Brimful Beck living up to it’s name.

The better weather duly arrived, although not everyone was getting it. In fact the weather was quite odd – we could often see very black skies to the east and south, where as we often had blue skies and out to the west over the sea the weather looked to be brighter still. The high tops were mostly clear after the cloud lifted early on, but some of the lower hills were occasionally half shrouded in cloud.

Our route in brief was: skirting Yewbarrow above Over Beck to Dore Head…

  Wastwater and the Screes from above Over Beck.

Yewbarrow from Dore Head…note the cows, not often seen on Lakeland Fells.

From there up to Red Pike….

X-Ray on the first (801m) summit.

Haycock and Scoat Tarn from the same spot.

Scoat Fell, Red Pike, Pillar.

X-Ray above the precipitous Mosedale side of Red Pike – note the black skies behind the Scafells.

From Red Pike we climbed Scoat Fell…

Scoat Fell. Red Pike on the right, Scafells in the background.

Then an out and back to Steeple…

X-Ray looks back to Scoat Fell from Steeple.

Pillar and Black Crag from Steeple. Great Gable in the background on right.

Looking down Long Crag to Ennerdale Water and the Sea.

On then to Haycock…

Looking back to Scoat Fell and Steeple from Haycock.

From Haycock it was a long walk out, along Nether Beck…

We saw very few other walkers all day, but now we only had dor beetles (of which we saw no end through the day) and small frogs to keep us company….

The rain, which seemed to have been threatening to arrive all day, no finally appeared, starting with the slightest of showers, but getting more persistent and with odd rumbles of thunder to accompany it.

Crossing Ladcrag Beck

Nether Beck


A Wet Day In Wasdale

Esthwaite Farm, Wastwater almost visible beyond.

I met X-Ray just before midday at the Screes pub in Nether Wasdale. We were hoping for an afternoon in the hills, perhaps on Buckbarrow and Middlebarrow, or maybe over Illgill Head and Whinrigg. But the cloud was down and the rain was coming thick and fast.

We debated for a while but ultimately opted to stay in the valley. We set off in full waterproofs headed for Santon Bridge on paths which roughly followed the River Irt. The river was running very high and was an impressive spectacle. At Santon Bridge we hurriedly ate our lunch in the rain and then had a brief respite from the downpour with a swift half in the Bridge Inn.

Our return route took us into forestry. Where the right-of-way left the forest track we couldn’t find the left turn we needed. We realised that sticking with the track would eventually bring us to another right-of-way which we could take us eventually to Wastwater. First we had to cross a stream – the ford was impassable. We followed the stream uphill without finding anywhere very promising, but eventually we found  a spot where the deeper stronger flow was on our side and we felt that we could probably jump at least as far as the shallows near the far bank. We got across but in the process ended up even wetter than we had been before.

As we approached Wastwater we could see that the Irt here had burst its banks and was flowing across the fields. The lake was also very high and some lakeside trees were now in the lake. We followed the Irt back away from the lake. The river was overflowing its banks just downstream of a stone footbridge so we crossed the river but found our progress downstream was blocked by flooding in this direction too. A permission path through the woodlands on the shore of Wastwater brought us to the road and we turned back for Nether Wasdale and a shower, dry clothes and a pleasant evening planning for better weather on the morrow. (And bizarrely, discussing the Sham 69 with some other middle-aged punks in the bar of the Strands.)

A Wet Day In Wasdale

Kite Flying Day

“There! It’s a bird, well….it’s more like a dragon, but it has panda paws and a mane like a lion.”

It was my turn to fly the kite and A was lying in the grass and spinning stories from raw materials provided by the clouds. When she held the line and coaxed the stalling and swooping kite with sharp tugs and murmured commands, and it was my turn to weave tales from the clouds I initially saw only clouds or plumes of smoke, but eventually I managed to join in. Best of all though was just to lie back in the sunshine – a brief respite in a string of squally days – and watch the clouds scudding overhead.

Later I was out for an evening stroll. The sky had changed – behind and above the clouds which had fed our imaginings was a layer of fretted cloud, like a ripple pattern left by the retreating tide in firm sand – mackerel sky?

On the limestone pavement in Pointer Wood I saw this….

