Gowbarrow and a Night of Agony

12 07 2015

Mon 13 Apr 2015
This should have been an exceedingly pleasant six mile walk with Richard to get another of his few remaining Wainwrights but unfortunately ended badly 😦

Click on photos for full size/resolution – Richard’s digi-photos are marked, the rest are my film ones
This was before my latest Munro Top-bagging posts and was the start of where things started going really wrong for me and my ailing leg…

I’d not been looking forward to taking Richard up Gowbarrow as the route I’d chosen in my Wainwrighting days was utilitarian and boring. However, he’d had a read of Wainwright’s guide and suggested we start from the east, instead of the west, at Watermillock Church.

I had a quick look at the map and was immediately enthusiastic. This walk had everything – a nice, high start (my leg was starting to have problems), little ascent/descent, a long warm-up on fairly flat ground and the superb panorama walk around the path on the south side of the fell above Ullswater.

We were staying at Patterdale’s White Lion as usual so had about a seven mile drive to Watermillock Church which lies at a helpful height of around 250 ‘metres’. We’d deliberately not chosen a Sunday as the parking would then be used by all the local churchgoers. On this day, we were the only ones parked…

White Lion,Patt
The White Lion, Patterdale

On exiting the parking back to the road and heading uphill briefly, we found the footpath sign on the left of the road pointing west to Gowbarrow and Aira Force. It was a good, but slightly muddy, path through the gorse and I romped off along it. After a while I remembered Richard’s hip takes a while to wear in so waited for him and explored the little hillocks around.

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Looking back to Watermillock Church – R Wood

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R Wood

He caught up and had a little rest and then we continued through a little gate into Swinburn’s Park woodland. Unfortunately, the woodland is currently being harvested so photographic views to the hills across the lake from there were out of the question due to the foreground of brash and stumps. The woodland was very pretty though with lots of mossy and twisted trees.

Interesting Tree Swinburns Park

The next 3 photos R Wood
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It is around a mile through the woodland and I was bouncing along nicely on the soft path. We reached one section where it looked like there was a forest fire as we could apparently see much smoke – as that section was in a clearing and in full sun, however, I suspected it was actually steam from the wet moss and grass – it was.

At the end of the woodland the bit I’d been looking forward to came into view – the panorama path around the south side of the fell. We passed through the plantation exit gate and had a little sit on a rock by the beck – Richard’s hip needs a few rests until it gets going. Luckily, after this rest, it seemed to wear in and we both romped off happily along the path taking photos all the way.

The path is truly beautiful – one of the best in Lakeland and is a delight to walk. The only thing we hadn’t realised (but a proper study of the map would have put us right) was that it descends throughout its length to eventually come out at the Aira Force carpark down by the lake shore.

Shooting Lodge Ruin, Gowbarrow
The path starts at a ruined shooting lodge

Gowbarrow Panorama Path

Gowbarrow Panorama Path02

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Looking back to start – both R Wood
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There is a lovely little cairned viewpoint atop a small crag above Ullswater which we visited for the views. Then the descent started in earnest.

Gowbarrow Panorama Path03

Lady of the Lake, Ullswater
Ullswater Steamer

Good views of Ullswater (both R Wood)

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Just before the final part of the descent, we noticed a small track took off to the right through the dead bracken on the west side of the fell which we hoped would soon reach the ascent tracks without further descent. I have to admit to not having seen Aira Force apart from on postcards but we decided a separate visit would be nice sometime…

The little path was slightly overgrown and didn’t seem to get much use but, after ducking below a few low hawthorns, we rounded a corner to find we were on the ascent path just above a little knoll. We peered over the edge of the knoll but couldn’t see the famous waterfall. We could see that a good path came down from the ‘free’ parking partway up the Dockray road though so we decided we’d use that for our next visit. Incidentally, that was the start of my previous boring route up the fell and still seems to be the most-used route.

It was a long, steep pull up the south-western arm of the fell but I found my legs were plodding up superbly and feeling very strong indeed. The whole ascent seemed no effort at all – I was probably feeling very smug!

The top of the fell consists of many knolls with lots of bog between so we had a bit of sploshing to do to reach the summit.

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Nearing the summit – both R Wood
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By the time we reached the summit cairn, atop a little craggy knoll, it was very windy and cold so we didn’t stay long. We saw lots of people soldiering up the more boring route (which now has a made path) and only one couple descending towards our ascent route.

