Little Moreton Hall & Mow Cop from Ackers Crossing – Dec 2019

The weather forecast for the last Monday of 2019 looked really promising; <5% chance of rain for the whole day, plenty of sunshine and minimal cloud cover … perfect. The next thing to sort was the walk. I typed ‘Cheshire circular walks’ into Google, hit enter and one of the results linked to go4awalk.com which happened to list ’60 easy to follow circular walks in Cheshire’ … 2 for 2 on the good luck stakes! Then I noticed it was a chargeable site … ooh dear. I read on and it’s actually very reasonably priced per walk so I thought why not. We’re so used to getting everything for nothing (or so we think) these days but sometimes it’s worth splashing a little cash, plus the site has a few other useful functions such as being able to upload images you take of the walk for other’s reference and even to find walkers to accompany you on your journeys. A login was created and money changed hands before I downloaded details for today’s walk.

The distance looked good (8 miles / 13 km), grade 4 so easy going and only a 30 minute drive away. With days being so short at this time of year, I don’t want to be travelling too far so this was ideal. I’ve posted the GPS track of my walk below … you may notice I got a bit lost around Mow Cop folly which turned it into a 9 mile walk and meant the sun was very low in the sky by the time I got back to my car!

Walk route
I got a little lost around Mow Cop, you can laugh along with the original kmz file in Google Earth if you must!

There are some interesting links to detail about the places in the walk, and some personal detail I’d like to add, but I’ll put them at the end so you can get to the images first …

So, time for some points of interest. Before I start I will say that I may invest in some ‘walking’ wellies for next Winter … the amount of mud I had to walk through where I couldn’t avoid it was crazy! I don’t mind walking through mud other than the fear that water will get into my boots and I’ll spend the rest of the walk with wet & cold feet.

The first place worthy of note is the 500 year old Little Moreton Hall, a truly amazing National Trust property that is so crooked it’s hard to believe it’s still standing. I’ve visited once and the Long Gallery on the top floor is a real sight to behold.

Next up, Mow Cop and it’s crowning glory folly. Easily seen on the horizon from many parts of my home town of Crewe it seemed to attract everyone I knew as soon as they’d passed their driving test! The folly actually sits on the border between Cheshire & Staffordshire so you get amazing views of both when the weather is favourable. I’ve driven up Mow Cop a few times over the years and the 22% rise shown in the gallery above can catch you off guard in a car, coming as it does straight after a right hand turn … it’s even tougher to walk up, even if it isn’t that long! There’s also a new one to me, the Old Man O’ Mow which I’d not heard of before … I wish there had been time for a little detour now, maybe next time.

Last, but not least, is something that can also be seen for miles around … the historical and world famous Lovell space telescope situated at Jodrell Bank, which is part of the University of Manchester and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction of the Lovell telescope began in 1945 and used ex-military parts such as drive gears from battleship gun turrets. It tracked Sputnik after it was launched by the USSR and one of its companion dishes at Jodrell Bank tracked Apollo 11 during it’s mission to the moon. There’s lots more interesting information to be found on Wikipedia.

So there you have it, hopefully a little something of interest for everybody!

Maiden Castle & Bickerton – Dec 2019

It’s that time of year again, time to get out in the cold and mud for an end of year walk or two. This was an area that I’d made note of when I did my Sandstone Trail walk as the views were brilliant. It was also a chance to try out my new boots in a forgiving environment. You may have noticed my featured image has been updated with those self same boots … if not, focus readers, focus!

360° panoramic tease shot!
360° panoramic tease shot!

The walk I found online as a handy PDF file and was estimated at 3 miles (5 km) in length, taking 2 – 2 ½ hours and only a 35 minute drive away … bonus.

Route map
As ever, there’s a Google Earth kmz file here for anyone who wants to follow my wanderings.

The National Trust do a great job looking after sites like this so everyone can enjoy them. The only downside is that it makes them popular and hence busy. By the time I got back to the small, hardcore car park I might as well have been parked up at a supermarket! If you’ve not already worked out from my previous posts, I like a good amount of solitude when I’m walking … just me and nature where possible. Anyway, that aside, it was a pleasant walk and a few images follow for your perusal and enjoyment …

Kirkby Stephen – A Life Journey

I’ve been thinking of writing this for a while but have never been able to figure out how to put it into words … maybe it’s time to just make the leap and write it.

