Coast to Coast – Part 3

2 Jun

Day 4 – Grasmere to Patterdale – 8.5 miles

I woke as expected to rain! Pouring rain! But the forecast suggested that it would improve later in the day so I took my time packing up in the hopes that conditions might improve earlier than anticipated – it was a forlorn hope! I had been intending to walk beyond Patterdale to wild camp beside Angle Tarn but once again, the conditions were far from ideal so I settled on a slightly shorter day by overnighting in the Patterdale valley.

Leaving Grasmere, I could immediately see how low the cloud was – there would be no great views today!

Leaving Grasmere in Pouring Rain

Leaving Grasmere in Pouring Rain

The route briefly follows the country lane before crossing the A road to join the track that climbs steadily up to Grisedale Tarn. Initially the wind was on my back but this changed as I climbed out of the valley towards Great Tongue, the tongue shaped hill in the centre of the picture below.

Heading towards Great Tongue

Heading towards Great Tongue

At the foot of Great Tongue, the track divides and you can choose to go East or West of the Tongue. With the very windy and wet conditions, I chose the path that runs to the East of the hill because I thought it might be more sheltered, and I climbed upwards beside Tongue Gill.

The Path Beside Tongue Gill

The Path Beside Tongue Gill

Even sandwiched between hills there was little relief from the driving rain and wind. As in previous days, the path climbed gently at first but became ever steeper as I climbed higher. After nearly 24 hours of rain, the rivers were full and even the path itself had become a stream so that I was walking in streams of water for most of the day. I stopped to look back down Tongue Gill trying as best I could to keep the rain off the lens.

Looking Back Down Tongue Gill

Looking Back Down Tongue Gill

With the unrelenting conditions, it seemed to take an age to reach the top of the climb where I expected to find Grisedale Tarn. In fact as often happens, it was a blind summit and there was more climbing to do in oder to reach the tarn.

Full Rivers and Many Waterfalls

Full Rivers and Many Waterfalls

Apart from pausing to take the odd picture, I had not stopped all the way up the 600 meter climb, so it was a relief to finally crest the real top and to look down on Grisedale Tarn.  It was interesting to think that I had intended to wild camp here last night. With the gale force wind whipping across the pass driving the stinging rain into my face, I knew that it had been the right decision to overnight in the valley instead! How I wish that a photograph could fully convey the conditions I was experiencing as I stood at the top of that pass!

At the end of the tarn, the route divides into three suggested alternatives. The main route drops straight down beside Grisedale Beck into Patterdale making the tarn the highest point of the day. However, there are two suggested higher level alternatives – one takes the zig zagging path up to the left in the picture below to reach Helvellyn via Dollywagon Pike, and the other takes the path to the right and climbs up over St Sunday Crag. My intention all along had been to take the high level route climbing over the Helvellyn summit before dropping down across the wonderful Striding Edge. What should I do?

Grisedale Tarn

Grisedale Tarn

Looking up, I could not even see either of the high level alternatives and in fact, looking back across the tarn, the cloud base was barely clear of the tarn itself. I debated which route to take as I really wanted to go higher even though it would mean another 1,000 feet of steep and tough climbing – Helvellyn is spectacular and Striding Edge is one of the best knife edged ridges around.

Looking Back Towards Grisedale Hause and Seat Sandal

Looking Back Towards Grisedale Hause and Seat Sandal

Ultimately common sense prevailed and with a somewhat heavy heart I headed across the top and took the path that dropped down beside Grisedale Beck. Aside from any risk involved in climbing up into dense cloud, there seemed little point if the amazing views were not visible!

The View Down Grisedale

The View Down Grisedale – Clearer for Just a Moment

As I started downwards, walking often in ankle deep water that was running down the path, I noticed two groups of walkers below me comparing notes – some of them, three in fact, looked familiar. It was Chris, Chris and Steve, the charity walkers from yesterday.  We spent the rest of the day walking together.

Comparing Notes

Comparing Notes

Beside Grisedale Beck

Beside Grisedale Beck

Gradually as I dropped down the valley, visibility improved and as we reached the lower part of the valley, the sun even made an appearance.  The forecast had been right……but why couldn’t it have cleared earlier :) ! It was at this point that I took a tumble! Everything was so wet and slippery and I just lost my footing on the rain sodden grass.  Fortunately all that was damaged was my pride :) !

Grisedale - Out of the Cloud

Grisedale – Out of the Cloud

I arrived at the end of the walk in bright sunshine although the tops were still very much in the clouds. It was a relief to find a walker friendly pub in Patterdale and to be able to remove my wet rucksack, waterproofs and boots and to sit in the bar and dry off :) …….with a pint of Wainwright Ale of course :) !! It was interesting chatting to the landlord whose whole family are involved with the C2C.  He told me that his 9 year old daughter and his 78 year old grandmother had both completed the walk three times. What a great achievement for both of them – and at each end of the age spectrum!

Later in the evening I returned to the same pub and had a meal with my three charity walking friends. It was a great evening……and I even managed to save some of my pizza for lunch tomorrow :) !

Patterdale and Ullswater

Patterdale and Ullswater

It had been an awful day in terms of weather and it had been a real challenge to keep everything, especially the camera, as dry as possible.  Yet, somehow, it had been a fantastic day too despite the disappointment of not being able to climb Helvellyn.

Day 5 – Patterdale to Shap – 16.2 miles

I was up early and out on the trail by 8am on a cloudy but DRY day :) ! I made my way down the road and crossed Goldrill Beck, the river that feeds Ullswater, to pick up the C2C path again. The camera, now dry, immediately came out again :) !

Crossing Goldrill Beck

Crossing Goldrill Beck

At this point, I noticed a strange sight – lambs wearing polythene coats. They reminded me of the Pac A Mac’s that used to be popular many years ago. I guess it is a reflection on how bad the weather has been this year.

