Friday, 4 April 2014

You're my beshtish friend...

You know those times when you get slightly tipsy and declare your undying love for someone – well I thought it was about time I did that for the fells.

Let me paint you a picture, I am currently sat in a London hotel room doing what I need to do to fund my writing habit (steady – NOT that – I deliver training courses, usually to solicitors) and I’ve had a glass of two of wine.  I enjoy my job, I really do – but while my body may be in London for a couple of days, my heart is in the fells.

24 hours or so ago I was sat on top of Harrison Stickle eating my lunch in the sun and trying to articulate to a very good friend how much I loved the fells.  I failed.  I am, after all, a humble blog and walk writer and not a poet or a painter.  But, to be fair, I have yet to read a poem or see a photo or a painting that can truly convey my love for Cumbria.

It’s like trying to explain the love I feel for my husband.  I love him.  I just do and I can’t explain it any more than that.  Of course I want to clatter him sometimes (as I’m sure he wishes to clatter me!) and, in the same way, there are many times that I shout at the fells but I love them.  With every fibre of my being I love them.  There is an emotion there that runs deeper than any words or pictures will ever convey.

And, if I am honest, there is also a deep, deep jealousy.  I know I am not the only person to love them and I am completely torn – I want to both share them with the world so they can see how amazing they are and, at the same time, not tell anyone else about them so I can keep them all to myself – does that make any sense at all?!

If you know me and/ or the fells perhaps you’ll understand and, if you don’t, you’ll most likely think I’m a little crazy (and perhaps you wouldn’t be too far wide of the mark!).  Without a shadow of a doubt there is nowhere on this earth that I would rather be than far away from the crowds, in Cumbria, in the company of someone I love.

If someone who loved the city asked me to articulate why I loved the fells so much I would have no more chance of trying to explain it to them than I would trying to smell the colour purple.  There is something deep within my DNA that is simply drawn there.  I felt it the first time I visited just a few years ago and I feel it now stronger than ever.

I feel incredibly fortunate that I have found my home.  Some people search their entire lives for the peace and contentment I feel in my adopted home and I know that I am incredibly lucky.  The only downside is I feel a physical pain of separation when I am away from them – much as I do when I’m away from my lovely hubby. (I warned you at the beginning I’d been drinking!)

But whereas I don’t know what the future may hold for me and my lovely husband, I do know that whenever I am hauled kicking and screaming from this mortal coil, the fells will still be there and, hopefully, people will still be falling in love with them as I have.

I’m sorry this isn’t an elegant piece of poetry or a beautiful painting or love song, but this is me – and all I can do is have a few glasses of wine and tell the fells how very much I love them.  Unlike my darling hubby who is well used to being on the receiving end of the “I’ve had a few drinks and I really love you texts” I can’t send messages to the fells so I’ve written this instead.  I just hope they’re as understanding as he is.  (And yes I may be embarassed about this in the morning, but beleive me I've done far worse... :-)  )

(Sorry about the lack of photos but the hotel wifi is beyond me just now...) 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Major new Lake District sponsor announced

The Lake District National Park has teamed up with a major corporate sponsor in a deal believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Global giant Virgin has agreed to make a substantial investment in Cumbria and they have a lot of exciting ideas to help the region assert its claim to be the "adventure capital of England".

First up they plan to produce their own definitive walking guides and change the sport of "Wainwright bagging" into "Virgin bagging".  As an incentive to encourage more people to get outdoors and join in Virgin will be rewarding every hiker who can demonstrate they've climbed all 214 summits with a free "I've bagged 214 Virgins" T shirt.

Virgins as far as the eye can see

They also plan to invest in updating a number of the lakes themselves in an attempt to draw in more people.  Low Water, just below the summit of The Old Man of Coniston, will be heated and turned into an "outdoor adventure pool" complete with a waterslide running directly from the summit.

Stickle Tarn will become a giant jacuzzi with a drinks service available from The Sticklbarn pub in the valley below and to improve access for visitors with mobility issues a stair lift will be installed running from the pub directly to the tarn.

Site of proposed giant jacuzzi

Another fell to benefit from the new "rapid descent" concept will be Fleetwith Pike.  Richard Branson has made several secret visits to the area and, like many people, found the descent along Fleetwith Edge "long and bit tedious in places - nice views though" so he's decided to install a zipwire running from the summit of the fell to the back of the Bridge Hotel in Buttermere.

