We had an early breakfast and made some sandwiches to take as provisions with us. The weather looked good, or at least as good as you can expect in the Lake District in May, in that it wasn’t raining or snowing. It was bright, and a bit windy.
When Kas was a girl, she apparently made several attempts to walk up Skiddaw with her dad, but never quite made it to the top. Admittedly she was under 9 years old the last time she tried, so not that surprising, I guess. Anyway, on this holiday she was absolutely insistent that we would make it to the top. Both kids seemed keen to give it a go, and we had suitably attired ourselves with a collection of walking boots, many-layered clothes and lightweight waterproofs, so what could possibly go wrong ?
We drove up to the car park at the bottom of Latrigg because it looked like the best place to start. It’s a rough road up but that’s why I got a car with high ground clearance, although I didn’t like the look of the great big channels down the side of the road that the December 2015 floods had made. They are seriously in need of a lorry load of hardcore up there.
The thing about Skiddaw is that it’s quite an easy climb, because there’s a graded path all the way up, but it is considerably steeper at the bottom than at the top. I guess this is true of many UK mountains because most were formed by glaciation. Skiddaw is well known for being generally shaped like an upside-down pudding bowl, except with less pudding.
There’s a route up from the Latrigg Car Park that is cunningly known as the Skiddaw Path. It goes along the flat for a while before ascending at a scary rate on a zig-zag course that can be seen from most of the Keswick area, at least on a clear day. When you get to the top of the steep bit (known as Jenkins’ Hill) you come to a flatter section and you go out of sight of anyone standing in the car park or down in the valley. We had a little break around this point, where we sat in a ditch, ate some snacks and took a few photos. The “sitting in a ditch” part was encouraged by the wind as well as by the fact that it was better sitting there than on a flat bit of grass. It’s quite an impressive view from where we stopped.
After our little rest we plodded up further until we were under the shadow of Skiddaw Little Man, at which point we decided that enough was enough, and we took a five minute breather to get our raincoats out and put them on. Not to keep the rain off, but to keep the wind out. It was getting progressively more windy.
When we eventually reached the top the wind was getting unpleasant. The view from the top is spectacular though. We did the obligatory photograph standing by the trig point and then the girls hid behind a pile of stones to get out of the wind while eating lunch and I wandered 30 yards down the scree to look for a cache. I didn’t find it and eventually retired for lunch.
After lunch I had another pop at the cache and was successful. That’s one of the highest caches I’ve ever found.
From here we decided to head back down rather than try to continue on any further, but we did so by going over the Little Man on the way. It was very windy up there. So windy that I nearly got blown off my feet. At this point, survival instinct kicked in, and we made the wise decision to get downhill as fast as we safely could. The side we were descending was taking the brunt of the rising wind, so it was a very unpleasant walk down for the first couple of hundred metres, and I made the suggestion that we walk down the grassy sides of the path rather than down the path – less likelihood of damage if someone fell over.
When we got down to the bottom, Izzy and me sat in the car for 20 minutes while Kas and Ami went for a repeat walk over to Latrigg. Ami felt upset that she hadn’t made it over there the previous day because she’d been too ill. Today was a different matter.
This meant we’d been out of the log cabin for 7 hours or so, and we decided it was time for holiday rules to come into play. The particular rule that came into play is the one about having to have at least one ice cream every day. We obtained these from the Sawmill Cafe down at the bottom of Dodd Hill. We sat outside in the sunshine getting further sunburnt and regretting our failure to apply sunblock earlier. Sunblock also works as windblock.
Post ice-cream we still had a bit of walking left in us so we did the shortest of the three trails leading into the woods from here. It was only a mile or so around, but it was quite steep and our legs were feeling it a bit after the mountain climbing exploits of earlier. At least it was out of the wind.
