Archive for the ‘seascale’ Tag

May Day Weekend – St Bees Head   18 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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Three Seasons in One Weekend   11 comments

The usual annual trip to the Lake District and our good friends at Church Stile Campsite. I drove up a day early through some pretty nasty weather but I still received something of a shock after I crested the hill on M6 near Lancaster. The Lake District was white. Plastered white. I heard it may be a little chilly with a chance of snow but this was full on winter. In late April.

I had planned a walk on the Friday afternoon but the weather was pretty miserable so I settled for a leisurely set up of base camp and an early pub meal in the mighty fine Strands Inn with UF and OGS, washed down by 3 pints of Porter, my favourite beer. Who needs to tick off summits and meaningless lumps on ridges when you can tick off local craft beers.

Saturday was forecast to be pretty good so plans were made for an ascent of Scafell Pike. TJS has been looking longingly at England’s highest summit for several years so I though it was time to fulfil my promise to climb it. It seems like all the adults felt an easier day was called for so I was accompanied by a gaggle of kids. TBF obviously took pity on – the kids – surprisingly, feeling they were not really equipped and experienced enough to deal with a full day barrage of sarcastic and pedantic remarks from the pack leader, and accompanied us

Despite the good forecast it was a showery morning and indeed to reinforce that message we were battered by a heavy hailstorm as we finished our faffing in the NT car park. The forecast was for a steadily improving day and in fact this was the last of the precipitation.

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Scafell Pike would be my last choice of mountain on a Bank Holiday Weekend, its popular and very busy at the best of times. However it does have the advantage of the Corridor Route from Styhead Tarn, one of Britains finest mountaineering walks and one which I hoped the kids would really enjoy.

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Its quite a long walk to Styhead, passing through Wasdale Head and its patchwork of fields before the climb to the tarn. All the kids were busy chatting about exams, computer games and the like and leaving me to my own thoughts. There was much laughter so I assumed they were enjoying themselves. The mountains were heavily clouded but there was enough visible to realise there was a good deal of snow up there. The Corridor route is wild and rocky and under winter conditions has real big mountain feel. I hoped the kids were up to the task.

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I find the walk up the main path to Styhead Tarn a bit of long drag. On  a whim I took the lower path for a change and it was inspired. Its a superb walk along the stream and away from the crowds. it climbs pleasantly and steadily with fine views opening up all around. Its mostly grassy and therefore much easier for older walkers with dodgy knees and feet.

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As we crested the rise we were suddenly seeing the first of the snow. Almost before we knew it we were in deep, wet continuous cover. A late start meant lunch was in order and I picked a pretty cold and wet spot to eat. Still the kids were loving the deep snow and were in high spirits.

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After sustenance gave us all a burst of energy it also seemed to perk up the weather. The sun started to come out and summits revealed themselves from the clouds.

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The corridor route was busy and populated with a mix of serious walkers and some seriously under equipped tourists. One party of Oriental people were dressed in high street clothes and wellies and one of them had a sound system in his backpack blaring out music. The Far East has given us many great things but high quality popular music isn’t one of them. We put on a burst of speed and left them behind

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Well, the Corridor Route was simply superb. It twists and trust over rocky slopes and buttresses and above several of the dramatic ravines that slice into the Scafell range. There was even some exposed scrambling that I don’t remember from previous visits but the kids weren’t phased. In fact they loved it, enjoying the sensational winter mountain views and messing about in the deep snow in equal measure. The snow and winter conditions gave it an air of seriousness although in truth it is just a path. I quite enjoyed it as well.

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The view across to the coast and the Isle of Man was marvellous. I recounted a very old tale when on a miserable day in the Lakes, the weather suddenly cleared to an expansive blue to reveal the IoM. EWO fervently disagreed and uttered the words he has regretted for 30 years, “That’s not the IoM, if they were mountains they’d 30,000 feet high”. He was wrong of course and ever since as soon as anyone sees a distant mountain on the horizon they immediately state with a grin “If they were mountains……..”. Well it always makes us laugh anyway

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Its a long route especially after the long approach walk. As we approached the summit the kids flagged a little, but the weather was improving by the minute and the closeness of the summit and clear blue skies spurred them on.

