Port Soderick to Douglas along Marine Drive – 2nd November 2019

DSC02192This week saw the last of the steam train journeys until next spring, so what better way to go into Douglas than to hop aboard at Port Erin and disembark at Port Soderick to walk the 5 miles into Douglas.

DSC02177Here is the Kissack, no 13, waiting to leave Port Sorderick.  As I walked down the lane I encountered a convivial lady sportingly cleaning up the road for vehicles as all the drains were blocked by the autumn leaves and the excessive rainfall of recent days, leaving great puddles. That’s what I call neighbourliness.

I walked through the glen which was a little on the muddy side. I never known the Crogga stream to be so loud as it made its way downhill and then softened as it gained the lower reaches, just every now and again bubbling over the rocks.

Reaching Port Soderick Bay, I never cease to amazed how this area was once a bustling pleasure beach, with all kinds of attractions and businesses – outdoor games, a camera obscura, Thomas the ‘novelty card’ printer, roundabouts and such time as well as  the now defunct and removed Falcon Cliff lift that enable to tourists to have a leisurely (if ugly) route to the top of marine drive, where they could get the horse tram all the way to Douglas. It seems like another world. I do remember the hotel which was always good for a coffee but that has also long since gone. They are always talks of renovating this area. If so, maybe they could reintroduce the story of the Enchanted Isle off Port Soderick, which was sunk beneath the seas by the magician Finn McCool along with its inhabitants which were turned to granite pillars; the island rises out of the sea every seven years for just 30 minutes, when the inhabitants will be restored to life if they can place a Bible on the island in that time.

I followed the muddy path alongside the road to the top of the hill where I took the cover photo. These hills are steeper and higher than they look here at about 300 ft high. They are mostly the typical Manx group of rocks comprising mudstone, siltstones and sandstones of the Lonan formation. They form the standard thin and craggy beds of slate that were distorted by the uplift of mountain formation in the Silurian and Devonian period, and in places these are very dramatic. At Keristal, close to Port Soderick,  and towards Douglas you will find large slabs of paler sandstone giving a softer landscape.

In places the rocks are quite architechtural, as here, close to Douglas Head gate house.

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Marine Drive was constructed and the tramway opened in 1896 and was not the wide roadway as it appears today. In places an overhanging iron roadway was made to get around some of the tricky rocks and this section was suitably named ‘Horses Leap’. However, it was all dismantled between 1947 and 1949 partly due to rock falls. It was converted into a roadway in 1956 and over time it became a walkers’ paradise and the central section closed to vehicles. It is easy to see why when you walk the route.

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Having had only coastal views and wonderful skies, including an enticing rainbow as I reached the Whing (the steepest and most contorted of the rocks), it is all over too soon and soon the path starts sloping making its descent into Douglas. Looking at the clouds over the mountains I had time my walk just right.

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A very pleasant walk of 5 miles and about 733 ft of ascent, but it is very easy after the intial ascent and just little ups and downs along the way.

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Loweswater – 12th October 2019

Time to put Loweswater on the map. Hurrah – at last, I made it out with the group, my one and only walk not on my tod. What’s more the weather was fine, even a little sunny, so off we went on our ‘school’ trip to Buttermere and Loweswater.

Our first stop was Buttermere, where we did some sightseeing. Our first port of call was the village church of St.James, set above the village and facing Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. This unassuming church is charming in its simplicity and has some original features such as an antique organ dating from 1820 and a stone tablet dedicated to Alfred Wainwright positioned just below a window with views to his favourite mountain, Haystacks. From here, we had a short meander to Buttermere lake, before remounting our bus to take us to Loweswater, where our leader recounted the infamous story of the Maid of Buttermere and the Fish Inn. I will leave you to look that up yourself.

The view of Haystacks from the church

This area is slightly off the beaten track with Crummockwater and Buttermere glacial lakes and valley taking pride of place in this section of the Lakes. But it is not a lake or an area to be dismissed easily. Indeed it is featured in an article by the Guardian describing the top 20 lakes in Europe, and beer lovers and those fond of antiquities will enjoy the natural homeliness of the Kirkstile Inn and its Loweswater Gold brew.

