Have You Ever Seen Rain?

A longish post this one (by my standards anyway), there’s a selection of music at the bottom to sweeten the pill, should you desire, just don’t forget to mosey back up here.

Waterfall Scale Gill from Scale Bridge

Waterfall, Scale Gill from Scale Gill Bridge.

Yesterday, and days before,
Sun is cold and rain is hard,
I know
Been that way for all my time.

The Olympic Torch came to Kendal, Milnthorpe, Carnforth, Lancaster and on to Blackpool. The rain, seemingly a permanent fixture this summer, never-the-less discovered new reserves of spite and venom and fell ever harder. Cash-tills chimed in the emporiums of the purveyors of brollies. Here in the North Wet, we rolled back the brims of our sou’westers and fell to painting pitch on the clinkers of our new gopher wood boat.

A couple of days after the damp squib of the Torch relay, I had an opportunity to get out for a jaunt. It seemed sensible to seek out some waterfalls. I considered several options, but the forecast was for a wet start to the day, clearing later from the west, so a walk in the western Lakes beckoned. Eskdale then.

River Esk, Louring Cloud 

Eskdale

Stanley Force and Birker Force, on the South side of the valley, looked most impressive as I drove past and when I set off up the valley it had even stopped raining. There was a symphony of running water; from the low, loud bass note of the river below, to the gurgle and splutter of the rills, runnels and rivulets all around. Sadly, the patter of rain on hood was soon added to that music.

I passed a farmer and his sheep-dog riding the ubiquitous quad-bike. ‘Weir yu hidded?” he asked in a wonderful broad Cumbrian accent. I suspect that he thought that I was mad. I was beginning to think that I was mad. He was driving a flock of white sheep and black lambs from the in-bye fields out onto the open fellside.

Whitewater River Esk 

River Esk

At Scale Bridge, where there are waterfalls in Scale Gill both above and below the bridge, I noticed a sharp contrast in the sound of the two falls; the lower one was producing a much deeper rumble. It occurred to me that this might well be the Doppler effect in action, and I was genuinely chuffed with the thought, in a ‘I could think of things I never thunk before’ sort of way. A warm glow of self-satisfaction made the driving rain and low cloud seem a little more bearable for, oh…several seconds, at least.

Heron Stones 

Heron Stones.

Eskdale Needle 

Eskdale Needle.

Buzzard 

Despite the inclement weather, this had already been a fair bird-watching walk, with goldfinches in the bracken shortly after I left the car, the odd raven and a couple of sightings of buzzards. Of course, buzzards are not at all rare or unusual these days, thankfully. In fact, only today, I watched one through our kitchen window spiralling over the fields behind the house.

Buzzard II 

But in a mountain setting, they still have the power to make me marvel and admire.

Lingcove Beck Bridge 

Lingcove Beck Bridge.

My recent trip to Roeburndale with the ankle-biters had me recalling one particularly memorable previous visit. By contrast, almost every spot in Eskdale is freighted with the associations and happy memories of countless walks, picnics, swims, scrambles, camps….

This is where they walked, swam, hunted, danced and sang,
Take a picture here, take a souvenir

Esk Gorge 

I’ve camped here many times, swum in many of the pools, scrambled up the waterfalls of the Esk gorge and up some of its tributaries too.

The river was running very high this time, but I have photos from many years ago showing the waterfalls in the gorge here in spate, brown with silt, and encroaching on either bank.

The path on the western, left-hand side, of the Esk, traverses the slopes of Green Crag, which the river seems to have cut-away leaving a half-hill. As a result, the slope is steep and in places loose and/or rocky.

A scratchy path 

The path is a scratchy one; not difficult, but care is required.

The cloud had been lifting, the rain had stopped. The unmistakable pyramid of Bowfell had even put in fleeting appearances. Patches of sunlight had flitted across distant hillsides. All good. And now…

Top of the gorge 

The Esk, Scar Lathing, Low Gait Crags, Long Crag

,,,the top of the gorge and Great Moss is not too far away.

Also, unexpectedly….

Cormorant 

…a cormorant perched, rather forlornly I thought, by the river below.

Great Moss I 

A first view of Great Moss.

