Category Archives: Hiking

Three Shires Head

Hiking boots back on this Easter weekend for a lovely short walk with Lady Hughes, my Dad, my sister Bev and my nephews James and Matthew and my niece Libby, not forgetting our Ziggy as well.

Bev chose the walk, a short circular route from Clough car park, near Wildboarclough, to Three Shires Head and back round again. Three Shires Head gets its name as its the point where Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire meet. I’ve walked here a few times in the past but not but this route so it was familiar, but new – if that makes sense?

After a few minor mishaps, including losing Bev’s car on the way and someone forgetting their boots, we were soon off in the brilliant sunshine.

The walk was great, if a little boggy in places, with beautiful views of Shutlingsloe in the distance – the Matterhorn of the Peak, apparently.

One interesting spotting on the way was George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and MP for Tatton, who we passed roughly half way round. He didn’t make eye contact and I fought the urge to stop and berate him for his part in the Brexit debacle – the things you see when out walking in the English countryside eh.

Chris

 

 

 

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Crawling Up Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick is a mountain in the west of Ireland, not far from Westport. It’s a holy mountain and a place of pilgrimage as Saint Patrick reputedly fasted on the summit for forty days in the fifth century. Well that’s the guidebook stuff covered – thank you Wikipedia.

Having travelled over to Ireland to visit family for years now, it had been suggested that we all climb the mountain together, on Reek Sunday, which is the one day of the year that thousands of people do it. We kept talking about this, but never actually got organised – until now.

Lady Hughes and myself flew over to Dublin and stayed with family in Slane before driving across Ireland to meet up with everyone else in Clifden. We had one brief stop half-way in Athlone where we met up with my brother Peter and his family for lunch and a quick look at the castle and the Shannon River.

In Clifden we all stayed in the same guesthouse, fourteen of us in total including four small children. It sounds hectic but it was actually very chilled.

On Sunday we drove through beautiful Connemara to the mountain, not really sure what was waiting for us. Most of our group travelled light, in running gear and trainers, but with my years of hiking experience I went prepared, with rucksack, boots, food, first aid and camera kit. This, along with the fact I’m really unfit, meant they all left me for dust within minutes. The only consolation was that they all got mild hyperthermia, waiting for me at the top.

Croagh Patrick is 764 metres high and the climb is classed as moderate. I found it fairly tough, mainly because the upper sections are steep and full of loose boulders as well as the numbers of people on the day going up and coming down – also, did I mention that I’m not very fit at the moment?

In some parts I was struggling to find a solid foothold and all the time people are stumbling and sliding around you. Having said that, the atmosphere was great, we were really lucky with the weather and the views were stunning.

One impressive sight was all the devout Catholics climbing the mountain in bare feet, some of them had painted their toenails specially for the occasion. A more depressing one was when I was overtaken by an 82 year old lady who was being held up by two men – but hey, she didn’t have a rucksack and camera to carry.

On the top there is a chapel and a priest delivering mass from, what looked like a bay window. On one side of the chapel there was a doorway for confessions and on the other a doorway for holy communion. By the time I got up there (approx. 2 hours – not bad going) the summit was shrouded in cloud and the rest of my family were shivering and keen to get moving again. Clare and myself put on our anoraks and settled down for a bite to eat as they all abandoned us for the warmer lower reaches.

As we recharged our batteries, the cloud lifted and we were rewarded with gorgeous views over Clew Bay with its 365 islands (one for every day of the year). I strolled around a bit and took a few pictures before we eventually packed up and started the careful descent.

Back in Clifden we had another great night out, celebrating our ascent and swapping stories about the various sights we’d seen, including the English mother, and her son who sat down and refused to move another step. She was trying to get him to stay with the mountain rescue, who had a team every hundred yards, but he was having none of it and they started having a bit of a domestic on the steepest section.

Driving back to Dublin, we stopped off in Athlone again for a bite to eat and a better look round the castle. We said our goodbyes and headed off to the airport.

It was wonderful to catch up with all the family, especially my sister Rachel, who had come over from Perth, Australia. Connemara is stunningly beautiful and we had a great time, especially climbing Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday – that’s an experience I’ll always remember. I suppose we’ll have to come up with a new adventure for us all now – but I’ll just let my knees recover from this one first I think.

