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See my new blog

April 22, 2015

I hope if you’ve followed my blogs so far that you’ll switch to my new one as below. Over the Hills won’t be updated from now on but will continue only as an archive.

I really enjoy hearing your comments so please do click Follow on the new blog and come along for the walk.

Freedom to Roam is the new blog of the writer and access campaigner John Bainbridge.

The address to find us is http://www.thefreedomtoroam.com

If you’ve been following my old blog Over the Hills (at http://www.stravaigerjohn.wordpress.com) you’ll know what to expect.

Lots of content about country walking, hill-tramping and stravaiging.

Plus news and views on threats to the countryside.

Given the threats to countryside protection legislation and new challenges to YOUR right to walk in our countryside, I feel we need to up the campaigning game.

So this site will also be calling for the Right to Roam across much of Britain.

And we’ll be nudging access and conservation organisations to do more active campaigning.

My views on this are set out in full in my book “The Compleat Trespasser”. See the page link above for further information on how to order a copy.

If you want to see my Over the Hills blog for lots of ideas on walking it will be staying in existence as an archive blog.

So if you love to walk in Britain, please click Follow and come along for the walk!

Hawl i grwydro (freedom to roam)

April 21, 2015

stravaigerjohn:

Always pleased to see a mention of Bryce.

Originally posted on CampaignerKate:

I was in Oriel College, Oxford, last week and passed this portrait of college fellow James Bryce, by George Reid, on the stairs.  When he was MP for South Aberdeen, James Bryce promoted his Access to Mountains Bill (1884). Unfortunately, although he reintroduced it many times, it never became an act.

James Bryce by George Reid James Bryce by George Reid

His efforts were followed by those of the Liberal MP for Meirionnydd,  north Wales, Tom Ellis.  In 1888 he introduced The Mountain-Access and Footpath Bill for Wales.  He was private secretary to John Brunner who was at that time treasurer of the Commons Preservation Society and MP for Northwich in Cheshire.

Archive
I was interested to find an article in The Spectator archive, somewhat to the left of where it is now, which reports on Ellis’s bill.

The Elan Valley near Rhayader: public access was won here in 1892. Photo: Liz Fleming-Williams The Elan Valley near Rhayader: public access was won here in 1892. Photo: Liz Fleming-Williams

It is evident that…

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Please move to my new blog

April 12, 2015

I hope if you’ve followed my blogs so far that you’ll switch to my new one as below. Over the Hills won’t be updated from now on but will continue only as an archive.

I really enjoy hearing your comments so please do click Follow on the new blog and come along for the walk.

Freedom to Roam is the new blog of the writer and access campaigner John Bainbridge.

The address to find us is http://www.thefreedomtoroam.com

If you’ve been following my old blog Over the Hills (at http://www.stravaigerjohn.wordpress.com) you’ll know what to expect.

Lots of content about country walking, hill-tramping and stravaiging.

Plus news and views on threats to the countryside.

Given the threats to countryside protection legislation and new challenges to YOUR right to walk in our countryside, I feel we need to up the campaigning game.

So this site will also be calling for the Right to Roam across much of Britain.

And we’ll be nudging access and conservation organisations to do more active campaigning.

My views on this are set out in full in my book “The Compleat Trespasser”. See the page link above for further information on how to order a copy.

If you want to see my Over the Hills blog for lots of ideas on walking it will be staying in existence as an archive blog.

So if you love to walk in Britain, please click Follow and come along for the walk!

Please move to my new blog site

April 3, 2015

I hope if you’ve followed my blogs so far that you’ll switch to my new one as as below. Over the Hills won’t be updated from now on but will continue only as an archive.

I really enjoy hearing your comments so please do click Follow on the new blog and come along for the walk.

Freedom to Roam is the new blog of the writer and access campaigner John Bainbridge.

The address to find us is http://www.thefreedomtoroam.com

If you’ve been following my old blog Over the Hills (at http://www.stravaigerjohn.wordpress.com) you’ll know what to expect.

Lots of content about country walking, hill-tramping and stravaiging.

Plus news and views on threats to the countryside.

Given the threats to countryside protection legislation and new challenges to YOUR right to walk in our countryside, I feel we need to up the campaigning game.

So this site will also be calling for the Right to Roam across much of Britain.

