Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fruits of the Fens (well some)

Wednesday 25th September 2013: So the disadvantage of working from home is that it can sometimes be a bit too easy to not cycle. A bit of rain or a bit of gloom and you stay in and even convince yourself that you are being good by getting more work done.

Whereas if you have to commute to work then once you are in the cycling routine you tend to just do it, rain, shine or wind.

Sad smile

So quite a good little routine for me is to get out at least one day of the weekend and then try for a mid-week ride and possibly a POET’s day ride. Despite most of my rides being around the Wicken Fen area – there is always something to see and although it isn’t busy it isn’t totally deserted either.

Of course I have to ring the changes as far as routes go – but there are lots of byways and bridleways, around and about.  I am starting to wonder whether there is a correlation between the sorts or quite routes I cycle along and Solar Farms and Wind Farms. There is Wadlow Wind Farm. There is talk of Solar Farm on the Heath Road, near Burwell(NCN51).

Well I had seen that the Cambridge County Council was exploring the possibility of a Solar Farm near Soham.  It was MikeC (who I bumped into yesterday around the Fens), who told me that it would lie alongside Brack’s Drove bridleway between Wicken and Soham. I guess Solar and Wind Farms have similar requirements to me when it comes to location.

This is what I mean, we do have the Lode’s Way, but there are also numerous signs showing the various ways you an get to the Lodes Way. This is an 11-51 link from Swaffham Prior on Whiteway Drove.

Two cyclists heading to Lodes Way from Swaffham Bulbeck?

I turned off and then along Black Droveway rather than follow them up the road. These apples look rather nice. This year is a good year for applesw and pears. We have had loads our a couple of apple trees in the garden and one of the pear trees was so laden that a branch broke.

Apple Tree on Black Droveway

A recently planted Rowan (I think). I didn’t really pay much attention – that is just what I filed away in my memory when I took the picture.  We have just had t6o cut an Ash tree down in the garden. It wasn’t Ash dieback, but did need removing before it became tricky to remove. We replaced it with a Rowan.

Rowan on Black Droveway

I usually skirt around  Reach on Blackberry Droveway and then up along Straight Drove. A nicely regimented field of bales.

Bales waiting to be collected on Straight Drove, near Reach

I rather liked the way the trees in the background had a bit of mist around them.

Bales waiting to be collected on Straight Drove, near Reach

I then detoured along Split Drove and turned right on Headlake Drove.  This is my first Sugar Beet clamp sighting of the (end of the) year.  These are really temporary stores, they usually pull the beet out of the ground just before they get loaded into lorries and taken for processing. They print the dates in the local that the various factories are starting up around these parts.

Beet Clamp – Split Drove

After Upware I headed out towards Wicken.  These poppies are late.  It was the flash of read that caught my eye.

Wild Poppies – near Upware

Now this is sort of how I saw it in my mind’s eye. Just a flash of red. So now they are colour-popped poppies.

Wild poppies

On my way back on Lodes Way (proper) I stopped at Burwell Lode – for the misty look.

Burwell Lode – Getting Misty

Don’t roll on too quickly Autumn.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Last of the Summer Sun

Sunday, 22nd September 2013: Now I have been listening to the Archers for a long time - 40+ years. I first started when I got my first radio, a transistor radio with short, medium and long wave reception.  I used to explore the airwaves and short-wave radio, because of the way it propagates was always interesting. For the record the Archers pre-dates me and I haven’t listened to it continuously over those 40+ years. In fact one of the charms is that you can dip in and out of the program.

When DAB radio first started broadcasting I bought a Psion Wavefinder (not at its most expensive though) which relied upon a USB connection to a PC for the sound. It also allowed timed recordings. Which is when I started recording the Archers and downloading it to my MP3 player  and listening to it when cycling.  It was fairly reliable.

