Archive for April 2009

The van men cometh

Posted by on April 30th 2009 in A bit of a rant

Against all the odds, the fabled “Lost Shed of Olde Hinckley Town” was indeed delivered here yesterday. Things were looking up, and I thought that the situation had been resolved.

But it wasn't to be.

This morning I went out to begin assembling the thing, but the exercise was shortlived after I had one of those "WTF?" moments. The tools were packed away again and I arrived at the store a few minutes later. Rather foolishly, the staff had neglected to don their flak-jackets...

Right, Sir, what can we do for you?

Well, you could start by not sending me a shed with a skewed plain end that's clearly been assembled by feckin' morons and then quality-checked by Ray Charles!

Oh. Oh dear. How bad is it?


We went into the back yard and found another 7x7 strapped up as a bundle, as delivered from the supplier. I helped the assistant to take the required panel from the bundle, and set it aside on a trolley, ready to be sent to me.

The replacement panel will be here mañana, allegedly.

Coniston Fells Wildcamping – Part 2 – Twist and Shout

Posted by on April 30th 2009 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Illness and injury, Wildcamping

The night was mild with just the odd flap of the tent, nothing to worry about. We woke at 05:15 to find the skies almost clear, so I went for a stroll to take a few pics as the sun worked its way from behind the shoulder of The Old Man:

A well-concealed wildcamping tent 🙂

You can't see it from here either, can you?

OK, let's make it a tad easier for you

The view sunwards

Breakfast was a quick and simple affair, and then it was time to strike camp and to filter sufficient tarn-water for the rest of the day, there being precious little available on our chosen route.

Water: gathering, not depositing

We retraced the short drop back to the Road and then continued up the river of stones to the col between Walna Scar and Brown Pike, passing by one of the old stone shelters:

Stone hut below Brown Pike

Turning right at this crossroads, we walked up the zigzags into a stiffening breeze, which was cooling us well in the bright sunshine. A few fellrunners were about, but no other walkers had been seen yet. A few minutes later we were at the top and exposed to the full force of the wind as it ripped up the sunward slopes and over the ridge, so we had a breather in the shelter right next to the summit-cairn:

The shelter atop Brown Pike

From there, we could see the simple short ridge-walk to Buck Pike, the next top on the ridge:

The ridge to Buck Pike

and there was a good view of The Old Man across The Cove:

The Old Man

After a snack we set off along the ridge, passing this striking view down towards Blind Tarn and our vacated pitch:

Looking down on Blind Tarn from the ridge

The further we walked, the stronger the wind became. Each time we passed the top of an open gully we were blown sideways, the funnelled air roaring through the gaps at incredible speeds and playing curious deep tones as it whistled between the crags. At times the wind set up resonances in the rocks, making them hum in an eerie harmony. Rock music indeed!

We made our way over the top of Buck Pike...

Looking back to the top of Buck Pike

and headed for the first Wainwright of the day, Dow Crag:

Dow Crag from Buck Pike

The ridge-path passes the tops of several gullies and the view down each was impressive. It was hard to take pics, though, as the wind was too strong to stand steadily at the edges. I managed just the one pic after crawling to the edge on all fours:

A view of part of Goat's Water, looking down Easy Gully

The summit rocks of Dow Crag were incredibly windy due to their exposed position - this was three-point-contact walking, and it was a dicey affair actually reaching the top-most rocks, which are right on the edge of the cliff, leaving no room for a cairn:

The very top of Dow Crag

The view down to the glistening surface of Goat's Water was breathtaking, or it would have been had the wind not already stolen our breath away and scattered it behind us as we peered over the edge. Taking a pic of the view was impossible - I couldn't hold the camera still enough with just one hand, and I wasn't about to allow my other to let go of terra firma. Instead, we retired to the lee of the summit rocks for some shelter and to confirm our intended route, and had to be content with the view of the ridge back to the Walna Scar Pass and beyond:

Looking back from Dow Crag - a fine ridge

The next part of the plan was to drop down to Goat's Hause and then make for Swirl How and its satellite fells via Brim Fell. We were undecided as to whether to include the summit of the Old Man, but seeing as we'd been there before, we chose to give it a miss.

We donned the packs again and headed for the Hause, with our next three objectives (Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How) in view before us. I was keeping well away from the edge, out of the worst of the wind, but at a narrow place I was uprooted by a vicious prolonged blast which twisted me around in a most peculiar way. I heard the sound of my lumbar region giving way above the noise of the rushing air, and it hurt like hell. I'm not given to shouting in pain, but this was bad.

I knew I was screwed.

