The Northern Adventures

It’s funny how something becomes so familiar in your life, take for example my jounery by tram to New Street every month. The early morning walks through my town, cash machine and then board the tram. Seeing people on their way to work, some sleeping, some immersed in their phones or staring blankly from the window.

View from urban life

I’ll miss this little part when project ends, seeing all the different people going about their day, me guessing their narrative and stories, seeing the world go by in the early hours.

The early starts become a common part of Park run, but on this occasion I’m not setting off as I arrive at my start, I’m afforded a quick stop over in Ilkley to catch up with mother beard, my sister and sister in law. This month’s jaunt promises to be outstanding in scenery, 2 national parks back to back. The plan hacked out over the last week with the logistic giving me a headache and causing me to become temporarily insane.

Starting from Ilkley I’ll join the dales way into Windermere (80 miles) before cutting west and ending in Ravenglass, home team advantage for me, I miss the lakes and have not ventured this way for some 7 years, but even longer for any kind of exploring the many and varied mountain trails.

I’m afforded a brief stop over In Ilkley to catch up with family, the train journey being a simple affair with only 2 changes went without incident and I was soon arriving in Burley-in-Wharfe Dale, we head out for a nice meal and I go with the rather large fancy steak complete with fries, mac and cheese with large prawns on the side, I see this as more carbs and protein for the coming days.

Morning arrived, But I couldn’t be bothered to raise at 5am the temp had noticeably dropped over the last few days, with previous day marking the official meteorological start of autumn, so I just nodded off for a little longer, it was 6:30am before I was leaving, the start of the Dales Way begins at Ilkley and I opted to add a few more miles and take a little scenic route from mother beards home to the start, the route was wonderful as Yorkshire can be, the sun rising behind me and spreading a warm auburn glow over the land, before long I had arrived at my start point, interestingly the OS map shows the route starting well before here and I’m not sure why this is.

The official sign was found just by a garden centre and off I set into another adventure, the route follows the meandering river Wharfe flowing from the Upper Wharfe Dale, it twists and turns effortlessly through vallies and farmlands. I pass the little village of Addingham, rather large and expensive houses watch my every step before I pass into a more fancy holiday park, the large American log cabins standing as a definite statement of look what I can afford, open farmlands soon follows and takes me away from the world of people. crossing a road and just before Bolton Abbey I come across Farfield Quaker Meeting House, built around 1689 a signifcant place for people to worship freely, a little place hidden away. Before long the remains of Bolton Abbey come into view, in its day it must have provided a most impressive feature on the landscape for pilgrims to come upon after a long journey.

Now it provides a fantastic backdrop to the landscape around it, its Gothic and ruinous feature gives the visitor feast for the imagination, at the time i passed through it was yet to open, but a few people mulled around, I crossed the Wharfe and stood for a moment to watch a family spread the ashes of a loved one, I felt very fortunate to be able to witness this moment and said a silent few words in my head, before taking off along the path marked by the OS.

It worth noting here, that once inside the land of Bolton Abbey estate, the signs for the for the Dales Way vanish, there is none at all and I can only assume that this is due to some clash between the footpath and the estate own sings. My route takes me through a children’s walk, little challenges lay to the side of the paths making for a fun walk for the little ones or the slightly bigger ones like me as I make us of the obstacles. Your soon crossing a small bridge and into the bustle of the many day visitors, here I stop and make use to the cafe and after 12 miles of running and walking Im ready for a brew and cake.

People mull by, families walking dogs, children running and playing with more cyclist than I’ve ever seen in one place, I still hold the thought that middle aged men in Lycra is not a good look, I set forth and off into a wooded area the signs still very much absent, I arrive at an area known as the Strid, I had read about this section of the Wharf before I set off, on first glance the rock faces strewn with moss invites a sense of mystery and fairies frolicking on the banks, but this otherwise burbling river is one of the deadliest in the UK, here the water funnels from a wide open river into this small gully, it changes direction as it hits the narrow and craggy sides creating massive undercurrents and chambers below the water which have taken a number of lives over the years.

Innocent looking but deadly.

Barden tower a 15th Century hunting lodge now lies in ruins flashes by to my left as I pass more walkers heading in the direction of Bolton Abbey, fancy ornate bridges are crossed before heading across brief sections of road and into more farmland before I enter the small parish of Burnsall, I take the opportunity to take in the local delights and consume a fine bacon sandwich and cup of tea, a chicken wanders around the tables offering a distraction from the multitude of people wandering around the village.

As I headed off, I could see the clouds beginning to descend on the hills behind me, I quickly took shelter under the bridge and clad my body in my waterproofs and braced myself for the coming wetness, I passed the day walkers who were not as prepared as myself for the rain, some took shelter under trees and some just grin and bared it. The river was now taking on a more rough and ready appearance, as it coursed over the rocky outcrops and provided some fantastic weirs near to Hebden. I took a seat at an interesting spot, the seat carved from a tree trunk made a good spot for an insta shot, a short trot over a bouncy bridge which I took delight in making it bounce even more much to the bemusment of onlookers.

I was soon coming into the village of Grassington, it was an odd feeling to be around so many people early on, all my other parks I had walked away from people and into people barely seeing anyone for days on end. As nice as Grassington was, it was a little busy for me, I stopped had a few moments where I had some pop and set off, glad to be leaving the busy place behind me.

fancy bridge to Grassington

From here I took to my first lofty climb up wards onto Lea Green, the whole area a site once dominated by a medieval village, the area is a series of lumps and bumps in the landscape and has been in occupation since the Bronze age. The local cow population now the only residents here, along with a few walkers of course, the land took in a more isolated feel, with the large looming crags of the moors to my right and left you feel a tad enclosed, but this was proper hill walking country and just the type of terrain I loved.

