Swimming Season at Last

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The Dale from the Pepper Pot.

The morning after the Tigers victory over Saracens, and I was up at the Pepper Pot looking over the village. The weather doesn’t look too promising does it?

But later on, when I noticed a deer on our lawn, it had started to brighten up…

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Garden with Roe Deer.

By the time B returned from his shift pot-washing at the local hotel, it was glorious, and hot.

‘Fancy a drive Dad?’, he asked.

This was code for, ”Are you willing to sit in the passenger seat for an hour whilst I drive?”

B has his provisional licence, has passed his theory test, and is very keen to clear the final hurdle and gain the independence which driving would give him.

“We could go to High Dam for a swim.”

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Potter Tarn. Coniston Fells in the distance.

Which seemed like a good idea, except I suggested, given the late hour, that we substitute Gurnal Dubs for High Dam, it being closer to home and not surrounded by trees, so that we might have both later sun and a later onset of midge attack.

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Forest of Bowland, Scout Scar and Cunswick Scar, Arnside Knott, Whitbarrow.

The walk up to the reservoir was very pleasant, if somewhat warm work.

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Gurnal Dubs.

A work colleague, who lives quite close to Gurnal Dubs, had reported a recent swim there and that the water was ‘quite warm’. I hate to think what would qualify as cold in her estimation. It was pretty bracing. But very refreshing and, after a long period where it never seemed to warm up, a welcome and unusually late start to wild-swimming for the year.

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After our swim.

By the time we were out of the water we were already losing the sun.

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Looking back to Gurnal Dubs.

The views on the way down were even better than they had been on the way up, with the landscape decked in dark shadows and late, golden sunshine.

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Potter Tarn, Coniston Fells, Scafell and Scafell Pike.
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Scout Scar and Cunswick Scar, Arnside Knott, Whitbarrow, Gummer How.
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Almost back to the road and the car.

The following evening, a Monday, Little S had Explorers. He’s transferred from the local unit to the one which meets in Littledale, at the very pleasant Scout camp on the banks of Artle Beck. Usually, after dropping him off, I take B to a boxing gym in Lancaster, but for some reason that was off, so I was at a loose end, which gave me a chance to try a spot down in the Lune Valley which I’d previously picked out as having potential for swimming.

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River Lune. Caton Moor wind farm beyond.
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River Lune and Ingleborough.

It was a bit of a walk from the carpark at Bull Beck near Caton, so I didn’t have all that much time to swim, but the walk was nice enough in itself.

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Swimming spot.

How was it? A lot warmer than Gurnal Dubs, quite pleasant in fact. Fairly fast flowing. Not as deep as I had hoped, but just about deep enough. Due to the strength of the current, I found myself walking upstream on the shingle bank and then floating back down river before repeating the process. Not a bad way to spend a Monday evening.

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River Lune.

One more local-ish swim to report, though I’m jumping forward almost to mid-July and another Monday evening. After a hot day at school, B wondered whether I could give him and some friends a lift to Settle to swim. I didn’t have to think too long about that one: too far away. We compromised on Devil’s Bridge at Kirby Lonsdale, as long as they promised not to jump off the bridge.

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Devil’s Bridge.

Whilst they were, I later found out, having a great time, I had a wander down the Lune, enjoying the riverside flowers.

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Meadow Crane’s-bill.
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Giant Bellflower, I think.
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Monkeyflower – naturalised from North America.
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Himalayan Balsam – another non-native plant.

This one is a bit of a cheat, you can perhaps tell by the light; there was plenty of Himalayan Balsam by the Lune, but I’d also photographed some the day before, in better light, when I picked up Little S from another Scout Camp, this one down near Ormskirk.

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River Lune. Too shallow to swim in.
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Pipe Bridge carrying water from Haweswater in the Lakes to Manchester.

I had my swimming stuff with me, and found, as I thought I might, that the water under the bridge, on the right hand side anyway, was deep enough for me to have a dip. In honesty, not one of my favourite swims this summer, but it had stiff competition.

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Swimming Season at Last

The Langdales and Lingmoor

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Blea Tarn. Side Pike on the far side and the Langdale Pikes obscured by clouds behind.

B had a shift in the cafe at Brockholes; since I was dropping him off there, I decided to stay in the Lakes and make the most of it, despite a fairly ropey forecast. I had a fine time, even though it rained on and off most of the day.

I parked up by Blea Tarn, another National Trust carpark, although the joy of ‘free’ parking was tempered by high winds and driving rain which weren’t terribly encouraging. I rarely set-off for a walk in full waterproofs, I’m a fair weather walker, as much as I can manage to be.

