Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ivinghoe Beacon video...

And, in what looks like the beginnings of a tradition, here is the video montage for your delectation...

Ivinghoe Beacon

A good forecast after all the rain we’ve had recently got me looking at the maps to plan a walk. The idea of walking over the Ivinghoe Beacon quickly seeded itself and a route was envisaged amongst a cornucopia of paths. All that was then needed was to go down there with my walking boots...

Starting at the car park at SP955149 (National Trust and free) Ivinghoe Beacon can be seen by crossing the road. However, that was to be the end of todays walk...I had decided to start by heading southwest along the Ridgeway.

View to the Ivinghoe Beacon from by the car park.

The Ridgeway runs between Overton Hill (Wiltshire) and the Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire). Thought to be Britain's oldest road it dates back about 5000 years. Walking a route that has been trodden for so long feels quite humbling as you stand there with a view that stretches out for miles over the plains. These hills may not be the highest in the country, but, they punch above their weight in terms of vista to be admired. Very easy to linger round here…

Panoramic view

Tree on the first little hill

However, I was here to walk, so walk I did. Follow the Ridgeway over Pitstone Hill and down to Westland Farm. Enjoy the views all the way, whether they be the views off the escarpment, through gaps in the trees or even just the dappled light on the woody path. Once here it is on to the Herfordshire way, follow the path round past Church Farm into Aldbury.

The view back from Pitstone Hill
View from the woods


Aldbury Church

If you ever want to go and see a quintessential English country village then this is the place to go. I know it is a cliche to say “chocolate box image” but it is. Swap the modern cars for a few Morris Minors and this could be a scene from the 1950’s...


From here though you have to climb as you head up the hill towards the Bridgewater monument. A word of caution here - as you climb the hill  you come to a V-junction in the path. The OS map makes it look as if the monument is on the lower path...it isn’t, it is on the higher one! Head for the NT symbol. Signs like this one don’t help either. Yes, I know I need to keep going but...

Which way???

The Monument itself was built on the Ashridge Estate in 1832 in memory of Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (1736–1803), "the father of inland navigation". So called as he was the commissioner of the Bridgewater Canal, arguably the first true canal in Britain and the modern world. It is 108 feet (33 m) tall, with 170 steps inside. You can climb to the top and look out towards Ashridge House. I didn’t do this today as it was absolutely heaving with people here as it is part of the National Trust and it was a gloriously good day. More disappointingly though the cafe was packed as well - no tea and cake for me! Still, probably better for the waist line!!

Bridgewater Monument

One final note - the Monument was built away from Ashridge House as his mother wanted "not to see or be reminded of my infernal son". Family eh...

From here though it is time to enter the woods as you follow the tracks past Sallow Copse. This was the point where I was really glad I had put proper walking boots on. I’d been debating trail shoes earlier on but choose boots given all the rain recently. At first the paths had been very dry, occasional muddy patch in the shade of the trees but nothing that couldn’t be side stepped. Here though it was proper mud with my feet sinking deeply enough into the brown stuff that I’d have had wet feet in shoes. I have to say as well that these woodland tracks weren’t always brilliantly marked and there was a definite detour into the car park at SP981143 with the marked footpaths on the map not always visible on the ground.

Entering the woods

From here on though the going improved again. Follow the path around the reservoir and in front of Ringshall Coppice. Here was a an interesting broken bough (maybe even a whole tree) and some very nice fields in which to linger for lunch. Whilst here came across the cutest Westie in the world. Being walked by his owner, with whom I had exchanged a few pleasantries about the weather, he just sat there and wouldn’t go past. Thinking he might be scared of the big strange man I took a few steps back off the path and crouched down, but, he still just stood there refusing to go despite the owner calling and encouraging him. Eventually we realized he was scared of my rucksack! As soon as I moved it he raced past to his owner. Awwww!

Broken boughs

Grass and Sky

Anyway I digress. Continue along this path past Ward’s Hurst Farm and then through The Coombe as you pick up the Icknield Way Trail. This runs from the Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire) to Knettishall Heath (Suffolk) and is another of Britain's most ancient Trackways. Along with the Ridgeway it forms part of the Greater Ridgeway. A 583 kilometre long distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis (Dorset) to Hunstanton (Norfolk). This is made up of four long distance footpaths - the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.

Sheep on the Farm

However, rather than follow it directly to Ivinghoe Beacon I decided to take a little detour. As you come out of The Coombe turn right and follow the footpath along the fields and up to Gallows Hill. This give you some lovely views up to Beacon Hill and towards the White Lion.  Created in 1933 it is on the slope beneath Whipsnade Wildlife Park which it effectively advertises.

Whipsnade White Lion

Path back down the hill

Fields, Hills and Sky

From here just follow the ridge (and enjoy the cooling breeze) as you walk up to Ivinghoe Beacon itself. Only 233m (757 feet) above sea level it nevertheless provides a sumptuous vista and is rightly popular with all the people and families who were there enjoying the view. 

