A walk with Bill Gordon BEM

North Lees Estate – the human and natural history

Bill Gordon BEM was, along with his wife Flo, the warden of the North Lees Campsite and Estate for almost four decades. He will recount the human and natural history of Estate during a guided walk on Friday 16th July.

Bill Gordon BEM
  • The walk will be ‘led’ by Tomo Thompson of The Path Less Travelled
  • The meeting point for the walk is the gate entrance (bottom of the driveway) to North Lees Hall at 10am prompt.
  • There is NO car parking at the Hall. Please park at Hollins Bank Car Park and walk down past the campsite to the Hall.
  • There are NO dogs allowed on the walk.
  • There are 20 places on the walk. Places cost a minimum donation of £10pp payable in cash on the day (Bill and Tomo will donate 100% of ticket income to CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire).
  • The walk will traverse moorland and crag – you must be physically able and suitably equipped to complete a 5+ hr walk (approx 3.30pm finish), and bring food and drink with you. The forecast for Friday is warm and sunny with high UV.

Places on the walk can only be reserved by email to tpltravelled@gmail.com – on a first come first served basis – there will be no ‘entry on the day’. If you are successful in your ticket application you will receive a confirmation email from Tomo.

Paying closer attention …

Up Cut Gate from Langsett yesterday. My walking companion (outdoor writer Paul Besley) had had an error ‘reported’ on one of his walks, so we paced, measured and paid close attention on our way up the Gate. (The start of the Cut Gate path now has 15+ individual notifications for the hillgoer. How are you meant to take all that mixed messaging on board ???)

Yup, the fords (plural) are still there, still exactly as they are represented in the guidebook and the OS sheet. It was good to pace, bring in GPS, relate map to ground etc etc to confirm. A passing DofE Gold group nailed the navigation question (where are these fords on the map ?) with pinpoint accuracy. That’ll do.

We then wandered beneath Margery Hill and over to Wet Stones to look for ‘footprints carved in to rock’ that apparently are mentioned in an article in the 1920’s. So there’s now no aspect of the Wet Stones that we haven’t crawled over in great detail. We think we found them.

Other than that there was some glimpses of wildlife, the usual antics of Search Dog Scout seeking out any and all water, the ruins of Rocher Farm, and fluids and calories at the quite lovely Inn in High Bradfield.

I’ll try not to descend the Dukes Road again (interminably dull through a landscape 99% bereft of life and biodiversity), one can almost sense the increasing disappearance of anything and everything (vice grouse) on the moors as the carnage of August 12th hoves closer in to view.

20km of nattering and fresh air. Gladly and gratefully taken slowly.

from “Walking – one step at a time’ by the inimitable Erling Kagge

Levy day

If you wander to the website you’ll see this paragraph under ‘about’:

Put simply i believe that as i work and play in the countryside and mountains i have a responsibility to help protect these landscapes and to provide the means by which those less fortunate might experience and learn about their importance.

I guided Snowdon a few weeks ago and have donated £20 to http://www.snowdonia-society.org.uk

I regularly work in the Peak District and have donated £50 seed funding to http://www.foundation.pureoutdoor.co.uk

‘To do good you actually have to do something’ – Yvon Chouinard

Along the corridor and up the stairs ….

A pleasure and a privilege to run two ‘beginners navigation’ courses for 11 people over the last 3 days.

From ‘what’s a map?’ to having the confidence and competence as navigators to lead their own nav legs in the hills …. and to go on and consolidate these new found skills at home in order to be able to go out and plan and walk their own days in the hills.


A flexible timetable, a bit of indoor theory, and an escape off Mam Tor in to a disused but weather-tight barn, kept most of the weather off. One of the deluges today was biblical, and the faces on the group as lightning struck the next hill along from us (Back Tor), were ‘slightly alarmed’.

Grand days out 👍

Something for the weekend ….

At some point there might be a proper newsletter type thing. In the meantime ….

Full report on ‘Therapeutic Nature’ for DEFRA written by (amongst others) Exeter Medical School, and the European Centre for Environment and Human Health. The report analyses the types, aims, outcomes and benefits / disbenefits of the use of nature as a ‘treatment’ for mental health issues.

The 2021-2022 Action Plan from Natural England contains within it the 5 yr plan for how NE are going to do Connect People With Nature (or at least say they are).

More to ‘watch’ and ‘do’ than ‘read’ but you can read the programmes for Keswick Mountain Festival here and Sheffield Adventure Film Festival here. There seems to be a general gap in the market for films and talks about normal people doing normal things outdoors at a normal speed. Just a thought.

‘Why Society Needs Nature – Lessons from research during Covid-19. Multi-org summary of what caused the nation to connect with nature.

You can almost see the pub from here – end of day 1 on a The Path Less Travelled learn-to-navigate course

A talk by Tom Richardson about ‘mountaineering in Mongolia’. Tom’s the bloke that sells footwear in Outside in Hathersage. His alter ego is one of the most experienced mountaineering guides in the world. That vast experience is distilled in this little-known book

A shit story. The report by the John Muir Trust on the impact of visitation in remote areas of N Scotland – here

When i were a multi-millionaire outdoor instructor i used to often gift a copy of this book to clients. Then i realised the author was the son of a multi millionaire !! Nonetheless i still recommend it as perhaps the best prism to look through for the ‘beginner’ setting out to ‘understand’ nature. The online course on natural navigation (same website) makes a great gift to yourself.

