For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Biscuits and sledging

Written - Tuesday 28th February second day of cold and snow (The Beast from the East)

Recent posts referred to my discovery of The Miller's Way, a long distance path supposedly charting the route of Mr. Carr of Carr's biscuits fame when he left the family business in 1831 in Kendal to go to Carlisle and set up his own milling/bakery/biscuit business.

Further research uncovered Rich Desserts and Captains Thin, a biography of Carr and his family by Margaret Forster. Margaret hails originally from Carlisle and is a prolific novelist and non-fiction writer. She is married to Hunter Davies who I criticised many years ago for his A Walk Around the Lakes, but then revised my opinion when he published his excellent biography of Wainwright.

Margaret has had access to family and business records from the Carr family and other sources including much material from the local press, and she is undoubtedly a professional and accomplished author telling a lively and interesting story.  Mr Carr was a Quaker and much of that background is intermingled with the social history of the Victorian period.

I would certainly recommend the book which held my attention sufficient to devour it in two lengthy sessions whilst avoiding the weather over the last couple of days.

I decided to rest the knee from actual walking for a few days, but I have set an hourly alarm to prompt me to walk properly, rather than peg-legging up and down my stairs three times (now extended to four) to strengthen the muscles, and I think this, along with the original continued exercises, is having a beneficial effect, but it is a slow process.

All that remains now is for me to walk the Miller's Way.


Katie update
( No school today, Tueesday 28th Feb.)

The alarm has just gone off again calling me to my stairs challenge.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Walking and mental health

I have been contacted by Ken Bromley Art Supplies who tell me they were interested to know how much art, as a pastime, may help to relieve stress, and as such a component in the treatment of mental health. 

They commissioned a survey of 2,000 UK adults where participants were asked to choose up to 3 activities which they believe are the best to reduce stress, and the results came up with the following list in volume order of replies. 

Having a Bath
Watching TV
Sport / fitness
Art and craft

Because walking was perceived as the most beneficial pursuit for the relief of stress I have been asked to write and comment.

I reckon on Conrad Walks I am preaching to the converted as far as walking is concerned, but it is interesting to know how beneficial it may be over and above other strategies for people with mental health problems. The charity MIND has a wealth of information majoring much on ECOTHERAPY

ECOTHERAPY as administered by MIND provides a wide range of assistance based on the outdoor activities to help with mental health problems, and that would be a useful starting point for anybody looking for help, or anybody wishing to support another in that situation.

From my own observations a lack of a particular goal may be a contributory factor to some mental health problems, and whilst walking in itself may be helpful it may be further enhanced by looking at the various tick-lists of hills, some of which would be relatively easy to embark on:  the English Marilyns, The Wainwrights,  The County Tops etc. See:

If you know of others who may be looking for advice with mental health it may be helpful to pass on a link to this post.

Friday, 23 February 2018

The secret crag

Thursday 22nd. February 2018 - Thursday  walk with Pete

Back in the sixties and my early climbing days there were often  rumours of prominent climbers of the day working on a "secret crag." And even the populated ones were unofficially claimed by a particular doyen as their personal territory for the working of first ascents - Alan Austin and Langdale, and I think White Ghyll in particular, is one example. I will come back to that shortly.

Over the last year or so my Thursday walks with Pete have been restricted to Tarmac only, and as much as possible level walking, and under three miles, in consideration of Pete's advancing years and his rheumatoid arthritis, although the latter is now pretty well controlled with a shed-load of pills. But since my knee op I have been restricted to similar parameters so we are now more equally matched.

We start from the attractive village of Bouth where a Tarmac cul-de-sac road leads for  a mile or so to finish at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve . This road is quite undulating with several fairly steep uphill and downhill sections, and I feel a bit guilty having sandbagged Pete into something a bit more arduous, but he seems to cope well and most of the time he is walking better than  me, especially on the downhill sections. I don't understand the internal mechanics of the knee, but I imagine when walking downhill the joint is allowed to dangle and this seems to cause more pain than walking uphill when the action, in my mind, is more consolidated.

The road is often unfenced which gives an air of freedom, and a less successful attempt at conquering nature. The views down to the Rusland valley to the west and the hummocky hills rising to the east make for attractive walking. We pass a small wooded tarn on the right with a hide being part of the nature reserve, and then a larger and much prettier one on the left - there is a grebe, head erect, traversing quite rapidly.

