Going Solo – Souther Fell and the Top of Honister

Souther Fell : No 23

On Saturday 15th June 2019,  after a wonderful morning learning how to blend wool on a blending board at Mungrisdale – a simple and most effective process making ammonite-like rolags for spinning – I set out alone for the first time with the wheel to head up Souther Fell looming above.

Although tempted to shin over the fence and head straight up the shoulder I feared the wrath of the land owner who had specified that walkers should not cross the fields.  The map gave no clue to the direct access so I took the cowards decision to walk the long route to the west of the mountain.  I had hoped to sweep up Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell on the return journey, but feeling my age, or just not having walked my mountain legs in yet, I fretted my indecision. Head down listening to my internal dialogue I caught up with 2 ladies I was a aware were walking in a more relaxed and carefree manner.  I commented on their laissez-faire demeanor and they confessed they were out for a wander, not sure where they were going and hoped their discussion about the reasons for choosing a termination had not disturbed me – one being a midwife.  I had not heard, the negative chatter being so loud in my head. I wondered what I was fretting about and I determined that I should enjoy every step or the journey was not worth it.  As we fell into step they noticed the pack and asked about its contents.  I had not considered that on the outside it looked anything out of the ordinary on the fell and again I marvelled that others took so much more notice of their surroundings with open interest, again I pushed the worries away.  I was experienced, equipped, although the wheel might cause a few scratched heads on a mountain rescue call out – the first spinning wheel to be rescured, I had map compass, safety gear, I was in the place I wanted to be, if I did not complete 3 mountains, “who cares” I will have competed 1.

Hitting the summit ridge and seeing how much time and expired as well as my food, I decided 1 was good.  On the summit of Souther Fell facing the next great challenges of the mighty Blencathra and the lesser known Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fells I formulated a plan to come back after the next spinning group in Mungrisedale and set out before and not after the class.  I took my first selfie dropping the camera many times before I caught anything usable and followed another couple with 2 dogs down the shoulder and circumnavigated the fields I could not cross to the back road and on to The Mill Inn for a well earned pint.

Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable and Base Brown 24-27. Sunday 16th June 2019

This is what it is all about!  My family together on an easy to reach round of high fells.  Using the English equivalent of a cable car in the form of the road to Honister Pass, to take the sting out of the climb, we headed out for a round of the “G’s” and the “B’s”  as my mind summarised them, Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable and Base Brown –  numbers 24-27.  I wondered at the 360 degree viewpoints as we sat on Brandreth and then Grey Knotts and I spun.  We could see almost to our house and understood why there are objections to the artificial nature of uniform trees planted after WWI in Ennerdale compared to the serene unspoilt landscape of Buttermere/Loweswater. I looked up to towering imposition of Scafell and Scafell Pike and identified peaks in the Langdales astounded that all this was on my doorstep.  Bheinn and I dodged the weather just receiving a passing shower as we descended together into Seathwaite.  Mark had retraced tracks over Green Gable to retrieve the car. Bheinn and I thought we had taken the easy route direct to Seathwaite. Unfortunately I forgot that the most direct is often the steepest route. The wheel learnt to scramble and free fall, and I spent a lot of time moaning about wet paths artificially made of rocks aimed forwards. Excellent for ascending, treacherous if you put your foot on a smooth rock on the way down as I discovered twice.  Needless to say Mark was waiting for us at the bottom having read quite few pages of his book and I vowed never to descend from Base Brown to Seathwaite by the direct path ever again.

Spin-A-Round is a challenge to Spin Herdwick Wool on the top of all the Wainwright Fells in the Lake District, Raising money for the Lake District Calvert Trust
https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/spinaround-740bcfeb

The Escape Room – Fairfield Horseshoe

A Rip Roaring Romp

Having notched up 13 Wainwrights in stunning, clear, calm weather before the official launch on 2 June on Latrigg, the blustery, wet weather served as a wake up call that this was not going to be easy. And so I spent a week watching the weather wondering if I would be able to get the challenge off with a rip-roaring romp around the Fairfield Horseshoe on the forthcoming  weekend or would I be beetling up and down Binsey in half an hour and retreating to the Sun Inn in Bassenthwaite, working out how many years it will take to do all the Wainwrights one at a time?

