Along the Buttermere ridge

On the west side of Buttermere there’s a wall of rock that looms over the lake, keeping it in the shade for much of the year. There are three main summits and once you’re up there there’s a great walk along the ridge. I’d been itching to get up there since I arrived in Buttermere and the Wednesday during my short break looked like conditions would be perfect for tackling it. What a difference a day makes!!

I checked out of the Youth Hostel and drove the short distance to the National Trust car park, which is just to the north of the village. There were only a couple of cars parked up, but it would get much busier as the day went on. I got kitted up, locked the car, stowed my car keys safely inside the security pocket in my rucksack and set off walking. It was chilly – there had been no cloud cover over night – but the sun was shining and I knew it would warm up later on.

An easy stroll at first through the village and on to the lake

Looking back towards Whiteless Pike and Grasmoor – what a beautiful morning!

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The lake was as still as a mill pond (the sun in the south east made photography difficult)

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I crossed the river and then a few yards later, just inside the woods, I took the path that climbed up to Blea Tarn and the summit of Red Pike.

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An “engineered” path has been created most of the way up to Blea Tarn, but it was steep and hard work for an old bloke and I was overtaken by a few more agile walkers. The views ahead and looking back down on a sunny morning were outstanding.

Looking up

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The view back towards the Grasmoor group

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and down to Buttermere

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After the hard climb I reached Blea Tarn where I stopped for a short break and to grab a bite to eat to get my blood sugar up before I tackled the final stretch up to the summit of Red Pike, which had now come into view.

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The initial stretch of this final leg up to the ridge, along an engineered path, wasn’t too bad but then it ran out and there was a difficult scrabble up a steep scree slope. The scree was very loose and it was difficult to stop myself from sliding back down at times. It rather reminded me of the final stretch of the Watkin Path on Snowdon, although it didn’t go on for quite as long. Using my walking poles helped, although they got in the way a little on some stretches where I needed to use my hands.

I eventually made it and it was worth the effort for the views over Crummock Water, Buttermere and Ennerdale. I could see over the Solway Firth to Scotland and to the Isle of Man sitting on the horizon in the Irish Sea.

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Crummock Water and Grasmoor
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Down into Ennerdale
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Zooming in – the Isle of Man is just visible on the horizon
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Looking north
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Zooming in over the Newlands Valley towards Keswick, Skiddaw and Blencathra
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High Stile – my next objective

After a break to soak up the views, rest my legs and have a bite to eat, I set off along the ridge towards High Stile. It was relatively easy going now for a while in good conditions.

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Looking towards Pillar and the fells to the west of Ennerdale

The view back towards Blea Tarn (it looks a long way down) Buttermere village and the Grasmoor range

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Looking back to Red Pike as I neared the summit of High Stile

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Looking south west from High Stile I could see the Scafells

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Looking back towards Red Pike from the summit of High Stile

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Carrying on along the ridge and looking back at the crags below the summit of HIgh Stile

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and looking over Fleetwith Pike and the Honister Pass – there’s the Helvellyn and Fairfied ranges in the distance

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The ridge terminates at another peak, High Crag. I’m going to bore you with some more views now from its summit

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Looking south towards Great Gable at the end of Ennerdale with the summits of Scafells visible in the background
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Looking back along the ridge towards High Stile with Ennerdale Water visible to the left
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Looking north west
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Looking over Haystacks with Great Gable and the Scafells in the background
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Looking South East over the Honister Pass
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Fleetwith Pike

I almost felt drunk with the magnificence of it all. Conditions were just perfect. Sunny, blues skies, but not too hot and with minimal wind and superb visibility. I could have stayed put for longer, but it was time to carry on. And having had a long steep climb to get up on to the ridge I now had to descend down a VERY steep scree slope. Luckily in recent years a lot of work has been done on the path but it was still hard going, initially down a zig zag path through loose scree, before reaching a steep engineered path that took me to the foot of, Stair, a small fell that was crossed to take me to the Scarth Gap – the top of the pass I’d climbed on Monday on my way up to Haystacks.

This is the view looking back after I’d got to the bottom of High Crag – you need to look carfeully to make out the path.

