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, 31 July 2013

Seeing The Wood For The Trees

Nowadays I don't do as much work in the woods, its quite a contrast to a few years ago when "bushcraft" was a significant area of activity - days training and talking with good friend Dave Watson of Woodland Survival Craft seem like a long time ago. As such the request from the lovely people at Wrexham Community Church to run a few sessions in the woodland that surrounds Blaithwaite House offered a good opportunity to spend some time working & interacting with groups in this unique environment.

The woods around Blaithwaite are packed full of native beech, birch & holly - leaf litter lies thick on the ground and for the keen observer there is a good supply of wild food & much additional useful plant life.

The weather wasn't at its kindest for these sessions - quite wet on occassions. However, work with the Church's "little people" & a session with adults was a rich experience.

The photos below, hopefully, paint a picture of the activity enjoyed:

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

An Evening in Roughton Gill

With: Alan Rainford

Weather: Warm, humid, odd flash of lightning & clap of thunder

Where: Lake District Northern Fells

Alan Rainford in Roughton Gill

The Lake District's Northern Fells, especially those round the back of Blencathra & Skiddaw, are most commonly associated with solitude, tranquility and in many ways are the paths less travelled in this popular corner of the country. They are seldom linked to more adventurous outdoor activity. However, having lived in and around the area for the last eight years or so we have spent quite a bit of time seeking out some of the alternative features of these "Pennine-like" hills which mark the northern extremity of the National Park.

I've whiled away many days & evenings in Roughton Gill - exploring the mines both underground and on the surface; fell running in and about the area and generally ratching around. Alan & I have often considered the possibility of a gill scramble directly up this watercourse.

So earlier tonight, the recent spell of fine weather having broken this morning and giving way to claggy humid conditions with some rain & occasional thunder we decided last minute to go have a look.

Leaving the car at Fell Side it was 20degC at six o'clock and the area was shrouded in low cloud. We set off up the track heading alongside and above Dale Beck, soon wet through due to the high humidity. Every now & again a flicker of lightning could be discerned through the haze followed by a clap of thunder.

Looking North Along a Moody Dale Beck

At the foot of Roughton Gill the first scrambling is awkward on loose flaky rock, its better to stick to the path on the right hand side of the gill (when heading south) until this miners trod drops down to the gill bed. I'm not going to attempt to describe every move other than to say the scrambling right up to the head of the gill is enjoyable; its never continuous -rather its more like a series of semi-linked bouldering problems; we never got our feet wet; we never used a rope and there was just about always a "step out of the gill option" if there was something you didn't fancy.

On the night we stopped in the Thief Gills area - the scrambling gets better the further up the gill you go and is at least as good as many of the grade 1 scrambles described in the extensive literature that has been written on this subject elsewhere in the Lake District. We opted to follow a route out that by & large followed the gill back down the fell. However, to ascend Roughton Gill this way would make an excellent prelude to a bigger day exploring the fells in this area eg. a trip to the Knott or another of the surrounding summits.

This particular route took Alan & myself about two & a half hours (we weren't hanging about though) and the temperature was still 20degC on our drive home, we got a thorough soaking during the last fifteen minutes or so when the heavens opened. For the first time ever we saw an organised fell race in the area.

More of Alan Scrambling High in Roughton Gill

There Are Some Impressive Waterfalls & The Gill Contains Several Mines

Saturday, 20 July 2013


I've resisted the temptation for some time now to run any advertising through these pages. However, as a trial & in an effort to make a small contribution to the time taken to write and maintain the site I have just joined the Cicerone guidebooks' affiliate programme. As such any guidebooks purchased via my webpages will pay a small commission - this is a scheme I feel I can join without "selling my soul" to advertising!

I'm a big fan of these guides & use them frequently when researching trips in the Lake District, with particular use being made of the Lake District (North) Scrambling Guide (see below)

The following titles make a useful a mini-library to the area:

To purchase this book click here

To purchase this book click here

To purchase this book click here

To purchase this book click here

Friday, 19 July 2013

Round Up Of The Week

The recent hot spell has, for me at least, been a most welcome period of time. In eight years in Cumbria its the best spell of summer weather I've known. Life has continued to be busy - which is a good thing - with instructed group activity.

However, this weeks time outdoors in the Lake District got off to an un-planned very impromptu visit to Bowscale Tarn at dawn, last Saturday morning. Leaving the house at just after 4 a.m. the first strands of light were just producing a cool, muted glow on the ascent of the track at around quarter to five.

Looking Towards The High Pennines

At The Tarn

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday were all working days, featuring several sessions at Headend Quarry which at times was extremely busy and very hot. The sessions here were not un-interesting with Thursday seeing, in quick succession, the rescue of an inverted abseiler closely followed by a crag-fast climber who simply could not be talked down!

Wednesday was an excellent day working in glorious sunshine, undoubtedly the best day's weather I have ever experienced in the North Pennines &  a welcome return to Ash Gill Beck for two sessions in the gorge with some of the nicest kids I've worked with this year - from Cardinal Hume Roman Catholic School in Gateshead.
The week was rounded off with another morning at Headend, followed by an afternoon in Stoneycroft Gill - last visit this summer (?) - again a very pleasant group from Paisley.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

High Pike - Last School Mountain Day (Summer 2013)

Incredibly after a frantic 12 weeks or so, today saw the last school mountain day of summer 2013!