Chris

Cruising through Cartmel, Hiking up to Hampsfell Hospice

Back up the M6 this week, to the south of the Lake District, starting and finishing in Cartmel. I was out for a meal that night so we were looking for something relatively close that wouldn’t take too much time. This was a new one for us so it would be interesting one way or another,  whatever it was like.

Parking at the racecourse, we dodged the Segways and headed off across the countryside. This area is near Morecambe Bay, so it doesn’t have any of the big hills, but it was a lovely day and there were great views of the mountains to the north and the coast to the south, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines to the east.

Walking through the meadows with Lady Hughes and Ziggy, we were constantly overflown by a small aircraft ejecting parachutists every couple of minutes. I tried to get a few shots of them but they were too far away, so I turned my attention to the swallows speeding low over the fields, catching flies, to see if I could get a good shot or two – easier said than done. If street photography is like being a sniper, this is more like anti-aircraft shooting.

 

Crossing one field we found our way blocked by a herd of young bulls. Clare is a bit scared of cattle, so I went first to clear a path, only for Ziggy to slip his lead and sprint towards them. Clare was shouting frantically for him to come back and when the cattle started to trot over to him he decided it might actually be a good idea, so he about turned and legged it back. We squeezed through the gate just before the rush hit us.

Most of the walk was pretty reasonable with no great climbs, until the last half when you go up to Hampsfell Hospice – not a great climb, but just enough ‘up’ to get a sweat on. This is the best part of the walk with panoramic views and a Victorian shelter to explore – it doesn’t take long, there’s only one room and the roof.

From there it’s straight back down to Cartmel. We didn’t have time for a pint, even though we would have sorely loved to, as I was attending a work reunion that night in Stockport. But I did stick my head in the old Priory for a lightning tour. This dates from before the Restoration and is apparently one of the best preserved of its type – just wish we had more time to do it justice.

Lovely walk, seven miles, not too tricky and not particularly exhausting. Next weekend should be more intrepid as we fly off to Ireland to climb Croagh Patrick – watch this space.

Chris

 

Beautiful Borrowdale

Another weekend, another hike. This time, Borrowdale in the Lake District.

A bit further afield this time, Borrowdale is situated in the northeast of the Lakes. It’s a stunning valley, leading down from the high fells through little hamlets like Seatoller, Rosthwaite and Grange to Derwentwater (Lake) and the town of Keswick – famous for its pencils – honestly, they even have a pencil museum!

We started in Seatoller and headed north towards Castle Crag. This is  a rocky outcrop, believed to have been the site of an ancient fort and after that much quarrying. We climbed this crag years ago when the lads were younger and it’s a great little scramble to the top. Not this time though as we decide to keep on trucking northwards towards Grange.

The weather was a little overcast but warm and dry, it cleared as the day progressed. We took our time and soaked in the sights, just enjoying being out in such a great location.

At Grange, we stopped and had tea and lemon cake, sat outside a busy teashop – very civilised, I must say. Only hampered by a large group of people sat near us who decided to try and have an impromptu game of volleyball next to us and nearly took my head of with a ball – lucky for them, it missed!

Heading back we followed the river and when it was safe to do so, we let Ziggy off the lead for a bit of a run. He would run off a bit, exploring, but eventually come back to check where we were – his recall still needs a bit of work. At one point he found a plastic bag with someone’s discarded sandwiches in them and started to devour them. I shouted for him to stop and he obviously knew his time was up so he swallowed the lot, plastic bag and all – not a lot we could do at that point, so we’re just hoping it all comes out in the wash – if you know what I mean?

Not quite as much ‘up’ on this one as our last, up Harter Fell, but probably more enjoyable. Besides, I’m feeling a bit run-down at the moment, mild virus or something, so I didn’t want to push it too much, however we are officially in training for an ascent of Croagh Patrick, in Ireland next month so we can’t slack too much – keep an eye out for more updates.

Chris

Birthday Stomp up Harter Fell

This week was my birthday, 47 – I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. Anyway, it’s been a funny few weeks lately as the country gears up for the EU Referendum, which is in just two weeks. I must confess that I’m sick of all the debate and wish we could just get it over with now. I know what I’m voting for and I’m sure most people probably have a good idea what they’re voting for by now, so it just seems like we’re going over the same ground.

