Richmond Park loop

We’d been talking about doing the Richmond Park loop since we walked across it  last year as part of London Loop walks. I liked the size of it and how parts of it seemed utterly deserted. It somehow didn’t feel like it belonged to sedate and gentrified Richmond. In the end, I returned alone as Beloved is away and I’d been itching for a walk, having not done one since Lake District at the start of September. First solo walk too so I packed headphones, just in case. Once I was in the park (it’s a 20 or so minute walk from the station), headphones didn’t feel right, like I was robbing myself of my own senses. They never left the bag. I came into the park via Bishop’s Gate and did an anticlockwise loop – well, almost a full loop, 8 miles including the walk from the station and back. Heading towards King Henry’s Mound, I looked for less busy paths, being Saturday, there were quite a few people out and about. Just near the Mound, late autumn flowers, these looked like crocuses but I’m terrible with plant names so they’re probably something entirely different.

autumn crocuses

Great views from King Henry’s Mound, despite the low clouds, quite a few people around here too. Pembroke Lodge had a wedding reception, lovely setting for a wedding I thought, shame the weather wasn’t nicer for them. You can also just about see the autumn coming, leaves slowly turning yellow.

richmond park near tea rooms

I headed down the path on the left of picture and shortly after, found myself walking on a narrow path through the bracken, pausing every now and then to pick blackberries. I didn’t encounter a single soul until I got to the road leading to Ham Gate. Here, I turned east and walked across to Isabella Plantation, passing a herd of fallow deer grazing. I’ve read that Isabella Plantation is best in late spring but it is probably very busy then. It’s very peaceful now.

heather isabela plantation

 

I do love heather and seem to be building a nice photo library of it. I was walking around slowly taking photos and got startled a couple of times by loud voices. I quickly changed paths, loud voices didn’t seem to belong here.

isabella plantation

 

Leaving the plantation, I headed east towards Robin Hood Gate and soon saw a group of red deer close to the path.

deer richmond park

 

Love the bracken stuck on the buck’s antlers. Shortly after I took this photo, the deer ran off as a family decided to set up a picnic nearby. The path got busier again, there was a car park nearby and a mound which seemed very popular with runners and cyclists. I veered off the gravel path as soon as I spotted an alternative and headed north towards Roehampton Gate. Saw quite a few more deer but didn’t take any more photos. I think this part of the park is less interesting, there is less to look at but it was quiet again. Then I turned west again along the quieter narrow paths and not long after, found myself in front of the gate I came in from. The loop only took a couple of hours, I was expecting it to take longer but I did walk pretty fast on the return leg. I was surprised to see so many parts of the park devoid of walkers, people always congregate near car parks, around tea rooms, gardens and gates and there are all these wonderful expanses of woodland and parkland completely empty. Before going home, I visited Beloved’s Pater Familias who told me about the old paths through the park and produced a book with information on old parish boundary lines and farmsteads (pre Henry VIII). Trees that to our modern eye look randomly placed marked these old paths, they are not accidental. We made a plan for all of us to return in winter when these paths and remains of cottages are less obscured by bracken and tall grasses. Looking forward to it already.

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Lake District, Castlerigg stone circle, Great Wood and Friars Crag

Monday was our last day in the lakes and we had half a day for a walk. Feeling a bit tired from our weekend of fell walking, we wanted something ‘flattish’ and not too taxing so I thought Castlerigg stone circle would be good. We’d not been there before namely because it seemed only a brief walk from Keswick with not much else around but of course, there’s always something else nearby if you only bother to look! We set off via the old railway route and then a brief walk up, we were at the stone circle just before 11am.

castlerigg stone circle

It’s a pretty fantastic spot with great views and just very peaceful. We thought we were alone for a moment and then this guy got up from within the circle, started walking about and taking photos then stood, for ages right next to the stones making notes or something, just really not stepping away to allow us to take photos. We respectfully stayed away while he was taking photos so it was a bit disappointing that he couldn’t do the same for us. I was lucky to even get this photo of the whole circle, soon enough there were cars arriving and lots more people turning up. One couple literally parked right by the entrance, walked up to the centre, turned around, walked back out and drove off straight away. OK, that must have been an experience to remember… Anyway, it’s a great spot and allowed us a view of Low Rigg and High Rigg, just to the left, which we both loved the look of and would like to return to for a proper walk. This is the wonderful thing about the Lake District, you can get the most marvellous views even from a low spot like this (at 210m) on a cloudy Monday morning. The low fells near Keswick, Walla Crag, Latrigg, Cat Bells are all brilliant for views. And of course, Helm Crag near Grasmere, which we walked on Sunday and the fells near Ambleside – Loughrigg Fell and Wansfell Pike, the first fells we walked in the lakes a couple of years ago.

