Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and Surprise View

The last day of my break in the Lakes was a belter. I’d arranged to meet up with Helena, a relative from the North East who is a keen walker and we’d been talking about walking together in the Lakes for a while. She’s a similar age to my daughter. I’ve never been able to convince either of my offspring about the pleasures of hill walking so it was nice to get out with a young person who likes to get outdoors. She’s much more energetic and adventurous than me, having tackled Sharp Edge, for example, and is a keen “wild swimmer” too. She’s been staying over in Keswick the previous night and I picked her up from her B and B and then set off, driving down the Borowdale road.

We parked up in the Great Wood car park on the shores of Derwent Water and set off up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm and then, crossing over a narrow footbridge, we took the path up the hill towards our first destination. Views opened up over Derwent Water, the fells to the west of the lake, and, to the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra.

Lonscale Fell and Blencathra

After a short steep climb and we reached the summit of Walla Crag. Not so high, but a great viewpoint over Derwent Water and the western fells. The air was very clear so we could see over the Solway Firth to the hills of Galloway in Scotland. 

We stopped for a little while taking in the views, snapping photographs and chatting with other walkers who’d made their way up to this popular viewpoint. Then it was time to set out again heading for our next destination, Bleaberry Fell, a relatively modest fell at 1,936 feet high – not quite a mountain if you take the definition as 2,000 feet. It’s an easy, gentle walk on a good path across the boggy (particularly after the recent rain) moorland, with a bit of a bite at the end. Helena was quite patient with the old man making his way slowly up the steep climb to the summit! When we reached it, there were great views all around.

Over to the east towards the Helvellyn range

Clough Head and the Dodds
Over to Helvellyn
Looking south west down Borrowdale over to the Scafell Pike and Great Gable

Some other walkers we talked to were planning on walking over to High seat – an option which makes for a good circular route – good, that is, except that this entails crossing “the infinite swamp of despair” as described by Black Crag in his recent video on Youtube. Even Wainwright reckons that “this is a walk to wish on one’s worst enemy“ and given my experience on waterlogged fields and moors over the past few days, I didn’t feel like dragging Helena through the bogs. Instead we retraced our steps towards Walla Crag but before reaching it turned off down the path descending down towards Ashness Bridge.

A view over the lake as we made our way down from Bleaberry Fell to Ashness Bridge

Reaching, Ashness Bridge, an old pack horse bridge, which is an easily accessible and very popular “honeypot”, there were quite a few people, snapping photographs and selfies. After taking our own photos (!) we made our way a short distance up the road to visit another well known honeypot viewpoint – “Surprise View”. Amazingly, I’d never actually been up to it before.

The view from “Surprise View”
Looking down towards the south end of the lake and the Lodore Hotel

We returned to Ashness Bridge and then took the path that hugged the bottom of the fell that would take us back to the car park at Great Wood

but before returning to the car, we made our way to the lakeside at Calf Close Bay. It’s become something of a tradition when I’m over this way to check out the Hundred Year Stones to see whether they’re submerged in the lake.  They were partially submerged this visit

The stones were created by Peter Randall-Page to mark the centenary of the National Trust in 1995

As we walked back to the car park we both commented that we could kill a coffee, but the nearest place to get one was back in Keswick – or so I thought. Crossing the road we spotted a mobile coffee van parked up in the car park! We couldn’t believe our luck so made our way over with some haste ! Talking to the owners, who were from Liverpool originally, we found out that it was a new venture. The coffee was delicious and provided a much needed caffeine boost at the end of the walk.

We debooted and I drove H back to Keswick where she was staying for a second night, but I was time for me to set off home after another good short break in the Lake District. It had started out horrible and wet, but the weather had improved over the few days and this had a been a great end to my visit.

Gowbarrow Fell

The third day of my break and I had hopes for an improvement in the weather. I’d had a rough night, though, hadn’t slept well and still felt a little dodgy in the morning. But I hadn’t come up to the Lakes to stay in bed all day so decided I’d get out anyway, but to not stray too far and not try anything too ambitious.

I set off in the car and drove a few miles along the lake shore and parked up in the National Trust Aira Force car park. I decided I’d repeat a walk I’d done a few years before going up past the waterfalls and then on to Gowbarrow Fell. Aira Force is something of a honeypot, and being the school holidays it was fairly busy when I arrived, although I had no trouble finding a parking space, and there were plenty of family groups starting to make their way up the path.