Virgin also plan to make the fells a safer place by installing giant inflatable tubes, emblazoned with the Virgin logo, on either side of accident blackspots such as Striding Edge and Sharp Edge.  Lake District Mountain Rescue gave the idea a cautious welcome: "Anything to improve the safety of walkers is, of course, welcome", they said "but we just wish they'd paint them green so they blend in better with the landscape."

Sharp Edge - safer in future

Friends of the Lake District have been surprisingly positive about the deal with a spokesman quoted as saying "Hell yeah, why not? This place could do with livening up a bit."

And finally, whereas many sponsorship deals have required a complete change of venue name to satisfy the sponsors, Virgin are making only one name change to one lake - Bassenthwaite Lake will, in future, be known as Bransonthwaite Lake.

Soon to be "Bransonthwaite Lake"

All those wishing to make their views on this announcement known can do so by contacting the Lake District National Parks Authority no later than midday on Tuesday 1st April 2014 or by emailing

Monday, 24 March 2014

Hampsfell in heels...

On top of the hospice, on top of Hampsfell in a tiara & high heels
Well not quite, I only put that because it rhymes.  I did don heels but only briefly and only at the very summit - to try walking over the limestone pavements in anything other than proper boots would have been madness. As those who know me know, I don't wear make-up or at least I only wear it on very, very rare occasions (4 years ago was the last occasion by my reckoning and prior to that our wedding day in 2003)  so when all the "barefacedselfies" started doing the rounds no-one nominated me and for good reason, I mean I really wouldn't look any different would I?

Thing is my dad died of cancer in 1986 when I was just 18 and my sister has survived breast cancer.  On top of that the wife of a very good friend lost her battle to the evil disease in 2012 and another friend lost her mother last year.  And that's just the very tip of an enormous iceberg - the guy from work who died of liver cancer, my brother-in-law's sister-in-law (work that one out!) who died of blood cancer, my husband's aunt who died of a brain tumour and so on.  You get my drift, cancer sucks.

So I wanted to join in and do my bit and this was what I came up with - if everyone else was wiping the make-up off, why don't I plaster it on?  And instead of taking the selfie in the comfort of my living room why not hike up the nearest fell in full evening attire while I'm on?  Trust me, if something is worth doing, it's worth overdoing, which is why I surprised a number of people on Hampsfell this morning.

Every adventure in life should teach you something and I definitely learned stuff today - I learned that make-up can go off, I learned that make-up applicators disintegrate over time, I learned that  Qtips make lousy eye shadow applicators and I learned that fingers can apply make-up just fine.  (Oh and I also learned that miniskirts and high stone stiles don't mix as you'll see from the photo below)

Anyway, I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking, all I ask is that if you giggle, at least once, you click this link to my JustGiving page and donate a couple of quid.  Honestly, every single penny helps and though it won't bring back any of the good folks we've lost, it may help our loved ones in the future.  Thank you.  :-)

Slapping it on!

Not my usual rucksack rations.

Helena Bonham Carter eat your heart out.

The hair was not part of the bet, I just like it this colour.

High stiles were not meant for short skirts.

My only pair of heels. They stayed on for 5 mins.

Matching nail varnish & phone case, tres fashionable so I'm told...

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Head Above the Clouds

“Inversion, inversion in inversion” I chirped as I bounced up and down on the bed at 6:30am.  You really have to pity Steve at times.  Grabbing some clobber I decided that, for a change, we’d nip up Hampsfell as we’d not seen an inversion over the bay before.  Steve wasn’t so sure, but then he’s never been much of a morning person.

Hampsfell Hospice

I bounced up the fell, full of the joys of spring, but the bounces got slower and further apart as I neared the top and realised we needed to be considerably higher.  Steve emerged from the mist with a face that said he perhaps occasionally missed the quiet and rather more predictable life he enjoyed before he met me.

Bribing him with coffee and the promise of pies from Higginson’s we switched to plan B – head back to the car and aim for Red Screes.

There were no breaks at all in the mist along the A590 and we began to have our doubts but, as we neared the top of Kirkstone Pass the cloud began to thin and out we popped.  We parked up in bright sunshine and began our hike up the fell.  Red Screes is a straightforward hike with steps most of the way and a bit of a scramble towards the top.  By now my early energy levels had dropped and Steve disappeared off ahead to get some shots from the summit.

I caught him up at a small rocky outcrop around Snarker Moss where we set about the coffee and a couple of Scotch Eggs and sat back to take in the views.  I’m a huge fan of trashy “end of the world” disaster movies and sitting above the clouds with just the peaks of the other fells around us reminded me of the scene at the end of “2012” where the sea has covered the globe leaving only the highest peaks in the clear.