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The walk starts from this point. Loweswater is slightly higher than Crummockwater at 128m but is only a shallow lake of about 10 metres compared with Crummockwater with depths of 40 metres and Buttermere 20 metres, and it is dammed by terminal moraine at its southeasterly point, where its waters sneak through a small rivulet into Crummockwater. The Loweswater fells of Darling Fell and Low Fell (423 metres) are dissected by a stream feeding into Loweswater from Sourfoot Fell. It is easy to imagine how this ridge continues across to the Isle of Man as these lesser hills bear resemblance to the Snaefell range. As with most of the central fells, this area mostly comprises sedimentary slates of sandstone, grits and mudstones, as does Snaefell.

The Loweswater Fells

We followed the lake footpath to the west of the lake, through Holme Wood and up to Hudson Place, which looks like a farm building and which had its own coat of arms dating to 1741 according to the plaque above the front door. Research shows that it was granted to John Wilkinson in 1910. It is a grade 2 listed building and was a yeoman’s farmhouse.

Hudson Place – courtesy of geograph.org.uk

The path then veers to the left and around the lower northerly edge of Burnbank Fell before climbing and contouring south, reaching the grand height of approximately 300 metres as we passed over the stream. From here, we followed a wall beside the top of the wood, spotting a small anonymous tarn in the distance, which I was not able to capture on film and which we named High Nook Tarn. As we descended we retraced our steps back to the Kirkstile Inn, where we imbibed the traditional Loweswater Gold as people have been doing since Tudor times, though perhaps a different form of liquor in those days, while we awaited our transport.

The Loweswater Fells above, and looking towards Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike below. Photo 3 Grasmoor to the right and Whiteside to the left. The bottom photo shows Melbreak above Crummockwater.

Distance: 7 miles: Ascent 1100 ft.

We then went back to collect the other parties and had a most amusing journey as the bus driver complained endlessly about the lack of driving skills of the tourists on these very narrow roads, and the slow journey enabled me to get this final photo of Melbreak to the right and the Saddle to the left with Scale Force in the dip as the sun began to set.

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My final day in the Lakes (13th October] was spent in the Keswick area – in the pouring rain and soggy fields of the river valley. Here are my last photos to say goodbye to the Lakes for now.

Easedale Tarn – 11th 0ctober 2019

Today, I went on an adventure. I walked into Keswick and caught the 555 bus to Grasmere. I wandered aimlessly through Grasmere looking for the tourist information only to discover there wasn’t one! Then I took a path that leads around the northern edge of Grasmere to Allan Bank, a NT house, walking through the meadows to join the Easedale Road that unsurprisingly will take me to Easedale Tarn or Helm Crag, if only I could decide which I wanted to do.

I found myself turning naturally off the road into the fields beside the river and the decision was made. In the distance you can see a waterfall that lures you on. The views of the range to the south of Hellvelyn are spectacular and softer than the craggy nature of the rocks immediately in front of me, mostly due to the effect of the flows of water from glaciers over 11000 years ago as they are all comprised of the same type of rock. Helm Crag (photo 2) is a favourite with many, but it would be too far to include this on my journey today.

The Easedale path following Sourmilk Ghyll is very straightforward and has clearly been upgraded over the years. Having said that, it is not a fast walk. On the lower reaches over marshy land slates have been laid out in a vertical fashion so that you have to watch where you put your feet.

As you begin your ascent the path changes to stone steps made to look like a natural hillside path. In other places, higher up, stones have been strategically and well positioned to enable walkers to make their way through the deeper boggier areas and these are very effective. Just don’t expect to rush up as if it is a stone and soil path, even on the flat. There is one bonus to having to watch every step – you become aware of all the fossils hidden in the stones, which implies these particular rocks were shipped in from other areas of the Lake District as this area all falls within the volcanic granite, lava and ashes. The Windermere area contains slate, sandstones and siltstones, and that is only a stone’s throw away, and the Penrith rocks are limestone.

