Saturday, 23 July 2016

Into Manchester

Distance: 16 miles
Weather: hot and clammy

Buzzard heard

Into Manchester along the Medlock Valley Way, stopping for lunch at Park Bridge,  ice cream at Daisy Nook.

We walked along the canals to Salford Quays, where we are spending the weekend watching England vs Pakistan at Old Trafford.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Round Castleshaw

Distance: about 12 miles
Ascent: 550m
Weather: cloudy

After a wet week with disappointing step counts, action was needed to meet our weekly goals, in my case 44,000 of them.

We went out after lunch, walking past the cricket club and down through the horse field at the edge of Strinesdale before heading up to Bishops Park and along the lane to Diggle.

There was nothing untoward on Lark Hill today, just some dog walkers and a fancy new dune buggy.

At Castleshaw we passed a mountain biker who was having doubts, and then took the (dry!) track to T'heights and into Denshaw. We were very strong and didn't go in the pub, despite rumbling tummies, and went home via the Co Op.

My step total was 31,000 which left 12,000 required for the week, easily managed (plus extra) by a walk around Brushes Clough and Shaw (to Asda for purchasing of a new set of weighing scales) on Sunday.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Cumbria Ways Day 18 - Milnthorpe to Arnside

Distance: 4.8 miles
Ascent: 100m
Weather: warm and sunny

After a hot and airless night, we were up at 7am. The midge bite count is high. 

Today is the official end of our walk, we could have gone to either Silverdale or Arnside station,  deciding on Arnside so we'd be able to get an early-ish train back to Manchester, to get home in good time to catch up on three episodes of Game of Thrones before someone spoils it.

We decided to go through the deer park,  where there were cows masquerading as deer, sleepy sheep and pheasants, plus some actual deer. We also saw a grey heron flying over the River Bela.

From Beetham, we went into Underlaid Wood, following a rocky path to the fairy steps, which are down a narrow rocky gully in a low limestone cliff. A concessionary path went around it for people too large (because of rucksacks, not lardy breakfasts) to fit, so we used that. Without rucksacks we fitted quite easily, although had to touch the sides once or twice, so we won't be seeing any fairies.

Leaving the woods, we crossed some farm tracks, seeing a couple of large hares bounding through the long grass.

One of the farms had a CL caravan site, with a few vans crammed into a corner of a field. One of them had two awnings. And not only two awnings, also a double bed with a pine headboard.

Crossing some fields, along a neatly gravelled little path and over the railway line, we then went up the street to Arnside station, and the end of our walk.

In total we have done 298.9 miles. Most of it with sand in our shoes.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Cumbria Ways Day 17 - Staveley to Milnthorpe

Distance: 17.3 miles
Ascent: 480m
Weather: hot and sunny
Hot in sun, midge in shade, high pollen, headache. Big fish, buzzards, wood pigeons, haymaking, posh goats.

We'd (half seriously) joked that today's walk would be on overgrown footpaths with missing footbridges, but as it was it was very picturesque, through parks and National Trust land, well signed and clear.

It was already warm when we set off, blue sky and very hazy. We crossed lanes and heaths, passing a busy campsite, and people heading into Staveley. Ratherheath Tarn is a small lake in the woods, with massive monster fish. We left before we got et.

We crossed some dry grassy meadows, filled with grasshoppers, with little pokey gates up in dry stone walls - small gates seemed to be a feature of the day, I had to take my rucksack off at least three times - although I have eaten some big dinners lately I don't think it was entirely down to that.

With lots of huffing and puffing, we went up to the top of Cunswick Fell, which is a Wainwright outlying fell. It has wide grassy paths with some big cairns, quite rocky with bird's foot trefoil and saxifrage growing in the short grass.

A small gate led through the edge of Scar Woods up to Scout Scar. This is a NT beauty spot with a high bench density. We stopped at the mushroom observatory shelter at the top, which was built in 1912 as a memorial for  King George V on the top of the escapement edge, with a map of the fell tops and places visible on the horizon drawn around the edge, although it was a bit too hazy to see much detail.  Normally we sit in shelters to get out of the wind, it seemed odd to be using one to get out of the sun.

To the south we had views down to the River Kent and Milnthorpe Sands. To the north, indistinct central Lakeland fells, with cumulonimbus clouds bubbling up.

The route led around the escarpment edge to Helsington Barrows (too warm for wights) fringed with stunted twisted hawthorn trees, amongst the cedars and larch.

