Friday, 27 May 2011

Heather's blog - 9th May - 13th may

Arrived at the site early (very) with FAR too much luggage wondering how I would know the walkers from all the other campers, and was relieved to see Cara - the unmistakeable dog who's blog I had enjoyed reading before.  I'm not going to detail each days walk here but just put on a few photos out of the hundreds  that I took! 

My first view of the core four, plus Ben - and a welcome cup of tea.

On the way to Jacobs ladder Cara and the sheep have a quiet moment.  Or if they are communicating - I wonder what? Someone did suggest that Cara didn't think that the mirror was a good one!

A nice view of the rain to come - with the hail and thunder of course.  I think that this was around the Bleak Low area - it was certainly after the kinder Downfall which didn't!

Below is the group who walked from Crowden to Standedge on Tuesday 10th May.   Plus Victor the driver And my brother John who is taking the photo.

Not the prettiest elevenses site,  but the team had a policy to eat whenever food presented itself.  This only works when walking all day every day which seems to be a jolly good way of going on in my opinion.  This was on Wednesday 11th when we walked from The carriage House at Standedge to Charlestown 

Loking back from where we had come from.  Cara is being good and not looking for grouse.  Somewhere on the way to Haworth

And once at Haworth, what a treat was in store for us as Jenny cooked a birthday meal.  This was just the starter!

and here are the diners - or some of them

On my  last day we walked twenty something miles (was it 24, or 25?)  from Haworth to Malham, and to carry on the eating theme here is a pony that was really keen to get it's share of Chris's sandwich

At the end of a long day - a long and glorious day - and for me the last day - a pint with friends (no session tonight) was just what was needed

If I could have seen how much I was going to enjoy my five days with these wonderful people, I would have attempted the whole thing!  Just let me know when the next one is please!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Belt & Braces

Get a group of singers together and everyday occurrences inevitably lead to impromptu snatches of relevant song ("food glorious food", "a-wandering along a mountain track", "pass your glasses", "singing in the rain" etc).
Currently topping the FolkTrail chart is "trousers are too big" due to Chris's shrinking waistline causing frequent Trouser Emergencies. He's tried various solutions to the problem, including a 'bungee clip belt' and 'rucksack braces'...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Home is where the van is - only here for the craic

In a mad moment I had offered to drive the FolkTrail support vehicle, and quickly discovered that driving the FolkTrail van is an experience not-to-be-missed (especially if you like an intellectual challenge on hill-starts!).

May 6th: We caught up with the walkers at Ilam Hall, where they were enjoying a well-earned rest day (one of only two rest days scheduled in their gruelling three months schedule).
No session was planned that evening, but none of us could resist the lure of the "Isaak Walton", where we found a group of ramblers with a shared guitar wondering if the landlord would mind if they play (he didn't).

May 7th: From Ilam Hall, set in an idyllic pastoral setting, we meandered through gentle countryside to Blackwell, where the energising showers at the newly refurbished campsite refreshed us all for the long evening ahead...
At the Three Stags' Heads (standing room only) we were treated to fiery fiddling, duelling trombones, recitations, loads of songs and a wonderful supper too, courtesy of the Landlord - thankyou Geoff!

May 8th: The following evening's campsite at the Peak District Visitor Centre at Edale was clearly a ramblers' hotspot, with the history of the 'Manchester Rambler' and the mass trespass on Kinder Scout illustrated, and 'non-negotiable'(!) rules and regulations posted throughout the campsite.
The Rambler pub ("muddy boots and dogs always welcome") was, by contrast, a spacious and welcoming venue where Albert (percussion and washboard) with his skiffle band and a large group of Folkworks musicians and singers awaited us.

From Edale I was glad that Victor took over the driving through the Peak District. Being an old-style map navigator myself I was having serious disagreements with TomTom, especially TomTom's instructions to drive across 'hedges and ditches and fields and styles' (there's a song in every situation!).

May 9th: Next stop: Crowden (where the campsite wardens were especially welcoming), and a frantic music session at the Globe Brew in Glossop.