And we’ll be nudging access and conservation organisations to do more active campaigning.

My views on this are set out in full in my book “The Compleat Trespasser”. See the page link above for further information on how to order a copy.

If you want to see my Over the Hills blog for lots of ideas on walking it will be staying in existence as an archive blog.

So if you love to walk in Britain, please click Follow and come along for the walk!

A Corpse Road in Swaledale

March 27, 2015

There was a thick mist as we made out way over from Kirkby Stephen to Keld in Swaledale, but by the time we reached the tiny village, which is on both the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast Path, it had melted away, leaving clear views down the dale and over the lonely and seemingly endless stretches of moorland.

Keld, (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Keld, (c) John Bainbridge 2015

We had come to walk part of the corpse road, along which the dead of Keld were carried the twelve miles to the parish church of Grinton, to be buried. And a wild journey it must have been in bad weather, for the stretch that we walked, between Keld and Muker is both high and exposed.

Keld itself feels like the village on the edge of the world. As Wainwright says in his Coast to Coast Guide “a sundial records the hours, but time is measured in centuries in Keld.” On the lane out of the village is the war memorial, commemorating the four men of the district who died in the Great War. But were they to come back they would hardly believe they had been away at all, so unchanged in this village.

The Corpse Road on Kisdon Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2015

The Corpse Road on Kisdon Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2015

The corpse road is a well-defined track climbing the western side of Kisdon Hill, offering grand views over this quiet and unspoilt land. Now as you’ll know from previous blogs, I have a great interest in corpse roads. But this seems a particularly unspoiled example. If you met a corpse-carrying party who’ve wandered in from the Middle Ages you wouldn’t feel terribly surprised.

But this day we saw no ghosts. Just a solitary shepherd feeding his sheep and a great many lapwings.

The path goes steeply downhill to the little village of Muker (pronounced Moo-Ker). A tad bigger than Keld, but not much bigger. The church is delightful in its simplicity. Built in the 1580s – one of the few in England dating from the reign of Elizabeth I – and thus making much of the corpse road redundant, offering a decent burial ground for the people at the head of Swaledale. We liked the stained glass, showing Christ as a shepherd and the appropriate 23 sheep – all of the Swaledale Breed.

Muker from the Corpse Road (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Muker from the Corpse Road (c) John Bainbridge 2015

On then to the River Swale itself. Here there are lots of signs of lead-mining, though nature has healed the scars. The miners, who would work a long day at the mining and then farm as well, used the system of mining known as hushing. Holding back water in huge dams on the hill-tops. Then releasing it in one mighty surge to wash away the topsoil, making the ore more visible.

There are the ruins of a smelting mill with some delightful waterfalls at Swinner Gill, with fine views back over Kisdon Hill. Then past Crackpot Hall, now a ruin, abandoned due to subsidence in 1953.

The name Keld comes from the old Norse word for water, and there’s certainly a lot of it about. There are a great many waterfalls on the Swale itself and its tributary becks. Just before you hit Keld again are a beautiful series of falls known as East Gill Force – a lovely spot to linger.

East Gill Force (c) John Bainbridge 2015

East Gill Force (c) John Bainbridge 2015

If you fancy a walk that’s lost in time with a great deal of history, then this is the walk for you.

I hope to feature more about the corpse road in a future blog.

Walking the Balmoral Kill Country

March 26, 2015

I always like to root my plots and characters in a real landscape whenever that is possible. I might alter it, fictionalise it, or just change the odd feature – but I like to start with a reality. And at some point in my fiction I like to use an actual place I know, walk around it and imagine my characters playing out their adventures upon it.

Loch Muick (c) John Bainbridge 2015

I always knew, right from the beginning, that my Victorian thriller The Shadow of William Quest would come to a dramatic conclusion on Holkham Beach in Norfolk. And I knew that the final duel between my hero and villain in Balmoral Kill would have to be in some remote spot in the Cairngorms, though within easy reach of the royal residence of Balmoral Castle.

But I wasn’t sure where.

In all my Scottish stravaiging I had never been to Loch Muick (pronounced without the u), though I had read about it in my numerous Scottish books and looked at it on the map. It seemed an ideal location for the conclusion of a thriller.