A mixed weather system just now after the mini heatwave blew through. Understanding weather is one of the most important skills for the hill and mountain goer. Mike Raine is basically ‘God’ when it comes to environmental learning (top tip: if you’re a National Mountain Centre it speaks volumes if you make your Head of Environment redundant !!), if you get the opportunity to learn from Mike grasp it with both hands. Here are 2 e-courses that cost £1.99 each on understanding weather. If you visit Snowdonia then his book will increase your knowledge on the Nature of Snowdonia by roughly 14587%

‘Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him’ – Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain

The latest newsletter from the MBA is far far better than this not-a-newsletter. Worth the membership fee on its own so it is.

enjoy your weekend ……

Slightly Higher Up

Not the Peak District for a change. A weekend in Snowdonia. Not often one complains of the heat whilst there, but this weekend was silly hot.

The ‘main event’ was guiding 9 military veterans up Snowdon. I won’t go in to the queues and sights but needless to say the mountain was an eye-opener. The clag and 5 centigrade on top a welcome relief from the sun on the PyG track. Everyone got up and down slowly but safely.

On Sunday i felt the effort on the mountain in my legs – i find it more physically demanding to walk slowly and stop frequently, which is what the day demanded. A few routes on Little Tryfan were climbed on the Sunday. ‘Twas hot !!

Note to self not to drive home at 6pm on a sunny Sunday.

Grateful to be back in the mountains. Thankful for the company of those that i walked, climbed, nattered and drank with.

Dark Peak days

I took the opportunity to spend Thursday and Friday out on the hill. I’m getting reasonably hill fit again after all those months of plodding round local parks.

Thursday i took two clients that are ‘getting the miles in’ in advance of their Yorkshire 3 Peaks round, on a walk. We took the bus to Snake Pass Inn and then wiggled a descent line which included a reasonable amount of ascent !!

Alport Castles

That was a 15km walk in the sun. Afterwards we headed to Hope Valley Ice Cream to lower our temperatures.

Today (Friday) i met up with Paul Besley ( @paulbesleywriter ) and Scout ( @searchdogscout ) for a walk. We took the train to Edale.

After a bit of a faff finding breakfast, we set off up Grindsbrook Clough. It still had some water in it which was useful for humans and dogs !!

We met lots of folks on the way up, and then 4 DofE Gold expeds appeared at the top too. We opted then to traverse the Southern Edge of the Kinder Plateau (i did the Northern Edge last weekend). That was a lovely walk with great views. We stopped often to observe and natter, and a long lunch was taken.

From the East end of Kinder we dropped down to the Guide Stone and hid in the woods out of the sun for a while.

It was getting quite warm by now !! We then took the long shoulder up to Win Hill. A natter with some visitors on the top, and the descent to Yorkshire Bridge. Rations in the Inn and then a realisation that the last bus (in a key walking area in a National Park on a weekday in sunny weather) was at 1545. Phone a friend.

I think that’s about 120km in the legs in the last 6 days which is good. Time to move on to bigger hills next weekend as i have a guiding commitment in Snowdonia, the first of several which also includes Scafell and Ben Nevis over the coming months. 

Please do get in touch if you’re interested in guided walks, navigation training, climbing, or guided backpacking.

Continue reading “Dark Peak days”

Once more in to the W3W fray …

Another day and another news item about the accuracy of the What3Words App. It has its place. It has its imperfections. But it has saved lives, and it is particularly valuable to vulnerable people.

There is a reason why the emergency services continue to carry the tech to enable them to interpret locations from it. Again, it has saved lives, often times in a housing estate rather than a mountain range. Nobody hears the cry for help that isn’t made.

The app allows the location of the user to be messaged electronically or spoken (by reading the 3 words on the screen, to the recipient / emergency services). The key downside of the app isn’t ‘the app’ per se. It’s because when the three words are spoken to the emergency services there are multiple humans and notepads and keyboards involved in ‘hearing’ the 3 words, and transcribing them ….. all the way to the rescuer. Send ‘three four pence’ becomes send ‘free four pens’ which may well geo-locate the user to a different time zone. Sending the 3 words location electronically within the app removes this human fudge factor.

Some people are just ‘allergic’ to maps and map apps and no amount of telling them otherwise, or making them out to be some sort of technical luddite, will get them to use a ‘proper’ map based app. It is this user group that, despite the aforemtioned issues with ‘voice’ and W3W, still use it.

For clients that i teach navigation to i recommend (in addition to carrying and being able to use a paper map and compass (and a mobile phone and spare charger)) the free OS Locate app. It provides you with your location in grid reference format which is useful for getting unlost, and the ‘share’ button is as useful for letting your lift-home know how far you are from the car park as it is for informing the emergency services. The app also has some outdoors advice and navigation tips. The digital compass works in case you lose yours.

