Saturday, 16 June 2018

Picture Perfect?

We are beyond thrilled that Steve's fantastic book "Cumbria in Photographs" is now out - how fabulous is the cover shot?

Although this project was his baby and he spent much of the time working alone, he took some of the shots when we were out together and, for me, one of the things I love most about our books are the memories and the stories behind the photos, things like...

Wordsworth's Daffodils

He took this one just a few months ago and it was the very last photo taken for the book.  He knew he wanted a shot of the daffodils and he'd been over to Glencoyne Bay (the reputed site of the flowers that inspired the poem) several times to see how they were getting on, but The Beast from the East meant everything was late flowering and the book deadline was looming.  Eventually, 2 days before the book had to be delivered to the publisher, we went over together and Steve got the shot, lying on his stomach in a bog.  Worth it though.

Ennerdale Water

This was one of the days that sticks in the memory without the aid of photos.  It was an absolutely stunning day and perfect for hiking - clear, fresh but not too hot.  Steve wanted a couple of good shots of the heather so we headed up onto the open hillside above Ennerdale Water - we knew the heather, the trees and the fells would look fantastic, but we had no idea that there would be pink rocks which really add to the photo.  We spent ages up there, munching our sarnies and enjoying the views.

Boats on Bassenthwaite Lake

Throughout this book Steve had been very keen to show that Cumbria isn't just a county of amazing views but also a county of action and adventure.  Over the past couple of years we've tried our hands at watersports - only kayaking and canoeing - and he wanted to find a way to include this in the book.  We didn't know this event was taking place and stumbled on it by accident while looking for a good shot of Bassenthwaite.  We wandered into the yacht club and I tried to look as if I belonged there while Steve raced around taking photos and getting annoyed at the boats when they weren't quite in the right place.  Luckily his patience eventually paid off.  Or maybe they heard him muttering on the shoreline...

Kelly Hall Tarn

"There's a tarn up there" he says "Where?" says I, "Up there" he says, as he points beyond the edge of a notveryexcitinglooking car park.  Over the years I've learned to trust him on this so dutifully followed him up and, as usual, he was right, there was a tarn up there and it was a cracker.  I really love the Coniston Fells and this view captures them perfectly.  

St Mary's Church, Wreay

I love eccentric things and what could be more eccentric than an Italian basilica in a tiny Cumbrian village?  It was built between 1840 and 1842 under the direction of Sarah Losh and is regarded as being one of the finest historical buildings in the country.  This photo of the apse clearly shows the fossil windows high above the alter - but the church is crammed with amazing artefacts and quirky details and really is well worth a visit.  (As is the Sarah Losh Heritage Centre and trail in the village.  Oh, and the pub does a rather lovely lunch too!)

Approach to Thirlmere Dam

If either, or both, of us are writing a book then you can pretty much guarantee that Thirlmere will be in there as we both love the place.  The day we took this we were out playing with a Skoda Kodiaq and our bikes and really weren't thinking about photos for this book, but because the road was closed the autumn leaves were undisturbed (yes, I'm having a Justin Hayward moment) and the colours were beautiful; far too good to miss so good job Steve had his camera handy.

Fox's Pulpit

I know it sounds obvious but it's not just the location, it's the weather that often makes or breaks a photo.  We'd been out all day taking other shots, with varying degrees of success, and we were heading home when we decided to nip up to Fox's Pulpit to see if we could get anything.  The sun was setting so it was a bit of a race against time following the tiny single track road and dodging tractors along the way.  There is minimal parking but we were lucky and there was no-one else there.  I scampered around taking long shots of the views while Steve perfectly captured the commemorative plaque and the warm glow of the sun on the rocks.

Silloth Sunset

This is another day when we were out playing with a car, this time a Toyota Hilux which Steve was very taken with.  We'd spent the weekend having picnics in the back of it and generally taking it on a Grand Tour of the county and ended up in Silloth.  I'm rather fond of Silloth, it has a very pretty church, a lovely park on the coast and spectacular sunsets.  This was one of those "quick, take the photo before the birds move" shots while we sat on a bench finishing off our flask of tea,  Perfect.

