Thursday 25 February 2016

17th February 2016 - Fish and chip run

Sunset over Windermere

The forecast was for heavy rain, but with an offer of childcare for the day, we had to make the most of the day and so set off for northern Windermere to practice a few skills.  As we drove though, the day just didn't seem as bad as we were expecting, so a quick change of plan saw us heading for Fell foot at the south end of the lake.

The aroma of vinegared chips hung on the gentle northern breeze, so we set off to find the source (sauce?).

A stretch of legs at a beach just past the ferry allowed time for a sandwich to fuel the crossing of the top part of the lake to Waterhead.  The water was becoming ever smoother, disturbed only by the wake of the occasional passing tour boat and the views too became more breath taking as whispy cloud played round the summits of the snow capped peaks.

Due to the flood repair works, it was quite quiet at Waterhead and we were able to haul out onto the beach next to the ferries, just a short walk from the fish and chip shop.  Cooked fresh to order, they were fantastic and we were soon surrounded by a huge range of bird life all wanting their share.

Rather than heading straight back down the lake, we first went to have a look at the Brathay harbour, Dick having worked there in the early 1970s.  He was pleased to see them setting up a zip wire across the harbour mouth, the original pegs for which (no longer used, but still there!), he'd helped to put in 40 or so years ago.

It was then down to see the Wray Castle boat house, another centre he'd worked in, before heading south once more.  Looking over our shoulders the light on the snow dusted hills was incredible and we were soon to become enveloped in a fantastic sunset, the light reflecting on the oily looking water.

The moon gave sufficient light to help the loading process back at Fell foot, the end of a superb day out.  Huge thanks to Sharon for looking after the kids for the day.

14th February 2016 - Paddling with seals

Dick with his new paddles

With a very low tide predicted courtesy of big springs, we decided to make the most of the settled conditions to have another look at the low lying island of St Helena off Roa island near Barrow.

It was a stunning early morning drive along the A590, the snow capped hills being picked out by the rising sun. The sea too was in perfect condition with just a light northerly blowing down the channel separating us from Piel island.

We were soon heading south down the channel, aided by both the breeze and the last of the ebb.

Passing Piel island with its fantastic castle

Initially looking like large boulders on the beach, the seal colony on South Walney soon came into view, the seals making the most of the warming sun.

The seal colony on South Walney

Looking back at the seals and Piel Castle

As we headed towards the thousands of sea birds feasting on the star fish and other delights uncovered by the receding tide, a couple of seals stayed with us until the water became to shallow.

With the turn of the tide it was time to retrace our steps and head back into the channel. With wind now against tide, the water kicked up surprisingly each time we found ourselves in the main flow.

Heading towards the southern tip of Walney

Arriving back at the slipway by the life boat station it was getting busy with a group of Cumbria Canoeists about to take to the water.   Thanks to them and the BCU for the sandwiches!

12th February 2016 - Back to Boxhead

Dick rigging the main pitch

Returning up from the bottom of Lost Pot

Journey to the source of the blue pipes

The joys of epiglottis passage

Friday 5 February 2016

29th January 2016 - Discretion is the better part of Valhalla...

Having gathered together pretty much every rope and maillon we own to get us to the bottom of Lost Johns, there was absolutely no way I could manage a camera too, so sorry no pictures.

Heavily laden we soon realised it's been a while since we'd visited Lost Johns as we found ourselves walking through the wrong gate. We jumped back in the van and a few minutes later were in the right field, climbing down into the streamway.

Dick's recollection of the system soon came back and as I sploshed around in the stream, he moved swiftly along a higher traverse line.  With each passing pitch the load of tackle bags decreased till at the start of the Battleaxe traverse we were down to our final one.

At the end of the traverse we looked down into the gloom of Valhalla and listened to the crashing water. Our warm dry perch suddenly seemed very cosy and it didn't take much to convince Dick that this should be our turn around point.

While I'm pretty sure that I don't have many things in common with Madonna, enjoying a decent pint of Timmy Taylor's is one of them. Not sure if she ever drinks in the Snooty Fox though.

8th January 2016 - BPOTW

With not having been caving in a while, we decided a trip into Bull Pot of the Witches would help us brush up on our SRT skills without having to walk too far.

After descending the entrance pitches we took a little while to look at the waterfall coming down from the open pot before heading back underground.

With having left the maillons in the van, we fortunately found a maillons hanging on each of the initial bolts. When these ran out, scavenging every krab we had on tackle bags and our harnesses finally saw us reach the bottom of the pitches.  The streaming below looked wet, even for a streamway, so after a look in the Long Gallery, we returned back to the open pot.

