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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
The Lake District
19th - 26th September 2015

The only place to be in the early autumn is the Lakes and as we spluttered our way up the M6 we could see that we were charging headlong into the change as the colours in the trees became more distinct with every 50 miles we travelled.
We'd been telling everyone (that would listen) that we were off to get soaked in Cumbria for a week but our journey there was completely dry and apart from the bike shedding a bit of oil and coughing now and then, the way up went without incident. The weather forecast for the week ahead however was for: showers, light rain, heavy rain, hail and some sunny intervals. So, completely typical conditions for the Lake District then.

With a change in the weather forecast later in the week Gill decided to get the bit she has been dreading out of the way while the weather was good, namely Striding Edge up to the summit of Helvellyn (950m) and a descent via Swirral Edge. Gill was not keen on doing it but as I kept telling her, she was more than capable or she could wait in the pub at Patterdale for my return.
In the end she needed to use all of her capabilities and all of her nerve to get to the top as this is a pretty tough challenge for someone with a dread of precarious precipices. The climb requires lots of scrambling, teetering, tottering, leaping and a 20 foot climb down a rocky chimney. After that a steep scramble to the top remains, that even from nearby looks impossible. There is a small path along 'the edge' for most of the way that circumvents some of the more challenging parts but this still entails a lot of the above as well as the chimney. For those of us that love this sort of thing the ridge is walked along the very crest of the rocks like a billy goat. The world disappears on either side of you leaving you on a foot wide (at one time it was down to about an inch) piece of rock to stand on, survey the panorama around you and feel like part of the mountain. What a buzz!
At times, it's safe to say, Gill was not in her element. I had to talk her through a few bits and help to keep her morale up but she did the whole thing herself and at the end her smile was beaming and she was very proud of herself. So much in fact that she couldn't wait to attack the descent on Swirral Edge and to my amazement and joy she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Up quite steeply out of the valley

We add our own minute topping to the first cairn as a good luck charm.

Through the affectionately known 'hole in the wall' and up over rocky moorland to get a view of the summit and of Red Tarn below.

Pretty soon we got our first sighting of Striding Edge and Gill's knees started to shake!

There it is, one person's playground and another's nightmare. Off we go (woo hoo!).

Look, she's smiling. On Striding Edge. That's evidence that is.

Half an our later and all we have to do is scale a cliff!

Let's do it again? Right now!
No? What was that, I'm a big fat what??

Look at the view Gill.

Look at the way down Gill.
Swirral Edge. Didn't I mention that?
Big fat what?

A hop, skip and a jump and take the first right and were back at the bike. Amazing.

At Leighton Moss Nature Reserve on our rest day we watched through our binoculars completely spellbound, with jaws on the floor, as four otters played in the shallow lake for over 20 mins. They were play-fighting and rolling and jumping and twisting around in the water. It was a lifetime ambition to see such a sight and it left us like surprised zombies for ages afterwards. It still seems unreal.

The last mountain we took on was the Mecca of fell walkers, Great Gable (899m). At a gloomy Wasdale Head car park after an amazing two hour ride through the mountains we were greeted with a sudden squall and as Gill wrote in our notebook the weather continued as; sun, rain, wind, hail, sun, rain, sun, rain, sun, rain, sun. From Wasdale Head we took the easy but very enjoyable Breast Path up from Sty Head. Amazingly we had this very popular summit entirely to ourselves and a view of all of the fells around us. A great scramble down through the rocks from Windy Gap back down to Sty head and a beautiful descent alongside the beck on Aaron Slack saw us back at the bike after taking 6:50 hrs to do the 8.6 miles, most of which was in pretty good weather  What an unforgettable day!

On the way up to Sty Head and Cat Rock (centre) is watching us.

The stretcher box at Sty Head with a view across to Scafell

This way.

A misty, cairned, simple route up to the summit.

Down from Windy Gap to Sty Tarn.

Coming down Aaron Slack.

Although the bike complained a bit and lost oil from several orifices it did the job well and never let us down.  The weather stayed good (for the Lake District), we ate some delicious food and we climbed the mountains we wanted to in just the conditions (wet and dry) that we wanted to and what's more we saw four bloomin' otters. Do we love the Lake District or what? We're already planning our next visit.

Let's go!

Halfway snooze.


Take the time to read the countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.