I was pleased when the BBC started Podcasting the Archers (2007) which was generally more reliable, although not totally so. Sometimes programs didn’t appear and sometimes my computer would fail to download them. As it happens I still download both the daily program and the weekly Omnibus, just in case.

It all means that when I go away I don’t trouble myself with trying to keep up with developments on the Archers. When I get home and have a convenient moment I can catch up. Well having been away I had three weeks of catchup this time.  Which is quite a lot of cycling – there are 6 episodes per week, each approximately 13 minutes long.  Whilst the Omnibus is 75 minutes long. (Spot the difference.)

So that is what I did on this ride – only occasionally stopping on my way around the Wicken Fen area. The weather was lovely though. It was over 200C in the afternoon.

As I rode towards Upware there was the pungent smell of onions in the air – it is rather like riding into a salad with lots of spring onions in it. (Not that I have ever ridden into a salad you understand!)  It is not unusual to see the harvest running seven days a week – although this Sunday afternoon things were quiet.

An Onion Locust slumbering in a field of Onions near Upware

It wasn’t very windy either – as you can see from the picture of Burwell Lode.

Burwell Lode

It always surprises me just how much the sky can change when I am out cycling, without me noticing.  In this picture of Swaffham Bulbeck Lode the sky seems almost clear of clouds. I didn’t notice until just now when writing the post.

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

As I stood on the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode cyclists passed by. There were a few out and about enjoying the last of the summer wine sun.

Cyclist on Lodes Way

These two cyclists looked like they were cycling together – where that really means they were trying to compete with each other.

Another Cyclist on Lodes Way

At this time of year just as the Winter looms I begin to think it would be nice to live somewhere warm!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cycle route provision–Courses for Cyclists

Friday, 20th September 2013: I am going to have to make an effort to catch up with near-real-time on my Postings. Once again I am rabbiting on about stuff that happened over a month ago. As I sit here the worst storm since 1987 2002 has just run through. The damage caused has still been pretty sobering though. Here in Cambridge trees are down and trains aren’t running.  The national picture seems worse though.  Apparently we were lucky here in the flatlands as it tracked slightly further north that originally anticipated.

Should we blame it on climate-change caused by man-made causes – well such proof is hard to pin down. Unusual events are well unusual and so it takes a long time to build an accurate picture. In the mean-time, in my mind I reckon we (humankind) we certainly having an affect, we are causing energy to be added to the global system, and we do so at out peril.

If I look at my own lifestyle compared with when I was a boy, my own energy consumption has increased hugely.  When I was a boy we did not have central heating, in the winter my bedroom window iced up from the inside. We normally only had one source of heat – a Rayburn (fuelled by coke), in the kitchen, which also was used for cooking and providing hot water. Later in the day a fire would be lit in the living room. This meant that we tended to congregate in two rooms. So fewer lights were lit. Nowadays with central heating and air-conditioning (in offices and shops and cars) we consume far more energy maintaining our environment. Certainly it is more comfortable. I’ve just remembered we had a radiant heater in the bathroom high up on the wall, it seemed next to useless. But woe betide us if it was accidentally left on…

We had very little electronic equipment, with a valve radio, a valve television and one record player. Later on we did get transistor radios. However we had very little in the way of gadgetry that required re-charging (computers, monitors, WiFi, phones, MP3 players, tooth brushes, razors…) or equipment on standby.  My “TV” actually consists of several boxes which all sit in standby, radios around the house, sit in standby – which all consumes more power than you think.

As kids we never got taken to school by car and I reckon that people travelled shorter distances to work. This facilitated the use of buses and bicycles and walking. Looking at the National Travel Survey: 2011 “the average distance people travel per year has increased by 53%”.

Although to counter balance the trend we have also seen improvements in efficiency with improved insulation of houses, our electronics is more power efficient, engines are more efficient and factories are also more efficient. (The type of industry in the UK has also changed.) So although the UK energy usage, according to this Government report has been rising from 1970 to around 2000, but seems to have dropped over the last few years (both household and total). (Some of the reduction is probably due to the down-turn and the exporting of some types of economic activity – eg. steel-making.)

