Older Posts

This site is optimised for a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels

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!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ten Years Younger

Recently Martin Rye posted about his Ben to Ben trip, and mentioned that it was ten years ago (nice photos btw, Martin). Whilst browsing through this piece, enjoying seeing some familiar spots, it suddenly dawned on me that it is ten years since I ventured on my first TGOC. A quick trip up the loft ladder and a rummage through the boxes of photos produced these gems (mainly the work of Lyn Sloman - except for the ones where she in is the picture ... obviously ...)

So for no reason at all, other than pure self indulgence, here's a selection of pics from my first introduction to the TGO Challenge, and to Scotland (Miss W & I had never walked in Scotland before). Click on any one for the full sized picture.

It started with a dare made by Alan Sloman in the heat of a holiday in the south of France. Alan finds heat a bit wearisome (just as well he likes Scotland then) and it was along the lines of 'I've come on one of your holidays, would you come on one of mine?'

The grinning maniac who started it all - Alan Sloman

Alan's wife Lyn (blissfully unaware that we had already toured France on a tandem and walked in the Pyrenees) had a fit of the giggles and said 'Well, if those two lotus eaters ever volunteer to walk across Scotland with you, I'll come too!'

Foolish, foolish girl. In September 1998, I made the fateful call to Al ... "About this walk then...."
Our route was a classic 'first timer' stravaig from Shiel Bridge to St Cyrus, so there are quite a few well known Challenge scenes here, but they were all new to us, and started a love of Scotland that remains undimmed. Someone once called their photos "postcards from the past written to their future selves". They really are like that, and I can imagine the words 'having a wonderful time - wish you were here' written on the back of each one.

Enough philosophy - on with the show.

Near Morvich. A drop of fuel for the stoves?

L to R Meeting Jack Griffiths, Above Allt Graanda, At Camban Bothy
Jack Griffiths, who is president of the Over The Hill Club, was 90 at the time. He frequently ended up ahead of us, and dispensed barley sugars when we caught up to help keep us going! How many of us will be up to the Challenge when we're over 90 I wonder? It must be good for you though - Jack recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Miss W tests the water. Richard Wood & Stuart McCandless look on.

L to R Wellington Bomber crash site. Phil makes a handkerchief sun hat. Lyn Sloman in Glen Buck
The Wellington bomber that we came across crashed on the 13th February 1942 after one of its engines failed. Unable to maintain altitude the crew bailed out, and I believe that all survived. It was a trainer for new crews, and whether they survived the rest of the war I haven't been able to find out. As you can see, the scar caused by the crash was still devoid of vegetation almost 60 years later.

The weather at this stage of the walk was magnificent, and only the optimistic Lyn had thought to pack a sun hat. The tick picking chap in the orange tee shirt is Russell Cameron who we met en route to the Tomdoun, where Miss W accomplished a magnificent traverse of the 'top shelf'. Each time she found a whisky that was especially pleasing she insisted on buying a round (with my credit card!). The next day was, unsurprisingly, rather trying, as well as blazing hot. We stopped at a B&B at Aberchalder where Alan fell asleep over dinner - almost in his dinner in fact. I lasted through to dessert before succumbing. Miss W seemed quite undeservedly perky.

Lyn may seem to be at a slightly odd angle in that picture in Glen Buck. This is because her rucksack had become entangled in the tree and she is struggling to move! Next up - the Corrieyairack Pass.

Looking back from the top of the Corrieyairack Pass

After the Corrieyairack, we camped a little way before Melgarve and enjoyed an idyllic evening meal, watching the deer come down to drink at the stream - and I think I saw a Pine Marten. The next day was an easy walk to Laggan. By the time we reached the Monadhliath Hotel Miss W's right arm was swollen because of sunburn, and she spent her time in the bar with a pint in her left hand, and the other in a bucket of ice. Little did we know that the weather had a surprise in store, and that sunburn would be the least of our worries.

Glen Feshie is stunningly beautiful, but it was here that the clouds gathered, the wind got up, and after the previous days of blazing sun it started to snow!

Just a few showers at first, but by the time we crossed the Eidart Bridge visibility had dropped to a few yards and the wind was at gale force. We made our way to the Geldie Burn, quickly chose a camp site and pitched the tents. This was a challenging exercise - especially for me. I was not very experienced with the Quasar, and once pegged down the inner was flapping on the ground like a demented magic carpet. I knew that if the pegs gave out whilst I was putting in the poles, the tent would be in Braemar in about ten minutes!

