Wasdale Head to Grange

Or: A Dearth of Birketts


Taylorgill Force.

High winds and heavy rain, on top of a slight hangover, didn’t make for a promising start at the Wasdale Head. By the time we started walking however, things seemed to be improving – the wind seemed less violent than the forecast had suggested and the rain had slowed to not much more than a steady drizzle.

Sadly, appearances can be deceptive: by the time we had climbed to Styhead Tarn we were being buffeted by strong gusts and the wind driven rain was finding its way into every nook and cranny. We abandoned any idea of ambitious peak bagging exploits and instead opted to drop down Taylorgill and then to follow the river Derwent down the valley toward Keswick.

We both expected to find a tea-shop at Seathwaite, but the disappointment of being wrong about that was tempered by the relative shelter of the valley and a slackening of the rain. In fact the walking by the river and the accompanying autumn colour was quite pleasant. At Grange there are several tea-shops and after a welcome hot drink in one of them we caught the an open-topped double-decker bus back to Keswick.

Back at CJ’s I changed for the drive home. My new boots had leaked, but then everything had leaked: my coat, my over-trousers and most spectacularly my rucksack The outer ‘waterproof’ cover  of the latter had collected quite a pool in its base which must have made a leak into the main body of the sack inevitable. Ho-hum.

Never-the-less, a marvellous two day trip which hopefully will be the first of many.

Wasdale Head to Grange

A Burst of Birketts

Borrowdale. Castle Crag poking its head from the trees on the left. Skiddaw in the distance. King’s How on Grange Fell prominent in the centre.

I had slept on CJ’s sofa in Keswick, chiefly so that we could make an early start: in which aim we were partly thwarted by the bus timetable. The 9.25 from Keswick left us at Mountain View near to Seatoller in Borrowdale. Even at ten to ten the air was still cold and sharp and in the late autumn shadows the frost was lingering. Our climb was steady and the clear skies encouraged regular stops to look back and admire the view.

Thornythwaite Fell, the first Birkett of the day, passed by unnoticed (several cairns but no real summit). CJ would tick off his hundredth Wainwright in the course of the day’s walk, but humoured me and consented to frequent diversions to minor knolls to assuage my growing obsession with Birkett bagging. The first such diversion was to Combe Head, which was actually well worth the extra effort.

The same view from Combe Head.

Beyond Skiddaw we could see the hills of Galloway across the Solway Firth. The sun was pleasant but the wind was bitter and so this stop was short and sweet, which would become standard for the day.

CJ on Combe Head.


The ridge from Glaramara to Allen Crags yielded a total of five Birketts, the middle three of which were pretty non-descript.

Great Gable and Green Gable.

Langdale Pikes seen over Lingcomb tarns.

Looking back to Glaramara.

Allen Crags summit cairn.  Ill Crag and Great End behind.

Langdale Pikes. Lingmoor. Pike o’Blisco. Coniston Old Man (?). Bowfell.

Allen Crags was particularly cold. By the time we had climbed over shattered boulders to Great End the weather was decidedly changing. To the North there was still plenty of blue sky on show…

  …but to the South the sky was filling with cloud…

Ill Crag, Broad Crag and Scafell Pike from Great End.

Scafell Pike and Broad Crag from Ill Crag.

Upper Eskdale from Ill Crag. Harter Fell prominent in the background. The airy knobble in the centre which looks to be a perfect site for an Inca ruin or somesuch is, I think, Pen – a Birkett.

We had had fabulous views all day – as well as the Galloway Hills to the North we could pick out the hills of the Isle of Mann very clearly – now as we approached Scafell Pike…

…the cloud dropped. It’s 10 years since I last climbed Scafell Pike – I can date it easily because I proposed to TBH whilst we were there. Before that I climbed it with my Mum and Dad and my brother to celebrate my Dad’s sixtieth birthday. Many years ago I climbed it on a glorious day after a high camp on the slopes of Pike O’ Blisco. I’ve seen the view before – but it was still frustrating to miss it when the weather had been so fine.

We followed a bearing from the top – I surprised myself by being quite anxious about my own navigation.

