Sunday, 29 July 2012

Windy Gyle from Barrowburn

I sort of nagged Yvonne to come up with a route and this was the result. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and was pleased to see the slopes of the Cheviot Hills rising around me as I drove towards Barrowburn.
We started from the car park there, and proceeded up and down a series of pleasantly rolling hills. The Cheviots sort of remind me of the Howgills, although maybe not quite as high, and maybe the gills aren’t quite as steep sided.
With very little sign of civilisation, you can walk for miles across the grassy moors. The hills rise and fall around you, providing beautiful, peaceful views.
We walked for a while, enjoying all this, until we reached the Pennine Way. We joined it, walking along the border to reach the top of Windy Gyle  All the time looking over the border (little fence), to Scotland.
In fact, we did actually venture into Scotland, since Windy Gyle is on their side of the line. Very appropriate name, Windy Gyle, the wind was very strong as we approached. I loved it, especially as the air was warm.
We enjoyed our lunch and the views into Scotland from the trig point. The air was clear, and we could see for miles, including watching the downpours as they crossed to the North of us. We could also see three little hills that seemed to just grow out of the ground, unattached to anything else. I checked later, they are the Eildon Hills, near Melrose, 22 1/2 miles away.  Created by volcanic activity, but not extinct volcanoes.
Fed and watered, it was time to go down. We followed the Pennine Way and the border for a little while before turning southwest and heading for Davidson’s Linn. There is a brilliant little waterfall here. In fact, you get two for the price of one.
The weather changed now, and went from being very warm and pleasant to cold and wet. The shower didn’t last long, but it was enough to make us change the planned route and take a quicker path through the pine forest. We emerged into a valley surrounded by the gently rounded hills.
And now it was back to walking amongst these lovely hills. More down than up this time and surrounded by the rolling green hills. A delightful way to while away the day. And then, we were back at our cars. Legs and feet were satisfyingly tired; we’d completed over 13 miles and about 2300ft of up and down. Cool.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Scafell Pike Take Two

Did you know that if you start at Wasdale Head to get to the top of Scafell Pike, which is around 3200ft, then you climb 2950 feet(ish). If you start at Pen-y-pass to get to the top of the bigger mountain, Snowdon, which is about 3600ft, you climb 2400 feet? Work that one out!

Today we had to leave Langdale, so we packed up our lovely little tent, filled the car and set off over the rollercoaster, past our starting point yesterday and on to Wasdale Head for another go at Scafell Pike. At the car park, a quick assessment of the weather meant that we donned our wetproof trousers, thicker fleeces and our warm coats. The clouds were covering the tops of the mountains; we couldn’t see the heights of any of them. This was going to be interesting.

Wasdale at the start of our walk
We set off up the well trodden tourist path. Apart from the fact that it’s uphill, (and I’m slow remember), it’s a dead easy path. Clearly marked, with paved steps most of the way up. As I said, the weather wasn’t brilliant, but we got a few pictures of Wasdale and of the route ahead.
The river alongside the tourist path
Looking down towards Wasdale
Effectively, Peter had chosen a not too touristy route, i.e. Route 2 from Routes up Scafell from Wasdale. What this meant is that we took the right fork at Hollow Stones and headed up towards a narrow ridge which connects Scafell with Scafell Pike. As we got higher, we moved into the cloud base and the visibility suddenly reduced dramatically, but this was at exactly the wrong point!
The bottom of the cloud base about 1700ft up
This part of the route is described; “the route climbs one of the scree-filled gullies which drop steeply down from the crest of Mickledore.” Not joking it’s steep! And it is scree..... Small loose scree. And we couldn’t work out which path we should be following, if there was a path at all. With the visibility reduced as it was, we couldn’t see a lot.
OK, we didn't actually climb this scree slope, but ours looked about the same, what we could see through the cloud that covered it anyway. 
We did faff about there for a while, moving from side to side until we worked out which way we were supposed to get up. It was steep, with scree and loose rocks making it difficult underfoot until we reached the crags.  Now we had to select the safest looking gulley to scramble up. Peter did the man stuff and worked out the best way, then suddenly, Hey Presto! We were on top. Thing is, we didn’t know that really, because we couldn't see over the edges. (I think we’ll have to go back, when the suns out.)
Then it was a trudge over all the loose rocks and stones. How good are those people who build all those cairns? True, it was difficult to see them sometimes, but we just followed them, past the MRT storage container, onwards and upwards.
Conditions by now had got quite bad, the wind had picked up, with strong gusts that stopped us in our tracks. Not only that, the mists of the cloud kept fuzzing up my glasses, I couldn’t see through them. We kept going and finally reached the trig point. No views of course, but I knew I was there. Yippee. 
 It was a bit tough staying on our feet though. The gusts of wind were so strong; there was a good risk being pushed over into the rocky ground.. We decided we’d better go down quick.
You are allowed to laugh at this picture, just not in my presence.
I took my glasses off in the end, I had less blur without them, and followed Peter who followed the cairns.  We took the Brown tongue route down, but to be honest, we could have been anywhere, trudging along the well defined path – fortunately, to Hollow Stones, where we followed cairns.  Down, down, down we kept going.  Would we ever get out of this cloud?  We did eventually, at around 1600ft I think.  And suddenly we could see the world again.
But it was still a long way down.  The path is good, but my knees really started to complain as we got to the final few hundred feet.  We could see the car, but it wasn’t getting closer fast enough.  Finally, exhausted, we fell into it, and Peter started on the 2 ½ hour drive home.

