Archive for February 2014
The annual friends pre-xmas gathering had moved. After 3 splendid years at Ninebanks Youth Hostel we decided it was time for a change. A year or so before we came across The Old School Bunk House at Chapel le Dale near Ingleton. The location was perfect with plenty of walking on the doorstep and loads of interesting limestone scenery to explore. Despite some pretty miserable weather we had a cracking good time.
The bunk house is excellent. Really well appointed, warm and spacious and the owners were friendly and accommodating. Perhaps not quite as much character as some of the places we’ve been to but a huge kitchen (where we tend to spend most of time) and a lounge with enough comfy seating for all us (something singularly lacking at Ninebanks) gets a massive thumbs up from me. I felt at home in minutes, always a sign you’ve hit the jackpot
Sunshine was in short supply all weekend. Saturday was dark and grey but it did stop raining just before lunch. The kids were not keen to go out but what do they know. They were going out and that was the end of it.
We took a stroll across the limestone to Great Douk Cave.
We had planned to take the kids caving in here (it’s just an easy walk-in sort) but after weeks of rain the entrance was thundering with water. Caves are not a good place to be exploring in high water. We contented ourselves with a scramble about in the entrance and a look down the excavated hole. This was just a rubble filled hole last time I was here but now it’s a sizeable pot-hole. supported by scaffolding and gushing with water. Never quite understood the need, in an area littered with caves, to dig new ones 🙂
Our cave fix satisfied we wandered up on to Fenwick Lot, one of the expansive areas of limestone pavements that this area is renowned for. I have a certain fascination for them with their myriad holes and blocks. The kids interest lasted slightly less and most had had enough fresh air by now (the bunk house has a TV and DVD player you see!)
The hardiest souls noticed shafts of sunlight and headed up the hills onto Souther Scales Fell. Steep it was – very steep! The views back across towards the Ribblehead Viaduct were pretty good and the weather was almost promising
The path that follows the edge towards Ingleborough along the flanks of Green Hill is excellent and I don’t think I’ve ever walked it before. We were encouraged to press on to the summit although the light was fading. Right on cue, sunshine was replaced by clouds and rain so most of us headed back down the steep edge to Humphrey Bottom. Unsurprisingly a couple of minutes after heading down it stopped and the sun came out again!
The path across Humphrey Bottom used to be a nightmare of quaking bog, a graveyard for dry feet. In recent years however the whole way has been paved and what an improvement it makes. No ugly scar on the hillside and – dry feet. We made our way back as the last of the light faded with a respectable 5 miles covered and fine day in the wet circumstances. Mexican food and beer tasting followed to close out the evening in true xmas style – who says Xmas shouldn’t begin with Chilli, Enchilladas and Corn Bread!
Sunday dawned cold and wet with hail showers and general unpleasantness. Time for another long leisurely and exceedingly large fried breakfast waiting for the weather to improve and it did – a bit. The Ingleton waterfalls walk beckoned and despite my natural reticence to pay money to look at natural features (they charge you for this walk) we agreed it would keep the kids interested.
Up Swilla Glen along the River Twiss, past Pecca Falls and up to Thornton Force. The rain held off and we even had some glimpses of sun. The falls were in spate and thunderous with water after the rains and quite impressive
Thornton Force was amazing. I was the only idiot who scrambled across the slippery rocks to try and get behind the falls – I gave up halfway across – it was too cold for a swim.
Back across the top and down into the gorge of the River Doe.
More waterfalls of Beezley and Snow Falls but the light was fading and I’m not skilled enough with the camera yet to get decent photos in such a dark environment. Tripod needed really. Quite a long walk in the end and it was dark when we finished but everyone seemed to enjoy it and that is of course the most important thing
That was the end of the excitement though. Monday was a total washout, a truly awful day of driving heavy rain from the moment we woke to the moment I arrived home later in the evening. A sign of the winter to come. A fantastic weekend enjoyed in the company of old familiar friends and faces. We’ve already booked for next year. I would wish everyone a happy Xmas and New Year but of course that would dumb considering it’s now February 26th! 🙂
A few photos from early December last year of our local common. Just a short stroll between the increasingly wet weather and another chance to play with my camera, trying out a few things. A few words about the place from a previous visit back in 2011.
In the warmer climes of summer we often sit under here this group of trees for a picnic, especially for TJFs birthday. It’s a far, far cry from that at the moment. The common is pretty much a no go area with every path and footstep a complete muddy quagmire and almost completely unwalkable. We need to look for alternatives for short family outings until the place dries out, 2015 perhaps…..
More demands from TJS for “proper” walks and another sunny window in this gloomiest and wettest of winters. I let him choose the route today and he wanted to climb the comically named Fan y Big in the Brecon Beacons approaching from the east along the northern escarpment.
