A First Time For Everything – Part 2

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At home, Lyn an I are enthusiastic cyclists and Norfolk, being fairly flat, lends itself to some relaxing routes. Keswick and the Lakes is different, but with the increased availability of E-Bikes to rent, cycling has become a more accessible activity. On a bright sunny day (yes, another one!) we met friends Geoff and June outside a bike shop in Keswick for a bike ride. At home, our non-electric road bikes are light and nimble, well suited to the flatter landscapes of Norfolk. On the other hand, our hired hybrid E-bikes were robust to say the least, They were bulky and heavy, but came with electric power and 4 speed modes which helped us power up the hills. Our friends brought their own bikes which were well suited to the varying terrain of the Lake District trails.

Our route took us from Keswick on the path out to Threlkeld, then along lanes under the shadow of Blencathra to Scales and Souther Fell to Mungrisdale and on to our coffee stop at Caldbeck, a delightful little Cumbrian village where the old Water Mill has been turned into lovely coffee shop. It is a mecca for local cyclists.

Caldbeck Common
Top: Some quick adjustments to Lyn’s bike; 2. Caldbeck Common; 3. The garden at Caldbeck Mill Coffee Shop

Before we arrived in Caldbeck we cycled through a small village with a post box set into the wall of a house. Now you might think “so what?” This post box is old, very old. All post boxes in the UK, have an inscription on the front, ER is the most common, or GR for very few. This inscription is called the Royal Cypher and indicates the monarch who was on the throne at the time the box was installed. ER indicates Queen Elizabeth II and GR represents King George V. who reigned from 1910 – 1936.

A small piece of history.

Suitably fortified with coffee and scones we headed on, our route affording us views of Skiddaw and Blencathra “from the rear”. The traditional view of these two mountains is from the main road (A66) or from around Keswick. It was lovely to get a different view.

Views from behind Skiddaw and Blencathra

Our lunch stop was at the old Railway Station Cafe at Bassenthwaite. The station, a stop on the old Penrith/Keswick/Cockermouth Line closed in 1966. It lay derelict for many years until an enterprising couple purchased it in 2019 and set about transforming it into a cafe/restaurant and with the carriages parked on the old rails it has become a popular tourist halt. Behind the cafe is a large black steam engine, a SNCF Class 241 which is now a permanent fixture. It was used in the2017 film, Murder on the Orient Express which starred Johnny Depp and Judy Dench.

SNCF Class 241 Steam Engine- The Film Star

Lunch was a delight and we reluctantly had to depart, heading off around the back lanes once again and up over the Whinlatter Pass with a steep descent back into Keswick. The electric bikes performed brilliantly and thanks to our friends we had an excellent day out with a fantastic route. Bike hire is something we will do again.

The Way Home – 1
The Way Home – 2
Bassenthwaite Lake From Whinlatter Pass
intrepid Cyclists

I mentioned above our trip to Eskdale. Wasdale is the next valley to the north of Eskdale and is a mecca for walkers and landscape photographers, mainly because of Wastwater and the surrounding mountains which provide some of the most picturesque scenes in the UK. It is somewhere we have never visited and has been on my Lakes bucket list for a long time.

The day started with grey cloud cover and a gentle breeze rippled the surface of the lake. After coffee in Nether Wasdale we headed up the narrow valley road, parked the car and walked the short distance to the southern lake shore. The views were breathtaking. Wasdale is fairly open at its south western end but the lake is surrounded on three sides by steep mountains. Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Lingmell, and Sca Fell guard the northern end around the tiny hamlet of Wasdale Head, The steep scree slopes of Illgill Head run the length of the eastern side with Middle Fell, a slightly more gentle slope on the western side.

Four views of Wasdale and Wastwater. Bottom image – Lyn on the southern beach at Atwater.
Us at the south end of Wastwater
Kayakers
Kayakers
Wasdale Panorama from half way

We spent a couple of hours around the southern end, exploring and taking photographs. before heading back to the car to drive the narrow lane beside the lake towards Wasdale Head. The village is small, just a church, a Hotel and a few farm cottages. The sun finally appeared as we reached the end of the road.

St Olaf’s Church Wasdale Head
Track to Kirk Fell with Great Gable in the background
Great Gable
View back down the valley

Wasdale Head

Wasdale Head claims to be the home to the highest mountain (Scafell Pike), the deepest lake (Wastwater), the smallest church, (St Olaf’s) and the biggest liar in England! The latter claim is attributed to a local character called Will Ritson who lived between 1808 and 1890. He was the landlord of the Wastwater Hotel (now the Wasdale Head Inn) One of his fables claimed he once found a wounded eagle nearby the Inn. He rescued it, kept it in his chicken coop and nursed this bird back to health. The tale goes on to note that one night the coop was raided by a female dog. The eagle was unscathed but five months later the dog gave birth to a litter of winged hounds! As a tribute, the Worlds Biggest Liar Competition is held every year at the inn, in his memory!

A tall story if ever there was one. We lingered a while in Wasdale. enjoying the scenery, and the sunshine which had made an appearance.

We took some time out during our second week (the walking week) to visit Larch Cottage Nurseries. It is essentially a massive garden centre with a private garden beyond. The private garden was small compared to the nursery, but very well stocked. There was a small private chapel in one corner, whilst a large wildlife pond dominates the area just in front of it. The main attraction for many was La Casa Verde restaurant and cafe, a terraced structure overlooking the nursery. Coffee and cake was good but very expensive.

Chapel at Larch Cottage Nursery
Us in the Garden at Larch Cottage
Inside the Chapel
Lily in the Pond
Eryngium
Dahlia

Our walking week saw us enjoy some lovely walks, including our first lead. Below are some of the images from those walks and a couple of Photo trips I did on my own.

Ard Crag from Ring Beck – Photo trip out
Falcon Crag overlooking Derwentwater
Red Pike and High Stile from Crummock Water
Cat Bells – Classic fell walk accessible from Keswick

Our first walk with the group was a classic from Keswick – Walla Crag, Blueberry Fell, High Seat and back via Ashness Bridge and Derwentwater

Derwentwater from Walla Crag
Our Group on Walla Crag
The Group on High Seat

Some images of a walk from Grasmere up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Tarn and Seat Sandal:

The locals looking on at a bunch of strangers walking up their hill.
Tongue Gill
Tongue Gill up close
Approaching Hause Moss and Hause gap
Grisedale Tarn with St Sunday Crag off to the Right and Dollywagon Pike to the left.
Our destination – Seat Sandal
St Sunday Crag (left) and Fairfield (right) from the summit of Seat Sandal

For the first time we led a walk in the Lake District, a 10 mile, 6 hill climb on one of the warmest days of the summer at that time!

Shortly after the start – Grisedale Pike
Summit of the first climb – Barrow
A coffee break, between Barrow and Stile End
The group sunning themselves at lunch on the summit of Sail
Walk/scramble up Crag Hill
The summit of the last and highest climb – Crag Hill
Looking back – Descent off Crag Hill

We enjoyed a brilliant two weeks as tourists and walkers. Some great experiences and walks (including leading our own) and catching up with friends. We will do it all again next year and are looking forward to it.

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