Thames path Kew to Victoria

First walk in ages and a fantastic day for it on Saturday. We met Beloved’s Pater familias at Kew, where we looked at fabulous orchids, then walked the Thames path to Barnes. Pater familias and M left us here while Beloved and I continued along the path to Victoria. 12 miles in total – a good length considering we haven’t walked for a very long time.

kew gardens

 

We were at Kew as the gardens opened to public in glorious sunshine on Saturday morning. Spring in the air (finally!) and snowdrops on the ground (yay!)

snowdrops

 

Also crocus carpets, I do love a carpet of flowers!

crocus carpet

 

Mindful of holding everyone up, I resisted the urge to throw myself on the ground and take lots and lots of crocus close up photos, besides the grass was wet. We were also about to go see the orchids – there’s currently an orchid festival at Kew until 9 March and I was about to take a lot more photos.

orchids

orchids1

orchid display

orchid3

 

Pater familias said that Kew relies on volunteers to help bring the annual festival about, sounds like a marvellous thing to be involved in. There is also a new hybrid orchid Kew created for this year, a speckly fuchsia and white, which you can buy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t carry one with me but wouldn’t mind going back to get it now that I’ve finally learned how to look after orchids. I’d recommend visiting Kew while the orchid displays are still on, although best to do this early in the morning, it was already getting busier as we left.

Leaving Kew Gardens, we walked along the Thames path to Barnes, this stretch of river is lovely and quiet.

tree by thames

 

Barnes itself was busier, we stopped for coffee and at the farmers market where I picked up a couple of apples for sustenance and then continued, on our own towards Hammersmith. We used to live in Hammersmith years ago and haven’t been back to the area much, the riverside in particular has been built up a lot since we moved.

birds on old barge

 

Still, nice to see that not everything has been gentrified. In particular, the stretch around Putney and going into Battersea, the Imperial Wharf on the other side with all the new and newish builds is still completely characterless. Property developers eager to attract custom cover the empty retail units with posters of cappuccino drinkers, romantic looking couples and people with laptops – see, all so multipurpose! They seem very keen on cappuccino drinkers and also on ‘zen’ gardens – every newish development had tiny green spaces that had obviously been landscaped but not in a good way. Nothing nice to look at and even the pint of ale we stopped for at a pub in Putney lacked character. This old power station on the other side was the only interesting building for miles.

old power station

 

We thought about finishing the walk at Battersea bridge and getting the bus back home but decided against this, the last few miles had been fairly depressing looks wise so we thought going past Battersea Park and towards Victoria would at least give us nicer things to look at.

v&a bridge ahead

 

Beloved later said we should have continued onto Vauxhall as Victoria was very busy, as usual with travellers of all sorts. All in all, Saturday was a walk of two halves, from the beauty of Kew Gardens, a quiet and peaceful Thames path to Hammersmith and then the visual assault and the soullessness of the built up stretch of the river. Still, the weather was pretty glorious throughout and we got some much needed exercise.

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.

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.

Lake District, Latrigg

We’re in the Lake District this weekend, yay! Arrived on Friday afternoon to a weather forecast of rain and then hopefully dry. Our first afternoon in Keswick, we did pretty much the only nearby short walk we hadn’t done before and climbed Latrigg, a tiny hill of 368m with marvellous views of Keswick. The weather stayed dry as we headed out of town on a familiar path towards Skiddaw and then promptly started raining heavily as soon as we turned from the sheltered path onto Malen Dodd and towards Latrigg top. Once there, the mist had settled all around us and the wind was blowing very hard. Keswick and Cat Bells just about discernible across Derwentwater:

keswick from latrigg in mist

 

We continued along the Latrigg top until we got to a fence where we turned right, away from wind and rain into Brundholme Wood, dark and completely still. We’d walked the old disused railway path on the other side of Greta River and Brundholme Wood before but weren’t prepared for this:

grea

 

My camera certainly wasn’t prepared either but my groaning rucksacks did not allow for packing of tripod. Shame, both Beloved and I wanted to spend hours in here taking photos. Anyway, this rather shaky one gives an idea of the utter silence and stillness and the tall, tall pines.

Once we reemerged onto the path back towards Keswick, the weather had completely cleared. Blue skies almost, which is what I love about the lakes, you never really know what’ll happen with the weather during any one day.

walking back from latrigg

 

Total distance walked – around five and a half miles. On way back, we walked to The Pheasant Inn for a pint before heading back into centre of Keswick.

Thames Path, Greenwich Peninsula to London Bridge

What I really wanted to do yesterday was a long coastal walk only the weather wasn’t that good for a coastal walk and it would have taken us ages to get there and back so in the end, we decided to walk much closer to home and do a part of the Thames Path we didn’t know. We started at Royal Victoria Dock DLR, took the cable car across Thames to Greenwich Peninsula and then walked just over 9 miles to London Bridge. The cable car was fascinating, on a cloudy morning it offered views of an underdeveloped and unloved (it seemed) parts of greater London and it also quietly paved the way for what will soon be happening with underground stations – naming them after corporate brands that sponsored them.

from cable car

The view from the cable car. Also fascinating, the people who were on it – Italian tourists shared our cabin, there was a family with a lot of suitcases (just landed at City Airport nearby?), families without suitcases, groups of girls, single men with cameras and I was wandering if people used it regularly or just came to experience it once, like us.

cable car supports

 

