Plan B

Blea Tarn with the Langdale Pikes  (centre) and Side Pike (right) behind.

I met up with CJ again on Sunday for another bout of list-ticking. We had planned to park in Little Langdale and walk the Greenburn horseshoe, but when I arrived the promised ‘limited parking in Little Langdale village’ was more limited then I had hoped. As luck would have it, CJ was right behind me in his car and we drove in convoy up the valley, but found nowhere. We ended up at Blea Tarn where I knew that there is a National Trust car park. The idea was to get off the road and discuss where to go next to look for parking – but now that we were there it seemed like a good idea to walk from Blea Tarn. An obvious target then would be Blake Rigg, from whence on to Pike O’Blisco via the Birkett of Long Crag on Wrynose Fell.

Blake Rigg – our ascent took us to the bottom right of the large crags.

The climb was steep and pathless and CJ, slightly hungover, was thinking that an easier start to the day might have been found.

Getting near to the top – we followed the base of the crag on the right , where water poured down the rocks, and then turned into the gully beyond.

 Langdale Pikes again.

 And again.

 Wetherlam – our original intended destination.

 From Blake Rigg – Pike O’Blisco, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell.

 Looking back to Blake Rigg.

Blake Rigg was quiet and rather wonderful with fabulous views all round.

 Pike O’Blisco.

From the summit of Pike O’Blisco.


Cloud had been brewing all morning and I was quite surprised that we reached the summit of Pike O’Blisco without being plunged into the cloud.  In fact we never were caught in cloud all day, although many other summits and valleys were engulfed.

Langdale valley – Side Pike and Lingmoor on the right, Eastern Fells cloaked in cloud behind.

Cold Pike.

From Pike O’Blisco we continued to Cold Pike. CJ waited whilst I slipped in a slight diversion to include Great Knott,

 Crinkle Crags from Great Knott.

 Pike O’Blisco from Great KNott.

 Cold Pike again.

Pike O’Blisco.

Although we retained sunshine, the weather deteriorated considerably at this point.

 Cloud swallows the Crinkles.

 CJ on Cold Pike.

 The last hurrah of the sunset – light gilding the Irish Sea in the distance


Tiredness dictates a shortish post, but it was a magnificent day on the hill – made all the more so perhaps by the fact that other hills were all around were stuck in the clouds.

PS – it’s official: my new Ion mask boots leak. Ho-hum.

Plan B

Rotten to the Core

Last week’s weather brought biting winds out of the east and then, when the winds shifted back to the prevailing westerlies, Atlantic gales. On Thursday night, when the good burghers of SIlverdale put out their bins and recycling boxes, the wind playfully tipped them over and spread the contents far and wide. One of our neighbours boxes apparently travelled through (or over?) our garden and into the field beyond. On Saturday morning the leaves, glossy with rain, lay noticeably deeper in Eaves Wood.

The whole family were out and we boys elected to show the female contingent the ‘new’ route to the Pepper Pot we had discovered.

We managed to fit in a little tree climbing…

But mainly it was the leaf litter which entertained us…crunching through it, throwing it around, photographing it…

We found that a simple stick worked surprisingly effectively as a rake. B made piles of leaves ‘for the birds to make nests with’, whilst A just wanted to kick her piles into spiralling clouds of leaves.

This leaf, nestling in a mossy hollow in a old tree stump, was improbably golden – looking for all the world as if somebody had spray-painted it for some kind of yuletide table decoration.

Strong winds inevitably mean fallen trees in Eaves Wood, and there were quite a few. This one, unusually, had not tipped over at the roots, but had sheared down its trunk.

I think that it is actually one tree entirely enclosing another. The fallen half has a rounded section in the centre, darker then the rest and without the grain, also apparently showing the base of broken off branches.

The standing section has a corresponding hollow, with indentations for each of the branch stubs.


 Branch stubs.

Whilst the outer wood is healthy, the wood in the centre is completely rotten at the base, and is rotted away to leave a central hole in the trunk.

Probably a metaphor in this somewhere….

Rotten to the Core

One Man and his Blog

Eaves Wood colours.

Sunday. Another fine morning. B and I out investigating the sheep-dog trials in the field behind our house.