We had no other big plans for the day so rather than race around we decided to sit back in the sunshine and watch the clouds as they ebbed and flowed in the valleys below.  The fells were deserted and the only other sound was a skylark singing away as it flew high above us.  The fells are usually such a high energy place so it was lovely to just relax for a few hours up there and take in the views;  I’ll admit I had a quick snooze before we decided it was lunch time and polished off a couple more pies.

By now the inversion had dissipated and the breeze had picked up so we began to make our way back to the car.  We passed several other hikers along the way and part of me felt sorry for them for missing the best part of the day but, if I’m honest, another part was secretly glad we’d had the fells to ourselves for so long.

It was still far too nice a day for rushing around so we paused for a well earned pint and a bowl of chips in the wonderful Kirkstone Pass Inn before finally heading home.  It may not have been the first inversion we’d seen and possibly not even the best, but it was certainly the most relaxing and one we’ll remember for a long time to come.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Outdoors Life -v- Office Life

On our latest outing for Walks & Wildlife magazine we were wondering how life in the outdoors compares with office life - here's what we came up with:

Health & Safety.

The outdoors has not been entirely risk assessed...


Steve on Jack's Rake



Hazardous Chemicals

Can't be too careful.

Staff canteen

Leaves a lot to be desired.

Slips, Trips and Falls

Occasional and unavoidable.

Display Screen Equipment

Protective eye equipment does occasionally need to be worn.

Repetitive Strain Injury

Can be a bit of a plod sometimes...

Getting the desk by the window

Can sometimes be a fight.

The office joker

There's always one.

The Management

Keeping their beady eye on you...

PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)

To be worn at all times.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Things to do in Derbyshire

First of all let me apologise to TGO Magazine - they very kindly name me as "Number 1 Lake District Blog" and the first thing I do is write a blog about Derbyshire.  I'm sorry.  Very, very sorry.  Thing is when they told me the news we were already on hols and it would be very rude not to write about such a lovely break.

We liberated Delores from her winter hibernation and spent 9 nights on a site near Bakewell.  On the first night one of those pesky winter storms hit meaning the van was a-rockin' for all the wrong reasons; we didn't get much sleep, plus it lashed down the next day, so we'll pick up the story on the Sunday...

Sunday - Monsal Trail

View from Monsal Trail
The Monsal Trail is a beautiful 8.5 mile trail along a disused railway track.  It runs from Bakewell to just outside Buxton and is perfect if you don't like your cycling too hilly.  There's a gentle uphill gradient most of the way to Buxton but at least that means you get to coast most of the way back.

Entering Monsal Trail tunnel

There are several good sized tunnels along the way which add to the interest of the journey - though be prepared to be dripped on!  You also get to cross several magnificent bridges, though it's hard to appreciate the architecture when you're on top of them.  The perfect excuse to head back for a valley walk later in the week.

Monday - Bakewell

River Wye Bakewell
Bakewell is a pretty little market town that still has a thriving market.  Well, several of them to be exact.  On the Monday we visited there was a cattle market which was a great experience as the closest I'd previously been to one was a Blue Peter special in 1978.  It was just like it was on the telly, though John Noakes was sadly missing.

On the lookout for Shep...
Clearly the high point of any visit to Bakewell is the sampling of the Bakewell Puddings and there are plenty to choose from.  We take our job as bloggers very seriously so forced ourselves to sample as many as possible, purely in the interests of scientific research you understand.

A perfect pudding.
While 2 shops battle it out in their claim to produce the "original" pudding, we both agreed that there was one clear winner in the taste stakes - Bloomers.  Their puddings had by far the best balance of flavours plus the staff in the shop were friendly, helpful and happy to give tips on the best way to eat them.  (In my experience "quickly" is the best way to eat them, before someone else gets their mitts on them - I'm watching you Steve!)

Tuesday - Monsal Head Hike

We took advantage of a break in the weather on Tuesday and headed out on a 10 mile hike.  It wasn't meant to be 10 miles but we took an unexpected detour due to me being "navigationally challenged"...

View from Monsal Head
Our route wound along the Wye Valley giving us the opportunity to admire some of the bridges we'd hurtled across on Sunday.  Well, not so much hurtled as puffed, panted and paused for tea on.

As well as the natural scenery there were some lovely old buildings along the way too - this disused mill sent my imagination into overdrive as I mentally renovated it and moved in, keeping a few chickens for good measure.

