Lake District Chronicles: 8

Fearing a torrential downpour, we decided not to do the full route pictured on the map and find our own way back to Keswick – which in hindsight was not very wise.

Skimming Stones in the rain: Keswick to Walla Crag

It was about this time last year, I had finished my final exam of third year at university – and it was all over! So, we decided to celebrate with a trip to the Lake District. I had picked up a map on directions from Keswick to Walla Crag the previous summer, and was yet to try it. Therefore, we set off on a fairly cold May day to Keswick.

Walla Crag Route Map
Walla Crag Route Map

After stopping to buy some lunch at the local Booths, we wandered through the centre of town to reach Keswick’s Town Hall and Tourist Information Centre – the start of our walk. Following the same route to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, we were soon in open countryside with Derwent Water far below us. Climbing through trees and fields, we spent a lot of time stopping to take photographs despite the overcast sky.

Woodland on our path to Walla CragHowever, we soon came to a dilemma. I had been so busy enjoying the walk, I had unwittingly led us the route of Castlerigg Stone Circle and we needed to fall back on ourselves to reach the correct path. Not exactly as planned, but the slight detour was worth it for the fantastic views across Derwent Water and towards Blencathra and Skiddaw.

Looking towards Blencathra
Looking towards Blencathra

Upon reaching the ascent of Walla Crag, we realised that we had misjudged the gradient and, for an easy walk, it was pretty steep! We followed the path around to Surprise View, which gives an amazing panoramic view across the whole of Keswick and Derwent Water. But now the rain was creeping in as the clouds darkened and spots of rain formed on my glasses.

View from Surprise View
Surprise View

Fearing a torrential downpour, we decided not to do the full route pictured on the map and find our own way back to Keswick – which in hindsight was not very wise.

We followed a less traversed path along the side of one of many stone walls that section the Lake District’s landscape, before reaching an even steeper descent. With the sound of a waterfall nearby, we attempted to navigate the ill-formed path, jarring knees on too high steps and slipping on loose gravel as the rain began to fall more heavily. Reaching the cover of some trees, we sought a quick break to recharge the batteries and nurse an injured ankle. Mosquitos had found us, however, and came in droves, driving us to keep moving as we continued our descent.

Descent from Walla Crag
Descent from Walla Crag

Making our way through the Great Wood, we found ourselves at the edge of Derwent Water. The rain was coming down thick and fast by this point – perfect weather for skimming stones of course! It became the mission to find the best stone to skim as we dodged along the banks using the trees as cover.

Looking out across Derwent Water
Looking out across Derwent Water

Eventually, we gave in to the inevitable and enjoyed the rain, seeing how far we could throw our rocks and collecting the best as we went. All too soon we were making our way back into Keswick, where we found a café for a hot drink to warm us up as the rain still fell.

Returning to Keswick
Returning to Keswick

It was the weekend of Keswick Midsummer Festival, so we sat for a while in the shelter listening to the acts and watching those stood in the rain getting drenched – but really, what did they expect in Cumbria? Some of the acts where pretty good and we would have liked to stay longer, but were restricted by the bus timetable.

We returned to Lancaster looking like drowned rats but perfectly happy with our little adventure.

Nature Poetry: Skimming Stones

I’m posting this poem as I think it quite fits with my next (and last) Lake District Chronicles post, which will be live next Sunday. Another of my poems written whilst at university, this was inspired by how the simple act of skimming a stone can drastically change the appearance of the water. Let me know your interpretations!

Skimming stones

A pool lays secluded

beneath the weeping willow

whose tendrils tickle the surface.

The silent kingfisher perches,

cleaning his feathers, as minnows

begin their calm procession.

Where the water is shallow

you can see the glint of gold

in their scales. A lost time

when the world was serene.

 

Then you started skimming stones.

 

The smack as the perfect flat stone skips across the surface,

small explosions as it crosses the standing water.

Ripples spreading out, battling to reach their widest scope,

rolling over one another until the large rings merge –

fade to the tranquil mirror

 

but the stone still rests at the bottom.

A 10 mile “wander” around Teddington Lock

A gorgeous 16C caught me by surprise when I went for a walk yesterday. The sky was grey and I’d worn my thickest jacket thinking it would be cold – but it was glorious!

I’ve lived in Teddington for three months now so felt it was high time I explored the lock, which is only a mile from my house. Perfect for a short wander to clear my head. Or so I thought.

20170506_153610
Teddington Lock

I have a wonderful, if not slightly reckless, habit of finding myself in places where I can lose myself completely, which naturally leads to never quite wanting to leave again. This was one of those occasions.

