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Summer in the Lake District: Making the Most of those Mountains!

Summer in the Lake District certainly has given us a wide variety of weather. When the weather’s good and there’s a free day, I’m making the most of it all and exploring the Lake District mountains, sometimes with family members, sometimes on my own, but never totally alone since people are always so friendly on the tops, sharing news about where they’ve walked from and where they’re going! Below are some of the highlights of the last few weeks…

Iconic View from Three Tarns on Bowfell to Scafell (left) and Scafell Pike (right)

Wednesday August 17: A memorable day on the rough, rugged and very rocky roof of England! England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, the very top!  I got there at 12 noon surrounded by greyness – in the rocks, clouds and views.  The path to the summit over Ill Crag and Broad Crag involves crossing over big boulders. Wainwright on Scafell Pike: “Roughness and ruggedness are the necessary attributes (of a mountain), and Scafell Pike has these in greater measure than other high ground in the country…Crags are in evidence on all sides, and big areas of the upper slopes lie devastated by a covering of piled-up boulders, a result of the volcanic upheavals that laid waste to the mountain during its formation. The landscape is harsh, even savage, and has attracted to itself nothing of romance or historical legend. There is no sentiment about Scafell Pike.”

I went up Bowfell too: “Rank Bowfell among the best half-dozen!” (Wainwright)…

Bowfell Butress and Angle Tarn

From Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale to Bowfell 902m (2,959 ft) via Oxendale & Hell Ghyll, then along the ridge to Esk Pike 885 m (2,904 ft), Great End 910 m (2,990 ft) and finally onto Scafell Pike 978 m (3,209 ft). Return via Rossett Pike 651 m (2,136 ft), Angle Tarn and Mickleden.  A mix of cloud, mist and sunny spells, no wind, no rain, perfect for walking! There were lots of people on Scafell Pike, including many families with young children, some as young as 5!  Total: 22.07 km, 1,409 m of ascent, 7 hours walking, 10 hours total time. 

There’s also a memorial plaque on the summit of Scafell Pike, with the words: ‘In perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War. 1914 – 1918. This summit of Scafell was given to the nation subject to any commoners rights & placed in custody of the National Trust by Charles Henry Baron Legonfield 1919’.

Tuesday August 23: The weather forecast was not so good, so we brightened up a misty day by walking among heather of all shades of pink and purple on Lingmoor Fell 469m (1,540ft). This is the mountain to climb when the higher tops promise to be in the clouds. Ascent from Elterwater in Great Langdale via the quarry (run by Burlington Slate).  ‘Ling’ in the name ‘Lingmoor’ means ‘heather’ and there’s 3 kinds growing on UK mountains, all beautiful!

Thursday August 25: “Positively one of the finest ridge-walks in Lakeland’ (Wainwright)! An early start for the Oxendale Horseshoe from Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale up Oxendale via Red Tarn to Pike O’Blisco 705m (2314ft), then to Cold Pike 700m (2297ft) and along the ridge of all 5 crinkles on the Crinkle Crags, including the highest point Long Top: 859m (2,819ft) on the second Crinkle, and along to Bowfell 902 m (2,959 ft) and down via The Band. 

This is THE view of Scafell Pike & Scafell, visible from all over the Lake District, this one taken from Bowfell….

Crinkle Crags officially has 5 crinkles, but it seemed way more than that – so many crinkles, so many rock buttresses, so many cairns on the tops! The famous ‘Bad Step’ on Crinkle 2 has an alternative route, don’t worry!

It was cloudy all morning, misty along the Crinkles, then the sun came out on Bowfell and stayed out all afternoon.  Total: 17.5 km, 1,234 m of ascent.

Walna Scar Road, Coniston Round

Saturday August 27: Amazing weather for August Bank Holiday Weekend doing the Coniston Round from Coniston village, out along the Walna Scar Road and up the ridge to Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag 778m (2,552 ft) with its steep rock faces high above Goats Water…

Then on to the highest point of Old Man of Coniston, aka Coniston Old Man, 803m (2,635 ft) where the mist was swirling around. Along to Brim Fell, then very nearly almost the highest point of Swirl How 802m (2631 ft) – officially only one metre lower than the Old Man, and then to Great Carrs where the aeroplane (Halifax Bomber) memorial is located… 

Halifax LL505 came to grief on Great Carrs in the Lake District on the night of 22nd October 1944 whilst on a night navigation exercise from Topcliffe in Yorkshire. Its crew; seven Canadians and one Scot, encountered very thick cloud whilst over the north-west of England, they circled the aircraft hoping the cloud would clear but this made them even more lost. The pilot then descended so the navigator could get a visual fix on the ground but by this stage it was flying too low in the heart of the Lakes. In a few seconds the aircraft hit the top of Great Carrs and crashed killing all on board.” Very poignant.

