The Sketch

For a number of years now the annual UK Mega event has been preceeded by another event, held the Saturday before. Recently they have come to (vaguely) synchronizing their sites so that one is within easy driving distance of the other. This other (earlier) mega event is Piratemania.

As its name suggests, it is themed around pirates. People turn up in comedy pirate costumes and pretend for the weekend that they are not, in fact, camping in a field. Anyway, I’d never been before, but because this year’s was close to MK I could go without having to spend a night away. Game on then.

The Morning

After a fairly early drive up, and finding a space on a reasonably empty grassy car park, I found myself at Naseby Sports and Social Club, wandering around for someone to go caching with. I teamed up with a group of 5-6, some familiar and some not so.

The first job was to wander around Naseby village completing a set of Ad Labs that the Piratemania event committee had set. It was a little surreal walking around. One wonders if the locals were aware beforehand of their village being full of people wandering around in bad pirate costumes.

Back at the plot, it was a quick walk around the village, and we were soon back at the site. Time for a coffee and a bit of a chill before hitting the bigger circuits.

Walking to the West

The event committee had placed two sets of new caches for the event. Well, two loops. I think they were named as a single series. Anyway, the bigger loop was to the west of Naseby. It was quite a few miles round and had about 25 caches on it. About half of those were on roads or other paved routes, so good speed was made. We kind of needed good speed though. It felt like a long way for the number of caches involved. It took well over three hours to get round, I think.

By this time I was in a somewhat larger group, but we were all “of a certain mind” – it was good company anyway, so it didn’t seem too long a time while we were walking.

My feet were struggling a bit when we got back to the Piratemania event site, so I welcomed an hour or so getting off my feet and having some lunch.

The Afternoon

Later in the afternoon I set off again with a different party of cachers to attack the second loop of event caches, to the east of the village.

On this circuit my feet were seriously giving me some gyp. It was probably another 3-4 miles round and contributed a further 20 caches to the total. I had slowed down to a snails pace by the end though. In fact, up the final straight the others all got away from me because I was suffering a bit. I hadn’t carried enough drinks with me either.


I’d never been to Piratemania. Having now been once, I sort of know what it’s about, so I’m not sure about going again. It was OK as events go. I tend not to spend long in the actual events anyway, but maybe because I was only there for the day I kind of ran out of enthusiasm quite quickly.

Maybe I’ll go again in a couple of years.

Geocache Finds 2023-07-14

Geocache Finds 2023-07-14

Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough

What is there to say!

Enough is enough, as Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer once told us. And so it proved to be with this holiday.

Kas left at about 10am. She had an appointment with several English and Welsh motorways to get her to Swansea, where she had a half ironman event. The amount of driving invlved plus the requirement for early mornings over the weekend, meant she didn’t want to linger.

Back on Wednesday night I’d floated the idea of doing much the same. The kids were happy with it, so we were making ready to leave too. We were busyily packing up as Kas was leaving.

As it happenend, the weather was a bit rubbish too, and none of us really felt like staying longer. We wouldn’t have done much on Friday anyway, even if the weather had been nice.

Heading South

Left Ambleside at about 11:30. We dropped keys off at the place we’d collected them. They were slightly surprised to see us leave early, but I explained it was nothing to do with the place per se. We were just holidayed out and fancied an extra night at home.

So off we went, and headed for the motorway. We stopped for lunch at Costa at Lancaster Services and then joined the traditional Friday afternoon queue on the M6 around Manchester and Stoke.

We took a quick leg-stretching break at Norton Canes, which was, as ever, heaving with people.

The drive from there was made more painful by the utterly lousy weather. It was raining very heavily and I was struggling a bit to see where we were going.

Back Home

We arrived home at around 6pm – nice and early. So we were able to order pizzas/McDonalds and have a chill night.

We got a ping from Kas mid-afternoon to say she’d made it to Swansea for her half ironman.

It had been quite a busy and very enjoyable holiday. We dunked ourselves in lakes, climbed mountains, walked alpacas, visited castles, eaten some brilliant food and generally made the most of the great outdoors. It also re-kindled our smouldering love affair with the Lake District.

Whinlatter 2023-07-13


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More Wainwrights

Who could possibly resist climbing a mountain called Barf. We couldn’t. Well, V nearly did, because they’d woken up feeling nauseus and a bit feverish. But we went for it anyway.

So today’s plan was to walk up to Lord’s Seat and then Barf. If we had time, there was the option to trudge over to Broom Fell too. The three mountains sit in a cluster just south of Bassenthwaite Lake and are accessible by climbing the Whinlatter Pass and parking in the Forestry Centre there. Parking there takes about 150m of ascent out of it.

