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.