Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Best Walk Awards - 2009

Also known as my favourite walks of the year, in three seperate categories. So:

Well there was quite a few good ones, and a few so so ones as well. I did particularly enjoy the Bank Holiday walk from Eastbourne to Seaford back in April (which was the opposite way to how I have otherwise done it). Also the walk we did the previous day from Leigh to Tunbridge Wells was also a cracker. In fact coming to think of it, the expedition from Brighton to Newhaven which I criticised at the time, seems to have hung long in the memory. However the winner in this category is: Arundel to Amberley – (West Sussex) – 27/09/09 – 10 Miles – IVC. which was a perfect late Summer's day walk.

Nowadays the majority of my walks are on my own (an expanded innovation from 2008), which means because they are repeated often they now only feature as a footnote on this blog (unless it is a new walk). So despite some late competition from my Leith Hill Circular walk, the clear winner is: Sidmouth to Exmouth – (East Devon) – 01/04/09 – 10 miles – N/Trust W/Hol. – Myself. which was a continuation of a coastal walk I began five years prior (which itself was my introduction to Country Walking). What made this extra special (besides the fact that it was a coastal walk which I love) was that it was a fantastic seventy degree Summer's day, on the 1st of April.

Some very strong contenders here especially: the walk over Mam Tor (slightly spoiled by the people and flies at the beginning), and the Upper Derwent Reservoirs circular (this time slightly spoiled by the road walking on the last third of it). So basically it came down to two walks (or more to the point two climbs). Now by rights our walk over Skiddaw and Little Man should really be the winner, as it basically had everything going for it, and unlike the winner it didn't involve me having to watch my footing coming downhill. Nevertheless I have chosen as the winner: Haystacks Circular (including Buttermere Lake) – (Lake District – Day 6) – (Cumbria) – 11/09/09 – 8.5 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly) because as well as a great ascent and descent of Haystacks in perfect conditions, it also included a complete circuit of Buttermere Lake (which unlike Skiddaw, didn't require us to go straight into a climb after stepping out of the car).

No need to dwell on what occured on 15th May (as those people who should know do already), save that it would be wrong not to at least make some sort of footnote of it.

Other than that I wish all my readers GOOD WALKING IN 2010.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Leith Hill Circular – (Surrey) – 15/12/09 – 9.5 Miles – Myself (N/Trust working holiday)

For the day off on my working holiday at Gatton Park – Reigate for the National Trust (which incorporated Scrub Bash 2009), I decided to follow a route plan from Country Walking magazine, that started right outside the Henman Basecamp. Given that there was only 5 other people on the holiday, 3 of whom who wanted to spend the day off in the basecamp (yawn), I was on my own for this one. Now on the Country Walking map/instructions (Feb 2009 issue) the walk starts at Holmwood Station, however I was picking it up just past point 4 on the Greensand Way by Broadmoor.

The day itself was bright but crispy cold, but with thankfully no wind chill factor and after asking a lady and dog, whether the bridlepath outside the basecamp was what I thought it was (I had only seen it in the dark), I was on my way. My first point of reference (where the walk loops back) was the rather small Coldharbour cricket pitch. From there it was a steep descent, before hitting the road and turning left at the public house. Having negotiated that I found myself dissecting Antiebury Farm, then partaking of a wooded descent and finally crossing over three fields where the ‘careful of livestock’ signs proved unnecessary. I then became slightly confused with the instructions (not for the first time during the walk), before quickly getting back on track, and arriving at Holmwood railway station (the walk’s official start). As things had proceeded relatively easy thus far, and it was only quarter to eleven (I had set off at nine thirty), I decided coffee and biscuits were in order on the station platform.

However after setting off again things became slightly more confusing. Part of the problem was the instruction to go past Moorhurst, when there was no sign or marking to say what on earth that actually was. Just when I had convinced myself I was officially lost a stile appeared on my right where one had been vaguely promised. However when the next stile supposedly to be found by hogging the left side of the second next field didn’t appear (it should have said walk across it diagonally) I temporarily started to feel slightly queasy. However once that stile was located (with more coffee/biscuits consumed as well to settle my stomach), I began the climb that took me across Antiebury Farm again, this time from the other side.