I think these were the supports. The video inside didn’t really give any information. Perhaps waiting for further sponsorship?

city beyond dome

 

View from the car’s descent across the river to Docklands. We rounded the O2 and the peninsula, which is still being developed (didn’t look that different from my last visit here, 6-7 years ago when it was first being developed). A bit of a no man’s land. Walk into Greenwich was a bit of a trudge – narrow footpaths and nothing much to see so we were happy to reach the Cutty Sark pub for a break. The weather started to look a little more promising too.

city across

 

An inkling of a blue sky above Canary Wharf. Greenwich itself was pretty busy so we didn’t stop and continued on through Deptford, the Thames Path leaves the river here for a while. Back on the path and we’re still seeing Canary Wharf. The bends in the river make you think you haven’t walked very far.

docklands still visible

 

I love the Docklands architecture and this need to make a tower block look ‘interesting’. The brown and glass building next to the red crane on the left of the picture looked like it had a Grecian temple on its top. As you would. On our side of the river, the Surrey Docks Farm was much more interesting but we still had quite a way to go and were keeping a good pace so we continued onto Rotherhithe. A quick break at The Mayflower pub, which we liked the look of, turned into a quick lunch. The pub, named after the pilgrim ship that sailed from the spot (I thought the pilgrims originally sailed from the United Provinces/ Dutch Republic and pretty much only waited for a passage in London but never mind), was packed but I’d say the beer selection was better than the food. Shortly after, we had our first view of Tower Bridge and central London beyond.

tower bridge ahead

 

From here on, the path got progressively busier. As we neared the Tower Bridge, it became decidedly chaotic with hordes of tourists, especially outside the Tower. We crossed the river here, meandering through groups of tourists, deciding to walk to London Bridge on the City side of the river as we have never done that before and then caught the bus home. I do wander what ten more years could bring to the eastern area we walked, I guess it will never become as chaotic and attract tourists but I do hope it becomes a bit more loved.

Wales and Shropshire, Cowlton to Bridges walk

I do love it when a plan comes together! We were spending a few days in Wales, in the simply glorious countryside near Wales-Shropshire border and I was desperate for a good long walk. I had some ideas of where we could walk, Beloved was a bit unsure for a couple of reasons – firstly, we were staying with his family so had to consider all ages, fitness and interest; secondly, the weather forecast said rain, rain, then more rain and thirdly, while visiting last year, we discovered that some paths had all but disappeared and Beloved wasn’t all that keen on freestyling through bracken, mud or bog. Then on Tuesday morning, no rain. An idea for a walk came into my head that I knew would appeal to everyone – it hadn’t been attempted before, it ended at a great pub we all know and it had plenty of pick up points en route for anyone who got too tired. It started with a walk up Cowlton hill but here we compromised a little by driving to near the top so that the kids wouldn’t get too tired too soon. We then walked for just over 8 miles past Lan Fawr and Corndon Hill (which looked a pretty steep climb), crossed the A488, then up Oldgrit and past Grit Hill to The Bog where we had a break and a slice of cake in the tea room, then up Stiperstones and down to Bridges and a well-deserved pint of Three Tuns’ Cleric’s Cure.

Wales view from Cowlton

View from Cowlton into Vale of Montgomery. Beloved and I climbed up Cowlton through bracken last year so we didn’t mind being given a lift part of the way up this time.

Wales view from Cowlton past Lann Fawr

View just past Lan Fawr, Beloved and I freestyled our way back down through the bracken on the left side last year looking for the path. Our path this year was along the lane.

Wales looking back at Corndon

After a while, we crossed the A488 and climbed past old disused mine shafts across Oldgrit, this photo is looking back at Corndon Hill and the way we came from.

Wales Oldgrit looking back

And, looking back at Oldgrit, sheep grazing and one of the disused mine shafts.

Wales Shelve Pool

Shelve Pool. We’d seen it on the map but it is hidden in woodland and fenced off. We found a way in through the fence and were rewarded with a lovely, peaceful scene. Quite marshy though so we weren’t able to stop for a picnic and continued on towards Stiperstones.

Wales bridges walk first view of Stiperstones

First glimpse of Stiperstones, the nine year old was a little worried about the distance but determined to continue. The weather was cool and cloudy, good for walking and as we neared The Bog, it started warming up. Our path was on a mild incline and by the time we reached the tea rooms we were in need of a break. Refreshed by a slice of cake and now joined by Beloved’s brother and mother, everyone was offered a lift up towards Stiperstones and then onto Bridges and everyone refused. We didn’t climb all the way up to Stiperstones, which would have been lovely but we’d walked up before and the afternoon was getting on. Beloved’s mother joined us at Stiperstones car park for the last three miles and a walk down the road to Bridges – we stayed on the road as it offered the best views and the most direct route.

Wales view from Stiperstones

Glorious views near Stiperstones car park.

Wales Bridges walk sheep and view

Wales Bridges walk sheep and view 2

Sheep and views, hardly any traffic and no other walkers. We’d seen a few people and cars at The Bog and Stiperstones car parks but once we headed towards Bridges, the road was pretty deserted.

Wales Stiperstones to Bridges view

The road we walked on can be seen just at top left of the photo. It is a fabulous drive and an even better walk.

Wales Stiperstones to Bridges rolling hills

And last photo of rolling hills. Fantastic day and the kids were pretty pleased with themselves for completing the walk.