Using the Map and Compass in Anger – 111, 112 High Pike and Carrock Fell. 

111, 112 High Pike and Carrock Fell.  


This was probably the worst weather day I have been out with the wheel. The mist was down and it was cold. I had intended to park at Mosedale, but Mark persuaded me to drive up to Carrock mine with the promise he would cut back and fetch the car. We were treated to the spectacle of hound trail dogs successfully or not so plotting a course across the fell side.

We discovered the MBA (Mountain Bothy Association) Lingy Hut, which is beautifully kept. As we came out, after sheltering from the wind, we were greeted by a group of ultra runners on the Cumbria Way (mile 20 of 38 for the day and that was before lunch!) to discover that Jenny Rice had stayed at our barn and another runner had already followed my spinning journey. Small mountain world!

The Mercer family who popped up on High Pike commented through the mist that, “it looks like a “KIWI”  – I was very impressed that the dad knew a Kiwi was a type of spinning wheel. Alas he was talking about the symbol on the Cairn. However, the wheel was signed (hands sanitised) by their Wainwright climbing children and we enjoyed their company on  the summit.

Descending from Carrock Fell turned into a true mountain adventure when the path contouring from Further Gill to Snail Shell Crag disappeared. To begin with I wanted to cry, but having Bheinn with me (Mark had left us at the top to double back for the car) I told myself not panic and that I did not need to call out the mountain rescue – yet!  I had a torch, map and compass. This was my money, where mouth is time for every occasion I had mentally berated foolish walkers for not carrying appropriate navigation equipment, or knowing how to use it.  As the cloud cleared I could take a back bearing from the farms and aim to a distinctive field pattern. When we met the path it was small and indistinct and I don’t think we had been that far off it at any point. Bheinn loved the adventure. I loved the nerve calming pint in The Mill inn. A great mountain day!

For a chance to win a rug woven with the Herdwick wool spun on the Wainwrights like this post, follow this page or share your photo of me spinning with the #spinherdwick .
#candocalvert #louetnorthamerica
Raising money for the Lake District Calvert Trust
The new giving page is at Virgin money:

The One That Just Would Not Go Away110 High Rigg

The One That Just Would Not Go Away – 110 High Rigg

High Rigg is one of the smallest Wainwrights with the least amount of ascent from the car park and it is the 4th time I have attempted to get to the top (on this round).  Instead of walking from the Thirlmere end car park, we took the short route from the St Johns in the Vale church and finally got to the summit.


This is Skye and her mum on her first Wainwright.

Skye is the youngest person to sign the wheel. Her name is in pride of place right on the top.

We had a great chat about the history of textiles and drop spindles – (Skye’s mum is an Archaeologist)

Mark had a lovely conversation with a fellow photographer comparing cameras and the pros and cons of replacing the body but needing then to replace the lenses too.  The conclusion was possibly that they should both keep saving and enjoying using what they have.

He’s taking a picture of me taking a selfie of him and me taking a  picture of me

Time to sit and spin and relax

It’s Graham Again! Blencathra and Mungrisedale Common 108-9

Blencathra and Mungrisedale Common

I have never walked Blencathra from The Blencathra Centre side, but what a delightful route.  We used to run it from The Packhorse pub, before work, many years ago, but now I realise we really missed a treat.  The assent is short and sharp – made easier by the drive to 300m for the start.  Once at the top there is an amazing ridge walk to the summit.  And who should we meet but Graham and his daughter (wife and son) finishing her round of Wainwrights.  A very dedicated and inspiring young lady, who was the first to sign my wheel.  I was thrilled to see her finish along with a “socially distanced” crowd of strangers. No organised party unfortunately due to the coronavirus rule of 6 having been introduced.  We could not wait to leave the summit.  Bundled up against the -10 windchill with all my clothes put on in the wrong order to look look like “Barbapapa” (google it if you are under 50), we descended to Mungrisedale Common in record time.

I love the way this photo makes the terrain look really steep


The top of Mungrisedale Common is the most disputed Wainwright out there, but if you are on it you can see a 360 degree view of mountain tops.  I get it. Great Mountain!