Once I had come past the public house again and begun the climb up towards the Coldharbour cricket pitch once more, I found myself facing about four different choices of direction where none was supposed to be. So suitably flummoxed I decided to stop there and have lunch. This however didn’t take long as it was getting distinctly nippy. So assuming that the left hand fork meant straight on, I followed the bridleway until I eventually reached the signs for Leith Hill. Now it was obvious to any fool, that this meant continuing uphill, and the sign in front of me pointed uphill. However what the instructions said was that having reached the sign I should: ‘Follow waymarked route downhill to R to junction, then L uphill to tower’. So down I went, reaching the road and carrying on yet further down hill, until I suddenly thought ‘waida minnite’………….
Anyway so back up I went finding Leith Hill tower in the process, which apparently is the highest point in Surrey, that gives views to the capital and the sea. No such views on show this day however as beyond the immediate canopy, all one could see was mist. Also following ‘the clear path signed to Starveall car park’ turned out not to be all that clear either, as this soon fragmented into multiple paths. When I did eventually find the bridleway on my right, this turned into more confusion when the instructions telling me to ‘turn left at the path crossroads’ didn’t actually mean the first crossroads one came to, but rather the one with the wooden signs further on. So basically I found myself looping back into the car park on two further occasions.

Once I eventually broke free from this, I then located the right part of the road, only to have a DHL delivery driver ask me for directions (I pointed the innocent fool, to the nearest sideroad I could see). So having left Wotton Common, I was now able to pick up the bridleway (alongside the stream) through Abinger Bottom, eventually coming out at the Stephan Langton Inn, which would be the logical lunch point if I lead this walk for IVC. Following one final confusion through the woods at Broadmoor, where I wasn’t sure whether the instruction ‘L at next junction’ applied to either the path or the road, I was soon back on the Greensand Way and ultimately the Henman basecamp.

So overall a very good walk, but one to be enjoyed far more the second time once one knows where one is actually going. Given the amount of retracing steps that I did on this one however, I would say the true distance I walked was probably nearer 11 miles.

Walks since last blog entry:

(Run) Walks
1 x 6 miles – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .
1 x 6 miles – Osterley Park / Grand Union Canal.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Longshaw Circular – (White/Dark) Peak District – (Derbyshire) – 01/12/09 – 6 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly)

With one of our objectives for the walk being an ascent over Carl Wark, we were most perturbed to find the nearby car park only took credit cards (thus discriminating against people who just carry currency on walks). So that required a swift of change of route/plan by the map lady, which nonetheless produced an excellent walk (with Carl Wark excluded).

So with a new parking place at the top of Padley Gorge, we descended down into the Longshaw Estate, where ‘the red grouse calls’ (often mistaken by locals for pheasant). The weather was bright and crispy cold, with a fair smattering of thin ice on top of the puddles. None of this bothered superdogs Luther and Molly however who were of course in their element, and basically didn’t bother us either as there was no wind chill about to test our resilience. Thus we proceeded in a downwardly direction on the gorge, with a stream far below us to our left, and moss covered rocks and trees to our right, that conceal carefully disguised monsters (see photo). Presently we found a footpath to take us onto higher ground, passing a small dwelling as we did. There then followed a small amount of confusion as to how we were going to climb higher still onto the rocky outcrops around us. Whilst we were faffing about on this, all four of us were suddenly startled by an unkempt man and even more shaggy Old English Sheepdog running past us, and up onto the rocks. They turned out to be one half of a shepherding team rounding up the sheep far above us. The other half of the team shouted down for us not to follow them up with the dogs (like we could climb up there anyway). However there was no need as we discovered we were on the right path as it was.

So we continued on in what turned out to be Bolehill Quarry admiring the many millstones that are scattered about in these parts (again see photo), before eventually crossing the A625 onto Millstone Edge in the direction of Higger Tor. Lunch soon followed, which was in this instance fairly modest given the much larger meal planned for that evening. Also the fact that one could get fairly chilled fairly quickly when not moving, meant that neither of us insisted on our statutory hour.

When we reached Higger Tor, this involved a steep climb up some rocks which threw Luther into a momentarily panic, before he worked out the best way to get up. Following which we continued down to Upper Burbage Bridge crossing the two streams underneath (aka Burbage Brook), as I admired the strange coloured and smelling water, which Helen of course insisted was au naturelle for the area. As we continued along with Burbage Rocks to our left we spotted a guy running along the edge carrying some sort of strange rucksack (or something) on his back. Having dispensed with his load he then proceeded to scale the face of the rocks unassisted (save for his fingers and boots – most impressive). The light was starting to go by now and we continued on as Luther made the most of the brown moss all around, and I speculated on whether some of the more elaborately shaped boulders were really concealing alien spacecraft (just wait till there is a lightning storm round these parts).

Anyway we eventually crossed over the A625 again and into Longshaw Park, where I reacquainted myself with the wooden sheep that I met here with IVC M&M back in May 2008 (looking slightly the worse for wear). Helen for her part reacquainted herself with the pond that she used to go iceskating on as a girl, and we also noted the problems ducks have trying to contend with half frozen water. Not before time then given the failing light, we were back at the car ready to undertake our next adventure later that afternoon, which involved a game of hide and seek with a key.

