Saturday, 24 November 2012

Lake District (8 of 14)

After a few days of low level walking we were feeling a bit more refreshed to meet the days challenges ahead.  Having spent numerous holidays in the lake district it is surprising how many places there are to go, our destination today was to be Seatoller, with a walk to Castle Crag.

Our destination would be just a short drive to the National Trust car park at Seatoller, there we met up with the person who we joined the NT, thus allowing free parking provided you had paid your subscriptions, and a bonus is for those that spend their money in Cotswold stores you have the benefit of a 10% discount.

So as we left the car at the car park we greeted the gentleman with the green Land Rover and his German Shepherd companion resting peacefully in the back, we exchanged complementary comments about his dog and Blue, and then we set off proper.

Our walk would require a short road walk along the road that takes you from Seatoller to Honister Pass.

With no traffic to excite Blue as we reached the bend in the road, we left the road behind, to begin our ascent, Blue eager to progress was already pulling ahead, the benefit to the person holding the lead, is that it makes it less strenuous on the leg muscles. As always Blue tends to keep to the route eroded by others previously walking this way, there is one exception, to answer the call of nature, Blue always leaves the path to do his business, we never trained him to do this, perhaps he is a wee bit shy or just very polite. We have never adopted the "stick and flick" methodology and continue to scoop and bag it.

After a short and strenuous climb we came across a dry stoned wall, successfully navigating some walkers enjoying a well earned food stop, we continued to walk along adjacent to a dry stoned wall, we shortly came across a group of people travelling in the opposite direction with their dog also on a lead. Now although Blue  can be a handful, generally he is not out and out aggressive with other dogs, but because of the close proximity we would need to pass extra caution and control was required. Soon we were walking our separate ways.

The day was lovely and the views were fabulous, and the walk was truly relaxing, we never set out with a must do plan, because circumstances play a large part on where you can go with Blue, but the beauty of this walk is the distance you can see around you, so approaching cyclists and other ramblers with their dogs can be prepared for in a timely manner. Where we leave the path for others to pass by, if possible we will take up a position downhill, thus not giving Blue artificially higher status to those approaching and passing, frankly I am not sure it makes a scrap of difference to Blue, but if he decides to go, it is easier to maintain balance and control.

We had enjoyed this walk a few years previous, at that time we tried Blue out with saddlebags. But we soon dropped the idea, as they used to tend to roll, and with his history of back surgery it just didn't seem right.

As we continued along, we were seeking an ascent, and it was to be Castle Crag, never previously attempted by Blue or his two human companions, our challenge lay before us, a rocky pinnacle set just south of Derwent Water, it had been a focal point along our journey.

The peak just left of centre was our destination, so not too high or arduous, so we thought, we were to find out different over the coming hours.

Annoyingly our approach from where the picture above was taken, was a high point and for the next 45minutes our walk was a decent, into the valley below, as we arrived at the foot of this crag, it was becoming very imposing. So we debated to ascend or walk on by, after considering what Blue would need to endure, our vote was cast and we were to climb. To be fair the sight of a family group with young kids descending from above was the deciding factor, how dangerous could it be, they showed no signs of concern or apprehension.

As we approached the start of the ascent the family descending also had a pet dog, so we allowed them to pass what turned out to be a major challenge, a stile ladder.

Blue may be clever, but he has no patience, wonder where that trait comes from, so he is not going to be able to successfully climb a ladder. There was another way which involved a bit of a scramble and negotiating a way under a wire fence. Simple, no, Blue does not do separation very well, this was to be a challenge befitting the Krypton factor. Sue ascended the ladder stile, remaining in full view as Blue lead me up the rocky scramble with all the haste he could muster. As anxiety started to set in Blue struggled to pass through the wire fence, the only way this could happen was the fence had to be raised next to the lowest part of ground, which Blue struggled to observe, and after a couple of attempts scrapping his belly on the ground, he like a commando pulled himself through. In order to ease his passage the lead had to be released, and gathered as he exited the other side by Sue. The final piece of the puzzle was for me to get through the fence without any further assistance from Blue. Crikey feeling worn out just recalling it.

Our path from here on up was as expected, steep well trodden path, but this was not to last. Ahead of us we were to arrive at what could only be called a huge pile of slate/stone that had no structure, we could not even make out a path, how on earth are we supposed to ascend to the summit.

Good fortune was to light our way, others that had previously been following us, carried on upwards, then a previously unseen way ahead was revealed, to call it a path would be the most exaggerated statement known to man, once again a family debate, and the three intrepid explorers from Reading were to continue upwards.

The path ahead

Blue considering the challenge ahead

With a reminder from Sue to be careful, we began our ascent, the challenge would be arduous enough, I just hoped nobody would meet up with us descending from above. Blue as always will lead the way, and his tracking skills played a major part, for it was difficult to see the route. The trick was to give Blue enough play on the leash to move ahead, far enough that he is not under your feet and not so far as to be difficult to restrain. For this the halti collar is excellent, not my favourite, but today and at this moment a great benefit.

Little time was taken to admire any views, but a huge sigh of relief was the fanfare expressed by us all to be stood on solid ground, but not at the top, there was to be a further challenge before that could happen.

Plenty of praise and a well earned drink fro his water bottle Blue was to ascend a very steep section of track, considering the restraint that he has been under for the last hour, he shows no signs of stress or indifference.