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Summit trig and plaque – R Wood

As soon as we descended off the craggy knoll to start our descent down a little scree path, my knee, which has been a bit twitchy of late, started to complain. I’d anticipated this and had brought Richard’s old knee support – I slipped this up over my knee but it didn’t seem to help. In the end, I found it seemed to give better support gripping me just below the knee as the part which was hurting wasn’t in the knee joint itself but the muscle (or tendon) passing along the inner side of it.

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Start of descent – R Wood

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Looking back at craggy summit – R Wood

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My turn to struggle – R Wood

The descent was very short indeed and we’d soon contoured gently around to the gate back to Swinburn’s Park woodland. We had another sit on the boulder in the sun – this time unfortunately for my benefit, not Richard’s 😦

My leg was nothing like as good as it should have been on the soft woodland path and I was feeling very gloomy – what a difference from our outward route when I’d literally been gambolling along happily. Richard, of course, was by now going very well.

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The Nab and High Street Range – R Wood

By the time I reached the end of the woodland and had another very minor descent on the path through the gorse, I had to borrow Richard’s walking pole for my knee as it was starting to collapse on me. We got back to the car and I walked up and down a bit without my packs on to see if I could loosen things up but without much effect.

We nipped down to the nice pub on the main road at Watermillock for crisps and a drink and I sat rubbing the inside of my knee. There was no way to get it comfortable no matter how I put my leg.

That night we dined at the wonderful Brotherswater Inn and, by now, I couldn’t get up or down from my seat without use of my hands and had to work my way along the chair backs to the bar and then lean heavily on it. I really couldn’t walk at all without support. Who’d know I’d just done a very minor hillwalk with virtually no ascent or descent? I was almost too gloomy to eat and, probably for the first time ever, didn’t have dessert – usually one of my delights of the day.

Poor Richard must have had a miserable evening with me as I sat in gloomy silence staring out of the window at the glorious fells around Dove Dale which I’d walked so many times and was now wondering whether I’d ever visit again.

Dovedale Autumn
Dovedale from The Brotherswater Inn

That night in bed things got much worse. My knee became agonisingly painful and I couldn’t get it comfortable no matter what I did. My hip was hurting too. I always find hotel beds too hard and always sleep on top of the quilt. This time, I’d doubled the quilt and put the various cushions under my knee to try to pad it more and get the angle so that it felt happy but it just didn’t.

Luckily, I carry a comprehensive medical bag wherever I go and eventually dived into it for ibuprofen tablets. They aren’t just painkillers, they’re anti-imflammatory and I knew that was what was needed. After another half hour or so the pills kicked in and I eventually fell asleep.

The next day though, I was still thoroughly lame and the pain was starting to come back. I knew I couldn’t do another walk that day and, luckily, the weather was wet and horrid, so I decided we must go into Keswick to do some shopping – not one of my hobbies, despite being a woman – in fact, I hate shopping. I’d resolved to buy ibuprofen gel at the very least.

I’d also been musing all night and wondering why I could walk several miles at home on the moors and the small local hills without much ill effect but, the moment I came to the Lakes and did equally small hills, I was suffering. The only difference I could think of was that, in the Lakeland fells, I wore hiking boots while, at home, I wore approach shoes. I determined to also buy some decent approach shoes (my current ones are all falling apart) and reluctantly decided I’d also have to get walking poles after resisting their use for so long.

For those who are wondering why my hiking boots should bother me, I’d found when I’d swapped back to hiking boots from approach shoes in the past that the higher ankle seems to put a lot more pressure on your knees. I’m pretty sure the reason for that is that the higher boot stops your ankle from bending much so all the strain goes onto your knees and shins.

The results of my shopping trip can be read about in my earlier post, ‘Birkhouse Moor with a Third Leg‘…

P.S. A further thing, which I’ve thought of since I wrote that post, is driving – I really think that keeping your leg still for a whole drive is pretty irritating to joints, muscles and tendons. It is starting to seem like a day or so after I’ve driven somewhere that I’m having real problems and a google of my suspicions yielded lots of results for other people having the same trouble. That could be another reason I can walk at home but not when I’m away.