Coming down – note the heavy frost still in the late afternoon. Elsewhere there were large icicles.

My caution was probably completely unnecessary given that there were huge cairns every five yards (or less). When the cloud started to lift again…

  Is that?

We were bang on course.



Great Gable unveiling.

The cloud continued to clear and most peaks reappeared, although I’m not sure that Scafell Pike ever completely cleared.

Lingmell again.

Tiredness was definitely beginning to take hold, but CJ found an energy store for a burst of speed as we climbed Lingmell, a twelfth Birkett and fifth Wainwright of the day.

Lingmell yet again.

I judged that we had enough light to get us through the complex terrain of the Corridor Route so we set off that way.

The top of Piers Gill.

A (frozen) Corridor Route tarn.

We finally arrived at the Wasdale Head Inn shortly after seven and quite some time after dark. In Will Ritson’s bar there were six different real ales on offer – so after our marathon session on the hills would we have the stamina for a marathon session on the ale?

A Burst of Birketts

In The Woods

Last Saturday we had a short walk in Eaves Wood. There was much tree climbing – one of my cousin’s daughters is even more fearless than our kids. There was also a spot of den building – or more accurately den restoration.

On Thursday I was once again commuting home from Carnforth on foot. I suppose that may be the last one for quite some time – the clock’s go back, for a couple of Thursday’s I have to go back to Lancaster before going home and in the spring it seems I may no longer be spending my Thursday afternoons working in Carnforth – I shall certainly miss my walk home.

I didn’t take many photos – the afternoon began dingy and just got progressively more gloomy until I finished the walk in near darkness. The field path from Millhead to Warton wasn’t as flooded as it can be, but there was still a large area of water in one of the fields. I counted eleven swans in all on and around the water.

Much as I’ve enjoyed climbing Warton Crag I decided to ring the changes and instead walked through Hynning Scout Wood.  Almost immediately I found a couple of prickly sweet chestnut cases each of which had some green but good sized nuts. This was an unfortunate fluke because I then spent quite some time looking for more and after that I only found small thin nuts with no real substance to them. Besides which, when I tried one of the green nuts it had that distinctive chestnut taste (which I love) but was not sweet at all – quite the opposite in fact.

Beyond Hynning Scout I went on into the woods on Cringlebarrow. I couldn’t resist the diversion down into Deepdale – a steep–sided hollow which someone once told me is actually a crater resulting from a meteorite impact – I have absolutely no idea how true this is but I like the idea. There’s a pond at the bottom of the hollow – or at least there was – it’s green over and seems to be more of a bog than a pond now. There’s also a badger sett here – or what I have convinced myself is a badger sett: I’ve never seen the badgers.

I climbed back up to the main path. A signpost directed me to Yealand Storrs and Round Top. I don’t really know what the latter is – I’ve never found a top on Cringlebarrow, but when the path dropped off to the left I followed the fainter path which carried straight on. It didn’t take me to a top, but it did take me to a lovely route down the end of the ridge which eventually met a good path which doubled back to the right of way. Whilst I dropped through the trees here the sun must have dropped below the level of the clouds – I couldn’t see it, but the tree tops were suddenly lit a lovely honeyed gold.

The rest of my walk took me through Yealand Allotment, around Haweswater and finally through Eaves Wood. I walked for over three hours, almost all of which, after I entered Hynning Scout, was in woodland. Can’t be bad.

In The Woods

Mud Bombs

A very pleasant weekend in convivial company. We were joined by my Mum and Dad and by my cousin and her family, visiting from Germany. On Saturday we walked around the coast to Arnside and discovered the very simple pleasure of making mud balls and throwing them against the cliff…

They made a very satisfying splat on impact.

At New Barns this pair of dragonflies were mating in the middle of the track…

When I approached too close, they even managed to fly away whilst joined together like this. A bit of internet research reveals that the male (the red one here) has deposited sperm in special receptacle on the underside of his own body. He is grasping the back of the female’s head with claspers in the final part of his abdomen whilst she is reaching forward with her own abdomen in order to collect the deposited sperm. I would assume that theses are common darters except for the fact that my my guide says that the female is yellowish brown which doesn’t seem to tally.