Once more leading the way Blue lead us the final part of our ascent, the summit of Castle crag was below our feet, and given the route and challenges that it took to get here, for Blue, and us that was no mean feat.

Finally we could admire the views out across Derwent Water and the path below which had just been our route to the summit.

Derwent Water and Skiddaw in the background

Looking back on our path of ascent

After a well earned snack drink, and admiring the views a simple case of descent. Not really simple, because as mentioned earlier, Blue helps greatly when ascending, he pulls himself and you up the hill, to return and descend it is payback time. Blue has no conception of up or down, both are met as one. So the payback is that you are the brakes. Once I tried descending to match Blues speed, which within a few strides was an errant mistake, he simply went through the gears like a dragster. So the impact on your knees and toes is quite painful, unless you can step sideways like a crab or ensure Blue does not gain any downward momentum.

Blue today earned a gold star for his descent, the three challenges faced coming up were respected and met by Blue. It was very amusing that once we had descended the loose rock/stone section, while having a relaxing breather, Blue was so relaxed laying down he decided to roll over onto his back. Fortunately he was still attached to the lead, which saved him from completing a full roll which would have taken him off an edge down 30-40 feet drop below. He does make you wonder some days, but that is Blue to a tee, fearless and careless all in one.

Upon reaching the valley below we continued North to a clearing where a wide river makes for a lovely picturesque stop, we were welcomed by some local water fowl, who did not seem to worry about Blue at our side.

Time to leave the ducks in peace and return back along the valley to our car, our walk was 4 1/2 hours in time travelling approximately 5 miles and a height ascent of 484m

All in all a thoroughly excellent walk and enjoyed by all three of us. Time to go back to our holiday let to reflect on a beautiful day out and enjoy some good food and relaxation.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading about Blues adventures as much as he enjoyed making them.

To see more recent photos of Blue follow the Flickr link below

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lake District (7 of 14)

Blue and Sue framed

Day 7 had arrived and Blue was in the swing of holiday walking. We now had our routine set out and with dawn walk breakfast and ablutions done and dusted today we were going to have another low level walk combined with no excursion in the car.

It was nice to have a walk from the cottage, today our destination would be in and around Keswick and Derwent Water. This was always going to be one of Blue's least favourite walks. Well when I say least favourite that is not entirely accurate.

This walk will mean plenty of people will be around us. Blue is a very handsome dog who attracts many compliments, but are best appreciated from afar. This is the socialisation side that Blue missed out in his younger years, but we still continue to work on. Blue likes to look, but is very guarded about being approached by anyone else other than Sue or me.

Following a brief walk along the outskirts of the town, we entered Crow Park, looking down onto the Northern shore of Derwent Water and in the shadows of Skiddaw mountain range. Here we came across a picture frame set on the hillside, very ingenious, Blue could have a framed photo with Sue, attached with Halti lead and carrying his trusty water bottle.

The water bottle works so well, Blue respects it as an enforcer to challenge unwanted behaviour, but is relaxed enough to drink from it when thirsty, or seeking attention.

Crow Park like many places is frequented by both Sheep and people, so Blue being on his Halti lead gives a bit more control, but today thus far he has just enjoyed the walk and being out and about.

We passed the boat launch, with no surprise to encounter other canine visitors, all shapes and sizes some on leads and some off, Blue remained on his Halti, occasionally doing his tigger impression, but no harm or malice to others.

As we neared Friars Crag it was difficult to get through as the number of people made it more important to keep Blue under very close control, Blue was starting to relax enough for all around him to equally relax, we came across a nice bench to have a brief rest and take a photo.

It was time to leave the busy copse of Friars Crag, and head down to the shoreline of Derwent Water.

Down at the waters edge is a place Blue enjoys. It is strange that although he goes swimming once a week he has never been one for getting in the sea or lakes, somehow I think if I were to go in he would follow. Today was not going to be that day, although it is still summer, it is certainly not warm enough for that.

But Blue gets chance to give the paws a moisten in the famous Derwent Water.

We keep Blue on a lead, mainly due to our concern that people or sheep do not appreciate being approached by a fully grown German Shepherd, whether friendly or otherwise. Blue does not do things slowly either. Blue has never chased after anyone, but the fear is, because of his breed the outcome would not be a good one, whether physical contact was made or not, so we do keep Blue on a lead as much for his well being as for others.

One thing Blue enjoys is wood, branches, logs, trees you name it. 

All wood is fair game.

Once the tree / driftwood held no further interest we continued the walk, considering all the rains we have had recently the going was soft but not too muddy, though Blue did accumulate some of the dirt he just as quickly cleansed himself splashing through the waters edge.

Heading East, took us back inland, surprise surprise we came across some sheep. It was very encouraging as the sheep and Blue once again played no heed to each other, in fact it was as relaxed a meeting as I had ever seen, at one point we passed close by a group of sheep that did not break grazing, even when we stopped to take their photo.

Leaving the sheep behind we passed through a copse which was a bit more boggy, though the path made the going a little easier, as we reached a timber bridge crossing a small beck, we allowed the travelling group to cross from the far side, the greyhound under his own steam but the little white terrier was carried to safety, with the bridge clear we trundled across, on this occasion I got the impression that Blue may have favoured crossing without the bridge, but duly applied to our command to follow our chosen path.

As we entered a clearing we spotted a number of people looking back towards us. Was it due to the arrival of Blue, no, as we followed their gaze it was a beautiful rainbow behind us, this was well worthy of a photo or ten.

