10,000 Steps and Covid

A few months ago I wrote about walking 10,000 steps a day, and how I had never managed it for a full month. Generally this is because at least one or two days a month I might go for a swim or a long bike ride and don’t feel like a long walk as well. However, over a full month I have never managed less than 10,000 steps on average per day (read my post here).

At the moment, I still haven’t managed a full calendar month with 10,000 steps every day. However, I have managed a streak of 46 days from early December up to a few days ago. Thursday morning I went for a gentle five-mile run feeling really good. Thursday night I had the worst nights sleep ever as I succumbed to the dreaded Covid. According to my Garmin, I managed 90 minutes sleep with a sleep score of zero.

I don’t suppose I should have been surprised as my lovely wife had spent the previous four days either in bed or on the sofa. I was hoping that I would be immune. I’m not. I should have had a booster jab at some point, although it didn’t help Helen. Three years, that’s how long we both managed to avoid it. We have no idea where we caught it, but I was in the office on the Monday, mingling with plenty of people and traveling on a packed train.

I’m starting to feel a little more like myself, although I still have absolutely no energy. My total number of steps for each of the last four days has barely been above 1,000.

Covid also ended a streak of over 1,000 days where I had uploaded an activity to Strava. The activity might have only been a two mile walk with Nelly, or it might have been a 35 mile run, either way my Ron Hill type streak has come to an end.

Sour Howes and Sallows

Friday morning the weather was icy cold but sunny. Me and my lovely wife decided to take our silly old pooch for a short walk in the lake district, ticking off two Wainrights, Sour Howes and Sallow.

Starting off from the village of Troutbeck we headed up an initially steep trail, which soon levelled out to a gentle slope up. We’d walked part of this route last year in the other direction. After a mile we turned off the track onto a very steep footpath, navigating a difficult ladder stile, difficult for Nelly, followed soon after by another tricky ladder stile. We were know up on the higher fells, enjoying great views over Windemere. We stopped for an obligatory selfie.

We continued up in the sun until we reached the summit of Sour Howe.

We then did a quick little detour to the summit of Cappel Howe, which isn’t a Wainright but it seemed a shame not to add in an extra mile.

We followed our trail back to the top of Sour Howe and continued in a circular route up the gentle slope of Sallows. At the top we again admired the views and had a snack. We then followed a steep path back down to a wider but very icy track.

We hadn’t seen another person all morning, until suddenly we were inundated. Two runners, chatting as they ran uphill, followed by a mountain biker and then loads more walkers.

We followed the track back into the village. Our six mile walk had taken exactly 3 hours with 500m of climbing. An excellent little walk where we were back home before 1pm, and two more Wainrights ticked off, only another 190 to go.

Helm Crag, Gibson Knott and Calf Crag

Wainwright bagging has begun. As I wrote last week, my lovely wife gave me a Wainwright Bagging book and map (read about it here), so we set off towards Grasmere to tick off three more fells.

Once again we were blessed with amazing weather. It was cold, but there was very little wind and no rain. Setting off early we parked in the main carpark in Grasmere and started walking in the same direction as when we’d walked to Easedale Tarn (read about it here). However this time we turned off our previous route and began climbing.

The next mile was a very steep climb with amazing views as we eventually reached the summit of Helm Crag, famous for an outcropping of rock at the top called The Lion and the Lamb.

There were a number of other walkers and runners enjoying a rare day without rain as we continued over the top and across a saddleback towards our second Wainwright, Gibson Knott. Before we reached it we past a second outcropping of rock called The Howitzer, as it vaguely resembles a large shell stuck in the ground. There was a man who had climbed up to the top. We waved and declined to join him.

There’s not a great deal to say about Gibson Knott, except that we stopped to eat a ham sandwich before making our way towards our final Wainwright, Calf Crag.

At the summit of Calf Crag we patiently waited for another pair of walkers to vacate it so that we could take our turn taking photos. Looking back we could see both of the previous summits and the valley for our return route.

Off the top we turned sharply and steeply down into the valley. If we’d continued we would have eventually reached a number of other Wainwrights, including High Raise, Ullscarf and Sergeant Man. We were now out of the sun and it was colder as we continued down, picking our way over icy sections until we reached the valley floor for the last few miles back into Grasmere.

Grasmere was busy, and despite wanted to find a cafe for a brew and cake, none of them felt particularly welcoming. A number of cafes had signs saying No Dogs, so we continued back to our car. The car park was chaos as it was overflowing with visitors, so we quickly headed on home.

