Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Departing with one plan, arriving with another

12th February 2010

With the weather promised ahead of the last weekend in January, I really didn’t want to be leaving an opportunity unused or even underused. In the midst of mulling over the possibilities, Keswick dropped into mind and transport arrangements fell into place, so that’s where I was headed. Just because a destination was in mind didn’t mean that I had my walk fully planned, though. For me, there were two drawbacks to a day trip to Keswick on a short winter’s day: getting into the hills eats time, and it is somewhere of which I have seen a lot. Nevertheless, I had a working plan in the form of a trot to the Back o’ Skiddaw.

All of that thinking got dismissed after reaching Penrith when I realised that I was in time for a bus to Patterdale and that the last one back allowed for a good spell around there. After all, my visits to Cumbria have gravitated towards the fells surrounding Windermere and Derwentwater, so that left Patterdale ripe for exploration. If you explore the annals on this online outpost, you might discover previous outings that finished up in Patterdale. In the main, these have been hikes from Grasmere that variously took in Grisedale Tarn, Grisedale and Fairfield. St. Sunday’s Crag remains unfinished business, and emptier quarters like Martindale and Haweswater’s surroundings have yet to see my footfall. Then, there’s Helvellyn and its attendant fells to be sampled, with a trot from Glenridding to Thirlspot sounding attractive. With all that on offer, I shouldn’t be short of walking ideas and a multi-day stay may be in order.

Place Fell as seen from Patterdale, Cumbria, England

Returning to the day itself, I plotted my course while seeing why so many do praise Ullswater as my bus journeyed to the end of its route. It was very much a case of cutting my cloth from my allocation, and a walk over Place Fell and back to Patterdale along the shores of Ullswater was my choice for the day. With all the cold weather that has come our way over this winter, I was concerned about any ice or lying around in higher places. After all, Helvellyn was well coated with the white stuff. Reassuringly, Place Fell looked reasonably clear of any such threats.

Northwestward View over Patterdale, Cumbria, England

So, from the bus route terminus at the car park across the road from the Patterdale Hotel, it was a case of making my way back along the road to pick up a right of way leading to Side Farm and then getting over with the steep incline up to Boredale Hause. Though I was conscious of others following me after their puppy deciding to make friends with me (I stayed put until they got him back again and then set off again), there were plenty of stops to take the feast that was laid on for my eyes. The low sun meant that aiming a camera towards Brothers Water was unlikely to yield pleasing photos, so I stuck with the snow-covered fells to the west and north.

Final Approach to the Summit of Place Fell, Patterdale, Cumbria, England

After Boredale Hause, those followers were lost, and I took my time ascending Steel Edge and Round How. There were patches of hard snow on the ground, but these were either avoidable or passable with care. That’s not to say that I left all humanity after me, and I did encounter someone else trying to identify the fells in front of him as he faced south; the sun was moving to the west, so looking in that direction had become easier on the eyes. I imagined that I could pick out Stony Cove Pike and Threshthwaite Mouth, both places that I passed last June, so the likes of High Street and High Raise (the latter never announced itself to me, but I now know better) could be identified. Taking leave of my fellow hill starer, I set off for the trig point at Place Fell, a precariously constructed example atop a crag. For the sake of completeness, I clambered over to it, but it makes me wonder how surveyors coped with placing their instruments upon the thing.

Martindale as seen from Sleet Fell, Cumbria, England

After gingerly making my way off the crag, I continued over Hart Crag towards High Dodd and into parts away from human attention by the looks of things. All the while, the sun was lowering in the sky and the lighting on the fells growing ever more golden. High Dodd was rounded, and Sleet Fell crossed before I made a steep descent near Sandwick. That meant overcoming quivering pins on the way down; it’s enough to have your mind concentrated by the presence of steep gradients, without your legs joining in too. Steadily, I got myself down to the track that was to carry back to Patterdale by the shore of Ullswater.

The sun’s descent behind the hills was a potent reminder of the time, and may have over-egged my impatient with an undulating track. After the day that I had enjoyed, that momentary frustration was out of order, and I later reproached myself for it. Tired legs may have had something to do with it too, but good progress was being made on my way back to Side Farm again. Retracing my steps meant that any anxiety at the prospect of missing the last bus of the weekend could be dispelled, and I was back at the bus stop with between 10 and 20 minutes to spare, a preferable state of affairs.

A few days later, I discovered a route similar to the one that I followed in a copy of Cumbria magazine left in a dentist’s waiting room for patients’ perusal. While I was preoccupied with thoughts of the treatment that my teeth needed, happy memories of a good day out were a useful distraction. After that, giving Patterdale a bit more of my time is in order, but we’ll have to see how that one goes.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Penrith, with bus service 108 taking me to Patterdale and back.


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