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I'm a consultant and trainer specialising in the recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. I'm based in the North West of England, but am willing to travel (almost) anywhere

A Winter Walk from Whitby

Boxing Day promised to be a fine day – perfect for a winter walk. I was up earlyish – unlike the rest of the family I’m not one for lying in. After breakfast I made up some butties, packed my rucksac and leaving the house, walked the short distance to the start of the Cinder track – the former railway line to Scarborough which has now been converted into a footpath/ cycle track. It was a bright and sunny with a blue sky, which meant it was cold and frosty with some ice underfoot, but I was well wrapped up and as I walked I soon warmed up.

The start of the path was up the steps on to the old railway line embankment

Scarborough was a bit far for my walk! but I’d planned a route walking on the track as far as the village of Hawkser where I’d cut across to the coastal path, along which I’d return to Whitby.

The view over Whitby towards the Abbey from the start of the Cinder Track
Going through a cutting
Before long I reached the viaduct over the Esk
Looking down on the River Esk with the railway line running beside it, heading towards the North Yorkshire Moors. The village of Ruswarp in the distance.
Looking over to the North Yorkshire moors
Railway carriages standing at the old station just before Hawkser. There’s an information centre her with a cafe (closed!) and where you can hire bikes. The carriages are holiday lets!
Reaching Hawkser, I crossed over the main road, rejoined the track for a short distance before leaving it to take a track through farmland heading towards the coast.
Reaching a farm, the path cut across fields towards the coast
I joined the coastal path an set off towards Whitby. The path is part of the Cleveland Way which crosses the moors and then follows the cpast to Scarborough and on to Filey
Looking back
It wasn’t all easy going. There were plenty of ups and downs and it was very muddy underfoot. I had to be careful not to slip and slide over the cliffs! I regreted leaving my walking poles behind (I had actually brought them with us but they were in the boot of the car)
Approachng the Whitby High Lighthouse at Ling Hill
Passing the lighthouse. It’s still operational and there’s two holiday cottages – one either side of the tower. Foghorn lodge a little further along the cliffs, has been converted into a family home (luckily the foghorn was taken out of operation in 1997
Foghorn lodge ahead
Continuing along the cliffs
Approaching Saltwick Bay
I diverted down on to the beach
No fossils to be found on the beach today
Back up on the coastal path
Getting closer to Whitby now
Looking down on the reamins of a shipwreck. There’s a couple of people down there as well. I hope they were keeping an eye on the tide that was starting to come in.
Passing the Abbey
St Mary’s church
Looking down on the harbour piers from the churchyard
Looking down towards Whitby
Heading down the 199 steps
Plenty of people on their way up on a fine day

At the bottom of the steps I made my way through the busy streets of the old town, crossed over the bridge and made my way back to our holiday home for a well earned brew!

Christmas in Whitby

Christmas at home didn’t seem so appealing – with four adults stuck in the house where we live and work for the rest of the year. Last year we spent a few days in York; this time we decided to have a week away by the sea in Whitby.

We travelled over the Wednesday before, the shortest day of the year. The weather was fine and, being a few days before the big day, the traffic wasn’t bad so we made it across the Pennines, the Vale of York and the North Yorkshire Moors in good time.

We’d hired a large Victorian house across from Pannett Park and only 5 minutes walk down to the harbour.

Being the shortest day of the year, by the time we’d picked up the keys, unloaded the car and picked up some supplies, it had gone dark, so we picked up some fish and chips for tea (compulsory the first evening by the seaside!) lit the wood burner and settled in for an evening in front of the festive tv.

During our stay, the weather was a mix of grey and very sunny days, and we managed to pack a lot in (as usual), mainly mooching around the old town and walking around the harbour and on the beach. I also managed a good walk on Boxing Day.