May 10th: As the walkers headed higher into the hills so we drove through increasingly wild landscapes to the Carriage Inn at Standedge where we savoured the turkish menu, and several Morris sides formed a guard of honour for us, then danced the night away while the musicians held the fort indoors.
The Carriage Inn stands close to two ventilation shafts for a train / canal tunnel (three linked tunnels in fact) - the deepest such tunnels in the UK. Clouds of vapour are emitted from the ventilation shafts at odd intervals, and a tall monument stands atop a nearby hill to commemorate the irish navvies who died while 'working on the railway'.

May 11th: At Bacup Borough Football Club the following evening we were treated to a very different kind of evening, starting with the club's very own Premier Pie and Peas (what's the secret ingredient?) followed by an amplified evening of many self-penned songs, recitations, and a toddler-to-watch (just 2 years and 9 months old) who took over the microphone in the interval.

May 12th: The following evening at Haworth YHA we (ie Nadine & I) cooked a double-birthday dinner - it's always a pleasure to cook for such an appreciative eating team, and with Naomi around there's little fear of leftovers! Chilled kir has never tasted so good, and the soaring thirteen-part harmony 'Bonne Anniversaire' was awesome (thankyou all!). With the next day's 26 mile walk to be the longest of the expedition, we all headed off for an early night.

May 15th: A couple of days later we stumbled into the survivors' singaround session at the tail-end of the Hardraw Gathering at the Green Dragon. Although this was not on our list of sessions, the assembled company had heard that we were on our way, and so were looking out for us. A gentle singaround, with a group of fine singers... we're glad you waited for us.

May 16th: Now back at the wheel of the support vehicle, I wondered if the walkers would beat us to the Tan Hill Inn (14m walking / 40+m by road!). This is the highest pub in England, where the singing chef, wild-eyed landlady, puppy-dog and pet sheep kept us all well-fed and entertained (no we didn't eat the puppy, nor the pet sheep).

May 17th: This time the walkers did indeed beat us (9m walking) to the Ancient Unicorn / T'owd 'orned Oss in Bowes for our rendezvous with Black Sheep Morris, the last session for a while.

May 18th: At Middleton in Teesdale we took Black Sheep Morris's hint about the excellent fish-and-chip shop in Middleton, and had a party on-site, rounded off with a tot of Ben's single malt.

May 19th: At Langdon Beck no session was planned but Jamie, the YHA warden, soon persuaded us to make the most of his kindly welcome and the laid-back atmosphere with an evening of songs, music... and the rest of Ben's single malt (sorry, Ben).

May 20th: The route from Langdon Beck to Dufton gave drivers and walkers alike some breathtaking views across to the Lake District, followed by a quiet pint at the Stag before the walkers headed off for an early night in preparation for the following day's tough 20m trek to Alston (said to be the most difficult stretch on the Pennine way).

May 21st: After a hair-raising drive via Melmerby (1900+ft), dodging saturday cyclists on the numerous hairpin bends, we left the FolkTrail support van at Alston YHA and sadly turned for home.

What a fortnight - when can we do it all again??

Jenny Selfe

Following the FolkTrail

We joined the FolkTrail walkers on May 6th, to follow the Trail from Ilam Hall in Derbyshire to Alston in Northumberland.

This was their first rest day since setting out from Lands End on April 1st, and all five core walkers (Clare, Naomi, Moira, Chris and Cara the dog) were in high spirits, having enjoyed the driest and warmest April for many a year.

During the fortnight that we followed the trail we met friends old and new who came to walk and/or share the evening sessions, where we were made very welcome by everyone we met... guitar-toting walkers (Ilam), massed Morris (Standedge), a singing chef (Tan Hill), storytellers, rock and blues musicians (Bacup), romany singers (Hardraw), the old and the young (from a 2-year-old super-star-to-be to octagenarians).

Most days, after the long day's walk, the FolkTrailers had a limited time to pitch the tent, wash, change and eat before heading off to the evening's session, where the music and recording could go on into the wee small hours.

Having just come along to give some background support, we wonder how the walkers found the energy to do all that (especially Moira, who had the tedious task of transferring the sound and video files to the hard drive after each session).

