Thursday, 26 September 2013

The golf course hidden amongst the bracken.

Walk checking on my Ambleside walks book started in earnest last week. This is a rewrite of a book first published in 2005, and regularly updated ever since. It is sold by Rothay Garth, a large guest house in Ambleside. A contribution to LAMRT is paid for each one sold.

Checking the walks in the book on a regular basis keeps 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 This may be the Lake District, but the fact is that walking directions can quickly become out of date.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.This is one of the easiest walks in the area, as well as being amongst the most popular. In 2012 I made a short film of the walk, which 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.
The view across the old first green, with the fells of the Fairfield Horseshoe an impressive backdrop
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 38. The course record for two circuits 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.

This  video, shot at the start of May 2016, shows the walk up to the summit of Loughrigg via the Old Golf Course.

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.

Autumn is well under way, soon winter will be upon us, and in preparation 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 my You Tube channel web and then imagine yourself walking beside me 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!