Upon reaching the lock, which is a quick wander down from Teddington high street, I found that hundreds of other people had had much the same idea. The nearby pubs and tearooms were teaming in the bright sunshine that had luckily broken through the clouds. People were out in force on the water, on boat tours or yachts, a family came past in bright orange kayaks and there were a number of barges and rowing boats spotted along the way.

20170506_153706
Teddington Lock

There are two bridges across the lock and, to avoid a group of cyclists, I decided to explore the base of the first bridge. All I found was an overgrown footpath and a dead end, but the smell transported me back to Yorkshire and wandering through the countryside. I found myself encased in wildflowers, their scent filling my nostrils and taking me a million miles away. Yet, a gate prevented any further exploration and I had to return to the bridge.

20170506_154028
Half-way point

After crossing, I was faced with a decision: 3 miles to Richmond Park straight ahead, 3.5 miles to Ham House and Gardens to the left, or 1.75 miles to Kingston Bridge to the right. At this point, I was still convinced this was just a short wander along the river, so chose the Kingston path.

The path divides in two with one strand following closely to the banks of the Thames, the other is a sturdier path further up the bank. I chose the higher path, which took me through woodland before emerging into the open sunlight with views of the river.

Taking pictures as I went, I meandered along the path listening to the sound of the river mixed with children’s laughter and the chitter-chatter of their parents. Until I reached a line of houses where the path turned into a tarmac road. Not really wanting to wander through Kingston, I decided to head back but, this time, I took the lower path.

20170506_160626
Half mile tree, just before Kingston

Now my view was less obstructed, I could photograph the expanse of the River Thames with the sun now on my face. Having only traveled a mile or so, it wasn’t long before I was back at the signpost. To go home, or not to go home?

20170506_162045
View back towards the lock

Not to go home.

I decided to continue along the path towards Ham House and Gardens, not expecting to reach the stately home but knowing the walk would be pretty. After following the edge of the lock, I was soon immersed in woodland. I heard the sweet calls of blackbirds and robins flitting through the trees. I love being among the trees, it’s a place where I feel safe and at home. The fresh smell of new leaves and various wildflowers intermingled with the earth as I wandered.

20170506_163511
The path to Ham House and Gardens

The path is fairly similar the whole way along with the Thames to your left and woodland on the right, which made it easy to lose track of how far I had walked. It wasn’t until I saw the outcrop of Eel Pie Island that I realised I had almost walked as far as Ham House! So much for a short walk…

20170506_163940
Ham land

I sat on a bench for a little while, admiring the beauty of Eel Pie Island and growing envious of the houses there. As I looked, however, I suddenly noticed two little eyes watching me and a couple of pointy orange ears. A fox. Realising I was not a threat – I could not easily traverse the water between us – he settled down to sun himself. I admired him for a while before continuing my walk.

20170506_165920
Eel Pie Island

By now it was getting late and I had set myself a target of turning back once it had reached 5pm. It was 4.54pm. I carried on forward a short way until the woodland opened up to reveal a car park and what I can only assume is the ferry point between Twickenham and Ham House. I could see The White Swan on the opposite bank and Richmond looming in the distance. I sat for a while taking in the view.

20170506_170829.jpg
View towards Richmond

The journey back was harder. My feet suddenly felt the 19,884 steps (according to my Samsung Health app) I’d taken and my lack of preparation meant I was in dire need of a drink. Barely pausing, I power-marched back to the lock, reliving all the beauty of my walk there and being startled by squirrels who interrupted my path.

After walking roughly ten miles, I collapsed on my bed, tired but feeling wonderfully fulfilled.

 

Nature Poetry: roam free

I started this blog as a little exploration of my own creativity, which also meant the inclusion of poetry. So, today, I am sharing a poem which I wrote whilst in my second year of University as it feels quite fitting. I hope you like it and please leave comments below!

roam free

to feel the world against my skin

the beauty of a single puddle

Cerulean Blue of a serene sky

tells me the storm is passing by

 

the wind sings of fantastic destinies

the ability to fly through distant lands

travel the seas with migrant swallows

watch diving gulls catch their supper

 

traverse the Alps to the highest point

watch magnificent eagles glide below

freedom circling the fir tree tops trying

to pick mountain hare from the snow

 

I’ll sweat from the heat of African desert

cross paths with regal lion or rascal hyena

multitude of colours in the hazy distance

a mystery waiting to be explored

 

