Red Algae on Ash trees

Alison and I had a really nice walk in Wharncliffe Woods today. This is a forestry commission woodland with excellent rails for MTB, horses and walking. The surrounding area also has an ancient Chase, impressive crags and lots of wildlife including deer, owls, and a wide variety of bird life.

There was a hint of spring on the way today, the sun warming the air. I noticed the Red Algae on these Ash trees. It forms on the north side because this is where the bark is most moist and that makes it a good breeding ground for the Algae. It’s a natural way of telling which way is north. The Algae only appears on the north side in the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere its is the southern side of the tree.

Another thing that is interesting about Red Algae is that it used to only really appear in the more temperate south of England, the north being too cold. So this may just be a harbinger of warmer times in the north.

How to write a Peak District guidebook

The Vale of Edale from Ringing Roger. Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Published by Cicerone Press.
The Vale of Edale from Ringing Roger. Peak District National Park

Someone asked me the other day how I write a Peak District guide book. The question took me aback somewhat, I had to think about an answer. Put simply; I go out on a walk and when I get home I write where I have been.

Then I thought of all the things that lay behind that. The books that are hunted down in the research. Talking to people about an area. Historical and geological websites to spend hours getting lost in. Old maps to peruse and old newspaper cuttings to view. Public archives to spend days in.

Then there are the days spent wandering around an area, looking at rock graffiti. Churches, church yards and old abandoned buildings to crawl over and imagine what it was like for the people who built these places.

Some of the best days are when I trace the old ways across the land, walk in the footsteps of the Jaggers and quarrymen, peat cutters and farmers. The old saltways and the millstone trails. Sit by the quarries and listen to the ghosts hewing out the stone. Stand in a churchyard looking out onto where navvies were buried without, and wondering how someone could do that to a human being.

The best days include all of this plus a good old chat with walkers. Some of my most memorable walks have been when I have met up with groups of people and just chatted.

All of this goes into a book, and what doesn’t goes into a blog or on social media.

That’s how I write a Peak District guide book.

 

Trees in the Peak District

This Oak tree stands at the top of an ancient track that leads to Navio from Hope. White Peak Walks East, Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
Oak Tree. On the track that leads to Navio from Hope. Peak District National Park

There is something solid about a tree. Something that is timeless. Trees do not work by our clocks and it is for this reason that they hold a special place in my view of the natural world.

There is a tree that sits at the side of an ancient track leading from Hope, up through the fields to Eccles House farm. A map from 1880 shows trees lining both sides of the track that led to Batham Gate, the old Roman road.  Now the hedge is gone but the tree remains.

This is the allure of the singular tree, standing like a sentinel over the landscape. It has quietly stood and watched the passage of centuries. People passing by underneath, working on the land nearby. The seasons and ages of weather, warm and cold, wind, rain and drought. Generations of animals and birds will have made it their home, a symbiotic relationship that seems beyond the intelligence of humans. In all that time is has destroyed nothing; spent its energies growing at the expense of no one.

The tree has no view on human activity excepting in one matter and that is its access to food and water and air. We are the only creatures that can affect this, save for a plague of oak eating insects. All things being equal the tree will outlast us and many of descendants to come.

The trees measure of time is aeons.

Shortlisted for the TGO Book Awards 2017

Dark Peak Walks has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine book of the year award 2017
TGO Annual Awards 2017

Well this is great news. Dark Peak Walks, published by Cicerone Press has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine 2017 award in the book category.

You can vote in the awards here

Autumn in the Peak District

The east track of Derwent Reservoir in autumn. Upper Derwent Valley. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park
Down the East Track towards Derwent Dam 2016

The first day of September and there is a cool breeze coming through my open window.

Autumn is on its way.

Scout at the vets. Scout is a trainee search and rescue dog with me in Mountain Rescue.
Scout at the vets.

I have just taken Scout to the vets to be neutered, its not a thing I have been looking forward to and advice I have sought has gone either way, leaving me constantly thinking if I have made the right decision. It is not a good feeling. I decided to get the operation done now because I myself am laid up with a sprained ankle after slipping on limestone chipping in the Yorkshire Dales. So all in all its an odd time.

Monty standing guard
Monty standing guard and giving me accusing looks

Monty, one of our other dogs, sits across the landing from my office door just looking at me. Its as though he is asking me what have I done with Scout? Where is he?

I love this time of year in the Peak District National Park, the colours, the smells, birds scratching in the fallen leaf for food. Its a time of slowing down, shorter cooler days, longer shadows. The crowds soon stop coming into the Upper Derwent Valley leaving it to those who love to explore its hidden corners.