I managed to catch a group of walkers along the way who were contemplating what to do about the group of cows congregating around the style, I wandered up and clapped my hands making the heard move until I came across the rather muscle buttocks of a bull, he just looked at me and I at him before I walked around the large chap and on wards. From here the route takes you over an escarpment overlooking Conistone, but the views were spectacular, to the left lay Kilnesy Crag, Kettlewell to the centre right and Hawswick moor in front, a perfect Yorkshire valley view. I took a moment and snapped some shots of the vast landscape ahead of me before setting off.

I caught up to a group of walkers here, now they irritated me alot every time I went through a style or gate after them they had decided not to latch or in some instances close the things, I’m not sure why people are so lazy but i takes a few seconds to do this and prevents livestock from running away and getting injured of lost. Its a basic country side rule, always close gates after you.

I decided to run past them all and took delight in passing the entire group very quickly and making a point of shutting the gates loudly, I was soon heading down a steep path and onto a minor road and into Kettlewell, I was by now fed up the constant climbing of the narrow walled styles, I must have climb 100 over the day and they definitely made your legs ache.

lazy walkers

Kettlewell came into view and my camp for the night, I set up my tent near to the shower block which afforded me some protection from the wind coming over, after showering I begged some tea bags from another group who were happy to do this, a little later a lady popped over and offered me a few cans of pop, I thanked her greatly for these and she stated ‘its the mother in me’ I’m not sure if she felt sorry for me or worried but I accepted the pop, I had also chatted with another group who were admiring my one man tent, I chatted and told them of my adventure which they seemed suitably impressed by, especially after telling them that I was 28miles in for the day.

camp at last

Fed, watered and clean I climb into my quilt and lay dozing on and off, by 7pm the rain came and briefly went before descending again, people once laughing and enjoying the late evening sun scampered inside their tents for shelter.

Old Sarum, 5000years of history

We took a recent trip all the way down South, to see Texas in concert, one that had been postponed for some 3 years and when you say it out loud, it sounds completely mad. With a 3 1/2 hour road trip when needed a break on the return leg and opted to head towards Old Sarum.


Sarum was a place I had noted on another trip to see Stone Henge and Avebury a few years ago, but we did not have the time and needed to book, but with us being so close it was an easy option for a quick explore.

Sarum has seen human habitation for some 5000years, which is immense to think that at the earliest stages of man (prehistoric), this site was always deemed an important feature of the landscape. If you have ever been this way, you will notice that it has its fair share of flatness and Sarum sticks out above the surrounding landscape.

Around 400bc, early Britons built the first of many fortification upon it, consisting of enormous ditches and banks that surrounds its roughly oval shape, being close to other notable hillforts and also two of the largest stones circles on the UK, Sarum was an important settlement, looking over and controlling an import intersection of trade routes.

With the arrival of the Romans, as with most hillforts, Sarum was taken and became what is thought to be a Roman fort with a settlement outside the defended walls, this was common in the Roman period for the living and working areas to be on the outside of Roman forts, leaving the inside largely to the military, there is little known about this period of its life though. It is thought that the need for a hill fort became less and the site was slowly disused by the military, during the end of the Roman and start of the Saxon period, it is known that a mint was built on the site some evidence of a small Anglo-Saxon settlement was also found outside the ramparts.

With the arrival of the Normans, the site became once more an important site of activity and power, the Normans quickly built a motte and bailey castle, the castle now sported two sets of defenses, the inner castle and the large outer ramparts and ditch, the large scale of the outer defense meant that it could house a large number of troop, the Normans keenly spotted that as with the Iron age period, Sarum sat and at a critical intersection of trade routes.

During this period, the inner section became home to a number of buildings, mainly built of timber, with the only stone sections being the outer keep/tower, a cathedral was also built at this time and its importance as a center of power became, the Sheriffs of Wilshire setting up residence and the Cathedral becoming home to a body of clerks and scholars.

For a short period, the site was left in charge of Bishop Roger, whilst king John I was away doing kingly type business abroad. After his death around 1139, Sarum became less popular as the king lavished money on his new fancy hunting lodge by the new King John II, how ever by around 1220s with the Royals failing to maintain its upkeep and the church and crown no longer getting on (think neighbor’s from hell), the clergy moved into Salisbury and built and even grander Cathedral.

Habitation of the site hung on for a further few years, but by 1540 the castle and the dwellings outside the ramparts were no more, the castle mighty stone walls taken apart and used for other building projects.


It is said that Salisbury (new Sarum) was built founded on the aim of an archer, who stood atop Old Sarum and let an arrow fly. One theory as to how an arrow could of reached that far, is that the archer struck a deer which then ran off and died at the site of New Sarum.

Old Sarum and New Sarum has been identified and laying directly in line with the famous stone henge, leading to the theory that it sits atop a ley line.

The first cathedral had to be rebuilt after only a few weeks of being constructed, after having been struck by lightening.


The site is currently run by English Heritage, admission is £5.90 per adult and £3.50 per child, no toilets on site currently as these are being revamped.

there is a small shop that serves hot drinks from a machine, it is windy up there most ofm the

mock up of what is may of looked like

The Welsh Getaway

With the new year stating and a hope to start a fresh and put behind us the stress and uncertainty of 2021, we had booked a 4 day break in the heart of Powys, Wales, now I’m not sure how you all get along when yourself and your beloved plan a break, but with us it is always a slight struggle to find a place that we both agree upon going.

But having come across the most excellent Birch Banc retreat hidden between the small towns of Llandinam and Llanidloes, the cabin sat in a very small 6 acres field and lay hidden just out of sight of the rather small minor road towards Oakley Park, the added benefit of this location resulted in limited to no internet and with no Wi-Fi being present for the area it added the nice feeling of seclusion, much to the dismay of our 15yo teenager constantly attached to her mobile.

It was the first time the family had managed to get aware together since August 2020 and one we all needed. The cabins were a rather posh affair with wood evident and used just in the correct portions, the interior instantly reminded of a page from a habitat catalogue, that modern but elegant design, fixtures and fittings pleased all.

with all family holidays, the nice neat cabin quickly succumbed to the family and we settled into our 4 days away, he lovely owners had provided nice little treats on our arrival and on request of myself a breakfast hamper provided but he local butchers, with a further treat in the coming days of an exceptional tea from the local café.

