Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Barrow With A School Group

With: Becs, Clare, Ferg & a group of year 6 pupils staying at Blaithwaite
Weather: Warm, humid, no wind
Where: Barrow, Braithwaite, Lake District

Barrow probably doesn't figure too highly in many folks' view of a classic day out in the Lake District, however, we have taken a couple of Y5/6 school groups up in the last year and have found it to have some commendable features: good accessibility from Braithwaite; the feeling of being in the mountains; achievable for young people with no experience of an upland environment; comfortably doable in a short time frame etc.

Today we parked in Braithwaite village and were quickly off the roads and walking up the lane towards Braithwaite Lodge, through the farm and on to the fell. The weather was humid but stayed dry for us all day.

Its a steady climb up the broad ridge and we had good views all around: Bassenthwaite Lake; Skiddaw; Derwent Water & Keswick; Grisedale Pike & Causey Pike. A Sea King helicopter was out practising in the area, often below us. Numerous activities were undertaken on the ascent in an attempt to "ease the pain" and an extended lunch break was taken on the summit. Drop down to Barrow Door & then a walk out alongside Barrow Gill with gentle gradients. 

We finished the day with a visit to the excellent Whinlatter Visitor Centre for ice cream!

Looking Back to Braithwaite & Bassenthwaite


Sea King Below Us

Team "In2venture"

Causey Pike

Sunday, 27 May 2012

An Evening in Stannah Gill

With: on my own
Weather: a fine summer evening
Where: Thirlmere, Lake District

Stybarrow Dodd From Sticks Pass Close to the Head of Stannah Gill

Well its still summer in Cumbria, in fact the sun hasn't gone in since the last post was written. 

The mini-series on gill scrambling continues - part 2 - Stannah Gill.

Stannah Gill is situated just to the north of Thirlmere reservoir and drains an area of the Dodds, its followed for much of its course by Sticks Pass. Tonight was an even later start than the recent visit to Seathwaite with an arrival at the hamlet of Stannah at quarter to eight in the evening, the temperature on the car's guage still reading an incredible 22degC. Again this route is described by Brian Evans in "Scrambles in the Lake District, Volume 2: Northern Lakes.

The gill is quickly reached, an advantage to many, by a short walk up Stannah Lane; over the stile; across the leat and on to the footbridge - continuation on the path at this point would quickly put you on to Sticks Pass. A significant part of the plan for this evening was to assess whether the gill offers a better route to the tops than the unrelenting slog up the pass. 

Stepping off the footbridge the lower section of the gill offers some straightforward scrambling from the outset, all avoidable if that is your choice and multiple options at each obstacle. The first significant hurdle is a higher fall ca. 4-5m, I had a go at traversing round to the left but had to retreat & fared better climbing vague rock steps to the right a little way off from the stream bed.

There are numerous falls (similar to picture on left) as progress is made by a mixture of walking, scrambling and optional simple bouldering. Generally the gradient is not particularly intense, however, I did find much of the rock to be quite friable, it was certainly extremely slippery close to the stream bed - one minor slip, my foot could have only moved by 12 inches, left me with cut to the jaw as I landed awkwardly. It didn't stop bleeding till the following morning!

The whole aspect of the gill is pleasant and although the scrambling is nothing special it certainly satisfies the objective of providing an attractive alternative to Sticks Pass. I continued with the watercourse to the point at which a large bowl, nearing the final slopes of Stybarrow Dodd is reached, exit to the right is up a steep grass bank and Sticks Pass is quickly regained. Stepping out at this height I was surprised by the wind - a warm easterly but strong enough to make standing upright difficult. Remembering the gradient of this path from my last descent I thought on to bring some poles tonight & found them extremely useful on the return journey (I very rarely use poles but will make them a fixture going forward - definitely easier on the knees). 

The views now down on to the top end of Thirlemre and across a panorama of Lake District peaks were superlative, attempts to photograph (below) don't really do the scene justice. 

Back at the car in just a little over two hours the temperature was still 18degC, summer continues!

 What an Evening!

Looking Down on Stannah From High In Stannah Gill

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An Evening of Exploratory Gill Scrambling: Grains Gill & Ruddy Gill

With: on my own
Weather: warm; fine & dry evening; blue sky; light breeze
Where: Seathwaite, Lake District

Stockley Bridge
Summer arrived in Cumbria today (Monday) from the word go the sun shone; the sky was blue; temperatures reached the high teens and there was just the lightest of breezes. Furthermore, after a difficult spell Kay received some slightly more positive news from her oncologist and some active treatment can once again be resumed, its a small step that we are immensley grateful for after a sequence of setbacks, sincere thanks to everybody who reads this blog for all the prayers & support you offer. Its all too likely a form of escapism but in recent weeks the odd few hours here and there that can be snatched in the fells have been times I have valued greatly, as such with Kay needing to rest and the Centre covered by activity staff working with the resident school I headed down to Seathwaite just after six o'clock.