The stormy weather played ball and passed through on Saturday so we woke up to a warm but cloudy Sunday morning and very out of character for my family the alarm went off at the usual 7am. To be walking out of Ambleside at 10:10am was quite an achievement, not least because the compass fell apart, so trying to  teach Bheinn  (12yo) how to orientate the map with a compass held together with an elastic band that had seen better days proved an early challenge.  Luckily the good weather stayed with us and visibility was 100%, so the orienteering lesson was more in principal than in practice.

The aim of the day was to tick off the 8 fells of the Fairfield Horseshoe (Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Heron Cragg and Nab Scar) bringing my total to 22.  A day to breathe in the the views and leave the cares of the day below us behind.  I hoped….

As we rose between Low Pike and High Pike I could hear a gaggle of voices behind me.  I looked around to see one man and wondered why I could not see the group following up behind.  We walked on and as he approached the noise of the crowd grew louder. I was shocked, when he passed, that he was alone apart from the millions of people listening, on the same wavelength, to the Cricket World Cup being broadcast to the world from the back of his rucksack.  My jaw dropped and as I exclaimed “Why? the broadcaster co-incidentally cried out to the open fell…“the question is why?” So as I puffed to the top of High Pike, and the chatter of the radio disappeared into the wind I was ruminating on the word WHY.  Why would somebody be so selfish as to bring the noise we come to escape into our little piece of heaven? Why would they think it is in the least bit acceptable to broadcast this to everybody? Why would he dare to ruin my day? Why do we come onto the fells? Why do I think my interpretation of use of the Fells is superior to anybody else’s?

The Question is Why

I know I walk in the fells to leave the cares of the world at ground level, for fitness, for self-fulfillment and achievement, to catch the wind, to catch the sun, to see the grandeur of the world to remind me of my small place among its majesty and to be among like-minded people, in short, to belong.

Being confronted by this disturbance from the real world  had touched on insulting  the senses of escaping in order to belong to something superior,  but I had to ask myself was I not doing something similar? Was my spinning wheel challenge not bringing the everyday into the world of the escape room?

One of the problems I had with deciding to embark on this charity event is that I do not like asking people to sponsor me.  I have always believed that the main reason to achieve something is for your own betterment and self development.  Also, having notched up the best part of 100 marathons, and various ultras in the past, I find it difficult to convince anybody that I am doing anything extraordinary or challenging enough to warrant sponsorship.  I also do not like to disturb other people’s enjoyment. I think that just because I love doing something it does not have to be of interest to anybody else (perhaps I am too self contained for my own good).  I debated if  just seeing me with a spinning wheel might destroy the seclusion. or that I might be responsible for interrupting somebody else’s walk with a reminder of everyday life they have left behind by my request for charitable donation, even if that is only implied by my being there, I might ruin somebody else’s day. Could my actions be just as imposing on somebody else’s day as the noise from a radio?

When I put the question to my son as to why he likes to walk in the mountains he cleared up the dilemma

his list was :

Because it gets me away from my computer games.

It stops you nagging me to get away from my computer games.

Because it stops me getting unfit and fat.

Because it’s nice.

“What is nice about it?” I asked, “what feelings does it give you to describe that nice feeling?”

I feel healthy and I can eat lots of biscuits.

It’s nice when I get back to my computer games!

In a nutshell we head out into the hills to get away from it all so we appreciate what we have more fully when we return.

So  I hope my challenge is extraordinary and challenging enough to lift it from the everyday and not cause anybody’s enjoyment to be disturbed and that my own enjoyment of spinning will be affected by taking it with me into place we go to escape?