The waterfall looked magnificent, cutting its way through the craggy rocks. We have had so much rain this autumn that even the smaller waterfalls look and sound happy. The colours of the bracken against the slate rocks was striking too.

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As you look up towards the first waterfall you could be forgiven for expecting the water to be flowing directly from Easedale Tarn, but instead you reach a plateau of small glacial humps, up to the next lesser waterfall. This viewpoint affords and extensive view of the valley.

They view between the waterfalls

A few steps more and you arrive at the stepping stones at the easterly edge of the tarn, allowing one to do a circular route and return to Grasmere via a different route – but not today. The stones were covered in a foot of water that was rushing out of the tarn and even the foolhardy did not succeed to cross. Instead, it is possible to walk around the tarn to return to this very point in the other side, so on I went. It should be easier to cross the minor tributaries flowing into the tarn in the westerly side. Or so I thought, but sadly I could not find a suitable crossing point. It was quite blustery so I reached the foot of Eagle crag where the streams from Codale Tarn filter into the tarn and had my lunch out of the wind. Slightly to the north is the pinnacle of Belles Knott, keeping guard over the tarn.

The crags on the northerly edge of the tarn as seen in the first photo above and the seconds below are Tarn Crag (the steep headwall of the former glacier), Greathead Crag, Stenners Crag, and immediately above the stepping stones, Cockley Crag. Tarn Crag of volcanic lapilli-tuff and volcaniclasic sandstones would have been the top end of the glacier, and the terrain around the stepping stones are hummocky moraine. If you are walking up there, you might see some mounds of craggy rocks on the one side and a smooth surface on the other. These are known as ‘Roche’s Moutonnée’. Every now and again you come across erratics left by the glaciers as in the photo below:

The tarn itself is a result of a small corrie glacier. It is 480 metres (1570 ft) long, 300 metres (980 ft wide) and 280 metres (910 ft) above sea level.

Returning to the valley the light became softer and the river became gentler and I returned to another kind of world.

I finished the day with a bus trip using my explorer ticket, doing a round trip from Keswick to Buttermere via the Honister Pass.

Distance: 6.39 miles; Ascent: 892 ft.

Lattrigg – 9th October 2019

This varied walk starts at Portinscale, where I couldn’t help but notice the number of different species of bird in the grounds of our accommodation, including a tree creeper. It was one of those days when the weather sets out to play with you, so that you never quite know when to put on your raincoat or whether you will have time to get it out of your rucksack before the next brief but very soaking shower.

Undaunted, I set out through the outskirts of Keswick, crossing the B5289 to the village of Crosthwaite, which is quite unceremoniously marked on the map. The church stands on a mini roundabout going nowhere, with large trees in the centre, giving the impression it belongs to a time long past. The church has a very long history, dating back to the 6th century, although none of the early church remains. It was founded in 553 AD by St. Kentigern. The foundations of the 12th century church are still visible – why is it that most old churches have remnants from the 11th/12th century? Perhaps the very early churches were made of wood that decays and the later churches used stone?

The poet Robert Southey is buried in the churchyard and there is a memorial to him inside the church with an inscription with words of Wordsworth – only just realised how apt his name is! Another famous man buried here is the Reverend Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the co-founders of the National Trust.

Crossing the main A66, I continued through wet fields to Applethwaite (meaning ‘clearing in a forest with apples’, a very attractive village of just a few houses. I was very surprised to see some stocks here. There is also a former mill.

The walk over the meadows provided excellent views of the Skiddaw range. I then followed minor roads which were relatively busy for the size of the road as it takes you to the main car park where people commence their amble to the top of Skiddaw, not on my plan for today.

On the map it is easy to miss the amount if ascent on this road as it circumvents the lower reaches of Skiddaw with it bronze ferns and grasses. By contrast, on the other side of the road were managed green fields and a steep wooded gully, every now and then broken by tiny rivulets insisting on joining the main stream. The steepest section covered a distance of about 1/3 mile (1/2 km) with a climb of 328 ft (100 metres), the steepest section being just before the car park. I must admit I huffed and puffed up that bit, but then I am full of cold/flu so perhaps that’s not surprising.

I turned to the right, where the path initially sets off downhill, but then there is soon an escape route that takes you to the top of Lattrigg at 368 metres. My goodness, it was windy on that exposed hill. Someone has thoughtfully placed a bench for people to linger and enjoy the distant views through the lesser mountains to Scafell, I thought I caught a glimpse of it at one point but with the fickle weather it was difficult to tell.

I followed the same path down a little way then took a green, steep and slightly slippery path towards Gale Forest where this path met the Cumbria Way all the way through the forest. Once at the bottom, it is a simply walk over a footbridge into Keswick. I finished my walk at the Pencil Museum cafe, and then made my final 1.5 mile walk back to Portinscale, but as this is the same as yesterday’s walk I have not included a description of that.

I finish with my favourite photo of the day:

Distance: 7.1 miles to Keswick, 8.5 miles to Portinscale. Ascent 1131 ft to Keswick.

No walking today, so no post tomorrow.

Walk around Derwentwater – 8th October 2019

This was the first walking day of my HF holiday at Keswick. I had opted to walk on my own today, still feeling rough after my flu jab on Thursday and surviving on little sleep for several days. The HF house is situated at Portinscale in the edge of the lake.

I started out at 9.30am and followed the forest tracks on the westerly side of the Lake, avoiding Nichol End. I reached the grounds of Lingholm and as it advertised a cafe my curiosity got the better of me. However, after going down various dead end footpaths albeit enjoying views of its associated mansion and cottages I had to retrace most of my steps to regain the official footpath, where I encountered alpacas in a field, two of which were chasing each other around the field at full speed, watched in amazement by all the other alpacas.

As I reached an area called the Park, I had first sight of Crag Hill and Causey Pike. I was minded of a former holiday I had when my eldest son, now in his forties, was a teenager and brought his bike up to the Lakes, cycling down Causey Pike.

I reached the junction where one can climb up Cat Bells, follow the terrace route, or take the lake path. As this was intended to be a gentle walk I ventured for the lake path.

As I entered Brandlehow Park I obtained my first glimpse of the lake through the trees. All around the lake the little beaches are called ‘bays’, with Great Bay being the most southerly of them all. All the bays provided wonderful views in all directions. Here is a selection of the best:

At this point there is an option of footpaths, either to follow the Cumbria Way to Grange, or walk across the boarded marshland to cross to the other side of the lake at Lodore. If walking around the lake there is little to commend the former route. The marshland at this southern edge appears to have grown since I was here 16 years ago. A local told me that there is a New Zealand weed taking over around Great Bay. As I crossed the bridge, some geese were fording the river downstream and a rainbow offered treasure in Keswick.

The Lodore Falls are worth a visit, and if you are looking for accommodation in this area the Lodore Falls Hotel is beautiful. In order to reach the falls, you need to walk in a northerly direction to where there is a bend in the road to the left, and the path starts here on the right hand side. I didn’t climb all the way to the top as this wasn’t really on my itinerary. I followed the lake path (which at times would be impenetrable when the waters are high given the proximity to the water) up to and around Calfclose Bay where a lady was desperately trying to hang on to her paintings which the wind was trying to tear away from her. At The Ings the lake path was closed so I had to walk up to the Borrowdale Road and follow that into Keswick.

My lunchstop at the landing stage:

Keswick itself was slightly disappointing, though I may have caught it on a bad day. It seemed unusually scruffy. I called in the Tourist Information to get a map and postcards, then walked through the town to the river and the shortcut back to Portinscale.

The walk ended as it had begun with wildlife, this time sheep being herded into a pen.

Distance (with detours): 10.88 miles. Ascent: 892 feet