And then there was Holy Trinity church in the very aptly (considering this winter) named village of Ashford-in-the-Water.  Church - check, large yew tree - check, honestly, do church views get more quintessentially English than this?

Wednesday - Heights of Abraham

The Heights of Abraham has something to suit you whatever your phobia - from a nerve jangling cable car ride to a claustrophobia inducing cavern tour, but if you can keep your neuroses in check you'll have a fabulous day out.

Going up!
The prices, like the cable car ride, seemed pretty steep at first but once you're up the top your ticket gets you into the various caves and exhibitions and we found 4 hours flew past.  There's also a couple of adventure playground areas for the kids, including one with a historical explorers theme which I thoroughly approved of!

To be honest we didn't explore much more of Matlock but there looked to be several nice river walks and a few lovely parks for those days when the weather is a little less arctic.

Thursday - Castleton

We had several adventures in Castleton and they began on our drive in.  As well as being buffeted by the wind we found a road marked with a highly subjective "light vehicles only" sign.  Light compared to what exactly?  We were in Delores and, as she is lighter than a bus but heavier than a car, we decided to give it a go.  I think we surprised a few people on the way down but no lasting harm done...

We stopped to let the clutch cool down at Speedwell Cavern - if you're just coming out of therapy for claustrophobia then this is the place to check if you're cured.  After descending 100 or so steps you climb aboard a boat for bonce bumping 450m ride to the main cavern.  

I'll be honest, the boat ride was the most interesting part, but the guides are entertaining and full of useful information, like how often the caves flood.  Just the sort of thing I want to know about when I'm stuck several hundred metres underground.

Speedwell Cavern 
After a brief glimpse of the sun we headed over to Peak Cavern where we learned about the history of rope making before viewing more impressive caverns and being told, again, about how high the caves flood.  Why do they always wait until you're deep inside before telling you that part?

If you're going to Castleton and you only have the time or money for one cavern then go to the Blue John Caverns.  By a country mile they are the best caverns.  If I try to do them justice I will very quickly run out of superlatives.  Keep looking up - the rock formations are magnificent and you can really get a feel for the forces that created this truly spectacular natural cavern system.  Our tour guide was delightful and incredibly knowledgeable and my only gripe is that it only lasted an hour - I could honestly have spent the day down there.

Blue John Caverns
Of course the star of the show is the Blue John which they still mine and there are plenty of well priced samples to be bought from the gift shop - sadly they don't let you hack your own out of the rock face.

Friday - Cromford

Friday was one of those "we need to nip to Sainsbury's, what else can we do while we're there?" kind of days.  Having spent the previous day gazing at natural wonders we now decided to head to Cromford - the birthplace of the industrial revolution.  Well, one of them anyway, depending on what you count as "birth".

Cromford Mill
Cromford Mill was the first cotton mill to be powered by water and the guided tour is cheap enough and well worth every penny.  For £5 each we spent 2 hours with a knowledgeable guide learning about the history of the village and mill.  If history at school had been this interesting I may have paid closer attention.

Mill workers cottages with
We also got to see a grade 2 listed pigsty and if that isn't worth £5 each, then I don't know what is.

A very special pigsty.
Saturday - Buxton

Our last day.  After a quick visit to the farmers market in Bakewell (well worth a visit) and loading ourselves up with Bakewell Puddings from Bloomers (How long do they keep?  Not long in our house apparently...) we thought it was time to take in the health giving waters of nearby Buxton.

First stop was the wonderful Art Deco pavilion and botanical gardens where there was another local produce market (more food!) and a french horn player running through a medley of Boomtown Rats hits.  Odd but strangely enjoyable.

Buxton Bloom
St Ann's Well was next to fill up our water bottle. Fortunately the man ahead of us let us jump in while he took a pause in his mission to fill 10 or so of those giant water bottles you find on top of water coolers.  You think that "Buxton spring water" is bottled in a factory, I have my doubts.

The water pours forth at a consistent if everso slightly odd 28C and, having drunk a bottle, I felt pretty much the same afterwards as I did before.  Perhaps I need to drink more I thought, eyeing the 10 now full bottles in the boot of the gentleman's car...

St Ann's Well

We were then fortunate enough to stumble upon one of those rare gems of a place that are all too easy to miss.  Buxton Museum and Art Gallery was an absolute delight - imaginatively put together, interactive, informative and fun.  Very well worth a visit even if it isn't raining outside.

Blue John window, Buxton Museum

So there you have it - a wonderful week in Derbyshire.  Normal Lake District blogging will be resumed next week - but you can always take a look at the blog index in the meantime if you fancy something a little hillier.