Thursday, 30 June 2016

Ullswater and other lakes

This was to be no ordinary Ullswater trip! We had persuaded school to let Nathaniel out for the day and we had big plans.

After the kids had both listened to Swallows and Amazons and played being Swallows and Amazons and talked endlessly about Swallows and Amazons, I let them watch the film (the old one - the new one isn't out yet and I don't think I'm going to like it). And of course, that meant that they had evidence that Wild Cat Island actually existed and wasn't entirely fictional. And they wanted to go. A lot.

So we hatched a plan. It started by leaving York at 6:53am with two boats on the back of the car (it's almost like they designed the GP to have an Oppy slotted upside down inside it). By 10 o'clock we were putting up the tent in the campsite in Ullswater and and had shed one boat. Then we were back on the road towards Coniston. We wound our way round tiny roads at alarming angles and the boat bumped along happily behind us. I saw Thirlmere for the first time and was most impressed, though rather dubious that I'd enjoy it do much from the water due to the road running along side. We discovered that Windemere isn't signposted very clearly, and Ian did an amazing bit of reversing on the side of a massive hill with a boat trailer. By 12:30 we were in a deserted carpark halfway down Coniston measuring a gap between two rocks with a tape measure. That deserves a story too.

When we were trying to work out how to get to the island, we scoured the internet for info about launching points on Coniston and discovered that the best place was way up in the north, a good few miles upwind of the island. So for hours we contemplated how sensible it was to drive the breadth of England, put up a tent, drive some more and the sail downwind for a couple of miles with a four year old, knowing that we'd have to do a good part of it in reverse at the end. But then I had a brainwave and remembered that we were in the 21st century and did what any sensible person would do - I asked facebook. I was already a member of the Arthur Ransome facebook group, so I asked them where they would launch. And within half an hour they were all debating the best spots (most of which were unknown to us), asking how heavy a boat we would be using and politely arguing with each other as to which other Ransome-spots we should also visit. One chap in particular provided a grid reference for the best parking and launching spot plus the instruction that we should pull the boat through a gap in the rocks of the north-east boundary of the car park which was approximately 2m wide. Hence the measureing. And he gave me his phone number so we could call if we had any difficulty finding the spot! What amazing people. The kids were even sent a message from the actress who played Titty in the film wishing them a good trip!

The crew were kept busy
Right, back to the (rather wordy) plot. There was much busyness in carrying down kit and rigging (and even a few mouthfuls of lunch) and then we were off! It was wonderful! It was a pleasant force 3 and we skimmed along, the kids experiencing for the first time the sorts of speeds that a GP can get up to when you have more than 25 meters between tacks. And then we were there, at Peel Island. I was soooooo excited!
Rigging on the launching beach

Landing was not as easy as we had hoped. The landing place was downwind and much narrower than it was in the film (or book). In the end we tacked closer and closer to the northern end in the lee of the island and eventually drifted carefully in among rocks and tied up very carefully. And then we explored.
The boat was pretty happy downwind of the island

Tiny landing place. Subsequent conversation with cast of the first film (!) yeilded the discovery that the water was lower and they shipped in gravel to enlarge the land place.

The harbour was amazing. Much easier to see than in the books - the rocks around the end didn't mask it so it was clear to see from the water (we didn't land there due to the onshore wind). But it was narrow and had great steep sides. Thea spent a lot of time walking up and down the channel. The camp was long and thin and stretched almost the length of the island. There was a fire in the centre and plently of trees for hanging Swallowesque tents. There were a least two levels of paths on either side of the camp at different heights through the tress and winding around massive rocks. You could play hide and seek here for hours as it would be easy to evade the seeker. The look out point was dramatic, looking south down the lake with no trees to make a lighthouse!

The Harbour

Thea on her island

Look out point
We could have stayed for hours. But we had to get sail back and then drive back to Ullswater, so it was a short visit (to be repeated, I'm sure), followed by the aforementioned wonderful sail back to the launching beach, and a jubilant drive back in the sun along a new and inventive route along the pass. (Not recommended when trailing a boat - don't think the old car would have coped!)

Swimming while we pack up the boat

Superlative road
 After that, it's hardly worth mentioning the rest of the weekend.