Monday, 23 November 2009

South Benfleet / Leigh on Sea (circular) – (Essex) – 22/11/09 – 8 Miles – IVC.

Now I have a little confession to make. I did attempt to do this walk from Country Walking magazine (July 2008) on my own back in September, with a view to leading IVC around it at a later point. However after starting along the deserted estuary for about a mile, I got spooked by a combination of: having to share the narrow stretch of path with some angry looking cows, and seeing a group of youths heading in my direction with a couple of bull terrier type dogs running around off the lead. So immediately feeling somewhat alone and vulnerable, I basically bottled it and turned back. Whether that was right or wrong who knows ? However since my incident of 15th May this year (see earlier blog entry), I have become a lot more cautious when it comes to walking on my own in remote areas, without anyone knowing that I am there.

So why am I back then you may well ask ? The answer being that I had promised IVC I would lead this walk, before my (failed) attempt to check it out for myself. Now I did try to do it last week with Helen, however severe weather warnings for the region which in the event turned into a tornado fortunately put us off. On this occasion however there was no problem with any pitbulls or cows, but initially plenty of concerns caused by the weather.

Anyway a group of nine of us assembled at Benfleet station for the off, and after making our way into Hadleigh country park, down and across the railway line, and alongside the marina, we all began to speculate on the angry looking sky that was appearing to follow us. At that point though the weather was still holding fire, and we were all able to see up and away in the distance the tiny form of Hadleigh castle, as the regular train services hurried by. However once out on the completely exposed seawall path the weather let rip with everything it had at us, as we all frantically tried to put on waterproofs that themselves were threatening to be blown out of our hands and away. The driving gusts of wind and rain, soon turned into hailstones, which although fortunately coming from behind us, felt to me like small buckshot blasting against the back of my hood/head. So yes it was a definate ‘beam me up Scotty’ moment. Momentarily the hailstones did ease enough for us to pull our hoods down, before returning once again for a more severe barrage. However by the time we got as far as the the putting green on our left, the weather had begun to ease, and we were able to note the damage to that club’s fencing, which we speculated could have been caused by the previous weeks tornado.

By this time we had nearly reached Leigh on Sea, at which point the sky turned blue, the day brightened up, and the weather remained as good as gold for the rest of the walk. As we diverted away from the railway station into Leigh, one of our party recommended a pub called ‘Ye Olde Smack’ for lunch, which turned out to be a fairly good choice. Thus once inside we had a perfect window view of the estuary and the fast rising sea level. I thought I would try for a change some fish and chips, with one of our group even having a veggie version of this, which on a price wise and taste wise level proved to be fairly reasonable choice. Unfortunately the chocolate fudge cake pudding was a bit of a squashed mess, with some thin yellow liquid on the dish which we couldn’t decide on whether it was meant to be cream or custard. I decided to leave that as an open ended question rather than putting any of it in my mouth, and just ate the brown goo instead. I do like though to make allowances especially given the handy nature of the floor by the windows being made of stone. This being due to a large and embarrassing pool of water that was forming under my saturated rucksack (if it had been carpet I would had to have blamed it on one of the four dogs that were milling around).

Anyway once lunch had gone down two of our party decided that they had done enough for the day, no doubt fearing a repeat of the weather, and dropped out at Leigh on Sea station, as we headed back into the Hadleigh Marsh, now on the other side of the railway. This however turned into a real treacherous mud trail, which given my penchant for falling over these days, it was with some relief that I didn’t end up lying in it. Eventually we came to a stile in the hedge and began the long climb up the turf covered hill to Hadleigh castle. As we turned round we could see Canvey Island, as well as the Thames and Medway estuaries below us.

Once at the castle however the final climb up onto it’s mount was like the sort of mud slide that in the Seventies used to feature on shows like ‘It’s A Knockout’. Thus for several minutes three of us were stuck on it, trying to find a way to help each other up without all coming down together in a great muddy heap. Once that obstacle was overcome we were able to investigate the ruins of Hadleigh castle which turned out to be a lot bigger than anticipated from below. I had been telling everyone all day in my most authoritive voice that three of Henry VIII’s wives had lived there, a fact the information board conveniently ommitted, making me look a bit of a chump as it only really mentioned Edward III. A quick check just now on Wikipedia however proves me right, and also mentions the interesting fact that this is going to be used as the venue for the Mountain biking competition in the 2012 Olympics.