Venue was High Pike in the Northern Fells & In2venture put a full staff team on for the day. So:

With: Marion Blakeman; Beccs Nemeth; Graham Simpson; Alan Rainford & Year 6 from St Catherines

Weather: The hot, dry. sunny spell continues

Where: High Pike, Lake District Northern Fells

It was already scorching with not a cloud in the sky when we set off from Calebreck at about half past ten. Up the mine track, it was only a few minutes  before the group of 17 pupils plus teaching staff began to string out along the path. It was set to be a long hot day!

Part way up, just before the largest of the spoil heaps from the old (copper?) mines is the closest thing I've seen to a surface "blue pool" - quite impressive.

Even at this early stage of the day one or two group members needed significant encouragement & support, it was a good thing that at this point in the season it had been possible to get plenty of staff out for the event.

We spent a little time exploring the old mine workings - which slowed the pace - before continuing, off the main path, on to the eastern flank of High Pike.

Lunch in the sun followed - a welcome break for hot & tired young people, before a final last climb on to High Pike summit. It was a joy to see a young girl who had struggled more than most on the climb to be the first to reach the top.There were a few "Wainwright Collectors" enjoying their lunch on the slate bench close to the trig point before continuing their journey to The Knott, predictably they soon moved on once the horde from the North East arrived! The views were quite limited as a haze dominated the distance.

Refreshed & rested we set off again just about due south leaving the "mound" of High Pike and dropping briefly to the Cumbrian Way, I spent a few moments recalling my last visit to this area at dawn on a deep frozen Easter Monday morning just a few months ago - what a change!

Skirting around to the east with Carrock Fell ahead we began our descent at the head of a collection of small gills, off any path we dropped down past confluence after confluence until the main gill became our "handrail" heading back out towards the road & waiting mini bus. The group faired better on the broken more interesting ground than they had done previously on the main paths (more interesting ground or descent versus ascent?). Once again it was a great encouragement to notice that the same young lady who had suffered earlier, yet made the summit first, was also the first back to the bus!

The photos below are of Team In2Venture:

Monday, 8 July 2013

Gill Scrambling

Sour Milk Gill, Borrowdale - In Spate Last Week

The last few weeks have been the busiest in recent memory from the point of view of delivering instructed/guided outdoor activity. Five visits to the summit of Longlands Fell in a day & a half followed closely by six gill scrambles in seven days were two personal records - contributing greatly to fitness!!

Gill Scrambling as opposed to gorge walking is a favourite. 

In terms of definition, for me, gorge walking is an inherently wet activity often undertaken in a wetsuit & buoyancy aid (eg. Stoneycroft Gill, there have been many sessions in there of late also!). Whereas I tend to regard Gill Scrambling in the terms set out by Brian Evans in the Cicerone Guide "Scrambles in the Lake District; Volume 2: Northern Lakes) i.e.

- that the hardest route is taken up the gill staying closest to the water [this closeness can, however, lead to a soaking from spray; wet feet & in the worst case falling in & taking a swim]

- that a route is taken that sticks to the rock as much as possible

Overall, to me, Gill Scrambling is an adaptation of  mountain based activities such as climbing; scrambling & walking in which I would dress as for a day on the fell wearing boots; maybe overtrousers & carrying a rucksack.

Cover of Scrambles in the Lake District - North  Scrambles in the Lake District - North; Volume 2; Brian Evans

Working with groups this last few weeks most of the scrambles were done in Sour Milk Gill, Borrowdale (again referred to in the above guide (Route 52, page 146).

Sour Milk Gill in Borrowdale is in an excellent location, easy parking (at least on a good day!); just a short walk-in & the most impressive of Lakeland settings.

Walking down the lane from where the car is parked its just through into Seathwaite Farm; a right turn under the arch and a further bimble over the bridge to the foot of the gill.

Once the gill has been gained there is rarely a lack of route option apart from in the highest of water levels (see the photo at the top of this post, taken last Thursday when level did restrict route!). The scramble, as the guidebook suggests, could be graded as anything from 1-3 depending on how hard you choose to make it. If you don't like the look of something you can usually just step out of the gill. In my view, by far the biggest hazards are related to simple slips, trips & falls on slippy rock (which of course can have serious consequences). For the inexperienced I would also recommend avoiding this type of activity in higher water levels where such a slip, trip or fall could very easily lead to the potentially serious added complications associated with fast flowing water. I would always wear a helmet in this gill & when working with groups would always take a rope (which might not be used), however, there are one or two sections even on the easier routes where some group members do very often appreciate the extra confidence of being tied on and belayed.

The route continues right up to the high intake wall with the last, say, two-thirds offering the best of the scrambling. When working with groups the easier routes, which still offer some truly breathtaking aspects - close to the water & spray - are found to the right hand side of the gill (as looked at in ascent). Whilst the more technical & difficult scrambling can be found to the left - take your pick depending on what you are looking for & who you are with!

If you can manage to stay dry enough this route makes an excellent prelude to a day on Base Brown & the "Gables". Its one to be enjoyed!