Monday, 30 November 2009

Will yo’ come o’ Sunday morning?

As is our wont on Saturday mornings, Pauline and I often run on Winter Hill but separately. Usually, I go on my own and Pauline runs with a small group of, mainly, Horwich runners whose exploits can be found on the WFDBWGUA blog and very occasionally we meet on the moors but more often we don’t. Last Saturday with low cloud blanketing Winter Hill not only was it unlikely we would see each other it was unlikely either of us, or anyone else, would see anything at all. I returned to an old, tried and tested 16-17 mile route with three climbs to the trig to remind myself what winter training is all about.

Stratus Nebulosus With the no prospect of views of anything other than the inside of Stratus Nebulosus clouds (as above) I wondered what the morning would bring, beyond the pain of a long run over, or through, the West Pennine Moor’s saturated peat bogs.  My wandering ascent turns for the summit at the “Trespass Stone” which was laid on September 8th, 1996 to mark the centenary of the “Winter Hill trespass”, some 36 years before the better known, and more successful, Kinder Trespass.

Trespass Stone 

The Traveller Tour website contains more details of the area and succinctly describes the events of 1896 as follows:-

“Winter Hill is the highest point on the moors between the towns of Bolton, Preston and Blackburn. Most of the moors are part of the Smithills Estate, owned by the Ainsworths, an old Bolton family who profited from the slave trade in the 18th Century. In the summer of 1896, Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth erected gates across access roads, fixed "Trespassers will be prosecuted" signs and hired men to warn people off the property. The public outcry led to a small advertisement appearing in the Bolton paper, paid for by the Social Democratic Federation. It invited the public to join a demonstration on Sunday morning, 6 September 1896, to test the right of way over Winter Hill.

A crowd of 1000 met in Bolton to listen to some speeches. Numbers increased tenfold as they marched up Halliwell road towards the edge of the moor. At the gate they were confronted by a small contingency of police. According to the Bolton Chronicle, "Amid the lusty shouting of the crowd the gate was attacked by powerful hands…… short work was made of the barrier, and with a ring of triumph the demonstrators rushed through onto the disputed territory. Plans were soon in place to repeat the procession. A song was commissioned.

"Will yo’ come o’ Sunday morning’,
For a walk o’er Winter Hill.
Ten thousand went last Sunday,
But there’s room for thousands still!"

"O the moors are rare and bonny,
And the heather’s sweet and fine,
And the road across this hill top,
Is the public’s - Yours and mine!"

Despite some rain the following Sunday, 2000 people came and listened to speeches. Again the crowd grew as it set off for the moor, completely blocking Halliwell Road. This spontaneous movement of 1896 did not quite achieve what it set out to do. For years the right of access to Winter Hill was embroiled in the British Legal System. However less than 40 years later, better organised and more capable men set in train the events of Kinder Scout, which proved momentous to those who enjoy the freedom to roam our hills and moors.”

In 1996 Paul Stanton reflected, in The Angry Corrie, on both the original events and on the centenary as follows:-

“8th September 1996 saw centenary celebration of the Winter Hill mass trespasses, among the earliest and best attended of fights for access to hills. Winter Hill is a Marilyn just outside Bolton - now most notable for its TV mast and assorted collection of other communications paraphernalia - and has been a popular walking area with locals for many years.

In August 1896, the local landowner (and factory owner) Colonel Richard Ainsworth, decided that a track known as Coalpit Road was private, and put a gate across it to allow him to use the whole area of open moorland for grouse shooting. Two locals, the wonderfully named Solomon Partington and Joseph Shufflebotham, decided to organise a mass trespass to reclaim the "historical right of way". On 6th September, around 1,000 assembled at the bottom of Halliwell Road near Bolton town centre and set off on a seven-mile walk via the disputed track and over the top of the hill. More joined the walk as they headed towards Coalpit Road, many of them employees at Ainsworth's bleach works. By the time the gate was reached, there were 10,000 walking, led by a brass band.