So by the time we had finished with Hadleigh Castle the light was starting to go, and we descended once more along Hadleigh Marsh with the railway and Benfleet creek on our left. When we eventually found a crossing by the marina to get across the railway, it turned out to be about 50 yards down from the one we had crossed earlier in the day causing me as walk leader some slight confusion. However the leader of all leaders soon came to my aid pointing out that we could reach Benfleet station from the road anyway (obviously done this walk before then), with us easily making the 1625 to Fenchurch Street. So overall an enjoyable winter’s walk despite the hailstones in the first half, and the mud in the second.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 8 miles – Putney to Osterley (Helen).

(Run) Walks
3 x 6 miles – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .
1 x 6 miles – Osterley Park / Grand Union Canal.

(Rucksack 9kg) Walks
1 x 8 miles – Putney to Osterley.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Dorking to Boxhill – (Surrey) – 25/10/09 – 8 Miles – IVC.

This wasn’t a great day for travelling, as my section of the Piccadilly line was on a replacement bus service, and the South West Trains alternative only runs once an hour on a Sunday. Thus I ended up being stuck between a rock and a hard place of either: killing an hour at Clapham Junction in both directions for the journey out and the return home, or travel to and fro between Clapham Junction and Waterloo four times in order to have somewhere to sit down.

Anyway enough of that as this was a warm and sunny autumnal day, that managed to bring together a group of 23 of us (hope my walk next month does as well). So with all these people around there was a fair amount of chin wagging going on, which probably explains why I can’t remember much of the first half of the walk up to lunch (well save for the extremely fast road we crossed near a garden centre, which seemed to be as busy and fast as your average motorway).

Anyway lunch was at The Dolphin at Betchworth, where the pretty young bar staff (that includes the girls), seemed to take twice as long to take your order, as did the kitchen staff to cook it. Anyway I ordered a chicken, ham and leek pie, with mashed potatoes, which when it turned up looked and tasted distinctly average, in a Seventies school dinner sort of way (so well worth the nine quid I paid for it !). To add to my chagrin one of the young waitresses then bounced by in the garden with someones elses rather appetising looking burger and chips, which wasn’t on any menu I saw.

Anyway following lunch we ended up playing chicken all over again with another dangerous road, which involved one driver screaming abuse at one of our party at 70mph. Past that hurdle however and we could see Boxhill in the distance. After a walk through a long and wooded path we came across a former Lime Kiln in Brockham. From there we began some serious climbing up towards Boxhill, which spread the group out somewhat. However having got near the summit, our leader explained that we would then have to do a very long descent as the route had long been blocked by houses, before starting the steep climb all over again (isn’t this the sort of thing the Para’s do ?). That said these little bits of running I have been doing in the last few weeks must be doing me some good, as three of us shot off up the hill leaving everyone else for dead.

So at this point we had reached the top of Boxhill, which I hope you can see from the photo, seems to be a popular vantage point for flying kites. From there we joined the very long queue at the Boxhill National Trust outdoor café/kiosk for afternoon tea. Well bugger tea actually, as I had a hot chocolate plus a slice of sponge cake, less my 20% discount for being a National Trust volunteer. Following which we had a beautiful backlit descent down from Boxhill towards the finish at Boxhill and Westhumble station, passing Rykas (bikers) café which we had visited earlier in the year. So overall a pleasant day, that is apart from the crap train connections which meant a two hour trip home from Dorking for me(aarrgh).

Walks since last blog entry:

(Run) Walks
1 x 4 miler – Osterley Park .
2 x 6 milers – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .
1 x 7.5 miler – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .

(Rucksack 9kg) Walks1 x 7.5 miler – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Arundel to Amberley – (West Sussex) – 27/09/09 – 10 Miles – IVC.

Who knows maybe this was the last good day’s walking of the Summer, but after a nippy start leaving the house in the morning, by the time we all alighted at Arundel station a few hours later, it was immediately a case of sweatshirt off and sunhat on. As we set off through the town we caught a first glimpse of Arundel Castle which was to periodically crop up in the distance throughout the first half of the walk. As such the first half was a combination of small lanes, lush green fields, and rolling hills as we made our way along the Arun Valley. However given that I hadn’t seen some people for a few weeks, I did find myself getting a little caught up in various conversations rather than spending time looking around at the scenery.

So some four and a bit miles later we found ourselves in Burpham and at the George and Dragon pub. Given that this was a good turn out for IVC, it was a bit of a surprise that only three of us went into the pub, with then only two of us actually ordering any food (nothing was mentioned about bringing sandwiches in the flyer). That said I couldn’t really find anything on the menu I specifically fancied, and so settled for just a side order of chips and a bread roll (with a pint of lager of course). Mindful however that I may be missing out on all my food groups, I did have the chocolate brownie for dessert.

