Lake District 2016
In May and June 2016 we spent most of a week in the Lake District. We climbed a lot of mountains.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Sawmill Tea Rooms
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.
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.
Our third day in the Lakes, and our second full day. Today was planned to be somewhat easier going than the previous day, as we were waiting for Nana and Grandad to come over from Whitburn.
We then went for another wander down to the side of the River Greta for a bit more stone skimming and general mucking about to fill the time.
Once Kas was back I stole an hour or so to go and do a couple of caches up at Castlerigg Stone Circle.
When Nana and Grandad arrived it was already getting on towards late morning so we decided to head straight out for our daytime appointment. We’d decided to go catch a boat on Ullswater. There are a couple of services that run regularly during the day between Aira Force and Glenridding. We hadn’t booked, we just decided to play it by ear. The place we arrived first was the car park at Aira Force, so we parked up and legged it down to the waterside just in time to catch a boat. It was kind of a grey morning compared to the previous days, so the photos aren’t great, but you get the picture.
By the time we got to Glenridding it was definitely lunchtime. Glenridding was hit really badly by Storm Desmond in December 2015 and much of the village centre was flooded. Where we walked to first had evidently suffered very badly as it was right by the stream. The banks were still being rebuilt, in fact, which meant we were initially put off going in any of the cafes because of the building work going on outside. One looked OK through, and once we were inside it was fine, and the food was rather good.
When lunch had finished it was pretty much time to get back on the boat again so we would have the chance to do some walking at Aira Force too.
Aira Force is a place I always seem to go to whenever I go to the Lake District. I think I’ve been there four times now, but each visit was sufficiently far apart that I don’t remember much of the detail from one to the next. The quirk of the trip this year was that people have got into the habit of hammering pennies into various bits of fallen wood by the pathside. I don’t remember that before. It was remarkably easy to do though, once you found an appropriate stone to use as a hammer.
We walked a little way past the waterfall, and I grabbed a couple of caches on the way up. Eventually we reached the “plodging” bit above the waterfall, where we decided to stop for a while and let the girls get their feet wet. OK, I did too.
Back at the bottom, it was time for ice cream while I shot over the road to grab another cache on the path down to the boat jetty. I’d not been able to grab it earlier because of the number of people around.
Nana and Grandad drove back to the log cabin with us and we had a snack-based tea whilst chatting about nothing in particular, and then they shot off home.
After they’d left, and everyone else had gone to bed, I attempted the very difficult job of wrapping up birthday presents without using any sellotape. I had paper, but not sellotape. D’oh! It sort of worked, but only because Ami’s presents neatly fit back into the cardboard box they’d been delivered in.
Ahhhh! The 2nd of June. The day that saw both of our little balls of energy come into the world. Not on the same day, you understand – they gave us a three year gap in between – but they were indeed both born on June 2nd.
The early part of the day was spent with both girls opening the presents that I’d very neatly wrapped without the aid of sellotape the previous evening. Izzy got a new iPod Touch to add to the bike she wanted (and had received a few weeks earlier). Ami wanted a bunch of Star Wars bobbleheads, and then kept a tight grip on monetary gifts so she could have a fun shopping day in London on the weekend that me and Izzy were in Valenciennes.
After the present opening ceremony we got dressed for the now ritual trip down to the riverside for skimming stones and plopping rocks. We had a little while to kill before Denise and Dave arrived from Whitburn, so there was time for a bit of that.
Once Denise and Dave did arrive it was getting towards lunchtime, so we decided to head out down to the side of Derwent Water and camped ourselves down in a very nice cafe at the Theatre by the Lake. The menu was really nice, and I decided to go for the maximum score on middle-class lunch bingo by ordering a salad with black olives, rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, quinoa and halloumi. It was rather nice though. The lemon juice was the swinger for me.
From here we decided to take a walk down by the lake, like you do. It was another stonkingly nice day and the kids were beginning to think we were lying when we said it always rains in the Lake District. Well, it always has every other time I’ve been. There must be something wrong about this week.
On the way down the lakeside I tried to grab a couple of caches. I found one trad but then somehow managed to DNF a virtual. Quite a few people do, apparently, because the requisite item is quite well hidden, and, if you’re like me, you’re trying to fit in a few sneaky caches while the others aren’t looking.
Anyways, as you can see from the photos the weather could easily be described as “grand” again.
On the way back past the theatre the girls grabbed ice creams, and we then went and parked up in the centre of town again to go for a quick wander around the shops.
We didn’t really get anything except for some pie and two small cakes off a bloke in the market. That’ll do us for tea then. The pie in question was a traditional northern English affair, a big flat tinfoil tray containing a fully pastry-enclosed mince-and-onion, thankyou very much. Once we’d driven back to the log cabin I then had to scoot out again to fill my car up with diesel and also to get those northern essentials to go with pie – mushy peas and gravy. OK, so I’m the only one that actually likes mushy peas, and I’m the most southerly of the lot apart from Ami, but the point had to be made.
And that was more or less it for the day. Denise and Dave set off home in the early evening to give themselves time to get back while it was still daylight. The rest of us chilled for a bit and went to bed earlyish.
Our last full day in the Lake District before having to head home, which was a bit of a shame, but the kids only get one week off, so we were scuppered from that perspective. We had to get back home and get some washing through the washing machine. Anyway, that’s all tomorrow.
