Sunday, 26 June 2011

Ambleside - Loughrigg Fell - Grasmere

Date:                  Saturday, 25th June 2011
Start/Finish:        Bridge House, Ambleside
Distance:            9.8 miles
Ascent:               640m (2100')
Time Taken:        7 hours
Companion(s):     Lynne

Route Map:

Today saw me embarking on three firsts:

My first Lake District walk
My first Wainwright
My first WalkingForum meet-up

Not bad going for one day out! :-)

The weather forecast was set to be wet and miserable but, with these three firsts as my target to be accomplished, I really didn't mind.  Although, I must admit to being a little hopeful that the forecasters had got it wrong again.

Set off from home at 6am for the long drive to Ambleside.  I had decided to take the route via the A69, A686, A592 and A591 as this was deemed by the route planners to be the shortest and the quickest.  However, they didn't take into account my cautious driving speeds on unknown winding roads and it took me just over 3 hours to get to my destination.  Nevertheless, the journey was enjoyable and the weather wasn't too bad until I hit Kirkstone Pass.  This was when I realised just how wet and viewless the day was likely to be!

The drive down past Ullswater, passing through Glenridding and Patterdale, was absolutely wonderful.  I had to pull over twice just to look at the views and say 'Wow'!  The weather was fairly clear here and the scenery was just amazing.  Of course, I wish I had taken some photos of these views but, unfortunately, I didn't think of this at the time and I had to press on to get to the walk meeting point on time.  So now I'll just have to go back again, won't I? :-)

Anyway, back on the road, I crossed Kirkstone Pass and headed down to Windermere [this was a slight detour from the plan as I missed the turn off to Ambleside!] and then turned right to head up the A591 to finally reach my destination.  I parked in Low Fold car park and called Lynne to let her know that I had arrived.  As luck would have it, Lynne was only a few hundred yards away so I hadn't even managed to put my parking money in the meter, when she came around the corner to find me. [Remember to take plenty pound coins with you when visiting the Lakes - £7.00 for 10 hours parking!]

So, Lynne and I introduced ourselves whilst I got geared up and then we headed over to Bridge House to see if anyone else from the Forum had turned up to walk with us.  As expected though, there was no-one else to be seen.  We waited a few minutes and then my first Lake District walk began :-)  Oh I almost forgot, I did mention that it was raining didn't I?

Unfortunately, the camera didn't come out very much on this walk and the ones I did take don't really do the scenery justice but, I'll include them anyway just to remind me of the possibilities for the wonderful views I will see in the future - on a clear day.

We walked through Ambleside to join the path through Rothay Park and then headed up a rather steep road and path to Brown Head Farm.  From here we continued to climb onto Loughrigg Fell.  Lynne was hoping to find the path which would lead us to Lily Tarn but, there are so many paths on this fell that it is very difficult to tell which path leads where and, although, we did try quite a few different paths, we never did find Lily Tarn.  Another one for another day - next time I will find it!

Whilst searching for the Tarn, I took a photo looking back down to Ambleside

We gave up on our search for the Tarn and headed westerly towards Todd Crag.  I took another couple of photos on the way (unfortunately, I can't remember if I was looking north, south, east or west in the next couple of pics - sorry - answers on a postcard please lol)

 I should add that the terrain on this part of the walk was a bit boggy but nothing like the peat bogs of the Cheviots so nothing too difficult to navigate.  I just tended to sort of plodge through it all :-)

We made it to Todd Crag, which was a little detour from our planned path but the views were worth it.  The first shot looks down to Loughrigg Tarn I think and the second looks back to Windermere, I think!

The couple of photos were taken whilst heading up past Ivy Crag and Lad Crag towards Loughrigg's trig point.

The uphill sections of the paths began to get quite a bit more rocky on this part of the walk but I thought I was managing quite well - even if I was a bit slow!  I think the next photo was taken whilst I was admiring the view in an easterly direction.

Eventually, we made it to the trig point but I'm afraid I didn't get a pic of this as there was a large group of youngsters up there and it looked quite busy.  In fact, from here on, our route got quite busy.  I think there must be quite a lot of people who head from Grasmere, up to the trig point, and then simply head back down again.  Not my idea of a good walk but, in today's weather conditions it may have been as good an idea as any lol :-)

We continued on our way from here and, the descent began!  At first this gave me quite a pleasant feeling - after all the ups, acrosses and yet more ups, down and ups, on increasingly troubling rocky paths - my original thought was, 'well at least it will be all downhill from here'.  Just goes to show you how naive I am :-)  For some strange reason, I was expecting the descent route to be a bit rocky at first but, that it would then turn into a nice, reasonably gentle descent down a (possibly grassy) path.  Even though I didn't have a copy of the route beforehand, if I had studied the map in a bit more detail, I may have been a little better prepared for the fact that the word 'gentle' doesn't even come close to describing the route down from Loughrigg Fell to Grasmere - at least, not in my eyes :-)

Anyway - back to the walk.  The first part of the descent wasn't too bad and I took a couple of photos looking towards Grasmere.

