April&May: Back To Normality!

I've noticed that I seem to always do the months of April and May as a joint blog on here, but this time of year always seems to be full momentum and completely flies by! With my work opening up in April it meant that I had less time to go out, and of course the weather was always nicer when I was trapped inside! I've also had to work weekends which is the main times I can do proper walks, so that's really hindered my ability to get out. Still, I'm glad I made use of my opportunities to get out in lockdown regardless, I seemed to visit lots of new places in that time!

Before life once again headed on the path to normality, I decided to get out one last time before tourists and the second home owners would slowly start to appear, and with what seemed to be a theme of lockdown 2021 was visiting old mining areas I found myself heading to Banishead Quarry. I wandered up from just outside of Torver village and followed footpaths leading between farmland and private houses. Soon enough I could see the top of the Old Man Of Coniston come into view, with a thick layer of cloud slowly submerging the surrounding fells to the right. Following the footpath along more farmland, the rugged detail of the Old Man became clearer with every step as it began to dominate the landscape. Eventually little signs of the old mining communities began to appear, with larger chunks of slate forming the path and small piles of the slate hiding in amongst the uncut grass. Eventually I reached a sheepfold and signs welcoming visitors to the Coniston Fells, although now the rugged top of Dow Crag was completely submerged in the candyfloss sky. After heading through the sheepfold I was welcomed by the delicate sounds of a stream slowly following its course, and eager to find the higher waterfall I began approaching it from the left, heading past more slate piles before heading into open land.

I soon realised I was on the wrong side for the quarry, the few people I could see walking that side soon made me realise my mistake, but this meant I had a hidden beauty to myself. Along this side of the river it appeared to just be fields with the Old Man standing proud in the background, but when you approached where the river lay, you looked down onto a beautiful course of small drops in the river bed with untouched foliage surrounding it. I found a seat on some of the rocks and took in the stunning view in front of me, trying to work out the route I needed to take to end up at the quarry part. After sitting a while, I headed back in the direction that I came from, and took the other path from the sheepfold which took you over the stream of the river. Sure enough, this path took me up along the edge of the principle quarry bit - in fact, it was opposite to where I had previously been sat - and after ducking under the 2 wire fence, I began to explore the quarry. This fence marked the drop down into the base of the quarry, although there was sufficient ground for me to be able to walk around the edge and get some photos from here, there is an offshoot waterfall from the course I had sat down by on the other side, and this water dropped into a shallow pool within the old quarry. I found a precarious path, especially when there was a strong breeze in the air, that led me to the edge of the water and I sat here for a while until the clouds above began to darken. Once I left the quarry, the Old Man had been engulfed in said cloud, and a few spits of rain could be felt in the air as I made my way back down the old tracks and on my way home.

I realised that I had missed my first visit to Oxen Fell off my March blog, but I'd done that much that month I'm not really surprised! It was that visit which influenced my second trip to Oxen Fell in April, as both the walk and the views from Oxen Fell were stunning! This was a place I'd seen online, but also passed the National Trust signs every time I've been to Coniston, and always wanted to visit. To enter the main fell land, you go through an unmarked gate, the one which I had missed on my first attempt to visit here (although I ended up at Hodge Close so not all was lost!) and it only takes a few steps up the land for the stunning views to kick in! On my first visit in March, not much of spring had begun to appear so I could see the blue hue of Elterwater through the empty tree branches, and the Black Fell range which sheltered Tarn Hows from view. As I made my way gradually up the curves of the fell, Elterwater became clearer, and more fells began to appear above those closest to me. I felt like I had to constantly walk in little circles as to take in all of the views, making mental notes of the scenery I'd like to capture on my camera as my phone just wouldn't do it justice! Eventually when I reached the highest point I could see the Langdales clear as day whilst its surrounding fells had a blanket of cloud covering them, and I found the perfect spot to have a quick snack and drink which overlooked both Coniston Water and my favourite, Yew Tree Tarn. I ended up sat here for quite a while as I began to notice more detail in the 360° views surrounding me, such as the top of Hodge Close quarry in amongst slate and green fields, a small collection of water on the lower land of Oxen Fell or the ring of trees surrounding Tarn Hows before taking the same route back down.

My second trip to Oxen Fell was much shorter, it was a weekend after just starting back at work and as I live in a ground floor flat, going up and down the stairs at work gave muscles that I hadn't used properly in a while a good workout, so I just wanted a gentle stroll. Rather than heading straight upwards on the path I took previously, I decided to wander on the lower ground of the fell and make my way towards the Water I had seen last time. This area was somewhat surreal as it is completely hidden from the main road which was just mere metres away, this was reinforced by the birdsong which covered the sound of cars occasionally passing on the road below, you really felt like you were so far away from main society in this tiny patch of land. After wandering along here for a little while, I clambered up the banking and joined the path I took on my last visit as I couldn't resist taking in the stunning views of Elterwater and the fells once again. I really cannot wait to come back here with my camera, it is a beautiful yet underrated spot and I could sit and take in the views here all day!

