Four Hundred Miles with a Fitbit

For the past few months it’s been rare for me to settle down to do a drawing but on Monday morning we had a longer than usual wait at the doctors’ so I had time not only to draw my hand but also to add some colour.

One of the reasons that my drawing time has been a bit limited is that since I bought my Fitbit Alta HR step-counter and heartbeat monitor (the blue strap on my wrist) in July I’ve been enjoying hitting my target of 10,000 steps a day.

According to Fitbit, in those twelve weeks I walked 892,355 steps which they estimate is equivalent to 444 miles. That’s getting on for twice the length of the Pennine Way!

I think that is pretty impressive but apparently the record for completing the trail is a little less than three days, and that included a leisurely eighteen minute break for fish and chips in Alston!



Fastest time to complete the Pennine Way

One Step at a Time

Newmillerdam walks mapDrawing maps for my booklets makes me want to go out and walk the route again.  After nine years it’s time to revise my Walks around Newmillerdam, not just because there will have been a few changes to the footpaths but also because the Friends of Newmillerdam and Wakefield Tree Wardens have been making all kinds of improvements to the country park. Continue reading “One Step at a Time”

Winnats Pass

Winnats Pass11.50 a.m, 60ºF, 15ºC: It reminds me of being in Austria or Switzerland, sitting here with a coffee in the beer garden of the Castle Inn and drawing craggy summits. An energetic group of school children climbs the zig-zag path to Peveril Castle.

1.15 p.m., 52ºF, 11ºC: We’re back at the Rose Cottage Tearooms for lunch, as we were a week ago on our book delivery trip. Then I sketched the upper branches of an ash which seems to have a weeping habit; today I drew its trunk.

ash trunk

From the Riverside to Rose Cottage

Ash, Rose Cottage tearooms.

siskinOur favourite book delivery: after dropping off a consignment of my walks booklets at the distributors in Orgreave we make our way across Sheffield and, via Ringinglow, up onto the moors. At the Riverside Café near Hathersage there are plenty of siskins on the bird feeders this morning.

There must have been more rain here in the Peak District than we’ve had at home because we’ve never known the paths from Hope across the slopes of Lose Hill to be so slickly muddy but at least we are able to thoroughly clean our walking boots in the puddles on the farm track into Castleton.

swallowcatOur first swallow flies out of a stable at Spring House Farm and out across the pasture.

Jackdaws sit in the top of the weeping ash in the back garden at Rose Cottage Tearooms, our regular lunch stop, but the garden isn’t quite as bird friendly as the Riverside: a tabby cat patrols the patio.


dipper2.15 p.m.: A dipper in the river, Peaksole Water, at Hope, seems to take some effort to push below the surface. It keeps returning to a mid-stream rock, then heading out in different directions beneath the surface.

Hope Valley

Mam Tor
Mam Tor from the Hope to Losehill footpath. The distant log glimpsed through the cavity looks like a reclining figure.
Female chaffinch and great tit, Riverlife Cafe, Bamford.
Female chaffinch and great tit, Riverlife Cafe, Bamford.

After a weekend working on the Waterton comic we head off for the Hope Valley in the Peak District. After a coffee break at the Riverlife Cafe we walk from Hope to Castleton through sheep pastures. The lambs are less playful than they were earlier in the spring. They’re looking quite solid now and are either resting with mum or they’ve got their heads down grazing.

A green woodpecker flies to a treetop causing indignation amongst the jackdaws. A buzzard circles over the slopes of Losehill.

Elder flowers
Elder blossom and lichens.

In the gardens of the Rose Cottage Tearooms in Castleton, I draw Bella, a rescue dog from Croatia. Even her owners aren’t sure what breed she is but to me there seems to be a bit of spaniel and border collie in her.


chimneyAs we wait for lunch I draw the chimney of the adjoining cottage.

jackdawA jackdaw sidesteps along the wires and takes a good look around at the tables below. Amongst the trees and shrubs around the garden, a chiffchaff is singing almost continually, if you can call those monotonous ‘chif-chaf, chif-chaf, chaf’ phrases singing.

It’s a perfect summer’s day. I can get back to my desk tomorrow when the temperature rises and perhaps makes it less attractive to set off walking.

Back to Langsett

wood sorrelnibbled coneThere are patches and small drifts of wood sorrel alongside the path through the plantation alongside the reservoir at Langsett. On a tree-stump there are discarded scales and the nibbled core of a pine cone, left there by a squirrel.

 willow warblerWe hear our first willow warbler singing as well as a resident wren.

 ducklingsA mallard duck is accompanied by ten ducklings and followed by a second adult female. She gathers her dispersed brood from our shore of the reservoir, where they’re foraging for insects or plant material on the surface of the water and they follow her in single file towards the far shore.

grouseRed grouse are calling on the moor and perching, as they do on rocks and broken walls.

There’s a sandpiper feeding at the water’s edge where the little river enters the reservoir on the southern shore and there more sandpipers on the stone embankment at the dam head.

The Mist in the Mirror

balconyteapotOnly a brief chance to draw the ornate balcony of Matcham’s Opera House in Wakefield before the curtain goes up on Susan Hill’s ghost story The Mist in the Mirror.

You might think that the teapot on the mantlepiece is part of the set but I drew this when we went back for coffee at Richard and Carole’s after the show.

bottleOnce again these are drawn with my new Lamy Safari pen.

Wakefield’s Old Park

  • Stanley Hall.

This walk, which starts and finishes at Wakefield cathedral and passes Pinderfields, the Old Park and the Chantry Chapel. There are a number of Robin Hood connections, including a sculpture of his sparring partner George-a-Green, the Jolly Pinder of Wakefield. On 25 January 1316 the maidservant of Robert Hode, was fined two pence for taking dry wood and green vegetation from the Old Park. This walk must pass very near the scene of the crime!

More about Robert Hode and the early Robin Hood ballads in my Walks in Robin Hood’s Wakefield, available in local bookshops, visitor centres and some farm shops. Also available online, post free in the UK, from Willow Island Editions, price £2.99.

The walk passes the site of St Swithen’s chantry chapel. Walk it while you can because there are plans for a relief road which it is proposed will go through the Old Park, later the site of Parkhill Colliery, linking with the roundabout near Wakefield Hospice at Stanley Hall.

Langsett September

A perfect September morning to walk around Langsett Reservoir; through the conifer plantations, across the river Little Don and up onto the moor.

grouseNot such a restful day for the red grouse and the brown trout though. The gamekeepers and beaters were getting in place (you might spot them moving through the trees on one of the shots of the river) to wave flags while walking across the moor whooping and hollering, accompanied by their dogs, driving the grouse towards the guns.

We hurried across the moor before they started and missed out on our coffee stop at the ruined farm known as North America, pausing instead by a lichen-covered rock overlooking the stream on the far side of the moor.

troutA student in full-length waders emerged from the stream. He explained that he was from the University of Hull, setting up a project to monitor the movements of brown trout by tagging them and installing a couple of electronic sensors, one where the stream runs into the lake, the other further upstream.


FujiFilm FinePix S6800Unfortunately my recordings of natural sounds – running water, bird calls and the wind in the heather – were interrupted by the sound of the plastic lens cap, which is attached to the camera by a loop, rattling in the breeze so I’ve added a music track.

My thanks to Silent Partner for making Days are Long available for use on my YouTube video.

If you’ve got a fast connection, Langsett looks good in HD.

Filmed with my FujiFilm FinePix S6800. The shots that I didn’t use my little ‘Spider’ tripod for needed image stabilisation in iMovie.

Link; Silent Partner on YouTube

Coca Cola

Coca Cola siteI’VE BEEN getting a new edition of Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle off to the printers today. I checked out all the routes and was delighted that there was hardly anything that needed changing and all those changes were for the better, for example some of the wobbly old stiles had been replaced by new metal kissing gates.

But I thought the new building – I think it’s the distribution centre – at the Coca Cola Enterprises site at Lawns village, Wakefield, should go in, so I redrew that corner of my picture map and managed to included a few facts about this ‘largest soft drinks plant by volume in Europe’.

Coca Cola plantFrom miles away it can look surprisingly conspicuous but strangely when you get nearer to on those leafy footpaths it often disappears altogether.

It sits pretty much in the centre of the Rhubarb Triangle, but as far as I know it doesn’t manufacture a rhubarb beverage. Dandelion & burdock perhaps but I can’t think of a rhubarb drink that they might try. Rabarbaro Zucca, an Italian aperitif, is alcoholic.

Link; Coca Cola, Wakefield

Beyond Wuthering Heights

Top Withins


MAPPING OUT a walk for my next book we make our way from Howarth up onto the moor-top plateau, crossing Dick Delf Hill, which rises to 452 metres up beyond the ruined farm of Top Withins, a remote cattle farm at the top end of the valley which is often suggested as the inspiration for the setting of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

We return via an easier route along sections of the Pennine Way and the Brontë Way, a hill path that is unique in having footpath signs in English and in Japanese, although the parties of Japanese visitors that we passed on our walk today were back around the Brontë Parsonage Museum and main street in Howarth.


11.50 a.m., Sand Delf Hill, Haworth Moor; There are occasional drifts of cotton-grass, looking very much like the tail of the small startled rabbit that runs along the track in front of us.

round-upA shepherd is moving on his flock without the aid of a sheep dog, hooting and hollering as he drives his Land Rover across the moor.

Small Heath

small heathWith so much checking out to do, including a whole new section of the walk, there isn’t time to stop and sketch except when we take a break for a flask of coffee at Top Withins.

A small butterfly that flies low over the bracken in the valley below. It suns itself with it wings folded shut but we see enough to be able to identify it later as a Small Heath, a smaller cousin of the more familiar Meadow Brown but more typical of rough grassland, from coastal dunes up to 2,000 feet (600 metres) in the mountains.

The name of the butterfly is a neat description of the habitat where we found it.

tiger beetleAlso on a sunny bank, on the rocky path above the Brontë bridge, this Green Tiger Beetle is hunting.

My little Olympus Tough is useful for insects like this which will pause when you crouch near them but it’s not so handy for butterflies which are likely to take flight, which is why I stood a few paces away and quickly sketched the Small Heath, adding the colour later.

The Very Hairy Caterpillar

oak eggar caterpillarUp on the plateau Barbara spots this Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar. Despite the name it is equally at home on the moors as one of its alternative foodplants is heather. The name ‘eggar’ apparently means just what it appears to mean; that it’s a moth that lays its eggs on a particular plant.

oak eggar caterpillar

This caterpillar has stopped, motionless as we take a look at it. It’s just had a narrow escape as my size 13 hiking boots passed over it, so it’s a good subject for the macro setting on the Tough. I try to do a bit of ‘gardening’ to get a better shot of its head but when I try to gently lift up the heather twig it wraps itself around it. No chance of seeing either the head or the tail in this pose but at least I get a record of the black bands and white marks on its body.