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Looking back towards Blea Tarn. The plug of rock in this photo is Tarnclose Crag.

Fortunately, my route started downhill into Little Langdale and I hadn’t walked far before both the wind and the rain had abated a bit.

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Farmhouse at Fell Foot
When the skies are grey and the weather is rotten, I always think the white-washed stone buildings still look attractive. I’ve often thought that the porch over the door here is unusual. Turns out this is a Grade II listed building.

“At the foot of Wrynose Pass. C16 north wing, the main block C17. A long, low house, white-washed stone rubble, flag roof, 2 storeys. The door is under the overhang of a slate-hung upper storey, gabled, and without windows, the timber beam ends showing in the gable.”

Source.

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This shows the entire farm complex at Fell Foot with Castle Crag behind, itself a scheduled monument because of it’s suspected history as a hill-fort. By the farm there’s the Ting Mound where the Norse inhabitants of the valley had council meetings.

Behind Castle Crag you can see Lingmoor which is out of the cloud and would remain so all day, unlike any of the surrounding higher hills. I assume these very rocky lumps – Side Pike, Tarnclose Crag and Castle Crag are volcanic in origin, but would love to find out more.

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Bridge End Cottage.

The National Trust own both Fell Foot Farm and Bridge End Cottage, in the latter case at least, gifted to them by Beatrix Potter. Bridge End Cottage is another grade II listed building.

I had half an idea that I might be able to bag Holme Fell and Black Crag as well as Lingmoor, but I needed to collect B from Brockholes at the end of his shift, and even I could see that I would be pushing it to manage all that and still arrive on time to pick him up. On the other hand, just climbing Lingmoor would undoubtedly leave me with quite a bit of time to kill, so I decided to extend my walk along Little Langdale as far as Skelwith Bridge and then come back up Great Langdale before bagging Lingmoor.

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Lingmoor and Little Langdale Tarn.
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High Hall Garth – you’ve guessed it, Grade II and property of the National Trust.
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Low Hall Garth. Owned by the NT, gifted by Beatrix Potter, Grade II.
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Lingmoor and Slater’s Bridge.

I didn’t divert, as I usually have, to photograph the marvellous Slater’s Bridge – it was very busy. It has appeared on the blog many times before. (Here for example, or here). It’s an amazing structure, in a low-key picturesque sort of way. I’ve never thought to look up it’s protected status before, but it turns out that it trumps the other local properties by being Grade II*.

“Slater’s Bridge II*. Over River Brathay. C17 packhorse bridge of slate and natural boulders. Huge boulder in mid-stream supports segmental arched bridge of 15 ft span with 3 1/2 ft voussoirs, and a flat causeway of a single slab on slate supports.”

Source

Voussoirs? A wedge-shaped or tapered stone used to construct an arch, obviously. Learn a new thing every day! (And forget it the next sadly.)

The obvious knobble on Lingmoor with a prominent gully on its right, is Busk Pike, of which more later.

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No sign of any voussoirs at the next bridge down the Brathay, but still quite a handsome footbridge I thought.

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Little Langdale and Lingmoor.
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Colwith Force.

At Chesters, at Skelwith bridge, I managed to buy a nice lunch* from their takeaway counter and then was lucky to get a picnic table under the eaves and so out of the rain. (*Pricey, but very tasty.)

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Elter Water. Lingmoor on the left. This should be one of the iconic views of the Langdale Pikes, but they were still lost in the cloud.
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Bridge over Great Langdale Beck in Elterwater. Rebuilt 1702. Grade II listed of course.

Judging by Historic England’s map, just about every building in the village of Elterwater must be listed. I shall have to come back to investigate some time. Since one of those listed buildings is the Britannia Inn, that should be an enjoyable experience!

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I left Elterwater on a steep and stony track and was amused by this cycle route sign at the bottom, since ‘challenging’ seems like a huge understatement to me.

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This path leaves that track at around its highest point. I think it must be an old mining track, it has fabulous zig-zags and clearly someone has gone to a lot of effort in constructing it.

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I’ve become a bit obsessed with being able to put a name to every hill, hump and hollow in the view. I blame Andy. The wooded hill in the middle-ground here doesn’t have a name on the OS map and there’s no path to the top, but the wooded slopes on it’s northern and eastern flanks are access land, Fletcher’s Wood, so it would be possible to get at least close to the top. The higher ground to the right, meanwhile, is the end of the Black Crag ridge. TBH and I traversed those slopes on our walk between Coniston and Ambleside last summer.