The trip was over, I wasn't going to be able to do any more upping and now it was a matter of getting home without causing further damage. We took our time finding somewhere sheltered to sit and while I tried to recover we rehydrated ourselves and planned our retreat. Common-sense dictated that we should regain the car via the path alongside Goat's Water, through The Cove and back to the WSR at the previous day's decision-point. As we sat there, we were approached by a member of the one of the MRTs who was searching for a man who had been reported as having had a heart-attack near Blind Tarn. We gave as much info as possible about the folk that we had met since leaving there, then he carried on up to the top at a cracking pace. A few minutes later the SAR helicopter was hovering above the ridge somewhere near Brown Pike:

The SAR helicopter heading past Dow Crag towards Brown Pike


We got some great views from the Hause before dropping down the path to the Water:

Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How from Goat's Hause

Dow Crag towering above Goat's Water

Goat's Water and the path to The Cove

Each step down the path was designed to make me wince, and each one did. Eventually we dropped out of the worst of the wind and had lunch behind some large rocks just before the waterside section of the path began. As we ate, the sunlight disappeared and was replaced by dark cloud - rain was heading our way. We made our way out of The Cove as the heavens opened and the thunder started to boom around the fells. Most of the activity was over Dow Crag and The Old Man, and I'm sure that those summits had a few lightning-strikes during that hour - I was glad that we weren't still up there. The rain stopped as we passed Boo Tarn, and by the time we reached the car-park the clouds had cleared to allow the sun to start roasting us again.

We sat in the car, dejected, trying to salvage something from the wreckage of the weekend. In circumstances like these, there's only one thing to do...

To be continued.

Coniston Fells Wildcamping – Part 1 – On familiar ground

Posted by on April 28th 2009 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

Yet again we had a fairly hassle-free drive up the A5 and the M6, this time to Junction 36. After a quick stop-off in Ambleside for Chris to pick up some odds and ends, we set off for Coniston.

We parked up at the old quarry car-park near Timley Knott on the Walna Scar Road and got ready for action. Packs were hoisted and we were off along the Road, heading for The Cove. This is familiar ground for me - I spent two weeks mapping this area as a Brum Uni geology undergrad way back in '82, and I took Chris there in '98 for a day-walk. Even so, there is still much of interest, geological and otherwise, despite the distraction of the trail of loose-dumped rock that is supposed to be a repaired path:


Looking back down the "path" towards Coniston

As you can see, the hazy cloud meant that the light was flat, so the pics aren't up to much.

Our first objective was to pitch where we would be able to walk the Dow Crag ridge the next day, and the decision-point for choosing which way to tackle the job was the junction where the path splits below Little Arrow Moor - straight on for Blind Tarn, right for Goat's Water. We weighed up the options... Goat's Water was the easy option, lower and more accessible, but we'd been there before and it was only on our options-list in case we were running out of time and/or light. As we were doing fine for both, we stayed on the Road and soon we reached Cove Bridge, where we stopped for a few pics:


Looking up the "path" towards the ridge


Cove Bridge and Torver Beck


Chris approaching Cove Bridge


Chris on Cove Bridge


Brown Pike beyond the poser on the bridge

After that we continued along the Road, heading for Blind Tarn, a place recommended by a certain Mr. Hee.

The loose-dumped surface started to get steeper as we reached Goatfoot Crags on the lower slopes of Brown Pike, and after much boot-scuffing we found the man-made grassy rake that leads to the high quarries above the natural bowl that holds Blind Tarn. After a few minutes we were at the waterside, and we had the place to ourselves, which is just as well, as there are only a couple of places there which would take our tent with any degree of comfort.

Due to our well-practised routine (we pitch the inner together, then I deal with the outside stuff while Chris sorts the gear inside), we were soon pitched and ready to enjoy the rest of the evening, which was warm and hazy with a light breeze. As the darkness set in the haze cleared and we could see the lights of the coastal towns all the way down to the coast of North Wales - impressive stuff!

To be continued.

Despite all evidence to the contrary…

Posted by on April 28th 2009 in A bit of a rant

... it seems that tomorrow will herald in the period previously referred to as "mid-May"! Word has reached my ears that the fabled "Lost Shed of Olde Hinckley Town" will be delivered here tomorrow morning, even though "There are none available anywhere in the system" . Could it be that the power of the internet has had some influence?

Anyway, the story could change again at any time. I'm not holding my breath.

Still not quite in Focus

Posted by on April 28th 2009 in A bit of a rant

I called in on spec yesterday evening to get a sitrep. The didn't "quote me happy". Their computer said "no", so they made a few phone calls to confirm the bad news... "There are none available anywhere in the system. Realistically, there's no chance of us getting your shed for you before mid-May" .


Not quite in Focus

Posted by on April 26th 2009 in A bit of a rant

It went something like this...



I'd like to buy a shed, please.

Yes, Sir. Which one?

The 7x7 shiplap.

I'll just check the stock... yes, we have two in stock. Will you collect, or do you want us to deliver it for an extra £20?

I'll collect it tomorrow.

OK, just phone us an hour before you want to collect it so that we can have it ready for you. That'll be £££, please.

The deal is done.



