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.  😀

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A perfect day in Coniston

Welcome to my new occasional series of blogs: "A perfect day in..." featuring all sorts of fabulous places around Cumbria and how to make the most of them on a quick visit.  First up, Coniston, because we had a fabulous day there last week and I'm terribly fond of the place.

Arriving in style

Let's assume you're driving up for the day, in which case follow the signs from the Greenodd roundabout (A5092 then A5084); for me this is the best way to get the finest first view of the lake.  You'll know when you're there, it looks like this... (for Swallows and Amazons fans the island visible on the far side of the lake is reputed to be Wild Cat Island).

Not a bad way to start...
From there continue on towards Coniston, and, if you fancy a cheeky bonus tarn, park in the car park opposite the Land Rover dealer.  Follow the footpath up behind there for 10 minutes and you'll find this place:

Kelly Hall Tarn

Right, now time to head to the village where there are a good number of interesting local shops to explore and a couple of must visit places to check out.  First of all The Ruskin Museum will give you all the background you need on the place.  Don't be fooled by the name, it actually covers all of the local history, including Donald Campbell, and is a fabulous place to visit. The harbour is also worth a look as St Andrew's Church in the middle of the village.

If you have time there is also a gorgeous walk along the lake shores where you can pause to admire the scenery or indulge in some good old fashioned stone skimming contests with the kids.


For the perfect lunch with the very best views of the lake either drive, or take the launch, over to Brantwood where The Terrace Coffee Shop & Restaurant has everything covered.  Spectacular views, fab food, colossal sausage rolls and utterly sinful cakes.

View from The Terrace


After all of that gorgeous food it would be a shame to go racing off so take a tour of the house.  If, like me, you know very little about Ruskin, there's plenty to learn and if the weather is sunny the gardens are spectacular. You can always nip back to The Terrace for a fortifying cuppa, or a G&T made with one of Cumbria's awesome local gins (so long as you're not the driver!)



After a hearty lunch you'll not want much for your tea so a beach picnic as the sunsets will be what you're after.  There are several iconic jetties around Coniston so, as you make your way south along the eastern side of the lake, look for the lay-bys and small car parks.  From there you can grab a jacket, a flask of tea and a sarnie from the car, and huddle up on the shingle to watch the sun go down.  Perfect.

Where should I go next?  If you've got a holiday planned let me know in the comments below and I'll sort out another itinerary just for you!

BEFORE YOU GO!  Did you notice that this blog isn't swamped with adverts or pop-ups pestering you to sign up for a newsletter?  That's because we hate that sort of thing BUT we still need to earn a living!  I know you can find all our books on Amazon, but we make next to nothing that way - plus if you buy from us we'll be happy to sign them for you.  Just click the pictures below to find out more.  Cheers! 😀

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Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What makes us love somewhere?

Someone, somewhere, will hate this view
Think of your most favourite place on earth.  Got it?  Now think of your least favourite place.  Got that too?  Doesn't it freak you out that for someone, somewhere, those two places will be the other way around?  I spend a lot of my life surrounded by people and am continually surprised by how different we are and how there are plenty of very lovely, reasonable, kind, considerate people who hate the things, and places, that I love (and vice versa).  So what is it that affects our love of a place?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been using the Times Britain's Best Walks book to revisit some favourite spots in Cumbria and uncover a few new corners.  There are 100 walks in total and all of the locations mentioned/ photographed in this blog are on, or around, one of the 11 routes in Cumbria.

Childhood memories?
Many folks will suggest that we feel comfortable with what we know from childhood;  fair point - my love for the outdoors probably comes from family holidays in Wales and school trips to the Long Mynd.  But I only ever had one, very fleeting (less than a day), trip to Cumbria in my youth so it's always puzzled me why I instantly felt at home here when I first visited properly in 2010.  I know other folks who love the outdoors but just haven't felt comfortable or been able to settle here - why does one person connect with a place but another, with similar tastes, doesn't?

Love of the mountains?