However, I was then in for a shock.  As I looked down the path from here, all I could see is what I would describe as a downhill, rocky scramble!  Lynne headed off down in front of me showing me how easy it was and numerous other people [obviously with mountain goat blood in their veins] seemed to hop, skip and jump their way down as I just stood and contemplated - and panicked a bit :-(

At one point I really thought I was stuck up there but, as numerous others made it look like a walk in the park, I somehow managed to convince myself that there was no way I was going to let this beat me.  I summoned up all my courage and off I went.  I definitely had a few scary moments as I inched my way down this path but, I'm glad that I overcame my nervousness and didn't make too bad a fool of myself.  I did find it scary and I did slip once or twice but I find that I'm learning new things on just about every walk that I do and this experience has just taught me that I need to pratice steep, rocky descents a bit more - quite a bit more if I want to keep up with everyone else lol.

Once I was safely down and could breath a bit easier, I realised that we were now on the easy part of the walk.  From here, we simply followed the path and then the road into Grasmere - stopping for well earned refreshments on the way (at the Fairydell refreshment stop - name might not be quite right!?)

Now down at ground level, we began to feel the rain a bit more.  It had been raining most of the day so far but it just seemed as though you were getting damp - not really rained on, if you know what I mean?!  However, it still wasn't too bad and at least it wasn't cold and windy - it was actually quite warm.  We had a bit of a lunch stop in Grasmere - maybe a bit late as I had been so slow! - before heading out to the Coffin Path as our route back to Ambleside.

Had I not been so slow, I think Lynne had a much more interesting route from Loughrigg to Grasmere planned out that would have avoided the road walk.  I will have to apologise to her that I slowed her down so much and possibly made her miss out on a bit of walking that she was looking forward to completing.

I hope you aren't waiting for the photos of the route back from Grasmere, as I'm afraid the rain just got heavier from this point onwards and the camera didn't come out again.  However, suffice to say that the walk on the Coffin Path, past Rydal, was very enjoyable and posed no difficulties - other than rain drops dripping off my hair [I'd given up with the hood at this point as I find it too restricting and, once you're wet, you're only going to dry out if the weather improves - and there was no prospect of that!]  The route is low level and there are very picturesque scenes along the route which I'm sure would be evven more alluring in better weather.

Anyway, we made it back to Ambleside at about 4.30pm - just in time to have a well earned cup of tea in the cafe before I had to head back to my car and think about the drive home.

I did decide to change my driving route on the way home and hence took the A66 from Penrith to Scotch Corner and then joined the A1.  Only took 2.5 hours to get home, even though I really had to slow down to minimum speed at times as you could hardly see a hand in front of you, so next time I'll use this route both ways.

And there will be a next time - and sooner, rather than later - I can't wait to get back to the Lakes to experience a bit more of the wonderful walks on offer in the area.  I just need to save the pennies for the petrol and parking money :-)

End of the day and all 3 'firsts' ticked off - what a wonderful day :-)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Westgate - Rookhope Circular

Date:                  Monday, 20th June 2011
Start/Finish:        Westgate
Distance:            11.5 miles
Tine Taken:         7 hours
Companion(s):     None (first solo walk - woohoo!)

Route Map:

Well, the weekend weather had been particularly inclement for walking and, added to that, my weekend had been filled with grand-child care and activities.  So, when I saw the weather forecast on Sunday evening, which suggested a very promising weather day for Monday, I decided that a last minute day's holiday from work would be in order.  Luckily, I had no appointments in my diary and the understanding boss sympathises with my dilemma on when to take holiday :-)

So, I packed my rucksack and set off on the drive to Westgate at about 11.30am.  I took a very scenic route over the moorland between Edmundbyers and Stanhope - very steep drop down Crawleyside - but so scenic I even considered stopping to take a few photos.  Maybe next time though, as I had already had a late start to the day!

Upon reaching Westgate, I followed a signpost for a car park.  However, this proved to be a fruitless task as it seemed to lead me down a country lane which was only wide enough for one car and the only place that I thought could possibly be a car park seemed to be in someone's garden!  Hmmm...what can one do but drive around the country lanes a bit and try to find a suitable parking space?  :-)

Eventually, after a few extra miles of driving around Westgate and Daddry Shield (? I'll check up on this place name but I think it's correct), I decide that the best option for parking is a large layby, opposite a caravan site and just a few hundred yards from the shop/post office in Westgate.

Anyway, at long last, I was parked up and began to get 'booted up' and ready for the start of the walk - my first walk on my own!  It felt very strange to say the least but, my thoughts at the time were to do a shortened version of the originally planned walk as I was having a late start, the forecast was for rain later in the day and this was to be my first solo adventure.  Why didn't I stick to my original plan?!!

I set off from the car and walked just a little way along the street before turning left up onto the Rookhope road.  From here, I joined a footpath following Middlehope Burn, through Slit Wood.  This is an absolutely lovely path which took me a long time to complete as I kept stopping to take photographs.  Apologies now for the amount of them :-)

As you might be able to tell, I love waterfalls!

