Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Exploring in Brownley Hill Mine, Nenthead

With: Alan & Clare
Weather: a mild evening for February
Where: Nenthead, North Pennines

Stone Arching in Brownley Hill
Brownley Hill is a mine I've not spent very much time visiting, maybe just a couple of previous trips both of which have ended in exactly the same place with me wondering whether I really ought to be in that place! Each time a sense of self-preservation has clicked in, discretion has been the better part of valour and a swift retreat has ensued.

Last night was an altogether more civilised evening which essentially involved an interesting exploration of one particular section of the mine. We entered through the Bloomsberry Adit at just after six o'clock with the last remnants of daylight still lingering on (thoughts of evening trips into the fells now beginning to beckon again) the weather although damp was mild for the time of year.

The initial drive through shaley ground was longer than I had recalled from previous visits & we spotted a bat take to flight close to the entrance maybe he had noticed the milder air as well? At the sump which was roaring no doubt due to the recent wet weather we had a short ratch around the passage to our right (SE direction?) and straight ahead. However, the aim of the evening was to have a good look around the long passage that ranges from this point in a north westerly direction (i.e. effectively left from the sump)

The going was easy in the main passage throughout the length we explored with just occasional constrictions to crawl over/under or squeeze past, there are precarious looking deads stacked in the roof on occassions!
Blue Pool in Brownley Hill Mine - Photograph by Clare Mackey

In this direction there are numerous vertical rollers - artefacts of a continuous rope system? Not long after the stone arching pictured above is an area which branches in several directions with a rise to the right which we did explore again on this occassion despite having had a good look around previously (it provides access to quite extensive flats workings) in addition are a couple of small pokey passages and also to the right the way on to an excellent blue pool (also photographed above, by Clare) - at the moment I am unable to lay hands on any of my Brownley Hill plans so this post will be edited again with some better "positioning" references from the mine plans. After exploring everything in this area we pressed on down the main North West heading passage, across a sump spanned by some dubious looking boards & another spanned with a rail protected by a traverse line, at each junction & every possibility to explore we deviated from the passage in an attampt to gain as good an understanding of the area as possible. Eventually at another sump crossable via a rail but with the passage seemingly running on & on we turned back. Frustatingly we were running out of time to pursue this passage to its conclusion so to find out where it ends will have to be the subject of another trip, however, it was good to increase our understanding of this area.

Its always interesting to spot all the possible climbs & holes to crawl around on the way back that hadn't been noticed on the way in & once again we found several on this occassion, the most interesting of which was in the area of the rise referred to earlier - a climb up which would be to the LHS on the way in took us into a worked area which had been bolted out with 3 bolts allowing access down to a sub-level, not sure where this goes its one for another night. 

With a slightly improved understanding from this short visit it was back out into an eerie misty Nenthead evening.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Blaithwaite Life - The Year So Far

A Sunny Winter's Day In The Courtyard

Its been a while since anything has appeared on the blog about Centre life, so I thought a brief update might be in order. 2012 has got off to an exceptionally hectic start, hence slightly fewer posts about days out in the fells & underground, hopefully the balance will be re-dressed as the year progresses.

January is the sketchiest month of the year for visiting groups, however, we enjoyed a full Centre over the New Year period itself; followed by the In2venture weekend and  a midweek student conference - some new visitors to the Centre from a Church in Lancaster came towards the end of the month.
February has been very much back to business as usual with every weekend occupied by Church groups and the first of two mid-week schools already having visited.
The weather for our visitors has been a real mixed bag with an unseasonally mild start to the year being followed by a fine spell of dry cold conditions in which we missed the snow that affected the majority of the country.

As reported earlier the newly upgraded power supply is working well with no hitches - a welcome conclusion to the biggest project undertaken during our time here.
The Stables bedroom upgrade is almost complete now with just re-carpeting to go & once again Richard has worked through an epic painting and decorating programme over the winter.
Recent weeks have been dominated by some un-scheduled maintenance as we have had to deal with some dry rot in the Main House this has been a very significant & unwelcome piece of work but is now just about complete. 
Our website (www.blaithwaite.co.uk) has been refreshed with some new photographs & a new events page. On the events front we are looking forward to: Activity Weekend (first weekend in March); Spring & Autumn Retreats; and several new events being organised by Rob & Margaret Bianchi including over 50's walking & activity weeks in September / October.

We received some welcome news today regarding Kay - latest scan all clear, which will allow her course of treatment to continue. Thanks to everyone for prayers, help & support over the last couple of very tense weeks.

The Centre calendar is looking very healthy for 2012 and increasingly into 2013 - so once again we look forward to what I'm sure will be a busy & rewarding Spring and Summer at Blaithwaite!