The waterfalls and fell are part of the Gowbarrow Estate that used to be owned by the the Howard family of Greystoke Castle. They had an old hunting lodge or Pele tower close to the Ullswater shore which they renovated and converted into what is now Lyulph’s Tower, set among its own sporting estate. They landscaped the area around the force, and used it as a pleasure garden, planting over half a million native and ornamental trees, and established a network of tracks, footpaths and bridges. In 1906 the Estate went up for sale and after a fundraising campaign it was purchased by the National Trust, probably saving it from being developed and public access prohibited.

Setting off from the car park I followed the course of the beck and soon came to Aira Force, the first of a series of waterfalls. As expected it was quite a sight, plunging some 65 feet down the hillside, and my photographs cannot do it justice.

I chose the fellside path and started to climb parallel to the beck, which descended down the hillside in a series of waterfalls

I stopped to have a closer look and take a few photographs before continuing on the path up the fell.

turning right just before the gate to start a steeper climb up towards the summit

Looking back as I climbed, views started to open up over the lake and towards the high fells

and then, higher up, Blencathra appeared over tot he north west.

Looking west towards snow capped Helvelyn and the Dods

and over the lake

Approaching the summit of the modest fell

The views from the top were pretty good – quite different from when I was on Little Mell Fell the previous day!

Looking towards Helvellen
Great Mell Fell

After taking in the views it was time to start making my way round and down the fell. It was a great day for photos and I couldn’t help but keep snapping away with my phone. Eventually I reached the viewpoint at Yew Crag. Tome to stop and savour the views over the lake – and take some photos, of course.

It was one of those days when you just wanted to stay put, but eventually I had to continue down the path which now started to descend back down towards the car park. On the way down  Lyulph’s Tower, a hunting lodge built in the 1780s for Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, who owned the estate. They kept a large herd of deer for hunting up on the fell.

Back down by the beck, I made my way towards the tea rooms where I stopped for a brew, before deciding to take a stroll over to the lakeside, passing clusters of daffodils.

Most people know Wordsworth’s Daffodils poem, and he wrote it after a visit with his sister Dorothy to Glencoyne Park, just a short distance along the lake, on 15 April 1802.

It’s only a few hundred metres to the lake shore from the car park and tea rooms. As I approached it I sensed a change in the weather – there was a cold wind blowing and the lake, which had looked calm when observed from up on the fell, had turned quite choppy

Time to make my way to the car and as I debooted I felt some rain drops falling. The shower didn’t last long and I was soon back in sunshine as I drove back down the lake, but I could see heavy cloud had gathered amongst the high fells at the head of the lake.

I’d got over my rough patch but was feeling tired when I was back in my flat at the pub. Time to take a shower and settle down for the rest of the afternoon. This would be my last night in Dacre and I had a plans for the next day.

Map from NT website

Little Mell Fell

There are some days when I doubt my sanity – and the second day of my short break in the Lakes was definitely one of them!

From the bedroom window in my accommodation I had a good view over the fields to Little Mell Fell. Climbing the small Wainwright was an obvious objective for a walk from the front door. It’s slightly higher sibling, Great Mell fell, is close by and I thought I might be able to tackle both of them. However, it didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned.

It had rained heavily the day before and for part of the night and he weather forecast for the day wasn’t so clever, but bright spells between the rain was promised, so I donned my gear, including waterproofs, and set out.

I had a few miles of tarmac to plod over – not my favourite surface for a walk, to say the least – but the pastoral scenery and small settlements I passed through were pleasant and scenic.

After a few miles I was able to turn of the tarmac onto paths through the fields. Now remember that we’d had some heavy rain. Consequently I found myself wading through waterlogged ground and some deep mud. At times submerging my boots. Luckily I’d had the foresight to wear my gaiters, but I still had some cleaning up to do that evening.

I could see some dark cloud arriving and it wasn’t long before it began to chuck it down. I soldiered on – some sections of the route being not unlike the battlefields of the Somme (minus trenches and shrapnel fortunately).

After a while I was back on tarmac on a road that went round the bottom of the fell

The rain had eased off an there was some sunshine and I was beginning to feel a little optimistic.

