Wild Camps 2019

Ennerdale, Lake District

Winnats Pass, Peak District

Ennerdale, Lake District

My second wild camp of 2019 completed over the Easter Weekend. Lake District – Bank Holiday is not something I would jump at owing to the swarm of visitors it gets, particularly in great weather with record breaking temperatures. However, its something I have always wanted to do and I barely have any leave left because of my Mongolia trip so a Bank Holiday it has to be.

The Plan

The plan was to drive up on Good Friday, park at the Bowness Knott car park then wander up the hill to the top of Bowness Knott and spend the night. Daniel decided he wanted to come and so did Leon, my grandson, and his dad Simon. The second day, Saturday, the plan was to walk back to the car and then get the Kayak out and spend the next 24 hrs on the lake. Unfortunately, Simon had to pull out at short notice so the extra kayak wasn’t needed.

The drive from Chesterfield up to Ennerdale was horrible, every single road had an issue of some sorts and what should have taken a little over 3 hours, took over 6 hours so it was somewhat of a relief to get there eventually.

After the long journey it was pleasing to see Leon in such high spirits, still keen and eager to get underway. We left the car park at around 5:30 and headed out along the forest road following the red markers for Smithy Beck.

DSCN3547

We crossed the bridge by the waterfall then instead of continuing along the marked track ,we headed uphill along an old forest road, Leon took charge of the navigation and guided us in the right direction.

The scenery was outstanding and we never saw a soul until half way up where we spotted a couple of tents hidden in the woods in a beautiful glade by the Beck.

DSCN3551

We came across the ruins of an old settlement about a third of the way to the top where we took a breather. Leon proceeded to describe the layout of the building, showing us where the kitchen, bathroom and toilet would have been! I assured him there would have been no flushing toilet which brought a look of puzzlement on his face.

DSCN3552

The track became steeper but Leon soldiered on all the way to the top. At the top, we had a problem. The flat ground showing on the map was actually fully covered in the remnants of a big tree cutting operation and there was absolutely nowhere to pitch the tents. Time really wasn’t on our side as darkness would soon be upon us so we had to climb, scramble and cover lots of uneven ground to find a spot. Daniel led the way with me at the rear keeping Leon in between us so we could keep an eye on him. I have to say he did a sterling job, listening to everything we told him and applied the instructions of where to put his feet etc. We saw lots of eagles and Deer which was worth stopping for and watching them for a few mins.

We eventually found a spot that with a little tidying up, would be suitable. The bonus was the view, it was to die for.

DSCN3558

We found a nice solid tree trunk nearby, set up our kitchen and lit the Kelly Kettle for some hot water and cracked open the Jet Boil to cook dinner. Leon and I used my Vango Banshee Pro 200 tent and Daniel used his Snugpak Journeyman.

DSCN3556

After dinner we just sat, chatted and laughed until the sun set behind us and the bright moon rose above our heads, and roasted some marshmallows over the Kelly Kettle fire. We settled down to sleep around 10pm, the journey had wiped us all out to be fair and so did the hike and scrambling to find our pitch. It was a very warm night and the new RAB sleeping bag was definitely overkill but better to be safe than sorry.

Leon woke me up around 6:30 am the next morning as he wanted to go out and watch the sunrise come in over the mountain. Sat there drinking coffee, watching my grandson tuck into his porridge while the sun came over the mountain was incredible. You can’t buy memories like that.

DSCN3574

After the sun had risen we decided to pack up and then put the drone into the air for a few mins (Video Below).

Daniel managed to crawl out of his scratcher about half an hour later so we had another brew then packed up ready do head back to the car. Leon’s job is to scour the the area we occupied to ensure we left absolutely nothing behind, we don’t want anyone to know we had been there.

The walk to the car was a steady bimble so we could take in the scenery. Leon never stopped laughing at Dan who was singing rude songs which would have Leon’s mum cringing!

DSCN3579

DSCN3578

We eventually made it to the car at about 10am. We unpacked the rubbish and left it in the car and replenished our rations. It took a short time to inflate the kayak (thank god for electric pumps), then we had a dry practice run to make sure we could all fit in with our kit. Once sorted we headed for Ennerdale lake, just a couple of hundred yards from Bowness Knott Car Park.