Lambs with Pac A Mac's on :)

Lambs with Pac A Mac’s on :)

The climb out of Patterdale started almost immediately and was a steady uphill grind but with ever broadening views and ever brightening weather it was a lovely walk, especially after yesterday :) ! As I climbed higher, the wind became keener and it felt strange to have the path to myself as there was no sign of any other walkers.

Looking Back at Patterdale and Ullswater

Looking Back at Patterdale and Ullswater

I stopped for a while and looked down on Brothers Water, one of the smaller lakes and a local lady out walking her dogs caught up with me. She was a budding photographer and naturalist and, with common interests, we chatted as we walked together. Although she lived in the Lake District, she felt it had been tamed, describing it as a ‘huge adventure playground with well manicured paths that had become too busy’.  She much preferred what she described as ‘the true wilderness of Scotland’! I could see what she meant as it has certainly become a lot more popular thanks to Alfred Wainwright, but I didn’t necessarily agree.

Brothers Water

Brothers Water

She wanted to take photographs on the shore of Angle Tarn so I bade farewell and continued on my way, looking back at the beautiful tarn below. It brought back memories of a day, much warmer than this, when I had swum in the tarn just to cool off after a sweaty climb many years ago.

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn

It seemed strange that apart from the dog walker I had passed no other walkers, and neither could I see any in the distance. I almost wondered if I had taken the wrong route :) ! Actually I did take a detour but it was a deliberate detour to take some photographs. Often I add miles to my walks because I wander off the trail to find different views :) !

The Gateway

The Gateway

The light was fantastic with dark clouds scudding across the sky throwing huge shadows over the landscape. It was a dream day for a photographer! With skylarks singing over head, it was a multi-sensory experience. In particular, the view down Bannerdale, one of the two valleys that make up Martindale, was quite spectacular.

Morning Light on Bannerdale

Morning Light on Bannerdale

In terms of severity, this was down in the guide book as the toughest day of the whole walk as its highest point was Kidsty Pike at a fraction short of 800 meters, and total climbing of some 4,400 feet on the day. However, perhaps because of the conditions over the previous couple of days, it seemed somehow less severe.

Riggindale from High Street

Riggindale from High Street, Kidsty Pike on the left

I reached High Street for just a short time before turning sharply to continue to climb over the top of Kidsty Pike with the now really strong wind doing its very best to knock me off my feet. It was cold and blustery but was an exhilarating walk. I stopped often just to soak up the views and of course to take more pictures.

High Street from Kidsty Pike

High Street from Kidsty Pike

With quite a few miles still to walk, I pressed on over the top and followed the path that drops steeply down towards Haweswater far below. The climb down is knee wrenching but with amazing views across the lake, it was a delight. As I reached the lower parts, the wind dropped, and the day, and I, warmed up!

Dropping Down to Haweswater

Dropping Down to Haweswater

Haweswater is a surprisingly long lake, some 4 miles from end to end. In fact, more correctly it is a reservoir as a dam was erected in 1935 that raised the level of the existing, much smaller, lake by nearly 100 feet, flooding the villages of Measand and Mardale Green in the process. Not only were people evacuated but their homes were all demolished as was the pub and church – the stone was used in the building of the dam. Eerily, like something out of a movie, all bodies were also exhumed from the graveyard and reburied at Shap. This, plus the fact that the valley was seen as one of the most picturesque, caused a public outcry.  The water from the reservoir serves the people of Manchester. Alfred Wainwright described it this way, ‘Man works with such clumsy hands! Gone for ever are the quiet wooded bays and shingly shores that nature had fashioned so sweetly in the Haweswater of old; how aggressively ugly is the tidemark of the new Haweswater!’ He did though describe it correctly as a ‘still noble valley’!

Walking Beside Haweswater

Walking Beside Haweswater

The path that runs along the shoreline undulates and has fine views across the lake. It was a pleasure to walk although it seemed to take a long time to walk the whole length and pass the dam at the lower end. Eventually however, I left Haweswater behind and I headed out into the countryside at the lower end of the valley, following the route of Haweswater Beck and the River Lowther to reach Shap Abbey, a 12 century Premonstratensian community. Although the abbey escaped the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the building was closed in 1540 and most of it, with the exception of the tower, was demolished.

Shap Abbey

Shap Abbey

Along the last few miles I passed two honesty boxes.  These are a feature of parts of the walk and are very welcome when supplies are running low. I made use of the one below, provided courtesy of a local walker-friendly farmer near the abbey. This last part of the route had been quite boggy and hard going……but it was nothing compared to what was to come!

A Welcome Honesty Box

A Welcome Honesty Box

I finally arrived at Shap, my stopping point for the night, at 7pm and having showered I spent an hour or so exploring the village.  I had loosely arranged to meet up with Matt and Ben again as they were finishing their long weekend here but sadly I missed them.

What a fantastic day this has been – the toughest so far maybe, but also the best so far, with amazing weather, awesome views and fabulous scenery. I was tired and very satisfied as I settled down for the night.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 2

29 May

Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale – 18 miles

After a very cold night in the tent, I woke at 5.30am to a heavy frost! I was looking forward to the day as it was the first day in the Lake District mountains but I also wondered how I would get on carrying so much weight up over the mountain passes, today’s highest point being 600 meters – in fact, even more weight now as I had to pack away a very wet tent!

I was out on the road again before 6.30am with the sun making an appearance over the distant Red Pike/Haystacks ridge.  It was a stunning morning as I made my way along the road towards Ennerdale Water.

Sunrise and frost on the road to Ennerdale Water

Sunrise and frost on the road to Ennerdale Water

At the lake, you have choices as you can take the path to the North or South of the lake – I chose the latter and made my way along the lake shore in glorious sunshine. The path was lovely and meandered along the shoreline but it was rocky so progress was slow – a twisted ankle at this stage would be disastrous! Having said that, slow is good and I drank in the views and just the early morning atmosphere.