#spinherdwick #candocalvert #louetnorthamerica
Raising money for the Lake District Calvert Trust.  Donations can be made at:
https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/spinaround-740bcfeb

 

“Launching” the Spin-A-Round Challenge

“Launching” the Spin-A-Round Challenge

It had taken 2 years to get to the point that I could “Launch” the Spin-A-Round Challenge. Life, building works to our house, business and family matters had always contrived to take precedence, so  it was  on 2 June 2019 at 9am, 2 years after I had bought my mountaineering spinning wheel I set off for the summit of Latrigg above Keswick in the Lake District with Mark and Bheinn to Launch the challenge to spin Herdwick wool on the 214 Wainwright Fells. It was a 3-person job to carry my wheel, leaflets, sheep biscuits, chairs, table, banner and a shelter.  More kit than I plan to take for the regular spinning walks, but we hoped to host a picnic for the Calvert Trust volunteers and have a chance to showcase the spinning wheel and challenge.

The shelter had been a last minute decision and in the tradition of all all great, daft events it was erected for the first time, on the mountain, in the wind with the instructions tucked under my chin.  Assembly was easy, keeping it up was more of a challenge.  When I had considered the need for shelter from the rain, I had overlooked the fact that in the Lake District it is a certainty that rain will be accompanied by wind. The shelter proved great at keeping the rain off, however keeping it in place to stop it taking on a secondary role as a paraglider proved a full-time occupation for my helpers and supporters, so taking the idea of “Launching” an event to a whole new level.

Despite the inclement weather we were joined by a steady stream of passers-by, runners, dog walkers, parents carrying 2 children and regular Lake District visitors. Some who had made the journey specifically to see and support the launch and others, who found us by chance and thought it was the most “surreal” event they had witnessed on a mountain.

I felt very honoured that so many volunteers and supporters of Lake District Calvert Trust came out on this rather wild day and I enjoyed many conversations about spinning and the work done by the Trust to make this spectacular place we live in accessible for everybody. We were even featured on ITV Border TV (Link below), Fiona the reported captivated by the unusual notion of the event and my determination not to give up because of the conditions

The weather conditions were not as I had envisaged, but that served as a great reminder that the challenge was not going to be plain sailing, even if that was what the shelter thought it was made to do.

To support this wholly surreal challenge go to https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/spinaround-740bcfeb

Follow the progress on Instagram “wildwoolworkshopennerdale” or sign up to the Spin-A-Round newsletter by contacting susan@wildwoolworkshop.co.uk to find  out where I will be spinning next.

Susan Denham-smith is hoping to spin Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association LTD wool on all the Wainwrights. #spinningwool #wool

Posted by Fiona Marley Paterson ITV Border on Sunday, June 2, 2019

 

Taking a Spinning Wheel Mountaineering

Taking a Spinning Wheel Mountaineering

I was very impatient to try out the chosen wheel, so having picked it up from The Threshing Barn https://threshingbarn.com/ at Farfield Mill https://www.farfieldmill.org/ we set out for the the most easily accessible but remote-feeling place on the way home – Ravenstonedale. This is a limestone plateau, which means the top is relatively flat and made up of regular shaped blocks, making siting a piece of industrial equipment on a relatively stable platform quite easy.

To my relief, my first observation about the wheel was that it was so small I did not need to take a chair with me but could perch on practically any rock and have enough space between my knees and the treadles to give the wheel some momentum. To my delight I found it was very stable, took less than a minute to put together and was very stable on the most rocky of surfaces.

The only minor niggle was that the bag was not padded enough, but I was able to remedy that by buying some upholstery foam from Dunelm and cutting it to fit the wheel.  I guess the wheel/bag were not designed for mountaineering so I was planning to really put them through their paces. Even with extra padding I am able to fit extra clothes, food and drink into the bag and all in all it weighs less than my husband’s camera bag.

And so I was ready to start the challenge to spin Herdwick Wool on the top of the 214 Mountains in the Wainwright Pictorial Guides.

My First real mountain Climb was Blake Fell in the Western Fells in May 2017.  The plan was to start the Spin A Round Challenge from then going forward, but those of you who know me well will, remember that 2017/18 was a very busy time, renovating a barn so I can teach spinning and weaving classes and provide accommodation to walkers and crafters in our remote ex-farmhouse and barn, and celebrating many 50th birthdays.