We then planned to have a look at the Gour chamber, but could we find the way!?  We did notice a hand line though disappearing into the top of the chamber and once again we found ourselves in passageway we'd never visited, BPOTW never fails to surprise.

The Inn at Barbon never fails to provide a great welcome and a warm fire either.

January 2016 - Through the mountain with Sharon

Ever since Dick and I's first trip through the Croesor and Rhosydd mines (see here for the blog), Sharon has had to put up with us ranting about how good it is and despite a second trip (see here), she still hadn't had an opportunity to make the traverse herself.  Finally everything fell into place and we poured out of Joe's new mission wagon into the car park at Croesor.

As always the slog up the incline seemed to go on and on...

But finally we arrived at the entrance adit and kitted up.

After a walk along the main entrance adit and a steady climb, a left turn brings you to the first abseil.  James shows how it's done.

Finally Sharon gets to enjoy the delights of the mines, such as the wibbly, wobbly bridge. 

Closely followed by the squishy, squashy, are you sure this would isn't rotten, beam balance.

Sharon was barely able to contain her excitement!

Our traditional lunch spot.

Turn tabletastic.

Back out into daylight at one of the entrances to Rhosydd mine.

On the way back to Croesor.  Quite a lot of work seems to have been done on this path in recent years.  Huge thanks to who ever has done it, makes the walk home much easier.

26/7th November 2015 - That was the canal, this is the sea...

The more observant might notice that while there's plenty of cold water and darkness involved, this isn't a blog about a caving trip.
For a recent significant birthday, my wife bought me a kit for building a sea kayak (see here for the build blog and here for the launch) and after just a few trips away (see here, here and here.) in a borrowed kayak, Dick too is now the proud owner of a very shiny boat.
While it is fantastic to get away into the wilds, sometimes you need to find adventure on your own back door step and leafing through Jim Krawiecki's superb book (Northern England and IOM - Fifty great sea kayak voyages) opened my eyes to a great trip, possible without even putting the boats on the car.
As the saying goes, "Time and tide wait for no man", and so it was that a school night had to be chosen to allow us to catch the spring tide as it reached it's highest point at around 1 in the morning at Skerton weir.
Setting off from the Moor gate canal bridge we were soon paddling out through the outskirts of Lancaster and into the country side.  As we paddled a large moon rose over the fields meaning that our head torches would hardly see any use the whole night.
Only the occasional dog walker on the tow path disturbed our solitude as we wound our way to the first key point on the trip, the start of the Glasson branch in Galgate.  Immediately we had a set of lock gates in front of us and commenced the first of 6 portages round the locks that bring the canal down to the Glasson basin.
The landing stages before and after each lock are perfectly designed for narrow boats, but definitely less so for kayaks, our kit becoming ever blacker as we crawled over the rub strips on each quay.
Finally we were lifting our boats out of the canal for the last time and stopped for a break before carrying them over the car park and down to the river.
Recently we've been watching some of Sid Perou's fantastic films from back in the day (see here for example) and I've been staggered by just how hard people used to be.  My admiration for the previous generation was slightly dimmed though when Dick produced a flask of tea.  The restorative powers of a flask are truly incredible and I suddenly realised that in nearly every film we'd seen there was a ubiquitous flask (as well as multiple packs of fags!).  This was their secret!  While it appeared that they were suffering, waiting for hours at the bottom of some spray lashed ladder, actually they'd spent most of that time enjoying a nice cup of tea!
Vowing never to leave home without a flask again and feeling totally invigorated we texted the girls to say that we were now leaving the canal and heading out into the Lune estuary.  A pilot boat was manoeuvring a large vessel onto the quay at Glasson and we gave it a very wide berth as we headed straight for the huge pylons in the distance that carry the power lines across the river. 
Fortunately the tide gave us significant assistance as we paddled what is technically up river towards Lancaster.  Even though I've lived in the town for many years, seeing it from the river gives you a very different perspective, the Millennium bridge in particular looking fantastic from river level.
Though still in town , the river becomes darker as you approach Skerton weir, marked out by the herons standing on the submerged structure waiting for fish.  Dick slipped effortlessly across a low part of the weir, while I graunched across a slightly higher point.  It's times like this when you feel quite smug with your tidal calculations.
Silhouetted by the sodium glow of the town, our final obstacle now lay ahead. Nearly all the height we had lost going down the locks now had to be gained in one unpleasant portage.

Dick about to get back on the water having portaged up onto the aqua duct.

The hard work over, there was now just enough canal left to reminisce about a great trip before we arrived back at the Moor gate bridge from the opposite direction.
This really is a superb trip and highlights the adventures that are possible close to home.