The South Shore of Ennerdale Water

The South Shore of Ennerdale Water

Reaching the head of the lake, I crossed the River Liza that feeds it and stopped for ‘elevenses’ beside the fast flowing stream.

River Liza

River Liza

The route from this point follows the forestry road that runs beside the river, climbing slowly up towards the head of the valley. This was easy walking as it was even underfoot and just rose gently as it wound through the trees. With birdsong and the babbling of various rivulets passed along the way, it was a delightful walk. Eventually I came out of the forest and I could see the steep rise ahead of me at the top of the valley. I could also see the Black Sail Hut and I took the opportunity to rest awhile, wishing really that it was later in the day as this would have been a fantastic place to overnight.

Black Sail Hostel

Black Sail Hostel

However, I had more walking to do so I continued on my way. Ahead of me I could see the climb that was to come as the path rose steeply beside Loft Beck to reach the summit at Grey Knott.

The Head of the Ennerdale valley

The Head of the Ennerdale valley

Now when it comes to climbing, I am a heavy goods vehicle in low gear :) ! On the way up, I was passed by two brothers, one from Coventry and one from Lancashire. We chatted for some time – well it was a good excuse for a rest :) ! We were to meet again later, several times in fact.

Looking Back Down Ennerdale

Looking Back Down Ennerdale from Loft Beck

They were travelling light and left me behind to continue slowly towards the top of the pass. For anyone thinking of doing this walk, these are hard climbs, especially when carrying a heavy pack, but I cannot emphasise enough the sheer beauty of this area and how fantastic and worthwhile this walk is despite any hardships. In fact the hardships of steep climbs, bad weather etc pale into insignificance against the pleasures of walking this trail.

On Fleetwith with Buttermere in the distance

On Fleetwith with Buttermere in the distance

After rock hopping and criss-crossing the beck up the steep slope, I emerged at the top of the climb to amazing views to the surrounding mountains and valleys, including Buttermere in the distance with Haystacks standing proud. While I was standing taking in the views, Stuart, an Australian walker, caught up with me. He had come over especially to do this walk – in fact I was to meet several other Australians as well as Americans and Canadians later.  This really is an internationally renowned walk. Stuart and I were to bump into each other a number of times and were to walk together over the coming days.

Haystacks

Haystacks

Despite the sun, it was cold on the fells as the wind continued to whip across the top.  It was time to walk on and I crossed the fell top and dropped down the other side to join the disused quarry tramway that once served the Honister mines.

The Disused Quarry Tramway at Honister

The Disused Quarry Tramway at Honister

As I walked down the track, I could see the Honister visitor centre below and I knew there was a cafe there – I hoped it would be open :) !

Down the Tramway to Honister

Down the Tramway to Honister

I stopped at the cafe for a well earned cup of tea and bumped into the two brothers again before they headed off towards Borrowdale. A short while later, Stuart joined me and we chatted over tea and cakes – very civilised when you are more used to sandwiches and water on bleak hillsides :) !

Leaving the cafe, I headed down into the lovely valley of Borrowdale, walking on or nearby the steep road that runs up and over the Honister Pass. It reminded me of very pleasant days when I would drive the narrow zig zagging roads over the mountain passes with my son, Paul. We share a mutual love of walking these mountains and driving the narrow, steep passes too, and have spent many happy weeks camping together over the years. The last few miles were all down hill to reach first of all Seatoller, and then on into the three ‘thwaites’ that make up Borrowdale – Longthwaite, Rosthwaite and Stonethwaite.

Dropping Down into Seatoller

Dropping Down into Seatoller

Stuart and I parted at the youth hostel where he was staying and I immediately bumped into the two brothers again so we walked awhile together before they reached their stopping point. I hadn’t fixed on any particular place to stay so I looked at various options (adding a few miles to the day’s tally in the process) before settling on a farm campsite, the main deciding factor being the fact that it had showers – I hadn’t been able to shower for three days! Fortunately there were enough daylight hours left for the sun to dry out the tent so later that evening I could at least settle into dry accommodation for the night :) !

Walking through Borrowdale

Walking through Borrowdale

I lay in my sleeping bag thinking back over a great day – beautiful weather, 18 miles of amazing walking, great views and some good company too. I slept well :) !

Day 3 – Borrowdale to Grasmere – 9 miles

I woke the next day to beautiful sunshine. It wasn’t to last – but at least it had been a milder night with no frost. This was to be a shorter day which would end with a wild camp at Grisedale Tarn but it wasn’t to be!

Early Morning at Borrowdale

Early Morning at Borrowdale

I left the campsite and retraced my steps through the village to reach the lovely footpath that runs between dry stone walls along the valley. As with yesterday, the path gradually climbed towards the head of the valley, getting ever steeper the further I walked. I stopped and looked back the way I’d come. Could there be a better walk?!

Looking Back Down Borrowdale

Looking Back Down Borrowdale

There was a constant accompaniment of the sound of running water with numerous waterfalls along the way. With the sheep and the birds, the sounds were a delight to the ears and made for very pleasant walking.

Waterfall Aplenty

Waterfalls Aplenty

Not wishing to rush through the day, I stopped often to take in all that was around me and three walkers caught up with me and stopped to chat. Chris and Steve were two Australians over especially to do this walk with another Chris who was from Southampton. The three were doing the Coast to Coast as a charity walk for Dravet Syndrome hoping to raise £500 (in fact they more than doubled that total). Steve had had two replacement knee joints and was also struggling with an ankle problem so kudos to him for even attempting the walk! I was to meet up with these three intrepid walkers often over the next few days.

