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

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Photo of the Month: February

This month's photo of the month is the descent into Dr Bannister's Hand Basin at Upper Long Churn Cave in the Yorkshire Dales:

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Wild Places, the Elements & Surrender - Part 2!

Yesterday’s blog prompts so many thoughts.

'… After the passage of an immensely physical time attempting to drag boats into the wind it became clear that we had no option but to give in to the elements. We were competing with forces much greater than ourselves and to continue was folly, so along this wild shore, above the high water mark, a temporary camp was established to offer us some respite from the conditions. We rested for many hours in this wild place. Surrender it was …'


Are our lives filled with 'wild places'; everyday circumstances and situations that we seem to have no control or charge over, with little or no understanding of?

Are there 'battles' going on that fought in our own strength will bring us down, leaving us weary and restless?

Is it time to rest and find our paths of surrender?



Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wild Places, the Elements & Surrender!

Wilderness and wild places have had a profound effect on shaping a life and a lifestyle to which the outdoors has been central. There isn’t, what I would regard to be, real wilderness remaining in this country. However, wild places cling on tenuously in the face of an insatiable desire to bring about “development”. Much has been written and spoken on the need in our “over-civilised” society for such wild places, it is my personal opinion that they are of the most fundamental importance and their loss would be to our ultimate bankruptcy.

John Muir said: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

Over an extended period of time I have deliberately attempted to devote some time each year to not only visiting wild places, both here and overseas, but also to spending quality days as a resident in them.

It’s more than a decade ago now that we took a trip for a few days to explore the area of Lochs Sunnart and Teacius by open canoe, a trip planned to last for several days wild camping by the water side each evening. It was early spring and we were treated to a wildlife spectacle as a school of porpoises swam by us on the open waters of Loch Sunnart and seals followed us swimming under our boats. Deer were close by overnight and some of our larger native birds of prey circled high above the wooded ground that we chose to camp on alongside Loch Teacuis. The weather for the first few days was fine and cold but we knew before embarking on the journey that this was not likely to hold through till the latter stages of the expedition. Lying under a tarp in the darkness of the last night it was a restless few hours as a booming wind could be heard above our heads. Strangely, upon waking on the last morning the light revealed grim grey skies but a relatively calm surface to Loch Teacuis. We set off after breakfast making steady progress from close to the head of the loch in the direction of its “mouth” the gateway to the larger Loch Sunnart. The closer we got the more difficult progress became. Beaching the boats some hundred metres or so short of the “confluence” and peering into the expanse of Loch Sunnart, past the island of Carna, revealed what could only be described as maelstrom as the wind howled and white breaking waves crashed against the island and all along the shore. I can no longer remember why but we attempted to make some progress by tracking the canoes on ropes along the stony beach but I remember well the glaringly obvious which was that the open crossing of the Loch that we needed to do to complete the trip was, under these conditions, impossible. After the passage of an immensely physical time attempting to drag boats into the wind it became clear that we had no option but to give in to the elements. We were competing with forces much greater than ourselves and to continue was folly, so along this wild shore, above the high water mark, a temporary camp was established to offer us some respite from the conditions. We rested for many hours in this wild place. Surrender it was.

Twilight began to gather and was accompanied with abatement in the wind, the waves calmed. We made the decision, that in these less than ideal conditions, we would attempt the open crossing of the Loch. As we paddled the wind consistently dropped and the ever growing darkness was accompanied by rainfall that built in intensity. With head torches lit up we pursued our bearing across the Loch in the direction of Glenborrodale. As the last glimmer of natural light faded into the dark wet night a light was turned on, on the shore, directly in line with the bearing we were paddling. One light in this dark world that we were negotiating made all the difference. Twenty minutes, maybe half an hour later canoes beached we stood soaking wet but exuberant on the beach – wilderness journey complete.

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Few Photos From Washington Wild Camping Society

Washington Wild Camping Society have been playing around with some photos from recent trips, I quite like them (!):




Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ash Wednesday

During Advent we embarked on a journey of exploration and found that the baby named Jesus was born with our whole life well-being and eternal destiny in mind.

Traditionally Lent is seen as a time to prepare ourselves to celebrate another day in history: that day when the baby from the manger became the man on the cross who then walked free from a sealed tomb!

This season is linked to 40 days and 40 nights of ‘desert living’ in preparation for a work to be done: a time of surrender, solitude, sacrifice and temptation.

Over the next few weeks of this Lent period we will take some ‘mini expeditions of reflection’ and once again we invite you to share with us in this experience.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Historical Graffiti

Written on the rocky wall in copperplate hand writing the words - I Archer August 23 1855 - will be recognisable to anybody who has strayed even very slightly off the beaten track in Smallcleugh Mine, Nenthead.