Crossing a quiet lane, we went into Sizergh Castle's parkland,  and we stopped for lunch and ice cream at the cafe. Leaving the grounds, via a handy underpass under the A590 we went down Nannypie Lane to the river, crossing by the foot suspension bridge, which dates from 1872 built for workers at the nearby gunpowder factory.  There were lots of people enjoying a paddle in the river, including some ducks and cows. We'd thought it would be nice to walk along the bank a bit, but there wasn't much river to be seen, we headed over to the Lancaster canal, now just a footpath with random bridges in fields, and the Sedgwick Aqueduct built in 1817 and falling into decline after the railway opened in the 1850s, it is now mostly uses by bunnies.

At Levens Park we came through the deer park along a grand avenue of oak trees, under which some of the rare breed Bagot goats were resting.

Outside Levens Hall we walked along the same section of pavement that we'd used two weeks ago on the first day of our walk, but we turned off to take a different route through farmland and lanes around Heversham and into Milnthorpe.  We are staying at the Cross Keys Hotel, and it is too hot to think.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Cumbria Ways Day 16 - Haweswater to Staveley

Distance: 12.3 miles
Ascent: 570m
Weather: hot, cloudy, sunny spells

From the hotel we carried on along the road down to the bottom of Haweswater Reservoir. It was a warm day, very still with fluffy clouds - the forecast said a chance of heavy localised showers this afternoon,  we were hoping not to get caught in one.

The lakeside path is open between the Old Corpse Road and Mardale Head, with flowers, a little stone bridge and views over to Wood Howe and the Rigg, it was beautiful. There were flocks of greylag geese and we saw a cormorant. The car park was busy, with good reason.

We walked over Gatescarth Pass, a rocky green lane which climbs upwards steadily, and then zigzags steeply. I was glad that a dark cloud obscured the sun for a while, otherwise it would have been very hard going. A convoy of four 4x4s went up at the same time, not going much faster. It was sweaty. Very sweaty.

We stopped briefly at Brownhowe Bottom but it was midgy, so we continued on a while, there was a bit of a breeze at the top - at 580m the highest point on our whole walk.

We stopped part way down for elevenses, more like half twelveses. It drizzled a bit, just a few drops.

We had lunch in Sadgill, at the end of the public road by the bridge, which had pretty much become a car park. Some other 4x4'ers arrived and set up their deck chairs in the middle of the road, and started talking loudly about diff locks.

We took the lane up other side of the valley, which is a green lane that leads to Kentmere, but after the woods turned south onto a footpath that went up onto the moors to Green Quarter Fell. The sun came out and it was expletive hot.

We had a quick pitstop to wash hands and reapply suncream, and guzzle Ribena. The paths were grassy and very dry with odd pockets of bog and streams with sheep standing in them.

Over us, skylarks and meadow pippets were singing. A rocky bridleway led down off the hill, via Staveley Head Fell, and onto a road.

A couple of fingerposts pointed towards Elf Howe. Checking the map, it turns out there are three Elf Howes: Low Elfhowe, Middle Elfhowe and Elfhowe itself. We decided to follow the bridleway which went between low and middle, then go through Scroggs Farm above Scroggs Bridge (didn't see a scrogg) and then into Staveley.  We are staying at The Eagle and Child, and have tried a selection of their ales.

Cumbria Ways Day 15 - Pooley Bridge to Haweswater

Distance: 13 miles
Ascent: 480m
Weather: warm and cloudy, getting brighter later
Shoes and trousers: buttercup yellow

We were late leaving Pooley Bridge, as breakfast wasn't until 9am and there was only one rather harassed waitress. We went along a lane which is part of the Ullswater Way, it was very busy. The weather was warm, cloudy and muggy, with not much by way of views.

Up the stony track there was a procession of people headed for the fells. Runners running, walkers walking, walkers stopping to get the thermos out, cyclists (perhaps over-ambitious with tandem and kiddie bike) walking and a couple of cyclists yapping.

As the ground flattened out onto grassy moorland, paths led in all directions and the people became more spread out.

By the time we'd reached the Pulpit Stones,  we were alone with the sheep and birds, as most seemed to be doing routes nearer to the lake. There were lots of skylarks and meadow pippets,  curlew, crows and a distant cuckoo.

There are a lot of things in italics on the map here, we stopped to read about the neolithic sites and roman roads. As we did so, a bird was having a dust bath in a dried up rut in the path.

