The forecast suggested that this would be the last day of fine weather during the week. We managed to get out of the house reasonably early, but even so Brown Howe car park was already chocker when we arrived. Fortunately, true to form, Andy had a plan B, and had used satellite images to pick out a lay-by suitably situated, just a little further up the lake.
There followed a fairly lengthy interlude of inflating boats and Andy’s SUPB, lugging everything – boats, picnic rugs, tables, stoves, food, badminton set, etc – across the road and over the wall (much higher on the lake side than by the road), then frying-up bacon for breakfast/brunch.
It was a very chilled day. Swim for a bit, read for a bit, paddle a canoe for a while. Repeat.
As I set-off for a swim, TBH and A went past me in our canoe.
“Are you swimming right across?” TBH asked. “Because if you are, we can give you a lift back.”
That hadn’t been my intention, but now a seed had been planted. I kept going and there came a point where going back would have been as far as continuing. I actually didn’t swim right across Coniston Water, only as far as Peel Island (the model for Wildcat Island in the Swallows and Amazons books).
I don’t know how far it is. A few hundred metres. A few lengths of an Olympic pool. But by the time I was mid-lake I started to feel a bit small and a bit lonely. I was a bit concerned by the paddle-steamers and yachts plowing up and down the lake, and whether they could see me. Maybe I need one of those day-glow floaty things!
When I arrived at Peel Island, all of my kids were there, jumping in off some rocks.
In the event, it was Andy who came across the lake in his canoe to fetch me. Paddling back across the lake took a tiny fraction of the time it had taken me to swim across.
Unfortunately, the day ended with one of our all to frequent trips to A-and-E. Little S was hit in the eye by a shuttlecock, a freak accident which left him temporarily unsighted in one eye. It was horrible, particularly frightening for Little S, obviously. I’m pleased to report that his vision soon returned, but the incident has left me with less pleasant memories of what had been a smashing day until then.
We set-off for a swim at High Dam, but the traffic on the A590 wasn’t moving, so a last minute change of plan found us back at Gurnal Dubs.
It was probably serendipity at work: High Dam is lovely, but it’s surrounded by trees so we would’ve missed the lovely late sunshine and may have had much more of an issue with midges, although they did eventually rear their ugly heads at Gurnal Dubs.
The first full day of our staycation was TJF’s birthday. Accordingly, Andy had a day of delights meticulously planned. The Herefordshire Hominids, and our kids, all enjoy climbing, swinging, dangling and sliding in tree-top adventure playgrounds. So we had Go-Ape booked in Grizedale forest.
I have neither the physique nor the temperament for such antics. TBH has been known to join in, but on this occasion opted to keep me company. We had loaded our heavy e-bikes onto Andy’s very sturdy bike-carrier and, whilst the others were monkeying about, went for a ride around one of the forest’s bike trails.
We chose The Hawkshead Moor Trail, which, after some fairly relentless climbing, gave brilliant views of the Coniston Fells…
And then the Langdale Pikes too…
Better with or without the Rosebay Willow Herb? I couldn’t decide.
We’d actually considered hiring e-mountain bikes but they were very pricey. We did meet quite a few people riding them and they were clearly higher-powered then our bikes, seemingly making the ascents virtually effortless.
Never-the-less, we knocked off the trail in around an hour-and-a-half, not the stated two-and-a-half, so we had some more time to kill prior to our planned rendezvous with our Arboreal Allies. We decided to have a go at the Grizedale Tarn Trail, with the perhaps predictable result that both of our batteries ran out of fizz.
Carrying-on without power was a non-starter as far as I was concerned. We found a path which seemed to be heading in the right direction (i.e. downhill) and walked the bikes across a couple of fields, before having to manhandle them over a gate (quite challenging), leaving a short, steep, stoney descent back to the visitor’s centre. TBH wasn’t keen so I rode both bikes down in turn.
The next element of Andy’s cunning plan was a drive (along some very ‘interesting’ narrow lanes) to Brown Howe car park on the shore of Coniston Water for a swim. I’m not sure to what extent it made us smell any sweeter, which was Andy’s stated intention, but it was a very refreshing dip, with great views of the surrounding fells.