The plan was to circumnavigate the lake, find somewhere suitable to drag the kayak up onto a beach then hike up to the top of hill we had identified as a possible spot to pitch for a second night. Things don’t always go to plan though do they? We set off in a clockwise direction around the lake but our kayak discipline didn’t last very long as our route became very random, to much messing around and laughing and having fun to be bothered with routes.

DSCN3588

As you can see from the photo above, it was as peaceful as could be. We were the only ones on the water virtually all day. The beauty of Ennerdale is boats are not allowed, neither are groups of kayakers without first obtaining a permit from United Utilities. For single kayaks its no problem. It was hard to believe this was a Bank Holiday weekend in the Lake District, I had to keep pinching myself.

We paddled around for a couple of hours, I say we but Leon said he just want to chill so it was down to Daniel and me.

We saw a nice spot where we could have lunch so we paddled to the beach and fired up some hot water for our soup.

DSCN3590

We spent about an hour in this spot just taking in the rays from the hot sun, skimming stones in the lake and just generally relaxing. We eventually got our act together and carried on to the south of lake where we explored the river coming in. We couldn’t get too far as the water was shallow and we had lots of weight in the kayak but nevertheless we gave it a go. As nature goes, this spot was up there with the best places in the UK. Lots of wildfowl and so many different species of bird that Leon was keen to teach us the identity of. We headed off back along the other shore, all the time looking for a spot to beach the kayak. so we could head off up the hill for our second night under the stars.

Daniel suggested we head off back to the secluded beach where we had lunch, it was a beautiful spot and the hill was going to still be there for another wild camp sometime in the future. We were all in agreement so a night on the beach it was.

We headed along the far shore in perfectly still, millpond like water. We paddled under Anglers Crag where the water was crystal clear and you could quite easily see the bottom. We stopped paddling and just drifted, feet up watching the fish jump and waving back at and talking to the odd walkers on the nearby path.

DSCN3607

Leon announced he was getting a bit hungry so at around 4:30pm we decided to cross the lake back to the beach and set up our camp for the night. Leon was thrilled, he kept announcing “This is the best trip ever”. It didn’t take long to set up and get the coffee on.

DSCN3617

Thumbs up from Leon
We had a coffee, Dan did some sunbathing and I, as is customary, went for a swim…

DSCN3597

DSCN3621

We had a short walk down the shore to do a bit of exploring where we came across a couple of Wild Campers in Hammocks and under a tarp. All having the same interests as us and all obviously caring about the environment we were in. Just how it should be.

After our activities we sat down, fired up the Kelly Kettle and had some dinner. It was so peaceful, even the mini waves had stopped lapping on the shore and it became silent with the exception of the odd Owl letting us know they were around.

DSCN3641

The sun began to set and so did our eyelids. We’d had a fantastic day and Leon was struggling to stay awake, the last photo I took on this evening was looking west along the lake. I only took my little compact camera on this trip as I wasn’t sure about carrying multiple thousands of pounds worth of camera kit in my kayak. They are not the best quality images but they are ok.

DSCN3640

We all had a cracking nights sleep and woke to the sound of water lapping up onto the shore. After a quick coffee we packed up and made our way back to the car at Bowness Knot Car Park. The trip home was how it should be, nice clear roads, a stop off for a Brewers Fayre breakfast of which we all made the most of their “all you can eat” policy. 🙂

This was an epic trip, we had such a good time. I know I go harping on about Wild Camping but people should really give it a try, as long as you tidy up after yourselves and if need be, tidy up after the people who don’t bother.

As always, any questions, please contact me.

Winnats Pass, Peak District

The first wild camp of 2019 was a cold, windy overnighter on top of Winnats Pass. In a few short weeks I will be embarking on my biggest adventure to date, a trip to Lake Khovsgol in North West Mongolia.

The wild camp was designed to test some kit against some decent cold weather, which Winnats Pass proved to be, the temperature dropped to -9 degC. However, temperatures over in Mongolia will more than likely sink to -40. As I will be spending all my time under canvas in the Mongolian wilderness I am classing it as a wild camp so watch this space for a write up when I get back.

