Category Archives: Lake District

The Long Walk continues in the Lake District

We had had fine dry weather for the first four days of our Long Walk. The 5th day it became a bit wet as we entered the Lake District National Park. The 6th day it was definitely raining with low cloud. We had to get from Haweswater to Ambleside and had planned to go over High Street and Thornthwaite Crag. We decided to take a lower, though longer route and avoid the high fells in the wind, rain and poor visibility.

We walked beside Haweswater to the car park at the end and then set off up towards the Gatesgarth Pass. It’s one of those off road roads which are not that nice to walk on but we gained elevation steadily and soon left the valley behind. At 570m on the pass we were in thick cloud with horizontal rain being driven at us by the strong wind. This verified our decision to stay relatively low. The bad decision was to wear shorts – rather chilly!

We hastened on down into Longsleddale. At Sadgill we took the path over to Kentmere.

On the way to Kentmere

It was great to get off the ‘road’ and we took a footpath over the side of the fell down into Kentmere. The drought which the Lake District had been enjoying in early spring was now over and the fells were once more wet and soggy with water running everywhere.

Kentmere is a small village in the South of the Lake District. It has a population of 160 and is a popular place to start many walks as it is at the end of the tarmac road and gives good access onto the fells. Our onward route towards Ambleside took us over the Garburn Pass which is a restricted by-way. Another off road road but one that no longer allows motorised vehicles. The pass brought us down into Troutbeck and after a precipitous walk up to Townend we found that the Old Post Office cafe was still open. A very welcome break in front of their real fire.

The remaining 5km to Ambleside was along Robin Lane and then through Skelghyll Woods. This is a well constructed path which is a very popular, easy walk between Troutbeck and Ambleside. It was a pleasant end to a long day and it had stopped raining!

The next day was dry and bright so we were able to continue with the Long Walk as planned. The plan started with a ride on a bus to Grasmere where we once again picked up the Coast to Coast route up from Mill Bridge to Grisedale Tarn.

Archie at Grisedale Tarn

We walked round the West side of the tarn and up the pitched path to Dollywagon Pike. The path is mostly 10 – 15 years old now and receives heavy use. The hillside it sits on is unstable and needs constant maintenance to re-do and lengthen drains and repitch sections that have moved. It is a fine path to gain elevation and we were soon up to 850m. Another kilometre on the ridge brought us to Nethermost Pike. There was a keen wind blowing and I made use of a small stone shelter to change my clothes as conditions had quite suddenly become very cold. Fortunately, despite carrying as little as possible I had included enough warm clothes to be comfortable and safe on the mountains. We continued to Helvellyn.

Helvellyn summit

After a quick photo shoot we continued to the North, leaving the crowds behind. We continued over Lower Man and up onto Raise.

The summit of Raise

We continued walking north crossing the Sticks Pass which connects Thirlmere with Ulswater. Then followed Stybarrow Dodd, Watsons Dodd and Great Dodd and continued to the Northerly end of the ridge at Clough Head.

Clough Head

It was then a simple matter of making a beeline for Threlkeld where we were staying for the night. I haven’t said much about our overnight billets and they were mostly very good. However, – do yourself a favour and NEVER stay at the Horse and Farrier at Threlkeld!

The next day was very wet. We had planned to go up Skiddaw but instead we walked directly to Keswick. Following the floods in December 2015 the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway path suffered serious damage. Two of the railway bridges that cross the River Greta and around 200 metres of the path surface were washed away and Rawsome Bridge was left in danger of collapse. The cost to repair the path is estimated at £5m and there is still extensive work to be done. In the mean time there is an alternative route and this is what we followed. We spent some time in Keswick with the attractions of shopping and cafes but these were quickly exhausted. Our next mode of transport was by motorised launch from Keswick to Hawes End.

On the boat in horizontal rain

The weather had not improved and we were soaked to the skin when we arrived at Littletown Farm for our overnight stay. This was a mere 2km walk along the valley from Hawes End. At one point I was lifted off my feet by the wind.

After a very comfortable night in the Newlands Valley at Littletown we woke to find the rain was still pouring and the wind was still blowing around 20mph in the valley. Once again we had to modify our plan. We had to get to Wasdale Head. The plan had been to go over the high fells at the head of the Newlands Valley, over the Honister Pass and visit Great Gable. It was still a long walk to get to Wasdale and our safest route was to cross over Maiden Moor and drop down into Borrowdale at Manesty. There had been so much rain that the roads were now flooded and all the streams were roaring.