The distinctive pattern on its back make me think that it might be a mottled grasshopper, but I’m probably wrong.

I took the permission path to Heald Brow and on the way encountered several very large dryad’s saddle bracket fungus.


Bowland Hills and Morecambe Bay from Heald Brow.


It was, as is often the case on my evening walks, really a bit dark for photographs. As well as the agrimony, I saw mullein, harebells, thyme, self-heal, white campion, ragwort and meadow crane’s- bill.

Down by quicksand pool, I could hear more sea-birds than I could see. A turnstone (I think) struggled with the wind on the far bank of the creek.

There’s always something to find on the salt-marsh and tonight it was the feathered remnants of a bird, which it seems had made a meal for something…


Also know as ‘Adam’s flannel’ because the large hairy leaves were used as nature’s toilet paper.

From Jack Scout.

Kite Flying Day

Two Walks in the Rain

On Friday evening I was invited to a meal to celebrate the retirement of a a former boss of mine. The meal was in the Ship at Caton (highly recommended if you are ever that way). Since Caton is in the Lune Valley, not far from Lancaster, I decided to stay on after work and then walk along the Lune Valley Cycleway to Caton. However, is was raining and I had forgotten just how long it takes to get out of Lancaster and how few views of the Lune the cycleway provides, despite its proximity. In honesty, for once I wasn’t enjoying my walk.

But then I noticed some bugs on a flower…

….I don’t know what kind of bugs they are – perhaps some sort of Longhorn beetles? – but I have an idea what they might be doing, and they don’t seem to be letting a little drizzle knock them off their stride.

To that point the path had been lined by trees on both sides, but here one side was open and suddenly in one short section of path, there was an astonishing profusion and variety of wildflowers.

Including quite a lot of this…

…which I think is giant bellflower.

Plenty of…

…meadow crane’s-bill.

Willow-herbs including rosebay willow-herb…

Great willow-herb (?)



The delicately veined bladder campion…

Hemp agrimony…

Meadow vetchling…

St, John’s wort (one of them?)…

Thistles of at least two types…


Lots of tall flower spikes of (common spotted?) orchids…

Punky burdock flowers…

Oxeye daisies…

(Field) scabious…


And a host of others. If beetles had originally woken me up to the flowers around me, the flowers were now reciprocating by highlighting the bugs to be seen.


This dapper little chap seems to be all dressed up with nowhere to go…

Perhaps he doesn’t know about the party going on on a flower nearby…

Can’t identify these bugs or flowers. Any ideas?

And all this before I passed under the motorway bridge over the Lune, with its art official and otherwise…


Himalyan balsam, a very successful interloper is common here…


On Saturday TBH and I were free for a walk with kids being supervised by my in-laws. It chucked it down, but after lunch in the Three Shires, we abandoned our plan of a walk in Little Langdale and drove over to Grisedale for a walk in the forest where we would have sculpture’s to distract us from the wet.  We climbed Carron Crag from where the wind tore holes in the cloud to give us partial views of Morecambe Bay and of the streams in spate behind Coniston. Near to the summit of Carron Crag there is an unusual wooden ring sculpture which is very atmospherically sited.

As an added bonus Carron Crag is both an outlying Wainwright and a Birkett.

Two Walks in the Rain

On Finding….Unexpected Gems

image image

A few weeks ago, browsing in the Oxfam book shop in Lancaster I was drawn to two books prominently displayed side by side on a high shelf. They were ‘Delight’ by J.B.Priestley and ‘Modern Delight’ which is an anthology. I might not have given them much more than a second glance but only days before I had heard a Radio 4 archive program about Priestley’s war time broadcasts and the controversy they stirred up. (The man quoted Marx! Approvingly, begad!). ‘Delight’ is…well, delightful.

This anthology of chips from the writing block of a great author lives up to its name. There are one hundred and fourteen short essays on all manner of things that have given Priestley delight. Not all of them are simple or innocent : there’s more than a little malice to be found, for example, in Frightening Civil Servants and Quietly Malicious Chairmanship; and a touch of mischief in Being Solemn About One’s Tastes and Not Going. But mostly this is Priestley finding simple pleasure in music, family affairs, smoking, remembrances of childhood, and so on. One of the most amusing, tongue-in-cheek pieces is No School Report, in which Priestley writes just such a report on himself and a frankly bad one. The anthology is beautifully re-produced by Great Northern Books and makes a suitable companion piece to the newly-compiled Modern Delight, published for charity by Waterstones.