Blue waited very patiently, while we admired and photographed this show put on by nature, he was happy people watching, a trend he is now beginning to master.

Having our fill of natures spectacle it was time to carrying on the walk with another of natures other wondrous creation, Blue. After passing through other fields and small copses we came across another clearing at the waters edge, with more branches / driftwood to attract Blues attention.

Once Blue had his fill it was just enough time to reflect on the marvels he was to leave behind, before setting out on a return journey which would encounter a road walk of around about a mile or so. This is something again in the past we had positively avoided as Blue is not too relaxed around passing cars, but he was now a little tired and had a good play, so was so much more relaxed, again another opportunity to experience previous demons.

Our return back to the cottage was welcome and gave us chance to reflect on a walk that had been just shy of three hours, plenty of activity both physically and mentally, little climbing once again, but it is a great chance for Blue to experience being around people and traffic.

There was one photo that stood out for me today, and my thought that Blue was thinking :-

It's good here, shall we stay, or come back sometime soon, 

I like it here, 

can we?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Lake District 2012 (6 of 14)

Day six had arrived, Blue woke up this morning to a new day, and his morning walk would be a wet one. So far the rains that came had been very forgiving with both the their duration and intensity.

With a wet dawn walk, breakfast was a memory and we were ready to set off. Blue the intrepid explorer had conquered all the mountains placed in his way, perhaps he should be fitted out with a North Face outfit or such like, Berghaus collar would be quite fitting.

For today it was to be a low level walk, given the strenuous climbs of the previous days. Also the weather was not exactly promising, so with low level cloud and constant threat of rain  we settled for a circuit of Buttermere, which lay at the far end of Honister Pass.

Blue always goes out as nature had intended, no cloaks,capes or coats, mind you given his temperament perhaps his dislike for getting wet may have to be reconsidered one day.

Our journey in the car is less than 30 minutes, and in a free car park for National Trust members we parked up and began our walk. The rains had eased up to just a shower of occasional drizzle, well within Blues range of acceptable dampness levels.

As we walked along the country road, we were lucky no cars passed, Blue and cars do not get on well, and especially when damp or wet, and puddles are emptied by the passing wheels, a case of hold on tight and limit Blues intention to catch the passing culprits.

People standing patiently waiting at a bus stop were viewed with suspicion and a lengthy stare, we are sure at times Blue would start a fight in a phone box.

Safely away from traffic and people we all began to relax and enjoy the walk. The lanes / track we walked through was littered with significant puddles from the earlier rains. These do not count in Blues eyes, he walks through them as if they do not exist, no adrenalin rush here, he does not like the rain, but puddles are OK.

Surprise surprise as we entered a gate, the customary greeting from the local woollies. Blue gave them a cursery look, but then on we walked. Our journey was from the Western shore and would be anti-clockwise around the lake.

This walk was one which is second nature to Blue, plenty to sniff and the occasional encounter of both humans and fellow canines, despite the occasional shower was proving to be a relaxing walk, just what we all needed.

Like all dogs, there is the equivalent of a plimsoll line, an imaginary line where dirt does not extend beyond, Blues undercarriage was only partially cleaned as he drip dried on his journey.

As we reached the head of the lake, our expected route did not exist, it was to be a bit further along and away from the waters edge.

We had to cross Peggy's Bridge, but worse than that, once over the bridge we noticed that the path ahead would lead us to Gatesgarth Farm. We have always tried to avoid farms due to the close encounters with cattle and livestock in the past, compounded by our imagination. But as a trio we moved forward with a degree of apprehension, our thoughts being picked up by Blue making him more alert to impending danger. Then as we walking through the field up ahead, I saw a large brown bull relaxing by a wall. So I alerted my companions as I stopped us in our tracks. A large mound of straw was the object of my intentions, once pointed out by Sue, we all relaxed, another visit to Specsavers was required on my part, slightly embarrassed and amused we walked on much more relaxed than a moment ago.

As we arrived at the farm Blue was to face a monumental test, our exit through the farm was to be via a narrow pathway. On one side was a dry stone wall, but on our right was an open railed ranch style fence with hundreds of sheep tightly packed in. All that would separate Blue and the sheep was timber rails not much more than one inch thick with large gaps between. Sue ensured Blue was focused on her and walked the gauntlet. Blues behaviour was exceptional no reaction, despite the occasional bleating and barracking from across the fence as the sheep were more like sardines in  a tin. The length of this section was probably about a hundred feet or so, does not sound much, but given the circumstances plenty far enough.

We reached the gate with much relief, until the other side of the gate stood a horse, well it was a horse to me. Actually it was more like a Shetland pony, Sue said "You will have to go through and move it on". Me a Towny, now all of a sudden I am a cowboy moving on livestock. As I went through the gate this obliging pony merely moved away, phew, that was lucky. We could then make our way through to the safety and sanctuary of the road.

My little pony
Blue received plenty of praise and a few well deserved treats, his restrained behaviour had been exceptional, our journey up the road would be without incident, and soon we were back on the path on the side of the lake.
More sniffing and a few photographs later we came across a tunnel carved into the rocks, this would be new challenge for Blue, as we entered the tunnel it was pitch black. The tunnel was about 7feet high and five feet wide at a guess. If you held your hand out extended in front of you, it would not be visible. Blue was eager to enter but probably more eager to exit the other end. Thankfully no one entered from the opposite end, and we emerged into daylight, very relieved.

