Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cumberland Gaps.... September 21st

About 1974, during the reorganisation of the British mainland counties, Cumberland ate up most of Westmoreland, much to the disgust of its inhabitants, and those parts of Lancashire which were in the Lake District, and finally changed its name to Cumbria and is now one of the biggest - and because of the lakes the most beautiful.
  Today five gadgies, pun, route, vogel, debonair and blog have squeezed into a Skoda Octavia and set off to do a walk from Seathwaite at the bottom of Borrowdale.
Seathwaite has been mentioned before but to save readers looking: from Newcastle take the A69, M6, A66 and near Keswick watch out for the signs for Borrowdale and just before Seatoller turn left, past the yurts (gers) to Seathwaite. A map is recommended for this walk and, like all the best walks it requires two:
OS OL 4 and 6, The English Lakes, North West and South West. We parked on the roadside at GR236124.
However, before starting the walk, indeed before even going to Seathwaite we stopped in Keswick for a bacon butty at The Coffee Lounge. Easy to find; as you drive into Keswick from the A66 turn into the first car park and there, conveniently close to the public toilets is the Coffee Lounge.
Served by big Eric, this is the best bacon butty found so far. A large bun, almost half a pig inside, proper bacon too, and a small salad. Washed down with tea, no ifs,no buts, five flitches..

The walk.
We walked right through the farm yard and along the track to Stockley Bridge, the easiest part of the walk.
                                 The farm at Seathwaite, Seathwaite Fell in the background.

                                               Stockley Bridge over Grain Gill before it becomes
                                                                      River Derwent.
   Having crossed the bridge we went through the gate directly opposite and walked up the forst hill of the day, over Greenhow Knot, alongside Styhead Gill to the Styhead Tarn. Here the path turned west and followed the biblically named Moses Trod path down to Wasdale Head where we stopped for lunch, declaring a Herbiespot outside the hotel, sitting on the grass in the sunshine.
Nearby is St Olaf's, church. Its foundation is unknown but probably pre reformation, although tradition says that its roof timbers are from a Viking longship..
Wasdale Head hotel has a bar called Ritson's which holds an annual contest for the biggest lie.
                       Looking a bit chubby there Michael, too many pies and bacon butties.
Several years ago the view looking north from Wasdale was voted the most beautiful in England. Hard to disagree.
                                           Kirk Fell on the left and Great Gable.

 Lunch over we turned north and headed up alongside Mosedale Beck past Ritson's Force in the direction of Black Sail Pass. This was a long hard pull up the side of Gatherstone Beck but worth it for the view of Ennerdale, slowly being stripped of its coniferous plantations which are to be replaced by deciduous trees. And down below we could see the famous Black Sail Hut, our next port of call.
Black Sail Hut is a Youth Hostel, probably the most isolated one in the country. It was a shepherds bothy but now has accommodation for a limited number of hostelers. It can only be reached on foot by guests, although there is a Land Rover track for the warden. We stayed there some years ago and were treated to a night of curry eating and beer drinking, the place is legendary, but not open all year round.
Walkers are invited to make tea or coffee and buy a piece of cake, money to be placed in an old tea pot! We  took afternoon tea and chatted to a group of Americans who were walking the Coast to Coast route. I think they could well have qualified as gadgies but we English are too polite to ask.
Brian and Ray entertain a couple of American walkers outside Black Sail Hut


One lady tried to catch me out asking who was the Beatles first drummer and was pleased to get the answer Pete Best. A long conversation on their music followed, she promised to watch out for the film "Nowhere Boy"* On a higher cultural level we discussed Shakespeare too as they were regular attenders at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Separated by a common language our two parties set off in opposite directions.
 The next part of our route, much to Dave's delight as he is a geologist as well as an archaeologist was over a series of "Hummocky Moraine" now more scientifically known as  "Moraine Mound Complex" I always thought they were drumlins.
We headed south east on another steep climb in the direction of Windy Gap between Great and Green Gables but turned off the usual path and struggled up the Tongue to Gillercombe Head before turning south until we were just below the summit of Green Gable. From here the path meanders down in a north east direction across Gillercomb to Seathwaite Slabs at the head of Sour Milk Gill.

    Looking west from Gillercomb Head, Pillar and the Buttermere Fells.

                                Recent heavy rain pouring over Seathwaite Slabs down Sour Milk Gill.
 The path down the side of Sour Milk Gill is steep and rocky, a bit of a scramble and needs some care but at the bottom the path leads directly back to Seathwaite farm and the car.
It was a hard walk, involving quite a lot of uphill work but worth every step for the views on a bright and rain free day. Speaking personally, I was knackered. We set off home calling in at the Horse and Farrier pub in Threlkeld, a few miles east of Keswick just off the A66. As with many pubs today its main business is food and there was no room for drinkers to sit so we stood to consume our rehydrating liquids. (Coffee for me, the driver) The pub sells a range of Jennings beers from Cockermouth, normally very drinkable, but with no seating for tired gadgies the pub only gets three barrels from me.
  In my car I had three CDs; Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits, Beatles Number 1s and a compilation of cowboy ballads by Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. For some strange reason not many gadgies like the cowboy ballads. Terrific songs like El Paso where the singer dies in the arms of his true love having been shot by the posse seem to pass them by. (Songs like this break one of Miss Buck's rules of story telling: Never write a story where you, the author, die  because you couldn't  write it. Lacking imagination that woman!)
Anyway they tolerated Willie Nelson, singing along to City of New Orleans,the best train song ever but we all sang along to the Beatles Number 1s, Knew all the words, Harry played guitar, Ray "Ooooohed" beautifully and our harmony on Yellow Submarine was a lesson for today's crop of pop stars. To quote someone, "Thank you very much and I hope we passed the audition."
New scheme, Music to drive home by: this one gets 5 notes.
On this occasion we should really have been singing Cumberland Gap, a hit for Lonnie Donnegan many years ago.

The matrix          
                                       steps                    miles

Hi Gear                      32661                       14.828        
LIDLUSB                  33295                       14.173
Little Black                33703                       14.65

Outdoors GPS        11.7 miles
Measured on map  11.7 miles

The three pedometer readings are remarkably similar although  way out. probably because of the shorter steps taken climbing up steep slopes.

Contains OS data Copyright. Crown Copyright and data base right 2012
* Nowhere Boy.  A recent film about the teenage years of John Lennon. Well worth watching .

P.S.  As write this I have 50 American hits against 3 UK hits. Love to hear from you!