Setting Off

Kas did the now customary trip to the sandwich shop while I moved my car round to outside the house. We were only parking my car there to occupy a spot for the day though. We went in Kas’s car. We set off not long after 9am and took the also now very familiar route past Grasmere, over Dunmail Raise, past Thirlmere to Keswick. From there we headed along the A66 and then up the Whinlatter Pass from Braithwaite. We arrived at Whinlatter Forest before 10am.

So we did a quick change into our walking boots and had a tactical wee before heading off. The walk up appeared mainly to be through trees until the last 100m of climbing. That meant it would probably be warm and a bit clammy. The weather looked pretty good for the day. The sun was out and the clouds were all fluffy. That meant it was quite warm while we were in the trees.

Legging it up

Despite being a reasonable gradient and mainly on graded paths/roads in Whinlatter Forest, it seemed hard work getting uphill. Maybe we were all just a bit tired. V certainly wasn’t enjoying it very much. Ami and Kas had climbed a smaller peak the day before and I’d spent the day walking around Penrith. Venus had been out on a pedalo with Kas all the previous afternoon. You get the picture. We were all maybe a bit tired.

The slow speed over the ground meant we were getting a good look at the forest and the attendant wildlife though, which was nice because most of the other walks on this trip had mainly been over unwooded open hill country.

We made it to Lord’s Seat at about 11:45, so we called that lunchtime and nestled down for half an hour somewhere on the lee side of the summit. As ever it was a bit breezy up top, despite the sunshine. So we picked a slope facing towards Skiddaw and camped down for a few minutes.

Maybe Not

While we were at the top of Lord’s Seat we decided it was at least and hour to go to Broom Fell and return. Maybe more. V wasn’t up to it (and nor was I, if I’m honest) and it wouldn’t be fair to leave someone lying on the side of a mountain for an hour waiting for us, even if the view was nice. So we decided to leave Broom Fell for another day. I assume it’ll still be there when we come back.

So having decided on an easy (well, easier) afternoon, we set off down the hill towards Barf.

Barf is quite a low mountain at 468m. Technically, it’s probably opnly a hill. It does, however, have one very, very precipitous slope on the north side which affords an obstruction-free view from (roughly) west the long way round to south-west. There’s only really the higher Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike that get in the way of a full 360 degrees. As a result the view over Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw is brilliant. It’s perfect (on a clear day) to pick out all the sub-peaks on Skiddaw and you can see all the way across to the Helvellyn massif too.

We took a mini break on the top to take in the scenery.

It’s All Downhill from Here

The way home involved descending a steep and winding path back into Whinlatter Forest. It was the steepest bit of the day and in places quite slippery. Thankfully nobody came a cropper though.

Once back in the forest, Ami plotted a route back along the various forest paths. There was some debate about how low we should go, but we turned out to have made the perfect choice. This path also took us back over some of the paths that we’d walked with our alpaca buddies a few days earlier.

Back at the Forestry Centre, we had an ice cream in the cafe before driving home.

When we got home, we popped out for some shopping for souvenirs and essentials. I wanted some pieces of artwork to stick on my wall in the study, because it needs a bit of personalisation. We’d some that I liked in a shop on the very first day of the holiday, so we went back there for me to make a purchase.

In the evening we went back to Luigi’s Italian for dinner. We’d booked it the previous week, when we were last here. Amazing we remembered to go, really. The food was top-notch again.

Me and the girls had resolved to do our packing in the morning. Kas had pretty much done hers already, as she was planning to leave early. So after dinner we went home and chilled for one final time, dreaming of when we can come back again on another holiday. We do seem to have a bit of a thing for the Lake District. This had been our fourth visit since 2016. Well, the fourth as a family. I’d also been for a long weekend with the lads in 2018, so my fifth visit.

Thirlmere 2023-07-12

All Over the Place

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The Plan

The plan for today was a number of different activities that involved not all of us being at the same place at the same time. We were, frankly, all over the place. I spent most of my day geocaching in Penrith. Kas spent some time with Ami climbing a mountain and some time with Venus pedalling over a lake.

A some point during the holiday Venus had asked for the opportunity to do some watersports. I didn’t fancy it (and nor did Ami) so I ducked and the watersports became a “mum and V” thing. As Ami didn’t want to be outdone, she wanted to do something with just Kas in the morning, so they planned to go do an easy Wainwright at Raven Crag. Which left me some time for a bit of caching.

Off We Go

Kas and Ami left fairly early to climb Raven Crag, as Kas needed to be back for early afternoon to do the watersports. I wasn’t far behind them.