We reap what we sow though.

So what has this to do with cycling. Well there seems to be quite a lot of political discussion about sustainable energy and the so-called green taxes.  In my mind there are two issues we need to consider on a national basis, the first is the cost of energy, the other is our dependence on other countries for our energy.  Apparently we face the highest risk of winter blackouts for almost a decade. Our gas supplies are also at risk apparently. Petrol stocks are also looking tight because of Industry structural changes.

So those are some the the UK’s weaknesses. What do we seem to be doing about it – well I haven’t a clue. Yes we do have energy subsidies and truckloads more Wind Turbines than we used to.  Apparently the country has 6.8 GW of available wind power but it depends upon the wind and so is inherently variable. There pressure now seems to be on Solar – Burwell might get a Solar Farm and Soham has also been earmarked for a solar farm.

The trouble is as humans we tend to quickly forget the past and focus on more of the now. Well I do anyway. So more of the now seems to be road building and house building.  More roads be more cars, more pollution. Cambridge has an air quality problem according to the Cambridge City Council.  The plans for the A14 upgrade could apparently also “push air pollution past legal limits”. According to this review of Air Quality Progress things haven’t really improved much.

We also have a truck-load of houses planned for the area (e.g. Alconbury 5,000 homes, Waterbeach – 8,000 homes, Wort’s Causeway -  430 homes, Cambourne + 1,500 homes, Newmarket Road – 1,700 homes and Bourn airfield – no more than no more than 1,500 homes…) Not to mention all the housing  near Trumpington and Northstowe – up to 10,000 homes. Cambridge could go from 120,000 to 170,000 inhabitants in a generation.

The trouble is the thinking seems to be more of the same with lip-service being paid to the impact this influx will have on the region.  There is an opportunity to be bold and transform the approach used. Everybody talks about cars – and roads – no we need to put sustainable and workable transport solutions in place.

We need:

  • High priority, high quality cycleways from population centres to work centres
  • High safety cycle routes from population centres to schools.
  • Connected transport for instance trains and cycles, trains and buses
  • Streets safe for kids
  • High quality broadband especially for the remote communities
  • We need an overall plan and a Champion to lead this

Instead we get more of the same thinking – a bit of a cycle path here, a bit of a shared path there, fines for cyclists on that pavement next to the dangerous road there. We have an inconsistent mess – where is the strategy?  Meanwhile there seems to be some idea that there is a war on motorists – well given how much imported energy they burn, how much pollution they cause, how much street space they invade, how they terrorise vulnerable road users – I can’t see much of a war going on.

Phew – where did that rant come from. well it all started with me thinking about how crappy many cycle routes are, and how little attention they get and how much we of the system seems to be stacked in favour of motorists.

Much of cycle infrastructure provision seems to be in the hands of a Charity – Sustrans – how weird is that.  The rest seems to be random and haphazard. Part of my moan is that I got caught out by the p*ss-poor signage that we endure enjoy here in Cambridge. I was cycling into town from a ride around Wicken Fen along NCN51. Now usually I would head off through the P&R to take the scenic route alongside the river. However I was pushed for time. So rather than delay by crossing the road to the shared-path on the other side I carried on along the right-hand shared-used path going into town.

It was a mistake, first you have to cross the entrance to the aforementioned P&R, then run the gauntlet alongside the Shell garage, where cars pulling in don’t always seem to know which way they are going. Then you come to some traffic lights and wait for a while in order to cross the Marshall’s Garage Service Road.  Then you cross the Marshall’s Garage access Road. Then you cross Ditton Lane.   Every now and then you get clues that you are on a shared-used path. Then I made the mistake of assuming that I should carry on across Wadloes Road.  Now this is a wide junction, I can’t recall seeing any signage, but perhaps that’s because I was focused on crossing the road.