Before I first came to Kirkby Stephen I knew of my family’s links to the area. My grandparents, Margery & Henry Bayfield (known as Harry to all but his immediate family), lived in Nateby for a number of years after living in the home counties, I’m guessing it would be the mid 50’s. It was certainly before Westmorland disappeared and became part of Cumbria … my Nana & Grandad never let me forget that!

An old postcard of Nateby. I was always told the car in the picture belonged to my Grandad but I never managed to confirm whether that was true or not.
That’s my Grandad in the middle, giving it plenty on a roll-up by the look of it! I left it too late to find out who the other two people were unfortunately.

My Mother (Elaine) was born in Middlesex I believe, but she went to school at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School and did plenty of growing up in and around the area. I remember stories of her visits to Stenkrith and even of how one of her school friends fell to her death from the bridge (again, I have no idea if this is true, who knows?).

Stenkrith
The road bridge at Stenkrith is probably another 10ft higher than the walkway in front, falling from either would not end happily!
Stenkrith
It’s a beautiful place to visit though, and the opportunities for photography are plentiful.

Travel forward another 20 years or so and we come to my first visit. I’d guess it was the early 70’s so I’d be somewhere between 6 & 8 years old. I was brought by my Nana and we stayed with an Auntie who was most definitely not my Auntie, in fact I’m pretty sure she wasn’t even family … she was a lovely lady though. I have never found out who she was but I know she lived in one of the 3 story stone houses in Victoria Square. I have no way of knowing which house it was now but I’m going for number 3 …

Victoria Square, Kirkby Stephen
Victoria Square
My Nana & Grandad c. 1978
My Nana & Grandad c. 1978

I remember well, taking frequent journeys from the house, along Mellbecks, down to Frank’s Bridge over the River Eden where I took my little plastic bucket & net and went fishing for tiddlers, paddling in the river with my shoes & socks off (no need to roll up my trouser legs as it was shorts all the way back then!). Over on the nearby slopes I made my first attempt at flying a kite and failed quite miserably … though it didn’t feel like a failure back then.

There was the big house on Mellbecks, owned by a single, elderly woman at the time I think, that would have the window of the top right bedroom permanently left open allowing bats to roost … I saw them flying in and out so I lie not!

The house where bats roosted!
I’m assuming this is a boarding house, or B&B of some kind now … it’s still a lovely house whatever it’s current use and it now appears to be bat free!

One of the most enduring images is of the River Eden bursting its banks over night. One day I’m paddling and fishing for tiddlers … the next the clear waters have been churned to a muddy brown and the arches beneath Frank’s Bridge are barely visible. Cameras weren’t as prevalent back then, not in our family at least, so the following (modern) images will hopefully suffice to illustrate the extremes of nature …

Frank's Bridge on a normal day
The River Eden on your average day, courtesy of the Yorkshire Walks website
Frank's Bridge flooding 2015
The River Eden bursts its banks in 2015, image courtesy of the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald

I guess I visited on 2, maybe 3, occasions and they soon paled into insignificance as I moved into my double digit years and on into my teens. Until, that is, my mid 20’s when I was working as a service engineer and making site visits throughout England & Wales. I didn’t realise before my first journey to the North East but to travel from Cheshire, where I live, to the North East of the country involved the A66 and Scotch Corner. More importantly, to get to the A66 from the M6 necessitated travelling the A685 … and guess what? The A685 just happens to be the main road through Kirkby Stephen … starting as South Road, becoming Victoria Square (remember that?) then Market Street through the town’s heart until finally North Road on it’s way out to Brough Sowerby & Church Brough before reaching its junction with the A66. I remember my first drive through Kirkby Stephen … my brain was making the links to my childhood as I reached the town centre. I recognised the houses on Victoria Square, the Market Square with it’s red sandstone portico entrance to the church and the side streets that I knew at a gut level led down to the river and Frank’s Bridge. And then it was gone … I’d driven straight through a part of my history in little more than a blink of an eye. I made myself a promise in that moment, that I would return and revisit what had been a glorious moment in my childhood.

