Sunday, 24 January 2016

10 Great Reasons to buy our book

Please excuse this interlude for shameless self promotion, but a girls gotta eat and Santander are lovely but do keep pestering me for mortgage money each month.  If you're planning your hols in Cumbria our books will be a HUGE help - here's why you should buy them. 😀

1.  Because of all of Steve's fantastic photos.  There 100's of photos in our books and pretty much all of them (apart from the historic ones cos he's not that old) were taken by Steve.  Pics that look a bit like this but are LOADS better because Steve took them (the publishers don't want us using pics from the book in the blog)

Name that bit of coastline?

2.  Because of the words - I'm not bigging them up and claiming to be the next Ruskin, but I promise you they are really well researched.  On one occasion I spent 2 days tracking down a fact that takes up 2 lines in one of the books.  I'm not saying it's perfect but I am saying that I tried really, really hard.

Fantastic support from Mountain Heritage Trust

3.  Because they come from the heart.  We both live in Cumbria and Steve grew up here.  Yes we'd like to earn some money from our books but our primary driver is to tell people about this amazing county and share our experiences and some of the stuff we've learned along the way.  I mean, how can you not love a place that looks like this?

Coniston Fells

4.  Because Sir Chris Flipping* Bonington told us how much he loved our first book. We got in touch with him and sent him an early draft and got the loveliest email back telling us how much he enjoyed it and giving us this fabulous sleeve note. (*may not be his real middle name.)

We met him at the Kendal Mountain Festival later in the year and thanked him in person for his kind words - he even signed a copy of the book for us to keep.

5.  Because lots of other people like them too (you are, of course, welcome to buy our books from Amazon, but we make 2 tenths of naff all if you do - if you buy them from us we'll lovingly hand pack them ourselves & skip to the post office to post them personally.)

I'll be honest, there's a 2 star review on there for our first book from someone who thought it was smaller and "not as comprehensive" as they were expecting.  Fair enough - to help give you an idea of what to expect that book is 96 pages long with 20,000 words and 100 photos and represents 12 months of hard work and research.  It's not a detailed academic text but it covers most of the salient points of the areas we focus on in much the same tone as this blog does.

6.  Because we cover the whole county and not just the Lake District fells.  We LOVE the fells but wanted to tell a bigger story about Cumbria and encourage folks to visit places they wouldn't normally consider - like Whitehaven for example.  I have a HUGE soft spot for Whitehaven with its fascinating history and breathtaking views.

The historic harbour at Whitehaven

7.  Because you'll be supporting a local business if you do.  It's hard work making money from writing - not complaining, I flipping love it - but any and all support we get is most welcome. In the interests of full disclosure I should let you know that our royalty payments from last year paid off half of our mortgage... well... technically they paid half of one month's mortgage payment, but it's a start! And if you support us then we can support other local businesses - and not just the chippy and the local pub, honest...

From Fish-over-Chips in Grange-over-Sands

8.  Because we've currently got loads in stock and will whiz one out to you by first class post within moments of receiving your order.  We may not be able to offer Amazon Prime style tracked packages, but we are "primed" and ready to despatch your order.  (You see what I did there..?)

Ready to roll!

9.  Because you need it for planning your next visit to Cumbria - we've dedicated a lot of blogs and social media time to encouraging folks to keep coming to Cumbria in the wake of the winter storms and this book will help you as you plan your itinerary.

The full chapter list for book 1 is:
Furness Abbey

1. High Street and Haweswater
2. The Other Borrowdale
3. Smardale Gill
4. Grange-over-Sands and Cartmel
5. Dunmail Raise and Thirlmere
6. Kentmere and Longsleddale
7. Whitehaven and St Bees
8. Langdale Valley and Great Gable
9. Barrow-in-Furness and Walney Island
10. Buttermere and Rannerdale

10.  Because it's so easy to buy - just click here to go to the book buying page.  You can use your PayPal account if you have one and if you don't you can pay by debit or credit card - just click on the "buy now" button and follow the instructions on the screen.

