The Northern Fells

Today was a ‘6 Wainwrights in a day’ kind of day.

Lay and I had another opportunity to flee into the hills thanks to Aunty Clare and Uncle Tony offering to have Megan and William overnight. Plans to overnight camp were put aside as the kit faff didn’t seem worth the effort on this occasion and an early start was going to be possible.

We started our walk from Longlands, which is located on the edge of the Lake District National Park to the east of Over Water. Having got one of the last parking spaces on the road (which is also the route of the Cumbrian Way) we set off on our Wainwright bagging day!

We followed a path that handrailed Longlands Beck before we gently started to gain height as we headed towards the valley of River Ellen and saw the first part of our route open up.

I am pointing to Meal Fell, whilst Lay points out a Great Cockup!!
Approach to River Ellen
The ascent got steeper at Trusmadoor

From here we started the serious business of fell bagging, without any significant breaks as the strong wind and lack of sunshine made it noticeably chilly when not moving.

Great Cockup – Wainwright No. 158 – 1,720ft (524m)

Great Cockup Summit with Skiddaw in the background

Meal Fell – Wainwright No. 153 – 1,770ft (550m)

Meal Fell surrounded by the higher ridge between Knott and Great Sca Fell.
Meal Fell summit shelter – a moments rest from the wind

Great Sca Fell – Wainwright No. 113 – 2.131ft (651m)

Blustery summit of Great Sca Fell – not much of a view today!

Brae Fell – Wainwright No. 133 – 1,920ft (585m)

Summit of Brae Fell – dropping below the cloud base

Longlands Fell – Wainwright No. 179 – 1,585ft (483m)

Togo poses on Longlands Fell with Binsey in the background.

Binsey – Wainwright No. 191 – 1,466ft (447m)

Heather Banks on Binsey
Beating the rain to the summit of Binsey
Looking back over our route from Binsey

From here we also had great views of a dramatic ridge on the western Skiddaw that would be an interesting route option when we return to do that fell.

We ended our day with a short walk along the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake from Scarness Bay (adjacent to a holiday park) to Bowness Bay, stopping for a wild swim in the rather refreshing water!!

Bassenthwaite Lake with Ullock Pike in the background

Hard Knott and River Esk Wild Swim

Wainwright No. 148 – 1,803ft (550m)

With the forecast set to be anther fine day, we returned to the Eskdale valley to tick off our next Wainwright, this time with Clare and Tony as our guides.

Our decision to have an early start paid off as we grabbed one of the last few parking spots at Hardknott Castle – a Roman Fort located on Hardknott Pass. From here we set off across slightly boggy ground until we returned to the pass for a short section until the brow of the hill.

Starting the ascent with William taking the strain.

From here our path took us between Raven Crag and Hardknott Gill, where we passed a number of wild campers who had been treated to a clear night under the stars and a gorgeous sunrise. As the ground levelled out at Border End, our efforts were rewarded with seemingly endless views of the surrounding mountains, most notably Scafell and Scafell Pike, with Broad Crag and Great End beyond.

William points out the view towards Scafell Pike

From here it was just a short hop to the summit of Hard Knott for the obligatory summit bagging photo…

Hard Knott Summit

Having sweated our way to the summit in rising temperature we continued north to gradually descend towards Lingcove Beck and the River Esk, with delighful views of Bow Fell and Esk Pike. Not being able to persuade any of us to pose for a photo Clare took matters into her own hands!!

Happy selfie!!

As the becks grew and the watefalls increased in height we passed several tempting pools of crystal clear water. However, our aim was to reach the infamous Tongue Pot – a deep pool just below Lingcove Bridge which was reportedly a wild swimming paradise.

Megan wanders as she wonders.

However, as we descended, it was apparant Tongue Pot was a tourist honey pot on this hot weekend so we stopped short at what turned out to be a perfect place that catered for all our needs…

The shallow pools were a perfect paddling spot for Megan and William
The deeper pools and fast flowing water made a natural endless pool

But the highlight of this location only became clear when a group of Gill scramblers passed through ‘our’ pool and stopped about 10 meters further on and started leaping from the sides of the Gill into a deep pool of water. Well this was too tempting to resist….

Leap of faith!!

Let me tell you, it was harder than it looks to throw yourself from the c5m high rock platform into the freezing water below, although both Lay and I managed it after more countdowns than Tony would care to remember!!