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A day of contrasts – the Coniston Fells are lost in what I suspect was foul weather, whilst the sun is trying to shine on Little Langdale Tarn.

The weather had brightened up enough for me to take a short stop and drink some of the contents of my flask. The view was limited by the dense, low clouds, but still pretty good.

After the initial steep climb, somewhat eased by the marvellous zig-zags, a much steadier ascent ensues. There were still a number of broad grassy tracks, testament to this areas quarrying history. I took the lower path, intending to take in Busk Pike.

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Looking down on Little Langdale Tarn. Holme Fell visible through the rain. Spoil heaps and small, tumble-down walled structures like this were dotted about the hillside.
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Busk Pike.
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Busk Pike again.
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I’d like to revisit Busk Pike when the views are less curtailed by clouds.

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Brown How – the summit of Lingmoor – from Busk Pike. Notice the ruined buildings between the two tops.
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This was the biggest of the many derelict buildings I saw on Lingmoor. It provided a sheltered spot for another drinks stop. The sun even shone a little, although it also started drizzling again, just in case I was getting complacent about the weather.
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Looking back to Busk Pike and the the old mine buildings.
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And again.from a little higher up.

On the summit of Lingmoor, I met a family party of three, the first walkers I’d met since leaving the track near Dale End. We congratulated each other on the fact that it was “Not too bad”. As soon as our conversation ended, I realised that it was indeed ‘too bad’: the weather was back to how it had been when I first set-off from Blea Tarn – a howling gale and very heavy rain. It seemed highly plausible that closer to the higher hills around the head of Langdale, the weather had remained this way all day.

I was keen to get out of these conditions and back to the car, but I did divert slightly to include Lingmoor Tarn on my route…

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Side Pike – it had been my intention to include this on my route, but with the weather now so foul and with time running short, I decided to keep it for another day.
MapMyWalk gives a little over 11 miles and 560m of ascent (the latter might be a bit of an overestimate)

B had told me his shift finished at 6.30, but when I arrived to pick him up (and two friends who had also been working at Brockholes that day), it turned out that, because the cafe had been so quiet, they’d been ‘sent home’ an hour early. B was furious that I hadn’t been answering my phone (it had been on flight mode, preserving the battery whilst I probably didn’t have a signal anyway). Unfortunately for B, beggar’s can’t be chooser’s, and he soon calmed down when I offered to leave him behind, if he didn’t like the free taxi-service on offer.

The Langdales and Lingmoor

Langdale Pikes Plus

New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel – Stickle Ghyll – Stickle Tarn – Sergeant Man – High Raise – Thunacar Knott – Pavey Ark – Harrison Stickle – Loft Crag – Pike of Stickle – Mark Gate – New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

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Stickle Ghyll

March arrived and brought with it some clear, blue skies. Time to get back to the Lakes! I didn’t get off particularly early, I can’t remember why, and was lucky to squeeze into a space in the National Trust’s New Dungeon Ghyll carpark at around ten. (Does everyone refer to the two Langdale pubs as the ODG and the NDG?)

Of course, Langdale is always going to be popular, especially with a good forecast, and there were a few people ahead of me on the path heading up Stickle Ghyll. Somewhat to my surprise, I gradually overhauled several groups and we leap-frogged each other up the path. Just in case I was getting ideas above my station however, a group of younger walkers caught up with me just short of Stickle Tarn and flew past as if I were barely moving.

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Stickle Ghyll.
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Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn.

Although the air was quite cold, in the sunshine I had warmed up well during the climb and was down to a t-shirt. Time to shove a few layers back on at Stickle Ghyll where, as well as a new, splendid view, we were exposed to a biting wind.

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Harrison Stickle across Stickle Tarn.

Despite that very icy wind, a couple of people had changed into bathing costumes and were wading out into the tarn. One of them was protesting loudly and I’m not sure whether either of them actually swam. I’m sure it would have been extremely bracing.

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Pavey Ark again. Jack’s Rake fairly prominent.

I think the last time I did Jack’s Rake was on my first hike with TBH, so over 20 years ago. It looked popular today, as did the alternative route on the path up the eastern shoulder of Pavey Ark. I had been considering the latter as one possible onward route, but decided to head for Sergeant Man instead, since it looked like I would have the path to myself.

