Archive for the ‘Lake District’ Category

May Day Weekend – St Bees Head   9 comments

Our annual trip to the Lake District for May Day was upon us (we missed it last year but who’s counting). We headed up a day early (me and TBF) to make a longer weekend. Seemed a rash decision as it was grey, dreary and raining when we woke up on the Friday morning. Luckily it stopped just before lunch so rather than head to the hills we headed to the coast. First stop, Mawsons Cafe in Seascale for a sandwich and huge plate of waffles and ice cream. Then onwards to St Bees for a coastal walk (feeling rather bloated it has to be said.

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We’ve only ever been to the coast hereabouts on wet and dreary days so this made a nice change. In fact the weather had turned quite rapidly from rain to glorious sunshine.

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St Bees Head is well known to long distance walkers as the official start of the Coast to Coast walk and also home to some fine cliffs, hidden beaches and a seabird colony. It’s also home to an expensive car park by the beach. Note that in Seascale down the road the car park is free!

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The grass was green, the sky blue, the gorse flowering yellow and all was right with the world.

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It’s a splendid grassy romp along the cliff tops and on a Friday very quiet.

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Fleswick Beach is a couple of miles in and looked a wonderful place to explore.

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And just beyond is the colony of seabirds. I’m not an expert but they looked very similar to the Razorbills and Guilliemots that we’ve seen in Pembrokeshire so I’m assuming that’s what they were. The largest colony of cliff nesting seabirds in NW England said the sign. On reflection probably the only colony of cliff nesting seabirds in NW England. As far as I know there are no cliffs any further north before you hit Scotland and heading south you’d have to reach Somerset before the next band of cliffs (excluding Wales of course)

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Still it was an impressive, numerous, noisy and smelly colony and were pleased to be able to see it.

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We turned tail and headed back to the car. No time explore the beach as we were on a timetable to meet TJS off the train from Lancaster.

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The coast was just as enjoyable on the return.

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As we approached St Bees we received a message telling us he’d missed his train the hopeless git. No time to return to Fleswick Beach but we now had an extra hour to kill.

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We admired the views across St Bees beach and to the Lake District. Very different to see the mountains from this direction.

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And we did have time for a potter on the beach and a sit down on the sea wall.

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Not a bad day after such a dismal start and a superb bit of coast that is well worth seeking out. Its not all about mountains!

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The day was finished off with a pub meal and a few beers in the excellent Strands Inn at Nether Wasdale with our friends as they arrived. The mountains were calling for the next day.

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Easter Sun – Harter Fell and Birks Bridge   14 comments

I forgot to mention another day out on our Easter weekend. We decided the weather was good enough for a day out in the Lakes. After our swimming exploits we fancied another dip and walk.

We needed a small but interesting peak with a river swim. Dunnerdale and Harter Fell seemed to fit the bill.

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On a hot sunny Bank Holiday weekend the Lake District can be swarming with people. Dunnerdale is a stunning place but awkward to get to and off the radar so we found it relatively quiet by Lake District standards. Our route up Harter Fell was heading for the obvious outcrop of Maiden Castle in the photo below.

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We stopped off at Birks Bridge, our chosen swimming hole on the way and it looked excellent.

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We were excited for the swim later but first there was a mountain to climb to earn our right to a swim.

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The route up was brutally steep and mercifully quite short.

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We still needed a rest halfway up. It was a pretty hot and hazy day.

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Maiden Castle was fine rocky outcrop with some scrambling opportunities.

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It looks dramatic from most angles but in fact you can pretty much walk to the top around the back.

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From here to the summit is a scramblers delight. There are small rocky outcrops littering the slopes. A playground for budding and semi-retired rock athletes.

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Me and the DBs had enormous fun picking a route and finding some serious short challenges to test our skills.

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The summit itself is even better with several significant outcrops and superb views.

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We ate lunch, drank tea and played around on the rocks.

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Smiles and laughter were in abundance. Scrambling around on perfect warm rock under a blue sky is a pretty damn good feeling.

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I’m still surprised that this is my first ascent of this rocky peak, most likely the best known and largest of Lakelands major fells I’ve never climbed. I’m glad I saved it for such a superb day.

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Despite the fun we were all eager to head down and enjoy a different kind of fun.

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As we headed down the haze seemed to clear a little and the views were increasingly dramatic.