Frozen Bubbles

These were taken on a very cold hike over Place Fell.  There are few finer fells in the Lake District; all of the routes up are interesting and offer glorious views and, with the fell being sat right next to Ullswater, there's always plenty going on down on the lake to keep you amused.  On this particular day we'd taken loads of photos from the summit and were on our way down when Steve spotted these.  In Canada there's a lake called Lake Abraham which is world famous for it's frozen bubbles, but who knew we had our own mini version right here on top of Place Fell?

Hampsfell Hospice

Steve would probably be the first to admit that he's not a morning person - in our books you'll find far more pictures of sunsets than sunrises.  I, on the other hand, am definitely a morning person and can be really annoying about it too. To be fair, on this particular occasion, I had warned him the night before that we'd be getting up early to see the sunrise on a snowy Hampsfell - we knew the snow had fallen overnight and there were clear skies forecast for the next morning - but it still didn't make it any easier.  While I organised flasks of hot coffee and some breakfast sarnies to enjoy while we were up there, Steve cursed and muttered at me - but we knew we had to be up there before the dog walkers to get a footprint free shot.  As you can see we made it - but literally only by about 5 minutes.

If you want to see more you'll find over 120 fantastic photos in the book - we have a VERY small number currently available which you can order directly from us here - if you want, Steve will even sign it for you.

Failing that you can also find it on Amberley (the publisher's) website, or, of course, on Amazon.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Teenage Kicks in Cumbria

Entertaining teenagers is not for the fainthearted - especially if, like us, you don't have kids and therefore have no real "hands on" experience.  This week we looked after our nephews (aged 11 and 13 so one of them isn't technically a teenager but if you know any 11 year olds you'll know the teen years start early these days) and our remit for the three full days we had them was to a) keep them alive, b) keep them entertained and c) wear them out.  Well, challenge accepted - and if you have teenagers and aren't sure how to keep them entertained in Cumbria, here's what we did.

Day 1

AM - scare them silly at Go Ape in Grizedale.  Actually, scare everyone silly at Go Ape. Yes it's commercial but we did the High Ropes course and found it good value for money - our session began at 11am and we weren't done until 2:30pm.  There's a great variety of challenges and the blustering bravado beforehand was soon replaced with shrieks and "Yeah, I'm not scared, I'm just checking you're OK" moments.  The giant Tarzan Swing is properly scary but the whole event was brilliant fun for us all.

Insider tip:  Smother yourself in insect repellent before you start - there are quite a few midges in the woods and you're likely to get bitten as you queue for some of the activities.

PM - wear them out properly on mountain bikes.  Grizedale is great for cycling and there are loads of excellent tracks and trails with something to suit everyone from the novice who just wants a nice tootle around a forest to the hard core black runs for the experts. We hired bikes from Grizedale Mountain Bikes and they were really good value for money - they give you a map with plenty of routes to choose from and lots of support before you head off.

Insider tip:  If you're worried about keeping up with the kids hire an electric bike for yourselves - a little more money but worth it for flying up all the hills with ease!

Day 2

PM Kayaking - for some strange reason they didn't bounce out of bed the next day so we had an easy morning before heading to Ullswater for a spot of sea kayaking.  We've used Distant Horizons in the past and we love them - lovely folks who will totally cater to your individual requirements.  Our instructor, Rob, was superb and had plenty of ideas and activities for keeping the nephews engaged and entertained.  There were plenty of cries of "My arms are SO tired" but I just ignored them - is that what I'm supposed to do?

Insider tip:  If you can't see something on the Distant Horizons website that suits you do drop them a line or give them a call, there's a very good chance they can sort something that will be absolutely perfect for you.

Evening BBQ - although there are many superb places to eat out in Cumbria, surely there is nothing better than eating outdoors?  Food just tastes better outdoors, doesn't it?  All we took was a large disposable BBQ, a few burgers, sausages and buns and a sense of adventure (plus a couple of beers for the grown ups!)  Unfortunately we picked the only rainy evening in the middle of a month long dry spell, but we set up camp under a tree and enjoyed it anyway.  The boys skimmed stones and had rock throwing competitions while I tended to the burgers and sneakily supped the spare bottle of beer (Steve was driving anyway!)