Tunnel of love !
Looking back at our exit.

Good advice for those over six foot!
As we passed the remainder of the lake we ended up where we had begun, back at the gate we had entered over two hours previous, making our way through the track / lane, along past the puddles we returned to the road a short distance from the car park.
Sue spotted a chicken across the road and as she was telling me, this squawking feathery image leaped out in front of Blue and Sue. I thought we were going to need a bigger poo bag.
The shear surprise of the encounter was probably the only reason for Blue not trying to catch the chicken either in flight or as it ran past, down the road and into an adjacent hedgerow.
Back at the car with more rain falling, Blue had his drying robe put on and dutifully leaped into the back of the car.
We returned to base for a well earned rest and a welcome change of clothes. Our intrepid adventure was done for the day, if you take a dog out for a walk, ask yourself this;
  • Has your dog had enough exercise?
  • Has anything happened that has caught his interest?
  • Does he look happy?
  • Is he ready for a rest?
If you can answer yes to all four, you have just given your dog exactly what he wants, a small price to pay for such a loyal and lovely companion. Water and food also may be required in various quantities.
Blue can now rest and dream about today, I wonder which fellow creature will be in most prominent in his thoughts, the Sheep in their hundreds, the huge pony that have never been seen before, or the lunacy of that squawking chicken, or even the darkness of the tunnel.
I suspect all of the above, and so much more, this is turning out to be a special holiday for Blue.


Rest well Blue,

 tomorrow we will seek further adventures for you to have.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Lake District 2012 (5 of 14)

Day five of Blue's holiday had arrived, today was going to be different.

Blue was to have his near dawn walk with his Mum, giving me a break. Truth is that Sue has missed walking Blue in the mornings. They both arrived back obviously their body language told me that a good time had been had. Blue always is keen to greet whether it is you or him arriving back home.

When I say greet, Blue does a mean impersonation of a basking shark, mouth wide open and tail fin giving extra propulsion. With every ouch the greeting becomes more gentle, perhaps one day this will change, but no harm is done there is no malice in the greeting, but the weight of impact is not that gentle, especially if the parting has been prolonged, mind you two minutes in Blues terms is a long time. (I read once that dogs have no perception of time, I do think they just miss company)

So we are all fed and ready to venture out, today our destination was to be Walla Crag.

Today as I said was going to be different, this walk was on our doorstep, the car would not be needed today. Blue had shown no ill effects of his momentous achievement yesterday in conquering Helvellyn, and like Blue it had no long lasting effects on us either.

So off we set down the lane towards Springs Farm, this would be the first challenge, as it is a farm in the past we have had the unenviable task of having to pass the farmers dogs that run free as experienced in the past. But on this occasion they were no where to be seen and the outbuilding they normally reside at is under conversion, so once again today is different.

We had walked through the woodland section on a reasonable steep ascent and Blue was having a great time sniffing and exploring where others had passed previously, the greeting of two dogs travelling the other direction was merely looks exchanged. We had walked this route a few years ago and knew the importance of the next section. A narrow path takes you along at high level over a sheer drop below, with only room enough for two obliging parties to pass, Blue is not high on the obliging stakes, so we were grateful our path was unheeded.

After crossing a small wooden bridge we entered onto a lane which was to take us past another farm, where there was a cacophony of barking from within, Blue was eager to explore, but we moved on past to see a whole herd of sheep behind the cattle gate. This was the cue to step up the pace, Blue had been OK with individual sheep, but a whole herd, who knows what his reaction would be.

For the next quarter of an hour as we moved swiftly on, now travelling uphill along a track/path, constantly looking back. We looked for escape routes in case there was a stampede from behind. But our fears were unfounded, we reached a gate to a field, which allowed us to continue to our destination and with no sign of the sheep following us we all began to relax and enjoy the walk.

With the going getting boggy in places progress was good and Blue had discovered a local delicacy.

Sheep poo!

To us it is dirty habit, but he loves it, but when you tell him to leave most times he will walk past or let it fall from from his mouth, but once he gets the flavour of it he only seeks out more, no kissy kissing tonight then :-))

Although the views were getting better, this meant nothing to Blue as all he would see was the dry stone walling which was our companion as we moved on up the hill. Blue was not able to see what was the other side of the wall, perhaps just as well. The wall separated us from a bull and a herd of cows, who had nothing on their mind than to graze.

As we reached the top of the field we entered through a gate in the wall to make our final passage to Walla Grag. Just then the rain clouds that had loomed in the distance had decided on paying us a visit, so hastily jackets and hats were retrieved from the rucksack, fortunately in the Lake District rain showers can go as quick as they arrive.

We were not prepared for the final bit of the ascent, the path had become a very narrow path over wet and muddy rocks adjacent to significant falls.

Blue wearing his halti followed my direction, well not so much direction, more like wait,steady and good boy said repeatedly. Blue is not exactly Bambi on ice, but he is also no comparison to a mountain goat, neither of which we had encountered on our journey, our final path was hindered by a couple of people sorting out their rucksacks directly on the path ahead, Blue gave them the look which was as much to say shift we are coming through, and they obliged by stepping aside.

Though Walla Crag is not a mountain, it has had its own challenges to ascend, but the views across Derwent Water and of the surrounding mountains were worth every step. Blue enjoyed the celebration of reaching this little summit, treats,cuddles and praise, no kiss's though.

