20081019_Rydal Caves_During Grasmere Circular Walk

20081019_Rydal Caves_During Grasmere Circular Walk
When : 19th October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Map : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Grid Ref. : 354,058

Summary : Old quary caves above Rydal Water

I’ll pick up this post with a paragraph from the main walk diary …

…… After a short while we reached the large upper opening of Rydal Caves, which makes a super place for a lunch stop … which is exactly what we did along with a sizable number of other walkers.

As we approached the upper and larger of the two caves, we first reached the flat top of the quarry spoil heap.

It was here that some miniature sculptures had been constructed by some clever soul out of slate fragments, the arch in particular very skilfully done, and the body outline made us smile.

Who-ever did this should you happen upon this blog … excellent!

 

This is a very popular spot, and there always seem to be plenty of people congregated here, as the caves are very easily reached after parking at Rydal Village little more than half a mile away, as well as a paths coming off Loughrigg Fell in several directions and up from the Ambleside area.

The caves are not natural; they are the remains of old slate quarry workings. Although they’ve softened around the edges a bit, the bare slate is still sharp in outline embodied perfectly by the wide arched opening into the upper cave. This makes a superb feature in the landscape; perhaps the small scale of the mining makes them acceptable to our eyes … I wonder if they’d get planning permissions these days?

The upper cave has recently had some large lumps of rock fall from its tall broad ceiling and because of this the local authorities have erected an ugly fence, with a sign warning visitors not to enter the cave. However the fence is easily circumvented, which most people there did (including us) to sit on some boulders just outside the cave entrance to eat their packed lunches. Only one or two people braved the interior (not us) to explore the dark shadows and mysteries of the cavern.

Stretching from the outside and well into the interior there is a large pool of water that reaches up to a side wall of the quarry. I don’t know the depth at its deepest, I suspect its quite deep, but it shallows up towards the “picnic” boulders, and a line of large stepping stones are strategically placed to aid reaching the inside of the cavern.

Exploring a little further onto these steppy-stones, we noticed a shoal of little brown fishes, darting back and forth in amongst the rocks and green algae of the shallow water. These fishes don’t seem to have grown in size since I last visited several years ago. Our Mum had asked me to look out for the legendary goldfish in the pool, which I’d heard about but never seen over the years. I thought it was just a myth, but no …. There was one… No! Two brightly coloured domestic type goldfish swimming along happily in the midst of the shoal. Wonderful, it is true; there really are goldfish in Rydal Cave Pool! and one is quite sizeable. I guess little things please little minds, but I like this! I assume there must be enough natural food to maintain the fish but today they were given a feast of bits of bread etc, thrown in by some of the gathered walkers.

I’ve tried to find some history on the Caves themselves: how old they are and how long they were active for, etc. However I’ve struggled to find anything of much substance via the internet or from my walking books. I’m sure I read somewhere that the quarries date back 200 years or more and apparently Wordsworth (1770-1850) wrote about the caves …. That’s not surprising really as he lived just down the path at Rydal village.

I understand that choirs and other musical groups have held concerts in the caves, but whether that’d be allowed now I don’t know; I suppose health and safety/insurance issues etc. have likely put a kybosh on that, now that the “do not enter” signs have gone up.

In total contrast to the lack of history, there are dozens of photo’s on “The ‘Net”. Many taken from the interior looking out, showing the opening like the gaping mouth of a huge creature… it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the jagged upper arch looking like the teeth of the beast. Others detail the pool with its line of stepping stones and the reflections of the mineral rich stone angling into the waters, the colours can be stunning, especially if you’re there with the sun shining … Yes, sometimes the sun really does come out and when it does, in my opinion, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place than the English Lake District.

For lots more pic’s you can go to the Flickr site (where my photo’s are hosted from) some really are superb … http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=rydal%20caves&w=all&s=int

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Continue the walk at = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/20081019_grasmere-rydal-water-alcock-tarn-circular-walk/

Next days walk = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/20081020_grasmere-helm-crag-ridge-easedale-circular-walk/

 

 

End

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20081019_Grasmere, Rydal Water, Alcock Tarn Circular Walk

20081019_Grasmere, Rydal Water, Alcock Tarn Circular Walk
When : 19th October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Map : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Start + End Point : 336,079
Approx Distance : 7¾ miles, (12.4 km)
Heights : 1970 ft (600m) Ascent (and therefore descent as well) – Most significantly Alcock Tarn section.
Parking : As guests we were allowed to park in the Youth Hostel Car park, but for non-hostellers there are car parks in the village.
Public Transport : Yes, Grasmere is on a main bus route with regular services.

Summary : Grasmere Village ; West/South shore of Grasmere Lake ; Loughrigg Terrace ; Rydal Caves ; Rydal Water ;Rydal Village ; Corpse Road or Coffin Route ; White Moss Common ; Alcock Tarn ; Greenhead Gill ; Return to Grasmere Village.

