Archive for October 2011

More Far Eastern Fells Wildcamping

Posted by on October 15th 2011 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Testing for review, Wildcamping

After the Friday drag up the M6 and the traditional fill-up at the Ings Little Chef we nabbed a roadside car-parking space at Church Bridge, Troutbeck. Having changed into our scruffs we hoisted our packs and set off past the church and along field-paths past High Green and Town Head, using Ing Lane to access the fells via Hagg Gill.


Church Bridge church.

On the field-path heading towards High Green.

Ing Lane with the lowering Sun lighting up the tops of the Ill Bell Ridge.

As before.

The view from Ing Bridge.

The white sheep of the family.

Looking back down the Troutbeck Valley from Hall Hill.

We had intended to nip up to the top of Troutbeck Tongue and to walk off the ridge northwards to find a suitable pitch near the sheepfold. Unfortunately we were losing the light and Chris wanted to get settled for the night, so we continued up along Hagg Gill and found a nice place to set up camp. While setting up we noticed that we weren't alone - there was a small tent set up a bit further up the Gill, so I went off to ask if the owner minded if we set up where we had chosen. The owner was Linda, she said that she didn't mind where we pitched and we had a fine chat about fellwalking and other stuff. After a while I returned to finish setting up camp while Chris went off for a chinwag with Linda.

After dark we stood outside watching the sky before turning in for some sleep - although there were a few small clouds about, there were prolonged clear spells during which the stars were amazingly bright. We could see fantastic detail in the Milky Way, much better than we can see at home in the light-polluted Midlands.

The night was quiet and uneventful but the first light of dawn was heralded by the echoing roars of rutting deer - we couldn't see them but we were fairly certain that the commotion was coming from high on the slopes of Ill Bell, directly East of us.

After breakfast we headed off packless to bag Troutbeck Tongue before sun-up.

Looking towards Threshthwaite Mouth from the low ridge along Troutbeck Tongue.
Mouseover the pic if you want to see where our highly-conspicuous bright orange landscape-defiling tent was pitched.

Some way along the ridge Nature called so we ducked away from the track for some privacy. Attending to one of the most basic human needs, Muggins here made a stupid mistake that was to cause intense pain for quite a while, and ongoing stinging and regret for the rest of the day - I decided that, in the interests of good hygiene, it would be a good idea to use the water-free hand-cleaning gel on my arse. Trouble was, it wasn't the alcohol-free sort that I usually carry, it was the heavy-duty solvent-laced stuff that I use at work. Of course, by the time I found out, it was too late - by then I was jumping around the fellside like a madman, trousers and kegs around ankles, shouting expletives that echoed around the hills and imploring the powers above to make the burning stop! I don't know if Linda heard the commotion, but if she did I've no idea what she would have thought was going on.

Eventually I could walk again (albeit like John Wayne) and we reached the top after a few more minutes:

Chris on Troutbeck Tongue, mist in the valleys.

At the the top of Troutbeck Tongue, Chris was still giggling at the hand-gel incident.

We strolled back down to the tent to start packing up. Linda was up and about, she struck her camp and was away up Scot Rake well before we set out.

Lone tree on the slopes back down to the tent.

Striking camp next to Hagg Gill.
A bit further up is Linda at her pitch.

Nearing the top of the harder-work-than-expected Scot Rake we paused for a snack-break where there was a fine view of Froswick.

Froswick from the Scot Rake path.

Although we would be going that way later, we were going to Thornthwaite Crag first. As the weather improved the crowds grew - at one point I counted 56 people around the summit. We settled behind a wall a short distance from the crowds and had our main meals.

Buff-adjustment, Thornthwaite Crag

The Sun lighting up the beacon atop Thornthwaite Crag.

A busy place.

Easy slopes heading towards High Street (L) and Mardale Ill Bell (R).

Suitably fed and watered, we set off along the Ill Bell Ridge in increasingly-good weather.

The Kentmere Valley, Froswick and Ill Bell.


Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke.

Muggins atop Froswick, with Thornthwaite Crag in the background.

Ill Bell from Froswick.

A closer look at the path up Ill Bell.

Ill Bell's North Cairn.

Ill Bell's Main and South Cairns.

Having a breather at the Main Cairn.

The Main Cairn.

From Ill Bell we could see one of the options for our next tent pitch - the tarn on Rainsborrow Crag, the western spur of Yoke.

Rainsborrow Crag and Yoke.
Mouseover the pic if you want to see the location of the tarn.

At Yoke's summit-cairn we paused for a while to consider our options. We could carry on down the ridge to the Garburn Road, reach the car by twilight, find a mild-camping site and walk more fells in the morning, or we could pitch early at Rainsborrow Tarn, have a leisurely evening and, if the night was clear, maybe see the Aurora Borealis that was tentatively forecast to be on show in the small hours. We took the lazy option and headed for the Tarn.

Chris heading towards Rainsborrow Tarn.

The tarn is a jewel in the hills - surrounded on three sides by long steep drops, it sits in a rut almost at the end of Rainsborrow Crag. The views from there are immense and there's a real feel of wilderness about the place. Needless to say, we saw nobody else there - it was our own little bit of Lakeland. After pitching I went walkabouts with the camera:

Looking southwards.


Looking north towards Harter Fell.

Looking east towards Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts.

From Ill Bell to Shipman Knotts, with a view of Kentmere Reservoir.

After a leisurely evening meal we sat up waiting for the sky to put on a display but late on it clouded over and started drizzling. Even so, it was warm and calm, and we slept well.

On Sunday I woke just before dawn and ventured outside. The drizzle had stopped and the valleys were full of clouds being driven up and over the ridges and cols by the light breeze. It was utterly silent for an hour or so while I sat there watching in wonder and taking pics that don't do the scenes any justice whatsoever. It's times like that when I pity the folk at home in their beds:

Ill Bell, Mardale Ill Bell and the Nan Bield Pass wreathed in cloud.

Cloud being driven up and over the eastern arm of the Kentmere Round.

Breakfasted, we shook the dew from the tent and packed it away with the rest of our kit. After trudging back up the damp grassy slope to reach Yoke's cairn again we were overheating in the still, warm air so we stopped for a breather:

The summit of Yoke, with Ill Bell in the background.

A few pics later we headed down the newly-repaired path that leads to the Garburn Road. From there it was an easy downhill stroll all the way back to the car, followed by retail therapy at Windermere's Lakeland shop, another Little Chef at Ings and a manic drive back down the M6 and A5.

Looking back towards Yoke from the gate at Garburn Nook.



Distance: 13.9 miles
Total ascent/descent: 3879 ft
Wainwright tops reached: Troutbeck Tongue (1191 ft), Thornthwaite Crag (2569 ft), Froswick (2359 ft), Ill Bell (2476 ft), Yoke (2309 ft) twice. Those in bold were first-ascents for me.
Number of Wainwrights still to do: 12

Yes, I know that this was a walk that many folk would easily do in a day, but I'm happy that we took our time about it. I'll never forget the overnight at Rainsborrow Tarn, it's a place that few one-dayers bother to visit and I'd have regretted omitting it during a walk against the clock. Indeed, it was Wainwright himself that said "Time is intended to be spent, not saved".

Regarding gear taken for test-and-review... I took two items supplied by Adam Smith representing Go Outdoors. While the Lifeventure Downlight 900 sleeping bag didn't have to contend with low temperatures, the mild nights meant that it had to put up with a fair degree of condensation and sweat. I'm happy to report that it fared well, at no point did it feel clammy or damp. As for the windproof, I still maintain that the mere act of carrying that Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket is enough to deter inclement weather! I'm sorry, Adam, yet again I took it and never got the opportunity to wear it!

Sherwood Forest YHA – 11th September 2011

Posted by on October 12th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, YHA

Sunday morning was a little overcast with the threat of rain. We were soon breakfasted and the cars were loaded up with our luggage. The venue for the day was to be Rufford Abbey Country Park, just a few miles to the south-east. We'd heard that it was a peaceful place with well-kept grounds, a fine lakeside walk and some indoors stuff for when the weather turned bad.

We paid our three-quid car-parking fee, parked up and made our way towards the Abbey. We noted a few odd vehicles being driven around. Folk were wearing khaki, bowlers, hairnets and seamed-stockings (but not all at the same time, obviously!) - it was as if we'd driven through a rift in time and had emerged in the 40s. We'd turned up during their "On the Home Front" Living History weekend. There were period cars, mock-battles, field-gun firings, tank-engines blasting away, 40s dancing and live singing, Winston Churchill lookalikes and much more besides. And then there were the grounds and the lakeside to explore. More photo opportunities!


Leyland Titan Water Tender


Morris Quad 4x4 tractor


Not-so-lightweight camping


A fine tree in the grounds


1936 Rolls-Royce 25/30hp Saloon with a Park Ward swept-back body


As previous




Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine (developed from the Spitfire's Merlin III) at full throttle




Rufford Lake







Rufford Lake dam and overflow


The Watermill, Rufford Lake




You'll have noticed that the weather got better, not worse. Instead of having to dress for howling winds, we were in T-shirts for the whole day. I tell you, the act of carrying that windproof jacket is enough to deter inclement weather.

After leaving Rufford we called in for some minor retail therapy at Decathlon before getting home. Oddly for me, I didn't buy any more outdoors gear (but I did have to tear myself away from the Forclaz 400 fleece hoodies).

Sherwood Forest YHA – 10th September 2011

Posted by on October 11th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, YHA

As we were travelling to Sherwood Forest YHA on the Friday afternoon we were expecting the weekend to be grim - 80mph winds were forecast for the next few days, courtesy of the tail-end of Hurricane Katia. Not the best of conditions for woodland walking, but ideal for finding the limits of the Montane Lite-Speed H2O windproof jacket that was supplied by Adam Smith. Well... nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.


Sherwood Forest YHA


After getting sorted at the hostel we went out into the calm warm late afternoon and walked into Edwinstowe in search of bar-meals. Enquiries at pubs drew blanks, but we were directed to Dukeries Lodge on the High Street. Their restaurant room was booked for a celebration but they made up a table for us near the bar and gave us great service. The food was excellent, a cut above our usual standard of fare, the servings were huge but the prices low. Result!

We strolled back to the hostel wondering where the bad weather was.

Next morning we were up bright and early for the mandatory YHA breakfast, and after that we kitted up for a walk around the local woodlands and headed off for the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre.


On the way to the Visitor Centre


On arrival a guide-map was purchased for a nominal fee. On the back was a 10% discount voucher for meals at Dukeries Lodge, so that was the evening vittles sorted. Serendipity or what?

Anyway, there was plenty of "Robin Hood stuff" going on all around. He was in the tress, on posters, inside key-rings, in a movie and even in the toilets. He's going a bit grey in his old age, though:


Robin Hood


There was a good choice of well-graded paths through the woods so we concocted a DIY circuit that would tax the kids a bit and eventually bring us to the Major Oak. As you'd expect, there was plenty of interesting stuff to point the camera at:


Confused bracket fungus on a fallen trunk


One of many old oak trees


A mushroomy thing


Fallen wood #1


Fallen wood #2




The stragglers sent up front


To the adults it was a Chestnut, to the kids it was a baby hedgehog. It had to be cared for, mainly by feeding it biscuits:


The Woodlanders


Red Admiral


Some of the enclosures were set aside for grazing. In one there were many of these beasts, I got fairly close but legged it when the leader started to scrape the ground and got set for a charge:


Close enough


Too close!!!


Back on the path all was sweetness and light...




until I was brutally attacked by a stick. I was walking a pace or two behind Chris when she stepped on the end of a fallen branch. The other end was levered into the air just in time and at just the right height for me to walk straight into it, thus spearing my knackers with some force. There was much swearing while I crouched doubled-over at the side of the path. Anna laughed but the younger kids were curious as to what I was doing, luckily they were satisfied with the honest explanation that I was "checking for nuts". As far as I know, there are no photos of this event or of the aftermath.


Storm damage


A spot of easy tree-climbing


The Face Tree


The Knobbly Tree


At last we arrived at the Major Oak and sat at the picnic-tables while scoffing our packed lunch. The kids had a go at archery, the adults declined (I was in no fit state to be toting a 50lb-pull bow):


The Major Oak


Anna on the pull


The trunk of the Major Oak


Note the wide stance and the pained expression


Back at the Visitor Centre I got my revenge on Anna:


Gotta get me one of these for home!


After that we spent a while at the kids' playground and then made our way back to the hostel. Despite the forecast it had been a dry, warm and calm day.

Washed and changed, we went off to Dukeries Lodge again for another fine meal. While we were there the heavens opened and a storm hit, the roads were more like streams and the drains didn't cope. I was hoping that it would last until I could get the Montane jacket wet but by the time we'd finished desserts the storm had passed on and all was warm and calm again. The jacket would have to wait another day - the forecast for Sunday was for some badass weather.

Back at the hostel we stayed up to watch yet another Last Night of The Proms bereft of Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs. Barstewards!


To be continued...


Posted by on October 6th 2011 in Great Escapes

I'm so far behind with this blogging malarkey that I now have TWO weekend-away reports that are yet to be published, along with some info concerning items that I have been using for review.

First up was a fine weekend of hostelling in Sherwood Forest (9th - 11th September), and then there was last weekend's excellent Lake District wildcamping trip with Chris.

It may sound a bit tame now, but be warned that there will be some odd bits in those reports, as each trip included at least one instance of somewhat embarrassing accidental self-mutilation (much to the unsympathetic amusement of my companions).

I'll give you a few clues: