Buckstones Jump

Buckstones Jump

When we were walking by the stream in the Elan valley, and S was itching for a swim, I made a solemn promise: “If the sun shines, I’ll take you to a pool I know which is perfect for a swim.”

This wasn’t entirely honest. But – “If the sun shines, I’ll take you to a pool which I’ve seen on the telly and looked up on the internet, and often examined on the map and which I suspect is probably at least okay for a swim.” – doesn’t have the same authoritative tone, nor the desirable implication that I, the grizzled hill veteran, have an encyclopaedic first-hand knowledge of all the Lake District has to offer.

So – the main feature of the day would be a wild-swim. But first we had to get there. We made an attempt last summer which was foiled by full car-parks, so I’d bustled B and S out of the house reasonably early and we stuck the car in an almost empty Pelter Bridge car-park at about nine thirty. (I’d had in mind my friend CJ’s maxim about Lake District car parks being empty before ten and over-flowing almost immediately after – it’s an excellent rule-of-thumb.)

Rydal Hall 

Whilst we were all very much focused on the prospects of a swim, and to be honest, slightly concerned by the chilly air-temperature, the walk held several other delights in store for us. In fact, for a day out with two relatively small boys, this proved to be almost a perfect route.

First of all, they were very taken by the formal gardens of Rydal Hall. These days the Hall is a Christian Conference Centre, but visitors seem to be positively encouraged to wander at will around the gardens and the grounds. So we did. The boys enjoyed hunting out the various sculptures which dot the gardens. Then we went to have a gander at The Grot…

The Grot 

A summer house built to enable early tourists to view the Lower Falls on Rydal Beck through the security of an intervening window.

Low Falls 

There was an awful lot less water coming over the falls than there had been on my last visit.

In the woods behind the hall, this curious structure…..

The Game Larder 

….is a game larder apparently. With the addition of some sculptures it looked like a shrine you might expect to come across deep in a jungle somewhere Eastern and exotic.

Tree trunk art 

We were all enchanted by the sculptures which are dotted around the woods. The work, for the most part I think, of the designer Dianne Standen, they had me day-dreaming about stig-of-the-dump types living in harmony with the woods and leaving subtle traces with the things they had made. In the end, I only managed to drag the boys away by promising we would have another more extensive look on our way down.

We followed Rydal Beck for a while (cross the footbridge and take the path on the right bank) to a bridge which has a fall beneath it…..

Rydal Beck waterfall 

…slightly odd photo I know. It’s taken from the bridge, looking down on the stream and the waterfall. I’ve included it because I was intrigued by the metal ladder on the left-hand side. It brought back old memories of pot-holes with fixed ladders (couldn’t tell you where, because I don’t remember). Why is it there, do you think?

If you want to follow our route (and why wouldn’t you?), cross the bridge and look for a gate in the wall. Go through that and turn right on the track – that will take you to a stile above Buckstones Jump.

We left the track however, to get back to the beck. In the trees near the stream we heard an insistent, but thin piping which I thought might be nestlings calling for food. I was wrong. We scanned the trees and ….there: a pair of redstarts! I’ve never seen them before. I think my excitement communicated itself to the boys, or at least to S, who was hopping about, jumping into my legs and pulling on my shirt, none of which particularly assisted my attempts to get a photo.

Redstart 

The light wasn’t great either. So, it’s a pretty appalling picture….but – look at the colour of the thing! I had to pinch myself just to be sure that I wasn’t back in those Eastern jungles again. It just seems too exotic for a British hillside.

Now that we knew what to listen for, we heard several more redstarts as we followed the stream. My bird-book gives the call as ‘a soft, whistled upslurred huit’. I hope I will know it if I hear it again.

S is not entirely sold on walking as yet, and Buckstones Jump didn’t come any too soon for either of us. I was slightly surprised to find we had it to ourselves, although a heap of plastic bottles were gently smouldering over the blackened remnants of a fire.

