A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Old Bob

Tuesday morning in Wasdale dawned dull and damp, with low cloud shrouding the tops. Since my right foot was hurting (more of this later), and since the weather forecast for the rest of the week looked very promising indeed, I decided on a gentle, restful day just pottering about the valley. I didn't fancy putting on socks and walking boots and raingear - it was drizzling with rain but quite warm - so I opted for no socks, a pair of lightweight Teva sandals and ... an umbrella!

I set off up Lingmell Beck towards Sty Head, receiving surprised glances from some more conventionally attired walkers. But I wasn't going far, and the kit suited me fine for my particular purposes that morning. It was fun negotiating minor obstacles of stream and stone in sandals instead of boots - a completely different technique was involved. Obviously I would have been dressed rather differently had I been going further and higher and into rougher territory, but my goal was this isolated conifer tree (see 1st pic) at the foot of Great Gable and opposite Lingmell - where I sat and meditated about this and that for a while.

Earlier I'd stopped for a short chat with the farmer at Burnthwaite Farm (2nd pic). He was on a quad bike and had been gathering sheep, aided by an elderly Border Collie. He assumed - I think because of the umbrella - that I was staying at the Wasdale Head Inn (see 3rd pic). "No, I'm camping", I explained. "I prefer it." I praised his lovely old black and white sheepdog. "The dog's getting old, like me," he said. "When I'm feeling lazy, I take old Bob out on to the fell to gather sheep. He knows the routine. The younger dogs are quite lively, and hard work to train and control..." My father's 1st Border Collie had been called Bob too.

Earlier still I'd walked across wildflower meadows of buttercup and clover to St Olaf's church at Wasdale Head. It's been rather poorly restored, but is roofed in local slate, and the interior roof beams look very ancient - reputedly coming from a Viking longboat. The graveyard surrounding this tiny church however is most interesting. It's circled by yew trees and full of climbers' graves (4th pic). Also there are several gravestones commemorating the Naylor family. These Naylors must be related to the legendary fell runner, Joss Naylor, who lives round here, and who, for 13 years, held the record for the Lake District Round, ascending 72 peaks over 2000 ft in 24 hours. He ran 108 miles and climbed 40,000 ft - an incredible achievement.

On the way back to the campsite I saw stonechats perching on fern tops and stone walls, and heard their rather grating, click-clacking calls, and now and then glimpsed the white rump of wheatears (or 'white-arses' as they should more properly and more exactly be known - what a great example of taxonomic gentrification) disappearing before me down the path.

After a simple lunch of bread, cheese and fruit outside my tent (it had now stopped raining) I drove to the nearby village of Gosforth for a phone signal, to stock up on provisions, and to buy some cheap, more comfortable sandals (£20, Hi-Tec). On the way back, I parked near Cinderdale Bridge in Nether Wasdale, and did a circular walk via Easthwaite Farm to the pumping station on Wastwater's south-westerly outlet. The path skirted Low Wood, crossed the river Irt at Lund Bridge, edged Woodhow Tarn which was covered in water lilies, and tracked back to my starting point along old country ways.

The flora and fauna were amazing during this last stroll of the day. I was too lazy to look up and identify any flower species new to me, but birds I noted included great spotted woodpecker, spotted flycatcher and the ubiquitous buzzard. One buzzard I saw at very close range as it flew unhurriedly away from me down a shallow valley, gliding low with languid wingbeats until it landed on a knobbly, heathery, rocky outcrop. I noticed that some of the ferns were already beginning to crisp and turn brown.


Racn4acure said...

Hi - just happend upon your blog. Very enjoyable! I'll be back as time permits! It is great to see other people around the world who enjoy getting out into nature.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi - and thanks for dropping in. Just checked out your own blog - and I'm drooling over some of the places you've hiked!