Whernside

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Ingleborough and Force Gill.

So, TBH was on holiday at last, the forecast was half decent, although it looked likely to be cold, some good friends were keen to join us, where should we go? You can see the answer from the title of the post – the boys were keen to tick-off the third of the Three Peaks triumvirate. Initially, I thought of an ascent from Dent, which is both quiet and also an excellent way to climb Whernside, but when I considered our party I thought that maybe this shorter route, from Ribblehead, would be a better bet.

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Waterfall in Force Gill.

We followed almost exactly the same route as I did last time I came this way.

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The kids seemed to enjoy hopping back and forth across the gill to find a suitable upstream route, and, like last time, progress was very slow.

In a sluggish side-stream, away from the main flow, I spotted…

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…what I thought was a Crowfoot, a ranunculus or buttercup which specialises in growing in water.

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Round-leaved Crowfoot (Ranunculus omiophyllus).

What I didn’t realise at the time is that there are nine different species of crowfoot (or crowfeet?) which grow in Britain, and that, apparently, they can be difficult to distinguish. But this seems to me to be fairly clearly Round-leaved Crowfoot:

“This plant prefers slow moving streams and ditches on acidic soils. It is very western in its distribution being present throughout Wales, the south west of England and north west England.”

Source

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Once again I saw Dippers and Wrens and Wagtails here by the stream.

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Mutiny was afoot, with growing calls for a lunch stop sooner rather than later. I assured my sceptical companions that I had somewhere in mind, and that it would be worth waiting for.

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And we duly halted when we reached The Mare’s Tail waterfall.

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Grey Wagtail.

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Force Gill.

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Lunch time!

It was after our lunch that we made our only small departure from the route of my previous visit. Remembering the soggy ground of Greensett Moss, I opted to take a line from the top of the waterfall away from the beck and back towards the path, which proved to be an excellent choice because the ground was firm and dry and made for easy-going.

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Greensett Tarn.

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The boys found a hole in the ground which, obviously, made them very happy.

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Ingleborough.

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Ribblehead and Pen-y-ghent.

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Looking back to Whernside.

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Ribblehead Viaduct.

A magnificent day out. The weather had been, if anything, slightly better than forecast, the company was terrific, the route up by the waterfalls is delightful and the boys have now completed the set and can start to put houses and hotels on it next time they pass Go and have some ready cash…..actually, has anyone thought of marketing a ‘Mountains Monopoly’? You heard it here first if not!

Edit: it seems, at least in America that something similar is already on the market.

Whernside

Pen-y-ghent

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The kids and I were on a mission. I like to climb a mountain on my birthday, if at all possible, or failing that, as close to the actual day as can be arranged. I knew that this year I would be recovering from surgery, and so wouldn’t be up to much on the Big Day, but our Easter holidays had begun (although sadly TBH was still working), and the forecast for the Monday and Tuesday before my op were almost perfect. What’s more, I’d remembered that in ‘Walks in Limestone Country’, Wainwright says:

“April visitors will ever afterwards remember Penyghent as the mountain of the purple saxifrage, for in April this beautiful plant decorates the white limestone cliffs on the 1900′ contour with vivid splashes of colour, especially being rampant along the western cliffs.”

Purple Saxifrage, Saxifraga Oppositifolia, is one of the flowers which appear in ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ which don’t grow in the immediate vicinity of home, but which can be found within striking distance, and which I’ve therefore decided to seek out.

The sun was shining, the kids were all on fine form, and we made rapid progress up to the south ridge and to the lower line of cliffs seen above. And there just a short, steep climb above the path, we found…

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Purple Saxifrage.

It was almost an anticlimax, but only in as much as I’d been expecting a bit of a hunt to find it. I’m not sure how patient the children would have been with any lengthy deviations anyway, so it was probably for the best that we came across it so easily.

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We climbed part way up the steep nose of the ridge, but by now, Little S, always the first to crack, was demanding a lunch stop. When we reached the second steepening of the ridge we found a relatively sheltered spot, out of the wind, behind a wall.