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The summit was crowded as expected but not as bad as I thought. I imagine the deep snow had held many people back. We found a quiet spot for some more food and then headed down.

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There really was a quite extraordinary depth of snow, waist deep in places. Scafell summit is rocky and awkward to walk on so we followed the snow. The kids had an absolute ball running and rolling about in it and it gave me enormous pleasure to see them having such fun.

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This photo below of TJS seemed to provide enormous amusement to everyone

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This one I call “LAC Scissor-Hands”

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It would have put a spring in my step to watch the kids in full flight but my springs have long since sprung and rusted up like one of those old bed frames you see in some bothies. Still I metaphorically sprang.

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We paused at Mickledore to look at Scafell and Broad Stand, well out of my league in summer conditions and definitely for another day in winter garb

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The start of the descent from there is down a steep and slippery gully that paused the smiles for a few minutes. It was soon over and we continued to walk, run and roll our way down the snow

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As we descended the views over Wast Water to the coast were breathtaking and near the bottom the yellow of the gorse gave a final flourish to what had been a sensational day. To capture England’s highest point via a classic mountain route, in winter conditions under a sunny blue sky is rare treat and one I think and hope will live with kids for a very long time

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We finished the day off in fine style with a BBQ in front of an open fire. Chilly but convivial and we chatted until the lateness of the hour and the cold air forced us to bed. A classic day

And the rest of the weekend and the three seasons I mentioned in the title? We’d had winter. The less said about the Sunday the better. It was wet Spring. It rained for 28 hours straight although we enlivened proceedings with what seems to have become our annual Sunday trip to Mawsons Ice Cream Parlour in Seascale. It always rains on the Sunday but the welcome and the food always lifts the spirits. I came out stuffed and didn’t eat for the rest of the day. Monday? After it finally stopped raining we were treated to warm sunny Spring. The shorts were on and we took a stroll around the fields in the sunshine. Hard to believe I’d been wading in deep snow 48 hours earlier. Only in the UK.

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The weekend was finished off with the usual epic football match played with a mixture of skill, determination, family scores settled and for my part some inspirational goal-keeping.

A long time to wait to do it all again next year

Nether Wasdale Meet Up May 2015   13 comments

When we first visited this fine and quiet corner of the Lake District in 2011 we had 4 of the sunniest, bluest days in memory. I thought then that we’d probably pay for that good fortune and so, in a way we have. We’ve had a few good days in the past few years but mostly the weather has been disappointing. This year was no exception

We’d decided to head up a day early to make the best of things and the Friday was a pretty nice day. A long drive followed by pitching the camper at Church Stile Campsite (now with added shop full of local produce) left us time for an afternoon stroll up Buckbarrow.

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A fine rocky hill and one small enough for a worthy place in my guide book. Short on distance and height but big on views over the South West fells and coastline.

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The bright skies with dark broody clouds made a very fine backdrop.

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Even TJF seemed to enjoy the walk

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

The day finished off with a grand meal in The Strands pub and beers in the campsite with the gang as they arrived

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday was dire and it was raining by the time we set off on Saturday morning. Enthusiasm was low as we trooped across the fields but it was at least good to catch up with friends and be out and about. The rain seemed to be increasing as forecast so we abandoned the plan to climb Middle Fell instead plumping for an amble to Greendale Tarn to fill the day.

