Wren Gill

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A bit of an odd one this because these photos were almost all taken in a brief flurry at the end of our little outing, shortly before we set-off to return to our car, and those that weren’t were taken in another short burst roughly three hours before. It’s easy to distinguish between the two sets, because soon after the first ones were taken, when the kids were eating their lunch and I was making a brew…

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…the cloud finally broke and the sun shone for much of the rest of the afternoon.

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Carabus problematicus.

This beetle was on the patch of rock where I set up my stove. It scampered away rather shyly and when I fetched it out from under a boulder, I noticed a rather unpleasant smell – I’m not sure if this was a defence mechanism from the beetle or the scent of something else concealed by the boulder. The beetle looks very like the one in my previous post, but I think that the obvious striations on its back mean that it is of a related, but different, species.

Anyway, between the two sets of photos, we were playing in the stream. It was a week after our visit to Tongue Pot; B was really keen to go back there, but I persuaded him that there were opportunities for swimming closer to home. We drove to Sadgill, in Longsleddale, and then walked up the valley until we reached the access land and a convenient gate in the wall. The track, which heads towards the Gatescarth Pass, was busy, not with walkers, there was just one other party of adults and toddlers, heading for the stream like us, but with four-wheel drives and trials bikes. I’ll let you fume on my behalf.

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I’ve called the post Wren Gill and higher upstream that’s how it begins. But down the valley it’s the River Sprint and, to add to the confusion, the OS map has Cleft Ghyll too, although that’s written in black rather than blue, so may refer to the narrow deep-sided ravine the stream briefly flows through.

We followed the stream bed from just beyond the boundary of the access land up to where the stream poured over a waterfall out of Cleft Ghyll. Then we walked down to where we’d started and did it all again.

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The first time we tried to keep reasonably dry and kept out of the deeper water, which gave us a chance to have a bit of a reccy first and also meant that nobody got too cold too quickly. The second time we took the opposite approach and swam wherever we could.

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We found a couple places where we could jump in, much to B’s delight, and also a powerful cascade which made a brilliant waterslide, although I was a bit disappointed that the kids all seemed to be able to get down without getting dunked in the pool at the bottom, a feat which I failed to replicate.

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After a few days without rain, the water was much warmer than it had been in the River Esk a week before. The weather helped too. It would be interesting to go back after a longer dry spell to have a go at the Cleft Ghyll section and beyond. Anyway, the kids are definitely sold on the idea of messing about in streams.

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Wren Gill

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

Skelwith Bridge – Skelwith Force – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – High Park – Colwith Force – Skelwith Bridge.

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The Langdale Pikes seen across Elter Water. 

How appropriate, after a post about favourite walks, that in my next bit of catching up from the summer hols, I’m recounting a walk which, in slight variations, I’ve walked many times, in all seasons, in all weathers, alone on occasions but often with big groups of friends and which definitely qualifies at least as one of my favourites, particularly for when time is short, or the forecast is a bit iffy.

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Skelwith Force.

A dodgy forecast was partly responsible for us choosing this route. We were going out with our friends Beaver B and G and their family again; the original plan had been to get the boats out on one of the lakes, but with showers, possibly prolonged, expected, we decided that a low level walk was a better option. We’d actually run through a number of alternatives the night before and it was eventually G who suggested something in this area.

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Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata).

This was spotted by Little B pretty much at the top of the track between Langdale and Little Langdale and it led us both a merry dance as we tried to photograph it in damp and gloomy conditions. It’s led me on another merry dance as I’ve tried to identify it – I was struck by it’s superficial resemblance to the Sexton beetle which I photographed recently, which wasn’t helpful because this is not even a closely related species.

We’d had drizzle, then a bright spell as we lunched by Elter Water, then rain as we climbed up and over into Little Langdale. Now it began to brighten up.

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Little Langdale Tarn.

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Slater Bridge.

Over Slater’s bridge and heading along Little Langdale we paused a while to watch cyclists riding their bikes through a ford on the infant River Brathay and then, a little further along, spotted a Roe deer down by the stream.