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Looking down I could see Buttermere

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Looking over Haystacks to Great Gable

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I carried on over Satir and then descended to Scarth Gap – there’s Haystacks ahead

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It would be feasible on a good day to carry on over the fell and then back down to Buttermere taking my route from Monday, but I turned left and carried on down Scarth Pass. It seemed longer and steeper going down than it had going up it on Monday!

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I eventually reached the bottom of the pass and the west shore of Buttermere. I then had a pleasant, easy walk of about 2 miles back to the village

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Looking back up the lake towards Fleetwith Pike

I needed a brew by now, so before returning to the car I called into Skyes farm cafe for a pot of tea

and then treated myself to an ice cream for the final stretch back to the car.

It had been a superb walk in perfect conditions and I wished I could have stayed longer. But I had to visit a client the next day so it was time to set off for home. I packed my kit in the boot and set off home by a different route. Rather than tackle the Newlands Pass (it was closed and there were diversion signs, although some vehicles were ignoring them) I headed north along Crummock Water. I’d intended to drive through the Whinlatter Pass but missed my turning resulting in an unintended diversion through Cockermouth. It’s not so easy to make a U-turn on those narrow country lanes!

It had been a great few days up in Buttermere. The weather had been mixed but I’d more or less done what I’d planned. And that walk along the ridge in perfect conditions will remain in my memory bank for a long time!

Rannerdale Knotts

After drying out in the cafe and revitalising myself with some soup and cups of tea, I decided to brave the elements again. The weather was definitely picking up. The rain was much lighter, although the wind was still blowing. So what to do? I contemplated walking round Crummock Water, but I fancied getting up a bit higher. I ruled out climbing up any of the big fells due to the wind, so decided to climb the modest fell of Rannerdale Knotts.

A short distance from the village, just before the National Trust car park, I turned right just after a row of houses on to a path which climbed up towards Whiteless Pike. One of the locals was keeping an eye on me!

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The Pike wasn’t my destination (perhaps another day) but after a shortish, moderately steep climb up a grassy slope, my route veered off to the north, up towards the long ridge of Low Bank and Rannerdale Knotts. The rain had stopped and there was blue sky ahead. Much more promising than the morning!

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Looking down into the valley and the National Trust car park, with Mellbreak, on the other side of Crummock Water, in the distance.

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and looking back towards Buttermere

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I carried on along the grassy ridge, getting buffeted by a strong wind. It seemed to be flowing through the valley and then rising up and sweeping over the ridge. Other than that, it was fairly easy going.

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Looking over to the right there was Whiteless Pike

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and a little further to the north, the great bulk of Grasmoor, with some cloud still lingering on the summit.

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Getting nearer to the summit now and a little scrambling over rock required, but nothing serious.

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Reaching the summit, this was the view over Crummock Water with Loweswater a little further on in the distance.

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and looking back towards Buttermere.

The view over to Red Pike and High Stile the other side of Buttermere.

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The cloud had dispersed now from the top of Grasmoor (well, more or less) as the skies brightened.

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I could have descended now and walked back via the shores of Crummock Water, but I was enjoying being higher up and as the views towards Buttermere were so stunning I decided to turn round and retrace my steps along the ridge.

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Before descending back down to Buttermere I diverted slightly to have a look down Rannerdale itself with the Knotts dominating the left side of the pleasant valley. In the spring the sides of the valley are covered with a mass of bluebells. But not in October!

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At the end of the ridge, this was the view over towards Newlands Pass

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and beyond Haystacks the summit of Great Gable was beginning to emerge from the cloud.

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By the time I was back in Buttermere it had really brightened up

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I passed the small church of St James, where I’d sheltered from the downpour for a short while in the morning, on my way back to the hostel. Look at the blue sky!

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It was looking promising for Wednesday.

A wet morning in Buttermere

I woke up on Tuesday to be greeted by, as expected, a wet and windy day. It was forecast that conditions would change mid afternoon, but most of the day looked like it was not going to be conducive to getting up on the fells. So after breakfast I had a decision to make about what to do. I hadn’t come up to Buttermere to spend the day in a Youth Hostel and working on the principle that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, (I don’t actually agree with that statement) I donned my waterproof coat and prepared to get wet!

