Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lake District 2007

As part of my "Show Sonia That Scotland Is Not All Where It's At" campaign, we took off to the Lake District this September (this followed a fantastic gig by soon-to-be-huge web-project Amplifico at the Moorings Bar, Aberdeen that I keep meaning to blog about, but frankly it's looking unlikely...).

Day 1 - Sunday 16th

Anyway, things started off well enough with torrential rain from the second we set off. We then called in at The Horn (between Dundee and Perth) so I could have one of their lovely 'Pig in a bun' bacon sandwiches, mmm. Then Sonia informed me that her scrambled egg was the worst thing she had ever tasted. I bought her a scone. She scraped off the sugar and then nibbled one crumb before that went on the "no" pile. Ach well, onwards!

Eventually, through the rain we could make out the England sign. A land of chips open, supporting other-UK teams and safe pubs, but no Scottish notes accepted in payment! Pulling in to Kendal, we went for food at The Peddler Café, an organic safe-haven recently featured in G2's 'avoid motorway services' guide. Nice it was, if you want to spend £7 for a full meal that is; too much of a complete lack of snack-level food for me. Nevermind, the walk around Kendal was very pleasant, including as it did the odd house decor shop, the whisky shop and the second hand shop.

With this first day moving on, we hopped back into our laden car and I took us over the impressive Wrynose and Hardknott pass in more pouring rain. This single-lane road is a serious undertaking measuring 30% for continuous stretches with tight-turns to boot; Sonia oddly kept her eyes closed most of the time! Once through, we made our way through many little hamlets until eventually we drove up Wast Water (at 79m the deepest lake in England) and into The Wasdale Head National Trust campsite, where thankfully we hitched the tent in the day's single dry spell. After all our travelling the dinner could only be in the pub, and so we jogged up the road to the wonderful Wasdale Head Inn to ensure we made the food-order limit. The food and the ale were both up-to-scratch, so we were a happy duo as we walked back in some more rain, for our first night under canvas.

Day 2 - Monday 17th

After a day of rain, the Monday was much finer, which is more of what could be said for our moods as a series of frustrations beset us. Firstly, in order to not have to shop on the Sunday, I had said we would have breakfast in a good café I know in Ambleside. However, after many early mornings in recent time, Sonia insisted on a lie-in. Not so bad in itself, but combined with a request to avoid the Hardknott Pass, meant we had to take the long way round leading to us turning up in Ambleside after noon, and then having to cope with trying to find a car space in this busy little town. Once in the café, a desperate for the loo Sonia then had to cope with the café's policy of getting the toilet door's code only on your receipt! Not an impressed little curly-top I can tell you!

Good views toward Scafell Pike in the morning:

And over Wast Water:

After thankfully being fed, I had wanted to have a look around, but the extortionate parking fees meant that a return to the car was necessary. This took us straight to Windermere for some shopping (always a relaxing past time) before we could move on to my next target, the Kirkstone Pass Inn, the highest pub in England. Things then seemed to be going our way, as we sat with open paper and a pint of a very fine porter. But the smug self-satisfied landlord, after regaling another customer with tales of his 4am mucking-out, asked us nonchalantly to drink-up as he was closing early. Grrrr. Strangely, one of his tales to this poor other customer was how they had no idea how to run a pub as they'd never liked them. This was meant to be a joke, but it was sadly spot-on. A great venue ruined by, well, a twat.

The remainder of this day consisted of a brief visit to Grasmere, which actually almost didn't occur when it appeared we'd have to pass £3 merely to leave the car for 15 minutes, and then back to Ambleside for some chips to put us on until our campsite cooking in the evening. Even this could not pass without incident! Standing calmly in the Old Smithy chip shop, a customer in the seating area started complaining that food was not brought to the table but the customers were called to collect them. A fine complaint in a fine-dining restaurant, but not in a chip shop. The customer was immediately aggressive, freely volunteering that he was on holiday and had had a couple of pints. The proprietor's calm response was to tell him to piss off, to which the customer retorted that he was going to build an anti-Old Smithy chip shop webpage. Onlookers looked-on bemusedly as the customer in question stormed out with his refund. Mine and Sonia's order came and we left, with me telling Sonia calmly that this kind of thing always happens in English chip shops...