I found myself on the pavement the other side – which is the obvious direction when heading into town. However I had doubts about it being a shared-use path. So I crossed the the other side of the road – with some difficulty. As there is a separating kerb in the middle of the road. (Note in the last link ther4e is a cyclist who probably didn’t realise that the path isn’t shared-use.)

That is what cyclists have to put up with, random routes that seemed to be designed to maximise the danger for cyclists whilst at the same time maximising the different types of cycle infrastructure that a cyclists might encounter. Just look at the Cambridge City Cycle map if you want to see just how higgledy-piggledy it is.

To add to the confusion if you go further down the road to Ditton Walk and look back on the same side – there appears to be a cycle lane – well there is a painted white cycle logo on the pavement. A bit further along (by the Ditton Fields turn) there is another white cycle painted on the pavement.  Now this is at odds with the City Cycle map and the OSM Cycle map.

However using Streetview I can’t see any  END OF ROUTE signs. Thank you Cambridge City Council for making it so clear and obvious.  Perhaps that stretch of pavement will be the next place for the PCC’s cyclist crackdown.  Lull the cyclist into a false sense of security, then do them for cycling on the pavement.  What was it that the Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said “Shared use footpaths are clearly marked and our advice to cyclists would be that unless the footpath is clearly signed as such they should not use it as a cycleway”. That might work – but the signage needs to be well maintained – which it isn’t. It might also help if there weren’t illogical gaps.  

Why does all this matter – well it is my life they are playing with. Cycling is not inherently dangerous – but I’d still prefer not to be brought into conflict with other road and path users. It is not much fun being knocked of your bike by a car when cycling – all the high-viz and positioning in the world doesn’t stop a SMISDY.

The issue is that on good logical, planned routes there shouldn’t be conflict whether it is shared-use or not.

So it is not surprising that for pleasure I head away from the confusion that often abounds when cycling in Cambridge.  You have to keep your wits about you mind. 

This time I headed off through Quy and along Station road and then along a byway towards Lode. I did stop to admire this freshly tilled field.

Freshly prepared field – near Quy

Although one piece of Headlake Drove has been re-surfaced I was a little surprised that the cracks along the edge of the road hadn’t been fixed at the same time. These cracks get larger at this time of year. The trouble is the lie at the edge of the road to catch out the unwary and wary cyclist alike. This is a narrow road and so if you were cycling along here you would naturally move to the edge of the road in the face of an oncoming vehicle. I would also be paying attention the vehicle rather than the road. Well if you did these cracks would probably tip you off your bike.

So I will report them (I have also reported one on the other side of the road.  (This is looking back towards High Bridge Farm). Here is the CTC web link.

Cracks – Headlake Drove

As you can see wide enough for my wheels and deep as well.

Cracks – Headlake Drove

The grass also disguises them.

Cracks – Headlake Drove

Interesting clouds above Burwell Lode

About time – the is the NCN11 route as it heads through Wicken Fen – the path as been a mess for ages – I am pleased to see it is being sorted – although not all of it.

Wicken Fen – NCN11 Path repairs

Why does it matter – well I have fallen off the side of Headlake Drove. A few years ago I was caught by a gust of wind – my wheel slipped of the edge and I lost my balance when I tried to get back onto the road. Fortunately I rolled and only damaged my pride.

A friend recently had a similar experience – only he fractured his hip and has spent quite a few weeks on crutches. He has recently progressed from two crutches to one crutch and is looking forward to no crutches.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mid-week ride after returning from my hols

Wednesday, 18th September 2013: When I was a kid, around 12-14 the summer holidays stretched gloriously ahead. The only fly on the horizon was when the family Summer holiday was going to be. The long days of Summer were great for exploring the Mendips, building dens, climbing trees, building tree houses and starting to find girls interesting.