WE NOW HAVE TWO MORE BOOKS to add to your collection - and TWO MORE on their way in the next couple of months PLUS we've just agreed content for another book for summer 2019!  Click the pic to find out more & order your copies - once we're mega stars they'll be worth a fortune!  😀

Click here to find out more

Thank you - and have a great day!

Thanks - from me & him.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Carry on Sledging

As you know, sometimes manufacturers send us nice things in return for a review on the blog.  This is not one of those occasions.  Today we had snow in Grange-over-Sands and Steve came up with the genius idea of sledging but as we don't have a sledge we needed to improvise.  We raided the cupboards for plastic bags and, having come up with a good selection, decided to review them Gadget Show style in case you find yourself in the same situation.

The contenders are:

Windermere & Ambleside Wines

Asda bin bag

Keith Singleton Compost
CoOp Bag for life
Debenhams clothing bag
M&S coated canvas bag
5p Nisa carrier
First up Debenhams...

This had its merits but was, on the whole, disappointing.  The handles were on the wrong edge and the bag wasn't shiny enough to give sufficient glide.

Next the Co-Op bag for life...

I'll be honest, this was an early leader - a good size and nice and shiny.  Good effort from the Co-op and definitely a top 3 placing.

Steve showing his delight with the performance of the CoOp bag
Then came Nisa - and the least said the better.

Too thin, too flimsy and too slow.

Windermere and Ambleside Wines were next - we had high hopes for this one, a good substantial bag from a shop which stocks our favourite wine - and we weren't disappointed.  Good and shiny it flew over the snow setting a high bar for the others to clear.

I thought the plastic coated canvas bag from M & S would take the lead - the handles were good and substantial and definitely in the right place - but ultimately it failed the shininess test.  Too much friction and not enough glide.

It's almost like I set the entire blog up for the next line, but I swear I didn't.  The binbag was rubbish.  :-)

Which leaves us with only 1 - the winner by a good margin - Keith Singleton's 80 Litre compost bag.

It had everything except, perhaps, handles.  It was big and it was shiny.  Big was a key factor here - as you can see from the videos we had to lean back a lot and this provide excellent all round coverage.  A worthy winner and, if this really were the Gadget Show, this bag would definitely get 5Gs.

With the sensible and serious business of reviewing the sledges done, it was now time to have a little fun.

First there were races.

Then there were GoPro action shots without the GoPros.

His view...

My view...

And of course it wasn't without incident...

And just in case you thought we were only out there messing around in the snow, here are a few shots of the lovely views too.

Having provided this valuable public service we're both now covered in bruises and enjoying a well earned afternoon in front of the fire.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Long and slow or short and sharp?

We took a long hike up Wetherlam in the snow today - I've been up Wetherlam twice now - once in the dark and once in a snow storm - absolutely no idea what it looks like under normal conditions, but I'm sure it's lovely.

As we were hiking up from Levers Water to Swirl Hawse along Sam Bottom (snigger), the snow was up to my backside (think I know where name came from now), and we began chatting about whether the route in the snow resembled the actual route.  The conversation quickly turned to our preferred approaches to fell climbing when no path is apparent.  Under such conditions Steve favours the steady "look at the lie of the land and choose a sensible route" approach which usually involves lots of zig zagging.  I, on the other hand, am more of a straight line kind of a gal and will make a beeline directly upwards or downwards in order to reach my goal.  (If I'm honest it's pretty much how I live my life too).
Steve zigging (or possibly zagging)
Me, looking for the direct route.
He tried roping random passers by into our debate, which I thought was cheating, but most of them wisely avoided getting drawn in.  Talking of passers by, just as we were reaching the top of Wetherlam a bunch of "men" came barrelling down the slope towards us - now I have some rules about fell etiquette and one of them is that when I'm descending I *always* give priority to those coming up.  I don't barge my way down past them and I certainly don't make rude remarks to them.  Steve was ahead of me and as I was standing to one side to allow the "men" past, I turned to admire the views (well, what there were of them) and one of them said to me "I bet you'll never speak to him again after dragging you up this."  

