Archive for July 2014
So on we traveled through the length of Wales and beyond to Silverdale and a visit to “Our Friends in the North”. They’ve been down to see us the past couple of years so this time it was our turn to mess up their house, eat all their food and generally make a nuisance of ourselves 🙂
As you can see from the slideshow below we had a fine old time
But you want to hear, I know you do. Ready, let’s begin
As is traditional on these house swaps the first day was grey wet and miserable. Fortunately the kids had a plan. Laser Quest. Oh deep joy, running about a warehouse in the dark with a bunch of noisy kids. At my age. Actually it was great fun and most of the kids were friendly and eager to join in the team games with grumpy strangers like me. The day was almost a 100% success but DB Junior managed to split his lip open and spent the next day in hospital having it repaired. He took it all in his stride and was very brave, bless him. He’s not one of the Dangerous Brothers for nothing
The next day we just took the rest of the kids out for a local walk through the woods and up Arnside Knott. A pretty gloomy day but we made the most of it and the kids enjoyed the usual tree climbing antics and poor DB Jr didn’t miss out anything too exciting while he was in hospital
It was then time for ED to show us the sights. He’d been promising to take us to the SW coast of Cumbria near Barrow and it didn’t disappoint. We stopped off for lunch at Aldingham, deserted and peaceful we spent a very nice couple of hours chilling, digging holes, making temples out of pebbles and an absolutely pathetic attempt to light a fire using dried seaweed and a flint-stone (Fred or Wilma, who knows). Where is Bear Gryllls when you need him
On to one of my longed for visits. Piel Island and what a place. The childish delight of a small ferry boat ride to a perfect little grassy island with a ruined castle.
The high tide mark was just a long line of crab shells, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Oyster Catchers paddled and pecked.
The views across the sands to Walney Island and over Barrow to the Black Combe where I’d walked a few weeks before were sublime even on a pretty grey day
The castle is substantial and extensive and clearly you were once able to climb to the top of the keep. Health and Safety seem to have put a stop to that – villains of the piece. Most of the grassy areas outside the castle seem to open for camping. It would be a fine place for a couple of days. Just a shame there’s no pub on such a small island. But, no, there is a pub as well. Be rude not to pay it a visit so a pint of shandy and a lemonade for the kids was very much in order.
We only had a couple of hours and the island deserves much more, a return visit needs to be made with a picnic to really explore the island over a full day. I just loved the unusual views of estuary, boats, sand-banks and unusual structures. It’s rare in these small British Isles to find somewhere unique and that was Piel Island
Back to mainland for a beach BBQ at Aldingham to finish the day. But no, one more final treat in store. ED has often told me of the tidepooling at Roa Island (where you catch the Piel Island ferry) and that due to the currents or nutrients or some such the pools under the Lifeboat station are teeming with life. We had to wait till nearly 8pm for the tide to go out but it was magnificent. I’ve never seen so much stuff, hundreds of crabs, anemones, fish, worms crowding every pool. Even the clouds parted and we had some late golden sunshine.
I’m in my element in such places and the kids had a ball. It was a shame it was so late and starting to get dark when we had to tear ourselves away and head home. I could have stayed for hours. What a top day
Saturday brought on a Yorkshire Dales walk. ED has been telling me about his renewed enthusiasm for the Limestone scenery and I was keen to revisit. It was a warm and sunny day in Silverdale but as we headed west it clouded up and by the time we arrived in Stainforth it was gloomy with drizzle in the air. We lunched in the rather bland picnic area by the car park and set off for a walk to take in Catrigg Force and the Ribble
Catrigg Force was great in a dark and gloomy sort of way, tucked in as it is in a wooded ravine. Very hard to do it justice with photos.
Onward and upward onto the fields and stone walled pastures. The sun made a fleeting appearance and the fields, full of wildflowers were enchanting
As we approached the bridge over the Ribble the sun burst forth from a rapidly clearing blue sky and everything was bathed in sunlight as a dramatic contrast to the earlier grey.
We stopped and lazed on the grass (others rolled about in it) and all was well with the world.
However we had plans for a BBQ in the sun so we pressed on past the excellent Stainforth Force (try saying that after a few beers) where a group of teenagers were swinging from the trees and plunging into the brown water. It had turned into stunning afternoon to accompany a very fine walk indeed
Our last day and we headed to Sizergh Castle for some easy strolling around the gardens. It’s a beautiful spot and there were loads of diversions for the kids including a sort of adventure course in the woods. I satisfied myself with playing photos of the kids, flowers and wildlife in the large pond that sits in front of the castle.
And that was that. We returned for an outrageously oversized lunch in the garden (joined by a very striking dragonfly) and then set off for home.
A huge thanks to ED, TBF and the family for making us so welcome and relaxed. It was a really great few days and here’s hoping we didn’t outstay our welcome and that we get an invite for next year – lots more to see and do! 🙂
Half Term and time for a well deserved holiday. It was a holiday of two halves, the first half being spent in Pembrokeshire, courtesy of TBF’s friend who kindly let us rent her lovely cottage in Llangwm for the long weekend.