That didn’t last too long, though as the black clouds returned. I carried on along the road which started to climb up towards the hause where I would be able to access the path up to the summit of the fell.

As I reached the top of the brew I was hit by heavy rain driven by a strong north westerly wind. This came as a bit of a shock as I’d been sheltered from the wind by the fell. There were a few cars parked up in a lay by and I could see a group coming down the path. A couple with a young child emerged from one of the cars and after donning their gear climbed over the stile to join the path to the summit. I followed them and found myself in yet anothrt wet and muddy waterlogged field.

As I climbed the rain came down and I was battered by the wind. It’s not a big climb but it’s steep and much of the path was waterlogged. There are views over Ullswater, but not while I was going up and down

Looking back towards Ullswater.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to reach the summit,

where I had great views of nothing much at all

Battered by the rain and with nothing much to look at I didn’t stop for long and made my way back down the path trying very hard to avoid slipping and sliding down the steep slope.

I was glad to rejoin the road. I abandoned any idea of heading over to Great Mel Fell and decided to join the Ullswater Way heading towards Pooley Bridge.

I followed the road that took me past the caravan site at Cove. The rain eased off and I looked back towards the fell which, wouldn’t you just know it, was now clear.

I was now of the Ullswater Way.

Looking across the fields towards Ullswater and the higher fells at the head of the valley
Looking across to Ullswater

It followed the minor road for a while before turning off across the fields passing the site of Maiden Castle and heading towards Waterfoot, near Pooley Bridge

The weather had improved somewhat with the rain easing off and some brighter interludes (to use Met Office speak)

It was good to be walking on grass again, until descending down into another waterlogged field where I had to try hard to avoid my boots becoming submerged in cold water and mud – I wasn’t completely successful to say the least.

The route emerged from the fields at the Waterfoot caravan site. I could now have set off back up a minor road towards Dacre but decided I’d like to get a closer look at the lake. So back through some more sodden fields

The lake looked nice, though

I thought about walking the half mile or so into Pooley Bridge for a break and a brew but checking the Met Office app on my phone I could see that some more heavy rain was on it’s way, so I decided to make my back to Dacre.

I avoided the fields sticking tot he road and cutting through the caravan site to join the minor road up toward Soulby

and then turning on to the road to Dacre

I was glad to arrive back at the Horse and Farrier and my accommodation as the dark cloud appeared

where I could change get out of wet clothes and make myself a brew.

After showering I settled down with a good book. The weather continued to be changeable and later in the afternoon this was the view from the windows in the bedroom

and the lounge

That’s the Lake District for you!


I’d planned on having a brew and a bite to eat at Blackwell, but the house, and cafe, were busy, so I decided to drive the short distance to the Windermere Jetty Museum (also part of the Lakeland Arts Trust) where I had a warming bowl of cullen skink and a pot of tea

There was an exhibition of photographs of Forty farms in Cumbria, based on the book by  Amy Bateman published by local company Inspired by Lakeland.

Looking out from the cafe at the Windermere Jetty Museum

After looking round the exhibition, it was time to head off to where I was staying for the next 3 nights. I’d been late organising the trip and as it was being during the school holidays the Lakes were pretty booked up. I prefer self catering accommodation to a traditional B and B and was lucky to find somewhere – a flat over the annex to the village pub (the Horse and Farrier) in the village of Dacre, near Pooley Bridge. It was a little further out than the area where I’d usually stay but there was some potential for walks from the door or a short drive away.

The Horse and Farrier
My flat was on the first floor of the annex to the pub.

After unpacking the car and settling myself in, as it had stopped raining, I popped out to have a mooch around the small village.

It’s a pretty place with whitewashed cottages, probably once occupied by agricultural workers but now converted into desirable homes and holiday lets.

Dacre is alleged to be the site of a monastery where a gathering of kings from throughout Britain took place on 12 July 927 when Athelstan the grandson of Alfred the Great, was proclaimed king of all England. Other versions of the story locate the meeting a few miles away at Eamont Bridge, on the outskirts of modern Penrith. Who knows the truth? It’s so long ago that it’s lost in the mists of time.

