Whitsun Treadings III: Hutton Roof

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Hutton Roof, my new favourite place. Honour dictated that I share it with our friends. We had a cracking picnic lunch (the luxurious sort with stoves and cool boxes and hot soup) in the Plain Quarry car park and then had a wander up to the top.

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Every time I’ve been on Hutton Roof this year I’ve heard cuckoos. We also heard them the day after on Warton Crag, and we usually hear them when we camp at Nether Wasdale, but I’ve very rarely seen cuckoos. In fact, the only definite sighting I can recall was many years ago in Eskdale when I watched a cuckoo flying low over the hillside with an entourage of really angry small birds in tow. So I was quite excited when I thought I saw a cuckoo perched on a tree well ahead of us….

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…is it a cuckoo? I know that it’s not a good photo, but there’s something about the way it’s clinging to that branch which I find compelling. Probably wishful thinking!

We would have had a more general look around, but the forecast was for the weather to deteriorate and it did, right on schedule, just after we reached the trig pillar; so we came straight back down again. The kids were all keen to sit mesmerised in front of electronic devices anyway.

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Andy’s post about this walk, and another short, local ramble on Warton Crag the following day, is here.

Whitsun Treadings III: Hutton Roof

Whitsun Treadings II: Attermire Scar

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When we were anticipating our friends’ visit we had several discussions about which local highlights we ought to share with them. A walk from Settle visiting the caves in and around Attermire Scar was high on our list, so when the forecast predicted a fine, albeit cold, day we set off to do just that. In fact the weather was a good deal cooler than it had been when we did the walk last year in April. An account of that walk, with a bit more detail about the caves in particular, can be found here. And Andy’s account is here.

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This is TBH on the very steep ground close to Attermire Cave – I don’t seem to have taken many photos generally, and none of the cave – probably too busy chatting.

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The grassy ledge which leads to the cave has an added obstacle in May of nettles, making April a good time to visit I think.

What made the day was the company, the views, the huge picnic we had and the fun we had exploring the caves, but my choice of photographic subjects dictate that the principal feature of this post will be the mountain pansies….

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…which were abundant in one small spot between Attermire Cave and Victoria Cave.

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I always get very excited when I find these flowering. They’re a cut above the blowsy, over-stated flowers which proliferate in our borders and hanging-baskets.

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Approaching Victoria Cave.

Of the caves on this walk I would say that Attermire Cave, because of it’s dramatic position, is the one I like the most; but, after our last visit, the boys held firm to the view that Jubilee Cave was their favourite. Jubilee Cave is either one cave with four entrances, or four caves which all connect together, depending on your point of view. The last time we did this walk, TBH and A turned back to Settle before we got to Jubilee Cave. Since then, B, bless him, has been very anxious to visit again so that his sister could see what she had missed.

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I think she enjoyed it every bit as much as he expected she would.

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Even older children can crawl through the tight little choke holes which give access to the cave…

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Captions on a postcard please….?

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Looking back to the Scar.

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Back in Settle.

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Whitsun Treadings II: Attermire Scar

Whitsun Treadings I : Round the Coast to Arnside

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Beach near White Creek on the Kent Estuary.

How does staying at home become a great holiday? Have some old friends over to stay who are the kind of house guests who make life easier rather than more stressful and who are adept at chilling out and taking thinks easy.

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Early Purple Orchids on Arnside Knott.

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A view from the Knott looking across the estuary.

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A rare, warm, sunny moment. 75% of the Sherpas and Funsters family take a post-pie digestion rest prior to the next onslaught of over-catering, which almost certainly featured Avocados.

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Tree climbing. Note Dangerous Brother too high in the tree, probably trying to scare the Shandy Sherpa, certainly succeeding in scaring me.