As well as being a personal physical challenge for me the Spin A Round challenge needed to benefit other people to be truly worthwhile. In 2016 The Lake District Calvert Trust had organised the Go Herdwick Public Art Trail where local artists and organisations had taken part in decorating a life-sized fibreglass sheep for display and auction.  I had enjoyed visiting the colourful artistic sheep with my son and niece and thought my spinning Herdwick idea would link really well with this love of all things Herdy in the Lake District.

The work that Calvert Trust do is also close to my heart. They provide challenging outdoor activity breaks for people with disabilities.  I have never had personal need of their services, nor anyone close to me, but I have taught in adult education with people with all sorts of physical difficulties and always had the sense of “there but for the grace of god go I,” and what would I do if I did not have the freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted, with the limitations our able bodied-centric society puts on us?  Life and physical fitness is a precious gift that I could so easily take for granted and I wanted to use my good fortune to make a difference while I could.

After some explanation, I was able to convince The Calvert Trust marketing team that I was serious and “extreme” spinning (without a bike), on mountain tops could be a thing and so the partnership was born.

It took me, however, 2 more years to create the space in my life required to organise the launch date. Permissions, advertising, press releases and shelters for the likelihood of Lake District rain! all needed to be put in place.  So on 2 June 2019 I will be spending the day on top of Latrigg, joined by volunteers and supporters of Lake District Calvert Trust  oh! and a few hundred mountain runners who will be in the trials for the national Fell Running team and any body else who will be enjoying a day out on an easily accessible mountain with stunning views (if the clouds part) of the central Lake District spinning Herdwick wool.

 

Choosing a Mountaineering Spinning Wheel

Choosing a Mountaineering Spinning Wheel

I can’t imagine in the history of googling that many people have ever googled “Mountaineering Spinning Wheel”.  I have seen people with drop spindles taking them around the world and with them to feed the goats, but I did not want to spin with a spindle. I wanted to make an impact.  Sitting on top of a mountain with a spinning wheel that looked like had earned its place to be carried to the summit.

Once I had navigated my way through the pages of physics explaining the balance in “Light Weight Wheels”, fishing reels and fitness clubs I found a whole reference to historic wheels, with weights and values.

My options boiled down to 4 wheels: The Ashford Joy, The Babe Pinkie, The Louet Victoria and the Bosworth Journey Wheel.

My first desire was to go for the Babe Pinkie.  The lightest of them all and with a name like that who could resist?  After a long email exchange with  the woolery.com I discovered that although ultra light weight, it was made from plumbing parts and was unlikely to be robust enough for mountaineering. Even after I explained that English mountains very rarely took more than 2 hrs to ascend and have very little requirement for ropes and karabiners (The Woolery is in America) I figured 214 ascents would be more than this light weight wheel could cope with.  In addition the treadles were designed for children’s feet and mine are a size 9 (43) plus walking boots.

Wanting something more substantial than a plastic toy, and ruling out the Bosworth Journey Wheel (even though it was designed in a carrying case and I had been offered the opportunity to buy the most historic example in the country)  I had to chose between the Joy and the Victoria.

If you google Ashford Victoria you get train times.  So having made that mistake, I now know the difference between the two makes and models.  The Louet Victoria is lighter than the Ashford Joy by 3 kg and comes with a carrying case.  My decision was made and my pennies spent on probably the 4th most expensive purchase of my life (House, Car, Racing Bicycle, Spinning Wheel).

The Four the Merrier

I am quite a solitary person, and although we were hosting Wwoofers for just 1 week at a time, having a relative stranger full time in your life was quite exhausting. We do provide a separate building for the Wwoofers, but when they arrive alone, we want them also to feel part of the family,  but cooking and heating separately all have a cost.  It was our Romanian Wwoofer who suggested that instead of waiting for the Wwoofers to find us and host them one at a time, we should put an urgent request on the site with specific dates for specific tasks and host a group for 2 weeks.  So we did. Within 3 days we had 10 offers of help for 2 weeks in Februay/March.  Some not so practical as they maybe had not read the dates we required or wanted to stay too long.  It was at the time the new Wwoof website was launched and my chosen 4 were a result of their patience with the glitches,  a friendly approach and enthusiasm for the project. A Canadian, a French couple and an English lad.