Unlike the previous day we were not being battered by the wind, and today we had the camera tripod and remote control, time for a family photo or two.

Family photo
After having a cupper and a snack enjoying the views, time to return. We decided it was a bit hairy the ascent, so chose a different path to return, only a minor detour but without having to traverse slippery rocks over open ledges. This came at a cost, the terrain was more marshy and wetter underfoot.
Blue and mud get the juices going, he doesn't appear to want to dive or roll in the mud but wants to gallop like a pony, but because there are sheep known to be in the field, there is no way we would let him off led, we know others do, but dogs have been shot dead where they have attacked or worried sheep, Blue will not become another statistic on that story.
But the paws were collecting the mud as we travelled along, Blue was wearing it as a pad moisturiser

Mucky paws
Was it the need to scratch an itch or try the mud pack for a beauty treatment on his face, but Blue gave it a go, he is already a handsome dog, so he was persuaded to leave the beauty products for others'

Scooting along nozzle first
As we arrived at the farm that had all the sheep, there were only a few behind the gate, they must have returned and not be about to go out. We decided to return home along the country lanes and roads, a detour from our outward journey. Along part of the way once again the rains come, which helped to clean Blues under carriage before we were to arrive home.
Once more the days walk had been a great excursion for all of us, I did say today would be different, but in this respect it is like so many before, wonderful.
Back at the cottage we all settled to reflect on the days events, our walk had been 3 hours and fifteen minutes over a journey of nearly five miles, an adventure every step of the way.
One vital job remained for Blue, bring his herd together and rest a bit, once dinner was eaten, Blue would be settled for the evening.

Recharging the batteries for tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lake District 2012 (Day 4 of 14)

Keeping one eye open on the weather
Day four arrived, Blue was now well settled in his new home and enjoying our company 24hrs a day.
We have our own reasons for doing things the way we do, including our selection of holidays. We both work 5 days a week, Sue part time with me doing a full time job.For this reason our holidays are as much if not more about Blue than ourselves. While we are working Blue spends his days working from home, guarding and protecting the family home. He is yet to master the household chores, but does a mean impression of a Dyson hoover, if treats or food should fall to the floor, still yet to master the operation of white goods, but Rome wasn't built in a day.
The near dawn walk was now getting later, it is now nearer to 7.00am instead of the usual 5.30am this is a good sign that Blue is getting sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. This first walk could of been a problem. We were walking along the street content with the world and enjoying the peaceful morning when as we walked past a high hedge by an alley, we were greeted by lots of snarling teeth and barking from two chocolate Labrador's. Morning greetings were exchanged from Blue, but it quietened down as quick as it started, the lady owner told me they were heading for the woods, I explained our walk was nearing its end and we were going home. So we parted, with one of her dogs spending the parting with constantly looking back at Blue as they headed for the woods, where we had walked the other day.
When we got home we explained our side of events to Sue, with Blue wagging his tail constantly as we recalled the greeting as animated as we could. Breakfast was done eaten and digested over the thoughts of where to go today. The weather was showery on the forecast but outside it did look brighter than the weatherman was saying. Our minds were made up and we got ourselves ready to tackle England's third highest mountain, Helvellyn.
Following a fifteen minute car journey we arrived at Swirrels car park. Pay and display fee paid.
Blue was equipped with his halti lead, eager to assault the mountain they lay before him, not really knowing the challenge that lay ahead.
With one foot in front of the other we all set off with Blue's nose leading the way
It is hard to explain, but Blue does seem to know the direction we want to head off to. It may be that at times it is the only path forward, but today in the car park how did he know to head to a wooden footbridge in the corner which would be our route today. It may be his sense of smell following where others have recently trod. We are grateful because it means we move forward in the right direction together.
We had successfully navigated two wooden bridges across streams and were to begin the zigzag path that laid ahead, and as yesterday, who was there to watch our progress, Herdy, the Herdwick sheep that could only afford a cursory glance, grass was higher on his agenda, Blue gave the Herdy a glance, but had mountains to climb, woollies were for another day..
As has been said before, we do like to challenge Blue, but are keen to watch his body language, just in case it starts to take its toll on him. Today there was no stopping him, he was determined to get there, where ever there was.
Progress was good, until you looked ahead at this monster looming ahead of you, that is Helvellyn not Blue.
Few dogs of Blue's size are seen on our trips up and down the fells, collies, spaniels and terriers are by far the most popular canines we encounter. The views were good, it was a clear day but not sunny. Once again the reason we choose this time of the year, Blue like many dogs dos not enjoy walking in hot summer weather, so even a nice day in September is rarely a scorcher.
There is energy that can be channelled, Blues size determination and strength mean he is greater assist than any walking poles or sticks, there are times when all you need to do is relax hold on and enjoy the ride as he literally will drag you along. On more than one occasion he has took Sue off her feet and left her laying prone on the ground. That is the strength that Blue can muster.
With the occasional stop at a strategic boulder, hand picked, sorry paw picked by Blue, progress was taken us to greater heights. We had been recently used to metalled roads made of gravel and rock but this climb was different, it resembled a staircase with the boulders set in place as stepping stones.
As we reached an altitude of around 700m the climb took a bit of a twist, rather than stepping stones we had reached a craggy section, unlike the last 500m the climb was now a bit more technical than just a walk up or down. We needed to pick a route with a small amount of scrambling along a barely discernible route. Voice control was essential if Blue was to work with us and avoid any costly slips or falls. At all times Blue remains on a lead in the mountains and fells, to make sure he does not worry any sheep, humans or fellow canines.
"Wait" was the only word apart from "Good Boy" that Blue was to hear for the next twenty minutes. After which we had successfully navigated the challenge, time for a big treat and big cuddle for our big bundle of happiness called Blue.
Looking ahead the trig point of the summit was still a tidy walk away, but the route was now a nice clear path on a reasonably shallow ascent. We now had a different dilemma, we had put four hours on the pay and display meter, we had now been walking one hour and fifty minutes, we chose to walk on.
Surprisingly the weather changes at these altitudes, two of Blues dislikes paid a visit, wind and rain, but Blue tries to nestle between us or our legs for shelter, at times nearly knocking us off our feet in his attempt to secure shelter. But as quick as the rain comes it moves away, often leaving breathtaking views even more stunning.
Finally after a small detour not to disturb a pack of grazing sheep, we reached the summit of Helvellyn. Standing at an impressive 950m above sea level.
Blue the German Shepherd, who had his spinal operation at six months hold was proudly standing with his Mum on top of Helvellyn, today was special and meant so much to all of us. Finally time to take the camera from the rucksack and record this monumental achievement of Blue.
Blue and family on top of Helvellyn

Though the rain had stopped enough to take these pictures, the wind was relentless, and gusting too much for a prolonged stay, time to admire the views 360 degrees around us, and a unanimous vote to descend was taken.

While walking back we encountered a not very friendly brown and white collie, that chose to buzz and bait Blue, eventually his owners took control and off they went towards the summit that we had left five minutes previous.

Now we previously mentioned what Blue is like when climbing, descending is a challenge that pales that into insignificance. Footing is the biggest challenge when descending with Blue, he pulls equally hard descending as he does ascending, this added to the earths gravity means you have to plant your feet firmly down on terra-firma.

Due to the close control required, this means when Blue is wearing his halti there is only a short distance between his back legs and your feet. Not only do you have to concentrate on placing your feet on secure footholds but maintain balance, anchorage and momentum. Our greatest challenge arrived where we needed to do the short scramble on the ascent. Blue was a model dog, very restrained, in total control and focused on leading us gently down. Times further down the ascent I tried going at Blues pace, but the increase of speed started to get a bit hairy, so Blue obliged and returned to our controlled pace.

Amazingly with all this energy exerted he still finds the will to stare and intimidate passing walkers, but no one comes to any harm and it is normally explained and received in a humorous manner.

Our return to the car park was forty minutes over the four we had paid for, so what did that mean.

It meant that Blue had enjoyed a walk/scramble to England's third highest mountain at an impressive 950m above sea level. A walk of 290 minutes over mountainous landscape enjoying the open air of the Lake District. We were done.

All that remained was to head off back to our bungalow, enjoy the rest and reflect of this monumental achievement that Blue had done today. One look back from the car park with knowing satisfaction.

Now back at the bungalow
Normal service resumed

I wonder what Blue is dreaming of!


Saturday, 13 October 2012

2012 Lake District Holiday (Day 3 of 14)

If your on holiday, it is a good time to relax and lay in, so this morning we were up and out just before 7.00am In the world of Blue this is plenty of resting time. So I got myself ready so that Blue and I could have our first walk of the day.

We were in the holiday mood for walking so rather than just out for business, we extended our walk to go further afield. We went into Springs Farm road, to cut across to the wooded copse at the end of a public footpath. We had been here a few years ago, so no problem with navigation.

Due to the rainfall overnight, parts were a bit soggy and muddy underfoot, Blue is not one for wanting to roll around in the mud, but it does get the juices going, so I was no longer the navigator, smells only known to Blue had kicked in the tracking mode. We seemed to be heading in the right direction, so holding on and trying to keep up and not loose my footing we were tracking for England, or in Blues case Germany.

As we slowed it become apparent that the scent was tasking us who knows where in this now unfamiliar copse, not exactly lost, but not on the right route either. Time for me to guide my faithful companion back to civilisation. We retraced our steps, over fallen branches, around trees and bushes soggy muddy puddles, all  of which were merely a blur and of no significance on our route a moment previous. Once the footpath was rediscovered we were a team pulling in the same direction again. Blue does know how to behave on a lead and there are many times he will accept the constraints imposed on him, but to be honest, it is holiday to enjoy as well, so I am trying to be less restrictive on his movements.

We had returned to civilisation, going through a gap in the wall, we entered onto the Borrowdale Road which runs South out of Keswick.

All things considered looking at my boots and Blue's paws, we were relatively mud free considering what we had just explored. Our feet had been christened, we had begun our holiday proper now.

Our return took us road walking skirting the surrounding streets of Keswick back in time for breakfast, which was all ready and waiting for us.

A couple of hours later after some deliberation we had agreed today's walk, within 15 minutes after a short drive we were parked near the Blencathera Centre.

This was an intentional choice, nice and open wide paths which are relatively flat which would take us through the valley to Skiddaw House, a remote hostel, located behind Skiddaw.

Sue, put Blue's halti lead on and off we went, we had only travelled for less than five minutes and there was a familiar friend from the past, Herdy. A Herdwick sheep famous for roaming the Lakeland mountains and valley's. With no more than a general interested glance, Blue acknowledged an old familiar friend with no more than a look of familiarity and we moved on.

