Tiny Winging Darting Floating

Townsfield – The Cove – The Lots – The Shore – Cow’s Mouth – Jack Scout – Jenny Brown’s Point – Heald Brow – The Cliff Path


A local, post-work stroll in glorious sunshine, remarkable for its bird-spotting opportunities right from the off. The hedgerow along Townsfield was seemingly full of birds.


Great Tit.


Blue Tit.


House Sparrows.


I wasn’t the only one taking an interest…


Nor was it only the hedgerow which was busy: overhead a couple of Corvids were harassing a Buzzard…


Usually, I have to crop my bird photos. This Chaffinch was sitting in such a prominent spot, just above the path by The Cove, that it hasn’t been necessary on this occasion.


Chaffinch song is one of the few which I can reliably recognise, which means that when I hear it I always feel profoundly pleased with myself, Chaffinches and life in general.


Just beyond this Chaffinch’s perch, stands a much larger Ash tree. I once saw a Tawny Owl sat in its branches and now habitually glance over just in case. It’s nearly six years since I saw the owl and I don’t think I’ve seen anything in the same spot since, so my optimism is perhaps misplaced. Except…There was something in the same tree again. The owl was back! But…wait, it wasn’t right for an owl somehow. I fumbled for my camera, but too late, the raptor opened it’s wings and glided effortlessly away. I managed to take one photo, but only of a space between the trees which the bird had just vacated. So, what was it? I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t a Buzzard, and also that I spotted dark wing-tips as it flew, so I suspect that it was one of the local Marsh Harriers – although that would put it some way off their usual patch.

On the Lots, a dozen or so Starlings were picking-over the sward…


I wanted to go back to Jack Scout again, and fancied a different route, so went down Shore Road to The Beach (as it’s known locally – there’s no sign of any sand) and from there around the shore to Cow’s Mouth (another cove) and Jack Scout.


It was a clear evening and the camera’s zoom reveals the profile of the Coniston Fells…



One advantage of knowing a few birdsongs is that from time to time I realise that I’m hearing something different and start looking for the culprit. I’m not always successful, but occasionally that tactic can pay dividends…


Blackcaps aren’t necessarily migrants. Three of them, two females and a male, overwintered in and around our garden many years ago, when we lived on The Row. But despite that fact, I only generally see them at this time of year, when the males are busying singing to establish and protect a territory. And even in Spring I don’t see them often, so when I do spy one I’m always thrilled. Getting a photo too was a real bonus.


From Jack Scout I headed around Jenny Brown’s Point towards the chimney. I’m not very confident with wading birds, but I guess that these are Redshank…


I can’t decide whether this rather rough wall…


…is an archaeological remnant of the buildings which once accompanied the chimney here, and which has been revealed by the action of the tides on the foreshore; or whether it has been more recently constructed for some reason.

I was very taken by the red hue in the tips of the branches of these trees…


There’s a David Hockney painting ‘Bigger Trees Nearer Warter’ which I’m sure has almost exactly the same hue.


My route had taken onto the south side of higher ground and therefore into the shade, a mistake which needed rectifying. Fortunately, there’s a path which climbs steeply up to Heald Brow which would take me back into the sunshine. As I climbed the birds singing from all of the nearby trees gave me plenty of excuses to pause and scan the trees for the musician’s. Two Chiff-chaffs were competing, one at the bottom of the slope, the other at the top. In a line of trees several Robins were duelling hard. But loudest of all, ringing out over all of them, was a solitary Song Thrush…


Not the best photo of a Song Thrush I know, but what surprised me about this photo was the wildlife I didn’t expect to capture in it: the shoals of insects which were flying all around the Thrush. It’s this bonanza which drives so much of the birdsong, brings the migrants, fuels the nesting season. I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I must confess; I was more concerned about climbing the hill with my jaws firmly closed so as to not find myself with a mouthful of unwanted protein.

Time for one more bird on this walk, in a tall Ash on the edge of Pointer Wood. Not the sharpest photo, but more evidence of my occasional success with birdsong, which is how I located this Nuthatch…


Tiny Winging Darting Floating

Myer’s Allotment Again


The sun was shining again, my Mum and Dad were visiting, I couldn’t resist dragging everyone out for a quick turn around Myer’s Allotment to see my new favourite local view. (Almost everyone, A had hurt her knee the day before and is temporarily out of action).

Once again I saw a Chiff-chaff singing from a low branch, just overhead in fact, as if to make a mockery of my idea that they confine themselves to the treetops and are hard to see.


This eggshell was quite large, and suspiciously like one of the ones from the nest by the pond-dipping boardwalk at Leighton Moss. Is it possible that it was stolen and then brought this far by the thief to be consumed?


