Kendal Castle

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After our visit to Abbot Hall to see the Julian Cooper exhibition we had a wander round the town centre and then, as it had turned into a pleasant afternoon, we decided to walk up to Kendal Castle. The Castle was built in the early 12th Century on a glacial hill left behind from the last ice age, to the east of the town. It was more of a fortified manor house  for the local barons, than a military stronghold, but it would have dominated the town, looking over it from it’s prominent high position. And it would have been a potent symbol of their wealth and power.

Crossing the River Kent near to Abbot Hall, it’s a short walk to Castle Hill.

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It’s then a short, if steep, climb up to the castle.

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I didn’t have my camera with me, but the good light meant I was able to get some decent shots using my phone.

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Visibility was good so there were great views over to Red Screes and the Kentmere fells.

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We could clearly see Yoke and Ill Bell that we’d climber only a few weeks before.

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We had a quick look round the interior of the ruined castle

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Julian Cooper at Abbot Hall

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On Easter Saturday we drove up to Abbot Hall to take a look at their latest exhibition – a mini-retrospective of the work of a Cumbrian artist, Julian Cooper.

The paintings on display could be divided into four periods

His earliest works, shown on the landing at the top of the main staircase are quite abstract, although clearly based on vegetation and geological formations. The paintings from the second period, displayed in the first room, were figurative. A number of them based on Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano and feature characters from the novel. But dominating the background are mountains, which later became the primary focus of his work.

The work then evolves again into a unique form of representation that is frequently near-abstract in its emphasis on the texture, shadow and irregular surfaces of rock and ice.  these mature period works

These mature period works were my favourites.

The second room was dominated by two large paintings of the Tibetan holy mountain, Mount Kailash which he visited in early spring 2006. One painting shows it’s north face, the other, the south.

A unique mountain, Kailash is worshipped by Hindus, Jain and Buddhists alike as the home of their Gods yet is so remote and difficult to get to that it is visited by only a handful of pilgrims each year. (Art Space Gallery Press Release)

The majority of the other paintings in this and the third rooms are close ups of rock faces, many of them from quarries in Italy, Tasmania and his native Cumbria.

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They are very detailed and standing back they are very realistic – particularly the Cumbrian works. However, they also have an abstract quality particularly when viewed a little closer.

A number of his paint brushes and palettes give an insight into his method of work. He works on large canvases yet despite this many of his paintings are started “plein air” and supplemented by photographs and then finished back in his studio Working in a large scale he uses large paint brushes with long handles, sometimes extending them to make them even longer.

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It must be something of a challenge to get his large canvases up into the relatively inaccessible locations in the mountains.  I found this interesting article by the artist, describing how he went about painting the holy Mount Kailish in Tibet.

The Nan Bield Pass

Today Kentmere is a quiet, isolated spot. This wasn’t always the case. There are three passes that lead out of the valley (besides the road from Staveley) one to Mardale in the north, another to Troutbeck to the west and the third to Longsleddale in the east. So at one time, many years ago, the valley would have been a relatively busy crossroads for people and, in many cases, their animals, travelling between the Lakeland valleys. There was also industry in valley with slate mines to the north of the village and although they’ve been closed for many years now there is still evidence of the mining activity on the hillsides.

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On Tuesday, the first full day of our stay in Kentmere, the weather forecast was for intermittent rain and we’d planned a low level circular walk up along the river to the reservoir at the head of the valley and back. But one thing we learned during our break was not to trust the weather forecast. It was raining heavily when I got up but by 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the cloud was clearing. By 11 we had sun and blue skies. It was windy, though, and I expected that the wind would be much stronger on the exposed ridges of the high fells. So we set out with a plan to start out on the low level walk but if conditions looked promising to cut up the Nan Bield Pass at the north end of the valley and then loop back along Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. For various reasons this changed plan didn’t work out but we did manage to climb to the top of the pass.