12,000 walked on the 13th. The landowner was quoted in the local paper: "We have heard too much talk and space devoted to 'the people's rights' and too little consideration being shown to the landowner". 100 years on, nothing much seems to have changed. Colonel Ainsworth applied "pressure" on his tenants and his employees, and the third walk (moved to a Saturday partly to appease the upholders of the Sabbath) saw "only" 5,000 turn out in very poor weather. A court case the next March found ten guilty of trespass with costs of £600 being awarded against two of them.

The commemorative walk was less well attended: around 1,500 people. Kate Ashbrook, chair of the Rambler's Association, gave an interesting speech about access to open land and the Countryside Landowner's Association's response to proposed Labour legislation. Apparently, the CLA favour a voluntary access scheme to a legal right to roam. Kate pointed out that such a scheme has existed for the last 50 years, and if the CLA's members wanted to allow access, it could be done tomorrow. The fact that nearly everywhere in England and Wales outside the National Parks isn't accessible suggests the CLA don't want it.

Bolton Corporation bought the land in the late 1920s, and it is now open access with freedom to roam, although their tenant farmers haven't always grasped this yet. Coalpit Road was finally declared a public right of way in June 1996. Sometimes it can take 100 years to right wrongs.”

More recently The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) has improved access to Winter Hill and other upland areas in England subject, of course, to certain caveats, discretionary powers and general restrictions but nevertheless it means we can run, walk or cycle to the summit of Winter Hill without having to evade Gamekeepers.

An overnight sprinkling of wet snow, just enough to photograph, lay on the highest ground around the masts and trig point – the first of the season.

Winter Hill Trig

Stud marks in the snow suggested I made both the first and second ascents on Saturday morning but by my third the snow was all gone and with it any traces of tracks. Below the cloud base and towards the west of the summit, Rivington Pike stands on a shoulder of the main hill and usually provides views over Liverpool to Snowdonia and north to the Cumbrian fells. This morning even with some weak sunshine it was barely possible to see the see the 16 miles to Manchester.

East of the summit and east of Smithills Shooting Hut on Smithills Moors is small reservoir away from the main trods and tracks where it is often possible to see wild fowl and enjoy views over Bolton with Manchester beyond. Today seeing the far end of the 350 yard long reservoir wasn’t easy.

Winter Hill 

However, here a surprise awaited me on the soft muddy path that circumscribes the reservoir. Although I had seen no other stud marks or boot prints at the summit I had seen plenty of other stud marks on paths leading to and from most of the major features on the hill so there were plenty of other runners out and about, even if I hadn’t seen them. About half way round the reservoir I realised I was running over the stud marks of a small group of runners, including one wearing a small size of Montrail Highlander fell shoes. Highlanders aren’t all that common and small sizes are even less common and I wondered. Sure enough, when I got home Pauline confirmed they were her stud marks. Romantic, or what?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

An Indoor Weekend

The Kendal Mountain Festival is now a regular fixture in our calendar and, depending on the schedule, it is usually possible to get out for run. This year, however, both the schedule and the weather conspired to make the prospect particularly unappealing. We were fortunate that the flood water subsided quickly in most places in the south Lakes and we were able to get to and from our accommodation in Troutbeck.

After Doug Scott on Saturday and the obligatory tour of the kit sale in “base camp” (made especially enjoyable by the samples of Bowmore, a favourite malt whisky) we settled down round an open fire for a glass of wine.

2009-11-11_troutbeck_ 022 

The alternative was a head torch run over Wansfell in pouring rain and a strong wind – wasn’t such a difficult choice. By the following morning the weather had improved only a little and we weren’t tempted out.

Troutbeck - looking southTroutbeck – looking south 

Ueli Steck’s presentation on Sunday morning was likely to be the highlight of the weekend and he didn’t disappoint. Steck currently holds the records for the north faces of the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses.