I did, and it was a marvellous route, a fairly faint path following a small stream above the valley of Bright Beck, not one of the paths on the map, which all head further east onto the Blea Rigg ridge. I think you can see the stream I followed on the map below, enclosed by a rocky rib on its western side. Eventually the path left that stream and headed across and up to meet the stream which drains the cluster of small tarns between Sergeant Man and Codale Head.

Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself: this….
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…is the first of those becks. You can just see Sergeant Man left of centre. It was pleasantly sheltered here and I took advantage of that fact and stopped for a hot drink.

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Looking back down to Stickle Ghyll from my brew stop.

The path kept splitting and got steadily fainter and harder to follow.

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Approaching Sergeant Man.

Eventually, I lost the path and followed the stream which I presume flows out of the tarns.

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Looking down the stream. Forest of Bowland and Morecambe Bay on the horizon. Gummer How quite distinctive in the distance. Lingmoor and Side Pike in the foreground. Wetherlam and the Coniston Fells on the right.
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Sergeant Man.

Eventually, I left the stream and the shelter that its banks offered, and took a direct route to the top. The crags are broken, but I enjoyed stringing a route together which stayed on the rock as much as possible and offered some easy scrambling.

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Codale Head. Snow-capped Fairfield right of Codale Head.
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From Sergeant Man: Scafells, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End.
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Codale Head. Helvellyn ridge on the left, Fairfield to the right.

Codale Head is not a Wainwright, but is a Birkett. A bit like Sergeant Man, it isn’t exactly a prominent summit, but it is well worth a visit.

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Eastern Fells from the slopes of High Raise.
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Esk Pike, The Scafells, Great End, Gable and Pillar from High Raise.

I know that High Raise is essentially a big lump, but it has a rocky top and always feels to me like its very central in the lakes. You can certainly see a lot of the area’s more distinctive hills from there.

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High Raise summit cairn. Glaramara, Dale Head and the North-western Fells behind.
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Another High Raise view – North-western Fells, Bassenthwaite, Skiddaw, Blencathra.
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Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Scafell Pike, Great End, Great Gable. The ridge extending towards the camera is the Rossett Pike, Buck Pike, Black Crags ridge. You can pick out Lining Crag on the right of the ridge too.
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Glaramara.
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Looking back to Sergeant Man.
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And again, from futher away.
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Harrison Stickle from Thunacar Knott.
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Sergeant Man again from close to Pavey Ark. St. Sunday Crag prominent through Grisedale Pass.

After leaving Sergeant Man there was very little opportunity to find any shelter on High Raise or Thunacar Knott, but I had high hopes for Pavey Ark – well justified high hopes as it turned out. I dropped just a little way below the top, on the Langdale side, and was soon out of the cold wind and enjoying the sunshine, the views, a hot drink and possibly even a moment’s snooze. I think I sat there for almost an hour. A very peaceful hour.

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Langdale, Lingmoor and Side Pike. Blea Tarn just visible on the right. Windermere in the distance.

It felt quite warm out of the wind, but just after finally setting-off again I slipped on verglas and found myself sitting in a puddle. One sleeve and the seat of my pants were wet, but fortunately only my pride was hurt. There was a fair bit of ice about and I ought to have payed more attention to this slip.

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Harrison Stickle.
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Looking back to Pavey Ark.

There seemed to be several paths between Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle, weaving their way through the craggy terrain. I chose to stick close to the rocky edge and then found myself on a good path which contoured around on to the south facing side of Harrison Stickle, i.e. the steep face. When that path seemed to be losing height, I looked up to the crags on my right and spotted a small chimney which seemed to offer an easy route upwards. I climbed up to a wide ledge and then started to shin up the chimney. My legs aren’t as flexible as they once were, and in trying to lift my right boot just a little higher to reach a toehold, I shifted my weight and ….off I went. I didn’t fall far and landed on my feet, back on the broad ledge. I wasn’t hurt, but I was a bit shaken. Now I had to choose between two unpalatable options – backtrack down to the path, or have another go at the chimney. The chimney still looked very easy, especially now that I had rehearsed my moves, and in the end I decided to give that a second try, with a bit more circumspection. In fact, it was very easy. What’s-more, once up the chimney I was very nearly on the summit.

On the summit I met a party of three ladies whom I’d been following up the Stickle Ghyll path. They’d been walking faster than me, but stopping more often, which meant that I kept catching-up with them, whereupon they would set-off again. If they’d overheard my colourful response to slipping off the crag just below, they didn’t show any signs of disapproval!

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Harrison Stickle from the west.
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Pike O’Blisco. Coniston Fells behind.
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Pike O’Stickle from Loft Crag.
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Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag and Windermere from Pike O’Stickle. With intruding finger.
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Loft Crag.
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Harrison Stickle.