Famous house-on-a-bridge in Ambleside:

Good record shop venue, poor range:

The Kirkstone Pass:

The Kirkstone Pass Inn:

The door slapping me in the ass as I left:

Day 3 - Tuesday 18th September

At last, hiking! Here we go...

The Lake District: Scafell Pike (E1) and Great Gables (E7)

Walk date: 18/09/07
My Munro #'s: N/A

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Scar-fell Pike - distortion of "pikes of scafell" - 977m
Great Gable - a great gable - 899m

Duration - 12:00 - 19:30
Distance - 15.7km
Total ascent - 1421m
Weather - Started fine and warm, moved to cloudy, moved to light rain, moved to apocolyptic drenching and then some...
Team - with Sonia
Other hikers: many of Scafell Pike, one on Great Gable

The descent off Great Gable was improvised!

Starts well, with breakfast in glorious sunshine:

First up then was Scafell Pike, the highest point in England, and we strutted out confidently from the campsite due east up a good path with good ol' English stiles. After a brief snack at the splitting of the paths (WP2533 on my map pic), we decided to head up the 'more fun route' of Mickledore, which includes the slightest of scrambling. As we started this, we met an impressive gent of 83, who had planned to give Scafell a go, but had decided against it due to the cloud on top! He was dressed in everyday shoes and trousers, with only his raincoat suggesting he was into this stuff at all! Anyway, after Mickledore, the summit is a brief stroll on the flat. Although the cloud was down at this point the pretty obvious path meant that navigation was minimal.

Scafell Pike in the middle and Scafell to the right:

Sonia models Great Gable:

Rising on that good path:

What a hunk! (Wast Water in the background):

Sonia points out Mickledore:

And there she goes:

Crags in the mist:

Mickledore up close:

As the summit resembled the general meeting of the Strange Hat Society, we quickly moved on taking the generally north route as we headed toward Sty Head and Great Gable. The way was straight-forward apart from the 'Corridor Route', which is a brief gentle scramble but with some exposure to one side. Despite initial hesitation Sonia dug-in with gusto and coped well, but the couple behind us saw the route and opted to take the river route (NW) down inside.

Sonia on top of England:

Looking down to Lingmell as we start descending:

Looking over to Broad Crag, not for today:

Sonia on the descent:

Quite a steep descent in places:

Great Gable approaches:

Wasdale from Sty Head:

Anyway, we were soon at Sty Head and made the decision to carry on and take in Great Gable. The route is steep but going was well, at least before the rain came; first light enough to convince us the waterproof trousers weren't necessary, and then so heavy that you wondered if any where on Earth was still dry.

As we got to the summit, a good dose of misery had already been slapped on us. Sonia particularly would have welcomed our instant removal from the hill, possibly into a warm bath. This wasn't helped by the fact that in all the weather I couldn't see the path off SW that I had plotted us to do. As the NE path was way-marked, in combination with the fact that I had done it before and knew that it was safe, and remembering how the unknown path Paul P and I had taken off Scafell and how that turned out, I stood my ground and directed us down to Windy Gap (214105). From there it was a simple western jaunt to Beck Head and then SW to Gavel Nesse by which time we were finally below the cloud again, but still as wet in the continuing rain.

So what it's a summit?! Get me home!

Soaked to the skin, but happy to be in the approach home, we stomped onwards into dusk and then dark as we entered Wasdale Head. Despite how good a pint would have tasted at that point, continuing past the Inn, back to the campsite to get into dry clothes so we could return in time to order food was a much better idea, and then it tasted even better. By the time we got to dessert, we had managed to get a place by the fire and sat almost sleeping over sticky toffee puddings. Wonderful, except that our rainy-experience was far from over...

Finally, Wast Water in view again!

Lord, we are thankful for pubs!

Day 4 - Wednesday 19th September

... Well, the rain didn't stop all night long, and we couldn't sleep for the noise of it! At 3:30, Sonia even raised concerns of where exactly the river was running! We woke up to find a new lake in the Lake District, right outside our door! And it was still raining!

Lake Campsite, fishing licences available:

Now that was a close one!