Great Moss is aptly named: ‘tis exceedingly boggy. I had thought that I was pretty sodden anyway, but reached Absolute Wet when an apparent island of terra firma in the midst of a submerged bog turned out to be a floating sod. On the plus side: the water wasn’t quite as cold as I’d anticipated and only my right leg was fully immersed.

I stopped for some soup in the shelter of the monolithic boulders at Sampson’s Stones.

Great Moss, Sampson's Stones 

Next objective – more waterfalls…

How Beck waterfalls 

Now I’ve always assumed that the waterfalls pouring down the side of Cam Spout Crag would be Cam Spout, which I’ve also always thought was a perfect fit for this tumbling ribbon of water. But I see on the map that it’s marked as How Beck. So make of that what you will.

How Beck, Pen, Dow Crag, Great Moss 

Likewise, the OS have the imposing crag on the left of this picture as Dow Crag, but I notice that in the scrambles guides, Brian Evans calls it Esk Buttress, which seems more appropriate.

How Beck, Dow Crag, Pen 

Pen above Dow Crag or Esk Buttress.

On another long ago visit to Great Moss, the Shandy Sherpa and I walked down from Esk Hause and I drove him to distraction taking photos of every bend and cascade in the river. This was in the days of 35mm film, 36 shots at a time and extortionate processing costs. I was barely solvent and could ill afford to shoot a whole roll of film, on a overcast day, all of very similar scenes. But I fell in love with Great Moss that day (my first visit I think) and my critical facilities were temporarily suspended.

How Beck waterfalls, looking up to Mickledore 

How Beck or Cam Spout, from over by the river.

This visit was no different. I shambled around taking photos with abandon. I know that I  could, and probably should, prune a few more photos from this post, but to get down to this few has been a painful process: personally, I think that the views in Upper Eskdale are unparalleled anywhere else in the Lakes.

Scafell Pike, Pen, Ill Crag 

I followed How Beck down to the river, thinking that despite the high-water, just maybe I would be able to cross the river upstream of the confluence. And I did. I got a bit wet in the process, well – a bit wetter – but it wasn’t too bad.

Esk, Great Moss 

Now I was in the heart of the bog. I’d crossed over so that I could descend by the other bank, but now decided to head upriver to take a peek into Little Narrowcove. I didn’t get that far: I decided that discretion was the better part of valour when the onward route threatened to become another opportunity to practise bog-snorkelling.

I didn’t save myself for long: a poor choice of route further down had me tramping through the black stuff. “How deep can it be?” I wondered dismissively. Thigh deep it transpired. Not to worry: it was only my left leg that was fully immersed. Ho hum.

I didn’t think that I could get any wetter now…

Standing in the River Esk, looking up Great Moss 

…so might as well take some photos whilst standing knee deep in the river.

Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, River Esk 

Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, River Esk.

Scafell Pike 

The weather was decidedly improving, even Scafell Pike had cleared. I was tempted to seek a higher vantage point from which to watch the sunlight and shadows sweep over the hills: perhaps the summit of Pen.

Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, River Esk 

But I had started late, the European Cup final was beckoning, and I suspect it might be considered a bit off in some circles to not be at home to play host when you’ve invited friends around to watch the match.

Crinkle Crags and blue sky! 

Scar Lathing and Crinkle Crags.

Without B’s sharp-eyed help I didn’t see such a wide variety of bug-life as I might have. I did spot a small heath moth and several dor beetles…

Dor beetle 

This one was on it’s back when I first came across it…

And I feel like a beetle on its back....

…I’ve included this photo, despite the lack of sharpness, due to the glorious metallic, electric indigo of the beetle’s undersides.

And I feel like a beetle on its back
And there’s no way for me to get up

(10 points available for that one Pop Pickers – which song is it from?)

One advantage of coming back down the opposite bank of the river was the opportunity to take a closer look at the waterfalls above Lingcove Beck Bridge.

Lingcove Beck first waterfall 

This is the first.

Sundew 

This is some sundew growing near that first waterfall.

Lingcove Beck third waterfall and jacuzzi plunge pool 

And this is the third.