We returned home with some quirky and inspiring memories of the Trail, like ...
... when Clare lost her 'phone, and someone suggested calling her number so we could listen for it ringing - yes, everyone heard it, but still no-one could find it... in the pocket of the jacket she was wearing.
... when one of the guest walkers had a tough time finishing the day's walk Chris stayed behind to help her, arriving at the campsite a couple of hours after the main group - hungry but calm and unruffled.
... at Bacup the Premier Pie and mushy peas were something else - and don't forget the mint sauce!
... the tail-end of the song festival at the Green Dragon at Hardraw was especially memorable, sitting beside Mic and Susie Darling - the romany couple who sang songs of the 'honest people'.
... at the end of a long day supper is always welcome, and Jenny enjoyed preparing some for the walkers - one in a youth hostel, to celebrate her birthday, others in our camper van, at the roadside - it's always fun to get eight or more people packed into a van (and especially when there's food on the go)!
... some days, although the walkers had just a leisurely 9 or 20 mile stroll (ha ha!) the drivers amongst us (Jenny drove the support vehicle some days, while I drove our camper van) were doomed to a 40 - 50 mile journey just to get to the other side of the hill. I bet Jenny's language was colourful as she told the GPS what she thought of 'his' route suggestions through farmyards etc.
... at the Tan Hill Inn we had to push the two pet sheep away from the door before we could get in, and were disconcerted when the 'barman' seemed not to know 'what was what' - no wonder: he, like us, was just there for the evening! The landlady said "if you want a pint you'll have to get it yourself". The singing chef prepared for us some wonderful XL yorkshire puddings, then entertained us afterwards too with several self-penned songs.

It was a privilege to be part of the FolkTrail for a while - thankyou all for making a mad idea come true. We'll be thinking of you every step of the way to John O'Groats!

Pat Selfe

Monday, 23 May 2011

Dog Blog

Haven't been allowed on the blog for a while. They said there was too much dog and not enough human, so I've been waiting for them to do a bit.

Reached Hadrian's Wall today, didn't want to leave the van and go out in all that wind with lumps of ice in it. Told them every way I could but they made me go - must be quite bonkers!

Can't say I enjoyed the Pennine Way either - well, it could have been terriffic, all those birds lying around just waiting to be chased into the sky. Instead I had to have the human on a lead almost all the time and on the odd occasion I got away they all yelled "NO!". They spend a couple of hundred years breeding in all my gundog skills then tell me off for trying to use them - typical!

The other thing about having a human on a lead when it's wet is I get told off every time I take an inadvertant step sideways to follow a good smell. You wouldn't believe the fuss they make if I pull them into a bog. What's wrong with wet feet anyway?

It's not all been bad though since I last wrote. Had a great time all the way up the Severn (except for the long steaming thing that roars past letting out a noise like fifty kettles coming to the boil at once). Staffordshire stiles were made for very thin dogs, good job I've lost weight.

Met two more of my own kind; Heidi in Abbots Bromley and a very pretty marmalade in Uttoxeter. Incidentely if anyone asks again if I am a labradoodle I going to step right out of character and learn to bite.

There's been some talk about hundred mile hour winds tomorrow, with a bit of luck I'll get a rest day.

Cara x

Sunday, 22 May 2011


The first time I heard about the Folk Trail, my reaction was, as I suppose most of reactions, ''they are crazy'' !! »
The first time I had a look on their website, facing all this work and this organisation, understanding their motivation, admiring their courage and determination, I said to myself : ''I want to be there at one moment or another''. This website is like an invitation to join them !!

And I did it !!

I joined the Folk Trail at Blackwell for a week. As I am not a good long distance walker, I choose to walk with them every two days and, fortunately, the stages were under 15 miles (24 kms) . The only thing that I had not check up before was : this area is like that /\_/\ !!

As English is not my firs language, how can I describe you this fabulous week...
Just picking up a few moments :
- my first day of walk : we stopped and Chris write with chalk on a tree : FT 2011 500 MILES 800 KMS
- my last day of walk : we stopped and hugged and kissed for the halfway (600 miles)
- Naomi’s raised thumb to tell me ''well done'' after a hard climbing
- the silence of the early waking up in the tent only broken by the ''zip'' noises
- the small breaks to wait me when it was a little hard to follow them
- the fabulous landscapes in the middle of nowhere
- the hot meals waiting for us : thank you Jennie & Pat (specially for Jennie’s birthday party at Haworth Youth Hostel)
- my first experience of driving an Irish car : thank you Victor for trusting me (but in fact you had no other choice :-)
- the fabulous sessions, all different but always so welcoming and friendly
- This evening (with no session) in the pub in Malham, to tell and to laugh at funny stories
- And so, and so...