Wet, wet, wet

We continued on the bridleway passing Castle Crag to Seatoller.

It was decision time.

At Seatoller

The shortest way to Wasdale Head was over Sty Head Pass at 488m. In the present conditions we were heading directly into a very strong wind – steady at 25mph – gusting over 30mph with driving rain. We were already soaked to the skin despite being clothed top to toe in gortex and poor Archie was also looking fairly bedraggled. The alternative was a very expensive taxi back to Keswick and on to Wasdale via Cockermouth, Whitehaven and Gosforth. We decided to have a go but were not sure if we would make it over the pass.

It was very noisy. The wind was roaring and everywhere water was thundering down off the fells. We crossed Grains Gill at Stockley Bridge.

Stockley Bridge – library pic . It was massive when we were there

This is a library picture. The conditions were too wild to get any pictures of our own. We then had to cross several small streams – cascading down the hill. I was worried Archie would get washed away but he had no problems.  We made our way to the banks of Styhead Gill which we then followed upwards. We met 2 parties of walkers who had abandoned their attempts to get any further due to the strength of the wind! Ian was starting to flag – he hates the wind – and it was all starting to get a bit sketchy. Archie was game though and he stoically continued to make forwards progress.

Thankfully there is a footbridge across Styhead Gill. The rain stopped for about 10 minutes and this brief respite enabled us to get across the bridge and soon after Sty Head Tarn came into view. Ian commented that the sea state on the tarn was suitable for BCU 4* sea assessment! We  only had about another 500m and we would be at the pass. It wasn’t until we got to this point that I began to believe we would make it. Once we were at the pass we could immediately begin to descend into Wasdale.

The path from Wasdale was an old packhorse trail. At the highest point is the confluence of paths from Wasdale, Eskdale, Borrowdale and Great Langdale. We were coming up from Borrowdale.

Sty Head forms an important navigational and safety point between Great Gable and Scafell Pike, and there is a Mountain Rescue Stretch Box at the pass. We briefly cowered in the shelter of the stretcher box and checked the map and GPS to make absolutely certain that we were dropping down into Wasdale. A mistake at this point would have been bad. Archie led the way doing his mountain goat impersonation down the steep sections of the path. The wind affected him much less as he is so low to the ground. For a 10 year old little terrier he was very impressive. The conditions were really harsh and Archie just got on with it. This is a dog who can ‘man up’.

After what seemed like too long we caught a glimpse through the cloud of Wasdale opening up ahead of us. We were saved! It was all going to work out well. The amount of water thundering off the hill was really impressive and very noisy. As we lost height the world became a better place and we made our walk thankfully to the Hotel where we had a room booked. It was that £30 deposit we had paid that drove the day!

It was worth it though. The staff made a great fuss of Archie: towelled him down and gave him biscuits. We were shown our room with a hot radiator and a hot shower and an adjacent drying room. Our room quickly resembled a sauna and we had to prop the sash window open with the Good News Bible!

Broken sash window fixed.

There was beer and food in the Ritsons bar. There was even a dry calm weather forecast for the following day.

What a difference a day makes. The following morning we walked back up to the stretcher box at Sty Head. It was dry with a gentle breeze! Sty Head looked very calm.

A much calmer day – at Sprinkling Tarn

We walked along the bridleway passing Sprinkling Tarn to Esk Hause. At this point most folk go up to Scafell Pike but we continued onto Esk Pike down to Ire Gap and then onto Bowfell. The path then drops steeply down to Three Tarns and then up onto Crinkle Crags. Crinkle Crags is much too good to be missed. It is a rough rocky mile of craggy slopes with many ins and outs as well as ups and downs. The ridge is a delight with the scenery constantly changing. Our first top was the Shelter Crags and after that there are five tops of Crinkles all above 750m. Wainwright describes it as Lakeland’s best ridge-mile. Archie agreed and he very obviously enjoyed our traverse of Crinkle Crags.

Crinkle Crags

We dropped of the crags and walked down to the pass near Red Tarn. We were having a really good day so we decided that an ascent of Pike o Blisco as an extra peak was in order. We had great views of the Langdales from the top and enjoyed the long descent down to the Blea Tarn Road. From there we had planned to go over Lingmoor Fell to get to our overnight stop at Elterwater. It now looked enormous so we backed out and walked along Greater Langdale instead. This was an easy if rather long winded alternative!