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For the first time in quite a while, I’d brought a stove and the makings of a brew. I really enjoyed my hot drink, doubly so since the boys, who had made their own lunches and seriously miscalculated on quantities, were soon eating my lunch as well as their own.

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The second, gritstone line of cliffs. “It’s so wrinkled, it looks like an old man,” opined Little S.

From our lunch stop it was quick work to make the summit.

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You can probably tell that it was very windy. There is a clever S-shaped shelter there in the wall and we sat for a few minutes. I think the kids would have quite liked to stop for another lunch, had it not come so soon after our previous halt.

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Ingleborough and huge flags for repairing the Pennine Way path.

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Our descent brought us to the western cliffs, where, just as AW predicts, the Purple Saxifrage is ‘rampant’.

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“Traces of the Purple Saxifrage have been found in Britain in deposits that were laid down 20,000 years ago, that is before the end of the last Ice Age. As each of the glaciers retreated north towards the Pole, the Arctic alpine plants – of which the Purple Saxifrage is one – followed up, going ever northward. The Arctic alpines were in turn followed by plants that could live at higher temperatures and, when the ice finally vanished for good, the Saxifrages and other Arctic alpines had to find refuge wherever they could on high mountains, cliffs and the like.”

“At first the plant looks as though it had been showered with white dust, but a close examination of the leaves reveals that each is flattened and truncated near the tip, and that, in the flattened area, is a pore from which small nuggets of limestone are expelled. One would hardly have expected this to happen, as the Purple Saxifrage favours sites that are rich in lime. But the plant also likes constant running water and perhaps this sometimes contains more lime than was bargained for. At any rate most Purple Saxifrages seem to have lime to spare.”

Wild Flowers in Danger by John Fisher

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Only Little S joined me for a short exploration of the base of the cliffs, A and B opting to sunbathe (and bicker) back down by the path. Wainwright has a drawing of a limestone pinnacle. I suspect that there may be a few such pillars along the entire length of the cliffs, but this one does look quite like the one in his drawing.

P1100194This is only a short walk – Wainwright gives it as 6 miles – but there are plenty of points of interest along the way. The next one being Hunt Pot.

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200 feet deep apparently. For us it provided another place out of the wind for lunch stop number two. Or in my case, another cup of tea and the privilege of watching the Gannets demolish the remainder of my lunch. To be fair, they did magnanimously share some of it with me.

The rocky cracks and ledges here, sheltered and protected to a certain extent from sheep,  were decorated with Primroses and Coltsfoot…

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Dark clouds were hurling in from the west now, but we had one more landmark to locate. Due to a bit of navigational muppetry, we came at it from above, following Hull Pot Beck…

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Where there were both Pied and Grey Wagtails flitting about.

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The beck becomes a dry stream bed when the water disappears underground…

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…and leads to…

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…Hull Pot…

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…an enormous collapsed cavern.

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The missing water emerges part way down the cliffs…

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But apparently, after heavy rain a waterfall flows directly into the top of the pot, which, on occasion, can actually fill with water. I can see myself making a return visit to witness that.

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In all, a great day out, in marvellous company. Certainly on a par with some of my favourite previous birthday hill-days. But, being greedy, I was determined to try again on the Tuesday and see if we could go one better. (More to follow!)

The kids meanwhile are quite taken with the idea of ‘The Three Peaks’. The boys, having done two of them in quick succession, would like to knock off Whernside, in fact were angling to do it the next day, and all three of them are keen to have a crack at the Three Peaks walk. I need to get into training!

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Entertaining Mister B

After my turn around Myer’s Allotment and Leighton Moss I came home in time for a quick bite of lunch (homemade burger and coleslaw which the Dangerous Brothers and I had knocked-up for tea the previous evening, very nice too) and then collected the chefs from school (TBH and A were away visiting friends).

The sun was shining and B was anxious to drag me to the park to throw a ball around. Before we could do that, however, he needed to pack for his first Scout camp. This was a protracted and painfully slow process. I gave him the packing list, he went off to pack. When I subsequently went through the list with him it transpired that he had omitted more items than he had packed. He went away and tried again, with similar results. Eventually, I stood over him and watched him put all of the things he needed into my voluminous, and venerable, Karrimor Jaguar 6 (which dwarfed him when packed).

