A Sunday Stroll

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Well, I’m not sure it would classify as a stroll, but last Sunday, to make the most of the good weather we’ve been having (which, surely, can’t last much longer) I decided to head up to the Lake District and tackle Skiddaw, England’s 4th highest mountain.

I set off early and drove up the M6 to Penrith and then across to Keswick (takes about an hour and 45 minutes) where I parked up on the edge of town, close to the path towards Skiddaw. I initially followed the route that skirted  the smaller hill, Latrigg, which we’d climbed last March. This is the well trodden “tourist route”, which some bloggers are quite sniffy about. But I’m not that bothered about their opinions, it was the most convenient way up. There were certainly plenty of other people taking the route.

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Skiddaw is an attractive mountain when viewed from Keswick. Walking up, certainly the first half, is a bit of a steep slog with the views behind you rather than ahead. But looking back over  to Keswick, Derwent Water and nearby hills gave an excuse for a bit of a break.

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Unfortunately, some weather was passing through, with cloud and rain over Helvellyn, Borrowdale and the Newlands valley, and visibility wasn’t that great. 

When the climb levels out there’s a summit ahead. But it’s not the final destination. Rather a subsidiary peak, Skiddaw Little Man, something of a “false summit”. Although there’s a path to the main summit that avoids them, in a moment of madness I decided to “bag” it.

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It was a very stiff, steep climb to the top, but didn’t take so long and there were good views from the top.

 

A steep descent then it was time to climb again, this time to the main summit plateau.

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It didn’t take too long to climb the final stretch up to the top – a flat plateau with some cairns, a windbreak shelter and a trig point.

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I stopped a while to take in the hazy views down to Bassenthwaite

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and over to Blencathra

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After a short rest I set on back down the mountain, by-passing the Little Man.  Now I was facing the views so in many ways the descent, was more pleasurable.

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Getting close to the bottom of the mountain another moment of madness overtook me, and I decided to extend the walk a little by climbing to the summit of Latrigg to take in the views as the haze was beginning to clear.

Looking over Keswick and Derwent Water

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over to the Newlands Valley, Causey Pike and Grisedale

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and back to Skiddaw

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After a short while I made my way back down to where I’d parked the car. All in all it had been a 9 1/2 mile walk with 3925 feet of ascent. But I hadn’t quite done. The sun was shining and I felt in need of some caffeine, so I dumped my rucksack and walking poles in my boot and walked down into Keswick. There’s a nice little coffee shop I know in the main street (Java)!

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Sunday morning stroll up Latrigg

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Sunday morning started out bright, despite the weather forecast, although there was plenty of cloud shrouding the high fells. We wanted to go out for a walk but din’ feel ready to tackle Skiddaw or one of the other nearby mountains, so we decided to tackle of Latrigg – although at 1,207 feet it might be modest by Lake District standards but it’s a decent climb and a good walk for a Sunday morning.

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We followed the old railway track to Kendal leisure centre and then cut across the the path that crosses the busy A66 (via a footbridge, I’m pleased to say).

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Entering the woods there was a steep ascent up the lower slopes of the hill before the path flattens out. The route took us round the back of the hill, heading towards Skiddaw before branching back up a short steep climb, levelling out with a more modest gradient towards the summit. We were greeted by a great view over the whole of Derwent Water

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Behind us, the summits of Skiddaw and Blencathra were hidden in cloud

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It was raining in Newlands Valley

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and there was Castlerigg stone circle in the distance

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The closure of sections of the old railway track from Threlkeld to Keswick due to damage caused by the floods of late 2015 precluded a circular walk back to Keswick  (unless we fancied walking along the A66) so we retraced our steps as far as the Leisure Centre and then headed down through the town centre down to the lake. We stopped to eat our packed lunch then continued along the lake shore as far as Calfclose Bay as we wanted to take a look at The Centenay Stone, a work by Peter Randall-Page, created from a large boulder of local Borrowdale volcanic rock which was split and carved by the artist to commemorate the National Trust’s centenary in 1995.