From here we went back home to get cleaned up and to do a bit of stone-skimming in the river again. We hadn’t made much of a plan for evening meal so we decided to go out, and taking a recommendation from a brochure in the log cabin we went to the Swinside Inn in the Newlands Valley. It was a lovely evening and we sat and ate outside, partly to enjoy the scenery and partly so the kids didn’t have to sit except for when they were actually eating. I seem to remember Ami wasn’t happy initially because she wasn’t really hungry and didn’t want to have to sit through dinner, but then ordered something quite substantial and ate it all. Must be the fresh air.
And that was more or less it for the day. We drove back home and put the kids to bed, ready for another busy day. For me and Kas there was undoubtedly some beer involved. Or wine.
Why did we decide to go on holiday to the Lake District in half term ? Firstly, it’s pretty. Secondly, none of us have been there for ages. Thirdly, it was half term. Finally, we were in Liverpool anyway, so we were sort of halfway there already. Ish. And finally, finally, who needs a reason anyway? It’s the Lake District.
So we checked out of our hotel in Liverpool and started to make our way north. We chose to drive through the city centre and head for the M58, because it looked the shortest route. Short doesn’t always mean quick though. It took us an hour to get onto the M6. At least the weather was nice and there was little traffic once we got there.
By the time we’d got through the “nice” bit on the M6 and reached Tebay Services we were ready for a break, so we stopped and grabbed some lunch in the cafe, followed by a half hour of the kids running around like mad things while I walked down the car park to grab a geocache that was conveniently situated in the bottom of a tree. Each to his or her own.
At this rate we were going to arrive far too early to get into our accommodation, a log cabin at Low Briery Holiday Park, but we’d got dressed up in clothes suitable for walking, so we decided to head through Keswick to the car park at the foot of Latrigg and go for a short walk. There was someone from the Girl Guides in the car park selling cakes and drinks. We convinced her we’d buy something when we got back.
Latrigg is a very easy walk from the car park, because once you’re there it’s only about 1km along and 100m up to reach the summit, so little more than a gentle stroll. There’s also now a good gravel path all the way there, so we went that way.
Just on the crest, I noticed there was a cache nearby. The GPS was pointing off down the mountain, so I scrambled down a very steep grassy bank and through some gorse and eventually found a small cache in the top of a tree stump. This holiday should get the average terrain rating for my cache finds up a bit.
Back on the summit, Ami had come over quite ill and needed to get back, so she and Kas started walking back around the gravel path while Izzy and me went back to the very summit for a quick gawp, and then returned over the grassy knoll. Ami was so bad, and moving so slowly, that Izzy and me got back first.
We decided at that point that we should get to the accommodation as soon as possible so that Ami could get settled, and by the time we arrived they were happy for us to go into the log cabin. It was small but perfectly formed. There were two bedrooms, a bathroom and a combination lounge-kitchen-diner, plus a small balcony. It was really nicely fitted out.
Ami got herself cleaned up, changed and settled a bit while Kas, me and Izzy were carting stuff up from the car and generally getting bedded in, after which it was time to go buy food. Keswick is the nearest town, so we trusted that there was bound to be a supermarket there somewhere. Indeed there was. It was called Booth’s, a local brand I’d never heard of, but definitely at the upper rather than the lower end of the market. Lots of fresh produce, fruit and posh alcohol, and relatively few crisps and biscuits. So we grabbed enough “stuff” to provision ourselves for a couple of nights, a couple of breakfasts, and some things for lunch the following day.
When we’d done all that, it was time to indulge in the “holiday rules” tradition of getting an ice cream. We found a shop in the centre of town that looked like it was wanting to close (it was nearly 6 pm, after all) and grabbed a few of their finest, which we then ate sitting on a bench.
Back at the log cabin, we decided it was time to do a bit of exploring before bedtime, so we went for a wander around the site to see what was where, and ended up at the north end, where you can walk out onto the side of the River Greta. This proved to be a worthwhile walk, as the river bed is full of interesting geology. The river is one of the ones that flooded very heavily in December 2015, which caused severe damage to many roads, pathways and also to the holiday park we were staying at. They lost a number of the static caravans. They weren’t so static once they were given the opportunity to float. Anyway, the riverbed here is a mass of tangled debris, huge rocks of varying geological origin, and general muck, with remarkably little water (at this time), so it was interesting. It was also a great place to practice skimming stones, or plopping them into the water.