Here is the aforementioned view…


And a pano version (click on any of the pictures to go to flickr where larger versions are available)


Everything is moving on, seemingly day by day, at the moment. Here the Cowslips were flowering…


It was a short little tour…


…but a very good one…


…enjoyed by one and all…


Myer’s Allotment Again

Winging in the Blossoming

Clark’s Lot – Woodwell – Jack Scout.

If you go down to Woodwell today be sure of a big surprise. The pond has silted up quite considerably, and at one end the water is very shallow, and in that shallow water there must be thousands of tiny fish…


Every attempted photo of a fish was later revealed to be a group shot. It was teeming. My best guess is that these are Three-Spined Sticklebacks, like the ones I used to catch in the brook with a bucket when I was a boy.


Great tit (and emerging ash flowers).

The wind was in the North, and pretty icy, but the sun was shining and if you could find a sheltered spot it actually felt warm for a change.

– it’s april(yes, april;my darling)it’s spring!
yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly
yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be

The agility of Blue Tits never ceases to amaze; this one…


…was acrobatically hanging upside down whilst worrying the edge of a decaying piece of bark. Apparently they eat mostly caterpillars. I don’t know whether there were any beneath that flake of bark. I hope so.

Chiff-chaffs are generally much easier to hear than to see, as they often sing their distinctive song from the very tops of tall trees. But Jack Scout doesn’t have many tall trees, specialising instead in thickets of prickly things like gorse, brambles, holly, hawthorn and blackthorn. So this chap was chanting his name from a prominent, but relatively low, branch…


…before dropping down into the brambles…


…to play hide-and-seek in the way that two-year-old children do: ‘I can’t see you therefore I’m hidden’.


This Bullfinch looks like it’s escaped from the set of the Angry Birds movie.

A brief glimpse of two butterflies circling, spiralling, dancing together, took me over towards the boundary wall, away from the cliff, the bay and the cold wind. Of course, when I reached the spot where the butterflies had been, they were long gone. I did eventually see one again…


But here beneath the wall it was like I’d walked in from a winter’s day to a centrally-heated room. The contrast in temperature was quite astonishing. And, almost immediately, there were other things to look at.

I’ve been puzzled this spring by the behaviour of Bumblebees. There are lots of them about and they are all very busy, but none of them seem ever to be feeding. What are they up to?

This one…


…buzzed over, landed on some moss, and then apparently did nothing.

I was photographing the Primroses, when I became peripherally aware of something strange flying across the clump.


It was a tawny orange and looked something like a bee, but clearly wasn’t a bee. What’s more, it had thin, black, scalloped-edge wings which were perpetually in rapid motion, flickering back and forth and giving the impression of some bizarre bee/bat hybrid hovering over the primroses.


Some moths imitate bees in appearance. So do many hoverflies. Even some bees impersonate other bee species. But this didn’t look even remotely like a hoverfly. Nor particularly like a moth. A second appeared…


The curious, black, improbably thin, bat-like wings were revealed to be actually just the top edge of larger wings. And the hovering was an illusion created by the constant trembling palpitation of those wings.


These are Bee-Flies.

The furry brown body and the long proboscis, together with the dark brown front edges of the wings make this fly very easy to recognise…Although appearing to hover while feeding, it usually clings to the flowers with its spindly legs. The larvae live as parasitoids in the nests of mining bees.

from Collins Complete British Insects by Michael Chinery

A parasitoid, I learn, differs from a parasite in that it will eventually kill or paralyse its host and then eat it. A slightly gruesome creature then, but fascinating just the same. What’s more, the presence of these flies surely indicates that their hosts can’t be too far away, and after being captivated by a Tawny Mining Bee last year, I’d love to find them closer to home. Actually, I have seen one closer to home, feeding on Blackthorn blossom…


last spring.

My attempts to get to grips with birdsong have not been a massive success, but sometimes knowing that you don’t know can even pay dividends. (I’m in danger of slipping into Rumsfeldisms here if I’m not careful.) I could hear a bird singing from a very tall ash. I was fairly confident that it wasn’t a Robin, or any kind of Tit or Finch, and obviously not a Thrush or a Blackbird, nor a Nuthatch, which I seem to have recently become reasonably confident about picking out. Quite a musical song, I thought…


…and there it was, way up in the blue, a Dunnock! I had no idea that they could sing like that.

(The RSPB page on Dunnocks has a handy sound file.)

So, alright, it’s a Dunnock. We get them in the garden, mostly on the ground under the hedges. You could maybe accuse it of being a bit drab. But I was thrilled to spy it way up there in the very tallest tree, proclaiming it’s territory.