Tongue Pot 

There are many great places to swim in the Esk, but this, Tongue Pot, is surely the best. The water is very deep in places, deep enough so that a jump from the ash tree on the right or from the top of those rocks on the far bank (the mega-leap) will not carry you to the bottom. The sun was almost shining and I have to confess that I was sorely tempted, but I’ve swum here before after rain and I know that, in these conditions, I’m not a strong enough swimmer to make much progress against the flow of the river. Another time.

The remainder of my walk was enlivened by the bird life.

Wheatear with fat grub 

A male wheatear with a grub.

Esk 

Esk valley, Bowfell behind.

Meadow pipit? 

A meadow pipit, perhaps.

Common sandpiper 

Common sandpiper.

The common sandpipers I saw by Langden Beck were extremely elusive, but I did get some views and a good chance to tune into their strident calls. So when I heard them this time I had a fair idea what I was listening to. What’s more, whilst one of the pair made itself scarce, the other sat atop a dry-stone wall not too far away and continued to harangue me.

More mature Esk 

The Esk from a footbridge.

Finally, this last part of the post is for Danny who has an entertaining knack of finding elaborately carved gateposts (and who is having a, hopefully temporary, break from posting).

One for Danny - a fancy gatepost 

This one just has some holes in it. But, on closer inspection…

A date...? 

…also some fancy writing, which sadly I couldn’t decipher.

Hieroglyphics

OL 6, 205 012 I think, if anyone fancies taking a gander.

 

 

Have You Ever Seen Rain?

23 thoughts on “Have You Ever Seen Rain?

  1. Eskdale is a lovely place. I spent some time there recently cragging. It contains some wonderfully clean, rough granite outcrops. Did you put hand on rock? Such a delightful place for all the senses, not just the hands.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Hi Andrew,
      That sounds like a plum job. Would that be in the centre at Eskdale Green? Many moons ago I accompanied a party of pupils there and watched them do a ‘high-ropes course’. Personally, I’ve never trusted the carpentry on those things.

  2. Enjoyable read and photos. Your photo of the cormorant reminded me that recently we spotted one a wee ways inland too – but I can’t remember where now! I am always fascinated by the metallic sheen on the underside of dor beetles. I don’t know why they have this colouring underneath; maybe I should try to find out…?

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It was a major ‘penny-drops’ moment. Why didn’t that occur to me before? You have to think about something when you’re walking on your own. Generally, my thoughts are more on a Reggie Perrin sort of level, ‘Oh look, a bird. A river. Another bird…’

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Ha-ha! I see what you did there!
      Although you aren’t so far off. The quote comes from the band which I always think Franz Ferdinand aspire to be. About 25 years earlier though.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks Conrad, you made my day, I’m a big fan of Harry Griffin.
      I can well imagine that there are big climbs on that route. Do climbers venture out of doors, or that far from a road these days?

  3. Excellent account and photos, the rivers must have been a tremendous sight. Strangely we’ve never walked the approach to Great Moss on the west side of Lingcove Beck, must remedy that some time. Superb area and quite unspoilt for the Lakes.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I saw two other walkers all afternoon. The west side of the Esk Gorge is well worth a look. Better still after a dry spell, follow the gorge itself – but expect to swim some parts!

  4. Eskdale – classic!!
    I have so many fantastic memories of the countless trips we’ve done there. I do remember that day when you took god knows how many photos and the time we were throwing that mini Harcros Frisbee about in the mist. It was 1986 and 1987 I think – god we’re old.
    We really must take the kids up into Eskdale for a wild camp and some river swimming one of these days. The pools just above and below Lingcove bridge are some of the best wild swimming spots I know. Never realised the mega-leap pool had a name!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I thought it was a Trangia pan lid we used for a Frisby when we camped in the mist. We have so many Eskdale stories some of them will have to wait for future visits – the Bowfell summit bivvy, the cucumber, the mug and snorkel, etc. I have some of my own too – I walked the length of the Esk on a C2C route and camped in Upper Eskdale. I also camped in Little Narrowcove in a Force 10 with the AYM and a bunch of trainee teachers.
      The memory that kept coming back to me on the day was the moment on the drive home from lots of leaping into the river when a warm feeling down your neck and the return of your hearing meant that your ears had finally emptied of water!

      1. All classics – I told D a few of those while we were backapcking in Wales last weekend. Wasn’t really the weather for swimming but there was plenty of water!

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