Back at today, we set off fairly early because Kas wanted to go for a run to recce a bit of the course she is supposed to be running on some madder-than-a-sack-of-monkeys ultra marathon she’s doing in September. The part of the course in question was away on the west side of Skiddaw, so we drove her off there and then went for a bit of a drive looking for a few caches. Well, Izzy and me were looking. Ami was sat in the back of the car playing on her iPad, as she tends to these days. We found a couple of caches in pretty good locations. Here’s the view from one of them.
When it was about time, we drove round to our assigned pickup point and found a convenient parking spot but therein began the problems. We had absolutely no phone signal where we were parked and assumed Kas didn’t either, so we couldn’t see where she was on Glympse and nor could we phone her.
Anyway, we sat waiting for 15-20 minutes with me getting increasingly disturbed about Kas being late. There was some nervous pacing about going on. But eventually Kas rolled up, having discovered that fell running is a little slower than running on roads, due to the uneven terrain, and the having-to-navigate. She’d ducked a chunk of her planned route on the basis that she was taking far longer than planned, so she cut short and run up to meet us along the road, which was not a direction I was expecting her to come from.
We drove over to the The Old Sawmill Tearoom for a quick change and to grab a handful of cold drinks to take with us, and then we set off for our main event of the day – the walk up Cat Bells. This is more of a family-friendly mountain than some of the others nearby, being only modest in height and having a decent quality path most of the way up. It certainly is a well-trodden path.
When we reached the top it was well into lunchtime, so we sat for a break and some well earned nosh. It was another fan-dabby-tastic day for the weather and the view from the top is pretty darn good.
We were doing (well, I was doing) a few caches on the walk around – just those we passed within 100m of – which added up to eight or so on the walk. Most were easy. The one down the side of the hill in the ruined shepherd’s hut surrounded by bracken was not so easy. Ami came with me to that one. From the summit we lurched over the back a little bit and then descended a path down to the shore of Derwent Water. We’d been walking for a while so the first thing we did at the lakeshore was to whip our shoes and socks off and cool our feet down in the lake water. The water was refreshing.
By the time we got back to where we’d parked time was moving on a bit and the ice cream stand was shut, which we obviously count as a total failure. We therefore drove into the middle of Keswick, safe in the knowledge we’d find something there. What we found was the really rather nice Bar Metro. It was a very small but perfectly formed mock American diner, serving a selection of American favourites, plus beer and massive milkshakes. Perfect pick-me-up food after a day of walking up and down mountains.
As we had an appointment with the motorway system the following day, and planned to do some more walking, we got home quite early, packed our bags, and went to bed. The end of another day filled with fresh air, sunshine, and mountains.
We got out of the log cabin quite early, having decided not to bother with parkrun. On the agenda today we had a bit more walking followed by a drive down to the East Midlands. First up though, we drove into Keswick to find a local sandwich shop and get ourselves tooled up for the day.
We drove from Keswick down the recently reopened A591. This was badly hit by the floods in December 2015, the result of which was the loss of significant stretches of the road on this section. It only opened about two weeks before we drove down it, and there were obvious signs of rebuilding everywhere.
We parked up in a car park that I’m sure wasn’t there when Kas and I came in 2004, and headed off up the somewhat improved paths up the mountain.
It took us a while to climb up as it was pretty steep. We kept needing to take a break, however that was fine, because having a break means having to turn around and enjoy the scenery.
When we got up to the tarn it was lunchtime, so we found a good spot on the grass and ate the sandwiches we’d bought in Keswick earlier in the day.
After lunch we’d regained some strength and enough confidence to go for a climb up a mountain.. We weren’t quite sure how many mountains we’d manage, but we decided to head initially for Pavey Ark, and then see how we felt at the top. We had to walk all the way around the tarn to get to the path up the mountain. When we found the path it looked quite unappetizing. It was kind of steep and would be classed as a scramble rather than a walk. I didn’t enjoy looking back down, and I wasn’t particularly keen on walking back down that way either.
At the top, the view was spectacular. You could see a long way as it was another clear and quite sunny day. It’s also quite a long way up.
Time was marching on so decided not to attempt any other mountains, but just to head back down instead. To get back down again we decided to follow a path that was marked on Kas’s Ordnance Survey app but wasn’t on my Garmin OS maps with Open Street Map overlay. Hmmm ! I think my maps won. There wasn’t a path there. Thankfully there was a series of gently sideways slopes we could walk down until we reached the stream bottom, and were then able to follow the stream around to the tarn and the place we’d headed off up the scramble on the way up. We know for next time, if there is a next time.
We failed to get ice creams at the NT property at the bottom of the mountain, so we decided to drive into Ambleside instead.
We parked up in a big car park near the centre and walked just a couple of hundred yards up into the town to grab an ide cream. There was a cunningly placed streetside wagon thingy selling locally made ice cream. Izzy also wanted to buy a souvenir. It was quite late in the afternoon so most places were shut already. The best we could manage was a small place right over the road. It didn’t stock very much, but Izzy eventually decided on a scarf (for some reason) and Ami didn’t really seem bothered about anything.
We drove home alongside Windermere and then past Kendal and straight home down the M6. We stopped at Knutsford Services on the way down for some tea and then drove round to my folks place in Measham to spend the night.
It had been a good week overall, especially with the weather. We’d got the kids interested in a new sport of walking up Wainwrights. Kas had done a few runs and I’d found a handful of caches in some lovely locations. It also reawakened my love of the Lake District after many years of not visiting.