In the afternoon we found ourselves on a very steep climb up onto the South Downs, but with that one effort out of the way it was easy walking from that point onwards. As we walked along there was a succession of gliders being towed into the air by the one small light aircraft (probably a Cessna), who would then buzz off to go and get another one. I was a little puzzled as to why once released, the gliders seemed to float in very small circles. However it was explained to me that this was how they gained height. Also buzzing around was a couple of microlites.

After being entertained by the gliders for over an hour we eventually ended up on a small mound that had been the exclusive preserve of an elderly couple who had been sitting on it. The view was perhaps comparable to the one me and Helen had on Hallin Fell recently in the Lakes, only in this case you could see all the way to the North Downs in the hazy distance. As such I actually went as far as to dig my binoculars out of my rucksack, but ended up concentrating more on the gliders and Cessna. Anyway the elderly lady who had periodically kept turning round and glaring at us for sitting on her hill, eventually wanting to know were we on a walking holiday. When we replied that we just on a day walk, she then sneered at us and said: “Well why are you all wearing rucksacks then”.

Undeterred we continued on our way eventually coming off the South Downs and headed into Amberley. As we reached the station we still had half an hour before the train, and most people set off for afternoon tea. For once I decided not to join them as I was still feelling a little bloated from the Chocolate brownie dessert earlier. However we all regrouped on the platform in time for the 1719 train back to Victoria. So overall a scenic and easy days walking on the most perfect of late Summer’s days.

Walks since last blog entry: 1 x seven and a half miler – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Haystacks Circular (including Buttermere Lake) – (Lake District – Day 6) – (Cumbria) – 11/09/09 – 8.5 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly)

Not taking any chances of having the day ruined by another parking fiasco, we decided that this was one we could do from the front door, even if it meant my third walk around Buttermere Lake since the Tuesday. This was also a good idea for two other reasons: one because it extended the walk and on a perfect Summer’s day why would one not want to, and two it meant we had a chance to warm up walking on the flat ground rather than getting straight out of the car and into a steep ascent.

Anyway we all seemed well up for it, and to add a little bit of variety, we decided to go round Buttermere in the opposite direction to how we had done it before. So whilst Luther and Molly got into the swing of things with a good paddle, me and Helen messed around taking photos, with some exposing better than others. When we reached the car park at Gatesgarth cottages/farm which is the official start point according to the ‘Country Walking cut out’ I created a little bit of confusion as to which direction left actually was. Thus having continued along the valley at the end of Buttermere beside the farm, I created more ‘cut out’ confusion as to what was the actual path up towards Haystacks, perhaps my ears were still ringing from the fighter jet that had loudly shot over us. Anyway on both occasions Helen was able to put me straight.

So up we went and not alone either, as various walkers either pushed on up or straggled along behind us. As was the norm this week I pushed on with Luther off his lead, whilst Helen was a little way back with Molly on the lead. One of the good things about Haystacks is that there is no shortage of handily placed rocks to stop and have a break, and after several of these we decided to have half of our sandwiches before pushing on. Also most people we met up with seemed friendly and positive towards the dogs. Referring to the ‘cut outs’ I was on the look out for one or two vitally placed cairns to tell us we were on the right track, but basically there were loads of them all over the place, and the track was pretty bloody obvious anyway. Coming near to what was nearly the final scramble to the summit, we met a lad from Northumberland, who had passed us a long time back, puzzling over what was the best way up. Thus whilst I dithered over the correct route, Luther pushed on ahead of us, showing the right way up (a massive improvement on the Luther of the previous Sunday). No such good marks for Molly however as having finally been let off the lead, she managed to locate what must have been the only sheep up there and went hareing after it. With no Helen or whistle in sight, I gave my best Sargeant Major roar and she did come trotting back.

Presently we reached the summit making this our fifth Wainwright of the week at 1,958ft. Along with quite a few others we took a pew to finish off the rest of our lunch, whilst watching the odd helicopter and light aircraft buzz around. So with break over we had a minor difficulty finding a correct way down, as well as referencing which tarns we should be looking out for. Once again Helen was way out in front on the descent, as I concentrated on keeping my footing on the slippy slate and rocks, pausing only to chat to a guy with red socks. Luther and Molly for their part forgot all about me, and decided to keep in close attendance with the hand that feeds them. As we neared the bottom another fighter jet came out of nowhere and roared over the summit, leaving me wondering how many people it shook off the rocks in doing so. Once at the bottom we once again picked up the trail in the alternate direction around buttemere. Both Luther and Molly had a good time retrieving sticks from the water. Molly would swim out for hers, whilst Luther was only prepared to paddle to get his. On the other hand Luther had more of a taste for the bigger stick variety which he also likes to eat. However having been off the lead a while, Molly disgraced herself one final time by locating a sheep way up in the hills to chase, whilst Helen worried whether the ‘Dogs worrying livestock, will be shot’ sign was about to come true. That drama resolved we arrived home tired (more in my case than I realised) but happy.