Features :

  • Easy route finding and Good Paths.
  • Caves, Woods and Open Fell Sides.
  • Several Fantastic Viewpoints.
  • Famous Villages and Wordsworth Connections.
  • Variety of routes and various lengths possible.
  • Fairly low level of exertion required (except Alcock Tarn Section)

I’ll make my apologies at the front end here, as this is a longish post, but there’s so much to talk about on this superb walk!

I hope my pics here at least convey a bit of the beauty of this lovely place, despite the conditions not really lending themselves to our compact cameras.

 

This is the first of three walks we did on a short break of 3-days (2-nights) pretty much slap bang in the middle of the Lake District, centred on Grasmere village. If you’ve already read my previous post  you’ll already know a bit of background, but it’s not essential to what follows here. If you want to here’s a couple of links to some more of my scribblings. https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/20081019-21_lake-district-3-day-break/ and https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/20081019-21_lake-district-break-janets-panorama-photos/

My sister Janet wanted to do a walk to include Grasmere and Rydal Water lakes and the route we chose is a classic. From the numbers of people I’ve seen on paths around the area, it must be one of the most frequently walked areas in Lakeland, especially around the Loughrigg Terrace area.

In the past I’ve done various routes taking in these two charming lakes, and I was quite happy revisiting them again. The only down side is that because it’s low level I’ve tended to do them when the weather’s not been at it’s best … the high fells tend to win when the conditions are fine … The area really deserves better from me and I was hopeful for some decent conditions this time. We decided that whatever the weather, good, bad or indifferent, we’d do the walk on our first day of the trip … I was hopeful, but not very expectant.

Janet picked me up from home in Rugby at about 7am and after an uneventful trip up the M6, we were ready to start walking by about 11:30 even after dropping our food off in the youth hostel members kitchen … Many thanks for all the driving Jan’ it was much appreciated … there and back.

Unfortunately, the hoped for bright weather had once again forsaken The Lakes and we set off in Murky, grey, sort of weather. It wasn’t raining [yet] but it was rather gloomy. Still we happily set off determined to make the most of the day.

First up was a stretch of road walking, through Grasmere village and then on Red Bank Road in a wide curve around the west side of Grasmere Lake until, after a bit of a rise, we could leave the road on a permissive path. The path heads down to the Grasmere lakeshore soon after passing one of the scattering of impressive and very typically Lakeland buildings.

 

The walk on Red Bank Road isn’t too bad, as road walking goes, but the traffic can be quite busy at times, with the frequent bends helping to keep speeds low but at the same time obscuring who/what could be just around the corner …

Please take care whenever road-walking … I think it’s a pity the permissive path we joined doesn’t extend all the way around the west side of Grasmere lake. It would certainly take pedestrians off the road, and if it stretched all the way to The Faeryland Tea Rooms near Grasmere Village it might even create a bit of custom for the lakeside establishment.

That’s pie-in-the-sky really, as the road has to be negotiated, so back to the walk …. The easy path follows the shoreline, including a section through Redbank Woods, all the way to the weir at the outflow from the lake. Grasmere flows into a short stretch of the River Rothay here, on its way to Rydal Water lake. The views across the lake to the surrounding fells can be stunning, although we didn’t see them at their best because of the low cloud.

    

Still we chatted away quite happily as we strolled around the lake shore to the outflow weir, where a lull in the breeze gave some nice reflections across the water to Banneriggs woods.

Soon after leaving the weir, we turned to steeply climb for a short distance up a bank heading up the fell side of Loughrigg Terrace. This knoll, almost a small spur coming off the main rise of “The Terraces” afforded some superb views back over Grasmere and likewise turning the opposite direction over Rydal Water. 

This spot has it all:- Open Fells; Lakes with islands; views to high mountains ; Woods, Crags and to cap it all a host of potential routes to take.

We chose to ignore the most obvious path heading down the side of a wall towards Rydal Water’s shoreline, instead rising a little further to pick up a smaller but distinct path contouring around to the east.

After a short while we reached the large upper opening of Rydal Caves, which makes a super place for a lunch stop … which is exactly what we did along with a sizable number of other walkers.

For a bit more about Rydal caves and some pic’s , please see separate post https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/20081019_rydal-caves_during-grasmere-circular-walk/

 

Lunch over, we headed off down a broad track, at first making a zig-zag through the slate spoil heap directly away from the cave opening, before descending into an area of woodland.

Soon after, we passed the lower of the Rydal Caves, this one being much less accessible, being excavated below path level, as well as heading back into the wooded fell side.

The remaining angular crags of the quarry are still stark despite nature’s attempts to soften the sharp edges.

    

From here it didn’t take long to descend further, in some drizzle, on a well made path to reach a footbridge over the River Rothay on its way to Lake Windermere.

We crossed the river by means of the longish footbridge, stopping half way across to stand and admire a heron, stood sentinel in some shallows obviously waiting to strike out at any fishes foolish enough to come too close.

At the far end of the bridge, a short climb up some steps brought us out onto the busy A591 at Rydal village. Amazing how such a peaceful scene was so quickly transformed into looking out for speeding traffic on the main north-south thoroughfare through The Lake District.

