A grand walk on Howth Head

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I’m back in Ireland this week – working not on holiday, but I caught an early ferry over on Sunday morning, arriving in Dublin just after midday as I often do so that I can spend a little time exploring what has become my “second home”! The weather was looking reasonably promising so I’d decided to get out for a walk. I’d thought about driving into the Wicklow mountains but on second thoughts felt it would be nice to have a walk along the sea shore so decided to go for a walk on Howth Head, the headland to the north of the city centre that my ferry passes sailing into Dublin Port. It’s only a few miles from the port and it took me about half an hour to drive over there.

I’d done my research beforehand and knew that there were a number of way marked routes I could follow. I’d decided on the longer “Bog of Frogs” route, about 12 km long, that starts at the Howth DART station near the harbour and follows the coast round before cutting across country back to the start.

I’d planned to park up near the harbour as I knew there were plenty of car parks, but when I arrived they were jam full and it was clearly going to be a struggle to find a space. So I drove out of the town centre up inland and managed to find a spot on the Summit car park on top of the cliffs near the Baily lighthouse, part way round the route. There was no reason why I couldn’t start here as the route would bring me back, so that’s what I did.

I followed the path down the hill and after a short distance was on the route. All the routes are waymarked with different coloured arrows. I was following the purple route with a few minor diversions.

Straight away I was greeted with a view over the Baily lighthouse that stands at the end of a peninsula on the south side of the headland. I see it every time I sail into Dublin. It’s still a working lighthouse so it isn’t possible to walk right up to it.

The skies were dark and cloudy over Dublin to the west and as the lighthouse was in that direction it didn’t make for a good photo. But it was clear and bright over to the east, so this photo was taken after I’d walked along the path past the peninsula

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Carrying on the narrow path was high up on the cliffs and there were good views down to the sea. It could be hairy on a windy day.

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Looking over to Poolbeg and the south wall with the olfd power station chimneys dominating the view

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There’s some nice houses up on the top of the cliffs looking over the sea

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Turning a corner I could see a Martello Tower along the coast.

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The marked route turned inland before the tower but I wanted a closer look so carried on along the coastal path for a while.

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It’s been converted into a luxury holiday home.

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I carried on the coastal path a little further before turning inland and, passing lots of expensive houses, looped back along the road to rejoin the purple route which now cut inland heading towards the north side of the headland.

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The path crossed the golf course (watch out for golf balls!!) and as I climbed I could see the sea on to the north with views across as far as the Mountains of Mourne over the border in Northern Ireland.

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At the other side of the golf curse I entered the wooded area known as the “Bog of Frogs”

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Fortunately after a dry summer it wasn’t so boggy (although there were boardwalks to keep walkers’ feet dry) and I didn’t see any frogs!

The route now climbed up into heathland before descending down into Howth

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but I took a slight diversion climbing a hill to take in the views over the sea and the harbour and toward the small island known as “Ireland’s Eye”

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The route continued down the hill, across some fields and passing another golf course and a Gaelic sports field, through a housing estate and then down a path arriving at Howth DART station, the “official” start of the walk.

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However, I’d started part way round and so had only completed about two thirds of the route so I had a few more miles to go back to my car. Howth is quite an attractive town and harbour. I’d visited it some years ago during the winter when it was cold and quiet, but this day was quite different – sunny and warm and heaving with people walking around and enjoying a pint and sea food in the many bars and cafes that line the harbour.

I decided to take a break from the walk and explore the harbour. There’s actually two – one a fishing harbour where, being a Sunday, there were plenty of boats moored along the quays

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then there’s the “pleasure boat” harbour. Didn’t look like there were many people out sailing!

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I walked out on the harbour wall to get a better look at Ireland’s Eye

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heading back

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The beach to the east of the harbour wall

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I spent about an hour looking round the harbour before resuming my walk along the purple route. It took me up past another Martello tower which overlooks the harbour and which today houses a radio communication museum.

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The route now followed the narrow road on the side of the cliff as far as the Kilrock carpark and then back on to the cliff top footpath.

Looking back to Howth

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and along the cliff path

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After almost an hour after setting out from Howth harbour, the Baily lighthouse came into view – and there was the Irish Ferries boat Ulysees sailing past towards Dublin Port.

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I’d also seen the Stena Line’s Adventurer sailing past in the distance about half an hour before.

It didn’t take long now to climb back up to the top of the cliff and the Summit car park.

This had been a grand walk. It had been busy in Howth and also along the cliff from the Harbour to the lighthouse – there were several large groups of young tourists who slowed me down a little as it was difficult to pass on the narrow path. But it was good to see them enjoying their walk too.