So a slightly mixed week for me, with my problems on the downhills causing me to wonder whether I really want to come back to the Lake District again. Certainly overall the good outweighed the bad, but I was anything but pain free throughout the week, and which was unfortunately rounded off on my last night in the cottage with a sudden illness. That couldn’t have happened at a worse time and has slightly put a cloud over the whole week. So Coast to Coast next time anyone ?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Hallin Hill (Circular) – (Lake District – Day 5) – (Cumbria) –10/09/09 – 1,271 ft – Helen (luther & Molly) + Buttermere Lake (Circular) – 4 Miles -own

Okay lets get the negative dealt with and out of the way first. Basically we had planned to do a combination of sailing and walking over and along Ullswater. However that plan was basically wrecked for the most trivial reason of not being able to get a car parking space at either Glenridden or Pooley Bridge. Suffice to say that given how close a call a parking spot had been the previous day at Skiddaw, and how full the car park at Gatesgarth farm that serves Haystacks always looked whenever we drove past, this is obviously an unspoken problem that exists in the Lake District. Anyway we eventually ended up in a church car park at Howdale initially in the futile hope of getting on the boat there. However that was a long long way from where we were parked, and was also just an alighting point. So we decided to regroup and have our packed lunch instead.

Following lunch we looked at the hill (Hallin) opposite, and decided that as it was marked on our cruise brochure, and we were now in the vicinity we might as well go up and down it, before vacating the area. So with the Sun blazing down off we set. Now to be blunt it was steep and quick, and did take ones breath away a bit. However without totally killing ourselves we soon found ourselves at the summit, and without realising it at the time, Hallin Hill turned out to be our fourth Wainwright of the week at 1,271ft.

That said our parking spot was more than a little above Sea level so I wouldn’t like to venture a guess as to how high our actual starting point was. Nevertheless a Wainwright is a Wainwright doncha know. Anyway having reached the top we were all able to sit down and admire the view, both checking out the Lake traffic on Ullswater, as well as watching more sheep and dogs working out their issues in the far distance (as per the previous day). The descent itself was fairly swift, with various sheep hiding in the Ferns to torment Molly, following which we decided to drive off in search of an ice cream.

Once back at the cottage I decided that I hadn’t really done enough for the day, and ventured out on my own around 5.30pm for a repeat walk around Buttermere Lake (finally cracking out my shorts in the process). Now having been used to my three constant companions all week, it actually made a refreshing change to just have ones own company for this one. Also given how shit the weather had been when we all did this circuit on the Tuesday, one could really appreciate the reflections in the water, the golden light of the setting Sun, and the majesty and colour of the fells that surrounded Buttermere (oh well Helen did produce a poetry book in the cottage on the previous evening). Also everyone I passed said Hello (giving me final confirmation I wasn’t in London). This included a mum who was cajoling her two youngish teenage sons to walk quicker before their pub shut (I assume for accommodation purposes and not a booze up)

For my part I did waste a lot of time faffing about with the camera on self timer trying to take the ultimate self portrait. The best moment being when a large group of grey woolly sheep decided they were coming through a gate the same time that I was. When I finally did get back to the cottage I had a bit of a Wilma and Fred Flintstone moment, when it became apparent that I had been locked out. However this was merely because Helen and the doggies had set out to intercept me on my return, but just missed where I had turned back out onto the road.
So overall a really enjoyable evening stroll proving that everthing in the Lake District doesn’t have to be about flogging yourself climbing fells. That said combine that walk with the fact that we had bagged a Wainwright earlier on anyway, and I would say a pretty successful day overall. Cruise steamers who needs them.

Skiddaw (Circular including Little Man) – (Lake District – Day 4) – (Cumbria) – 09/09/09 – 8.75 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly)

The rain that had featured so heavily on two of our first three days, was now a thing of the past, as we were now able to enjoy three perfect late Summer’s days in succession. For this walk it was back to using the Country Walking Magazine’s ‘cut outs’, with our objective being Skiddaw, which is apparently the fourth highest peak in the Lakes, and only one of four over 3,000ft. However given that we got exceptionally lucky (this day anyway) with the car parking, getting the last and closest space to the start, it turns out we had already climbed 1,000ft before getting out of the car.