So my brother and I preferred it when our Summer holidays occurred around the same time as our friends. That way interesting things wouldn’t happen when we weren’t around. It was almost as bad being at home if all our friends were away.For choice I also preferred not to go on the family holiday during the last couple of weeks of the School Summer Holidays.

Naturally I didn’t let any of these considerations worry me when choosing family holiday dates when my kids were younger. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy my Summer Holidays as a kid and having a slightly younger brother meant that I had someone to play with and to boss around.

I am not so sure my Dad enjoyed returning home from the Summer holiday though, he had to go back to work. As kids we really enjoyed it, catching up with our friends and see what had happened in our absence.  Later in life I empathised with my Dad, I too hated going straight back to work after a two-week holiday, I much preferred a days or so at home.

Funnily enough after having had some time away I was quite looking forward to seeing what had changed. After a bit of catching up with work-type stuff I had a very pleasant mid-week ride – around Low Fen Drove Way and up along Lodes Way to Wicken Fen and back.

Summer does seem to be the fly-tipping season. As I cycled up the bridge over the A14 fly-tippers had struck.

Fly-tipping  - Low Fen Drove Way – Bridge over the A14

I reckon that every thing that could be combined had been. Farmers seemed to be catching up with their ploughing. Seagulls were catching up with the worms. (I assume).

Ploughing – Low Fen Drove Way

Just the other side of the bridge there was another heap of rubbish. Fly-tippers are tossers – and they cost the local tax payers money. As the Council comes out to clear it away.

More Fly-tipping  - Low Fen Drove Way – Over the Bridge over the A14

After passing through Horningsea and heading along Hundred Acres Road towards Lode there was more ploughing.

Ploughing – Hundred Acres Road

That’s not a bad line – certainly better than I could do (‘cos I have never ploughed.) The plough seems level whilst the tractor leans.

Ploughing – Hundred Acres Road

On my way to Wicken Fen I was pleased to see that a pothole that I had reported had been repaired. I used the CTC Fill That Hole Website – things seem to happen although the fix hasn’t been reported.

Fill That Hole – Filled – thank you CTC and CCC

As I cycled up Split Drove there was yet more fly-tipping some people!

Fly-tipping – Split Drove

It was nice to be home –despite the fly-tipping.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


They say that if you don’t back your data up three times then you just don’t care about it. Well one of the reasons for not posting much recently has been I have been busy and troubled by problems with one of the devices I use to back data up – a Western Digital My Book Live, which instead of being directly connected to a computer is attached to the network. That way I can get stuff from it even when my main computer isn’t running.

I have been cycling as well – three times during the working week for business reasons.  Then in the evenings I have been trying to de-bug my disk drive.  The trouble is it is a computer in its own right and runs the Linux operating system. I have been planning on converting my old Windows Computer to dual-boot and having a play with Linux – but time…

So my Linux (actually Unix) knowledge is somewhat dated, it was twenty-five odd years ago that I ran a network of Unix Machines. So my “little knowledge” is probably a dangerous thing.

To cut a long story short, I got in touch with WD Support and over a few days I was adv8ised on how to get it working again. Which it is. So my data (>100,000 pictures and ~9,000 tracks is once again a little hit safer. (I turned of the Remote Access, Media Streaming and iTunes Streaming and it now behaves more like a disk drive.)

I have also bought a larger memory card for my Phone as it started getting tight for memory space because I seem to take so many pictures using it. At one of the meetings – which included dinner quite a few phones came out to record events for posterity.

Whilst on IT matters I also updated my Windows 8 desktop computer to Windows 8.1  There seems to have been a lot of fuss about the lack of a START “button” which 8.1 was supposed to fix. Well the update went well, but the changes are a bit underwhelming if I am honest. It all worked though as was pretty much fuss free I did have to do a bit of Network tweaking though as some access permissions had changed.

I also find that my habit of opening large numbers of Chrome Tabs is causing my computer to complain of running out of memory – and that is with 16GB.  When that happens Chrome crashes.