We enjoyed this spot for over an hour before deciding to continue our route. It looked set to be a busy afternoon at the Esk as we passed a steady stream of people heading up the valley.

Our route finished with a short climb back up to the Roman Fort, which is worth a visit in its own right, before heading for home. We persuaded Clare and Tony to return via the Crosby snack shed and cake cupboard on Birker Fell where we treated them to tea and cake, which was a great ending to a grand day out.

Helm Crag and Easdale Tarn

Wainwright No. 201 – 1,299ft (396m)

After a crazy busy week at work I had worked enough hours to take a cheeky day off. After days of rain the sun was forecast to put in an appearance so we decided a family mountain day and wild swim was in order. Today’s target was Helm Crag, which is more affectionately known as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’.

Having set off early, we were rewarded with empty car-parks and (rather disappointingly despite the warm temperate) light drizzle. The forecast did however still promise to improve throughout the day so we embraced the dampness and set off in search of ‘The Lion’.

Crossing the permitted path from Allan Bank

The ‘Lion’ was rather shy, hiding in a thin blanket of cloud, but our journey up the zig-zag path revealed many wonders including….

‘The stick man’ – Slightly larger than I had imagined!!
Several tame / daft mice – Which we moved from the main path to avoid being squashed / eaten.
A rather picturesque Herdwick sheep

Once on the summit plateau we passed High Raven Crag (which looks like the highest point as you approach it) until we reached the distinctively shaped rocks and summit cairn.

Helm Crag Summit

We had planned a day of two halves, seeing us retrace our steps back to the valley, however, closer inspection in the ever lifting cloud showed a clear path on the western slope from the col between Gibson Knott and Helm Crag that would save us loosing all the height we had gained as we made our way to Easedale Tarn.

Easedale Tarn was already busy by the time we arrived, however being on the less popular northern side of the tarn paid off as William found us a secluded little bay with just enough rocks for each of us to perch on. From here we swam in the notably chilly mountain water and tucked into our lunch.

Wild swimming in Easedale Tarn
William goes in with a splash!

With wild swimming now firmly on the agenda and mindful of the lack of privacy when switching from hiking gear to swimming gear, we invested in some pack-light changing robes. These can be easily flung on after a bracing swim and are very effective at both keeping the occupant warm, and protecting their modesty when it comes to changing. Even better, they pack up nice and small so there is no excuse not to be prepared for any wild swimming opportunities.

Pack-light changing robes were a great success.

After having our fill of wild swimming and lunch, we followed the main tourist path down Sourmilk Gill (passing a wonderful wild swimming pool with a waterfall) and Easedale Beck until we were back in Grasmere itself. Here we enjoyed an ice cream before returning home.

Black Fell

Wainwright No.212 – 1,056ft (322m)

Today we enjoyed a walk up Black Fell with the Simmonds family. The day came about after a play date with Megan’s friend Phoebe during which Marie (Phoebe’s mum) revealed they were keen to get out walking in the hills and would welcome the opportunity to walk with friends. As we had already planned to do this walk as a family it was a perfect opportunity to extend the invite out to them.

Black Fell (or Black Crag) is the third smallest Wainwright, standing at just 322m. Despite its modest height, it offers wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and mountains and is worth a trip.

We met at Glen Mary Bridge car park at 8:00 and were soon heading off along the Lane Head Coppice footpath admiring the waterfalls en-route.

Lane Head Waterfall

Tarn Hows was looking as beautiful as ever, with its calm water. Our early start had paid off as we almost had the place to ourselves.

Tarn Hows

We followed the path around the tarn in a clockwise direction (following the COVID-19 advice to help maintain social distancing) before turning off to the track leading to Black Crag. With the summit trig point in view, the youngsters in the group were soon off to bag the summit before the oldies!!

Summit photo
Me, Lay, Meg, Will, Phoebe, James, Megan, Isabel and Marie
Togo and Cooper (the Cocker Spaniel) were being camera shy!

As we had made good time to the summit, we considered extending our walk to take in Great Cobble. However, after negotiating the stile, we were greeted by a plethora of sheep and decided it was not worth winding Togo up for so we returned to the summit plateau for a snack and drink.