Back at the car I changed out of my boots and set off driving back through Dublin and on to Naas where I’m staying and working this week.

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Pendle Hill from Downham”

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Last Wednesday I managed to take an afternoon off work to get out for a walk, making the most of a fine day. I decided to drive over to Shazza country and head up Pendle Hill. I’d been up there for a walk earlier this year during the heatwave, but this time decided to tackle a circular route from the village of Downham which is only 30 miles and less than an hour away from home.

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Downham is a very pretty village and somewhat lost in time. The properties are all owned by the Assheton family who rent or lease them out and they don’t allow residents to install overhead electricity lines, aerials or satellite dishes. This has made the village a popular location for filming period TV programmes and films, including the BBC One series Born and Bred. More notably it was the main location for the 1961 Bryan Forbes film, Whistle Down the Wind, which, although rather sentimental, is one of my favourites as it very much reminds me of my childhood – the local children who used as actors and extras are of my generation and also spoke rather like I do!

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I parked up in the free (!) car park and bought myself a few supplies from the small café cum ice cream and snack shop and set out following a path southwards which took me across some fields towards Worsaw Hill and Worsaw End. The farm lying at the foot of this hill was used as the home of the main characters in Whistle Down the Wind.

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I then took the path past the farm that headed east towards Pendle Hill. After a short section of tarmac I was back on soft ground passing along a narrow path between hedge boundaries

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and then starting my climb up the flank of the hill.

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Looking back there were good views of Worsaw Hill

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With Ingleborough and Penyghent in the Yorkshire Dales clearly visible in the distance.

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It’s a steep ascent, so it doesn’t take too long to reach the top of the ridge (although not quite the summit of the hill)by the large cairn erected to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Scout movement.

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I then set out along the ridge heading for the “Big End” which is the highest point of the hill. It was over a mile, mainly walking over soft peat which is inevitably normally muddy and gloopy underfoot, but the long dry spell from May to the beginning of August (although now seeming like a distant memory) meant that despite some recent rain the going wasn’t too bad.

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Visibility was reasonably good so there were views in all directions
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about half way along the ridge I passed this round shelter, which rather looked like it had been created by Andy Goldsworthy

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After crossing a wall and passing this recently constructed seat come wind shelter

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The Big End was in view

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Quite a lot of work has been done recently on the paths which is necessary on such a popular peat covered hill to control erosion. Some people don’t like this but I’m afraid it’s necessary.

It didn’t take long now to reach the trig point at the summit

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Time to stop for a little while, grab a bite to eat and soak up the views, looking down to Barley

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After my short break I retrace my steps along the engineered path back to the wall

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and then took the path which descended diagonally down the hill back towards Downham

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Descending is harder on than knees than climbing, but it didn’t give me too much trouble this time.

Looking back from the foot of the hill

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and looking ahead

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An easy stroll of about a mile or so over the fields alongside the small river took me back towards Downham

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Looking back to Pendle Hill

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Passing through this gate took me back into the village

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The cloud had cleared during the course of my walk and it was now a bright sunny late afternoon.

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I spent half an hour or so mooching around the village and taking a few snaps (I’ll probably include them in another post) before heading back to my car, changing out of my boots and setting off back home.

Photography at the Hepworth

Last Saturday we drove over to the Hepworth in Wakefield to take a look at the latest exhibitons. We’d not been for a while – our last visit was our annual “pilgrimage” on New Year’s day. Being named after Barbara Hepworth, the Gallery exhibitions are often devoted to sculpture, but not exclusively and Currently they have three exibitons featuring photography.

The main exhibition Lee Miller and Surrealism is a survey of the work ofthe American photographer, best known for her association with Man Ray and her photographs taken during the Second World War, both on the Home Front in the UK and then, later, in France and Germany. It includes some of her photographs togethor with selected works by Surrealist artists, attempting to explore their influence on her.

The Hepworth website tells us that

Arriving in Paris in 1929, Miller quickly became Man Ray’s apprentice, muse and collaborator, becoming part of the Surrealist network.

During World War II, Miller was employed by  British Vogue  as a freelance war correspondent, capturing thought-provoking images of Hitler’s secret apartments and the harrowing atrocities of wartime living with her particular surrealist eye.

No photography was allowed in this exhibition but a limited number of images can be viewed on the Hepworth website.

The second exhibition was Hot Mirror, a survey of work by the contemporary Dutch artist and photographer Viviane Sassen.

