Archive: cumbria

After my adventure on the Struggle, I parked at White Moss to embark on a walk up Loughrigg Fell, which Nick Barlow recommended to me.

Although I enjoy walking up hills from time to time, I hadn’t done it for a while. But this was a good reminder that I really do enjoy it.

Does this mean I'm halfway?

I found Loughrigg Fell to be a particularly rewarding walk. As with the area around Aira Beck, there are lots of different ways you could go about it.

There are a few different summits to explore and for a while I couldn’t work out which one was the one to climb. All the more opportunity to see some of the fantastic views.

Also like Aira Beck, it was very quiet for the most part, but with more people at the main attraction. People who came up to see views like this.

Lingmoor Fell

Inevitably, my photographs do not come close to conveying how lovely the views are up there.

I went down in the opposite direction to the way I came up, and saw the people milling around on the beach at Grasmere lake.

Above Grasmere

Since I had a bit of time on my hands, I decided to go for a wander round part of Grasmere lake as well.

Small building at Grasmere

That topped of a brilliant day. It began with an early start in Dundee, setting off for a four hour long journey to Aira Beck. Then from there, via the Struggle, up a 1,000 foot hill and round a lake.

It’s a lot to cram into one day if you haven’t had much sleep. Inevitably it unravelled a bit after this. I kept on getting lost on the way to my accommodation for the evening, and ended up not eating anything in the evening.

I guess I needed a rest, but watching television in a Travelodge for several hours is quite a comedown.

After my visit to Aira Force, I hot-footed it towards Loughrigg Fell to try and fit in as much as possible before the end of the afternoon. Handily, I had printed out some Google Maps before I left Dundee, so I didn’t have to worry too much about how to get there. Or so I thought.

Looking over the route before I set off, the journey seemed simple enough. All I had to do was continue on the road round Ullswater, then keep going until I take a “slight right ontto Kirkstone Pass”, which would take me straight to Ambleside. The instructions could hardly be more benign.

Kirkstone Pass on Google Maps

But what the vast off-white expanses of the default view on Google Maps don’t show is just how hilly this area is. I knew I would be driving between hills, so I should have guessed. This was almost too much for my poor wee Panda to cope with. It hadn’t struggled like this since I drove up to the car park at Cairn Gorm last year.

Even more worrying was the road sign that basically instructs you not to drive on Kirkstone Pass during winter. Moreover, the sign called the road “The Struggle”. I was beginning to doubt whether I should take this route, or follow the alternative, longer, but presumably easier road.

Luckily, I was travelling downhill. I can imagine that taking the road in the other direction truly would be a struggle, as the gradient is apparently 25% at some points of this extraordinary road.

My eyes will have been on stalks as I made the descent. There was no risk of me disobeying the signs advising to use a low gear. It’s difficult to imagine how this narrow, twisty, and exceptionally steep road could have been more challenging — especially as I was not expecting it.

It was a bit scary, but also brilliant fun to drive. I very rarely derive pleasure from road driving. For me, driving is a function necessary to get from A to B and not much more; about as fun as washing the dishes. But the Struggle gave me a taste of how it feels to really have fun on the roads.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a mini holiday. I don’t often go on holiday since I usually struggle to find anyone to go with. In the past I have found lonesome trips to be a bit dull. But this time I decided I might as well stop in a few places on the way down to Silverstone for the World Series by Renault event, which I was dead set on attending.

After some thought, the Lake District became the obvious stopping-off point. It is roughly halfway on the journey between Dundee and Bristol, where I would be staying at a friend’s place.

The first port of call was Aira Force waterfall. I had been told that Ullswater was worth visiting, and Aira Force stood out to me as something to see in that area.

Bubbling

I was rather worried when I tried to park my car. The car park was mobbed, and I took what I considered to be the last available space. I was worried that I was blocking the car park exit somewhat. But that it didn’t stop someone else coming along and parking next to me! We agreed to back each other up if anyone told us off for not parking in the bays.

Considering how busy the car park was, I found the walk up to Aira Force and beyond surprisingly peaceful. Of course, with it being a waterfall, the river itself is quite noisy. And there were plenty of people there. But at the same time, it is amazing how much privacy you can find.