Setting out at about 11:30, we crossed the river and walked through the village, making our way along the road until we reached the well defined footpath which ran along the floor of the valley parallel to the river. There had been a lot of rain during previous weeks so the path was wet and frequently quite muddy.

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We were soon into more open country with the high fells appearing on the horizon

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Eventually we could see most of the high fells comprising the Kentmere Horseshoe

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We had to cross numerous becks (the Cumbrian term for a stream) – only one of them was bridged so our boots got wet – not a bad thing as it washed at least some of the mud off them!

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The path started to climb gradually. We passed Kentmere Pike

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We spotted several old mine workings such as this one, high up on the side of the fell. What must it have been like to work here? P3140705

The workers would have lived in huts near tot he mines, making there way down the valley to spend their wages in the local pub on their day off. The mine workers were so rowdy that the local magistrates withdrew the licence for the pub in Kentmere  and the village has been “dry” ever since . The nearest pub is in Staveley.

Carrying on climbing steadily up the path. To our left the reservoir constructed 1848 to regulate the flow of the river which powered mills further down the valley. Ill Bell and Frostwick can be seen towering over the lake. The steep flank of the former plunging down into the small man-made lake.

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Looking further up the valley towards High Street – it’s hard to believe that there was a Roman Road up on the fells.

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The top of the pass was becoming ever closer, but still some way to go. So far the path had been a relatively easy gradient as height was gained gradually, but we could see that there would be a much steeper climb to come.

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We eventually made it to the top where there were views down into Mardale, the next valley to the north. This had been flooded during the 1930’s creating a large reservoir – Haweswater – to supply Manchester with water. The small settlement of Mardale Green was submerged in the process.

Zooming in

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It was extremely windy at the top as the wind funnels through the gap, making it difficult to stand up. We’d only made a the late morning start and the the sun would start setting at 6 o’clock. It had taken longer than anticipated to reach the top. So discretion being the better part of valour we decided to retrace our steps rather than risk walking in strong winds on an exposed ridge with a chance of not making it back down before it went dark.

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Harter Fell and Kentmere would be there another day! In any case, it had been a good walk through some dramatic countryside, and as the top of the pass is just over 2,000 feet high, it was a decent enough climb!

Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite

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Friday morning and the view from the bedroom window looked promising – sunshine, albeit with cloud over the tops of the fells. So it looked liked we be able to go ahead with our plans for the day – a walk up Wetherlam (2503 feet), one of the Coniston Fells, at the other side of the ridge from the Old Man.DSC01016

We headed into the village and took the path towards Coppermines valley along the river. We passed the Ruskin Museum.

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The Yewdale crags looked inviting

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Along the path to Coppermines valley

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passing the Miners’ bridge

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The fells came into view

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An industrial landscape with the remains of mining and quarrying industries. There’s still a working slate quarry in the valley

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We took a right turn and started our ascent to Wetherlam

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Looking back over Coniston Water

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On our left there were great views of the Old Man and Swirl How. The cloud had largely cleared from the tops.

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We passed a small tarn

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and views over to the mountains of the Fairfield Horseshoe opened up

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We could see Windermere in the distance

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Finally, we reached the summit of Wetherlam. There were a few other people around but I reckon it would have been a lot busier on top of the Old Man.

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It was a clear day and there were great views of the surrounding mountains.

Scafell, Scafell Pike, Pike o’ Blisco, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell

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Over Langdale

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Helvellyn and the Fairfield Horseshoe

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Over to Windermere

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Swirl How

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We decided to descend the way we’d come up and then cut down the valley to Tilberthwaite before doubling back to Coniston along Yewdale.

