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!

A few hours wandering about the north wall of Great Langdale

4th September 2018

2016 was a very full year. There was a lot of Irish business to be completed along with two political upheavals and a new job that I now realise was not a match for me. Towards salving the last of these, there were no less than three overseas trips with on each to Austria, Norway and Mallorca. Even with these and maybe because of them, I still did not feel that I was getting the emotional space that I craved so much. It set the scene for changes in 2017 that led to the start of a career break.

This post tells the tale of another trip that preceded the personal tumult of 2017 while coming after the global turbulence of 2016 and in the midst of finishing the personal work for the year. It, too, was a reminder that not all was well with my lifestyle and there was another in the form of an inability to stop spending on some things as if the future never existed. Looking back on this now, I realise that it was caused by a lack of personal emotional space caused by having too much happening in my life. That theme was to result in some adjustment in subsequent years.

To avert any loss in motivation, I booked a single room in YHA Ambleside so I travelled up there by train and bus on Saturday. A later departure meant that I arrived in the dark, but that did not stop me strolling about the place. After all, the shore was near at hand and I even got into the heart of Ambleside, which was a kilometre or two away; in spite of the name, the hostel is found at Waterhead on the shore of Lake Windermere. A fish supper was enjoyed too, a rare thing for me these days. For the way back, I should have had my head torch for going along a darkened lane though I came to no harm because of my risk taking.

Windermere from Waterhead, Ambleside, Cumbria, England

After all that, I settled down for the night and arose next morning to a pleasing scene. Between 08:00 and 09:00, the sun leisurely arose. Before this all started, I made a solitary photo that recorded a peaceful scene on Windermere with the sky having a rosy hue about the frosted grassland. This also preceded breakfast and I was lured out again after that to savour a scene whose tinting was changing from red to blue. Cloud cover steadily broke as I did so and, after collecting my belongings and checking out, it was time to await a bus to Great Langdale.

It may have been down to thinking of exploring the place at the wrong time but I never had much luck with seeing Great Langdale in bright sunshine. Admittedly, the visits have been few with the first being on a walk from Borrowdale that took in the Scottish sounding Langstrath and that was followed by a winter wander from Great Langdale to Ambleside. Both were greeted by grey skies. More often than not, I viewed the distinctive Langdale Pikes while on other hikes so it was not before time that I saw them up close in favourable conditions.

Looking towards Harrison Stickle, Great Langdale, Cumbria, England

The bus dropped me at its terminus near the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Frosted grass told a story of a preceding cold night on the valley bottom and the following morning was little warmer. This was more than a little noticed as I pottered along the flat ground by Great Langdale Beck between Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. In fact, I was reproaching my forgetfulness when it came to having gloves. Local shepherds were moving their flock, something had me wondering if such an act could not have been done on another day. After letting them on their way, I shortened the distance to Stickle Ghyll while warming my hands as well as I could.

Stickle Tarn, Great Langdale, Cumbria, England

Following what had been a largely quiet interlude, I joined the busy path up to Stickle Tarn. The gradient was testing and it helped little that the perceived throng stopped me from stopping as much as I would have liked. Passing and re-passing the same people needed energy so I was not willing to allow that to happen so readily. The others were bound from the tarn with some continuing to the top of Pavey Ark. After the fleshpot, quieter surroundings were sought and found. The distraction had its uses for my hands warmed on the ascent while the presence of snow patches attempted to belie any sense of the day having become that little bit warmer too.

Looking towards Windermere from near Blea Rigg, Great Langdale, Cumbria, England

Looking back on what happened next, it might have been that the expected right of way was not a path on the ground, but even having a GPS receiver could not stop me veering off it. A determined effort could have addressed this, as I was to find afterwards in similar circumstances on the moors between Bamford and Hathersage in Derbyshire. Then, I stuck with the line almost regardless of what lay underfoot. Returning to its Cumbrian predecessor, I took the hint and adopted a freestyle approach. In any case, there were multiple paths so it was a case of picking one that went in the desired direction and the benign weather allowed for such an approach.

Codale Tarn & Easedale Tarn, Grasmere, Cumbria, England

Rocky outcrops around Blea Rigg, Great Langdale, Cumbria, England

My wandering course took me around by Blea Rigg and Great Castle How. Though it was afternoon at this point, it was around these that I gained the most satisfaction. Few were about so I could amble as I liked and the momentary sense of relaxation was just what I needed with wonderful views round about me. Windermere could be seen to the south while both Codale Tarn and Easedale Tarn lay below me in the growing afternoon shadows. It did not matter that I ought to have been beside them and not above them as I was.

What began to occupy my mind was finding a way down to the eastern end of Easedale Tarn. Once the initial steepness of the chosen descent was past, it was replaced by more gentle slopes as I negotiated the way to the track by Sourmilk Gill. The sun may have been lowering all the while but I had daylight with me and there were a few others passing the way but in nothing like the numbers encountered on the way up to Stickle Tarn.

All navigational travails were behind me, for the clarity of a defined track aided passage as much as the onset of a quiet lane. The surrounding land was falling increasingly into shadow, but my timing was good when I got to Grasmere. There even was some time for self-tidying before the next bus to Windermere. The air may have been cooling again but I was on my way soon enough.

That afternoon had provided a much-needed interlude that was the forbear of longer ones like a subsequent springtime sabbatical and a longer career break. The identification of a need for more personal emotional space became a search that remains ongoing. It even seeps into how I approach work these days and a spot of quiet time among Cumbrian fells became the start of an ongoing journey.

What has not happened so far is the incorporation of repeat visits to that itinerary. Vantage points like Lingmoor Fell, Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle all take my fancy and should add the familiarity whose absence was felt while figuring out what subjects were in the photos selected for this trip report. Doing so in similarly sunny and serene condition would add to such experiences and I would return in hope of such things. Life still needs quieter moments.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey between Macclesfield and Windermere. Bus service 555 from Windermere to Ambleside and from Grasmere to Windermere. Bus service 516 from Ambleside to Great Langdale.

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