The Climb out of Borrowdale

The Climb out of Borrowdale

The climb became ever steeper and there was an ever increasing need to stop and admire the views ;) which were many and great! Ultimately I reached the 600 meter high Greenup Edge, a somewhat boggy plateau. The telltale signs of gathering clouds and stiffening wind had been there on the way up and just as I reached the top, the rain started. It was to last the rest of the day and into tomorrow!

Boggy Ground on Greenup Edge

Boggy Ground on Greenup Edge

Crossing the boggy plateau was just a question of finding the ‘driest’ route rather than following any particular path and this wasn’t easy as the cold wind was whipping across the top and the rain was getting increasingly heavy.  The weather was closing in all around by the time I caught up again with Chris, Chris and Steve.

The Weather Closes In!

The Weather Closes In!

The Charity Walkers Togged up Against the Rain

The Charity Walkers Togged up Against the Rain

There are two choices at this point, the high level route across the ridge taking in Calf Crag, Pike of Carrs, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag or the low level route down the Easedale valley. The four of us unanimously agreed to take the high level route despite the conditions, and what a great decision it was. Somehow, the bad weather really brings out the character of these mountains and even in bad weather they are great to walk.

Easedale and Grasmere

Easedale and Grasmere

In fact, the cloud had descended so much that the higher fells were not even visible any more.  Fortunately it was still slightly higher than the fells we were walking – route finding in low cloud and rain is not easy.

Low Cloud on the Fells

Low Cloud on the Fells

We made our way along the ridge, fighting the wind and rain, stopping for lunch on the way. Eventually we came over the top of Gibson Knott and the view below came into sight. The conditions were grey and dark but the hillside in front had the most wonderful warm colours that seemed to glow through the bad visibility. It was amazing and yet again, despite the pouring rain, the camera came out!

Helm Crag from Gibson Knott

Helm Crag from Gibson Knott

It was a steep descent from Helm Crag into Grasmere where we ended the day by walking along Poet’s Walk, the woodland walk where Wordsworth composed much of his poetry, dictating it to his sister who wrote it down. I had decided to stop at Grasmere for the night because of the extremely wet and windy conditions, reckoning that high up beside a flooded Grisedale Tarn the conditions would be untenable. I bade farewell to my three friends – we would meet again in coming days.

Tomorrow would see another day in the high mountains when I hoped to be able to climb Helvellyn, a tough climb at 950 meters.  The forecast was not good however! I dropped off wondering what the next day would bring.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 1

26 May

Day 0 – St Bees to Tarn Flatt – 3 Miles

Why Day 0? Simply because the day was spent mostly travelling up from the South coast to the starting point at St Bees.  It was a long journey involving a car and three trains, plus travelling across London by tube. It always amazes me how slick the London Underground is – so many trains running at the same time, all timed to the second, a constant buzz of activity, people and trains rushing everywhere with deadlines to meet, no time to ‘stand and stare’, a complete contrast to what I was heading for!

The train from Euston to Carlisle was two thirds first class coaches – I joined a second class coach! My memories of this part of the journey were of a Scottish lady talking constantly for the three and a quarter hour trip, people talking on phones, bells and buzzes seemingly going off all around me. Joining the little coastal train at Carlisle was a culture shock – it was old and I’d swear it had square wheels as it was so bumpy after the north-bound train. It trolled its way slowly around the coast and finally pulled into St Bees station.

I should say at this point that the miles quoted in my headings were taken from the GPS and were the actual miles walked. They often exceeded the distance quoted in the guidebooks because of the need to walk off the trail to find camping spots.

St Bees
St Bees station

Leaving the station, I made my way down to the sea front and the starting point for my walk. There was an increasingly strong and chill wind blowing off the sea as I made my way down the quiet country lane until finally, after a whole day of travelling, I had my first sight of the headland that would be my first miles of walking.

St Bees Head
St Bees beach

There is a tradition with the C2C walk whereby walkers first dip their toe in the Irish Sea and also pick up a pebble to carry across to the other side of the country – far be it from me to break with that tradition :) !

St BeesSt Bees

With the light fading and the wind increasing, I left the beach and started on my way, climbing up the headland that would form the first few miles of my walk. As it was getting late, I had already decided to spend my first night at a camping barn just three miles along the coast and with gathering clouds, I wondered if I would make it before the rain came. I turned and looked back across the bay just as a lovely but last burst of sunlight flooded the beach.

St Bees
Looking back across the bay at St Bees

There wasn’t time to stand for long so I continued over South Head and onto St Bees Head, passing Fleswick Bay on the way.

St Bees Head
Fleswick Bay

The sky was really interesting as I made my way along the cliff-top, buffeted by the strong side wind.  The sun had set and there were some threatening storm clouds gathering.

From St Bees Head
Gathering storm clouds

It didn’t take long to reach the St Bees Lighthouse where I turned inland to reach my stopping point for the night, Tarn Flatt Camping Barn and I walked into the farm just as the rain began to fall!

The barn was a simple affair but perfectly adequate for my purpose.  I asked the owner if I would have the place to myself as there was no-one else there and she informed me that there were two others booked in but who hadn’t yet arrived. I wondered who they would be and how we would get on sharing the sparse accommodation but I needn’t have had any concerns. Half an hour after my arrival, Matt and Ben walked in and we got on well from the start. They were two younger guys from Yorkshire who were over for the weekend to do the Cumbrian part of the C2C and they arrived by car having driven across after work. They had made convoluted travel arrangements to move the car around over the next few days as they walked the first 65 miles of the route.

Tarn Flatt Camping Barn
Tarn Flatt Camping Barn

It wasn’t long before all three of us were tucked up fully clothed in our sleeping bags – it was to be a cold night!

Day 1 – Tarn Flatt to Ennerdale Bridge – 13 miles

I was up at 6.00 after a fitful night – it always takes a day or two to adjust to the hard ground after the softness of my bed at home! After a quick cuppa and snack, I bade farewell to Matt and Ben although we were to meet again at the end of the day as we were all staying at Ennerdale Bridge the next night. I retraced my steps back to the lighthouse and turned North to continue along the coast with fine views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.