Well Cooled Computer

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lily Tarn – There and back again – An Adventure on Loughrigg Fell

It was rumoured (weather forecast) that it was going to be another reasonable day and the MapBearer suggested a walk from another Bob Allen book: Short Walks in and around the Lake District.  The one we chose was Lily Tarn on Loughrigg Fell from Rydal. You only have to climb up around 150m and the level of exertion was billed as low, but with some excellent views over Lake Windermere and Ambleside. It was one we had done three times before, without any real challenges in terms of navigation (famous last words). We should have been wary on reading the blurb in the book which has this to say:

Loughrigg Fell is a mountain range in miniature and although its topography can be very confusing …delightful place from which to view many surround higher fells”

This was a short walk of only 3.5 miles/ 5.6Km and doable in around 2 hours. So an ideal walk before our drive down to stay with my Mum.  As you might notice from the map, there was another unplanned detour. We parked in a Pay and Display car park near Rydal Water. Fortunately we played it safe and rather than think we would actually do the walk in two hours we went for the next parking time-slot of four hours.

I have stuck the route onto Bike Route Toaster (BRT) if you want to download the walk, although you might not want to add the detour. It adds another 1Km in length and a climb (and descent) of 104m.  According to the BRT route our walk was 8.1Km/5.1 miles with 260m of ascent/descent.  The first time we did this walk was back in August 98, fifteen years ago.

Map of our Walk on Loughrigg Fell

This time around we managed to have breakfast (in my case I had given up on the fried stuff and just had toast and marmalade) and checked out and get to the car park at a reasonably early hour. The car park near Rydal Water is relatively small and so we thought it prudent, since alternative places to park would have added extra time to the walk.   As it turns out we were about the fifth car in so it worked.  The weather forecast had indicated no rain – but in the Lakes…

There was a misty rain so we packed our waterproof coats in the rucksack rather than put them on, it was also quite warm.

The first bit of the walk is along a small road just off Pelter Bridge alongside the River Rothay (Under Loughrigg Road).  Pretty quickly you come across these wonderful stepping stones, but don’t take them as part of this particular walk. Mind you in the past we have always had to walk across and back so I couldn’t let that family tradition fail now. My wife felt that discretion was the better part of valour and watched as I fell in.

No I didn’t fall in, I did walk across though and back.

Stepping Stones across the River Rothay

The stones are pretty solid and more or less flat, so they aren’t too difficult to cross. The river is quite wide though.  The stones were wet as well, there was a lot of grey cloud around and it was shedding water.

Stepping Stones across the River Rothay

I reckon there are about 21 stepping stones, depending upon whether you count the ends of not.  Normally when we visit the Lake District we bring our walking poles, which are actually quite useful, both for balance and for poking the boggy bits of path.  The trouble is with our lack of preparation for the visit they remained at home along with the OS map and compass and map case…

There are a small number of guest houses along the road.  The one you can see reflected in the Water is called Stepping Stones.  At some point it must have come up for sale as here is an Estate Agents brochure for the house, with a guide price of £1.59m. I don’t think it is up for sale any more though.

A little further up the road you then reach another Guest House – Foxghyll Country House and take a footpath which take you to the right of the house and gardens, and up Fox Ghyll, towards Loughrigg Fell.  Most of the climbing on this particular walk is done at this stage, as long as you don’t get lost that is.  After a while you start to clear the trees. The Rowans look good at this time of year. The path is quite steep but sure and steady.

Fox Gyll

When you reach the end of the Fox Ghyll path things start to become a little more complicated. There are quite a few paths in the area and we joined the main bridleway through a little sooner than we should have done. Without a map or compass it is easy to get confused by route instructions that are relative to each other. In this case we weren’t sure quite which tarn we were supposed to be at. I say we but…

Have I mentioned how busy the Lake District is at this time of year – at least on the Lower Fells.  Twenty odd people came up from the other direction and headed up to Loughrigg Fell. The path to the left of the picture is the main bridleway which takes you from Ambleside to Loughrigg Tarn.  Many of the walking routes are well used and have been strengthened to cope with the significant footfall.  This bridleway is pretty good and well-cycleable and yes we saw cyclists up here as well..

