Category Archives: Lake District

Cruising through Cartmel, Hiking up to Hampsfell Hospice

Back up the M6 this week, to the south of the Lake District, starting and finishing in Cartmel. I was out for a meal that night so we were looking for something relatively close that wouldn’t take too much time. This was a new one for us so it would be interesting one way or another,  whatever it was like.

Parking at the racecourse, we dodged the Segways and headed off across the countryside. This area is near Morecambe Bay, so it doesn’t have any of the big hills, but it was a lovely day and there were great views of the mountains to the north and the coast to the south, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines to the east.

Walking through the meadows with Lady Hughes and Ziggy, we were constantly overflown by a small aircraft ejecting parachutists every couple of minutes. I tried to get a few shots of them but they were too far away, so I turned my attention to the swallows speeding low over the fields, catching flies, to see if I could get a good shot or two – easier said than done. If street photography is like being a sniper, this is more like anti-aircraft shooting.


Crossing one field we found our way blocked by a herd of young bulls. Clare is a bit scared of cattle, so I went first to clear a path, only for Ziggy to slip his lead and sprint towards them. Clare was shouting frantically for him to come back and when the cattle started to trot over to him he decided it might actually be a good idea, so he about turned and legged it back. We squeezed through the gate just before the rush hit us.

Most of the walk was pretty reasonable with no great climbs, until the last half when you go up to Hampsfell Hospice – not a great climb, but just enough ‘up’ to get a sweat on. This is the best part of the walk with panoramic views and a Victorian shelter to explore – it doesn’t take long, there’s only one room and the roof.

From there it’s straight back down to Cartmel. We didn’t have time for a pint, even though we would have sorely loved to, as I was attending a work reunion that night in Stockport. But I did stick my head in the old Priory for a lightning tour. This dates from before the Restoration and is apparently one of the best preserved of its type – just wish we had more time to do it justice.

Lovely walk, seven miles, not too tricky and not particularly exhausting. Next weekend should be more intrepid as we fly off to Ireland to climb Croagh Patrick – watch this space.




Beautiful Borrowdale

Another weekend, another hike. This time, Borrowdale in the Lake District.

A bit further afield this time, Borrowdale is situated in the northeast of the Lakes. It’s a stunning valley, leading down from the high fells through little hamlets like Seatoller, Rosthwaite and Grange to Derwentwater (Lake) and the town of Keswick – famous for its pencils – honestly, they even have a pencil museum!

We started in Seatoller and headed north towards Castle Crag. This is  a rocky outcrop, believed to have been the site of an ancient fort and after that much quarrying. We climbed this crag years ago when the lads were younger and it’s a great little scramble to the top. Not this time though as we decide to keep on trucking northwards towards Grange.

The weather was a little overcast but warm and dry, it cleared as the day progressed. We took our time and soaked in the sights, just enjoying being out in such a great location.

At Grange, we stopped and had tea and lemon cake, sat outside a busy teashop – very civilised, I must say. Only hampered by a large group of people sat near us who decided to try and have an impromptu game of volleyball next to us and nearly took my head of with a ball – lucky for them, it missed!

Heading back we followed the river and when it was safe to do so, we let Ziggy off the lead for a bit of a run. He would run off a bit, exploring, but eventually come back to check where we were – his recall still needs a bit of work. At one point he found a plastic bag with someone’s discarded sandwiches in them and started to devour them. I shouted for him to stop and he obviously knew his time was up so he swallowed the lot, plastic bag and all – not a lot we could do at that point, so we’re just hoping it all comes out in the wash – if you know what I mean?

Not quite as much ‘up’ on this one as our last, up Harter Fell, but probably more enjoyable. Besides, I’m feeling a bit run-down at the moment, mild virus or something, so I didn’t want to push it too much, however we are officially in training for an ascent of Croagh Patrick, in Ireland next month so we can’t slack too much – keep an eye out for more updates.


Birthday Stomp up Harter Fell

This week was my birthday, 47 – I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. Anyway, it’s been a funny few weeks lately as the country gears up for the EU Referendum, which is in just two weeks. I must confess that I’m sick of all the debate and wish we could just get it over with now. I know what I’m voting for and I’m sure most people probably have a good idea what they’re voting for by now, so it just seems like we’re going over the same ground.

