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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A Tale Of Two Lakes

Back in December 2012 I booked a two night stay at the Haweswater Hotel as a Christmas gift for Jill. I booked it for two nights in March 2013 thinking that it would be a nice early Spring weekend to help rid us of the cold damp winter blues. What we got was something that we didn't expect. A cold snowy two days and nights in this remote part of the Lake District. Winter was back with a vengeance!! Parts of Cumbria had been cut off with snow drifts of up to ten feet, icy winds blowing in from the north and west of Europe bringing misery to thousands in this part of the country along with parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Northern England. All this, at what is meant to be the start of springtime, with lambs bounding about the fields, birds starting their nest building and filling the air with songs, daffodils and bluebells adding colour to the landscapes as the trees start to come alive with buds and leaves appearing. The news on the TV showed us the snow and roads closed in South West Cumbria. We were heading to the Western part and a phone call to the hotel assured us that all was well and that the roads leading to the hotel were passable so Sunday March 24th saw us hit the road for the journey that should take us no more than a couple of hours.
We had no snow in these parts of Manchester, just a cold wind and an overnight frost, and the journey up the M6 had us wondering if there was a bit of over excited news readers telling everyone to stay at home and not to travel as the only snow we encountered on the M6 was a small amount around the area where the radio mast stands tall on the aptly named Winter Hill in Lancashire. It wasn't until we reached the end of our motorway journey at Shap, where we first saw some signs of what was to be a change of scenery for the next couple of days. Going down the small lanes where there was some snow drifts that were higher than the car and Jill :-)

 We did begin to wonder if we would reach our destination but a mile or so down the lane and it would be clear. It was strange to see green fields with snow drifts all along one side of the lane and against the stone walls in the fields. Amazing to see and we were glad to hear from a shop keeper that it seem to be a localised thing with many parts being free of the main bulk of snow that had been on the news reports.
We soon got to our hotel although the lane did have a good few inches of snow on it, it was passable and it was here that we were transported back in time to a winter wonderland. The view from our balcony over Hawsewater came with that much loved bird, the Robin just to make things feel even more special
 There was quite a few robins and they proved to be very friendly and tame and we soon had them taking food out of our hands :-)

After we had got settled in, we decided to have a wonder down the lane for a look around. What a fantastic remote and quiet place it is as well and the added bonus of the snow just seemed to put us in some far off land that time had forgot. Although everywhere was covered in snow and there was a chilly wind blowing, it was quite warm as the sun kept coming out and the shelter of the crags and trees made it feel very pleasant. We only had a short walk as we were planning on a trip all round Hawsewater the following day. The snowy mountains sure made for a great back drop

 The mountains at the back end of Hawsewater include, from left to right,  Harter Fell, Mardale Bell, Riggindale Crags, Kidsty pike
 The snow drifts along the lane were knee high in a lot places
 Luckily there wasn't any low cloud to spoil the views, just a chilly wind blowing the odd snow shower around
We made our way back to the hotel to be greeted with another surprise of the weekend, a Red Squirrel :-). We have spotted one or two before, in Scotland, but not as close as the ones here. They were busy feeding at one of the feeding stations at the front of the hotel
Monday morning came and there was quite a change in the weather as it was snowing and looking a bit on the grey side.
We went down for breakfast and was treated to a bit of a show at one of the bird feeding stations as yet again the red squirrels were on show. Cute little things

A great spotted woodpecker also got in on the act
There was also time to feed the robins again before we made our way round Hawsewater
The snow that was falling didn't seem to make any more impact on the depth of snow that was already on the ground. It was just light flurries being blown about in the noticeable colder winds than Sunday. There was a lot more cloud about but again not low cloud so there was some great views yet again. In fact it was a day of mixed sunshine that felt quite warm, freezing winds and snow flurries making it a real winter feel to this early spring day!
So once again we set of down the lane that took us to Mardale Head car park where there are a series of paths that go in different directions leading to the various mountains and valleys.

It was at this point that we got our first sighting of the Red Deer that roam this area. We noticed some movement across the water in the valley below the crags at Riggindale and saw it was the Red Deer

We were hoping to see what is Englands only Golden Eagle that flies around this area, Eddie, but unfortunately he didn't make an appearance, probably due to the cold and snowy weather that kept on coming and going

 It's amazing how different the same place can look when the sun breaks through the clouds and the blue sky adds a dash of colour to the otherwise monochrome settings when the clouds and snow roll in
 On reaching the car park, we took the path that followed the edge of the reservoir and round the crags to Riggindale and the valley where we saw the Red Deer

The weather was certainly being indecisive, as one minute it threw everything at us
then the next it was rewarding us with a stunning blue sky winter look
and great views of the path we came down as it passed under Brant Street
the path bought us out under Swine Crag and above the wooded area known as the Rigg and offered some great views down Hawsewater and the surrounding valleys and mountains. Wonderful
The bottom of Swine Crag. This looks like a great ridge walk/scramble that takes in swine Crag, Heron Crag, Eagle Crag, Rough Crag, and Riggindale Crag as it makes it's way on to High Street. One for the summer I think.

