Staveley – Ulgraves Loop

It had been far too long since we’d been out for a mini adventure. Life getting in the way of fun. Anyway, me and Helen really needed a day out somewhere, so I racked my brain for something that wasn’t too far to drive, wouldn’t be too taxing (we’ve both had a nasty cold), but was also somewhere we’d not been to before. Staveley is a great little spot to start any mini-adventure, and we’ve been there a number of times in the past. Today would be a 13km loop, with a few small sections we’d done before, but mostly new path and trails, up and around Potter Fell, over to Ulgraves and back to Staveley via Potter Tarn.

First photo stop was Barley Bridge, where the River Kent was flowing quite fast.

We then followed the road up, and I mean ‘up’, turning off to continue upwards to Brunt Knot Farm, where there was an amazing holiday let. However, even in February it was almost £1,000 a week, for two people.

From the farm we left the road and onto the grass, continuing up until we passed around the back of Potter Fell. We also saw our first person of the day, a runner heading in the other direction. We joined a footpath next to an old stone wall and continued in a dead straight line for over a mile, rising and falling with the contours. Every now and again we could let Nelly off the lead when there were no sheep.

We stopped to watch a farmer and his two sheep dogs round up a herd effortlessly before a short steep climb up to the top of Ulgraves. Nelly doesn’t like to hang around working dogs, even though she is a working dog herself, she’s never done a days work in her life. She has the best life in the world. Anyway, at the top of Ulgraves the views were stunning, although there were other people, so obligatory selfie was taken, and another one of my beautiful wife and silly old Nelly.

The route down was grassy and even, perfect for running an another day, as Gurnal Dubs came into view. There were a couple of people having a swim, and then we were passed by a runner with a large backpack who stopped so that she could also go for a swim. Another day perhaps. There was also an amazing little tree that appeared to have grown out of a rock many years ago and had split it into two.

A bit further and we could see the more famous Potter Tarn, although if I’m honest, Gurnal Dubs looked much nicer.

We had walked around Potter Tarn a few years earlier in deep snow, so today couldn’t have been more different. Nelly wasn’t impressed with the stepping stones.

From the Tarn it was only a couple of miles back into Staveley, crossing an unknown stream before walking alongside the River Kent back into the village. Of course any visit to Staveley isn’t complete without coffee and cake (or scone) from Wilf’s and a quick look at the very expensive bikes in Wheelbase.

Another fantastic little adventure, and one that was much needed.

Cat Bells

Last weekend we headed off once again to the Lake District for a mini-adventure. This time for a walk up the iconic fell of Cat Bells. Lots of memories for Helen as this was the very first fell that she climbed as a seven year old with her father. Helen had never been back, and I had never been there at all.

Our route was inspired by the George Fisher Tea Round and shorter Espresso Round. We’d never heard of them until a crazy friend completed the 30 mile Tea Round. The round heads to the summit of all ten fells that can be seen from the upstairs window of the George Fisher shop in Keswick. The 12 mile Espresso round does four of the summits. Both start and finish from the shop, and if you complete the longer route you become the proud owner of a free T-Shirt.

Anyway, as we were walking we decided to miss out the flat out and back section from Keswick and start in the village of Portinscale. With the rain we were all wrapped up in waterproofs and Nelly was even wearing her little jacket.

We set off and it wasn’t too long before Cat Bells was looming before us. Not long after that we reached the false summit.

The well trodden path was easy to follow and we climbed up to the main summit to find there were dozens of people at the top. We took a few photos and then headed back down the way we had come.

We didn’t double back for too long as our second summit was Rowling End.

The sun had come out as we scrambled our way up the very steep footpath, although as we reached the top the heavens opened. In the distance we could see the formidable summit of Causey Pike. With the weather so bad and the route to the top a little too difficult with Nell, we opted to take the footpath down the easier side of Rowling End. Unfortunately this meant that we would miss out the fourth summit of Barrow.

We chatted to a couple of other walkers on the way down who said that Causey Pike wasn’t too bad, so we’ll definitely go back another day.

Back in the valley we followed the road in the shadow of Barrow as we headed back to the car. We stopped off for a coffee and cake at a lovely cafe in Portinscale before heading back home.

