Brew with a View

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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.

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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.

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New kit at work.

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It was enormously restful; a great way to chill out for half an hour after a day at work.

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New gear.

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New gear bagged and ready for the off.

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Brew with a View

How Do I Get Down?

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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.

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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…

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…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.

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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.

How Do I Get Down?

Garden Guests Again.

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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.

 

Garden Guests Again.

Wren Gill

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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…

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…the cloud finally broke and the sun shone for much of the rest of the afternoon.

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Carabus problematicus.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wren Gill

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

Skelwith Bridge – Skelwith Force – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – High Park – Colwith Force – Skelwith Bridge.

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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.

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Skelwith Force.

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.

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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.

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Little Langdale Tarn.

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Slater Bridge.

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.

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Little Langdale. Blake Rigg on Pike O’Blisco and Busk Pike on Lingmoor behind.

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Stang End.

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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.

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High Park.

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Colwith Force.

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Peacock butterfly.

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.

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Here is the predator after I’d fetched him (or her) out of hiding…

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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.

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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?

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Almost back, crossing the footbridge near Skelwith Bridge.

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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.

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

The Nation’s Favourite Walks

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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…

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..he’s cutting his cake, three years ago. And this is another three years before that…

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Three years before that, and walking was still a delightful novelty for S…

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Although he was a passenger for his, and our, first trip up Carn fadryn..

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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.

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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.

The Nation’s Favourite Walks

A Round from Rosthwaite.

Rosthwaite – Stonethwaite Beck – Stonethwaite – Big Stanger Gill – Bessyboot – Tarn at Leaves – Rosthwaite Cam – Coombe Door – Coombe Head – Glaramara – Looking Steads – Lincomb Tarns – Allen Crags – Sprinkling Tarn – Great Slack – Seathwaite Fell – Styhead Gill – Stockley Bridge – Grains Gill – Seathwaite – Black Sike – Strands Bridge – Folly Bridge – Longthwaite – Rosthwaite.

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Big Stanger Gill.

Be warned – there are an awful lot of photographs in this post, which doesn’t really reflect the quality of the photos, which were hampered by overcast skies and flat light all day, so much as just how much I enjoyed the walk. The idea for the route germinated after our ascent of Scafell Pike, which left me with a hankering to visit Sprinkling Tarn again after a gap of many years. Then, when I started perusing the map for a suitable circuit, I was drawn to the rash of blue dots across the hillsides south of Borrowdale, and the plan for this route duly emerged.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever been up Bessyboot before, and unusually for me, it actually occurred to me to take a peek in Wainwright prior to my walk, rather than doing my research afterwards, when, frankly, it’s a bit too late. The route up Stanger Gill is one of Wainwright’s routes, but no path is shown on the OS map at all. There is a path on the ground, clearly quite well used, and pitched with stones for much of its length. It climbs steeply through the trees, but there was a good variety of moss and toadstools to distract me from quite a warm and humid climb.

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One advantage of a steep climb is that good views behind rapidly emerge…

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The view back down to Stonethwaite.

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Waterfall in Big Stanger Gill.

When the ground finally begins to level out the path emerges into an area of rocky knolls and boggy hollows…

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Racom Bands.

The path seemed to lead me very circuitously, spiralling in on the summit of Bessyboot (which Wainwright calls Rosthwaite Fell).

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Looking north from Bessyboot: Tarn at Leaves, the knobbly top of Rosthwaite Cam and Coombe Head behind.

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Looking south from Bessyboot along Borrowdale to Skiddaw.

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Tarn at Leaves and Bessyboot.

“Tarn at Leaves has a lovely name but no other appeal”

Wainwright.

I think this kind of rough and complex terrain is really satisfying, and have no idea why Wainwright, the old curmudgeon, should be so negative about Tarn at Leaves.

Rosthwaite Cam was a big hit with me: a splendidly rocky and isolated little top, with nobody about and an easy scramble required to reach the summit.

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Looking north from Rosthwaite Cam – on the left the double bobble which Birkett anoints as Stonethwaite Fell and on the right Coombe Head.

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Looking south from Rosthwaite Cam: Tarn at Leaves, Bessyboot, Derwent Water and Skiddaw.

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Looking west from Rosthwaite Cam. From this vantage, Fleetwith Pike looks rather odd; like some powerful giant has taken great scoops out of the sides of the mountain.

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This is brew-stop number one, under the sheltered side of the enormous chunk of rock which forms the top of Rosthwaite Cam.

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Rosthwaite Cam from Stonethwaite Fell.

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And again, with a less wide-angled setting on the zoom.

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This tiny cairn is on the minor hummock which forms the eastern edge of Coombe Door.

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Small tarn at Coombe Door, Coombe Head on the right, Glaramara behind on the left.

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Crags of Coombe Head.