King of the castle

In decent, we retraced our steps back to Tarn Hows, where we completed the loop of the tarn before opting to return via the waterfall route once more.

All in all a successful trip and hopefully the first of many family adventures with the Simmonds.

Wetherlam

Wainwright No. 56 – 2,502ft (762m)

Lay and I had an opportunity to sneak in a cheeky mountain as Megan and William were on their first sleepover with Grannie Annie and Grandad following not only their move to Cumbria but since lockdown restrictions had eased.

As we were also trying to tick off some DIY jobs at home, we decided to stay close to home and tick off another of the Coniston Fells.

We started this walk from Tilberthwaite, heading along a path on the north side of YewDale Beck towards Tilberthwaite Gill. This area is used for both rock climbing and gill scrambling and the steep sided beck makes for some dramatic scenery. We continued on a steady path that skirted around Blake Rigg towards Birk Fell where we started the final leg of our journey up Wetherlam Edge, the northern ridge which had some easy scrambling options that would make an interesting option for when we return with Megan and William.

We managed to avoid becoming engulfed in cloud until we reached the summit when the cloud base that had already engulfed the summit of the Old Man caught up with us.

Wetherlam summit cairn

From the summit we headed south towards Red Gill Head before joining the well defined path back towards Tilberthwaite Gill. I was pleased to have poles for the descent as the rocky ground was an unstable base for weak ankles.

We really are very lucky to be able to nip out in the evening to climb a decent mountain that is just a short drive from home. Living the Lake District life to the full.

Lingmell

Wainwright No. 29 – 2,649ft (807m)

Its officially the start of the summer holidays. Having had a busy few days starting to turn our house into a home following a much needed IKEA delivery, Aunty Clare had kindly offered to have Megan and William for the night and entertain them at Lowther Castle the following day, allowing Lay and I to escape into the fells together for the first time in over six months. This was a much needed break from the stress of lockdown, homeschooling and moving house.

Having had a tip off about a lovely wild swimming spot, and wanting to keep clear of the staycation crowds that were dominant in all the main tourist hot-spots, we decided to head over to Wasdale and climb Lingmell – a decent peak that is largely overlooked as it neighbours Scafell Pike (England’s highest peak).

Having resisted the temptation to wild camp (given the numbers of people that were abusing the local beauty spots with their unsympathetic overnight stays) we set off early to guarantee being able to find a parking spot. Our forward planning paid off as we were one of the first vehicles to arrive at Wasdale Head NT car park.

Our ascent followed the main Scarfell Pike tourist path, handrailing Lingmell Gill for a couple of kilometres until it climbed out of the Gill and closer to the crags beneath Scafell where we could pick out Lords Rake gully and the distinctive steep edge of Mickledore, the narrow ridge that connects Scafell with Scafell Pike.

Once at Lingmell Col, we headed north west to gain Lingmell’s summit. A non-technical climb that was rewarded with great views of Scafell Pike and the nearby peaks of Broad Crag and Great End.

Lingmell summit
Wast water in the background

We debated climbing Scafell Pike as it seemed temptingly close. However, we decided that climbing the highest peak would be a fine way to mark the end of our 214 Wainwright bagging journey so left this for another day and headed off on the path that handrails Piers Gill (reportendly an accident blackspot).

Mindful of the steep drop into Piers Gill we meandered down the path until the ground became steeper around Middleboot Knotts and the short and sharp scrambling sections we encountered were a timely reminder to take our time and not fall victim to the routes reputation.

Once the ground leveled out, we set on a mission to find a secluded wild swim spot we had been tipped off about until we discovered a truly magical pool of crystal clear water with a double waterfall.

Possibly the best wild swimming spot in the lakes

Despite the slight drizzle and cooler climate, we couldn’t resist a dip. The water was freezing, too deep to stand up in and swimming was a totally immersive experience.

Proof!!

We will have to return in more favourable conditions to make the most of this glorious location.

The return to Wasdale Head car park was via the well used bridleways with views of the flanks of the Gables (Great and Green) to the north and Lingmell to the south.

Surprisingly, Wasdale Head had not reached its capacity on our return, presumably the weather had deterred some from venturing into the hills.

