Cat Bells

For the second day of my brief Lake District visit, the weather was a little less “breezy” and some of the snow had melted, so I decided to visit Cat Bells. I’d not been to Cat Bells for about fifteen years. Although one of the more modest fells, it has superb views and the weather conditions looked good for a few photos.

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From Braithwaite, I followed the A66 back to Keswick for about 500m, using the parallel cycle way until I came to the footpath heading south towards Little Braithwaite across the fields.

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From the bridge at Little Braithwaite, there is a delightful path along Newlands Beck to a minor road that leads to Stair. From Stair, I took the lane to Skelgill.

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From Skelgill, there’s a track which contours around the base of Cat Bells heading south. The low angle of the sun and the snow made for some good photos, even for a poor photographer like me.

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After a few hundred metres, there’s a track that gently climbs the flank of Cat Bells towards the col with Maiden Moor.  This is not marked on the 1;50,000 map but provides excellent walking and superb view of the fells to west of Cat Bells (Causey Pike, Sail and Ard Crags).

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Although there was a light covering of snow and ice, the gentle incline of the path made it easy.

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Even from this distance, you could make out the zigzag path up Sail (a bit of an eyesore IMO).

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Before reaching the col, there was a grassy path which cut straight up to the southern end of Cat Bells. Once on the ridge the snow was a bit thicker, but the views opened out all around.

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To the south-west, Robinson and Hindscarth looked quite alpine.

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To the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra were magnificent with plumes of cloud flowing from their summits.

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The blue of Derwent Water contrasted with the green lushness of Borrowdale.

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To the north-west, I could see the snow-clad hills of the Scottish Southern Uplands.

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Descending the north ridge of Cat Bells was a bit tricky with the snow and ice, but it afforded wonderful views across the northern end of Derwent Water.

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Back down in Newlands, I reversed my route back along Newlands Beck. I arrived back at the campsite mid afternoon. While it wasn’t a long walk it was wonderful for the views. Cat Bells has to have some of the best views in Lakeland.

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Coledale

Last week I took our daughter back to Manchester Uni, so it was an excuse to steal another couple of days in the Lake District using my totally brilliant Wellhouse Toyota Alphard camper van. I parked myself at Scotgate campsite in Braithwaite, which I’ve used on numerous occasions.

dsc02866Not surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the campsite.

dsc02868There was plenty of snow on the hills and a chilly breeze so I decided a saunter up Coledale would be a pleasant diversion.

dsc02870The mine track made for easy walking.

dsc02873In the shade it was perishing cold!

dsc02877I’ve never been to Force Crag mine before. It’s being restored by the National Trust. The wind almost blew me off my feet, so goodness knows what it was like on the tops.

dsc02879It was too cold and windy to hang around so I turned round and walked back the way I’d come.

dsc02869Back down the valley in the sunshine, it was quite pleasant.

dsc02880It was nice to get back to the warmth of the van for a late lunch. Luxury!

I’m on the 2017 TGO Challenge


I applied for this year’s TGO Challenge but was put on the standby list at number 37. Today I was offered a place which I gratefully accepted. Being an efficient chap, accommodation and travel to Scotland has all been booked. I’ve started my training too, although I actually feel reasonably fit. I’ve already sorted out my route which will be Plockton to Stonehaven. It’s a bit more ambitious than my previous Challenges but should be achievable if the weather plays ball. I’ll fill in some details in a while. 

Keswick C&CC Campsite

img_1966On my recent trip to the Lake District, I stayed at the Keswick C&CC campsite. In the past, I’ve stayed at the Scotgate campsite in Braithwaite, but I thought I’d give the Keswick site a go instead. The big advantage of the Keswick site is that it’s only a short walk into Keswick itself and there’s a good Booth’s supermarket close by. It’s also a bit cheaper than Scotgate if you’re solo and a C&CC member (which I am).

img_1970Not surprisingly, it’s really well setup for camper vans, with excellent hard standing pitches and electric hook ups. There’s a good amount of space between pitches too. When I was there, there weren’t many vans, so I could park myself well away from anyone else. The downside was I parked myself well away from the shower block, which was a bit of a mistake!

img_1988The shower block facilities were pretty good, with a good number of shower cubicles, sinks and toilets. A second shower block was closed, but would be needed if the site had more occupants. The facilities were not quite up to the standard of Scotgate, which wouldn’t shame a hotel. Unlike Scotgate, WiFi is not free and you have to pay extra.

img_1973The camp site is in a wonderful position between the River Greta and the shore of Derwent Water, with beautiful views across the lake towards Borrowdale. The drawback with its position, however, is that there is a risk of flooding. For this reason, vehicles and tents are not allowed to be unattended overnight in case there is a need to evacuate.