View from Ivinghoe Beacon

Another view from Ivinghoe Beacon
From here the end is also in sight as we step back onto the Ridgeway and follow it over Steps Hill and around Incombe Hole to the car park.

Look down into Incombe Hole

Look back at the path around Incombe Hole

All in all a great walk on a great day. I shall have to go back again some other day...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pike O'Blisco

The last of my Lake District walks from last year.

Pike O'Blisco

Walked straight out of the National Trust's Great Langdale campsite, initially follow the lane past Wall End Farm before taking the path that initially follows and then crosses Redacre Gill. As this path climbs you have a really good pitched path that is easy to climb and follow.

Crinkle Crags from by Wall End farm. The Band on the right and the edge of Pike O'Blisco on the left
View back from the start of the Redacre Gill path
View back to Great Langdale and Side Pike
View Across to the Langdale Pikes

View ahead to the summit

As the above photo shows the pitched path does end after a while but the walking is still fairly easy underfoot in the main.

View to Bowfell
Bowfell close up

Another view of the Langdale Pikes from higher up Pike O'Blisco

Keep heading towards the summit and there is only one scrambly bit which, if you aren't good at that hand on rock malarky, can be manfully avoided by skirting around to the left. The advantage of this is that you then get this nice viewpoint towards Windermere:

Windermere viewpoint

Once at the summit enjoy the views (which, for some reason, I neglected to take a photo from!! D'oh!!!) as they are fantastic. Crinkles, Bowfell, Langdale Pikes all look majestic. Once it is time to descend take the path down to the Northern side of Red Tarn.

Last year this path wasn't brilliant underfoot. However, there were also plenty of rock bags in evidence so I presume Fix the Fells were around and this path may well now be in a better state.

Red Tarn looking southwest

From Red Tarn follow the path past Browney Gill and Brown Howe back to Oxendale. The just take the path past the bottom of the Band and Stool End Farm back to the campsite and the Old Dungeon Ghyll.

Scree over the path back to Oxendale
Crinkle Crags seen on the descent 

View down to Oxendale and Great Langdale

Crinkle Crags above a relatively dry Oxendale Beck

All in all a lovely walk I'd like to repeat, possible extending it over the Crinkle Crags themselves and maybe even Bowfell on a good day.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A little bit of Newlands

The second of my three walks in the Lake District last summer. The idea was to start with Catbells and head over Maiden Moor to High Spy, maybe further.

Anyway, having eventually found the car park at Little Town (I would say it was appropriately named but Little Hamlet might have been better) I put some money in the parking honesty box and pulled my boots on.  Following the path around Looking Crag you go up past the old mine workings crossing Yewthwaite Gill as you walk towards Hause Gate.

View from Yewthwaite Gill

Mine Adit

This is the final path up towards Catbells as you swing left over the gill:

Brunt Crag

Looking Back from the top of the Gill:

Scope End and Ard Crags
Having done this though you go from peace and quiet to the relative congestion of Catbells. To be fair though, it is a great view!

Catbells Summit - looking to Skiddaw

Catbells summit - looking to Blencathra
View to Basenthwaite 

Unfortunately the rain started just after leaving Catbells and continued almost constantly so the camera was packed away for a while at this point. However, I dropped back down to Hause Gate and then crossed Maiden Moor on my way to High Spy. Having then reached Dale Head Tarn I decided to call it quits for the day and head back to the car and took the path which follows Newlands Beck and goes under Miners Crag, Red Crag, Eel Crags and Castle Nook and eventually back to the car park at Little Town.

A word about the path though -  the footpath marked as a right of way on the OS map has disappeared from between Miners and Red Crags and you just have the other higher path until you meet the right of way again at Castle Nook. This higher path is also very indistinct in places but going down I had the advantage of being able to see it further ahead when it disappeared right in front of me (I could not see the other path at all). Wainwright describes the higher path which I took (and it does go 10 yards above that lone larch). The path is very rocky, slippy (as it was wet), steep in places and goes across the scree slope. I was coming down very carefully thinking that if I did slip and hurt myself I was probably the first person to use the path in ages - then I met 2 people at Castle Nook going UP the path!

This is the view back up the path from Castle Nook (it stopped raining just after starting down the path):
Newlands Valley

A lovely day with lovely views, I just need to go back on a nicer day.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Feather Steak

Back to food this time and a quick recommendation for a less well known cut of beef.

Feather Steak comes from the outside of the shoulder blade and the marbling of fat within it gives a feathery appearance, especially when thinly sliced.

Personally I recommend taking thin slices (~½cm) and cooking this quickly. BBQ or frying/griddle pan over a high heat, 2-3 minutes each side. Serve with potatoes or a salad. Add an egg if you are feeling decadent.

Warning: overcook it and will become very tough...