The Irish Sea
Heading North

Very soon the coastline bends round and I left it behind to head inland, initially along country lanes. Almost immediately I had a foretaste of what was to come as there were ominous dark clouds over the distant Lakeland mountains, and snow on the peaks too. The local man in the picture below passed me with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ and he informed me that the weather was set to improve after the weekend – I hoped so as it was another cold and windy day!

Heavy weather coming!
Storm clouds gathering

It was something of a relief to turn inland as it meant I had the wind on my back – which is of course why West to East is the recommended way to walk this route. The next few miles were spend traversing the coastal plain through Sandwith with the ever present view of the mountains to come, including Dent Hill which at 352 meters would provide a stern test later today (on the right in the picture below).

What is to Come
Mountains to come!

Entering Moor Row, I passed the statue of Alfred Wainwright, the creator of the Coast to Coast walk.  Walking through the village did highlight that there are shortcomings in all navigation and planning aids on a walk such as this – the guidebook stated that there was a cafe here and I was relying on it to get food for the day.  However, a very friendly local informed me that the owner had had a heart attack and had to close the cafe some time ago. He also informed me however that there was a shop in the next village.

Alfred Wainwright
The statue of Alfred Wainwright at Moor Row

Having read the guidebook, I was already aware that there were some notoriously difficult parts to navigate so I was carrying a strip map and compass, a guidebook, a GPS with the route loaded, and if all else failed, I had map software on my iPhone.  I was to use all these navigation aids during the walk! Because this is not a National Trail, way marking is hit and miss and it is often only there because kind locals have painted marks on posts and fences.

C2C
Waymarking by locals!

I continued to Cleator where I found the village shop – very timely as not too far away was the steep climb up over Dent Hill.  I would need that sustenance to help me there :) ! Leaving the village, I immediately missed a turning but fortunately another local resident called out, informing me that every walker misses that turning – clearly my 20 Kg backpack gave away the fact that I was walking the C2C :) ! This does highlight something very positive about this walk though – just the friendly and helpful nature of the people you meet along the way.

I stopped for a short time at the foot of the hill to eat lunch and then started the climb upwards. After the relative flatness of the preceding miles, the climb came as a ‘shock’…….there would be many of those to come over the next two weeks!  The views from Dent Hill were amazing and I was glad the sun had lingered long enough for me to get some pictures. On a clear day it is possible to see Scotland, The Isle of Man, and even Ireland.  I drank in the views for as long as I could but the wind whipping across the top was bitter so I moved on.

From Dent Hill
The coastal plain from Dent Hill

With the sun gone, the top of Dent Hill is quite bleak and I made my way across, getting ever nearer to those distant mountains.

From Dent Hill
On Dent Hill

Reaching the other side of the hill, I came across the mega-stile in the picture below. It is built like this to enable walkers to cross the deer fencing which runs around the hill. You almost feel you need oxygen to help you get over it :) !

Mega Stile
The mega-stile on Dent Hill

The drop down the other side of the hill through Raven Crag, which is actually a grassy hill, into Nannycatch (dont you just love these names!) is extremely steep, in fact it is the steepest part of the whole trail. As I climbed down, I wondered what it would be like to climb up if you were doing the trail in reverse! The views across the valley were spectacular though and I wondered who lived in a house like the one in the picture below. Is there a more idyllic place to live?!

Nannycatch
From Raven Crag into Nannycatch

It was something of a relief to reach the valley bottom, and what a delightful valley it was too! Nannycatch Beck babbles its way through the valley and the path follows its route closely. Being sheltered by hills on both sides, the keen wind was felt no longer and I thoroughly enjoyed quietly and slowly walking along the valley floor to the lovely sound of birds and brook singing together.

Nanycatch Beck
Nannycatch Beck

Eventually the path reaches the road that winds down to Ennerdale Bridge but before leaving this idyllic valley, I couldn’t resist turning for a last time to look back down the way I had come.

The Nannycatch Valley
Looking back down Nannycatch

I feel that I should mention sheep at this point…….there are a lot of them…..all along the route :) ! When I was young, I used to dream of being a shepherd so this just added to the delight of this walk. Herdwick sheep are prevalent here because they are one of the breeds that can take the severe mountain climate and vegetation without hardship. They are also territorial so don’t stray from their own fells which makes them ideal for the Lake District even though their wool is not the best. For me, they are definitely a positive part of the amazing Lake District scenery.

Two of a Kind
Herdwick sheep

I made my way down the road into Ennerdale Bridge, my stopping point for the night, and headed for the local pub where I pitched my tent in the beer garden. Later that evening I met up with Matt and Ben again and we spent a great evening together. This is another feature of this walk – the almost ‘community’ feel to it as you meet, chat and walk with many other walkers.

Ennerdale
The road to Ennerdale Bridge

It was dark and cold as I later made my way to my tent but I didn’t know then quite how cold it was going to get! Tomorrow would see me in the Lake District mountains and I fell asleep wondering how I would cope with carrying my pack over greater heights than today!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Wainwright Coast to Coast Path – Intro

14 May Great Fryup Dale

I have just returned from an amazing 13 days spent backpacking the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path, and what a fantastic 13 days it has been.  The weather man threw everything at me, below freezing temperatures, heavy rain, sleet, blizzard conditions at times, thick mist and low cloud, and beautiful sunshine.  The paths ranged from very nicely ‘paved’ sections to treading knee deep through almost swamp conditions as there had been so much rain.  But all of to was just awesome!