Most excellent meal

Our first outing though, required a short trip into the little town of Llanidloes to gather essential supplies (basically sweets and junk food), Llanidloes, the town itself is named after a 7th century Celtic saint Idloes and still retains its original 13th C layout, it is packed with all the essential shops and supplies that the hungry traveler and back packer require, with grub in hand we enjoyed our fist night and marveled at the darkness away from modern light pollution, a billion little lights emanating from the blackness of space.

The morning arrived and before the others stirred, I took adventure dog for a little wander around the local area, I tried to follow the OS map, but found that the local footpaths no longer existed, more through lack of use than anything nefarious via local landowners. I opted to wander along the local roads, instantly taking me back to 2019 when I actually enjoyed running and wandering the forgotten lanes of Britain. I routed myself to a building that I had seen from our cabin, a long forgotten stone cottage, abandoned and forgotten down a well used farmers path.

What struct me about this building, that if this had been based in the south of England of the mighty lake district, it would of been snapped up and turned into a luxury holiday cottage, I peaked inside and noted that the original wood was exposed but now missing what would of been original horse hair plaster. I would love to learn more about dating building as I imagined that this would rate as extremely old. I returned and regaled the family with my recent discovery.

Our first real outing took place the following day, as we took the short road trip to the top of Llyn Clwedog reservoir, it was rather blustery as we stood atop the small viewing platform, marveling at the immense power of the water as it cascaded down the overspill and into the river Clwedog below. The visit was brief as the family took refuge back in the car. Not wanting to end the day just yet, I managed to persuade the clan to take a look at the now abandoned Bryntail Mines.

Once a site of smoke, fire and noise, during the 19thC Bryntail processed lead ore, it was shipped to Llanidloes and load onto boats for transport via the river Severn to the sea, it now stands as one of the testaments to the great beginnings of the industrial heritage of the UK, one thing that I have always loved about Wales is how accessible to those that love the outdoors, places such as Bryntail and plenty of the fantastic castles are free to explore with very little restrictions around how you explore, being able to touch and explore the history of the UK is such an important aspect of how people get to learn and understand.

We took the road which wound its way around the reservoir and were given plenty of beautiful sights to see, we stopped briefly in designated spots to soak in the view before making our way back towards the cabin via Hafren forest where the promise of a waterfall enticed the adults. The weather wasn’t the most amazing, but it remained free of rain for the time we were out, clad in boots and warm clothing we set off walking the signed route to the see the Severn Breaks its Neck waterfall, some 30 minute round trip according to the information board.

we set fourth, with one moody teenager and one happy one and made our way along the well used boardwalk path, following the river Servern as it twisted and turned along the landscape, a rather protracted 20 minutes later and we were upon the culmination of our journey and were treated to an amazing site and sound as the water broke over the river bed and down into its new course. There is nothing quite as humbling than amazing spectacle of nature to put one in their rightful place, after a short stop we retraced out steps as the youngest placed her foot shin deep into a muddy hole much to her dismay and our amusement.

Day 3 saw an early rise and foray towards the sea side town of Aberystwyth with a stop over at Devils bridge beforehand, it had been a place we had both wished to visit since watching a tv detective program some 3 years earlier, I could remember the scene in which it featured, but Kerry denied having seen it.

The original bridge is thought to be medieval, with 2 subsequent bridges being built thereafter, the family opted for the short 10-20 min section and only 100 odd steps, to take in the devils punchbowl, this was an excellent view point of the three bridges, which appeared to be stacked on top of each other, the sound was thunderous and spell binding, we were amazed at the power the water and brought upon the geology of the gorge, with the many perfectly curved and smoothed surfaces of stone.

we headed back to the warmth of the car and travelled to Aberystwyth via the back roads, we noted how different and somewhat unpredictable the weather was her in Wales, after having suffered the brunt of 3 recent storms, we now had the addition of snow from the previous evening which gave us the feel of being transported into the Alps.

Aberystwyth surprised me by its size as we passed through on our way to a visit of Borth, we stopped on the sea front and intended to head along the pebbled beach for a wander, but climbing on to the beach, we were met with quite a ferocious wind howling in, the family quickly took shelter in the car, I headed slightly further to capture a few more photos, with the wind nearly toppling me from the sea defences.

hoping to locate a suitable lunch spot, we headed along the main road but found very little in the way of open cafés and ended the journey at Ynys Tachwedd beach and the visitor center, parking on the sand, but a little reluctant to leave the warmth and comfort of the car, I took a short walk to the center before heading back, the sands here were flat and welcoming, of course welcoming in the the bright warm sunshine and not the midst of a storm.

We only touched on Aberystwyth slightly, stopping at a local smoke house to grab some rather tasty boxed foods, before taking in a slight over look of the lighthouse, this afforded us the amazing sight as the waves crashed over the side of the structure, this was better than any tv show. I managed to persuade the family to head onto the mariner car park, so I could take a better look, words I would soon be eating.

As I headed in the direction of the lighthouse, filming and taking pictures of the mighty sea crashing over the breakwater, Kerry and Georgia took what appeared to be the safer option, but in the blink of an eye they had been floored by a large wave, I glanced back and witnessed Kerry laying in a large puddle laughing, whilst the little one stood with arms out dripping. After a quick clean up and brief attempt at drying, we headed back to the cabin to dry out the two drowned rats.

I did attempt a dip in the rather large and fancy marble bath which sat on the decking outside the cabin, all was going fine and after having spent 30minutes trying to add enough hot water to have a decent dip, within in 10 minutes of me plunging in, the sky then turned into a dark grey, followed by a heavy down pour of cold, hard hail.

