Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Great North Fund Days 32 - 34


Lovely Windermere

Here I sit enjoying a well earned rest in the sunshine at a “peaceful and relaxing” CC site.  I say “peaceful and relaxing” because one of the hazards of these green and lovely sites is that in order to keep them looking green and lovely something always needs to be mowed, chopped or strimmed.  I’m not complaining at all – the wardens all do a fantastic job keeping the sites looking so good – but it does mean an afternoon snooze is rather out of the question.

We’re finally back in the world of electricity so, assuming I manage to keep hold of a mobile signal, I’ll be back to doing these daily for the final few days.  Good job too as I get really confused working out the dates and day numbers.  Before we headed off into our muddy field, sans electricity, we charged everything up but tried not to use it to much in case we needed it in an emergency.  Five days later we find ourselves having had no emergencies and still with fully charged laptops and mobiles.  Shame on the family for not making use of our practical forward thinking by encountering some sort of urgent eventuality, but there we are, no consideration at all some folks.
Stickle Tarn

Having been beaten to a soggy pulp by the rain on Saturday the sun put in a very welcome appearance on Sunday so we headed back to the hills, but only the small ones this time.  Taking a break from driving we bought “all day rover” tickets for the buses and headed initially for Dungeon Ghyll.  Our plan was to take a poke around there for a while, then head to Windermere before finishing the day off in Coniston.  This all went wrong almost immediately when we got to Dungeon Ghyll and decided to climb up to Stickle Tarn.  Half way up we faced a decision – continue enjoying the climb in the glorious sunshine all the way up to the tarn but miss the bus back to Windermere, or scamper back down in time to catch the bus to a predictable touristy town crammed with tourists.  Hmmmm... tough call...  An hour or so later up at the beautiful if rather windy tarn we were quite happy with the decision as we watched the bus lurch back along the valley floor.  I don’t think there’s a bad view to be had in the Lake District and this one certainly didn’t let the side down, huge looming crags over the striking blue of the tarn.  Even the gale force wind helped by whipping up pleasing little white topped waves to add to the spectacle.

Coniston Water
We made it back down to the valley in time to get over to Coniston, a slightly bigger bus this time with a completely lunatic driver, I know you need to be assertive when driving a bus along these lanes but I’m very glad I didn’t meet this guy coming in the opposite direction.  After we screeched to a halt in Coniston we disembarked and made our way slowly through the tyre smoke to the lake front.  If you ever visit Coniston by bus allow plenty of time to get to the Lake – it’s about a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.  I was beginning to doubt its existence but the sudden appearance of outdoor goods shops and the “Bluebird Cafe” reassured me the lake was nearby.  The lake and the town of Coniston are steeped in history – Swallows and Amazons, John Ruskin, Donald Campbell – and there were a few little nooks and crannies where you could find more information about all of them.  I found it puzzling that the tourist tat shops and tea rooms were crammed but the little corners of the town set aside to explain some of its varied and interesting history were deserted.  I wonder how many of the tourists were aware of what had happened here in the past, or even cared.

Back in our now slightly less muddy field we made our plans for Monday – the big assault on Scafell Pike.  Our legs were feeling much better and the blisters were doing well.  Being in Delores we didn’t think the haul up to Wasdale Head was a great plan, it would have been around a 90 minute journey and not something I’d have enjoyed doing after a long days hiking.  Instead we opted to drive to Seatoller, cycle to Sathwaite and walk up via Stockley Bridge.  Whatever the plan an early night was in order.

Busy on top of Scafell Pike
On the drive over to Seatoller we followed a double-decker tourist bus which helped clear the traffic for us which was, as Steve put it, rather like having a Sherman Tank on point.  We got to Seatoller around 9:45am with only one minor mishap, we missed the signpost for the National Trust car park and very nearly ended up on the Honister Pass.  Luckily there was somewhere to turn around and the kindly bus driver pointed out the car park for us.  As it was a beautiful sunny bank holiday Monday there were plenty of people around and everyone seemed in a good mood as we headed up the mountain.  Many of the routes up Scafell Pike are pretty but the mountain top itself is quite brutal, a huge pile of jagged rocks which made me wonder where the actual mountain itself was and how they accurately measured the heights of things that seemed to be no more than a pile of scree.  The top was like Piccadilly Circus but at least everyone had made it up there safely. I would say that all we needed to do now was to get down, but once we get up into the mountains we like to stay there, so as well as visiting all the peaks along the ridge to Scafell Pike we also nipped over to Esk Pike, Bow Fell and Allen Crags before dropping back down.  I definitely want to return to climb up the Great Gable though, a wonderfully imposing mountain and fabulous to look at.

View from the top of Scafell Pike
Back at the campsite it was all I could do to hurl a pie in the oven as we sat drowsily supping the small bottle of celebratory champagne I’d bought.  I actually planned to drink it at the summit but once I was there I decided I’d like all my wits about me for the route down.  As it was I still fell over a couple of times and have some very pretty bruises to show for it.

Today we tried to have a lie in but the man in charge of mowing the grass had other ideas and was roaring around the field by 9am.  We thought we might as well get up and head for the CC site and some peace and quiet only to find when we got here that there was a man mowing the lawns here too.  I guess with the great British weather you have to take advantage of any sunny days you can to keep on top of the gardening.  While I’m on the subject of arriving at CC sites, are we the only people who are completely unable to make up their minds where to park up?  Even if it’s only for one night we circle the site a few times weighing up the available pitches before picking one and then debating whether or not it was the best choice.  We’ve also found we exert a strange magnetic attraction, especially when we’ve particularly sought out a distant and quiet pitch away from everyone else.  Invariably within 30 minutes someone will have parked right next to us, despite there being 20 or so other available pitches on the site.  We’re not antisocial we just like to be away from everyone else.  OK, maybe we are antisocial, but my job means I have to be very sociable so it’s nice when I’m away not to have to make small talk.

Another view from the summit.
I’ve also noticed what a sexist group caravanners are.  Invariably the man does the driving and the reversing onto the pitch while the women either stand around and chat or simply look on until it’s all ready for her to hop on and start cooking or cleaning.  Just now a man struggling with his van came to the van next to us and asked the woman sitting outside if her husband was around as he needed help levelling his van and was short of a tool.  How insulting?  Good job he didn’t try asking me as he may have received a rather curt reply.  I love driving Delores and am familiar with all the tools on board and their various functions and would find it deeply insulting if someone asked me where my husband was like that.  I’m chuckling though because I know the various members of my family reading this will be laughing and would tell the poor guy what a lucky escape he had – my stubbornness and acidic reaction to any form of sexism are well known...

And that pile of random ramblings just about brings us up to date.  We’re spending the rest of today relaxing and recovering from yesterday.  We’re staying near Grange-Over-Sands which is where Steve grew up so I’m looking forward to him showing me around the area tomorrow before we head down to Blackpool for our final three nights.  Can’t believe we’ll be home at the weekend, but I’ not going to worry about it.  Instead I plan to put my feet up, pour another drink and enjoy the rest of this long hot sunny afternoon.