This was a walk across very rocky terrain; that rock was coarse and knobbly, and extremely grippy under boots. I was intrigued by these crags below Coombe Head where the rock, which surely must be volcanic, was neatly layered as if it were sedimentary.

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The view from Coombe Head along The Coombe and then down Derwent Water is an absolute cracker. It would be a shame to bypass it to head straight for Glaramara, but that’s precisely what the main path from Borrowdale does.

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Tarns near Coombe Head and Glaramara.

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The twin tops of Glaramara, viewed from brew-stop number two on Looking Steads.

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Esk Pike, Allen Crags, Ill Crag, Great End and Lingmell from brew-stop number two.

Brew-stop number two turned out to be an ill-advised affair. After the warm and sticky climb up Bessyboot, it had been quite cold on the ridge: the wind had a real edge to it. I’d hunkered down behind a large boulder to make my mug of tea, and put on all of my spare clothing, but this was the only time all day when it there were drops of moisture in the wind, and the boulder didn’t provide as much shelter as I’d hoped. By the time I’d slurped the last of my char, I was uncomfortably chilled.

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Bowfell and Esk Pike across a small tarn.

Tarns abound on this ridge and I felt that, although the ground is often boggy, there must be some scope for wild-camping.

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The rocky lump on the right here, in front of Allen Crags has a spot height of 684m on the OS map and is another Birkett (High House).

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Great End, Great Gable and Sprinkling Tarn from Allen Crags.

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Looking back to Glaramara from Allen Crags.

Brew-stop number three, just off the top of Allen Crags, was much more successful than the previous halt. I found a natural hollow amongst some shattered rocks where somebody had even built a small, untidy wall to raise the shelter a little higher. This turned out to be a very comfortable seat, well out of the wind and with excellent views.

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Langdale Pikes, Windermere, Lingmoor, Pike O’Blisco and Bowfell from brew-stop three.

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Piek O’Blisco, Wetherlam, Bowfell and Esk Pike from brew-stop three.

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Great Slack and Sprinkling Tarn.

Two tents were being pitched by Sprinkling Tarn, both by what looked to be father and son teams, both on the protruding parts of the shore which are almost islands in the tarn, and both looking to be conspicuously lacking in shelter from the wind.

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Sprinkling Tarn and Great End from point 631, not Great Slack, but with better views of the tarn then Great Slack.

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In ‘The Tarns of Lakeland’ Heaton Cooper calls this Sprinkling Crag Tarn.

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Glaramara from Great Slack, the diagonal gash across the hillside is Hind Gill, which, apparently, a faint, steep and very quiet path follows: one for another day.

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Seathwaite Fell from Great Slack.

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Lingmell and Peers Gill from Great Slack.

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Great End from Seathwaite Fell.

Seathwaite Fell is another pleasantly rocky top. It’s surrounded by steep crags on three sides and so has superb views down into Borrowdale.

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Seathwaite from Seathwite Fell.

The only part of my route which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend is the first part of my descent from Seathwiate Fell, down towards the path above Styhead Gill. I found a faint path which seemed promising and followed it into a steep little gully. The stream was mostly hidden below the jumble of rocks and boulders, so at least the going was mainly dry, but it was quite loose and a bit too steep for my liking. I only stopped to take a photo once the gradient had eased…

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At which point, in a wet flush at the mossy margins of the stream, I noticed these tiny, delightful flowers…

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…of Starry Saxifrage. I took several photos, none of which came out well, but each of the five petals has two characteristic yellow spots near it’s base, the centre of the flower is turning pink, and between each petal there are conspicuous red anthers. This is a plant of the mountains, and I shall be on the look out for it again in future.

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Stockley Bridge, Grains Gill, with Aaron Crags on Seathwaite Fell behind. That pool does look suitable for a swim (I’d been wondering), but it was too late and too cold.

I still had a fair walk along the valley, then by the river Derwent to get back to Rosthwaite.  By the time I reached the car park, the skies had begun to clear. For once I didn’t really resent the good weather arriving when my walk had finished; I’d had too much fun to feel any regrets. I brewed-up one more time before enjoying a pink sunset reflected in Derwent Water as I drove home.

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View from the car park.

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In all, I was out for about 10 hours, which is also how long it had taken us to climb Scafell Pike the week before. This was a good deal further then that, with probably a similar amount of ascent and a roughly equivalent amount of sitting around enjoying the view. All of which is very vague, I’m afraid. I couldn’t hope to estimate how many tarns I passed either, but I can be more precise with my tick lists: the route included eleven Birketts, of which four are also Wainwrights. I didn’t see many people about at all, especially over the first part of the route until I joined a more significant path on Glaramara, and the last section of the hills over Great Slack and Seathwaite Fell.

A Round from Rosthwaite.