Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Ullswater Way - In the Footsteps of Dorothy Wordsworth

Penrith, Cumbria. Summer-2020.

Ullswater is our nearest lake and there is an Ullswater Way, a circular walk of 20 miles (plus a couple of additional, optional loops). Over the two lockdowns this was part of our exercise regimen, doing the complete route in sections. The walks are described below in chronological rather than geographical order.

Part way through this I was contacted by Paul Westover of Brigham Young University who is compiling an open-source electronic edition of some of Dorothy (sister of William) Wordsworth’s Lakeland writings. Unfortunately, the pandemic had made it impossible for him to visit Cumbria and take his own photographs. I happily gave him permission to use any pictures from the blog. Also his wish list of photos gave us purpose and focus to our later walks - as well as being delightful walks in their own right.

Pooley Bridge to Howtown and back (20-May-2020).

Our first section of the Ullswater Way: a circular walk from Pooley Bridge on a beautiful sunny day.

We parked up at Pooley Bridge car park which was free at that time because work on the new bridge was still in progress. Lovely undulating path, sunshine and blue skies.

It's not often you come across a finger post in Latin signposting the way between two Roman forts.

A stop for Mary to adjust her socks and me to admire the view.

Dalemain Loop (06-June-2020)

Our second walk was not around Ullswater itself but a pleasant, easy walking optional loop north from Pooley Bridge.

Passing the 14th Century Dacre Castle.

As we passed a field of cows they all came ambling over to have a good peer at us. I suspect they thought we might be bringing food!

There were some lovely wooded paths.

Clover was in full bloom.

Aira Force to Patterdale (and back) (24-Jun-2020)

A section of the north shore. Not wanting to rely on the infrequent bus service along the shore we decided to do an out-and-back walk from Aira Force.

Pleasant low-level paths through woods and fields.

Hallin Fell (11-Jul-2020 morning)

Another loop where the lakeside section is part of the Ullswater Way.

We parked up near St Peter's church. The walk starts with a steep uphill to a monument with stunning views.  

The descent to the shore was via a route Mary found on the internet, on a path not shown on the OS map. Followed by an anti-clockwise loop along the Ullswater Way to Sandwick and then back up to the car on paths and country lanes.

Dorothy mentions visiting “Harry Hebson’s house” in Sandwick: “I longed to go in for the sake of former times.” Sandwick is tiny but we have no way of knowing which of the half dozen cottages was Harry's house.

Joining the Dots (11-Jul-2020 afternoon)

We could not claim to have done the whole of the Ullswater Way if we missed even a single footstep. So we devised a route using the OS maps making sure we included the missed sections around Howtown connecting Hallin Fell and where we turned back on our very first walk. 

North of Howtown we managed to find an out-and-back that used parallel paths so we were not literally retracing our foot steps. Lovely views of the lake on this section.

Gowbarrow Fell (16-Jul-20)

The Ullswater Way has two routes around Gowbarrow Fell. We did it as a circuit as we were on our own thus ensuring we covered both branches of this section. Dorothy Wordsworth mentions seeing a “large Troop” of deer at Gowbarrow Park but there were none on the day we were there. 

We parked up at the Aira Force carpark (for free as we are NT members) and started up alongside the beck. Then it was steep climb up to the summit but we were rewarded with great views.

Unfortunately on the home stretch Mary slipped and fell heavily on her foot. She hobbled back to the car and we drove straight to the Urgent Treatment Centre at Penrith Hospital where they fitted her with a surgical boot. As it was a Saturday we had to return on the Monday for an X-ray which indicated that nothing appeared to be broken but it took a third visit, this time to Carlisle, to get a specialist to confirm. This put her out of action so it was a while before we got back to the Ullswater Way. 

Pooley Bridge to Aira Force (11-Oct-2020)

This straightforward section completing the north side was scenic and not too strenuous.

We were able to do a one-way walk because friends were visiting us between lockdowns and did the "two car shuffle" - park one car, drive to the other end in the second car, walk back to the first car and use that to retrieve the second car.

Patterdale to Townhead (14-Oct-2020 morning)

The southern shore has no through roads so we did this and the next section in a single day with the aforementioned friends and another "two car shuffle" parking up at Patterdale and Pooley Bridge. 

