Thursday, 26 September 2013

The golf course hidden amongst the bracken.

Walk checking on our Ambleside book started in earnest last week. For those that do not already know, whenever possible, we like to check the walks that we publish on a regular basis to keep them as accurate as possible. This may be the Lake District, but the fact is that walking directions can quickly become out of date. Bad weather or erosion control work often sees paths re routed, whilst forestry operations can soon render directions through the forests totally useless.

Monday saw us visiting Stock Ghyll Falls, which after the heavy rain were a fine sight. This is one of the easiest walks in the area, as well as being amongst the most popular. 18 months ago we made a short film of the walk, which if you have not seen it can be viewed here .....

Tuesday saw us heading up to Loughrigg. We were not alone. It seems half the tourists in Ambleside had decided to make the most of the fine weather by heading out on to the fell. As is my way, I spoke to quite a few, and was surprised to learn that only one knew that there used to be a golf course on Loughrigg Fell. When told, some refused to believe me, whilst others expressed surprise that the terrain was suitable.

But exist it did, and for the best part of 50 years it provided a great deal of pleasure to locals and visitors alike. It was situated on the path that leads from Miller Bridge to the Summit of Loughrigg Fell and if you look very carefully the remains of the course are clearly visible today. Most prominent is the old Club house, which upon closure of the course was bought and converted to a private residence named "Pine Rigg". It stands proudly beside the track, just past Deer Hows, marking the start of the course, it's seven acre garden, including the first tee, still immaculately maintained.

The main part of the course was on the opposite side of the track. Dotted around the vicinity of the course are a series of flat, bracken free areas. Thin reeds grow in among the grass, denoting a high amount of water just below the surface. These are, or were, the greens. Continuous cutting and rolling of these areas caused subtle changes beneath the surface of the soil. Once abandoned, they did not revert to their previous state, remaining free of both the bracken, and the long grass that populated the rest of the fell.

The club opened in 1903 as a small, 9 hole course, barely little more than a pitch and putt. But it soon gained favour with both locals and wealthy visitors, and by the twenties had been enlarged. It still had just 9 holes, but they were both longer and harder than before the first world war. An indication of the degree of difficulty faced by those post war golfers is to be found in a comparison of the course records of the time. In 1906 the professional course record was 37, with the amateur record just one shot higher at 38. This was beaten just a year later with a certain CH Stephens going round in just 35 shots. The best anyone could muster on the new, more challenging layout after WW1 was 65.

The golden years for the golf club were the twenties and thirties, when club membership easily topped the 100 mark, and visiting non members paid half a crown a day to play. After the second world war the club started to decline. New members were becoming harder to find, and with less visitors wanting to play, the club struggled through to 1956, when the decision was made to close the course. The old clubhouse was sold off and the tees and greens left untended.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A reminder of Summer

It is almost a third of the way through April and we are celebrating the fact that today there is wall to wall sunshine and a temperature of - wait for it - 8 degrees. Compared with March that is positively balmy, but this time last year the landscape had already started to come to life. The daffodils and crocuses had given us a fine show, the first of the bluebells were starting to appear, and the scenery had that fresh, spring feel to it. Today the Lake District is still wearing it's winter coat. The snow capped mountains look lovely, but how we all long for the fresh green leaves to appear.

I took advantage of the weather this afternoon to do a walk that is a joy at any time of year, - Holme Fell, with a return via Tarn Hows. However, instead of publishing the pictures of today's walk, I've delved into the archive and dug out some pictures from a previous visit over the same route in August 2007.

We started from the car park at the bottom of Tom Gill, just beyond Yew Tree Tarn on the A593 Ambleside to Coniston Road. To avoid the road, the first part of the walk is through an adjoining field, and at the other end one of the locals decided that we were not allowed to go any further!

After tough negotiations during which I had to give up part of my sandwich, we were allowed to pass, and crossed the road to Yew Tree Farm.

