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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A new walk - and more about mud.

The latest in the series from Mike Knipe - the February Walk in the Howgills - is now published in Random Doodles.

If you're new to Doodlecat I'll just explain that Mike Knipe (pictured opposite with 'Superdawg' Bruno) has written up a walk a month exploring these "other fells" east of the M6, and they appear here at the beginning of the appropriate month. Not only do you get an excellent walk described, but the feel of what it's really like to do it ... plus a bit of philosophy from time to time.

I must go and give one of these routes a try myself, or at least get somewhere, anywhere, peaty for our TGO Challenge training walks. Yes, I long for the northern hills with their peat hags, bogs and crags. A day out and just a rinse under the tap cleans your boots.

Not in Suffolk, nor in Cambridgeshire.

This is a terrible time of year in East Anglia, as wherever you go the soil is a gooey clay, usually mixed with chalk. This amalgam produces a mud with the twin properties of being extremely slippery and amazingly adhesive. Add in a few ploughed fields and you're soon walking with feet that weigh an extra three pounds each with the accumulated clag. To make matters worse, the mud builds up on your boots in an outward direction, giving you feet the size of dinnerplates. You can't help getting it plastered up each leg. And it sticks like s**t to a blanket. Then, if you don't set about scraping and scrubbing it off as soon as you get home, it sets like concrete and nothing short of a jackhammer will shift it.

A public footpath, Cambridgeshire clay and Alan Sloman enjoying a 'green lane'

On the positive side, slithering about with feet that weigh several pounds must do wonders for the legs. Maybe we are getting more, not less, benefit from living in the lowlands and we'll pound through the Highlands in May with legs like Arnold Schwarzenegger's. Pleased to report that Alan didn't get any mud on his new rucksack.

We've got a long weekend in Scotland next week, and it looks like snow. Oh yesssssss!!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Glorious Mud!

After the heights of the Pennine Way we descended to sea level this Sunday for a walk by the River Deben in Suffolk. Much more Phil’s cup of tea I think, what with pubs and tea shops close at hand, and not to much tiring uphill stuff. A doddle in fact.

Well, that’s the way it started. We parked by the village hall at Newbourne and set off to Hemley and the pleasant lanes and paths to Waldringfield. Arthur Ransome, the children’s author used to sail from here. Today, however, there were very few boats on the water – a far cry from the bustle of high summer – and most were drawn up ashore waiting for the spring. It’s a lovely place to dawdle and admire the variety of craft (lots of pre war wooden yachts here in the summer) so we dawdled and then set off along the old flood bank to our next destination – Martlesham Creek.

Yachts at WaldringfieldYachts at Waldringfield ready for the spring

As you go away from Waldringfield, the Boden clad families out walking begin to thin out and before long you will have the sky and the marshes to yourself. Wonderful. We stopped for lunch and enjoyed the sunshine and the peace, with just the sound of the wind and the occasional cries of Oystercatchers. This is a perfect day, I thought.

View over the marshesView over the marshes to Woodbridge

But this won’t get us to Martlesham Creek, so off we went, and almost immediately came across this sign – “No Through Route due to Natural Erosion”. Phil looked at his map and decided to re route and go inland. I disagreed.

“It’s probably just so the council won’t get sued – what are you, Man or Mouse?”

sign saying no through routePhil responded with his usual “Eeek, but we continued, hopping over a small inlet and a bit of boggy ground, and then the old sea wall picked up again.

“There, I told you that would be easy”, I said.

The path got surprisingly narrower and less trodden, not a soul around – and then we saw it. Not a small breach but a yawning gap about twenty yards wide and full of ominous looking mud. I really didn’t like the look of it. We could try a run across, but once stuck you wouldn’t come out in a hurry, and it looked awfully deep. We turned back.

And then it happened. Phil hopped across the small inlet first. I followed but the ground gave way under me and I slid straight into the glistening ooze. Deeper, deeper and deeper I went and then started to tip backwards. Oh no – my lovely jacket and trousers I thought, and then how cold and wet the walk back was going to be, covered in mud. My hands went back to break my fall – anything to stop me going in up to my waist.