Anyway, to celebrate this momentous occasion (my birthday, not the EU Referendum) I was lucky enough to have number one son, Alex, come home from York ,and along with Elliott, Clare and a few close friends, we went out for a meal at the Tiffin Rooms in Cheadle. This lovely little restaurant serves Indian street food – think tapas but Indian. 

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The food was great and the company even better, I’m very lucky to have such a great family and some brilliant friends.

I’d booked the next day off to go for a hike with Lady Hughes and the weather was glorious, so we decided to head up to Haweswater in the Lakes and climb Harter Fell, a hill I’d not done before but it looked relatively straightforward and with it being a Thursday, we’d hopefully avoid the crowds.

Haweswater is not a natural lake, it’s a reservoir, created by the construction of a dam in 1929. This was quite controversial as the creation of the reservoir meant the forced movement of the local people to provide water for my city, Manchester. According to wikipedia it currently provides 25% of the North West’s water supply.

The route was pretty easy to navigate starting with a climb to the start of a steep climb, followed by a fairly steep climb, leading to a reasonably steep climb.

Once on the tops, the views are wonderful, if a little hazy on our day. It was hot and we found the uphill section a bit of a slog to be honest, but we only stopped a couple of times and kept on moving, even if we were puffing and panting a bit – hey, I’ve just turned 47, cut me a bit of slack will you!

Looking at the map I was a little apprehensive about the descent as it looked a bit steep, but in the end it was fine, bringing us down alongside a tarn. We were soon overtaken by a group of mountain-bikers carefully picking there way through the boulders whilst trying not to fall down the mountainside face-first. A few minutes later we overtook them as they had to deal with a snapped gear mechanism. I must confess to a little happiness as I strolled past the athletic twenty-somethings all decked out in lycra – don’t worry, they’ll get over it.

We got back to the car and checked out time. The guidebook had the walk down as 2½ hours and we’d done it in just over 4. I knew we were a bit slow but I don’t think we were that bad, ah well, it wasn’t a race.

Overall, great weather, great walk, great birthday – here’s the next 47!

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Bumping into Billionaires in Hawkshead

Beautiful, sunny, bank holiday weekend, so it’s off to the Lakes for another mini-adventure. With Ziggy in the back, we cruised up the motorway to the lakes, crossed Windermere by ferry and drove twelve miles on to the town of Hawkshead.

We’d decided on a little circular hike from Hawkshead to Tarn Hows and back again. Hawkshead is a little town nestled in-between Windermere and Coniston and can lay claim to being one of the most beautiful towns in the Lake District – which is saying something in the Lakes. With it’s narrow passages and white-walled buildings it resembles a cornish fishing village more than a lakeland town.

Parking up, we put our boots on and set off into the town. Outside one shop we paused for a moment and I spotted a tall, middle-aged lady who looked vaguely familiar. Standing only six feet away from me I suddenly realised who she was – Jerry Hall (one-time supermodel wife of Mick Jagger and before that, Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend). As she’s recently got married, I looked around for her new husband and there he was, billionaire media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch. Now, I’m a man of the world, but I don’t tend to bump into billionaires and supermodels very often when I’m walking my dog. Unfortunately my paparazzi skills were failing me and by the time I’d got my camera out they were walking away, but trust me, it was definitely them.

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The rest of the walk was had less celebrities but was still very beautiful. There was a little cloud and summer haze but we still had great views of the surrounding fells, including the Old Man of Coniston and the Lansdale Pikes, and the weather was fine.

At Tarn Hows we found a felled tree which had coins pressed into it, presumably for luck – it didn’t seem to have brought the tree any. We did the obligatory “I thought money didn’t grow on trees” gag, and moved on.

Back in Hawkshead we rested outside the pub and had a medicinal pint to replenish lost minerals and vitamins, etc. – always good practice after a hike I find.

Chatting to the locals we asked if they got many billionaires hanging around the shops and all they could say was that there had been a big wedding that day and there did seem to be a lot of Aussies around – who knows?

