A night’s camping at How Stean Gorge

Checking the weather forecast on a Monday for the coming weekend it was looking great. So we booked a short trip to a campsite at How Stean Gorge in North Yorkshire. It was only a 40 minute or so drive away and our camping equipment was already packed up and ready to go so we decided to go for it. It’s the only campsite near where we live that not only allows firepits but also allows you to book just one night at weekends.

The drive there is pretty beautiful. Meander through Pateley Bridge and head out on the nothern road along the edge of Gouthwaite reservoir towards Lofthouse, remembering to slow down for the many cyclists and horses you’ll pass on the way. We spotted a Little owl on one of the dry stone walls, tucking in to some roadkill for his lunch.

View from How Stean Gorge campsite

View from the campsite.

How Stean Gorge is signposted but it’s eassy to over shoot the turning off the road. There’s also a place called Studfold Farm which has bigger signs and is right next door. Basically you drive into Studfold, then continue over a little stone bridge and turn right immediately. Up a steepish hill and the entrance to the gorge is directly in front.

How Stean gorge is not just a campsite it’s also a place of natural beauty with it’s limestone rock formations, gushing river channels, caves and tunnels. They have an activity centre based there too that offers abseiling, a via ferrata trek, bouldering and canoeing or kayaking.

View from How Stean Gorge campsite

The weather turned slightly.

How Stean Gorge

Looking down from the bridge.

The drive into the campsite is over a bridge spanning the gorge. You can look down through the planks and it’s quite a long way down!

Building a fire

Getting the firepit started.

Great shaped Firepit     PACMAT Enojoying a glass or two in the evening    Ewes or ladies loos

Nice touches at the facilities.

The next day dawned bright and sunny and we donned our hard hats and descended through the wardobe down the the gorge itself. There was a team of folk bouldering through the ater and it looked like great fun. Maybe next time.

Adventuring through the gorge


New campsite at Butt Farm

Campsite with cows

As a birthday treat trip to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park forced us to head to, gulp, south Yorkshire we decided to find a new campsite for the night to save us from the dreary motorway journey home. So we threw the camping gear and tent into the car the night before we headed off to Doncaster.

I found this new campsite on the UK Camp Site website, which, despite being a very old fashioned looking website, is pretty much the best one to use for finding recommendations and reviews of UK campsites. The campsite I found is called Butt Farm and is a brand new site opened at the beginning of this camping season year by the new-ish owners of a farm near Beverley, in East Yorkshire.

The site itself was a simple rectangular field with hardstanding and grass pitches, some with electric, It wasn’t huge, but there was plenty of space around the pitches for the kids to run about. The cows came to say hi too!

The campsite is next to the cows field

There’s plenty of space to run around and play football, although it’s not advisable to play that in crocs as we had a toe injury. The area was very peaceful, with the gentle moo-ing of the cows (and bull) in the fields next door.

Plenty of space to run around and play in the campsite

The owners had renovated the old barn, or cowshed, into the shower and washroom facilities, and they were very well looked after. Warm and cleaned regularly, with clever use of wooden crates for shelves by the basins.

Fire pits for hire from the campsite

It was £10 a night to hire a firepit, wood and marshmallows which seemed a little steep, especially as if you stay more than one night. Most other sites which sell wood, offer the fire pits for free, just simple wheel rims on a stone base, and the bag of wood and kindling is just around £4.50 – £6.

The only other very slight downside is you could hear the road noise in the evening which did die down during the night however as the site is so close to a town it was to be expected. But apart from those two niggles it was a perfect spot for peaceful camping for a night. I’d never visited the town of Beverley either and it’s really pretty with a town square and lots of boutique style shops to browse in.

Camping in Eskdale – May bank holiday

Gazing at the stars over the mountain peaks

Last year a bunch of us went camping in the Lake District, at Fisherground campsite in Eskdale. We had such a good time we did it again this year on the May bank holiday weekend. And we were lucky as it was hot, hot, hot!

There’s nothing better than relaxing by a warm campfire with a glass of chilled wine at hand and having hilarious conversations with old friends. And if the weather is great it feels like a proper holiday that you’d pay hundreds for via a travel agent. I love the smell of campfire smoke, even when it permeates all your clothes and sleeping bags. It’s a comforting cosy smell that reminds me of childhood Brownie camps and Bonfire nights.