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B, living up to his billing as a Dangerous Brother, was still recovering from a sprained ankle and whilst he was keen not to miss out, was not fit to join the rest of the Scouts on a scheduled long walk. So an early start for me – I picked him up from Sykeside Campsite by Brother’s Water at 9am. Well, I was there to pick him up, but he was still eating his breakfast. It had been wet in the night, and also very, very cold, but now the weather was apparently set fair and the views were rather splendid.

The rest of the Scouts would be returning to camp at around five in the afternoon. So; how does one entertain a boy who can’t walk too far on a sunny day in April in the North-Eastern Lakes?

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First-off: a short walk along a delectable bit of path along the western shore of Brother’s Water.

This…

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…is typical of the kind of the remnants of the winter flooding which A and I noticed on our walk through the Lakes the week before. It’s hard to see it here, but a tiny dribble of water was flowing down this small bed, but as you can see, a layer of topsoil has been scoured away for a few yards either side of the rivulet. Where it met the right-of-way, a large mound of boulders was humped across the path.

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It was a slow meander, with lots of pauses to try to take photos of small birds. B was a patient companion, actually a willing accomplice: we watched a pair of nuthatches seemingly taking it in turns to fly back and forth between the trunk of a tall tree and the base of small sapling nearby. As I tried to keep up with their antics through the lens of my camera, B kept up a running commentary in an attempt to help me find them as they moved.

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We had arranged to meet the rest of the family at Aira Force at 11. We were a little early, and we knew that the others would almost certainly be late (they were), so decided to wait for them outside the little cafe there, at a table from which we could watch the road and wave at the others to join us when they arrived.

B and I had been listening to Chaffinches and Robins as we walked beside Brother’s Water. We’d seen a few of the songsters but always at quite a distance. Now, as we sat outside, tamer cousins came looking for crumbs on the wall by our table…

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Or even onto the table itself…

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Marvellous.

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Naturally, we were then duty bound to have a wander up to view Aira Force itself.

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There’s a bridge at the top, from which you can stare into the chasm…

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And another at the bottom…

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Which is a great vantage point to view the falls…

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Last time I was here there was a lot more water coming over the falls. I was quite surprised, when I checked, to discover that it was more than 5 years ago.

Less surprising to find that it is also almost 5 years since we previously visited Brougham Hall…

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…and Brougham Castle…

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…because I remember how much smaller the kids were at the time.

Both are well worth a visit. The castle is built on the remains of a Roman Fort. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say: built with the remains of a Roman Fort. Inside the keep, one ceiling was clearly made using a Roman headstone…

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The River Eamont runs past the castle, and the town of Penrith is nearby.

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One of the surprising things about the castle is that, on both of our visits, there were hardly any other visitors.

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And we even found a bench that was out of the wind and so pleasantly warm to sit on as the children played hide and seek in the ruins.

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They may be much bigger than they were, but happily, they still enjoy simple pleasures.

There are lots more pictures here, from our last visit, including some of swash being buckled.

Not far from the castle, a bridge over the Eamont, currently closed, showed more evidence of the winter flooding…

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Entertaining Mister B

Camping in Wasdale

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Shortly after our return from Norfolk, the kids and I joined a friend from the village and his gaggle of children and spent a couple of nights camping at Church Stile in Nether Wasdale.

On the way over we stopped for lunch (pies) in the charming square in Broughton in Furness.

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Inevitably, the boys wanted to try out the stocks.

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I didn’t take all that many photos whilst we were away. We had some mixed weather. Were eaten alive on the campsite by midges. Had nightly campfires in a brazier we rented from the campsite and which was fashioned from an old washing machine drum.

We also had a wander up to Ritson’s Force in Mosedale Beck – we’d been told it was a good place for a swim. In honesty, the water wasn’t deep enough, but we had a bit of an explore and managed to get fully immersed, one way or another, so it was worth a look.