Our walk had taken a few hours even though it was only 9 miles, mostly because of how steep the main ascent and descent had been. However, we ticked off another three Wainwrights, leaving only 196 remaining. It might take a while.

Wainwrights

There are 214 Wainwrights in the lake district, named after the famous walker and guide book writer, Alfred Wainwright. These are the hill tops or fell summits that are included in his series of books covering the lakes. I will ignore that towards the end of his life he wasn’t a particularly nice person, and instead concentrate on the fells.

Me and my lovely wife like to go walking or running in the area as often as we can, but quite often we chose low level routes. When we pick higher routes we don’t worry about if the hill is a Wainwright or not, or even if we reach the summit.

However, this Christmas Helen gave me a Wainwright Bagging book and a map.

My wife knows me very well, and knows that I like to tick off items. A few years ago she gave me a Stobbart spotting book which lives in the car. You can imagine my disappointment when we overtake a Stobbart lorry on the motorway only to find that the cab isn’t a Stobbart.

Anyway, first job was to check Strava to see which of the Wainwrights I’ve already climbed and tick them off the book, as well as any that I’d done before Strava (if a thing even exists). One problem was that I couldn’t find Coniston Old Man. We’d walked that a couple of years ago but it didn’t appear to be in the book. I looked under C, and then I looked under O. I found it eventually under T, for The Old Man of Coniston.

After all that, I could tick off the huge amount of 15 Wainwrights. That is all I have summited. 199 to go, which should keep us busy for a few years.

Walla Crag

On the last morning of our three day break in the lakes, after another hearty breakfast, we decided on a short walk before driving home. Only a mile or two up the road from the hotel was a National Trust carpark perfectly suited for a walk around Walla Crag. I like National Trust carparks because I’m a life member so I can park for free (insert smiley face emoji).

The route that I’d plotted on my Garmin was only three miles and was supposed to be a low level walk. This is low level for the lake district. We set off an immediately spotted a sign pointing towards the easy gradient up to the top of the crag. As you can see from the photo below, this most definitely wasn’t my definition of an easy gradient.

However, there were some amazing views across Derwentwater.

Eventually we reached the top of the crag, which was covered in snow. The views across the other side weren’t as good as there was plenty of low lying cloud obscuring the views across to Great Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd and Helvellyn. We also spotted a trio of small Fell Ponies, before starting to walk gently back around the far side of the crag.

As our route slowly turned from the north east to the north west we then given cloudy views across Keswick and Skiddaw. We then passed a woman running up the hill that we were slowly walking down. Once upon a time, many years ago, me and Helen could have run up a hill this steep. Although, at my best I would never have been able to keep up with Helen on the way back down, she is an absolute demon at descending.

This route was quite popular as we passed a number of other walkers and runners as we crossed a small frozen stream and down a slippery farm track.

The last part of the walk went through Great Wood, even though it wasn’t very large.

Back at the carpark and I handed my ticket to a couple who were eyeing up the instructions on the parking meter. Apologies to the National Trust if they are reading this.

Our short break in the lakes had been a much needed respite from work and everything else, and our three walks had all been excellent. I would thoroughly recommend staying at the Mary Mount hotel as well. Helen has given it a stellar review.

Catbells

Catbells in the lake district is my lovely wife’s favourite fell. We first went there together 18 months ago (read about it here) and it was about time that we climbed it again.

We stayed at the brilliant Mary Mount hotel on the shores of Derwentwater, in the shadows of Catbells. After a hearty breakfast, including a sausage for Nelly, we set off directly from the hotel, stopping off briefly to look at the frozen Lodore Falls, which were a little disappointing. From there we found the lake perimeter footpath, walking around the southern tip of the lake. We then started to climb, crossing a small road and taking a footpath along the lower section of the fell.

We continued along the lower slopes of the fell before turning west and heading up. From experience there are a couple of places where you need to scramble, often on all fours. It can be difficult to select the best route, so I would scout ahead and then suggest the best route to Helen and Nelly. Catbells is also made up of a lower hill with a saddleback before the tougher climb up to the summit.

The photo above indicates that we were blessed with amazing weather once again. In the distance is the main summit, which looks far harder than it actually is.

At the top the trig point has been replaced with a stone plinth with details of every fell and hill that can be seen on a clear day. We could see every one of them.

The previous evening we’d looked at the Garmin route that I had plotted, and we were worried that the route back down would be incredibly steep and treacherous. However, after a quick Google search most people stated that the route we were on was the best one.

