Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Walk On the Whernside. . .

With our Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge looming, the Liverpud and I decided we needed to practice with a hike that took in at least one of the peaks.  And then the latest issue of Country Walking popped through our mail slot and lo and behold, it contained the perfect walk that led up Whernside, the highest of the three we're going to shortly be tackling (Walk 18 in the June 2013 issue)

This 12.5 mile Yorkshire Dales route began in the lovely little town of Dent with one of the nicest views that I've ever seen from a public car park. 

Dent is full of whitewashed cottages and cobblestones.

We followed a lovely path beside the River Dee for a few miles.

And then began a rather gradual ascent up Whernside with views of the Dent Valley behind us and the Settle-Carlisle railway line ahead.

About halfway along, we came to a lovely tarn.  You can just see the summit of Whernside in the distance.  I love coming across these tiny bodies of water nestled unexpectedly in the hills; they are so pretty and peaceful.

Despite the gorgeous weather on Sunday when we did this walk, we didn't encounter another hiker up to this point. What I liked about this walk was that it took a completely different route up Whernside than the one that the Three Peak challengers do which was perfect as I really didn't want to replicate too much of what's to come.  However, fairly close to the summit, we crossed over a stile and on the other side of the wall was the regular Three Peak Route. And all we could see was a queue of walkers stretching all the way down to the bottom.  We joined the line for the brief walk up to the top.

And the here's the view.  It was quite hazy out, but on a clearer day, you can probably see the other two peaks that make up the challenge.  Whernside is the highest (2415 feet) and the second climb of the usual Three Peaks route.

We quickly got off the main trail, taking a sharp right for our descent.  This next photo is near the bottom looking back at the summit.  It looks steep, but the path is quite grassy and it wasn't too bad on the knees.

The rest of the walk was along an easy bridleway back to Dent with the Dales landscape all around us.  It may not have the majesty of the Lake District but there's something very soothing and beautiful about the miles of empty space in every direction and it truly was a glorious day to be out in the fresh air.

Having tackled the highest peak now, I feel quite confident that we can do the challenge in the twelve hours - if we have good weather.  Though we only did half the mileage, the legs felt good and I could have kept going.  It was also great to test drive one of Country Walking's printed walks as we have a subscription and lots of back issues. As with any hike, I'd never go without also carrying an ordinance map and compass, but the directions for this walk were clear and the descriptions of the terrain were very useful.  Now we just have to cross our fingers and hope for as good a day for our challenge.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Walking Home. . .

Over the course of my walks in the UK, I'm often bumping into parts of the Pennine Way, which stretches 256 miles from Kirk Yetholm in the north to Edale in the south. You encounter it on the Coast to Coast, and the path up to Top Withins near Haworth is also part of this long distance trail. So I was very intrigued to read poet Simon Armitage's Walking Home: Travels With a Troubadour on the Pennine Way.

Better him than me.

From all I've heard from people who have done this trail, it's one long slog. There are many boggy bits, some rather tedious landscape, and if the weather at all acts up, it can not only be dangerous, but downright miserable.

So it was quite enjoyable to tackle it from the comforting warmth of indoor spaces, and Armitage is a good companion and guide. As with most travel books these days, there needs to be a twist but Armitage's is slightly less gimmicky than most: he attempts to walk it entirely by relying on the hospitality of strangers to put him up for the night, and to finance it completely from poetry readings given along the way. He also eschews the traditional direction of south to north, preferring to walk in the opposite direction and thus towards his home, near the start (or end) of the walk. He's not a seasoned walker and he's also not Bill Bryson; this trip isn't detailed primarily for laughs, although there are some comic moments and people encountered who are as every bit as odd as those you'll find in Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.  Instead it was more a thoughtful mediation on the physical and mental act of walking, the solitary aspects of it (ideal for a poet one suspects), the way it challenges your body parts (some of which you never knew you had until they start to hurt), with a bit of philosophizing about the nature of quests and fulfilling them (or not).  Which is appropriate since he uses Sir Gawainas one of his spiritual guides (he's previously written a translation of the poem). Also along in spirit is his uncle Robert, a veteran of the First World War who helps put his daily grind into perspective. Armitage inherited his uncle's war medals and takes them with him:
I carry them with me as an example of what one blood relative endured just so following generations could go strolling about in the great outdoors without a care in the world. Compared with mushing a packhorse through the trenches of northern France among the flying bullets and exploding bombs, the Pennine Way is a doddle, and quitting for any reason other than actual death would not only be a pathetic failure, it would be a betrayal.
I really enjoyed cheering him on throughout this book, even though it has definitely turned me against ever doing the whole walk myself, though I have earmarked certain stages that would make lovely day hikes. Perhaps the most heartening bit was reading about the willingness of people to travel quite a way to rather obscure villages to hear him read his poetry; his nightly takings in the sock he passes around are always quite decent. This summer he's embarking on another long distance path (and another book), this time walking the South West Coastal Path (bits of which I've also done). If you want to walk along with him, his itinerary is posted on his website here. I'm not surprised he's tackling another route; long distance walking does get addictive.  When I was walking the Coast to Coast last summer, I definitely identified with Armitage's conclusion:
. . . over the past fortnight, my habitat has become the journey itself and my new habit is to walk. That's what I do now: I lace up my boots and head into the hills, then do the same again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Where do I live at the moment?  On the move. It's a routine, a rhythm, the norm. I walk therefore I am. And now that I've got used to it, I feel too lazy to stop.
He'll also be in Liverpool giving a reading at Leaf on Monday, June 10th.  I might just saunter along to hear him.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Summer Cotton Scarf