Coming down off the moors into farmland we got covered in bright yellow buttercup residue,  saw a redstart,  a deer nonchalantly pretending to be a sheep and crossed a footbridge that was both there and functionable.

We avoided some road walking by walking along a road through the Lowther Estate,  then turned off through sheep fields, trying not to disturb them as much as possible as they rested under the trees. A very amenable hare posed for photos, then we saw some unusual fungus and a happy bride on her way to church.

There was an impressive but wibbly wobbly suspension bridge over the Haweswater Beck, which is a wide but shallow river that comes from the Lowther River and ends up in the Haweswater Reservoir. We sat on river bank to eat lunch, looking for fish. There were definitely signs of fish but I don't think either of us actually saw what could be definitively called a fish. I did see ripples,  a splash,  also a funny looking spinning top insect, an unidentified bird and a red flying bug.

Leaving the river bank we went through the village of Bampton,  where some people in a campsite where holding a Judyfest,  or something, I didn't see the sign and I can't remember what Rob said...but I do know it didn't make much sense.  Deciding to make another detour to avoid roads, we took a track which crossed the fells over to Aika Hill, above Littlewater Tarn. We walked around the edge of a large wildflower meadow, with drystone walls and copses, tumbledown barns and a big fancy stile with a handrail. There was a buzzard nearby,  and also lots of rooks, crows, jackdaws circling up in spiralling patterns.

Following a grass track, we dropped down to join the road into Haweswater. We had hoped to be able to use the permissive path next to the road by the lakeshore,  but it is closed for the time being. Peering over the wall occasionally from the road (which was pretty quiet anyway) the path was a bit more pokey than we'd imagined it would be, so we decided that it wasn't really a loss.

We are staying at the picturesque and finely situated Haweswater Hotel, overlooking the water. We have a very large and comfortable room, and are now out on the terrace with a Black Sheep Ale and an Old Speckled Hen, watching the red squirrels climbing over the ivy covered walls and lawns.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Cumbria Ways Day 14 - Caldbeck to Pooley Bridge

Distance: 17.2 miles
Ascent: 390m
Weather: hot and sunny
Cows, sheep (inc balwen?), pied wagtail, swallows,  pheasant,  orange tipped and speckled wood butterflies, gyrocopter thing, paragliders.

It was quite warm last night and there were some disturbing sounds coming from another room like a walrus being poked repeatedly with a stick. After putting in earplugs, sleep was achieved.

We were set off by about half past nine, and left the village by the Cumbria Way but then soon turned left down a stony lane. We crossed fields with sheep and cows, interspersed with bits of road walking on quiet lanes. Saw a BT van a couple of times but that was about it.

The sun was shining, and it was hot going up the hills, not something we've been used to at all so far on this holiday.

We had a variety of reactions from the animals, there were cows that ran circling races around us, placid cows that just watched us from afar and cows that stalked us through the hedges. The sheep seemed mostly determined to get up and leave their shady spots as we went by, even though we told them there was no need to move. I felt a bit guilty.

The footpaths we used today are not on any Way or Trail and it was obvious they didn't see much action. The condition of the stiles and signage generally improved during the day, and in some cases over the space of one field. We crossed some stiles that were totally overgrown or broken and others which were shiny and new with place names. We followed the signpost to Heggle Lane but didn't make it there because the footbridge was gone. So went back through the farm and along the lane to the next bridge down.

Being good, we walked back to meet up with our intended route rather than taking a sneaky shortcut,  then walked up a hill through a field, again, it was hot, stopping for a rest and early (ish - for us) picnic on the tiny village green.

We walked through Scale Farm and along Scale Plantation to Cow Snout Wood. Here there were some Swallow Holes. We don't know what they are.

We followed the footpath through the trees, again grateful that it has been dry lately, and then out onto wide grassy meadow with a limestone rocky edge, grass and sheep.

In Berrier,  we passed the Bird Bistro, a shop selling food for wild birds and red squirrels, where pigeons were hanging around.

Had a sit on an ER 1953 commemorative coronation bench while Rob sorted the tape on his foot out. We passed a couple of shut pubs and the shop in Dacre is gone. So no ice-cream for us.

We saw St Marys Well from afar, from Brockhole Hag, and also a hare. By now it was clouding up a little, but still warm. The path went around Dunmallard Hill, rather than over it, which was a relief and then along the River Eamont into Pooley Bridge.  We crossed their very nice temporary bridge and arrived at the Pooley Bridge Inn. We have a balcony.