Friday, 21 December 2012

Great Mell Fell

It has to be said that Great Mell Fell is probably one of the less loved fells. It sits right on the edge of Lakeland and will be a known sight to most of you coming into the Lakes - when you come in from the east past Penrith, it is the first prominence that you see past the Pennines. Of course by this point the eyes are more likely to be drawn to Blencathra and the promise of bigger and wilder walks beyond, but still Great Mell Fell sits there beckoning.

Its position means it is an ideal stop off for a quick walk on the way home. A quick walk it indeed is as you can be up and back down having paused to take in the views within a couple of hours no problem. I can think of a number of reasons why people don't rate this as a classic fell, after all, it's not massively challenging, with no scrambles to trouble you. It also stands on its own with no ridge route to adjacent fells, and it's summit is not the most spectacular one I have visited.

But it does have a lot to offer of its own right. Perhaps the above facts mean that it is a less popular fell, so when the crowds head to the Catbells, Skiddaws and Castle Crags of this part of the world, this is probably the place to head for a quieter walk.

The scenery is quite different to most of Lakeland too, offering woods and moorland walking as you make your way up the fell. Best of all are the views that Great Mell Fell offer. From its isolated position you get a fantastic view of Blencathra, neighbouring Little Mell Fell and over towards the Dodds as well as the Far Eastern Fells beyond Ullswater and beyond. So for a little fell this really does have a lot to offer.

Our walk took us up and down along the same path, starting from the track at Brownrigg Farm. We headed up on the woodland path that eventually takes you around the periphery of the fell, before heading upwards over a stile. Here the walk takes you along a gnarled and windswept scenery and you are left wondering how and why some of the trees here are still standing, bent double as they are.

The path is simple enough to follow and without many natural obstacles all you need to do is head upwards. The ascent reminded me of my visit to Binsey, climbing steadily up a wide grassy plain. As always - the higher up, the greater the views and the big reward here was hitting the brow of the fell and seeing the vista open up towards Blencathra.

After a short pause to take in the summit views we took the same route back down to the car, glad to have discovered this quiet and pleasant part of Lakeland.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


Once again recovery from my breakage places the bigger and more challenging fells out of bounds. It also really puts into perspective just how some things that we tend to take for granted are impossible for millions of others.

Latrigg is interesting for me in this case as it is "wheelchair accessible", with a new path running from the car park at the end of Gale Road to the fell top. I would suggest that even with the new footpath, as with all fells this is no stroll in the park and of course basic precautions and safety measures need to be followed.

Latrigg nestled in front of Skiddaw in the distance

Rather than taking the same path up and down from Keswick we approached the fell from the east, having previously visited Castlerigg Stone Circle. The crossing of the A66 is made safe by an underpass and this takes you to the excellent path that follows the former rail lines from Keswick to Scales, more or less following the path of the river Greta.

After following the railpath back towards Keswick a short while, we turned up the narrow valley that separates Latrigg and Lonscale Fell from the slopes of Blencathra. This is a steep picturesque little farm road that rises above Glenderaterra Beck until it reaches Lonscale Farm.

Pretty soon we headed off the road and onto the open fell. We had big open views of the Skiddaw range right before us and looking over towards the North Western Fells which revealed themselves a little more with every step and altitude gained. Once we reached the crest the ascent, Keswick was revealed in all its glory beneath us in spectacular fashion. From there is was a simple case of finding a comfortable bit of ground to sit on and enjoy the view whilst eating our pasties. Yet another perfect picnic spot!

Pasties and drinks consumed and full of fresh air, we continued along the path that curves around the summit of Latrigg. This is indeed a well managed path that eventually takes you back to the car park. We turned off the path and onto the Cumbria Way. This took us back down the wooded lower slopes giving us very picturesque views across the Vale of Keswick through the trees.

Eventually we crossed the A66 on the bridge at the interestingly named Spoony Green Lane which brought us back into Keswick and a welcome cup of tea and piece of cake in the Lakeland Pedlar.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Hundredth Post

I was just doing a little bit of tidying up in the admin section here when I noticed that I now have 99 live posts on the blog, so I thought I'd use post number 100 to say a big thank you to all of you that keep coming back to visit.

The Lakes

My readership is going up and up and it is a huge encouragement to keep going. Of course it's not just about numbers but the main thing is quality and I hope that your return visits means that you are enjoying the walks, thoughts and opinions I write on here not to mention the photos of our fantastic countryside.

