Skiddaw webcam back at work

We’ve had a link to the Fisher’s webcam on our home page for over two years, but recently it hasn’t been working, due I thought to a hitch at Fisher’s end.

On Sunday I thought there must be a solution and contacted our website developer Leanda Ryan to ask if she could find out what was wrong.

Monday afternoon she was back with the answer – Fishers had changed their website and the code for accessing the webcam. And now she had fixed it. The first picture I got yesterday (see opposite) was the clearest I had ever seen and a real come-on to get up there in the snow!

It’s a really useful facility, which gives you an up to date picture of weather conditions in the Derwent Valley and on the Skiddaw massif from a distance, whether you’re in Edinburgh, Tyneside or Leeds. Combine this with the BBC weather forecasts, also accessible from our home page and the daily high tops reports and you’ve got a fairly good idea of what weather to expect over the next 8 -12 hours.

This is good news and all thanks to a very efficient Leanda for getting things done within a busy schedule. If you want some smart design, website creation or digital development work done yourself, contact her at

And while we are about it, thanks to Fishers Outdoors shop in Keswick for allowing access to their webcam.

Amazon’s reach and waste

We are always glad to have suggestions for improvements at the Larches and rapidly decided we needed to get two new knives – a bread knife and cook’s knife – when our New Year guests commented about the existing ones.

Antique? Well not quite but old, pre stainless steel certainly and quick to rust, if not dried after use.

But the decision made us also think about how best to store all the knives for easy retrieval. So this last Sunday after a lunch time discussion of alternatives, we decided on a magnetic knife holder.

They work like magic. I’d always fancied one but we’d never had the right space for it.

So log on to Amazon – yes we could have one and at 3.32 pm an email confirmed the 40 cms long rack had been dispatched with free next day delivery.

As promised, the van drew up a little after 2.00 pm on Monday and the parcel was handed over and signed off.

Amazon had got the rack selected, packed and delivered to a country area in under 24 hours from a Sunday start. Impressive.

No complaints there. This is online shopping at its best and saved me a lot of time.

But the box (opposite) was a different matter!

Slitting it open I wondered first if there was anything there. Loads of brown scrumpled up paper tumbled out, but no sign of the rack.

Finally I found it at the bottom, well packed in its own box. It measured 2 x 5 x 47 cms, so it didn’t take long to work out the Amazon delivery box (11 x 35 x 55 cms) would have held easily 34 of the racks – if I had wanted that many!

And that scrumpled up paper? On inspection it turned into a long seamless sausage-like creation, which flattened out into one continuous length of paper over five metres long by 38 cms wide.

For just one knife rack they had needed, because of the over large box, a length of packing paper that stretched from the eaves of the cottage to the flower bed – as you can see in the photo at the top of the page.

I’m a fan of online shopping because it can save on ‘travel to search’ time and costs. But the calculations from this example about use of resources are pretty scary. Just a hundred similar Amazon deliveries would use up 500 metres of the packing paper, which would either be thrown away or recycled at best. How many trees do you need for this and for the over large packaging?

The knives look great now and I had them installed on the new rack by 3.30 pm on Monday. That’s good going – a 24 hour turn round for job completion is fast. But isn’t it time Amazon looked at its wasteful packaging policies? No gold stars here for good environmental practice.

A lakeland country day

There’s been plenty of rain around in January but it has only stopped us from going up on the cloud covered high tops. There’s lots else to do!

Yesterday we walked up from Millbeck on the south facing side of the Derwent Valley, for a brief afternoon walk and found a new track down from Slade Beck we hadn’t used before.

There’s lots of water running off the fells – and in the beck, which the ‘cragsure’ Herdwick sheep had little difficulty in leaping across. On our descent through the woods, we passed this magnificent waterfall (photo opposite), which was all of 30-35 feet in height.

A surprise? Yes, but it shouldn’t have been because when I got back I found it marked on the 1:25000 map. (For a route up Slade Beck which takes you up to Carlside and Skiddaw top see our Walks section).

Back at The Larches we’ve been clearing and manuring the vegetable plot, a job I have been putting off for too long. It meant though that we could have the delicious remains of the parsnips – very succulent but they were not as large as I had hoped!

We’ve been delighted to see that the snowdrops are well out already in the garden and on the lane running up to the cottage. These ‘harbingers of Spring’ as Wordsworth called them – have come really early this year and there are even daffodils appearing in the road to Thornthwaite off the A66.

We’ve not seen the red squirrel this time but this morning had a large pheasant strutting around the garden and terraces like a lord of the manor! They’ve been seen much more in the locality in recent months and appear to have escaped from Lord Rochdale’s estate. There are often large numbers of them in the fields near Swinside on the road to Catbells.

Bassenthwaite secrets

Out yesterday in the late afternoon, I surprised myself how quickly I could get down to Bassenthwaite’s shoreline. Just 25 minutes walking from The Larches and I was looking across to Ullock Pike and Dodd Wood and facing a stiff wind from the NE, which was furrowing the lake’s surface and throwing up threads of plume as the waves hit the shore. A friendly greeting from a kissing couple was all but lost on the gusting wind.

It’s an easy walk to this ‘away from it all’ spot, with a footpath down from Pen Cottage at the Swan House apartments (formerly the Swan Inn), below Barf. I had never found this before and it takes you down through the old cottages at Powter How to the subway beneath the A66.

I knew the light was fading, but the latched gate to a path heading south down the lake drew my eye. “Why not explore a little further? It must lead to something” I thought and picked my way past two more gates and a ‘No dogs” notice.

Then I saw it – a low dark shape through the waterlogged trees. A plank with railing drew me on and I climbed the few steps. “Just slide the door” stated the notice.

Now I was inside this darkened capacious hide, with large illustrations of 33 different bird species, typical of lakes and marshland. Stools and a bench with four separate 12cms x 40 cms hinged observation flaps completed these wonderful facilities for bird watchers. Only the tea and kettle were missing!

This is part of the Bassenthwaite National Nature Reserve, where there are over 70 species of resident birds (See notice below). We owe a thanks for these free facilities to the Lake District Planning Board and other bodies like the RSPB, whose members support the programme and upkeep.

That mystery new mountain

Well here’s the larger photo which should now tell you where that new mountain is, which I posted a blog about last month! Taken from Booth’s car park looking north on a very misty day, it shows Carsleddam 518 metres, a lovely peak which is overshadowed by Carlside and Little Man in the Skiddaw massif.

Two of our favourite local tops for a short stroll are Catbells (451m) and Barrow (455m) but they are both a fair bit smaller than Carsleddam; and Wainwright does not even mention it. Location as they say is all, but perhaps you’ll find now some time to take a look at this shapely treasure. A stunning picture of it reclining in the evening sun can be seen below.

You can access Carsleddam via Millbeck but the normal approaches to Carlside take you to the west of Carsleddam or up Slades Beck on the east side.

The nearest answer to my blog question came from Mark Brookman, who correctly indicated its position but did not give a name. The pot of best 2012 Tango marmalade will go to him. Congratulations Mark!