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.

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

 

New Forest ramble

We came back from New Forest on Tuesday afternoon totally revitalised. Traffic, roadworks and ensuing chaos of daily London life felt weird and alien. So did the crowds later on Tuesday evening in Soho. Over the past couple of years I’ve really come to appreciate the positive effect that a good long walk – or a few days walking, preferably in the middle of nowhere, has on me. We walked just over 40 miles (around 65km) in two whole and two half days. On our last morning, we had a leisurely stroll from Brockenurst towards Lyndhurst and then back, around 6.5 miles. The weather wasn’t really sure what it was doing but it stayed dry so we could pause every now and then and admire the wealth of colour everywhere despite this still being the ‘bleak’ time of the year.

New Forest last day

 

The leisurely pace allowed us to ponder existence of bigger beasts in the forest although we couldn’t decide whether saskwatch or a T-rex could have left these marks

New forest last day pondering on existence of saskwatch

 

And we also got close and personal with yet more moss. Can’t help myself, it is too lovely…

New Forest last day mossy tree stump

 

We got better at finding our way around, recognising paths and wading through the mud. Did not see a soul until right at the end, a man walking a dog in the distance. While it felt great to be the only people about, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that there weren’t more people about appreciating this. It is a shame that a ‘season’ lasts only for a few weeks in summer. There are people staying at hotels but perhaps they spend more time at the numerous spas rather than being out and about.

At the end of the walk, I took a parting shot from Balmer Lawn

New Forest last day Balmer Lawn

 

And another of Lymington River, which now seemed much reduced after last week’s rain.

New Forest last day lymington river reduced

 

I’d spent the best part of last week checking the BBC weather page and worried that the weather would be too bad to really enjoy our little break. Shouldn’t have worried, we had a great time even on the wettest day when the rain was really bad. Would we go back? Yes, I think probably in late spring or summer. I’d particularly like to go back to Lymington saltmarshes and do that whole walk because the little bit that we did was great fun. And then there are other bits of New Forest that we didn’t do at all. The great thing is that this is only an hour and a half from Waterloo, easily doable in a day.

Now if only spring would arrive properly…

New Forest, Brockenhurst to White Moor

Yesterday’s walk turned out to be nearly 14 miles and that is way past Beloved’s threshold of acceptable walk length. We were walking in a different part of the forest to Sunday, heading towards Limewood in a roundabout sort of way, for late lunch. The weather didn’t look too promising but ended up being fairly dry with just an odd little shower and quite a sunny late afternoon again. The really marvellous thing about yesterday was being able to pause to take photos without the fear of camera getting wet. The beginning of the walk, at Balmerlawn looked pretty good with all sorts of colours and good reflections caused by so much rain.

new forest balmer lawn

 

We weren’t in a rush and once it became evident (or rather hopeful, really) that there weren’t going to be downpours like on Sunday, we’d go off the bridleway and into the woods taking lots of photos of things like moss. I get rather excited by moss, it’s the lovely greens and the sponginess of it.

new forest moss

 

And, later on funny trees and streams. It’s rather lovely when there is no one about and you pretty much have this whole massive forest to yourself. We did see a few people pass by here and there but probably less than 10 in total.

new forest stream

 

We’d walked about five or so miles to this point and as we had plenty of time before lunch, we walked up towards White Moor. I was pretty ignorant of the fact that there is quite a bit of moorland around here, I just expected forest really. So all this moorland has come as a great and pleasant surprise as I love a rugged landscape. We are not here at the best time of the year for heather but its purple tones can be seen just in the background of the photo.

new forest white moor

 