Hello. I'm calling to let you know that I'll be there in an hour or so to collect my shed. The order number is #######.

OK, I'll just check that. Yes, it's still in stock and has your name against it. We'll have it ready for you.

One hour later...

Hello, I've come to collect the 7x7 shed, order number #######. The van's in the car-park.

OK, I'll just go and get it.

It should be ready - I phoned an hour ago, just like you asked.

We've been a bit busy.

10 minutes later...

There seems to be a problem. It's not there. The computer's showing two on the stock, there's one out the back on display but the other one's not actually in the stock.

So you've lost my shed? You could have told me that before I got here, that's what the one hour of notice was for.

Much confusion ensued.

15 minutes later...

We've got some options here. There are plenty of 6x8s in stock.

That's no good - I've just built a 7x7 base.

Hmm... we'll phone around the other local stores and get a 7x7 for you as soon as possible.

Well, that's no good either. I've got a van and a driver waiting here, I can't afford to pay him again to pick up on another day.

Under the circumstances, we'll deliver it F.O.C.

OK. When?

We'll tell you that when we've found one.

OK, I can't wait any longer, so we're off now. Call me on the mobile as soon as you know what's going on.

Ten minutes later...

We've located a shed for you at (another store, many miles away). When would you like it to be delivered?

Thursday, please.

OK, that's booked, it'll be delivered direct from (the other store) sometime on Thursday.

Thank you.

Thursday... late on Thursday:

Hello, I'm still waiting for my shed. The "lost" 7x7 that's supposed to be delivered here today. Order number #######. It's getting late and there's no sign of it.

The driver went to collect it but it was damaged so he left it there. He says that he phoned you and told you about it.

That's bullshit. Nobody's called me all day. If he'd called me, why would I be calling you now?

Er... um... I'll talk to my manager and get him to call you.

You've got one hour before I lose my rag.

I understand.

A while later...

Hello. I'm sorry about the confusion. It turns out that (our company) has sold thousands of these sheds during the sale, but the supplier can only make 200 a week, so there are supply problems. We're doing the best we can, and appreciate that you're upset. We need to get this problem sorted, we'll call you back on Monday. Is that OK with you?

I suppose so. Look, I could do with a job. Can I work for you as a driver? I can drive and I'm really good at bullshitting, so I am qualified.


It's not funny. This driver - how do you explain his actions?

It was his first day.

Say what? It's OK to lie on your first day? I'll have to remember that when I start my next job.

We'll have a word with him.

Yes, do so before I do. I'll expect to hear something good on Monday.

To be continued...

Time is Tight

Posted by on April 20th 2009 in Making stuff, Projects, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Apologies for the lack of regular blogging - there just aren't enough hours in the day. There's been no time for hiking or star-gazing, but to be fair we did manage to take a few hours off for a walk around Bosworth Park last Monday (which reminds me that I still have to upload the pics from that).

After two weeks of school holidays, I've a backlog of stuff to shift...

  • At least three trailer-trips to the local tip (sorry, recycling centre) for my waste, and another trip for my dad's stuff;
  • Setting up eBay and PayPal seller-accounts for a friend;
  • Fitting-out the old shed;
  • Digging out a 1m cube of soil/subsoil to take the foundation for the telescope pier;
  • Driving in several 2m steel rods to anchor into the clay subsoil;
  • Hand-mixing 850kg of concrete to refill said hole;
  • Installing footings for a 7ft x 7ft observatory-shed around said hole and pier;
  • Building said observatory;
  • Fitting a new garage door for my dad;
  • Getting the microwave oven fixed;
  • And all of the mundane everyday stuff that we all have to endure.

Never mind, we're looking forward to a carefree weekend, so it's not so bad.

A little chill-music would seem to be in order:

Reconditioned, runs like new

Posted by on April 13th 2009 in Making stuff, Projects

Our old knackered hut had given good service but was suffering from a tad (well, more like thirteen years) of neglect, as you can see in the following pic taken last autumn:


The offending shed, dwarfed by our Salix babylonica and by the bonfire-fuel.


The roof was, er, partial, and had let in so much rain that the floor and bearers had rotted, but the T&G shiplap sides were mostly sound. The choice was simple - repair or replace. Well, I'm not one for wasting £400 of cash, so we went off to B&Q, discount card in hand, and raided their timber and board stocks. A week later, after a jet-wash and much sawing and screwing, the thing now lives a bit closer to the house and looks like this:



It's shrunk a bit - we had to trim 5" of rot off the bottom edge, and we shortened the length by 5" so that we could use 2400mm timbers and boards instead of having to buy and trim 10-footers. Now the floor and roof are better than they ever were when it was new, and it's been fully double-proofed inside and out.

Not bad, eh? And there's enough change from the budget to buy a few beers, which are well-deserved.

I reckon I'm getting the hang of this recycling malarkey :mrgreen:

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