Blakethwaite Bottom Wild-Camp

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Carlin Gill (Carlin Gill Beck on the OS Map, but surely the ‘beck’ is redundant.)

The Hardman, the Shandy Sherpa and I have been discussing the possibility of getting our respective kids out for a wild-camp together for a year or two now. Earlier this year that pipe-dream moved a little closer to reality when we all committed to two summer weekends which we would reserve for that purpose. The second weekend would be a fall-back: if the forecast for the first weekend was diabolical, we planned to keep our powder dry and wait for the second weekend. We also had a destination picked out: Upper Eskdale, somewhere that Andy and I have both camped many times before, and wanted to share with the kids.

When the first allotted weekend was approaching the forecast was, if not diabolical, at least not very encouraging, with lots of wind and rain expected. Andy sent an email all but scotching any chance of his participation, much to my relief, but Brian responded by stating that if we were both out, he – as befits the Hardman – would take his own kids camping more locally, in ‘a peat bog on Kinder’. I consulted my family: TBH bowed out before I’d even finished asking, S rapidly agreed, A was more reluctant to abandon our plan, but thought that was for the best, but B is made of sterner stuff and expressed a desire to hold firm to our plan. Andy must have had a similar conversation with TJS because on the Friday night they drove up to ours. In the meantime, A had changed her mind and decided to join us and, with the worst weather predicted for the Western lakes, we’d hit upon Plan B: a walk up Carlin Gill and a camp at Blakethwaite Bottom (as recommended by no less an authority than Mr Knipe).

Frankly, I was concerned that we might all be barking mad.

We parked the cars just off the Fairmile Road at about two o’clock on the Saturday afternoon after several hours of continuous heavy rain. The Lune was a thick brown torrent and Carlin Gill was also running very high. Although the cloud was low, the rain was slackening and showing signs of finally coming to an end. Our original plan to follow Carlin Gill now seemed a bit unwise, especially given that we would probably need to cross the gill, which was going to be extremely difficult, if not down right dangerous.

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Grains Gill, Weasel Gill and Carlin Gill. 

Instead we climbed up out of the valley, passing a small herd of horses on our way, and over the top of Linghaw, where it was very blowy. From the col between Linghaw and Fell Head we took the path which traverses the steep slopes round the head of Small Gill.

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What a find this was! I always enjoy a contouring path and I think that in this case the fog enhanced the drama. The kids seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the adversity…

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B’s rucksack, which is almost as big as he is, is vintage, an old Berghaus model which my Dad used when we walked the Pennine Way together in 1985. Come to that, I was also using my 1985 bag, a Karrimor Jaguar 6. Will Sports Direct honour the lifetime guarantee do you think?

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The cloud was gradually lifting a little, giving tantalising glimpses of sunshine down in the Lune Gorge.

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I’d made a last minute decision to keep the weight in my pack down by borrowing TBH’s little point and snap camera, which was now telling me that it’s battery was spent. I found that if I turned it off and turned it back on again, I could convince it to keeping eking out a few more pictures.

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Folded strata at the top of Black Force.

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The Spout.

Blakethwaite Bottom, it transpired, was somewhat waterlogged, but after some careful reconnaissance we found a good spot. It was stony, with just a very thin covering of soil, which made it hard to get the pegs in, but it was sheltered, with a handy water source and proved to be surprisingly comfortable.

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The weather was still threatening to brighten up…

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So, after we’d eaten, we climbed Uldale Head. The top was still in mist, but we had good views from just short of the summit. A real gale was blowing up there. We all enjoyed playing with the wind – the kids were using their coats as wings, and jumping up to see how far it would carry them. We all spread our arms and leaned as far forward into the wind as we could get away with. I didn’t take any photos, but A has one of me looking quite demented and I’m worried that Andy might soon be posting something similar (Edit: my fears are confirmed – his take on our madcap outing, with more, and better, photos, is here.)

B, who had persuaded me that coming on the weekend was a good idea, thoroughly relished the whole affair. As the light faded, he was devising a makeshift boules set from various rocks he found around the camp. I offered to play him, and almost immediately, everyone else was keen to join in.

I slept much better than I did on Little Stand, partly because we were much more sheltered from the wind, but mostly, I think, because I’d borrowed TBH’s new sleeping mat – it’s much heavier than mine, but the extra weight may be worth it. In the night I realised that the burbling sound of the stream by the tents had completely gone – a reflection of the falling water levels.

I woke the next morning to the sound of a shower on the flysheet, but, mercifully, it was short-lived. We’d been joined at some point…

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…by some Fell Ponies. Although some seemed quite large to qualify as ponies.

There were seventeen horses in total, including four foals.

I had a quiet brew, and since I couldn’t hear any evidence of activity from the others (unless you count a bit of snoring), decided to head off for a short wander.

I climbed round to Hand Lake, then turned back over Docker Knott and Over Sale, returning via Great Ulgill Beck. The sun even shone.

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Churn Gill and Middleton.

When I got back, breakfast was on the go, under the intense gaze of a herd of cows which  had joined the horses, but which seemed much more intent on closely examining what we were doing than the horses were.

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Breakfast was on the go, that is, except in our tent, where A and B were still luxuriating in their sleeping bags. Andy had loaned us his three man Lightwave tent, an astonishing piece of kit, which had been just right for the job. (A has a three person tent by Quechua, which I’m impressed with, it’s very light, but I was worried about it’s potential performance in foul weather). Incredibly generously, Andy’s now made the loan indefinite, and I can’t wait to get out and use it again, before he comes to his senses!

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Naturally, Sod’s Law was in operation, as usual, and as we packed the tents away another brief shower ensured that we didn’t get them away dry. Then, as we set off, we were subjected to one of the fiercest, coldest spells of rain I’ve experienced in a long while – something akin to the torrential downpours which accompany thunderstorms in the bigger mountain ranges. Fortunately for us, it only lasted about ten minutes.

We retraced our steps to the top of Black Force. You can see here…

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…that Andy is descending the faint path down the rib at the edge of the falls, but there was a strong wind blowing across the hillside and I had visions of one of the kids being swept over the edge. They followed Brian down the gully to the right of the rib, which was steep but manageable.

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Brian crossing Carlin Gill – much less water in it by now.

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Black Force.

All that remained was a saunter back to the car, with several crossings of the gill, which most of the children found highly amusing. Of course the weather had one more shower for us, arriving just as we stopped for a bite of lunch and a brew…

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I don’t think anyone was disheartened. Certainly not the kids, they were too busy lobbing boulders into the beck to really notice.

A little further down the valley we stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a horse. The pelvic and thigh bones were huge. I noticed the gleam in B’s eye and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn’t to take any of them home with him. He defiantly carried a massive bone a little way, but I think he left it behind. Either that or he’s hidden it well since we got back.

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Carlin Gill in calmer mood.

We arrived back at the cars almost exactly 24 hours after we had set off, a bit soggy but decidedly happy.

“How did that compare with Little Stand?”, I asked B.

“Even better.”

I think, and hope, that for the kids, this trip, with the wind and the rain, the horses and the cows, the stream crossings and heavy showers, the nine pm, hilltop, human kite festival, was a bit of an adventure, a break from the norm. I’m not sure, with retrospect, that different weather conditions would have made the trip any more enjoyable than it already was. It was certainly memorable. I am sure though, that what’s key on a outing of this sort is the company you keep, and in that regard we couldn’t have asked for more.

The only tarnish on the weekend was the fact that we returned to find that Andy’s new(ish) car was badly dented, we think by a horse. I wondered whether anybody had heard of anything similar happening to cars left on the Fairmile Road?

Blakethwaite Bottom Wild-Camp

Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Bull’s Head

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Sunday, fortunately, brought more settled weather and some sunshine. The title of the post should really be ‘Heron Corn Mill, Lunch at the Bull’s Head, Haverbrack and Beetham Fell’ but that’s a bit long, and this present one mirrors that of an earlier post.

The photo above shows the Heron Corn Mill, on the left, and the modern paper mill on the right, with, in between, the mill pond on the Bela backed up behind this weir…

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The corn mill seems to have had a new lease of life in recent years and, although it doesn’t take long to look around, it’s worth a visit, especially since it’s free, with a handy car-park which has an honesty box with a request for a £2 donation for all-day parking.

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From the Corn Mill a footbridge takes you across the river and then the path winds around the paper mill, beside the River Bela…

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We crossed the busy A6, hoping to get some lunch at the cafe at Beetham Garden Centre. This wasn’t the original plan. We had been hoping to revisit The Ship at Sandside. Naively, I had been expecting that we could just rock-up when we pleased and order Sunday lunch. Andy pointed out that, on a Bank Holiday Sunday, a popular pub might be busy, and that an advance booking might be advisable. I made a phone call and discovered that he was quite right: a booking was advisable, or would have been, if I’d rung a couple of weeks earlier. So it was that we were a party in search of somewhere to buy lunch and were travelling more in hope than in expectation.

The cafe at the Garden Centre looked excellent. And full.