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

All of the unattributed quotes are from e.e.cummings. Inevitably. Illimitably.

Winging in the Blossoming

Entertaining Mister B

After my turn around Myer’s Allotment and Leighton Moss I came home in time for a quick bite of lunch (homemade burger and coleslaw which the Dangerous Brothers and I had knocked-up for tea the previous evening, very nice too) and then collected the chefs from school (TBH and A were away visiting friends).

The sun was shining and B was anxious to drag me to the park to throw a ball around. Before we could do that, however, he needed to pack for his first Scout camp. This was a protracted and painfully slow process. I gave him the packing list, he went off to pack. When I subsequently went through the list with him it transpired that he had omitted more items than he had packed. He went away and tried again, with similar results. Eventually, I stood over him and watched him put all of the things he needed into my voluminous, and venerable, Karrimor Jaguar 6 (which dwarfed him when packed).


B, living up to his billing as a Dangerous Brother, was still recovering from a sprained ankle and whilst he was keen not to miss out, was not fit to join the rest of the Scouts on a scheduled long walk. So an early start for me – I picked him up from Sykeside Campsite by Brother’s Water at 9am. Well, I was there to pick him up, but he was still eating his breakfast. It had been wet in the night, and also very, very cold, but now the weather was apparently set fair and the views were rather splendid.

The rest of the Scouts would be returning to camp at around five in the afternoon. So; how does one entertain a boy who can’t walk too far on a sunny day in April in the North-Eastern Lakes?


First-off: a short walk along a delectable bit of path along the western shore of Brother’s Water.



…is typical of the kind of the remnants of the winter flooding which A and I noticed on our walk through the Lakes the week before. It’s hard to see it here, but a tiny dribble of water was flowing down this small bed, but as you can see, a layer of topsoil has been scoured away for a few yards either side of the rivulet. Where it met the right-of-way, a large mound of boulders was humped across the path.


It was a slow meander, with lots of pauses to try to take photos of small birds. B was a patient companion, actually a willing accomplice: we watched a pair of nuthatches seemingly taking it in turns to fly back and forth between the trunk of a tall tree and the base of small sapling nearby. As I tried to keep up with their antics through the lens of my camera, B kept up a running commentary in an attempt to help me find them as they moved.


We had arranged to meet the rest of the family at Aira Force at 11. We were a little early, and we knew that the others would almost certainly be late (they were), so decided to wait for them outside the little cafe there, at a table from which we could watch the road and wave at the others to join us when they arrived.

B and I had been listening to Chaffinches and Robins as we walked beside Brother’s Water. We’d seen a few of the songsters but always at quite a distance. Now, as we sat outside, tamer cousins came looking for crumbs on the wall by our table…


Or even onto the table itself…




Naturally, we were then duty bound to have a wander up to view Aira Force itself.



There’s a bridge at the top, from which you can stare into the chasm…


And another at the bottom…


Which is a great vantage point to view the falls…


Last time I was here there was a lot more water coming over the falls. I was quite surprised, when I checked, to discover that it was more than 5 years ago.

Less surprising to find that it is also almost 5 years since we previously visited Brougham Hall…


…and Brougham Castle…


…because I remember how much smaller the kids were at the time.

Both are well worth a visit. The castle is built on the remains of a Roman Fort. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say: built with the remains of a Roman Fort. Inside the keep, one ceiling was clearly made using a Roman headstone…


The River Eamont runs past the castle, and the town of Penrith is nearby.


One of the surprising things about the castle is that, on both of our visits, there were hardly any other visitors.


And we even found a bench that was out of the wind and so pleasantly warm to sit on as the children played hide and seek in the ruins.


They may be much bigger than they were, but happily, they still enjoy simple pleasures.

There are lots more pictures here, from our last visit, including some of swash being buckled.

Not far from the castle, a bridge over the Eamont, currently closed, showed more evidence of the winter flooding…


Entertaining Mister B

Simply in the Springing

Clark’s Lot – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – Myer’s Allotment – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow – Moss Lane – Eaves Wood

A gloomy start. At my new favourite place, Myer’s Allotment, I decided to follow the path way-marked with small blue-paint splashed posts. It took me around the reserve and then up and along a tree-lined edge. A gap in the trees revealed…


…a rough-hewn bench with a great view over Leighton Moss…


It needs some blue sky and sunshine to make the most of it. And maybe a stove to brew a cuppa.


Down at Leighton Moss I was told that there were two Marsh Harrier nests by the causeway, and an Osprey passing through, and Red-poll and Siskins on the bird-feeders.


I saw none of them. But there were Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a Coal Tit just sneaking into this photo.