As the outlook was for more rain, and our bedding had gotten wet, we faced the truth that it was probably for the best to pack up and head for a drying out session at my folks' in Barnsley. With the car full of wet gear then we started our leisurely way out of the Lakes, first touring through Honister Pass and Borrowdale and then taking a fine stroll along Derwent Water (in dry weather!) before returning to Kendal, where we had a fine pub lunch with fine ale alongside.

Local traffic was bad around Buttermere:

Sonia tackles the slopes of Derwent Water:

Derwent Water in sun, that's SUN!

So not-awful weather it was time for a paddle:

The conversation was scintillating:

Back home, we sadly went out for yet another fine pub meal before retiring into my Dad's shed for some further fine ale and some Macallan Cask Strength. And everything was dry! Awful, simply awful.

My Dad's shed, no really!

Day 5 - Thursday 20th September

Not to be undeterred by the weather, after a little lie-in Sonia and I made off for some more camping, this time to the delightful Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. Taking a leisurely trip over, we have a brief look at the village before pitching up at the Wood Nook campsite 2km out. Then, with our complementary coffees we set about walking into the village via some of the lovely limestone countryside for a gentle evening of, would you believe it, real pub food and real ale with it (I think it was the Old Hall Inn and then the Black Horse)!

Sonia enjoying her free drink from Wood Nook:

After a very pleasent night out, it was time for a pleasent walk back, except that we didn't get it as this was the exact moment that the rain from the Lake District found us again! There wasn't the same river danger as in the Lakes as this rain only lasted for a half hour, but it was the exact half hour our walk took! Ah well, that's camping for you!

Day 6 - Friday 21st September

My intention for this day was a full look around York, but with all our newly wet gear we were not in the mood for a quick departure. Instead then, we had a long and satisfying breakfast at the recommended Cobblestones Café back in Grassington before hitting the sweetshop and getting over to York by early afternoon. By which time we obviously needed a coffee and as such accidentally found the wonderful El Piano Spanish café where beautiful freshly ground coffee is served to you in a jug! It also helped that I found a Morrocan lampshade there which I promptly bought for my hallway!
Enjoying a walk by the Ouse:
The rest of the afternoon was spent indulging ourselves in the myriad of unique shops that York has to offer. I bought a still from Kes printed onto canvas at Freaky Friday's in the always-impressive Shambles, I almost lost Sonia in a few Country Living type shops, and then she almost lost me in a beer emporium, where somehow I managed to cut down my shopping cart to contain a mere six bottles from the 'stouts and porters' section!
Me in The Shambles:
Sonia in The Shambles:
After the shops we sat in a marque set up for the Food & Drink festival that happened to be going off before we met up with an old work colleague of mine in the recommended-to-me and as-of-now-recommended-to-you Lendal Cellars. This pub is literally within the cellars of a large townhouse and there were around seven real ales to chose from. The ever-suffering Sonia then drove yours-truly home as I played DJ on the iPod!

Day 7 - Saturday 22nd September
Day 8 - Sunday 23rd September
Day 9 - Monday 24th September
These last few days then were spent around Barnsley and Nottingham. On the Saturday my Dad and I took Sonia to her dancing meet in Hartington and then the two of us had a good hike (and pint) in the Goyt Valley. On Sunday I picked up Sonia and then raced over to Nottingham to collect Lisa and Neil and hit Selectadisc before it closed! We had a fine raid on the excellent little shop, the purchases from which are listed over at Lisa's. After that we compared our buys in the ancient Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem before retiring for tea and odd filmness in the ever-brilliant Repo Man. And finally, on the Monday there was just enough time for another pub lunch before the day-long return to Aberdeen. A holiday that the weather turned off-piste a little, but one that was all the more fun for it. Great stuff.

That windy Goyt Valley:

... riding through the glen:

Them folks:

'n wi' lass:

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seeing double...

Back from holiday, but more on that when I can get to it (although probably before Lisa). First however, I couldn't wait to share this rather odd sign we saw in Nottingham, conspiracists get ready, go!


Sunday, September 09, 2007


Oh, and Sonia passed her viva; NO corrections!

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We're still on for 284 then...

As can be read here...

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