Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Catbells - 451m (1,480')
Completion Date: 16.01.13

In the days running up to our excursion to the Lakes, Katie and I were monitoring the Met Office's mountain forecast with interest. I was hoping that the winter wasn't going to hit the fells with too much ferocity as I was secretly wanting to do Blencathra via Sharp Edge as a little birthday treat to myself. However, 24 hours before our departure and the conditions changed dramatically (-4°C [-12°C with wind chill], snow line at 350m). The Met Office were saying not to attempt the more technical summits (especially the 'Edges') without crampons, ice axes, and experience. This therefore altered our plans somewhat as we had none of them.

I had contingency walks ready just in case we weren't able to do the higher summits. The 1st walk, Catbells, is a short walk on one of the smaller fells. I chose to do this as a tester. If the conditions were too bad, if the new bits of kit weren't up to task or we weren't enjoying ourselves, then we could swiftly move ourselves into a pub for the afternoon with a stodgy lunch, warm fire & plenty of ale.

Our early morning drive saw us arriving at the carpark at the foot of Catbells (near Hawse End) around 8am. A quick sorting of kit and allowing Willow to acquaint herself with a couple of meandering sheep and we were on the well laid out and signposted path towards the fell top.

This was a very straight forward walk considering the conditions of other fell tops. The path was easy to follow and well maintained, and apart from a two sections of the ascent, where a steadying hand was needed to get past the icy rocks, you can see why Wainwright referred to this as "a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together". Although I'd imagine that the likelihood of bumping into such a family outing on a snowy January mid-week morning is highly unlikely.
View across Derwent Water on the ascent to the fell top
Plaque to Thomas Arthur Leonard part way up the ascent
The first view of the fell top
The fell top is a small, polished, rocky crown without a cairn or trig point. The views back across Derwent to Skiddaw and her sister fells looming over Keswick are beautiful. I have to admit that looking over at Blencathra (to the right of Skiddaw), Katie had made the right call in convincing me that my original choice of fell may have been a touch foolhardy in these conditions (but don't tell her that she was right).
Katie and Willow. On the horizon is Skiddaw (left) and Blencathra (right)
Fell top double thumbs-up
Willow content with achieving her 1st ever fell
The descent from the fell was as straight forward as the ascent. The path was easy to follow and well maintained. We headed south to the crossroads where we took the eastern path towards Derwent Water and off the fell.

A small point of note for anyone doing this walk: Part way down the path a short-cut negating the bottom part of the loop (shown in both Wainwright's guide and the OS map) has been closed to public access due to erosion. But this adds a minimal distance to the overall walk.
Sign advising of erosion and new route
The final stroll along the eastern foot of the fell was pleasant and offered the choice of finishing the walk along either the path or the roadside back to the carpark.

All in all it was a good start to the day. A nice easy fell which is accessible to people (and dogs) of all ages and abilities.

It's been a while...!

We're back!

It's been far too long since we've posted any walks on here, but better late than never I guess?!

There's been some pretty good reasons that we haven't been able to get over to the Lake District. The main one was that not long after our last trip up the fells we bought our 1st house (whoop, hooray & happy days). This did however take up most of our summer, stripping rooms back to the bare shell (including completely removing floors) and rebuilding it to how we want. Very fulfilling to do, just pretty time-consuming.

A second, and much more exciting reason, was a new addition to our walking party... Meet Willow:

Obviously she wasn't able to come walking with us until she was a bit bigger, which she now is [below] so we were looking forward to taking her on her 1st fell.

The final reason was that my trusty old fiesta finally gave up the ghost and went to the great scrap yard in the sky. Towards the end of her life she just wasn't up to any kind of long-distance journeys (read; "I didn't trust the car to be in anyway safe to take anywhere, on any road, ever!").

So that brings us to here and now. New car, new dog, spare time. Better get some fells done then!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Fuel energy breakfast

We were sent 2 boxes of Fuel Energy breakfast to try last year, but a combination of being on a strict diet and not going walking meant that these were left in the camping supplies box until yesterday.

We tried the chocolate variety. The boxes are very striking with macho images of extreme sports and text talking about being energised to have the focus to achieve lots of cool things. 

The blurb also says that the cereal is vitamin infused and contains guarana to boost energy.

The 400g box contains 8 x 50g portions, however when I weighed this out it equated to a small handful of cereal. I poured out what I thought was a portion, which came to 150g when I weighed it.

The cereal was really tasty and contained lovely big chunks of chocolate, granola, seeds and other crunchy bits. The 150g portion did make me feel full and sustained me for an active 6 hours of driving and walking until it was time for lunch. 