Our route had taken a little over four hours and was just under 10 miles, with lots of climbing. I like the look of doing the shorter Espresso Round with Helen and then maybe doing the longer Tea Round later in the year, if Helen will support me.

Another brilliant day out with my brilliant wife and our silly pooch. More days like that please.

The Wyre Way and Nicky Nook

Last year we (me, Helen and Nell) did a section of the Wyre Way (read about it here). Last weekend we went for a long walk along a different section of the Wyre Way, returning via Nicky Nook. We would have run but Helen had a small twinge in her knee so for once in our lives we decided to ere on the side of caution.

Setting off from the busy little village of Scorton we soon found ourselves winding our way alongside the Wyre, perfect for Nelly to scamper among the bluebells.

All very pleasant. Hardly anyone else about, the sun was out and we were walking along a shaded little path. A bit further and we had to dog-leg across a field and along a road for a short section as the footbridge had been removed a couple of years ago. We didn’t know it at the time but we could have taken the path under the M6. It did mean that we could see the iconic ‘Jetsons’ service station.

Off the road and along a track into a farm and activity centre we lost the path for a couple of minutes, until Helen’s trusty Garmin pointed us across a field towards a large caravan site. Knowing that they are on a designated long distance footpath, the caravan park had plenty of signs so that walkers wouldn’t go the wrong way, although I almost did. We overtook a group of older walkers before crossing a road near to Bradley Wiggins’ house and the very imposing Wyreside Hotel. A sheep free large field allowed Nelly another scamper.

We walked through another farm and as we reached the small village of Dolphinhome we stopped for a sandwich and snacks. Nelly wanted to say hello to some ducklings. We didn’t let her.

We ambled through the village, leaving the Wyre Way to start on our route back. From here the route became a little more challenging as we crossed the fells. The path also took us through the garden of an amazing barn conversion. We tried not to gawp for too long, although the owner did appear as we headed off down the track.

The path then took us over Harris End, a route that we’ve cycled many times. Finding a handy stone seat we stopped for another sandwich.

Birds and rabbits distracted Nelly and a Ewe stamped her feet as we passed her baby lambs. We then joined a brilliant little path round the back of Grizedale Dock Reservoir before the very steep climb up the back of Nicky Nook.

As expected Nicky Nook was busy with families, as was The Apple Store, a very good local cafe. As much as we would have liked to stop we pushed on and down back into Scorton, grabbing cake and coffee from a take away van outside the Priory.

8 tired legs between us. The route was just under 12 miles and took us nearly 5 hours, although we were in no rush at all. Another brilliant day out with the best woman and dog in the world.

Barbondale Walk

A couple of months ago, my lovely wife and I went for a 9 mile walk around Barbondale. We both love this secluded valley and I’ve blogged about it a couple of times in the past (read about it here).

We parked up in the posh little village of Barbon and headed towards the church. A track meandered alongside Barbon Beck which was safe for Nelly to have a scamper.

She’s always a happy little pooch and today is her 10th birthday. Out of the trees we walked along the valley in the shadow of the incredibly steep Calf Top. We crossed over the road and continued gently up towards Bullpot farm.

At the farm we joined the road for half a mile before heading back onto the hills. With a distinct lake of sheep we could let Nelly free once again. She won’t chase sheep, but a farmer doesn’t know that so we always keep her on a lead when there are sheep about.

Another short section on the road brought us to a long bridleway, with land art sculptures created by Andrew Goldsworthy. The perfect place to have our lunch.

Further along the bridleway there were a collection of bright toadstools. Not for eating!

Back onto the road and past the magnificent Whelprigg, a huge Victorian mansion built in 1834. As we crossed the estate the footpath had a ‘bull in field’ warning sign, so we followed the road back into Barbon.

We finished off our walk with cake and coffee at the brilliant Churchmouse cafe. Definitely one of the best little walks we’ve done all summer, and you know that we’re getting fit when we call a 9 mile walk ‘little’. Helen enjoyed it so much that she returned to run it a fortnight later with a couple of friends. If you’re ever in the area, Barbondale is an absolute hidden gem of the north.