Glas-Allt-Shiel House (c) John Bainbridge 2015

So last summer, when we were staying in Ballater, we walked up to take a look, circling the loch and examining the wild mountains and tumbling rivers round about. Plotting a gunfight (even a fictional one) takes some care. I wanted it to be as probable and realistic as possible. This is, after all, a book about experienced assassins. I wanted the line of sight of every rifle to be exact.

We also had to check out the hills around. Both my hero and villain are great walkers and “walk-in” to places where they expect to see some action

And a beautiful wild place Loch Muick is. It was a favourite picnicking place of Queen Victoria, who used to linger for days on end at the lonely house of Glas-Allt-Shiel, in mourning for her beloved Prince Albert. Today’s royal family picnic there even now. The house is as I describe it in the book, as is the surrounding scenery. Believe me, I checked out those sightlines. Every shot described in the book could be taken in reality. Even now when I think of that loch and the Corrie Chash above it, I think of my characters being there. Sometimes they are all very real to me.

Loch Muick looking up towards where Balmoral Kill comes to its conclusion. (c) John Bainbridge 2015

We also revisited Balmoral Castle (actually they only let you into the ballroom!), strolled through its grounds and examined the countryside round about. I was able to work out the exact routes taken by all of the characters who found themselves on the shores of Loch Muick on a late summer day in 1937.

Other areas of Scotland feature in the book too. I partly fictionalised the places I used in the Scottish Borders, though those scenes are based on the many walks I’ve done around Peebles, the Broughton Heights and Manorwater. In one flashback scene in the Highlands I have a character journey from Taynuilt and out on to the mighty twin peaks of Ben Cruachan, and then into the glens beyond, to kill a man in Glen Noe. Some years ago I did a lot of walking in that area and had considerable pleasure in reliving my journeys as I penned those scenes.

Balmoral Castle (c) 2015 John Bainbridge

The book begins in London and journeys into the East End. I’ve walked the streets and alleys of Whitechapel, Stepney and Limehouse by day and night over the years. Balmoral Kill is set in 1937, so there has been a great deal of change in nearly eighty years. The East End was very badly bombed in the War and thoughtless planners have destroyed a lot more. But enough remains to give you the picture. Once more, I could take you in the steps of my characters through every inch of the places mentioned.

Very often going to these locations inspires changes to the writing. Balmoral Kill was half-written by the time we explored Loch Muick. The real-life topography of the place inspired me to make several changes to the novel’s conclusion.

And now I’m writing an historical novel set in the 1190s. The landscape where it is set has changed very considerably in the centuries since. So more imagination is needed, though I still try to root my scenes in reality.

As a walker as well as a writer I find going on research trips is the best way to conjure up locations with the written word.

If you haven’t yet read Balmoral Kill please do give it a try. It’s out now in paperback as well as in eBook form on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. I’d be pleased to know what you think of it. And if you ever do get the chance do take the journey from Ballater up to Loch Muick. It’s well worth while.

Click on the link below to read Balmoral Kill.

Balmoral Kill: A Sean Miller Adventure

Balmoral Kill: A Sean Miller Adventure

Buy from Amazon

 

Into the Woods

March 25, 2015

Our second piece this week by guest blogger Basak Tunulku…

Into the Woods
I dedicate this piece to the Lake District and Cumbria

I do not know when I first experienced the woods. I remember that each summer when I travelled with my family to our summer resort, I was excited to get away from Istanbul and visit a beautiful place near the Northern Aegean Sea. Of course, this feeling was also a reflection of my quest for adventure, fed by children’s novels by Jules Verne and Enid Blyton; an adventurous voyage full of secrets to be discovered. And of course, the Northern Aegean coast is still beautiful after all these years, despite continuous efforts by governments to transform it full of summer resorts next to each other.

I’ve always admired the changing textures of Nature, between the Marmara Region – a combination of dark green woods with large metropolises – and the Aegean Region, a combination of yellowish green Mediterranean shrubs with smaller cities. I liked this contrast between the greens and the cookies made by my mom that we ate during travels. Maybe because of that, I still like cookies and pastries! You could never find the legendary English oak trees across the Aegean seaside, but there was another tree, for which legends were written: the olive tree, the symbol of peace and health that was in front of our eyes for thousands of acres during our travels. Between olive trees, there were only small plants with thorns and no flowers, usually withering because of the heat. Our summer resort was our only chance to become familiar with the ‘natural’, either by walking on the beach to collect shells, or diving in the sea to see its depths (although I was diving next to my family on the beach, this was a real challenge for me).

