Archive for the 'Bloggers’ Meet' Category

The game is afoot

Posted by on January 15th 2009 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes

After the mania of the Christmas and New Year period, and the family crises that have been brought under a semblance of control, things have calmed down to the point where we can begin to function normally again.

I've even managed to book a weekend away in Patterdale, so that I can introduce Ella to a few more Wainwrights. For what they're worth, advance forecasts are for a return to wintry conditions, so let's hope that the forecasters have got their predictions correct.

Furthermore, I've arranged to go for a crafty beer (or two) with a fellow blogger a few days afterwards.

My titanium cup runneth over  😀

Reports will follow in due course.

Playing catch-up

The blog's now well out-of-date, so it's time to do a bit of catching up. Luckily for you lot, I'm not a stats-whore, so I'll keep things brief and cram everything into one or two posts so that there's not a pile of individual entries to wade through. Now, where to begin...?

  • After a weekend-long posting-restriction imposed by the SGL forum admin, on Monday July 14th I was banned. And yes, the ban is justified. After some unjustified comments made by some of the admin, I reacted, broke the rules and got what I deserved. My crime was to react by removing the content from some of my posts. Just mine. No posts by other members were edited by me. The official version is different, and sounds much more sinister - according to the ban screen, I am banned for "attempting to corrupt the SGL database", which is a bit like saying that I've attempted to eradicate all life from the planet just because I swatted an annoying fly in our kitchen. Luckily, there's no sign that I'll be extradited to spend the rest of my days confined to the Guantanamo Bay facility. Anyway, I deserved the ban, and I don't much care that it'll never be lifted, but at least I'll no longer be hassled by some admins who think themselves beyond reproach and who think that they never have to apologise for anything, even when they have been proved wrong. It's sad that they get the good admins (who are in the majority) a bad press.
  • Talking of things astronomical, I had a bit of a panic a while back when one of the scope mount's tracking-motors packed in. After an online chat with the retailer, arrangements were made for the defective items to be investigated and replaced. Everything's now fixed and working fine, thanks to the great customer service provided by Adam at Rother Valley Optics (retailer) and by Optical Vision Ltd. (importer).
  • There was a clear night here a week or so ago, so I set up the scope to test out the replacement motors and to let the kids have a good look at Jupiter. They were suitably impressed with the view, seeing clearly-defined cloud-bands on the planet and seeing all four of the largest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - the Galilean satellites, after Galileo Galilei who discovered them in 1610). After sending the kids to bed, I returned to the scope and had a reasonable visual observing session, finding M8, NGC 6530, M20, M22, Cr 399, NGC 6822 and a few others. The ISS passed over twice during the session, and there were a few meteors around. I didn't set up for imaging, so there are no pics. Since then, it's been cloudy almost every night.
  • Regarding other outdoors activities, there's precious little to report. I missed out on the Outdoors Bloggers' Dartmoor Meet because it was the weekend of my birthday and I didn't feel that it would have been right to bugger off for the weekend. Suffice to say that I got loads of nice pressies. :mrgreen:
  • I managed to fit in a drinking session with my friend Dave, who's a casualty of the recent round of redundancies at Thwaites Dumpers. He's taking it well, but there are a few folk I know from there who've been hit hard by the job cuts. I hope that they all get sorted out soon.
  • Gear-wise, I've been quite reserved about splashing the cash. I supplemented the money that I received as birthday presents in order to buy a SkyWatcher Auto Focuser from Steve at FLO, so that I don't have to faff about twiddling the knob by hand (go on, you make the puns). Even though it's not really auto (it's a motor with a control-box on a curly lead), it's a great bit of kit. Fed up with buying numerous adapters for allowing all sorts of electrical gadgets to be powered or charged in the car, we got a power-inverter so that we can just use the standard mains chargers/transformers instead. I should have bought one of these years ago - I must have spent a small fortune on car-adapters in the last few years. We had a day shopping at Go Outdoors and I didn't get any outdoors gear for myself - that must be some sort of record! Mind you, we spent a small fortune kitting out the other three for our summer holiday.
  • Blog-wise, there have been a few changes here. A few more plugins have been added, if you're interested they're listed at The blogrolls have been updated - quite a few additions, some moves and a few deletions - if you spot any cock-ups, please feel free to let me know. I've a few more changes in the pipe-line, but I'll tell you about them another time.

Well, that's all for now. There's more, but it'll have to wait for later.