I wandered over to the castle a grade I listed building. Originally one of many fortified tower houses, or Pele Towers in what was a wild and lawless border region, it was modified in the 17th century by the fifth Lord Dacre, who added the large windows. Today it’s owned by by the Hassell-McCosh family who rent it out as a private home. 

Nearby, and just across from the pub (I could see it through the lounge window) is St Andrew’s church, which probably stands on the site of the former monastery where the meeting of kings may, or may not, have taken place. It was built in the 12th century and still has Norman features, although many modifications have taken place since then. It’s a listed building.

Exploring the grounds I spotted what I first thought to be a strange tombstone.

Then I spotted another one on the other side of the church drive.

A little research on the net on returning to the flat revealed that they were the Dacre Bears and that there were actually four of them.

Here’s the other two which I sought out later during my stay. They are round the back of the church

It’s possible that they are pre-Saxon and may originally have marked the boundaries of a pagan sacred site.

Grisedale Pike

When I woke up on the Sunday morning of my recent short break in Braithwaite, looking out of my bedroom window I could that Skiddaw was cloud free. The forecast was promising too – a high probability of cloudless summits up Coledale (although a grey day on the cards) – so after breakfast I checked out and, leaving my car at the B and B, I set out to climb Grisedale Pike. It’s a shapely fell, described thus by the blessed Wainwright

a graceful peak piercing the western sky ……. conspicuously in view from Keswick, it is one of those fells that compels attention by reason of it’s shapeliness and height.

The North Western Fells

The profile of the mountain means that the ascent from Braithwaite, (the most popular route up), involves a steep initial climb followed by a long gradual ridge, then another steep section, a short easier ridge and a final steep pull involving a little scrambling.

First of all, taking the Whinlatter Pass road out of the village up a steep slope as far as a small car park (already full at 10 o’clock)

then up some steps for the start of the steep climb at the start of ascent

Stopping to look back is always a good excuse for a little rest and in this case it was justified by the view over to Scafell & Co.

an over to the Dodds in the east

The climb eased off and the summit, with a clearly defined path to the top, came into view

No cloud hiding the summits of the other fells of the Coledale valley today

Getting closer to the summit now, the hidden valley of Grisedale, from which the fell takes its name, was revealed. There’s another Grisedale, one with an eponymous tarn, at the foot of St Sunday Crag in the Eastern Fells, of course, plus Grizedale (with a z) forest between Windermere and Coniston Water. They origin of the name for all of them is “the valley where young pigs graze” and so these were all places where there once would have been wild boar.

I had to take a rest and refuel, though, as the steep climb had reduced my blood sugar and the low alarm from my sensor was beeping away. It took a little while to recover before I could continue.

Now for the start of the final pull

A little scrambling required. This stretch reminded me a little of the final section of the Watkin Path on Yr Wyddfa (formerly known as Snowdon)

Finally reaching the summit, the views were excellent in every direction and I could even see as far as Scotland and the profile of the Isle of Man on the Horizon

Time to carry on down an easier slope than on the ascent. Looking back –

As I descended I could see over to Hopegill Head. I had in mind climbing up there too but my blood sugar was dropping and I was running low on carbs so thought it best to leave that for another day. I didn’t want to hypo when there was still a way to go back to Braithwaite down Coledale. I hadn’t managed my carbs too well today – the climb had been tougher than I’d expected and I wasn’t fell fit. I had some sugary snacks in my pack but didn’t feel comfortable that they would see me through. I usually pack more food than I think I’d need for a walk, but this one had been tougher than I’d expected and it’s better to be safe than sorry and have to be carried back down by Mountain Rescue. (I did make it back down to the village before my sugar level had dropped to the point where an intake of carbs was needed, but I’d made the right decision).

So I carried on descending making my way to Coledale Hawse where I was greeted by this view down the valley

I started chatting with a couple of other walkers who were also admiring the view. I recognised the accent of one of them – he was from the town where I grew up.

The path descended steeply towards the bottom of the valley down a rocky path. The old mine soon became visible.

Force Crag Mine was the last working metal mine in the Lake District, finally closing in 1991. Initially mining lead from 1839 until 1865, and then zinc and barytes from 1867. The abandoned mine is now owned by the National Trust who host open days from time to time. The water running out of the mine workings is heavily polluted with toxic metals including zinc, cadmium and lead and the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency, National Trust and Newcastle University and have developed and implemented an innovative pilot scheme to reduce the levels of metal pollution.