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21 responses

17 07 2015
fedup

Not one of my favourite hills, great views on the ascent but the summit provides little apart from a far glimpse of Blencathra. You can really appreciate the length of Ullswater which with its bend you cant get from the valley floor. I think car driving position has a lot to do with back/leg problems. A new modern car I owned about 6 years ago gave me massive knee pain – the pedals where slightly offset and years ago a dubious Italian designed car crippled both mine & my wife’s back. I currently run 3 vehicles, two are full blown vans and the third is classed as a ‘car derived van’. Out of all the cars I have ever owned I find the these the most comfortable to drive with the higher driving position. Cruise control is also good on the motorway/quiet A roads – set it and sit back and stick your legs in a comfy position!

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18 07 2015
mountaincoward

It’s both my regular cars though causing problems – the Sunny and the Polo – and they have quite different seats. I’d like cruise control on a future car I think but then I always buy the base models and they don’t usually come with that sort of thing 😦

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21 07 2015
fedup

You could always try a brick on the accelerator 😉

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21 07 2015
mountaincoward

I think I’m going to have to be more careful with my various accelerators – I’ve passed 3 police camera vans (all in devious places) in the last week and, each time, I’ve been going too fast! 😦

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17 07 2015
chrissiedixie

Interestingly, my knees have been a nuisance lately and it all seemed to start with me driving the motorhome up to Scotland….a totally different position to my car 😦

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17 07 2015
mountaincoward

I’m pretty sure driving long-distance is not knee-friendly – I did various google searches and there seems to be a lot of people having the same problems!

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14 07 2015
McEff

Hi Carol. Lovely walk and pictures. I especially like the final shot of Dovedale.
Big shame about your knee. I agree with your driving theory. If I drive for more than an hour or two without a break these days, it takes me five or ten minutes to loosen up when I get out. That’s not just my legs, it’s my back and whole body. So the whole posture thing of driving obviously takes its toll.
All the best, Alen

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17 07 2015
mountaincoward

I think it’s mainly the keeping that leg more or less still for a long drive – there’s not many exercises you can do with your accelerator foot! Mind you, I’m developing some ‘internal muscle moving’ moves without moving my leg which seems to help 🙂

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13 07 2015
Rowena

Sorry to hear about your knee – that must be beyond frustrating.
We never ate in the Brotherswater Inn when we were down there – just nipped in for a drink. Although I don’t think we were ever back in time.
Some lovely photos there – I loved the one of the gnarled tree.

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17 07 2015
mountaincoward

that’s the great thing about self-catering – it doesn’t matter what time you get back, you can still get fed 🙂

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12 07 2015
bob

Looks a nice walk and hill. Alex went to see a sports injury clinic guy, NHS not private, when he was having leg problems and received special insoles to wear. He only wears trainers now up hills instead of boots ( they have a very good grip though) and it’s made a big difference. Obviously it depends what it is but these guys seem to know their stuff as they must see hundreds of injuries.

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12 07 2015
mountaincoward

I did get an orthotic from the private guy I went to see but I’m not sure it’s making a difference…

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12 07 2015
tessapark1969

Hope things are better now. You may be right about driving as I find I cramp up sometimes after a long drive.

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12 07 2015
mountaincoward

My legs are certainly improving now I’m hammering them in Scotland again!

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12 07 2015
Gaslight Crime

Must say, we did it from the waterfall.

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12 07 2015
mountaincoward

I will definitely visit it one day – we probably will do the same ascent but from the waterfall and then come back around the panorama path…

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12 07 2015
jackie sowrey

There are some stunning views there Carol. Sorry to hear about your knee. Jackie

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12 07 2015
mountaincoward

I’m pretty sure it’s the driving making it stiff. It’s been a lot better since I got back to the hard stuff in Scotland though – and my hip has too, although it flares up unexpectedly sometimes…

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12 07 2015
underswansea

Hello Carol, lovely write up and photos. Wish you could have fully enjoyed that dinner at the Brotherswater Inn. Sure looks like a nice spot. Sorry to hear about your knee. I also carry around a bag of drugs for such occasions. I agree about the driving – especially if you are doing the driving opposed to being the passenger. Don’t let it get you down. Take your socks off and put your boots on – walk around until you’re comfortable. It always makes me feel better. Of course your feet will stink – but so what! Always enjoy your trips! Keep them coming! Bob

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12 07 2015
mountaincoward

I wish I’d enjoyed my dinner at the Brotherswater too – not only is eating my joint-favourite hobby normally but their food is great!

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12 07 2015
Birkhouse Moor with a Third Leg! | The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

[…] after a bad finish to what should have been a lovely day on Gowbarrow via the Panorama route two days before (post to follow when my photos are back), I had to have a day off to let my leg recover […]

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