This was our last walk of the year. It was fitting that the sun beamed down on us all day from a clear blue sky, leaving us - despite the cold - with our abiding memory of this year...
A Year of Constant Summer.
We can only hope for (but don't expect) the same next year.
I notice Martin Rye is being complimented on his gear reviews. We are pleased not to have been serious testers of gear (though we are available as such) this year, as we would have struggled to achieve much proper testing.
That said, I have the following observations:
1. Innov8 Roclite shoes - fell apart after less than 300 km of gentle use.
2. Waterproofs - not really tested despite our having been 'out' for around 150 days this year.
3. Terra Nova Hyperspace tent - withstood strong gales - I feel it was tested despite only being used in anger on two nights.
4. Hilleberg Nallo tent - now 4½ years old, used for 100+ nights in Scotland, Pyrenees and Alps. Still not 'tested' by the weather. An excellent tent nevertheless.
5. Hi-Tec Altitude Ultra boots (courtesy of WD and Hi-Tec) - I am testing these and their low weight and extreme comfort have created a very good impression so far. Maybe soon I'll get a chance to test their waterproof qualities.
A fuller review of some of the kit we used this year may follow when time permits.
Cartmel was reached by 10am. There were plenty of parking spaces in the village, making for an easy rendezvous with Nick and Daniela, with time to wander in the grounds of the impressive Priory (above) before enjoying coffees in the 'tea shop'. The owners hoped we would be the first of many customers today.
A stroll through the quiet village, past several hostelries, led us to the unlikely site of a racecourse. It hosts an annual horse racing meeting which must transform the normally tranquil village into the scene and atmosphere of a splendid carnival.
In today's sub-zero temperatures we strolled briskly on, past the fields of Seven Acres Farm and into Lane Park Wood. On and on, missing our planned turn right up the path that the 'Cumbria Coastal Way' shares with the 'Cistercian Way'.
I blame Daniela - she was chatty as ever. Not to worry though, she and Nick were savouring this rare taste of English countryside before their imminent return to Shanghai, where Nick has as tough a job as we can imagine.
It was easy to regain our route via a short stroll past Holker Hall up the B5278 road, then muddling our way along the vague forestry tracks around Long Scar.
Before long we found ourselves rising up to the Ellerside Ridge, where our high point for the day - at all of 170 metres - lay at a trig point slightly off the path at How Barrow. We lingered here with tea and CCS for quite some time. It was sunny, calm and very pleasant. We had some lunch. A tripod was found for some group photos. Striking poses were formed against the backdrop of the Coniston peaks and wide views of the Lake District, Morecambe Bay, and the Yorkshire Dales with Ingleborough's distinctive outline.
The ridge held fine views despite its diminutive stature. Being outside the Lake District National Park, very few folk were around on this stunning day. A fox scampered in front of us, and an ancient aircraft looped the loop in the distance.We paused at length in an attempt to capture images of the ice crystals that, in the shade, were holding their form all day. Turning along the right of way to Speel Bank Farm, the view east dominated. Had we sported binoculars we may well have spied some 'lard' on Hutton Roof. A dim horse at the farm tried to nibble our fingers. Our path took us up past a red deer reserve and through Collkield Wood, heading north to join a minor road at Grassgarth. Whilst the surface was well frozen today, this short section of our stroll displayed evidence of the passage of many trail bikes that had devoured the frail paths. Such a shame. (Actually, I think we may have missed the path here and descended on private land where trail bikes are allowed to roam. Thankfully it was quiet today.)
A short way along the road a right turn along a dark bridleway led us into an area of forest devastation known as the Great Allotment. The path passes small lakes and is clear and firm, leading in and out of woodland before emerging from the forest in an area that could call for waterproof footwear should the ground not be frozen.
With superb views south, we lingered here for second helpings of tea and lunch.
Paths, tracks and minor roads led on beyond Over Ridge, past tall pines with long shadows, and through narrow stiles and grassy fields to Wall Nook. Here we followed footpath signs but deviated from our planned return to Cartmel via Well Knowe. We were distracted by a field of very large and attentive sheep. Luckily, only I knew the plan, so nobody seemed bothered when we emerged onto a minor road at Croftside.
This lane led pleasantly back to the fleshpots of Cartmel, where throngs of visitors had filled the small village during our absence. It was positively humming with activity. A small boy overbalanced in his quest for fish, and plopped into the stream by the Kings Arms. He made a fairly rapid, soggy, and no doubt shivery exit!
There's a 'sticky toffee pudding' shop here...irresistible, and well worth buying a jar of extra 'sauce'.
At 14 km, and with only 350 metres of ascent, this was indeed a short walk, but as we wound our way back to the tea shop, the low sun cast a final rosy glow over the 800 year old Priory before darkness fell. Here are a few more images from today's walk - an album of 34 images to supplement those above.
Here's an outline of our route.
And finally, as this is our last posting in 2008, Sue and I take this opportunity to wish all our readers our very best wishes for health and happiness, and even a few satisfying days out, in 2009 and beyond. And if you'd like to join us tomorrow....we will be starting at about 10.30 from the Cheshire Workshops at Burwardsley - SJ 521 563 - for about a 15 km (9 mile) circular walk featuring the Peckforton Hills, Bickerton Hill and the Sandstone Trail.
We'll be taking butties for lunch, but also perhaps passing a hostelry.