dalesbred or swaledale sheep

As we left Castlerigg stone circle, could not help self from taking yet another sheep photo, have researched it since (as you do) and seems to be a Swaledale or possibly a Dalesbred. It was very cute.

Instead of walking straight back to Keswick, we decided to prolong the walk and had a wander about the Great Wood, which is just underneath Walla Crag and always seems very quiet.

path through great wood

And the obligatory photo of a mossy log – woodland moss is the sort of thing that’s good for one’s soul.

obligatory mossy log

Not wanting to end our walk at Great Wood either, we walked across to Derwent Water, me realising that although we’ve walked most of the lake’s shore, we’ve never actually been to Friars Crag. I also remembered The Guardian mentioning it as good for star gazing in their best British walks booklets last year. Why didn’t I remember that the day before? Actually, it was cloudy, wouldn’t have mattered.

tree root derwentwater shore

Tree roots on the shore, we both got very snap-happy with tree roots, I’ve some underexposed shots that make them look like H.R. Giger’s Alien drawings.

derwentwater and catybells from friars crag

The clouds didn’t lift for us at Friars Crag but I still liked the view. The outermost bench was taken so we found another nearby, I liked the view through the trees even more.

friars crag bench view

 

Friars Crag is a very short distance from Keswick town centre, where we had coffee – there is a new caf that uses Monmouth Coffee, which I love, lunch and an early bus to Penrith (we nearly missed the train back to London on our last visit as the bus was late). Did not want to leave, especially after this lovely little 5.5 mile walk. Back next year for sure, Beloved thinks we should stay longer and maybe learn to drive too otherwise we’re limited to visiting in the tourist season as some buses don’t run all year round. At Penrith train station, I gave away our weekly bus passes to an American couple heading to Keswick – passes still good for a couple more days, they were surprised and I wished they enjoy their stay as much as we enjoyed ours.

Lake District, Grasmere to Rosthwaite via Helm Crag and Greenup Edge

Sunday morning in Keswick, I was suffering a little from Saturday’s freestyle fell walking and a bit disappointed that we hadn’t managed the ridge walk from Red Pike to Haystacks due to weather (and taking a wrong path). I had thoughts of going up Helvelyn and then over the Helvelyn range down to Grasmere but the lovely B&B owners with whom we were staying said mountain weather forecast said cloud above 700m so that put Helvelyn out of question. Still, walking around Grasmere remained a possibility. So we decided, on their suggestion to get the first bus to Grasmere, walk up Helm Crag and along the low ridge over Gibson Knott, Pike of Carrs and Calf Crag, then up Greenup Edge and down to Borrowdale, following the stream of Greenup Gill and Stonethwaite Beck into Stonethwaite.

Luckily, the start of the walk, on Easdale Road was just across the main bus stop in Grasmere so we managed to avoid the usual hordes of tourists in the village.

helm crag start of climb

 

Start of the Helm Crag climb. The weather remained cloudy all day and I think this low ridge walk was absolutely perfect for the day – it was pretty windy, not too cold, good walking weather. The views, throughout, were fantastic and it was wonderful to see the changing scenery, from Grasmere Common, to Wythburn Fells and then Borrowdale.

The Helm Crag climb is steep-ish to start but not difficult, quite exhilarating and the path through bracken well defined. It was still fairly early in the morning so we didn’t see many walkers (yet, this is a popular fell), only sheep.

lamb on crag helm crag

 

Nearing the top, we could see over Grasmere Common and Easdale Tarn, another popular walk.

easedale tarn from helm crag

 

Easdale Tarn just visible in the centre of the photo. The weather didn’t allow for better photography unfortunately but this looks a beautiful spot nevertheless.