Birch Banc was a welcome retreat in another wise busy world, the cabins are clean and well put together, the owners both lovely and happy to help out how ever they can, this would be an excellent place for a couple to get aware for a few days or if you have small kids, the lack of Wi-Fi and internet may give your teenagers cabin fever and lead to periods of prolonged sulking. Wales is an amazing and ancient place to explore, with something for all the family, the placement of the cabin was ideal to enable the traveler to wilder parts of the country whilst maintaining some hold on society.

What a year

It’s hard to say 2021 was a good year for anyone, but for me it seemed much harder.

My 40th birthday turned into one of a medical emergency, followed by the best part of a year in and out of hospital. A brain operation and a kidney removal, followed by a few bouts of radio therapy saw me more or less immobile for 7 months.

Even now I still suffer with abdominal discomfort, the scar panning right to left for almost 12inches, intersects key muscle groups, leaving me with just basic core strength, even now 10 months on I still have to be careful about what I do, lift, move or generally lay around.

I’ve had to come to terms with alot, the loss of health, the loss of full unimpeded movement, the loss of my driving licence for 1 year and more the loss of friendships that I believed were solid.

You see after only a few months, people tend to drift away, best friends become friends and then just someone you used to know. But other friendships take over and become stronger than before. I’ve been awed by the kindness of strangers around me, offers of help to offers of free stuff, I mean who doesn’t like free stuff.

Every 3 months I rock up to my local hospital for more MRI scans and CT scans, before a wait month long wait to see if I’m clean for another 3 months. It’s an odd existence but one that I am now used to and take as just a part of my day.

Running is no longer an option, the jiggling (medical term) of my stomach makes this very uncomfy and even the slightest of weight gain can make my stomach feel bloated and sore. I’ll miss the running, the days put with adventure dog, exploring new and amazing places and sites.

But with one loss comes another new challenge and change in direction. I’ve come to enjoy watching the many adventures on YouTube of the many bike packers, riding through some of the most stunning scenery.

So I’ve decided to now take on the mantle of bike adventures, this is going to allow me access out into the very places I have been cruelly banned from for over a year, having no ability to drive myself now, I can set fourth from my home and explore far and wide. The Bearded bimbler will now be more mobile with still the same old poor planning and preparation.

So here’s to 2022, regardless of it’s plans for me, I’ll make my own plans.

Operation day

Returning home from a week in hospital feels emotional, I sit and enjoy a takeaway with the family, the kids laughing rake up emotional feelings in me, I make my excuse and take myself off for a bath. Listening to their laughter feels at odds with the recent few days and diagnosis.

We wait a few weeks, numerous calls to the surgery department bring the same result, top of list, no beds due to covid. I spend my days just pottering around and building lego to try and occupy myself. I restrict my activities to very little, my wife keeping tabs on my movements.

We move the wedding forward, under special circumstances, we gather at the registry office and the ceremony is quicker than I thought it would be, I cry, kerry cries. Our witnesses sign the forms and we are now Mr and Mrs Creighton.

An hour before we leave for the wedding the call comes and I get the date, 4th March, brain tumor day. I attend the hospital, kiss kerry goodbye and inform her where to look for the essential information and last wishes files. You never think you’d need to, but this proves that you never know.

I spend a night in a side room, watch TV and make calls, the next day dawns and I done the sexy gown and lacey hospital knickers and I am escorted to theatre. Everyone is nice and welcoming. A quick injection and I’m fast asleep.

3hrs later I awake in recovery surrounded by people, the Dr comes to see me and I’m my post op haze I’m told it was all a success. No more tumor.

Things don’t go as planned though, my catheter seems to have rejected and after having been touched every which way from Sunday, a super pubic catheter is in place, a further complication to my already odd life. There is nothing I can do but accept my fate and go with the flow.

4days in hospital and I’m allowed home, a few people pass through and I chat with my other bed fellows which helps to pass the time. We speak to the kids more about what is going on, but nothing specific. I’m restricted to doing very little, carrying around a bag of wee presents new issues for me now.

Cancer day

Thursday 9th Feb, I get a drive out today, the transport takes me from Walsall Manor and drives the 30minutes to the Qeeun Elizabeth in Birmingham. My first outing in nearly a week.

Kerry gets to meet me there, the nurse with me today is pleasant and jolly, we chat crap about the world, about nursing and about the covid crisis and our worries as nhs staff what will happen. It all helps to relax me from the inevitable news to come.

Wintery outside

I’ve not slept properly for about a week now, hospitals are a noisey and boisterous place, alarms, staff and patients snoring create a rather awful fan fair of music to relax by.

Day trip out

We arrive and find our clinic, me and kerry sit together and I cry periodically at what is to come, cry at the memories I’ve had and things I’ve experienced, thankful in one breath and sad in another. Cancer waiting rooms are probably the most depressing waiting room, they come with an palpable air of misery and upset.

Whilst we wait I can hear other conversations, an elderly lady can’t have anymore operations, her tumor is to large and risky, her family comfort her and kerry asks if I want to move away from thus area, I reason what’s the point, the whole place is depressing really, another man sits waiting, his first appointment like me, he looks worried like me.

40 minutes and the meeting is done, I’m explained that I have renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer, the brain tumor is secondary. It appears to cause no concerns and is simply just on the surface of my brain. The Dr makes this all sound quite benine in nature, no more than a few hours of surgery and it’s all done and dusted.

The blob in my head

It seemed odd, quite matter of fact, the brain is complex but the surgery is everyday. Risk are there but as I have said to kerry, I’ve had so many operations in the past that being told I could die is quite common.

We leave feeling a tad more buoyed by the news, I have cancer, I need to own it, fight it and make myself comfortable for the inevitable long journey ahead.

Me, myself and cancer

It seems 2021 was not meant to be the year I had quite envisaged, in February I turned the 40, I was suffering from the effects of having had covid in November 2020 struggling to move away from the longer term effects of lethargy and breathing difficulties.

It seemed that long covid would dominate my life, 2 months post illness I was finding life difficult, long periods of tiredness and general fatigued plagued everyday with bouts of insomnia and sleeping for 15+ hours had pretty much stopped any grand plans for adventure.