The Britannia Inn had food, beer and a comfortable room. Our last day dawned dry and bright so we decided to do our ‘half-day’ walk as planned. Little Langdale is much more picturesque than Great Langdale. We continued past Little Langdale Tarn and walked up a long grassy ride towards Swirl Howe. On the walk to Swirl Howe at Great Carrs the path passes a memorial.
This is the site of a wartime air crash and bears the sad remains of a Royal Canadian Air Force Handley Page Halifax bomber.

Memorial on Great Carrs

The undercarriage, together with a wooden cross and memorial cairn lies on the top of the ridge with the rest of the wreckage spread down Broad Slack.

Summit of Swirl Howe

It looked like a very long way from Swirl Howe to the summit of The Old Man of Coniston but it is less than 3km with outstanding views all around. We had seen nobody on our walk thus far but as we approached the Old Man of Coniston we could see crowds of people at the summit. This is a very popular fell. Many people who would not consider themselves regular hill walkers walk up there from Coniston. It was a lovely day and it was good to see so many inappropriately dressed people enjoying the fells.

Our last summit – Old Man of Coniston

For us all that remained was to wander down the well-worn path into Coniston. There was time for a celebratory ice cream while we waited for the bus back to reality.

Celebratory ice cream

The Long Walk

The gpx file for this section can be found here.

Day 5: Brownber Hall near Newbiggin on Lune to the Haweswater Hotel.

After walking from Skipton to Newbiggin on Lune over 4 days we turned left on the 5th day and headed west towards Shap and the Lake District.

The route we followed was familiar as it was the Coast to Coast route we had walked in 2016. This year we were going the other way. It soon became clear that we were going the ‘wrong’ way as a steady procession of C2C walkers were heading West to East.

Deja vu

We walked up onto Sunbiggin moor to the magically named Sunbiggin Tarn which is a mecca for bird watchers. We were on a mission with 34 kilometres ahead of us so we bounded on our way enjoying the grassy surface. It had been an unusually dry spring in the North of England and there were fire hazard signs on the moor. We crossed the B6260 above Orton and now, still in the Yorkshire Dales National Park thanks to the 2016 boundary change, we walked across the Crosby Ravensworth Moor.

The Crosby Ravensworth moor contains a number of interesting historical features. There is a Roman Road near to the Black Dub monument. This records a stopping place of King Charles II and his invading army from Scotland in 1651. A number of bields and ancient cairns are dotted about and on White Hags there is a stone circle made up of granite boulders.

Is this the Roman Road?

The presence of granite is another of the fell’s points of interest. Although the main underlying rock is limestone the area is also notable for a number of erratic granite boulders. In a couple of places in the Orton Fells these granite erratics are called thunder stones. The most impressive boulder is right on the C2C path. It sits on a heavily crushed plinth of limestone.

A granite erratic

Oddendale is a small settlement east of Shap and from there the route is close by the M6. It is very odd to be out on a long walk with car whizzing by at 70 mph. How wonderful it was to be one of those out walking and not sitting in the car going somewhere else.

So far on our Long Walk we had enjoyed dry, warm, sunny weather. As we approached the M6 it became increasingly cloudy. We left the Yorkshire Dales National Park behind as we crossed the M6 to Shap. Heading West from Shap we entered the Lake District National Park and guess what – it started to rain!

Still smiling…

Our route from Shap went through the hamlet of Keld and then across the moor down in to the beautiful remote valley of Swindale.

We looked down into the valley and could clearly see the result of work which was carried out in 2016.

The original straight channel and the new bendy river

A couple of hundred years ago the beck was straightened out in an attempt to create more farm land – however, this turned out not to be the best solution for helping wildlife to thrive or for managing flooding.

So, in an exciting project that benefits both people and wildlife, Natural England, the RSPB, the Environment Agency and United Utilities have worked together to put the beck back to something like its original, bendy course.

The Swindale Beck work is part of wider efforts to restore rivers in the UK so that natural processes help manage flood risk and benefit people and wildlife.

There were also hundreds of very new lambs in this valley and we saw our first Herdwicks.

Herdwick sheep

There was yet another short climb out of Swindale and over the moor – passing through a field of just born lambs and down to Naddle Farm and on to the Haweswater Dam.