M.J.Nelson customer review on Amazon

Each piece is short and beautifully written, but many are quite wide-ranging. All is not sweetness and light as the review above indicates and many of the pieces are suffused with a nostalgia for delights now gone. Priestley confesses to being a grumbler and a playful and acerbic wit shines through many of the mini essays. ‘Modern Delight’ has eighty similar pieces, each by a different author. It’s equally easy to read and has some nice surprises, if a little uneven, as perhaps is to be expected from a book put together for charity.


Just over a week ago, and TBH and I were out for an evening stroll around the Cove and the Lots. As we rejoined the road, what was that ducking into the driveway of Lindeth House? A roe deer!

Sadly despite the proximity of the deer all of my photos have come out shaky.


Lindeth House was once an old peoples’ home (and will soon be divided into ‘luxury flats’ – which seems to be a common trajectory for grand old properties). Cove House is still an old peoples’ home. Every year a Garden Party is held there. It’s a great event; the kids enjoy the bouncy castle, cakes, ice-cream and games like bat-the-rat and guess the name of the teddy; TBH buys homemade jam and plants; I liked the Burnside Brass Band and the singing of the village players, but the real excitement for me is the second-hand book stall which always throws up some unexpected prizes. This time I came away with even more books than usual, but particularly noteworthy was a small cloth-bound book called ‘The Friendly Town: a little book for the urbane’. It’s another anthology, published in 1905 and edited by E.V.Lucas the author of the essay ‘On Finding Things’ which I’ve waffled on about here before. I have the second imprint, also from 1905. It has essays and prose on a variety of topics and is a companion piece to the anthology ‘The Open Road’ – which is the one I really want to stumble across. I know, I know – I could easily find it on the internet, but – where would be the thrill in that?

You can see ‘The Friendly Town’ at Google Books

On Finding….Unexpected Gems

Birkett Bagging Mania

Or My Favourite Christmas Present VII

Bog asphodel.

Yet another cracking day, in a sequence of clear blue sunny sky days and unalloyed joy which has lasted so long that I’m actually beginning to feel paranoid – what kind of a fall is this building up to? Bog asphodel was to be a feature of the walk, which yes meant that bog was quite a feature too. When I parked near to Cockley Beck there was cloud down obscuring all of the higher fells, but I was bathed in sunshine.

This slowworm was enjoying the sun too – basking in it on the path not far from the road.

It’s not a snake, but a legless lizard (which sounds like the definition of a snake to me….?). We used to find them in our compost heap in our old garden (about half a mile from where we live now). I never found one quite as big as this one though.

Another feature of the walk…

…were small heath butterflies, which like boggy ground and feed on cotton grass and other sedges. (Can you see a pattern emerging here yet?) I saw them throughout the walk even high up where the wind seemed to be making life very difficult for them.

I took a path into Mosedale but soon left the path, crossed the stream and contoured across a fairly boggy area…

Bog. Note hills capped with cloud and white dots of cotton grass. 

….to the base of a scramble onto Little Stand.

The scramble heads up here somewhere. I had ‘More Scrambles in the Lake District’ by R. Brian Evans with me and the sketch in there is so good that route finding proved to be no problem. The route takes in the craglet on the right, but the guidebook offers an easy route round to the right. I looked at the main route. I wandered round and looked at the easy alternative. Then I walked around the side. It’s a long time since I did this sort of thing and what little bottle I had seemed to have deserted me. Higher up however where the rock was at an easier angle and the crags were wider and offered more options, I did eventually get into the swing of things and really began to enjoy myself.

It helped that as I climbed a great view was opening up down the Duddon Valley.

Duddon Valley – Harter Fell on the right.

It also helped that the weather seemed to be improving as I climbed. Little peaty tarns like this were another feature of the day – you can see the bog cotton again here. By now the guide book was permanently back in my rucksack and I just picked a route that looked good – in this case from the left hand side of the tarn diagonally across the picture to the high point on the right.

