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.
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
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 🙂