Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Few Natural Wonders of the Lake District

This is of course subjective because it depends on what is a “wonder” for you. I have also kept a few to myself as part of what makes some (but not all) these places wonderful to me is that they are off the beaten track and therefore quiet sanctuaries. Beauty should be shared though...

One of many cascades in Far Easedale
Far Easedale Valley - A recent find for me that divides the rugged Langdale Pikes from the softer fells of Helm Crag and Gibson Knott. I have walked above it often on the surrounding ridges but it was only recently I walked the whole valley from Calf Crag back to Grasmere. A beautiful place with crags and rocks all around and the lovely Far Easedale Gill running the length of it featuring dozens of cascades and mini waterfalls falling gently over dark black rocks and creating small ravines (one of which is reminiscent of Piers Gill in miniature) and rock pools.

Langstrath Valley
Langstrath Valley – If you want to get quickly amongst proper mountain scenery without the exertion of gaining height then this is the place. You can walk for miles along it beside the sweeping meanders of Langstrath Beck with the fells of Eagle Crag, Bessyboot and Glaramara towering above you. You can get to it from the tiny hamlet of Stonethwaite in Borrowdale (which has a lovely pub as well). The added advantage of Langstrath is the plunge pool of:

Blackmoss Pot
Blackmoss Pot – This finds itself in the Lonely Planet’s top ten places to go skinny dipping! I have been for an impromptu swim in it once on the way back from a Fix the Fells work day and a planned swim with friends another time (both fully clothed I hasten to add). It is a deep plunge pool in Langstrath Beck with a powerful waterfall gushing into it, another out of it and surrounded by high rocks. Nature’s version of a hot tub but ever so slightly colder (very cold in fact) but it is in a beautiful setting and definitely worth a visit. It is easy to miss though so keep your eyes peeled.

Carrock Beck
Carrock Beck – Where the road to Hesket Newmarket from the A66 crosses Carrock Beck at the foot of Carrock Fell (after going through Mungrisdale and Mosedale) there is a little ford, a wooden bridge and plenty of grassy banks and rocks to sit on and enjoy the sunshine and paddle. The view across the patchwork of fields towards the Pennines is lovely and hardly a car passes. Very pretty and I have many happy childhood memories of splashing in the beck.

View from Middle Fell
Middle Fell – I had to include a mountain in the list. Anyone visiting Wasdale Head or Wastwater will have passed this fell. It could possibly lay claim to the least inspiring name of any of the Lake District fells and people will pass it on their way to headier heights of the Scafells, Great Gable or Pillar but do give it a go one day. The views are superb to the higher fells and across Wastwater (and of course to the stunning Yewbarrow) and it is a great climb in its own right. An inspiring fell in spite of its name.

Devoke Water (on a rather gloomy day!)
Devoke Water – In the middle of nowhere but a lovely small lake/large tarn to visit near Eskdale. It has a pretty little stone hut on the water edge and if you combine it with a short climb up to Seat How beside it then you get to see the water at its best and for me, it is at its best with a summer sun setting behind it. Mesmerising.

Colwith Force – This one is easy to get to but it is not talked about in the same breath as Aira Force and Stock Ghyll Force and some of the more popular waterfalls so here it is and quite possibly my favourite waterfall in the Lake District. A wide gushing waterfall rather than a tall one and there is an enormous rock in the middle that divides it. The best view is from the bank above it (if you have a head for heights). 

Colwith Force

So they are just a few of the places I have discovered and I love stumbling across them. I am sure I will be finding more natural wonders up here the rest of my life so the list will change endlessly.
It would be great to hear about any you have found and wish to share or can recommend. Over to you...

If you wish to contact me please click here

Follow Heelwalker1 on Twitter

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wordsworth's Immortal Fish

I love hearing about local legends and folklore wherever I am. I have come across many examples since living in the Lake District (and plenty before when I was visiting) but one that has captured my imagination in particular is the legend of the “Immortal Fish of Bowscale Tarn”.

