I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Monday, 2 March 2015

Low Pike And Scandale Beck

A visit to my mother-in-law in the Lake District last week gave me the chance to spend a day on the fells. Years ago I'd set out from Ambleside to walk the Fairfield Horseshoe via Heron Pike and Great Rigg, but had taken the wrong path off Fairfield's misty summit and ended up in Patterdale after scrambling over Cofa Pike and reaching the lofty viewpoint of St Sunday Crag (a spectacular route, I might add). This time my vague plan was to complete the second half of the horseshoe by taking in Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag and Hart Crag, then return to Ambleside on a clear track along the eastern flank of Scandale. I really wasn't sure how much of this ambitious route I'd manage to do, as it was a raw winter's day and there was snow on the tops. But it didn't matter: plans should always be flexible and able to adjust to circumstance; and anyhow, I was delighted simply to be out in the hills and the fresh air. And the air was certainly fresh, though I felt quite comfortable wearing two fleeces, hat, gloves and neck warmer, and a body-hugging base layer. The photo of Scandale Beck was taken from Low Sweden Bridge.      

My daypack felt good and snug on my back. I hadn't done anything like this for a few months, and I glowed in the familiar feelings you experience at the start of a walk: excitement, anticipation and a strong sense of release from the usual bonds of habit and routine which fetter so much of our life. These feelings can sometimes border on ecstasy. As I climbed, the views opened up; here I'm looking west towards the Langdale Pikes . . . 

. . . and to Loughrigg across the valley of the river Rothay.

Ambleside . . .

. . . and Lake Windermere . . .

. . . receded behind me as I hit the snow line.

Eating lunch on the summit cairn of Low Pike (508m, 1667 ft), I considered my options. Half the day had gone and I was only a quarter-way round my route. It was turning colder and the weather was deteriorating. The snow was getting deeper and the path increasingly harder to trace; in some places my boots were sinking in up to six inches of snow. Off the path the wet and grassy slopes — patchily blanketed with an unstable covering of snow — were treacherous. For me it would have been foolish, and physically and mentally challenging, to go on, although a well-equipped couple — the only hillwalkers I saw all day — did pass me, intending to complete the whole horseshoe. This is the view of High Pike from Low Pike . . .    

. . . and this is the bleak trough of Scandale. Scandale Beck has its source on Bakestones Moss high up at the valley head.

I turned back the way I'd come and quickly regained the easier slopes. Halfway down I branched off along a slabbed path which led to the valley bottom, where I found this beautiful packhorse bridge spanning the beck. A well-made track followed the tumbling stream through woodland and back to Ambleside.

15 comments:

Margaret Butterworth said...

Spectacular photos! Much appreciated by a Yorkshire girl, now living in Perth - but setting off on the Camino on 20 April.

Ruth said...

Just gorgeous. I love how you share your feelings. If you were to write a book, I wonder how you'd chapterize it?

catharus said...

Beautiful country!!!

George said...

Wonderful images of an equally wonderful walk, Robert. I salute you for taking on the challenges of the weather, especially on the top. I think you would agree with something Wainwright said: "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear."

I certainly relate to those feelings that accompany a walk like this. Sometimes I think that there are no possible impediments on a walk that could equal the distractions that we usually encounter in our day to day lives. Yesterday, I was reading a poem by Octavio Paz ("Water Night"), and in one stanza, Paz writes that "silence and solitude, two little animals moon-led, drink in your eyes, drink in those waters." They also drink from these lovely paths that wend through mountain and meadow.

am said...

"I hadn't done anything like this for a few months, and I glowed in the familiar feelings you experience at the start of a walk: excitement, anticipation and a strong sense of release from the usual bonds of habit and routine which fetter so much of our life. These feelings can sometimes border on ecstasy."

Even reading about a walk elicits those feelings. I love the English landscape through your photos. Such exhilarating beauty.

I've been able to go walking up the hill into the woods and back, looking out over the San Juan Islands and up into Canada at one point, for about an hour each morning in these recent days where I need to concentrate on finishing the online medical transcription editing course. I feel so much better physically, emotionally and spiritually when I sit down at my laptop in the afternoon after having walked in the morning. It's still cold here, but there are signs of spring everywhere.

Timecheck said...

A wonderful set of images. The low arch on that last bridge almost defies the laws of physics.

The Solitary Walker said...

Welcome to this blog, Margaret — and Buen Camino!

The Solitary Walker said...

Ruth, chapter 1 might be 'The Healing Properties of Marmite' and chapter 2 'How Marmite Saved My Life'...

The Solitary Walker said...

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful parts of England, Catharus...

The Solitary Walker said...

George — and wasn't it Ruskin who said 'There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather'? There was certainly plenty of silence and solitude that wintry day in the mountains.

The Solitary Walker said...

Good luck with the course, Amanda. Yes, a good morning walk really sets you up for the day; it both invigorates and calms you down.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ralph (Timecheck) — that amazing bridge is from the 17th century! There are quite a few packhorse bridges left standing like this one.

Barb said...

Hello Robert, I came for a visit from our mutual friend, George. I'm certainly glad I have the opportunity to see these photos of your day-trek. The trail wending through the snow to the peak is a fabulous shot. You had a solitary adventure and had to make some choices - I think you made wise ones. Good hiking to you, Robert.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi Barb — welcome to my blog, and thanks for your nice comment. Glad you liked the pictures!

dritanje said...

Exquisite images. I do relate to your words - 'release from the habits and routines which tend to fetter our lives', sorry for misquote, but I do tend to feel that, especially right now, with pressures and deadlines ...just to look at these stupendous views does wonders. Thanks again Robert!