From the top of Catbells we continued towards Maiden Moor. To climb that particular fell would be a long day as there isn’t a short route back to the hotel. We’ll save that for another day. Instead, we headed down on a steep but safe set of steps, which was far easier than the scramble up the other side.

Once we reached the bottom we had a gentle and flat walk back to the hotel. Less climbing than the previous days walk up High Seat (read about it here), but slightly longer.

Feeling fit and healthy, we had a quick brew at the hotel before driving into Keswick for a look around. We found a dog friendly café and had yet another brew and cake. As far as I can tell, all cafes and pubs in Keswick are dog friendly. I then bought a couple of half bottles of rum to enjoy over Christmas, if they last until then.

Another brilliant day in the lakes.

High Seat and Bleaberry Fell

Like many people I had some annual leave from work that I needed to take before the end of the year. The week before Christmas already had a number of people off, so I took last week. Not wanting to just sit around all day, we booked two nights away at the excellent Mary Mount Hotel near Keswick, overlooking Helen’s favourite Fell, Catbells.

We decided to go for a walk close to the hotel before checking in. I had a quick look on Garmin routes and created what I hoped would be a pleasant walk. It turned out to be a fantastic walk. I still sometimes struggle to get my head around the fact that I can create a route on an App on my phone, and then synchronize it with my watch, giving me a route, with map, to follow.

We parked up in a small carpark and walked up a narrow icy road towards Ashness Bridge, where we headed onto a footpath. The first section was steep and continued up for ages, until it started to level out a little, with stunning views back over Derwentwater and Catbells.

We slowly continued to climb, avoiding more icy sections, stopping for photos, including this selfie taken by my beautiful wife.

We soon reached the top of High Seat, with views across Thirlmere and Helvellyn. The photos that we took just didn’t do it justice, so you’ll have to make do with my silly face.

We briefly chatted to a runner, who was enjoying running over the frozen bogs, before we headed down towards Bleaberry Fell. This section was very easy walking, with a number of other people out enjoying the clear views, and only a very small rise to the summit. We also felt that it was safe for Nelly to be allowed off her lead for a while. She’s getting old and doesn’t run off as far as she used to. She also wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in the view.

From the top of Bleaberry Fell we could see all of Keswick, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake.

The descent down from the fell was fairly steep and icy in places, but then it levelled out again as we turned south back towards the car. However, there was a nasty sting in the tail, as the final section of path before we joined the road was again very steep and covered in ice. We all nearly fell over a number of times and we were happy to see Ashness Bridge once again.

I have to say that it was one of the best walks we’d been on, especially as it had been a last minute route decision. It was helped by the stunning conditions, which even though it was very cold, the views were some of the best we’re ever likely to see. Final distance was just over 9km, with 600m of climbing. Not an easy walk, but incredibly rewarding.

High Cup Nick

When the weather is as unseasonably warm as it has been, the only option is to go on a mini adventure. My lovely wife, Helen, had bought me the latest edition of Trail magazine. There was an article all about staying in Ravenstonedale for four days and completing a walk in the Howgills one day, the next day in the lakes, another day in the Yorkshire Dales and the last day in the Pennines. The walk in the Pennines was up High Cup Nick, which is part of the Pennine Way.

We drove out to the small village of Dufton and found the Pennine Way without any trouble. The first mile was on tarmac, but as we went through a gate, we began climbing up on a well-trodden path. The views going up were amazing, and we hardly saw another person all day, although we did hear a lot of shooting across the valley.

About halfway up we encountered an older man walking his dogs, one of which was remarkable. Apparently, it was a Russian Wolf Hound and was very distinctive.

We went through a couple more gates and allowed Nelly off her lead as there weren’t any sheep. And then suddenly we could see High Cup Nick.

The photos don’t do this amazing feature justice as the three sides of the steep valley drop away.

We sat down on a handy rock to enjoy the panoramic view.

We then ambled our way back down to the car. It might have been only an eight-mile walk, but it was one of the most stunning walks we had ever been on. It also made us realise just how amazing the Pennine Way is, and while we might not want to walk it, there are plenty of long-distance footpaths that do appeal to us. One possibility that does appeal to us is the West Highland Way.

Anyway, if you’re ever in the north Pennines, we can recommend the walk up to High Cup Nick from the village of Dufton.