Village is probably too big of a description for Rydal as there aren’t many buildings, but what few there are, are quite significant. The first being The Badger Bar in the Glen Rothay Hotel. I have to confess we called in here for a quick pint (for me) and a-half (for Jan). This was supped down in amongst a mix of seasoned looking hikers and a much smarter looking fraternity of Sunday Diners, wearing shirt and ties etc. A good mix of people happily mingling together, just as it should be … and good locally brewed beer as well.

After our little drink, we left the pub to pick up the nearby steep side road rising northwards to pass the impressive and very traditional looking Rydal Church (St. Mary’s, I think). This road was a bit of a pull, not helped perhaps by the alcohol imbibed moments earlier. Ignoring the path to Rydal Hall we continued up the road to pass Rydal Mount (one of Wordsworth’s Houses and open to the public) to immediately turn left onto a bridle track along side a tall wall above the buildings.

Some links follow that I’ve found for some of the places in Rydal. I make no endorsement of these places (but I did enjoy the pint at the Badger Bar) but they are extensively known and written about establishments. I hope they’re of interest …

http://www.theglenrothay.co.uk/

http://www.rydal.org.uk/church.html

http://www.rydalhall.org/gardens/gardens-tour.html

http://www.rydalmount.co.uk/

Be careful not to plough straight on up the hill as you pass Rydal Mount, as another path heads on upwards to climb the flanks of Nab Scar and Lords Crag and ultimately the western flanks of The Fairfield Horseshoe … a fantastic walk in its own right but not one to get onto, when doing this Grasmere circular.

The bridle track we took I believe is part of the old Corpse Road or Coffin Route from Ambleside to Grasmere, used to transport the deceased for burial at the church in Grasmere. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been man-handling the coffins over this at times quite rugged path under Nab Scar, I suppose the low route where the A591 now runs, mustn’t have been developed back then?

There were some lovely autumn coloured trees along the bridle track (heading in a generally westerly direction) but these were muted considerable by the damp grey conditions, but some good views could be seen over Rydal Water to the charms of Loughrigg Fell, where we’d been walking before lunch. The Bridle track, at a first glance of the map, looks like it contours on the level, but in fact it rises quite steadily to skirt under the rump end of Nab Scar. The earlier drink did hit the legs muscles somewhat, pay-back time I guess after the pub-stop.

About a mile after leaving Rydal Village, the bridle track does a bit of a loop and a couple of paths join it from below, rising up from car parks on the A591.

Just after the 2nd of these adjoining paths, and just about opposite a little pool (blink and you could miss it) is a small but inviting path heading southwards to rise up through some open woodland, bracken, rocky outcrops and a couple of damp marshy bits (easily navigated around) to reach White Moss Common.

For a bit more (including some panorama pics) on White Moss Common please visit my post https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/20081019-21_lake-district-break-janets-panorama-photos/

After a short time and after taking in the views, we headed back to the main track the same way we’d come and turned left to head off past the little pool. Soon after, we had a decision to make.

Option-1 … Sorter and easy route.
Heading down a metalled minor road to pass another and probably the most famous of Wordsworth’s houses, “Dove Cottage” at Town End (open to the public) … and then on to the delights of nearby Grasmere Village. ( http://www.wordsworth.org.uk/history/index.asp?pageid=36 )

Option-2 … Longer and much more strenuous route.
Continuing the walk up to and past Alcock Tarn. 

The decision didn’t take long, we’d come to walk, so we set off in the increasingly persistent rain and freshening wind, to pick up a steeply rising zig-zagging path (it looks much straighter on the map).

After the ease of the bridle track before, the ascent came as a bit of a shock to the old leg muscles and I struggled at first to find climbing mode … I can’t speak for Jan’ here as she seemed to be going stronger than me as we started the climb.

After a while we had a brief rest from the climb at a tiny little reservoir pool with a dinky little dam. This is a charming spot and we took the opportunity to take a couple of damp looking photo’s in the rain.

It would be an understatement to say we were getting a tad wet and I wished I’d donned my over-trousers when the rain had first started … but I hadn’t (bad decision) and now decided it was too late, my trousers already sopping wet. It was a just a bit uncomfortable as the wet fabric clung to my legs. It was almost funny looking at the pair of us dripping as we went.

If you do the walk, don’t forget to look backwards as some super views open up down to Grasmere.

  

Continuing upwards (legs going much better on the climb now) we eventually reached Alcock Tarn, high up on the flanks of Heron Pike … Not that we could see much of the mountain, as we’d reached the swirling base of the clouds enveloping the tops.

In fact we could hardly see the other end of the tarn itself; however, the mists added an atmospheric feel to the place. I think Alcock Tarn is an odd place being perched so high on the fell side, just sort of nestled in behind a line of crags, you’d think all that water would just run off the hill into the valley some 300 metres below.