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On the way, we passed the Ruskin Memorial at Friar’s Crag

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Castlerigg, Great Wood and Derwent Water

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Leaving Castlerigg stone circle we took the narrow metalled road heading south towards Castlerigg farm. Conditions were pretty treacherous underfoot through the fields but we persevered yomping though the gloop until we came to farm where we joined the path alongside Brockle Beck in the direction towards Keswick.

Views started to open up down to Derwent Water and Cat Bells on the western shore

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We took a left turn and set off along the path which would take us through Great Wood and the lake.

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Just after the National Trust Car Park we crossed over the Borrowdale Road and followed the path along the lake shore back to Keswick. – taking care to avoid the dangerous wildlife!

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The rain held off until we reached the jetty near the Theatre by the Lake.  A little window browsing in the shops in Keswick and then we headed back up the hill to our B and B and a nice cup of tea!

A pleasant but not very demanding walk and a good start to the holiday!

Castlerigg Stone Circle

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A couple of miles to the east of Keswick town centre – all uphill – we came to the Castlerigg Neolithic stone circle..Four and a half thousand years old, with 38 stones (some claim more!) laid in a flattened circle in the middle of a field surrounded by some of England’s highest mountains with Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north and Helvelyn to the south east. The high peaks were shrouded in low cloud, but that only made it more atmospheric

It is not just its location that makes this one of the most important British stone circles; considered to have been constructed about 3000 bc, it is potentially one of the earliest in the country. Taken into guardianship in 1883, it was also one of the first monuments in the country to be recommended for preservation by the state.(English Heritage)

The land is owned by the National Trust and the monument itself is managed by English Heritage.

Being outside the holiday season, and a grey day, there were relatively few visitors, so it was a good opportunity to take a few photos.

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A week in the Lakes

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We’ve just spent the last week up in the Lake District – an early holiday to celebrate a significant birthday. We stopped a couple of nights in Keswick over the weekend and then drove over to Kentmere where we’d hired a cottage for a 4 night stay.

Although we didn’t have wall to wall sunshine and there were some rainy periods – this was the Lake District after all – the weather wasn’t bad with some sunny spells. The only day that was a write off with wind and heavy rain was the Friday when we had to set off for home. So we managed to do a number of walks. Nothing too ambitious – we certainly weren’t up to doing the Kentmere Horseshoe! – but enjoyable and good for getting back in condition! It was good to be able to relax and “chill out” too, particularly while we were in Kentmere.

In Keswick we stayed at the Lookout on the eastern edge of the town – a really nice B and B. A little walk into the town centre (about 20 minutes) but no big deal especially as it has good car parking, a great view over the fells to the west (this photo was taken from the balcony outside the breakfast room Sunday morning)

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really nice rooms, excellent food and very friendly, welcoming and helpful hosts.and a number of walks starting from the doorstep.

It’s just less than 2 hours drive from home up to Keswick so we arranged to check in around midday so we could make the most of the day. So after unloading our bags we set off down into Keswick and had a quick look around the shops and the Saturday market.

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After that, it was time for a coffee and cake in one of our favourite independent coffee shops – Java – which is just opposite the old Market Hall.

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Re-energised by the caffeine (and well stocked with carbs!) we set off towards Castlerigg for the first walk of our early Spring break. It was a bit of a grey day, but it was great to be back up in the Lakes!

Catbells, Maiden Moor and Blea Cragg

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Way back in 2009, during a day trip up to Keswick, we took the launch across Derwent Water and made an attempt on Catbells. This is a relatively small fell (shaped like a mountain but not high enough to be counted as one) which dominates the skyline on the west shore of Derwent Water. It’s a popular climb and one extolled by Alfred Wainwright for the variety of the climb and the views. In his guide to the North Western Fells he tells us

Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. It’s popularity is well deserved: it’s shapely topknot attracts the eye, offering a steep but obviously simple scramble to the small summit.