Ueli Steck Steck made the record attempts seem like the natural and obvious thing to do, almost surprised that there are many others doing it too. His first solo on the Eiger took him around 10 hours, almost twice the previous record time and so after practising, a bit, he aimed for a sub 4 hour time without knowing if he could do it.

Eiger

Part way up he realised a sub 4 hour time might just be possible.

Eiger

Not only possible but achieved

Eiger

 

Even after his sub 4 time he knew he could do it faster and so after a year’s training he went without a specific target and reduced the record to 2 hours 47 minutes and 33 seconds. The next “obvious progression” was to tackle the records for the north faces of the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses, ‘on sight’, and sure enough those records were broken too. If Sunday’s presentation is anything to go by he is a highly focussed, very determined and hugely unassuming individual who almost seemed surprised that anyone else was sufficiently bothered about his “speed climbing” to turn up on a Sunday morning.

YouTube has plenty of material showing reconstructions of the attempts, one of them is here Ueli Steck's triple speed climbing record

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Slate Quarries above Llyn Peris

On Sunday morning we had a gentle stroll through the disused slate quarries above Llyn Peris to The Rucksack Club hut at Beudy Mawr. The low grey clouds restricted the views, ensured rain showers were never far away but did nothing to spoil our stroll. This is the first time we have seen the quarries close and the scale is simply overwhelming – looking at them on a map or across the valley gives no real feel for the size of the place. Some of the inclines running from the top of the quarry are a mile or more long and now provide an excellent training ground for fell runners.

click to enlargeLlyn Peris with the quarries beyond

click to enlarge Towards Nant Peris

The first of the two above was taken much later in the day when the rain clouds had blown away – in order to provide us with sunshine for the drive home and not for the first time.

Goats above Llyn Peris

Approaching the top of one of the inclines we reached a small group of goats, 5 in total, who looked at us long and hard before standing up and wandering off very slowly, almost contemptuously, secure in the knowledge that, even had we wanted to, we would be unable to follow them for any distance over the steep slopes of spoil.

Llanberis (3 of 6)

In the heart of the quarries there are any number of ruined buildings, many standing alone on the skyline decrepit and forlorn. On a day like last Sunday morning there is so little colour on the ground and in the sky that everything is just shades of grey or very dark blue. Apart from a little greenery by the side of the tracks this is an alien landscape in a monochrome world and while sunshine would have been pleasant the grey overcast sky is much more in character.

Llanberis (4 of 6)

Inevitably the hillsides are awash and in many places the water can be heard but not seen as it rushes down hill underneath the piles of slate waste. This sound of crashing, roaring but invisible water adds to the eeriness of the quarries and reinforces the idea that we are just visitors and not part of this particular landscape.

Beyond the piles of slate and out of the quarries the landscape is more familiar – steep, wet ,slippery paths punctuated with lichen covered boulders ready to trip or topple the unwary pedestrian.

The becks are “full to bursting” with local flooding seemingly unavoidable as the ground must be close to saturation.

Llanberis (6 of 6)

Trees on the west banks of Llyn Peris opposite Dinorwig Power Station appear to see the sun only rarely and are covered in moss with, in some places, ferns growing out of the moss.

High above the water but well below the road these trees seem to be engaged in a difficult struggle just to survive in the permanent shade. At this time of year having shed all their leaves the branches look more like three dimensional sculptures than living plants.

Not quite as alien as the landscape of the quarries but nevertheless not entirely natural; Llyn Peris is subject to unnatural changes in water levels dictated by the immediate demand for electricity because it is the lower of the two reservoirs used by Dinorwig power station.

Beyond the trees the road turns west dropping into Llanberis and away from strange area below Elider Fawr.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Winter Hill

Originally we planned to go to north Wales ahead of The Rucksack Club dinner but the weather forecast was so poor we decided to travel down later in the day which meant I could have time for a run up Winter Hill if I was out early enough. Setting off in the rain under a brightening sky I wasn’t optimistic but I took a camera anyway.