This was the first of several short local walks during our week. It’s a classic route, oft reported upon on the blog over the years – round the coast to Arnside, pie in the pie shop on the prom, linger in the playground in Arnside enjoying a brew courtesy of Andy’s diddy stove, then back via the Knott. Incidentally, I’ve started to read Patrick Barkham’s ‘Coasting’ – a friend at work lent it to me. It recounts visits to numerous National Trust coastal properties, one of which I notice, is Arnside Knott. I’ll probably produce some sort of half-arsed review when I’ve finished reading it, but I’m expecting to enjoy it because I liked both ‘The Butterfly Isles’ and ‘Badgerlands’.

Andy’s longer version of the same day – with more text, more, and better, photos (although some of them are spoiled by some foreground blimpage) can be found here.

Whitsun Treadings I : Round the Coast to Arnside

Grayrigg Forest

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So here we are in the midst of evening, post-work walking season and I’m not doing as well as I would like to, what with one thing and another – dodgy knee for a while, non-existent summer, various other commitments – conspiring to keep me safely at home. Here’s some photos though from an occasion when I did get out one evening in mid-May. I almost sabotaged the event before it got properly started however – I had, as usual when the opportunity presents itself, thrown some gear and a selection of maps into the boot of the car the night before. I generally take maps of the South Lakes, the Forest of Bowland, the Western Yorkshire Dales and the Howgills. That way I can jump into the car after work and head where the fancy takes me. On this occasion it took me to Tebay; I wanted to repeat a walk I did many moons ago on the western edge of the Howgills and enjoy a picnic tea on Fell Head high above the Tebay gorge. At Tebay I parked briefly to check the map and decide whereabouts I should park along the Fairmile Road. It was then that I discovered that I’d packed all the maps I’d intended to, and even one extra stowaway, except for the Howgill map I needed. I was a trifle annoyed with myself. Soon I was driving again, this time along the A685 towards Kendal, trying to work out how to salvage something from the evening. I stopped in a large layby, I can’t remember why now, and found an access map on a information board:

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With this handy map stored away on my camera I was well equipped for a little outing up Grayrigg Forest I thought – especially since I could see a route to the top from the layby. The evening was saved!

The route of ascent was really pretty obvious – follow the slight ridge which separates Little Coum and Great Coum….

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…giving a nice steady climb away from the gorge, surprisingly dry underfoot.

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Lying outside the National Park, Grayrigg Forest doesn’t appear in either Wainwright’s or Birkett’s lists of Lakeland Fells, but it is really rather magnificent. It is a Marilyn – so it provides some reward for the dedicated list-ticker. 

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Where the ridges which enclose Little Coum meet there’s a smattering of cairns….

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Even at this relatively modest altitude there was a surprisingly cool breeze blowing so I chose a sheltered spot to have my picnic and brew.

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Grayrigg Forest summit – looking South: Arnside Knott and the Kent Estuary visible on the horizon (just about).

I’ve climbed Grayrigg Forest once before, many years ago. It stands above Borrowdale to the north and I walked a round of the lower end of the valley, starting with Grayrigg Forest, following the ridge to Combs Hollow and then returning via the ridge to the north of Borrowdale, culminating on Jeffrey’s Mount. It was a fine day which sticks in my mind principally because of the bird-watching it provided – I saw a number of stonechats and, I’m pretty certain, even though it seems unlikely, a single red kite, presumably one of the reintroduced population from Harewood over in Yorkshire.

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Grayrigg Forest summit – looking West towards the Scafells and the Coniston Fells.

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Rather than retrace my steps to the car, I decided to follow the northern ridge down to Birk Knott. A gateway would, I was sure, present an opportunity to cross the wall and then I could drop directly back to the gate from the road by which I’d entered the access land. Except a gate never did materialise. I followed the wall further and further northward and down into Borrowdale, eventually meeting a cross wall which took me down to the stream west of Birk Knott. Not to worry – there was plenty of light available to extend the walk. And if I hadn’t diverted I may never have spotted this neat little nest…

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…belonging to a meadow pipit I think.

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One to remember if you need a quick and quiet outing cheek-by-jowl with the M6.

