Tuesday, 24 December 2013

High Rigg: Walking Wainwright's Central Fells

Fell walking in the Lake District is many things, and one thing you certainly can't accuse it of is being repetitive. Not only do you have hundreds of different fells to ascend, but they are of varying distances, difficulties and with a multitude of routes available to ensure you never get bored.

After a long march up Sergeant Man, High Rigg the following day couldn't have been more different. For starters the weather had made a considerable turn for the worse, so much so that when we set off from Ambleside it didn't look like we would be getting any kind of walk in.

The adventure started in the car, the tiny road up to the church of St Johns In The Vale is barely wide enough for one car, with not much scope for passing places either - and we were headed up just as several cars were coming down. Once we were parked up opposite the church, the walk itself was short and sweet, and with the poor weather conditions this was about as good as it was going to get. The fog and rain had lifted slightly, although the higher fells were still shrouded in cloud.

As for the walk itself - there really wasn't a great deal to it. Although there were numerous footpaths criss-crossing the grassy top of High Rigg, it was a simple case of heading upwards until we reached the rocky outcrop that marks the summit. It reminded me in some ways of a miniature version of Loughrigg with its grassy undulating terrain.

Unfortunately the conditions were quite poor and a picnic on the fell was out of the question, so after a little more exploration on the fell top we soon made our way back down the short trek back to the warmth of the car.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Helm Crag and Sergeant Man

For various reasons, I still haven't tackled some of the Lake District's better known fells. Helvellyn, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Grasmoor and Helm Crag are all still untrodden ground for me. I managed to tick one off the list when on a recent trip to Grasmere - well it would be rude to leave Helm Crag unclimbed now wouldn't it?!

Normally I like to plan a Lake District walk well in advance. For safety as much as any other reason, we need to know which maps and guidebooks to take and to know roughly how long we are going to be out on the fells.

Every now and again I do change my mind along the way. For this walk, we had planned to head up Helm Crag, follow the ridge over Gibson Knott and Calf Crag and then back down along Steel Fell. But in the end we chose the longer option of hitting the higher ground of Sergeant Man.

The walk up from Grasmere to Helm Crag is a delight every step of the way. The path remains good, the route is clear and easy to follow and the views are incredibly rewarding. In fact it was hard to keep going, instead of turning around every other step to look over the ever expanding view over Grasmere, Loughrigg and beyond.

Yes this is a popular route and not necessarily one for those looking to escape from it all, but the Grasmere to Helm Crag trek is a fantastic walk.

As it was fairly crowded, we didn't linger for too long on the summit and soon headed along the clear ridge route from Helm Crag to Gibson Knott. It was quite amazing how after the sounds of the busy A591 had accompanied us on our initial ascent, as we moved away from the road we were soon had just the wind for musical accompaniment.

The ridge made for a very pleasant walk and felt like a lot of reward for the relative ease of ascent of Helm Crag.

We marched on across the summit of Gibson Knott, although by this point our stomachs were rumbling so we started to keep an eye out for the perfect picnic spot. On our way, we hit the summit of Calf Crag, but it was very windy here so still not the ideal place to take a break. We did find a lovely sheltered spot to stop for our lunch, with fabulous views all round.

At this stage, it was still early in the afternoon so I decided we would head further into the heart of the Central Fells and pay Sergeant Man a visit. This walk was a little longer than anticipated, and something else that was decidedly unexpected was the GPS running out of batteries! Fortunately the route was fairly straightforward, over Brownrigg Moss and along Mere Beck.

I think at this point we were possibly thinking it might have been a nicer walk over Steel Fell, as the weather threatened rain. We were also the only people on this path along the beck, possibly because it wasn't the most spectacular of walks. Anywhere else and this would be a popular walk but in this centre of the Lake District, there is just too much competition.

It didn't take us long to reach the summit of Sergeant Man, the second highest of the Central Fells. The wind had picked up a little so we didn't linger, heading down the steep path that would take us past Eagle Crag and onto the boggy ground towards Easedale Tarn.

Although it was getting to late afternoon, we passed a lot of people who were heading up into the fells, surprisingly as there wasn't a great deal of light left in the day. Easedale Tarn is a beautiful setting and from here the walk back down towards Grasmere was excellent as we walked beside Sourmilk Gill before heading back into the village.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Buckden Pike, Wharfedale

After our walk up Great Whernside from Kettlewell, I was keen to get back into Wharfedale and hopefully this time with better visibility than the whiteouts we had on that particular walk. That walk up Great Whernside was part of our training for the Yorkshire Three Peaks and this time, our hike up Buckden Pike was a prep walk for the Lyke Wake Walk.

