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Thursday, 19 May 2011

One or two highlights in pictures

So... here's some of the pix I would've posted, had the iPad been playing nice.

 A sunny start at St Bees with members of Wasdale MRT. Oh how fresh we look...

Ennerdale Bridge next and team members walk back along the route to meet us

Wanna sit here? It'll cost you! Collection box at the ready at Black Sail Youth Hostel

 The AA... er, Cockermouth MRT, help our friends Michelle and James restart their car. 
Well we ARE the fourth emergency service!

Great sunset, long shadows and steak pudding and chips with Keswick MRT 
at the Scafell Hotel... then their pagers went off...

Comparing apps with Sir Chris at The Grasmere Hotel

Well earned drink...

 Land Rover shot with Langdale Ambleside team members and Sir Chris

Heading for Grisedale and Patterdale – before it started raining!

Patterdale. And it's raining. Cats and flippin' dogs...

Wet and bedraggled – and no sign of the eagle – at Kidsty Pike with Penrith MRT

Mavis and Sylvia make my day at Burnbanks – they waited to catch us passing 
through, having seen us on TV!

 Nearly halfway...

 Twenty four miles in a day and more than ready for curry at Kirkby Stephen

Oops! Where's Shortie?

Another day, another pint... with Swaledale team members

Did I mention the caving?

If I crack my head on this ceiling once more...

No, really... I'm having a great time...
can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be... honest...

Posing with the swiftwater lot, following our leisurely 
– and relatively dry – raft ride down the river Swale, our third day in Swaledale

Long day across the moors to Blakey Ridge and Cleveland team members
'hand us over' to Scarborough and Ryedale!

Grosmont – the land time didn't just forget, 
it through away the clock winder

Hot chocolate, pink fizz, hot chocolate, pink fizz... oh... go on then.... both

Monday, 16 May 2011

What shall we do Sunday? Walk anyone?

Anyway, what more fitting way could there possibly be to end a mountain rescue fundraiser than with a mountain rescue call out? Nothing to do with me, you understand, but it did involve a bit of speedy walking on my part, down some slippery paths and grassy bits, which I might not have managed with quite such ease had it not been for the previous two weeks' practice!!

Flashback to earlier in the week and a conversation with Secret Boyfriend (apologies to anyone not understanding the reference here – subscribe to Mountain Rescue magazine, turn to Diary of an Editor, and all will become clear!) regarding the forthcoming weekend. At the time, I was anticipating the two days' long slog across Yorkshire, and already feeling a little creaky from the accumulative effect of all the previous days.

'If you so much as mention going for walk on Sunday,' I said, 'I might have to punch you...'

'Oh dear,' came the reply.

But then something very strange happened. Despite the aches and pains of the first 175 or so miles, by day thirteen and our last 15 mile stretch, I found a new spring in my step. Demob happy or suddenly super-fit? You tell me. Whatever it was, the thought of waking up the next morning and NOT lacing up my boots seemed quite strange – exactly as Roger (one of our Scarborough team companions for the Saturday slog out of Grosmont and a seasoned Coast to Coaster himself) had predicted.

So Sunday morning dawned and, bizarrely, it was ME suggesting a walk!! And off we set for Loweswater. It's raining. The cloud is down. My kit is still filthy and damp and, by rights, should be twirling its way round the Hotpoint by now but I'm loving it. And not a creaky joint to be heard!

So we're half way round our planned route, packet of Mini Cheddars and Mars bar shared between us, rain dripping off the waterproofs, when off goes the phone. The team phone... uh oh...

And, before I know it, we're walking back at the speed of light to the car so SB can get to the call out. Conversation's out the window, what with me watching my every footstep (lest he has another casualty on his hands), and the radio chattering away. Oh, and me having to breathe.

As it happens, by the time we got to the car, he wasn't needed, so it was back home for soup and toast, but demonstration, if one were needed, of just how mountain rescue impacts on team members' lives. You never quite know when that pager's going to go off, what the incident might be, or how long it might take out of your day. But there's one thing for sure: when it DOES go off – so does HE!

Further thoughts on foot slogging

So would I do it again? Yes. But give me time to recover.