I’ve just been to the top of Scafell Pike, the highest point in England.  How cool is that!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

(Scafell Pike? Errrr, nope)...... Eskdale

(Before I start, our tent is brill, perfect for two, and Langdale is as stunning as ever.)

Peter had worked out a brilliant route to get up the highest mountain in England - Scafell Pike.  We’d decided that the 13 mile walk from Langdale was too far, but if we drove around to Jubilee Bridge at the bottom of Harter Fell in Eskdale, we could have an enjoyable and easy walk up Eskdale to Cam Spout Crag. From there we could get up to Scafell Pike by going to Broad Stand and across. A 10 mile walk where the last mile or so would be the most difficult and where we would gain two thirds of the height.  Perfect.

I should point out that to get a car from Langdale to our starting point is an achievement in itself.  The road is just a single track lane up and down hills that get as steep as a 1:3 climb and with hairpin bends to make your hair curl.  It does have the benefit of tarmac…. mostly….. But the holes in it were probably responsible for a fair amount of car suspension damage.  Fortunately there are loads of convenient passing places, most drivers took a bit of care, and Peter drove.

Anyway, we arrived with only minor damage to the car spoiler, parked in a lay by, booted up, and set off.  
The start of our walk.  Eskdale, with the mighty Bowfell dead centre
The weather was brilliant, lovely and sunny.  The valley was lovely to walk along, with the river alongside us, and straight ahead, the imposing sight of Bowfell.  It was great to be there.
Bowfell is still ahead.  Lovely
And again.  Awesome

Looking back along the river Esk, to Kepple Crag I think
We happily strolled along, me taking pictures, Peter filming the waterfalls, until we got to Tongue Pot. Here, we saw a large group of teenagers with guides all dressed in wet suits and apparently working their way up the valley by climbing up the river and all its waterfalls. It looked fun.
Tongue Pot.  The water is so clear here.  A lovely spot. 
Then we noticed another group of 5 young men nearby.  These guys were not climbing the waterfalls; they were jumping from the cliffs alongside into the plunge pools below!  We stood and watched, amazed.   I tried to get a decent photograph, but this is the best I could do.
Tongue Pot Leap......... Crazy!
Then there was the little packhorse bridge, Lingcove Bridge and the lovely waterfall nearby.  We filmed and photographed, immersed in our surroundings, enjoying all the new and delightful sights around us.  The wetsuit brigade carried on up the river, we watched a little more and then walked on.
Lingcove Bridge 