1/2 Way – Where Did The Summer Go?

1/2 Way – number 107 – Where Did The Summer Go?

I was surprised to find that since I last wrote 3 months and 2o mountains have passed under my feet.  The summer holidays and opening up the Coronavirus social distancing restrictions have both added to my workload as guests started to return to the Bunkhouse, which means bookings and admin, as well as washing, ironing and lots of cleaning.

88-90 – Middle Fell, Seatallan, and Buckbarrow, a pleasant round, although the steep climb up to Seatallan freaked me out slightly and felt like I was on a vertical face.  Head down, don’t speak, don’t look up or down.  The distance was just right for legs that have enjoyed their lockdown break, a little too much.

91-94 – Starling Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile, and High Crag, the ridge from our front door, made this feel really special. Even the cheeky dog on Starling Dodd stealing my sandwich and nearly impaling it’s owner on the rusty pile of old fence posts on the summit could not dampen my spirits.  Feeling my age and lack of fitness Mark and Bheinn had driven around to Buttermere and met me on top of Red Pike, after an hour’s wait, all the more frustrating as it was a lovely day and Mark’s camera battery was flat. Descending High Crag was as difficult as I remembered from many years ago, with loose scree in all directions. Bheinn and I bum-shuffled down and I vowed to buy some new, aggressive-soled Inov8 fell shoes.

95-99 Caw Fell, Haycock, Scoat Fell, Steeple, Red Pike.  I had aimed to reach the 100 tops mark today, but this was the day that conspired against me. The Forestry Commission had added a lock to the track down the valley as too many staycationers were driving down with camper vans and tents to wild camp. We had planned to use the road to take a 3 mile walk-in off the day.  It was also the hottest day of the year so far and despite 2 litre bottles of water I had started to feel dehydrated by Scoat Fell.  After hopping across to Steeple and meeting a friend of a friend who kindly took photos and a movie shot of me on the top, I weighed up my options for a hasty retreat .  My original plan was to sweep up Red Pike and finish the day over Pillar with a 5 mile walk back home. Leaving Red Pike unclimbed was really not an option as it stands in the middle of 2 groups of mountains that I would have to reascend to bag it in the end, but I had run out of energy to make the distance and height gain of Pillar. So my options were to walk straight back the way I came after bagging Red Pike, alternatively I could follow the ridge to Grike and descend to the Cold Fell Road, or the last but more obscure option was to head South over Red Pike and possibly also over Yewbarrow and descend into Wasdale and call on the goodwill of Mark to drive around to collect me.  He was not too impressed, but showed his love and dedication by making the 80 minute round trip. Reaching the summit of Red Pike I knew Yewbarrow was out of the question.  I think I had a touch of Heat Stroke, feeling dizzy and sick, I descended to the valley desperate to find water and thrilled to see Mark on the lower flanks of Yewbarrow at Dropping Crag. Thanks to the generous couple on Caw Fell who donated their pre-covid emergency rucksack fund to the Calvert Trust

100 Yewbarrow – Of all the people in all the places, I met Graham from the Head4theHills group on the summit. Mark had walked over from Ennerdale and caught up with us as we were just about to descend, having experienced my walk from last week with an equal amount of dehydration. 100 felt like a great milestone but the one I am looking forward to is 107 the half way point.  Thank you to the 2 lads who made a generous donation to the Calvert Trust.

101, 102, 103 High Spy, Maiden Moor, Catbells. It was rather a cheat but not to be knocked, to drive to the top of Honister and walk back down to Cat Bells.  The plan had been to park at the bottom of Cat Bells and get the bus up to Honister, but all roadside parking had been blocked by double Yellow Lines and the field car park was not open.  So we drove up Honister, walked the ridge in reverse, and then planned to get the bus back up the pass for the car. I had downloaded the bus timetable, so imagine my surprise/upset/annoyance, when we arrived at the Catbells bus stop to be greeted by the sign that said the nearest bus service was Seatoller – 7 miles away.  The bus helpline was no help denying that the 77 bus from Keswick and a bus stop called CatBells existed at all.  Keswick TI phone line was picked up by a call centre – not in Keswick, so was unsure if it was running or not.  The Ice Cream Van Man however confirmed that the bus was running. Having come equipped with pen to sign the wheel I was able to leave a note for other walkers who thought they were in a pickle and to help the bus company improve their fares for people who otherwise would think the bus was not running.