It was then that I looked up to see Phil doubled over with laughter. He reached for his pocket and I realised that he was looking for his camera …just let him dare, I thought.

“Take my hand” I shouted

“I’m a stranger in paradise…” sang Phil, and had another fit of the giggles.

But he forgot about the camera and helped me out. Apart from my gloves, where the ooze had somehow got inside I wasn’t in bad shape, and I was relieved to see that both boots had remained on my feet.

Grrrrrrrr. Natural erosion. A pathetic euphemism for ‘we couldn’t be bothered to do any maintenance’. What next? If I report potholes in the road, will the council just say, “Ah, that’s natural erosion madam, nothing we can do”.

But the rest of the walk was just fine as went through the Newbourne Springs nature reserve and back to the car. Apart from the ‘incident’ it had indeed been a perfect afternoon’s walk. under huge sunlit skies. So close to the ports of Ipswich and Felixstowe but somehow remote from the 21st century bustle.

Long may it stay that way.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back on Top

Just back from a splendid three days in the sunny Yorkshire Dales. OK, not that sunny – a bit misty and rainy really, and hail, and snow – but a real boost to morale nonetheless. Why? Two reasons.

Firstly our friends, Rick & Lindsey. Their good company and home cooking (plus treasures from Rick’s deep and mysterious wine cellar) make the trip worthwhile for their hospitality alone. But secondly the trip signalled phase two of Miss W’s program to get me back to full fitness, which she accomplished with her customary determination and disregard for my personal comfort.

Sunday. Half way up the A1.

“Have you got the maps?”
“Yes dear”
“Hat, gloves, jacket, socks, boots?”
“Yes dear”
“Compass, rucksack, base layer?”
“Yes dear”
“How the %*?! Could you forget to pack your trousers!”
“Well, you wouldn’t let me go through my check list.”
“Oh, I see – it’s MY fault is it?”

There is a dangerous edge to her voice, and I lapse into silence for the next eighty miles. Eventually Miss W remarks,

“You’re going to be very cold where I’m taking you, that’s all I can say”
“I’ll buy some more.”
“At half past four on a Sunday afternoon?”

More silence.

As we pass through Long Preston, deep joy! I am saved from humiliation on the hill; the Rohan factory outlet is still open – and to cap it all there is a half price sale! I halt the car Starsky & Hutch style and dive in, to emerge triumphant with a splendid new set of strides.

The day ended well, with a marvellous welcome and evening meal as we caught up with the village news in North Yorks.


Monday dawned with mist and drizzle, and after breakfast we drove out to Horton for Miss W’s planned ascent of Pen-y-ghent to see how I got on with a bit of a climb. The previous evening, after a few glasses of wine, I had expounded on the peculiarity of character that makes ‘peak baggers’ struggle up hills when there is no possibility of a view from the top. ‘What is the point of wearing yourself out to stand next to a trig point or pile of stones in zero visibility and freezing cold?’ I asked. ‘One pile of frozen rocks looks very much like another, and if you can’t see anything else it seems a pretty miserable way to spend an afternoon’.

Pen-y-ghent is 694 metres high. The cloud base was around 450 metres as we set off. Ah!

Soon we entered the mist and, as we scrambled up the rocks that make up the steps on the south side, I found that I was quite enjoying the sensation of a seemingly bottomless misty void below my feet and only cloud and more rocks ahead. I’m not a convert, though. As the trig point appeared the wind howled and it was perishingly cold (glad I had a pair of trousers!). We sat by the shelter wall for lunch and then abandoned a walk over Plover Hill in favour of descending to daylight again and having afternoon tea in Settle.

I was really chuffed. A decent ascent and nothing had twanged or protested. Maybe Miss W’s regime is working. I didn’t tell her this of course, as it would only encourage her to up the tempo of her program.