From the farm we headed along a farm track, before going through a gate and then following a path along the side of the fell. After a short distance this rock (below) was reached. Not being a geologist I have no idea why it stands here. My worn out old copy of Pearsall and Pennington's excellent book on the Lake District has no mention of it. An amateur geologist friend of mine claimed it was due to erosion causing a large lump of rock to break off the crags above and roll down the fell side. I'm not so sure about that, so answers on a post card please

Just beyond the rock, we get a lovely view of Yew Tree Tarn, which is a popular spot for passing motorists to stop and admire. We waved, but no one waved back!!

Not far past the rock the path bears left and starts to climb the wooded fell side. Before long we come across a beck and follow the line of it up the fell. It's not too steep and luckily carries barely a trickle of water. After reaching the top of the slope we bear left again to clamber up the craggy fell to the summit, where a superb view of Coniston Water awaits.

One very noticeable feature of this trip was the abundance of wild heather, coupled with a lack of sheep. The two are linked, since the sheep are more than happy to munch away on the heather, however, the absence of sheep on the fell at this time is an indication that when left alone the heather recovers nicely.

From the top of Holme Fell, Coniston Water is not the only key landmark to be seen. To the north lie the Langdales, with the pikes prominent on the horizon.

We are not returning via the same route. Instead we are heading down the fell towards Hodge Close Quarry, where we can join up with the Cumbrian Way for a short distance. Being a couple of total sissies, we keep well away from the edge! Out of camera, a party from an outdoor pursuits centre are abseiling down the old quarry walls. From the sound of it, they are having no end of fun.

There's a bit of road walking now, along a minor road leading to a farm, and offering superb views of the fells over the wall!
We soon  reach the main A593, and cross over to take the short road up to a gate leading to the track to Tarn Hows. This is not only a popular route for walkers, but also mountain bikers, who like to test their skills on the rocky path. Today however, despite it being the middle of the holiday season, there is no one else in sight.
Tarn Hows is not so peaceful, with families enjoying the fine August weather. That having been said, there is plenty of space for everyone, so it is not difficult to take a picture that makes it look as though we have the place to ourselves.

From Tarn Hows we head down a footpath following the line of Tom Gill, the beck that drains the tarn.
Nowadays this is known as "Glen Mary", after the wife of James Marshall, the man who first developed Tarn Hows by damming the stream at the top of Tom Gill to make one large tarn from three smaller ones. It is reputed that John Ruskin was responsible for persuading Marshall that the name Tom Gill was not suitable for a place of such beauty, and suggested the name "Glen Mary" instead. Whether the story is actually true or not remains open to speculation. Marshall died in 1873, not long after Ruskin moved to Brantwood.

Midway down the slope is "Glen Mary" waterfall, which, because the flow of the beck is controlled by the dam at the tarn, always seems to have roughly the same amount of water flowing over it.

From the falls, it is a short distance down the hill to a bridge at the bottom, and beyond, the main road, the car park, and a freshly brewed cup of tea.

Roll on Summer!!!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Scientific Cure for Wardrobe Damp.

I've been doing some research on t'internet. I entered the words "damp in wardrobe" and came up with some remarkable facts.

Why "damp in wardrobe" I hear you ask? Well the simple fact is that all over the country wardrobes are being plagued with damp, and it seems that the problem gets worse in the winter, and is especially troublesome around Christmas time. Many people have experienced it. They hang their day to day working clothes up on 23rd December each year, and then on the 2nd of January get them out again to wear, only to find they have shrunk. Damp can be the only cause. Unless ....

My search took me on a journey,  as they often do, and I ended up finding out the best way to banish the scourge of winter damp and ensure that your clothes fit as well in the Spring as they did last Autumn. And it is not to simply buy another, brand new, damp proof wardrobe.

We are talking weight here, and evidently it is not so much what we eat, but how we use the fuel our food gives us, that causes excessive growth in the waistline region. Put simply, during the winter many people simply are not active enough.

Two things are to blame. Work, and play. More people sit down to work than ever before. Computer screens are stared at, 'phone calls taken or made, and vehicles driven. And very often a whole day is spent sitting down either working or eating.