I decided that my best option was to spend the morning taking a stroll around the lake and decide what to do in the afternoon later on, depending on how things were looking.

As I set out, this was the view over the valley towards High Stile

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Approaching the small picturesque Church of St James at the end of the Newlands Pass,

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I decided to pop inside and take a look.

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Under this window, which looks towards Haystacks (not visible today, alas!), there’s a monument to Alfred Wainwright

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Leaving the shelter of the church, I set off through the village towards the lake, passing the Fish Inn

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which, in the 1790’s, used to be the home of Mary Robinson, the landlord’s daughter, who was known as “The Beauty of Buttermere“. In 1802 she was swept off her feet by a visitor to the Inn, calling himself “Colonel Alexander Hope” and they were married. It turned out, however, that he was in fact John Hatfield, an undischarged bankrupt, who was already married. After conning some local residents out of money, he scarpered, but the law caught up with him and he ended up being tried in Carlisle and hanged. More detail can be read on the Fish’s website.

Famous visitors to the Inn have included the Lake Poets, Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge.

The circuit of the lake is very popular as it’s quite an easy walk, but very scenic, so on a fine day the route gets busy. It was quieter today, but I wasn’t the only one braving the wind and rain.

Carrying on I soon reached the lake to be greeted by choppy waters and an atmospheric view down towards Fleetwith Pike.

The waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill were in full spate

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I carried on through the woods down the west shore of the lake

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Looking across towards High Snockrigg (great name that!)

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I continued down the path . Another view of Fleetwith Pike

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and to my right High Stile visible through the cloud

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and High Crag

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Getting near to the top of the lake

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There’s Haystacks. Glad I wasn’t planning on going up there today!

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An atmospheric view of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks

I crossed over, past Gatesgarth farm, to the east side of the lake. A walk down a short stretch of road and then back on to the path along the lakeside.

Looking across the lake to High Crag and High Stile

Getting closer to Buttermere village, the path goes through a tunnel excavated through the rock.

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Looking across to the waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill and Red Pike

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It had taken me just over a couple of hours to circumnavigate the lake . My coat had kept me dry but it was time to get out of the rain. There are 2 cafes in the village. Unfortunately one pf them was closed for the week for renovation but the other, at Sykes Farm, was still open, so I popped in for a brew and a nice bowl of hot pea soup. In fact, I ended up having a couple of brews as I whiled away the time for an hour and a half, drying out and deciding on what to do in the afternoon. There were signs that the cloud was beginning to clear, so there was a chance of a drier walk in the afternoon.

Wainwright’s Wainwright

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At the beginning of last week I managed to get away for three days to do some walking in the Lake District. I decided to book into the Youth Hostel in Buttermere for a couple of nights as they had places available and I’ve never been there before. Well, that’s not quite true. I do remember driving over there once on a rainy day many, many years ago during a stay near Bassenthwaite Lake, but due to the poor weather we didn’t linger. So this would be my first proper visit and I was looking forward to getting up on the fells I’d never explored before. Of course, the weather in the Lakes is always unpredictable, to say the least, and I experienced a range of conditions during my short stay. But they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (although I can’t say I’m completely in agreement with that statement!)

I drove over on the Monday morning via Keswick and the scary Newlands Pass. It’s a very scenic drive but it’s not exactly sensible taking your eyes of the narrow, often steep and windy road to admire the scenery or you’re likely to get a closer look at the fells than you’d planned.

The weather was mixed during my journey but didn’t seem too bad as I drove through the Newlands valley. The forecast was that it would be cloudy during the afternoon, with rain coming in early evening, and that’s how it transpired. I arrived in Buttermere around midday, to find that the tiny village (a hamlet really) was pretty much parked up, so I drove up to the top of the valley to Gatesgarth where I managed to find a space in the car park near the farm at the start of the Honister Pass. My plan was to tackle, Haystacks, a medium sized fell at the head of Buttermere. At 1,958 ft high it’s just a few feet short of being able to “officially” call itself a mountain, but it has all the characteristics of one, and just the right size and difficulty for an afternoon walk to kick off my break. It was a grey day with very flat light, so not a good day for photographs, but I did manage to “improve” some of my shots by playing about with Snapseed, although I’m still learning how to manipulate my photos.