Both kids enjoyed the endless attention from their adult friends of the sailing club. They were constantly induged with flap jack, chocolate, discussion about maps, time in camper vans and general love. Yet again the sailing club proved that they are total suckers for polite kids and generally went out of their way to make sure that the kids were in seventh heaven! The kids totally took over Jasper the dog and took him for long walks around the campsite. Jasper was so tired after all the attention, he climbed out of bed during the night (in the campervan) and had to be lifted back up as he was too exhausted to get up himself!

Jasper the long-suffering dog

The kids con another poor man out of his last marshmallow

Consulting over the map
The weather was warmish and sunnyish but nothing special, so there was some sailing and some playing. Nathaniel sailed Sea Swallow around for a while, but to be honest he was too tired to do as much as he had hoped.

Ian played in a laser a bit, and I took out the GP for the annual 6am sail in the sun. The kids mainly splashed around in the shallows with Sea Swallow having a whale of a time. There are 6 kids of the sailing club, and now that their ages range from 4 to 10, they are able to play altogether and get along reasonably well.

N and D go to their secret cove along the edge of the lake

  So all in all it was a wonderful weekend, only to be improved upon by having the week of school in advance so that everyone has plenty of energy!
Bedtime at 12:15 - proof it never really gets dark at midsummer

Monday, 27 June 2016


Perfect moments #345 and #346:

Skimming across Coniston with the sun glinting off the wavelets, the kids sitting on the bottom boards singing the theme from the Swallows and Amazons film while Ian and I are fully hiked out, spray hitting us in the face at the same time as the sun beats down on us. And being on the same tack in this blissful situation for several minutes at a time. Thea looks round and says with sparkling eyes "This is brilliant!".

Two hours later, euphoria has not abated, and we are all in the car, tired but jolly, driving through the most spectacular landscape of high craggs and waving trees. The sun is streaming through the open windows and we are all singing The Proclaimers at the tops of our voices.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A song

Thea wanted to record her song for you all:

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Sailing, sailing and more sailing

Well, if you thought we were keen on sailing before, that was before the kids got interested! Now, life seems to revolve around the river! In a large part, it is due to this:

But apart from that, there has just been a great deal going on. Two weekends with a total of five days spent at the club! The first was the end of course day - the Saturday when we descend on the club to celebrate the end of the Level 1 course. It was quite windy, which resulted in the novices sailing Visions that looked like this after reefing:

Much silliness! The kids had a bit of a joyride and then Ian and Dorothea the Elder put the GP through it's paces.

And other people came out too and provided entertainment.

Day two of the weekend was much quieter and was the ideal day for the launch of Sea Swallow.

There was much excitement!

Day three was actually a school day, but Nathaniel asked very nicely if we could go sailing after school. So we did and he was happy!

The next weekend saw the official opening of the new club changing rooms. No longer do you have to share a toilet with an array of amazing spiders, and there is even hot water! We had two of the Yorkshire Rows team (four York women who rowed across the Altantic, setting all sorts of records), to cut the ribbon, and then there was lots of cake and a demonstration from the York Resue Boat. Nathaniel learnt how to throw a life line and we all enjoyed trying to rescue people from the water.

The next day was simply a pleasant day! Not much wind, so I sailed the GP single-handed, and thanks to a fortuitous gust at the start line, won the race. Ian manfully attended to a smaller craft. The crew of two sailed, and he was ballast and tutor!

Today we were OD and there was no wind at all (the BBC had 3mph veering from NWN to SSE over three hours). There was not much interest from the membership in sailing, even though we had two very willing officers of the day.

So we got in a canoe and explored the underside of the trees, finding interesting routes through the branches all the way down to Bishopthorpe where we were able to find four very fine ice creams.

And now Ulswater beckons........

Monday, 6 June 2016

Askrig and Half Term

Half term began with a camping trip to Askrig in Wensleydale. It really should be called the trip-of-one-walk, because one walk was pretty much all we did, albeit several times.

We had no school on Friday so arrived bright and early to sun in a field inhabited only by a flock of sheep and a brood of hens.
We put up our tent and watched with amusememt as a bunch of lambs trotted over immediately to nibble it. The hens were much more forward - they went straight for our lunch, irrespective of whether we were mid-bite or not. Dorothea didn't greatly enjoy that so we had to build her a fort.

Everyone was much happier once we had worked out an effective deterrant.

Once we were all set up we decided to wander up the stream to a waterfall which we had spotted on the map and the campsite owner had mentioned as a good poddle. It was lovely walking along the stream with the sun falling through the leaves. There was more wild garlic than we had ever seen in one place - fields of it smoothing every contour. It was a wonderful walk.