The drive down the A591, with Bassenthwaite Lake shimmering to the right & the Skiddaw group bathed in evening sunshine, was a joy this must be one of Lakeland's most underrated car journeys. Through Keswick and down Borrowdale, Derwent Water looked just as spectacular as Bassenthwaite. There was no "Russian Roulette" with parking at Seathwaite tonight - straight to the farm & pole position! A couple who had enjoyed a big day on the Scafells had just returned to their car & we exchanged a few words about the weather - these were the last humans I was to see for the next three hours or so, a rare event in this part of the Lakes.

The aim of the evening was to explore some sections of the gills: Grains Gill & Ruddy Gill. They are all described in the very useful guide book "Scrambles in the Lake District Vol 2: Northern Lakes" by R. Brian Evans who defines the term "gill" as being of Scandanavian origin and as being generally associated with the Lake District and especially with the Borrowdale volcanic series where streams exploit its weaknesses - so I guess that tonight's venue could very much be regarded as the home of "Gill Scrambling".

On previous visits I have explored and had excellent sessions in Sour Milk Gill to the right of the valley, this evening it was a trip straight ahead in the direction of Stockley Bridge (photo above). I opted to join Grains Gill a little earlier than suggested in the guidebook for some rock hopping and very easy scrambling around pools. Ultimately I encountered the confluence of Grains Gill & Ruddy Gill where water cascades in from high on the right.

Ruddy Gill Confluence With Grains Gill

There is a bit of a grubby climb up the right hand side of these cascades described in the book as a rock staircase, in my opinion this is not woirth the effort and the start of a scramble in Ruddy Gill is probably best began by walking up to the footbridge which crosses the gill via the main path & then simply following the water course to the confluence and engaging the streambed from above these falls.

On this occassion I initially ommitted the climb up the falls and continued to ascend via Grains Gill completing the Grade 1 section described in the guide as the "first section". Despite the appearance of midges this was entertaining scrambling in a narrow "gorgelette" which culminates in a series of rock steps. Exiting the gill to my right a short descent across the open fell brought me to the footbridge mentioned above which spans Ruddy Gill. 

From this footbridge I did exactly what was described previously and descended alongside the gill before entering the streambed directly above the falls pictured above. The start to Ruddy Gill is the best bit with the so called "guardian pool" being deep both in its blue colour and physical depth! The traverse arounnd it to the right is easy enough but my bet is that many have got off to a watery start here! (Note: on reading the guide afterwards this pool is described as being traversed to its left wall)

Looking Back At the Guardian Pool From Above
The next pool is described as being more difficult and on this occassion being on my own; fading light (excuses, excuses!) I opted to climb out and omit it rather than attempting the traverse of the left wall (see photo below) the pool looked a good neck deep! The remainder of the"first section" is straightforward and pleasant scrambling culminating at the previously mentioned footbridge (photo at foot of this post).

A good three or more hours had passed by now so the other sections of Ruddy Gill (2 & 3) will have to wait for another day. With the light now dim and the time ticking on to something to ten I began the trek back down alongside the gills I'd just scrambled up.

At Seathwaite there were just a handful of vehicles left, wild campers? A quick change out of wet socks & soggy approach shoes and then reflecting on an eventful day and the first summers' evening of 2012 it was back to Blaithwaite.

Above: Traverse of the left wall above a deep pool close to the start of Ruddy Gill - I missed this out on this occassion

Right: The final section of straightforward but pleasant scrambling approaching the footbridge that marks the conclusion of the first section

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Round Up of the Week

Its been another intensley busy week at Blaithwaite, the weather has been cold and quite wet for the time of year (just 7 degC on Thursday afternoon in persistent rain).

Last weekend saw the Centre full and the campsite busy as a large Church from the North East came back for their annual visit, thankfully the Saturday was fine and they were able to enjoy a decent day, it even stayed dry for their barbecue lunch on Sunday.

Monday was arrival day for a local clergy 24 hour retreat & I was able to get off site for a couple of hours to spend a bit of time scrambling about & practising ropework on Carrock Fell boulders, I like the general area of Mungrisdale Common & it looked particularly good in the afternoon sunshine.