A rainbow near the start of our walk - you can just see the hint of a double rainbow on the left hand side.

The path goes past Side Farm of which Dorothy Wordsworth wrote "Mrs. Luff’s large white Dog lay in the moonshine upon the round knoll under the old yew tree, a beautiful and romantic image – the dark Tree with its dark shadow, and the elegant creature as fair as a Spirit." We were able to confirm that a yew tree is still there but which of the three in the grounds of the farm (one on the left, two on the right) it is impossible to tell.

Townhead to Pooley Bridge (14-Oct-2020 afternoon)

After a picnic lunch we continued the second part of the day-long walk, covering some of the same ground as our very first walk.

Pleasant wooded paths undulating up and down.

Stybarrow crag from across the lake, photo taken especially for Paul Westover.

It was getting a bit overcast and atmospheric by the time we finished at Pooley Bridge.

So we can tick the Ullswater Way off the list but given as how it is our nearest lake I am sure we will do some repeat walks.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

A Year In Penrith Flora

Penrith, Cumbria, UK. March 2020 to March-2021.

It was only meant to be a long weekend but Covid intervened.

We bought our house in Penrith as a second home to enjoy the pleasures of the North Lakes over the winter and let out as an AirBnB over the summer while we were in Italy. We were staying in a cottage near Hadrian's Wall with friends for a long weekend of walking as the Covid epidemic was rapidly unfolding. 

It was apparent that a lockdown was looming and so we decided not to return to crowed London but instead stay in Penrith notwithstanding that it was still something of a building site. The kitchen carcasses were in but not much else. Our kitchen fitter worked late on the eve of lockdown to install the worktop, the dishwasher, sink and hob. We could live without cupboard doors.

We followed the stay-home guidelines and only went out of the house once a week for shopping and daily for our exercise. As a city boy with little interest in nature even I could not fail to notice the changing flowers with the passing seasons. 

Warning: all species identification tentative!

March 2020 - Penrith Beacon. Many of our walks were straight up Fell Lane to the local landmark and a circuit of the woodland that surrounds it. Doing the same circuit over the 12 months really brought home how each flower has its own time slot.


April 2020 - There are many delightful sunken paths.


April 2020 - Spring started with enthusiastic shrubs - Wild Cherry...


April 2020 - ... and Japanese Quince.


May 2020 - next up, Bluebells.


May 2020 - a switch from blue to pink: Campion.


May 2020 - and then to white: Wild Garlic.


May 2020 - my favourite type of woodland is mixed broadleaf trees with an understory of fern - young fern shoots have lovely curled tips like a bishop's crozier.


May 2020 - we saw several fields with all twin lambs. I assumed this was normal until we saw a TV programme which explained that only single lambs are let loose on the fells with their mums. Twin lambs require more looking after by the ewes and are therefore kept closer to the farm so they could be kept an eye on.


May 2020 - The beacon is a managed commercial woodland therefore much of it is conifers. Not my favourite but the conifer shoots are lovely bright green tassels.


June 2020 - Summer brings out the Clover.


June 2020 - Eli is a Husky-Malamute cross. Here he is "in the foetid pond [...] just standing, letting all the unpleasantness soak in" [1] This is Thacka Beck a local nature reserve, the beck runs on from here through the town and was once its only water supply.


June 2020 - Foxgloves.


June 2020 - Campanula.


August 2020 - Triffids, possibly Gunnera Manicata, they were impressive.


August 2020 - Himalayan Balsam. An invasive species that I used to help try and eradicate on the River Wandle when I volunteered down in London.


August 2020 - Rosebay Willowherb. It looks more like a weed to me, growing along the verges, but en masse still provide a bold splash of colour.


October 2020 - Leaves. Some wonderful autumnal colours. 


October 2020 - Fungi. 


October 2020 - I love old walls covered in moss looking like they have been there hundreds of year (which they probably have).


December 2020 - Baubles, The Beacon. Seems to be a local tradition!


February 2021 - Snowdrops. We saw a few pathetic little clumps and then went for a walk along the River Eden and there they were in profusion.


February 2021 - Crocuses. I love the colour purple, I get that from my mother.


February 2021 - Crocuses, St Andrews Graveyard.


April 2021 - Daffodils, Fell Lane on our walk up to The Beacon.


Now we are back round the calendar to start again!