Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A good weekend in the Lake District

It was freezing cold when we arrived at Ullswater on Friday afternoon but we awoke to a warmer and more habitable environment on Saturday morning. After a hasty breakfast we drove to Pooley Bridge and parked by the Information Centre in the Square where we stripped down to our running gear for the start of one of our regular routes.
Ignoring red traffic lights we ran across the bridge and turned north along a path through the wood bordering the River Eamont. Beyond, in the fields around the man-made pond, it was a bit squidgy underfoot, but nothing Mudclaws and Sealskinz couldn't cope with. Startled Mallard sought sanctuary farther into the river and wild geese bugled across the benign sky. The Iona Community regard the wild goose as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and, strangely, I always feel uplifted by the sight and sound of these wandering birds.
We crossed the A592 Penrith road and took the grassy track over Flusco Hill towards Dalemain, a large and imposing red sandstone house recently featured on Radio 4's food programme promoting marmalade. They called it 'bottled sunshine'. In the lambing fields we've seen hares that had come to share mangolds put out to sustain pregnant ewes. In March the Dalemain gardens are smothered with shiny white Snowdrops and yellow Aconites, a brilliant sight to behold. A strutting grey cockerel was rounding up his wide-eyed hens, full of the joys of Spring. A field of Fallow Deer have become quite tame over the years and will readily pose for camera shots. This year they look drabber and less colourful than previously. Red squirrels regularly feed around a large tree in the courtyard but were missing on this occasion.
As we ran along the track towards Dacre a buzzard mewed in the distance. The old castle stood in bold relief, lit with warm sunshine, when we approached, but as I fumbled for the camera in my bumbag a car drove up and parked immediately in front of it. Typical! The driver did apologize when I mentioned it but we were running and couldn't hang around while he decided to move the offending object.
Dacre's roadside banks were smothered with snowdrops, nodding in the gentle breeze. We turned south, crossed the bridge over Dacre Beck and set off up the long hill towards Souland Gate. Bantam cocks crowed lustily from a garden near the summit where we turned right towards Soulby before taking a footpath through the fields for the final kilometre back to Pooley bridge. We re-crossed the A592, jogged steeply upwards into Dunmallard Wood before sweeping joyously downhill to finish our run in the Square. A very pleasant 5 miles in balmy Lakeland weather that effectively answers the question - "Why do I run?"

We parked by the old Church at Martindale, with its ancient yew tree, and set off behind Winter Crag farm to climb Beda Fell. But first we'd to rescue a sheep that had tried to jump a wall but got its horns fast in the wire netting at the top and was just hanging there helpless. It's friends must have assumed I was a shepherd and that the green KIMM sack I was carrying was full of nourishing nuts. They followed us in a long line up the fell bleating appealingly. As we crested the ridge we were struck by a fierce wind that almost bowled us off our feet. The sheep very sensibly turned back!
We struggled onwards and upwards, hoods up protecting our faces, occasionally blown off the path by an extra strong gust. Two watery eyed fell runners passed us, hardly able to maintain momentum against the viscious blast - and they were going DOWN hill! At least, we were being blown mainly upwards. A parcel of hinds, maybe a dozen or so, grazing a sheltered part of the hillside below us hardly raised their heads as we passed them by.
Mercifully, as we approached Angle Tarn down the lee side of Beda Fell Knot, we were sheltered from the wind and life became more pleasant. For the only time we can remember Angle Tarn was completely frozen over and made a wonderful foreground to the snow-capped mountain tops beyond. A pair of ravens cronked across the grey sky, the only signs of life in an otherwise deserted landscape.
We took the stalker's path below Heck Crag and descended into Bannerdale. Badgers had excavated a tidy hole under the long wall leading to Dale Head, but the wall remained perfectly intact. Now, if I tried that, I've no doubt the stones would collapsed on top of me and this Blog would come to an abrupt end.
As we strolled back down the road towards Winter Crag, where our car was parked, groups of walkers were setting off up the hill totally unaware of the horrors that would be unleashed upon them when they reached the top. Our day was finished and half an hour later were back at Ravencragg enjoying the first of many refreshing cups of reviving tea.

Before returning home we couldn't resist one of our favourite runs we always do when visiting this particular location. It starts along the road between Pooley Bridge and Howtown before turning up the track to Swarthbeck farm and following the path beneath Swarth Fell and Bonscale Pike to Mellguards at the back of Howtown. We crossed the bridge over Fusedale Beck and ran the path leading gently upwards, parallel to the zig-zag road, that brings us to the Church of St Peter at Martindale. We took photographs of the churchyard heavily dotted with snowdrops.
There was no way I could run all the way up Hallin Fell, as I have in the past, but was tempted upwards by the thought of the wonderful flowing run back down. So off we went, arriving at the obelisk to be greeted by the same terrible wind that struck us yesterday on Beda Fell. We didn't linger, running easily back down the fell's leeward side, to the ferry landing stage at Howtown where we hit the road. From thence it was an easy jog back to Ravencragg - and sustenance.
All in all, a very pleasant weekend without one drop of rain.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful weekend, away from the crowds, enjoying the fells.

  2. Hi Running Fox,
    How had another holiday:) It sounds like you had a fun time. Thank you for posting the beautiful pictures:) I would never be able to see sheep just wandering about where I live! Also the countryside is gorgeous!

    You ran a sub 3 hour marathon in your sixties!!! What is it about English are all so crazy fast:) Good for you!! I hope that you enjoy the rest of your week and keep posting my friend:)