104,105, 106, 107 – and half way. Wetherlam, Swirl Howe, Great Carrs and Grey Friar  I have been looking forward to climbing the Conistons for a long time.  They sound and look dramatic, and I always feel I am in a Swiss village in Consiton itself. We had planned to climb all 7 but despite a very early Sunday Morning alarm at 6 and leaving the house by 7:30 the journey is long and my pace was slow. On Wetherlam we learned of James Forrest who is attempting an unsupported round of the Wainwrights in 18 days.  I commented that it will be the 6th fastest of all time, Alan Heaton, Joss Naylor, Steve Birkinshaw, Simon  Barnett, Paul Tierney (chronological). The reason I knew this information as I had met Simon Barnett when he completed his 14 day walking round and discovered at the time he was the 4th fastest completion, but the record keepers at The FRA/LDWA and Wainwright Society did not seem interested, so as I write there is no official record of the fastest Wainwright rounds.  Mark and Bheinn were with me on the round and we had great fun as they distracted themselves bidding on Warhammer figures on Ebay.  Coming off Grey Friar, time and space and a very tired 13yo (and mummy) suggested that it was time to beat a retreat to dinner in the pub.  The pasta bake at home would serve a meal another day.  Surprise of the day.  Who should we bump into again but Graham Davies, from Head4thehils who we met on Yewbarrow.




87 Fellbarrow – Taking Life for Granted

10 Weeks Look but Don’t Touch!

It was half-term, 19 February 2020 when I was last in the hills on Sale Fell with Christine.  A lot has happened since then and we have talked of nothing else. “Coronavirus”. We stayed at home.  Not such a chore when the sun was shining and the garden was ready for some attention, but the hills were always calling and freedom to chose where and for how long we could drink in the fresh air and stunning views a constant thought in the back of our minds.

After 10 weeks of almost permanent sun we worried it may disappear on the day we headed out to the hills for the first time in a while.  Thankfully the heat remained unseasonally hot for our first gentle ascent of Fellbarrow.  Not a long drive from home and not a difficult climb, mindful that I did not want to be the one to put the Mountain rescue and our already stretched health services under any further duress it was a great place for a come-back.

My son could not understand my joy at  breathing-in the new views, which to his teenage brain looked just as green and blue as the ones at home.  I could feel the energy returning to my veins and was thankful for my daily 2.5 mile walk for the past 10 weeks, meaning at least my lungs and heart could cope even if my uphill leg muscles might be sore the next day.


On the summit we met Jason and Adam who in accordance with current practice kept their distance but enjoyed the spectacle of a spinner on the summit. Meeting them helped my confidence in feeling that it was somehow “wrong” to be in the hills again.  Bheinn carried out a social distanced signing of the wheel, by writing Adam and Jason’s names for them, and at that moment I felt I was starting to return to some sort of normal.  My mind was racing forward to plans for my next mountains.  I was truly “excited”.  A feeling we do not always identify when life is too busy.  10 weeks in lockdown and I realised that the freedoms we enjoy in our lives and the spectacular county we live in can easily be overlooked.

A post lockdown resolution – not to take anything for granted ever again!

Coronavirus is great for Gardening

Rooky in the Garden

We have had a staggeringly sunny May 2020 and instead of weaving or spinning away the Coronavirus Lockdown I have been able to move the garden forward at an astounding rate.  In the last pictures you will notice the black plastic is still down. As you scroll down you will see the garden being revealed.

The original plan was to grow exclusively dye plants, but it soon became clear that I would have enough room to sneak in a few items for the farmhouse table and luckily I worked this out before the lockdown and had already ordered my seeds from and they arrived before the stockpiling of toilet roll and other essentials started.