Illness was in the air unfortunately. I was still recovering from a nasty virus and cough but TJS had it full-blown all through the weekend and was in very bad way. We attempted to head out on the Saturday. It looked promising with the threat of showers so we headed down to Stack Rocks. Within minutes of stepping from the car the rain arrived. It looked like a brief shower and all was sunny a few hundred yards out to sea but it rained non-stop for 18 hours. The day was pretty much washed out and we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the cottage.
The Sunday promised much better so we returned to try again as I was keen to explore more of this stretch of coast. We were without TJS who too poorly to come with us and looked really sorry for himself. Such a shame when a cold ruins a long looked forward to holiday.
Stack Rocks is a superb place with some amazing features and wildlife. The arch known as the Green Bridge of Wales is perhaps it’s most spectacular feature.
We also saw seals and of course the Razorbills and Guillemots that crowd the isolated stacks. The population is huge with every spare spot nested and hundreds more in the air and fishing in the sea. It’s a fantastic site
We strolled along the coast, the sheer edges and blow-holes are spectacular and fascinating but it makes for long walking as you hug the coast.
We found a fine spot amongst the wild flowers on the coast for lunch
TJF was slowing down and seemed to have had enough coastal walking. I was keen to explore further so TBF took her off to Broad Haven South for some beach fun while I walked the coast to meet them.
The coast here is absolutely magnificent, one of the finest stretches of cliffs that I know. The land side is pretty much flat but the cliffs are pretty much sheer vertical limestone pocked with caves, arches, blow holes and incised narrow inlets. The coast path official route runs a few hundred metres inland for the most part and misses all this. Most people seem to follow this route so by sticking rigidly to the cliffs and following its exact line, I had it mostly to myself
As befits such an intricate coast, it’s full of evocative and unusual names for the various features. Bullslaughter Bay, Flimston Bay, Moody Nose, Mewsford Point, The Castle, Newton Saddle, Huntsmans Leap, Long Matthew Point
The walking is surprisingly tough as the ground is hard under foot and the distances deceptive. Several times I had to detour the best part of kilometre to achieve a distance of a few feet.
There were a couple of these inlets where with a brave leap you could hop across the narrow sections. I declined.
There was one amazing headland at least a hundred metres across that had a cave all the way beneath it from one side to the other. I made a vow to return and kayak this whole section on a calm day. It would be a magnificent expedition.
This section was rock climbing heaven and there were dozens of people scaling the cliffs. I watched several parties of all ages having fun and the rock is perfect for climbing. Vertical but solid and lots of holds.
I pressed on past St Govans Chapel (nice and photogenic but swarming with tourists) and on to St Govans Head (spectacular and deserted).
By now I was pretty tired and footsore and as I suspected, the Funsters were starting to wonder where I was. The coastal scenery was still delivering superb vistas but I had to up to the pace to meet them before they called out the rescue teams 🙂
If there is s more interesting and intriguing stretch of coastline I’m yet to see it and considering the many wonders it has to offer and relative accessibility you can have whole sections to yourself. Just make sure you stick to the line of the cliffs or you’ll miss all the fun.
A cracking day was finished off with a BBQ in the tranquil surroundings of Llangwm.
On our last day, TJS was feeling a little better so it seemed only fair to have a lazy beach day at Marloes, one of our favourites.
We did nothing much except laze on the beach, re-route water flows (my personal favourite), poke about in rock pools and watch the tide come in. The weather looked on the cusp of rain for a while but eventually it turned into a scorcher.
Simple pleasures today
The evening back at Llangwm was beautiful and calm and I spent a happy hour snapping the boats in Llangwm Pill. It really is the most tranquil place made all the more fascinating by the way the tide creeps in out, almost un-noticed. Kind of creepy in a way
And then it was off to our friends in the north for the second half of the match
Regular readers will know of the family passion for adventure parks in the trees. We’ve done loads in France but never in the UK. Special May treat for the family took us to Go Ape in the Forest of Dean near Mallards Pike Lake. I was feeling pretty ropey, coming down with a nasty cold and hacking cough but I survived and had some fun which is of course the whole point. A video compilation and a few photos of our day out.
I’m not a big fan of forests, I find them oddly claustrophobic, preferring the wide open spaces of the mountains. The Forest of Dean has changed my views as it’s quite lovely. lots of natural forest (not military ranks of conifers), lakes and industrial relics from it’s coal mining days. I need to explore some of it’s shady glades as well as it’s treetop fun
I like my routine and I like a certain degree of constancy in my life. This is particularly true when taking the family camping. I’ve been to too many poor quality sites, places that charge the earth for less than impressive facilities (Sykeside near Brothers Water you have been shamed). However some places roll out the red groundsheet and the Church Stile campsite is the best. Always welcoming, spotless facilities, reasonable (by Lakes standards), never too crowded and with stunning views. A bit of a drive if you want to tackle the big mountains but well worth it when you have such a lovely temporary home to return to. We’ve been here 4 years on the spin now at May Day weekend and I don’t see that trend changing. Our home from home when the first family camping weekend of the year arrives.