Our OSOS08 Weekend

Posted by on March 17th 2008 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes

The arrival of Duncan at BHX heralded the start of our OSOS08 weekend and the start of the inclement, and probably appropriate, weather. After the "hail, fellow, well-met" handshakes at the terminal, we hiked through the rain to the vast car-park and, surprisingly, found the car quite easily in the midst of the sea of steel and glass that goes by the name of "Long Stay 1".

After making sure that Duncan was awake (by nearly losing the car on a tightening left-hander (I blame the shift in the centre of gravity)), we escaped the confines of the airport site and ploughed our way through the orange-tinted drizzly gloom that had settled over the M42, M6 and M69.

On arrival back at home, Duncan was introduced to Chris and Ella, vittles were consumed (including the gifted cloutie duff, thanks here to DM and his mum) and the chat went on into the night. The idea of wildgardencamping was abandoned due to the number of branches that were falling from our willow, so Duncan bagged himself a comfy(?) spare bed at no extra charge.

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as bright but at least it wasn't torrential. The mad dash to the NEC was as dull as ever until I decided to ensure that the passengers were still awake by driving over the kerb at the entrance to the car-park. It was an accident, honest, I couldn't see the kerb from my seat. Anyway, everybody else in the car-park was alerted to our arrival by the grating sound of underbody on concrete, so I reckon that our guest was quite brave to volunteer to queue to buy the parking ticket (thanks for that, Duncan) while we got our packs out of the boot.

After the trek past the lake and through the tent display area we left Duncan at the entrance so that he could meet Darren to pass on one of the tickets kindly donated by Lay, the Outdoors' Bloggers Forum admin. When we made it past security and check-in, Ella was in retail-therapy heaven. We wandered the stands and bought some bits and bobs before Chris queued to put Ella's name down on the waiting-list for a go on the zipwire.

Meanwhile I wandered off to find the Alpkit stand and try to buy the Hunka bivy bag that I had fondled so keenly at the 2007 show. Sadly they were out of stock, so I had a gander at the latest incarnation of the Gourdon (the "20", complete with mesh pockets and bungee attachments) - I was tempted, but could only justify getting one if I parted with the "25" that I was already carrying. Sadly, the Alpfolk wouldn't do me a part-ex, so I had to walk away empty-handed (but not until I had tried on a few of their Filo down jackets - they look to be excellent value for 65 notes). I met George while I was there and we managed to communicate without an interpreter, despite his use of equatorial rhyming slang. Anyway, he was the bearer of good tidings - his missus is on the mend, that made him happy. Get well soon, Mrs. LBP.

Alpfolk - happy smiley people. We likes them, don't we, my Preciouss? Oh yes, we does

We parted company so that I could retrieve Chris and Ella, then we went over to the Gear Show Case area where Ella was disgruntled when she didn't nab any of the freebies being chucked into the audience. Undeterred, after the presentation she went and remonstrated with the freebie-chucker and was invited back to a later showing.

Next to the Gear Show Case was the Gibbon Slacklining display stand, and the gymnastic side of Ella's persona just couldn't resist having a go at negotiating the tautliner straps. She did well but couldn't manage to emulate the jumping antics of the resident expert. Indeed, we were to return to this place a few more times during the day, but by the time we had decided to shell out on a set, their stock had all gone. Never mind, we'll get one somehow.

Tentative steps



Then it was time for the Outdoors' Blogger Meet at the pub, where old acquaintances were renewed and new faces were matched up to names that had been, up until then, just virtual friends (I won't bore you with the full cast list). Sadly I missed Sally's killer butt, but hey, there's always next year. There were some deep and meaningful conversations to be had, with plenty of blox thrown in for good measure, and a good time was had by all. Andy tried to get some podcast material from me, but I had to decline. I'm not one for fame and fortune, you see... I'm the shy, retiring type. I did, however, condescend to appear in a group-photo of our bunch of happy campers, but alas the photographic skills of the bloke that I harassed into taking the pic left something to be desired. He has my thanks anyway, though, as this is the only group-shot we have so far:

Movers and Shakers... just like the cameraman

Of course, I was well down my second pint of dishwater (Cumberland Ale is excellent in it's natural habitat, but it doesn't travel well and it rebels at the evil concept of being served in tacky plastic plant-pots) when it was time for Ella to do her fly-over on the zipwire, so the pics are a bit wobbly, but nowhere near as wobbly as my legs would have been if I had dared to do the zipwire myself!

Cleared for launch

In-flight entertainment

We took in a few more stands to push the e-petition a bit further before going outside for lunch, then it was back to the show. Ella had a go on the bike at the Tourism Ireland stand, but she was never going to get far without that missing front wheel, and lifting the rear wheel was a tad unfair too...


