Hole of Horcum and Skelton Tower


The 'main event' of this year's Outdoor Bloggers weekend - a 10 mile walk in the North Yorkshire Moors.

We started from the car park at Saltergate, a short drive from the campsite.  Here there are some information boards which I didn't bother to read - but did take a photo just in case I wanted to later.  Besides, Jenni had come armed with fun facts about the area, and I didn't want any spoilers.

Heading north along a path just next to the main road, we soon learnt our first fact of the day - how the "Hole" was (and wasn't!) formed.  It may be some sort of geological settling due to underground water erosion, or it might be an angry giant chucking mud around.  Take your pick.  Either way, it's an impressively large dent in the landscape.

footpath into the hole of horcum
that path is steeper than it looks!

Other fun facts included things about burning the heather (which we saw lots of evidence of), and grouse - including a very accurate impression of their call.

Our otherwise circular route included an out-and-back detour to Skelton Tower, an old hunting lodge/folly.  I'd done a bit of googling before hand and for some reason was expecting this to be at the top of a hill - but actually we had to drop down to reach it.  That said, it does tower above the steam railway line, where everyone took the same photo.

Skelton tower

As we walked back from the tower another group was heading there to watch the steam train go by.  So we missed out on an even more cliché photo opp, but never mind. I tried to take a few more detailed shots of the tower itself, though I didn't quite manage anything too artistic.

Skelton tower wall and trees

We stopped at the Horseshoe Inn in Levisham for lunch - and I'm quite pleased I was too lazy to pack my own lunch as their chips were absolutely delicious.

disused farmhouse

On our way back we passed what at first seemed to just be an abandoned old farmhouse.  As we got closer, we noticed that the boarded up windows and doors had holes in them for birds and bats, as it's now a bit of a wildlife sanctuary. Excellent use of a building that would otherwise just continue to decay.

Kymin Dash


It's April, which means the clocks have gone forwards, my skiing kit has been packed away until next winter (boo), and I can slowly drag myself out of semi-hibernation.

This year I've set myself the challenge of getting the Strava 10k run badge each month. So far so good - four down, eight to go! April's was also my first race of the year - the Kymin Dash.

Having grown up in Monmouth, I know the Kymin pretty well.  We used to walk up it quite often with Scouts, including in the dark, and I still look out for the white tower if I'm driving back from Wales along the A40.
That said, it's about 4 years since I last walked up there, and I remember the footpath (Wysis Way/Offa's Dyke) being rather steep and leaving me out of breath.  So running up it?  Yeah, that'll be a great idea...

kymin dash start line.
waiting to start

So many people in running club kit! I did feel a bit out of place as a non-club runner, and I think this is probably also why I had a recycled Gloucester marathon number/chip instead of the ankle tags that most others had.

I started near the back as I knew I wasn't going to be sprinting the 2km of uphill!  Instead I did a mixture of slow jog and power walk, which seemed to be a popular technique.  The road isn't as steep as the footpath, so it wasn't actually as bad as I was expecting. Along the way they'd put out plenty of motivational signs - "it's only a hill" etc, and I was very pleased to reach the top and the first water station - complete with jelly babies!!  I ran carrying my soft flask because that's easier to deal with than paper cups.

Once the hill was out of the way I was able to speed up a bit and, as the paths widened and the crowd thinned out, even did some overtaking.  I did have to stop and wait at the road crossing, which lost me about 3 minutes but isn't exactly the end of the world.

When we entered Highmeadow Woods we were greeted with a lovely muddy bog, which gave me flashbacks to doing Forest Warriors a few years back. *shudder*.  There was also a downhill section that was reasonable muddy and narrow, but apart from those bits (and the walk to the start line!) the course was all tarmac and hard forest roads.  I'm still pleased I didn't wear my shiny new shoes though, haha

me running.  photo from facebook.
A rare photo where I am actually sort of smiling - and overtaking the lady on the left!  Photo by Rod, from facebook.

There weren't medals (unless you actually won, of course) but I do now have a lovely purple technical tshirt.  We were also handed a Wild Trail bar at the finish line, but that's long gone... continue reading »

Passo Tonale


For our final ski trip of the season, we booked a package deal to Passo Tonale in Italy.  It's been a while since we went for a package, and the 0630 flight did remind me one of the reasons why...  But hey, it was a good price.

Early on in the week we received bad news from back home, which put a dampener on things somewhat.  This led to more subdued evenings than normal, with not as much alcohol and probably better sleep because of it...

We stayed at Grand Hotel Paradiso, which is a little bit out of the main town, but conveniently right next to some of the lifts.  Our deluxe room was lovely, the spa was ok (though an extra cost) but the food... oh, the food.
I definitely don't expect gourmet cuisine from a half board package ski hotel.  BUT - I do expect food to be warmed up properly!  And sorry, but 'peas and carrots in white sauce between pasta sheets' is really not what I expect from veggie lasagne.

However, the food in La Baracca (next to the Vittoria lift) is fantastic.  As is pizza from Alpi - and not forgetting the bruschetta and huge selection of flavoured hot chocolates in Bar Botte.

view from the Presena glacier
view from the Presena Glacier

By the end of day two I'd skied almost every piste in resort - only missing a few in Ponte di Legno.  After this, Jon switched to learning to ski for about half the week, so a lot of time was spent on blue runs. I did get two hours of non stop skiing by myself while he had a lesson though - no snowboard faff, bliss!

As the week progressed, the sunshine vanished behind the clouds and things started to warm up.  Things got a little slushy at resort level, but not enough to be an issue.  However, we woke on our final morning to a big dump of overnight snow.. and not great visibility. Ah well, can't have everything!

Unsurprisingly, Jon swapped back to his snowboard and we enjoyed the powder.

low vis, a hint of sunshine, and lots of powder
mmm, powder

That photo is from the 'Alpino' piste (number 20) which was definitely one of my favourites, along with 'Bleis' (#22).  Both start at the top of the Bleis lift and both were lovely in both the sunshine and cloud.  Also the scene of my only fall of the week, ahem.