Monday, 29 April 2019

Take the Long Way Round: Tackling Grisedale Pike for the Second Time. . .

It's been almost six years since I've gone up Grisedale Pike - which is in the Lake District, not far from Keswick - and for a very good reason.  While a good two hundred metres less than the highest fells in the area, the main path up is an extremely steep slog, one of the worst I can remember.  You can see the gradient from the photo in my blog post back then.  So it was with a bit of trepidation when I heard that was the planned ascent for yesterday's walk with our rambling group.

Fortunately, one of our members had sussed a different route up and suggested it to our leader and this is the walk that we did. It took much longer to ascend, but made the walk SO much nicer.

We started as before in Braithwaite, but instead of heading straight up Grisedale, we ambled around it, heading north towards Thornthwaite and then through the Whinlatter Forest Park.  The first mile or so was relatively flat and we passed pretty patches of bluebells.

Then we had some gradual ascents through woodland on lovely needle-strewn paths. It was very easy going and we quickly got above the treeline, where the views opened out. There were so many enticing looking paths, such as in the photo below.  They just begged to be followed.  I had to keep at the front of the group in order to take such unpopulated photos, but my legs were feeling great on the day.

As you can see we are approaching Grisedale from the side (the top is just to the right of this tree).

Looking back at where we've come (we're about two-thirds up at this stage), and you can see Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance.

Still going up, but how pretty are these greens?

Nearly at the top!

 And here we are at the summit looking at the rest of the Coledale Horseshoe. It was only the last twenty minutes that was very steep. The rest was gradual, with lots of fairly flat bits to catch your breath on.

And here are the views in every direction.  You can see Keswick, quite tiny below, and Derwent Water, and looking to the northwest, you can actually see Scotland, although it was too hazy to capture with my camera.

We stopped for a late lunch and soaked up the views. I even got some knitting in, because what a spot to knit in!

Then it was time for the descent.  Again, we avoided the most direct and steepest path and continued on, down and around the mountain on the other side.  I had forgotten my poles but I didn't need them; the paths were good and dry and the descent quite gradual and steady.

You can see the path we took heading back to Braithwaite in the valley, just in the bottom left hand corner of the photo below.

And our last mile was completely flat too on a straight road but with a wall of intensely yellow gorge lining both sides.

In all, our circular route was approximately ten miles. The weather was great with just enough sun to warm us up on the top but with cool and welcome breezes too. I was completely exhilarated by the whole walk.  And no longer will Grisedale ever seem so grim!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Brief Detour to Carnforth . . .

Hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend.  Here in the UK, we had glorious, sunny weather.  I travelled up to Lancaster for two days to meet up with some knitting friends.  I really like Lancaster - it's a small, completely walkable city with a lot of history, beautiful architecture and lots of independent shops and cafes, including two yarn shops!  Both Northern Yarn, which has a wonderful selection of British yarns as well as wool from local Lancashire farms, and Ethel & Em, which stocks a lot of Rowan yarns as well as some fun chunky cotton yarns perfect for crocheting baskets, are delightful places to visit and just kitty corner from each other.

The next time I visit the city, I really need to take some photos and do a proper post, but being with friends and doing a lot of chatting and knitting, I didn't take out my phone as often as I usually do.  However, on the Saturday, as three of the knitters headed off to London, I travelled one stop with them on the train and got off at this iconic station.

Yes, Brief Encounter is probably my favourite movie of all time and parts of it were shot at this station. There's a little museum with a tiny cinema where the film is constantly running.

You can also see various memorabilia, such as a copy of the script.

There's was also a room with a tribute to David Lean films and plenty of history about the station and historical steam trains.

And of course the famous refreshment room where so much of the film is shot.  In reality, it was a film set, but possibly based on the real one in Carnforth.

The Banbury buns have been replaced by lemon drizzle cake and there was no sugar in the spoon that accompanied my latte.  No Rachmaninoff playing in the background either.   But I think it was still worth the pilgrimage.

I've always loved travelling by train and I think there's something especially poignant and even sexy about films set either on trains or in stations. They are such public, noisy spaces and yet can be strangely intimate at the same time; one can run the gamut of every emotion available depending on why you are there, who you are with, where you are going and why.  A number of years ago on another blog, I wrote a post listing my top ten train films. I've just revisited it, and I think the list still stands.  Here it is if you are up for some celluloid train spotting:

1. Brief Encounter (1945).  My favourite movie of all time. Has any train station ever tried piping Rachmaninoff over its speakers? Or would that only work if they could also clone Trevor Howard? That firm, farewell touch on the shoulder gets me every time. My favourite scene is the one where Celia Johnson is travelling back to her mundane home,  looking out of carriage window into the dark night and fantasising about how different her life could be with Howard.

2. Before Sunrise (1995).  Because that's the ultimate fantasy isn't it?  You meet your French soul mate on a train and spontaneously decide to spend the next twelve hours traipsing around Vienna getting to know each other.  If I was doing a list of my top ten walking movies, the sequel - Before Sunset - would definitely be on it. 