For some reason the drive over the tops into Wharfedale seems to take you through several climate zones and this trip was no exception, as we drove through rain, sunshine and thick fog at various points on the journey.

We parked up in Buckden before heading upwards onto the fell. Weather conditions weren't great as we set off, with the drizzle soon giving way to misty rain as we entered the cloud. Unfortunately this also meant the views were very restricted. The walk up Buckden is nice and straightforward with a good footpath all the way up. Before we knew it, we were at the summit cairn an trig point. Sadly we could still barely see ten metres or so away.

From the summit we headed alongside a drystone wall, towards a memorial commemorating the loss of lives of a Polish bomber crew.

You can read the full story here: http://www.buckdenpike.co.uk/mainstory.html. The path wasn't too bad along here, but once we were past the memorial it deteriorated significantly and at times we were ankle deep in bog. Good training for the Lyke Wake Walk then!

At least it wasn't a long stretch across boggy ground and we soon started our descent of the fell. With the height lost came visibility gained and Wharfedale started to open its heart to us.

You've got to hand it to the Dales, whether you are on rugged limestone pavement, whalebacked fell tops or at the valley bottom alongside river, there is always a serene beauty to the region. The descent down into Starbotton was pure pleasure with a great view of the lush valley and the river.

Our route took us through the idyllic hamlet and out the other side as we headed towards the river, and onto the Dales Way footpath. We stopped for lunch beside the river.

As we were enjoying sandwiches, we noticed a distinct, distressed sound in the distance, and on looking around we could see a sheep with its head stuck in a fence. Unfortunately it was on the other side of the river! Dave bravely took his walking boots and trousers off and hopped into the icy waters, but it was too deep to risk crossing. Let's hope the farmer did the rounds later that day and rescued the poor thing.

The rest of the walk back to Buckden saw us follow the path meander its way gently close to the river. We were soon back at the car and despite the poor visibility we had for the first half of the walk, this was another fantastic expedition into the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Raising Money on the Lyke Wake Walk

Once again, the North York Moors challenge walk has drawn us in. Yes, it's the Lyke Wake Walk. The last time I completed this challenge the last few miles seemed to pass in a delirious dream, the only thoughts in my mind were to make it to the end, and promising myself never again!

Well the human works in mysterious ways and so we find ourselves poised to undertake the challenge once again this coming weekend. The chosen charity this time round is the Hardcore Help Foundation. You can read more details including how to donate here.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Wensleydale Ales

I have been lucky enough to interview Geoff Southgate who, along with business partner Carl Gehrman, recently took over the Wensleydale Brewery based just outside Leyburn. You can read the full interview here:


I recommend you settle down in a comfy chair with a glass of Semer Water Light Ale and then enjoy what Geoff has to say!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Walking on the Coastal Cleveland Way

Although we have made the occasional visit to places such as Saltburn and Whitby, we haven't really explored the North Yorkshire coast in much depth. Following a recent excursion to Staithes, we decided this was a place that warranted further exploration, and so Claire and I booked ourselves a night away in a beautiful little cottage just off the sea front, and a coastal circuit walk with our partner in crime Dave.

Our chosen route would take us in a loop, following the coast southwards before heading inland for the return leg. Seeing as the harbour village of Staithes is tucked below steep cliffs all around the walk started with an inevitable hike upwards, taking us onto the Cleveland Way.

This was just a short ascent though and the rewards were fantastic - from here on the coastal walk was pure pleasure with massive views out to sea.

Looking back we could see the massive cliffs that protect Staithes from the elements. Soon enough we passed Port Mulgrave which has a fascinating mining history. I am sure we will be investigating this part of the coast at some point in the future but for now we pushed onwards until we reached Runswick Bay.

So Runswick Bay - how come I had never heard of this place before?! Aside from the picture postcard village, it boasts a fantastic beach. Conditions were so nice that Dave and I agreed if we had our swimming gear with us we would have gone for a dip - had we brought our trunks I am sure we would have found an excuse not to go in though.

