Thursday, 28 August 2014

August Bank Holiday

A long weekend on the Isle of Wight visiting family....our time was filled with relaxation, piano playing, running, sunshine, fireworks, showers, sand, sea, lots of delicious food, and quality time with family.

Lots of #lovelylittlethings to admire
Post-journey run to stretch our legs...near Bembridge
Beach huts and the high tide
Piano playing
Lots and lots of tomatoes and other lovely home grown produce
Fireworks at Seaview
Tim and his dad on their boat
View from the beach hut
Raspberry Surprise icecream made by Tim
Delightful run around Bembridge with Tim and his sister
Superb Family BBQ
and a few local beers

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Flora Focus: Heather

There is no denying that the heather filled moorland all around us is looking splendid. I don't know what it is, but this year the heather seems to be more vibrant, richer purples and more widespread than I remember in previous years.

Chunal Moor, with Wormstones crag at the top right
The heather we see most commonly is actually called Ling and typically flowers from August to September. It's a plant which loves acid moorland and bogs - perfect for on the moorland around Glossop. The flowers are rich in nectar - a super food for bees and their honey production. 

Historical uses for heather include thatch for roofing, brooms, bedding, making baskets and ropes, dying wool yellow/orange and in the Bronze Age the Picts and Celts made ale. Ale brewing with heather has seen a revival recently, and I can report that it is very tasty indeed. There's also information on the internet about heather being used in herbal remedies and as an antidote for stings and bites from venomous animals, as well as a diuretic and urinary antiseptic agent.

In addition to the common Ling there are two other types of heather - Cross-leaved Heath and Bell Heather. If you're interested in learning how to identify each type of heather - here's some useful information I've found on the Wildlife Trusts website:

  • Cross-leaved Heath has pink, bell-shaped flowers clustered at the end of long, branched stems. Grey-green leaves are narrow and in whorls of four.
  • Bell Heather is distinctive with its dark purple-pink, bell-shaped flowers forming clusters up the stem, and short, dark green needle-like leaves borne in whorls of three.
  • The stems of Heather are woody and coarse, sometimes clumped together and close to the ground in exposed areas. The delicate pink flowers grow loosely up the stem and the short, narrow leaves are borne in rows.
Bell Heather
On moorland above the Doctors Gate path I found a mix of Ling and
Bell Heather. You can see the more delicate Ling, top left.
The glorious purple won't last long, so do get out and enjoy it while it's here.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Peak District Scrambles: Chew Valley

At some point in my life, since moving to Glossop, I discovered I had developed vertigo. I first remember experiencing the nauseating dizzy feeling while halfway up a big indoor climbing wall. Weird, I thought. Although I have always had a very healthy respect for heights I'm certainly not afraid of them. In the past I've done plenty of caving trips (technical ropework ones), abseiled off the tall part of Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, paraglided in the Peak District and French Alps and my sport of choice in my early twenties was rock climbing. So why had this developed. Nothing traumatic happened to me. I just couldn't deal with heights. Or so I thought. I also now know it's not a fear of heights, it's exposure that sends me spinning.

Over the cause of the past few years, and more specifically this year, I've been working out what sends my head spinning. For this isn't something I'm just imagining. There have been times on club runs when trying to keep up with the group we've been going over a rocky edge path and I've had to stop and have a stern talking to myself to keep going.

Things that set me off seem to be: moving water, sudden or unexpected exposure to very steep ground / drops, running along an edge where one side of my vision has a different depth perspective.

So, with a good push from Tim and a lot of internal dialogue on my part I've been pushing myself to regain confidence on steep ground by going out and doing some scrambling. What I've discovered is that steep ground doesn't necessarily make my head spin - it's more about the exposure. So I've done a few scrambles in Snowdonia and a little bit in the Lake District. Now it was time for something a bit more local, in the Peak District.

With our passion for fell running, and Tim being keen to combine running with climbing/scrambling we headed out to the Chew Valley for a run and scramble adventure. Parking at Dove Stones reservoir we ran up towards Chew Reservoir along the track, but at the first gate we took a sharp left into Charnal Clough:

The start of the scramble up Charnal Clough
A beautiful dragonfly we saw
Me making my way up Charnal Clough

The scramble up the clough is such that you can easily avoid any rocks at all by hopping onto the grassy banks on either side. I lead some of the way up, finding 'interesting' route choices and sticking to rocks as much as possible. I was also keen to not always choose the easiest option. That included some wonderful encouragement from Tim to go up a boulder (maybe 8ft high) and involved a committing move with foot smears and trusting shoes. I did it on my second attempt, and then with some more encouragement returned and repeated the moves again, topping out directly this time and feeling really chuffed with myself. No photos of that bit, Tim was spotting me - an important part of confidence building.

From the top of the clough we headed left and along a lovely trod, past Bramleys Cot, around Dean Rocks, Ashway Stone and on to the Memorial Cross and Ashway Rocks. The views were magnificent with the sunshine hitting the crags and heather in full bloom.

Bramleys Cot, now roofless but looking very solidly built
View down to Dove Stones Reservoir from Bramleys Cot
Memorial Cross
The black spot is in fact a mole that was happily sniffling around
in the grass, we watched it for a few moments before continuing 

The main reason for choosing this area to visit was to find the Trinnacle rocks at Raven Stones. Here's photos of us stood on it:

Me on the Trinnacle
and Tim
I really wanted to stand on the right hand bit but the hop across looked very committing. I'm pleased I got onto it though, and I like the photo of me as it looks like I'm holding the sky up!