The End
The End :) – outside the Bay Hotel, Robin Hood’s Bay with a pint of Wainwright’s Ale

The route, the brainchild of the celebrated Lakeland walker, Alfred Wainwright, is officially 192 miles long and stretches from St Bees on the North West coast of England to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North East coast of England.  I say ‘officially’ because often it is not possible to stop on the trail itself which adds some miles – my GPS in fact clocked 205 miles in the 13 days.  The pedometer Ap on my iPhone tells me that I walked 475,000 steps :) !  It takes in three National Parks, The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors and includes coast, mountains, moorlands, rivers, valleys, farmland, in fact every type of landscape.

Bannerdale
The high Lake District Mountains

It is very much a multi-cultural walk with people from all around the world coming to the UK specially to walk across this country, such is its renown around the world.  It is also a friendly community trail – I have walked with and talked with some lovely people who were either following the same route or were local residents only too happy to welcome walkers such as myself – and to put us right when we took a wrong turn.

The Pennines
On the bleak Pennines

It has to be said that it is a tough trail to walk, especially when carrying a 20Kg pack up over mountains over 2,500 feet high and where conditions under foot are not always great.  It is of course possible to use baggage transfer companies and carry less but one of the joys of carrying everything on your back is the pure and exhilarating freedom to stop when and where you please, although it naturally makes sense to have some sort of schedule – for me, a very flexible one.

Crackpot Hall
Crackpot Hall in Swaledale

A year ago I completed the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, another great trail, but the difference with this one is that good route finding skills are essential – in Pembrokeshire with the sea on one side of you and the land on the other it is hard to go wrong :) !  This time, I took a GPS, map and compass, and a guide book……oh and I still had to resort to the iPhone map Ap to establish my exact position at times :) !

All in all, it has been another fabulous experience and I have returned with not a single blister…..although I do have a pair of split boots as they didn’t wear quite so well as my feet!

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging each of the days walked as I kept a journal running each evening.  I will include photographs (naturally), some of the hardships, the delights (of which there were many), the people I met on the way, and much, much more.  I hope you will join me.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Of a once grand abbey, a once thriving village, glorious greenery, and a graveyard

23 Apr

I woke to a glorious sunny morning, eager to get out on the trail again.  I had already decided which walk I wanted to do – it started from the picture postcard village of Milton Abbas.  This is a designer village with one broad main street lined with almost identical houses thanks to Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, owner of Milton Abbey.  In 1780 he decided that the nearby market town of Middleton was spoiling his view so he appointed Sir William Chambers and Capability Brown to design a new village in Luccombe Bottom, just around the corner…….and out of sight!  The result was Milton Abbas.  The old town of Middleton was demolished and the grounds landscaped to form the parkland of his mansion.

Milton Abbas
Milton Abbas

It really is a beautiful, pristine village and it was wonderful walking down this street, passing old buildings such as the old bakery, the post office, the church and almshouses.  At the bottom of the main street, I turned north and walked through the parklands towards Milton Abbey itself, lost to the church at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Parkland
The path from the village to the Abbey

I decided that I would look inside the Abbey – it is the only building that has public access as this magnificent mansion is now Milton Abbas School.  Walking through the door, I was surprised at how the beautiful building had deteriorated since I last visited.  There were people carrying out a survey and I chatted to one of them.  He was a glass specialist who worked at Salisbury Cathedral and he told me that the problem was water ingress caused by damaged windows, gutters and downpipes.  The building dates from the 14th century so it is not surprising that there is deterioration in the structure.  His role was to report on the condition of all the windows, stained glass and others.  I commented that his job must be really interesting and he agreed but did add a caveat that it was not quite so good in the cold and wet of winter!

There are several tombs in the abbey but none more beautiful than that of Joseph and Caroline Damer.

Joseph and Caroline Damer
The tomb of Joseph and Caroline Damer

Leaving the church, I followed the path that skirts around the grounds and was able to look back across the perfectly manicured lawns for a fine view of this magnificent abbey and mansion.  With the trees now clothed in their bright, verdant foliage, the view was quite breathtaking.

Milton Abbey

Milton Abbey
Milton Abbey viewed across the parklands

From the abbey grounds, my route took me briefly along the country lane before turning off along a track that runs through the valley bottom.  A horse rider bid me a cheery good morning as she passed and of course, being English, we commented on the weather :) !

After a mile or two, I arrived at the next village, Hilton, which sits in the eastern part of the Dorset Downs.  This village was once part of the Milton Abbey estate when it was owned by the Hambro family, and the hillsides around were forested to provide cover for pheasants as King Edward VII was regularly entertained by the Hambros.  The surrounding hills are still wooded but the trees are much more recent as the original forests were cleared during WW2.  The village itself is a delight to walk through, with it’s many thatched cottages with gardens full of spring colours.  It is a typical Dorset village.

Hilton
Hilton

I made my way to the church, standing proud on it’s hillside.  The graveyard was thick with spring flowers which seemed to compliment the old, lichen covered gravestones.  I was walking around taking pictures when a local lady walked through the gate and we fell into conversation.

She told me that she was born in the village but left when she married her farmer husband, before returning later in life.  She was sad because there were no young people in the village as they were unable to afford to pay the market price for houses that had increased way beyond the norm over the years.  I asked if the village had, like many, become a place of weekend homes and she replied that although there were some second homes, it was not as bad as some villages.  As with most villages, there were cottages called, ‘The Old Post Office’ etc that gave indications of their previous uses – in this 21st century, it is sad that the heart has gone from these communities.

The villager told me that the church minister used to live in The Rectory beside the church, a substantial three story, 10 bedroom pile, but now he lived miles away and looked after four other villages as well as Hilton.  As always, The Rectory, much changed, is now in private ownership.

All Saints, Hilton
All Saints, Hilton

I left the village with an air of sadness, sadness for a lifestyle that had gone forever, sadness that these once vibrant communities now seemed so soul-less, but cheered that there are still friendly people happy to welcome visitors like me.  And I left to the raucous sound of rooks cawing high in the trees overhead, their derisory scoffing echoing after me as I made my way up through Hilton Bottom.