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Little Langdale. Blake Rigg on Pike O’Blisco and Busk Pike on Lingmoor behind.

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Stang End.

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The barn at Stang End with it’s impressive tiers of stacked fire wood.

Our perseverance through the rain was paying off now with some beautiful warm, sunny weather. The garden at Stang End was busy with Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies sunning themselves.

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High Park.

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Colwith Force.

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Peacock butterfly.

We interrupted this large beetle, here already scuttling for cover, as it was preying on the earthworm seen in the top left of the picture.

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Here is the predator after I’d fetched him (or her) out of hiding…

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I’m reasonably sure that this is a Violet Ground Beetle, Carabus violaceus, although there are several very similar species of large, black beetles which also have that violet tint.

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I haven’t featured a Robin in the blog for an unusually long time. This one looks a bit tatty,  but juvenile Robins have speckled feathers, which are moulted at around two to three months, so could this be a juvenile, born in May or June, which has almost changed into adult plumage?

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Almost back, crossing the footbridge near Skelwith Bridge.

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We were quite late finishing, having not set-off particularly early, and had wondered whether the promised tea and cake at Chesters By The River would be thwarted, but the new take-away section (well, new since I was last there) was still serving, so a mutiny by the kids was averted. I had the beluga lentil dish, seen near the front of the counter above, as an alternative to cake, and very nice it was too. Chesters, both cafe and shop, had been very busy when we had passed earlier and their success seems well deserved. If only they would reinstate the missing apostrophe in their name, I could thoroughly recommend a visit.

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

A Round from Rosthwaite.

Rosthwaite – Stonethwaite Beck – Stonethwaite – Big Stanger Gill – Bessyboot – Tarn at Leaves – Rosthwaite Cam – Coombe Door – Coombe Head – Glaramara – Looking Steads – Lincomb Tarns – Allen Crags – Sprinkling Tarn – Great Slack – Seathwaite Fell – Styhead Gill – Stockley Bridge – Grains Gill – Seathwaite – Black Sike – Strands Bridge – Folly Bridge – Longthwaite – Rosthwaite.

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Big Stanger Gill.

Be warned – there are an awful lot of photographs in this post, which doesn’t really reflect the quality of the photos, which were hampered by overcast skies and flat light all day, so much as just how much I enjoyed the walk. The idea for the route germinated after our ascent of Scafell Pike, which left me with a hankering to visit Sprinkling Tarn again after a gap of many years. Then, when I started perusing the map for a suitable circuit, I was drawn to the rash of blue dots across the hillsides south of Borrowdale, and the plan for this route duly emerged.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever been up Bessyboot before, and unusually for me, it actually occurred to me to take a peek in Wainwright prior to my walk, rather than doing my research afterwards, when, frankly, it’s a bit too late. The route up Stanger Gill is one of Wainwright’s routes, but no path is shown on the OS map at all. There is a path on the ground, clearly quite well used, and pitched with stones for much of its length. It climbs steeply through the trees, but there was a good variety of moss and toadstools to distract me from quite a warm and humid climb.

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One advantage of a steep climb is that good views behind rapidly emerge…

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The view back down to Stonethwaite.

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Waterfall in Big Stanger Gill.

When the ground finally begins to level out the path emerges into an area of rocky knolls and boggy hollows…

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Racom Bands.

The path seemed to lead me very circuitously, spiralling in on the summit of Bessyboot (which Wainwright calls Rosthwaite Fell).

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Looking north from Bessyboot: Tarn at Leaves, the knobbly top of Rosthwaite Cam and Coombe Head behind.

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Looking south from Bessyboot along Borrowdale to Skiddaw.

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Tarn at Leaves and Bessyboot.

“Tarn at Leaves has a lovely name but no other appeal”

Wainwright.

I think this kind of rough and complex terrain is really satisfying, and have no idea why Wainwright, the old curmudgeon, should be so negative about Tarn at Leaves.

Rosthwaite Cam was a big hit with me: a splendidly rocky and isolated little top, with nobody about and an easy scramble required to reach the summit.