Our return journey took us back over Birker Fell, a journey we have made on several occasions, noting the small ‘The Crosby Snack Shed’ – which is quite literally a cafe in the middle of no-where that is run out of a shed. We were thrilled to find it open on this occasion and stopped off to sample the wares. We were even more delighted to learn about the’Cake Cupboard’, which is a small cupboard on the site of the road that is stocked on a daily basis with cakes and fresh eggs that can be purchased using the honesty box. Never again will we have to drive past empty handed!!!

The Cake Cupboard!!

Its great to be back out doing the do again after lockdown. This is why we moved here, this is what makes us us. This IS the life!!

UlverSTEM 2019

Today we spent a couple of hours in the Coronation Hall at a science event for young people. It was the second year that the event has been run and the hall was packed with youngsters trying their hands at various experiments and activities with a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics theme.

Megan and William started our visit by learning to fly a drone under the tuition of two Engineers from Siemens. We then saw demos for Virtual and Augmented Reality applications followed by a working model submarine from BAE Systems.

We got to pilot a stunt plane in a flight simulator and blow rainbow snake bubbles in a chemistry experiment.

Andrew Jenkins

For us, however, the star of the show was Andrew Jenkins a young particle physicist from Lancaster University who, ably assisted by Megan, used card tricks to illustrate probability theory to a growing crowd of amazed youngsters. He certainly kept Megan and William entertained and engaged. His use of magic ball and cup trick to describe Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle was only surpassed by his apparent ability to pass a whole lemon through a solid table thereby proving that Quantum tunnelling is indeed possible!

Sporting success

It has been a week of sporting success for us. On Wednesday William was selected to represent the school at an indoor athletics meet at Furness Academy in Barrow. His team came third in the relay.

On Thursday Megan represented the school at a Cross Country event at UVHS. (Alas no photos allowed). Megan started sensibly at the back of the field of 33 girls as the outward leg was downhill and sure to be too fast. At the half way point she had progressed through the field into 20th place and her stamina and pacing was shining through on the uphill leg. The final turn saw her up to 14th and the cheering crowd spurred her to sprint over the last sixty metres, crossing the line in 9th place, by far the fastest finisher.

What has pleased her most about her performance is that the school have recognised her sporting potential and she has been selected for another track and field event next Thursday. Possibly entering the Javelin!

Today William scored two quick goals in the first half against Milnthorpe which put them in control of the match eventually running out 6:1 winners.

Yewbarrow – You bet ya!

Wainwright No. 122 – 2,058ft (627m)

The decision to wild camp around the corner of the rendezvous point for the start of the walk served us well and by the time Clare and Tony arrived the eggy bread was underway and eagerly enjoyed by everyone!

Enjoying the versitility of the campervan

After a short faff, we set off on our walk just about on the agreed start time of 8:30. It wasn’t long before we got our first glimpse of our target – the very pointy peak of Yewbarrow.

Our mission – Yewbarrow (628 m AOD)

Before we could embark on the more interesting scramble to the summit we had to conquer the steep foothill. We were however rewarded with wonderful view of Wast Water with the shady scree slopes from Illgill head falling into the water.

Clare and I enjoying the view whilst the others catch up
(psst….I won’t tell if you don’t!)

The scrambling added an extra dimension to the walk and this was clearly the most enjoyable part of the day for William, who shot ahead with Tony, whilst some of us took a little longer to enjoy the views an admire the rock climbers.

As we gained height we gained the narrow ridge above the great door. Here I spotted Lay and Megan silhouetted above me – a must have photo opportunity.

The airy ridge on Yewbarrow

Shortly after the ridge we reached the summit where I snapped a summit selfie with my family. I think the altitude must have got to them!!!

Bunch of weirdo’s

Lay then informed us this may not actually be the summit so we trudged along to the next summit (which was clearly lower than the first) and just an excuse to make us walk the entire summit plateau. William however had enough time for a spot of summit meditation!!

Peace!!

We retraced our steps to a path that led us back down the valley, taking the opportunity to stop for lunch whilst we were still high enough to enjoy the views.

Lunch!!

The descent was just as steep and unforgiving as the ascent – I was cursing myself for forgetting my poles as they would have been very welcome.

Back at base we had a brew and a slice of Clare’s delicious Apple and Walnut cake before going our separate ways.

A great peak to have ticked off the list. Its distinctive shape makes it an easy spot from nearby peaks in an area we are bound ti re-visit time and time again in our Lakeland adventure.