Finished this up today.  A nice bit of mindless stockinette knitting.  I just did increases at one end and every twenty rows did a quick row of yarnovers and K2tog.  The yarn is Misti Alpaca Handpainted Cotton in the colourway Fuschia Fushion and I used two skeins. It has a bit of silk in it and it was very nice to work with.  I love the ice cream colours and this will be a much needed lighter scarf for summer.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Boat Spotting. . .

England has plenty of trainspotters, but when you live in Liverpool, people get excited about the ships and boats that come to call.  Friday saw plenty of people out (myself included) to catch a glimpse of the luxurious Cunard Queen Mary 2 cruise ship that was docked for a few hours. It's BIG! I would have loved to have seen the inside. 

But small boats are just as enticing.  Also in Liverpool this past weekend was the first visit of the Wool Boat!  How cool is this?  A retired couple bought a canal barge and have spent the last four years sailing up and down the country.  She's a knitter and decided to start a little business from her boat. I can truly say this is the smallest yarn shop I've ever been in, but I got a lovely warm welcome, a good chat and ended up purchasing a lovely skein of watery coloured wool.  

While I was down at Salthouse Dock buying wool, I thought I would inspect these boat hotels moored at the other end. I think they would be quite fun to stay in with a group of friends. The one on the right is the Yellow Submarine dedicated to the Beatles of course, and the one on the left has caused a bit of controversy. It's based on the Titanic as it is sinking and some feel it's in bad taste (not far away is the building that housed the White Star offices where crowds gathered to discover news of survivors and many of the crew were from Liverpool).  I think it's a bit too dinky to in any way suggest a replica (and I don't like the interiors much)  and I'm not sure if it's any more offensive than the tons of Titanic "souvenirs" on sale  - some more tacky than others - at the Maritime Museum.

With its huge maritime history, many of the city's buildings are designed to look like ships. This black glass office building is not to everyone's taste, but I love it. Especially on a sunny day when it reflects the nearby Mersey.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Light Night in Liverpool. . .

Toronto has its Nuit Blanche; Liverpool has Light Night, which took place yesterday.  Many of the museums, art galleries and public buildings were open late and music, food and art events were taking place all over the city, coinciding with the launch of Look /13, an international photography festival that will be taking place over the next few weeks. It was a lot of fun going from venue to venue.  We grabbed some food in the market behind the town hall . . .

 . . . before entering the hall itself which has a spectacular dome.

There was yarn bombing outside the Bluecoat.

And lots of photography within.  I particularly liked Identity Documents by Adam Lee, who photographed people's bookshelves.

There was five minute storytelling in the Anglican Cathedral in that white bubble in the middle of the pews that that zipped closed like a tent.

 Followed by a walk through the candlelit labyrinth.

But the grande finale of the evening was the opening of the new Central Library and it is truly spectacular. Located next to the Walker Gallery, here is the outside with the new cafe and patio.

You approach the entrance along a sidewalk with book titles engraved into the pavement.

And then straight into the newest part of the library.

Over to one side is the older section and where you'll find the fiction in the renovated Picton Room where you have to go up spiral staircases to access the books.  Isn't this lovely?