  

After passing the tarn heading northwards on it’s west bank, we started to head down a shallow valley, which is when I slipped on a flat rock, my right boot deciding to head sideways past my left leg. This left my 16+ stone frame (224+ lbs if you’re reading this in the USA) with nothing holding it upright and I ended up in a heap, head several feet below my feet, very inelegant! … Luckily, apart from a bit of a knock to my right elbow and very bruised pride I heaved myself upright, probably equally inelegantly and pretty much unscathed.

It certainly brings it home how easy serious injury could occur, and it’s good knowing that we’ve probably got the best mountain rescue organisation in the world to call upon given the need (more info at http://www.ldsamra.org.uk/ ) …. if you can please help fund this fine volunteer manned emergency service whenever you can.

Anyway, back to the walk, my tumble certainly made the steep descent towards Greenhead Gill a bit more interesting as my confidence in the wet had taken a bit of a knock.

Once the Gill was reached we followed the path down, sandwiched between the cascading stream and a stone wall.

 

We commented about how it wouldn’t have taken much more rain for the waters to cover the path ….

Little did we know, that’s exactly what happened during the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) event in Borrowdale just a few days later, extensively reported on, on national TV. The internet has lots of posts, blogs and video’s of the 2008 OMM race, it’s worth browsing just to get an alternative (some may say more balanced) view of what happened.

 

The final stretch of the walk was on made-up roads/footpaths, the first picked up after crossing a little footbridge over the gill to emerge onto the A591 again. We crossed straight over to follow the B287 into Grasmere Village and on up to the youth hostel ( http://www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/the-lake-district/hostels/Grasmere-Butharlyp-Howe/facilities.aspx ) but only after dripping our way around the local CO-OP store, as we bought some treacle sponge puddings to go with our chicken curry to be cooked in the self-catering kitchens at the hostel. Good filling fare to replenish the body after the day’s exertions, all washed down nicely with a bottle of rose wine bought at the hostel reception. A good end, to a good days walking, even if it had ended up a bit wet.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/20081020_grasmere-helm-crag-ridge-easedale-circular-walk/

End

20080505_Cawston Woods – Bluebell walk

20080505 Cawston Woods – Bluebell Walk
When : 5th May 2008
Who : Me and my two kids
Where : Cawston, Rugby – Warwickshire – England
Map : used 1:25000 OS Explorer Map 222 Rugby & Daventry
Grid Ref : 46,73
Public Transport : Bus route – drops off on Calvestone Road, on the Cawston Grange estate near the large island on the A4071.

This is really a continuation of my walk of just a couple of weeks earlier , see post : https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/20080413_cawston-early-morning-walk/

It’s amazing how a few days can transform what felt like winter in mid-April to a lovely warm spring day in early May.

I forget what we’d done earlier in the day, but late in the afternoon I decided to revisit Cawston Woods in the hope that the bluebells would be in bloom now. My kids decided to join me and I think my wife stayed home to do some studying for her degree … exams were imminent and essays were due in!

The route started off pretty much the same as before: Large island at entrance to Cawston Grange Estate; A4071 heading away from Bilton; Cawston Lane; Lay-by by side of the road.

 

Just past the lay-by is a small field which had a crop of oil seed rape coming into full flower. The sun, lighting up the mass of yellow making a sharp contrast to the dark shadows of Fox Covert behind.

The rape looked stunning but I was pleased we didn’t have to walk through it as the pollen stains clothing and the plants’ smell is somewhat horrible.

We headed off into the woods, the kids excitedly looking forward to discovering the woods for themselves, just like I had a few weeks earlier.

 

 

The transformation in the woods was startling; the trees had burst into life with fresh green foliage replacing bare branches and the floor was a carpet of purple with the bluebells in full bloom.

The bird song was incredible, and I tried to get the kids to stand still for a moment (easier said than done) to listen … The brief moment over, they were off again.

In fact the bluebells were starting to “go-over” and just shows how brief the season is for these flowers … maybe only 2 or 3 weeks to see them at their best.

         

There were quite a few people about, most notably a group of teenage lads on BMX style bikes streaking down a track obviously reserved just for themselves. At points along this track they’d dug out hollows and built earth banks to form jumps. The final jump was quite a major construction, consisting of piled up logs onto which the earth had been packed. Health and safety would have had nightmares over this.

Heading onwards, we followed paths and tracks, bluebells everywhere; the kids off at a run and I had to call them back several times just to keep them in sight, their pace completely at odds with my wish to soak up the sights and atmosphere of the quieter parts of the woods.

Eventually we compromised and we ended up following a track generally south westwards, the bluebells petering out as the wood was squeezed into a narrow strip between farmland fields.

After a while, we exited the wood on a footpath sort of in a southerly direction and after a hundred yards or so (at a cross-roads of footpaths) we turned right across a stile to head north alongside a hedge. We were now heading back towards the woods and we were soon amongst the trees and bluebells again.

 

 

          

At this point I was going to head straight on to Cawston Farm and head off home, but my children had other ideas and persuaded me to head back into Fox Covert to rediscover the area all over again.