And so we come up to date! As an aside, yet also an integral part of this story, I’ve a history of mental health issues dating back to my late teens, with anxiety and depression being the main ‘black dogs’ in my life. I can cope quite well with both for most of the year but the period between end of year and early the following year are difficult ones for me. One of my go to pastimes to help me keep an even keel all year round (as well as being good for physical health, handy for practising photography and bloody enjoyable to boot!) is hiking and in 2017 I decided a long weekend away in November, with opportunities for walks, would be a good way to keep my mental health strong … and where better to visit than Kirkby Stephen?

I was going to keep this info under my hat for fear of losing my secret getaway but I though what the hell (not that it’s that secret … see a little later!). After a few hours of Googling I came across Black Bull Barn which has become my base for the last 3 years and will hopefully be the same for a good few years to come. Rented out by Gillian & Steve it’s got every comfort you need and is a fantastic base for walking in the area. The visitors are truly international (should you ever stay see the visitor’s book for proof, European, American, Canadian, et al) and many stop over whilst walking in Wainwright’s footsteps along the Coast to Coast walk. Gillian and Steve also provide B&B accommodation at Fletcher House. One last name check, should it even be needed after all the images I’ve posted in my Kirkby Stephen based walking posts, is for the Black Bull Hotel … I can’t comment on their accommodation but their bar has become my Kirkby Stephen local.

So there you have it, around 45 years of my life in a single blog post! Thanks for sticking with it and hopefully I’ve conveyed why Kirkby Stephen has become an important part of my life. May you all find your own, personal Kirkby Stephen x

P.S. Scroll back to the top of the post… the banner that’s on every page is another of my Stenkrith photographs. I can brag as I own the rights 😀

Kirkby Stephen – Nov 2019

And so dear friends, a brief farewell to Kirkby Stephen for another year with a few more images taken during the weekend. Including a little stroll down by the River Eden shortly after arriving, Kirkby Stephen railway station after my first walk on Sunday and no visit would be complete without a couple of visits to the Black Bull Hotel bar.

For anybody who fancies learning a bit more about the Settle & Carlisle line there is a full route map here and a nice Wikipedia article here … go on, you know you want to.

Until next year …

Balderhead & Blackton reservoirs – Nov 2019

And so to the second, and much wetter, half of this year’s Kirkby Stephen visit. The weather forecast didn’t look too bad until later on in the day so I thought an early start and only some drizzle … sorted.

A ‘little’ rain, but look at that wind!

The plan was to do another walk from Visorando, but a shorter one. The only down side was the travelling time as this particular walk was over the border in County Durham. Add to that the fact the A66 was blocked in both directions near to my route which forced articulated lorries onto roads that were barely suitable for them and the drive became very interesting to say the least!

route description and reference
Despite the description saying the walk didn’t return to the starting point, it did!

The eagle eyed amongst you may notice that the Visorando route name doesn’t match up with the title of this post. There’s a one word reason for that, if you haven’t already guessed … weather. The full walk is shown below with the walk I managed to do underneath it, minus the first section as I forgot to turn on GPS on my Galaxy watch … happens a lot with me (links to Google Earth Pro kmz files can be found in the description underneath each image).

The planned route in all its glory, kmz file can be downloaded here
Google Earth - my walk
My ‘home-brew’ walk! Again, kmz file for Google Earth can be downloaded here

Just before I present the images and bonus videos, two small points about this particular outing:

  • The roads were fantastic to drive, plenty of concentration required but boy was it worth it.
  • The full walk has been added to my walks bucket list, I will definitely be going back when the weather is better and completing the full route.

Without further a do … “Get on with it Merv” … I am doing!

For those that made it thus far … bonus videos!

I avoided the rain for some time here, listen to it falling on the bird hide roof … plus the wind!
This gives a better idea of how the reservoir overflow works … and an idea of how windy it was
Teletubbies or not, in the middle of nowhere, totally alone & surrounded by sheep staring at you … this is freakin’ unnerving!
Unfortunately I only had small capacity SD cards in my dash cams so I was limited by how much was overwritten before I got back to base, however I think this gives a pretty good idea of how challenging (aka fun!) some of the roads were … albeit a view from the rear. By the way, the guy in the van must be pretty local as he saw me from a long way off and waited patiently. And finally, I edited the video with the NextBase app that comes with the camera (bad move!) hence all the NextBase ‘propaganda’ … apologies for that.

