Part of my recent trip to the Lake District was walking some new Wainwrights. I travelled up to Keswick for a week. I’m hoping to get back there later this year for some serious ridge walks and possibly ticking off another ten or so of the categorised mountains.
Just look at the gorgeous views you get from even half way up to high. This is the view from just above the Ashness Bridge.
If you keep driving or walking up the road from Ashness you get to Watendlath, a tiny hamlet high up in a hidden valley. It’s an amazing space and the tarn is lovely. This is just the sort of space you can imagine walking around a mini peak and finding people having sex, you know, the usual.
Hills and mountains can’t be everything and so it’s also important to see aircraft. I went to the Dumfries and Galloway Air Museum at the old RAF Dumfries. It was a curious place with planes looking rather dishevelled and in good need of a paint job.
This one along with the Lightning was the best looking plane. There was a Saab Draken, a JP and a Westland Wessex, but they didn’t look great. The Dassault Mystere was doing OK.
There needs to be a list of hills walked and their placing in the Wainwright list so here you are:
High Rigg [209 with a height of 354m]
Great Mell Fell [155 with a height of 536m]
Loughrigg Fell [211 with a height of 336m]
I did also walk Latrigg but this is about the fifth time I’ve done that one and so it shouldn’t really get a mention here. I did some rowing on two of the Lakes while I was there, Derwentwater and Grasmere.
Keswick is a lovely place I think, maybe very slightly less so during Convention time because it makes it so busy and full of people, but still such a wonderful place to visit.
Next time I’m up here in the summer I think I would like to go swimming in the Lakes. It looked very inviting and paddling wasn’t that satisfying. I’d rather be out there adventuring. I think my swimming is good enough. I’m not fast but can keep a steady pace going, much like my running. I can’t wait to get back up to the north west again.
Over half term I made the journey to the other end of this country to spend some time in the Lake District. While it is quite a drive the views and atmosphere are so worth it.
While in the district of Allerdale I decided to complete a few more of the Wainwrights. There are 214 fells mentioned by Alfred Wainwright in his books and I’ve got a taste for bagging some each time I go to the Lake District. My personal target is to complete the lot by the time I am 60. I’ve got 14 years to go. I need to up my rate a little but the next time I go I am planning some lovely ridge walks that should get quite a few crossed off!
On the first day I went up Walla Crag [number 204 by height].
I parked in Great Wood car park and walked up the Cat Gill route and down again via Castlerigg. It was a lovely little jaunt. Now I had a feel for it I wanted to try and get some of the lower stand-alone fells bagged. I was trying to cross off those that would mean a big detour on future longer routes so this would allow me to make as yet unplanned walks easier.
Next was Binsey [number 192 by height]. A little mound of a fell on its own to the north east of the Skiddaw range.
This was too easy. The car was parked about half way up and was really just a little stroll. The views from the top were amazing. It was a lovely warm and sunny day with visibility running at about 25km. The mist was so fine that I couldn’t see the Scottish peaks but could just see Scotland across the Solway.
Another day, another walk. This time up Cat Bells [number 189 by height]. I had already completed this particular fell and so wasn’t too fussed about climbing it but I had planned to meet a work friend there.
It was pretty busy at the top and plenty of people were making this their first Wainwright. I t was nice to see so many people enjoying this countryside. The views are just lovely.
Walking down Catbells and I saw this sheep just standing and staring.
The next day was a rest day and I went on a narrow gauge railway and then visited Muncaster Castle. The walk back took in a short distance by the river Esk. The air was so still that the water looked like a mill pond.
I drove back to Keswick through two mountain passes. One was Harknott pass and this is a most ridiculous road. There are hairpin bends with a gradient of 1:3. There were times I couldn’t see where the road went out the windscreen while turning because the road dropped away so fast. It was a very satisfying drive. Then, there was the Wrynose pass which wasn’t as spectacular but was still very pretty.
Another rest day followed with a lovely time doing various things together with going to watch Solo. The final walk day was spent hanging around Crummock Water after getting to the top of Rannerdale Knotts [number 210 by height] adjacent to the lake.