Anyway, my advice when hiking, is always keep a look out for billionaires and supermodels, you never know when you might meet Richard Branson in Edale, Bill Gates up Ingleborough or even Cindy Crawford on Blackstone Edge – have your camera ready!




Ziggy Stardust and Elterwater

For the last four weeks we have been fostering a rescue dog, a Bulgarian street dog with one blue eye and one brown, they (Dogs4Rescue) called him Bowie (due to the eyes, obviously), but we changed that to Ziggy. This weekend we completed the paperwork to formally adopt him as a member of the Hughes family.

Ziggy’s background is sketchy, to say the least, and his breed is a bit of a mystery, but his ‘doggy’ passport puts him down as a whippet cross and approximately two years old. He’s very submissive, playful and affectionate and we’ve all grown really attached to him. They’ve told us that he’s really well trained but all the commands must be in Bulgarian – which I suspect is a fib.

This weekend we took him with us for a hike in the sunny Lake District. The weather was glorious and the scenery beautiful, but as it was Ziggy’s first hike we picked an easy one, starting at Elterwater village and exploring the surrounding countryside.

Ziggy was well-behaved and we even let him off the lead for a few sections and he even came back – most of the time.

One startling moment was when we entered some woods and let him off the lead, only for us to walk straight into a large deer. It shot off, Ziggy shot off after it, we… weren’t quite sure what to do, so we waited and shouted, until a very excited Ziggy emerged from the undergrowth a few minutes later.

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Back at Elterwater, we relaxed in the pub garden with a pint, and Ziggy chilled out, lying on the floor and getting many interested looks and enquiries. If you’ve never been to Elterwater before I’d heartily recommend it, it’s beautiful, the surrounding scenery is stunning and the pub beer garden is very enticing – especially on a sunny day with a Bulgarian street dog, David Bowie impressionist.

If you’d like to learn more about Dogs4Rescue, click here.



Kendal and Scout Scar

Back in the Lakes this weekend, with Lady Hughes, trying a walk in part of Cumbria that we usually drive through to get to the other bits.

Kendal is a small town in the South-East of the Lake District, not far from the M6 motorway and famous for its mint cake. It’s a beautiful place with lovely houses and a town centre riddled with little little alleyways and bags of character, but my overwhelming memory from my visit this weekend is how stressful it is to simply park a car there for anything over four hours – brace yourselves, I’m going to have a bit of a rant.

The little guide I have, described the parking as “plentiful“. What it didn’t say was that the first three car parks you go into will only allow you to stay for up to four hours, the other parking will be so badly signposted that you’ll only spot them once you have passed them by and turning around is virtually impossible in the labyrinthine one-way system – there was much swearing and gnashing of teeth.

Eventually we did find a long-stay car park, a multi-storey. I’ve often said that the lowest form of architecture is a multi-storey car park and this one was a great example. All of the bays were in sets of three, each set was divided by a large concrete pillar, positioned to make sure that unless you parked in the middle of the three, you wouldn’t be able to open the doors on one side of your vehicle. Needless to say, all the middle spaces were taken.

After trying several side spaces, nudging my car forwards and backwards in an effort to position the door so it would miss the pillar and eventually giving up, I came up with a plan. I would drive to the top, the roof, where were wouldn’t be any supporting pillars as there wouldn’t be anything there to support.

Once we made our way to the top, we found that the genius architect had anticipated our move and played his masterstroke, all of the spaces up here would be just narrow enough to get a car in, but not wide enough to be able to open the doors if there were other cars parked alongside you. We watched as other drivers crawled into spaces and then tried to get out, climbing to the other sides to use the other doors, parking over the lines, taking extra spaces, I even saw one woman taking a photo of her parked car, presumably to use as evidence in the court case when she appeals the fine for parking over the lines.

Anyway, after much shuffling and squeezing, we finally managed to park our car and start the walk.

The walk from Kendal to South Scar was lovely, we were blessed with good weather and once up on the ridge, the views of the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.

At the highest point, there is a shelter with the names of all the surrounding hills and the 360° views included Morecambe Bay, The Old Man of Coniston, Scafell, Langdale Pikes, High Street and the Yorkshire Dales.

This isn’t a particularly difficult walk and only climbs up to about 300 metres but it was certainly one of the most rewarding. One of the weirdest things though, for a walk in the Lake District, was that you don’t actually see any lakes along the way.