In conclusion, the best was made of what was a pretty crappy day for walking me thinks. Hopefully there’s enough here to pique your interest of the full route that was originally planned.

Balderdale & The Calf – Nov 2019

This year’s visit to Kirkby Stephen was definitely one of two halves … one good, one not quite so! The walk detailed here fell into the former category, even if it was hard going on my poor feet.

The route directions came from one of my favourite sites, Visorando as can be seen below:

The weather forecast looked very good for a long walk … and indeed this was to be a long walk (download the Google Earth Pro kmz file here).

MetOffice weather forecast
Google Earth Pro route

So time to let the images speak for themselves …

Plus a bonus video for all you lucky people! …

One of many gills running down into Balderdale Beck, it was most tranquil (as Bill once said!)

And there you have it … very nice it was too! If you bear with, until I post details of my second walk of the weekend, I’ll let you see the damage this walk (and my ageing boots) did to my feet … beware those of a squeamish nature!

Malpas

Winter doesn’t provide many opportunities for walking in Britain … unless you’re very brave or simply crazy! One of the things I learned from this particular walk is that I need to invest in a quality pair of wellington boots if I plan to make winter walking a regular thing.

This was walk 11 taken from the excellent book “Circular Walks along the Sandstone Trail” and starting in the Cheshire village of Malpas was an 8 1/2 mile circular (the clue is in the book’s title!) route. It was undertaken in the period between Christmas and New Year 2018 … to be precise on the 27 Dec.

Malpas circular walk courtesy of ‘Circular walks along the Sandstone Trail’

Before the pictures I’d like to impart a piece of advice, don’t follow the route described in a book to the letter and don’t hang on to a barbed wire fence in a vain attempt to circumvent a water logged field, particularly if the hedge the barbed wire runs through is full of gorse bushes! To add insult to injury, when you look back and see some local dog walkers taking the route the other side of the hedge with no problems at all … well, you see what I mean …

The Picture’s on the Wall

I sometimes wondered whether I’d ever get around to posting anything under my site’s photography heading, but here I am … I’ve made it!

What prompted me was the decision to finally get some of my images printed out and framed for hanging on the walls at home. Digital photography is great in that it’s flexible, the kit is easy to carry (no stacks of various ISO films to cram into camera case pockets), you can fire away with impunity knowing that the only thing in your way is the capacity of the memory card you’re using and you get to see instantly whether the image has potential or not. If you’re anything like me, it also means you come back to base and download your images to a NAS box or upload them to Google Drive then forget about them until you start running out of storage space. I’m beginning to think that any image that strikes a chord with you deserves to be copied from the ethereal, digital world to that of the physical print … otherwise, what’s the point?

I’ve been sifting through my catalogue of images over the past few days and have selected a few to print out. They’ve been uploaded to Snapfish for printing … I’ve used them before and been pleased with the print quality and pricing. Seeing as only a select few will get to see the prints hanging in my house I thought it would be nice to post the images that I’d selected and present them here. So without further ado ….

Quad Build Part 3

Before I begin, an apology. I think anyone who starts their own website, blog, etc. does so with the best of intentions to post regularly. I admit to being slightly remiss in that respect; forgive me readers for I have sinned … it has been 34 days since my last quadcopter post …

So that out of the way, where were we? In the last part the rotor arms had been fastened to the bottom chassis plate and the motor power leads & main battery connector soldered to the plate. Time to introduce you then to the FC … or Flight Controller. This is the brain of the quad and even the cheapest FCs offer pretty remarkable features and processing ability. For anyone who fancies digging a little deeper, I recommend this page on Oscar Liang’s excellent website.

Below is the FC I purchased for my build, mainly because it was the closest I could get to the one used in the HackSpace article. It’s not the smallest or the most powerful but it’s pretty cheap and has all you’ll need for a beginner’s craft. The mounting centres are at 31.5mm so that should give you an idea of its overall dimensions.

Flight controller top side.
Flight controller top side.
Flight controller underside.
Flight controller underside.