The Old Man of Coniston

The last full day of our mini Lake District break and my lovely wife agreed to walk up Coniston Old Man with me. Even though I had been to Coniston a few times in the past; on a first year undergraduate field trip, swimming in the lake and cycling along the quieter side of the lake, I had never walked up the Old Man.

We parked up in the town so that we could do the whole walk, rather than using the car park half-way up the hill. Setting off and the weather wasn’t too bad, although we both knew that it conditions at the summit could be very different. We managed to miss the disguised footpath next to The Sun public house and instead walked up the steep road to the Walna Scar carpark. From there we could follow the path as it joined what is known as the ‘Tourist’ path.

There were a number of other walkers, although it couldn’t be called ‘busy’. We slowly made our way up the steep path, stopping at the old mines.

As you can see from the photo the visibility wasn’t great. We continued up, overtaking some people, and being overtaken by others, until we were at the top and could take in the glorious views. Just kidding, we couldn’t see a thing and the wind was ferocious. We took a quick photo and started to descend the other side.

Helen was in charge of navigation and knew that the path round the back past Goat’s Water was less steep and was also likely to be quieter. She was correct on both counts as she expertly guided us onto the correct paths.

Soon we joined the larger bridleway between Coniston and Seathwaite, which was more popular, and we were now beneath the clouds and could see all of the lake and the fells beyond. We stopped to have lunch on a rock placed next to a sign indicating the Old Man. Obligatory photo of an old man standing next to the sign.

We quickly walked through the very full car park and returned to Coniston. In need of coffee and cake we stopped at the Meadowdore Cafe. As we did it started to rain. Brilliant timing and the first time that we hadn’t go absolutely soaked. A great day was had by all. Of course it might be nice to visit again when the views are better, or we could go off up a different hill. There are so many more that we haven’t walked yet.

The other blogs about our little Lake District break can be found here and here.

Ravenglass and Eskdale Miniature Railway

After our mammoth run/walk a couple of days earlier (read about it here) we took the Sunday off, but, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Miniature Steam Railway beckoned on the Monday morning, including a dog ticket for Nelly.

Quite possibly the best photo of Nelly ever

Nelly was looking smart in her little coat as we were expecting more rain and we intended to walk back. Most of the people getting on the train looked like they were going for a good walk and many were probably also planning on walking back to Ravenglass.

The train was a little rickety as we made our way through the Eskdale valley, an area I had cycled many years ago when I wanted to tackle Hardknott pass. After a very enjoyable 40 minute journey we alighted at our destination, and as Helen took a few photos of the train I bumped into a couple with their own pointer. I mentioned how they aren’t the most popular of breeds, probably because of how unruly they are when they are young, to which the woman added that their pointer was still unruly.

We set off from the small Dalegarth station in the ‘wrong’ direction. I didn’t want to walk back along the road and from looking at the map I knew that there was a footpath next to the River Esk. Due to the rain over the last few days, the stepping stones to cross the river were underwater. Fortunately there was a bridge a little way upstream. We then followed the path through Milkingstead Wood and into Thwaite Wood, although it was impossible to look at the map as it was raining so hard, hence why there are no more photos.

We joined an old logging track which forms a cycle path, although in places it would be tough going on a bike. With the low cloud there wasn’t much of a view, but the track was nice and flat and easy to walk along. We stopped for lunch next to the Eskdale Golf course, before encountering a nasty sting in the tail. The footpath took us up and over Muncaster Fell, climbing up into the clouds. On a clear day I’m sure you would be able to see the Isle of Man.

Dropping down we joined the main road back into Ravenglass, passing the entrance to the Muncaster Estate. The last mile and a bit on the pavement was a little hard on our feet, but even in the rain we had thoroughly enjoyed our 8 mile walk.

Like many people, me and Helen have never really visited the coast from Millom up to Silloth, opting to remain in the Lake District, but hopefully we will visit again in the future.

The only negative of the day was driving on the dangerous coast road, with lorries right up behind us or cars overtaking when there was no way they could see if anything was coming.