Bowscale Tarn
Bowscale Tarn lies within the cluster of mountains behind Blencathra. I have climbed the mountain Bowscale before but never saw the tarn as you cannot see if from the summit. So on a cold, icy morning with snow-capped fells all around I decided to go in search of the home of these Immortal Fish myself. It was a lovely walk up the valley with Carrock Fell to my right (which seemed to have escaped the snow) and Combe Height and Knott ahead with even the tiny hut of Lingy Hill visible (I vaguely recall marshy waters rising up over my boots the last time I walked passed that hut....) 

Bowscale Tarn
As I made my way around the corner admiring the snow-flecked crags, all of a sudden I came upon Bowscale Tarn. It is really beautiful. A still tarn backed by dark snowy crags that were reflected in the water like a mirror. The sky was cloudy but that just gave it a more enchanting quality. I looked in earnest for the Immortal Fish and even listened as somewhere during the history of the legend one of the fish was given the power of speech. To no avail however – clearly the Immortal Fish are rather shy. 

They were famous enough for Wordsworth to include them in his poem “Feast of Brougham Castle” however:
Both the undying fish that swim
In Bowscale tarn did wait on him;
The pair were servants of his eye
In their immortality;

The “him” they were waiting on was Lord Clifford (the Shepherd Lord).  

Icy patterns making the summit worthwhile
Bowscale tarn was also popular with Victorian visitors. They would ride ponies to get to the tarn and admire the rugged scenery around them and I can see why. It went out of favour after a while though and certainly I did not see another soul in the vicinity (although several on the summit of Bowscale) and I can find few references to the Immortal Fish for the Victorian time.

Sun emerging at Bowscale tarn on the descent
Having exhausted Immortal Fish I decided to head to the summit in spite of the cloud and whilst there were no views, the icy rocks of the summit cairn and wind shelter were reward enough. On my descent, the sun came out in all its glory so the previously moody tarn was surrounded by sunshine, crags and views to Carrock Fell.

No views but still a lovely summit
If anyone can shed more light on the origins of the Legend of the Immortal Fish then please share your knowledge! I would love to know more.

Follow Heelwalker1 on Twitter

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What inspired me to write it?

“What inspired you to write it”? is one of the questions I have been asked a lot since my book “From High Heels to High Hills” was published at the end of 2012.  So this is why.

It was not just about writing a book for me but about changing my life and I can pin it down to an actual single moment of inspiration.  It was January 2011 (two years ago almost to the day) that I climbed the mountain Yewbarrow in the Lake District for the first time.  The sky was clear blue with barely a wisp of cloud, the air was crisp and in the watery winter sunshine it felt quite warm.  I loved the climb up Yewbarrow as it was an interesting rocky scramble in places amongst some of the most rugged fells in the area.

As I reached the ridge, the view quite simply took my breath away.  In front of me, Scafell Pike and Scafell (England’s highest mountains) loomed with an ominous but beautiful majesty.  Their dark crags and crevices looked down over the soft green and golden valley below, still revelling in autumn colours.  As I looked down, Wastwater (England’s deepest lake) glistened and twinkled in the sunshine as the light captured each ripple as though it was filled with champagne bubbles.
There, at that moment on Yewbarrow amongst the beautiful Lake District fells it felt like I could take on the world.  It was the first time I thought I could be anything I wanted to be – that it was in my gift to chase a dream and control my destiny.  

So I did.  Two years later I have my own company, I am a published author and writer and I lead a conservation project that repairs and maintains the paths of the very mountains I fell in love with (Fix the Fells).  

I am still chasing my dream however. I am expanding my writing career to make it full time both via books and freelance articles.  Please get in touch via my contact me page if I can help you or your organisation.

Follow me on Twitter @heelwalker1
Like me on Facebook www.facebook.com/heelwalker

Follow Heelwalker1 on Twitter

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Dancing on Ice

black labrador
Tilly admiring the views
The Bell
Not content with her new found love of sledging, Tilly the beautiful black Labrador decided to add ice-skating to her list of winter sports on a climb up Coniston Old Man.  The weather has been rather wet and sludgy recently and whilst that makes for great waterfalls, it is nice when that blue sky day comes along, particularly when the fells are still snow-capped and you can go and enjoy them.  This was the case just before Christmas so Tilly and I set off in search of snow.

