Paddles with an Anas acuta...... unashamedly biased toward the sea kayak of that name (actually the voyages of two boats, one 'traffic over gold', one 'quill')

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Needles

On Sunday, the Club left Lymington in thick fog and eerie calm, crossing the Solent with visibility down to a cable or less, we passed a couple of ghostly drifting yachts, but thought the sea empty apart from the Needles foghorn and the IOW ferries' regular blasts well East of us. However, once across, an easterly breeze swept the fog away revealing a vast armada of motorboats and yachts, bearing down abreast across the entire width of the Solent, just keeping clear of the fog. If it had cleared 10 minutes earlier we would have been rabbits on the motorway.

The mist added a dramatic quality , the cliffs could have been 1000m high.

Fog still swirled around,

as the Club ended the Needles play session with a fast 'follow-my-leader',

threading the pinnacles and lighthouse. Occasional sets of swell added to the interest, but, only one capsize and rescue amongst the rocks.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Corsica, part 2, The South

This is the second part of our trip to Corsica, check out part one. We took a week or so to paddle from Piantarella, E of Bonifacio to Capu di Muru, the idea was to continue to Ajaccio, but the long forecast bad weather finally arrived and we scuttled back to Propriano with the wind.

The wind scoured limestone cliffs of des Bouches de Bonifacio, with their deep caves, often looking as if the sea is merely reworking existing cave systems,

and the town itself. Even when it is variable Beaufort 1-3 elsewhere, it is 6-7 in the Bouches.

The granite Lavezzi, tempting close to Sardinia.

Approaching Capo di Feno, we were pleased that the SE F7 was from behind and that the SW swell was meeting the wind blown chop half a mile or so offshore, setting the yachts pitching violently, and not on the headland.

Granite and more granite is my memory of the rest of the coast.

With idyllic beaches,

spectacular views from headland to headland,

fine sunsets, and camping on the cast up sea-grass. Hot by day, but chilly at night.
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Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Howgills

The good thing about the Howgills is that they are nearly 100% ridable and the bad thing? -that they are nearly 100% ridable! On the way up the steep gradient, often coupled with energy sapping soft grass or gravel, is punishing; but seldom gives a sufficient excuse to stop or push.

Once on the tops it looks like plain sailing, but there are some spectacular downs and tough climbs. Today was a half day ride from Bowderdale farm, climbing Green Bell, Stockless and Randygill Top over smooth grass. From here I took the steep downhill and trackless hillside towards Kensgriff. This is too steep to ride in a straight line, but can be ridden at speed in zigzags, just watch for an extra deep peri-glacial striation or an over-size tuft of Narduus stricta. The descent from Kensgriff towards Yarlside is the same. Climbing Yarlside, which looks to be overhanging, does require carrying and pushing, initially a welcome relief; the joy of which soon palls.

Nearing the top of Great Dummacks, a mixed push and pedal. Yarlside is in the background, the trackless drop to Cautley Spout (middle distance) requires some strategic planning of the zigzags since the steep slope is uneven and rough in patches. Contouring around to the top of the waterfalls is narrow and technical with a small stepped section to practice carrying the bike. West of Bowderdale/Cautley the hills are within walking distance from Sedbergh, so some attention must be given to hikers. However, the obvious paths could be a welcome aid to navigation if the cloud was down.

An easy pedal over Little Dummacks and Bram Rig Top to join the main drag up from Sedbergh to the trig. point on The Calf.

Then the descent via Bowderdale. I've heard tell that this some of the best natural single track in England. It is true that the initial run down is a fine way to lose 276m in a couple of km; linked and fast curves with quick decision making required on lines and whether to bounce or swerve around rocks and eroded sections. However, once along the bottom , despite some nice sections like the one below,

there is too much slow speed negotiation of rocks and boggy patches. Nevertheless a good way back to the car. About 15 miles and 1108m of height gain. I would recommend the off-piste to the east of Bowderdale over the 'Howgill classic', just follow your nose.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A break from paddling

An energetic circuit on the mountain bike from my parents' home in Appleby, climbing over the shoulder of Cross Fell,

a break out of the cold wind and blowing mist at Greg's hut;

where I met a public spirited local quad-biker leaving some coal for cold bothy dwellers. The only person I met all day, despite it being Half-Term; though admittedly it was thick cloud and blowy. Then down the Pennine Way to Garrigill.

There is a km of track missing between Metalband Hill and the Cow Green footpath, joining the Tyne Head bridleway to the Tees Valley, so some off-piste through the cottongrass. Years ago there was more trace of trespassing hikers using this obvious route, but nowadays people seem to stick to documented rights of way and it has fallen into complete disuse, not a footprint to be seen. Yet you save yourself 10 miles including a stretch of 'B' road.

Finally along the Pennine Way from Cauldron Snout over High Cup Nick, the brisk westerly was blowing the cloud off the lip, so even a view down the valley. Then, thankfully, down hill all the way through Dufton to Appleby. 55 miles and over 1400m height gain, almost all cyclable.