Like all new gardeners I planted “loads” of salad seeds at once, and soon needed to build another set of cold frames to protect my seeds from the Lake District cold and frosts of spring.  I made rooky mistakes of planting the courgette and butternuts too early, but luckily only lost 1 plant.  They look so beefy and large that it never occurred to me that they could be damaged by frost.  I felt intimidated by “Brassicas” and the use of fleece and netting, and watched many You Tube hours of how to sow in seed trays, how to prick out, how amazing plug trays are.  I even taught my green-fingered biological science majored friends how easy the no dig method of gardening is and she is going to try it on her new allotment.

The day I took up the first plastic covering was so exciting to see I had real, crumbly, rich, healthy looking soil.

I planted the Woad seedlings Katie (Wwoofer)  had brought with her, transplanted the Madder from the buckets into the beds and filled some gaps with Onion sets, figuring that they are edible and useful for dyeing.  Again though I bought too many and am looking forward to them maturing so I can use the space for something else.

Every week I have revealed a new bed, pulling back the plastic, full of trepidation for the weeds coming back.  I am still having to pick out  individual bind weed stems, which are now very weak and give up very easily, but on the whole I am weed free.

Happy Learning Curve

I have lost the fear of “Killing” things as lots of plants are actually growing – to my amazement!  I am no longer overwhelmed that there is so much to learn, as the activity of practical application and learning at the same time seems to be making the knowledge stick. And the best thing about no dig is that if the weeds do come back, or I don’t have time to spend gardening, I can cover the beds with cardboard, manure and or plastic. I never thought I would enjoy gardening so much.  The views and the blue-sky sunny days are helping, but also the success and the feeling of nurturing the baby plants is so rewarding.  We are already on our second bucket of cut and come again salad leaves, we have added Chard to many dishes and I am looking forward to harvesting my first full lettuce.  I am even dreaming of the possibility of entering some of my produce in the veg category in the local show. Sadly not until next year as due to the virus the 2020 Ennerdale Show has been cancelled. By then I may even consider myself more than a beginner.


Since writing this I have also learnt that using the No Dig method you may not even have to use the black plastic.  If you are starting in a flat area of the garden the use of cardboard, compost/manure and wood shavings are all you need.

Check out the Charles Dowding video below.


The Saga of the Snowdrops

How Far Have We Come?

My Wwoofing blog posts are few and far between as that is the nature of my Wwoofing /gardening project.  The Wwoof visits have to fit around the availability of the accommodation and in rhythm with the growing seasons.  Spring and Autumn. Luckily Ane’s visit in Summer last year and the dormant Autumn and Winter season had left the garden as I left it last year.

Kate applied to visit in March enthusiastic for spinning and dyeing.  Using the “Immediate Availability” posting on the Wwoof web site I tried to gather together a 1 week working party.  However the list of jobs was “bitty” and involved mostly clearing and tidying, so I was cautious about hosting too many willing bodies with not enough to keep everybody meaningfully occupied.  I generated quite a few enquiries but mostly for the wrong dates, so Kate and I created a working party of 2 for a week on some perhaps surprising projects.

Preparing for the Hen House

Next to the raised-bed garden is that area at the back of every garden which gets neglected.  It housed a shed at one time which fell down and blew away, but the hard standing was still good, if a bit mossy.  The wooden crate that housed the old plant pots was rotting away and the flower arch which once held the climbing rose was bent out of shape.

Whilst Kate transplanted the snowdrops to protect them from the planned chicken run I finished the edges of the raised beds in efficient Italian Wwoofer style learnt last year (no more tape measures, brackets and screws but a good dose of ratch in the shed, chop it up and shove it in).  Hey presto a functional path and raised beds that will hold lots of cardboard and horse manure.

BUT who would have thought there were 3 wheel barrows of snow drops.  I had estimated about 10 clumps.  By the end of day 2 we had re-planted 25meters of snowdrops and 12kg of daffodil bulbs, which will make a great display along the whole wall and provide heaps of yellow dye from the heads next year.