Anyway, to celebrate this momentous occasion (my birthday, not the EU Referendum) I was lucky enough to have number one son, Alex, come home from York ,and along with Elliott, Clare and a few close friends, we went out for a meal at the Tiffin Rooms in Cheadle. This lovely little restaurant serves Indian street food – think tapas but Indian. 

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The food was great and the company even better, I’m very lucky to have such a great family and some brilliant friends.

I’d booked the next day off to go for a hike with Lady Hughes and the weather was glorious, so we decided to head up to Haweswater in the Lakes and climb Harter Fell, a hill I’d not done before but it looked relatively straightforward and with it being a Thursday, we’d hopefully avoid the crowds.

Haweswater is not a natural lake, it’s a reservoir, created by the construction of a dam in 1929. This was quite controversial as the creation of the reservoir meant the forced movement of the local people to provide water for my city, Manchester. According to wikipedia it currently provides 25% of the North West’s water supply.

The route was pretty easy to navigate starting with a climb to the start of a steep climb, followed by a fairly steep climb, leading to a reasonably steep climb.

Once on the tops, the views are wonderful, if a little hazy on our day. It was hot and we found the uphill section a bit of a slog to be honest, but we only stopped a couple of times and kept on moving, even if we were puffing and panting a bit – hey, I’ve just turned 47, cut me a bit of slack will you!

Looking at the map I was a little apprehensive about the descent as it looked a bit steep, but in the end it was fine, bringing us down alongside a tarn. We were soon overtaken by a group of mountain-bikers carefully picking there way through the boulders whilst trying not to fall down the mountainside face-first. A few minutes later we overtook them as they had to deal with a snapped gear mechanism. I must confess to a little happiness as I strolled past the athletic twenty-somethings all decked out in lycra – don’t worry, they’ll get over it.

We got back to the car and checked out time. The guidebook had the walk down as 2½ hours and we’d done it in just over 4. I knew we were a bit slow but I don’t think we were that bad, ah well, it wasn’t a race.

Overall, great weather, great walk, great birthday – here’s the next 47!

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Chris

 

 

Kinder with Ziggy

Here comes the sun!

I have been known to criticise the tyranny of a sunny weekend, meaning that you can’t relax when the weekend weather is good – you have to make the most of it, whether you want to or not. Now this may sound a bit miserable, so I’m trying to be positive. This weekend the weather was beautiful so I “decided” to do something with it. Lady Hughes was working this weekend so it was just me and Ziggy for a quick sprint up Kinder Scout.

The forecast was excellent, so I threw my rucksack in the back, with Ziggy’s bed – he likes to ride in style – and headed off to the Peak District. I wanted to travel light this time so I didn’t take my camera – all pictures done on my phone I’m afraid. But hey, it’s what’s behind the camera that matters!

Once there we could see some cloud on the tops but the forecast said it would burn off as the day went on, just a little haze, and this proved to correct – you see, sometimes they get it right.

Now I’ve climbed Kinder Scout many times, from many different directions but this is still my favourite, the ‘up’ bit is a short sharp shock and then it’s over, there’s a little scramble and the the views are great. We walked up through Edale, past the Nag’s Head Pub (official start of the Pennine Way), up Grindslow but quickly zig-zagging right up the Nab for a scramble up the rocks towards Ringing Roger. If all this sounds a bit confusing, get an OS map and check it out.

On the top, you get wonderful views and a perfect place for a break and a bite to eat.

We then followed the path round the edge of the plateau, heading west before going over Grindslow Knoll and then making our way back down into Edale for a medicinal pint at the Rambler’s Inn – it’s compulsory apparently, reinvesting in local economy and all that.

Ziggy was on the lead for most of the walk as there were sheep out but on the tops, well away from any livestock, I let him for a few stretches. Hi recall has improved but still isn’t perfect. Either that or he just fancied going with some other hikers for a bit.

My fitness is improving (I think?), but I underestimated the sun a bit and burnt my arms – but hey-ho, at least I had my hat. No sunstroke for me, thank you very much!