This is where we spotted the Red Deer from across the valley and we weren't to be disappointed as we spotted a few more. In fact there was quite a herd of them over my right shoulder in the snowy valley below Kidsty Pike

We carried on along the track which was throwing up some quite deep patches of snow and also some strange looking formations as it clung and hung over the streams and grass banks

As we made our way round and on to the path below Flakehowe Crags, this is where the weather really started to turn for the worse and we weighed up the situation. The sky turned very grey/white and the wind whipped up while the snow came down heavier that at any time of the day. We wanted to carry on but we were unsure how long the weather would stay like this and as we had come along a fairly easy to follow path, it would prove easier to turn round and retrace our steps. There was still a fair way to go and we didn't fancy being caught out in any whiteout along the reservoir banks. We took what proved to be the right decision and retraced our steps as the views started to dissappear as the white mountains joined the white sky, knowing that we can always come back another day

As we got back to the bottom of Swine Crag, Harter Fell was slowly dissappearing into oblivion

 The snow was coming down quite a bit now and we found some deep patches on the lower path that made walking quite hard but fun

We got to the back of Haweswater and the views to where we are going tells me we made the right decision as the snow, wind and cloud were still with us and we were quite glad to be back on solid ground for the rest of the way

At this point and as if the weather gods were having a laugh, the clouds parted once again and the sun came out to brighten the place back up again. Again it transformed the area into a bright Christmas card feel to it and made the road walk back to the hotel quite relaxed as we were also out of most of the chilly wind. There was still the odd snow flurry and the sun lit up the reservoir like someone shining a beam of light from between the clouds

We got back to he hotel to be greeted by one of the robins that looked like he had got caught in a sharp shower. Certainly not at his best but at least he was having something to eat
As the sun was going down it was time to reflect on what had been a great day in the snowy mountain area of Hawsewater with the weather changing it's mind every few minutes to add to the atmosphere of this great wild place.
We were out for about five hours and were treated to some good sights and great views.
On the Tuesday morning we thought we would go up to Pooley Bridge, at the top end of Ullswater, and get the steamer across to Howtown for a look  around there. It was a straight forward journey of about 40 minnutes that saw very little in the way of any snow. the wind, if anything, was stronger and was at times bitterley cold.

This was to prove a very short walk up the Coombs to Martindale Church and back down to the pier. It did last about 90 minutes but the wind was so cold we were glad to get back down. The views though, as ever, were worth the short climb and it looks like another good place that needs to be more explored.

We also went back to our childhood and couldn't resist sliding down the bannister as the path was all snow/iced over. It just seemed the most sensible way :-)

A great way to spend a Christmas break in March.  :-)


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Alastair, it was, absolutely :-)

  2. Great report, very envious you got to see red squirrels, will have to go there someday. We've been seeing loads of deer tracks whilst away, but not had that many deer sightings yet. Love the robin pictures too :)

    1. Thanks Ruth. Was quite surprised to spot the deer but then again there was quite a lot in the valley. More robin's than you could shake a stick at . lol

  3. Loving the bannister slide! I wanna go now. Loads of wonderful pictures Andy, and it's so good to see the wildlife. Class! :-)

    1. No point in growing up when there's fun to be had Leslie, although the straight bit at the end had me wondering why I do such daft things :-) Only thing that was missing was the Golden Eagle that patrols the area.

  4. great pics andy thanks for sharing, clive

    1. Thanks Clive. You'll have to venture out of wales with the tag team one day :-)

  5. A fine and detailed account there with very good photos, useful too as I wondered about the condition of the roads up there - they seem to be very variable but not good anywhere!.
    I've never been on that steamer but I can imagine that easterly wind on deck - yikes!.

    1. Cheers Geoff. The roads round that area of Cumbria were on the whole fine, with very little snow despite the big drifts near to Shap. That was a smalle lane though, but the main roads were fine. A lot of place's missed out on any snow while others got more than there fair share!! Yeh, it was baltic on the top deck!! :-)

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  7. Absolutely stunning photo's,you had much better weather for your visit then we had,the hotel is superb aint it ?

    1. Cheers Max. Yes the hotel is a good un and just right for that "get away from it all" few days.