Thursday, 28 July 2011

High Force

Whilst on our way to show visiting relatives some hot spots of the Dales we decided on the spur of the moment to shift our attention to the North Pennines and headed over through Middleton-in-Teesdale over to High Force. This is always a spectacular spot especially combined with joining the Pennine Way for a mile or two of pleasant walking.

Having parked up at the High Force hotel, we avoided the tourist route to the viewing platform, following a steep footpath down through the woods that brings you out onto a pasture on the banks of the Tees. The scent of wild garlic was still there at a couple of spots, last time I was there the woodland floor was covered.

This is a little paradise for rabbits, we saw large groups of them playing in the grass. We crossed the river at the footbridge to join the Pennine Way on the other side of the river.

This is a lovely walk in itself, the well maintained path flanked by numerous juniper and blackberry bushes. As the path climbed, the sound of the falls got louder and after a short climb we found our way to the viewing area. High Force is always a bit of a showstopper and even when you know what to expect it is still a spectacular sight. We paused here for a while to take pictures and enjoy the atmosphere.

From here it is a short walk upwards until you reach the top of the falls, and can see the water cascading down past you over the layers of rock that make up the unique rock face.

The river above the falls is rugged and it is a great view looking upstream towards Cronkley Fell. It isn't too far from here up to Cauldron Snout and Cow Green reservoir which i visited early in the year.

With the usual time constraints we headed back the way we came, leaving the other walks to be had in the area for another time.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Ruins and Rivers - Easby and Egglestone Abbeys

Driving around the region takes you by countless remnants of times gone by - ruined castles at Richmond, Barnard Castle and Brough, former mining buildings such as Crackpot Hall up in Swaledale and collapsed buildings such as the lavishly named Ravock Castle high on Bowes Moor. There is also plenty evidence of monastic life remaining and I recently explored a couple of these sites - Egglestone Abbey near Barnard Castle and Easby Abbey near Richmond.

Both are ruined Premonstratensian Abbeys, founded in the 12th Century. The monks wore white habits and became to be know as White Canons, living a lifestyle similar to that of Cistercian monks. Within 15 miles of each other, the two abbeys were to suffer a similar fate. Ultimately brought to closure and abandonment by Henry VIII's dissolution, they also both suffered heavily from Scottish raids as well as at the hands of the English army.

Today both sites are managed by the English Heritage.

Egglestone Abbey church

I made an unscheduled visit to Egglestone Abbey, whilst on the way to High Force. The site lays on the Teesdale Way and there was no shortage of walkers passing. I think before long I will be doing a section of this walk heading from here to Cotherstone via Barnard Castle - watch this space...

Egglestone Abbey occupies a great spot, a short distance from the southern bank of the Tees, nestled between hills and fields. The ruins are fairly spectacular and it is amazing how much of the stonework has survived. The site is well preserved with a number of graves and tombstones still intact and some stonework on the ground giving you an impression of how the buildings might once have been.

Egglestone Abbey dayrooms with dormitory above

Leaving the Tees, we now head over to Swaledale and Easby Abbey, just outside of Richmond.

Having visited Easby Abbey a few years ago, it was a pleasant surprise to find that there were many new information boards dotted around the site explaining what all the buildings originally were.

You can do a very pleasant circular walk from Richmond, I started at the station and followed the footpath along the old railway line for a mile or so. This takes you along rural Richmond, and shortly you catch glimpses of Easby Abbey between the trees to your left. Coming up to the river Swale you may have to hold your nose for a short distance as you go past the sewage works - depending on the direction the wind is blowing...this is one of the few moments that having a blocked nose worked to my advantage.

You get a great view of the river from the bridge before following a woodland path for the remaining distance to Easby, coming out of the woods just before St. Agatha's Church church and with the Abbey nestled behind the church. It is a huge site, and must have been very impressive when it was standing. You can walk all around the site and as I mentioned there is a lot of information available.

