Saturday 21 November 2015

A Stormy Trip to the Lakes

Terry on Threlkeld Knotts watching the storm approach

Outside it’s snowing heavily. The wind is whistling round the house. All day the hills have been shrouded in cloud and rain has turned to drizzle then sleet then back to rain and finally, after dark, to snow. The world is wet. But not as wet as it was in the Lake District just a few days ago. I was down there for the TGO Awards event, held in Kendal in the very nice Burgundy Bar, but travelling that far I wanted, as in previous years, to have a day or two out on the fells. When Terry Abraham suggested we have a wild camp before the awards I readily agreed. 

The forecast as I travelled down to the Lakes by train was not promising. Storms were predicted. I met Terry in Keswick and we conferred over beer and food in the Dog and Gun. Terry wanted the camp to be somewhere he could film for his next big project, Life of A Mountain: Blencathra, and had suggested the summit of Clough Head right across the valley from that hill. However 65mph gusts were forecast for the summit plus dense mist. ‘Threlkeld Knotts is a good alternative’, said Terry, ‘lower but still with a good view of Blencathra and there are lots of little knolls for shelter'.

Clough Head disappearing into the clouds

So to Threlkeld Knotts we went on a dull cloudy morning. The higher fells were clear when we set off but the clouds soon covered them. Arriving on the summit we felt the first raindrops. A reasonably sheltered site was quickly found. Or so we thought. Tents up I went off in search of water. It took a while as I scoured dips and gullies for a stream. The rain was now hammering down but there was no flowing water. The wind was strengthening too and when I eventually gave up the search and filled the bottles from a dark pool half the water was whipped away by the wind as I poured it from a wide mouth bottle into the narrow necks of the larger containers.

Stumbling back to camp dripping with rain, clutching heavy bottles with numb fingers and knocked about by the wind I began to wonder if camping here was a good idea. My tent appeared, one side pushed in and out by the gusts. Terry was outside, filming with his phone. His heavier more solid tent was moving less but he said the vibrating flysheet was really noisy. In my tent I’d have been hit repeatedly by the fabric. I held up my anemometer. The wind was 25-30mph with gusts to 54mph. We decided to seek a lower site and wrestled the tents down and into our packs. We were only at 470 metres here so there wasn’t much lower to go before reaching fields and farms though. The wind was strengthening as we descended. A prospective site was considered during a brief lull. Then the big gusts returned. No go, we decided. A full retreat was in order. Terry made phone calls and a B&B was booked in Scales. It took over an hour to walk there in the storm. Down in the valley the wind was as strong as it had been on Threlkeld Knotts. We’d made the right decision.

Terry on the wet walk from Scales to the Blencathra Centre

Scales Farm Country Guest House was warm and dry and welcoming as was the White Horse Inn a few yards away where we went in search of dinner and beer. Outside the storm raged on. Come dawn and it had not calmed down. There would have been no views, no early morning magical light, just wind and rain. We’d missed nothing. I realised Terry hadn’t produced his camera once, the first trip I’d been on with him where he’d done no serious photography. That remained the case as we walked through the wind and rain to Threlkeld and then the Blencathra Centre, where Terry was to stay while he continued his film.

That afternoon the Head of the Centre, Tim, drove us to Kendal for the TGO Awards. The rain
poured on. We drove through floods on the roads. Another room indoors to change again. Then an evening talking to old and new friends, a gathering of outdoors people. The rain was forgotten. I’d been wearing two of the garments that won awards – they’d performed really well. (You can see the full Awards list here).

Then came a dry day and sunshine and I was on the train back north with a rucksack smelling from the sodden boots and socks it contained.

It’s been a year for wet and windy trips. This was the wettest and windiest.

And now the snow has come.


  1. An epic adventure indeed. I've just endured the same retreat in the cheviots. .. what a night.. good job them hills will always be there. Great read my friend :)

  2. Mmmm... Indeed Chris. Torn bungees on my tent from the winds in the Lakes recently meant a welcome retreat to a hostel. What I missed out on in camping was made up for by the encounters and company with friendly fellow hostellers.

  3. Chris Ainsworth and I had planned a wild Lakes camp for the same two days but we cancelled before travelling on account of the forecast. I guess we made the right decision.

  4. no shame in coming down from fierce winds right call made i,d say .