D4S_7192

Anyway, Back to Winnats Pass…. This was a spot my son had wanted to visit for year’s so on sunny, clear, crisp Saturday morning we got our kit and headed up to Castleton. As we approached Castleton, it was obvious we would be spending the night in some cold temperatures, which was great as that’s what we wanted. We parked the car and head off up to the top.

D4S_7318

The snow was quite deep in places but the hike was not too far so nothing to really stretch us. There were a few people at the top so we just hovered around until the sun started to set then pitched up. We decided to pitch close to the edge so we could take in the amazing views up there. After pitching up I got the camera out and took some night shots although the sky was clear, it still wasn’t that dark, not the darkness you need for some good astro photography. I tried but failed miserably so I just did a few light trails for Dan as these are one of his favourite styles.

D4S_7258

After some food we took a few more shots, had a little walk around then hunkered down for a couple of hours rising again to check out if it had got any darker. Dan had left the water in the car so it was down to melting snow which always feels like you’re on a proper expedition. It still hadn’t got dark enough so we just messed around with the camera and sipped some single malt before setting down for the night.

D4S_7249

All was well until about 01:45 when I was woken by high winds. I had never been out in such bad gales before. At one point it felt like my legs were being squashed the downforce of the wind, it was so strong. Dan got up to check the tents and apart from one of my pegs lifting, they took the gales with ease. I am always in awe of my little Vango Zenith 100, it’s an absolute cracking 1 person tent.

Dan has a Snugpak Journeyman Solo and that thing never shifted, it was as solid as you like. He loves it and I can see why however, I prefer that little bit more height but it was obvious, in those conditions his more low profile tent would win the day.

D4S_7230

The gales lasted what seemed to be an age and it wasn’t until around 03:30 that it began to die down a bit. We were both quite worried at how close we were to the edge and we were hoping a gust wasn’t going to lift us over the edge but all was good in the end. Lesson learned there; keep away from edges as the weather can turn in an instant. There is a short video summary I put together below that gives you some idea of how far we would have fallen. Scary!

As soon as the wind calmed down I must have fallen straight to sleep as it was just getting light when I woke up to the sound of……….. Birds singing? No, Dan snoring! Boy that lad can snore for NATO!

We got up and watched the sunrise over Hope Valley, what a sight to see that is. Across the Pass we could see loads of people up on the summit of Mam Tor, It’s a bit of a trek to get up there on a cold, winters morning but they would have had some incredible views. I have done it myself many times and sunrise up there is something to behold.

D4S_7279

We noticed quite a few people on top of Winnats Pass taking the sunrise shots and I began to feel a bit guilty, as our tents would have been in their line of sight. One guy came over for a chat and couldn’t believe we had spent the night up there. His camera had stopped working in the freezing temperatures but he managed to get his shots, which, he said, were made more dramatic by having the tents in there.

Thankfully, my camera worked fine and I had no problems, I even got my drone up for a short flight without any hassle. It’s just a case of hovering it a while to get the batteries warm.

I was again impressed with the Land Rover Explore phone, I put it down in the snow and left it for about an hour, when I came back it worked perfectly. Never could I have done this with any of my iPhones.

D4S_7228

Today we were going to have breakfast down in the café in Castleton so the stoves stayed in the bags. As we made our way back we did a bit of a promo photo shoot. ITV had asked me to get some shots and if possible some video prior to us appearing on TV to talk about our trip to Mongolia. This took some time with lots of laughing and pratting about but we got there in the end.

D4S_7326

D4S_7321

We walked up to the café just as it was opening, perfect timing! We ordered our Full English with coffee and afterwards spent a few minutes walking around the Information Centre’s mini museum. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

breakfast_Castleton

So that was it, our first wild camp of 2019. The next one we do will be on a frozen lake. Dan will be running the 100 miles from north to south over four days, I will be part of the support crew looking after 33 competitors pitting their wits against some of the most extreme conditions on earth. Its an adventure we’re both going to remember. Keep an eye out on the blog for when we return mid-March. I am sure there will be many stories to tell….

Thanks for reading and please feel inspired to get out there yourselves. One night can bring adventures in its own right and the worst that can happen is a crap nights sleep. However, it will be something you remember always.

As always, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

P.S. We are using the trip to Mongolia to try to raise as much money for Children in Need as we can so if you can spare a few pennies, please donate at the link below:

Children in Need