The Cumbria Way – Keswick to Caldbeck

Me and my lovely wife generally take the first week of September off work as children are back at school and the weather is likely to be not too bad. Originally we had looked at cycling for a week, but due to a pandemic and such like we opted for just a few days away at Helen’s brother’s caravan in the south lakes. However, before we stayed at the caravan we had planned a mini adventure at a dog friendly hotel/pub in Caldbeck.

Saturday morning, wearing our running gear, we set off nice and early to drive to Caldbeck. The village of Caldbeck used to have daily buses to and from Keswick and Carlisle, now there are two buses on a Saturday and nothing on any other day of the week. First bus arrived at 8.30am and after a short loop to Hesketh Newmarket and back we were on our way to Keswick. A short stop to allow a herd of cows to pass and another brief stop for an Audi driver to get out of the way before we arrived at our destination. Keswick was very busy, even at 9.30am so we were happy to head off north out of the town and onto the Cumbria Way.

The Cumbria Way is a 73 mile route from Ulverston to Carlisle. We were using the Cicerone guide book which splits the route into 5 stages, with optional mountain versions. We were sticking to the regular route as the mountain route added an extra couple of miles.

As we walked past Fitz Park we noticed that there was an event on, although we only saw a couple of runners much later on. The start of the route was again busy as we walked up Spooneygreen Lane, the main walking path up to the start of Skiddaw. Fortunately when we reached the Skiddaw carpark most people headed off up the climb while we skirted Lonscale Fell, gently making our way upwards.

As soon as the route flattened a little bit we began to gently run. The idea was that we would walk the uphill sections and run the flat and downhill sections.

Soon the amazing Skiddaw House Youth Hostel came into sight, stuck out in the middle of nowhere. A former shooting lodge which could easily have become derelict, but was saved by volunteers and today thrives as a very out of the way place to stay.

From Skiddaw House we followed the river Caldew all the way to the end of Mosedale road, below the slopes of the formidable Carrock Fell. This brought back many fond memories as I went on a week long field trip at the start of my second year studying Environmental Science as an undergraduate at Lancaster University. Perfect place to stop for a sandwich.

From here the Cumbria Way headed up Great Lingy Hill, made harder by the torrential rain which had begun just as we had finished our lunch. (This is why there is a lack of photos from here to the finish). We sought refuge in the Lingy Hut, along with another man who was walking all 214 of the Wainwrights. He seemed in good spirits despite the weather, although he only had another 30 to do which he hoped would only take another three or four days.

The route from here to Caldbeck looked fairly straight forward, up and over High Peak and down into Caldbeck. However, during a nasty hailstorm at the top we managed to lose the correct route as we descended. At an unexpected junction a walker pointed us in the right direction as we could see the village in the distance. Another wayward footpath sign sent us off into a random field before we found the route once again. At least it had stopped raining at this point.

We ran the last mile into the village, and as I went into the Oddfellows Arms for our room key, Helen dried off Nelly, who had been the best dog in the world all day. The Oddfellows Arms has mixed reviews, and while the room was a little shabby it was very clean and the shower was hot. Additionally the staff were incredibly friendly and food couldn’t be faulted.

It had been a long tough day, with almost 17 miles under our belts in 6 hours. We had 8 very tired legs between us, although I don’t think it will be too long before we’re looking at doing other sections of the Cumbria Way.

The Frostrow Fells

My lovely wife Helen had been feeling a bit under the weather for the last couple of weeks, not Covid related I’m happy to say, so instead of a long run this weekend we opted for a shorter walk somewhere different, but not too far away.

The Frostrow Fells are a couple of miles south east of Sedbergh, and generally when in the area the mighty Howgills would be attacked. The Frostrow Fells are not nearly as high and not as strenuous. The Howgills Half Marathon that we both did last year was easily the toughest half marathon that either of us had ever done (read about it here).

From Sedbergh we walked towards the tiny village of Millthrop and followed a dead-end past Side Farm and onto a bridleway. Through a gate and we took a footpath which ran parallel to the bridleway as we meandered up the low lying Frostrow Fells. Amazing views of Combe Top on the other side of the Dent valley.

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Up and over a high ladder style we enjoyed the amazing weather, before crossing the heather and dropping down into Helmside.