4 weeks headaches had started to target me, this was knew. Low grade general headaches, slowly getting worse and making it difficult to move around, the act of bending a cause for pause and consideration. I carried on doing little odd jobs around the home, redecorated my eldest daughters bedroom and built her a new wall mounted book case, built another wardrobe and even started to decorate our bedroom. All the time fighting these headaches and lethargy.

I remember that week well, Monday I had spoke to my gp, him sat nicely at home on the phone seemed to think it was a good idea I returned to work after having 2 months off, I worriedly explained that I couldn’t even bend down these days, let alone concentrate on work or driving.

He ignored my pleas, in favour of getting me back to work and ‘normality’ I knew this was never going to happen. That week I got gradually worse, 2 periods of thunder clap headaches the worse pain one could ever feel. A feeling that a metal spike was being driven through my brain making me feel as if I was going to die. The act of going to the toilet was an game of chance, I often refer to it now as ‘dying like Elvis’, never knowing if having a simple poo would be my last.

Kerry became more concerned and threatened 999, I rang 111 and spoke to my gp but still no real answer, I opted to attend AnE, our thoughts then were of high blood pressure nothing more.

With in a few hours I was being told I had suffered a brain hemorrhage and needed admitting to hospital. The words of tumour and growth and mass were bounded around thst evening whilst I sat in ambulatory care, no one could say for definate what was happening. I know now that I wa close to having a stroke or worse at my AnE attendance, my brain had began to cone, my squidgy pink mass starting to be pushed through the small skull opening and getting dangerously close to my spinal cord.

I was started on medication that evening and for the first time, no headaches, 2 months of almost constant discomfort where gone and I was able to settle and relax. The next week became a massive whirlwind of people, tests, scans and news. Each Dr’s visit seemed to bring worse news, the hemorrhage disappeared and was replaced with word tumor, a growth in my kidney was then found, starting at a cist and quickly esculating into a growth and then Cancer.

These snippets of information given in 10 minutes segments just seemed to mess with my mental health, I became tearful, labile, worried, not worried. Bored and frustrated at everything around me. I wasn’t even sure where life would now take me.

Cancer, what a word, I was fit, well and healthy. I did everything I should do, ate little meat, barely drank alcohol, didn’t smoke, although covid had put pain to my running I was still fit. Non of it made sense. I took the decision to pour positive attitude into this new adventure, I couldn’t be angry, who would I be angry at, it was no ones fault, just my time.

Mountain running

It’s not often these that my legs get to hit some serious hills, so when we recently took a week long break in the heart of the Western Lakes, you can bet I was chomping at the bit to get out.

Our little cottage nestled just outside of Bassenthwaite afforded a superb view of the accompanying fells and hills, with Skidaw providing the looming focus.

Washing up with a view.

With Wednesday set as ‘my day’ I eagerly reviewed OS mapping and examined the Ridge line heading up towards the top.

Groaning, the alarm sprang to life at 4.30am, the world outside remained dark as I attempted to carry a well rehearsed nightime nija manoeuvre so as not to wake anyone, with porridge consumed and trainers fixed to my feet, I left adventure dog at home due to the humid temperature outside and off I set into dark morning.

The world outside still bathed in a dark blue hue, I ran the short distance into Bassenthwaite winding my way through the still sleepy streets and threading out onto empty country lanes that held no names, the little hamlet of Burthwaite passed quickly before crossing Walk Mill Bridge.

View back across Bassenthwaite

I passed one local out walking their dog who seemed to eye me with suprise, I bid good morning before stopping to admire the inversion which held sway over Bassenthwaite and the outer edges of the lake.

I hoped onto the footpath near to Barkbeth Hill and followed the steep hill towards Ling How and the start of a relatively short but sharp ascent towards the top of Skidaw.

It has been some time since I have had the pleasure of any meaningful hill and my legs definitely reminded me of that fact. It wasn’t long before I was bringing out the ‘win sticks’ to provide me with some extra momentum upwards.

Sheep in the mist

As I climbed The Ridge, I stopped periodically to take in one of the most amazing views behind me, the inversion had shifted little and continued to emerse the valley below in a mysterious and otherworldly aura.

I noticed behind me and quickly gaining ground on me, a solitary walker, I took this as a race and set off determined to beat my unknown foe to the top, after all I can’t let a mere walker beat now can I.

The long Ridge

My particular route seemed to vear away from the main throng of day walkers, the path made up of boulders and small craggy outcrops with loose shale in betwee5kep me alert and on my feet. With a rather severe drop either side this was the place to be miss-placing my step. My walker foe appeared to have slowed on the final steep ascent of Ulock Picke and once summited I took off running along The Long Ridge.

This equally nifty ridge line gave me that all important Kilian esq feeling as my feet danced across the boulderous pathway. I was thankful of the now downward path that took me towards Carl Side tarn, the local sheep hangout now found, it looked a tad rough for me so I plodded on, happy that I had massively increased my lead over my opponent.

From here however, the landscape took a decidingly upward slant, the path became almost vertical as my win sticks dug in deep to move me forward, I stopped briefly, drank water and ate some breakfast before making my final push to the top.

Ullock Pike

I edged over the Ridge and onto Skidaw proper, the sun rising and desperately trying to burn off the haze from the morning. I touched the trig, took some photos before taking in the hazey views all around me, a mom and son were bid good morning and I began to descend down towards Sale How a more boggier route it would seem. I did consider cutting across as per my usual routine but opted for sticking to actual paths today.

Skidaw proper
The boggy option

I passed by a large house sat smack bang in the middle of open and dramatic countryside. I learn later that this is a YHA and can be privately rented, no road access so a brisk walk in but what a place to stop.

Cumbrian Way.

I hoped onto the Cumbria way and headed North East towards home. I took a dip in a cooling stream before coming to the conclusion that my my inner thighs where now chaffing some what, I took some moist moss from a near-by bank and strategically placed it, instant relief, along with sitting my hot arse in every river I came across certainly helped.

