The Vault Regulars

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thunder in the night

From Grey Friar to Dow Crag a low rumble of thunder was passed around the combe and encompassing tops. Our wild campsite at Seathwaite Tarn that we hoped would be a calm, sunset evening was anything but. Fortunately no lightening just God re-arranging the furniture as my mum used to say.
We had checked the weather before setting off on thursday evening from home to Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley and although it said rain for the weekend it also mentioned, showers, intermittent, sunny spells, changeable. It will be ok we thought and set up a base camp at Turner Hall Campsite.

Our route basically, was to follow the River Duddon north up to Birks Bridge where we would then take the track through Pike House Close and head up to Seathwaite Tarn for a wild camp before hitting the heights and returning to Seathwaite via Walna Quarries, Natty Bridge, Stephensons Ground, Long Mire and the Park Head Road. All together about 15 beautiful miles.

Friday morning dawned, the day was calm, ever so sunny and humid, the campsite was quiet, no kids. We laughed at the weather forecast, they’ve got it wrong again. It has been a glorious week we had been told by our friends and residents of Seathwaite.
The River Duddon was slow running, the birds singing and all was good with the world.

The scenery following the Duddon is magnificent, with scree, broad leafed woodland, forestry plantations, open fell, hills, wild flowers, bubbling becks and the odd waterfall or two.
There are also lots of good swimming pools for days like today.

 The River Duddon

 Scree slope below Wallowbarrow crag
 The views open out as you approach Grassguards Gill, Long Stand at the head of the valley can be seen and to the right Dow Crag, The Coniston Ridge and Grey Friar dominate.
Many Bog Myrtle plants can be found here and the leaves exude an aroma similar to eucalyptus when crushed in the hand.
 Broad leafed forest at Grassguards Gill
 Fickle steps with low water in the Duddon.
 Still in the Broad leafed forest with the sun so strong we stopped for a minute or two at the waterfall at Wet Gill. Sparkling in the sunlight it’s a lovely spot to relax.
 One of the many good swimming pools.
 Not too far ahead we lost the lovely broad leafed trees and entered the world of the man made forest with the needle floor. Such a difference to the previous hour but not ugly in this instance as many  forestry plantations can be.
Sheila took a bit of a tumble just a little further on, tripping over an exposed root. Fortunately she was able to carry on but her ankle is a bit swollen now.
 Bog Asphodel
 Birks Bridge
We could hear voices even before we arrived at Birks Bridge and the splashing as lads were jumping off the bridge into the deep pool below. It’s usually a busy place being adjacent to the fell road but today there were only 3 people there. It’s a good spot for a picnic and a swim.

We had lunch here, capitalising on the picnic tables which today were empty. The blue sky which had dominated the last couple of hours was looking fragile as the cloud cover started to blanket out the sun.
The odd rain drop noisily landed on the plastic map case whilst we demolished our mackerel and rye bread but it was just a threat.

We were greeted with a hello from a chap heading up Harter fell as we finished lunch, packed up and headed off up the road for a short distance before a right turn takes us into Pike How Close.
The clouds were mounting at a pace and the temperature was noticeably a little cooler. Still the rain held off.
North end of the Duddon Valley with Hard Knott on the left and Little Stand on the right.
As height is gained on Grey Friar’s lower slopes the splendid views of Harter fell and the middle section of the Duddon Valley open out.
 Caw, (far Left) with Tarn Beck in the lush valley, High Tongue in centre and Whit fell in the distance.
Harter Fell in background
The good track starts to meander to miss the extensive boggy ground ahead which surrounds Tarn Becks exit from the reservoir. Otherwise it is a track with good views. 
Ahead of us the blue sky was hanging on but the quantity of it was reducing fast. The dam wall came into view and a short shower greeted us to our first view of the reservoir. Not heavy enough for waterproofs but a warning non the same.
 Seathwaite Reservoir dam, centre left.
North shore of the reservoir.
The original tarn was damned in 1904 and the navvies working on the construction rioted in The Newfield Inn, in Seathwaite village which resulted in one man getting shot and much damage done. A newspaper cutting of the event can be found in The Newfield Inn pub.
The reservoir was built to provide water to Barrow-in-Furness and it was also featured in the film Plague Dogs by Richard Adams.

We found a decent enough spot and pitched the tent, the mist rolling in encouraged us not to hang about. We had no sooner got things in place when we had our first taste of wet weather. Looking out across the tarn the hills to the south west were rapidly disappearing as the weather closed in. Fortunately this shower only lasted for 1/2 an hour. 
 We managed to get tea done and dusted. I had Wolf fish casserole and Sheila had Pasta Bolognese before the heavens opened once again. This time it rained heavily for 2 hours before we had a lull and we had the chance to venture out.