And we were totally unprepared for the waterfall when we got to it. Mill Gill isn't much mentioned in the lists of Dales waterfalls, so we were expecting a stream trundling over a couple of rocks. We found this:

A cathedralesque space hollowed out of the rock with ferns and mosses dripping down the sides and several levels of falls. Amazing!

We could have sat there for hours, but we had people to meet, so were wandered back via the most wonderful field of buttercups and wild flowers to protect our tent from the peckish lambs.

That evening, by his request, Nathaniel was in charge of food. He set up his kitchen to his own design and made most of the food!

The next day (after not much sleep, as the lambs never slept (or slept in shifts) and were constantly peckish), we named all the chickens (Findus, Richard the lionheart, Donald, Pecky McPeckface and Lupy), and then took K and D to see the waterfall. The walk was no less wonderful.

Then we set off for the next one. It was a "just over that hill" sort of walk, there was always somethin we wanted to see around the corner. Nathaniel and I took some detours to look at good limestone pavements.

Then the path petered out and we had to climb up the totally dry riverbed. We could hear the falls ahead of us, and knew that the stream was full below us, but here the water was running so far under the surface boulders that we could find no trace of it. Really strange.

Whitfield Gill Force was even more incredible. A tall free fall down some slate-like rock.

D found a route to stand behind it at once.

And then, after the casual comment of "this is the sort of rock that you find fossils in", the kids found fossil after fossil after fossil.

It was only certailed by the fact that we had planned just a little morning bimble and had only bananas and cake with us - not enough to fill the stomachs of kids who had been climbing over rocks all morning! So we reluctantly went back. Thea led the way, and helpfully left a trail of patterans to make sure we didn't get lost (we've just finished reading Swallowdale).

Once more of the party had arrived we walked down to the river proper, to find stepping stones across it. Much fun was had jumping from one to another, and eventually all the kids were in the river in their underwear, trying not to get sucked by the current through the gaps between the stones.

The next day we were ready for  more than waterfalls. The hill above the campsite had been beckoning the whole time, and although we quickly realised we weren't going to be able to get the kids to walk the whole way, we still aspired to the top.
So we drove a bit closer and set off up the hill for some lunch in a grassy knoll with the ever-present Dales sheep. It became clear quite quickly that the younger members of our party weren't going to make it, and two adults kindly offered to take them for a less strenuous activity while the rest of us climbed. Quickly we got to Dales-moorland, a totally different sort of moor to my favourite North Yorks/Dartmoor heather.

Nathaniel and D enjoyed the stiles.

We trudged up the last steep slope, stopping to appreciate the view, and admire the antics of a pair of paragliders who were throwing themselves off the top.

And then we were there, and it was great! The view was rather hazy, but wonderful!

That evening the campsite owner encouraged us to pick our own eggs at will and many eggs were chosen! We decided that the least we could do was to feed the hens our scraps.
They were great chickens - once we had made it clear that they couldn't eat food that we had picked up to put in our mouths, and that they weren't allowed in our tents (or car boots), we got on very well. Better than with the lambs, who insisted in nibbling our tents throughout the night and climbing up on the plastic camping boxes and looking nonchalant. Neither enjoyed the afternoon game of football though.

Day three was never going to involve massive adventures due to the whole packing-away activity, so we decicided that those who had missed the waterfall had better seen it. So, for the third time, off we went through the buttercups and wild garlic (I made a vat of wild garlic pesto when we got home!).

This time we added fire to the adventure and Nathaniel built a fire at the bottom of the top fall and we had toasted hot cross buns and mashmallows as the water cascaded down behind us. It was pretty terrific.

Then Nick slipped (obviously had not been heeding the constant reminders of climbing cautiously that the kids had been subject to), and hit his back pretty hard, which put a bit of a dampner on the occasion, but it was time to go home, so we all scampered (or limped) back to a field, again deserted apart from us.

A heavenly trip!

After that, we didn't need an exciting half term! Ian was away on two different trips, and the weather was cold, so Thea and Nathaniel and I just poddled round the house contentedly day after day. We watched out tadpoles grow legs,

made boat-dens in the living room,

created complicated dwellings in the sandpit (a mix up of Skara Brae and the Mesa Verde),

and ate long tapasy lunches.

All very acceptable.