I love Smallcleugh and spend much time working in it with groups and on a personal level exploring its further reaches and connections through to other mines. Its a fascinating place, in many ways a time capsule, with a rich social history attached to it. Today we explored the mine following the well trod path through to the remarkable Ballroom and returning via a short abseil above Wheel Flats and a squeeze through the letterbox underneath Gulley Back Cross Cut. However, it was later discussion on Mr Archer's graffiti that prompted the gist of this post.

Sure there will have been great change in what has gone on at Smallcleugh since 1855 as the mine's fortunes have fluctuated ultimately leaving it now as an abandoned historical ruin, no longer an engine for industrial and economic growth, rather a venue for leisure time pursuits. However, it is difficult to imagine that Mr Archer wouldn't find the setting most familiar should he return to his former workplace today. I did a quick Google search on I Archer 23 August 1855 and it turned up nothing, so at the time of writing I know little about him other than the assumption that he visited this place presumably as a mine worker of some kind on at least that day in history.

As mentioned above the mine will have seen much change in the years that have passed, the world indeed has seen much more: a revolution in the way society is organised; major conflicts; and the dawn of a new technological age that would have been difficult to predict even 50 years ago - to name but a few. Today's trip through time in Smallcleugh involved a mother and her teenage son with an agenda to spend some time together - in relationship. It was a time of shared experience, endeavour, conversation and challenge: a good time which prompted us to consider how society's interaction between its members might have evolved since the days of Mr Archer and whether we are richer or poorer in this respect some 160 years on?

After a good three hours or more underground we left the mine to a clear cold North Pennine evening, the sky touched slightly pink by the setting sun, our journey back to the van undoubtedly was a scene featuring elements that would have been very familiar to one I Archer on 23 August 1855.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Winters Day On Glarmara

Yesterday was the day when the Canoes, Mountains & Caves "Community Programme" finally managed to synchronise itself with the excellent mountain conditions which have prevailed in the Lake District over the last few weeks.

A group of eight set off from Seathwaite Farm mid-morning heading up Grains Gill under bright blue skies; via Stockley Bridge and following the line of the water courses up towards Great End: underfoot becoming increasingly icy and snowy.


A traverse across a snow field under the shadow of Allen Craggs and ascent of a short gulley saw us on the main Glarmara - Allen Craggs ridge high above Seathwaite snatching iconic views of "The Gables" and a frozen Sprinklng Tarn.

Its an interesting trek between Allen Craggs and Glaramara, always longer than I remember with much height gain and descent. It would be a challenging exercise to undertake some detailed micro-navigation in this area which abounds with small tarns; ring contours and knobbly contour features. However, on the day it did make for the capture of many fine landscapes.



Glarmara as always proved to be an excellent vantage point.

The descent, via Hind Gill, was every bit as brutal as I recalled it to be from the last time I came down this way. A real knee wrecker, confirming an opinion that anyone planning a day in this area should consider continuing north along the ridge and taking one of the gentler ways down!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Wild Places

We've just completed our first planned 2015 "weekend off" from working in the outdoors. The event that kept us from our usual haunts of the Lake District; Yorkshire Dales & North Pennines was an 800 mile road trip. It was tiring but the joy of: a meal with parents; catching up with friends; an eighteenth birthday; a six day old grand daughter and the chance to visit an un-well friend all made for a special time.

As the miles and the towns of Merseyside; the Midlands and the South East of England passed us by it struck me just how much concrete and tarmac cover the surface of our country and how many "shed -like" buildings we rely on to satisfy our need to consume: coffee; fast food; DIY; cars; clothes; the list goes on. The tension in a seething mass of "car bound" humanity that rendered sections of the M25 an enormous car park frustrated by its inability to reach its destination on time all re-affirmed a long held view of just how much we have a deep inner need to connect with the "wild places" of our created environment. What a contrast to when we journey on foot; by canoe; or descend through the vertical realm of the underworld on ropes where the honest labour of our bodies and mindful interpretation of environment replace the drone of a diesel engine and the impersonal promptings of satellite navigation systems. I do believe that this connection which is yearned for and sought by many but equally masked, buried and foreign to others is a matter of the soul and its innate desire to connect with its origin:

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth    
Psalm 121: 1 & 2

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Above & Below

Its a busy time at Canoes, Mountains & Caves at the moment both working with groups & training.

There has been a great underground emphasis so far in 2015 which has been much enjoyed by both ourselves & the groups we have been working with, however, just lately we have been looking out of the window at the snow covered North Pennines and Lake District fells contrasted against bright blue skies and longed to be out in them. All of this was rectified this morning ( and will be further so later in the week) when we got out to do some crag training with Glyn & Ben Mitchell this morning. 

What a beautiful morning it was in the Lake District!

We've posted a few photos of today's activities in the Lakes & a little more underground stuff below, hope you enjoy them (!):

Here are a few from our group caving day in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday: