Spindrift on Selside Pike

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Another snow-hunting expedition. The forecast was once again for mixed weather: wintery showers and maybe some brighter spells, but also for fierce winds. This is our crew shortly after we’d left the cars. We were joined by three of our friends, one of whom long-suffering readers might recognise as The Tower Captain, otherwise known as the Faffmeister, and also by their highly excited dogs.

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High Street and Kidsty Pike across Haweswater.

We’d had quite a bit of rain and snow on the journey up and as we drove alongside Haweswater it was snowing pretty heavily and settling on the road. But soon after we’d parked we had probably the sunniest spell of the entire day.

Our plan was simple: follow the Old Corpse Road, which crosses between Mardale and Swindale, to its highest point and then divert up Selside Pike, returning by the same route. This had been one of the possibilities I’d considered for the day that we’d been up to the Garburn Pass and, never one to waste things, I’d decided to revivify the idea for this outing.

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Waterfalls on Hopgill Beck.

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Rough Crag, High Street and Kidsty Pike.

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The kids had their small plastic sledges with them again and weren’t long in finding an opportunity to use them. This time, I didn’t wait to watch them, but climbed a little further to…

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…the small ruined, roofless cottage of High Loup. Although we’d not walked far at all, I had it in mind that this might be our last chance of any kind of shelter from the strong winds and suggested it as a lunch spot.

I didn’t have to twist anybody’s arm.

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After our stop, we made it too the pass with relative ease, and then found a couple more spots for some sledging. Once on the ridge, I was finding the snow conditions very frustrating: it was the kind of compacted snow which suggests it will hold you, but then collapses when you shift your weight, which is hard work. At least, it was that kind of snow for me. For most of the party it was perfect snow – firm enough to walk on top of, but soft enough to take an edge and give some grip. Little S, however, had the opposite problem to me: he was making no impression on the snow, but the wind was making a huge impression on him. Between the icy snow and the gales he was struggling to stand up. He didn’t complain, but after watching him struggle for a while, it seemed madness to let him continue and I asked him whether he would like to turn back. He would. And the other boys would be very glad to keep him company. I don’t think that they were any of them very impressed with the spindrift which was attacking us. It’s a lovely word ‘spindrift’, but totally inappropriate for the wind-driven ice shrapnel which stings any exposed skin and manages to get inside every garment.

The boys were also keen to put into action their plan to use the sledges as much as possible in their descent. Unfortunately, Little S didn’t keep a tight enough grip on his and it whipped away on the breeze and is probably now lying in a field down in Swindale.

The girls, meanwhile, were keen to carry on to the top. TBH offered to accompany the boys and so I joined King Dilly Dally, and A and S in the summit party.

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Here’s A sitting on the snowdrift filled summit shelter.

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The view of the snowcapped Pennines across the Eden Valley was better then this photo suggests, but it was quite difficult to hang on to the phone at this point, never mind hold it steady for a photo.

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Baron Behindhand on the descent.

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S and A with poles nicked from their Dads.

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Rough Crag and Haweswater again.

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A modest outing of just 5 miles, but very enjoyable.

I’ve climbed Selside Pike twice before, since I started this blog. Once on another wintery February day, with X-Ray another old friend. Although it was February and very icy, in every other respect this was a very different day:

Selside Pike and Branstree

And once on a mammoth (by my standards anyway) circuit around Haweswater.

A Haweswater Round

We’ve been meaning to get out with the Duke of Delay again ever since his igloo collapsing antics on Wansfell last year:

Grand Designs – An Igloo on Wansfell

 

 

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Spindrift on Selside Pike

An ¡Ándale! Walk

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Look at that sky!

When we got back from Underley, I was keen to get out for another walk whilst the daylight and the good weather lasted. I fancied one of my favourite local routes from last year, which takes in Eaves Wood, Hawes Water, Yealand Allotment and Leighton Moss. I usually walk it clockwise, in that order, but it occurred to me that the path ’round the back’ of Leighton Moss might still be flooded, so went widdershins so that I could ask at the visitor centre. Which I did. I was assured that all of the paths around the reserve were open, by a volunteer, well-intentioned I’m sure, who may have been distracted by the fact that he was just about to go on his break.

Pheasants…

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…are daft creatures, apt to stay hidden until you’re almost standing on them and then burst out in a flurry of wings and calls, leaving you every bit as flustered as they clearly are. But this hen pheasant was one of several I saw last Sunday which were apparently completely sanguine about my presence.

The meres (and paths) were partially frozen over still…

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I wondered what had caused these strange undulations and gouges in the ice in front of the public hide…

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There were lots of ducks in evidence. Mainly Shovelers, Teal and Pintails. Judging by the reactions of the proper birders who were about, the Pintails are the most exciting of these.

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I walked around to Lower Hide. The path was pretty wet and the last bit was iced over and decidedly treacherous.

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Teal on the ice.

The onward path from there was barred with a notice saying it was closed because it was flooded. I went past it anyway, as I am wont to do. But not very far. It was flooded. Oh….blast!

Time’s winged chariot was hurtling on, as it is wont to do, the sun was low in the sky…

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…and my plan was thwarted. What to do?

I contemplated the possibilities as I wandered back to the visitor centre.

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Stopping briefly again at the public hide for another gander. There were cygnets…

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And…a willow?…catching the lovely light.

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And Black-headed gulls briefly launching into the air before making shallow dives into the water. I wonder what they were after?

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I’d heard several people discussing the Starling murmuration, and since, slightly ridiculously, its several years since I’ve been at the Moss to witness that, one possibility was to wait to watch that. It seemed to me that the other sensible option would be to head down towards Quaker’s Stang and Quicksand Pool to catch the sunset. I chose the latter. But that meant a stretch of road-walking and a need for speed to find a good vantage point before it was too late.

So, I was in the unusual position of being in a hurry on one of my walks. Which is what made me think of Speedy Gonzales and “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!”. (Well that and the fact that ‘An ¡Ándale! Walk’ follows on quite satisfyingly from ‘An Underley Walk’.)

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Quicksand Pool.

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Little Egret.

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Sunset from Quaker’s Stang.

Recent high tides had left a series of pools across the saltmarsh, making a nice foreground as the sun dropped into the Bay.

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By the time I’d crossed the Stang and was back by Quicksand Pool, the sun had gone.

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But again…

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…it was great to be out in the gloaming, enjoying a subtle light-show…

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The land reclamation wall at Jenny Brown’s Point.

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 From near Gibraltar Farm and The Wolfhouse.

An ¡Ándale! Walk

Snowballs on Whernside

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Twas the weekend before Christmas. Well, strictly ’twas the weekend before the weekend  before Christmas, but lets not get bogged down with detail. Once again, a gaggle of old friends had gathered at The Old School House in Chapel-le-Dale and, whisper it, it wasn’t raining. This came as something of a shock as usually it chucks it down when we are there. (The following day normal service was resumed).

There was some talk, on the Friday night, of an Alpine start, some of the adults escaping early to bag Whernside, but in the event, almost all of the children wanted to come too. Here we all are…

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Well, most of us. Uncle Fester and TJF took the languishing in the house option and others were yet to arrive.

The path was extremely icy, which bothered the kids not one jot, but which made me nervous on their behalf. Probably I was over-concerned, we crested the steep part of the ascent without incident and were then into deeper snow.

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Looking towards Pen-y-ghent.

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Little S with a lump of snow. He was eating it. Of course. Ingleborough behind.

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The boys were in their element. They loved the snow, the icicles, and particularly the snowdrifts.

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Fortunately, the rest of the party were very patient with us.

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B enjoying nature’s ice-lolly.

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Ribblehead Viaduct and Pen-y-ghent.

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Ingleborough again.

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On the summit, some people had a bit of a natter, whilst others – well TBH – enjoyed a hot drink from their flask…

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…and the DBs had serious snow to deal with…

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I don’t have any photos of the snowball fight which followed, since I was heavily involved. Mainly as a target, or at least that’s how it felt. The DBs are surprisingly accurate it transpires.

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Waterfall in Force Gill.

The day had still more delights for the boys: frozen puddles. In places the ice was quite thin and creaked unnervingly, not that the DBs were very bothered. And when they did eventually go through, the water wasn’t very deep, although I suspect that Little S got wet feet.

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There were further delights for the rest of us too: the cloud veiling and unveiling Ingleborough…

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…and then great company and the usual combination of stories old and new (mostly old),  daft conversations and obscure trivia (we plumbed new depths this year with area dialling codes, which are, according to TBF, absolutely compelling).

On the Sunday, in driving rain, a select (or daft) few of us took a wander up to Ivescar and then along to Ellerbeck before returning past the tiny chapel which presumably gives the hamlet its name. Although it was throwing it down and there were huge puddles everywhere, much of the ice had yet to melt, which made the going particularly treacherous. Even after just a short walk, I was drenched by the time we were back at the School House. That didn’t put a damper on the day though, or on a very relaxing weekend.

My life in dialling codes…01522, 0116, 0161, 01524. Hmmm…Manchester is a anagram of Leicester and Lancaster is Lincoln + 2. There’s more to this than I thought!

Or not.

Snowballs on Whernside

Water-Gifted.

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Every once in a while a day comes along which stands out not just from the normal run of things, but even amongst the good days. A real jewel. It seems to me that I’ve been very fortunate lately, in that the year just gone was unusually rich in days of that kind, and this day was one of the best.

It was a Monday early in December, a scheduled day off. In September, seeing this date on the calendar is likely to make my hackles rise and have me moaning about the pointless use of a precious holiday in the darkest days of the year, when I would much prefer an extra day in the Spring. But as the date actually approaches, I do begin to look forward to an opportunity to get out. Last year I went to the Lakes and climbed some fells, but this year, full of cold, I decided to restrict myself to a local stroll.

It was a cold morning, with a hard frost and a blanket of mist, although both had substantially cleared by the time I had dropped A and B off at the station and sent Little S off to school.

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Burtonwell Wood and Hagg Wood.

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Eaves Wood.

Black-headed gulls were lined up along the spine of the roof of Row Hulls, a field barn, probably discussing the blue skies, low sun and the fine morning to come.

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But then a Black-backed gull landed amongst them and many of the gossipers fled.

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The Golf Course.

We’d had several successive sharp, frosty days and I was heading down to Leighton Moss thinking that the meres might be frozen over. When I arrived at the visitor centre I was greeted by a very helpful volunteer who filled me in on all of the more exciting birds I might see, but also warned me that most of the paths were flooded.

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Leighton Moss.

The meres were frozen, aside for a few odd open stretches.

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Nuthatch.

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Great Tit.

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I waded down to Grizedale and Jackson hides. Apparently there was a Green-winged Teal on show in one of the meres at that end of the reserve, not that I spotted it.

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Robin.

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There were lots of common-or-garden Teal and Pintail, Wigeon,  and Shoveler to see. Also geese flying overhead and this solitary Cormorant preening itself…

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…and then drying-off in the sunshine.

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Robin.

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Blue tit. 

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Wren.

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Dunnock.

I was heading now for the causeway and the Public Hide and spotted this Heron…

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….in a field very close to both the path and the road. My standard procedure with nervous birds like herons is to take a photograph, then move forward a step or two, then take another picture and so on. But this time I didn’t need to. To my astonishment, the Heron slowly and deliberately paced towards and then past me.

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The causeway looks dry here, but it wasn’t further down. My shoes proved to be quite waterproof, although not always high enough on my ankle to prevent a little icy dampness creeping into my socks.

When I reached the Public Hide a chap told me that he had been watching two Otters running on the ice, one quite nearby and the other across the far side of the mere. I settled down for a cup of tea from my flask and didn’t have to wait too long before…

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…an Otter briefly popped up, trying, it seemed, to jump through a small hole in the ice on to the surface. It tried a few times, but then disappeared again.

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I had originally planned to walk right around to Lower Hide, but had been warned that the path was badly flooded and therefore closed. I went a little way in that direction anyway.

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Heron.

Before turning back to the Public Hide. For some reason I decided to have one more look, not from the hide itself but from a small viewing platform alongside it. Rustling in some reeds nearby had me scanning the area just in front of me when…

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…an Otter popped up very close by. I had time to take three photos, but then it was gone, only to reappear by a post right in front of the hide. This was by far and away the best sighting of an Otter I’ve had at Leighton Moss and also the best anywhere in many, many years.

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I set-off back along the causeway with an added spring in my step.

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Long-tailed tit.

I continued my wander through Trowbarrow Quarry and along Moss Lane.

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Grey wagtail.

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Natural England’s plans for the area around Haweswater have upset some people in the village. A boardwalk will be removed and some Beech trees clear-felled. I think that these trees are the ones ear-marked for removal…

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I understand why people don’t like it when trees are felled, but personally I’ve always assumed that this is a plantation in which the trees are too close together and have grown tall and scrawny as a result. Not at all like some of the splendid, huge Beeches which the National Trust chopped down in Eaves Wood a few years ago.

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I paused on the apparently condemned boardwalks for another tea stop and watched a couple more Cormorants fishing in the lake.

Incidentally, the post’s title is more Ted Hughes, from his poem ‘The Otter’. You can find it in it’s entirety here.

Water-Gifted.

Ice Fishing.

Bottom’s Lane – The Row – Bank Well – Lambert’s Meadow – Burtonwell Wood – Silverdale Green.

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It’s not always easy to persuade the boys that they want to go out for a walk. They aren’t always keen to leave their various electronic devices. But to be fair to them, once they are out, they can be relied upon to embrace the opportunity and invariably seem to enjoy themselves.

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On this occasion, I lured them out of the house with the possibility of ice at Bank Well.

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I have to confess that the boys surprised me with how many ways they managed to engage with the ice. Violently striking it with their sticks was their first idea, obviously. (How Little S didn’t fall in in the process is beyond me.) But then pressing on the ice to listen to the sounds of protest it made – quite eerie. Creating bubbles under the ice and then trying to manoeuvre the bubbles around the pond.

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Bank Well – the pond had been silting up and filling with reeds for some time, it looks like somebody had done some work clearing it.

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Finally, lifting big shards of ice out of the pond and then dropping them onto parts which were still frozen over to view the resulting carnage.

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Can’t do that on your Xbox.

Ice Fishing.

An Early Bird on Sleddale Fell

Early Sun on Kentmere Pike

A stunning forecast for Saturday coincided with a busy family day and it seemed that there was no possibility that I would get out on the hills. But my Mother-in-Law took pity on me and offered to look after the kids until lunch time. Accordingly, I was fumbling my way out of bed, bleary-eyed and yawning, at five, driving by half-past and parking up at Sadgill in Longsleddale at six thirty. There was a bright half-moon hanging huge above the Kentmere ridge to the west and in the velvet sky the stars were beginning to fade as the pre-dawn light gradually strengthened. There was enough light to walk without a headtorch, although I opted to stick with the track heading for the Gatescarth Pass whilst the light improved, a route I might not have chosen otherwise.

A bracing northerly hurtled down the valley, an owl hooted from across the river. I confess, I did wonder a little about the sanity of the enterprise. It was bitterly, bitterly cold.

Birkett suggests following the path into Brownhowe Bottom and up to the col between Tarn Crag and Branstree, but previous experience suggested that this would be an indefinite path through very boggy ground which I had no desire to revisit. On the map, a stream heading west of west-north-west almost from the top of Tarn Crag seemed to offer a promising handrail to the heights. So I followed it, after peering first into the small disused quarry close to where the stream passed under the track. After the first steep pull the gradient eased and I suspect that ordinarily the going would have been a little damp underfoot. No such problem today as everything was well frozen. Drips from the edge of peat hags had become substantial icicles and the ground crunched and crackled as I walked.

Looking back again 

A fitter man than I would have reached the summit for the sunrise, but the fitter man was still in his bed, so I had the shady hillside to myself as an orange glow spread downwards on the Kentmere ridge opposite. A Tortoise-like steady plod has long been my Modus Operandi and eventually I toiled up to the summit of Tarn Crag. As I said, it was a bitterly cold day, but here it was colder yet – the wind chill must have been considerable. I flung on all of the additional layers I was carrying, but then, perhaps unwisely, took off my gloves to take some photos. My hands were soon painfully cold, then numb and then, after I put my gloves back on, painful again as the circulation returned bringing with it a prickly burning sensation.

But the sky was almost cloudless, the clarity of the air was superb and the views magnificent.