Grayrigg Forest

Indolence Time: Buckbarrow

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I didn’t take any photos on the Sunday of our Bank Holiday Weekend. The best that can be said of the weather is that it wasn’t as rough as it had been during the night – which was one of those nights in a tent when you lie awake listening, during moments of relative calm, as a wave of wind comes roaring down the valley, crashing through the trees until it hits the tent and sends it into another paroxysm of shuddering. After a very wet night, increasingly creatures of habit, we eventually opted to repeat last year’s Sunday outing and spent an afternoon between the beach at Seascale, beachcombing and throwing a ball around, and Mawson’s cafe and ice-cream parlour, which once again was a very big hit.

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On the Monday, after a bit of campsite faffing about: leisurely breakfast, taking photos of a goldfinch in the trees by the tents etc, we eventually all set off for a mass hike up Buckbarrow. There was a farm yard to navigate first, where there were cute and very tame lambs to be stroked….

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…and a not quite so cute donkey which also wanted a share of the attention…

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Then a short, sharp climb brought us to a superb little spot for lunch….

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Our provisions stretched to a rather fine little picnic complete with fresh tea with the aid of the pocket rocket stove I’ve treated myself to.

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I was pretty happy sitting in the sun enjoying a brew, but apparently it was time to move on.

Still, moving on wasn’t bad either….

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From the top of the crags here it a pleasant knolly ramble around to the top of Buckbarrow. Little S was, as usual, doing his best to test Andy’s cardiac health by selecting routes which would take him into exposed positions on vertiginous crags. I think all the kids appreciated the opportunity to chose their own route (with some guidance in the case of Little S!), picking out easy bits of scrambling to string together.

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B at the top.

Then, just beyond the summit…

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…another sheltered spot for second lunch, brews, sunbathing, a snooze, a natter etc.

The boys rarely keep still for long, but stashed at the bottom of my pack, for just such eventualities, I keep….

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….a pocket kite.

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It folds smaller than a small handkerchief and weighs next to nothing, and it kept all three of us amused for quite some time.

Sadly, all good things have to come to an end, and with time marching on, we needed to get back to the campsite to pack-up and take our tents down. (The good people of the inestimable Church Stile campsite having allowed us to leave our tents in situ to dry after the Atlantic Storms of the night before.)

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We split for the descent, with one party heading off in a hurry, down a steep direct route to get the inevitable mass football match started, whilst the rest of us took a more circumspect route which detoured down into Greendale Gill again, via this large, lonely and very tidy cairn.

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One of the Tongue Gills again.

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Greendale Gill.

The first part of our route back through the woods to Nether Wasdale was accompanied by a stunning profusion of wildflowers. The primroses were the most impressive, but sadly my photos really don’t do them justice at all.

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Wood anemones.

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Wood Sorrel

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The mass football match was in full swing when we arrived back. Sadly, for all concerned, it was to be deprived of it’s most cultured right-boot because I had to take the trailer tent down. There was one more treat in store however – a meal in the Strands Hotel before we all departed for our disparate homes. A brilliant weekend – roll on next year.

You can read Andy’s parallel account of the weekend here.

Indolence Time: Buckbarrow

Indecision Time: Greendale Tarn and Middle Fell

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The Junior Sherpa, The Adopted Yorkshire Couple, The Shandy Sherpa, The Beach Funster. Dr R discretely out of shot somewhere?

You’ll know those conversations which just go round in circles; it’s pretty clear what most people involved think, but nobody wants to make a decision? The kind of dead end back and forth typified by the scene with the vultures in the Disney Jungle Book film?*

First I say, “What we gonna do?” Then you say, “I don’t know. What’cha wanna do?” Then I say, “What we gonna do?” Then you say, “What’cha wanna do?” “What we gonna do? What you want…” Let’s do SOMETHING!!!

Well, we’d had exactly that sort of round and round discussion: It’s raining, the forecast’s diabolic, let’s make it a valley walk. I’m for carrying on. Well my (knee, groin, foot, ear….choose your own favourite) is playing up, I’d settle for turning back. I don’t know, it’s a shame not to climb a hill when we’ve got the chance. Then again, it is pretty foul….etc, etc, etc

Since there was no ‘crazy-looking bunch of bones’ on the horizon, we needed an idea to break the deadlock. I suggested that we amend our plan to climb Middle Fell by it’s South-Western Shoulder and instead follow Greendale Gill up to Greendale Tarn and then assess the situation again. I’m always a bit surprised when my suggestions carry the day, but on this occasion that’s precisely what happened. (Nothing to do, I’m sure, with the sulk which would have followed if I hadn’t got my way!)