To round off a good day, Rick & Lindsey had invited ‘Mr & Mrs Grumpy’ to dinner (that is Peter & Avril Goddard) and their dog, Spice. Salmon mousse, roast beef & Yorkshire pudding, cheeses and lemon syllabub all accompanied by a judicious selection from Rick’s cellars. Naturally, talk veered towards the challenge, and Peter asked if Alan & I had planned our route yet, as being ‘over five timers’ we only had a couple of weeks to go to our deadline. Thankfully I was able to say yes, and discovered that we may well meet somewhere near the River Orrin.

Better pack an extra bottle of malt.


Never trust the weather forecast in the Dales. We were promised ‘sunny periods’ for Miss W’s “long stretch” along the Pennine Way from Hawes to Horton. Indeed there were sunny periods. Two of them. The rest of the time we were in cloud or bursts of hail and the occasional snow flurry. Once again, not many views, but nevertheless an enjoyable walk, and one that I would happily do again – preferably at the week end when the pub in Horton will be open!

A typical view on our Tuesday walk.

Rick kindly volunteered to drive us up to Hawes and pick us up in Horton, so we had a lovely linear walk. We only met three people the whole way – a very wet cyclist who was roundly cursing the BBC weather girl, and, towards Horton, a pair of cavers who surprised us by emerging from a small hole near the path. “We popped down to get out of the rain”, they joked.

Miss W enjoys a snow shower!

This area is riddled with potholes and caves. We stopped just south of Cave Hill to have a rest and heard the noise of a waterfall just over the wall. We hopped over the stile to see a roaring swallow hole where a fair sized stream suddenly plunged underground. It’s a good place to sit down and have a cup of tea, but I wouldn’t recommend getting too close to the hole. The rocks are very slippery and slope towards the abyss. Trouble is, these places exert a strange fascination, and only good sense prevented me from trying to peer in.

The Swallowhole

As evening approached I rang Rick, who turned up bang on time to whisk us back to tea and Lindsey’s home made cake before a long soak in the bath. As I contemplated the day there was knock on the bathroom door and I was presented with a pre prandial glass of Chablis to sip as I soaked.


Another culinary triumph from R & L’s kitchen and an early night before the long slog home. All in all, a great way to stretch the old limbs and , rather to my surprise, find that I’m feeling pretty fit. Convalescence over, I reckon. Back on top!

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Christmas Competition winner is...

Sgurr an Utha © Richard Webb (Creative Commons) - image courtesy of GeographMartin Banfield was the the first out of a very full hat of correct answers - no chance of any of you chaps and chapesses getting 'misplaced'. Even the the incorrect entries were very close.

The correct answer was Sgurr an Utha NM 88502 83976 (to match the precision of some of the entries - digital mapping - doncha just love it?). This picture by Richard Webb shows the west ridge.

Now, many of us (and especially me) might be looking to lose a pound or ten after the midwinter feasts, and what better than a bracing stride over the Howgill Fells? Yes, Mike Knipe's January walk is now over in Random Doodles.

Having been charged with route planning for the TGO Challenge I've now got maps spread over the floor as the new year suddenly makes the deadline for submitting routes seem alarmingly close. I met walking partner Alan and his wife Lynnie for a pleasant pub lunch and discussed the route over a pint or two, so we are generally agreed on our stravaig.

"So, you just stayed in the pub then?" says Miss W on my return.

"Er...well, we sorted out the route. And we did walk to the Orchard tea rooms in Grantchester. It was jolly cold"

"Which pub were you in?" (I sense a trap)

"The Red Lion"

"Which is where, exactly?" (trap sprung)

"Grantchester." (ouch!)

"About a hundred yards from the tea rooms - I despair. You won't get across Scotland by sitting around talking about it. You need to get some long walks in. And a few decent hills".

She has lined up a couple for next week, so if you see a forlorn staggering figure in the Yorkshire Dales being informed by a lady in a blue TNF jacket, "You'll thank me for this in May" - yes, that'll be me, with my personal strainer, Miss W.

The serious stuff starts now.