And that was more or less the end of our first day. We didn’t do much in the evening because we’d got a busy day planned for the following day. The weather looked good, so we were planning to hack our way up Skiddaw.
Our now annual trip (apparently) to Liverpool for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half started, as such things often do, with a frantic Friday afternoon and then a busy drive up a motorway. Aside from the fact that it was a fairly typical Friday night on the M6 and we had tea at Norton Canes there’s not a lot to say about the journey.
It was getting a bit late when we arrived at our hotel, the Premier Inn on Albert Dock, and we were ready for getting ourselves sorted. As we checked in we had a bit of a scare as the receptionist commented we’d booked for 4 nights. “No we didn’t. We booked for 3” we said. Then we thought about it for a bit and looked at our confirmation. When we’d booked it, about 9 months previously, it was a speculative booking made with the intention of finding somewhere cheaper at a later date, and we sort of assumed we’d stay until Tuesday rather than rush home, so that we could spend a bit of time in Liverpool. Subsequently we’d obviously booked our holiday in the Lake District (see Up the Lakes) and had evidently forgotten about the Liverpool booking. Not to worry though. We’d booked it on the flexible rate, so we were allowed to just cancel the one night.
I had to drive miles and then walk all the way back to park the car, because the hotels on Albert Dock don’t have their own car parks, and by the time I got back we were ready for a drink, and then bed. Alcohol seemed in order. The bar was open.
Saturday greeted us with a smile a wander over into the Echo Arena to get all our race numbers for the weekend. There were quite a lot of these, as Kas and me were running the half, Ami and me were running the 5k, and all four of us were running the Sunday Extra Mile. That’s a lot of numbers. It was enough to make us ready for breakfast. A Premier Inn breakfast. Mmmmm! Not too much, though. We’ve got running to do.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll series this year decided to add a 5k event into their weekend, and put it on Saturday morning. We would all have run it was it not for the fact that they put an age limit which Izzy was sadly below. We thought that’d be fine, no bother, I can understand, and all that, until we got into running the race itself, and we saw the considerable number of runners who were shorter than Ami. Now I know that’s not always a good marker, but Ami is quite small for a 12-year-old, and the race’s age limit for the race was 11. Some of the runners were a full head shorter in height than Ami. It’s unlikely they were 11.
On the way to the start line we met a bunch of ladies dressed as Minions, with a token Gru thrown in for good measure.
Still, what do we care, huh? Except that Izzy being unable to race meant that someone had to stay with her. Ami and me both did quite well though. Ami shot round in about 28 minutes, which is the fastest she’d run a 5km distance in ages. She obviously enjoyed the sea air and the flat course. And the smell of a medal at the end. It was quite impressive to finish inside the Arena, with the lights down and loud music playing, but I’m not sure it made us run faster, as we’d finished by then, as it were.
The rest of the day disappeared in a fit of not really being bothered. I think we had lunch in Costa right next to the hotel, and then we mooched about a bit whilst being generally not bothered. I had sort of planned to do a bit of caching, but was unable to persuade either child to come with me, so I left all three girls in the hotel room on the strict instruction that mummy was to be left alone for a snooze. Yeah, like that’ll happen.
From the hotel I walked along the side of the Mersey in the upstream direction until I reached the Chung Ku restaurant. I was finding most of the caches I tried on this stretch, albeit there were many anyway. At the restaurant I had my first failure, and also noticed the time. As it happens, I was getting rather hot and thirsty too. So I turned and started walking back towards the docks along Sefton Road. This isn’t the most inspiring of walks, but I did find a couple more caches on the way, and it is a proverbially straight route into the heart of town.
