Lakelands Prettiest Valley?
Lake District Travel Blog› entry 7 of 9 › view all entries
I got up just after 7am and made my way to the camp office to pay for my stay, he was not the friendliest person I have ever met, but he did only charge me at the low season rate, which was good of him, but still proved more expensive than most sites.
I then took the time to wash some clothes including my only pair of trousers, which had a few grass and mud stains from slipping over. I invested in the use of the tumble dryer and nipped in for a shower whilst they dried off. This meant I was able to put on toasty warm pants straight out of the dryer, sheer luxury.
I saw my caravan friends as I was breaking camp, I checked the mother had been warm enough, telling her that I had been a little concerned about her, she giggled and her husband found it most amusing. I also saw my self-conscious camper again and he had decided to call it a day and was heading home today.
Freshly showered and laundered I felt like I could safely immerse myself in the company of others again, so headed to my new favourite eatery in Lakeland, the village store!
A little while later I was tucking into a truly tasty breakfast, and tasting even better as it was also great value, the full Monty and coffee for just over five pounds! A couple shared the only table with me, and it seems that I had met them two days earlier on Grizedale Pike.
After buying an ice cream, well I had to, this place deserved a full and comprehensive review, I set off fully fuelled for the day. I again negotiated the footpaths and headed up over the summit of Catbells before descending into the Borrowdale valley, considered by many to be the most picturesque in the Lakes. I slipped on my backside on the descent and my clean trousers were streaked with at the back, not amused!
I dropped down to the shores of Derwentwater and followed the Cumbria Way and a group of boisterous school children on a field trip with their long suffering teacher for a little way. Once I had crossed the valley stopping regularly just to enjoy the countless beautiful viewpoints, I followed the road for awhile, using footpaths running parallel to it.
I wasted quite a bit of time near the boat jetty waiting for the cruise ships to arrive and the right conditions for the chance to get a decent picture, but the weather looked like it may change soon, so eventually I headed up towards the open space of Bleaberry Fell. Incidentally, who names these places? Bleaberry tarn is way over the valley near Buttermere and here is Bleaberry Fell, it has me mystified. Once I was on the top of these fells as I had expected I had the place to myself and did not see another soul for the rest of the day.
The weather was changing and several times I was caught in a summer shower, the ground was also extremely damp with poor drainage. I found myself participating in my least favourite walking activity; bog trotting, however on this occasion I found it quite entertaining, picking a way through the fell attempting to keep my feet dry.
In my opinion we have become a little too obsessed with micro-navigation in this country. I was in the military and attended many mountain leadership courses at Plas y Brenin and Glenmore Lodge. Obviously navigation is important, particularly on courses such as these and as a trainee was regularly required to show my exact location on the map. However having also led groups in other parts of the world where due to the sheer size of the place the maps are of a much larger scale. In these countries there is not the same emphasis on this degree of navigation, just having a general idea of your location and the direction of major lines of communication is considered sufficient.
When I am out and about in the hills I now generally just take a quick calculation of the time and distance to my next target. I check along my route what features I should expect to come across, any splits in the path and the general terrain. Is it uphill all the way, do I traverse, how steep is the ground, does it fall away or climb on my flanks. I also look out for any escape routes so if things get really nasty or I do lose my bearings I can get down quickly. Going up is generally easy, as all routes will usually take you to the top, going down can be a little more tricky as you may need to get to a certain point, where you left the car, or close to where the next path starts. If the weather threatens to close in then I will also take an accurate compass bearing and if really bad resort to ‘pacing’. Knowing how many paces I take to walk a hundred metres on a variety of terrains allows me to accurately judge the distance on the ground between two points measured on the map. I also use an altimeter, which is used much more widely in the greater ranges, but is still useful over here. These measures generally mean I have a pretty good idea where I am.
I meandered my way over High Seat where the footpath simply disappeared but the next peak High Tove was clearly visible.
I took the latter option as although it would take longer it probably provided a more straightforward route. In fact I dropped even lower than necessary to allow me to take a photograph of Watendlath Tarn which was just out of sight. The path which should have been a bridleway did not turn out to be that great, and still required some negotiating to avoid wet feet, cyclists and horse riders would have some fun on here.
Eventually the tarn came into a view and I immediately began looking for a potential campsite. It goes without saying that a good campsite is essential, and to prevent having to search the whole area I look for an area that seems to offer the best possible ground. The land around Blea Tarn was not the best camping site in the world, the ground was sodden, unlevel, lumpy or rocky and it took sometime to find a suitable patch of ground. I did find a little spot though and it was not too long before I was full of creamy mushroom pasta and brushing my teeth ready for bed.
One good night’s sleep later I woke to a familiar sound; the pitter patter, or more accurately the constant drumming of rain on my tent canvas. It continued intermittently throughout the morning, showering on and off, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in my sleeping bag not really bothering to make a concerted effort to break camp. It was not that I could not pack everything away quickly in between showers, but I was lacking inspiration.
Infused with resurgent enthusiasm I jumped up and had my stuff packed ready to go in less than an hour. I picked my way along the meandering, soggy and muddy path until it eventually became a little easier underfoot winding its way past Harrop Tarn and through the woods to the shores of Thirlmere.
I made my way to familiar ground again, as I was now heading over Helvellyn, one of the Lakeland giants and a summit I had stood on only two weeks previously. A relatively short, but sharp climb quickly found me once again sheltering from a strong wind on the summit structure which is constructed like a cross providing a hiding place from the wind whatever direction it is coming from. A young couple arrived shortly after me and she in particular was especially bright and breezy.
I decided to descend down Swirral Edge to Red Tarn as I have never climbed down by this route before. Due to my earlier delay in the tent I needed to camp at the tarn, this seemed a bit of a shame as with a little more time I could have passed through Patterdale and camped at Angle Tarn instead. As it turned out this worked out pretty well, and this will become apparent later.
The whole of the area was pretty damp underfoot and it was quite difficult finding a good site, the one I had used two weeks ago was now unusable, but eventually I found a suitable spot and settled in quickly.
Last time I had camped here the weather had been horrific; a howling gale, a mega strong gusting wind and heavy rain hammering down on my tent all night. No such epic this time, a quiet night and a good night’s sleep.