Here’s a few shots of popular sites around the town

The Abbey seen from Pannett Park
Classic view across to the Abbey through the Whalebone arch on the West Cliff
“Uncle Jim”
View across the harbour from the West Cliff
The beach from the West Cliff on a sunny Christmas Eve
Statues on the west side of the harbour
Young oystercatchers (I think!) on the harbour wall
One of many Georgian houses in the town

The first day we did a bit of shopping

The old Market hall
A favourite bookshop

We climbed the “99 steps” up to the Parish Church

and went inside to look at the many Christmas trees decorated by local organisations and individuals

Looking across the churchyard to the Abbey

Looking down on the harbour from the church graveyard

Christmas Eve was a crisp and sunny day and I went out for a wander on the beach

Later we had out traditional Christmas Eve buffet

Christmas Eve buffet
Ready for Christmas dinner

We cheated a little for Christmas dinner. We’re not fond of turkey anyway and had bought in a salmon Wellington we were able to cook in the oven along with a selection of pre-prepared vegetables

Christmas dinner

After dinner we went out for a walk on the beach.

and on the west pier

Boxing day was another sunny days and I left the rest of the family having a lie in and went for a good walk taking in the Cinder Track and the coastal path – a report to follow

The Tuesday Bank Holiday, our last day in Whitby, was a grey day which we spent mooching around the town and in the evening had a fish meal in the Fisherman’s Wife on the sea front.

I had scallops (perfectly cooked)

followed by fish and chips, with mushy peas, of course

finishing with a coffee and a fruit tart

Afterwards we climbed the steps to the top of the West cliff to take in the view over the harbour for the last time during our holiday

After a wander through the quiet streets, we settled down for or last might in our accommodation, before turning in for our last night of our Christmas break.

A little Christmas Music

Here’s a Swedish Christmas carol played by the Danish String Quartet.

They’re an accomplished classical quartet – three Danes and a Norwegian (he’s the cellist) – whose repertoire includes works by Classical composers such as Beethoven, but also traditional Scandinavian folk tunes

On a daily basis, we delve into works by great masters such as Beethoven and Mozart, but we also play the occasional folk music gig.

Here’s another version where they’re accompanied by a choir.

A Kate Rusby Christmas at the Phil

Way back in 2012 we went to see Kate Rusby’s concert at Warrington’s Parr hall during her annual Christmas tour around the UK. Since then we’ve been to see her perform several times, usually at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall when we would combine the concert with an afternoon looking round the Christmas market and a bite to eat. The past two years “you know what” meant that the tour couldn’t take place. Last year one was planned but Kate and several of the band came down with the lurgy at the last minute so it was truncated. She did arrange to perform on-line so we were able to watch from our living room, but it wasn’t the same as being at a real live event. So this year we were pleased to be able to book tickets to see Kate and her band perform at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

This year Kate has been celebrating 30 years of touring

The Christmas concert is based around old traditional versions of carols as sung around the pubs in South Yorkshire . Some of the songs were well known carols but sung to a different tune, and she performed 3 versions in all of this well known carol, all set to different tunes. 

As well as the Yorkshire versions of the carols she also sang a couple of Cornish carols – there’s a pub carol singing tradition there too – Cornish Wassailing being a favourite.

Other songs  included the familiar carols, “O little town of Bethlehem” and “Joy to the World”, and some of her own Christmassy compositions.

Kate has a big stage presence and twinkling eyes and a smile almost as wide as the stage. She chats away between the songs and really does seem to be enjoy the Christmas celebrations. She was accompanied by her band of folk musicians and also by a brass quintet, which makes the performance particularly Christmassy for me.

As with other of her Christmas shows we’ve seen, the concert was in 2 halves, finishing, after the encore (where they all dressed up as Christmas presents!), at 10. So they were on stage in total for over 2 hours, but it didn’t seem that long. So another enjoyable night out – and great to see some live music. Christmas starts here!

Cave Dale and the Great Ridge

Since our walk in the Derbyshire Dales back in July, I’ve been trying to get out again with Graham, my friend and former colleague. We finally managed to find a mutually convenient day when neither of us had any pressing work to do so arranged to meet up for another walk in the Peak District.

