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Friday, 29 October 2010

Spooky Saturday

Prepare to be spooked if you venture into Penrith this afternoon. The town is playing host to it's second Halloween festival. There will be live music, a ghost train, spooky carriage rides, a farmers market and a carrot cake competition. The town's famous giant will also be rising from his huge grave in the churchyard and will be leading a trail around the town. Sounds amazing, fun starts from 10am..

Bowled over by the Bowder Stone

The Bowder Stone has been a tourist attraction in Cumbria for hundreds of years. The huge boulder, the biggest in Cumbria, can be found in Borrowdale just over 7km south of Keswick. Throughout the ages people have come to marvel at the huge rock seemingly precariously balanced on one small corner. Some tourist sites say that the rock arrived in the ice-age from Scotland but there is compelling evidence in Alan Smith's 2003 book The story of the Bowder Stone that it is actually a local stone that fell from above. Whatever the truth it's a great spot, and lots of fun for kids to climb to the top.

Today it is free to visit, apart from the price of the nearby National Trust car park. Back in the 1700s it was a more costly affair. Wealthy Nottinghamshire man Joesph Pocklington - the guy who built the house on the island on Derwentwater, saw pound signs when he bought the land around the stone. He was the one who first installed the ladder up to the top of the stone, he also built the little cottage next to the stone to house a lady guide and tea room, and enlarged a hole in the base of the stone where visitors could shake hands (for a small charge) with his guide to "improve their luck"!
These days it can be fairly quiet and you might even get the place to yourselves - if you do you should try to imagine the hulabaloo over New Year in 1878 where according to the local newspaper of the time the English lakes Visitor and Keswick Guardian "The Derwentwater Fife and Drum Band were allowed to go on the top of the Bowder Stone, and when they were all comfortably seated they played "John Peel" (listen to it here) to the delight of the old lady who has charge of the stone". Now why can't we do stuff like that any more??
Information taken gratefully from Smith, A. (2003) The story of the Bowder Stone. Kewwick, Rigg Side Publications

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Fell walking for geeks

It's an age old quandry - in our house anyway - how to get that reluctant walker out onto the fells. One way we've found is to add an element of intrigue into the walks, intrigue in the form of hidden treasure, after all what small person doesn't like hunting for secret treasure?

We're talking Geocaching of course. the global treasure hunt that has taken the world by storm. It's not exactly free as you need a GPS to participate, but I figure that lots of phones come with it as an app these days, so I'm going to include it.

If you've never Geocached before, you need to go to the website and register with the site. Then search for the area you want to look at it and it will list the co-ordinates of the treasure caches hidden in the area. Cumbria is full of them - a search for a five mile radius around Ambleside brings up no less than 111 caches. They range from teeny tiny with nothing in (we avoid those) to bigger boxes stuffed full of treasure. The idea is you fill in the log with a note of your visit then take some treasure and leave some of your own (we're thinking christmas cracker type treasure here).

Some contain more exciting finds such as geocoins and travel bugs, these are trackable items that need to be moved on, so you take your coin or bug and move him to a cache as far away as you can and then track his progress on the web. These little guys really do get around, we've found an Australian coin and a German bug and we still like to follow them around the globe and find out where they are now. Yes we're geeks but we love it - there's nothing quite like sticking your hand into that hole in the tree trunk and coming across a little tupperware box of lovlies! Give it a go guys, but beware of the muggles!

A quiet place with a noisy secret

There are not many places you can go to in the Lake District without bumping into a soul, but we have a secret, a beautiful spot just off the beaten track, with a secret all of it's own. Bowscale Tarn in the northern fells near Mugrisedale is our special spot. It's a great walk with the kids along the valley of the Caldew, rising gently on a good solid path to the majestic hidden tarn.

This was a popular spot with Victorian visitors. Wordsworth talked about two immortal fish who were supposed to inhabit the tarn it in his poem "Feast of Brougham Castle" and a visit was on the itinaries of all the fashionable folk at the time. These days it is off the beaten track and forgotten, but it is well worth a visit, for the peace and solitiude and views, and also for the extraordinary echo up there. Take two children and suddenly it sounds like a playground full! So much for peace and quiet - but lots and lots of fun. We made this video clip of us trying it out, which kind of shows it, but not nearly as good as it really is........... we love to be NOISY!!!