Taking in the view of Coniston Old Man

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and Coniston Water

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At the bottom of the descent we reached Hole Rake which we were to follow along to Tilberthwaite

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In the bright afternoon sunshine and good visibility the views, and autumn colours, were outstanding

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Eventually we reached Tilberthwaite Gill

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Looking back to Wetherlam

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The late, low afternoon sun was illuminating the distant mountains

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and intensifying the autumn colours

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Looking down into the Tilberthwaite valley we could see a sheepfold (more about that in another post)

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After a short stop we set off down the road towards Yewdale passing Holme fell on our left

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Reaching the Ambleside to Coniston road through Yewdale we took the path on the right side of the road that led through the woods back to Coniston

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The view across the valley

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Finally reaching Coniston

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Looking back over the Yewdale crags

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We stopped at the Co-op in the village to pick up some supplies, but it was still light and a lovely early evening so we decided to take a detour over to the lake

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It was after 5 o’clock by now and the Bluebird Café was closing up. However, they have a take away window and this was still open so we bought coffees and sat for a while enjoying the view. 

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There were a few other people around, most of them tempted by a brew or ice cream

Canoeists coming back in after a trip on the lake

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A brave soul going in for a swim

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The sun began to set so time to make our way back to our B and B.

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A beautiful sunset to finish off a great day

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A walk in the Tarren Hills

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After our first night in Dolfannog Fawr, in the Tal-y-llyn valley, we were determined to get out for a walk in the surrounding hills. We asked Alex, our host, for some advice and he suggested we try a favourite route of his, which would take us up two mountains in quiet countryside. He said the countryside was beautiful with good views and that we probably wouldn’t see another soul once we got on the hills. The route is described in a number of guidebooks including the Mountains of England and Wales: Vol 1 Wales (Cicerone Guide) by John and Anne Nuttall. The start of the walk was a short drive away in the village of Abergynolwyn.

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We parked up in the village, in the car park opposite the Railway Inn, a reminder that this was the end of the Tallylyn railway. The narrow gauge railway was originally built to transport slate from the Bryn Eglwys slate quarry, which is up in the Gwernol valley, but later also operated a  passenger service. Today the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society operates regular services carrying tourists between Nant Gwernol station (just up the valley from Abergynolwyn) to Twyn on the coast.

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We passed the sculpture of water nymphs and headed up the steep road that started to take us up along the Gwernol valley

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We were soon in pleasant deciduous woodland, climbing and walking along past a series of waterfalls

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Climbing the hill we came to Nant Gwernol station, the end of the Talyllyn railway line.

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We climbed a steep incline to take us up to the winding house.

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We carried on along the paths through the woods, eventually reaching the forest road that wound through the commercial evergreen plantation

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Eventually we veered off the forest road heading up a steep path up to a “notch” in the ridge which led to the summit of Tarrenhendre. It wasn’t so easy to spot the path but we’d been told to watch out for an Outward Bound hut on the road. The path ran up the hill a short distance before it.

As we climbed a great view over the hills towards Cadair Idris opened up.

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It was a steep climb up to the summit of Tarrenhendre which, at 2,080 ft, just qualifies as a mountain.

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As we climbed higher, looking west  and south west there were great views towards Cardigan Bay and the Dovey estuary.

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Another view of Cadair Idris looking north east

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Reaching the summit we headed east and could see our next objective, Tarren-y-Gesail, ad the ridge we needed to walk along to reach it

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Looking back towards Tarrenhendre from the ridge

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and over to Tarren-y-Gesail

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The route seemed to veer into the forest  on a path that was clearly indicated on the OS map. It wasn’t very clear in practice! This was the only unpleaant part of the walk as the path was difficult to make out,was overgrown and we had to hack our way through dense vegetation. it would be better to find an alternate route along the ridge avoiding the forest.

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Eventually we escaped from the dense forest and were back on open moorland with another steep climb that took us up Tarren-y-Gesail, which, at 2,188 ft, is slightly higher than Tarrenhendre

The view from the top of Tarren-y-Gesail   looking north

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We walked along the peat covered ridge which was boggy in places. There wasn’t a clear path but we made our way down towards the edge of the forest plantation. Forestry work had been taking place which made navigation and conditions underfoot a little difficult. We came to a forest track and decided our easiest option was to follow this back down the valley. This made navigation easier but as the road meandered down the hill it probably added an extra mile or so to our route.

