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, 27 June 2012

Remember, Remember - More Power?

Regular visitors might remember back to January when we upgraded the Blaithwaite power supply by installing a new 100kVA transformer & associated equipment .

Well. Yesterday at about half past four the new transformer failed in spectacular fashion: the lights flashed; there was a loud banging sound and smoke issued from the transformer producing an acrid smell. Our power went off as did that of all our neighbours!!

However, Electricity North West had an engineering team on site within minutes and in steady rain on a most un-summer like evening they did an excellent job in fitting a new transformer and restoring power within 3-4 hours. The site was full (with over 100 visitors) so we were relieved to be back to business as usual.

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Few Days In Summer - Thursday

Well, no sun today - its pouring down and there is much rescheduling of activity. Rather than spend a day at Sour Milk Gill its off to Nenthead for a day underground out of the rain.

Kevin & I took the group today and dodged our way around Olympic torch disruption to arrive at Nenthead late morning. The cloud was down and it was that soaking type of persistent rain. We got to the Smallcleugh portal just after noon and spent the next three hours completing the full "level 1" route through to the Ballroom. I think this was the first time I've been all the way to the Ballroom with a group of this age - it really was an excellent day underground with a real sense of adventure and expectation amongst the group members and genuine interest in the geology and social history associated with the mining heritage of the area.

This was the conclusion of an excellent visit  - looking forward to the next Staindrop week already!

Its hard to give a true impression of the vastness of the Ballroom

The Ballroom Visitor Book - Filled In!

A Few Days In Summer - Wednesday

Back gill scrambling again!

This time with Paul Little & Greg Patterson - its ages since I've seen either of them so it was great to be out again. Today was a bit different as it was the turn of a group who had chosen to do a day of scrambling rather than just participate in a sample. 

We set off from the bridge close to Great Wood car park and progressed well beyond the point at which the sample activity finished concluding the scrambling section with a roped climb up the first of the substantial waterfalls. At this point we stepped out of the gill and ate lunch amongst the midges alongside the path up to Walla Crag. After lunch we continued up to the summit for excellent views on - did I mention - another fine sunny day! The kids didn't want to leave the top of the crag and we must have stayed up there for a good half hour before re-tracing our steps down to the car park. A short journey down to Kettlewell gave the opportunity to skim stones & have a paddle in the sunshine!!

Walla Crag Summit

A Few Days in Summer - Tuesday

Today it was back in Cat Gill again with Becs and a further three groups for a sample of gill scrambling after a cloudy start it got more sunny as the day went on, the only downside was the midges!

A Few Days In Summer - Monday

Today our biggest school activity group of the year arrived at Blaithwaite - the staff and 81 pupils from Staindrop School & Academy, County Durham. Over the first day & a half everybody rotates through five activities (this year: kayaking, gill scrambling, rock climbing, gorge walking - the wet variety and on-site activities). Then on Tuesday evening choices are made and a single activity is selected by each pupil which they stick to for the next two days.

This year I am looking after the gill scrambling group and today two groups sampled the first 150m or so of Cat Gill in Borrowdale. Over the course of the week I'll work with several other members of our own staff and some freelance friends who are just in for the week - today its Becs. The weather was fine and day one's scrambling and complex logistics all ran very smoothly!

Straight after the last scramble and its time to pick up kit for an evening at Nenthead Mines with Alistair Myers of North Pennines Training and Adventure. We did the through trip from Smallcleugh to Rampgill via Proud's Sump - a late finish - back at the Centre 23:15

Its Hard to Imagine its Dusk At Nenthead

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Nearly Half Way Through 2012

Looking Out From the Coach House
Our farming neighbours made the "first cut" this week which to me has now become as good a sign as any that we are approaching the longest day at Blaithwaite, the field behind the Coach House was one of many that was a hive of contractor activity as the big machines, tractors and trailers moved in and collected the rows of freshly cut grass with incredible efficiency. 

It seems like a good point for a general catch up on Blaithwaite life so far in 2012.

The Centre has posed all its usual challenges but we are thankful to have retained such a full calendar through these difficult economic times.

