Friday, 21 February 2014

Catbells & Tilly

Tilly on Catbells

A crisp sunny day beckoned and I had Tilly the beautiful Labrador for company so we headed for the fells. Catbells was our destination. Tilly was beyond excited as we walked through the woods on the Cumbria Way in the grounds of the Lingholm Estate, running back and forth, jumping at leaves and paddling in the stream. She is such lovely company.

As we reached the gate, we got our first glimpse of Catbells ahead and to the right, the distinctive summit of Causey Pike, where Tilly had found her mountain paws the year before (we took the route with the scramble). Since then she has climbed around 60 Wainwright’s, not bad for a Sussex Labrador.
Guarding the gate

Catbells is a low mountain but the views from very early on are spectacular. Within a few minutes we were looking at Bassenthwaite Lake snaking away up the valley, Skiddaw and Blencathra dominating the northern view and the beautiful north-western fells opening up around us. All this just a couple of hundred metres from the road. The sky was a deep blue and there was a frost on the top of the higher fells, as though Mother Nature had sprinkled icing sugar all over them.

Tilly was more interested in the smells and sights at ground level than the landscape but each to their own. As we got higher we gained the ridge and Derwent Water and Borrowdale came into view. It was early morning and the sun was casting dark shadows in the valley and catching the dew and lake like jewels. 

The view from the summit
Catbells may be a low fell but it has one or two areas that give it the feel of a much more adventurous mountain. Whilst the ridge is a glorious walk with views all around, there are a couple of rocky scrambles along the way where hands are just as helpful as feet. Even in dry weather the rock is so worn from the millions of feet that have traversed the slopes over the centuries that it can still be slippery. The first scramble passes a plaque dedicated to Thomas Arthur Leonard – the “father” of the Open Air Movement. It is easy to miss it.

Tilly took the scrambles in her stride and before long we arrived on the summit. There is no cairn but it doesn’t need one as the rocky surface has a charm all of its own and there are plenty of grassy slopes to sit and admire the views. An unsuspecting walker soon discovered Tilly trying to share his morning coffee and biscuits and he very kindly caved in and shared them (it is her golden brown eyes that just melt your soul - don’t look directly at them!)
Tilly on the summit

After soaking up the views we headed down the other side of Catbells to walk back along the shores of Derwent Water. This is one of my favourite walks. There is such a contrast of textures and terrains between rocky crags, soft grassy summits and fields, woods, streams and the lake shore. It is a little piece of heaven.

Walking the shores of Derwent Water
Being true to her Labrador nature, Tilly loves swimming so she chased sticks, splashed, swam and paddled at every opportunity. The path clings to the lake shore for much of the return walk so she had a wonderful time. She also played “chicken”. This is where she suddenly bursts into a run at tremendous speed and then dashes towards you at full throttle, darting to the left or right at the last second. It is so funny to watch her enjoying herself but I always have a slight worry that her last minute swerve will fail and she’ll collide with me and knock me flying! No doubt she is saving that for when there is a muddy bog or a tarn to break my fall.... Fortunately she reserves this game for family, not strangers.

The fells around Watendlath and Grange provide a stunning backdrop to Derwent Water and with Blencathra and Skiddaw appearing once again it was a glorious walk back towards Portinscale. Unexpectedly, in a clearing in Brandlehow Wood near Hawse End is a large pair of wooden hands. This sculpture was commissioned in 2002 to mark 100 years of the National Trust in the Lake District as Brandlehow Woods was the first purchase by the National Trust. 
The wooden sculpture

Blencathra beyond the jetty
We returned to Portinscale through the woods again. A really lovely walk made even more special by sharing it with my favourite four-legged friend.
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