Insider tip:  Check the weather forecast before you set off and do make sure you take everything away with you when you're done.  The boys had fun throwing cups of water over the BBQ, generating huge clouds of steam, so we could cool it and pack it,

Day 3

All day - hiking in the hills!  You can't entertain folks in Cumbria without taking them out in the hills now, can you?  As our nephews aren't used to the great outdoors and as it was another blazing hot day we veered away from the high peaks and instead headed up through the woods alongside Derwent Water to the top of Walla Crag.  The views from the top are spectacular and there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy your sarnies.  We headed down via Ashness Bridge where I put my feet up while the boys (and I'm including Steve in this) played silly devils in the stream.  As well as the hike we also spotted a stone fly exoskeleton, a wood wasp and assorted other butterflies and birds.

Insider tip:  It doesn't have to be big to be fun so don't feel you have to tackle the high peaks - plus there's pretty good mobile signal up there but it's always a good idea to download bird, flower and insect ID apps into your phone so you can put names to the things you spot along the way.

As we drove home for dinner the car was silent (apart from the sound of scorn being poured upon our choice of music!) - I'm still not sure if having kids around keeps you young or makes you feel really, really old, but either way it was excellent fun and I can't wait for them to come back up.

If you're after inspiration for things to see in Cumbria check out our new book - out June 15th and available to pre-order right now via Amazon - or, if you wait until June you can order it directly from us and I'll even persuade Steve to sign it too.  😀

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Three Tiny Toddles

Much as I love colossal hikes and epic long days on the fells, there is also much joy to be had in a short (under 2 miles) walk.  As you may know I've founded a project called #WalkOneStop aimed at encouraging folks to walk just a short distance - as Tesco would say "Every little helps" - and even a short walk can make a big difference.

These past few days we've scampered around 3 gorgeous short walks in tucked away corners of the county and we only saw other people on one of them (the second one) and even then, on a sunny Bank Holiday Saturday, we only saw a few and still had acres of room to park.

Winster Wanderings

Winster is roughly between Kendal and Windermere and is an idyllic Lake District hamlet comprised a few stone houses and a fine pub - The Brown Horse.  Obviously, even with a short walk, it pays to err on the side of caution when it comes to carbo-loading etc, so just to be on the safe side we wolfed down a hearty lunch before we set off - all freshly made and properly tasty.

They do rooms too - and after such a hearty lunch I was sorely tempted to take a bit of a nap but Steve insisted we should head outdoors.  I offered to watch and shout directions from the patio outside the room, but he was having none of it!

In the middle of a beautiful dry spell we picked the only drizzly day but the upside was that everything looked green and fresh and lush.

Looking back to Brown Horse Inn in the distance
Near the end of the walk was a rather lovely church - I always fancied a proper country wedding and this place would be perfect.

The route:

Hidden Away High Dam

Ever wondered where the locals go on a busy bank holiday weekend?  High Dam is tucked away up behind Stott Park Bobbin Mill and it's basically a smaller, quieter version of Tarn Hows.  There's some roadside parking or a pay & display car park with a path leading up through the woods to the reservoir.

If you want to tag on a little extra then follow the path over to Stott Park Heights for one of the finest views of Windermere.

The route:

Haverthwaite Mystery Passage

We found this one purely by fluke.  As we were driving from Backbarrow to Haverthwaite Steve spotted a tiny tunnel under the railway line leading up into the woods, so obviously we had to explore.  We parked by the river then headed up.

The circular route is 1 1/2 miles and marked with white topped posts which were easy enough to follow.  There was a viewpoint marked on the map but in such a dense woodland we didn't expect much and then we popped out to see this - proof that the best views don't always require the hardest hike.

Cumbria has something to suit every hiking ability so please don't be put off by the big fells - take a chance on a random signpost through a woodland and you may just discover a magical new view.

The route:

For more awesome views of Cumbria check out Steve's new book - out June 15th and available to pre-order right now via Amazon - or, if you wait until June you can order it directly from us and I'll even persuade him to sign it too.  😀