From a nutrition point of view, this bowl not counting the milk contained nearly 700 calories and over 25g of fat. So unless you are very active this it a lot of calories (mostly from sugar) to take on board. There are more nutritionally sound things you can do with this many calories, and eating some fruit will also supply sugar and vitamins, without the fat content. 

So in summary, a tasty treat but too calorific (and expensive if like me you eat 1/3 a box at a time) to be an every day breakfast. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Afternoon Tea at the Ramblers Bar.

We found the Ramblers Bar attached to the Inn on the Lake in Glenridding.

As you would hope from the name, the bar is walker, dog and child friendly, its warm with a big roaring fire and has a nice selection of ales on tap. We found the flat screen TV tuned to a music channel a bit distracting but they were showing the football when we went in the evening, so worth remembering if you are camping and need to keep up with the sports news.

There is an extensive pub style menu that looked reasonably priced and the meals being delivered to other tables looked to be of a good size and quality.

We opted for the afternoon tea (this was James' way of bribing me to get up and down Little Mell in 30 mins!)

Its fairly pricey at £15.50 per person but comparable with other places such as Betty's and to be expected in a village where there is not much other competition.

Instead of getting a selection of sandwiches we were given option of choosing one from salmon, cheese, ham and tuna. James had cheese and pickle and I had salmon. These came with a nice bit of dressed side salad. I was a bit disappointed that my salmon sandwich lacked any kind of dressing or cream cheese however who really gets afternoon tea for the sandwiches?

The scones were spot on, however they were served with double cream rather than clotted cream which distressed me a little. The miniature Victoria sponge and Grasmere cake were fantastic and loads of fun. We also enjoyed the mini chocolate ├ęclair and trifles.

Another only slight criticism was that three of the items consisted of strawberries and cream, maybe a lemon cake or a chocolate mouse to add some variety?

The presentation was perfect and the large tea pot was topped up with hot water meaning we had plenty to drink.

The atmosphere was nice enough in the bar, but it looks a little sparse and you have to order at the bar. If you were to arrive in nice clothes rather than muddy boots and waterproofs like we did you could sit in the hotel lounge. It looked very smart from what we saw through the windows!

I think I have been a bit harsh here with the nit picking, this was a really good afternoon tea, I just eat a lot of afternoon tea and know what I like with regards the finer details.

I rate my afternoon teas using the 'T factor' which is:

                                                             Score out of 20/Price in £

The scores:
Ambiance: Cosy and comfortable but room shared with a noisy tv! 3/5
Service: Good but basic- orders made at the bar 3/5
Presentation: 5/5
Food quality: 5/5

Price £15.50 each

                                                           16/15.5 = T factor: 1.03

Its a bit of a low score due to the price, nevertheless we had a lovely tea and getting dressed up and dining in the hotel lounge would have been great.

The Ramblers Bar
Inn on the Lake,
Lake Ullswater,
CA11 0PE

017684 82444


Gobarrow Fell

Gowbarrow Fell - 481m (1,578')
Completion Date: 12.04.12

This fell shows more about what we are trying to achieve more than any of the previous fells. It would have been easy for us to attempt the short ascent from Dockray, but as AW says, "[it] is much less attractive." So instead we decided to follow AW's suggested route, taking in the panoramas of Ullswater.

The walk began with us with parking at the car park for Aira Force; a National Trust car park that unless you're a NT member you'll have to pay for the privilege to park there (£4.00 for up to 2 hrs, £5.50 between 2 & 4hrs, and £6.50 for over 4hrs). We tried to find free parking nearby but as we were on a bit of a deadline we settled for the car park.

The walk began with us leaving the car park and heading up towards Aira Force. We took the first bridge to our right across the beck and followed the fence enclosing the area up and round until we quickly found ourselves leaving the wooded beck and heading through the gate towards the foot of the hill. The picturesque waterfall would have to wait until we had conquered the fell.

With the southern slopes to our left and Ullswater to our right we began to ascend the well maintained pathway up towards Yew Crag. This route offered spectacular views of Ullswater and a clear view of one of Wainwright's favourite walks around the foot of Place Fell, "It is the author's opinion that the lakeside path from Scalehow Beck near Sandwick, to Patterdale (in that direction) is the most beautiful and rewarding walk in Lakeland." - I can't wait to do that walk on a summer's evening this year, I just need to figure out a way of keeping the beer in the tent nicely chilled for our arrival back to Side Farm Campsite, but I digress....
Stunning views back across Ullswater
We climbed the path to the walk's intermediary summit of Yew Crag. Walking around the crag offered a change of scenery as we turned away from Ullswater. The path is well walked (and maintained) and undulates around the eastern flank of the fell crossing small streams and crags. We passed a couple of groups who were obviously doing their D of E and looked truly fed up. I can only hope that our cheery "Hellos" and smiling nods did something to help spur them on along their walk?