Not wishing to be too adventurous given the conditions, we headed up the popular tourist path to Coniston Old Man, which I had been on quite recently and knew it was straightforward.  I love making my way through the old mine works and seeing the shattered slate screes and it is made even more picturesque by seeing the summit of Coniston Old Man peeping out above and the views back down the valley to Coniston and to the surrounding fells, including the small mound aptly named The Bell, which runs parallel for much of the path.  Even Tilly enjoyed gazing across the fells.

Low Water
Before long we had reached the pretty and silent tarn called Low Water, nestled beneath the dark, rocky crags of Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell.  The water was speckled with patches of thin ice like a patchwork quilt.  Tilly loves swimming and ran towards it hopefully but after putting one paw tentatively in the water she thought better of it and ran towards me for a treat instead (and got one as I cannot resist the eyes).

Tilly sledging
As we headed up the final steep ascent from Low Water to the summit, the conditions changed totally.  Ice was starting to cover parts of the stone-pitched path and it made walking a problem-solving exercise to find the non-icy sections.  Tilly was rather confused as to why her paws were not working initially as each time she put a paw on the ice it slid.  She walked on the grass at the side of the path for a while but then decided it was more fun on the ice so she jumped on the path again with all four paws and kept hopping and sliding in a movement that could have rivalled anything seen on “Dancing on Ice” and could possibly have given Torvil and Dean a run for their money.  I tried to encourage her to walk on the grass but she was adamant she wanted to be on the ice and each time she slid she increased the speed her tail was wagging and looked at me with what can only be described as a grin as she skated back and forth across the path.

The higher up the path we got, the icier it was and then we reached frozen snow, which looked beautiful but was really treacherous to walk on.  I decided to put my microspikes on so sat on a rock looking back down to Low Water and put one on and then just as I was about to put the second one on Tilly nudged my arm (wanting a treat) and it slipped from my hand, landing with a “chink” on the crystal snow and went sliding down the icy slope a few metres before coming to rest against a rocky outcrop.  I looked at Tilly, who looked back with those golden eyes as if to say “well that wasn’t my fault and I still deserve a treat” and then looked down at the microspike.  Sitting Tilly on the rock I was on I used my secure microspike to grip with one foot as I went down the slope to reach the other one.  There were other rocks to hold onto fortunately so I reached the microspike without incident and put it on before making my way back up.  Tilly’s tail continued to wag.
Scafells from the summit of Coniston Old Man

I put Tilly on a lead at this point as they have yet to invent microspikes for dogs and whilst she was clearly enjoying herself, she has no sense of self-preservation and there were no longer grassy edges to offer safety and respite and I didn’t want her skating over the edge.  The going was faster once I had my spikes on and with ever-increasing views we reached the summit.  There was much less snow on the summit as the sun had melted much of it and there was less blue sky but it was still beautiful.  Two people were even paragliding just above the summit – they must have had the most wonderful views.

Larking around in the snow
The views to the Scafells from Coniston Old Man are superb on any occasion (unless you are plagued with low cloud and mist) but today they were spectacular.  Whilst clear blue skies are beautiful, there is something about the texture of clouds and having layers of fells in front that really brings a landscape alive.  Looking over Brim Fell and Grey Friar to the highest fells in England was amazing.

Building up a turn of speed!
Sunlight on the estuary
To avoid the ice on the descent (always more tricky than when ascending and being mindful of Tilly) we went down the southern ridge, which catches the sun most of the day so would be safer.  Before leaving the summit however, Tilly found some soft snow to play in and as always, she went sledging and rolling and sprinted around chasing snowballs and having the time of her life.  It is so much fun to watch and even though I have seen her do this several times now, she always makes me laugh.

Autumn colours on the descent
The sun was low over the estuary in the distance as we made our way off the mountain and the way it caught the sea and made it sparkle was stunning.  It was an easy climb down to the Walna Scar road with Dow Crag behind us and catching the last autumn colours on the lower slopes made it feel almost like a different day to the icy ascent we had made.

I love walking with Tilly and she made a good walk a really special one.  Thank you Tilly!

More photos of this walk available here.

Follow Heelwalker1 on Twitter