This isn’t a review of the campsites we stay at by the way, just some diary-style notes about our camping weekend, but the campsite at Fisherground is highly recommended for family trips. These two munchkins below had a blast and the weather was fab, did I already say that in a smug kind of way? 😉

Fisherground campsite is in the beautiful Esk valley just outside the small village of Eskdale Green, and has a pub at the end of the road. The owners bend over backwards to welcome happy campers, even though May bank holiday is their busiest weekend of the year, they were still smiling as hundreds of campers arrived throughout the day and evening.

Fisherground Campsite, Eskdale

The campsite also has it’s own train station for the La’al Ratty, a miniature steam train which runs from Boot at the top of the valley to Ravenglass at the coast and back again. A must trip for everyone, and very relaxing sitting either in the open air coaches, or in the olde worldey wooden compartments which are under cover.

Getting to Eskdale Green is a fun drive, just as you think the last six miles will be a breeze, the road suddenly points up and begins twisting and turning at an angle of almost 45 degrees in places. Make sure your brakes work! If you see a sign to Hardknott Pass make sure you’re going in the other direction. It’s called that for a few very good reasons.

Camping paddling ponds

The children’s rafting pond!

It’s a fabulous camping site for children too. It has a large naturally created paddling pond fed from a fresh water stream that the owners have made into a watery pirates den. There are 2 or 3 old tractor tyres transformed into rafts with ropes and big sticks to pole each other across the pond by. There were a few Swallows and Amazons style games being played and even though the water was cold it didn’t bother the kids.

Right beside the pond is a great adventure playground in the wooded copse. A zip wire, more swinging tyres, climbing ropes and a couple of rope swings, one of which flies over the water, were all more than enough to make it a kids heaven.

The adventure playground at Fisherground

Rafting in the ponds

Trying not to fall in!

Trying not to fall in! (but of course they did).

Facepaint makes the pirate games more authentic.

Facepaint makes the pirate games more authentic.


Rescue mission to the Rocks

Taking turns to push

Taking turns to push

Fire pits, our essential camping requirement, were provided at no extra charge. A wheel rim balanced safely on a stone slab in the centre of our circle of tents, and the wood was bought from, and delivered by, a very cheerful man with a van, with optional marshmallows if you’d forgotten your own. The smoke from the fire is also useful when the midges descended in the early evening. Only a slight irritant as there was water nearby and trees of course. We found the local pubs even sold Avon’s Sun So Soft spray which is the only, I mean the only, lotion that keeps the little blighters away.


The first day after arriving, we headed round the valley to Wastwater to gaze at the view towards Scafell Pike and fells, we realised we had headed went in the wrong direction and left the sun behind us in the Esk valley! The view is still spectacular under cloud, and it’s so peaceful, as hardly any tourists hang out at this side of the lakes which is further west of the more popular areas. More serious walkers and outward bounders can be found here.

WastwaterWastwater views over to Scafell Pike.

The next day we took the steam train to Muncaster Castle for fun day and even found a slow worm basking in the sun at the side of the pavement. I’ve never seen one before and they are very pretty close up.

Sam the slow worm

Sam the slow worm.

The view from Muncaster Castle grounds.

The view from Muncaster Castle grounds.

A bone-rattling ride on a recommissioned army truck takes you direct from the campsite up to the Woolpack Inn for an evening meal. You’ve got to watch how much alcohol you consume at the pub, as the ride back down can be even hairier! Especially as the roads are single tracks. Stomach churning.

Marshmallows round the campfire and a few glasses of wine with friends rounds off the evenings well. As soon as the kids got their bearings it was great that they all made friends and dashed from tents, to ponds, to the playground and the ‘mountain’ by themselves. All the larger groups of camping families were set up together in a separate field, presumably to keep any late night noise to a minimum, or at least all together but we found no unpleasant noise at all which was nice, unless we were the culprits!

We can’t wait to go back, it’s beautiful camping countryside, with loads of places to visit and things to do, and a relaxing cuckoo calling every morning as we woke up.

