Wild-camping with A

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“I know what I want for my birthday Dad: a back-packing tent.”

Oh. So now I was feeling a bit guilty: I spent much of last summer looking at potential tent purchases without arriving at a decision. I’ve long be aware that all of the kids, and particularly A, have long been keen to try their hand at wild-camping. I already have a tent – an old Saunders Spacepacker, and very good it is too, but although I think it was advertised as a two-man tent, it is really more of a spacious solo affair. After more lengthy deliberating I’ve bought A her tent, an early present, from Decathlon, a Quickhiker Ultralight 3. (I might stretch to a review when we’ve tried it more thoroughly).

I ought to have known really: A has gradually been accumulating her own kit – she bought a self-inflating mat in a sale, asked for a lightweight sleeping-bag for her last birthday etc. So, now equipped with a bigger tent, we were ready for the off. No time like the present: the day after my wander up Kentmere Pike and the weather was still fine, forecast to be cold and bright, the boys were sleeping over at a friends, so we could legitimately go without them (they were a bit miffed, hopefully we shall soon all get out for a camp).

On the Friday evening then, we drove up to the head of Haweswater and walked the short distance up to Small Water. I’d been poring over my maps, looking for potential places to pitch – this seemed ideal: short walk in, a water supply, potential flattish pitches, a reasonable altitude and so it proved to be. A slept well in her newish bag, but it had been very cold and, although A claimed that I was snoring, I felt like I’d been awake and shivering all night in my inadequate kit.

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The clear skies and sunshine the following morning were some compensation, although it was still perishing. A slept so well, in fact, that she didn’t stir until around eight, which is criminally late in my book. We had some difficulties with my stove (wrong combination of gases for the cold conditions perhaps, or using an MSR stove with Coleman canisters?)  but we managed to warm our Fruit and Nut porridge  which had been soaking overnight and which proved to be unusually palatable as far as backpacking fare goes.

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The posts here are where trees have been planted. Lots of trees have been planted in this area and also up Longsleddale as far as Wrengill Quarry (and maybe further). It seems that somebody is making a concerted effort to reintroduce woodland in the Lakes – more power to their elbow, whoever they may be.

My original plan had been to head up Piot Crag initially. I descended that way a while ago, although I eventually took the spur down to the dam on Blea Water, which had been okay, but a bit loose in one section. The route certainly looked feasible on the map…

Piot Crag

But looking at it from below, I wasn’t completely confident, especially since we would be carrying heavy packs.

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I offered A the deciding vote – Piot Crag or the Nan Bield? – explaining that we may have to turn back if we couldn’t get through the crags on Piot Crag.

“Lets take the adventurous route.”

Fair play. So we did.

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A on the Piot Crag ridge with Rough Crag behind.

In the event it was a cracking route, although we did have to traverse the ridge a couple of times, looking for easy rakes through the crags.

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Near the top of the steepest section we found spoil heaps and the outlines of old buildings or shelters. These are not marked on the map at all, so came as something of a surprise.

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Above this point the ridge broadens and leads very pleasantly up to Mardale Ill Bell.

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Once on Mardale Ill Bell, we had more choices to make. We could descend via Rough Crag above Riggindale; we could walk round to Kidsty Pike and down from there, or we could take a longer route over High Street, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike, High Raise, Low Raise and then down.

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Presented with the option, A chose the longest route, which sat fine with me because I wanted to grab Low Raise, thinking it was the only Birkett in the area I was lacking.

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There’d been two more parties camped close(ish) to Small Water, but we’d had Piot Crag entirely to ourselves. We were faced with a bit of a rude awakening now then because the paths on High Street were pretty busy.

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High Street summit.

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The substantial cairn on Low Raise.

I’d planned to descend from Low Raise along the edge of Whelter Crags and down Birks Crag to Castle Crag (where the fort is marked on the one to fifty), but once we were descending it seemed more inviting to drop down to Randale Beck and follow that (there’s a good path on the south bank).