Any and all of these apps and devices are only any use if your phone has power. Carry a small spare charger. If you are allergic to apps but in need of emergency services go all old school and use the phone as a phone and dial 999. Tools called SARLOC and PhoneFinder will be used by the emergency services to find you (nudge nudge …. only if your phone has power !!). 

What you think of What3Words, or what you believe (or are being paid to influence in your magazine / blog this month) is the new must have, or whether you carry 15 different gadgets on the hill doesn’t matter. What matters is learning from experience and knowing what to do if ever the shit hits your personal fan. Practise calling for ‘help’ with whatever app / tool / technique you have elected to use before you need to do so ‘for real’. Use W3W ‘non verbally’ if at all possible – just click the ‘share’ button’.

I’d probably also subscribe to the ‘text 999 service’ in case the shit hitting your personal fan renders you unable to verbally communicate (Text the word ‘register’ to 999 then follow the prompts).

PS a £1 plastic perry whistle doesn’t need a spare battery.

PPS as well as being someone who teaches outdoor activities, i also spent 11 years involved in the management of operations that used, amongst other things, cutting edge technology to locate humans. I have a reasonable understanding of the human and non-human factors involved in achieving this.

Public. Transport.

The Hulleys of Baslow bus from Manchester Rd in Sheffield at 1342hrs didn’t appear. I waited. I scanned the QR code at 1339 and the 1342 wasn’t even listed. ‘Well that’s a bit crap just not running the bus’, thought i.

I had planned a quite hard walk from the top of Snake Pass and was trying to ensure i caught the last bus home at 2003hrs.

I managed to scrounge a lift towards the Pass. Before we got to Strines i saw my bus in front of us. The accelerator was gunned and i was dropped off in front of the bus at Ladybower Inn. I hopped on and asked about the 1342 ? The driver was polite but exasperated.

The Ladybower / Bamford junction roadworks were causing havoc. ‘But wait ‘til you see Fairholmes’ he said !!

Derbyshire County Council recently double-yellowed the entire road (bar the carparks) from the A57 to the visitor centre. Rules 238 to 252 of the Highway Code are fairly easy to understand. Both sides of the 2 miles or so of road were blocked by cars parked on both sides. People walked their dogs up the middle of the road. Verges trashed. Gates blocked.

The bus driver explained that this leg, plus the Ladybower roadworks, were causing chaos with the ability of the bus company to run to any sort of timings. On the return trip to Manchester the bus was being delayed up to half an hour on this section. Multiplied by a few trips per day and the timetable is quickly all to cock.

Hulleys may sadly have to stop running the Fairholmes leg of their X57 service which will end access to the Upper Derwent Valley by public transport. The irresponsible drivers of cars causing the removal of access to the moors by bus users. There are words for people like that.

I eventually hopped off the bus at the top of the Snake. I never left the noise of the road all day, but it did recede a little as i went across the flagstones towards Mill Hill. It was obviously the time of the day (3pm ish) when Pennine Way walkers on day 1 (having set off from Edale and walked across Kinder) were about to cross the road and head towards Bleaklow. I must have passed 20 backpackers in the first 10 minutes. One of whom, and elderly chap, had an old battery operated wireless radio sticking out the top of his sack and was listening to the cricket.

By Mill Hill it was ‘quite’ hot. The pull up from the hause to the ring contour at 600m on the NW corner of Kinder was also ‘quite hot’. So began a traverse of the N edge of the plateau. Never have i done this walk without having to navigate. I could see at least 20 miles. The edge, the Dark Peak, this part of England lay out before me.

A vole. A family of red grouse. A curlew. Climbers topping out (in splendid isolation) on Fairbrook Naze. Views for miles and miles. I helped a group of 4 walkers navigate back to their car. They had left Birchen Clough, hadn’t found the Downfall, and now couldn’t find the way off. I set them off down Gateside Clough towards Snake Inn. Just visible beyond the Snake was Oyster Clough Cabin.

Snake Inn. Oyster Clough Cabin visible top right

So far so dry of foot. But Kinder had a reputation to uphold. I had been making good time. I spied a trod from the head of Blackden Brook straight to the ‘590’ trig point. I took it. I spent 40 minutes wading through bogs. Kinder delivered.

After the trig i cut across to the S side and was treated to a perfect side on view of the Great Ridge. On to the top of Jaggers Clough. I was on the Edale Skyline route now. Just follow the prints of a hundred pairs of fell shoes. Down past Crookstone Barn (a bikepacker discreetly asleep on his thermarest behind a nearby wall). A nice sit down and some rations at the Guide Stone. A cooling wind. Hardly a soul around.

Tired legs. I wasn’t going to get to, up, and over Win Hill and to the Ladybower Inn for the last bus. Oh well. Bloody car drivers !! The Roman Road to Win Hill was a joy in the evening cool. Lambs, Skylarks, a cuckoo somewhere. I hadn’t been up here since …. 2pm the day before (when it was rammed).

The walk off and a few messages to see if anyone fancied picking up a calorie-deficient walker with minging feet and a bit of sunburn.

A grand hard evening out on the moors. The sun setting behind Crook Hill ended it well ….

• Hulleys have advised me that they use Facebook to live update their services.