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Our happy group finishing the hike part of the day.

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And into the water!

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This early in the year I expected the water to be bitingly cold and the swim refreshing but short.

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In fact the water was no colder than in the height of last years heatwave and we spent a good hour playing, swimming, jumping and generally messing about.

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The river runs through a narrow and deep gorge with a waterfalls at the upstream section. We had enormous fun squirming our way up the waterfalls, some more ungainly than others!

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We sat on the sunny banks to warm up, thanking our luck to have such glorious hot weather at Easter. I’m pretty sure this is the earliest point in the year I’ve ever been wild swimming. Still seems surreal to have such hot weather 7 days after I shivered in winter cold in the Brecon Beacons.

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We headed home a very happy and contented bunch. Sadly TBH had a very bad case of dizziness that left her in pretty bad way hardly able to move or open her eyes the previous day. Whilst much improved on this day she decided to rest at home in the sunshine. Such a shame she wasn’t able to join us but it was great to her up and about and looking much better for a day in garden when we got home 🙂

An absolutely top notch day of scrambling and swimming in the sunshine.

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A Quick Stride Over Farleton Fell   18 comments

The Monday of our visit was Xmas Eve and most of us were either travelling home to see family or in our case for a brief visit home before our next trip. Right on cue the British weather transformed overnight from dark, damp and gloomy to cold clear and frosty!

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Whilst its a little frustrating to have such a stunning day when most of us couldn’t make use of it, you can’t really complain about a glorious morning like this or in fact a weekend that had delivered some great walks regardless of the weather.

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I managed to reel off a few photos and set my mind working to to a way to cram in a short walk on the way home.

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Inspiration struck in realising that Farleton Fell is but a short detour from our route home. Not only that it’s small and perfectly formed and you can drive pretty much to the top. Add to that the fact that its a superb area of limestone with great views and we had our walk. TJF kindly agreed to wait in the car for an hour while the three of us took in some cold December air.

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It was stunning. If anything the skies were even clearer. A stunning pin sharp clarity to the air and the sky the deepest blue.

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Walking in these conditions is a sheer delight and I took loads of photos with views in all directions.

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The light on the crags and trees was just amazing.

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The summit is crossed by numerous paths and we just wandered with a sort of aim for the highest point following the edge around.

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Looking back towards Yorkshire and Ingleborough

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Across to the high summits of the Lake District.

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And north to the Howgills.

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I really love this angled Limestone Pavement near the top with its almost perfect slope and deeply incised features.

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Th views from the top were immense.

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A panorama to take it all in.

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Across Morecambe Bay.

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And down towards Arnside and Silverdale – we wave at our friends from the neighbourhood.

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This dead tree made an unusual subject.

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TBF finding crossing the pavements something of a challenge.

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We followed a number of wide grassy promenades across the limestone and fields and back up to the car.

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We’d only been out an hour but it was a truly memorable walk. A three hour journey in the car suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

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Back on the road for home for a Xmas day without turkey, trimmings, presents and all that.

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We needed to focus on washing and re-packing for our next trip.

A Damp Day in the South Lakes   20 comments

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TJS had only been away at University for 3 weeks but as it was his Birthday we decided to go and see him. Mark and his family were kind enough to let us stay, mess up their house and eat all their food – again! The forecast for Saturday had looked pretty decent but alas it dawned grey, dreary and overcast with a light drizzle in the air. Not a day for a high level walk as I’d planned and it was left to just me, Mark TBF and TJS to form a hike party

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We planned a route around the small hills and pastures near the south end of Windermere to take in the small but very prominent summit of Gummer’s How which despite hundreds of visits to the Lakes, I’d never been up. As it was in the cloud when we parked up near the base we decided to save it for the end of the walk hoping it would be out of the cloud

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Despite the gloomy conditions it was a really good walk. What the area lacks in mountainous peaks it more than makes up for with interesting stuff.  The forest is packed with small tarns like this one, Middle Tarn

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Whilst this may look like a barn it is in fact a Quaker meeting-house, Heights Cottage

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From there its a short walk across to Raven’s Barrow and its prominent cairn overlooking the valley of the Winster river and down to Arnside, Arnside Knott and beyond to Morecambe Bay. The line of brightness shows the split in the weather beyond which all was blue skies further south and east. Despite our hopes it never reached us

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On our way to a lunchtime stop we passed the church on the slopes of Cartmell Fell (Mark will step in and give out its real name when he reads and comments I hope. He knows the area very well and is a useful companion on these walks to take you on a tour of the interesting sites like this.)