Well!  The idea that the only reason I was up there was because Steve had dragged me up very nearly made me throw all etiquette rules out of the window and spear the culprit with my walking pole.  I managed to shout a "I don't need to be dragged up here" as they whistled past, but they were out of earshot when I called them misogynistic idiots (actually it was a far naughtier word than that but my in-laws read the blog.)

Clearly dragged up against my will.

Anyway, back to our original debate, and I think it's time to open it up and see what anyone else has to say on the matter.  Are you, like me, a "short and sharp, straight to the summit" kind of a person or are you more like Steve, taking a considered and, if I'm honest, ultimately more sensible approach?  While you make up your mind, here are the rest of the pics from today's hike - do feel free to hum the tune from Take Hart as you scroll through them.

Looking good!

Levers Water.  Within 2 minutes the wind was up & the reflection gone.

What snow?

"I think I've found a short cut!"

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

All Gloved Up

I have a problem... to be fair, like most people, I have many but I have a specific problem with a pair of gloves and I could do with your help.

It all started back at Kendal Mountain Festival when those lovely people at Blacks invited us along as their guests and provided us with a goody bag and film tickets - very nice indeed.  We had a fabulous time watching all the movies and Tweeting and blogging about the whole experience (we were going to be going anyway, this was just the icing on the cake - but I digress...)

The goody bag was comprised of a rather splendid Blacks City 20 Rucksack - to be honest it's not something I'd use on the high fells but it has lots of pockets and is very useful for low level short walks and absolutely perfect for work - the laptop slides in a treat. (I think the clue is in the name there - "City 20"....)

There was also a woolly hat which was wonderfully warm and toasty but sadly made me look like a Mekon - it's not that I'm anti Star Trek, far from it, but if I was going to look like one of the characters a Mekon isn't the one I'd choose.

Steve and Mekon
Then there was the water bottle. Looks perfectly lovely but as we only take hot tea in flasks on winter hikes we've not had chance to try it out yet - will give it a whirl in the summer and report back.

The final item in there is where the problem lies - a lovely pair of gloves.  I popped them on immediately and commented on how cosy they felt but thought nothing more of it.  If I was shopping for gloves these wouldn't have attracted my attention - I'd have gone for something more "ourdoorsy"

I used them over Christmas and they were always warm and cosy but, to be fair, it wasn't exactly cold this Christmas was it?  Anyway, fast forward to last weekend when me & Steve finally managed to get out onto the fells to give all our new gear a proper try out.  We'd treated ourselves in Blacks sale to new outdoors jackets (our old ones were 5 years old and had a LOT of miles on the clock).  My new Acteryx jacket is like wearing a small personal sleeping bag, and Steve says much the same about his equally lovely though rather less orange RAB jacket - we were both very toasty despite the wintery conditions.

Anyway, back to the gloves.  I have genuinely never had such a wonderfully warm and cosy pair of gloves.  On the fell tops, when the wind was very nearly blowing us over, they were almost completely windproof - even my right hand was snug and warm and that's the one that usually gets very cold holding onto my walking pole.  So what's the problem with the gloves?  Well, all good product reviews should tell you where you can buy said items but the thing is I chopped off the price labels AND the washing labels (because they were itchy) and now I have no idea who makes them.  The only clue I have is the swallow logo.

I've scoured through Blacks Gloves but can't see them anywhere and it feels a bit rude to go back and tell them I vandalised my gloves and now don't know who made them, so my plea is this - if anyone recognises the logo and can point me in the right direction I'd be most grateful - I'd most definitely recommend them.  (And they certainly out performed my boots which I DIDN'T from Blacks and which leaked like a sieve - I'm really struggling in the boot department at the moment and would welcome any pointers.)

Oh - and if anyone's wondering where we walked - we took advantage of the free parking and kicked off at Grasmere, headed up to Easedale Tarn, up onto Blea Rigg, along to Swinescar Pike and back to the village - a short but perfectly lovely start to the hiking year.  Next weekend we have our sights set on something substantially higher and snowier...

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Wish you were here!

Storm Desmond was bad and Eva and Frank didn't help much either - they were a disaster that affected most of the county in one way or another, but the scary part is they were only part 1 of a disaster that's still unfolding.  Many of us saw part 2 looming back in December but now it seems our worst fears are being confirmed as this story on the BBC demonstrates, people have lost faith in the county and are either cancelling their hols or not making bookings in the first place.