Tarn Crag Summit - with Survey Pillar 

The pillar here is a survey pillar, built when the Manchester Corporation was flooding Mardale to create Haweswater. I didn’t go to take a closer look, but if you’re interested, there’s a photo here of another pillar (there are several roundabout) on Branstree, taken on another stunning early February day. I once camped on the summit of Tarn Crag. Arriving in the late afternoon, I had the summit to myself then too. A glorious evening was followed by a very wet morning, and then a wet day splashing my way across the Shap fells and down to Tebay.

Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell 

Sadly it was just too cold to linger for long by the summit cairn.

Tarn Crag Summit Cairn 

So I set-off again, heading toward the distant line of the Pennines. Cross Fell stood out clearly, holding more snow than any of its neighbours.

Looking East to the Pennines 

As I dropped into the hollow which separates Tarn Crag from Grey Crag and Harrop Pike the wind suddenly died away. The contrast was amazing. I was out of the wind and in the sunshine – too good an opportunity to miss, so I stopped briefly for a hot drink.

Harrop Pike 

Looking toward Harrop Pike.

Harrop Pike Summit Cairn 

Harrop Pike Summit Cairn.

Looking down to Longsleddale from Grey Crag Summit 

Grey Crag cairn, looking down into Longsleddale.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever visited the little cairned and knobbly top of Grey Crag before, but it turned out to be another victory for Birkett Bagging – a lonely spot with great views of Longsleddale and the hills across the valley, and, more distantly, of the Coniston Fells.

Longsleddale and Great Howe 

From there I picked a way through the very broken crags heading towards Great Howe, which is the high point of the broad sweep of ridge on the right of this photo. Although not evidently a ‘summit’ in any way, Great Howe is another little gem with fantastic views of the wooded slopes and patchwork fields of the lower part of Longsleddale. I took photos, but they were into the low winter sun and so not particularly successful. Great Howe has two more survey pillars, but both are slightly below the ridge and on this occasion I didn’t feel inclined to detour to investigate, besides which I was working to a deadline.

Tarn Crag from Great Howe 

Tarn Crag from Great Howe.

Grey Crag from Great Howe 

Grey Crag from Great Howe.

Upper Longsleddale from Great Howe 

Upper Longsleddale from Great Howe

The slopes between Great Howe and Longsleddale are pretty steep and crags abound. When I arrived back at the car, I could see that it is possible to take what looked like a pleasant route down the ridge and via a stile down across the fields directly to Sadgill, but from above, knowing that this wasn’t access land, I opted for a more tricky descent back to the Gatescarth track. I once climbed Tarn Crag by following Galeforth Gill, a route which I can recommend. Now I took a line down and across the hillside towards that Gill.

Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike and Longsleddale 

Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike, Harter Fell and Upper Longsleddale again.

A perfectly placed gap in the crags brought me safely down to the gill a little way below an impressive waterfall. (If you choose to follow Galeforth Gill up Tarn Crag you can avoid the fall by diverting into the gully on the right, or possibly by following the tributary stream on the left.)

Galeforth Gill 

The stream bed and the rocks beside it were coated in a fascinating variety of ice formations.

Icicles by Galeforth Gill 

I was particularly impressed by these ice coated grass blades.

Ice coated grass blades, by Galeforth Gill 

Goat Scar and Longsleddale 

A final view of Goat Scar and Longsleddale.

Sadgill Bridge, River Sprint

Sadgill.

A very quiet walk – I saw no other walkers at all until I reached the Gatescarth track, shortly before I got back to my car. There were now fourteen cars parked at the road end at Sadgill. I chatted to chap who was sitting in the boot of his 4 by 4 tying his bootlaces, evidently about to set-off.

“What’s like up there?” he wanted to know.

“Fantastic. Frozen, everything’s frozen. Not much snow, but what there is, is firm and a pleasure to walk on.”

“Cold?”

“Oh, yes – extremely cold.”

I was home again by midday.

After lunch B and his pal wanted to me to take them for some tree-climbing and den-building in Eaves Wood. Then B and I watched the thrilling Calcutta Cup match on the telly together. Finally we rounded off a marvellous day with a meal at Cinnamon Spice Restaurant in the village. Two walks, a rugby international and a curry, and it wasn’t even my Birthday.