Australia bound I’ll swim with the sharks

Great Barrier Reef’s magnitude of coral

scuba diving in this myriad of rainbows

bake to a crisp in hot orange sun

 

on to Old Faithful at Yellowstone Park

hot hissing geyser shooting 100ft high

magma lies beneath threatening through

the bubbling mud and spluttering springs

 

this just a snapshot of possibility

so many more expanses to traverse

my mind wanders in endless opportunity

I roam free in a world of open doors

Off the beaten track: North York Moors

To rise swiftly from the valley of cars,
Scything the heather in mud-spattered arcs,
With boots crushing broken straws of bracken,
In peat which darkly preserves our passing,
– Christopher Woodall

After my stay in Leeds, I travelled across to my hometown of Hull to see my family. Whilst I was there, we decided to head out to the North York Moors on an, unfortunately, less pleasant day than my trip to Ilkley.

Image of Daffodils on North York Moors with a river running through treesDespite the overcast skies and spots of rain, we had a wonderful exploration of the moors around Rosedale, seeing a part of the landscape we’d never been to before. Wild daffodils were in their droves around the base of trees and little Coal tits fluttered through their branches. It was a little haven away from the roadside, the only pull back to the real world being the slight whoosh of traffic in the distance.Image of river running through trees on the North York MoorsRosedale is known for its beautiful Abbey ruins and remnants of the industrial revolution as the area was used for its richness of iron with ironstone mines, kilns and the moorland railway scattered across the landscape.
Image of River on North York Moors near Rosedale

We wandered along the river bank before coming to a series of stepping stones across to the opposite bank. It was either cross or turn back, so we ventured forward – making sure my mum was in the middle, just in case!

We made it across the river to climb up a Image of View through the pines on North York Moorspath through the dense heather, our intention to make it to the highest point of the moor. The higher we climbed, however, the more apparent it became that there was no obvious peak and we could continue indefinitely.
Turning back, we realised how far we had gone as we were now well above the trees on the opposing valley.Image of View on North York Moors After returning to the car, we headed to Rosedale where we found a lovely café, the Abbey Tea Room and Store in Rosedale Village. There is a large picture window looking onto the quaint village green and I can highly recommend their gluten-free Chocolate Cake!

The day was drawing to a close, so we took the scenic drive back home passing over the top of the moors and down through the seaside town of Whitby.Image of View on North York Moors

Lake District Chronicles: 7

I had become interested in Wainwright and his exploration of the Lake District so settled on Orrest Head as our destination – the view from which sparked Wainwright’s decision to extensively map out all of the fells.

Bowness-on-Windermere and Orrest Head

“…quite suddenly, we emerged from the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view…” – Alfred Wainwright

Image of trees along Sheriff's Walk and Mill Beck
Sheriff’s Walk and Mill Beck

In my third year of university, I made the best decision to become a fresher’s rep. I met a fantastic group of people – who were all interested in exploring the Lakes!

Image of Mill Beck from Sheriff's Walk
Mill Beck from Sheriff’s Walk

 

As an extension of their Fresher’s Week, I planned a trip to Windermere.

Windermere has often been a connecting point as I journey on to elsewhere in the Lakes, but is just as beautiful – if not quite so spectacular as further north.

I had also become interested in Wainwright and his exploration of the Lake District so settled on Orrest Head – the view from which sparked Wainwright’s decision to extensively map out all of the fells.

Image of Waterfalls on Mill Beck from Sheriff's Walk
Waterfall

However, before climbing the fell, we decided to head towards the lakeside and took a shortcut via a number of hidden waterfalls I had found on a previous trip. The footpath is called Sheriff’s Walk and branches from the main road to Bowness-on-Windermere (Lake Road) and takes you down towards Bowness and Lake Windermere.

The walk was beautiful as we wandered through trees and the autumnal colours, with the constant melody of the river.  There are a number of waterfalls as Mill Beck travels towards Windermere, with a considerably larger waterfall closer to the lake. We enjoyed skipping across “stepping stones” and throwing stones in the clear water.

Image of a yacht on lake Windermere with misty mountains
View from Bowness-on-Windermere

Finally, we reached Bowness-on-Windermere, which was busy even in October. We wandered along the lakeside and sat for a while in the park, enjoying the scene.

The weather was turning, however, so we headed back to Windermere in time to climb Orrest Head. With a few spots of rain and the wonderful smell of wood smoke, we easily ascended the small fell.