Low Greenside campsite – Camping as it used to be

Last weekend was our first camping trip of this year, and only the second time we’d used our new Vango tent. Deciding to go for a couple of nights at short notice, even at this time of year it proved tricky to find a campsite that met with our strict prerequisites for camping, distance to travel for a short trip and interesting countryside to explore. I fired off several emails to likely looking places and settled on Low Greenside Campsite at Ravenstonedale in Cumbria. Five miles south of Kirkby Stephen it is far enough away for us to feel like we’re in a different place to home, but not too far for a short weekend break. Just dodge the colourful macaws on your way through Kirkby, (yes really) and it’s basically a field on a small farm surrounded by the Pennines on one side and the Lake District on the other. Camping as it used to be.


Tents were set up when we arrived on Friday evening and we toasted marshmallows around the fire. And kept warm as the sun went down at the same time as the temperature dropped below zero.

IMG_2352 (1)

During the night we were woken by the cold, as well as a nosy lamb pawing (hoofing?) at our tent. But the morning dawned sunny and it sooned warmed us up again.

The next morning after the bacon butties and cups of tea we set off for a ramble to Smardale Gill and the nature reserve.



Spring showed it’s face in the flowers.


And fun was had when we returned to the campsite.  IMG_2330

Thoroughly recommend this campsite if you’re looking for space, beautiful scenery, campfires and camping as it used to be.

Lecht Skiing Centre & a Cairngorm Cottage

Or trying to remember what it takes to go skiing after 10 years

Finding an outdoor adventure, or skiing break, during the bitterly cold February school holidays was going to be a challenge this year but we decided, as it was much too cold for camping, to rent a cottage in the Cairngorms for a week instead. We knew the Scottish Highlands had had a bumper winter sports season the previous winter and although this year seemed more wind and rain than icy snow we thought the risk was worth it.

Glenlivet Cottage at Bluefolds, Cairngorms for skiing

Bluefolds Cottage in Glenlivet was a last minute change of venue as the first Tomintoul cottage we’d booked suffered a fire over the New Year. But it was fabulous, spacious and clean with a very friendly helpful owner. He even ferried us up to the cottage in his 4×4 as the farm track was under snow and ice when we arrived. Our little car would never have made it. One evening he even brought us some sledges and some of his own whisky collection to try.  The cottage had the added bonus of a coal-fired burner which, even though it was bitterly cold outside kept the cottage cosy all the time. The farm below the cottage had some friendly sheep dogs who always came to say hello as we passed by. The closest shop was about 21 miles away in Granton-on-Spey.

The Lecht Skiing centre in the sunshine

We had optimistically booked skiing lessons at the Lecht, a small family friendly ski and snowboard centre close by. Luckily, despite a few more snow storms, the three days we enjoyed at the Lecht were sunny and actually warm. Once I’d managed to get my old ski boots on, having not skied for 10 years they’d gone a bit stiff to say the least, we quickly remembered how to slide down hills. The route up to the ski resort could be hairy at times with no 4×4 but with a bit of skidding and sliding we made it each day.

Me at the Lecht skiing

It was certainly chillier at the top of the ski lift and we soon found the best runs to try and avoid both the real beginners and to not get in the way of the experts. I think we’re in-betweeners. I was very glad of my new Trespass skiing jacket to keep me warm. Skiing in Scotland is a hit and miss business due to the inclement (love that word) weather. If the wind is too strong no lifts are open except the nursery slopes. So glad we gave it a go and had such an unexpected brilliant time, highly recommend the cottages at Bluefold if you want a quiet, in the middle-of-nowhere kind of getaway too.

Almost forgot to mention the AMAZING views.

Amazing views



Whinlatter Forest adventure, a few years ago

Walking in Whinlatter Forest trails and adventure playground

One of our most favourite places in the UK is Keswick, and just up the road from there is the brilliant Whinlatter Forest trails and adventure playground for kids. It has a lovely big visitor centre, a cafe, osprey webcams , forest walks, mountain biking and the adventure playground it’s worth visiting if you’re in the area. The views over Bassenthwaite are amazing rain or shine and it’s just 15 minutes drive from Keswick town centre.



We visited in spring time to take advantage of the café, and have an reasonable walk through the woods. The forest walks range from easy to strenuous but the one we did this time was just was 3-4 miles of trails, sometimes deep in the trees, and sometimes out in the open, past streams and  a couple of waterfalls. Plenty to do and see on the way round too, collect pine cones and leaves, watch siskins  and spot sun-seeking lizards.