Fortunately all went OK, and soon we were enjoying a hot meal and lots of Alan's whisky on a very noisy night. The next day our room at the Fife Arms in Braemar was quite a sight as we dried out the tent and kit. "It looks like an arab souk in here" exclaimed Alan.

L to R Camping by the Allt Darrarie. Tents at Tarfside. Cattle near Edzell (Miss W doesn't like cattle!)

And so to St Cyrus, by way of Loch Muick, Sheilin of Mark, Glen Lee, Tarfside and Edzell. I set off thinking 'I'll do this just once', never dreaming that trying this walk is a bit like experimenting with hard drugs. By the end of the trip I was hopelessly hooked.

I wonder if the Betty Ford Clinic can help?

Me & Miss W at St Cyrus - the end of a journey,
or the start of many more?

This May I will once again be stepping out for a wander across Scotland with my old mate Alan. One way and another we've both had a bit of a torrid time recently, and there's nothing quite like the solitude of the mountains to clear the mind and refresh the soul (the body is another matter entirely).


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fully Loaded

The training for the TGO Challenge stepped up a gear at the weekend, with a trip to Derbyshire with my brother in law and 2004 challenge partner, David. More significantly, I carried a rucksack containing full challenge kit – tent, sleeping bag, stove, clothes, first aid kit – the lot.

Magpie Mine panoramaThe Magpie Mine

We set off on Saturday for a gentle walk in the White Peak from Over Haddon to the Magpie Mine near Sheldon, Monyash and then down Lathkill Dale to Conksbury Bridge and back to the car. 15.8k and 370m ascent made for a good stretch, but not too killing.

It’s a great walk! Whether you’re a naturalist, industrial archaeologist, geologist or just love great countryside, this has something for you.

The walled track to the Magpie MineThe walled track to the Magpie Mine

The first really grand view is of the ruins of the Magpie Lead Mine – it looks very like a Cornish tin mine with its old engine house that once indeed housed a Cornish beam engine. It was worked on & off from the 19th century to the early fifties.
Old winding gear at Magpie Mine
There were several mines all trying to exploit the same seam here, and back in the 19th century when rival miners broke through into a rival’s workings, underground fights broke out and attempts were made to smoke out the others by burning barrels of tar and sulphur. This eventually resulted in several deaths, caused by the Magpie men, and the mine was said to be cursed. Certainly it never prospered afterwards.

You are free to roam around the ruins and poke about the bits of old machinery, so we did just that.

Onwards to Monyash, and old mining village with pub and café, but having purchased pies and drinks in Bakewell we picnicked in the churchyard (a real ale pub was scheduled for the evening
and we didn’t want to “peak” too early).

A spring in Lathkill DaleAnd then into Lathkill Dale. This has got to be one of the best of the Derbyshire Dales, even now, at the fag end of winter before the spring flowers start to pepper the hillsides. The dale has an industrial heritage too, from the quarry at Ricklow (rich in fossils) to the Mandale mine and the numerous shafts, and adits that can be picked out along the way.

Old waterwheel site in Lathkill DaleAll along the river, once it has stopped playing hide & seek in the way of Derbyshire ‘disappearing rivers’, are weirs and leats to long forgotten water wheels that once drove mills and ore grinders. Approaching Over Haddon the river is straddled by the ruined piers of what seems to be a bridge. In fact these are the remains of a massive aqueduct that once drove a huge wheel to pump out the Mandale mine. Later this was superceded by a steam engine, and the old engine house is still there, quietly merging back into the trees. David and I thought the place was both beautiful and quite fascinating.

Finally the river, quite a broad stream now and teeming with fat trout, tumbles over a series of weirs, the water a deep turquoise as it runs to the mediaeval Conksbury Bridge, from where we returned back up the hill to Over Haddon.

Phil standing by waterfall in Lathkill DaleWaterfall in Lathkill Dale

A splendid walk – recommended! And I got around it with full kit and no aches & pains.

Off then to Glossop. Not my first choice of overnight venue, but I got really, really pi**ed off with B&Bs in the National Park area insisting on a two night booking for weekends, and charging exhorbitant prices as well. So I thought I’d go just outside, and I’m so glad I did.