Finally, to round-off a fabulous day, Andy had booked a table at Betulla’s an ‘Italian-inspired’ restaurant in Ulverston. I can’t speak highly enough of the meal we had there. Mine was battered calamari followed by hunter’s chicken which came served with bolognese sauce so tasty that I’ve decided next time we visit I shall just choose the bolognese. Everybody else’s meals looked great too. I gather the cocktails were rather good as well.
I hope that TJF enjoyed her day. I know that I did. With hindsight, it stands out as one of my highlights of the year. I’m considering hiring Andy to plan my Birthdays in future.
It remained hot. The kids, well A and B anyway, were joining friends for swims in the Bay at high tide. I’ve always regarded such behaviour as a sure sign of insanity, as the sea is not all that inviting here, being full of silt and murky brown and almost certainly full of unsavoury pollutants too, but finally I cracked and TBH and I cycled down to a spot near Jenny Brown’s Point a couple of times for a dip.
And……it was very pleasant. Hopefully, we’ll get the right weather and do it again next summer.
And then we went for our annual, marvellous, camping trip with old friends to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. I remember that I did a lot of snorkelling in the first part of the week. The water was a lot colder than it had been in the Bay, but it was clear and there was lots to see as ever. Later in the week, the winds picked up and we switched to body surfing. Lots of games of Kubb and Molkky too. Beach cricket, frisbee throwing. All the usual fun.
Lots of walking happened too, but with B still suffering with his knee we generally opted to stay at the campsite/beach and keep him company, the only exception being the obligatory ascent of ‘Birthday Hill’ or Caryn Fadryn.
I apparently took no photos at all, apart from the rather poor one above of some of the Naughty Nine on Carn Fadryn’s summit.
Inexplicable. I did take lots of pictures in the garden after we returned home though! So here’s one of those:
Edit – TBH to the rescue – I did take more photos at Towyn, but using TBH’s phone – I think mine had no charge. So here’s a selection of photos, some of which I took and some of which are TBH’s work:
Obviously the travel restrictions over the last two years have been a pain in the neck, but if I’m allowed to go to Wales for a week every summer, I reckon I can get by; with a little help from my friends anyway.
And then it was hot. We had what passes for a heat wave in this neck of the woods – that is, a few days of what would probably pass for mild temperatures in many parts of the world. Not being used to extremes, we naturally over-react and do everything we can to get out of the heat. TBH and I had a swim in the Lune near to Bull Beck. It was quite pleasant, although not very deep. We were surprised to see two quite large parties camping in the field there by the river.
On this occasion, I suspect we’d already dropped B off for work at Brockholes. A was probably working too, but Little S joined us. We parked near Hundhowe and walked up past Ghyll Pool and Potter Tarn and, after our swim, back down the same way.
I’ve been wanting to come back and swim in Gurnal Dubs since witnessing a family swim here four years ago; it was great to be back and confirm that it really is a terrific place for a dip. (Incidentally, the photo at the top of that post is possibly my favourite of the seventy odd thousand I have on flickr)
I’d recently picked up some full-face snorkelling masks from Aldi, so we’d brought one with us to try it out. I’m pretty sure there are fish here, but I didn’t see any with the mask on.
After a fairly lengthy swim, we set-off back towards the car…
…with great views ahead.
It’s a great place for a swim, and relatively accessible from home. We were back, with friends, not long after, and I’m sure we’ll swim there again.
A tune. I was going to use Buddy Miles’ ‘Down By The River’, which seemed appropriate for our swim in the Lune, but I’ve gone with ‘Them Changes’ from the same album because it’s such an irresistible riff.
I haven’t ventured out on the hills on my own all that much this year. Of course, we were supposed to stay ‘local’, what ever that meant, for quite some time, then those restrictions were relaxed, but I don’t seem to have got back into the habit somehow. This walk, on the sprawling moors of Baugh Fell being the notable exception. It began inauspiciously, in the parking area just off the Sedbergh to Kirkby Stephen road, south of Rawthey Bridge, with low cloud obscuring the Howgill Fells and a light drizzle falling. I was heading for the path which cuts across the slopes of Bluecaster heading into the upper reaches of the River Rawthey.
Along the path I leap-frogged a group of three who had set-off from the same parking spot just before me. They were the last people I would see for quite some time.
