Start of the Spring Term

School goes back tomorrow. I’ve worked out what I’m teaching for the next five weeks and have something approaching a plan. Hopefully the children will cooperate and my plan won’t require too much modification.

Over the weekend I went to Wasdale with my dad for a walk. We arrived to mist and a traditional damp Lake District day, with the view across Wastwater (Britain’s favourite view supposedly) not being too impressive. However, in the morning we woke to a nice dusting of snow on everything and a bitterly cold wind. I had six layers on and just couldn’t feel warm enough, I think I need some thermal leggings or something.

We set off up the path to Sty Head Tarn, from the farm at the bottom where we were staying. The path began with some slushy ice but that soon thickened into nice, crunchy fresh snow. The dog seemed to enjoy it, joining in with an entertaining (for us) game of “roll snow down the hill and chase it”. I even worked out I can take photos while wearing my big mittens.

We’d got about 2/3 up the path when huge gales and stinging shards of ice and snow began battering us. Not anything too serious, but since we weren’t planning a day in the ice and had a small dog with us we turned around and went back down the path.

And while plodding back down the slippy path I made the fatal mistake people often do on the way home. I stopped paying attention to where I was walking. Slop! I trod onto what I thought was a patch of snow, but soon discovered it to be a knee-deep icy pool of mud. There was a few seconds of dampness followed by biting cold as the ice and slush found its way into my boot and up my trouser leg. I used to go jumping into cold rivers, and it felt not unlike that. My foot did what it usually does in this type of situation and went numb so I gave up bothering about it.

I’ll upload a nice picture of Wastwater and write about it on my other blog in a moment.

Posting at 70mph

I’ve spent the weekend at the Langdale campsite. We’re on our way down the M6 at the moment, about to pass the Lancaster services.

I’ll post more when I get back, my mobile batteries are going flat. Must also remember to make my Bluetooth keyboard work.

Crinkle Crags in the sun

Last weekend I went to the Lake District with my dad. We stayed at the rather nice Langdale Youth Hostel where I discovered my camera’s batteries hadn’t charged; I managed to get about three pictures before they died. The Post Office just down the road sold non-rechargeables and I’m going to get my money’s worth out of them.

On Saturday we went up The Band and along Crinkle Crags. The last time I did this we got to see a helicopter rescue, but this time the only things in the sky were flies and gliders circling in the thermals. It was very warm and the walk up The Band wasn’t so pleasant, neither was the walk back down from Red Tarn. The scrambling over Crinkle Crags was fun though but I can’t work out why I find it so tiring to walk up and down a hill, but scrambling and climbing about on bits of rock isn’t a problem.

Summer Camp

It’s summer camp week again. We’re also starting to take random day activity bookings. I don’t remember much of last year’s since I was off in Scotland looking at the clouds and driving through the rain.

What happens is instead of having school groups in, the Centre lets random people come and do activities either for half a day or for a full day. Some people choose to drop their kids off for the whole week and then it’s up to us to supervise them all the time. It makes a change from having a school and their rigid timetable to follow. With the day activities we might be told the night before, but then if people change their mind it could all alter at the last minute. The summer camp people get to choose what to do the night before so we’ll have a bit more of a clue what they want to do each day.

Open Day

Once again it was time for our (now) annual Open Day. A day where the Centre opens to the general public so they can come and see what we do.

Each of us was given a specific activity to run all day, without a break, from 10am to 5pm. Some people had to stand up all day belaying masses of people up trees and telegraph poles, the cook had to supply an endless quantity of burgers and food. One poor person rode the three mile mountain bike circuit four times in one of the hottest days of the year. Another person sat for seven hours on the big field doing archery.

I got to sit outside a “camp” with a fire. Supposedly I was to demonstrate campcraft, but having no real idea I ended up being a source of marshmallows for people to eat and a place for kids to run riot and set things alight. I can’t moan too much, it’s quite fun burning things, but after four hours it gets a little dull. It would have all run a little better if we had to switch around every hour instead.

Feeling a little burnt out and in need of a change? Oh yes. September can’t come too soon. It’s not that I dislike working here, I can do my job and everyone here are good to work with, it’s just that it’s not that varied or exciting. I feel “stuck”. I know that moving to another centre would fix most of the problems (I’d go to one that didn’t have so much lawn or driveway) but ultimately it’s the nature of the job. I guess I’ve just outgrown the desire to do seasonal work that requires me to live on site. You know it’s time to change when the prospect of having your own washing machine is exciting.

Still, I’ve done this for four years and it’s been useful and I’ve had a lot of fun along the way. Now it’s time to do something else that, while harder, has more rewards for my efforts. Also it’s not like the mountains are going to dissolve any time soon.

Hemel

This was the week when our largest single group came to visit. Hemel Hempstead School send 120 of their year 9’s to us for a week of activities. Fifteen groups of eight children plus six teachers. The place becomes rather full and noisy.

Like last year though, it went well. I had two full day mountain walks and this time I actually went on a proper mountain walk with the first group – over Cat Bells towards Dale Head Tarn and back down the valley. Nobody moaned about the walk. The other activities went equally well. I had three mountain bike sessions and the only eventful things that happened was that someone got the beginnings of heatstroke so we came back, then on another ride neither me nor my group could be bothered cycling in the baking midday sun so we went to the bottom of our ghyll and paddled in the water for half an hour.

I could do that all the time if it wasn’t for the evening activities that don’t finish until nine PM, or for the way there’s not a minute’s peace and quiet. By the end of the week my tolerance for shouting children was completely non existant.

Oh, and one evening when I wasn’t on duty I got woken up by the person who was on duty because our chef had fallen down the stairs and cut himself on a picture frame. He was in a right mess, lying in a drunken heap with blood all over his face. Took me a while to work out where it was all coming from, eventually I found a few cuts under his chin and tried my best to stick them closed. A tricky task made even harder by having to stop while he spewed into a bucket.

