Tuesday 30 June 2015. Its my 64th birthday today and I have to say that it hasn’t been the best. First I’d like to send best wishes to Mal, my twin brother, but I doubt that he’ll ever read this.
I had another rubbish nights sleep waking as usual at around 5am with the symptoms of a cold (sniffles, sore throat & cough – probably man-flu). I’m not going to blame John who I walked with yesterday and who’s wife was unwell but I probably caught something by being in close proximity to my fellow passengers on the bus rides yesterday. Whilst i wasn’t feeling my best, I still made the effort to get out walking although this was after a visit to Booth’s supermarket to stock up on pills and potions.
I’ve been in Keswick for a week now and have still to use the car, relying on buses to get me where I want to be or walking directly from the caravan. I drove a total of 560 miles to and from walks whilst staying in Longtown and it makes a change to let someone else take the strain. Today, I took the 10:26 bus from Keswick to Grasmere with the idea of doing a 6 mile walk over Silver Howe with the possibility of extending this, depending upon how I felt. I hadn’t intended to visit the outdoor clothing shops but Cotswold’s Rock Bottom shop beckoned me in. I didn’t really need anything but tried on a few insulated jackets which were all reduced in price. As a birthday present to myself, I bought a Marmot Baffin Jacket which is absolutely useless in the prevailing weather conditions but will come into its own as we move into autumn and winter.
It was warm yesterday but it has now become stupidly sticky and humid. I had barely begun my walk up towards Silver Howe and I was already bathed in sweat. After only 3/4’s of a mile I knew that I wasn’t enjoying it and decided to cut it very short. I could either go back the way I had come or continue a little further and do a loop via Kelbarrow, which is what I did. My shortest walk of the year was only 1.75 miles but still had a total of 600ft of ascent.
As it is set to get even hotter and stickier tomorrow, I’ll be taking a day off from serious walking but will probably return to Grasmere later in the week to finish off what seemed to be a nice walk.
Grasmere – walk route
Monday 29 June 2015. I wasn’t sure where to walk today. The weather forecast was good and will probably get warmer as the week goes on. If it is to become warmer from tomorrow then I’ll need to be making an early start to avoid the peak heat in the middle of the day. With this in mind I decided to do a walk which didn’t need to early a start and headed off to catch the 10:30 bus from Keswick to Lorton.
There was a large queue for the bus and a guy came and sat beside me in one of the few remaining seats. As you do, I asked this fellow walker where he was going? To my surprise, his reply was “don’t I know you and aren’t you Brian Foster?”. I hadn’t recognised him but the guy sitting next to me was John Horner who I hadn’t seen for over 20 years. John and I worked together in the MoD at Harrogate in the mid-80’s before he moved to London. He was on holiday in Keswick with his wife and had intended to go walking with her today. However, she wasn’t feeling too well and at the last minute he decided to catch the bus to Buttermere to do a walk up Fleetwith Pike on his own. If I hadn’t chosen my Lorton walk today and if his wife hadn’t been unwell, then we would never have met. What an amazing set of circumstances.
On the bus ride to Lorton, John asked if I wouldn’t mind if he joined me on today’s walk? I was pleased to have his company and it gave us a chance to catch up on things and for him to bring me up to speed on mutual friends.
We got off the bus in Lorton at just after 11:00 and began the walk along quiet country lanes which took us to the open fellside and the 2,200ft climb in just over 4 miles to Ladyside Pike and on to Hopegill Head. The last part of this was a scramble over a steep rock-face which was fine as it was dry underfoot but would have been treacherous, bordering on impossible, had it been wet.
It was a relief to get most of the climbing done and we then descended 500ft or so to Coledale Hause before climbing again (400ft) across Whiteless Edge to Whiteless Pike. We now had a drop of 2,000ft in a little over 2 miles to get to Buttermere. We stopped for a rest on the way down and wondered whether we would arrive in time to catch the 16:24 bus back to Keswick. We got there just as the passengers were boarding and, as it was full, we had to stand all the way back on the 50 minute ride. We wouldn’t have been stranded in Buttermere if we had missed the 16:24 as there were 3 later buses (16:48, 17:15 & 18.15) but all of these would have gone the long way back over the Honister Pass and down Borrowdale.
The walk turned out to be 8.4 miles with a total ascent of 3,064ft and a total descent of 2,920ft. It was a great, if tiring walk and it was good to meet up with John after all these years.