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I missed a trick really – it was only when I got home that I realised that Castle Crag is another Birkett. What a shame – I shall have to go back again. Here in the valley it finally warmed up and I was able to swap all of my winter clothing for the shorts I’d been optimistically carrying.

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Randale Beck.

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Riggindale and Rough Crag.

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Riggindale and Kidsty Pike.

A grand day (and a bit) out, hopefully the first of many. Just need to acquire a warm, gargantuan – but lightweight and cheap – sleeping-bag (should be easy!). And a stove that works consistently, not just when it’s in the right mood.

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Wild-camping with A

Kentmere Pike from Longsleddale

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Looking down Longsleddale.

A rare conjunction of opportunity and decent weather found me heading out for a post-work jaunt in the Lakes.

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Tarn Crag.

Here’s the route I took:

Longsleddale and Kentmere Pike

Although, I should warn you that I drew it on by hand and I now realise that at the northern most point I’ve made a slight error: I actually turned left slightly sooner.

Steel Rigg on Kentmere Pike

Just by the junction of the paths here there’s a gate which gives access to the area just below Wrengill Quarry, and that’s where I turned left, through the gate and across the surprisingly dry, empty gill. One day I’m going to come back and properly explore the remains of the quarry, but on this occasion I looked for the boundary between the very tightly packed contours of the steep ground overlooking Longsleddale and the more relaxed open hillside above Brownhowe Bottom. To my mind a route like this is a win-win: easy walking but with the drama of the crags and steep slopes close by to my left-hand side.

This photo…

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Longsleddale.

…was taken close to the top of the section of wall marked on the map south of where it says ‘Steel Rigg’. The crags were more impressive than I’d anticipated, and I stuck close to this edge for as long as it was still taking me uphill.

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Tarn Crag and Longsleddale.

Despite the sunshine, it was a very quiet evening. I saw a party of three and another lone walker (or a straggler), heading down the valley, not long after I left Sadgill, and I was overtaken a little further up the track by a cyclist. And that was it. As far as I know I had Kentmere Pike entirely to myself for the remainder of the evening.

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Tarn Crag and Buckbarrow Crag from the top of Goat Scar.

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Shipman Knotts.

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Ill Bell and Froswick.

Fabulous to get a chance just to be out, the sunshine and the solitude were the icing on the cake and the very satisfactory ‘off-piste’ section of the walk the cherry on top. I’m pretty much always on the look out for potential pathless routes of this ilk when I head to the Lakes on my own these days.

Kentmere Pike from Longsleddale

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Or: Driving Miss A

Scenes from the life of a taxi-driving Dad.

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Guides have a Thursday evening outing to ‘Pets At Home’? Perfect, I’ll nip up Scout Scar to take in the wide-open views.

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Consecutive dance lessons for an hour and a quarter in Milnthorpe on a Monday evening? No worries – a circuit from Sandside Back Lane through the woods to Storth, up to Cockshot Lane and then to the diminutive summit of Haverbrack – another Small Hill with a Disproportionately Good View.

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Panorama from Haverbrack – Kent Estuary, Whitbarrow Scar and the distant Cumbrian Fells.

This photo is from a fortnight ago. I’d also walked the same circuit a couple of weeks before that, under gloomy skies, when I didn’t take any photos.

I walked it again tonight. It had been sunny all day (whilst I was stuck at work waiting for a session of ‘Wellbeing’ training*) but whilst we ate tea the eastern sky had turned an impressively thunderous black.

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I did get rained on a bit, but the dramatic dark skies and fast-moving strips of sunlight were more than sufficient compensation.

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On a whim, I diverted slightly to visit Sandside’s infamous ‘Orchid Triangle’. Somebody (I’m not being secretive, I can’t remember who) told me about this unprepossessing spot years ago, but I misunderstood their directions and could never find any orchids. Then somebody else (again – it’s a mystery who it was) corrected my mistake, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to checking for orchids at an appropriate season.

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But today – what a stroke of luck: lots of orchids. At first I thought that they’d finished flowering, what with the lack of colour in the flowers, but now I can see that in fact many of the flowers have yet to open.