Even if my English is not so good to have long conversations with all my friends, some moments didn’t need words to be shared : just sitting with them on a bench, near the ruins of an old farm in Brontë area, facing the wild landscape and feeling yourself so well. Sharing a smile, a hug to say ''well done'' or ''courage'', enjoying the music and the atmosphere of the pubs...

This Folk Trail is a great experience. If you can join them (even if you are not an English speaker) for a day or more, no hesitation DO IT !! You will come back richer than before... But don’t forget to take a good and warm sleeping bag !!

For Clare, Naomi, Moira and Chris I think that they will have a before and an after the Folk Trail. I think that their friendship shall be indestructible, built with courage, joy and also sadness because of the loss of their fellow traveller, John Hesdon (RIP)

May the road be not too hard, the wind in their back, the rain staying in the clouds, the nights not too cold and the music still alive.
My thoughts are with you every day, I can see each or your steps who move you closer to John O’Groats.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Over halfway...

Not so many sessions this week so time to catch our breath. Just as well because the North Pennines are pretty challenging! As one local told us "You go up, up, up, up, up, down a bit, up, up, up, up, up, up, up and then you're there." Breathtaking scenery and winds so strong you have to walk quickly because standing on one leg for too long is very dodgy.

Looking back over the past seven weeks the first thought that jumps out is the kindness, keenness and generosity of session hosts and people participating. For example, we have been fed, our washing tackled, sandwiches provided, flapjacks donated (they were delicious, Bacup!), pizza brought to the tent at midnight (thank you Nik at Uttoxeter!) and numerous other considerate acts of kindness.

Next, the diversity if the club nights and sessions. No two places have been alike, all have provided us with terrific music, song, dance and storytelling for the archive.

We started with open minds, unsure of what we would find, but one thing is certain - folk music is alive and well from Land's End to Dufton and we have no reason to believe it's going to change as we walk on.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tribute to John Hesdon

Some of you may already know of the sad death of John, who died peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack on the night of the 22nd April.

We have naturally been in touch with his family during the weeks that have followed. They felt at the time that they needed space to grieve in private. As a result we did not report the sad event on the website. These decisions are always difficult and both John's family and we feel the time has come to let you know about it.

John had done all the right things in advance of the Folk Trail. He was a regular long distance walker, and he received a clean bill of health from his doctor before embarking on the walk. There were no prior symptoms or indications of ill health and John told us how well & happy he felt to be carrying out his ambition to walk to John O'Groats.
John's family were adamant that he would have wanted the Folk Trail to continue and from our brief knowledge of him we felt the same.

We didn't know John before he joined us on the trail but we soon became friends. His constant good humour, willingness to participate in all the chores and decisions endeared him to all of us and we are all carrying fond memories of him - like the time he caramelised some bananas as a treat and caramelised the cooker as well! He told us he was having the time of his life and it showed. He talked a lot about his family with fondness and pride.
Most of all John, we remember you for your broad smile.

We are carrying his bodhran with us along the route and the walkers plan a private tribute to John when we reach John O'Groats. This will surely include one of his favourite songs - 'Walk On'.

The Folk Trail Team

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Jeffs 4th day (and last)

Again the smooth well oiled operation of packing bags, tent, van, preparing breakfast and packed lunch and still off for 9.00  ( how do they do it every day?)

The long slog up Laddow Rocks on our way to Blackhill summit and the Folktrail enters Yorshire.

 Cara takes a break on bruised legs. (sorry I cant seem to get the photo the right way round, lean your right ear on your key board for a moment)

Good weather see us decending down the Wessendon Valley before cutting across to the carriage House near Standedge (Marsden) summit.Tent up, Victor driven back to Crowden to pick up his car,recording gear prepared and the session starts very early. Three dancing teams outside, with a fire juggler and a large loud session band inside. Also some delightful local anthems by some great singers. I go home to my own bed tonight as I live half a mile away and this is the end of the road for me. I return in the morning to bring back some clean washing and bid my new friends farewell.
It has been a privilege to be in the company of such inspiring people, if only for a short time four very different sessions, all recorded and raw data waiting to be collated. It is clear that this is not only a wonderful experience but the recording and archiving of sessions the length of the country is being done in a professional way. This archive will be unique, invaluable for years to come and some of those recorded will be renowned for generations. The folktrail core members achievement will also be remembered.
Jeff Button