And by the pond-dipping area a nest neatly woven from reeds…


It was much too close to the path however, and I wondered whether it had been abandoned. I passed it again a couple of days later and it was empty, not even any remains of shells.


Willow catkins – a bit of a departure from my obsession with Hazel catkins.


The new boardwalk which cuts the corner to the causeway path is open, and close to the end of it a Wren singing full-throttle from a prominent perch had attracted a small audience.


By the time I reached Eaves Wood, the sky was brightening, and along the fringes of the path Bluebell flowers were opening…


And Sycamore…


…and Hawthorn leaves were unfurling in the sun.


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

from A Prayer in Spring by Robert Louis Stevenson

Later, through the kitchen window, another slightly-blurred, pastel Long-Tailed Tit…


Simply in the Springing

Juice and Joy

Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Along the edge of the Caravan park – Far Arnside – Arnside Point – White Creek – New Barns – Arnside Knott – Hollins Farm – Holgates

What is all this juice and all this joy?   

Spring is here, and with it a flurry of local walks, followed by (hopefully) a flurry of posts about those local walks containing, it being spring, a smattering of quoted poetry, and lots of photos of birds and flowers and such like.


In the immediate aftermath of our walk, A and I both wallowed in a couple of lazy days to recuperate. The day before I took these photos was my Birthday. The weather was pretty dire but we did get out. Well, TBH and I did: a very heavy downpour just before we set off put a dampener on A’s enthusiasm and she stayed at home. TBH and I walked around Hawes Water. We were lucky and didn’t get caught in another shower, although it stayed drab and damp and I didn’t take any photos. It was well worth getting out though – there were quite a number of swallows feeding over the lake, my first of the year. I often see my first swallow on my birthday, although I suspect that has at least as much to do with my insistence on going out for a walk on my birthday as it does with the date of the arrival of swallows. Usually I’ll see the odd one or two, but this time there was at least a gulp and possibly enough for a flight (the collective nouns for swallows).


Marsh Tit.

This is my favourite time of year for bird-watching. To be in the woods is to be surrounded by a cacophony of songs and calls, the thrum and whirr of wings and the drumming of woodpeckers. And with no leaves on the trees, it’s the best chance to see the small, common birds of woods and gardens.


My sporadic attempts to get to grips with identifying bird songs have been largely unsuccessful, but not in vain – I have added one or two birds to my limited repertoire. One song which is very readily learned is that of the Chiffchaff, a warbler named for its song. Since the Chiffchaff is a summer migrant, hearing it anew each year is another welcome confirmation of the arrival of spring. As I dropped down from Middlebarrow towards Arnside Tower I could hear one in the trees above. My confidence is hardly unshakable though and I scanned the crown of the woods, hoping for a sighting to confirm my suspicions.


And there it is! An LBJ with more than a hint of yellow to liven things up a little.


Later, at Far Arnside, I realised that I can recognise the contact calls of Nuthatches too, and spent a frustrating few minutes trying to photograph one which, whilst it was surprisingly close, just overhead in fact, wouldn’t sit still long enough for the camera’s autofocus to catch up. Later still the same sort of thing happened with a Goldcrest which swung around on a hanging twig almost within reach, but which I completely failed to photograph.

The principal reason for my choice of route was to catch the wild Daffodils at Far Arnside, but I bent my steps along the scrappy woods by Holgates on the off chance that another early flower would be in evidence. I thought that I was probably too early, but no…


Green Hellebore.

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –         

   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;         

   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush         

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring         

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;


TBH bought me ‘Claxton’ by Mark Cocker for my birthday and I’ve just finished reading it. It’s marvellous, I can’t recommend it enough. Essentially it’s a nature diary, but with entries from several years, mostly based in and around Cocker’s home village of Claxton in Norfolk. The book is full of telling details and apposite similes, but it’s also packed with interesting ideas. For example: we’re often ready to ascribe great age to certain trees, but it never occurs to us to think in that way about shrubs or flowers. These hellebore come up in the same area each year. When the perimeter of the caravan park was bulldozed recently, they survived (although probably not unscathed I suspect). I’m wondering, in retrospect, how long they’ve been flowering here.


The Daffodils at Far Arnside were well worth a visit. Much more spectacular than I’ve managed to make them look in fact. And in amongst them…


…more Green Hellebore.


It seems likely that Hellebores can be found elsewhere in the area, but these are the two spots I know of, leaving aside the many gardens which have cultivated varieties.

Overhead, this Coal Tit was pecking furiously at the moss, pulling lumps off the branch and tossing them aside.


Are there potentially good things to eat hiding beneath the moss?


The tide was in, and, unusually, there were small waves breaking against the cliffs.


