About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mr Wood's Bittern and other short stories.

It had been a while since my last jaunt in the hills, November 5th last year to be precise when my mate Mark and I did a lovely round of fells from Mungrisdale including a thrilling ascent of Blencathra via Sharp Edge.
A few things have conspired to get in the way since then and kept me localised until very recently and through the winter months I had increasingly found myself holed up in The Bittern Hide at Old Moor RSPB reserve in the Dearne Valley.  Old Moor link.

Over the last 18 months or so, I had become increasingly frustrated with my pathetic attempts to get a glimpse of the Bittern's that allegedly frequent the reed beds close to the hide.

Bittern Hide, home from home

My optimistic, and subsequent disappointed "Tweets" of each lengthy and fruitless visit to the hide caused much merriment and indeed, hilarity amongst the volunteer staff at Old Moor.
During the week, when I was at work, there would be regular sightings of said birds and on occasions stunning photographs of the Old Moor Bitterns swooping in to roost on the reed beds would be posted on the Old Moor forum, as if to taunt me.
When the weekends came around I would eagerly turn up at Old Moor and scurry around to the Bittern Hide clutching my binoculars firmly in gloved hands, log book and pencil at the ready and wait patiently for hours on end for the Bitterns to appear....Coots, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Canada Geese and the occasional Mute Swan would sometimes break the monotony of this seemingly senseless pastime.
Mute Swan passes serenely in front of the Bittern Hide 
On each occasion I would trudge back to the visitor centre in the fading light with hands in pockets and shoulders hunched, cursing my bad luck.

But I am a determined, stubborn old bugger if nothing else, every Bitternless visit made me more determined to succeed (excuse the pun) and eventually my patience was rewarded.
On Sunday 5th February at precisely 4:34 pm my big moment came. A brief, but positive sighting of the bird of my dreams! 

The news of this momentous occasion spread like wildfire, my Twitter time line almost went into meltdown trying to cope with ironic/sarcastic messages of congratulations and I even merited a special mention that evening in Dave Simmonite's daily sightings form Old Moor.(link here) Mr Wood's Bittern All good clean fun, and proof that all things do indeed come to he who waits, if you're daft enough to wait long enough!

You would think that I would have seen enough of the Bittern Hide, the reed beds, and usual paltry gathering of common as muck birds to last me a lifetime, not the case, I will be back doing the rounds on on the reserve and heading off to the bittern Hide as usual in the coming months and hopefully years.
It was never about the Bittern at all really. I love Old Moor and the reed beds in particular. It's a lovely place to spend a few hours to gather my thoughts and I am fortunate to have it so close to my home.

Anyway, back to the hills...The weekend before last, a favourable weather forecast saw my mate Mark and I speeding westwards to Snowdonia to snatch another memorable hill day in this spectacular corner of Great Britain. The two best day walks I have ever done, The Snowdon Horseshoe and a traverse of Tryfan, Bristly Ridge and the Glyders were both done in superb weather conditions and were were not to be disappointed this time either.
Ogwen Valley was the start point for a smashing circular walk taking in Y-Garn, Elidir Fawr, Carned Y Filiast and back along the minor road to Ogwen.

Lynn Idwal
Ogwen Valley from Y Garn
Mark on the shapely summit of Foel  Goch
Elidir Fawr

Another great day spent in Snowdonia, I am looking forward to spending more days and weekends there in the not too distant future.


My hill walking exploits tend to run similar the the old Yorkshire Traction buses, I don't get one for ages, then suddenly two come along together.
Hence, when a twitter pal, Carl Mynott, aka "@Locomountaineer" aka "good bloke" (see link to Carl's pages here) Carl's blog , suggested a trip for a bit of a backpack/wild camp outing in rehearsal for his 1st TGO Challenge and my forthcoming Skye trip, I eagerly snatched his hand off and set about planning a route.
Carl is from somewhere "darn sarff" and he drove up the A1 early on Saturday morning to meet me at the services just north of Doncaster. I took up driving duties and 2 hours later we found ourselves tucking into breakfast in" Laura in the Lakes" in  Keswick, before pushing on to park the jalopy in the village of Grange.
It turned out that Carl and I share similar interests other than walking, and the journey passed quickly as I bored him with details of my previous TGO Challenge trips, and stories of elusive Bitterns.
The route from Grange took us up through lovely woodland to the delightful top of Grange Fell and onwards to Great Crag, where a sudden, violent hail shower blew in just as we left the top. Descent was a bit precarious and I almost came a cropper at one point on the wet stony path down to Stonethwaite Beck.
King's How on Grange Fell

Eagle Crag in the sunshine
The route was then along the lovely Langstrath, which has a Scottish glen like feel to it, hemmed in by the high hills on 3 sides.

Carl admires the view back down Langstrath

We took a joint decision to cut short my planned route up to Tongue Head and Allen Crags, and instead headed straight up the hillside to find a suitable camping spot on Glaramara as the weather was closing in a bit.
We found a couple of nice pitches at around the 2000' contour height overlooking Langstrath and the Langdale Pikes.

Camp at 2000' on the flanks of Glaramara
Food and whisky were consumed and I eventually drifted off to sleep to the sound of rain on the tent at about 8.30 ending a good day.

I woke several times during the night, feeling the cold.and listening to the flapping of the tent in the wind. I eventually dropped off into a restful sleep and opened my eyes at around 06.30. 

Unzipped the tent to be greeted by this wintry scene...
View from the tent at dawn

The old Laser not bearing up too well to the conditions
Another joint decision saw us abandon plans of two further Wainwright ticks in the blizzard like conditions and instead head back down to Langstrath.
Just below the level of our camp site we copped a sighting of 4 Snow Buntings taking flight up the hillside, as identified by Carl. A life tick for me and great to see them in their natural environment,
Carl leading the way on the tricky descent

It was a lovely low level mornings walk back to the car. Birdsong and wildlife abounded, we had sightings of Jay, Buzzards, Ravens,  Red Squirrel, Chaffinch, Coal Tits and a Grey Wagtail along the way.
Red Squirrel
We called in at a lovely cafe in the village of Rosthwaite for hot tea and bacon sandwiches before eventually continuing below Castle Crag and beside the river Derwent  back to Grange to pick up the car for the long journey home.
It had been a great couple of days spent in the company of Carl in a glorious area of Lakeland. 

I have decided that backpacking is probably the best way of mopping up the final 80 odd Wainwright's that I still have to complete and hopefully Carl and I can team up again sometime for another outing.

All in all not a bad start to the year...


  1. What a little medley of a write-up - to be included in a post which contains Bitterns and Snow Buntings, together with mountains and wintriness (if that is actually a word) feels quite nice.

    A nice write-up of our hike too, nice to see a different angle in words.

  2. Once I got started, I just couldn't stop!
    I quite enjoyed putting this one together Carl, don't know about you but I do this for my own enjoyment, if anyone enjoys, or even reads it, then that's a bonus.
    Glad you liked the account of our trip, it will live in the memory for a long time to come, especially the bacon butties!

  3. Well done, but are you sure it was a bittern?

    Your Glaramara trip looks spookily like one of my recent expeditions.... mildest winter since 1898, except when the akto goes up, then it snows...