The evenings are drawing in, and the windows for post-work walks are rapidly closing.
Time to squeeze in a few trips to The Cove to catch some sunsets.
The evenings are drawing in, and the windows for post-work walks are rapidly closing.
Time to squeeze in a few trips to The Cove to catch some sunsets.
Or: Three Brews with Views.
Birker Fell Road – Rough Crag – Water Crag – White Pike – Woodend Height – Yoadcastle – Stainton Pike – Holehouse Tarn – Whitfell – Woodend Height – Devoke Water – Seat How – Birker Fell Road.
Hesk Fell, Woodend Height and Stord’s Hill seen across Devoke Water from Rough Crag.
It was our turn to do Kitchen Duty at rugby and TBH offered to go in my stead. I didn’t need to be asked twice. The MWIS forecast gave hill fog, with the best chance of some sunshine in the west, so I drove out to Ulpha in the Duddon valley and then up to park on the Birker Fell Road. Pike How, just above the road is a marvellous view point and one to bear in mind for future reference. It didn’t take long to reach Rough Crag either and I found a comfortable spot out of the chilly wind blowing from the north…
…and settled down for an early brew stop.
Water Crag from Rough Crag.
Water Crag was also easily and quickly ascended.
Looking back to Rough Crag from Water Crag.
This rocky little knoll is Brantrake Crags. It’s off modest height and probably doesn’t appear in any guide books anywhere, but I thought it looked worth climbing. The stream beside it, Linbeck Gill, which drains Devoke Water, also looked like a good place to explore.
After Rough Crag and Water Crag, Birkett suggests a lengthy traverse to take in The Knott. For once, I’d done my research in advance and discovered that Wainwright, in his Outlying Fells book, has a separate walk which takes in the Knott, but also the ancient settlement at Barnscar and the waterfall of Rowantree Force. That seemed like a more sensible option to me, so I skipped The Knott and climbed directly to White Pike. After the previous two, very easy, ascents, this one seemed like a long way. It was well worth it though. The prominent cairn…
…marked a spot with excellent views.
Whitfell and Stainton Pike from White Pike.
Cumbrian west coast from White Pike.
Eskmeals viaduct and Isle of Mann.
Woodend Height and Yoadcastle.
All of the peaks on this walk had stunning views. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite, but Woodend Height would be hard to beat; from it’s top you can have great fun picking out all of the big hills of the western Lakes, across Devoke Water.
Yoadcastle, Whitfell and Stainton Pike from Woodend Height.
Aside from the minor difficulty of surmounting a wire fence with a top strand of barbed wire, the walk around to Stainton Pike was delightful. This was yet another good view point.
Looking back to Yoadcastle from Stainton Pike.
Holehouse tarn and Whitfell from Stainton Pike.
The estuaries of the Irt and the Esk from Stainton Pike.
It seemed like another brew was in order, and I found a wonderfully sheltered spot to sit to enjoy it.
The Irt and the Esk and the dunes of Drigg nature reserve.
Isle of Mann and Eskmeals viaduct.
From there then, on to Whitfell.
Large summit cairn on Whitfell.
Looking back along my route.
Duddon Estuary, Black Coombe and Buckbarrow.
On Whitfell you are a bit further away from the hills of Wasdale and Eskdale, but if anything, I thought this enhanced the view. I took several panoramas during the course of the day. Sadly, none of them were very successful, but I’ve included this one, if for no other reason than to remind myself of the great sweep of hills from Whin Rigg in the west round to Caw at the southern extreme of the Coniston Fells.
Despite the forecast hill-fog, the higher fells were often clear…
Scafells, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags.
I’d flirted with the idea of descending from here, via Biggert to Hole House, then climbing The Pike and Hesk Fell on my way back to Devoke Water. This now seemed overly ambitious, and Hesk Fell looked every inch the tedious lump which Wainwright bemoans. So I wandered back to Woodend Height, skirting the other summits on my way.