The return section of the walk goes through a field before rejoining the woodland path along the river, coming into Richmond passing the Drummer Boy Stone. You can read about the legend of the drummer boy here.
This is a very enjoyable walk with a good variety of things to see and visit in a few short miles.

the Drummer Boy Stone

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Catbells - looking back on my first Fell

"No Keswick holiday is consummated without a visit to Catbells" - A.Wainwright

Not the first fell I attempted, but Catbells was the first Lakeland mountain that myself and crag rat Rainer successfully conquered. Yes, it's far from being the biggest of the bunch, but Catbells has a charm of its own and despite being hugely popular, you still get a sense of being away from it all.

It's not as easy as you might think - there is a small scramble and a couple of spots where some effort is required. It was also my introduction to that popular Lakeland trick of thinking you are just about to reach the summit when the next ridge apears beyond. Catbells does this a couple of times to you.

Situated close enough to Keswick, Catbells offers many options. It can be climbed on its own, or as part of the Newlands Horseshoe, or as a longer walk from Keswick - the walk through Portinscale and Swinside on the way is well worth doing - watch this space for a description of that walk coming soon. and you can make it an adventure by including a boat trip across Derwentwater on one of the Keswick cruises from Keswick to Hawes End.

Catbells from across Derwentwater
The views from Catbells are just spectacular and make this such a popular fell. You can look northwards over the vale of Keswick and over to Bassenthwaite Lake.

Looking north to Bassenthwaite Lake

Turning around you can across Derwentwater to see Keswick nestled at the top of the lake, with the mountains of the Skiddaw range creating the perfect backdrop.

looking down back along Catbells to the Northern Fells
Across the Lake you can see the fells of Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell and looking down along Borrowdale you can see Castle Crag and the lush valley.

the view along Borrowdale
Having said that is has it's tougher moments, this really is a fell for everyone. We have seen people of all ages going up and down Catbells, one of the most memorable being a young girl asking her mother where the McDonalds was. No, I didn't make that up.

the view opposite Catbells from the camping barn
With one of my favourite bases for the north western Lakes being the camping barn  at Skelgill farm on the flanks of Catbells, this is a fell and area I'll be visiting time and time again.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Blencathra via Sharp Edge

Recounting a walk I did a while ago...enjoy!

This is one of the Lakeland classics. Sharp Edge is a name that commands a certain degree of respect. As Wainwright himself put it; 

"the crest itself is sharp enough for shaving ... and can be traversed only à cheval at some risk of damage to tender parts."

So of course it was that route that crag rat Rainer and myself decided to have a go at. After nearly a week's worth of tough walking, maybe we should have set our sights a little lower but what the hell, when you have flown a thousand miles to come to the Lakes for a precious few days, what's the odd blister or ten between friends?
We walked from Keswick to Scales and that in itself is a pleasant walk, along the old railway path via Threlkeld.

Easy section over with, we headed up the side of the fell behind Scales, heading onwards and upwards. It was quite amazing how the sounds of civilisation and the A66 all but disappeared once we headed round thr ridge onto the path that follows the River Glenderamackin.

We puffed and panted our way up to Scales Tarn in the blazing heat and marveled at the fell-runners who flew effortlessly by.

Scales Tarn really is the perfect picnic spot, as you might expect with this location on a sunny Summer day, we weren't alone but it was still very serene. As we were sat there - as if to top the fell runners - a man ran up to the tarn, jumped right in, swam across then scrambled up the side of Sharp Edge!

Sarnies and cherries finished we headed up onto Sharp Edge.

And, it certainly is sharp - and a great experience despite getting quite giddy looking at the ground drop away either side of you.

The adrenaline was flowing and it was great fun.
What I didn't realise was that Sharp Edge was the easy bit! Immediately after you've crossed the Edge the scamble up Foule Crag and that was real hard work.

The scramble was over before long, and the plateau or Saddle of the summit was reached. We had been up Skiddaw the day before to be surrounded by cloud but this time we were lucky to have a massive view over Lakeland and beyond. Blencathra benefits from its commanding position, not to mention the mass of information Wainwright dedicates to this Fell in his Pictorial Guide to The Northern Fells.

Our descent took us down the more eastern facing flank of the fell, down towards the Blencathra Centre. We then retraced our steps back to the welcoming pubs of Keswick. Definitely one to repeat!