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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kinder in Spring

Walking with; Nobody

After the trials and tribulations of a windswept Lake District last week it felt good to be back on familiar ground and to, maybe, just maybe, see Spring finally beginning to stir. Kinder is my "go to" hill, close enough to have a long day out and sleep in my own bed, and yet, wild enough to feel like a proper adventure and different every time I visit.
I set off from Barber Booth, one of a string of hamlets that make up Edale, and followed the River Noe, enjoying the daffodils and budding trees, until I reached Upper Booth Farm. The path follows Crowden Brook through a wooded vale before bringing you out at the foot of Crowden Clough with Crowden Towers and the Kinder edge towering over head. It was a pleasant climb, the gradient rises (for the most part) gently and there was a cooling breeze, none-the-less by the time I'd scrambled up to the foot of the Towers I'd worked up a sweat and an appetite! As I sat and ate the first half of my lunch, I saw my first Swallow of the year, a harbinger of Spring if ever there was one. The good weather had bought out quite a few walkers so I decided to leave the edge and head into the peaty heartland of the massif intent on doing a little "nav work". It was hard work, in and out of groughs and bashing through the heather, but as well as reaching my eventual goal of Crowden Head, I put up a few Grouse, spied a solitary Curlew and managed to come to the aid of a compass-less father and son who'd strayed a little off route......all part of the service!
Another session of cross-Kinder yomping bought me out at Kinder Low and then onto Edale Rocks for the second half of my lunch and some truly superb views down the valley and across to the Great Ridge. My knees didn't fancy Jacob's Ladder so after a brief consultation with my map I continued on to Brown Knoll, detouring to examine the sparse remains of another WW2 plane crash that lay on the Eastern side of the hill. The tops of Brown Knoll reminded me of Black Hill, peat and vast expanses of pale grass waving in the breeze. I located the memorial cairn of John Charles Gilligan complete with the classic biblically inspired walker's epitaph, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills........." before contouring round Horsehill Tor and dropping back into the valley. The last quarter mile or so had plenty of Spring lambs and that, as well as the Swallow and budding Hawthorns made me optimistic that Spring may finally have made it as far as the Peak District, fingers crossed!

