Cumbrian adventures; Part 3. February Half Term. Great Langdale

Ruby the VW campervan is parked in the spectacular Langdale Valley, our home for the next three nights is the National Trust Campsite Great Langdale.

We packed away at Coniston in damp and drizzly conditions and made our way to Ambleside for provisions- I was fairly confident we wouldn’t even find a shop in Langdale valley. On the way to Ambleside we made a stop at Yew Tree Farm which was filming location for the 2009 Blockbuster, Mrs Potter.

We used the opportunity in Ambleside to visit the local butchers for some sausages and steak, (and another sausage roll) in the hope we may manage a sneaky bbq tomorrow- the weather was set to improve.

Ambleside is a pretty little town, however it was swimming in tourists – which is off putting for us, so we didn’t stay too long at all. It was then only a short drive to Great Langdale. As soon as you arrive into the valley the grandeur of the mountains that surround you almost overwhelm you. I’ve visited here before when I was young and even despite the drizzle, I was thrilled to be back with Keefy and Jazz.

Our pitch on the campsite was one of the best on site. This was because we’d booked one of only 5 electric pitches back in October. The rest of the site is a kind of free for all. Fine when it’s quiet but by the end of the weekend parts of it resembled a car park and we would not have wanted to pay to pitch up like that. There are new facilities on site including lovely hot showers in a heated block. Again, perhaps not enough for a full site, but we managed well.

We enjoyed a ploughman’s lunch whilst we waited for those clouds to dry up, which they did and we were able to have a wander to a couple of the pubs – there are 3 within 15 mins walk. I remember many a (soft) drink in the Old Dungeon Gyll Hikers Bar when I was growing up on family trips to the Lake District. But it was pretty special to be having my first alcoholic drink here – a pint of Old Peculiar for us both went down a treat.

We took the footpath half a mile along to the next pub, Sticklebarn, a National Trust run pub and restaurant and enjoyed the local Lake District Pilsner lager before heading back to Ruby for our slow cooker Beef and Tomato Stew which was delicious and a night reading (no phone signal or Wi-fi!)

Friday dawned a stunning morning, and we enjoyed a lazy morning with our first al fresco breakfast of the year, a simple beans and sausages on toast. We opted for a lower valley walk today despite the weather being smashing as we were gearing up for a BBQ and to make the most of the glorious out of season weather we felt a lunchtime feast would be best. We stopped for a couple of beers at Sticklebarn as the route passed it, before winding our way back towards the campsite. We still clocked up 3.5 miles and the views were stunning.

Keith prepared the most fantastic bbq- consisting of local steak, and pheasant sausages and venison sausages. The backdrop was stunning and rivalled the top spot on our list of the best bbq locations of all time.

We made our way back to the pub for another beer – the lure of their free wifi too much for us!

Saturday was another beautiful day. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it’s only February, and we’re in the lakes! An area that is usually more familiar with rain!

We were going to walk up and have a picnic at Blea Tarn, but from our pitch we could already see some walkers up on the top of Langdale pikes and we just couldn’t resist, so after a quick omelette for breakfast we threw together a packed lunch and set off towards Sticklebarn to begin the ascent up to Stickle Tarn. The path was surprisingly good, and therefore resembled the m25! However it was lovely to see so many families out enjoying the great British outdoors – and it was boiling!

The first stop, stickle tarn was about 1.25 miles uphill from stickle barn, but with the easy path we breezed up with no problems at all.

The next stage of our route took us over Harrison Pike, which was less easy, however the views were absolutely breathtaking. In fact Keith announced it was the best view he’d seen in England.

The route carried on towards the pike of stickle, which took us rock climbing in several places and hanging on for dear life at one point. We managed the pike of stickle, I nearly bottled it, but I was proud that I carried on, before the long steep and terrifying descent back to the start. It was a fabulous walk but really challenging, and by the time we got down dusk was starting to fall as was some drizzle. We’d made it in good time but a 5.5 mile walk still took us 6 hours!

We had a couple of beers which didn’t touch the sides and then went for an Old Peculiar at the Old Dungeon Gyll, one for the road. Dinner was chicken fajitas at Ruby which was delicious, however I’m certain that if the chicken hadn’t have defrosted during the day we may well have indulged in a meal at the Old Dungeon Gyll as their fish and chips looked amazing!

Our time in the Lake District was sadly at the end, we got up early on Sunday and made the journey back south and then east. With aching legs and rosy cheeks we are returning feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the next half term.

Until next time

Lx

Cumbrian Adventures, Part 2; February Half Term

Ruby the VW Campervan is nestled underneath the Old Man of Coniston, right in the heart of the spectacular Lake District National Park. Our home for the next three nights is Conniston Coppice Park, a Caravan and Motorhome Club site just outside of Coniston.

Our journey from Dufton was only meant to be a short one of just over an hour, however however we made a number of stops so it ended up taking us several hours. Our first stop was at the butchers in Appleby, Low Howgill’s, which were the butchers that supplied the meat to The Stag in Dufton. When Keefy couldn’t decide which meal to have on Saturday night because everything looked so tempting, I promised to cook a traditional Cumberland cassoulet using their sausages so he could eliminate that off the menu!

The butchers/deli was outstanding, I could have had everything in the shop! We picked up homemade sausage rolls for breakfast, along with lots of local Appleby cheese, sausages, bread, local Cumbrian coffee, and pork pies!

We enjoyed a wander around Appleby doing the town heritage trail before picking up some fresh veg for the greengrocers and then making our way towards Penrith for more supplies.

Shopping procured we soon crossed into the Lake District National Park passing through Grasmere and into Coniston.

It took us a while to set up as we couldn’t decide which pitch to choose! The layout of the site is lovely, with lots of individual little glades, and as such we had the opportunity to park side on, a rarity on club sites. We’ve got our own private stream running alongside the side door, it’s lovely.

We needed to get our chocks out to level up- the first time since we downsized to Ruby and as such they were buried right at the back!

Once set up we enjoyed a late lunch, a delicious ploughman’s filled with local treats from our farm shop haul this morning, before a little stroll around the huge site.

Only half of it is open at this time of year, but it stretches right down the bank to almost the edge of Coniston Water,with the majority of the pitches entirely private on their own glade.

Dinner was a homemade carbonara before settling down to watch a film on Netflix.


Tuesday arrived dry but overcast. We began our day with bacon and sausage sandwiches, and I prepared the long awaited Sausage Cassoulet in the slow cooker, before joining the Cumbrian Way which runs at the bottom of the site towards Coniston. It’s a pleasant 2 mile walk and we were rewarded with views of The Old Man of Coniston and also Coniston Moor.

The weather seemed a little unsettled so we decided not to attempt the Old Man today, we’re not a fan of starting strenuous walks with a low chance of the rewarding view! Instead we opted for a lower level walk over Consiton Moor, yewdale fell and across the Coppermines.

It was a lovely walk, still quite strenuous in areas, however we were rewarded with great views all the way.

We enjoyed a couple of beers at the Sun Hotel and then the Bull – we got to try the local Coniston Brewery Bluebird and Old Man Ale.

Another stop at the local butchers for some more local sausage and of course a sausage roll, (not as good as the Appleby one!) and then we set off back to Ruby. We were surprised to see we’d clocked up 11.5 miles, but we’d escaped the rain which started just as we finished our ruby duties – loo, water etc!

Dinner tonight was a homemade leek and potato soup, made in my compact soup maker, which made light work of it, and then sausage cassoulet which was delicious!


Wednesday~ Rain stopped play today. Well we are in the Lake District where rain is to be expected- but we decided to use it as an excuse to have a rest and therefore declared a duvet day!

We therefore stayed in bed reading and drinking tea till almost midday! It is half term and we need to recharge, so recharged we did. Better weather is possibly on its way tomorrow – however you never know in the Lakes!

We had an amazing Cumbrian brunch which Keefy cooked- all produce from the local butchers in Coniston. Those sausages were amazing!

We then decided to have a small leg stretch to the local pub in Torver – despite the driving rain which drenched us even with all our waterproofs!

We were thankful for the prime spot in front of the log fire to dry out. Just in time to get drenched for the walk back to Ruby! Still, we clocked up another 4 miles for our target of 1000 miles in 2019 and we felt not quite so lazy as we had three hours earlier.

Dinner was a lovely chicken Balti before we watched a film on Netflix.

It didn’t stop raining all night and morning so sadly we decided to leave The Old Man of Coniston for this time. Next stop just over the valley- Great Langdale National Trust Campsite. Promise of finer weather is there!

Until next time

Lx

Cumbrian Adventures, part 1; February Half Term

Ruby the VW campervan whisked us away at the earliest opportunity after breaking up for half term. By lunchtime on Friday we were passing Wetherby Services after an early start, and by 2pm we’d arrived at the exceptionally pretty little village of Dufton, Cumbria and were enjoying the February sunshine with our first al fresco beer of the year.

Our location for the first part of our half term trip was Dufton Caravan Park, also known as The Grandie. The reason we were here? To attempt to walk England’s Grand Canyon – High Cup Nick. I saw this fantastic U shaped valley featured on Julia Bradbury’s 100 best walks programme a few years ago, and it’s been on my bucket list ever since. I was beyond excited that we were here and that the forecast looked fairly ok for our attempt tomorrow.