3. Caught on a Train (1980).  This TV movie was originally made by the BBC and it stars one of my favourite actors - Michael Kitchen. He plays an impatient man on his way across Europe to attend a book fair in Linz, and finds to his horror that he's seated for the duration of the trip in the same carriage as the indomitable Peggy Ashcroft. One of the pitfalls of travelling is not being able to choose your companions, but it's also sometimes one of the best things about travelling too. The acting in this is superb. 

4. Tokyo Story (1953).   The great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu used trains in many of his films to express the emotional as well as physical distances between his characters. In Tokyo Story there's a very poignant scene where a woman is travelling home after her mother-in-law's funeral and she takes out a pocket watch that was given to her. It says everything about time's own sad journey. In an interview I watched with one of Ozu's camera assistants, he said the director always shot his train scenes in an actual train - no studio could  ever re-create the actual bumps and jostles of the real thing. 

5. Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Was there ever a finer set of actors stuck together on a train going nowhere and with Hercule Poirot to deal with?

6. Strangers on a Train (1951)  Hitchcock was another director who liked to set scenes on trains. This is a terrific thriller. 

7. Closely Watched Trains (1966). Based on the novel by  Bohumil Hrabal, this film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.  Set during WWII in occupied Czechoslovakia, it's about a young teenager who is more concerned with losing his virginity than resisting the Germans. You'll never look at stamps the same way again (the ones you ink, not the ones you lick).

8. Terminal Station (1953). This movie is also sometimes known as Indiscretion of an American Wife but if you get a hold of the Criterion edition, you'll find both movies on it.  Watch Terminal Station, directed by Vittorio De Sica first, and then for a laugh, see what happened to the movie when David O. Selznick got his hands on it. The plots remain the same, but the execution, style and focus are very, very different. In both cases, Jennifer Jones (married to Selznick at the time) and Montgomery Clift spend the entire movie trying to say goodbye to each other in Rome's train station after a summer affair. Watch it for De Sica's beautiful shots of the station's architecture, the numerous human stories swirling around the lovers, and for a reminder of how difficult it is to find a private place to have sex in a crowded train station. 

9. 2046 (2004) Our main character is a writer living in Hong Kong in the late 1960s. He has written a science fiction story set far in the future, where people live in train compartments, served by androids. These trains criss cross the world, and if you dare, you can visit 2046, a place where lost memories might be found. But can you ever return?  This is the sequel to Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood For Love but it works completely well as a stand-alone. Gorgeously filmed and with an awesome soundtrack. 

10. Love on the Run (1979). This is the final film in François Truffault's Antoine Doinel series that began with The 400 Blows. Antoine is trying to sort out his love life, both past and present. At a train station he sees a woman he was in love with as a young man, and impulsively boards her train. She happens to be reading a copy of his novel which thinly disguises his former relationship with her. It's funny. It's farcical. It's French. And I laugh every time. 

Do you have any favourites?

Friday, 12 April 2019

L(earning) My Stripes. . .

This is shaping up to be the Year of Stripes.

It's not been intentional, but when you are:

a) trying to make a significant dent in your stash and you have many, many rogue, single skeins to use up and
b) you are part of a Knitting Season Club that is actively encouraging the use of stripe creativity and
c) you fall in love with a striped jumper from the above said club. . .

. . . well, it's inevitable that stripes are going to become part of your daily knitting life.

My first finished project of the year was this Japanese inspired Judoka bag from an issue of Pom Pom magazine. It's essentially a whole lot of garter stitch stripes sewn up in an interesting way to form this shape.  I probably should have knitted it at a looser gauge to give it more drape, but it's become a useful project bag.

Next up was a mystery shawl KAL. The pattern is Ice Cloud by Carol Feller, a lovely striped shawl that incorporated some lace along with the garter stripes and also used mohair.  I started with that vivid yellow that you can see in the photo below, but it was too bright for me, so I did a stash dive and came up with some muted mauve to balance it out. 

It's difficult to photograph as it's quite long and narrow, but I really like this shawl/scarf shape - it's extremely easy and cozy to wear.  Unexpectedly, with this project I learned more about colour value than striping, but the latter definitely made it fun to knit and kept my interest piqued.

At the end of last year, I was extremely honoured to be chosen to test knit this next jumper - the Dathan Pullover by Kate Davies, part of her Knitting Season club.  We were set the challenge of using all fifteen colours of her Milarrochy Tweed in a stripe sequence where each stripe could be no wider than three rows, unless it was the hem or neck ribbing.  I started out trying to colour block with a single row of a contrast colour in between and it just looked awful, so I frogged it and started over. What I ended up doing was a three stripe sequence using most of the colours, until I got to the increases for the arms (the jumper is knit bottom up). I then kept the same colour sequence but switched to two rows of each. When I picked up for the long sleeve cuffs which are knit in the round, I switched to single rows separating each darker colour with the two lightest ones. 