Daylight hours are limited during December and I didn’t fancy fighting my way through the rush hour traffic on the M61 and M60 so took a chance and caught the train to Stockport. I was lucky – my trains weren’t cancelled (a later one was) and they ran more or less on time. Graham picked me up at the station and then we drove over to his mother in law’s house to pick up Toby – her dog – who we were taking with us. Then we drove over to Castleton where we’d decided to set off for a walk up Cave Dale. We’d then see how things went before deciding on the rest of the route while we were on the hoof.

A few miles from Castleton we were treated to the sight of a temperature inversion in the Hope Valley.

Looking towards Mam Tor
Winnats Pass

We parked up on the road just outside the village. Given the time of year and that it wasn’t the weekend we didn’t have any trouble finding a space. We booted up, got Toby into his harness and set off through the village heading towards Cave Dale.

Passing the village war memorial

Cave Dale is a narrow, dry gorge climbing (quite steeply at one point) between limestone cliffs. It was probably originally created by glacial meltwater, being deepened later due to the collapse of underground caverns.

I’d walked through the Dale before, a couple of times, but previously from the oppostie direction – coming down into Castleton.

Looking back as we climbed, Peveril Castle could be seen looming over and dominating the dale.

Looking up to Peveril castle
Looking back down the Dale towards Peveril castle with Lose Hill in the background

At the top of the Dale we turned off the Limestone Trail taking the path towards Mam Tor. We decided that we’d climb the “Mother Hill” and then carry on along the “Great Ridge” to Lose Hill.

The summit of Mam Tor was now covered in mist as the cloud base had lifted.

On the way up we started chatting with a couple of older men carrying large, heavy packs. They were paragliders and had decided conditions were improving and would be suitable for launching themselves off the summit. We found quite a bit about their hobby during the short walk to the summit.

Mam Tor means “Mother Mountain” and humans have lived around here for thousands of years. It’s the site of a prehistoric hill fort, and remnants of the fortifications – ditches and ramparts – are clearly visible running around the summit. also known as the Shivering Mountain due to it’s unstable nature which has resulted in a number of slow moving landslips caused by its geology – unstable lower layers of shale overlain by sandstone. There’s good view from the top, but not this time!

As the ridge is easily accessible from Manchester and Sheffield, it’s usually busy with walkers and despite it being a cold Friday afternoon in early December there were a number making their way towards Mam Tor, and a few others besides us heading towards Lose Hill . At the summit we stopped for a while chatting with a party of 5 – a family who were on an annual break in Edale celebrating the birthday of the pater familias!

As we descended off Mam Tor we came out of the cloud and had a good view along the rest of the ridge towards Black Tor and Lose Hill.

After a short steep climb we stopped at the top of Black Tor for a bite to eat.

Looking back towards Mam Tor – the summit still in cloud
Looking across the Edale valley towards the Kinder Plateau

After a short rest we set back off on towards the final summit of the day – Lose Hill. The hill is also known as “Ward’s Piece”, named in 1945 after W H B Ward, Socialist and founder of the Sheffield Ramblers in 1926 and, before that, in 1900, the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers.

Climbing up Lose Hill

We made our way back down towards Castleton via the path that ran down diagnolly down the side of the ridge

Looking back to Lose Hill – now in sunshine!

Reaching the bottom, looking up towards Mam Tor I could see a good number of paragliders in the sky. Our two aquatancies had been joined by other enthusiasts taking advantage of thermals that must have developed during the afternoon.

Looking across to mam Tor – I counted at least 10 paragliders

We were back in the village by about 3 o’clock. I’d never seen it so quiet. We made our way back to the car and set off and drove back to Graham’s Mother in Law’s house to drop Toby off for a bath and to cadge a brew! Then it was back tot he station where I had a short wait for the train. It arrived on time but had to stop outside Stockport Station for 25 or 20 minutes as there was another train on the platform waiting for the crew to arrive1 I was worried I might miss my connection at Piccadily but made it with a few minutes to spare – luckily it was sitting at the adjacent platform when we arrived at the station. It was an express train and so I was back at Wigan North Western, the first stop, in 35 minutes.

