Close Encounter with Wild Boar

boar 1THE sun hasn’t yet risen above the eastern Alpujarras. The air is cool and fresh on the slopes of Sierra de Lujar. I lock the van and clump off up a track that leads, eventually and hopefully, to a high and remote farmstead above the pine forests. Behind me, the Sierra Nevada – the highest peaks in Spain – lift themselves from blue shadows into the dawn sky. They fill me with expectation. It’s going to be a memorable day . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, Mountains, Walking, Wild boar, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

Happy Valleys

happy vallies 1THROUGH a settling of plaster dust I snatch glimpses of snow-capped mountains. Above a hammering of nails I hear gusting wind in treetops and the cry of a bird. And when the wind sweeps away the sharp tang of varnish there are traces of pine and wild herbs in the air. I think about the track that runs along a riverbed from our front gate and off into the hills. In the three months we have lived in this place I have failed to venture more than three-hundred metres along its stony course. If I possessed a spark of adventure I’d drop these tools, pick up my rucksack, and set out to explore this new country. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as someone once said in a memorable film. So off I go . . . Continue reading

Posted in Barry Bucknell, Childhood, DIY, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, Life, Mountains, Politics, Ranting, Rivers, Ruins, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 46 Comments

Chasing the Storm

above canar 1I RISE at 6am because the thought of wandering through olive groves by the light of a headlamp and climbing mountains as the sun floods the sky appeals to me. But as I’m getting dressed, silent flashes which momentarily transform a black world into vivid monochrome signal the approach of an autumn thunderstorm. The storm spreads its unseen clouds and the constellations are slowly wiped out. Thwarted, I return to my bed, still wearing my walking gear – though having had the good manners to remove my boots – to await the dawn and a change of fortune . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Footpaths, GR 240, GR 7, Hiking, Mountains, Religion, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Autumn and Unfound Paths

THAT feeling has returned – the yearning that has its roots in the depths of the stomach and rises in a flood of warmth and expectation. All I did was raise my eyes towards the hills and behold streams of grey mist hanging from crags like lines of last week’s washing. And a voice inside said: it’s autumn and it’s time to seek out new places. There are strange scents in the air; you must stir; there are places to explore and unfound paths to tread . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Cycling, Footpaths, Hiking, Mountains, Ruins, Walking | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Forgive Them Their Trespasses?

trespass 1IT’S a perfect spring morning in 1982. Arkengarthdale slumbers green and shadowy beneath a blue sky as we sit in damp grass and drink tea from tartan Thermos flasks. Nothing moves except the wind in the heather and the birds in the sky – and a Land-Rover crawling towards us up a track from a nearby farm . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Caving, Climbing, Country Land and Business Association, Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, Environment, Footpaths, Highland Clearances, Hiking, History, Hunting, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Politics, Potholing, Ranting, Rivers, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Days like This, No 22: An August Bank Holiday Secret

hesk fell 1I HAVE resolved to leave my hiking boots in the back of the Mini Estate this August Bank Holiday and avoid the Lake District fells. The reason is simple. The roads will be crammed with Vauxhall Vivas, Morris 1300s, and assorted bangers with mismatched bonnets and coat hangers for aerials. The crags will echo strange voices from Manchester and Newcastle – perhaps even Scotland. The Lake District is a place to avoid at August Bank Holiday, unless you like crowds, bus trips and queuing for ice-cream . . . Continue reading

Posted in Butterflies, Childhood, Climbing, English language, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Life, Mountains, Traditions, Walking, Weather, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

A Big Adventure

SO I’m off to live in Spain. Just thought I’d slip that into the conversation. I’ve been thinking for some time that I need a new challenge – a big challenge. And although I won’t be embarking on a really, really, really big challenge, such as walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, my wife and I will very soon be heading for the Sierra Nevada, where I intend to climb mountains and explore new landscapes while she socialises with her many friends and enjoys retirement . . . Continue reading

Posted in Climbing, Environment, Hiking, Life, Mountains, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 70 Comments

Days Like This, No 21: Eternity in Borrowdale

Borrowdale 1THE closest thing to eternity is a cold night in a tent. Hope dies while hours limp slowly past. Supernovae fade and constellations shift as time distorts and clocks refuse to tick. Body heat is sucked into the ungrateful ground. Breath condenses and freezes on the inner tent. Dreams are short-lived and repetitive. Comfort is a dark stranger. Night is all . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Quarrying, Ruins, Slate quarries, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Days Like This, No 20: Glimpses on Gable

Great Gable 1

EARLY morning on the South Traverse. The southern crags of Great Gable soak up sunlight. Rocks are warm to the touch beneath their volcanic tuff roughness and crumbly lichen. In the air, the bleat of a distant ewe and the clink of karabiners; an occasional laugh; an unfurling of ropes. This is a place of pilgrimage, a craggy paradise where climbers have sought adventure since Victorian times. This is Lakeland in its grand and gritty glory . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, Life, Mountains, Napes Needle, Tarns, Walking, Weather | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

On a Whim to William Gill

william gill 14

WILLIAM GILL is an offshoot of Arkengarthdale in the northern Pennines and is the shallow valley leading to the source of Arkle Beck. It’s a place only the lonely visit because it’s right in the middle of one of those vast empty boglands which fester unobtrusively among the high moors. Crossing William Gill a couple of months ago, on a walk to Tan Hill, I spotted what appeared to be a single length of railway line poking mournfully into the sky on the crown of the moor. Subsequent research has cast a guttering light on something that might be vaguely interesting. Boots on, here we go . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Coal mining, English language, Environment, Footpaths, Geology, Hiking, History, horse gins, Industrial archaeology, Mountains, Pennine Way, Rivers, Ruins, Tan Hill Inn, Walking | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments

Days Like This, No 19: Pillar and the Rock

Pillar 1

HOT sun on the back of the legs. Dust inside socks. Warm breeze drifting from the Irish Sea and stirring dry grasses. The magnificence of Pillar rising from the green of Mosedale into a flawless sky. Days like this were made for climbing mountains . . . Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Climbing, Footpaths, Hiking, Mountains, Music, Poetry, Tarns, Walking, Weather, William Wordsworth | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

Gibbet Hill and Carlin Gill – That’s Entertainment


GIBBET Hill has history. Little more than a slope in the Tebay Gorge – which separates the Howgill Fells from the Lake District – it was the site where, in 1684, local villain William Smurthwaite’s body was left to rot in an iron cage suspended from a gibbet. The authorities knew how to deal with villains in those days. No messing about with rehabilitation schemes or probation orders; they hanged them by the neck then left their corpses to rot on a roadside gallows. This gave the poor a warning and the crows a feast. It also provided entertainment. This is Cumbria, after all . . . Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Climbing, Death, Environment, Footpaths, Hiking, History, Legends, Mountains, Rivers, Running, The Romans, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments