We have a few walking buddies as you’ve probably noticed if you read my blogs enough. However, apart from my wife Kel, there’s one who’s my favourite but you have to pick your fells carefully when you’re bagging Wainwrights with an eight stone German Shepherd, Bruce!
A good way into our fortnight holiday and the weather was improving. Blue sky was becoming the norm and if the forecast was to be believed we were in for a good few days. We’d not been out with Bruce for some time, he isn’t ours, he’s Kel’s sister’s dog and he’s as mad as his mam. We had planned to take in some smaller Wainwrights over the holiday stay at the lakes so today was ideal to bag a couple of hills and take Bruce and his mam and dad with us. Holme Fell and Black Crag looked ideal and they weren’t that far from where we were staying in Outgate. The morning was fairly relaxed over breakfast but then it was time to hit the hills after packing 4 humans and a dog into the car, not my car by the way!
We planned to park near Yew Tree Tarn to start our ascent up Holme Fell but we had decided to try and avoid the National Trust car park as they do tend to ‘have your eyes out’ with the charge. I know NT do a cracking job in the area and I fully support them, but a fortnight of paying for their car parks you might as well join…..hmmmm….there’s a moral to that somewhere!! Anyway we parked on the main road between Coniston and Skelwith at the side of Yew Tree Tarn and put our kit on. Bruce also put on his daysack, well it’s more like saddle bags for dogs but he was looking good to hit the fells.
We walked south to Glen Mary and joined the path heading north to Harry Guards woods seeing Yew Tree Tarn again and realising we could’ve used the permissive path and save a bit of time. Hey ho, we started to climb up Uskdale Gap and the path started to get narrower which generally isn’t a problem, however Bruce, who like all Shepherds, like to keep an eye on his flock. That means he constantly runs from back to front of the ‘pack’ making sure he doesn’t lose anyone. Again, it’s not usually a problem, he’s a big dog but you can generally hear the thunder of paws hitting the floor and you brace yourself before he tears passed you hopefully not knocking you for six into a nearby Gill or over a crag. But today his width had trebled with his saddle bags and every ‘fly past’ left you kissing the ferns or having to crawl up the nearest tree. Anyway we managed to get to the top of the gap with only a few collisions with the manic mutt. At the top we made a quick dash for the cairn to claim our first wainwright of the day, Holme Fell in the bag! Weather still on our side and the only moisture being sweat, and for me lots of it, niiiice!!
Our plan was to stay heading north east ish past the unused reservoir and some bogs mixed in with slate from the quarry to the right. The reservoir was a lovely sight and very quiet, well apart from the thundering paws roaring passed every 10 seconds. We dropped into the woods to join a well-established footpath but not without a nice juicy obstacle to negotiate first, a fallen tree with only about 3 feet of clearance underneath. Shorties Kel and Alison just about crawled under, god knows how Stuart did and it was just me to try and bend my 6’3’’ frame and daysack under the mighty felled Oak. Hands and knees and stooping as low as I could I was doing a reverse Limbo and doing very well. I thought I was going well and nearly home and dry, nope, I started to hear the thunder of tiny paws getting louder and louder and before I knew it I had a face full of dog snot as Bruce had come to welcome the last of his flock back to the pack.
After wiping my face of a mixture of sweat and mixture of dog chew and canine saliva we joined the path and walked towards Hodge Close and the magnificent sight of the quarry. We’d seen the massive hole in the ground a couple of days before just driving up. It’s a popular spot for divers as the bottom of the quarry is full of clear water with a green tint. If you ever get a chance have a drive up and have a look, it’s quite impressive. We carried on to a junction in the path and had a bit of bait and another session of Stuart telling Kel off for feeding Bruce crisps and chocolate, she takes no notice!
Back on the path and east towards high and low Oxen fell and to cross the main road for the start of our ascent of Black Crag and more dramas. We kept Hollin Bank to our right and the start of my worst map reading ever, I blame a combination of sweat and pedigree chum in my eyes still from the fallen tree episode, bad eyesight and the after effects of being barged into cow s**t every time Bruce barged past in an effort to keep everyone within sight. Anyway, instead of hugging the base of Hollin Bank I made a ‘small’ mistake and took a left into a field with no paths or way out. We trudged up the boggy field and tried to find a place to cross a drystone wall that had halted our pace. If you look carefully at OL7 333 024 (ish) there’s a sheep fold, now we should’ve been to the right of that, however we were left of that at the wall to the north. We looked and saw our best way was to cross the wall and head for bridleway east of the sheep fold. We, well Stuart, found a gap in the barbed wire covering the wall, the only thing is that the wall was about 4 feet high on our side, but it stretched to 6 feet on the other side as a small gill ran down the base. Kel and Ali had to get over first to encourage Bruce over. He eventually jumped off the top of the wall and just me and Stuart to get over. I took my daysack off and threw it to Alison who nearly collapsed catching it as I carry all the safety equipment and Kel just carries her bait. Me left, I stood on the wall and dived across thinking the probably 100 year plus old wall would collapse under me, I landed in a classic Para roll in the ferns to a loud burst of laughter, even before I’d confirmed id not snapped my ankle or popped my knee, cheers guys, love you too.
We found the bridleway and headed for Low Arnside and a junction of walls to walk north along another wall to a path that isn’t actually there to the top. The walk to the top was worth the view from the top of Black crag, second Wainwright!
A few photos and we set off down pretty much the same route up down to the iron Keld plantation to the major route up from Tarn Hows. The plantation had been partially felled so there were loads of big sticks for Bruce. When I say ‘big’, I mean big! So our nice little steady descent to the picturesque Tarn Hows was made interesting by the massive hound running passed us with branches stretching the width of the path, felling us with every pass.
Safely onto the very well made path around Tarn Hows we were on our homeward stretch and a pint at The Black Bull in Coniston was in my sights. A quick dip for Bruce and we were heading down the slippery but beautiful Tom Gill falls before re-joining the main road up to the car.
A really liked this walk even though it isn’t the highest of fells, it has forest, tarn and heather, and what else could you ask for?! Map reading error number two from me so far these holidays, need to get a grip or get Kel to navigate….I’ll get a grip!!
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