Waterfall on Lingcove Beck, just beyond the packhorse bridge
A little bit of a climb next over Throstle Garth (sounds like the name of a bouncer!) and Throstlehow Crag following the River Esk up to Great Moss and Cam Spout Crag. 
I liked it there.  We were on a great flat plain surrounded by the Crags and Mountains of the Lakes.  It was a bit wet n boggy though, and we struggled to find a dry route through some patches. 
Looking across Eskdale, Scafell Pike looms ahead
We reached Cam Spout Crag and the How Beck Waterfalls and looked for a way to cross the river.  We missed the fording point, and wandered up and down for a few minutes trying to find a way over.  In the end, we decided to take our boots and socks off and paddle across.  It was only a few inches deep, and the water was very clear, easy to see what we would be standing on.
Peter went first.  “Oh, this is lovely” he said, with a few “oohs” and “ows” because of the sharp stones underwater.  He stepped on the other bank and turned round to watch me cross. 
I put one foot in the water……….. All the muscles in my toes, foot ankle and calf suddenly retracted in distaste…. 
I put the second foot in the water; my poor little feet and tootsies couldn’t tolerate it. They screamed in pain at the cold, “Oh My God……… It’s FLAMING FREEEZING!” I screeched at Peter, “How could you say this is lovely?”
I couldn’t stand it; I had to get out.  I stood on the bank glaring at Peter across the water.  How on earth was I going to get across? I walked barefoot up river, but couldn’t find a fording point.  I came back to the point where Peter was sat on the opposite bank.  I was not happy!
Peter in the meantime was completely stunned by my refusal to paddle across, completely bewildered, he tried to encourage me. “Here’s not so bad”, he said, “Or maybe this bit”…….. To me however, that water was so cold it hurt! But there was nothing for it, I had to go across. The water was so cold I couldn’t think about anything else, not even taking the next step ……………
I got to the bank and leapt out. We decide to sit, have a bite, and let our feet (and socks) dry in the sun. My feet throbbed at me in indignant recrimination, but eventually returned to their normal state and I was able to get my boots back on. Peter could not understand why I had turned into a big girls blouse and found it all so difficult. I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t? But we were done with that now, so what next?
The River Esk under Scafell Pike and Ill Crag.  Who'd have thought one little river could've caused so much noise
Fed and watered, our next challenge turned out to be the scramble up Cam Spout Crag alongside How Beck Waterfalls.  This was not necessarily what I thought we would be doing, but we were here now, and I do sort of like scrambling.  The waterfalls were really lovely; the top has a flow that looks like lightning streaks, and the bottom half gushes over in a torrent.  Wonderful.
Top section of How Beck Waterfall.
Lower How Beck Waterfall
The whole waterfall at Cam Spout Crag.  The section on the right is our scramble route up 
Up on top we started up the path towards Broad Stand. I looked up. I checked my GPS. I asked Peter what the time was. I looked up again.
Looking up to Scafell Pike from the top of How Beck Waterfall.
Looking over Eskdale
Our next problem was me.  I am very slow at getting up hills.  People tell me that I will get better the more I do, and this may be true.  But I am still slow at getting up them hills. Above us, there was over a mile in distance a very steep 1800ft ascent, and the time was 3:15pm.  We had been taking it easy and enjoying ourselves so much that we'd taken over 5 hours to get to where we were..  Now, if we were at the top, it would take us an absolute minimum of 3 hours to get back to the car, probably more.  Allowing for driving time to etc, that left just about an hour and a bit to get to the top and still be back to the Sticklebarn in time for a cooked meal
For many people, this would not be a problem, but I know how slow I am. I knew that if we went for it, we’d be lucky to get back to the car before it started to get dark.   Peter was more optimistic and I wanted to give it a go, but I didn’t want to risk us wandering around in the dark or, much more likely, to miss our supper.
The views from the highest point of our day
So, regretfully, we made the decision to turn and follow our planned route home.  This did mean we would have to climb down the Cam Spout scramble, (not something I wanted to do) but it’s all a learning curve isn’t it?
Looking back - Scafell Pike is still there behind us
It did take us over three hours to get back.  We arrived at the car at about 6.30pm and we took the rollercoaster back to Langdale.  Yes we were back in time for supper at the Sticklebarn, feeling a little bit disappointed, but  I wasn't going to give up that easy.
We checked out the maps and routes whilst waiting for our meals, and agreed that Coniston Old Man can wait.   The weather forecast wasn't brilliant and it would mean a bit of a drive from Langdale, but we decided to try again from Wasdale Head in the morning.
Scafell Pike here we come.......  (Take two).

Friday, 20 July 2012

A saunter along the water. Grasmere

Grasmere under a grey sky

Car’s packed, campsite’s booked, walking routes have been worked out and coffee’s drunk.  Time to set off for a short break in the Lake District.  We’d even got a little bit of sun organised.  How cool is that!

We knew the weather was going to be quite good today, so we decided to have stop for a little wander on the way.  Grasmere it is then.  A gentle walk to see the lake and maybe, if we were dead lucky, it would lie still enough for us to get a picture where a reflection off the water would be as clear as the sky and trees around it. This was not to be, but we did get loads of bonus sightings.
We started at the White Moss Car Park and not more than 5 minutes after we left the car we came across this lady and her fawns.  Surprisingly, she wasn’t the least bit bothered by the various walkers on the path nearby, it wasn't until a young child started crying out that the little family decided to leave.

And then there was more

Mallard, hoping, as all mallards do, that I have something tasty to share

Marsh Woundwort - I don't think I've seen it before

Looking across Grasmere
As we walked on, we heard the geese long before we saw them

They were joined by a single Greylag

Further treats included this Great Burnett, and more views over Grasmere

Until we'd completed our loop and got back to the car.  A really pleasant interlude before we continued on to Langdale where we have a new tent to try out.  We're quite excited about that..........

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Can I get to Penhill from Aysgarth?

I’d looked at the maps loads of times and wondered if a walk could be made up. Well I did manage one. Sort of. With hindsight, I could have come up with a better route, and I’ll know better next time. But this is about today's walk..
I met up with Yvonne and Ayesgarth Falls car park. We set off over the bridge past the Aysgarth High Force and the Old Mill on the other side. A fantastic start to the day.