Loughrigg Fell

Because of our confusion and because we joined the bridleway early we reached a tarn – which was called small in the book but looked quite large. That’s where we should have turned off, but didn’t.  The strange thing is that as we walked past the “turning”, a little path over a stream, I mentioned that it reminded me of a path we had walked on before… But I assumed was on another walk.

Then some marvellous views appeared so we stopped worrying about the route and carried on. Although the pictures show a lot of cloud any water in the air had dried up and it was really quite war, I sweltered.  The division of labour was that I carried the rucksack and my wife carried the book with the route in it – hence Mapbearer.

Lake Windermere

The bridleway we were following was to the right of the wall in this picture.  We had half expected to go down so we did.  What’s worse we passed a sheepfold and there was one mentioned in the book so we turned off. At this point we should have been heading south-east, we were heading north-west!   As I write this looking at the 25K OS map it all looks pretty obvious where we were supposed to be, there is nothing like hindsight and a decent map.

Ivy Cragg – Loughrigg Fell

Did I mentioned that the Lakes were busy? I can’t remember seeing cyclists on the walks in the past – this time around we saw cyclists on both “walks” along with loads of people. One passing walker noticed that my wife was carrying a Bob Allen book and mentioned that they had the same one. So perhaps we need to blame Bob for the popularity of these routes.


Walking on Loughrigg Fell

More of Lake Windermere coming into view – which should not really have been happening

One thing was true – the views all around really were magnificent.

The (wrong) view from Loughrigg Fell

At the wrong sheepfold were we turned off downhill, various stiles looked new and the fields had been sub-divided with extra gates to maintain the right of way. So we carried on, slightly pleased to be heading down hill.  Slightly worried that it didn’t seem all that familiar.

Lake Windermere from Loughrigg Fell

We eventually came out on a wide (for the Lake District) road – which meant a main road. Now one of the great things about Bob Allen walks is that they almost never take to the main roads. So the obvious conclusion was that we were lost, or at least not where we thought we should be. So I resorted to technology, out came my Galaxy S4 – with off-line maps ;-) .  We had come out onto the A593 near Skelwith Bride (a place we visited on the last walk).  Looking at our location on the phone we had two choices – walk on the main road the long way round or go back up the hill and take a more direct route but back up the flippin’ hill vertiginous mountain.   The thought of walking along the main road was not a pleasant one. So we turned around and went back the way we had come. I got my head down and marched up, my wife adopted a more leisurely pace and took in more of the scenery.

She saw an Alpaca or two, I got back to the top more quickly.  I did take a picture of this horse chestnut starting to look very autumnal.  It seems that the leaf miner mite isn’t so much of a problem up here at the moment.  Perhaps it just hasn’t reached these parts. It does well in well-watered places and at low levels apparently.

Autumnal Horse Chestnut Tree near Brunt How

As is often the case having to re-trace a route is harder in the mind that it is in the doing.  It wasn’t long before we were back at the point where we really should have turned off the bridleway and down and over a small stream.  This is NT property with Rights of Way-paths and quite a few other paths that have developed over the years, so it can be a little confusing. The book was first published in 1994 and was new when we first started using it. Our goal was to reach a Tarn called Lily Tarn – I was pretty sure we would remember that one.  This view looks back along to Ivy Crag and the wrong bridleway can be seen running below it.

Ivy Crag (mid ground)

According to the Bob Allen route guide Lily Tarn was not far away but there were still some undulations. We Flatlanders forget how other parts of the UK can be a bit lumpy. There it was – Lily Tarn.  It looks the same, although the tree in the middle seems to have grown a bit. There is now a bench alongside the Tarn as well for weary MapBearers.

