Mam Tor and the A625

Once upon a time (1819, to be exact), a road was built. What became the A625 headed westwards out of Sheffield, through Hathersage and Castleton in the Hope Valley, and wound its way across the Mam Tor landslip to finally arrive in Chapel-en-le-Frith. The Mam Tor routing replaced an ancient (and much steeper) cart route through Winnats Pass.

There was, however, a minor problem – the landslip. Mam Tor has been on the move for thousands of years, and it wasn’t long before the road had to be repaired. And then repaired again. And again.

Looking back over the Hope Valley from what remains of the A625

Looking back over the Hope Valley from what remains of the A625

In the 1970s a huge landslip meant that major repairs were needed but finally, in 1979, Derbyshire County Council admitted defeat and the road was abandoned. Today, Winnats Pass is the only (and very unsuitable) direct route out of the western end of the Hope Valley, but the remains of the old A625 have become a tourist attraction in their own right.

Usually, when we walk at Mam Tor, we park at Mam Nick and take the usual routes to the summit, but this weekend we decided to explore the old road instead, and it was definitely an experience!

Collapsed road at Mam Tor

Collapsed road at Mam Tor

As with any walk in the Peak District, particularly around Castleton at the weekend, my advice is to get there early, before the crowds appear. There’s plenty of parking along the old road up to and around the bus turning circle by Odin’s Mine, a disused lead mine at the foot of Mam Tor (please note that the mine is dangerous and shouldn’t be entered). Just head up the road and very soon you will start to see the signs of movement – the fissures in the road surface, the crumbling edges – before you round a corner and suddenly realise exactly why the road had to be closed!

Collapsed section of the old A625

Collapsed section of the old A625

The walk up the road isn’t bad going – just watch your step in places. The road brings you out by Blue John Cavern (or you can, if you’re feeling adventurous, strike out for the Mam Tor summit on your right). Otherwise there’s a very pleasant descent via a footpath heading east from Blue John Cavern that brings you out by Treak Cliff Cavern.

View of Back Tor and Lose Hill from Blue John Cavern

View of Back Tor and Lose Hill from Blue John Cavern

Whether you do the walk as a stand-alone or incorporate it into a longer walk/day trip, the old A625 is definitely worth a look as a reminder of just how unforgiving nature can be!

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Fixing the Skyrim Markarth bug

2014-05-03_00001I’m on my second play-through of Skyrim and, while it’s great that I’m seeing lots of things I didn’t see the first time around, it’s not so great that I have bugs I didn’t have first time around too. The biggest – and, until recently the most annoying – was the Markarth bug that meant that Markarth guards kept attacking me. Over and over and over again.

One solution would obviously be to avoid Markarth – I did try going away, seeing if not visiting for a couple of weeks would solve the problem. Needless to say, it didn’t. Some googling brought up suggested solutions, such as visiting the Shrine of Talos and speaking to the guards there, but I didn’t even have any guards in the Shrine of Talos!

However, I fixed it eventually, and here’s how.

  1. Go up to a guard in Markarth. I picked one at random
  2. Enter the console
  3. Click on the head of the guard, right in the middle
  4. Type paycrimegold into the console and hit enter
  5. Close the console

This worked for me and I was able to finish up quests I’d been putting off because of the bug.

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Draining

iPad and iPhoneCreative Commons License Sean MacEntee via Compfight

I had the dreaded battery drain issue on my iPhone 5 after updating to iOS 7.1 this week (although not on another iPhone and two iPads in the house) but luckily, for me at least, the following fix worked:

  • Settings – General – Reset – Reset all settings

And that was that, all fixed. I’ve read that it doesn’t work for everyone but it’s a good place to start when you’re holding your iPhone and watching the battery life tick down!

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Photo post: out in the country

High Bradfield 1(View across the valley to Agden and High Bradfield)

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Photo: Spring is here

Spring in the Peak District. 9 March 2014

Spring in the Peak District. 9 March 2014

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My 8 essential Skyrim mods

2013-09-21_00001Bethesda’s Skyrim is an out-of-character game for me (I’m more of a simulation/strategy gamer) but somehow I’ve racked up 400 hours of playing time over two characters and it’s still as engrossing and fun to play as it was the first time.