There is plenty of potential to deviate from the main path. You are not restricted to just walking alongside the stream. You can escape nature’s white noise, created by the torrents of water, to enjoy views like this.

View from near Aira Beck

I could have spent much longer exploring the area around Aira Beck. But I had only paid for two hours of parking so had to make my way back down.

I very nearly missed Aira Force itself! It was almost by chance that I eventually came across it.

Aira Force

I have no idea how I missed this on the way up. I must have been too preoccupied with seeking out other views that I walked straight past the main attraction. I am thankful I saw it in the end as it is pretty spectacular.

It says a lot about this location that I was having a brilliant time, before I had even seen the main draw.

Here are all of my photos from Aira Beck and Aira Force.

If you haven’t read my previous post explaining what I’m trying to do here, feel free to take a look.

In this post I will set out the thinking behind my views on Scottish independence.

For what it’s worth, I think within a couple of decades the idea of the independent nation state will almost be completely alien. In a lot of ways, it already is. In an increasingly globalised world, countries are increasingly defined not in terms of their own peculiar characteristics but in terms of their relationships with other countries.

For instance, we think of countries as being members of transnational organisations. Countries are usually members of organisations such as the EU, Nato, the UN, the Commonwealth, any number of free trade blocs, special relationships… I could go on.

I have never heard it suggested that the SNP, or supporters of independence as a whole, would wish to do away with Scotland’s membership and / or use of such transnational institutions and agreements (though I’m aware that the SNP is opposed to membership of Nato — just making the point that it’s not the principle of such institutions that the SNP objects to). Nor should they. But unquestionably each of these in some way limits the independence of any country that signs up to it.

So what makes these institutions good (or at least tolerable) while Westminster is so bad? What I struggle to understand about the independence supporter’s position is why there is seemingly no part for Westminster to play in any plans for Scotland’s future.

To bring us back on to common ground, I should point out that my views are almost certainly driven by the same motivations that drive the feelings behind support for independence. Notably this would be the principle of subsidiarity, which means that decisions should be taken at as local a level as feasibly possible. As such, I would support an extension of the Scottish Parliament’s powers in many areas.

But it seems to me unreal to believe that there can be no role for Westminster; that there should be no reserved matters. One thing that is pretty neat about the UK is that most of it is made up of Great Britain, a relatively conveniently-sized island. It is certainly not too big to be adequately governed. It would seem quite silly not to take advantage of this geographical reality.

There are surely areas where the economies of scale trump subsidiarity. Foreign policy and defence might be one area, although I understand that many supporters of independence would find this difficult to swallow after the Iraq War (though a lot of people in the rest of the UK find the Iraq War difficult to swallow as well.)

National disasters could be another area. For instance, the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak which affected both Scotland and England with Cumbria, right on the border, especially hit hard. In such a crisis situation, if the government had to place certain restrictions, or even emergency legislation had to be passed, it would be more efficient (and less costly) for there to be just one government involved rather than have to set up meetings so that you could get multiple governments to agree to a solution.

I’m not saying that it would be impossible for multiple governments to agree. But it would surely be efficient enough to make it worthwhile for there to be a UK-wide system in place. And having two governments involved would only double the chances of there being a cock-up, there is the danger that there will be crossed wires and so forth.

Of course, we are in a bit of a crisis at the moment. Alex Salmond has made much about what an independent Scotland maybe might have possibly been able to achieve. This is mostly fantasy talk though, because we have no way of knowing how an independent Scotland would have coped (meanwhile one of an independent Scotland’s blueprints, Iceland, is facing quite acute difficulty at the moment — sorry for straying off the fluffy consensus-seeking territory there!). I suspect Salmond is only using the crisis to advocate independence, but as leader of the SNP that’s his job.

But there has been plenty of hand-wringing among commentators about how difficult it has been to get world leaders to agree on the best way to tackle this global crisis. What if some kind of major crisis hit the former members of the UK and the leaders got into a stalemate? You can say we have that in this globalised world anyway and there’s nothing we can do about it. But creating even more failure points is hardly a constructive way to approach this.

So that is, in brief, the thinking behind my view on the constitution — how I see powers being distributed between Westminster and Holyrood. I’m delighted to see that Adopted Domain has already written his take on this, and I think our viewpoints are quite similar. A good start!