Right now we are building an ark down here in the South West of England, that much rain has come down over the last few months. Most of my recent posts have been about how much rain we have had and this one is no different. We had a red weather alert from the Met office for this weekend and boy did it deliver. Saturday night was a lesson in just how loud rain can be when it hits a roof. It sounded like the supporting cast of Stomp had decided to play outside our window.
We had planned to head out for a cycle ride with some of our friends Sunday afternoon and as luck would have it, we were graced with blue skies and sunshine. After what has felt like a decade of grey clouds and rain, there was no way we were staying inside despite the flood warnings, so we headed off to the Dorset Trailway. The trailway is an old train line brilliant for cycling and especially great for kids as there is no traffic. We were due to park near to Shillingstone and travel from there, but flooding had blocked the road to our usual parking spot. We turned around to take the road in to Sturminster and as we came in to town, we thought we could see the sea to our left. As we looked closer though, we realised that it was the flood plain for the river Stour!
Parking at Sturminster 4 adults and 4 kids duly set out and it wasn’t long before we saw the results of two weeks solid rain. This is the view from the bridge over the Stour. My pro Photoshop skillz have rendered squiggly lines where the edge of the river usually is. Flood plain is to the left on the first photo and to the right on the second.
After a bit of watching the whirlpools and wondering at the scope of the flooding we paddled on. We crossed through some fairly meaty puddles and a stream where water came over our feet as we cycled through. It was as we got towards Shillingstone though that our jaws dropped. I’ve never seen the river Stour as bad as this and our road looked impassable with very deep water.
Cath duly rolled her trousers up and waded out to see how deep it was. Coming half way up our thighs we reckoned we could make it , so we left the boys bikes and started to wade through.
Needless to say the kids had an amazing time wading through water up to their waists and enjoying the rare summer sun. They did a great job of getting everyone soaked and when we ferried their bikes across, they all rode them in to the water at full pelt to fall off.
After the cycleboating we carried on to our destination, stopping at Shillingstone station via the 1950’s for an ice cream, the flood plain making the platform appear to float on the river.
We then returned back down the trail repeating the wading, swimming and falling in to the water. That stopped fairly sharpish as the local farmer pointed out his sceptic tank and goat pens had been flooded by the river. Nice.
Ah well, a quick hose down later and all that’s left is the memory of a beautiful day where cycleboating has officially been invented as a means of transport. Has anyone else been affected by the floods?
I’m back after a week in Bakewell in the Peak District having had a rather lovely break. There were several stand out trips from the week and rather than blog about them all, you get three for the price of one today AND they’re not even past their best before date…..
First up was a small walk from around Winster early in the week with the whole family, three generations together. Our eldest son Ifor (4 years old) led the walk using the Making tracks series of walking packs. I expected it to be great practice for reading, but the stand out aspect of the walk was seeing his confidence increase and his skills develop from leading. There was some strong emotion on seeing him check off navigation features and get a bee in his bonnet about striding on at the front. It was a joyous thing to see his outdoor life and independence start – I’ll be posting a review of the Making tracks series shortly.
One of the other family trips was just a short stroll up to Robin hood’s stride to have a bit of scrambling fun. It’s a set of rocks in the white peak near where Cath’s folks live. Ellis bounced about like a leprauchaun and I’m not sure he has actually developed his fear reflexes yet on the strength of his behaviour that day. Ifor was much more cautious, but again it was awesome to see their decision making skills coming on in leaps & bounds. If you have a spare couple of hours and fancy some easy non-scary fun scrambling, it’s well worth a look.
The final trip was a swift wild camp with Andy (AKA @mixedupmessedup). We took a Backpacking Bongos trip from a week or two earlier as inspiration and changed it around to make it slightly longer. The initial evening walk to our camp was uneventful as we headed up from Howden resevoir, but the weather looks more beautiful than I remember according to these photos. I’ll let them do the talking.