In fact the camp field has been busier than ever this year being at peak over the Jubilee double Bank Holiday. The buildings have been just as full with this week having been a double school week and the weekend seeing a large Girls Brigade Company and a Church from Manchester occupying the site.

After a very difficult late April Kay is enjoying a much more steady spell of health for which we are extremely thankful. Cumberland Infirmary seems to attract a lot of bad press in the local media, however, we could only say positive things about the care and professionalism of everybody we have encountered there. Similarly the Macmillan Nurse; local GP's and Community Nursing Team never fail to go the extra mile - health care in rural Cumbria is first class!

Next week sees the biggest school visit of the year, we are expecting to have 81 year 7, 8 & 9 pupils on activity!

Personal outings have been slightly thinner on the ground than hoped for - this always seems to be the case (maybe I'm just greedy - but I need to be out there, it keeps me going!). A few highlights of the year to date are listed below:

Seathwaite Fell Was Better for Some Snow
A Day Out Around the Fells of Esk Hause Was Perhaps the Highlight of the Year so Far
Blencathra in the Snow Was Excellent but I Lost my Phone & Then it was Handed in at Penrith Police Station!

Friday, 8 June 2012

George & Evelyn Went Boating!

Just a very short post to say - George & Evelyn went boating today, it was pouring down but they had a great time!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Mining At Nenthead: Prouds Sump & Scaleburn Vein

With: Alan & Kevin
Weather: Forecast for heavy thundery rain
Where: Nenthead, North Pennines

Alan Abseiling on First Pitch of Prouds Sump
Wednesday 06th June had been in the diary as a caving day with Alan & Kev, however, typically after a dry spell the weather outlook became distinctly difficult to interpret. The forecast was for a wet morning followed by heavy thundery showers in the afternoon. After much debate we finally, reluctantly, opted to head for Nenthead. Travelling east   bright sunshine gave way to towering black clouds, dry road surfaces to recently soaked surfaces - a difficult day to call. Al fresco changing at the Heritage Centre car park was in the rain as was the walk up to the Smallcleugh portal.

Through the gate into the cool dark atmosphere of the mine: past the first sump; bear right; Proud's Sump always takes slightly longer to get to than I remember. Alan abseiled first - an awkward shuffle off the log which presumably doubles as a deviation, all down and its another short shuffle to the head of the second pitch. This time the deviation is more conventional and provides a landing on the right side of the sump for the journey on through Proud's Sump flats and some good mine archaeology. Next is an oddly rigged ladder which gives access via an ore chute to the main horse level. Heading towards the Rampgill Level entrance deep water is encountered!

its a fair distance to Whiskey Bottle Junction from where we headed on towards the mine entrance ultimately taking a sharp right into Scaleburn Vein where some excellent formations can be seen (below). Up the steps to Top Sills - its quite a while since I've been here. Alan has had a good explore of this area recently in an attempt to locate the Rampgill-Brownley Hill connection, today we passed the miner's graffiti (1795 from memory) on our right, ignored the first left and took the second left passage (running in a NW direction). Its quite shaley in this part of the mine and a couple of collapses have to be negotiated by crawling. Ultimately a sump was reached which all but blocks the way ahead, on this occasion I was the "probe" and traversed the sump on a life-line backed up by a couple of quite dubious anchors. Safely across a flat out crawl through shale was the only way on, it appeared to get progressively lower prompting the decision to reverse back out (hope it didn't go or I'll have to come back & do it again!). Fifteen minutes saw our steps re-traced to the Scaleburn Junction and just a short walk out to humid daylight.

Formations in Scaleburn Vein

On the way out we were interested to see the door which has always guarded against entry to Brewery Shaft had been removed.

Brewery Shaft is a 3.6m diameter shaft which is a full 100m in depth from the surface down to the Nent Force and Rampgill Deep Level, it is concrete lined and from our vantage point on the Rampgill Level it drops for a further 75m.

This was the first time any of us have got to look into the shaft - it really is quite an impressive sight. 

Brewery Shaft

George Helping With Decontamination of Filthy Kit

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee At Blaithwaite

Its 03rd June: the sky is grey; the wind is a cool north easterly and the temperatures are way below where we'd like them to be but its dry and Diamond Jubilee spirit has arrived at Blaithwaite!