A couple of days before setting off to the Lake District I was ignominiously bounced off the road by a beefy Belgian Blue cow which, the farmer said, was only protecting its calf. Fortunately, having butted me onto my back, it showed no further interest and I was able to jog away, a little shaken but with no more pain than a couple of Ibuprofens couldn't sort out.
|Deer hunter (Click to enlarge pictures)|
With this incident in mind I was hoping we didn't encroach too closely upon the mating antics of prime stags going about their business in the Martindale Deer forest. It was the 'Season of Roaring'. The Rut was on.
|In the wilds of Bannerdale, The Nab in background|
After parking at Dale Head we walked up Bannerdale in somewhat misty conditions. It took a while to 'get our eye in' though we could hear intermittent roaring high up on the Nab. It wasn't until we were high up the valley that roaring began on our side of the deer fence. A sweep of the binoculars revealed a stag with his parcel of hinds on a crag immediately above us.
|I've spotted them|
Amongst autumn colours of dying foliage they weren't easy to spot but once our eyes became accustomed to the landscape more and more came into view - lone stags that had given up the fight and large herds we'd failed to spot during our walk in. It was all very elemental and thankfully we got out without being pinned to a wall or tossed over the deer fence.
|Not easy to see in the conditions|
To be honest, the Rut was almost over. Stags will soon be friends again, taking off together to resume feeding and building themselves up to face all the rigours of a Lakeland winter. Best of mates.
|A bit of luxury|
We returned to the luxury of our friend's apartment to build ourselves up for a planned run over Pikeawassa the following morning. I wasn't in very good form, still suffering a badly bruised ego as a result of a losing battle with that perishing cow!
|The rocky nose onto Steel Knott|
After a gorgeous sunset the previous evening, morning dawned cloudless and clear. We couldn't wait to don our running gear and take off into the hills. We drove through Howtown and parked at the back of the hotel with the steep nose of Steel Knott towering above us.
|Rest stop on Steel Knott|
My wonderful partner set a cracking pace I struggled to match so I'd a more than usual number of stops on the ascent, ostensibly to take photographs but in reality because I needed the rest.
|Sheep didn't mind us|
We descended across boggy ground, passing the ruined cottage by Fusedale Beck, down to a stone slab bridge over a subsidiary stream of miniature waterfalls where berry laden trees contrasted sharply against the boundless blue.
|Berries against the blue|
Then down by Cote Farm and back to Howtown where we met and chatted to the first people we'd seen all morning.
|A study in yellows|
Another of our favourite runs begins in Pooley Bridge, then NE by the River Eamont before taking off across fields to Dalemain where there's a large herd of Fallow deer.
|Fallow deer at Dalemain|
The Rut begins earlier for Fallow deer and should have been over by November, but one randy old stag seemed determined to make it last till Christmas! Before our very eyes he chased and cornered an unwilling hind in what we could only describe as rape.
|That randy stag|
If there was such a thing as a Deer Judiciary he'd be locked in a pen for two years and slapped on the sex offenders register.
|Running towards Dacre Castle|
We'd hoped to see red squirrels at the feeders but were disappointed, so continued west along the public bridleway to Dacre, past the imposing castle and detoured into the churchyard to view the old stone bears.
|Stone bear in the Churchyard|
There are four of them which some believe mark the four corners of a previous Saxon Monastery.
After a bit of roadwork we were soon into fields again and toiling up the side of Dunmallard, site of an ancient Iron Age hill fort. At some period it may have been home to the Brigantes who inhabited such high places including Castle Hill just up the road from where I live. Though less than 800ft high Dunmallard has a commanding view down the length of Ullswater and is only a short walk to the bridge over the Eamont.
|Temporary bridge sign|
The present bridge is a temporary one, its 250 year old predecessor having been washed away during last year's floods.
All our runs were early morning ones. After lunch we bumbled around, taking it easy, viewing the views.
|Wished I was up there!|
Watching daring hang-gliders soaring round the craggy heights.
Lingering by the lake side to catch the evening sunsets, enjoying all that wonderful landscape has to offer.
|Sunset over Ullswater|
Until our last morning we'd brilliant sunny weather, albeit rather cold and windy that had leaves shuttering down to form a yellow carpet all around our apartment. Other than deer we saw little in the way of wildlife. A couple of badgers lay dead by the roadside.
|Geese flying into the sunset|
Skeins of geese flew across the evening sky and a few blue tits were feeding on a Japanese Maple, but other birds were conspicuous by their absence. Not that we're all that observant!
|Crossing Fusedale beck on a last run|
Poking our noses out the door for a last run before returning home we felt the first few spots of rain. It relented as we ran by Swarthbeck onto the bridleway leading to Melguards, then over Fusedale Beck and up Martindale to the Church under Hallin Fell.
|Church under Hallin Fell|
From there we'd a lovely run down a turfy path to Howtown landing stage, then back up to the Bridleway we'd set off on to return just as the rain became more persistent.
|Couldn't resist another sunset picture looking across Ullswater|
We didn't care. In less than an hour we were packed and heading for home. Rejoicing!
Our thanks to Barrie and Paddy MacJannette for allowing us into their luxurious apartment in such a stunning location.
We treasure such memories.
We treasure such memories.