Saturday 27 June 2015. With my caravan site being just 5 minutes walk from the bus station it makes sense to use public transport, whenever possible. It is free for us pensioners, saves on car parking charges and opens up the possibility of linear walks. For today’s 7.3 mile walk with a total ascent of 2,240ft, I took the bus down Borrowdale and got off at Rosthwaite. A mug of tea and a bacon butty set me up well for the slog that lay ahead of me.
Leaving Rosthwaite I crossed the River Derwent on stepping stones before starting the 1,300ft climb up to the top of Rigghead Quarries. I had a few breathers on the way but had only one 5 minute rest before pushing on for the last 200ft of this initial climb. I was now at the foot of Dale Head which towered another 700ft above me. Luckily, I wasn’t going that way but I still had another 350ft to climb to the cairn on High Spy. This was a checkpoint for a couple of charity walks that were passing this way.
With the climbing behind me I could enjoy the views as I made my way across Maiden Moor and down towards the hause just before Cat Bells. It was along this stretch that I had a couple of chats with a guy taking part in the 5in5 charity walk. We were walking in the same direction and, as he didn’t seem to aware of the route, I gave him a few pointers. I had walked off the side of Cat Bells when doing my navigation assessment to become an HF Leader many years ago and made the mistake of missing the path down towards Little Town. I told him to be careful not to go down this path but I could see him, some way ahead off me, having taken the wrong route. I followed the path around the side of Cat Bells that I had mistakenly taken all those years ago, but this time, for me, it was the correct route as it would eventually lead me to Hawes End where I could catch the ferry across the lake. I knew that I was tight on time to catch the hourly ferry service and, after pressing on for the last couple of miles, I arrived at the jetty just as the passengers were boarding the boat.
There was a real treat whilst making the ferry crossing as the last flying Vulcan passed overhead on its farewell tour of the UK. I mentioned the guy I met doing the 5in5. There were two other races taking part in the area today: the 10in10 and a 110km Ultimate Trails Challenge. I passed through a checkpoint for this much longer race as I walked through Rosthwaite and thought myself luck that I only had 7 miles to walk and not the 70 miles that they were facing.
Thursday 25 June 2015. The weather forecast for today was mixed and the cloud base was down to around 1,500ft, obscuring the summits of nearby Cat Bells and Causey Pike. With this in mind I decided to do an easy low level 6 mile walk with just 450ft of ascent.
Starting out from the caravan, I headed out to Portinscale and then to Ullock to pick up the path running alongside Newlands Beck. I stopped for a while to watch Sand Martins nesting in the opposite bank and a pair of Grey Wagtails catching flies above the stream. Soon after a light drizzle/rain began to fall and only stopped when I got back to Keswick.
My next stop was at the hamlet of Stair where the bridge over Newlands Beck was still being repaired. There doesn’t seem to have been any progress since Jacqui and I were here in March. A couple of walkers stopped their car near the closed bridge and were puzzling how to drive to Stoneycroft. I was able to tell them that they could divert through Little Town but that the bridge there was very narrow indeed.
From Stair I headed via Skelgill to the foot of Cat Bells. Not wanting to walk all the way back to Keswick on a route that I’d done many times, I had planned to catch the Derwent Water cruiser from Nichol End but discovered that I wasn’t far from Hawes End which would save me both time and distance.
I caught the boat from Hawes End to the landings at Keswick and was surprised when it failed to stop off at Nichol End on the way. It transpired that the water level of lake was too low to allow them to call in at Nichol End. I could have been waiting there even now and I’m glad that I changed my mind and went to Hawes End instead. The boat ride was only a mile or so but saved me nearly 3 miles of walking.
I’m still taking out my new Tab4 and Azuz tablets to track my routes. Interestingly, the Tab4, which was inside my backpack, perfectly tracked the course of the boat across the lake whereas the Azuz, which was hanging around my neck, drew a straight line between Hawes End to the Keswick landings.
Newlands valley – walk route
Wednesday 24 June 2015. I promised myself an easy day but I’m not sure that is what I got. My first thought was to catch the bus part of the way down Borrowdale which would have cut 3 miles off my route. Instead, I decided to walk straight from the caravan, across Crow Park, to the boat landing stages on Derwent Water. From here I followed the lakeside path to just beyond Calfclose Bay before striking off uphill in the shadow of Falcon Crag. This path almost took me to Ashness Bridge before doubling back to the top of Falcon Crag and on to Walla Crag.
It was fairly busy up there as it is one of the easier routes from Keswick. I stopped for a coffee at a recently developed cafe at the farm just outside Springs Wood. This was handy as I walked 6 miles by then and needed a rest and something to drink other than water.
It was only a couple of miles from here back to Keswick and my caravan. The walk was 7.8 miles with a total ascent of 1,470ft almost all of this being on the climb up Falcon & Walla Crags.
