Category Archives: pictures & trips

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!

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.

Daundering

  
About this time last year, I went on a rather wonderful pre-TGO Challenge  “Daunder” in the sunny Chilterns. Today, I had planned to join the 2016 Daunder in the northern Pennines. Unfortunately, my wife is struggling with her health, so I’ve had to stay at home. The weather looks like it’s going to be a chilly and possibly snowy Daunder, in contrast to last year. Even so, I was looking forward to going.  Hey-Ho! So this year, no Daunder, no TGO Challenge. Due to various commitments, the next window for a walk is the end of June. All a bit disappointing ☹️. 

Dartmoor Tramping (part three)

DSC00172About fifteen hours after it started, the rain finally let up at around one o’clock in the morning. At dawn, we were greeted with what looked a perfect day: glorious sunshine. The contrast with the previous day was stunning.

River Walkham

DSC00176We were packed by nine o’clock and headed up to Cocks Hill and then to White Barrow to meet the path leading down to Willsworthy. At the Barrow, we met a couple of Ten Tors leaders who informed us we were likely to see several groups practicing for the event. A few minutes later, their group arrived and we left them to it.

Path to Brousentor Farm

DSC00180We took the path down to Brousentor Farm. At first we walked on moorland, reaching a lane further down. When we reached the River Tavy, we turned north towards a footbridge marked on the map. We were treated a beautiful, short walk along the river amongst trees.

River Tavy

DSC00186We made a brief stop at the bridge for a bite to eat before continuing along some lanes to the car park below Ger Tor. Originally my plan had been to walk up Tavy Cleave, but we decided to go up Ger Tor instead on the basis that it might be a bit drier.

Ger Tor

DSC00187While the path was OK, it was quite boggy in places. However, we were compensated by the extensive views westwards.  At the top we also had a good view of Tavy Cleave. Some day I’m actually going to walk up the Cleave!

Tavy Cleave

DSC00190From Ger Tor we made our way to Hare Tor. On the northern side there are some boulders which made convenient seats and a good spot for lunch, sheltered from the wind. There was also a splendid view of Fur Tor and Cut Hill.

Fur Tor

DSC00193After lunch, next stop was Chat Tor.

Chat Tor with Great Links Tor in the background

DSC00198As time was getting on, we skipped going to Great Links Tor and headed to Dunna Goat and then down to the trackway which leads to some old mine workings near Bleak House.

Bleak House

DSC00201The path up to Kitty Tor was quite tricky with numerous pools and boggy patches to negotiate. Although some places had stepping-stones from the masonry of the mine, other stretches required diversions and a few jumps across peaty pools.

Ponies

DSC00207On the way down to Sandy Ford we encountered some Dartmoor ponies. Initially they were a bit camera-shy, but eventually we managed to catch them. The path down was quite rough and we were glad to reach the ford. Alan decided to swap to trainers to cross. Fortunately, I’d packed my trusty waders, although I probably could have got across with just gaiters.

Wading Sandy Ford

DSC00210On the other side, Alan suggested that time was getting on and that we might as well camp here rather than pressing on. Who was I to disagree? It’s a lovely place to camp.

Camping at Sandy Ford

DSC00213We knew the forecast for the next day was poor, but it was a surprise that it started raining at around two o’clock. There were some very brief breaks as it got light, but we had to pack in the rain. The wind was quite strong, so rather than go over the tops, we decided to walk down the West Okement River.

West Okement River

IMG_1827In other circumstances, it would have been a pleasant walk, but the strong wind and driving rain made it a bit of a trial. The only saving grace was that the wind was at our backs. At Vellake Corner, we crossed the bridge over the weir and made for the ridge along South Down. The wind was ferocious, but at least the lane gave a modicum of shelter. We felt the true force of the wind at the Meldon Viaduct.

Cake at Meldon Viaduct

IMG_1828At the far side of the viaduct, we decided to make use of the buffet in a disused rail carriage. Although the rain abated a bit, the wind rocked the carriage. After a bite to eat and some tea, it was onwards via the cycle track to Okehampton Station. Despite some shelter from the wind, it started to rain harder. At Okehampton station, we switched to the footpath which took us to the East Okement River. At least we were sheltered by the trees.

However, crossing the bridge over the river, we had to climb up to the open ridge, where we were assaulted afresh by almost hurricane force wind and rain. It was unpleasant mile or so to the car park. Getting changed to drive home in the rain was fun (not)!

Despite the weather, we had a good trip. The rain and wind came on the right days for us and at least we had two good days of walking and enjoyed some good camping.

Dartmoor Tramping (part two)

IMG_1817Overnight the wind had swung round to a more westerly direction, but it wasn’t raining yet, despite an early touch of hill fog. After breakfast the cloud base lifted a bit and we packed away. Before leaving, I did a bit of Wombling, clearing some orange peel and tea bags which had been dumped by a rock.

East Dart River

DSC00165After crossing the stream, we made our way up the East Dart River towards Sandy Hole Pass. This was a delightful walk, despite the gloomy weather.

Looking down the East Dart River

DSC00168All too soon we reached our crossing point at the waterfall marked on the map. As we got to the far side, it began to spot with rain, so it was on with the overtrousers.

East Dart waterfall

DSC00169As we walked up Broad Down we were exposed to the full force of the freshening wind. When we crested the rise, it started to rain in earnest.

Lower and Higher White Tor

IMG_1819Although it was a bit of a slog to Lower White Tor, the conditions underfoot weren’t too bad and we managed to pick up a few tracks. The path over Lower and Higher White Tors is more heavily used and consequently more boggy. By now, the wind was quite strong and cold, so I had to put some gloves on.

Despite the deteriorating weather, the cloud base was still above the tops and the walk to Longaford and Littaford Tors was enjoyable. The descent to Two Bridges offered a modicum of shelter. Nevertheless we were glad to make our lunch stop at the Two Bridges Hotel.

Lunch at the Two Bridges Hotel

IMG_1823The Two Bridges Hotel is a fine establishment and is very welcoming to walkers (a sign outside states “muddy boots welcome”). The staff weren’t fazed by two dripping wet backpackers. We had a superb lunch and I’m definitely going to include the hotel on future walks on Dartmoor.

As you can imagine, it was difficult to get going again. However, we struggled back into our wet weather gear. By this time, the rain had intensified and the cloud base had lowered. Originally, I had planned to go over Beardown Tors, but had also plotted a more sheltered route in case the weather was poor.

Given the conditions we took the easy route. After a short walk up the B3357, we turned north up a newly tarmacked track. Unfortunately the shelter belt of trees which would have given us some protection from the wind had been largely cut down.

At Holming Beam, we turned onto the path leading to the delightfully named Black Dunghill. The track was badly churned up, presumably by squaddies on exercise.

Somewhere near Black Dunghill

IMG_1824We made our way across Blackbrook Head to the River Walkham and then to our intended camping spot opposite Greena Ball. Unfortunately, because it was so misty, I couldn’t spot the grassy terrace where I had intended us to camp. Fortunately, Alan spotted a reasonable alternative near the old settlements marked on the map.

The wind and rain were now ferocious and it was quite a struggle to put up the Duomid, especially as the ground was a bit uneven. Eventually, I got a reasonable pitch. I filled my Platypus water bladders and collapsed into the tent.

One final indignity was my freeze-dried dinner (Mountain Trails Beef Risotto), which was totally tasteless. The rain and wind continued until about one o’clock in the morning, but the Duomid stayed firm. At least I was dry and warm and the forecast for the next day was much better.