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  • My Crap Holiday – Simon Whaley
    circumnavigating the Isle of Wight In the 1990 s Michael Palin was busy circumnavigating the world He was either nipping around the Equator or he was dashing from Pole to Pole However he hadn t circumnavigated the Isle of Wight In 1995 I decided that I would I was looking for an achievable long distance footpath that I could attempt over the Easter holiday The 60 mile Isle of Wight coastal footpath beckoned I should have realised that I was doomed to fail when I disembarked at Ryde Pier I m not saying it s long but I felt that I was closer to Portsmouth than I was to the Isle of Wight When I reached the island though it welcomed me with glorious blue skies and warm sunshine With my two man tent strapped to my rucksack I began my trek in a clockwise direction I hadn t booked any campsites in advance I wasn t sure how far round I was going to get each day and anyway it was the Easter bank holiday weekend and that therefore marked the start of the great British tourist season By 7pm light was fading and I was near Bembridge Harbour The first two campsites I approached were closed forcing me to walk a mile inland to find the next Thankfully it was open and best of all it had plenty of space Entering the reception Eva Braun sat behind the desk and looked at me disdainfully Can I help you I m looking for a pitch for the night please Not here you re not I was taken aback The site was huge and there were only a handful of tents pitched It s only me I tried to argue I m walking around the island using the coastal path I just need a pitch for one night I won t be any trouble No can do Eva Braun sniped It s against company policy Company policy Yes this is a family campsite she spat We do not allow all male parties I looked over my shoulder for the other twenty hooligans that I thought I must have brought in with me without realising but they weren t there It was just me In Eva Braun s defence she did find a campsite willing to accept me and ordered me a taxi to take me there When I arrived I was back in Ryde I caught the next ferry back home the following morning The Isle of Wight coastal footpath could wait Michael Palin can do it instead Simon Whaley Share this Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Google Opens in new window Click to share on LinkedIn Opens in new window Click to share on Pinterest Opens in new window Like this Like Loading The Observer Previous The Long Long Mynd Hike Next Lovely Day For It Comments are closed Welcome Click on

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/my-crap-holiday/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Well I’ll Be Fogbow-led Over! – Simon Whaley
    but before I could make the final 100 metres a depression crept up from the west side and enveloped me both physically and emotionally For the third time I patted that summit cairn and wondered what sights I might see from here if only the Old Man would allow it And then came my fourth attempt By now nothing was taken for granted Cloudless winter skies guaranteed nothing as I set off from Coniston s car park I dallied in the Coppermines Valley taking photos and decided that I would not be rushed Perhaps sneaking up on the summit and catching it out would be the best plan of action As I snapped away at the ruined mine buildings another photographer joined me and I explained my cunning plan You ll be fine he said you ll get a great view today no problem I wasn t going to get my hopes up I ve been walking enough times to know that fate can deal a tough blow when you least expect it I ve lost count the number of times I ve taken out my lunch box from my rucksack expecting to find chocolate Hob Nobs only to be greeted with Rich Teas Of course the best view I ve seen from the top was a few months ago my fellow photographer continued I couldn t believe what I was seeing It was a curve of cloud brilliantly white against a pure blue sky A white arc like the Wembley Arch Now I was listening I knew the views from the summit were good but Wembley Stadium from South Cumbria This I had to see My photographer friend clarified his statement I took a picture of it and sent it to the Met Office They told me that what I d witnessed was a fogbow A what A fogbow Apparently these are like rainbows only without the colour Uncommon in this country because of the different factors that need to align themselves to create a fogbow the summit of the Old Man of Coniston happens to be one place where this can happen It s also possible to see them in Scotland To create a fogbow you need Low sun usually a winter sun at an angle of less than 28 degrees Clear skies with thin mist or fog Geological conditions to create the right air currents Meteorological conditions to push warmer moist air into a cooler body of air to create the water vapour The result is a white brilliant arc The whiteness is because the water molecules in fog are far smaller than rain Rain molecules are big enough to refract the sunlight generating the spectrum of colours Fog molecules aren t big enough to do that It was amazing to think that the Old Man had these tricks up his sleeve particularly when all I d witnessed was a fog blanket on my three previous climbs Enlightened with a new word for the day I continued

