Thursday, 28 November 2013

Catbells, Borrowdale and the Knife in the Bog


 The day after climbing Skiddaw (see previous blog entry) I awoke expecting to find myself with stiff and aching limbs and, in view of what I had planned for the day ahead, I was both pleased and relieved to realise that this wasn't the case.  Because for the third day of our short break in the Lake District I had a circular walk of 14 miles in mind, which was to begin with a climb of one of the most well-known and popular fells in Lakeland.  The charmingly named Catbells.

Situated on the western shores of Derwentwater, just three miles from the town of Keswick, Catbells has a modest height of 1,480 feet (451m).  Its name is thought to originate from "cat bield" which meant "shelter of the wild cat".  The walk we had planned was taken from Country Walking magazine and began with a climb up Catbells via the most popular route, which is very well defined, and visible from the lower slopes of Skiddaw.

The path up Catbells is visible on the left

The famous Lakeland fellwalker, writer and illustrator Alfred Wainwright describes Catbells as a walk suitable for "grannies and infants" and for the first part of the climb upwards I tended to agree with this description.  However, towards the top I found myself faced with something of a scramble over loose shale and slippery rock.  I took a photo with my phone, simply because I couldn't imagine elderly ladies and toddlers negotiating this part of the walk with ease.  Perhaps that's not quite what Wainwright had in mind!

Steep scramble on Catbells

From this part of the walk we enjoyed wonderful views, both across Derwentwater, to Skiddaw and down into the Newlands Valley and the village of Little Town which was the setting for one of Beatrix Potter's famous little books, "The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle".

Newlands Valley

Walking along Catbells
The walk along the ridge was wonderful but all too soon our route took us steeply downhill and into the valley of Borrowdale from where we headed to the little hamlet of Grange for lunch before continuing through a wooded valley and to the foot of Castle Crag.  The sun was shining as we climbed up the steep path along Broadslack Gill, between Castle Crag and Goat Crag and, stopping to catch my breath at the top, I looked back at the view between the crags and across to Skiddaw.  It was breathtakingly beautiful. 

Distant Skiddaw viewed through Broadslack Gill

A short distance onwards and yet another stunning view opened up, across the reaches of Borrowdale and down to the village of Rosthwaite.  Patches of sunlight broke through the clouds to illuminate small sections of the landscape and I waited a while here, hoping that the cloud cover would break a little more and light up more of the scene.  After a time though it became obvious this was going to take too long and so we continued along our route, dropping down to the village of Seatoller.

Looking towards Rosthwaite

From Seatoller we followed the course of the River Derwent back towards Borrowdale.  I was astonished by the clarity of the water, which was the purest looking river water I have ever seen.  It was so enticing I couldn't resist stooping down to take a drink and splash some on my face.  Of course, I wouldn't usually advocate drinking river water.   But I could tell from just looking that this was as pure as water could be - and I suffered no ill effects!

Our route was now heading back towards the village of Grange and thereafter back to the foot of Catbells via the shore of Derwentwater.  As we passed by a youth hostel we spotted a familiar couple with their dog enjoying a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine.  We had encountered this pair several times along the walk and had smiled and exchanged greetings with them.  Now we stopped for a chat and to compare notes , realising we were all following the same route from Country Walking magazine.  A short distance further along the route and the couple and their dog caught us up again, at which point I realised they had followed us in taking a wrong turn.  We could all see the correct route across a meadow and decided we could regain the path if we cut across the meadow.  At which point things started to go awry when half way across the paddock we hit upon a bog.   We all stopped for a while and considered the options - to turn around and retrace our tracks or to negotiate the bog.  Tom took the lead and, with a running jump, cleared the bog with ease, quickly followed by the couple's little dog.  They made it look very easy and so I followed suit, only to miss my footing, slip and fall over backwards when my left foot disappeared beneath the liquid mud.  To my great embarrassment I found that I couldn't get up and I had to be pulled out by the man taking one arm and his partner the other.   What the three of us hadn't noticed, being somewhat distracted,  was that whilst I was floundering about Tom had spotted something protruding from the mud.  As the couple hoisted me to my feet Tom bent over to pick the object up.  It was a knife with a long serrated blade; the kind used by a farmer or woodsman to cut through branches.  It was practically new and had clearly been lost by another of the bog's victims.  As the couple helped me regain my balance, Tom suddenly brandished the knife in our direction and exclaimed "Well would you believe it.  Look what I've got".  At this point the couple let go of my arms and, quickly jumping over the bog, made their way back to the path without saying another word.  It took a while for me to realise why they may have beaten such a hasty retreat. 

Sunlight in Borrowdale

Thankfully the rest of our walk was uneventful, just a long steady hike back to our car at the foot of Catbells.  We did see the other couple one more time.  I can't imagine why, but they appeared to be hiding behind a drystone wall.

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