The path was easy to follow and required no navigation from me, I was soon coming upon Whitewater Dash Falls and what a site to behold, it never ceases to astound me the power of these waterways, carving out the landscape.

Dash Falls

A few people were passed along the way as I headed along pathways leading to disused mines and rolling farmlands, crossing a road I passed by Peter House Farm and followed the conveniant White dots painted onto trees and walls.

Fields crossed and cows avoided, I entered into Bassenthwaite and took the opertunity to eat some rather delicious plums overhanging the pathway, I loved last year, wandering and eating wild berries and fruits and these were super sweet. The village was a little more alive now, people wandered around and children played.

My few hours up Skidaw reminded me why I love the wilder places, routes that are a little more dramatic to run and walk. Having been absent from my home turf for a prolonged time, I definitely miss this landscape, ancient, bold and dramatic and complete with thousands of years worth of history.

Park run, the end?

Having thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring the quieter areas of mighty Snowdonia national park, I was pretty buoyed to be heading off again on my final leg of this amazing adventure.

The plan was fairly simple, do the middle, that is to join up sections between Bala and Harlach that I had yet to complete, a journey of around 30 miles or so once looped.

I arrived early to my spot, the land still shed it darkness, it was a little after 7am on a rather chilly November morning, the frost had crept in over the last few weeks and the world glistened and sparked in the pale morning light as I drove to my destination. Dolhendre Isaf is better known for the little caravan park that offers some amazing door step adventures, I had checked google before hand seeking a car park or a space to plonk my car and was pleased to see a little spot just over a bridge, however when I arrived some building work had taken place and the space was now a dumping ground for a rather large pile of hardcore. I drove back and forth unsure where to park and finally settled on sticking it next to the phone box which seemed to be out of the way of traffic.

Early morning sunrise

I changed into my gear, prepped Millie and off we set, the familiar beep of my watch starting signaled Millie to start running (she is well trained to this now), the roads here held little in the way of name, my original plan was to head off onto Castell Cardochan and run west across the open area of Waun y Grifafolen, but having discussed with people more familiar with the area and hearing of the certainty of the bog of doom, I opted to navigate around this area and instead took a footpath that linked Craig-y-tan and Baurthmeni.

As per my usual routine, my path became something of a mission in itself, I was pretty certain that this was rather less than visited area, the absence of footpath signs and any actual path on the ground signaled the usual palaver of getting temporarily misplaced in the space. Despite this the world began to come alive with a color I have become familiar with over the course of running Wales, a pink hue bathed the land in the most amazing glow, the crystal white frost picking up the warm pinks and red.

I trudged across the land, familiar with the wet that seeps from underneath in Wales, we walked some and ran some, stopping periodically to recheck my position, a farmer looked on but paid me no more attention as I definitely looked lost. Across from Coed Dolfudr I took the path across a small footbridge here I had to utilise the handle on my Gopro to bash open the latch, frozen solid in the early morning it was fairly impossible to open otherwise.

I joined the road by the farm, but as I neared what was supposed to be the footpath, I lost track of where it went. A farm sat stead fast in the way with no actual sign the path was there, a rather boisterous farm dog sounded its disapproval at our presence and with no visible through road I opted not to try this and instead try to cross the river further up.

From the farm, I was able to spot a rather impressive looking waterfall in the distance and started making my way to it. Again there was no formal path, so the usual slog through the undergrowth was had as I headed in its general direction, the roaring and elemental sound produced by big waterfalls always fills me with a sense of wonder. I stood for a few moments and gazed at the sight, before following a rough sheep track along the Afon Lliw, having seen that the footpath ran directly opposite my side, I intended to try and cross and thus rejoining the path at this part, unfortunately this was not going to be possible, despite the river only being some 5/6ft wide, it was more than waist deep and ran quickly, with the temp today below 3, taking a dip was not on the cards and I had to make the decision to turn back, this pretty much dealt a death blow to my plans to complete Snowdonia, only 20 miles short I had no choice, there was no real way of joining this up and my time was short.

Looking back from where I had come

I headed back down to the road, passed the farm and took another look for the path, which appeared to go straight across the farm yard, but with both gates tied shut, there was no real way of getting through. I ran the road, not passing another person, in fact in the whole time I had been out so far I had not seen anyone else. People often talk about how busy Snowdonia is, yes the actual mountain is, but Snowdonia national park is a lot bigger than one place.

The roads are barely used in this part of the world, life is quiet here, roads are covered in moss and grass advertising the lack of footfall, all the while the hills of Moel Llyfnant and Ban y Merddwr capped in a dusting of snow offered a glimpse into an alpine style view and adventures yet to be had.

I backtracked following the route with ease, passing dense forests and quiet lanes and farms, I cut through the dense and rather spooky woodland of Coed Wanalt, despite the rather spooky nature of this still and quite woodland, I cant help but feel more at home in its presence than other habbitats, a short and downward paths led me towards the back of the caravan park where I was soon back at my car.

I made the decision to head back where I had come from and make the ascent to Castle Carndochan, there was no formal footpaths signs here, a dirt track led upwards past newly installed electrical substation and past disused mine workings where gold was mined up until 1902, quartz boulders were also found scattered around the hillside and contained gold. perhaps it was worked during the castles time and the Roman presence in the area may not have gone un-noticed but there is little archaeological evidence to suggest they mined here.

There was a steep gradual climb up along a rough farm track where the direction of the track dictated I cover some rougher uneven ground, more bog followed and slowly the remains of the castle began to take shape. I have always been more fascinated by the boulder/rubble remains of castles than actual still standing castles, they were remarkably well preserved with quite well defined structures, the lay out still noticeable today.

From this vantage point, it offers an outstanding view across to Lake Bala and the Roman fort of Caer Gari, although there is little evidence to suggest the Romans occupied this area, but given its strategic point it would hard for the Romans to have not had anything here. I looked out across my original planed route, which from the vantage appeared quite a straight forward affair, but I was made aware that the area was pot marked with underground streams, hidden bogs and other risky walking bit that would make any crossing difficult even in good weather.