Here it is installed onto the bottom chassis plate with 3mm nylon stand-offs and rubber grommets in the mounting holes to help absorb some of that ever present vibration.

Flight controller in situ
Flight controller in situ

Time for a brief aside me thinks … please feel free to skip if you like! The observant amongst you will have noticed the ARM logo on one of those chips above and ARM has a history that started when I was first getting into computers at school. For those in the UK of my age group, cast your mind back to the early 80’s when the BBC embarked on a mission to get the nation computer literate and commissioned the BBC Micro which was made by a British company called Acorn Computers. Founded in 1978, Acorn developed a RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processor and the company eventually became ARM Holdings whose ARM architectures can be found in smart phones, digital TVs, set top boxes, mobile computers and, of course, flight controllers! From the Wikipedia entry above: In 2013, 10 billion were produced and “ARM-based chips are found in nearly 60 percent of the world’s mobile devices” … that’s a pretty impressive track record in anyone’s books.

To those who read my little aside, thank you very much. And those who skipped it, hey I won’t hold it against you. Back to the build and the first wiring to connect to the FC was the main power feed, which you can see is picked up from the internal PCB tracks of the chassis plate making routing cables much easier and neater.

FC with power connections
Power feed to FC.

Then came the tricky part of connecting the control wires from the motor ESCs. Two problems here; the solder pad on the FC for the control wire is roughly 1.5mm diameter if you’re lucky & close to the FC mounting holes (necessitating removal of the nylon screw nearest the pad so as not to melt it with the soldering iron) and space is limited for access. There’s also the age old problem of not having a 3rd hand to hold the wire in place whilst holding the soldering iron with the 1st and applying solder with the 2nd! When I was researching connections for the ESCs I saw a post where the constructor had coiled the wires to allow some resilience to vibration, which I thought a good idea. It also looks pretty trick, to coin a ‘yoof’ phrase!

ESC control wire connection
The first ESC control wire connected … for motor 1.
All ESC control wires connected
All ESC control wires connected to the FC.

And that’s it for Part 3. The next & final build post will look at the radio control receiver, finishing off the build & a little setup I knocked together to calibrate level for the gyroscope on the FC.

Incoming …

This project started a few months back when I discovered that USB TV receivers that use a certain chipset are also capable of receiving signals from aircraft. These signals are called ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) and are a convenient way for air traffic control (and anyone with a suitable receiver) to monitor an aircraft’s ID, position & vector).  For anyone with an inquisitive nature, there’s a Wikipedia entry with more info here.

I started with a suitable (cheap, I hasten to add) USB DVB-T stick (that’s Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial … basically, this is the modern digital way of beaming TV programmes to houses over the air for all you couch potatoes out there!). Replace the TV aerial with an aerial tuned to receive signals at 1090MHz, which is the frequency ADS-B works at, add some suitable software and you can see aircraft flying in your vicinity overlayed onto an onscreen map.

So I downloaded a couple of Windows packages which I setup on my laptop, plugged in the DVB-T stick, popped the aerial in my hobby room window and hey presto, there be planes … albeit not that many. I read up a little more and discovered that 1090MHz signals propagate very nicely through open air thank you very much, but are stopped dead in their tracks by solid matter like bricks, mortar, etc. I also discovered later on that the cheap indoor aerials aren’t exactly tuned to receive the signals, the antenna being too long. I’m no expert on radio signals but from what I’ve gleaned, the length of an aerial needs to be a ratio of the signal’s wavelength it is designed to receive. This defined the dimensions of the aerial I constructed later on to increase the number of aircraft I could track.

That brings me pretty much up to date. The final piece of the puzzle that triggered a proper setup for aircraft tracking was when I routed a couple of CAT5E cables from the house out to the garage, which gave me a reliable gigabit link back to the house and the ability to install a wireless access point in the garage for all things untethered.

As with a lot of my projects I tried to re-purpose as much as possible as that’s half the fun! The mast for the aerial was made from the centre pole of an old rotary clothes dryer and the brackets were made from sections of a TV wall bracket welded together. The only purchase required was some suitable V bolts to hold the mast to the brackets.