It looks like any other terraced house, but Birds Nest Cottage in Glossop is a really friendly clean and comfortable B&B with a large and a small lounge for guests, plus a welcome with a pot of tea and cake (free!). The breakfasts are just excellent – and when they say fresh fruit, it really is fresh. Nice gardens too ... and if the day on the hill has been a bit too much, you can even book a massage to sooth your aching body!

We ambled into Glossop for a few well earned pints at the Globe (beer brewed on the premises) and a vegetarian chilli with rice for just £2.90. Now that’s what I call value! A really nice traditional boozer, and surprisingly full of twentysomethings all drinking real ales instead of vodka alcopops. There was a band playing upstairs, but still… real ale drinkers to a man – and girl. We liked it.


David in snow on Kinder ScoutDavid, being a bit of a rufty tufty, chose this walk as a contrast to Saturday’s delightful amble. From Hayfield up to Kinderlow End, along to the barrow and then along the edge and down William Clough to the reservoir and back to Hayfield.

The day started off bright and sunny, but wintry showers were predicted, and how accurate that proved to be. On the way up the wind strengthened, and we could see Kinder Downfall occasionally whiz upwards – a sure sign that things were a bit blowy on the top.

And then the hail started, and the snow, and as we gained the plateau the cloud dropped down as well. Ah yes, a typical Kinder spring day. Howling wind, hail hitting like shotgun pellets and visibility occasionally dropping to twenty yards. And boy did we enjoy it!!

Spray blowing up from Kinder DownfallKinder Downfall - falling upwards!

At the waterfall the spray blowing back up was coating the grass with crystal clear ice, and the occasional hardy walker or runner emerged from the gloom with a cheery “Grand day for it”.

Grass coated in iceA terrific walk, made all the better by finding a sheltered nook in the rocks for a lunch supplemented by a piping hot mug of chocolate. Back down in the valley by the reservoir, it was a calm spring day. Amazing the difference a few hundred feet can make.

And that was the weekend done – just the drive home. The weather treated us to one last blast of hail and snow as we crossed the Peak to Chesterfield.

The totals for the weekend? 28.8k (17.9 miles) and 920m of ascent (3,018ft). Not too bad for a couple of southern softies.

A great weekend, with David, as ever, great company.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Meerkat has eaten my pants...

... yes, it's more from pieman, raconteur and inventor of virtual trousers, Mike Knipe, as he invites us to join him for anther walk in the continuing Howgills series of walks over in Random Doodles. The March walk takes in Tebay, Blease Fell, Uldale Head, Docker Knott and Uldale.

Mike and I have a fifties childhood in common - and we're both ex-smokers. This month Mike's preamble evokes the nostalgia of those days, and I was wafted back to my smoking days.

Woodbine cigarette packetI remember graduating from Players No 6 and Woodbines to Three Castles and thence to the exotica of Passing Clouds, Sobranie Black Russian and Turkish Ovals. When our school threatened direst punishment and possible expulsion for any boy caught with cigarettes, I quit cigarettes for a while. Instead I built up a collection of pipes ranging from a simple clay to a rather fine long stemmed 'churchwarden' briar. I still have a nice Peterson which retains its aromas of Three Nuns, Balkan Sobranie and the special mixtures from Bacons of Cambridge.
Sobranie tobacco tin
Bacons was a temple to the fragrant weed with cases of exotic cigarettes, racks of pipes, humidors stuffed with the finest cigars and shelves full of tobacco jars, some with Bacons own mixtures to buy 'off the shelf', some with the ingredients for you to create your own special blend. And the smell ... just wonderful...

Bacons closed back in 1983, as rents started to rise and smoking, at least at the top end of the market, began to decline. The shop is still there on the corner of Rose Crescent and the Market Square. It's now a branch of French Connection, but I am delighted to see that the large bronze plaque bearing "Calverley's Ode to Tobacco" is still on the wall.

I think I would have liked Calverley. He had no time for the preaching health police. So maybe, from time to time, I will get out the old Peterson, a fine cigar or a packet of top quality cigarettes so that at the right time and in the right place out on the hill I can sit down, stare into space, and enjoy a smoke.

Labels: ,