Across the Kent Estuary to Meathop Fell.


And with a zoom…snowy Lakeland hills beyond.


Obligatory Robin.


I have so many out-of-focus photos of Long-Tailed Tits that I’m beginning to think that it’s them and not me or the camera; perhaps they are naturally a bit blurred. If so, I sympathise with them – I often feel a bit blurred myself.


At New Barns the tide was so high that the road was flooded.


Arnside Knott from New Barns.


Kent Estuary.


Kent Estuary from Arnside Knott.


A shower hits Carnforth.

The quotes are from ‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Juice and Joy

Garden Guests


Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that it’s not unusual for roe deer to visit our garden. However, I don’t think we’ve ever had four together before. In the photos the deer are actually in next door’s garden. (I don’t suppose that they recognise the boundary). That put them right by one of our windows, or one of them was at least, with the others frustratingly obscured by a fringe of trees…


Later they were all at the bottom of our garden when I needed to go down to the compost bins. To my surprise they didn’t immediately scarper when I left the house, but huddled in a corner watching me nervously. When I reached the compost bins they rushed to get away – back to next door’s garden via our patio, walking inches past our patio doors were S was leaping about with excitement, apparently unobserved by the deer.

A few mornings later we were visited by a solitary buck, but that time I didn’t get any pictures.

Garden Guests

Silverdale to Keswick IV: to Keswick


The final leg, and only a half day really. We’d arranged to meet TBH in Keswick at around one, and since we’d been walking rather slowly I wanted to make an early start. We were off by eight, around an hour earlier than we managed on the other mornings. Our route was a no frills affair: follow the River Derwent to Grange and then the western bank of Derwent Water to Keswick.


We didn’t need to cross the river, but who can resist stepping-stones?


Shortly after we left Grange it started to rain and it continued to do so for the rest of the day, although it wasn’t very heavy until we were almost at Keswick. There was a cold wind blowing up the valley too, but at least it was at our backs and since we were in woods for most of the walk we were often sheltered from it.

Where we stopped outside Grange to don our waterproofs, A noticed a hare loping across the field ahead.


I’ve walked this route a couple of times before and it’s very pleasant. It’s a shame we didn’t have better weather for it, but on balance we’d done pretty well over the four days.


Across the lake Skiddaw seemed a lot closer than when we’d first seen it the day before.


We were both very taken by this large sculpture…


…commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the National Trust.



Looking back at Catbells.


Getting close.


Closer still.


Finished and waiting for TBH.

In Keswick, we once again bumped into friends from the village. We told them we walked from home.

“Have you genuinely?”

I think they thought we were playing an April Fool. Nothing foolish about this enterprise however – I’m hard-pressed to think of a walk I’ve enjoyed more. Now I need to start plotting our next adventure.


Longthwaite Hostel to Derwentwater

Derwentwater to Keswick

Silverdale to Keswick IV: to Keswick

Silverdale To Keswick III: to Borrowdale.


The day of our biggest climb: over Greenup Edge to Borrowdale, and also the day which the long range forecast had predicted would yield the best weather. An early start would have been good then: breakfast at the earliest opportunity was the plan, kitchen starts serving at seven, we got there a minute or two after to find a gazillion students occupying every seat in the dining room and forming a queue snaking all around the room. When we finally made it to the front of said queue we had to wait for baked beans. Wait for baked beans? How complicated can it be to open a tin and warm up some beans?

It started misty. We needed to walk through Ambleside, which was handy anyway because it presented us with an opportunity to stop off at the Chemist’s to buy a tubular support bandage for A’s ankle. I also inquired about the best treatment for blisters and was offered Compeed. As it happens, I had Compeed in my first-aid kit, but have always assumed it was for use to prevent blisters or to cover a burst blister. I tried it on my still full-on blisters, and I have to report that it worked superbly: no more problems with my toes.

Incidentally, I first asked for moleskin: magic stuff which Scholl used to supply. Apparently they’ve discontinued it. I don’t understand, and neither did the Chemist in Ambleside who said that she frequently has people coming into the shop to ask for it. It’s crazy, like Dyson abandoning vacuum cleaners, or Lea and Perrins deciding not to deal in Worcester Sauce anymore. It’s senseless, like Timothy Taylors giving up on Landlord, or the UK relinquishing it’s steel industry!

Anyway, thus patched up, we walked through the grounds of Rydal Hall to the Hall itself. Throughout the morning A made several resolutions to return to have a more thorough look at the placees we passed. She wanted to have a better look at The Grot…


…and at the formal gardens of the hall and the many sculptures on display around the grounds. (Pictures of both from previous visits here and here.)