Looking back from near the bottom of the valley

I crossed the river and then joined the old mine road. It was a long, relatively easy but not very exciting walk back to Braithwaite

In the morning I’d passed a sign for the Braithwaite Orthodox church. Curious, on returning to the village I went to take a look.

It was originally a Methodist Chapel but really is being used as an Orthodox place of worship.

I then made my way to the village shop where I was able to replenish my carbs and buy a take away coffee. It was a short walk back to the B&B and my car.

I’d had an enjoyable few days in the North Lakes but it was time to set off on the drive back home. I’ll be back up here again before too long. But I’ll make sure I’ve more than enough carbs with me next time!

Barrow and Outerside

My B & B in Braithwaite was very handy for exploring the North West fells with walks starting from the front door. There was a view over the valley to Skiddaw from my bedroom window and looking out before breakfast I could see cloud hanging over and obscuring the top of the fell. I reckoned conditions would probably be similar up Coledale, and a look at the mountain weather forecast websites seemed to confirm this. I was hoping to go up Grisedale Pike but decided to leave that high fell, hoping the weather would be better the next day (it was) and instead tackle a couple of lower fells. This turned out to be a good decision as the top Grisedale Pike was covered with cloud for most of the time I was out and a walker I’d spoken to later in the day who had been up told me it had been windy up top with no views.

My objectives for the day, then were Barrow and Outerside, to lower fells which were below the cloud base and which did offer some views over Newlands Valley, Coledale and the higher fells. I had to endure some rain and wind, but nothing that presented any difficulties.

After breakfast I booted up and set off walking through the village and then took one of the paths up towards the fells.

Looking back over Braithwaite towards Skiddaw and Blencathra
Barrow to the left – Causey Pike ahead the summit peeking through the cloud.

I realised I hadn’t taken the most direct route towards, Barrow, my first objective. But consulting the map I decided that rather than retrace my steps I could take a path a little further up the valley and cut across to the fell.

Causey Pike, the minor summit of Stile End and Outerside
The path cutting across towards Barrow

After crossing the beck, rather than take the steep full on path up to the summit, I turned left and along a path running diagonally across the fell, joining the main ridge route to the top. As I climbed the rain started to blow in.

Looking back over the valley towards the Skiddaw group with low cloud obscuring the summits of the fells
The view over towards Derwent Water part way up Barrow
Looking across the Newlands Valley – the rain was coming across
Looking over to Causey Pike, Sail, Crag Hill and Outerside from the summit of Barrow
Looking back towards Skiddaw from the summit of Barrow
Making my way down from Barrow towards Outerside
Making my way down Barrow

Reaching the hause I started to climb a path that I thought would take me towards Outerside. After a short while I found myself on the summit, not of my intended hill, but the subsidiary summit of Stile End. My second error of the day. I stopped to take a short breaking taking in the views over the fells as the rough weather continued to come in along the valley from the direction of Buttermere

Some rough weather blowing in from the west – covering the summit and higher slopes of Grisedale Pike
The weather coming in over Grisdedale Pike
Sunshine on the lower northern slopes of Grisdale Pike
A rainbow over Braithwaite

Time to get moving again. I dropped down from the summit, made my way back to the hause and set off on the path above Stoneycroft Gill before cutting across on to the path that would take me up Outerside. There was a short steep climb requiring a little scrambling – care needed on the wet, slatey rock, but it didn’t take too long to reach the summit.

The view over Stile End and Barrow towards Derwent Water
Sail and Crag Hill in the cloud
Can’t see much of Grisedale Pike

As I made my way down Outerside, the cloud was beginning to clear. Reaching the Stoneycroft Gill path on a better day when I was feeling more “fell fit” I’d have been tempted to climb up to the ridge and tackle Causey Pike and possibly Sail and Crag Hill, but I decided it was time to make my way back down to Braithwaite. I followed the path towards Barrow

then cut across back towards the top of Stile End to take in the views again as the cloud was clearing. It was boggy underfoot. When I reached the summit of the smaller hill the cloud ha completely cleared from Grisedale Pike

Grisedale Pike from Stile End
Looking over towards Coledale Hause
Towards Outerside
Causey Pike

It was a steep and slippery slope to descend down off Stile End

Following the path back down to Braithwaite with the Skiddaw massive dead ahead
Passing a mass of snowdrops as I approached the outskirts of Braithwaite
View over Braithwaite

Reaching the village I popped into the small village store and picked up a few goodies to take home (locally made fudge)

Before making my way back along the road to my B & B and a welcome brew supplied by Helen, one of the owners!