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Looking north from Rosthwaite Cam – on the left the double bobble which Birkett anoints as Stonethwaite Fell and on the right Coombe Head.

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Looking south from Rosthwaite Cam: Tarn at Leaves, Bessyboot, Derwent Water and Skiddaw.

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Looking west from Rosthwaite Cam. From this vantage, Fleetwith Pike looks rather odd; like some powerful giant has taken great scoops out of the sides of the mountain.

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This is brew-stop number one, under the sheltered side of the enormous chunk of rock which forms the top of Rosthwaite Cam.

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Rosthwaite Cam from Stonethwaite Fell.

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And again, with a less wide-angled setting on the zoom.

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This tiny cairn is on the minor hummock which forms the eastern edge of Coombe Door.

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Small tarn at Coombe Door, Coombe Head on the right, Glaramara behind on the left.

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Crags of Coombe Head.

This was a walk across very rocky terrain; that rock was coarse and knobbly, and extremely grippy under boots. I was intrigued by these crags below Coombe Head where the rock, which surely must be volcanic, was neatly layered as if it were sedimentary.

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The view from Coombe Head along The Coombe and then down Derwent Water is an absolute cracker. It would be a shame to bypass it to head straight for Glaramara, but that’s precisely what the main path from Borrowdale does.

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Tarns near Coombe Head and Glaramara.

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The twin tops of Glaramara, viewed from brew-stop number two on Looking Steads.

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Esk Pike, Allen Crags, Ill Crag, Great End and Lingmell from brew-stop number two.

Brew-stop number two turned out to be an ill-advised affair. After the warm and sticky climb up Bessyboot, it had been quite cold on the ridge: the wind had a real edge to it. I’d hunkered down behind a large boulder to make my mug of tea, and put on all of my spare clothing, but this was the only time all day when it there were drops of moisture in the wind, and the boulder didn’t provide as much shelter as I’d hoped. By the time I’d slurped the last of my char, I was uncomfortably chilled.

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Bowfell and Esk Pike across a small tarn.

Tarns abound on this ridge and I felt that, although the ground is often boggy, there must be some scope for wild-camping.

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The rocky lump on the right here, in front of Allen Crags has a spot height of 684m on the OS map and is another Birkett (High House).

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Great End, Great Gable and Sprinkling Tarn from Allen Crags.

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Looking back to Glaramara from Allen Crags.

Brew-stop number three, just off the top of Allen Crags, was much more successful than the previous halt. I found a natural hollow amongst some shattered rocks where somebody had even built a small, untidy wall to raise the shelter a little higher. This turned out to be a very comfortable seat, well out of the wind and with excellent views.

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Langdale Pikes, Windermere, Lingmoor, Pike O’Blisco and Bowfell from brew-stop three.

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Piek O’Blisco, Wetherlam, Bowfell and Esk Pike from brew-stop three.

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Great Slack and Sprinkling Tarn.

Two tents were being pitched by Sprinkling Tarn, both by what looked to be father and son teams, both on the protruding parts of the shore which are almost islands in the tarn, and both looking to be conspicuously lacking in shelter from the wind.

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Sprinkling Tarn and Great End from point 631, not Great Slack, but with better views of the tarn then Great Slack.

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In ‘The Tarns of Lakeland’ Heaton Cooper calls this Sprinkling Crag Tarn.

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Glaramara from Great Slack, the diagonal gash across the hillside is Hind Gill, which, apparently, a faint, steep and very quiet path follows: one for another day.

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Seathwaite Fell from Great Slack.

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Lingmell and Peers Gill from Great Slack.

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Great End from Seathwaite Fell.

Seathwaite Fell is another pleasantly rocky top. It’s surrounded by steep crags on three sides and so has superb views down into Borrowdale.

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Seathwaite from Seathwite Fell.