Winter Hill (1 of 2)

Over Manchester the cloud cover wasn’t quite complete and the sun was trying really hard to brighten the morning. Sadly, this wasn’t to last and although by the time I reached the top of Winter Hill I could see the sky clearing away to the north east everywhere else the cloud cover was complete and threatening.

Turning to run the six and a half miles home I was surprised to see Manchester bathed in the yellow glow of November sunshine.  I am not sure there is enough detail to allow anyone to recognise Manchester although, once you know, you might recognise just the tower.

Winter Hill (2 of 2)

I got home warm and dry but with very tired, tight legs at the end of 13 road miles. It seems my legs have forgotten how to run but I am still trying to shake off the cold I picked up a week or so ago. Tired or not, I should get back to running before work next week and settling into my “winter training” routine.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Borsdane Wood

The contrast of warm Mallorcan sunshine with cold Lancashire rain could not have been more complete and such was the shock that I picked up a fierce cold within days of landing at Manchester airport. On Saturday morning I wasn’t up to a trog over Winter Hill, or any hill, more accurately. An hour or two after Pauline had set off in the pouring rain the sun appeared and I was tempted out to have a gentle jog through Borsdane Wood and along the Leeds-Liverpool canal where I could pretty sure of avoiding hills.  The winter sunshine was strong if not warm and while most of the autumn leaves are on the ground there are, probably, just enough left on left on the trees to provide some colour.

Borsdane Wood (1 of 7)

 

Borsdane Wood (2 of 7)

 

Borsdane Wood (3 of 7)  

Borsdane Wood (7 of 7)

A fishing competition on the canal meant there were long stretches of towpath were occupied by nearly motionless fishermen with long carbon fibre poles. Seems a strange way to pass a Saturday morning but I expect the feeling was mutual. I am sure I missed the best of the autumn colours here and I certainly missed the best of the wildlife, disturbing a kestrel  and then minutes later spotting a kingfisher flying down the canal inches above the water. Both were far too fast for me and my camera.

Borsdane Wood (4 of 7)

Borsdane Wood (5 of 7)

Wildlife has to be nearly stationary. Even these ducks were almost too quick but effect if their wake and its ripples on the reflection is more interesting, I think, than they are.

Borsdane Wood (6 of 7)

Bridge 62 was as far along the canal as I went and just before turning to run the five miles home I realised the sunshine reflecting off the water was illuminating the underside of the bridge in a way I had never seen before. Five miles didn’t seem a long way but the last three felt like the end of a marathon and I was pleased to be able to record 10 (slow) miles for the morning

Friday, 6 November 2009

Mallorcan Miscellany

Port de Soller is a popular destination for walkers from all over Europe as well as people living or holidaying on the other side of the mountains. Although the express coaches are faster and cheaper many travel from Palma by the electric train through the mountains to Soller where they take the tram down to the port.

Soller

The tram can just be seen above near the centre of the picture

Soller tram

The tram (in case you didn’t spot it in the first one)

 

the beach 

The beach

Cerveza Grande

Cerveza Grande

afternoon red wine

Why not?

The mountains around the port hide the sunrise and the hills beyond the harbour conceal the sunsets even after the late afternoon clouds have drifted through, if they do. Late in the week we saw the afternoon clouds dispersing above Cuber (immediately below) and decided to go out to one of the lighthouses above the harbour to watch the sun disappearing below the horizon. As a sunset it was much more than we could have hoped for.

High Clouds above Cuber

High clouds above Cuber

Sunset 1

Sunset 2 

Sunset 3

Sunset 4

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Puig de Galatzo

Puig de Galatzo (1027m) is the highest of the south western mountains, the only one higher than 1000m and on a clear day, because of its position, commands outstanding views. Very clear days at this time of year are rare, not least, because of the smoke from bonfires in the olive groves and so although the views are outstanding they are also somewhat hazy.