One afternoon I decided to have a wander up Hutton Roof Crags, last time my mum and I walked here it was late afternoon/early evening and we ended up losing our path after following a wild deer we saw and stumbling around in the dark, so I wanted to attempt to properly walk it in decent light! After parking up on the road between Hutton Roof and Farleton Knott, we began along the footpath, sticking towards the Eastern path so that we could do a loop around. It felt strange Walking with Farleton Knott behind me, but I was eager to see what Hutton Roof Crags had in store for me as the path twisted between two prickly bushes and opened úp onto the main crag. This area if land was formed of limestone Crag, but had less grass land than its neighbour Farleton so our walk involved a lot of hopping across the large slabs with deep crevices between them, the occasional one being home to hard wearing spruce. The path slowly petered upland, and upon reaching the higher points we could see right along the Cumbria and Lancashire border, the colours of spring dashed along the canvas caught my eye as the sunbeams infiltrated the clouds which were slowly clearing above our head. Upon reaching the trig point, we could see along the Lancashire coast all the way towards Blackpool, the tower could be seen in amongst the slight haze sitting on the water's edge when the sunshine was hindered by cloud. We had the option of several paths at the marker, and as we were enjoying the gradually warming weather, we decided to take the path which would take us around the edge of the Crags, and towards a stone seat that we had found on our previous misadventure up here. I'm glad to finally walked up here without getting lost along the way!

As always with my visits to Coniston, I have had a walk around Yew Tree Tarn either on the way there or whilst on the way back. When walking it at the end of April, I noticed how much the water had gone down! The tarns water level usually dips in the summer, but I had never seen it this low at this time of year for an awfully long time! The foliage and trees surrounding the tarn however were on time for the season, and the colours of springtime were rapidly beginning to appear both on the trees and underfoot as I wandered along the path. I find it amazing how this tarn is so transformative based on the weather and whether you are lucky enough to catch those few minutes where the sun hits the water just right, or the leaves on the trees have formed the perfect gradient; and this time was no different. In certain parts I could actually walk on the tarn floor as the water was that low. It was lovely to get a different angle on the tarn and I grabbed a couple of videos to compare them to the ones I'd taken earlier in the year. I can't wait to capture how Yew Tree Tarn transforms for summer!

During the first lockdown of 2020, I had done some of the Greenwood Trail walks around the Newby Bridge area, and my favourite of these was a walk around Haverthwaite, so one Saturday around my mums birthday in May, we decided to visit this area again. Our previous visit had been in early May, and not quite all of the foliage had bloomed then, so going a couple of weeks later we were in hope for some more colour - which thankfully we did get! The bluebells in particular were still in full bloom, but this time those bells in shades of pink and white had also come out to greet us. We even had the company of a baby rook, hopping along the path in front of us as if to show us the route we needed to take. Eventually he hopped away into the long grass and we were able to get past him without freaking him out! There's not much else to say about this walk, it's just a wonderful place to lose yourself in your thoughts whilst surrounded by beautiful trees and all forms of wildlife are left to their own devices around the thin path.

On our way back home, we decided to take the scenic route along Lake Windermere and up the Gummershowe road. On this journey, we decided to pull up at the side of the road on the Gummershowe hill, which conveniently had stunning views over the lake. Not fancying joining all the crowds we could see making their way along the path to the fell point, we decided to head in the opposite direction and through a selection of evergreen woodland and onto the open land behind it. This land was quite rugged, and a few groups were walking back down as we headed upwards - we thankfully had the top to ourselves so we could find the best spot for a view over lake Windermere and take a few moments to enjoy both the view and the warm sunshine. Instead of wandering back down our starting route, we veered off down the other side of the view point, aiming towards a thick forest of trees at the bottom of the hill so we could get into some shade after spending a bit too long in the heat. This woodland was so quiet despite being located right next to both a popular walk and main road, in fact it was so quiet I was half expecting to spot a deer or some other wild animals amongst the trees but to no avail! Still, regardless of that it was a great place to stop for a quick leg stretch when taking the scenic route home! I will definitely be back, just when I know it won't be as busy up the main hill!

As society heads towards normality, and the sunshine gets warmer, I really cannot wait to get out and explore some new places!