 

Welded bracket
Rough but ready welding!
Mast fastened to finished bracket
Add a little paint …
Brackets & mast in situ

The next step was to construct a suitable aerial and luckily for me there were quite a few options out there … the simplest set of instructions I could find was here via the ‘Your First ADBS Antenna’ PDF link. I had to buy the SO-239 chassis connector ( these accept PL-259 plugs which will be familiar to all those like me who messed with 27MHz AM CB radio back in the day!) but the 1mm copper wire was taken from my collection of twin & earth cable off cuts. The connector is quite a chunky piece of metal so I needed a big soldering iron to apply enough heat to get the solder to flow … luckily for me I had my Grandad’s old Wolf iron. I used it at my peril though, after something like 60 years in existence the insulation is looking a little worse for wear …

My Grandad’s solder ironing is definitely showing its age!

Still, it survived … as did I, and I constructed the aerial ready for it’s new home. The copper wires were trimmed down to 68mm in length once soldered to the connector, this is 1/4 of the 1090MHz wavelength (told you I’d get to it later!). I’m no expert but maybe someone in the know can explain if this is a 1/4 wave aerial with a groundplane, a 1/2 wave dipole or something in between?

SO-239 & 1mm copper
SO-239 connector and lengths of 1mm copper wire.
Ready to start aerial soldering
A quick jig made from a timber offcut and the all important flux pen and soldering iron!
Soldered 1090MHz aerial
The 1mm copper soldered into place.
Finished 1090MHz aerial
The copper trimmed to length and the ground planes bent to 45 degrees … ready to go.

I bought a 5m length of RG58 coax cable terminated in PL259 plugs from eBay to link the aerial down to the receiver. I also bought an inline SO-239 connector (or female PL259 if you will) to MCX plug ‘pigtail’ cable to fit between the main aerial lead and the USB receiver socket. I think if I did this again I’d be inclined to buy the cable and connectors separately and construct my own cable as it would be neater and certainly cheaper.  

After 10-15 minutes of picking through my collection of self tapping screws the aerial was fixed to the top of the mast, the mast mounted back on the brackets and the cable routed down into the garage.

A bucket of bolts (screws)
The boring side of Making!
Aerial on mast
The aerial fixed to the top of the mast. You can just see the RG58 coax cable coming from under the plastic cover.
Finished 1090MHz aerial in situ
The finished aerial aloft its mast and mounted to the end of the garage.

I’m going to skim through some points here as most of the people who follow my blog aren’t looking for step by step instructions for anything I do … they just like to have a window onto all the stuff I get up to! The receiver setup I chose is a very popular one, the software (more an operating system / software package combo really) is called PiAware and as you can probably guess it was written to run on a Raspberry Pi. To keep costs down I purchased a Raspberry Pi Zero W … this is a very cut down (yet still powerful) board which has wireless connectivity. Combined with the gigabit link from my garage back to the house and the wireless access point I’d installed this was the perfect option. I had a spare ATX PC power supply knocking about so this was hacked to provide a 5V supply (plus 3.3V & 12V should the need ever arise) with more than enough current to power the RasPi. An old USB phone charger lead got modified to connect the PC power supply to the RasPi and all the parts were in place.

Raspberry PI zero w
That Eben Upton has done a lot we should thank him for, I can tell you … I give you the Raspberry Pi Zero W
The ADS-B setup being tested
Not all test labs are clean and shiny you know!

To wrap things up, the PiAware installation has an IP address on my home network which I can connect to via a web browser on my laptop and see information about aircraft that are in range. I’ve also created an account on FlightAware which uses the information my setup receives to improve the accuracy of their aircraft positioning information. The RasPi runs without any intervention from me so the information it gathers is passed on 24 hours a day.

PiAware screen
The PiAware screen showing aircraft details.
Coverage 19 Dec - original indoor aerial
Original indoor aerial coverage (window faces roughly WNW)
Coverage 22 Dec - homemade aerial indoors
Original indoor aerial replaced with new homemade item … still indoors
Coverage 23 Dec - homemade aerial in situ on garage
The homemade aerial in it’s new location on the end of the garage.

I struggled with WordPress’ new editor (Gutenberg) on this post so I apologise for the change in layout. That aside I hope you found the post informative / useful / entertaining … or whatever!