Harking back to my climbing days I  always had a sort of fantasy of discovering a secret crag, and although I know this is quite unrealistic, especially these days, I can't help being on the lookout, and as we walk down the road I spot one such possibility high on the skyline to the west and manage to get a zoom photo. Looking at that photo now it is difficult to assess the scale, but the crag looks as though it could give a bit of entertainment on a sunny summer afternoon, but all is a bit dingy today, which is demonstrated by the dull quality of the photos on this post, but either you get those photos or nothing at all. The map shows there is a footpath going close to that crag and although it is not access land there are no field boundaries between path and crag so I might have a walk up there one day to have a closer look, but today it would be too much for Pete.

Our outward walk terminates at Low Hay Bridge House where there is also a converted barn being the headquarters of the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve with free access and a wealth of information for nature lovers, and all facilities for meetings and the like.

Total distance there and back 2.84miles.



The secret crag

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Miller's Way 1

15h February 2018 Thursday walk with Pete 

In my Bannisdale walk a few days ago I mentioned discovering the Millers Way, a long distance path I had not previously heard of. It purportedly follows the route taken by Mr Carr of biscuit fame (he was a miller) when he moved his business from Kendal to Carlisle in 1831. The route interweaves with the A6 trunk road for much of the way. I have the notion to perhaps walk this in sections. Certainly from Kendal as far as Shap one could walk meaningful lengths, then hitch-hike back to the parked car down the A6. The starting point is at Kendal town hall, so just to tidy up the first urban section we parked the car at the retail park north of Kendal (Morrisons, PC World, Halfords etc) to obviate starting with paid car parks in Kendal. So, we walked to the town hall, then back to the car. We were under some time pressure and both of us walked more quickly than usual: the round trip -  2.5 miles - 2 hours - 2.5mph - not bad for a couple of 70+ and 80+ old timers.


An article in the Guardian a few days caught my attention:

It can be précised thus: there is a modern tendency for magnets to be used as closures on clothing. They can cause reverse polarity on a compass. A group of well equipped, experienced walkers in Scotland recently got into trouble walking west instead of east. Take care.

I always keep compass, phone and camera separated.


Friday, 16 February 2018

Leck in the rain

Wednesday 14th February 2018

Nine-thirty - post breakfast - still raining - rain forecast all day -  shall I shan't I?

Not having walked much in bad weather this winter after knee replacement on 29th November I awoke my Paramo waterproof/windproof/all-in-one trousers from hibernation. The jacket has been in use all winter.

Providing I have effective waterproof gear and have set my mind to making a good job of it I quite enjoy an occasional masochistic excursion in the rain, perhaps to prove to myself, smugly of course, how my experience has been honed to mastering such drama - what modesty !

Half an hour's drive from home took me to Leck, a village I have never before visited. Welcome was provided by the church: they have a huge almost empty car park with an honesty box suggesting a minimum one pound donation. I donated a bit more. I  hope they're not supporting Oxfam.

It was still raining sparsely. I was reluctant to get out of the snugly warm car, and had brought my little flask of coffee to give me a pre-walk boost, so I dallied a while.

A public footpath ran out of the back of the car park and right through the middle of the primary school which seemed a bit odd in these days when  nobody without MI5 clearance is allowed to mingle with children. Anyway it was half term and the school was closed. In the light of many recent events I have to agree that precautions need to be taken, but as with all of Health and Safety it gets out of hand sometimes.

After a section of Tarmac there was a short link footpath back onto the very minor cul-de-sac road that leads to a track which finishes on the slopes of Gragareth, but I wasn't going right up there today, just a little three mile circular.  Just before embarking on the short footpath a farming sort of guy came out of his cottage and we had a chat. He had lived there for five years, but he said he had previously lived in Gayle near Hawes, suggesting that I might not have heard of it. Well, I walked through there last April on my way to the Roman road and then over and down into upper Wharfedale, and we both reeled off the names of Oughtershaw, where he had gone to school, and then Beckermonds, and Raisgill where I had bed and breakfast - he certainly knew that wider remote area well - quite a satisfying little conversation.

It may be interesting for students of countryside navigation to look at the map below. I thought I had followed the path on the map steeply up a cow trodden hillside to a gateway and then down to another decorative iron gate bordering the road which would have convinced most that they were on the continuation of a typical parochial countryside right of way, but the gate was barred and padlocked! Looking more closely at the map (Memory Map GPS on iPhone) I saw I was about 50 yards south of my footpath, and when I marched back onto track there was proper access to the Tarmac road. Countryside navigation is often more tricky than it is in the mountains.

