Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Windermere Wash-Out

Last weekend was set to be one of the highlights of the month - I had entered for the Great North Swim, booked into our favourite bed & breakfast in Ambleside, booked a table at the fab Zefirellis for the Saturday night and picked out a number of walks for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

a dismal looking Helm Crag

As can happen with mother nature and the Lake District come head to head, it wasn't to be. I got the news on Friday afternoon that the swim was cancelled, but seeing as the rest was already booked Claire and I thought we'd make the most of it and enjoy a weekend in the Lakes - it takes more than a spot of rain to deter us! But doubts were setting in on the horrendous drive over on Friday night, with parts of the A66 flooded not to mention the side roads such as the one to St Johns In The Vale looking unpassable.

heavy clouds over Thirmere taken from the car

 After a nice night out in Ambleside, the weather on the Saturday morning was no better! I always look for the silver lining as you may have noticed, so as we decided to cut our trip short, we made a detour to Booths in Keswick for some walking magazines and Lakeland ales, as well as a stop at the rather nice Rheged Centre just outside Penrith where we had a look and the shops and enjoyed the photo gallery on display which included several pictures from my namesake Tom Chapman!

the goodies!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Ospreys in the Lake District

As I wrote last week, a recent trip up the Northern Fells wasn't without its mishaps. But clouds and silver linings and all that - one of the side effects of us not going up Ullock Pike was that we ended up on the wooded slopes of Dodd.

one of the paths in the wood

Not only that but we had the rarest of things too, some spare moments in the Lake District! So we decided to follow our noses or if you prefer the many signposts, and headed up to the Osprey viewing platforms that are perched on the side of the fell.

model of an Osprey nest

The Osprey in case you didn't know (don't worry - I didn't) is also known as Sea Hawk or Fish Eagle among other names - so you know that means this is one big mean bird! Ospreys have been returning to Bassenthwait Lake in the Lake District since 2001 and chicks have also been successfully reared there too.

the lower viewing platform

We were lucky to be there just one day after a chick had hatched, and we were able to get great views of the adult birds through the telescopes manned and provided by the Lake District Osprey Project.

looking across Bassenthwaite Lake

The birds were amazing to watch and we felt lucky to have been there on that day! Seeing as my camera does not have a mega telescopic lens you'll have to take my word for it that these are magnificent creatures - although you could always nip over to Dodd and have a look for yourself!

looking back at the summit of Dodd

Recommended Links:
Forestry Commission page about Dodd Wood
The  Lake District Osprey Project

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Exploring the Lake District's Northern Fells

The Skiddaw range

This was a strange day indeed. It started out with nothing but promise, so nearly let us down, yet came around at just the right time. It also left a lasting impression, even more so than the usual Lake District walks!

Packed lunch sorted, we took the bus up past the Forestry Commission site at Dodd wood leaving us at the foot of Ullock Pike. It was a truly magnificent day with not a cloud in the sky and a breeze on our faces as we headed up the steep start of the walk through the sylvan wooded slopes. Once we were out of the woodland it picked up. The heat of the sun was pounding on our faces but the breeze had also increased its welcoming freshness too. 

looking northwards to the slopes of Binsey

As we reached the ridge that traverses Ullock Pike and onto Long Side and Carl Side our luck took a turn for the worse and we were treated to a howling wind. We pushed on, nearly getting knocked off our feet on several occasions and with the wind increasing in strength with every metre of ascent gained. 

the peak of Ullock Pike ahead

Soon enough we started passing bedraggled walkers coming down the other way, and without fail they all warned us that the winds were too strong and they had turned back before the sharp peak of Ullock Pike. It seemed crazy, it was such a beautiful day, yet the high ground was destined to be out of reach. After a short moment of stubborn persistence on my part, Claire and I decided enough was enough and so we headed back down.

looking across Bassenthwaite Lake

The Rescue

On our walk back down crossing a couple of fields we saw a lamb in the distance which seemed very interested in the field's perimeter fence. On closer inspection we saw why - it had its head stuck in the fence! Claire being the braver of us took the front end, whilst I held the back end of the lamb to stop it from struggling too much. In under a minute it was free and ran off bleating to its mother and an intense feeding session. Despite being beaten by the winds on Ullock Pike, we now felt that we had achieved something far more worthwhile!


Bassenthwaite Lake from Dodd wood

Our walk back to Keswick took us through the very pleasant woodland around the foot of Dodd wood, until we reached the welcome picnic and rest area at The Old Sawmill Tearoom where we stopped for our fab pasties which we had picked up in the morning. After lunch our route went up the slopes of Dodd past the osprey viewing platforms - more on this in a future post. 

looking back to the summit of Dodd

Soon enough I noticed that we had gained significant height and were not at all far off the ridge route to the summit of Carl Side, which happened to by my designated fell for the Wainwright Society challenge walk of 2012! Somehow we had missed the path off to the summit of Dodd, so this looked like the last chance change to climb a peak today.

Carl Side

As we headed up the path to the summit, the wind returned with a vengeance, nowhere near as strong as earlier in the day and with the path along much wider terrain we felt much safer, but it was still a struggle to make the summit. 

a look back to Keswick and Derwentwater

The clear skies rewarded us with more fantastic views, over the vale of Keswick and Derwentwater, up the steep scarred slopes of Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man and with a hazy Isle Of Man rising from the sea.

Skiddaw looms behind Carl Side

It wasn't the kind of weather to hang about in though, so after a minute or two on the summit of Carl Side we headed back down the steep descent in the direction of the hospitality of the pubs of Keswick, satisfied and tired after a long day of adventure!