Monday, 24 February 2014

Surrender Bridge and the Old Gang Smelting Mills Circular

I know there has not many posts of late, but despite the grim weather I have actually been out and about walking and photographing a fair bit.  Unfortunately with my business under threat from a number of companies and individuals who have been breaching my copyrighted work the blog has had to take a back seat.  This has become such a problem that I will be naming and shaming those involved in a future post.

Anyway to try and forget the stresses and strains of eeking out a living as a photographer, Moira and I headed over to Surrender Bridge to do a circular walk up onto Great Pinseat, retuning via Hard Level Gill and the Old Gang Smelting Mills. 

Over the years we have done this walk on numerous occasions and in all weathers yet never seem to find it boring.  As the navigation around the route is a doddle we thought we would also add a bit of interest and test out my recently repaired Satmap Active 12 (Beta version) by trying to locate 3 Geocaches that are hidden along the route. If you don't know what Geocaching is you can get more info here.

We parked up across the valley from the Surrender Bridge Smelting Mill

The remains of the Surrender Bridge Smelting Mill from the parking area

Within a few minutes of setting off we soon discovered it was going to be one of those frustrating days where the weather was never the same for ten minutes at a time and after a rather windy and rainy stomp along the track past the aptly named Wetshaw Bottom we arrived dripping wet at the cairn that sits atop the moonscape of mine tips on the southern side of Great Pinseat.  Fortunately this coincided with a short sunny spell, but don't let the blues sky fool you, it was still nithering.

Cairn next to the track over the southern shoulder of Great Pinseat

After a quick bite to eat we used the GPS to find some clues which led us to the first of the Geocaches.  Later chased by yet another heavy shower we headed off down Forefield Rake to the next cache not too far from Flincher Gill. 

Geocache and the Satmap Active 12
After a quick break for a coffee we had an easy wander down the track to Level
House Bridge and on to the twin portals of the Brandy Bottle Incline which connects with the Old Gang Level further down the valley.

Level House Bridge

Twin portals of the Brandy Bottle Incline

We soon found cache number 3 and then headed down to have a look around the remains of the Old Gang Smelting Mill


Before having a leisurely wander back to our start point at Surrender Bridge.

Text/images copyright David Forster
Further Reading
Another account of a walk up this valley by fellow blogger Alen can be found here


Friday, 14 February 2014

Donate and Display - The thin end of the wedge?

On the face of it this Donate and Display seems like a good way of raising income, however I sincerely hope I am wrong about this, but it must have been very costly to install a payment machine and with that in mind I suspect this is simply going to be the thin edge of the wedge and we will see drivers paying for access to the hills if they wish to park at Bowlees in the not too distant future.  No doubt the official line will be we have no plans at present to operate Pay and Display here and elsewhere in Teesdale.  Yea right.

Donate and Display at Bowlees in Teesdale
I have always been of the opinion that charging for car parking in areas where people access the countryside harms local businesses.  From a personal perspective I know it certainly does.  Whenever I visit the Lake District for example, if I have to pay excessive parking fees to go for a walk then I simply don't spend any money in the local shops, cafe's etc.  It is not about being stingy or anything like that, it is simply the fact that after being taxed the better part of a tenner in say the Thirlmere or Ullswater valleys, coupled with the cost of running a vehicle there is sod all left over.  In fact I don't think I have spent much in any of the shops or pubs in Glenridding since the parking charges were introduced years ago.  Prior to that it was always a pint in the pub, a meal, or whatever with my mates.
One argument often used is that if you arrive by public transport you won't have to pay.  For day walks I find this is a flawed argument and in some rural areas you will be lucky to find public transport running more than a couple of times a week never mind per day and if you are heading out climbing in winter try getting a bus before first light to give you the early start needed to leave a safety margin of daylight at the end of the day.
Nor do I subscribe to the un-elected bodies and career conservationists' views that high parking charges are required to protect the area.  I am well aware of the arguments about government cuts, path and landscape restoration, visitor centres with cafes that need subsidising as well as other arguments, but with rich corporations, (some of which do immense damage to the environment) escaping paying billions of pounds worth of taxes, we really do need to get our priorities sorted here.
Free access to the countryside should be a fundamental right regardless of personal income, or the manner in which you arrive at a given location. 
Anyway rant aside on a more positive note here's a pic of Holwick scars from yesterday as yet another heavy snow shower makes it way in.  Can't decide if I like the flat low contrast look, but then again the light was flat so that's how it was.

Holwick Scars Teesdale

Holwick village from just below the scars
Text/images copyright David Forster/