 Tired? Wet? Moi? Gail and Judy with walking buddy Helen, 
who joined us for the final stretch

Next time, I'll do it for the fun of it, rather than a fundraiser. Not that this hasn't been one whole heap of fun – in fact, it's far exceeded any expectations on many levels – but it's tough. And I don't mean the perpetual requirement to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

No, it's the ever present need to blog, email, Facebook and tweet, (constantly cross-referencing all the above), remember to turn the Buddy Beacon on, remember to turn the Buddy Beacon off again, ensure the iPad's charged up sufficiently, fret about wi-fi connections and mobile phone signals (O2, incidentally, I now discover is generally substantially less effective than Orange or Vodaphone – a common cry across the walk), make contact with people, fulfil press-worthy photo opportunities, check and push for donations, and always be on the go, making new friends, meeting old ones, caving (did I mention the caving? lol!), when really you'd just like to down a glass of wine, eat copious quantities of, well, anything really, before collapsing on your bed in a fresh-air-induced coma!!!!

If I do it again, I'd perhaps take a little longer, so the final stretch across Yorkshire can be broken up a bit more. Two long days in succession (23 miles and 20 miles ) including one over such flat, flat terrain, is hard, hard work.

Field after field after field after field of this stuff!!! Aachoo!

So far we've raised about half our target, but I'm hoping more will come in over the coming weeks as news of our actually crossing the finishing line gets out! Thank you to all who have given so far – some since our final stagger into the sea – and the justgiving page stays live for some time yet, so fingers crossed for more!

But, whether we reach the target or not, it's been an amazing exercise in raising awareness about mountain (and cave!!) rescue, on so many levels. The fact we've crossed so many boundaries, meeting ten teams in total, has sparked a fair bit of press coverage along the way, and made the story interesting enough for the likes of BBC News and BBC Radio Cumbria to pick up. As Mike Parr said, when he introduced me for the second of my live interviews on Radio Cumbria, many people walk the Coast to Coast, but not many of them enlist the support and active involvement of ten mountain rescue teams along the way.

And wow! how the teams engaged with it! It was fantastic to be met, supported, walked with and generally chat to, so many of our colleagues. Not least of all the 'Swaledale Mountain Rescue Adventure Park' across which Swaledale team members demonstrated so wonderfully well the variety of skills involved in the modern mountain rescue team: fell rescue, crag rescue, moorland search, cave rescue, swift water rescue... and I have the bruises to prove it!

Then there were the daily conversations with other walkers along the way – from as far afield as Canada, Australia and deepest Berkshire – about how our mountain rescue service works, it's voluntary nature and the constant need to fundraise just for teams to stay on their feet. We heard about Kirkby Stephen and their urgent need for cash to fund either repairs to their existing vehicles or, better still, a new vehicle. We heard about teams raising cash to build new facilities, or to kit themselves out with specialist swiftwater kit. And the shopping lists don't seem to get any shorter!

A huge thanks to all those team members who met us, walked with us, shared a drink or meal with us, entertained us, made us laugh and the miles disappear under our boots. It's been great to put some new names to faces along the way and make some new friends.

Thanks to Paramo and Whalley Warm and Dry for providing us with kit, to Craig at ViewRanger for the mapping and Sir Chris for his entertaining company between Rosthwaite and Grasmere.

Laughing now – only about an hour before the pink fizz!

And thanks, most of all, to my fellow Twirlie, who will probably never pick up the phone to me again, just in case I suggest a walk! She was a little trooper and we've had a brill time together!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pebbles, pink fizz and Millionaire's Shortbread at Robin Hood's Bay

Well what a finale that was! My earlier speculation, about the probable state of my dress by the time I reached the slipway at Robin Hood's Bay, turned out to be pretty accurate. Having spent most of our two week trek basking in sunshine, with only the occasional shower to test the Paramo (the worst section being Patterdale up to Kidsty Pike where the clag and rain prevented any appreciation of the wonderful views we were assured lay just below), we arrived caked in mud, battered by hailstones, sopping wet to the skin and cold.

The shoes that had successfully avoided peat bogs, clay, slime, mud, fast-flowing water and a variety of animal poo across the entire 194 miles, are now drying out in a corner, and may be so for some time, thanks to a hearty Yorkshire hailstorm which battered us throughout the final hour and a half of coastal path. Topped up by sea water (tradition dictates you get your feet wet on both sides of the country, apparently. Hmmm. I'm not convinced...)

And, as Belinda so delicately put it on Facebook: 'You looked knackered!' Thanks cuzz!

And thanks also for the mega chunk of homemade Millionaire's Shortbread magicked from the bag along with a bottle of pink fizzy stuff!

What a day it was! We set off from Grosmont at quite a lick, in the company of five Scarborough team members: Helen, Roger, Shane, Paul and Russ (our excellent companion and guide from Friday). Strangely, my fellow Twirlie and I had woken with a definite spring in our step (demob happy!) the aches and pains of the last few days' slogging a thing of the past. Although, I must say Gail now appears to be spot-welded to her walking poles! Hope she managed to prise them off to lift the beer last night!