We spent the afternoon stretching our legs around the pretty village of Dufton before grabbing a couple of beers in front of the marvellous fire in the local, The Stag Inn, and settling in for an early night.


Saturday arrived rather earlier than I anticipated as I woke up at 06:15, however I was so excited I just couldn’t wait to get up and start our walk! Keith managed to grab a couple of extra hours sleep, so I had to wait patiently to leave until 10.30, by which time we’d had a lovely omelette and packed some soup and food for the day.

The route we chose starts at the campsite and through a lovely section of woodland before taking farm paths up to where the gorge is.

We approached the steep valley from the other side of the Pennine Way path and soon the path dropped down to the basin.

The steep sides of the gorge were impressive and the further in we walked the more spectacular it became.

As we got closer to the Nick – the head- we could see the route upwards was going to be tough but we’d come this far ( 5 miles) there was no way we were turning back now without the view I’d seen those years back on the tv!

The last scramble goes near enough vertical, and you’re on all fours, negotiating the loose boulders and stones under foot! I’m not going to lie, it was the toughest bot of walking I think I’ve ever done. There were a couple of areas to pause and appreciate the views looking back down the valley.

On this last pic above, you can see the people behind us on all fours!

Although the climb up is hard, it’s relatively short, so before I could talk myself out of finishing the last bit, we’d made the final hurdle over the rim. Keith’s first words to the couple looking down were “well that was an experience”. Mine I think involved a swear word! The sheer elation at reaching the top made my legs turn to jelly and it took me about 5 minutes on the floor with my back to the view before I even turned round!

When I did turn around, the view quite honestly took my breath away. I’ve never seen anything like it in the UK- it’s a perfect example of a U shaped valley and we reckon quite unique.

It was blowing an absolutely hooley, but the sun came out and we managed to sit right on the edge to enjoy our lunch before a local runner ( yes he ran up behind us!) took our photo, and then we took theirs as they were in shorts! 😱

The wind chill up there was extreme, and we were thankful we had our waterproof jackets as they took some of the wind off us. But it was just too cold to hang around there for too long so once we had all our pictures, we hit the old miners trail (now the Pennine Way) for our 4 mile return to Dufton. The route followed the upper ridge for a couple of miles and we had a great view of our walk, before bearing right away from the valley back towards to exceptional marker of the pub, the smoke billowing out of its chimney!

It was a tough walk back, we were absolutely exhausted, in fact Keith had hit the wall I think, he said he felt like he’d ran the London marathon – he’d know, he’s ran it 3 times! But luckily we had some chocolate and plenty of water, and the promise of a log fire and a pint of ale as soon as we got back to Dufton soon got us back down.

We passed a shepherd and his dog moving a herd of sheep up the track which was fun to watch.

By 4pm, we’d made it back to civilisation- and wasted no time in celebrating our successful walk with a pint of the local ale and three packets of crisps! Jazz made full use of the fire to rest his weary paws. We booked a table for dinner that evening as I didn’t fancy cooking plus the menu looked amazing.

So after a freshen up and a rest, we made our way back out again for our meal at 7.30pm. The pub is fantastic- a real walkers pub with slate flooring and thick stone walls. We ate a delicious meal of black pudding fritters and Appleby smoked cheese soufflé to start and then the stag baked suet pudding – crammed with venison and veg and absolutely huge. A perfect end to a fabulous day on the Pennines.


Sunday dawned sunny and despite our intentions of a duvet day at the van, we soon felt restless so whilst I cooked us a full English breakfast, Keith devised a small route that would take us low level around the base of the imposing Dufton pike, which is the backdrop to this tiny village.

The short circuit was lovely and we enjoyed the scenery all the way around the pike. We returned to the campsite through the very scenic Dufton Gyll woods which had banks upon banks lined with beautiful snowdrops. We whizzed through the walk, and were surprised that it was 5 miles- but after yesterday it seemed like a walk in the park!

The rest of the day has been spent chilling – we’ve got a joint of ham in the slow cooker and had Steak and Stilton panini’ s for lunch.

Dufton Grandie Campsite is lovely and quiet and a perfect location. There are lots of lovely little touches, like a water tap on each pitch, free Wi-fi, and fairy liquid in the washing up area. However the showers could do with a bit of TLC, and actually a couple more for each sex. For a site that holds up to 40 units, 1 shower per sex is probably a little sparse. The chemical loo point is a little grim too. However as it’s still out of season, it’s very quiet here, and at only £20pn it’s not bothered us for the short time we’ve been here.

Tomorrow we move on into The Lake District for some more walking and scenery.

We can’t wait!

Until next time

Lx