Jeffs 3rd day

 A good night’s sleep and a fine morning was the start we needed for the day ahead 20 miles over the Dark Peak. It becomes apparent to me that the team work I have seen in the last couple of days has become a way of life. Tent down, van packed sandwiches off on time. A steady climb via Jacobs Ladder brings us up to Kinder. There are 12 in the walking party and after some discussion and safety checks we split into 2 groups.
Bright and breezy weather over to Kinder downfall but the recent dry weather has left the river completely dry.

Onwards to Mill Hill before the glowering prospect of Bleaklow appears. Appropriately the sky darkens and as we draw nearer we are hit by wind, rain, hail and thunder. This continues as we trudge up Devils Dyke until we reach Bleaklows forbidding plateau. We are delighted by Curlew and Skylark song as we descend into Crowden. Cara continues to be extraordinarily well behaved despite obvious provocation by the local grouse. We begin to recognise a young Pennine Way walker as our paths cross a number of times. Tent put up and a fine meal in the Crowden Camp site and we are all made welcome by the delightful site manager. The party is now 12 people (Cara is not allowed to the session tonight) and so there are serious logistics to get us the 5 miles plus to the Globe in Glossop; a magnificent brew pub which has drawn a big crowd. North West Clog team outside and a lively session inside. The landlady not only drawing pints but also operating the hobbie hoss (dragon) for the dancers. Another late night and a drive back to the camp site.

Sunday 8th May Jeff's second day

Sunday 8th May. Jeff’s 2nd day Up early the next morning, the schedule is no respecter of blisters, aching limbs, injured feet (or hangovers). Complete integration of the team gets the tent packed up, all the gear stowed, packed lunch made, breakfast eaten and on their way on time. Route takes us through undulating country side, in good weather towards the White Peak via the Limestone Way, and the 500 mile point is reached and chalked on a tree.

Leisurely stop in Castleton for ice cream and socks before the steep climb over Hollins Cross to Edale.  Chris’s unwavering navigation becomes apparent he will get the team to John O’Groats. Delightful spot for a camp site made better by the Rambler Pub being 100 yards down the road. The large bar meant we all got a seat this time for the gentle, intimate session. Highlights of the night for me was the delightfully lyrical 'I play the spoons' sung by the spoon player! And my first introduction to Victor Byrnes astonishing singing. Journeyed over from Dublin he is a strong supporter and good friend of the Folktrail, and is driving the support van at present. Only across the road back to the camp site, and so to bed.

Proxi Blog 7th to 11th May (Jeff Button)

Folktrail blog update. All is well and the doughty five continue on schedule. Internet issues have led to a lack of recent updates and so I have been given the privilege to update the blog by proxy. I joined the team at Ilam on Saturday 7th May after their first rest day!!! Precision van packing skills were clearly evident and as a consequence my camping sack and trombone were squeezed in. Set off in the first real rain the team had seen on the journey. A wonderful trek through Dovedale and my audio début in Dove Holes (see twitter link to audio boo).
 We  moved on to the Tissington trail, an old railway route which made for a speedy middle section despite dodging speeding cyclists. Then via scenic routes to the camp site at Blackwell. Well oiled team has tent up in no time. They have been sharing the bell tent for some time as proving to be more efficient and communal than individual tents. No time for a meal before we are off in the van, 5 miles to The Three Stags’ Heads, Wardlow, Tideswell for my first session with the folktrail. What a night!!!Team fed by the redoubtable landlord Geoff, recording gear set up and into a closely packed wild night. (It is worth travelling a long way for this pub, it is special). Left very late in torrential rain back to the camp site.

A stolen evening with the Folk Trail...