We watched as a young shepherdess and her collie manoeuvred three sheep around a course and into a small pen.

These trials are a fairly regular event: charity fund raisers organised by the local farmer.

It seems quite odd now to think that sheep-dog trails once had quite a following as a televised sport. Phil Drabble, who used to present ‘One Man and his Dog’, also wrote on country matters and when X-Ray and I were last out for a walk together we discovered that we both had read and enjoyed his ‘Badgers at my Window’.

From the trials, B and I climbed into Eaves Wood. Looking along the edge of the trees as we entered the woods revealed a stunning display of colour.

Once again there were back-lit leaves….



And huge numbers of these large off-white toadstools, often growing in large groups and always with several leaves collected in the cap.


B enjoyed the drifts of beech leaves.

And we both had a climb in our favourite beech tree.


I was out again later, this time with both of the boys in tow, in the very last of the light. We found a nice path from Castle Bank to the Pepper Pot which we haven’t used before. Leaving the top, we saw two roe deer bouncing across a clearing, much to the boys delight.

One Man and his Blog

Up With the Lark

I opened the curtains on mist, frost and a perfect pale blue sky. A thin wave of fine dots advanced across that backdrop – I assumed starlings leaving the roost at Leighton Moss. They were in a long line stretching away in both directions – I imagined a perfect circle of starlings expanding outwards like a ripple on a pond. The view was more than I could resist – I had to get out before breakfast. Did A and B want to join me? Yes. “Can I have bacon and eggs when we get back?” asked B. I’d had the same idea myself.

Outside we found all of the ingredients for an autumn pre-breakfast constitutional. Frosted leaves. Ground-hugging mist. The kids amused by our breath condensing in tiny clouds. Above us on the hillside the houses and trees were glowing in the sunlight, although down where we were the sun had yet to rise.

 Eaves Wood glowing.

 Looking East.

The low-angled sunlight means that it was back-lit leave time and of course I was powerless to resist their charms.


There is also still lots of fungi on display in Eaves Wood.



 At the Pepper Pot.

On sunny days I always appreciate these silver birches. Normally it’s the bark which captures the attention, but this time it was the sun-gilded autumn leaves.

Closer to home, this lime’s leaves were also putting on a great display. Would the village fireworks later be able to compete?

Breakfast was good too.


I was out again later. This time on my own. After a bright and sunny day my circuit of Woodwell, The Lots and The Cove came as the light was ebbing and the sky had finally filled with clouds. A fine leg-stretcher though, and I spotted this poster advertising an interesting sounding evening in prospect on my travels…

Up With the Lark

Delight: Slides

Another one of our days out was to Sundown Adventureland.

Which bills itself as ‘the theme park for the under 10’s’. Our under 10’s loved it. But not just the under 10’s. I could tell that my Dad was itching to have a go on this slide. “Go on. Go on…no one’s looking.”

I’d already had a go. You should have heard it groaning and creaking as my great bulk hammered round those tight turns.

72 years young.

Deeply irresponsible and very silly no doubt.

But go back to that first photo and tell me that you don’t fancy a spin.

Delight: Slides

Delight: Autumn Leaves

No surprise for anyone who has read this blog before to discover that I quite like leaves. The blog is about, as TBH puts it: ‘leaves and stuff’. But even for those of us who don’t spend their time obsessively photographing leaves there are endless enjoyments to be had from autumn leaves: rucking them up with your feet or crunching through them, composting them, admiring their colours, and….throwing them around. This leaf shower – akin to one of Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral throws – caused great amusement, but then descended into a leaf fight.

It seems to me that the autumn colour in the UK is better this year than it has been for many years. I’m sure that there is an explanation for why. This photo, taken at the YSP on a very dull afternoon (as was the one above), doesn’t really demonstrate my point too well.

Delight: Autumn Leaves

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I’m way behind as ever. In the last week of October (half-term) we had a number of days out with the kids. One was spent at YSP, which we’ve visited many times before. We’ve been particularly keen to visit of late because of the large retrospective exhibition of works by David Nash.

Children (ours and pthers) play hide and seek amongst a David Nash sculpture.