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This is Common Twayblade (I’m pretty sure of that, although I’ve never seen it before) and the flowers are a yellowy-green. Not the most spectacular orchid perhaps, and apparently ‘quite common’, but it made me very happy none-the-less.

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Not so happy with the photos, but that just gives me a reason to go back soon to have another go.

Flowers didn’t feature in the ‘7 secrets of happiness’ talk at work today, although we were exhorted to ‘be mindful’ which seemed to entail noticing changes in the weather and the seasons. (I think there might be a bit more too it than that). Music was missing too. Literature, drama, art – not mentioned. Exercise was advocated, but not fresh air, sunshine, great views…

Maybe I should deliver the training next time?

Oh, and finally…

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…another book recommendation.

Imagine this: a young man goes to University, joins a Hiking Club, becomes a bit obsessed with walking and list-ticking, gets into a few scrapes, garners an assortment of amusing anecdotes. Sound familiar to anyone? Craig Weldon has woven a very readable book out of those youthful exploits. He really does become a bit list obsessed, somewhat of a monomaniac, and it doesn’t always seem to make him happy (the part where he moves to England and seems grimly determined to drive as close as he can to the top of Marilyn’s and then bag them with the minimum of effort or enjoyment is a bit hard to fathom, but mercifully short). On the whole it’s life-affirming stuff, and made me smirk knowingly in several places. Besides which, anyone who singles out Ben Mor Coigach and Ben a’Chrulaiste for praise can’t be all bad. I’m even feeling almost inspired by his determination to go walking in foul weather. Almost.

(Available for loan – first shout).

Oh – of course – Craig Weldon has a blog, so you can sample his writing for free: Love of Scotland.

*Rant edited out. Don’t get me started.

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Annual Outing to Nether Wasdale

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Little to report from the annual camping trip to Nether Wasdale. The company was excellent, the weather was the usual mixed bag with a hard frost on the Friday night, beautiful sunny weather on Saturday and then a continuous downpour on Sunday, brightening again eventually on the Monday.

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Full of cold, I opted to take the easy way out on the Saturday and hang around the campsite with those of the children who had decided not to join either of the walking parties. (Scafell Pike and the hills above the Screes respectively). It was slightly frustrating, but I had a good book, a kettle almost constantly on the boil and a seat out in the sun where I could listen to the birdsong in the adjacent woods, so no complaints really.

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The rain on the Sunday was convenient for the kids, who were adamant that we should return to Mawson’s Ice-Cream Parlour in Seascale, which we duly did, receiving a fabulous welcome once again.

On the Monday the traditional massed football match was hard fought as ever. We also got out for a short walk, although I don’t seem to have taken any photos (probably too busy gassing). Finally, I should mention the campsite, which is a great place to stay, always very accommodating (and with extra showers now).

Annual Outing to Nether Wasdale

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I got behind again, these photos are a month old now. This first one is from a flying visit to Arnside Knott during A’s weekly piano lesson.

Later that same evening, TBH and I took a turn around the village, taking in The Cove and The Lots. On The Lots the Early Purple Orchids were just beginning to emerge. I walked round that way again last night, too late for any photo opportunities, but even in the last of the gloaming the orchids looked spectacular. I’m sure that they have spread; they seem to be thriving.

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Anyway, back to April –  the following evening I was out again, this time visiting Sharp’s Lot, Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot.

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Many of the trees were coming into leaf.

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The sheltered spot in the limestone pavement where the primroses flourish was finally looking resplendent. The primroses too seem to be spreading and thriving.

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I’d completely forgotten taking this photo…

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In the late winter and early spring the sound of woodpeckers drumming is almost a constant soundtrack in this area. I often see them when I’m out and about too, but they are incredibly elusive whenever a camera is aimed in their direction. This is hardly the best ever photograph of a woodpecker, but at least it’s recognisable.

Not much else to say about these brief outings so I thought I would mention again Claxton by Mark Cocker, who manages to always have something interesting to say about his wildlife observations in and around his home patch in Norfolk.

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Highly recommended.

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