Dropping off Woodend Height toward Rowantree How, I found another comfortable, sheltered seat and settled down for another brew.
The view from my final brew stop.
The same view from a little lower down: the rocky knoll on the left is Rowantree How. Note Seat How to the right of Devoke Water.
Devoke Water and Seat How.
Devoke Water boat house.
Seat How is another modest little top, but it is gratifyingly craggy, giving a satisfying scrambling finish to the round
Devoke Water from Seat How.
The pastures around Woodend, Hesk Fell behind.
Harter Fell, Crook Crag, Green Crag, Great Crag.
I’ve often pontificated about the elements which come together to provide a good day on the hoof; I shan’t start again here, except to say that a really good walk might not just leave you wanting to come back and do it again someday, but may also fill your head with ideas for other walks you’d like to do soon. That was certainly the case with this one: not only did I find myself wanting to return to reascend many of the familiar hills I could see around me, but I also now plan to head round to the west coast to grab The Knott, and to explore the dunes at Drigg; I need to bag Buckbarrow, and The Pike, and even Hesk Fell; I spent large parts of the day thinking about a Duddon watershed walk and also wondering how to continue a high level route which would begin with Black Combe and then head north over Whitfell and these Devoke Water tops. Speculating about these more fanciful routes was great fun….in fact: where are my maps? After Harter Fell, where next?
Being the continuing adventures of a taxi-driving Dad.
Last Saturday, B had a rugby match, playing hooker (he’s suitably bonkers) for his school team away at Morecambe High (where, many moons ago, I used to teach). Unlike some of his contemporaries, B doesn’t seem too concerned about whether his team win or lose, just so long as the result seems fair, and at the end of the game declared: “That was fun!”, despite his team having taken a bit of a hammering.
Afterwards, we dashed home, but, in my case, only for a quick turn around, as I took Little S to a nerf gun birthday party in – guess where – Morecambe. I realise that the rational thing to do would have been to take both boys to both events, but it seemed easier at the time to do it this way. With S dropped off, only a few minutes late for his war game, I had the best part of two hours to kill and decided to go hunting for one of the three Wildlife Trust reserves which I knew to be somewhere around Heysham. Idiotically, I hadn’t checked the exact locations in advance, so resorted to driving around, with more hope than confidence, until I spotted a likely looking car park and found that I had stumbled upon Middleton reserve.
After a bite of lunch, and whilst walking around the reserve, I met a man who told me that he remembered when this was the site of a petrochemical plant. Now it has two large ponds and a mixture of meadows and scrub.
Hoverfly, possibly Helophilus pendulus, on an Alder leaf.
Fox and cubs.
This patch of waste ground maybe a tad unprepossessing at first glance, but look a little closer and there is a great deal to enjoy. I was very much put in mind of Richard Mabey’s marvellous book The Unofficial Countryside, which is about how nature, left to its own devices, can reclaim scraps of once industrialised land like this.
The sun was warm and there were no end of dragonflies about, although few of them would pose for a photo.
Female Common Darter.
There were lots of flowers still in bloom and it was obvious that, had I had been here earlier, in the summer, there would have been even more to see.
Wild Carrot, the ancestor of all domestic carrots.
When the flowers turn into spiny seeds, the umbel curls in on itself.
More hoverflies on what I assume are Michaelmas Daisies.
I could hear the contact calls of small birds from all sides and, with lots of teasels and other tall seed-heads about, I wondered whether they might be Goldfinches. Eventually, they flew across the path ahead of me, then settled above me, on teasels growing on a high bank. Here’s some of them…
The photo didn’t come out brilliantly and only a small part of the charm are here, but the flocks of Goldfinches which gather at this time of year are delightful, so I wanted to include the photo anyway.
Mute swans – could they still be nesting in mid-September?
There were plenty of half-hidden reminders of the areas past – the remnants of tarmac covered surfaces, these huge tyres, odd bits of buildings here and there, but they mostly seem to be slowly disappearing.