A weekend break in the Lakes

It’s been a surprisingly busy start to the year and I felt like I could do with a break. Wife and daughter had already taken themselves for a weekend in Venice in January (leaving me and son behind). I thought I could do one better ( 😁, well maybe not! ) and headed up to the Lakes last weekend.

The weather forecast wasn’t so great, but I’d booked my B & B and a bit of rain wasn’t going to put me off. I rescheduled a couple of commitments and set off late morning. On the M6 I ran into rain near Preston and it continued to get heavier as I drove north. It eased off as I approached Penrith but it continued to rain on and off along the A66 to Keswick. I drove down Borrowdale and parked up in the Great Wood car park and weighed up my options. It looked fairly miserable up on the fells so decided I’d just take a walk along the lake to Keswick.

First stop was Calf Close Bay, only a short distance from the car park, and the Hundred Year Stone, the monument carved by by Peter Randall-Page, marking the centenary of the National Trust which owns much of the land around the Lake.

I’ve been here in all sorts of weather – it’s almost a traditional stop during a visit to the north Lakes – and photographed these stones many times, sometimes with them partially covered with water when the lake level was high.

It continued to rain on and as I carried on walking along the lake

approaching Keswick

It was quiet when I reached the small town, just a few bedraggled visitors (including me, of course!) wandering the streets. I had a mooch around the walking gear shops and then went for a sit down with a coffee in Java, a favourite cafe on Main Street.

reenergised by a strong coffee I set off back along the lake. The rain had eased off and the fells were becoming visible

I’d dried off by the time I reached Great Wood. I debooted (is that a real word?) and drove back into Keswick, stopping off at Booths to pick up a few supplies, and then on to Braithwaite and the B & B where I would be spending the next two nights. I was looking forward to some walking up on some fells I’d never explored before.

Red Screes and Scandale in the Clag

Last weekend I headed up to the Lakes – my first visit for 2023. Other than my walk on 2 January weather, work and personal commitments meant I’d been restricted to local walks around the Plantations, canal and nearby countryside and I was feeling the need to get away and stretch my legs and christen my new boots.

I’d decided to drive up to Ambleside and head up Red Screes going up the long haul from the village and then back down Scandale – the opposite way from when I’d been up here before – the last time 12 months previously. Rain wasn’t forecast but the high fells wee in the cloud. I was hoping that it would clear during my walk but I wasn’t so lucky. Nevertheless, it was good to get back up on the fells even though it soon became clear that I wasn’t “fell fit”.

The first stretch of the walk was on tarmac, the steep road known as “the Struggle” (for good reason!)

After about a mile, I reached the stile that took me on to the footpath that climbs the fell.

It’s a fairly easy route in that it’s a clear path all the way up to the summit (at least, for most of the way) but it’s not particularly exciting terrain and a bit of a trudge. But I was still enjoying the walk even if I was huffing and puffing.

Good views initially down to Ambleside and Windermere as I was under the cloud base

but as I climbed I started to get into, and above the cloud. This was the view looking down into tve valley

and ahead

There’d been snow up here the week before, but there wasn’t much trace of it now, but as I started to approach the summit, and the temperature dropped, there was some ice that still hadn’t thawed.

The tarn at the summit was frozen, and I was in the clag- no views over to the Far Eastern fells this time.

I thought about taking in Middle Dodd, but decided to save that for another, clearer, day, so after a drink of coffee from my flask to warm me up and a bite to eat I set off down the path beside the wall descending to the Scandale pass.

As I came out of the cloud there was a good view down to Brothers’ Water and Patterdale, lit up by the sun peeking through the cloud.

Approaching Scandale, the eastern leg of the Fairfield horseshoe was obscured by the cloud

I carried on down the valley, passing several other walkers making there way up in the opposite direction.