The path eventually lead to a gate in the wall which was crossing our path and the remains of the old shooting lodge. This is where our path broke away from the path on the OS Map, but as we were finding out, if AW suggested a good route to walk, it will inevitably be walked and therefore easy for us to follow, which it was.
Remains of the shooting lodge indicating the turning point from the OS Path
The path from the shooting lodge takes us once again to a different environment and scenery. The walk gradually ascended into the peaty, boggy ground that inhabits the top of the fell. Following the wall that encapsulates the northern edge of the fell we found evidence of the maintenance of the paths, with freshly dug drainage channels and slabs of local stone laid to help the fell's visitors avoid the deeper, muddier sections of the bog. A nice sympathetic piece of landscaping, if only there was a peat bog in our new garden...!

Our 1st glimpse of Gowbarrow Fell
The peat landscape started to become punctuated with rocky outcrops as we approached our destination. A small climb up and around to the right of the rocky mound pictured above brought us to the summit of Gowbarrow Fell.
Look! It's no longer a cairn!

Showing a bit of leg...
The summit offered good views across to the Helvellyn range and as the weather was clearer than previous days we could pick out our proposed ridge route from St. Sunday to Fairfield, which looked pretty awe inspiring. A dramatic drop-off and climb!

On leaving the fell top we headed due south. The path initially follows to the left of the next set of rocks and is easy to pick out. There are many smaller intersecting tracks across the top of the fell, but once again, the major route is well walked and can be picked out from the rest. The route cuts back and forth, but on a clear day Place Fell can be seen in the distance with the protuberance of High Dodd being a good guide to head towards. In poor visibility care should be taken as this route does take you on a course straight over the edge of Yew Crag! But as we found out, the point where the path strikes right off the summit plateau and  down the shoulder of the fell towards Aira Force, a cairn has been constructed to instruct lost walkers of this junction.
The cairn on above Yew Crag telling you to turn right!
The descent was fairly rapid in contrast with the rest of the walk and a bit of a tester for the quads after 3 days walking. But the prize at the end was the very beautiful Aira Force. A series of waterfalls feeding into Ullswater. Aira force is a real tourist trap and a bit of a shock having spent the past few days sharing Lakeland with only a limited number of fellow walkers. But we bustled our way through the crowds to appreciate the falls and take a few photos.
Katie marvelling at the wonders of a stream!

Aira Force

The main waterfall plummeting through the rocks

Some old-school graffiti 
And there concluded our last walk of the trip. With the promise of a quick brewery tour of Hawkshead Brewery (one of Katie's friends conveniently works there, bonus! - *try the Pale & the Cumbrian 5 Hop, both really good) we clambered back into the car and made our way out of the Lake District a little wiser and definitely hungry to come back as soon as possible and explore more of what Lakeland has to offer!
Until next time!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Summit Snacks: Samuel Valentine pies

The hills do indeed have pies, our first Summit Snack we took with us from home as we weren't sure what we would find when we arrived in the Lakes.

Samuel Valentine is an ace deli in the village of Allerton Bywater just outside Leeds. They have a huge range of produce including cheeses, local beers, jars of pickles and preserves and of course pies.

We consumed the Samuel Valentine pie on the summit of Birks, it featured nice crisp pastry, well seasoned meat and not too much jelly. Warning: this pie does not do too well after 3 days in a back pack with a brown banana.

Samuel Valentine
20 - 24 Station Road
Allerton Bywater
WF10 2BP



Sunday, 15 April 2012

Little Mell Fell

Little Mell Fell - 505m (1,657')
Completion Date: 11.04.12


This fell is even smaller than than the last one (Great Mell Fell). With a height difference of only 125m from the start point to the summit there isn't a great deal to the walk. It's very straight forward route to the top of the grassy fell with only a small section of the track traversing the the fell half way up to break up the route directly up the fell.

So with this in mind I set us a challenge of obtaining the fell and getting back to the car in under 30 minutes.
The first view of the trig point on top of Little Mell Fell
Although this fell is one of the smaller more isolated fells, Wainwright states that, "There is good in all, however, and its heathery top is a fine place for viewing the (greater) merits of the other fells." Alas though the clouds and rain had well and truly closed in meaning that we could see pretty much nothing.
Fell top trig point

After the photos were taken we checked the time and made our quick descent down the fell. I must admit that I jogged the descent to assure that I made the challenge time!

A quick dry off and fell #4 under our belt. Job Done!


Final time: 28 minutes