The waters of all of the streams which feed into the Rawthey ultimately end up in the Lune, and so fall under the remit of my Lune Catchment project. On the map, Needlehouse Gill and Uldale Gill look like an interesting alternative way up onto Wild Boar Fell. Whin Stone Gill, on the other hand, skirts Holmes Moss Hill, one of the boggiest places I have ever walked, so I might be leaving that one for a while!
Anyway, sticking with the Rawthey, as I continued upstream I passed a series of small cascades, including this one…
Behind which, through the trees, you can just about make out Uldale Force, contained within it’s own little amphitheatre.
It’s not Yorkshire Dales tallest, widest, or most spectacular waterfall, but it’s a smashing spot. At the back of my mind, when I’d planned this walk, I’d been thinking that I might manage a brief dip in the pool at the bottom of the fall, but it was still a bit damp, and quite cool, so I reluctantly abandoned that idea.
I took solace instead in the abundance of Primroses growing on the far bank – this photo just shows one small section of an absolute mass of flowers.
From Uldale Force, it’s necessary to climb up above the river and it’s steep banks for a while, but I soon rejoined the watercourse further up.
The Rawthey passes through a rocky little ravine for a while, where progress was quite slow, as I crossed and recrossed the stream. (Somewhere, the River Rawthey becomes plain old Rawthey Gill.)
At some point the sun had come out. I came across a rather tempting little pool and hatched a new plan: make a brew, swim whilst the tea cooled a bit, get out and drink the brew to warm up. Perfect. Or it would have been had I remembered to pack a gas canister. So I abandoned that plan in a fit of pique.
At Rawthey Gill Foot, (perhaps where the name change occurs?) the landscape opens up and the feeling of space is immense. This would prove to be a feature of the day.
As I climbed and the slopes on either side of the Rawthey began to rise again and enclose the gill, I came across a series of delightful little pools, just about large enough for a dip.
I’m pretty sure this…
…is the one I swam in, not that there was room for more than a couple of strokes. What was it like? It was the first of May, so it was pretty bracing, but the sun was shining, the views were great and there was absolutely nobody about, so I enjoyed it immensely.
Would have liked a cup of tea afterwards though.
All of the streams hereabouts look like they would repay exploration. It would be good, in dry weather, to camp in the vicinity of Rawthey Gill Foot and have a proper explore. Some of the streams drain the other way, down into Grizedale, and into the Clough River, but that’s another tributary of the Lune, so it’s a win win from my point of view.
Plodding up the stream I was really in my element – following a watercourse into the hills has always been a favourite occupation of mine. Progress can be slow, but there always seemed to be another little fall just around the corner to keep me entertained.
As I approached the top of the gill, I was careful to keep left at every opportunity, thinking that would have me emerging onto the plateau of Baugh Fell near to the East Tarns. I must have left it too late to turn left however, so that I actually came out just below Knoutberry Haw. The ground ahead looked worryingly flat so I cut left where I could see rocks, eventually hitting the ‘ridge’ between Knoutberry Haw and Tarn Rigg Hill.
Now I had a view to the south, of familiar hills from a very unfamiliar direction.
There was a couple by the trig pillar on Knoutberry Haw. I was so surprised to meet other people that I marched right past without taking a photo of the trig.
You can see that there is a faint path, but it was surprisingly easy to lose.
Incidentally, although the sun was still shining, by now I had donned all of my clothing, including hat, gloves and cag to keep out the biting wind. The idea that I had been swimming a few hours earlier seemed preposterous.
Wild Boar Fell dominated the view all day. It’s far too long since I’ve been up there.
West Baugh Fell was very firm and stony, I can’t imagine that this gets boggy. I was revelling in the space and the light and the emptiness.
I elected to descend directly toward the car, down the shoulder named Raven Thorn on the map. Not my best decision. It was hard going – wet and tussocky. After rain I suspect it would be purgatorial. Eventually, I gave it up as a bad lot and dropped back down to the track I had started the day on.
Right near the end of my walk I met three trails bikers. I was all ready to be disapprovingly cross, when the lead rider popped up his visor, beamed at me and asked me how I was and where I’d been – it was one of B’s rugby team, who lives nearby. It was then that I realised that I don’t know whether to pronounce Baugh as ‘bore’ or ‘bow’ or quite possibly in some other way.