That was impressive, it is a sign of Blue being not only mature but in control, if he were off a lead I could not hand on heart say that a closer encounter or chase might ensue. We have worked on this with Blue, not spooking sheep is one of the reasons Blue can enjoy the opportunity to explore the countryside.
The walk was going well and it was time to pose for a few pictures over a bridge, Blue also likes to take the opportunity to give his paws a rinse and have a drink.
This was turning out to be an ideal walk, Blue was enjoying himself, relaxed tolerant and most of all being a model dog. As the walk went further it was time for a refreshment break and a rest. So finding a nice sized boulder we perched ourselves on and had a break. Moving on it was surprising how few people we saw at the start, and even now no more than a dozen had passed us by, in fact we had seen more sheep.
Complacency can be an enemy so we remained vigilant to the way Blue was when passing sheep or humans. Other dogs are a different matter, Blue has never really mastered the greeting side, and the greetings by other dogs is not always friendly. More often than not this is more of a problem for other dog owners. As you see them appearing in the distance once they spot Blue their actions are evident.
Some put their dogs on a lead, where previously roaming free, even change direction and head off in a different path, others brave it and walk pass with their dog straining at the lead, normally exchanging apologies when the normally much smaller dog is giving it plenty to Blue, and Blue does give it back normally like a prancing horse or "tigger", bouncing all over the place. In fairness to Blue this has calmed down over the years and demonstrates his control around sheep. There is one other type of dog walker, who have total control over their dogs by voice control alone, they are impressive, but I can honestly say that level of control between us and Blue can only be admired and aspired to.
As our walk continued Blue began to pull off the footpath, thinking he needed to have a wee or other business, was an incorrect assumption. He had found other boulders for us to sit on, which we found quite amusing.
Once we had walked a little way past Skiddaw House, with a few minor showers, we decided to return to the car, retracing our steps. This had been a very successful first walk covering 11km over a walk that was 3hours and fifty minutes. Now it may seem sad we know the afore mentioned details but this is with good reason. Always we are aware of Blue's operation on his spine, we like to ensure that the time and distance helps us monitor his activity.
Blue being Blue, he will let us know when he has had enough, in his own way, the signs are easily recognisable, the look and body language can not be mistaken. Therefore if on a walk he chooses to lay down a moment, that is OK, normally after a brief rest is up at ready for the next stage. When he has had enough we all know what is to follow if it is not heeded.
Just two weeks ago while in the back garden Blue gave a bit of a whimper and was holding up his rear right leg. With sorrow on his face he hopped across to me and promptly laid down. Fearing the worst I merely comforted him and called Sue to say we may have to take him to the vets. But a few moments later he was up and fine, probably a twinge or spasm or something, We decided Blue was to have light duties only and we would monitor him very closely over the next 24 hours. No further recurrence occurred so we did not take him to the vets. But consulting the diary of Blue which Sue keeps religiously indicated no significant increase in walking activities, though he has this habit of holding a football in his mouth and swinging it from side to side he beats it against both his sides in turn, strange behaviour, but Blue enjoys it.

Today's walk was can excellent choice, for all of us. Thoroughly enjoyable and every challenge met with a positive outcome. This holiday which we had looked forward to for so long, was here and we were all enjoying it.

We returned back to the car where an even closer encounter with a sheep grazing near the car as no more than a peasant sight and not a murmur from Blue.

The return to the cottage only took less than 15 minutes, this is the beauty of staying at Keswick, so many nice walks in a relatively short distance. Some might feel that it is within walking distance, but we like to enjoy the walk not spending all our time getting there. Blue also gets the best of all worlds doing it this way as well.
Returning to the cottage for a bit to eat, we were to settle for the evening after a very rewarding day out walking. We know our joy was shared by Blue, by not only the contented body language but the position in which he chose to rest and relax.
Relaxing against a comfy chair
We are all looking forward to tomorrow after such a wonderful day.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

2012 Lake District holiday (Day 2 of 14)

Well after a good nights sleep, feeling a little fuzzy after our unintended extended journey we were awake and ready to start the holiday proper.

Blue had a lie in, and by 7 o'clock felt time was awasting, so with some gentle nusling and whimpering, there was my cue to rise from this warm comfy bed, and take Blue out to explore our new surroundings.

The bungalow holiday let is in a location we know well from previous holidays, daylight was already with us, time to venture out. Despite being in new surroundings from normal, Blue was keen to get out and do his business and check out the local area to see what it had to offer.

Our 30 minute walk was without incident and very enjoyable. Two weeks of 24 hour companionship, Blue would enjoy the company of his nearest and dearest, my wife Sue and me.

Since my wife had her foot operation in May this year, I have been taking Blue out for his early morning walks. At home of late these have been getting a little more difficult, due to the darker mornings. (Compounded by the council policy to have energy saving street lights that do not light up in the mornings,especially the early hours) Now I would not say that Blue is frightened of the dark, but he does change, not quite like a werewolf, but he does change. His senses really kick in when out in the dark, he displays high levels of perception of danger, whatever it may be, even a gnat farting. 

Walking Blue in the dark is like walking out with a firearm that has a hair trigger. The slightest noise or silent movement, or waft of a smell of danger, he is ready for action. We have never totally discouraged this because Blue is a German Shepherd, and it is in his genes and his make up to guard and protect. It just needs to be managed, this is why when we go out in the dark mornings or night, Blue needs to be seen. We fit him out with a high-viz jacket and a light so others can see him. Sometimes I wonder if a Blue flashing light on his head might be more appropriate.