So once out of the car the obvious track led us straight up. Helen was in t-shirt mode, whilst I decided to keep my long sleeve top on and then see how things went. This was quite a demanding climb to go straight into, with the pattern of me and Luther (off lead) surging ahead, whilst Helen with Molly (on lead) caught up whenever we stopped to take a photo. This is also an obviously popular part of the Lakes, as there was no shortage of people going in either direction. Unfortunately toilet facilities are non existent on this walk (even at the car park). However the glaciers who designed the whole course, thoughtfully provided a small out of view ledge which is apparently visited very frequently. So after a series of climbs and peaks we eventually reached a gate where we could either: go through and right on an easier traverse up Skiddaw, or alternatively go straight over Little Man. We choose to do the latter, with me in power surge mode at this point leaving my three fellow travellers behind until I had reached this particular summit. This effort making Little Man our second Wainwright of the week at 2,838ft.

The descent down from Little Man was quite steep but for once I felt confident of my footing. Thus having rejoined the path leading up to Skiddaw, I stopped and chatted to another guy (+ dog) whom I had met earlier on the other side by the gate. Helen for her part was taking a break with a cup of coffee, before catching up. Given that we were now closing in on 3,000ft it was getting noticeably colder, with Helen putting her grey fleece thing back on, and me putting on my body warmer. However the distance from the foot of Little Man to the summit of Skiddaw is next to nothing, and with no great extra effort we were there making Skiddaw our third Wainwright of the week at 3,053ft.

After a nice man took a family photo for us, we managed to find a set of rocks to shelter behind and have lunch, eventually being moved on by a couple under a pretext of what is the best way to train their puppies. I was in full ‘follow me I have the cut out’ mode for the way back down. Not for the first time however I had misunderstood what I was reading, and Helen had to point out we were merely going back the way we came, rather than following the route suggested by the ‘cut out’. This then required a 45 degree about turn to rendevous with the path we were supposed to be on, and across the sort of marshy and spongy ground we had gone through on the Monday. So yes you guessed it, my boots and socks were once again soaking wet. Also once on the path it was a downwards and muddy trajectory, leaving me slipping all over the place, whilst Helen and doggies surged on far ahead. One benefit however, was apart from a few walkers, the majority of the Skiddawites, seemed to know nothing of this path and so this allowed Molly a chance to get off the lead a bit more.

Having eventually reached Skiddaw House Youth Hostel (which must be great fun lugging all your baggage to) we were able to turn right and pick up the Cumbria Way. At this point I suggested Helen take my picture, only for her to throw my camera down on the ground in a fit of temper (just checking your reading this sweetie). Anyway the lens was bent over and wouldn’t go back in. However a bit of force from me straightened the thing up, but don’t you know the camera has never been the same since. No problem though as Helen promised me on the spot to buy a new one (a Leica will do nicely).
By following the Cumbria Way we eventually found ourselves walking along a ridge with Lonscale Fell on our right and stunning views over Glenderaterra Beck on the drop over our left. This section of the walk was probably close to three miles, and as we eventually began a descent, Helen was able to hear the whistle of a shepherdess working her sheep and dogs well over a mile away in the distance. Eventually we came to a little stream with Helen faffing about trying to take a picture of a waterfall. Given the irreparable damage she had caused my camera earlier I decided to take the picture for her, only to once again fall over backwards standing on a wet stone. Thankfully my lunch box in my backpack was able to take the full impact leaving me thankfully unscathed. From there it was a short walk back to the car, which to our relief had not been clamped or anything similar for blocking the turning circle out of a nearbye gate. Finally to round the day off on our drive back to the cottage, Helen took me to see the Bowder Stone rock in Keswick.

Buttermere Lake (Circular) – (Lake District – Day 3) – (Cumbria) – 08/09/09 – 4 Miles approx – Helen (luther & Molly)

Oh dear, no one said anything about there being rain in the Lake District. So after a night where the wind was howling and the rain lashing it down, we woke to find the morning wasn’t any better. As such our mountain view from the cottage was obsured by the mizzly mist, and despite hanging around there all morning there was no sign of any improvement. In the event we decided to bite the bullet and do a 4 mile door to door ramble around Buttermere (Lake) so at least the dogs got some exercise.

In the event the dogs seemed to love it, although needing to give themselves a good shake every few minutes. For my part I had bought a £2 PVC mac which I had under my £155 worth of waterproofs in order to make them waterproof (which worked for my torso anyway). The rain lashed, the wind gusted, and the view across the lake wasn’t. Also based on the previous days fall I was being really really careful anytime I had to step onto any sort of slate type rocks. Yet perversely it wasn’t a bad walk overall, and we were all happy enough to have got outdoors and done something (no pictures by the way, as I wasn’t getting my camera out in that).