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/well-ill-be-fogbow-led-over/ (2016-02-17)
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  • The Things People Say – Simon Whaley
    people say the funniest things to passing strangers on a Lakeland path Gone are the days it seems when one could just say Morning whatever time of day it was Of course what is funny to me may not be funny to the person uttering those words Take the time when I was climbing the scree path from Carl Side up towards Skiddaw s summit and a fellow walker passed me during his descent A few minutes later I stepped aside again to let a woman pass by who was clearly not enjoying herself She nodded to the man in front who d passed me earlier If he wanted a divorce there were easier ways to go about it she said I laughed She didn t Sometimes these comments are the result of other people s comments Take Wainwright for example When describing the ascent of Catbells he claimed that it is one of the great favourites a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together Hmmm Whilst I happened to be clambering down the craggy sections of Skelgill Bank a passing Mancunian man climbing up quipped to me If Wainwright s Grandmother is supposed to have been capable of doing this she must have been a bloody Russian gymnast I agree that the route up from Hause End is not as wheelchair friendly as Wainwright s comments suggest it may be Some stereotypes remain true to form though even when out of the hills Take the two blonde women I happened to be standing near at the summit of a rather wind buffeted Bowfell who were trying to keep their long flowing hair out of their faces whilst they ate a sandwich before their descent In the distance I could hear a doof doofing droning noise and approaching from Langdale we spied a helicopter heading towards us As it drew nearer either the wind decided to up the Beaufort scale or we began feeling the effects of the rotor blades but one of the blondes suddenly noticed the camera ball under the cockpit Oh gosh look it s filming she cried I bet it s filming for the next Julia Bradbury series quick Both blondes delved into their rucksacks and rummaged vigorously eventually finding what they were looking for As the helicopter circled overhead one pulled out a hairbrush Can t have our hair looking a mess on the telly can we Both bravely fought the down draught but it was obviously a losing battle I think you re entitled to look a bit dishevelled at the summit of the six highest mountain in the Lake District I offered You are 2 959 feet above sea level Both stared blankly at me But Julia Bradbury looked immaculate at the summit of Scafell in Series One They had a point Simon Whaley Share this Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Google

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/the-things-people-say/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Radical Steps – Simon Whaley
    looks tired and exhausted too The cobwebs saturated with morning dew look like they re holding the stones in place like metal netting supporting motorway embankments Except it isn t morning dew The air is damp here most of the time for behind me the bustling water of the River Lune hurtles by over curvaceous pebbles on its journey to Lancaster and the Irish Sea Just like the Lune the Radical Steps curve their way to their destination pushing it out of sight although if I stand on tiptoes I can just make out the top storey of the stone folly in St Mary s churchyard above While the first step is broad and flat the next few are steeper and uneven Nearly two hundred years of wear and tear have eroded the precision with which these steps were first hewn On some my toes point down towards the riser of the next On others they climb my heel nervous of slipping back over the edge My upward journey continues slow and steady The uneveness of the steps encourage me to lean into the stone wall and grab the handrail On the opposite side tall green foliage dominates bracken brambles and rosebay willow herb compete for the limited light Overhanging branches from neighbouring trees cocoon this journey Scrutinise Google Satellite view and the Radical Steps are nowhere to be seen A secret path then Bust still hardly radical About half way up I pause for breath close my eyes and instinctively grip the handrail tighter Coldness shoots up my arm the condensation conducting it with ease A hint of woodsmoke infiltrates the subtle breeze It s not a cold day but the dampness kills any warmth and amplifies the chill I set another life goal to learn the subtle differences of woodsmoke To be able to name the fuel Oak Horse Chestnut Scots Pine I picture a roaring log fire in my mind anyway Excuse me A voice calls from behind Instinctively my handrail hugging hand pulls me closer towards the wall I open my eyes in time to see a pair of faded jeans and a red waterproof jacket power up the steps in front of me A twig with three half dead leaves drops right before my eyes Above my head sits a grey squirrel hunched on a thicker branch staring at me He winks Time to move on My hand pulls me upwards as my feet struggle to cope with the choppy undulations of the steps Seasickness On the Cumbria Lancashire border The heights of the steps vary considerably Was that a step Or a ridge When is a step a step is that why the sign at the bottom avoids the issue perhaps no one can agree Moments later the hand rail ends abruptly Gone is the awkwardness under my feet replaced now with the smoothness of recently laid asphalt There s a sense of space as the manicured lawns of St Mary s churchyard occupies

