Sunday, 27 February 2011

Best of 2010 Part 4 - Showing Mungrisdale Common a bit of love

One of my last walks before starting my new job was a late Autumns walk in the Northern Fells. I had intended to hike up Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags. It was such a perfect day - there was a slight chill in the air but stepping up the pace a little meant that it wasn't cold. There was absolutely no-one around - the whole day I saw two ladies with a dog, and one lone fell runner.

Bowscale Fell summit

Having made the summit of Bowscale Fell in good time, I decided to push on and have a wander over Mungrisdale Common. Seeing as this fell gets more or less universally slated by all and sundry, including Alfred Wainwright describing its "natural attractions are of a type that appeals only to sheep" I decided if I was on a mission to tick off Wainwrights here was an opportunity to get Mungrisedale out of the way without dragging anyone else up this sorry fell.

Mungrisdale Common

Well having made the admittedly rather dull walk to the "summit" (again admittedly rather dull), I stopped for a breather, and decided I have a soft spot for this little unloved patch of Lakeland. It has a great view of the back of Blencathra, views of the Skiddaw Fells, and a view of the "back o' both" which are similarly often overlooked.

I stood on the upturned bowl that is Mungrisedale Common, and it was my friend for the day.
I had plenty of work cut out for myself afterwards - the only sensible way back to the car was to go via Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags, with more than doubled my planned route. Blame Mungrisedale for tempting me away! The route up from Mungrisedale Common to Blencathra was easy work, especially as I was protected from the howling wind that day - no wonder I saw no-one risking Sharp Edge in those conditions.

the white cross on Blencathra
Once I came around Foule Crag all of a sudden the wind was in my face and it was hard going - I even took my glasses off for fear they would get blown off! The summit of Blencathra was deserted which must have been a rarity. I did spot someone in the distance but that was it. Unfortunately the conditions meant you could not really enjoy the quiet.

Blencathra summit looking along Gategill Fell towards Derwentwater

So a few minutes later I was headed back down towards Bannerdale Crags. I wasn't until I was well off the tops that the winds died down and I settled down for a quick bite to eat and a view back up at Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra.

Blencathra from Bannerdale Crags

From there it was a very pleasant walk back down past Souther Fell back to the quiet village of Mungrisdale. A perfect day out!

arriving back at Mungrisdale village

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Walking - taking control

One of the things I love about walking - it's about taking back control of your life.

With society and entertainment being more and more regulated, hemmed in and organised, walking is a fantastic way of taking back a little space for yourself. No-one tells you where to go and how you do it is left up to you. Not to mention that it's free! Not many other activities or sports can offer the same. It brings all participants down to the same level and provides a common platform for people of all backgrounds to stop and say hello.

Some of the best walks I have done have come from meeting someone on a fell and getting a recommendation concerning the route ahead - warning of boggy sections, advising of a view worth taking it - all from strangers who had no vested interest in sharing knowledge. In how many other arenas does this take place I wonder?

The Lake District seems to have an effect of people, and being out on the Fells appears to bring out the better side of human nature. Long may this continue.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

My Wainwrights Pages

Finally I am happy to tell you that the My Wainwrights pages have been completed and uploaded here for you to check out. I have created a page for each of AW's pictorial guides so you can follow my progress (or lack of at times) as I walk my way through the list. As you can see I am still definitely a beginner, but the good news is there is a huge range of source material for future posts and pictures.

The more observant among you will notice I am using Chris Jesty's revised editions. I appreciate and admire the original works but seeing as my sense of direction can do awry at the best of times, I didn't fancy the added challenge of using the Wainwright original out on the fells. I think Chris has done a great job with his work, making the new guides as useful today as when AW created the originals. He has his own style which comes through here and there but I think this is a more legitimate path to take rather than trying copying the original.s

There is still some work to be done with the pages, I will be adding links from the fell names to relevant posts as and when I conquer them, as well as posting more links to walks I have already done. Please click on the linked pages in the top right corner to see more!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A visit to Jennings brewery in Cockermouth in Summer 2009

On a week long visit to the Lakes there's sure to be at least one day when the feet are too sore to drag you over another set of fells. Seeing as crag rat Rainer isn't too keen on paddling about on Derwentwater we went for another kind of day out that is sure to make your mouth water - a visit to the Jennings brewery in Cockermouth.