After the mandatory visit to the Buff stand, where Ella got a cool Blue Fire, we nipped across the aisle to bag her some red sunglasses to complete the rebel adolescent biker look.

Hall 3 and the rest of Hall 2 were toured quite quickly, there being little of interest to us there (we're not into water-borne activities or touring the world) so we repaired to Hall 1 where Ella chatted up some of the Royal Marines. I seized this opportunity to nip back to the pub to catch up on events, and soon it was time for the E-Petition meet-up in Hall 3, where the John Hee Steering Committee did a sterling job of drawing up a plan of action for the post-OSOS08 wildcamping-legalisation campaign. Chasrle popped in to join us, and I'm pleased to report that he looks nothing like his OM avatar.

Then it was back to Hall 1 and a session of buying more bits and bobs (now don't laugh, but I bought a travel hair-dryer... it's for removing condensation from the scope optics, not for my lank locks and bristles. Honest!). Ella had been back to the Gear Show Case and had fluttered her eyelids and sweet-talked the freebie-chucker into throwing her a T-shirt and a hat. He got a hug from her as his reward.

We met up with Duncan again and went to watch the fallers... sorry, that should be climbers... in their attempts to (occasionally) defy gravity and complete the testing route to the suspended car. Meanwhile, Ella had been queueing patiently for a go on the not-ice climbing wall, and watching her ascend the synthetic verglass I reckon she'd got the right idea. Looks like that's yet another set of kit to spend money on in future years, eh? 🙁


Planting the pick

And that was it. After losing Ella yet again (don't go there!) and bagging a pressie for Annabelle (who was spending the day with Grandma) we made our way home, collected said pocket-BG, and sat in expectation of a relaxing wind-down evening and a tasty meal.

But it was not to be...

Our chosen Nepalese restaurant had cooked a fine selection of dishes for us, but had entrusted delivery of them to a bloke who couldn't discriminate between arse and elbow... several polite but firm phone-calls to the restaurant confirmed that the vittles had been despatched on time, but they arrived nearly two hours late (hmm... the restaurant is only five minutes away by car, 15 by foot) and the food was, well, tepid, despite claims that it was still hot. Duncan will vouch for the fact that I was just a little put out by this. Next time I will be serving my own dehydrated meals, or we'll invade their establishment and eat on the premises.

After shooting the breeze until the small hours, we got some shut-eye before I had to ferry Duncan back to BHX for his return flight. Suffice to say that it stopped raining soon after he boarded the plane, and when his "I'm back home now" text arrived, the sun came back out.

So, by way of a summary, we had a great time with good company, we made a few new friends, and we ended up richer for the experience, despite being poorer for the purchases. Top stuff!

Getting out under the wire

Posted by on March 14th 2008 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Just for fun

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 4 – Sunday

Posted by on June 16th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

As is pretty normal for me, I didn't sleep much. I snatched a few hours after midnight but woke briefly at about 3am. After a few minutes of taking in the starry sky I slept again until about 4:30am when Lay started taking down his tent. After that I dozed for another hour and then got up and out. Lay was gone but the others were all still snoring away happily.

The sun wasn't quite over the horizon so I made a brew and decided to go out for a circuit of the tarn to get some pics in the early light while the others were still asleep. The tarn was flat-calm for most of the time and the reflections of the sky and fells were impressive. At the head of the tarn I found a couple of good wildcamping spots away from the main track and with decent running water nearby. Rounding one of the moraines I disturbed a heron which was fishing in the shallows. Later in the morning we would sit and watch it being mobbed by some of the seagulls that were in residence at the other end of the tarn.

I completed the circuit to find that some of the others were up and about. Darren was still in his doss-bag so I started off a brew for him and let him finish the job himself. John didn't appear for some time, was it because he was pacing himself, or was he just fed up of our company? 🙂 Anyway, the conscious members of the group started where we had left off the night before... more chat and banter, more brews and food, more photos.

It didn't take long for the day to start to heat up, there were a few light clouds around but for the most part it was very hot. There was general agreement that we should retreat to the safety of the Miller Howe Cafe again, so we packed up, checked that our site was tidy and clean, then set off down Easedale towards Grasmere.

Grasmere was a hive of activity - the place was full of runners and spectators gathered for the "Grasmere Gallop", which is described as "7+ miles over roads, timber trails and footpaths around the spectacular scenery of Grasmere and Rydal lakes". I decided not to join in, as I had errantly left my plimsolls and lycra bodysuit at home, so instead I went for a fried breakfast and a decent cuppa, inside the cafe this time because the sun was just too hot outside and the crowds were hogging the pavement.

