Monday, 27 August 2012

Deer, Mist, Chocolate Brownies & Custard

There is a real sense of camaraderie in a large walking group and I really enjoyed the Great Gable walk in July.  The second Twitter walk I went on (arranged once again by the social butterfly Gina) was made up of 15 people and two dogs (Hollie and Lassie) and a large supply of Gina’s legendary chocolate brownies.  We started from the tiny hamlet of Hartsop, which means “Valley of the Deer” (which I have written about before) and as I pulled into the car-park at 8.15 there was already a small crowd gathering for the walk.  The crowd got larger and at one point an individual looking for some solitude in the early morning arrived in the car-park and was shocked that it was virtually full and there was a crowd of people chatting and laughing in the corner!  

Hayeswater Gill
The mist was hanging in the valley casting eerie shadows all around.  My first thought as we set off was that if there were 15 people then surely I would not be the slowest this time!  Hurrah!  I started off at the front with Gina as we marched along the path towards Hayeswater and we were making great progress.  Then we hit a steep section and I dropped back to the middle of the group.  At the gate at the top of the steep bit I took the opportunity for a “view stop” and found myself at the back of the group again.  Situation normal!  Alan and Phil kept me company and it was the first time I had met Alan so it was nice chatting all the way to Hayeswater and admiring the Gill. 

Hayeswater Dam
Hayeswater is a reservoir and is surrounded by moraines (little hilly mounds left by glaciers in the last ice age as they retreated) and it looked really mysterious with the mist surrounding it and the fells above peering out of the cloud.  

Hayeswater (Moraines on the right)
Our first fell was The Knott and we started making our way up the grassy ascent (various comments were passed about the fact that “Fix the Fells” needed to add this to their list of paths to repair as it was not in very good shape – I made a mental note!)  As the slope flattened out, I was in the group at the back and we took a view stop (which by then had become known as “Tanya stops”...which I will not comment on) and as we chatted, we saw in the distance through the mist a group of beautiful red deer gathered on the fell side swathed in sunshine.  It was a beautiful sight and the first time I have seen deer on the fells.  At last!  It was really magical watching them as they stood in majesty and looked back at us.  There are advantages to being slow and we called to the group ahead of us to point them out.  We were all mesmerised. 

Red Deer
The Knott summit was only a short climb from there and Dave took on the role of waiting for me.  From the summit we had our first high level glimpse of Hayeswater even though there was still mist around and to the surrounding fells.  Our next stop was Rampsgill Head so off we set again.  The route started on a good path and it was only a stroll but to get to the summit we had to leave the path and head over the grass and marsh.  My “Fix the Fells” instinct emerged then as I could not stop the words “fan out!” escaping my lips to minimise our impact on the landscape.  Fortunately everyone tolerates my obsession (although jokes about building cairns are frequent!)

We had all fallen into group chatting and were all following each other so when we arrived at a cairn, no one was quite certain whether we were actually on the summit.  After we had looked at about three maps and three phone apps, I got out my Garmin GPS (which tells you exactly where you are and is essential walking equipment for me) and confirmed this was indeed the summit.  Hurrah!  The third fell was a short walk to High Raise and then fell four was Kidsty Pike.  Neither involved too much exertion and we all kept chatting and enjoying the day.  

On the summit of High Street - Eating Chocolate Brownies!
Chocolate Brownie & Custard
The main event for the day was High Street and we were hopeful that by the time we arrived the sun would have emerged.  Such optimists!  Off we set and after a while I saw the group in the front stop at a cairn.  “Is that the summit?”  I asked hopefully.  No – sadly not.  Just a cairn on the path.  So I took a deep breath and carried on up the slope.  It was wet and boggy so I found the going quite tiring.  It fell to Ray to wait for me but eventually we made it to the summit (still misty) and the prize for arriving – chocolate brownies!  Yippee!  Better still Gary and Alan had brought hot custard in flasks so with plastic bowls and spoons passed around, all 15 of us sat on the summit of High Street eating chocolate brownies and custard!  We must have been a sight to behold and I think this is probably a first for the Lake District fells (although I believe they have apple pie and custard on Everest so I think it is a trend that could be set).  If word keeps spreading of Gina’s chocolate brownie walks then we all agreed we would need a helicopter drop to bring everything up!