We passed lots of mountain bikers zooming past on the trickier trails, but the real highlight for our daughter was the amazing adventure playground. It had only been completed in the last year or so and is a long trail of fun through the forest just above the activity centre. Starting with slides and wobbly wooden bridges, past wooden sculptures and tyre swings.

Scary tree carvings

There’s a rope climbing frame, a climbing wall, and one of those dragon style swings too. As well as some little wooden chalets built like Wendy houses in the trees for children to enjoy.

Children's adventure playground at Whinlatter Forest

The massive sand/gravel pits were a great favourite too. These were complete with pulleys and buckets for scooping up sand and working out how to move the gravel elsewhere to then drop it down tunnels and tubes. At the end of the adventure trail there are tree stumps with mysterious fairy-style doors that could be opened to reveal carvings behind. It’s a lovely forest, full of wildlife and places to discover. Older children and adults can sign up for a GoApe adventure. Can’t wait to go again.



Update: Last October 2015 we stayed one night at Lanefoot Farm campsite which is located in Thornthwaite just below Whinlatter. They allow campfires and is a lovely place to camp and they have wooden pods too if you prefer.

Whitbarrows ducks

One of the memorable activities of our stay at Whitbarrow was the DUCKS! There’s a big family of quackers that live in and around the apartments and villas who are also fed on a regular basis by the many children who visit.

One of the handsome ducks

They have a biggish duck pond in the centre surrounded by rocks and trees but seem to spend a lot of their time visiting those families who feed them regularly. We were convinced they recognised Alice after the first couple of days as they waddled and quacked they way straight to her. (I’d say made a bee-line for her but they’re ducks, not bees of course).

All this duck-feeding meant we went through quite a lot of bread but luckily due to many previous visits to Keswick we knew where to buy proper bags of real duck food. From the cafe by the lake. It still just looked like cornflakes to us but gave the Whitbarrow ducks a bit of a change of diet.

Feeding the ducks on a daily basis

Every morning Alice shot out of our chalet and fed them their breakfast, and at the end of a good day outdoors she loved feeding them their tea. We soon recognised individual characters in the team, one with scruffy feathers and a few couples who waited patiently for their turn at the bread. It was fun to try and find where they were hiding in the mornings and to spot the first few arriving to munch. Then of course word quickly spread that breakfast was served, until the flock descended from wherever they’d spent the night to flap and quack about, and fight over the crumbs.

Feeding ducks is such a simple outdoor activity but such a pleasure to take time to enjoy especially for children.

An aborted attempt at fell walking

I haven’t posted for a while as we’ve enjoyed a whole week’s holiday in the Lake District at half term and the rest of February has simply runaway from me. But our holiday has spawned some fantastic outdoor activities and memories for me to share here now.

The weather was the best we’d had all winter with brilliant blue skies, cold and frosty nights but sunny days. Perfect.

We stayed about 10 miles outside Keswick in a holiday village called Whitbarrow which is remote and quiet but wonderfully so. The village is surrounded only by fields and views of Blencathra, one of the high peaks of the Northern Lakes and at half term it was still sparkling with snow at the top. We packed all our waterproof outdoor clothes, as well as plenty of thermal socks, boots, wellies and hats as we were determined to get to the top of another fell this year.

Our first attempt was an intention to climb a relatively easy fell called Castle Crag at the southern end of Derwentwater in Borrowdale. However, our little trek didn’t go quite as planned on the day.

Fell walking up Castle Cragg - walking poles are essential

Castle Crag is mentioned in Wainwright’s books as maybe too low to qualify as a fell but worth the walk for the beautiful views. We had Alfred Wainwright’s book with us, but even so we managed to get lost following his instructions. Taking a wrong right turn we managed to head up an extremely steep fell (called Nitting Haws, we discovered afterwards).

Our suspicions were aroused when we realised there weren’t any other walkers going our way! And as Castle Crag is a well-worn route for families we decided we’d missed our turning. By this time it was lunchtime anyway so we sat on some flat rocks next to a lovely waterfall before heading a bit further up the fell to catch the view of the lake from the corner. The climb was pretty steep in places and we had to scramble sideways over loose shale and retreat our steps carefully to descend again.