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It was the favourite fell of Alfred Wainwright who stated that

“for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all”

His ashes are scattered on the summit near the curiously named  Innominate Tarn.

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Memorial to Wainwright in the small church in Buttermere village.

After parking up and getting booted and kitted up, I stopped for a short while to soak up the atmosphere while I grabbed a bite to eat.

Then set off along the path across the bottom of the lake, passing Fleetwith Pike, heading towards the far shore and the start of the Scarth Pass.

The route would take me up the relatively gradual incline up to Scarth Gap and then a steeper climb and short scramble to the summit of my destination.

Looking back to the lake at the beginning of the Pass.

and looking across to Fleetwith Pike.

Looking up to Haystacks

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The much higher fell of Great Crag over to the right

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Looking back down to Buttermere

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Reaching the Scarth Gap I could see over to Ennerdale, the next valley. But Pillar, the high rocky fell at the head of the valley, was obscured by low cloud

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Pillar in the mist!

It was a shortish, steep climb to the summit of Haystacks. Hands were required for a couple of short stretches, but nothing too difficult.

Looking back as I climbed

The view towards Buttermere and Crummock Water from the summit

I stopped at the summit for a short while, revitalising myself with some hot coffee from my flask, and chatting with a trio of other walkers who’d reached the top a short while before me.

This is the view across the summit towards Great Gable. Not much to see of the mountain as it was covered with cloud.

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I crossed the summit plateau heading towards Innominate Tarn

I followed the path in the direction of Fleetwith Pike

Looking towards Fleetwith Pike

Looking down towards Buttermere and Crummock Water through the gap in the crags

The route took me across to descend along the flank of Fleetwith Pike to the east of Warnsdale beck

There was a great view of Haystacks across the valley during the long descent

The beck tumbles down steeply over a series of waterfalls which were flowing with plenty of water following recent rainy weather.

Looking back up the valley towards the end of the descent

Reaching the floor of the valley there was an easy walk back towards the Lake and Gatesgarth Farm. Time to change out of my boots and drive the short distance back to Buttermere village and the Youth Hostel. I arrived a little earlier than the official check in time of 5 o’clock, but managed to book in, settle in to my room and take a shower.

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The rain arrived, as promised, at about 6 o’clock. It continued through the night and the wind also picked up. The next day was going to be a little different!

Keith Haring at Tate Liverpool

Last Saturday we travelled over to Liverpool to take a look at the latest exhibition at the Tate on Albert Dock. It’s had a lot of good reviews so I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about. I didn’t know a great deal about the artist, Keith Haring, but had seen some of his works, probably most notably his large canopy was hanging in the ceiling of the stairwell in the grand hallway of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam during a visit last year. He’d painted it for a solo exhibition at the museum in 1986.

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So, the extensive Tate retrospective was a good opportunity to find out more about the artist. The exhibition was busy (but not crazy busy like some of the blockbusters held in London), so it was clearly popular. But there was plenty of space to allow us to take time to look at the paintings and reflect on them.

The Tate exhibition website tells us

A part of the legendary New York art scene of the 1980s, Keith Haring (1958–1990) was inspired by graffitipop art and underground club culture.

Haring was a great collaborator and worked with like-minded artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. All were interested in creating art for the many. Haring designed record covers for RUN DMC and David Bowie, directed a music video for Grace Jones and developed a fashion line with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. In doing so, he introduced his art and ideas to as many people as possible.

Tate Liverpool website

The exhibition covered the whole of the top floor of the Tate and there were a large number of works on display from the whole of his career, including these two early works when he was influenced by Walt Disney cartoons. And cartoon like figures and symbols were prominent in his work throughout his career. Unlike most Tate paid exhibitions photography was allowed.

When he moved to New York, he became known for chalk drawings he produced on the black paper on empty poster spaces in subway stations; drawing quickly as people walked past and stopping to watch him. There was a video in the exhibition of him doing just that and then getting arrested! The pictures became popular that they were taken away almost as soon as they were finished. There were a few examples in the exhibition, although they were difficult to photograph due to reflections in the glass protecting them.

