Friday, 10 July 2009


Pretty abysmal day - wet and windy. It has only just dried up, but the temperatures remain low (15C). Today is my last day in Holland for this visit; tomorrow will see me winging my way northwest towards western Scotland. As I am visiting some of the other Western Isles en route to Stornoway, I do not anticipate being able to blog until next Thursday. If I can, count it as a bonus. You'll see any postings Facebook or Twitter. My next blog post will be on Atlantic Lines.

The Shell Gallery will go under wraps from today, until I next return to Holland. Before the tarps come out, here are a few of the shots I took this week. Not many at all, due to the grotty weather.

How do you mean, wet?


Castle and Lake


Went to The Hague last night to see a hit-musical, "Ciske de Rat". It is based on a novel by Piet Bakker about a street urchin between the two World Wars in an unnamed Dutch city. His life is turned around by attending a new school, where he gains many friends, including that of his teacher. His home situation is dire, with his mother making him work in a pub at night. When his father tries to make a clean break after meeting up with a good woman things appear to be on the up. However, tragedy strikes when Ciske's mother rips up a book, given to him by a sick classmate. With the red mist coming down, he flings a knife - which kills his mother. After a stint behind bars, Ciske is released into a new life. His ever-absent dad has found a new woman.
Parallel to this childhood story is Ciske's adventures as a man, when he is mobilised in 1939 as the clouds of war gather. He meets up with his old schoolteacher, and his friends and foes from class. When the Nazis invade, he is severely hurt, but escapes death only by virtue of a statuette of the Virgin Mary, which was given to him by the prison chaplain.

Ciske de Rat is a quintessentially Dutch story, and a 1984 movie on the book was a blockbuster success. I had my doubts at the time whether songs were the appropriate medium, and had them before going to this performance last night. Fortunately, the show was fantastic in all respects, kept well to the storyline (always difficult and dicey in theatre and film) and had some very funny moments, as well as the tragic ones.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Today is another day of hefty showers, but a bit brighter than of late. Have transcribed another 100-odd names on my project, with the total now at 1160 out of 6000. Previous two entries show more pictures from last week's walks in Yorkshire. The locations are within 10 miles of the village of Reeth in Swaledale, itself 10 miles west of Richmond - all James Herriot country.

This evening, I am joining the rest of the family for a theatre performance in The Hague, 70 miles west of here. I will not be making further updates until tomorrow, as our return is not anticipated until after midnight. Show starts at 7pm, finishes at 10pm and then it's a 90 minute journey back by train.

Yorkshire pics - Tuesday 30 June

Surrender Smelt Mill [Surrender is the name of the location, it's not an imperative]

Old Gang Mine

High Level Bridge

Abandoned mine level

Forefield Rush

Foregill Ford - All Creatures Great and Small

Tan Hill Inn, the highest hostelry in England at 530m / 1750 ft above sealevel

Muker village

Yorkshire pics - Monday 29 June


View across the moors

Passage through mine spoils

View north towards Whaw and Tan Hill

Sick rabbit at Booze (that's a village)

View of Langthwaite

Bridge at Langthwaite - All Creatures Great and Small

Fell End

Barn amidst buttercups, Hurst

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Yorkshire pics - Sunday 28 June

Old mine chimney above Hurst, in fog.

Path down from Fremington Top

Unusual sheep near the White House


Swing Bridge

Grinton Church

Map Generator


Weather remains as autumnal as it has been since the weekend, with heavy showers, much wind and moderate temperatures. I'm not complaining about the 18C we have today. My dad got caught twice in a heavy shower so he isn't too happy lol. Went to visit a relative this afternoon - can't give details on an open blog, sorry.

Tweetdeck, my Twitter app, has upgraded and boy don't I like that stupid background they've imposed on us unsuspecting users. I don't know what "blink-182" is, and I don't want to know. Neither do I want those guys cluttering up my screen all the time. It could drive me off Tweetdeck altogether if this doesn't get sorted soon.