Image of View across to Windermere
View across to Windermere

There are some incredible views from various points along the meandering track, which begins across the road to Windermere station. But it is when you reach the summit that you can really see what ignited Wainwright’s interest. For such a small elevation, you can see far and wide – almost every inch of the fells surrounding the Lake District’s largest lake and beyond.

We picked out Scafell Pike and Crinkle Crags; with the distant behemoth of Great Gable just visible despite the cloud. Definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a quick and easy walk with fantastic views.

Image of View from the top of Orrest Head
View from the top of Orrest Head
Image of View from the top of Orrest Head
View from the top of Orrest Head

View more of my Lake District travels by clicking the Lake District Chronicles above or to the right.

Lake District Chronicles: 6

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
Woodland at the beginning of the walk

I’d wanted to go to Keswick for weeks, but just kept getting drawn elsewhere… plus, it is 3 hours on the bus! But I finally made it! It began as a beautiful, warm September day – perfect for walking.

My first stop was the Tourist Information centre in Keswick, where I bought a couple of maps: one being the route to Castlerigg Stone circle.

The route begins conveniently at the Tourist information centre and wanders through the centre of town before turning off past a row of houses to suddenly find yourself in woodland.

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
View across to Catbells

You soon come across a farmhouse, where there is a Tea room – which I have never tried but if you have, let me know!

Then you begin to climb through the trees, alongside the river. As you climb there are flashes of the gorgeous view down to Keswick and Derwent Water.

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
View across Derwent Water

After crossing a bridge and a road, you suddenly find yourself in open countryside. Walking across the fields, you get fantastic views of Blencathra and Skiddaw to the left and the beginning of the Helvellyn range on your right.

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
View across Derwent Water towards Catbells
Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
The beginning of the Helvellyn range
Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
View towards Skiddaw
Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
View towards Blencathra

Turning left when reaching the gate; it was a boggy walk in the gorgeous sunshine until reaching the road, which you need to cross to get onto the final stretch.

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle, view towards Helvellyn range
Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle, view towards Blencathra

Once you reach the stone circle, there is this incredible feeling of calm. I just sat on the grass looking at it for hours, taking it all in. Then I went for a little wander around and a closer look at the stones. There was something romantic about the place and I could easily have stayed longer, but clouds were starting to draw in so I decided to head back.

I took a different route back into Keswick – and naturally got a little lost almost ending up in Penrith… Thankfully a couple of walkers pointed me in the right direction!

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 6 Castlerigg Stone Circle
Walking back along the railway line

The walk back along the railway line was lovely and I got to the bus station just in time.

 

Lake District Chronicles: 5

Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)
View from our bedroom window

We spent the second day of our holiday exploring Ambleside. Beginning at our accommodation at Waterhead, we wandered along Windermere’s shore where there are plenty of gift shops and cafes, before finding our way to Borrans Park. It’s a wide open space which is great for sitting out in the summer. It was bright sunshine and beautifully warm.

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)
Mr H’s

We then headed into the centre of Ambleside for some lunch.

After wandering through the town, we came across a little café called Mr H’s, which I can highly recommend.  Wonderful food, great service and a fantastic décor – I’ve been back time and time again.
Upon finishing our lunch, we set off for Stock Gyhll Force Waterfalls. It’s a little out of the way to get to, but it’s another world from bustling Ambleside once you find your way onto the path.

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)
Trail up to Stock Gyll Force Waterfalls

You can immediately hear the whoosh of the water and are suddenly surrounded by trees.
The path was fairly sodden but we made our way up the steady incline to see, what only can be described as spectacular, waterfalls.

The 70 foot falls flow down into Ambleside down a series of waterfalls and pass under the famous bridge house. It was gorgeous and the sound was incredible! We spent a long time listening and wandering along the path from which you can see many different viewpoints.

 

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter) Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)  Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter) Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)
View from Roman ruins

The route is circular and we all too soon found ourselves back in central Ambleside. With the majority of the day still to go, we headed back to Waterhead and Borrans Park, where we bought a icecream from one of the many cafés along the lakeside and found a perfect spot to enjoy the sunshine. Before leaving, I realised there were the remains of a Roman Fort. In reality, it wasn’t much but there was some good information and the views from the open meadow were definitely worth it.

I returned to Ambleside in the winter to see the snow. It was magical as I’d never seen it like this before, and I just had to include one of my favourite pictures with this post!