This wasn’t a bad compromise, as they really wanted to explore the Cawston Spinney side of the track, but I dissuaded them from this, remembering how the path had got boggy and difficult to follow when I was there in April. 

Eventually we did reach Cawston Farm, rejoined the A4071, and the final half-a-mile or so back home.

A short walk really, maybe just an hour or so, but very enjoyable, especially seeing the kids enthused and playing together, running, laughing, climbing trees, just enjoying each others company … excellent.

My next walk is another local one, this time a circular full morning walk with my son Craig just 5 days later : https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/20080511_cawston-grange-lawford-heath/

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Gary

20081019-21_Lake District – 3 Day Break

20081019-21 : Lake District – 3 Day break
When : 19th to 21st October 2008
Who : Me and Janet
Where : The Lake District – England

WOW … THE LAKE DISTRICT … AGAIN !

Twice in 4-months – To do some walking – Excellent.

Intro’

This post gives an introduction to another short break in what I think is probably my favourite place to walk in England, this time with my sister Janet. She had been in the Ambleside/Rydal area for a short time earlier in the year with her family and had done a little bit of walking with them. She’d done a walk from Bob Allen’s book “Short Walks In The Lake District” that I had leant her for her trip.

The walk she’d done was “Lily Tarn on Loughrigg Fell from Rydal”. This 3½ miler had given her a hankering to do some more walking up there and a little more strenuous to boot.

We found ourselves organising a trip together, basically Janet leaving it to me to sort out some routes and accommodation, but with the request that at some point we’d include Grasmere and Rydal Water Lakes.

She had just touched on the outflow from Rydal water when there earlier in the year and wanted to explore further. She had seen another walk, this time in my copy of Bob Allen’s “On Lower Lakeland Fells” book, entitled “Grasmere and Rydal”. In the past, I’ve done several variations of walks, taking in these two charming mid-sized lakes, and had no problem in revisiting the area again.

I took the opportunity to start playing with my new “Memory Map” programme (1:50000 scale mapping) I had just bought, [http://www.memory-map.co.uk/]  and with reference to my OS 1:25000 scale maps,  I sorted out several routes as the basis for the 3 days, but with the proviso learnt over the years of “weather permitting”, especially as this was the end of October!

[http://leisure.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/leisure/ItemDetails.jsp?item=memorymap_25k]

Accommodation.
I booked us into one of the two Youth Hostels in Grasmere village, Butharlyp How. http://www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/the-lake-district/hostels/Grasmere-Butharlyp-Howe/index.aspx

We were supposedly booked into separate Male-Female dorm’s, but on arrival found they had in fact placed us in the same room together, just for ourselves. We glanced at each other deciding whether to object, but decided what the hell, we’d cope. I suppose we’ve reached the age where we’re not overtly shy, but we reckoned it was probably about 35 years ago since we’d last shared a bed-room (probably when our Gran’ had stayed over for Christmas when we were kids and I had to vacate my bedroom for her to have my bed). Anyway, all it meant was strategically turning our heads at the right times!

Despite the potential for embarrassment a few goods things came out of the arrangement.

  • As it was just the two of us in a room to sleep four, we had a bit of extra space to spread out a bit.
  • Again, as there were just two of us, we could both have a bottom bunk and not have to climb steps to the top bunks.
  • We could lock the door to the room and not worry about the security of our “stuff”. In a shared room I guess there’s always a higher risk of things going missing, although in approx nearly 30 years of hostelling I don’t think I’ve ever had anything stolen from a dorm’ (from a drying room yes, but a dorm’ no).

THE WALKS ITINERARY

Sunday 19th Oct : A Grasmere Circular Walk, including :
Grasmere Village ; West/South shore of Grasmere Lake ; Loughrigg Terrace ; Rydal Caves ; Rydal Water ; Rydal Village ; White Moss Common ; Alcock Tarn ; Greenhead Gill ; Return to Grasmere Village.

      

Monday 20th Oct : A Grasmere Circular Walk, including :
Grasmere Village ; Lower part of Easdale ; Helm Crag ; Gibson Knott ; Moment Crag ; Calf Crag ; Far Easdale and waterfalls ; Easdale Tarn ; Sourmilk Gill and waterfalls ; Easdale ; Return to Grasmere Village.

         

Tuesday 21st Oct : An Elterwater Circular Walk, including :
Waithwaite Bottom Car Park ; Elterwater Village ; Little Langdale ; Slater Bridge ; Colwith Force ; Skelwith Bridge ; Skelwith Force ; Elter Water Lake ; Return to Elterwater Village and Waithwaite Bottom Car Park.

 

I can’t remember the last time I’d spent 3-days on the trot with Janet, probably on a scouting event when we were in our teens (‘struth what a long time ago!), but we’ve always got on very well and this trip was no exception and it was good being able to chat about anything and everything, important and trivial … My other sis’ Julie now wants in on the next trip we organise … Hey, ANOTHER trip, that sounds good …. Ermmmm, we’ll have to start planning where and when.

