Lake District, September 2011

A bumper collection of trip reports from a wet and windy Lake District…..

The not so secret diary of Kim Warren aged 34 and ¾- extracts from the HRFC lakes trip 2011…additional report from Dick follows!

10th September 2011

…. we reach Gillshead farm site before dark and despite motoring through driving rain and wind so familiar in these parts the weather has cleared here in the northern lakes at the foot of beautiful Blencathra and its infamous Sharp Edge scramble. We call in at the reception and inform the chap that we would like to book in for six nights; he expresses a mixture of pleasure and surprise. He offers us to go in the in the tourer’s field as its more sheltered and they are expecting ‘high winds’…oh goodie it seems to be the theme of this years camping, what with the Gower peninsula throwing the best of it’s extreme weather at us back in June. The field is saturated and soggy so at least the sleeping conditions will be soft, downside potential Glastonbury-esk mudbath by the end of the week. We actually get the tent up in record speed and have time to wonder around the site in the rapidly advancing dusk before heating up the pre prepared meal that has safely negotiated the 7 hour journey up here. There is an added luxury of an undercover dining area complete with microwave and kettle, whoop whoop, its amazing how we can become excited by this kind of thing when we breakaway from our generous, luxurious lifestyles. Anyhow it’s been a long day so we opt out of going clubbing in Keswick and snuggle down for hopefully a decent nights rest.

11th September 2011

Its raining and the wind is picking up, apparently Monday will see the worst of the gales, with the remnants of hurricane Katia dropping by, fantastic I love extreme weather events whilst camping they allow camping holidays to become an endurance test much more fun, echoes of my mothers words from childhood on rainy family holiday walks ‘it’s all very character building’. The question is do I want my character to be built in this way, surely a luxury spa break in St Tropez would be equally as effective, naaa come on girl your not from that particular stable you’re a rugged, rufty tufty outdoor type, with all three colours of the Duke of Edinburgh award under your belt, embrace the elements!

Nick suggests a drive to Keswick and if the weather improves (ever the optimist is our Nick) a walk up Catbells, Wainwright’s favourite because of the views. Approaching Keswick the visibility is somewhat poor in view of the lashing rain. Catbells is obviously out on account of the fact that the point of summiting, are to witness and enjoy the unremittingly beautiful vistas. The weather is in fact so bad that Nick is willing to visit the pencil museum, an experience he against all expectations, finds of stimulating and of pleasurable interest. The shop provides the opportunity to buy pencils galore, so we do; it’s good to have a wet weather activity waiting in the wings for later on in the week. Incidentally the Cumberland Pencil Museum features in a book I have titled Bollocks to Alton Towers, uncommonly British days out; the final sentence in their entry sums it up beautifully, “ The Cumberland Pencil Museum is a member of that fantastic breed of attractions that somehow manages to hold the attention by riffling over and over the same narrow theme, until you just give up with a grin. All hail to the pencil sturdy workhorse of art and design. Come on you’ve always wanted to know how one works.”

We spend more time buying ‘stuff’ in Keswick before deciding to head for the coast in search of better weather. We revisit St Bees to reminisce over the coast-to-coast walk we completed a few years back. The sea is stuffed full of white horses and the surrounding landscape looks wild and uncontainable. Some folk are engaging in some extreme kite flying, the extremeness brought on by near gale force winds, remaining on the ground while the kite tugged violently and ferociously at the strings was near on impossible. Before heading off again we bag a geocache that’s situated along the coastline up on the cliff top, it’s a blustery exhilarating walk and its not raining.

Back at the campsite Simon and Lisa have arrived, they erect their tepee in what seems like seconds, next follow the sumptuous reindeer skins for the floor and bedding then the central woodburner, okay I made that last bit up, but I still think it’s something they should aim for it they are going to embrace what the tepee lifestyle has to offer with real conviction. We are kind to them and share our tea (yes I did gain my Brownie hostess badge, evidently a sign of how my character was going to develop in later years). After tea we scarper to the local Troutbeck Inn, which does not exude a friendly welcome, the Polish barmaid has no such bonhomie about her.

12th September

As hurricane Katia’s tail is about to arrive we head down to Grizedale forest for a walk. It’s not packed with visitors so we feel like we’ve got the place to ourselves. We opt for the longer trail around the forest 10 miles. We enjoy the wooden sculptures and that fact that it’s not raining. We end up cutting the walk short and heading for what promises to be a tea room on the leaflet map, however when we arrive at said location there is no tea, but some rather large owls in an aviary and a sign on the cottage door saying genius at work, evidently not working on cream teas but some undisclosed secret. Hopes dashed the four weary ramblers (I hate that label but I’m afraid it’s the best word I can use to describe us we were indeed all rambling). Lisa and I plan a Mexican BBQ extravaganza in the car on the way back, so we stop at Keswick to purchase for this. You may think dear reader that this is a strange choice given the extreme weather predictions but we feel we must make use of the campsite facilities which do include an undercover bbq area as described on the website. Arrive back at the campsite the tent is still there but not in good shape, one pole has dislocated and pulled from its pin hooks, inside the table has turned over and the cooker strewn across the floor. Luckily nothing is irretrievably broken and we fix things up before having a shower. As planned we make full use of the undercover bbq area and discuss what people mean when they say ‘you do have eccentric holidays’. The washing up finishes us all off and we retire to bed. Once more the table get pushed over and the front of the tent is ripped up from it’s pegs, it seems Katia is really quite pushy when it comes to visiting our tent. Anyhow we tell her to leave and lie down for an anxious night worrying if she will decide to make advances into our tent once again.