But who put that flippin hill there? So late in the journey. Wainwright certainly knew how to mix his terrain! Quite a steep haul up the road from the B&B... on and on, up and up, then - just as the road levelled out and we thought we could relax: 'It's this way,' says Roger, pointing right. Up another steep incline!! We're good at this now though - head down, assume your pace and just keep going - and it helps to have a bunch of walking companions to chat to, too.

Up over the moors for a bit - tantalising glimpses of sea on the horizon - then down we dropped into pretty woodland walks, not dissimilar to the paths around my home patch. Disaster swiftly averted at one point when I turned in my Bambi on Ice impression, slipping on some wet clay. Legs slithering in all directions, I felt my rucksack grabbed firmly from behind me, steadying me long enough to find a foot hold. Thanks Roger!!

In fact, through this particular stretch, at Falling Foss, runs a little beck (not as full yesterday as I'm sure it can be) which must be negotiated via stepping stones. This, we heard was the scene of a previous rescue for the team, involving an unfortunate Coast to Coaster, now only a few short miles from his final destination, who slipped into the stream, fracturing his femur in the process. Ouch!!!

Clay slides, stepping stones and 'black spot' successfully navigated, it was down to Midge Hall for tea and scones with jam and cream, or fresh made carrot cake, whichever took your fancy. And, despite a full cooked breakfast, somehow, somewhere, there's always room for that! Cue one of many appearances along the way of two mountain rescue vehicles, with Andy, Dave (who I mistakenly named Richard the other evening, on the blog - apologies to him) and Chris, who seem, between them, to have an inordinate number of cameras at the ready!!

It was here, at Midge Hall, we encountered the Pebble Police. 'Now then,' he boomed, standing sternly over our table and blocking out the sun, 'have you all got your pebbles?'

Well, thank God the answer was 'Yes', as only the night before, I'd had to empty out the entire contents of my suitcase and my rucksack in a frantic search for said pebble, convinced I'd lost it somewhere along the way. 'Didn't you zip it into your trouser leg pocket?' asked Gail. Although she couldn't remember which trousers I'd been wearing at the time. Ah yes, the penny dropped! It was in the caving trousers, not worn since our evening down Crackpot.

Back to Mr Pebble Police, faced with two ayes and a bunch of nays: 'Right!' he said. 'You two can go on. The rest of you, BACK to St Bees!!' Gulp!

On now, through the woods to our next stop: the pub, at Hawser! But not before a surprise encounter on the path with our walking pal Helen (honorary Twirlie) and her partner Gary, who'd kept their planned trip to Robin Hood's Bay for our final day's walk very quiet indeed! Great to see them!

From here, in the warmth and shelter of the pub, we witnessed our first spot of hail, harbinger of what was to come. Paramo on, then we're off again. Closer and closer to the sea.

On from our rain-soaked meander round the cliff tops, to the steeply stepped approach to the sea, past pretty mews and terraces, the street narrowing ever more before us. And there, a full tide lapping at the slipway, stood two mountain rescue vehicles, a bunch of familiar faces and a Mountain Rescue England and Wales banner. As the cameras flashed, a cork rang out above our heads, and a bottle of pink fizzy stuff found its way into my very cold hands. Big swig each, straight from the bottle, before Sally produced a couple of genteel glasses from her rucksack. (Oh well. If we must!)

That said, the fizz was lovely, but the cup of hot chocolate, thoughtfully handed to me by Sally, was even more welcome. Once the euphoria of actually achieving our goal began to subside, and we'd stood around chatting for a while with all our pals, the reality of cold wet undies started to sink in! So, pebbles dutifully thrown back in the sea and goodbye hugs all round, it was off to the B&B for a quick shower before hotfooting back across the country to catch up with Secret Boyfriend, recently returned from his own adventure on the hill.

More in a while, just need to gather some more thoughts!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Steam trains, shandy and salt and vinegar crisps

Wow! That was a short day! Feel as though I should be staggering on for a further ten miles at least. But here we are in The Station at Grosmont, half of shandy, (and now laughing heartily because the iPad spell checker amended my mis-typed 'shandy' to 'whiskey'!!) packet of salt and vinegar, reflecting on the fact we have just fifteen miles to walk now. Yessss!!!!

Another good walk, today accompanied by Russ from the Scarborough team. A pleasant ramble across the Yorkshire Moors then down through Glaisdale and on to Grosmont, where the steam train was sitting, like a picture postcard, at the crossing.