I initially drove the same way as them, through Grasmere and then on towards Keswick to meet the A66, where I turned right to head to Penrith.

The first bit of sport when caching is, as ever, finding a decent place to park. I thought this would be easy in Penrith but I have to admit I made a bit of a song and dance about it. First of all I parked in a well-known supermarket. But that was no good because they limit you to 2 hours and I probably wanted about 4 hours.

So I then tried to move to the station, because they normally have car parks, right? Penrith does, but it was basically full. And I wasted ages there because it’s a two-storey affair and the ramp up to the top is a single car width and has traffic lights to decide who’s go it is. It was a tight turn to get in and out of too, so there was much toing and froing, and a reasonable amount of swearing. When I got to the bottom a parking attendant said I’d “probably be alight on the station forecourt”, to which I replied something along the lines of “I can’t work with ‘probably’ mate.”

Penrith Castle

So I left the station and found another car park in the centre of town. It was the one at Bluebell Lane, I think. Anyway, it had loads of wide spaces and a pay-and-display saying I could stay all day, if I wanted to. That’ll do me guvnor! And then I basically walked all the way back to the station because it’s just over the road from the castle, and that’s where I wanted to start my caching trip.

For some reason I was quite surprised to find out that Penrith has a medieval castle. It’s surprising that I was surprised, given that everywhere in the UK that’s bigger than a hamlet used to have a medieval castle somewhere nearby. Why would Penrith be any different? It isn’t.

I wasn’t even remotely surprised to discover that the castle has a clutch of geocaches nearby. There was a set of adventure labs, with a bonus.

Moving on Up (or Down, in this case)

As is the norm for English medieval castles, everywhere else is downhill. Something about being in a good defensive position.

The hills in Penrith seem fairly flat after 10 days in the Lake District. Maybe I’m becoming accustomed to it. Anyway, it was downhill from the castle to get to the centre of what seemed a pleasant little market town. In the centre were 3 other sets of adventure labs, plus their bonus puzzle caches. There were remarkably few other caches though, for some reason.

Anyway, the labs caches were all intermingled with eash other so i had a game of “which series is this one” as I wandered vaguely south-to-north through the centre of town. There were a couple of bits of swearing when I couldn’t get a good enough phone signal to log the finds. I got there eventually, but there was some walking backwards-and-forwards involved. That, in itself, prompted a couple of locals to ask me if I was lost.

All in all I found 24 caches in Penrith in a little under three hours, and then I jumped in my car and went back to Ambleside. I got back at about 3pm. As soon as I got back she went out shopping in Ambleside to get a few personal items for her recently redecorated bedroom at home.

Climbing Raven Crag

Raven Crag is at the north end of Thirlmere and described as a short, but reasonably steep ‘Wainwright’ Fell. It’s more of a cliff than a fell, nevertheless it is very impressive standing watch over Thirlmere. We parked at the layby opposite the start of the walk. There is a small parking area a few hundred metres away but there’s a charge to park there so we opted for the free layby.

Steep doesn’t begin to describe the route up. We were having to stop every 20 or so steps for a breather and it’s like that from the start. There’s no easing yourself into this walk. It was also a bit muddy and slippy after the recent rain. After a few minutes we came to a forest road, but rather than follow this we went straight over and carried on up until we reached the same forest road looping back round. Our route continued over the forest road and up but we had a slight challenge here. Part of the path had been washed away, so we had a bit of scramble using tree roots to climb up to the path. The trail was now turning into a mini stream and a few parts of the path had also washed away, but it wasn’t difficult walking conditions. As an added bonus, the gradient was somewhat shallower.

From the Top

We reached the saddleback, and then turned left towards the summit of Raven Crag. The walking got easier at this point and there were now steps so we started making quick progress. We stopped to gaze at a tree that had come down, exposing its roots. I suspect it came down in the winter storms, nevertheless it was very impressive.

We reached the summit about 50 mins after we left the car. After taking the obligatory photos we had a snack break and then headed off back. We weren’t keen on the steep route down, although plenty of others we met up there were taking that route. Instead, we opted for the long forest road route. It wasn’t muddy or slippy so it was quick going. Walking parallel to Shoulthwaite Gill we had a few stops to admire the waterfalls. It started to rain just was we were leaving the forest, so we put on our wet weather gear and walked back to the car with just the one photo stop for Ami to point to where we’d just come from.

Back at the car, a bloke we’d met at the top arrived having walked down the steep route. Walking the longer route back had taken us about five minutes longer than the short route. And with that it was time to head to Ambleside for my second activity of the day, 90 minutes of pedelloing (if that’s a word).