You can see Lake Windermere behind and to the right.

Lily Tarn with Lake Windermere in the background

Lily Tarn - again

Lily Tarn – taken Summer 2003 (10 years previous) – the tree is smaller


We then carried on in the actual direction suggested by the route, past another small tarn. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to tarns in the Lake District

Small Tarn, near Lily Tarn

The next task was to find a stile over a wall and head downwards.  Except it was no longer a stile – a gate had been set in the wall as the result of a commemorative donation. Ambleside is in the background.

Where’s the stile? Loughrigg Fell

I used the wall to rest my camera to take a picture of Ambleside and the church.

Ambleside from Loughrigg Fell

The way down seemed steeper than the way up. Muscles you forget about as a Flatland dweller quickly start complaining.

When following a description of a route it always helps when there are landmarks on the way, particularly ones that endure. This bridge (or something very similar) was here the last time.

I don’t remember the stone steps though.  Lots of paths have been reinforced up here in the lakes.

Little Wooden Foot Bridge – Loughrigg Fell

The route then takes some odd little twists and turns and then takes, what it suggests is a little-used path. Well from the state of the path it is now a well-used path.   Although we didn’t see anyone on the path itself. You end up on a “lovely sloping field”.  By the time I had gotten down the field my legs knew about it. I reckon it was more than 1 in 1 (45o), a quick look at the map suggests it drops 50m in around 60m distance, so on average not as steep.  Our walking boots were fine – we had no problems getting traction, it is just you have to tense your legs all the way down.

We passed someone coming up the hill and he had to grab tufts of grass to pull himself up.

The route then carries along Under Loughrigg Road, which was the one we’d first walked along.  We were stopped and asked the way by a walker who wanted to know would she get to Ambleside that way. Probably – was our answer. Ambleside was in that direction but we tend not to walk on roads that much.

This looks like an old house-cum-barn. A pity it is no longer in use.

Stone Barn – Under Loughrigg

We then walked past the Stepping Stones and back to the car park – which was quite full.

On the walk up to Lily Tarn and back it was surprisingly warm. I was very warm as I couldn’t be bothered to take my fleece of as I was carrying the rucksack. So I was looking forward to changing my t-shirt although for some reason we decided to drive to Grasmere first.

I think part of the reason that my wife chose that particular walk was both for its scenic beauty and proximity to Grasmere and gingerbread.

It is just around the corner from the car park (5Km/3 miles) so we popped there for lunch and to buy some the Grasmere gingerbread – which is delicious…

What we hadn’t reckoned on is just how busy the Lake District is with tourists. Grasmere was teeming and the car parks were full. We persevered and found a car park on Red Bank. It was busy but we found a space, which I could just about get the Disco into. We had run out of change for the car park, fortunately we were able to pay by card. Thank goodness for technology eh? It was bliss changing into a fresh shirt.

We then set of into the small centre, looking for somewhere to eat and the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. The old brain cells must have been boosted by the morning’s exercise and we found the shop straightaway. Although it was sneaked away in a corner (near the Church).

Grasmere Gingerbread Shop

I did send this picture around, but not straight away. Despite the desperate need to buy Gingerbread my wife only bought a small tin. By the time my pictures had been sent from my phone on the 1 bit per hour super-slow speed cellular network up in the Lakes we had moved onto a restaurant for lunch.

So it was too late to respond to my son’s message – buy a big tin!.

We had lunch at the Riverside CafĂ© where I had tuna mayo sandwiches that were delicious. (So delicious that I had tuna-may rolls for lunch the next day down at Mum’s house). I also had a Toblerone Crunch Cake that was delicious as well. It was soft and gooey, unlike Toblerone chocolate.

I mentioned the small tin of Gingerbread – well when we got home it pretty much vanished straight away. I only got one bit. My son was right we should have bought a bigger tin.

Small Tin of Gingerbread – EMPTY