I’m annoyed that I forgot my hat. I don’t do well in direct sunlight, I have a lack of natural head covering, not that I’m too fussed about that, and I burn easily, even with sun lotion on [SPF 50].
That was it for the week. A journey back to the South East and good broadband bandwidths beckoned the next day. It was good to get back to upload speeds in excess of 0.4Mb/s, it was needed to chuck photos into the cloud.
The Lake District has now joined Hildesheim airport as a place I can go to clear my head and achieve things. This summer I drove up there to Keswick. I didn’t have many concrete plans on the way but did know I wanted to bag a few more Wainwrights. My attempts on these fells was weather dependent and so the first day seemed more appropriate to visit parts of Scotland I missed out previously.
The day started with a small walk up Castle Cragg. This is the smallest of the Wainwrights and number 214. It’s not even a mountain being slightly less than 1000ft, but it is 300m which makes it ok?
While driving to Portinscale the surface of Derwent Water was lovely and smooth and an almost perfect mirror.
As the weather wasn’t meant to hold out all day I then headed to Scotland to see some things that had been recommended to me the last time I was in the North. I drove to Lockerbie to see the memorial to the people who died in the Pan-Am 747 bombing in 1988. While on the way I saw a sign for the Ukrainian Prisoner Of War Chapel, I turned to follow these signs but when I got there the place was closed. Which was a shame, I had expected to learn some snippets of history about which I was unaware.
From Lockerbie I drove to Eastriggs and the Devil’s Porridge Museum. This museum had been recommended to me when I was at Carlisle Airport and I have to say it disappointed. It was housed in a new building and very lovely and all that but it just left me feeling a bit “meh”. I had lunch there, which was perfectly fine, but the museum itself just lacked something. I’m not sure what. I did learn that pretty much the entire coastline from Gretna to Dumfries was used to produce explosive during the first World War. After the second World War the area was used to produce plutonium for the UK’s nuclear bomb effort. It was the decommissioning of this Chapel Cross powerplant that I witnessed.
On the drive back to Keswick I drove past the Skelton radio transmission station. It has the UK’s tallest structure and is used to transmit VLF signals to the UK submarines.
A big day now awaited me. I planned an assault on the top two mountains in England. I had chatted to experienced fell walkers and planned pretty well. I got up early and drove a crazy route to Wasdale Head at the end of Wast Water. I grabbed a coffee-to-go in the village shop in Gosforth and got ready for the day’s walking. The main plan was to get up to a saddle near Scafell Pike, decide whether to skip up to Lingmell and then go up Scafell Pike and Scafell. There were plenty of opportunities to remove myself from the mountain along the way if I felt not sure.
Lingmell [number 29] was pretty simple to walk from the saddle and the whole world looked very desolate and calm, almost at peace with itself. Mind you, Sellafield was looming in the distance. I climbed the rocky barren waste of Scafell Pike [978m] [number 1] and at that point was higher than anything else attached to the earth within England. It was while up here that I looked SW and saw a blanket of cloud.
I was above the majority of the clouds and was a little worried about visibility. I managed to get to Mickledore and I wasn’t too happy with the conditions but I met another chap who was heading up Scafell and so we joined together for the waterfall climb up to Foxes Tarn and then Scafell [964m].
Scafell [number 2] was encased in cloud and I couldn’t see a great deal. After lunch I headed down by a westerly path and headed towards Burnmoor Tarn. It was a very pleasant walk back to the car park.
It’s nice to see trees and colour again after you’ve been “at altitude” [I’m def not serious there]. I had a cup of tea at the Wasdale Inn and then returned to Keswick via the same stupid road. It was single track, hilly and had sheep everywhere. It was also used as a rat run by locals on their way to or from work.
The next day was a rest day. Although, I would say that I’m definitely getting better at this hill walking lark. I felt good and could have climbed again. But I had plans. I went to see Aira Force waterfall, I have no idea how to pronounce the first word. I don’t care. It was a short walk from the car park next to Ullswater to the waterfall. It was quite an impressive sight, as it had rained overnight.
It was very green at the waterfall. Very pretty. I then met some work friends in Bryson’s tea room in Keswick. It was nice to chat and catch up. I don’t think we spoke much of work, which is a good thing. After that I bought my Scafell Pike mug and headed to Cockermouth to see what it was like.
The rivers through Cockermouth were quite impressive, they were flowing steadily through the town. No wonder it flooded terribly recently. I visited Wordsworth House, where the poet William was born. It was reasonably interesting. However, the fact that the flood waters were marked almost at head level made me very impressed with how the town had tidied up. I had lunch at Beatfords tea room. That evening I had dinner with Penguin and Mrs Penguin at the Inn On The Square. They sat us around the corner and out of the way as we were dressed quite poorly for such a lovely looking restaurant/hotel place.
On my last full day in the Lake District I decided to conquer Blencathra. I parked nice and early in Threlkeld and walked to the NE end of the mountain. My plan was to climb along Sharp Edge but when I came around a corner and saw it looming, sharp and in fog, I decided “screw that” and just headed up the rather plain and boring ridge route to Blencathra [number 14] and the other two prominences. The views were stunning. It was a shame about the clouds, but the sun shone through breaks and the rain showers drifted over the valleys. Utterly gorgeous.
On the way down I completed part of a Whatsapp! annual challenge and enjoyed the views as I descended into the valley towards the A66 and back to my car. There’s a certain level of clear headedness that comes from being on your own in the mountains. I really love it and am starting to think that I might actually be ok at this fell walking stuff.
On my last day in Keswick I breakfasted at the Filling Station Cafe and then wandered to the Lake side as I hadn’t been there so far and I enjoyed the wander through town.
I was now heading to Bradford for a music festival. The traffic on the A66 was terrible after an accident so I took the scenic route to Kendal and then across Yorkshire to Bradford. It took two hours, but was a nice drive.
On the evening of my first day in DC Rich and I worked out a plan of action. This would allow Kate to organise food and other such sundries. Monday, Day Three, is a trip along the Skyline Drive of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Luray Caverns.
We set off after rush hour so we weren’t delayed on the way. There were some signs along the freeway informing us that our speed was being monitored by aircraft. I find this somewhat interesting. I’m not sure it’s possible. The only thing I can think they do is track vehicles for a set distance and then radio ahead for a patrol car to interdict. I doubt they can track a vehicle and get a good identification of the vehicle at the same time. One would require distance flying and the other close flying. Doesn’t matter, I’m not going to find out.
For this trip I decided to wear an evolution t-shirt [although it does have man evolving into Tim Minchin]. It wasn’t deliberate, and essentially probably an accident heading out into the Virginia countryside wearing a pro-evolution shirt. I also removed my Atheist pin, no sense in pushing the locals.
The weather was a bit dull and overcast. But this did not detract from the views along the road. We could see a reasonable distance and also saw plenty of Turkey Vultures flying the thermals and updrafts. Lunch was a most excellent picnic organised by Kate at Elkwallow picnic site. The toilet there was a rather spectacular hole in the ground surrounded by a prefabricated building – real countryside! Lunch was a lovely chicken roll and crisps followed by coffee in china cups. You don’t get much better than that!
From Elkwallow we followed the road to pass through the 600 foot Mary’s Rock Tunnel and then turned around to head to Luray and the caverns.
These caverns were spectacular. The tour was really well organised and everywhere was accessible (this is for Americans though), our guide was knowledgeable and delivered well. Some of the sights were really impressive. Just the time it takes for stalactites and stalagmites to grow was awe inspiring. The biggest cavern had a mechanical organ that played a hymn. The notes were created using hammers to hit certain stalactites and the vibrations picked up using a solenoid and then amplified. The sound was a wonderfully natural calm sound, not like my usual musical tastes!
Our return to DC took about an hour and a half with some reasonable traffic on the freeway.
That night we ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House out at Tysons Corner. It was a nice meal and the dessert, chocolate explosion, was particularly worth it. Such a wonderful day.
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