Back in January I had the opportunity to combine a work trip to Edinburgh with a weekend visit with our good friends who live in the Borders. M & K had confidently organised a nice coastal walk, a confidence that came from the fact that, as seasoned walkers and hikers, they had checked the weather forecast. And we checked again on our devices after dinner that Friday evening. OK, it was going to be a bit windy and maybe it would rain for a bit, and we’d be lucky to see the sun through the think grey cloud. But nothing to sidetrack our plans.
Woke up the next morning and the landscape had turned white.
Give the weather forecasters a break – two out of three isn’t bad. It was (kind of) wet, and we certainly couldn’t see the Sun through the grey cloud (and fog). Wear an extra layer, a thermos for tea and, of course, cake. Ready and prepared – off we went.
Not sure whether this fisherman was having a good time with the fish, but I managed to catch him just about right!
The Monsal Trail was once part of a railway that connected Manchester to London, finally closed in 1968 and restored with a public path in 2011. The tunnels along the trail are a testament to its railway past.
We’ve yet to summit a hill or peak in the Peak District and be disappointed by the views. The anticipation of those views is always palpable as you start the climb. I didn’t expect Mam Tor to be as busy with people as it was on this day. There were dog walkers, strollers, hikers, paragliders and hangliders. Yes, I got those last two right. This peak is especially popular with hang- and paragliders, mostly launching themselves into the air from Lords Seat, a hill just along the east from Mam Tor.
When you’re building the world’s largest radio telescope, then you need to go and see how other observatories have done the same and learn what lessons you can – which are the good operational practices and what are the mistakes you should try to avoid.
At the time of our visit, the 25-metre dishes were being moved out to their very widest configuration where the furthest distance between two individual dishes reaches over 22.6 miles. They are moved, individually, by a transporter along the train tracks you can see in many of the images here.
It was later than usual for us when we decided to go for a walk, so we decided to go for one that was relatively short, but also to go into a region of the Peak District that we hadn’t gone to before. So a quick hunt around using ViewRanger and we came across this walk just south of Buxton, starting from the village of Hollinsclough. We didn’t know it at the time, but Chrome Hill and its neighbour, Parkhouse Hill, are quite iconic amongst walkers of the Peak District.
Our walk started in the village of Hollinsclough and headed straight into muddy fields before finding a track. Impressive views of Chrome Hill from the start. Apt that it also known as The Dragon’s Back.
You first come up to Hollins Hill and it tried to tempt us to climb it. It did look like a gentle climb! But we ignored that temptation and kept on our track.
There was another couple that clearly could not ignore that temptation. The views from the top of Hollins Hill must be spectacular, and feeling only a little bit envious of them, we vowed that we would return and do that climb. This would not be the last vow we would make that day.
This describes the second of two walks we went on when Mike and Karen came to visit this August. The first was in the Yorkshire Dales and this second one we arranged for in the Peak District. We would drive to Fairholmes, where the Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs meet and a car park is conveniently placed. This hike is characterised by long steady climbs and quick windy descents, beautful scenery, sheep, landslips, bulls and river crossings.
A circular walk as usual for us, the GPS track of our 8.3 mile hike can be seen on my ViewRanger page.
From the car park we climb through the Lockerbrook Coppice and then head up for Bellhag Tor.
The views are amazing and it takes a bit of time to do the climb towards Alport Castles, not because the track is arduous, but because we cannot help but stop and look about us. Sometimes, the spectacular view is behind.
We had a flying visit to the SKA offices in Cape Town, South Africa for a meeting. Despite the distance, this a necessary part of the job, especially when you’re working on a globally distributed project such as the SKA. For me, this was also my first opportunity to visit the site where the South African telescope of the SKA is to be built, out in the Karoo desert. Having seen the site in Australia recently, I was excited to see the same in South Africa.
The day starts with an early morning flight from Cape Town in an executive jet, and seeing the sunrise from the air.
There is a direct flight to the observatory site, but we wanted to see the support facility in Klarefontaine, where the Engineering Operations Centre would be located. So this meant stopping in the small, nearby town of Carnarvon. Despite its remoteness and the dusty and makeshift runway, this part of the world is aware of the SKA and is preparing itself.