Some hike stats: MapMyWalk gives a little under 7 miles (before my phone ran out of juice), and 830 metres of ascent.

More importantly, seven more Wainwrights ticked off: Sergeant Man, High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag, Pike O’Stickle.

Even more importantly – an absolutely cracking day out.

(I had planned to extend the round to take in Rossett Pike, but by the time I got to Loft Crag, with clouds accumulating overhead, that seemed like a long way away, and I took a more direct route back to my car instead.)

Langdale Pikes Plus

Wide-Ranging Whernside Views

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A reduced team near the start of the walk by Ribblehead Viaduct. Whernside behind.

The next day, a Sunday, we were better prepared. Up and out! The early bird and all that. We were walking just before 11 – practically an Alpine start! We were a much smaller party, with many of the group having opted for a waterfalls walk from Ingleton. The weather was magnificent again.

As ever, the Ribblehead Viaduct looked stunning; even more so when a train crossed for some reason.

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Andy had a cunning plan, we first followed the railway line as far as Force Gill. There we turned uphill – this is a route I’ve taken many times recently, but where a second left turn would have taken us up towards the Greensett Tarn and the top, instead we continued on, following the Craven Way path which curls around the shoulder of Whernside and down into Dentdale. This is where Andy’s cunning plan came into play – we left the path at it’s high point and struck across the moor to hit the ridge by the Whernside tarns.

Well, most of us did, UF and the Prof had some objection to this idea, I think they were worried about getting mud on their shoes, or something equally daft. Here they are…

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…on the more direct route to Whernside, where we would meet them again.
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Craven Way track – looking to Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough.
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Our diminished group in the vicinity of Craven Wold.
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Wold Fell, I think, with Great Knoutberry Hill on the left – both overdue a visit. The deep cleft between them is Arten Gill with Arten Gill Viaduct at the bottom.

We were constantly entertained by the mist on the move: flowing down Arten Gill’s steep valley and across the moors towards Ingleborough.

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One of the Whernside Tarns. Lake District Fells in the background.
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From a little further up the ridge – Howgill Fells in the centre, Baugh Fell on the right with the three Whernside tarns in front of it.
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Greensett Tarn, Pen-y-Ghent beyond.
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Greensett Tarn, Great Knoutberry Hill, Wold Fell and a sea of cloud beyond.
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Approaching the top of Whernside, a view of Ingleborough.
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Great Coum with the Lake District hills behind.
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Howgill Fells.
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This chap was trying to take off, without much success, he would run toward the steeper ground, but then the wind would drag him and his chute back again.

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A summit picnic – reunited with UF and the Prof.

It had been quite mild during our ascent, but it was really quite chilly on the top. The views were stunning – the air was so clear that we could pick out the Isle of Man and the hills of North Wales, both poking above the sea of cloud.

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Ribblehead, Pen-y-Ghent beyond. The mist making a much more rapid ascent of Park Fell than we had the day before.
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Here’s the parascender again – finally airborne.
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Ribblehead and mist again and some lovely late light.
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Ingleborough.
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Winterscales Beck and Ingleborough.
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The moon rising above the moor.

A couple of cracking days which will live long in the memory.

Wide-Ranging Whernside Views

Torver Back Common, Torver Low Common, Beacon Fell.

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Coniston Water and Torver Common Wood

Jump forward a week from our walk from Carperby and the forecast was reasonably promising, but with strong winds part of that forecast, I decided to stick to low fells and an exploration of Torver Common. I parked close to where the Cumbria Way crosses the A5084 Coniston Road. Initially, I followed the Cumbria Way down to the shore of the lake, with some light rain falling intermittently.

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In Torver Common Wood a path (not a right-of-way) led uphill toward open ground. There were many fallen trees after the storm of a week before and it was necessary to weave a way through, around or under the trees.

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A first view of the Coniston Fells.

I was surprised, when I emerged from the trees, to discover that the Coniston Fells were all cloud free. They would remain so for most of the day, and would dominate the view from that point on.

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Looking back to Coniston Water and the snowy fells beyond.
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Looking South. Coniston Water and Beacon Fell.
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Coniston Fells again.
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Long Moss Tarn.
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Kelly Hall Tarn.
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Near Mill Bridge – the old mill house? And Torver Beck.
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Torver Tarn (unnamed on the map). Plain Riggs on the right – where I was heading.
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From Plain Riggs – across Torver Tarn to Beacon Fell.