Yorkshire pics

I've taken about 500 pictures during my journey to and stay in Yorkshire last week. I'll make a selection day-by-day. And yes, it's half-past-midnight and I'll go to bed shortly.

Saturday 27 June

Fog on the hilltops outside Richmond


In the Highlands


The Beasts of Holm outside Stornoway Harbour

Closing Tuesday

Normally, I'd be out walking with my dad most days, but the weather has turned. Heavy showers, some with thunder. And we had to wait for the man to come and get rid of our wasps nest. He came at midday, and by the end of the afternoon they appear to have died. I can't stand wasps. Not allergic to their stings, but most unpleasant at that. In the afternoon, it poured and poured. Went to the graveyard in a relative lull in the rain, but there was no way we could venture beyond that without getting soaked. Transcribed more names for my project, am now one-sixth down the list of about 6,000. I'm beginning to wonder whether the total is not much more than 6k; I've got about 130 pages to cover, yet have done only 15. I'll write more about this on Atlantic Lines once I've finished - I'll be at this after I return to the Hebrides.

Michael Jackson, I hope he can rest in peace now. He was a tortured soul whose fortunes allowed other people to take gross advantage of him.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Today 4 years ago, suicide bombers struck the London Underground system and a London Transport bus. They took 52 innocent people with them to their deaths, and left 700 injured. Today in 2009, a memorial for those lost will be unveiled in Hyde Park, London.

7/7 ranks alongside 9/11 in the list of dates of infamy that will not be forgotten. Neither will those that were lost in either atrocity.

I posted this on Atlantic Lines as well.

Today is a cooler day with fresh breezes blowing cloud across the country. We've been warned against more heavy showers, but the rustling sound I hear outside is that of the leaves on the trees, not the patter of raindrops. I'm not used to the sound of rustling leaves, there being so few trees in Lewis. My current location has plenty - below picture was taken during my last visit here in May.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Sunday and Monday

Start the week keeping very quiet, if only because the high temperatures and muggy conditions do not invite much activity. I try to upload the 500 pictures I took back from my trip to North Yorkshire, but run into difficulties getting them onto Also check on old pictures (from the mid 1980s) of previous visits to Swaledale, which show that little has changed. Only the Swingbridge outside Reeth has been replaced after it got swept away in a flashflood in 2002, and the clockface in Grinton church has been changed as well.

As I type, a heavy shower has broken out and it is raining steadily.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Saturday 4 July

Got up at 6 am to leave for Darlington at 7 am. Took one look round the cottage, took in the view at the back. We drove down the Stelling Road, trying not to run over any of the young rabbits that were scurrying about. Arrived into Darlington at 7.45, and I was lucky to have a train to Newcastle at 8.05. Single ticket a bit steep, £9.80 for 55 miles. I reached Newcastle after 40 minutes, left my case in the Left Luggage department and went for an amble around the city. I last visited here 5 years ago, on an abortive mission to meet an on-line acquaintance, with whom I long since lost touch. Dropped in on the Cathedral, which was rather dark due to a fault in the electrics. Went to the riverfront, where it was very warm, even at 9 in the morning. Crossed the Blinking Eye bridge (the Millennium Bridge) to the Gateshead side of the Tyne. Nothing doing there, so walked to the main bridge to return to Newcastle proper. Forgot to mention that a colony of kittiwakes nest on the bridge and adjacent buildings. When you cross the main bridge, you can actually see these small gulls on their nests, feeding their young.

Took the Metro train to the airport, where it was complete mayhem, with all the families with kids going off on their hols. Had to endure about two hours of it (I was way too early), as well as an hour of it on the plane to London. At Heathrow, the Amsterdam-bound flight was more than an hour late and when I sat down on it, the tray-table that you sit cups on had been soiled. Looked like someone had been sick on it. Very nice. The stewardess said I had to clean it, she could not reach over (I was in a window seat). The views from the plane were alright, could see Ipswich, Harwich and Felixstowe as well as ferries plying to and from Harwich's Parkeston Quay. Arrived at Schiphol at around half past seven, but had to wait for luggage until about 8pm. The train left at 8.30, which was the direct service to Arnhem. A couple with a small child, aged about 2, were trying to impress the mite (who appeared to be an East Asian adoptee) to stay in bed in the morning until the light went on. Now, even down in Holland it gets light at half past four in the morning... Reached Arnhem at 9.45, and took a taxi to my dad's house, who very kindly fed me.

