Black Sail Weekend – October 2017

Judging by the fact that Adrian had to book over a year in advance and that this was the earliest in the year he could get a booking for, the appeal of Black Sail, the remotest hostel in England, hasn’t faded amongst the general population. Therefore, it was surprising that a mere 8 of us headed for the Lakes on a beautiful October Friday. Some said it was too late in the year but the Friday and Sunday were 2 of the sunniest, clearest days I’ve had in the Lakes so that didn’t prove to be a problem.

The journey over was slightly marred by a road closure only a mile from Buttermere; of which there was little advanced warning. This was made worse when, on the alternative route, we got stuck behind what is surely the country’s slowest driver (although to be fair both Kath and Jane also claimed the same thing). The parking situation wasn’t easy in Buttermere either as the village was as busy as I’ve ever seen it but we eventually found a place on the closed road and headed down to the Fish Hotel where we all met up (apart from Adrian who came over later).

After some brief refreshments and Jane distributing items as diverse as a pair of slippers and a tin of Sardines in other peoples packs, we set off. Jane was claiming to have a blocked pelvis; something nobody else had heard of before. A plumbing problem, maybe? However, as we found that she’d not only sailed across the Atlantic this year but had also been skiving off since May, she got little sympathy.

We decided to walk along the sunny side of the lake, round the far end (where we resisted the temptation of ice cream) and headed up and over Scarth Gap Pass and down to the lovely remote Black Sail Hostel. It was quite a few years since my last visit and I’d heard that it had been renovated. However, it still looked the same and retained it’s rustic appeal. I think much of the work had been under the skin like a new shower, solar panels , new wiring and windows. We arrived about 4.00 and a welcome notice told us to help ourselves to tea which we did. At 5.00, James, one of the friendly wardens, met us and gave us an introductory welcome talk (which I missed). As the other female warden, Kirsty, has the only staff room in the hostel, James has been camping in his tent outside since 1st April!

The new shower was good although you still have to go outside to get to the shower and toilet. To be fair, the layout of the hostel makes it difficult to change this. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold during those mid-night loo visits whilst we were there.

Before you knew it, it was Wine O’ Clock and Adrian arrived just as it was getting dark.
James cooked us a very nice Chilli for dinner ; followed by his home-made Chocolate Brownies. Dinner weas followed by the usual chatting, laughs and generally catching-up but nobody was too late to bed.

Dave and I were up first the next morning and soon had a brew going. However, Dave had to call most of the group at 7.55 to tell them that the cooked breakfast would be served in 5 minutes. Paul couldn’t understand why we were having breakfast in the middle of the night! To be fair, the shutters in our dorm made it very dark. It sounds like there had been a bit more activity in the girls dorm during the night with tales of rustling and a suspicion of a mouse in the house. The cooked breakfast was up to standard. James did tell us that there was always something at Black sail that doesn’t work but this weekend we were lucky in that it was only the grill which meant we had to have bread instead of toast. No real hardship.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Saturday was fairly accurate and it was a foggy, murky day. However, we decided to stick to the original walk Adrian had planned and all of us, except Sue (or so we thought) headed up over Black Sail Pass. Sue claimed she was going for a walk down the valley but surprisingly followed us although then headed back and down the valley. The rest of us headed over the top and down to Wasdale Head where the pub proved to be too tempting to miss for refreshments. Jane declared that her waterproofs were not waterproof and also bought some new socks in the shop.

After half an hour, the boys set out again; leaving Jane and Kath to spend a few hours more in the pub. To be fair, we only walked about 200 metres before stopping for lunch inside the quaint little church at Wasdale. Then it was onwards and upwards to Sty Head. It was by no means busy but suddenly I heard the slightly ethereal sound of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish you were here’ coming from a group of people heading out of the mist. We decided that doing Great Gable was pretty pointless in the mist so headed up Aaron Slack and over Windy Gap, which wasn’t as windy as I’ve known it. It should have been a fairly straightforward route back down to Black Sail but in the mist we accidentally took the wrong path although soon realised our mistake and headed down to the right path. A good walk; despite the murk. Adrian said that when he reccied the walk earlier in the year with his girlfriend, she had lost 2 toenails, which is presumably why she didn’t join us this weekend. From now on, Adrian’s walks are given a Toenail rating!