Thirteen miles and a little over 500m of ascent according to MapMyWalk. I once had the bright idea of attempting this walk in an evening after work. I’m glad I didn’t!
As you can see, lots of blue lines draining away from Baugh Fell, and all of them eventually feed into the Lune, so loads of scope for return visits.
Inevitably, we hired kayaks and had a paddle down the Tarn.
The Tarn is a bit more racy than the Dordogne, with some shallower, fast flowing sections and lots of places to stop for swims and for the DBs to throw themselves into the river.
The scenery is amazing, the water beautifully clear and very inviting.
You can perhaps see, in the photograph above, that there are a lot of people congregated on the shingle bank downstream. They are examining a fast-flowing section which we had been told we should portage around. In fact, everybody seemed to be canoeing the little rapid quite successfully, so we did the same.
The section through Les Détroits was quite odd – suddenly we were fighting a strong, chilly head-on wind. Once the steep cliffs either side of the river receded the wind calmed down again.
Our route took as past the campsite (I think we stopped for ice-creams) and then past the mushroom rock, just after which there was another small fast-flowing section. Having successfully navigated that, I was upended by one of the flat-bottomed commercial passenger boats which ply the river with, it seems, almost complete disregard for the many canoeists also on the water. Somehow, I didn’t lose either my hat or my glasses, and only my pride was hurt, but I was infuriated and may have hurled a few choice Anglo-Saxon expletives after the departing boatman.
On a couple of occasions, later in the week, we drove a little down the valley to swim in the river in an area where a substantial rockfall in the past has left the river choked with huge boulders.
It was a fascinating spot. The water was very deep and, in places, where side-streams issued into the Tarn, the water was bracingly cold. Upstream, the water flowed through narrow little channels and forcing a way upstream became both challenging and exhausting, but highly enjoyable.
The big boulders in and by the river provided numerous opportunities for big jumps into the water. Even A joined in. Me too, but nothing too ambitious.
It was a great find, enlivened, for B at least, by the radar speed sign on the road above the river – which he found he could trigger by running along the road.
All good things come to an end, and eventually we had to move on from the Dordogne. Fortunately, we were only moving on to the Tarn Gorge, just as we did on our previous trip. This time, as you can see, Andy had booked plots with a direct view of the river, which was rather magnificent.
Sitting around the campsite chilling out is surely a key ingredient of any camping trip and I certainly did a lot of that on this trip. I got through a lot of reading material. I didn’t use our hammocks, but the rest of the family all loved them and there was often keen competition to secure a berth, since we only had two between us.
Regular swims in the river were also key. I’d bought a full-face mask with integrated snorkel from Aldi before the trip and it might just be the best eighteen quid I ever spent. The fish here were plentiful, varied and absolutely fascinating. I only wish I had photos to share.
The Dangerous Brothers, including Andy, an honorary DB, (ODB ?), spent much of their time climbing the cliffs to find ridiculously high spots from which to launch themselves, sometimes with a large inflatable shark in tow, which they christened DB Aquatic. I don’t have any photos of them jumping (I preferred not to watch), but there’s some slo-mo footage of their antics on Andy’s blog here.
By contrast with our last visit, I don’t seem to have taken many photos around the campsite, which is odd because the views are amazing. The cliffs up the valley were lit at night (B was convinced it was the sunset, bless him) and although they looked huge from below, we realised, later in the week when we went up to the rim of the gorge to watch the sunset, that they were actually only a tiny portion of the entire valley side.
I suppose wasps are always a feature of camping in the summer. This trip was no exception, but this year we had the added joy of regular visits from hornets. I can’t decide if these two photos show hornets or not. I’m not sure they’re big enough – certainly, when they were buzzing around our tent they seemed much bigger than this – about the size of Jack Russel at least.
On the drive between the two campsites, at an Aire, we even spotted a Hornet’s nest, a football sized paper sphere hidden away in amongst some brambles.