Anyway, preamble over, that’s probably more than enough background to the trip, the more interesting stuff will follow on separate pages (ie. the walks themselves). I’ll be publishing diary posts for each of the walks, when I get around to writing them up and editing which photo’s I want to add.

I’ve added another post just for Janet’s panorama photo’s, as she had just learnt how her camera could do this, so I think I’ll make a special post just for these.
https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/20081019-21_lake-district-break-janets-panorama-photos/

Some direct links to my walks diaries follow below, otherwise have a look in the “Lake district Category listing for some more stuff …..

https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/20081019_grasmere-rydal-water-alcock-tarn-circular-walk/

https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/20081020_grasmere-helm-crag-ridge-easedale-circular-walk/

https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/20081020_elterwater-little-langdale-colwith-force-%e2%80%93-skelwith-force-circular-walk-%e2%80%93-post-1/

https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/20081019-21_lake-district-break-some-vids/

One last comment; a few days after we’d been there, the 2008 OMM event (Original Mountain Marathon) was held just a little further north in the Borrowdale/Buttermere area and the story became national headline stuff. I’ve made a little comment post which you can access via my Lake District Category, or direct using the following link : https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/20081019-21_lake-district-omm-comment/

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
End

20080921_Hawkstone Park Walk – Shropshire

20080921_Hawkstone Park – Shropshire
When : 21 September 2008.
Who : Me and my Family.
Where : Shropshire, England, East of the A49 between Shrewsbury and Whitchurch near to the village of Weston-Under-Redcastle, SY4 5UY.
Approx distance : Maybe 3-miles for full route? … Approx 3 hours (per park’s literature) but allow more to explore properly or picnic or sunbath or take photo’s.
Significant height : Ups and downs on paths and tracks … all climbs short at any one time.
Maps : 1:50000 OS Landranger Map 160 Shrewsbury & surrounding area covers the area but not used. Leaflet map per link :- http://www.hawkstone.co.uk/follies/map.html
Start + End Grid Ref : 575,285 … ish
Parking : Free Car Park
Public Transport : Don’t know
Entrance Fee : YES … Variable, depending on age, group size, concessions, etc. We paid £17.00 for a family ticket.

Summary : According to the Park’s own literature : Welcome to the 18th Century walking centre of Great Britain, designated Shropshire’s only grade 1 landscape by English Heritage.

Hawkstone Historic Park & Follies is recognised as a masterpiece of the school of Naturalistic Landscape. Created in the 18th Century by the Hill Family, after 100 years of dormancy it was restored and re-opened in 1993 ….

English heritage recognises Hawkstone as an important component in our cultural heritage.

http://www.hawkstone.co.uk/follies/hawkstone_park_follies.html

http://www.shropshiretourism.co.uk/attractiondetails.php?estid=727

Some of the main features :-

  • The White Tower
  • Rhododendrum Jungle and Woodland Walk
  • The Monument
  • Swiss Bridge
  • Gingerbread Hall
  • The Grotto Caves
  • The Awful Precipice and Ravens Shelf
  • Gothic Arch
  • The Cleft
  • Various tunnels (torch needed)
  • Reynard’s Walk
  • At all times there are superb views and vistas to enjoy.

We had caught a little of BBC-TV’s Countryfile programme just a couple of weeks before and had been impressed by their “spot” about Hawkstone Park.

http://www.andreawulf.com/2008/09/bbc-countryfile-7-september-2008-bbc1-11am.html + http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/countryfile/

Although having lived in the midlands all of our lives, and reasonably well travelled, neither my wife nor I had ever heard of the place. We were both intrigued and agreed to make a mental note to get there sometime in the future, as yet undetermined.

The opportunity came much sooner than expected, as a free Sunday with good weather presented itself on 21st September. It turned out to be as nice a day as we’d had all summer long and we decided to pile the kids in the car and make the 90 mile journey across the midlands motorway network (M6/M54) to visit the park. A 180 mile round trip would normally warrant an overnight away, but on this occasion we decided on just a day trip and so save us a bit of cash.

I had wondered whether this post should be included in my walks diaries, but Hawkstone is much more than your average country park with its location, viewpoints, follies and other notable features, so I’ve decided to publish this page anyway.

Sensible shoes are a must, especially if you want to make the most of all the paths and especially in The Cleft which I think must be almost permanently damp. The training shoes we wore were quite adequate and there was no need for hiking boots.

Hawkstone is built on several hills/escarpments and as such there are ups and downs, some steep (but never very long) and not always on perfect paths, but that is at its heart of what it is, and access is by default limited for the less mobile. There are wide tracks, narrow windy paths, steps cut into the rocks, Rhododendron glades, tall trees, broad trees, view points, airy bridges over deep chasms and the laid out routes are interspersed with various follies and features along the way. Please refer to the park’s web site for their special notes, including accessibility :- http://www.hawkstone.co.uk/follies/Admission-hours.html

The start was easy on a broad track skirting around the edge of farmland; the tractor tilling the field unintentionally making interlocking patterns like the lines in a huge Japanese Zen Garden.

