Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ice climbing on the North Yorkshire Moors

Not too far from Whitby are the North Yorkshire Moors a venue not known for it's ice climbing. But here up at Fryup Dale there is a lengthy crag which with a few days of freezing weather comes into condition.

It's a long slog from the car parked just above Lealholm, deep snow North Yorkshire Moors.
Nowhere is the climbing above 20' to 30' but it's almost all vertical and can provide an hour or two fun 'sport' routes. Protection is limited to trees or stakes above the crag. But ice climbing on the North Yorkshire Moors is possible! And this is only three days before Christmas!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jilly the Dog

8 years ago Trish drove myself and the two grandchildren who were staying with us, to; ”Pick up my Christmas present”. An unknown destination and present lay ahead. “You’ve always wanted one”, she said, “You’ll really like it” (Case of wine or whiskey?)

Later, as we drove away from the address, I stared at the little blond puppy that was crying on my lap. I know I’d gone on about wanting a dog – but a dog’s for life not just Christmas, I didn’t mean it!. It was an aspiration perhaps. Too much trouble perhaps? Maybe I only liked the idea of owning one?. It might cramp my style. I couldn’t go climbing, canoeing, skiing, mountaineering, could I? After all a dogs for life not just for Christmas, isn’t it?

Driving home the subject of names came up. Trish said it was called Lily. Number two Grandchild sitting in the back, coincidently called Lily, burst out crying indignantly; “I don’t want to be called the same name as a dog” she wailed. With my newly acquired alter ego now asleep on my lap I announced it would be called Fang. Or Killer, or Ripper.  Lilly & Georgia  in the back seat protested vocally and persistently. “Anyway she is a girl and you don’t call girls that kind of name”, one of them observed. Georgia suggested that as the previous owner called her Lily, a simple change to Jilly would suffice and would not offend the sensibilities of her sister. This was greeted by a loud, “Yes” from Lily. .

As we drove home I suggested to them that Jilly would do for dinner and asked them which bit they would like for the weekend joint, suggesting that we could have a leg each, which was an improvement on a chicken shared between four after all. More protests from the back followed loudly.

Jilly was whining on my lap and I gave her some gentle strokes. “Well”, I thought, she’d live outside in a kennel. End up being a tough dog and perhaps make a tolerable companion on my forays into the outdoors and nights in Igloos, snow holes, canoeing trips and so on., If I had to go to places where dogs were excluded, I could always tie her up with extra helpings of dog food!

I couldn’t let her outside that night as it was pointed out I didn’t own a kennel and without one she might be eaten by a fox. A large cardboard box was placed next to the Stanley and the children put her in and showered her with good night kisses and hugs.

Christmas morning dawned cold and bright and we’d ignored the odd crying from the kitchen during the night Carefully hidden dog food and treats appeared from cupboards and quickly disappeared down Jilly’s mouth.. I could see that the dog wasn’t going to starve to death. She could stay another few days anyway.

I needed a walk. Jilly, no doubt deciding I was a food source, decided to follow and ran at my heels. This was fine until we got to the Bog Field and she didn’t know that the bright green bits were wet. Very wet! Not wanting to upset the grandchildren too much by leaving her I pulled her out of the deep black water where she was struggling and let her go. She gamely ran at my heels over every obstacle I put in her way. I was suitably impressed by her spirit. A few minutes later she stopped and whined. Clearly she was going to be a liability! She was shivering. Mmmm? Ok, she was rather small and wet, and it was rather chilly. I picked her up and tucked her into my jacket. A few minutes later and she wanted to be down and off again, exploring and running and sniffing at everything and anything as she ran alongside me. A few minutes later and she ran out of steam and ground to a halt. I picked her up and ran back to the house wondering what was wrong with the present.

”Where did you go and how far was it”, I was asked when we arrived home.

“She’s tired”, Trish announced, after I told her where we’d been. Jilly was now fast asleep in her cardboard box. Outside would clearly have to wait!

As her stamina increased, our forays into the hills got longer and longer. The landscape I looked at obtained new meanings as she quickly spotted where the fox, badger, mice and the hares lived or passed, her nose following the scent trails across the fields and though the hedges.

Scrambling up a steep rocky gully to the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain proved she was quick and fast over the steepest rock and followed me along the narrowest of cliff ledges sometimes in deep snow. She helped in map work when I struggled in cloud and darkness along rocky mountainsides quickly noticing that she picked the best routes. She proved she had an excellent memory and could retrace exactly the route we’d trodden months before when revisiting climbs and walks. She proved equally adept at canoeing and wasn’t put off by the biggest or wettest rapids spending the trip testing the air and enjoying the views.

One spring night sleeping under the stars with no sleeping bag and only a bivvi-bag as shelter I shivered with cold. Outside, so did Jilly. With little prompting she joined me under the shelter and we soon warmed up together.

But I really knew who was the real softy when hedge-laying on a wet, windy, cold day in Co.Kerry. Soaked to the skin she shivered in long grass uncomplaining. I took a fleece jacket and covered her. Eating my sandwiches later I realised I’d forgotten her lunch. We shared my sandwiches that day!

