Thursday, 28 January 2016


Mike and I, plus Lucky the dog, set out with the best of intentions. Mike had picked me up on the Sunday morning and we were soon heading westward for the Lakes. Dunnerdale was our destination. For once we had opted for a day or two of luxury. With character references duly given for Lucky, we had booked ourselves in to the camping barn at High Wallabarrow for three nights. Compared to some camping barns I have previously stayed at, this one was luxurious. Electricity, an electric cooker, toaster, kettle and fridge.A wood burning stove, complete with a huge basket of wood if required, to sit in front of in the evening, was most welcome and put to good use.

The local weather forecast for Monday was not encouraging. Rain,  strong winds and low cloud levels on the tops. A hastily revised plan was made and we decided to keep to the lower levels. A walk through the woods to Seathwaite. From there it was a stroll up the road.
. A bash through bracken and tussocks and a steep bit of uphill brought us to a knobbly crag by the name of Pen. A spot of early lunch in the rain and a peruse of the map.

With the rain increasing and a rising wind we opted to carry on up the road to a bridge over the river Duddon. It was then a case off following footpaths back down through the valley. Forestry work initially made the going difficult.

Coming down through the Wallabarrow gorge needed care. The path wound over and through a large boulder field. The rocks were slick and greasy in the wet. Leg breaking stuff. Not many miles, roughly seven, but an interesting walk.
.Back at the barn waterproofs were shed, wetness was everywhere. With rain gear  hung up and dripping steadily, Mike soon had the stove lit and before long a good blaze was roaring away.
Lucky appreciates a good fire!
Tuesday morning saw the wind roaring and the rain lashing down. Having already been out a few times to the loo, I was aware of how bad things were out. Mike, heeding my warning, donned full waterproofs to take Lucky out for his morning constitutional. He arrived back streaming with water and looking a little wild eyed. His immediate remark was, "We are not going anywhere in that!"  The local radio was giving warnings of heavy rain, winds gusting to seventy miles an hour, with force nine gales on the coast, gusting to storm force ten. Several flood warnings were in place. Thus it was we stayed in the barn all morning drinking tea and coffee.
 By early afternoon the worst of the storm had passed and we ventured out for a wee wander. That, really, was the sum of our three days in Dunnerdale. We left on the Wednesday morning with yet another storm front coming in. A grand total of roughly ten miles was achieved. We did though discover an excellent camping barn. Drank lots of tea and coffee and lazed before a blazing fire.

One for Alan.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Coastal toddle

Mike had originally proposed a different walk but given conditions underfoot we opted for a gentle walk from Craster. The village was in winter mode, no throngs of touristy types, no smell of smoking kippers, just a few hardy dog walkers.

Dunstanburgh castle was closed. Quite an impressive pile though! A meander along the coast flanking the local golf links. An investigation of a ww2 bunker complete with murder hole and then on to Dunstan Steads. Lunch was had in a drafty barn while sheltering from a heavy sleety shower.

A gentle stroll brought us on to Dunstan Square, deep puddles, much to Lucky's displeasure. A very slutchy bit of track and then across fields back to Craster. A distance of five miles.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Gales, mud and flood, Part two.

With the gale gradually gaining in strength, accompanied by rain, there was a pressing need to hunker down somewhere. It was just as I was about to head down to the beach by Little Gruinard that a car stopped and backed up. The driver was spending a few days driving around the coast. The offer of a lift was too good to refuse. A night in B&B had become an attractive proposition. Thus it was that I ended up at Camusnagaul, where I was already booked in for the Tuesday night. Mrs Ross is one of the few B&B's open in the winter months in that area, one I would recommend too.
 By morning the worst of the weather had passed. It was to be an easy day though, my legs were tired. The path leading up by the Allt Airdeasaidh looking interesting. The river cuts down the hillside in a series of waterfalls.
Geologically they are rather fascinating. It appears as if the river is moving slightly across the hillside as well as downward. There were places where it was obvious that the river had cut a new channel
to one side of the old waterfall, leaving the original dry. At one point, as I was making my up the hillside, I walked toward a few trees growing on the edge of a gully. It was a bit unnerving to find there was a sheer drop off the edge with the river hundred of feet below in a narrow chasm. Good size trees were growing down there. Once again the river has carved a deep channel in what must be weaker rock.
It was a steady plod up the hill with water flowing in all directions. Up toward the bealach there were fine views in to the Fisherfield

It would have been quite straight forward to push on up to Sail Mhor. The river might have been a problem to cross, beside which I was content to potter. It had been dry all morning but once more the wind was rising and ominous dark clouds were slowly building up.
It was another night of heavy storm. An early breakfast had been arranged for the Wednesday morning. The one and only bus up from Gairloch was due through at approximately eight forty five. The landlady assured me the bus would stop at the end of her drive. There was enough space there  for the bus to pull in. Thus it was I was out by the road not long after half past eight. There was still a strong wind blowing and  torrential rain was sheeting down the glen. At ten to nine I was getting a wee bit worried. Just after, Mrs Ross gave me a shout. Noticing me still waiting, she had rung the bus company. Bad news, a landslip at Garve had closed the road. Apparently this has happened a few times recently and it is normally cleared quite quickly. However, the bus had been cancelled. Worse, there was not another bus until Saturday morning. Despite a minimal amount of traffic on the road, there was little option but to thumb it. The cost of new train tickets would have been pricey. My hope was I could at least get as far as Garve. The Kyle line runs through there and maybe there was bus replacement service?
More than hour later standing in the lashing rain, a food delivery truck stopped for me. The driver was heading for Inverness and he had been monitoring traffic reports. There was a single lane open through the landslip. The storm continued all the way down to Inverness. Wind regularly buffeted the truck. There was standing water on the roads. In places deeper water and streams flowing off the hill  sweeping across the road.
The truck driver kindly dropped me off at Inverness train station. A lot of the information boards were showing trains cancelled. Fleets of rail replacement buses were on standby. Hence a quick cup of coffee and on to a coach for Perth. Again, the road conditions were awful. The driver remarked he had never seen things quite as bad. In the many years I have been travelling up and down the area I have never seen things as bad either. Flooding was extensive. For example, by Kingussie, Ryvoan barracks was a moated island. The main road, a causeway across an inland sea. Every river, it seemed, had burst its banks.
Reaching Perth, station staff were busy directing the milling crowds. Passengers for Edinburgh were directed 'over the bridge, platform two, change at Stirling and you need to hurry, the train is waiting'. It is most undignified for an old girl like me to have to leg it! The train was packed, as was to be expected. Finally made Edinburgh and eventually Newcastle, arriving back more than twelve hours after setting out.
Not an easy trip, with nine days food and fuel in the rucksack. My intention originally had been for a day or two of leaving the tent in one spot and doing day walks. With continuous bands of storms blowing in from the south and west, bringing high winds and heavy rain, I had to revise that idea. It had been remarkably mild too. The short lulls between the storms actually allowed brief spells of sunshine. Spare clothing in case of it turning cold were carried but not used.