A blade of grass apparently dancing in a way completely contrary to the direction of the wind alerted me to this spider, which was busy constructing a web.
Male Common Darter.
As I came to the end of my walk and was running out of time before needing to head off to pick up Little S, I came to a really sheltered spot where, not only were there even more dragonflies, but, in addition, the Common Darters were sunning themselves in obvious spots, as seems to be their wont.
Male Common Darter.
Male Common Darter.
Male Common Darter.
Mating Common Darters. I’ve been confused in the past by the colour of females like this one, expecting the females to be yellow, but this pale blue colour is apparently typical of older females.
Drone fly, or something similar, on Evening Primrose.
Guelder Rose berries.
The very next evening, after my Arnside Knott excursion, I was out a bit earlier and able to enjoy the sunshine a little more, although the breeze was cool.
I was intending to brew-up and watch the sunset again, but I was also intent on collecting some sloes. I had gardening gloves with me, the thorns on Blackthorn are vicious, but, in the end, didn’t use the gloves, finding that a bit of circumspection was sufficient to protect my hands.
The hedgerow had been cut-back hard, earlier this year, and the hard, tart ‘bullies’ were disappointingly sparse.
More wilding apples – I tried one of these, it was palatable, but nothing to write home about.
Fortunately, the Blackthorn bushes on Sharp’s Lot, National Trust land, had been left well alone and I fairly quickly filled my cup. They’re in the freezer now, I need to weigh them and decide whether I have enough for the Sloe Gin I intend to make (or maybe Sloe Vodka – I’m not find of Gin).
TBH is a bit bemused, “But you don’t even like Sloe Gin!”
Which isn’t quite true, but she does have a point: I don’t really drink spirits these days. In truth, I’m a bit puzzled by my own enthusiasm; I think it’s maybe got more to do with the making than the drinking. Well, we’ll see.
My walk brought me to Jack Scout, but a little too late really: the sun hadn’t set, but it had dropped behind a band of cloud on the western horizon. Nevertheless, I fired up the stove again…
…and watched the light fade behind the clouds whilst I drank my char.
Alpkit had a sale; I was in possession of Alpkit credit notes: an irresistible combination. I bought a gas stove, which the Hard Man had recommended when we were camping in the Howgills earlier this year, and also a folding windshield and a titanium mug. The stove and the windshield will probably get lots of use on family outings, but, in honesty, the mug is a self-indulgent treat.
Anyway, on the evening that the new kit arrived in the post, I heard that the tide was in at Arnside and decided to field test my new toys. Time was short, so I drove to park just above Arnside Tower farm and then stomped up the Knott, hoping not to have missed the sunset.
In the event, low cloud in the western sky meant that I couldn’t see the sun, but the river, brimful as promised, was flat calm and reflecting the sky, so I set the stove to boil and settled down to enjoy the tranquility.
New kit at work.
It was enormously restful; a great way to chill out for half an hour after a day at work.
New gear bagged and ready for the off.
We were at Fellfoot park with a bunch of friends from the village, for the annual church picnic. To us the park has become Fell-ten-foot Park because of Little S’s unfortunate experience here: our family has track record with tree-climbing accidents. I spotted A high in the tree and decided to take a photo. She managed a smile, as you can see, but was hissing at me, not wanting to attract the attention of our friends, but wanting a private word with me:
“I don’t think I can get down.”
After taking this ideal opportunity to lecture a captive audience on the inadvisability of climbing anything you aren’t absolutely sure you can definitely climb back down, I relented and helped her find the good footholds on the knobbly trunk which she was having difficulty picking out from above.
The weather was very changeable and would eventually have us abandoning our idea of a barbecue in the park. However, this didn’t deter The Tower Captain from taking his Mirror Dinghy for a row…
…or the boys and their friend E from swimming to the far bank. This was some feat, because, after rain, this bottom end of Windermere has quite a strong current.
