Saturday, 1 October 2011

Five go off to the Lake District. September 30th.
   Every few weeks, depending on the weather, we gadgies set off for a day in the Lake District, the most beautiful area of England.
   Ben is away on holiday and his place has been taken by Ray, 98% vegetarian and fine fellow.
   We are going to walk up Hevellyn, Dollywagon Pike and Fairfield, a good test for gadgies. Instead of tackling Helvellyn from the usual starting points, Glenridding or Thirlspot *we parked at Stanah (Great name, don't they make stairlifts for superannuated gadgies?) which is where the A591 from Keswick meets the B5322 from Threlkeld. There is a small layby, big enough for a dozen cars at GR 318189 on  OL5.
  From here the route is quite easy, find the signpost that directs you to Sticks Pass and follow it up the side of Stanah Gill. It is grassy but steep and seems very long. On reaching the cross roads at Sticks Path turn right and follow the path running roughly south. The first summit you come to is called Raise, the next is Lower Man and then on to the summit of Helvellyn and its spectacular views. Swirral Edge and Striding Edge extend round Red Tarn to the East, to the West lies the rest of the Lake District. There is a cross shaped shelter providing an open air Herbie Spot, quite often a few inquisitive Herdwick **sheep who will share your sandwiches and a family of ravens, none of whom quoth"nevermore", but they croak quite nicely.
   Moving on in a southerly direction on the ridge, not the slightly lower path, there is a memorial to the first aeroplane to land on an English mountain, an AVRO in 1926, an easy way to get to the summit. And it took off again, safely.

Striding Edge from Nethermost Pike.
It is a good way of approaching Helvellyn, quite precipitous and dangerous in bad weather. Famous for yellow shorts, but that's another story.

Harry demonstates either his skill as a photographer (undenied) or his ambition to be the centre fold in Playboy.

The next summit is Nethermost Pike and then Dollywagon Pike where Dave changed miraculously from archaeologist to geologist and pointed out the valleys carved by ancient glaciers, and all pointing in the general direction of Newcastle upon Tyne.
 From this pike the path zig zags down to Grisedale Tarn. The path has been well built in local stone rather than discarded mill yard flagstones but the gradient hammers your knees. Follow the path round the shore of the tarn to Grisedale Hause.
  At this point the team split, amicably. Brian and I headed down the valley towards Little Tongue and the road to Grasmere. The three stalwarts walked up Fairfield and down to Rydal.
  When the two of us got to the road (A591) we followed it until we reached Grasmere Village. Here we took the road past Dove Cottage, sometime home of William Wordsworth and his sister. It being September 30th there was not a single daffodil to be seen, never mind a host. The road becomes a track and eventually a path. It is an old corpse or coffin road, used once upon a time to take the deceased to church in the next parish. There are several "resting stones" presumably for the carriers as much as the coffin. In westerns they would have slung the corpse over the back of a horse and tied it down.
A view of Rydal Water from the "Coffin Road". Nearby was an old tree with hundreds of small denomination coins hammered into it. To pay the Ferryman ?

When we reached Rydal I suggested I catch a bus to Stanah as there was one due and bring a car back, allowing the lads a pint or three in the Badger Bar. However, within minutes the three really tough gadgies appeared, we all caught the bus to Stanah (Bus passes are useful, even in the Lake District!).
 The Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld is a lovely pub to have a drink in after a hard walk although it seems to be far more interested in diners than tired walkers. A good selection of Jennings Ales though, unless you are the designated driver. But I will claim joke of the day,
"Who introduced golf to Russia ?" asked Brian
"Mr Putting," I replied.
My pedometer measured this walk as 12.08 miles, the Fairfield variation as 12.1. Taking into account ups and downs I reckon on 12.5 tough miles.

* The best guides to the Lake District Fells are, of course, the works of Alfred Wainwright, best read after the walk and in a flat vowelled  Lancashire accent. Book 1, the Eastern Fells does not have an ascent of Helvellyn from Stanah but there is one for Raise, which covers the first part of our trip.  There are eight volumes in this famous series, all beautifully illustrated and written with a gentle humour. I think I shall concentrate on volume 8  "The Outlying Fells ..... written primarily for old age pensioners................" But not yet as St Augustine says.

** Herdwick sheep are the hardy animals kept in the Lake District. Traditionally they know there own "heafs" or "hefts" (Grazing areas) and keep to them.

It's the reader in Russia who fascinates me, could this be a David Cameron moment?