Haweswater is a reservoir built in the Mardale Valley. The controversial construction of the Haweswater dam started in 1929, after Parliament passed an Act giving the Manchester Corporation permission to build the reservoir to supply water for Manchester. The decision caused public outcry, since the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green would be flooded, with their inhabitants needing to be relocated. The original natural lake was raised by 29 metres.

Manchester Corporation built a new road along the eastern side of the lake to replace the flooded highway lower in the valley, and the Haweswater Hotel was constructed midway down the length of the reservoir as a replacement for the Dun Bull. The road continues to the western end of Haweswater, to a car park,

It was along this road that we now briskly walked in the drizzle towards the Haweswater Hotel which was to be our billet for the night.

Haweswater in the drizzle with low cloud base (still beautiful)

The gpx file for day 5 can be found here.

The Long Walk 2017 – aka a 172 mile pub crawl

One of the most enjoyable adventures we had in 2016 was walking the Coast to Coast with our Border Terrier Archie.

Archie

Archie is 10 years old now but he’s pretty fit so we decided to do another long walk. C2C was great fun but there were bits of it we enjoyed more than others. We decided to plan our own route creating a long walk through challenging upland wilderness in the North of England.

The attractions of planning our own long distance walk.

  • Lots of planning with maps out!
  • Discovering new and interesting places.
  • Covering vast areas of the country.
  • Being autonomous.

The logistics can be challenging. Planning a walk over a two week period creates an organisational challenge – especially when a small dog is in the team. There are a limited number of accommodation providers who are willing to accept even a small, well behaved dog, so our route and distance between accommodations was largely dictated by where we could find to stay. We carry all our own stuff so camping is not an option. We carry as little as possible and wash stuff out at the end of each day. After a couple of weeks everything is getting quite riffy.

Pre-booking accommodation is essential given the limited options. The down side of this is pre-booking usually requires part payment in advance, so not getting there is not really an option.Wasting a deposit would not sit well with my northern roots.

We had a time window of 13 days. Two days were needed to travel to and from the walking area so we had 11 days to walk.  We have kind relatives living on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales who were willing to help us out with logistics. A rough plan emerged to walk North from Skipton taking in the Yorkshire 3 peaks and the Howgills.

The Dorset flag reaches Whernside the highest point in the Yorkshire Dales

The Howgills – rounded green hills. Fewer visitors than the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. 

Then there would be a link day when we would walk west from Newbiggin on Lune to the Lake District. We then reckoned we could have a splendid 6 days walking around the highest bits of the Lakes. At the planning stage I tried to create a walking day of about 6 hours. As it turned out some were longer – none were shorter!

Our first night was with our relatives in Burley in Wharfedale and then they took us to the start of our walk which began at Skipton. At the end of the walk we were kindly scooped up at Windermere and returned to Burley.

Understanding relatives provided a taxi service and began our walk with us. 

Accommodation on the walk was at:
1. Beck Hall, Malham.
2. Middle Studfold Farm, near Horton in Ribbelsdale.
3. George and Dragon, Dent.
4. Brownber Hall, near Newbiggin on Lune.
5. Haweswater Hotel.
6. Lacet House, Ambleside.
7. Horse and Farrier Inn, Threlkeld.
8. Littletown guesthouse, Newlands near Keswick.
9. Wasdale Head Inn.
10. Britannia Inn, Elterwater.

The places we chose to stay were prioritised because they were dog friendly. However – they were predominantly pubs or were licensed. Brownber Hall was a return visit as we had voted it the top place to stay on our 2016 C2C.

The moor bewteen the Howgills and the Lake District. 

It was overall the winner this year too, although some of the others also warrant a return, most notably The Wasdale Head Inn, Littletown Guesthouse and Middle Studfold Farm. The only place we would definitely not return to, even if they paid us handsomely, is the Horse and Farrier at Threlkeld!

The stuff we carried was the same as C2C in 2016

We once again chose the hair shirt method – not using a company such as Sherpa to transfer our baggage. We carried the minimum amount of stuff to be safe and comfortable on the high mountains in the Lake District whatever the weather, so we had all the usual clothing and equipment required for that.

In addition we had a change of clothes to wear in the evening. A small amount of toiletries and some medication and first aid stuff. We started with 2 maps and 4 days food for Archie. We posted the remaining food for Archie to Brownber Hall along with the Lake District Maps.