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Camping in Wasdale

Levens Park and Force Falls

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Another weekend afternoon jaunt, this time with the whole family, on an old favourite walk through Levens Deer Park. The park is a proper deer park, attached to Levens Hall, and has its own herd of domesticated fallow deer, of a breed particular to the park, and likewise it’s own breed of goats, although we didn’t see those on this occasion.

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It’s spread out either side of the River Kent…

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…and this walk follows the western bank for a while, leaves the park briefly, crosses a road bridge and then returns via the eastern bank.

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We met the deer pretty much as we entered the park.

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A nice opportunity to try out my new favourite toy’s zoom facility.

Another chance cropped up after we’d left the park, when we spotted a grey heron sat on the verge of the minor lane ahead of us. It was really very gloomy at this point, both because it was late in the afternoon and also because it was overcast, so I’m quite chuffed with the result…

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The minor lane is extremely quiet since it’s a dead-end, having been chopped off when the A590 dual-carriageway was built. A path continues however, under the main-road’s bridge over the Kent….

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….to Force Falls.

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We stopped here for a while to watch some canoeists shooting the falls.

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I did take some photos, but they were taken through a tall hedge, before a resident of one of the cottages by the falls invited us to watch from their car-parking area.

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There’s a sign at the other end of the park which says ‘No Swimming’. We never ignore that. Not at all.

It looked exhilarating. One canoeist did capsize as he went over, but they’d obviously got a good safety routine organised and he was soon rescued.

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Most of the return leg follows this avenue of magnificent oaks, dating back to 1690 when the park was first laid out.

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Some of the oaks are hollow, and there’s little that’s more enticing to a small boy than climbing inside a hollow tree.

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I was more absorbed by the sun setting ahead of us.

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I’ve taken photos of the boys inside this tree before, when they were tiny-tots…

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….but the opening used to be much smaller and for a time they weren’t able to get inside.

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On the wooded banks of the Kent, snowdrops were flowering. Spring is on its way!

Levens Park and Force Falls

Black Fell

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Castor and Pollux, Leiber and Stoller, eggs and bacon, Weller and Worthington*, cheese and pickle, Cooke and Moore, Boswell and Johnson – some things are destined to always be associated in our minds, and whatever individual merit each half of the partnership has, we none the less feel that the whole is somehow greater than the sum of the parts. I have a feeling that, to a certain extent at least, walkers who know them feel much the same way about Holme Fell and Black Fell. Guide books certainly often pair them together. The chap I met one wintery morning above the Wrynose Pass, who was close to finishing bagging the Birketts, had them both pencilled in for an afternoon walk later that day, once he’d polished off some Coniston Fells. But here’s the curious thing – I’d never been up Black Fell, even though I’ve climbed Holme Fell a few times over the years, including once since I started recording my walks here.

So, with a forecast for some half decent weather (but with strong winds and some wintery showers predicted too) and  wanting to get the kids out for a wander, something in the vicinity of Loughrigg, the same sort of low fell walk, with good views, relatively easily earned, but easy retreats available too, was deemed appropriate, and Black Fell seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

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We parked in a National Trust car park, just off the A593 Ambleside to Coniston road, which gave us instant access to the delightful cascades of Tom Gill, which is the stream which flows out of Tarn Hows.

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These were worthy of the admission price alone – I’ve been to Tarn Hows before, but I don’t think I can have been this way – what a treat!

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Now, I have to confess, I’ve never truly understood the fuss that’s made over Tarn Hows. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, obviously, and a lot of people hold views diametrically opposite to my own, but a lot of people are simply wrong: it’s a reservoir surrounded by conifer plantations. Nothing wrong with that particularly, but….I’m not sure that it can carry the weight of the hyperbole that’s heaped on it. Tom Gill is much more entertaining.

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Now that we’d gained a little height, it was already proving to be a very, very windy day. Some members of the party were agitating for their lunch. It’s a perennial problem on family outings. And it’s not principally the kids who chafe. TBH still hasn’t let me forget that we missed the lunchtime serving at the pub when we last climbed Holme Fell, and that despite the fact that we were still well looked after when we did arrive. We spent a while, therefore, searching for a suitable, sheltered picnic spot.