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Crummock Water (Circular) – (Lake District – Day 2) – (Cumbria) – 07/09/09 – 8 Miles approx – Helen (luther & Molly)

Day 2 of our holiday was almost wrecked for me before it began. Thus on a twenty minute morning constitutional doggie walk, from our holiday cottage, I slipped on some wet slate type rocks that had caused me so much problem the previous day. Thus in one backward tumble I managed to bang my left forearm and elbow (initially thinking I had broke it, but actually only took off a bit of skin), bash the left side of my lower back (although this served to counterbalance the right side of my lower back that had given me such problems the previous day and continued to do so throughout the entire week) and unbeknownst at the time, managed to cause the most damage to my right wrist. So combine all this with a slight bleeding problem (don’t ask where) that seemed to plague me all week, and a final night bout of vomiting and diarrohea at the most inappropriate moment imaginable, then healthwise it was a pretty good week. Still musn’t grumble and certainly the after effects of the fall were dampened down by a couple of Nurofen Plus.

So for day 2 it was a case of bugger the Country Walking ‘cut outs’ and instead go with a walk of Helens invention, namely a circuit around Crummock Water which is next door to Buttermere (Lake), and which we able to do from the door of our holiday cottage. On this occasion the weather was set fair for the day, although the ground underfoot was anything but dry. Anyway there was a little pit of confusion as to whether we should follow the path slightly higher up (as indicated on Helen’s OS map) or alternatively try and follow the lake along the side of the water. Thus having settled on the latter we met two women coming the other way who told us that a bridge crossing the stream was out and that we would have to wade across it ankle deep. Well I for one (having got my boots and socks soaked the previous day) didn’t fancy that, so I persuaded Helen that we should go straight up and thus rendevous with two females who we had passed earlier and who were obviously on the correct path. Ultimately however, given what my objective was, this wasn’t a great plan as to get up there it required us to plod through a load of spongy marshland. So by the time we reached the path, boots and socks were soaked through yet again.

The path however took us to a small bridge, which crossed the stream higher up. There we met a walker who had come down to it from up high, and told us about the slippy stones he had come down on. Helen for her part, and not for the first time in our relationship, did her best to confuse me, in this instance as to where these slippy stones were and to whether we should continue as planned or change direction. Anyway we ultimately continued as planned. Of course we were now going downhill and if you read my blog of the previous day you now know that this is a problem activity for me. Suffice to say I slipped over backwards again, but unlike earlier in the day managed to save the majority of me from hitting the ground or getting covered in mud. Nevertheless by this point I was getting well pissed off with the whole Lake District experience, and started to wish we had gone somewhere else instead. For her part Helen (who was again well ahead of me at this point) was also getting pissed off, but this time with Molly who was constantly chasing sheep whenever off the lead, and not responding in a timely manner to the whistle. When she did return Helen certainly gave her what for, which put the fear of God into me and Luther, but had no effect on the slightly deranged Molly.

Presently however we were back down near the edge of the lake and on something that constituted a walkable path. So when Helen issued the command that there was to be no stopping until we reached the end of the lake, me and Luther now had the opportunity to really stride out, and for the first time on this holiday I actually felt that I was doing some real walking/exercise. Having reached a gate and what I thought was the end of the lake (actually it was hiding round the corner), we met two guys coming the way who were plodding their way to the nearby youth hostel. Well nearby if they meant the one on the outskirts of Buttermere, but if they meant the one at Honister Pass well they are probably still walking. After surmising whether there were enough bridges to cross all the adjoining streams, we finally did make it to the end of the lake where we had some refreshments/chocolate and partook of some photo opportunities.

For the way back round we decided to forget about referring to maps and instead hog the waterline as much as possible which was a mainly successful plan. Thus having recovered my mood I was now able to start to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the hills that surrounded the lake. For their part Luther and Molly were also now having a whale of a time running along the adjoining wood and going in and out of the water. In fact it is as appropriate place as any to say that you couldn’t meet two nicer and good humoured dogs then Luther (the brown one) and Molly (the black one), which I hope my photo illustrates.

Ultimately however we were forced out onto the road, which given the paucity of traffic I didn’t mind in the least. Helen however was back in OS mode again, and presently spotted a hill that could bypass some of the road around a blind bend. This turned out to be quite short and steep, and going upwards we managed to meet two dimwits coming down, who gave Helen’s directions question a rhetorical answer. Once back on the road we were soon heading towards the cottage at Cragfoot whilst the evening drew in nicely. So overall a thoroughly enjoyable second half of the walk.