There were surprisingly few rumblings of discontent as we continued. If anybody was angry about my lack of organisation, they kept it to themselves. Unlike this pair of female Chaffinches…

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…which were brawling in the road.

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I’ve seen birds fighting before, but not fighting birds with such complete disregard for what was going on around them, as these two were. I have lots of other photos, but they are mostly blurred shots, showing the moments when one or both birds briefly disengaged and flew a little into the air before diving back into the fray, in a bid to gain the upper-hand.

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A male Chaffinch kept making appearances over the adjacent hedge. Whether he was an anxious or disinterested spectator will remain as mysterious as the cause of the ruckus in the first place.

When the fight either finished or possibly moved on to another venue, we retraced our steps to the corn mill.

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Small White. Or Green-viened White. White anyway. The unopened and partially opened buds are Oxeye Daisies – I’m amazed that I haven’t noticed that very striking, bold pattern before.

We crossed Dallam Deer park, the deer obligingly, if somewhat distantly, makng an appearance for our guests.

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Outside the Bull’s Head in Milnthorpe we hesitated. I’ve never heard any opinions about it, good or bad. I think I might have had a pint here and watched part of a football match, many moons ago. Which is not much to go on.

TBH asked a girl, who was smoking a fag in the doorway, what the food was like, and she assured us that it was excellent. Later, I noticed that the same girl was collecting glasses in the pub and wondered whether she was an employee. But if we were gently duped, we didn’t lose out in any way. The food was very good, with an amazingly wide variety on offer, but everything apparently cooked from scratch. I’m very surprised that nobody has recommended it to me before. Judging by the prices on the menu, it was good value too, although we didn’t have to worry about that, since Andy very generously picked up the tab.

At this point, our boys gleefully revealed their own agenda: since we were in Milnthorpe and the sun was shining, they insisted on visiting the play area and trying out the new equipment there. It was only a brief stop and it gave me a chance to watch the many bumblebees on the flowering shrubs in the border there. They seemed mainly to be of two species: Early Bumblebees, with two yellow stripes and an orange tail and Tree Bumblebees…

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…which, now that I know how to identify them, seem to be everywhere I go.

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Dallam Hall and the Bela.

We continued our walk along the Bela, following it out to its confluence with the Kent…

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Whitbarrow Scar across the Bela and the Kent.

At the Orchid Triangle, there were…

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…orchids! I think that this is Common Spotted Orchid. And this…

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…is Common Twayblade…

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….which according to my orchid field guide is ‘a close companion of nearly all our most beautiful and rare orchids’. (Of which, more in a forthcoming post.)

From the Orchid Triangle, it’s a short, but very rewarding, climb up Haverbrack.

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Red Admiral.

From Haverbrack we crossed Cockshot Lane, walked through Longtail Wood to Beetham Fell and The Fairy Steps…

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Here’s Andy negotiating the steps without touching the sides, so that the fairies will grant him a wish…

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Sort of.

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Rock Rose.

Dropping down through the woods back towards Beetham we stumbled across a Roe Deer. We watched in hushed silence for a moment, until A broke the spell with, “It’s only a deer, I can see those in the garden at home.”

I think our kids do appreciate what they have, living here, but maybe they’ll have to move away before they really appreciate it properly?

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I mooted the idea that some of us might walk home from Beetham, but when the initial enthusiasm evaporated I was secretly relieved – we were out of water and I was gasping for a cup of tea.

Later, the Shandy Sherpa and TBF joined me for a wander around Eaves Wood in the gloaming. We spent quite a while watching the juvenile Woodpecker featured in a recent post, and as long again sitting by the Pepper Pot absorbing the peace and quiet. A marvellous day.

Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Bull’s Head

Whitsun Weekend at Home

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Last weekend the surfnslide crew came to stop for the weekend. We’ve had a few Whitsun get togethers before, both down in Herefordshire at their house and here in Silverdale. This one was all too brief, just the long weekend, but got our week off to a great start, and, to me at least, has made it feel like I’ve had a much longer break than a week. (Not a bad trick!)

As usually seems to be the case, the weather was a bit mixed, but we definitely made the most of it, filling in the time between decent spells of weather with various board games and the usual menu of chit-chat and cups of tea.

On the Saturday morning, before the storms came, we had a short stroll down to the Cove and then across the Lots, where we played frisbee for a while as you can see above.

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At the Cove some of the children wanted to explore the smelly cave and another fetid little hole they have discovered on the other side of the Cove at the base of the cliff.

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The back of the Cove is once again resplendent with a mass of small yellow flowers, I think it’s Sea Radish, although, having just read the relevant entry in ‘The Wildflower Key’, I now know how to distinguish Sea from Wild Radish, so I shall check on my next trip. Anyway, the radishes, of whatever variety, were thronged with various small insects.

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This striking red weevil like creature (I can’t find what it actually is) was the smallest I photographed.

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I think that this rather dapper chap may be some kind of Saw Fly, but there over 400 British species and my ‘Complete British Insects’ only has photographs of a handful of them.

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There were many Bumblebees, but they are constantly on the move and always hard to photograph.

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This is a Red-tailed Bumblebee, a worker. Sometimes I am slow on the uptake: it’s finally sunk in that the huge bumblebees I see, mainly in the spring, and the much smaller ones I see in the summer, are of the same species, the size difference being because queens are so much larger than workers.

On the other hand, random titbits of information seem to nestle in obscure corners of my brain. I knew, when I saw it, that this…

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…was a ladybird larva. With a bit of lazy internet research I now think it to be a 7-Spot Ladybird larva. Odd looking creature.

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There were a fair few hoverflies about too. I was pleased to capture an image of this specimen in flight, and doubly chuffed to find that it is easily identifiable, because of the pattern on the abdomen, as Episyrphus Balteatus, a very common species which apparently sometimes migrates in swarms from continental Europe. Quite a competent flier then!

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Alongside the radishes there is a substantial patch of Crosswort. My collection of herbals and plant books have little to say about this unassuming plant with it’s whirls of tiny yellow flowers, but I am always cheered to find it.

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The plant surreptitiously creeping into the righthand-side of the photo is Goosegrass or Cleavers or Stickyweed, a close relative of Crosswort. Both are Galiums, apparently from the Greek Gala meaning milk, as Goosegrass at least was sometimes used as a rennet in the production of cheese.

On the Lots, the Early Purple Orchids have finished, and the Green-winged Orchids…

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…are not far behind. According to ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’, Green-winged Orchids were once widespread, but ‘must now be considered a threatened species’. A sobering thought.

After our short outing, the afternoon brought a terrific display of dark skies, lightning and thunder and then very heavy rain. We watched from our patio as impressive bursts of forked lightning cleaved the skies and listened to the rumbles of thunder, apparently coming from all sides. When the long threatened deluge finally arrived, we retreated inside. Quite a show while it lasted though.

Whitsun Weekend at Home

A Wastwater Stroll

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Bank Holiday Monday brought lots of packing-up to do, but there was still time for a bit of a stroll to Wastwater. No kids with us this time, just lots of crumblies, a great opportunity for a proper chinwag.

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Buckbarrow and Middle Fell.

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Whin Rigg.

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River Irt.

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Bluebells in Low Wood.

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Wastwater.

As we stopped to admire this view a noisy squabbling drew our attention to a group of feuding Dippers.

Another great Wasdale weekend, even if we didn’t manage to fit in our planned ascent of Scafell Pike with the kids. It will happen soon, though – it’s on our hit list.

A Wastwater Stroll

Irton Pike

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Bluebells in Birks Wood.

During the night I lay awake listening to the wind gathering in the valley, shaking the trees and then a tell-tale roar and moments later the latest gust was upon us, making the tent shake and rattle, creak and groan. Our tent has survived several such windy nights, both here and at Towyn Farm, but this time was once too many it seems and at around 5am the awning came crashing down. Many of the elastic pegging points had given up the ghost, but in other places the pegs had been ripped from the ground. Our folding table had blown clear across the campsite and was looking slightly crumpled. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining and TBH and I quickly stowed away our possessions in the car and then went back to bed for some more fitful ‘rest’.

Later, when we had surveyed the damage – the canvas seemed sound but some of the awning poles were bent and one had snapped – and the wind had moderated a little, we headed out for a walk.

It was gloriously sunny, and at valley level, the weather seemed quite benign, the woods were full of butterflies and the chatter of small birds, but even on the modest heights of Irton Pike you can perhaps tell…

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…there was still a fierce wind blowing.

Andy went to investigate a sheltered looking spot in amongst the trees…

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…which turned out to be a perfect spot for some lunch, a snooze and a bit of unscheduled bird-watching when a Kestrel ‘rebuffed the big wind’ and hovered over the hillside ahead of us.

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In Santon Bridge TBH and I stopped in at this little hall to peruse an exhibition by local artists…

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A walk and some culture, can’t be bad!

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, The Shandy Sherpa and The Ginger Whinger were corrupting our kids by taking them to the pub for a drink. A soft drink no doubt. I suppose they might claim that they were shanghaied into taking on the child-minding duties.