Buckstones Jump II 

We had a bit of a swim. Then explored a little downstream, then had one more swim before eating our lunch. The pool is very deep, and cold, and the boys struggled a bit with the temperature of the water. In the case of S, this was despite the fact that he was wearing a wet-suit.

Another larger, family party arrived shortly after we did and, as we finished our lunch, two more parties arrived. One group of four changed into swimming costumes, swam once across the pool, then got out and changed again. They must have been in the water for less than a minute. I suppose it was pretty cold.

Buckstones Jump from above 

Buckstones Jump from above.

The natural 'dam' 

The rocks behind the left-hand side of the pool act almost like a natural dam: the stream turns and runs along behind the wall of rock, before slipping into a narrow cascade…

The cascade 

The sunshine we’d had earlier had rather deserted us, and at times the sky had looked a little threatening, but now gaps began to appear again in the clouds, and golden patches of sunlight on the hillsides.

Rydal Beck 

By the time we set-off down the track, the sun was shining on us again.

View down to Windermere 

View down to Windermere.

Our route down provided us with many diversions fascinating to small boys. Boulders to clamber on….

Bouldering 

Bluebells to admire….

More bluebells 

Fallen trees…..

Ooh - did you break it...? 

With tiny, interesting….what?…inside.

Eggs? Spider eggs? 

There was a spider nearby. Maybe these were spider’s eggs. Anyone have any idea?

And whilst we doing a nature quiz, a digression: the boys dug this out of one of our flower-beds and we’d all like to know what it is…..

A...grub? 

Anyway, back to our walk. We stopped a while to admire High Falls…

High Falls 

And some more, smaller falls below those. Medium falls?….

Falls below High Falls - Medium Falls? 

There’s a heavenly looking campsite tucked away in the woods here, with yurts and a playground which nobody was using. Well, not until we arrived anyway. A large oak by the playground had a small garden growing in its crook: ferns, a small rhododendron, and a not insubstantial rowan tree.

More art 

The boys got their leisurely look at the sculptures in the woods.

Still more art 

I particularly approved of these bookcases and hanging books….

Woodland bookshelves 

Sapling helix 

There’s a cafe in the Hall gardens and we stopped there for a drink. Although it was now really quite warm by local standards, S insisted that he was still chilled from his swim, and polished off a huge hot chocolate with all the trimmings – marshmallows, cream and a flake.

Hot chocolate face

Chocolate moustache.

I settled for tea and B wanted a cold drink.

P6090087

There was more art to be admired….

Art in the formal garden 

….in the formal gardens…

Rydal Hall and garden

…which were designed by Thomas Mawson, a Lancaster architect whose gardens I think I might start to ‘bag’. Now does anybody produce a list? a logbook? Hmmm.

Back at Pelter Bridge, a strategically placed ice-cream van relieved me of the last few pennies in my wallet. Well, it would have been rude not to.

A resounding success. We’ll do that again!

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Buckstones Jump

Evening Hills: Parlick and Fair Snape Fells + Ingleborough

A buy-one-get-one-free offer: two walks for the price of one.

Looking over Beacon Fell towards the coast

Looking over Beacon Fell to the Lancashire Plain and Coast.

Whilst we were down in Herefordshire, Andy and I were discussing the all-round magnificence of climbing hills on a summer evening after work, and bemoaning the fact that, for various reasons, neither of use had yet managed to get out to do that this year. In the past, reading about Andy’s hill-top suppers has inspired me to make an effort to find the time and the energy for something more ambitious than I might otherwise have aimed for; and apparently my posts about evening strolls serve the same purpose for him: so if it achieves nothing else, this post might at least spur him on to make the most of our long summer days.

Another view 

Another view from Parlick Fell. Vaguely in the direction of Preston?

So anyway, after our conversation, I was determined to get out and climb some hills and with the glorious weather continuing, I decided to start sooner rather than later.

