Sunday, 31 March 2013

Call me irresponsible?

Beautiful Blencathra

The unseasonably snowy weather has left the fells looking stunning with deep snow carpeting the peaks.  For those of us drawn to the outdoors they have been pretty much irresistible since the snow first arrived in mid November and there have been dozens of pictures and blogs showing them from every angle in all their winter glory.

Kirkstone (just about) Pass-able
For those of us living up here the snow has also had a major downside; blocking roads and closing passes.  When you live somewhere with as few major roads as south Cumbria you really notice it when one or two of them are out of commission.  That said the gritters and snow ploughs have done a stunning job and most routes are soon passable again, though maybe down to one track in places.

Frozen footbridge.

Snowed up stiles.

Perhaps most importantly the snow on the fells has habit of luring people towards it, whether they're prepared or not and, despite repeated warnings, Mountain Rescue have been called out to assist many people caught unawares by the extreme conditions on the fell summits.  I have to admit that I do, on occasion, feel a little guilty; do those of us sharing photos and stories of adventures play any part in encouraging people to put themselves in difficult situations?

Steep snowy climbs

Beautiful but hard work!

Deep snow - like wading upwards through sand.
Most bloggers I read take the time to warn people not to head out there unprepared so I guess, at the end of the day, people need to take responsibility for their own safety.  At some point we all have to go up there with no experience else how will we get any experience?  Our motto has always been to take it steady, build our experience a bit at a time and try not to put ourselves into dangerous situations.

Beacon at Thornthwaite Crag

Raven Crag

View from High Street

Panorama from High Street

That said things do, on occasion do wrong; sometime suddenly but perhaps more worrying are those occasions when a difficult situation creeps up on you unawares.  On Friday, as we made our way upwards, we gradually realised that the snowy slope beneath our feet was getting steeper and longer as we got higher.  Sounds obvious now, and it looked a lot different from the bottom looking up than it did from the top looking down! 

Whenever that happens we find somewhere to pause and rethink; on this occasion our plan was to aim for a snow covered wall and make our way up that, the logic being that at least the wall gave us more grip than a sheer snow slope.  I'm not saying it was the best plan, but it worked, and we've learned another lesson for next time.

So, is it irresponsible to post pictures and stories from high fells in the snow?  I don't think so; the fells are there to be enjoyed and to be shared.  If you do head up there just make sure you're properly kitted out and, whenever you get the chance, support Mountain Rescue, just in case.  (If you want to make a donation their Just Giving page can be found here.)

Keep Calm and Enjoy Hiking

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A very different day out in Cumbria

Question:  What do you do when you've got the beginnings of a nasty cold and should be tucked up in bed?  Answer: hop on the Cumbrian Coastal railway for a day out indoors.  (And make sure you pack Lemsip!).

The train from Grange to Carlisle around the coast takes a little over 3 hours and affords some of the most spectacular views of the Cumbrian Coastline and inland towards the fells.  As you head around the coast from Ulverston one of the first major landmarks is the wonderful Black Combe - looking particularly stunning with its fresh covering of snow.

There are plenty of opportunities to spy on the wildlife, from the window I saw Buzzard, Oystercatchers and this lovely collections of...erm... Cormorants or Shags - I never can tell from this distance!

The views around the north stretched out across the Firth to Scotland, which also looked as if it had had its fair share of snow.

The last part of the run from Maryport to Carlisle offers a very different landscape of open fields and streams; less dramatic perhaps but no less beautiful.

And then there's Carlisle itself, a lovely town with a wonderful cathedral which manages to retain the feel of a holy place despite being open to the public.  There's no entry charge and there are always a couple of vergers around to answer any questions or explain some of the history.

Talking of history, all along the line are reminders of the history of this vital communication route: disused platforms, extra long platforms dating back to a time when rail travel really was for the masses and modern platforms built on top of the originals to raise them up to conform to modern train requirements.

Old and New

If you buy a Round Robin ticket I'm pretty sure you can come back the quick way via Lancaster, but why do that when you can head all the way back around the lovely coastline again?


Near Workington

Beautiful Cumbrian Beaches

Fells near Askam

Three hours later and I was nearly home; the sun was setting behind the Hoad, my flask was empty and I really could claim that I'd spent almost the entire day tucked up in the warm with plenty of fluids.  Honestly, who'd stay at home watching daytime TV when you could be sat on a train looking at this?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The most important view in the Lake District?

"Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life forever" A Wainwright.

There are many spectacular views in the Lake District, but in 1930 aged just 23, Alfred Wainwright climbed Orrest Head and fell instantly in love.  Those of us who love the lakes all have a similar story to tell; for me it was Ullswater and Helvellyn, a visit that went on to change my life forever (the fells have a way of doing that to folk.)

Despite living here for over 2 years now (where has the time gone?) we hadn't visited Wainwright's "Ground Zero" so took the opportunity of a half day off to see where it all started.  "Our first ascent in Lakeland, our first sight of mountains in tumultuous array across glittering waters, our awakening to beauty" - we had high expectations, we weren't disappointed.

We parked in a layby along the A591 and followed the clearly marked path through Common Wood and up to the summit.  As you can see the fells were made even more beautiful by their fresh coating of snow.  It's only about a 20 minute walk but allow at least another hour or so for admiring the view

As we scoffed tea & sarnies and gazed at the fells around us we watched as a steady stream of admirers came through.  At one point a lady approached us and asked if I could take a photo of her and her husband as they were there to celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary.  Turns out they'd been here for their honeymoon and were now back to celebrate.  Be warned; if you ever visit the lakes, it's unlikely to be your only visit.

We also watched as blizzard blew down from Red Screes and across Ambleside and Windermere.  We'd been caught in something similar on the way up and I didn't envy the people caught by the one we were now watching - take a peek at the video down below to see the blizzard in action.

As we made our way down the skies cleared and little and the wind dropped giving us some glorious views along the valley.  Don't know what it is about blue sky and snow but it never fails to lift the spirits.

One thing crossed my mind as we made our way back to the car; from the account of his first ascent it's clear that AW had decent weather during his first visit.  It's a good job it wasn't raining, Lake District history might have been rather different if it had been.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Lovely Lancashire

I know I'm technically the "Cumbrian" Rambler but I have a big soft spot for Lancashire too.  It may not have the fells that Cumbria has, but it's certainly not short of jaw dropping scenery.

Here's just a few of my favourite pics.

Barn Owl 

Stocks Reservoir

Coming in to land!

Tufted Duck 

Lancaster Canal at Garstang

Dewlay Wind Turbine

Garstang Castle

Sun over Morecambe Bay

Chimney at Jenny Brown's Point

Sunset from Warton Crag

Marsh channels

Morecambe Bay from Jenny Brown's Point

Crook O Lune bridge

The Lune is clear & VERY cold!
Crook o Lune

I would NOT say "Boo" to this goose!

Waterworks Bridge, part of the Thirlmere Aqueduct

There were a lot of these - are they old
fence posts?
And here's some lovely bird pics from Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve; right on the northern edge of Lancashire this is the most amazing place to visit PLUS it has a fabulous cafe serving a carrot cake which is not to be missed!

3 Avocet coming in to land


Marsh Harrier

Tree Creeper