Looking back up the valley

I spotted a few locals

Getting closer to Ambleside, I stopped to take a snap of the picturesque High Sweden Bridge

The rough path turned into a track, and I suddenly found my way almost blocked by a gang of locals making their way up the valley

Those horns look dangerous, but the although the black one came close to take a look at me they were very docile

and carried on their way

I was getting closer to Ambleside now with a good view of Wansfell (where the cloud had cleared) and a glimpse of Windermere

As I neared the village, I passed this curious tower which I’d never noticed on previous walks in the opposite direction

I couldn’t find out anything about it after my walk. Can anyone elucidate me?

Back in Ambleside now

I had a little time left on my car parking ticket so had a little mooch in some of the walking shops, but managed to resist temptation. Fortunately Fred’s bookshop was closed for rewiring as my bank balance would probably have been affected 😂

I returned to my car and got out of my boots just as the weather changed and the rain started. The rain got worse the further south I drove down the M6, so driving wasn’t fun, especially as it started to get dark. I’d had a good day walking but was glad to get home for a brew.

Link to route here

Music on Nature: Finding A Language For Landscape.

Every year in November, Kendal hosts a Mountain Festival – four days of of films, talks, exhibitions and events covering all aspects of mountain and adventure sports culture. It’s probably the major gathering of outdoor enthusiasts in the UK and I’ve never been – although I did buy a ticket to watch the talks which were shown on-line during the Pandemic. Now I have more free time I was thinking of spending some time there, but the weekend events clashed with the Rugby League World Cup final which took place on the Saturday. However, I’d spotted an event on the programme on the Friday evening – Music on Nature: Finding A Language For Landscape – “tracing the connections between nature and sound, … (and exploring) the landscapes around us through music, prose and poetry“. 

The publicity for the event told us that

In this new and exciting event, we welcome you on a sound journey to explore what the landscape means to you, how to tune into and unlock its hidden tracks. Set your ear to the earth and travel through its layers. Join us as we travel through deep time and sing the songs of the Anthropocene – enter a sonic world encompassing a nature rhythm to capture the visceral tones of our world – and dream of a history of things to come.

It sounded interesting so I booked a couple of tickets. I thought we might travel over and experience the exhibition and free events in the Base Camp and at the Brewery Arts Centre before the concert. A well intentioned plan didn’t work out quite so well as the weather that day was appalling. It was chucking it down and windy too so we delayed leaving and driving up the M6. We were lucky and managed to grab a space on the packed Parish Church car park, as someone was leaving just after we arrived.

It was only a short walk to the Base Camp which was on the park near Abbot Hall (we’ve missed our visits to the gallery while it’s been shut for over 2 years for refurbishment – crossed fingers it opens soon) so we were able to have a look round the various stalls and grab a coffee before crossing over the river and walking the short distance to the venue at The Barrel House. We went back to Base Camp after the event and had a bite to eat in the Food Court before setting off back home.

So, what about the event? We didn’t know quite what to expect.

First up was Amy-Jane Beer is a biologist, nature writer and campaigner, based in North Yorkshire, whose book , The Flow, was published earlier this year.

a book about water, and, like water, it meanders, cascades and percolates through many lives, landscapes and stories. From West Country torrents to Levels and Fens, rocky Welsh canyons, the salmon highways of Scotland and the chalk rivers of the Yorkshire Wolds, Amy-Jane follows springs, streams and rivers to explore tributary themes of wildness and wonder, loss and healing, mythology and history, cyclicity and transformation.

She read passages from her book about swimming in a chalk stream in the Dales and the Severn Bore, accompanied by Jack McNeill a local clarinettist, composer and maker who created a soundscape of computer enhanced sound effects and clarinet tunes

Zaffar Kunial is a poet who was born in Birmingham. He has a connection with the Lake District having spent 2014 in Grasmere as the Wordsworth Trust Poet-in-Residence. Again accompanied by Jack McNeill, he rad selections from his latest collection, England’s Green has been shortlisted for the 2022 T.S Eliot Prize. One of the poems, Ings, was inspired by Zaffir receiving points on his licence having been caught twice exceeding the speed limit near the said village. Anyone who has driven to Windermere from the M6 via Kendal will be aware (or needs to be!) of the speed camera on the A591 where it passes through the small village and where the speed limit suddenly drops from 60 to 40 mph.

