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!