Soon the route became steeper as we passed the stocks and wound our way up to The Urn (look out for the fox).

Here the path divides with one route appearing to turn left contouring around cliffs. We didn’t take this route though, taking note of a no-entry sign which informed us not to go that way. There is a kind of one way system and this very inviting looking path is in fact the main return route, known as Reynard’s Walk … more of this later.

Our route took us onto a flight of stone steps cut into the rock, forming a curving channel leading us upwards. The steps have been worn away by countless sets of feet over the years, giving them a lovely organic, almost natural feel.

Soon after, following a short climb, we reached The White Tower. This is really an odd name, given the octagonal building is made of red brick, but originally it was lime washed which gave it its name. It must have been stunning in all its glory shining bright white in the sun, sat on its hill in the trees. The tower has a barred doorway from which you can view a waxwork scene; I think of The Duke of Wellington (of Waterloo and waterproof boots fame) drawing up plans for battle with his 2nd in command, Rowland Hill the owner of Hawkstone. My apologies if I’ve got the history wrong.

More history / info at : http://www.shropshiretourism.info/shrewsbury/lord-hill/ and http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/content/image_galleries/hawkstone_park_follies_gallery.shtml?14.

Leaving the White Tower, we basically followed the longest routes we could (using the sketch map leaflet as our guide) playing games like: don’t wake the Dragons in the Rhododendron Jungle; hugging Redwood trees; singing silly songs; using our imaginations to see giant petrified spiders instead of gnarled and moss covered roots and branches …. generally just having fun.

I think sometimes life can get in the way of living and it was nice all of us being able to have a daft time together.

 

 

The sun and blue skies peeping through the branches were very welcome, we really hadn’t had enough this year.

    

Following the twisty-turny paths through the Rhododendron Jungle and woodland walks we caught glimpses of The Monument, standing tall above the tree tops.

The Monument Tower is set in a broad clearing with picnic tables around about. A narrow internal spiral staircase takes you up to a platform near the top, about 100 feet above the ground. This makes a superb view point in all directions. I’ve read that 13 counties can be seen from the top, although it was quite hazy the day we were there and the distant views were a little blurry, but superb all the same. Climbing up the staircase with my kids was kind of reminiscent of climbing the tower of Coventry’s Old Cathedral many years ago with my parents. Care had to be taken on the ascent and descent as the spiral is quite tight especially when meeting people coming in the opposite direction. Just down the path a short distance from the tower is probably the best example of a monkey puzzle tree I’ve ever seen. Brill’. 

         

There was interest throughout the walk, but I guess the best bits were yet to come, the park’s layout tantalisingly giving us more as we progressed around. From the monument a wide path took us past more woodland and views (we ignored the path to St. Francis’ Viewpoint and Cave) to reach a dividing of ways. There is a path heading down and around as an easier route to avoid Swiss Bridge, maybe important if you can’t cope with heights. We however, took the “harder” route to cross the extremely photogenic Swiss Bridge where it spans a deep chasm. This is really quite spectacular and is very airy as you cross the narrow wooden foot-bridge.

           

Immediately after crossing the bridge, the path climbs a few steps cut into the rock to bring you out onto a stunning view point, including the view to Grotto hill over a deep valley. From here you can see the Gothic Arch set high above a cliff face. We continued round on the path swinging anti-clockwise and quickly downhill to soon pass underneath Swiss Bridge where we’d crossed only shortly before and soon rejoined the easier path to cross a wide bridge over the valley and onto Grotto Hill.

            

Passing the quaint thatched Gingerbread Hall, we climbed up and around to reach the small refreshment area where we purchased ice creams and drinks, along with a number of like minded people. It wasn’t too crowded though and we easily found a picnic bench to sit and rest.

Refreshed, and soon raring to explore further afield, we headed into the grotto caves. The labyrinthine tunnels and larger, almost vaulted, caves are completely man-made, the original ancient mines (for copper ores I believe) later being adapted into their current form as the park was devised and created.

The torches we took were definitely needed as some of the passageways are almost completely pitch-black.

The kids had fun pretending to be zombies on the hunt … with mostly me as their prey, egged on by my wife … charming!  

After exploring the depths of the grotto for some while, we eventually exited into bright sunlight, emerging onto Ravens Shelf high above The Awful Precipice.

This stunning area commands fantastic views including a golf course, the bright green manicured fairways a complete contrast to the rugged cliffs and wooded hill sides. We spent ages sunning ourselves and exploring the immediate area, including finding another wooden footbridge, this time spanning the narrow gash of The Cleft.

    

    

Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the suntrap of Ravens Shelf, returning close to the refreshment area to visit the Gothic Arch, a classic faux construction built to resemble a ruin to enhance the views from across the valley.

Funny how we humans feel the need to improve on natures charms in this way, Grotto Hill would look spectacular anyway, but somehow The Arch does indeed add a focal point and is very photogenic.