Two advantages of a late start are that you avoid the heat of the day and the crowds. Theoretically. In this case, it seemed very hot as I toiled my way up little Parlick Fell, and I’d unknowingly chosen the evening of a fell-running event. As a result I was frequently passed or overtaken by wiry men wearing diddy shorts, PBs and little else. One of my colleagues is a fell-runner, and since Pendle Hill, which I could see not too far away across Ribblesdale, is his stamping ground, I assumed he would be here. He is tall and thin and bald. Every time I saw a tall and thin and bald runner, I initially assumed that it was him. But it never was. Soon, I came to realise that all fell runners are tall and thin and bald. In fact, he was there, but was indistinguishable from his many fellows to the untrained eye.

Pendle Hill from the summit of Parlick Fell 

Reaching the summit of Parlick Fell brought not only expansive views, but also a refreshing bit of a breeze. To my shame, in the many years that I’ve lived nearby, I’ve never been this way before. My loss: the walk from Parlick Fell to Fair Snape Fell is a cracker.

Fair Snape Hill 

A gentle climb on springy turf, with great views both down in to Bleasdale and along the edges which curve gracefully around it.

Bleasdale Skyline 

Fair Snape Fell itself has a bewildering array of summit furniture.

Fair Snape Fell Summit Furniture 

Not that it’s particularly a summit, that lies somewhere off to the east, in amongst the peat hags.

Across the Bowland Moors to Ingleborough 

Looking across the Bowland Moors to Ingleborough. That’s the tiny nipple in the centre: to the naked eye it looked impressively distinctive, honest. With a magnifying glass, you might pick out what I think is Whernside to the left of Ingleborough.

After a bit of faffing about wondering which fence to follow through the peat hags (there seemed to be a bonus fence on the ground, not recorded on my OS 1:25000) I hit this track, headed for Saddle Fell, which made for very pleasant walking.

A good path and Totridge ahead 

The lump in the middle distance is Totridge which I climbed in the mist one evening last year.

Where the track began to descend towards Ward’s End I stopped to eat my sandwiches. Egg mayonnaise, I think. Hardly cordon bleu stuff, but I’m prepared to forgo gastronomic delights if my dining room has a view like this:

Parlick Fell 

A couple of parascenders were airborne by Parlick Fell and, beyond them, a glider swept wide circles. Curlews flew overhead, calling stridently. A grouse rattled away in a huff.

A couple walked past, heading uphill on the path. Or rather, a man walked past followed by a woman 50 yards behind. He shouted a cheery greeting. She seemed to be in single minded pursuit and said nothing. Why do people do that to each other? Particularly couples? I imagined the conversation they’d had before-hand: ‘Let’s almost go for a walk together. We’ll do the same route, but not at the same time. That way we won’t have to talk to each other.”

Chipping Brook

The final leg of my walk took me across Chipping Beck, where a steep bank was even more intensely decked out with bluebells than Outhwaite had been on our recent visit. Sadly, with the sun now quite low in the sky, this east facing bank was in shadow and it was hard to do justice to the bluebells with a photo.

Parlick and Fair Snape Fell

Flushed with the success of that walk, I emailed my friend T and suggested that the two of us should make good on the promise we’d made ourselves to climb Ingleborough together.

P6130022

Here he is on the top. Soaked through, cold and bemused, but still smiling.

We’d left a car in Ingleton, parked at Ribblehead and then traversed Ingleborough North to South. We had a lengthy, heavy shower as we climbed Park Fell. After that we were in the cloud practically until we reached Crina Bottom. Following the edge around Simon Fell we were blasted by a fierce wind. Now and again rents in the cloud tantalised us with views of blue sky overhead or limestone pavements below, but the breaking up and lifting of the cloud, which seemed to be promised, never materialised. We didn’t stop for a brew and sandwiches until we reached the spring just before the final climb onto Ingleborough, where a small hollow afforded a little shelter. We almost missed the huge shelter on the top, because the visibility was so poor. All in all, it was a bit of a wild night for T’s first ascent of Ingleborough. But, as T said at the time, it was good to be out experiencing something different, instead of watching the telly. On the positive side, we appeared to have the hill entirely to ourselves. Although, given the visibility, there might have been a whole tribe of Brigantes living in a fort on the summit plateau and we would probably have missed them.