Continuing up Middlehope Burn, this seems to be an area for wildlife and wild flowers but eventually, you come across some old mine ruins.  There is obviously still some work going on in this area but, a lot of the repair work has already been done I think.

Carrying on, following the path, I keep following the burn (yet more pics - sorry!)

Just before I took the next photo, a squirrel darted across the path in front of me (a grey one, unfortunately, but still very nice to see!)  I was guessing it was still hiding in the tree somewhere.

Keep on following the path...

and you come across this commemorative seat

And the view from the seat:

Leaving the woods soon:

some more derelict buildings - mine sites or dwellings?  But, back to the walk....

Now what on earth is this?

Not sure what species the wildflower above is and it's not a very good picture of it but I did see quite a few of these amongst the wild pansies.

At this point, my route left Middlehope Burn as I turned right and followed a track up and out of the valley.

Looking back down the track and a view from the top of the short climb:

I turned right to follow the track up to a minor road, where I turned right to head up towards Scarsike Head

...and a view or two from the walk up the road. looking back to Middlehope Burn

Having now reached the crossroads beside Scarsike Head, I turn right to head down a road heading back down to Westgate.

This was decision time.  Do I just head down the road all the way back to Westgate and do the short version of the route or do I carry on with the long version and walk the entire route as per the original plan for the area?  Well, the weather was still good, I was enjoying myself and I thought if I stopped taking so many pics, I could probably make it back to the car on the long version of the route by about 6.30pm at the latest.  Oh how wrong I was lol! :-)

So, decision made, I took the left turn from this road to join the Red Road path leading onto Smailsburn Common and heading towards Rookhope.  This was where the fun started and you may notice that the camera didn't venture out at very frequent intervals from this point forward!  However, the camera's owner had now embarked on the solo adventure part of the walk!!

I soon came across the first alert that this part of the walk was possibly not going to as simple to navigate as it could have been.

I was now on open moorland and it was quite difficult to see the path (is it a path or is it just a sheep trail?).  The fallen waymarker provided a little bit of comfort but did little to convince me that I was heading the right direction.

And the next waymarker, was of little use either...

But finally, I could see a fence and what looked to be a stile and another waymarker.

I crossed this stile, and crossed the field to another fence.  The fence had a waymarker but no stile!  A few bits lay on the ground but nothing else.  I checked the route guide and realised that it said, if you come to a fence, turn left and if you come to wall, turn right.  So I turned left and followed the fence to reach a sort of crossroads of fences and walls with a couple of gates thrown in.  No stiles, gates locked or tied and wedged shut so, no option but to climb over.  Oh joy!

Anyway, the route guide said to simply follow the wall downhill from here all the way to Rookhope, passing a small reservoir on the way.  Sounds simple enough but, oh no, never underestimate the problems you can have simply trying to follow a wall downhill!  'Which side of the wall should I be on?', 'Where on earth has the path gone?',  'Am I trespassing?', 'If I'm on a path, why hasn't this fence got a stile over it?'  Oh my lord, this route took forever and a day it seemed as I climbed over fences, walls, trotted through boggy patches, climbed over barbed wire and, dear knows how many 'panic moments' I had to overcome!  My map reading and GPS usage skills definitely got a good workout and I can fairly confidently say, that I knew I was in the right place, heading in the right direction but just couldn't find the bloomin path.  I did take a few pics but nothing very exciting....

Anyway, I eventually entered Rookhope (note the time!)..

and decided I deserved a little rest at the Rookhope Inn..

Having survived the walk over Smailsburn Common, I decided that I had probably done enough for one day and I tried to phone a taxi from here to take me back to Westgate but, all I got was an answerphone message.  The bar person said I could try again later but, having quenched my thirst, I decided it was probably going to be quicker to walk back to Westgate than it would be to wait for the 'lone taxi driver'!  The route back to Westgate was mainly on the Weardale Way and I mistakenly assumed this would mean the paths would be easily discernible and there would be no obstructions.  Hmmm....I think she I should stop making assumptions!

Anyway, I headed out on the final leg of the walk - even less photos now as I was just determined to get back to the car in as short a time as possible - and expecting a fairly simple route back.  This would have been true had it not been for a few locked gates, disintegrated stiles and one point when I thought there was just no way across a huge (huge might be a slight exaggeration but I'd had just about enough at this point!) abyss! :-)  I did take a couple of photos....

and eventually, Westgate came into view....

You would think it was simple from here...and it was, apart from the fact that. I was now heading down a road with such a deep descent that I wished I almost had to zig-zag my way down in order to reduce the incline a bit :-)

Regardless of all of the above problems and difficulties, I thoroughly enjoyed my first solo walk and feel as though I am comfortable with my abilities to overcome adversities.  Luckily, the weather stayed on my side for the whole of the walk and....I'm sure I'm now a lot fitter for having climbed all of the gates and walls, etc.  Muscles I didn't even know I had have been complaining a little in the last couple of days but nowhere near as much as I expected! :-)