High Dam and Thornton Force.

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We didn’t visit High Dam and Thornton Force in the same trip, but on two consecutive days over half-term. The Wednesday was overcast, but still warm and sticky and the boys and I decided to check out High Dam. It’s above the southern end of Windermere near Finsthwaite.

As the name suggests, it’s a reservoir, with a dam…

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…but don’t worry, it’s not drinking water.

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Columbine on the dam.

The water is relatively shallow (but deep enough to swim in), peaty, and was surprisingly warm – in other words: not freezing.

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We started from the small bay southwest of Roger Height…

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…and swam across to visit the two little islands. On the second a fallen tree, laying out over the water, gave the boys a chance to jump in, which seems to be essential. We swam back, and then back across again, by which time Little S was worn out. So we swam to the southern shore exiting close to the western end of the dam (which looks further on the map than back across the lake would have been, but Little S was happy with it).

Having said the water was warm, I should perhaps qualify that admitting that Little S’s fingers were a bit blue by the time we got out of the water.

As well as being a bit muggy, it was a windless day and I had been surprised that we weren’t attacked by midges when were changing to get in the water. We weren’t so lucky when we were changing back again. Overall, though a great place to swim, which is not too far from home.

Talking of which…

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…this is Thornton Force, on the River Twiss above Ingleton. My cousin R is lucky enough to own a house nearby and generous enough to invite us to visit during half-term. The invite was an open one, but since his sister, my cousin K, was also visiting with her family on the Thursday we decided to crash their family get together. It was great to see them again.

I’d already bribed the boys with the possibility of a walk to Thornton Force and Little S almost immediately started to drop not so subtle hints like: “I’ve got a good idea – we could walk to the waterfall and have a swim.”

Eventually, we let him have his way. The pool below the force turned out to be of a good size and ideal for swimming. The photo was taken when I visited one evening last summer. It was much, much busier this time. But we were the only ones swimming and the falls had a lot less water coming over them so that we could duck our heads into them, which was very bracing. I entrusted TBH with the camera, but she took lots of close-ups of peoples heads – all very well, but not really showing where we were swimming.

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That evening TBH got a fire going in our new fire-pit and the kids lit sparklers and tried making campfire popcorn (not entirely successful, well, actually, not remotely successful, but maybe the fun was in the trying)

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Those are both swimming spots we will visit again, I’m sure.

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High Dam and Thornton Force.

Small Water Camp and Swim

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On Piot Crag, Haweswater behind.

We eventually arrived at the end of Haweswater late on the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. The car park was still fairly busy, but was also noticeably emptying. We chose to revisit Small Water, the site of A’s first wild-camp, two year ago, for the same reasons we’d chosen it then: it’s a short walk-in, starting from quite high altitude. In addition, we now knew for sure that there were a number of good spots in which to camp by the tarn.

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An early rest during the ascent to Small Water.

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Looking back to Hawes Water from close to the top of the climb to Small Water.

It was still hot, so when we arrived at Small Water, we dumped our heavy bags in a suitable looking spot, and made a bee-line for the lake. The southern side of the tarn was still bathed in sunlight, but the sun would evidently soon disappear behind the hills, so we made the most of the opportunity and dived in for a swim. (Except TBH, obviously). The water was cold, but not at all bad, once you were in, and the surroundings were superb.

The place we’d selected to pitch our tents, which was close to where A and I camped last time and which I’d ear-marked then as a likely place to get two tents comfortably, was still in the sunshine fortunately, at least for a little longer. The Quechua tent we bought A goes up very quickly and A has the process down to a fine art, having used it several times now. The boys and I took a little longer with Andy’s tent, but felt that we’d made some progress with how to do the trickiest part of the process, so that was something.

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We enjoyed our pasta tea whilst watching pink clouds drifting overhead. The boys went through their usual routine of running around excitedly, exploring our surroundings and climbing every boulder and small crag they thought they could manage, whilst the rest of  us filtered water for the morning. One final, short outing, to circumnavigate the tarn, the boys constantly on the look out for places where they might jump in, and then we turned in.

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Our pitch.

The next morning brought low clouds and, in our tent at least, recriminations: the boys and I all felt that we’d had a poor night made worse by the snoring and tossing and turning of the other two, who had, in our opinions, both clearly slept soundly and loudly. We can’t all have been right. TBH and A, meanwhile, who both sleep like proverbial logs, slept on after we’d got up, and eventually I steeled myself and woke them up.