Friday 3 July

Today started cloudy and overcast, and with rain in the forecast. Nonetheless, we picked a destination for a walk. As we had not visited Wensleydale together (my father was there last week), I suggested we go to the start point of the walk, Keld, via Leyburn and Hawes in Wensleydale. In turn, he had to go to Richmond to put some glass into the recycling bins there. So off we went, along the high road to Marske. The route there suddenly looked familiar, after yesterday’s walk which paralleled the road journey. Richmond’s Coop store didn’t have any picture postcards, so I decided to buy some in Reeth, on the way back. And off we went on the A6108 to Leyburn, a journey of about 10 miles. Latter town is a pleasant market town, but quite busy; it is also lying on the A684, which is a busy link between the M6 motorway, far to the west, and the A1 in the east. As we drove the 17 miles to Hawes, the clouds grew darker, and quite soon it started to rain. And not much later, it poured. That’s what you get in a valley in amongst high hills. Turned off in Hawes to head north towards Keld, and the rain lessened a little. You do reach quite an altitude (about 1,500 feet). Passed the famous Buttertubs, but did not stop to take a closer view. Turned east at Thwaite, as the rain was too hard to do any enjoyable walking. The drive to Reeth, a good 10 miles, was not easy. There was a lot of surface water in the road, and the light was poor; most people were driving with their lights on. At Healaugh, the heavens opened again and we inched our way the remaining two miles to Reeth. I dashed to a shop on the Green to buy postcards &c, then dashed back to the car. Five miles of hard driving separated us from Hurst, along a road that bore more resemblance to a river than a carriageway. The Stelling Road in particular was very bad, and it was with considerable relief that we pulled up outside Shiney Row at 1 pm. I had a postcard to post, but was unable to locate a mailbox in Hurst village, so will pop that in the mail tomorrow. Early in the evening, the sun came out so we went for a walk – only to be curtailed by a local lady who said our proposed route was not a public footpath. Odd thing was, my dad had walked it the first week and had met same lady in same road: without any problems. We cleaned the cottage in time for our departure first thing tomorrow. Two pheasant hens squatted squarely on the fence outside enjoying the sunset, which we did as well.

Thursday 2 July

A brilliantly sunny day with only high-level clouds in the sky, and even those disappeared after lunchtime. We set off for a walk that was billed as being only 7.5 miles long, but turned into 11 miles. Reason being that it passed within a mile of Hurst, meaning we had to walk to a point to intersect with it. Going down the Goats Road was the easy bit; finding the shortcut to Prys Farm was the orienteering gamble. But we got there. A herd of cows and calves came stampeding out of a meadow, clearing the way for us. The animals were a bit skittish. Ascended through the meadows to bypass the farms of Low and High Greenas. Had to divert around a dead and decomposing sheep that had decided to breathe its last right in front of a gate. Crows and other carrion eaters had already been at it, so I went to a different gate. Finally came out on top of the Skelton Moor to head down towards Marske, the turning point for the walk. Nice views, although it was a tad hazy in the distance. On leaving the moor, we came across some chaps wielding guns who professed to be hunting for rabbits. If you were to see the numbers of dead, flattened and decomposing bunnies plastering the roads here, you’d be quickly convinced of the need to keep down their numbers. We continued downhill and crossed a packhorse bridge (the Pirrimire Bridge) into Marske nice and on time at 1pm. After a bite of lunch outside the village phonebox, we left heading north again at 1.30. It was very peaceful there, but also getting quite warm. We passed through a forest by the hamlet of Clints, then on, out of the trees into the heat of the valley towards Orgate Farm. The water brought along went down nice and fast, and I had to refill my bottle just after Orgate. One couple was standing at the bridge there, casting longing glances at the water. Telfit Farm, which was baling hay, came next and boy was it getting hot. We sneaked into the valley leading towards Helwith, which is a strange hamlet with no main road to it. Only a rough track and a ford. Carried on up the valley, past some old lead minings and finally heaved ourselves up back to Prys Farm. I could by that stage, 4pm, only think of one thing: get back to Shiney Row a.s.a.p. Which we duly did at 4.30pm. A shower worked miracles, as did a nice ready-made pie. I tried sitting outside, but the flies drove me up the wall. Shame.