We didn’t have sufficient time on this occasion, although we did make time to stop at the Old Schoolroom cafe: pot of tea for me, more cake for A.

Later, as we walked the old coffin route between Ambleside and Grasmere, which clings to the hillside above Rydal Water, we would pass both Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, and A thought they would both be worthy of a return visit.


It’s a lovely path this one, and one that I’ve walked many times. (A post about one of those times here.) The low cloud was perhaps a little disappointing, but it was already possible to see that the cloud overhead was beginning to break up and that the sun was trying desperately to shine through. All along this section we repeatedly heard the strange ‘yaffle’ of green woodpeckers, it must be a prime spot for them.

A had our early lunch in Grasmere all planned out: a meal in the Grasmere Tea Gardens where she knew that they had both a goat’s cheese panini and a hot apple and cinnamon drink which she liked. She made a good choice of venue – I had beef and tomato chilli soup, which was my favourite meal of the trip.



“We are going to the gingerbread shop aren’t we? It’s part of the Grasmere experience you know!”

So into her bag went six slices of gingerbread to keep company with the trail mix and biscuits she had brought from home and the chocolate squares she’d picked up in Booths the day before. Perhaps that’s why her ankles were playing up – the two stone of sugary snacks in her rucksack?

Whilst we were searching from Grasmere’s Chemist, intending to buy A a more supportive support bandage, we bumped into two friends from home sunning themselves at tables outside another one of Grasmere’s many cafes.

The cloud had lifted – perfect timing for our long climb.


Sourmilk Gill and Tarn Crag.

It was as we started to climb, I think, that A realised the tactical error she had made, and set about trying to lighten her load by consuming huge quantities of cake.

“This looks like a nice place to stop for a drink.”


And then, ten minutes later:

“This looks like a nice place to stop for a drink.”

This would never do! We had to agree a compromise – half an hour of walking, followed by five (or ten) minutes of sitting, taking on fluids and trying to make inroads into a mountain of cake.


It’s a long climb up Far Easedale, but the sun shone and the views kept changing both ahead and behind. And we were never more than half-an-hour away from another rest stop.


Looking back to Helm Crag.


The transition to higher ground was marked by a change of avifauna: wheatears and meadow pipits whirling back and forth in a flurry of spring activity.



As we climbed we kept leap-frogging a party of five young lads (about A’s age I would guess) who were out on their own. Quite an adventure for them!


It’s quite an odd ‘pass’ this because you reach what feels like the top, only to find that you have to descend into the boggy hollow of Brownrigg Moss…


…before climbing again to Greenup Edge itself.


Across some of the worst of the bog, assessing the wet sock situation.


As we heaved ourselves up the last part of the climb, Helvellyn and Fairfield hove into view.


And then, we were on Greenup Edge and a whole new view appeared…


Oddly, a whisper of rain was on the wind, but fortunately, although the few drops seemed to presage something worse, proper rain never materialised.

Greenup Edge is one of the least ‘edge’ like places you could hope to find yourself, and once again we found we had to skirt the deeper, soggier parts of the bog.

Ahead we could pick out Skiddaw…


…which, since it is beyond Keswick, our final destination, was a significant landmark for us.




The path drops down beside Lining Crag, which doesn’t seem very significant as you descend, but is impressive when seen from below.

After our long ascent, we now faced an almost equally long descent down into Borrowdale.


Shadows were lengthening and we were in and out of the sun as we came down the valley. Like Far Easedale Gill, Greenup Gill had lots of waterfalls and small pools which would be worth exploring in the summer (if you enjoy a spot of wild-swimming).


Eventually, as we rounded a bend in the valley, the plush green of Borrowdale itself appeared ahead…


We’d long been sharing ‘my’ new poles, now, with both of her ankles bothering her, A borrowed both of them.


Throughout our walk we saw numerous signs of the destruction wrought by this winter’s floods, saddest of all the many empty homes waiting for renovation which we passed. The new fence, bordering the path which can be seen in the photograph below…


…had been completely wiped out for long stretches. In one spot in particular, there was a small trickle of a stream, a tributary to Greenup Gill, which had yards of bare soil either side of it, where presumably the top-soil had been washed away. Where that tiny stream met the fence, the fence had been buried beneath huge boulders.


Eagle Crag (I think) catching the last of the sun.

Once again we were cutting it fine at the hostel. We arrived at twenty past seven to find that the kitchen would be closing in ten minutes. However, it was agreed that we could place our order immediately and return at a quarter to eight. The meal was excellent, we both had samosas to start and then Cumberland sausage and mash. The beer was very palatable too. And still time for 121-up at cribbage and for A to get her own back by beating me at knock-out whist.