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Most of the images included in the exhibition were from her series ‘Umbra’, ‘Flamboya’ (photographs taken in Kenya), the ‘Pikin Slee’ series, from a remote village in Suriname, ‘Oarasomnia’, a dreamlime exploration of sleep.

There were similarities with the Lee Miler exhibition as the works on display included black and white documentary style photographs and there were clear Surrealist influences in many of the images. Even many of her photographs of “real” subjects had an abstract and often surreal quality. Here are some of my favourites.

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In the centre of the gallery there was a room and walking inside you entered an immersive work Totem, 2014, which

places the visitor inside a surreal landscape.

with a changing series of images projected on the wall and reflected in mirros to produce a type of giant kaleidoscope effect.

The third photographic exhibition, Modern Nature: British Photographs from the Hyman Collection, “does what it from says on the tin” featuring around 60 photographs taken from the end of the Second World War up to the present day. The photographers included some favourites of mine – Shirley Baker, Bill Brandt and Martin Parr. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch any decent photos of the photos (!) due to reflections in the glass.

The Hepworth is always worth a visit and that was certainly the case the other Saturday.

Birmingham Art Gallery

After looking at the stained glass in the cathedral, I still had an hour or so to kill until my train was due, so I decided to have a look round the City Art Gallery, which is only a short walk away. Although I’ve been to Brum a few times recently, it’s been in connection with work and I hadn’t had visited the Gallery before. It’s a combined Museum and Art Gallery but as time was limited I concentrated on looking on their art collection.

Like the City Art Galleries in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, the art works appeared to have been mainly collected during the Victorian and Edwardian periods when these cities were the heart of the Empire and local industrialists were wealthy and could make out that they had civic responsibility by making donations to the Gallery. Things changed in the 20th Century and as a consequence the collection is dominated by works from the Victorian and Edwardian periods and earlier, with fewer works from the 20th Century onwards.

I didn’t think that the collection was as strong as those in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool and the Manchester and Liverpool City Galleries, but there were some works that I liked.

I was expecting a strong collection of Pre-Raphaelite works, but other than this well known painting, The Last of England, by Ford Maddox brown, there was little of note.

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My impression was that the industrialists of Birmingham were either less generous or less cultured (or, possibly, both) than those of the Northern cities.

Other works I liked were a couple of Impressionist paaintings

The Pont Boieldieu at Rouen, Sunset (1896) by Camille Pissaro

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Portrait of a woman in black, seated in an armchair (c 1882) by Mary Cassatt

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and some 20th Century works

The Miner (1936) by Walter Sickertt

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Woman holding a flower (late 1910’s, early 1920’s) by Gwen John

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Winter Sun No. 1 (1961-2) by Joan Eardley

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Barbara Hepworth’s Cosdon Head (1946)

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the dramatic sculpture of Lucifer (1945) by Jacob Epstein

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a rather nice contemporary sculpture, Calliope (2012) by Halima Cassell

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Pink Pimp Mix (2006) by David Batchelor

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Birmingham Cathedral Stained Glass

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A couple of weeks ago I had to go down to the centre of Birmingham with work. I’d bought an Advance ticket on the train and as I wasn’t sure how long my meeting and site visit would last, I’d booked on a train in the late afternoon. As it happened I was done by 1 o’clock so I had just over a couple of hours to kill. I could have gone to a café to do some work, but that wouldn’t be much fun and the work could wait until I was back at base, so I decided to have a bit of a mooch.

My first stop was Birmingham Cathedral as I wanted to have a look at the stained glass windows designed by Birmingham born pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by the firm of William Morris & Co.

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There are four windows in total, three at the east end of the building with the fourth immediately opposite at the west end. They’re quite magnificent works of Pre-Raphaelite art, and my photos, taken with my mobile phone, really can’t do them justice.

The left east window, the Nativity
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The central east window, the Ascension
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The right east window, the Crucifixion
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The west window, the Last Judgment
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The Ascension was installed in 1885 and the Nativity and the Crucifixion two years later. The Last Judgement was installed in 1897.

The Cathedral website tells us

They are considered characteristic of Burne-Jones’ later style – elongated bodies with small heads in relation to body length and designs which divide in two equal halves, horizontally. This technique separates heaven from earth in each of the windows.

and that

They demonstrate Burne-Jones’ immense skill and the fine craftsmanship of William Morris & Co. They are known for their vibrancy, the life-likeness of the figures, their ability to tell a story and their inspiring and dramatic qualities.

Well worth a visit to  take a look, particularly on a sunny day with the light streaming through the windows emphasising their vibrant colours..