Long distance walking is low intensity exercise and we seem to mange perfectly well on minimum fuel. We eat as much as we can manage at breakfast and then most days we don’t really eat anything else until the evening. I know this will not suit most people but it suits us and we didn’t lose any weight! This may be due to the attention we gave to liquid and solid refuelling every evening, of course.

Helvellyn

The weather was out of our control. When looking at the route options between accommodations I did bear in mind foul weather alternatives. Unfortunately we did experience a few unsettled days in the Lake District. On the walk to Wasdale Head the conditions were such that no amount of gortex could prevent us being completely soaked. There are no sun terraces with rows of deck chairs at the Wasdale Head Inn. Drying rooms a plenty though – says it all really.

The Long Walk was a great success. All 3 of us enjoyed it enormously.  So for 2018 – how about the Southern Upland Way.  Another long distance coast to coast walk in the borders of Scotland?

It’s All In The Planning

There are some of us who are proactive, who like to be in control and others who are reactive and are happy just to go along with whatever’s happening and be happy with that. I fall into the proactive category and I spend a lot of time dreaming up ideas for trips and adventures. I much prefer to organise, plan and book our own adventures rather than go on an organised trip. For me a lot of the fun is in the planning and I love eventually arriving at places that I have anticipated in the planning process months before.

Last year we very much enjoyed walking Coast to Coast with our dog Archie. Archie enjoyed it too.

Archie and his support staff

Archie is 10 years old now so we decided that this year we should do another long walk while he is still able to join us. None of the Long Distance Footpaths appealed very much so I decided to plan our own route. The bits of C2C which I enjoyed most were the moors and mountains: I did not enjoy the lowland parts on lanes and through endless fields. So after a lot of poring over maps I decided on a walk starting at Skipton in North Yorkshire. The route goes North through the Yorkshire Dales and Howgills as far as Newbiggin-on-Lune and then West following the C2C West as far Kidsty Pike in the Lake District. After that I have booked 6 nights’ accommodation in the Lake District and we have a circular walk planned. The route can be varied according to what the weather throws at us, but hopefully we will spend a lot of time on the tops.

Ian on the Langdale Pikes on New Year’s Day 2017

My husband Ian has become more tolerant of cycling in the last year to the point where he enjoys it mostly. In 1978 I bought some OS maps of Harris and Lewis and fully intended to get out there to explore. It never happened and I still haven’t been. I really enjoyed the touring aspect of LEJOG and the Scottish part of the route was fantastic.

Little Loch Broom in May 2013 on LEJOG

I was very sad that we didn’t make the extra effort to get out to Ardnamurchan Point which is the most Westerly point on the British Mainland on LEJOG.

To combine these elements in a tour with Ian seemed like a good plan for 2017. We are starting at Oban and have agreed on manageable distances for each day so we have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. We will be visiting Mull, Ardnamurchan and Skye en route to Ullapool, where we get the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis. From there we cycle up to the Butt of Lewis in the North before riding all the way down the islands to Vatersay in the South.

I have promised Ian there will be no midges or big hills!

Both these trips have been planned over several weeks of poring over maps and websites. All the accommodation is booked for both. We are mostly staying in Hotels and Guest Houses.
Later on in the year we are off to San Francisco to visit our daughter Jenna and her fiancé Jay. At present the plan is just a line on a small-scale map. Initially we go North to Inverness  – that’s Inverness in California not Scotland – which is where their wedding is taking place in April 2018.

After that we are going on a HOT road rip taking in Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Utah, Nevada, Death Valley and back North to Yosemite and San Francisco.

Now is the time for doing rather than planning but I look forward to getting some detail on that trip soon. Now where are my walking boots?

Recovery

The moment of finishing the ironman is the culmination of a years training. That was my main goal for the year and our lives had been geared up to achieve that goal.

So what’s next? The perceived wisdom seems to be that six weeks rest are in order before a return to gentle training. Well that was never going to happen!

In order to avoid post ironman depression syndrome (PIDS – yes really!) I had a few things lined up in advance so the coming months in the diary were not empty!

The first week after the ironman I rested – apart from some gentle pool swimming. I was very hungry and despite being tired I had to get up at about 03.30 to make porridge and toast as my rumbling tummy was keeping me awake.

The second week was spent in the Lake District on a planned holiday. Time to reconnect with my family and my inner – non-triathlete. Hill walking wasn’t a problem and we enjoyed some long walks in the hills around Keswick.DSCF1421

Walking in the Lakes

Walking in the Lakes

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