As nature shuts down for winter the landscape changes, it feels, smells and sounds different. Leaf is the first to fall, carpeting the ground in hues of brown, red and yellow. One of the greatest delights is the drive down the larch tree lined Derwent Lane to Fairholmes ranger centre in the valley on successive days and weeks and notice the colours turn from green to a vivid, almost fluorescent, yellow before the needles coat the floor in deep drifts.

 

 

Navigating using Apps and GPS

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I once did a math calculation in my head, a simple multiplication, I was faster with the answer than all the young people around me who were firing up their apps. One looked at me amazed and asked how on earth had I done that. Well, I spent my early years learning my times tables and that stuff never leaves you. Another didn’t bother doing the calculation because she didn’t have an app on her phone and anyway someone else would have the answer.

Recently on social media there has been lots of posting about using Ordnance Survey’s phone app for navigating in difficult weather conditions or when the user was not sure where they were. It’s a good app, I have OS Maps on all my devices, iphone, ipad, Macbook. I use the app on my Mac to reproduce routes to 1:50k scale for my guidebooks. The ipad is good for sitting in bed and exploring new routes without spreading out my 1:25k map, it sort of keeps Alison awake if I do that. I put the map on my phone because I could, it is rare that I use it and to be honest its just taking up space.

What has intrigued me about the different postings and threads is that they all seem to default to the use of apps when the going gets tough, bad weather appears to be the most common reason, getting lost a close second. And there is nothing wrong in that. But what would the person have done if the phone had not worked and why is the app now the default for getting out of a sticky situation?

I was taught that the easiest way to know where you are, is, to know where you are. And that means having the map to hand and following your route, ticking off features, tracking distances and timings, knowing what is ahead and around. That way I knew where I was at all times.

The use of technology is great, if it gets people out exploring then that is a good thing. What I detect now is a growing reliance on technology and a disconnection with map, compass and the landscape. The map and compass are now somewhere in the rucksack. The app has become a shortcut to navigation. The problem is that using a phone or an app or a device removes so much from the skill base to my mind. When I look at a map I look at a far wider area than my walk route. I see the little nooks and crannies that look so interesting its worth exploring them. Little bits of information on the map draw my eye and I build up a picture of the terrain, it’s an exciting thing to do. And I carry that information in my head and use it on the walk along with the map.

Using a map and compass is a hill craft that is a part of a much wider range of skills, how to move over difficult ground, what to take on a walk, how to plan a route that does not lead to exhaustion, escape routes when things don’t go to plan etc.

In truth, it’s not necessary to use a compass in good visibility, all the information is on the map. Compass comes into its own in bad visibility when used in conjunction with a map. Or, and here is a confession, checking which way to go after walking to Ben Macdui, having lunch, relaxing, moving around and then setting off back in the wrong direction. Thankfully saved by a mate who had switched his brain on. They say the hardest part of any walk is always getting out of the car park in the right direction and often it’s true.

Using technology is good, but relying on it is not so good. And that is what I am seeing more and more of. Recently on social media and in the press there have been several reports of people having to be rescued by Mountain Rescue teams because they were reliant on an app. Along with battery failure there is often an inability to cope with the terrain and to be poorly attired for a day on the hill.

What now seems to be happening is a transfer of responsibility to technology and when that fails a transfer of responsibility to other humans. Isn’t it much better to have the skills to navigate out on the hill using a map and compass? Use the app if you want, but don’t make it the default device. Don’t be reliant on technology.

My best time out on the hill navigating was doing my triennial MR navigation assessment in visibility of no more than three metres on Saddleworth Moor at night in winter. Five check points spread across 8 square kilometres each one a 25cm stick painted brown stuck into a peat grough, 2 hours to complete using only map and compass.

Brilliant.

If you want to learn navigations skills using a map and compass these two outdoor professionals will be able to teach you.

Everyday Adventures 

Everything Outdoors

 

 

Hepworth Gallery

Alison and I went for a visit to the Hepworth Gallery yesterday. It is a fine day out, even if it was school holidays. Barbara Hepworth lived and worked in Wakefield where the gallery is situated to display some of her work and that of other artists. Along with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park it is a major cultural attraction. I cannot think of anywhere comparable in the Peak District National Park, nor do I know of any long term programs run by the Park that are associated with the arts, and I think this is something that is missing. The landscape is not just about walking, biking and climbing to my mind. It is a cultural asset and should be constantly developing.

As always at galleries, once I have had a look at the art, it is people that start to attract my attention.