Walking through all this heather was also pretty good for cleaning our muddy boots but in the end that was a bit pointless. At this moment we were really pretty close to Limewood where we were having lunch but of course, I didn’t want to arrive there by road, thought it would have been nicer going through the forest. Only Limewood doesn’t seem to be frequented by people who walk so the only path leading to it (considering that it is situated right in the middle of forest) from the forest goes to the back of kitchens/ spa. We found it after much head scratching. And yes, the food was good but something was lacking from this experience. The porter had no idea about gates and exits from the grounds and one of the waitresses was pretty speechless when we said we’d walk back to Brockenhurst too. That walk back took no time, we marched it as I was afraid that we’d be stuck in the forest in the dark. Also, weirdly, OS map seems to be out of date slightly or maybe it’s just that we’re here out of season and some paths have overgrown but there was much further head scratching by me when we suddenly came out on Standing Hat, by Balmerlawn and I had us way, way back in the forest. Walk back was pretty good, late afternoon sun beautifully colouring the forest, had I known how close we were to Brockenhurst, would have stopped for more photos but never mind. Finishing with a photo of burnt bracken (it is not bracken but not sure what it was) up on the moor. Good contrast to forest which was teeming with life even at such ‘out of season’ time of year.

new forest burnt bits on white moor

New Forest, Brockenhurst to Lymington

In New Forest, walking about for a few days. Earlier today on the train, Beloved kept pointing out particularly flooded and boggy paths, I just shrugged. Booked this weekend away ages ago, hoping for some nice weather, forecast says rain today and rain for the rest of the time we are here. Yay. Well, actually, it turned out to be pretty sunny today and mainly dry. We did a fantastically invigorating 9 mile walk from Brockenhurst, where we’re staying to Lymington – the distance between the two is not actually 9 miles but we didn’t do a direct route. And we had all sorts of scenery from a lovely little woodland and old school pubs to flooded riverbeds and salt marshes. First, Roydon Wood and sunny weather, so refreshing and such a marvellous contrast to grey and wet London we left this morning.

Roydon woods

 

A little while later and down some country lanes, we stopped for lunch and a pint at The Red Lion in Boldre which we both rather liked. After that, we were to follow Lymington River down to Lymington. Crossing the bridge at Boldre, you could tell we were going to be in for flooded paths shortly.

Lymington River from Boldre bridge

 

And yes, the path was terrible but also great fun. Sank into the mud a few times, scratched hands and legs on brambles, got mud on trousers despite wearing gaiters and rather enjoyed ourselves. This is what it looked like close up.

Lymington reedbeads bog

 

It got better after a while as we entered Lymington Reedbeads although the weather was getting worse.

Lymington reedbeads proper

 

It started raining pretty soon but we were on a road by that point and it didn’t take long to get into Lymington. We stopped for a coffee and a break before heading out to the Saltmarshes. The rain stopped again and we even got some blue late afternoon sky. Caught two ferries (to Isle of Wight) passing each other.

Lymington saltmarshes ferries crossing

 

And the other side was a nature reserve, a bit flooded but great to look at nevertheless.

Lymington saltmarshes

 

It was very windy around here and while we spotted lots of birds, some had to work hard to stay up in the air. The Saltmarshes continue to Keyhaven but it was already late afternoon so we had to head back. It’s worth coming back here just to do this walk. We saw a couple of dog walkers around here but hardly a soul elsewhere. Guess we are here out of season.

Weather forecast for tomorrow basically says everything from dry to snow and lots of rain. Hoping for dry but we shall see.

London Loop, West Wickham to Riddlesdown

A really lovely, if somewhat muddy walk today, 10.5 miles of London Loop from West Wickham to Riddlesdown. Once you leave West Wickham, this walk is mostly woodland, which was rather marvellous and now, back home, I feel happy. A little tired too, today’s was the longest walk we’ve done so far this year. We walked through Threehalfpenny Wood, Addington Hill, Bramley Bank, Littleheath Woods and Selsdon Wood, then along some fields and meadows (super muddy) and across Riddlesdown to the station and train back. Very peaceful, we hardly saw anyone other than a few dog walkers here and there. Birds singing and first signs of spring everywhere. Very uplifting! I mostly took photos of trees so here are a few:

Pine tree loop walk

 

tree on loop walk

 

snowdrops

 

fungus on tree loop

 

tree selsdon wood Got completely overexcited by snowdrops, so glad we didn’t miss them and that it is almost spring. The weather wasn’t sunny but definitely milder. Be lovely to come back to these woods in a couple of months, this was by far the most enjoyable walk of London Loop yet.