There are other display rooms with some of the library's rare collections including medieval manuscripts and a copy of William Morris's Kelmscott edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  And up on the top floor is a roof top terrace with lovely views of the city.

The library was PACKED with lots of families and kids which was lovely to see. Nevertheless, I did manage to take out three great knitting books and I'll definitely be back to explore the stacks in more detail. I can see myself spending a lot of time here. A world class city always needs an amazing central library and I feel really proud and excited for Liverpool.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

More projects on the go. ..

As if I didn't have enough unfinished projects on the go, I'm itching to start some new ones with the yarn and material that I recently picked up in London.  On the left are two skeins of good old Cascade 220.  Most of my hexipuffs have been knitted with this yarn and I want add some more neutrals into the mix. Then I was completely seduced by the huge red hank of Tvinni wool.  I also found a skein of Crazy Zauberball that picks up the red but also has several shades of blues and browns in it. I was thinking about a huge cozy winter shawl. A really, really big one. And then lo and behold, a woman in my knitting group came into the cafe wearing the perfect one - Ann Weaver's Chittagong.  I only hope I have enough yarn for it, but it does seem like a pattern where the size can be adjusted.  

Once in Ray Stitch, I couldn't resist picking up three of these little sets of fabric 2.5" squares called Comma, by Moda Fabrics. There are 42 in each pack, with six different graphic patterns in a bunch of coordinating colours, all of which look great with the gray, black and white squares that are included. I particularly love the punch of the orange and yellow.  They are just adorable and I'm going have fun trying to assemble them into a pleasing quilt pattern (hmmmm, need to look through my Kaffe Fassett quilt books).  I also bought half a metre of the yellow polka dot fabric because it was flannel and soft and happy looking and I just needed to own it. I think it's asking to become a cushion cover.   Or I may incorporate it somehow into the quilt.

Speaking of a punch of orange with gray, I also picked up two books. At Persephone, I bought their 100th publication, The Persephone Book of Short Stories - it contains stories by so many of my favourite writers - Penelope Fitzgerald, Katherine Mansfield, Kay Boyle, Diana Athill, to name a few, that  I can see this living permanently on the bedside table.  And then just around the corner from Persephone on Great Ormond Street, I discovered a gift store called Volte Face. They had a display in the front window of Melville House books (which is always the sign of great taste and discernment) which drew me in.  I actually had all of the Melville books they stocked, but found another gem instead.  All I needed to see was the title - 70% Acrylic 30% Wool by Viola Di Grado translated by Michael Reynolds, and the distinctive look of the publisher, Europa Books (another great indie press) and I was sold. It promises to be an original and fascinating read.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Ground Beneath My Feet. . .

Walkers in the U.K. are often divided about their favourite hiking areas with many people favouring Wales over the Lake District.  So I was very excited to book last Sunday with my ramblers' group as the destination was near Cader Idris, in the southern part of Snowdonia National Park.  This is a part of Wales that I've never been to but I have seen some pretty spectacular photos. So even though I knew I'd be tired after getting in late from London, I was really looking forward to the walk.

But I didn't reckon on the weather - hadn't even checked it.  And of course it poured all through the walk.  In fact, this was the worst weather I've walked through since joining this group.   At first I was optimistic as it was a light misty type of rain.  We started from the small village of Abergynolwyn and made our way up to a railway that was used to carry the slate from the nearby quarries.  This is what's left of the old tram lines that would transport the slate down the hill to the railway.

Remnants of the area's industrial past are quite visible on the landscape and we passed many piles of slate as we made our way up through the forest. 

The one good thing about all this rain is how green everything has become. Any intense pops of colour (thanks Kaffe) now really stand out and there is new growth everywhere.

However, this was all about half way up and as we kept climbing, the rain and wind intensified and so did the mist.

Almost half of our nine mile trek was out in the open, climbing steadily, exposed to a biting wind that just blew sheets of cold rain into our faces.  Instead of being able to see the summit of Calder Idris and its surrounding peaks, I could barely see the person in front of me or where the trail was going.  This was my main view for most of the five hour walk.  One foot in front of the other, head down, slog it out. It was quite simply awful.

The one consolation was that the pub had a fireplace.  And though I had wet sleeves and mitts and the rain had seeped through parts of my windbreaker, my body did have that happy fitness feeling that good exercise brings on. But alas, the delights of Wales will have to wait for another day.