The end of Parkrun

I recorded a Facebook video, mulled over my time spent running across all the parks and you know what, I’m happy. I didn’t fully complete my ultimate goal, but I have learned a lot about myself and my abilities. what I am capable of and that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve some pretty awesome things.

Frosty Snowdonia

These were carried out pre- lockdown, some that I have forgotten to write up last November.

With the first foray into the mighty Snowdonia national park, I was definitely pumped to start the next round, this time I opted to start at the other end, a small sea side village called Harlech, a castle built in the 13th Century holds sway over the lowlands and offered protection from the marauding Welsh tribes and part of the ring of Iron constructed by the Normal Conquests of England.

The journey in was an adventure in it’s self, the car beeped at me signalling a temp of -2.5, a frosty mist hung over the roads with some smaller parts covered in ice, as I drove I struggled to see more that 10ft and the twisting nature of the B4391 made for a scary journey across open and foreboding moorland, the speed kept to a steady 20mp as I edged my way through a cold and icy mist towards my starting destination.

Setting out from Harlech

I was soon pulling into the car park and I have to say pleased to see the the cost of parking was very reasonable, I tore myself from the warmth of my car and began getting myself and adventure pup ready. We set forth briefly running into Harlech before taking off up a rather steep section of road, the view behind was nothing short of spectacular, the sun began to rise spreading a cold sunny glow over the land, the roads and grass verges sparkled like jewels in the light and offered glorious company in what was otherwise a very isolated run.

We passed only one person over the course of 2 miles before coming upon a rather wonderful standing stone (yes my route was planed around this), Fonlief Hair is an ancient track-way and consist of 5 standing stones, as with many megalithic structures they sit perfectly in their environments and hint at a larger purpose as yet undiscovered.

A simple little used road, the center overgrown with a mossy and grassy blanket provided an easy surface the run, following its twists and turns all the while the rugged and inviting hills of Foel Ddu flanked my approach. The roads here held no names, covered in a mossy blanket they saw little motorised traffic and lured the outdoors lover further into the hills, Cwm-yr-Afon car park went by, before I again began to climb and hit the first of the cold wet paths along farm land. We hopped the styles and gates with ease and took dainty steps around the wild goats, this was a first for me as I never knew that Snowdonia had wild goats until today. Their large circular horns made them an impressive foe stood atop the gnarled rocky outcrops above me, but thankfully they were more scared of us and moved on.

Gloyw Lyn Lake

I made sure to take my time and look at the most amazing vistas that followed and surrounded me, I began a climb along wet and marshy ground heading toward Glowyn Lyn the air frosty and with a little bite made for good company, the path became a little indistinct and I became a little confused as I tried to find what should of been a rather large lake, I scratched my head as I struggled to locate it, I muttered to Millie and took a slightly different route and there like an oasis in a desert it appeared.

It shimmered in the early morning cold sun, providing a perfect reflective surface for the mountains that surrounded it, I took up a seat in the slightly cold heather and ate a delicious Outdoor Provisions bar, Millie partook of this as well and gives her paws up. I snapped some photos and took note for a wild camp the following year, here was a truly wild place, void of any people or noise. I set off along the wet path and made a steady and steep scrambling climb along what I thought was the path but as I began to descend the path slowly gave way to just overgrown fields, I cut across the ground and headed for the high point of Foel Ddu here lay in wait a rather larger flock of goats, they eyed us but again made a hasty retreat over the ridge and out of site.

For some reason Millie began to look behind us, it made me a tad paranoid as if we were being followed. At this point my knee began to hurt, the familiar sting of weak arse muscles now rearing their ugly head and making it difficult to run down any hills. From Hen Dolbedin I took a myriad of different paths, having to negotiate very overgrown lanes and rather dodgy iron styles where rails gave way as I gingerly climb over them, having to carry the dog over each made for heavy and difficult going.

I made a specific beeline for the burial chamber of Gwern Einion, it was a little difficult to access as the path is somewhat non existent, I managed to locate it behind an old and ruined farm building, a quick hop of a wall and what a find, I understand that it has been damaged over time as most of these places have, used or dismembered by farmers for other purposes. Still it offers a little look back into a bygone age.

From here I followed my OS app, the green line roughly pointing me in the correct way, well almost, it pretty much led me into a rather large swamp the ground swaying and moving under my feet as I attempted to not sink to my death. Millie on the other hand just looked at me I’m not sure if it was disgust or enjoyment. Once extricated from the swamp of death the path became more normal and as I passed the remains of an old slate mine, the giant banks of slate appeared to hold up the hillside here offering a glimpse of a time long gone

The view back along the little A-road afforded some fantastic view over the beach of Harlech and people went about their Sunday routines of washing cars and tending to pretty gardens. I was soon arriving back at the car, a little warmer and happier at my route for the day. With 15 miles covered it was a splendid day out.

Inviting but very cold

The year of gear

As we sit around wondering what to do with ourselves at the moment, I thought it would be a good idea to do a round up of the kit I used over the #projectparkrun2019.

The Klymit Static V insulated sleeping pad has to be the stand out item I have used this year. weighing in at around 560kg it is roughly the size of a 1 ltr pop bottle. Obviously the insulated nature comes at a higher weigh gain but from kipping out in -6 temps in January I have to say it is worth it. The material it self is kind to the body, one that does not make you overly sweaty and the design of the raised platform conforms nicely to the body offering a wide base to rest easily on. It’s R Value (thermal conductivity) of 4.4 means that you get a good nights sleep  in the coldest of temps, most of the heat loss will be from below as the ground sucks the warmth from you so you need to invest in something that will last and do the job well.