According to A’s ipod the day’s walk worked out at about 14 miles, meaning we’d come 45 in total from home. Just 8 more to go in the morning to meet TBH in Keswick.


Ambleside to Head of Easedale

Head of Easedale to Longthwaite Hostel

Silverdale To Keswick III: to Borrowdale.

Silverdale to Keswick II: To Ambleside


Contrary to the impression perhaps conveyed above, Wednesday morning arrived bright and sunny and we were soon engaged in the long climb out of Kendal. There were several paths we could have taken, but we chose the Underbarrow road because it has the advantage of a bridge over the busy A591 dual carriageway. Soon after we’d left the Auld Grey Town, dark skies and a rainbow ahead heralded the imminent arrival of a short, sharp shower. It didn’t last long, and by the time we were turning off onto Gamblesmire Lane blue sky and sunshine were reasserting themselves.


The Lane passes through a gap in Cunswick Scar and from the high ground there we had our first view of snow-capped Lakeland Fells.


Beyond Cunswick Hall the Lane passes through a copse and then briefly becomes a holloway. The daffodils impressed A almost as much as the depth and consistency of the mud on the track.

“Hang on, I want to take a photo of the mud”

Maybe she wanted to be able to impress her friends with how much she had suffered?


I know that I’ve probably ranted about this before, but this area is hugely under-rated for walking. Were it anywhere but in the shadow of the higher Lakeland hills, I’m sure that it would also be a tourist trap, and would be much better appreciated. The whole day was delightful, but until we were close to Windermere we saw no other walkers at all. The route, should you want to follow it, continues past Nook Farm, skirts the Northern edge of Underbarrow (close to the church) – where we wasted a fair bit of time due to some navigational muppetry, entirely my fault, I should add, partly due to a stile being well hidden by a dense thicket of shrubs (that’s my excuse anyway) – from there we passed The Broom, Mountjoy Wood, Low Fold, Brow Head and Mildam, Spigot House, followed the edge of Gilpinpark Plantation and then joined the Dales Way into Windermere.

But I’ve got ahead of myself. Rain seemed likely as we passed behind Nook Farm, but the threat was short-lived and by the time we reached The Broom…


…where there was a helicopter in the garden…


…the sun was actually beginning to provide some tangible warmth.


As we climbed beside Mountjoy Wood we could see back to Scout Scar, but also to the Kent Estuary and beyond. A was impressed:

“Is that Arnside Knott? Blimey, we’ve walked a really long way!”.

We stopped briefly for A to hurriedly consume some lunch, the rush being because we could see the next shower approaching. When it came, it was hail and briefly quite fierce.


Our route seemed to be running against the grain of the land; it was definitely a day of up-hill and down-dale. Still, the mountains were growing ever closer and kept luring us on.


The tower is all that remains of the original St. Catherine’s Church which served Crook Hall from around 1620.

On an island in a small fishery pond near Milldam, a heron stood so still and so close that I eventually broke the spell by wondering aloud whether it was a model sited to discourage actual herons from raiding fish stocks. Whereupon the ‘model’ slowly spread its wings and departed.


Before we’d departed on our walk TBH had presented me with an early Birthday present of a new pair of trekking poles; A was discovering how useful they can be when balancing on the slippery verges of very wet lanes.


Spigot House.


The path beside Gilpinpark Plantation took us onto uncultivated ground. As if to emphasis the wildness of the spot, a plaintive mewing overhead alerted us to three circling buzzards, and a jay ricocheted off between the trees.


Between Outrun Nook and Hag End we found a bench where we could soak up some sun and rehydrate. Without discussing it we seemed to have mutually decided that a path-side bench was too good an opportunity to pass up. It was whilst we were there that we met the first fellow walkers of the day: a couple passed with a cheery greeting, then a Staffie introduced itself by trying to sit in my lap. It’s owner (who had a chocolate Labrador with him too) explained that the Staffie was newly acquired , and then asked for directions to Staveley. Then he asked about our walk. He seemed amazed that we were walking from Kendale to Ambleside.

“That’s a long walk. I’ve walked from Windermere to Kendal before and that was enough for me.”

I was beginning to think he was right: it was a long way. Just beyond Hag End we crested a rise…


…to a magnificent view, although surprisingly we couldn’t see the lake at all.

We dropped down into Windermere and then proceeded to Booth’s, which in this case has a cafe which supplied some late lunch for me, and a second lunch for A. Booth’s again? Well yes: not only are they a very fine grocer’s, but also, with my Booth’s card, I can get a free cup of tea every day. Which saving was more than offset by A’s insistence on filling her rucksack with cake. I think she was stocking up in case we were benighted. Not an unreasonable concern, since it was now gone four o’clock.