Oil Seed Rape
Hilton Bottom

As I neared the top of the hill, I sat and ate lunch looking down through the lovely valley with it’s rapidly ripening oil seed rape and I pondered on my conversation with the old lady in the village below.

Hilton Bottom
A beautiful lunch time view

Eventually I pulled myself away from what is one of my favourite places and continued to the top of the hill, passing lines of hawthorn trees in full bloom.

Blossom
Hawthorn Blossom

The top of the hill is in fact almost the top of Dorset.  At 900 feet, there are only a couple of places that can outdo its height, but not its views.  From the top of this chalk hill it is possible to see for miles across the Blackmore Vale, taking in four separate counties.  It was an appropriate place to site a wayside pulpit and an equally appropriate message.

Wayside Pulpit
The Wayside Pulpit on Bulbarrow Hill

Dropping down off the hill, my route took me through a delightful valley with beautiful but contrasting sides.  The north facing side was thick with amazing spring green foliage brought to full life by the lowering afternoon sun.  With long shadows being thrown down the hillside, it was a scene to just stand and absorb as the birds seemingly gave vent to their delight overhead.

Spring Greens
Verdant spring greens

The south facing hillside was thick with bluebells gradually coming into full flower.  These are old woodlands and there are many old and rotting trunks which provide a haven to a myriad of tiny creatures.  With these valley walls on either side, I made my way down the track that runs between them and in the distance I could hear the cry of a cuckoo as if to prove to me that spring had arrived.  It seems strange to me that even the tiniest of birds is unable to realise that in the cuckoo they have an infiltrator in their midst, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the new baby is several times the size of its own!

Bluebells
Bluebells and rotting trunks

The woodland track eventually gave way to a narrow country lane for a time.  Now whilst I normally shun roads as much as possible, there are benefits to walking on tarmac and that is that you don’t need to watch your feet as you do on rough stony ground.  That means that you can really take in all that is around you which is great even if for just a short time.

However, soon I was back of stony ground as I climbed again out of the valley onto another ridge top.  This track with lovely hedgerows on either side was particularly beautiful with the now low sun streaming through the leaves, highlighting the new, spring growth.

Spring

Spring
New spring growth

The final part of my walk today took me through more, but very different, woodlands.  This is Forestry Commission land with its array of perfectly vertical specimens with evergreen foliage.  To me, these are not so enjoyable to walk as the mixed deciduous woodlands and yet there is a strange beauty.

Forestry
Through the forest

In fact, wherever you are there is beauty, even in the smallest detail such as the unfolding of a fern on the forest floor.  It is amazing how this happens each year and how these become the thick, green, ferny leaves of summer, and the orange carpet of autumn.  Each stage as beautiful as the former.

Unfurling
Unfurling

I finished my walk where it started, in the postcard-perfect village of Milton Abbas where I paid a visit to the church.  This is something I like to do throughout my walks, partly because churches are beautiful and interesting places, but mostly because God’s peace is so evident there.  It always moves me when I think about the enormous heritage of these places with the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been impacted down through the ages, especially when they were packed to the doors with worshippers.  When I think about those who are buried in the churchyard, I cannot help but think of Thomas Gray’s words, ‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep’.  One day they will sleep no more!

Graveyard
Milton Abbas churchyard

It was a fitting place to end my day, a wonderful day of walking and conversation, of interesting places and people, a day when I have felt blessed.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

The Dorset Rambler joins the 21st Century :)

18 Apr

Yes, its true, I now have a Twitter feed – it is @adorsetrambler and I will be using it to post pictures and interesting things from my many and varied walks around Dorset and beyond.  So if you fancy joining me on my walks without leaving your seat, follow me on @adorsetrambler :)!

I have realised that it is a long time since I posted a full blog entry but I will do so very soon.  In fact I have been planning and preparing for my latest back pack adventure – I will be walking the Wainwright Coast to Coast at the end of this month.  It is a trail that is nearly 200 miles long running from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin’s Hood Bay in North Yorkshire and takes in three National Parks as well as crossing the Pennines. Mobile phone signal and battery permitting, I will be tweeting throughout the walk, and of course I will blog the whole walk afterwards.

I have continued to walk nearly every day and so far this year I have covered nearly 700 miles.  This week the weather has been particularly spring like with bright sunshine so here are a couple of pictures that I took on a wonderful walk along the coast – well I had to walk this stretch because I needed lots of hill climbing practice :)!

On a Misty Morning

The shot above was taken from the top of Bat’s Head looking east and there was a lovely atmospheric light caused by the sea fret blowing in farther along the coast.

Sea Fret on the Dorset Coast

The shot above was taken from further along at White Nothe, again looking to the east.  This is the view I had as I sat and ate my lunch.  Sigh, what could be better :)!

More to follow soon but in the meantime, I look forward to seeing you at @adorsetrambler.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

My Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Holloways and Sunken Paths, the Mysterious Ancient Highways

20 Feb

Holloway

There are thousands of ancient paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none more fascinating than these labyrinthine paths like the one in the picture above which goes by the interesting name of Hell Lane! These are known as Holloways, although they do have other names such as shutes, bostels or grundles depending on the area they are in, and they are only seen in areas where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone and therefore has many Holloways.

So what are Holloways?

Well the name Holloway comes from the anglo-saxon word which literally means ‘sunken road’, and they date from at least 300 years ago, many going back as far as the iron age. They started life as either drove trails used to move cattle and other animals from farms to markets, routes from inland to the sea ports, pilgrimage routes, or simply boundary ditches. I am not sure whether the term Holloway would have been applied much when the usage of these ‘highways’ was at its peak – I suspect they might well have been referred to as simply ‘lanes’.  Holloway, as a name, seems to have come much more to the fore in recent years having been popularised by Dan Richards’ and Robert Macfarlane’s book of the same name.  In terms of literature, they also feature strongly in Geoffrey Household’s book Rogue Male, where the main character fleeing his pursuers goes to ground and hides out in a disused Dorset Holloway.