We’ve walked many times on these western reaches as they are much quieter than the main summits but I can only recall doing this particular route once before on a really crap day a couple of winters back. This day was looking much more promising.
Only downside of this walk is it starts with an immediate and punishing steep climb to the edge of Craig y Fan Ddu. One to really to get the lungs and the leg muscles working. Upside is you get the views immediately with no forest or fields to bash through and the waterfalls along the side of the path provide interest.
Once up on the edge the views are majestic with the huge Caerfanell valley beneath you and a sumptuous level walk right along the edge that allows you take it all in. One of my favourite stretches of mountain walking both in south Wales or in fact anywhere. I can’t recommend the walks around here highly enough.
The edge continues along Graig Fan Las until it suddenly emerges on the northern escarpment. The views east and south towards the south of Wales and across the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon and replaced with views north and west across the Usk and Wye valleys to mid-Wales, Shropshire and the southern mountains of Snowdonia.
The high summits of Pen y Fan, Corn Ddu and Cribyn also catch the eye and they were the magnets that pulled us along the next set of edges.
The walk to Fan y Big along the edges of Craig Cwareli and Craig Cwmoergwm is equally fine and equally quiet, following the swoops and curves of the edge before arriving quite suddenly on the summit of Fan y Big.
Not a summit in the true sense as it’s more just the end point of the long edge before the ridge heads north and the drop to the col before the climb to Cribyn. It’s a fine viewpoint and would have mad a great lunch stop had we not been so cold in the wind.
We dropped down the path a found a small grassy hollow for our refuelling, TJS taking sustenance from his now regular cup of hot chocolate.
We stopped for a good hour such was the warmth out of the wind, playing with my camera and just enjoying the scene.
We’d made good time and decided an ascent of Cribyn was also in order on such a grand day. After dropping to the col at Bwlch ar y Fan, the steep climb the long edge of Craig Cwm Cynwyn that curves to the summit is a fine one and the summit perched and prominent is cracker.
Shame that it’s very well-known and that you normally have to share it with the crowds so after a brief sit down we headed down.
I’d planned to traverse it and return along the path that skirts its southern flanks but it was such a fine day and the views so superb that we just retraced our steps along the edge and back down to the col.
It’s a very long plod down the old roman road along the Neuadd Valley and then the Taff trail and road back to the car. With the sun setting I barely noticed it.
The lightness of being after a great day on the hills is hard to comprehend sometimes. On the previous mention of this route I walked the same way in wet boots with sore feet and heavy heart and I hated every step. This time every step revealed a new vista, a different ray of light on a hillside, silhouettes of trees as the light faded.
I was disappointed to reach the car but a day to remember and let’s face it they have been few and far between this winter!
TJS had been hassling me for a “proper long walk” as we hadn’t been out together for a couple of months. We had a decent looking day so I took him on the the promised long route, a round of the Grwyne Fawr valley, taking in the highest summit in the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, the local high point.
It was perishing cold and windy when we set off but with blue skies overhead.
After a steep start through more of the dark, primeval forest that cloaks the lower slopes round these parts we emerged blinking into the bright sunlight. The summits were shrouded in clouds but there was clear sky elsewhere so I was confident it would clear later and so it proved.
Across the soggy slopes up onto the ridge at the Blacksmiths Anvil. The views across the Gwyrne Fawr reservoir and dam were especially fine.
From here the long broad ridge proceeds endlessly but easily over Twyn Talycefn to the Trig Pillar and un-named point overlooking the northern escarpment and Wye Valley. It had pretty much cleared now and it was a fine day.
TJS is into his third year at High School now and is choosing his GCSEs. We chatted long about his options and the time was flying by. It’s really enjoyable to share these big days with him, and chance to catch up and talk as I’m out most of week working so glimpses of my kids are fleeting
We needed some lunch and pressed on looking for shelter. Unfortunately this area seems to be plagued by motocross riders and the damage was extensive turning what used to be a decent path into a 30m wide mess of ruts and mud. Quite why they have to come up here when there must be endless muddy farmers fields they can churn up I don’t know. They can have no idea of the damage a single bike can cause in seconds let alone in greater numbers. If the pattern continues many sections of these great hills will become irreparably damaged and impassable.
We wandered off piste and found a sheltered little spot on the western side overlooking Mynydd Troed where we’d walked last new year. The sun was already low in the sky with the short days so there was no time to linger. Low sunlight however means stunning views, highlighting the autumn browns to great effect
Onto the broad summit of Waun Fach, the summit of the Black Mountains. Not as boggy as I remember it but a wild a lonely place nonetheless. TJS was pleased to reach the high point of his local hills.
Over more soggy ground to Pen y Gadair Fawr. It’s more prominent than Waun Fach with a distinctive flat top and always looks higher from wherever you see it. I’ll have to take the word of the OS that it’s 1m lower 🙂
The way was enlivened by another motocross rider, spraying mud lavishly as he went, appalling and heartbreaking in equal measure.