I was put off the watersports activity by the possibility it might be kayaking. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just that at the moment I’m going through a portly phase and I didn’t think I’d find it enjoyable.

As it happens though, Kas and Venus rented a pedalo. I would probably have enjoyed that greatly, but the scene was set by this point, and there was no turning back. Anyway, they rented a pedalo, and then spent a couple of hours pedalling the best part of 5km up and down and across Windermere. Next time I’ll volunteer to do that.


I managed to get a table at the tapas place in Ambleside (Bar eS Ambleside) for 7:45. They only had “bar tables” available, but that turned out to be a good thing. It was basically a proper table, but set up high and with bar stools. We ate lots of bits and bobs on a vaguely Mexicanised Spanish theme, and I think we all agreed it was probably the best place we’d eaten in.

While we were there, I floated the idea that we might drive home on Friday night rather than on Saturday. Kas was leaving anyway on Friday morning to drive down to her half ironman in Swansea. So we were always going to spend most of Friday just packing and cleaning the house.

I took the view that I’d rather drive home and spend a night in my own bed. I was slightly surprised that the kids were in enthusiastic agreement. So we decided there to cut the holiday short by one night, in favour of spending a whole weekend at home. We still had the whole of Thursday though.

Aira Force 2023-07-11

Aira Force

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It’s Mandatory, Isn’t It?

What? Going to Aira Force. That’s what. Well, it might as well be. Probably. I’ve been here several times before. Most recently in 2002 and 2016, but I think there were earlier ones in the days before the internet. And the days before I had a camera to record it. So anyway, our plan for the day was to go to Aira Force, but with the twist of going by boat from Glenridding.

We set off fairly early in the morning for the drive over the Kirkstone Pass and past Brotherswater and Patterdale to Glenridding. The drive was spoiled somewhat by the roadworks on the pass, but to be honest, the tarmac is in dire need of replacement and it has to be done some time.

The Boat

We didn’t book tickets for the boat – we just parked up at the jetty in Glenridding and got tickets for the next one. That was at 11am, and left us some time to grab a coffee/hot chocolate beforehand. We also had a bit of a wander on the little beach, but that experience was spiled by the smelly toilets at the cafe/ticket booth.

The boat itself was a pleasant little chug along Ullswater. The weather was decent but we sat inside anyway, for some reason. All the boats here are run by Ullswater Steamers. There’s seemingly one one route from Glenridding, but boats run it both clockwise and anti-clockwise. So we took the route that goes direct from Glenridding to Aira Force. Well, not to Aira Force itself. That would be difficult, what with it involving a lot of climbing. The boat goes to a jetty on the lake at the bottom of the hill below Aira Force.

Up We Go

This had been designated a non-climbing day, I think, all though we’d toyed with the idea of walking up to the pub in Dockray. Anyway, we started in the National Trust car park at the bottom and picked our way up the eastern side of the stream. It was a harder walk than it should have been. The weather felt a bit oppresive, so it was a bit sweaty and fly-ridden when walking under the trees.

At Aira Force we paused for a while so I could attempt a virtual geocache. I couldn’t find the necessary information, so we took a few photos and moved onwards and upwards.

At High Force we decided to sit for a while on the rocks and watch the world go by. It was a very pleasant experience. The rocks here are out of the trees, so the sun could get to us. It was warm and really rather nice. While we were sitting here we decided that continuing on to Dockray wasn’t really necessary, so we just headed back down the west side of the stream.

When we got back to Aira Force the kids sat on a bench while me and Kas went for another go at the virtual cache. We still couldn’t find the information. When we got home I checked with the owner, and they said there was a possibility it was missing, so I should go ahead and just log a find. I’d clearly been to the location and attempted to find it, so they were happy.

Back Home

We got to the bottom of the hill and retired to the National Tust cafe for some lunch. We felt we’d earned it. And anyway, being a non-walking day, none of us was carrying much to eat. I went for a cornish pasty, which was pretty good. So good that I can’t remember what anyone else had.

Anyway, we finished up in good time for the 3pm boat home. Ami had wandered off down the hill somewhere and we weren’t quite sure where she was for a short time. But as we all left, hoping she was somewhere nearby, I spotted her and all was good.

The boat back was uninspiring but still good. The car was where I’d left it, and it was in good enough condition to get us back to Ambleside.

It was quite early when we got home, so there was some snoozing before deciding it was “everyone get your own” night for dinner. I went for some chili/tomato/bacon sauce on pasta. It hit the spot nicely.

And that was about it for the day.