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Seathwaite Round

With: Alan Rainford, Graham & Paul Rose
Weather: Cool;  initially low cloud but clearing in afternoon; brisk north westerly & lying snow
Where: Seathwaite; Taylor Force Gill; Seathwaite Fell; Esk Hause; Allen Crags; Glaramara; Hind Gill; Seathwaite -  Borrowdale, Lake District

Distance: Approx 6.5 miles
Height Gain: 2810'

I've not seen Paul since August last year so it was good to spend a day out with him. 
We set off from Seahwaite at about 10:30, half term visitors to the Lakes had produced a long queue of parked vehicles tailing well back from the farm - more like summer, except for the snow covered summits surrounding us.
Through the farm; across the beck and a steady pace towards Taylor Gill Force, there's a little brief optional scrambling on the way up on this route which breaks the walking. We crossed the beck roughly underneath the as yet invisible summit of Seathwaite Fell and ascended more steeply through at times knee deep snow, the summit was shortly gained & a brief stop for photos. By this time the views were just starting to improve although Great Gable remained stubbornly in cloud.
Looking Across the Snow Field From Seathwaite Fell Summit Towards Great End
Moving on across the sometimes very deep snow, which hid one or two watery surprises, we headed towards Esk Hause stopping briefly for lunch just above a frozen Sprinkling Tarn. The going was quite difficult on the final ascent to the Hause where we took a sharp left for the short climb on to Allen Crags.
Above: The Langdales From Allen Crags

The journey from Allen Crags to Glaramara is deceptive, 2.5km and I don't know how much height loss & gain. It took us a full hour through deep snow and over false summits to finally reach Glamara's summit.

Above: Looking North From Glarmara - Derwent Water & The Northern Fells

Descending from Glarmara's summit the head of Hind Gill was quickly located and the knee jarring descent under way, it is one of the steeper well used descents & the path is poor, however its over pretty quick!
All told a good day - Seathwate Fell has never been one of my favourites but it showed up particularly well in the snow especially with the hulk of Great End contrasting in the background. Are these the last throes of winter 2012?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Snowy Morning on Blencathra

With: on my own
Weather: first thing snow/ice on roads in Threlkeld; low visibility; deep powdery snow on summit ridge; visibility cleared on descent
Where: Lake District, Northern Fells

Lonscale Fell Looking Impressive In The Snow
Blencathra is possibly my favourite mountain in the Lake District & this morning provided an opportunity to explore it in the snow, the intended route wasn't completed but more of this later. Getting up to the Blencathra Centre to park proved too much for the car so a start from Threlkeld was the next most convenient option, a short walk up the road and on to the fell just before the originally planned parking spot. Rather than root around for indistinct snow covered paths a general N.E. bearing   for Knowe Crags provided varied terrain from skitey, thin snow covered frozen ground to knee deep snow. Visibility grew steadily worse and was quite poor above about 300m, the climb was quite hard work this morning - need to get doing more!
Just short of Knowe Crags I bumped into Lee & Clare from Whitaugh Park and passed an enjoyable few minutes of Centre talk!
There wasn't much to see at all on the summit ridge - in fact nothing at all was visible from the top of the mountain! It was at this point that the morning went a little pear shaped - I realised that my mobile phone was no longer in my pocket!! A couple of kind folk tried calling it for me, it wasn't squirreled away anywhere in my bag so they let me use their 'phone to call in my change of route as I tried in vain to re-trace my steps in an effort to find it - no chance!
The only consolation was that the cloud lifted on the way down revealing some great views of the surrounding fells. An enjoyable but costly morning.

More of Lonscale Fell

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A Few Days Out West

This time last year we spent a couple of days in Arkengarthdale with my Mum & Dad. This year it was Wasdale.We set off on Thursday morning calling in at Whitehaven on a glorious day, the weather was equally good as we travelled around the dale both in the car & on foot. The Wasdale Head Inn was our destination - one of the best places we have ever stayed.

Whitehaven Marina 

The Scafells

Wasdale Panorama

Looking Into Mosedale

Inside St Olaf's

Mosedale at Dawn - View From Wasdale Head Inn

All Change On The Way Home 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Aygill Caverns (with extra photos)

With: Kevin Marsh
Weather: Bitterly cold; snow on Casterton Fell
Where: Bull Pot Farm
A Cold Scene Looking Up the Lane Towards Barbondale
Aygill Caverns have been on the "to do" list for ages. We made it there late afternoon yesterday, there was plenty of ratching and writhing around - it was a bit more physical than anticipated. The photos tell the story (there will be a few more when Kev sends his through).
Kevin At Cave Entrance

A Bit Tight