Jilly has become my companion on long walks and runs, birdwatching trips and other excursions into the outdoors. And I wouldn’t have it any other way either. Dogs are not just for Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dry Stone Walling & Google

The Good, Bad, Ugly and the unexpected from Google

This was going to be easy. I'd been asked to write an article on Dry Stone Walling and Google for Sean Adcock of the North Wales Branch of the Drystone Walling Association's magazine Stonechat.

"Punch “drystone walls” into Google and go through them – see what is out there – good and bad".

Page 1 until ? Well, I gave up the careful prowl at around page 20 of google results and started page hopping until I gave up at page 35 when my browser refused to open any more sites.


So what did I discover? Well,, most surprisingly was the fact that most sites I turned up were entirely as you would expect in that they were relevant and mostly quite good. Along the way I discovered a few odds and ends. I discovered that in answers at Yahoo.com a thread which stated a stone wall would cost to build anything from £30 to £300 per metre depending on who you believed. I also found a wall costing only £4.99. I found out you could attend a drystone walling course in Switzerland for £435 including 3 nights full board & breakfast at www.myswiterland.com. I also discovered the Catalan for drystone waller is “Margerer”

As you probably have already discovered, a search on google produces mostly waller’s own websites, several dswa pages, amazon books and rather amusingly a few portal sight which lists areas with drystone wallers in it. Swiss Cottage in London was listed and isn’t known for it’s walling traditions so I couldn’t resist a quick visit. It listed three walling sites, one of which was a quarry in the Black Mountains an address in Armagh which is in Ireland so I had a look to see what was going on there. (Nothing). An address in surrey turned out to be a builders merchang so I’m still trying to work out the link with Swiss Cottage. I pressed the back button.

The first interesting site was “Sticks and Stones’, http://www.omlxi.com/sticks_stones/index.php a Tasmainian site by two gents. One a waller, the other a hedgelayer. Yes, both are practised in Tasmania even if only by these two and you can see their work.

By page 5 some odd drystone walling sites appear. Attracted by www.opendemocrfacy.net and it’s appealing, ‘Reshaping The Dry Stone Wall of Irish history’ title I gave it ago. After all I’d lived there for 10 years and never, ever come across this book. The book’s description was as follows:, “This book of twenty-five chapters is a selection of papers presented at a conference organised by the British Association for Irish Studies held at the University of Salford in September 2005. An additional commissioned chapter deals with the fortunes of the two major Unionist parties since the Belfast Agreement of 1998, in particular tracking the transition of the Democratic Unionists from opposition to the ‘Trimble-Adams Pact’ to miraculous support for a Robinson-McGuinness Executive. Appropriately, the book retains the diversity of the papers’ subject matter and, in keeping with recent academic...” Back space again!! I eventually worked out the relevance of the title with help from Trish. I’ll leave you to work it out too. Good luck.

On page seven I turned up http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/412167 an animated video of “Old Man Pie” building a wall. Stupidly I expected an instructional video but it turned out to be an animated video almost showing wall building. Don’t bother but good if you like watching or listening to something pointless. “I build a wall around my home, It keeps out enemies and friends”. Oh, go on I suppose it was a bit of fun after all!

In total contrast and well worth looking at is the video by Mick Soft at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIHc09Z5hvw. It’s a good micky take at wallers who talk about walling in some kind of hushed and referential manner. .The man does not confine his wit to us wallers either. If you follow the links watch his take on tree surgeons too.

A site known to many is Norman Haddow’s blogspot

http://wallswithoutmortar.blogspot.com and is a simple blog containing many excellent pictures and articles on walling from many countries. Well worth the visit. This site is an education in itself.

Another interesting site http://www.astoneuponastone.com/ the home of the Drystone walling association of Australia. Lots of pictures of.....errr,,, Australian Walls!

The first techno site I found with an extensive report on the strength of drystone walls, conducted by the University of Bath, can be found at http://www.bath.ac.uk/ace/dry-stone-2/

Of real interest to us wallers and probably well know is The National Stone Centre, especially the Millennium Wall at http://www.nationalstonecentre.org.uk/vs_millenniumwall.html. Numerous walls from around the UK built in regional styles using stone from around the UK and of course built by many different wallers from around the UK.

For those wallers who actually turn up to give an estimate then this site http://www.lowimpact.org/products_dry_stone_walling.html offers a solution. Just send them as many details as you can and they’ll give an estimate of the cost for them to build. This company would be a welcomed contributor to regular enquiries on the DSWA forum when it comes to questions of costs and speeds.

On the web you can also buy a complete Flexible drystone wall from JAVIS-JSTONEOOS-FLEXIBLE-DRY-STONE-WALLING and it will only cost a pound or two. But before you get excited it turned out to be the sort you get in a plastic bag and use on model railways and the like. I found another one advertised as, ‘suitable for model railways’ at £4.99.