We’d all put together our own versions of this porridge mixture. B was adamant that the edition of powdered milk, which we didn’t have when he’d tried it before, had transformed the result so that it was “as good as porridge at home”. A meanwhile, had ground up her oats so that, after the addition of hot water, her’s actually looked like proper cooked porridge. She’d also added chocolate chips and I have to confess that, having tried it, the result was delicious. TBH’s innovation was powdered coconut milk, which I didn’t even know existed. That worked too. You’ll have to excuse all of the details about food, but if you’ve ever been back-packing, you’ll know how vital getting that right is to the success or otherwise of a trip.

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The boys loved these slabs, right by where we camped. Here, Little S is shouting “Look at me Andy”, which he seems to have adopted as a catch phrase. I think the first time he did it, he will have been only about three and had just scaled a small cliff above a beach at Towyn.  I don’t know if, even then, he was being mischievous and deliberately trying to frighten our old friend Andy, but that’s been his intention ever since, so that now he sees it as an in-joke and will shout it even if Andy is not with us.

After our leisurely start we set-off up Piot Crag. It looks fairly intimidating from below, and perhaps more so when you are part way up, but we knew that the route ‘would go’ as A and I came this way last time.

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You reach a point where the way ahead seems barred by crags…

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But in fact there are two lines of crags and if you head right you reach the bottom of a stone-filled gully which leads up between them, steeply, but safely.

I had been quietly hoping that we might find…

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…some Roseroot having read that it can be found on the steep crags above neighbouring Blea Water.

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It’s a member of the stonecrop family, many of which are quite small, but this is fairly sizeable by comparison. It’s a succulent and has thick leaves, like a Sedum. The Wild Flower Key lists it with Orpine, which grows abundantly on walls near home. Apparently, its roots, when dried, smell like roses, hence the name. I’m sure that I’ve seen it before, but can’t think where. I think it’s quite rare in the wild, but is also grown in rock gardens. The flowers weren’t fully open, which was a shame, but gives me something to look out for in future. I wanted to climb above it to get better photos of the flowers, and Little S, naturally, was keen to come with me. When the first hand-hold I grabbed, a very substantial lump of rock, started to come away from the rockface, I abandoned the idea.

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Parsley Fern.

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At the top of the gully there’s a fair bit of spoil and a few structures. There must have been some sort of mining or quarrying hereabouts in the past. We stopped for a quick drink.

From there it’s not much of a climb to the top of Mardale Ill Bell.

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Small Water and Harter Fell..

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High Street and Blea Water.

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Small Water and Haweswater. Piot Crag is the ridge on the left in shadow.

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I quite fancied continuing along the ridge to Harter Fell, but I was in a minority of one.

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A dry Kentmere reservoir. Working on the dam apparently.

The consensus was that we should return to the tents for lunch and then another swim in Small Water.

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Small, odd structures by Small Water, marked on the map as ‘shelters’. By boys decided that they are garages, although they aren’t remotely big enough for anything but a Dinky toy car.

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Lunch was humus and pan-fried bread, an experiment with camping food that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I’d made chapatis with tea on the Sunday night and remembered, or thought I could remember, old friend Geordie Munro once making them in a Trangia pan lid, whilst we were on a backpacking trip, and how welcome they were after a few days of less imaginative fare. So I’d brought flour, salt and dried yeast in a freezer bag and then warmed some water to add to the bag after we’d had breakfast, leaving it to rise in the tent’s porch. When we got back I found that the mixture was so sticky that there was no real way that I could hope to flatten it out into chapatis. Instead I turned lumps of dough out of the bag into a hot pan which I’d sprayed with oil. I couldn’t even flatten the mixture in the pan, because it stuck to my spoon, but, if I cooked it for a while and then flipped it over, I found that enough of a crust had formed that I could then press on the cooked side to begin to shape the loaf. By repeatedly flipping and squishing the loaves I managed to get them to cook through okay. I made three, of which the photo above shows the last and by far the largest. How were they? Well, there was none left and I shall definitely being doing that again. My hands did get a coating of sticky dough, but I found that it soon dried and fell off without my having to worry too much about how to remove it.

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Small Water pano.

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After lunch – another swim in Small Water. It being earlier in the day, we could try the north shore and still be in the sun. Here the bottom shelved even more quickly than it had on the other side, so that two strides in you were already deep enough to swim. Only me and the boys swam this time, TBH and A watched and took photos, including these which TBH took with my camera.

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I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to swim here before. With the steep slopes of Small Water Crag as a backdrop, this is an amazing place for a dip. I was reminded of a larger tarn in a similar, but larger corrie in the Pyrenees, where I swam when TBH and I were there years ago. Without a wetsuit, Little S didn’t last too long, but B and I had a good, long swim. That’s us, the tiny dots in the photo above.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a swim: we repeatedly saw fish jumping out of the water. Probably after these fellows…

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Mayfly piggybacking on my towel.

After that it was just a question of packing up and retracing the short walk back to the car.