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Not sure what Ziggy made of the Peak District as this was his first visit and he’s actually from Bulgaria – but he seemed to like it.

Chris

 

Bumping into Billionaires in Hawkshead

Beautiful, sunny, bank holiday weekend, so it’s off to the Lakes for another mini-adventure. With Ziggy in the back, we cruised up the motorway to the lakes, crossed Windermere by ferry and drove twelve miles on to the town of Hawkshead.

We’d decided on a little circular hike from Hawkshead to Tarn Hows and back again. Hawkshead is a little town nestled in-between Windermere and Coniston and can lay claim to being one of the most beautiful towns in the Lake District – which is saying something in the Lakes. With it’s narrow passages and white-walled buildings it resembles a cornish fishing village more than a lakeland town.

Parking up, we put our boots on and set off into the town. Outside one shop we paused for a moment and I spotted a tall, middle-aged lady who looked vaguely familiar. Standing only six feet away from me I suddenly realised who she was – Jerry Hall (one-time supermodel wife of Mick Jagger and before that, Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend). As she’s recently got married, I looked around for her new husband and there he was, billionaire media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch. Now, I’m a man of the world, but I don’t tend to bump into billionaires and supermodels very often when I’m walking my dog. Unfortunately my paparazzi skills were failing me and by the time I’d got my camera out they were walking away, but trust me, it was definitely them.

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The rest of the walk was had less celebrities but was still very beautiful. There was a little cloud and summer haze but we still had great views of the surrounding fells, including the Old Man of Coniston and the Lansdale Pikes, and the weather was fine.

At Tarn Hows we found a felled tree which had coins pressed into it, presumably for luck – it didn’t seem to have brought the tree any. We did the obligatory “I thought money didn’t grow on trees” gag, and moved on.

Back in Hawkshead we rested outside the pub and had a medicinal pint to replenish lost minerals and vitamins, etc. – always good practice after a hike I find.

Chatting to the locals we asked if they got many billionaires hanging around the shops and all they could say was that there had been a big wedding that day and there did seem to be a lot of Aussies around – who knows?

Anyway, my advice when hiking, is always keep a look out for billionaires and supermodels, you never know when you might meet Richard Branson in Edale, Bill Gates up Ingleborough or even Cindy Crawford on Blackstone Edge – have your camera ready!

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Chris

 

Ziggy Stardust and Elterwater

For the last four weeks we have been fostering a rescue dog, a Bulgarian street dog with one blue eye and one brown, they (Dogs4Rescue) called him Bowie (due to the eyes, obviously), but we changed that to Ziggy. This weekend we completed the paperwork to formally adopt him as a member of the Hughes family.

Ziggy’s background is sketchy, to say the least, and his breed is a bit of a mystery, but his ‘doggy’ passport puts him down as a whippet cross and approximately two years old. He’s very submissive, playful and affectionate and we’ve all grown really attached to him. They’ve told us that he’s really well trained but all the commands must be in Bulgarian – which I suspect is a fib.

This weekend we took him with us for a hike in the sunny Lake District. The weather was glorious and the scenery beautiful, but as it was Ziggy’s first hike we picked an easy one, starting at Elterwater village and exploring the surrounding countryside.

Ziggy was well-behaved and we even let him off the lead for a few sections and he even came back – most of the time.

One startling moment was when we entered some woods and let him off the lead, only for us to walk straight into a large deer. It shot off, Ziggy shot off after it, we… weren’t quite sure what to do, so we waited and shouted, until a very excited Ziggy emerged from the undergrowth a few minutes later.

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Back at Elterwater, we relaxed in the pub garden with a pint, and Ziggy chilled out, lying on the floor and getting many interested looks and enquiries. If you’ve never been to Elterwater before I’d heartily recommend it, it’s beautiful, the surrounding scenery is stunning and the pub beer garden is very enticing – especially on a sunny day with a Bulgarian street dog, David Bowie impressionist.

If you’d like to learn more about Dogs4Rescue, click here.

Chris

 

Kendal and Scout Scar

Back in the Lakes this weekend, with Lady Hughes, trying a walk in part of Cumbria that we usually drive through to get to the other bits.