My 2nd exciting discovery was the No Dig Organic Home and Garden Book by Charles Dowding.

Picture 1 of 1

This was a revelation. No fights with weeds, no constant hoeing, NO DIGGING!! just tons of lovely bulky manure and brown cardboard.  I became obsessed, stopping in the dead of night to pick up cardboard left by the side of the road or near recycling bins. I become a connoisseur of Midden Heaps.  Dry and layered or decomposed and squelchy.  I was happy to collect from any.  Layering like a strange lasagne, those weeds were going to be suffocated into submission.

And so with a variety of abilities and life skills The Fabulous Four, worked initially in strange Cumbrian February sunshine and then in very usual Cumbrian Rain, to tame the old chicken run, and renovate the hen house (more bulky manure) chop back the devouring perennials, remove weeds from the cobbles (by hand), move and use the 10 year old household compost to fill buckets ready for planting, move paving slabs from the lawn, create paths, fill bags and bags and more bags with manure and layer it with cardboard and when rain truly stopped play, to process wool ready for dying.  The only thing we have not yet done is plant some seeds.

They worked and lived together, sometimes we all ate together, sometimes I cooked and sometimes they did.  Everybody had companionship and their own space. It was a perfect arrangement, and new bonds and friendships made.  It felt more like a university field trip than a working party.

It Feels Like We are on Holiday

Winter is the best time for us to work with the Wwoofers as in summer our accommodation is needed to rent to tourists to pay the bills.  Winter is not always the best time for gardening, but despite the snow and the rain the messy RH bed was transformed in a morning into 4 raised beds, and the view was revealed by a day of dilligent hedge trimming.  Not only had we forgotten how breathtaking the view from the garden could be, but what it felt like to be a gap year student again.  The house was filled with Italian words, cooking from life experiences as a Bistro owners in Milan, before Viviana and Vincenzo dropped into the slow lane to Wwoof around the world. Plans were made to Ski in Romania (or the Ukraine because that is where the Romanians now go). Bheinn learnt how to do magic tricks, and everybody got beaten at Mario Cart.  But like all travel Wwoofing comes with the need for a lot of adaptability.  None of the Wwoofing stays have finished/started as planned.  A day late for a broken bicycle, an early departure for paid employment, struggles, to find a next host, or the public transport to accommodate that need on a budget. And none of us have finished a Wwoofing host or assignment without learning and becoming more than we were at the beginning.  So for today

Sogni D’oro, Noapte buna vise placute, Goodnight and Sweet Dreams

http://wwoof.org.uk/

The First Wwoofer

Suilvan the “Naked” Frenchman

Our first Wwoofer arrived by bike in terrible Cumbrian weather having cycled from Portugal via Wales, Scotland and on this specific day from Dumfries.  He was travelling light, with everything (including his Ukelele) on the back of his bike.

No surprise he was very fit having cycled all that way, but his big surprise was his adherence to Barefoot running (and gardening).  As a running family who have spent many hours with massage therapists and physios we had many hours of conversation about the health benefits of the barefoot philosophy.  Our first Wwoofer was a brilliant English speaker and very hard working bringing about a huge transformation in the garden in just 5 days and joining in with our family life. I think the late autumn sunshine helped.  As we waved him goodbye both Bheinn and I had a tear in our eye. Our first Wwoofing experience had been a great success.

The Garden Begins

Gardening is not my favourite thing.  It is messy and hard work and we have a very large garden.  Mark, my husband had a go a few years ago when his mid-life crisis kicked in, but after the polytunnel had blown away 3 times, the last time permanently we both gave up trying to live off 2 beetroots, 3 peas and a large handful of Chard.  He bought a camera and I bought a guitar.

5 years later in 2019 and the barn redevelopment project is turning like a juggernaut from a building project to a money-making scheme and dream come true as far as being able to spin, weave and teach is concerned for me. I then realised the garden had been totally neglected and would require yet another large effort for it to complement the accommodation we were offering.

The penny dropped that many spinners and weavers I know dye their own yarns and a natural dye garden could be a fantastic add-on to the back to the earth philosophy of the spinning with wool from the sheep we can see from our back window and the idea of the dye plant garden was born.