Traditionally on these holidays especially to the lake district, we tend to have a lazy day, mainly because of the previous days travelling, but also weekends are going to be much busier with locals and visitors.

Blue was fitting in nicely, he had great pleasure exploring every room in the house, numerous times, done some more exploring out the back garden, which was quite small, but then who needs a big garden in the lake district. Breakfast was only a memory and Blue had already done some test drives in finding the most comfortable spot for resting, I am not sure if he found all very comfortable or just really not that bothered, but enjoyed trying out all areas, lounge,kitchen, decking, hallway. Eventually he seemed to be more drawn to his duvet by the back doors.

After a bit of lunch, we decided to take Blue out for a stroll, to the local Fitz park. This park was just at the bottom of the road over a small footbridge crossing the river Greta. We enjoyed a nice walk around the park, other K-9s were greeted from a distance. The other side of the park had been taken over by a cycle event, with large marquees and a throng of people, so a little busier than we had anticipated. We decided to just skirt the edges of Keswick town centre and return to base for dinner.

Blue has had issues with food like many of his breed, so his special diet of dry food (from Arden Grange) and (Sensitivity control, from Royal Canin), meant that dinner was familiar and tucked away without any hesitation.

Before we settled for the evening, we had a little visit to Ashness Bridge, this would give Blue a chance to stretch his legs and ensure he would be settled for the night. By the time we reached Ashness Bridge, daylight was fading fast, where had the day gone?

So we were settled for the evening, day two of our holiday was drawing to a close, Blue snuggled down on his duvet, and like switching a switch he was off like a light, Bless.

Done roaming!

Who knows what Blue was dreaming of, probably too tired to dream, doing very little can be very tiring.

A look out from the decking as the last embers of the sun were dying down, red sky at night shepherds delight brought to mind a new meaning, sleep well Blue for tomorrow our exploration of the Lake district will take us up fells into valleys and whatever else awaits.

Dramatic scenes like this are one of the great attractions for visiting the lakes, more for us than Blue though.

You could mistake the image for a forest fire, but it is only the sun setting behind rain clouds.

We are all so looking forward to tomorrow, as Blue sleeps the night away.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

2012 Lake District holiday (Day 1 of 14)

Well it finally come around our long awaited visit to the Lake district. Blue will be returning there  for the sixth time in his four years.

This will be the storey of Blue's adventures, warts and all, from beginning to end.

We will begin at the beginning, somehow you sense that Blue knows today will be different from most other Saturday mornings, there is something different, lots of bags packed, including his treats and toys, however it does start with similarities, off to the park do his business and a shorter walk, then back home for breakfast.

No need for an early start, for this trip as we are not able to enter the cottage until three in the afternoon. So 350 miles will only take about six hours plus comfort stops.

So the car is packed and Blue sits in the back of the car, free of all ours and life's baggage, he always has the back part of our Freelander to himself. With a press of the starter button we were now heading off for two weeks holiday in Keswick in the Lake District.

Blue is a fabulous traveller, and in fact even at the tender age of four, he has enjoyed travelling in the car much further distances, if we are not going to the Lake District we travel to the Scottish Highlands. Invariably most of the journeys are small, but the majority of the time he has fun at the end of each journey, sometimes less fun when the trip ends at the vets.

So we hit the M4, and head East, we have travelled no more than 5 minutes and Blue has already bedded himself down. As soon as the indicator goes on to leave the motorway up pops Blue to see if we are there yet, wherever here is, but as soon as we carry on he settles back down. The journey carrys on in the same vein, through to the M40, onto the M42 around Birmingham to pick up the M6.

Making such good time we decided that it would be a good idea to have our first stop near Stoke, a nice little area for Blue to stretch his legs and have a walk round for twenty minutes and have a drink. Time for Blue to get back in the car and there was our first and second refusal, strangely Blue was reluctant, providing amusement for people sat having a break in the car park. The only way Blue can get in the car is with a run and jump, thankfully with the aid of some pampering and a tasty morsel chucked in the back, on the third attempt he lept like a salmon into the back of the car.

We rejoined the motorway and Blue was settled for the next leg of the journey.

Well this was to prove a problem. The news had stated that North bound the M6 was closed due to ongoing accident investigations,the warning was repeated on our Sat Nav but advising we left the motorway at junction 32 due to stationary traffic. We never did rejoin the motorway, picking our way through towns and villages until we finally reached our holiday destination 10 hours after setting out.

As said before we have travelled to Scotland in the past and Blue is an excellent traveller, so we had just lost a few hours of our holiday to the journey, but no harm done we had all arrived safe and well.

Generally we would empty the car and then explore the property. But this time it would be different, the luggage could wait Blue Sue and I got the key out of the combination key-safe and set off to explore our new home for the next two weeks.

The view across Keswick from the raised decking area

Though we had not stayed here before the three bed bungalow was just the ticket, once Blue managed to calm down a little he found the laminate floor less difficult to walk on, it was amusing like watching Bambi on ice performed by Rin-tin-tin. Swiftly out the back door Blue made his mark in the rear garden, only to disappear. He was soon discovered peering out from under the raised timber decking area. Sue had chosen our new home well and once we had emptied the car and eaten we were ready to call it a day, Blue had no problems settling down on his duvet is welcome travelling companion. Kong Cozie

In part two our holiday adventures will commence, till then Blue says night night, don't let the bed bugs bite.