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This was it. Not really very sheltered, just less not sheltered than anywhere else we tried.

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Then we were climbing towards the summit of Black Fell. The wind was making it quite hard work, especially for walkers carrying a little less ballast than yours truly, i.e. all the rest of the family. The reward was the expanding views on all sides. Little S was particularly keen to have a view of ‘Coniston’. He didn’t seem very sure whether it was the lake, the village or the mountain of that name which interested him. The Houses at the village primary school are Coniston, Scafell and Kent, so that was partly what had sparked his interest. And it transpired that one of his class mates has climbed Coniston Old Man and has been regaling her peers with tales of her derring-do. In the long term, I’m obviously keen to exploit the competitive spirit this seems to have kindled in S, but in the short term I told him that Crinkle Crags, which we climbed together in the summer, is higher, and he was immensely satisfied by that. From that point on, it was important for us to identify Crinkle Crags from the surrounding hills.

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“It’s over there!”

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Tarn Hows, Coniston Water and Coniston Old Man from Black Fell.

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Windermere from Black Fell.

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As if the wind wasn’t enough to contend with, the top of Black Fell brought the additional delight of a fierce hail shower. Fortunately, this rocky outcrop provided a pretty fair measure of protection and we hunkered down for hot blackcurrant and snacks.

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Another view towards the Langdale Fells.

It had originally been my intention to incorporate Holme Fell into the walk as well, but time was marching on a good deal faster than we were, and the kids were finding the wind trying – trying to bowl them off their feet for the most part. So we picked up the path which shadows the road through the valley between Black Fell and Holme Fell. If you are thinking of following this route, be warned that the path opposite Yew Tree Tarn is very sketchy and I suspect little used. We did bump into a roe deer using it however.

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* Weller and Worthington – I realise that I might have undermined my argument somewhat by posting a link of Frank Worthington’s amazing goal for Bolton against Ipswich, when he was no-longer playing alongside the wizardry of Keith Weller, but I’ll always think of them together. Here they are crafting a goal in tandem. Great team that, Lenny Glover, on the other wing, sticks in my mind too. I also realise that, as a Leicester fan, it’s probably significant that I’m clutching at crumbs of comfort from the early 1970’s.

This was fun though.

Black Fell

Ease Gill, Great Coum and Crag Hill

Bullpot Farm

This is Bullpot Farm, actually no longer a farm, but now the headquarters of The Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club. It’s the perfect spot for the club because it’s right by…

Bull Pot 

Bull Pot, which is one of the many entrances, and exits I suppose, to and from the Three Counties System, Britain’s longest and arguably most complex cave system. There are several more potholes dotted around this area.

This was the last of my post-work evening strolls this summer – and from my point of view the best. The sun was shining again – it was hot in fact.

Path 

My plan is simply described – drop down to Ease Gill, follow the stream bed up, climb to the summits of Great Coum and Crag Hill and then take a more direct route back down to the Farm and my car.

A week before I’d abandoned my plan to climb remote, untrammelled Baugh Fell on a pathless 10 mile route, following a stream almost to the top and returning over rough moorland, because I’d decided that it was too ambitious for an evening walk. This time I planned to climb remote, untrammelled Great Coum on a pathless 10 mile route, following a stream almost to the top and returning over rough moorland. What changed in that week? I don’t know – the sun was shining and continued to shine, this was a walk I’d done many times before and maybe that familiarity gave me confidence, and then I’m almost always ready to overestimate my meagre fitness.

At Bullpot farm I helloed a lady walking her dog. She was the last person I saw until I got back to my car around 5 hours later.

At 306m Bullpot farm gives a nice headstart to the climbing for a lazy hiker like me. Sadly, from there I had to head down to reach Ease Gill.

I’m not sure whether this…

The dry waterfall 

…is the feature named on the map as Ease Gill Kirk, or whether that’s a little further downstream. (I’ll take a look down that way next time!) You can see here an important feature of Ease Gill – it has no water in it, not in this section at least. There’s a small pile of boulders at the bottom of the fall facilitating it’s ascent by the bold and agile. I have climbed it in the past, but I seem to remember that I then couldn’t get up the next, higher section. This time I just went around.