While I can understand this requirement, for me, it’s a bit of a deal breaker. It would prevent me from doing some backpacking and overnight camping in the fells. This probably means that I’ll be going back to Scotgate if I want to do backpacking trips. Fortunately, for this trip, I’d only intended to do a couple of day walks.

img_1986The site is open to both camper vans and tents and welcomes backpackers too. The warden and staff were very friendly and helpful. Overall, it’s a really nice place to stay, just a shame you can’t leave your van overnight.

More details here: Keswick C&CC Campsite

(Please note there’s a second, smaller C&CC site next door, Derwentwater Campsite)

High Spy and Maiden Moor

At the end of last week I spent a couple of days in the Lake District before collecting our daughter from university. I based myself in Keswick at the C&CC camp site in my camper van. Unfortunately, on the first day, the weather was poor with the tops under clag and high winds, so I mooched around Keswick. 

On the second day, the weather improved a bit and the forecast was a bit more optimistic, so I decided to do a day walk up the Newlands valley to Dalehead Tarn and then back over the High Spy/Maiden Moor ridge.

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From Keswick, there’s an enclosed footpath across fields to a rather impressive suspension footbridge to Portinscale. Spurning the attractions of the hotel and cafe in Portinscale, I followed the road south to Fawe Park, where I cut over the hill, through a wood, flanked by rhododendrons, where a number of pheasants were wandering aimlessly around the woods.

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Then I followed a good path past Lingholm and over Silver Hill, past a field of Llamas, which was a bit of a surprise. Emerging from the woods into a rough field, Cat Bells loomed ahead of me. I toyed with the idea of reversing the walk and going over Cat Bells, but the forecast was for improving weather in the afternoon, and the photographic opportunities were likely to be better heading back to Keswick, so I continued with my plan to walk along Newlands.

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After reaching Skelgill, I followed the bridleway that skirts along the flank of Cat Bells along the Newlands valley. Newlands is one of the prettiest Lake District valleys. Even when the weather is not very good, it still looks beautiful. The clouds were still thick over the fells and provided some moody pictures.

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Just above Little Town, there’s some mine workings. I noted that there’s some decent wild camping spots there, amongst the levels. The wooden bridge across the beck had been washed away, but it was easy to cross on the stones. If it was in spate, you’d have to go down to the road to cross.

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Beyond Little Town, the valley, narrows, enclosed by the slopes of  Maiden Moor on one side and Scope End on the other.

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After the end of the fields, there’s another mine spoil heap, Castlenook Mine. Thus far the weather had been OK with only the odd spot of moisture in the air. Amongst the spoil, it was relatively sheltered, so I decide to sit down and have some lunch. While it was tempting to dawdle a bit, the prospect of losing daylight by four o’clock meant I had to push on as it was already well past midday.

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Just beyond the mine, the path begins to contour up the fellside. Ironically, looking back there were some patches of blue sky, but over Dale Head the cloud was the cloud was thickening.

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Tantalisingly, as I reached the waterfalls, it looked like the cloud might lift. Frustratingly, just as I reached the beck before Dale Head Tarn, the clag came down.

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I wanted to take a quick look at the sheepfolds by the tarn to check whether they might be good for camping (they are), but I was dismayed to find excrement and tissue paper left by one of the walls.

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By now, it was nearly two o’clock and I knew I had to get a move on to make it along the ridge and down to the valley by dark. As I ascended the slope towards High Spy, the wind picked up and it started to rain, scuppering my chances of good views of Derwent Water and Keswick.

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Even with poor visibilty, it was easy to follow the path and eventually, the summit cairn of High Spy came into view. Behind the cairn, I sheltered from the wind, putting on my overtrousers.

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Every so often the mist would lift briefly, to reveal the path ahead. I bypassed the summit of Maiden Moor, as I’d been there before and carried on to the col before Cat Bells.

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Very briefly, Cat Bells emerged out of the clag for a photo opportunity, before disappearing again. I decided not to bother to go over Cat Bells as I only had an hour more of daylight at most and took the track down to Skelgill.

By the time I got to Skelgill, dusk was falling. I reversed my route of the morning, although I bypassed Fawe Park, using a track. By the time I was at Portinscale it was fully dark and I had to find my way back to Keswick by head torch, eventually getting back just after five o’clock.

Total distance for the day was about 15 miles with 828m of ascent, taking just under seven hours.

A-Glamping We Will Go


Tomorrow I’ll be off on my second camper van trip. I’ll be doing a couple of days in the Lake District before returning via Manchester to pick up our daughter from uni for the Christmas holidays. The weather doesn’t look great, so I think it will be a couple of day walks rather than backpacking. I might even take some photos. 

another backpacking blog