From Plain Riggs I stuck to the high ground heading for Green How. The area is dotted with small tarns, all unnamed on the map. Here’s one of them…
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Andy has been telling me for ages that I ought to stump up for the OS Maps app. Of course, he was right all along. I’ve got it now, and it was invaluable on this relatively pathless terrain.

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Pool Scar – Black Combe beyond.
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The cairn on Yew Bank, looking to the Coniston Fells.
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The cairn on Yew Bank, looking towards Beacon Fell.
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Duddon Estuary and Black Combe.
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The way this cairn is marked on the OS map suggests that it is prehistoric.
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Beacon Tarn
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Coniston Fells from Beacon Fell.
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Coniston Water from Beacon Fell.
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Sunlight catching Black Combe.

Although there had been a fair bit of blue sky about for most of the day, there had also been a blanket of cloud blocking out the sun and it had been really quite gloomy as you can see from my photos. Then, as I’d almost finished my walk, it began to brighten up…

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The final part of the walk, back on the Cumbria Way, was delightful.

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Stable Harvey Moss

No big hills, but a great leg-stretcher, and another indication that neither Covid nor plantar fasciitis were holding me back. What’s-more, Beacon Fell and Yew Bank are both ‘Outlying Fells’ although I wasn’t aware of that at the time, or I might have diverted slightly to include Wool Knott to the south of Beacon Tarn, which is another.

I did actually complete the loop – it’s just that my phone ran out of juice. I need to find a solution to my phone quickly running down now that I’m using it as a camera, using MapMyWalk and the OS maps app.
Torver Back Common, Torver Low Common, Beacon Fell.

Scrambling and Swimming above Grasmere

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Sourmilk Gill

The day after our swim in Gurnal Dubs. This time I was on my own. It was very hot. I got comprehensively sun-burned.

I thought I would string together some of the blue bits on the map. I parked in the lay-by north of Grasmere, called in at the village to supplement my liquid supplies in the village shop, then walked up Easedale to the base of the steeper, scrambling section of Sourmilk Gill. It’s easy, grade 1 stuff, which is probably all I’m up to these days, but I had it to myself and it was very entertaining.

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Promising pool in Sourmilk Gill.

I might have been tempted by an earlier than planned dip in this plunge pool, but a couple were just getting into the water as I came past, so I decided to leave them to it, and continued up the rocks.

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Looking back down Easedale from the top of the steep part of Sourmilk Gill.
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Easedale Tarn with swimmers, and Tarn Crag.

There were a fair few people picnicking on the shores of Easedale Tarn, and quite a few more paddling at the edge of the water, but very few swimming out away from the shore. Still, it wasn’t hard to find a quietish spot to change and make a brew.

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Easedale Tarn from my lunch and brew stop.

I can never drink tea when it’s just brewed, so once it was done I swam well out into the lake – roughly level with the boulder you can see in the photo above – then back again to drink the tea and eat some lunch. Then I repeated the swim.

Since I was carrying trunks, a towel and water-shoes, I’d opted to leave my camera at home – which turned out to be frustrating since there were lots of colourful dragonflies about, Keeled Skimmers and Golden-ringed Dragonflies predominantly.

After my second swim, I continued to the base of my second scramble of the day, another pleasant but easy route up Easedale Gill.

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Easedale Gill and Belles Knott, the ‘Easedale Matterhorn’.

In the past, I’ve followed those two scrambles with a slightly harder route on Belles Knott, but I’d decided in advance that I would steer clear of that and, in the event, I felt pretty exhausted anyway by the time I reached the end of the scrambling in Easedale Gill. I’m not sure whether my tiredness was due to lockdown rustiness, the heat, the unfamiliar exercise of scrambling and swimming or a combination of all three.

Fortunately, only a little ascent remained to get me to Codale Tarn….

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Codale Tarn.

Which I had all to myself.

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Codale Tarn from my brew spot.

Again, I made a brew, swam, drank the tea then swam again. Each swim took me across the tarn to the rocky patch you can see slightly right of centre in the photo above, then back again. I think this might narrowly pip the other places I swam this summer for favourite swimming spot.

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The slopes of Tarn Crag, Easedale Tarn and Seat Sandal and the Fairfield Horseshoe.

All that remained was to wind my weary way back to Grasmere.

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Easedale Tarn again.

Another very memorable outing.

Scrambling and Swimming above Grasmere

Yewbarrow Woods and Boretree Tarn

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Rusland Pool and Border Moss Wood from Crooks Bridge.