Sometimes we would climb a hill with a group of people usually led by a senior, like my father, who took us to look around at animals, plants and ruins. I collected small pieces of nature and took them home with me, such as seeds, shells and nice-looking ‘sacred’ stones. However, when I got older and continued my education in Istanbul, I could not find the chance to spend all my summers in a place like that. Because I was staying in Istanbul and taking summer classes, over time, I felt totally detached from woods. My life in the city was full of exams and seeing friends. I was also distracted by the desire to consume spaces such as a newly opened cafe or a shop to be discovered in the old and popular neighbourhoods of Istanbul.

Things changed for me when I came to England in 2004 for my studies at Lancaster University. Although for most students, Lancaster had never been an attractive town, with lots of shops, pubs, bars and night clubs, it opened up a new door to me which had been locked during my life in greedy and ugly Istanbul, full of individualistic people without love or respect for each other. Since Lancaster, a town with a good combo of “green, old and small” which still kept some of the rural features that shaped the English countryside, I was totally enveloped in it from my first day there. The contrast on the campus astonished me: when I entered it, passing by a steep road with trees on both sides and a pond where ducks and geese were swimming, with the fells visible at a distance under a clear sky, I thought I had come to a paradise. However, then I saw the buildings of the campus – constructed during the 1960s.

Later, I learnt the names of the fells, when I started to join daily trips organised by the university. They belonged to the legendary Lake District, with which I fell in love at first sight. And, very ironically, there is no place in the world which makes me as happy and sad at the same time as the Lake District and Ida Mountains, the mountain range near our summer resort, which I try to visit each year if I can find time. There is nothing I would add to such a place – it is, in my opinion, beauty actualised in place, and it inspired poets and painters since the Romantic Era. The Lake District or Cumbria, more than any other place is, in my opinion, the best location to experience England, due to its tremendous variety and its firm grip on its rural identity, despite the impact of tourism during the last few decades. It is both English and Celtic, with legends of stone circles and castles, thought to be of King Arthur and his father, Pendragon and names which reflect English and Celtic cultures. It is on the borderline between England and Scotland, shaped by wars and disputes between the two sides. It is both made by man and nature over thousands of years, resulting in a ‘beauty’ natural and artificial at the same time. It is both dependent on farming, as it has been for thousands of years, and on tourism, carrying thousands of white collars to experience its beauty and tradition. The feeling it arouses in me is a mixture of everything: it gives me the pleasure of being lonely and free. At the same time it brings sadness, especially when my trip ends and I know that I should go back. As one of my relatives said, places like the Lake District are not as massive as the USA or Canada, but when you go there you can see everything.

Like a theatre scene, the Lake District has more than just one layer, even if lakes are called “waters” and mountains are called “fells”. At first, you can see a small lake and a river which intermingle, and then behind them, there is a wooded area with cottages and cottonball-like sheep. Behind this lie fells not nearly as high as real mountains, but which still allow you to feel scale and grandeur.
The Lake District reminds me of my childhood, an unfulfilled and never-ending quest of going, leaving and returning again and again to discover the world and me, alone in a dark wood covered with huge trees. There the only voices I can hear, instead of through an I-Phone, are those of birds singing and of trees dancing in the breeze, as if talking to each other. I always tell myself to accept the beauty of the Lakes, either by losing my horizon in a small forest near Keswick or a small tarn in Great Langdale. When I was travelling within the Lake District, I always preferred the number 555 bus, which connects Lancaster and Keswick across a beautiful route. Sometimes I travelled in the evenings, which prevented me from seeing the beauty of the area and knowing my exact location. However, this did not prevent me from ‘seeing’ through the dark, since I could feel where I was. England gave me back the pleasure to be lost in the countryside, manmade or natural, with the feelings of freedom, admiration of beauty and quest for the self and adventure. However, I know that whether natural or manmade, when I go there to get away from mundane problems, I feel I damage its beauty.

I also know that the wood is a part of me as I am a part of it.

 

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