The famous Howitzer, the actual summit of Helm Crag is a rocky outcrop over a sheer drop, Wainwright completers deem it a difficult climb and Wainwright himself never reached it.

the howitzer and helvelyn range

 

The Howitzer and Helvelyn range beyond. It doesn’t look quite so menacing in this photo but rocks are actually quite tall and a proper scramble.

the howitzer and ridge beyond

 

Our path was along the ridge diagonally left from The Howitzer. This is the first time that we saw where we’d be walking and I was looking forward to it immensely. We chatted here with another couple who were also walking along the ridge, then looping back towards Grasmere. They’d gone up Scaffel Pike via corridor route the day before – something I was quite keen on doing but thought it too much for my fitness levels and easier if you had a car (it’s an 11.5 miles loop from nearest bus stop at Seatoller). I was quite relieved when they said it was hard going and not as rewarding as some other fells. Another group of two couples was also heading along the ridge and it was good to have company to keep pace with, especially as they were all more experienced fell walkers than us.

ridge walk from pike of carrs

 

Looking back over the ridge from Pike of Carrs, Grasmere just visible to the right and Helvelyn range left. From Calf Crag we walked down into a boggy col, with several gills to cross. We freestyled here a little, as the path wasn’t immediately visible, then had a break at the start of the climb to Greenup Edge, sitting behind a rock to protect us from the wind. Another exhilarating, but brief climb to the top – this was the highest point of the walk, just over 600m (Helm Crag summit is 405m, Calf Crag at 537m).

Looking back from Greenup edge top

Looking back from the top of Greenup Edge, Calf Crag, where we came from is on the left. From here, we walked on our own, following cairns marking a loose path along the Edge and picking our way over boggy ground towards Borrowdale.

borrowdale coming from ridge walk

 

Borrowdale valley below, with Eagle Crag to the left – this looked a great little fell to do in future.

greenup gill waterfall

 

Looking back up the path alongside Greenup Gill. We followed the gill down, very picturesque with lots of little falls.

greenup gill waterfall1

 

The way down is long, but wonderful scenery all along the way, we even saw a doe, happily grazing up on Coldbarrow Fell above us, which we got very excited about – we’ve been to Lake District several times before but had never seen any. We didn’t see any other walkers until we got right down near Stonethwaite, so I’m not sure how popular this walk is. I suppose going up, it might be tiring as it would be a long, slow climb. It took ages to reach Stonethwaite but once there, we thought we may as well walk on to Rosthwaite as we realised that we hadn’t missed the last bus back to Keswick. We retired to the Dog and Gun in Keswick for a couple of well deserved pints.

This walk was only 8.5 miles – although it felt longer and took us 6 hours. It really was perfect for the weather and also for our level of fitness. This time, I managed to work out a way of carrying the camera around my neck, safely secured under rucksack strap so that I didn’t have to worry about damaging it. Not sure I’d do this over higher fells though but it definitely saved stopping all the time to take the camera out.

Lake District, Red Pike, eventually

I planned a great ridge walk on Saturday, walking across fells above the Buttermere lake. I’m a great walk planner but often overambitious, especially when it comes to fell walking. Our walks this year have been mostly on flat ground and I tend to forget how much slower climbing is. Our Saturday walk was to follow the path from Buttermere to Scale Force, the tallest of waterfalls in the lakes (I thought Aira Force was the tallest?), then go up Red Pike and continue along the ridge (High Stile, High Crag), ending up on Haystacks. In the end we only managed Red Pike, due to taking a wrong path past the waterfall and, by the time we reached the top of the Pike, the mist had set in so a ridge walk would have not only been pointless but also possibly dangerous. Needless to say, by the time we got back to Buttermere, at around 4pm the weather was beautifully clear again.

rannerdale & whiteless across crummock water

 

Crummock Water with Rannerdale Knots and Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor topped with cloud just behind the Knots. We went up Whiteless Pike last year – again were meant to do a ridge walk but had to turn back due to bad weather.

scale force

 

Scale Force – it’s in a very secluded spot, no other walkers about. The waterfall signified a turn and a start for Red Pike.

view from scale force

 

Looking out from the same spot, Grasmoor looking quite majestic up ahead with Scale Knot to the left. At this point we took a wrong path. I blame the OS map which showed several paths on either side of Scale Force. In reality, there is only one path – it starts before you reach the waterfall. We saw a group just going up, not bothering to see the falls, shame. The path on the other side of the Force, the path we took, must have eroded and we ended up way over on the next fell – Gale Fell. By the time we realised this, we decided to freestyle up and over this fell towards the path up Red Pike. It was hard going through bracken and boggy ground and it was steep but at least we knew in which direction we were supposed to be heading. It was only when we got to the top of Gale Fell that we realised how far off we’d been.