It wasn’t just me that was enjoying the sunshine – this was to be a walk packed with wildlife encounters and in particular the butterflies were everywhere. I can’t think when I’ve seen such a diversity, there were whites and fritillaries on the wing, I saw skippers and one very dark butterfly which I couldn’t begin to identify. On several occasions I spent quite some time trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to photograph them.

Female common blue 

I think that this is a female common blue, but if she is, she must be very faded since both sexes generally have orange markings on the undersides of their wings.

A bird of prey hurtled past, swinging between the low trees above my on my right. I don’t know what it was, but thinking back, it had a pale, barred chest and was moving very fast, so it may have been a peregrine. Two buzzards, circling and calling ahead made me cringe a little. Even though they are so much more common than they once were I’m still always thrilled to see them, but I’m a bit more circumspect about their presence these days, after what happened a few summers ago.

In the lower reaches, Ease Gil is generally dry, although every now and again there were puddles and pools to catch and throw back the blue of the sky.

Ease Gill 

Somewhere near here I passed what I presumed to be a dig. A small drystone enclosure had been built around a hole covered by a battered pallet. The wall presumably to prevent the pothole flooding if and when the streambed has water in it. Further upstream I would see numerous small caves and resurgences, all part of the Three Counties System I imagine.

Ringlet 

Ringlet (I think)

Common Blue 

Common blue. Probably.

The dry streambed led me to a small limestone bluff, within which…

An actual waterfall 

…a very enclosed passage with water in it! And an actual waterfall!

From this point on, the stream alternated between wet and dry.

Bridge 

I saw several small frogs during the walk.

Small frog

I had just snapped a couple of photos of this little fellow, on whom I had almost stood, I turned and almost stood on…

Juvenile grey wagtail 

…a juvenile grey wagtail. A week before I’d spent maybe 15 minutes trying to photograph a pair of grey wagtails, but they were constantly on the move, too far away and in too much shade. This bird couldn’t have been more obliging. It sat in the sun practically between my feet. Hopped a few yards away…

Juvenile grey wagtail II 

…and then led me up the limestone gorge…

Limestone gorge 

…hopping and fluttering, never too far away. A very trusting little chap. I took loads of photos. Meanwhile his/her parents were doing their collective nuts. Flying overhead and then veering away – showing their innocent offspring how to escape. Eventually, the youngster cottoned on and left me to the gorge and my walk.

Ease gill again 

Frankly, it was delightful. Once upon a time this was something of a favourite route and I can’t believe I’ve neglected it for so long. Back before the the Access Laws were passed, this walk always had the added frisson of a possible meeting with an irate landowner, although it never actually happened to me, and it’s quite possible, probable even, that the shotgun wielding loon only existed in my imagination.

Ease gill again II 

More gorge.

Limestone gorge II 

Even more gorge.

Another dry waterfall 

Another dry waterfall.

Eventually, the gorge comes to an end and the valley opens out.

The slopes open out 

The stream still alternates, wet and dry.

Water again! 

Where the valley narrows again, there are several small falls.

Waterfall 

Once again, I initiated a wildlife encounter by almost standing on an unfortunate creature…

Huge frog 

…an impressively huge and strongly marked frog. S/he was down amongst tall sedges and so difficult to photograph.

Waterfall with Lady's Mantel 

I was impressed by the lady’s mantle growing beside this fall. I expect to see the alpine version in the hills, and often do, but apparently the larger leaved version is also endemic in British uplands.

Because I was following the stream or the streambed, I hadn’t had to give much thought to navigation. As luck would have it, I stopped for a drink and decided to take a peek at the map just, I realised, by Long Gill Foot, which was exactly where I had intended to leave the stream.