Then it was time to start saying our goodbyes, first to John, who was off to other parts of the district for the next few days, then to Duncan who was steeling himself for the long drive back up to Scotland. Darren and Dawn kindly gave me a lift back to my car where we parted company after Darren had been presented with a small token of our appreciation.

So it was back to the tarmac for the drive back home, taking back the memories of a great time spent in the good company of a new group of friends.


Lilies and reeds

Howes Ridge reflected

Morning haze

Returning through Easedale

So, now my tally of “Wainwrights” is 160 (not counting repeats), which leaves 54 still to do. I'll update the maps ASAP and do a post-trip roundup sometime soon.

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 3 – Saturday afternoon/evening

Posted by on June 15th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

We pick up the story at the ever popular Miller Howe Cafe. The others were keen to be off up the Easedale path, but I was still taking on fluids after the exertions of the morning, so I stayed sat down for a while longer to sup up. Lay waited for me while the others went ahead, then we went off in pursuit of the others. It was a good opportunity for a chat about the new forum board and the ways that it could be developed.

Certainly the chinwagging helped the miles pass quicker - in what seemed like a very short time we had passed Brimmer Head Farm and had just got to the top of the first rise when we found Darren chilling in the shade of a tree aside Sourmilk Gill. Nobody was in any rush to be anywhere special, so we all sat there for ages recharging body and mind, there was a lot to talk about, and it was an idyllic place to linger. Many folk passed by on the way up, all were polite, some were appropriately dressed and kitted out, none of them looked as though they had been on an exercise bike or a rowing machine or similar such device.

Passing the waterfalls we found a group of folk that had just been skinny-dipping in the plunge-pool. Judging by the frantic pulling-on of clothes by the young ladies, I reckon we had got there just a couple of minutes too late to take pictures.

We carried on up and over the last rise to be met by a fantastic view of Easedale Tarn. This is an excellent place to come to see glacial features - moraines, tiered hanging-valleys, corrie-walls, scoured side-walls, glacial striations etc.. There was no sign of the others, but from where we were, we couldn't see the full length of the path as it weaved between moraines. There was a quiet spot a few hundred yards along the shore, so we sauntered over to it, dropped the packs and discussed our options for the evening. Darren seemed happy to stay in Easedale, I could have gone up to Codale but was so impressed with my surroundings that I decided to stay and keep Darren company, Lay seemed keen to go on up but he was concerned about Darren. Anyway, we lugged the kit over to a more secluded grassy flat-spot a bit further on, and got a brew on. Lay went off without his pack, I thought he was off on one of his photo-shoots until we saw him a long way off striding up towards Belles Knott on the way up to Codale.

We had some time to kill before we could pitch, so we lounged about taking in the scenery, took some pics and tried a bit of bouldering on a huge rock that reminded me of an elephant seal (vivid imagination required).

Eventually Lay returned - he had found the others up in Codale, and told us that they were coming back down (except for Geoff, who was happy to stay pitched there). We started pitching when we saw the others on the track down, and soon we were reunited and back into the campsite routine, then it was back to the banter, the cameras and the bouldering. The evening meals were accompanied by some in-depth chats about "current affairs", a short session of poetry-reading by Duncan, jokes about buffs (Darren was presented with one, a gift from Spiritburner, but he refused to try it on), and many opinions on many topics were aired. Duncan passed around the sake and the roasted seaweed - top stuff, that.

Darkness started to fall and one by one the others retired, leaving me and Duncan chatting away for a while longer, discussing matters of much import and trying to identify the features of the night sky, but eventually it was time for a final tick-check, ablutions and goodnights.

It had been a good day.

Lay and Darren


Rock in profile

Rays and reflections


Nearly finished - just one more part to come - hang in there!

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 2 – Saturday morning

Posted by on June 13th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

The morning was bright with clear skies, there was a heavy dew which left the big red slug looking like it had been in a downpour. After checking inside for leaks and excess condensation (none were found), I took a few pics of the hills beyond Grasmere from inside the bivvy. Then the Jetboil was deployed for a brew while I wriggled out and finished dressing.

None of the others were awake, and all was silent except for their snoring and the whining of a lamb on the other side of the tarn, so I decided to go for a wander with the camera to get a few pics of the surrounding fells.

About an hour later, Lay emerged and strolled over through the damp grass to tell me that Duncan was pitched up next to him and was sound asleep.The lighting conditions and the misty layers in the valleys were making the surrounding fells look awesome, so we decided to gain a bit of height and take some pics from above the tarn, while discussing our objectives for the day. I had decided to go up to the top of Stone Arthur before the hike over to the pitch for the second night. Lay was leaving his decision until he had consulted the others.