Back to the hut about 4.00 for afternoon tea. Jane and Kath had finally dragged themselves away from the coal fire in the pub and got back just before us. In the interval before dinner, an impromptu yoga session took place with various members of the group adopting a variety of interesting positions; most of which had the word ‘dog’ in their names.

The evening meal of Bangers and Mash ; followed by Apple Crumble (nearly as good as Peter’s!), was very good again and we were introduced to Kirsty, the other warden – the one with the room. We were also joined by another group of 3 ladies from Middlesborough. Four were expected. Hopefully the other one isn’t still out there somewhere. Scrabble seemed to be the order of the day and Sue and I took on Dave and Rob. For only about the third time in my life, I actually managed to use up all my letters on the first turn so that got us off to a flying start although Dave and Rob were breathing down our necks at the end and had closed the gap to 10 points with our remaining ‘Z’ cancelling out their remaining ‘Q’. Not sure who beat who on the other table.

Despite the fact that the clocks went back, nobody was too late to bed. Not quite the late rush for breakfast as a result though. In complete contrast to yesterday, the weather dawned sunny with a totally blue sky; albeit a bit colder. I suggested that, as it was clear, we should do the ridge to the south west of Buttermere; one of my favourite Lakeland walks and one I hadn’t done for quite a few years. I was unable to give it a toenail rating but was confident that everybody would enjoy it. We headed out of the remote Ennerdale valley and back to the top of Scarth Gap pass. This time, instead of heading down to the Lake, we headed up Seat and onto the first peak of the ridge, High Crag. Elevenses was taken on the top with glorious views in all directions. Continuing over High Stile to Red Pike, the third and final peak on the ridge. Here, lunch was taken and Adrian left us to take a shorter route down.

I led the remainder of us down the longer but more gradual route down into Scale Beck gully. The path was quite eroded and a bit tricky in places but we were eventually rewarded by the bonus of Scale Force; possibly the highest waterfall in the Lakes. Somebody said “That’s what I call a waterfall”. Eat your heart out, Good Tony. It even had water in it. Not always the case with my waterfalls!

The final part of the walk followed a slightly rocky and boggy path down to the shore of Crummock water and then across to Buttermere village. Fairly busy but not quite as bad as Friday. We made a bee line for Sykes Farm Cafe for afternoon tea before dispersing and heading back to York. Dave and Paul had meat pie and Jane was able to reclaim her various posessions from other peoples (mostly Paul’s) bags.

Another great YOG weekend enjoyed by all; including the debutatnt, Rob, who hopefully we shall see again. He certainly brought the average age down as well as proving good company.

NEW Appointment: Director of FUN!

We are delighted to announce the appointment of renowned Funster, Nick Elliott, who will be joining this year’s YOGFEST Team as Director of Fun. When asked about his new role Nick said, ‘This is my dream job. I keep pinching myself’.

YOGFEST Coordinator Trisha Bartley commented, ‘We are absolutely thrilled that Nick can spare time out of his (very) busy schedule to make YOGFEST 2017 a barrel of laughs for us all! I simply can’t wait to see what tricks he pulls out of his hat!’

Backpeaking by Mark Cook

This year, Jeremy’s ever-popular backpacking weekend headed out of Yorkshire for what I think is the first time. No less that 14 members had signed up for the trip; a new record for this type of weekend. However, the number of starters was pared down to 11 due to another miscalculation as to when one of Peter’s offspring was descending from the other side of the world and, at the last minute, Helen not feeling well enough for the trip. Hopefully she’s fully recovered now.

Not Oceans 11 but the Dry Land 11 met at York station and headed south; first to Sheffield on a fairly normal train and then onwards from there on a much-maligned rail vehicle (“a cross between a bus and a lorry on rails” according to one of our knowledgable railway trio) which we were forewarned would not be comfortable and, slightly more worrying, with a dubious safety record. Maybe this was why it departed from a somewhat hidden platform on Sheffield station. Fortunately we were only on it for 2 stops and we arrived in one piece at Grindleford for the start of the walk.

The station appeared not to have any facilities at all and somebody piped up “Where’s the cafe?”. At that moment, I suddenly realised that I’d been here before and that, just at the top of the hill was not only a cafe but a damn fine one at that. As Jeremy said there was no hurry, we immediately all entered said cafe and bacon butties and beveridges were ordered. Patricia was slightly surprised when she ordered a coffee to be asked “Do you want a pint?”.

On leaving the cafe, Jane feared that she’d left her rain jacket on the train. However, a piece of cunning detective work by Sue (ex Intelligence Corps!) suggested that we should inspect the photo taken when embarking from the train to see if Jane was wearing it at the time. Viewing the photo did indeed prove that she had been wearing the coat when she got off the train and a more thorough search of where she had been sitting in the cafe revealed the coat and a relieved Jane set off with the rest of us; no longer in fear of rain.

The walk and scenery of the White Peak were lovely as we headed first south and then west to Stony Middleton. This was followed by a steep climb before we descended into the next valley where lunch was taken. Onwards to the next village of Great Longstone where an enticing pub caused another unscheduled stop. Unfortunately for those who fancied a cider, the pub and it’s staff, one of whom it was definitely his first day, seemed to encounter all sorts of problems. Surprisingly, a similar problem with the cider re-occurred at the pub later that evening but it was dealt with much more swiftly and efficiently. After the cider drinkers had eventually finished their drinks, we were off again. The final part of the days walk was along the Monsal Trail, the route of the old St Pancras to Manchester railway line, I was informed by one of the railway three, so progress was swift. Interestingly, we walked through no les than 3 quite long tunnels. Finally, we turned off the Monsal Trail, crossed the valley and entered the grounds of Ravenstor Youth Hostel by a slightly obscure entrance. As I remembered, it is indeed a lovely building.

The hostel reception had only been open for 10 minutes but unluckily for us, a very large group of cyclists from Beeston had snuck in just before us so there was a bit of a lengthy wait before we could check in. I blame them for the fact that most of the hot water had run out before I got a shower. However, the member of staff on the desk in compensation, waived the fee for those who hired towels. Not the last generous deed by him; of which more later.

It was a fairly quick turnaround as dinner had been booked at the nearby Anglers Retreat at 7.00 so we soon headed a mile down the road to the hostelry. The pub proved an excellent choice of eatery as most of us had a very nice meal of good proportions at a reasonable price. As there were a few tired legs, we didn’t tarry long after the meal before heading back to the hostel by a much quieter road. Most people headed off to bed quite early but those of us who stayed up to watch Glastonbury on the T.V. were rewarded when the same staff member asked if we wanted to eat the remains of the home-baked Apple Pie which consisted of the dessert of that night’s hostel meal.How could we refuse? A second pudding of the night for some of us. No names mentioned! Very nice it was too. Eventually we decided that we couldn’t manage to stay up to see the Foo Fighters finish their set and headed off to bed ourselves.

After a good nights sleep, we were ready for the second leg of the weekend walk. We even got a bit of a lie-in as we’d agreed to let the cyclists have breakfast first although they were a bit late so there was some overlap. The weather wasn’t quite as good as the previous day and we set off in a slight drizzle. Some of the hardier still persisted in wearing shorts whilst others donned waterproof trousers; in Dave’s case, Helen’s waterproof trousers which he’d brought accidentally.

The first part of todays walk was along the bottom of a long, deep dale which was quite primordial at times. Also, for some reason, it kept changing it’s name. First it was Monk’s dale, then Peter’s Dale (although no sign of Peter!), then Hay dale and finally, Dam Dale, before eventually flattening out into more open country. At the lunch stop, Patricia finally explained the origin of the term ‘Lucky Knickers’ which she’d mentioned the previous day and was being teased about. Suffice to say, it’s not what you may think!

The final section of the walk headed for the Dark Peak and, having seen very few other walkers apart from a few Duke of Edinburgh groups, we were slighly overwhelmed by the crowds on Mam Tor which is clearly a very popular spot for a Sunday stroll. Finally, we left the madding crowd for the descent into Edale where we managed to locate a National park centre where tea and Ice Cream was procured before catching the train home. Another great YOG weekend. Thanks to Jeremy; not in the least for the amount of food he carried for Sunday’s packed lunch; along with his superb Ginger Chocolate Flapjack. Must get the recipe sometime.

Wherever next years backpacking trip takes us, you can be sure it will be a good one.