13th September

Phew she’s still around the neighbourhood but hasn’t invaded again, however she has succeeded in making me feel like I’ve been on an all night bender. We all spend a quiet morning in the intermittent heavy showers relaxing and doing our own thing. It’s dodgy still with the rain but Nick and I decide to have a go at Catbells, whilst Lisa and Simon head off to Keswick and the delights of the pencil, museum.

We are fortunate and the weather clears so there are plenty of others also taking advantage of this narrow window of time to revel in the beauty that our Lake District is world famous for. We find a steep path from the road up to the ridge. It’s a good puff up to the summit, the wind suddenly hits as you emerge on to the exposed summit, it’s impossible to stand on the top, and we drop away to the side where it is marginally more sheltered. The views Wainwright promised were indeed of the quality he described, a view down to Derwent water and Keswick, looking serenely idyllic and generally perfect. The sun pulls us to walk further along the ridge towards Maiden moor and High spy. We wonder at how the name of Catbells arose for this particular hill, apparently it is probably a corruption of Cat Bields, a shelter for wild cats. I later read this up in my Wainwright’s favourite Lakeland mountains book. We then drop away from the ridge well before Maiden Moor and picnic in a more sheltered spot, gazing in quiet contemplation at vista before us. The path neatly leads us to the road where we are parked, just before a heavy shower arrives. Pleased that we’ve managed to bag a Wainwright in clear weather we return to the site ready to go with Lisa and Simon to the Rhegedd centre near Penrith where they are showing a film about Mallory’s ascent of Everest. The film enabled us all to gain some perspective on the true meaning of hardship in the great outdoors and it was touching to learn more of the personal life of George Mallory, glimpsing the man who was also a much loved husband and father as well as a great explorer and mountaineer.

We arrive back at the site to meet Ruth and Dick who have set up camp and were busy preparing tea. We defied the weather and had another bbq, early night – the rain has started to fall again….

14th September

Another late start on account of the weather. We planned to do Blencathra but the rain makes us reject the idea. It is Lisa’s birthday today, so hopefully Simon will be taking her out somewhere nice to spoil her. We all decide to go to the Troutbeck for a meal tonight, the rest of the party will be arriving so it’ll be good to have a birthday to celebrate together.

Nick decided he would like to go and ‘look at’ the climbing wall and also the Castlerigg standing stones that happen to be very nearby. The climbing wall looked as you’d expect one to look, as did the circle of standing stones, stones that were standing and in a circle. Sorry dear reader I have great difficulty in summoning up an enthusiastic interest when it comes to standing stones, even with the obligatory information board designed to bring their history alive and in full technicolour to the readers imagination.

I have a suggestion that we grab a few geocaches that are quite local to here. We head down to Matterdale where there are supposed to be a few. It turns out to be a great walk up Great Mell fell, breathtaking views across to the Pennines and the greater Lakeland fells. Manage to bag 2 caches. We then head down to Ullswater and have lunch.

Back at the site Jenny, Kevin and Mike have all arrived, and have picked where to pitch on the now very soggy ground. Lisa has bought cakes to celebrate her birthday so we all have a very civilised afternoon tea. Jenny and Kevin have showed Nick and I up by being more rufty tufty in their attitude by bagging Blencathra today, apparently there was some clear weather.

We all enjoy Lisa’s birthday celebration with a meal at the pub and embarrass her by singing happy birthday but stop short of giving her the bumps.

15th September

Hooray hooray hooray, the sun is shining and he has got his hat on. It’s all systems go, three of us going out in Lisa and Simon’s canoe and the rest are going off to do some climbing. Simon drops Lisa, Ruth and I at a busy mooring post on Derwent Water. We all do our best to look like professional explorers for the benefit of all the Japanese tourists viewing us from the pleasure cruise boats! I initially take the middle seat and let Lisa and Ruth do the paddling. Lisa at the back steering, Ruth at the front. We all soak up the sun and gaze and the beauty around us. The water is as still as a mill pond, and the sky is cloudless blue, Catbells looks soft and welcoming in a coat of every shade of green available on an artists painting palette. The rain and wind seems a distant memory as the sights and sounds of this sun filled day enliven our senses and instil a sense of wellbeing and optimism in each of us. There are a number of different islands on Derwent Water and we come ashore at one of them, for a brew up. It’s all very Swallows and Amazons but with a canoe rather than a sailing boat. There are a group of school children also audible on our island but not visible, we hear shrieks of excitement and the snapping of twigs underfoot as they chase about. I hope that they will remember this day when they grow up, such memories can be important when you have to grow up and start taking responsibility for yourself. We paddle down to the point where we can see the rocks where we think the others are climbing. Indeed Lisa’s walkie-talkie fired up and Simon radios in to say he can see us. We wave in their general direction but I can’t see anything, Lisa seems to have eagle eyes as she says she can see figures on the rock face (Nick – Shepherds Crag). It’s time for another stop and some lunch. First though I have been desperate to have a swim this week and now is the perfect opportunity. I have also persuaded Ruth (well she didn’t really need any encouragement!), we dive into the trees to change into our swimsuits. I am first in and make an incredible fuss as the cold takes my breath away; eventually I get right under and swim a few strokes. Ruth on the other hand descends into the water like a proper lady with not a squeak of protest at the cold. It is indeed refreshing and exhilarating but we don’t last long. Lisa for some mad reason has opted out of the swim and acts as photographer! We let the peace settle around us as we enjoy our picnic lunches. I take Ruth’s place on the return paddle and before we know it we are back at the mooring station. Ruth and I abandon Lisa to guard the canoe to go and bag a cache that is nearby and to buy tea, while we then sit on the lakeside waiting for Simon and Nick to come and retrieve the canoe and us. After about an hour they appear, both buzzing from an excellent day on the rocks. The climbs included Little Chamonix, a popular multi pitch climb with good exposure and hairy moments (Nick – on a wet Ardus VS) to provide that all important adrenalin rush along with a decent tale to tell in the pub afterwards. We stop off for a fortifying pint on the way back to the site; we sit outside enjoying the last vestiges of sunshine. We all reflect on what a great day it has been more than making up for the less than favourable weather earlier in the week.

The weather is forecast to turn wet tomorrow, so Nick, I and Simon and Lisa opt go glamping and rent a pod each for tonight, so we can have our tent down in the dry. The pulling back of the ground sheet reveals a muddy, smelly bog, this makes me even more grateful for not having to sleep there for another night. Once all the gear has been moved to the pod we rustle up tea. Sophie, Darrell and Ben arrive for the coming weekend, then Mike D & then later Steve. We spent the evening sitting around some ready to burn logs in my fire bowl come bbq, this provided us with some extra welcome heat. The night in the pod seems oddly dark and deathly quiet after the noise of flapping canvas all week….ahh what luxury, not very character building though!

16th September

Was it all a dream, no I have the pictures to prove it, the sun was out yesterday but the rain is back today. Nick and I decide to call it day and head off to see his sister in Hebden Bridge. We leave our fellow members to their varied plans for the day, including ascents of Blencathra and Helvellyn. As for the rest of the trip over the weekend dear reader you’ll have to ask someone who was there, but I do believe a good time was had by all.


Thanks to everyone who came on the trip, be it for a long weekend or the whole week. Special thanks to Simon and Lisa for bringing their canoe and letting me loose on it, it was the highlight of my week and a memory I will treasure in the years to come. As for next year how about a character-building trip to the sun kissed Mediterranean…?!!!

Additional report from Dick….

It has been five years since the club organised a trip to the Lakes so another visit seemed somewhat overdue. A campsite was located at Gill Head Farm just off the A66 less than ten minutes from the M6. This contrasts with the last trip when we based ourselves at Wastwater, which was very pleasant, but seemed to take an age from the motorway.

Parties arrived at various times through the week and I counted thirteen heads in total taking part.

As in all outdoor activities the weather plays a major role in what people do. Those who arrived early having to deal with the back end of a hurricane for at least one day. However, we were not deterred and as the days went by a large variety of activities took place. These included mountain walking on Catbells and Blencathra, and rock climbing both outdoors at Shepherds Crag and indoors at Penrith. An intrepid ladies crew circumnavigated Derwent Water in a canoe, and at least one party visited the megalithic stone circle at Castle Rigg and walked the disused railway to Keswick. The only tunnel on the line has been filled in and by- passed. Guess who felt that this was a bit of a disappointment.

Speaking of Keswick, one morning was spent shopping in the town. It did seem to me that every other shop was a gear shop, several of which were visited, and it also became apparent that most of the intervening shops were gear shops as well. However a café did manage to squeeze its way in and provided a pleasant lunch

 Just a word about the campsite. Among the facilities was a covered area for cooking and an enclosed meal room, which proved a godsend when the heavens opened, which they did on several occasions, and the provision of camping “pods”. Some members hired then to allow tents to be dried and cleaned before packing up. Thanks to Nick and Kim for locating the site.


Feel free to add a comment!

Facebook Like Button for Dummies