Then up to Grey Friar 770m (2,530 ft) above Seathwaite Tarn, & back to Swirl How, down Prison Band and onto Wetherlam 763m (2,502 ft). Descent from Swirl Hawse to Levers Water (for paddling) & the Coppermines Valley, with a large number of disused copper mines & slate quarries.  The place is oozing with mining history. It’s now also a wedding venue.

“Although cruelly scarred and mutilated by quarries the Old Man has retained a dignified bearing, and still raises his proud and venerable head to the sky. His tears are shed quietly, into Low Water and Goats Water, two splendid tarns, whence, in due course, and after further service to the community in the matter of supplies of electricity and water, they ultimately find their way into Coniston’s Lake, and there bathe his ancient feet” (Wainwright).

A day with great views of Scafell Pike in the distance & everything in-between, even distant views to the Isle of Man. Misty spells and clouds, with lots of sunshine, no rain.  Perfect weather! Total: 23.7 km, 1,347m altitude gain.

Coniston house, notice next to the door says, ‘BEND or BUMP’!

Monday August 29: A White Heather Day for Bank Holiday Monday on the spectacular Helvellyn Ridge!  Ascent from Patterdale, starting in the drizzle and swirling mists, to Arnison Crag, Birks and St. Sunday Crag 841 m (2,759 ft). Apparently, St. Sunday is a local name of St. Dominic, meaning ‘of the Lord’ as in AD ‘Anno Domini’ (‘Year of the Lord’)…. 

St. Sunday Crag just coming out of the mists

Then down to Grisedale Tarn and up onto the Helvellyn Ridge: first to Dollywaggon Pike 858 m (2,815 ft) and Nethermost Pike 891 m (2,923 ft), with great views of Striding Edge, then to the highest point of Helvellyn 950 m (3,118 ft) just coming out of the mist at midday.  Onwards north to Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side 863 m (2,831 ft) and finally Raise 883 m (2,897 ft) where the Lake District Ski Club have a ski lift for use in winter. Descent via Sticks Pass through the heather (including one clump of real genuine white heather!) & through the old lead mining area – most of the old slag heaps are now covered in heather – up to Sheffield Pike 675 m (2,215 ft), ending with a steep descent to Glenridding.  Morning: drizzle and mist, afternoon: cloudy but dry. Total: 24.31 km, 1,567 m altitude gain.

Tuesday August 30: Not strictly a mountain, but there were stunning views and amazing scenery at Humphrey Head 52 m (172 ft), a long limestone outcrop with a natural arch near Grange-Over-Sands on Morecambe Bay, with windblown hawthorn trees full of haws, lots of yummy blackberries, steep limestone outcrops and plenty more. There’s an interesting fact on Wikipedia: “Humphrey Head is the traditional location for the killing of the last wolf in England, in about 1390…” and do google the rock-climbing videos of Humphrey Head, esp. ‘Back into the Future’: incredible!

Wednesday August 31: Wetherlam 763 m (2502 ft) really does deserve respect and a whole day to itself, without being included in ridgewalks to any other fells.  “Wetherlam features prominently in Brathay views like a giant whale surfacing above waves of lesser hills.” (Wainwright). Early morning ascent from Tilberthwaite (free parking), via the remains of the disused copper mines (mostly fenced off) and slate quarries, up Wetherlam Edge, along the ridge (it was very chilly!) and down to join the lovely grassy Tilberthwaite Gill path. Fascinating to peer into the old quarries and see the remains of the derelict buildings. 

Wikipedia: “In the past Wetherlam was extensively exploited for its mineral resources. The slopes on all sides are pitted with disused copper mines and slate quarries, making it the most industrialised of the Lake District fells. The workings are on a small scale, however, and, according to Alfred Wainwright, unobtrusive: “this fine hill… is too vast and sturdy to be disfigured and weakened by man’s feeble scratchings of its surface.”

Wetherlam is one of our old favourites, it is just so special!

Thursday September 1: Whitbarrow Scar 215 m (705 ft) is also (like Humphrey Head) not strictly a mountain – though mentioned in Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ as one of his favourites in the area – it’s a huge limestone outcrop, with lots of limestone pavement, and really spectacular. Full of fungi, sloes, blackberries and haws – signs of autumn!

