As The Plasticine Horse Says…

Watching events unfold on the news today has made especially uncomfortable viewing. It’s only two weeks ago that we were enjoying the great outdoors not far from Wasdale, in fact we had intended walking in that area.

We stayed at Holmrook, on the banks of the River Irt – which flows from Wast Water down to Holmrook and finally out to sea at Ravenglass. Normally we enjoy walking along the banks of the Irt, but heavy rain and extensive flooding made it impossible. I suspect it was much worse this weekend. Whilst we were there the footpath was submerged under a torrent of swirling water for the entire weekend – water that had come pouring downhill from the area where the fell runners became stranded this weekend.

In Full Spate Footpath Not In Use Benchmark

This, plus a severe weather warning, put paid to any plans we had for scaling the peaks, discretion being the better part of valour etc. Instead we enjoyed a seaside stroll, before heading inland up a quiet country lane for lunch at a local pub. (You will have spotted by now that I am not a particular intrepid outdoor type, just a fair-weather rambler). We thought we’d been sensible by planning a route back that avoided the still flooded rivers, but our smugness soon evaporated as we headed down a track and realised that things were more than a little boggy.

1 Flooded fields to our left 2 Flooded fields to our right

Should we have headed back to the road when we saw the flooded fields either side of us?

3 Flooded path ahead

Maybe the flooded track should have warned us?

4 Flooded stile 5 Muddy Boots

Or the mud and the huge puddles?

But at that stage we were still laughing – at least I was, Mr TLC had gone into grumpy Yorkshireman mode very early on. At least we entertained the sheep, I’m sure they were laughing at us.

It became less funny when we were up to our knees in mud, then in places sinking even deeper than that and struggling to walk. At this stage the humour of the situation escaped me temporarily, the camera went away and we just got on with reaching the end. The sight of seagulls swimming around on the water that covered our footpath was probably the most memorable image of the day, it’s a shame I didn’t take a picture of that.

Of course that was all low-level stuff. We were only 80 metres above sea level at the highest point and we were in an area near several roads and plenty of human habitation. It was a bit difficult, but it wasn’t scary. We got tired and very muddy, but were never in any danger. It was simply one of those moments that Will and Maria describe as ‘Not funny now, funny later.’

And it was funny later. Our bedraggled and mud-smeared appearance not only amused us, but also plenty of other people who had been sensible enough to stick to dry land.

I’m sure it would have been different if we had headed for the hills. Wasdale Head itself is only about 90m above sea level, but it’s easily the most remote place I’ve been to in the UK. To reach it, you drive miles inland up a narrow road, filled with ruts and flooded potholes. It is surrounded by bleak but beautiful fells that soar to 600 metres or more. The area is utterly remote and almost deserted, with only sheep and a few hardy outdoor types to be found. It feels bleak in summer, so the prospect of being there in the midst of some severe weather at this time of year is not one that has any appeal to me, but then I’m not a fell runner, they are made of much sterner stuff.

Middle of Nowhere II

It’s easy to point the finger of blame, to say “Idiots! What were they thinking?” but for many people who enjoy the outdoors, coping with difficult conditions is part of the territory.

However, as the plasticine horse says, the weather can change very quickly. Some people don’t take that on board of course. Every year we hear tales of unprepared people who’ve wandered off into the hills in light summer clothing and ended up in difficulty. At least the would-be marathon runners were well prepared for challenging conditions.
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Personally I’m just glad that’s not me up there.

However there are people who are far braver than I and who are always there, no matter how bad things get. I’m not talking about the fell runners here, but the rescue teams. They are, as always, coping amazingly well with an awful situation and are doing a magnificent job. For them I feel nothing but admiration and respect.

1 comment to As The Plasticine Horse Says…

  • Yorkshire Pudding

    They say that from the primeval pea soup at the Earth’s conception, land and sea creatures separated and they also say that humankind may one day return to its marine origins. It seems that you and Mr Grumpy nearly returned earlier than expected!