From Raven Stones we dropped down Birchen Clough with the easy run round the side of the reservoirs to enjoy and take us back to the car. On the way down we passed a couple scrambling up which made it look fun. We chatted about returning another time to do this scramble but we were feeling good, and conditions were ideal (low water and dry rock), we decided to do it straight away:

Looking up Birchen Clough from near the bottom
Me stepping up on thankfully dry but green rocks
The shallow section at the top
A super run/scramble was had and we celebrated with an icecream and admiring the view over the dam wall, accompanied by plenty of low flying geese. My confidence on rock is growing, and I'm already looking forward to our next scramble adventure....I do believe we need to visit Kinder Downfall next.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Isle of Skye, Scotland

I have quite a few photographs of our trip to Scotland, here's a selection from our time up there. No apologies for the length of this blog, it's mostly photos.

On the first morning with the Glossopdale Harriers a group of us left the bunkhouse aiming to bag three trig points but the trough terrain challenged us (well me anyway) and two were ticked off.

View back down towards Fiskavaig and Portnalong
Proper Scottish wilderness.....with hidden marshy bogness!
One of the larger pools with delicate plant life in it
Super views....not sure what direction this is!
Looking up to the ridge....that didn't turn out to be a ridge....just a long series of ups and downs
The final descent, looking towards Portnalong and our bunkhouse

The next day most of the group headed over to Glenbrittle. A group of six were up on the Cuillin Ridge (and had been since setting off at 3am) and several others were hoping to gain the summit of Sgurr Alasdair from Coire Lagan in time to see the ridge party. They were successful on all counts but I'll leave it up to them to recount their own stories. Myself and three others reached the tarn below the Great Stone Chute then headed down to the beach and up onto the north-west headland for an explore:

The 'whale rock' as it got named, jutting out into the tarn below the Great Stone Chute.
It would soon get to know one member of our party's camera from an unplanned underwater viewpoint...oops!
Tim setting off to catch up with the party heading up Sgurr Alasdair.
The mist level was annoyingly just above the tarn, so what I'm told is a beautiful amphitheatre
of really impressive rock will have to await my return.
See....misty claggy cloud hinting at the hidden beauty
Stream runs into tarn, 'whale rock' on the right
The mist seemed to follow us down, though stayed above us for the rest of our run
Looking over Loch Brittle to the campsite, with Sgurr Alasdair and the Cuillin Ridge teasing us
Loch Brittle from the northwest shoreline
Loch Brittle from the northwest headland, tufty grass and marsh was the terrain here
We saw plenty of these beautiful and dainty Marsh Orchids
and we also located a Mountain Rescue repeater station and somewhere nearby we believe
we saw an eagle - it was certainly a rather large bird and was bigger than a buzzard
Our way across River Brittle 

I was pretty tired from all the runs I had done in the previous few weeks so opted for an easy day around the bunkhouse on Tuesday. Various groups were off out doing various things, but it was nice to have some solitude. I took myself out to hunt down some raspberries for after dinner. Not wanting to stick to roads I decided to go find the lighthouse on Ardtreck Point, just a few kilometres from the bunkhouse.

Tiny cove on Ardreck Point, looking over to Fiskavaig Bay
sealife....looking very out of place out of the water 
The pebble beach in the cove was totally engulfed in jellyfish...from the size of this one down to clear ones just a few centimeters across - see the cluster of five in bottom right of the photo.
This one was about 30cm in diameter
Amazing views
The lighthouse, Ardtreck Point
On my way back to the road from the lighthouse I disturbed a short-eared owl.
It is in this photograph, but it was too quick to capture close up

Wednesday and the majority of the group were off on a massive bike ride of the island - way too long for me. Tim and a couple of other guys decided to head up Sgurr nan Gillean so I went to the Sligachan Hotel with them and headed off for a solo exploration. My target was somewhere towards Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach. At only 651m it's one of the smaller peaks in the area (remember that you do start from just about sea level), but I was a little unsure of the upper flanks of it - the map indicated scree, and that's not something I am very confident on.

The approach to Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach from the Sligachan - another marshy grass 2km to get through which nearly broke me as I kept losing the faint trod and sinking plenty. 
Looking back to the Sligachan Hotel as I start the climb in earnest....that's the marsh land I had to cross
and my way up to Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach

Looking towards Harta Corrie and I could make out the Bloody Stone

View from the summit of Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach
Yes, I made it to the top. I had a serious conversation with myself about the scree and decided it
wasn't exposed and I wouldn't fall to my doom if I did slip. The views were certainly worth the effort.
More spectacular views from the top, towards Loch Ainort, I think
Back at the road I loitered a little, taking in the old bridge and the views towards the Cuillins

Our final day was a mixture of sunshine and blustery showers and we opted for a bike ride on the back road from Bracadale to Portree. I reckon we got two-thirds the way over before a massive cloud loomed....our choice to turn back then was a good one as we stayed dry and were off the bikes ahead of the rain. A delightful lunch stop at the Struan cafe-cum-book-shop-cum-vintage-clothes-shop where we met up with Tim C and Alice out on a longer bike ride.  Later in the day I went for another short bike ride on the single track road from the bunkhouse while Tim did a longer ride. Good choice on my part, the 12 days of Scottish running and riding had certainly tired me out.

The splendid Cuillin Ridge basking in the sunshine, photo taken just north of Carbost