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This wasn’t as easy as it should have been. There was a waymarked footpath sign near to the top, but nothing when we reached a couple of quad-bike gates. We picked the right hand one as it looked more promising, and as we reached the farmyard the farmer pointed us to the badly signed footpath which skirted his farm.

We then joined the main Sedbergh to Dent road, which was busier than we expected and as it was narrow not easy for cars to safely pass. Fortunately we soon reached Craggs Farm where there was a footpath to take us off the road. Nelly, our pointer, was a little fed up by this point as she hadn’t been allowed off the lead all day, and the next few fields were also full of sheep. However, once we reached Gap Wood she could have a good scamper. We stopped for some snacks and water while Nelly found plenty of sheep’s poo to roll in. From there it was a gentle stroll back to Millthrop and into Sedbergh.

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We had planned to browse a couple of the second hand book shops, as Sedbergh is known as England’s book town, but with a stinky dog we walked along the main road and back to the car. A very pleasant and gentle 7 mile walk.

If you’re interested in doing this walk it was taken from the Cicerone book ‘Walking in the Lune Valley and Howgills’. We’ve done a few walks from this book, although you definitely want to have an Explorer map with you, just in case.

Book Review: The Hike by Don Shaw

Another booked that I picked up from the Free Little Library on the next street, and one that I took with me for our three day camping trip to Hebden Bridge, which you can read about here and here.

the hike

Three retirees meet up every Thursday for a hike around the Peak District, much like Last of the Summer Wine. Good long term friends they rib each other constantly, which is mostly what made this book so enjoyable. Each chapter is a different month of the year, and generally each chapter looks at a different hike. Phil likes to dash up the hills trying to beat his personal best, thereby staying fitter and younger. Freddy likes to complain, while Don is in the middle, trying to keep the peace.

They are a friendly trio and part of the fun is reading about the people they meet, including the President of the Trabant owners club, with his farmyard full of various Trabants and the ‘bodger’ who makes chair legs by hand in an off-grid cottage. They also manage to get lost over Kinder Scout, as have many people. Obviously Kinder Scout is near to one end of the Pennine Way, which we ran along and across a number of times when we camped at Hebden Bridge. My wife has also shown an interest in walking the Pennine Way, the whole 268 miles of it. I’d better start training.

Anyway, I gave the book 4 out of 5. It was very easy reading and perfect for a lazy afternoon on a campsite sitting in the sun with a beer.

Book Review: Walking the Woods and the Water by Nick Hunt

In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor walked from Holland to Turkey, with a pair of hobnailed boots to charm his way across Europe, ‘like a tramp, a pilgrim or a wandering scholar’. 70 odd years later, Nick Hunt heads out to follow Patrick’s footsteps, across 2,500 miles of a very different Europe.

Nick Hunt

To truly appreciate the world around you, you need to slow down. This is distinctly relevant when it comes to travel, and travel writing (one of my favourite genres). I’ve been on long multi-day walks and many cycle touring adventures, and you miss far too much in a car or on a train. I find walking a bit too slow, and very hard on my aged body when carrying a fully laden rucksack, but cycle touring is just right. Almost 20 years ago I was planning the hike the Appalachian trail in America, made famous by Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods. I had even got as far as applying for an extended six month visa. Work commitments changed and I never went, but in hindsight I don’t think that I would have finished it. However, I have immense respect for anyone who does travel across countries or continents using Shanks’s pony.

Back to the book in question, and Nick sets off from the Hook of Holland, straight off the ferry, which is never easy. Why is it so hard to escape from ferry terminals on foot or a bicycle? He has no maps, no set route, no accommodation lined, only his old copy of Patrick’s original book, relying on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter, camping in the woods on other occasions.

His first impression is how noisy the start of his journey is, with all of the motorways, traffic and industry. Gradually over the months the landscape quietens, especially once he enter the old Soviet communist countries. Another striking facet is how many people warn him of the dangers he will face when he enters the next country, and how lucky he has been not to have been robbed or killed in the last country.

The book took me a while to get into, but I am glad that I persevered because once Nick reached Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and then Transylvania the book comes into its own. Undoubtedly one of the best walking travel books that I’ve read.