Mud Bombs

A Short Post in the Key of D

Another Thursday afternoon walk home from Carnforth. The weather was duller then it has been – overcast. On the limestone edge that rises towards the top of Warton Crag I had a great view of a green woodpecker – at first at very close range on the ground just ahead of me, and then for some time in a tree top below me. Sadly none of the many photos I took are of any value, but I enjoyed the experience none the less.

Distant Lakeland Fells from near the top of Warton Crag.

The Autumn colour compensated for the lack of brightness in the sky.

From Quaker’s Stang I watched a pair of swans feeding in a field. They moved their heads in a very curious way.

A Short Post in the Key of D

Ten Ten Ten

Or:  As Much Stopping as Walking (Slight Return)

Cowboy Time

Ten to ten, ten to ten, ten to ten ten ten, Ten to ten, ten to ten, ten to ten ten ten

(If you aren’t singing this to the tune of the William Tell Overture then you probably aren’t old enough to remember the Lone Ranger and the joke will be lost on you…)

TBH enjoying the autumn colour and sunshine.

The second of our Thirlmere weekend days began with a climb through a plantation with enough space and beech trees between the conifers to still be pleasant. The path followed Dobgill, where – at the bottom of a waterfall – floating beech leaves provided a spot of colour reminiscent of some of Andy Goldsworthy’s art.

We soon reached the source of Dobgill at Harrop Tarn…

Harrop Tarn with Tarn Crag behind.

Fly agaric.

Once above the woodland the Birkett obsessive in the party (our own correspondent) persuaded most of the others to make a major detour to tick off Brown Rigg.

Approaching Brown Rigg with Blea Tarn Fell behind and Standing Crag in the distance.

The consensus of opinion seemed to be that Brown Rigg was an excellent view point and worth the effort.

Climbing Bea Tarn Fell.

Summit of Blea Tarn Fell.

On Blea Tarn Fell we rejoined the small break away group who were not so enamoured with Birkett bagging. An extended lunch, snooze, sunbathe stop ensued.

There was much debate as to whether my (well Birkett’s) proposed route via Standing Crag and Coldbarrow Fell was ‘elegant’ but after much vacillating we all ended up on Standing Crag.

  Blea Tarn

On Standing Crag.

We lost a couple of the party here as they decided to head down for the long drive back to the 1950’s (otherwise known as Berwick-on-Tweed).

As the day drew on the haze was beginning to clear a little and Low Shoulder on Coldbarrow Fell proved to be an excellent viewpoint from which to enjoy the increasing clarity – another Birkett well worth a detour.

Watendlath and Skiddaw from Low Shoulder.

High Shoulder was the only disappointing Birkett of the day – a rather insignificant little knoll. Ullscarf followed, the highest point of the day and although the top is vast and featureless, being very central in the Lakes, Ullscarf does have great views.

Ullscarf summit.

Helm Crag and Loughrigg.

The top which Birkett calls Wythburn Fell looks to be a rather arbitrary choice on the map – one knoll amongst many, but on the ground it made perfect sense – a shapely little top with a great view.

The usual suspects on Wythburn Fell.

When we arrived back at the cars , MM – who was carrying some form of GPS – told me that of 7 hours on the route (Birkett suggests 4 hours) we had spent 3 hours and 26 minutes walking and 3 hours and 29 minutes sitting around. It has been noted before that when I walk with this particular group of old friends we tend do do as much sitting as walking, but it’s nice to have some empirical evidence of our collective slothfulness.

Ten Ten Ten


 Why is 6 frightened of 7? – Because 7 8 9!

Which is the best kind of hill weather – clear skies and consistent sunshine, or wild winds and poor visibility which eventually clear to give dramatic views? We had one of each this weekend and I’m still debating with myself about which I enjoyed the most. The occasion was an annual get together with old friends in the Lakes – this time at the King’s Head at Thirlspot in the Thirlmere valley.