The Dales

I live in a great part of the world, being in close proximity to the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District - not much chance of getting bored around here!

North York Moors

So once again, here's to you, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the next 100, cheers!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Changing Landscape

Isn't it funny whe you refer to something as being "as old as the hills" and well - what if the hills aren't as old as they seem? The landscape around us is constantly changing, and not just with the spread of urban development.

Cow Green reservoir

I thought of today's post when I had a look through a 1966 booked by Alan P. Binns entitles "Walking The Pennine Way" that my dad kindly sent to me.

When I turned to the map showing the section from Langdon Beck to Dufton I wondered where on earth Cow Green reservoir had gone?!  Of course the reservoir was only created from 1967 to 1971 hence it not appearing on the map. Similarly the reservoirs around Baldersdale, much maligned by Alfred Wainwright on his Pennine journey were being created as the author here writes,

 "You may be confused here as a new reservoir has been made to the west of Birk Hat and is not shown on the seventh edition of the O.S. map." (referring to the 1 in. O.S. Sheet 84, Teesdale)

Pretty much all of my favourite walking places have been created as a result of man's intervention on the landscape. Roseberry Topping in the North York Moors owes its unique silhouette to a collapse of its summit in 1912. This has been partly attributed to ironstone and alum mining activity that was taking place at the time.

Roseberry Topping

The mining industry of time gone by has also had an incredible impact - Swaledale has been scarred by its leadmining past and coppermines have been bored through the fells of the Coniston range in Southern Lakeland like holes in a Swiss cheese.

old mine entrance on Coniston

I think that man will never truly conquer nature - when mankind moves along having exhausted the mines or found another project to work on - slowly the landscape is reclaimed by the flora and fauna. Even features which are plonked onto the landscape become an integral part of the countryside and even enhance the experience - such as when the breathtaking Ribblehead viaduct comes into sight when walking in the Limestone Country in the Dales

Ribblehead Viaduct

I suppose man's impact on the landscape is always going to be a hotly debated issue, such as the arguments raging up and down the country concerning the impact wind farms have on the countryside. But it is interested to see how the industrial marks of one era become the listed buildings and sites of historic interest for the next.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Castlerigg Stone Circle

If there is one list that will probably never be exhausted, it is "Things to do in the Lake District". Quite often it's the cause of a bit of a dilemma - on a quick weekend in the Lakes you want to cram in as much as you can, but you also don't want to rush things! Fell walking shouldn't really be rushed as there is always so much to take in, but sometimes time is a luxury you don't have.

My recent broken ankle has put paid to strenuous walks for the future months, but this has given me a chance to look at some of the walks that might get overlooked. This time around I made a trip to Castlerigg Stone Circle - one which has long been on the list. I originally visited Castlerigg back on my first visit to the Lake District with Crag Rat Rainer. Back then we weren't particularly in tune with navigation and so we chose short walks, relying on 50p leaflets from the Moot Hall. Well times may have changed and a leaflet will now set you back 95p, but the fells, lakes and sights are all still there.

Setting off from Keswick along the road towards woods surrounding Brockle Beck we were immediately rewarded with views of Derwentwater and the Newlands fells across the lake, these views just got better and better with every step upwards.

As with lots of the walks around Keswick this one offers plenty of variety. After pausing to say hello to the friendly highland cattle at Springs Farm we took the path heading up through the woods, before heading out across the fields behind Castlerigg campsite. I was surprised to see a fair amount of tents and caravans out in mid October!

From here there were great views over towards the Dodds and the Helvellyn range, and back over to Latrigg and the Skiddaw fells.

After crossing the A591 we headed along a little lane, with the stone circle not yet visible but just beyond. The views here were beautifully framed by the great bulk of Blencathra in the distance.
Soon enough the stile in the stone wall pointed towards the stones, and finally we had arrived at Castlerigg Stone Circle.

I guess you have to arrive either very early or very late to have the place to yourself, but when we arrived there were only a couple of people there. You would have thought that the handful of souls there would have a bit of consideration for the views and pictures that the others wanted to take, but one person evidently thought he was the only one in the world, and stood in the centre of the stones for an eternity, seemingly oblivious of the others stood not far away waiting patiently for him to move. Grrr!