Friday September 2: the last day of this current fine spell of weather, and the last weekday before schools go back next week. Having tried to go into Ambleside a few days ago and not finding a single parking place, so I decided to walk there and back, via Wansfell Pike 486.9 m (1,597 ft), down into Ambleside via Stockghyll Force, and back along the lower road that leads to Robin Lane in Troutbeck. 21 km round-trip. This was sunrise – the views were good!

Summer is ending, the Lake District is clearing of its vast summer crowds, although it still feels very full of people in the main towns. Signs of autumn arrived early a few weeks ago – red rowan berries, blackberries, hazelnuts, autumn crocus, cuckoo pint …..

And finally some photos of Troutbeck, where I’m staying, taken over the summer on nice sunny days. It’s a beautiful place, starting with Jesus Church, Troutbeck…

Some butterflies (small tortoiseshell, left, and red admiral, right) to wish you all a good start to the new school year and Happy Autumn!

Lake District Vibes & Views!

Today, yes today, is my first rainy day in the Lake District after being here 10 whole days! Most unusual for this part of the world, which is famous for rain and more rain, all year round. We’re really enjoying it after all that heat of the last few days! This was on Monday July 18, when it was cooler inside than out….

If you read my recent CMS Link Letter a few weeks ago, you’ll know why I’m here in the Lake District ~ I wrote, “I’m hoping to stay in my mother’s home in the Troutbeck area of the Lake District over the summer; she’s recently moved into a care home in Grange-over-Sands on Morecambe Bay, so I’ll be visiting her there.” And yes, that’s how it’s turned out. I’m very happy to be staying in her home in Troutbeck, it’s really lovely. And especially for my Taiwan friends, at their request, I’ve posted a series of photos of tea-drinking ~ yes, this is what it really looks like in this area. It’s oh so very beautiful!

Both my brother and his wife unfortunately went down with Covid within days of my arrival in the Lake District last week, so since then I’ve been visiting my mother on my own, on alternate days. Grateful that I happen to be here at this time. Grange-over-Sands is 29 km from here, almost an hour of scenic driving, right down the length of Lake Windermere, and it’s an interesting place, with a promenade too. I might write more in future posts, when I’ve got to know the area a bit. This photo was taken on Tuesday July 19, the hottest day of the year so far, when temperatures reached 40.2°C at Heathrow by lunchtime, and many other places passed 40, for the very very first time ever…

Arriving in the Lakes in the middle of a long sunny spell meant I hoped to make the most of my non-visiting days to go up a few mountains ~ and the weather in the last week has been truly spectacular. I got up very early (I’m still living like I’m in Taiwan!) and was out there long before anyone else was even up. Grateful to my brother and his wife for their maps, Wainwright guidebooks and advice about where to go – and where to park. Parking is a nightmare in the Lake District, it’s oh so expensive! Rydal Church asks for donations to be put in a box in the wall, but get there very early to get a place. This is my little blue car outside Rydal Church – note the distinctive scratch on the door, which was already there (and with so many little blue cars around, it helps to distinguish which is mine!)

Thursday July 14: Up to High Street 828m (2,718 ft) from the Kirkstone Pass Inn (free parking there) via Stony Cove Pike and Thornthwaite Crag. High Street is named after the Roman Road that ran from Penrith to Ambleside via High Street, and its flat top was later used for summer fairs in the 18th & 19th centuries, including horse racing along the summit! The day started cloudy and rainy but the sun soon came out, and the views were fantastic!

Saturday July 16: A perfect day for the Fairfield Horseshoe from Rydal clockwise up to the highest point of Fairfield 873m (2,864 ft). There were lots of people doing this walk, and several had spent the night on the fells too. The views of Helvellyn were superb. Total: 20km, 1,100m of ascent, ending down at Wordsworth’s family home at Rydal Mount and Rydal Church. Wainwright’s description is, “A great horseshoe of grassy slopes below a consistently high skyline, simple in design and impressive in altitude.” True, it was a great day!

Monday July 18: Escaping the first of the 2 hottest days of the year to enjoy the cool early morning breeze on Red Screes 776m (2,541 ft) by following Wainwright’s recommended route, from Ambleside via Stock Ghyll Force (no rain, so there wasn’t much water in the waterfall) then up via ‘The Struggle’ to the Kirkstone Pass. I spent an hour on the Red Screes summit, it was so gorgeous, and came down along the south ridge. From the summit there are stunning views towards the Fairfield Horseshoe, High Street, Brothers Water & Patterdale. There’s even a tarn up there with frogs in it! The last time I was up there was probably 1976 ~ so glad to renew my acquaintance again. Got back down before the real heat of the afternoon, and finished at the famous Bridge House in Ambleside.