A fine leg-stretcher.

Ingleborough

This doesn’t quite show the beginning or end of the walk, I know. I’m doing me best, honest.

So, have I whet your appetite? Is there somewhere on, or near, your commute where you might climb to a promising viewpoint with a picnic and enjoy an evening out of the ordinary, summery or otherwise? If you do, why not pop back and let me know about it.

Evening Hills: Parlick and Fair Snape Fells + Ingleborough

A Trip to the Marches

This Whitsun, like last, we had the great good fortune to be invited over for a few days sojourn down in Herefordshire with our old friends over at chez Surfnslide. After a soggy start, even the weather decided to cooperate, the sun shone and a fabulous time was had by all. We had some great days out, each of them worthy of a blog post in its own right, but owing to an unfortunate oversight in the ‘packing a memory card’ department, I was limited to the internal memory of my camera, and therefore very few photos each day. So I’ve decided to bundle the whole trip up into one brief summary report. No doubt more detailed, better illustrated accounts will appear over at Surfnslide, if and when Andy ever catches up with his blogging.

We’d driven down on the Tuesday, in a pretty relentless, all-day downpour. When Wednesday morning dawned much the same, I began to have misgivings, but in the afternoon it brightened up sufficiently for us to head out for a shortish walk on Garway Hill Common. This hill clearly has excellent views, but unfortunately, during our visit, a hazy atmosphere impaired all but the vaguest impressions of those views. Whilst we were there, the clag did clear a little, but this improvement in the visibility coincided with another deterioration in the weather – the clouds regrouped and sent us scuttling back to the car park. And not a moment too soon: big fat raindrops cannoned off the windscreen as we all climbed into the car. Still – good to be out and to take a look at somewhere new to us.

Thursday brought much improved weather, and a block vote from the kids – a visit to White Castle topped their poll. It’s a small castle, but a cracker, with a proper wet moat and a bridge to get in; a tower with a winding staircase to be ascended and an outer court perfect, on a sunny day, for a picnic and a spot of Frisbee throwing.

 White Castle

A vetchling or a pea? 

Moat-side…..native pea? Vetch?

White castle - horseshoe vetch 

Horseshoe vetch decorating White Castle’s walls.

The kids had it all planned out – after White Castle they opted for a trip to Rowlestone Court, a farm with a campsite, and, more importantly as far as we were concerned, a small cafe selling their own ice-cream and an adventure playground thrown in for good measure. The zip wire, tyre-stack, mini-climbing wall etc were accessed via a muddy woodland walk where only a fool would venture in sandals. I suspect that it goes without saying that, there being one born every minute, there was a fool slithering around inappropriately in sandals, and of course: I was that fool.

The following day – bright, warm and sunny once again – the kids flexed their new found muscle and campaigned for a day in the garden. I could see from the twinkle in the Shandy Sherpa’s eye that he had a plan for exactly this eventuality and after a modicum of faffing, we were on our way to his favourite local playground for my first walk in the Black Mountains.

Olchon Valley 

Olchon Valley

Andy suggested several possible excursions, but I thought it wise to leave the selection to the local expert. I thought he might take me to the magical Vale of Ewyas, which I’ve read about and admired so often on his blog, and which has attained an almost mythic status in my imagination, but no – he chose a trip to the Olchon Valley. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint at all.

We parked high, dropped way down into the valley bottom and then climbed on a fabulous diagonal path. Relief from the heat was provided first by the shade of the trees in the tall hedges and then by the hint of a breeze. Where the gradient eased, we picked up a sheep-track which contoured marvellously along the top edge of the steep fell-side between the valley and the moor, giving superb views of the patch-work landscape below.

After an indulgent lunch stop below Black Hill, we descended by the Cat’s Back ridge – our elevated parking spot paying dividends by reducing the descent at the end of the walk.