Wednesday 1 July

The second half of the year started off warm and muggy. Dad had been to the shop already by the time I showed my face, at 9 am. We were therefore able to go on our planned walk a bit earlier than in the last few days. At 10.15 am, we parked up outside the Youth Hostel at Grinton Lodge, on the southern face of the valley. Other walkers had already parked up there. I ambled into the courtyard of the hostel, where a Dutch van was preparing to take the luggage of a party of C2C walkers to its next destination. They had originally booked onto a farm at Marske, but the farmer had to cancel due to haymaking. We headed west above Swaledale, with the village of Reeth in broad view. One of the farms was busy making hay, with five tractors hard at work to beat the forecast and looming rain and thunder. We rose to the eastern flank of High Harker Hill where we met up with two older ladies who appeared to be on the same track as ourselves. We made it to the top of High Harker Hill in good order, meaning that was the end of the major climbs for today. The next few miles was high level (1,500 feet) walking, with Swaledale laid out at our feet. By the time we were abreast of Low Row, a mile or so west of Healaugh, the track veered south. By 2pm, we entered Apedale and our walk veered back east. It was very, very warm (28C / 80F) and we were grateful for the breeze. The thunderheads began to form around us and a low rumble emanated from the west. Whereas we could previously see as far as Kisdon and High Shunner Fell, the upper part of Swaledale was now hidden by the thunderstorm. Earlier on we could also see the location of yesterday’s walk near Surrender Bridge. Continuing down into Apedale, the showers kept building to the south (where our view was restricted to), but it stayed dry until 2.45pm. By that time we had issued from the dale and were heading north towards Grinton again. Big drops started falling and we sought relative shelter inside a shooting butt. The showers showed no sign of letting up, so we continued. No, we did not bring coats. Fortunate for us, the downpours only turned into thunderstorms by the time they were north of our position. Would have been hairy over at Tan Hill today. By 4.15, we reached the car at Grinton Lodge and made for the Bridge Inn in the village below for my large helping of coca-cola. Returned to Shiney Row at 4.45. During supper, the power kept going off as a large thunderstorm settled down to the north and kept interfering with our electricity supply. Even as I type this, at 7.15pm, the 5-second power-outs are carrying on. The laptop has a battery, so I don’t have a problem. Earlier this evening, a female pheasant squatted on our fence and set about preening herself.

