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Tue 9th September 2014

Gowbarrow Fell and Aira Force

Gowbarrow Fell and Aira Force

What a great way to end the Shepherds Walks Lake District walks for this Summer, an absolute perfect day weather wise with clear blue sky and bright sunshine.

We set off from Pooley Bridge and headed to probably the best lake in the Lake District, namely Ullswater. Just about every corner meant a photo stop, such was the feast for the eyes. Particularly pleasing was the iconic Duke of Portland boat house.

Off through the woods we climbed with more views opening up across to Arthurs Pike and Bonscale Pike, the location of our first walk back in April. Then through the charming hamlet of Bennethead and onwards to Watermillock church where we paused to take a look around the peaceful church and surrounding gardens. Then a climb up into a long stretch of forest, eerily atmospheric.

Out we came, back into sunshine and then up to our ’Wainwright’ ie Gowbarrow Fell. Yet more superb views, and panoramic too. Then back down to the final view point ,overlooking pretty much all of Ullswater. We then dropped into the Aira Force valley and yet more photos of this famous waterfall.

An absolute belter of a day!

Fri 5th September 2014

Lindisfarne Pilgrims Way

Lindisfarne Pilgrims Way

Lindisfarne Pilgrims Way or A walk across the sands, clarts and water.

The group meet at the car park on the mainland just at the start of the tarmac causeway to the Island of Lindisfarne.  The first problem was that they! Have blocked off half the car park and now it can only take about 10 cars.  As we were waiting for the last person the local service bus pulled up and our last member turned up and having dumped her bags in Mikes van we were off.

The first part of the Way is some 10 to 15 meters from the road and runs parallel to the road for a while before heading directly to the main part of the Island.  While waiting for the group to assemble we had watched a couple of people trying to walk by the poles but they very quickly gave up as it is very clarty mud flats.

We walked along the road until we reach a bridge that crosses the stream South Low, here mike pointed out another good reason for following the road the stream being in the region of 3 or 4 feet deep.  Having crossed the bridge we left the road and started to follow the poles that mark the route across the sands.

The sand quickly gave way to a very thin layer of mud which was very slippy, it was like walking on an icy pavement.  The going under foot now regularly changed for mud to sand to large areas of sand under shallow water. 

By now the sense of isolation is quite strong even though way in the distance cars could be seen using the road to get to the island.  A strong westerly wind was thankfully blowing on to our backs and helping us on our way.  Some were in the middle we came across the first of two shelters for those caught out by rising tides.  I use the word shelter loosely as it is four poles sticking upright with a stout open wooden box like structure on the top with a rough vertical ladder to help you get to the box.

As we continued walking we could hear then see seals on a sand bar much closer to the sea and well away from any people. The next issue to impede our progress was an area of mud flats with lots of deep holes filled with black water.  The final hazard was just a few hundred meters from reaching dry land this was a fast flowing stream, fortunately it was not too deep and failed to fill one of the group who had wellies on much to Mike’s disappointment.

At last we had made it we had reached Holy Island, to be met by lots of cars and then crowds of people.  After such an inspiring and sense of space it was surreal to be hemmed in by some many people.  Eventually we arrived back at the cars after a bus ride of less than five minutes.

Mon 25th August 2014

Humbelton Hill and Yeavering Bell

Humbelton Hill and Yeavering Bell

Weatherwise this walk has to be the best of the whole year to date.  We had excellent visibility, lots of cumulus clouds and blue sky and contrasting views throughout.  The temperature was cool for the time of the year, but ideal for walking, and we managed to find plenty of sheltered spots out of the wind for elevenses, lunch etc.  The company was similarly excellent too even including a Swede on this occasion.  As is so often the case this person’s spoken English was immaculate but try as we may nobody could pronounce his name despite it being only four letters long!  We thought that we were pronouncing the name correctly but he didn’t think so.  It could have been embarrassing but both everybody saw the humour in the situation.

Everyone’s perception of a particular walk is different and this walk was no exception.  The nominal distance was measured as approximately 10 miles or 16 kilometres but the various pedometers and GPS units, sorry Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), totals produced a scatter of measurements roughly in agreement with this – so much for electronic accuracy.  Satnav systems are quite topical at present as only two days beforehand two satellites that were intended to form part of the European Galileo satellite navigation system went astray from their intended orbit after launch from French Guiana.  They were launched for the European Space Agency (ESA) which of course we pay for!

Travelling west at relatively low level we were soon getting really good views of the Milfield Plain, site of a massive glacial lake towards the end of the last Ice Age and the reason for the present day sand and gravel extraction site and Second World War airfield (RAF Milfield) part of which is still used by the Borders Gliding Club.  Sailplanes were being tugged aloft above our heads from mid-morning onwards and the occupants were the only people to get a better view of the Cheviots than us.  Our target for lunch was the Yeavering Bell the largest Iron Age hillfort in the area but before that we skirted the slopes of Humbelton Hill, Harehope Hill crossed the Akeld Burn near Gleadsclough to pass below the summit of White Law to have a picnic lunch just below the southern entrance to Yeavering Bell: The Hill of the Goats.  The whole of the route towards Yeavering Bell was strewn with archaeology (forts, settlements, homesteads, hut circles); a target rich environment for anyone interested in antiquities, there wasn’t even time to consider the important site of Gefrin on the south side of the River Glen below and north of the hill itself.

The return route took us south-west over old field systems and much more recent shooting butts to join the St Cuthbert’s Way passing south of Tom Tallon’s Crag and coniferous plantations via Black Law and Gains Law towards our starting point.  The combination of the morning’s rough walking, the wind and sunburn plus the time of day meant that nobody opted for the transit over Humbleton Hill alongside the deep cleft of the glacial channel to its immediate south.  The great whaleback bulk of Cheviot and its second-in-command, Hedgehope dominated the southern horizon.  The clear air made it easy to distinguish the large cairn that occupies the top of Hedgehope, the objective of a previous walk.  The heather was just about at its peak and the variations in sun and shadow revealed numerous shades of pink and purple.  There was no Grand Prix start on arrival back at the car park; everyone was far too relaxed (not tired) for that so hopefully a good day was had by all.  Thank you for your company and both Ian and I hope to see everyone again soon.

Richard