Sadly, one further bit of excitement as we walked down – a herd of sheep went hurtling past us down the hillside with a collie in close pursuit. The sheep gradually split into smaller and smaller groups until the collie was only chasing three, then just one lamb. They were quickly way below us, but I could see that the dog had the lamb cornered against a wall. Still barking furiously, the dog had the sheep turning repeatedly back and forth, back and forth. We carried on down and, when we reached the same wall, I dumped my bag and started to make my way around towards the pair of them. I tried to discourage Little S from joining me, not knowing what frame of mind the dog would be in, but he went racing off and soon B had joined us too. We realised that they’d moved on again and the sheep was in Blea Water Beck, trapped against the fence which continued the line of the wall across the beck. As we neared the stream, Little S, anxious to help the lamb, went haring off ahead, disappearing over a slight rise. He reappeared seconds later, at quite a lick, looking more than a little alarmed.

“The dog’s after me, the dog’s after me.”

It was only a small collie, dripping wet, it had clearly been in the stream. It took one look at me and turned to run back up the hill to its owners. The lamb didn’t seem to be hurt in any obvious way, but nor did it want to budge from it’s position, backed against the fence at the edge of the stream. We left it, and later saw it head up the hill to rejoin the flock. We also saw the feckless dog owners, with the collie now back on a lead, approaching the car park, but chose to head to Shap chippy for some tea rather than staying to get into a row with them.

Small Water and Piot Crag

 

Small Water Camp and Swim

Swindale and Mosedale Beck

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An exchange of text messages and phone-calls with TBH during my walk on the Helm gave some shape to the rest of our day. We would have a barbecue at some point, and either take the boats out or maybe look for a gill to play in. You can see that we chose the second option. I also decided to cook at lunchtime so that we didn’t have to rush home in the afternoon. Hardly surprisingly, this turned into a very leisurely affair and wasn’t very conducive for an early departure, but not to worry: we arrived as most people would be leaving and the sun was still shining.

There’s a sign someway short of Swindale Foot warning that there is no parking further up the valley. The boys were quite happy with where we parked however…

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…since it gave them a chance to crawl through this culvert, which was practically dry after a couple of weeks with little rain.

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I already knew about the new fish ladder in Swindale Beck…

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…because Conrad recently posted pictures – subconsciously, that’s probably what put Swindale in my mind when I was trying to think of stream with falls and pools and an east facing aspect to catch some late sun. The fish-ladder is part of a joint venture between the RSPB and United Utilities. They’ve also put the meanders back into a part of the stream which was straightened some time ago. I assumed that the fisher ladder was intended to benefit Salmon, but it’s won an award from an organisation dedicated to Trout, and there seemed to be a device for counting Eels too, which shows the limit of my knowledge about fish.

We didn’t need to cross the beck…

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…but who can resist stepping stones?

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Gouther Crag.

The RSPB have also created a nature trail, which follows, I’m pretty sure, the track along the valley in the picture above. None of the information boards they’ve put up made that clear though, so we stuck to the road…

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Which was very quiet and pleasant walking.

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Hobgrumble Gill and Dodd Bottom.

Dodd Bottom is pancake flat and must surely once have been a tarn?

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Away from Dodd Bottom, the valley floor is a mass of hummocks which I assume are drumlins. Among the trees on the left we spotted an enormous boulder, presumably another remnant of glacial action….

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We were fast approaching our destination…

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The beck is Mosedale Beck above this steeper section and Swindale Beck once into the valley. Where the transition from one to the other occurs, I couldn’t say.

I’d done a little research online and read that this footbridge…

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…was washed away by flooding some years ago, but clearly it has been reinstated.

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The beck flows through a series of small waterfalls and cascades, with lots of enticing bare rock on either side. The boys and I decided to see how far we could get, without getting wet, by sticking to the rock.

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They soon tired of that though and we turned back. They were much more eager to get into the water…

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I didn’t join them in this pool, it was evidently too shallow for a decent swim.

This one looked much more promising…

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…but whilst it was quite deep, it also contained several very sizable boulders which made swimming quite awkward. The pool above, however, which was sandwiched between two waterfalls, although small, was very deep, and we managed to find a spot from which we could jump in with care, which made B in particular, very happy.

As the sun began to sink behind Hare Shaw, we ate out picnic and then walked back on the other side of the valley, beneath Gouther Crag, on a path not shown on the OS map. Little S had remembered some of the edible wild-plants I introduced to him last year and he gleefully tucked into some Sorrel and Cuckooflower leaves. I’m thrilled with his interest, but wish he would show the same inclination to eat salads and vegetables at home!

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Incidentally, this valley is excellent for both birds and wildflowers. Photos here from my last visit, which I was stunned to find was as long ago as 2011.