To start with the bus journey was worthwhile in itself, giving us good views of the fells Back'o Skiddaw as well as across the lake to Barf, Lord's Seat and co. After a short wander around Cockermouth we returned to the brewery just in time for the tour. To say that the rest of the tour visitors were a bunch of oddballs is putting it mildly. Then again they are probably saying the same about us so there you go. We got to taste and smell the hops and barley in raw state, and see the brewing process from start to finish.

The brewery itself is a fine old building and it was a pleasure to walk around knowing that they had been brewing from that location for over 130 years. The location of the brewery between the two rivers Derwent and Cocker was perfect too, although this was unfortunately not the case when the flooding hit Cockermouth in 2009. I was glad to read that the brewery quickly recovered and with the addition of a tea room I'm sure the brewery experience is better than ever.

The best was saved til last, when we entered the brewery's own pub, The Old Cooperage.The tour promised two half pint samples of Jennings' finest, but luck was on our side and Claire, Rainer and I were not only treated to three each, but I was also able to man the pumps myself and pull some drinks, great stuff.

I was saddened to read about the flood damage suffered by the town of Cockermouth, and on my next visit in Summer 2010 evidence of the events was still clearly visible. Also visible was the resilience of the local folk and their ability to get on with things. Claire and I participated in the small way we could, working as volunteers at the Cock Rock festival which raised money for Cockermouth Mountain Rescue.

So if you are in the Lakes on a rainy day, or your feet are complaining about yet another fell excursion, a trip to  the Jennings brewery comes highly recommended.

FOOTNOTE: I received an email from Jennings saying they enjoyed this blog, so there you go, recommendation can hardly come from higher!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Cauldron Snout & Cow Green Reservoir

Once again I decided to abandon my self imposed Winter walking exile with a trip out to Upper Teesdale. I had only been to the area once before when Claire took me up to High Force. Reading Pennine Way guides and seeing photos meant this was an area well worth exploring and having seen pictures on the excellent MyWainwrights website  I decided to make a quick Winter expedition. Teesdale really has some gorgeous scenery and once I hit Middleton-in-Teesdale I was in my element. I parked up on the minor road leading to Cow Green reservoir and headed out on the farm track towards the Tees and the Pennine Way.

Cronkley Scar loomed ahead of me and soon I reached the water and followed the Tees as it meandered its way upwards. The two and a half miles up to Cauldron Snout were stunning, with snowy fells in the distance and the river flowing beside me.

It was a scene of complete tranquility as there was absolutely no one else around and it was only the footprints in the ice that gave any indication that other people had recently followed the same path.
The bend in the path means that you have no advance warning, and then all of a sudden you are confronted with Cauldron Snout waterfall.

Somehow all of a sudden my solitary walk was over, as there were a dozen or so people at the waterfall.
It was in full flow with the water crashing down the rocks. The rocks close to the water were covered in ice and although it was tempting to get closer to the edge I didn't particularly fancy a swim today. There were some spectacular ice crystals decorating the hardy flora.

It was too cold to hang around for too long, so I headed upwards to the ugly Cow Green reservoir dam. Once I reached the reservoir though it was a great sight, the water was covered with ice and the snow covered fells gave the scene real atmosphere.

The sky was colourful and it was hard to keep walking instead of stopping every two minutes to gaze out over the water. The visibility was quite hazy so I couldn't quite make out the high Pennine fells up to Cross Fell that lay somewhere across the reservoir.