After work we come out to play. On long summer evenings that might entail getting out and about, but in winter, when it is cold and snowy, it is a different matter. Televisions are sat in front of, nice warm cinemas are visited, restaurants are eaten in, and when we are tired and hungry after a hard day at work and a struggle home in the cold, it is all too easy to get a takeaway. Then it is a comfy sofa, in front of the fire, with a nice curry, or whatever takes your fancy, and a few hours in front of the telly.

As a nation, a lot of what we do is done sitting down, especially in the winter, and it is not doing us any good. It is time to get off our collective bums and become a bit more active. But how? Join a gym?

Actually, it turns out that you don't need to splash out a few hundred quid on a gym membership if you don't want to or can't afford it. Most gyms offer good value for money, and they will get you fit as long as you go regularly, but not joining one will not condemn you to a life of obesity. The point is that all you actually need for a relatively healthy lifestyle is a good diet and to be physically active. And one of the best ways for you to stay physically active is to go for a daily walk. If you get yourself wrapped up warm, putting those gloves and scarf that Auntie Doris gave you for Christmas to good use (admit it, you have three pairs already, you never thought you'd use them, did you) you can enjoy the best that the British countryside has to offer all year round, and the best news of all is that, by and large, it is free.

It turns out that the reason why walking is so good for you is that it helps you to not only stay physically fit, but also mentally fit as well. A brisk country walk will get the heart pumping, but it can also help to relax and soothe the mind. It can help you to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life. And if the scenery you are walking through is particularly good it can really lift your mood and help you to beat the winter blues.

But don't just take my word for it. Have a quick look at the walks on the Lakeland Walking Breaks web site and then imagine yourself walking through the Lakeland landscape. It may not be the same as actually being here, but if it inspires you to go and seek the finest views where you live then it will have done it's job. Close to most urban areas there are landscapes with their own natural beauty just waiting to be explored, usually for FREE. And walking through them comes with the added bonus of  actually being good for your mind, body and soul. How cool is that!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Rydal reflections

Even I would be hard pressed to claim that the books that we publish are anything other than cheaply produced. Apart from the cover, they are not in colour. The maps may be hand drawn, but they are not to scale, and the writing is, well, basic, consisting of walking route instructions, with a few cultural notes thrown in for good measure. Despite all this, however, they do need to be as accurate as we can possibly make them. After all, if the route you are taking requires you to turn right, then the instructions needs to say "turn right".

The reason why the books have limited production qualities is that they are intended as a simple, easy to carry and practical guide to walks in the area close to the hotel that sells them. Because only a small number of books will be sold by any one hotel in a year, the print runs are not very big, negating the economy of scale enjoyed by most publishers. Which gives us one big advantage over other guide book producers. It means that we can check the accuracy of the walks the books contain on a regular basis, and update them accordingly. Consequently, we spend quite a bit of time out on the fells, and on days like yesterday, that is nothing but sheer joy.

It is, of course, supposed to be work. As I often tell people, it's hell, but someone has to do it. But as I stood on the path between Grasmere and Rydal caves yesterday and stared at the view, the thought occurred to me that I'd do this for nothing if possible. In fact, on days like yesterday I'd pay to do it!

As most folk who have seen my photographic endeavours already know, I'm not the world's best when it comes to capturing fine views.Having said that, you won;t have to hike up a mountain to see the views below for yourselves. The circuit of Rydal is one of the finest low level walks in the country, and these were all taken on the path that leads from Rydal Caves to White Moss car park.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Does this qualify as an out take?

Well, the aforementioned footage is now out of the camera and in the editing suite, (sounds posh!) however, there is one bit of footage which I'd like to keep in the finished video, but should really hit the cutting room floor. It just goes to show that you should be very careful where you stand when someone is setting up a shot.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Oh to be in England!

Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Let's face it, when you get a fine day, there is no better place for an autumn walk than the Lake District. Stunning colours, fabulous views. In a word it is just, well, awesome. With a capital Awe.