I'm not sure it entirely works and for my own personal tastes, if I were to knit it again, I'd add far fewer colours and separate them with more of the lighter shades, to achieve a similar look found on the sleeves. But it was a really interesting exercise and it's been fascinating to see all the different versions, given the same restrictions.  In knitting this, I have found myself admiring certain colour combinations that I never thought would go together well - which is very useful for future projects as I absolutely love this yarn! Kate even suggested you could number all the shades and pick them out of a hat randomly, along with a 1, 2, or 3 to indicate the row width. 

I was far more random with my choice when it came to knitting her accompanying Dathan Hap. 

Mine was more of a half-hap - I added more increases on the sides to create less of a deep triangle.  And my only stipulation was to use up left-over balls from previous projects, including the jumper. In this stripe sequence, I love that the reds are more dominant. 

 I then fell in love with Kate's next pattern from the club - her gorgeous Strodie jumper. Here the stripes are created by welts. I used a cone of Jamieson and Smith's Shetland 2ply jumperweight for the background, and some gorgeous Lichen and Lace Rustic sport yarn which I picked up in Toronto.  Grellow love!  I really enjoyed knitting this.

And it is SO comfortable to wear - the perfect hiking sweater, but also wonderful to throw on with a pair of jeans.

I'm having fun styling my stripy knits too.  Can one wear too many stripes at once?  I don't think so.

I'm not done with stripes just yet.  Still on my needles is a Hapisk by Hélène Magnússon. . . 

And I am test knitting a dress which starts out with stripes.

I never really have a plan for my year's knitting; I cast on whatever appeals at the time.  So whether I will continue my stripe obsession remains to be seen. What I can say about knitting stripes is that spit-splicing is definitely your friend if you don't want to be weaving in hundreds of ends. And thus, the stickier the wool, the better.  Also welts are just wonderful for hiding said ends. Duplicate stitch  can also work wonders if your stripe jogs are a bit untidy when you are knitting them in the round.

I wonder if it's time to be knitting some vertical stripes. . .

Friday, 5 April 2019

Back at Broughton in Furness. . .

I can't believe it's been almost four years since we were last walking in Broughton in Furness - a really beautiful, almost hidden gem of a place, in the south-western part of the Lake District. Fortunately, the amazing bakery is still there so we could stock up on lunch and of course, emergency rations.  Their pasties are amazing and I also highly recommend their hazelnut and cranberry flapjacks.  Just what you need to energize the body before a long hike. 

This post combines two walks in the area that I did over the last two weekends.  The Liverpud was leading a medium or 'B' walk for our rambling group so I came along on the recce.

This was an extremely pretty walk, a little over ten miles, taking in lots of different terrains with good paths and no steep climbs or descents, although the walk was certainly undulating in places.  It was a circular, up to the Knott, and back.  The start was very flat, incorporating a mile and a half along a former railway line.

We then plunged into some woodland - can you imagine how pretty and shady this tree tunnel will be in summer?

We crossed lots of fields with sheep.  As you do.

And even saw some curious ponies.

Not too far away is the sea.

And the set of hills that marked the half-way point of the walk.  We didn't climb to the top, but meandered back to Broughton along a path that ran parallel but only went up about a quarter of the height.

But first we crossed a delightful moss-covered bridge overlooking this waterfall.  I love the hundreds of shades of green that you find on a country walk in early spring.

On the following Sunday -  the actual day of the walk - the weather was so lovely with no rain forecast. The Liverpud didn't need my help any longer, so I decided to go on the harder 'A' walk. This took a slightly different route through the countryside. . .

. . . ending up much quicker at the foot of the hills because of course this time we were going to climb them.  The nobbly one on the left is Great Stickle and after that, you follow a ridge towards Stickle Pike.  They look small in this photo, but that first climb in particular is quite steep, especially when you haven't been climbing for a few months.

But there is a great view at the top.

We're now heading for Stickle Pike, that triangular hill in front. And then our last climb of the day was Caw which I think is the one on the right, in shadow.   This particular part of the walk was my favourite - photos can't do justice to the beauty and majesty of the landscape. And not a soul to be seen anywhere. The grass is soft under the feet and it was very dry - just the perfect terrain for me.

Here's the top of Stickle Pike, looking down on Stickle Tarn where we had lunch.

And this was the final push up to Caw - another steep hill that I was glad to get to the top of. We're already about 80% of the way up in this photo.

And from the top of Caw, you can see for miles.  Somewhere in that direction is Scafell and Scafell Pike.  I was glad this was the end of the climbing, but I knew we were still miles away from Broughton.  I was very, very tired when I finally got home and into a hot bath.  But what a glorious day of walking!

It was also an opportunity to wear my latest knit for the first time - Strodie, designed by Kate Davies. But I'll have more to say about it in my next post.