On Tuesday a primary school from Northumberland made their 2012 visit - a four day outdoor activity residential and we have changed the site over today for another full weekend with a Church from Newcastle & a local group of Guides, its good to see the Teepees out on the field.

Kay has enjoyed a "steady " week this week which is a good thing!

Off to a family wedding just now - so 24 hours away from the Centre - thanks to Alan for covering for me.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Dale Head & Robinson

With: on my own
Weather: cold; initially persistent rain but clearing later; fresh north easterly wind
Where; Newlands, Lake District

Dale Head Summit

The last week at Blaithwaite has been exhausting, a few days off is welcome. Today our daughter is spending some time with Kay so I'm taking a few hours in the fells.

It has poured down for the last 36 hours, the weatherman said the rain would clear to showers this afternoon but its still persistent, at Chapel Bridge car park the temperature is just 5 degC - cold for a md May afternoon. Over-trousers and winter mountain jacket on the rain still falling as I head up the miners track. Goldscope mine dominates this end of the valley to the right, the name is thought to be a corruption of "Gottesgab" (God's Gift) the name given to the copper mine by the early German miners of the Elizabethan era, we have enjoyed several underground trips in this area.

Past the Carlisle Climbing Club Hut the valley soon narrows with the imposing Red Crags to the left and an alternative Great Gable ahead. Dropping down to the beck the path was shunned in favour of following the water course, it was a more interesting route and the recent rain had swollen the stream making a crossing place harder to find. Once across I continued alongside Far Tongue Gill until re-joining the path and continuing the long ascent through more disused mine workings. The rain still hadn't stopped and in the upper reaches of Dale Head Crags began to turn to a sleety-hail mix. A quick photo at the summit "obelisk" above and the best part of the day was enjoyed along Hindscarth Edge and Littledale Edge.

Looking Back Along the Edge to Dale Head

Ever so slowly over the course of this section the rain eventually eased giving way to sunshine and a bitingly cold wind. It was at this point that I passed just the second person I was to see all day, a rarity in the Lake District.

The big views began to open up - Blencathra to the north; Fleetwith Pike & the High Stile Ridge seemed almost close enough to touch; below was Buttermere.

Passing Hindscarth a good deal of height is lost before the final ascent up on to Robinson. The first brief stop of the day provided an opportunity to take on some fluids and calories, I thought back to some of the running I have done around this area- these ridges would provide an exhilarating run.

Heading in roughly a northerly direction past a couple of small tarns the days climbing was done and the sun was now lighting up the sky.

Causey Pike From Robinson

The walk along the Robinson "spur" was enjoyable. With a good deal of height now lost the reservoir close to to the head of Littledale came into view below and I opted to take an off-piste route through the scree directly towards it. Now I don't get many calls from my middle brother but bizarrely when picking my way through the scree the mobile rang and it was said middle brother - my preference is to ignore the phone when out in the fells but this was a rare event! Viewed from a distance what happened over the ensuing minutes was quite probably hilarious as I stumbled, tripped and slid with the phone held tightly to my ear only to promptly lose the signal upon arrival at the reservoir.

I've never walked in Littledale anywhere close to valley floor level but discovered today that it is one of the Lake District's hidden gems, yellow gorse to the left, a cascading beck to the right and not a soul in sight.

It wasn't far now to another gem of the area - Newlands Church where I went inside and stopped for a while, a good finish.

Newlands Church

Monday, 7 May 2012

George's First Abseil

The title tells the story, George will tell you very sincerely that he is 4 and a quarter years old, I think he did really well!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Messing About In Boats

With: John Pear
Weather: A fine sunny early spring day with light north easterly breeze
Where: Derwent Water, Lake District

Its quite strange really the news has been dominated by stories of torrential rain & floods yet in our corner of Cumbria it, at least, feels like its been quite a dry April and today was a taste of summer! The blog has been quite light on canoeing posts, this is something that will change! This afternoon I met up with John Pear at the Kettlewell car park on Derwent Water the bright sun & clear blue sky illuminated the landscape. John & I have been good friends for over 20 years and we've shared many adventures some of the best of which have featured extended canoe trips in NW Scotland and Ireland. Today was the first time we have paddled together for a good seven years - its been too long! 

Setting off from Kettlewell we just headed "out there" and before long had arrived at St Herbert's Island. John brought a flask of tea & some cake which was consumed on the beach before heading back to where we started, a very straightforward afternoon but it really was one of the highlights of the year so far! Hopefully the pictures do it some justice.