That said, I think a lot of its enduring appeal to me has been in the mods created by the community and Nexus has been one of my favourite bookmarks for a while. I have a lot of mods but there are some I consider essential now to the way I play the game, some that are the first I’ve gone for when I’ve installed on a new PC.

These are my favourite mods. Your mileage may vary.

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All about atmosphere

Feet of Clay is my favourite Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, not only because at its heart it’s a murder mystery (a genre I love) but also because it’s one of those books that draws the reader into the world the author has created so completely that I can almost feel the cobbles of Ankh Morpork underneath my feet. The city becomes a character in its own right, the perfect backdrop to the unfolding mystery plot and Pratchett’s usual incisive moral dilemmas and glorious turn of phrase.

alphaville i k o via Compfight

Where Pratchett really gets it right, I think, is by judicious use of the less is more principle. Rather than endless descriptive paragraphs (which can drop a reader out of a novel very quickly), he uses description sparingly; an adjective here, an adverb there. This lets the reader build up their own mental picture, rather than having everything spelled out to them.

Another aspect Pratchett is excellent at, not only in this novel, is using all five senses to evoke a mood, rather than just telling the reader what the characters can see. Smell and touch, especially, are very powerful, and can convey so much with very few words.

Finally, the weather seems to be under-used in many novels, but here the fog and the rain add to the gritty mystery novel feel, building up the sense of claustrophobia and suspense.

And now I’m going to go and read it again…

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Gluten-free pancakes

Gluten-free pancakes for Pancake Day

Gluten-free pancakes for Pancake Day

Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) is a big day in this house and I’m a firm believer in gluten-free not meaning taste-free (especially when Nutella is involved…)

    Ingredients:

2 eggs (I use Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs)

150 g gluten-free plain flour (I use Doves Farm)

250 ml semi-skimmed milk

Lard (sliver) for making the pancake

 

    Method:

Mix the eggs and flour in a mixing bowl

Add the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Pour a thin layer of the mixture into a frying pan, cook to taste

Put onto plate, add topping, enjoy

 

The trick to good gluten-free pancakes is making sure the pancake is nice and thin – if it’s too thick it can taste very dry. Get it right and it’s delicious!

 

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So no snow

Kinder Scout, taken from the descent from Mam Tor

Kinder Scout, taken from the descent from Mam Tor

Kinder Scout, taken from the descent from Mam Tor

Kinder Scout, taken from the descent from Mam Tor into Edale

Last week’s snow flurries seem to have been something of a false alarm – apart from the freezing cold wind (normal at any time of year), it’s almost like spring in the Peak District.

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Reading matter: Medieval underpants and Other Blunders

photo I was half-way through the book when it happened. Up until that point it had been a perfectly enjoyable historical fiction novel: good plot, strong characters, authentic-sounding dialogue, and plenty of research that grounded the novel in the era in which it was set without being overwhelming.

And then it happened. The Thing that pulled me right out of the world the author had created. A simple, trivial little thing. Perhaps, to many readers, it would have gone unnoticed but to a local it was glaring: the hero travelled to Sheffield and spoke admiringly of the flat, open expanses of fields to the west of the city.

The most trivial online research will tell you that Sheffield is a city built on hills, and to the west lies the Peak District/South Pennines. Oops.

Which brings me to Susanne Alleyn’s excellent book, Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer’s (& Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, & Myths. Not only is this highly educational for anyone who likes their history with a side of geekery, I think it’s also a must-read for anyone writing – or thinking of writing – historical fiction.

It won’t tell you how to write, or how to write HF; what it does instead is walk the reader through the most common errors and misunderstandings (and why you really shouldn’t use Hollywood movies as a source) about all kinds of topics. Food and drink, social customs, clothing, modes of address, travel, arms and armour – it’s all here, explained simply and clearly.

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