industry with Peak District Millstones finding their way throughout Great Britain.  To give an idea of what a monumental task producing these huge wheels of grit was, the average output of a stone mason in the industry was around 16 pairs of stones a year.  Which, unless my maths has failed me completely, means it took around 22-23 days to quarry and carve a pair of stones.  Hard, back-breaking but industrious work.  Sadly the whole industry collapsed in an incredibly short time period following the Napoleonic War, when cheaper French Millstones capable of grinding white flour flooded the market (the grit and limestone of the Peaks meant that the ground flour of these stones was generally grey in colour).  The stones that remained were now worthless and abandoned where they were made or stored, where they still stand to this day.  History lesson over.

After taking some time to climb over the Mother Cap rock formation, pose for some silly photographs and engage in what can only be described as a ‘selfie-war’, we head onwards towards Over Owler Tor. I am continually mocked on this leg of the journey by my beautiful travelling companion Kelly, who claims she can take better pictures with her iPhone than I can with my Canon Bridge Camera.  Disturbingly, on a few occasions she is probably right (but don’t tell her that) and I have to concede she has a good eye for a picture.

IMG_0453 Mother Cap

From our approach the Tor looks like a series of huge stone building blocks, randomly stacked by some giant child of old folklore.  They form an escarpment of grit and limestone which acts as a natural boundary, marking the edge of the Tor before a steep drop down to the continuing rolling moorland.  The rocks which make up the Tor themselves are a beautiful sight to behold, eclipsed only by the panoramic view once you’ve reached their summit.  Suddenly with a full face of icy February wind, I am privy to a magnificent 360° vista of beautiful English countryside.  Looking North-East I can see the ridge of Higger Tor (or original intended walking route), panning round through the North to see over Callow Bank and North-West to see the bottom tip of Stanage Edge itself.  I turn and face the opposite direction and can see the rolling hills with Bollhill and Yarncliffe Woods nestled at their feet.  In the distance I can just about make out Grindleford, but the sun is now low in the afternoon sky and obstructs the unfiltered view some.

View from Mother Cap towards Grindleford Mother Cap

We climb over the rocks and enjoy the pleasant scenery, before dropping back down in to the sheltered area below the Tor and explore the other rock formations leading over to Millstone Edge.  With the sun dipping ahead of us we follow the footpath along the edge, peering down into the old quarry as we go, until we arrive back at the Surprise View.  Its not much of a surprise, bit it is very beautiful and as we sit on one of the memorial benches I reflect that regardless of your thoughts on the after-life, this wouldn’t be a bad place at all to spend your eternity.  We walk a little further down towards the Longshaw Estate but eventually think better of it and return to the car park, shunning a further few miles for the pursuit of a good meal and decent pint.

IMG_0473 Over Owler Tor looking towards Higger Tor

Satisfied from our inaugural foray into the Peaks, we head back into Sheffield for a fine feed at the The Grind (http://grindcafe.co.uk/Welcome.html), my favourite café of Steel City and a pint of Pale Rider at the Fat Cat, my favourite pub (http://www.thefatcat.co.uk/).

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I really enjoyed my first taste of the Peaks and will venture back very soon.  In fact weather permitting I might even head out there again tomorrow…

References/Further reading: