Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Saturday 4 October 2014 - Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond)

Happy birthday blog, by the way - seven years old last Wednesday. Doesn't time fly?

My previous ascent of Ben Vorlich was on 26 January 1985. We were camping at Ardlui and ascended from there in calm winter conditions, with a wonderful cloud inversion on the summit ridge. I'll try to dig out some photos and a diary entry when I get home. 

Today's ascent with Sue was in similarly benign conditions though we encountered a couple of showers during the descent. 

Parking in the lay by opposite Ardlui station, we braved the main road for a few hundred metres before diving under the second underpass and scooting up the hill. An unpleasantly steep and claggy stalkers track was soon reached, and the going was unexpectedly rough all the way up to the saddle at around 550 metres. Quite a contrast to the easy paths of Place Fell earlier in the week.

There were redeeming features. Sunshine (unexpected), pretty flowers that were still in season - bell heather, milkwort, scabious, tormentil, lady's mantle, yellow mountain saxifrage, bilberries, cotton grass, a white flower that may be bear berry, and a selection of buttercups. Dragonflies and bumble bees seemed happy in the heather.

The summit dived in and out of the cloud as we steadily gained height, but we never actually entered the cloud. The path from the saddle to the summit, more a sort of sheep track, was excellent, with one or two steep rock bands thrown in. Big chunks of quartz gleamed in the sunlight, but the cool breeze drew an extra layer of clothing. Boats moved purposefully across Loch Lomond far below. 

We reached the summit after three hours. There were six other people up there, the rest having come up from Inveruglas. We later met four folk ascending from the direction of Ardlui. The views from the summit were superb, with Ben Lomond lurking to the left of the loch.

Lunch was taken in a sheltered spot just below the summit, then we retraced our steps as best we could, admiring the views that had earlier been at our backs; now they were framed by rainbows. 

A quick dash to the car just about avoided a third shower, then we returned to the Crianlarich Hotel in plenty of time for a sociable afternoon and evening with our TGO Challenge friends.

Today's walk was a mere 12 km with 1000 metres ascent, in a leisurely five and a half hours. 

The pictures show Sue at our elevenses break, with Ben Vorlich in cloud to the right, and Sue on the north summit with Ben Lomond in the distance. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Falkirk Kelpies

En route to the TGO Challengers reunion in Crianlarich, Sue and I chose to visit the impressive sculptures of two Celtic Water Horses that guard the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The 30 metre high steel plated sculptures are intended to resemble mythical Celtic water horses called Kelpies.

According to the guide book the imaginary creatures are rumoured to have once frequented Scotland's lochs and rivers. They may also be a reminder of the era of canal towpath working horses. Or they could be the reincarnation of reputedly the world's largest horse - a 1930's Clydesdale which delivered wagon loads of Irn-Bru around the streets of Falkirk. 

The twin hollow heads each comprise 500 separate squares of steel plate. They create two semi-translucent skins which tower either side of a new lock, providing a dramatic gateway into the Forth and Clyde from the River Carron.

The area, which is home to a football stadium and many other leisure facilities, is a 6 km stroll from the more established Falkirk Wheel, the world's first rotating boat lift.

These two iconic structures, the Boat Lift and the Kelpies,  provide a good reason to break one's journey north. We just enjoyed a flying visit, but you could spend a fruitful day here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Sunday* 29 September 2014 – Place Fell (most of it)

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* Should read ‘Monday’ – sorry!

It's many years since I last visited Place Fell. Sue reckons to have been there more recently but can't remember when.

We’d enjoyed our visit to Broadoaks, and left after a breakfast that set us up for a day during which more food would be an extravagant luxury for our well provided stomachs.

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We pootled over the Kirkstone Pass to Patterdale for coffee with TGO Challengers Mike and Marian.

Unfortunately Marian had house admin to contend with, but Mike had time to join us for a comprehensive round of Place Fell's six summits (although we omitted Round How on the way down!). It was a lovely warm, sunny, calm day. Just wonderful to be out in the hills. Marian got rather frustrated (for want of a more accurate but ruder phrase) waiting at home for an electrician.

Today various folk were encountered on the main paths, but most of our day was spent on lesser trods, more normally the preserve of the red deer we saw on Birk Fell.

Various small birds were happy in the bracken and there was no sign of a juvenile peregrine that Marian told us was living nearby. A raven was greedily seeking scraps on the summit of Place Fell though, and Sue says she saw a chough on the flanks of that hill. Mike and I think it was just a crow with a sandwich. 

The six summits all commanded fine views, with a special place on top of Place Fell providing the highlight of a view of five segments of Ullswater.

We started over the bridge towards Side Farm.

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Beyond Side Farm a steep climb to the upper path soon reveals this rather large cave. Or is it a mine?

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We enjoyed fine views as we rose above Patterdale, reaching a bench at which Mike says he always pauses to admire the views across the valley towards Helvellyn.

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Here’s the panorama from the bench. (A better version is here.)

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We then rose gently up the Hare Shaw path, constantly looking back to admire the views towards Helvellyn (see header picture).

Before long we reached our first summit - The Knight (542 metres), a significant prong to the north of Place Fell's summit, with stunning views.

Our next summit was Bleaberry Knott on Birk Fell (512 metres), which also enjoys immaculate vistas.

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Ahead through the bracken we were drawn towards the distinctive cairn on Low Birk Fell (373 metres), where I left one of my GPS gadgets. Seemingly I had three such gadgets with me today, not to mention a local expert navigator – we couldn’t get lost!

"Another fine view, eh."

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The misplaced GPS triggered an early lunch so that Mike and Sue had something to do whilst I recovered the errant gadget. Then we moved across to the grassy summit of Sleet Fell (378 metres), from where there’s a good view to the obelisk on Hallin Fell.

A visit to the summit of High Dodd (501 metres) required a steep diversion from the main path. The views were worth it. After this, Mike paused to make some urgent calls, whilst Sue lingered on a rocky knoll.

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The ripples from the Ullswater cruise liners far below caught our attention.

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By the time we reached the main summit of Place Fell (657 metres), we'd been to six separate viewpoints on the Fell. This one enjoyed a view of five segments of Ullswater if you stood in the correct position.

It was clouding over, so after debating the ‘chough or no chough?’ incident we took in the view and stashed our cameras before heading back to Patterdale for a cuppa.

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The 15 km tour, with about 900 metres ascent, took around six delightful hours, following which we felt extremely fulfilled on the leisurely journey home.

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There’s a slideshow with some of the missing views (40 images) here.

Fine company, fine views, fine route, fine weather, fine everything really – you can’t beat it…

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sunday 28 September 2014 – Cocklaw Fell and Hollow Moor

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Sue and I drove up to the Lakes to the sounds of garden birds on a new CD, to near Kentmere,  parking near the KV factory, for a quick trot over these two minor summits before heading over to Broadoaks for a cream tea. We heard wrens and dunnocks (we think) and the robins were unmistakable. They have red breasts.

We saw three mountain bikers on the good bridleways that were bereft of any other visitors on this cloudy but warm day.

Views were limited, but here's a selection:

We found our way along a good path past Green Quarter to Skeggles Water.

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Here we are by Skeggles Water, with the undistinguished 365 metre summit of Cocklaw Fell to the right.

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From the same spot, the outflow of Skeggles Water is lined with water lilies.

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We wandered over the grassy bulge of Cocklaw Fell, then up to the 426 metre summit of Hollow Moor on Green Quarter Fell.

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An easy shortcut on our return, led us over open ground to join the good bridleway near Nuttera Beck, where this lone hawthorn tree stood out.

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Here’s our route - 13 km, 350 metres ascent, taking 3 hours. It was an excellent choice given our time constraints and the low cloud that hung over some of the higher summits.

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Broadoaks Country House in Troutbeck has changed hands since we were married there in 2002, the previous owners having retired in 2007. However it continues gaily on its way and seems to be in good hands.

The cream tea was delicious, after which we enjoyed a visit to a spa in Bowness. Back at Broadoaks for an indulgent evening, the food was excellent and Sue's dessert even had 'Welcome Back' emblazoned in chocolate around the side of the plate. 

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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Thursday 25 September 2014 – A Ramble with Reg

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Glazebrook was mentioned in my last posting. That was in the context of a recce for this LDWA Plodders walk. In the event, only Reg turned up, and that was partly because he wanted to recce this section of the Salford Trail for himself, as he's doing it shortly with another walking group.

I suppose it's a credit to the LDWA's ethos that only Reg and I felt able to stoop to walking anything less than ten miles.

Here's the route - 10 km in 2.5 hours (note that I'm not pandering to LDWA luddites who fail to acknowledge any sort of metric measurements.)

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It was a cloudy morning, on which Reg and I enjoyed a good chat. Despite being close to the centre of Manchester,  we saw just a couple of people upgrading a footpath, and a few farm operatives getting on with driving tractors, pulling radishes or tending to ponies.

The footpath people seemed totally unconcerned that beyond one end of the new path was a jungle of nettles and brambles, and at the other end a ploughed field with no sign of a path. 

Previous postings involving this route are here and here - there's not much more I can add to those commentaries, but here are a few images from today's visit.

Turf is one of a number of local crops:

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‘Please use alternative footpath’ – now where might that be?

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Footpath construction starts here:

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…continues around the perimeter of Little Woolden Moss:

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… and ends here:

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The ‘path’ continues across this field. Straight ahead:

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Reg and I chose a ‘non-path’ alternative:

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The plethora of tractors do show signs of aging due to heavy use:

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Radishes were being harvested:

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There was a very healthy looking crop under the hessian sheets:

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Another well used tractor:

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A ‘Bedford Plough’ has pride of place in this garden:

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Nearby, dahlias were flowering strongly, if in need of some dead-heading:

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Turning alongside Glaze Brook, Holcroft Hall and its pond were passed on the other side of the brook:

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Little Woolden Hall, a modest house, was soon passed:

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… as were fields of beet?

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The Keepers Cottage is now a private house near the M62 motorway:

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We found ourselves on a Timberland Trail, as you do around here:

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Despite the driest September ‘since records began’, we encountered a muddy enclave near the motorway:

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A heftier tractor comes within the budget of those at Great Woolden Hall, although the WW1 POWs who used to help out here have been allowed home:

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Salford has some pleasant countryside, such as this view from the front door of Great Woolden Hall:

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Then my camera was eaten.

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We adjourned to the Black Swan for lunch. Excellent it was as well. The goat's cheese salad with egg and beetroot was very tasty, served in an interesting/quirky/pretentious? wooden box.