The road deteriorated with many serious potholes and the odd patches of ice. Fellside Barn marked on the map was undergoing extensive renovation, and the wokrmen's Radio One was blaring away from inside. The weather was certainly not viable for outside working with intermittent squalls and strong biting cold wind. After the barn I  turned off south on a muddy but sound track. Halfway along, descending through  woodland a buzzard flew up from the path fifty yards ahead, and when I arrived at its point of departure there was just shredded remains of a member of the crow family with feathers scattered all around.

When my track re-joined Tarmac I met a lady on the road trundling a wheelbarrow full of logs - she had been to raid her wood store to keep her woodburner going, and as I battled on, head bent into the rain and wind I imagined, with some slight envy, her cosy wood-fire living room, but no bother, I knew I was not far from the car now, and then back home to a hot bath.


Back to gate Number 2

The padlocked gate

I can't resist heather.
 And my contribution to  the ubiquitous snowdrop photos at this time of year

An illustration of  the trickiness of countryside footpath navigation. Note this is all much more apparent when enlarged like this, therefore more difficult if using the paper map.
From  gate Number I could see the gate at No. 2 and so was immediately distracted from the green path on the map; there was a path on the ground leading to Number 2.
 Shortly after Number 2 I was able to see Number 3 a prominent decorative iron gate leading onto the road confirming my belief that I was on the correct path, but it proved to be barred and padlocked.
From Number 2 back to the proper path is less than 50m - fortunately there was a gate in the wall to give me access back onto the path, and then another onto the road.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Tender Trap

Friday 9th February 2018

Old Blue Eyes sings, 

"You hurry to a spot, that's just a dot on the map
You're hooked, you're crooked, your caught in the tender trap...

...and soon there's music in the breeze"

Writer(s): Sammy Cahn, Jimmy van Heusen

I spend a lot of time browsing the map. There are many locations I have earmarked to visit some day, usually because of some building or  feature set in unexpectedly remote, or out of character terrain. I am a born nosy parker.

Although I have walked the ridges to the north-east and south-west of Bannisdale (see map below) one of my earmarks for many years has been to walk up the track to see the isolated farmstead of Bannisdale Head nestling tightly under the steep head of this wild valley.

This was not a romantic encounter like the song, but it was similarly uplifting, and that phrase "dot on the map" has always fired my imagination. 

When ticking off Wainwright's Outlying Fells with Bowland Climber (9th may 2016) we parked near Dryhowe Bridge to ascend Whiteside Pike, and walk the Bannisdale horseshoe. There was just enough room against piles of road stone at the end of the public road. Today those piles had increased and I couldn't find room, nor anywhere else within reason. Looking at the map I saw footpaths came in from Thorn Cottage further north back up the A6, so I drove to set off from there.

At the start a sign indicated I was initially on part of The Millers Way, a long distance path I had not previously heard of running from Kendal to Carlisle named after Mr Carr the biscuit man who moved his business from Kendal to Carlisle in 1831, supposedly using an approximation of this route - looks interesting - could it be dome in bits using public transport?

A boggy climb and traverse got me back over into Bannisdale to emerge only a couple of hundred yards from where I had been unable to park. I immediately realised that if I had continued from the end of the public road there would have been plenty of room to park through the gate just the other side of Dryhowe Bridge - ah well.

All was silence up Bannisdale with intense blue sky, a nippy wind to walk into (...and soon there's music in the breeze")  and providing welcome assistance on the return.  High valley sides with craggy outcrops and intriguing, mysterious gorges gave a sense of enclosure, and just peaking above the skyline at the end of the valley toppings of snow on higher, distant Lake District hills.

The farm house at Bannisdale Head was apparently unoccupied but well maintained, as was the Land Rover track I was walking on. It looks as though the farm and its buildings are used more for storage or an advanced base for farming management on the hills. I found a convenient stone to sit on and had my sandwich and flask of coffee and quarter of an hour of quiet contemplation.

The round trip was 5.5 miles - average speed including the food stop 1.2 mph. That is the longest so far since my knee replacement eleven weeks ago - I was in no hurry.


Red dots indicate my route over into Bannisdale

Halfway to Bannisdale Head up the Land Rover track - nb snow covered hills beyond

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

A Grandpa walk

Sunday 4th February 2018

For some time I have shunned the idea of repeating previous walks on the grounds that every opportunity, at my age, of discovering things new must be taken. Occasionally there are exceptions, and I would happily repeat all parts of the Dalesway which I have previously walked in sections  (I have yet to fill in the five miles from the start in Ilkley up to Bolton Bridge.) Every section of that walk is shear delight, on old tracks, cropped turf, accompanied by lively streams and seventeenth century farms and barns, skilfully blended into the landscape. One can let the imagine wander on tracks along ancient hawthorn and holly hedgerows where pack horses would have trudged.

Sunday gave us intense blue sky with a nip in the air and ice on puddles as I set off with daughter Jill and granddaughter Katie on a typical section not far from the finish of the Dalesway at Bowness-on-Windermere.

I particularly enjoy this fringe of the Lake District terrain where sheep graze in fields of mini undulating fells, mainly untrodden by cows, and topped with enticing  outcrops of the kind of  solid rock so redolent of the classic climbing crags remembered from my erstwhile rock climbing days.

With my recovering knee the distance of 2.21 miles was just about enough: the discomfort seems to fluctuate, from almost normal walking to quite unpleasant pain and stiffness, but I am pretty sure I am not overdoing it. We meandered and stopped for half an hour on the high contour above Crag House and munched biscuits with cheese tomato and basil. We could just glimpse a bit of Lake Windermere to the south-west vividly reflecting the sun. Katie had brought a book; she has all at once started reading properly - I am not saying Katie is exceptional, but seeing young children acquiring language then reading ability is a fascinating business. I am gruntled to see her enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment of books.

All along Katie was way out in front, in cowboy language "riding point", but I'm not sure about "heading them off at the pass." She was summiting rocks, playing King of the Castle, and poking at icy puddles with her stout driftwood staff gleaned from the beach at Arnside a few days ago, and it was a joy to see her imagination running wild.

Including our long brunchy stop we managed a relaxing 0.83mph - that's the way to do it.


Friday, 2 February 2018

If the bough breaks...

1st February - Thursday walk with Pete

Borrowdale (the one near Tebay) is now managed by Friends of the Lake District, after having been included within the extended boundaries of the Lake District national park. There is a pleasing website detailing improvements they have made enhancing wildlife, conservation and bio-diversity. This valley is for me one of the most attractive locations I know. I found it for myself many years ago without any prior knowledge (much better than being told about it by someone else) and have visited it many times since. The traverse of the southern ridge and return via the valley bottom is a fine outing. As far as I know the old farm, now restored is not inhabited but the valley is managed for sheep. The steep hillsides have a mixture of rocky outcrops and scattered trees and the fast flowing Borrow Beck is a lively presence throughout.

Our route started at the eastern end - there is Tarmac with tricky potholes for just over a kilometre ascending quite steeply through attractive woodland, and we drove up there to the start of the Land Rover track which is not suitable for normal motor cars, and leads to the farm at Low Borrowdale.  There is a friendly sign now suggesting caution, but there is no way I would want to take my low-slung Kia any further. There are paths and tracks after the farm which eventually meet with the A6 at the western end, but there is no realistically viable route for vehicles which keeps this secret valley as a place for peace and food for the sole.

We walked up the rough undulating track for just over a mile, and then back again, and for the moment that is as much as my convalescing knee wants to do, but all was bright and sunny, but there was a perishingly cold wind and the track had patches of ice which were not always obvious to the eye and I was in great fear of slipping. On the return my walking had slowed somewhat, and bearing in mind Pete is five years older than me at 83 this was the first time I can remember him being out in front and waiting every so often for me to catch up. But, to breath that air and soak up those surroundings was welcome after weeks of confinement.

Back at Café Ambio most of the farmers had gone and we were able to get our usual comfortable seating on the only two leather settees in the corner away from most of the standard café tables and chairs. As we were well into our tea drinking and flapjack and carrot cake munching, a couple of young mums arrived with pram and baby and a four or five year old boy and plonked down on the table next to us - there were other empty tables all over. Then another two arrived with a couple more young kids. The baby was crying and the kids were what I would describe as active and vocal. We have not had this kind of intrusion before during the two or three years we have been coming here, and whilst I, now as a veteran grandpa, tend to be laid-back Pete was disgruntled (he is not very tolerant) and mutterings were made that we may have to change our venue if this persists - oh dear!

Recently I was watching a TV programme about volunteers going through the SAS training; they were subjected to over fourteen hours of sleep deprivation, interrogation and softening up, part of which involved being forced to adopt uncomfortable positions whilst being prodded with sticks, along with intermittent loud noises, and high pitched recordings of babies crying, so if the military regard that noise as the ultimate...

Apart from housing the new livestock auction mart this large recently purpose built complex incorporates Café Ambio and also a normal household/antique type auction house. As we depart we can see into the auction room and at the front was an antique petrol pump complete with the Esso glass bowl topping piece. As I was pondering what the guide price may be one of the auction guys appeared and told us it was set at  £1500/2000. Pete said to him "If I bought that and took it home my wife would divorce me." The auction man jauntily replied "perhaps cheap at the price."