Nr Eskdale

Maybe it's just the mountains I love?  Good argument, but I get passionately excited about all the corners of Cumbria and the huge variety of landscapes I can explore - the coast, the bluebell walks and the beautiful woodlands.  I have some friends who only like the mountains and shun low level walks; I know "we can't all like the same thing" - but why is that?

As seen on screen?

Derwent Water or Takodana?

Does being seen on the big screen affect how we feel about a place?  Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and the Victorian painters have certainly influenced people to visit the area over the past couple of hundred years - and perhaps Star Wars, Withnail and I or Snow White and the Huntsman are influencing a new generation.  Whenever I watch one of my favourite films, Stardust, I’m always overcome with a desire to head to Skye where big chunks of it were filmed.  Who needs a tourist board when you have movies?

Because of how it sounds (or doesn’t sound!)

Crummock Water - Peace & Quiet...

Here’s an interesting and little known fact about me – I find the sound of washing machines oddly comforting.  It could be the “white noise” rhythmic element or it could be that when I was very young my mum worked in a laundrette and I can remember being taken to meet her at the end of her shift.  I have a “noisy head” – my brain is always on the go and, when I’m surrounded by sound in a city it can all get a bit much for me so, for that reason I am drawn to peaceful, quiet places.  Some sounds are allowed of course – the crunch of gravel underfoot, the song of a skylark high above you and the sound of the flask lid unscrewing...

Because it’s not somewhere else!

Near Dufton but not near anywhere else 

My work travels take me to lots of different cities and to London a couple of times each month – I am not a fan of cities and sometimes I’m just happy to be anywhere that isn’t a city.  A couple of cities are allowed on my “nice places to be” list – Glasgow and Lancaster – the first because it has awesome, free, museums (including Kelvingrove – possibly my favourite museum ever) and the second because it’s rammed with fascinating history and is usually my first breath of fresh air when I get off the train from London.

Because it’s interesting

Hutton Roof Crags - more than just fine look fells...
I didn’t just marry my lovely husband because he’s damned fine looking, I married him because he’s damned fine looking AND interesting to be with.  For me it’s not enough that the scenery looks pretty it also needs to be interesting.  Like Hutton Roof Crags – stunning to look at and fascinating geological history too.  What’s not to love?

How it smells

Barbondale - mmmmm - can I have my sarnies yet?

When spring sprungs and the garlic hits the woods I spend entire walks with a rumbling stomach.  I love the smell of garlic and I’m sure consumption of garlic bread rises while they’re in flower.  I also love the salty smell of the sea, the smell of the fresh earth after the rain and the smell of the freshly cut grass after the farmers have been bringing in the hay – someone should really make air fresheners that smell like that, I’d definitely pack one for my city travels.

Familiarity – love at second sight

Duddon - worth a second look
Sometimes I think we need to visit somewhere a few times before we fall for it properly.  The Duddon Valley is a firm favourite with us now but the first time we visited I wasn’t completely sold.  Of course that could have been because we got lost in an old woodland,wandered around arguing for an hour or so and didn’t get back to the car until after dark...

Previous life?

Kentmere Valley
Are there supernatural forces at work?  I am a largely a woman of science, but I don’t think science has yet explained everything – especially some of the odd touchy feely stuff; like those times when you visit somewhere and know you’ve been there before.  Or like my first ever proper visit to Cumbria when I just knew I’d come home.  I still can’t explain that feeling to anyone - I may not have been born in the county (hardly my fault!) but I know that I belong here.

All of the above?

Haweswater - my happy place
I’m guessing the truth is that it’s a bit of everything. A whole bunch of subtle messages collide in our brains which come together and produce a warm and cost “Ready Brek” glow when we connect with somewhere.  Either that or they’re putting something in the water in Cumbria and we’re all under the spell of an evil overlord.  Or maybe I shouldn’t write blogs when I’m drinking wine..?

All of the photos in this blog were taken on or around walks featured in The Times Britain's Best Walks.  All the walks were described clearly and concisely with interesting notes from the author.  It was great to see some routes away from the usual hotspots and it’s definitely a book we’ll keep on Delores for our trips around the UK.