Whalley Abbey

Last week, in need of some new boots, I was in Whalley, a small, but attractive, village in the Ribble Valley on the way to Clitheroe. While I was there, I decided to pop in to have a look at the ruins of the old Abbey.

Whalley Abbey was the second richest of Lancashire’s monasteries, and was founded in 1296, by Cistercian monks (known as the “white monks”, due to their undyed habits)
who moved here from their previous site at Stanlow , on the banks of the River Mersey near Chester, which (not surprisingly as it was on a flood plain) was prone to flooding and there had also been a fire. Stanlow is now best known as being the location of an oil refinery, previously owned by Shell, although they sold it off to the Indian owned company Essar Energy in 2011. Reading up on the abbey for this post I discovered that Stanlow was actually known as Stanlaw until Victorian times when a mis transcription on a map resulted in the name change.

The Abbey is a ruin now – it was demolished after the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII – but there are plenty of remains on the site, including monastic buildings and the foundations of the Abbey church which were revealed during the site’s excavation in the 1930’s. The ruins of the abbey are a Grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Entrance to the grounds
Looking over the Abbey church foundations
Another view over the church ruins including the choir pits. These were resonating chambers which would amplify the singing and chanting of the monks
Monastic buildings including the cloisters main dormitory and  rere-dorter (toilet block)
Remains of the walls of the Cloisters
This substantial building was the lay brothers dormitory, which, today, is owned by the Catholic Church and used as a church hall. It survived as it was used as a cow shed! It’s a short distance from the main site, next to the English Martyrs Church.  

A short walk down a minor road there’s the substantial two-storey Gatehouse, the oldest of the abbey buildings, which was constructed between 1296 and 1310. Today, it’s under the stewardship of English Heritage (it can be visited free of charge) 

Most monasteries were demarcated by gatehouses that prevented access by any except authorised visitors, allowed the gatekeeper to keep a close watch on traffic and provided basic defence in times of military and political insecurity. At Whalley, as at other monasteries, there was a steady stream of beggars and poor travellers seeking food or help, which the monks could not readily deny. Thus, the gatehouse was also the place where alms were dispensed and food and drink given to the poor.

English heritage website

Following dissolution, the monastery site was sold to one Richard Assheton who had a house built on the site, which subsequently has passed through several hands, and has been extended and modified over the years. Today it’s owned by the Diocese of Blackburn who have converted the house to a residential education centre

Music on Nature: Finding A Language For Landscape.

Every year in November, Kendal hosts a Mountain Festival – four days of of films, talks, exhibitions and events covering all aspects of mountain and adventure sports culture. It’s probably the major gathering of outdoor enthusiasts in the UK and I’ve never been – although I did buy a ticket to watch the talks which were shown on-line during the Pandemic. Now I have more free time I was thinking of spending some time there, but the weekend events clashed with the Rugby League World Cup final which took place on the Saturday. However, I’d spotted an event on the programme on the Friday evening – Music on Nature: Finding A Language For Landscape – “tracing the connections between nature and sound, … (and exploring) the landscapes around us through music, prose and poetry“. 

The publicity for the event told us that

In this new and exciting event, we welcome you on a sound journey to explore what the landscape means to you, how to tune into and unlock its hidden tracks. Set your ear to the earth and travel through its layers. Join us as we travel through deep time and sing the songs of the Anthropocene – enter a sonic world encompassing a nature rhythm to capture the visceral tones of our world – and dream of a history of things to come.

It sounded interesting so I booked a couple of tickets. I thought we might travel over and experience the exhibition and free events in the Base Camp and at the Brewery Arts Centre before the concert. A well intentioned plan didn’t work out quite so well as the weather that day was appalling. It was chucking it down and windy too so we delayed leaving and driving up the M6. We were lucky and managed to grab a space on the packed Parish Church car park, as someone was leaving just after we arrived.

