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.

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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.

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.

New Forest: Brockenhurst to Beaulieu

Yesterday’s New Forest walk – 9 or so miles through the forest from Brockenhurst to Beaulieu. We set off at 10am and it was very wet but the ground was flat and we walked along the bridleway path so we didn’t get too muddy. It was too wet to get the camera out for most of the walk, which was a shame as the scenery was fabulous everywhere you looked.

This photo, which I took with my phone, shows flooding just on the outskirts of the forest. This was by Lymington River, which we walked a few miles downriver on Saturday.

floods on way to beaulieu

 

I used a tiny break in the downpour to take the camera out just for a few minutes. This is one of only few photos of the actual forest I took.

new forest trees

 

We are heading back to the forest after breakfast today so hopefully, I’ll be able to take some more photos.

Once in Beaulieu, we stopped for coffee and cake, my rucksack leaving a nice little pond on the floor. We then went off to have a look at National Motor Museum and ruins of Beaulieu Abbey – not that I care about cars particularly but the museum was actually pretty good, especially the older cars. And our jackets slowly dried off. Once outside it actually stopped raining for the afternoon. There was even some blue sky as we walked around the ruins of the abbey.

beaulieu abbey

 

And, as we headed back to Beaulieu, it was positively sunny!

beaulieu river

 

A bench may just about be visible in the gap between the trees, what a lovely spot. By this point, we’d walked about 10.5 miles so Buckler’s Hard and Nelson’s shipyard was unfortunately a bit too much. Instead, we stopped for a pint prior to dinner. Dinner was a few miles away at The Pig, who kindly booked taxis to pick us up and drop us off. Rather annoyingly, as the cab picked us up and we were driving back towards The Pig and Brockenhurst, the weather looked absolutely glorious. I caught the last rays of sunshine on this big oak tree outside The Pig

tree by the pig

 

 

Up in the clouds

Not in the best of moods first thing this morning but a couple of hours later, totally distracted, disoriented, amazed, speechless and just quite delighted. All at the same time. I mean, look at this:

20120910-213917.jpg
I loved seeing London from the top floor of the Heron Tower, even on a grey dull morning, it just looked pretty special. Have another pic:

20120910-214344.jpg I was there for a work related breakfast thingum and had to pay attention to what was going on around me but all I wanted to do was press my face on the glass and look out in wander. I love it how this city can always surprise you with something fabulous and cheer you up.