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/radical-steps/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Atomic Ice – Simon Whaley
    puzzled by this noise The air was still the tarn s waters reflective and a cold wintry sun sat low on the horizon as if still trying to warm itself up let alone anything else My breath remained suspended before me reluctant to travel far on this stunning winter s morning It was admiring the view too But now my ears had latched onto this clicking noise they wouldn t let go I gazed around in search of the source In the distance a cloud bank had sunk into Windermere s valley a duvet beneath vast open clear skies To my right a Herdwick sheep mowed the crunchy frosty blades of grass I looked down at my feet perched carefully on the icy ruts and stones of the bridleway And that s when I saw it the binary bubbles falling like a waterfall under a sheet of frozen moisture The melting water caught tiny bubbles of air before they could escape through one ice hole and pulled them down the bridleway over stones where once at the bottom they would be released into the atmosphere through another ice hole These atomic geiger counter like clicks was Mother Nature singing to me on this cold frosty morning It was a moment of sheer beauty and I was the only one around to marvel at this magic Evidence if any more were needed that we should slow down at least once a day and let Mother Nature sing to us Enjoy and turn up the volume on your device Simon Whaley Share this Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Google Opens in new window Click to share on LinkedIn Opens in new window Click to share

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/atomic-ice/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Spiralling Closer To Heaven – Simon Whaley
    climb which despite being cocooned within a stone tube is suddenly shaken BONG One of the tower s ten bells chimes the quarter hour As the noise reverberates up and down the cylindrical tower my left hand feels the sound waves passing through the central stone column Now is not the time to hang about In fifteen minutes the midday peal will begin Round and round my journey continues until the stairway opens out I sense more space There s a door set at the end of a short corridor that feels more like a tunnel Squeezing in I spot a narrow letterbox slit in the doorway and press my face against it Aha The source of the noise is revealed Housed in their solid oak and red metalled frame I see each of the ten bells resting until their allotted time Time that s now ticking I force my way back to the staircase and continue my spiralling climb Now the arrow slit windows offer views outside I m higher than the roofline as my feet and aching shins push me skywards Corkscrewing towards the clouds there s a sweetness in the air pushed along by a cool breeze Fresh air Lights breaks through the semi darkness that has engulfed me since the tower s bottom door slammed shut behind me A few more steps and then yes There it is The top Daylight A small wooden door opens onto the top of the tower Squeezing through the gap because it s tighter than it looks my feet step out onto a narrow wooden slatted boardwalk that circumnavigates the four walls of the tower In the middle a spire thrusts into the sky topped with a copper lightning spike which two starlings have adopted as a perch I step along the boardwalk and to my left through a gap in the crenelated wall I m rewarded with an unusual view of The Feathers Hotel Its tiles and timber framed construction look solid even from this angle but then it has been serving the local community since the 17th century I wonder if the New York Times saw it from this angle when it described it as the most handsome inn in the world Four steps along the boardwalk brings me to the south facing wall If ever you wanted evidence that Ludlow has over 500 listed buildings many of which are built on a medieval grid structure this is the viewpoint to prove it Chimneys of different styles thrust up towards me some short and squat others tall slender and ornate Why did medieval craftsmen finish chimneys and roofs with ornate finials when no one on the ground could see them It only adds to the sense of wonder Only those of us who have clambered these steps can be rewarded with this view Off to my right Broad Street cuts through the roofline Only at its furthest distance can I make out the grey tarmac ribbon that takes