Tuesday 30 June

Today was mainly overcast, although the sun did put in the odd appearance or two. We drove to Surrender Bridge, situated 3 miles west of Reeth. It required the negotiation of a narrow road between Healaugh and the Bridge, and even the opening of a gate. We arrived at 10.45. The old Smelt Mill was quite conspicuous, a sad ruin down by the river. We crossed the Old Gang Beck and turned onto the track that leads to the Old Gang Mines. These are reached after just over a mile, and remain a forlorn wreck of its former industrious past. It suitably rained. And I was duly punished for assuming that it wouldn’t rain today. It didn’t rain heavily though. A couple were mousing through the ruins. We proceeded up the track and passed the High Level Bridge about half an hour after leaving Old Gang Mines. The route for the Coast to Coast walk (A. Wainwright’s St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay 190 mile epic) turns off west towards Blakethwaite and Keld, but our route wound its way further north. It passed two open minelevels (which descended ominously and steeply into the hillside) after which a gentle descent took us to the high point of the walk, at 580 metres / 1,930 feet. A lot of spoil heaps about and it gives the scenery a slightly lunar aspect. From this altitude, the track west towards Keld could be seen winding its way across the distant moor. Swaledale appeared to be full of cloud and murk. We descended from Great Pinseat in the general direction of the road between Low Row and Langthwaite and stopped for lunch. We broke up when the rain came on again. Without any bother, we reached said road and ambled back to the car. Next destination: Tan Hill, 10 miles to the northwest. Firstly, we went through the watersplash, observed by two pedestrians who looked on with glum faces. What do you expect if you stand right next to a ford and a car drives through? A steep descent brought us to the northern outskirts of Langthwaite, and we turned north towards Whaw and Tan Hill. Whaw’s bridge was washed away by the remnants of Hurricane Charley in 1986. The road passes over open moorland, past countless sheep, and oh, did I mention the lapine corpses that litter the roads? Just before 2pm, we reached Tan Hill, situated at 526 metres / 1830 feet above sea level. It was fairly busy there, with hikers and bikers. It stands on the Pennine Way, a long distance footpath stretching from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish border. The nearest habitations are Keld, 4½ miles away to the south, and Bowes, about 10 miles to the northeast. Power is supplied by an industrial sized generator. A man was seen walking south to Keld with a cat. Others were discerned marching off towards Bowes and Barnard Castle. I believe I could make out the towers of Teesside far away, more than 35 miles to the east. It once more spitted with rain, so we drove down the road to Keld, which was a bit narrow. Our return to Reeth, along 12 miles of the B6270 was a challenging experience for the driver, my dad; it is a narrow and winding affair, particularly on the stretch between Keld and Muker. We gained Reeth at 3pm, had a nice icecream and returned to Hurst for some tea. More walks are planned for the days ahead – prefer the rain to the 90F temps they were forecasting for central London today. Supper? Cauliflower and curry sauce, spuds and fried sausages.

Monday 29 June

The day commenced with fog, like yesterday. We weren’t fazed and set forth at 11 am, for an 11 mile hike to Moresdale and Langthwaite. About an hour into the walk, the sun set to work on burning away the murk, and it duly succeeded. We headed north out of Hurst to Schoolmaster Pasture, then west across Moresdale Head. Lots of grouse, (dead) rabbits and other creatures. Parts of the moorland have been burned deliberate to promote new growth in heather. As we reached Stoney Man, on the boundary of the North Yorkshire Dales National Park, the sun comes out. We pass along the headwaters above Langthwaite, then come out through old mineworkings far above Arkengarthdale. In spite of the still limited visibility, quite impressive views up and down the dale. We descend towards Langthwaite, through the village of Booze (no joke) after a break for lunch. It gets quite warm as we arrive into Langthwaite and duly dive into the Red Lion pub for some refreshments. By 2.45 we resume our trek, back to Hurst. It involves a steep ascent onto old mineworkings at the northern end of Fremington Edge. As we leave the National Park, the chimneys near Hurst duly hove into view. At 4.15, we return to Shiney Row and a welcome cup of tea. Dinner is sweet & sour chicken.