To me (and I think to TBH) two of the most interesting works Wooden Boulder and Ash Dome could only, by their natures, be represented here by films. (I knew of these two because of the chapter on David Nash in Roger Deakin’s ‘Wildwood’). But there was an awful lot more to see.

Charred David Nash sculpture and action man S. Try charging around like that in an art gallery!

Not only an overwhelming quantity of David Nash stuff but also the permanent exhibition of sculpture by the likes of Henry Moore and Anthony Gormley. Last time we came we were particularly struck by these giant hare-women by Sophie Ryder, but didn’t take photos.

Strange. But strangely compelling.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

It’s Not About the Bike

Last week, when CJ and I were engaged in our mammoth stroll, we watched a pair of ravens seemingly enjoying a little acrobatic stunting. One of them was carrying something white in its beak. It dropped it and then spiralled down after it and caught it again. Then it dropped it again and once more swooped to retrieve it. Then: another drop and another catch. At the fourth attempt it missed the catch and left the item to fall to the fellside. Watching this performance it was hard not to conclude that it was done for the sheer joy it, or maybe even that the raven was showing off.

A few days later I read this:

Some ornithologists considered the raven to be the most highly developed of all birds, quite easily tamed, given to following a man around like a dog for all its reputation as the aloof spirit of the hills. And people who made a habit of spying on their aerial acrobatics said they often had the uncanny feeling that the ravens knew they were being watched and admired, and put on a show for the occasion. Thus did they capture the imagination. I used to get so excited at the performances sometimes. You couldn’t help it, you whooped like a kid at the movies. The birds made you want to skip off the cliff and have a go yourself, they could be that inspiring.

The raven had a yawn-lazy way of riding the thermals, occasionally flapping a wing to keep awake, but really doing nothing more then letting itself go like a child’s kite. Then, wait for it, the bird switched gears. Wings swept back, it turned, croaked, then went: it dropped diagonally through the sky at a speed which rent you. Flick, another gear, and it was playing about again – its great floppy wings full-stretch, rising and falling in more beautifully drawn arcs. Sometimes it would curl, cry it was coming, and zoom into the cliff face like a strafed aeroplane, stopping short in a flutter, a game, within a few inches; then  dumping itself down snugly on a nice unstable cornice.

One thing was certain: the raven hadn’t been out there on the squint for sheep. He was up there for the hell of it; the celebration and the ecstasy.

This from ‘Cockley Beck: A Celebration of Lakeland in Winter’ by John Pepper, which I’ve recently finished reading. This was an entirely fortuitous find at a village coffee morning earlier this year – it was a book I wasn’t aware of, but I knew instantly from the title that I would want to read it. The book has an interesting history – first published in 1984 it went out of print, but was then listed in the Guardian Review, in 2005, as one of ‘the great classics of British nature writing’ and was then republished. At least that’s what the blurb on the book says. I was intrigued by the idea of a list of classics of nature writing. In fact I could remember reading an article about one such list – but that couldn’t be as long ago as 2005 surely?

It turns out that it was that long ago. The list was the result of an appeal to readers for suggestions for books of nature writing rooted in particular regions in Britain. (See the article here).

I’ve enjoyed reading Cockley Beck, but it seems an unusual choice for inclusion in a list dedicated to nature writing. The passage above is unusual: the book is more frequently about the people who live in and around Cockley Beck or further down the Duddon Valley. It’s also celebrates the relative isolation and peace and quiet of the location and perhaps has more in common with Sara Maitland’s ‘A Book of Silence’ then with more conventional nature writing.

Interesting to look at the guardian list again – there are still many more books that I haven’t read on the list then those that I have. There are however many writers which I have become acquainted with since I first read the article: Richard Jefferies, Edward Thomas, Mary Webb, W.H.Hudson, Adrian Bell, John McNeillie (who I wrote about here under his pen name Ian Niall), and of course John Pepper. There are also some glaring omissions it seems to me: Thomas Firbank’s ‘I Bought A Mountain’ springs to mind. Richard Adam. Also some of the great walking writers like Hamish Brown and John Hillaby.

Another great place for a more eclectic list of nature books is ‘Caught By The River’s Nature Book Reader. Actually, it’s more than just a list – it has reviews and seems to be a book in the making.

