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.

Loughrigg Fell

Another Friday and another family outing to the Lake District. 50 minutes after we set off from home we were parking up in Ambleside. We were going to walk another one of Helen Mort’s excellent trail running routes, this one up and over Loughrigg Fell.

We’ve been to Loughrigg Tarn a few times this summer and had walked from there into Ambleside a couple of times, so we knew the first part of the route. We set off through Rothay Park and up the steep track onto the lower parts of the Fell. However, instead of then dropping down to the Tarn, we turned and went up and over the top of the Fell.

Mostly we had the place to ourselves, overtaking a group of people early on, and then watching a couple of low flying jets on maneuver’s. As we neared the top we spotted a runner with her dog. The dog wanted to say hello to Nelly, but was called away as the runner was going in a different direction. The views at the top were stunning. We were really lucky with the September sun.

And then, just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Grasmere came into view. As you can see, Nelly was also suitably impressed.

The steep descent was a little taxing on our old knees, but at the bottom we turned back towards Ambleside, first passing Rydal Cave. We didn’t stop to have a look as there were loads of people.

We don’t like to let Nelly off her lead on the Fells, as she could easily get lost. There are always stories about lost dogs. But, along the path overlooking Rydal Water, we freed the old girl and she pottered about in front of us. She’s getting old so we’re very mindful about doing too much, although it does seem that going out with us for a walk is preferable to going out for a run. Even a short slow run is a little bit too much for her.

Soon the footpath became road, with the last mile a little less exciting. We made up for that by stopping in Ambleside for a coffees, scone and cake at the excellent Giggle Goose, before heading home. A well needed mini-adventure to improve our mental well-being.

Loweswater Loop

Not exactly a loop of Loweswater, but a route that took us along one side and then up along a ridge overlooking the lake.

It was planned as a run with some walking, but it ended up the other way around. This was fine because we could enjoy the stunning scenery.

We had never been to Loweswater. One of the smaller and quieter lakes, which flows into Crummock and the Buttermere.

The first mile and a half was alongside the lake under the trees, passing a National Trust bothy. Fully booked for the rest of the year, minimum three nights at £195 in December, sleeping platform and a woodburner.

As we left the lake and started to climb, Nelly spotted a field of rabbits. We continued up and then the route turned around to face the lake as we headed back. From the hills we could see all the way to Crummock Water.

We then made our way half way up the fell, with stunning views, before a long gentle descent back to the carpark.

An amazing route, again from Helen Mort’s trail running book. The carpark was almost full when we arrived and overflowing as we left. Loweswater you left us speechless with your beauty.

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 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: 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.