'tis a long walk from Lands End to Uttoxeter. 500 miles covered already, I am told.
I was working along way from home in Devon, so met up again with the group that I had last walked with in Alternun and met again in Pennymoor.
They are faring well, in the circumstances - by the inspection of their feet when I arrived in the Racecourse campsite !
Ok, Moira was mentioning ankle damage, and "morris dancer toe" and Naomi was tending blisters. Chris has walked through his, but Clare - well, no blisters with the same trusty boots. Hardy stock !
They are all such lovely people, and have an easy and welcoming style. A range of conversation topics as they tidied the camp and relaxed. "How the tent now feels like home ! How dry and dusty the countryside is becoming !" How the adventure is excluding them from media "news". In a world of their own, they are ! But a very happy and friendly world.
And still 10 days before they get half way !!

The session in the Star was packed. There is a real pleasure in seeing posters displayed, and in the response of local "folkies". The room had connections with the bar, so there were other locals who wanted to know more and to experience the variety of live music on display.

Uttoxeter has some local singer songwriters, but also upholds some traditional songs. It also has a young woman with a lovely voice, snazzy shoes, a pink guitar case and that wonderful confidence to lose words of a song, and then pick em up again.
We met a couple of who had called barn dances, and for this had been invited to call in a number of Far Eastern countries.

How to describe this particular session experience ?
Well, the walkers were recording all the songs and music again so there will be a chance to sample the richness of this session and some of the other folk music which veins through the country ( sorry, 2 Nations and 3 if Cornwall insists !!)

Back in the bell tent with the group, we were joined by Nick - one of the local stars. He knew that such exercise required the best pizzas in town. We talked until 1am, slept surprisingly peacefully - and I left at "crack of sparrows fart" to go back to work and on to Devon.
What a lovely experience !
Do take the chance to join in.

Derek Moore

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


We urgently need drivers; could anyone local perhaps help us out with these days?

Thursday May 5th - during the day to take the van from Uttoxeter racecourse caravan site to Ilam Youth Hostel (Ilam Hall) by 5pm.

Friday May 20th - Monday May 23rd inclusive -

Fri- take van from Langdon Beck YHA to Dufton campsite (Edenstone)
Sat- take van from Dufton to Alston (The Firs YHA)
Sun- take van from Alston to Once Brewed YHA (also to pick up walkers at end of day from Gilsland)
Mon- take walkers to Gilsland and return van to Once Brewed YHA

Coming soon...

We have a day off on Friday, so watch this space for reflections on out first month on the trail.

Monday, 2 May 2011

To Join or Not to Join?

It all began last summer when a letter landed at Dursley Session explaining the Folk Trail. We decided it looked like a 'mad', but 'damned good idea', and volunteered to run a session. After an e-mail or two we managed to meet up with Clare for a few minutes at Bampton so that we could put a name to a face.

We thought that if they were mad enough to take on a challenge such as this it would be no hardship for us to give them a little help along the way!

On our first two days of walking, (having sorted our transport logistics), we successfully met up the group and walked most of that day's route. The 15 or so miles passed much easier than expected and we found them all such good company that the miles and time slipped quickly by.

By the time we reached Dursley the following evening, we soon started to realise just how much work went on in the background, eg sorting the route, organising the recording equipment for that night, downloading the previous night's session, charging equipment etc etc. After another late night it was up early again for what was to be our last leg of the journey with them.

There is a point where all good plans go awry! We were enjoying the whole experience, so why not join them for the Bank Holiday Monday as well?

Do you think we could find them that day? We 'intercepted' their route and walked towards them, but there was no sign of them. Surely they couldn't be in front of us?? Fellow Cotswold Way walkers tipped us off that they had spotted the support vehicle. We jumped in the car and found the van complete with sleepy driver. "They'll be along any minute" and we set off to meet them again. Did we find them? No! Did we discover lots of beautiful countryside on our doorstep? Yes!

Eventually phone contact was made (surely the phone hadn't been on silent, had it?!). After realising that we were on completely different routes, all three parties managed to meet up, drink tea, eat sandwiches and progress northwards together!

Leaving on Monday evening, following farewells and milkshakes, we realised that the group of strangers we had met on Friday had now become of group of good folky friends.

It's a shame we couldn't have joined Folk Trail for longer, but are looking forward to catching up with you later in the year for some songs, tunes and a few beers!

If the Folk Trail is still to visit your area, and you are wondering whether to get involved or not, we say do it! You won't regret it!

Au revoir!
Anne, John and Murphy Roberts, Dursley