We’d been standing by the bridge in the tiny hamlet of Greendale, having walked there from our campsite in Nether Wasdale – the destination for our annual May Bank Holiday get together. The party comprised the usual suspects, minus some who had elected to race, maypole-dance and eat cake at the Wasdale Show, but with the welcome addition of our friend Dr R who had driven round from Silverdale for a walk.

So we set-off alongside Greendale Tarn, all that is, except for Uncle Fester, who isn’t easily diverted once he’s hit upon an excuse not to go for a walk, and who’d headed back to the campsite. Which meant that he missed the droves of young people dressed in bin-bags who passed us en route to who knows where; and that he also missed the relatively sheltered and relatively dry spot we found for, in the circumstances, a really quite pleasant lunch and brew stop (pictured above).

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Having reached Greendale Tarn, and the weather having improved a little, contrary to the pessimistic forecasts, we decided to continue and take in Middle Fell. After another round of back and forth, about whether to take a direct route to the top, or instead to head toward the ridge and then turn back to the summit, we eventually split into two parties.

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I’ve really come to enjoy these broken Lakeland slopes, because with a bit of care, it’s usually possible to string a route through craggy ground which gives a pleasant impression, or perhaps I should say illusion, of exposure, without actually being at all difficult or risky.

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This was a case in point and I found a few places to do some very easy scrabbling to take my mind of the effort of the ascent.

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We met up again on the top, and although the views were a bit limited…

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…it was frankly, great to have some views after such an unpromising start to the day.

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Tongue Gills

We finished by descending the shoulder we had intended originally to climb, below the imposing crags of Buckbarrow.

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A victory for ‘flap(ing) over to the East side of the jungle’ in my opinion.

Middle Fell and Greendale Tarn

*I am aware that there’s more than one Disney Jungle Book film, but I prefer to ignore the existence of all but the first.

‘Indecision Time’ incidentally, is a song from Hüsker Dü’s magisterial double album ‘Zen Arcade’. If you like your melody swathed in a wall of noisy distorted guitar, you’ll love it.

Indecision Time: Greendale Tarn and Middle Fell

An Evening in The Lower Hide

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‘Get yourself to the Lower Hide at Leighton Moss, a pied-bill grebe has been spotted near the back of the mere, and there are otters regularly showing too.’

This from my friend and colleague the Proper Birder one lunchtime some time ago. I didn’t let on that I didn’t have the foggiest what a pied-bill grebe might be, but I did act on the advice. It’s not entirely surprising that I wasn’t au fait with that species of grebe: it’s an American bird, a rare visitor to these shores and so a real twitcher’s delight.

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It was a bit of a gloomy night, I’m afraid and my photos are very disappointing. I couldn’t see any unusual grebes, but there were lots of other birds to watch, in particular a pair of greylag geese with chicks who were hanging around right in front of the hide. I was snapping away at all of the airborne birds which whizzed past. None of the photos came out too well, but one really surprised me…

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Since it is pretty clearly of an Osprey and not the high-flying gull I’d thought I was photographing. I’d finally spotted an Osprey at Leighton Moss. Without realising. It’s a good job the camera was paying attention.

A marsh harrier came swooping low over the hide a few times and in better light I might have got some really good photos.

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Next time.

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Some more Proper Birders arrived, plainly in expectation of seeing the misplaced grebe and within minutes of arriving they had found it. It wasn’t at the back of the mere by the reeds; it was ducked down amongst the mare’s-tails close to the hide. I saw it; another visitor let me peer through his scope. And, as we strained our eyes in the failing light, an otter swam across close by the grebe’s hiding spot. Great evening – shame about the photos!

An Evening in The Lower Hide