The second day was dreich as they say North of the border. I awoke to the sound of rain on the tent and it didn’t stop until the following day. We had planned to meet Martin Banfield of Postcard from Timperley fame on the second day to stroll with us. After packing away the tents, we strolled up from Grinnah stones towards Bleaklow stones where we were due to meet Martin. He had already spied our camp spot via the power of Social Hiking so we got a text to let us know he was at Bleaklow Head. Mobile signal was intermittent to say the least and whilst we were at Bleaklow Stones we began to worry as on the OS explorer maps, it is shown away from the most recongnisable rocks such as the anvil stone. To cut a long story short, we then had a joyous 3/4 hour of intermittent texts, with hill fog reducing visibility to 50 metres and the rain stepping up a couple of notches whilst we tried to find each other in amongst the Pinnacles of Peat. Eventually we found each other and it was a timely reminder of just how difficult navigation can be in crappy weather, especially in the Dark Peak.
Finally strolling on, the conversation flowed as easily as the rain did. The weather was totally crud but there are few areas in the Peak District that lend themselves as well as Bleaklow do to getting away from it all. We followed a straightforward route back to the Penine way, cutting down to Grains in the Water then up on to Allport moor for the obligatory trig photo. We then strolled towards Alport Castles before heading left down the hill back to the car. Dollops of wilderness and a sense of scale and height you don’t get elsewhere in the Peaks made for a wonderful day despite the dampness. Add in some decent company in the form of Andy and Martin and the day was over far too quickly for my liking.
Andy had been feeling pretty duff after a stinking cold so we finished up early, just in time for a swift drink in the Ladybower Inn. Whilst there, we overheard a group of farmers have a local land management presentation. It focussed on what they were doing to look after the moorland, particularly when they should burn heather. It was the most interesting 10 minutes I have ever heard on moors, of which the stand out facts for me were that Midges pollinate heather and heather only stands a 5% chance of germinating if it hasn’t been near smoke. All of a sudden the midges didn’t seem so much of an irritation. It never ceases to amaze me the balance and purpose there is in everything in Nature.
If you want to look at more pretty picture they’re here. Martin’s elegant report is here, James’ blog that delivers inspiration by the bucketful is here and our tracks in the rain can be followed below.
Little bro is a musician, and a rather good one too, just don’t tell him I said so please. He’s been with some chums called the Murder Barn recently making music that I think is the best thing he’s been involved in for a while. Have a listen below, the single is out in June but they have a free download from Feb which is a cracker too if you want something for home….. America is the one that’s got me hooked.
Rain, more rain and a side order of rain with extra rain has been the overwhelming memory of this April. With rivers in Gillingham getting friendly with the tops of bridges and fields resembling swamps, it’s not been a great month for getting out and about. Come the weekend though, it seemed to get worse. After some of our guttering blew down all hell appeared to be released outside, rain liberally sprinkling the windows so hard it sounded like stones. So what did Ifor want to do? Go for a walk.
Ellis wisely had hit the sack and Cath decided to stay in to finish a bit of crafty chinwagging so we got suited, booted and pootled on up to Mackintosh Davidson woods. Woods are strange things. Sunny outside, it will look a lot darker under the tree canopy. Today was the reverse however, a grey and cloudy day was replaced by a green luminescence as we moved in to the woods, Ifor acquainting himself with every puddle that crossed our path of which there were many. I’ve written about Mackintosh Davidson woods before, they are my favourite escape close to the house and Sunday was no exception. The bluebells were in full effect, sheltered from the wind and the rain, the moisture giving the woods a sheen that reflected what little light came in beautifully. Ifor was in his element, dancing in and out of puddles and giving excited hiccups at the streams gushing through the bottom of the woods where trickles had been weeks before.
We kicked mud from bridges in to the rivers below and played extreme poo sticks (that’s with a river in full spate for those of you who don’t know). We threw mud at each other and let the rain wash it off our jackets, we wondered at the banks of branches broken off the trees. Several times I stopped and savoured the feeling of being with my son, enjoying the moment. His total joy at being outside and my joy at seeing him explore and enjoy the woods left me with a feeling of a perfect time and a perfect moment.
We’re away in the Peak District for a week, and I am majorly looking forward to this. Camping with the family, friends to meet, the bonus of Grandparents to babysit, a nights wild camping and lots of walks are on the cards.
Shoulder height has dropped noticeably and it’s been a lovely morning so far catching up on outdoor blogs. Bliss.