Tourism is Cumbria's life blood - it's our industry - and, like any other industry, a collapse in bookings could lead to small businesses closing and bigger businesses shedding jobs.  We really need folks to keep visiting but we do understand that the bleak picture painted by the media might have put you off a bit, so, with the support of the Lake District National Park (LDNPA), I'm going to try and answer a few questions and provide links to the latest up to date info.

Can I get there?  Can I get around once I'm there?  Are the bridges safe?

Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale
Yes you can get here, yes you can get around once you're here and most of the bridges are fine too.

Roads:  Getting here is no problem at all and the main road closure which may affect your visit is the A591 north of Grasmere.  This means that there is no direct route from Grasmere to Keswick but you have 2 options - the first is a stunning diversion through Glenridding where they would be delighted to see you, especially if you take a break for a coffee and have a look around the shops.  The second option is to stay on the M6 to Penrith (also worth a visit, the castle is FAB) and then take the A66 to Keswick. Simple.

As for the bridges - well some of the worst hit towns such as Cockermouth have local delays due to some bridges being out forcing everyone onto the main route - you can still get through but best advice is to avoid travelling during the rush hours.  For the very latest local traffic info take a look at the BBC Cumbria Traffic news page here.

Rail:  There are currently some delays on Virgin Trains due to a bridge being out north of Carlisle (another fantastic city well worth a visit), but these are having minimal impact on trips to Cumbria from the south. If you're travelling down from Scotland to see us it is a bit more of a challenge just now, but they're working hard to fix the problem.  You can check your journey here.

Are the shops open?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES - pretty much all of the shops are open and properly keen and eager to see you. All the towns you saw on the news when they were underwater are open for business and raring to go - Appleby, Keswick, Glenridding, Cockermouth, Kendal, Carlisle are all ready and waiting for you.

Take a look at  #CumbriaisOpen on Twitter or this blog I posted in December for more info.

And what about the hotels, caravan parks etc?

Beautiful Bridge Hotel, Buttermere
Yes - they're mostly open too, though it's best to call or visit their website to double check just in case.  Even places such as the Glenridding Hotel who were flooded out 3 times are pulling out all the stops and hoping to be open by Easter - keep an eye on their Facebook page for up to date info.

But can we get up the fells?

Again, yes you can.  Of course there was some storm damage to the footpaths but nothing that should seriously hamper a trip to the fells - this brilliant rights of way map from LDNPA very clearly shows what's open and what's not and their equally useful general guide to the current conditions should tell you all you need to know - though if you do have any questions just ask.  

Will it rain during my visit?

View from Halls Fell Ridge, Blencathra
Well, you weren't planning to visit Cumbria for the 40C temperatures and guaranteed blue skies now were you?  Any holiday in the UK comes with a risk of rain, but storms like Desmond are thankfully few and far between.  Plus if you're visiting Cumbria we have literally hundreds of outdoors clothing shops ready to kit you out for any conditions - fabulous independent places such as George Fishers (Keswick), Keswick Boot Company (Keswick) and CatsyCam (Glenridding) plus the bigger chains such as Cotswold Outdoor, Blacks and Go Outdoors.

For the very latest weather conditions - plus a daily fell top forecast - take a look at the Lake District Weatherline page here.

Why should I visit?

Because of this...

Great Gable

and this...
Sandy Gap

and this...
Black Combe

and this...
Furness Abbey
and not forgetting this...

Dorothy Farrer's Spring Wood (Nr Staveley)

or indeed this...
Bay Cycleway

Then there are these...

and those...
and of course this...


PLEASE keep coming to visit - all these stunning views will be going to waste if noone is there to see them.

Herdy & Wast Water

What can I do if I live miles away and can't get to Cumbria right now?

Tell your friends about us, share posts on Twitter and FB - follow the FB pages of local Cumbrian businesses and tourist centres and share their photos - keep helping us get the message out there that Cumbria is Open and we can't wait to see you!

There is TONS more info on the LDNPA page here - take a look and come and see us soon.