We spent a bit of time on the beach, enjoying the incredible bay and lovely conditions before heading back up to the higher ground along the cliff tops to Kettleness where we stopped for lunch. I think we could have sat there for hours enjoying the views, but we soon pressed on.

The return leg of our walk saw us come away from the coast, following the bed of an old railway track. In order to get there we had to cross a field with an angry looking bull that stared at us the whole time we were in "his" field - we gave him a wide berth!

The rail path took us back to Runswick Bay and here again we swung away from the coast, following the road to Hinderwell and crossing a couple of fields before entering the woodland of Borrowby Dale.

This was a day for lots of varied walking terrain and all of it interesting, but the coastal paths were the definite winners.

The last half mile or so saw us return to Staithes past the row of houses at Cowbar, and this gave us a really spectacular approach back into Staithes and a welcome cold drink at the Cod & Lobster right on the sea front.

An amazing day's walking that really showed off the versatility of the North York Moors and the Cleveland Way.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Lake District Ales

I can't recommend drinking a beer on a walk, but after a hard day's walking I can't think of a better reward that a pint of Lake District ale in one of the Keswick pubs.

The second best option is to take that taste of the Lakes home with us, and during a recent stop off in Glenridding I picked up on a few choice ales that don't have many stockists.

In particular the Ulls-Water is a custom-labelled beer from the Keswick Brewing Company that is only available in Glenridding.

The Ulls-Water is actually Thirst Ascent in disguise, but I do like those custom beer labels. I'm really waiting for a special occasion to crack these beers open, although having said that, I might have the odd one or two in the meantime, be a shame not to - Cheers!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

High Street & The Far Eastern Fells

Into The Unknown...

I had only previously done one walk in the Far Eastern Fells, and seeing as it was a simple enough circuit up Wansfell from Ambleside, it felt very central and not at all as if I was in the wilds of the Far East! And as we are normally based in Keswick or Ambleside when walking in the Lakes, this is always a bit too much of a trek.

Anyhow one Saturday we set off early from home, grabbing a quick tasty breakfast on the A66 at the Llama Karma Kafe before talking the scenic route along the shores of Ullswater, through Glenridding and Patterdale before parking up in Hartsop.

Our chosen route was well defined and trouble-free, essentially following the valley up to Hayeswater reservoir, before hitting the high ground, following the long arching top of High Street, with the occasional diversion to grab one of the neighbouring summits.

The walk along the valley was gorgeous, with Hayeswater Gill babbling alongside us and the sun high in the sky as we headed up towards Hayeswater. I did have a slight "Wainwright moment" - you know when other people are walking, at more or less the same pace as you, but you'd rather walk alone? So you stop every now and then to let them get ahead, but a couple of minutes later they have a rest as well, so you keep catching up and the usual awkward smiles and small talk ensues... I digress.

We headed straight up the steep grassy slope that would take us onto the old Roman ridge, meeting up with the path and wall that travels in a remarkably straight line from Rest Dodd up to The Knott.

Once we had made it onto the higher ground and the High Street ridge, that was it, the hard work was done. All that remained for the next couple of hours was to wonder around the plateau, ticking off summits and making High Raise, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike and even High Street some of the most straightforward Wainwrights I've tacked so far. The views were far reaching, and from Kidsty Pike we had a glimpse of some deer down in Riggindale below.

We enjoyed our lunch on the wall on the summit of High Street, with views all the way to Morecambe Bay, as well as the bulk of the Lake District fells. Sometimes perspective plays funny tricks on the eyes, as the Coniston fells looked much closer than they ought to be. High Street summit reminded me of Whernside, with the wall marching on relentlessly along the whole ridge.

The next summit of Thornthwaite Crag was clearly identifiable as was the route which followed the path of the ridge curling round to the imposing summit cairn. As with the previous summits this was a straightforward but rewarding walk with views of pretty much the whole of Lakeland and its iconic fells.

Thornthwaite Crag was pretty busy so we didn't hang around, pressing on instead down a ridge over Grey Crag that would bring us back down towards Hartsop. This doesn't appear to be a popular fell, and we had the place to ourselves.

Maybe it is off the popular beaten tracks, but it was nice to have a bit of solitude. The map and guidebook were both a little vague when it came to the route off the fell and back down into the valley, so we had to make up our own route, straight down the grassy flank of Grey Crag.

After that leg-burning descent we were glad to get onto the more gentle gradient of the footpath along Hayeswater Gill and back to the car.