Troutbeck Round

Friday evening my brilliant wife Helen stated that on Sunday she needed hills. Saturday evening, we perused our collection of walking and running guides and opted for the longest route in Helen Mort’s excellent Lake District Trail Running book. We’ve done a number of her routes and they have all been excellent. I created a route for my Garmin, and we made sandwiches, bought additional snacks, loaded up a rucksack and prepped for an early start on Sunday morning.

Best laid plans and all that! Fireworks, and Nelly our silly old Pointer was completed stressed most of the night, meaning that no one managed much sleep. On top of that, the weather forecast was for rain, lots of rain.

We woke up Sunday morning not completely refreshed, the forecast hadn’t improved, and it would have been very easy to stay in bed for most of the morning. But no, we headed out and we were parked in a small layby near Jesus Church in Troutbeck before 8am. We had a plan B, in that if the weather turned really bad, we would double back as the first part of the route was fairly flat and low lying.

Out of the village the first footpath was quite steep before levelling out and heading north through the valley. It was warm, hardly any wind and incredibly peaceful. Nelly was also allowed off the lead to be gate monitor.

In the distance, the clouds looked ominous, with all of the hill tops obscured. We continued walking, making good progress and when the path started to climb, we stopped for a cherry scone and a drink. The first four miles had been a doddle.

Slowly we climbed higher and higher, the wind buffeting so strong that it blew my woolly hat off my head. Fortunately, I managed to retrieve it before it disappeared over the edge.

We continued up, expecting rain at any moment. The route carried on a little further north, but noticing another footpath, we cut off the tip of the route and started on the wide path back.

The route back goes over three different peaks; Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke. Froswick at 720m high we skirted around, but Ill Bell at 757m high was a steep and tough little climb. There were two cairns at the top, and clouds, lots of clouds, and wind. We navigated to the correct path down and every now and again the cloud would lift enough for some amazing views.

After the summit of Yoke at 706m high we began the slow and steady descent back down to Troutbeck. Amazingly, it still hadn’t started to rain. There were also quite a few walkers and runners headed in the other direction. A few more miles later and we joined the track we had taken from the village, with Nelly leading the way again. At this point there was the first spots of rain, but it didn’t last too long and wasn’t very heavy.

Back in the village we passed the field holding the Pumpkin Fesitval, we passed the small carpark that we missed, past the chruch and back to the car.

Our full route was 17.4km (just under 11 miles) with 930m of climbing (lots of feet). As expected, the rain started to lash it down as we sat in the car eating a sandwich as we prepared ourselves for the long drive home. What we love about this area of the Lakes is that it is only a 45-minute drive, and less than an hour to Ambleside.

Anyway, an absolutely fantastic walk. The three of us have eight tired legs between us. I fully recommend Helen Mort’s book if you fancy a few interesting walks or runs in the area.

Next week will be a tough week for both me and Helen, so this was a much-needed day out.

My Strava route can be found here, if you wanted to give me Kudos or walk/run the route yourself.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8042733428

Calke Abbey

Day two of our weekend away and after dropping Helen off at Raku central, me and Nelly headed to the nearby Calke Abbey for a walk. Described by the National Trust as an un-stately home and country estate, telling the story of the dramatic decline of a country house estate. Most of the house and surrounding buildings haven’t been touched for years. However, Nelly wouldn’t be allowed in the house, so we were looking at the walking through some of the 600 acres of parkland which forms part of the larger estate.

The house is still fairly impressive, even if it a little run down.

Around one side of the estate runs the tramway trail. A 6 mile shared loop for walkers, runners and cyclists. This was what me and Nelly were going to do. We set off in lovely autumn sun, munching on a bag of mixed nuts. Despite there being quite a few people around, out on the trail we were mostly on our own. The trail was also easy to follow and well signposted. There was also a couple of long bridges to walk through and one longer tunnel which we avoided.

The last part of the walk took us alongside the driveway, where we could see a long queue of cars waiting to pay to enter. My grandmother bought me and my sister life membership to the National Trust almost 50 years ago, and I’m still using it today. Anyway, we continued walking back towards the house, through a field of long horned cows, who weren’t in the slightest bit bothered by hundreds of people tramping through their field.

We reached the house and the main carpark to find that the place was absolutely packed. There were families and dogs everywhere. I would have liked to have bought a coffee, but there was a huge queue for the café, and I would have had to leave Nelly on her own outside. We settled down in the car for some lunch and a rest after our six mile walk.

A little later we went for a two mile walk around a different part of the park, before heading back to Raku central to meet up with Helen. She had been creating horse hair raku, where you drape horse hair over the red hot pottery. Her amazing pot can be seen in the photo below.