The MPs have also been claiming for stonework. Janis Anderson Rossingdale MP paid several hundred pounds for walling on her home. (I’m not sure which one!) read more here in the Manchester Evening News http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1121367_janet_andersons_dry_stone_wall

As we go further into google some new and unexpected stuff comes up This University of Huddersfield page http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/4729/ provides us with an extract from a thesis entitled, “Tacit knowledge, learning & expertise in drystone walling” (Farrar, Nicholas Stewart 2006) Reading the extract was interesting and one day I’ll get around to reading the whole thesis which can be read by clicking the link. At 277 pages you’ll be doing a lot of reading – in fact you’ll get to page 134 before you meet a wall or even a waller. On page 243 there are some useful lessons in support of the DSWA walling qualifications.

If you want an expensive book on stonewalling try Colin Sowerby’s http://www.thedrystonewaller.com/products.htm 6 pages for £5, an e-book claiming to be a concise guide to walling. Obviously some of us know far too much for our own good.

Flikr interestingly didn’t come up until page 20 and there are thousands of pictures which I’ll let you trawl through at your leisure.

The stone foundation www.stonefoundation.org an american site worth a visit even if I found the navigation a little confusing.

There are a number of good sites describing how to build a wall. But by far the worse is this one http://homeideas.howstuffworks.com/walls-and-boundaries/how-to-approach-building-a-dry-stone-wall.htm. If you are a knew nothing before looking at this site you’ll still know nothing afterwards.

You can even watch a stone wall being repaired. By invisible people no doubt at http://www.byrdir.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/stonewall.gif

Way down the listings on page 18 or so was this european site http://www.conselldemallorca.net/mediambient/pedra/pedraensec.php?idioma=ing&opcio=1 A Mallorca based site, of which a large portion is devoted to the rebuilding and conservation of their drystone walls and structures and is available in several languages which perhaps is a reflection on the recognition of the world wide interest in drystone walling. Conservation isn’t just a British thing!

And so on. I got to page 34 on google before my PC started to have a bad internet day but not before I noticed, “Taylors Master Guide to gardening which stated that “Drystone walls are ideal for gardening as they give when the ground moves as it freezes in winter.”

I’ll end my tedious tour here as the last paragraph could promote some discussion amongst anorak clad wallers. Oh, and if anyone does discover some really truly awful walling sites please let Sean know, because I couldn’t find them!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Canoeing the River Esk North Yorkshire

Monday 1st December.

A clear but frosty morning after a day of continuous rain on the Sunday and it looks like a good day to go for a paddle. I'm soon at Grosmont, several miles upriver from Whitby.
I drop the canoe off next to the bridge, drive back to Sleights where I leave the car and jog the few miles back to the canoe. It takes just over 40 minutes and I put my paddling boots on and a warm fleece as I'll soon cool down.

A paddle of about two hours downriver to Sleights or beyond looks on the cards. The section between here and Sleights is varied paddling through woods and fields and passes under the Esk Valley railway a number of times. It's a quiet paddle and well sheltered. There's plenty to interest paddlers. It's fairly straighforward and is the best section on the river Esk for an open canoe. Between Lealhom and Grosmont there is plenty to interest the keen Kayaker

The put in at the ford in Grosmont. The river has been very high, look at the debris hanging in the tree top right! It looks line fun.

Plenty of grade II makes for an interesting paddle between here and Sleights about two hours paddling away, through a mainly wooded valley and past a few interesting man made structures.

The first one being a fishermans shelter partially built into a cliff. The air temperature is hovering just above freezing and I'm having difficulty keeping my hands warm.

Plenty of small drops, some easier than others but enough to keep you interested. Gravel bars, and twisting turns.

And for those of you old enough to remember, this is the actor Ian Carmichael's house, camera shake notwithstanding - but I was paddling aswell!

My bowman, Jilly, with canoeing & mountaineering experience in Ireland and England. She's fine at the bow but only knows doggy paddle.

Some of the river passes by undercut cliffs but none of this interests her

There's some interesting wildlife to be spotted. These are (I think) otter tracks, we see kingfisher, dipper, a little grebe, several goosander and a pair of red breasted mergansers and numerous grey wagtails. The odd deer scurry away from the bank Jilly jumps ship at one point and dives overboard on seeing a squirrel and chases it along the bank requiring me to go ashore.

A good chance to stretch the legs!

And so the river continues, passing through woods, ravines, twists and turns, the odd island, and here, demonstrating the height the river reached at the weekend by several log jambs

The first take out point is easily noticed by a huge metal bridge (The road to Pickering) replacing one, previously washed away in floods in the 1930s.

And here's the take out point at Sleights Weir. It's an awkward carry out to get to the car park next to the Salmon Leap pub, but you can carry on to Whitby or another take out just before Ruswarp boats, where beyond that is the only other weir which involves a carry over.

I've heard of people paddling over Sleights weir in kayaks, but there is a strong undertow in high conditions and I'd not chance it in any condition!. At extremely high conditions there is only a foot drop but who knows what lies underwater.

In the many years I've lived here I've never seen another paddler on this or any other stretch of the Esk other than below the Dam at Sleights which is heavily used by a couple of local outdoor centres.

And here's the same dam taken Monday 26 November 2012 after heavy rain.  The river level was at 2.88 meters as recorded by the Environment Agency.     __________________