 An all to brief venture out.
 We had some wooly visitors, i think we may have pinched there spot.
Too quickly the rain started again so it was back to the tent. This time we said it’s in for the night. Nothing else for it but to call it a day. So an early night was had. 9.00pm.
We were woken up quite a few times before it dawned with some very heavy rain and low rumbles of thunder. The noise on the tent was like rapid multi drum beats and the tranquil stream of a few hours ago had began to increase in decibels. 
It always goes through the mind at times like these. “Have we pitched far enough away from the beck if it overflows”? And this was no exception.

At 6.00am there was still no let up and looking out of the tent door the mist was very low and it was so eyrie, the tarn so dark and foreboding, just the rain and the stream to be heard, no birds, no sheep. 
At 7.00am there was no change so we opened discussions on what to do. Do we wait a couple of hours and see if it improves or do we pack up now and head down. 
We decided to wait until 8.00am and then make the decision.  8.00am came and the weather was getting heavier if anything. We decided to call off the walk and head down.
The rain was really heavy now and the wind had picked up, it was so bad that i wouldn’t risk getting the camera out of it’s dry bag to capture the event. 

As we made our way back along the path to the dam, which was now flowing nicely we saw a shape come out of the mist. It was a fell runner, he came to the end of the dam and then retraced his steps back down. 
Many new streams were flowing down the fell side, they were appearing out of the mist like great white tails. Before we got down to the bottom of the track we heard the cacophony which was Long House Gill. A tremendous noise of the power of nature. Photographs and words cannot express fully the sound.

 Long House Gill
 Sheila at the confluence of Long House Gill and the Walna Scar track.

 We made our way back to Turner Hall campsite passing Tarn Beck 
which also was noisy in spate.

And as we reached the campsite the heavens opened just to let us know that we had made the right decision in giving the high ground a miss today.
Believe it or not but we had had a nice time. The modifications i made to the Scarp 2 proved successful with no leaks what so ever. It stood up to the severe conditions superbly and that was without the additional pole set.

Number of ticks removed....1

Cannot wait to go back and finish what we started.


Anonymous said...

Seathwaite Tarn is a nice place to camp. The dam end is a bit flatter. If you had carried on up the valley for another 15 mins, there's a great pitch on a flat platform formed from some quarry spoil with grass on top. It's high above the stream, so no chance of flooding. I'm going to go back there some time.

AlanR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Knipe said...

Rained off - bad luck. Real Turmat eh? Nom nom....

Kenburg said...

That's some contrasting weather!

AlanR said...

Hi Robin,
Sorry for the mistake earlier.
As i said, this is what i call my home patch so i don’t give too much away with the good camp spots.
Anytime you want to go, let me know.

AlanR said...

It seems like every time we go out the weather deteriorates so bad. your guess is correct, Real Turmat. That’s our last 2. I need to order some more.

Hi, Oh my goodness we could have got down by canoe the paths were flowing so well. From around 7.00pm friday night until we left at midday sunday it hardly stopped at all.
Some poor souls on the campsite who should have known better than to pitch low down were badly flooded out.
Our weather is so contrasting at the moment. Roll on summer.

karl said...

Hi Alan and Sheila,
Roll on summer indeed... our summer now seems to be April and September with the odd nice day thrown in if we're lucky. Glad you got out though Alan. Was packed and ready on Friday but the fine weather had turned to rain by the time I had finished work so have been moping around ever since. I must be getting soft.

AlanR said...

Hi Karl,
Yes we enjoyed being out even though it was not a plan completed.
The weekend was a bit of a washout as you will be well aware. Most people who were camping on the site had cleared off by Saturday pm.

-maria- said...

Oh, what a rain! Good to hear the Scarp 2 did not let you down - and I agree, it can be very enjoyable to walk even in wet weather!

Hope that Sheila's ankle recovers well.

AlanR said...

Hi Maria,
Thanks, Sheila’s ankle is still swollen and a bit tender but nothing serious.
As long as the wind is not too forceful i don’t mind walking in the rain. We do use the GoLite umbrella’s still, they help to keep your gear dampish rather than soaking.

I was very pleased with the Scarp 2. The little changes i made worked great and not a leak anywhere which considering the rain we had was fantastic.

Martin Rye said...

It seems this summer is a long wet squib reading more and more blog posts of wet weather. Never mind you still got out. Hope the return will have good weather for you.

AlanR said...

Hi Martin,
The Friday was beautiful but Friday night,Saturday and Sunday was a complete washout.
We need some sun soon.

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