Galatzo

Galatzo

Galatzo looking north east

Looking north east with Puntals de Son Fortesa (893m) on the left and Es Teix beyond

S'Esclop

Looking south west to S’Esclop (928m)

While the views may be hazy the cairn builders around Galatzo are inspired and not content with merely building small piles of stones they take every advantage of the local amenities – from dead bushes to huge boulders.

cairn on Galatzo

 

cairn on Galatzo 

This must have been built by a climber, or a boulderer, because the boulder itself is about 7 metres high

Circuit of L’Ofre

The Barranc de Biniaraix is one of the most emblematic walks on the island and as part of the route to the Monastery of Lluc, used by pilgrims since the 14th Century, it is one of the oldest. Staring at Biniaraix the cobbled track winds its way up through the gorge (barranc) to reach an alp occupied by the farm at L’Ofre above which tower a number 1000m peaks including Puig L’Ofre. On an earlier trip we walked the Serra d’Alfabia (1067m) from the radio masts to Es Cornadors (956m) but didn’t have time to visit Puig des Col des Jou (1052m) on the ridge between L’Ofre and Orient in the valley far below towards Palma.

SollerSoller from near the top of the Barranc

Puig de L'Ofre Puig de L’Ofre with the farm below

Alfabia & Es Teix 

Alfabia (with radio masts) and Es Teix on the skyline

Soller

Soller with Port de Soller beyond from Es Cornadors

L'Ofre, Puig Major and Massanella

From Puig des Col des Jou with Puig Major (left) Puig de L’Ofre (wooded in centre) and Massanella in the distance

The late afternoon clouds may have been troublesome on Tomir but today as we descended the Barranc they provided some dramatic pictures swirling around Es Cornadors.

 

Es Cornadors

 

L'Ofre (8 of 9)

 

L'Ofre (9 of 9) A splendid way to complete a splendid day.

 

Map centred on L'Ofre

Puig Tomir

Two years ago in the company of a karaoke-obsessed Scotsman we climbed Tomir (1103m) swept by heavy rain and swathed in low cloud. The conditions weren’t that bad when we left Lluc but a steady deterioration ensured we were wearing everything we were carrying by the summit. We saw nothing from, what is said to be, a commanding position at the head of the Pollenca valley and so with more stable weather this year we were tempted to return. Tomir is also close to Black Vulture Conservation Foundation (BVCF) and a place where Black Vultures are likely to be seen. Ironically, we didn’t see any here this year or two years ago but we saw a pair yesterday on Es Teix sitting on rocks watching walkers, almost like a cartoon.

This must have been a very dry summer on Mallorca as two reservoirs supplying Palma (Cuber & Blue Gorge) have very low water levels.

Blue Gorge Blue Gorge reservoir with Sa Rateta (1122m) on the distant skyline 

The morning’s rain didn’t materialise and as we set off for Puig Tomir’s summit the grey clouds were breaking up and drifting away. Encouraged by these improvements we stopped for a bit to eat just below the summit plateau and we stopped just long enough for the mid afternoon clouds to drift in!

Tomir Approaching Puig Tomir’s summit

With no likelihood of the clouds lifting we walked to the trig point, turned round and headed back to Binifaldi. The clouds remained on all the high summits but others remained clear.

 

Sa Moleta in clouds   Sa Moleta (835m) under clouds

Puig Caragoler

Northwest to Puig Caragoler (923m) in sunshine

Tomir (5 of 8)

Northwest to Puig Roig (1004m) with Puig Caragoler on the right

Tomir

Puig Tomir still in cloud

Port de Soller is a working harbour with its own fleet of fishing vessels and nets laid out on the harbour to dry between trips. The larger vessels appear to slip out of the harbour after dark and return in late afternoon although I am far from sure this is a consistent pattern. The one below was preparing to depart.

fishing boat in Soller harbour fishing boat in Soller harbour

 

Tomir (8 of 8)

Roma bar on the sea front

Map picture

map centred on Puig Tomir