The only part of my route which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend is the first part of my descent from Seathwiate Fell, down towards the path above Styhead Gill. I found a faint path which seemed promising and followed it into a steep little gully. The stream was mostly hidden below the jumble of rocks and boulders, so at least the going was mainly dry, but it was quite loose and a bit too steep for my liking. I only stopped to take a photo once the gradient had eased…

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At which point, in a wet flush at the mossy margins of the stream, I noticed these tiny, delightful flowers…

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…of Starry Saxifrage. I took several photos, none of which came out well, but each of the five petals has two characteristic yellow spots near it’s base, the centre of the flower is turning pink, and between each petal there are conspicuous red anthers. This is a plant of the mountains, and I shall be on the look out for it again in future.

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Stockley Bridge, Grains Gill, with Aaron Crags on Seathwaite Fell behind. That pool does look suitable for a swim (I’d been wondering), but it was too late and too cold.

I still had a fair walk along the valley, then by the river Derwent to get back to Rosthwaite.  By the time I reached the car park, the skies had begun to clear. For once I didn’t really resent the good weather arriving when my walk had finished; I’d had too much fun to feel any regrets. I brewed-up one more time before enjoying a pink sunset reflected in Derwent Water as I drove home.

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View from the car park.

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In all, I was out for about 10 hours, which is also how long it had taken us to climb Scafell Pike the week before. This was a good deal further then that, with probably a similar amount of ascent and a roughly equivalent amount of sitting around enjoying the view. All of which is very vague, I’m afraid. I couldn’t hope to estimate how many tarns I passed either, but I can be more precise with my tick lists: the route included eleven Birketts, of which four are also Wainwrights. I didn’t see many people about at all, especially over the first part of the route until I joined a more significant path on Glaramara, and the last section of the hills over Great Slack and Seathwaite Fell.

A Round from Rosthwaite.

Tongue Pot

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

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

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This is Tongue Pot…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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River Esk.

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Lingcove Bridge.

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Lingcove Beck.

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Waterfall on Lingcove Beck.

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Red Admiral.

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

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Tongue Pot

Aira Force

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Once we had discovered that our friends had never visited Aira Force before, that seemed like an obvious thing to do whilst we were in the area. The main car park was full and we were quite lucky to get two spaces in the additional Park Brow parking a little up the road toward Dockray. We dropped down to the visitor centre where the kids discovered a bit of a playground…

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I suppose there will eventually come a point when they feel that they are too mature and sophisticated for this kind of thing, but it hasn’t happened yet and I’m in no hurry for them to get there.

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Of course, a good tree to climb is even better than a manmade substitute, a fact which B reminded me of when he appeared, grinning rather cheekily, above the roof of the snack kiosk.

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When we eventually got going again, our friend Little B (there were really too many people on this trip with christian names beginning with B!) , spotted this striking caterpillar…

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Alder Moth caterpillar.

…determinedly making its way across a very busy path.

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On the bridge below Aira Force.

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Dipper.

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Our route was a simple one, we followed the paths up one side of the stream and then came back down on the other side.

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Little B is something of a kindred spirit; she loves nature and took lots of photographs. She will surely have a blog of her own in years to come. There were quite a few toadstools emerging in the woods and she was evidently fascinated. When we came across this enormous specimen…

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She stood by it to give me some scale.

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High Cascades.

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Ullswater.

Aira Force

Mean and Moody Weather on Scafell Pike

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Around the New Year, TBH is always keen to reflect, to look back at the year gone by and to make plans for the year ahead, “What do you want to do this year?” she’ll ask each of the rest of the family. My answer is always deeply predictable and revolves around getting out for lots of walks and finding some time for some camping and canoeing. Of course, TBH has her own ideas and this year suggested that we might set ourselves the target of climbing the National summits, Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike.

Scafell, being closest to home, would, in theory at least, be the easiest to tick off, but things haven’t entirely gone to plan; we expected to complete the climb in May when we were camping in Wasdale, but high winds made that an unwise choice; then we decided to camp in Upper Eskdale in June and ascend it from there, but again the weather didn’t cooperate and we camped elsewhere instead. I tried to resurrect the Eskdale plan this summer, but the forecast wasn’t entirely convincing, so in the end we elected to tackle the hill in a day-trip.