It was only a short walk to the Base Camp which was on the park near Abbot Hall (we’ve missed our visits to the gallery while it’s been shut for over 2 years for refurbishment – crossed fingers it opens soon) so we were able to have a look round the various stalls and grab a coffee before crossing over the river and walking the short distance to the venue at The Barrel House. We went back to Base Camp after the event and had a bite to eat in the Food Court before setting off back home.

So, what about the event? We didn’t know quite what to expect.

First up was Amy-Jane Beer is a biologist, nature writer and campaigner, based in North Yorkshire, whose book , The Flow, was published earlier this year.

a book about water, and, like water, it meanders, cascades and percolates through many lives, landscapes and stories. From West Country torrents to Levels and Fens, rocky Welsh canyons, the salmon highways of Scotland and the chalk rivers of the Yorkshire Wolds, Amy-Jane follows springs, streams and rivers to explore tributary themes of wildness and wonder, loss and healing, mythology and history, cyclicity and transformation.

She read passages from her book about swimming in a chalk stream in the Dales and the Severn Bore, accompanied by Jack McNeill a local clarinettist, composer and maker who created a soundscape of computer enhanced sound effects and clarinet tunes

Zaffar Kunial is a poet who was born in Birmingham. He has a connection with the Lake District having spent 2014 in Grasmere as the Wordsworth Trust Poet-in-Residence. Again accompanied by Jack McNeill, he rad selections from his latest collection, England’s Green has been shortlisted for the 2022 T.S Eliot Prize. One of the poems, Ings, was inspired by Zaffir receiving points on his licence having been caught twice exceeding the speed limit near the said village. Anyone who has driven to Windermere from the M6 via Kendal will be aware (or needs to be!) of the speed camera on the A591 where it passes through the small village and where the speed limit suddenly drops from 60 to 40 mph.

Ings. The name came to mean: Now. Slow. Down. And little
else. A splash of houses cut by a dual carriageway, a petrol
station, a lane with an easily missable church.

It’s a long poem which takes in a subsequent visit to the village where he goes into the church and graveyard and reflects on what he sees and feels.

Zaffar Kunial

The final act paired the writer and Patron of the festival, Robert Macfarlane, with the musician Hayden Thorpe, former lead singer with Wild Beasts who grew up in Kendal

They performed together, Robert reading extracts from his slim volume of poems, Ness, accompanied by Hayden on guitar, the latter singing a chorus in between the verses.

Finally Hayden performed a solo set of songs to complete the concert.

Wilko at the Citadel

A few days I ago I heard on the radio that Wilko Johnson had died at home on 21 November. He was diagnosed was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2013 and was told he had nine to 10 months left to live but it turned out not to be as serious as originally thought and he was able to undergo surgery to remove the tumour.
Wilko was the original guitarist in Dr. Feelgood, the raw R&B band from Canvey Island who were very popular in the 70’s. I was a big fan at the time. I saw them live twice – once at the Reading Festival and also at Liverpool Stadium. I also Wilko’s band in St Helens back in 2010.
Wilko will be sadly missed. His distinctive guitar style, manic stage presence and eccentric character.

Down by the Dougie

While browsing on the web yesterday I found out that Wilko Johnson’s band were playing at the Citadel in St Helens that evening. Wilko is one of my all time “guitar herose”. He used to be the lead guitarist in Dr Feelgood, who tasted success for a short while in the 1970’s  with their raw version of R & B. He has a very distinctive style, managing to combine lead and rhythmn guitar.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see his band and after several attempts I managed to get through to the box office on the phone and, luckily, was able to sort out one of the last tickets. Wilko does have a loyal following but I guess his current tour has had more interest due to the release of Julien Temple’s film about Dr Feelgood, “Oil City Confidential” that I saw at the cinema in February…

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Tal y Fan

Last Sunday I was up early and set off for a quiet journey through the M6 roadworks and along the M56 and A55 to Conwy. Then up the narrow Sychnant Pass where I parked up at the foot of Allt Wen. I wasn’t going up that modest, but steep and rugged hill, though – I’d planned a route to take me up Tal y Fan, which, at a tad over 2,000 feet, is the most northerly mountain in Eyri – the Snowdonia National Park – and, indeed, Wales, seperated from the main Carneddau plateau by the Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen.