Upper ease gill 

In the past I’ve turned left hereabouts, heading up onto Crag Hill so that I could follow the watershed round to Gragareth, but I knew that I didn’t have the time for that on this occasion. I turned the other way, following Long Gill. A large bird perched on a fence post lifted lazily and in a couple of wing-beats was far across the valley – another buzzard, and a close encounter which was so brief that I didn’t even have my camera in hand before it was over. The climb was long and gentle, but I was beginning to feel a little weary. A host of LBJs entertained me – I think meadow pipits, and a wren emerged from a cavity in a drystone wall to berate me as only wrens can.

Much as I’d enjoyed the confines of Ease Gill, it was pleasant to finally have some more expansive views. It had been one of those warm, still midsummer evenings and looking back towards home (I think that’s Warton Crag on the left below) I wasn’t too surprised to see…

Balloon ride over Morecambe Bay 

…a hot-air balloon, which are pretty ubiquitous in this area when the weather is like this.

The ridge on to Gragareth looked inviting….

Gragareth 

Whernside is a neighbour, but Ingleborough is always more photogenic…

Ingleborough 

The Dentdale side of Great Coum is relatively steep, and I suppose I should have wandered over to take a glimpse, but time was marching on, so I continued round to Crag Hill, which, although a little lower than Great Coum, has a trig pillar and so feels a bit more like a  summit.

Trig pillar Crag Hill 

It was nine o’clock. I’d almost stopped for a bite of tea on several occasions, but somehow nowhere had quite seemed right. Maybe a meal on the top would be ideal? But now the light was running out, so I pressed on and ate a few tomatoes and some blueberries whilst I walked.

Descent route 

The descent route offered easy going at first, but the vegetation got taller, and therefore more obstructive the further downhill I walked. I was accompanied by clouds of small moths, or seemed to be. I couldn’t decide whether they were following me, which seemed unlikely, or if every square yard of the hillside had it’s own population which were taking flight as I disturbed the peace.

I’ve often enjoyed interesting encounters with wildlife here. On one particularly memorable winter walk, a sharp, clear day, I was down by Ease Gill Kirk when I saw a large pale bird behaving in a very peculiar way. I thought at first that it might be some sort of gull, but – no, where was it’s head and neck? The body seemed to thicken and get broader then stop abruptly. It was an owl! A short-eared owl I realised later:

In late winter and spring the short-eared owl may fly high up in display, calling with hollow, booming notes and clapping its wings rapidly beneath its body.

Quite extraordinary, it’s stayed with me, though it must be at least 15 years ago. What the description doesn’t say, is that whilst the bird is clapping its wings, those wings are no-longer performing their primary function and so it hurtles towards the ground.

The only other time I can recall seeing a short-eared owl was on a very cold day on the hills around Wet Sleddale. Haven’t been back since…now there’s a plan in the offing….

Last rays of the sun on Gragareth 

The alpenglow on the slopes of Gragareth alerted me to the imminent disappearance of the sun…

Final view of the sun

But that wasn’t a problem – at this latitude, at that time of year, there’s still plenty of light for quite some time after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

I came down Aygill, where I noticed another cave entrance amongst a jumble of boulders – what I now know to be Aygill Caverns – a cave system not yet linked up to the Three Counties System, although it’s known that the water from Aygill does flow through that way.

I arrived back at the car with a little light to spare, a bit tired, a bit muddied (I managed to fall over in Aygill) but extremely satisfied.

image

You can pick out my route here, I think. Long Gill is the one which has the dotted and dashed black line alongside it (I think the County Boundary). You’ll have to allow me some poetic licence for the 10 miles I quoted near the top of the post. It probably isn’t much short of that – I don’t know, I don’t really care either.

Some links.

If you want to read about the Three Counties System:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1296308/Into-abyss-Stretching-counties-70-miles-inside-Britains-vast-newly-pioneered-cave-system.html

(Sorry that it’s from Mail Online. My Granddad would be fuming, were he still around to fume.)

If you fancy spending a night at Bullpot Farm for the princely sum of £5:

http://www.rrcpc.org.uk/wordpress/accommodation-booking

If you want to hear the (slightly nerve-wracking) cry of a buzzard:

http://sounds.bl.uk/environment/british-wildlife-recordings/022m-w1cdr0001375-1200v0

Ease Gill, Great Coum and Crag Hill