Banishead Quarry and Coniston Water

1st January 2017. A new year stretched out before us unwritten. David and I decided to start our 2017 adventures in earnest. While many nursed their heads after the previous nights joviality, we headed up an empty M6 towards Cumbria, the Lake District. Our first destination, Banishead Quarry north of Torver.

map-3We parked the car at Torver Village Hall, where they asked for a £3 donation. There was free parking further along the road, but as the day progressed they became very busy.

From the village hall we turned right onto the A593 and walked towards Crook Corner, and took the left-hand path that lead to Scar Head Caravans and Campsite. From there we followed signs to Tranearth before taking the right-hand path onto the Coniston Fells with the Old Man ahead.

 

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The Old Man of Coniston

Banishead Quarry wasn’t hard to miss. A rocky path wound between huge peaks of spoil heaps.

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Banishead Quarry

The gem of this disused quarry is a flooded excavation site, featuring its very own waterfall.

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Banishead Waterfall

We could have carried on towards the Old Man, or indeed took a path from Torver towards Coniston lakeside but we decided to retrace our steps back to the car and head towards the car park at Coniston Boat Centre.

torver to coniston water.jpgIt was a perfect winters day, save for the bone chilling wind and the bright sunlight that seared the backs of our retinas.

After lunch we walked away from the car park, through a collection of shops (among them, one was an outdoor shop and another sold fudge), then through a kissing gate to a path that meandered towards Coniston Waterpassing Coniston Hall and another campsite.

The path was popular with dog walkers and families with pushchairs alike. We spent a leisurely three hours walking to the shoreline and back.

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Coniston Water

Have you visited Coniston? Any memories of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Aira Force and Ullswater

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Ullswater

Before journeying home, I planned to stay a little bit longer in the Lake District. Even though the day dawned grey and showery, we stuck with the itinerary and headed towards Aira Force and Ullswater. Neither we had visited before, so we were in new charted territory!

We parked the car at High Cascades car park. I thought it was reasonably priced for the day at £6.50, other car parks in the area charged a lot more!

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Aira Falls

The path took us along well designed paths that lead towards the viewing platform and steps to Aira Force. The whole area felt like a Victorian park, and after some online research I found that the area was indeed landscaped, though earlier than expected, by the Howard family in the 1780’s.

The woodland walk was pleasant and the area seemed very popular with other tourists.

We spent a good hour walking the meandering paths, following bubbling streams and watching fast flowing rapids.

Above the shade of trees the clouds broke and an unseasonably hot sun glared down.

After visiting Aira Force, a walk along the Gowbarrow trail was planned. We took the route anti clockwise. I don’t know whether this was a good thing or not, though come our descent we were faced with very steep steps, so going up would have been a struggle!

We walked a narrow path, with wonderful views of Ullswater below. The destination for lunch was the Memorial Seat and cairn.

After a well earned rest, where we were either too hot or too cold, we continued on an exhausting two hour hike around Gowbarrow. At 481m it was 100m taller than Walla Crag, and boy did it feel it! We kept walking and walking. The map I had didn’t correlate to anything in front of us. There were times when I thought we were lost, and then the weather turned and the cloud came rolling in!

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Gowbarrow Summit

However we managed to find the summit of Gowbarrow and though we stumbled on our descent, we could see the car park and David’s shiny red car awaiting us in the distance. It was a welcome sight!

I have never felt so utterly spent after a walk as I did after Gowbarrow. Perhaps is was due to the fact that I hadn’t rested after a hectic day around Derwentwater, the day before. Whatever it was, when we found free parking alongside a grey Ullswater, I was in two minds as to whether to embark on my final swim or leave the total for 2016 at 9! All along the walk to Gowbarrow I had been imagining the swim in Ullswater. I felt apprehensive. The swims in Bassenthwaite and Loweswater had made me worry about how cold the water would be and would I enjoy the experience. I know I hadn’t enjoyed Loweswater!

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Ullswater

Though my mind debated and my body felt tired, I knew in my heart that if I didn’t take a dip in Ullswater, (a new lake to add to the tally), then I would feel I had cheated myself. I had come this far, a few minutes of discomfort would be worth the exhilaration afterwards! So David and I headed towards the shore. The choice of entrance was not the greatest. I had intended on swimming from Glencoyne Bay but we had parked a little further up the road and the entrance was rocky and very shallow. It took me a while to waddle into water deep enough for me to submerge my body.

Though the water was cold, it did not feel as icy as Derwentwater. Indeed after a few strokes I felt warm. I began to enjoy myself. I took Wilson (waterproof camera) with me and snapped a few shots. I was later astonished to find that I had shared my swim with hundreds of little fish. I had not felt them swimming through my fingers like I had at Easedale.

What happened next was due to my own laziness at not wanting to stumble across bricks and rocks to hand Wilson back to David on shore. I have discovered that I can’t breaststroke while holding the camera, so I placed Wilson on a stone that protruded above the water. The water was relatively calm, so I left Wilson while I continued to swim back and forth along the shore. On the other side of the lake a ferry chugged along.

Before I knew it, David was shouting ‘wave,’ in alarm and I was buffeted by a huge swell churned up from the ferry. I watched in horror as Wilson was knocked off his rock and I kicked stones and bruised my legs scrambling towards shore to find him. David directed me as to which direction he thought Wilson had been swept in. I waded in panic, shivering in the cold. I was about to give up when I saw Wilson bobbing in the shallows. I was so relieved. I did not want to lose my new camera. It was a lesson well learned!

The event had upset me almost to tears. Cold to the bone, I cut short my swim and returned, mightily relieved to the shore. David and I were thankful I had not lost my new camera. David joked that it reminded him of the film Castaway, hence the name Wilson.

Up until the incident, I had been enjoying my swim in Ullswater. It makes me determined to return in the future. I will just have to find a way of fixing Wilson to my body so I can swim unhindered.

I hope you have enjoyed my short, but full excursion to the Lake District? Have you been to Aira Force, walked Gowbarrow or around Ullswater? Let me know what lakes/walks you think I should visit next.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild October – Week Four + Three Days!

20161022_075401-2It’s the finale of my Wild October!

Though the weather did not play ball towards the end of the week, I packed as much autumn into the days as I could! This dramatic sunrise was a precursor to what was planned!

Phew, what a week it’s been!

Since our membership for Chester Zoo ran out on the 29th of this month, David and I headed back to say farewell to the red pandas! I snapped the colours of autumn as we took the lazyboat ride in Islands and even some painted dogs got in on the action!

This week the garden was visited by this gorgeous looking robin. Also while walking to get the bus to work, I captured some lovely autumnal sunlight through the trees.

Thursday and Friday was our much awaited short break to the Lake District! For months I have been dreaming and planning two jam packed days! Thursday dawned oppressive and overcast yet we made the most of the day and visited Grizedale Forest.

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Friday turned out to be a perfect day! We took in a white dawn at the shores of Derwentwater and later on the sun put in a show bringing all the autumnal colours to life!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oIn the evening we headed towards Loweswater in the hope of chatching a sunset and ended up playing with more leaves!

There will be subsequent blog posts with more detailed information and pictures re: the lakes holiday coming soon!

Our last day in the lakes was spent around Aira Force and Ullswater!

Rather aptly, I have an autumn birthday, clebrated on the 30th. This year I turned 40! (I still don’t know whether I am happy about that fact or not!) I shared the day with all the people I hold dear in this world, and celebrated by making a video, screaming and splashing about in Derwentwater (as you do)!

Diwali, the Hindu ‘festival of light’, this year was also on the 30th, so I lit a candle or two in honour of the festival.

And finally, the 31st October, renowned throughout the western world as being All Hallows Eve, or Halloween! It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.

I celebrated it by dressing up as the devil!

So, that was my Wild October. How did you celebrate yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Amongst the Ferns!

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After all the upheaval last week, with working on the house. It was nice to have the chance to get away from it all, even if it was for only a few hours.

We got up at 5am. (It seems customary now that if we go walking we head out early). I noticed that the sun hadn’t risen, already the shorter days are on their way! It took us two hours driving on the M6 to get to Grasmere in the Lake District. We planned to walk from Stock Lane car park to Easedale Tarn. The sun was out, yet there was a crisp chill in the air. There was little sign of the warmer weather the Met Office had reported, although it did warm up a little as the day progressed.

The walk to the tarn took just over an hour. Pretty good going, what with my stumpy legs and a well defined but rocky path. The gradient took us up past the beautiful though unfortunately named Sourmilk Ghyll. We stopped off at the waterfall and I pondered whether to take a dip in the plunge pool, though the force of the waterfall seemed fierce. I decided against it and we carried on towards Easedale Tarn.

There were already a number of people at the tarn when we arrived. A group had set up tents on a headland, and looked like they had camped the night, while others were stripping off wet-suits. We walked around the tarn looking for a good entry point. We walked a further hour slipping into mud, (well I was), dodging marshy moss and fighting through Jurassic ferns. At one stage I was ready to give up but David said we should push on. His doggedness paid off and we found ourselves on the other side of the tarn on a shingle beach where a lone sheep looked bewildered by our presence.

By this time a bank of thick cloud had drifted over the fells, blanketing any of the suns warmth. David sat wrapped up in his waterproof shaking his head. ‘You’re crazy!’ he remarked as I folded up my clothes. I stood in my swimsuit at the edge of the tarn. The water to the touch was cold. When I submerged my body, it was the coldest I had swam in! I knew being a tarn, Easedale would be colder than the lakes I had already dipped in, but I was not prepared for how cold. I gasped as I made my first strokes but I soon grew accustomed.

I swam back and forth along the lake-side for about 10 minutes. I felt the cold more as time progressed and what felt like fronds catching at my fingers. ‘It’s starting to rain,’ David said as concentric rings appeared on the water. However it didn’t rain, we realised then that I was not alone in the water! There were little silver fish swimming about. That was what I had felt touching my fingers!!

I got out of the water and shivered while I ate my packed lunch and drank a hot coffee. I only became warm once we headed back along the track to Grasmere and the sun decided to pop out from the clouds.

All in all, we were out walking, swimming, slipping and sliding for around five hours. The car park which has a recognition number-plate camera cost us only £5.80 for that period. I felt enlivened from my dip and the country air. We passed Rydal Water on our journey which looks a lovely lake. Perhaps before the summer’s out I can bag another swim?

Where do you think I should swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

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Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

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Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

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Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

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Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

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While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

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Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x