From Little Stand.

Summit of Little Stand. Pike-a-Blisco in shade in middleground, Eastern Fells beyond.

You can see a couple in the photo above – they had come up the same way as me, I had had occasional glimpses of them ahead of me, but they were the first people I had met to speak to since I left the car two hours before. Along the ridge, Crinkle Crags was partially in cloud, but even so it was clear that there were lots of people on it.

Before the Crinkles  I had to traverse Stonesty Pike though – a level area with several low hummocks which may have the dubious accolade of least distinguished Birkett to date. In the true spirit of bagging however I did zig-zag wildly taking in all of hummocks before deciding that the first one was highest after all.

The crinkles were busy. Birkett seems to have got carried away here, bestowing Birkett status on five separate Crinkles and Shelter Crag, so I was intent on climbing every knobble in sight just in case. Since the path skirts around many of the ups and downs I still felt like I had the hill largely to myself. At the ‘bad step’ – a small scramble where a gully is blocked by a large jammed boulder – I watched one descending party hang over the edge of the small drop and then choose discretion and turn back for the top, but the man ahead of me made climbing it look easy so I followed suit.

Long Top – the highest of the plethora of tops hereabouts – was busy, so I continued and had the third crinkle, which is slightly off the path, entirely to myself whilst I had a cup of tea.

Long Top Crinkle Crags from the third crinkle.

The descent to Three Tarns, over more Crinkles and Shelter Crag, seemed to be interminable, but eventually I was climbing again, this time on to Bowfell…

The obvious path on the right was fairly busy and I opted to pick a route out amongst the crags to the right of that path. Very good it was too. (And when I got home I found that R. Brian Evans suggested the same thing in ‘Scrambles in the Lake District.’)

From the top of Bowfell I eschewed the main path to Esk Pike and traversed the ridge to the North top which inexplicably isn’t a Birkett. (Nor is Adam-a-Crag on Crinkle Crags which is a fairly prominent knobble – like many of the Crinkles, but well below the top on the Lingcove Beck side so quite remote and awkward to climb.)

Scafell and Scafell Pike from the north top of Bowfell. The prominent nipple in front of Scafell is Pike de Bield.

I was very tired on the short climb to Esk Pike but it was at least very short and not remotely steep. Although I’ve started with a clean slate in terms of Birkett Bagging, most of this walk was in fairly familiar territory, although I don’t think that I’ve ever climbed Little Stand by that scramble before. The descent ridge was completely new to me and for me this is where the bagging thing can really pay off: Pike De Bield – an insignificant nipple with just one contour of it’s own – is a real gem.  It’s perched above Upper Eskdale on the one side and Lingcove on the other – two of the remotest valleys in the Lakes, and it has grandstand views of the huge crags of the Scafells and good views the other way too of Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.

Looking back to Esk Pike from Pike de Bield.

Summit cairn on Pike de Bield with Scafells behind.

Upper Eskdale from Pike de Bield.

Looking back up the ridge – Esk Pike, Pike de Bield and Yeastyrigg Crags.

High Gait Crags on the other hand is another inexplicable one as far as I’m concerned. Crossing Pike de Bield Moss to get to it meant that my feet, which had dried out nicely after early boggy ground, got a thorough soaking again. Why Low Gait Crags, or Long Crag or Pianet Knott don’t deserve equal recognition I don’t know. I bypassed the first two but thought the latter might be an excellent vantage point – which it was.

Lingcove Beck and Bowfell.

Another stream crossing, a short climb to the watershed and then lots of bog asphodel and cotton grass on the extremely boggy Mosedale brought me back to the car. It was 7.30pm and as warm and sunny as it had been all day.

Shortly before I got back, I encountered this monster….

…which sadly I can’t seem to find in my ‘Complete British Insects’. I had seen several dor beetles during the day, but this was giant by comparison.

Once again I can give walk stats thanks to Birkett:

Distance: 8.5 miles (felt much further), up and down: 3345 feet.

He says 5.5 hours, but I took over 8.

12 Birketts some of which are undoubtedly Wainwrights, but I haven’t checked yet.

Birkett Bagging Mania