Shit Shovelling

Every Wwoofer to the Wild Wool Barn has the privilege of gathering bulky manure.  Sorry it’s just a fact of organic gardening!  We spent a fun morning firstly in the co-op topping up the stores (there was a Coronavirus epidemic to plan for and shelves empty of toilet paper to view in disbelief) 1 bag full of shopping was all we could purchase (no panic buying here) as it had to be carried on the passenger/Wwoofer’s lap.  The back of the car would be full of smelly stuff.

Last year I found the manure gathering exhausting.  Not sure it was worth all the effort I mildly resented doing it and certainly did not enjoy it. However in Storm Ciara in February one of my beds was exposed when the plastic lifted to reveal a beautiful bed of fine soil.  I am now so excited to plant and can really see the point of the bulky manure…but a gardener must be patient.

Day 3 finished with piling on the cardboard accumulated over 6 months, topping it off with the manure, and covering the layers with the plastic.  One more bed had now been conditioned to mature over this winter.  2 more to go.


Heath Robinson building

Kate’s final day and an exciting build.  Using everything we could scrounge from the sheds, we built a cold frame. I just love learning from the Wwoofers’ experience. The frame was made from old roof beams and Celtex-type insulation left form the barn conversion and windows removed from the house 20 years ago (so glad to see the back of them!) and kept for this purpose.  Oh! and parts of an old loom – how appropriate!  Katie suggested the  insulation would reflect the heat and keep the plants warm. So now I can’t wait to plant but with snow on the ground this week it just feels tiny bit too early.

Of course it sounds like we worked outside all the time

But don’t forget this is the Lake District and it rained, was windy and sub-zero most of the week.  We also combed wool, made some posters for the Workshop, played Risk (Captain America Version and Dungeons), shared lots of tips for dye plants and enjoyed some lovely family meals.

Progress and Success in 12 Months

So from this time last year with ground that was just a weed bed and having no gardening experience whatsoever the Wild Wool Dye Plant Garden now has:

A Cold Frame

7 Raised beds with conditioned or conditioning soil

12kg of Daffodils  planted ready for spring 2021

Woad plants in their 1st and 2nd year (not many plants but it is a start and the seeds are as important as the leaves)

Madder in pots going into year 3 some ready for harvesting

Weld plants  – just a few but with the knowledge that they should not be covered when germinating

Alkanet – identified by Katie

Flower beds full of perennials and other Dye plants like Coreopsis and Genista Tinctora bought at Wool Fest last year

A stack of experiences and memories from hosting our Wwoofing friends.


Oh! and we have a Wwoofing family booked to visit in June when those pesky weeds return and we are ready to build the dyeing kitchen.

We have come a long way already and look forward to the plants growing and providing brilliant colour to dye the Ennerdale wool.

Weeds will Grow

Summer in the Garden 2019

Spring seemed a long time behind us when Ane from Denmark turned up.  I had not intended to host Wwoofers in the summer months as that was peak season for our accommodation business, which is also used to house Wwoofers off-season, but Ane was so enthusiastic about the textile aspect of the project, being a spinner herself I could not say no and already I was learning that despite the huge strides we had made in  the weeds just will not wait! In a scene reminiscent of the red weed in War of the Worlds, the bind weed had invaded the whole garden, sneaking out anywhere the plastic let in the light, except where the Rhubarb was growing.  In the delightful Wwoofing way I had learned to love Ane took on those weeds with enthusiasm and determination until they all had been defeated.

Inevitably  August is the rainy season in Cumbria, so Ane spent many happy hours in the studio combing and carding wool.  She also drunk in the view of the Ennerdale Water and encouraged me to spin al fresco and revisit the view it is sometimes easy to take for granted. There was just one fly in the ointment, or should I say “wasp” in the Rhubarb.  The 3 huge plants were buzzing and crawling with a whole nest/colony. Never one to back down from a challenge I used the opportunity to try my hand at making a wasp trap or 10.  Initially I thought I had made the holes too large as the wasps seemed to just fly in and feed on the sugar/jam/honey and fly out again…..3 days later……

X 10


Easy Peasy, Panic and Freezy 84 85 86 Ling Fell, Barf and Sale Fell

Ling Fell

The depths of winter and the red dots of “Bagged Fells” are filling up the map. Ling Fell is the last one on the left as you drive towards Cockermouth and is yet another one that feels small and insignificant and just for “off-days”.  This was truly an off day.  Huff Puff, sweat and suffer, who would have thought number 84 at just 373m and 205 on the list would lay me low, not just on the bum-sliding steep descent but a 3 hours sleep when I got home.


