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.

Seathwaite (Circular including Green Gables) – (Lake District – Day 1) – (Cumbria) – 06/09/09 – 4.75 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly)

For the first day of myself and Helen’s week in the Lake District, we decided not to pick something too demanding. That way not only could we break ourselves in gently, but also do the same for elderly Labrador Luther (no worries on that score for younger Labrador Molly, but who was herself to present other worries instead). Anyway referencing one of the ‘cut outs’ from Country Walking magazine (which we used extensively during the week) we settled on a circular route around Seathwaite. This would also take us up the first of five Wainwrights that we were able to complete during the week. In this instance Green Gables at 2,627ft. For a list of all 214 click

Having got out of the car at Seathwaite Farm it started to rain, although not too heavily. This stop and start drizzle was to be a feature of the first part of the walk, as I constantly messed around pulling waterproofs on and off. So whilst Helen located a phonebox at the farm, Luther and Molly got an earful of doggie verbals from a gang of dog yobs in some nearby kennels. One free dog however made the mistake of investigating a little too closely and was promptly seen off by Luther. Anyway off and upwards we set, being soon left behind by a group of elderly walkers who had vacated the farmyard with us. Thus with Sourmilk Gill on our right we came alongside a couple of wooden ladders which presented Luther with a few problems getting over. However he really came unstuck a little further on when a scramble over some rocks was required. Poor Luther got into a bit of a panic on this one, and it was only a joint effort from: myself, Helen, Molly and a couple of lads who had now joined us, that we were finally able to get him over that hurdle. Certainly not a great way to start the holiday for Luther, however that was his only real low point of the week, and from there on in he was at least able to outperform me if no one else.

Lunch was taken soon after near to a waterfall. As we ate I noticed a female walker on her own who was just hanging around at a fence down below us. Thus as we set off again up and around Base Brown I noticed her following us but always keeping a distance. It did occur to me that she may have been a little nervous about the two dogs. However when she finally did go round us she promptly sat on a rock, and so was obviously just the hanging around type. As for Base Brown we never actually went over the top of it ourselves as the route we were using required us to circumnavigate it instead (thus we narrowly missed bagging an additional Wainwright). Anyway as we continued upwards onto Green Gables, it was clear that the weather was closing in. Thus by the time we reached the summit, passing another group who seemed to be having a meeting up there, the ‘cut out’s promised great view was a sea of mist, and we could barely find the path down. However Green Gables was our first Wainwright of the week at 2,627ft.

So far so good, and despite the fact that it was now raining, and my waterproofs were set on proving that they weren’t, I was still enjoying myself. The downhill however was something of a nightmare for me. Thus I could not manage to keep my balance on the wet and slippy rocks, which meant I had to limit myself to baby size steps in order to stay upright, yet doing nothing to negate the pain it was causing in my back and shins. Not realising before that I had a problem in this area, any sort of downhill was to prove a constant problem for me throughout the week. What was worse was that Helen, who I have long since been used to leaving behind on ascents (and continued to do so this week as well) was now leaving me far behind on the descents (and also continued to do this during the week as well). In fact there were moments when I actually was losing her in the mist. As such this does pose a question for me, whether I really want to continue with this branch of walking. Thus although I enjoy the physical challenge of going up, I find the downhills a croc of shit basically, as they are physically dangerous but have no compensating physical challenge attached. On the other hand this type of slippy slate and loose rocks may be a feature of the Lake District only (answers on a postcard please).

When I did manage to catch Helen we engaged in a fairly pointless discussion as to which side of Styhead Gill we were supposed to be walking on, when the single path was fairly obvious. In fact almost as pointless as the group of young Northern Irish walkers who stopped us to ask directions to nowhere in particular really. Anyway after more slips, rain, streams and puddles, we finally made it back to the car where the complete non-functioning nature of my £155 worth of Berghaus (note that name people) waterproof jacket and trousers became all too apparent. Also a walk that the ‘cut out’ said should take 3 hours took us the best part of 5 (lunch wasn’t that long surely) and was anything but moderate (in fact because of the descent, for me it was downright miserable). Incidentally apologies for the lack of quality photos, but once the rain started to chuck it down I decided to keep the camera hidden.