Silver How

We’re very lucky here in Manchester, not only do we live in a wonderful, vibrant, city, but we’re a stone’s throw from some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. The Peak District is just an hour away, Snowdonia is two hours away, so are the Yorkshire Dales and Cheshire and Lancashire are virtually on the doorstep. With so much to choose from it’s easy to get complacent.

With this in mind, Lady Hughes and myself packed our gear and set off to the Grasmere and the heart of the stunning Lake District – approximately an hour and a half’s drive.

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Grasmere is a beautiful village, situated just north of Windermere on the A591. One of the downsides to visiting such a beautiful and accessible place though, is that you’re rarely alone. On a sunny Saturday like this, it attracts coach-loads of tourists, serviced by a plethora of cafes and gift shops. A friend of mine described Grasmere as a Lake District theme park with lots of shops but none that sell bread or milk. I think that’s a bit cruel, but as I shuffle through the crowded streets, I do see his point.

We weren’t too bothered about the crowds though as we were off, away from the tea shops, into the hills.

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Our target for the day was Silver How, a small hill right next to Loughrigg Fell, and like Loughrigg, one we did years ago with the kids – time to retrace old steps, literally.

Once out of Grasmere, the crowds disappeared and the only noise was birdsong and the diminishing, distant rumble of traffic on the A591.

The weather was sunny with a cool breeze, so we quickly stripped out of our jackets, hiking in just our T-shirts – we did have trousers and boots on as well, before you start getting the wrong idea!

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Navigation was relatively simple and the only challenge was a steep climb up to the summit, which we broke up with several breaks to take photographs – not because we were knackered, honest!

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Once on the top we were rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding hills and a sudden blast of cold wind, so it was back on with the anoraks.

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Across the valley we could see a passing heavy cloud leaving a shower of rain, moving across Heron Pike, but we luckily dodged all the rainfall, though we did get the occasional hailstones – which was nice.

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Walking west across the boggy tops we got a great view of the Langdale Pikes and took the opportunity to explore a bit, checking out the views and a few tarns before we turned east and headed back down towards Grasmere again.

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Gentle walk down into town and back to the car three and a half hours after we left it. The guidebook lists the walk as two and half hours but we went off-piste for a bit and took our time – it’s not a race after all.

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I do love the Lakes, it can be a bit touristy but it is beautiful and challenging if you want it to be, and best of all – it’s only an hour and a half away.

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Scaling the Steep Steps to South Stack

A few weeks back, Lady Hughes and myself were invited to the beautiful wedding of Scott and Becca Parry (probably doesn’t mean a lot to you unless you know them). Anyway, the wedding was held at Treaddur Bay, Anglesey in Wales, which meant us booking a night at a local hotel.

The wedding was lovely and we managed to control our drunken revels enough to be able to function in the morning (unlike some others – not mentioning anyone in particular – Tony).

The day after the event was windy but there was clear blue skies and we were literally ten minutes drive from South Stack so off we went.

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South Stack is small rocky island off the north-west corner of Anglesey, reached by descending a thousand steps down the cliff face and crossing a small bridge.

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On the island there is a lighthouse and the whole area now is a haven for a variety of birds including gulls, puffins, chuffs, gannets and peregrine falcons.

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I really wanted to get a shot of a puffin, but we’d picked the wrong time apparently and we mostly saw gulls, but even they were impressive as they flew around the cliffs with the waves crashing below.

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Photographing the birds as they fly past requires good reflexes, catching them as they approach. If you hesitate, you tend to get them as they fly away and I didn’t want numerous shots of birds arses, if I could help it.

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The missed shot of the day was as we walked along the cliff edge and reached a spot where the wind was channelling up a corner, lifting the spray and creating a temporary water feature with a fountain of sea water glistening in the sunlight. We walked up to the edge and were immediately buzzed by a peregrine falcon shooting up through the water and over our heads. By the time I’d worked out what was happening and raised my camera, it was off into the distance, but please close your eyes and try and imagine a stunning shot of a falcon, only yards away, flying through a fountain of sea spray.

Can you see it? Great isn’t it? – see, who needs a camera?

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Lazing in the Lakes up Loughrigg Fell

Situated just off the A591, between Windermere and Grasmere, Loughrigg Fell is one of the first Lake District hills we did as a family, some ten years ago now. Not as well-known as its bigger cousins, it’s still a great hike if you’re looking for something a bit easier, not too far out into the wilds and with great views from the top – or you’re just out of shape like I am!

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The A591 winds its way past Windermere through Ambleside, towards Grasmere and beyond. We managed to squeeze our car into one of the little car parks between Ambleside and Grasmere, just before Rydal Waters.

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The weather was glorious, sunny, with a slight breeze – perfect.

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There is a straightforward route along the edge of Rydal Waters and left up to the top but we chose a more off-road path to avoid most of the crowds. It’s amazing how you can walk twenty yards away from the main path and suddenly find solitude and open spaces – the beaten track is for the beaten man.

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We’ve not done much walking in the lakes recently, so it was nice to get back and retrace old steps, this time just Clare and myself – the lads are too big to bully up a mountain now.

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At the top you get panoramic views of Grasmere, Ambleside, Windermere, Coniston, Fairfield and the Langdale Pikes. We were also entertained by various RAF helicopters and aeroplanes practising their low flying in the valleys below us. We even got buzzed by a gyrocopter at one point.

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After a brief wander round Ambleside we stopped at a restaurant for an alfresco burger and a pint. Sitting in the sun, beer in hand, listening to cheesy europop, we both agreed we could almost be in Greece – but not quite as much Gore-Tex walking past I’ll bet.

Great to get back to the lakes and up a hill, albeit a little one, but definitely up for more.

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Alex and Clare’s 71st Birthday Party

And so it was, that the stars conspired a great coincidence in our family. My son Alex turned twenty-one just two weeks away from Clare (his mother, my wife) turning fifty. Once this fact became apparent we starting planning for a party to celebrate both moments occasions in the Hughes household – two for the price of one, bargain!

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We wanted something a little different to the usual ‘room with a bar at one end and a dance floor at the other’, so we booked the upstairs at the Woodstock Arms in Didsbury. This meant we still had a bar, but there were various different nooks and crannies for everyone to find a space.

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Clare and I had been at an event where the DJ only played 40’s and 50’s music and we really liked it so we hunted him out and booked him.

My sister Bev is a marvel at making cakes and she did us proud with the two she made for us. One is themes on Clare’s diving adventures and the other is themed around the Manchester bee (symbol on the Manchester coat of arms and a tattoo Alex has) and music, to show Alex’s loves.

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We had a great turn out from friends and family, with relatives traveling from Ireland just to be there, so we’re very grateful. Many thanks to everyone who came, we really appreciate it.

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I handed most of the photographic workload over to my other son Elliott. Which gave us a chance to try out my new flash and reflector. I tidied them up a bit afterwards, but I think he did a great job, Here’s just a few of the pictures from the night.


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