He’d paint on almost anything he could lay his hands on, like this Yellow Taxi bonnet (or “hood” as our American friends would say!)

and quite a few works on display were painted on tarpaulins – a lot cheaper than canvas.

A number of icon like symbols recur throughout his works, including a crawling baby, a dog, a figure with a whole in its stomach, a cross, computers and some others. Most of his work contain one or more. There’s a good discussion of the symbols and what they represent here, and the Tate provide a key in the free booklet you’re given as you enter the gallery.

He was a political artist and many of his works carry a message, whether about nuclear energy, South African Apartheid, gay rights, racism or drugs.

And, as a gay man living in New York in the 1980’s, he used his art to raise awareness of AIDS. He himself was diagnosed with the disease in 1988. His poster Ignorance = Fear refers to the challenges people who were living with AIDS faced. 

Here’s a few more examples of his work

Before the visit, I was a little sceptical about the exhibition. I knew about his cartoon like paintings and thought it would be fun, but that I’d have tired of it after seeing a selection of them. But that wasn’t how it worked out. Despite the apparent simplicity of his style, there was a lot more depth and complexity than I expected.

There was a lot to see – besides the paintings there were a number of videos about his life and work – so there was too much to take in in one visit. One advantage of being Tate Members is that we can hopefully go for another look before the exhibition finishes in November.

A walk along the ridge

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Last Sunday I’d arranged to go out for a walk with my friend Pam from Tasmania, who was over on one of her regular trips exploring Europe. A typical Aussie she loves to travel and comes over every couple of years. This time she’d been to Helsinki and after a stop over in England to visit some friends she was off to Iceland and then to Poland. Jealous? What do you think!

When she’s over we try to meet up to get out for a walk. This year we’d planned to go up to the Dales, but after a cracking few days of good weather a front of heavy rain was forecast to gradually descend from Scotland. Checking the Met Office weather app, I reckoned the Peak District was likely to be our best bet to avoid the worst of the weather so that’s where we went. The new bypass from the airport to the A6 meant we were able to avoid driving through Stockport and it took about an hour and 15 minutes to get over to Castleton, traffic being light on a Sunday morning.

Despite the grey weather with mist over the hills when we arrived, the small honeypot town was busy, but we managed to find a parking space. We decided on a brew before setting out.

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Castleton is a very pleasant village of stone cottages, overlooked by the remains of a Norman castle, the main purpose of which would have been to dominate and intimidate the local population and to act as an administrative centre, controlling revenues from mining and hunting rights in the Peak Forest.

The plan was to walk the ridge that stands between and overlooks the Hope and Edale valleys, starting at Lose Hill and making our way south west over Back Tor and Hollins Cross on to Mam Tor. The mist had lifted when we set out and their was a clear view of Lose Hill as we made our way along the path out of the village.

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As the ridge is easily accessible from Manchester and Sheffield, it’s always busy with walkers and, despite the grey skies, today was no different. We met quite a few walkers including a group of teenagers loaded down with heavy packs, on their Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition.

Here’s Pam on her way up Lose Hill.

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To the east of Lose Hill stands Win Hill. So what’s the reason for their names? Turning to the font of all knowledge (i.e. Wikipedia!)

In relatively recent times, the two hills’ names have prompted a fanciful tale concerning the outcome of an imagined 7th-century battle between the forces of Edwin of Northumbria and Cynegils of Wessex.[3] Edwin’s forces occupied Win Hill, while Cynegils’ men camped on Lose Hill. As the battle progressed, Cynegils’ forces advanced up Win Hill, and Edwin’s retreated behind a temporary wall they had built near the summit. They pushed the boulders of the wall downhill, crushing the Wessex soldiers and gaining victory in the battle. However, there is no historical basis for the tale, and no evidence of any battle ever being fought here.

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Well, it’s a good story anyway.

I’d done this walk twice, the last time way back in 2011 so another visit was long overdue. I seem to remember huffing an puffing a bit as I made my way up the slope but this time I seemed to stride up without any problem. I guess that after all the walking I’ve been doing lately I’m a lot fitter, and Lose hill is a more modest climb than some of the hills I’ve been up in the past few months.

