Skiddaw’s scarlet tops

Though the hamlet of Seldom Seen is hidden away from the A66 and the casual walker, The Larches itself provides a wonderful viewing point of the surrounding mountains, especially if you climb up the steps to the top of the garden.

Over this last weekend, I had arrived back at the house late in the afternoon. Dusk was approaching and I glimpsed a flush of sunset colour to the north from the first floor sitting room. This merits a quick climb up to the Belvedere I thought, grabbing my camera on the way.

What a sight across the marshes of Skiddaw’s top from the Belvedere deck! I had never seen the likes of this before. The picture below tells it all. It’s worth a visit to The Larches for this alone!

Diary of Lakeland events

I try to keep up to date with events, activities and festivals in the Keswick area and more widely in the Lake District and Cumbria, but it is easy to miss something.

This last week however I have come across a great resource, a website which covers the whole of the area. You can search the Wordsworthcountry website by 36 different towns from Alston to Workington. Below we include a snapshot of Keswick for the May to July 2014 period.


Changing Times

Walk round the centre of one of our big cities these days, and if you haven’t been there for a year or two, you’re sure of a surprise.

Take Manchester, Cumbria’s nearest big city. Whole urban areas there have been prized open, smashed and then rebuilt. The Spinning Fields area running down to the River Irwell has now risen phoenix like as a glitzy new office and shopping zone, with adjacent Law Courts.

Near Victoria Station, the old Coop Century Building has been demolished and replaced by a futuristic gherkin shaped structure below Red Bank; and on Oxford Road the demolition of the BBC site has left a huge gaping hole as the broadcaster has moved to Salford and ‘Media City’ (See photo of the author opposite) on the site of the old Manchester Ship Canal docks.

I was reflecting on this just recently as I found a watercolour (below) my sister, Penny had done of The Larches from the Ravine Road, looking NE across the Seldom Seen hamlet with Skiddaw in the background. Painted exactly 25 years ago, the scene is now scarcely changed.

Of course rural areas don’t need the infrastructure and capital investment of cities with large populations, but it would be wrong to think nothing is happening to the economy of rural areas

While Seldom Seen and Thornthwaite have not physically changed all that much, the use made of buildings has altered. The Swan local pub beside Powter How has been turned into apartments, as have Thornthwaite Grange and Ladstocks, along the lane south from The Larches.

Sheep farming subsidies are being reduced and Increasingly in Cumbria, farming alone does not provide a living for a family. Commonly people have to hold down two jobs and offer B&B to make ends meet.

Looked at In the longer term it’s possible to see even bigger changes. Children no longer attend the School House opposite us and the Old Sawmill was long ago turned into six separate dwellings. A 1938 Kelly’s Directory of Cumberland shows too a much more stratified society 75 years ago, with a local land owning gentry and a ‘lord of the manor’, together with mining, more varied local industry and more diverse occupations.

The cobbler has gone now as has the miner, the bleacher, the dairyman, the game keeper and the mole catcher. Despite the size of our local Whinlatter forest, even the forester is becoming an endangered occupation, as mechanisation and funding cuts reduce regular full time jobs. The one clear area of growth has been that of teleworkers, who can use the internet to exchange digital material with colleagues or clients anywhere in the world. What will things look like in another 25 years time?

Red squirrels’ return

For a while during the last year we were worried that building works opposite the house and work to restore the garden and interior of The Larches following flood damage had unsettled our resident red squirrels and encouraged them to move deeper into the forest.

We need not have worried. Two weeks ago we saw three separate red squirrels during the course of an hour or so between 7.30 am and 8.30 am; and have been seeing individual ones for some time.

If you are up about this time of the day you’ll have a good chance of a sighting either from the kitchen windows as they run down the stone steps from the forest or on the wooden steps to the back of the house. From the front windows in the sitting room they are also often seen crossing the road to the feeding box in the cottage opposite or running up and down the road looking for hiding places for the hazel nuts they have found.

The photo above shows one of the squirrels tentatively approaching the feeding box across the road, while the one at the bottom is of the same squirrel dashing back to the protection of The Larches’ garden.

Catbells and fell running

With the weather set fine just now, I’m always keen to get up onto the tops for some exercise, to smell the heather and grasses and feel the wind in my hair.

You don’t need to be a fitness freak, super athlete or regional champion to get started on fell running, which is why I often suggest Catbells as a good place to start, if you think you might become interested and want to give it a try.

Situated about three miles from Keswick, it’s easy to get to by bus, bike and foot. Taking a car to the foot of Catbells is more tricky now as there are restrictions on parking in the immediate vicinity. But if you don’t mind a half mile walk you can usually find somewhere, unless it’s a really lovely day in high season. Evenings are easier too. Bank holidays are best avoided.

You can approach the mountain from the east via Grange, from the southwest via Little Town or from the north, which is the direction I normally choose, as it leads you up the crest of the mountain.

There’s a good path, which unfolds gradually, giving you a growing sense of the local landscape. Derwentwater is magnificent beside Keswick and to the north Bassenthwaite opens up. Then there are the views of the high tops of Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north and the Langdales to the south.

Don’t think you need or should run all the way. Even the best fell runners will walk on the steepest sections. It’s about 1250 feet of climbing to the top of Catbells, which at a good pace will take you anywhere between 20 to 35 minutes.

If the going is getting a bit tough or the weather is changing, you can miss out the top and drop down to the right on tracks over the fellside. This will take you back to your starting point.

From the top you can proceed southwards almost until you reach the saddle, leading up to Maiden Moor. There’s a track leading off to the right, which drops steeply over the grass and then onto a stony track. Take care when you are running here, as the path is constricted in places.

The path veers continually round to the right as you drop down, so that you are now running parallel with the route you had taken on the way up the mountain. The path now is simple and easy for running and the route is clear. (See bottom photo below).

Near the end you pass a farm half hidden (see photo) and then you reach a parking point (See bottom right photo below), about 300 metres before the cattle grid on the bigger road. The descent will be much quicker, so an hour should be enough to complete the whole round.

If you try this out do let me know, by posting a comment below at the bottom of this blog.