I left the walk at this point as my mission later in the day was to take a friend’s family to Blackmoss Pot, a plunge pool in the Langstrath Valley in Borrowdale.  So I headed back down around The Knott and to Hayeswater.  I was a little late so I decided to attempt a spot of fell-running.  After all, the path was good and there was no one around.  This was a mistake.  I started off well but I am not a natural runner (I seem to have too many legs and arms) and after a few minutes (which I was impressed I managed) I tripped over a rock and fell forwards.  After a quick check to make sure no one had seen, I picked myself up, brushed down my dignity and reverted to walking.  Much safer!

Blackmoss Pot
A couple of hours later I was walking the path to Blackmoss Pot with three adults, two children and Tully the Lurcher.  The sun had come out and the valley was beautiful.  Blackmoss Pot is a natural deep plunge pool on the Langstrath Beck.  It is surrounded by rocks and in the middle of the valley.  If you did not know it was there you could easily miss it.  I was the first in (wearing trousers and a t-shirt as it was so cold) sliding gracefully (well almost gracefully) into the pool and was followed quickly by the children.  I got out swiftly after a minute or two to find the warm sunshine!  The children were braver than me – wearing swimming costumes and jumping in!  It was really cold though so our swim did not last long and then we got changed and made our way back along the valley.

Ten miles on the group walk in the morning (thanks Gina for arranging it and Ray for planning the route) and a further five miles in the afternoon.  A great day ending with having dinner cooked for me and a large glass of prosecco.  Perfect.
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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Coppermines, Quarries & Coniston Old Man

One of the advantages of working in the Lake District is being able to head off for a mountain climb after work.  Having been in Coniston in the afternoon, I decided to climb the Old Man of Coniston (or Coniston Old Man).  I remember climbing that fell when I was younger with my family and a few years ago with my husband as part of the whole Coniston Fells ridge walk.  I was in the mood for company so I took the popular tourist path up from the Walna Scar path. 
Abandoned Mine Entrance

Coppermines Valley
I have mentioned in recent blogs (see 'Friends, Gables & Tarns') that I am quite a slow walker but within the first few minutes I had overtaken four people!  The fact that two of them were aged 18 (months that is, not years) I will gloss over and move on.  The path is clear the whole route to the summit but the most fascinating part of the route is looking at the old quarry and mining works around.  Enormous steel ropes and pipes surround (and sometimes cross) the path and there are large mounds of slate with the occasional slate hut and tunnel entrance in ruins.  Down in the Coppermine Valley you can also still see the evidence of the old mines.  These mines were at their most active in the 1850s and whilst Copper Pyrite was the main focus, iron, lead, nickel and cobalt were also found.  The mines closed in 1915.

Reflections on a tranquil Low Water
The other highlight of this route is Low Water, which sits in the hollow below the Old Man of Coniston and Brim Fell.  The still water nestled below the rugged slopes and crags was a beautiful sight to behold and despite how busy the path was, Low Water was a place of tranquillity. 

The final ascent to the summit was steep but the views back towards the village of Coniston and down to Low Water were lovely.  The summit was popular that day as it is most days and you can see why – looking across to the Scafells, Langdale Pikes (even a glimpse of Stickle Tarn in the distance) and to Dow Crag, the whole Coniston Fell ridge, Coniston Water and even to Windermere was superb.  Spectacular views that it was great to see so many people enjoying late that afternoon.

Low Water & Lever's Water in the background
I found a quieter place to sit and soak up the views as a light mist started to creep through the valley.  It was an eerie but lovely sight to see and as I was sitting there sipping water, emerging from the mist one by one from a grassy slope appeared a group of school children and their teachers all wearing hard hats.  It was like something out of a Bronte novel (other than the hard hats of course).  As they reached the summit, each one cheered and ran towards the cairn.

I decided to head off towards Brim Fell as it was only a short stroll but as I reached the summit the rain started so I decided to head back.  As I walked back towards Coniston Old Man, I saw a woman after my own heart strolling towards me.  She was wearing the most fabulous bright pink knee-high socks over jeans and was sheltering under a floral umbrella.  Well – why not I suppose?  She had a certain style about her that is for sure!

Imposing Dow Crag
I took the less popular route down rather than the tourist path and after overtaking the previously mentioned school children who were on the same route (yes overtaking again and an improvement on 18 months as they must have been ten or 11 years old) I branched off to take the path around the quarry.  Well it said it was a path but it seemed quite random to me.  I actually ended up in the old quarry at one point (not entirely sure I was supposed to be there), which was fascinating with the large boulders everywhere but then managed to pick up the path again at the edge and followed it down to the Walna Scar path again beside a lovely stream.

I like her style!
A great walk if you are in the mood for company and a deservedly popular mountain.
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