Unfortunately due to a lack of time (and, it has to be admitted, a lack of fitness!!) we never made it to the top during that visit. So we were determined to put that right during our short break in Keswick last weekend. It was a grey day, but the weather forecast suggested that it was unlikely to rain, so we set out mid morning on Sunday and took the launch from Keswick over the lake to Hawse End, the nearest stop to the start of the walk.

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It’s only a short walk to the gate at the bottom of the fell.

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As we climbed, there were great views back down to Derwent Water and Keswick with Skiddaw and Blencathra on the horizon

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and, to the west, down Newlands Valley

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There were some tricky sections, which required a scramble up some steep sections of bare rock

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We made the lower of the two summits where we had stopped the last time we attempted the ascent. The main summit was straight ahead.

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Another steep climb with some scrambling, and we reached the summit.

Looking back along the path:

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The views were exceptional, even on a grey day

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It was only midday, so we decided to continue onwards to the next fell – Maiden Moor

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An easier climb than Catbells, the path being a little more gradual and less scrambling. It’s a broad moor rather than a rocky peak so there is no clearly defined summit. But we stopped for a bite to eat at the cairn which probably marks the highest point

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Looking back to Catbells

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After a short stop we decided to head towards the next visible high point, Blea Crag

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This isn’t counted as a “proper” fell in it’s own right, but part of High Spy. But it’s a great viewpoint with vistas along the Borrowdale valley and he high peaks.

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Unfortunately mist was rolling in

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so we decided we’d turn back towards Derwent Water.

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We descended via the steep path from Hause Gate, the Col between Maiden Moor and Catbells, and then followed the wooded lake shore to Hawse End to catch the launch back to Keswick

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Lady of the Lake

The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick “does exactly what it says on the tin” – it’s a repertory theatre situated close to the northern lake shore of Derwent Water.  It opened in 1999 with funding from an Arts Council Lottery Fund Grant. It has a main auditorium and a Studio theatre. From May to November every year a resident company of up to 14 actors perform a Summer Season of six plays in repertory.

(Picture source; Visit Cumbria website)

We’ve thought about going to see a play there while we’ve been on holiday in the Lake District, but, for various reasons, haven’t been able to to. But during our recent break in Keswick we got tickets to see their production of The Lady of the Lake by a young playwright, Benjamin Askew, in the Studio Theatre.

Studio performances in theatres are usually devoted to new and/or experimental works. And this was the premiere of the first play by, Benjamin Askew who is originally from the Ribble Valley in Lancashire and who spent childhood holidays in the Lake District.

The playwright builds on the Cumbrian take on the legend of King Arthur. There are claims that Penrith is the location of the Round Table and that  his sword, Excaliber, was found in and returned to  Lake Bassenthwaithe. Some have even suggested that Carlisle was the location of Camelot.

The play locates Avalon, a pagan realm, in Cumbria, ruled over by the Lady of the Lake. Arthur and his men, faced with a Saxon invasion, have retreated to Carlisle. This is the seeing for a tale involving a conflict between pagans and Christianity, pagan ritual, incest and ambition and a struggle for power.

(Picture source: Theatre by the Lake website)

There was a cast of seven, relatively large for a Studio production. I thought the two young female performers, Charlotte Mulliner (Nimue) and Emily Tucker (Morgan), were very good, and there was a strong performance by Ben Ingles as the psychopathic warrior Owain.

The “Game of Thrones” and other series set in a mythical or semi-mythical Dark Ages have become very popular on TV and this play rather reminded me of them. I also saw some similarities with the Simon Armitage versions of the Illiad and the Odyssey which we’ve seen in recent years at the Royal Exchange and Liverpool Everyman.

The play was, perhaps, overlong and a little over the top, especially during the second half. The plot got a little over-complicated too, at times. So Benjamin Askew still needs to work on his craft. But overall an enjoyable evening.