Andy on the Cat's Back 

The Shandy Sherpa on the Cat’s Back.

Saturday brought another trip to the mountains, this time with the whole crew. We went to the Elan Valley – a place which I have to confess to feeling woefully under-informed about even now. You’ll have to forgive my ignorance. On the evidence of this fleeting visit it’s an area well worth investigating.

After spotting another pied-flycatcher almost immediately we left the cars (funny how these things come in twos or threes), we walked a little way up the valley, to a picnic spot Andy had previously spied. It was a little windy, but we were distracted from any minor discomfort by a fabulous display of buzzards and red kites gliding and stooping and alighting on the crags and hillsides above us.

Rhiwnant 

After our picnic, the general consensus was that a walk further up the valley was in order. You can make out a rising track on the hillside on the right of the photo above: it’s an old mine road, well made, although now very wet and boggy in one or two spots. We followed it up to where the valley divides and a stream from the right hand branch comes crashing down a series of falls and cascades in a narrow defile. All very exciting for the kids (both young and old).

The last of these waterfalls flows into a very deep plunge pool which would be ideal for a swim. Little S was very keen to try it out, but both the water and air temperatures weren’t exactly conducive. He made do with some boulder hopping and the promise of a wild swimming trip somewhere closer to home when the weather allows.

A top spot for a swim 

On the way back to the cars we walked down the other side of the valley, which gave us some fine views of more waterfalls on the Rhiwnant and a chance to comb around a spoil heap where the kids found some attractive crystals and some stones with flecks of fool’s gold.

Rhiwnant waterfall 

On this trip, like the last, we used a direct route on A roads rather than the more obvious, possibly quicker, but purgatorial M6 M5 route. Which meant that we had already thrice driven past Stokesay Castle which is just off the A49 in Shropshire. Intrigued, I was determined to visit. Happily, the Surf’n’slide crew decided to join us.

Stokesay Castle - South Tower and Gatehouse 

It’s a small property, but with a fascinating audio guide, takes quite a while to properly explore.

Stokesay Castle - Church and North Tower from the moat 

The sun shone yet again. We picnicked in the field by the car park, then had a wander around the (dry) moat.  A final ice-cream and, all too soon, our holiday was all-over bar the driving.

S amongst the Cow Parsley

Once again we had a fantastic break and were royally looked after. Looking at the map, it’s clear that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer, but we’ve all really enjoyed getting to know a few new places. We’re all very grateful to the Surf’n’slide team for putting us up and for putting up with us. Next year, if all goes according to plan, the shoe will be on the other foot and our friends will come to stay in sunny Lancashire with us. We’ll be hard-pressed to match their hospitality.

Next stop: Towyn Farm. Roll on the summer.

A Trip to the Marches

Roeburndale – Bluebells, Bogs, Barns, Birds and Blueskies!

Bluebells Outhwaite Wood

After our visit to Roeburndale last year I promised myself a return visit this spring. I chose the bank holiday weekend, thinking that even then this would be a quiet spot – and it was.

No map for this walk – you can find it here, on a helpful leaflet, one of many about Lancashire walks stored on this website. We followed the walk as described, except we walked the big loop anticlockwise.

The leaflet mentions parking by Bridge House Farm tearoom, which now seems to be part of a garden centre. TBH and I (the kids were terrorising their grandparents for the weekend) couldn’t resist a leisurely start with a pot of tea, and a cherry scone for TBH, in the dappled sunlight on the decking by the river. Very civilised. If you find yourself in the area, the lunches looked very appetising too.

Early purple orchid

More by luck than judgement, we’d timed our visit to perfection. Not only was the sun shining, but the bluebells in Outhwaite Wood looked and smelled absolutely stunning. Dotted about amongst them were early purple orchids too,

River Roeburn

The gorse too was throwing off a heady aroma, redolent of coconut. The woods were busy with birdsong.

River Roeburn II

The route takes advantage of a permission path which is way-marked with small green discs, each decorated with a white silhouette of a deer’s head.