Castlerigg is a pretty enchanting place, perched away from civilisation just far enough from Keswick to make it feel like it inhabits a world of its own. It occupies a beautiful platform stuck between various groups of fells and as well as offering amazing views it is a great place to be.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Eccup Reservoir, Yorkshire

Nestled just on the northern fringes of Leeds is a hidden treasure. Eccup Reservoir hard to see, in fact even when you are walking the perimeter walk you can't see the water at times. You can catch a glimpse of it when coming in towards the city from the A61 past Harewood - a slip of blue in the landscape shortly before  hitting the Leeds ring road. This is my usual route into the city, and each time I have thought about making a quick stop off to investigate the reservoir a bit closer.

As it happened, I did recently have an hour or so to spare and so with a couple of friends we decided to have a quick look around the reservoir. Armed with a local A to Z to find access to the reservoir this proved to be a little harder than expected. We decided against our first chosen parking place which looked a bit unofficial and the ground was covered in glass - perhaps from a previous parked car's window?! So we parked up in a layby and headed towards the reservoir on the Dales Way.

A pleasant walk through fields, this didn't lead us directly towards the reservoir, in fact the path remained a fair distance away form the water for the duration of our walk.

The fields and woodlands made for pleasant and easy walking though. We did catch glimpses of the lake between the trees and if we had made the full circuit then we would have enjoyed a walk across the dam bridge, however I'm sure we will be back for the full tour.

We walked as far as the reservoir lodge past the Goodridge Plantation before heading back. All in all a really pleasant little walk and despite the reservoir's proximity to Leeds, we only saw a few other people on our tour so this is well worth a trip out.

The ever faithful Walking Englishman website contains a great detailed walk description for an Eccup circular, which I will no doubt be doing sooner rather than later.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Last Orders At The Bar?

I've not only read a couple of depressing news articles recently but also seen it with my own eyes, the sad demise of many a local pub. There's nothing quite like a satisfying meal or drink in a rural pub, such as the Swinside Inn at the foot of Catbells in the Lake District, or the White Horse Inn, hidden in Rosedale in the deepest folds of the North York Moors.

The Swinside Inn tucked away in the Lake District

But pubs in rural areas in particular are susceptible to closure it seems, which probably has the most impact as these communities lose yet another focal point. The locals suffer and the tourists and walkers miss out too. Whether you like a beer or two or not is irrelevant, the knock-on effect to the local economy and culture is devastating.

About as remote as it gets - Tan Hill Inn

The West Midlands is one of the areas hardest hit by pub closures which is a bit of a surprise to me as it is the home of the Marstons Beer Company who as well as brewing some of their own great beers such as Banks's, Marstons Pedigree, EPA and so on, also look after the bottling for my favourite beer which is Jennings' Cumberland Ale.

Jennings brewery tour

The area hardest hit in the first half of 2012 was rural Lancashire and again this is a disappointment to me as I enjoy visiting the area and have done some walking on Clougha Pike in the Forest of Bowland.

As well as doing the obvious and frequenting pubs, you can also get involved in a number of ways. Here are a number of links which will give you further information.

The Pub Is The Hub - about recognising the value the local pub has in the community

The Cumbria Crack - a competition offering a makeover to the winning Cumbrian pub.

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)

You can read more about the regions hardest hit by pub closures - from the drinks industry perspective - here

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Rare Red Squirrel Spotting!

I don't normally have much luck in spotting nature. To give you an example - the woodland around Berlin is full of wild boar, but did I ever see one? Not once! Claire came over to visit me and on a short drive out of the city, she sees one in a garden on the outskirts of town! And me - well of course I had my eye on the road, so no wild boar for me. I do exaggerate, as in the Lakes I have seen wild animals on many occasions and I don't just mean Keswick town centre on a Friday night.

deer spotted near Holme Fell

I did see the Lake District ospreys from the viewing platform in Dodd wood, but given the powerful telescopes available, it's a bit hard to miss them. Of course there are plenty of other creatures you can't help but notice....

Sheep in the Lakes, not really an uncommon sight

However on a drive over to the Lakes in August, a little red squirrel hopped right across the road in front of my car as I was nearing Kirkby Stephen. Good job the road was quiet, as this fellow was in no rush to get across. Anyway I felt quite lucky as red squirrels are a bit of a rarity. I logged my sighting on the Red Squirrels of Northern England website:

As well as being beautiful creatures to spot in their natural habitat, red squirrels contribute to the biodiversity of Britain and in their own small way contribute to our fragile living ecosystem.