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Friday, April 19, 2013

A wet, wild and windy Lakeland trip

Walking with; Nobody

Illness had followed injury and I was itching to get out again and try the knee on something other than the grey, rain slick pavements of South Manchester. In my excitement I decided to dig out the tent and make it the first night under "canvas" of the year........hmmmmm, perhaps a more than cursory glance at the weather forecast might have been an idea! I reached Buttermere over the Honister Pass and after setting up camp decided a gentle perambulation round the lake followed by a couple of restorative pints in "The Fish" might be a decent way to ensure no knee niggles remained. The water was coursing down Sour Milk Gill, but the clouds remained high and I could see across to Grasmoor and, up the lake, Fleetwith Pike. The circuit is a gentle, undemanding stroll, popular with dog walkers and families, but it felt good to be out again and Spring, in the shape of lambs, catkins, budding Hawthorn and flocks of finches chattering away, was very much in evidence. "The Fish" was disappointingly unatmospheric for such an historic inn, once home to the "Maid of Buttermere", Mary Robinson, subject of a Melvyn Bragg novel and mentioned in Wordsworth's "Prelude". "The Bridge" sadly was little better so I retreated to my tent with my trangia and a bottle of Hesketh Newmarket beer.
3am, my Vango Banshee 200 finally gave in after five hours of manfully battling gusts of  upto 70mph and torrential rain, with a pop, the poles bent and I awoke to a faceful of wet the car for three hours of fitful sleep as the gales howled around me. The advantage of being fully clothed and awake at 6am is that you're pretty sure to be first out on the fells, so bleary eyed I headed towards the Scales Bridge and Crummock Water, keeping a half shut weather eye on the inky black clouds adorning the top of Fleetwith Pike. I passed Scale Force and rounded the end of Mellbreak into Mosedale and after reaching the famous Holly Tree (even marked and mentioned on the OS map), it was a steep slog straight up to follow the ridge to the accepted summit on the Southern end. The wind on the top was vicious and it was head down and across to the Northern end (putting up a Snipe on the way) for fine views across to Lorton Vale and where I was able to watch a Peregrine playing in the wind and spectacular sheets of spray coming off Crummock Water. The path down was a cross between a goat path and scree slope but I made it down to St Bartholomew's at Loweswater and enjoyed a bit of RNR in the crocus and daffodil studded graveyard, glad to be out of the wind and imagining how tough life must have been for the Yeomans buried in family plots dotted between the flowers. Standing on the shores of Crummock Water was like facing an Atlantic gale, the wind was whipping across the water and as well as the spray, waves were crashing onto the shore, I'm not sure I've ever seen bigger waves on a Lake District water. I ended my walk by following the path up Rannerdale below Whiteless Pike before dropping down into Buttermere.
A night in the YHA in Keswick was more restful than the previous one, even if my dorm mate bore a startling resemblance to Charles Manson, in not only appearance, but, more alarmingly, behaviour! The morning, however, dawned wet and windy and I decided my old nemesis Skiddaw might not be such a great idea under the circumstances. Instead I headed off to Grange and decided to take on High Spy. In spite of the sheets of rain and gale force gusts, the scramble/clamber up Nitting Haws was great fun, the slopes cloaked with Juniper, Silver Birch and Holly and by the time I reached the plateau at the top of the falls I was really enjoying myself. As I edged up towards the summit ridge the wind suddenly intensified and by the time I reached the summit cairn I could barely stand and my face was being battered by needle sharp arrows of rain being driven across the ridge. It was not a time to be hanging around and, head down, I scuttled off towards the shelter of the old quarry works at Rigghead as fast as I could. Arriving once more on the Allerdale Ramble I met my first other walkers of the day, hardy souls that they were, before route marching back to the car, dumping my wet clothes in the boot and heading off to Tebay services for sustenance as fast as my Ford Focus could carry me!

To view the full album please click on the link below;

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Aira Force and Dockray

Walking with; Rich

After a couple of weeks of indolence as a result of a rugby obtained knee injury it felt good to be out and about even on the gentlest of ambles. I was in the Lakes on a stag do staying at the fantastically appointed Blencathra Centre, in the shadow of the eponymous hill and with magnificent vistas of snow capped peaks. The stag and less injured parties were off scrambling in ghylls and via ferrata-ing, so it was left to me and Rich (hobbled by a hip injury) to enjoy a perambulation of a less demanding sort.
  Wordsworth writes in his poem "The Somnambulist", "Wild stream of Aira, hold thy course" and the falls are mentioned in two further works of his. They are certainly a popular spot and easily accessible from the Ullswater road. The name is believed to come from the Nordic "eyrara" meaning "gravel-bank stream" with the word force (or sometimes foss) being a commonly used term for waterfall. The land is now owned by the National Trust but was developed as a pleasure garden by the Howard family in the eighteenth century who landscaped the area around their hunting lodge. The two bridges are dedicated to members of the Spring-Rice family and are popular photo spots.
Our car park provided good views of Ullswater and the snowy hills beyond and we descended the gentle path through the pine arboretum before crossing the stream and climbing slowly up the other side of the valley.  The view of the falls from below is spectacular and was enhanced by the icicles and frozen spray decorating the surrounding rocks. We continued, following the river, until we eventually reached the tiny hamlet of Dockray for a pint of "hair of the dog" in the very attractive "Royal Hotel". It was a simple matter of following the road back to the car then and whilst four ambled miles might not represent my most challenging walk, it felt could to be back out in the countryside once more, and even more pleasingly, the knee held up pretty well!

To view the full album please click on the link below;