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Its been rendered on the outside and looks quite plain but on the inside its stunning. It’s very, very old and the stained glass contains fragments taken from other churches

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I particularly liked the wooden roof beams

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The area is packed with wonderful converted farm buildings and cottages and wanted to live in every one. This one in particular caught my eye although I suspect I’d need to perform a Hatton Garden style robbery to afford it

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Of course its proximity to one of Lakelands finest pubs had nothing to do with my enthusiasm to live here. The Masons Arms is an old favourite serving a range of beers that includes Belgian fruit beer (raspberry today). Very tasty it was too.

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The food was also very good and we enjoyed a light lunch of Black Pudding, Poached Egg and Potatoes. We sat outside under cover and our stay coincided with a spell of heavy drizzle that stopped as we packed up to leave.

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From there a steep climb up Whinny Knott

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And into the Birch Fell Forest (or should that be Fanghorn Forest, home of the Ents)

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From there we had to bash through the undergrowth and very wet grass and Bracken to reach the top of Gummer’s How

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We were just out of the cloud so its famed views were somewhat limited. Still, there were great views down over the southern end of the lake.

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The line of brightness had crept a little closer but not close enough

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Despite that, I enjoyed our visit to the summit and look forward to a return sometime in sunshine. It is only a 15 minute walk from the car after all

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Gummer's How

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A fine walk regardless and one where we never donned waterproofs which seems pretty miraculous considering the weather. Back home for a slap up takeaway curry to finish the day

Belated Birthday Weekend – Coniston Fells   17 comments

Another day in Lakeland but this one without the glorious blue skies of the previous day. Still a fine day though, high cloud, watery sunshine and no sign of rain or mist shrouding the summits. We planned a walk from the door of our hotel in Torver up on to the Coniston Fells. Nice to do a walk without using the car (if you don’t count the 4 hour drive home at the end of the day)

We followed what looked like a little used but rather nice path out over Torver High Common, following Ash Gill Beck (plenty of nice wild camp spots) and then off piste cutting up to the Walna Scar Road. Our first peak of the day, Brown Pike, gave us some fine views of the first part of our route for the day.

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I don’t recall ever seeing this small tarn before, perhaps that’s why it’s called Blind Tarn. Perhaps it meant that I’ve never been up Brown Pike before and I had another new summit bagged

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Onwards to Dow Crag, another classic Lakeland peak and another of my favourites from my youth

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A dark and brooding set of sheer cliffs cradling Goats Water below, the Old Man of Coniston on the other side

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The crags and gullies are impressive and I’ve had a few adventures in my youth trying to find a way up some of the ravines in both summer and winter conditions. Most of them ended in scary situations I seem to recall. Probably why I never went up Brown Pike. Probably why I should have done. I also recall a day in wild winter conditions when I was blown clean off my feet and deposited several yards further along the path, the only time I’ve ever been picked up by the wind. Mind you I was a couple of stone lighter in those days. Need more than a gust of wind to do it now! 🙂

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The summit of Dow Crag is impressively rocky and it takes a little scrambling to reach its top perched on the edge of the crags. TBF enlivened proceedings by stumbling over her feet and poles – twice just to set me on edge again

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A fine spot for lunch, so good that several annoying black flies came to join us at our table

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There was much walking to do so we were off again to climb the Old Man. Fine views back across the cliffs of Dow Crag as we went

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Ask we approached the top the sun came out and we were treated to some fine views along our next ridge and the lakes of Levers Water and Low Water and across to Wetherlam

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We didn’t linger long as it’s a popular and busy summit but the views from its relatively isolated position are superb

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What’s also superb is the long ridge that runs out to Swirl How. An undulating passage the offers a grand high level stroll with not much effort

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Views over Great Carrs to our route in Langdale the previous day and the Scafell range

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The descent down Prison Band to Swirl Hawse is a steep and rocky one and needs a little care in places to avoid a tumble and places where certain hikers stopped in full view of the col to have a pee

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Levers Water is, I assume, an artificial creation of the copper mining industry but still a grand spot for a rest and a brew (if you haven’t run out of gas of course)