Booth’s is just about the perfect spot from which to launch an assault on Orrest Head. A was chuffed that we smashed the time for the ascent predicted on a sign by the road at the bottom. It suggested 20 minutes. We managed it in a mere 19. The top was relatively busy compared with what had come before, but it’s easy to see why it’s popular – it has a high view to effort ratio.


The next section of the walk was completely new to me (excepting the very last part): to Troutbeck via Causeway Farm, Near Orrest, Far Orrest, below Allen Knott, up Longmire Road, but turning downhill at the first opportunity, past Longmire itself (a charming farmhouse deserving of a more attractive name) and then crossing Trout Beck just downstream of the Church.

Between Near Orrest and Far Orrest we passed this, I would guess, very ancient ash, which looks like it has been pollarded many, many times. The huge trunk was hollow and we both had the same thought: that the Dangerous Brothers would love to climb inside it (and would probably then get stuck).


As we rounded Allen Knott, views of the snowy mountains at the head of the valley opened up.



Thornthwaite Crag, Froswick, Ill Bell, Yoke.

We had one final climb to complete: up through Troutbeck village and along Robin Lane to High Skelghyll, before descending through the woods around Jenkin Crag to Ambleside.


It’s a lovely route with great views which I’ve walked many times with TBH.


Last time I was on this path the sun was setting too.


Crepuscular rays and High Skelghyll.

I’d been getting a bit twitchy about the lateness of our arrival at the hostel, so almost the first question I asked when we got there was:

“What time do you stop serving food?”

“Quarter to eight”

I must have looked stricken. It was quarter to eight.

“Sorry, I mean quarter to nine.”

Phew. We had time to dump our gear in our room (again on the third floor), grab a shower, and even get a wash on.


Our beautiful daughter. This is the last pleasant photo in the post. You might want to avoid the final picture if you are at all squeamish.

A really enjoyed her meal, I think it was one of the highlights of the trip for her. She certainly tucked into the shared starter we’d ordered with great gusto. And she’s still smiling even though I was attempting to introduce her to the intricacies of Cribbage.

You’ll see she had her ipod with her. She was using it to take photos, also to contact home and grandparents (all of the hostels had free wifi, although it didn’t always work exceptionally well). In addition, the tablet provided a record of her step-count and distance covered. It was in kilometres obviously, but I converted it into old money; even A seemed to appreciate the figures more that way. Home to Kendal had been 14 miles. Kendal to Ambleside 17. She’d earned her hummus and chips, not to mention the burger, the chicken goujons, the flat bread, but perhaps not quite such a big share of the halloumi as she snaffled (not that I’m bitter).

Talking of bitter – the bar/restaurant was very busy. Crammed to the gunnels with a group from a University (Hull if the sweat-shirts were anything to go by, although the only University top I’ve ever worn was from Berlin – a cousin studied there – I was wearing it once, a very long time ago, whilst propped up in a hospital bed and a very snooty surgeon said to me: “I don’t suppose you actually went to the University of Berlin?” In a tone which implied he didn’t think it likely that I knew what a university was. He did have a point though – twenty-five years later and I’ve still not even been to Berlin.) So, as I say, the bar was very busy, unsurprisingly so: the beer was very quaffable. I had to sample a couple whilst I waited for the tumble drier to finish with our laundry. Whilst I was waiting, and drinking, I got talking at the bar to a lady who loved the idea of the walk we were doing, but couldn’t fathom how she could ever gather the courage or the knowledge to cope with the navigation.

“How did you learn to map-read?”

How did I learn? I don’t really remember having to learn exactly, but I suppose I did a lot of walking with my Mum and Dad and they must have taught me during those walks. I did a lot of cycling in my teens too, both on my own and with a local CTC group and that involved a lot of map-reading too. Certainly, by the time I was 15 my parents were confident enough, or brave enough, to let me wander up onto Kinder Scout from Hayfield on my own, and I made it to the Downfall and back again in one piece, so I must have picked something up before then. Hopefully, I’m passing on that knowledge and confidence in turn.

We’d had a great day, but there were a couple of flies in our ointment: A’s ankle was bothering her on steep ground. I, meanwhile, had noticed a bit of rubbing between the toes of my left foot the day before. I should have done something about it, obviously, but didn’t. The rubbing had continued and I noticed a bit of discomfort, nothing too painful. I was quite shocked to discover then…


..blisters on both toes. The friction was entirely between the toes, but one of the blisters had spread out across the toe. Curiously, it wasn’t anything like as painful as it looks. But it was, at the least, a slight worry for the following day…


Kendal to Windermere

Windermere to Ambleside

Silverdale to Keswick II: To Ambleside