Wednesday July 20: From Troutbeck past the National Trust house at Townend, up to Baystones 488 m (1,601 ft), the highest point on the Wansfell Ridge, and along to Wansfell Pike 482 m (1,581 ft), regarded as the true summit. The weather had turned much cooler after the heatwave of the previous 2 days. A runner was there who had just come up from Ambleside in 26 minutes! I went on down to the Ambleside Pier and across by the ferry along the top end of Lake Windermere to Wray Castle, and walked south down the lake. Last November, Storm Arwen devastated the area and there are huge numbers of fallen trees all lying around. The route goes to the Windermere Car Ferry (£1 for foot passengers) then across to Bowness and back to Troutbeck.

Friday July 22: A rainy day today, so a short walk this morning to Orrest Head, above Windermere, via the back roads of ‘St. Catherine’s Estate’ now a National Trust reserve. So many flowers, all looking lovely after the rain. Wainwright’s life was changed by visiting Orrest Head on his first trip to the Lake District in 1930, when he got off the train at Windermere Station and walked up to the viewpoint. There’s a plaque at the summit with these words,

Windermere and the High Fells:
“Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life.” (A. Wainwright)
Orrest Head1930
‘… quite suddenly, we emerged from the shadows of the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view. … This was truth. God was in heaven that day and I a humble worshipper.’
Alfred Wainwright’s description of his first view of the Lakeland mountains, from Ex Fellwanderer. It was a view that transformed his life and the lives of tens of thousands of his readers.

So that’s the story so far! Thanks for all your prayers and concern. Yes, my mother is doing fine, and it’s great to see her. Yes, my brother and his wife are getting better, and hope to be back in action next week. And yes, my Taiwan friends and others are enjoying the photos of tea-drinking! And we’re all enjoying the cooler temperatures, though Taiwan is also reporting a heatwave, with temperatures of 40.7°C in Hualien with a red alert issued for Taipei. Hope it cools down soon. In the meantime, enjoy tea, ice-cream ~ and even some refreshing cooling rain!

Happy summer everyone ~ and hello from a very friendly baby robin who lives near here!

✈️ And so to the UK! ✈️

A fairly momentous few weeks as I packed up in Taiwan and said goodbye to all my friends ~ and then came to the UK! Thanks be to God, all went well, and finally, I’m here ~ happily still with many wonderful memories of these last few weeks in Taiwan…

Lots of memories of daybreak and sunrise at Advent Church and St. John’s University ….

And sunrise down at the sea, with a plane overhead heading to the airport…

The nearby lotus fields are looking stunning, within walking distance of St. John’s University….

Sunset as I headed to the airport on Thursday, July 7….

Taoyuan International Airport is about an hour’s drive from St. John’s University ~ gotta love their large lego version of the airport that’s on display!

I was flying Turkish Airlines, first from Taipei to Istanbul, then transferred onto Turkish Airlines to London Gatwick. Despite news reports about chaos at UK airports, Gatwick was fine. During the course of my journey, Boris Johnson resigned too. Ah yes, welcome to Britain!

I’m very grateful to have arrived safely – and I’m now staying with my brother and his family. They live in a very beautiful old house in Sussex, originally built in 1580 as a farmer’s cottage, and the wooden beams in the living room were originally from a ship, some of them are numbered. I knew my Taiwan friends would love to see photos, and yes, the photos have been a big hit, and attracted dozens of comments on Facebook. Thanks to my family for their wonderful welcome and hospitality!

And thanks to all in Taiwan for your send-off! The last main event in Taiwan before my departure was the Advent Church Children’s Summer Camp, held on July 4-5. This coincided with the second round of Covid vaccinations for elementary school children, and with general worries about the pandemic, so we had expected much lower numbers than usual – although last year, it was cancelled completely, so we wanted to hold the event this year even with fewer children. In the event, there were 32 children, and we had 21 student leaders, who all spent weeks in preparation, and a whole weekend of training. They were a great team and it was a really worthwhile event. I was on hand for taking photos!

We have a video of the summer camp on YouTube, made by Tzi-Wei from our chaplaincy team. Check it out here… it’s fun!

And finally, a big thank you to you all for your prayers and blessings! If you’re here in the UK, hope you are enjoying the summer weather and the long light evenings. Ah yes, England at its best!