Mad Dogs and Englishmen (and adopted Scotsmen)   12 comments

If you are a bit of a fan of rocky scrambling and water then the Lake District has a plethora of streams and ghylls to play about in. If you’ve read the 2 volumes of “Scrambles in the Lake District” you’ll note that the author describes routes in terms of staying out of the water, climbing on slippery rocks with socks over boots/trainers and occasional refreshing wades. Myself, GM and ED I like to think we were the pioneers back in the 80’s of the slightly more adventurous approach of getting as wet as possible and climbing the waterfalls direct and then jumping/swimming our way back down. This “new” sport was primarily forged in the Esk valley and the upper Esk Gorge where we spent many happy summer afternoons playing in the rivers and generally messing about in the water. This has been popularised by numerous outdoor companies as a “team building” activity called Ghyll Scramblkingy and it’s even been on mainstream TV. We were there first though and have been dabbling in this rather daft and hugely entertaining bit of outdoor fun ever since

Reason for this preamble is that on the recent adults only weekend myself and GM, fed up with wandering about in the pishing rain decided on a spot of ghyll scrambling – may as well be wet and have fun we figured. We headed for Launchy Ghyll, one of a number of ghylls tumbling into the west side of Thirlmere. Suitably attired in wetsuits and with a middle-aged tourist couple watching in puzzlement at what we were up to we headed to the bottom and set off.


Safe to say it’s not really a trip that can generate much in the way of words except to say its enormous fun albeit rather cold. Most of the lower part of the river is small falls so it’s simply a matter of trying to climb in the full force of the water and see if you get washed away or not.



The rock is astonishingly slippery so you pick up a huge amount of bangs and bruises. As it climbs the falls become steeper and more serious and as there was a huge amount of water in the ghyll we had to bail out about halfway up.


Coming down there were some great looking narrow sections but there was just too much water for a safe waterslide. The pools aren’t seep enough for any jumps so we had to be content with some coccyx breaking slides down the stream bed and some flops and floats into the peaty brown water




Thirlmere where the ghyll enters the lake

Best way to get a feel for this madness is to watch the video collection below – apologies for the many clips of GM’s arse!

As a footnote GM tells me (spookily enough while I was writing this) that Launchy Ghyll is out-of-bounds for ghyll scrambling. Something to do with United Utilities who own the land trying to protect a SSSI. I find that hard to believe but perhaps I’m just a cynical old git when it comes to big business and the outdoors. Anyway just in case anybody reading this blog who might be mad enough to give this a try you might want to read the links below just in case

And on a final note the “adopted Scotsman” in the title is GM. He’s Home Counties born and bred but since he’s lived in Scotland for over 10 years he think’s he Scottish. This mainly consists of saying “aye”, “ach” and “och” at appropriate times and eating haggis, although he hasn’t yet shouted “freeeeedom” at passers by or painted his face blue. I should point out that since I moved to rural Herefordshire I don’t say “ooh aare”, I don’t have webbed hands/feet and I haven’t built any long-term relationships with the wool-bearers.


12 responses to “Mad Dogs and Englishmen (and adopted Scotsmen)

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  1. I demand a right to reply….oh…….wait……


  2. That is a bit mad, but my idea of fun, too! 🙂 A good ‘use’ of a chucking-it-down rainy day.


    • Have to say it’s more fun when it’s warm but I do love it – I’m like a big kid really. I edit out the rather pathetic sounds of me whooping as I plunge into the foamy water for a swim :-$


  3. “…simply a matter of trying to climb in the full force of the water and see if you get washed away or not”
    In the fine tradition of British understatement that. Looks a bit suicidal if you ask me. Yes – I know I have been known to get involved in the past, but I’m more comfortable with my status as a fully-fledged wuss these days and don’t feel the need to scare myself silly anymore. Anyway – I reckon I was usually more of the socks-over-boots-keeping-dry style of scramblers. In tweed breeks with a pipe and flat-cap. (It does sound a tad 1930’s-ish don’t you think?) Except in the Esk gorge. The Esk gorge! Happy memories….I’ll stop there or I run the risk of helping you to rack up several squares in anecdote bingo.


  4. You were one of the pioneers (anecdote bingo alert) on those Esk gorge trips, remember the mug and snorkel (I must get a scan of that photo, GM must have it) and skinny dipping in the big pool above the bridge. You also climbed Cowcove Beck with me.

    Seriously most of the stuff me and GM have done is easy (only Ashness Gill was tough – I impressed GM by belaying him from a tree!). You’d love it if you got yourself a wetsuit – mostly its just wet scrambling. I still reckon we should get the kids doing it next May Day. Having the cameras to recall the fun really enhances the experience

    How many points was that?


  5. looks like fun although dare I say, just a tad mental … may just becoming a a bit of a wuss myself these days.


    • Just need a wetsuit and a suitable bit of river and it’s great fun. I’ve only ever done one that needed a rope (see above comment), most are just glorified river swimming. When it’s cold a miserable on the hills it’s great outdoor day.

      I am probably a tad mental though. My wife thinks I’m not wired in head properly.


  6. Surely everybody thinks you’re not wired in the head properly….?
    After all the self-control I exercised in not mentioning the mug and snorkel! (Why did we have a snorkel? Oh – I know: you brought it and you aren’t wired, etc…..?)
    You forgot to mention the cucumber though.
    A and B went ‘Canyoning’ or whatever it’s called these days and they loved it – I’ve already told them that you are an expert and that you will take them out in May. Will Uncle Fester be tempted out of his bath chair?


    • I’d forgotton about the cucumber (before this descends into another carry-on style exchange – GM thought the best place to store it (why did we decide to take a cucumber wild camping?) would be in the roll of his Karrimat – unsurprisingly it fell out and we lost it)

      Uncle Fester go Ghyll Scrambling – don’t make me laugh! I have plans forming in my head for next May so I’ll be hassling everyone – kids and adults – about buying some wetsuits and the like. Tell TBH she’s coming as well – no excuses


  7. The kids have just watched the video. S was a bit puzzled: “Why is he going down? I thought he was meant to be going up?” B is very keen: “Down is more fun.”. A was more interested in the technical details: “What did he use to do this. It wasn’t Movie Maker.” She is becoming a bit ICT obsessed. It’s only a matter fo time before she has a blog of her own and is putting us all to shame.
    There is not a snowballs chance in hell of TBH getting involved.
    Nice sounds again.


    • Tell Sam going up is as much fun as going down, although this one wasn’t quite as good for the waterslides or jumps as some others. Tell A I use CyberLink PowerDirector (V9) to produce my videos and that it consumes huge amounts of of my RAM memory 🙂

      I consider TBH’s lack of enthusiasm to be a challenge. Satan and all his little devilish minions will be making snowmen and sledging when I’m finished

      There is a caving post coming soon – another wet activity to get everyone to try


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