I followed the reservoir road for a couple of miles before reaching the road that led back to my parking place. The sun was slowly setting and the combination of sunshine and cloud was creating a million photo opportunities.

Unfortunately my batteries were more or less dead so I had to point and hope, but I think the pictures have come out very well. A walk I'm looking forward to repeating.

Best of 2010 Part Three - Buttermere to Keswick via six fells

Whiteless Pike  -  Wandope  -  Eel Crag  -  Sail  -  Scar Crags  -  Causey Pike

This was a walk which really bumped up the Wainwright count! We caught the bus from Booths in Keswick which was a journey worth doing in itself, taking in the Borrowdale Valley, Honister Pass and Buttermere.
We set off right away, as the planned route ahead meant it was a long way to go to refreshments at the Swinside Inn. We started off with a pleasant walk through woodland, gradually ascending and with Sail Beck flowing alongside. We soon left the shade and hit the open fellside, onwards and upwards. It was very tempting to stop and look backwards, as the views over Buttermere and Crummock Water opened up.

Close to the summit we got our first real views of what lay ahead as we could see Wandope and the ridge that curled round over to Eel Crag, with Causey Pike looking decidedly distant behind.

We reached the summit sooner than expected - Whiteless Pike was slightly unusual in that we didn't nearly get to the top half a dozen times only to see slightly higher ground ahead. It was a great place to stop for a drink and sandwich, with views stretching behind us over the Lakes and over to the likes of Pillar and Great Gable beyond.

The route up to Wandope was obvious, and steep! Crag rat Rainer made a detour to go and check out Thirdgill Head Man, leaving Claire and I to head straight for the summit of Wandope. At this point I was really enjoying the ridge walk, having done the hard work getting up Whiteless Pike we were faced with pleasant walking that was non too strenuous, but incredibly rewarding with the views.

The view ahead revealed the easy walk across to Eel Crag, following the rim of a large crater, crossing the path that seemed more popular than our chosen route, taking other walkers across to Grasmoor. Stopping briefly at the huge summit to take in some views, we soon headed onwards towards Sail.

Well as described by AW, Sail was singularly unspectacular. Not offensive in any way, but more like an afterthought piled onto the path from Eel Crag to Causey Pike.

The ridge lead us onto and over Scar Crags, which again was pleasant enough but no more. The ridge itself made for interesting walking as it got rather narrow in places.

From Eel Crag onwards, the views had extended eastwards, opening up Keswick and Derwent Water, with Skiddaw and Blencathra distant. As we marched onwards, Keswick grew closer and we were able to pick out familiar spots in the Newlands Valley ahead too.

From Scar Crags we headed onto our final fell of the day, Causey Pike. I was looking forward to this, with Causey Pike prominent in views from Keswick, lined up alongside Catbells looking like its larger cousin. The summit was deceptive approaching from the west it was not immediately apparent which was the distinctive knobbly summit. Also not apparent coming that was was just how steep the descent was.

After a long walk the descent was hard work on the knees. By then though Newlands Valley was stretched out ahead of us, and with sghts set on the the little hill of Swinside and the pun of the same name now not fat away, the final couple of miles were easy going. The motivation to carry on to Keswick after a Deuchers IPA or two, that was another matter....

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

My brother's prizewinning picture

My brother recently entered a photo competition and did rather well. Its a great picture so I asked him if I could share it on here. Here is his picture along with a description. Thanks and well done Ol!

"I was walking home one evening in the autumn and the park opposite my house (Highbury Fields) was shrouded in a really thick fog that I hadn’t ever seen in central London before. It seemed to cling to the trees and the light from the street lamps was made a particularly interesting hazy orange colour because of the mist. I decided to grab my camera and take a few shots. I placed my camera on the ground as I wanted the picture to be as still as possible and also wanted to include a few fallen autumnal leaves to capture the time of year. There was a suspicious fox that nearly came into shot but disappeared at the last minute. "