Back in Kendal, we navigated our way through the town centre, back to the infamous car park. I dropped off my rucksack and went to pay out ticket as Clare went to use the toilets. Clare came back fuming – toilets closed, and the lady in front of me at the pay-station put her money in, only for the screen to flash up that it was now out of order. I ran down the stairs, found another machine, paid and we hurriedly drove away from Kendal and all it’s satanic car parks!

Despite the parking, we had a great day, here a few more photos to prove it.





Wansfell Pike and Troutbeck

My wife Clare works on the trains and last week she happened to meet Sir Chris Bennington, the mountaineer – if you don’t know who he is, google him, NOW!

Anyway, Sir Chris is in his eighties now and has had a hip replacement, so he told Clare that he had been forced to limit his expeditions to the smaller Himalayan mountains from now on. So, are you feeling old? Feeling like time is running out? Well take Sir Chris’s example and relax a bit, limit yourself to just the smaller, unclimbed mountains of the world’s greatest mountain range – but only if you’re over eighty and have had a hip replacement. If not then get off your arse and stop complaining.

I’m inspired to get out more, so I dusted off my old walking boots and drove Lady Hughes and, myself up to the Lake District for a mini-adventure.

Parking in Ambleside, we walked past the waterfalls an up to the the top of Wansfell Pike. Not a huge hill to be sure, but the approach was steep and my lack of fitness made it seem much bigger. – I think the technical term is knackered!

The weather was perfect, warm with almost no wind at all, so we did most of it in short sleeves – in March. On the top, the views were wonderful, the low cloud was burning off revealing the snowy mountain tops of Coniston, Langdale and many more more.

Down the other side into Troutbeck. This beautiful village was very idyllic – even the ramshackle sheds were tidy and looked like they’d been designed specially. We stopped for a brew in the local tea shop and then pressed onward back into Ambleside.

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It may not have been a Himalayan mountain, but I do have nearly forty years to catch up to Sir Chris, so it’s a start I suppose.


Claithe Heights

Bank Holiday Weekend and a good weather forecast, so Lady Hughes and myself joined the slow procession of cars up the M6 towards the Lake District and Claithe Heights, to test out her new rucksack and my new camera lens.

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Clare’s old rucksack was bought for a trekking holiday in Tanzania back in 2001, and for fourteen years it’s given excellent service but it was looking a bit tired and, like me, was starting to give in various places. So, with birthday money kindly donated by friends at work, she bid a tearful farewell to the old one, and unlike me, moved on to a newer and more colourful model.

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My new lens on the other hand was a second-hand bargain bought from someone who had barely used it and without getting too technical, as I know it bores the backsides of most people, it’s very wide angle, so great for landscapes – which the Lake District is full of.

We ditched the car at Hawkshead on the banks of Windermere, the biggest lake in England, and took the ferry across as foot passengers to start our walk.

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The walk took us to the village of Far Sawrey and then Near Sawrey, I don’t know who named them but surely it all depends where you’re starting from. I mean, we got to far first and then had to go further to get to near – if that makes sense?

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Anyway, they were both beautiful, chocolate-boxy, villages, one famous as the location of Beatrix-Potter’s cottage – we didn’t go in, hey we’re on a schedule here.

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This was a walk of little moments really, one was when we came across a house selling little jars of home-made jam with an honesty box to pay. Clare had just bought some jam when a car pulled up, the door opened and an old lady fell out onto the floor. We helped pick her up and administer first aid to her cut face before moving on.

Another was when we came across a large group of middle-aged dutch women walking in the opposite direction, but dressed as though they were going out for the evening.

Once through the villages we headed up into the woods towards Claithe Heights. The dense woodland made navigation a bit difficult but I’m proud to say we managed to follow the whole route with no major mistakes.

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On the tops we were rewarded with occasional clearings where you got panoramic views of the surrounding fells, including the Langdale Pikes, Old Man of Coniston, Fairfield, Ill Crag and even Skiddaw in the far distance.

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Back at the ferry Clare announced the rucksack had passed the test and as for my lens (10 – 20mm by the way), well here’s a few more shots – you decide.

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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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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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