Swindale is also almost certainly the last resting place of Little S’s sledge, which he lost to a gale this winter.

Swindale and Mosedale Beck

Lazing by Wastwater

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During our walk up Lingmell, we passed some very promising pools in Lingmell Beck. As usual B was very keen to swim. On the way up , we didn’t really have time, and on the way down we were also a bit pushed: I gave B an option and he chose a barbecue without a swim over a quicker meal with a swim. So, it would be a good thing if we could incorporate a dip into our plan for Sunday. A meanwhile, has problems with her knee at the moment, and it had swollen up and was uncomfortable, so a day without a walk would suit her. Once we’d packed up our tents then, we decided to drive down to where there’s parking close to the shore of Wastwater so that we could have a leisurely picnic and maybe a brief bathe. Having heard our plan, J, C and M opted to join us. For the picnic anyway.

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A and B chilling out.

We did a fair bit of loafing, picnicked, skimmed and threw a few stones…

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I watched a pair of Merganser’s out in the lake, hoping that they would come close enough in shore for me to get some half-way decent photos. They didn’t. Also on an ornithological front: I forgot to mention that I’d already heard my first Cuckoo of the year at the campsite, which is becoming an annual event.

B and I did go for a swim eventually. Wastwater is England’s deepest lake, and the water was very, very cold. Still it was fun, if short-lived. It was instructive to paddle across the mouth of the stream which you can see in the photo above – the water flowing in the stream was noticeably, considerably warmer.

Meanwhile, the girls had decided to give J a makeover. She demanded that I take her photo for the blog to ‘make her famous’. So….

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I’m not sure that J actually reads my blog, but all three followers and my Mum will now get to see her Pippi-Longstocking Got Married look. It’s sure to catch on.

Lazing by Wastwater

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?

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

Tongue Pot

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The day after we got back from our Ullswater trip. TBH and A were off on a beano, at Wellies and Wristbands, a music festival for Girl Guides. I wanted to take the boys to Eskdale, and managed to persuade them that it was a good idea after showing them some  videos on Youtube of people swimming at Tongue Pot. We left home early, to ensure that we have no difficulty in getting a parking space at the bottom of the Hardknott pass, by Jubilee Bridge. The people (and dog) in front of the boys above had parked next to us and we were leapfrogging each other along the valley.

Bowfell was looking very imposing ahead and it probably would have been a good day to climb it, but we had other plans.

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This is Tongue Pot…

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It’s shallow at this end, but shelves steeply and is very deep in the middle.

The couple (and the dog) had reached the pool before us, but had similar plans. They were soon into their wetsuits, very quickly into the pool and then very soon out again. They weren’t very encouraging about the temperature of the water, very kindly offering me a loan of some goggles, but warning me that complete immersion would make my head hurt. They had a point: it was bitterly cold.

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The couple were soon on their way again, back down the valley for a hot chocolate in the pub. I’ve seen this before, wild-swimmers in wetsuits arriving at a well documented swimming hole, changing into wetsuits, swimming for two minutes and then heading back to their cars. Each to their own, obviously, but I don’t really understand – is it really worth the effort?

Once they were gone we had the river to ourselves for a while. Little S had a wetsuit, but is all skin and bone and struggled with the cold, he did manage a swim, but then opted to get out again. I think the time he’d spent half in the water dithering hadn’t helped. B and I, without wetsuits, were in and out of the water – jumping in, exploring a little upstream, swimming up to the waterfall etc  – for around an hour. Swimming against the current proved to be extremely hard work. B is a stronger swimmer than me, but he also struggled to get to the base of the fall.

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Once we were out, we put all of our spare gear on in an attempt to warm up (it took quite a long time) and ate our lunch.

A large commercially-led party, all kitted out in wetsuits, buoyancy aids, helmets and red jackets, came past us and jumped into the pot.

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Then they climbed out on the far side and jumped in from there, a much longer drop.

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I’ve written before about my frequent visits to Eskdale in the past. This jump, which we christened ‘The Megaleap’ was often a big part of those trips. B had been up to the top to take a look, but had decided not to jump. Now he was really keen to change back into his trunks and have a go, but this hardly seemed fair on Little S who had been very patient with us already.

So instead we did a little exploration upstream. There was another group swimming in what looked to be a good spot above the confluence with Lingcove Beck.

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River Esk.

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Lingcove Bridge.

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Lingcove Beck.

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Waterfall on Lingcove Beck.

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Red Admiral.

The boys are now both eager to return to Tongue Pot. Next time we need to visit after a spell of settled weather when the water might not be so icy and the current should be more manageable. It’s been many years since I last swam there; I’m pretty sure I shan’t be waiting so long until my next dip there.

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Tongue Pot