The prospect of this day, and the one to follow, had loomed large in my thoughts ever since B’s rugby fixture list was sent out back in September, because this Sunday showed no match and no training. A day off! In the few days running up to the weekend I kept sorting through weather forecasts and maps and guidebooks; dizzy with the countless possibilities, but also concerned that the weather was expected to be universally dreadful.

As the day approached and the forecasts for persistent rain didn’t improve, I decided that I better find something which didn’t venture too high into the hills and settled on visiting a couple of places between Windermere and the Rusland Valley which I’ve had my eye on for a while.

I drove up to the Lakes in very wet and grey conditions, wondering whether to call it quits, turn tail and head home again. After I’d found a spot to pull off the road in the Rusland Valley, I realised that I’d managed to come out of the house without my OS map. Fortunately, I’d spent a long time during the week staring at this part of the map and had a pretty clear memory, I thought, of the route. When I found an information board featuring this map…

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…my mind was made up: I took a photo on my phone, donned my waterproofs, girded my loins and embarked.

This is the map I should have been looking at…

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…although my copy doesn’t have the green dotted line through Yew Barrow Dale and Skinner Pastures which must be a recently created right of way.

My route took me along that path to Border Moss Wood, where I did an out-and-back in order to visit Rusland Pool and Crooks Bridge. Rusland Moss, a little further up the valley, is a good place to see Red Deer and I hoped I might see some on this occasion too. As I stood on the bridge, admiring the misty views, three deer ran down to the river, swam swiftly across and quickly bounded away again.

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The woods on this walk were an absolute delight, even in the rain, and I’m really looking forward to revisiting in the spring and the autumn.

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I’m afraid my photo doesn’t convey how impressive this tree was: it must have fallen down a long time ago and now four of its branches have grown strong and tall like individual tree trunks in their own right.

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Yewbarrow Woods.

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A tiny unnamed tarn in the mist.

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Boretree Tarn.

I’ve never been to Boretree Tarn before. It’s not too far from High Dam and I’m wondering whether it might be just as good for swimming when the weather and water temperature are both more clement. On this occasion, I found a comfortable spot by the edge of the tarn and tucked in to some very welcome cabbage and chorizo soup. There were a couple of swans and a few ducks to keep me company, but otherwise it was a quiet and tranquil spot.

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The view, such as it was, from Rusland Heights.

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Approaching Hall Brow Wood.

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Skowbarrow Beck.

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In Hall Brow Wood.

It was a relatively short walk, about six and a half miles, and by the time I got back to the car I was drenched, but I’d enjoyed my self none-the-less. I shall think of the trip as reconnaissance for future visits in better weather.

Towards the end of the walk the cloud had been lifting a little and beginning to show signs of breaking up. Just as I started the engine to set-off home, literally as I turned the key in the ignition, the windscreen was suddenly suffused with lovely golden light from the low winter sun, and I wondered if the weather was going to play a dirty trick by improving now that I’d finished walking, but I needn’t have worried: the sunshine was extremely short-lived and it was soon raining again.

I’d managed a good walk, despite the weather, and still had another iron-in-the-fire….

Yewbarrow Woods and Boretree Tarn

At Swim Two Becks

Skelwith Bridge – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – Skelwith Bridge.

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Continuing the theme of my last post – novelty versus familiarity – this is a route I’ve walked countless times over the years, but this iteration was unlike any previous version. It was late afternoon, after work, but still very hot. Skelwith Force was a bit of a misnomer for the normally thunderous waterfall, now relatively tame. I was heading for this large pool in the River Brathay.

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Purple Loosestrife.

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Purple Loosestrife – Emily – is this what’s in your garden?

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Before I got to this point in the river, I was examining another clump of Purple Loosestrife when this Shield Bug landed on my hand and then on the path. I think it’s a Bronze Shieldbug, but I’m not entirely confident.

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Harebell.

Anyway, the reason I’d strayed slightly from the path and stuck to the riverbank, was that I was looking for a place for a swim. This looked perfect…

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And it was! The water was deep and quite warm, but cool enough to be refreshing. It was almost immediately deep, straight from the bank, but I found a place where I thought I could ease myself in, except that the riverbed was so slippery that I lost my footing, both feet sliding out from under me, and fell in anyway. It was a beautiful spot for a swim, with stunning views and a host of damselflies and dragonflies keeping me company.

A short walk upstream, past what looked like another ideal place for swimming, brought me to Elter Water…

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The lake, not the village. I’d had an idea that I might swim here too, but, as you can see, the water was very shallow close in and further out I thought I could see a great deal of weed, which I found a bit off-putting; I decided to bide my time.