Fell walking offers glimpses of beautiful countryside details

It was worth getting lost on the fells though as the views were stunning. Not so sure I’d recommend it with a child though we were well prepared with maps, charged mobile phones, proper walking weather-proof clothes and food. There had already been reports of walkers being airlifted off some of the higher fells so when we returned to Keswick I bought a book on walking in the Low Fells for later in our week. More on that later….

Castlerigg Stone circle

As we were in Keswick for the day, we decided to head towards Castlerigg stone circle, a very short drive out of town. It’s one of those smaller Neolithic wonders which, because of the amazing scenery surrounding it, makes you feel connected to the past and the landscape you’re standing on, in a magical way.

It was also freezing cold, but beautiful and sunny and we all fancied some fresh winter air and some mountain views, without having to trek too far. It’s a magical place anyway – full of mystery and history and one of the most picturesque locations for any stone circle in the country. The panoramic view of the fells in the distant is uninterrupted all around.

Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick

We encountered our first mystery as we drew up in the car to park in the little lay-by at the foot of the field. There in front of us was an ice cream van (it was mid February and about minus three degrees). Odd, we thought, but the ideal location for anything odd.

When we got to the standing stones, we had the place to ourselves. The stones are quite large and have been standing there since the Neolithic period apparently, that’s over 5000 years ago. There are 38 stones in Castlerigg stone circle and inside the ring is a rectangle of another 10 standing stones. No idea what they were used for all those years ago.

The view towards Helvellyn was amazing and the air was so still – the only sounds were bleating Herdwick sheep and the odd raven. A quick game of hide and seek around the stones warmed us up slightly but it was really too bitter to hang around for long.

Castleriff stone circle

On a walk up Dodd Fell earlier in the week, our daughter had collected some small, but beautifully snow white quartz crystal shards. She had put them in her coat, and had forgotten about them, but as she plunged her freezing fingers into her fleecy pockets, she found them. Brilliant! We lined them up along some of Castlerigg’s stones in order to infuse them with magical powers. After a few minutes we decided they must be fully charged (and anyway, we were even more freezing by now) so we collected them up to take home to scatter round the end of our garden (which has always been where the fairies live, she says).

Trekking up Dodd Fell

A trip to the Lake District isn’t consider a real success unless you go trekking to the summit of a fell. So after we lost our way on our first trekking attempt, I found a book on the Low Fells to follow which sounded a better option for little legs and we decided to tackle Dodd Fell.

At the summit

This is a smallish fell but was still slightly higher than Alice’s first ever summit of Cat Bells last year. At just over 1600ft it’s an easy ascent along a well tended path with utterly fantastic views of both Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite from the very top. On a clear day, which we enjoyed, we could also see the Solway Firth and Scotland in the far distance.

On the way up trekking in the sunshine

The whole week we were on holiday in Keswick it had been sunny but chilly and this day was no exception. We wrapped up well and packed our provisions into rucksacks as we can never be sure how long a never done before walk will take us. Especially when one of our party has little legs. At the car park where we could begin our ascent there’s a cute little cafe too so we decided to have lunch there when we returned. After we had changed into our tough walking boots we headed up the main path towards the fell. This took us through pine woods and a steep craggy, and icy, beck tumbling down the hillside. On our left were slate cliffs with icicles and the odd stream and Alice began hunting for fairy crystals (the tiny white stones that sparkle). This was a good idea as it kept her interested in the walk! We did forget to take our walking poles but we found a solid branch for her to use which was promptly named, “Scruff”.

View form the top of Dodd Fell

So Scruff and Alice continued their climb upwards in good humour. Chocolate ‘snacks’ are always a good incentive as are spotting other families either on the way down from the top as it’s a good way to encourage them up a hill on what could be seen in their eyes as just a boring walk.

As always as soon as we reached a milestone in the trek, or plodded round a corner and were treated to unexpected views it was all worthwhile. The view from the summit was the best I’d ever seen thanks to the beautiful clear and sunny weather! A quick photo of Alice proudly standing next to the cairn and we descended to have a well-deserved lunch before visiting Mirehouse Gardens in the afternoon.