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.)
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…
A summer house built to enable early tourists to view the Lower Falls on Rydal Beck through the security of an intervening window.
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…..
….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.
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…..
…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.
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.
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.
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 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.
By the time we set-off down the track, the sun was shining on us again.
View down to Windermere.
Our route down provided us with many diversions fascinating to small boys. Boulders to clamber on….
Bluebells to admire….
With tiny, interesting….what?…inside.
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…..
Anyway, back to our walk. We stopped a while to admire High Falls…
And some more, smaller falls below those. 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.
The boys got their leisurely look at the sculptures in the woods.
I particularly approved of these bookcases and hanging books….
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.
I settled for tea and B wanted a cold drink.
There was more art to be admired….
….in the formal gardens…
…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!