Female large red damsfley

This damselfly had me confused, but I’m almost certain that it’s a female large red damselfly, which are apparently quite varied in their markings. This one is green on it’s abdomen rather than the more usual black, but the yellow stripes and red banding are right. The British Dragonfly website was helpful, although…

Can be found in almost any freshwater habitat but rarely on fast-flowing rivers or streams.

…has me a little concerned, since I would say that the Roeburn is best described as fast-flowing.

Path through the Ramsons

In places the carpet of bluebells gave way to the broad leaves and white stars of ramsons; and the sweet smell of the Hyacinthoides non-scripta was over-whelmed by a pungent waft of garlic.

Negotiating a boggy bit

More bluebells in Outhwaite Wood

A path through the bluebells

The path climbs to the top edge of the wood, where we found a sunny spot for a picnic.

The upper edge of the wood

The path then drops down to cross the river on a footbridge.

River Roeburn again

This was where I brought the kids last year. There was a family party here on this occasion too, some paddling in the river, most sunning themselves on the bank. They didn’t seem to be under-attack in the way that we had been almost exactly a year ago.

Roeburndale

We left the woods here, and crossed the river…

River Roeburn from Barkin Bridge

…by Barkin Bridge.

A bright flash of white and a strident song from nearby trees alerted me to the presence of….

Pied Flycatcher II

…a male pied flycatcher.

Pied Flycatcher I

I was half hoping to see a redstart, which are also found in these woods apparently, but that will have to wait for another time.

Roeburndale Chapel

By the tiny Roeburndale chapel we turned to head across rough and reedy pastures, past a couple of broken eggshells (whether they were evidence of a family triumph or tragedy I’m not sure)…..

Eggshell

…to a tributary stream named both Pedder Gill and Goodber Beck on my map.

Waterfall - Pedder Gill / Goodber Beck

The return journey, above Roeburndale, was enlivened by the spectacular escapades of stunting lapwings..

Lapwings

Lapwing

…and the burbling calls and swift low flights of curlews.

A number of very substantial barns…

Bowland Barn

…fabulous views….

Above Roeburndale

,,,both near and far….

Lousewort

Wray Wood Moor

What’s that on the horizon?

Ingleborough

Ingleborough!

Another Bowland Barn

Which was fortunate, because parts of it were tediously wet and boggy. Next time I think I’ll try the path on the west side, on the slopes of Caton Moor. Or, I could go up to the access land and climb to the top of Caton Moor…..

Further exploration is called for!

————————————————————————————————————

We’d started late that day and were very late back. I was quite proud of the chowder which I threw together with some smoked mackerel which was languishing in the fridge, some prawns frozen in a lump at the bottom of a freezer draw and various odds and ends of veg. Which is my cheesy way of working in a link to today’s Food Programme (see what I did there?). I’m not generally a fan, but caught it in the car and found it very thought provoking. It featured an interview with Michael Pollan about his latest book ‘Cooked’ which received a rave review in the Guardian this weekend. If you have half an hour to spare I recommend listening to it.

It certainly galvanised me today. When I got home, I picked up the kids from school and then got them to make tea. B barbecued some chicken drumsticks and some lamb chops, A made potato salad and tomato salad and S washed and dressed some ‘cabbage’ (lettuce to you and I) with a dressing he’d made himself, and was also generally helpful. (‘I think I did the most jobs’ as he modestly put it.) Yes I helped them. And, no, A didn’t lop off any fingers when she was chopping spuds and B didn’t burn himself (or the meat). I think they had a real sense of achievement. And they subsequently ate things they would otherwise have just poked suspiciously and moved around their plates.

It wasn’t their first experience of cooking. It certainly isn’t going to be their last.

Nothing to do with walking, I know. But expect more rambling off message. Possibly. Or not

Amended:

Andy and I were talking about TED talks just the other day. Here’s one by Michael Pollan about a plant’s eye view of Darwinism:

Roeburndale – Bluebells, Bogs, Barns, Birds and Blueskies!