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Said copper mines are extensive and deep and I’ve read reports that the area around is undercut with monstrous caverns ready to collapse at any time. I never linger long by the massive holes in the landscape

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We were still facing a lengthy walk home but the old mine tracks make for a steady and easy gradient to eat up the miles while the mountains receded behind us

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I took this photo as it seems to indicate mining is still very much active here. I’m sure this is a recent change as I don’t recall seeing these new-looking scars on previous visits. It seems to me to be something of a contradiction to have working heavy industry scarring the landscape inside a National Park

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Back to finer views as the day started to draw too a close. This fine rocky peak above the lush and verdant farm-land caught my eye

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We still had a few miles over the moorland below the Walna Scar Road to cover to reach Torver

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It was a lovely peaceful stroll along some paths that I suspect see’s few visitors. The late afternoon brightened by flowering gorse, always a pleasure to see and smell

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A last lingering look back to the Old Man and Dow Crag before dropped in Torver to finish off a long and highly rewarding walk

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Another 14 miles and 4,500 feet of ascent to add to the rest of the weekend

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An amazing weekend of long walks numerous summits, great weather, nice pubs and excellent food. Now That’s What I Call a Birthday Weekend

Belated Birthday Weekend – Pike of Blisco, Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell   18 comments

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Sometimes you just feel that the stars have aligned and everything is right with the world. A superb walk on the Langdale Pikes, a splendid meal, a night in luxurious room in a pub, Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Life was pretty good and I thought things could not get any better. Then we pull into the car park at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel to these views.

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Added to that the fact the car park ticket machine was still broken so we avoided another parking charge and I was in birthday heaven and bouncing around like a kid. We were ready to go early (by our standards anyway) thinking the car parks would be rammed full on such a magnificent day but they were pretty empty and the valley sleepy and quiet as we set off.

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One of my all time favourite walks is Bow Fell (also one of my favourite mountains) via Crinkle Crags. Today we were adding in Pike of Blisco as its one of the few recognised peaks in the Lake District I’ve never done. The steep climb up from the campsite revealed more utterly breathtaking views.

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The panorama shows our route for the day. The skyline from the left through to left middle and down the ridge in front

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We decided to try to follow a route away from the main path and it was wonderful. Never too steep and a feeling of exploring small hollows and crags of Bleaberry Knott and Wrynose Fell that most don’t see from the main path

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The views from the summit of PoB were immense

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TBF bags our first summit of the day

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We took our first extended stop of the day. Much like the Langdale Pikes (below) of the day before, PoB is relatively small in stature but big in expansive views as its relatively isolated from the rest of the range

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Langdale valley and the Eastern Fells

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Panorama looking West and North

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One thing that has dramatically improved since my last visit here are the paths. Huge effort has been made to create these wonderful stepped paths with a mosaic of grass between the boulders. They are in equal measure a delight to look at, a pleasure to walk on and protective against erosion. I take my hat off to all the people who put in hard work to build them

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Progress onwards towards Crinkle Crags was effortless and a joy as PoB receded into the distance behind

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Crinkle Crags is itself a superb summit – or should that be summits, it has lots of them.

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We found a quiet spot with a sloping back-rest rock for a very long lunch. Further smiles were in order as I realised the pub made sandwiches as good as its breakfasts and bar meals

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Moving on towards a succession of Crinkles. You can see in the photo below the gully and “bad step” before the highest point. We wanted to tackle the ethical line but there was a crowd of people making a fuss of getting down it so we walked around it

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We found our own little crag to climb which was obviously a much more satisfying route

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The summit of Crinkle Crags reveals the classic view of Bow Fell and its Links (the line of gullies and crags below its summit

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Cairns always seem to make good foreground subjects

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The Scafell range

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The rocky walk across the knobbly summits of Crinkle Crags was just superb. To walk it on such a clear day was exceptional. The hills were alive with the sound of music, in my head anyway

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And so to the day’s final summit. I took a side route to take a look across the huge slabs on the north side of the ridge

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The slab is huge and seems to fall away to infinity with the famous crag of Bow Fell Buttress as a backdrop

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The panorama from the top was immense.