Ings. The name came to mean: Now. Slow. Down. And little
else. A splash of houses cut by a dual carriageway, a petrol
station, a lane with an easily missable church.

It’s a long poem which takes in a subsequent visit to the village where he goes into the church and graveyard and reflects on what he sees and feels.

Zaffar Kunial

The final act paired the writer and Patron of the festival, Robert Macfarlane, with the musician Hayden Thorpe, former lead singer with Wild Beasts who grew up in Kendal

They performed together, Robert reading extracts from his slim volume of poems, Ness, accompanied by Hayden on guitar, the latter singing a chorus in between the verses.

Finally Hayden performed a solo set of songs to complete the concert.

On the Autumn Equinox

A couple of weeks ago, Friday was the Autumn Equinox, the second day of equal daytime and night-time and the start of Autumn. The sun was shining and I decided to make the most of it. After my experience the previous Saturday when I was held up for 6 hours when they shut the southbound M6 around Lancaster I decided I’d let the train take the strain and caught the direct service from North Western station to Windermere. I disembarked at Staveley ready to repeat a walk I did earlier in the year, more or less on the last leg of the Dales way, but diverting off the route to take in three smaller fells.

There was a real autumnal feel to the day but the sun was bright and it was pleasant and warm. A good day for a walk, especially as the air was clear and, not being too hot, visibility was excellent.

Turning right on leaving the station there was a stretch of walking along a minor road before turning off onto paths across the fields.

The route then followed another minor road with views starting to open up of the fells

over to my right

Then back on a track through the fields

I caught up with a retired couple who’d been walking the Dales Way from Ilkley. We started to chat and then walked together for a while before I strayed off the Dales Way to climb the first small fell – Grandsire.

A young female fellow walker was sitting on the summit – eyes closed. I didn’t disturb her but found my own rock to sit in a drank the views of the fells while drinking a coffee from my flask

The Howgills in the distance
The Far Eastern Fells. Some cloud over there.

The distinctive Whaleback of Red Screes clearly noticeable

Part of Windermere with a backdrop of the Coniston Langdale Fells
Zooming in

Time to carry on. I took the path along the top of the hill, gradually descending down to the tarn at the foot of School Knott

and then climbed my second small fell of the day

I descended, retracing my steps down to the tarn and then took the path which re-joined the Dales Way which I followed until, getting close to Bowness, I diverted up the final hill of the day – Brant Fell

There were a few other people on the summit, but it wasn’t very busy. More brews to soak up with a coffee and a bite to eat. From here I could see almost the full length of Windermere

I spent about half an hour soaking up the views before making my way back down the hill and on towards Bowness.

I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus back to Windermere. The bus stop was by the church so I popped into the churchyard to take a look at the war memorial which was designed by W G Collingwood

It was only a short ride up to the interchange by the train station. I had time for a brew in Booths supermarket cafe and then feeling good after a grand walk made my way to the platform to catch the 4 o’clock train direct to Windermere. No hassle like the week before when. Well, not quite. The signs on the platform said the train was cancelled. A few minutes after I arrived one of the staff told us the train was going to be arriving on time but was only going as far as Oxenholme. There had been a fatality on the West Coast main line between Oxenholme and Lancaster which was affecting all the services travelling up and down that section. As promised the train pulled in on time and everyone boarded, but we all had to disembark at Oxenholme. The station was hectic and there was an Avanti train standing on the south bound line. I boarded and somehow managed to find a seat on the packed train. I found that it had been stuck there for two hours. After another hour it finally set off and I sat back and relaxed knowing that it would get me back to Wigan in about an hour. Well, it would have done except as it approached Preston it was announced that they were terminating the service there. A packed train of passengers, many going down to London had to disembark. It was chaos on Preston station with very little information available. Eventually I managed to board another packed train – standing room only but it was only a 20 minute journey back to Wigan so I coped!

Well, after my last two visits, the lesson here is that you’re ever travelling south from the Lake District, by any form of transport, you’d be advised to make sure I wasn’t on my home using the same means of transport. I’m clearly jinxed.

On a more serious note, it had been a nuisance being delayed but there was no point being annoyed. It wasn’t the fault of the train operators and it has to be said the effect on travellers was a minor inconvenience compared that on the family of the person who was killed and the driver who had to face the though that his train had killed someone.