Yesterday I was filming near Grasmere. Alcock Tarn, or rather the walk up to it, to be precise. It is a truly wonderful walk at any time of year, although in winter you really do have to be sure footed. But for a medium level route the views are hard to beat, which  made yesterday quite special. That unique combination of sunshine lighting up the autumn leaves, in a still verdant landscape made all the more vibrant by a warm, wet summer.

So where, I hear you ask, are the pictures? Why is the footage not online for everyone to share in this special day? Well, the fact is that they are still in the camera. Today is  similar day. Blue sky, clear air and hardly a breath of wind, despite the weatherman predicting an icy blast and winds that could reach gale force. So you'll have to wait. But not long. I'm reliably informed by that same weatherman that tomorrow it will be back to rain for a couple of days.

And now I am off to get my boots on.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Drawing inspiration from the telly

There is no getting away from it. This year the  Lakeland fells have been quieter than normal. Only just last week, in the middle of the holiday season,  I set off down the Langdale Valley and actually managed to walk from Side House to Elterwater without meeting another person. True, it was raining, but this is the Cumbria Way, after all, and there is usually someone about, even if it is only a local walking their dog.

Lingmoor was also eerily quiet, although it is not unusual to have the fell all to oneself. But looking down the valley from Side Pike I was struck by just how quiet it was. Through the mist I could make out the outline of one solitary walker plodding up Mickleden, and wondered whether he or she was heading for Bowfell, or going over the the pass towards Borrowdale. The rain had stopped, the mist was clearing, and there were plenty of cars on the road, but walkers were in short supply.

Actually, as I tucked into my apricot jam and sausage sandwich (don't ask!) I started to imagine that the silence of the fells was a result of something I had missed. Everyone was, I decided, somewhere else. Somewhere that I should also have been, attending an event I had forgotten. Trouble was, I couldn't remember what it was. But I started to become convinced that over the fell in Borrowdale, hundreds of walkers were gathering to celebrate the majesty of the Lakeland Fells at a walkers convention that I knew nothing about.

It was a logical explanation, and as I plodded down towards the camp site I had almost convinced myself that I was right. Until, after 4 hours on the fell, I met a couple going the other way. They were not tourists out for a walk, but fellwalkers pursuing their love of walking. Both are commonplace, but you can tell the difference. Fellwalkers don't tend to be wearing new gear, and they carry maps and compasses. Actually, some  tourists don't wear any proper walking gear at all, as anyone associated with the Mountain Rescue service will tell you.  However, I digress.

I stopped to pass the time of day, as you do, and during the course of the conversation a theory as to why the fells were quieter than normal this year was put forward. Quite apart from the rain, the recession and a certain sporting event taking place elsewhere, the lack of people on the fells could also be put down to the Julia Factor, or rather the lack of it.

The Julia to which I am referring is, of course, Julia Bradbury. She still adorns our television screens on a regular basis, but not walking around the Lake District. And there is no doubt whatsoever that being featured on mainstream television does have an effect on the numbers of people taking to the fells. I well remember walking up Castle Crag the week after that fell had been featured on "Wainwright's Walks". OK, I will admit that it was a nice day, but even so I was surprised to find well over forty people on the summit enjoying the sunshine and views. Not only that but there was a steady stream of people heading up the fell as we were heading back down. By contrast, Catbells, which is normally very popular, but had not been featured on the telly the week before, was strangely deserted.

Coincidence? I don't think so. Just look at the effect that the Olympics has had. The Saturday after the games ended sports clubs up and down the country reported an  increase in the number of people wanting to join. They'd watched the games on the telly. Now they wanted to get involved. And whilst some will no doubt give up as soon as they get out of breath, others will go on to become future champions.

In the nineteen thirties Alfred Wainwright was inspired to walk the fells after climbing Orrest Head and seeing the whole of the Lake District laid out before him. In 1970 I was inspired to walk the fells after climbing Pike O' Blisco, via the shorter route from Wrynose Pass, and discovering that "another world", one that could not be reached by road, lay on the other side of the mountain.

Nowadays, it seems, hundreds of people get their inspiration by tuning in to BBC4 of a Friday night.