Thursday, 20 August 2015

Derby & housesitting for TC

It was a 10 hour drive down from Scotland back to Ian and Helens with two breaks at services to relieve us, give Monty a little walk and change drivers: Ian the hard first part (including a half hour hold up on the Drumochter Pass due to resurfacing. There are worse places to be held up, the scenery is beautiful, but we just wanted to get on!), Helen the middle bit and Brian the last part to home. Lovely take-away home delivered ‘Brummie curry’ after walking Monty, G&T’s, early night and then, off fairly early on Sunday to Tim and Jill’s house in Derby to look after TC the cat while they all go off to Florida for two and a bit weeks.

Jackie cooking in the rather large kitchen - can't wait! ShallI open the wine?
Tim is an old mate from Solihull Mountaineering Club that I’ve known for 20 odd years, a very clever mate it has to be said. He’s married to Jill now (also very clever) and they have two children and have somewhat progressed in life. Tim is now the Financial Director of a multi-billion pound company and they are doing ‘very nicely thank you’, but they are still ‘our mates’ and just the same as they always have been, friendly, down to earth people who still like to get outdoors and do stuff we always used to do.

TC. We like to think it means 'Top Cat' but Tim says its 'Trouble Cat'!
TC is a 17 year old moggy who likes to sit between us on the sofa, purrs and miaows loudly and, due to a bit of arthritis, walks like John Wayne, he’s fabulous! Their house is, what can I say, ‘big!’ 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 4 reception rooms plus huge kitchen and the pièce de résistance, the central grand staircase leading up to two further staircases and a huge wrap around landing and balcony – how the other half live hey? But that’s not good enough, the house is now sold and they are moving in mid-October to another house. This one a several hundred year old listed farmhouse in its own plot of land. A money pit? We hope not, but it’s what they want and why can’t have a bit of what you want if you can afford it, good luck we say and we look forward to looking after TC there in the future!

The staircase from the wrap around landing
Derby is on the edge of The Peak District which is a huge upland area stretching across the centre of England, sometimes called ‘the spine of England’ and comprises in the north, moorland and rock outcrops of gritstone and in the south limestone. Being surrounded by the populated areas of Manchester, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham, Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme it’s very accessible and popular. The rocky outcrops of grit and limestone nurtured Britain’s rock climbing in the 1950’s and there are hundreds of mainly single pitch ‘trad’ climbing giving thousands of routes of all standards, it is the playground of England’s rock climbing and walking fraternity. At weekends they are crowded with folk climbing to all standards and world class, famous climbers can often be seen in amongst the novices quietly soloing up routes that would scare the pants off ordinary climbers. It’s a very interesting scene, as long as you can find a parking space on the twisty winding roads that snake through the moorland and then find the route you wanted to do has been commandeered by a scout group or outdoor teaching group or picnicking families teaching the kids to climb. Should have progressed to the ‘E’ grades and been above all that, but V Diffs and Hard Severes are all we’re comfortable on these days!

Arriving at Birchen Edge. The spire on the top is a monument erected in 1810 to commemorate Nelsons victory at Trafalgar. A lot of the climbs have names referencing this: Trafalgar Crack, Captains Slab etc.
Jackie sorting out the climbing gear at the foot of the crag
We’re slightly fortunate now in that we can climb anytime we want and mid-week usually means there are few if any people about so, on Tuesday we decided to drive off to a gritstone crag 30 miles north called Birchen Edge. Birchen Edge is known as a novices crag due its numerous low grade climbs and is often sneered at by accomplished, or those that think they are accomplished, climbers, but it’s in a lovely setting in amongst trees and heather on the side of a hill with fabulous views over open moorland and always in the sun when it’s shining.

The view looking out from the crag
Tuesday unfortunately was not one of the days when the sun was shining! The forecast suggested it would be an improving weather day so we arrived at midday just as it started to drizzle. We walked to the crag, sat under a rock to eat our sandwiches and watch the rain soak the crag. Not good for climbing on wet, slippy rock, so we walked out again and went on a tour of the many outdoor equipment shops around the area before returning to Derby. We can always go out another day!

That other day was the next day which dawned with clear blue skies, but was a ‘getting worse’ day according to the weather forecast. We headed back to Birchen Edge, walked up to the crag to find no-one else there and led 4 routes from Diff to Severe and top-roped a rather committing Severe up an arête. Lovely weather, just turning to cloud by the time we left at 2:00pm and the first time we have climbed since we were in the USA 9 months ago. Jackie’s first lead was a V Diff with a 4a technical first move, which is quite difficult with a hard mantle shelf move up on classic rounded grit holds – trust in the friction – oh yeah! Anyway, we really enjoyed it if being a little bit scary!

We got back in time to tidy the house and cut the lawn ready to show in the people who have bought the house. The agent rang to ask if it would be OK for them to come back for a second look at what they are buying. The door-bell rang and there was six of them, mum, dad, their kids, the whole family. We just kept out of the way and told them not to ask us any questions, we know nothing! TC seemed to be centre of attraction though, he got lots of fuss from them all!

Must dash, it’s time for afternoon tea and cake….
So here's the first route Jackie led, up that crack. It's called Trafalgar Crack and is V.Diff 4a. You start by standing on that rock just right of centre, get up onto the left leading slope and then head up the crack. Its 14m in height and gear protection is plentiful up high, but its all rounded stuff, like Gritstone always is.The hardest move is getting up off the rock and establishing yourself on the left leading slope. You can get a bit of gear in the vertical crack, but the move feels very balancy and you would hurt yourself if you fell off. Welcome to Gritstone climbing! I did a route from the same start but then heading straight up that wall to the small vertical crack at the top. Very little gear protection and rounded holds all the way. I was very glad to reach the top and belly flopped over! It's Severe 4a, not all that hard, but bold enough for us not being used to it!

1 comment:

  1. So now you can add estate agency to your list of services on offer when pet sitting!