A and I also took one of our inflatable canoes out, which she described as ‘extremely relaxing’; presumably much more enjoyable than being stuck up a tree.
I chatted to a National Trust volunteer about photographs of camping pods which were on display and she told me that the plan is for the Park to become a campsite, or perhaps, in part a campsite. Apparently it has been one in the past. The Trust’s campsite at Low Wray, at the far end of the lake, was fully booked for the entirety of August when I tried to make a booking, so more capacity for camping on the lake shore seems like a sensible plan.
At this point, it would be ideal if I had something intelligent to say about these deer, which were wandering around on our patio recently. I wondered whether I could age this buck from its antlers. The answer is a qualified ‘yes‘. It’s not as simple as counting the tines, although the fact that there are three here does mean that this buck is at least three years old. After that it gets more difficult.
A bit of an odd one this because these photos were almost all taken in a brief flurry at the end of our little outing, shortly before we set-off to return to our car, and those that weren’t were taken in another short burst roughly three hours before. It’s easy to distinguish between the two sets, because soon after the first ones were taken, when the kids were eating their lunch and I was making a brew…
…the cloud finally broke and the sun shone for much of the rest of the afternoon.
This beetle was on the patch of rock where I set up my stove. It scampered away rather shyly and when I fetched it out from under a boulder, I noticed a rather unpleasant smell – I’m not sure if this was a defence mechanism from the beetle or the scent of something else concealed by the boulder. The beetle looks very like the one in my previous post, but I think that the obvious striations on its back mean that it is of a related, but different, species.
Anyway, between the two sets of photos, we were playing in the stream. It was a week after our visit to Tongue Pot; B was really keen to go back there, but I persuaded him that there were opportunities for swimming closer to home. We drove to Sadgill, in Longsleddale, and then walked up the valley until we reached the access land and a convenient gate in the wall. The track, which heads towards the Gatescarth Pass, was busy, not with walkers, there was just one other party of adults and toddlers, heading for the stream like us, but with four-wheel drives and trials bikes. I’ll let you fume on my behalf.
I’ve called the post Wren Gill and higher upstream that’s how it begins. But down the valley it’s the River Sprint and, to add to the confusion, the OS map has Cleft Ghyll too, although that’s written in black rather than blue, so may refer to the narrow deep-sided ravine the stream briefly flows through.
We followed the stream bed from just beyond the boundary of the access land up to where the stream poured over a waterfall out of Cleft Ghyll. Then we walked down to where we’d started and did it all again.
The first time we tried to keep reasonably dry and kept out of the deeper water, which gave us a chance to have a bit of a reccy first and also meant that nobody got too cold too quickly. The second time we took the opposite approach and swam wherever we could.
We found a couple places where we could jump in, much to B’s delight, and also a powerful cascade which made a brilliant waterslide, although I was a bit disappointed that the kids all seemed to be able to get down without getting dunked in the pool at the bottom, a feat which I failed to replicate.
After a few days without rain, the water was much warmer than it had been in the River Esk a week before. The weather helped too. It would be interesting to go back after a longer dry spell to have a go at the Cleft Ghyll section and beyond. Anyway, the kids are definitely sold on the idea of messing about in streams.
Skelwith Bridge – Skelwith Force – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – High Park – Colwith Force – Skelwith Bridge.
The Langdale Pikes seen across Elter Water.
How appropriate, after a post about favourite walks, that in my next bit of catching up from the summer hols, I’m recounting a walk which, in slight variations, I’ve walked many times, in all seasons, in all weathers, alone on occasions but often with big groups of friends and which definitely qualifies at least as one of my favourites, particularly for when time is short, or the forecast is a bit iffy.
A dodgy forecast was partly responsible for us choosing this route. We were going out with our friends Beaver B and G and their family again; the original plan had been to get the boats out on one of the lakes, but with showers, possibly prolonged, expected, we decided that a low level walk was a better option. We’d actually run through a number of alternatives the night before and it was eventually G who suggested something in this area.
Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata).
This was spotted by Little B pretty much at the top of the track between Langdale and Little Langdale and it led us both a merry dance as we tried to photograph it in damp and gloomy conditions. It’s led me on another merry dance as I’ve tried to identify it – I was struck by it’s superficial resemblance to the Sexton beetle which I photographed recently, which wasn’t helpful because this is not even a closely related species.
We’d had drizzle, then a bright spell as we lunched by Elter Water, then rain as we climbed up and over into Little Langdale. Now it began to brighten up.
Little Langdale Tarn.
Over Slater’s bridge and heading along Little Langdale we paused a while to watch cyclists riding their bikes through a ford on the infant River Brathay and then, a little further along, spotted a Roe deer down by the stream.
Little Langdale. Blake Rigg on Pike O’Blisco and Busk Pike on Lingmoor behind.
The barn at Stang End with it’s impressive tiers of stacked fire wood.
Our perseverance through the rain was paying off now with some beautiful warm, sunny weather. The garden at Stang End was busy with Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies sunning themselves.
We interrupted this large beetle, here already scuttling for cover, as it was preying on the earthworm seen in the top left of the picture.
Here is the predator after I’d fetched him (or her) out of hiding…
I’m reasonably sure that this is a Violet Ground Beetle, Carabus violaceus, although there are several very similar species of large, black beetles which also have that violet tint.
I haven’t featured a Robin in the blog for an unusually long time. This one looks a bit tatty, but juvenile Robins have speckled feathers, which are moulted at around two to three months, so could this be a juvenile, born in May or June, which has almost changed into adult plumage?
Almost back, crossing the footbridge near Skelwith Bridge.
We were quite late finishing, having not set-off particularly early, and had wondered whether the promised tea and cake at Chesters By The River would be thwarted, but the new take-away section (well, new since I was last there) was still serving, so a mutiny by the kids was averted. I had the beluga lentil dish, seen near the front of the counter above, as an alternative to cake, and very nice it was too. Chesters, both cafe and shop, had been very busy when we had passed earlier and their success seems well deserved. If only they would reinstate the missing apostrophe in their name, I could thoroughly recommend a visit.
One of the idiosyncrasies of working with children is that I often get asked about my favourite colour, football team, pet, number and so on. Generally, I have pat answers ready: favourite colour – blue, which is the sky, obviously, but also Bluebells, Spring Gentians and the shirts worn by Leicester City, the football team which I somewhat half-heartedly follow. Favourite TV programme – ‘The Wire’, favourite record – ‘Hercules’ by Aaron Neville. favourite number – 1729 because of the anecdote about the mathematicians Hardy and Ramanujan, favourite film – Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’, favourite novel – ‘A Suitable Boy’ – by Vikram Seth, favourite mathematician – Leonhard Euler, but, sadly, I never get asked that one. All of these are trite, stock responses which avoid the decent into endless lists of possible candidates which is probably often what the questions were meant to elicit, in order to derail the lesson and provide a lull in the learning, a bit of light relief amid the serious business of getting to grips with mathematics.
If that is the aim, then the wrong question is being asked: I have no prepared, rehearsed reply to the query: ‘What is your favourite walk?’. Which is why the following message, which I received on my blog last week, has really set me to thinking:
“My name is Luke Rufo and I am the producer and director for a new ITV1 programme called The Nations 100 favourite walks (TBC). We are looking for people who have a connection or story with a particular walk anywhere in the UK and hoped you could help get the word out there. I noticed your blog and wondered if you’d be interested in speaking to me on the phone about your passion for walking and what your favourite walk is?
If you’re not interested in appearing I wonder if you might post the info below to your website or even pass this on to any other walking groups in the UK that might have some unsung heroes and stories that they might share with us.
A New ITV1 programme “The Nations 100 Favourite Walks” (TBC) is looking for walkers across the UK with interesting stories to tell about their favourite walks. The programme would have a mix of local stories set in their favourite walks and there will also be various celebrities who show us their favourite walks too.