Little else to say about today... apart from a heartfelt thanks to those friends and family (they know who they are!) who have responded to my phone calls and texts, as I tramped along this morning, to add their donations to the pot. Much appreciated!!

Right, think that's me up to date now. Blogger and Internet connections permitting I will update you on the final fifteen miles as soon as I can. By all accounts we're joined by at least half a dozen Scarborough team members tomorrow, with a variety of family and friends meeting us along the way. I'm told there might be banners and flags, Victoria sponge and maybe even lashings of ginger beer at the end. Robin Hood's Bay: here we come....

Yesterday's post today as Blogger resumes...

Arrived at The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge and, quite frankly, we're knackered! Our walking companion on Wednesday, Tony from Nottingham, recounted a tale of a work colleague (a Territorial Army Fanatic, if that adds anything to the story - you decide) who asked what he was up to on his forthcoming holiday. Now, Tony is walking the Coast to Coast as a tribute to his late wife, and to raise some money for Cancer Research, and he's doing it on his own.

For one recently widowed, in quite dramatic fashion after a long and happy marriage, this (in my humble opinion) is a huge undertaking. Not enough for his work mate, however, who expressed surprise that Tony was completing the route over the course of fourteen days. 'Two weeks?!' he asked. 'What're you doing? Crawling on your hands and knees?' Apparently Mr Testosterone would only need a week. Let me tell you, if that man ever DOES do this in a week (and not on a bicycle) I want to be there to take photos.

It has been a tough two days, with little time to breathe let alone blog. When we reached The BlueBell Inn at Ingleby Cross, Wednesday evening, my fellow Twirlie fell on the bed, and straight off to sleep. No glass of wine. No dinner. No shower. Leaving me to stagger into the bar alone like Billy No Mates. Although, that's not strictly true as it was packed with familiar faces from the last few days!

Richmond to Ingleby Cross was a long, largely boring slog along the flat, through field after field after field after field (over stile after stile after stile after stile) of wheat, barley, rape, wheat, barley, rape... repeat until you lose the will to live or for 23 miles - whichever comes first.

I think the high point was Bolton on Swale, quite early in the walk, where we stopped for a breather in the grounds of the local church. A sign on the lych gate told of the famed Henry Jenkins, buried there we know not when who had, apparently, lived to the ripe old age of 169! We think the stonemason might have sneezed at the wrong moment.

And then there's the honesty boxes. The farmers there must KNOW you're just going to be bored out of your tree. Very early in the day. So, starting just before the church, the route was dotted with small collapsible tables, cool boxes and buckets, stacked with cold drinks, home baked flapjack, packets of crisps, fresh fruit and - best of all, although it didn't tempt us, a chalk-written message on slate: ice cream round the corner in the shed. One wonders whether, had we walked any further, the ante might have been upped: house keys on the hook by the back door, Land Rover on the drive, tank full...

Having set off at 8.30am, we finally staggered into the Bluebell Inn at 6.45pm, and Gail all but lost consciousness! Accommodation there probably the most basic we've seen en route but think I could currently fall asleep on a clothes line, as my granny used to say.

Yesterday, between Ingleby Cross and Blakey Ridge was three miles shorter (yippee!) and much more bearable. Very up and downy - the guide book describes it as a 'rollercoaster' of a day and it's right - and we were in the very good company of Barry, PR officer for the Cleveland team. (The team had, incidentally, invited us to join their exercise the previous evening, out on the crag. The answer was an unequivocal thanks very much but no!!)

In the event, it was a piece of good fortune that Barry had joined us. Gail began to struggle on the downy bits, not a happy bunny at all. Fortunately, by the time this became obvious we were only yards from the planned stop at Lord Stones cafe, adjacent to a road. A quick chat about options and Barry called his wife, Pauline, who kindly picked Gail up and whisked her away for tlc and jacket potatoes, while Barry and I continued on to the most uppy downy bit of the day, which involved clambering up through the Wain Stones and on down through quite a steep, prolonged step section. The option from there was to either meet us at the next road and rejoin the walk, now at a more undulating pace, or to get a lift all the way to the Lion. Well, I don't know what Pauline put in that jacket potato, but Little Twirlie returned with new vim and a smile on her face. Not sure I can forgive her, though, for managing to dodge the big shower of the day which left Barry and I very wet and windblown for almost the entire section without her... 'Has it been raining?' asked a very warm, dry, potato-fed Twirlie as she stepped from the car and we dripped in front of her. Grrr...