After booting up, I crossed the road and went through the gate, joining the Cambrian Way, the long distance path that traverses the ridge of Tal y Fan.

The path weedled around and up and down for a while, passing the remains of prehistoric culture from a time when what today is a quiet corner was occupied first by Neolithic farmers, who cleared the forests from the slopes and valleys, and then by Bronze Age people who errected stone circles and megaliths.

Looking back with views over the sea to Puffin Island and Anglesey
There’s Tal y Fan in the distance
Through the gate the path descended, losing height, before climbing back up the fell side
A lonely cottage on the fell side
The remains of a stone circle with Tal y Fan in the distance
A complex of sheep folds. This is where sheep gathered from the fells are sorted to be reclaimed by their owners

Just after the sheepfolds I passed a couple of walkers taking a break on a convenient rock. I stopped for a few moments while we swapped greetings before I carried on. We were to met again later in the day.

A herd of Carneddau ponies in the distance
A prehistoric standing stone. Shortly after the path took a left turn and started the climb up to the summit of Tal y Fan
Looking back as I climbed
The remains of a quarry were bypassed before resuming the climb

It was a fine Autumn day but as I’d climbed the wind had picked up. Reaching the top of the ridge there was a little scrambling up and down. There’s false summit, and I had to descend a few metres then scramble back up before reaching the highest point of the mountain.

The trig point was on the opposite side of a drystone wall that runs along the ridge. I climbed over the stile to take in the views over the Conwy valley

and across to the high mountains of the Cardennau including Foel Fras and Drum that I’d climbed during my break at the end of June

It was particularly windy on this side of the wall – the wind was blowing from the south – so I climbed back over and perched on a rock for a brew and a bite to eat. A couple of walkers arrived and we chatted for a while and another pair arrived, coming up from the opposite direction I’d taken, as I started my descent, following the wall in the direction from which they’d arrived. Again, as on my way up, there was a bit of scrambling up and down before the final steep descent down off the summit into the bwlch.

Looking back up towards the summit ridge.

As I reached the bwlch I saw the couple I’d met near the sheepfolds coming up having first climbed a stile over the drystone wall that had run up, along and down the ridge. I asked them about their route and they told me they’d circumnavigated the south side of the mountain and were going to go over the top and then return via the route I’d taken up. I had planned to return to the Sychnant Pass over the plateau to the north of the mountain but thought the alternative sounded more interesting – and that’s the way it worked out!

I climbed over the stile and took the path through the fields heading downhill towards the old Roman Road. There were good views down into the valley and across to the mountains as I descended

Reaching the Roman Road I walked along a short stretch of tarmac and onto a rough track before taking a path back across the fields near the farm at Cae Coch

I followed the path which ran parallel to the Tal y Fan ridge

The view down to Rowen and the Conwy Valley

I was head towards Caer Bach (‘Small Fort’), the site of a Prehistoric hill fort where I’d turn north. As I approached I spotted a herd of ponies

I made a short diversion, climbing to the top of the mound where there were visible remains of the fortifications

I carried on along the path passing to the east of Tal y Fan, taking in the views of the Carneddau to the west

Leaving the ponies behind as I climbed a modest slope the sea cam back into view

I passed some former mine workings as I approached the standing stone I’d passed earlier in the day

Rather than take the same path I’d followed during the morning I climbed up Cefn Maen Amor, a modest hill, and joined a narrow path along the ridge. A little further along I passed through another herd of ponies

They didn’t pay much attention to me and just carried on munching

I reached the summit of the modest hill which was crowned by a rock formation

and where there were good views back down to the coast and the Great Orme

and the Conwy Valley

I joined the route of the north wales Coast path which would take me back to the Sychnant Pass

Conwy Mountain
Back at the pass

It had been a good walk of about 12 miles on what had been a fine Autumn day when I’d seen more ponies than people! Time to drive back down the pass to Penmaenmawr and then on to home.