So why go down the Organic route you may ask?  To be honest I was possibly persuaded by the notion of volunteer labour to help with the project in the form of Wwoofers.   Wwoof  means:

WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, UK (WWOOF™ UK) [and] is part of a worldwide movement linking visitors with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange thereby helping to build a sustainable global community.(https://wwoof.org.uk/about/what-wwoof).

As a student, many years ago I had travelled and volunteered around Europe and loved the idea that we could host volunteers from all over the world to help us develop this garden and share our incredible location.

Also I have always tended to reduce, reuse, recycle and help the planet as much as I can. So having read the information on the www.goorganic.org.uk web site about the Henry Doubleday Research Association’s guidelines of how Organic Gardening began taking care to love and nurture the soil avoiding chemicals rather  than force change with artificial additives I was hooked.

Why Would I Spin on Mountains

Why Would I Spin on Mountains

(Written Autumn 2016)

Dawning

Today I could see that the curtains were starting to part. Not completely open, not letting in the glorious sunshine of potential, but the glimpses of light that shine through the blinds. Well maybe that was last week. Today I dared to peep right through to the window and it all looked technicolour.

The fog did not descend suddenly, it rolled in slowly as one awkward decision, upon another life-turn enveloped and suffocated, until I was living in the space at the bottom of my bed under the duvet, metaphorically I mean. Life looked dull and faded, like slogging through the rain behind your parents on a Sunday walk when there is a film on TV you have yearned to see all your life.

Each day I got up and went through the motions, but the purpose seemed to have disappeared.

Long Runs

I had always run hard, always with something to prove. At first just to show I could go longer and further than others, to prove I could drink a pint and still fit into “that” dress. Then the fascination that I was truly something unique dawned, but I never quite believed it. That was the key. I never quite believed it, I was just never quite good enough, in my eyes, and often in the comments of those who should have known better – but worse still I believed them.

So when life, age, the need to bring up a child and the need to earn a living, started to strain and tug I still did not quite believe I had been that athlete. I stood lost not sure who I was at all.

I stopped running when the angina pains came, but the Drs found nothing wrong. I stopped believing I was worth it. I stopped putting myself first because my body decided I was not worth it. or was it my mind. I watched re-runs of “The Biggest Loser”. When I was fit not believing I was already that athlete they were striving to be, then as the stones (not pounds) went on I stared in disbelief that I was in the same boat. I too had stopped believing, I too had stopped putting myself first. I had tried too hard to conform to be loved and approved of, I had not held onto my precious self.

I started to see me. I stopped trying to pretend I could cope with being part of the have it all generation of 40 something women, who had spent their lives adapting to new technologies (from manual typewriters, through Amstrads, Word Perfect, Apples, Windows, laptops, telephones, carphones, Nokias, smartphones, tablets and Facebook…. and started to shout from the treetops that it was difficult and great, but that after having a family, running a toddler, group, running club, craft club and renovating a house and barn I was not on the proverbial “its now or B&Q scrip heap”, if I did not get a good job and have a stella career. Women were now being fully represented in all areas of work and it was not unusual, but they still have to juggle all the family duties. The jobs are there but the support in child care, flexi working, school visiting hours for pick up and set down, parents evenings, performances etc, are not. WE still carry the can. WE are still expected to do everything else. I could not cope doing everything else.

I was still trying to become the thing I thought I should be when I left school – an independent career woman working 40+ hours a week. My worth defined by my salary.

The Penny Drops

And so the penny started dropping. I am married, I have a family, I have a husband who by luck of birth is the one who earns the most. I am the one who can do the building, DIY, run ultras, cook (sort of) do marketing, speak German and Italian (sort of), type, weave, spin. I started to accept I was not of less worth because I had less money.

I then started to recognise the messages I had heard all my life, about striving for the things that you always want to do with your heart in order to be successful, applying to me. With me it was handicraft and running (in the hills and sometimes round and round tracks). This was me.  This is what defines me.  This is what makes me unique, driven, whole, and this is the blog of that re-connecton with who I am.