red pike from gale fell

 

Yes, that’s the Pike we were heading for, way off in the distance. We headed for the dip in the ridge (top right of the photo), which actually didn’t take too long to reach and neither did reaching Red Pike from there but the whole getting lost and freestyling up a fell cost us a lot of time. It was also pretty strenuous work and I’d put away the camera for the most part so that it didn’t get in the way and get damaged. I was going to take it out when we got to the top – from here (at 755m) you can see Ennerdale Water, which we’d never seen before (not reachable by public transport). We saw it for a moment, we saw the fantastic ridge path heading towards High Stile and then the mist descended and the camera stayed put so I don’t have any photos from the top. Beloved took some. We started on the ridge path for maybe two hundred yards, then paused behind a boulder for a moment to get away from wind and rain to see if the mist might lift or pass but it just got worse. So, we decided that the ridge walk would have to wait for better weather. As a consolation, we decided to descend via Bleaberry Tarn and, to be honest I don’t think this descent was a consolation, it was torture! It was mainly a stone path with a bit of a scree right near the top (snail pace down), all slippery and wet. We descended slowly and by the time we reached Dodd at 641m, the weather cleared a little, if only temporarily.

crummock from red pike 500m

 

Dodd is just to the right, we didn’t see any need to walk to its edge, we were heading down towards the tarn, just visible in the photo below.

bleaberry tarn first view

 

We had a break when we reached Bleaberry Tarn, I didn’t realise it was at around 500m, thought it would have been much lower. It was really fab seeing it from above, all dark and mysterious.

bleaberry tarn w chappel crags above

 

At the tarn, with Chapel Crags above, ridge path still under cloud. Due to the weather, it took us pretty much 2 hours to descend, I was very slow on the stone steps, this was not fun. The steps went right through Burtness Wood on the shore of Buttermere lake and my legs had jellified by the time we reached the gravel path leading to Buttermere village. All in all, the whole walk, including getting lost and finding the path back, was only 6 miles long. It taught me several things – namely that getting lost is not the end of the world, that freestyling up fells is hard work but quite enjoyable. It also reminded me not to trust the ‘green path’ on the OS maps, this is something I keep forgetting about, the ‘green path’ is often pure imagination. We had just enough time to get ice cream in Buttermere village before the bus turned up – and we got lucky as it went via Lorton valley, which we hadn’t seen before (quite idyllic, seemed flatter than elsewhere in the lakes), then up towards Whinlatter forest and Keswick.

Wales, Montgomery castle ruins and unpredictable weather

We’ve just come back from Wales, having spent a few days near Montgomery, staying at Beloved’s brother’s place. Marvellous time was had by all. Our first outing was to Montgomery, a cute little town with twee tea rooms and antique shops. The weather was not very promising, in fact rain was forecast for the duration of our stay. For the moment, the rain held off and we walked about the ruins of Montgomery castle, a fortification dating back to Norman times. Glorious views in all directions:

Wales montgomery castle view

 

East across Vale of Montgomery and the Welsh hills in the distance

Wales montgomery castle view tow shropshire

 

And north east, with Montgomery at the bottom right of the photo.

The castle ruins weren’t terribly exciting but quite good for climbing, here you can really see the ominous clouds coming in.

Wales Montgomery castle ruins

 

From the castle ruins car park we took a woodland footpath up to Town Hill with a memorial to first world war victims which Beloved’s brother hadn’t been to yet and wanted to see. The views were fabulous but I’d forgotten to charge the camera battery so don’t have any photos. Idiot. Since Offa’s Dyke is nearby, we thought about walking a bit of its path but the rain had set in by then and not everyone in our group was equipped or interested in a longer walk and we returned to the base for lunch. All in all, we may have only walked a couple of miles, so more of a ‘morning constitutional’ as opposed to a proper walk.

Very cross with self for forgetting to charge the camera battery earlier, I did so immediately on return to base and was glad to have done it as the sun came back out late in the afternoon and offered me a perfect opportunity to wander about the garden taking lots of photos. I do this every year.

Wales Holmwood view

View from the garden, glorious, no?