The sun really was setting fast and the light streaming through the clouds was grand.
We’d done all the hard work though and it was a simple matter of plunging down the slopes to the road to get the car.
TJS got his wish – a 10.5 mile walk possibly the longest he’s done. He keeps pace with me know so it’s only a matter of time before he’s waiting for me to catch up 🙂
It was time for the annual and somewhat pathetically named “adults only” weekend when we all leave our kids to the tender mercies of grandparents and carers while we live it up in the Lake District as well as 40 (and now 50-somethings) can. You can check out previous adventures from September 2011 and November 2012.
Time for a change of scene this year and on recommendation from the Hardman and his missus (blog-name needed) we headed for Littletown Farm Guest House and what a cracking recommendation it was. We pretty much took over the place, a proper old converted farm-house with lovely rooms and they looked after us exceedingly well with some superb and filling meals at a stunningly reasonable price for the Lake District. The location is right in the heart of the Newlands valley with walks aplenty and car keys left firmly in the rooms.
Newlands Valley & Newlands Beck
Forecast wasn’t great but without kids in tow you need to make the most of it. ED had what looked line a fine route in mind to Dale Head via a high corrie west of Dalehead Crags.
You can see the route in the photo below, traversing first right into the high corrie and then back left to pick up the ridge above the crags
It was grey overcast and very windy but dry, refreshing you could say, as we walked up Newlands Beck.
We crossed the beck to pick up the high traversing path although we had early drop-outs as UF and TBH headed to Dalehead Tarn and return via Borrowdale. I waited patiently for a fall but as always no one obliged. People can be selfish sometimes
“One for the Crowd?”
They missed a splendid route with an easy angled path gaining height easily and quickly into the confines of a wild high corries that I guess sees relatively little traffic for the Lakes.
Newlands Valley & Newlands Beck
After a first lunch we traversed above the crags in spectacular style with the views even on such a grey day, magnificent.
Unfortunately our arrival on the summit coincided with a spell of windy, miserable drizzle so we didn’t linger. Enthusiasm dropped and we thought about a quick return back over Hindscarth. Just as we started down it stopped raining and brightened up a little with even some very faint signs of sunshine.
Skiddaw & Little Dale
Re-invigorated we decided to extend the day to take in Robinson. As we descended the tops appeared and whilst not exactly glorious it was a whole lot better than we’d thought. The dark clouds were impressive and sunshine on Skiddaw gave promise. We found a hollow out of the wind for lunch 2, a stop we paid a price for later.
Robinson was playing in the cloud with shafts of brightness. Quite impressive in a “it’s about to get dark sort of way”.
“What time is it?”
Yes, the usual dallying, chatter and extended stops had left us high on the fells with the light fading rapidly. Just like last year in fact. We manged to negotiate the steep tricky and rocky sections on the NE ridge in the last of the light and had to walk the last section along Blea Crags, High Snab Bank and back to the Guest House in the dark. No real problem and at least we’d made the most of the day. High quality food and some music quiz malarkey finished off a fine day
Forecast for day two was a decent start with a rapid deterioration and everything was delivered right on schedule. We took a the simple option of circuit along Rowling End and Causey Pike returning over Ard Crags or via Rigg Beck
The views were superb while we were packing up but it was clear it wasn’t going to last.
Robinson and our route down from the day before
Ard Crags & Rigg Beck
By the time we’d reached the steep slopes of Rowling End the rain had started.
Luckily whilst it was pretty grey and overcast the weather never really broke down with nothing worse than spots of drizzle. It was a wild and windy walk along the ridge, in and out of the cloud before dropping down to the col below Ard Crags
Helvellyn north ridge across Derwent Water
Helvellyn, Derwent Water, Blencathra & Keswick
Rowling End & Causey Pike
A few hardy souls climbed it’s summit but the rest of us opted for an easy stroll down Rigg Beck, a wild valley that again I guess, sees few visitors and all the better for it.
So that was that. Precious little sunshine but less rain than the pictures would have you believe. The North Western Fells are always much quieter than the rest of the Lakes and well worth seeking out. Fine high ridges and grand corries and valleys. Cracking weekend as always and great to catch with everyone. Already booked in a for a repeat visit next year
After what seemed like an endless bout of dreary wet weather through October the sun finally came out back in early November so I encouraged the family out for a walk. The Sugar Loaf is a popular local hill but you can park high up for a south-facing walk to make the most of the sun and make for an easy family round. TJS wanted something longer but TJF is not big on walking so this was a suitable compromise.
I posted this walk a couple of times so you can read the words from back in December 2011 and May 2011 and I’ll leave the slide show and the pictures to do the talking for this outing. Safe to say it was a fine day in the sunshine with wonderful autumn colours, cracking views across the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons and a nice scramble on the rocky summit.