Saturday, 28 September 2013

Sunset & Sale

The word “Sale” usually gets me heading for the nearest shoe shop. On an August evening recently however, it was entirely about climbing a mountain called Sale without a pair of heels or sale ticket in sight.

On Lothwaite
I met Gina, Dave, Gary and Stuart at Eskin near Bassenthwaite Lake and we started our ascent. Stuart had brought his two Collie dogs with him and they were running around happily making it look easy but the direct route to the summit is very steep! I was (unusually for me) leading the way but regular view stops were essential as we made our way through the bracken. Looking back the way we had walked, you could see across to Ling Fell (which we were heading to later) and into the quiet woods and valley below. We hardly saw another soul all evening.
Worth the walk to Lothwaite for this view of Bassenthwaite

The higher we climbed the more of the Solway Firth we could see. The sun was casting a pink glow on the sea as it peered through the clouds. When we reached Sale summit, the views towards Skiddaw and the surrounding fells were striking as the cloudy sky cast dark and forbidding shadows across them.

We headed to a lower hill called Lothwaite as it has excellent views (although at the time none of us knew what this part of the fell was called!) Bassenthwaite stretched out below us towards Keswick and a patchwork of emerald green fields framed the foot of the Ullock Pike ridge. We all agreed that on an evening like this there was nowhere else in the world we would rather be than the Lake District. 

Group photo on the way down Sale
The sun was close to setting so we made our way back down to the valley and then up the fell opposite called Ling Fell. It is about the same height as Sale but, I am relieved to say a gentler ascent. The path snaked its way through grass and bracken and as we approached the summit the clouds around the sun cleared and we had a perfect sunset towards the coast. The colours were like the dying embers of a fire and cast a warm pink and orange glow all around. It was so beautiful and so peaceful I could have looked at it forever. 
Sunset of the Solway Firth

At The Pheasant Inn
As it was now starting to get dark we took the direct route down Ling Fell, which was a bit slippery in places as the dew appeared and we decided to finish the walk at The Pheasant Inn. A really lovely way to spend an evening and now I have two favourite sales.

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Saturday, 7 September 2013

Go All Out

The Ramblers are on a listening mission and they want to hear from us.

The view from Edale
They chose a beautiful location to launch their “Go All Out” campaign – Edale in the Peak District. It has been many years since I visited the Peak District and I had forgotten how lovely it is. Edale is a pretty village tucked away at the foot of Kinder Scout and is the official starting point of the Pennine Way (well the Old Nags Head pub is the very official starting point and what better place to start a long walk than a pub?) 

Kinder Scout was also the scene of the Mass Trespass in 1932, when Benny Rothman led a group of around 500 people to the summit of Kinder Scout in a campaign to ensure public access to the countryside. It marked the beginning of a long campaign for the rights of walkers and the Ramblers have been at the forefront of this. They are proud of their history but are looking to the future.
The official start of the Pennine Way

The “Go All Out” campaign is a national one aimed at hearing from walkers and non-walkers alike what the future priorities of the Ramblers should be and how they can help encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and walking. Not just walking in the wide open expanse of the Peak District, the rolling cliffs of the coastal paths or the rugged mountains of the Lake District but walking in city parks and urban areas. 

I was invited to the media launch to learn about the campaign and help spread the word. It is refreshing to see such an approach and to see the Ramblers open to such a variety of people and views. It was also refreshing that the short walk we did as part of the launch featured two pubs. Now that is my kind of walk!

So what is important to you? Public transport? Finding people to walk with? Where the best pubs are on the route? Learning to navigate? Any environmental issues? The quality of maps and guide books? Dog-friendly routes? Whatever your question or issue the Ramblers want to hear from you and it is easy to find out more via their website or fill in their online questionnaire

The Wain ("Kissing") Stones
My day in the Peak District ended with a walk to the famous Wain Stones (also known as the Kissing Stones) on Bleaklow in the northern peaks. A beautiful evening walk over the peat landscape as the warm, golden sun began to set. Perfect.

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Monday, 2 September 2013

Sunshine & Hail

View to the valley
The hail storm on top of Hindscarth was unexpected I will admit. So much for a few “light showers”! It was one of those rare moments on the fells when I huddled in the wind shelter and asked myself what on earth I was doing climbing mountains when I could be sitting in a nice warm cafe somewhere.

I had climbed Hindscarth from the pretty church at Little Town in the Newlands Valley and whilst cloudy, the views had been good all the way. The valley to Keswick spread out behind me with Skiddaw standing proudly at the end. I took the route up Scope End, a steep but lovely climb amongst heather and I had only sheep for company. In the valley below between Hindscarth and High Snab Bank is Goldscope Mine. German miners used this in Elizabethan times to mine lead and copper and the lode they followed links with shafts that effectively meant you could walk under the mountain. Yet another part of the mining history of the fells.
Just sheep for company

Two minutes from the summit however, the heavens opened and the hail came down. The shelter did little to protect me from the elements so I decided to keep moving. My plan had been to head to Robinson and then follow the ridge round to Dale Head, High Spy and Maiden Moor. The sudden hail though did not tempt me to make the detour to Robinson so I headed instead towards Dale Head.
As I reached the ridge, the hail stopped, the clouds parted and all of a sudden a beautiful view of Buttermere and the surrounding fells appeared. Bizarre weather indeed but within an instant all thoughts of warm cafes were forgotten.

Sunshine appearing over Buttermere
I have said before that I love ridge walks. Once you are up you can walk for miles with ever changing views but with little effort. This route was just that and Dale Head gave superb views to the Scafells, Great Gable, Great End and towards the Langdale Pikes. The menacing clouds that came and went gave a forbidding look to the mountains but they were no less magnificent. Of course I love sunshine and blue sky when I am walking but there is something about being in the Lake District that takes your breath away even when the skies are steely grey.
Dale Head Tarn

I headed down to Dale Head Tarn, a little oasis between the fells with a ruined shepherd’s hut to the side and then up the other side of the valley to High Spy. From this fell, the views start to change again, with Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake coming into view with better and better views of the Skiddaw fells and Blencathra. The sun was becoming much more determined now and Derwent Water mirrored the blue of the sky.

Looking back to Hindscarth & Dale Head
The ridge from High Spy to Maiden Moor is spectacular as you make you way over little ups and downs and between crags and grassy mounds. The Helvellyn range to my right was still in cloud but Skiddaw and Blencathra were looking very inviting. 

Blue skies over Skiddaw
It was a busy day for fell walkers and as I looked ahead to Catbells it was teeming with people on the summit. It was great that so many people were enjoying being out on the fells even with the less than inspiring weather.

A short descent to Little Town ended a lovely walk just as the rain came back again. One of my favourite walks in the Keswick area.
Derwent Water
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