The next morning was funny, he said he’d woken up covered in dry blood with a sore chin and couldn’t work out why. It wasn’t until I filled him in that he managed to work it out 🙂 His chin was better looking and I replaced the dressing with something that would actually hold the wounds together. He’ll have a few scars but nothing too severe. An interesting way to celebrate his 26th Birthday.

Ruddy Gill

Today was exceptionally hot – the kind of day where even the slightest physical effort results in overheating and the desire to go and sleep under a shady tree. Also the kind of day where scrambling around in a river sounds inviting.

The ghyll this time was “Ruddy Gill”, at the far end of Borrowdale past Seathwaite towards Great End. Parking at the farm in Seathwaite is always a gamble as you drive down the single track road looking for any space, seeing how long your nerve will hold – can I park right at the end or will I have to do some complex turning manoeuvre to come back and then put up with a half mile walk along the road?

I managed to park right by the farm. It might have been a hot sunny Sunday in the Lake District, but it was also half five so everyone was going home. The tourists leave at five and the locals come out to play 🙂

As it was so hot I wore just a pair of shorts and a thin baselayer. Even wearing this I was getting too hot walking up the track towards Stockley Bridge. So hot that we all decided to get in at this point rather than put up with walking along the path. So without breaking pace all four of us scrambled down the grassy slopes towards the water, waded in and then proceeded to test the depth, deciding a large boulder on the left could be jumped off. It was worth it just for the look of utter bafflement on the nearby tourists faces.

And the fun didn’t stop there. Unlike other ghylls, this one had lots of pools in it. I bet many walkers have eyed the pool right under the bridge before, but few must have dared to jump off the top into it. I’m six foot four, the pool was deeper than that and from experience I know I can jump at least four metres into water that comes up to my waist.

This carried on, with some rock-hopping until finally Ruddy Gill cascaded down the steep ravine we were now in. A short scramble lead us onto some flat slabs and off up the hillside. Here’s what the guidebook says about the next part:

Quote: Scrambles in the Lake District
Traverse the guardian pool on its left wall to reach a more difficult pool. It is possible but awkward, to traverse the steep left wall, but most people will prefer to climb out of the gill and re-enter just above at the top of the cascade

Why would anyone want to climb around a perfectly good pool? Here’s what my guidebook would say:

Quote: Wet Scrambles in the Lake District
Tighten the drawstring on your shorts, close all pockets on your rucksack and attempt to climb around the left of the pool to the middle on difficult sloping holds and slimy rock. Once at the middle, fall backwards into the water and swim across it before climbing up the waterfall in front of you. If you fall off, be sure to jump backwards to avoid the shallow water where the waterfall ends

You see, my style of ghyll scrambling is different to the “traditional” version. It seems I’m supposed to scramble up these things with the aim of being dry at the top. I have no idea why, ghyll scrambling is something to do when it’s too hot to do regular climbing.

Anyway, after jumping in several more pools, almost falling over and traipsing through some small parts too shallow to mention, the intrepid (and hopefully rather wet) scrambler will reach something I call “The Slot”. It’s a narrow channel cut into the river approximately five foot wide with a bridge running over the top. At the back end is a large waterfall with a small cave. Below this is a deep deep pool that is blocked with a submerged boulder. On the left is a small ledge and by swimming across the pool and climbing behind the waterfall it is possible to get onto this ledge. Unfortunately once on this ledge it is exceedingly difficult to get out of the slot. It’s possible to jump off the ledge back into the pool though, just don’t land on the boulder.

We continued upwards with no end in sight getting tired and after having a chat with some random people it was time to turn around and go back. On the way back there was the option of jumping into some of the pools again. I had one in mind… The Slot.

From the top it looks quite high and if done wrongly has the chance of either bouncing off the opposite wall like a pinball, or landing on the previously described submerged boulder. I’d been in there before so was fairly sure where the deep part was. All I had to do was step off and in I’d go. Peer pressure from the others almost made me jump in, but at the last microsecond I stopped. How frustrating! It’s like watching the children I take down our ghyll when they almost jump. At this point a hand usually sends them on their way and all is well.

Someone dared me to jump off the lower ledge into the water. I could do that, I’d been on there before. One two three splash. Easy. Now for the higher one. There was still an air of doubt from everyone else but I had my angle and a place to aim now so whatever was gluing my feet down before had worn off. In I went into the deep water once more. It was quite entertaining sitting on the boulder below watching the others knowing what was going through their heads 🙂 They knew it was perfectly OK to do as I’d just done it, but at the same time they weren’t entirely convinced.

After that we walked back down the path, the horrid paved path that jars knee joints and twists ankles, to the car.

This was one of those outings that I’d do again. I like big pools and jumps, and the shallow rock hopping provided a bit of a change and a warmup when the water started to cool me down too much. Now I need to find a ghyll with some large slides in.

Penrith Market

I went to the big market/car boot sale in Penrith today. The massive one just before the roundabout. Every weekend when coming home from walking in the Lakes I’d pass it in my dad’s car so, out of curiosity, I went to have a look.

My god, there’s so much crap for sale. Real, genuine crap. Anything from multipack toilet roll, cheap biscuits to lighters, DVDs and food. The real part is inside though where normal people set up stalls and attempt to sell all the crap they don’t want. The usual – plates, broken guitars, books and bits of shiny glass and metal.

I managed (quite easily) to restrain myself from buying any of these goodies and instead bought a bag of biscuits for a whopping £1 – which is good considering they tasted awful and got thrown in the bin – and a splitter for my car’s lighter socket.