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A Cunning Plan

Well, to be honest, there wasn’t that much of a plan. We had a loose collection of ideas, and my idea involved climbing Holme Fell.

One member of the family wanted to engage in some electronic queuing in search of tickets to see Taylor Swift. That’s not really a full-family activity, because not all of us wanted to go see her anyway. My small plan was therefore to go do something else instead. As it happened there was one activity I wanted to do that said family member wouldn’t, so that seemed to fit in nicely.

The task I wanted to do was to complete an entry on my Difficulty/Terrain geocaching grid. When the holiday began I had two slots left to fill. One of those was to find a Difficulty 1 / Terrain 5. Those are quite rare beasts, but it happens there’s one in the Lake District, near to Holme Fell. I managed to persuade Ami to come with me, as she also wasn’t interested in the Taylor Swift activity, but would be up for it if she knew there could be a Wainwright involved.

Going Rapidly Downhill

The geocache I needed to do was at Hodge Close Quarry. This was a short drive from where we were staying, but did seem to involve an extended drive up a very narrow road. I wasn’t really sure about that, and certainly on the way up I went through a few “moments” because the road surface was quite bad. Thankfully though, nobody came the other way and there was plenty of decent parking at the top end.

The access into the quarry was described as a bit of a scramble. It was also supposedly quite hard to find. We were armed with detailed instructions and hence knew where to go, but even then it was quite an experience. It was a rough boulder path which descended really steeply towards the foot of the quarry. The route was easy enough to follow, but there was a claustrophobic feel caused by the tree cover. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan it could be described as a cross between Mirkwood and the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. We didn’t see any Hobbits on the way down, and thankfully the stones were fairly dry, but you get the picture. It was steep, dark, and a bit treacherous. I would not suggest going down there in poor light, or in rain.

At the bottom there’s a big open bowl with a couple of short tunnels and excavated stopes (and fewer trees) In one of the tunnels there’s some old mining equipment that looks like rails or a heavy mount for some lifting equipment. Through it, you can see out to the deeper part of the quarry, which is now filled with water.

Objective #1

The subject of the visit was an Earthcache called Hodge Close Quarry. An Earthcache is basically a lesson in geomorphology. In this case, the lesson concerned slate. Funny that, what with this being an old slate quarry.

Also in the bottom was a physical cache called Down Down Deeper and Down. This was supposedly quite hard due to the poor GPS signal. The page advises you use the spoiler photo, but of course I had no access to that because of the lack of phone signal. This could, therefore, have ended in utter disaster. The hint was something like “under a lump of slate” – absolutely no help here. I furtled around for a while looking at likely places without success. Then from over the other side of a rock heap from me, Ami expressed enthusiasm towards a cluster of rocks. She has a canny eye, that one. It was, indeed, the correct cluster of rocks. So that was a relatively high difficulty/terrain item for the collection.

Let’s Get Outta Here

In the immortal words of Yazz, the only way is up. Well, we could probably have gone further down, but not without scuba gear. So upwards it was.

The walk back up Cirith Ungol was easier than the descent. Somehow I always find climbing mentally easier than descending. Maybe because when you’re going down you can see where you’re going to fall if you trip. When you’re climbing, you can’t see where you’ll fall. Anyway, it seemed easier getting out.

Objective #2 for the day was to climb Holme Fell. This is a low-lying fell in comparison to many. Indeed, of the 214 Wainwrights it is numbered 213, so the second lowest. That doesn’t make it easy though. It was quite a rough trek. One thing about the lower fells is that they aren’t so well-trodden. As a result, the paths can be harder to see. In the case of Holme Fell, there’s also a confusing secondary top called Ivy Crag.

The Real Holme Fell

Ivy Crag has a massive cairn and it was this that we saw from our route up. So we started getting lunch out when we got there until I realised it was likely that the geocache I had in my sights was most likely at the true summit. There was another cairn at the proper summit so we grabbed a seat and some lunch. We spent a very pleasant half hour sitting up there admiring the views across Coniston Water and towards Wetherlam.

It started raining a bit while we were up there (to be honest, it was alternating sun and rain most of the day) so we called it quits and started walking down.

The car was where I left it, and thankfully there was nobody coming the other way all the way down too. And I remembered where the biggest pothole had been, and so avoided it.

Back in Ambleside

Kas and Venus had been able to obtain their Taylor Swift tickets after a moderate wait, and had spent the rest of the time chilling, buying coffee, and generally not doing a lot.

After a short discussion, we agreed to try the local Thai restaurant. Takeaway rather than sitty-inny though. So we ordered way, way too much food online and then me and Kas set off down the street to go collect it. The food was generally quite good but the kids had ordered a few things they ultimately weren’t keen on. As a result, there was loads too much.

But aside from that it was a good day. Taylor tickets are in the bag, and I now have only one spot on my Difficulty/Terrain grid to fill. And Ami got to do a Wainwright she otherwise might never have done. Result. Something for everyone.