We did quite a bit of walking whilst we were in the Tarn Gorge, so lots more wildlife and scenery photos to come, and I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, but when we were travelling back to the UK we witnessed a rather sobering event, when French customs officers found a man stashed away in a fellow holiday-maker’s Trailer Tent. I assume that the contents of the trailer had been jettisoned to make room for the man – presumably an asylum seeker trying to get to the UK. Frankly, it was all pretty alarming. We’d never been out of sight of our own trailers, and hadn’t stopped near the port, so when they were searched we didn’t have any stow-aways.
When we finally got back, after two solid days of driving and an overnight ferry, we did find one unscheduled passenger though, a shield bug…
I don’t know if this is a species found in the UK or not, but it did demonstrate how easily you could inadvertently import a non-native species. I don’t think we’d brought any hornets back with us, fortunately.
So, once again, we rented canoes and kayaks and paddled down the Dordogne. It’s the obvious thing to do frankly, and it’s hard to think of a finer way to spend a day.
We stopped for a swim in this spot last time we visited the Dordogne, and I was very much looking forward to doing the same again. I’d brought goggles because I was confident that there would plenty of fish to see in this stretch of water, and I wasn’t disappointed. As on our previous visit, I followed a large fish which had barbels around it’s mouth (a Barbel then?) which was also being followed by around a dozen smaller, stripy fish, possibly Perch?
Most of the party opted for solo kayaks, but our friend J-Dawg (who has been burdened, by her daughters, with a whole host of nicknames) was concerned that she would find herself continually going around in circles and getting left behind, so I joined her in a larger canoe. Now, I’m hardly an expert paddler, but I can generally get a boat to travel in something approaching a straight line, ironically using something called a J-stroke, or my inexpert approximation to same. To be honest, the canoe was very comfortable and an excellent choice.
But one result of this arrangement is that I have a lot of photos of the view downriver which feature J-Dawg’s life-jacket and fetching pink bucket-hat in the foreground.
Long-suffering readers of this blog may remember that in 2018 we holidayed in the Dordogne and Tarn valleys in France with some old friends. This summer, we repeated the trip. Once again, the whole thing was meticulously planned and booked by The Shandy Sherpa, whose attention to detail is staggering. For example: scoping all of the Aires on the drive down, in advance, using Google Maps to see whether they had large enough parking spaces for cars towing trailer-tents. As they say, the devil is in the detail, and Andy’s careful planning ensured that the whole trip went smoothly in potentially trying circumstances. Awesome.
This trip is a very laidback affair with certain key elements – a morning walk to the bakers; plenty of reading; meals together, often revolving around a barbecue; games of Kubb and Mölkky, usually continuing when darkness made accurate throwing next to impossible; lots of swimming, canoeing and floating down the river on inflatable rings; and short, steep walks up to the limestone cliffs above the campsite.
TBF had a potentially nasty fall in one of the caves, but, sensibly, used Little S to break her fall. Fortunately, neither were hurt badly, just somewhat shaken.
We’d brought three different hammocks with us, which all got a lot of use. They all belong to TBH, presents I’ve bought her over the years. Why does she need three? Because that way, there’s at least a chance that the kids will leave her in peace in one of them, whilst they argue over the remaining two. We probably need another one!
Upstream of the campsite, there’s an excellent swimming hole; downstream there’s a bridge over another deep spot – perfect for jumping in. Trips, with or without inflatables, between either of those pools and the one by the campsite were a significant feature of the trip. Of course, we could and did do the whole trip from the upstream pool to the downstream bridge, but the Céou is surprisingly cold, so that trip was a bit long for comfort.
GR64, one of the amazing network of long-distance paths in France, passes close to the campsite. On a couple of occasions when the others were floating downstream, I took off for an out and back wander along the route. It was pleasant woodland walking, with occasional tantalising views of the Dordogne valley…
We did occasionally stray a little further afield, including a trip out to this magnificent castle. It had drawbridges, towers, winding staircases, caves below, lizards on the walls and even a bat hanging from the ceiling in one of the rooms.
I didn’t see the montgolfières as often this trip as I did last time, but I did frequently hear them flying overhead early in the mornings whilst I was still tucked up in bed. This photo shows the beginning of an afternoon flight which was very dramatic since the balloons flew very low and continually flirted with a collision with a tree, without ever quite hitting one.