Image of Lake District Chronicles: 5 Ambleside and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (including trip in winter)
Waterhead view in the winter

Lake District Chronicles: 4

Glenridding Dodd

Nearing the end of the summer, my sister Heather came to stay for the week, which included a short stay at YHA Ambleside.Image of Lake District Chronicles: 4 Glenridding Dodd

As it was only one night, we decided to make the most of our two days in the lakes and headed to Glenridding. Having set off at 6am, it was freezing and a little miserable – as to be expected in the lakes! In an effort to warm us up, we chose to climb Glenridding Dodd, which had dominated the view since we arrived.

Bad idea.Image of Lake District Chronicles: 4 Glenridding Dodd

The terrain itself would be difficult even with the proImage of Lake District Chronicles: 4 Glenridding Doddper walking gear. Heather’s Doc Martin’s were not quite up to scratch…
We managed to find a beautiful spot about a third of the way up for our picnic, but we felt it was unsafe to continue – especially after meeting a group of prepared walkers in sturdy boots using walking poles. A wise decision as, just before reaching the main path from the village, Heather slipped and fell badly on her side, making the return journey a little painful.
Image of Lake District Chronicles: 4 Glenridding Dodd

We stopped for a delicious orange chocolate brownie at the Helvellyn Country café in the village, which certainly helped with the pain (!) and meant that we were able to keep on exploring.

I told Heather about my trip to Aira Force so we thought we’d try and walk around Ullswater to the falls – this proved a little ambitious but we almost made it!Image of Lake District Chronicles: 4 Glenridding Dodd

You can walk pretty much the whole way along the lakeside and there are fantastic views all around. We stopped first at a bench to find a wedding taking place at Glenridding’s The Inn on the Lake. It was so perfect and romantic, which really brightened the day.

We wandered through the trees, hopping onto the shore at points and climbing the occasional rock form. It felt like a real mystery tour and everywhere we looked was beautiful. We spent a long time skimming stones across the glass-like lake and were taken back to childhood holidays. Perfect.Image of Lake District Chronicles: 4 Glenridding Dodd

Eventually, we realised we wouldn’t quite make it to Aira Force, so jumped on a bus and made our way to Ambleside, where we watched the sunset over Windermere.

 

Lake District Chronicles: 3

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell

I felt I’d explored Grasmere enough for the time being, and chose to head back to Ullswater and see it in the summer. A friend had recommended Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell as a possibility, so I decided to check it out!

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
View from Cafe

It was a glorious July day, which of course meant lots of people! Aira force is definitely popular with families, but it was lovely to see them enjoying picnics by the water and skipping stones. The bus stops right outside the café which makes it easy to find your way to the waterfall.

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
Aira Force

Following the river up the side of the valley, I came to the first of two bridges from which you can get some great shots of the waterfall. The sound is amazing and, despite the number of people out that day, it felt wonderfully secluded.

Crossing the bridge, and carrying on up the right-hand side of the river, you eventually come to High Force. This waterfall is much wider – and louder- than aira force and there were lots of people enjoying paddling in the calmer waters where the slope plateaued. I remember one guy in particular, as he manoeuvred himself into awkward positions along the very edge of the waterfall to capture the best picture. I would love to have seen those images!

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
High Force

Continuing along the riverside, the path eventually veers to the right, taking you into meadow. It was beautiful to come from the shaded, damp smell of the forest into brilliant sunshine with amazing views. From here begins the noticeable climb up Gowbarrow fell.

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
View from Meadow

After wandering through the ferns, I came to a wall with an arrow pointing towards Gowbarrow Hill – so I followed the wall up. The path becomes clearer as you ascend and heather takes centre stage. It’s a reasonably steep climb, which is well made up for in the views!

Upon reaching the summit, I could see all the way to the Helvellyn and Blencathra ranges as well as the Pennines and flat plains of Yorkshire. It’s an incredible view for a fell which is only 481m high.

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
View from the summit

The descent was interesting. It is fairly steep but I decided to jog back down regardless. This, however, proved to be difficult in parts. Areas along the path are easily only the width of your foot with a sheer drop below and there were moments when I had to be particularly careful in my footing. Yet, the majority of the path is accessible and I found it easy to descend – and quickly as it was nearing the time of the last bus!

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
Ullswater

I still had chance to snap pictures along the way. Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell is a circular route, and the descent took me around the edge of Ullswater. I genuinely felt like I’d hit gold. The views are incredible and I had the perfect day for photographs.

Image of Lake District Chronicles Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell
Ullswater

The path takes you along to reach another summit: Green Hill, from which the whole of Ullswater opens out before you, before descending back into the wood and Aira Force – just in time for the bus.