Cumlus Quilt 350– there were a lot of doubters out there who felt that a quilt would not provide enough warmth and comfort for a years worth of adventure in all weathers, In the 12 months I have been using it, I can say that I have never felt cold at any time. Now I’m not saying this will be everyone, I sleep fairly warm anyway. It is light, extremely compressible due to the down and offers a pretty good warmth ratio for the design. During January I coupled this with a silk liner and survival bivvy but ended up to hot. It clips onto the underside so provides a snug fit from drafts and has a little foot box for the feet. I worried about condensation and I guest that will depend largely on the type of tent used as well and the ventilation offered, it has been damp on the odd occasions but never caused any significant issues at all.

Tent Ferrino Lightent– I toyed with 2 tents this year, the faithful little one man and the more recent acquisition of Flames Creed 1 The Ferinno served me well over the course of 13 parks but I did feel that it became a little tight inside at times, as the weather changed I was left with no where to cook outside, this meant finding a sheltered spot or cooking inside the rather small porch which is never ideal. To add to this, there is limited height which means that you cannot sit up and end up laying down all the time. I cant really fault it though, having seen out some extreme weather and rain it has held up well and been reliable. Quick and easy to assemble I had it down to an art of only 5min. Its a pitch inner first so if it is raining you have to be quick to get it put together. I have re-proofed it this year, that’s more for my peace of mind than actually needing to be done. This has been a great, low profile wild camping tent that doesn’t cost the equivalent to a small second hand car.

The Flames Creed 1 was a new purchase from Ali Express, at only £100 ish and under the 900kg mark it was a good buy for the weight, these are pretty much knock offs of the far more expensive MSR type brands which retail for rather large sums of money. I only go to use this once of the fated Scotland trip where the rather crazy level of rain put a stop to my adventure. Before leaving I have erected this in my garden at home and applied some proofer to certain point I had read about online. On arriving at camp I set it up but really struggled to get the porch correct and it was a tad limp, but saying that it is roomy, it was a pleasure to sit up inside a tent and cook and be dry. It held up reasonably well in the weather, but where the guy line attach to the tent, water would ingress around the stitching and leaked onto my head and feet. This would be a simple application of sealant to the area but i am pretty happy with its first use.

Jetboil– there are numerous version of the little pot of awesomeness, there are also quite a few knock off versions that I have heard about and read many reviews for. I Have use a Jetboil for over 3 years on different adventures, the only issue I had was with a previous version where the auto lighter stopped working and I had no other way of lighting the stove (don’t worry I went to the Pub), other than this I haven’t had any issues at all. I have read a lot of tales around the melting of them? I’m not sure why this has occurred some perhaps through improper use as you have to use the correct pans etc. It all depends on what you want to cook, I’m happy with freeze dried foods that just takes water to eat, you could cook actual food as you can buy frying pans and so on.

Bags– I used 2 bags during this adventure, the first being my faithful OMM Classic 32l, one which I have used since taking up fastpacking. I loved this bag when I first used it, the fit was second to non and it held well on my back with little movement or issues. I was able to extend the capacity by buying the add on items, such as a compression sack for the front, small pouches on the straps and also other little add on bits can take this up to 45ltr. It holds well but I found after a number of uses the shoulder straps begin to pinch and where hurting, this was remedied by adding some extra padding and it was again comfortable. I did find that at times I seemed to be messing more with packing stuff in and it became a little bothersome.

The other bag I made use of over the later months of 2019 was the Fjallraven Abisko Friluft 35, now it seems daft to exchange the same size for the same size but from having used it, it is far roomier than the OMM. It comes with a heavier weight and the ‘new’ price is scary ( I bought mine second hand), but the fit is unreal, despite loading up with around 8/9kg of gear i cant say i noticed it. the framed back, chest, waist and shoulder straps once adjusted offer an almost floating fit to the back, there was limited movement when running and no worry about trying to fit in all my gear which was just thrown in with room to spare. This has now become my go to bag for future multi-day trips.

Food– through the journey I relied on freeze dried food from various manufacturers, but have seemed to favor the summit to eat ones. I found overall that they all lacked salt and pepper, but they were hearty meals, quick and simple to prepare and the taste was fairly good. You can source them cheaper than the main website if you shop around. Its worth noting that I would eat one of these a day, Breakfast would consist of porridge if I felt hungry in the morning and then snack items during the day such as chocolate, harribo and sesame seed snaps. I wasn’t much of an eater when running and my body adapted to a reduced diet. Over the course of the day, I think I would be lucky to push 2000 calories overall but seemed to have managed well and never really felt massively fatigued.

Clothing– a purely personal choice here, in the colder days I would opt for leggings and short combo with a thermal top. To sleep in would pretty much be the same but clean and dry gear. I cant say I was every really cold, once on Exmoor simply through misjudging the sleeping gear. I took with me an Alpkit synthetic jacket for the cooler nights and sometimes jogging bottoms. Socks were the usual affair with a stint trying out waterproof ones, there ok for a few runs but once washed seem to loose their waterproof ability, but during winter running they keep the feet warm. Waterproofs are always a bone of contention, I used the gear from Decathlon, their trail running jackets and bottoms, but I have learned all waterproofs are only waterproof for a short time and tend to wet out after a few hours of heavy down pours. So bear in mind paying hundreds of pounds wont mean you will get anything more waterproof. I have found the Decathlon gear to be pretty good and reliable, some has lasted well, some hasn’t.

Trainers– One of the most important aspects, I tended to stick to what I knew and ran almost entirely in Innov8 Rocklites through the parks. These were great trainers and remained comfortable through out, the only time I struggled was during the Norfolk Broads where only full on trail runners would of worked in the sticky and slippy mud.

Gear I broke– 12 months of extreme running can have its effect on gear, socks where often thrown away, the smell to much even for the boil setting on the washing machine, gloves were a constant need as the stitching failed from the cold, wet weather. One set of waterproof bottoms went after an unfortunate event with a barbed wire fence, whilst 2 sets of legging wore out or tore. One Jetboil broke and couldn’t be repaired, one pair of trainers also gave way in the usual places. Waterproof jacket mainly as I could’t reproof it fully.

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