Arrived at the Lion at 6.00pm, and boy! were we pleased to see those red rooftops appear on the horizon. Positively ran up the path and into the car park. Straight in the bar, where we were met by Richard, Gari and Pete from Cleveland team and, later, Andy, Georgina and Richard from Scarborough team for beer, wine, steak sandwiches and chips. Yum. Good company and a barrage of snappy one liners from the Gari and Pete Show, then another photo op with the team vehicles - this time one from each team.

Right, bills to pay, boots to lace...

Swaledale Mountain Rescue Adventure Park: fun for all the family

And so to our day at Reeth part two...

Pick up arranged for around 5.00pm. Our digs. Manage a chunk of home made chocolate cake and pot of tea, courtesy of our landlady Susan, when she reappears in the dining room. 'There's a couple of men at the door asking for you.' (Bit of a recurring theme developing here!)

It's the aforementioned Peter Roe (is there anyone in the Dales who DOESN'T know him?) and Tony. We're also waiting for Richard and David to arrive. Polite chit chat. Wee bit of banter. They've got a little something organised for us. Bit of a photo opportunity. I won't have to crawl anywhere, will I?

'Noooo...' says Tony, shaking is head in a very sincere manner.

Cos, the thing IS, I say, I don't really see the attraction of going underground...

'You'll be fine, just a photo opportunity...'

So I don't need a change of clothes then?

'Noooo, (he's REALLY good at this)... you'll be fine as you are.

'Or, maybe just bring a spare pair trousers. For the pub. Oh, and perhaps a pair of socks.'

Soo... I won't get wet then? 'Nooooo...

'Won't be higher than your knees...'

And lo... Half an hour later, I am being zipped into a yellow waterproof one piece, pushing my woolly trousered legs into borrowed wellies, being instructed on the machinations of the head torch strapped to my very battered caving helmet. And off we set down a steep little clamber to a hole in the ground. A very dark hole in the ground.

'Don't worry,' says Pete. 'Just do as I do...' And he's gone. Shit! Now I have to follow him! I cannot BELIEVE I am doing this, as I slither wellies first through a hole in the rock, feet headed deep into goodness knows where.

Okay, that worked. Rest. Breathe. And then he's off again. 'Just turn onto your side, tuck you feet under your body, turn over, and....' His final words lost to the darkness as I digest the improbability of tucking my legs up any way at all right here, let alone turning over to slide bum first into oblivion. Then I realise it's my turn again. And now!

And so it continued, arms and legs in knots I never dreamed possible, hauling myself along on my stomach, slithering through the silt, banging my head on the 'ceiling', and gathering so many bruises I think someone took me out and beat me up while I wasn't looking! And as for only getting wet up to my knees!! Ha!!!! One very soggy left sock, trousers soaked (despite the fetching yellow suit) and hands, face and feet caked in orange cack. Apart from that I was dry as bone.

Oh, and can I just say that for much of the time, while the rest of us stooped and crouched along, yours truly finding the 'ceiling' more times than I can remember, Shorty just strolled through the rocky chambers, head held high. Sometimes, there are advantages to being small!!

Would I go again? probably not. But fun? Oh yes!! A brilliant couple of hours - and completely exhausting!!! And topped off by a very good meal in the company of our new caving chums at the Bridge Inn at Grinton.

Final word on this particular subject to Tony: 'Let me say that for someone entirely new to [caving] you did superbly and coped extremely well.' Well, who'd a thought it?

So... caving box ticked. And then there we were in Richmond, checked into the B&B and another knock at the door. 'Do you have two ladies from mountain rescue here?' comes the voice from the front door. (Yes, I know...) It's Graham. He and Rich have come up with a team vehicle to take us down to the River Swale.

'You may be offered a raft ride,' read the email. Mmmm... sounds suspiciously like 'you might be taken to a cave entrance'. But wetter.

'Honestly, you won't get wet,' says Graham. Not convinced, but we climb into the Land Rover anyway.

On down to the river bank, just below the castle. When the river's high there's an impressive rapids a short way down stream - thankfully not today. We're introduced to Daz and Tim, already in their swiftwater gear and messing about with the inflatable. In fact these two do seem to spend a great deal more time in the water than out of it, taking every opportunity to dive in!

All four chaps now kitted out, and we two in our safety vests, we're sat in the boat and paddled down the river, stopping short of the 'rapids' for, guess what, another photo opportunity. Then back to their Catterick base for tea and very posh biscuits, and on to the pub (well this IS mountain rescue!).

Finally fell into the B&B after yet another action packed day in the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Adventure Park. Alton Towers has nothing on this!!