Some time later the others started to regain consciousness and exit their shelters, so I started back down to them while Lay kindly volunteered to go higher up to scan for a route that contoured around from our pitch to Stone Arthur. When he returned to the camp to report no such route, we were well into breakfast.

After packing away the kit, I left the others and went off to tackle Stone Arthur while they broke camp and headed back down to the cafe in Grasmere. The absence of a contouring path meant losing a lot of height before getting to the slopes of Stone Arthur, and the sight of the steep bracken-clad lower slopes was daunting, not so much because of the gradient, but more because of the exposure to ticks.

Anyway, I dropped down the zigzag path from Alcock Tarn to a spot just above a small reservoir and found a path that followed Greenhead Gill up towards a large, impressive lone rowan tree (at the confluence of Rowantree Gill, would you believe?). From there I took a beeline up through the bracken and gained the main path up Stone Arthur a few hundred yards below the summit crags. The view from the summit cairn was impressive, my pics don't do it any justice at all. I could see two of our party just reaching the bottom of the zigzag path that I had descended earlier, so I set off in not-so-hot pursuit, as the sun was unrelenting and there was no breeze to aid cooling.

The lower reaches of the path back to Grasmere were in a bad state, but work had been started to repair it - alongside (and often in the middle of) the path there were many sacks full of local boulders, waiting for skilled hands to assemble them into a decent (if unnatural) rocky stairway. Right at the bottom of the path I found a sign informing passers-by of the rules and regs governing the use of off-road vehicles at Garburn Pass... err... nope, can't figure that one either.

A short while later I caught up with the others at the Miller Howe Cafe. After taking on food and fluids, we made ready for the afternoon walk up Easedale to the intended overnight spot at Codale Tarn.

The early morning view from the big red slug

Alcock Tarn from above

Helm Crag from Greenhead Gill

Looking back to Alcock Tarn from Stone Arthur


To be continued...

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 1 – Friday afternoon/evening

Posted by on June 12th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

Friday afternoon... the normal dash up the A5 and the M6, confounding the speed-cameras and cursing at selfish drivers who persist in sitting in the middle or third lane doing 65 when the inside lane is devoid of traffic... why do they get irate when I go past them on their left? They are the ones that have the problem - just drive in the correct lane, you eejuts!

To be fair, the drive up was much better that usual, there were no roadworks, no hold-ups for accidents, no detours. Stopped off at the services for some grub, texted the others but only got an answer from John, who was in Kendal. I arranged to pick him up at Windermere railway station, so it was back to the tarmac and foot down to get to him asap.

When I got there, John had been joined by Geoff. Their kit was bundled in the back, handshakes were exchanged all round and off to Grasmere we went.

We dumped the car for a while next to the now-defunct Tourist Information Centre while we went off to get some bits of gear. While snacking again at the Miller Howe Cafe, Darren and Dawn arrived, more handshakes ensued then we were off to start the trudge up to Alcock Tarn.

As forecast, the weather has hot, sunny and settled, so the walk up was a sweaty affair, but it was worth it. We sat about for a while next to the tarn, waiting for the evening so that we could get pitched. After all was sorted, we spent the evening shooting the breeze, taking on carbs and wielding cameras. Some of the sadder attendees were caught doing some covert blogging!

The others retired early, but I stayed up to enjoy the scenery and the changing light. Lay arrived as the light was failing, after he had set up we both stood watch until about 11pm waiting for Duncan, but he was running a bit late so we retired. An hour later, Duncan arrived, but being a lazy git I stayed put in the big red slug, watching stars and satellites in a totally clear night sky for a long, long time. I managed to get an hour of sleep before the daylight returned.

Great Rigg from Alcock Tarn

Dusk over Grasmere

Jaggedy rocks

A lonely tree


Stay tuned for the next instalment - featuring the bit where BG goes up while the others slope off down to the cafe for breakfast!

Miscellaneous pics

Posted by on March 24th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes

First up is a shot of the UKOBs at the N.E.C..

Just an ordinary piccy at first glance, but after a beer or two, there is more to be seen...
Why is Dave M wearing a placard on his head?
John H seems to have had George G's head grafted onto his shoulder in a similar manner to Zaphod Beeblebrox...
Darren C appears to be sporting a crest and a wattle like some sort of Cassowary / human hybrid...
Is the woman on the right the elusive "Big Agnes"?


And then there's this hairy old git, snapped by my daughter during our most recent trip to the Lake District. I would avoid him at all costs, he looks a bit dodgy:

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