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In fact the weather didn’t deteriorate as badly as we thought and after a lunch by the stream decided to climb Middle Fell anyway

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

Whilst not exactly balmy summer weather it wasn’t as bad or as wet as we’d feared and in the end we made quite a good day of it. By the time we’d reached the campsite the rain had set in and the wind was blasting the campsite. It pretty much wiped out evening frivolities and the planned BBQ as everyone  went to bed to listen to the rain. It was a wild night with roaring winds that rocked the camper from side to side and was still raining in the morning. It did stop but it was grim and dreary. Luckily we now have a wet weather plan – Seascale, its beach and the fabulous Mawsons Ice Cream Parlour. We dined like kings and ate like gluttons, the ice cream here is to die for. After a stroll on the beach we went back to the site and, as you’d expect began eating again. Despite still being grey, it was at least dry and therefore a BBQ was feasible. Who says you need warm sunshine to eat outdoors. Most people actually but that’s not the point. It was a fine evening with everyone in much improved spirits after a pretty dismal 36 hours.

Monday was much better. Sunshine warmed the camper as we breakfasted and encouraged the kids out on another walk.

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Buckbarrow is such a good hill that its worth doing twice in the same weekend!

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

It’s perfect for the kids as after a steep start it’s an easy walk and we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch (part 1) by the stream.

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

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The top is littered with crags giving everyone a chance to practice their scrambling skills. Little DB Junior had to be encouraged not to try the E-Grade rock climbs solo!

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

Another lunch on the top and we all wandered down in slightly different routes.

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

I paused at Greendale Gill, camera in hand hoping someone would provide some entertainment and fall in. Despite a procession of unwilling stooges no-one did. Some people have no sense of theatre

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buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

buckbarrow, camping, church stile campsite, middle fell, mountains, nether wasdale,  walk, wasdale, wast water, greendale tarn, greendale gill, seascale, mawsons ice cream parlour

Despite almost 2 days of rain in the middle it was a pretty damn fine weekend, good company made up for a lack of warm sunshine and let’s face that’s the most important thing

Nether Wasdale Gathering 2014   11 comments

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

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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

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Buck Barrow – and the wonderfully named – Great and Little Paddy Crags were marvellous with some scrambling to keep me entertained.

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I strolled with purpose out towards Whitfell and suddenly, almost unnoticed the sun came out and there was blue sky everywhere.

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black combe, buck barrow, charity chair, church stile campsite, great paddy crags, kinmont buck barrow, Lake District, little paddy crags, nether wasdale, stoneside hill, whitcombe head, whitecombe screes, whitfell

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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.

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black combe, buck barrow, charity chair, church stile campsite, great paddy crags, kinmont buck barrow, Lake District, little paddy crags, nether wasdale, stoneside hill, whitcombe head, whitecombe screes, whitfell

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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.

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black combe, buck barrow, charity chair, church stile campsite, great paddy crags, kinmont buck barrow, Lake District, little paddy crags, nether wasdale, stoneside hill, whitcombe head, whitecombe screes, whitfell

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).

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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.

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black combe, buck barrow, charity chair, church stile campsite, great paddy crags, kinmont buck barrow, Lake District, little paddy crags, nether wasdale, stoneside hill, whitcombe head, whitecombe screes, whitfell

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.

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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.

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black combe, buck barrow, charity chair, church stile campsite, great paddy crags, kinmont buck barrow, Lake District, little paddy crags, nether wasdale, stoneside hill, whitcombe head, whitecombe screes, whitfell

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.

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black combe, buck barrow, charity chair, church stile campsite, great paddy crags, kinmont buck barrow, Lake District, little paddy crags, nether wasdale, stoneside hill, whitcombe head, whitecombe screes, whitfell

12 Miles, 20,00 feet of ascent

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.

Nether Wasdale

Nether Wasdale

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

Nether Beck, Over Beck, Scoat Tarn, Scoat Fell, Red Screes

Nether Beck, Over Beck, Scoat Tarn, Scoat Fell, Red Screes

8 Miles, 2,600 feet of ascent

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

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

Seascale

Seascale

Seascale

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

Seascale

seascale

seascale

Out of the depths of a very dismal Lake District morning sprang a pretty damn fine day in the end.

Seascale

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.

nether wasdale, church stile campsite

nether wasdale, church stile campsite

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 🙂

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