In the evening Kas had arranged for us to meet up with a largish group from the various running clubs we’re in at a Pizza Express in Liverpool One. It was a pizza. As we had the kids with us, they were kind enough to serve us in advance of everyone else and bill us separately, which was good, because the rest of the party was still just finishing their starters by the time we left, and as it was well gone nine o’clock, we really needed to get off and get the kids to bed.
A Swift Half, with a Chaser
Sunday morning started warmer than Saturday, and it stayed that way. Not ideal conditions for running, but ho hum, we’re here now.
We had a swift Premier Inn breakfast again and then got ourselves prepped up and out of the door ready to find the McGreals, who had kindly volunteered to look after the girls for us while we were running. By the time we’d all met up and handed over control of the daughters it was pretty much time to get into the starting pens.
And then we had to run a half marathon. Kas did well. I didn’t. I got round, but it wasn’t pleasant, and it did some damage to my already heavily battered running mojo. I hadn’t really been training and I didn’t really enjoy the MK Half I’d done at the start of May. So whilst I enjoyed the experience of visiting the city, and I love the event, this particular race has to get filed under “experiences to be forgotten” – Move along now, nothing to talk about here.
By the time I got back, Kas had managed to find time to put the kids through a couple of years of schooling. I felt like death warmed up, so I’m afraid I excused myself for a while and went for a lie down on the bed in our hotel while the girls enjoyed some sunshine. I couldn’t manage, and anyway I’d still got to get myself up and about to run a further mile in the afternoon. Why oh why oh why ?
When I got to the start of the extra mile, having met up with the girls again, I have to say that I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. When I started the race it would be generous to describe me as “running” – everything hurt and I was right stiff after the race in the morning. I thought I’d end up walking, and I told the girls to just get a move on and leave me behind. They did. Ami shot off like a greyhound and Kas and Izzy got well in front of me quite quickly too. As we were running along the main road though, I started to loosen up a bit and ended up running a decent speed, despite having finished the half marathon at walking pace and with frequent cramps (yes, I’m that unfit). In the end I finished the extra mile in less than 10 minutes, which is faster than all but 2 of the 13 I’d done in the morning, and I felt quite pleased with myself. I also got another medal to add to the collection.
The end of the extra mile signalled the end of the running for the weekend, and therefore officially the start of “holiday rules” – as a family we have a set of ethical and behavioural guidelines (1) that apply on any day that is arbitrarily nominated as a holiday. We’d nominated the rest of the week, what with us going up to the Lake District and everything, so the start of holiday rules for a whole six days was most welcome.
(1) OK, so there’s only one mandatory rule (about having ice cream every day), and the others get made up as we go along. I think there’s one about adults having beer or wine, and another about the kids staying up late.
It was getting late enough for us to go partake of the things that the Rock ‘n’ Roll events are most famous for – live music and free beer, and in the case of every trip we’ve made to Liverpool, sunshine. We walked (hobbled/shuffled – take your pick) over to the Arena, where they set up a big stage and get various live bands to play over the course of the afternoon.
We were around at the stage through most of The Velveteins and all of Cast, and I made my way through more than one of the beers. Izzy seemed to enjoy it too. Ami got a bit bored, tired and sun-stroked though, so she wandered back to the hotel on her own and had a lie down in the bed. Wimp ! I would never do that. Oh, wait….
There was a point where all three of us sort of fizzled a bit and decided to give up, especially as we’d got an evening meal date somewhere and we all needed to get cleaned up. So we jacked it in and went to reunite with Ami. She was there, in the room, where she’d promised. Good.
For dinner we met up with a substantial group of others from Redway Runners at a small Italian restaurant in the centre of town. It was basic but pleasant and the food was good. I was rather tired though. Ami was still suffering and kept going outside for fresh air.
We didn’t stay too long into the evening, because to be honest, more than one of us had had enough by about 9 pm, and just wanted to be asleep.
It had been a busy old weekend, and we’d got some driving to do the following day to get ourselves up north.
Caches found over the weekend were :