Throw those curtains wide……

A wee map:

Tarn Crag Walk

An Early Bird on Sleddale Fell

Ninebanks

Last weekend (back before Christmas) we travelled up to Allendale for our regular pre-Christmas get-together with old friends. We (well, not me personally: I’m hopeless and would definitely cock-up the organisation if it fell to me) had booked a youth hostel for our sole use – this year Ninebanks hostel. I’m reliably informed, by TBH, that this is the eighth year that we’ve done this. Which is true up to a point, but before we used Youth Hostels we used to gather in one of our homes – this was when we were young and able to sleep on floors, and perhaps more importantly we didn’t have so many kids between us.

It’s as much a social event as anything – communal meals, rehashing old stories, a kids party, a few beers. This year tobogganing and a music intros quiz also featured. There wasn’t really enough snow for the former and every stone and rut bumped and jolted as we slid down the icy field. Frozen mole-hills proved to be particularly hazardous and all of the sleds were fatally damaged over the course of the weekend. I finished the trip with very painful sciatica which I think was probably as a result of the sledging.

I did manage to fit a couple of walks in too though. On Saturday I was up early for a pre-dawn start with the Adopted Yorkshireman (henceforth AYM). We walked a horseshoe around the valley of Wellhope Burn – up to the trig pillar at Hard Rigg, across Hesleywell Moor, over Whimsey Hill and the Dodd before turning North back toward the hostel. It was phenomenally cold – I’m essentially a very warm person and usually find that I can’t wear gloves for long, but on this occasion I comfortably wore two pairs together.

Hard Rigg

Twice – on the way up Hard Rigg and right by the trig point, we saw a mouse darting from a hole in the snow and then disappearing into another hole. Must be a hard won existence.

Where the going underfoot consisted of fresh snow over tussocks (approaching Hard Rigg) or fresh snow over heather and peat hags (the Dodd) it was hard work – letting the AYM break trial is not much help since his legs are about 3 yards long and it’s nigh on impossible to match his stride, and even if you do manage it’s only to find that he walks with his toes pointing out at 45 degrees and you can’t turn your feet to match his prints without the advantage of double-jointed ankles. Fortunately much of our route followed a wall in the lee of which old drifted snow had frozen into solid neve which was a delight to walk on. This was my first time around this moorland but with the boggy bits frozen it was probably an ideal time to visit. True to form however, on the Dodd I did manage to crash through some ice into peaty water which filled one of my boots – it was, needless to say, very cold.

Later on in our walk it brightened up considerably but for some reason I didn’t take any photos – probably too busy putting the world to rights as the AYM and I always seem to do whenever we are together.

After the early start we back in time for a late lunch, some sledging and to cook the curries for tea (my contribution to the weekend).

On the Sunday I was out with the AYM’s other half the Adopted Yorkshirewoman. We were on the afternoon shift having been on child-minding duties in the morning. As luck would have it we hit the best part of the day – it had been rather dull and dour but as we set-off the AYW opined that ‘it might clear up’, and she was dead right.

The confluence of the River West Allen and Mohope Burn….

…still running but with  ice building up under the water.

West Allen Dale

The track which took us up on to the moors. (Remarkably ice-free unlike many of the paths and tracks we followed)

The cloud begins to reassert itself.

We enjoyed the sunshine whilst we could, because when the weather turned again it did so very swiftly. And by the time we were following the edge at Greenleycleugh Crags, visibility was very limited…

Looking along Greenleycleugh Crags to the last of the sunshine disappearing in the North.

On the way back to the hostel we passed Throssel Hole Buddhist Centre which I’m sure I’ve read about before on the interweb but which I wasn’t aware was here. We talked to a couple of people here who I would guess were a monk and a nun from the centre. They were having problems with their water source. The centre is in Limestone Brae which is a small hamlet stretched out along the road on a steep valley side. Having seen the name Limestone Brae on a road sign I had been expecting it to be some sort of interesting geological feature.

At the end of our walk, in almost complete darkness, we came across a gathering of hares – I think seven in all. I thought that hare’s were essentially solitary creatures and was surprised to find them fraternising in a field.

In all a great weekend, and we didn’t get round to exploring Allen Banks or visiting the forts on nearby Hadrian’s Wall. We shall have to return.

Ninebanks