 

The views back across to Swiss Bridge once again prompted the camera out of its case. In fact the camera hardly stayed in its case at-all, there was just so much to snap away at (I’m just pleased everything’s gone digital and not film).

           

  We then returned into the grotto cave complex to rediscover one of the less obvious exits, found via a dark curving tunnel, which emerged out at the top of The Cleft. This is a deep gash in the rock with a narrow path descending downhill away from the caves.

           

Soon after exiting the caves we went under the footbridge mentioned earlier. It was exciting picking our way down the slippery damp ravine, trying not to get the slimy green stuff on the walls onto our clothes. The Cleft is a natural feature (enhanced by the park creators) but I believe essentially being part of The Wem Fault, a geological phenomenon of the area. I found a website that details the complexity of Hawkstone’s geology which I have no reason to dispute as I’m not a geologist … http://www.shropshiregeology.org.uk/sgspublications/Proceedings/2007%20No_12%2070-78%20Rayner%20Hawkstone.pdf

Nearing the bottom of The Cleft we turned left to descend through another tunnel to pick up The Serpentine Path, which eventually opened up to a wider track, taking us back down to The Gingerbread Hall where we re-crossed the broad bridge back towards Swiss Bridge.

Instead of climbing back up to Swiss Bridge (which was tempting), we turned right onto a path contouring around the steep cliff face. This quite long path, known as “Reynard’s Walk”, twists and turns on the cliffs, passing such places as; The Retreat; another path branching up through a tunnel towards St. Francis’ Viewpoint; Foxes Knob; The Squeeze; more tunnels and eventually reaching Reynard’s Banqueting House.

          

Justine (my lovely wife) likened this path to coastal walking, with its frequent ins and outs and ups and downs. All in all it was probably the most strenuous stretch of the walk, or could it just have been later in the day and a cup of tea and a bite to eat was needed. I loved the way the sunlight dappled patterns on the rock faces through the trees, some hanging on very precariously.

Soon after Reynard’s Banqueting house, (a tall arched hollowing hewn out of the cliff face), we returned to The Urn and it was very straight forward retuning to the entrance buildings and café, where we had some lunch and drinks.

A superb late summer family day out ….

We’ve resolved to return in the spring when the Rhododendrons will be in flower.

 

My next walk … The Malvern Hills and a bit of culture … just me and Justine – No kids !!! Use the links below to see my posts.

https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/20080927-28_malvern-hills-elgar-pilgrimage/

https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/20080927-28_malvern-hills-some-extra-stuff/

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
End

   

    

Intro’

Hello and a very big welcome to my blog “tothehills”.

(Started September 2008) 

My site, as I add my diary posts, will build a retrospective look back at country walks I’ve done, in what I hope is an informative and entertaining way for you to share.    

Country Walking, Rambling, Hiking, Hill Walking, Mountain Walking (or whatever you want to call this great pastime) is my most enduring passion and as such I have tried to convey this in my writings.

Please dip-in and find out about the walks I’ve done and places I’ve been.

I hope my diaries give you walks ideas for yourself.

 [I’d welcome comments/feedback if you feel inclined or if there are any questions on my walks please ask …. I’ve also a large back-catalogue of walks done across England and a bit further afield in my head (and on film) since about 1980 when I did my first walk (Kinder Scout from Edale to Hayfield) so if you think I might be able to impart some knowlegde please ask … one day I might actually be able to get them down in print!]

Site Navigation :-
There are a number of ways to move around my site.

  • The simplest is to just continue to scroll down from this home page; this will show my diary posts in the order in which they were published, most recent at the top. This maybe isn’t very intuitive if you’re looking for something more specific, but fine if you want to see what I’ve just written.
  • Use the search box (next to the tabs at the top of the page) … type what-ever you want to find – you might get lucky.
  • Use the categories in the side-bar area on the right, or click on the links below, which will take you to the groups of diary posts associated with regions where I’ve walked.

Coventry, Warwickshire and Close By     Lake District     Peak District

Yorkshire     Cotswolds     England-Other Places     Wales

With The Midland Hill Walkers     With The Coventry CHA Rambling Club

Walks on Long Distance Footpaths     Charity Walks

The interesting stuff (I hope) :-
I intend to separate my walks diaries into several regions in order to make Navigation as easy and as intuitive possible (see above). It may take some time to post something in each category, but I hope to populate each “folder” in time.

My diaries are written in an informal style describing the walks I’ve done, combining general route descriptions with comments about anything related to the walk, whether it be the weather, particular views, emotions, etc.

The boring stuff (perhaps) :-

 I will also add some pages that describe who I am, general interests, and various scribblings related to my walking activities and my views and opinions.

These are not essential to read before dipping straight into the walks but I hope they convey a bit more about me and how country walking has been a huge part of my non-working life.

Because walking in the countryside has its hazards and risks please read my disclaimer.

I hope you enjoy reading my walking diaries and scribblings.
Gary.