For 6 months, a very long time ago (pre child birth), we lived in a caravan at the foot of Barf, and considered The Bishop our own personal guardian angel. We ran up and down most days and I considered the ascent on this day would be a hands-in-pocket walk in the park. It was steeper than I remembered and the bad step not even a consideration back then.  The 2 meter scramble up over a small rocky stream had me clinging on for fear of slipping on the way up and bathed me in worry for the descent.  I looked out for an alternative way down.  I was sure there was a forest ride along to the East in the Whinlatter Forest, but my memory was hazy, as were my photos as I had left my phone in my trouser pocket and the lens steamed up.  I am not as flexible and confident in the hills as I used to be, it is truly a good many years since we lived below Barf, and on the way down today the bad step became my nemesis.  Maybe I had built it up in my mind to be more difficult than it should have been and I became crag fast.

Mark tried to support my foot as I lay spread-eagled across what was really a very small boulder with only a few feet between me and solid ground, and then I froze. I could see no way out I could not go up and I could not go down and a sense of dread came over me that the only way down would involve pain, falling or the mountain rescue and tears.  The tears came and the panic subsided and inch by inch, like some macabre Hokey Kokey, I put my left leg down, my left leg up, down, up, down, up,  and then the left hand, and then the right and eventually I manoeuvered the 3ft to the floor.  I don’t think I will ever go that way up or down Barf again and when my back pack is not full of wood and wool I will include a 3m rope and body harness. I understood that panic is not a sign to flee, it is a state where you can neither fight nor flee.  There is no way out.

Sale Fell

Sale Fell was a long time coming for my friend Christine who actually wanted to do Catbells, like everybody, for it’s super name. After many false promises to deflower her boots we finally chose the worst day of the year on a very different peak.

We chose the winding route  along Wythop Beck past Kelswick farm. The gorse was thick and our trousers were thin against the spikes and against the biting wind.  The top was marvellous. It reminded me of the ski/board-cross slopes in the winter Olympics and having been up here in the snow a year or two ago I once again logged Sale Fell as my go-to place for winter sports.  Despite the silencing howl, and the hood-stealing strength of the wind, we headed in good visibility straight for the wall and the car park and slightly stale cheese rolls.

Every Fell has surprised me as being the giver of great views and unexpexcted emotions.  Easy Peasy Ling Fell, Panic on Barf and Freezy Friendships on Sale Fell.  All new experiences, all new emotions, all different, all shared.

81 – 83 Graystones, Broom Fell and Lord’s Seat – Wear and Tear

81 – 83 Graystones, Broom Fell and Lord’s Seat – Wear and Tear

The bag I carry the wheel in was never designed to be taken up mountains. It is not waterproof and the padding it came with was not deep enough to protect my back from the hardness of the wooden structure of the wheel.  So in the early days I created a cocoon-like layer of upholstery foam to cushion my torso and the wheel. I also bought a waterproof rucksack cover for the times when I might be caught out in a shower – with the intention not to walk out in driving rain. Both have been invaluable.

The padding is going strong and only showing minor signs of scuffing and compression.  It will probably see me up  another 70 Wainwrights before it needs renewing.

The more significant wear and tear has been to the zip on the front pocket.  It is not the stitching between the zip and the fabric of the bag that has parted company, but the teeth of the zip from the tape it is sewn onto.  I fear this will be a very delicate operation to stitch between each tooth, but possible.

So here’s to my bag and wheel (which has had a good dose of oil) and to the battle scars it has accumulated together with a heck of a lot of mud, Oh and a little redecoration in the freezing wind on Graystones!