Taking the kids out of school is a bit of no-no for a weekend so this year I took the day off as the advance party to get the tent set up while the rest of the family came up late Friday. This gave me a chance to get a day of solo walking in on the Friday. I had thought of a car camp on the road over from Broughton near the Black Combe but in the end I thought “what the hell” and booked into a Travel Inn, followed by a hearty breakfast at Booths in Ulverston (a fine supermarket chain if ever there was one with outstanding cafes attached). I was up at the top of the pass by 10 and wasn’t sure how to fill a whole day. In the end I decided on a double out and back. In the morning I’d wander out to Whitfell and back and in the afternoon do the same to take in Black Combe, a long admired mountain that I wanted to climb
Despite the promise of sunshine it was really rather cold and windy when I stepped from the car. Within a few minutes I was rooting around in the pack for some warmer headwear. There was sunshine temptingly close but grey and gloomy was my companion for now
Buck Barrow – and the wonderfully named – Great and Little Paddy Crags were marvellous with some scrambling to keep me entertained.
I strolled with purpose out towards Whitfell and suddenly, almost unnoticed the sun came out and there was blue sky everywhere.
The walk to the summit was magnificent and the views from the top inspiring although still cold. From here you have the coast on one side and the full Lakeland panorama of peaks in the other. It looks like fine backpacking country on these smaller lesser known hills but as I was to find out not everywhere is quite as dry as it seems.
It would have been a fine spot and time for some lunch but I was still full of Booths best so returned towards the car. I thought Kinmont Buck Barrow looked worth a trek (and it was) so I headed off across the col. I should have packed a pack-raft for this. Just a hidden lake with grass in it. Mountains can be sneaky buggers sometimes.
I’d thought about lunch at the car but I thought that was a bit sad and I was still digesting breakfast so I pushed on towards Black Combe, over Stoneside Hill and past the charity chair. It looked like another easy stroll up to the edge but there was more hidden water to get past first (this area really has some astounding amounts of water in it’s soil).
I managed to find a thin path that took me to the edge and then along the top of Whitecombe Head and Whitecombe Screes all the way to the summit of Black Combe. The cloud had filled in again but the views were still fine especially down towards Barrow in Furness and Walney Island.
Now I was hungry and settled down on the grass for a luxury lunch of crusty bread and Morecambe Bay potted shrimps – and very fine they were too. A cold beer would have been a fine addition if only I brought one but a cuppa made an adequate replacement.
As I sat there looking out at the Sellafield plant I recalled that back in the 80’s the owners were a tad careless with their safety protocols and had a habit of creating large amounts of toxic waste that they weren’t terribly sure what to do with (well who hasn’t created a batch of the worlds most lethal substance and then wondered where to stash it). I seem to remember that their answer to this taxing question was to dig a big hole on Black Combe and then bury it hoping no-one would notice. Not sure if that’s true but it was an intriguing thought as I counted my fingers to make sure I still had just the ten. I still have ten so perhaps it’s all nonsense.
I collected my stuff and wandered off on however many legs I now had back to the car with the skies clearing again as I reached it. A pretty damn fine day.
12 Miles, 20,00 feet of ascent
Putting the tent up was almost a pleasure in the warm sunshine – almost. I was joined by Uncle Fester for a few pints of outstanding Mild and some equally fine food in the The Strands pub – well worth a detour if you’re in the area. It was a chilly evening back on the camp site and I took some more night shots of stars and illuminated tents.
Alas that was as good as things got from a weather perspective. The Saturday was grey and gloomy despite a good forecast. We did a fine walk up Nether Beck to Scoat Tarn and Fell and back over Red Screes, Dore Head and Over Beck. I took only a couple of photos as the day just gloomier and colder as it wore on
8 Miles, 2,600 feet of ascent
The evening descended into the quintessential British pastime of a BBQ in the rain. The rain continued all night and hadn’t stopped by lunchtime the next day. What to do in this corner of the Lake District with a bunch of restless bored kids = Seascale
And what a fine choice it was. It had pretty much stopped raining by the time we got there and the kids had a whale of time messing about on the beach and on the astonishingly slippery pier with the waves bouncing over and through it. Lunch was provided by the absolutely delightful Mawsons Ice Cream Parlour. They managed to find space for pretty much 20 of us in it’s tiny interior and looked after us magnificently despite the obvious confusions of many hungry and fussy kids. The food was outstanding but the real treat is their ice cream which is to die for. Apparently the market for full cream has declined in these healthy times so they were left with waste that they didn’t know what to do with. Answer, Ice Cream and I’m glad they did. I think a trip to Seascale is now an essential part of any trip this way
It was still deeply gloomy but at least dry when we emerged 2 hours later. We wandered up the beach and passed another happy couple of hours. Kids love a beach and they forgot about what a dull and damp day it was. Happy kids = happy parents
Out of the depths of a very dismal Lake District morning sprang a pretty damn fine day in the end.
The Monday was a day for taking tents down and some epic football matches where I played a blinder in goal, though I say it myself, and several old family scores were settled in some brutal midfield battles. Football was the winner.
Back to the Strands for tea before the long drive home. Another weekend to add to the archives with the usual batch of great memories to fall back on when winter comes. Looking forward to 2015 🙂