Sunday 28 June

The day dawned in thick fog. At 11 am, we headed off south towards Reeth. This involves negotiating a rock-strewn track which descends steeply from the escarpment of Fremington Edge. Very demanding on the old ankles and legs. Visibility improved steadily as we emerged under the clouds near the White House – that’s the name of a private residence incidentally. We met some people in four-wheel drive cars, bicycles and other walkers. Arrived in Reeth at 12.15 and had our lunch on the Green. A steady stream of tourist cars and motorbikes trundled past. A group of youngsters were having fun outside the National Park office, and shops did a steady trade. Yep, it’s Sunday but the shops are open here. Was watching a cat which was trying to get friendly with church-goers, who emerged from the Evangelical church. That came to an abrupt end when one man stood on the poor creature’s tail. It let out a squawk and shot off. At 1 o’clock, I bought the Sunday Telegraph, as that was the only paper that wasn’t talking about Michael Jackson on its front page. We made our way to the Swing Bridge, across the Swale River. This has had to be rebuilt in 2002 after it was swept away in a flood. The Swale River can rise 10 feet in 20 minutes apparently. We headed east into Grinton and had a look round the churchyard before recrossing the river towards Fremington. From there, we made a fiendishly steep ascent towards the Edge, which took us about an hour. Returned to Hurst at 3.30. My attempts to get a mobile phone signal have so far proved fruitless; I got a very weak signal on the Chapel Road. Will have to nip down the Stelling Road later. One thing that is pretty striking as it is unpleasant: the number of dead rabbits on the roads. They dash out of the undergrowth, and when a car comes by at that precise moment it’s curtains for the bunny. Hedgehogs suffer a similar fate. After dinner, we drive the 3 miles to the point where mobile phone coverage commences. Have to proceed a little way down the road to Marrick to get O2, but manage a half-decent signal. The fog comes down at sunset, about 9.30pm down here. What a contrast to Stornoway, where it’s broad daylight until 11 o’clock. I am told that it is still hot there. The south of England is set to get its hottest week, with temperatures topping 31C / 88F. Here in North Yorkshire, we won’t reach those crazy highs, but 25C is warm enough. Furthermore, if you’re high up (like we are), you lose a few degrees off the temperature.

Saturday 27 June

Started the day by rising at 5.30 am, which is unusually early for me. However, I had a ferry to catch at 7 am, so after some bacon and eggs, I set forth at 6.20. It was pretty busy on board the Isle of Lewis, with cars and foot passengers. The ferry set sail at 7 o’clock sharp, and made the crossing in good time. There was only a moderate northeasterly breeze, so no swell to speak of. Had a cup of coffee, then sat in the observation lounge for most of the passage. Many passengers slept their way across the Minch, and we docked at Ullapool at 9.45. The bus was ready to take those with tickets to Inverness; the second coach took those without reservations – until it was full. Reached Inverness at 11.30. Collected my train tickets from the ticket office. I split my journey to Darlington between Scotrail, which charged me £40.50 for the journey to Edinburgh and Cross Country, which charged me £16.50 for the last leg. Total £57. Had I booked with Scotrail, the journey would have cost me £97. After buying some food at M&S I returned to the station to wait for my train. At 12.30, we were allowed on board, and I went to my seat. Nicely booked on-line as well. Inverness was busy as per usual. The train departed on time at 12.47, and we headed south through the Highlands. It was bright and fairly sunny, a contrast to the cloudy skies and occasional rain of the far northwest. At Aviemore a party of pensioners joined the train. Opposite me sat a language student and a man who was building a house. At Perth, we headed southeast into Fife, with the Tay estuary to the left for the first few miles. More of interest was the party of ‘girls’ who were going to a hen party in Edinburgh, drinking Magners at 3.30pm and chatting up all the blokes in the carriage. It was as well we reached Edinburgh when we did, as one of the ladies was proposing to get her ***s out. The weather changed past Perth, turning grey and misty / foggy. Visibility was poor, even more so when we reached the Firth of Forth at Kirkcaldy. Crossed the Forth railway bridge, which is being painted. The thing is always being painted. The road bridge can be seen a few hundred yards to the west. Reached Edinburgh Waverley at 4.23, and I had 45 minutes to catch my connection. That train, final destination Birmingham New Street, was already in position along platform 7, so I went on board to claim my seat. The journey south, starting at 5.05, was not interesting at all, due to the continuing low cloud and fog that plagued the North Sea coast. On arrival at Darlington, at 7.10, it was raining quite steadily. Dad was there and he drove me the 20 miles to Hurst. Which was wreathed in thick fog, it being located 1200 feet above sealevel. The cottage had been modernised, but otherwise not much had changed.