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/spiralling-closer-to-heaven/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Circumnavigating Dinas Head – Simon Whaley
    for I fear the noise has travelled from heights that put them way out of my vision s capabilities But I m not devoid of winged creatures completely In fact I m overwhelmed with them Every step I take brushes long grasses out of my way the vibrations of which disturbs squadrons of tortoiseshells meadow browns and the occasional red admirals into the air before me I stop hands outstretched offering a resting opportunity to any that are brave enough but none take up my offer My stopping offers another benefit the unmistakeable sound of crickets exercising their wings in the undergrowth It s a sound every schoolchild should experience in summer and one that I don t remember hearing for many years It s as though I ve stepped back in time The quest for the summit pulls my legs once more and as I turn a corner the Irish Sea dominates my view Is that the curvature of the earth I can see or is my mind fooling me Just off the nearest cliff edge rises a large incisor tooth shaped rock marked on the Ordnance Survey map as Needle Rock It s almost white washed with seabird excrement revealing its popularity with nesting seabirds between May and mid July Needle Rock Further along a wooden gate provides the perfect resting point to take in the Welsh coastline behind me There is not a wind turbine in sight which is just as well because there s not enough breeze to bend a blade of grass at the moment Gazing along the magnificent Welsh coastline The path negotiates its way through the vibrantly green bracken I look around me There is not a person to be seen anywhere from this vantage point either on land or on the sea This spot on the world is all mine for this moment Emptiness After an hour for I ve been savouring every step the summit trig point finally reveals itself and moments later I m there As I lean against its cool concrete structure a fresh breeze wipes the beading sweat from my forehead This is Dinas Head s highest and most exposed point which probably explains the breeze I m 142 metres above sea level or 465 feet in old money and seeing as I was at sea level about sixty minutes ago I can be confident that I have climbed all 142 metres closer to heaven The summit And what a heavenly view If it wasn t for a distant haziness the blue of the sea would imperceptibly merge into the sky s same blue hue I have a 180 degree view of uninterrupted sea before me Half the world is missing it seems I can relax now knowing that it s downhill all the way as the path carries me southwestwards with far reaching views towards Fishguard Harbour A small white dot on the horizon signals the next batch of tourists approaching from the Emerald Isle The gentle

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/circumnavigating-dinas-head/ (2016-02-17)
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  • What I Miss – Unlocked Churches – Simon Whaley
    worshippers even the remnants of the village it once served had disappeared Wandering around to its south wall my heart leapt when I saw the key in the lock a proper key eight inches long and a solid weight A twist a push and the door creaked inwards This is the moment when you realise you re about to experience that child like feeling of exploration These moments aren t a public guided tour around a stately home they re an intimate journey of discovery Langley Chapel revealed itself to be one of the best 17th century Puritan church interiors complete with fixtures and fittings to be found anywhere in the country Sitting in one of the rough hewn wooden pews the serenity of the place was overwhelming The white stone walls reflected the light from the large but basic arched east window There s no stained glass interest here These worshippers only needed plain light for their quiet contemplation My fingers traced a series of deep grooves in the pew in front now full with history and dust Craning my neck I saw a heavenly void bisected by crude wooden joists and beams Squinting carefully I could make out a carved date 1601 Just below the roofline simple carvings decorated the top of the south wall a five petalled English rose alternating with a fleur de lys Whilst isolated rural churches like these are religious buildings to passers by who manage to discover one they re an opportunity of escapism There s no electricity only natural light pours through the windows There are no distractions It was quiet save for the skylark whose tuneful autumnal song drifted merrily through the open door The Puritanical plainness of this simple building offered the perfect setting for quiet contemplation Sitting here with my eyes closed it was as though the thick oak door to this building had trapped a bygone era within its walls What chance do we get to sit and simply reflect these days I remember thinking back to my desk at home where everything is connected If I take a photo on my smartphone it appears on all of my other devices within seconds But here in the middle of a corn stubble field I was only connected with the past and nature These buildings help us to reflect upon a quieter way of life When instead of trying to control life we worked with it Perhaps ironically it s our forgetfulness that has saved these magnificent rural buildings isolated in farmers fields It was a collective memory loss that saved Langley Chapel The locals simply moved away from their hard agricultural life for better paid work at the start of the Industrial Revolution in Ironbridge Gorge ten miles away and forgot Too often churches are locked to protect religious treasures yet one of the most valuable treasures they offer is intangible When you stumble across a hidden gem like this the simple pleasure of child like wondrous exploration

    Original URL path: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/what-i-miss-unlocked-churches/ (2016-02-17)
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