For more information the Natural England website is a great resource:

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Lakeland Safety

The fells, moorland, dales, lakes and tarns are some of nature's finest public playgrounds. One of the things that makes such places so special is that they are available for all to enjoy. There are no restrictions on opening times. The fells are there regardless of age, race or religion. Rich or poor, young or old, there is something for everyone there.

The shores of Derwentwater

It might be a gentle stroll alongside a lake such as Derwentwater, taking in the breathtaking views in all directions as you listen to the water lapping on the shore.

The Bridge House in Ambleside

You might prefer a stroll around one of the towns and villages of the Lakes - Keswick, Ambleside, Hawkshead or Grasmere for example.

Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags from Souther Fell

Your day's activities might be more strenuous and involve a climb up some of the iconic Lakeland fells, such as Scafell Pike, Catbells or Blencathra.

a murky walk on the Langdale Pikes

However, a recent news item caught my eye and reminded me that nature can be an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous foe just as much as it can be a welcoming friend. I read about a group of walkers that called Mountain Rescue on not just one, but two consecutive days, because they were lost whilst walking the Coast to Coast path. Instead of using map, compass or a GPS they were solely armed with a guidebook. Not only that, but due to an injured leg, they had already been warned by MR not to continue after the first rescue.

restricted visibility on Coniston Old Man

Claire and I have been caught by sudden cloud, wind, rain, sleet or snow on numerous occasions when out in the Lakes. We have had visibility reduced to a couple of metres which can be pretty hairy when you know  there are sharp ridges and precipices all around. We have encountered a freak snowstorm in the middle of Autumn on higher ground which similarly left us more or less blind. On another occasion on what seemed like a perfect Summer's day, high winds prevented us from reaching the higher ground.

Heavy cloud coming down on Brandreth

No matter what your level of skill, experience or fitness is, it is always worth remembering some basic safety and common sense, in order to stop your enjoyment of the fells from becoming a painful memory. Here are a couple of links to some great resources to help you get the most out from your fells:

Mountain Rescue: Mountain Advice

Mountain Rescue: How to Stay Safe and Enjoy the Fells

Stay safe, and happy walking!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Marske, Marrick and Lower Swaledale

Here is a recap of a walk I did shortly before breaking my ankle. I've been slowly making my way around Swaledale this year as it's an incredible valley that packs so many delights and hidden gems - Gunnerside Gill, Calver Hill, Crackpot Hall and its commandeering view over the steep head of the top of the valley, the ruins of its industrial legacy just to mention a couple.

We took the road along the top of the valley from Richmond to Marske which is scenic enough in itself. The tiny village of Marske is a great starting point for a number of hikes. Our walk on this nice Summer's day was a circular route from Marske to Marrick and back and is another walk in Paul Hannon's excellent "Swaledale" walking guide. You can pick this book up in most good walking web stores, for example in the excellent Walking Boots webstore. (Note: No affiliation)

We headed out of the village a short way along the minor road towards the Richmond-Leyburn road before heading off across the fields. This offered a great view of Applegarth Scar, the cliffs of Side Bank Wood leading up to Downholme Moor and our first glimpse of the river Swale.

Looking back we could see the pastures and lush fields that surround Marske and the impressive clock tower of Marske Hall. We crossed the minor road at the historic Downholme Bridge.

The next part of the walk saw a change in the landscape. We left the lush pastures behind us and with the river Swale accompanying us on our left, we slowly climbed up onto higher ground in the valley giving us extensive views across the moorland of Swaledale and it was an impressive view indeed.

The great views continued all the way past the recently renovated Marrick Park and a restored double limekiln, all the way to the village of Marrick. Much like Marske, this picture postcard village is a beauty and seems to be lost somewhere in time.

Our return route followed the Coast To Coast route. We climbed back up out of the village onto the meadowland and this meant some classic Swaledale scenery, big meadows and stone barns.

I love this aspect of the Dales, wide open undulating meadows that offer massive views from the tops and images of a beautiful working landscape wherever you look, with sheep, barns, haybales, drystone walls and farms all around.

From here it was a simple if at times steep walk back down through the fields and onto the road taking us back to the car at Marske. Once again it was a pleasure to explore the diverse scenery that Swaledale has to offer.