Cartmel Priory

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It was a rather grim day as we left Portiscale at the end of our holiday, but rather than drive straight home we decided to extent our break stopping off at Blackwell to take a look at the latest exhibition showing there and then driving down to Cartmel. I’d been there during a recent walk, but wanted to have a proper look around.

Cartmel is a small, attractive village on the Furness peninsula which is something of a “honeypot” with a number of touristy shops (although good quality ones) a Michelin 2 star restaurant, three pubs and is also renowned for sticky toffee pudding. Despite the weather, it was very busy with visitors.

We parked up at the Racecourse and made our way towards the centre of the village. We wanted to take a look around the old Priory church which dominates the village which was originally part of a monastery. Like many old churches it evolved over many years and although mainly Gothic in style there are some Norman / Romanesque features.

The tower is particularly interesting – the top half having been constructed diagonally across the original tower.  There’s not another one like this in the UK.

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(I took this photo during my previous visit when it was hot and sunny and the light was much better for photography)

The priory was founded in 1190 with extensive work curing the next couple of centuries. The oldest parts of the building are the chancel, transepts, the south doorway, and part of the north wall of the nave.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 the church survived as it was used as the village Parish church. Little else of the monastery remains other than the gatehouse in the village square which is now owned by the National Trust.

We entered via the south door which is inside a much later porch

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The semi-circular arch with its decorations is very typical of Norman/Romanesque architecture.

Looking down the Choir from the nave. Classic Gothic pointed arches

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in the north aisle

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and supporting that eccentric tower

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but round Norman style arches with dog-tooth decoration in the Choir

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The choir stalls look like they could be Elizabethan or Jacobean

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The old font, dating from 1640

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A monument to the “Cartmel martyrs” who resisted the destruction of the church during the Dissolution of the monasteries.

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Monuments by the sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos, an English sculptor with a Brazilian father and British mother, who lived in Cumbria much of her working life.

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The Cavendish memorial. The tomb of Lord Frederick Cavendish, son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire, who was Chief Secretary to Ireland in Gladstone’s government, and who was assassinated by Fenians in Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1882.

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The Cavendishes, a branch of the Duke of Devonshire’s family, are the local big wigs. Nearby Holker Hall is their ancestral home and they own property around Cartmel including the racecourse.

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Browsing on the web after the visit, I came across this interesting clip on the BBC website where Nicholas Pevsner visits the Priory and discusses its architecture.

 

Walla Crag and Ashness Bridge

Thursday was the last day of our holiday and we decided that although rain showers were forecast we’d get out for a walk. We managed to persuade our son to come out with us so we decided on a route that wouldn’t be too challenging.

We drove over to the National Trust Car Park at Great Wood on the east side of the lake and set off up through the woods, heading for Walla Crag.

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The path climbed up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm. Views opened up of Derwent Water and the fells to the west of the lake

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and to Skidaw

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and Blencathra

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Passing the farm we had a short sharp climb up the fell, but with great views

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It’s a relatively short climb up to the top of the crag, although it is classified as a Wainwright as the grumpy author of the classic guidebooks to the Lakeland fells gives it it’s own entry due to it’s popularity. It’s certainly a great viewpoint.

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The dark clouds threatening rain made it very atmospheric.

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Bleaberry Fell, only a mile away, looked inviting

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but son wasn’t so keen on extending the walk, so we continued on our pre-planned route taking the path descending gradually down the hill towards Ashness Bridge.

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Looking back over Derwent Water

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It didn’t take us too long to reach Ashness Bridge, a traditional stone-built bridge on the single-track road to Watendlath. It’s a very popular tourist spot as it’s easily accessible and is allegedly the most photographed packhorse bridge in the Lake District, so I had to stop to take a few snaps.

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Rather than take the path through the woods from Ashness Bridge back to Great Wood car park we decided to follow the road down to the lake and walk along the shore to Calfclose Bay to have another look at the Millennium stones monument.
I’m not sure that this was a great idea because for a good stretch of the way back the path we’d walked along on Saturday was flooded as the Lake level had risen due to the on and off rain since Sunday.

Reaching the sculpture, this is what greeted us

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So far, despite rain clearly visible falling over the fells, especially up Borrowdale and in Newlands Valley across Derwent Water, we’d avoided the showers. But now it started to rain – very heavily. It was only a short walk back to the car, but it was time to get the waterproofs out of the rucksack!

Reaching the car we changed out of our boots and chucked the wet coats into the boot of the car and then drove back to Portinscale. Another good walk.