Kendal is a small town in the South-East of the Lake District, not far from the M6 motorway and famous for its mint cake. It’s a beautiful place with lovely houses and a town centre riddled with little little alleyways and bags of character, but my overwhelming memory from my visit this weekend is how stressful it is to simply park a car there for anything over four hours – brace yourselves, I’m going to have a bit of a rant.

The little guide I have, described the parking as “plentiful“. What it didn’t say was that the first three car parks you go into will only allow you to stay for up to four hours, the other parking will be so badly signposted that you’ll only spot them once you have passed them by and turning around is virtually impossible in the labyrinthine one-way system – there was much swearing and gnashing of teeth.

Eventually we did find a long-stay car park, a multi-storey. I’ve often said that the lowest form of architecture is a multi-storey car park and this one was a great example. All of the bays were in sets of three, each set was divided by a large concrete pillar, positioned to make sure that unless you parked in the middle of the three, you wouldn’t be able to open the doors on one side of your vehicle. Needless to say, all the middle spaces were taken.

After trying several side spaces, nudging my car forwards and backwards in an effort to position the door so it would miss the pillar and eventually giving up, I came up with a plan. I would drive to the top, the roof, where were wouldn’t be any supporting pillars as there wouldn’t be anything there to support.

Once we made our way to the top, we found that the genius architect had anticipated our move and played his masterstroke, all of the spaces up here would be just narrow enough to get a car in, but not wide enough to be able to open the doors if there were other cars parked alongside you. We watched as other drivers crawled into spaces and then tried to get out, climbing to the other sides to use the other doors, parking over the lines, taking extra spaces, I even saw one woman taking a photo of her parked car, presumably to use as evidence in the court case when she appeals the fine for parking over the lines.

Anyway, after much shuffling and squeezing, we finally managed to park our car and start the walk.

The walk from Kendal to South Scar was lovely, we were blessed with good weather and once up on the ridge, the views of the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.

At the highest point, there is a shelter with the names of all the surrounding hills and the 360° views included Morecambe Bay, The Old Man of Coniston, Scafell, Langdale Pikes, High Street and the Yorkshire Dales.

This isn’t a particularly difficult walk and only climbs up to about 300 metres but it was certainly one of the most rewarding. One of the weirdest things though, for a walk in the Lake District, was that you don’t actually see any lakes along the way.

Back in Kendal, we navigated our way through the town centre, back to the infamous car park. I dropped off my rucksack and went to pay out ticket as Clare went to use the toilets. Clare came back fuming – toilets closed, and the lady in front of me at the pay-station put her money in, only for the screen to flash up that it was now out of order. I ran down the stairs, found another machine, paid and we hurriedly drove away from Kendal and all it’s satanic car parks!

Despite the parking, we had a great day, here a few more photos to prove it.

Chris

 

 

 

Wansfell Pike and Troutbeck

My wife Clare works on the trains and last week she happened to meet Sir Chris Bennington, the mountaineer – if you don’t know who he is, google him, NOW!

Anyway, Sir Chris is in his eighties now and has had a hip replacement, so he told Clare that he had been forced to limit his expeditions to the smaller Himalayan mountains from now on. So, are you feeling old? Feeling like time is running out? Well take Sir Chris’s example and relax a bit, limit yourself to just the smaller, unclimbed mountains of the world’s greatest mountain range – but only if you’re over eighty and have had a hip replacement. If not then get off your arse and stop complaining.

I’m inspired to get out more, so I dusted off my old walking boots and drove Lady Hughes and, myself up to the Lake District for a mini-adventure.

Parking in Ambleside, we walked past the waterfalls an up to the the top of Wansfell Pike. Not a huge hill to be sure, but the approach was steep and my lack of fitness made it seem much bigger. – I think the technical term is knackered!

The weather was perfect, warm with almost no wind at all, so we did most of it in short sleeves – in March. On the top, the views were wonderful, the low cloud was burning off revealing the snowy mountain tops of Coniston, Langdale and many more more.

Down the other side into Troutbeck. This beautiful village was very idyllic – even the ramshackle sheds were tidy and looked like they’d been designed specially. We stopped for a brew in the local tea shop and then pressed onward back into Ambleside.

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It may not have been a Himalayan mountain, but I do have nearly forty years to catch up to Sir Chris, so it’s a start I suppose.

Chris