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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!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Beast

While some may circumnavigate Islands in the Med, go fishing off a boat in Loch Linnhe or even go Loafing in the Lakes as their required pre-challenge warm up, others, in the know, head west for their fix of hill days.

North Mayo BoglandsThe North Mayo Boglands to the west of Slieve Carr

The hills of North Mayo offer some of the most boggy, roughest, toughest and best hillwalking there is and it's also the site of one of the Republic's most recently created National Parks. Its just the right sort of ground for preparing those legs for the TGO Challenge's West Coast of Scotland start. Among the Mayo Hills sits Slieve Carr, just to the east of The Bangor Trail & between the villages of Bangor & Newport.

The Nephin Beg Range from Slieve Carr

Some refer to Slieve Carr as "The Beast", and a quick look at the map - sheet 23 - revels why. The summit is around 14.5 km from the nearest carpark to the south and even longer from the north.

Those of a brave disposition may cry 'but surely cutting east after Knocklettercuss via Maumykelly to Slieve Carr's north ridge would give a shorter route'. On the map yes, but look at that first picture above again, that lovely light green shading on the map ( you know, the colour of Healy's shirt when he scored against England at Windsor Park) that's what it represents in Mayo, Bog and lots of it.

View to Achill Island in the distanceAchill Island in the distance

Of course, the millage mentioned does not take into account the diversions you make, whilst navigating through & around peat hags and the bottomless bogs. Quality training terrain for any aspirant challenger or old hand.

We climbed Slieve Carr from the south, via The Bangor Trail from Srahmore Lodge, Nephin Beg's south top. Nephin Beg, past Scardaum Lough, Corslieve to the large summit cairn of Slieve Carr. Whilst this gives a fine & long day route, to do it real justice a full traverse is what is required though.

So, starting from Bangor, that's the one in North Mayo not North Wales or Co. Down N.I., follow the Bangor Trail south till Slieve Alp. Then climb Tawnyanruddia & double back to Slieve Carr, descend steeply via Corslieve and down back onto the Bangor Trail, of course including Nephin Beg in the traverse would make a fine route a great route.

Once on the Bangor Trail again, follow it south where after crossing a second bridge it meets the Western Way by a bothy. From here you can either follow the Bangor Trail south on minor roads and one v.busy main road to Newport for food and a pint or two.

Slieve Carr from CarrafullSlieve Carr from Carrafull

However, with work being carried out on a linear walking route between Newport & Mulranny, it should be possible within the next year to join this & follow it west along the lower slopes of the Nephin Beg range, making a good 2-3 backpack from Bangor, with no road walking.

So leave the lakes to the tourists, north Wales to the rock-jocks and head west for next years pre-challenge walk & some proper Guinness.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Leave only footprints...?

Until recently Bury St Edmunds' outdoor needs have been met by a Millets and an independent outdoor retailer, Stepping Out. Now this sleepy market town has been targeted by Cotswold, and last week Blacks opened a store.

Given that Suffolk is not exactly blessed with lakes and mountains, you might think that the market for specialist outdoor gear is a bit limited - and you'd be right. In trying to woo customers from rival Cotswold, Blacks have got themselves in hot water - and they'll need plenty of it too! And a scrubbing brush.

Have a look at this story from the local paper - it really made me chuckle.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


And that is spelled correctly - despite advancing years I haven't taken up Bingo just yet. As part of Miss W's mission to counteract my miserable moaning at missing the TGO Challenge, I was 'encouraged' to go for a walk today - and 'somewhere new' was the order of the day.

So we set off for a point north of Thetford, where the Peddars Way, a railway bed and some nature reserve trails combined to make a circuit of some 8 or 9 miles. Parked car and off we went. After a while we spotted a waymark that informed us that we were on "The Great Eastern Pingo Trail".

"What's a pingo?" asked Miss W.

"Haven't a clue".

All was revealed as we approached the old station where an information board revealed that the word pingo is derived from the Inuit word for a small hill - except that these hills are ponds. Hundreds of them! So why are they called pingos, and why are water filled craters given a canadian native's name for a hill?
diagram of formation and collapse of a pingo
The answer is that they were small hills once - and that was in the Ice Age. Underground springs forced water to the surface, and as it got close to the frozen top soil it formed a lens shaped plug of ice under the soil surface. Over time the partial thaw of summer allowed more water to the top, this froze too and the ice lump got bigger, like a giant blister.

Each summer, when the topsoil thawed, some of it slid down from the top of the dome to the perimeter, forming a circular deposit of debris.

As the climate warmed up and the ice melted, the pingos collapsed to form roughly circular pools with raised edges, which remain to this day. There used to be hundreds more over the Norfolk Brecks, but most have disappeared under the plough as land has been developed for agriculture. Those that remain are a haven for all sorts of wildlife, and as the nature reserves adjoin the 17,000 acres of the army training grounds which have been out of bounds to civilians since WW2 you could say that this area is a truly huge refuge for wildlife.

modern pingo in CanadaThis is an undemanding ramble, but whether naturalist, geologist or botanist, there is plenty to see. Heathland, woods, wetland, eery tree covered swamps and open meadows. We enjoyed it for its unexpected variety and interest - and its flatness (well, this is Norfolk!).

An idea of what the area must have looked like in the ice age is given by the photo opposite, which shows two modern day pingos in the Mackenzie Delta in Canada. The one in the foreground has a ruptured top showing the ice core below. Fascinating eh? Well, I thought so.

More on the breckland pingos from Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the trail details from Norfolk County Council.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

They're Off!

The TGO Challenge started this morning, and over the next 24 hours some 360 disparate (and seeing the weather, possibly desperate) souls will be launching themselves into the highlands of Scotland. There are a few bloggers amongst them who will be reporting as technology permits - the most successful at the moment seem to be Sue and Martin Banfield with their usual professionally crafted posts.

Coming up with more 'live news' will be Darren Christie, Alan Sloman and no doubt a few more whose links I'll add as they arise.

The forecast for today is for high winds and rain with freezing temperatures and snow on the tops - so the high pressure and calmer weather later in the week should be very welcome. But even in the rain Scotland can look just magical - I took the picture below on my 2003 Challenge as I left Barrisdale in pouring rain. Later on I saw an otter in the loch at Kinloch Hourn.

Rainstorm over Barrisdale BayRain over Barrisdale

All the best of good luck and fine walking to this year's TGO challengers.

Update 9th May: I knew I'd forgotten someone - Mick & Gayle are blogging as they go, and off to a flying start in spite of the weather. No news from Darren Christie, though, which is unexpected given his multiple communication devices. Hope your batteries aren't flat already Big D!

Friday, May 1, 2009

May in the Howgills

Yes, it's the first of the month once again, and of course that means that we have another cracking walk in the Howgills with our guide, Mike Knipe. This month Mike explores an alternative route to the tops via Langdale (no, Lakelanders, a different Langdale) and narrowly misses a nasty trouser incident involving a dog and a cheese sandwich. Just click here to go straight to it.

Next - flaming June!