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TBF looking very pleased to be out on such a superb day

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Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance

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Looking back along our route over Crinkle Crags and PoB

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The birthday boy

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Bow Fell is probably my favourite Lakeland summit. The views from it and its own aspect I find irresistible and I have many fond memories (now including this one). One in particular prompted the photo below. Me and Mark once slept out on the summit in the two obvious spots you can see, back in the early 90’s. It had been hot day down in Eskdale (we were wild swimming and generally lazing about), too hot to sleep so we decided to sleep on the summit. We watched the thunderstorms over the Pennines and slept little in such a magnificent setting under clear skies (and ready to run like hell if the storms came our way!) They never did although we managed to be asleep as the sun came up! A day/night that has a special place in my memories.

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Enough of such reveries. It was time to go down. Another one of those moments when I just wanted to sit and admire these views forever

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We followed the ridge of The Band back to the valley. A long laborious route of ascent but a perfectly angled route of descent for tired limbs

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PoB and the deep ravine of Browney Gill

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Pike of Stickle

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And the ever green and pleasant land of the Langdale valley

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The walk across the pastures of Oxendale back to the car was a final delight to end a truly memorable day

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A long day at around 14 miles and 4,500 feet of ascent but totally rewarding. I had in my mind’s eye a day that pretty much matched what we actually experienced. I still can’t believe my birthday wishes came true

Bow Fell

 

Belated Birthday Weekend – Langdale Pikes   20 comments

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Last few years birthday presents have been replaced with birthday nice weekends away in Cornwall. For my birthday treat this year I fancied a change and wanted a a trip to the Lake District, probably to replace the weekend in Wasdale we missed a couple of weeks earlier. Visiting northern England is always a risk of a washout but we struck gold and as you can see from this and next couple of posts we had three superb days out.

We reached the area with time for a Friday afternoon walk. What better than a round of some of the Langdale Pikes. Short but steep.

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I’d forgotten just how steep the walk up to Stickle Tarn was. I’d also forgotten just what a fine walk it was as well

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It rekindled a whole host of great memories from the many times I’ve walked this classic route although this is the first time for maybe 20 years

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Stickle Gill is wonderful companion on the steep climb and as it was a week day it was relatively quiet.

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The weather was rather hazy but the views were still fabulous and the setting at Stickle Tarn is magnificent

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Across the lake to the cliffs of Pavey Ark

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And Harrison Stickle

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Time for a short rest to take it all in

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On a whim I decided to tackle Jacks Rake for the first time in ages. You can see it slanting up across the face of Pavey Ark from right to left in the photo below

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I love this photo from the shore of the tarn below the face off Pavey Ark

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In my younger days (when I was a couple of stones lighter, more nimble and with fully functioning knees) Jacks Rake was always seen as an easy scramble route, a sort of training scramble not much more than a rocky walk. As the years have progressed scrambling is something I rarely do and I was out of practice to the extent I found I was close to my limits

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I found the route exhilarating and a little intimidating. I used to take risks of all sorts when I was younger but no so any more. I’m not sure whether its an awareness of my own mortality or whether its having a family to be responsible for but I feel so much less at home on rock now

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The route is in fact technically very easy but with a feeling of exposure out of character with most scrambles in the same grade. TBF is more lithe and agile than me and I think she was enjoying herself immensely, thriving on the challenge. I was just nervous for both of us

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I still enjoyed it of course, just with a little less of the carefree attitude of my youth. It was also good to enjoy the route in dry weather as it becomes a little greasy and slippery in damp conditions. If you are keen to try a more adventurous route up a mountain its a pretty good one to start with. Its a long steep ledge/gully with loads of holds, steep enough and exposed enough to be interesting but never difficult

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TBF in full rock athlete mode

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Enough photos of TBF, so here’s one of your truly smiling after conquering the climb

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After a cuppa on Pavey Ark summit we headed off to Harrison Stickle. The steepness and rocky terrain of these peaks gives them a big mountain feel despite their relatively low height

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Pike of Stickle in the distance but we ran out of time (we had an appointment with a fine bistro in Coniston)

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We headed down via the spectacular path that traverses high above the deep ravine of Dungeon Ghyll

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The Coniston Fells in the distance (more on those in a later post)

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The view along the green fell-lined valley is one of my favourites, quintessentially Lake District

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A fabulous afternoon revisiting old mountain friends. I can’t believe it had been so long since I’d done this walk. A day further enhanced by dodging the scandalous £8 parking charge and one of the best meals I’ve had in quite a while. And there was even better to come

Langdale Pikes

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