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Eventually the village came back into view, nestling amongst the hills

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Half an hour later we were back at the car. We hadn’t seen another human being since starting the walk until we reached the edge of the village and passed a local taking his dog for a walk.

It had been an excellent walk taking through some varied countryside – broadleaf woodland, evergreen forest and high moorland with great views over mountains, sea and the Dovey estuary and with some industrial archaeology to provide some additional interest. It had been a long day and we were tired when we got back to Dolfannog Fawr, but after a quick shower and a change of clothing we had a delicious home made meal to look forward to

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Bowfell

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After our energetic day climbing Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle we thought we’d do a less strenuous walk on the second and final day of our short break in Great Langdale. Lingmoor Fell seemed like a good option. An attractive hill with the prospect of good views. Not so small as it’s higher than Catbells,for instance, but much less of a challenge than the Langdale Pikes.

Well, that was our intention, but when we got up the next morning a fit of madness overcame us and we decided to climb Bowfell, which was looking very inviting at the end of the valley. After all, at 2,960 feet, it’s only the 6th highest mountain in England.

We could have driven 1/2 mile or so further down the valley and parked on the National Trust Car Park by the Old Dungeon Ghyll, but left our car on the hotel car park, making the walk a little longer than necessary. But hey, it was a nice sunny day.

We followed the valley past fields of wild flowers. Crinkle Crags and Bowfell were straight ahead as was “The Band” the hill over which we would walk to reach our destination.

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There were great views of the Langdale Pikes, Pike of Stickle being particularly noticeable.

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As we climbed the Band there was a good view of Pike o’ Blisco to our left on the other side of the valley.

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Eventually we turned a corner and could finally see the summit of Bowfell (according to Wainwright we were now at a height of 1700 feet)

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Our route was clearly visible

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After a relatively easy stretch, a short sharp climb took us up to the “Three Tarns”, which is between Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, where there was a great view of Scafel and Scafel Pike.

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Our destination was closer, but there was still some climbing to do.

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Looking back down towards the Three Tarns and Crinkle Crags

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The path wasn’t as steep as the route up Pavey Ark yesterday, but it was still a stiff climb.

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The rock strewn summit was finally in sight. We thought it resembled the lunar landscape. The path was now quite indistinct and would have been hard to follow in poor visibility. Not a problem today, though.

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Having made it to the top we stopped a while to take in the views. Bowfell is located in the centre of the Lake District and with it being such a clear day we could see just about every major mountain and valley in the National Park.

Looking back towards Great Langdale and the way we’d just walked. Windermere visible in the distance

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Crinkle Crags and the Coniston Fells

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Eskdale

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Scafel and Scafel Pike

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Over towards Borrowdale with Skidaw visible on the horizon to the right

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Over towards the Langdale Pikes

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I could have stayed up there for much longer enjoying those views (photographs just can’t do it justice) but time was getting on so we had to set off back. We hadn’t plotted out a circular route so retraced our steps.

On the way down from the summit we passed the very impressive “Great Slab”

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and watched as a number of para-gliders soared overhead

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We made our way back down across the Band with views down Great Langdale opening up.

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We finally reached the valley bottom.

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There was still a little way to go back to the car but it was easy walking along the road and good paths along the valley

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We eventually made it back to Stickle Barn where we stopped off for a well earned brew in a real walker’s mug!

Unfortunately we’d had to check out of our hotel that morning. It would have been nice to freshen up, have a shower and relax for the evening but, alas, it was time to change out of our boots, pack our rucksacks in the boot and set off home down the motorway.

We’d done more than we originally planned but we were glad that we’d made the decision to climb Bowfell. Sunny, clear days which are warm but not too hot are few and far between in the Lake District and we’d been able to take advantage of one and be treated to magnificent, panoramic views of the hills, mountains and valleys.