We aim to film all over the UK at various walks and we are looking for stories of people who have an emotional connection to a particular walk. We want as many types of stories as possible but to give you an idea of the kinds of stories we are looking for see below:-
Man staves off dementia by walking up and down a mountain everyday.
A couple have done the same walk for the past 30 years
Mountain rescue saved a families lives
Our family business has thrived because of walkers for the past X years
I lost my significant other x years ago but still do this walk to remind me of them.
I’m sure there are many stories and great characters you know about that are connected in some way with a particular walk. We are hoping to begin filming in the next few weeks and all throughout October.
I look forward to hearing back from you to see if it would be possible to put our details out to people or even speak about your own experiences.”
Naturally, this has had me thinking about favourite walks. I’d already been thinking at least in a similar vein, reflecting on my walks over the last few years (well almost 10 years) having hit something of a milestone with my 1000th blogpost a few posts back. My walk up in Teesdale earlier this year, from which the photograph of the Spring Gentians is taken, sprang to mind. But then I was reflecting back, further and further into the past and recalling numerous previous outings, many from long before I started the blog : wild days in the Fannichs and on Creag Meaghaidh; or the first clear day on my first winter trip to Scotland, snow-clad mountains and long narrow sea-lochs receding into the distance in both directions, seemingly without end; or before that my first sight of the apparent alien landscape of Kinder Scout; or, even further back in the mists of time, trips to Dovedale with my parents and my grandmother.
Mulling over a whole host of cherished memories, I thought of the day during our walk from home to Keswick, when A and I crossed from Ambleside to Borrowdale (above) and I was busy again, skimming through the long multi-day walks I’ve done over the years, and the people I’ve walked them with right back to the first, the Pennine Way, which I walked with my Dad in 1985. Now I was thinking that, if I had to chose a favourite walk, it would have to be a longer one, which narrowed the field considerably, but still didn’t seem to make the task any easier.
Seeking a second opinion, I asked A what was her favourite walk, and she threw back ‘Helvellyn‘, which we climbed back at Easter, without any hesitation, but then immediately backtracked by deciding that the walk from our doorstep up to the Pepper Pot, past ‘The Climbing Tree’ might need consideration as a rival for Striding Edge.
Here she is, in The Climbing Tree, from a few years ago now.
In thinking of a walk close to home, special because of its familiarity, I think that A was much closer to the remit than I had been. I was thinking of particular days and the weather conditions they brought, the company I kept on those days, she was considering a longer term relationship with a route.
When I asked TBH for her favourite she instantly hit upon the walk which should have occurred to me: our annual walk up Carn Fadryn, with a gaggle of old friends, during our summer trips to the Llyn Peninsula, on or around Little S’s birthday. To him it’s simply ‘Birthday Hill’. We were there on his birthday this year. Here…
..he’s cutting his cake, three years ago. And this is another three years before that…
Three years before that, and walking was still a delightful novelty for S…
Although he was a passenger for his, and our, first trip up Carn fadryn..
I’m fortunate, in that I often get to climb a hill on my own birthday, a sort of tradition, which I stick to whenever I’m able.
Even the list of hills which I’ve climbed on my birthday would be hard to whittle down to one favourite. There have been some crackers: Liathach, Crinkle Crags, Coniston Old Man (above) among others. Snow-chilled champagne on a glorious spring day on Beinn Bhan above Glenn Loy with my brother will be a tough one to top. But good though they were, I’m slightly envious of Little S’s own Birthday Hill. It’s a modest walk up a fairly small hill, but the views are stunning, the bilberries are sweet and the company is always superb. I think I have my stock answer now, and it’s a pretty fine walk to choose.
Incidentally, if you want to contact Mr Rufo about the programme, I have contact details. I wasn’t sure whether to share them on the internet, but if you leave a comment requesting details I should be able to send them to you privately.