When we parked on the verge at Seathwaite, the waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill were looking resplendent and I was glad that we’d opted not to camp: with the streams running very high, I wondered what Great Moss would be like – we might have struggled to find a dry enough spot to camp and we certainly would have found ourselves struggling with conditions underfoot.

This would prove to be a day of very changeable weather; we set-off in rain and were soon kitted out in our waterproofs, but by the time we had walked a little way up the valley, the sun was shining, with dark shadows flitting across the landscape in response to the threatening clouds scudding overhead.

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Grains Gill, Stockley Bridge and Seathwaite Fell.

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Little S and TBH approaching Stockley Bridge.

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Grains Gill from Stockley Bridge.

I had been hoping to assess the suitability of the pools around Stockley Bridge for swimming purposes. I think there is some scope for a dip here, but the stream was running too high today.

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We continued to follow Grains Gill and then Ruddy Gill, and although it was soon raining again, our spirits weren’t dampened. The gill, in high water, looked very fine and ahead the crags of Great End were continually disappearing and reappearing in veils of mist.

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When it brightened again, we found a spot to sit for some butties and a brew.

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With the weather lifting a little, a view had appeared down to Derwent Water and Skiddaw.

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And the changing cloud and patches of sunlight put on a show for us.

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Likewise, up the valley, the mist was still swirling atmospherically around Great End.

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We were moving steadily, but fairly slowly, even by my unambitious standards. When we reached the top of Ruddy Gill I offered the kids the option to divert via Sprinkling Tarn and so considerably shorten the walk, but they were having none of it,  and were all determined to continue to the top.

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Allen Crags with Derwent Water behind.

When we reached Esk Hause, Esk Pike had usurped Great End as the incredible disappearing hill…

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Now you see it…

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Now you don’t…

Great End, meanwhile, was clear, albeit briefly…

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…but the ridge from there, onward over Ill Crag, Broad Crag and Scafell Pike itself remained determinedly hidden….

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And it stayed that way as we walked along the ridge and up the final pull to the top. In the slight depression shortly before we hit the broad ridge we stopped again for a second lunch, it seeming likely that, in the wind, it would be too cold to stop. Now and again, as we continued, scraps of blue sky appeared overhead and it seemed as if views would soon follow, but it wasn’t to be. The top wasn’t as busy as I’d expected, but there were a fair few people up there and since the wind was indeed very cold, we elected, after a very brief stop, to press on. If anything, as we descended, it seemed that the cloud had lowered further and we didn’t drop out of the fog until we had reached the Corridor Route.

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The top of Pier’s Gill.

I love the Corridor Route, for me it’s one of the finest paths in the Lake District, with it’s steep crags and deep-cut gills on all sides, and the patchy cloud didn’t really detract from the drama, although I was glad that we had finally dropped below it.

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It was pretty late by now, but we had anticipated this eventuality and so, as well as the stove and kettle I often carry for brewing-up, I had a pan, some filled dried pasta (harder to buy these days than it once was, but Aldi stock some) and a jar of pesto. I was surprised by how many other groups were still about on the hills and, as we cooked tea, a party came by and expressed their envy of our impending evening meal.

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Round How and the Corridor Route.

We descended past Styhead Tarn, Styhead Gill and back via Stockley Bridge, finishing back at Seathwaite in the very last of the light, having completed our roughly 8 mile walk in around 10 hours. So, we hardly set any records fro speed, and I’m not sure either that we will get around to  Ben Nevis or Snowden this year, but we did enjoy a very memorable day.

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Mean and Moody Weather on Scafell Pike

Levens Deer Park and Force Falls

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Force Falls River Kent.

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Bullfinch.

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River Kent.

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Avenue of trees (Oaks and Sweet Chestnuts).

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A hollow tree (one of many).

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Bagot Goats.

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River Kent.

This little outing has appeared on the blog many times before. These photos are from the Monday immediately after our Howgill camping trip. A had dance lessons, which meant I had a two hour window and this walk proved to be easily manageable in that time frame, actually with time to spare without hurrying unduly. A perfect, peaceful leg stretcher.

Levens Deer Park and Force Falls