The walk we'd planned is lovely. Through the fields, past the drying hay, through fields of sheep and fields of cows……….

Oh oh!  Did I say cows?  Cows can be scary. Mostly because they are bigger than us and a herd of them could gang up and chase us out of their field. (Unlikely, but it has happened), most walkers treat cows with trepidation..
But these cows didn’t really count as cows - they were only half as big as they should be. But that was more than big enough for Yvonne, who got nervous. “They’re following us!” she hissed, as she kept me between them and her. But the calves were just curious, following to see what we were doing and if we would feed them. To be honest they were quite sweet. Give them a few months though, and I think the story might be different.
We carried on, over the beck and through another field to be “greeted” by a pair of Oyster Catchers. Hmmmm, maybe “shouted at” is a better term. They were obviously trying to tell us something, like “gerrof my land”. They screeched, very loudly and very constantly at us. The sound was amplified around the valley to the point of almost hurting our ears. It didn’t stop until we got to the gate at the end of the field. I suffered it long enough to get some pictures though. Odd birds.

We quickly reached West Burton and admired the falls, which are always lovely. We both enjoyed the sound as much as the sight of the rushing water. It would be so easy to sit there all day despite the drizzle.

Chatting away, we followed the gentle slope up Morpeth Gate onto the farm track heading for Witton Steeps.

It was then the next fingerpost right and aim for the slope between Penhill and Black Hill Scars to get to the top of Penhill. There seem to be loads of paths up, but the obvious one follows a zig zagging gulley. Bits of this were quite steep, and we took several breather breaks on the way. And then we were up. It was very rewarding to hear Yvonne's “Oh Wow!” as she looked around. As I’ve said before, Penhill is not a very big hill, but because it stands out on its own you can see for miles. Looking North East, we could see the industrial chimneys of Middlesborough, Wensleydale and Coverdale were on either side of us, and all the hills of the Dales were behind.

We sat in the shelter of the beacon and watched a group of ponies play tig in the field below us as we ate our lunch. We were enjoying the scenery so much, we forgot to take photos, so I’ve added one from a previous walk.

So now it was time to go down. Like everyone before us, we took the most direct route straight down the slope in front of us, through the fields, this time with ponies, sheep and more cows, (but they stayed away from us), until we got to the road leading from West Witton to Melmerby.

A couple of lefts and we were back on the farm track we’d walked along earlier, but further up. The intention was to follow it until a right turn that would lead us down to Templar farm, but we missed the track, mostly because it wasn’t marked as a footpath/bridleway I think. But the sun had come out so it didn’t matter. We got some lovely views of the Dales, and a photo of Bolton Castle in the distance.

We got back to Morpeth Gate again decided back track to our intended route by walking along Spring Bank to the remains of the Knights Templar Preceptory. This place always conjures up romantic images for me. I think of Indiana Jones, where the Knights guarded the Holy Grail, and other stories. Reading up on them, I found out they were a very real order of fighting Christian Knights who gave up their wealth and fought for the Catholic Church during the Crusades. A whole religious sect grew up around them until the reigning orders of the time (in debt to them), realised how powerful they were and turned viciously against them, charging them with crimes from fraud to heresy. Despite the Popes attempts to protect them, many were executed until they were disbanded 1314, 200 years after the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon were first set up to protect Pilgrims on route to Jerusalem. Wiki - Knights Templar & A bit more of their history
So, as I said, this place always interests me. As a Preceptory, it would have been a headquarters of the local group. Apparently, there is more under the grassy tussocks, which explains why the bit we can see is very small.

So, now we’re back on track, it’s down to Temple Farm. Passing it we found more mud than on any other walk I have ever been on. As we tried to find a way through, it became obvious that there wasn’t one (not from where I was standing anyway – Yvonne found a drier place). So I just splodged through the ankle deep water logged mess hoping my boots would hold out. They didn’t quite. Smelly wet socks. Eeeugh!
A bit a road walking, then down to River Ure to walk along the South Bank back to Ayesgarth. The river is just wonderful here, but by now we were pretty tired, (we’d added a couple of miles during our detour), and any intention of visiting the waterfalls from the North bank had been worn away from our weary minds as we finally reached the car park.

Turns out we’d walked 13 miles and taken about 7 ½ hours to do it. We did stop a lot though, and the GPS tracked us at about 2.3 miles an hour when we were actually walking, so we didn’t do that badly.
So that’s the furthest in distance that I’ve ever walked. Pleased with that. And the walk, but next time I’ll investigate a better route. Once again thank you to Yvonne for being very excellent company.