Saturday started promisingly with sunshine, although the hotel windows had been shaken all night by strong winds. We started our ascent of the hillside behind the pub in strong sunshine but to the north Skiddaw and Blencathra had disappeared in a band of cloud and as we climbed cloud seemed to blow up and over the hills around us giving each a close fitting white cloak.

Great How and Naddle Fell, Siddaw and Blencathra missing in the background.

By the time we reached the first (minor) summit of the day at Brown Crag we were just below the cloud, in fact it felt almost as if a raised hand might be swallowed up and disappear from view.

Once in the cloud we missed a turn which took the path around the flank of Whiteside and continued directly towards its summit, eventually following a bearing when the path became a little intermittent. It was now very windy and I think that we were all reassessing our ambitions for the day. On the summit of Whiteside we huddled together to make ourselves heard over the wind and decided to leave Helvellyn for another time. Instead we turned north to go over Raise to the top of the Sticks Pass. There some of the party opted to drop back towards the pub to escape from the fierce wind and the very wetting mist. Most of us continued however, climbing Stybarrow Dodd and on to Watson’s Dodd. I was enjoying myself immensely, rather revelling in the adverse conditions (it would have been different if it had been raining too!).

Watson’s Dodd has a spot height of 789m – hence the post title and the puny joke at the outset. Descending from there we were surprised to find that after a small loss of height, the unpromising open fellside was surprisingly sheltered. This being a first opportunity for a comfortable lunch and tea-break we stopped to take advantage. On the ridge between Stybarrow Dodd and Watson’s Dodd it had increasingly felt as if the sun were on the point of breaking through the mist and we had briefly seen short-lived patches of blue sky through rents in the clouds. Now gaps began to appear revealing views – at first of the sunlight cloudscape opposite above the far side of the valley. The glimpses were tantalising and it was hard to be quick enough to catch them with the camera.

  …but the gaps in the mist became more frequent and longer lasting…

We stayed for over an hour, enjoying the sun’s warmth, admiring the enfolding views and watching the clouds and their shadows scudding by at an impressive speed.

The scene was ever-changing: a shoulder could be obscured by cloud one moment…

…begin to clear…

…and be almost cloud free in very short order…

Eventually we moved on and headed down towards Castle Rock.


Castle Rock bottom left, Naddle Fell in the centre.

Which was the last Birkett of the day.

A bit of bracken bashing to stay above the intake wall led us first to Stanah Gill…

…which looked as if it would reward further exploration – and then to a path which would lead us back, in glorious evening sunshine…

via Fisherplace Gill…


to the King’s Head.


The Almost Otter

My colleague, the Proper Birdwatcher, told me that if I could be at the Lower Hide at Leighton Moss at around 8 am then I would have a fair chance of seeing an otter and its two cubs. I made an early morning visit, knowing that I would have to be away well before eight in order to get to work on time, but forgetting just how far the walk to the Lower Hide is, with the result that I was only at the hide for a couple of minutes before I had to set off back for my car.

As I approached the small bridge on the causeway footpath I heard splashing and caught a glimpse of movement – something slipped into the water. When I have been here recently I have consistently seen a few fish leaping from the water, presumably after flies, but now an entire shoal leapt clear, arced and splashed back into the water – perhaps twenty to thirty fish. There were never as many again, but I was able to follow the progress of something under the water apparently terrifying the fish which leapt clear singly and in small groups in different areas around the pool. Had I just missed the otter?

Behind me in the reedbeds I could hear the eerie bellowing cries of rutting red deer stags. A fine start to a day.

The Almost Otter

The Lots

A short evening fresh-air excursion across the Lots to the Cove. Once again the sun was shining brightly, having sunk low enough in the sky to be below the leaden clouds which were dotted about. On the Lots I was entertained by some restless goldfinches and by the mastery of a windhover:

in his riding / Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding / High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, / As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the big wind.

On the wall above the Cove, the ivy is flowering. This wasp, covered in pollen, is keeping it’s side of the bargain.

I think that this hoverfly…

might  be Ferdinandea cuprea.

From the Cove.

The Lots