If I wasn’t swimming, there were plenty of fish that were…

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I still had my wet-shoes on and paddled into the water to take some photos. The fish weren’t very frightened of me…

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I changed back into shoes more suited for walking, but retained my rapidly drying trunks; I had plans for more swimming.

In fact, before I’d left for this part of the Lakes, I’d been poring over the map, looking at blue bits which promised the possibility of a swim. As is often the case, I’d got carried away and had identified numerous potential spots and was toying with the idea of linking them together in an extended walking and swimming journey reminiscent of the central character’s trip in the film and John Cheever short-story ‘The Swimmer’, with your’s truly in the muscular Burt Lancaster role, obviously.

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Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. I saw, and photographed, loads of them.

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Silver-Y Moth. I saw lots of these too, but they were very elusive to photograph.

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Lots of Harebells too!

The short climb from the village of Elterwater over to Little Langdale was hot and sticky work, but brought the reward of views of Little Langdale Tarn and the Coniston Fells…

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This…

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…is the River Brathay again, flowing out of Little Langdale Tarn.

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Slater Bridge.

I thought that this pool…

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…just downstream of Slater Bridge, might have swimming potential, but couldn’t be sure that it was deep enough, so wanted to check the pool I’d seen before, back toward Little Langdale Tarn.

The ground beside the river, even after our long dry spell, was still quite spongy and full of typical wet, heathland vegetation, including lots of Heath Spotted-orchids.

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Good to have an opportunity to compare these with its close relative Common Spotted-orchid which I’ve photographed around home recently.

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This pool turned out to be ideal again. I dug my stove out of my bag, to make a cup of tea ready for when I’d had a swim. Whilst I was busy, a dragonfly landed on a nearby boulder. I grabbed my camera, but the photograph came out horribly blurred.  It does show a dragonfly which is exactly the same pale blue as a male Broad-bodied Chaser, but with a much narrower abdomen, making it either a male Black-tailed Skimmer or a male Keeled Skimmer, probably the latter, based on the distribution maps in my Field Guide, which makes it a first for me.

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White Water-lily – the largest flower indigenous to Britain, but it closes and slowly withdraws into the water each day after midday.

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Yellow Water-lily.

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Once again, the water was deep right to the bank, but somebody had piled up rocks under the water to make it easier to get in and out. The water here was colder than it had been further downstream, quite bracing even, somewhat to my surprise. I enjoyed this swim even more than the first. The low sun was catching the Bog Cotton on the bank…

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…and was also making reflected ripple patterns on the peaty exposed bank, which were stunning, but which I can’t show you because they were only visible from the water. In addition, the Bog Myrtle bushes growing along the bank were giving off a lovely earthy, musky fragrance.

It was eight o’clock by now, and I expected to have the river to myself, but a couple arrived for a swim and once they were changed and in the water, I got out to enjoy my cup of tea.

Returning to Slater Bridge…

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I watched two large dragonflies rapidly touring the area. They were so fast that my efforts to take photographs were doomed to failure. I thought that they were Golden-ringed Dragonflies, like the ones I saw mating near to Fox’s Pulpit last summer. At one point, one of them repeatedly landed momentarily on the surface of the water, or rather splashed onto the surface, making a ripple, and then instantly flew on again, only to almost immediately repeat the procedure. I have no idea what purpose this behaviour served. It was very odd.

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I still had a fair way to go to get back to the car, but also the last of the light to enjoy whilst I walked it.

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The post’s title is meant to be a punning reference to ‘At Swim Two Birds’, Flann O’Brien’s wonderfully nutty book, which some people claim is even better than his ‘The Third Policeman’. I probably should reread them both to see what I think now, after a break of a few years; if the house weren’t stuffed to the rafters with books I haven’t ever read, I would set about that task tomorrow. ‘At Swim Two Becks’ seemed appropriate when I thought I had swum in Great Langdale Beck and Greenburn Beck and before I had examined the map again and realised that in fact I’d swum in two different stretches of the River Brathay.

Of course, Heraclitus, whom I am fond of quoting, tells us that you can never step into the same river twice. You can, however, walk the same route twice, but it will never be the same each time. Previous blog-posts of much the same route, none of which involve swimming, Burt Lancaster, John Cheever or the novels of Flann O’Brien:

A walk with my Mum and Dad.

A walk with TBH.

A snowy walk with friends

A more recent walk with different friends.

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At Swim Two Becks

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.

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