Looking back across the Hope valley as we climbed.

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We soon reached the summit and stopped for the obligatory snaps. We could see cloud and rain coming in from the north over Kinder Scout, but the views weren’t too bad.

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It was relatively easy going from now on along the ridge. There was a short steep descent from Back Tor and then a gradual climb up to the summit of Mam Tor, but nothing too taxing.

This is the view down to Edale from Back Tor. Kinder Scout was hidden by the rain coming in from the north.

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It caught us shortly afterwards, but it was light drizzle and didn’t last very long, so no problems.

This is the view looking back to Lose Hill with Win Hill just about visible through the murk in the distance, over to the right

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and looking further along the ridge towards Mam Tor.

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We descended down the path. This is the view looking back towards Back Tor

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Mam Tor ahead.

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Mam Tor means “mother mountain” and humans have lived around here for thousands of years. It’s the site of a prehistoric hill fort, and remnants of the fortifications – ditches and ramparts – are clearly visible running around the summit. 

Despite the weather the summit was busy. It’s a relatively short climb up from Castleton – even shorter for those parking up on the road above Winnats pass or the National Trust car park.

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We descended down to the road and then started to make our way back to Catleton via the old ruined road. Mam Tor is also known as the Shivering Mountain due to it’s unstable nature which has resulted in a number of slow moving landslips caused by its geology – unstable lower layers of shale overlain by sandstone.

Reaching the bottom of the hill we could see the large 4,000 year old slow moving landslip on it’s south eastern side.

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The A625 Manchester to Sheffield road in 1819 lies in the landslip zone and had to be continually repaired until it was permanently closed to traffic in 1979 and the A625 diverted down Winnats Pass.

We followed the course of the old road and could clearly see the damage that’s been caused.

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We left the old road and cut across the fields towards Castleton. The final field we had to cross was populated by a sizeable herd of cows with their calves, the majority of the latter congregating right on the path. We were a little wary as cows are very protective of their calves and far from being harmless, there’s been a number of people killed by them in recent years. The HSE advise farmers not to keep cows with their calves in fields crossed by public footpaths. Well, our Derbyshire farmer clearly was ignoring this advice.

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We crossed the field very cautiously and kept away from the calves as much as possible and made it through without harm.

After a good walk it was time to grab a bite to eat so we made our way to one of the pubs in the village – there’s several .

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After a hearty meal it was time to head back to the car and set back home. We’d had a good walk and by careful planning had largely managed to avoid the rain. Pam dropped me back home and after calling in for a brew set off back to Maghull near Liverpool where she was staying with another friend. A few days later she was flying over to Iceland and I was back in work 😦

Le Tour de Britain

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Last Saturday was the final day of the Tour of Britain professional cycling race and the final stage was in Greater Manchester. Starting in Altrincham the route took it through all of the boroughs in the Metropolitan County, including Wigan, before finishing in a sprint on Deansgate in the centre of Manchester.

For many years I’ve followed the Tour de France, mainly watching it on the TV, but have seen 4 stages live – once in Skipton when it visited Britain and 3 times in France. So given as the British Tour was going to pass just a few miles from my house, I decided I should go up to the other side of Haigh Woodland Park and watch the riders speed past.

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And speed past they did! It was a flat stage and so they were pedalling at at 30 or 40 mph as they rode down School Lane, where I was standing amongst the crowd, heading towards Haigh before carrying on through Aspull, Hindley, Atherton and Tyldsley and then on through Salford towards Deansgate. I tried to get some photos, but not being experienced at sports photography, most of my efforts were rather blurred and poorly framed.

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First of all the Police motorbikes sped past followed by a number of cars. The sound of the TV helicopter heralded the arrival of the riders. A single bike was in the lead followed shortly behind by a large breakaway pursuing group. More police, and team cars followed before the arrival, a few minutes later of the peloton. It was all over in about 5 minutes.

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The Council had arranged a number of activities in the park and had a large screen showing the TV broadcast of the race so I stopped to watch. They were going at some pelt and the race was over with the final sprint about 40 minutes after I’d seen them on Scool Lane. That was some going!

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The stage was won by the Dutch rider, Mathieu van der Poel, who was also the overall winner of the race.