They certainly wouldn’t have started their lives as Holloways because most would have initially been at ground level but centuries of use by cattle, carts and people gradually eroded the soft surface creating a ditch which was then deepened and widened by yet more ‘traffic’ and also by water running off the surrounding land as the ditch became at times a river. Eventually, many have become as deep as 20 or 30 feet creating in effect gorges rather than paths.

Coombe Down Hill

Holloways, and indeed all the ancient byways, are a record of the habits of our ancestors with hundreds of years of repeated use and that makes them rich in heritage and mystery……which is why I love walking them. With walls towering on either side and trees growing out of the top with their network of roots holding the walls in place, these paths have a real air of mystery. You feel like you are walking a natural and secret tunnel as the mesh of intertwined trees and branches above makes you feel shut in.  And there is lots of wildlife too! Gilbert White, a pioneering naturalist from the 18th century once said that to walk the holloways was to ‘Access a world of deep history, an unexpectedly wild world, buried amid the familiar and close at hand’. He wasn’t wrong!

I have a number of regular walks that take in one or more holloways and they are always a delight to walk. On a grey, stormy day you could almost fear to walk them as the gloom and darkness created by the high walls and overhanging branches creates a feeling of shadowy threat. On a bright sunny day with lovely dappled light filtering through the trees, they take on an altogether different feel!  But always secret and mysterious. So where are these Holloways?  Well the truth is they are many and varied, ranging from the gorge-like to simply shallow sunken paths, worn by feet, wheels, and hooves.

These are a few I have walked.

Holloway
Hell Lane, Symondsbury

Hell Lane is perhaps one of the most impressive and interesting.  With Shutes Lane it connects Symondsbury with North Chideock, climbing up over the ridge near Quarry Hill.  It is interesting because the eastern part is much more gorge like than the western half – to walk from the ridge down to North Chideock is a bit like walking a shallow river bed!  The reason for this difference might well be the fact that the church and other buildings at Symondsbury were built with stone from the quarry.  You can just imagine how the constant traffic of heavy laden carts running between quarry and village would have considerably deepened that part of the track to the gorge it now is.

The Winniford Valley
The Winneford Valley – the Holloway runs into the trees, top right

There are others in this area, tracks such as the one, now part of the Monarch’s Way, that climbs from North Chideock, through the Winneford Valley up over Coppet Hill.

Henwood Hill Henwood Hill
On Henwood Hill

And a smaller, but none the less beautiful, path that runs across the ridge at Henwood Hill.  This is a lovely path to walk in spring when the bluebells and wild garlic are in flower.

Coombe Down Hill Coombe Down Hill
Coombe Down

Moving away from this immediate area, there is a fine Holloway that climbs from the A3066 south of Beaminster up over Coombe Down.  This is deep and wild with gnarled tree roots growing out of the steep sided walls, holding them in place.  It is a well walked path, forming part of The Jubilee Trail.

A Sunken Lane Follow the River
Near South Poorton

Another smaller lane (or is it a river!) runs from the road at South Poorton and drops down to the nature reserve.  With it’s fern lined walls and it’s stony, waterlogged bottom, this is a lovely haven for wildlife and this, together with the nature reserve beyond, makes a delightful walk.

Holloway, West Milton
The track drops down steeply at West Milton

And there is evidence of further Holloways at the other end of the nature reserve as the track drops down to another interesting village, West Milton.

Lewesdon Hill Lane DSC00233-36
Lewesdon Hill Lane

One further path that I feel is worthy of inclusion is Lewesdon Hill Lane, although this is not perhaps a Holloway in the true sense.  I include it because it is ancient and sunken and a beautiful track to walk – it has even been suggested by some to have been part of the Ickneild Way, that ancient super-highway.  With moss covered banks on either side and surrounded by ancient woodlands, there are some wonderful views from this path.

Near Stoke Abbot
The access road down to Stoke Abbot

If you walk Lewesdon Hill Lane, you may well eventually reach the track that drops from the ridge down to the delightful village of Stoke Abbot.  It really is worth walking this part as the deeply cut access road that leads to the village is a Holloway in itself, and of course the village with its pub is a pleasant detour.

The sunken lane near Chetnole
Near Chetnole – this section is fairly clear but later it becomes overgrown Cutty Stubbs
Cutty Stubbs

Sadly, not all of our old sunken byways have been well maintained and with the development of other forms of transport many have fallen into disrepair.  The pictures above show sunken paths at Cutty Stubbs and Chetnole – both are now impassable.  At Cutty Stubbs, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the sunken path and had to ask the farmer for permission to cross his field to find it!  I did once question this with the authorities in an effort to have them cleared and reopened but sadly they ‘fall between stools’ and no-one has a budget that they wish to apply.  The reason is that these are often Byways Open to All Transport (BOAT’s) rather than footpaths and responsibility for these falls with the Highways authority.  The Footpaths authorities have a budget to maintain footpaths and Highways have a budget to maintain roads and BOAT’s………but naturally their funding is always exhausted keeping the roads in reasonable repair, with nothing left for our ‘off-road’ tracks.

Holloways may have been popularised by more recent writings but justifiably so.  They are ever changing, ever different, ever mysterious, but always delightful! And as is often the case when I walk, I travel along them wondering about those who have trod that way before – were they early drovers, were they pilgrims heading for one of the Dorset abbeys, were they smugglers, were they just ordinary people making their way to the port perhaps to emigrate to other lands!  Who were they and what was their purpose in travelling these ancient routes?  If only the walls could speak! These days walkers and wildlife are the companions of the Holloway and to go there is to enter another world.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

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