Wales Holmwood garden poppies

 

Wales Holmwood garden

Wales Holmwood garden thistle

Wales Holmwood garden leek in flower

 

The last photo is of a leek flower, did not realise leeks have such fantastic flowers! This is a very restrained selection from the rather large bunch of photos I took. I’ve a lot of photos from Wales…

Lee Valley, Cheshunt to Broxbourne, Broxbourne Woods

yellow meadow

We haven’t been able to get out for a long walk in weeks. I’ve spent the past few weekends writing a tricky essay for a course, finally finished it last week and now I’m on a break until the autumn. The weather was just perfect yesterday and we thought about going to the coast but decided, in the end, against a longer train journey and walked closer to home. Over the past couple of years we’ve been walking the Lee River path on and off and we’ve done most of it below Waltham Abbey and the M25. Yesterday, we decided to take a train to Cheshunt, walk up the river path towards Broxbourne, then leave the river and walk in Broxbourne Woods, a nature reserve. We did 10 miles in total. The first half of the river path was quiet, it got busier as we got closer to Broxbourne, the woodland, later on, was pretty deserted and so were the meadows we crossed on our way back to Broxbourne and train home.

lee river cheshunt

lee river private fishery sign

This sign was about 1/2 way between Cheshunt and Broxbourne. The first stage of Lee Valley walk, between Cheshunt Lock and Turnford Marsh had little paths going off, good for exploring and probably good for fishing, I don’t know, I just took lots of nature photos and spent a lot of time following butterflies.

blue flowers cozens grove

 

blue flower

 

I’m getting better at taking close up photos of flowers and plants but never know what I’m taking photos of. Must be an app somewhere for this sort of thing, shall do some research.

Hoddesonpark wood

hoddesdon

Scenery change, Hoddesdonpark Wood above and the meadow is just marked ‘Hoddesdon’ on the OS map. Part of the walk was along Hertfordshire Way, think I’ll look up where it comes from and where it goes as it’s very easy for us to get up to this part of the world. It’s worth coming back to for the lovely scenery.

North Downs, Westhumble loop

Perfect day for a walk yesterday, warm and pleasant but very difficult to decide where to go. One option was to go to the coast, another was to go in search of bluebells and the last to go to Box Hill in Surrey. Bluebells are, by all accounts, not quite out (I wanted a proper bluebell carpet, not just a few here and there), the weather was a bit cloudy and coastal walk would have been better in the sun so we settled on Box Hill, in a roundabout sort of way. We did a loop, just under ten miles starting and finishing at Box Hill & Westhumble station, walking across Ranmore Common, then along North Downs Way up to Box Hill and back to the station. Scenery was fabulous, Ranmore Common in particular – proper ‘green and pleasant land’, gently rolling hills, woodland coming alive with spring flowers covering the floor and birds singing everywhere around us. The views from North Downs were excellent, even though it was cloudy, the sun would come through every now and then and light up a particular field or a tree. We took a little path just below the actual Downs Way and there are benches scattered along the way to sit and enjoy. Then, quite unexpectedly, as you loop around the Denbies Wine Estate and walk by Aschcombe Wood there they were – bluebells out in all their glory, a proper carpet! Cries of joy and happiness and a warning – bit of a photo overload…

bluebell carpet aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood carpet

After this, the rest of the walk was not as good – how can you top the bluebells! Even Beloved was impressed by the bluebells! Anyway, Box Hill was a bit of a let down. The climb was a good little workout albeit spoiled by people coming down, hogging the footpath. The top was heaving with people and cars, hordes of people just drive up then sit down – no wander this country is getting more obese by the minute. We walked about Box Hill too and the further we were from the car parks, the quieter it was. Thankfully, we managed to find a quieter route down through woodland. We stopped for a pint at the Stepping Stones pub in Westhumble, which is a pretty little village, then caught the train back to Waterloo.

trees on Ranmore Common Ranmore Common, we stopped here for a little picnic.

North Downs view from The Spains View from The Spains, North Downs Way.

north downs woodland in springNorth Downs Way, footpath by Denbies Wine Estate.

ransom flowers stepping stones car park Ransom flowers near stepping stones, Box Hill.

clover on mossy tree stump Clover growing on a mossy tree stump, Ranmore Common.

bluebell ashcombe wood And finally, a bluebell