Tomorrow there’s another coffee morning in the village, as there is almost every Saturday, and a separate charity book sale. So – two opportunities for more serendipitous finds.

Not that I have to rely entirely on the book stall at the coffee morning for that purpose. I often unearth gems in the charity shops in Lancaster, particularly the Oxfam book shop. At the moment I’m reading ‘One Man’s Furrow: Ninety Years of Country Living’ by Reg Gammon, which I picked up there. It’s a delightful book, an anthology of short pieces recording his early life in Hampshire and Sussex, a period of farming in South Wales and then his retirement in the West Country. It’s copiously illustrated with line drawings and also colour plates of his watercolours and oils.

I think that I may have met Reg Gammon once. He was a keen cyclist and drew pictures for the Cycling Touring Gazette. For a few years in my early teens I belonged to the CTC. At weekends I used to join a small local group for half day rides. The second time I joined the group for a spin was a particularly memorable occasion. We cycled to Meriden – a village purported to be ‘the centre of England’. There’s a memorial in Meriden to cyclists killed in the Great War and every May cyclists gather there for a rally. We were joining that rally. I must have had my bike, a birthday present and my first ‘racer’, for about a month. I was eleven or twelve. The round trip would be about 70 miles. The journey there was uneventful, but then to find myself in a huge crowd of cyclists, many on tandems or trikes was, I remember, quite overwhelming. At the rally we went to see a display of artwork – nostalgic drawing of cyclists in tweeds on leafy roads and hump-back bridges. I seem to remember that the pictures were popular at the time with some of the cyclists whom I came to know through the CTC and that the CTC produced calendars illustrated with them. I think that the artist was present – could it have been Reg Gammon? Even then, thirty years ago, he would have been quite an old man.

The journey back really sticks in my mind. The weather had deteriorated. Fortunately, the weekend before I had been shopping with my Dad and he had bought me a waterproof cape for just such an eventuality. A firm believer in ‘growing room’ he had, I think, bought me an adult cape and it covered both me and my bike completely. I remember struggling with the tail-winds of lorries that passed us as the cape acted like a sail. We’d forgotten to buy a sou’wester to go with the cape and I was soon soaked through by the double whammy of rainwater spraying up from the road under my cape and by the droplets running down my neck and into the cape. To add insult to injury I then had my first and most severe experience of the bonk. Suddenly I seemed to be running on empty and I found that my legs simply refused to continue turning the pedals. Several times I ground to a halt and collapsed into the verge, from where – tangled up in my oversized cape – I had to be rescued by my companions.

Happy days!

It’s Not About the Bike

Kilimanjaro Climbers Needed

A recent comment contained a request:

Hi Mark,

I hope you are well. I work for a company called Jam who are closely involved with the No Surrender Charitable Trust. I am trying to raise some awareness around their recent fundraising Mount Kilimanjaro climb and their bid to bring new people on board for next year!

In case this is something that you may be interested in I have pasted some information below.

It would be really great if you could pass this on to anyone that you think might be interested, or even better if you are personally interested in it , it would be lovely if you could give it a little mention on your site.

Thank you so much for your time, if you do mention anything about it if you could let me know I would really appreciate it.

Many Thanks


On September 23rd 2010, 21 supporters of The No Surrender Charitable Trust travelled to Africa to face the 19500ft climb up Mt Kilimanjaro. Having raised an incredible £100,000, the trust is now appealing for volunteers to tackle next year’s epic climb.

Set-up by the late Jason Boas, The No Surrender Charitable Trust provides a unique support system for young people suffering from cancer and other life threatening illnesses through a global social networking site,

Proceeds from the 2011 climb went towards this Social Network, with further funds directed to the running of the prestigious Jason Boas Research Fellowship at UCH working hard to find breakthroughs in pancreatic and other cancers. The 2011 walk aims to do exactly the same, further drawing attention to this innovative charitable initiative.

To register for No Surrender updates and find out more about going on next year’s climb, please visit this link:
Follow on Facebook:


I’m not going to be climbing Kilimanjaro next year myself, but if anyone is interested then I hope that all of the necessary links are available above.

If you are interested, and the links aren’t sufficient, post a comment and I will pass on a relevant email address.

Kilimanjaro Climbers Needed