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Anyway, this had the unexpected side-effect that TBH and I had a very quiet and peaceful walk back along the River Irt on our own, enjoying fine sightings of a pair of Mergansers and also a Buzzard.

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More Bluebells, this time in Great Coppice.

Since this was April’s final fling, walking wise, with a bit of guestimation and ignoring the to and fro I do at work, when I am generally on my feet all day, I’ve arrived at a total mileage for the month of just over 110 miles. Doesn’t seem all that much on the one hand, but it’s more than enough to take me to the magic total of a thousand miles for the year, so – job’s a good’un.

Irton Pike

Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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The first day of our annual Mayday camping weekend in Wasdale and the party had split.  Well, some had not yet arrived, having opted to stay in Harrogate to watch the Tour de Yorkshire whizz by. Others, including most of the kids, had decided upon a trip to the Sellafield Visitor Centre. It closed years ago, but TBH had read on the internet that it had been reopened by Brian Cox and that he had described it as ‘awesome’. However, when they arrived at Sellafield they were greeted by high fences and stern security guards. It turned out that Professor Cox had been at the opening of a display at the Beacon Centre in Whitehaven, of which he had actually said: “The new exhibition is absolutely wonderful.” So they went to have a gander at St. Bees instead, having already visited the excellent ice-cream parlour in Seascale which the kids now regard as an essential part of the weekend. The photo above shows the rest of the party, just off the top of Buckbarrow enjoying a leisurely lunch-stop and snooze out of the cold wind. Well, not quite all of the rest of the party…

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…B didn’t fancy Sellafield. He didn’t really want to go for a walk either, truth be told, but had found some scrambling near the top of Buckbarrow and had really enjoyed himself. He didn’t think much to our lackadaisical approach and was racing around looking for more bits of crag to scamper up whilst we lazed around.

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Yewbarrows and the Scafells.

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Wasdale Screes.

From Buckbarrow the walk over Glede How and up Seatallan was a long steady pull.

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B on Seatallan – the black shadow on the horizon is the Isle of Mann.

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Great Gable, Yewbarrow and the Scafells from Seatallan.

By contrast, the descent from Seatallan to Greendale tarn was very steep. Old Father Sheffield, who seemed to be on a mission to climb every hill in the area, took the logical route from there over Middle Fell, while the rest of us took the lazier option down by the beck, meeting OFS again for the walk over the fields and back to Nether Wasdale.

A fine walk – you might even say ‘awesome’.

Buckbarrow and Seatallan

Place Fell

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Looking into Deepdale.

The last day of our Easter holiday (apart, that is for TBH who still had the rest of the week to look forward to). We had arranged a walk with our friends Dr R and her daughter E. Dr R is ticking off the Wainwrights and we needed a route which took in something new, but also gave the potential for meeting some none walking members of the party for tea and cake. I hit upon the idea of climbing Place Fell from Glenridding, descending to Howtown and returning on a Lake Steamer to Glenridding.

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Place Fell summit.

And a very fine walk it was, although it was very cold for our second lunch stop on the summit.

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I was pretty confident that this would be an enjoyable walk; it’s one I’ve done many times before, in particular, when we used to have family get-togethers at Easter in the Youth Hostel down below in Patterdale.

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Skimming Stones.

I’m pretty sure (and I will get around to looking it up eventually) that Place Fell has a fair smattering of Birketts, but I wasn’t too bothered about that today. I did however divert up High Dodd simply because it looked very inviting.

I was pleased I did because the view of Ullswater was excellent from there.

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Scalehow Beck from Low Dodd.

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Cascade on Scalehow Beck.

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This waterfall on Scalehow Beck looks like it is probably very dramatic, but it’s difficult to get a decent view of it from the path: the photo only shows the top of the fall.

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I was surprised to see that this tree, an oak, had come into leaf, because I’ve been watching for that to happen at home, but I was sure that it hadn’t.

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The walk around the shore from Sandwick to Howtown through Hallinhag Wood is delightful. And was enlivened for me by the appearance of a pair of Treecreepers, not a bird I see very often.

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Here in the woods, most of the trees were still bare, so this tree, in full leaf…

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…and a cheerful bright green – I think a Sycamore – really stood out.

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Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike.

We arrived in Howtown with only a few minutes to spare before the 5 o’clock sailing of the Steamer and no time for the planned tea and cake interval there.

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But I think we all enjoyed the pleasure cruise. I know that I did!

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I’ve almost reneged on my promise of some ee cummings before the end of April, but after a trip to Howtown I can’t resist this:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Place Fell