Walla Crag – walk route
Tuesday 23 June 2015. Sunday was showery and yesterday was a transfer day between caravan sites so it was good to get out walking again today. It was a beautiful morning and I took a couple of pictures from the caravan site across to Cat Bells before setting off.
I caught the 10:20 bus from Keswick to Thelkeld, the starting point for today’s walk. I’ve been up Blenacthra via a variety of routes but never across Hall’s Fell. Wainwright described this route as “positively the finest way to any mountain top in the district”. My route directions warned that people have fallen to their deaths from this Grade 1 scramble and “to take care”. It was therefore with some trepidation that I set off on the 2,300ft climb up Hall’s Fell to the summit of Blencathra at 2,850ft. The initial stages were steep but not too difficult and I stopped a couple of times for a rest and to catch my breath. The last 600ft or so was out and out climbing and bore little resemblance to hill walking. A guy who was following close behind me remarked “that he wouldn’t have come this way had he known how difficult it would be”. I have to agree with him and doubt that I’ll be doing this climb again. It was difficult enough going up but I passed half a dozen crazy walkers/climbers come down. This site has some good pictures of today’s route.
Topping out on to Blencathra came as a welcome relief but I was greeted by a blizzard of midges which didn’t clear until I was well down the descent route across Blease Fell. It was here that I made a brief stop for lunch with magnificent views of the fells to the other side of Keswick. It had taken me 2hrs 30mins to climb Blencathra and another 2hrs to descend to the Blencathra Centre. At this point i had only walked a total of 4.5 miles but I was knackered and the energy reserves were close to empty. I still had to walk another 4 miles back to Keswick and the caravan site and chose the easiest possible route by following the disused railway line back into town.
I think that I may have set myself a too demanding task with today’s 8.6 mile walk which had a total ascent of 2,770ft and a total descent of 3,040ft. I think that I’ll look for something considerably easier tomorrow.
Saturday 20 June 2015. Langholm or Muckle Toon as it is referred to locally has an Adventure Festival this weekend providing a range of outdoor activities. I booked myself onto the Dawn Chorus walk, which started at 06:30am, in the hope of seeing a Hen Harrier. 11 of us including our excellent walk leader, Dr Cat Barlow, and three other local helpers met at the appointed time for a mini-bus ride to the start of the walk at Cooms some 7 miles away.
The weather was disappointing with low cloud and drizzle, restricting visibility to a few hundred yards – not ideal but better than constant rain. The 7 mile walk started high and finished low which meant that we ascended 937ft and descended 1,412ft. As we stopped many times to observe the birds it took us 5 hours to complete the walk.
We started by spotting Meadow Pipits, Whinchats and Stonechats, all of which are fairly common moorland species. We also saw Snipe, Sand Martins, Dipper and Goosander. A Cuckoo was calling in nearby trees but couldn’t be seen. Cat stopped on the road from Cooms to show us a recently abandoned Meadow Pipit’s nest which contained 3 eggs. She thought that being so close to the road was the reason for the abandonment. Later, as we walked across the moors, a Meadow Pipit flew up at Cat’s feet revealing the location of its nest which contained 4 eggs. It was so well hidden that we would never have found it had it not made a dash for it as we approached. Cat told us that the Cuckoo’s use the Meadow Pipit’s nests as homes for their own eggs.
One of the two highlights of the walk was to see a male Hen Harrier fly overhead. Although it was still fairly misty, we had reasonably good views. This was the first time that I’d seen a Hen Harrier. Cat told us that our walk would take us close to a nest where a Hen Harrier was sitting on eggs. We were asked to keep quite as we walked close by so as not to disturb the bird.
The second highlight of the day was to watch two baby Barn Owl chicks being ringed. Cat is licensed to undertake this task and she was assisted by a colleague who had removed the chicks from their nest in an old barn and was waiting for our arrival. The chicks were only 3 or 4 weeks old and didn’t seem to mind being handled as one of them was passed around each of the group to hold in their hands. With the ringing completed we were only 15 minutes or so away from basecamp and Cat phoned ahead to order bacon sandwiches which were included in the cost of the walk at only £8. We were also given a goody bag containing booklets on walks in the area and a small re-useable water pouch.
As sod’s law would have it, the mists rolled back as we came to the end of the walk and we arrived back at basecamp just in time to catch a demonstration of mountain bike stunt riding by the famous Danny MacAskilll. Despite the indifferent weather, I really enjoyed this walk and the company of my fellow birders.
Langholm Dawn Chorus – walk route